Aslan

Livin the Dream!

30 December 2011 | Stuart, Flow Rida
30 July 2011 | Gulf Stream
24 July 2011 | Rose Island
19 July 2011 | Nassau, Bahamas
14 July 2011 | Nassau, Bahamas
09 July 2011 | Chub Cay, Bahamas
27 June 2011 | Bimini, Bahama
12 June 2011 | Lake Worth/Palm Beach, FL
31 May 2011 | Still West Palm
28 May 2011 | West Palm Beach
21 May 2011 | ICW Florida East Coast

Updates

30 December 2011 | Stuart, Flow Rida
Geez
It has been a busy few months since our last posting. We enrolled the kids in Montessori School and started working on the boat. With the help of a friend i stripped the entire deck of hardware and put down 3 coats of primer, 3 coats of nice shiney paint, and 3 coats of tan nonskid. The deck and cabintop are now bulletproof. We are about to start on the port lights and hatches, then a haul out for all new paint on the hull and bottom. We're gonna redo the centerboard pin and put on a feathering prop too. Can't wait to see the end results.

While the kids finish up their school year i had to get back to work. I took a captain job running a fuel tanker for an undisclosed petroleum company. They are pretty secretive but you probably pass their stations every day.

This march we are hoping to make a run down to Georgetown for the regatta. If not we will shoot for the FL keys. With six weeks off we'll have to cover some ground.

Anyway we'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Newyear. If we get some cruising in I'll be sure to update the blog.

Fish On!

30 July 2011 | Gulf Stream
GtotheL/Messed
Well, they say that gentlemen never sail to weather. I'll be the first to admit that I am hardly a gentleman. But after a few hundred miles of bashing into relentless headwinds and heavy seas with the added chance of hurricanes, we've turned around and made it back to Bimini. Just in time too, since there is a hurricane brewing and supposedly heading our way. There's a lot to be said for synergy.

The journey thus far has been awesome. We've spent great times in the islands as a close family and it has benefitted the kids greatly, me as well. I've learned a lot about myself and hopefully will take something from it. The kids have grown enormously. And I think Jenny had everything figured out all along. We've seen spectacular beaches that many have only dreamed of. We've spent weeks anchored within swimming distance of them. Life could not have been better. But Ja works in mysterious ways as one of my Rastafarian friends once said. And he was not entirely stoned out of his mind.

Lucky for us we turned tail early as the weather signs became obvious. Had we been in the Exumas for this coming tropical depression it would have likely been the storm that took our home. In a week we will know if we played the odds correctly. But Jenny and I both know we made the right call. We let things ride, but we're not casino types. Tomorrow we'll be back in Florida, only a day's sail from our chosen hurricane refuge.

The kids are excited about seeing their Grand Folks whom they miss dearly. I personally am excited about getting some Taco Bell, as well as seeing my outlaws. And yes they did pay me for that plug. Taco Bell that is. (JK)

Did I mention Fish On!? We caught a 45 pound Mahi Mahi on one of our passages. A grand prize for not being experienced anglers. I think the kids were more excited about the two Barracuda we caught since they had really cool teeth. My buddies up North should get plenty jealous.
And since I'm bragging, the sailor friends I have should take note when I report the speeds we accomplished over the last few days. Chicago to Mackinaw race, here we come. With a 10 to 15 knot breeze we averaged 6 to 8 knots on a down-wind run. And on a reach we averaged 8 to 10 knots of boat speed in the same winds. Keep in mind this is with a fowled bottom which I haven't gotten around to cleaning, we were towing a rigid inflatable dinghy, and only had a headsail up, no main. Chew on that for a minute. We are also heavy loaded with extra fuel and water and stuff. Tomorrow we will know the true value of Ted Irwin's MKII design as we have put the dink on deck and we'll throw up a reefed main. I still haven't hopped in the water to scrape the hull since there was an 8 foot black tip swimming around here lately. I may be dumb but I ain't dumb. I expect to see regular surfing speeds in the 10 to 12 knot range though. That's about 13 to 15 mph which probably doesn't seem that much to people who are accustomed to power boats. But considering you're using no fuel, and you're passing most motorized trawlers, that's the shizzle. But it doesn't come without a price. Helm attention and sail trim is paramount. Bligh me!

Hopefully we can clear customs without much trouble but they will probably strip search my kids and x-ray our bodies. Anyway I better end this. Gotta get some sleep before we head back to the states. Increase the peace. Over and out.
GL

Decisions

24 July 2011 | Rose Island
GL/Windy
I once had the pleasure of looking at an exquisite gold serving platter, breath-taking to behold, with beautiful etchings and designs in its antiquity. This is exactly what we had our collective arses handed to us on when we departed Nassau for the Exumas. The wind forecast was, of course, wrong again. Instead of bashing into a 5 foot chop for 10 hours we altered course for a neat anchorage in the lee of Rose Island, not far from where we departed. It turned out to be a big weekend party spot for some of the local visiting mega yachts. We stayed and played on a pristine beach for a couple of days waiting for the winds to lay down, deciding whether or not to continue South. Kai, our youngest who turns 3 years old tomorrow, learned to swim for the first time there. For people like us it’s more memorable than his first steps. We did nothing but have fun. We grilled our favorite meals on the stern pulpit, snorkeled until our skin wrinkled, played kid games, watched movies, etc… In the evening Jenny and I sat in the cockpit with a sundowner as the kids collapsed totally exhausted into their quarters.

The NHC 2011 forecast is calling for lots of named storms so we’ve been watching the satellite images with earnest. So far the tropical waves have been rolling over the Cape Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, like elephants on parade. One of them is due to hit the SE Bahamas on Monday. Fortunately it didn’t materialize into a cane. But there are two more right behind it and it’s only a matter of time. We have been deliberating the risk. Since 1950 there have only been a handful of hurricanes that have made a direct hit on where we will be. On the other hand our planet has shattered every single weather and earthquake record again and again in just the last couple of years. From lightning strikes to snow fall, it’s all unpredictable even for the most educated and intuitive meteorologist. Most people aren’t even aware but earth quakes, specifically large magnitude one’s, are up 6000% in the last couple years. That’s not a misprint. I don’t believe the silly notion that it’s my Chevy since every planet in our solar system is suffering the same type of events. I’m pretty certain that our sun is causing all the havoc. If one pays attention to current events in astronomy they will likely come to the same conclusion. Thus, since our weather is dictated by our ailing star, and our best meteorologists are at a loss to make an accurate marine forecast, we are leaning towards a return trip to Florida. Our assessment of the risk is that not only will we encounter a direct hit from a hurricane, but if atmospheric trends remain consistent, it will likely be more powerful than your typical tropical cyclone.

The voyage back to the states will be a downwind sled ride. Just what our boat was designed for, speed under sail. I look forward to seeing her ’kick up her heals.’ Currently we are looking at the feasibility of making it back to the Lakes before winter. This would require sailing up the East coast of course, and entering the New York State Barge Canal, more commonly known as the Erie Canal, before they close down for the year. But we may just keep the boat in Florida for the winter. Time will tell.

Best wishes to all.

GL

Waiting in vain

19 July 2011 | Nassau, Bahamas
Hot/Muggy/Thunderstormy
We received confirmation that our navigation SD card is on it’s way via Fedex and should arrive here at the Green Parrot Pub, the semi-fine establishment which we are anchored in front of, sometime Monday. Normally I wouldn’t let something like a chart plotter chip delay us for a week but these things are so convenient that I had to make an exception. Having the chip mailed anywhere other than Nassau would have taken an act of Congress to get. With the kids on board traveling in pretty confined waters, there is a certain element of safety being able to just follow a dotted line while we travel. Otherwise I’d need Jenny always steering while I constantly plot positions. That can get dangerous with kids climbing on you trying to work an accurate fix.

Nassau reminds me of a big, steady heart beat. With the tides flushing in and out of here, sometimes at 3 or 4 knots, it’s like oceanic blood pumping to the rest of the body. The only problem is this heart eats too much deep fried foods and has lots of platelets. Our vessel in the stream has a black slick on her waterline that I need to scrub but I’m not getting in the water here. If there is a plastic patch in the Atlantic, surely it originates here.

We have been visiting the Atlantis Resort during our spare time. It’s really an incredible feat of engineering. For those who haven’t been, the place is a replica of some architect’s rendition of what the ancient lost city must have looked like. We checked out the massive aquarium as the kids squealed with excitement at all the fish. A few months ago in Florida, Jenny took them to feed and swim with sting rays which they still talk about. So their little minds were blown away when they saw the 8 foot manta ray here swimming up to the glass. Giant grouper, sharks, and swarms of lobster, it was all in a day’s fun. We spent most of the time swimming, water sliding, and riding the rapids river. Then we got some $18 dollar hamburgers and $4 dollar bottles of water.

I’ve been doing engine maintenance and today, Sunday, I’ll be topping off the water tanks, fuel, and working on some new battens for the main sail in preparation for our departure. I’m happy to report our dinghy hasn’t been stolen since we’ve been here. We keep it bike-locked to the toe rail of the boat and I sleep with the gat right next to the bed. It’s the only way to fly around here. But most everyone has been great. We found some cheap eats and have done as much exploring as one can do with 3 younglings in tote.

Every place we stop, we make new friends. I’d have to say it’s the most rewarding part of the voyage. Like-minded people on boats out here just ban together. It’s sad we’re all going in different directions. These guys are always on the look out for other kid boats. But being the off season, most of the herd is back stateside in their cubicles. So kid boats are few and far between. But the last two ports we did manage to meet up with some kid boats. In Chub Cay we met a family on a 120 foot mega yacht. Their kids were Trans-humanists, constantly tied to their mobile computer systems communicating via satellite to their friends back in Russia and Chicago. They were perplexed that we didn’t have a crew running our boat and serving us frozen drinks. I said they’re not old enough to serve liquor yet or run the blender. Ha! Also in Nassau we ran into a nice family from Oregon that cruises the Bahamas a few months out of the year. That boat had a young girl aboard which was very special for Fallon. She’s usually surrounded by rough-housing boys so it was nice for her to chatter endlessly with another girl.

It’s a shame we can’t take our time heading south. We must plan our voyage around hurricane safety zones where we can protect the boat which is also our home. We check with the NHC (National Hurricane Center) everyday for signs of trouble. Historically the first real storms start rolling through the beginning of August. But there is nothing as of yet. Once we jump off from Nassau we must work hard to get South quickly and out of harm’s way. From this point, if a hurricane were to materialize, we would just race back to Florida. If we are caught in the out islands we’ll have to secure the boat as well as possible, get a hotel room, and leave her to fend for herself. If kids were not involved I’d stay aboard to fight out the storm. Anything over a Cat 3 will likely claim the boat in these low-lying islands though. In which case we will return home and the trip will be over. But we will do everything to avoid that scenario.

Thanks to all those who have left kind messages on our blog. We are home sick for our Traverse City so it’s nice to hear from friends and family back there. Also from friends around the country. In the long term cruising plans, we will be returning to the Great Lakes next Spring via the Erie Canal, in 2012. Just in time for Armagedon. We’ll stop in Ohio to visit my parents, then sail up through Lake Huron and through the Straights of Mackinaw to return home. Who knows what the future will hold, but if our plans are realized, we will have sailed over 5000 miles upon our return and the kids will be ready to enter college at age 7.

Junkanoo

14 July 2011 | Nassau, Bahamas
GL/Hot
We arrived Nassau, Bahamas on the day of their celebrated independence from Britain that happened 38 years ago. Nassau is a small port but a large cruise ship destination. There is a lot of hustle and bustle and with small roads and tons of fast and erratic moving cars, it’s really no place to go walking with kids. Not to mention the crime as there were three more murders last night. We will be here for another week as we are waiting on mail from West Marine. Hopefully they come through quickly so we can continue on our voyage.

With the holiday celebration there are thousands of go fast boats moving at top speed everywhere. They seemingly just go back and forth, bottles of liquor clearly in hand, all with their throttles pushed to the kitchen. Nobody has figured out that if you trim the engines the boats won’t porpoise so wildly. It’s hilarious to watch. As I write this, a 36 foot Baja just screamed through the anchorage at 60 knots missing our sailboat by a couple of feet. There were probably 25 people on that boat. The wake threw everything in our boat to the floor. Perhaps they were better off under British rule. It’ll be a nice change once we get to the Out Islands. Power boats can’t go that far.

The treck across the Providence Channel, a 50 mile wide expanse of Atlantic Ocean in between the Bahamas Banks, was uneventful. We sailed along watching movies, reading books, playing games, and doing art. The kids do very well entertaining themselves when we are offshore. When at anchor however, they expect regular outings and adventures. We are looking at taking them to the Atlantis Resort where there is a massive aquarium you can walk under. There are also underwater hotel rooms with glass walls and ceilings. It must be incredible to sleep with sharks swimming inches from your bed. We also plan to visit the cruise ship terminal and mingle with the thousands of sun burned Americans as they shop and gawk at everything. They have an Outback Steakhouse here and we happen to have an unspent gift card for it. Something to do.

Hopefully with the holidays over, things will calm down a bit in the harbor. Once our mail arrives we will be gone the following morning to Allen Cay (pronounced key) in the Exuma chain of islands. Some of the best sailing on the planet. After visiting this place I am excited to get back out to the real Bahamas. We will island hop our way down the chain covering about 30 miles a day. Most likely we will stay a couple days here and there. Then we will hop off into the trade winds and the wild, unruly ocean as we beat south to Luperon, Dominica Republic where we will sit for a month waiting for the end of storm season. Luperon is a good hurricane hole. You can wind your boat way up into the mangroves and it’s surrounded on all sides by mountains. We have some boat friends there expecting our arrival. It will be the end of the first part of our journey.

From Luperon, the real work will begin as we’ll be slogging headlong into 25 knot trade winds for 400 miles to St Thomas, USVI. We have our tactics worked out and the boat is ready.

GL


Down Time

09 July 2011 | Chub Cay, Bahamas
GL/Strong SE Winds, 7 foot seas
The theme of this blog entry would have to be 'never a dull moment.' We sat in Bimini for about ten days. That would be 8 days too many. Plenty of dull moments. The Island is great and the people are so inviting but the island is very small. And that is not a problem either when you're seeking new places, specifically expatriated type secluded ones. We found it humorous that they have a population of roughly 2000 people, one main road that's 3 miles long, and everyone drives an Escalade or an SUV of some type.

We departed Bimini on the perimeter of a stubborn tropical disturbance. The skies were literally black, yet they appeared benevolent enough. The Government must be screwing around with the weather again. Since the winds were either nonexistent or right on the nose we fired up the old Yanmar and started motoring. Back out into the Gulf Stream, heading South, we cut in between a couple of Islands near Gun Cay and entered the Grand Bahama Banks. It's like a vast desert that just sank a few feet below the surface. I could see Atlantis sinking here with the ancient aquatic roads and all. We motored hard as the kids peered over netted lifelines trying to spot sea life in their silly lifejackets. They saw a few things. No sharks or dolphins though, which seem to be the mammals of choice.

As night approached and everyone did their bed time preparations, we kept motoring on across the banks. The kids ate, played, watched an educational video on speaking French, and we kept on with the hopes of covering at least half the distance to Chub Cay where we currently are anchored. About midnight during that leg, one of the black clouds turned a little violent. Hence the never a dull moment theme. We veered off the most heavily traveled path in all the Bahamas, about a mile, dropped the CQR and 200 feet of chain in 17 feet of water, and hunkered down for the blow. It, of course, did not let up as forecasted. Our poor boat, The Aslan, bucked and jumped on her anchor rode all night. Nary a moment of rest for two days for either myself or Jenny. Bahaman boats and freighters passed in the night as we dived off 4 to 5 foot waves riding our anchor. Not fun.

Morning arrived and we pulled the hook at first light and started steaming toward North West Shoal. We cleared that and entered the Atlantic again. Our depth sounder quit registering at 14.5 feet as the water depth instantly dropped off to 6000 feet. Not that big of a deal when you consider there are some oceanic depths of 25,000 feet or more. Free dive that. But the shallow depths of the banks offer some strange assurance as land goes out of sight. At least if your boat goes down you can dive and grab some things. The storm from the previous night did not abate. So we motored through turbulent bucking seas of 4 to 6 feet for the next 8 hours. They don't call it the Thorny Path for nothing. That afternoon we pulled into the Chub Cay anchorage, dropped the hook, and descended into yet another coma as we slept off the last two days of constant work. Who said cruising was easy?

This morning we woke anew, reveling in our tropical environment, and set out to explore this new island. We fried up some bacon and eggs, dropped the RIB in the water, and ventured forth to see what we could see. Chub Cay is a private island and private marina but fortunately for those of us sailing during the off season, things are like a ghost town and they are more than happy to let us use their laundry facilities and swim in their pool. It's like our own private resort wherever we go. The only downside is you have to watch out for pesky hurricanes. And spend some money.

We explored the marina, woohoo!, got some ice cream for the kids, and set out to round the island in our 12 foot Rib. Normally we can clip along at about 30 MPH but when the water depths are only a foot or two, you gotta take her easy. We pulled up to a secluded beach, and I mean secluded, gathered some Conch, and played with a couple of curious reef sharks that came around. They're only about 2 feet long. Just babies in their terrible two's, so I tried to catch them by the tail to see how far I can toss them, figuring their parents would be obliged. But they are cautious of us dangerous humans.

Moving along, we rounded the Northern tip of the island and encountered rough seas as expected. Always rougher than expected. But with better water depths you can lean on the gas and cover some ground. Everyone grabs on and goes for the ride. We stopped at the Berry Island Club Marina which was closed. We walked around for a minute then left. A few miles back to our boat we encountered some really big ocean swells. Really big for a dinghy anyway. We took her easy as we passed a lee break water and watched the seas swell up and crash on the rocks. Yamaha don't fail me now. In the end we pulled up to our sailboat, made some snacks, and set in to hide from that mean old sun for awhile.

The kids fed a couple seagulls a few scraps off the side and before you know it there's a squadron of Turns gliding the trade winds above our boat. Everyone was having a blast...until one of the gulls ventured too close to our wind generator. Now a wind generator is just that, it makes electricity from the wind which requires a considerable amount of turbine force. Unfortunately for the greedy gull, things didn't turn out too well. And the same for our children who witnessed the atrocity first hand and were mildly traumatized by the event. It took more than an hour to stop the tears of sympathy. And the injured gull flapping in the water next to the boat didn't help the situation. I grabbed the scatter gun and a couple of shells to ease the gulls suffering but by the time I unlocked everything per Bahama regulations, she was out of range. So much for the law. So much for the gull.

In an hour or so we'll head back into the marina where the kids will play in the pool, I'll email this blog while doing laundry, and we'll get at $15 dollar hamburger for dinner. Fries are an extra 3 bucks. It's a fair trade for letting us use the facilities. I think they just like having some energetic kids running around. Having young kids is your passport to cruising the Bahamas during the off season. Everything is desolate. Every place we pull into is happy to have a money-spending soul around. And we don't spend that much. But no matter where we have gone thus far, everyone has been great. The common response is 'no problem mon' as opposed to the states where we got three tickets in 5 minutes just for venturing out in our dinghy. And we were legal! In the amount I'd save in fines and taxes it'd be cheaper to fly all our friends and family to wherever we may be in the islands and just stay out of the states. All in all, I would recommend boaters boycott Florida as a cruising ground. Other cruisers reporrted the same level of harassment and taxation from the 'authorities'. All in all, everyone was refusing to pay their fines.

If all goes well in the next few weeks you'll read about our adventures sailing down the Exumas to Dominica Republic, where we will finish out the hurricane season. Plenty of places to hide there and you can get a healthy, all organic, non genetically modified, non hormone induced, family meal for 6 bucks compared to $85 in the Bahamas. But you got to lock the dinghy and unlock the scatter gun. It's all part of the adventure.

I hope this blog entry finds everyone well. I'll try to update it more often as Wi-Fi signals permit. We will also try to start a youtube channel where we can upload some of our recent videos, hopefully edited for user content. Bless dem, and peace out.

The Luhtas


Vessel Name: Refuge
Vessel Make/Model: Irwin Citation 40 MKII
Hailing Port: Traverse City, Michigan
Home Page: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/aslan/
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Refuge's Photos -

The Aslan

Port: Traverse City, Michigan