Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant and Bar is a fixture in George Town.  The weather was horrible for taking a dinghy into town, so “Other Goose” (a Canadian sailboat) arranged a water taxi for the first 28 people.  We were among the first to sign up.  That is me facing you on the porch.  The Monday night Rake ‘n Scrape party is in full swing inside.

This spliced picture shows the band between sets.  The crowd is at the bar behind me, so I can get the band's picture.  Left to right that is a drum (with a burning Sterno can inside), an old saw and a stick, another drum, two guitars, and… well something else… my memory fails me due to alcohol induced dementia.  Anyway, they made music and people danced.

This is a sad picture.  George Town had a straw market under a large tree that shaded the market and the roads outside.  Several years ago the tree was badly hurt in a hurricane.  Then the night before this picture was taken, the straw market burned down and the tree was finished off.  The ladies who sell their crafts inside lost everything.  It was just a few days before The Family Island Regatta (think Super Bowl or World Series for racing native Bahamian sailboats) which brings huge crowds to town.  The ladies were wiped out.

Looking down the ocean side of Water Cay in the Jumentos you can see the sort of “beach” you don’t want your life raft to wash up on (and this is on a dead calm day at low tide).  Pretty isn’t it?

We found tons of shells on Water Cay.  Most we left behind, but I kept this Triton’s Trumpet shell.  It is about a foot long.

There are conch on the grass covered sea bottom in the Bahamas, and there have been conch here for a long time.  These are conch fossils in the sandstone rock at Flamingo Cay.

There is a small airplane wrecked in the shallow water off the beach at the north end of Flamingo Cay.  Someone dragged the remains of the nose up on the beach.  It must have been a bad day for the pilot.

We took our dinghy into this seawater filled cave and motored around inside.  The bright sunlight streaming through holes in the rock made it hard to take pictures, but there is a shell covered beach inside the huge cave.

With all their thorns these cactus flowers are pretty safe from being picked.

Bill cleaned six conch using the rusty remains of a washed up old refrigerator as a work table.  You can see the tools of the trade; a hammer and a screwdriver to put a hole in the beast, a knife to slip into the hole to first separate him from his shell and then to cut off the disgusting parts (as if the whole thing was not disgusting enough), and catfish pliers to remove his skin.  The white bit of meat with the fingernail like thing attached in the middle of the cutting board is the part to keep.  It is about the size of a chicken breast.

This osprey watched the conch cleaning with great interest.  If he had chosen to fight for the conch, he probably would have won.

I don’t know what this pink thing is.  It is the size and shape of a small Nerf football and is growing on a branch of a 4 ft tall underwater tree.  There is a slit opening in one side which is black inside and closes when the thing is touched.  I can’t find it in any of my books.  We saw several.

It is pretty down there.

A juvenile French angel fish was swimming around this coral reef near Crab Cay in Elizabeth Harbour maybe 150 ft from our boat.  He was only one of a lot of spectacular fish there including one overly curious barracuda that caused us to cut our visit short.

It was my bath time and this dolphin was circling the boat.  As you can see I can’t quite get up my nerve to join a 300 lb wild animal in the water.  But, after a while I did.

This is what he looked like underwater.  And, I lived to tell the tale.

Hello from rainy George Town, Exuma.  It has been raining for the last three days and at times the wind has howled.  We had a cold front come down here from the north, pass south, come back as a warm front, morph into a trough, and shift back to the north.  It may yet become the first tropical storm of the year.  The short story is… it has rained.  While living on Irish Eyes we are very dependent on the weather.  The weather helps (?) us make all our travel decisions, and it helps plan all our activities.  It is sunny today, but we could still have one last rain storm before the day is over.

We had just arrived in George Town when I last wrote.  We spent our time here enjoying the beaches and the amenities offered by a relatively large (pop. 1,000) town.  Several times Bill made the mile and a half dinghy trip from our anchorage at Sand Dollar Beach into town for fuel, groceries, and water.  The wind was fairly strong, so he always came back a little wet.  One day I went along to do the laundry.  Big mistake.  I came back from the trip soaking, absolutely soaking wet.  I stood up and the water drained by the gallon from my clothes.  Thankfully the laundry was still dry.  It was sealed in a dry bag which was itself inside a tightly tied plastic trash bag.  If the clean and dry laundry had gotten wet, I would have cried for a week.

The impromptu social life in George Town was lots of fun.  We took part in several happy hours, ate a few restaurant meals, went with a group of 25 or so to a Rake ‘n Scrape night at Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant, and walked the nearby beaches with our anchorage neighbors.  We were having fun, and the Family Island Regatta was set to begin, but the weather was right, and we wanted to go farther south to the Jumentos Cays.
We had never been to the Jumentos Cays which curve south from George Town toward Cuba.  In previous years either weather or time kept us from going.  This year the weather forecast was favorable, and we had the time.  We pulled up our anchor early in the morning on Saturday, April 18 and set off on our journey south.  There were two ways for us to go to the Jumentos.  The short way was through Hog Cay Cut, but the low tide depth was 0.9m, and when we passed by it was just before low tide.   With our 1.5m draft we could not go that way.  An unlucky sailboat had tried.  Looking south into the cut we could see him aground in the middle of the cut listing hard over to one side.  We figured he would be floating again in 5 or 6 hours.  The other, and longer, way was to continue sailing east to Long Island and return west through the Comer Channel.  We continued on.

We dropped our anchor in Thompson Bay, Long Island in the late afternoon and spent the night.  Early the next morning we were underway again.  We had good wind and sailed all the way to Water Cay. Along the way looking north through the Hog Cay Cut, we could see that the sailboat had left.
The Jumentos north of Ragged Island are undeveloped; no hotels, no houses.  The cays are just bits of rock and sand in the middle of beautiful clear blue water.  When we got to Water Cay, four sailboats and three commercial fishing boats were anchored off the western side of the island.  That was quite a difference from the 175 boats anchored in George Town.  In the morning three of the sailboats left.  Nice.

Over the next few days Bill and I explored the west side Water Cay by dinghy and walked on the west side beaches.  We found lots of shells; more in two hours than in the previous two months.  Bill found a metal fishing float that he kept along with lots of plastic junk that he left behind.  One afternoon we hiked to the top of the southernmost of the three Water Cay hills and looked down at the rocky eastern shore.   The water was clear, we could see the coral reefs along the shore, and the waves pounded hard against the shore sending fountains of spray into the air.  On our side of the cay the water was calm, clear and warm, so we did our swimming there.

After three nights at Water Cay and after walking all the beaches, we headed south to Flamingo Cay.  The wind was very light, so we first motored, then tried to sail, and finally motorsailed to anchor off what the chart called “Two Palm Beach”.  It is actually a one palm beach with only the stump of the second palm tree remaining.  We were the only boat there.

It was hot with very little wind, and we put up our full sun awnings.  We took the dinghy to all the beautiful beaches picking up shells and marveling at all the harvested conch shells.  The fishermen clean their conch on the beaches and leave the shells behind.  There were piles and piles of the empty shells on every beach.  The conch had obviously been here long before the fishermen.  The rocks at the north end of the beach were filled with conch fossils.

Bill found a trail that went from our Two Palm Beach to the long beach on the north end of the cay where there was a wrecked airplane.  The trail had sharp pointy rocks (not my favorite to walk on) as well as Prickly Pear cacti.  There were several salt water ponds in depressions in the limestone rock that were full of bright red crayfish.  It was an interesting walk, but it was hot in the blazing sun.

On one of our dinghy outings we found five keeper size conch, and Bill later found another one while wading off the beach.  Bill took them ashore and cleaned them all there.  At the time we had a three foot Remora attached to the bottom of the boat and two barracuda hanging around.  If he had cleaned the conch on Irish Eyes, he would probably have attracted even more unwelcome fish to interfere with my swimming.  I fixed conch chowder, cracked conch, and conch salad.  We had three suppers from our six conch.  Bill said he “caught” the conch.  I beg to differ.  How can you “catch” a conch?  They don’t run away, bite, scratch, or anything like that.  He just picked them up.  It’s not very dramatic to watch.  The worst they can do is drip slime.  They are just big snails.

We spent eight days at Water and Flamingo Cays before we got a forecast of a late season cold front coming our way.  That would bring strong winds from the west and thunderstorms.  With no nearby anchorages with all around protection, we needed to get back to George Town for the expected bad weather.  We went north to Water Cay, spent the night there, and headed to George Town.
We made the trip from Water Cay to George Town in one day -- one long 12 hour day.  Once again we took the longer Comer Channel route to avoid low tide in Hog Cay Cut.  When we entered Elizabeth Harbour at George Town the sun was setting, the wind was coming from the west, and 40 kt squalls and thunderstorms were in the forecast.  Crab Cay on the southwestern side of the harbor in Georgetown, looked like a place with good protection from the west wind.  And even better, it would save us the long trip up the harbor.  The east side of Crab Cay is not one of the popular anchorages in Georgetown.  It does not even have an anchor symbol on the chart.  We were all alone.  When the thunderstorms did come through with lots of wind and rain, we did not have to worry about any other boats hitting us.  It actually worked out very well.

We stayed at Crab Cay for a couple of days until the wind changed to the northeast and then moved over to Sand Dollar Beach where the windy and rainy weather continued until today.

Our plan is to leave here in the morning and head north.  It will take us a few weeks to meander up the islands to the Abacos.  We will then wait for good weather to cross over to the USA.

Fair winds to you all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

James and Sandra Little came to visit us in the Bahamas this year.  You can tell they are sailors; they haven’t much luggage.  You can tell they are friends; half of what they are carrying is things we asked them to bring (like a new outboard propeller).

Grilled lobster tail for dinner... freshly caught with melted butter waiting.  My 
napkin is already in my lap.

Here is a short movie of the blow hole on the beach at Black Point.  The water shoots 20 or more feet into the air.  The sad part is that the plastic trash in the ocean also shoots up into the air and lands on the rough rock where it is trapped.  You can see it scattered around the blow hole.

Sandra may look a bit tentative petting this pig, but they eventually became best buddies.  It is just what you always wanted to do on your vacation; fly 1500 miles to pet a pig.  From what we saw that day, there will shortly be even more pigs.

Bill found this Chinese fishing float on the rocky shore of Big Galliot Cay.  It was too big to fit in any of the boat’s lockers, so he let it go.  We watched it drift away from the boat toward the horizon.

This is the inside of a cave on Big Farmers Cay.  I would not go in, so Bill took this picture.

The yacht ‘Serque’ dragged its anchor and wound up on the same beach were we fed the pigs just a few days before.  I’d bet the owner had a frank discussion with the captain.

This a the view from a hilltop on Stocking Island looking over the anchored boats at Sand Dollar Beach in George Town.  We are out there.

Irish Eyes at anchor with a riding sail up, an anchor ball displayed, and both a Bahamian courtesy flag and American flag flying.

Hello from sunny and warm Sand Dollar Beach, George Town, Exuma, the Bahamas.

Bill and I have travelled a few miles and seen a lot since I last wrote.  On the morning of St. Patrick’s Day, we set sail for Black Point.  The wind was light, but we made the five mile journey by lunch time.  As we were lifting the dinghy’s outboard off the stern of ‘Irish Eyes’ and onto our dinghy, the pin holding together the block supporting the motor fell out into the sea.  The rope tangled and the outboard did not go swimming. Bill quickly put out a sounding weight to mark the spot so he could dive down and retrieve the pin.  Our friends Bill and Phyllis from motor vessel ‘Oh! My’ came over for a beer, and the retrieval dive had to wait.  We had not seen Bill and Phyllis since last year.  The afternoon was spent catching up.  The four of us decided to go to the St Patrick’s Day Happy Hour at Scorpio’s Restaurant.  Before going ashore Bill dove into the water to see if he could find the lost stainless steel pin.  He got it on the first try!  Amazing.  The thing was tiny, the size of a small broken piece of spaghetti, and was laying on the sand bottom among the grass and creature holes.  At Scorpio’s with Bill and Phyllis, Captain Bill had corned beef and cabbage, and I had conch.  We had green rum punches.  Lot of other boaters were there, and everyone had a good time.

The laundromat in Black Point has the best view of any laundromat in the Exumas if not the world.  I decided it was time to have clean clothes and sheets.  Back on ‘Irish Eyes’, Bill changed the engine oil and caught up on his boat chores.  At bedtime we discovered the holding tank for the toilet had leaked a bit under my bunk cushion (and our clean sheets). It took more than several paper towels to clean up the stinking mess. The next morning was spent finding and fixing the leak. The glue holding the level sensor in the tank had failed.  Fortunately, it was not a large leak, and we fixed it by smearing more glue over the spot.  It is always something on a boat!  Scorpio’s was again having Happy Hour that evening.  We needed a Happy Hour.  The holding tank leak was something we needed to forget.

Friday, we walked out to the blow hole and beaches on Black Point’s ocean-side shore.  We had been there before, but we had never seen the blow hole blowing.  This time we caught the tide and wind just right.  The blow was great, looking like something from Yellowstone.  The beaches produced a few good shells and a sea heart sea bean, making the trip quite worthwhile.

Sandra and James Little were due fly into Staniel Cay on Sunday, so back to Staniel Cay we went anchoring nearby in Big Majors Spot.

Early next morning we moved the boat from Big Majors Spot to a spot just off the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  The tide was high, and we were the only boat there.  Bill and I chose our place, dropped our anchor, and were all set.  For some reason a forty five foot motor boat, ‘Docs Aweigh’, decided our chosen place was a really a good one and anchored beside us only thirty seven yards away.  While that was a little too close for our liking, the wind was calm, so we were not overly worried.  Bill talked to the captain on 'Docs Aweigh', who apologized for anchoring too close and said he was just waiting to pick up crew.  We went about our chores without any real worries.

Sunday afternoon Bill and I went to the airport terminal, a gazebo, and met the Littles.  On the way back to Irish Eyes we stopped in the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a beer and conch fritters.  As we left I bought two lobster tails from a fisherman for supper.  When we got to ‘Irish Eyes’, ‘Docs Aweigh’ was still anchored near us.  It was still calm, so no problem.  We grilled our lobsters, ate, and all went to bed.

In the dark of early morning, Captain Bill woke up with a strange feeling of unease.  The wind had picked up and the current was flowing in the opposite direction to the wind.  On deck, in a more than excited voice, Bill called to me to come help him.  ‘Irish Eyes’ and ‘Docs Aweigh’ were swinging together, and a collision was imminent.  Although Bill tried to cushion the blow, the noise of our spare anchor striking the other boat was more than alarming.  That brought everyone else up on deck.  The two boats only hit that once, but they swung threateningly close several times, and with all four of us now on deck and working we were able to push them apart.  Fortunately, no more damage was done, and no one was hurt.  As soon as it was light, we pulled up our anchor and moved back to Big Majors Spot.  What an exciting welcome to the Bahamas for our guests!

While the Littles were with us, we fed the swimming pigs at Big Majors Spot, walked several beaches on different cays, swam a bit, found shells, took a long dinghy tour, re-visited Black Point, and (of course) talked a lot.  A cold front was to pass through the area on Friday night or early on Saturday.  The wind was going to clock all the way around from the southeast through the south and west before settling in the north.  The Littles were to leave on Sunday morning, so we needed to be near the Staniel Cay airport.  Bill and I decided the most protected spot near Staniel Cay was in the channel between Big Majors Spot Cay and Little Majors Spot Cay.  We left Black Point with a south wind and had a lovely downwind sail to our well protected anchorage.

The forecasted cold front came through at 3am.  The first gust of wind was a solid forty knots.  (I will never understand why this sort of thing always happens in the dark middle of the night.)  There was lightning, rain, and a constant thirty knot wind.  The only thing missing was thunder.  We watched the boats around us in the lightning flashes and turned on our VHF radio in case a nearby boat were to hail us, but nothing much happened where we were anchored.

On the other hand, over at Big Majors Spot things got interesting.  The boats there were completely exposed to the waves that the west wind had kicked up.  During the storm we could hear over our VHF radio the boats anchored at Big Majors Spot talking.  There were calls for some boats to take in anchor chain and others let out more anchor chain all to avoid boats dragging or striking one another.  Everyone there was asked to turn on their deck lights so their boats could be seen.  The 133 foot mega yacht, ‘Serque’, dragged its anchor and ran aground on Pig Beach.  Mercifully, it did not hit any of the other anchored boats.

In the morning after things had calmed down, the four of us got into the dinghy and went over to see what was up.  It was low tide and ‘Serque’ was resting on the beach with the pigs walking around the scene.  We wondered if the pigs got better food from the mega yacht than the eggplant skins they had gotten from us five days earlier.

After surveying the disaster from our dinghy we checked out several nearby pocket beaches before returning to Irish Eyes for lunch and a beer.  Later that day at high tide, we took the dinghy over to watch the salvage crew pull ‘Serque’ off the beach.  Overseas Salvage was doing the work.  They put floatation bags under the yacht and with three tugs pulling and a great deal of effort, they got Serque off the beach and safely anchored again.  The word we got was that the yacht’s propellers were damaged, but new ones would be on the way from Ft Lauderdale along with an engineer to fix everything.  It costs from $99,000 a week to charter ‘Serque’.  I guess they’ll have to work a couple of extra weeks this year to cover their unplanned expenses.

Sunday morning it was a cloudy, windy, and cool seventy degrees.  At 7am Bill, James. and Sandra left in the dinghy for the mile and a half trip to the Staniel Cay airport.  I did not go thinking that with fewer people in the dinghy everyone would have a drier ride.  The Littles flew out for home, and Bill came back to Irish Eyes only slightly wet.

It was time for us to head farther south.  Bill and I decided to work our way slowly to George Town.  We stopped again in Black Point, our third time there this year.  On the previous two times we had watched a police boat take things off a rather sad looking sailboat in the harbor. Finally, the police towed the boat out of the harbor and into a nearby creek.  After asking several of the locals, we found out that the owner of the boat had been arrested, we think on drug and weapons charges, and that the boat had been confiscated by the police.  We were told the owner had five illegal weapons on board and was planning a mass murder/suicide.  There are crazy people even here in paradise.

We left Black Point and anchored near Galliot Cut to be ready to leave for Georgetown first thing in the morning.  While at anchor, Bill gave me a haircut.  I am still surprised I let him.  Actually, I begged him to cut my hair.  It was a mess, but it is now (somewhat) better.

It was a pleasant 36 mile sail down to George Town.  Bill made a fishing lure out of an empty toothpaste tube by cutting off the seal at the bottom and slitting the walls into long narrow ribbons.  The leader went in through the open hole at the top and a big hook rested amongst the ribbons inside the tube.  It looked impressive in shiny red and silver.  We had one fish bite the lure, but the fish got off.  Oh well…  I didn’t want it anyway.  We arrived here in George Town at our favorite anchorage off Sand Dollar Beach in the late afternoon.  The trip was uneventful; nice wind and calm seas.

We have walked a few of the trails on Stocking Islands, looked for sand dollars, and generally enjoyed the scenery.  Saturday we joined a dinghy drift, a floating cocktail party in dinghies all tied together drifting along with the wind and current.  It was fun.  The sun set and the dinghies drifted almost all the way across the harbor to Georgetown proper before the party literally broke up and everyone returned to their boats.

I have been knitting furiously.  Bill has joined the Waterway Radio & Cruising Club and talks to other amateur radio operators on the HF radio.  He has busied himself working on our boat and has helped a couple of other boats with their problems.  Both of us have read a pile of books, but so far we have only looked at one of our DVD movies.  It seems odd to be so busy when we are busy doing nothing.

Remember Jimmy Buffet’s line, “We are the people our parents warned us about.”?  Yup, that’s us.

Jimmy Buffet sings....       (Bill remembers the Gardner McKay and the 'Tiki' from "Adventures in Paradise".)

Hope you all had a Happy Easter.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Miami Beach the sun sets across the bay behind the Miami skyline – sometimes it’s between buildings, sometimes behind a building.  It is always a show. (Find the airplane in the picture.)

Crossing the Great Bahama Bank between Bimini and New Providence, the sun went down and this light fog rose from the perfectly still water.  The sky and sea merged, and everything turned pink and light blue.

The chart names this little island near Norman’s Cay “One Tree Cay”.  It is.

I’m on the beach waving at you from below Camp Driftwood on Shroud Cay.

We bushwhacked across a stony hill to a seldom visited beach near the northern end of Shroud Cay.  Bill crawled back into this cave.  He said it was shady and cool inside.  I bet it had snakes.

This 8 foot tall contraption had washed up on the shore.  It was aluminum, all welded together, with the yellow hollow plastic things along the bottom.  It was firmly fixed in the sand.  Any idea what it is?

The interior of Shroud Cay is a morass of mangrove creeks and sand flats.  I think the African Queen is just around the corner.  We will wait here for the gin bottles to float by.

Greetings from Big Major’s Spot, Exuma, Bahamas.  I have not been a very good blogger.  Bill asked me tonight if I had given up on writing. We have not had good internet since we arrived in the Bahamas.  My old cell phone has a BTC SIM card that can access the internet if we have a cell phone signal.  Bill and I have been in the mostly uninhabited part of the Exumas.  There are two cell towers in the area.  One at Highbourne Cay and another about 50 miles south in Staniel Cay.  The part of the Exumas between the two towers is really pretty, but, it’s sort of remote. We like it there!  Big Major’s Spot, where we are now, is just over the hill from Staniel Cay with a 300 foot high antenna, so we now have internet.

When I last wrote we were waiting on a higher tide to go through Hell Gate in Georgia.  We made it through all the shallow parts in Georgia: Hell Gate, the Florida Passage, Creighton Narrows, the Little Mud River, and Jekyll Creek without a problem.  However, when we were motoring cross the Sapelo Sound we found a spot of 4’-6” water in a place where the chart said 16’.  Irish Eyes went hard aground on a falling tide. We needed 5’ to float.  It took us about 20 minutes to get off and into deeper water.  We raised our sails and ran the engine while I hung over the edge of the boat to get it to heel over to get the keel off the bottom.  I was not excited about hanging over the edge of the boat.  I was sure the water was very cold.  Thankfully, I did not fall overboard.

It was cold in Georgia and north Florida.  We spent two nights in St Augustine and wore our jackets anytime we were outside.  When we got to Vero Beach it was finally warmer.  It was nice not to have on long underwear and down filled coats.  Finally, on February 13 we arrived in South Beach, Miami Beach.

Our usual anchorage near Belle Isle was unusually crowded.  Bill spent a good bit of our first night sitting in the cockpit watching the closely packed anchored boats dance about in the wind and tide.  He wanted to be sure we were not in danger of hitting any other boat.  As soon as the sun came up, we moved to a more isolated spot near the Julia Tuttle Causeway.  The view of the huge houses and large motor boats along the shore of the Venetian Islands was impressive.  Our new anchorage gave us an opportunity to explore a different, more northern, part of Miami Beach.

It was cold in Miami.  One morning it was 43 degrees!  The local fashionistas were wearing boots, scarves, and hats.  I was sporting a sweatshirt.  We took in the Miami Boat Show on Sunday February 15. Anything and everything a person could possibly want, and not necessarily need, for a boat was on display.  For us it was a cheap day; we only bought two beers.

Bill made two bus trips into Miami to buy boat parts while I stayed on board Irish Eyes.  I was knitting a blanket for our granddaughter Olivia. I finished the blanket, and we sent it along with our winter clothes to Julia in South Carolina.  Goody bye down; good bye long underwear; good bye socks; good bye electric heaters...

South Beach was the perfect place to people-watch.  We did our laundry, bought groceries, shopped a bit, ate in restaurants, and drank in bars all while watching the oddest of people walk by.  It was fun.

The weather forecast for Monday, February 23, was perfect for crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  We made our final trip to the grocery store. Bill got fuel and water.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we pulled up our anchor and headed south to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne.  The Sunday boat traffic on Biscayne Bay was heavy.  Boats were everywhere.  It was a zoo.  A jet ski even roared by purposely splashing water into our cockpit.  By sundown all the crazies went home, and we were quietly anchored outside No Name Harbor.  We had an early supper and went to bed ready to go out the Florida Channel in the morning.

Bill’s wristwatch alarm woke us up at 3:00am, and we were underway by 4.  I am not a big fan of going through a narrow shallow channel in the dark on a falling tide with no moon, but we made it just fine.  Our crossing was uneventful and smooth.  We saw lots and lots of Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.  They looked like light blue, clear balloons floating on the surface of the ocean.  The weather forecast for the next two days was favorable for heading east then south from Bimini towards the Exumas; after that – not so good – the wind speed would increase and blow directly at us.  If we spent the night in Bimini, we would be stuck there for at least a week.  We decided to clear in with the Bahamian government in Bimini, buy a case of rum, and leave immediately.

We arrived in Bimini at 2:30pm, docked at Weech’s Bimini Dock, and chatted with Kimini (the dock master).  Bill went to visit customs and immigrations.  We ran across the street and bought a case of rum.  With everything done, we were underway again by 4.  Sailing across the Great Bahama Bank, the sun set with a beautiful green flash, probably the best one we have ever seen.

The wind died completely as the sun set, and it was perfectly calm.  The low level fog (or dew clouds) were rather disconcerting; everything was hazy - gray, pink, or baby blue.  I saw phantom boat lights two or three times when something moved in the water, causing the water to phosphoresce, and lighting the fog from below.  Since it was completely calm, we decided to anchor just before midnight to get some sleep.  We just pulled a mile off to the side of the course line on the chart and anchored.  More phantom boats appeared and disappeared around us.  It was eerie.

At sunrise, we continued on sailing, then motoring, for all the next day and night, arriving at Norman’s Cay before noon on February 25.  As predicted the wind picked up from the south.  We were really glad we had not spent the night in Bimini.  Other boats that crossed over from Miami with us got stuck in Bimini for almost ten days.

We spent two nights at Norman’s Cay, then moved south to Shroud Cay. The creeks at Shroud lead over to beaches on the Exumas Sound side of the island.  In our dinghy we toured the creeks enjoying the beautiful scenery.  The outboard motor on the dinghy was not running very well.  Bill had worked on the motor and thought it would be ok.  Well, the motor didn’t run well, and we managed to damage the propeller by running aground.  Bill rowed us about a mile and a half back home to Irish Eyes.  It was a looong trip.  The biggest risk was that when we came out of the creek and into the open water, the wind and current would sweep us past Irish Eyes, and we would next be in Cuba.  I guess all is well that ends well.  I caught Irish Eyes as we swept by, and of course, Captain Bill had stored away a spare propeller for the outboard. Not a perfect replacement, but one that fit and worked.

A week at Shroud Cay was long enough.  It was time to move.  We made the huge leap, all of 10 miles, down to the south anchorage at Hawksbill Cay.  There we stayed a couple of days swimming, walking the trails, and just soaking up the warm temperature.

Our next stop was Emerald Rock at the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park headquarters on Warderick Wells.  Each year we engrave another year on our sign that stays atop Boo Boo Hill.  We climbed the hill to the large pile of signs from boats and found ours deep in the pile.  The sign had suffered some damage losing the corner that had 2014 carved into it. Bill did some repairs and carved both 2014 and 2015 on the sign.  When we took it back to the hill, Bill found the missing bits.  With our sign resting on Boo Boo Hill, we are assured of good luck in our travels.

On March 11 Bill decided to go hiking on the rocky trails in the park.  I decided not to go along. Bill has boots, I have flip-flops.  After he got back we discovered that the flushing handle on the toilet would not pump.  That is a really bad thing.  I have found a toilet much preferable to a bucket.  My handy captain spent the rest of the afternoon rebuilding the bronze and china beast.  Finally, the pieces were back together, and the toilet was working again.  Whew!

We left Emerald Rock after our fourth night there.  The wind was forecast to blow really hard from the east southeast for several days beginning in the afternoon, and that was where we wanted to go.  We had a quick, but wet, morning sail to Big Major’s Spot where we are now.  The wind did blow, but everything was just fine in this sheltered spot.
The water is beautiful, the temperature goes from about 75 at night to 81 in the daytime, Bill is doing little boat projects, and I am knitting and reading.

Our friends, James and Sandra Little, will be here next week.  They are bringing us a proper replacement outboard propeller along with several other things we forgot.  It will be like Christmas.

Hope Spring comes to you soon.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Our old and rusty Blazer is waiting for us to return in the parking lot at Northwest Creek Marina.  Let’s hope no important parts fall off while we are gone.

On a small spit of land just south of North Carolina’s New River, this gaily painted house stands all by itself.  It has its own lighthouse, pool with water cascading over a rock wall, dock, gazebo, artwork…  All the toys are there.

Sunsets are always nice.  It is so much clearer in the wintertime.

The Waccamaw cypress swamps go on for miles and miles.  Even in winter with their grey colors on, they are pretty.

We had a brief shower north of Charleston, but we quickly left both the rain and the rainbow behind us in our wake.

When we crossed the Savannah River this orange ship was coming at us.  We got easily across ahead of her.  As she passed we could see that her name was “Tiger”.  With the orange paint job, I wonder if she is a Clemson fan.

Greetings from onboard Irish Eyes.
Bill and I have been on the boat for a little over two weeks.  We had a busy busy Christmas week:  Christmas Eve service at St Paul’s, Christmas Day Free Dinner for about 300 at St Paul’s, two Christmas Day parties at friends’ homes after the dinner, a Boxing Day party at our house, our daughters, their husbands, and the grandchildren with us in the days after Christmas, New Year’s Eve with all of them together, the Watauga Lake Sail Club Frostbite Race on New Year’s Day, and then the Epiphany Sunday lunch for the congregation of St Paul’s.  With all that out of the way, and with things just beginning to settle down, Bill woke up on January 5th and said, “Let’s leave for New Bern tomorrow.”  Tomorrow???  I was ready for a little rest!  But, the Captain persisted, the Christmas tree came down, the decorations were put in the attic, last minute shopping was done, clothes were packed, and we hurried around getting our stuff together for six months on the boat.  Bill’s ‘tomorrow’ turned into six days, and on Sunday morning January 11 the 1978 Chevy Blazer was loaded, and we took off.

A 400 mile drive in a rusty 37 year old Blazer with over 265,000 miles on the odometer is always a little risky.  But, it made it to New Bern without any problems, took us on numerous shopping runs, and made two trips down NC 55 to Oriental.

Bill had projects to complete, and I had a boat to stock.  He flushed and filled the water tanks, loaded diesel, gasoline, and propane aboard, and worked his way down the long maintenance list.  I drove the Blazer, something I don’t do often, twice into New Bern filling it with groceries.

One of Bill’s projects was to finish installing a bus heater on Irish Eyes.  The heater works like a car’s heater.  While the boat’s engine is running and the heater’s fan is on, hot air pours out into the cabin.  It has been a major improvement in winter boat life. The cabin warms up and dries out as we motor during the day.  When we stop, we quickly dive below, close everything up, and enjoy the seventy-eight degree warmth until it finally all fades away as bed time approaches.

On January 19 with most of our projects completed, with most of the food bought and stowed, and with most of our stuff put away; we started the engine, untied the dock lines, and left.  At last we were on our way south!

It was a cold but beautifully sunny day.  The first thing to break was the alternator belt on the engine.  That happened just twenty minutes into the trip!  We anchored Irish Eyes in middle of the Neuse River, and Bill replaced the belt.  We were underway again in about half an hour.  Tools and parts; we have a boat full of tools and parts.  They do come in handy.

The temperature outside was in the forties, but down in our warm cabin it was in the seventies.  I can’t say enough good things about our bus heater.

It took us four days to get to Little River, SC.  We spent three nights there visiting with my sister and waiting for a patch of rainy, windy weather to pass.  When the sun came out, we were on our way again. 

The trip down the Intracoastal Waterway in Myrtle Beach was uneventful until we stopped.  With the engine shut down and everything quiet, Bill heard a motor running.  We tracked it down to the fresh water pump. The line from the water heater to the galley faucet had split dumping all the water in one of our two water tanks into the bilge.  With the water gone the pump was running dry.  Bill, of course, had a piece of spare hose, hose clamps, and little brass things to stick in the ends.  Tools and parts, yes, we have tools and parts.  He cut out the leaking section of the old hose and had a new piece installed in time for me to fix supper.  I just stayed out of the way while he worked in the bilge and cussed.

The next morning, Bill discovered the engine oil dipstick was not right.  The dipstick has a rubber bit on it that stops the dipstick from going too far into the engine and seals the hole in the engine. The oil level is supposed to be between two marks on the end of the stick.  The rubber bit was loose and sliding up and down on the dipstick.  Who knew where the rubber bit was meant to be?  How far should the dipstick go into the engine?  Bill called the Yanmar engine distributor in New Jersey to ask them.  They didn’t know, but they did offer to sell us a new one for $71 plus shipping.  $71 for a dipstick???  And anyway, how does one ship it to us when we are anchored in a South Carolina salt marsh?  Even Amazon doesn’t have its drone delivery fleet running quite yet.  Bill finally found a sketch of the dipstick in his Yanmar parts catalogue.  He did some measuring and calculating, and put the rubber bit where he thinks it should be.  Duct tape now holds the rubber stopper in place.

We spent the next night in a marina in Beaufort, SC.  That let us refill our water and fuel tanks, take a long hot shower, and enjoy a restaurant meal.

Yesterday we crossed the Savannah River and entered Georgia.  We left the Carolinas behind.

Right now we are anchored just north of Hell Gate.  The word on the internet is that the water depth in the channel ahead is 4-1/2 feet at low tide.  Since it is low tide and since Irish Eyes draws 5 feet, we have stopped.  In a couple more hours the tide will rise enough to let us go on, but for now it’s time for knitting, reading, and lunch.

It has been cold at night, but it warms up during the day.  Every day we are a little farther south.  Every day it is a little warmer.

Stay warm where you are.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Irish Eyes is anchored off the beach in Governor’s Harbour with the sun awning up.

My seashell guidebook says Atlantic cowries are rare.  We found eight on a beach in the Abacos.

Everyone has a picture of the lighthouse in Hopetown, so I’ll put one in this posting too.  The light is still kerosene powered and rotates with clockwork driven by falling weights.  It is 150 years old.

In St Augustine someone tried to steal this Morgan 50 sailboat, but they did not know how to sail it.  The boat ran into the Bridge of Lions, and the thieves jumped overboard.

This ocean going tug is towing a huge barge while a smaller tug helps to guide it down the Cape Fear River.  We passed three similar tugs pulling their barges at sea.  On the open ocean there is no helper tug and the barge is maybe a quarter mile behind the tug on a long cable.  You don’t want to try and go between them.

We post our position as we travel using our single sideband radio.  The red balloon at the top is in New Bern where we started and ended the trip.  You can see where we went south in the ICW, crossed from Miami to Bimini, cruised the Exumas, went back north through Eleuthera and the Abacos, sailed to St Augustine, and returned to Beaufort offshore with a stop in the Cape Fear River.

Hello from New Bern, NC.  Irish Eyes is safely tied in her slip with the air conditioner running.  Yesterday afternoon it was 97 degrees.  We need the air conditioner.  It’s hotter here than it was down south.

On our last night in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, Bill and I went to the local Fish Fry.  We had fried fish, conch salad, and rum bubbas.  The food was not really very good, but the drinks and entertainment were great.  In the area around Governor’s Harbour were lots of upscale rental houses.  A local disc jockey with computer music and huge speakers put on a dance and limbo contest to attract and entertain the tourists staying there.  We were ourselves greatly entertained by the (rum soaked) vacationing young people.  Governor’s Harbour had its own Junkanoo band, The Harbour Boys, who paraded up and down the street playing their drums.  Bill bought a Harbour Boys T-shirt.

We left Governor’s Harbour on the morning of May 24th.  Between the previous night’s Rum Bubbas and our late night out, we did not get away at Captain Bill’s usual “O Dark Thirty”.  We motored sailed north through Current Cut with its four knot current.  Once out of the cut, we anchored for the first night off the Current Cut settlement and the second off Meek’s Patch.  The next day we took the dinghy into Spanish Wells.

Spanish Wells had lots of traffic.  Granted the vehicles were golf carts, but the drivers of the fast gasoline powered ones roared past the slower electric ones passing them on the narrow streets.  For a pedestrian forced to walk in the road, it was a little unnerving.  Bill had a map of the settlement, so we took a circle tour with a stop first for lunch and then for a little grocery shopping.  We were back on Irish Eyes in the early afternoon and motored over to Royal Island.  In preparation for the 60 mile sail across the ocean to the Abacos, we deflated the dinghy and packed it away on deck.  It took us just 36 minutes; a best ever record for us.

We left Royal Island in the early morning, motored to Egg Island, raised our sails, and sailed across the Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos.  Ron and Dee on Ursa Minor, who had earlier treated us to a driving tour of Eleuthera, were ahead of us.  We kept them in sight until they raised their spinnaker, then they disappeared over the horizon.  Bill, jealous, started lobbying for a spinnaker for Irish Eyes.  My standard question when Bill talks about buying large things for the boat is “Where are you going to put it?”  There is just not enough room on a 34 foot boat for all the things he “needs”.  We made it to the Abacos and through the Little Harbour Cut before dark.  We were welcomed to the Lynyard Cay anchorage by Ursa Minor who had been anchored there for some time.

Next morning we inflated our dinghy and took the mile and a half dinghy ride into Little Harbour.  It was lunch time.  We had delicious blue cheese cheeseburgers at Pete’s Pub and enjoyed the great sport of people watching.  There is a bronze sculpture foundry and art gallery in Little Harbour.  We browsed in the gallery, but we didn’t find anything that would fit on the boat (or that we could afford).  On the way back to Irish Eyes we took a short beach walk.  We found 8 Atlantic cowrie shells on the beach.  Our shell book says they are rare.

The weather forecast said we were to have showers every day for the next several days.  We moved the boat north and anchored off Tahiti Beach on May 30th.  Tahiti Beach was full of people.  It was a lively place with both cruising sailboats and cruising motorboats anchored off the beach and small runabouts run up on the sand.  We had a sailboat full of Boy Scouts anchored near us.  It was fun to watch the Scouts learning about sailing a large boat while at the same time just being teenage boys away from home and in the Bahamas.  I’m glad I was not in charge of them.

While we were anchored at Tahiti Beach, we took the 2 mile dingy trip to the pretty village of Hopetown.  The rental houses were well kept and the flowers that were blooming the yards were lovely.  Bill and I walked around town, had lunch at the Harbour Inn Restaurant, and bought a loaf of bread and a half dozen Key Lime cupcakes.

On Tuesday June 3rd the rain showers were gone, so we motored then sailed over to Marsh Harbour.  It was time to think about the long trip back to the states.  Bill got fuel and water.  I bought a few groceries at Maxwell’s Supermarket.  Maxwell’s really was a supermarket – sort of like a small Publix.  The last real supermarket we had seen was in Miami way back in February.  The wide selection at Maxwell’s was a little overwhelming.

Marsh Harbour is usually a crowded anchorage, but not this time.  The morning we left I could only count 15 boats.  It was easy to tell it was June and almost all the boats had gone back to the US or Canada.  On June 5th it was time for us to head north as well.  Once again we brought the dinghy onboard and headed to Green Turtle Cay.  It took us about 5 hours to go around Whale Cay and anchor off the settlement at Green Turtle Cay.  We launched the dinghy and went ashore looking for fresh bread.  I can make bread, and most of the time I do, but it was too hot to turn on our little oven and heat up the boat.

After we had had our supper, I looked out a port and saw a boat sailing in among the anchored boats.  The boat sailed over near us, dropped the anchor, then dropped the sails.  It was rather impressive.  The crew came over later to chat.  They were three young males and one female from Florida who had come over to the Abacos for a ten days.  On their way over the boat’s engine had failed and they had torn the luff from their roller furling genoa sail.  The engine did not run and the sail was held to the forestay with a dozen wire ties.  They were having fun in spite of all their problems.

Early on Friday, June 6th we picked up and deflated the dinghy still again.  We said good bye to our young friends from Florida and headed north.  We motor-sailed most of the day in the light to nonexistent wind.  When the sun set we turned on our running lights and continued on.  Bill went below to have a nap, and I settled down in the cockpit with my Kindle Paperwhite and a Diet Coke.  The Kindle fills the time and the caffeine in the Diet Coke keeps me awake as the nighttime hours go past.

While Bill was still sleeping, I noticed the red and green sidelights were not working.  Not too good.  I was keeping track of several ships by eye and radar.  They were miles away, but we still needed our lights shining so they could see us.  I hated to do it, but I woke Bill.  He is not only the Captain but also the fix-it man.  Hanging over the bow in the dark and getting a little wet, he found that the wires to the lamp had corroded away.  He rigged up some temporary wiring and got the lights working again.

During the next day we sailed along in light wind making good progress north in the Gulf Stream.  The seas were nearly calm, so Bill moved some fuel from the jugs on deck to the fuel tank.  We saw dolphins, birds, container ships, tankers, and a cruise ship.  The wind filled in from the north and picked up making the Gulf Stream a little rough.  We turned west towards St. Augustine.  As we got closer to Florida, the seas settled down again.  We went through the Bridge of Lions at 2:30pm on Sunday, June 8th 54 hours after leaving Green Turtle Cay.  We picked up a mooring at the St Augustine City Marina, cleared in to the US by telephone, and went to sleep.

It was hot in Florida during the day but very comfortable at night.  Thunderstorms were forecast for every day; sometimes they were isolated, sometimes scattered, and sometimes likely.  In St Augustine I did laundry, Bill shopped for boat things that we could not get in the Bahamas, and we walked around town and ate in restaurants.  The occasional rain washed the salt off the boat.  After three days it was time to continue toward home.  The thunderstorms were ‘likely’, so we planned to go north in the ICW to Fernandina Beach in the morning.

When I went out into the cockpit just before sunrise, the west end of the Bridge of Lions was filled with flashing red and blue lights and with men walking around in reflective vests.  Puzzled, Bill hailed the bridge tender on the VHF radio and was told that the bridge could not open until 7:30.  We had a leisurely breakfast, released the mooring at 7:20, and started toward the bridge.  We could then see what was causing all the excitement.  A large, well-kept red sailboat was leaning against the bridge with its jib sail up and a slack line hanging from its bow into the water.  The current was holding the boat against the bridge.  The boat appeared to be unoccupied.  The bridge opened and we went through very puzzled about the pretty sailboat up against the bridge.  Later, I googled the St. Augustine newspaper and found out that somebody tried to steal the boat!  Apparently, whoever it was did not know how to sail, got into trouble, and jumped off into the water.

Just as we got to Fernandina Beach, the ‘likely’ thunderstorms arrived with wind, rain, thunder, and lightning.  We tied up (in the rain) at the Fernandina Harbor Marina.  Bill called his cousin Joe.  He and his wife Carol came by the boat, then we all went to the La Mancha Restaurant where we had a wonderful meal and even better conservation.

In the morning the possibility of thunderstorms was down to ‘isolated’ and the wind was to come from the south, southeast, or southwest.  It was time to pop out into the Atlantic and head north.  We left Fernandina Beach about 9:30 and sailed out the St Mary’s River into the Atlantic.

There’s not much to say about sailing in the ocean.  You can see water, sky, and the occasional ship.  The sun comes up and the sun goes down.  Bill had attached an earphone jack to our Sirius radio with a long cord so I could listen to the radio from the cockpit on my watches.  I was fine relaxing in the cockpit with my Kindle and my radio when it was my watch.

Our intention was to head straight to Beaufort, NC.  The trip up the coast past Brunswick, Savannah, and Charleston was fairly uneventful.  We reached Frying Pan Shoals two days later in the late afternoon.  The wind shifted direction and the wind speed increased.  It was now coming out of the north and blowing about 15-20 knots.  With the sails up and the motor running we could only go 2.8 knots with water and spray coming over the deck.  Not good.  We did the smart thing, turned left, put the wind on our beam, and sailed into the Cape Fear River.  We anchored for the night in the river, out of the channel near the Ft Macon ferry terminal.  After two nights at sea standing watches, it was nice to sleep all night in a boat that was not moving.

On Monday the wind was forecast to be southerly at 5-10 knots dropping to 5 knots overnight.  Bill did the calculations, and with that wind we would be in Beaufort at 10:00 Tuesday morning.  We headed up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach and out Masonboro Inlet.  The wind was southerly, but instead of 5-10 knots it was 15-20knots.  We were flying along.  Trying to slow down, we furled the genoa and were sailing with the mainsail only.  We were still making about 6.5 knots.  Bill recalculated.  We were going to arrive at the Beaufort inlet at midnight.  There were two choices; go in the well-lighted inlet at midnight or sail repeatedly out to sea and back towards the inlet until daylight.  We decided to be brave and go in through the inlet in the dark.  It was a little harrowing; actually I was terrified!  But, by 2:00am we were anchored behind Fort Macon and very relieved.  I truly hope we never have to sail in an inlet in the dark again.

In the morning (Tuesday June 17th) we motored up the ICW and into the Neuse River.  Our dock lines were secured by 3pm, and we put the air conditioner in and turned it on.  Whew, we made it!

We had dinner both with Robert Banks (Susan was visiting her grandchildren) and with Phyllis and Bill from ‘Oh My’.  It was been fun catching up.  Captain and fixit man Bill has been doing boat repairs: rewiring the running lights, repairing the dinghy, and other small jobs.  I am ready to hop in the trusty, rusty Blazer and head home.  I’m hoping to see all my Tennessee friends soon.

P.S.   Since I wrote this, Bill and I survived the 8 hour drive in our old Blazer from New Bern to Kingsport on Sunday, June 23.  For the last couple of days we’re at home and working on getting our house in order.