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Cat, Eleuthera, and the Abacos

From San Salvador, we sailed back to Conception, up to Cat Cay, stopping at Hawk’s Nest Marina for fuel and water. The water was the best we got since Nederland (as a certified water snob, my little town’s water is THE BEST!) Cat Cay was our kind of place. It is unadulterated, with the locals unaware or unaffected by tourists. We went into the Post Office to send some postcards and the postwoman asked if we had seen The Hermitage yet, one of the sights Cat Island is known for. No we hadn’t. But as it had just started to rain, we didn’t think we would make it. “You can take my jeep,” she said. “I don’t need it back until 4, when I get off work,” as she handed us the keys. She mentioned she had bananas in the back that she needed to deliver to Fernandez Bay, so we offered to take them for her. We got this warm, family feeling from all the locals on the island.That we were just an extension of their family.

 

Dave playing with the father of Rake and Scrape, Pompey Bohog Johnson.

Dave playing with the father of Rake and Scrape, Pompey Bohog Johnson.

After we went to the evening Rake and Scrape, with the “father” of Rake and Scrape, Pompey Bohog Johnson, we sailed up to Fernandez Bay. A quaint resort with perfect powdery, white sand beach and clear, blue water and an awesome beach bar taboot complete with every game one could play.

We stopped two nights in Little San Salvador, an island now owned by a cruise line. With the 3,000 people all aboard their island-boat just as we arrived, we had the whole island to ourselves. Amazing beaches, nice trails, clear water, great snorkelling. This was truly something out of a dream.

Little San Salvador, going home

Little San Salvador, going home

Heading north to Eleuthera, we experienced the homecoming party at Rock Sound. After all thaelocals activity with the thumping bass, we made our way to the ever so quiet Ten Bay, where we met the son of a boat builder in Maine. We found some great snorkelling and Dave came home with the booty for Easter Dinner, a huge crab.

Dave with Easter Dinner

Dave with Easter Dinner

Governor’s Harbor was our next stop, a really sweet town where you can find lures, swimsuits, clothes…. we have not seen stores like this in a loooong time! We hitched a ride to the Atlantic side to French Leave beach, the site of the old Club Med that got swept away in a hurricane. Pink Sands, wide long stunning beach. Ava met another 9 year old girl from Scotland and they spent hours making a Sand Castle “Estate” about 10 ft in diameter. Club Med should have hired these girls as their architects!

French Leave Beach, Eleuthera

French Leave Beach, Eleuthera

Airport Beach was our next stop, a sweet, quiet beach. A nice guy from Calgary gave us a lift to Pascal’s beach bar complete with Pina Coladas, gorgeous infinity pool and yet another stunning, wide, powdery, white sand beach on the Atlantic. I found my first Sea Bean. Well, that isn’t exactly true. Dave has always had more than perfect vision and has found more sea beans than any one person should find in a lifetime. So, as I scoured the beach, I got bored looking in the wrack and walked on the harder sand by the water (where, by the way, one does NOT find sea beans) and lo and behold, a sea bean! As I watched Dave walking quickly ahead trying to seem nonchalant. Sometimes you gotta take it any way you can get it, so I “found”, ahem, my first sea bean. (I did actually find two of my own further north in the Abacos). We headed to Egg Harbor, where I read about a wreck of a ship carrying bat guano from South America. Initially, the coral all died, but in a few years time, the coral and fish life came to life in  an extraordinary way. We explored all over this area, found amazing beach finds and underwater beauty.

Shelling, Egg Harbour, Eleuthera

Shelling, Egg Harbour, Eleuthera

Ava flying aboard Whisper from Eleuthera to the Abacos.

Ava flying aboard Whisper from Eleuthera to the Abacos.

We made tracks to Tavern Cay in the Abacos, “sea biscuit beach”. And then to Marsh Harbor in the nick of time to pick up our good friends from Colorado, the birthday girl Carolee and daughter Isabel. We explored Hope Town and Elbow Cay, Man o’ War Cay, Great Guana Cay and the infamous “Nippers Beach Bar”, Treasure Cay and after 10 days they made their way back to Marsh Harbor to get their plane.

Captain Dave overlooking Whisper from Elbow Cay Lighthouse in Hope Town, Abacos

Captain Dave overlooking Whisper from Elbow Cay Lighthouse in Hope Town, Abacos

Ava and Isabel on Treasure Cay

Ava and Isabel on Treasure Cay

Ava got to experience her first Junkanoo... she was so excited she ended up leading the Junkanoo parade of all the local Bahamians!

Ava got to experience her first Junkanoo… she was so excited she ended up leading the Junkanoo parade of all the local Bahamians!

 

 

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Carolee found a beautiful conch, brought it aboard and this guy crawled out!

Carolee found a beautiful conch, brought it aboard and this guy crawled out!

Our last weather window to make it back to the USA was the last few days our visitors were with us. We discussed kidnapping them and using them as forced crew back to the States, but, alas, Carolee had some excuse called work as to why we couldn’t. We hooked up with our new buddy boat, Trustworthy, with 3 kids on board, and headed to Green Turtle Cay, found a marina with a pool for $21/night and booked the week for the upcoming unsettled weather.

Patiently waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream

Patiently waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream

It has been blowing intermittent stink, pouring intermittent downpours, but we are in a safe place called Black Sound. We are with Got the Fever, Vivens Aqua and Trustworthy, all with oodles of kids so their is plenty of diversion for kids and parents alike. The locals are super nice as are the cruisers.  The weather continues to look pretty crappy for a crossing, and we are beginning to wonder if Mother Nature wants us to leave Whisper in the Bahamas for the summer. It is looking like we will be here for at least another 10 days. And although we have one foot out the door to get back and get hauled, etc, we are really enjoying the down time and company of the folks around us. Again, as the Gulf Stream crossing loomed over my head like a black cloud on the way over, it is looming over once again.

The Great Blue Ocean

From Georgetown we sailed to Long Island to Conception to Rum and now San Salvador.

The weather needs to be settled to venture to these Out Islands so with a few weeks of calm seas and light winds we busted a move with 20,000 ft of ocean under our keel.

One would think that we could catch some dinner. After all, this area is a fishing mecca.  Ava loves to fish and she is adamant about putting the line out as soon as possible. I feel bad about how unlucky we have been. That girl needs a fish! The crew of Whisper once again went home empty handed. However, we got a slip at the marina and we did meet some nice folks that were  real fisherman. Hungry for it.

And due to their proficient fishing expertise, we were the beneficiaries of fresh Wahoo. Dave and Ava and I ate a pound each of Wahoo that night! Staying another night, got us a few more pounds of Mahi-mahi. So our fishing days are looking better.

One of our neighbors is Fred, the host of the Outdoor Channel’s “Monster Fish”. After I explained all of our poor luck, he gifted Ava the prettiest of all lures guaranteed to catch us a Wahoo or a Mahi and gave her an “Ocean Fishing 101″ class.

Ava with her fishing mentor, Fred, from the show "Monster Fish" and a gift of a lure that can double as a Christmas Ornament

Ava with her fishing mentor, Fred, from the show “Monster Fish” and a gift of a lure that can double as a Christmas Ornament

A collection of the rarest lizards on earth at the College of the Bahamas.

A collection of the rarest lizards on earth at the College of the Bahamas.

Snow Bay, San Salvador

Snow Bay, San Salvador

 

Link

From Norman’s, we sailed down to Shroud Cay, which is one of my favorite spots. There is a saltwater “river” that cuts through the north side of the island from the Bank (calmer west) side to the Sound (Ocean) side. It is about 75 ft wide banked by mangroves and the water is about 10 ft deep and crystal clear like a swimming pool. I paddeboarded til my obliques oblaqued. The “river” funnels out into this perfect, empty, too -long-to -walk, beautiful beach.

Shroud Cay north river

Shroud Cay north river

Shroud  Cay, east coast

Shroud Cay, east coast

Well, almost perfect and almost empty.  We picked up tons of plastics.  On this beach, on this pristine, out-of-way, off-the-beaten path, smack dab in the middle of nowhere, in a National Park, the Exuma Land and Sea Park ,where no one is allowed to fish or collect shells, a leave it as you found it place, there are many dump-truck size piles of plastics on the beach. Some, like me, beach comb and pick up some of the pieces and add it to the trash sculpture. With every tide another round of plastics. Further south, we sailed in the spectacular Warderick Wells, also in the park. On the beach,  there is a 50 ft skeleton of a sperm whale that died in 1995 due to consuming plastic.

Sperm Whale Skelton

Sperm Whale Skelton

There is so much astounding beauty in this place. Water is clearer than your bathtub. Sea life abounds. Ava and I went on one of our favorite snorkels at Warderick Wells. We saw 5 enormous eagle rays that, with their tails extended, made them well over 6 ft flying in symmetrical Blue Angel form through the sea. Just past them a lemon shark. Several Nassau Grouper, French Anglefish, Queen Triggerfish, Moray Eels and Spiny Lobsters later we paddleboarded back to Whisper. The Exuma Land and Sea Park is incredible. Deep coral colors and sea life variety makes it seem unreal.

The plastics on the ocean side beaches make it more real than we can handle. I don’t know the solutions except to use less plastic. I do not know where to start except with just a small nod to change. “The plastic bag” vote in my town will be held in April by our Board of Trustees. For more information: http://nederlandco.org/2015/01/disposable-bag-fee-resident-survey/

Continuing south on the island of Warderick Wells is the Hog Cay anchorage, easily one of my favorites for here lies a REAL PIRATES LAIR! Ay matey! Blackbeard used to hide out in this anchorage with his vessel and ride out into the night to steal the luxes off unsuspecting captains. Piratesses, like Ann Bonny and Mary Read also spent time here.  On land, you follow a path to a fresh water spring and the coolest pirate hangout with big rocks and a big open space. The palms and other foliage is different than any around because the pirates brought seeds and such from other far away places that took root and grew. Many of you think that i have a bit of pirate blood in me. And I think you are correct because coming here felt a lot like coming home. And Dems dat died were da Lucky Ones!

Pirate's Lair, Hog Cay anchoage on Warderick Wells

Pirate’s Lair, Hog Cay anchoage on Warderick Wells

Ok, so in our case, nobody died. We all lived through the Pirate’s Lair and sailed further south past Johnny Depp’s Island (ah, no joke) and some even got KICKED OUT of the anchorage off of Johnny Depp’s island because THAT Pirate of the Caribbean was getting married and he didn’t want no stinkin’ REAL pirates around! Man, pirates these days.

So southward bound we went to Staniel Cay where my sister Suzanne and her daughter, Emma met us for 7, then 9 days (thanks to the relentless snowstorms in New England). We snorkelled Thunderball Grotto (from a James Bond movie), and then anchored over off Pig Beach, where some very large pigs are happy to greet you by swimming out to your dinghy for a snack. After Emma and Sue got their snowboots back on, Whisper sailed south once again, past David Copperfield’s island (sha-weet!), and on down to Black Point.

Pig Beach!

Pig Beach!

Ava and the hula hooping Pig

Ava and the hula hooping Pig

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The Sharks at Staniel Cay

The Sharks at Staniel Cay

Sunset on Staniel Cay with sister Suzanne and niece Emma

Sunset on Staniel Cay with sister Suzanne and niece Emma

All the book guides make Black Point (the second largest settlement outside of Georgetown), sound like a metropolis. It had been a few months since we had  a laundry facility and a real grocery store. The laundromat has the best view in town and free wi-fi. So, funny enough, that is where all the cruiser’s hangout! Even when you are not doing laundry! And as for groceries, if sitting in the laundromat (or actually sitting on the porch outside the laundromat soaking up the free wifi) while somebody yells out, “they got fresh cauliflower and bananas at the market!” is your idea of groceries, well, then Black Point has it all. I loved this little community.  There is a school, 3 restaurants!, a post office selling conchs outside, tamarinds dripping off the trees, sapadilla trees,  goats and chickens and children laughing.  All overlooking the translucent gree blue wates that I never tire of looking.

Downtown Black Point, Great Guana Cay

Downtown Black Point, Great Guana Cay

Ava spent hours "playing" with these goats in Black Point.

Ava spent hours “playing” with these goats in Black Point.

Ava doing  homework at Ida's laundromat in Black Point. Soaking up rays and wifi!

Ava doing homework at Ida’s laundromat in Black Point. Soaking up rays and wifi!

We met some kid boats here, Lost Horizon from Maine and Alley Cat from Mattapoisett. The 3 girls got hair braids from Ida (the owner of the laundromat). We all ended up at the next anchorage down, White Point, on a still night with a full moon conjunct with Jupiter and had a bonfire on the beach with marshmallows taboot .

Sanddollars at White Point

Sanddollars at White Point

Bonfire and Braids with Ally on Ally Cat!

Bonfire and Braids with Ally on Ally Cat!

Bonfire at White Point, Jupiter conjunct with the Moon. With L Host

Bonfire at White Point, Jupiter conjunct with the Moon. With L Host

 North View from the top of White Point

North View from the top of White Point

All those storms in New England start somewhere and the somewhere happens to be near us.So we continued to dodge the high winds of the fronts, the next safe harbor being in Farmer’s Cay. The First Friday in February Farmer’s Cay Festival was going on, which brought in an ample supply of kid boats and fun. Egg tosses, Three-legged races, dinghy races and more. And the Bahamian Sloop Regatta brought out locals from all over the islands. I felt like we cruiser’s were crashing the locals party… I got to dance Bahamian style to The Gaulin Song in a sea of dark faces and huge white smiles. I stood on the beach with a tall charasmatic smiling Bahamian named Ross with his friend who fed me the play by play of the racing boats and who was doing what and how and what their next move would be.  Ross, in his red fleece and jeans because the temperatures plummeted to 71 degrees F, asked where I was from. “Colorado!” he yelped, “oh, then, you’re lovin’ it, you’re lovin’ it!” And, indeed, I was.

First Friday in February Farmer's Cay Festival. Bahamian Sloop Race.

First Friday in February Farmer’s Cay Festival. Bahamian Sloop Race.

The girls hulahooping as the Bahamian sloops race by...

The girls hulahooping as the Bahamian sloops race by…

Ava making new friends!

Ava making new friends!

Ava, Madeleine, Alix and Luce and Stellamia, Hula Girls on the beach!

Ava, Madeleine, Alix and Luce and Stellamia, Hula Girls on the beach!

Dodging yet another front, had us skipping some of the islands we had hoped to explore to get to a safe anchorage in Georgetown. Here is the mecca of kid boats, the motherload of groceries, affordable beer and rum, free water, gasoline and diesel, laundry, restaurants with swimming pools, a great beach bar and plenty to explore. The Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta happens the last week in February so we were just in time.

My long lost friend Saudi, who I met at Dickinson College back when we used to bop to “I’ll stop the world and melt with you” and drink Yuengling and eat Sheetz dogs at 2am.  After what we figured was something like 27 years, she had some unexpected time off work to come for a visit. For better or worse, neither of us had changed much so we got along just like we did our freshman year of college. She stayed through most of the Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta.

Princess Saudi and Princess Ava

Princess Saudi and Princess Ava

We watched the kids duathalon, the harbor regatta, the blind dinghy race, many three legged-races, Dave’s  model boat building class and race,coconut toss, dominoes, volleyball tournaments and more. A few highlights of this week: Ava and Stellamia winning in the three-legged race. Dave got to sail in his first regatta. It was an around the island race and took about 3 or 4 hours.  I think he has a new hobby.

Georgetown Cruiser's Regatta

Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta

Dave signed up to host a model boat building on the beach for kids day during the Regatta. If you have ever been to the beach with Dave you have probably witnessed him building a boat from found beach materials and spending the day tweaking the rudder, the mast, the weight in the bow, the keel, until it sails off in the sunset. He started building in the morning and had a few loyal boys interested, and later some grown ups made their versions. By afternoon, the model boat building tables were full of creative folks making masts with straws, sails with palm fronds, hulls from coconuts, outriggers, rudders, and more. There was a fleet of coconuts called The Santa Maria, Nina and the Pinta by Sandy on Lost Horizon, the KanTiki, a ketch made with Kalik cans as outriggers and palmfrond sails, the Green Pearl,  (Dave’s first successful monohull and best looking boat yet), The Sinker by Keegan on FreeSpirit and the Don Nicholson by Richard on Tatyana. The boats were launched and with about 40 onlookers they went on their downwind race with oodles of children in the water rooting for their favorite. My dad, who died in March of 2010, was a pediatrician and a model boat builder. I could feel his mischievous smile with us as we built and launched the boats with the help of all the kids. It would have been the highlight of the week for him, and it was for me. For the record, Richard’s Don Nicholson (named for the 4 year old who adopted Richard as his surrogate dad during the building of it) won the race (a trimaran-ish thing with blown up balloons attached. Keegan’s The Sinker came in second and to everyone’s great surprise the Kan Tiki in third. The Green Pearl, like the great Bernard Moitessier, never did finish the race and we last saw her sailing off into the sunset across the harbor.

The culprit who sunk the Santa Maria

The culprit who sunk the Santa Maria

Dave and The Green Pearl

Dave and The Green Pearl

Ava’s Lair: The Three-Legged Race

Ava and Stellamia

Ava and Stellamia

At the five F’s festival on Farmer’s cay  they had a three legged race. I teamed up with Stellamia from the boat Free Spirit. We are exactly the same size. After we tied our legs together we stood at the starting line. We had to compete against a 12-year old boy named Keegan from Free Spirit who partnered with 9 year old Forrest from Terrapin. We were nervous because they were a bit bigger than us.

The  race began. Stellamia and I were like one animal running  as fast as a cheetah.  There were three rounds. We won the first, tied the second and almost beat  the boys on the third, and they weren’t even tied together!

Later at the Georgetown Regatta, the race was opened to anyone who wanted. We raced against 3 sets of parents, including my mom and dad, and came home with the Blue!3contenders

3blue

 

 

 

Barking the Conch and Wayward Dinks

We anchored off Norman’s Cay in the Northern Exumas for quite a few days.

Don’t ask me what days, and definitely don’t ask my what day it is. Our friend, Tripp, on Piper has resorted to answering the question, “What day is it?” as simply “IT’S AWESOME DAY!” Because nobody knows, and look where you are!

We had awesome spearfishing adventures off Norman’s. Dave speared his first lionfish, and another and another. He actually speared one with the last one was still ON the spear. Lionfish are these super cool looking fish that are taking over and ravaging the reefs. One is supposed to keep a log of where you saw or, or better yet, killed it. The bad thing about killing them is that they have these nasty spiky fins full of venom if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The good thing about killing them is that THEY TASTE GREAT! Dave also got a delicious Queen Triggerfish. I do wish these fish were a little less beautiful because they taste so good.

Dave’s  next find was a large Queen Conch or Pink Conch. Piper had to dig deep into their boat library to find the book on how to clean a conch. It’s a lot of work, but we were determined. First you need to smash a hole through the shell between the second and third rows of pokey things at the top. Dave took a hatchet and did a Jack Nicholson routine on it. Then you use that hole to get a knife in and cut the muscle that holds it in the shell. Then it is fairly easy to pull the whole slimy creature right out. Then you need to clean the conch, which includes cutting off both eyes and the penis which is right next to them. All the kids thought this was hilarious. After this you “bark” the conch. This entails grabbing the thin layer of skin off the meaty hunk with your teeth and tearing it off. Dave had the honors. We learned that this is no longer the method used in commercial Bahamian restaurants after someone apparently found a tooth in their conch fritters. Nonetheless, Dave did it the old fashioned way and still has all of his teeth.

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Then you kind of just beat the meat for a while….

Lisa made amazing conch fritters with an awesome coconut lime curry sauce.

But not until after Dave and Tripp saved the Dink….

Dave was having a little late night capper out on deck under a moonless sky. He came down and broke me from my reading frenzy (‘Wind from the Carolinas’) to say he thought he saw a dinghy float by.

The anchorage is right next to a shallow reef, and there were rocks just beyond where we were anchored. It is not exactly the type of place you want to be in the dark on a boat. But I got on the VHF and hailed, “All vessels All vessels All vessels”, did anyone lose their dinghy?

The only one who responded was, of course, Tripp on Piper. Friends become so very dear when you are alone at sea on a boat and you don’t know what to do. Dave did not want to risk going after it in Diablo Rojo, our dinghy… which deserves blog post in an of itself, but suffice it to say, ‘ole Rojo is DEFINITELY not the boat you want to be in heading downwind out to sea across a reef at night. Tripp volunteered to take Tink, their steadfast 10′ Trinka. The two capitans went off into the darkness and in about 30 minutes came back driving a brand new $30,000 18′ Nautica RIB with 115 hp engine…. towing Tink!

One would think it would not be difficult to find the owner of such a fine vessel, and you can bet that momma Tanya was thinking that this would be a great step up from Diablo Rojo. The boys drove around the anchorage to all the possible candidates (read, large megayacht motorboats) and finally found the mother yacht’s name of the side of the tender…So they woke up the crew by shining lights in the cabins while driving circles around the monstrous megayacht. I looked her up- she was a newly sold 6 million dollar yacht. The crew was quite confused, but the stewardess handed them off a nice bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne as a finder’s fee.

We got to celebrate New Year’s all over again, with the best conch fritters on the planet with a really nice bottle of champagne.

So you tell me, “What day is it again?”

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The Crossing

In West Palm we met a cousin of my dad’s I’d never met.  She treated us to an awesome breakfast at Paris in Town, she drove me all over creation so I could get Ava her new kayak for Christmas. Ava is sooo psyched about her new “wheels” and has used it for all types of things like exploring and freeing stuck fishing lines. Thanks Lisa!

We motored down to Fort Lauderdale with Piper and anchored in Lake Sylvia. You should have seen us, in this super crowded anchorage, we came in, parked the boat, dropped the hook and were done. Just. Like. That. We were like anchoring pros, ha!

Ft Lauderdale is pretty cool when you have a little boat to get around on- there are waterways like roads everywhere.  And lots of big fancy mansions on the water with all their big fancy boats parked our front and Christmas lights galore.   I, however, am not much of a city gal, and our weather window to get to Bimini was getting smaller every day. Piper was waiting on a document, so Whisper sailed south to Key Biscayne, south of Miami. This place is awesome. No Name Harbor, where we anchored, is very  protected, surrounded by a wonderful park with bike paths and golf carts. It was a hideout for pirate boats in years past. Ava became our chauffeur extraordinaire on our dinghy (diablo rojo). She is becoming quite the rower!

We left at 4 am the next morning to go to Bimini. It is 50 miles across and I have had anxiety about the crossing since we bought the boat. I could not wait another day to get this behind me. The crossing was so benign I can’t believe I was so concerned for so long. But I have reason, for I have been in bad weather in the Gulf Stream, and it is nothing I would ever want to do again.

We fished all the way across the Gulf Stream but caught nothing, not even a bite! The water temperature crossing over reached 87.8 degrees. We got in  around 3pm. As soon as we got into Bimini,  we watched 6 ft spotted eagle rays cruise beneath us. The water is so clear and green you can see to the bottom.

We did find a great little place on the beach called Sheri’s. We had a beer while Ava collected handfuls of beautifully polished sea glass. The ice cream truck went by and Sheri yelled at the top of her lungs to her son Albert, to get Ava an ice cream too. The Kalik’s were so cold they had just a thin layer of ice in them….  hot day, beautiful clear water, ice cream and an ice cold beer.

We are staying at Bimini Bluewater Marina.  Ok, so we were not going to splurge on a marina, but it was only $1/ft, and we were sooo tired! It has a pool that is unfortunately  closed. We found a nice family with a 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son. Ava and Rachel fished the entire day on the dock. They were soooo busy. We saw a few 6 ft tarpon, some rays, including some eagle rays with a tail longer than me, sergeant majors, a flounder, needlefish, and more. Ava told me her shrimp lure worked well as all the fish kept nibbling at it. She found that they like it when she bounced the lure on the sea bottom. We are psyched that Ava likes to fish so much. Hopefully, she will catch us dinner soon!

We got electricity hook up so we could watch a movie.  Ava is really into this series called Liberty Kids about the Revolutionary War that Piper lent us. This series is great!! After our autumn in Virginia and coming down the East Coast I got a bit fascinated with the Revolutionary War. I am loving the series as well. It has an all star lineup too.

We have another long passage to get to the eastern Bahamas. Not sure if we will end up in the Berrys or Nassau to get to the Exumas. Hoping we find Piper to celebrate the holidays.

Happiest of  Hannakahs, Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of Kwanzaas to all of you. If you are reading this, know that we are missing you and hoping you are warm and safe.

Lazy Jacks, Jack Lines and the KISS

We spent two weeks in November at Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island, walking distance to my mom’s new digs. We tried to get here for her Halloween Birthday, but, we have finally accepted how slow the going is on a sailboat and to just roll with it.

We don’t splurge at marinas, ever, so this was a big gift to ourselves. Dave got some work done: Installed Lazy Jacks and KISS wind generator and added two more deep cycle batteries to our battery bank.

We installed the batteries and wind generator because after all of our delightful anchorages down the eastern seaboard, we found that we simply did not generate enough electricity on board to get us through a day (to replace all of what we use in a day). Especially without good sun (we have 2 85-watt and 1 100-watt solar panel on board). Figuring out which wind generator to buy was a pain for Dave. You can get a new cheap one that is noisy for $450, and new KISS is $1500, and a new D400 is $2800. (yea, that’s what we said).  The pros of the KISS is that it is quiet and lightweight and the replacement parts are commonly available all around the world, and it puts out a lot of power.  The D400 is the quietest and better in low winds (it should also make you breakfast in bed for that price).  The cheap Chinese ones are noisy and not good in low winds and have limited power and apparently not very reliable. But they are a lot cheaper. We opted for a used KISS for $400 including shipping., plus $25 for the balancing spindle, which if you are in the market, know that you need one of these. Yesterday we put out more electricity than we used. So we were happily charging every electronic device we have. The only problem that we have found with the KISS so far is balancing the blades (and tricky) and important to make it quiet. That is where the balancing spindle comes in handy. We are waiting for ours in the mail in Ft Lauderdale.

The Lazy Jacks are lines that hug both sides of the boom. So when you lower a sail, it drops in between the lines, keeping the sail manageable when you have fewer crew. As our main is a decent size, we were sending Ava up with Dave to lay on the end of the back part of the sail as it came down so Dave could handle the front part. But we realized the shortcomings of this. If we were in heavier weather we would not want to send our 9 year old up to take care of it. The lazy jacks are working great!

Finding space for things on the boat is always a pleasure. The deep cycle batteries are designed for slow long discharges, so they were kind of a necessity. The wet locker is where we keep our foul weather gear- but now we kind of use the bathroom (head) for that, until it is dry and then hang it on top the batteries, in the wet locker.

We used mom’s car in Hilton Head and were able to do a large grocery shop. It is one thing to provision, and another to stow everything that you just bought. This creates a daily discourse of heated conversation between Dave and I. I know my friend Weba misses these conversations greatly, so know that they continue, even without an audience.

Another awesome thing about staying at mom’s was free laundry and TV. We just stopped in Ft Pierce to see a fellow Nederland friend, April on sv Lark, and laundry was $2.75 for wash and $3 for dryer. And that is for one load! If I am ending up in the poorhouse, I am going with a clean pair of underwear on (much to my husband’s dismay).

My 9 year old, Ava, does not get any TV time on the boat, so when we visited Nana, she had the liberty to watch a LOT of it, even, in my weakness,   the Disney channel, which I think teaches kids how to be catty and mean.

I got to relish in Wheel of Fortune and Jeapordy, which I found I’m pretty good at,and  mom got me totally sucked into “The Voice”. I like Chris, because he reminds me of my friend Kalev. The only TV I watch regularly back home is Jon Stewart. And he is on way too late for a sailor. They call sailor’s midnight 9pm, and we have sunk into that schedule.

Mom treated us to a lot of awesome dinners which was a real treat for us- no cooking and cleaning up!

We picked up a crewmember in Savannah, Nick. Nick Rocks! We had met him in Deltavile (remember the post about our anchor dragging in the dark howling wind? Yea, way back then.) He was single handing his sweet little Cape Dory down to Savannah. When we were leavng Hilton Head, we wanted to do some offshore time, possibly to Ft Lauderdale, which would be 3 or 4 nights. Dave and I have not done an overnight offshore so we asked Nick if he could join.

We had the most incredible sail ever that night- sailing offshore out of Savannah. We flew the Genoa, Staysail, Main and Mizzen and sailed from 4:30pm to just after midnight. Sails like this are why people like us go through all the trouble to do journeys like this. Sunset, dolphins, and Whisper whispering through the sea. Pure Heaven.

Unfortunately, the weather did not hold to allow us to keep sailing offshore. The wind died, and there was a very uncomfortable swell that hit directly on the beam of the boat, making for the perfect puking environment, None of us did, but going down below became a feat in and of itself and we decided going in to Jacksonville and getting some sleep while we wait was a good option. We ended up continuing down the ICW to St Augustine, and as we explored this AMAZING town our good friends Piper came in just after sunset. We have been with them since.

Nick brought us a gift of Jack lines. Jack lines are ropes that attach to the front of the boat to the cockpit. If you need to go forward of the cockpit to do any sail changes or whatnot, you tether yourself to the jack lines- they keep you on the boat in case you get a weird wave that might knock you overboard. The lines allow you to freely walk the length of the boat to do anything you need to do. Going down the ICW, these are not really that important, but going offshore or crossing the Gulf Stream, you want to take all precautions possible for safety.

Nick also showed us how to use our whisker pole. This is a boom that has a special spot on deck that I wonder if it has ever been removed (the deck was a different color under the pole from being covered for so many years!) With enough WD-40, Nick and Dave got the whisker pole out to keep the Drifter sail out while going down wind. The Drifter is a light wind sail that goes in the front of the boat and balloons out because it is made of such light material. But you need something to help keep the sheet or line that attaches it back to the boat, off the boat so it doesn’t collapse. So you attach the whisker pole to the main mast on one end and the drifter sheet to the other. And voila, you are sailing downwind in extremely light winds that you might not otherwise be able to harness.

The southeastern US has a ton of wildlife. We have seen alligators, osprey, bald eagles, ibis, manatees, two species of dolphins, shearwaters, pelicans, cormorants egrets and so much more. The animal sightings alone are one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Another cool thing in a lot of our anchorages is the clicking on the hull at night. This is the shrimp thwacking their tails against our hull and they are surprisingly loud. Dave threw the cast net overboard yesterday in hopes of getting a shrimp dinner and came up with two decent sized catfish. We threw them back after reading about the difficulty of cleaning, the fishy taste and their ability to mildly poison the fish cleaner. Although apparently some fisherman in Louisiana like ‘em.

I wanted to give an update on anchoring. I don’t think that we have actually gotten better, as much as we have gotten over our fear of it. Now, if we need to reanchor, we just need to reanchor. It isn’t a reflection of what terrible sailors we are or how much we don’t know. We simple care less about it. This is an important aspect of learning how to cruise successfully. Learning how not to care so much about whatever it is that is bugging you. Now this is not to say that I am very good at it, but I do understand the concept, which is a first step.

When we started living on the boat and learning how to operate it, I often said, “sailing is just one embarrassing moment to the next.”. In many ways this is true. Anchoring and docking are both fantastic times to show how incapable you can be. Even having a bad day driving the dinghy can be a moment of hilarity. Yesterday,  topped my moment of most embarrassing moment aboard a boat when I hit GR199.  G R stands for green, R for Red, the colors that mark which side of the boat you should be keeping the markers so you don’t run aground.Ah, for those of you who do not know, GR 199 is a channel marker on the ICW. It is a big green metal sign that says “199″ on it and sits atop a telephone pole-ish stand in the water. We had the genoa up, a big sail that was on the port side (same as GR199). I was sitting at the helm watching 3 sailboats on my starboard side up ahead passing a big stinky UFO looking dredger. I saw R200 up ahead, and to be fair, the channel is quite thin along here. Sitting where I was, the genoa hid anything behind it, then the main mast and boom hid a lot, the dorade vents were also visual inhibitors and then the mizzen mast. So I did not see Mr GR199 until we were enveloped in GREEN color. Not much happened to the boat thank goodness, we have some slivers of GR199 post on the screws that hold in the rubrail. So I guess the rubrail did exactly what it is supposed to do. And from now on, when we are in the ICW I will be looking for those channel markers on our chartplotter too….

And I don’t think anybody even saw me, although I had to explain it to Dave, but he has had his fair share of embarrassing moments too, so it actually wasn’t all that bad.

We are now getting south enough to think clearly and seriously about crossing over to the Bahamas. We are hoping to go to Ft Lauderdale and wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream flows from south to north at about 2.5 knots, so we are waiting for the wind to start clocking around E,S,and W for a smooth crossing. It varies in width, and varies the distance from shore. So you have to take all that into consideration with the winds. If you cross when it is North, the wind and Gulf Stream current oppose one another and you can get what they call “standing elephants”, which are big uncomfortable mixed up waves you don’t want to be in. The thing is, it’s been blowing north since as long as I remember. But if there is one thing the cruising life has been trying to teach me, it is patience.

The temperature is warming up this week. I definitely am happier waiting for a weather window with my bathing suit on more than my down coat.

There always seems to be one more thing to buy for the boat, so we will be doing our last big shops this week- parts for the head, explorer charts for the exumas and turks and caicos and one last provisioning for fresh produce.

Everybody think “south winds.”

 

 

Snubbers, Gypsies and Rode

Dave catches bait fish with a cast net on shore, while Whisper sits quietly at anchor. Little River, South Carolina

Dave catches bait fish with a cast net on shore, while Whisper sits quietly at anchor. Little River, South Carolina

The rode is whatever attaches the boat to the anchor.The windlass is this big dreamy hunk of metal that if you are lucky enough to have on your boat helps to bring your anchor up. The anchor chain and anchor are heavy (and often muddy and gross). The gypsy is a piece of the windlass. It is the part that the chain rides through- the gypsy catches the chain so it doesn’t slip and go back out. When you drop the hook (anchor) and let the chain out, it goes through the windlass (and gypsy). After the anchor and chain are out you attach the snubber. It is a little bridle on the bow of the boat that attaches near the top of the anchor chain and takes the strain off chain rode. As in life, everything on a boat, affects everything else. So when you put the snubber on the chain it also takes the load off the gypsy, thus saving you from replacing the gypsy on your windlass.

We left Lottsburg, Virginia October 16, sailed down the Potomoc, the Chesapeake and into Portsmouth, VA, mile ZERO of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. We had 3 windy days at the dock in Portsmouth. Many bridge passings and a lock later we motored through the 22 mile Dismal Swamp Canal, built under the auspice of George Washington, over 12 years, mostly by slaves, by hand. It was to assist for transportation and commerce. Many runaway slaves stayed in it during their escape years later.

The Dismal Swamp Visitors Center is a stopping point for boats but also one on the highway for cars. On the dock, boats raft up 3-4 boats out so everyone can fit. We were boat #3 on the outside so we scrambled over the other boats to get to the dock. It can be a meeting place for the boaters. At home, Dave and Ava and I are pretty social. (A shout out to our awesome friend web back in Colorado, we love you!) But we have been pretty much on the boat with just the 3 of us, and although we all love each other very much, we all needed a bit of diversion. What a great place to listen to boating stories and laugh. Greg on Paperbird told us of a fisherman lost for 8 days in the South Pacific making a still from two ziplock bags, using tuna heads for bait and catching shark to make jerky. John from the troller explained how boating is either pure monotony or sheer terror. One of the boats on the dock was Piper, a boat with 2 kids on board that I nicknamed Piss and Vinegar, because they are so full of spice and youth. We met them October 25, and have been sailing with them since. Ava has been psyched to have kids around, and Dave and I are psyched to have other adults around!

We are in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina now. We have anchored about 15 times (or less actually). We dragged anchor once in Deltaville. That means the anchor doesn’t really fully catch and we dragged backwards (yes, dragged not drug). In our case, this happened when the wind was blowing it’s hardest in the pitch black of the middle of the night and there was a very expensive yacht anchored behind us that we would hit if we did not do something about it fairly quickly. So we got out of our warm cozy bed that we were not really sleeping in to begin with because we were just laying there listening to the wind howl in the rigging and just waiting for the anchor alarm to go off. It does, of course. So we start our engine at 2 am with no moon in the pitch black and Dave goes forward to bring up the muddy gross anchor and we are free and the wind is blowing 25 and gusting to 30 and I try to give the boat just enough gas to hold us into the winds but not so much we blow into the next boat while Dave sets the anchor again.

Fun, right?

Okay, so we have anchored less than 15 times, so we are not exactly experts. Anchoring has been challenging, to say the least.

The anchor chain has also been a bit of a hassle. When we bought the boat, she had been sitting for about 6 years at the dock. So the anchor chain had been sitting in the same place with just a trinkle of water coming down to the exact same place everytime it rained. This caused 2 links in the chain to deteriorate. We need to fix it. Funny thing, you can’t just replace one or two links in a chain, you need to replace the entire (in our case) 150 ft!

And don’t get me started on anchors. There is the perfect anchor for every bottom. Sand, Rock , Mud. My feeling about anchors is my feeling about lenses for my camera- i want one good one, and I want it to do everything. We replaced the anchor chain and we are hmming and ha-ing about the anchor and whether we need to replace it too. I will keep you posted.

Weighing Anchor

Beating across the Chesapeake

Beating across the Chesapeake

To weigh anchor is to pick the anchor off the sea floor. I before E except after sea.

We left Olverson’s Marina in Lottsburg, Thursday, October 16 at 5:15 pm. We left so late because we just wanted to get moving. and we also figured if we needed to turn around for any reason, we wouldn’t be too far away.

Stayed a nght at Lynch Point, VA, a night at Mill Creek, VA, and two nights in Fishing Bay, Deltaville, VA, and now we are on our second night in Portsmoth, VA.

This is the most sailing we have done on Whisper so we are doing a lot of “figuring.” The sail to Deltaville was AWESOME! We flew the main, mizzen and staysail, and I had many AHA moments. Whisper sails beautifully.

On our sail out of Deltaville we actually had the rail in the water a few times under genoa, main and mizzen. I was feeling a bit underseasoned to be at the helm, and I finally convinced Dave to reef the genny a bit. The genny is 120% and when the wind picks up it is the first to make my heart start beating a bit too fast. Ended up motoring into the wind with 3-4 ft waves to Portsmouth, which kind of sucked, anchored in Willoughby Bay next to Langley Air Force that night.

Nearing the area, we saw low flying huge military helicopters, fighter jets flying so low and close over our masts one could not help but imagine the poor creatures that might be on the receiving end of their annihilation. We woke up to the Reveille at Langley Air Force Base, with a pod of 20 dolphins dancing on our bow.

Next morning we made it to Tidewater Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, VA. Dave wanted to get a second opinion on the humming engine noise he had been hearing. I was hesitant for him to have it looked at because Dave knows a bit about diesel engines. Not OUR Westerbeke 40, but he has done some time under many hoods of VWs. Often when he has things “looked at”, we spend $200 only to find out what we aleady know.

The guys at Tidewater really knew there stuff. First of all, they were able to see us licketty split, Ralph and Gaston first greeted us, listened, commented, chatted, laughed, advised- not just on the engine- but on the new rigging we installed ourselves (Gaston knows a lot about rigging), the Bahamas (Ralph worked down there for 2 years), etc. Then after all their expertise and knowledge they sent in Rick. He is musician. So that noise that Dave could hear that I coud not (probably because HE is an musician), Rick could also hear. Rick had a big screwdriver- he would put on end of the screwdriver to a part of the engine and another part to his ear. He found an oil pressure sensor that was not working. In the end, he said that Westerbeke 40s are loud- even when they are new. And the sound may be a bearing in the transmission that was worn, and basically that we should just keep on sailing until she blows. And it could last 8-10 years.

So, even though it wasn’t great news that there is a worn bearing, it was great news that the trip would go on!

I am a big fan of bedside manner. Not that I always have it, but when folks are gentle and nice and kind for no reason but because they are, it is hard not to also be gentle and nice and kind. These guys at Tidewater Yacht Marina are “dabomb”. After we had our engine looked at, they let us stay at the service dock overnight, we did laundry, took showers, had drinks and food at the bar/restaurant. We walked the docks and looked at all the super fancy boats with people that have too much money or too much time or both.

This morning, October 22, we had planned to go through the Dismal Swamp. We woke up early to a weather report of high winds and rain. Since the Dismal Swamp is a wee bit of a ditch that is just deep enough for us to plow through in the deepest part we decided not to take the chance of getting “blown” off course and grounded. So we are staying another night. Ralph at Tidewater gave us the green light to spend another night at the service dock.

We are getting into the swing of the “be here now”-ness necessary for this trip. When weather is good, we take advantage and move south, when it is not, we surrender to what is and make the best of it. Pleasant surprises arise again and again.

We will be getting Ava caught up in her homeschooling, including a field trip on a paddle ferry to Norfolk and going to the Nautical Museum.

We cannot thank the staff at Tidewater Yacht Marina enough for the kindness that they have extended to us. They have really “made” our entire experience in Portsmouth.

Jumbos, Jimmies and the Red Sea

A local woman has been taking us out on her boat a lot. There is nothing like getting a locals vantage of the hood. She was telling us about Jumbos (giant blue crabs that were plentiful when she was a kid and hard to find nowadays), Jimmies (male blue crabs), and as she was talking, Ava tubed right into a “red sea”. And red it was.

The “red” is from the oil of the menhaden, a local fish that is made into fish oil and catfood in Reedville, by a company called Omega Protein that apparently has a monopoly on the industry. The Chesapeake makes a perfect nursery for the young, so killing them here affects the entire population along the eastern seaboard.

There has been a lot of racket from both sides on the overfishing as well as the pain of lost local jobs when Omega Protein is asked to cut back.

In the 1800′s a fisherman’s wife in Blue Hill, Maine learned how to make oil from the fish. Soon enough a guy from Maine, Captain Reed, moved his circus to Reedville, VA in 1874 and started a town and a fishery.

In any case, we sat in a huge sea of orange red for a good 20 minutes, watching bald eagles dive and learning about Jumbos, Jimmies and why the sea was red.