Tuesday, March 26, 2013

stilt house in Biscayne Bay

egret guarding a boat

feeding the tarpons

Kathy and John

ever hopeful pelican with tarpon

Joe and his new diet

white pelicans in the Ding Darling

John and White Angel's Trumpet

star fruit tree in the Edison garden

waves from the shoal to our left on Boca Grande Pass

March 19 John dropped me off so I could go to the market and then our air conditioning man came out to the boat and installed the needed parts. Later in the afternoon, at the high tide, we pulled up the anchor, went under the west Venetian Causeway bridge and headed down Biscayne Bay to anchor off Key Biscayne. This got us a jump on the next day’s trip down to Long Key. It was a beautiful, calm evening with a different view of Miami all lit up.

March 20 Another sunny calm day which made it perfect for a 70nm day down to Long Key. As we went out the Key Biscayne channel, we passed the stilt houses that have been there for years. We were planning to meet up with Joe and Kathy Ogden who were camping there in their RV. (We had them on the boat in Dec.) Once we had anchored out in the harbor and launched the tender, now we had to find a way to get ashore. There were no marinas on the island except on the far side which was where the wind was coming from the next day and not a good possibility. We saw a man coming in to the bay in a small fishing boat so I said “follow that boat”. He went through a channel into the mangroves and kept going and going and I had to “drop bread crumbs” as we wound our way through the canals and houses to where he finally stopped. We asked if he knew somewhere for us to tie up our tender the next day and he said his neighbor was away but would probably let us use his dock. He called him for us and the man said yes. yeah! now we were set. Back out to the boat picking up the bread crumbs.

March 21 We used our new dock spot and were picked up by Joe and Kathy and some friends that were visiting them for a few days from Michigan. Joe drove us all up a few islands in the chain to a fun restaurant that had some docks where the tarpon hung out to be fed by the tourists. After lunch, we went out on the dock to watch this fun. Then we went to the campground to see their RV and hang out some more together. Finally, it was time to leave and we said our good byes, took the tender out to the boat, raised it, and decided to leave the harbor while the tide was high and go a few miles down the way. We ended up anchoring off the camp ground! (but very far out as the water was shallow). Joe flashed his lights so we could see where he was sitting in the line up ashore.

March 22 We were both eager to get going so we left around 6:30am on our passage to Sanibel. First, we had to go down to Marathon Key and go under a big bridge there and then we were able to head north. What was not expected was crab pots everywhere! we had to dodge them for most of the day all the way north till almost Marco Island! As it grew dark, they stopped, thank heaven. The conditions were wonderful and we made good time.

March 23 Around 3am, we anchored off the bridge to Sanibel island in a spot we hoped would be out of the way. After some sleep, we had breakfast and called a friend (Anne Kimball) of ours from Mystic who now lived down there in a retirement place called Shell Point near Ft. Meyers. She answered and we arranged to meet her in the nearby marina after lunch. The tender was launched and we went in and were happy to learn we could leave the tender there. As we were eating our lunch, the dock master came in and said the Coast Guard was calling Windermere on the radio. He knew that was our boat and found us. We hopped in the tender and went out to ask them where they needed us to move. They told us and we did so and went back to the marina and met Anne. She gave us a wonderful driving tour of Sanibel, Captiva, and the Ding Darling nature preserve. She then took us to her house for drinks so that we could see her husband, Dick. Then back to the boat for the evening. 

March24 Anne and Dick picked us up at the Sanibel marina and took us to lunch at a place in Ft. Meyers but near their house. We all had a delicious lunch and good conversation. She took Dick home for a nap and then drove us to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford museum in Ft. Meyers. The museum consists of both their houses and gardens and Edison’s botanical lab. We enjoyed the whole thing. She then took us back to the boat and we said our good byes.

March 25 The wind was blowing but we decided to move up the coast from Sanibel to Boca Grande anyway. Well, the seas over here on the Gulf are different from what we are used to on the eastern side of Florida. It is shallow so the seas are choppy, no big swells. With the wind basically on the nose, we “hobby horsed” our way up the chain of barrier islands. Not comfortable and we had to rev up the engine to get the power to push through the chop. To make things more “interesting”, there were more crab pots almost the whole way. The channel leading into Charlotte harbor is wide and deep but on the north/left going in side of the channel is a shoal. There were breaking waves on it just to our left and the wind was also coming now from our left so we rocked and rolled for the 20 mins it took to get in to more protected waters. We were very glad to have that experience over! We anchored off the inside of Boca Grande island where there wasn’t any channel to stay out of-yeah. 

March 26 We just sat on the boat and vegetated.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

John and a lot of baby conchs

Marcy with her treasures, some of the dead conchs

dinner at SCYC with both girls

lunch with Exodus and One Love

Wendy and Robin off Over Yonder Cay

dinner on Steadfast with One Love

John and Robin hamming for the camera

what is left of the pole and light at NW Channel light

Feb. 23 Judy who owns the northern half of Little Majors island now has a wonderful young American caretaker named Gage Parrot. We invited him, with a visiting friend, for dinner. His father was a good, life long, sailor and fellow CCA member. He also owned a salvage company that he eventually sold to an other bigger one before he died last year. All this to lead up to our evening entertainment! Gage spent last summer in Italy working on the salvage of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that hit a rock off of an island  in western Italy. He had plans of the operation and lots of photos of his time there. He is in charge of local logistics for the salvage so he had to drive all over Italy to the various companies involved. It was a very interesting evening to say the least!

Feb. 24 Our friend Marcy Porter joined us on Windermere. It was her first trip to the Exumas and we were pleased to be able to show her our little part of the world. For the next several days, we took her around in the dinghy, had cocktails on Exodus, and let her try swimming in Thunderball Grotto. 

Feb. 26 There was a storm coming in a few days and John felt we should move between the Majors (islands) so we gave Marcy a thrill and took her through the small cut by Fowl Cay. This cut we have done before but the wind had piped up, the current was running with us, and it is a narrow cut. After you go through, there is a curve that makes a 90 degree turn to the right. The current took us and made the stern fish tail a bit in the curve but John steered her well and we made it. Then we anchored in a pretty good spot and it held, which is not always the case. because the bottom is hard sand over soft. It is hard to get the anchor to go through the hard and to hold in the softer stuff. Next, it was Exodus’s turn to try the cut. I took John over in our dinghy and put him on board Exodus. They had never done the cut and Arnie, 80 years old, needed some help. I waited around in the dinghy and watched the process which was nerve wracking as the current was stronger. John offered advice and support and they made it too and anchored near to us. 

Feb. 28 This was double bunking day. Our friend, Robin, arrived in the afternoon and Marcy wasn’t leaving till the next morning. They had met each other in Mystic so they were fine with sharing a bathroom. We all wrapped up in warm clothes and went to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a good dinner.

March 1 After Marcy left, our friends Rosemary and Buzz on Steadfast arrived and invited us for dinner. Another couple, Jeff and Karen who were on One Love, joined us for a jolly dinner. 

March 2 Late in the morning, it started to rain and the wind picked up. At this moment, our friends on Steadfast decided to move to the marina at Compass Cay, and go through the cut (for the first time). They asked John to lead them through in the dinghy. He got soaking wet but was glad to help friends. As the day progressed, so did the wind increase. The tidal current runs through the cut between the islands and we all swing 180 degrees with it twice a day. That night, with the wind blowing down the cut at 25 knots, and the current coming up the cut, some of us didn’t turn all the way around. Boats were facing all different directions depending on how much “undercarriage” they had. We have three keels so we are very governed by current and less by wind. Several of the boats got too close to each other and had to move and re anchor in the dark. John stayed up for a while to watch what was happening but Robin and I went right to sleep. Our anchor had been holding well since Tuesday and continued to do his work!

March 3 What do you do when it is too cold out to swim or go to the beach? Have a Sunday luncheon. I made some good hearty soup and we invited Exodus and Jeff and Karen to join us. Everyone brought something and we had a warm and cozy afternoon.

March 4-6 The weather continued to be cold for the Bahamas. Every day, Robin would emerge from her room in one glorious bathing suit after another with matching cover up only to return to change into my extra sweats and a sweater! We did manage to have a fun time but not in the water. Luckily Robin had not seen the sights in our area s she made a good tourist. Every day the wind was coming from a different direction so we had to figure out where we could go to play. Sometimes it was a small beach away from the wind and sometimes a long lunch at Taste & Sea with a short walk on Staniel afterwards. One day it was a dinghy ride to Pipe Creek with lunch at Sampson Cay and some shopping. Our friends from Steadfast were also there by chance so we joined them. 

March 7 We had a slow relaxing morning while Robin packed. Then, we loaded up the dinghy and went to lunch at SCYC before Robin left in the pm. Later, when the tide was high, John drove the boat back through the Fowl Cay cut so we could anchor in Big Majors Spot for the night. Gage came by so we could give him our tomato plants and to have a good by drink. Faring happened by too and they were very interested to meet Gage. They are both engineers and were able to talk the same language with Gage about the salvage project. 

March 8 Time to get underway and head for Miami. We were leaving earlier than usual but we had a generator that needed fixing in the States. This leg of the trip took us up the Exuma chain as far a Highborne Cay where we anchored off the small marina and resort for the night. Our friends, Jeff and Karen, were anchored just north of us so we conspired with them to go to dinner. The restaurant, Xumas, was open air and quiet with a great view of the sunset. The food and service were superb! The company as well. It was so nice to not see mac and cheese, conch, and fried grouper on the menu.

March 9 This was a long day 79 nms to Chub Cay which is north and west of New Providence island where Nassau is located. The weather was fine and the shallow water on the Exuma bank a beautiful color of turquoise. The water north of Nassau is deep and dark blue and there were swells but well spaced which helped our ride. We anchored in our usual spot just off the channel and had dinner. 

March 10 After breakfast, we raised the anchor and headed for the NW Channel and the Bahamas bank. Along the way, We passed a small sailboat that John recognized from Big Majors with a New Zealander single handing her. He was headed overnight to Ft. Lauderdale. Of course the cameras came out (we both had the same kind of camera!) and we took pictures of each other. After the last hurricane rolled through, there wasn't much left of the NW Channel light pole (see photo). Our trip went well till about 30 miles from Miami when we hit the main part of the Gulf Stream. The wind was at 15-20kts from the east blowing us towards Miami but the current was north so the seas were 4-6 and we rolled. Both of us stayed up and listened to show tunes and passed the time. It was slow going because of the current against us so it took longer. Around 4 am, we came in the Government Cut, followed by two cruise ships, and turned left to a new anchorage we had checked out beforehand in the fall by dinghy. Our anchor was slowly dragging but then held so we were able to go to sleep till morning. 

March 11 We had to go to our next anchorage at high tide which was 10 am so we got up and raised the anchor only to find out it was hooked on a big cable! luckily, we were able to slip it off by tipping the anchor. Now we knew why we held so well! We only had to wait for one bridge to open and then we were able to go along the north side of the Venetian causeway to our usual anchorage of the Sunset Marina. We will be here until we can get the generator fixed and decide what our next step is going to be.