free as a bird
18 January 2008 | Nassau
Frank and Gail
We left the dock at Niceville the morning of Wednesday, December 19, 2007. We had only been underway two hours when we realized we had an transmission cable problem. We could not shift her into reverse. Although , the beginning of a nightmare, it was good we discovered before we pulled into the concrete docks at Panama City, FL. Instead, we sailed to Hammock Point (family property on the Bay), anchored out, dinghied to the house, got our car keys (car parked there during our trip) and planned to head for West Marine. It would have closed before we could get there in over ½ hour, so we grabbed a burger, went back to Hammock Point and watched Memphis State (University of Memphis) play basketball.
(Note: Since Frank couldn't shift from the cockpit, I had to stay down in the belly with the engine and shift gears by hand. I felt like the garbage disposal on the Flintstones. Remember, Wilma would apparently put her food down the sink, open a curtain under the sink, then poke an animal with big teeth to start chewing. I held a rope in one hand that Frank would tug on from the cockpit when he needed the gears shifted, one tug=forward, two tugs=neutral, etc.)
It took two more days to get the cable and install it. By this time, it is Friday afternoon. We hated to leave Saturday morning with Memphis State playing Georgetown at noon, so we delayed leaving by a day. Boy, were we glad we did, what a game!
We proceeded to Panama City on Sunday, then Monday to Clearwater. The trip to Clearwater was 40 out of 44 hours of the most miserable sailing we have ever done. Clearwater was really nice, though! We picked up two gel batteries West Marine ordered for us and installed them. We accidentally broke a switch and it cost us another day to purchase a new one and install. Again, by this time, Memphis State would be playing Arizona the next day, so we stayed an extra day - again!
There was high winds forecast in the next two days, so we thought we had a one day window to scoot down the coast another 100 miles before the front, but we didn't. We started out toward Boca Grande, but the NOAA weather forecast changed, so we pulled into Tampa Bay and anchored by the bridge.
Next morning, New Year's eve, we motored down the Intercoastal to Venice. We stayed there 4 days, while winds howled at 35 knots. I only got off the boat when we docked to shower and the last day to shower. It was miserable, cold, cold, cold! It was 29 degrees one morning. (Frank took Keesi out.)
Then we moved down to Cabbage Key. It was a tiny island, but it had a lot of personality. The next day, we headed to Sanibel Island and out into the Gulf toward Marathon, FL in the keys. We arrived at Spanish Key (entrance to Marathon area) the next morning. It is so shallow, we couldn't proceed until the lesser high tide, so we anchored, slept hard for three hours and went on to Boot Key marina in Marathon at noon. Boot Key marina is soooo nice! It is like a friendly sail boating community. Hundred boats on moorings, dinghys as cars, walking to shop, dog can go everywhere people go. Pete and Clare highly recommended it. We found it even better than they described. Keesi could even go in the restaurant and ride in a taxi!
Thursday, January 10, we moved to Channel 5 and anchored by the Long Key bridge to position ourselves for the crossing to the Bahamas Friday morning. Four boats traveled together. There were to have been six, but one had engine trouble and his friend went back to Marathon with him for safety reasons. The crossing was a little rough. Chris Parker later said Monday morning that the winds were a bit higher than forecasted. So, instead of our Riding Rock South target, we peeled off and headed to North Rock above Bimini. We pulled into a beach on the Atlantic side of north Bimini and anchored out. Frank slept like a baby, Gail couldn't sleep with the ocean rock, it was a bit much.
Next morning,we pulled up anchor and headed to Bullock's Cay (pronounced key) across the Bahama Banks. We cannot describe the colors of the water. There is nothing to compare it to, it must be seen, shades of blue, green, purple. It changes depending on the bottom. We anchored in a serene, peaceful harbor. We slept hard like babies until the rooster started crowing. We couldn't take Keesi to shore that night, but she tee teed on the mat. Very rare that an adult house-trained dog can ever be trained to go on a boat. The next morning, she also pooped on the boat. (She hasn't done it since, because there has always been opportunity for her to go to shore.)
We then proceeded into Great Cay Harbor to check in with Customs (Sun, Jan 13). When we cleared, we headed north up around Upper Stirrup Cay and down the other side of the group of islands called the Berrys. We anchored in a cove at Devil's Cay made up of four small islands. The water was so clear, you could see everything on the bottom. The next morning, we went snorkeling outside the cove on the reefs. It was one of the most spectacular sights we've seen. Frank forgot to take his weight belt, so he couldn't stay down to spear fish, but two other couples caught two fish each.
We spent two night there. The wind direction changed to desirable direction, so we went on to Nassau (Tues, Jan 15th). The others went on to the Exumas (Wed, Jan 16) in order to get ahead of a front that will produce high winds, but they took a route that might be a little shallow for us.
We decided to stay in Nassau for a few days and wait until more desirable weather. That's where we are now.
Will be leaving in the morning for Highburne Cay. Will update again when we access internet. It may be a while.