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Vanish - Making The Switch From Sail to Power
The Amp Police
Vicki - 25 - 30 kn NW Showery
22 November, 2012, Abacos, The Bahamas

Give a guy a sunny day on a boat with solar panels and some down time and he'll inevitably turn into the dreaded Amp Police. Whether you have a yacht or a power vessel, the Amp Police are known to lurk around looking for trouble as you can see by the above photo of Maynard's iridescent note book. Now ladies, don't tell me you've never heard of the Amp Police before. They walk slowly around the boat in a hunched fashion looking for voltage thieves, switching off any electrical appliance they deem unnecessary while batting off cries of indignation from their respective partners.

Maynard has meticulously quantified the power usage of all the various systems on board Vanish which, I might add, are numerous..........fancy fridges, untold number of lights, so many TV's, 3 home entertainment AV systems, 3 microwaves, not to mention a hoard of phones, computers, coffee makers, hair dryers, name it, we got it, even an iron (or two). He's found that if we combine the contents of two of the smaller fridges and put that into the larger more efficient fridges when they have the space, and if we turn off the three AV (audio visual) systems along with the direct satellite TV system when we're not using them, we can cut our electricity usage by an astounding 30% whilst suffering no degradation in life style.

This has a huge effect on the amount of time we genset. Under the new Abaco Amp Regime, we have a base load use of 350 amps a day. On a typical winter's day in the Bahamas, our solar panels put out about 150 amp hours a day at 24 volts. During the summer, we would get nearly double this figure. We have been able to cut our gensetting from 5 - 6 hours a day to approximately 3 hours a day. This works out well as it takes at least an hour to one and a half hours a day to run the watermaker and the stove/oven for cooking but the great thing about this is that even though it is a power vessel, it is a very quiet vessel at anchor with about the same amount of genset time being run now as we did on our 52 foot yacht.

There are ways around the Amp Police. Many years ago I remember a serious meeting on a sandy beach in Northern Queensland in Oz where we ladies were in a huddle discussing who amongst us were allowed to have an iron on board. Some of the irons were hidden under bunks, but all of us had one, except the lady who asked the question. Haha, she was young and innocent and hadn't learned the finer points of sailing. Live and learn.

23 November, 2012 | Prent
He has always been the ultimate tinkerer! But, if he unplugs that brightly lit notebook, I think you will be able to chill more wine...
23 November, 2012 | Jude
Who let them on board??? They sound worse than the fun police! Actually, it's a bit like Dad going around and turning off all the lights. Next thing you'll be wearing hard hats with lights (just kidding Skip).
Big Mouth
Vicki - Few Clouds 24 deg C
18 November, 2012, Abacos, The Bahamas

Last night we noticed what we thought was a 3 ft shark swimming around the boat constantly and this morning, we saw it again lurking under the dinghy and kayaks. Jake decided to jump in the water to investigate but it shot straight towards him like an attack and you've never seen someone spin around so fast and leap back onto Vanish's swim platform with his legs tucked tightly underneath as this thing came right towards him over and over with its mouth wide open (see Photo Gallery). I took some great underwater shots but it would try to come over to our hands or feet whenever we put any part of our bodies in the water. We couldn't find any shark that looked like this on the internet and couldn't see any teeth in its mouth on the photos we'd taken so Renae decided to investigate by going for a swim as well. Well, she sure beat Jake in getting back onto Vanish in record time as it swirled around her body and she was screaming, "It's after me!!!" Once everyone had settled down again, our crew went for a kayak and showed photos of The Thing to some local people only to be told that this is a remora, quite a big one. They said that they can glom onto you and not let go...... imagine that. It must be hungry and thinks Vanish is a giant fish as it hasn't left us yet.

Sunset Sailing
16 November, 2012, Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Downwind racing on the Abaco Sea.

17 November, 2012 | Prent
Looking good, hope you all have fun this weekend. Fun times ahead!
Rage Seas
Vicki - 23 deg Sunny
15 November, 2012, Tilloo Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

The Abacos have been experiencing what they call here as "rage seas". Sounds impressive huh? The Bahamas Guide describes it as being more frequent in winter caused by oncoming cold fronts or offshore Atlantic storms and can occur in beautiful weather. They are where the swells break heavily across various entrances to harbours and banks from the open ocean and are spectacular and extremely dangerous. Well, can't let that pass without taking a gander (Oz term for look see). The plan today was to snorkel at Sandy Cay which is kind of opposite an opening into the Atlantic Ocean where we witnessed the rage seas breaking across the entrance. The swells kept on coming right into Sandy Cay making snorkeling less than ideal with waves and bad visibility and very few fish. We rocked back and forth in Vanish on the anchor although with just one flopper stopper deployed, the movement was much less than it might have been. We could have deployed both flopper stoppers, but the other crane was used to bring the dinghy back up to the fly bridge.

Onwards to our current anchorage at Tilloo Cay where Maynard and I and Jake and Renae took turns sailing our fantastic Hobie Mirage kayaks upwind to Elbow Cay. These kayaks are so fab for all round fitness as you can paddle, row and sail them and yet they fold up into a neat package if you wish to put them away. They always cause a minor sensation whenever we meet anyone on the water or the beach as no one has ever seen them before. We're finally enjoying our time here in the Bahamas as this area is ideal for all the things we like to do.

Destinations & Deliberations
Vicki - 10-15 kn ENE
14 November, 2012, Abacos, The Bahamas

Cruising guides, charts, computers and bits of paper were strewn across tables all over Vanish's salon yesterday as we are working on a plan. We've probably mentioned this before, but one should be as flexible as possible when in cruising mode but the problem is....Where To Go? Because we plan on going home for a few weeks at some stage soon and our crew are taking a holiday in January, one thought we had was to move Vanish as far south as possible now so that we find an economic safe port while we are away and don't waste almost 3 months of our cruising time too far north of the Equator.

We've now lived on Vanish for 6 months and have only been snorkelling twice (once for me) yet one of our main goals is to find warm water, plenty of tropical fish and beautiful coral. The hurricane free cruising season in the Caribbean lasts from December through to the end of May. If we don't take advantage of these months, we'll lose the best time to swim and enjoy before the need to move out of the hurricane zone again. There are two ways to see the Caribbean. We can go from The Bahamas westwards passing Florida to the right and end up 900 miles later in either Mexico or Belize. Alternatively, we can head south-east visiting the southern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, make a hard right to Jamaica, Caymans and again end up in Belize, one place we'd really like to see. If we don't leave now when the winds are most favourable for this kind of trip, we'll have more uncomfortable passages.

Of course, there are other factors weighing on us as well. We initially bought Vanish to head down to South America and enjoy higher latitude cruising but the desire to go to New Zealand and Greenland is also extremely strong. Hokey smoke, who would have thought I'd ever be writing these words! We enjoyed Maine, USA so much; perhaps we should go back for another summer season. The choices are endless and we have not made up our minds on what to do.

Palau is also on our wish list so we have also considered just taking Vanish back to Oz where we can visit countries we've always wanted to see. Back home in Australia we have a nifty 1978 home waiting for us on a picture perfect property in Byron Bay complete with two waterfalls and rainforest, not to mention son Eric and our daughter-in-law Ali and our grandchildren Mike, Madi, and Lily who also live on our property. And then of course, there is my darling almost 11 year old Bindi, our blue cattle dog. Have you ever spent all night with your mind spinning going round and round in circles on what to do? This looks easy, but it's not. Humans don't do well if they have too much choice, especially when the choices are all good ones. Of course, Vanish can do anything we can come up with - we just need to decide.

Making a decision was too hard so today we motored 8 miles, dropped the anchor for the night off one of a zillion cays here and, as the water was lovely and clear, all four of us jumped in and cleaned the hull. It's good exercise and Vanish is sparkling clean. Meanwhile, we'll keep working on The Plan.

13 March, 2013 | John Relphino
If you do end up in Belize. Visit if you want to finance yourself along the way, getting jobs locally is pretty tough.
Where Are Those Channel Markers
Vicki - 25 - 30 kn ENE
12 November, 2012, Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas

The above picture shows damage to a catamaran berthed in Marsh Harbor during Hurricane Sandy. Talk about bad luck. During the storm, a starboard channel marker broke loose about a mile away and plowed into the side of this catamaran, tearing a huge hole in their hull before doing extensive damage to the berth pilings, walkway and other parts of the cat. We were actually wondering where a lot of the channel markers were as they were on the chart but not visible in the harbor. It then sank behind the catamaran and can be seen just under the water. Sunsail had 42 charter vessels in the marina but were able to move most of them to a safer inlet near Treasure Cay so the marina was virtually deserted. Luckily, the owner of this private catamaran was not on board at the time.

Tourist season doesn't get underway until around the beginning of February so there are only a handful of boaties here. We've enjoyed dining at Curly Tails and Mangoes and hope this weather calms down so we can head out again to spots we've identified in our cruising guides. The water temp is now 20 deg in the harbour, the Atlantic has high seas and to top it off, there are rain showers. We are still working on a back up plan to find those tropical hot zephyrs.

12 November, 2012 | Jude
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Mon
Vicki - Sunny
9 November, 2012, Great Abaco, Bahamas

We do like the laid back attitude of the Bahamians so we couldn't resist taking the above picture at Treasure Cay where no one seems to mind if you wear no shoes or shirt in their restaurant. In fact, this restaurant only opened yesterday after a huge clean up from being inundated with sand and seaweed. Today we moved to Marsh Island on Great Abaco Island where the eye of Hurricane Sandy passed. Only 70 miles as the crow flies from Port Lucaya, they experienced 4 days of high winds as we did but their highest reading was 125 mph. As Sandy arrived on high tide, surge was a problem as saltwater washed over the roads and damaged a number of sailboats in the harbour. The vegetation is salt blasted and brown and everywhere is covered in sand and dust and quite unattractive at present. Many local shop owners have told us that Sandy was the worst hurricane experienced for many years as it lasted so long and came in on a high tide but at least the Bahamians are used to these events and are well prepared. All of the islands have been affected by Hurricane Sandy to some extent and some worse than others.

The forecast for the next 5 days is for 15-20 knots with seas rising to 10 feet so there will be no snorkeling for a while. Oh, and the sea temp has now dropped to 21 deg (70 deg F) probably due to the hurricane stirring up cold water. It's a bit on the frigid side for my liking even with a wet-suit and night time temperatures have already dropped to 17 deg C (62 deg F) so this also cools these shallow waters. It's so tempting to move a few hundred miles south to the Exhumas or even further to find warmth again.

As Marsh Harbor is depth deprived (shallow), Maynard wanted to know the exact draft of Vanish and after careful measuring, we know that with ½ tank full of fuel, we have 1.8 m of clearance. With low water depths of 1.9-2 m in the harbour, we have just enough to swing comfortably as we have never touched bottom and don't intend to. You can see why we needed to check this very precisely. This would not have been a good place to weather the hurricane as hurricanes have been known to either blow all the water out of harbors or bring in a surge and with these shallow depths, it was definitely not an option to come here. Most vessels actually went into canals or to other islands although some of them were still damaged. Again, we are very thankful we weathered it so well at Port Lucaya, Freeport, Grand Bahama.

World's Top 10 Beach
Vicki - 30 kn NW
7 November, 2012, Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Treasure Cay is 17 miles north of Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco and is a 4 mile long crescent of soft white sand voted as one of the world's top beaches. The hurricane took a lot of sand away and replaced it with seaweed which is currently being raked by the locals and loaded into trucks to return it to its pristine beauty. The forecast today was for 10 - 15 knots of breeze but we have 30 knots. If only Maynard had bought that windsurfer he was thinking about on our trip out to the Cape Hatteras windsurfing shop a couple weeks ago. We are anchored in the lee of this NW wind but it's still whitecapping as you can see by the above picture.

7 November, 2012 | Prent
Reminds me of Lake Isabella. Only not. Shoulda bought the board!
8 November, 2012 | Judy
Still looks beautiful though. Enjoy
9 November, 2012 | Vicki Smith
Ah Lake Isabella, California. Those were the days back in 1983 when we'd all go up and windsurf in those freezing windy waters. He's still working on a plan to get a board Prent.
Sunset at Manjack
Vicki - Calm 24degF
5 November, 2012, Manjack Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

A lovely anchorage where we tried our first snorkel.

Puffin' On A Cuban
Vicki - 3 kn NE
4 November, 2012, Manjack Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

There is an ancient Chinese myth about the red thread of fate. It says that the Gods have tied a red thread around every one of our ankles and have attached it to all of the people whose lives we are destined to touch. A few months ago when Maynard and I were sitting in the back of a taxi on our way to pick up my sister from the Rockland, Maine Airport on a cold wet day, I placed my handbag on the back seat and noticed someone had left a small 2" stuffed toy puffin on a keychain in the taxi. It was cute but old and dirty and I thought I could probably find a new one in one of the shops in Rockland. As we'd just returned on Vanish from a trip out to the remote craggy Matinicus Rock to see the nesting site of the puffins, I really wanted to find a puffin souvenir. Jude and I visited every tourist shop in Rockland and Bar Harbor trying to find the exact same puffin keychain but no one had seen anything like it so I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Maynard and I had never met Cubans before but our neighbours, 'A' and 'R' had been through many hurricanes in Havana and had spent 15 years working in a marina looking after all kinds of vessels. 'A' assured us that we would be fine and we both vowed to help each other if it was needed. In fact, later, he said it was the "best hurricane he'd ever been through". We helped them with a number of issues on the yacht which they weren't aware of so that the yacht would be as secure as possible and a good relationship had already begun. Last week after Hurricane Sandy had passed only 50 miles from us in the Bahamas, Vanish had a small get together with our marina friends. During the get together, they began telling us an amazing story.

For 7 years, these two friends had been saving their money in order to escape Cuba and all the hardships they'd endured. They'd sold everything; their cars, their computers, furniture and anything they could not take with them. They had a few clothes, some money, enormous bravery, a lot of trepidation and nothing else and they were about to embark on a plan to enter the US. This was it. They were now Cuban refugees. This was the culmination of 7 years of planning for the hope of a richer, hopeful, happy new life. What a wild and crazy idea. We couldn't believe our ears.

They were both very emotional about leaving their wives, children, homes, and friends to embark on such a journey as they didn't know if they would make it or see their families again. If ever we've met two people who deserved a better life, then these men were it. They are intelligent, hard-working, family orientated, caring individuals and these are the great qualities on which the US is founded. Maynard and I both felt a profound connection to the men as we both admire people who have dreams and are willing to take calculated risks to improve themselves. In 1995, President Clinton defined the immigration policy by expediting the naturalisation process. Over the years, many Cubans have made the long and dangerous ocean crossing by various methods in a desperate attempt to enter the US. Many lives have been lost over the years. We had no idea what their plan was going to be. If they were caught in the water (known as a "wet foot"), they would be immediately deported. However, if they made it to land (known as a "dry foot"), they would be allowed citizenship.

The owner of the yacht and his wife flew into Freeport a few days after the hurricane and we observed that neither of them knew anything about sailing, and I mean nothing. We didn't know what their intentions were as we didn't speak to them but we prayed they would look after these men. The owner was heavily intoxicated most of the time but apparently had a good heart and the intention of taking the men somewhere. The afternoon of their departure arrived and I beckoned 'A' to come aboard to say goodbye. I wanted to give him something special, perhaps a good luck charm to carry with him. I'd looked everywhere before laying my eyes on the puffin keychain. I didn't know why I wanted to give him this puffin keychain as it was the only one I had but it wasn't really mine anyway. I quickly Googled "puffin migration" and was astounded to see that it is still a mystery where they migrate to in winter. This was the tiny thread that linked our Cuban friends to us and the puffins. As the yacht pulled away from the dock, 'A' and 'R' both grabbed me and with tremendous emotion, said thank you and goodbye. The owner slurred,, "There's still love in the world" as he tried leaving the berth without turning on his engine and then turned the wrong way out of the marina before realising his mistake. A 180 deg u-turn ensued and pointing the yacht towards the channel entrance, 'A' pulled the puffin out of his pocket, clutched it as if it was a gold bar, thumped his heart with his fist and yelled, "I will keep this forever" and with huge smiles and tears they were gone.

Four anxious days passed with no word from the boys. Today, we heard they are now in Miami, Florida, USA after being granted permission to stay. This trip has been full of odd experiences and special encounters. It's not about the places we travel to; it's all about the people we meet. Certainly, puffin on a Cuban is good for the soul.

4 November, 2012 | TAW
What a beautiful story. I am so glad they are now "dry foot" and can stay in the US. May they have every success in bringing their family across to join them. They deserve it. Love the bit too about the red thread of fate - will google that to find out more. Very well written Vick. I had forgotten about us looking for a puffin keyring. Everyone who looks at my photos of the trip exclaims over the puffin jigsaw. They are a very special bird. Love Jude.
5 November, 2012 | eric
What a great story! We really enjoyed that.
5 November, 2012 | Prent
Great story and great ending. Thanks for sharing it. Who knows what will happen next on your journey?

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