It’s Been A While …

… since we’ve seen our wonderful cruising friends on Amber Sea.  Luckily they were in Vero Beach when we arrived and we got to spend some time catching up with them!  Thanks for all your help Wally and Sandra. 

Image 

… since we’ve driven a car- almost 4 months.  Thank goodness the rental car company didn’t ask! 

… since we’ve slept in a REAL bed (over 5 months) and had air conditioning!  Soooo nice for a change!! 

Image 

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go!  We leave tomorrow at 11:30 am for Auckland.   Total flight/layover time … 26 hours and 58 minutes.  Good thing I packed Yatzee!!  We’ll be there for 6 weeks and plan to continue blogging about the adventure.  

 

Advertisements

We’re Baaaaack

In hopes of shortening our return passage to the U.S. by 30 miles, we took the boat up to West End on Tuesday.  When checking into the marina, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our slip fee granted us access to the resort facilities, pool, beach AND watersport equipment.  After enjoying one last conch salad and Kalik at the bar, we both grabbed paddle boards and headed out.  [Lucky for my super sporty husband, the water was completely flat that afternoon!!]   I really enjoyed novelty of the paddle boards, but Mitchell was less than impressed and found the need to tip me over 3 times to entertain himself.

Image

Image

The following day, we left the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas and set sail motor for the Lake Worth Inlet (map).  We had super small waves for the crossing and were happy that we had turned back last Friday when we were seeing 6-12 foot ones!

About halfway through the journey, a little finch decided to join us.  He explored the cockpit, sat on my shoulder, smelled Mitchell’s toes, tried to steer the boat and then gave himself a tour of below deck.  We offered him some crackers and water, but he declined.

We tried to convince him to stay on as crew after he attempted to turn the winch for the mainsail. Image

Image

The remainder of the passage was pretty uneventful except for the 3 seconds that it took me to throw my message-in-a-bottle (per my sister’s request) into the Gulf Stream.  Let’s hope the plastic bag and wax-sealed cap hold up and someone finds it on some beach up north.

Image

Splash

Image

After a long day of motoring with the wind right on the nose, we pulled into the Lake Worth anchorage and set the hook as the sun began to set.  The following morning we checked in with customs and immigration before heading to the ICW for some self-inflicted shallow depth navigating and restricted bridge opening fun (yuck).  Somehow we timed the bridges just right, caught some helpful currents, were able to put up the jib towards the end and made it all the way to Ft. Pierce (map) in only 8 hours.

Yesterday morning we pulled up the anchor and motored the remaining 12 miles to Vero Beach, FL.  It is here that we will leave the boat while we are in New Zealand.

The next few days will be filled with boat chores, running errands, catching up with cruising friends and no-see-um bites!

Grand Bahama Island

After a week on Grand Bahama Island, it looks like we finally have a good weather window to cross the Gulf Stream on Wednesday or Thursday.  (See our previous Gulf Stream post for an explanation of why.)  While waiting, we have had the opportunity to explore part of Grand Bahama Island.

Our first few days here were spent tied up to a marina right in the heart of Port Lucaya Marketplace.  We were welcomed to the area by two beautiful eagle rays.  I could have watched them for hours as they gracefully glided through the water.

Image

A good portion of our days were spent wondering around the shops and restaurants at Port Lucaya Marketplace.  This tourist haven was built right along the waterfront and was booming with people from the resorts and cruise ships.

Image

These guys appeared out of nowhere and started playing music in front of the marketplace.  Take note of the placement of their tip jars!!

Image

Needing a little change of scenery, Mitchell and I caught a local bus to the International Marketplace in downtown Freeport.  Unfortunately, we missed the memo that almost all the shops and restaurants had closed about 15 years ago due to hurricane damage.  We were surprised to hear that since it is still on all the maps of the area.

Image

After a few days at the Port Lucaya Marina, we discovered a tiny little marina on the other side of the channel.  When we found out that they only charged $0.50/ft/day (instead of $1.75/ft/day) we moved Sea Major over knowing that we would need to spend a while longer waiting for the wind and waves to cooperate.  As we pulled into the slip that we were assigned to, the man on the boat next to us watched nervously as we snuggled in next to him with only a foot or two between the boats.  (We didn’t even pull the boat all of the way into the slip in hopes of leaving more wiggle room!)  After tying up, we asked our neighbor if he wanted us to move but he insisted it was fine so we stayed for three days.

Image

Once we had checked in, we learned that we were granted access to the charming little resort behind the marina.  Not only did it have a pool with a lazy river and water side, it also had a beach with tons of lounge chairs, a nightly bonfire, limbo contests, and a fire dancer!

Image

Image

On Easter Sunday, we spent the day at the pool.  Not keeping track of time, we missed the Family Easter Egg Hunt.  Fortunately, the Easter Bunny must have known that would happen and he left $5 in ones scattered about in the parking lot for Mitchell to find.

Image

Even though we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in this laid back little town, we must move on.  We are leaving this morning for West End (Grand Bahama Island-map) and will cross back to FL tomorrow or Thursday.

Full Moon Arising

After two days of doing day-hops, we set out on Monday to do an overnight in hopes of making it to Grand Bahama Island right before another cold front hit.  [If you are wondering why we are always at the mercy of these cold fronts, check out our friends’ blog post.]

Leaving Highbourne Cay on Monday morning, we headed north towards the eastern cut of the Exuma banks near Nassau.  Arriving close to low tide, we held our breath while winding our way through the shallows of the cut.  Luckily we made it through without dragging our keel through the sand or getting stuck!

Leaving Nassau in our unimpressive wake, we made way for Grand Bahama Island (map).  Not having stopped there on the way south, Mitchell and I were excited to do a little exploring while waiting for a weather window to cross back over to Florida.

We passed this really pretty sailboat along the way using only one sail.  Thank goodness our boat came with a spinnaker!

Image

This overnight passage went much better than last time!  We were kept company by the full moon and got to watch an entire lunar eclipse.  It was absolutely beautiful seeing the shadow of the Earth slowly cover and uncover the moon.  We also avoided being run into by the 10+ cruise ships (we lost count) and 3 container ships that we saw during the night!!!  On the down side, since we were crossing such an active shipping channel, neither of us got more than an hour or two of sleep.

The lunar eclipse … sorry it’s fuzzy- the boat wouldn’t hold still.

Image

Looking forward to a long nap, I started calling the marinas near Port Lucaya when we were 2 hours out to see if they had room for us since there weren’t any anchorages in the area.  As I called them, one by one, I was told that we would need to enter the channel that led to their marina at high tide.  Not a huge deal UNLESS you are scheduled to arrive at dead low tide on a full moon (which makes the tides even higher and lower than normal) and the next high tide was at 9:00 pm (6 hours from our scheduled arrival).  So what did our sleep-deprived asses do?  We radioed a sailboat that had just pulled out of one of the marinas and found out that we would have enough water to get through the channel at mid-tide.  Excited about this, but still needing to kill 5 hours, we hove to and slowly drifted away from land.

After 30 hours of sailing and 5 hours of drifting, we safely pulled into Port Lucaya Marina, ate some dinner, got showers and fell asleep.  We woke up to find ourselves right smack in the middle of tourist central…the next few days should be interesting.

 

Sailing Clouds

As we made our way south and back north again along the island chains, I occasionally noticed that the clouds appeared green on the bottom.  Not thinking much of it, I admired their beauty but didn’t try to solve the mystery. 

Leaving George Town and heading to Blackpoint (Great Guana Cay, Exumas) on Saturday, the phenomena happened again and this time Mitchell pointed it out to me.  He told me that he had read about it in one of his sailing books; learning that the clouds sometimes reflected the green of the land causing the bottom sides to appear green.  

I tried to capture it with our camera to show you, but of course the photos didn’t really do it justice.  Hoping to convey the difference between the green clouds and the other clouds, I also snapped a few photos of the clouds on the other side of the boat. Enjoy!

green

Image

not green

Image 

green

Image

not green

Image

The following day, while sailing from Blackpoint to Highbourne Cay (Exumas), I was also fascinated by the difference in the clouds that surrounded the boat on all sides.  Since we were being followed by a large patch of rain clouds, it was grey and ugly behind us.  At the very same time, it was beautiful and sunny directly in front and to the sides. 

Here is a 360° view of what we saw on Sunday. 

The clouds behind us- you can see the dark pockets of falling rain if you look closely!Image

Our starboard side

Image

In front

Image

Our port side

Image

 

 

Where In The World…

are we?  

I’m too tired to tell you after a loooooong 35 hour passage.  

You have to figure it out!  

26*30.865’N and 78*38.588’W

First one to provide the correct answer wins a prize!  

 

George Town, Exumas – Take 2

When stopping in the George Town area this time around, we got to anchor close to our friends on Journey and Anthyllide.  Soon after we had the anchor set, I caught up on some much needed girl-time chatting with Drena and Kim on the beach while Mitchell caught up on his sleep after our overnight from Long Island. 

The following evening the four of them came over for dinner.  It was nice swapping stories and hearing where they’re headed to next.  Kim and Scott (Anthyllide) are on the right side of the photo with Mitchell.  They have been living on and sailing their sailboat for the past 9 years.  Drena and JR (Journey) are on the left side with me. 

Image 

Lucky for them, we had taken the “meat truck” into town to stock up at a local meat store before dinner.  

Image

Kim came over an hour before dinner and tried to fix our “new” outboard since it was the same one that they have.  (They too have had trouble with the turning mechanism.)  We are constantly amazed at the willingness to help others within the cruising community.  

Image

The following day we hiked up a small hill to see the stone monument that was previously used to guide ships into Elizabeth Harbor to pick up mined salt.  Views from the top were beautiful but we were unable to get a good shot of just Sea Major because there was a catamaran in the way. 

Image

I almost ran into this spider with my head when looking at a lizard on the hiking trail.

Image 

Tomorrow we are heading out again after almost a week in George Town.  Having just bought plane tickets to New Zealand for April 29th, we are going to see how far north we can get over the next few days.  

 

 

Clarence Town, Long Island- Round 2

[Written on 4/5/14]

While on Long Island (map), we spent some time walking around town and exploring the water.  Here is a glimpse of what we saw…

A baby lamb with its mother in front of the grocery store 

Image

A funny looking snorkeler 

Image

A perfectly camouflaged flounder (a flat fish)– can you find him (hint- look for his tail at the bottom of the photo)? 

Image

Some brain coral 

 Image

A bunch of mini palm trees on the island next to Long Island 

Image

Tons of sea turtles – but none that would hold still for a photo.

We also found out that our “new” outboard was still working!!!  This was only the second time we had used it (since we were tied up at a marina while in the DR). Our old outboard had a 4 hp engine and this one has a 9.8 hp engine – what a difference those 5.8 hps make! 

Image

Our plan is to leave Clarence Town (Long Island) around 6 pm and do an overnight to George Town (Exumas).  Once there, we will be able to reprovision and hopefully spend some time with a few of our cruising friends who are still there.  After that, we are hoping to do day-hops up the Exuma Island chain; hit the northern tip of Eleuthera; and see some of the Abacos before crossing back over to the U.S. by the first week in May. 

[Real-time update– We arrived in George Town (map) safe and sound on Sunday the 6th and are waiting for a cold front to pass through on Wednesday before we head back out.]

 

 

 

Saved By A Spotlight

[Written on 4/5/14 by Mitchell]

Natalie and I left Cofresi, DR on March 30th and headed north.  It was one of our best, and worst, passages yet.  Leaving Ocean World we had 17-20 Kts of wind behind us and a 6-8 foot swell.  With a double reefed main and the Genoa we were able to average a little over 7 kts for the first 12 hours.  While that sounds nice- it was not.  Sea Major tended to slide down the front side of the really big swells (10-12 ft).  The GPS pegged our top speed over ground at 12 kts with 10-11 kts being common.  Making good time towards our destination- what’s the problem?  Well, at the bottom of the swells the bow would dig into the next wave causing the boat to veer, and once we started to veer, the wind would grab the head sail causing us to round up further.  Thus putting us nearly broad side to the waves.  If the swell hadn’t abated we would have needed to throw out the drogue.  It was the first time this trip that I thought we might break something important. 

In addition to the sea state and the strong winds, we left Ocean World knowing there was a cold front headed south.  Since the predicted wind speeds and wave heights were not any worse than we had sailed in on the way down to the DR we decided not to wait for it to pass.  Being the first time we sailed through a cold front, it was fascinating watching the rain pockets on the radar, but a little scary going through the strong gusts of wind.  Luckily we made it safe and sound; putting 204 nm under the keel and making it to Mayaguana in only 36 hours (that is 12 hours less than it took us to do the same distance when going TO the Dominican Republic). 

The orange blips are the pockets of rain that our radar picks up.

Image 

Needing a little shut-eye after a long passage, we dropped the hook at an open roadstead anchorage in 30 feet of water on the south side of Mayaguana (Bahamas) since it was after dark when we arrived.  Much to my delight, the fish were jumping everywhere!  There was a huge school of the large eyed jacks we had caught in the Berrys and they were feeding aggressively.  Unfortunately, I somehow managed to lose my fishing pole overboard while trying to clean up the deck. 

Well rested and ready to go, we headed back out the following morning; doing the remaining 115 nm to Long Island in 21 hours.  This time around we had a really nice sail during the day.  However, at around midnight, lights appeared on the horizon and I started tracking a large freighter on the radar.  When I saw the lights, the ship was 10 miles off and I tracked him for roughly 5-10 minutes until he had closed to about 5 miles and it was apparent that we were on a collision course.  At this point, I woke Natalie up and tried to hail the ship on the VHF radio several times. To add to our growing fear, I got no response; at which point the ship was 3 miles off and still headed straight for us. 

We guessed that he was headed south through the pass between Long Island and Crooked Island and so we turned the boat around 180 degrees to give him room, but we guessed wrong.  Now he was two mile off and we could see how big he really was!  I went below and grabbed the spotlight while Natalie continued to call him on the VHF.  I shone the spotlight on the bridge of the ship which must have gotten the captains attention because he finally responded on the VHF and adjusted his course to port; missing us by a little more than a quarter mile.  

Best $30 purchase ever!

Image

At 5:30 am, we finally made it to Clarence Town, Long Island.  We had been here on the way south and knew the harbor entrance, so we slowly made our way in and dropped the hook just as darkness began to fade.  We both took naps and then moved the boat into the marina at around noon.  After clearing back into the Bahamas at the marina, we showered, had a celebratory dinner at the Outer Edge Grill, and caught up on some more much-needed sleep.