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Vanish - Making The Switch From Sail to Power
He's Come A Cropper
Vicki - A Few Showers, 20 + kn NE
1 December, 2012, Great Guana Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas

This vessel has recently run aground on a reef about 1/3 mile north of the ship channel at Great Guana Cay. The anchor was lowered but there was no sign of anyone on the vessel. There are waves breaking either side of the ship so they are in very shallow water. The deep water is about ¾ mile from his position so he possibly had engine trouble or some other problem. Not sure how they will salvage this situation.

(He's come a cropper - Aussie slang .... means that he's had an accident, he's come a gutser, a mega oopsie, a stuffy etc)

Full Moon Wedding
Vicki - 24 kn N, Overcast, some showers
28 November, 2012, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas

The wedding day arrived. Just before it was time to leave Vanish by dinghy, the wind picked up to well over 20 knots with distant rain showers. We were also on a lee shore and the waves had increased but the anchor was well set. We were wondering how we were going to make it ashore without getting drenched. We'd prepped and primped ourselves, gathered the champagne and wedding gifts and our own good cheer and took off. Downwind. No problem. Side on in the channel? Problem. Lots of "Oh no, that one was really wet" and "try going faster" and "try going slower" etc. We wrung ourselves out and arrived at the party. The wedding was absolutely beautiful as we sat on the deck on top of Mike and Heather's rental house with ocean views east and west. Minister C. Vernon Malone officiated with the most enchanting Bahamanian words of wisdom as the full moon rose over the Atlantic and the sun set over the Abaco Sea. We all danced and rejoiced with the newly wed couple before walking the minute and a half walk to the Abaco Inn Restaurant for dinner. It was a truly spectacular event and again a reminder that we should always enjoy every moment.

1 December, 2012 | Jude
Oh how are on the trip most people only dream about.such a beautiful thing to share with people who areno longer strangers. Thank you for sharing this remarkable story.
2 December, 2012 | Vicki Smith
We certainly feel very lucky.
The Kerosene Lighthouse
Vicki - Sunny
27 November, 2012, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas

There are only 3 hand-wound working kerosene burning lighthouses left in the world and one of them is here at Hope Town on Elbow Cay in the Abacos and is called the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. Hope Town has a small protected harbour with many vessels tied to moorings. It suffered a 7 foot surge tide recently in Hurricane Sandy causing some vessels to end up in the nearby mangroves. On the ocean side of the island, tons and tons of sand and vegetation have been lost to the pounding waves and in places, the bitumen pathway on top of the dune running the length of the island is in jeopardy of future erosion. People ride on golf buggies or bicycles and the rental cottages and quaint homes are all painted in shades of pink, orange, yellow, blue and other colourful shades. Hope Town was settled around 1785 by Loyalist refugees from the USA. The Loyalists favoured Great Britain during the American Revolution and wanted to escape the wrath and intolerance of the United States at the time.

The Elbow Reef Lighthouse overlooks the Hope Town harbour, the Abaco Sea to the west and the Atlantic to the east. The red and white striped lighthouse was originally built in 1864 and rebuilt in 1934 with a light source of 325,000 candle power and can be seen for 17 miles. In 1954, cracks started appearing in the tower caused by lightning and another major rebuilding was undertaken by engineers from England by pouring concrete into concentric rings at the base of the tapering tower.

We arrived quite late in the afternoon and after signing the visitor's book, we quickly walked up the 101 wooden spiral stairs to the top. As I suffer from vertigo, I've always been able to get about ¾ of the way up (or down) a castle or a lookout and even once, the Eiffel Tower's steel steps and have had to stop for a long time before being able to move again. Highly embarrassing but it's just the way it is. Maynard dragged me up the last 20 steps and luckily it was well worth it.

We spotted a mattress tucked behind some stairs and found out that every 2 hours between sunset and sunrise, the lighthouse keeper has to wind a 700 lb weight by means of a hand winch. The weights descend on a series of bronze gears and rotate the 4 ton apparatus once around every 15 seconds. The keeper must sleep on his mattress up here at times. We learned that a hand pump is used to pressurise the kerosene in iron containers below the lantern room and travels up a tube to a vaporiser which sprays into a pre-heated mantle. The "bulls-eyes" Fresnel lenses concentrate the mantle's light into a piercing beam straight out towards the horizon. These Fresnel lenses weigh 8,000 lbs and float in a tub of mercury. At night, we could see that in between the beams, the light is constantly glowing and is known as the "soul" of the lighthouse.

Maynard wanted me to get down quickly before I had a melt down. On the steps on the 1st landing where all the kerosene is safely stowed in green iron containers, we met a lovely young couple from North Carolina Nick and Heather who were staying in a rented house for the week at Hopetown. They told us they were getting married tomorrow. We all got on so well and while busily swapping stories, they honoured us by asking us to come to their wedding as they were short of witnesses and were in The Bahamas without family or friends present which is exactly the way they wanted it, eg stress free. They had planned on possibly stopping a couple of random people during the private ceremony at their rental house to ask them if they'd be their witnesses but invited us instead! We were all laughing and talking non-stop and thought this was a wonderful idea so with much excitement we made a date for the wedding tomorrow at 4pm. Wow.

Ps If anyone knows where the other 2 kerosene lighthouses are located, we'd be very interested in hearing from you.

1 December, 2012 | Jude
Possibly San Salvadore and Sambro Island
Curly Tail
Vicki - 22 deg Overcast, E 5 kn
26 November, 2012, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Look closely at this house and you will see a little lizard called a curly tail common to these islands, living just inside the front door. He's about 6" long and very territorial. He would dart out every now and again and attack intruders who would come over the fence or he would scurry out to eat nearby insects. If you look carefully, you will see he has much to entertain him; a surfboard, satellite tv on his roof, a Bahamanian flag, a plane, palm trees, an Adirondack chair and coffee table, two cars, a basketball hoop and birdhouse, a beer on the top verandah, hurricane shutters on the windows, a canon and coconut palm, a lighthouse and of course a sailboat. What more could a lizard need? It is situated in the front yard of a house in Hopetown and is an exact replica of the big house on the same lot. While the ladies browsed the shops, Maynard and Nick were enthralled at Mr. Curly Tail's wealth and agility, facing many problems we all encounter in our own homes.

Aussie Invasion
Vicki - Sunny 12 kn E, 22 deg C
26 November, 2012, Abacos, The Bahamas

The Amp Police have completed their research. Lucky for us we have noticed no change in the functioning of Vanish as we are already efficient with our voltage usage so we are carrying on regardless. Our friends Nick and Alison from Australia were visiting their family at a holiday resort on the west coast of the USA and decided to just "pop in" and see what all the fuss was about with Vanish. Their "pop in" involved flying for 2 days from Peurto Vallarta, Mexico via Miami, Florida to Nassau, The Bahamas and onto Marsh Harbor, 4 flights in all and countless hours of mind numbing air travel. They have nothing but praise for the beautiful timberwork, the finish, the attention to detail and the hundreds of items their keen eyes are espying. And we haven't even left the anchorage yet. As they have owned dozens of vessels of all types during their entire lives living by the water, we are thrilled to have them on board. There will be endless hours of boating chit chat to share while showing them around this beautiful part of The Bahamas.

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.

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