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.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

It’s hard to believe, but our sign has been on top of Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells Cay for seven years.

This is a large heart sea bean.  It is the seed of a vine that grows in Costa Rica.  It was among the dry seaweed on the beach in Eleuthera.  That’s quite a voyage.

The view over the Atlantic from the Northside Restaurant was breathtaking.

Ron and Dee of Ursa Minor took us on a driving tour of Eleuthera.  Dee took this picture of me, Bill, and Ron on the beach.  Ron had the job of driving on the left side of the road in a left hand drive automobile.  Even during our five years in England, I never tried that.

The raft Antiki was anchored in Governor’s Harbour.  It was sailed across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to St Maarten then north to Eleuthera.  It floats on water pipes lashed together with nylon straps.

Greetings from Meeks Patch, Eleuthera.  We have covered several miles since my last posting.

Our last day at anchor in Black Point (May 6) was an especially tiring day for me.  I have tried since we got to the Bahamas to make one of my two cell phones work on the BTC cell phone network.  All I wanted was a phone with voice, text, and internet data.  I chose that day to give it one final last effort.  I first tried the newer phone, I gave up on it, then I went to work on the older one.  It involved unlock codes, APNs, and endless trips though the menus on the phone and through the voice menus of both the T-Mobile and BTC help numbers.  In the end BTC succeeded with the older phone.  While dealing with the cell phones, I also had to get my credit card un-blocked.  Apparently, I was to have let the Eastman Credit Union know I was going out of the country before I left!  I having failed to do that, they blocked the credit card.  All this phoning and technical talk took 8 hours.  Even with the warm sunny weather and the beautiful view out the port, I was exhausted, frustrated, and angry.  Why are Help Desks so completely unhelpful?

We decided to sail up to Big Major’s Spot just for a change of scenery.  We spent one night there then continued on to the Emerald Rock mooring field at Warderick Wells Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  Although we had stopped there twice already on this trip, we had not added the year 2014 to the previous six years engraved on our sign atop Boo Boo Hill.  Bill went and retrieved the sign, he carved 2014 in the sign, and we both took it back to the top of the hill.  It was fun to look through the pile of signs and find ones from people we know.

The next morning’s weather forecast was for a week of high east winds and rain squalls.  The west side of the north end of Hawksbill Cay seemed like a good spot to sit out the weather.  We had a pleasant sail from Emerald Rock to Hawksbill and were anchored by lunchtime.  The weather did turn crummy.  It rained off and on for four days, and the wind was very strong, gusting at times to over 30 knots.  During the rain squalls, we filled the boat’s water tanks.  Between the rain squalls we managed to do a bit of walking.  We explored the sand flats that dry at low tide between Hawksbill Cay and Shroud Cay, and we also walked across the island to the Exuma Sound beach.  The flats were beautiful.  I found lots of shells, but since we were still in Exuma Land and Sea Park, I left them.  Bill found an almost new aluminum boat hook which he kept.  The trail across the island to the sound side beach was rocky and steep, and I really did not like the sharp pointed rocks.  Washed up on that beach Bill found an apple and a can of soda.  You wouldn’t believe it, but he ate the apple and drank the soda.  (Luckily, he lived.)

The tropical wave that gave us the strong east wind and rainy weather was being pushed out by a cold front.  That would make the wind come from the west, and we needed to move to a place where we had protection from that wind.  Hawksbill would not be a good place to be.  In addition, our visas would expire on May 22.  It was now May 15.  Both the weather and bureaucracy said it was time to go.

The channel anchorage at Norman’s would provide us shelter from the wind.  It would also be a good spot to leave for Rock Sound in Eleuthera where there was an immigration office.  Thursday’s sail to Norman’s was pleasant, and we had the anchor down in time to dinghy around on the sand flats at low tide.  It was very shallow and at times we were sitting on the dinghy and pushing it with our feet.  There were hundreds of roller (immature) conchs.  Among them Bill managed to find one fully mature keeper.  He also found three nice shells to make into conch horns.

After our last at-anchor experience at Norman’s Cay, we were happy to spend the night far away from the other two boats anchored there.  All three boats had plenty of room to swing in the terrific current.

The cold front was a little slower arriving than was forecast, and we had a 12 hour window to sail to from Norman's Cay to Eleuthera even though there was still some chance of rain squalls and high winds.  We left at 8am, motored out through the cut into the Exuma Sound, raised the mainsail with one reef, and unfurled the genoa.  At first I thought the trip was going to be miserable.  The wind was strong and the waves were big.  As we continued on, the wind died some and the waves flattened a bit.  It ended being a very nice sail without any rain.  Our anchor was down in front of Dingle’s Dock in Rock Sound before supper time.

The weather forecasters were right.  The cold front came Friday night bringing us cloudy, windy, rainy weather.  Bill caught enough rain water to again fill our tanks to the brim.  It was again nice to have plenty of fresh water!  Saturday and Sunday were both rainy days.  We spent our time on board Irish Eyes reading, knitting, and puttering around.
Monday, May 19 was a beautiful Bahamian day.  It was a busy day for Bill and me.  We walked to the local grocery store where we found almost everything on our list.  We took a long dinghy ride to the Rock Sound Airport where we both got our 30 day visa extensions.  As a reward for our hard work, we had lunch at Sammie’s Place.  In the afternoon, I did laundry while Bill got fuel and visited the bakery for sweet goodies.

Also anchored in Rock sound were Dee and Ron from the sailboat Ursa Minor.  We met them in George Town this year.  The four of us walked over to the Atlantic side beach on Tuesday.  It was a pretty beach with lots of seaweed on the high tide line.  Among the seaweed I found a sea heart, a kind of sea bean.  After the two mile road walk to the beach and the long walk on the beach, we were hungry and thirsty.  We decided lunch at Rosie’s Northside Beach Restaurant was a good idea.  We walked to the restaurant only to find nobody there.  The door was unlocked and open, the TV in the kitchen was running, but no one was around.  Four very thirsty cruisers started back towards town.  Before we got to the end of Rosie’s driveway, she drove up.  We had an excellent lunch and plenty of ice cold beer.  Rosie insisted on giving us a ride back to town and the dinghy dock.  I was glad we did not have to walk the two miles.

Dee and Ron invited us to join them on Wednesday for a road trip.  They rented a car, and we drove from one end of Eleuthera to the other.  We saw beautiful beaches, Preacher’s Cave where shipwrecked settlers took refuge, and much more.  We stopped at two different produce stands for locally grown pineapple and bananas.  The highlight was the Glass Window.  There the Atlantic has been cutting the island in half trying to join the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the island with the Bight of Eleuthera on the other side.  It first punched a hole through a narrow spot leaving a natural bridge 70 feet above the water.  The natural bridge washed out in a 1926 hurricane and was replaced by a series of man-made bridges which have also been damaged.  In 1991 a wave moved the bridge 7 feet to the west.  The bridge has now been repaired, and the island is connected again.  It was a fun day.

We left Rock Sound and sailed north to Governor’s Harbour. The wind was light, and we had to motor some, but we had a pleasant trip.  It was clear in the evening, and we saw a green flash at sunset.  (They have been few and far between this trip.)  The next evening Bill and I went over to the local Friday Night Fish Fry.  When we had been there on an earlier trip, the fish fry was on the beach.  They have come up in the world; they now have a building with a deck.  There was music and dancing, a limbo contest, and the local Junkanoo band paraded through the crowd.  The world is small.  We met people from both New Bern and from Tennessee.

With almost no wind at all, we motored north through the aptly named Current Cut which greeted us with almost six knots of current going against us severely taxing our little diesel).  We anchored off a nearby beach to let the engine cool down, rest a bit ourselves, and spend the night.

Yesterday, we motored over to a couple of islands called Meeks Patch, anchored off the beach, put up the sun awnings to keep things cool, went for a swim, and goofed off.  Today we will make the short trip to Spanish Wells to see what has changed there since our last visit.  After that we will sail over to the Abacos.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014

This is a century or agave plant in bloom on Long Island.  It is huge and looks like a tree.

Sitting on a makeshift bench on the sand cliffs above the Stocking Island beach, Bill is discussing something like the physics of breaking waves while Olivia’s attention begins to wander.

The Family Islands Regatta is a photographer’s delight.  These are some of the smaller boats locked in close competition.

With huge cotton mainsails and with their crews outboard of the boat at the end of wooden plank pries, three of the C-class boats sail to weather together.

At times the boats sail through the anchored spectator fleet.  Our dinghy was floating off our stern, and Bill pulled it in to let them go by.

Even in dead light air the boats still carry enough canvas to sail along nicely.  This is Running Tide.  She won the first two races of the regatta, but in the third race struck another boat which cost her the third race and the overall trophy.

The racing boats are closely matched in their classes and the completion is fierce.

Wooden boats, cotton sails, no winches, built on the beach; the boats follow the lines of pre-WW II fishing boats. 

Racing over, the crew is ashore partying while their boat waits for the next day’s sail.

This pretty coconut palm lined beach is on the west side of Lee Stocking Island.  We explored the beach and the three trails that went inland from the beach.

One of the three trails goes to the top of Perry’s Peak, the highest spot in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas.

In this picture taken from half way up our mast, we are anchored between Big Galliot and Big Farmers Cays.  The water here is 7 feet deep, crystal clear, and is blue beyond blue.  You can even see the shadow of the dinghy on the white sand below.

Hello from Black Point.  The month of April was a busy one for us.

After the Zangri family left, we spent a couple of days working on broken boat stuff and walking on the Stocking Island beaches.  Some folks from our home marina, Fairfield Harbor in New Bern, invited us to a farewell lunch before they headed back to New Bern.  We also saw Kamouraska who we first met in Bimini and Swell Horizon whose homeport is Kingsport, TN.

After all the socializing we decided we needed a change of scenery.  Bill suggested a trip to Long Island. On the morning of April 1 Bill pulled up our anchor, gave me the signal for anchor up, and I pushed the throttle ahead.  We did not speed up.  I pushed a little further.  Instead of speeding up, the engine made bad sounds – expensive sounds.  We re-anchored the boat and started trouble shooting the problem.  The engine would not speed up even in neutral.  I noticed the exhaust (really a mixture of water and exhaust) was black.  The black soot in the blue crystal clear water behind the boat was startling.  This meant big trouble.  Bill was thinking about how to get back to Florida without an engine.  I was worried about where in the Bahamas we could buy enough ice to keep our food cold.

David, from Swell Horizon, came over in his dinghy.  He and Bill discussed the possible problems with the engine while I searched all our cruising guides for ads from diesel mechanics.  David suggested that the mixing elbow could be plugged.  That is the place that the engine cooling water is added to the exhaust to cool the exhaust and quiet the engine.  Bill liked the idea of a plugged elbow.  It was the only suggested problem he could possibly fix.  Off came the elbow.  Bill spent the rest of the day chipping out the rust, carbon, and salt that plugged the hole through the elbow.  Thankfully, that seemed to solve our problem.  The exhaust simply could not get out of the engine.

The next morning we again pulled up our anchor and headed south.  Unfortunately, the wind direction had shifted, and it was right in our faces.  It was a rough trip to Long Island.  Everything on the boat was covered in salt from the sea spray including us.  We anchored in Thompson Bay in time for a well-deserved sundowner; actually a double.

Several boats we know were also anchored in Thompson Bay.  Dot’s Way (who we met several years ago) came over one evening for a drink, and we chatted several times with Margareta (who used to be based in our marina in New Bern).  We walked over to the Atlantic Ocean side beach finding several nice shells.  Up on one of the dunes was an agave tree beginning to bloom.  These plants are very impressive in bloom.  The plant takes twenty years or more to mature, then it grows a huge stalk, blooms, and dies.

In Salt Pond on Friday night it was Happy Hour at the Long Island Breeze restaurant and bar.  Some of the cruisers got a band together (and practiced beforehand), so we enjoyed live music.  It was a good time.  Saturday was the local Farmer’s Market Day.  We went expecting local produce but found mostly craftspeople.  One woman did have bread for sale.  I bought what she said was banana bread, but it turned out to be chocolate chip raisin bread.  It was yummy none the less.  After a trip to the local grocery store for veggies, we had conch fritters for lunch at the Long Island Breeze.  We entertained a couple from Kentucky who were staying in a local guest house with our cruising tales.  The rest of the day was spent digesting our meal.

Early on Sunday, April 6 we left Long Island and returned to George Town to avoid some expected bad weather.  The return trip to GeorgeTown was a very pleasant downwind sail.  We were anchored at Sand Dollar Beach before suppertime.

The wind was supposed to clock all the way around from the south to the west to the north to the east.  On Monday we moved to a calmer spot on the town side of the harbor just east of the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  We had never anchored there before.  It turned out to be very calm in a west wind and convenient to town.  Bill made a trip to Exuma Market for water, then took the dinghy to Palm Bay Resort for a beer before walking to Darville Lumber to buy parts for our propane system.  In the evening we went to Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant’s to listen to the Rake-N-Scrape band.  It was great.  I even danced a little, but not very well, with a local.  Tuesday night we went to Shirley’s, a local eatery at the Fish Fry Village.  The food was first rate.  After dinner we explored further north in the dinghy and had a drink at the Splash Bar in Palm Bay Resort.  The bar was pretty Americanized with everyone down for a week.  We were the only overly tanned people there.  It was a fun evening.  Wednesday morning the cold front came through, the wind picked up, and shifted to the north.  With no land to the north, our spot became rough, and we moved back to Sand Dollar Beach.

My hair had grown so much it was quite unmanageable.  I let Bill give me a haircut.  It turned out unexpectedly well.  And, we now match in hair length.  Bill has not cut his hair since January!  He has become quite shaggy.

Our friends on the motor vessel Oh My! were anchored at Sand Dollar Beach.  We spent several happy hours with them on both our boat and theirs.  I taught Phyllis how to look for Sand Dollars one day.  We found more than a few.  Oh My! hosted a pot luck supper for several boats one evening.  There were twelve adults and three children on their boat, and there was still room for more.  I now need a big trawler.

One evening Bill and I went to the ARG (Alcohol Research Group) meeting at Hamburger Beach.  The purpose of this group was to observe the effects of alcohol on people eating appetizers on the beach.  The same evening 35 miles away in at the Long Island Breeze they were having their much advertised “Ted’s Birthday Bash”.  You can imagine our surprise to meet Ted at the ARG meeting.  Well, sailing being such a tricky thing with wind, tides, shallow water, and such; Ted did not make it to his birthday bash.  Pictures on the cell phones showed the party was going on quite well without him.  He and three others had an hour long jam session at the ARG meeting.  I am always impressed with folks who meet total strangers on the beach and play music together!

During all this socializing we had to use our dinghy.  The inflatable floor kept getting soft.  On Saturday we pulled the floor out of the dinghy to see if we could find the leak.  We found several where sand spurs stuck in our shoes had poked small holes in the floor.  Bill patched the leaks and put the floor back in the dinghy.  The next morning the floor was soft again.  This time we found a spot where a shell had cut the floor on its bottom.  Monday morning the floor was flat still again.  This time we found a small leak where a seam had come unglued last year.  We re-repaired the seam.  Tuesday morning the dinghy floor was still hard.  Yippee!

With the dinghy now holding air, we moved Irish Eyes over to the town side of the harbor.  We had company coming; Julia, Josh, Isabella, and Olivia.  We were excited, but had groceries to buy, water and fuel to get onboard, laundry to wash, and a boat to clean.   We could no longer just sit around and watch the dinghy leak.  It was time to get to work. 

The Self family arrived before noon on Thursday, April 17.  We met their taxi at Exuma Markets and ferried them and their bags to Irish Eyes.  Isabella and Olivia wanted to go to the beach, so we moved Irish Eyes back to Sand Dollar Beach.  We swam off the beach and from Irish Eyes in the afternoon.  The two year old Olivia needed some time to get used to the salty ocean water, but she was soon as happy in the water as on the boat.
Friday, we walked the trail over to the ocean side beach.  Both Isabella and Olivia liked the surf.  I had fun in the waves even though I got repeatedly knocked off my feet.  We went on a Friday afternoon sand dollar search on the nearby sand flats where we found a few pretty ones.  Isabella had a new snorkel and mask.  Julia helped her swim along and look at the bottom.  Isabella was very impressed with herself.  Unfortunately, the Self kids brought us a Mississippi bug from their day care.  The disease got Josh first, then Bill a few days later, and finally me the next week.

Josh was feeling better on Saturday morning, but Captain Bill was the next victim of the bug.  The rest of us left him on Irish Eyes and took a short dinghy trip to the beach.  The wind had picked up to about 20 knots out of the south.  That meant it was coming straight up the harbor causing waves in our usually calm anchorage.  After a rough and wet dinghy ride back to Irish Eyes, we decided to just play onboard for the rest of the day.

Easter Sunday morning, April 20 was a cloudy, windy day in George Town.  It rained enough for Bill to show how we can catch rainwater on Irish Eyes’ decks.  He caught about 20 gallons even though our tanks were nearly full.  Just after lunch the skies cleared, and it was once again a beautiful Bahamas day.  Julia, Josh, and Isabella went snorkeling on the nearby reef.  Isabella said she saw fish of every color.  Not bad for a five year old!  We all went over to the beach for a swim and a little sand castle building.

Monday was the last beach day for the Self family.  We played on the nearby beach then took one trail over to the sound side and another one back.  Isabella was our trail leader while Bill moved the dinghy to meet us and bring us back to the boat.

Bill’s brother, Haynes, and his wife, Laura, flew into Georgetown on Monday and spent two nights at the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  We all met them for dinner at Eddie’s Edgewater, then enjoyed the Rake-N-Scrape band afterwards.  We all had great food and enjoyed the music and dancing.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to the Self family on Tuesday morning.  Before leaving, Julia, Isabella, Olivia, and I made a quick trip to the straw market and bought small purses for both little girls.  The straw working ladies put the girls’ names on the bags while we waited.

Bill spent the rest of the day getting water and cleaning Irish Eyes while I did the laundry and a little grocery shopping.  We met Haynes and Laura for drinks and a nice dinner at the Peace and Plenty that evening.

Wednesday, April 23 was the beginning of the Family Island Regatta.  The Regatta is four days of sailboat races, music, food, and partying.  The first race was at 9am.  Bill and I went over to the Peace and Plenty in the dinghy.  We watched the start of the first race with Haynes and Laura from the balcony of their room overlooking the start and finish lines.  Bill took their bags to Irish Eyes in the dinghy while I escorted Haynes and Laura to the Exuma Markets dinghy dock.  After settling in on Irish Eyes we moved the boat a bit farther out into the harbor to be nearer the race course.

One of the turning marks for the A class race was very close to our new spot giving us a great view.  The racing boats are modeled after old working Bahamian fishing boats.  The boats are all wooden, have only cotton sails, must be Bahamian owned, and be crewed (mostly) by Bahamians.  The races were a sight to see with impossibly big sails set on small boats barely kept upright by the whole crew perched on wooden pries out over the water.  We had a good time watching.  Bill and I race our 22 foot boat in Tennessee.  Bahamian racing is a whole ‘nother sport.

Haynes and Laura wanted to spend some time in a remote location, and since Irish Eyes is actually a cruising sailboat rather than a free drinks bar, we pulled up the anchor and motored down to Pigeon Cay on Thursday.  We had a lovely day of beach combing, snorkeling, and swimming at the uninhabited island.  The chart had the anchorage labelled as a calm weather day only anchorage, but we decided to spend the night.  The wind shifted a little south, and we spent the night “gently” rocked to sleep.  I, unfortunately, fell victim to the Mississippi bug during the night.

Friday morning we sailed back to George Town.  Bill, Haynes, and Laura went over to the St Francis Hotel for lunch.  It rained a bit and was cloudy.  During the afternoon, the racing fleet came straight through our anchorage.  It gave us a great photo op.  While Haynes and Laura were swimming off Irish Eyes, the spectator fleet came roaring up scaring the swimmers out of the water.  In the evening, Bill took Haynes and Laura across the harbor to the Fish Fry Village for supper and to the Splash Bar for drinks.  I decided to call it an early night and stayed aboard in my bunk.

After a short dinghy trip to Sand Dollar Beach on Saturday morning, we moved once again to the town side of George Town.  There we again had a great view of the racing, but Haynes and Laura had to go home.  After a quick souvenir shopping trip, they caught their cab and were too soon gone.  I just hope they do not get the Mississippi bug.

The afternoon races had lots of problems.  First, there was no wind.  Then, with the B-class boats anchored on the starting line, it rained.  The crews huddled under the sails trying to stay dry.  After the rain the wind changed direction, so the course had to be re-laid, and all the boats had to be re-anchored on a new starting line.  In the B-class race one boat tipped over and sunk.  That forced the race committee to rearrange the course for the following A-class race to avoid the wreck.  In the A-class race the boat that was the points leader in the regatta struck another boat punching a hole in its side.  We had front row seats on Irish Eyes not only for the race but for the antics of the spectator fleet that chased the race fleet around the course.  There was even a twin engine float airplane that took off straight through the fleet, circled, and landed in another spot for a better view!  It was all pretty exciting.

Sunday was our day off.  Bill once again patched the dinghy floor.  Two of his earlier attempts did not work.  I caught up on my knitting and began writing this blog entry.  Monday, Bill ran into town for fuel and water.  We then we sailed out of George Town and to Lee Stocking Island.  It was an easy downwind 25 mile trip.

Lee Stocking Island was a new stop for us.  Ashore was the now closed Caribbean Marine Research Center.  We anchored nearby and attempted to land our dinghy there but found nothing but "No Trespassing" signs.  Farther south on the banks side of the island was a beach with coconut palms and three trails.  During the two days we were there we explored all three trails.  One went to the top of Perry’s Peak, named no doubt for John Perry founder of the research center.  It’s the highest spot in the Exumas at 123 feet.  The other two trails crossed the island to the airport runway and the beaches on the sound (ocean) side of the island.  They both passed through the tropical scrub that covers most of the island and the more northern one ran along an impressive stone wall that once must have once kept in livestock.  If I ever walk them again, I’ll take lots of water.  The island is mostly in its natural state and pretty.  We understand from reading on the web that it is slated to be developed by a New York banker as a "fully sustainable, carbon neutral, five-star sanctuary and wellness retreat".  That will be a shame.

After three nights at Lee Stocking Island, we sailed north in the Exuma Sound to Galliot Cut.  The tide was flowing out the cut (inlet) making it a little rough, but we got through without any problem and anchored nearby in a pretty spot between Big Galliot Cay and Big Farmers Cay.  One of our guidebooks said that a sandbar a mile or so south of us uncovered at low tide and provided excellent shelling.  We hopped in the dinghy and went to take a look.  The guide was right.  Even though a tour boat had gotten there before us, we picked up dozens of sand dollars, lots of smaller shells, and an Atlantic pearl oyster.

Yesterday, we sailed to Black Point, anchored off the settlement, and had supper at the Scorpio Inn.  We have internet here, so I have been using my time to update this blog.

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!