Saturday, January 28, 2006

Some photos - Great Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay. We're probably leaving here tomorrow morning, heading for Marsh Harbour (depending on the weather of course). We'll post again when we get wifi.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tom here yet again to give you an exciting and youthful angle on life in the slow yet intermittently fast lane. We all biked or walked into "town" at West End, but there's not much there after the place was battered by three hurricanes in a row. Lots of abandoned buildings, garbage blowing around, empty conch shells. After we left West End we sort of went headlong into the Bahamas wilderness.

The first place we stopped was a little island called Mangrove Cay. It was a a boring sail through shallow and calm water. Pretty though. Upon arrival we set the anchors along with the rest of our convoy and ate dinner and went to bed. The most exiting thing to happen at Mangrove Cay was Abby (the convoy mascot dog) refusing the beach as a passable latrine. She ended up holding it for nearly 24 hours.

We set sail the next day for Great Sale Cay. A beautiful island that Abby was happy to see. We stayed for a full day and did some fishing. I got a foot long snapper and a very very small barracuda. I also went swimming, trying my hand at spearfishing to no avail.

One of the great things about this area is the radio. Out of the two channels we sometimes get there is always something entertaining to listen to. The terminology is mostly to blame. Instead of "That's what people are saying" you get "That is the word on the lips of the people." And in terms of the weather, instead of "showers" you get "pesky sprinkles." Can you imagine what would happen at home if they started tacking on their opinions of the weather? If sprinkles are pesky, what is two feet of soaking wet slush on the ground?

Moving on. We headed on down the line to Allens Pensacola or "pepsi cola" as we call it, where anchoring was bit of a challange but ultimately succesful after switching from the 45 pound CQR to the 35 pound Delta (for all you anchor jockies out there). This place is by definition a tropical paradise. Great long beaches all the way around, the water is crystal clear and the air temperature is perfect 98.6 which happens to be normal human body temperature. I'll stop talking about it for fear of receiving hate mail.

Paul and I tried spear fishing again with much greater success, landing eight blue striped grunts and one grey snapper. This all worked out for the dinner party we had in our cockpit for nine people, during which the convoy crew took the opportunity to make Paul and Denise (from North Carolina) proper honourary Canadians (which seemed to make their boat go a little faster the next day).

The next day, we all got to pull those white things up on the big sticks and turn the motor off. Our first sail in the Bahamas! All the way to Green Turtle Cay, which has a lovely town, New Plymouth. We arrived first and turned around to sail through the fleet. which was a very good photo op for us and the other three boats. We let the shallower drafts enter the harbour first as the chart showed it to be a very tight fit. We ended up waiting outside the harbour for an hour for the tide. While entering the harbour the depth sounder showed depths as low as 5.8 feet, which is strange because we draw six and we were still moving. So here we are in a lovely little town waiting for weather so we can go on another wild adventure.

PS from SB: Laundry is $4 wash, $3.75 dry. No laundry will be done by me, here. Found a wine bottle with a message in it on the beach at Great Sale. It also contained a very battered US buck. Message was written on Chicago Ritz Carleton notepaper, but the ink had washed off. Note: use indelible ink for bottle messages.
We have a lousy connection here, and we keep losing it when we swing on the mooring, so I'll post a pile of pics some other time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ta da. I went swimming today in the ocean.

Didn't make Lucaya. About 3 am, Randy got on the VHF and consulted with the convoy and we all agreed we'd had enough of beating ourselves up in seas, and suggested we ease up and head for West End on Grand Bahama - an easier course, and shorter distance under the conditions (which were NOT what was forecast). We'd been beating into 6-8 foot seas with wind nearly on the nose at 25 knots. It's never what you expect.

But it did get marginally better for a short stretch once we changed course, then the wind picked up some more, and it was bounce, roll, roll, bounce, and repeat, until dawn when we galloped up to West End, dropped the sails, and tied up at a slip and waited for the Customs Ladies (and the rest of the convoy) to arrive.
Randy had the longest night, since he did almost all the steering, with breaks for navigation checks. He managed a couple of hours of sleep today while Tom and I did the beach.

We sat in Bill and Leona's cockpit tonight and reviewed the trip. Leaks? Yes. On our boat, just in the main cabin, blowing through the vents, soaking one of the dinette cushions and the crew member reclined thereupon (moi). Also the forward end of the forward cabin bunk, nullifying the monster laundry job of washing and drying the duvet, just completed at great expense in Ft Launderdale. Sigh. Otherwise, boat was watertight. Vixen had much the same sort of leakage, and a port light leak, and they also lost the use of their jib when the head pulled out. Tom went up their mast this afternoon to retrieve the halyard and the dangling grommet. Voyageur C and Sea Holly did okay, but we all agreed that our stowing skills were only up to ICW conditions. As of this afternoon, we were all still wading through crap on the cabin soles. On Nancy D, this included about 30 vitamin C pills, 4 plastic bottles, the broom, one roll of Christmas wrapping, all my clothes and bins in which they used to reside in my locker (the door latch let go), 8 books I've read and was going to dump at the last book exchange shelf, the settee cushions, shoes, mustard bottle, four baseball caps, and things which have made their way into the bilge which will screw up our lives in other ways in the days to come. The passage was rough enough that I have several new bruises, not news really, given the map that I carry on my shins (lead with the shins, lead with the shins, where did I get that advice?), rough enough that we all agreed that it was difficult to sort out how to brace yourself with enough of an angle to pee, and be well enough braced to sort out one's clothing without being tossed into the opposite wall before you got your foulies pulled up. Tom puts his foot on the opposite wall. Muther has a rather more difficult time of it. Ah, it's all good for your abs.

Part-way through the night I remembered what it was that I hate about this sailing stuff: sailing. Things look better in the daylight, with the turquoise water just a glowing all round. And Tom and I did go swimming. Water was great (guess what, cold at first), about 23 degrees. We took our snorkels and masks and just wandered around the beach just around the corner from the marina. Nothing spectacular, sandy, grassy, but we saw a big ray while we walked along the beach, and fish, starfish, conch, dead bottles, coral, sand, bubbles, all sorts of good stuff snorkelling. And it was just us on the beach and in the water. Yay. Yay. Yay. It's lovely.

Now I'm going to sleep. For the first time in 36 hours.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Last day in Fort Lauderdale - we have a weather window and we're heading across tonight. We've had a loooong stay here, and got lots done (WestMarine, Sailorman, Sailrite, Boaters' World, Bluewater Books, etc. This is a terrible place), and spent January, February, March and April's funds. Good to get that out of the way, don't you think? We're totally stocked and stowed, of course there's still a bunch of jobs to do, but we're off. Never let work spoil a good weather window.

I'll let Randy provide the details about the itinerary when we get there, but we'll check in in Lucaya, stay overnight, and head for the Berry Islands the next day. There are several boats heading out tonight, so we'll be travelling in company with Paul and Denise on Vixen, Bill and Leona on Voyageur C, and Heather and Ray (and Abbie) on Sea Holly. The moon is just past full, and the weather is looking good, so it should be a pleasant crossing. We've been sitting in one spot for so long, there has been some discussion about needing mal-de-mer meds. We'll see how it goes.

Here's some recent (and not so recent) photos for your entertainment.

(We finally got our Christmas packages.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fort Lauderdale: Mile 1064 on the ICW, and we figure we're done with the waterway. Whew.

Since we came via the ocean to Palm Beach, we didn't see much of the local geography, or perhaps real estate is more to the point. But from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, it was an solid parade of money, money, money. The homes (cheek b'jowl), the pools, the sculptures (think Neverland) the landscaping, the never-ending moniedness of it all. Heather (on Sea Holly, travelling just behind us) and I agreed that we were worn out with it by the time we picked up the mooring at Las Olas Marina. The only thing that was evident across the board was the hurricane damage. Most of the houses and buildings have damage, and the trees are pretty much shredded. This is a good time to be a construction worker in Florida.

Lauderdale is like Venice in that it's planned around canals. I'm assuming this was all planned, cause it must have cost a shitload. The front of the houses face the road, and their backyards face bing-bang right on the canals or the ICW. The houses are fabulous in very many ways -- some modest stucco bungalows, with patios you could picture yourself having a beer on with the neighbour ladies. Others are built for entertaining clients, employing pool boys and gardeners, intimidating passing Canadians, and providing vegetation for enormous iguanas to quaff and then crap. We did see several really big iguanas. One was orange, and about 4 feet long. Alarming, I should think, to find that grazing on your back lawn. But then you could hire someone to wrangle it.

After many many miles of "manatee area" warning signs, we've finally seen manatees. They surface close to the boats on the moorings, roll over once or twice, and then disappear. Thick, fat, round, faces like walruses. Tom says they're like morbidly obese hairless beavers, only missing hind legs. I'll see if we can get them to pose. Their appearances are generally very brief, so this might not happen.

This is a really a lovely place, and up until Tom arrived the weather was so wonderful (Friday and Saturday were cold, as in daytime low 60's). We've been sitting on deck in the moonlight and listening to someone a few canals away practicing their bagpipes. Bagpipes. Everywhere you go in the world, you can find something surreal. This is the least bagpipy place I can imagine, but there you go.

Based on the fella that fishes by day and sleeps on the bench on the shore near us, we've noted that it's a lot more comfortable to be homeless in Florida than in Nova Scotia.

We're parked just about under the Las Olas drawbridge. We spent a part of one afternoon watching a trio of snazzy racing yachts with Italian flags jockeying for a bridge opening (we could hear them yelling into their phones), missing the opening, dashing for the closing drawbridge, hitting the brakes, jockeying again, missing again....finally they gave it up as a bad job and raced off south again. Better than TV.

The first night we were here, there was an aged boat anchored on the edge of the mooring field, and about dusk, the capt was sounding with a long stick, and they decided to up and move. So they moved a bit and went aground, got off, went aground again, and spent the night there. In the morning, they hauled anchor, floated off, and in the process of motoring out of the anchorage, they collided with the bow of the boat ahead of them. It's not that crowded here, about 10 moorings, but this fella was having a bit of a bad week. No damage that either capt could see, so they decided to head on down the road. Hope they have better luck in their next spot. Having the bucks to pick up a mooring ($20 a night here) is probably a luxury for some folks. There have been many nights when it's meant a good night's sleep for us.

Another nice thing that happened, and isn't it nice when there's a list of nice things to report, was a visit from a local in a beautiful launch cruising by to tell us we were the prettiest boat in town. Turns out he has a 1970 Cheoy Lee Clipper as well.

Randy's friends Paul and Julie here in town have been wonderfully helpful, and we've been driving from West Marine to Sailorman to the hardware store to the grocery store in their van. Paul provided a map with all the retail/nautical hotspots highlighted, and drove Randy around to make sure he was well oriented. The first day here, Randy and I also did a big walk (it had been several days since we'd been off the boat) and got a good look at the beach (beauty and beast, the good the bad and the ugly, and another soupcon of surreal) spent lots and lots of quality time at Bluewater Books.

On Friday, we picked Tom up at the airport with no difficulties, had a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and for all that it seemed a very chilly day to us, Tom seemed to be pretty comfortable. The next few days will be major work days: installing the bits and pieces for the single sideband, buying and stowing food for the next millenium (TP takes up a lot of room) and trying not to bark at each other. I think we've reached the point where the novelty of living aboard is wearing off, and the dirty underbelly of "I vant to be alone" is occasionally making itself felt. We have most certainly reached the point where the irritation level is high about certain things. I think it's recurring mould, I-can't-find-an-effing-thing-in-this-effing-fridge, where is the *.thingIneednow, and a certain nostalgia for a time when I spent the day doing things I was really quite good at. Also getting in and out of the dinghy can be an assault on one's dignity. After you've been in a place for a day or two, it's like a signal to wake in the middle of the night and worry about money, instead of leaks. And perhaps the retail overload of West Marine making itself felt. You can only take so much of West Marine before you have to either rob a bank or get roary-eyed drunk. Neither has happened yet. Stay tuned.

But lest you think that the dream has soured, we'd like to provide you with this brief look back at Thanksgiving, 2005 - a previously unpublished photo. Go ahead and laugh. We did. Please compare with our xmas photo.

Obviously, travel is better than Botox.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Palm Beach/Lake Worth.

Happy new year. It's dark, and it must be warm, because this spleen queen is sitting in the cockpit in shorts and flip flops. A deep breath is very rewarding in terms of nice smells and warm air. There's lots of lights on in the homes of the beautiful people on the shore in Palm Beach. In the afternoon, we can sit and watch children's heads bob up and down above a hedge ashore. We have deduced that there's a large trampoline in someone's yard. New Year's Eve there was lots of fireworks, amateur and dangerous looking for the most part (let's light this and skip it over the water just by that multi-million dollar yacht, okay Chip?) Tonight it feels like the last night of the hols, and all the kids ashore are screaming and sounding just a wee bit out of control.

Someone else has an automatic bird scaring system that plays a tape of ravening hawks ripping pidgeons to bits. Over and over. Every 5 minutes on the weekend, but boosting up to every minute come Monday morning. It's not that bad for us - the wind and the current tend to move us around so we get some variety in views and audio, but we're scratching our feathers over the programming of that tape. Moving around also affects our wifi reception. We do best on an incoming tide.

We've been here for two days. Really nice trip offshore from Fort Pierce to Lake Worth -- the first bit was a serious trudge through a inlet with a wicked current. It was Florida Rush Hour: a jillion big and small sport fishing boats, some sailboats, some honking motor yachts, some small open boats, everybody who had had their coffee was headed out through this roiling bit of water. Those without boats were fishing on the breakwater and laughing at the gas-sucking traffic going almost nowhere, quite slowly against the current (I'm guessing). It added about 45 minutes to the trip that we hadn't counted on, so we ended up getting into Palm Beach just in time to watch the last parasailing boat hauling in their last customer.

But we had a few hours of great sailing with all the white stuff up (not mouldy after all), then the breeze came around forward, and we slowly took in sail and ended up motoring the last half of the long day (55m). But there were two great turtle sightings, really great, and porpoises shooting straight out of the water and doing flips. They do it for fun, not just at Seaworld for fish treats. What a blast to watch. It just wakes you up and makes you happy to watch it, albeit from a distance.

We travelled from Vero Beach to here with Paul and Denise on Vixen. Travelling together means we sort of stayed in view of each other -- about 3 or 4 miles apart -- but it's fun to check in on the VHF every once in a while and discuss the progress. Lovely people. They came over for a drink last night, and we discussed computer problems and ate Denise's crab dip. They're going to be stuck here for at least ten days while their computer makes a trip to CA and back again for repairs. Our other pals from Vero Beach, Alan and Anne on Freya, are heading straight off to the Virgins. It's nice to think that we'll anchor somewhere and look around and see boats that we know.

New years eve was great. We toyed with the idea of eating leftovers after the long day on the water, but heck, we gave that up and had a terrific meal and great wine and balanced it nicely by retiring to the bunk at 9. Woke refreshed and ready for champagne and mango juice and a big breakfast. How sensible is that? Much easier to do in warmer climes. Something about new year's eve in frigid temp leads to excess. I'll let you know if this theory lets me down in the future. Okay, just assume.

We'll likely head out in the morning, either on the ICW or offshore, depending on how Randy's tarot cards interpret the weather, and it's only a one or two day trip to Ft. Lauderdale either way. Tom is rejoining the ship on Friday, and we'll restock all the stuff we've been eating and drinking in the last week or so, and then we'll head Seriously South. The first weather window to the Bahamas, and we're hauling anchor (something I'm getting better at).

Happy new year to you all.

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