Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Okay, it's not red, but we've got a nifty little white Subaru 5-speed wagon and we're hoping that it won't plotz when we load all our stuff and lash Marjorie on the roof racks. Thank you Stu, who sold his car because he's headed for Japan with the Navy.

We spent a lot of time today on the phone (on hold) with our car insurance company, and then a very long time at the DMV to register the car. The lady who helped us there was expecting a grandchild to be born very soon, so we were hoping a call wouldn't interrupt the incredibly lengthy paperwork she was taking care of for us. We are truly foreigners here, but people are so very nice to us.

We had an interesting trip up the ICW from Vero Beach to Green Cove Springs, including the prize for the worst boat name, possibly ever: "Breaking Wind."

We always have the vhf on channel 16, and often hear stuff we just plain don't understand. "Let's dog some steers for a minute." We passed a large family group fishing from a small boat, and when we waved, one of the little boys piped up and shouted "BONJOUR!" I thought that was pretty good.

The ICW is generally a very placid sort of motoring day, and I got a lot done, packing and cleaning, and it all seems to need to be done over and over again.

This is boat life. Clean something, move something, repair something, move it back, clean it again, and repeat. When you get bored of this, look at birds and scramble to grab your glasses and your bird book: green parrots, anhinga, an osprey every 1/4 mile, hawks, oyster catchers, great blue herons, and I thought I saw an Hudsonian Godwit, but after sober contemplation, it was probably a common Willet. Also a brilliant Swallow-tailed Kite trailing about 3 feet of Spanish moss. It looked like he was sky-writing or dancing. I'm thinking it was all on purpose, since he could probably pick that stuff off his feet if he wanted to.

Easter weekend in the waterway was busy. Lots of small boat traffic in a channel about 200 ft wide, and many boats were hauling small children on inflatibles at high speed, weaving in and out of the other boat wakes. We heard one guy on the radio saying, "hang on, I've got a guy going by who's trying to get rid of a couple of kids." I felt my granny-glands kick in, and thought, what are they thinking? Of course, they're thinking it's a brilliant long weekend in Florida and we're out on the water having a fabulous time.

All the other people on the water have fishing lines out. There are so many fishermen in Florida, there should be no fish left here at all. This is a water sport state. Also a sleeveless t-shirt, backwards hat, armadillo roadkill, spanish moss sort of place. Lots of people and buildings just beyond the water's edge. We anchored just south of Jacksonville and were awakened in the middle of the night by a helicopter searchlight, policeboat, and shortly afterwards, shots fired. Today, we acknowledged that we're a bit overwhelmed by the culture change.

Also, we saw a Mallard duck. I don't think we're in Kansas anymore Toto.

We are facing last things in everything we do, and it's hard to contemplate. So we just keeping working, and taking our vitamins and being good to each other, and throwing things out and giving stuff away. All therapeutic.

Hoping to haul early next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

25 feet of water...I saw a nurse shark and several reef sharks, and that's just when I was looking.

Current cut. We boogied through there so fast it was scary, about 8-9 knots, but then we squirted out the other side and went back to normal.

Terrific library in Governors Harbour. We left a big bag of books there.

Bikes for the Ride for Hope

Excellent volunteer bike mechanics

He was preparing 170 conchs for conch salad for Saturday night. He called Michelle and I "baby."

The Final Fish. Cero mackeral. It was a brilliant wee meal.

We passed dozens and dozens of man-o-war jellyfish.

Celebratory drinks in Alans-Pepsicola...

Michelle tells us that we have 1,650 miles under the keel this season. We believe, and celebrate. No gargling with salt water necessary.

Marsh Harbour. An afternoon ashore, and someone else cooked dinner.

Sights in M.H. Lemon shark and tiger shark.

Weather. It expanded and ate the sky, and then it got dark and we didn't worry about it.

Trio con brio

Bones on the beach. I'm thinking pilot whale?

I have great respect for Dave's collecting instincts.

My one last Bahamas shell. Looks a lot like what I have in my pocket after a walk on Port Maitland beach.

Great Sail Cay. One last quiet anchorage.

Florida. I don't understand it either, but it doesn't give me confidence.

Ospreys everywhere. Also ibis, vultures, great blue herons, birds everywhere.

New sacrificial dinghy fish.

After six years of cruising, this is possibly the most unfortunate looking boat we ever ever saw. And that's saying something. Is it mac-tac?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We're getting weary of travelling. Lots of miles covered and lots of islands and anchorages. I've gone back to making notes every day because when I sit down at the computer I have to keep asking Randy where we've been.

So. We stopped a day or two in Governor's Harbour on Eleuthra. Big doings there - a huge bike ride, Ride for Hope, was starting the day after we got there. The incidence of breast cancer is about five times higher in the Bahamas than in the US, and a lot of that is about screening and access to treament. This ride raises funds to address these issues in the islands. People come from everywhere, and their bikes arrive by ship in containers and are ready to go when they get there. Local businesses are ready with food and drinks and entertainment. We watched from the boat as the whole town readied for the boat to arrive from Nassau with participants. A policeman was there to direct traffic, we thought, but basically, he just waved at every car that went by. Not directing traffic at all.

Nice grocery store in Governor's Harbour. First time I've bought fresh green onions secured with scotch tape. From someone's garden nearby for sure. We also needed diesel, and for some reason, the fella at the pumps thought it would be a good idea to fill the jerry jugs up to the brim, even when he was asked not to. Randy and Charlie had a hell of a time tranferring fuel from the jugs to the boat tanks. Both boats smelled like diesel until we got it cleaned up.

Governor's Harbour to Royal Island via Current Cut. We squirted through the cut at 8.5 knots. Quite a ride. Royal Island is under development - still a nice anchorage, but at one end of the bay there's containers, fences, docks, security lights, and at the west end of the island, there's a very snazzy small resort. I felt myself yearning toward its charms as we motored by in the morning.

Fishing has been unproductive, so I'll just get that out of the way. Nothing to report, and fishing is over. I'm considering how the lures will translate into christmas decorations....

Royal Island to Lynyard Cay (lots of boats, 30-40) and on to Marsh Harbour. Also crowded. Time to get used to more people and more boats. And wifi! And a cruisers' net that deteriorated very quickly into ads for local businesses, endlessly. We just shut it off, since we weren't going diving or out to dinner.

Marsh Harbour to Allan's Pensicola, where we met up with Trioconbrio with Bill and Dave aboard. Had a drink on ND to catch up, and make plans for heading on. Weather was not conducive to heading ashore for a beach walk, which is too bad, cause I remember a great windward beach walk on the way down.

Press on. Great Sail Cay was our last anchorage in the Bahamas. Michelle and I did our last beach walk, joined by BIll and Dave. Bill was shadowed by a small black-tipped shark as he sloshed along at the edge of the water, and we wondered at great swaths of the beach that looked rooted up by large pigs. We headed back to the boats at dusk before the pigs came back out to play.

My last beach walk, and the only shell I pocketed reminded me of a Port Maitland beach mussel shell. I'm ready to be home.

Great Sail to a spot on the Bahamas Bank - a huge expanse of shallow water that provides a place to anchor before heading across to Florida. Unless you get there, and there's a horrible wind chop and the boats are hobby-horsing and yanking the gear and the crew all over. Randy got more and more agitated and finally said, we're better off crossing tonight instead of tossing around here. Bill and Dave chose to go too, and Mi Amante decided to wait it out. After the fact, it was a toss-up as to who did better.

Long night, motorsailing, with just screwy enough motion that neither of us was able to sleep. Around four am, there were squalls moving in from the south, and one got bigger and bigger and started shooting lightning and thunder. Trioconbrio and ND chose to back off and head out to sea until it passed, and that took years. It's a horrible situation to be eight miles from rest and safety and to turn back out to sea while the lightning flashes are all you can see. I hid my eyes and squinched up in the corner under the dodger while the cold rain and spray ran down my neck and my knees into my pants. Randy steered and watched and decided which way to dodge, and got soaked through because our foulies aren't waterproof anymore, and he got us through safely.

By the time we headed in through the inlet at Fort Pierce, there were piles of wet clothes on the floor inside. We headed for the first anchorage, the same place we anchored in 2006, and found out that it has silted in since then. We went hard aground, with the tide falling and more rain pouring down, and Trioconbrio was unable to pull us off. Towboat US did, for a small fortune, and I'm not kidding about that. We finally anchored south of the south bridge, drank hot tea with a shot of rum, showered, found dry clothes.

No rest yet - we put the dinghy in and went ashore and Bill and Dave picked us up in a car they borrowed from a friend and we went to the airport to check in. Grocery store for STEAK, MUSHROOMS, WINE, SALAD!!!! Back to the boat, consume major calories and to bed. Nothing was broken (loosened all the teak in the bowsprit), nobody was hurt (just a few more bruises), and we never have to do that again.

The next night we had steak and mushrooms and wine and salad again, just because we could.

Spent a day or two catching our breath and then on again. Vero Beach for two nights, long enough to do four loads of laundry, get the free bus and do some shopping, and long enough for SB to get pretty much coated with no-see-um bites. Flying teeth - those little buggers love me and it takes days for the bumps to stop itching. I hates them. Then, off again. Tonight we're anchored in Eau Gallie, and enjoying wifi courtesy of the local library. Heading north again tomorrow.

We plan to be in Green Cove Springs, just south of Jacksonville in about a week. We're fine. Tired. Randy is used-car-shopping on the web. I'm hoping for something red with a manual transmission.

Lots of photos to follow when we get a better connection.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

All cruisers count on weather forecasts, and most of us get weather reports from as many sources as we can. Randy favours the weather on WIFIMarguerita, Windguru, and ugrib, and of course, Chris Parker on the single-side-band radio every morning. Except when there's very bad weather in Florida, and both of Chris's antennas are knocked out by a tornado, and there's no wifi connection to hook you up with all your other sources. Sometimes you just have to look outside and go with your gut.

Which is what happened when we were at Conception Island, one hop from Clarencetown. We'd had a nice fast motorsail from Long Island -- 6 knots under power without guzzling fuel, but add just 8-10 knots of breeze, and with all sails up, she'll do 7+. Again, not so good for fishing, but I'm starting to think that there must be some nutritive value in sargasso weed. I've caught many dozen bouquets of the stuff. Perhaps it has medicinal value. I'm covered with bruises after all this sailing, and on the way into Conception, I was standing on the bow waiting to drop the anchor and I sneezed, dipped my knees as one sometimes does with a big sneeze, and whacked the sampson post with my shin. Like a good sailor, I kept the blood from dripping on the teak until we were anchored. Randy suggests soccer shin pads.

From there, we headed for Cat Island without a current forecast, but managed to dodge the one enormous squall and cross a lot of shallow water to anchor by New Bight on Saturday night. Music from shore was loud and confused and basically horrible. I thought of Puerto Rican Saturday nights with nostalgia.
Next morning we went ashore for a walk and counted the churches in this little community. Lots, with all different styles of worship and music. Some shouting, some quiet voices singing, and a couple of small energetic bands. One new church with a very loud preacher exhorted his congregation and his every shout was punctuated with a loud tuneless blat from the trumpeter. Someone would be speaking to that fella after the service I predict. Some of the partiers from Saturday night were still asleep near the beach in the late morning, and a lady had opened up one of the tiny stores sell them cold pop to help their heads. So we stopped too, and it's the first time we've ever bought a cold beer from a very nice lady in her nightie.

We passed by an well-kept old graveyard on our walk, and everywhere, the ancient stone walls of old houses and churches stand upright next to the new buildings. The old wooden roofs, window and door frames are gone, but the walls and foundations are solid.

The main attraction in New Bight is "the Hermitage," at the peak of Mt Alvernia, aka Mt. Como, the highest point in the Bahamas. Quite a hike, you'd think, but this is the Bahamas, and the peak is 206 feet above sea level. We strolled to the base of the hill and got a good look at subsistence farming techniques. You couldn't call them fields, just patches of land with the brush whacked off at chest height, then burned, then planted. Cabbages, tomatoes grow in any patch of dirt in the crevices of the limestone, and the patch is ringed round with tall corn, like a fence. No point picking rocks, there's nothing but more rocks underneath.

The Hermitage was built by Father Jerome, who was first an architect, then an Anglican priest, then a Catholic priest. He was big on building churches, several different denominations worth. The Hermitage was his retirement project, built it by hand, by himself, and he died there, a hermit, at age 80.

The stations of the cross are illustrated in concrete and stone cairns as you clamber up the steep, steep stairs and rocks to get to the top. We'd picked up a guide on our way, a cheery spotted white dog, but he stuck so close he was a bit of a liability on the upward and downward climb.

You can see the place for miles around, but when you get there, it's actually very tiny. I thought of the Friendly Giant for some reason. I wrote our names and "Lake Annis, Nova Scotia" in the guestbook in the chapel, which could have fit entire into the cockpit of the boat. We've seen lots of forts and ruins and churches, but this was a charming place, very pretty, very clean, odd and uniquely personal. A place of happy solitude.

See below for photos.

Conception Island sunset

monster osprey nest - click on this to see a bigger version

a squall with lots of wind underneath

why wings indeed...

very excellent cold beer bought from lady in her nightie

farming, Bahamas style


no shortage of churches, some defunct

everywhere, new buildings with old buildings

big hill!

I went down these steps on my bum

There were vertical steps inside and a bell in the belfry - guaranteed to bang my elbows, knees, etc, so I didn't try it.

Our volunteer guide

Charlie and Michelle

Cat Island sunset

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