Sunday, January 2, 2011

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).

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