Thursday, March 27, 2014

While swimming near the wrecked airplane at Normans Cay, these sergeant major fish came over to me hoping I had something for them to eat.

We caught this bull Mahi on our way from Staniel Cay to George Town.  It was 53” long and weighed 32 pounds.  I gaffed him and pulled him into the cockpit.  The autopilot steered the boat while we worked.

Kaelyn’s snorkel was found on the beach, and she quickly adopted it exploring the shallows along Stocking Island and the nearby reef in the harbor.

Hello from George Town, Exuma, The Bahamas.

It has been a long time since I have written anything for this blog.  Bill reminds me of that every day.  I have my excuses.  Our PC quit.  Its screen went blank.  The new PC is Window 8 with all new software, and the learning curve has been steep.  Free WiFi internet has become rare here in the Bahamas because people have abused it by using Skype and downloading movies.  I purchased a BTC SIM card with voice, text, and data for my phone only to discover (after many calls to the T-Mobile and BTC help desks) that my year old phone was outdated and could not be used on the BTC data network.  Those are my excuses for not writing, and I am sticking to them!

In my last blog entry I whined about the cold weather.  The day after I wrote it we got to Daytona Beach, and it finally got warm.  By the time we arrived in South Beach Miami, it was short sleeve shirt, shorts, and barefoot weather.  Bill wanted to go ashore for a Valentine’s Day restaurant dinner, so we launched the dinghy, but the motor would not run at idle speed.  Captain Bill spent several hours messing with it, but the motor still would not run at idle.  He was very cross and frustrated.  On Saturday morning he removed and cleaned the carburetor, and the motor ran just fine.  We went ashore for lunch and a little walking around.  I had my hair cut the next day.  My new shorter haircut is great!  I should have done it sooner.

Our week in South Beach was spent shopping for groceries, beer, wine, and all the extra stuff we needed.  Of course there was the mandatory trip to West Marine, and the trip became a good excuse to eat lunch in a nice restaurant in Coconut Grove.  We learned that the paper charts we use for the Exumas had just been updated, and Bill made a day long bus journey to Ft. Lauderdale to buy a new set.  Since we no longer needed our winter clothes, we packed them up and sent them to our daughter Julia.  Finally, we were ready to go.  The weather forecast was good for the next few days; in fact, it was perfect.  We picked up the dinghy, deflated it, and stowed it on deck, then we moved Irish Eyes to a spot outside No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne.

Early (3am) on February 22 we were on our way to the Bimini.  The moon went down and the sun came up, the sky turned blue, the sea was nearly calm, and the wind was just right for the crossing of the Gulf Stream.  We arrived in Bimini around 2pm tired but excited. 

At Weech’s Dock Kimini welcomed us back, tied up the boat, and handed us our customs and immigrations forms.  In a nearby shop we purchased a BTC SIM card for my phone hoping to enjoy lower voice and text charges and access to the 4G internet.  As I said before the data stuff did not work with my phone (and we blew $30 for service we could not use).  That evening two other boats which had also crossed that day, Amber Sea and Kamouraska, invited us to have dinner with them.  The food at the adjacent Big John’s was excellent.  Bill had lobster and a Kalik beer.  I had cracked conch and rum punch.  We tumbled into bed, and the live music from the restaurant lulled us to sleep.

In the morning we untied our lines from Weech’s Dock, said farewell to Kimini, and were on our way to Highbourne Cay.  The 170 nautical mile trip to Highbourne took 36 hours which meant sailing overnight. That was not my favorite thing to do, but it had to be done.  We could see Amber Sea and Kamouraska sailing along behind us during the day.  They both stopped and anchored for the night on the Great Bahama Bank.  After the sun went down, the lightning show from the storms behind us in the Gulf Stream was really spectacular.  I listened to the rain delayed Daytona 500 on Florida AM radio and heard about the severe storms.  I was glad we had decided to keep moving rather than anchoring.  I would not have slept at all wondering if the lightning was headed westward towards us.

As we were going around the south side of New Providence Island, the stainless steel pin that held the tiller pilot onto the tiller broke.  That was not good.  It meant we had to hand steer the boat.  We were both tired and still had at least eight hours to go before we reached Highbourne Cay.  Bill, with his Mr. Fixit knowledge, rigged up a temporary pin from a bolt, and a bulldog clip.  It worked!  I do not know how to fix much of anything on Irish Eyes, so I am really glad Bill does!  We arrived at Highbourne Cay in the late afternoon with the autopilot steering the boat.

The wind was to be from the south.  We decided to anchor on the north shore of Highbourne Cay hoping for a calmer anchorage than the usual west side of the island.  It was fine for the first few nights, but on Thursday, February 27 the wind changed direction to the southwest then to the west.  From the west we had no protection from the waves.  We were not too worried about the direction change because the wind was forecast to be light and variable.  The boat was rolling around so much that we put out a stern anchor to keep the boat pointed into the small waves and to calm things down.  That worked until dawn.  A squall with 30 knot winds woke us up.  Bill discovered our main anchor had dragged, but our smaller stern anchor was still holding.  We were being blown bow first toward the nearby rocky shore with the rapidly rising waves crashing over our stern.  We needed to leave that spot quickly.  We managed to get both anchors up and onboard.  We motored out of the roller coaster anchorage as fast as our engine could go.  It was a scary morning. 

Shroud Cay, to the south of Highbourne, had mooring balls and protection from the forecast NNE going NE winds, so we headed that way.  We picked up a ball and collapsed.  The winds stayed NW at about 15 knots all night.  It was another rolly night as the waves came in off the banks.  We watched a movie to keep us occupied.  I had to take a Dramamine we were rolling so much.

Shroud Cay has several creeks leading from the Exuma Banks side over to the Exuma Sound side of the island.  It was calmer on Friday when the wind finally went NE, so we took the dinghy up the southernmost creek and over to the sound side beach.  The tide was lower than normal due to the new moon.  We were forced to walk pulling the dinghy for much of the trip.  It was tiring trip, but well worth the effort.  Exuma Sound was a brilliant blue and the beach wide and sandy.  We only stayed on the sound side for about 45 minutes, but that was long enough to have the tide come in and float the boat.  We rode all the way back to Irish Eyes.

The next few days we sailed south through the rest of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, stopping at Hawksbill Cay and at Emerald Rock before anchoring at Staniel Cay.  Our first set of guests, Laura and Jeff Arnfield were due there in four days, and we wanted to make sure we would be there when they arrived.  In the winter months the Bahamas are hit by weekly cold fronts with strong wind and sometimes rain.  A front was expected to pass over us at Staniel Cay bringing west winds.  We anchored Irish Eyes between two small islands, Big Majors Spot and Little Majors Spot, for good protection from the wind.  Lots of other cruisers had the same idea.  We were anchored early but were soon closely surrounded by other boats.  The wind did blow for a couple of days, but we were just fine in our sheltered place.  One very enjoyable afternoon was spent in the cockpit of Irish Eyes having a beer and snack with Drina and JR from the nearby boat, Journey .

On March 8 the front was gone, and we made a quick move closer to Staniel Cay.  We collected Laura and Jeff from the airport, got their things stowed away, then went back to town for the All Age School cookout and fund raiser.  We had conch salad, fish fingers, and beer.  What a great way to raise money for the school.

Laura and Jeff were with us for a week.  Our plan was to head back north stopping along the way, hide from the expected cold front anchored in the Norans Cay Cut, then return south stopping at some of the places we missed on the way north.  That would take us completely through the park on our way north and again on our way south.  

Our first night was at Big Majors Spot where Jeff and Laura took a dinghy tour of the anchorage and fed the swimming pigs.  From there we motored to the Emerald Rock mooring field at Warderick Cay.  We put on masks and fins, then in the ebbing tide we drifted over the coral and tropical fish in the two cuts at the park office and finally took a look at the sunken boat near mooring #9.  In the morning we moved to the north end of Hawksbill Cay to explore the plantation ruins, look at the caves, walk on the vast sand flats, and walk the paths through the scrub brush.  On the fourth night we anchored in a 2 meter deep spot at the north end of Shroud Cay.  Jeff and Laura took the dinghy on a beach tour before all four of us made a circle trip up the north creek to the Camp Driftwood beach on the sound side, then across to the eastern sound side beach, and down the middle creek to the fresh water well, before coming back to the boat.  Quasar, a catamaran from Canada, gave us part of a wahoo they had caught an hour earlier.  It made a wonderful supper. 

On March 12 we arrived at Norman’s Cay and anchored in the cut to await the cold front.  At Norman’s Cay there is an airplane that crashed there many years ago.  It is slowly rotting away, but the fish love it.  We all went snorkeling around the plane, and the fish were really glad to see us.  While I made bread Laura, Jeff, and Bill went to tour the southern end of Norman’s Cay and the extensive construction going on there.  The Irish Eyes explorers stopped at the remodeled McDuff’s Beach Club which was not yet  open to serve food but did sell beer.  Laura and Jeff later took a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies to Quasar as a thank you for the fresh fish.

When we put down our anchor among the other boats that were anchored near a bend in the channel, our handy dandy laser range finder showed that we were 60 yards away from the nearest boat.  During the night the wind picked up and the tide changed.  Eddies in the current and the wind against the current set our boat and the nearby one charging at each other in the dark only to turn way at the last minute.  It was very scary to watch even though, given the length of our anchor chains, we could not hit.  Jeff and Bill kept anchor watches all night.  I was really glad Jeff was with us; I got to sleep.  At dawn we pulled up the anchor and moved away from the other boats.  In our new location Irish Eyes was much better behaved.  It was nice not to worry about hitting another boat.
Laura and Jeff tried to swim over the airplane again, but the wind picked up to 32 knots, and they cut their trip short.  The rest of the day the wind blew, and we were all just lazy killing time on the boat and watching the boats back at the bend charge at each other.

After two nights at Normans Cay, we sailed to the south end of Hawksbill Cay.  We took the dinghy to the beaches at the extreme southern end of the island and later walked around in the mangrove covered sand flats in the interior of the island.

On March 15 we motor sailed then sailed back to Staniel Cay.  We managed to get back in time to catch low tide at Thunderball Grotto.  I manned the dinghy while the others swam.  The swimmers saw lots of fish and marveled at the interior of the water filled cave with sunlight streaming in through the holes in its roof.  The cave has been featured in several movies, most famously Thunderball where James Bond escaped the agents of Spectre by being lifted through the holes in the cave roof by an airplane.  That night we had our final supper together at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club

After seeing Laura and Jeff off at the Staniel Cay airport, Bill and I moved Irish Eyes to the protected spot between the two Majors as another front was coming.  Our friends on the motor trawler, Oh My, came over for a beer one afternoon, and we went to their boat another.  A large motor yacht, Chocolate, hit the Crown of Thorns rock while going out Big Rock Cut at Staniel Cay.  We watched and listened to the radio for several hours while the boat was pulled off the rocks and then towed away by Overseas Salvage. Late in the afternoon, the crew from Chocolate asked the Staniel Cay Yacht Club if they could have 6 seats on the afternoon flight back to Florida. It was really pretty sad.

Early on March 19 we pulled up the anchor and went out Big Rock Cut and headed south to George Town.  Bill decided to put out a fishing lure.  The catch of the day was a 53 inch long, 31 pound mahi-mahi. I even managed to gaff the thing and drag it aboard, something I had never done before. After making a huge bloody mess in the cockpit, the fish was packaged and in the freezer.  The sun was just about to set when we anchored off Monument Beach in George Town.

Our daughter Ann and her family were to land at the George Town airport on Friday March 21.  We moved over to Kidds Cove to be closer to the town center.  Bill and I spent all day Thursday and Friday morning doing laundry, grocery shopping, getting water on Irish Eyes, and putting extra things away. We were a little worried about how the two of us plus Ann, Michael, Kaelyn, Eli and Scarlett were all going to fit on our 34 foot boat.

The Zangris arrived and we moved to Sand Dollar Beach.  Sand Dollar is a perfect kids place with beaches, sand flats, inland trails, and a cave.  Kaelyn and Eli went for their first swim while I fixed supper.

Saturday morning we all piled into the dinghy and went to the beach.  A couple from another boat told us they had found a child’s snorkel on the beach and left it on the picnic table.  It was a little dirty but cleaned up nicely.  Kaelyn already had a mask and took to snorkeling in a flash.  We spent the next five days swimming in the crashing surf on the sound side, swimming in the calm water of the harbor side beaches, swimming off the boat, and wading the sand flats looking for sand dollars and shells.  Kaelyn, Ann, and Bill went snorkeling off a reef.  Michael became the Shower Master; expert at rinsing the salt water off tired swimmers and hanging up bathing suits and towels to dry.  The boat looked like a Chinese laundry with all 50 clothes pins in constant use. 

Most evenings at sunset we had a neophyte conch horn symphony as the kids discovered how to blow the shell, and nearby boats proved they could do better - - or not.

Kaelyn said it was fabulous.  All seven of us did fit on Irish Eyes without any trouble, and everyone had a wonderful time.  Scarlett said, “These people are awesome.”  We hated to see the Zangris go home.

Bill and I moved Irish Eyes back to Sand Dollar Beach as another front was to go over us.  It was 73 degrees this morning and even though I know that is not cold, I was a little chilly.

Bill had bought a half a stalk of green bananas before the children came to visit.  The bananas really did not get ripe while the kids were here, but this morning…     All the bananas were ripe and falling off the stalk.  We had bananas and waffles for breakfast, bananas for a morning snack, banana and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, bananas for an afternoon snack, and chicken in banana sauce for supper.  I am going to have to come up more with banana recipes.

We are going to just be lazy boat people for a while doing nothing.  Our daughter Julia and her family will be here in George Town in a couple of weeks.

Stay well and warm.  We certainly are!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

While we were anchored in Mile Hammock Bay, the marines drove around in their amphibious armored personnel carriers.  This one was going slow.  When it sped up two jets of water came out the back and it made a huge wake.

This year we saw white pelicans near McClellanville, SC.  We have never seen them that far north before.  Usually, the first ones we see are in Florida.

I know he looks gray, but this brown pelican landed on our deck.  Bill chased him off before he left a mess.

Greetings from Florida – not from the warm, sunny Florida where Anita Bryant drinks from the Florida sunshine tree, but from the gray, cloudy, windy, rainy, cold Florida that we have been passing through.

Bill and I left Kingsport for New Bern on January 14th in my rusty old 1978 Chevy Blazer.  While ugly, it was big enough to carry us and all our stuff to Irish Eyes.  In New Bern, it took us a week to buy our food, work on the boat’s “to-do” list, and store all our stuff on the boat.  During that week we made a quick overnight trip to Salisbury, NC to attend the funeral of Bill’s cousin Bill.  It was a sad occasion, but we enjoyed seeing a good sampling of the Murdoch family.

We were nearly ready to leave when it snowed in New Bern.  It was really not much more than a good dusting, but it was snow and it was cold.  Sigh.  On Thursday morning, January 27, it was sunny, it was not quite as cold, and we were away by noon.  The sun made me think it would be warmer if we just kept going south.  Boy, I was ever wrong.

The next morning in Adams Creek it was clear but a cold windy 20 degrees.  Should we stay, or should we go?  My plan was to wait a day for warmer weather.  That wasn’t Bill’s plan.  When doing his daily engine checks, he discovered coolant dripping from one of the drain valves on the engine.  He tightened it a little, and the valve handle broke off.  Panic followed.  We had no spare.  First, he thought we would have to go back to the boatyards in Oriental; straight into the cold, north wind.  Not a pleasant thought.  Then I suggested several yards south of us.  Bill phoned two, neither of which had the part.  Dejected, he sat in front of the engine.  The valve wasn’t leaking anymore!  It had closed before the handle broke off.  Away we went.

The trip to Mile Hammock Bay in Camp Lejeune was cold and long.  Though the sun was out, it never got above 30 degrees.  The wind was behind us blowing down my neck.  I was cold.

The next day’s weather forecast was for a 40 knot gale.  The bridges along the ICW were not opening due to the high winds.  There was nothing to do but stay put in Mile Hammock Bay.  The Marines did not get the day off.  They launched several amphibious armored personnel carriers and some river boats.  It was entertaining to watch them.  The amphibious craft were interesting.  They were big heavy green things on tracks with guns on top.  In the water they barely floated.  The wakes they made when they went by us were huge.  I am glad I’m not a Marine.

By Sunday morning the wind had died down, the bridges were again operating, and it was not too cold.  One of the bridge tenders told us our VHF radio was not working properly.  Bill found the wires to the microphone were again broken and fixed them.  Other than that, we had an uneventful day and anchored in Carolina Beach.

The weather forecast was pretty grim for Tuesday and Wednesday.  NOAA was forecasting snow for coastal South Carolina.  I was not amused.  It was not supposed to snow at the beach.  We hurried down the Cape Fear River and along the ICW to Little River and tied up at Coquina Yacht Harbor.  We had supper with my sister, Elaine, and my brother-in-law, JP, and we saw our niece, Catherine.

As forecasted, winter returned on Tuesday.  It rained, it sleeted, and it snowed.  The boat was covered in 2 inches of ice.  Everything was covered in ice, roads, docks, sidewalks, everything.  Our dock lines were frozen to the cleats.  Walking was a real feat.  Nothing was moving on US 17.  I did not leave Irish Eyes.  Bill went exploring twice.  The ice did not melt either Tuesday or Wednesday because the temperature stayed in the 20’s.  Winter, bah, humbug!

Finally, on Thursday, January 30, Captain Bill was so antsy that we broke the dock lines and electric cord out of the ice (goodbye heat) and headed south.  It was still cold, and the ice on the decks did not melt.  Around 4:30pm it started snowing again.  Even Bill had had enough of this fun, so we dropped our anchor in Cow House Creek.  It was a lovely spot, but I did not stay outside to admire my wintery surroundings.

The next morning was a little warmer, but the weather still called for long johns, a heavy coat and a hat.  The ice on the sunny side of the deck melted.  South of McClellanville the water was so shallow that we plowed our keel through the mud for fifteen minutes or more.  It was slow going, but that was okay.  A flock of white pelicans was fishing along the ICW.  They would fly when we got too close but always went ahead of us.  We watched them for over an hour.  If they had just flown the other way, they could have continued fishing in peace.  Stupid birds.  Our anchorage that evening was in Price Creek just north of Charleston.

Saturday, February 1, was a rainy, foggy day.  We saw very little of the Charleston shore because it was obscured by the fog.  Fog was to be in our future for the next week.  We anchored Saturday night in the South Edisto River, and stopped Sunday at the Downtown Marina in Beaufort.  Bill had ordered a replacement for the valve he broke and a new VHF radio.  Both had arrived at the Beaufort dock and were waiting for us.  We had a nice restaurant meal and watched the first half of the Super Bowl at Luther’s.

The ICW winds its way down the river from Beaufort and then crosses the Port Royal Sound.  In the lower part of the river it was foggy.  I mean really really foggy.  Bill was below watching the radar and telling me compass courses to steer.  I could not see the navigation marks or any other boats (if anyone was as stupid as we were to be out in the fog).  I do not like fog.  I conveyed that thought to the Captain.  I think he got the message.

The fog did lift after we entered Port Royal Sound.  We stopped for the night just before the ICW crosses the Savannah River.

Tuesday we crossed the river and continued on through some of the shallow parts of the ICW in Georgia.  We had some minor fog on and off all day.  Once again I made the statement I do not like fog.  We anchored for the night fairly early because the fog was so thick the navigation aids could not be seen.

Wednesday February 5, was Bill’s 63rd birthday.  I gave him his presents at breakfast, and then we were off.  We went a quarter mile before we turned back and re-anchored.  It was so foggy I could not even see the banks on the ICW.  About mid-morning the fog lifted, and we were underway again.  A large brown pelican decided to take a rest on our deck.  (Pelicans are huge birds that can leave huge messes.)  This one stayed with us for about 15 minutes before hopping off and into the water.  The weather cleared and was warm.  We ended the day without a jacket!  It was so pleasant.  We watched the sun set from the cockpit with drinks in hand.

Our next stop was Jekyll Harbor Marina.  Bill had ordered a computer cable and had it sent to the marina.  We enjoyed a hot shower, and the marina manager gave us a ride to the island’s grocery and liquor stores.  The restaurant had a live band that night, and we celebrated Bill’s birthday a day late with food, beer, and music.

Friday we crossed the Georgia/Florida line.  It was still cold.  Not really cold, 50 degrees, but with the wind it felt cold.  We tied up for the night at a city park dock outside of Jacksonville.  Irish Eyes was the only boat there.  It was raining and cool.  I am quite sure on a warm summer evening we would not have been alone.  A sign on docking said similar size boats must raft together and that the 3rd and 5th boats in the raft must be tied to the dock.

It was raining when we left, and it has rained on and off all day.  We stopped briefly in St Augustine for fuel before anchoring for the night in the Matanzas River beside the 18th century Spanish Fort.

We are motoring south toward the warm Bahamas weather.  We are expecting lots of visitors on this trip: both our daughters and their families, friends from Tennessee, and Bill’s brother and his wife.  I am excited!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bill put together this map of our travels in Florida and the Bahamas.  The red line is our trip this year.  The green, blue, orange, purple, and dark blue lines are previous years.   The red line shows how we traveled across Florida in the Okeechobee Waterway, sailed out to the Dry Tortugas, passed through the Keys to Miami, crossed over to the Berry Islands, sailed down to the Exumas with a stop near Nassau, and returned to the States by way of Eleuthra and the Abacos.

These tugs and their barges pass up and down the ICW between Morehead City and Aurora, NC traveling both day and night.  This one was too big for my camera.

We are back in our house in Kingsport.  We certainly have lots more room here compared to our 34 foot long by 10 foot wide home on the water.  We now can get out of sight of each other.  Wow.

By Saturday, June 8 Tropical Storm Andrea was well north of Charleston, SC, and it was safe to leave.  Our first plan was to motor north on the ICW because the weather forecast was for strong winds and large waves out in the ocean.  We left the Charleston City Marina and went out into Charleston Harbor.  The winds were not particularly strong and the waves were not particularly large, so we changed our minds and headed out to sea bound for the Cape Fear River.  We had only one regret, we would not be able to stop in Little River to see my sister, Elaine, brother-in-law, JP, and niece, Catherine.

We sailed overnight and entered the Cape Fear River just as the sun came up.  It was Sunday.  That meant there would be lots of weekend small boat traffic on the ICW.  The small boats can be very annoying and sometimes just plain unsafe.  I would like to have a sign that says, this 15000 pound sailboat does not have brakes.  It probably wouldn’t make any difference to the guys who tow three kids on a tube right in front of us.  Oh well, I don’t think I can fix all the world’s ills.  Our plan was to anchor for a short while at Wrightsville Beach and then head out Masonboro Inlet to sail in the ocean to Beaufort, NC.  As we were going up the Cape Fear River, we listened to the weather forecast.  Rain was predicted.  Our own 'looking-at-the-sky' forecast also said rain.  Then, it started raining.  Once again we changed our plan.  We stayed in the ICW and motored to Mile Hammock Bay arriving inside the Marine base at Camp LeJeune around 5pm.  It had been 33 hours since we left Charleston, and we were both tired.  As we were anchoring, we surprisingly saw the Austrian couple we had met in Warderick Wells anchored nearby.  We did not think we would see them again because they were intending to cruise quickly up the US east coast in order to return to Austria in August.  The four of us had our sundowners in Irish Eyes’ cockpit and told each other of our travels.

Monday, we continued motoring north in the ICW with gusty winds of 15-20 knots. The highest gust hit 32 knots!  It was a rocky, rolly trip up the Bogue Sound, past Morehead City, into the Newport River, and through the Core Creek / Adams Creek canal.  Once again our plans changed.  We intended to anchor for our last night in Cedar Creek just off Adams Creek.  The strong wind from the southwest had blown the water out of the anchorage.  Our depth sounder showed 5.2 feet where normally we see over 7.  Captain Bill looked at our chart.  “No problem.” he said, “We’ll anchor just behind the red number 6 marker in Adams Creek”.  So, we turned left out of the ICW channel at the number 6 marker, dropped our anchor, and switched on our anchor light.  I was a little worried about barge traffic going by during the night.  After all, we are so small and they are so large…  Just as I was turning out the cabin lights, I heard a barge coming.  I could hear him, and worse I could feel his engines and propellers.  I went outside to see how close the barge was to us.  Even at night the barge seemed a long way away.  We would be fine where we were.

We motored up the Neuse River Tuesday morning with a 20 knot wind on our nose.  The waves were impressive in the mile wide river, and the boat was covered with salt spray.  By lunch time we were tied to the dock in our slip at Northwest Creek Marina.  In another hour we had the air conditioner installed and running.  Nice!  Cool and dry.  After five months of damp sheets, dry sheets are like heaven.  You don’t know.  Three cheers for Freon.

The next two days were spent packing our things and cleaning Irish Eyes.  We took the evening of the second day off to have a pleasant, relaxing, and delicious dinner with Robert and Susan Banks in Oriental.

We left New Bern Thursday just before noon (and just before the temperature crossed 90°) and arrived at our house at supper time.  It was a great trip.

Come with us next time.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Leaving the Exumas and sailing to Eleuthera the water and the sea were almost matching shades of blue.  The water was so pretty.

A pod of porpoises followed us for a while in the Gulf Stream.  They moved so fast it was hard to take their picture.

This was sunrise in the morning before we got to Charleston.  Bill was asleep, and I was sailing the boat.

We were tied to the dock at the City Marina in Charleston, and Andrea was headed straight for us.  We would be together at 8am Friday.

Hello from Charleston, SC.  We have travelled a long way in the last few weeks.

On our last night in the Exumas, May 17, we anchored just off Ship Channel Cay.  Early the next morning, we pulled up the anchor and headed off for a day long sail to Royal Island.  The last time we did this we went through Current Cut.  This time we chose the Flemming Channel for variety.  We towed a Clark spoon on a steel leader thinking we might catch a fish along the way.  The steel leader would stop any toothy barracuda from biting off our lure.  We hoped to catch something around the many coral heads we had to dodge in the shallow water west of Eleuthera.  Well, we did not even get a nibble until we came out of the Flemming Channel where the depth increases from 3 meters to over 1000.  There, a dolphin fish took the lure.  We thought we had him, but the metal eye on the lure broke.  The fish got away with a hurt mouth, and we got nothing.

Royal Island was just an overnight stop for us in Eleuthera before we headed north to the Abacos.  We were up before sunrise for the 60 mile trip.  The weather forecast was for winds of 10-15 knots and seas of 3-4 feet.  Wrong!  The wind blew at about 20 knots, and the seas were occasionally 8 feet high.  To get into the protected Sea of Abaco, we planned to go through Little Harbour Cut.  It is the space between two bits of land with reefs on both sides.  Sometimes these cuts can be really, really rough.  When the wind and the waves are coming into the cut while the tide is going out it can look like a washing machine.  The locals call it a ‘rage’.  Captain Bill was worried.  When he lets me know he is worried, I am almost past worry and into deep panic.  We considered continuing on north to a wider, deeper cut.  But, as we got closer the wind dropped and the waves calmed.  We heard over the radio a boat going through the cut telling their buddy boat that conditions were not too bad.  That was good news.  We came through the cut just fine and had our anchor down off Lynyard Cay by suppertime.   It was a long and tiring day.

We stayed anchored at Lynyard Cay for several days because it was a little stormy.  During the first night, I woke Bill up so he could catch rain to fill our water tanks.  He topped off our tanks and caught another 30 gallons in jugs.  He could have slept because it rained during the next day too.  During a break in the rain we took the dinghy over to the beach and walked across the cay to the Atlantic side.  On that side the sea was really rough.  The beach was rocky, so the waves were crashing on the shore.  In the sand above the rocks we found a turtle’s nest with tracks left from the night before.

On Thursday, May 23, we moved a little farther north, anchoring in Bucaroon Bay.  The land in front of us had several small beaches separated by bits of rock.  We took a dinghy tour of each one.  To our surprise on each beach we found a different kind of shell and plenty of them.  Two were especially interesting.  One beach had lots of pieces of sea biscuits, and Bill dove just off shore for a box full of whole ones.  Another beach had a kind of beautiful pink, purple, and yellow clam shell that I had not seen before.  It was hard to leave our beaches, but we needed to move on.

We motored up to Marsh Harbour the next day.  It is the largest town in Abaco.  It even has a stop light (!) and a real airport.  Maxwell’s Grocery Store is almost the size of a small US supermarket.   We shopped, ate in restaurants, and visited with other cruisers on both our boat and on theirs.    After being anchored alone for so long, it was different to have so many boats anchored around us.  Dinghies came and went, music reached out from the nearby restaurants and bars, and the VHF radio kept up a near constant chatter.

It was time for us to think about heading back to the states.  Chris Parker is a weather forecaster who broadcasts over the SSB radio.  Boaters can subscribe to his service and talk to Chris to get a personalized weather forecast.  Being the thrifty people we are, we just listen.  There was always someone wanting to go in our direction.  His Abaco weather forecast was for windy and stormy weather all week long.  Some days he was correct, and others were just a little cloudy.  Chris’s forecast for Saturday June 1 and the days following was not too bad; a steady 10-15 knots from the south and a small chance of thunderstorms.  He also talked about the possibility of a tropical low forming in the Gulf of Mexico.  It seemed like a good time to leave Marsh Harbour, so we did.

The first day we sailed north between Abaco Island and the cays, then we turned northeast and crossed the Little Bahamas Bank.  The next day as we left the Bahamas and entered the Gulf Stream, the wind was 20 knots from behind us and the seas were rolling us quite a bit.  We could see rain and lightning all around us, but most of the time we were dry.

We were originally headed to Fernandina Beach, Florida because a cold front was expected to exit the US coast on Monday.  It became obvious that we would not make it to Fernandina Beach in the daylight, so we altered our course westward for St. Augustine.  When we left the Gulf Stream, the wind fell to 10 knots and the sea calmed down.  We turned on the motor to help us keep going.  You know, you can never please a sailor, either the wind is too strong or there is not enough.

Chris Parker’s weather forecast for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was pretty grim.  While the cold front had “dissipated”, the tropical low was expected to intensify and pass over Florida.  First there would be lots of thunderstorms over south Florida, then the tropical depression would sweep up the US east coast.  It was time to get out of Dodge.  Bill did some navigational calculations and said we could make it to Charleston before dark on Tuesday.  Once again we changed course.  The wind was light, so our trusty engine pushed us along with the mainsail up to lessen the rocking motion.

Out in the Atlantic we saw a pod of porpoises, several large fish, and two turtles all in one afternoon.  One night we had four flying fish land on our deck.  It was not a bad trip.  We had only one minor disaster; both of our auto pilots broke.  Fortunately, this was the last morning, so we did not have to hand steer but one day.  It was a long day.  We made it to the Charleston Harbour entrance around 4pm.  We were tied to the dock at the Charleston City Marina by 5:30, and we were cleared by customs by 6:30.  Both of us took showers with unlimited water and went out for supper before collapsing in our bunk.

Wednesday and Thursday we walked around parts of Charleston, shopped, restocked the boat, filled the fuel tank, and repaired or replaced some of the things that had broken along the way.  We had a new auto pilot shipped to us overnight.  Thursday night we went out to dinner with long time friends Louis and Cathy Boyd then waited for tropical storm Andrea to pass over us.  It was not all that bad a storm.  The wind peaked at just over 40 kt and we caught 4 inches of rain in our rain gauge.

Friday we made the obligatory trip to West Marine to buy boat stuff, shopped for presents for the grandchildren, bought still more groceries, and went out to dinner with Ed and Susan Herrington, friends from Kingsport now living in Charleston.

If the current weather forecast holds, tomorrow will be a perfect day for heading north, and we will be on our way again.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bill carved another year in our sign, and we left it on top of Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells Cay.

The Bahamian racing dinghies are wooden boats built on the beach with simple tools.  These two were in Black Point.  In previous years we have seen them raced in George Town.

The beach at Jack’s Bay Cove was covered with shells.  I could pick them up by the handful.

I’m standing on the beach at Hetty’s Land on Great Guana Cay.  Our boat and dinghy are the only things in sight.  There is not a road, a car, a house, or another soul.

Greetings once again from the Emerald Rock Mooring Field at Warderick Wells Cay, the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters.

This is the spot with WiFi internet access where I posted my last blog entry.  These places are few and far between.  With a cell phone signal, my Kindle works perfectly fine for AOL and Facebook.  Bill’s ham license lets him (slowly, oh so slowly) send and receive email with the boat’s shortwave radio.  Neither one works for posting a blog or for uploading pictures.  We tried twice to get a Batelco SIM card for my old cell phone which we can tether to the PC, but for whatever reason that did not work.  So, for $10/100Mb/day we are using the park’s satellite internet link.

When we were here in April, we walked to the top of Boo Boo Hill and retrieved our sign.  It was broken and looked like someone had stepped on it.  We searched for Impetuous III’s sign from last year, but we could not find it.  Bill found a piece of wood on a nearby beach and repaired our sign adding a sixth year, MMXIII (2013).  The next day we walked back up Boo Boo Hill and replaced our sign on the pile.  Putting a sign on the hill is supposed to bring boaters good luck.  Believe me, we need all the good luck we can get.

There was a French biologist here studying the hutias.  Hutias are the only mammal native to the Bahamas.  They look like a cross between a rabbit and a rat with a rabbit’s feet and a rat’s tail and ears.  These animals were reintroduced to Warderick Wells Cay to restore an endangered species.  With no predators, they have increased in number and have rapidly eaten all the vegetation on the island.  It is amazing to see how little green stuff is left.  They have eaten all the grass and maybe three quarters of the trees.  Six years ago when we first came here, the cay was green; now it is just rocky, gray, and dead.  For us, it is sad to look at.  As the hutias run out of food, it will be sad for them as well.

Saturday night was Happy Hour on the beach at the Park HQ.  The other cruisers were an interesting group.  Among them was a young couple from Austria who sailed over from Turkey where the boat, which belongs to his father, had been in the charter service.  They were on their way to the US hoping to go as far north as New York before leaving the boat somewhere in the south for his father to pick up this fall after they return to work.  Bill loaned them some US cruising guides and gave them some others.  They gave us some Austrian sweets filled with chocolate and hazelnuts.  We plan to get the sweets back to Tennessee, but the temptation may be too great.

We left Warderick Wells and sailed south to Sampson Cay on April 29.  On previous trips we have been to Sampson Cay, but we have never taken a dinghy tour around the nearby islands that line Pipe Creek.  Over the next couple of days, we took two different tours; one up to the creek and another through the creek itself.  The water was gorgeous as were the small beaches.  On one beach I found seven conch shells.  Needless to say I was pleased.  Another day we had lunch at the Sampson Cay Club.  The restaurant had a new manager, Sonia, who did a great advertisement over VHF radio every morning.  In a voice that would do Hugh Hefner proud, she described the day’s offerings.  The food was as good as its description, and she was fun to be around.

On May 2 we motored over to Staniel Cay.  Bill bought gasoline and diesel at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club then tried without success to get a Batelco SIM data card for an old cell phone we had on board.

Early the next afternoon, the mailboat came to Staniel Cay with (among other things) food for the three grocery stores on the island.  Our plan was to have lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club then walk to Isles General Store to buy our groceries.  Since this is the Bahamas and since nothing happens in a hurry, we spent the entire afternoon waiting for the groceries to be put on the shelves.  It gave us a chance to talk with other cruisers who came by, waited a while, talked a while, then giving up, left.  By 6pm when the store reopened only eight of us remained.  Patience had its rewards.  We got the first shot at the fresh food.

The next day a cold front passed over the Exumas.  We had a little rain and a whole lot of wind.  It blew 20-25 knots out of the northwest making our anchorage very rough.  We stayed on board all day Saturday just reading, knitting, and puttering about.  The wind was still howling on Sunday, but Captain Bill was restless, so we donned bathing suits and shirts and took a wet dinghy ride to the Yacht Club for lunch.  I watched several people dry off their chairs as they stood up to leave.  I was not the only person with a dripping wet behind.  The wind finally died down that evening.

It was time for us to have some clean clothes, so Black Point was our next stop.  The best coin laundry in the Bahamas is there run by a lovely lady, Ida.  I did the laundry while Bill walked around a bit.  It was Tuesday, and DeShamon’s Restaurant was having their weekly BBQ.  A couple from the Netherlands, Pim and Hanneke on Nelly Rose, shared a table with us.  We ate our fill of barbecued chicken and ribs, potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, salad, and freshly baked carrot cake.  The rum punch washed all the delicious food down nicely.  The food was good and the company better.

It was now the second week in May.  Our time in the Bahamas was getting shorter.  Walking on deserted beaches looking for shells is my favorite thing to do here in the islands.  Bill and I decided to adopt the beach a day plan.  South of Black Point, there is not another settlement on the remaining ten miles of Great Guana Cay.  There is just one beach after another separated by rocky shores.  Perfect!

Let’s see, there’s Little Bay, Jack’s Bay Cove, Jack’s Bay, White Point, Hetty’s Land, Isaac Bay, Bay Rush Bay, and Kemps Bay all with undeveloped white sand beaches before you reach the end of Great Guana Cay.   We strung them together anchoring at Little Bay, Jack’s Bay Cove, Jack’s Bay, Bay Rush Bay, and Hetty’s Land.  By dinghy we visited White Point and Isaac Bay.  We also explored the rocky shores between the beaches ducking into a limestone cave and scouring among the rocks for cone shells.  In three different places we walked across the island to its other shore to watch the surf break on the windward side.  One day Bill took the dinghy to the next island south, Little Farmers Cay, to take Terry Bain a book and bring back two freshly made Jimmy Buffet recipe cheeseburgers with fries for lunch.
Two spots were especially memorable.  The beach at Jack’s Bay Cove was covered in shells.  I had onboard a sieve and trowel I have used to find shark’s teeth in North Carolina.  I scooped up a wine box full of unsorted small shells for a grandchildren’s crafts day that we will have when we get home.  The beach at Hetty’s Land was dotted with sand dollars.  We easily picked up over fifty white ones and did not even attempt to count the brown, live ones we left behind.

In the end we failed at the beach a day plan.  At several of the spots we stayed an extra day or two.

Over the next few days we will head north to the Abacos and spend some time there.  Then we will begin the trip back to the states.  As always, everything depends on the weather.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Leaving Government Cut the skyline of Miami begins to shrink in the distance.

This bird rode for with us for a while in the Gulf Stream.  We could almost touch her.  I think she is a Northern Parula, a kind of warbler.  I hope she got home.

This building with the interesting roofline is Momma and Papa T’s Beach Club on Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands.  The door was open, and the beer was cold.

Bill is prowling about looking for conch in the shallow grass flats at Normans Cay.  The ditched drug running aircraft we snorkeled on during our first trip here is underwater near the top left of the picture.

We kept and cleaned two of the conch he found.  Bill is holding one shell and one corpse.  The other is on our stern seat which doubles as a fish cleaning table.  These huge snails just drip slime.

Beaches, beaches, beaches.  That is what these trips are about.  These are the sand flats just north of Hawksbill Cay at nearly low tide.  Ten football fields would not begin to cover them.

This second beach picture is at Shroud Cay.  Use Google Maps and search for spot where we anchored,  24°32.882'N 076°47.479'W  , zoom in, choose satellite view, and go northeast to find the beach on the east side of the island.

A big Bahamian hello to you all.  It has been quite a while since I last posted an entry.  We have been without internet for the last two weeks.

When I last wrote we were anchored off Miami’s South Beach.  We had a plan for traveling to the Bahamas.  We would sail from No Name Harbour on Key Biscayne leaving for Bimini at 3 or 4 in the morning.  In order to do that, we would have to move the boat from South Beach to No Name.  But, before we could do that we needed to do the laundry, fill the boat’s water and fuel tanks, buy the last of the beer and Diet Cokes that would fit in the quarter berth, shop for groceries, get some gin… you know, the usual departure list.  It would be a busy but doable day.  I did our laundry early in the morning of April 1st while Bill got the water, gin, and fuel.  The laundry was finished before Bill went to get the last jug of fuel.  I still needed to get the groceries, so Bill dropped me off at the dinghy landing spot to walk to the Publix grocery store.  He took my clean laundry back to Irish Eyes and picked up the empty fuel jug.  Bill got the fuel, took it to the boat, and was coming to get me at Publix when our plans fell apart.

Some of you have probably heard Bill say “Want to make God laugh? Just make a plan”.  Well, while I was in the grocery store and Bill was riding in the dinghy, the previously beautiful sunny skies clouded over and a huge thunderstorm developed with lightning and drenching rain.  Bill was trapped in the dinghy under a bridge, mostly dry but being slowly dripped on.  I was outside Publix waiting on him.  I talked to a nice guy, who had jogged to the grocery store and was afraid to jog back in the rain for fear of getting his cell phone wet and to an older gentleman, who did not like to drive in the rain.  The jogger was from Raleigh originally, and the older gentleman was interested in how we lived on a sailboat.  The bench was dry and the company entertaining.  Poor Captain Bill; he got soaked.  By the time Bill made it to Publix it was 2pm.  It was still raining, thundering, lightening and the wind was blowing hard.  We ate our very late lunch at the Publix deli, waited around some more and finally gave up and walked and dinghied in the rain back to Irish Eyes.

We were both soaked and cold, but a hot rum toddy (or two) quickly warmed us up and restored our spirits.  It was after 4pm by this time and still storming, so the trip to No Name Harbor was cancelled and our plans were ruined.  We were worried about when we would be able to leave Florida.  The next day, Tuesday, was just about the only good weather day to cross the Gulf Stream and the day after, Wednesday, was the only good one to proceed farther south in the Bahamas.  If we left a day late, on Wednesday, we could make it to Bimini, but the approaching cold front would catch us there, and we would be stuck.  What to do, what to do?  I made a suggestion that we could leave the next morning from Miami, sail overnight and arrive at Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands early on Thursday beating the cold front.  Captain Bill was dubious.  We went to bed without making a decision.

After a night’s sleep, Bill decided my idea was his idea.  We pulled the dinghy out of the water and pulled up our anchor around 10am.  There were not any cruise ships in the Miami harbor, so we breezed out Government Cut and left Miami behind.

The wind was light, and we were motor sailing, enjoying the indigo water in the Gulf Stream and the sunshine.  We were several miles out to sea when a little grey and yellow bird appeared in the cockpit.  It was not afraid of us at all, even landing on the bird book I was using to identify it.  Bill gave it a section of a tangerine which the bird pecked at for a bit.  It stayed with us for about an hour and then flew away.  I decided it was migrating and just needed a rest and a little snack.

Our overnight trip was uneventful.  When the sun came up we could see the beautiful blue water of the Bahamas.  We arrived at the Great Harbor Marina about lunch time.  The customs and immigrations officer came to the marina.  We did not have to go to him.  The strong cold front was still coming our way, so we stayed in the marina for three days.  There were about half a dozen boats there either just arriving in the Bahamas or headed back home.  We enjoyed meeting several couples over food at the marina, and one night we walked into Bullocks Harbour and had our first conch dinner of the trip at Coolie Mae’s wonderful restaurant.

The cold front finally came through on Friday with wind and rain.  It was gone by Saturday morning, so we left Great Harbour Cay headed north to the top of the Berry Islands then south on their east side to Little Harbour Cay.  The trip around the north end of the island put us in the Northwest Channel which was anything but smooth.  The waves were huge.  We had to go around two cruise ships anchored off their prettified private islands.  I do not know why cruise lines do not use the local businesses; it seems so wrong to build a fake Bahamas when the real one is right there.  We made it to our anchorage off Little Harbour Cay where there was not a thing in sight but sand and water.

The next leg of the trip took us to West Bay on New Providence Island. Coming out of Little Harbour was terrifying.  We had the tide going out and the wind blowing in, that meant monstrous waves.  The bow of Irish Eyes would point at the sky one moment and at the center of the earth the next.  It felt like we were not moving.  Finally, we made it out and sailed southeast toward New Providence Island and Nassau in much more sedate (?) 4 and 6 foot waves.  A few hours later we were anchored in the calm waters of West Bay several miles from Nassau enjoying the faint Reggae music from the two bars on shore.

In the morning after the sun rose high enough to see the coral heads in our path, we left West Bay and motored upwind to Highborne Cay.  It was a long day, but we made up for it by staying at Highborne for three days.  After lounging about like snails the whole first day, we were finally rested enough from our labors to launch the dinghy and do some beach walking.

On these trips to the Bahamas we are slaves to the weather.  We basically live outside, and the weather controls everything.  On our third day at Highborne Cay the wind changed in direction a bit, waves entered our anchorage, and the boat began to roll, so we moved a whopping 6 miles to Normans Cay and anchored off the west side beach.  We dinghied around the south end of Normans to the sand flats on the east side of the island.  The scenery was spectacular.  Bill decided he wanted to go conching.  Conching is not hard, the conchs put up no resistance, they don’t move fast, you can easily catch them (You just lean over and pick it up.), but finding them is another story.  Bill found five conchs.  (I found lots of shells.)  We kept the two largest conchs.  Bill did a good job getting the slimy things out of their shells, and I did an okay job of cooking them.  Other than to have had the experience, I think I will continue to have my conch in a restaurant.

It was time to move on, and we made another “long” trip of about six miles to Shroud Cay.  Shroud is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  The island is an uninhabited ring of rock with mangrove swamps and sand flats in the middle and with beaches scattered around the outside.  There are several creeks that pass through the island winding their way through the mangroves and past the sand flats to beaches at each end.  We spent six days touring the creeks, snorkeling on offshore coral heads, and beach walking.  Bill got water from a well that is almost at the highest spot on the island, and he dug up nearly a hundred pounds of scrap iron from below the sand on one beach.  No gold, just iron.  It was great.

This year we do not have a schedule to keep, so we are moving slowly down the Exuma island chain.  Hawskbill Cay was our next port-of-call; another six mile trip.  Like Shroud Cay there is not a thing there but water and sand.  Bill and I took several dinghy trips around to the north side of the island to explore the caves, sand flats, and beaches.  We had a rainy day on Monday April 22.  It gave Bill a chance to use his fancy-dancy rainwater collecting system.  We topped off our tanks and put another 25 gallons of fresh water in jugs.  Several boats came and went while we were at Hawksbill, but a large motor yacht was there when we got there and was still there when we left.  Someone on that boat apparently had a birthday on our last day.  They had a party on the beach complete with balloons, a bonfire, dinner ashore, and fireworks.  While we did not receive invitations to the party, we did enjoy the fireworks.

We left Hawksbill Cay on Wednesday, April 24 sailed for the Emerald Rock mooring field at Warderick Wells Cay; the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters.  The wind was strong from the northeast, and we were headed south, so it was an exhilarating sail.  The fifteen mile trip only took us just three hours!

One of the nice things about the Park Headquarters is wifi.  We will spend a couple of days here catching up on our email, internet banking, and web surfing, finding our sign on Boo Boo Hill, and enjoying the beaches and trails.

Hope you are all as well and happy as we.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This was one of the stones in the Key West cemetery.  They say she was a hypochondriac.  I wonder.

Most cruise ships are just cruise ships, but Club Med 2 has sails (even if they seem a bit small for the ship).

Welcome to South Beach. 

We took a dinghy tour through the South Beach canals looking at the houses and the boats tied up out front.  It doesn't look too shabby does it?

Happy April Fool’s Day from South Beach, Miami, Florida.  Bill and I have been here for a week seeing the sights and getting ready for our trip to the Bahamas.

One of the last things we did in Key West was take a tour of President Harry Truman’s Little White House.  It was a nice place.  The house was not large, four bedrooms, and looked like a pleasant 1950’s summer home.  I think we saw all the sights in Key West, but mostly we saw lots of people --- lots and lots of partying people.

We left Key West on Tuesday, March 19 early in the morning.  After motoring out the channel, we unfurled our sails and headed east through the keys to Marathon.  The wind was predicted to be 5-10 knots, but that was wrong.  It was 20.  The sky was overcast, and we had a very light, intermittent rain along with the 20 knot breeze.  We flew along for a while, but the wind died as the sky cleared.  The last 2 hours of our 10 hour trip were spent motoring.  We arrived at Marathon just as the marina was closing, but we were in time to be assigned a mooring ball.  Even with everyone on the nearby boats watching and the tension high, picking up the pennant on the mooring ball was child’s play with the mooring ball grabbing hook Bill made for me.

The mooring field at Marathon is in Boot Key Harbor.  It is a huge and well run operation.  There are 200+ mooring balls.  Some cruisers spend the entire winter in Boot Key Harbor.  They have showers, a laundromat, water, fuel, and as best we could find, the only dinghy dock in the harbor.  In the town of Marathon are grocery stores, Kmart, Home Depot, and a West Marine (without a dinghy dock).  The boaters in the harbor have a morning cruiser’s radio net.  It is where one can hear all the local boater news.  Some folks have been in the place too long and have begun to care about trivial stuff, really trivial stuff.  We listened to a half hour radio discussion of the merits of various shopping carts, hand trucks, and trolleys that could be used to wheel groceries the mile from Publix to the marina.  Everyone had a different opinion.  It just went on and on and on…  I did laundry (hopefully washing our long underwear for the last time) while Bill walked all over town.  Our dinghy had developed a small leak in the floor, and Bill was looking for the perfect glue to repair the dinghy.  We went to two pot luck Happy Hours and met some great folks (who did not discuss shopping carts).

On Saturday, March 23 it was time to head on.  We motored out of Boot Key Harbor and then sailed east to Rodriguez Key near Key Largo.  The sun was shining and the water pretty.  We had one of those perfect sailing days.  We anchored just a bit before the sun set behind Rodriguez Key.

The next day we were up and away before 8 o’clock as the sail to South Beach would be fairly long.  The wind was strong, 20-25 knots with gusts to 28 knots.  We raised only the reefed main and sometimes even that was too much.  The wind changed directions in the afternoon causing the main to jibe breaking a main sheet block.  That meant the sail unintentionally went from one side of the boat to the other making a big racket.  The sail ended up plastered against the rigging until we could replace the broken block.  The wind kept picking up.  We were a couple of miles away from the Miami Harbor entrance when we heard over the VHF radio that the nice, wide Government Cut main channel was closed because there were two cruise ships there.  That wasn't a problem; we would just go up the smaller parallel channel on the other side of Dodge Island.  Just as we were approaching the jetties at the harbor entrance, a cruise ship was leaving.  Captain Bill was still sailing full speed.  I suggested we start the motor, and we did.  The wind was blowing at about 25 knots straight in our faces after we turned between the jetties and into the entrance channel.  There was a second cruise ship, then a car ferry, then other sail boats, then a tour boat, then a tug with a fuel barge strapped to its hip, and everywhere were jet skis, sport fish, and Donzi boats going in both directions.  Let me tell you about just one of the jet skis; two young males on a red one.  They stopped right in front of the second cruise ship.  One of the males hopped in the water.  The other male jumped in the water.  I thought there was something wrong with the jet ski and they were going to push it out of the way of the approaching cruise ship.  I worried the guys would push the jet ski either in front of us or into our side.  Then both males got out of the water and started doing flips back into the water!  They were swimming in front of a moving cruise ship!  Ever heard of survival of the fittest?  I literally could not watch, so I can’t tell you what happened.

We got our sail down, and continued along the channel.  The wind was howling, and the waves from Biscayne Bay and the wakes from all the boats bounced off both the concrete walls and the docked container ships.  The place was a total washing machine.  We made it to the end of the Dodge Island Cut only to discover that the Miami Ultra Music Festival was in full swing at Bay Front Park.  The music was deafening, we could not hear our radio, and a police boat with flashing blue lights was minding the dozens and dozens of boats filled with party-goers anchored or slowly motoring around in the channel.  We had to weave our way through the chaos.  Irish Eyes is not fast and does not make changes in direction quickly, but we managed to find a way through the fleet.  After passing under an open railroad bridge and two fixed highway bridges, we turned right into the relatively calm waters between the McArthur and the Venetian Causeways.  The wind was still blowing hard from the northeast, so we elected to anchor in the clam lee of Hibiscus Island.  It was a double rum ration night.

We have been busy both sightseeing and provisioning (that is a fancy nautical term for buying food and other things) for our trip to the Bahamas.  Of course we have been to West Marine, but we have also checked out a traditional marine chandlery, Crook & Crook, a hardwood lumber yard, Shell Lumber, and a used sailboat junk store, Sailorman.  We've ridden the buses  trains, and the Metromover on trips to both in Miami and Ft Lauderdale.  Bill has used the dinghy to haul fuel, water, cokes, and beer out to the boat.  I've been grocery shopping and have once again done the laundry.  Our winter clothes have been packed and shipped to our daughter Ann’s house.  We've eaten in restaurants and done some serious people watching.  Bill bought a couple of used books at the Out of the Closet Thrift Store.  South Beach has been a good place to stock the boat and have a little fun, too.

We’ll leave for Bimini tomorrow morning if the weather cooperates.