Another Life

Long Time No Post

28 January 2016
Ok Claire has been falling down on the job with the posting. We are in Emerald Bay Marina on Great Exuma. Pulled in here a week ago to hide from weather and decided to stay for a while. Mary will be here in a week so we will stay at least until she goes home. There is a golf course, a beach and free laundry. What more could you ask for. Had to move south so fast we missed some of the sites so we will hit them on our way back to Nassau to pick up Nessa and the girls. I add some pictures to the gallery.

Friday, December 4th

19 December 2015
We’re off to North Bimini today via the water taxi. (For $2, you can ride across the channel on a pontoon boat!) We wanted to see the town, beach, & marinas here, and try to purchase some fresh bread; we’re not too sure about the selection at our marina store. There’s much more activity on North Bimini – tourists in golf carts, bicycle traffic, and walkers like us. We locate “A Taste of Heaven” bakery but are told there’s no bread until around noon. So exploring we go! Found the Bimini Blue Water Marina where Brian & Susan stayed, but no luck finding Oopsea or their buddy boat Cirrus Lee. We enjoy a visit with the couple on Edelweiss and add $$ to our Bahamas telephone & data plan at the marina office before walking on, past Bimini Big Game Marina (not impressed), the local laundry (hmmm) and an outdoor “restaurant” that’s apparently very popular with the locals. It does smell wonderful, but too early for lunch for us! On to the beach which is beautiful, but the surf is pounding. Came upon an elderly local craftsman working in his front yard; such interesting handmade items & such a nice gentleman! Can’t imagine wearing a brown, 1970’s era leisure suit in this heat, but he was… Picked up souvenirs for C&S; no idea how to ship or mail stuff from here, so guess we’ll hold onto these until March. See pic of the local church.

Back to the bakery – no coconut bread, only white, but couldn’t resist! Met another cruising couple in the bakery parking lot (what a place to meet people, right?) & really enjoyed visiting with Paul & Jenny on Pelican. The women discussed the mosquito & no-see-um problems, while the guys talked boats, sailing, & routes. Exchanged boat cards & hope to travel with them very soon!
A trick getting back down the road, especially after the gambling boat brought loads of patrons into town; most are taking in the craft “mall” & souvenir shops. We meet Buck, Angie & Grant who came over with their bikes to explore. They made it to the restaurant at Bimini Beach for a $31 pizza the night before; yikes! Their mission for today is to check out local grocery stores; almost anything has to be less expensive than that pizza, or $7 bags of potato chips, or …

Welcome to food costs in the Bahamas!

Wednesday, December 2nd and Thursday, December 3rd

19 December 2015
Goodbye Marathon (aka “a sunny place for shady people”) & Hello Bimini!

After 3 weeks on this mooring ball, weather guru Chris P says “it’s time”! Winds have diminished more each day, seas on the route are forecast at 2-3 feet with southeast winds 10-15 knots. We’re ready (??) to cross the Gulf Stream… The usual last minute errands (1 final $6 load of laundry, 1 final cruisers net, 1 final Home Depot trip, 1 final stop at Burdine’s for fuel & a few gallons of water before cranking up the water maker once we hit the deep, blue, clean stuff) and we leave the dock at 1:40 pm.

Ummmmm, seas are most definitely in excess 2-3 feet, Chris P, & it’s rough. Stuff sliding & falling below – the kitties’ water bowl spills (Bunny forgot to move it), hand vac falls off the counter & then the canister of kitchen utensils; that was quite a noise! Managed to dose Rita & CK, but medicine hasn’t kicked in yet. There are unhappy humans & felines at the moment, but decision is to keep going rather than turn back. Cap’n Honey is busy troubleshooting our radar during all this – just a loose connection, thank goodness! (Radar is our only source of weather info once out of cell phone range.) We are definitely ready for our 1 margarita now!

Seas have calmed some, at least enough to microwave dinner before it’s completely pitch black. Interesting radio conversation w/cargo ship Ohio who sees us on AIS; we pass between it & a smaller tanker whose captain sounds half asleep - scary! We’re hailed soon afterward by s/v Oopsea; heard us on the radio & is also headed for Bimini, so now there’s someone to talk to every couple of hours: Tom & Cindy from Indianapolis on a 37’ Tartan! Their 1st overnight passage & are headed into North Bimini, so not sure we’ll connect on land. Maybe somewhere further south…
We are swept along in the Gulf Stream at a fast pace, sometimes >10 knots; good for traveling but bad for arrival time. (Too early means too dark for the unfamiliar, shallow Bahamas water.) Shortly after midnight, there’s a squall & wind is behind us in a flash. Took some awesome maneuvering by the captain to adjust sails, but all good! Oopsea turned off their autopilot & tried to make adjustments – a lesson Ted learned on his Gulf crossing NOT to do in the dark. You can get confused, go in circles, & be off course before you know it. Quick radio conversation & all is well with them…

No other significant events; thank goodness no trips, falls, or shiners! We expected 22 hours for this leg, but made it in 17. Arrived about 5:00 (still dark) & located a place to anchor temporarily until the sun was up for our last miles to the marina. A bit rough at anchor, but what a sunrise! Beautiful, clear, blue/green water is all around – the perfect setting for a rejuvenating breakfast.

Our yellow quarantine flag is up, and WE ARE HERE!!

We were told the entrance to Bimini Sands Marina & Resort is quite narrow, and that is absolutely right! Maybe 35’ feet max?? I busied myself tying dock lines to avoid the close up view… The place is practically deserted; only Buck, Angie, Grant & Cash on catamaran Wivus are in the marina with us. There are a few guests in the condos, but not many! There are 2 pools (woo hoo!), a beach, a restaurant on site for breakfast & lunch (peas & rice, & Bimini bread!) and another accessible by shuttle for dinner at the sister resort, Bimini Beach. Even the water in the marina is clear enough to see sand on the bottom & fish everywhere!
Dock master Garrett helps us with lines (soooo nice), brings additional customs/immigration forms, & arranges transportation to the airport for Ted to clear us in. Only the captain is allowed ashore until the passports are stamped, pets are accepted, the 6 month cruising fee paid, fishing license granted, and we can legally replace the quarantine flag with our Bahamas courtesy flag! And it was a breeze, thank goodness; other than the police officer who accompanied Ted back to the boat to confiscate our excess ammunition. Ouch! But, even that was not unpleasant. The young officer was extremely polite & very confident we would enjoy our stay in his country!

We made the decision to be totally honest & declare both the weapons & the ammunition; only later did we hear the horror story of the cruiser who landed in jail in Nassau for furnishing an inaccurate count (an estimate rather than an exact number) of the ammunition he had on board, had his weapons AND ammunition confiscated, plus incurred a $10,000 fine. Gotta wonder why Seven Seas Cruising Association, TMCA, or the various cruisers nets aren’t sharing this information and/or warning people, because we were apparently VERY lucky…

Made our way to the beach for an afternoon swim – had to get in that water, plus trying to stay awake without napping for a while longer! The beach is a bit small but the water makes up for it; exactly what we’ve been waiting all these months to enjoy. Then had a dip in the infinity pool; only 2 other people at the pool & had the beach all to ourselves. Back to the boat for a quick dinner, and we are in bed around 7:00 pm! The overnight passages are over for a while…

Thursday, November 12th - December 2nd Marathon

06 December 2015
Maybe we should use this description: “a trip of dodging crab pots”! Miles & miles of them, with hard-to-spot floats & no discernable lines or patterns. The most interesting thing did happen; Ted spied a tiger shark circling one float as we went by, leading us to believe it must have been very recently baited with something attractive… Fired up the water maker on this leg in this beautiful, clear water – works like a charm! Contacted a couple of marinas via radio, just in case this mooring field is similar to Ft. Myers Beach. Buck & Angie are at Sombrero Resort, but dock master doesn’t recommend it for us b/c of depth. The other option, Marathon Marina, offered us a slip for the bargain price of $900/week!! Don’t think so…

We’re under the 65’ communications cable over the missing section of the old bridge (taken out to accommodate masts or to eliminate a bridge tender job?) & per our instructions, locate mooring #W8 at the back; successfully snagged & secure on the 1st try! Boot Key Harbor is a huge place; 200+ moorings plus floating docks, 2 big dinghy docks, laundry (only $6/load w/the use of your preloaded card!), bathhouses, lounge w/WiFi, & TVs, & of course, the tiki hut! Water is available here, should we want to tie up at the main dock & risk scrutiny about our overall length being in excess of the 60’ max. (With bowsprit & stern arch, we’re closer to 63’, so probably will get water elsewhere!) There’s a cruisers net at 9:00 am every morning, which covers arrivals & departures, comments/questions/need help, buy/sell/trade & the all important trivia. The “traffic” and on-air personalities a/k/a “net controllers” are quite entertaining!

We are soooo glad to be here when the weather rolls in, with wind at 20-25 knots & forecasted to last for a week at least. It does cool things off some! Waiting for a favorable weather window means we can do some on-line shopping for a few boat items: wind scoops, Ted’s snuba, add’l covers for shade, SIM cards for iPad & phones; anything too expensive to purchase in the Bahamas if it was available and if you could afford to have it shipped/imported! We will also concentrate on restocking some food items that are reportedly very expensive: coffee, paper goods, cheese, beer (not por moi!), chips, catfood/litter. Finding places to store will be the challenge!

The bikes are such a help here; trips to Publix, CVS, Winn Dixie, K-Mart, post office, farmer’s market are much easier! No problems riding on the sidewalks & adding milk crates makes toting stuff a snap. Wasn’t fun loading them into the dinghy for transporting ashore, but after obtaining the required tags (w/expiration date!), they will be locked to a bike rack for the time we’re here. Tag required for the dinghy too, and access cards for bathhouse must be updated each time your departure date is delayed…
Sampled food at 3 of the local “hot” spots. Took the dinghy to Castaway’s during week 1; not overly impressed w/my Key West shrimp & fairly sure Ted’s fish was frozen, not fresh! Walked to the Stuffed Pig on a Sunday morning; mimosas & eggs Benedict were quite good, but the wait & the service tainted that experience. Tried the “chiki tiki chicken” sandwich at Burdine’s (where we also purchased fuel and 15 cent/gallon water!); the mahi mahi sandwich was MUCH better than the chicken. Kitties had the leftovers & gave their approval! Met Buck at Dockside for drinks before they left, & had the worst ever waiter! This kid had NO clue…couldn’t take an order, much less answer questions about the menu! Hope they pay him in food; anything else would be a waste!!

Here’s an experience for you – we took the Lower Keys shuttle to Key West! A day pass is $8, so decided we wanted to go back & order a couple of unique Christmas gifts for Caroline & Savannah, & try to replace sandals for me. (Mine developed a huge split from the heel up & I didn’t find anything in Marathon,) Sooooo, walked to the bus stop about 8:00 & boarded with 1 (very smelly) gentleman for the 2 or so hour trip. Really interesting! Unfortunately, the vendor on Duval Street wasn’t open at 10:00, or at 11:00 – an advantage of being in business for yourself, but not great for us! We finally talked to Ted’s cigar maker next door & confirmed that the booth should be open sometime, so we bought sandals (yay!) & decided to grab lunch at Sloppy Joe’s, since I’d never been there. Vendor finally opens up & it only takes about 10 minutes to place our order – now we have 3 hours to kill before catching the bus back to Marathon. We wandered to Mallory Square & the Little White House (again!), listened to live music at The Bull & walked to the stop by the post office, where we fed & videoed for C&S 3 of the roosters that wander around Key West & met & visited w/2 guys traveling in their RV; yacht vs. land yacht! Back safely about 5:00, just in time to dinghy back to the boat before dark.

We sign up for the Thanksgiving potluck, since it appears we will be here until after that. It’s still blowing hard & the gathering is moved from outside to inside, thank goodness! After waiting in line outside in the heat, we missed out on my candied sweet potatoes and barely got dressing & gravy! Poor Ted made the mistake of not saving himself a piece of pecan pie; all gone… It was an opportunity to mingle & visit so overall, an awesome 1st cruisers Thanksgiving! Who needs food??

One of our last things to accomplish before heading to Bimini are health certificates for the kitties. We’ve visited with several pet owners at the marina & most seem to avoid the process altogether; kinda like not declaring weapons/ammo when clearing in. Yikes! Our preference is to follow the rules, so we download forms, mail them w/the required $$ & hope for the best! We’ve rented a car for 1 day to load up heavy/bulky items & to take all 3 to the vet – their 1st ever dinghy trip! Actually went very well, the vet is so helpful w/recommendations for medicines/dosages to have on hand for all 3, writes us a new scrip for kitty Xanax and best of all, the Bahamas Department of Agriculture paperwork has been faxed to the marina office! We are legal & properly documented…

Bimini, here we come!

Wednesday, November 11th Veteran’s Day Holiday

06 December 2015
We were very ready to leave after the unsettled overnight & left even before Neverland. They had a fun evening based on the music, conversations, etc. we could hear so maybe no one is stirring early...

Took the longer (more depth!) route around the Marquesas for the short leg to Key West & we're in the outer channel by 10:30, with cell service for the 1st time in 4 days! We were able to reserve a slip for 1 night at the new Stock Island Marina. It's about 4 miles from main Key West, but means we don't have to find a spot in the midst of the boat races. Oh well, that much closer when leaving. Would you believe the main harbor closes to ALL traffic for this - 2+ hours on 3 race days? There are Coast Guard vessels staked out from Mallory Square, complete with inflatable buoys which force us even more out of the way!

Well deserved, good reviews for the marina; new, clean, great staff. The approach makes you wonder exactly what's in store, but all good! Our slip assignment is the closest in & w/wind & current, takes 3 tries before we are secured. Just a little tight! Hoped to catch the marina shuttle into town for 2 specific errands: Key West Distilling and Ted's cigar maker on Duval Street! (Unfortunately, the shuttle schedule posted on the website had been changed & we ended up with a $35 taxi ride - yikes! We can catch the return, thank goodness.) Ted wandered in to Key West Distilling right before he & crew brought Another Life across the gulf in March 2013. The business was just opening & didn't have any product at the time except t-shirts! He was happy to find out that it's been a success, even winning some awards for their rum & vodka. It's a tough sell for Cap'n Honey to do a tasting...

No bread left at the fabulous bakery we discovered on our last Key West trip, and barely had time for a Cuban sandwich & yummy coffee outside at Cuban Coffee Queen before the shuttle arrived to take us back. Very interesting conversation with the other 16 passengers - 1 couple from Texas now living in Punta Gorda plus a big flotilla of boats in for a month or so taking in the races. All are big fans of the marina!

Neverland is here (we really aren't stalking them!), & everybody's dressed for dinner; taking the 7:30 shuttle to town. Ted's filling water tanks tonight in prep for leaving; visits w/the shuttle driver & her kitty 2 slips over & the young couple w/a boxer on Wanderlust. Margo gave that dog the stink eye!

Old people are headed for bed & a nice, smooth night w/air running. To Marathon tomorrow - wind & weather on the way & this is one of the safest harbors around. Guess we'll find out why cruisers seem to love the place & never leave!

Tuesday, November 10th

06 December 2015
The Marquesas – hmmmmmm. I suppose we are thankful for a place to anchor & shorten the trip to Key West, but man, is it ever shallow and sooooooo hot; not a breath of wind stirring. We scramble to put up the shade (which does help), but we were hoping to swim & cool off here, especially since the dinghy is secured on the arch, tied down for traveling. The water is quite murky & dirty, so no swimming! Neverland beat us here & they are all ashore…

Wind shifts during the night & with the strong current it’s so rough I slept on the settee; not my favorite place to be!

Key West craziness tomorrow…
Vessel Name: Another Life
Vessel Make/Model: Irwin 52
Hailing Port: Longview, Texas
Crew: Ted & Claire Estep
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