Slow Sailing

02 April 2018 | Chub Cay, Berry Islands
24 March 2018 | Farmers Cay, Bahamas
12 March 2018 | Grand Turk
28 February 2018 | Culebra, Spanish Virgins
21 February 2018 | St John
01 February 2018 | St Pierre, Martinique
17 January 2018 | Marin Marina, Martinique
08 January 2018 | Fort de France, Martinique
01 January 2018 | Atlantic - Still!
26 December 2017 | Atlantic Ocean
19 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
17 December 2017 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
07 December 2017 | San Sebastian, La Gomera
28 November 2017 | Garachico, Tenerife
18 November 2017 | La Palma, Canaries
07 November 2017 | Puerto Santa Cruz, Tenerife
16 October 2017 | Graciosa, Canary Islands
09 October 2017 | Rabat, Morocco
30 September 2017 | Ait Bennadou, Morocco
11 September 2017 | Cadiz, Spain

The Original Swimming Pigs

02 April 2018 | Chub Cay, Berry Islands
Heather
Well, another year has gone by without any Easter baskets on Evergreen. Its so sad. I made a cake with green frosting in rememberance of the green grass in our Easter baskets of years gone by.
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Our time in the Bahamas is winding down, we are now in the Berry Islands which leaves about 180 miles to Fort Pierce, where we'll continue on to Vero Beach to park for a bit and visit Jon's parents. Our truck is in Germany now, awaiting the transatlantic ship that will take it to Georgia where we can finally see what we bought-yikes! How many times in your life do you buy something somewhat large, sight unseen and then trust it to many hands and drivers to get it from one continent to another?
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We've had a splendid time in the Bahamas and have really enjoyed all it has to offer. Clear water, great snorkeling, spearfishing, calm anchorages and lovely beaches. That's all we wanted and it reaffirms that we could spend more time here cruising around, having plenty of zero dollar days. Whenever I'm not in the water, I think I should be because it is so beautiful. If I'm feeling stressed about all that will be happening in the next few months, putting my mask on and gliding over a reef takes it all away. I love the way the greenish blue glow of the shallow water is reflected on the bottom sides of the clouds here.
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Georgetown was so peaceful as the regatta was over from the week prior and a lot of sailboats had left so it had a quiet feel and I heard that there were less boats there this season than last for some reason. Megayachts don't come down that far which is nice too. It is so set up for cruisers and is basically unchanged from our point of view and Stocking Island is still a playground with long beaches, inland trails, shady palms to sit under, snorkeling, fishing and great anchorage. What more could you ask for? One day while out spearfishing Jon shot a grouper and quickly got it to the dinghy. Just as I swung my legs in to get in too a reef shark came blasting over to get a closer look & started circling. So we moved our operation elsewhere and later found out that the week prior, some guys out spearfishing there took too long to get their catch in and 2 sharks came, one taking a nip out of one of the guy's elbows. Despite this, we are glad to see the sharks around, as well as the barracuda, that give the reef the balance it should have. It feels plentiful here, not like so many other parts of the world. And as emotional as it feels to witness the killing of something, it is remarkable to be able to pick out something that is right, spear it with no by catch and then use all of it with little or no waste. We've had fish, lobster and conch so I've made conch tacos, cracked conch, lobster salad, lobster thermidor, buttered lobster, lobster risotto and fish various ways. If we had to pick a favorite it would be the fish. And no ciguatera relapse with the grouper although I made Jon eat it alone the first night to see if he came down with symptoms! He says that spearfishing seems to come easy to him this time and he hasn't been nervous at getting what he aims for.
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We started moving our way up the Exuma chain, reacquainting ourselves with reading the water to get in to shallow spots without bumping the bottom. We've reached new low levels on our depthsounder and have anchored in some gorgeous spots. Not like we had to, we just wanted to. It's like riding a bike, you never really forget how to do it. We've met a few other sailors, got to know them over cracked conch lunch and have also visited some of the unlikely tourist spots like the famous "Swimming Pigs" of Staniel Cay and Thunderball Caves, so named after a couple of James Bond movies were filmed there. Its fun to feed the sergeant majors and deliver our produce scraps to the pigs as they swim out to the dinghy. But my gosh, how this place has changed over the years! We first came in 1994 for our honeymoon. Now it is Tripadvisor documented, full-on tourist boats and megayacht tenders, not to mention sea planes themselves (no kidding) screaming over to see these domesticated pigs that live on a beach! Unlike their ancestral humble beginnings of being placed on the island to fend for themselves years ago, these new wave domesticated, tagged, named, photographed pigs with water & food troughs and a sturdy shaded shelter, have a full time job entertaining tourists who come to feed them all day until sunset. And there are liability releasing signs to remind you that these are pigs and you can't sue them! Late in the day half of them are comatose under the shelter because they are fat & full and tired of swimming! We got a lot of laughs out of watching the going's on of all this being anchored right off the beach for a few days while it was windy. We joked about what the pigs would be saying to each other like oh brother, here we go again, I am so tired of eating, I need a vacation with no one around! When I spoke with the lady in the Staniel Cay Yacht Club office, a native of the Cay who remembers what it used to be like, she said what made it famous was those swimming pigs! Now other islands have tried copying it but Staniel is the original.
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We've spent a lot of time snorkeling & drift diving through the cuts and around islets. It is so fun to ride the current through the cuts and see all the sharks, turtles and rays hanging out there. When you slow down back on the sand bank you hop back in the dinghy and motor back up to the opening and do it all over again! The water is such a crazy liquid blue that it looks wetter to me than usual, the color of my favorite blue Slush Puppy flavor. At the end of Wax Cay Cut we saw a whole group of nurse sharks laying on the bottom all lined up- never seen that before. On one snorkel a huge, old, sea turtle came over to a nearby coral head, sunk to the sand and went out like a light! He had 2 big remoras for company on his old shell. About a half hour later I returned with the camera and he was still zonked out. I ended up waking him and felt bad but he didn't swim away. I got this pic and left him be.
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We moved over to Allan's & Norman's Cay where we could do some long island walks. The Bahamas seems to be doing well, fortunately and it is growing, unfortunately. You hate to see more & more private homes & developments and their No Trespassing This Means You signs but there is still a lot of open space for now. I liked the way in lots of other places like Europe there are not all of those signs and there is an expectation that there will be walkers passing by, the old greenway thinking much alive elsewhere. We enjoyed walking around to the ocean side and having a picnic lunch in the breeze. Allen's is famous for all of the vegetarian iguanas that come out to greet you on the beach, especially if you're cleaning fish or conch. Like Staniel's pigs, they too are popular and bikini clad tour patrons hold apple chunks on long skewers to feed them. But those boats disappear soon enough and then it is back to just the sailboats. We find it really amazing that they come all the way over from Nassau on day trips to make several stops in the Exumas. It is really quite an adventure and good on the Bahamians for figuring out tourism in this way where their islands have very little else to offer in the way of work. It is selfish to want it all to stay the same.
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What we haven't had is much in the way of stores to buy things like produce. We've now run out of coffee mate, beer and are getting food cravings like blueberry pie and ice cream. We'll have to leave when we get down to our last roll of toilet paper. Won't be long now! But we still have plenty of cans of Spanish meatballs and we're saving a couple of bottles of cava sparkling wine to share with ourselves & Jon's parents when we finally reach the US shore. Then we can dig in to our list of broken things and start fixing them. In the last 2 weeks my laptop battery shit the bed, along with my watch. It would be nice to grill some fish but oh, that has long since rusted out. Every time something breaks and I say we need to get a new one, Jon starts whistling the "hi ho, hi ho, its off to work I go..." But we hope we don't have to. We think we can get ahead selling off some of the must have gear that we put on the boat before we left and then proceeded to never use.

But first, a few more days soaking up these pretty islands and stuffing ourselves into our wetsuits for a look at the reef. Oh and one last big bottom scrub!

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Want To Play??

24 March 2018 | Farmers Cay, Bahamas
Heather
Its a wrap! We crossed our outbound path to Panama from 2012 when we reached Georgetown, Bahamas a few days ago. When all is said & done, Georgetown & the Bahamas is one of the best cruising destinations in the world if you love the water and a great island feel. The Bahama water just drives us nuts. Over the past several days we've just been snorkeling, drift diving, Jon speared a nice Nassau grouper & a couple of lobster, we've gotten some conch, we've been walking beaches picking shells and just reliving memories from past visits. I'm ready to spend a whole season here again someday, now that it is in my backyard again.
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A couple of evenings ago, I was rinsing off the deck and 3 dolphin came up to the boat and started hanging out. Here we go again! I got my mask and slipped in the water and they came rushing over to say hi. There was a mom, a baby and another adult and they seemed to really like that I was there by coming right up to me and twirling around. The baby was so funny the way it was flopping around, deliberately making splashes, charging up to the surface to stick its head out and look around, playing with anything it could find on the bottom and just cavorting like a kid. They found an empty beer bottle and were pushing it around with their noses, trying to pick it up, all three of them twirling around it. One adult kept coming to me and looking at me with his/her head tilted just like a dog would who wants you to throw a stick. So I picked up the bottle and held it to toss and the dolphin got even more excited. Once Jon got out of the shower he gave me the camera so I could snap a few pics in the fading light.
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I got to observe again what dolphins are doing under the water (when they're not hanging out at the bow when we're sailing!) They are constantly rubbing their noses on the bottom, like a dog does. If they find an object like a bottle or a shell, they twirl around it with their noses on it. You can even see that their noses are chafed from I can only assume is all this rubbing! At one point they rubbed along the length of our anchor chain, they are constantly rubbing up against each other and I felt pretty sure the adult that was sticking so close to me wanted me to touch it but I didn't. I don't understand how to relate to them or what they are thinking even though I feel like I can read some things by their expression & behavior. They seem so happy and social and they move so beautifully in the water. They also lie on the bottom in the sand, together. Since I was in the water for quite a while, I could see them every now and then taking a breather and just resting together for a few seconds and I would be willing to bet they do this often. The water was only about 8 feet deep where we were, all sand. What a great experience and funny that this has happened twice recently but never before in all these years. We are wondering if the fact that our bottom paint is black now instead of green has anything to do with it. It seems like a long shot but you never know. Its the only thing that is different.
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Anyway, we moved to Farmers Cay yesterday, a little farther up in the Exuma chain. This is where we met a lifetime friend Frank, back in '98, our first cruise. He taught Jon to spearfish and we cruised together for 5 months. I used to swim around while they spearfished telling all the lobsters to go back into their holes so the hunters wouldn't find them! Jon & I have been doing some reminiscing. This is a great place, with a lot of great memories tied up in it. A lot of beauty both above & below the water. And some good eating too.

Our fire truck is in Germany now, waiting the next ship to take it across. So we will keep making our way northward to meet up with it at the end of April.

Here is what I wrote on the trip to the Bahamas, a wrap-up of the Turks & Caicos experience. In hindsight we should have come directly here.

Written last week!
We are underway once again as I write this, this time to Georgetown, Bahamas. It is a 2 1/2 day trip with light winds. We did some wonderful sailing yesterday and most of the night with good speed and a great motion but then the wind died as forecast and we're motoring in calm now. On the way from Puerto Rico, the mast track finally unzipped in a spot from the lower part of the mast and snapped in half above the reef point so Jon had to lower the whole track down several feet. This requires a permanent reef in the main which isn't a huge deal but now the track is unzipping from the very top as well so we really can't put any pressure on the thing. The first response from Dutchman (the company who makes the track) was that the track is made of an excellent plastic material that is resistant to UV and even if the outer part shows its wear, the inside will retain its moisture and strength for 10 years. When I sent pics of what is happening and questioned the longevity & strength as claimed, I heard nothing back. They want us to do a write-up in support of their products since we've gone a long way with them. Given the circumstances, I don't think I could at this point. Here we go with more boat presents! So with that, light air is good for Evergreen at this stage.

After a lot of anticipation for the Turks & Caicos this time we were admittedly disappointed. The day after we arrived on Grand Turk, the wind picked up as forecast and our lee anchorage became very exposed for the following 2 days. There is no other option for anchoring there and we knew that ahead of time but really wanted to dive on the wall. Its supposed to be world class. There were 4 other cruising boats there and we were all bucking and broncing in the waves. We put our trust in our anchor and still went ashore on Grand Turk a few times to explore as well as get a break from all the motion. We also checked out the diving. We found the island to be run down, void of anything pretty except for the views out to the water and it would appear it is going to disappear under their own trash & beer bottles at some point. Hit by the hurricanes for sure, there is more to it than that. A cruise ship arrived while we were there and we were trying to figure out what they could possibly be doing on shore. We did a scuba dive on the drop-off as they have dive moorings lined up all along the western coast which is great. But the vis was disturbed by all the waves and the reef wasn't as nice as we'd hoped. We dinghied back to the boat with our masks on in order to see with all the waves of water that were coming over the tubes. It was as Jon says about some of the things we do "nutty"! We got some so-so Dominican food for lunch one day (there seems to be a community living there) and walked out to the northern tip of the island where the lighthouse stands. There we were able to see numerous donkeys eating large amounts of cardboard that was strewn about for some reason. The lighthouse was closed up, only open when a cruise ship is in port. The best part of the walk was being accompanied by this dog.
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As soon as the wind lightened, we moved 22 miles west to South Caicos which has the best anchorage in the island group and wow, was it beautiful and flat calm. We enjoyed every minute of the time we were at the boat anchored in this crazy clear pool of water with conch walking around under the boat and rays jumping way out of the water (with their accompanying fish even) and at one point, even a squid caught some air which we've never seen before. The anchorage is framed by Long Cay to the east, with bright white cliffs and the massive sand bank to the west with colors that drive you nuts. While S Caicos offers some good diving, it isn't set up for it, there is no dive shop on the island and the diving is challenging because the drop-off is deep- it starts at 65 feet where we were diving. We did 2 dives using a research mooring, straddling the no-deco limit and enjoyed them but became increasingly nervous that doing these dives by ourselves wasn't the smartest thing. The water was nice and clear and there was more in it than we'd seen previously, including these horse eye jack which I love to photograph. They all come rushing over to check you out and then swirl beautifully all around you. Snorkeling was fun too with a couple of nice stands of elkhorn coral and warm water sand flats full of helmets, octopus, conch and triton. We met another sailor, Kevin from S. Africa and had a great evening sharing stories together and he is the one who took the sunset pics of our stern.
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South Caicos has prettier features than Grand Turk with colorful rocks, small hills and a salt pond with birds. Less trash too. The islanders harvest a lot of fish & conch here and the harbor is busy with cleaning the catch. Elsewhere on the island, it seems like everything you look at is falling apart but the dominoes are slapping down on the table and the pace is slow. When we walked by the airport, with the fence caving in that might ordinarily stop a donkey from crossing the runway, the staff was gathered round the card table for a game. Cars were parked inside the half built welcome center to keep them cool and out of the sun.... There is something to be learned from all this- like what is important and what isn't. But it can be hard to find something pretty to look at!

So in order to be in this paradise on a boat, it cost us $80 to check in and you pay another $65 to check out which gives you 7 days total. On day 8, you owe another $300 if you are still there. And you can't fish or take a thing from the sea. So we made sure we got to customs & immigration on day 5 in order to clear during normal working hours and leave the next morning, a Saturday. You are allowed to clear out 24hrs before leaving. Even though we were there in the office on Friday, the immigration lady charged us overtime because we were going to be sailing out of the harbor on Saturday. Huh? Then we go over to the customs office and start getting ridiculous questioning about why we are leaving before the 7 days we said we were planning to stay and also was there any chance in the world that we had somehow arrived earlier or would be staying later so they could assess the extra $300. There was no way she could do it because we had clearly not overstayed anything and finally she said she would "let us leave early". Huh?! Well that's a new one. We definitely didn't feel the love in the Turks & Caicos. So we sailed off for the Bahamas. That is the great thing about cruising. If you don't like what you see, you can put to sea!

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Five Miles Deep

12 March 2018 | Grand Turk
Heather
Written March 10

We are underway motorsailing to Grand Turk as I write this, a 2 1/2 day passage. It is a light air forecast for part of it, but we're anxious to get there and it seems like there are few breaks between weather systems these days. We were in San Juan for six days which was enough time to explore there. On the day we came over from Culebra, it was calm and we saw two humpbacks playing around at the surface. One was lying on his back flopping his fins back and forth over over his white belly, just seemingly enjoying the sunny day. They hang out in this area as well as the DR and banks south of the Turks to nurse their young. We've seen them breaching this trip and also had a pair of pilot whales hanging out with us today and I could hear their high pitched squeak at the bow. They swim the same as a dolphin except in slower motion and their faces are shaped different. They snug right up close to the bow like they're touching it as if somehow that is fun. I'm actually glad to be motoring overnight since we are easier to hear and they will hopefully move out of our path.
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San Juan was one of those places that felt really good to arrive to and pretty good to leave. Jon especially was blown away at first thinking about how we'd been anchored in that very spot in San Antonio Channel (the only anchorage in the area there) 14 years ago. We feel like old people saying "where did the time go?" So much has happened since then. This boat has a heck of a lot more equipment on it now then it did back then! More stuff to break.
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It had been awhile since we'd been anchored in a city and this place, although busy with planes, trucks and pilot boats, not to mention cruise ships, offered really calm water and protection and the anchorage was nicer than the marina which was good because they had no space. We have fond memories of San Juan and were excited to see the El Morro Fort again with the big lawn and the pretty pastel Spanish style buildings. Of course now that we've spent so much time in Spain it isn't quite the same. El Morro is still a favorite though and the park service had it all spiffed up, a standout in the city. Although still very much recovering from the hurricanes, San Juan reminds us of Kathmandu in Nepal where it was difficult to tell what was hurricane damage and what was just rubble from years past. There is as much of one as the other. But we did some nice things like tour the forts, walk the paths, including the Princesa Path which goes around the base of the fort on the outside and is filled with many obese, feral cats. Their food stations look like all you can eat buffets and they are definitely digging in! The day after we walked the path the heavy swells from the Nor'easter set in and began pounding the fort and the whole Puerto Rican Coast for days. Lots of damage to the waterfront areas that we just walked on which is sad. Our boat was safe way up in the channel but every time we walked over to the ocean side there were huge crashing waves and the port was closed for 2 days because of them. The entrance channel was breaking badly. Its a little nerve wracking even on a good day- this is what it was doing as we were coming out.
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We toured the Governor's mansion, had a guide all to ourselves for a tour of the capitol, walked the old blue cobblestone streets, had a so-so lunch of Puerto Rican food, went to a concert one afternoon at the San Juan music conservatory and spared some time for some waxing & varnishing of the boat. The concert was an unlikely duo of the piano and trombone but nonetheless, well played. We decided to work on developing our own concert from the instruments we have on the boat- the kazoo and birthday whistle! We made several attempts to visit other points of interest but they were closed for renovations (but not before we shelpped over to them) and we decided against renting a car because the places we most wanted to visit were in the mountains and those areas are the ones hit heaviest by the hurricane and still without power. We could see a huge parking lot filled with US state registered electrical trucks, generators, portable diesel tanks, worker camp setups, etc but nothing was happening. Apparently, contracts have been fulfilled, no money is coming in or what is appropriated hasn't arrived, and so things are at a standstill. We learned a lot from Jerry, the man who gave us the capitol tour about the Puerto Rican system as well as psyche, and from our own observations. He told us that there are basically two parties, one who is pro-statehood and the other for continued Commonwealth status. Another insignificant party wishes to gain total independence. The majority would like to become the 51st state. Complicated. We did chat with a few really friendly locals too and found out that several years ago, Spain extended an invitation to all Puerto Ricans who had family ties up to a grandfather level to become eligible for automatic Spanish citizenship. Many people took that opportunity.
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So we waited for the swells to come down and the harbor to re-open before leaving and here we are, fully stocked with corn tortillas and refried beans. Excited to see clear water and hopefully do a bunch of diving on Grand Turk which we love to do. Along the way, we passed over the Puerto Rico Trench. The deepest sounding on our chart is 27,000 feet. So that's pretty 5 miles of water down there! Our mast is 58 feet tall, so by 59 feet we'd be gone from sight. Huh. After last night's electrical storm show, I couldn't help wondering how long it would take to sink to the bottom!
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Our fire truck is almost ready to be loaded onto the ship and start its journey to us. It can't possibly go smoother than it did for the boat but we're hoping for few snags. You might wonder why we're going this route when there are so many other ways to do it. The answer is that after exhaustive research on Jon's part & us both thinking about what we wanted to do, we arrived at the following: In order to have a true home that is ready to travel to lots of places, some of which may not have ultra low sulfur diesel at the pumps, to keep expenses reasonable for the build and have the camper be able to take rough roads and off the beaten path places and still hold up, plus have room for the gear we want to carry like bikes and backpacking stuff, there aren't a lot of options left to choose from! We wanted a truck that was commonplace in many parts of the world so easier to fix, with a tried & true engine and also with a good weight carrying capacity so we wouldn't be at the edges of what it could take before we load on our belongings. We wanted 4WD. In order to import a vehicle into the US, it has to be one the US sells. Otherwise, it has to be over 25 years old. So that is very limiting in itself. These fire trucks have been so well cared for and stored inside the fire station for obvious reasons, that they have aged well, so to speak. So we've heard from other fools who have bought them. The options for well cared for trucks like this already within the US are few & far between. Plus the US doesn't use these style of trucks and we think this would work better for us than say a Ford F550 where you have a whole lot of truck and not much room left for living space. And of course Jon is excited about the challenge of the project and what it will become as much as I am about helping to get it there. But don't get us wrong, if money were no object, we'd be ordering one up in a heartbeat to save on all the work. We both like the feeling of freedom that comes from having your home with you wherever you go. The buzz words we hear lately like "tiny home" and "off-grid" are pretty much the nature of cruising boats so adjustment should be easy. We aren't planning to get back only to leave again right away but doing a build like this takes a lot of forward thinking because we don't want to have to do it again! And S. America is a popular place with a lot of good info from people traveling around in expedition campers like this. Could be a good starting point.

I was reading a book on this passage that reminded me that in the Declaration of Independence, there is the intention to preserve the right of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Well there's a good right to pursue! Hopefully this RV will offer as good of an opportunity to be independent, live well and be happy as the boat has.
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Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Extra:
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast on 3 different long term trips. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands [...]
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