Our Live Aboard Days have ended..... for now.
31 May 2016
Little Farmer’s Cay in the Exummas became our home for 7 more days as we waited for a motor part to be delivered. In the meantime; we explored the cave on the adjacent island, attended a Baptist church service and discovered Ty’s Sunset Beach Bar on the west side of the island. The church service was loud and proud as the finely dressed ladies in white sang and shouted their message on mother’s day. I, along with all the mothers in the congregation was personally presented a T-shirt and invited to a HUGE lunch. I met the local teacher who has 8 children to teach. We had a conversation about her students and the issues of her concern are universal. She was bemoaning the results of the government testing which the students finished that week.
Motor was repaired on the Friday, we left on Saturday for Highbourne Cay (37 NM) then on Saturday we headed for Nassau (60 NM). Both days were beautiful calm sails. In Nassau, we had the good fortune to meet up with Jim’s sister and husband who travelled to Lyford Cay in Nassau on their friend’s 60 ft fishing boat. We spent a day with them on the water, fishing and visiting. Quite a different experience being on a boat that can motor at 36 kn/hr!! In Nassau, we visited the Nassau Yacht Club, had conch salad at the shacks under the Paradise Island bridge, and toured the John Watling rum distillery.
With an early start, we travelled to the Berry Is, Slaughter Bay (60 NM). It is a beautiful, very shallow bay protected from many sides. The large cruise ships use this area as one of their “private island” day excursions. The next morning we left at 11:00 to travel to West Palm Beach Inlet in Florida (135NM). Other than watching an ominous sky with lightning to the north, we sailed easily across, the gulf stream working in our favour, pushing SPLASH north. Travelling up the ICW, we thought it would take 2 or 3 days; but we made it to Indiantown in one day. On the ICW, we marvelled at all of the fancy homes and yachts along both shores. St. Lucie inlet was a “bonsai” corner as we turned left off the ICW. Our mast is 53ft., we had to travel under 4 bridges along the Okeechobee Canal which were 54 and 55 ft. A little tense, but we travelled at low tide and crossed our fingers!! All went well.
Indiantown Marina is between the ICW and Okeechobee Lake. It is inland enough that the water is fresh. The resident alligator greeted us most mornings as he slowly made his rounds. The jobs of sails off, canvas down, boat scrubbed and emptied, windows tinfoiled, mould and air treatments in place and the engines treated are all completed. SPLASH came out of the water on the 25th and is resting safe from hurricanes in a field with 400 other boats.
Our adventure of sailing the Caribbean has come to a close. As I pen our last blog, I reflect over the incredible experiences and amazing people we have enjoyed. Jim and I travelled 5232 nautical miles, having made 139 stops in 15 countries. We have so many varied memories of spectacular scenery and interesting phenomena. I have taken over 10 000 pictures. I have learned over the year that the world really is round, that “weather wins” and that people all over are happy, willing to share and are proud of their roots. Ontario beckons us now as we reunite with family and friends. Both of us look forward to sharing stories of our year living aboard SPLASH. Next spring we plan to take a few weeks to sail and explore the Bahamas. It has been a pleasure to share this journey with you, thank you for your support and comments.
In the Bahamas
06 May 2016 | Ocean Cabin - Little Farmer's Cay - Exumas
What a difference another passage makes! Those who remember the details of our first 9 day passage from Beaufort NC to the Dominican Republic in October will recall it was a challenge! Our passage from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Georgetown, Exumas Bahamas was textbook easy!! Colin joined us and we left on Sunday morning at dawn. 650 miles…. It just kept getting easier and easier. Over four and a half days, we travelled 149, 158, 152, 160 and 30 miles to arrive in Georgetown at noon on Thursday. Our first day we had a few squalls and a little rain, nothing over 20 kn. And then the weather kept getting better and better. Less than 1 m wave height (yes honestly!) and lighter winds made for easy meal prep and clean up, fishing and catching 2 Barracudas and lots of sleep! Starry nights and a bright half moon made our two hour solo watches a delight. Our motor was used more than we expected to keep us on track to arrive on Thursday. Colin won the bet of when we were going to arrive; and he generously purchased several beverages over the next few days!
Diane, Colin’s wife flew down to join us for four days. Jim and I parked Splash at the Exuma Yacht Club in Georgetown while we relished staying with Colin and Diane at the Hideaway; a lovely cabin/condo resort with a sand beach, pool and restaurant/ bar called SPLASH! What a treat for Jim and I to sleep in a bed that wasn’t rocking, have TV, on demand internet and as many hot showers as I wanted!! Over the next four days, we toured the island, watched the Georgetown family regatta wooden boats compete, visited the beautiful and untouched Tropic of Cancer Beach, fixed our dinghy motor (again!) and visited the Chill and Chat on Stocking Island where we touched large rays and watched conch being transformed from shell to salad.
Monday we said our goodbyes, did laundry, groceries, gas and water and motored over to Stocking Island to anchor. Tuesday we sailed north 42 nm to stay tucked in at Little Farmer’s Cay. The town dock located in a small bay boasts of incredible sea life! With the very shallow sandy and coral bottom we could clearly see the rays, sand sharks and turtles swimming about our dinghy! Yesterday, we walked into town where Rosevelt greeted us at the Yacht Club for lunch and wifi; and Tasha at the small grocery store welcomed us as now friends of hers. This island has 55 residents on the ¾ mile long strip. They are warm, friendly and helpful. We purchased fish from Jeffry and Stanley who live in the house directly in front of our anchor spot. Limestone rock is the foundation of the Exumas. The water colours, clear sighting under the boat, low lying land and shallow waters are so different from the islands we visited down south. The beauty of the sky and flat waters with their various and changing hues of blues and greens are spectacular. While we are in the Bahamas for a short time this trip, we plan to come back next season to explore.
May the fifth finds us waiting out the low pressure system. Tremendous winds, (36kn) sheet and fork lightening and a changing current and tide have made the last few hours quite memorable!! Knowing that poor weather was imminent, we wisely chose a site with land on all sides of us. 90 ft. of chain in 11ft of water may seem like overkill in some situations, but we were very happy to have every inch holding Splash.
Over the next few days we plan to visit Staniel Cay to see the swimming pigs, the Thunder Ball Grotto and Norman Cay where the crashed airplane is just below the surface of the water. Nassau will be next where we will reprovision and maybe meet up with Sue and Al; Jim’s sister and brother in law who are staying on a large motor yacht travelling from Key West.
From there, we will sail to the Berry’s, West End and over to Florida entering at Palm Beach cut.
It is somewhat surreal to us that we are entering the final stages of our adventure.
St. Lucia - San Juan
23 April 2016
It has been a whirlwind three weeks since my last post.
We have logged over 4200 NM to date; I’ve read 40 + books, half way through my third knitting project and have blown out my 10 year old trusty Keen sandals. Who knew that in salt air, elastic bands actually melt and break, and sticky notes lose their “stickiness”! When we left the US area of the Virgin Islands over three months ago; CNN was full of the “Hillary vs. Trump” posturing….. three months ‘down Island’ to Union Island and back again…. it seems to be the same dialogue!
April the 5th we traveled with our South African friends Teresa and Bertie on their 39 ‘ Catamaran - Entheos. Our two boats sailed north overnight, from Rodney Bay, St Lucia, past Martinique to anchor in Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica. We were moving by 6:00 the next morning to Deshais, an anchorage on the north east side of Guadeloupe with a north wind (?!?). Cheese crepes, a beverage and wifi were enjoyed on shore and an early night for an early start again the next day sailing into Antigua! After 200 NM we arrived to stay in Jolly Harbour, where we had the boat hauled to clean the hull; scrapped and power washed! Our anode had disappeared…. needed a new one and Jim found a pin hole in an elbow joint for the heat exchanger in the engine; a result of our disappeared anode. Luckily found an engine guy who welded the joint for $10 US! Washed, scrubbed the inside and outside of the boat to get ready for the arrival of our friends Joan and Chris from the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club.
In Antigua, we enjoyed beach time, pub time and many meals with Teresa and Bertie joining us. April 10th we left Jolly Harbour Antigua for Joan and Chris’s first overnight sail in the Caribbean! Entheos accompanying us, we sailed 90 nm, 15 hours to Simpson Bay in St. Martin. Our four days in St. Martin were filled with side trips to the Sunset Bar and Grill…. where we watched the planes practically land on the beach; Phillipsburg, lovely beach and boardwalk with a bit of shopping; outboard engine repair for us and replacement motor for Bertie and time at Lagoonies where happy hour Heineken beer are $1.00!! Thursday night we left for a memorable overnight motor boat ride to Virgin Gorda in the BVI’s. Memorable because there was virtually NO wind… we saw 0.3 registered on our knot meter. The sea was a flat as glass and the stars were exquisite!! In our 9 months of living aboard, Jim and I have never seen it so calm!!
At the Bitter End in Virgin Gorda, we enjoyed a beach day and lots of swimming. Had a lovely beam reach sail when we were able to raise our spinnaker for the first time; to the Bite on Norman Island where we had an amazing snorkel swim at the caves.
Here we said a teary goodbye to Bertie and Teresa. We will remember the Freddy Mercury and Bob Dylan impersonations; the Spanisss head pieces, the hat and shirt party, Bertie’s special rum drinks, harmonica and ukulele songs and Teresa’s infectious laugh. As much as the scenery and islands are delightful; it is the people and friendships made enroute which makes this adventure truly memorable. Jim and I wish Entheos fair winds and great adventures.
Joan and Chris reluctantly left us in St. Thomas. Their love of the water, both ON and IN it; willingness to adapt to changing plans, sweaty conditions, galley and sailing duties, and love of laughter and fun made their trip a delight for all of us! Thank you Joan for sharing all of your amazing photos!
Jim and I left right away for Culebra – one of the Spanish Virgin Islands; and the next day we sailed to San Juan to dock right down town. What a culture shock this big city has been for us! Traffic noise when we sleep, neon lights, large buses, and a tremendous rain and thunderstorm!
Yesterday, I made 6 passage meals; one-pot meals frozen in Ziplock bags; Jim cleaned the dinghy and lashed it on the deck. We are preparing for a 600 NM sail from here to the Exhumas in the Bahamas. My brother Colin is joining us for the voyage. We are excited to make a big leap north towards home.
Waiting in St. Lucia
01 April 2016 | Rodney Bay St. Lucia
Still waiting on weather
St. Lucia, Rodney Bay has been our “home” port for the last 14 days as we wait for a weather window to head north. Bernard, the weather guru of the bay gives a detailed daily account of the wind, waves and pressure systems north and south of St. Lucia. Combining the sites from our favourites and Bernard’s advice; we will leave St. Lucia on Friday when the waves will be 1.5 m or less. Today; and for the past week, waves have been upward of 2 m. When they say 2m; this is the average height and every about ninth wave is tremendously higher than the average!! Not wanting to wave crash; ourselves or SPLASH, we are waiting until the wind will be from the beam or hind quarter and wave height diminishes.
In the meantime, we have celebrated Jim’s milestone birthday with T-shirts, cheesecake, balloons, champagne and good wishes from sailors all over; Hamilton, Michigan, S. Africa, Brazil, Vancouver, Guelph and Toronto. March 29th was our last night in Rodney Bay Marina – now we are anchored in the bay. The Marina has excellent wifi, hot showers and a small pool to enjoy. Several restaurants edge the marina shore with a small grocery store, laundry, boat chandlery; Island Water World, electrical and sail repair businesses and a couple of souvenir shops. A Super J grocery store; which carries IGA brands is a ten minute walk towards Rodney Bay town. Just outside the marina gate is a large Hardware store. A ten minute dinghy ride takes us to the heart of the town with two small malls, specialty food shops, drug stores etc. We feel lucky to be “stuck” with so many amenities close by. Living plugged into a marina dock; we can use our lights, our fans, watch a movie and be “water pigs” as we run our taps at will and enjoy daily showers at the marina. Now back at anchor; it is water rationing, power rationing and sponge baths. Call me a princess – but I was getting quite used to the “finer things”.
I have learned to wear flip flops, spray everything with bleach and vinegar, cook on two burners, drink my coffee black, and wear clothes 10 times before stuffing them into the laundry bag. I have learned that sheets and pillow cases can be freshened (not laundered) by hanging out for an hour and that it is wise to have a paper book and an e-book to read as I can forget to power up my e-reader. I have learned that the beer bottle sizes diminish as you travel south down the Islands; 330ml, 270 ml, 250 ml for the same brands and higher prices! I have learned that the vegetable and fruit stands will charge a good dollar for their produce; but as you get to know the vendors by name, after bartering they will hand you “free” extras. Yesterday, we were given a coconut and four bananas. I have learned to slowly say “good morning” and chat about the weather before I request anything.
Our shives at the front of the boom have been repaired for our reefing lines; our motor has been tuned up for the journey north, Jim is replacing our running lights as the salt has corroded the LED plate and I have had the time to clean the inside of the boat thoroughly.
The weather issues and boat jobs are to be expected in this “live-a-board” life. We have really enjoyed a wonderful friendship with Kathy and Jim on Innishnee – our Michigan friends. We met them in Belhaven North Carolina in October, celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving. Since then we have shared the US Thanksgiving, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and Easter. Even better; we shared much laughter and experiences. We said good bye and fair winds to our live-a-board friends as they travel south to Grenada. Jim and I look forward to keeping in touch with Kathy and Jim as they pursue their dream of travelling the world on their 40 ft. Passport.
I am in awe of couples who have sold everything and decide to live on a boat. We have met people who have been live-a-boards for 14 years! I thought 12 months was daring. Many cruisers sail for 6-8 months a year; returning home to the US or Canada for the summer months. They leave their boat in a hurricane safe place; Grenada or Trinidad; to return to sailing the Carribean for the winter months.
Our plan is to travel 90 NM on Friday with Entheos from South Africa to Portsmouth, Dominica. From there we have another 100 NM to sail to Antigua where we will meet our RHYC friends Chris and Joan. They will sail SPLASH with us to the US Virgin Islands. My brother Colin will join us soon after to sail to the Bahamas. Our plan is to leave SPLASH in Florida sometime in June. Wishing everyone a happy spring.
Marigot Bay - St. Lucia
16 March 2016
I haven’t commented enough about the sailing, winds, weather and other sailors we have met. Jim and I left North America believing the trade winds would blow from the northish, allowing us a lovely beam to broad reach sail down the Carribean Island chain. Our guests of the past year will concur that we have been on a beat or close reach during 95% of our southbound travels. At various islands, we have encountered daily rain during the “dry” season…. And locals just shake their heads, shrug their shoulders and say “what can I say, it’s global warming – all the weather is crazy.” Yet we have enjoyed many sunny days and part days; and have adapted to the winds from the south. From the Grenadines, we have been travelling northbound. The wind has now switched to the north! In fact, we are in St. Lucia now, waiting on friends who are visiting the island in a few days; and we are watching huge north swells and even had the rainiest day on SPLASH with thunderstorms all around. Jim and I kept busy with novels, boat jobs and cleaning. We are happy to be safe and sound in a fantastic bay called Marigot Bay in St. Lucia.
The entertainment here is amazing! Down the island chain we have met sailors from all over the world; Polish, Russian, French, South African, British, Dutch. It seems to be a French tradition for their boats to arrive in anchorages at dark. The boats motor quickly amoungst the mooring balls, slam on the reverse gear (or use their bow thrusters) and attempt to obtain a mooring ball; be it a private fisherman’s spot or public. In the tiny cove of MArigot Bay we had several people yelling and hollering at the proximity of larger boats (often catermarans) to smaller monohulls. Even the dock masters at the Marina shake their heads and call these speed demons “mad”! Fortunately, we have not had to participate in an entanglement…. But it DOES make for great entertainment during the dinner hour!
Castries in St. Lucia is a thriving port with cruise ships and colourful markets. Jim and I twice took a precarious bus ride; up and down the hairpin turns on the public bus to spend a day in Castries. Wandering through the local food market was a spectacle of colour, aromas, sights and sounds! We had fish soup and a chicken roti for lunch at a picnic table with a great view of the sidewalk vendors across the street. We saw everything from raw fish to a Payless Shoe Store across the street. Some things are universal, and there is an ice cream vendor on a bicycle with a bell! Sometimes it feels like we are so far away; seeing the open sewers, palm trees and street hawkers. And then you see Subway or Home Depot or Miley Sirrus is playing on the day tourist boat ride. We have learned that people are people and treated with respect for their country, their livelihood; we have enjoyed meeting Jimmy, Flora, Margie, Chester, and so many more who are proud of their Island of Paradise and happy to show us another treasure of their land. We have met up with “yachties” who we met at Happy Island in the Grenadines! From South Africa and Brazil, we have learned much about their homelands and are enjoying the adventure of discovering the Caribbean together. All of us have experiences to share of weather, anchorages, markets and travels. Jim and I look forward to moving north in about a weeks time; Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe and Antigua. From the Windward Islands to the Leeward Islands!
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
06 March 2016
What a wonderful week we have had with my sister Jane exploring St. Vincent and the Genadines. Jane is one of the most positive, helpful, energetic and fun loving people I know! And we “did it all”! We sailed from Blue Lagoon in St. Vincent to Union Island in the Genedines and back. Leaving St. Vincent, we sailed south, 9 NM to Bequai where we anchored at Elizabeth Beach. The next day, we had a champagne sail of 20 NM to Canouan, Charleston Bay – a beautiful calm anchorage. Augusta, a local fisherman who approached SPLASH sold us 2 fresh lobsters caught that morning! We hiked into the town to meet Ezra, 29 year old free spirit with a TIKI bar at the beach. He sang us his song, joined us for a beer and hugged us goodbye repeating his mantra of “one love”. Walking back, we stopped at a school sports field to watch part of a local cricket game. That evening we had our b-b-qued lobsters – delicious! On Monday we sailed south to Mayreau Island where we caught a mooring ball in Salt Whistle Bay. Very crowded little harbour, but with a fantastic protected beach. On the west side of the beach; kite surfers were enjoying the rough surf of the ocean. A walk into “town” was straight up then down the other side where we passed a beautiful Catholic Church with incredible ocean view, several tiny shops, bars and mini grocery stores and lots of poor housing. Tuesday we motored the 4 NM to moore in the Tobago Cays. Wow! The ocean, views, colour of the water are JUST like the pictures. We drank in all of the sights, snorkelled with the turtles, hiked a couple of steep hills (with the Iguanas) and enjoyed the evening aboard SPLASH counting the sea turtles who would lazily swim by. Wednesday we sailed south to Union Island and Happy Island. In the morning we wandered the little town, provisioned, had crab sandwiches for lunch (in order to use the wifi) then set off for Happy Island around 3:00. Happy Island is a man-made island made of conch shells and coral by Janti. The lone building on this tower of sea deposits is his home and his bar. Daily, he entertains yachtie visitors with his music, his story and the best rum punch drinks we have found yet! The afternoon turned into evening as we met sailors from South Africa and Brazil. A visit on Fabio’s boat with wine, cheesecake and guitar playing concluded a perfect day. Thursday, we made the turn north and sailed 30 NM back to Bequai where we anchored for two nights. As returning yachties to towns, Jim and I now know some of the local vendors for fruits, vegetables, bread and fish. Jane and Jim saw an octopus while snorkling and the highlight of Bequai was that all three of us watched a perfect sunset AND saw the green flash. Absolutely amazing! Back to St.Vincent and Blue Lagoon on Saturday where we enjoyed fresh showers, their beautiful pool and treated ourselves to a lovely dinner at the restaurant. Jane is on her way home to Collingwood right now, and I know she has great memories of her time in the Grenadines. Jim and I found the people and the geography of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be generous and beautiful. SPLASH is happy to be on a Starboard tack now, heading north. Our next stop tomorrow is St. Lucia.