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Vanish - Making The Switch From Sail to Power
Happy Little Vegemites
Vicki - 16 deg C (60 deg F) Rain Showers
15 February, 2013, Abacos, The Bahamas

There are a number of clever blog readers out there who have been anxiously watching Vanish on the Unexsco Webcam at the Port Lucaya Marina. Uh oh, she's vanished. Yes, we are finally on our way but due to the weather forecast of a stalled strong weather front (meaning winds could be light and variable or strong with associated storms), we decided to head slightly north to the Abacos before making our way steadily south through the Bahamas. Last night was our first night at sea on anchor since early December. We left Freeport and encountered some welcome rain and on high tide, we motored through the 3 mile long Goodwill Channel, a known short-cut near West End on Grand Bahama with depths of 2.4 m saving us 45 miles. We anchored at Sale Cay in light wind and rain before the wind came up to 18 knots from the SW. At around 8.30, the front arrived with lightning flashing across the sky and the wind changed to the NE at 30 knots with rain all night. If our little ship hadn't been so well lit, comfortable, warm and inviting, one could have said it was particularly creepy outside in the pitch dark lonely conditions. Of course, it's not as creepy as the "Carnival Ship From Hell" in the Gulf of Mexico which has just endured 5 horrendous days of dead ship conditions. We are the complete opposite and are happy little Vegemites. It takes a lot to keep vessels in perfect running order so taking a cruise with over 4000 people is not something we'd sign up for. I didn't think we'd ever be back here again but that's cruising for you - new day, new plan. We'll be taking it easy in the Abacos while the forecast 30 kn NW winds and rage seas arrive on the weekend.

Charmed, I'm Sure
Vicki - 23 deg C in Freeport, Grand Bahama
12 February, 2013, Picture of Byron Bay Lighthouse, NSW, Australia

This beautiful double rainbow frames the view from our kitchen window at home. Looking out towards the Cape Byron Lighthouse on a day like this reminds Maynard and I how lucky we feel to live such an amazing life. We obtained airline advice from our friends the Stumps who are experts in all worldly matters and thanks to Virgin Australia, we had the best flight back to the US we've ever had. Although it took 33 hours door to door including a 5 hour wait in Los Angeles, we arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahama in great shape with no jet lag and ready for the next leg of this expedition. While we were away, Jake installed a number of upgrades on Vanish including a new wind vane, two upgraded tv's (the original tv's were donated to the marina staff) and she is topped up with fuel. We also now own a new Hobie Bravo, a 13 ft long catamaran, which fits nicely on the bridge deck to help satisfy our urge to sail. The hull has been cleaned, the decks were sanded and look like new, selective varnishing was done and the fridges are chockers and all in all, Jake and Renae have done an outstanding job while we've been away. Just don't ask us when we're leaving or where we're going!

It's Time
Vicki - 22 deg C, Some Showers, SE 5 kn
7 February, 2013, NSW, Australia

The days are counting down to winging our way back to the Bahamas from Australia. We've spent almost two months at home reconnecting with our family and friends and of course our dear hairy child Bindi Blue Dog. Maynard and I have accomplished a great deal with work and meetings, mail, house maintenance and farm issues and the aftermath of ex-cyclone Oswald which brought down a dozen massive trees on the property and knocked off precious coffee beans in the 70 knot winds and driving rain two weeks ago. That's 2 hurricanes in 2 months for us. I'm not a big fan of rats but one decided to die in an inaccessible spot in the under carriage of our new 4WD in the first week we were home so the hot summer smells getting in and out of the car were quite extraordinary. I do hope this never happens on Vanish. Most of our jobs are done so may the adventures soon begin on our return to Freeport.

7 February, 2013 | Alison Stump
Welcome back to blogland. It will be sad to say goodbye to Bindi, but think how good it will be to be back at sea again. We can't wait to hear all about it.
Off Air
23 December, 2012, New South Wales, Australia

It's currently Christmas Eve on the other side of the world from our Vanish. Air travel can be good or bad and for us it was bad. For a total of 20 hours flying time, it took 62 hours to get to Australia as all the connecting flights were delayed and one of our planes broke down and just to put the boot in, Maynard caught a cold and my credit card was stolen at LAX Airport and has been used over the past few days. However, home feels great, the weather is warm and sunny, we are back with our family and Bindi dog and life is good. Thank you to our 16,000 readers for taking an interest in our wanderings in 2012 and we look forward to being back on Vanish early February. There's no shortage of stories on Vanish nor at home as this morning I found a recently shed brown snake skin at the front door. Brown snakes are one of the deadliest snakes in the world but as long as we don't meet eye to eye, all of us will remain alive. I'm sure you'd rather hear about our travels on the water so until next year, have a safe and happy holiday to you all.

Coffee in the Fog
19 December, 2012, Northern New South Wales, Australia

This is our first sunrise view over our coffee farm with fog rising from our lower valley through the coffee trees in the foreground. There's no place like home, that's for sure.

Chocolate Pickles
16 December, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas

Just before we flew out of the Bahamas for Christmas, we searched for and found a worthy organisation to donate over $1000 worth of ship's stores which had been purchased incorrectly by previous crew. We'd met Dan earlier at the Port Lucaya Pizza Hut and he just happened to mention that he was a mentor for young men at a local church and after further enquiries, we found that the church was having a jumble sale that very day. Dan phoned his father, Fred Thompson from Agace House, who turned up at Vanish within the hour full of happiness and gratitude for the more than 200 lb of pickles, canned and dry foods, chocolate cups, herbs and spices, crackers, condiments and salad dressings and so much more. Nice to imagine seeing more of our waterline too.

Going Home
Vicki - 25 deg, Few Clouds, 10-15 NE
15 December, 2012, Bahamas

Each night the Count Basie Square at the Port Lucaya Marketplace near the marina hosts great local artists and is a nice way to spend a few hours after dinner with new found marina friends. The other night we met Herbert and his sober Filipino crew friends who had us in stitches as they danced Bahamian style below the stage. They'd been away from home for 11 straight months and were letting their hair down before leaving for Barbados the following day.

We've observed that a number of vessels have changed hands just in the short time we've spent at this marina; in fact, three this week. The Dashews have finalised their handover of Wind Horse to Ben H who spent an hour chatting to us about his purchase. He wants to add tv's to the boat, upgrade the navigation equipment and do various mods to his own liking back at his home port in the Carolinas. As for the Dashews, they are taking a break from boating for a while until they decide what is next on their agenda. One thing is for sure, their trip directly into the teeth of the Gulf Stream in stormy weather in order to test stability and other systems on Wind Horse was extremely long, slow and exhausting and perhaps not an ideal way to end their many happy years of cruising. Boats can handle so much more than their passengers.

In case you're interested, Yachts International magazine has published a great article in the Dec/Jan 2013 edition on Vanish. Check it out at:

We are packed and ready to leave for our Australian holiday. Jake and Renae will take good care of Vanish while we are away.

Ready for More
Vicki - Rain Showers, 15 kn W, 22 deg C
13 December, 2012, Grand Bahama, Bahamas

Gosh it's good to be back 'home' in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The marina staff know us now as "hurricane survivors" and can't do enough for us. Yesterday, Maynard and Jake spent ALL day servicing our 2 Cat engines, changing oil filters, fuel filters, anodes and adjusted all the belts, bled fuel lines and a host of other tasks which took both of them 8 hours to complete on both engines. At the end of the day both engines were pronounced ready for another 3,000 miles of cruising.

Steve and Linda Dashew's well known 83 ft aluminium FPB yacht Wind Horse came into the marina on Monday, the day after we arrived. We were last anchored next to them in Rockland, Maine back in September and they are now berthed next to us. It's a momentous week for them as they've owned Wind Horse for 7 years and travelled 50,000 miles with her. The new owner of Wind Horse has been on board all week coming up to speed with all systems and boat handling and a new future is in store for all parties.

Clear Waters
13 December, 2012, Bahamas

No visit to the Bahamas would be complete without showing you the clarity of the water here on a recent dive 2 miles offshore of Allans Cay, Abaco.

Conked Out
Vicki - 27 deg Humid, A Few Clouds, W 15 kn
11 December, 2012, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas

We have really enjoyed ourselves in the Bahamas since we arrived almost 8 weeks ago. At first, we were a bit jaded after going through Hurricane Sandy and seeing so much damage to the islands and seeing the normally crystal clear waters stirred up and cloudy. Even though there is still a lot of work to be done in repairing some infrastructure, the vegetation will slowly turn green again and all will be well again over here. After Nick and Alison's lovely visit, we moved north to Allans Cay. We were anchored in the usual 2.2 m/7 ft of water where we could see every speck of sand on the bottom. We took our kayaks out every day, sometimes peddling, paddling and sailing 3 miles around the rocky outcrops and stopping for walks on the fine sand beaches. Maynard found the above live conch in the shallows at Umbrella Cay. Conch, pronounced conk, is offered on all menus at every café and restaurant we've visited. You can order conch chowder, conchie conch fritters, deep fried Panko conch, cracked conch, conch burgers, conch salad, grilled conch and dozens of other choices of conch. All parts of the conch are edible although I hear that the white part is the best.

A few weeks ago I cornered a security guard Michael D at the BTC phone store in Freeport while Maynard was busy finding a sim card for his phone. Michael was a fountain of Bahamian information and used to go fishing for conch on the east side of Andros Island. He said it was extremely hard work. He told me he and three other men would go out for 2 weeks a couple of times a year on a 40 foot sailboat. Two of the men would go out on the sailboat's workboat and one was in charge of sculling while the other one would stand in the boat, spot the conch on the sandy bottom and spear it with a pole and as the meat and the shell weigh around 5 lbs or more each, you can imagine how strong these men need to be. They would then bring the conch back to the sailboat where the captain would thread 5 conch at a time on a line and hang the lines in the water thereby keeping them alive. The other man on the sailboat was the cook. After two weeks, they would catch around 8,000 conch. They would travel from one area to another during the night to preserve the conch. Renae and Jake say that conch is a bit chewy but it's certainly a popular dish over here.

The Bahamas are such a refreshing change from our normal over-governed lives the western world experiences. We've seen no officialdom since we cleared in, there are no copious rules one has to abide by and memorise, the people are happy, friendly, and polite, everyone speaks English, the weather is ideal, the food is great, there are many marinas for those who wish to enjoy them, and we were able to find anchorages in the Abacos protected from all the various wind directions we were faced with.

On Monday we left Sale Cay in the early morning darkness ready for a 120 mile passage on a 12 - 17 knot south-east forecast. Maynard found a shortcut through the north-western end of the Bahama bank, about 10 miles north of Memory Rock. As we had good visibility, we could see the deeper water where we went from 5 metres to 500 metres in a very short distance and turned south-east into a 2 metre + short sharp choppy sea now blowing 25 knots. We had white water spraying all over Vanish as the backs of the waves were so steep and the sea state had waves bouncing at us at all angles from both the Gulf Stream current and some other unforecast weather event which had occurred the previous day just north of the Bahamas. Vanish had no trouble whatsoever in these boisterous seas and kept a steady speed of 10 knots for the 6 hours it took to go from the Bahama bank to Freeport. We were in our same Hurricane Berth as we had during Sandy, tied up, washed down, all back to normal by 6pm.

11 December, 2012 | AlisonStump
It is very weird reading this at home and being able to totally picture all that you describe. We endorse your summary of the Bahamas. A very special part of the world. The story of the conch illustrates all that is Bahamian. It is actually quite tasty. By the way, there is a spider web on the webcam.

11 December, 2012 | Vicki
The Bahamas are whispering to you........Alison, Alison, come baaaaaack. I will see to that darn spider straight away!!!

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