Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jan 11-18, 2011 (Week 15, Day 99-105)

Tues. Jan. 11, 2011 (Week 15, Day 99): Destination: Little Farmers Cay to Monument Beach, Stocking Island, George Town area Departure: 0705 hrs. Arrival: 1515 hrs. Mileage: 54.63 SM/47.5 NM Weather: partly cloudy, partly sunny, warm about 25C & hazy; sometimes appeared that it might rain Winds: SE 8-10K, seas on Exuma Sound (Atlantic) variable at 3-4 ft. at times then 1-2 ft. & pleasant swells of about 2 ft.; prediction of a prolonged front followed by a trough from NE at 20-25K & possible squalls with 30-35K lasting till now Mon. & perhaps Tues.

A night of interrupted sleep; anticipation of run out on the ocean tomorrow? The SE winds during the night would increase briefly as well as the waves then diminish. Chris Parker came in poorly for the first part of his broadcast so we missed that SSB transmission; sounds if the unpleasant weather front is extended. As much as we did not want to spend an extended period time in George Town only having to arrive a few days before Jan. 21 when the Morrows have friends arriving, we felt it best to try for a secure anchorage there & not Lee Stocking Island as previously planned. Weather is always the deciding factor especially in this area of the Bahamas where there are very few spots with all directional protection. With a Batelco Tower in front of me, I phoned Mom prior to departure. We ran through Little Farmers Cay Cut at 0733 hrs. without any problems. We motored most of the way as the wind was directly on our nose with a slight shift early afternoon when were able to roll out some jenny. Why not main & all the jenny with barely 10K winds was my question? I just dug my nose into my novel. The Morrows anchored off Monument Beach of Stocking Island in Stocking Harbour (east side) rather than Red Shanks Anchorage off Crab Cay about 10 mi. further south since we were so far behind; tomorrow we hope to relocate there. We cautiously exited Exuma Sound & entered Stocking Harbour via the Conch Cay Cut, avoiding reefs, breakers & shallows to Simons Point Waypoint then Goat Cay Waypoint through the deeper channel towards the anchorage field. The sight of hundreds of masts stretched as far as the eye could see. We had to make certain that we did not anchor in the shipping lane. In 10 ft. we put out 80 ft. of chain. It was time for a stiff martini as I was having a melancholy day. Clouds for the third night obscured a sunset but there was semblance of a pinkish sky afterwards. Supper= beef stir fry with rice. Reading, journal entry then bed. There were so many more island lights & mast/anchor lights than we were used to. Nevertheless there were stars, a hazy near half moon in the sky & an east wind keeping the wind gen whirling tonight.

FYI: George Town dominates the southern Exumas; (1) end & turn around point, or (2) launch pad for voyage to the Caribbean, or (3) winter or summer haven for sometimes 300 boaters + 100 more regatta week. It does not have a harbour but instead a 9X1 NM wide strip of water separates the mainland of Great Exuma Island & the 2 east barrier islands ie Stocking Island & Stocking Harbour to the north & Elizabeth Island & Elizabeth Harbour to the south. Shelter is found on one side or the other but not all the time, & is exposed to prevailing SE winds. Stocking & Elizabeth Harbour are essentially a continuance of each other. Shoal areas, rocks & reefs are scattered around + dredged hollows. George Town offers all services.

Anchorages: (1) off Stocking Island clear of the harbour fairway ie Monument Beach, Hamburger Beach Club--> dock & path to ocean beach, Volleyball Beach -->off 1st basin with ocean beach access, daily volleyball games, meetings & classes, Sand Dollar Beach --> spectacular crescent beach & coral heads for snorkeling (2) linked Stocking Island basins ie inside of basin #1 inside of sandspit, basin #2 (mooring balls only), basin #0 & #3 (off limits & for long term storage only) (3) Peace & Plenty Hotel, George Town (4) Kidd Cove--> south end of Regatta Point (5) Red Shanks Cays or Crab Cay--> long dinghy ride to George Town via Crab Cay Bridge

Wed. Jan. 12, 2011 (Week 15, Day 100): That’s right--- day 100 from the time we left Ottawa! Only approximately 143 days remaining! Today was also remarkable as 49 out of 50 states received snow; exempted was Florida. What’s happened at home? My grey hairs have increased 10 fold; very personal reasons may have played a big role. I am very grateful that Lynn & Larry were around; I owe a lot to them for their support in every way, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.

Destination: Monument Beach, Stocking Harbour to Red Shanks Cays Anchorage Departure: 0900 hrs. Arrival: 1035 hrs. Mileage: 7.91 SM/6.88 NM Weather: mostly sunny, & very warm (?28C); late pm rain clouds around mainly to the NW but no precipitation Winds: ESE about 10K; late pm N

We were introduced to George Town Cruisers Net; an invitation was first announced on VHF 68 (hailing channel here) & to switch to 72; weather report, business, community announcements regatta, boaters general, new arrivals, departures & thought of the day was the program followed. Afterwards VHF was extremely busy with multi cruiser conversations. We up anchored & gradually made our way past Hamburger Beach, hurricane hole anchorages on Stocking Island, Volleyball Beach sliding down to the south end of Stocking & Elizabeth Island (now Elizabeth Harbour). Then we turned to starboard evading coral heads towards Crab Cay & Red Shanks Cays. Slowly we hugged the shoreline moving in a semicircular fashion till we set anchor down in 8 ft. with 80 ft. of chain; later I snorkeled the humps/undulations of sand locating the anchor itself. We dinghied to George Town via going under the 15 ft. fairly new Crab Cay Bridge--> a good 15-20 min. ride; further than the other anchorages off Stocking Island, but we had relocated here pending very strong & prolonged days of NE winds from this afternoon through to Sunday. We located the entrance into Victoria Lake, really a pond, Exuma Markets, Scotiabank & RBC Bank, Department of Tourism & a few hair/barber shops; but more explorations necessary. We picked up a few groceries at Exuma Markets ($60.07!); a well stocked grocery store with anything you would need if you were willing to pay the price; although some items were well priced. We will try Shop-Rite in the future where the locals usually shop, Mom’s Bakery & the Straw Market, but earlier in the day. I walked into Tranees Salon & got a badly needed hair cut immediately--> way too short, but I now see & remember that I have a cowlick on the top left of my head that I must warn people about & only then will they perhaps cut my hair more decently rather than it literally standing straight up. The others had beers at Denny’s (new joint next to Lake Victoria dinghy dock & Exuma Markets) while I walked about & had a haircut. The wind was slowly increasing when we dinghied back & that was when I snorkeled the anchor then rinsed off with the transom shower. Supper= Thai chez Morrows till 2100 hrs.--> superb! Some reading of a new novel then to bed. No sunset due to cloud cover, a mostly cloudy night & a hazy ½ moon.

Thurs. Jan 13, 2011 (Week 15, Day 101): Destination: Red Shanks Cays Anchorages Weather: cloudy; only a few very brief moments of blue sky & sun; warm--> cool but still in shorts Winds: N 25-30K & gusty; few white caps & short 1 ft. waves despite all the protection

A poor sleep with the increasing north winds at 0100 hrs.; at 0315 hrs. I was up & reading. A light sleep afterwards till 0700 hrs. therefore we missed Chris Parker’s transmission. George Town Cruisers Net seemed a little disorganized this am but all in all it is an admirable effort & informative. Winds were obviously the main factor today; Graeme let another 40 ft. of chain out, therefore 120 ft. total. We are so lucky to have relocated here as the protection is pretty well all directional. No pitching or rock ‘n rolling, hurray! But a day on the boat unfortunately; reading about the Outer Islands, watching a lone dolphin with great joy as we have not seen one since Florida & the ICW, watching a few more boats arrive & a few joe jobs. No visible sunset. Supper= leftovers of last few night’s meals. Reading & hoping sleep will come easily tonight.

Fri. Jan. 14, 2011 (Week 15, Day 102): Destination: Red Shanks Cays Weather: mostly cloudy with brief periods of sun Winds: howling N to NE 25-30K

Howling winds again today remained the huge factor--> no off boat activities, very restrictive, felt boat bound & bored; itching to walk about & explore town, unable to socialize & talk to other cruisers; thinking that with such frequent & prolonged fronts of high winds & seas that the Outer Islands may not be appropriate territory to explore. This front of weather (winds & seas) are extended till Mon. now with possibility of squalls. Some gentle rain would be appreciated as the boat is so salty. Unless you have experienced it, I find it hard to express into words the salt environment factor. We have been able to keep salt to a minimum in the cabin by removing footwear & clothing that have been infiltrated by salt & by wearing footwear for below decks only. Sleep was again only in few hour stints then few hours of listening to the unforgiving, howling winds, feeling the incredible pulling action & force on the anchor & chain & what if, listening to all the boat sounds as a result of 25+K winds especially in the dark, & thinking & worrying. The day comprised of a pancake breakfast for a change, boat shower, George Town Cruisers Net, scrubbing the shower, cooking up some hot dogs for lunch & macaroni noodles to make a macaroni salad, deciding what to have for supper & reading+++; no internet from this location. No sunset, only clouds. Supper= chicken breasts seasoned with garlic & onions, potatoes & corn. Reading then watched a DVD called Gran Torino which did distract our attention from the howling winds. To bed after medicating myself. Cloudy, slightly cool but comfortable night & N-NE winds slightly calmer at about 20K.

Sat. Jan. 15, 2011 (Week 15, Day 103): Destination: still Red Shanks Weather: heavy cloud, coolish & brief rain showers Winds: N to NE 20 -25K

Slept well. Looks like another day cooped up on boat; 2 days down 2 days to go apparently. With difficulty received Chris Parker, then Cruisers Net; some improvement in weather epected Sun. pm till Mon. pm, then increased winds that evening & night. We have spent lots of time here in George Town but not seeing anything. My back is a hair better & thankfully the pain has been confined to just across my lower back & not down my right leg; I guess the meds twice a day has helped. It might be stress; stress does nasty things as I have had also a slight burn in the stomach area X several days--> ulcer? I spent the am doing expenditure recording, a project that I have wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately this was interrupted after lunch when I discovered all the boxes wet under 1 floor board despite being wrapped in plastic-->1/8” salty, beige coloured fluid with tiny black specks (coffee grinds from a few weeks ago?). On further inspection we discovered some of the same in the compartment just aft & only a slight wetness in the med floor compartment just in front, yet all others were dry as a bone. The cleaning process went on for hours. Where was it coming from? There was lots of garbage now between 3 wine boxes & a beer & candy box. The Morrows were coming over for snacks & dinner= sloppy joes, macaroni salad & oreo cookies for dessert (soft?). We attempted to download a program allowing my laptop to recognize an antenna the Morrows had given me--> would not recognize. No sunset, occasional relief from the howling winds. I can’t imagine how lumpy it must be on Stocking & Elizabeth Harbours; I could see through the gap in the cays to see 1-2 ft. whitecapped chop. Only a few short rain showers, no stars & only cloud.

Sun. Jan. 16, 2011 (Week 15, Day 104): Destination: Red Shanks Weather: cloudy, not as heavy as yesterday, some blue sky & sun! Winds: still N to NE 10-15

A fairly good sleep--> seems the wind was less gusty & less boat movement & noise. An uneventful & unexciting am of breakfast, Cruisers net, boat shower & journal logging. But I did notice that the Bahamian courtesy flag on our starboard side has taken a beating & has frayed with the 1st weather front to Chubb Cay on Dec. 18th & has continued to deteriorate. Today I noticed that our big Canadian flag flown from our port stern, compliments of Diane & Bruce Kerr, has started to rip on the upper left corner seam. Mid morning the Morrows & ourselves ventured towards Master Harbour Marina in the dinghy; appeared rough & not conductive to picking up guests. We dinghied along the shoreline to Master Harbour Villas--> nice looking rentals, a nice & handy beach & dock that would serve well for pick-ups. We met Janet (N.B.) who gave us the proprietor’s name & cell number to call & ask permission (Jerry Lawless; rentals $1500.00 per month for 1-2 bedroom). The dinghy ride home was a wet one for some; I was well prepared this time with foul weather gear all done up. The ride to & from town would be long & wet as the wind was still at 15K & rollers & chop were 1-2 ft.; will have to wait till tomorrow + most places were closed at 1000 hrs. being Sunday & only a few reopened at 1400 hrs. An afternoon in the sheltered cockpit updating & completing my expenditure records, then journal entry till dark. Still finding evidence of fluid in the same one compartment; I say it was beer, certainly not tasting salty now, but Graeme was not sure No sunset but a few gaps in the clouds revealed some red sky.

Mon. Jan. 17, 2011 (Week 15, Day 105): Happy 41st Anniversary Lynn & Larry! Destination: Red Shanks ancora Weather: Ah hah, warm, sunny with some fair weather clouds Winds: Double ah hah, E to ESE still in the 12-18K range

No matter what, we were going into town! I needed to change the bed linen & stage laundry for when our guests arrive next Tues.; clothes wise we had faired well. Cruisers Net at 0800 hrs. while eating breakfast. We had thought about moving our location late today or tomorrow closer to town on a rising tide & expressed an interest to attend the Rock ‘n Roll Dance at Chat ‘n Chill at 1730 hrs. Bed linen laundry & laundry supplies organized. Since the weather has been consistently warm I was able to store away my warm clothes ie long sleeve T’s. vests, fleeces & thereby make room on the V-berth shelf. I bundled up head to toes for the dinghy ride to town. Not wet in this direction but going home was a different story--> winds did not decrease as expected. In town: bought the infamous regatta T 1 load of laundry--> small ($2.25 per load), medium & large washers & medium ($4.00/ 40 min.) & large ($7.00) dryers; total= $6.25 walked the entire circle of George Town + photos, checking out grocery prices at the 2 grocery stores (Mailboat arrived late Mon. pm; suggest Tues. & Thurs. are best shopping days) & located the churches & other shops until the dryer finished, RBC Bank-->$800 Bahamian from ATM to US dollars ($4.00 charge); Graeme could only withdraw $500.00 from Scotiabank internet at Pet’s Store--> free unless you use power; emailed family but tons of emails We were invited to Lynn & Larry’s for a steak anniversary dinner! I was able to find a card in ‘Accents’ before we headed back. This was the wet ride but the clean laundry & netbook were each quadrupled wrapped. A quick boat shower rinse then over to the celebration dinner. BBQ steaks done to perfection potatoes & romaine salad--> WOW! And for dessert, champagne followed by ‘Nassau Royale’. There was a sunset tonight but in this location we had an island obscuring the horizon. The winds did drop after sunset, a near full moon & stars. There was scant fluid in the compartment but Graeme had finally isolated the problem after 3 days--> the culprit was 7 beer cans stored in that compartment whose aluminium had deteriorated thus causing slow leaks!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dec. 28, 2010- Jan. 3, 2011 (Week 13, Day 85-91)

Tues. Dec. 28, 2010 (Week 13, Day 85): Destination: Warderick Wells Weather: cloudy with sunny periods but a mostly cloudy pm; cool temp of 15C Winds: NNE to NE 10-15K

A good sleep although I woke X 2 to check surroundings. A pancake breakfast listening to Chris Parker, followed by Highbourne Cay then Staniel Cay weather reports. I signed onto the internet but only after 40-45 min. was timed out---I could not have used 100 MB! At least I did get an email sent to my family. Both of us had boat showers then went to shore to pay for the last 3 day stays & find out why I was timed out; the explanation given was updates running in the background may have used the 100 MB; we bought more internet. Skip & Hariett (Moondance) showed me how to change the auto update settings. The wind was cold as we sat outside the office close to the tower doing emails so we returned to the boat to continue. After lunch Larry & I dinghied over to Rendezvous Beach & walked the trails to the ruins, the stone wall that bisected the island down to Beryl’s Beach; we then retraced our steps. Lynn & Graeme stayed back doing emails but both got timed out again. Not happy we returned to the office--- another 100 MG used up; why? Apparently something must still be running in the background or I have a virus; it was not worth buying anymore internet. We were invited to the Morrows for pizza supper-->delicious! An early night with the agreement that we would most likely depart at 0800 hrs. in the am barring bad weather. Some reading but the eyes were very heavy. A much quieter night. The wind gen had been keeping the batteries 100% charged the last few days; we had no need to run the engine except to charge my computer. Cloudy patches with some stars tonight.

Wed. Dec. 29, 2010 (Week 13, Day 86): Destination: Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay Departure: 0805 hrs. Arrival: 1205 hrs. Mileage: Weather: fair amount of cloud cover in am; clouds lingered most of the day with frequent sunny periods by 1400 hrs. Winds: E 8-9K

Still unable to get Chris Parker clearly even with an external antenna clipped up on a side stay at 0630 hrs. nor BASHRA at 0720 hrs., but it seems favourable to move today according to Highbourne Cay weather at 0730 hrs. All was readied for our departure especially anything that might go flying in the galley ie coffee pot. We flew the jenny part of the distance until it started flogging; we motored along at near 6.0K passing through the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park at it’s southernmost point at Conch Cay & past Compass Cay, Pipe Creek, Joe Cay Cut, Sampson Cay to Staniel Cay. Cambridge, Compass & Sampson Cays are locations I wish to visit at some point. We anchored in 10-11 ft. turquoise water in sand off Pig Beach (west side of Big majors Spot); 60 ft. chain let out. Graeme refueled the boat tank with 2 jerry cans of diesel-->full. The jerry cans + garbage was placed in the dinghy & we were soon off to shore. A 1-2 mile long ride to Staniel Cay Yacht Club where we refilled the cans with diesel & the dinghy motor tank with gasoline & disposed of our garbage ($2.50 for small bag/$5.00 for large bag). We will explore the location of the dump & the whereabouts of the island hopefully tomorrow. We walked around the yacht club & saw the rental cottages--> used by Carole & Bob Noble’s family 2 yrs. ago. We observed some of the happenings around this active place & obtained some useful information while having a Kalik (local beer-- $3.00). We met Skip & Harriet here; in fact all who had anchored in the north field at Warderick Wells have moved on today. There seemed to be some good anchorages north of the yacht club that we need to investigate. I had spotted a Batelco Tower on our approach to Staniel Cay so took the opportunity to phone Mom on my Canadian cell--- success! On returning to our anchorage we discovered many more boats in this huge area by Big Majors Spot. We sat in the cockpit reading facing west ready for the sunset, but clouds interfered; no green flash. Supper= cube steak with onions, potatoes & beans. Reading, journal entry then an early bedtime. Clear sky with stars & comfortably cool.

Thurs. Dec. 30, 2010 (Week 13, Day 87): Destination: Staniel Cay Weather: partly cloudy with much sun mid am till mid pm then threatening rain clouds but no precipitation; temp about 20C, warm enough for shorts & tank top but a cool evening Winds: NE to E 10-15K (variable) with increased gusts be evening

We listened to the weather report from Staniel Cay on VHF12 at 0800 hrs. over breakfast. Boat showers X2 while running the engine as Graeme needed to charge his camera battery & my laptop off the inverter; we readied ourselves for a day onshore. Firstly, Larry downloaded my photos onto his netbook, we did a pass by of Pig Beach but all the pigs had gone into the brush, so off to the government docks by the Baptist Church; we pulled the dinghys way up on the sandy beach as the tide was coming in. First stop was the bakery; 1 coconut loaf ($6.00!) &1 cinnamon raisin ($6.00!). Slowly we meandered past the library (the oldest building on the island), the Pink Pearl Groceries & Blue Wing Groceries just to check out stock & prices---scant & expensive; onto the post office, well (strewn with garbage), a picnic area by the front beach, Chamberlain cottages (brightly painted, colourful), St. Luke’s Medcical Clinic, All Ages School, Roosevelt Memorial Recreational Center (basketball, volleyball & tennis courts)-->primitive & finally the communication center (Batelco). It was noon so we thought we would try out a new establishment--> Sea & Taste Café—Dat’s Art Gallery (Bernadette’s) for lunch; huge, good cheeseburgers with fries + Kalik. We really needed to walk more, so proceeded in the direction of the dinghies, checking out Lindsay’s Boutique, the Original Straw Shop (permanently closed), the boatyard & into our dinghies to Isles General Store; the mail boat had come in late Wed. & most of the supplies had been picked over by the time we arrived (1400 hrs.). We dinghied to the beach behind the breakwaters to port of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club & sat people watching, chatting to other cruisers; lots of people milling around as there was an auction followed by free drinks & nibblies from 1600 to 1800 hrs.; the auction was well underway but the winds were picking up, the skies were looking quite dark, plus it was decreasing light in late afternoon & without the sun it was quite cool (sleeveless, no jackets) & NO evidence of free drinks & nibblies! Surprisingly the ride home was mostly dry as we were latterly surfing on the waves. Even more boats in our anchorage. At the Morrow’s we tried to connect up to the internet; we could see their secured line when they connected up so Larry bought 3 days or750 MB of WiFi= $25.00 paying by PayPal, then I would link up to his connection & we would split the cost; but with the increased winds (so we were told) our connection was if at best, only getting as few emails out. When I’m I going to get weeks of my blog posted & out? Supper= soup & sandwich, running the engine to charge my laptop again. The night was clear with tons & tons of bright stars--- so amazing!

Fri. Dec. 31, 2010 (Week 13, Day 88): New Years Eve! Destination: Staniel Cay Weather: warm in the sun but felt cooler due to the breeze; partly cloudy & partly sunny Winds: ENE 20 with gusts to 22K

Half a slice of cinnamon raisin & half a slice of coconut bread, toasted for breakfast; no the best bread we have had in the past as the coconut was actually doughy in the middle. The Morrows were over mid morning to see my WiFi antenna arrangement (poor reception in comparison to theirs for the most part) but all seems working as it should & they too had poor reception this am--> winds are up & could that possibly affect reception? We felt it was almost false advertising re availability of WiFi. We chatted the morning away making arrangements for new Years Eve Dinner here tonight & a typical New Years Day Southern-style US Supper at the Morrows tomorrow nightàChampagne in the fridge! + we watched the ‘A’ Class boat race between ‘Lady M’ & ‘Tida Wave’ which was to start at 1000 hrs. but was finally under way at 1202 hrs.--> a crew of 20 on hicking boards, 4 races planned with switching of anxious crew between races. Then at 1300 hrs. Graeme & I jumped into the dinghy to Pig Beach-->photos + we explored along the coast to the 2 other beaches & turned around at Royal Plantation Resort; we dropped into say hello to Tom & Phyllis (‘Cocoon Too’—B.C.) & we given a tour of their Crogan 42-->WOW! Home to start preparations for this evening’s feast. It was a leisurely evening of drinks & stuffed zucchini appetizers (thank you Pam!), supper= gnocchi compliments of Larry’s already made homemade spaghetti sauce, stuffed pork tenderloin, glazed carrots & potatoes. We watched a 2 hour DVD of George Carlin, I phoned Ottawa but 2200 hrs. was as long as we made it; Morrows back to their boat, I washed dishes while Graeme slept & that seemed to revive me till 2400 hrs. & the spectacular fireworks from ?Sampson Cay, then ?Compass Cay & finally Staniel Cay. Happy New Year & Best Wishes to All for 2011! To bed at last! No moon, clear skies & stars as bright & plentiful as one can imagine.

Sat. Jan. 1, 2011 (Week 13, Day 89): Happy New Year! Destination: Staniel Cay Weather: partly cloudy, partly sunny; at times clouds were so dark we thought for sure it would rain, but only drops Winds: E & brisk 15-20K; whitecaps in the anchorage

The weather report at 0800 hrs. by June from ‘Blue Yonder’ was inaudible--> problems with her antenna so what you see is what you get. The plan was to go ashore, do some emails & rent a golf cart to tour the island especially the Atlantic shores (east side of Staniel Cay). We left in our dinghys shorts & tees under rain jacket, garbage & netbook & camera quadruple bagged; we farred O.K. scooting across our anchorage but rounding Big Majors we were splashed repeatedly from one wave after another; Morrows turned back while we pressed on as we were already drenched from head to toe; my eyes burned from the salt water. Upon arriving I marched to the ladies washroom of Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC) & proceeded to wash my face & arms with soap & fresh water & rinse my hair using paper towels to pat dry. I somehow was able to connect up to Exuma WiFi for free for a few hours before being kicked off. Our clothes were near dry by then. We had heard ‘Artful Dodger’ & ‘Firecrest’ had arrived yesterday & we thought we would check them out. No sooner had we packed the netbook up & were about to leave when Patric & Dave came around the corner; e heard about some of their adventures in Nassau when the blow (40K) on Dec. 26th & 27th blew through. The four of us took a long walk (2-3 miles) from town to Club Thunderball, passing the dump burning garbage, sporadic homes here & there, some started & abandoned, & signs indicating beach access. We returned to our dinghy by way of SCYC where we were introduced to Chris Parker (weather forecaster on SSB that cruisers highly respect & regard his predictions) & his partner Mike who gave us info re Farmers Cay & the 5F Party--> First Friday in February on Farmers Cay Festival & other tidbits. The ride home was much drier. A quick rinse down in the shower & preparation of our part of tonight’s dinner at the Morrows= hoppen john + cornbread, salad & banana bread--> delicious & stuffed! We forgot all about the champagne last night & tonight; we will have to pick a celebratory night soon. We were all pooped from staying up late last night so called it an early night. We dinghied home under a star filled night sky.

Sun. Jan. 2, 2011 (Week 13, Day 90): Destination: Staniel Cay Weather: partly cloudy for a short time after sunrise, then brilliant sunshine with only occasional clouds & wonderful warm temp Winds: E to ESE about 10K; NE by evening

While the engine was running & charging my laptop I worked away at 3-4 days of journal entries. The water seemed calmer this am so we ventured into town, but once again around the tip of Big Majors the east wind was kicking up enough that we were again getting hit by waves of salt water. Plan was to do some emails (Larry’s purchase of WiFi 3 days ago would be expiring at 1800 hrs. & he still had over 700MB remaining so offered it to me) until slack tide about noon time & then we would snorkel Thunderball Cave (in the James Bond movie Thunderball & the movie Splash). We met other cruisers that the Morrows had met in lake Sylvia Last year & who happened to be from Gimli, Manitoba & knew some people Graeme knew. Before we knew it it was 1300 hrs. The dinghies we up high & dry on the beach so we literally had to lift them down to the water. We tied up to the mooring balls by the cave, donned our snorkeling gear, except I did not have my wetsuit & made our way to the entrance of the cave. We were surrounded by a massive thick cloud of sergeant majors (used to being feed); saw orange, green & purple coral & multiple variety of fish ie yellow tail grouper, needlenose, gar & brilliant iridescent royal blue small fish, teal & green coloured fish. When we entered the cave & looked up there were openings in the rock, long roots of plants hanging down & more fish. It was difficult to swim out from the opposite opening as the current was fairly strong; on turning back we were effortlessly pushed back into the cave; we had left it too late from slack time. The water was comfortably warm but the air was cool especially when the sun went behind a cloud; next time I must wear my wetsuit. Home James! A quick shower, snacks & a drink when the Morrows came over to see if there old antenna received a stronger signal; my computer was receiving a strong connection with no booster just by having it in the cockpit. I worked away till nearly 1800 hrs. posting 2 (Weeks 10 & 11)out of 3 weeks onto my blog successfully; WiFi must have times out & I guess Week 12 will have to wait; it is impossible to post pictures as well. An absolutely glorious sunset with no cloud interference. Supper= leftover hoppen john. I finished reading Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Lost Symbol’; fantastic & a must read for everyone! No moon just a clear night sky filled with brilliant stars.

Mon. Jan. 3, 2011 (Week 13, Day 91): Destination: Staniel Cay Weather: magnificent sunny day with few white clouds Winds: light NNE 5-10K

The last of the cinnamon & raisin & coconut bread, toasted for breakfast while listening to the Staniel Cay weather report. Events of the day: dinghied to shore, no power on the island (changing generator oil?) therefore no WiFi. A stat holiday but we were able to rent a 4 seater golf cart for half a day (4 hrs.)= $40.00 divide by 2. What a hoot! No road on the island was left untraveled! Numerous stops allowing me at one time to hike atop a rock trail where I took a 360 degree panoramic movie of the Exuma Sound/Atlantic Ocean to the N, NE, E, SE & S, the surrounding islands, ocean beaches & the Great Bahamas Bank to the SW, W, NW, N. We viewed beautiful homes overlooking the Atlantic, new house constructions, Ho Tai Cay Beach from both banks on a falling tide & at low tide with a ribbon of turquoise water winding through, Club Thunderball, Pirate Trap Beach, & the Air Strip; in fact we drove across & along the airstrip. A round of Kaliks at ‘Big Dog’ before returning the cart at 1430 hrs. Nicki never showed X 1 hour so we drove the cart to SCYC for more beers & fries, handing the keys & a message for Nicki to the bartender. The bartender phoned Nicki & she was back at the office. We missed snorkeling the cave again today but this adventure all over the island was worth it. By 1600 hrs. it was cooling off as the sun was lower in the sky. After dinghying home we lifted it’s motor & fuel tank in preparation for our departure tomorrow am. A rinse off shower was in order--> dust & salt water. Supper= leftover port tenderloin, potatoes & beans. An incredible sunset but no green flash. Some new & different boats in the anchorage tonight. It was a dark night (no moon), bright stars by the trillions filled the clear sky.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dec. 21-27, 2010 (Week 12, Day 78-84)

Tues. Dec. 21, 2010 (Week 12, Day 78): Destination: Frazer’s Hog Cay to Nassau (Nassau Harbour Club Marina--- $1.75/ft. = $63.00 + $6.00 water= $69.00) Departure: 0630 hrs. Arrival: Mileage: Weather: pleasantly cool, beautiful moon over casaurina pines on shore on leaving anchorage & light dissipating clouds Winds: nice steady N wind all night & at sunrise NE at 10K & also steady

At around 0200 hrs. when the winds & current were in sync & water more calm, we got up, & hoisted the dinghy on deck. We were unaware that an eclipse of the moon was to be, but Graeme did notice how very bright it had been then suddenly dark. Back to sleep until alarm sounded at 0515 hrs. ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ had already left. An early start for our trek to New Providence Island & Nassau via NW Providence Channel toward Tongue of Ocean, about 39 NM. Another magnificent sunrise in the Bahamas. With the jenny out we motor sailed close hauled in 8-10K that decreased to 4-6K. There were 1 ft. waves with swells/rollers about 3-5 ft. well spaced so we were rolling nicely up & over them instead of pounding through them like the other day. We could see the Atlantis Resort for > 15 mi. away. Upon our approach to the Nassau Harbour we were obliged to call the Nassau Harbour Control requesting permission to enter harbour; seems that our VHF was not transmitting as well as in the past yet we were receiving very well; how does that work? We entered the west end entrance with crashing rollers to our sides into calm turquoise 40 ft. water. Two cruise liners tied to Prince George Docks on Nassau side to starboard of us + an anchorage area just before East Bridge, then under West Bridge followed by a string of many local fishing boats (? Potters Cay). On port we passed Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island then a large cluster of very colourful, brightly painted homes/condos. Nassau Harbour Club Marina was the last of the marinas on the Nassau side. We were assigned to slip #22 & nicely tied up with assistance of very capable marina staff; piles at stern & long dock leading from bow to stern (starboard tie up). A quick lunch & registered with a very pleasant lady in the office (2nd floor); male & female washrooms (keypad 14, turn to right) with 2 toilets + 2 showers (nice); laundry facilities to left of washrooms= 4 washers + 4 dryers--> tokens from office $3.00 each. Already 1430 hrs. which did not give me enough time to see Atlantis, Cloister (14th Century French Monastery) & Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island with proper attention. Graeme went on his own to a couple marine shops & Scotiabank ATM (0900-1500) while Larry, Lynn & I caught a bus ($1.25) across the street on Shirley (one way into town) across from Harbour Bay Plaza directly in front of our marina; we walked downtown on Bay St. (one way out of downtown)--> many liquor stores, jewellery &perfume stores (similar to Bridgetown in Barbados) + Straw Market (1/2 dozen long rows of millions of concessions manned by mainly Bahamian females, piled to near ceiling of temporary tent structure while new concrete building under construction on location of original market that burnt down; rows so narrow that hardly could walk down them; caps, T-shirts, purses, souvenirs, jewellery & trinkets). Bleachers for Junkanoo (# on seats)--> Dec. 26th & New Years, colourful celebration parade that starts at 0200 hrs. & goes till after sunrise. At the bus terminal on Bay St. we took the #11 bus to the shopping plaza & into Starbucks for an hour of internet. The City Market is a very good, well stocked grocery store with not bad prices. At home Graeme & Pat were assembling a switch to bypass the relay in case of reoccurring failures. A late supper= Salisbury Hamburger Helper, then over to the Morrows’ boat to discuss plans for the next few days, including Christmas; ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ were staying 7-10 days or more (?) & maybe even stay. A calm night, light breeze, comfortable warm to cool temp, especially when the sun had gone, & stars.

Wed. Dec. 22, 2010 (Week 12, Day 79): Destination: Nassau to Allen Cay, Exumas Departure: 1040 hrs. Arrival: 1625 hrs. Mileage: Weather: blue skies & a sunny day with high of 20-23C (ideal) Winds: calm SSE to S 4-8K

We were unable to get Chris Parker at 0630 hrs.; Lynn did get some weather-->good for next 2 days, but unpleasant on Sun., but who knows as predictions have been suspect. We better go so we are not stuck in Nassau for too long, although 1 more day would be ideal. While Graeme fuelled up the boat tank & refilled the jerry cans, dove down to discover massive grass around the prop & shaft as he thought, & filled the boat water tanks, I hosed & scrubbed with soap & brush & Simple Green the dinghy & the deck from bow to stern including the cockpit, all cockpit cushions & transom; made good use of our $6.00 water charge. A quick shower, trip to the City Market with Larry (sliced bread, eggs, ground beef + 2 mac & cheese Caribbean style. Good byes to our Canadian travelling buddies--- Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! We were very ably assisted off the dock & back out into the harbour. We hailed Harbour Control several times but no response but someone came back & said “just leave”. Domestic batteries are not charging + the engine fan is not running! Once out of the harbour we turned the engine off, employed Pat’s homemade switch & the batteries started charging but fan was not. Do we turn around back to Nassau or to we proceed? Graeme’s decision was to press on. It was so warm it definitely was bathing suit time. The turquoise water of the Great Bahamas Bank was so clear you could see bottom (12-20 ft.). We motor sailed with jenny out at a speed of about 6.4K except through the yellow coral field (large patches that appear like a oil slick on the water). Autopilot looked after the direction while Graeme supervised & I cleaned the stainless steel with Prism & most of the enclosure’s windows. At Allan’s Cay we sited 16 boats in the anchorage & there still was 3 of us. Is there room? Will the electric windlass work? The Morrows entered first followed by boat #2 then us; we anchored along the west shore behind the Morrows & in front of a catamaran. The electric windlass did NOT work; I manually operated the electric windlass hoping it would land in sand; we were only able to put out 50-60 ft. of chain in 10.8 ft. water. I cannot pull this anchor up by hand from now until June! Seeing our frustration Larry & Lynn dinghied over for drinks & snacks, & Larry & Graeme worked on the electric windlass connection--> 2 wires not connected! So why up till recently have we had power to that windlass? Never any problems in the Chesapeake last Fall & this Spring. A lovely sunset, dinner= mac & cheese, journal writing for me while Graeme slept, then it was too bed. Clear night, bright stars & bright moon.

Thurs. Dec. 23, 2010 (Week 12, Day 80): Destination: Allan’s Cay Weather: mostly sunny, some cloud, threatening rain Winds: major factor of the day! > 20K WNW to W, but so strong that crashing waves towards south end of island & SW Allan’s Cay came around the corner creating sideway rock ‘n roll action from 0330 hrs. & all day; late afternoon, shifted to N 20-15K

No Chris Parker, good reception from Highborne Cay on VHF 06 at 0730 hrs. but no Warderick Wells reception at 0800 hrs. It was not a good day to move with rage conditions. Rage is strong winds & waves coming directly at narrow channels between islands from the ocean. Outgoing tides from the banks create large waves & confused waters with rough & dangerous conditions when entering or exiting a narrow channel between 2 islands that lead directly to the ocean whereby a boat can easily be overcome. As predictions have it, Fri. & Sat. appear better but Sun. is anything but. Our plan to go to Norman’s Cay today had to be changed & hopefully we can leave & go directly to Warderick Wells tomorrow & for Christmas Day. Batteries & windlass still functional. Some journal entry writing in Word of the past day, then some more stainless cleaning; only transom left. Several islands in the vicinity of Allan’s Cay ie Leaf Cay & SW Allan’s Cay are uninhabited except for iguanas. There are daily excursions from Nassau to here because of the mere 35 mi. distance. Early afternoon the Morrows picked us up in their dinghy as ours was still on the deck; it was too windy to try & launch it. We landed on Leaf Island & were met by several iguanas of varied sizes on the sandy beach. I tried to find the path to the east shore & ruins but found only dead ends; path must be on the next cove. We met & talked to Diane & Gerry from the catamaran ‘Babe’, returned to the boat & was entertained by a sailboat called ‘Laureat’ from Montreal (no home port flag) trying to anchor, losing their primary anchor (plough) because it was not tied down in the anchor well, deploying & anchoring with 2nd anchor (danforth) in full reverse & when caught too close to the catamaran, retrieving their lost anchor & rode from a dinghy & reanchoring at 3 different spots. With darkness came increased N winds. Supper= leftover hamburger helper & fresh beans. Today’s journal entry done before hitting the sack. A spooky night with a howling wind, pitch dark & trillions of stars.

Fri. Dec. 24, 2010 (Week 12, Day 81): Christmas Eve! Destination: Allans Cay to Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park Departure: 0800 hrs. Arrival: 1335 hrs. Mileage: 37.835 SM/32.9 NM Weather: cloudy with sunny periods then sunny & blue skies late am for the rest of the day Winds: NNW to N 15-20K all night; N12-15K mid am; NE in the afternoon at variable strength of 7-13K; E in evening at about 8-10K

Graeme always seemed to sleep well; I on the other hand slept well till 2400 hrs. then I was up every 2 hrs. to the bathroom & observing the happenings outside. Finally it was really time to get up at 0630 hrs. & have some breakfast . Systems were all working & there was no crashing waves through the narrow cut this particular morning. We up anchored normally & out of the channel without any problems into the Allan Bank; a little sloppy rock ‘n rolling until we got further out into the Great Bahamas Bank. One good rock though sent a bin of books in the V-berth toppling over but worse was the full pot of coffee with the basket of grounds still inside that went flying all over the galley & aft cabin floors despite the stove pot clamps attached; what a mess on the floor let alone below the floor boards! We motor sailed with the jenny on a broad reach close to a run in a southerly direction. We caught the transmission from Exuma Park on VHF 09 confirming that we indeed had a mooring ball assignment in the north field--> fantastic! There are 4 mooring areas in the vicinity of this wonderful land & sea park: north= Warderick Wells; SE corner= Emerald Rock & South Warderick Wells; east= between Hog Cay & Warderick Wells; Cambridge Cay/ Little Bell Island. Anchoring is prohibited in the north & south fields. Assignments are done by the park office & announced by hailing Exuma Park on VHF 16 (opens at 0900 hrs.) then switching to 09. You can reserve one day ahead (waitlist). The wind clocked more towards our beam so we raised the main for a while cruising around 6.0-6.5K in depths of 18-20 ft. until we turned to port towards Warderick Wells---16 ft. & more brilliant turquoise water. The fabulous sunshine emphasized the beautiful variety & shades of blues & turquoise. As we turned into the northern mooring field we followed the deeper water in a circular fashion towards the park headquarters till we reached ball #11; a very strong current. It took 3 attempts after picking the line up to remove the boat hook which was extended too far & kept getting caught in the taut jenny sheets, thus preventing me from getting our mooring lines through the loop. We launched the dinghy & motor & up to the office to pay our fees: $15.00 per night for less than 40 ft. or a $50.00 membership which included 2 nights + priority booking X 1 yrs. WiFi was $10.00 for a 24 hrs. period or 100MB. The view of the north & Emerald Rock mooring fields from the headquarters was spectacular. There are a lot of trails to explore + snorkeling. Drinks & snacks at the Morrows’ boat; sitting in the cockpit with the tide falling we could see in the short distance towards the beach the floor dotted with exposed small conch shells & at sunset the lighting made the sand dunes to the west looked like snow mounds! I’m a little homesick for home because it is Christmas & it just doesn’t feel like it here. Home to make supper= hamburgers. Then it was time to tackle the cleaning up of the coffee & grounds under the floor board storage areas trying to use minimal water (not free any longer & not readily available)--> an all evening job. The Christmas Tree was placed on the table & Graeme got the lights in the cockpit in flashing red mode; some of the other boats had Christmas lights strung out in their cockpits. It was a beautiful evening & night, very comfortable temp., stars+++ & ¾ moon that came up later over the east rock & sand land formation. No Christmas Service in this remote area but a Christmas Potluck organized tomorrow at 1400 hrs. with turkey the & ham supplied by the Park; we signed up but will still have our Christmas dinner later at the Morrows (a joint effort).

Sat. Dec. 25, 2010 (Week 12, Day 82): Merry Christmas! Destination: Warderick Wells Weather: beautifully warm temp. (23-25C), partly cloudy first thing in the am but brilliant sunshine thereafter all day Winds: S to N to NE 5-10K

I slept soundly till 0430 hrs.; I knew Santa was skipping this domain this year, but I guess I was thinking of the list of things I had to do in the am. Graeme showered while I decorated the boat with little red bows & snowflakes & a Christmas bell at the bow & one for the dinghy. We had a nice Christmas breakfast listening to the weather from only Highbourne Cay this am at 0730 hrs. on VHF 06--> not good for Sun. & Mon. I made the Caesar salad dressing, prepared the peas & their fixings in a pot as well as potatoes; washed all the dirty dishes, stripped the bed & placed fresh linen on the bed. My turn for a shower. Noonish we picked Larry up & walked the trail to the blow holes in the limestone rock & to Boo Boo Hill, where many cruisers have left their boat name craved or stenciled on a piece of driftwood. The Exuma Sound (Atlantic) was quiet so there were very occasional waves that sent water through the blow holes (today merely mist & air). The trail started from the beach through light scrub & mangroves, through a place where we had to walk across a creek as the tide was not completely out & up to the top to limestone rocks, some pinky white sand & teeny tiny shells, scrub vegetation & tiny curly tail lizards. I tried my Canadian cell + Larry’s Bahamian cell at the top of Boo Boo Hill several times but unsuccessful in contacting Ottawa; Boo Hoo! We headed back; the tide was falling exposing all the small conch littering the beach floor. Back at home we gathered our donation for the potluck & our drinks & dinghied to shore to the staff quarters--> lovely building with full kitchen facilities & living room. WHAT A CHRISTMAS FEAST WITH CHRISTMAS MUSIC! It was hosted by Darcy & her husband Kevin & well attended by the cruisers from the multiple anchorages. We chatted with several people & Dennis & Nevada invited us all down to the bar--> free rum punch & dancing music! All this helped to fill the void of not having family around. We hurried back to the boat to prepare the peas, the mashed potatoes & salad & dinghy to the Morrows by 1800 hrs. for another Christmas meal-->scrumptious; much chatting then watched an Ohio Christmas Story DVD. 2230 hrs.---way past our bedtime; we dinghied home under zillions of stars. Sleep came fast.

Sun. Dec. 26, 2010 (Week 12, Day 83): Boxing Day Destination: Warderick Wells Weather: sunny till noon when we saw the definite demarcation line of a cold front (huge & very nasty) approaching from the NNE, then cloudy to black clouds & some but very little rain Winds: SW 10-15K in am; W to WNW 20-30K afternoon & evening; W to WNW 35-50K all night long!

Highbourne Cay at 0730 hrs. was the only location broadcasting weather (VHF 06) + the boat list at 0900 hrs. by Darcy at Warderick Wells Park Office; no one leaving; I wonder why! At 0830 hrs. the Morrows came over for breakfast; we relaxed over a cup of coffee then leisurely I got the French Toast & sausage & more coffee cooked; once that was consumed it was fruit cup with homemade shortbread cookies (made in Ottawa). We chatted the morning away. The winds had been increasing & soon after noon the sky was ugly. It was best that everyone return to their boats & hunker down for the blow which was now approaching fast & the winds were clocking to the west which put many boat sterns including ours close to the rocky shore. Dishes then puttering, journal writing which I had not done in 3 days; Graeme checked the mooring lines with the increasing winds & whitecaps. The W winds howled >30K with a line of black clouds in the near distance; just enough rain fell to clean the salty windows. Some more reading to distract our attention from the scary weather. A late supper= leftover turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy & fresh beans. It was really a terrifying night, so black & dark with only anchor lights visible atop many boats; the sound of the howling & gusting winds, the crashing of waves against the boat, the stern, the dinghy & the rocky shore which at night one thought you able to reach out & touch. This was probably the second most emotionally charged night I have had. How could anyone sleep tonight? I did my journal entry into the computer then more reading hoping that that would bring on sleep; Graeme did not seem to have a problem. Junkanoo in Nassau was to start at 0200 hrs. We had seen the decorations & the bleachers set up & marked for the paying public for this traditional Boxing Day family parade. I wonder how it went with these ferocious winds? I am sad that I did not see a Junkanoo yet but these weather conditions would have hampered the feastivities. Maybe there will be an opportunity to see one at New Years.

Mon. Dec. 27, (Week 12, Day 84): Warderick Wells Weather: cloudy, with brief periods of blue sky & sun, with more sunny periods in the afternoon; temp on cool side, probably about 15C Winds: W to WNW > 25-30K; gale force in some areas of the Bahamas & Florida; strong winds to continue till mid week; NE 20-25K well after sunset

A mostly sleepless & terrifying night for me; one feels so helpless & vulnerable in these conditions; at night in complete darkness sounds, creaks & groans are magnified. The 0730 hrs. weather report from Highbourne Cay & 0800 hrs. from Staniel Cay were calling for much of the same strong, gusting winds for all day with a shift of the wind to the NE which should move our stern away from the direction of the rocky shore. This is a magnificent place to stay for an extended period of time because of all the walking trails & the snorkeling possibilities; with these weather & sea conditions there has been no possibility X 2 days now. Graeme checked the mooring lines after breakfast. The wind gen has been keeping the batteries well charged, but we still ran the engine this am so as to charge my laptop; hence I did some more journal entry in Word; one of these days I will get internet so I can cut & paste my entries into my blog for friends back home to read. We were hoping to go ashore this afternoon where there might be a better connection to hook up to the internet for the 24 hr. period we had purchased. The wind did not veer much to the north nor did it lose any strength during the day, therefore we did not venture to shore to activate the internet. I have not been in contact with my family since Sun. Dec. 19th! So it was an afternoon of reading, napping & yearning to be out on land walking the trails at least. Sunset came at 1720 hrs. with a red sky following. Supper= pork chops in maple syrup sauce, rice & beans. The whitecaps have diminished & perhaps the winds at times, but they were still very gusty & howling. Stars were in abundance; a ½ moon came up late. Sleep did come tonight with only 2 risings to check on our surroundings.

Dec. 14-20, 2010 (Week 11, Day 71-77)

Tues. Dec. 14, 2010 (Week 11, Day 71): Destination: Miami Beach (Mile 1089) anticipating this is our last night at this location Weather: sunny but cold even from a Canadian point of view! Low last night was reported as 36F & high today a windy 57F! What is like at home? Winds: N about 10-15K & bitterly cold

We slept in till after 0700 hrs., a semi sleepless night. We were comfortable during the night but cold upon getting out of bed; 10C/50F inside the boat; too cold for me to take a shower this morning, but Graeme was brave & took a quick one as he was due; I simply washed my hair in the sink in nice hot water. Some floor sweeping of cockpit & cabin, some packing of cases of beer under floor boards in storage areas under the seats, a few here there & everywhere (you see, beer is $40.00 per case or more in the Bahamas compared to 1/3 of that price in the US); and Graeme emptied the water jerry cans in the boat tanks so the cans can be refilled today or tomorrow & thus all tanks will be topped up before we venture to the Bahamas where we will now have to pay for water. Pat was over to see what our plans are for the day & the Morrows called at 0925 hrs. They too had slept in & missed Chris Parker’s (well respected & accurate weather forecaster) weather broadcast at 0630 hrs. on SSB (single side band radio); no weather report today. We were dressed with multi layers of clothes, socks & runners & mitts would have been beneficial except mine got drenched with sea water on Sun. We dinghied to shore to get rid of our garbage & walked to Publix, 1 of 2 nearby with a 2 tiered parking garage near the Enterprise car rental & purchased fresh milk, fresh bread, fresh veggies & fresh bananas (as green as possible) as indications still showing a move to Dinner Key tomorrow to stage for departure to North Bimini on Thurs. The weather window has closed shorter by a day with another cold front from the north coming on Sat. afternoon & Sun. After we packed the groceries away back at the boat, at 1300 hrs. we went ashore again with the Morrows & took the local bus for $0.25 all around South Beach getting off at Washington & Lincoln Rd. Mall. Slowly we walked it’s length over a couple of hours, stopping now & again at stores & at Starbucks to very quickly glance at emails & acquire an address I needed. The Morrows took the bus to ‘Brew & Burger’ while Graeme & I walked for our gathering with ‘Artful Dodger’ & ‘Firecrest’ at 1530 hrs. A Skippers Meeting first so everybody was on the same page, knowing that we may have to wait in the Berry Islands a couple of days before heading to Nassau. The burgers by the way were delicious! At 1800 hrs. we headed back before the sun had set (another red sky) & it got cold; already a cold north wind was blowing but much calmer than last night. Pat returned my laptop with the program Open CPN2 all installed & was excited to show me how it works by inserting waypoints & setting our course for tomorrow. A ½ moon, stars & a clear night with all the lighted apartments & condos, the skyscrapers across in Miami & the cranes in Miami Harbour all around us. I took a good long look as this most likely would be our last night here.

Thurs. Dec. 15, 2010 (Week 11, day 72): Destination: Miami Beach (Mile 1089) to Dinner Key (Mile 1095) Departure: 0805 hrs. Arrival: 1005 hrs. Mileage: 6 SM Weather: sunny, only blue skies; inside cabin temp= 8.5C or 48F; doesn’t seem as cold as yesterday although low the same (36F) Winds: NNW 8-12K to WNW calm & flat water

Finally, it certainly was the day to move on! Out of bed at 0600 hrs. & stripped the bed in prep for laundry upon arrival to Dinner Key Marina; gathered up clothes, towels, rags etc. to be laundered. We tried to get Chris Parker at 0630 hrs. on our SSB receiver with our short antenna but unsuccessful.; Larry & Lynn did but not till 0650 hrs. & it still looking favourable for a crossing tomorrow-->more details to follow. Dinghy motor up & anchor up nice & clean unlike ‘Twomorrows’ who pulled up about 40 ft. rusty chain + 100 ft or so of rope on their anchor, burning their fuse. We meandered our way down to Dinner Key with a nice wind on our beam; I couldn’t convince Graeme to raise the sails. We were assigned mooring ball #152; a little difficult to thread our mooring line through the thimble as the mooring ball line to pick up was very short. Motor on dinghy, laundry, laundry soap & shower items loaded into the dinghy. Graeme registered us at the Dinner Key Marina ($21.40) then did diesel & water jerry can filling runs while I did 3 loads of laundry (4 washers & 4 dryers, $1.25 each) & had a shower. All these tasks were finished at about 1430 hrs. although one water jerry can developed a small leak; Graeme through it out so after returning to the boat with the clean laundry we went back ashore & walked to ‘Crock & Crock’, more than a mile up 27th & Dixie Hwy. there then > a mile back. Our dinghy ride home included a check in with Pat, then the Morrows. Jerry cans were tied down to the life lines, dinghy motor secured to the push pit, the dinghy was hoisted onto the deck & secured, laundry put away & bed re-made. At 1830 hrs. a scrumptious supper= roast beef with gravy, potatoes & not fresh beans but fresh asparagus! (when the asparagus are gone it will be back to beans). A magnificent red sky after sunset & a mooring field at flat calm; there was a great desire to leave now for N. Bimini. Skippers Meeting was held over VHF 69--> 4 of us will be leaving at 0300 hrs.; conversing with other cruisers today & it seems there will be a mass exodus to the Bahamas tomorrow. I had a nice long phone conversation with Mom tonight on TracFone. The clear night sky was filled with stars & a > than ½ moon reflecting on flat calm waters.

Thurs. Dec. 16, 2010 (Week 11, Day 73): Destination: Dinner Key, Florida to Alice Town, North Bimini Departure: 0300 hrs. Arrival: 1510 hrs. Mileage: 71.921 SM/62.54 NM Weather: pitch black when we left at 0300 hrs. except for the lighted channel markers, navigation lights from those of us on the move & the stars, especially Venus, the Morning Star; comfortable temp & warm mid morning on; burnt red orange ribbon on the horizon prior to sunrise then that ball of fire--- WOW! Scattered clouds over only part of the Atlantic then nothing but blue sky. Winds: E 8-10K -->10-14K, swells of 2-3 ft. & choppy seas of 1-2 ft. with occasional 5 footers that were square causing the boat to smash & slam up & down & thus hampering good boat speed

Nine sailboats departed via Biscayne Channel; the lead catamaran had green lights on their shrouds & forestay in the pattern of an arrow. Soon there was a separation between us & ‘Twomorrows’ & ‘Artful Dodger’ & ‘Firecrest’. Mid am Dave (Firecrest) was having problems with his automatic engine solenoid & his VHF; he raised his sails & was headed back to the direction of the mainland, but got engine going & not the VHF. As the distance between us increased, it sometimes made communication amongst us difficult on channel 69, the chosen channel. We all felt we were battling east winds that were dead against us, the square waves, no push as hoped from the Gulf Stream & high tide as we got closer to Bimini. I had taken ½ Gravol as a precaution against seasickness & I did feel just fine, even going down below to make sandwiches for lunch; I neglected to make this preparation the night before. The deep, cobalt coloured Atlantic waters continued for 11 hrs. until we entered the new red-green channel north entrance into North Bimini; behind the reef was very turquoise blue water that is hard to justifiably describe; one has to experience with their own eyes. We crept through some shallow water to Bimini Blue Water Marina where RJ tied us up to nice long & wide finger docks that looked new. We registered at the office & they gave us our custom & immigration papers which we filled out on our respective boats, then headed to the Customs (to left of marina) & Immigration (up by the police offices). Larry catch the immigration officer as she was about to close the office next door to Customs & only was issued 30 day permit. Graeme & I had to go up to the main office by the police offices & received 150 days! Now Larry was really pissed off. He was able to repeal but must wait till the supervisor is around---tomorrow at 0800 hrs. Daylight was fading. We communicated with ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ on how to come into the channel but they both went aground by G7; thankfully they got off, then with handheld VHF & flashlights we assisted them into their slips. They registered but will have to do the Custom & Immigration Check-In tomorrow am. We had a good chat over a drink on the Morrow’s boat. A late supper= chili then off to bed as we are all tired; it has been a very long day! Calm, quiet, clear sky, near ¾ moon & stars.

I am thinking about a new format as I am getting bored of writing all these details & so you must definitely be getting bored reading, yet I want many of these details for future reference. Each day’s encounter is too lengthy & time consuming to compose. Stay tuned to what may or may not change.

Geography & Marina Details: North Bimini lies 42 miles from Folly Rock, Miami. It’s shape resembles a left handed person that curls their hand to write. The Bahamas as a whole received it’s independence from Britain in 1969. They drive on the left side of the road & they use the metric system. All our charts are now in metres (1 ft.=0.3M) FYI 1 NM=1.15 SM

Fri. Dec. 17, 2010 (Week 11, Day 74): Destination: Alice Town, N. Bimini to near Larks Two Fathoms Bridge, Great Bahamas Bank (why the name bridge, who knows) Departure: 1005 hrs. Arrival: 1645 hrs. Mileage: 34.96 SM/30.4 NM Weather; warm, sun sun & more sun, 70’s, shorts but soon to bathing suit, blue sky & no clouds Winds: E 7-10 K

Bimini Blue Water Marina cost= $1.00 per ft. + WiFi= $10.00 per hour! If it was per day we would have had Larry buy & the other 3 of us would split the cost & use Larry’s router to connect. Marina showers were simple but ample; 2 bathrooms included the showers with nice hot, clean water. Laundry facilities but I did not investigate. Main St. with an excellent bakery (Barabara’s)--> excellent fresh danishes & the 2nd best carrot cake that Larry has ever tasted; RBC Bank, & many other stores I would investigate in future when time allows.

A good sleep; up early--> shower & man size breakfast of toast, egg & 2 sausages. At 0800 hrs. ‘Artful’ & ‘Firecrest’ did Custom & Immigration & Larry returned to the main office of Immigration & had his 30 days changed successfully to 150 days like all the rest of us. The guys refilled their jerry cans with diesel, so always have some spare just in case. We met some cruisers we had met earlier at the potluck in Miami Beach. One by one we helped each other off the docks with ease out into the channel, turning east south of South Bimini. We all rolled our jennys out on a reach, passed Triangle Rocks, then turned east now on a beat; we pulled out our main & cruised a while but at no great speed; wind was definitely falling & the water was like glass. Larry reminded us all if we were going to get some miles in we were going to have to speed it up; he was absolutely right; we paid the price to a certain degree the next day as you will read. With bathing suit on & auto pilot on, cockpit pillow & guide books of the Berry Islands, Eleuthera, & Exumas to read in the hot brilliant sun, many wonderful hours passed. We had prepped as per usual for anchoring but the electric windlass stopped working after letting out 40 ft. of chain, so manually operated the windlass to let a further 40 ft. out; if we do not get the domestic batteries charging before the morning we will have to lift the anchor manually up & this will not be fun! Graeme tried everything that he had tried before that somehow got the batteries charging for some unknown reason but that did not work this time. So supper was cooked & eaten by a lighted oil lamp= G: pork chop & I tilapia with potatoes & asparagus. At Larry’s wisdom we charged our batteries via our generator; Pat will try a method he has been pondering over. Pat & Karin gave us all the wind, seas & degrees for Sat. & Sun. obtained from their SSB & GRIB; we must be in a sheltered spot by noon Sat. Clear skies tonight, stars & ¾ moon.

Sat. Dec. 18, 2010 (Week 11, Day 75): Destination: Great Bahamas Bank to Chubb Cay Marina Departure: 0625 hrs. Arrival: 1630 hrs. Mileage: 65.632 SM/57.08 NM Weather: cloudy with few sunny periods, then threatening rain clouds to east & south but clear skies to north & west Winds: departure-->E 10-12K; within an hour ESE 17-->35K; winds did not clock south as predicted; only 1-2 ft waves but only 3 sec. between, therefore very choppy + occasional 5 footers that we would pound & roll through; increasing roughness with increasing winds & steeper square waves; North West Providence Channel where it is back to the Atlantic Ocean (off the Bahamas Bank) & the deeper water, the waves smoothed out but the rollers were about 8-10 ft. slamming into the boat & rolling up & down & through them!

We had intended to leave at 0530 hrs. but since the domestic batteries were not charging when we turned the engine on, the electric windlass was not working & it was necessary to bring 80 ft. of chain by hand! Plus the bow of the dinghy was on deck & too far forward that we could not make a complete circle with the winch handle to raise the anchor. The two of us worked inch by inch in the dark & against a increasing wind, a very slow & tiresome process for the first 20 ft.; for the last 20 ft. I was able to pull the chain by hand at the position in front of the windlass, while Graeme took up the slack in the chain at the windlass. 50 min. later we had successfully upped the anchor; exhausted & feeling strain in my back & legs! The boat was not moving as usual top speed; G. felt he had grass perhaps around the prop or rudder-->backwards & forwards & circles X 2. We had to maintain a 5.5 K speed to reach our destination at a reasonable time. We tried to put out some jenny but the wind was on our nose. As morning progressed the angry seas also progressed. Russell Beacon was indeed marked, a single pole in this massive sea. From angry turquoise, frothing water of the Great Bahamas Banks we entered equally angry cobalt coloured water of the North West Providence Channel. We pounded our way through the rollers. The skies were black to the south, progress was slow by the opposing east winds now 25-35K & rough square waves often bringing us to a standstill & all I could think of was survival & why I am doing this, that I would not be a good round world crosser. I pray that this will soon end but then I think what will transpire at the end--> if we decide to anchor we have a one shot attempt in a questionable anchorage off the beach of Chubb Cay, limited space & mediocre holding ground (grass), known for surge & these east winds, because we would not be able to raise that anchor again quick enough! Short lived rain maked visibility poor & short lived decrease in wind speed to 18-22K as we made our way slowly to Chubb Cay. Soon they increased back up to the 30thK range. Decision was made that we would go to the marina, pay the exuberant price of $2.75 per ft. with a minimum 40 ft. charge ($110.00!) + electricity ($15.00 flat rate) + water ($0.60 per gal.)! The harbour was well marked & calm, the staff answered immediately on our hailing them & was there to guide us in by dinghy to our slip & help us tie up to beautiful docks; unsecured WiFi available (chubbcayap) & we did not take water but electricity was a most-->we charged everything we had + quick antivirus screens & called Mom via Skype; she was happy to hear that her prayers were answered & we had successfully crossed from Florida & we were in the Bahamas; I did not give her all the details of today. We were hungry (no lunch) & dead tired; we could hardly eat supper= minestrone soup & last bit of chili & a bun. Marina looked lovely landscaped in the dark, with a lovely looking dining room with white tablecloths & large red poinsettias at each table center. On the down side though, the washrooms were all the way around the harbour toward the fuel dock (opposite side), no lights to show the way, 1 large shower with 1 toilet in the ladies washroom with NO toilet paper & NO hand towels at $110.00+ per night! Not impressed & did diplomatically complain at the office desk--- locals steal the paper products as they are expensive here in the Bahamas; a different system is necessary. The 3 other boats anchored outside the harbour by the beach, the last just as the light faded, but it was very rolly & rough by the am when the wind shifted to the west. The rains came through & cleaned off the windows of our boats which were sprayed of sea water over the dodger so often when we pounded through the waves, but there was also some lightning & thunder--- no harm done thank goodness! Hence a cloudy night sky.

Sun. Dec. 19, 2010 (Week 11, Day 76): Destination: Chubb Cay Marina to Frazer’s Hog Cay Departure: 0830 hrs. Arrival: 0955 hrs. Mileage: 7.728 SM/6.72 NM Weather: sunny & cloudy periods all day; H= about 20-25C & L= 15C Winds: W-->NNW settled to 12-15K during the day

A good sleep for us tied up securely at a dock, but very rolly eve & night with strong E winds, then a period of calm & approaching dawn strong winds again but from the west for those anchored in the bight of Chubb Cay; they had little to no sleep; in fact Lynn slept in the cockpit. And I woke with the sorest back+++ & right groin pain. We were unable to get Chris Parker at 0630 hrs. only later to learn that he does not do weather on Sun. At 0700 hrs. there was a great need by those anchored to leave the anchorage for protection from the high W winds (25K), clocking to the N. Therefore Frazer’s Hog Cay it was. ‘Twomorrows’ up anchored as did ‘Firecrest’ singlehandedly but ‘Artful’ had plenty of difficulty--- 30 mins. later & a bent bow roller. Graeme obtained a weather print out for several days from the marina office. Suddenly we were receiving VHF transmissions from others but they were not hearing us. A trawler ‘Outpost’ transmitted valuable information to all of us re the conditions in Frazer’s Hog Cay & about the anchorage (poor—5 boats dragged yesterday) & about the new mooring balls that had been laid one year ago & recently inspected by Berry Island Club. Our 3 travelling friends surfed their way down the coastline of Chubb Cay & were pushed into Frazer’s Hog Cay & took mooring balls. When we left, anticipating the same rough ride, were surprised by the calmer water (13-15K), broad reach enticing us to put out some sail but in no time at the point to turn into the cay, keeping the red channel marker to port (the deeper water) & smelling the sweet aroma from the casurina pines from shore. There were 2 mooring balls left; we took one though reluctantly & had an easy hook on to visibly new lines. A lazy for some morning of breakfast & well needed & deserved sleep, where as I washed the cabin & galley floors, the cockpit cushions & benches trying to eliminate some of the salt, & read & studied charts. Karin & Pat visited on their way to shore & reiterated the fact that the last 3 nights had been calm & experienced cruisers he has spoken to have advised to cross at night arriving in daylight. Mid afternoon we lowered the dinghy & went ashore to first pepper questions at Berry Island Club re their mooring balls then paid the $25.00 per night fee, which included shower privileges; WiFi $10.00 per hour because last year cruisers abused the system by using Skype costing the marina mega dollars. A beach potluck ‘Happy Hour’ was informally arranged for 1600 hrs. where we met other cruisers as far back as N.C. Welcome Center. Back home for supper= chicken stir fry with rice. Once dishes washed it was journal writing while listening to music from the Berry Island Club & listening to the Sens vs Capitals (lost). A clear night, stars & near full moon.

Mon. Dec. 20, 2010 (Week 11, Day 77): Destination: Frazer’s Hog Cay, on a mooring ball Weather: partly sunny, & partly cloudy; the sun was nice & warm Winds: NW but well before dawn the boat was pointing WSW-->wind or current?; then close to dawn the dinghy was smacking into the stern & soon we were pointing NW again; at sunrise--> N about 10K but increased throughout the day to 15-20K from N

This was the first day we actually got to listen to Chris Parker on SSB 4045 at 0630 hrs.; it was difficult to grasp his format & understand his voice (need to fine tune) but listening improved. Many boats had departed but we were staying put & perform a variety of jobs ie engine oil change, fill the boat diesel tank, housekeeping, calendar updating, camera documentation, journal writing in Word until my computer battery at 29% (still 2 days behind) + decision making re route for next few days. Dave (‘Firecrest’) attempted 3 times to anchor unsuccessfully only to return to his mooring ball exhausted (the singlehanded sailor). Mid afternoon to shore to pay of this day’s mooring fees, & have a shower as well as a Kalik beer ($3.00) with our fellow cruisers. By 1600 hrs. when the sun was lowering the temp dropped; time to get back to raise the dinghy motor + dinghy on deck & ready for our departure for Nassau in the am. Lynn had kindly made reservations for us 4 boats at the Nassau Harbour Club Marina. A interesting phenomenon occurring again-->N wind near 20K, strong current from S & boat 90 degrees to wind & current; too bouncy to raise dinghy; it remained rolly from side to side until N wind & current in sync. Supper= beer brat sausages, potatoes & last of the asparagus. After dinner reading= Nassau; I must set my priorities as to what to see Atlantis, Cloister, Versailles Gardens or downtown Nassau, historic area & Straw Market on Bay St. Partly cloudy, stars in clear patches & full moon (bright).