Western Caribbean Expedition Aboard Marnie

Sailing adventure from the American East coast to Caribbean, Cartagena, Panama, Honduras and wherever the wind takes us


12 May 2016
Stopped at farmers cay for a frontal passage and tied to a mooring ....... to trust a uninspected mooring is always a risk but with no weather usually not an issue. Since we were expecting a blow I dove and checked out the mooring...then some Germans came in and anchored so close to us that we decided to move to another spot. Meanwhile I helped a couple of other boats pick up a mooring as they came in and ended up diving for a couple more that had lost their markers and put buoys on them for the yacht club proprietor, Roosevelt Nixon.....who names their kid after two presidents? In the end I just looked with my mask at our mooring from the surface and since it had new line coming off of stainless chain I figured it was ok. That was a mistake...I should have followed it to the ground and checked the connection. Any how, the expected front came through the next morning at 0900 with 35 knot sustained winds and sideways rain. I turned on the chart plotter and radar to keep tabs on things and listened to other boaters up at Staniel on the radio freaking out while dragging around Big Majors in the high west winds. Then, all of a sudden I heard a thud and the boat turned sideways to the wind. The mooring line snapped. Had to jump into action immediately as we were surrounded by shoals and rocky shore lines. Started the engine and put her in gear....only nothing seemed to be happening. Tried reverse....nothing .....meanwhile 35 knot wind and 4 knot current in the same direction was quickly pushing us toward a rocky outcropping. Ran to the bow and quickly deployed the anchor....ran out 250 feet of chain and fortunately that put the brakes on our movement.....a hundred feet from disaster. Another thirty seconds with any of those attempts and we would be calling the 'salvage guys'. Yachting is so much fun!
Well, the wind and rain disappeared as quickly as it came and an hour later the blue sky's opened up and the wind was down to fifteen. The gear shifter has a knob that you can pull out to get throttle with out going into gear and somehow it was out....still a mystery. Murphy's law .....bad things always come in twos. The mooring pennant was new but some idiot shackled the stainless chain to an old piece of rope that came from an old pennant instead of the chain that goes through a one ton block of cement. The old rope broke under the pressure of Marnie's 38 tons pulling in that fresh breeze......
Just another day surviving in paradise.
We are now enroute to Spanish Wells where we'll fuel, shop for groceries and head north back to the barn. It's been a fun winter and now the usual question.....what next? Well there isn't an answer so don't bother asking.
W & Z


30 April 2016 | Bahamas

Ahoy from George Town, Exuma. Marnie departed Marina Hemingway, Havana with slightly adverse weather conditions however over the first twenty four hours things improved considerably and we ended up having a pleasant two and one half day sail up to Staniel Cay. Just as we were leaving Havana we were joined by a pod of about a hundred dolphin frolicking on our bow wave. a going away party for Marnie.
We thought we would be able to clear customs there but got that wrong and so first thing in the morning continued on to George Town. We had planed to get there a couple of weeks later any way for the Family Island Regatta so settled in and enjoyed the show. Sister Tricia decided to drop in with us for a week on the spur of the moment which worked out great. We had fun visiting some of the old haunts around town and walking the beach on Stocking Island. Unfortunately the day she left was the beginning of regatta so she missed all the racing. Zara and I have enjoyed seeing all the Bahamian fishing smacks rigged for racing out on the beautiful azure waters of Elizabeth Harbor. Friends from Bottle Cay surprised us by showing up aboard their beautiful motor vessel Walrus along with other yachties whose paths we had crossed earlier in the season so we have had as much social interaction as desired. Zara was interested in crewing on one of the race boats and ended up on ‘Dream Girl’, a ‘C’ class with skipper David and an all girl crew. They had a blast and it was a good opportunity for Zara to learn something about dingy sailing. I had been trying to get some goat meat for several days to cook up a feast to no avail. Every day I went to pick up my goat only to be told come by tomorrow, my cousin will bring it or it rained so the guy that was going to butcher it didn’t......well to our delight Marcus’s son David flew in for a few days with wife Karina and brother and they had been bow hunting down island......they brought a fresh butchered kid. Zara and I were invited to be guest chef’s aboard Walrus so with a little help in the galley from just about every one, we cooked up a scrumptious epicurean delight. We sat around the table on the fantail of Walrus, nine in all, and enjoyed mass consumption.
Our next destination is Conception Island Land and Sea Park, a beautiful treasure where you anchor off of a crescent beach in crystal clear water and sit in awe of the natural beauty. There is an inlet that leads to a large shallow bay where sea turtles breed and where you can sit and watch them swimming right next to the dingy. There is also a quite extensive reef system that is fun to dive on.....no spear fishing allowed though so we’ll have to catch a mahi on the way there if were going to keep up with our fresh seafood diet. How lucky we are to be able to enjoy these wonders. Wish all of you were here!


03 April 2016
AHOY FROM CUBA! We were excited to make landfall in Cuba and had a terrific sail down broad reaching on a starboard tack with fifteen to twenty five knots all the way to Marina Hemingway. The marina isn’t actually a marina as one would usually think of one but a series of canals cut into the landscape with a concrete bulkhead that is a bit rough ......but I’ve seen worse in NYC. In between the canals is a hotel with swimming pool, bar etc where we typically cool off at the end of the day. The Immigrations, Customs, Heath officials and marina hands were all welcoming and very friendly. Only the Agriculture inspector asked for a tip and he seemed a little embarrassed about it....but not to embarrassed to take a five spot. There is a fellow that walks by every morning to pick up your trash and the Doctor/Health Inspector walks around every few days to ask how every one is feeling. We have power at the dock but no water. There is water around but for us it is 100 meters away so borrowing hoses is the only way to have access. Not really a problem, only a slight inconvenience.

Since arriving we have taken many rides into Old Town Havana, mostly in American cars from the 60‘s exploring, enjoying the architecture and trying to find something decent to eat. There is a shortage of just about everything here with the exception of tobacco products and rum. All the bath rooms have attendants keeping them clean and offering a couple of sheets of paper to those who have spare change. Yes, even toilet paper is in short supply. Old Town is charming and filled with Spanish architecture, squares and cathedrals ....and hordes of tourist. The Cubans seem to have embraced tourism in a big way however either they haven’t quite figured out how to accommodate the tourist or there isn’t the infrastructure to do so....probably a little of both. There are two languages spoken here, Spanish and a little Russian. Communicating in English is nearly impossible....very few know a handful of words. An example of this might be the woman who approached me and rattled off something of which I understood nothing. She then looked at me curiously and said... copulation? That may be the oldest but one of the best professions is cab driver and of course they drive 60 year old American vehicles equipped with every sort of engine imaginable in order to keep them going. When you can’t get access to Detroit you have to use your imagination. There are also a fair amount of cars left over from the Soviet Union days. The average wage is around $15.00 per month, unless your a taxi driver or have found some other way to get money from the tourism trade. We bought a couple of nice color pencil drawings from a street artist for $30 that were a great deal.....and a good deal for him too. There are a few street beggars but most people at least have something to offer you for your money and only about 5% have figured out how to be obnoxious about it.

We have a couple of friends here from the USA and Canada that I met during my circumnavigation and have met a nice couple from Portugal and others from the USA. Last week George S. Patton's yacht ‘When and If’ designed by John Alden was here and ‘Hound’, a lovely Sparkman and Stevens Yacht from Maine who I met 22 years ago in Isla Margarita, Venezuela and the Jowell White Ketch ‘Whitehawk’, a big brother to Ticonderoga. Three awesome yachts. It was interesting to hear from the captain on ‘When and If’ that he had previously been running ‘Malabar X’, another classic that Hugh and I sailed for 15 years.

We took a side trip with four other cruisers out to Vinales, a smaller town two and one half hours from Havana. The guide books made the town sound interesting but once we arrived there was nothing of interest. We hired a cab driver for the day and although we requested to be taken out into the surrounding mountains his cab only seemed to go where tourist buses went and we ended up not getting much satisfaction. It wasn’t a misunderstanding as we had three fluent Spanish speakers on board. As I mentioned, the Cubans haven’t really figured out what to do with tourist yet....it’s all to new...but they are trying and they are very nice about it and welcome you with each breath.


30 March 2016 | cuba

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE since we have been anywhere with an internet connection that was strong enough to update this blog but now I hope we are connected enough to upload some photos. I cant really remember where I left off but I think it was Hatchet Bay after we experienced the worst passage you can imagine from Virginia to the Bahamas. It took a while to get over the post traumatic trip from Hell but it was a relief to get back under weigh once we finally got things back together. The delivery crew flew off from Spanish Wells so Zara and I started getting used to handling the boat and life aboard together. When Zara isn’t studying the weather, English names for boat parts, doing boat chores, she is busy in the galley with me learning how to cook. Her favorites that she has now mastered are pancakes, a Sunday morning tradition, and southern style biscuits. In addition she is a great sou chef and all round galley slave, Our first stop after Spanish Wells, described as white people in golf carts by Zara, was Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. There we visited Hugh and enjoyed being anchored out and swinging free on the hook. Hugh has a cocktail party at his house every Tuesdays known locally as “Hughsdays”. There are a few neighbors and regulars and some surfer dudes passing through that make up an eclectic mix of outcast...always interesting conversation and plenty of rum flowing. Around nine the party moves down the road a piece to the Sugar Apple where many of the folks at Hugh's bring out their instruments and there is a jam session. Hugh’s house (Cliff House) is hanging on a 40 foot high cliff overlooking the beach and surf break with views that let you know your alive. On a stormy day you can feel the ground under you shake with the breaking seas. He has a boat under construction in his wood shop slated to be finished in island time. There is a small farm called EIO ( Eleuthera Island Organics ) where we stocked up on fresh veggies and herbs every few days and in Hatchet Bay there is Alice Town where one can get groceries....best on Friday morning because the mail boat comes in on Thursday afternoon. It is all very laid back and so a good place to get in the cruising mode.
After a few “Hughdays” we thought we would sail over to Rock Sound located at the other end of the island and from there pop down to Cape Eleuthera to fuel up before visiting Bottle Cay where friends are developing their homestead.

BOTTLE CAY is a 10 acre island owned by Bahamian friends Marcus & Jeni who are slowly developing a homestead there. Every thing that they do is with care and of good taste. Their first project was to build a large dock to accommodate their motor yacht, the ‘Walrus’. From there they built a shop building and restored an old building that was already there....soon to be the kitchen house. Next was the ramp so that they could park their amphibious plane. While we were there they were building a bath house. Everything is built to withstand the most serious hurricane. The framing for the bath house are six by six salt treated timber, the walls two by six boards all fastened by stainless steel screws and bolts. You won’t find any shoddy construction on Bottle Cay.
The approach to Bottle Cay is not complicated if you have the GPS way point provided at the beginning of an uncharted channel into the anchorage but because it is uncharted and surrounded by reefs and other hazards only invited guest are there. We were only planing to visit for a few days but days turned into a couple of weeks. Most of the time we had the anchorage to our selves. Marcus and Jeni have a son Jaxon who is 7 and so they have Monty, a teacher living on his boat there to school Jaxon. Every morning at 0830 Monty rides over to the Walrus in his dingy and picks up Jaxon for school on board his boat. That is just how I remember school when I was a kid! There is a small crew of carpenters that come from Cape Eleuthera daily at 0730 to keep the projects going. There is no power or water except that provided by the Walrus. Eventually there will be a solar system and cisterns with a back up diesel generator. They have cut foot paths through the coconut palms around the island so that you can wander along the cost line enjoying the peaceful views or inland and hang your hammock between a couple of palm trees.
Bottle cay is a little paradise. Our days were spent doing boat chores, fishing, diving and spear fishing and evenings joining Marcus & Jeni on shore around a fire pit where we cooked up the days bounty. After a while we needed a break from all that fun so pitched in and helped build the small bath house under the palm trees. That was fun too! One night we were stoking the fire getting ready for another feast of lobster and grouper under a canopy of stars and coconut palms sipping gin and coconut water when Marcus pretty much summed up the feeling.....” It doesn’t get any better than this, he says, and if it does, I’m not sure I want to know about it” Amen!
One day Zara and I went out for a sail and troll to see if we could hook up a Mahi but we didn’t have any luck with the fishing. The next time we were moving our anchor there was no transmission from the engine to the propeller. As it turned out we had a broken dampener plate which had to come from the states. We were stuck in paridise. We put in our order with another friend who brought the plate from Ft Lauderdale and then sent it by yet another cruising boat to us at Bottle Cay. We then had a mechanic fly in from Freeport to do the dirty work. This mechanical issue set us back, or gave us a good reason to stay, however you want to look at it, another two weeks. In all we stayed at Bottle Cay for six weeks and once we were up and running again we didn’t really feel rushed it make our departure. Just before we got the boat running again four more friends of Marcus and Jeni showed up with their crews in big motor yachts of various styles making the anchorage feel more like a boat show after getting used to the solitude we had before. It was a fun change of pace for a few days with dinner parties and new stories but even with all the fancy yachts and chefs the cuisine we had been enjoying over open fires under a canopy of stars for the past several weeks was never topped. It is difficult to leave paradise so we looked for some motivation. The impetus for our departure was the Rolling Stones concert in Havana.We took off from Bottle Cay and crossed the Exuma Sound, The Tongue of the Ocean, South Andros banks, sailed up the Old Bahama Channel and headed for Havana and Marina Hemingway. It was a nice four day broad reach with 20-30 knot winds at our back. We only used the motor for the last couple of hours.

THE STONES ROCKED to a huge crowd. We didn’t go early as many did so we could only enjoy the video screens and audio set up and barely see the stage. Mick and company looked about two inches tall from our prospective. Were happy to have been there though...the first rock concert in Cuba since the Castro’s took charge....and given free by the Rolling Stones! What can I say. We intend to be here in Cuba for a while....how long is a while.....I have no idea. I’ll give another report once we have the flavor of the place.
Take care,

a walk on bottle cay

25 March 2016

hey there!

25 March 2016
Vessel Name: Marnie
Marnie's Photos - Main
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Created 1 April 2016
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Created 1 April 2016
here are a few pics of Bottle Cay…a bit mixed up but the best I can do with the time it takes
30 Photos
Created 1 April 2016
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Created 4 January 2016