Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dec. 20-28 John put me on the small plane to Nassau and when I got to the airport there, I learned my flight had been canceled! They booked me on the same flight the next day and arranged for my reservation at a nearby hotel for the night. Eventually, I arrived at my mom’s house and all went well from there. John had various adventures with wind and boats anchored too close for comfort. But finally we were reunited on Dec. 28th in the afternoon.

Dec. 29 It was overcast so we just did chores, read and played cards. John was able to read his mail that I had brought with me. I decided to finally paint a picture. I can’t draw but I can do dot painting with magic markers.

Dec. 30 Wednesday is mailboat day which means the mailboat brings food to all of the surrounding towns. Sampson Cay Marina store has the best selection so that was where we took the dinghy. It was windy and the return trip was a bit wet but that is part of the “cruising life”. After lunch, I painted another painting. I am slowly getting the hang of it. We also took a late swim by Thunderball Grotto and

Dec. 31 There was to be a regatta off Staniel Cay of small Bahamian sailboats, so we got in the dinghy and went out and watched them getting ready and then racing. There were three small ones and one special larger one. They start with their sails down and anchored by the starting line. At the sound of a whistle, they all pull up their anchors and sails and race down the course. Our favorite blue boat won! When we went in to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for lunch, it was a happening place with music and many people in T shirts supporting the race. When we got back to the boat, we realized we were just about aground! Because of the full moon, the tides were bigger than usual. We had to raise the anchor and move to another place which took several tries because we are in a tricky area with many places with no sand to get the anchor into and shallows here and there. We need to be in this area because another storm is coming tomorrow and we will be more protected back here behind Thunderball Grotto island. We plane to break out the champagne later for the New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dec. 11-14 For the next few days, it was time to clean and polish the boat and do general chores. It is nice not having to deal with teak decks and trim. The stainless steel rails all around the boat are easy to polish. When I was at Home Depot in Ft. Lauderdale, I picked up a cherry tomato, parsley, and cilantro plant with soil and a planter. This now was out on the aft deck and slowly getting used to the Bahamas weather. It is nice growing something at sea. I still have my small Maine garden planter going but the only thing alive is the small pine tree. I hope to keep that alive till next summer. We also went in to Staniel Cay to do emails and get reaquainted with the locals and John went to Batelco to see why our Bahamas cell wasn’t working. Turns out the phone was old technology and they hadn’t bothered to tell our friend, Joe. John bought a new phone and we were able to call the family again. The weather was delightful and swimming was the order of every day. We helped our new friends by filling their boat’s water tanks, had them to dinner and got a wonderful homemade bread in return. What a deal! Fresh water down here costs 30-50 cents a gallon.

Dec. 15 Over the last few years when we have been down here, we have worked with an American couple who have an afterschool program at Black point just south of here. They live in Florida when they are not “on island”. When we were in Ft. Lauderdale, they came over and gave us 10 big boxes of school supplies to take to Black Point for them. It was a our pleasure to be a cargo ship for them. Today was drop off day so we motored down to Black Point, anchored, and transfered everything into the dinghy. The wife of the minister, who helps the children too, was there to greet us and receive the boxes. we spent the rest of the day at Lorraine’s Cafe doing emails, having lunch and admiring her happy new 4 month old baby, Joshua. She is 43 and has grand children so this one was a complete surprise! As we headed back north to the Staniel Cay area, we decided to go and anchor behind Thunderball Grotto island because it would give us protection from an upcoming storm. We found a nice deep sandy spot to drop the anchor out of the wild currents that swirl in that area behind the islands.

Dec.16-18 Luckily, we were the first to get into position because, over the next several days, other boats got the same idea. It was still calm and sunny so we could swim as long as it was slack tide. One day, we took the dinghy to nearby Sampson Cay to see what they had in their little grocery store. The big excitement was learning we could get WIFI set up on the boat so we could do emails and go on the internet without having to go ashore and pay $10 a pop. What a big difference a few years makes. Being able to get weather information anytime was a big plus too. More chores were done like cleaning up John’s deck and filing his papers, adding new movies to our movie list, writing Xmas cards, working on menus for the various guests coming later in the season. Late in the evening on the 18th, the storm started to pick up so we decided to take turns staying up during the night to make sure the anchor was holding, no one was going to hit us or vice versa. The wind was good and strong but not what had been forcast. We did get a few rain squalls but they were short. The sailboat next to us bounced all night and we were so glad to be on our heavy trawler.

Dec. 19 The storm continued most of the day but gradually got better because the wind went around more to the NW where we were more protected. I packed for my trip to Greenwich where i will be with my mom for xmas. John will stay put and guard Windermere. I return on Dec. 28...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dec. 5-6 After several weeks at the marina and a Thanksgiving trip north, we were ready to brave the New River again and head for the Bahamas. Our helper, captain Mike Richards, came with us as we worked our way out of our tight slip and down the river. John was a bundle of nerves but managed to get us through the gauntlet of 7 bridges and one tourist paddlewheel coming up river. We dropped the captain off and headed out of Ft. Lauderdale harbor passing by the new gigantic cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas! The passage over to the Bahamas is about 55nm and crosses the Gulf Stream. Usually, one has to proceed SE at quite an angle to make up for he northward flow of the stream. We did not feel much sideways current and were able to just about stay on our rhumbline to a spot called Great Isaac Light. Reaching the Light and the Bahama Banks in the dark is a little surreal because the depth goes from thousands of feet to about 25 ft in a very short time. The Bank is big and it took us about 7 hours to cross. The average depth was 15ft! We arrived at Chub Cay alittle early, as we needed light to see our way into the anchorage area, so I circled for awhile. At sunrise, we went in and anchored just off the channel in clear turquoise water. We had arrived! During the day, we went into the marina and cleared in though customs and then went out and anchored again for the night. By 8pm, we were sound asleep.

Dec. 7 It was a gloriously sunny day with very little wind and calm seas. We got up at 6am and left for the Exuma Cays. The first leg of our trip took us past the western end of New Providence Island (30nm away) where Nassau is located. Once again, we were in thousands of feet of water. As we rounded the island, we were again on another shallow bank called Exuma Bank. The north/south border of the Bank is the Exuma island chain. This is the area we will cruise in during the winter. Our first destination was Norman’s Cay (48nm away) which is about the third island down the chain where cruisers stop. It is possible to anchor off the western side of the island but there are sandbars in may spots. We worked our way in as close as we could and ran into very shallow water and had to turn around and go back to deeper water and anchor (deeper being 11 ft). In the Bahamas, you have to “read the water” by its color to tell the depth, and makeup (sand, reef, grass on sand). After dinner and a few hands of cards, we collapsed into bed.

Dec. 8 We only went a short distance today because I wanted to check out Hawksbill Cay which we always rush past in our travels up and down the chain. It is in the Exumas Land & Sea Park which means it is a protected area so it stays nice. After anchoring off the beach, we took a much awaited swim in the wonderful water. After dinner, it was movie time and then bedtime.

Dec. 9 This was reconnaissance day for us. The main route down the Exuma chain, that everyone follows, we call highway 101. We needed to check out two anchorages along the chain that would give us protection from strong west winds. Checking out the first involved going out a cut between islands and then motoring along the ocean side of an island and coming back in another small cut into our protected area. Thank heaven we have electronic charts and we can put a course on them to follow through the maze of rocks and shallows! High tide was important and so was constantly watching the water color for changes. Our second spot involved skirting around the end of an island and then following channel to a deep spot that went behind another island protecting us from the right direction (west). We anchored but decided not to stay because we didn’t want to wait for high tide the next day to leave. Now, the tide was lower but the route was still possible and we followed our inbound trail to the safety of deeper water. Down highway 101 to our winter anchorage at Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay. Dinner and a good movie and to bed.

Dec. 10 Sunny and calm and time to take the dinghy down off the top deck for the winter. We only have a small crane so the process is not easy and we don’t have a “system” in place yet. Finally she was in the water and the larger 15 hp engine in place. The engine acted up but John was finally able to get it running but only at high revs. He took it out for a spin to try to clean out the carburetor but it died in the middle of the harbor. I saw him anchor there and called our neighbor sailboat on the VHF radio and asked for assistance which they agreed to readily. John was towed back to the boat and the other skipper offered to help with the engine later in the day. He and his wife came over and the two men worked on the engine while I got to know his nice wife. Finally, after they had done all they could, John said he wanted to try once again to just run the thing around to see if this time it would clean everything out and low and behold it worked! We invited our helpers to cocktails and had a pleasant evening on the aft deck sitting around our table in the evening breeze.