12 April, 2013, Naranjo Arriba, SW Samana Bay, Dominican Republic
For a change of scenery, we moved to another anchorage in the south-western section of Samana Bay where we could hide behind some islands giving us protection from the relentless easterlies. As soon as the anchor was down we found we were in the middle of 20 fishermen motoring in patterns in their pangas searching for prawns. At first, they stayed a polite distance away but something on Vanish caught their eye and if it had been a ½ dozen naked models, I don't think their eyes would have strayed from the Thing of Beauty. After a couple of hours and increasingly closer circle work around Vanish, I was starting to get nervous. Something's going on. Finally, one brave fellow approached followed by two more. Their clothes were wet and salty and most of them wore no sunglasses, hats or gloves. Jake was called upon to find out what they wanted and after much discussion, they wanted to know if we wished to buy any prawns, all the while smiling and pointing skywards.
A deal was struck for the crew's consumption
but while this was going on, the other two were gazing lovingly up at our aft flybridge deck. What on earth? Finally, Jake stated that they were VERY interested in the 2 Stroke 15 hp Yamaha motor hanging up there for all to see, the motor for our 2nd dinghy. After a lot more chat, the men continued fishing until sundown taking it in turns to look at the Yummy Yammy. They went ashore to their encampment about a mile away on the beach where they were staying for the week sleeping under tarpaulins which saved running back and forth to town 8 miles across Samana Bay each day.
The next day, another group were back. One young man lifted the handle of his own dinghy motor and stroked it and pointed to our shiny Yamaha with such envy. It was like they'd never seen such a Glorious Thing in their whole lives. Finally, the oldest of the group came by and wanted to know all about the motor. How old was it, how much did we pay and how much would we sell it for? We didn't answer all their questions and were vague on the rest. They said it would cost them 100,000 Pesos to buy it in D.R., the equivalent of $US4,000 and for them, 2 year's salary, as the average wage here is about $US250 per month. We'd bought it on eBay quite cheap in the US but good motors are critical to their livelihoods so we could understand their excitement over seeing a 15hp Gold Bar wasting away on our vessel. Yamahas are much sought after motors in the Caribbean so we've decided to move its location to somewhere less conspicuous "just in case". Meanwhile, a piece of string is tied to it and Maynard's big toe.
An Haitises Park Ranger told us about the below nearby cave called Cueva Rio Pescadores which contains a freshwater spring coming from deep underground with freshwater fish called chaino and ravalo.
It was hard to find but is located at 19 5.183'N and 69' 34.257'W. The trick is to go inside the cave in the dinghy and tie it to a piece of rope slung from a stalactite then jump into the water and swim 70 feet to the back of the 25 ft high x 40 ft wide cave. Yep, you're right. It was creepy as the amount of water rushing from the source created a current of around 2 knots. After much head scratching and mathematical and geological debate, we estimated that the spring was expelling fresh water at a rate of about 1 million litres/hr (250,000 gallons/hr). The water was amazingly clear, cool and drinkable which was a real contrast to the silty seawater just outside the entrance to the cave. The amount of water flowing out is enough to keep the sea from entering. It certainly was a unique experience swimming inside a dark spring fed cave in the middle of nowhere.
P.S. Our motor was still there when we got back.
10 April, 2013, Samana Bay, Dominican Republic
Now this is exactly what Vanish (pronounced "Banish" in Espanol) is all about. Getting away from it all - heading over the horizon, banishing the BS (Bad Stuff), leaving the hustle and bustle behind and spending some serious down-time in a gorgeous spot. We keep pinching ourselves on how lucky we are. There is so much to see and do here in Samana Bay. There are numerous caves surrounding the Bay and one of our favourites is the above, named Cavo San Gabriel. A column is formed when a stalagtite and stalagmite join up and just inside the small cave entrance the above column is at least 20 feet high and about 5 feet across at the top making it very old indeed. We only found the cave after one of us spotted a landing dock in one of the dozens of inlets etched into the steep foreshore. Once inside the cave we found a number of chambers with ceiling heights of at least 50 feet. Samana Bay sits on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic and is approximately 26 miles long and 8 miles wide and is shaped like a large rectangle. In January and February, 80% of the world's humpback whales come here to calve so it must be a spectacular sight to see.
The predominant wind is from the east meaning it blows straight into the Bay every day starting around 9 to 10 a.m. and lasts until just after sundown. At night, the wind dies down to 10 - 15 knots in the Bay. Due to the shallows across the 8 mile entrance, the waves don't seem to get much higher than about 3 feet even though the wind is in the 20 knot range. On the southern side of the bay, there are a number of fabulous anchorages where one can hide from the wind and waves in dead flat conditions close to shore. Paddling the kayaks is easy or we can zoom around in the dinghy to the dozens of cave sites hidden amongst the forested karst hills which drop down into the sea. We found an eco-resort at the far end of Bahia de San Lorenzo, another perfect sheltered bay, after navigating our way down a narrow mangrove lined waterway within Samana Bay
which brought us to a landing place for our dinghy and one of the spots where tourists arrive to visit the Parque Nacional los Haitises.
We then walked along a dirt road for less than 10 minutes past rice paddies and paddocks with grazing horses and cattle until we came to the resort and restaurant named El Kayuko where we enjoyed lunch
and a refreshing swim in the cascading water pools fed by a stream above the resort. The restaurant had no windows and was open to all the smells, sights and sounds of the forest, the heavy occasional downpours and even a tame crow named Wingo
which had a habit of flying into the kitchen for his favourite food of rice, bread or cheese. The climate, topography, clouds and lushness of the area reminds us so much of home.
Our Spanish is improving as we were able to find out little bits of information from the staff about their lives and where to go from here. We were the only paying guests at the resort and in fact, we had a problem when we purchased and drank a couple of drinks as we only had a 1000 peso note, equivalent to $US25, and they had no change whatsoever so we ended up trading a small bottle of rum for the soda water and a bottled water. Dumb and dumber! We've still only seen 7 yachts, 4 were locals and the other 3 were from Sweden, Texas and France but no one stays long. We can't imagine a more exotic, beautiful, isolated, quiet, safe and interesting piece of coastline.
5 April, 2013, Bahia de Samana (Bay of Samana), Dominican Replublic
What do you do when you get sick in a 3rd world country? Maynard, Renae and I have a pretty good idea now. The Ocean World Marina at Cofresi has a doctor available for guests at the nearby resort. After taking the 27 Waterfall Slide Down and Swim Experience up in the nearby mountains, Renae experienced excruciating pain in both ears from under-water pressure and the dirty water. The doctor gave her medication and sent her on her way after a large cost. The next day, I became ill and as I was so dehydrated and we didn't know for sure what it was, the doctor was called. 24 year old Orlando came on board Vanish with a fishing tackle box full of goodies, and set up an I.V. with added B vitamins. He actually tied the I.V. to the wooden slats covering the air conditioning outlet above the master cabin bed which I'm sure David Marlow must have designed especially for this purpose. Now that's thinking ahead. He also gave me liquid Dramamine, liquid anti-spasmodics, another IV full of antibiotics and I've forgotten what else. Renae, by the way, received similar medication sans I.V. I didn't care by now as I just wanted to feel better and in fact, in 24 hours, things were improving except the cost of this service. Then Maynard suddenly went from a rosy shade of pink to a sweating greenish/white colour as he ended up with the same thing but as we now knew what we were dealing with, I was able to treat him. My Medical cost = $US800. Maynard's Medical cost = $US0.40. Renae's Medical cost = $US220.00. The trick apparently is not to see the resort doctor but go into town to buy the appropriate medicine (although we already had it on board) and go to the local town doctor which cost less than $US30.
On Wednesday, we thankfully left the Ocean World Marina after spending 7 days with our flopper stopper deployed in our berth surging back and forth and side to side at the dock and being covered constantly in salt water from waves splashing over the top of the sea wall. We said goodbye to Payla the security dog at the marina
and headed to the next anchorage to the east of Puerto Plata over 100 miles to windward so we left late in the afternoon and motored all night in a 20 - 30 kn (double the forecast) easterly arriving in Bahia de Samana (Bay of Samana) the following day. We are very conspicuous by our size as we are NOT on the typical tourist route and very few sailing yachts come here. In fact, we are starting to see why so many cruisers avoid the area - not due to the obvious beauty of the country with its mountains and palm lined beaches, but by officialdom although it is better than a few years ago. 5 officials raced out to us to clear us into Semana Harbor. In the Dominican Republic, one has to clear in and clear out of each and every port one wants to visit. Each clear in and clear out takes around an hour and costs vary depending on the port and the particular officials. The Dominicans want tourists to visit but as yet they don't understand how cruising works as they seem to want us to only stay in their harbours or marinas even though anchoring is allowed. We've only seen 2 other sailing yachts out and about in the last 2 days. We were charged a $US50 docking fee in Samana when we were nowhere near a dock. One official firmly planted himself at our salon table and refused to leave until we paid the non-docking docking charge. Finally after much gesticulation, loud Espanol (which Maynard and I did not understand) and a phone call to the Commandant by Jake (who does speak Espanol), we were allowed to leave Samana Harbor to find an anchorage as the sun was quickly setting. We have found it's best to handle the Officials with firmness but to smile a lot, be as polite as possible and understanding of their unusual customs. If you wish to see where Samana is located, please click on the map to the right of this post and zoom in.
Today we walked along a nearby palm lined beach with some resident goats and visited a nearby cave system called Cayo de Line
with ancient pictographs at least 500 years old drawn by Indians who lived in here. This region is characterised by karst topography with numerous sinkholes and caves and only a handful of these caves have been adequately documented.
29 March, 2013, Cofresi, nr Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Another 2 day weather window turned which coincided with a full moon tide so we quietly slipped out of the Turtle Bay Marina in Turks & Caicos on an early morning full tide. We knew we'd make it over the sandbar just inside the entrance this time as the local seagulls were standing in knee deep water on our starboard side giving us an extra inch of clearance. Phew! It felt so good to be out in deep water again. We felt we had been misadvised on this marina and didn't like feeling so trapped. Live and learn.
I can't tell you how the conversation came about, but basically the Dominican Republic (DR) sounded like a great place to visit so here we are after another overnight passage travelling 175 miles south. DR and Haiti are located on the 2nd largest island in the Caribbean called Hispaniola. The language is Espanol, the currency is Dominican pesos and vehicles travel on the right-hand side of the road. We checked out a recommended anchorage at Luperon on the north side of DR but the entrance was shallow and it was incredibly crowded with yachts, some of which had been thrown up into the mangroves years ago. We could not make watermaker water or swim so we continued another 10 miles eastwards to the Ocean World Marina http://www.oceanworldmarina.com. We were helped in by at least 6 marina attendants and tied ourselves up to huge concrete docks. After clearing in with Customs, Immigration, Marina Management, Navy and Narcotics officials who all came on board, we paid our $83 fee and were glad to have a home as the northerly front descended on us with winds of 25 knots only an hour later. This brought surge into the marina and waves breaking over the top of the marina wall. Our berth is a blow-off berth but still, Vanish and all other vessels were sliding about a foot forward and backward and then rolling slightly from side to side, a new kind of Latin marina dance.
My brain thought that this situation was totally wrong. When I looked at the concrete dock beside Vanish, it appeared to be heaving up and down and from side to side which of course made my stomach start to do the same thing. The tug on the other side of the dock was making some dreadful noises as it banged and scraped against the dock. I have to admit that I took my first seasick pill here in the marina and luckily didn't make any offerings to King Neptune. We actually deployed one of the flopper stoppers on the first night which helped enormously in slowing the rolling motion.
On the plus side we have great internet and phone and there are many nearby restaurants and if we want to, there is a Casino, an adventure water park with dolphins, seals and stingrays, car rental offices, local buses, nearby waterfalls and lush tropical mountains up to 10,000 feet in height. Food and alcohol is extremely cheap, especially rum with a case of a dozen rum bottles costs around $US95. The people are extremely helpful and friendly and there's a lot to see. The next anchorage eastwards from Cofresi is 100 miles away at Samana Bay. If we go westwards there are quite a few more before we head offshore avoiding Haiti. We'll do our research, get our bearings and some well-deserved rest and decide which way to go soon.
25 March, 2013, Providenciales (aka Provo), Turks & Caicos
You've got to hand it to Maynard. He can sure pick good weather windows. All those years of racing have taught him a great deal about weather patterns and routing so instead of looking for the right wind speed, angles and sea conditions which we used to do with our sailing yacht, he now looks for a light stable weather pattern and low sea state. We still prefer the wind from behind if it's over 20 knots. Those conditions presented themselves on Wednesday so we departed George Town aka Chicken Town, Exuma with a light westerly wind and seas less than 2 ft. Our first day at sea was hot with a light following breeze so we had zero apparent wind. During the afternoon a high temp engine alarm started blaring in the bridge indicating the air temp sensor in the engine room had reached 135 deg F. After a fair bit of angst, checking systems, and taking heat temps with the temp gun, we found that an engine mechanic had failed to tighten a flange on the exhaust whilst doing a small warranty job in Freeport. It has now been tightened and reset and shouldn't scare the s#*t out of us again.
We have 3 large G-Series Raymarine screens in the bridge. At night we use radar on one of the Raymarine screens. The middle screen is used as a chart plotter with radar overlay and the 3rd screen displays the FLIR image (eg infra-red image) and we also use the Picture in Picture function to display the camera image of the engine room at the bottom of the FLIR display. This arrangement allows the watch person to pretty much keep tabs of the important functions of the vessel. We can also easily keep check of fuel usage, pump systems, alarms, power usage and many more statistics associated with the general running of Vanish via several other displays. We generally display the radar on a range of 3 to 6 miles and the FLIR image is great at a range of ½ to 1 mile. This combination with normal watch keeping has given us a good amount of security on those dark nights at sea. Maynard, Jake and I do 3 hour watches while Renae rests at night so she is fresh to help with meals during the day. This is working very well for us at present and means each of us can take up to 6 hours sleep before starting the next watch.
The trip took 34 hours for the 243 miles and included gensetting for 9 hours. We averaged 1 mile per gallon of fuel usage for the entire trip including blowing out the engines at WOT (wide open throttle) for 15 minutes prior to arrival at Caicos. Kyle, the Marina Manager at the Turtle Bay Marina guided us through the fringing reef in his small power boat and down the boat channel and had mentioned that the marina cut currently had a problem with a sandbar forming across the entrance. Well, this turned out to be a really really shallow convoluted entrance with only 25 feet of width and as our beam is 21 feet, both ladies had to call out clearances on each side of Vanish as rocks were threatening to take out the stabilisers on the starboard side while seagulls strolled around looking bored in ankle deep water on the port side. Meanwhile bow and stern thrusters were used to wiggle our way into the marina. Our draft is 6 ft and at high tide, the depth of water across the bar is only 6 ft 1 ins so we decided to try it. Anchoring off was not a happy choice as the north side of Caicos is exposed and rolls. We actually made it through and didn't touch. How crazy. We'll never do that again but wait, we still have to "gut it up" and get out of here. Trying not to think about that. After clearing in with Customs we needed several large glasses of red to settle the nerves (and rum and cokes too). We were cleared in by Chevron the Customs Officer for a fee of $50 which allows us to stay 7 days. If we stay longer than that, a Cruising Permit costs $300.
The best way to see a new small country quickly is either by bus or by renting a car so we had a choice of Scooter Bob's rental cars "Donner", "Blitzen" or "Prancer". All vehicles drive on the same side as Britain and Australia so all we thought to ask for was a car with air conditioning. We didn't think to ask for a car with a steering wheel on the right and ended up with "Prancer", a little rent-a-bomb with one functional seatbelt and a pig-squealing slipping fan belt with Maynard driving down the left side of the road with a left hand steering wheel right next to the sidewalk. Maynard said it puts your brain into a spin. Some cars have left-hand drive and some have right-hand drive. You can never pick who the driver is in a vehicle. It's weird. The island of Caicos is about 11 miles long and around 3 miles across so one can see most of it in a day. Turks & Caicos is a British Overseas Territory made up of 40 islands and cays with generally flat, rolling hills. These islands were the first landfall made by Christopher Columbus in 1492 in his search for the Far East. There are at least 50 restaurants and cafes on the island, resorts, upmarket rental homes on the beaches, Duty Free shops and all kinds of water sports and diving hosted by extremely friendly laid back Turks Islanders aka Belongers.
We know we only just announced our Plan but we've decided to make a "detour" and will be leaving soon. Can you guess where we're going?
19 March, 2013, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, The Bahamas
The town of George Town serves 1000 people and is one of the last (semi) decent provisioning stops in the Southern Bahamas. As it is a turning point for a lot of U.S. and Canadian visiting yachties, it is also known as Chicken Town. Have I mentioned there are virtually no navigational marks in the Bahamas? Coming into Elizabeth Harbour is like coming into Moreton Bay in Brisbane on visual on a cloudy day following a straight purple dashed line on the Navionics chart which worryingly went across depths of 1.5m (5 ft). We draw 6 ft. We quickly anchored before hitting anything, dropped the dinghy in the water and sent Jake ahead to check depths, then followed him into the anchorage, a prudent thing to do for us as we do not want to run aground. We anchored at the back of the pack of around 250 yachts which have been diminishing each day since as they are already heading north on a daily basis to avoid hurricane season. We've visited the local hotspot, the Chat 'n Chill, a beach restaurant where Conch Salad was being made as you can see in the above photo. Large stingrays were swimming lazily around waiting to be hand fed at the nearby beach. So far we've seen hand fed pigs, sharks and now stingrays.
OK. The question on everyone's mind is What's Next??? Are we chickens or are we roosters? Well, it looks like a weather window might be coming up with seas of 1 to 2 ft which can take us 240 miles to another country called Turks and Caicos. These places are so well known to U.S. and Canadian citizens, but to us, they never come up in Aussie conversation so we've had to do a great deal of research to sort out a Plan. Basically, we need to be out of the hurricane zone by the end of May so we need to be south of Latitude 10 deg S. We can now announce......da da da daaahhhhhh.......we are headed for either Colombia or Panama via Jamaica. April and May are the best cruising months of the year in the Caribbean so we want to make the most of it. We chose Jamaica over the more traditional Windward Island route as it is less travelled. Also as we are coffee growers and rum connoisseurs, Jamaica is renowned for both products. Pretty good excuse eh?
15 March, 2013, Little Major Spot Cay, Exuma, The Bahamas
Well we've seen it all now. Did you know that pigs are great swimmers? We'd heard about a little family of wild ..er tame pigs that live on a nearby cay called Little Major Spot which is close to our anchorage near Staniel Cay. These pigs were left on the cay a number of years ago by a couple of Staniel Cay residents. As we neared the beach in our dinghy, we saw some movement on the sand as three chooks started strutting along the water's edge followed by these huge healthy looking pigs that just walked straight into the water and swam right for us. We'd brought some apples, celery and carrots but they're fussy little devils and rejected the carrots when someone else gave them some peanut butter sandwiches. They're awfully smart and would only swim out to new visitors to their beach party. The pig in the above photo practically launched himself into our dinghy to check out our food and then swam off to find a new grocery store. It was really hilarious watching them swim and some of us were very tempted to swim with them but we were told that they'd been known to bite so we scratched that idea. They also seem to like drinking beer as they sat down politely on the sand and opened their mouths when another local tourist operator took the top off a can of beer. I bet they could all get drunk and disorderly real fast. They're certainly on a good wicket..... for a pig that is.
Next, we headed over to Thunderball Grotto, a great snorkelling site and where the movies Thunderball (James Bond movie) and Splash were filmed. The best time to dive the cave is at slack tide as there is a strong current through here. We tied up the dinghy to a mooring and swam towards the narrow entrance between sharp jagged rocks then swam under a rocky ledge into the grotto itself. Once inside, the water was around 20ft deep and filled with a fairly large school of colourful reef fish. It's possible to jump into the water from the opening at the top of the grotto but we were more interested in feeding the fish this time bringing them right up to our masks. We all agreed that it was the best dive so far.
Our last stop for the day was the Staniel Cay docks where local fishermen clean their catches. The nearby population of more than 20 nurse sharks all know about it as they were waiting for the scraps. The sharks all line up near the concrete steps at the water's edge so we took the opportunity to pat their heads as they were so docile. A very young small boy near us had no fear whatsoever and pulled a small shark clear out of the water by its tail. The bigger sharks just nudged each other and rolled their eyes as they remembered fondly their own childhoods flying through the air. One can only imagine what sort of ruckus this would have led to if the boy had done this in Oz, however, these sharks seemed to be used to it as they just came back for more. Once again, some of us were very tempted to swim with them but yours truly was told in no uncertain terms to "get a grip".
(No animals were hurt in the making of this blog.)
12 March, 2013, Cambridge Cay, Exuma, The Bahamas
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy; Maynard, Jake, Renae and me too. In case there's any doubt, we do actually work and often late into the night on various work or boat jobs. However, we take time out to exercise, not in a gym or such-like, but in The Main Man's swimming pool provided free of charge to anyone who wishes to partake. Coincidentally, we're anchored near Johnny Depp's 40 acre cay which he purchased after filming Pirates of the Caribbean - Renae and I really wish he would come over for a Piña Colada or a Goombay Smash.
Ideally, a great snorkelling experience requires a sunny day with few clouds, low wind, minimal tidal movement, no swell and settled conditions. Usually, one element or another is missing but you have to grab your opportunities. We headed out in the dinghy to explore a couple of spots we'd read about and on our way, found a buoy floating in the water at a nearby cay so we dived down to see what was there. We found a Cessna plane which had crashed years ago and was now home to the local fish. Two 3 ft long barracuda came sauntering past. One was only 18" from my face, yikes, he had big teeth too as he gave me a big cheesy grin, which was probably a bad sign. We also saw a nurse shark, and we also saw a lobster hiding in a crevice and some lovely soft coral. We snorkelled at a dive spot called Seaquarium, our best so far near O'Brien Cay where we were met by a school of hungry reef fish all expecting fish food. The fish life is very sparse but there are definitely more in this area as it is a Marine Park. The water clarity was extraordinary and we estimated we could see 100 ft ahead. We also visited Rocky Dundas, a rocky cay which boasts a cave only accessible by the ocean where stalactites and stalagmites grow just above sea level. Swells were pushing into the cave making a weird booming sound. Lastly we tried the Coral Gardens off Honeymoon Beach on Cambridge Cay but it has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
By the way, a comet by the name of Pan-STARRS is currently visible after sundown in the western sky. March 13 is expected to be the best viewing day so hopefully we'll have a chance to take a photo if we get clear skies.
10 March, 2013, Shroud Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas
These beautiful graceful birds are flying overhead looking for flying fish, crustaceans and mates. We feel lucky to see them as they are in courtship mode and the females are swinging their tails from side to side trying to impress the males. March and April is breeding season and the female lays one white egg in a crevice or hole on the dry rocky islands in the Bahamas and Cuba regions. The birds are up to 40" in length and are a real treat to see.
8 March, 2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas
Norman's Cay once served as the headquarters for Carlos Lehder's drug smuggling operations from 1978 to 1982. Lehder was part of the Medellin Cartel, allegedly associated with Fidel Castro, Manuel Noriego and Robert Vasco. He constructed a 3,300 ft long runway on Norman's Cay for his fleet of aircraft to transport loads of cocaine to Florida and South Georgia, USA. The DC 3 plane in the above picture was carrying a load of turf to bring to the island and was practicing a 'touch and go' manoeuvre to simulate taking off with a load of cocaine but due to misjudgement, he crashed at the southern end of the cay in the shallow waters. There was so much money passing through their operations back then that Lehder apparently just shrugged his shoulders and ordered another plane. The island became a haven for partying and debauchery and an associate of Lehder's remembers being met by Land Rovers driven by naked women. The Bahamian Government turned a blind eye for a number of years so Lehder and his mates made their own rules; drugs, sex and no police.
Years ago we watched a movie called Blow starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz about these activities so we must see if we can watch it again as we had no idea we'd ever see Norman's Cay in person. Maynard is over there right now trying to find any Land Rovers. Lehder was finally apprehended during a raid and was convicted and sentenced to life without parole plus 135 years. He sure had a good eye for a beautiful place to run his business.
7 March, 2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas
This is the clearest, most crystalline, beautiful turquoise water we've seen so far. The colours range from light to dark emerald to turquoise, and light and dark blues depending on the sun angles. It just keeps getting better. The colours remind me of Rottnest Island near Perth, Western Australia but the clarity here is incredible. Maynard, wearing his Geologist/Geophysisict hat believes these clear waters are due to a couple of factors. Firstly, Exuma Sound sits on the east side and is mostly landlocked and protected from the North Atlantic swells. This unique sea plus the lack of run off from rain on the thin band of islands means there is very little disturbance of the surrounding sands.
We're not sure of the water temp at present but it is probably around 25 deg C or 77 F. Our water temp sensor on Vanish seems to be reading high so we are in the process of working on a fix. I can't report any other problems on Vanish. Boring, I know.......... but I can foresee a big, big problem. We could easily spend another season here.
5 March, 2013, Pic at Leaf Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas
We've been holed up at Rock Sound, Eleuthera for a few days due to a cold front, and I mean cold eg 10.3C and strong NW winds often over 30 kn. Finally it settled down and we motored across Exuma Sound. Geez, I can barely get this blog written as a S H A R K has just swum right next to our swim platform - it's big too, more than 2 meters. Can someone tell us what it is please? See Photo Gallery. Anyway, where was I! I'm shaking now as we just came back from a kayak and cat sail on sunset. Nearly went for a swim too but that's off the cards now. You can see how clear the water is.
Well we are now officially in the Exumas, a chain of 365 or so islands and cays running NW to SE for 90 miles and all part of The Bahamas group of islands and an extremely popular cruising ground. We anchored near Highborne Cay and took the dinghy across to Leaf Cay to see the last remaining rock iguana colony in the Bahamas not expecting too much. What a great surprise. There were at least 50 on the beach and they were simply stunning lizards, as lizards go, being almost a meter in length. They are very curious and will walk right up to you as they seem to be very used to tourists.
1 March, 2013, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
This week we've moved from Harbour Island on the north end of Eleuthera to Rock Sound Harbour at the southern end of Eleuthera. As one of the beaut benefits of our previous piloting experience with Little Woody was a carrot cake baked by Mrs Little Phyllis Woody, we asked Little Woody to pilot us out through the reefs and rocks again. We intended going west on the ocean side of NW Eleuthera, but Little Woody knows these waters extremely well and took us through the shortcut to Spanish Wells, his home town and down through the narrow channel alongside the town's fishing wharves and docks saving us around 12 miles thus staying in shallow waters. He regaled us with many more stories along the way and kept us entertained for the hour and a half it took to get us safely on our way.
Our flopper stoppers were taken out of storage this week as we haven't needed them since September last year due to the anchorages being so flat. This week the winds have not behaved themselves. The island of Eleuthera runs SE to NW. It is preferable to have the predominant winds out of the east so that we can comfortably stay on the west side of the island but we've had winds out of the west which means that most anchorages are exposed. This is not too much of a problem though with the flopper stoppers which work beautifully. We have the largest size, a No. 5 which is 900 mm across, and they are suspended from our cranes. They allowed us to stay happily in anchorages on the way down to Rock Sound that normally would be uncomfortable. Once those flopper stoppers are deployed and sitting 1 - 2 meters under the water, the change in the boat motion is incredible. I've included a link on the side bar to the right of this blog if you want to see more information - see Flopper Stopper Info under Favourites.
One of the main attractions at Rock Sound is Ocean Hole, a circular inland salt water lake 1 mile from the sea joined to the ocean by subterranean channels. It floods and ebbs with the tide. Locals believe it is bottomless but it was explored by Jacques Cousteau who could not find the connection to the ocean. It is more than 600 feet deep. It is full of beautiful reef fish and one can swim or snorkel in the lake but no fishing is allowed.
Every single person we've encountered in town has greeted us with a friendly smile or wave, whether they are driving, walking or even inside their homes. There are lots of photos in the Photo Gallery for your enjoyment.
(Fortunately there have been no further experiences with low flying unlit large helicopters.)
It's not the best anchorage. On my Rolling Richter Scale (RSS), it was a 3 even though we had an offshore south wind but due to a small south-west swell and being held side on with the tide, the guys deployed both flopper stoppers which brought the RSS down to less than 1. Vanish is sitting quietly at anchor as usual in a new spot with no one else around. It's dark outside. The moon has risen and Jake is serenading Renae on the bow with his new guitar. Maynard and I are reading in the salon but then we hear a sound. What's that? Sounds like a fairly large helicopter. At home, a helicopter at night could be police, military or rescue. It's very loud now so we race outside and peer towards the sound but can see nothing. It's a cloudless moonlit night and the chopper is probably 200m overhead. It's unlit! How can that be? We've never come across an unlit aircraft before. It passes but 20 minutes later it's back in the sky and all we see of it is the silhouette as it passes low in front of the moon heading stealthily off into the distance. But what's this? It's coming back and we can hear it coming low right towards us. We race to the fly deck as it's nearly on top of us now and 2 seconds before it passes over us, the pilot switches on a searchlight to illuminate Vanish. The light is quickly turned off again within 5 seconds. He circles and passes across the moon again in pitch darkness before disappearing. What just happened?
25 February, 2013, Harbour Island aka Briland, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Meet our latest edition to the Vanish Fleet. It's a Hobie Bravo Cat and the hull is made of tough rotomolded polyethylene and weighs in at 88.45 kg, about 195 lbs. We store it on the fly deck aft and when stowed for passage making, we are able to use the aft stairs and there's still room up there for more toys. Who's counting, but we now have 5 water craft on Vanish. The Hobie Bravo takes 20 minutes to set up from whoa to go and it performs really well in a wide range of wind conditions as the mainsail can be easily furled to suit all wind conditions and it comes with a boom and even has 4 beer can holders for those who partake. It's simple to rig and has decent upwind performance and is great fun as we've found out in the past few days Maynard probably wants to trick it out with instruments and carbon fibre sails.
Little Woody told us not to worry about sharks in the harbour because if one is spotted, the locals immediately "get rid of it" but the crew on a 30m catamaran Quintessential (http://www.superyachttimes.com/editorial/0/article/id/9868) in the marina told us that a large bull shark was swimming around their boat this afternoon. It didn't stop us though as we all took turns sailing on the water.
Until we came here, we knew nothing about Bahamian life. They enjoy sunshine and a lack of rules and regulations which are becoming so commonplace in the Western world plus they have low crime rates and we found a couple more reasons people seem so happy. There are no local taxes on capital gains, inheritance, corporate and personal income, nor dividends and interest. People speak English, there are many airports, roads and ferries and The Bahamas are close to the USA. The Bahamian archipelago is 100,000 square miles and stretches about 500 miles with 700 islands and cays but the total land mass is only 5,382 square miles yet there are only 350,000 and 2/3 of them live on New Providence where the capital Nassau is located so the rest of the islands are very unpopulated. 50% of Bahamian income comes from tourism. And we can eat outside and have yet to encounter a fly, mozzie or sandfly. There's a lot to be said for that!
22 February, 2013, Dunmore Town aka Briland, Harbour Island, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Your text to link...
One of the main reasons we decided to visit Harbour Island was to see the pink sand beach reputed to be the best in the world. We were not disappointed and could clearly see the pink in the sand formed from tiny shelled animals named Foraminifera. I scooped up a bagful to study later. We've seen the whitest sand in the world made up of 98% silica at Whitehaven Beach in North Queensland, Australia but this pink sand is really something else. Definitely worth the detour.
Take the Virtual Tour of the Beach:
21 February, 2013, Harbour Island, Eleuthera, The Bahamas
2 to 4 foot seas and a light easterly wind made for the perfect day to leave the Abacos behind and head south across the Providence North East Channel to the next chain of islands in the Bahamas called Eleuthera. From our anchorage off Lynyard Cay in the Abacos to Dunmore Town on Harbour Island in Eleuthera, we travelled 60 miles under blue skies and a slightly rolling sea. The books all recommended that we use the services of a local pilot, especially for first timers as the entrance is narrow, tidal and has rocks and reefs on either side with no channel markers. We arranged for Little Woody to meet us at 3.30pm for a relatively small fee and he came speeding up behind us, hopped on board and after a few quick pleasantries, was sitting behind the helm and talking a mile a minute. He said he's brought boats in owned by Olivia Newton-John, Jimmy Buffett, Greg Norman, Harrison Ford and now Vanish and he's been a pilot here for 17 years. It took around 45 minutes to reach our anchorage area and as he left, he kindly gave us a delicious cake cooked by his wife and other goodies and we gave him a gift of a stuffed kangaroo. No, not a REAL one!
p.s. In case you are interested, our poor little home at Byron Bay, Australia has been pounded by high winds for days by another low pressure system but winds are currently 37 knots with gusts to 68 knots. This is the 2nd time this has happened this year. You can check out the weather site at:
19 February, 2013, Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas
Time ashore is always interesting in the Bahamas. We've now spent quite a bit of time in this area so we were looking forward to going ashore, eating out, checking out the latest boats in the marinas and generally having a good old stickybeak. During lunch at Mangoes, which apparently just re-opened after being closed for a month, Maynard thought he spotted a Marlow on the other side of the harbour at the Marsh Harbor Marina but we needed to get a bit closer for verification. We first had to check out Mangoes Marina and Harbor View then Marina Boat Harbor Marina and lo and behold, we came across the Marlow 65 named Bakara and spent time chatting with the friendly Captain Eli and Mate Juliano. Unfortunately, we didn't meet the owners who will be flying in soon.
The mystery boat across the harbour was calling our names but the call for a cuppa at Java Coffee shop was stronger so we sat down with the above two lovely ladies Kate and Kelly who are on holiday from Washington in the USA, with their husbands Chris and David. Now Kelly and Chris reminded us of Maynard and I in our "Pre Boating Life". Chris wants a boat ........ like..... yesterday! Maynard and I used to have the same conversations that Chris and Kelly are no doubt having.
M: "I think we should buy a boat."
V: "Why? We've got a car."
M: "I think we'd have a lot of fun."
V: "But you don't know anything about boats."
M: "Yes, but I'll learn. How hard can it be? Lots of people have boats."
V: "But what if I get seasick or something happens?"
M: "You'll get over the seasickness and nothing is ever going to happen."
This conversation would come up almost every week for 10 years. Maynard can be very determined so I finally relented 20 years ago and here we are today. I hope they let us know what they end up with.
Quick sticks in the dinghy across to Marsh Harbor Marina and high five .....yes it's another Marlow, Blue Rosy V owned by Rosmarie and Rene. A plethora of Marlows. We were given a tour of their lovely Marlow 65 and introduced to many wonderful people staying in the marina who all appear to be very adept at playing oompah with conch shells, especially the women for some reason. I wish we could spend more time here. Knowing where we're going, this might be the last time we'll be surrounded by so many of our own kind.
17 February, 2013, Nr Treasure Cay, The Abacos, Bahamas
Don't ask me why but the guys chose today to change over the anode on one of Vanish's three water heaters, actually the water heater which serves our cabin. Each water heater holds 17 gallons. Normally this is no problem but they switched the heater off a day and a half ago unknown to me and today has GOT to be one of the coldest days of the year in the Bahamas with a current temp of 14 deg C (57 deg F....hey, that's cold for us wimps) and this morning's shower was brass monkey conditions. They decided to change the anode on the most accessible heater first which is located under a berth in the aft twin cabin starboard side. The anode needs changing every 3 years or so and is probably a 10 minute job. Nup. When does any boat job take 10 minutes? The new anode, as you can see in the Photo Gallery, was a third longer than the original so it had to be shortened and then the access to the heater is cramped as are most things on any boat. They had to drain all the water from the hot water system and partially remove the water heater to keep the length of the anode as long as possible. This is why they'd turned off the heater. I fled when I heard a thump kind of sound and "Oh sh.." but crept down three hours later to see Maynard's finger wrapped in a blood soaked paper towel. The boy's faces were all smiles and happy as they announced proudly "Job's done." Just daydreaming....but I wonder if there's room for a spa.....better not say that out loud......
(Today I discovered that the Photo Gallery pics for "Happy Little Vegemites" were unfortunately unlabelled due to an internet conx problem but this has been rectified in case you wish to check them out.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 December, 2012, North-West Grand Bahama
Our Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron (RQYS) burgee finally shredded and was almost lost at sea near West End, Grand Bahama today. It lasted 5,000 miles and 7 months at sea and now needs to find a home in some exotic location in the near future.
9 December, 2012
On a previous blog post written on 4 November, 2012 called Puffin On a Cuban we told the story of the two Cuban crew on a yacht next to us during Hurricane Sandy wanting to immigrate to the USA. During the post Hurricane Sandy Survival Party on Vanish we found out that our new Cuban friends had left Havana, sold everything for cash and were planning to escape to the US. We didn't know if this story was true but our concern for these two men was enormous as we didn't trust the owners of the yacht they were on. The captain was continually intoxicated and had zero knowledge of the sea. On the day they left, I gave "A" a puffin on a keychain and told him I'd infused it with good luck as I felt he needed some sort of tangible hope of good fortune to help him and his friend on their journey to a better life. "A" said he would keep it forever.
They left when the forecast was favourable with 5 - 10 knots, increasing to 10 - 15 knots from the NE and seas of 2 - 3 feet. Even though we had no idea where they were going, the weather was ideal at the time but when you put your life into the hands of people who know absolutely nothing about sailing or the sea, the experience can be an absolute nightmare.
I recently received an update in Spanish about their Gulf Stream crossing which I translated using Google Translate, a nifty little helper.
"Finally I'm here in the land of freedom. I will try to tell you everything but the story is very long. Well we left that day as you know almost dark and we anchored about three miles off the coast and near the port. The weather was terrible, so bad that everything, absolutely everything in the boat except the TV broke. We could not sleep all night and at 4 am convinced the captain to start sailing. The weather the whole time was bad and the captain and the wife were eventually seasick as well. We all had terrible moments. We intended to sail into a harbour in Florida but the Captain lost our position and we were delayed. The whole trip was terrible motoring into a headwind and we were only doing 5 or 6 knots.
The captain decided to take down the sails which ended up being worse. The wind was right on the bow and we were going nowhere and really was one of the worst crossings of my life. At about 4 am after sailing for more than 24 hours, we saw lights on the horizon and we were very happy but we were still far away. A little closer to the coast we spotted a Coast Guard cutter coming right at us. That's when I was very scared. I thought all was lost and we were going to jump into the sea. Fortunately they turned back when they came very close to us (we later found out that the Coast Guard was doing manoeuvers with a helicopter above). I think we were very lucky. Well closer to the inlet the Captain wanted to call on the radio to report that they came with two Cubans. You can imagine what happened! We tried to discuss it but he didn't change his mind.
At the last minute we finally decided to jump right into the water and had to swim about 150 meters to reach the coast leaving all belongings in the boat, money, documents. Everything was lost. After two days without eating and sailing in bad weather we had no strength for anything but the need for freedom and the survival instinct was stronger than us. We reached the coast almost dead and threw ourselves into the sand. We began to cry out of joy and the shock we had endured. We were very cold and walked for 45 minutes until we came across a street where we called 911. Three police cars came, the K- 9 unit, the regular police and border patrol who took us to the detention center in Fort Lauderdale. They gave us dry clothes, food and interviewed us and took all our data. For the first time in my life I felt that the police treated me like a human being and I felt respect for them. We had no fear and felt good and from there we were taken by transport at 3 pm to the Church World Service who is in charge of Cuban immigrants.
We filled out more forms and applied for Government assistance. Right now I have one credit card and another with food stamps and I have some cash and waiting for help. We get $USD 200 per month and the initial paperwork which will allow me to get a Social Security Number and a Driver's License later. So far so good, but I will never forget what we suffered to get here nor do I forgive the Cuban Government for forcing me to do this and leave my family. (Burn in hell, Fidel!) Sorry for the expression but I could never say that in Cuba. I plan to go to California. I have my Cuban relatives who moved there one year ago and I have a job and home to stay in. I dream about my family being in Florida or California which I like and I have more calmness now until my wife have daughter join me.
I'm glad to have met you. Thanks for your support and concern. I still have the migratory bird of luck. When jumping into the sea, I just took my ID and that little bird. It honestly gave me much strength. Thank you and I wish you well. My friend is at a friend's house in the south, so he is well.
Greetings from my new land."
We have no doubt that these two men are now extremely happy with their new found freedom and will be supporting themselves independently and their families in no time at all.
7 December, 2012, Allans Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas
Jake removed the port side impeller today from the genset and it was much the same as the starboard side missing 7 of its 12 impeller blades. As Maynard is uncertain when they were last changed, we are going to have to monitor them closely. Given that they were broken in both gensets, it looks like they've been in there too long. But it's ok mon. We're in the Bahamas and every little ting'll be alright.
6 December, 2012, Allans Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas
While having lunch today in our usual pozzie at the aft deck table, Maynard noticed a slightly different tone to the normally consistent tone that the Onan gensets put out. He also noticed white smoke or steam coming out of the exhaust. He went in and checked the genset engine temperature and it was well within normal working range but maybe a couple of degrees higher than normal (179 deg F). So just to be safe, we shut it off and started up the starboard side genset and finished lunch....as you do.
After lunch, Jake and Maynard went down to inspect the impeller to ensure all was well and were amazed to find that 11 of the 12 impeller blades had broken off but the genset was still able to operate in its normal temperature range which is quite amazing. These impellers are supposed to have been changed every 500 hours and it was our understanding that they were changed in Maine by the previous crew. It was our plan to change them again in Freeport, Bahamas at their normal 500 hour interval. I suppose it is possible that these impellers were not changed and that might account for the really poor condition it was found in or there may be some other problem with the housing or whatever. We will now be inspecting the impellers every 50 - 100 hours just to make sure all is well. Tomorrow, we will pull off and inspect the impeller on the port side and let you know what we find. Of course, we felt it was necessary to find all 11 blades and as you can see, we were successful and removed all of them from the heat exchanger which is a happy conclusion to this job.
6 December, 2012, Picture taken at Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas
We are once again on our own after enjoying the past 10 days with our friends on Vanish. Our eyes have become so thoroughly biased with the outstanding features of this vessel that it was a joy showing these veteran yachties a complete tour of all the systems and features built into our boat. After 8 or 9 days I finally asked our guests if there was anything, anything at all they would have done differently or anything we should change and they both shook their heads and said, "Absolutely not. She's perfect!" And I can tell you that we took them out through Whale Cut where a rage sea was building to see how she handled, we anchored many times and went through every locker and bilge and tried all systems on Vanish so this speaks volumes.
The Abacos have proven to be a wonderful place to entertain guests as there are so many cays with excellent protection. We visited Elbow Cay, Tilloo Cay, Lubbers Quarters, Man O' War Cay, and Green Turtle Cay. These Out Islands are well serviced by the Donny and Bolo ferries which run all day ferrying tourists and workers back and forth between the islands. We've had excellent wifi coverage, good stores in which to provision and buy alcohol, excellent restaurants and bars to try local drinks such as the Goombay Smash and Bahama Mamas, and interesting towns with hundreds of years of history associated with them.
A couple of days ago Nick and Alison hopped onto the ferry called Bolo IV at New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. They headed off to meet Mark Anthony's taxi which whisked them off to the Marsh Harbor Airport to start their long journey back to Australia. We left Green Turtle Cay the next day and headed 30 miles north to Allan's Cay. On the way, we passed Spanish Cay which has been hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. The sea has washed across the narrowest part of the cay at the southern end of the airstrip and washed away all vegetation and buildings located there leaving nothing but sand. We saw 2 boats washed well up onto the shoreline where a photo in our guide book showed thick green bush. The 80 berth marina was apparently open but had no boats and some of the walkways were skewed.
Some cays are worse hit than others and this all depends on the direction of the hurricane winds and associated ocean swells. If you ever think of buying an island getaway, try to look at it after a hurricane and then decide if it looks secure or not. The Bahamas have encountered many hurricanes and they obviously bounce back from them but it all takes time.
We are anchored at Allans Cay, a very protected and lovely anchorage in crystal clear water and not another boat in sight. Maynard and I decided to take the kayaks out just before sunset for an hour of exercise tonight and we were just commenting on not seeing very many fish but figured that as it was nearly sunset, maybe they were hard to see. Next thing, a dark shadow came swimming towards us and passed exactly between our 2 kayaks and we looked down in the 3 - 4 feet of water to see a shark over 6 feet in length lazily swimming past. Doing what two normal Aussies would do in a situation like this, we turned our kayaks around and chased it for about 50 metres trying to identify it before it got tired of us and shot out of our sight like a bolt of lightning. It had a rounded bull type head so I must try to find out what it was. Never a dull moment.
(I will add photos to Photo Gallery in the next couple of days when we move back into better wifi as we are in the outer Outer Islands right now.)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, yes...you 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.
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.
Downwind racing on the Abaco Sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5 November, 2012, Manjack Cay, Abaco, Bahamas
A lovely anchorage where we tried our first snorkel.
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.
3 November, 2012, Little Grand Cay, Bahamas
A week has passed since Hurricane Sandy and if you've checked the webcam site on wunderground.com you'll see that we've now left Freeport, Grand Bahama. The wind has been too strong to venture out but we've covered nearly 150 miles in search of good snorkelling sites and picture perfect island getaways. The sea temperature has changed from 27.5 deg to a cool 22 deg, a wee bit disappointing as it's borderline cold for my liking and in a month's time we'll need head protection and wetsuits due to the cold water. The hurricane has salt burned all the leaves on the north side of all plants on these islands and the water is a milky colour in places making it difficult to do any watermaking.
All the cruising guides mention the shallow depths in the Bahamas and we can confirm that it's true as we've had a few heart pounding moments in depths of 2.1 metres (our keel is 1.9 metres) as we inch our way towards anchorages near cays and islands. Maynard's middle name should be "Shortcut" as we've taken some beauties in our lives both on land and on the water. He found one yesterday at the western end of Grand Bahama as we headed over to Great Sail Cay which shaved 20 miles off our 100 mile day ensuring we arrived before sunset although I probably have a few more grey hairs. Actually, it wasn't as bad as we thought but one needed to stay extremely vigilant in the winding 3 mile unmarked channel.
It seems that this hurricane and those of the past have changed the depths as again we had very shallow water today on our approach to Little Grand Cay which is the farthest northern island in the Bahamas. As it lies adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, the water clarity has improved somewhat but it is still very cool for swimming. We have only seen 2 vessels in 2 days of travelling and expected to see dozens. We are constantly amazed at how few yachts are on the water wherever we go. The above photo was taken at Double Breasted Cay which is near Little Grand Cay.
If we find that the Bahamas are just too cool for snorkelling or the anchorages too distant for our intended journey, we may have to make some drastic changes to our plans.
28 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
Last night we unwound with a Post Hurricane Survival Party on Vanish with Mike, Heidi, Nickol, 'A, 'R', Jake and Renae which we all badly needed. As friend Alison pointed out in a below Comment, you can see Vanish this week on a live webcam in Freeport at:
Maynard and I were still worried about the West End vessels so we hired a mini-bus to take us there as no regular buses travel on Sundays to the area. Luckily, Shari, a local lady also needed to get back to her house after the hurricane as she didn't know how it had survived so she hopped in as well and off we went. The road was badly damaged at Fishing Hole Road where a tiny strip of land divides the ocean to the north and south. Seaweed was piled up alongside the road and as high as 4 feet in the fences of some businesses and homes. We saw downed power lines draped across the road, shipping containers had floated into carparks, trees toppled and plants absolutely windblasted of their leaves. We were stopped by a small crowd and officials watching the Prime Minister touring a damaged house on the way out to the marina.
At the marina, we found our friends had survived although they had retreated to the resort for 3 days as there were 3 foot waves in the marina and 90 mph (75 knot) winds. The yacht had a particularly hard time as they were being so pressed against the dock and with tremendous windage from their mast, they had a battle on their hands to save the yacht which they did. There was so much seaweed in the marina that at first, I thought it was soil. Waves were breaking against the docks and Tim and Sherry on their boat aptly named Seaweed said their boat was rocking gunnel to gunnel so this is why they went to the resort.
On the way back, our bus driver also drove past the Freeport Airport which is still closed and was under around 4 feet of saltwater. Some parked cars in the carpark were swept into the fence surrounding the airport. We also saw 4 or 5 small aircraft had been blown into a power pole and were all bundled together. Ai yi yi, were we lucky!
27 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
Listening to Freeport's local AM Radio Station 810 this morning, the news was that Freeport still has no power and no water. Eight Mile Road on the way out to Old Bar Marina at West End where we originally thought we might stay before the forecast called for N - NW winds, is completely awash with seawater so the resort and villagers are cut-off from the rest of Grand Bahama. The seawater flooding out there was apparently 4 feet high and we have no idea how the two vessels in the marina fared. The airport is closed as the domestic terminal was flooded. Many subdivisons are also still flooded and when they say flooded here, they mean from seawater, not rainwater, as we had little rain. 75 mph winds are still expected on Grand Bahama today but we are only experiencing around 40 knots at our berth. It was a wild night but we sustained no damage so Job 3 is done and dusted.
26 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
The sun has gone down and the power is out on Grand Bahama. Maynard and I just walked up to the bow and we could barely stand in place as the wind gusts kept pushing us backwards. The rain hits so hard on our faces that it stings. The noise is relentless as we are in our second day and still have another night and morning until it passes as this thing is moving so slowly. The barometer is now at 993 mb and still dropping. The wind is well over 60 knots now during the gusts from the NW. The 10 storey high hotels are in darkness, except for their stairwells, and there is barely any light anywhere onshore. Maynard said that it was very important that we found a blow off berth from the NE and NW winds as this has kept Vanish from being rolled and pushed against pilings. Outside we can hear things banging around and the light posts on the dock are swaying wildly. We have another 14 hours of these conditions. The above photo shows a 50 kn wind barb over our position which means gusts to 65 kn. Right now, it is probably the worst that we've seen in this hurricane but we still feel we are ok. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone.
26 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
Maynard and I threw caution to the wind and ran across the road to the hotel which has beach access. Our attempt for wave action pictures was foiled by a big Bahamanian security guard as he didn't wish to be responsible for us being endangered with flying palm leaves and the possibility of falling trees. We were only away for 20 minutes but in that time, the wind had risen considerably and it was actually difficult to step back onto Vanish as it was being pushed away from the dock so much. Almost as soon as we hit the send button on my last post, the power and internet went out again so who knows when we'll get it back this time. The hurricane is now about 60 miles to our ENE but we're still getting rain with gusts in excess of 50 knots.
26 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
At 2 am Freeport lost power so the surrounding hotels and buildings were completely dark except for emergency lighting powered by their own generators. We now have no power at the marina and no marina internet although our satellite tv is working like a dream so we can still source information from it and cell internet. Of course we still have our own power and water on Vanish so we are very comfortable. Currently, Hurricane Sandy is only 65 miles east of our location at Marsh Harbour with 50 mph gusts occurring within a 300 mile radius of its centre. Its central pressure is 978 mb and has slowed to a speed of 6 mph. At 10 am this morning, the wind suddenly rose from gusts of 35 kn with lulls to gusts of over 50 kn. At West End, they are experiencing 45 knots with gusts over 60 knots. Here, the water is being lifted off the surface in the marina as it races towards us and is backing to the NW. We've had very little rain in the last 24 hours. We have wind waves but little storm surge and hope it stays this way.
Both Maynard and I have been through many storms in the past, the worst being at our house perched on a hill the locals nicknamed Hurricane Hill overlooking Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia in 1987. During a particularly bad storm front, we experienced winds of 70 - 80 knots and this was the right speed for our large heavy roof tiles to start flying skywards and pierce our front lawn. I only mention this because the sound, the force and the feel of the wind and weather has ensured great respect over the years. We've also been on a yacht in another heavy storm in Refuge Cove, Victoria, Australia in 1991 in winds in excess of 60 knots and of course Maynard skippered Cruz Control in the 2000 Sydney - Hobart Yacht Race which encountered winds of 60 knots in Bass Strait. These and many other severe weather events we've been through certainly help in the preparation for our current situation. We chose the only blow off berth in the Port Lucaya Marina that Vanish could fit into and she has not even touched a fender nor sustained any damage.
Cloud 9, Cuban 'A' and Vanish are all doing well although all of us are on high alert and feeling a tad sleepy. The whole area is deserted but we will try to walk over to the beach shortly to see what's happening and send more pictures if possible. It is a relief to be tied up in the marina and not battling the seas or on anchor watch. We do hope everyone fairs well in this event.
Ps Marina Internet and power just came back on. Woo-hoo.
25 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
This hurricane is now being called Frankenstorm as it is going to hit the US during Halloween and on the 21st anniversary date of the Perfect Storm. We can't think about that right now as we have our own personal Frankenstorm heading our way in 24 hours time. Maynard and Jake spent today looking over our neighbour's boats to see if they needed help. Alex, our Cuban yacht skipper next door needed help in lowering his jib and packing it safely for the storm. Mike and Heidi from Cloud 9, the 109 foot motor vessel also needed help retying their lines, removing the battery from their dinghy floating behind them, and advising them what to expect as this is their first trip on their vessel and their Captain has left them to it and gone back to the US.
We've been checking the wind speeds out at the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End and have seen winds as high as 35 knots today while we've only experienced winds to around 17 knots during rain squalls this afternoon. The barometer has been dropping at a rate of 1 mb per hour this afternoon and has gone from 1014 mb to 1010 mb in the last 4 hours. The centre of Hurricane Sandy is currently 963 mb with sustained winds of 105 mph and wind gusts to 125 mph moving north at 19 mph. It looks like it is going to make a left hand turn over the top of Grand Bahama coming a bit closer to us before heading north again with a storm the hurricane specialists have never seen before as it heads towards New York after passing us. This is as bad as the Perfect Storm except worse as this one will come ashore on the US coastline. We actually feel fortunate that we are nowhere between Wilmington, South Carolina north to the northern part of Maine. We still have 36 hours of bad weather ahead of us. Worryingly, high tide was much higher on the dock than we expected to see and we are starting to feel slight storm surge. We'll be on tide watch during the night to check lines.
25 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
I'll give you the bad news first. Hurricane Sandy is still coming towards us here in Freeport, Bahamas with 105 mph wind and a centre of 967 mb, a Category 2 hurricane. The good news is that we have checked all our sources and also our friend Kingsley in Australia emailed us the above GFS forecast wind model which shows the expected location of Hurricane Sandy tomorrow (Friday) at 0500. It's expected to pass 80 miles east of us instead of passing overhead so we are feeling slightly better at this stage. This should also spare the people at the West End Marina. When we left Charleston, South Carolina last Friday morning, Maynard saw that the upper jet stream was dipping low into the Gulf Stream bringing cold weather lower into the US. We felt that this jet stream should protect the northern Bahamas. Combining this with the awful beaurocratic hassels, we decided to come to the Bahamas. Hurricane Sandy is way too close, but hope the powerful jet stream will keep pushing it away. If you want to see our location, type in Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas and it should zoom into the area. If you zoom out and have clicked the Weather overlay, you will see where the hurricane is located. (Of course, if you are reading this a year from now, you've missed all the action.)
We have grey skies, 9 knots of wind in the marina but 25 knots outside and occasional drizzle this morning. The dock boys are double tying all boats in the marina, removing potential projectiles and nailing down the colourful jetty picnic tables.
For those of you watching us, here is the verbatim forecast for waters immediately offshore of our position and Florida. It shows the danger of a strong northerly wind blowing against a north flowing Gulf Stream:
Friday Night - Tropical storm conditions expected. NW winds 31 - 38 kn with gusts to 55 kn. Along the coast, seas 17 - 21 ft. Occasional seas to 24 ft. Subsiding later to 14 - 17 ft. Occasional seas up to 20 ft. In the Gulf Stream, seas over 20 ft, up to 37 ft. Dominant period 7 seconds. (DON'T GO THERE - I wrote that.....not NOAA).
In Australia, we say that if something is built strongly, it's built "like a brick dunny" (a dunny is a public or private restroom). Hey, guess what I found....a dunny and it IS built like a brick dunny....a perfect hideout for scared Captain's wives.....
24 October, 2012, Port Lucaya Marina, Freeport, Bahamas
Yesterday we did some late reconnaissance work by taking the local bus 22 miles into town specifically to look at the Port Lucaya Marina in Freeport, Bahamas. When we saw it we both felt that it provided a lot more wind protection and inundation protection but we might be subject to flying debris. This morning when we checked the weather reports, we saw that the Hurricane had intensified and the winds were also swinging around to the NW, directly across and against the Gulf Stream. This would make West End Marina more vulnerable to surge as the sea wall was only 3 feet high at high tide and the reef did not protect us from this direction. We had been reluctant to leave our berth as it was risky in the 20+ knot winds and tight manoeuvring. However, we felt we had no choice but to depart immediately. A sport fishing boat decided to attempt to cross back to Florida today and we pray they will be ok. The two other vessels are still in the marina tonight. I am really worried about them; one small boat with the lovely couple and two dogs and the 70ft yacht tied up behind us.
Our 27 mile trip against the current and ENE 25 knot wind was wet and wild but still very comfortable. As low tide at Port Lucaya was at 10.30am with 6 feet of clearance across the bar, given the seas we waited until 2 hours after low tide to cross. This alone was a hairy event as we crabbed across yet another narrow entrance into the Port. Once inside the small breakwater, the wind decreased to around 10 knots so we slowly backed into our berth, tied up with the help of the dockmaster and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Job 1 done. The boat is now tied up with a spiderweb of lines, all fenders are in place, every cushion has been removed, all covers are double tied with extra line, chairs taken inside. We have 12 dock lines of 1" nylon 100,000 lb breaking strength tied to 12 different posts which we've been assured are deeply penetrated into the sea bed but the idea is to distribute the load across as much area as possible. Job 2 done.
One thing Chattybird is good at is finding out information. We've now been told by a number of well informed locals that West End Marina has had a LOT of flooding in the past from these storms...no, not from rain, from the SEA which just washes over the beach and the land. We noticed a huge number of dead trees near West End and now realise why. And it gets waves. "Dem boats, day get mashed up down dare mon." I asked many people how well Port Lucaya fares in these storms and mostly they all say, "Just wind 'n rain mon...maybe few puddles." Ok, I don't believe it but I guess we're about to witness it for ourselves.
Once the salt was washed off the boat, Jake and Renae rushed out to Solomons grocery store for last minute supplies along with half of the Bahamas with the same idea. We have tried our best to do everything possible to keep ourselves and Vanish safe. This takes flexibility, research and experience but who knows if we'll get this right. We hope so. The winds are forecast to be 85 mph with higher gusts to 100 mph and 4 - 7 foot sea surge but we are hoping we get some protection where we are. We'll see. This is a nightmare scenario for us, one we have avoided our entire sailing careers. The airport will be closed at 7am tomorrow morning. By lunchtime tomorrow, the wind will be getting bad. I will try to keep you informed but if we lose the internet, you won't hear from us for a while. Chances are that if it gets too bad, I'm dragging Maynard, Jake and Renae off to the fortified hotel across the road where we'll play Scrabble and listen to soothing music.
23 October, 2012, West End, Grand Bahama
We decided to call Customs in the USA this morning to once again check to see if they would allow us to return to the USA in light of the approaching Hurricane Sandy as it seemed a good option to escape the centre of the storm. We were told that as we had cleared into the Bahamas, the rules state that Maynard and I cannot re-enter the USA on the visa waiver programme on a pleasure craft. We would need to either enter on a commercial vessel or fly into the USA where our passports would be stamped with a new visa, fly back to the Bahamas, then take Vanish back to the USA to a safer port. By this time, crossing the Gulf Stream would be extremely dangerous so Customs have effectively closed the door on our re-entry. As far as we know, the USA and a handful of countries in the world are the only countries where we cannot clear in on our own vessel.
Frustrated and feeling backed into a corner, we decided to look for other alternatives. There are none that we can see. We are in the path of a hurricane with a forecast of 70 mph winds. It will be on top of us within three days. There are a couple of things in our favour at this marina:
. The strongest wind will be coming from the NNE and we have 30 miles of very shallow reef to our north-east so the seas should not have any fetch,
. The entrance to the marina is very narrow so again we hope to have little wave action and the tides only have a 3 foot range,
.There are only 3 other vessels in the marina so we will not have to deal with flying debris from them and also the wind direction means any debris from the resort will not blow towards us,
.The resort is made up of several separate two storey brick buildings where we will take shelter if events become unsafe on the boat.
If you want to keep up to date with this hurricane, go to wunderground.com (Tropical Update) or weatherchannel.com. We will start our hurricane preparations for Vanish tomorrow.
I guess I'm going to get the chance to use my brand new wet weather gear after all.
22 October, 2012, Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Grand Bahama
Invest 99L has now been named Tropical Storm Sandy. As you can see from the above model where we are located just east of Freeport, Grand Bahama, we are expecting winds of 50 knots. Not far from here 75 knots is predicted at Nassau. I don't know about you, but we've seldom seen a wind arrow of 75 knots before. As this is a northerly wind on a rapidly flowing north flowing Gulf Stream, tomorrow is probably the last day that we can safely leave the marina and cross to Florida before the seas turn truly dangerous. Of course, this ignores the problems of only having a couple of days left on our US visas, no Cruising Permit and the need to advise Customs 24 hours notice to enter the US. Trapped between a storm and beaurocracy. We will keep you posted.
21 October, 2012, Old Bahama Bay Marina, Westend, Grand Bahama
As you can see, the above photo of palm trees waving in the breeze is not Charleston, South Carolina. After being boarded and inspected by Customs and Border Protection, a different police vessel with the tried and true blue flashing lights circled us just before dark but left us alone. However, when the sun went down a helicopter from either the Coast Guard or Police Department made repeated swoops right on top of Vanish with searchlights trained down on us barely 150 metres above us. As there were no other vessels anchored in the harbour, we could not imagine why they were doing this. I tried to get a picture of this harassing behaviour but every time I ran out in my underwear, the spotlight lit up Vanish like a Christmas tree so I had to duck back inside before they took MY picture. We'd had enough. If USA citizens were searched at any time day or night for no probable cause in their own homes by officials with guns or treated with such suspicion for no reason, I don't think they'd like it very much. Given that Maynard was born in Topeka, Kansas and lived in the US for over 30 years, he finds it all very hard to swallow. It was time to leave the US and go somewhere inviting where we could relax and enjoy ourselves and as we had a perfect weather window to the Bahamas. We motored 440 miles along the US coastline, then cut across the hot Gulf Stream near Fort Pierce, Florida but not before we were once again hailed by a Coast Guard Cutter off Cape Canaveral as they wished to check us out. We were asked on the radio to maintain our course and speed while they must have checked their computer records and then left us again to find someone else to check.
We arrived in Westend, Grand Bahama today. We were at sea for two nights and just over two days and this time Maynard, Jake and I took three hour individual watches. This allowed Renae to sleep all night and stay fresh so she could keep the boat tidy and the rest of us well fed during the day, a huge bonus for all of us. This was the first time I'd done a watch on my own in charge of an 80 foot vessel at night so I certainly felt the weight of responsibility. Dodging lightning storms, fish havens and ships made for interesting watches. Jake said I was "very situationally aware" which I guess means that as an old broad, I still have my marbles allowing him to rest easy in his bunk on my watch!! We are so thankful to have these two wonderful hard working happy people with us.
We left Maine in the USA five weeks ago with 4,300 gallons of fuel on board. We have arrived in the Bahamas with 2,100 gallons of fuel remaining on board. Over those five weeks we consumed a total of 2,200 gallons of fuel. Almost all of this time was spent on anchor resulting in over 260 hours of genset use consuming approximately 450-500 gallons of fuel. This means that to cover the 1,600 miles between Maine and the Bahamas, the engines consumed a total of 1,625 gallons of fuel. Therefore our average was 1 nautical mile per gallon. Maynard is very happy with this given that the boat is fully loaded and that after we run each engine for 24 hours, we de-carbonise the engines by running them at 2,000 rpm for at least 15 minutes. At this high rpm and speed, we are consuming nearly 80 gallons an hour so to average 1 nautical mile per gallon moving at 8 - 9 knots with a full load in real world conditions is outstanding and proves once again that fuel is NOT the main expense in running this yacht.
Coming into the marina, Maynard spun the boat around in the small basin and realised we'd lost most of the power of our bow thruster. There was still a little bit of bow thruster left so he decided to attempt to dock Vanish which took longer than normal with a lot of cross throttle work in a 15 knot blow off wind and got to the dock without any damage or hassles or anyone helping us with lines onshore. On arrival, Renae leapt onto the dock, grabbed our bow line and tied us on just in time before we blew off as the bow thruster had completely stopped. Just what you don't need after 52 hours at sea. We've since found that the issue is with barnacle growth on both thrusters. Once Jake cleared the barnacles with a blade and screwdriver in the 30 degree crystal clear water, we now have our vroom back.
One hiccup though. A low named Invest 99L formed late yesterday just south of Cuba and is likely to become a tropical low in the next few days. It is expected to affect a very large area of the Caribbean and eastern Florida, and may even affect the USA coast as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with flooding rains and high winds. Had we stayed in the US, we would still need to deal with where to go. The southern Caribbean may have up to 15 inches of rain and landslides and we may experience winds 30 - 50 knots and 5 - 10 inches of rain. Maynard is supposed to be flying to Los Angeles at the end of this week for an important meeting. With the forecast low coming in at the same time, he will need to make a very tough decision. The very last thing we want to deal with is a hurricane so we are watching this weather event extremely closely.
18 October, 2012, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
This time we were boarded by two officers in charge of a brand new Charleston Police vessel equipped with 2 x 300 hp motors who were acting for the US Customs Border and Protection. Unfortunately once again we were not allowed to take pictures of their sunny faces. As our Cruising Permit had expired, we brought out our new piece of legal paperwork, the Permit to Proceed Form obtained from the Port Director in our former port. The uniforms were different but all three Officers had guns and wore 10 Pound steel toed boots. Again we were interviewed, passports checked and everything was found to be in order. I must say that this is getting old, really old. We are looking forward to reaching the Bahamas where hopefully there will be a lot less paperwork. We would love to go ashore but this would mean another huge inconvenience clearing in, paying a fee, then clearing out again all the while keeping an eye on weather windows, and remembering that this can only be done Monday to Friday 8 am - 5 pm. No thanks.
15 October, 2012, North Carolina, USA
Before purchasing Vanish, Maynard spent a great deal of time researching a vessel to replace our Santa Cruz 52 yacht. He seriously considered one yacht back in 2010, the English built Southerly 57 as it had a swing keel, self tacking jib, large comfortable cockpit, a 4 foot draft, in-line mast furling system, aft master cabin, a full fridge and good functioning galley and many other enticing options. We were prepared to fly to England to look at Hull Number 2 and commit to the Hull 3 slot, but we vacillated and decided on a completely different concept by purchasing Vanish. Hull 3 was sold on the exact same day that we were granted our Cruising Permit for Vanish last year in October 2011. There are around 11,500 marinas in the U.S.A. and a few hundred marinas in the UK. In this particular marina, there is only space for four transient vessels where we are currently staying. Transient vessels are yachts or power boats that sail north or south along the Atlantic coast or on the Intercoastal Canal. They usually arrive after 3 pm and leave by 10 am the next day, surprisingly similar to the grey nomads or snow birds in caravans and RV's who seek warmth year round by following the sun. We took a peek at our latest neighbour who turned up yesterday morning and saw it was a vessel named Sarai, a Southerly 57. Maynard knew that only six have been built so far in the world and after a short discussion with John and Kath of New York, we were absolutely amazed to realise that this was indeed Hull 3 just five feet from us. What are the odds of that! Of course, this was a perfect opportunity to explore and discuss the finer points of each other's vessels. This chance meeting was one we could not have imagined ever occurring so we enjoyed their fine company in the evening over a lovely meal cooked by Kath and a number of bottles of red. It certainly is a small world.
13 October, 2012, North Carolina, USA
Remember how I explained in a previous blog that the USA Met start naming their hurricanes each season with the letter A? To date in 2012 we're now up to the letter R as we are currently watching tropical storms Patty and now Rafael in the Atlantic. Rafael is expected to turn into a hurricane in the next day or so and move north towards Bermuda. Because of this, we decided to spend time in North Carolina instead of heading straight to the Bahamas so we visited the Director at the Customs Department to ensure we followed their reporting requirements. The week has been very productive with Jake and Renae working diligently on boat maintenance and provisioning while Maynard and I decided to drive to Cape Hatteras, a 400 mile round trip drive. On the way, we spotted a sign saying "Watch Out For Bears" followed soon after by another sign reading "Red Wolves Crossing Next 15 Miles" so I was making a lame joke about how it would be terrific to get a picture of a red wolf boxing up a bear and Maynard's foot must have hit the accelerator laughing as he looked in the rear vision mirror to see a blue flashing light of a police car on our bumper. He looked down to see he was doing 80 mph in the 55 mph zone. Officer X (not his real name) asked to see his licence. Maynard apologized for speeding and told him we'd been talking about the bears and wolves. When he saw Maynard's licence he said, "Did you guys come all the way from Australia just to see North Carolina's Outer Banks?" We were feeling really bad by this time and said, "Well, yes". He said, "Well I'm gonna give you guys a break today. Just slow down, ok?" What a great country. God bless America! Sadly, I don't think this would ever happen in Oz but it sure left a big impression on us. We'll probably stay a while longer as TS Rafael will be directly east of our position by Tuesday night however, we don't think it will be any threat to us here.
7 October, 2012, Morehead City, North Carolina, USA
The yacht was still at an angle at 10 pm but the next morning it was gone so either Tow Boat US or the tide helped them off the beach thankfully. We left this delightful anchorage and headed into Morehead City, North Carolina to collect mail and attend to other shore based matters. When you've enjoyed peace and quiet for so long, it is a shock whenever we arrive in port, especially as we don't keep a good eye on public holidays or festivals. Turns out that this weekend is Columbus Day long weekend and 200,000 people will be visiting the Seafood Festival just up the road. The streets are at a standstill with blocked roads and traffic and the footpaths are packed with people heading to and from the carnival rides, food stalls and the multitude of vendors. What a sensory overload this is and to top it off, I just happened to meet the guys who were in charge of Saturday night's fireworks. They ignited a few hundred shells and oh how I wish I could have flicked the switch as they really put on a great show.
5 October, 2012, Barden Inlet, North Carolina, USA
You just had to take a peek at yesterday's dolphin picture didn't you? You're all too shy to put a comment on the blog but we had some pretty funny comments nonetheless. Sorry, but I don't have any more males showing off for you today.
The surf was up on the ocean side of Barden Inlet today so Maynard and I went body surfing in the North Atlantic Ocean, something we've wanted to do for a long time. The only other excitement for the day was another beached vessel in the Inlet. The owners told us they were "cleaning the bottom" but it was perfectly clean when we sauntered past in our kayaks so perhaps a little faux pas had occurred. Tow Boat US with flashing red lights went over to assist them but must have realised they were too far gone to risk pulling it back out into deeper water. They will be waiting until well after dark to be floating again although this tide is lower than the previous high tide. A speed boat buzzed us yesterday waving madly and went hooning around the anchorage. We were amused to see that the owner ran it up on the beach at full speed. He realised his oopsie, and revved the heck out of the engine in reverse to no avail. Tow Boat US came to the rescue after the owners sat in the cockpit for a couple of hours waiting for help. We don't have Tow Boat US or Sea Tow in Australia although we do have VMR (Voluntary Marine Rescue) and the Coast Guard but seriously, if you make a mistake, you're pretty much on your own there which means one needs to be more self-sufficient and conservative on the water.
4 October, 2012, Barden Inlet, North Carolina, USA
How can I put this? We have made the tough decision not to make a decision on our Departure Plan for now. In the meantime, we are enjoying kayaking, chatting to fellow sailors in the anchorage, swimming with turtles and dolphins and generally enjoying the great outdoors. Except for one incident. Maynard, Renae, Jake and I all went kayaking today. However, I was the dubious lucky one to have been flashed by a male dolphin swimming next to his mate and calf, see Photo Gallery if you dare. The little family swam straight towards me as they must have noticed my camera and in a split second, he turned over and said g'day North Carolina style.
3 October, 2012, Near Beaufort, North Carolina, USA
How can you ignore a sunset like this. I hope you aren't getting tired of these pictures. The weather has abated and we are working on a Departure Plan, actually a few plans if you really want to know.
2 October, 2012, Cape Lookout, North Carolina, USA
Last night we saw the beautiful sight of the full moon rising next to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse as we sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet over a glass of red. We could hear turtles and dolphins breathing next to us in the darkness and we could also see fish darting around the yacht as they were attracted by our underwater lights. A 2-1/2 foot long flat fish which we suspect was some type of garfish leaped onto our swim platform and performed a two minute dance before deciding not to stay for a photograph. As expected, the weather turned nasty with numerous storms today, 25 - 30 knot winds and heavy rain but our anchorage is perfectly protected so we caught up on a few boat jobs on Vanish.
1 October, 2012, Barden Inlet, North Carolina, USA
We have turned off our AIS as we are currently anchored in Barden Inlet near the 163 ft. Cape Lookout Lighthouse situated on the southern outer banks of North Carolina, USA just north of Beaufort Waiting on Weather (WoW). This is one of very few lighthouses that operate during the day and is the only structure in the USA to bear the checkered daymark. The side points of the black diamonds point North South, while the side points of the white diamonds point East West. We are sharing this anchorage with only one small yacht. It is almost an enclosed inlet well protected from all wind directions and is around a mile long and 1/3 mile across. It is also blessed with long sandy beaches and grass covered dunes. When the weather is favourable again, we'll continue our journey south.
30 September, 2012, 60 Miles North of Cape Hatteras, Virginia, USA
AIS may not show our positon but this is where we are.
29 September, 2012, At Sea
We are at sea but if you would like to check our position over the next few days, go to marinetraffic.com/ais then enter Vanish in the Search area, Click on Vanish (Pleasure Craft), then on the Vanish Profile page go to Last Position Received and click on the Latitude/Longitude and it should take you to our current position showing speed and direction.
28 September, 2012, Hudson River, New York, USA
After yesterday's events, all four of us did not sleep well last night. On reflection, it would have been so much friendlier and relaxing if the Coast Guard Officers had left their guns behind and worn flip flops instead of their heavy steel toed boots on our yacht. Also, if any Coast Guard, Police Department or Customs Officers wanted to check us, all they needed to do was make a phone call to Customs for information as we are required to report in on almost a daily basis. Instead, we were automatically assumed to be a risk of something yet to be determined. For sure, 9/11 changed the way the entire world approaches security and without doubt, countries such as the USA have done a good job of preventing any other acts such as 9/11 but it comes at a real price and you can see the effects of the Patriots Act everywhere and as foreigners, it makes it particularly difficult to do even simple things such as purchasing a phone or conducting banking transactions. Hopefully in due course, a good balance between security and personal freedom can be found. It is interesting to note that we have received much support for the stress we endured yesterday yet people seem reluctant to make comment on the blog for fear it may cause further trouble.
As it turns out, we have another ticklish problem. We were thinking we were going to renew our annual Cruising Permit which expires mid-October as we were told by various Customs Officers along the way that this was an easy procedure. Today, we found out that we need to leave the USA before an exact day in mid-October. Failure to do so will result in a fee and confiscation of our boat registration papers. They will give our papers back on the day we depart the USA but we are not allowed to move until we clear out of the country. Bureacracy. Don't you just love it? Has anyone noticed that it's still hurricane season?
Going back to Canada is not an option as it's just too late in the season and we couldn't renew the permit when we were there because the law states that we have to wait until it expires before re-applying. It's a real Catch-22. Unfortunately, our Cruising Permit was originally arranged by Marlow Yachts October 2011 but since the boat was not completed and cleared to us until June 2012, we lost 8 months of precious cruising time in the USA. This is now causing us to consider when and how to travel to the Caribbean in hurricane season as there are apparently no extensions allowed for a foreign built vessel crewed by foreigners, registered in a foreign country.
The weather was a little dodgy for moving south, so the Captain decided to take his friend Charlie's advice and see the Hudson River Highlands. Instead of turning left at the Statue of Liberty, we turned right and headed up river. We anchored overnight near a town called Nyack, New Jersey then headed off north again before passing the famous Sing Sing Prison built in 1824-26 which holds 2,000 maximum security prisoners. We went 40 miles north up the Hudson River with grey misty rain hanging heavily over 1,400 foot high mountains. The river narrowed from three miles to less than 800 yards throughout the 15 miles long gorge between Dunderberg Mountain and Cornwall-on-Hudson. As we motored north we passed under the Bear Mountain Bridge before passing the famous U.S. Military Academy West Point which Maynard and I visited 30 years ago. We went as far as Bannerman's Island which is a castle ruin built in 1901 by an eccentric Scotsman. Frank Bannerman VI purchased the island as a place to store his ammunition as he was a munitions dealer at the turn of the century. Again, we saw very few vessels. In fact, we only saw three transiting the river even though it is one of the prettiest places this side of Maine on the U.S. coast. Fortunately the current weather looks fairly benign in the North Atlantic so we may take a chance. I wonder when we will get a good night's sleep again?
27 September, 2012, New York, New York, USA
We were all looking forward to seeing New York City today so we left Long Island at a respectable time after calculating the tide to be 1 knot through the Hells Gate area which is at the junction of the three rivers, the Harlem, East and Hudson Rivers surrounding New York. Sauntering along the East River taking pictures and being innocent tourists, we saw that the tide wasn't one knot, it was now a whopping 5 knots with us with rapids and whirlpools at Hells Gate. We looked at our instruments and with one engine on idle, we were doing a speed of 9.5 knots speed over ground. We were flying along and trying to keep the boat under control while staying out of the way of ferries crossing. We suddenly saw New York Police Department boats with flashing blue lights ahead patrolling the water near the United Nations Building. Oh geez Louise, what now!
The radio crackles and we strain to hear what they are saying and through heavy static we hear the word Vanish so yes, someone wants to talk to us and talk to us NOW. At the same time, a bilge light in the engine room lights up. Crikey. How typical and what good timing. Within a minute, we have a Coast Guard vessel alongside with four gun toting Officers boarding our vessel. This looks a bit serious. Jake had to help the Officers on board while Maynard kept Vanish at a reasonable speed so the Coast Guard could match our speed and transfer their men to our aft deck. Jake then quickly ran down to the engine room (followed closely by two of the Officers) to check the bilge. I escorted the other two Officers up to the bridge to meet Maynard. It didn't look like they were here for just a cup of tea.
We were inspected and interviewed and phone calls made to Customs to verify our identities from our Drivers Licences, where we'd come from and where we were going, and all documents noted and recorded. Just read the blog boys! We learned that President Obama had been in town for a day or two earlier in the week and the General Assembly of the United Nations were meeting for the rest of the week so security was on high alert. We just happened to be passing through at an inopportune time. In fact, Jake had telephoned VTS before we arrived at Hells Gate and was advised that we needed to go under a 40 foot high bridge on the east channel of the East River as the west channel was blocked due to a meeting at the United Nations. We had no idea that we'd be targeted in such a way but since 9/11, the authorities are extremely edgy and our foreign flagged vessel seems to draw way too much attention in the USA. It gets old after a while. After over an hour of motoring up and down the East River being interrogated and being shadowed by the Coast Guard vessel with more blue lights flashing while all the above took place, we were finally given a tick of approval which I duly photographed for posterity. Drinking and driving is against the law, otherwise I think we would all have been plastered by the time we got to the Statue of Liberty.
25 September, 2012, Huntington Harbour, Long Island, New York, USA
New York is now about 50 miles west of our current location at Lloyds Harbor near the town of Huntington on Long Island. It has been an excellent stop for us as we were able to provision Vanish with enough food and alcohol to last a long time although we seem to have ravenous appetites (and thirst) out here on the water. Huntington Harbor is a 2 mile long channel full of moorings and small marinas and probably holds around 1,200 boats of all shapes and sizes. I was shocked to learn from the guys at the Compass Rose Marine store that all of these boats are pulled out of the water and "winterized" (eg. covered in plastic, see Photo Gallery) and taken home or put on the hardstand as this entire harbour freezes over. In fact, they told me you can actually walk across the harbour in winter. How weird is that. As today is sunny and 22 deg c (72 deg f), it is hard to imagine that conditions here will soon be so different. We seem to be on schedule for moving south as we were told that mid-October is when boats head south for the winter.
We also needed some repair work done on a seat cover which was kindly taken care of by Steve and Mary of The Canvas Store on Mill Dam Road in Huntington. Their 10 year old "guard dog" Pierre tried to fend off the Australian contingent but was completely unsuccessful. Mary, an off Broadway playwright, told me that she had recently found a wax sealed bottle on a nearby beach containing a message, a penny and a button written a month ago by a 12 year old boy from New Jersey. The boy was thrilled to know that someone had found his bottle so Mary and Steve wrote their own message and placed it and the boy's message into another bottle, took it offshore and tossed it into the deep blue sea. If only it had an AIS transmitter attached, we could all watch its progress! Keep your eyes peeled, you never know, you might be the one to find it.
23 September, 2012, Block Island, Rhode Island, USA
The above Navionics chart is a screen shot taken on my e-Pad of our position in the anchorage on Block Island, Rhode Island known as The Salt Pond. The red arrow shows our exact position. The Salt Pond is an almost entirely enclosed anchorage and is very popular with New England sailors. We've heard that this anchorage can have as many as 2,000 boats anchored here on 4th July which would be a challenge, especially if there was any interesting weather coming through. We walked into town for dinner and could imagine that Block Island must be a huge tourist attraction in the height of summer.
I may have mentioned earlier that both Maynard and I have downloaded the $50 Navionics USA and Canada Chart programme onto each of our e-Pads as a backup of the instruments on Vanish. We are able to each study the charts and decide where best to anchor for the night depending on the weather or what scenic route to take. It is a brilliant and cheap way to carry charts and includes tide information, photographs of anchorages, port information, comments by other subscribers and much more information. We'll download the Navionics Australia and New Zealand charts once we get closer to home.
On Tuesday the 25th September is the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere where we have an equal 12 hours of night and day. The Spring Equinox at home in Byron Bay, Australia occurred on the 20th. (I always thought the equinox occurred on the 22nd/23rd.) My new handy dandy App called Sundroid Free told me that since arriving in Maine in early July, we have lost 3 hours 26 minutes of daylight up until the time we left which makes a big impact on planning routes to arrive before sunset in order to see the lobster buoys.
Since leaving Portland, Maine 4 days ago, we've travelled almost 300 miles, staying at Hull near Boston on the first night and clicking over 3,000 miles since leaving Florida. We traversed the Cape Cod Canal the following day and had to slow down in the canal as the railway bridge was lowered to allow a train to cross over. The Canal saves around 140 miles of sea time so it is a great bonus for most vessels. Soon after leaving the canal we were hailed by a police boat that was shadowing a desperate small fishing runabout taking on water. He kindly advised us to be aware of their erratic behaviour in front of us. I took some "Award Winning Shots" over the past couple of days on my brand new Canon SLR which Maynard bought for me last week in Portland only to realise that I'd left the SD Card in my computer! After uncurling myself from a thumb-sucking foetal position and being castigated for not reading past the first 30 pages of Basic Operation in the Owners Manual, I immediately ordered the book Canon EOS Rebel for Extreme Aussie Dummies from Amazon. In the meantime, I promise to read the remaining 200 pages of the Owners Manual so I don't make that mistake again. Luckily we uncovered formerly hidden artistic talents in our new crew who have kindly provided us the interpretations of my shots in the Photo Gallery.
I'd better work this camera out FAST!!!! If I find any photos, I'll add them to the Photo Gallery later as right now we have 30 knots of wind in the Long Island Sound and we're bouncing around a bit due to wind against current.
Our plan is to keep moving south to beat the onset of winter whilst not moving so far south that we find ourselves facing an October hurricane. It's a cat and mouse game.
22 September, 2012, Boston and Cp Cod Canal, USA
Our lovely crew have helped out in providing you with their best interpretations of the famous Boston Lighthouse and our Cape Cod Canal crossing when Vicki's camera skills failed her.
20 September, 2012, Maine, USA
It's a sad day as we have left Maine today and are currently on our way to Boston. 6 foot seas, 12 knots from the NE and clear skies. This morning the temperature was 7 deg C with a frost warning inland. We've lost several hours of daylight now since we arrived in Maine in early July so unfortunately all the signs are there for us to head south. We loved the people here most of all and must say that Maine has the best summer cruising grounds we've experienced so far in 20 years of yachting. We hope to come back some day.
(Aussie Slang: Toodle-oo = Bye bye, see ya later, catch you, hoo-roo et al).
19 September, 2012, Quahog Bay, Maine, USA
The forecast was upgraded late in the afternoon to 45 + knots. It has been a long time since we've seen this amount of wind in a forecast. During the night, both Maynard and Jake checked the boat and our position as we had some heavy gusts but for the most part, it seemed that we missed most of the action. Whilst we had 40 knot gusts, there was no 40 knot fog or lightning BUT I did see something I've never seen before when I crept outside to also check our position. (Doesn't hurt to check the checkers!) Small 1 ft wavelets were breaking around Vanish in the anchorage but the tops of all the waves were shimmering with white phosphorescence. I could hardly believe my eyes. It looked like someone had scattered glitter on the water. We've seen spectacular blue phosphorescence when sailing across the Pacific Ocean and even seen blue waves breaking on the beach at Surfers Paradise, Australia one night years ago during a spectacular event, but I have never seen white phosphorescence and didn't think it would occur in these latitudes in this sea temperature with that colour. Phosphorescence is heatless light generated chemically by marine life and plants and we'd noticed it in the water the previous night when Jake splashed his hand in the water in the dark. As it was blowing a dog off a chain and raining last night, I couldn't think how to take a photo, but it's now a goal to capture this on film.
18 September, 2012, Quahog Bay, Maine, USA
Well here is something we haven't seen before. The forecast for tonight is south winds 20-30 knots with gusts to 40 knots, seas building 8 to 11 feet, occasional showers and areas of fog with variable visibility to less than a ¼ nautical mile. Is it possible to have wet, gusty, foggy 40 knot winds? Who knew? For some reason, I thought fog only occurred in 5 knot winds but maybe this only happens in the mild climate of Brisbane, Australia. We have had a lot of firsts in Maine with regards to weather and yesterday on sunrise, we had sea smoke rising from the water and this occurs when cold air passes over warm water.
We're in the most protected anchorage we could find and have put out more anchor chain and secured kayaks, dinghies, cushions, and anything else we don't want to lose overboard. Of course, as with the last cold front, this one will arrive at the terribly uncivilized hour of midnight. As the guys were checking our anchor, a flock of Canadian Geese flew directly overhead honking loudly. They must be pretty smart birds. We were supposed to be in Boston by today but decided it was best to let Jake and Renae familiarize themselves with all systems on board and to clean and sort the entire vessel from top to bottom. It has never looked better and we are happy campers once again. It's a good thing we did not go south as Boston's forecast is worse with a storm warning and 50 + knots of wind. With our trusty twittering anchor alarm all set, maybe we'll sleep right through it as long as nothing untoward occurs. Now that would be nice.
16 September, 2012, Snow Island, Quahog Island, Maine, USA
Our friendly Harbor Master Kevin Battle came back to visit us while we were at Portland this week. He turned on his flashing blue light again for my amusement and photo opportunity and advised us to keep deck lights on at night in case other boaties didn't realise we were anchored. We also spent a couple of days at a marina where friendly Customs Officer Clement dropped by to make sure we were following all the necessary rules and regulations associated with our cruising permit as we are required to phone them to advise the location of our anchorages whenever we move.
We mentioned a couple of weeks ago our need to replace our South African crew which occurred on Friday. Our new crew, Jake and Renae, are Australian and Canadian respectively. They are very bright, enthusiastic and competent individuals and we will really enjoy having them with us. Undoubtedly their help will be invaluable in the months ahead. Last night was our first night on anchor with Jake and Renae at Snow Island in Quahog Bay on a dark starry clear quiet night. We could hardly believe our eyes when the residents on Snow Island put on a private fireworks show immediately in front of Vanish only 100 meters away with some of the best fireworks we've seen since New York. They must have known we were coming. It only lasted five minutes but it was fabulous and we honked Vanish's extremely loud horn in thanks. Next thing, they started up again with more fireworks and then other yachtsmen started blasting their horns as well. Suddenly, the whole tiny anchorage which consisted of about seven vessels nestled amongst itty bitty islands became a family united in the joy of fireworks with cheering and laughter. It was so unexpected and we felt privileged to stumble into another unique experience such as this.
Oh Maine, how we'll miss it. The pace of life here is easy and relaxed and as a dog owner who misses my pet terribly, the one aspect I love in particular is that dogs are a huge part of everyday life here. At the hairdresser in Portland, I sat with the stylist's dog on my lap while my hair was being coiffed and fluffed. When we ate lunch in Rockland, the lady next to us had her dog on a lead under the table inside the restaurant. Many stores have water bowls on the footpath outside their stores and dogs are allowed inside all the shops. Dogs are on most people's boats and are social and integrated into everyday life. They are allowed in National Parks although some Parks ask that they be kept on leashes. This is my kind of place. This is not the case back home in Australia where dogs are terribly restricted. I'm getting close to 'borrowing' a dog for the rest of our trip as we miss our Bindi so much but I must stay strong. (Hope the Captain doesn't read this blog!).
BTW, Hurricane Nadine is heading east, away from the US Coast and no threat.
13 September, 2012, Portland, USA
In 1979, meteorologists for the Atlantic Ocean began using men's names for hurricanes. A list of 21 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet was developed and arranged in alphabetical order. The first tropical storm of the year was given the letter 'A' and so on. During even-numbered years, men's names were given to the odd-numbered storms and during odd-numbered years, women's names were given to odd-numbered storms. So far this year in the US, we have had 14 Tropical Storms/Hurricanes as we are now watching Hurricane Nadine in the Atlantic. In an average year, there are 11 tropical storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes in the Atlantic. Maine has only had 6 hurricanes since 1869 with the last hurricane, Hurricane Gloria, a Category 1 hurricane occurring on 27th September, 1985. This is one of the main reasons we are still lollygagging around in Maine, trying to avoid the Atlantic hurricane activity while watching for Canadian geese flying south (yes they have started already) and watching the leaves turn colour (this is happening now as well).
My sister Jude's holiday ended on Thursday. For a mere $10, she took the bus to Boston, a 2 hr 15 min ride, toured Boston then caught the train for a whopping $2 to the airport and flew back home to Australia feeling refreshed and re-invigorated after a thorough look at Maine's lobster pot buoys, fog, lighthouses, Bar Harbor, Rockland and Portland shops, isolated islands, lobster boats of many kinds, meeting wonderful people and having an incredibly thorough inspection of every nook and cranny on Vanish. She loved driving Vanish and it was very hard to get her out of the Captain's chair!! We can't wait until we reach tropical waters as Jude has promised to come back and help us navigate the reefs.
As winter approaches, the weather systems up here are becoming more active and on Tuesday we have another cold front approaching with 30 + knot winds, 11 foot seas, and thunderstorms. I guess we have to expect it and it will all give us good practice for being in the trade winds further south and the higher winds we'll be expecting as we head to South America. We've gained a lot of storm experience on our yacht Cruz Control over many years, but Vanish is much bigger with more windage so we just need to learn her idiosyncrasies to gain the same level of comfort we have had with our previous vessel. We'll stay for a few more days before heading south after the front has passed as long as there is no late September activity heading our way.
12 September, 2012, Current Location Portland, Maine, USA
Maynard and I, surprisingly, are not the sort of people who need others around to keep us entertained so we tend to live our lives fairly quietly. However, it's hard not to share an adventure such as this with family and friends and people we meet along the way as most folks are unable to do what we are doing. One of the bonuses is that others who think they might want to try such a trip can Google a few words and bingo, they find themselves on our blog site. The Marlow Group have kept in contact with us on this adventure and recently asked us a few questions which they intend including in their upcoming newsletter to inspire other Marlow owners.
1. What has been your longest leg so far and what was the fuel used during this leg?
The longest leg so far was from Marathon in the Keys to Fort Monroe, Virginia. On that leg we measured a distance through the water of 856 miles. We maintained an average speed of 9.5 knots and we consumed approx 1100 gallons of fuel not including genset usage. We had Tropical Storm Debby 200 miles behind us and chasing us so we maintained a little higher speed than we would normally do. Remember, these figures were achieved with a very fully laden boat. We started this trip with nearly 4600 gallons of fuel on board and a year's worth of spares and four people and all of their gear. We have found that it is most efficient to travel at 8 knots with one engine with the vessel at 3/4 load, this consumes approx 8 gallons an hour. The second most efficient fuel configuration is to travel with two engines at 9 knots which consumes between 10-1/2 and 11 gallons per hour. It's also interesting to see what we have consumed to date. Thus far we have travelled 2500 miles and have consumed a total of 4000 gallons of fuel and have not stayed at any marinas and have generated all our own electricity and water. To do this we have run the gensets 350 hours each. I estimate they have been burning 1.6 gallons per hour thus consuming 1120 gallons. This means that the engines have consumed approximately 2880 gallons of fuel to travel the 2500 miles thus far whilst putting on 225 hours on each engine.
2. What will be your longest leg on the trip, how much fuel reserves will you expect to have at the end of that passage?
We expect the longest leg will be from South America to Tahiti an approximate distance of 3100 miles. We will be very careful with genset usage and would expect to arrive in Tahiti with approx 800 gallons in reserves.
3. What is your watch schedule, especially off shore at night? Could you do the trip without the crew? I am sure may readers would love to hear how you are doing this.
The watch schedule we had was 4 hours on, 4 hours off with Vicki as Watch Captain with Dirk and Maynard as Watch Captain with Julie. With passages of 1 or 2 days I don't see any problem without crew but with longer passages, it is just a lot more comfortable and safer to have crew. We preferred the longer watch at night of 4 hours which ensures that with 4 hours off, you get at least 3 hours of sleep. Everybody is different with this one, but this is what worked for us. It was also nice to have 2 people up on each watch which means you eat well during your watch and you have someone to chat to keeping everyone more alert.
4. Do you feel you have adequate stabilization? What has worked best /worst?
Thus far we have not encountered big seas but in 6 - 8 foot seas, the Naiad stabilisers work very well, even at speeds of around 9 knots. I think Dave has sized the stabilisers very correctly for our vessel. With the Naiads, we do not feel we need any other stabilisation while under way. While at anchor, we have two large flopper stoppers which were designed by ocean stabilisers in Australia. We deploy one on each side using our twin davits and they are remarkably effective. We stayed 3 days in the Hudson River next to Ellis Island (New York City) so that we were in the perfect position to watch the fireworks show. Other boats tried to stay there but were unable to do so because of the exceptionally rolly conditions. Having twin davits makes these cumbersome flopper stoppers very easy to deploy and retrieve.
5. How has the hydrogen system worked? Have you compiled any data on the benefits / gains?
Yes, Sealand installed a hydrogen system and unfortunately they were never able to get a measurable improvement from its use. We have since uninstalled it. We have just started using an additive called Enerburn. This is a nano technology catalyst which greatly reduces carbon build up when diesels are run at low rpm and also reportedly improves fuel economy between 5 and 10 percent. I will report back on this as we proceed on our trip.
6. How has the Marlow handled all the conditions you have been dealt?
Probably the worst conditions were encountered the first night from Palmetto to Marathon. We had a really sharp 6 foot sea as we headed south into 25 + knots of wind. The boat was very comfortable and very stable. We've had beam seas in the 6 to 8 foot range but we could hardly feel any roll across the vessel. Vanish is exceptionally stable. We are very careful and conservative with our weather windows. Our worst weather by far has been on anchor near Washington DC at the mouth of the Potomoc River where it empties into Chesapeake Bay. We encountered a derecho storm with 60 + knots of wind. This storm resulted in the deaths of over 9 people in the Washington DC area. On Vanish we specified as our primary anchor a 185 lb forged steel genuine CQR with 75 meters of high strength G4 1/2" chain combined with an additional 30 meters of anchor rode. We had 70 meters of chain out when the storm came through. The severe winds lasted over 1/2 hour and came at us over multiple directions and we did not drag at all. Many boats broke their moorings and/or were overturned very near our position. No problems on Vanish to report.
7. How does the boat handle the blue water passages?
Thus far, Vicki and I have found the blue water passages to be extremely enjoyable. Because the vessel is so comfortable, we really enjoy chatting, planning, blogging, and seeing all the interesting things that go on at sea in real comfort.
8. Is there a story or any advice you would give another Marlow owner looking to take on as similar adventure / journey?
Perhaps we will certainly learn as we go but it is extremely important to carry plenty of chain and have a big anchor if you want to spend every night on your own hook. This also means good retrieval systems, snubbing systems and the like. We are very happy with the way the boat is set up and have been happy with the support Dave and his team have given to this project.
If you or Vicki would like to share any other thoughts or stories that you feel might be good, please let me know.
One element of our blog has been comparing our experiences on power versus sail and as you know, over the last 20 years we have been avid sailing enthusiasts. At this stage I think sailing yachts have a definite advantage in the ocean sailing in the trade wind routes as the wind is reliable, powerful and free. What prompted us to switch from sailing was that for the last 9 years, we have largely done coastal sailing up on the Australian Barrier Reef. With coastal sailing, the wind is often light, fickle, from the wrong direction, or too strong. Even on our current trip on Vanish, we have noticed how seldom people are truly sailing. There is a lot of motor sailing or must plain motoring going on for the majority of the time. I know even though we had a very easily driven and powerful yacht, we were still lucky to sail half the time on Cruz Control.
We have recently been in communication with our friends Peter and Carla who completed a sailing trip through south-east Asia, primarily in Indonesia. It is interesting to compare his statistics with ours on Vanish. On his 2500 mile trip, he motored 517 hours. He has a single motor. It is interesting to note that we put, over the same distance, 225 hours on each of our engines. Sailing is a great way to travel but you need a great deal of time especially if you are travelling around the coast and if you look at our planned trip of 17000 miles, the vast majority of it will be coastal up and down the coast of North America, down the coast of South America and finally across the Pacific Ocean to Australia.
9 September, 2012, Castine, Maine, USA
The storm had pretty much run out of steam by the time it reached us at 0020 (that's 20 past Midnight) as we only had a few gusts of wind and a couple of minutes of rain. The above picture shows you the same FLIR scene in the early morning light today.
8 September, 2012, Smith Cove, Castine, Maine, USA
Tonight it is dark and windy with low clouds scudding across the sky. The temperature is 19 deg C so it is quite warm considering it's 9 pm in Maine in early September. A cold front is racing across the US and stretches from New Orleans, Louisiana up to the southern part of Newfoundland, Canada. We're expecting it here within the next hour or two. The forecast is for 20 - 30 knots with damaging winds, hail and heavy rain. Our anchor is set on a scope of 9:1, the anchor alarm is set, and the boat is tidy.
A yacht named Blue Rose is anchored nearby so we thought we'd take a look at it on our FLIR infrared camera. This is truly amazing technology when you look at the photos of complete darkness with our digital camera compared to the vision we see on our navigation screen in the flybridge with the FLIR camera. We can even see the wind racing across the water. The white area behind the yacht is a hill with trees on it and you can also see the shoreline with a couple of small buildings. It certainly gives us peace of mind knowing what's out there.
Tropical Storm Leslie is no longer a consideration for us but we are always watchful of any weather in our vicinity
6 September, 2012, Pulpit Harbor, North Haven, Maine, USA
There are now a couple of hurricanes heading for the North Atlantic. This one is called Hurricane Leslie and will be a Category 2 hurricane by this afternoon. It is very large and slow moving and will give Bermuda a pounding. Although one computer model shows it heading for Maine most models show it harmlessly wandering around the North Atlantic. If you look at the above image, we are located approximately under the 'M' in the word 'MON'. The other weather system is called Hurricane Michael and has winds of 115 mph so we need to keep an eye on these two boys. The water in Maine is cold and hurricanes are extremely rare so there is not really too much to worry about. Today we are celebrating Maynard's birthday kayaking, eating, and hiking. This is the third birthday this week on Vanish so we are getting pretty good at how to have a good time.
5 September, 2012, Rockland, Maine, USA
We are currently anchored next to Steve Dashew's famous un-sailboat Wind Horse in Rockland, Maine, USA. It is a very distinctive design, workmanlike, very seaworthy and easily operated by two people. He is now selling quite a few of these designs which range in size from 64 feet to 115 feet. We have always enjoyed reading his very extensive books and website at www.setsail.com. Wind Horse has done over 60,000 miles in the last few years particularly concentrating on the Northern Latitudes. The blue hulled yacht in the background named Interlude is a Sundeer 72 and another of Dashew's design. It would appear that they are enjoying Maine just as much as we are.
3 September, 2012, Picture of Jamie & Julie Rea in the Daphne-Em at Trafton Island, Maine, USA
Hmmmm. This morning the air temperature was 13.4 degrees (approx. 55 degrees F). Do Canada Geese fly at night because we sure didn't see them. Yesterday, anchored at Trafton Island, Down East Maine, USA, we had the pleasure of a visit by Trafton Island's 95 year old owner Grandma Rea's son Jamie and his lovely wife Julie who invited us ashore to this wild and exotic island. We'd met their daughter Daphne and her family Adam, Lydia and Nicholas a couple of weeks ago on our return from Canada. Julie told us she had spotted a black bear carcass washed up on the beach so we're still hopeful we'll see one before we leave Maine. They've seen deer on their island and even saw a moose once as it must have swum across from the mainland or another nearby island.
The sunny skies quickly darkened after their tour of Vanish and rain set in for the afternoon followed by a brilliant sunset then thick fog this morning. In the fog we heard the familiar roar of "Almost There", a local lobsterman Dwayne Beale. We danced, jumped, whistled, and waved in order to attract his attention and before long, he zoomed over and sat at our stern ready to "do a deal" with us for lobsters. What a character. He works the boat by himself through to 1st November and will stop for the winter. He had a boiling barrel of water on his boat which he uses to dip the pot buoys into if they are being covered by too much weed. I thought it might have been a private still but he just smiled at me as if to say, "I wish!".
I've shown Jude my new dream home at Schooner Point on Mount Desert Island (see Gallery) and the town of Bar Harbor including every single tourist shop within a 10 mile radius (groan) and again went on Oli's Tourist bus to Cadillac Mountain where the driver noted how the foliage was beginning to turn colour. As she has never been on Vanish before, Jude has quickly become accustomed to being waited on hand and foot by me hahahah and all the comforts we enjoy ourselves. She has made mention several times of the amount of clever storage space she keeps finding and wonders why on earth normal homes can't be built to the same standard. Why indeed! Maybe David Marlow needs to stop building boats and buying boat companies and go into the housing industry. We're just idly dreaming David.
As you may have guessed, for a while now, we've been dealing with issues regarding crew on our yacht. Dirk and Julie had worked diligently in setting us up for a voyage to South America so when we arrived in Florida in May, it was the first time we'd met face to face. Both parties tried hard to learn each other's idiosyncrasies but unfortunately, we were not able to deal with their issues so they have been asked to leave mid-September and have decided to buy a bus and give themselves a break from the yachting industry. We thought long and hard about replacing them as Maynard and I can run the boat ourselves, but as I've mentioned previously, Maynard is still running a private oil company and works every day on this as well as keeping us on schedule with Vanish. We've been very fortunate in that we've found a new young Australian and Canadian crew Jake and Renae who will shortly join us and continue the adventure with us. They are full of youth and enthusiasm and great expertise which will allow Maynard to travel if need be and help maintain Vanish to the high standard we require and she deserves. It has been a stressful time for everyone involved. This was an unplanned turn of events but we are learning to roll with the punches as this IS a typical ridgy-didge Aussie adventure.
(Aussie Slang Translations: "Mob" - People; "Ridgy-Didge" - Authentic)
30 August, 2012, Richard Nixon Victory Salute for Jude's Arrival at Rockland, Maine, USA
Did you know there is a blue moon on Friday 31 August? A blue moon occurs when there are two full moons in a month and they occur on average once every 2 years. Back in 1999, there were two blue moons in one year and the next time this will occur will be in 2018. It also happens to coincide with my sister Jude's birthday so we are heading back up to Bar Harbor to find a suitable place to celebrate. After flying on 4 different aircraft, she arrived in the tiny Cape Air Cessna in IFR conditions after 27 hours of travel at the Knox Country Airport in Rockland glad to be back on land.
A number of megayachts, superyachts, windjammers and yachts of many sizes and nationalities had gathered in Rockland while we were there and all of a sudden disappeared over the horizon once a small cold front came through on Tuesday. We're starting to think they are heading south as they've either seen the geese flying south or know something we don't, while we are happy to head north again to show Jude the sights and sounds of Maine. Another experienced trawler type vessel named Spirit of Zopilote, who have a very interesting history which you can Google, are still enjoying Maine too but we've always made our own calls so we think we'll just need to don a few more layers of clothing and see what happens.
26 August, 2012, Picture taken at Horseshoe Cove, Maine, USA
A few great days were spent in Orcutt Harbor kayaking and exploring this fabulous quiet refuge while we were securely tied to David's mooring which he kindly allowed us to enjoy. There are only a few homes and cottages in the entire cove and virtually no boat traffic and only a handful of pots so it was a pleasure to be there. A few boat jobs were carried out such as painting the anchor chain at 10 metre intervals as our electronic chain counter has failed twice so we've reverted to the old fashioned method for now. Maynard also braved the 18 deg C water for an hour and cleaned the waterline. I kept him company in the kayak ....too cold for moi to help him this time.
We also set out in the AB dinghy ready to explore the harbour next to Orcutt called Horseshoe Cove. Unknown to us, the engine had no oil in it and when we were near the entrance to Horseshoe, the alarm was sounding so Maynard immediately switched it off. As luck would have it, we had no phone signal and no VHF although it wouldn't have worked either as we were out of sight of Vanish. The only thing left to do was to try to row this 150 kg, 14 foot dinghy back to Orcutt Harbor, not an easy task. Luckily the tide was with us and we made about ½ mile before Maynard could call Dirk to get him to bring some oil out to us. We learned a few things in this exercise; leave fuel and oil in the dinghy, take water (it was hot work) and take a VHF. We have always been extremely strict on safety in the past so I guess we needed a bit of a wake-up call as we've never had this happen to us in 20 years of running around in dinghies. We could have limped back to Vanish with the motor on but didn't want to risk ruining the engine.
On our second attempt we had no trouble reaching Horseshoe Cove which has a lovely fresh water stream at its head. At mid tide, the water comes rushing in or out of the narrow passage between granite banks. The current runs through a salt pond and two sets of reversing falls which reach around 5 or 6 knots whipping up white-water for any kayakers or crazy crew in dinghies. The Seal Cove Boatyard which specializes in rebuilding and restoring wooden boats is also situated in Horseshoe Cove but the route to the yard is very narrow and crooked and full of deadly rocks.
A new crew member is on the way. My sister from Australia is in the air as we speak and we really look forward to showing off our new cruising grounds to her.
(If you wish to say hi to us or make any other comments, we'd love to hear from anyone reading the blog. Just click Comments and feel free to say g'day at any time.)
22 August, 2012, Orcutt Harbor, Maine, USA
Vanish was originally built by David Marlow for David and his wife Barbara until we came along and convinced him we had big plans to go somewhere special with her......Vanish, not Barbara that is! They probably never thought we'd do it, but they said that if we were ever in Maine, we were welcome to use their private mooring. Ha! Well here we are! We won't tell anyone, but they're living in paradise up here, lucky things. We had no idea if they were at their bungalow when we arrived in the harbour or not, but apparently when Dave and Barbara arrived back home from a dinner last night, he peered out into the darkness and saw the silhouette of his beloved yacht against the backdrop of their local moonlit John B Mountain in HIS harbour on HIS mooring. A bitterly disappointed David was unable to see us this morning as he has a million projects going all at once and had to fly out of Maine so we'll just have to come back at another time......before the geese start flying south indicating the weather is about to turn ugly up here.
21 August, 2012, Photo is Yarmouth Light, Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia, Canada which we didn't see due to fog on our arrival.
When considering Vanish, we spent considerable time discussing and pondering the advantages and disadvantages of her rather large size. Our former yacht had essentially one deck, a beam of 14 feet and maybe 35 feet of living space in the overall 52 foot length. Vanish on the other hand is over 20 feet wide over much of its 76 feet length with three decks, all with spacious cabins and filled with all sorts of technology and wonderful time saving and safety devices. Her large size gives us a great deal more comfort at sea; comfort, quite frankly we've never experienced before, making passages something we both look forward to. The size allows us to have multiple systems such as two large gensets, two large motors, two sophisticated radar systems, three chart plotters, three docking stations plus wireless remote control and many more systems.
Her size allows us to store huge volumes of fuel meaning that we can go thousands of miles without interacting with a marina or a fuel jetty which is precisely what we've done during this journey. Her size has allowed us to store lots of food in her many refrigerators allowing us to stay away from shopping. Of course, to keep all these systems running, it takes a lot of work. On Cruz Control we had a fraction of these systems and we were basically able to be self-sufficient for a season fixing most problems and generally making a list of things to fix on the off season at our marina with professional help. With Vanish, although two people can very competently handle the vessel in terms of docking, manoeuvring etc., we felt that keeping all these systems in good order, maintaining the stainless and gel coat, provisioning, storage and handling of food, the cleaning of its spacious interior, would be best accomplished if we had help, particularly as Maynard spends a great deal of time working. This was a very hard decision for us as we are fiercely independent people. Not everyone can live with two quiet vegetarians who like the things we like.
Initially we anticipated that at the very least we would need crew for the first year to make sure both of us could come up to speed with all the things we needed to learn to broadly handle a vessel such as Vanish on our own. Dirk in particular brought a huge wealth of engineering and boat handling experience to us. He and Julie worked at outfitting Vanish with all the spares and equipment required for long distance voyaging and we appreciated having the help in setting up Vanish. No matter how much time you spend talking to people on the phone, there is always that concern that living together might be a good or very bad idea. Even with four of us, it is tricky to keep this vessel in perfect shape as we move thousands of miles. For the intended voyage, Vanish is the perfect size.
We cleared US Customs yesterday at the beautiful Bar Harbor in Maine (THE best summer cruising ground we've ever seen) with clear sunny skies. It does feel good to be back in the US. We had a great crossing over the Bay of Fundy in calm glassy flat blue sky conditions and saw two huge sharks. This highly tidal body of water has lots of current and can produce steep dangerous waves but we saw none of that thanks to finding a perfect weather window. Our crew hitch-hiked north of Yarmouth while we stayed on the vessel at anchor in the town so this is all we saw of Nova Scotia. It turned out that Yarmouth, Nova Scotia was our turning point and now every mile takes us closer to home. We didn't intend for Yarmouth to be our turning point but we feel, as has already proven to be the case, that as we head back towards home only 17,000 miles away (OMG that's a long way...best not to think about that), crew morale has improved giving us the best chance of making this work out right. Clearly, it has been a steep learning curve living with another couple and all that entails. We are still hopeful that it will work out.
18 August, 2012, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
We have a huge window in our shower on Vanish which no one can see into during the day ........ or so I've been told. I just can't get used to looking out and seeing seals looking back at me; perhaps they have really really good vision. Yarmouth, a fishing town of 9,000 people from which many of the forefathers of Lafayette, Louisiana's Cajuns originated, holds their biggest event of the year this weekend called the Shark Scramble and we just happened to be there for it. Maynard is a geophysicist and has worked the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana almost his entire career so we have many Cajun contacts and friends back in Louisiana and didn't realise they'd originated from Nova Scotia until now. It's a weird coincidence.
The Shark Scramble this year involved 18 fishing boats departing Yarmouth on Wednesday night in order to catch the largest total weight of sharks or the largest weight of a shark. They returned by Friday midnight ready for the weigh-in today. We watched the fishing boats leave in the fog motoring 80 miles south to the Georges Bank. Each boat had between 7 and 12 people on board plus casks of beer, and a tremendous amount of food and excitement to see them through the 2 day catch. As the water temperatures have been so warm, we were told they probably wouldn't need to head too far out before the sharks would come to their boats following the scent of blood in the water. The minimum length for a catch is 8 feet and they are allowed to catch blue, mako, porbeagles and thresher sharks. In 2004, a mako shark was caught in the Shark Scramble weighing 1,082 lb. Mako sharks can jump 30 feet in the air and this shark ended up leaping into the back of the fishing boat! You might be interested in visiting http://www.yarmouthsharkscramble.com/.
As the Shark Scramble coincides with the Yarmouth Music Festival featuring 100 bands, Maynard and I enjoyed listening to a wonderful family band called Salem Road last night, a band made up of 3 brothers, their sister and her husband and son. I wish they could be featured in the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival as they would be a huge hit. After speaking to the brothers, they told me they lived just up the road in Salem Road in Spring Haven near Yarmouth and mainly play at family events. They were quite amazing. The young people have deserted the town and headed to Alberta where there is a mining boom. The average age in the audience at the Music Festival last night was around 65 so we were feeling like youngsters in this group.
We found ourselves at the weigh-in today amongst children eating ice-creams, excited salivating dogs and locals with eyes agog. I made my way to the front of the crowd and again, through splayed fingers, watched in fascination at the scene in front of me. The largest shark this year weighed in at 429 lb. More weird coincidences. I asked a group of five people next to me how they felt about this event and amazingly they responded that they were all vegetarians and they were only there to see why their fellow townsfolk enjoyed it so much. They had lived in Yarmouth all their lives and had never been to the Scramble. The DFO (Fisheries Department Officers) were present to examine the sharks as they use the information for scientific research. The meat is then shipped to a company in Taiwan for consumption.
We could only stay for a short while and found it interesting to see how other people live around the world. This town lives on fishing and is undergoing a severe recession due to the global financial crisis and changes in the fishing stocks. One of the largest retail, grocery and restaurant stores in the region called Zellers is closing soon. The Super Cat ferry service which ran from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor also ceased operations last year. Each passage cost the ferry company C$25,000 which was unsustainable with so many people leaving the area. This was death to the town. The Shark Scramble and six day Music Festival provides a welcome relief to the locals and hopefully will inject some money into the town.
And why are we returning to Maine tomorrow without seeing Nova Scotia properly? I'll try to explain it when I can find the words.
15 August, 2012, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
After a restless sleep from all the encrypted messages being sent to underwater submarines around the world and into our brains from the 26 towers at the Cutler Naval Station, we leapt out of bed yesterday morning highly energised and speaking gibberish, pulled up a very weedy anchor and headed south-east at 10 knots across the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy. The fog was so thick that for almost 8 hours, we could only see about 75 to 100 meters ahead. At times I felt that we were going in circles and only when I looked at our steady compass heading of 150 degrees and the radar and navigation charts, did my brain satisfy itself that we were indeed going in a straight line. I believe pilots can become disoriented in exactly the same way when they have no visual references and end up spiralling into the ground. You have to trust your instruments. At times we could just make out sea birds flying past completely oblivious to the conditions. How do they do that!
As the wind speed was only around 2 to 7 knots, the sea was mostly glassy with a 1 meter swell so it was also impossible to tell if we were looking at the sea or the fog. It felt quite claustrophobic and suffocating. Maynard and I needed to stay ever vigilant in the fog as we kept seeing lobster buoys a long way offshore, large floating logs, one or two small boats and what initially looked like the corners of a container but turned out to be a pair of Minke whales fogbathing. We also had to keep a lookout for a 12 ft x 12 ft black spool floating out there....wouldn't like to smash into that, would you?
We were promised by the Marina Manager 80 miles away that it was crystal clear at his end so we trusted him and within 1 mile of the dock, the sky parted slightly thankfully and sure enough, there was Killam Marina, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. We had not seen any green or red channel markers and no land of any sort even though we were right in the middle of the channel in Yarmouth Harbor. Fundy Traffic said they had us on AIS and advised there was no shipping in the channel which was a relief.
At the dock, we were visited by two Canadian Customs Officers who were extremely friendly and cleared us into Canada. We were asked about any weapons on board, drugs, alcohol, fruit, vegetables or other contraband. I was forbidden to take photos of the Officer's faces (maybe they were dentists in their former lives?) but was allowed to take a picture of their hands stamping the passports and actually nabbed a photo of their backs leaving Vanish. What a weird world we live in now. Oh yes, and we did not need to leave the boat's alcohol with our Booze Buddy in Maine as boat stores are ok. You are just not allowed to go ashore with it or leave it with someone here. Now, they tell us.
Our new marina friends on a 46ft yacht here are leaving this afternoon for Bar Harbor, an overnight motor/sail in the fog, something they are not looking forward to. We all agree that the fog is bad but the lobster buoys are a nightmare. Canada has a lobster season from November to May but Maine has its own rules. Thinking about it,it is akin to you driving your car down the road dodging cages every 20 feet, including every single place you want to drive your car eg. to the mall, to a school, to your driveway, to work, absolutely everywhere. Maybe I've said this previously, but Maynard believes this is up there with some of the trickiest boating he's had to endure and that says a lot.
14 August, 2012, Cutler Naval Station, Maine, USA
The sky was a complete white-out when we went to bed so we couldn't see the towers lit up at night. It's 4am and clear so this is the view. They're humming, it's quite eerie and beautiful.
13 August, 2012, Near Cutler Naval Station, Cross Island, Maine, USA
I'm trying so hard not to write so often and I don't want you guys to get bored but things just keep happening so here I am again! We decided to head off in the dense fog with a good working radar today and ended up at Cross Island , directly across from these enormous radio towers at the Cutler Naval Station. The towers form one of the world's most powerful radio transmitters used by the US Navy to communicate with their submerged submarines. There are 26 towers altogether forming 2 arrays designated as the north array and the south array. The central tower of each array is almost 1,000 feet high and is surrounded in an umbrella type arrangement with 12 other towers of around 800 feet in height.
What is amazing about all of this is that Maynard worked on this project in the 1970's in San Diego at the Naval Undersea Center under Dr. Hamilton who, at the time, was one of the most published geophysicists in the world. Maynard had no idea that 40 years later he would visit this very remote area in Maine in his own boat with a Chattybirrd wife. Back then he was a geological technician analysing sea bottom samples which were needed to improve the reliability of the communication and detection of the ULF (ultra low frequency) system that the military had set up to communicate with its subs worldwide and aided in the detection of Russian subs. This system takes advantage of water temperature layers in the ocean and from sampling seabeds world-wide, they are very accurately able to send messages to any sub around the world using ULF. It is a remarkable feat of human invention and the technology from this has found its way into lots of everyday devices such as digital tvs, mobile phones etc.
In winter, severe icing results in huge loads on the supporting structures so the antennas have de-icing currents running through the wires. An antenna array can't transmit during de-icing so only one array can be de-iced at any one time so that transmissions are not interrupted. As luck would have it, the fog dispersed exactly when we were ready to anchor so we had a wonderful view of these spectacular towers. Even though we were the only ones here, the water temp is now 15 deg C and the fog had rolled in, we hopped into our kayaks and took a tour along the shoreline of Cross Island which is known to have black bears. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a sighting.
12 August, 2012, Shorey Cove, Roque Island, Maine, USA
Three solid days of fog now - oh except it lifted for about 1 hour at lunchtime so we hoiked it around the top of Roque Island to Shorey Cove via The Thoroughfare, an extremely narrow shallow passage before the rain and heavy fog descended again. Nothing like a change of..... well, I was going to say scenery to lift the spirits but as we can only see white everywhere, maybe I should say that we have a change of location to lift the spirits. We couldn't stand it any longer yesterday being cooped up so we went for a long walk on the one mile stretch of beach, Maine's equivalent of Whitehaven Beach in North Queensland, Australia. Mind you, we couldn't SEE the beach until we heard the small waves lapping.
We found some interesting animal footprints in the sand about 4" long and have no idea what they are. If anyone reading this can identify them for me, please leave a comment for all to read. Our guesses have been a black bear (just wishful thinking), an otter or maybe a badger. We then took a wet dinghy ride on dusk and found an animal none of us have ever seen before swimming like crazy. I think it's either an otter or perhaps a muskrat, maybe a mink as a nearby island is called Mink Island. Again, not being familiar with the animals here in Maine, we can only guess.
This fog business makes us all appreciate the difficulties the local fishermen and residents have to contend with here. Having radar on the boat is essential otherwise if you don't have one, one can toot one's boat horn, ring a bell, listen for echoes or the sound of rocks awash, take a heading on your compass and once in shallow water, anchor there and hope for the best if your radar decides to fail. I have lots of theories (some say hair brained theories) and one of them is that the more that crew worry, the more the electronics fail. Surely you've noticed this phenomenon. People tend to suck the life out of electronics in dicey situations; why else do they always seem to fail when crossing a dangerous bar, when a storm is approaching or when traversing shallow water? The only cure is to stay relaxed and that's exactly what we're doing; we don't want our radar dying thank you very much.
10 August, 2012, Roque Island Harbor, Maine, USA
Have you ever watched the movie called The Mist, a sci fi horror movie based on Stephen King's book of the same name? I've watched it through splayed fingers but I know it is based in Maine and contains scenes of mist, fog, giant insects, thunderstorms, alien creatures and other grisly things. You really have to keep your head about you, especially at night in the fog here in Maine or your mind will come up with scenarios that won't allow you much sleep at night. Right now, we are safely anchored in Roque Island Harbor in heavy fog and drizzling rain. At times, the fog lifts slightly and you can just see another yacht anchored close by, yet at other times, it would appear we are the only ones here. At night with the fog swirling around our anchor light, droplets of water running down the cabin flyscreens, the smell of the forest, splashes in the water and the haunting sound of unknown birds or wildlife out there, we feel mighty glad to be inside our cozy craft.
This beautiful harbour has an anchorage which can hold 100's of vessels and in fact has been our most crowded anchorage in weeks having five vessels here last night. It has a one mile long fine white sandy beach with a grass topped small dune and behind that the hills are cloaked in more deep dark wooded spruce trees. The water temperature is now 15 C (59 deg F) and the air temperature is about the same. As we are in the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy, the tides are now almost 4 meters (13 ft) but I've read that the biggest tides in the world are still 140 miles ahead reaching 17 meters (55 ft). We may or may not go up and play with these Fundy tides. With such huge volumes of water moving back and forth every six and a half hours, the current increases dramatically. If you don't time your voyage accordingly, you can find yourself pushing into a strong oncoming tide which significantly slows the vessel. Just another challenge up here.
We're often visited by lobstermen at the anchorages which our crew take full advantage of as we don't eat lobsters or any meat for that matter. Today was a boat work day on board as the sun failed to show and who knows if we'll see it for some time yet.
7 August, 2012, Offshore Bar Harbor, Maine, USA
The boys had a bit of fun today. To minimise roll whilst underway, there are many types of stabilizers and we have 3 kinds. Our primary method of stabilisation whilst underway are hydraulically driven Naiad stabilisers. They are extremely powerful and very effective and we've been very happy with them but as you all know, while we are at anchor, we sometimes deploy flopper stoppers in a rolling anchorage using our twin davits (cranes) and these have also been very effective.
As an experiment, we have had a set of "mobile" stabilisers onboard that could be deployed while moving and were built along the lines of the Kolstrand stabilisers. When Dirk first saw these stabilisers, he was worried about their hydro-dynamics and centre of gravity and overall balance. Each of these stabilisers weighs over 100 lbs and we've been carting them around for the last 2000+ miles so today on a glassy sea, we tried one out.
Vicki was at the helm motoring slowing while dodging lobster buoys as usual while Dirk and Maynard lowered one of the stabilisers on the end of the crane into the sea. The fishermen call these stabilisers "birds" as they look like birds with their wings spread out. It proved to be very unstable, back-somersaulting, leaping and gyrating as if it was an unsynchronised swimmer in the Olympics (see pics in Photo Gallery). We cracked up laughing but we decided that it was probably better to not use them again and we didn't particularly wish to sink the boat today. So we said our goodbyes and they were unceremoniously tossed overboard. I can give you the Lat/Long if you want them.
6 August, 2012, Bar Harbor, Maine, USA
After careful consideration, we decided to drive to Canada to renew our I-94 Visas for a further 90 days as this was the only way we could re-enter the US on Vanish on our Australian visa waiver programme. We'd made our way from Somes Sound to Bar Harbor a few days ago, a paradise for the rich and famous and for 3 Million tourists per year who visit this beautiful area. Our home town of Byron Bay in Australia is inundated with 2 Million tourists per year and Bar Harbor has all the same attributes of Byron Bay; beautiful scenery, lots to do, ocean activities, mountain drives, good restaurants and hotels, ice cream shops (which sell lobster ice-cream), and gift shops aplenty. In September and October, the crowds swell even further with 180 cruise ships offloading 8,000 passengers per day into this tiny town.
We don't do well in crowds so we hopped on Oli's Trolley, a tram-like bus, which took us up to the top of 1,530 ft. Cadillac Mountain for a 1 hour sunset tour which we thoroughly enjoyed. We had good clear weather and a great view of Vanish sitting quietly in the harbour. We learned that John Travolta flies in on his 707 jet during summer as he lives nearby on the island of Islesboro across from Castine; also Martha Stewart lives here as well as David Rockefeller Junior and Senior and many others in Seal Cove. In fact, the Bar Harbor Airport has so many private jets during the holidays that it's standing room only. There are more billionaires here on Mt. Desert Island in summer than in any other place in the US. Back in 1947, 16,000 acres and hundreds of homes were lost in a devastating fire which swept almost down to the township with 80 - 90 mph winds during a severe drought. Most of the homes were not replaced as the cost to rebuild in 1947 was astronomical. As much as we appreciate Bar Harbor, we like the solitude of the rugged coastline, isolated islands and mountains and the Maine locals. We've been told me that the best time to visit Bar Harbor is in winter but who knows where we'll be by then.
The drive to Canada from Bar Harbor took just over 2 hours along Highway 1 Coastal to the town of Calais (pronounced Kalis) where we walked into the US Border office and were told to walk across the bridge to Canada, go to the Canadian Border office and say g'day then walk back across the bridge. Yep, the whole process took 10 minutes and cost us $12 not including the car rental. We then drove back along Highway 9 which took us through huge spruce forests which must look picturesque during the winter snows.
I really wanted to see Maine's national fruit, the blueberry growing wild in the fields. We pulled up at a farm called Mr. Ed's Shed and were greeted by Ed himself. This is what travelling on a boat is all about as we would never have met such a nice family as Ed Perkins. He was selling 9 kg (20 lb) trays of the most delicious wild tiny blueberries we've ever tasted for $25 a tray. I calculated that if I'd bought the same amount in my local supermarket in Australia, they would have cost $450.00. As we couldn't possibly eat that much in 4 days, we bought a 500g (1 qt) punnet for $4.25. 4 days is about the limit for freshness for these berries.
Maynard and Ed shot the breeze for a while looking at his blueberry harvester, which is not as gentle on the berries as hand harvesting, and he then took us to where his wife and daughter were harvesting the berries by hand using what looked like a dustpan with metal spikes attached to it. It is backbreaking work as the wild blueberry bushes are only about 6" high compared to our Australian bushes which are 1 metre or so. Ed had inherited his 50 acres of land with 3 glacial lakes from his Grandparents who purchased it in 1918. He told us blueberries need a pH of 4.5, frost, fog and then warm weather at the right time. It was great to meet a fellow farmer and hear the same issues as we experience with our coffee plantation back home.
As Maynard still works full-time, we have to plan each move around phone and internet contact, weather and tide predictions, provisioning, family obligations, crew requirements and many other factors. It's no wonder very few people take on the challenge we're endeavouring to achieve. We now have everything in place to go north to Canada in Vanish if we wish and who knows, maybe we'll find our rounding mark there.
2 August, 2012, Castine, Maine, USA
Over the last few days we've visited some very beautiful places such as Smith Cove, Castine where someone onboard celebrated a birthday; their 21st I believe it was (again). Castine is one of the oldest communities in North America and has been continuously occupied since the early 1600's, firstly by the French, then the Dutch, then England and finally the US when the English evacuated the region around 1814. From our walking tour, many homes had dates above their front doors ranging from 1790 to 1830 with gigantic elm trees shading the streets and houses. We then moved onto Bucks Harbour as Dirk and Julia had applied for a Canadian visa on their South African (green mamba) passports a month ago and finally they were sent by UPS to the little marina in this lovely harbour. We have been stalling for time waiting for their visas so we were quite excited to finally be on our way to Canada. We dumped our grog at a secret location as Canada only allows us to import one and a half bottles of wine (each) so we'll collect it on our way back...if our host hasn't plastered himself by then.
We immediately raised the anchor yesterday and motored down Eggemoggin Reach which is a long protected waterway, and just the most perfect place to sail, if one had a yacht of any kind. It is wide, flat, scenic, and there are many places to anchor. This morning we woke to an incredibly thick fog and needed to wait until noon before we were game to move. Fog + double pot buoys + ferries + lobster fishermen + vessels drifting towards/across/away from us in dense fog can make a person, um, rather, um, on edge. While we waited for the fog to lift slightly, Maynard made a few phone calls to Customs to make sure he knew the correct procedure for clearing out and back in to the U.S. I listened too, and heard Maynard repeat the Customs Officer's words on the phone, "Oh, we can't possibly do that?" Apparently, we can leave and return to the US on a plane, bus, train, probably even a bungee cord, but, "Sir, you can't possibly clear US Customs and return on your visa in a pleasure craft!!" If any of you out there have done so, I'd love to hear how this works. We are a foreign registered vessel with 2 Australians and 2 South Africans on board. We want to go to Canada for a couple of weeks then return to the US to continue our trip south. The Patriots Act, which came into effect after 9/11, has struck again. We now have to rent a car and drive, yes, drive to Canada for 10 minutes then come back so that our visas are renewed for another 90 days so we can continue our journey. We've had tons of conflicting advice as is the norm for beaurocracy.
We left our foggy anchorage at Eggemoggin Reach and without seeing much of anything while avoiding whatever popped up in front of us, meanwhile listening to fog horns, channel marker bells, vessel's engines in the distance, watching the radar and generally being on extreme alert, we arrived at Somes Sound, the only fjord on the Atlantic seaboard where magically, the fog lifted and we were greeted with spectacular scenery as we made our way to tonight's anchorage at the northern most end of Somes Sound. We're now considering our options.
(We wish Karen StClair, Zack's gal who we recently spent the day with at The Basin, a speedy recovery from her car accident on Monday night when she hit a tree on the way home from work. Our love and best wishes go to you Karen.)
29 July, 2012, Seal Cove, Vinalhaven, Maine, USA
This is a video of the sights and sounds at Matinicus Rock yesterday. You can hear the puffins calling, the mournful foghorn and see our great viewing conditions. You can clearly imagine how frightening it would have been to be in the light keeper's tower with waves washing across the base as mentioned in my previous blog entry.
28 July, 2012, Matinicus Rock, Penobscot Bay, Maine, USA
One could become a Gastronomic Glutton in Rockland, Maine. Even if there were only two restaurants in town, Café Miranda and Sunfire Mexican Grill, we would be quite happy...too happy! Next week between 1 - 5 August, the Rockland Lobster Festival takes place. 20,000 lbs of lobster will be consumed in just 4 days so this is a big event but one we'll miss as we must keep moving as we still have so much to see in this short summer period. In town we visited famous Maine painter Andrew Wyeth's gallery at the Farnsworth Museum and we took a tour of The Apprenticeshop, a school for traditional boatbuilding and seamanship established in 1972. The premises can accommodate the construction of up to eight boats up to 28 feet in length and courses range from 2 days to 2 years. The tools and the smell of wood in the workshops were just wonderful. We also visited the Maine Lighthouse Museum where we found out that Maine has a coastline of around 5,300 miles, longer than the entire east coast of the USA. There are around 70 lighthouses just on Maine's coast alone all unique in design with amazing historical facts. Oh and I believe there are around 3 million lobster pots in Maine so it's no wonder we're struggling to avoid hitting the buoys. Penobscot Bay has an additional challenge due to its depth and big tides. There are two buoys per pot in order to make it easier for the lobstermen to pick up the pots. They are generally separated by 4 - 5 metres and are attached by ropes around a metre under the water.
The weather forecast for the next 7 days is just like the last 7 days eg. 5 - 10 knots and will not exceed 10 knots in all kinds of directions. That's it. If we had weather like this in Australia for just a couple of days we'd be worried. There MUST be a severe front on the way, maybe a cyclone or something. I feel sorry for the yachties as they are doing what we're doing; motoring along nicely in glassy seas. Sometimes they have their mainsail hoisted but mostly they don't bother and seem happy to wave at us in the friendliest fashion while enjoying the sights as we do. Some of our friends have reminded us that we're actually going the wrong way..."Now listen Maynard, you DO know that Cape Horn is south of you right?" Yeah, but we're just taking a bit of a detour, a 4000 + mile detour but then that's what you can do in a Marlow Voyager.
Before leaving for a day's passage on our former yachts, my job was to stow everything away that could be smashed, dropped, thrown, spilt, or flung across the cabin. Going to the head was always tricky due to the sailing angle and if it was really rough or Bindi, our cattle dog, needed to go the bathroom, we sometimes lay ahull with backed sails to keep the yacht flat. Of course, there are no such problems on Vanish and I am yet to see even a drop spilled from a glass of water. It's very hard to get used to but I guess if our two recliner chairs in the salon are sliding around the cabin, we are in serious trouble. If it happens, I'll let you know. Seasickness was often a problem while sailing but on Vanish, the sea motion is so kind, I barely feel a thing and it must be due to motoring flat. The only significant motion is fore and aft. Of course, we've had exceptional weather so I may be living in a fool's paradise. We also purchased good wet weather gear before we left Florida but they still have their tags attached as we don't even get wet. I just can't get used to it.
We left Rockland this morning on a mission to see an Atlantic Puffin colony on Matinicus Rock, a lonely harsh environment which encounters huge ocean swells south of the entrance to Penobscot Bay, a distance of around 25 miles from Rockland. Puffins are only here during June and July and there are only three colonies in Maine. By the early 1900's, puffins were completely decimated due to being eaten and their eggs collected as a cash crop. In 1970, Cornell University ornithologist Stephen Kres and the National Audobon Society laboriously dug burrows by hand to help re-establish these colonies. Puffin chicks were transported from Newfoundland to these predator free colonies. As we neared the island in glassy conditions, we saw hundreds of puffins paddling on the water, diving deep when we came within 50 metres and trying to run on the water before taking off in the air. Their little fat bodies made hard work of it. We were all terribly excited and again feel fortunate that conditions were so favourable for us.
The Burgess family were lighthouse keepers in 1856. On January 19, Samuel Burgess had left to row the 25 miles to the mainland for supplies. How he survived this day, I don't know. His daughter Abbie wrote a letter describing a great gale that day where she bravely ran out of the house near the lighthouses to save her chickens in a coop before a massive wave engulfed the rock and destroyed the old dwelling. (see Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, a wonderful children's book). This rock has probably seen thousands of storms but again it was witnessed by keepers during a storm in 1975 when a great wave once again swept across the rock, an incredibly impressive event as the light towers sit 48 feet above the normal high tide level. This is certainly a place to avoid in a tempest but yet another wonderful experience for us.
25 July, 2012, Rockland, Maine, USA
On Sunday, we left The Basin bound for Maple Juice Cove, a distance of around 40 miles to the north-east on a pleasant sunny day. We passed by Zack and his sister Robin's camp on Sheep Island. (The camp must be a Maine term for gorgeous house/cabin reliant on its own fuel and water and solar power on the shores of an island.) As I mentioned previously, Zack and his Gang of Thirteen took us on a tour of Cundy's Harbour in his brand new aluminium boat along the craggy volcanic shores of the Mainland and many islands. We then enjoyed lunch at the Sebasco Harbor Resort before heading back to The Camp where we were greeted by 6 excited happy dogs all waiting for their respective owners to return. After much laughter and stories, we headed back to Vanish where our guests were taken on a thorough tour of Vanish. For a minute, I thought we would instantly have an extra 10 guests on our journey as they all fell in love with everything Vanish has to offer. The experience of meeting such a wonderful funny group of people was definitely another great highlight of this trip and one we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
Our trip to Maple Juice Cove was one of the hardest and one of the most demanding steering challenges we've ever encountered including some of our most demanding yacht races. Muscongus Bay was littered with tens of thousands of lobster buoys. We had one knot of cross current, a following swell and gusty winds so manoeuvring Vanish's 25 metre hull with twin props and stabilisers just begging to be snared in a lobster buoy was difficult to say the least. This is enough to keep you awake at night terrified of leaving your anchorage the next morning or worse, being forced out by a wind change during the night. It is simply impossible to leave an anchorage such as Maple Juice Cove once night falls so you have to be very certain of your weather. Even though we have rope cutters on the props and the stabilisers are made to minimise the chances of being snared, none of these devices are fool proof and getting a rope tangled around your prop or stabiliser can be an expensive and time consuming problem, especially in cold water, so we have made every effort to not let any of these buoys touch any part of Vanish and so far we've been lucky.
These lobster buoys were often barely visible above the water, some were painted brown, many were placed a few metres apart and with Vanish's beam of 6 metres, the boat had to be placed exactly in the right spot to get through. We had to stare through binoculars for hours to ensure we didn't motor into a dead end. We had no time to drink or eat. One of the great features on Vanish is the Portugese bridge. It's an outdoor steering area with full instrumentation and with engine and bow thruster control and from its vantage point you have a superb view of the bow and the width allowing you to thread the buoy needles. We've only seen one catamaran. They have a hull width of at least 8 metres and with engines on both sides, it must be a nightmare for them up here so this explains their rarity.
Maynard and I were really exhausted from the stress of it all. The State of Maine has had a particularly warm winter so the price of lobster has fallen to $1.25/lb. Dirk has been purchasing lobsters from passing fishermen and receives 6 lobsters for $20. He estimates each lobster weighs one and a half pounds. We don't know if the number of buoys in the water is extremely high this year or this is normal but for $1.25/lb, many lobstermen are going bankrupt as it's not worth their while fishing at these prices. Perhaps this is why every there are so many. We're not sure.
I developed a particularly bad aura migraine on Monday so I was unable to help Maynard negotiate our way through the buoys to Rockland. Dirk and Julia came up to help so while Maynard and Dirk spotted the buoys outside, Julia provided a third set of eyes for navigation and assistance. We are now in Rockland which turns out to be a dead spot for AT&T, the telephone carrier we use. We've had minimal internet and phone. We have shown up on the AIS system but as we are now anchored, we've turned off our instruments and won't show up on Marine Traffic until we depart again. I'm sorry that so many of you have been checking our progress and we've had such difficulty in reporting but we are certainly reaching the edge of any decent population so we don't have the services we're used to. Please bear with us and we will try to do the best we can to keep you up to date.
The sea temp is now down to 16 deg C and we often look out the windows in the anchorage to see a seal's beautiful big brown eyes looking back at us. When we arrived in Rockland, the clouds had changed to low smoky looking foggy, scudding clouds only 300 metres high. Something has changed. A storm blew in during the night and did not cause too much trouble. Yesterday, we had thunderheads and unusual grey clouds again and another storm came through after lunch with the most beautiful smells of spruce from the land. The front has now passed and today we have clear cold weather, a 20 knot northerly and great sailing conditions for yachts. We think we'll explore Rockland today and see what it has to offer. I'm gathering data for the Tech Corner Issue and will report asap.
20 July, 2012, Zack & Karen & dogs Rosie, Sarge and Hailey at The Basin, Phippsburg, Maine
Maine is not known for swimming, but we've now enjoyed two lovely swims in our anchorage at The Basin, the best known hurricane hole in Maine. The water temp was around 22 deg C, yet a seal popped his head up quite close to us. The Basin is the ultimate safe harbour surrounded by rocky points, spruce and pine trees and a few cabins sparsely hidden amongst the foliage. It looks similar to Macona Inlet in the Whitsundays in North Queensland, Australia except the entrance to The Basin has an opening of 150 feet which becomes 75 feet on rounding a bend where it opens up to a perfect little harbour. Both of these locations have been formed by glaciation.
In the 1940's, The Basin was ground zero for gathering quahogs along the New Meadows River and apparently still produces 52 bushels an acre. Quahogs are also known as clams and are gathered by commercial fishermen using skiffs and rakes with handles up to 50 feet long. It is extremely hard physical work. Quahogs are apparently the longest lived animal in the world. An ocean quahog found in Iceland was estimated to be between 405 and 410 years old, assessed by counting its shell rings as they grow one shell ring per year. Now there's a fact you can tell your friends at your next party.
We've received lots of attention in every anchorage we've stayed. All manner of vessels drop by to say hello, take photos, compliment the fine lines of our vessel, enquire about our home port and where we are headed and we now feel we are slowly getting to know quite a lot of people on the water. We were kindly invited for a day out with Zack Longley, Karen StClair and their friends Steve & Ellen Gilman, Caroline McGuirk, Robin & Don Johnson, Al & Sue Davis, Ted, Dan, Sinead and Eva Triandifilou on Zack's boat to view the Maine coastline and surrounding islands. We were welcomed with extreme kindness into their lives and homes, enjoyed lunch together and treated like family. If this is the way the people from Maine treat complete strangers, then we love this State. It's like no other. Hopefully we can reciprocate when they visit Australia.
The Marine Traffic website is not working in this area but we should hopefully come up on the site as we move further north-east.
We now have our replacement flopper stopper which was sent to us to Portland, Maine yesterday. We had another interesting "issue", but I'll tell you about that later. Rest assured, all is well on Vanish.
18 July, 2012, House Island, South Portland, Maine, USA
Here comes trouble. When this small boat headed straight for Vanish on sunset at full speed tonight, there was only one thing it could be, the Harbor Master. Hope we've done nothing wrong. Meet Kevin Battle, the friendliest Harbor Master of all and a great representative of his profession. After smiles and introductions, Kevin advised us we had anchored close to a wreck and to take care when leaving and wanted to know all about our trip and to please send him the blog address. So here's a tribute to you Kevin and all Harbor Masters, and thank you and your colleagues of the Coast Guard, Water Police and all other authorities who watch over us.
16 July, 2012, Boon Island, Maine, USA
On Saturday morning we dropped anchor outside the moored boats off the South Boston Yacht Club in Massachusetts, a club first established in 1868, less than 3 years after the end of the Civil War. We hadn't been there long before we were visited by club member Ralph Pascarelli ( sorry Ralph If I have your name wrong but I know you have a lovely Italian surname which sounds like pasta with marinara sauce). Ralph in his Boston Whaler kindly invited us to come ashore and enjoy the facilities of this wonderful club and we willingly obliged. He, Patrick and the merry gang from the SBYC made us feel like honoured guests and during our conversations, it started me thinking about what exactly is involved in doing a trip like this one. You can't just turn on the motor and head out there.
As an example, when we undertook the passage from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts to Boston, a distance of 60 miles, the first priority was to check the weather. This was done on the Sirius system on the Raymarine instrument which is a direct link to the satellite and gives all the NOAA weather forecasts and current station data to look all around us and see what's happening. Given the weather forecast, Maynard then decides how far we can go to a decent anchorage. The anchorage choices are a lot more restricted in the US as many of the best spots are full of moorings or anchoring is prohibited. It is not uncommon to come into an anchorage and find 200 moored boats and maybe only 2 or 3 on anchor. Many harbours prohibit anchoring, particularly in Massachusetts and many others require the Harbour Master's permission. This is vastly different to anchoring in Australia where, other than in Aboriginal territory, we can anchor wherever we want (within reason).
Then there's the lobster pots. Have I mentioned them? They are everywhere, even 10 miles out to sea, we are dodging pots and with Maynard and I in the bridge all day, it often takes two of us to spot them. They are like giant spiderwebs ready to trap the lazy boater's prop when you least expect it. They are also in all the harbours and spread out through the mooring buoys and even in the marked channels. Lobsters fetch $4.50/lb so somebody somewhere must be making some money I hope. We used to get stressed out about all these lobster buoys in the water, but we saw that the locals weren't bothered at all, so now we aren't bothered either and we are now as relaxed as they are.
We have cruising guides galore and we both use our individual ePads to double check our downloaded $49 Navionics Chart program for good anchorages. We also check our free downloaded Rain Alarm OSM for current weather radar and I am always Googling endless interesting facts and also checking the Marine Traffic website at www.marinetraffic.com/ais as this tells me a great deal about boats on the water, where they're headed, where they're anchoring in places ahead of us and other interesting facts to help in our planning. I guess I'm a bit of a stickybeak or a nosey parker (an Aussie term which means rubbernecker) but I can't help it. There's so much to learn out here. If you would like to join the Stickybeakers Club, you too can look for Vanish on this site by typing Vanish in the Search box and if our AIS is on, we will be transmitting our position. Right now, the boats in the Portland area are not being shown but just keep checking from time to time and you should be able to find us.
Today we deliberately passed a forbidding looking lighthouse called Boon Island Lighthouse, 9 miles off the coast of Maine just after we'd negotiated our first fog bank on leaving Rockport this morning. It is one of the most inhospitable, creepy, barren crazy pieces of rock we'd ever seen. Boon Island was first mentioned after a shipwreck occurred in 1682. In 1710, another shipwreck occurred and the survivors resorted to cannibalism after 3 weeks in order to survive (a book was fictionalized about their harrowing story, called Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts). A lighthouse was built in 1810 but it and 2 others were washed away in massive storms. This current lighthouse was built in 1835 but the first 2 lighthouse keepers resigned after seeing their vulnerability in ferocious storms as the island is only 14 feet above sea level. The third lighthouse keeper stayed for 22 years. There are no trees, no grass, no soil. In 1932, 70 foot waves were recorded at the lighthouse. In the great blizzard of February 1978, the keeper's house was flooded to a depth of 5 feet and they were forced to take refuge in the tower until the following day when they were helicoptered off. And it's huanted. In the early '70's, Coast Guard keepers Bob Roberts and Bob Edwards had gone fishing but couldn't make it back to the lighthouse before dark. There wasn't another person on the island but the light was shining brightly by the time they returned to the island. This and many other stories make this place a fascinating sight for us to see. Shortly afterwards, we spotted our first seal, a Northern Right Whale, another smaller whale and the huge fin of a shark. The water temperature is now down to around 20 deg C.
We are currently anchored in Portland, Maine listening to foghorns in the channel and the clanging of bells on the channel markers letting mariners know where they are when the fog closes in. What a change to Byron Bay, Australia!
13 July, 2012, Railway Bridge Cape Cod Canal, Massachusetts, USA
Quite by accident, I have stumbled into a few men's rooms in my time. I've even had a conversation or two with the occupants. Apparently, around 50% of the population, including some women, love these rooms. Maybe it's the sound generated within or maybe its the leftover testosterone or the perfectly shined chrome fittings and pristine white components in this, the throbbing heart of a vessel known as the Engine Room. I'm yet to fall in love with this area but I know I should as I rely on it completely.
When Maynard considered Vanish, he particularly liked her CAT engines as they have a reputation for reliabillity. The C-18's on Vanish are a longtime proven design and have a good degree of tolerance at running at low rpms associated with displacement speeds as long as you run the turbos at operating temperature once every 48 - 72 hrs of running. The C-18s are one of the more refined engines made by CAT. So today, after passing through the Cape Cod Canal which cuts off at least 112 miles going around the Atlantic side of Cape Cod, we ran the boat at a planing speed of 17 knots for half an hour. This is a good speed considering we are at full load.
At 17 knots, the bulb at the bow is very close, if not out of the water and is a very smooth ride. Some serious miles can be made this way. This felt quite different to the way we normally run the boat which is either at 9 knots with 2 engines which consumes just under 10 gallons per hour or we run with a single engine which runs at 8.3 knots consuming just over 7 gallons an hour. This results in a range of well over 4,000 miles. (There are 3.7 litres per gallon). Remember, this is an 85 ton vessel with over 4,500 gallons of fuel onboard and a stack of ship's stores so these fuel figures are very good particularly for a semi-displacement hull. We actually really appreciate the ability to get on a plane and outrun weather as we can do 200 miles in a 10 hour period. 500 mile days, whilst expensive, are possible. Many modifications had to be made so we could run on one engine such as installing a hydraulic pump on both engines so we could run the NAIAD stabilizers (they help keep the boat flat in a seaway). We also had to install a cross flow system so that water is pumped to cool the shaft seals on the engine that is not running. We have found that it is most efficient to leave the off engine in neutral allowing the shaft to turn. In the ideal world, it would be great to have some sort of feathering prop but with these big planing props, it is just not possible. Everything in boating requires compromises; you only get to pick priorities.
As we have always tried to have efficient, quiet vessels, on Vanish we have twelve 250 amp hour batteries which can be charged by a variety of charging systems including two very quiet 26 kilowatt Onan generators or an 1800 watt solar panel system which does a remarkably good job on a typical tropical day. We have proven already that we can run Vanish as per normal with its 7 fridges/freezers, multiple tvs etc without running a generator for at least 18 hours and I'm sure as we become more efficient and learn the onboard systems better, we hope we can improve on this.
Right now, we are in the North Atlantic Ocean heading for Boston in 11 knots of wind from the south-west and a 2 foot "swell". After the fireworks in New York, we took the scenic route and headed eastwards on the East River in the heart of New York and past Hells Gate where the temperature was 39.9 deg (104 deg F) and is the junction of Harlem and the East River with currents of up to 6 knots and countless barges being pushed along by tugs. Luckily we were in this narrow section on slack tide by ourselves.
Now, family, please don't freak out but I've found a good spot to buy a house! It's on Long Island at a place called Great Neck and the privileged few have houses on the beach facing south-west towards the sun looking directly at the New York skyline. I'll take that or maybe one of those mansions we passed at Rhode Island a couple of days ago, built in times before taxes were invented. I'm easily satisfied by the very best, as Winston Churchill once said. I'll have to start saving my pennies to fulfillthis desire. We loved Long Island, Long Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound and all the wonderful sailing areas, coves, beaches and tranquility of this vast area. No wonder there are so many boats of every shape and style as they are so lucky to have such a wonderful summer sailing season. It's hard to imagine snow here in winter but we were told by a lovely lady we met at Eatons Neck on Long Island that the little bay in which we were anchored, used to completely freeze over in years gone by. Foxes used to be seen crossing the harbour in winter.
Today was a great day considering it is Friday the 13th. Transitting the Cape Cod Canal built in 1928 was a once in a lifetime experience being so far from home. The canal is 17.4 miles long, 30 feet deep and around 480 feet in width and saves a day by not going on the outside of Cape Cod negotiating the myriad of sandbanks. We love the architecture of the Cape Cod homes with their steep roofs, white bordered windows, manicured gardens and colourful flowerbeds.
We are now only 85 miles away from Portland, Maine where we will stay for a short time before heading off again. Our main desire is to head north although our rounding mark is unknown at this stage. We want to take our time on the way back, calling into places we've enjoyed and others we wish to explore. For now, it's time to sit back and enjoy the delights of Boston, Massachusetts. Don't forget to check out more pictures in the Photo Gallery in the next day or so.
5 July, 2012, Ellis Island, New York City, NY, USA
The Macys New York 4th July celebrations are the costliest and most explosive in the US with 40,000 shells set off during the fireworks show. I put in a request to Capt. Maynard to be as close as possible to the action so we headed towards the Hudson River and after taking a few photos at the Statue of Liberty, anchored legally next to Ellis Island, the historic gateway to millions of immigrants arriving in New York which occured between 1892 and 1954.
We had made our way north after the vicious storm at Scotland Beach in the Chesapeake Bay and transitted the Chesapeake Delaware Canal which joins Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. The canal is around 8 miles long and about 100 metres in width and very well marked. We saw only a handful of vessels making their way along its length so we took our time viewing cornfields, beautiful homes, a large flock of vultures and wild deer and quaint towns along the way. Almost every starboard hand channel marker was decked with a sea eagle's nest, some with an egg, some with a baby chick. As we exited the canal, we passed the Salem Nuclear Power Plant in Delaware and couldn't believe how close we were allowed to pass next to the nuclear reactors. For some weird reason, it actually made my day.
We rounded the Cape May Lighthouse with a 4 knot current against us and tried to anchor in the little harbour of Cape May but as there was so little room, we ended up sitting in the middle of the channel. It wasn't long before a Coast Guard vessel with a whole host of officials came alongside and after a pleasant greeting, advised us we needed to move. Yep, we agreed. As the sun was low on the horizon, we decided to do another overnight passage and arrived in New Jersey the following morning.
My request to view the fireworks in New York seemed simple enough I thought but there are a lot of factors you don't ever read about in the books. Firstly, our Ellis Island anchorage became terribly uncomfortable with waves caused by wind against tide. Combined with that and the Statue Cruise ferries running constantly plus all the other river traffic heading upriver to gain their preferred spot for the fireworks, things were getting a little chaotic and queasy onboard.
We decided to deploy our flopper stoppers made by Ocean Torque in Australia and suddenly most of the violent rolling dissipated. We have the largest size which is a No. 5 and it is 900 mm across. The flopper stoppers are suspended from our two cranes on each side of the boat and sit between 1 and 2 metres underwater. They dampen the motion of the waves and put the vessel out of synch with the waves which greatly reduces the severe motion by at least 70%. Almost every other vessel from catamarans to monohulls to motor vessels of all sizes and shapes, left our little anchorage after a very short time due to their vessels rolling so badly. We sat there over 2 days. They are a lot less hassel and maintenance of the $100,000 gyro systems with a similar, if not better, result. You can take a look at the website at www.boatstabilizers.net to read more about this amazing device.
At 9 a.m., on 4th July we were greeted with a 21 gun salute...well maybe not entirely for us but the canon WAS just across the river aiming at us. As the sun set and seven NYPD helicopters roared overhead (I thought it was Donald Trump and his 6 secretaries at first), we decided to launch our new AB 14 foot dinghy with centre console steering, chart plotter and fishfinder and head to where the real action was occurring. We'd heard there were 6 barges loaded with fireworks and as many of you know, I am mad about pyrotechnics, so the thought was to get as close, if not closer, to the lovely smell of rocket smoke. But there's a catch. There always is. The barges are anchored in the Hudson, followed by a large gap. Next are located the megayachts, charter vessels and anyone else who wishes to actually anchor in the river for the entire night. You must keep an all night watch plus run your engines. We decided not to do this so that's why we were in our big dinghy and Vanish was safely anchored at Ellis Island 3 miles away.
Behind the megayachts is another large gap patrolled by at least 30 New York Police Department, State Park and Coast Guard vessels with blue flashing lights, loud hailers and massive searchlights. Their job was to keep the seething mass of 1000 floating vessels of every shape and type from ramming into the anchored vessels. All good in theory, but the Hudson has a heck of a current so when we'd get to the "fenceline", the sirens would blare, the spotlights would be targetted at the infrigers, and we'd all have to back up, or turn around without hitting one another or being hit, all while watching the best fireworks we'd ever seen and taking photos. I can clearly remember being 3 feet from a ferry the size of a Staten Island Ferry with passengers screaming at us and pointing with immense concern as we nearly collided in the dark. It was crazy fun and we had the best time of our lives. Everyone was in great spirits, even the American flag waving Middle Eastern crew on a nearby power boat yelling, "God Bless Amereeekaaaa." At the end of the 30 minute Multi Million Dollar show, every single vessel blasted their air horns for at least a minute. It was incredible.
Ok, show's over. Time to go back to Vanish 3 miles away. Now this is where it DID get scary. The wash from hundreds of large and small vessels in the dark on the Hudson making their way home to their respective marinas at full speed was like the worst washing machine out of balance you could imagine. It didn't bear thinking about the consequences of not riding the waves correctly or not seeing a faster vessel coming up behind us. The AB can do 34 knots at top speed but we were doing around 12 knots comparably safely and made it back without incident. It was truly a great experience.
In the morning we found a downside to our dear flopper stoppers. We failed to wiretie the shackle pins holding the flopper stoppers and as there are always changing loads and vibrations from the currents, one of the shackle pins unwound itself overnight and to our shock and horror, we found we had lost one of them to the muddy depths of the Hudson River, a $2,500 mistake. Oops. A four hour effort was made to retrieve the flopper stopper using the Fishfinders on Vanish and the AB Dinghy then using a grappling hook without luck. We are currently heading north to a marina in Maine where one is being delivered from the manufacturer in Australia. One flopper stopper works well, but two's a charm.
ps Don't forget to check out the Photo Gallery icon
3 July, 2012, 40 42.172'N
The Statue of Liberty has a 500 metre exclusion zone. We were anchored 600 metres away and had a bird's eye view of the Great Lady. What an experience. We've now moved a couple of miles north and are currently anchored near Ellis Island where we will have the best view of the 4th July fireworks tomorrow night.
30 June, 2012, Scotland Beach, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA
This morning I asked Julie if she and Dirk have had as much drama and excitement in their years of sailing as we have been encountering on Vanish lately and her answer was, "No, not really." We were worried that we'd be bored on a motor vessel compared to a yacht, but so far it hasn't been the case. It's a beautiful vessel and has looked after us in every aspect.
Yesterday, we left our anchorage near the Old Point Comfort Marina in Hampton, Virginia and had barely gone 20 minutes before we spotted a massive nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the distance coming towards us down the channel. Next thing, the radio is blaring, "Vanish, Vanish, Vanish, this is Warship 77. You must maintain a distance of a minimum of 500 metres and you must exit the channel immediately." By this time, we were within 1 km of the ship which was surrounded by Coast Guard vessels making sharp jabs with their steering towards us and a military chopper with gunner aiming at us buzzing us overhead and circling the ship. Good grief, we're just little guppies from Australia, we mean you no harm. We hot footed it out of there and made our way as far north on Chesapeake Bay as we could in daylight.
Meanwhile Dirk had repaired our Sea Recovery Aqua Whisper watermaker which had been sucking air from a strainer. He removed the strainer and now the watermaker purrs along beautifully putting out over 70 gallons (270 lt) an hour and has less than 40 parts per million of salt content. Our watermaker on our previous yacht made 45 litres an hour so this is a big change. Mind you, we use a lot more water as we have 4 people onboard, a large washing machine, decadent shower heads, and freshwater toilets.
Another line of storms were forecast later in the day so we found an anchorage just north of the entrance to the Potomac River at a place called Scotland Beach. It would give us protection from NW to SW in the event of storms coming our way. The Raytheon Sirius started showing a huge line of storms approaching by 9pm and we figured they would be at our location by around 11pm. An anchor alarm and depth alarm were set before we went to bed. At 11.30 pm, the boat motion changed suddenly and we woke to blinding lightning and Vanish yawing wildly. All of us went onto the bridge as the wind started screaming and rising from 35 knots, to 40 knots, to 48 knots, to 53 knots. We heard a large popping sound. Now the lexan on the starboard side of the flybridge tore from its secure point and disappeared in the maelstrom. Lexan is used for space and sports helmuts, clear high performance windshields and aircraft canopies and bullet-resistant windows. Its super strong but if it's not bolted down the wind will find a way to wedge it free so we've now lost both port and starboard panels in winds over 50 knots in less than 1 week. At least we're symmetrical now. This storm clocked winds at 80 mph and brought down 100 year old trees and more than 2 million people in the area were without power. It was an incredibly powerful storm and made the national news.
We'd laid out our 180 lb Genuine Scottish CQR anchor with 40 meters of high tensile G4 1/2" chain with a breaking strength of greater than 50,000 lbs in 5.8 metres of water. Dirk says dryly, "The boat will rip to pieces before that chain would break." Our anchor alarm makes a high shrill bird-like screech which sounds like, "Help Me, Help Me, Help Me" or maybe it's saying, "Fix It, Fix It, Fix It". It decided to start calling for help when we completed a full anchor circle when the winds clocked NW then SW then SE with another line of storms then back to NW again, all in a 30 minute period. Imagine yourself on a huge bay in the middle of the night with winds of 50 - 80 knots, pieces of your boat flying skywards, lightning absolutely everywhere and driving rain, your new untested boat yawing wildly and an anchor alarm calling for help. Mind you, we turned off the anchor alarm as we knew what we were doing and we hadn't dragged at all. Maynard had set a very tight anchor drag distance and the chain had stretched outside the set limit so all was ok.
13 people were killed overnight in the storm and states of emergency have been declared in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, right where we are. This morning we've heard countless Pan Pans as there are boats upturned and adrift. We are heading past Washington DC and Baltimore at the top of Chesapeake Bay before passing through the Chesapeake Delaware Canal which will take us into the quieter Delaware Bay. Again, we are on a sharp lookout for another male in the water. In all our years of sailing, we've not had to do this before either. As Dirk said in his monotone Afrikaan accent, "It must be a popular place to dump bodies." On the positive side, 9 people have been rescued from an upturned boat today, 2 more swam to shore this morning after their boat was lost and another vessel is being towed to a marina. It's a gorgeous day today with flat seas and fabulous travelling conditions for us although we're still looking for a large picnic table afloat our here. This Bay is so enormous. It's going to be 41 deg today so let's hope for a storm free, stress free quiet night.
27 June, 2012, Tropical Storm Debby Chasing Vanish
We arrived in Palmetto, Florida, just south of the city of Tampa on 25th May, 2012 eager to see our new vessel for the first time. So much has happened since the decision to purchase Vanish and time has flown by with the various modifications and delays associated with fitting her out.
After moving onboard we found there were many issues after living on her at the Marlow Shipyard for 3 weeks and various systems either needed replacing or fixing. As it turned out, even though I was more than ready to scream, cry or strangle the closest person to me due to the malaise I felt from port rot, it was a good opportunity to ensure that we used everything possible to find the failures and get them fixed. Everyone at Marlow Marine were extremely professional and helped us in every way possible to ensure we were comfortable and all issues were dealt with as quickly as possible. We feel fortunate in the fact that we met so many hard working individuals whose only goal was to produce a great product. Our thanks go to David and Barbara Marlow, Jarlath, Mike, Joe, George, Craig, Richard, Tommy, Phil, Mark, Cecil, Lee, Don and so many others plus all the contractors who came onboard to service electronics, boat covers and much more. If I have forgotten anyone or you haven't been mentioned, please know that we are extremely grateful for all your help.
We finally said our goodbyes and left the dock on Wednesday 20th June with Dirk and Julie Schoombee our crew when we felt the boat was seaworthy and in good working order. Luckily it coincided with Maynard finding a perfect weather window to take us from Tampa down to Key Biscayne at the bottom of Florida. We had to go overnight on our first day taking 4 hour watches with 2 up on each watch as we ended up arriving late at our intended anchorage of Port Charlotte and didn't want to risk going into an unknown harbour in the dark. We had many 30 kn rain squalls and lumpy seas and I can tell you that if we'd been on Cruz Control, it would have been an awful night busily reefing sails, getting wet, flopping around in the dark after the squalls had past and dodging lightning. In this vessel, it was very comfortable and the weather we encountered didn't bother us at all. Both Julie and I felt a bit "off" as neither of us had been to sea for many months yet Iron Guts Maynard and Dirk felt no queasiness at all. It was quite dark and gloomy and rained most of the way and the air temp was at least the same temperature as the water, if not higher, with high humidity. Hurricanes form in water 28 degrees and above. Worryingly, the sea temp in Tampa Baywas 32 deg and we found that even the ocean temp was 29.8 deg!!! Surely, this cannot be right. We had to get out of "The Box", an area known to have hurricanes with the north limit being 35' N, which runs between Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout, North Carolina, and the eastern limit is 55' E, the southern limit around 12' N and the western limit is around 100'W, in fact most of the Gulf of Mexico.
On Thursday morning, we anchored near a town called Marathon in Key Biscayne in an ocean roadstead although it was quite comfortable as the swell was minimal. Cuba was just to our south about 90 miles away. A 25 kn southerly was forecast to come in on Sunday but as it turned out, when we got up on Friday morning and checked the weather forecast, a tropical storm had formed overnight off Belize and later named called Tropical Storm Debby. It was forecast to go to Tampa, right where we'd been sitting for the last month!! The decision was made to outrun this storm and get as far north as possible by all means before it crossed over Tampa and then onto the east side of Florida. We had intended going to the Bahamas for a couple of days but decided that it was just too risky to spend any time in these waters with record high sea temps and the possibility of more hurricanes. We kept thinking we'd call into Georgia or the Carolinas, but the track of the storm showed it going through these areas so we decided to just keep going.
Luckily, we had very good sea conditions so we were making around 300 miles per day. The most economical speed for us is around 9 knots but when you add the north flowing hot current of the Gulf Stream, we were doing somewhere between 11 and 12 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground) so there was no problem doing our 300 mile days. At times we were around 150 miles offshore going through rain squalls with lightning and 30+ knot winds which we all agreed were very welcome as they cleaned the salt off the rails and decks nicely and we didn't even have to don our wet weather gear but the sea was only up to 1 meter. We kept an eye on the Raymarine Radar which showed TS Debby steadily heading for the west coast of Florida. It definitely looked too close for comfort for my liking.
There have now been 3 tropical storms since we arrived in Florida in the last 3 weeks. We've been really desperate to get out of Florida before getting caught. The Tampa area received inches of rain and was under a tornado watch and the wind on top of the Skyway Bridge, right near the Marlow Marina, was encountering 70 mph winds and was closed so we just got out of there with only one day to spare. We were so lucky not to get caught in all the rough seas and feet of rain they experienced. It was one of the loneliest trips we've ever made as we only saw one other pleasure vessel the entire trip which was a yacht way out to sea off South Carolina. We had a couple of uninvited guests onboard in the form of flying fish and one poor little guy must have been flying at lightning speed as he hit Vanish's hull so hard, the impact literally popped his little eyes out of their sockets. Now that's gonna hurt.
We rounded Cape Hatteras, once dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" due to its treacherous currents, shoals and storms at 4am on Monday 25th June and were looking forward to just moseying into a nice quiet anchorage in the Chesapeake Bay area. As we kept looking at our Sirius System which displays live real time national weather direct from the satellite, we noticed and heard warnings on the radio and saw a line of storms heading right across the Bay just as we were due to enter. The sky darkened and a roll cloud with low white clouds in front of it kept approaching. There were patches of light green in the cloud as well indicating hail. We were hit with 60 knot winds and with our speed of 10 knots SOG, we had 70 knots across the bow with driving rain and some hail. Being a weather fanatic, I quickly switched on the tv and saw we were under a red warning area for tornadoes too. Time to switch OFF the tv. Well that's just great isn't it!!! As if we aren't tired enough, we get a kick in the pants on our arrival. Oh yes, and there were Pan Pans every 10 minutes to keep watch for a bald black man wearing no shirt and brown shorts apparently in the water right in the channel where we were heading so we also had to keep a sharp lookout for him although we did not see him nor a reported catamaran adrift in the Bay. Suddenly we heard a terrible sound and Maynard yelled that something broke off the flybridge bow. It turned out to be a 5 ft length of lexan 1/2" thick which completely shattered in the strong wind and went sailing overboard. It was just luck that it didn't destroy our radar towers, satphone and other instruments on top of the flybridge.
As if that wasn't enough, we had a Canadian warship coming up astern and then the radio came to life again when the Virginia Pilot saw us on their AIS system and called Vanish, Vanish, Vanish, to warn us he was on a deep draft vessel taking up most of the channel coming our way. In near zero visibility and torrential rain we decided it was time to quit the channel as with the squalls and thick bolts of lightning hitting all around us. What next! Stay calm Vicki!
I always take comfort in our dear friend's, Nick Stump's, words about storms at sea. "Ah, Vicki, they're nothing to worry about; they pass in no time," and sure enough, the storm passed in no more than 25 minutes. We made our way into the Bay where we found a nice quiet anchorage just outside the Old Point Comfort Marina with one other yacht near Fort Monroe, Norfolk, Virginia which was built just after the War of 1812 in a place called Hampton Roads at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay (one of the largest natural harbours in the world). We've done around 1,146 miles since we left last Wednesday and have been travelling for 6 days. It is very satisfying to have completed our first big leg of our journey successfully and in extreme comfort even though we are currently heading away from Australia. We've had to make some adjustments to our schedule but will try to make the most of our cruising season in the northern part of the USA before heading south again in the next few months and re-aligning ourselves with the cruising seasons. Conversations have gone something like, "Um, let's go to the Bahamas. Hmm. It's in The Box. Ok, lets go to Greenland. Oh, yeah, we're too late in the season to go that far now. All right, how 'bout Belize? No, too much risk of a hurricane there too. No worries, let's try Maine and take it from there."
Our Vanish is heavy right now with a year's worth of spare parts and sufficient oil and filters to not require outside assistance until we get to Australia. We thought this was a good idea as we intended going to South America. Now that we're in the US, these spares are just non paying passengers right now until we head to more remote areas. I wonder what conversation awaits me tomorrow?
17 May, 2012, Cruz at Anchor in North Queensland, Australia
In 1998 we took possession of Cruz Control in Santa Cruz, California and then sailed her across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Brisbane, Australia. In the previous 7 years we'd bought 3 yachts trying to find one suitable for cruising and racing and at the time, we thought if we owned Cruz Control for 10 years, we would be extremely happy and satisfied with our decision making process. It also allowed us to learn what features we liked and disliked. To achieve a 10 year ownership, it meant that proper research was required and because this was achieved, we in fact owned Cruz for a total of 14 years. The process involved in commissioning Cruz Control was similar to Vanish except that we were involved in every decision on Cruz since its inception from the mould.
Every prospective buyer has their own long list of requirements and something which is important to us may not be a consideration for another owner. Choosing any vessel takes an enormous amount of time and effort. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of research have gone into choosing this new vessel. Some of the considerations for Maynard are listed below and for those with a penchant for the technical side, we will try to elaborate on how we chose or why we liked each particular system on Vanish. Overall, we needed a vessel to transport us safely to exotic places with a high margin of safety but we also wanted a vessel which was fun to operate and pleasing to the eye. Below is a list of some of the major requirements.
. Safety - stability, buoyancy, downflooding, ground tackle, speed, draft, construction type, strength, weight, range, meet as a minimum Lloyds Ocean Class A CE Certification and ABS requirements
. Comfort - sea kindly motion with redundant stability systems, heating, cooling, tankage, watermaker ability, electrical capacity with regard to gensets, storage, refrigeration, easy to deploy flopper stoppers at anchor
. Operation Requirements - to be able to operate with 2 people, fuel efficiency, engine type, hull type, reliability, solar panels to minimise usage of gensets, range, the ability to use 110v or 240v systems, we needed as many redundant systems as possible ensuring self sufficiency
. Vessel already built or close to completion with maximum LOA 25m
. Instrumentation - a comprehensive electronic package including infrared camera for high latitude voyaging, multiple radar systems, world-wide communication systems
I guess I should have seen all of this coming while I sat sipping my cup of tea. In my mind, we were preparing to finally build our dream home after coping with the vagaries of living in our 1978 built farmhouse, originally decorated by the previous occupant in various shades of brown, orange and yellow. Although we'd done a partial renovation 10 years ago, I was anxious to finally separate myself from the odd brown snake, rat, cane toad, lizard and rainforest creature which seemed to find comfort in our humble abode. After 30 years of marriage I could have stopped for just a moment to articulate a better response. I should have, but I didn't. I was sitting in tropical paradise on a warm sunny day and Cape Horn was at least 8,000 miles away as the crow flies. So when faced with a response to Maynard's proposal to take a vessel to Patagonia and Cape Horn, I said the first thing that came to mind. "Hmmm. That sounds like an exciting idea. We should do that!" And the deed was done. Just like that.
9 May, 2012, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia
A set of seemingly random events can sometimes send your life along a path you could never have expected or guessed at the time. One day late in 2010, we received a phone call out of the blue from our good friends Nick and Alison asking us if we were interested in selling our beloved Santa Cruz 52 yacht Cruz Control. We laughed and said, "No way, Jose." We'd sailed her for almost 13 years covering at least 50,000 miles both cruising and racing and had not even considered moving on to anything else. Why would we? In fact, there WAS nothing else better than our Cruz Control. And that was that, except, the seed had been planted.
Maynard usually has a stack of boating magazines piled up on the bedside table. Ocean Navigator, Yachting World, Australian Sailing, and Cruising Helmsman were the norm but a few larger glossier magazines had crept in. He has a voracious appetite for anything nautical, technical, innovative, challenging and exciting. In January 2011 our friend Sharon Torrens, the wife of Grant from Grant Torrens Yacht Brokers on the Gold Coast suddenly passed away. At Sharon's wake, before I had a chance to dig Maynard in the ribs, he asked our friend Scott to keep an eye out for any new interesting vessels he might come across. "What? What sort of vessels?" I say. Well as the weeks ticked by, the phone calls and emails started trickling in. First, he considered a Nordhavn, then he considered a Dashew. Next he researched a Fleming and then Scott mentioned a Marlow 65 for sale which could be inspected nearby. Most of this occurred quietly during the day without my involvement. It didn't have the range he wanted but he read about a new Marlow 76LR Voyager in Miami, Florida which could possibly fit the bill. Then in April and May we lost two more dear friends we had known for many years and reminded us yet again of how delicate and short life can be and that we needed to make the most of each and every day.
About a week later we were enjoying a cup of tea on a picture perfect day on our patio which overlooks the rolling green hills and white sandy beaches at Byron Bay, Australia discussing our plan for this year's sailing season. For the past 8 years between the months of June and November, we' would close down the house, take our cattle dog Bindi, provision Cruz Control and sail north to the tropical waters of the Whitsunday Islands or Cairns. Neither of us really wanted to do the same again this year as we'd "been there, done that." I hate to admit it but we were both feeling slightly bored with it all and as Maynard was still working full-time, we couldn't formulate a workable schedule where we could sail Cruz Control to higher latitudes and/or more exotic places. Maynard took a breath and said, "I've been working on a plan this week. "Oh really?" I said, cup poised in mid air. "How 'bout we try to buy that Marlow in Florida, leave in October for the Caribbean, then go to Patagonia, have a photo taken off Cape Horn then go across the Pacific and bring it back home to Australia?"