Tag Archives: bimini

Into the Unknown: January 2004

The Great Bahamian Bank – Day 1, Thursday, January 1, 2004

Oreneta leaving Bimini, so we thoughtWe awoke after New Years to another beautiful Bahamian day. Today we were going to cross the Great Bahama Bank, 57 miles of ocean between 6 and 12 feet deep. The Northwest Channel, the eastern most part shouldn’t be done at dark as there is only a small opening between two very dangerous reefs. Most boats end up anchoring somewhere miles from land due to the vast amount of ground that is unable to be covered in one day by a small sailboat. I wanted to get going early as we would be slowest boat in our four boat armada. Sirius, Highlander, Freedonia and Bumbre would all be crossing the bank today and we hoped to anchor together for safety sake. After going over and getting the scoop from some dive boats on the “local cut”, the way out of Bimini harbor at low tide we decided to head off. Jen wasn’t to sure about leaving before high tide, but I knew that if we wanted to get across the bank in two day we better get going so we headed out. Everyone else would be following at various times, but we were the guinea pigs to try the “local cut”. I follow the direction on how to get out, but before I got to the critical point, I bailed out and left the “high tide” way. I did this for two reason, the first was that I saw I was past the shallowest part of the channel entrance into Bimini and the second reason was there was a 50 foot sailboat hard aground directly in my path on the “local cut” route so I figured it was safer to go the old fashion way.
Great Bahama Bank, nothing but shallow turquoise waterWe made it out safely and soon we were headed between Turtle Rocks and passing the concrete ship on our way onto the banks. It was a beautiful day with light winds from the east, so we couldn’t sail, but we put on the auto-pilot and opened our books. All around us was turquoise blue water as far as the eye could see. It was nice and calm so it was sort of like taking the slow boat to china across a huge lake of pool colored water. We had left about 10am, Freedonia and Highlander had left soon after, but they took the longer Gun Cay cut route, and Sirius had waited until high tide at about 12:30 to leave, so at 4 o’clock we were still the lead boat and we could just barely see Highlander and Freedonia on the horizon. We had planned on going on for a few hours past dark to get in as many miles as possible before anchoring, but soon we got a call from Freedonia that they wanted to anchor for sunset. This is normally an idea I would think was terrific, but we were still 40 miles from the NW channel light and we wanted to make sure to get to Chub Cay before sunset. Jen really wanted to anchor with a group, so it was decided we should stop, but get going very early the next morning.

Reading on Great Bahama Bank Auto-Pilot allows certain freedomsAt 4:25 we laid down the hook a mile off the rumb line between the two main cuts on the east and west. It felt too early to stop, but when you are anchoring in the middle of nowhere, it is wise to do it with a few other boats so you can easily be seen by any passing mail boats or drug runners. About an hour later Freedonia and Highlander pulled up and anchored near us and before we knew it Sirius was there too just before all of the light left the sky. The banks were pretty calm, with the seas only about 2 feet. We had some dinner and went to bed, as I planned an early start to make sure we got off the banks and to Chub Cay (57 miles away) before dark.

The Great Bahamian Bank – Day 2, Friday, January 2, 2004
Great Bahama Banks SunsetSoon after midnight Jen and I were awakened by the build up of the seas. The boat was now pitching in 2 to 4 footers and the movement woke us up. I went up on deck to check the anchor and noticed that the wind had picked up to 10 to 15 out of the east. We were heading east which meant we would have to plow into the wind and seas, which Bumbre doesn’t do so well. I was worried about having to spend another day out on the banks. I planned on raising anchor about 4 in the morning, but with this new development I wanted to get going ASAP. Jen didn’t want to get out of bed, so I sat there calculating how long it would take us to get to Chub at different speeds. It looked to me that if the conditions stayed the same we would get into Chub after dark, which is something that is considered a no-no in the Bahamas as there are no navigation aids to speak of.

I tried to raised Jen out of bed at every opportunity, but it wasn’t until after four we got going. It’s not that she was sleeping, because that would have been impossible in these swells, it was more the night traveling that made her stay in bed. If there are only a few hours before daylight, she feels much better about getting underway in the dark. I went up on the bow to pull up the anchor and wasn’t happy with what I saw. The waves were making almost burying Bumbre’s bow with each bob up and down. This made pulling up the anchor a daunting process. Jen pulled the boat up slowly so I could pull up the slack on the line, it took awhile as I had let out a lot of scope (anchor line) so not to drag anchor. Finally the anchor was up and secure and we headed into the weather.
We were not making good time and at this rate we would not make Chub by sunset, we would be lucky to get through the NW Channel before sunset. The NW channel is the end of the Bahamian Bank, it is a skinny channel surrounded on both sides by reefs and shoals. It is unwise to attempt to navigate it at night, so if we didn’t make it to the NW channel before sunset we would have to anchor on the banks once again. This was a prospect that upset both of us greatly.

Rush Hour at the Northwest Channel LightAs we headed off across the bank we watched the anchor lights of Highlander, Freedonia and Sirius fade into the night. At the same time we watched some navigation lights get closer and closer, it seemed a boat was heading directly toward us. This is always a scary thing when traveling at night for you can’t really tell what the other boat is going to do. The best thing to do is try to steer the straightest course possible to pick up his navigation lights so you can pass safely. Fortunately we must have done something right as soon he was to our stern and we had only blackness ahead.

As we chugged along slowly the sun started to raise through ominous looking clouds and we heard the others on the radio. It seems they had come to the same conclusion we had, that there was a good chance of not making it off the banks today, so we all pushed on toward the NW Channel hoping to make it threw and on to Chub.

About mid-morning our luck changed and the wind switched to the NE. This meant we could put up our canvas, which immediately took our slow 4 knots and turned it into 6.5 knots. If the wind held we would not only make it into Chub that day, but we would make it in the afternoon, well before sunset. Then our luck changed for the worse, we were motor sailing to make the best time and I noticed that at this heel the diesel fuel gauge was reading almost empty. I know we had close to half a tank, but when heeled the fuel goes to one side or the other. On the starboard tack like we were on now, it tends to read even lower. This worried me because it is always scary to look at the fuel gauge on empty and the other reason was if the fuel intake on the engine was to take in air it would be bad. On a diesel engine, air in the fuel line makes the engine choke and stall. Then to restart it, the engine has to be bled. This isn’t an easy prospect underway, but I crossed my fingers and did nothing to lesson our heel because I wanted to keep our speed up.

Racing Sirius to Chub CaySoon I heard the engine start to lower in RPM’s, it seems my fears were genuine, and the engine went dead. Nothing is more of a worry to your already frightful first mate then the prospect of not having an engine. As I looked into Jen’s worried face I told her it would be fine I just needed to bleed the engine. This might have been no problem for a seasoned mechanic or even a more experienced cruiser, but I had never bled an engine before. In fact I had only been taught how to a few weeks before in Miami. Nervously I exposed the engine so I could start the process of bleeding her. I was very nervous about it, and wasn’t even totally sure that was the problem. Our little Westerbeke is fortunately a very easy engine to bleed, having an electric fuel pump, makes the process go much faster (so the mechanic in Miami said) and after I guessed I had successfully done it I asked Jen to try the engine. She turned right over and I smiled proudly to myself. We decided to leave her off so I could put in the extra 5 gallons of fuel we had, as well as to conserve fuel. Putting in fuel while underway is one of the most silly things you can attempt to do, but sometimes it is unavoidable. I wanted to put the fuel in so hopefully we would not run into the same problem again, so slowly I attempted to put some fuel in the tank, some of it even made it in. Some showered me while some went into the water. diesel fuel is a gross oily fuel and now I felt covered with it, but the operation did bring the fuel levels in the tank up to a more comfortable level.

Since our speed had dropped during this operation Jen thought it was wise to start the engine again so we could get back up to speed. Also, we could not get to were we were heading successfully with sail alone because of wind direction. Although the charts don’t indicate any shallow water right off the rumb line, it is not a given. Sailing to windward was also putting us closer to Russell Light, which marked a shoal we did not want anything to do with either. The other boats in the armada were starting to catch up to us rapidly and the thought of watching them fade off into the sunset while we went along a 3 or 4 knots didn’t excite either of us. So we started up the engine again, then it promptly dyed. All the swearing in the world would not make it start again, I tried! I went back below and again tore apart the companionway to expose the engine. Again I bled it, but this time I did a more thorough job. When I asked Jen to try it again it cranked right up, this time we left it on.

Our spirits soared as we cruised along and the morning clouds lifted to revel a beautiful day. We slowly watched the others catch up to us, as we passed through the NW channel Sirius and Bumbre sailed side by side toward Chub, 15 miles away. We soon were entering the anchorage and we put down the hook around 4:30. We were anchored off a beautiful sandy beach, right behind Sue E, from Philadelphia. We had heard there wasn’t much to see in Chub so we planned to head out tomorrow to see if we could make it to Nassau or Little Harbor (another island in the Berries). We were exhausted from the days activity, so we had some dinner and headed off to bed early.

Nassau, perhaps not, Saturday, January 3, 2004

Rainbow in Chub Cay Anchorage
Rainbow in Chub Cay Anchorage

We awoke the next morning and headed into the marina to pick up some diesel.We wound our way through the skinny channel leading into the Chub Cay Marina, and found the fuel dock to our port as we entered. I swung around so to tie up on our starboard, where our fuel fill is. As I slowly pulled up to the dock Jen jumped off of the bow gracefully. I had to duck under the bimini and over the rail, while feeding the rope under the rail at the same time. This is an acrobatic maneuver I have done thousands of times without incident. Something told me this time would be different from the start. As the stern slowly swung into the dock I started to maneuver, but as I went over the rail and fed the line underneath my foot slipped off the rail. I know I had to choices, try to grab on the rail or another piece of the boat and get my feet wet or just down into the water. While option one sounds much better there was a greater risk of hurting myself so in the end I decided on option two and before I knew it I was soaked head to toe.

Harry and Fran with there dingy finally pumped up (rowing)
Harry and Fran with there dingy finally pumped up (rowing)

This was a first for me, and the shocked confused look on Jen’s face told her story clearly as well. Not knowing what to do now I quickly surfaced and grabbed hold of the winch and hauled myself back aboard. This was something I had tried numerous times to do while swimming around the boat and could never do. It is amazing what the body will do when it has to or is embarrassed and wants to hide away. fortunately the wind was blowing the boat around so pinning me under the dock wasn’t an option. Soon we had the boat tied up, but on the port side instead of the starboard. A dock attendant appeared in a van. I was relieved that he had arrived late this morning to work and missed my embarrassing event. Usually, Bahamian’s loose time schedules annoyed me, but today, I saw how it could work to my favor.

Sirius and Bumbre at anchor
Sirius and Bumbre at anchor

After getting fuel we headed back out and talked to Sirius, they to were interested in heading to Nassau and said they would follow us out. We rounded to point and immediately had waves around 2 to 4 feet, but the wind was ok so we kept going. Our plan was to try to go to Nassau and if it got to rough we would go to Little Harbor, which is an island in the Berries about 15 miles from Chub, closer to Nassau. We saw Sirius head out and immediately head back in so we knew we were on our own. This was worry some because we had no way to get weather except for NOAA forecasters which didn’t really follow exactly where we were since it was the forecast for south Florida. As we weighed

Flat's Shack, Chub Cay (closed)
Flat's Shack, Chub Cay (closed)

our options we lost what protection we were getting from Whale Cay and soon the waves were cresting at about 10 feet. Jen didn’t notice at first because she was down below on the radio with Sirius, but as soon as she came up on deck, we turned around. What she saw were wave after wave of 8 to 10 footers coming at us on our forward port side. She did not like this and soon we decided to just pack it in and turn back to Chub. We had to time our turn for a moment when the waves weren’t so high, but soon we were headed back to Chub surfing down the very waves which had just made us turn tail back to Chub.

Trespassing at the Chub Cay Club, what's new...
Trespassing at the Chub Cay Club, what's new...

It took us no time at all to get back and soon we were anchored again in our familiar spot behind Sue E. We launched the dingy and decided to have a look around Chub now that we would be here a few days. This was to turn into a common routine over the next few days. Soon after we got in Highlander and Freedonia decided to have a look for themselves to see if Nassau was in the cards, before there masts even disappeared around the point we saw them turn around and head back in. It appeared we may be here awhile.

Lazy days in Chub, Sun-Mon, January 4-5, 2004

Would you fly The Beast?
Would you fly The Beast?

For the next few days we tended just relax and look around Chub. While Freedonia and Highlander went out and found lobsters, Sirius and Bumbre lazily walked around the island. We checked out the airport, actually walking across the runway as a plane was readying for take off and investigating a failed venture called Flat’s Shack on the beach near the airport. There were small bowls of $4 ice cream at the Chub Cay Club and we helped ourselves to showers and water. All in all we had what we needed, but the trip to Nassau was one of the last long sails before going to the Exumas, and it has a reputation of being a terrible slug to windward. So we all wanted to get it done ASAP, but we knew we had to wait for the weather which didn’t seem to be cooperating. We were catching up on our reading and sleep after our days on the bank, and soon more people started to arrive and we got to meet them, but basically we were ready to head out.

Chub Cay Church
Chub Cay Church

Early in the morning on Monday we saw Allways Sunday pull out of the marina and start to head across. Allways Sunday is a 38 foot Catamaran we met in the Dismal Swamp. We talked to them on the radio and they said they were pushing on to Nassau after crossing the bank last night. We got reports from them as they went and the conditions sounded much like they had been when we had first tried, even worse perhaps. Being a large catamaran, they kept going. Soon Freedonia and Highlander were ready to go, as by this time we were all tired of Chub Cay, but Sirius and us were not going to be persuaded to head out again in rough weather. We would again sit on the beach and milk Chub for all it

Airport Security?
Airport Security?

was worth. That night I meet David on Sue E. We had been anchored behind him for a few days and my laziness got the better of me, so I had never gone over and introduced ourselves. He finally did and we soon learned that he is a crafty veteran at this. His wife and he live in Philly and for twenty years have been taking the winter off from the Bar-B-Q business and coming to the Bahamas to enjoy the good life. He informed me that tomorrow looked good and he was going to set off at dawn, so the stage was set for a mass exodus.

Today’s the day, for everyone, Tuesday, January 6, 2004
We awoke to find Sue E preparing to go, Sirius and Bumbre had put up their dinghies yesterday and now we were waiting for one last weather report. It looked good and about 7 we weighed anchor and rounded the point. What we found was an ideal day, with light wind just bearing off enough to reach into it and a bunch of other boats leaving from Chub. Soon the seas seem to start to give birth to sails from all directions, as boats that were tucked into holes all over the Berries started to emerge and set their sail toward Nassau. The chatter on the radio was lively as boats started to catch fish, we were having no luck with our to lures behind us much to my dismay.

Would you eat at the Poop Deck? I did!
Would you eat at the Poop Deck? I did!

We all continued toward Nassau, enjoying the ideal day for the crossing. I had changed lures in hope of changing my luck when it happened. Just like in Jaws the reels drag slowly let out a bit, I stared at it as it did it again. I got up to check it and just as I reached for the rod line started to be taken from it at lightning speed. I looked back and saw a huge fish what I believed to be a tuna emerge from the water. My excitement soared as I thought about fresh fish for dinner, but first I had to get him to stop taking all the line. I started to tighten the drag watching as the line on the spool got less and less. Before I could tighten it enough I watched as the last bit reeled off the spool and pause before it snapped. Jen had seen the fish raise a few times as well and when the line snapped looked at me with the look that said, “No fish dinner tonight?”. Unfortunately there was to be no fish dinner that night and if anyone catches a tuna with a couple hundred yards of line in it’s mouth, I had it first.

We continued on and before we knew it we were asking for permission from Nassau Harbor Control to enter the harbor. In Nassau and other bigger ports in the Bahamas you have to get permission to enter. We were cleared and we sailed in with Sue E and Sirius. Sirius and us were headed to Bayshore Marina, a marina with less amenities then most places, but a great price of 75 cents a foot. We got there and soon were heading into our slip which was plenty wide enough, but the channel into the slip was a bit tight. After barely making it in we were tied up and climbing up onto the docks via the bow. Bayshore doesn’t have is finger piers which make it a lot easier to climb in and out of your vessel. Come to think of it, Bayshore doesn’t have amenities at all, it is just a safe place to tie up your boat so you won’t have to let down your dinghy.

Nassau Straw Market
Nassau Straw Market

After paying, Jen and I went over to the Nassau Yacht Haven next door to mooch some showers. Mooching didn’t happen, but we were able to pay $3 a piece to be let into them without begging. Once clean we were ready to go out on the town, we went over to the Nassau Harbor Club (another marine) to see if Highlander and Freedonia were around, they weren’t, but soon we were enjoying some drinks aboard Mrs. G. We had met Herb and Marcia, on Mrs. G, in No Name Harbor before we crossed and had again seen them on New Year’s Eve in Bimini. Having connected up once again we decided to have a more formal meeting with drinks on the stern of Mrs. G, their 43 foot trawler. After a drink with them we stopped by Allways Sunday who were docked right next to Mrs. G. Allways Sunday was the cat Jen and I followed into the dismal swamp that first day leaving Norfolk, Drury and Jen aboard had taken off from their home in Toronto to sail down the Caribbean chain. We hadn’t seen them since Elizabeth City expect taking on the radio in Chub so we had a drink and went out to dinner at the Poop Deck with Allways Sunday and Sirius. We had a nice night celebrating our fortunate deliver to Nassau. Soon we parted company and went off to bed, for tomorrow we had to start getting ready to head down to the Exumas.

Preparing and Partying in Nassau, Wed-Fri, January 7-9, 2004
Nassau is a city, not like what we think of a city in the US, but for the islands Nassau is a big city. With this comes city problems. We had stayed in a marina because of hearing horror stories about people having their dinghies stolen off the back of their boats and boats being broken into in the anchorage. Marinas are supposedly safer. Marinas are also convenient for the only real reason to go to Nassau, getting whatever else you need before heading off to the islands where you can’t get anything anymore.

Crocodile's, Nassau (Cruiser's Hang Out)
Crocodile's, Nassau (Cruiser's Hang Out)

We wanted to look into getting a few things, like a shortwave radio to get weather and an anchor light to hang low down off the boom (so locals Bahamian boats and dinghies don’t run into you in the night, they don’t tend to look up at the mast). We also wanted to check the Internet and get propane, do laundry, your basic chores before heading off. So this is what we did, and when we weren’t doing that we discussed when we might be able to leave Nassau. Since so many cruisers come through Nassau they have things organized for you to do, one of them is the cruiser’s lunch at Crocodile’s. We attended this with Sirius and were able to catch up with some people like Kelpy and Grace.

Before long we were ready to get out there and just had to wait for some good weather. To pass the time Jen and I did the tourist thing on Friday and headed into the main part of Nassau where the cruise ships are. The sailboats tend to hang out on the eastern part of the city where the marinas are, but today we walked into town and found out why. We had been to Nassau before on a small cruise ship, but it must have been a slow day, today was not. We could see three huge ships at the dock and from the sight in town there must have been more, for the streets were full like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We were embarrassed to be down there for being on your own boat gives you an air of being less of a tourist and more of a part time resident. Here you were just a tourist, and to the locals that meant you had money to spend. We did not, but we had planned to go out to lunch at a little Greek place we had been to before when we had visited. After lunch we looked around the straw market and in some Duty Free liquor stores. Here while looking for some Cuban cigars to buy we discovered the secret of Nassau. Every liquor store has some liquor out to taste. This is usually flavored rum, but sometimes you will find a place that you can taste anything you would like. So as we walked along looking for some cigars we tasted a few different cordials as we went. I can only imagine a group a college friends discovering this fact out and stumblingly from liquor store to liquor store in a sort of bar crawl way. I wonder how many missed the boat after such an hike through the Nassau streets. There seem to be liquor stores on every corner.

Drury from Allway's Sunday at Happy Hour
Drury from Allway's Sunday at Happy Hour

It seems that is what you do in Nassau, because that night, Sirius, Allways Sunday and us planned on going to the Green Parrot for Happy Hour. Happy Hour at the Green Parrot is from 5 to 12 at night, so it is hard to call it a happy hour, but the drinks are cheaper none the less. So off we went across the harbor to Hurricane Hole to enjoy Happy Hour at thew Green Parrot. There we looked at the Mega-Yachts nearby and wondered where all the money comes from. Scheming on how to take one of these yachts for a little spin the night passed quickly and soon we were home. We hoped the weather would stay good for today had been a good day to cross, but we had a few things to do. Tomorrow if it stayed nice we would cross the final 35 miles to the Exumas. There we would be able to do 10 mile runs in the crystal clear water, snorkeling and enjoying the islands. This was the reason we had travel all this way, to get to the islands where the water is clear and warm. Tomorrow with any luck we would be there and I for one couldn’t wait.

Yellow Band or no Yellow Band, Saturday, January 10, 2004

Highborne Marina, I was to cheap to stay in
Highborne Marina, I was to cheap to stay in

Crossing from Nassau to the Exumas there is only one real obstacle, the Yellow Band. The Yellow Band is an area of coral heads that lay in about 10 feet of water. It is said that none lye over 6 feet, but who wants to find out. The coral heads are small, ranging from the size of a car to the size of a semi and are shattered around in no real pattern. There are ways to avoid the worse part of these heads, by going south around them, but it adds to the length of the passage. The was a cold front due to come in soon and I had no desire to add to the length of our passage. But as we left Nassau that morning with Sirius that was the conversation. Back and forth we went, and in the end Bumbre went toward the Yellow Band and Sirius turned south. The main reason we kept going was we had no desire to flirt with the cold front by staying out longer.

Since you don’t want to even attempt to go over the coral heads you have to go around them. This means spotting them in the water before you get to them. In normal waters this would be a daunting task, but in the clear waters of the Bahamas it is very easy, with one exception, you need the sun to be high in the sky and not in your face. We had left Nassau at the time the guidebooks say to so to get to the Yellow Band when visibility was good. It wasn’t that great when we reached the band, but with me on the bow and Jen on the wheel we went about navigating the band, for nothing was stopping us from getting to the Exumas.

Highborne Cay Beach
Highborne Cay Beach

Visibility wasn’t great, but I could spot the heads with enough time to have Jen turn around them. I was up on the bow spotting for over an hour, before heading back to check out our position. Even with visibility not as good as it could be, Jen could see the heads from the cockpit, and it was actually better than we had anticipated. After we had passed through the band seeing very few heads we were now on our way to Highborne Cay. Sirius and Bumbre had decided to stop at Highborne because of the cold front coming through. Highborne has a marina which meant if the cold front was bad we could duck in, and because Mr. Lundy at Bayshore Marina told us it was a better anchorage then Allen’s Cay our other destination option. I wasn’t sure I believed this, but we decided on Highborne anyway even though I had no thoughts of going into the marina.

Highborne Cay Rainbow (no rain though)
Highborne Cay Rainbow (no rain though)

We anchored out on a SW wind about 15 knots, the anchorage was rolly and uncomfortable, but our anchors were holding. Sirius came in about an hour later saw us rolling and decided on the marina. We put out two anchors and waited. The winds slowly picked up and started to clock around to the north and the anchorage was getting more and more uncomfortable. The swell and surge seemed to be coming from every direction, where normally it follows the wind in the anchorage at Highborne it seemed to sneak around every point and over reefs, hitting the boat from all sides. This makes you feel as though you are in a blender, for the boat was pitching in every direction. The winds continued to clock around and by nighttime the winds were from the NW, this still put a coral shoreline on our stern about 100 feet away, which meant there would not be much sleep tonight.

Harry trespassing at the owners (of the island) house
Harry trespassing at the owners (of the island) house

The seas hit us from every direction that night, but the wind stayed relatively light (under 20 knots), but that didn’t mean we were comfortable. Both of us slept on the settees in the main salon, one of us getting up every 15 minutes to have a look at things. We gauged if we had drifted by watching to megayacht, one lit up in the marina and one that had so many lights on it looked like a giant Christmas tree, was anchored outside between the island and a reef. He was so big that even being basically exposed to the wind and sea he wasn’t even rocking (at least we couldn’t tell if he was unlike ourselves). It was pretty uncomfortable and the wind was suppose to pick up tomorrow.

Northers’ no sweat, as long as you’re not in Highborne, Sunday, January 11, 2004
We didn’t exact awake the next morning, more over we just got tired of lying there on the settee’s and decided after checking the anchors once more it wasn’t worth getting back into bed. We planned to go into Highborne that day to see the island, since Sirius had a slip we figured we could walk around with them and not get in trouble. A lot the Exumas are now private islands with very small resorts on them (one or two small cabins usually), so in less you are a guest or paying them in some way they don’t want you just walking around.

I launched the dingy, but with the swell I didn’t want to chance putting on the engine, figuring we could just row into the beach. After launching it I realized that rowing in such a swell and strong tide would be fool-hardy, so Jen and I went below to read until the wind calmed down. This continued on for quite awhile until in the afternoon Jen decided that having the dingy out in this swell banging against the side of the boat was unwise. Unfortunately I had to agree with her, this meant going back up on the pitching deck and hauling the dingy back onto the deck. Once this was done we resumed our positions reading below.

One might picture a “Norther” in the Bahamas much like a “Noreaster” in New England. This would be correct only from the point of view of where the wind is blowing hardest from. Where a “Noreaster” in New England brings with in cold nasty and rainy/ snowy weather, a “Norther” in the Bahamas happens frequently with a nice sunny clear day. The temperature in somewhat colder, 70’s instead of 80’s, but overall it tends to just be a windy day. There is rain involved in many “northers” I believe, but so far in the Bahamas every “Norther” we had experienced brought little or no rain.

That didn’t mean getting off the boat was any easier and soon Harry and Fran felt sorry for us and came out to get us on there dingy. Harry was surprised, for from the shore the anchorage didn’t seem to bad, except you could see us rocking, but once out there the swell appeared and he was amazed at how much rocking we were doing. Jen and I were happy to have the chauffeur service in and we looked forward to being able to get ashore to have a look around. We were soon walking along the island roads, amazed by the new marina and that was basically on a deserted island. There were 13 workers living on Highborne Cay to look after the marina and two guest cottages. They are putting a store down near the marina and soon it would have showers as well.

We walked up to the nicely stocked store, which is now near the generator and maintenance area, but will soon be moved down to the marina into a new very nice building overlooking the marina and anchorage. The store was well stocked and for the Bahamas but seemed overly expensive. The girl working there informed us that they had one cottage for rent and soon would have another. The owners cottage was also for rent, but because he tended to just drop in unexpected they didn’t rent it. Prices seemed reasonable at $700 to $1000 a week. You basically have your own island, but there was no restaurant to go to, just plenty of Bahamians willing to cook you a local feast for a fee. We then started to walk up the hill and before we knew it we were at what we assumed was the owners cottage. We thought nothing of trespassing on the property to get a look at the spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding area. From there we counted the boats in Allen’s Cay and watched the waves crash on the lee shores of the islands.

We continued our walking tour surprised to see wide roads and new things happening on such a small island. We couldn’t help to wonder who owned the island for there didn’t seem to be any one large privately owned establishment. We figured his bankroll kept it afloat and he just came down and enjoyed his own private community. Where does all this money come from? It is a question I was asking myself more and more lately. We had some drinks on Sirius before Harry took us back out to our rocking boat. For a few hours we could forget the hell we were experiencing on Bumbre for the past 24 hours. After two days without sleep and the boat pitching and rocking, we were about insane and ready to get out of Hellish Highborne!

Jurassic Park here we come, we hope, Monday, January 12, 2004

Meeting new friends on Leaf Cay
Allen’s Cay Iguanas
Jen didn’t even want to see them
Feed Me (like he needs it!)
Ruins on Leaf Cay, Bahamas
That’s one big Palm Tree!
Today Jen and I were ready to go. The winds were still out of the north about 10 to 15, but we wanted out of this hell anchorage. Talking to Sirius they seemed ready to visit a new island as well. I had wanted to go to Allen’s Cay first on the way down, but we choose Highborne because we had heard, wrongly, that it had more protection. Allen’s Cay is famous for have a bunch of prehistoric Iguanas living on two of it’s cays, Leaf and SW Allen’s. It was only a short run up there, but unfortunately it was against the wind and seas. Jen and I didn’t care we just wanted out of this hell anchorage, so about 10 we went to start the engine – nothing.

This was not good, we had just left the only place to get things fixed for miles in Nassau and now our engine wouldn’t start. All boats make an annoying beep or buzz before you start them, and ours was not doing this now. This usually meant one thing, dead batteries. Jen and I were shocked because after our problems in Baltimore we had been so careful, but it appeared now that we were not careful enough. I called Sirius to see if anyone in the marina had one of those portable jump starters and he came back to inform me that the marina had a battery they could loan me, so I had to row in to get it. So I rowed in and picked up the battery, and once back I hooked it up. Jen turned the key and tried the engine, but got nothing. Now I was concerned, because what I really understand about engine had just been exhausted and still it just lay there doing nothing. Soon I figured out that it wasn’t that the batteries where dead, but that the engine panel was getting no power. I pulled out a few different books on marine diesels and boat electronics that I had and figured out how to start the engine without the panel. With this successfully done I now just had to figure out way the power was not getting to the panel. Even with my basic knowledge of electrical systems, I knew it was most likely a loose wire. opening up the main electrical panel and ignition panel just revealed a maze of wires, most of which just looked confusing. I concentrated on the main red and black wires that went to the ignition switch, but on the ignition panel they quickly disappeared into a taped mass of wires leading into nowhere.

The main panel was less confusing as I had been into it many times wiring something or another. I had wired a new anchor light the other day and I suddenly realized that must be it. I pulled out a wire the other day, messing with the anchor light. Amazingly I found a loose wire immediately and could see where it had come from even, so I hooked it back up expecting the magic sound of the engine buzz when Jen turned the key. What I got was silence. I was now pretty stumped, so I decided to do the smart thing, instead of tearing apart the whole electrical system I would start her up bypassing the ignition switch and take her into the marina. There I might get lucky and find someone who could help, at the very least I could return the battery they loaned me without rowing it in the dingy.

We headed into the marina and tied up at the fuel dock. From there I left Jen to return the battery and see if we could find someone to help. Harry and I talked it over and our knowledge was soon exhausted. We had checked a few things with a voltage meter and were coming up empty – things were not looking good. I walked up to the main office hoping to find someone who might have some knowledge in marine electronics. What I found was a nice man who liked Diet Coke and said he might be able to help. So after he finished his Diet Coke we headed off to look it over.

Where as I was a novice using my voltage meter he yielded the device like someone on a mission. He checked things here and there and there and here. What he found was nothing really unusual, the alternator seemed to be giving a slight charge, but seemed to be working. After about a half hour he went to look at the ignition switch. There he got nothing, no volts at all, this puzzled him as much as I was puzzled. He asked what I had done and I told him about the anchor light, then he asked if I had a wiring diagram of the boat. Amazingly, I did, and once I got it out he started to pour over it. Soon he seemed to understand where the problem connection was. I had no idea where to find that area and as he was just about to give up when he started to look behind the engine. Quickly he found a loose plug in the back. That is when it dawned on me that I had put a new zinc in the heat exchanger in that area while in the anchorage. He looked at me with a look of disappointment for me not informing him of this a hour ago, but I just shrugged.

Soon the connector was connected again and we heard the formilar buzzing of the panel before you start the engine. She started right up and I couldn’t thank our new friend enough, all he wanted for his time was for me to return the favor for someone in the future. That is the way with cruisers and most anywhere you go with another boat in the harbor you can find someone who can not only help fix a problem, but is only to willing to help out for nothing more then a friendly handshake. Today this cruiser saved me a dreaded trip to Nassau for a loose wire and I felt so relieved. It was now 1 o’clock and time to head to Allen’s, I wanted to see some Iguanas.

For the use of the Highborne Cay fuel dock I did purchase some diesel while I was there, a whole 2.7 gallons, before untying the lines and heading out behind Sirius. The wind was strong from the North and soon after we headed out we were bashing into the waves. It was only about 5 miles up to Allen’s, but it took us awhile with the wind and the waves, but once inside the anchorage it was much calmer and I found a nice spot to anchor off of the beach on Leaf Cay.

As soon as we arrived we noticed the Iguanas lying on the beach sunny themselves. These are probably some of the most well feed Iguanas in the world and even from the boat you could tell they were. You aren’t suppose to feed them, but this is a rule no one seems to follow. When you beach your dingy, before you have pulled it up on the beach, you are surrounded by 20 or so Iguanas.

Jen wasn’t sure she wanted to see the Iguanas but after I dove our anchors I convinced her to take the short dingy ride with me to check them out. Once on land we were quickly surrounded and they just crept closer looking for their usual snack. It was sort of a miniature Jurassic Park all around us. We had nothing to give them so we attracted them by pretending to. This can be a dangerous business for the Iguana has a strong bite. Fortunately, they were too smart and realized we were trying to fool them once they got close. But if you picked up something off the beach and held it out like food, they came running from everywhere. I don’t know what was worse, actually feeding the Iguanas when you are not suppose to or faking them out with shells and pieces of old lemon. Either way, they were funny little guys when they ran up to you looking for feed.

On the beach we meet a couple bringing back their charter boat from the BVI. They had been unable to sell her after the charter contract and decided to just bring her home to California. To do this they were sailing her to Fort Lauderdale where they have a ship you actually sail onto then they secure her and take her to where you want it to go. They had sailed up from the BVI and now were closing in an Nassau, the last leg of there journey. Soon we both turned our separate ways and headed back to our boats for a good night sleep after two days.

One Conch, Two Conch, Four for Dinner, Tuesday, January 13, 2004
We were now settling into Exuma time. This is where you wake up every morning and decide whether you want to stay or go. This is usually after the weather report. Then you just sit back and see what mood strikes you. We had all the time in the world now and no real place to go anymore, so we decided to stay another day.

So we relaxed in the morning and witnessed the unfortunate invasion of our home. Every anchorage becomes home to all anchored there, and of course the boats with you become your neighbors. The unwritten codes are many, and most are not followed. Things like anchoring too close and cruising around in your dingy too close to a neighbor are just things you are suppose to understand not to do. If you don’t you become the talk of the anchorage. That is until you get invaded by day tourists. In Nassau one of the many tourist things you can do is go on a Powerboat Adventure. We had seen the ads in Nassau, but had no idea what a Powerboat Adventure consisted of. I found out while enjoying my morning. A Powerboat Adventure is where you pay who knows how much money to get a ride in a large cigarette type boat to Allen’s Cay. Here they beach the boats and the swarm of 30 or so people they have crammed on the boat get off and investigate the Iguanas. As Jen and I are polishing our chrome rails we witness this as they pull up on the beach we anchored off of not 50 feet away. Eventually another one pulls up and the beach is packed. It is a pretty weird seen out there in the middle of nowhere. Jen wondered how they made the trip to Nassau and back (35 miles), where as I pointed out the four (yes four) 250 hp outboard engines on the back. This seemed like over kill to me having 1000hp, brought to you by four separate outboards, but I am on a 28 footer with 13hp, so what do I know? I do know that two engines means two headaches when things go wrong, so I can only imagine how this guy feels when things aren’t working correctly.

After about 20 minutes they packed up and left, making sure to crank up there 1000 hp to impress us with there power. Afterward we headed over to SW Allen’s Cay to look at the Iguanas over there and investigate the only major foliage on any of the three major islands – a large palm tree. The palm tree stood out in the middle of the island from afar and close up it lived up to it’s billing. For it stood much higher than anything else on the small shrubby island. This was also my first real chance to dive for lobsters. The weather in Highborne had kept me away, but today I was ready to go. I put on my snorkeling gear and swam off the south side of the island toward some reefs there. The tide we ripping along as I searched and dove looking into every nook and cranny, but found nothing. After about 45 minutes I started to feel like shark bait. Every time I turned around I thought I would be staring one in the face. There was never anything there, but I slowly made my way back to the beach, just in case. On the way, I saw a big Conch shell. Certain it was like the others, (empty) I flipped him over, amazed to find the claw of a conch receding into the shell. Conch have claws sort of like a bird claw that sticks out near the entrance to the shell. So now I had a live conch big enough to eat. Excited about my “catch” I through him into the big mesh bag I carry tucked around my waist and continued in. Soon there was another one, certain that this one was going to be empty as it was only in a few feet of water near shore, I flipped him over again finding a live conch inside. Happily I scooped him up as well and went to Jen on the beach to show her my catch.

At first she thought the bag was full of lobster and a huge smile filled her face. It only slightly evaporated when I told her it was just conch. Neither of us had ever cleaned a conch, but Sirius had directions on the proper way, so we soon where dinging over to them to show them our catch. We decided to go into the beach to on Leaf Cay to clean the conch and then I could dive some of those reefs hoping again for lobster. We went in and I watched the conch opening operation wearily. But soon they had one out and I must say an uglier creature I have not seen. Harry took the knife to it as Fran read the directions on what to do next. Cut off eyes, intestines etc. seemed be the way, followed by cutting away the brown skin. So basically once you remove the conch you have to sort of peel them like a potato, it was nasty business so I went back to lobster hunting.

I was diving around the coral that surrounds the island and when I went around one corner I found a five foot nurse shark sleeping. Nurse sharks are really nothing to worry about for us humans, but a five foot anything in the sea tends to make a lot of people unsettled. I decided it would be better to look elsewhere and not disturb our sleeping friend. I headed a little off shore to have a look at a reef out there. On the way I came across a King Conch. It is the pretty shelled cousin of the Queen Conch, so I picked him up and tossed him in the bag. After my swim I again joined the crew ashore who had now attracted a crowd with there conch cleaning. I showed them the King Conch and was informed by the watchers that they were not edible (I have since heard conflicting reports on this), so after everyone had a look I tossed them back to the seas. He would have made a nice shell to keep, as he is majestic. We make a practice never to take anything from the sea that we will not utilize fully – this means killing species just for their shells as well.

We now had two conch fillet that appeared sort of like chicken breasts when you are done cutting them up. The only thing left was the beating. It seems conch are very tough, basically being a big muscle, so you have to tenderize them. To do this you beat them with something. Not having a meat tenderizer, I planned on using a rubber mallet. I had heard you have to beat them for a good 30 or 45 minutes, but once back at the boat a few quick swings with the rubber mullet seemed to loosen them right up. So instead of 30 minutes, I had maybe 5 minutes of beating with a rubber mallet, highly recommended over a long 30 minute beating. Now it was just up to Jen to make the conch salad that Star had taught us in Bimini and we would head over to Sirius for our first feast of locally caught cuisine.

After I pounded the conch I watched another powerboat, this time a private boat, beach themselves to look at the iguanas. The tide was going out and by the time they were ready to go. It seemed their boat was a little dryer then they expected it to be. So the whole anchorage watched as the three guys struggled to remove their boat from the beach. On the way over to Sirius for dinner we saw a dingy from another boat do the nice thing and help pull them off. Soon they were on there way and the anchored boats again had there own private neighborhood.

Dinner was good and we headed back over to Bumbre full of conch salad and coconut rolls. It looked like tomorrow we would head down to Norman’s Cay to have a look at what the drug lord Carlos Leder had left on the Norman’s when he used it to run drugs in the early 80’s.

De Plane, De Plane, Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Small Island near Norman’s Cay
Norman’s Cay Anchorage Sunset
Abandoned Norman’s Cay Club
Macduff’s Beach Mall
Famous ditched drug plane in anchorage
Macduff’s House, trespassing again…
Jen at Macduff’s
Norman’s Cay Airfield
After a leisurely breakfast we pulled up anchor and headed off to Norman’s Cay, a little over 10 miles down the way. The Exuma’s are nice and close, which means you only have to do a long passage if you want to. We planned on seeing as many of the islands as weather would permit, so it was going to be a lot of short runs for us down the chain to Georgetown.

Norman’s Cay was made famous when in the late 70’s the drug lord Carlos Leder landed on the island with his henchman and basically took over. When he was forced out in the early 80’s what he left was the ruins of the old Norman’s Cay Club, a wrecked plane in the anchorage and a lot of folklore. Now besides the private residences in the North part of the island the only inhabitant seems to be Macduff, the owner of a small hippy like resort on the island.

The anchorage in the south runs like a river through tidal flats to the north of Norman’s Cay itself and a few small coral islands to the south. The plane is right in the middle of the tidal flat next to the anchorage. I wanted to anchor right next it, but Jen forbid that so we entered Norman’s and decided we should anchor near our old friend Sue E. We put the hook down with little trouble and immediately I wanted to go and dive the wreck of the plane. Diving the wreck didn’t excite Jen, but a trip to the beach afterward, did so we headed off.

We circled the wreck in the dingy first, and it didn’t seem to look like much, just a little fuselage and the tail sticking out of the water. I anchored the dingy and dove in leaving Jen floating beside it. What I found was that the plane was still intact under the water. Time had taken some pieces here and there, but overall it was in good shape.I swam around it and look at the propellers and the cockpit, which still had the co-pilot seat there. The back of the fuselage was open and underwater so you could swim into it like a cave. It was really eerie, but really interesting at the same time. The whole time you are looking at it you wonder about the stories about how it got there.

The story that seems the most popular is that the DEA was after the plane and instead of landing it at the airstrip where the DEA could land and seize it, they just ditched it in the tidal flats and dove on it later to retrieve the cargo. Whatever the reason, it now sits there for everyone to enjoy and tell stories about.

After diving the plane we headed up into the tidal flats to the beaches to the north of the anchorage. We found a nice beach and went shell collecting, finding all the shells you can never find in the picked over beaches of the states. We enjoyed the afternoon and soon we headed back to the boat to enjoy another sunset. Now that we were in the islands at sunset you tend to hear a conch shell being blown by a boat in the anchorage. Here at Norman’s there were two such boats and we enjoyed the sunset with the volley of conch horns in the background. Macduff’s Margaritavilla, Thursday, January 15, 2004
Today the plan was to dive the plane wreck with Sirius and then head in to get some lunch at Macduff’s. From listening to everyone on the radio it sounded like they all planned to head to Macduff’s for lunch. So after the dive we headed in to investigate the island and head to lunch. The islands ruins include the old Norman’s Club Resort, which looked to be a very nice place at one time, but now is in ruins, just rotting away. Macduff’s is on the western coast of the island next to the airstrip. You entered the gates and you feel as though you are in some sort of hippie commune. The buildings are painted sort of pastels and the bar/restaurant is done in typical island style. immediately I liked Macduff’s. It is one of those island places that is hard not to. We sat down for lunch and were sort of greeted by who I suppose was Macduff’s wife. She was ready to take our order even though we had hardly even looked at the menu. She seemed quite put off by our indecision and when she asked about drinks and we started to discuss it her annoyance was obvious. I felt like I was in a New York Bistro holding up a waiter with 30 tables. She was the only person there working at the time, but the stress of cooking and waitressing and Macduff’s I would hardly call high pressure stuff.

We ordered quickly hoping to please her and get her going to do whatever it was she had to do. Soon we were joined at our table by the crew of Grace. Hans, Ria (his girlfriend) were sailing there 27 foot Vega down the Bahamas and perhaps across the Caribbean Sea to Panama. They were all in there mid twenties and enjoying the trip with the many friends that seem to be joining them along the way. We ran into them first in Bimini and then again in Nassau. Hans is a good sailor, teaching it in Washington State in the summer, but now with his own boat he pushes hard, liking high winds where he can sail over light comfortable passages. Ria, his girlfriend, has no experience but takes the tough sails with a smile and now that they are in the Exumas she, like most first mates aboard, is very happy and her smile only grows.

We had a nice lunch at Macduff’s with them and afterward I planned to dive with Hans and his brother Mike on a reef between Norman’s and Shroud Cay. We headed off after lunch in our dingy. The winds were 10 to 15 from the NW and soon we were in 2 foot seas in the small dingy. It was a wet ride, but eventually we did find the reef just north of the Exuma Park border (where you are not aloud to fish). We dove the reef with a very strong current, but we were hopeful being a pretty remote reef. After about a half hour and tired, having only seen a big Barracuda we returned to the dingy empty handed. We were disappointed and on the way home we stopped again so Hans could have another look for Grouper or Conch. We found nothing, so soggy and wet we returned to the anchorage.

Disappointed in again having no lobster for dinner we cooked up dinner from our stores and went to bed with dreams of heading down to Hawksbill Cay the next day.

The daily ritual, Friday, January 16, 2004
Mailbox near beach on Hawksbill Cay
Jen on hill overlooking the anchorage
Grace heading in to anchor
Jen looking over Exuma Sound
Hans and Ria (from Grace) on Hawksbill
Bumbre at anchor, Hawksbill
Thursday started with thoughts of moving down to Hawksbill Cay, which has an anchorage exposed to the west. This makes the daily ritual of listening to the weather a more important affair. Every day we get up by 7 to listen to the weather report delivered on the VHF on channel 06 at 7:30 from Highborne Cay. Then at 8 on channel 14 we listen to Blue Yonder’s weather, which is a cruiser who delivers the weather from Overyonder Cay. Her weather is really good and more informative then most so that is usually the one we go by. Soon we will be to far down the line and we will have to get our weather from elsewhere, but this pattern is followed by boats all down the chain. After the weather is given you thank them on the radio and prepare your day. This is a daily event especially on days where you are planning to move. If you think weather forecasting in the states is bad, just try to get an accurate forecast in the Bahamas. because it is so bad you have many cruisers who get weather faxes and information on their boats and forecast it to the other cruisers. This may sound chancy, but their weather is usually the best anywhere and as long as you play it safe and get to a good anchorage for the wind direction you will be receiving.

Today was suppose to be northwest winds, but it was actually blowing southwest. Neither of these was a good direction for the anchorage on Hawksbill, but the wind was so light (about 5 to 10) that we decided to give it a shot. Sirius decided against it, so we headed off by ourselves again to Hawksbill around 10.

We pulled out of Norman’s just a little after Grace who was heading to Shroud Cay, just south of Norman’s before going on to Hawksbill in the afternoon. Soon after you leave Norman’s you entered the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This is a group of islands, some private, some park land, that is a Bahamian National Park. When you are in the park you can’t fish, take shellfish or anything from the park. Shroud and Hawksbill are both in the park, so we would be visiting a uninhabited island, but I couldn’t try to catch dinner. The ride to Hawksbill was smooth, passing Shroud and Elbow Cay, before turning into Hawksbill. The anchorage is just a wide exposed cove with a reef to the north of it, so it is really exposed. We entered the anchorage easily avoiding the few coral head at the entrance before putting down the hook between two other boats just off the beach.

It was beautiful, anchored in 7 feet of clear water you could see the bottom like the water was hardly there. It was calm, but since the wind was still from the west there was a light swell coming in, but not too bad. Along the shoreline there were little white sand beaches separated by rocky coral heads. One of the rocky parts rose up to about 50 feet and looked over the anchorage. Atop it stood a rock monument standing there like someone watching over you. Needless to say Jen thought this anchorage was one of the most beautiful she had been to ever. I thought it was pretty close to not being an anchorage at all, but as long as the wind stay light it would be a great one.

The guide books talk of a good fresh water well on the island and the explorer chart even has it on the map of Hawksbill. Now that we are in the islands fresh water to fill our tanks can cost from .50 cents to over a dollar. A lot of times this water you buy is just rain water or R/O water made from salt water. Free water is free and we all know sailors like free, so we loaded up our dingy with jugs and rowed into the beach we were anchored off of. Ashore we walked to a path that lead up the small hill to the monument, on the way there is a mailbox. Strange to see a mailbox on a deserted island I figured it was maps put there by the park. We opened it up and found notebooks, inside the notebooks was a sort of guestbook to sigh left by other cruising boats. There were a few of them, so we signed them with the pen left there and headed up toward the monument.

The hill wasn’t very high, maybe 50 feet and the monument was just a pill of rocks really, but from this small hill the view below was spectacular. The few boats anchored there looked to be in the most pristine of places. Even little Bumbre looked stately down there in the clear turquoise water. We soon found ourselves rowing to another beach having been unsuccessful in founding the well near the first one. Here we saw many remnants of water jugs which gave me the feeling that many others had been foiled while looking for this well. After wondering through the barrier interior of Hawksbill for awhile we started to feel as if we were on a episode of Survivor and the “well” we were going to find at the end of our search wasn’t the sort of well we wanted to fill our water tanks on the boat with.

Soon we gave up and after spending some time on the beach we headed back out to the boat, defeated. Back on the boat we hung around and read until about sunset when we looked up and saw Grace majestically entering the anchorage. They motored around looking for a good spot to anchor, with a draft under 4 feet the looked for spots nice and close by throwing out a lead line as they went to find out there depth. Soon they were anchored near shore , but quickly moved as the swell was to much for there small boat, this process would repeat itself throughout the night because of there size and tonnage. We had a little dinner and headed off to sleep, soon the wind had died down and the anchorage was perfectly still, we slept well that night.

The Search Continues, Saturday, January 17, 2004
That morning Hans on Grace asked me if I wanted to join them in the search for the well. I did of course, but first we had to see if we got a mooring at Warderick Wells, home of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. There was a blow forecasted and we wanted to be in the protection of Warderick Wells’ North Anchorage for it. We did get our mooring and soon Jen and I were dinging in to again search for the elusive well. Our delay had kept us from the fruitless search south of where we were yesterday, now we were searching around the creek we were anchored near.

Jen and I followed Hans and Ria until we were on the beach on the eastern side of the island. We found no well, but the beach was wonderful. You never get tired of finding beautiful white sand beaches that are completely deserted. This one was one of the most beautiful yet. A quick walk looking for shells and we headed back out to the boat. We wanted to get to Warderick Wells at a decent time, so we got back to the boat had a little breakfast and raised anchor. We never did find that silly well, but because of it we explored the island and found other things more valuable then water, a least at that point.

We had a calm motor/sail down to Warderick Wells, being followed in by Sirius. On the way up the channel we were passed by a huge 84 foot motor yacht, giving us a 5 foot wake without even thinking. Pissed off we soon heard him on the radio calling for a mooring. Well of course we knew we had gotten the last mooring and soon we saw them turn around and head back out. Fortunately this time they slunk by us slowly defeated, we just smiled and headed toward our mooring waiting for us in the North Anchorage.

We arrived with Greg and Pam on Freedonia there to help us tie up. They had been there awhile working as volunteers in the park. They waiting at our mooring in their dinghy waving hello to us. I was on the bow, reading the water and ready to grab the mooring line. Jen was at the helm. The channel into the mooring field is very narrow, with the boats at mooring taking up most of the good water. I got so busy waving to Greg and Pam that I forgot to be reading the water for Jen. Soon the waves of Greg and Pam were not so friendly any more, as they became more like motions to MOVE OVER!!!! As Jen consulted the depth sounder and noted, we were almost aground. Looking back at the water while at mooring, it was obvious where the deep water lay, but coming in it was a bit harder to see. We looked forward to doing some volunteering here, as if you volunteer for the day, your mooring fee is waived, and I hoped I might be able to help them with their web site. As we tied up, Bubba swam by. Bubba is the 4 foot barracuda that lives in the waters around the anchorage. It seems that he likes to swim down the line of mooring balls each day around 3 to have a look at the new boats. After we tied up I dove in the water to have a look at the lobster under a wreck near mooring number nine. Freedonia was on mooring number 9 and he told me they lived down in it. I dove down and saw to huge lobsters living in holes on the wreck. The wreck was a boat that burned to the waterline after a generator fire. It now sits on the bottom and serves as a house for the lobsters.

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a “No Take” zone, which means no fishing, conching or lobstering. Seeing those big lobsters down there is tempting, but after diving the other islands and seeing how fished out it is, you tend to respect what it is they are trying to do here.

At 5 on Saturdays they have a cocktail party at the park headquarters. We prepared ourselves for the weekly event and the chance to meet some of the others in the anchorage. We headed in and were confronted by a porch full of people baring snacks. These parties are bring your own, drinks, snacks, everything, then everyone shares, well the snacks at least. The party went on and we met a few people, as the sun went down the ritual conch blowing occurred and soon everyone was heading back to there dingies to get back to their boats before darkness. We headed back as well to get some rest, tomorrow would be our first day volunteering and we were looking forward to it.

Hard Labor, Union Style, Sunday, January 18, 2004
Jen at Exuma Park
Warderick Wells, North Anchorage
Creek on Warderick Wells
Bill (from Highlander) leading a nature walk
Harry (from Sirius) enjoying the Bananaquias
Genvieve and Larry playing hooky at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club
Genvieve and Miroslav (from Mercator) at Happy Hour
Harman and Larry at Happy Hour
Jen sand hogging
Black Dog represented on Boo Boo Hill
Bumbre represented on Boo Boo Hill
We awoke the next morning and got on our best work clothes. Today we hoped to be put to work doing manual labor or perhaps a website. I picked up my cinnamon buns that I had ordered the day before at the office and saved them for tomorrows breakfast before the work was given out. The program works like this, you come in at 9 and get assigned a job (if they even need volunteers) and then you go to work. If two crew members work a half day you get the mooring for free that day, otherwise one would have to work all day. As jobs were being passed out I sat back not knowing what to think. There were close to 20 volunteers and the Warden seemed to have a lot of things for them to do. Soon I was placed on stone moving duty.

Stone moving duty was basically pretty simple, they were building a stone walkway up to the headquarters. Me and three others had to move the stones (by boat) from the wardens dock to the beach near the walkway they were doing. This seemed easy enough and by my estimates we could have had it done in maybe a half hour. I soon realized this was not the plan. My foreman was union or as union as you can get on Warderick Wells, so our job was to move the stones slowly to the boat and stack them. After we spend a bunch of time stacking maybe 12 stones we had to break to chat and rest. Then we would move the stone slowly onto the pallet in the boat tied to the dock, this took a bit of time and once done we would chat again before two of us headed to the beach on front and the other two went by sea. On the beach we would pull the boat on shore before chatting again, then we would slowly unload the stones and stack them near the walk. The whole operation of moving the stones seemed to take an amazingly long time, then we would chat again before all hopping back into the boat to repeat the process.

We did three loads doing this and by the end we had used up most the the morning. While we slacked on the work part we did get to know each other pretty well and that was nice, for getting to know somebody at the party was much tougher. Along the way I ran into Jen and she had managed to get the best job of all, inventory. She had to followed around Larry, a volunteer who had never left, and take pictures of equipment, buildings, boats and anything else of insurance value. This was also to be used as an overall inventory for the park. It was a good job without much sweating, which seemed to be the main thing cruisers wanted to avoid with their volunteer jobs.

Larry, the volunteer who never left, was an interesting story. It seems he was working on a boat that got stuck in the park because of bad weather. So they started to volunteer. After a few days it seemed Larry had really taken to the place and so they told he he was welcome to stay, so he grabbed his bag and has been there ever since. Larry does everything. Illegal Haitians off the coast? He goes and gets them with the Bahamian Royal Defense Force. Someone needs to be picked up in Staniel? He’s there. Water line breaks? grab Larry. We even saw him changing zincs for some of the boats in the anchorage. What a guy!!!

Jen worked with him to do the inventory and she quickly realized that he knows the inner workings of the park. But it made their job hard as Larry always seemed to be getting called away to do one thing or another. Before we knew it the work day was done and we headed back to the boat for lunch. The rest of the day was pretty easy as I went for a quick snorkel and we hung out. Soon our days here would get long and it would seem we were the first ones on the island and last ones to leave. It’s easy to get sucked into the scene once you’re here.

In the afternoon we decided to join everyone on a nature walk lead by Bill from Highlander. He did this sort of thing back in his home in Kentucky, so he wanted to give it a go here. On the walk we learned a lot from Bill who helped explain the mysteries of how mangroves survive in saltwater and that the islands were once covered in timber, cut down by the European to build ships. The walk ended at Boo Boo Hill, a famous hilltop for more then one reason. It is told that sailors who have died in this waters are buried on Boo Boo Hill and haunt it to this day. Now I suppose because of this cruisers from all over leave there mementos of there boats atop Boo Boo Hill, so once at the top it is filled with boards and bouys with the names boats who have passed through. Once there the walk ended and we found our way back down and out to the boat.

That night we were invented to Grateful Attitudes (my foreman’s boat) for a drink. So Sirius, us and the couple aboard Mercator joined them for a drink. They had a 41 foot catamaran, so all of us mono hull people were only to happy to go over and hang out in the comfort of there boat. They are a very nice couple and we enjoyed the evening, but of course we had to work in the morning, so off we went after a few drinks and some corn chowder.

Website, then what are you doing carpentry for, Monday, January 19, 2004
The day started out the same as any day, Jen getting her inventory job back and I was a carpenters helper. I was putting up hand railings in the wardens home when he walked by, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and tell him that I was a designer. My wife had already laid the told him, but now he was meeting me for the first time. It seemed he was very interested in redoing the website, and didn’t understand way we were wasting my skills doing carpentry. He just had to get in contact with the old webmaster. So I went back to my job wondering if anything was going to come of the encounter.

A few hours later while taring a roof for an electrical panel he came up and told me to be at the house at 6:30 for a call with the old webmaster. So it looked like the website was a go, no more sweating with the others. At 5 there was another cocktail party on the porch, our social life was much more involved here then Boston and it seemed every night was another occasion we attended. This one was quicker and less formal, not even making it to sunset. So we headed up to the Warden’s house a bit early. Once there we found the house a flutter with activity, with Ross from the Defense Force, Larry, and other it was going to be a full house for dinner. Larry fixed us a drink and soon Ray, the Warden, headed me the phone. A quick call with the old webmaster confirmed that I would be coming into work with a computer tomorrow and not a hammer.

Afterwards dinner was served and we sat down to a feast of everything the grill could cook. Afterwards we sat down and listened to some of the Wardens stories about the park. We had only been at the park for a few days, but it was really starting to feel comfortable and we looked forward to getting in for work in the morning, at least I did. Soon we headed home, the anchorage was dark and we dingied out passing the other boats quickly swinging on there mooring balls. By now we pretty much new everybody by name and in the morning we all would parade in once again for work.

An Office Job?, Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Today I started my office job, I was lead up to the office on the second floor of the Wardens house and there I was stationed. A cold front was blowing a lot of wind around outside, so for now it was quite ideal. So I started the task I will not bore you to much with, the designing of the Exuma Park Website. Jen continued her inventory job for which her and Larry were very successfully extending out as long as possible, mainly because Larry always got called away to do other things.

Tonight it was our turn to invite people over, so we had Sirius and Mercator (Genevieve and Miroslav) over for Conch Fritters (caught by Harry and Fran in Normans). This is a process of making a batter with cut up conch in it and frying it in oil, a messy process on the boat. We successfully did this with Jen the dietitian actually frying the fritters. Afterwards bed for it was going to be another 9 to 5 tomorrow and I needed my beauty rest.

The daily grind, Wednesday, January 21, 2004
By now I had gotten out of the loop of the day to day volunteer work, which was to bad, but I now had my own daily grind. You see the warden’s house is a tough place to work as it is a busy place. Sometimes Jen would be typing the inventory next to me or I would be discussing the site with Judy or Ray, but the hardest thing about working in the wardens house was that everyone seemed to be a great cook. Sitting up stairs was torture as the house was always filled with the smells of something cooking. Many times I would get to sample these things, but just sitting up in front of a computer with those smells coming up it didn’t matter how full I was I wanted some. If I stayed to long I was in danger of plumping up a bit.

I worked away through the hardship for tonight was a meeting of the minds. They were going to look at the work so far and give me feed back. At four the minds of the park met with me and discussed the website, it brought me right back to my working days and it was scary. We went through the website section by section, page by page, trying hard to stay the course. It is easy when you ask a general question about something like a website how the grandest ideals in the world come out, I was trying to keep it simple and suddenly there was talk of thousands of research reports. This project was looking as if it might take all year. After a couple of hours the meeting finally broke up and we were reward with fresh pound cake just baked. Afterwards I picked up Jen from Sirius and we went back to the boat. Jen received no pound cake which got me bad looks. I hoped to get the website done soon for we hoped to leave by Friday or Saturday, but things didn’t look good for that.

Why wasn’t this a trash burning party?, Thursday, January 22, 2004
We had been at the park so long now we started to have a routine, get (5 o’clock for me), eat breakfast, go into volunteer (I would go start to the office), and work. So unfortunately a routine had developed, at least for me because I had to sit in front of a computer. Jen days varied and she started to take advantage of my full days of work to take time off from volunteering. The projects for volunteering had gone from three of four projects at once going on to just one, sand hogging. You may wonder what sand hogging is so I will enlighten you. Sand hogging was brought about by the need to raise and level the water tanks on the island. Once a retainer wall was built around the area (done earlier in the week), sand needed to be brought in to fill it. You would think sand in the Bahamas was easy to come by, but not when you don’t want to cause erosion on the beaches near buildings, so a system of taking a small Boston Whaler out to a remote beach and filling buckets with sand was developed. This was commonly referred to as sand hogging. Once the sand was gotten it was motored back to the beach near the water tanks and hogged up to the site. It was a long tedious process. When the sand was brought back to the beach it was expected that everyone would help unload it. Most helped the first load or two but by the third or fourth load the numbers would start to decline to the point where only the boat hogs themselves would be loading and unloading. Needless to say sand hogging was not a desirable job.

I of course hidden away in the office got to avoid all of this, but most did not and the big joke around the park was how to avoid sand hogging. This tactic for getting sand also had a downside, loading to much sand in the buckets would cause the boat to ride low, and any large wave could swamp it. This was proven true once early on during sand hogging when Harry from Sirius was driving and a wave swamped the boat and shorted there radio. After that the buckets weren’t filled quite so much.

Tonight was a a beach on the beach hosted by Miroslav and Genvieve on Mercator. They were going to have a bar B-Q, so we were all going to head in at dusk for that. On the way back to the boat we ran into Larry, who was soon called in for a haircut. Haircuts on the island are done by whomever says they will and Larry had been looking a little scruffy so he elected to get one along with Ray, another long term volunteer. The electric clippers were brought out on Ray which made Larry nervous, this made him proceed to his place to get his on scissor. When he returned he started cutting his own hair with them. This of course was not a good idea and after making a few cuts we could watch no more. We headed off back to the boat to get ready for the fire on the beach.

The beach fire was simple enough and we sat with a few other boats cooking baked potatoes in the fire. We soon realized our mistake, after dinner was cooked we discovered we should have brought in some trash to burn. We had been in the Exumas for awhile and there is no place to get rid of your trash yet, so the way people do some of it is burn it. We all had now understood the error of our ways, this should have been a trash burning party, now none of us had brought in our trash and we were sitting in front of a perfectly good trash burning fire.

Anyway we enjoyed the night taking with the other boats and the Royal Defense Force guys stationed at the park joined us as well. Soon the Warden and Larry pulled up in his patrol boat and Larry stepped off. We talked with the Warden for awhile before he left and Larry returned, it seemed he thought this would be a good time for us all to have a snort of rum. So we sat there drinking rum and listening to Larry tell us stories about the park. Before long the stories of ghosts came out and the lore of how Warderick Wells is haunted was passed about. Soon we all got in our dingies and made our way back to our boats, hoping that the ghost of Bubba the Barracuda didn’t come by.

Refrigerated Bread, Friday, January 23, 2004
Friday was much the same as the other days for me, I went over to work on the website. By now the site was quite far along and the clean up work was starting. The Warden had been taken to Staniel for his flight to Nassau and Larry again had to go to pick up two new Royal Defense guys. Jen decided it would be fun to tag along and get some groceries. There were also a few other volunteers who had to go, one to the nurse to check on an injury and others. So off they went about eleven o’clock to Staniel, one of the bigger settlements in the northern Exumas (about 150 people).

The day was pretty uneventful until Jen got back around 3. She bought a chart book and some vegetables as well as some bread. The bread which was rapped in a plastic bag had cracked in half and piece were flaking off of it. Jen explained that the “fresh” bread had been in the refrigerator and she had been a bit suspicious of it’s freshness. Well at dinner that night we tried some and her suspicions were confirmed, this was not fresh bread. Our $3 loaf of bread was a bit dated, but no mold was there, so I made it my duty to finish whatever bread didn’t flake off when cutting it. It made fine breakfast bread with a little peanut butter, but didn’t fare as well with sandwiches. This was our first night on the boat in a long time and I took advantage of it by going to bed before 8.

Was that a shotting star?, Saturday, January 24, 2004
By now we were ready to head off to explore other islands, we had enjoyed our stay and looked forward to returning, but now was the time to head further south. There was one problem, I wanted to make sure everything was looking good with the website. So I did what I could making revisions and getting feedback. Eventually I told them we would be headed on soon, the website couldn’t be finished until Tom, another head guy, came back from the states. This would not be until the beginning of February, so we made plans to do what we could before I left, probably Sunday or Monday.

So I took the afternoon off to do what you are suppose to do in the park, enjoy it. Sirius and us went snorkeling at some of the nearby reefs. Since the park is a no take zone you get to see lobsters, grouper and other fish and sea life not so abundant around the other islands. We enjoyed the afternoon and while snorkeling the last reef of the day got to see a nice big Barracuda swim by Harry from Sirius head. I followed the barracuda and looked around to see Harry no where in sight. It seems he didn’t enjoy having that barracuda so close to him. I continued to follow him until I reached a school of large Jacks, just swimming around. Soon I was back on the dingy and we took the girls over to the area I saw the jacks to do a little dingy snorkeling, they didn’t seem interested in swimming once the barracuda showed up.

Afterwards we headed back to the boat to get ready for the cocktail party on the porch. While getting ready we were joined by Bubba the Barracuda, who camped out off our stern for a hour and we got a lot of nice shots of him through the clear Bahamian water. I got in the dingy and stuck my head in the water to get a better look. You don’t realize how much a dive mask magnifies until you put your head into the water to look at something that you know is 5 feet away and when you put your head in it appears to be in your face.

Soon we were going in to the party on the porch, most of the others who had been there last week had now moved on and only a few boats remained from the original crew. We enjoyed meeting the new people, but it seemed strange, like some people were missing. Larry showed up late having to go out on patrol. Most had gone home, but we sat down to have a snort with him. A snort is not what you may be thinking, it is having a bit of whatever it is the other person is drinking, here it is rum. So we all had a snort and listened to more stories about the park. While we were sitting talking on the porch I saw this brightest most impressive shooting star I have ever seen. Jen had never seen one before and hates when I inform her that I have seen a beautiful shooting star. Suddenly Larry asks quietly, “Did anyone see that?” “You mean that shooting star?” I asked. “Was that a shooting star? Jen asked. The shooting star was bright and seemed to last a long time for a starring star, it was like one you may see in a movie, were they seem to over do it for effect, but here in the clear skies of the Bahamas with no lights but anchors lights from boats there was no need to over do it, this was just what they looked like. Once we realized we had all seen it we realized that what we saw really was an incredible shotting star. It was a great top of to the night and before we new it it was past 9 and way past our bedtimes, so we bid Larry adew and headed of to bed.

Our contribution to Boo Boo, Sunday, January 25, 2004
The next day we awoke and I went in to see if there was any work to do on the website. After a quick once over I took the day off, Jen and I had laundry to finish and we had to go up to Boo Boo Hill to put up our sign. I needed to finish it first, but hopefully I could get that done soon.

We had walked up Boo Boo Hill a few times during our stay and every time we seemed to recognize more boat names on the plaques left there. Most people use a sharpie pen on a piece of driftwood to write there boat name to leave on-top of the hill. I had found a suitable piece of driftwood the other day at the bonfire and since then I have been craving Bumbre’s name in it. At home I liked to crave signs, so I figured it would be great to do the same hear. I soon learned that craving at old piece of wood that isn’t exactly the right sort of wood is tougher then I hoped. Soon I was chiseling it out with a hammer, instead of doing it nicely with craving and inlay tools. It turned out fine and after some sharpie to color the letters it was finally complete. Now all there was to do was place it at the top.

We walked up in the afternoon to the top of the hill. It is only maybe 75 or 100 feet, but it is still high for the Bahamas. Once there we had to find a suitable place to place it. This is tougher then you think for there are hundreds of the signs places all over and you want yours to be invisible without blocking others. This has lead to the top of Boo Boo Hill being littered with the plaques of boaters. It goes on for 15 yards or so and signs are laying of the rock some 5 feet high. We found a nice spot that faces the path you walk up so Bumbre’s plaques is one of the first ones you come across. After placing it there we really felt our time to leave has come and we planned on doing just that tomorrow.

That night we were invited to Mike and Bonny’s boat, Milliuem Oddessey, for dinner. Miroslav and Genieve were there as well. Mike and Bonny had been down to the Bahamas in 2000, hence the name of there boat and were now doing it a second time. It was great to again hear a different view and stories about sailing down to the Bahamas. We enjoyed a good spicy spaghetti dinner and pictures of Junkanoo in Nassau before heading off ourselves for bed.

Going down the sound feeling good, Monday, January 26, 2004
Showing off my soon to be Conch Horn Shell
Bell Rock off Cambridge Cay
Cambridge Cay Anchorage
Exuma Sound shore of Cambridge Cay
Rock Cairn at the southern tip of Cambridge Cay
Making my first Conch Horn
Practicing on the horn
After a quick stop to see if there was any last minute things I could do for the website we were off. I promised to come back and finish it off after Tom had gotten back from the states. He had the latest text to put in and wanted some changes, so we were going to want for him to launch in February. We said our good-byes to Larry and the others. I even got roped in to doing so sand hogging while down on the beach during our farwells. Soon we were back on the boat and headed off out to the Exuma Sound.

The winds were from the south and we wanted to head to Cambridge Cay, just 10 miles south. You can only enter it by the sound side, so we went that way over the more protected banks side. It was a bit rough and the wind was a bit to much out of the east so we had to tack a bit, but we made it all the same. The cuts from the sound to the lee of the islands on the bank side are always a bit tricky and after a few large swells which pushed us pretty far over we settle in. We found the makeshift range that leads you in past the reefs and bars and rounded the point into the anchorage. There were about 10 boats at anchor here and we found a nice shady spot behind them and anchored. We were a little near the point for my liking, but the holding was good on the deep sand so we were happy. Sirius anchored a little in front of us to our port and we settled in. No sooner had we gotten in then we were invited to the yacht club for cocktails.

Down here quote “yacht clubs” spring up where ever there are a bunch of boats at anchor. They are basically what most would refer to as cocktails on the beach. Someone long ago must have joked that they were starting a yacht club when they did these happy hours and the name yacht club stuck. So now when you get a bunch of boats together at an anchorage and have cocktails on the beach, you are meeting at the yacht club for drinks. Strange but true.

Soon Harry and Fran picked us up and we headed into the yacht club. We were greeted by all the others boats in the anchorage, and were soon overwhelmed by names and boat names. Keeping up with all the different people you meet and what boat they are from is a tough job. We have started to write down the boats in the anchorage and put down the names of the couples on the next to the boat name. Many times you only meet the people once, but since everyone tends to go to the same places, you see many of these boats over and over again. Fortunately Jen is pretty good at remembering them, and even I am getting better. You have to, because chances are the next island you go to you are going to run into somebody you have met. We talked and talked then before to long we were again one of the last groups on the beach. Sunset breaks up these meetings pretty quickly and the no-see-ums, combined with people desire for dinner gets people moving along. But it is a nice informal meeting of all the people in the anchorage.

We headed back and decided to stay another day to explore a bit around Cambridge. The reports we had gotten from the other cruisers were favorable so we had a full day planned.

Little Harman Horner, Tuesday, January 27, 2004
We awoke that day and headed out in the morning to the Coral Garden, a snorkeling spot set up by Exuma Park where there is good coral and fish. The winds were fresh so it was a bit of a rough ride, but we made the 1 and a half dingy ride in good time. Once we got there we tied to a dingy mooring and got to snorkel. It was quite choppy so Jen and Fran decided to pass, but harry and I got and were soon surrounded by little Sergeant Major, a small white and black stripped reef fish, who are used to being visited by humans and expect to be fed when they are. We brought nothing, but a boat we had met last night on the beach brought some food so we watched as the fish engulfed there feeder. I dove down and found a lobster hiding in some coral, but since it was part of the park we only watched him.

Soon we again packed up and headed over to a sunken plane near by. The plane was a same single engine Cessna type. I dove in and found it rolled over on it’s nose, you could still read the numbers on the side, so the plane didn’t seem to have been there long. I glanced over while looking at the plane and found a 4 foot Barracuda staring at me about 10 feet away. We looked at each other cautiously and he started to swim away. I dove under a few coral heads looking for interesting things to look at but soon found myself back in the dingy where Jen was looking at the plane threw a glass bottom bucket.

After our snorkeling adventure Jen, Fran and I decided to explore Cambridge Cay on foot. There where a few tall hills and a nice sandy beach on the sound side that we wanted to have a look at. We went to shore and found the path leading over to the sound side of the island. It was lined with conch shells, which so many paths in the Bahamas are. I had taken an interest in finding a conch shell without the hole punched in it where you extract the conch. I wanted one not for the beauty, but for a conch horn. Every night since being in the Exumas I have heard the distant volley of boats in the anchorage blowing there conch horns. While at Warderick Wells I had learned how to make a conch horn and was now interested in trying it out. It seemed that conch blowing took know musical talent, so I figured I would be able to pick it up pretty easily.

Now the hard part of all of this is finding a conch shell with no hole in it from extracting the creator. This is hard in a place where eating conch is a national pastime. I looked at the hundreds of conch lining the trail, but found only one with holes. Conch after conch didn’t fit my needs. You can make a horn out of a holed conch by filling it with epoxy, but I wanted an all natural conch, so I continued to search until there were no more conch lining the trail.

Soon we got to the beach and I saw a lone conch sitting at the end of the trail. I approached it thinking yet again I would found the customary hole. To my pleasant surprise I found a whole conch, untouched by human hammering and I gladly scooped him up to make him my own.

We continued on our walk finding nice vistas that gave us a 360 degree view of the area. The anchored looked so peaceful below and you could see the islands both north and south for many miles. Soon we were at the north point of Cambridge, and I climbed down into and eddy in the limestone cliff where I found flotsam from passing ships including, lumber, sandals, hats and other eiry things. I climbed out and we went up to the top of the point where there is a Cairn. Cairns are piles of stone shaped like a pyramid that you find all over the islands. I don’t know why they are there or how long they have been there, but there is hardly a point or high spot on any island without one. We have seen many of them lining trails and other such useful things, but many just make a summit or a point with no other reason then to do so.

We backtracked on our walk and soon found ourselves back at the dingy. I was anxious to get back to the boat and start making my conch horn. As soon as we got back I got out the tools of the trade, a hacksaw and a screw driver. The process seemed simple enough, count in five spirals from the end on the conch shell and cut the end part off. Then bash an opening inside with a screwdriver, carefully trying to blow it along the way so not to do to much or to little. Once you get a sound you like, you have your conch horn.

It is pretty easy to do, the hard part is knowing how to blow the conch so you don’t cut off to much. Somehow I managed to blow it and knew I had a horn, that didn’t mean I could blow it on cue, sometimes it my sound a bit sad, but eventually I started to be able to sign it better and better.

Most conch horns are brought out each night as the sun goes below the horizon. My first night participating in the daily volley was not the greatest, and Jen proved that her musically talents were far superior then mine. Over the next few days I was to get better and now regularly don’t embarrassment myself at sunset.

Socked in at Cambridge, Wednesday, January 28, 2004
That night a northern started and the anchorage got rough. By morning we were bouncing around not wanting to do anything because of the weather. So we didn’t do anything, we just played cards, read and did some chores. We were hoping to be able to move today, but the weather dictates that, so today we stayed, hardly moving from the boat.

The 1 mile Mad Dash to Conch Cut, Thursday, January 29, 2004
Pink and Blue Stores on Staniel Cay
Fran & Harry visiting the Pig Beach on Big Majors
Pigs and Cats on the Pig Beach
A brave soul feeding the wildlife
Sally B built on Martha’s Vineyard
Emerging from the water with some Lobster/Crays
Displaying my catch (great tan)
Fran eying the catch
The beach-goers welcoming the hunters home
Club Thunderball in the Grotto
Freeing my hermit crab friend
Ruth the rule Superbowl winner
We awoke that morning with plans to head down to Staniel Cay and stay there through the Super Bowl. The winds this morning were 15 knots from the east northeast, which didn’t seem the best to good out on the sound side so we went in the dingy to investigate. We landed the dingy on Cambridge and walked across to the sound side, there we were faced with pretty good sized ocean swells, that didn’t excite any of us, so we figured we would try the shallow southern entrance which lead right into Conch Cut where we could then go over to the sound.

On our way back to the boat we talked with another boat in the anchorage who said that the cut was tricky and should only be done in good light when you can read the water. That sort of light was not going to happen until the afternoon. Most boats were going to run down the coast of Cambridge on the sound side and go into Conch Cut and over to the banks side. It was a short run of a little over a mile, but nobody seemed to excited about it. We decided to do it because we would have a lot of company as most boats in the anhcorage were planning on heading out that way.

We raised our anchors with four other boats and we all headed out together. As we passed through O’Briens Cut we would disappear in the swells only to pop up on the other side. Soon we were able to turn south and raise some sail which although the waves were more on our beam the sails now made the trip a lot more comfortable. We all raced along as fast as we could and got to Conch Cut in no time. From there we proceeded to the calm water on the banks side and settled in for a nice sail to Staniel Cay.

A couple of hours later we were approaching Staniel hoping for a decent anchor spot. Staniel is one of the few small communities in the Exumas so if cruises want to watch the Super Bowl they flock to them. We wanted to get there a bit early to got a decent spot to anchor. Our friends on Freedonia informed us that there was room right there in Thunderball Grotto. The James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed in Staniel and we were going to be anchored right next to the famous cave used in the movie. We put down the hook near Freedonia and settled in. It was a small area for anchoring and after Sirius and Bumbre anchored we had four boats tucked into it, Freedonia, Chinook Arch, Sirius and Bumbre. We all knew each other, so we were happy to be close to a bunch of formalier boats.

We headed into town to see what we could find at the stores. The mail boat was in on Wednesday so we figured we might be able to get some decent stuff at one of the three small markets. These small islands have to import all of there food, which comes in once a week (you hope) on the mail boat. Once in the stores hardly have the items out of the boxes when it gets swarmed over by cruisers. Most of these settlements only have a few hundred people in them, but it seems the locals didn’t need to rush into the stores (they probably put in orders) as it is a ritual only followed by cruisers. Usually the day after the mail boat the pickings on fresh things like vegetable, fruit or meat are pretty slim, but you just can’t help but go in and see what they have got.

We had another major concern, we had run out of propane at Exuma Park and had been living off either things cooked on the grill or our friends on Sirius. Staniel was the first place to fill your propane, so we quickly loaded up the dingy with our propane bottle and headed in to Isles General Store to get it filled. In Staniel there are actually three little markets, about the same size all carrying the same goods. If one has run out of tomatoes usually one of the others may have them, while one my have bread the other will be out, so when shopping you usually have to go to all three.

We started at Isles General Store, which is more of a everything you need store, with propane filling, laundry services, food, hardware and others assorted services it is sort of the one stop shop. But it’s groceries are limited so after stopping there we headed up to the Blue Store. The Blue Store is named because it is painted bright blue and when you walk in you find a nice tile floor and painted selves. Things are neatly arranged in what seem like some sort of order. The markets here are usually one room smaller then your average convenience store back home. You can always find staples like canned Corned Beef and Bahamas Goombay Punch lining the shelves, but fresh vegetables or bread is a toss up. Jen had been to the Blue Store before having come down to Staniel on the Park boat with Larry, for me it was my first visit. The Blue Store is nice, but in the end we had gotten all we needed at Isles and ended up finding nothing new we needed at the Blue Store. Right next door to the Blue Store is the Pink Store, this is starting to sound like a Dr. Suess story. The Pink Store is somewhat a shade of pink, and as I had not been to it yet I wanted to investigate it. I had heard rumors that the Pink Store left same things to be desired. We entered the pink store and I found a dark room hardly lit with unpainted shelves made of what amounted to old plywood and driftwood. It shelves also held an assortment of wears but the order seemed more like chaos with Rum next to the canned Corned Beef. After a quick turn threw the few isles we bid the Pink Store farewell and headed off back toward our dingy.

Soon we stopped by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to get some diesel in a can for the boat. Sailing is a big deal to Bahamians and many race the famous Bahamian Sloops, so most settlements have a “Yacht Club”. Don’t confuse these places with the stuffy boring yacht clubs of the US, these are many bars and restaurants where cruisers hang out, they usually have a dock with fuel and sponsor Bahamian sloop races for local boats. Today we bought some diesel from them and had a beer at the bar with some of the boats we had met in Cambridge who had also headed down to Staniel. Afterwards our chores done we headed back to the boat, our propane wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow so we prepared for another morning with no coffee or tea, the hardships of living on board.

Thunderball Mr. Bond, Friday, January 30, 2004
The James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed in Staniel in 1964. It is still it’s most famous moment. Decorating the yacht club are pictures of the filming, there is a Club Thunderball, a Thunderball Marina and of course the famous Thunderball Grotto. We were anchor in the grotto, right next to the underwater cave used in the movie. The morning started with a dive on the cave a slack low water which is the best time to go as the tide runs hard through the cave. So at around 9 Greg from Freedonia, Harry from Sirius and I headed off to investigate the biggest tourist attraction in all of Staniel.

You enter the cave through small opening in the rock barely a foot out of the water at low tide. Once inside the cave height increases, but the real show is underneath the water. The cave is filled with little Sergeant Majors, the little striped reef fish so common in the Exumas. Once inside they rush at you expecting food. Since most people seem to bring in a healthy amount they weren’t to get any Cheerios from me. Some body had thought to bring in one of there favorite snacks, cheese wheez (so I have heard). Where they found cheese wheez in the Bahamas I hadn’t a clue, but the fish loved it. I enjoyed swimming around they and watching the others waste there processed cheese as I got to just enjoy the show for nothing. Soon even fish eating cheese wheez grows tiring so I headed back out to the boat.

Today was to be another day of chores, picking up the propane, getting water and throwing out the trash were on the list. These things may sound like simple tasks to you that should be able to be completed easily with a lot of time left over, but in the Bahamas living on a boat nothing is as easy as it sounds. Water first of all costs between 30 cents and a dollar a gallon. Unlike in the states where you just pull up to the dock and throw a hose into the boats water tanks here it is a bit harder. Most places don’t have docks and if they do you may want to think twice before pulling up to them as they may not be so safe. So you end up loading your dingy with 5 gallon jugs and any other water carrying device you can find on a boat (empty 1 gallon milk jugs are great for this). Then unload them (empty) and carry them to the water source, that never seems as close as it should be. Once filled you have to haul them back to your dingy which is tied to the dock about five foot climb down. It has usually drifted underneath the dock and needs to be fished out, once fished out you then need to get in the dingy and load the now full five gallon jugs into the dingy without getting a hernia. After this you pay whatever ransom you want they want for the water and head out to the boat. You would think this would be the end of the journey, but no, now you have to get the heavy full jugs on the rolling boat from a pitching dingy, never easy, once you have achieved this goal you then must fill up the water tanks on the boat before going back in and doing it all again because you wouldn’t want to leave the anchorage without everything on the boat filled with water or you will just have to repeat the process earlier then you would like.

Trash is another interesting island chore, most places don’t want it because there is no place to get rid of it. Marinas only take it from paying guests, so it is a big game to be anchored out and get away with bring in your trash without getting caught. Most of the time you just have to haul it around to places like Staniel which do take trash. We had not been able to throw away trash since getting to the Exumas, so trash was important to us. We only had one not so big bag which is pretty good, but we still wanted to stop hauling it around in our sail locker. Staniel was the first place we could do that. A lot of cruisers burn there trash or dispose of biodegradables overboard, but being newbies we still were getting into this habit. When we got to Staniel we had two options for getting rid of our garbage, pay the Yacht Club or Isles General $5 to get rid of it or walk it to the dump ourselves. Conveniently the dump was shown on our chart, so we elected for this rout. It was about a half a mile walk and since we hadn’t seen the interior of the island at all we figure way not. I hoped for the added benefit of interesting wildlife at the dump, like the famous bull who lives at the dump on Union Island in the Grenadines, sadly when we got to the dump on Staniel there was nothing bu a pile of trash. So we added ours hoping next time the dump may house a wild pig or something.

We now had all our chores done and even though when finally had propane we decided to go to Barbecue night at Club Thunderball. So we signed for the meal and headed back to the boat exhausted from our chores. Swims and other activities filled the day until at about 5 we got together with Harry and Fran for drinks before heading into dinner. Club Thunderball was quite the seen filled with cruisers many of whom we now knew. Greg and Pam on Freedonia soon introduced us to Ashland and Wendy on Sally B. This would normally have been just another introduction to fellow cruisers who happened to be our age, but this was different. It seemed Ashland and Wendy had built the 32 foot wooden sailboat in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. Ashland had worked on building two much bigger custom wooden boats on the Vineyard which I had read about in the paper, but at the same time was building his own boat not two miles from my house. They were now cruising down the coast in her, under wind power alone, quite a feet in the engined powered world we now live in. We talked about the Vineyard and there plans through dinner before losing a few games of pool afterward. They invited us over to have a look at the boat the next day, an invitation I looked forward to.

Pigs on a beach, when lobsters fly, Saturday, January 31, 2004
Today was to prove to be a full day, for the day before I had heard there was a beach around the corner that had pigs living on it. Surprisingly out of Sirius and Bumbre only I was excited by the though of seeing pigs swimming out to your dingy from the beach. It seems the nurse at Staniel had told horror stories about cruisers getting bitten by the pigs. Those scare tactics weren’t going to work with me and with or without my comrades I was going to see a bunch of pigs hanging out on the beach. Fortunately it didn’t come to that and we started off around the point to find said pigs.

No sooner had the beach come into sight then I could make out something large and non-human moving on the beach. Could it be? When we closed in you could plainly see it was, there was a pig on that beach. Not just one pig, but a whole family, and not just pigs, but a bunch of cats as well, what a bonus pigs and cats frolicking on the beach. We brought our dingy as close us we dared and soon the largest one started to swim toward us. This made Jen a a bit uneasy. It seems that people had taken to feeding the pigs as well and just like the fish now any dingy that pulls within pig sight (whatever that may be) get a large pig swimming toward it looking for fed. We of course had brought none and now put ourselves in danger of becoming the feed. Fortunately a woman much braver then me get her husband to pull up to the shore in the dingy and she hoped off. This woman was immediately surrounded by all the pigs looking for a handout. She had some food, but not for the pigs, she was actually trying to feed the cats. This crazy woman was hitting the pigs on the nose when they went for the cat chow. Somehow she managed to get back aboard her dingy without upsetting the pigs to much for she still had all of her limbs.

After our excitement with the pigs we went to Sally B to have a look at her. She was easy to spot with her dark black hull and tan bark sails she was a throwback in a sea of glass boats. We were greeted with a smile and an offer of tea from Ashland, he is from England and true to his roots likes his tea even in the 80 degree heat of the Bahamas. Having never had tea with an Englishman before I gladly expected and soon was enjoying hot tea in the cabin of Sally B. She was a beautiful boat, done in the old style, he even found an old propane stove and little wood stove to put in. Truly this boat was everything he had dreamed he wanted her to be, classic and beautiful, yet functional and easy to handle. We enjoyed looking at her and asking the questions I’m sure they had heard a thousand times, yet they answered them us if it was the first. Soon we parted ways hoping to catch up with them in the future, as it is funny how people paths cross.

Afterwards Jen wanted to head to the beach, so we went off to a beach on the sound side of Staniel. I brought my diving gear in hopes of getting in some fishing but not to much hope in that. The beach was a long hot walk and we meet the couples from Freedonia and Highlander there. They had just gotten back from fishing and hadn’t caught anything, so I decided to have a look not to hopeful of finding anything, but just wanting to get into the water.

Soon after heading in I found some healthy looking reefs and started to dive down looking into nooks for lobster. Not to long after I started I found one hiding in a small crevasse in the coral about 10 feet down. I quickly slang my spear and shot. Incredibly I missed him from pretty close, it had been years since I had shot a sling spear and those years must have played on my aim. I went down again and fortunately a lobster is a slow creature, for he was still there and this time I did not miss. I pull him out of the hole firmly on my pole and started toward shore. On shore I finished him off and put him in a bag to search for more. About this time I saw Greg and Bill from Highlander and Freedonia starting back out. They saw my catch and started searching around the reef I was searching.

Soon I had found another and quickly disposed of him as well, this one was much bigger and was only about 5 feet down. With my bag full I swam around a bit more not foinding anything else and headed back to the beach. There Jen was excited to have her first fresh caught lobster in the islands. I was happy to have finally been able to find some after searching long and hard since we got to the Exumas.

I decided to go back out and have another look around at some reefs further out, but as soon as I headed out I was face to face with a small barracuda. He was only about a foot and a half long and he seemed to follow me everywhere I went. Greg had mentioned him to me before I went out and now this curious little fish was annoying me as I didn’t want to turn my back on him. So we faced off he swimming just out of my range with my spear. I didn’t want to swim away, so I decided I’d just try to get him, but his curiosity didn’t get him any closer then my spear could reach. Finally I gave up when Greg and Bill started in with there catch. It seems the second times a charm as they came in with two lobsters as well and we were all happy to have dinner tonight.

We headed back to the boat with our catch, inviting Harry and Fran over to enjoy the catch to repay the lobster they served us on Chub. We cooked up the lobster just like Star thought us in Bimini, cutting the tail lengthwise and marinating it in lime and garlic. It was excellent and the two tails were plenty to feed the four of us. After having such poor luck with fishing in the Northern Exumas it was great to finally get something.

Weather: December 2003

The mighty St. John’s River and beyond, Monday, December 1, 2003
Pine Island AnchorageWe didn’t get going until; 8:55 , and really didn’t know where we were heading, just thought we would go until we found a good anchorage. So off we went past Amelia Island, and soon we were approaching the St. John’s River, which heads down into Jacksonville. We knew we wanted to get south to St. Augustine so we just headed straight across the St. John’s River and kept heading south.

St. Augustine SkylineWe put bridge after bridge behind us until we went under the Palm Valley Highway Bridge, a 65 foot bridge that seems to head over to some expensive Jacksonville suburb, now we had nothing between us and St. Augustine but twenty miles and one anchorage. Since it was already 4 o’clock we decided St. Augustine was out and we headed for the anchorage south of Pine Island, six miles south. Don’t be confused with this Pine Island being one you may have heard of, I have discovered on this trip that every state has numerous Pine, Hog and Bull Islands. The ones that are on the ICW do not usually house large settlements, in fact most islands we anchor behind are really just specks on a river and if the names of these island weren’t on the chart noone one would probably refer to them at all.

St. Augustine, Our second walled city, Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Castile De San MarcosSince we had already visited Charleston, we knew we couldn’t miss St. Augustine if we wanted to see the two only walled cities in the US. So we woke early the next morning to get going so we could make it to St. Augustine with enough time to have a look around. We raised anchor at 7:15 and soon we were racing down the ICW with our jib up enjoying the 15 to 25 knot wind from the north. We only had 12 miles to go to St. Augustine and 9 o’clock we were waiting at the Bridge of Lion’s for the 9:30 opening. We could have anchored north of the bridge, but with the north wind the boats anchored here were pitching in the 1 to 2 foot waves. This looked very uncomfortable, and even dangerous. Our guide told us that this was the better ancorage, as the one on the other side of the bridge had only fair holding ground, and was crowded. We Fort Mose Historic State Park, St Augustinedecided to take our chances on this one instead of stay out here and get pummeled all evening. The only trouble was that we missed the scheduled bridge opening, and so we had to spend the next half hour circling in front of the bridge in the wind and the waves. A commercial tug came along about half way thru our wait for the next opening and we were hopeful that the bridge would open for him. Unfortunetly, the bridge tender was not even opening for him because he did not have a barge with him. Once through the bridge, we anchored on the south side of the bridge where the waves were much lower. We anchored behind the biggest hulk of a boat we could find so it could further knock down the seas. We set 2 anchors just to secure our position. Even though it was a little calmer in here, it was still crowded and dragging was not an option. We sat and watched our position for about an hour before going ashore to be sure we were really holding. Our Bruce anchor had been really good up to this point, but better safe than sorry.

Castile De San Marcos with JenSoon the dingy was launched and we headed in to take showers and have a look around. Once on the dock we again ran into our friends on “Sirius”, who had been in St. Augustine for a few days. They were at the city docks and because of the weather were getting pitched around quite a bit. The waves were coming in with such vigor that we were getting wet just standing on the dock next to their boat chatting. We made plans to get together for dinner and headed off to the showers.

Replica of old town wallOur first stop was the Castillo De San Marcos, the fort we had sailed by on our way by St. Augustine before anchoring. It was a quick walk having only to fend off a few carraige ride solicitors. Our desire to go in was quailed by the fact that they wanted $7 for entrance. We had seen quite a few forts in our traveling days and our $14 dollars would be better spent treating ourselves to ice cream or prehaps a delicious beverage. We settled for walking around the fort which had a style similar to El Moro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but it didn’t have the same grandeur (we did pay to go into El Moro). Then we followed the replica of the old city wall to St. George street. St. George street is a sort of colonial Williamsburg in the heart of St. Augustine. It is part tourist trap shops and part old world history lesson. We walked down the street passing the oldest wooden school house in the US and replica buildings of the old days. All these of course were flaked by restaurants, junk shops and public restrooms. It was a nice walk through, especially since there are no cars aloud on St. George street, most any street in the US is pleasant to walk on when there aren’t cars whizzing by.

Oldest School HouseSoon we were on King Street, the main drag leading out of town. We headed out of town past Flager College, a magnificent college all built in the Spanish Renaissance style. It was built by Henry Flagler in 1888, as the Hotel Ponce de Leon, but is now teaching coeds, many of whom we passed along the street as we walked toward our next destination. This destination is a place you have to own a boat to truely appreciate – the Sailor’s Exchange!!!! (http://www.sailors-exchange.com)( it is a used marine parts store). These sorts of places are huge buildings usually in the low rent part of town, and are sort of a antique shop for sailors. Everything you could possible imagine for a boat is usual there, it’s just up to you to figure out where. We sorted through all sorts of things until I noticed Jen starting to get bored so we purchased our wears and headed back into St. Augustine. Jen finds these stores a little creepy as most of the parts are recovered from wrecks or old boats. The sheer amount of parts etc.. can be overwhelming.

Do you think she will?On the way out of town we passed the San Sebastien Winery http://www.sansebastianwinery.com (the building they make and sell the wine not the fields of grapes). We never turn down a free tour or tasting, so we headed in to check it out. They showed us a movie, of which we missed the most interesting part (why most grapes won’t grow in Florida), then they showed us where they made and bottled the wines. This of course was followed by everyones favorite part of the tour the tasting. I was looking forward to trying their champayne (sparking wine since it is not made in the Champayne region), but they didn’t seem to give tastes of it because they didn’t want to open a whole bottle without finishing the whole thing and they didn’t plan on that. We were a little disappointed with San Sebastine as none of the wines sparked our interest enough to actually purchase it.

St Augustine Town HallWe walked back in to the docks where we made arrangements to go to dinner with Harry and Fran from Sirius. First we wanted to drop off our goods at the boat, so we dingied out hoping not to get to wet and then headed back in. The wind and waves were lesseng, but it was still rough so keeping completely dry on the dingy ride was almost impossible. After having a beer with Sirius at the A1A Brew Pub we headed over to the Cuban Restaurant where we had some dinner. Soon we were motoring out in the dark, and fortunately the wind had calmed so the ride was dry and our sleep would be calm.

Did Ponce de Leon have to pay, Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Flager CollegeOur second day started with us scrubbing the boat. The boat had gotten many stains on the deck and some would not come off, so it was time to don the gloves and get out the high toxic acid to clean off some off the deck stains. Some after breakfast Jen and I scrubbed the cockpit with toothbrushes, the glamorous life of a cruisor. Before we new it our cockpit looked respectable again (this would last about as long as we stayed off the boat that day) and we headed in to scrub ourselves down with a shower. As we got to the dock we noticed Barramundi and Good News, some of the boats we had met in the Dismal Swamp, pull into the dock in St. Augustine. So we all greeted each other look long lost friends and caught up with the goings on.

This guy lives aboard, seriouslyAfter awhile we made arrangements to continue our banter later and Jen and I headed off to scrub the dirt from the boat off of ourselves. That day we decided to have a look at the attraction of St. Augustine, the place where Ponce de Leon though he had found the Fountain of Youth. Always feeling the need to feel ever more youthful, we headed down the street towards it, which was also where the library was so we could communicate with the friends and family we had left behind. On the way we walked up to the Mission of Nombre De Dios, a gaint cross where Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in 1565 and said to be the place of the first Catholic Mass in the New World, It overlooks St. Augustine harbor and is an impressive cross that sores high into the sky above. It only lacks the mountain grandure of similar religious symbols that stand on Huge cross on city pointmountain tops like the one in Rio de Janiro. We walked around the grounds before continuing on our way to youthful existence for the rest of our lives. As we neared the “archaeological site” where the suppose fountain is we new we were in trouble. Adorning the road leading to it is a large neon arch you get to drive (or in our case walk) through. On the arch written in neon it says “Fountain of Youth”, across the street there is an equally tacky sign instructing you to turn and drive two blocks to the “Fountain of Youth”. I felt more like I was going to get on a Disney World ride similar to “It’s a Small World”. Dispite all of this we walked our two blocks before our greatest fears were realized, the few dollar fee we hoped it would be to all the youthfulness you will ever need was actually $7 dollars. Did Ponce de Leon have to pay 7 bucks to dip him,self in this swamp in Florida, I think not. So since the reviews of the place we had heard ranged from “There isn’t really anything to see!” to “This is it?” we decided to forge forever being youthful in order to get to the library to communicate with others back home.

Fountain of Youth EntranceAfter the library we picked up some grapefruits at a roadside stand next to a gas station (they were delicious) and then fed ourselves to youthfulness buy purchasing a Dairy Queen Blizzard, which besides a few peanut butter crackers was our lunch. Hoped up on sugar we walked back into town hoping to find a place with Wireless Internet or at least a place I could plug in the laptop to do so journal writing. This brought us to the Casa Monica Hotel, an upscale hotel in the heart of downtown. We both did some writing before heading back to the dock to see what was happening on the dock with the new arrivals.

We found our friends on Barramundi having cocktails on board and after biding them by offering a few grapefruits we were having a cocktail as well. Bob and Vivian on Barramundi were one of the many Canadians we had met on our journey south. I don’t know whether it is the cold weather up north or what, but there seem to be more Canadian cruisers then US ones. We were welcomed onto the foreign soil of there vessel and catching up on each others trip down when we were joined by Bob (yes both named Bob) and Margery from Good News. before we new it it was well after dinner time and we headed back to our boat so the others could head in to get some dinner. We would be headed south to Daytona Beach tomorrow, sadly once again leaving the friends it had taken so long to catch up to.

Running in the dark, Thursday, December 4, 2003

Fort MatanzasWe were not leaving all of our friends, Fran and Harry abroad Sirius had anchored out near us that night and were going to head to Daytona as well. We left St. Augustine, with Jen somehow keeping me from the St. Augustine Haunted Pub Tour http://ghostaugustine.com (there is always the way back north), about a half hour after Sirius. Being slower then most all boats on the ICW we were quickly the only boat in sight accept when a power boat decides to swamp us in his wake.

Fort Matanzas, FloridaThe whole way from Marthas Vineyard I had been very good at figuring out the tides and when they would be with us and against us. Today the tide started out against us so I figured once we got close to the Matanzas Inlet we would have the tide with us, just like it had been on North Carolina and other places with inlets to the ocean. When we got to the inlet it was not only not with us but even stronger against us. This was a little vexing, so then I figured once we pass the inlet we will surely have it with us, because if it is flowing in the inlet and up the ICW, it will surely be flowing in the inlet and down the ICW as well. As we passed Fort Matanzas, where more than 300 French Huguenots killed by the Spanish in 1565, at the mouth of the inlet we still had no tide with us. This was tough as since Bumbre is a little slow under power alone any tide against her hurts our speed even more, which meant getting to Daytona that night, over 50 miles from St. Augustine, was going to be tough.

Going through Haulover Canal We keep going and as we passed the last anchorage before Daytona (a land cut that leads to an old cement plant) we were still 20 miles away. This lead to a bit of a problem, we didn’t want to anchor in the cement plant, and we were also worried about getting into Daytona after dark. We just kept going anyway and we would just have to see what happened. We got closer and closer to Daytona as it got darker and darker, before long the sun had set and we were straining to see the next markers. We probably could have anchored just off the ICW channel, but as darkness fell and the lighted markers (they aren’t all lighted) came to life I found it could be easily navigated. This was mostly because the lights of houses and buildings on the outskirts of Daytona were lighting the way and the ICW in this area in very straight. As we went under the first bridge we saw Sirius anchored there, but I wanted to make it to the anchorage just beyond Daytona and through the bridges in downtown, so we kept going. After passing under the last bridge the lights of downtown dimmed and we could only really see the lights blinking on the markers ahead. Soon we were turning off to head out of the channel and into the anchorage, getting the anchor down at about 7:15, two hours after sunset. Looking around I thought we might have gone even further, but Jen was not so adventurous so we settled into our anchorage and perpared some dinner. Unfortunately we ran out of bottled propane for the grill, so we settled for baked chicken and headed off to bed for to get some rest for another 50 mile day to Titusville.

The friendliest town in Florida, Friday, December 5, 2003

Bridge Haulover Canal We awoke early and were off a little after 7, Jen didn’t want a repeat of yesterday and I hoped to find a diesel mechanic to teach me how to change my fuel filters and bleed my engine. Titusville is suppose to be a good cheap place to do that so we thought we would head there and maybe stay a extra day to have it done. We had heard little else good about Titusville, but good cheap services in Florida are tough to come by especially south of Fort Peirce, so we really hoped the people of Titusville could help us out.

Pelicans Indian River By 8:15 Sirius had caught up to us and we were leading them toward the Ponce de Leon Inlet. Shoaling near the inlet had been reported and the chart showed very strange marker locations. I entered with caution, but not enough caution as I still had up my sail because of a favorable wind. Soon after the first marker with Sirius only 50 yards behind us I ran it right onto that shoaled area I had heard about. She was hard aground, compounded by the fact that the jib was still up, so we quickly lowered it. I thought we might have trouble getting off, but with the sail down she backed off easily and soon we were following Sirius threw, thankfully. They of course made it though without incident only compounding my embarrassment of plowing head long into the shoal with my jib up.

Relaxing on the way to Titusville Soon after that we get threw the Coronado Bridge and into the Mosquito Lagoon. This not so flattering name is the beginning of a very interesting section of the ICW. Here the ICW starts to widens where at some parts it is 5 miles wide, but you can only travel on a narrow section as it shoals quickly on either side. It continues like this from the Mosquito Lagoon, then into the Indian River (once you go through the Haulover Canal) past Titusville until you get near the ST. Lucie Inlet. This is the area where Cape Carnival is and you can see the vehicle-assembly building of the John F. Kennedy Space Center from bearly 20 miles away. On the we back up if NASA is launching shuttles again we hope to see one from an anchorage near Titusville.

For now Titusville was our destination and we watched the dolphins play next to our boat we also watched some gray clouds come over the horizen. Being that this section is so wide it is also not a good section to get caught out in a blow. We watched Sirius disappear ahead of us and again we were alnoe on the ICW, but the rain did not come and we enjoyed a wonderful day watching dolphins play, and pelicans drive near the boat.

Titusville at sunsetWe entered the Indian River after going through the Haulover Canal, and now had a little over an hour to Titusville on the Indian River. The Indian River is home to the famous Indian River Citrus Company, where some many of us up north have received oranges and grapefruits in big boxes from Florida in the winter months. The fruit grows all along the Indian River in this section of Florida. We made our way across the river to Titusville and headed into the marina from diesel and hopes of a diesel mechanic to change our fuel filters. As we tied up at the marina’s fuel docks we were greeted by the deckhand, a nice middle aged fellow who was very helpful. He informed us about a diesel mechanic who would come down and help us and that we were welcome to tie up to the dock while he worked. Unbelievable I thought a marina in Florida that will accommodate a small boats needs and won’t charge you an arm and a leg. We payed for the diesel and I called the mechanic who had just gotten home from the marina. He was happy to change the filters, but he new the kind I Vehicle Assembly Building, Cape Canaveral needed were sold out of the local stores, but he started calling others stores in hope of finding one so he could help us out that day. While this was going on we decided to get a pump out, that undesirable job that needs to be done ever so often. Again the dock master was right there helping us and in the end didn’t even want the $5 dollar fee. Since we were tied up to the dock waiting for the diesel mechanic to call back we decided to take showers at the marina. Of course these were five dollars each as well, but again the lady in the office wouldn’t hear of it and we were of to clean ourselves again. This was a first on our journey, to find someone at the marina who didn’t make sure to charge a kings ransom for a shower, we felt we had hit the jackpot. After all the nice people on the dock were having a Christmas party and invited us over, we declined and headed back to the boat to call back the mechanic. The mechanic had no luck finding our filter, so we reluctaly left the dock to anchor out. On the way out we were thankful of finding so many nice people to help us out and even though we would not be staying very long in Titusville, we will not forgot how nice and welcome we felt during our two hours stay there.

We headed out around sunset and went through the bridge anchoring near Sirius. Tomorrow we would head south again, but this time only 40 miles to Melbourne, Florida to visit “The Dragon” of Dragon Point, which sits at the southern tip of Merritt Island.

The dragon has been slain, Saturday, December 6, 2003

Jen going down the Indian River, cold! We awoke to a very cold morning in Titusville, we were bundled up with gloves and hats as we headed south, it was time to visit Dragon Point. The story goes something like this, the man who owned the land on Dragon Point decided to build a huge concert Dragon on the popint for his kids to play on. Well he did and now it sits on the end of Merritt Island on the point named after it. I had seen pictures and read about it on countless cruising websites, so I was excited to have a look at it myself. We headed off at 7:45 and since the cold wind was blowing from the north (we learned later our friends in Boston were hit with 2 feet of snow this day) and were making great time under the jib. We passed under bridge after bridge until we saw the bridge that lies directly after Dragon Point. As we closed in on Dragon Point I couldn’t pick out the Slain Dragon of Dragon Point, Merritt Island dragon, but you could see some starnge green point rocks in the binoculars. As we rounded the point we noticed it, the dragon had been destroyed and had crumbled down upon itself. It was a sad sight. As far as I was concerned there was no other reason to come here. We anchored out near the now defunct dragon and decided to go ashore to go to the grocery store. We dingied over to the local yacht club where we were imformed that the dingy dock is at the marina. AT the marina we got some fuel for the dingy and were informed that there was no dingy dock at all. We asked about the dragon and were informed that it had been destroyed in August of 2002 and plans to rebuild were uncertain. We were also informed that we could probably “land” our dingy at next door where the crew team launches there shells. We had hoped to be offered a place to tie it up quickly there to go to the store across the street but no such invitation was extended, so we headed off to the crew team launch sight next door.

Dingy Landing, MelbourneWe looked at the steep grassy bank they she had told us to pull up our dingy on and thought maybe we would just forget it. That combined with the fact that she had informed us that only once had the police been called for somebody trespassing on the property. This again did not go over well with us, but finally we decided to give it a go. I raised the engine on the dingy as much as I could and gunned it. The dingy ran up onto the bank nicely and we only had slightly damp shoes on our walk to the grocery store. We were pleased to find our dingy still there when we returned and soon we were off before the cops had to get involved.

Once back on the boat we unpacked our goods and headed off again to find the bar and library so we could check email and relax. It turned out the directions the women at the marina gave us were wrong and we would have to cross the Indian River to get to the library, since the chop in the river was quiet high we decided to forget that idea and head back to the boat. Instead we started to clean the boat which had gotten a lot of dirt and grime on her since the start of the journey. Well doing this I was inpect a thru-hull (a drain for the various things that need to drain from the inside of the boat like water etc.) and it broke apart. Fortunately in was above the waterline and the main part of the hose was still draining outside. But it was something that should be fixed asap. So that meant a stop at the next marine store we could find. Dragon Point had turned out to be a bust and we looked forward to moving on, the bad luck continued as we turned on the stove to cook dinner that night and suddenly ran out of propane for that as well. Dinner was not going to be cooked that night.

Cruising Capitol of Florida, Sunday, December 7, 2003

Felicity sailing down the ICW Running out of propane and needing a thru-hull put us in a position where we had to find a place that could fill all of our needs conviently. This is hard when you have no transporation besides a boat. We decided the best place to go would be Vero Beach, as in the guide it talked about being able to take a bus to shopping. So off we headed in another cold morning, this time though with no hot drinks to warm us up in the cold northerly breeze. We wound down the ICW as the houses started to get larger and larger we turned the corner into the Vero Beach town marina. We thought we might get a slip for the night instead of a town mooring, but we had no such luck.

What we did find was a sea of mooring balls, most of them with at least three boats rafted to each one. We started to wait to get fuel and see if there was a way to get a slip, but this seemed futile, so we called the dockmaster on the radio and he assigned us to mooring number seven. We had to reft on to a boat named Latitude and soon after we tied up to them, a boat named Felocity who we had recently pasted on the ICW rafted up to the other side. So now we had three boats on the mooring like most of the others in the harbor. Vero Beach mooring field is located in Bethel Creek, and as soon as we went in to pay we discovered we had stumbled upon some sort of cruisors meeting ground, as everyone we met seemed to be there to provision before heading over to the Bahamas. After we payed we moved the dingy over to the proper dock which was around the corner. It was about a hundred yards long and was filled with dingies to or three deep along it. We lucked out and caught someone leaving, so after they pulled out, we did the customary dingy ram to get ours through to the dock. The dingy ram is an art where you line your dingy up with a small space not wide enough for your dingy to actually fit into. Once lined up you crank up the trottle on the dingy and literally ram it into the spot. This usually has one or two effects, if there is enough play with the other dingies you just part them and yopu end up right next to the dock. If you do not hit the space just right or the dinghies are so packed in there is no place for them to go you tend to bounce off and shoot backward. This can be very unpleasant and cause your passengers to be thrownJen on dolphin in Vero Beach off or at least make them mildly upset at you, so it is best to get it right. There is another way, but it can be not so effective and certainly isn’t as fun. This is to slowly pull up to the space and have your passenger in the bow try to part the dinghies with there hands. You usually end up fustrating yourself as you swim your into one dingy and another, never seemly making any progress.

We did successfully get to the dock and once there we had a look around. What we discovered was cruisers of all sorts working hard to get themselves ready for the crossing. Vero Beach had become the defacto meeting place for them all. This seems to be for a few reasons, one they have a great free bus system that can take you into all sorts of stores, like a grocery, marine and book stores. That combined with the marina which has all of the needs of the cruising sailor, like laundry, showers, internet, mail delivery and a wealth of other cruisors to milk information from. We were overloaded with tips and information on everything from the Gulf Stream Crossing to tips on what canned meats to buy. It was overwhemling. The first day we were there was Sunday, this of course meant no bus service, which in turn meant no filling the propane. So we decided we would walk to the beach and get some dinner. First we wanted a shower, this is when we started to figure out what a goldmineVero Beach Bridge at night they had at the marina, they wanted a dollar each plus tax for a shower. This fee was not included with our $8 dollar a night mooring. Little charges like this tend to drive me crazy and before I was even there an hour I started to sore on the place a little. We both had our showers, $2.22 after tax and walked toward the beach section of Vero Beach.

After walking through some nice suburbs we found the beach section mostly closed except for a few bar/restaurants right on the beach. We ended up at Mulligan’s where the menu is so cowarded with graphics and colors you couldn’t read it. But we didn’t mind that much since they sat us near an outlet so I could plug in the laptop to write. After about two or three hours of having a couple of drinks and dinner I finished my writing and we walked back to the dingy dock. The harbor was quite, so were our neighbors so we climbed in to bed and slept soundly until morning.

A day of chores, Monday, December 8, 2003

Conch Bar, Hobe Sound Anchorage at sunset We awoke to the sound of dingies heading into the dingy dock. Since we had a lot to do as well we got up to start our day. Soon we were in the dingy ourselves, after starting our laundry and inquire about the propane and wireless internet (which they had as well), we wanted for the bus. The propane would have to wait, as the place to get them filled required a taxi to get to (and taking a propane tank on a public bus is frowned upon), but the bus would take us to a West Marine and a grocery store.

We talked with others as we waited and because we knew it we were all pilling into the bus that was full of cruisors. Every wanted to know if it was going to be your first cross (across the Gulf Stream) or where you planned on going from. Most of the advice was good, but you got so much it was almost to much. One thing we had planned on ordering but had yet to do was canned meats. It seems we were the only ones who hadn’t tried them (they are supposed to be surprising good), so we listenned and planned to order some later when we got on the internet. West Marine had what we needed as did the scuba store next door, a few other things and we were ready to catch the next bus.

Once back to the marina we switched the laundry and headed back out to the back to drop off our wears. Unfortunally I flooded the dingy engine before I got it started and sat there frantically pulling to try to get it started. Offers from others cruisors to help came from everyone, but I thought she would just start right back up after a short wait. When she didn’t one of the husband and wives that we had taked a lot to on the bus came over in there dingy and were only to happy to tow us out to our boat. As we got paraded through the marine by the nice couple embarrassment of having being towed to our boat was overshadowed by the fact that it was this sort of kindness we had been recieving from must everyone since we left. I believe it is one of the main reason people love to cruise so much, as it is hard to find kindness like this many places anymore. On the water it is still consider the norm.

Christmas Angel Once at the boat I quickly fixed the thru-hull while Jen unpacked the other stuff we had gotten. Afterwards I read the manually to the dingy engine to see how to start it up once you flooded it. The advice was simple enough in theory, just keep pulling the cord until it starts. This was the opposite of what little I had learned about a flooded engine in my years, which is you should let it sit, but I took there advice and after many pulls and a lot of swaring under my breath so the rest of the marina didn’t hear me it turned over and I looked up like a champion boxer after a hard fight. The chores were not over, we still had to finish the laundry, get on the internet and fill the propane. This combined with the fact that I wanted to fit in a shower for both of us without having to pay a dollar each and shower together doesn’t count as only one.

I called a taxi to pick me up and got Jen on the internet. The taxi picked me up and before I new it we had more propane, minus the $12 taxi ride and $3 propane fill up. We were back in business and by now were ready to head down the road the next day. Jen had ordered our canned meats and had them shipped to my mom in Fort Myers, now with the laundry still in the dryer all we had to do was shower. I paied my dollar which got me a key to both showers, so I let Jen in as well and we got two showers for the price of one, my day was complete. We were ready to head down the road, many of the people here planned on leaving from Fort Priece or Lake Worth, but we planned on going down to Miami, the end of the ICW (not really, but that is where our chart book stopped).

Another Bridge, Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Today would take us down the ICW past Fort Pierce and an area of Florida that only gets more and more ritzy the further south you go. Today we were going to pass Jupiter Inlet, which leads you into Hobe Sound and Jupiter, from there Florida is all big boats out front of big houses, next to lush golf courses. This was also the start of what is considered the worst part of the ICW. This is not because all of the large houses make you feel inferior, it is because from now until Miami there are so many bridges it slows you down quite a bit. A lot of these bridges are on “resticted schedules” as well, meaning they didn’t open during rush hours. We went through bridge after bridge inspecting the homes along the way, wondering where all those people get all that money to buy homes that don’t appear to be lived in. All along the way we could hear our friens aboard Sirius who we had not seen since Titusville calling bridges far down the line.

The boat we held up at fuel dock The wind was in our favor and we sailed under as many bridge as possible, sometimes even having to goose the engine with the sails up to make it under certain bridge before then closed on us and we would have to wait for the next openning. All our efforts got us 50 miles that day and we anchored just after 5 next to one other boat. We were anchored on Conch Bar in Hobe Sound, surrounded by million dollar homes and a few trailor homes owned by people who wisely had refused to sell out years before. We had wanted to get this far for one reason, we had now travel over thousand miles on the ICW (over 1600 miles for the whole trip), and now we got to celebrate. SO we cracked open a bottle of Champayne and drank to our good fortune of having made it this far safely and helply. Being in this part of Florida made us look even more forward to heading off to the deserted island of the Bahamas. For now we were still miles from Miami and even further from the Bahamas, but with some luck we would be there soon.

Our luck just ran out, Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Sunset Ryckvik Spensor We had heard on the weather radio that today was suppose to be strong southern winds, but being on the ICW we didn’t worry to much about that, but toward mid-day we were going to be entering Lake Worth, this small inland Lake is only a few miles wide, but as with any body of water if the winds were strong enough the waves will kick up to uncomfortable heights. The day started with high winds, but we plugged along under power, about mid morning we entered Lake Worth. There our luck ran out and we were greeted with 2 to 4 foot waves on our bow and quite a few boats heading toward us to the protected anchorage on our stern. I wanted to make it at least to the Lake Worth Inlet and hopefully beyond that. The wind and waves made progress slow and soon the rain started near Peanut Island. We had heard that some bridges south of Lake Worth were locked down until 12 and I wanted to get fuel so Jen called a few marinas and we decided that if the weather was still bad when we went in to get fuel we would just stay in Lake Worth that night.

Jen under our next boat This suited me as Lake Worth was a great jumping off point to go outside and sail down to Fort Lauderdale. If the weather improved hopefully I would convince Jen to dust off the sails so we could forget all of these bridge and go out into the ocean again. So we pulled up to the fuel dock at Rybovich Spencer, weeving our 28 footer past monsterous luxury yachts, many over 100 feet long, some 200 feet long. The dock master had waited for us and before we knew it we were fueling and waiting for him to come back to “help” us tie up into a slip. The whole time we could hear a boat waiting to get into the fuel dock we now occupied. We were told to wait for the dock-master to finish up lunch before moving to our slip and since we didn’t know where it was we had no choice but to wait. So we tidied up the boat and about an hour later the dock-master come back to help us into a slip in the corner of the marina, behind many larger boats. We pulled and and started getting squared away for a shower when we heard the sound of very large engines. From our corner in the marina we couldn’t see the fuel dock only 50 feet away because of the large boats we were hidden behind. So I walked over to the fuel dock to see what we had held up all that time. What I saw was a huge boat called Big Pond, with a glowing blue hull that took up the entire 150ft long fuel dock. He had back in and his engines were so loud you could hardly get near them because of all of the noise. I proudly told Jen about the large boat we held up for over an hour and she just smelled mildy.

Lake Worth Sunrise After showers we had a walk around our new home and discovered we were easily the smallest boat in the marina. We were used to be the smallest, but when you are the smallest by one over 50 feet it is a little overwelheming. We attermpted to peak in the windows of the luxury liners or prehaps luck out and get invited on one to have a tour. It wasn’t meant to be as either we saw nobody on board (very common) or the people on board had no intention of inviting two ragga-muffins from a boat the size of there dingy onto there yacht. It was fun to know that our trip would be less expensive then pulling one off these monster’s out of the harbor (it costs them over $150 a night just for power), so we felt superior in that and we went back to our boat to have dinner and watch a movie on our entertainment center (the laptop).

So this is how you sail, Thursday, December 11, 2003

Sirius under sail from Lake Worth, FLThat night before bed I heard that the winds were suppose to be 10 to 15 knots from the north. So I convinced Jen that since the wind was less then previously forecast we should go outside and shake out our sea legs. She agreed to this with great apprehension, but hearing more about the almost twenty bridges we would have to go through to Fort Lauderdale Jen warmed up to the idea. More than a month in the ICW had made us soft, proven by the fact that getting up the mainsail was a chore. Remembering all the little things proved impossible and after a small struggle we had the mainsail up. We successfully avoided the large container ship coming into the inlet and headed out into the Atlantic.

Falling behind the pack headed to Fort LauderdaleBefore we were out of the inlet we were called on the VHF by our friends on Sirius, they to were in Lake Worth and were now going to head outside as well. We started out under main and jib with the engine on as the winds were light. Soon we were pulling out ahead of the pack, because we were obviously the only ones motor sailing. This suited us just fine as it felt good to be passing boats for a change. We kept it on until the winds picked up about mid morning. Once we turned it off we noticed immediately the other boats started gaining. We were putting up a good showing holding off the other boats at about seven knots. We had all our sails up, which with the wind at between 15 and 20 was probably a little to much sail, but the boat was flying along at seven knots and it was good to strech out the sails again.

Happy Skipper under sail We had a fun time showing the others our dirty bottom paint as they slowly passed us, before long we were again the last one in line. We followed everyone into Port Everglades and avoided the cruise ships before heading into the canals. Fort Lauderdale is refered to as the Venice of America, trying to draw any reference between Fort Lauderdale and Venice is not really truthful to what is really there. Where Venice is a beautiful old stinking city, Fort Lauderdale is the apitamy of American excess and and in your face attitude. Going thru there in our little 28 foot Cal we new we wouldn’t be given the time of day at one of there over priced marinas. But as we followed in Sirius toward the Lake Sylvia anchorage we knew we were going to be surrounded by expensive homes occupied by people with expensive attitudes.

Lasers entering Port Everglades We anchored out and invited Fran and Harry from Sirius over to celebrate our first ocean leg since entering the ICW way back in the beginning of November. After cleaning up a bit I launched the dingy and headed over to give them a ride over. They had not yet even inflated there dingy yet and so we were only to happy chaufer them to and from there boat. The anchorage was crowded with boats, many of who had sailed down from Lake Worth with us, most probably heading over to the Bahamas from there or just down the line in Miami, where we were going tomorrow.

Cruise Ship in Port EvergladesWe had a nice dinner with Harry and Fran while we talked over our explots from the way done. We would be separating here once again as Harry and Fran were going to spend some time with friends in Fort Lauderdale and other places in Florida before heading down to Miami to make the crossing. If the weather did not cooperate with us we might still be there when they got there in a week or two. As cruisors you always share the belief that you will run into your friends again, whether you will or not, so goddbyes are lite. Enjoyed the evening and headed off to bed soon after I rowed them home. Tomorrow we were again heading out into the blue ocean to Miami and I wanted to get to Miami early as my mother was suppose to meet us at the dock and I wanted to beat her.

Slummin it in Miami, Friday, December 12, 2003

Anchored in Fort Lauderdale for the sunset We raised anchor at 7:45 which Harry and Fran must have though early because of there VHF call to us before we had even left the Port Everglades inlet. Our late bedtime hadn’t worried me, I only had the official end of our ICW journey in mind. In Miami we would go know further in the US before heading east and the islands of the Bahamas. So we headed out the inlet and into the sunshine, setting the sails toward Miami at about 8:30. I had started trawling off the stern the day before again, hoping my luck would change in the warmer climates. I took off the useless lure I had on before replaced it with a spoon, a metallic lure shaped somewhat like a spoon, in hopes of improving my so far poor perfermance in the ways of hunting and gathering.

Port Everglades Rush Hour We moved along nicely making between five and six knots under motor and sail. Soon I glanced back at the line and noticed a something dragging behind us. I finally had a fish on and I intended not to less this one. I thottled down and started winded in (I was trolling with hand line instead of a rod), but I soon understood that what was back there was know Moby Dick, he was coming in to easily on two primitive a device to be considered anything worthy of a Big Game prize. That didn’t matter to me as I was only hoping for something for dinner or maybe even some sushi for lunch. When I boated the monster I had to admit I was shocked by the size of my catch, it looked to me as if I had caught a fish that in human terms might have not been eligible for preschool yet. It was a beautiful (be it tiny) False Albacore, and Jen realizing that this fish was not a keeper quickly snapped a few pictures before I released it hoping that it would be just a dumb when it got older and so I could catch him on the way back up and eat him.

My first catch of the trip "WOW"With all the excitement seemly over for the day we only had the condo tower of Miami Beach emerging in front of us to keep us entertained. After many calls to my mother I finally got through and was informed that she couldn’t meet us on Friday, but planned to be there Sunday. This changed our plans again as we had friends in the Coconut Grove area of Miami and we were planning on staying just inside Government Cut near South Beach. Our early start gave us plenty of time to change our plans and continue on to Dinner Key (the harbor right off Coconut Grove). So I called our friend Emerson and told him we would be in town tonight.

Bad Impeller, How-To fix it book in background A little after 1 in the afternoon we entered Government Cut and headed past the huge container ships being unloaded at the docks in Miami. We sailed by the behemoths keeping as close to them as we dared so they could block the strong wind. Slowly we neared downtown Miami, it’s skyscrapers loomed over us as we turned south once again toward Biscayne Bay. We went under the Key Biscayne Bridge and headed toward Dinner Key. Once at the channel in we noticed how mant boats were anchored in what seemed to me to be a pretty exposed anchorage. As we neared the boats we noticed something else, most of these boats didn’t seem to have moved quiet a while, in fact we wondered if many had been abandoned. Some you could hardly call boats, they were more like floating barges with Winnebago placed on top of them. Others were open power boats, with enclosures built over top of them made out of plywood, the whole place had a graveyard of pleasure boats feel to it.

Port of Miami We navigated through the Dinner Key entrance where you pass through the shallow barrier islands to the main marina called Dinner Key Marina. From there we circled one of the barrier islands back out to the anchorage again to find a spot for ourselves. We weaved in and out of boats that from the look of them told us they weren’t likely to move anytime soon until we found a spot between two of the better kept boats near the main marina. We thought about heading farther out to where the anchored boats thinned out but since it was better protected in here and our small boat could squeeze in many tight spots we dropped the hook and waited to see how we looked. What we found was we had dropped the hook right around the time the tide was changing, which meant that the boat didn’t really know there to go. We sat there watching the other boats at anchor turning on there moorings and started to get a feel to where we were going to sit. Once it looked like most of the other boats had settled into the places we raised our anchor. The water was amazingly clear, you could see clearly another on the bottom, it was sort of emerald green, I guess because of the algae on the bottom. As we dropped our anchor again, I watched from 10 feet above it as it slowly dug into the sand and mud. I let out the chain and rope, again seeing it lay itself on the bottom in a perfectly straight line. When we caught the boat drifted forward over the anchor again and I called Jen up. At first she didn’t understand what she was looking at until I told her that was our anchor firmly planted in the ground and that she could sleep well tonight.

Downtown MiamiWe had basically reached the end of the line until we will crossed over to Bahamas, we would spend the rest of our time in the United States in this general area, moving only to go to South Beach to meet my mom on Sunday and to go to Key Biscayne before heading west to the islands. It was a weird feeling to not have anywhere else to go. We were now controlled by the weather, and until the winds blow from the proper direction, Southeast to West, we only had to provision and wait.

Dinner Key Sunset We decided to go in to Coconut Grove to investigate our new surroundings. We had seen most of the liveaboards in the anchorage rowing in, so we launched the dingy and hoped there would be a dock to tie up to. We did find a dock to tie up to, unfortunally ever other dingy there was locked to it with large chains. This seemed unusually as most of the dinghies were very old rigid dingy and it seemed that the big chains locking them to the dock where worth more than the dingy itself. We hadn’t brought in anything to lock our dingy with, so I headed back out to the boat while Jen checked out what was around.

Dinner Key Anchorage Once back in Jen waved for me to head over to pick her back up. It seemed in my absence she had sweet talked an employee at the marina to let us into the showers, the employee had also told her to just tie up the dingy along the marina pier and that it would be safe there. This we did and we were soon allowed into the showers which was perfect as we were soon headed out to meet Emerson.

We walked around looking for a suitable spot after having our shower and soon came across Scotty’s Landing, a local bar open to the harbor. There was really no inside, accept for the roof over the bar, everything else was open, covered only by a tent. We saddled up to the bar and called him, telling him we were there while ordering a beer. Soon he joined us and we discovered many of his friends were there as well. We had stumbled across the friday after work meeting spot, so we got to meet a lot a nice people who did everything from fishing charters to merchandish distribution. One friend of a friend was of particular intrest to us, since I was unable to get someone to help us in Titusville I still needed a deisel mechanic to help me with my fuel filters. Here I was able to meet a superintendent of one of the biggest yards in Miami. We chatted for a bit and before long we were getting directions into the yard which was up the Miami River. The night went on and before we knew it it was way past our bedtime, not used to staying up that late we headed out as Emerson headed of with the others. Our new Miami Home,

Our new Miami Home, Saturday, December 13, 2003

Going up the river for a tune upSaturday we decided to have a look at our new surroundings in earnest. So we headed of early with a list of things we wanted to get done before we headed out in the big blue ocean again. We didn’t really know where to go, our directions we had gotten last night were a little foggy in our heads, so we headed over to a nice looking Wyndham Hotel and tried to look our best so they might believe we were staying there. It wasn’t all that easy since we were wearing backpacks we looked more like hikers, but they were more then happy to give us a map of The Grove, and point out where we might find grocery stores etc.

So now we started our journey of provisioning the boat for real. Certain stores on the map I discounted as useless to use like Gap, Banana Republic, and other typical mall stores that dotted Coconut Groves “CocoWalk”, an outdoor mall on the main street, were quickly brought back into the fray by my wife who seemed to need “some shirts” of somesort. So our list of “important” stores was growing, but not that much since Coconut Grove doesn’t really cater to the sort of stores the traveling boater needs. We did find a few things and before we knew it we were heading to the library to check our e-mail.

After that we started toward the large Borders Book store on the main drag in Coconut Grove. We had nothing else to do and we knew it had a cafe, which meant we could sit there and read without having to purchase a thing. I also had the computer with us and so it would be a good place to sit and write without having to be hassled. When we got there we got an added bonus, first was that it was a T Mobile Wireless Hotspot (it had wireless internet) and the second was that once I logged on I discovered it was free because they were upgrading the system whatever that meant. So we were in heaven as we had a spot to sit with power and internet, so while one of us used the web the other was surrounded by thousands of books and magazines to caught up on the events we had missed the two months we had been gone.

Always the last to know, Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sunday was a rainy day and Emerson kindly invited us over to his house with stops at West Marine along the way. He had Cologate triumpately beat Florida Atlantic to make it to the Devision 1-AA finals in football (Emerson is a Colgate Alum and there football team had been a preul doormat for years), so he was excitly telling me over the phone about the victory when he interupted himself and asked us if we knew?

“Know what?” was the only reply a person who lives on a boat with know access to news can give.

“They got him.” It seems that this Sunday Saddam Hussien had been captured. Thankfully Jen was inside of Borders and was still writing e-mails, so I wasn’t the last to know. Emerson was picking us up soon and so I headed back in to tell her. After West Marine we enjoyed a fine day at Emerson’s, just laying around on the couch, watching football and talking. He even cooked us taco dinner before we headed back out to the boat. During our TV watching Jen and I had discovered it was the “Survivor Panama Final”, that being a very guilty pleasure before we left home we had not since it but once in Charleston since we left. Now it was the final one and I could tell Jen was very interested in catching it.

We were dropped of at the dock and discovered Scotty’s, next door closed, so we entered the Chart House Restaurant hoping they might have a TV and we could hide in the corner watching our show. They were very nice in there and when the hostess who asked about our discover found out that the TV had been removed because they were replacing it she went so far as to go into the back to see if it was still around. All was for not and it looked as if we would miss the last Survivor. As the Captain of the vessel I understand how important moral is, so I figured a moral boost like this was worth one more shot. So we decided to head over to the Wyndham in hopes they would have a lounge with a TV.

We walked into the hotel like we owned the place, heading straight for were I believed the lounge would be. We entered a room, with a bar in the middle and nice leather chairs all around, but no TV. There was no one in the room at the time and we started to have a look around. Soon we found it, hidden in a corner surrounded by comfortable leather chairs, the TV. Soon the bartender was giving us the remote and we switched it on with delight. It wasn’t just finding the TV to watch the show that was so exciting, because to most people this may seem silly, but to us it was the fact that we were able to accomplish something that before we left we had taken for a given right. It is one of the great things about cruising, when you find a place to shower, get on the internet or any other convenience before we took for granted now they luxuries. The more outragous the luxury the sweeter the success once you get to enjoy it. So we sat there sipping our overpriced drinks we purchased from the bar and enjoyed this one a lot.

Up (and down) the river, Monday, December 15, 2003

Merrill-Stevens our garage for the dayToday we were finally going to meet my mom in Miami Beach, but first we had to head up the Miami River that winds right through downtown Miami. This meant going through quite a few openning bridges. We left after nine because those bridges don’t open during rush hour and headed into the river just past 10 o’clock. We went under bridge after bridge that were open promptly for us thankfully. The further up river we headed the worse Miami looked. The neighborhood this yard occuppied was not going to be prime real estate. When we got there we tied up to an old rusty sailboat and waited for our friend to get free so he could helpo us out. All around us on both sides of the skinny river were large open wharehouse look buildings with huge motor yachts being worked on inside. Outside along the bulkhead were more huge motor yachts. We looked around wondering who or what owned these beasts. Before we new it we were joined by our new friend and he got right to work showing me how to change my filters and bleed the fuel line. He was of great help and before I knew it he was done, changing three filters, and even tightening the stuffing box (where the prop shaft goes through the boat and into the water). After talking to us a bit after-wards we asked what we owed him, but he would here known of it. We were so thankful and felt incrediblely lucky to have meet somebody who would help us out that way and send us on our way. We wished him Merry Christmas and untied our lines to get threw the bridge infront of the yard.

Tug on Miami River The bridge tender wanted to wait for a barge before openning, which made Jen and I a little nervous because there wasn’t much room on these side of the bridge to maneuver. I proved this fact not a minute later when wind the tide swept me into a rusty hulf of a fishing vessel that was tied up at the other end of the yard we left. Not wanting this to happenning again, I turned around and headed up river again, against the tide and wind. There was now another boat on our side waiting to go through and still no barge to be seen coming the other way, the river which because of all the mega-yachts tied up in this area is barely 75 feet wide was getting seemly skinny and skinny as time passed. This combined with the fact that the yard decided it would be a good time to move one of these gaints that sat directly in front of the bridge. While this was going on the barge did show up on the other side, but now the mega yacht was pulled out and taking up the entire channel. It was so big they could seem to get it all the way out, which was discouraging as now we badly wanted to leave and get out of this traffic nightmare. Eventually the bridge tender I believe got the yard workers to move the boat back into it’s slip a bit and the bridge started to open. We quickly slipped past the mega yacht under the bridge and barely past the barge into the safety of the empty Miami River behind him. From there we continued on out of the Miami River and again past all of the unloading container ships to the Maimi Beach Marina, a very swauk upscale place I chose becasue of the fact that if we got a weather window while my mother was here we could easily just head out Government Cut and be off to the sunny Bahamian Islands.

Oh the things you need, December 16-17, 2003

Provisioning the boat, never enough storage... Since we now had a car to use we used it, a lot. We went to the West Marine, Crook & Crook (another marine store), Costco, Publix (the grocery store), Walgreens, Kmart (Walmart was MIA believe it or not), T Mobile, Nextel, Cingular (to see if they had agreements in the Bahamas, More Provisionsanswer NO), UK Sailmakers (to get a patch for the brand new sail!), I got my haircut, we even went to a linen store where my mom took pity on us and got us a feather bed to make our mattress more comfortable. We would go back to the marina, unfill the car, and head back out, never seemly being done with it all and certainly not having enough room for it all. Still more stuff...You do this of course because things in the islands are expensive so you only want to have to buy the essetials. We filled ever place imaginable on the boat with everything imaginable, before lonf we could fit no more “undercover and we just started filling the quarter berth (in the back). Toward the end we could handle it no more and my mom headed back of to Fort Myer’s and we headed back to Dinner Key to escape the crazy prices in South Beach.

The long weather wait, December 18-22, 2003

We went back to Dinner Key on a windy rainy afternoon. We took our same spot and started what for cruisors looking to cross the Gulf Stream is the biggest event of the day, listening to the weather on the radio. NOAA who forcasts the weather on the VHF radio updates it about four times day so four times a day you listen to hear if there are any changes, surprising there are, but usually very subtle.

Up the mast to replace a lightbulbThis can be very boring so fortunally we had the our friend Emerson to help us keep entertained. We went to Christmas parties and over to his parents house for dinner (they are all old family friends), but we always wanted to be able to answer there question, “When are you headed over?”. We couldn’t, so the people who worked in Borders got to recognize us pretty well and boat projects started to get done.

I drove under the boat and replaced the prop zinc, Jen started cleaning the hull that by now how started to get a bit fuzzy on the bottom, and then she hulled me up the mast where I unsuccessfully fixed the Masthead light. I was even getting work done on Travel Outward for my partner at the office, that is what we refered to Borders as by now. For all our sitting there Jen did buy something, much to my dismay. She bought a couple of Christimas Carol CD’s for the boat, so I had to edurance Nat King Kole belting out some carols until Christmas, but thing couls have been worse.

One of the many crafts found at Dinner KeyOn Saturday Emerson took us out to some very nice Cristmas Parties whcih helped us feel more into the Chrsitmas Spirit (the CD’s weren’t helping me much). Then it happenned a slight change in the weather, winds were shifting from East to Southeast on Tuesday, it appeared a weather window may be openning. We found other cruisors talking on the VHF, it appeared that the time may be coming. Over the last week a not to be missed event had happy at 6:30 every night. You see there is a magical little weatherman up north and if you have the right connaction or a Single Side Band radio you can find him. His name is Herb and from what I know he is on old sailor from many years back. For one reason or another Herbcan’t come down to the Bahamas anymore, so he does his next favorite thing, gets the weather and broadcasts it to sailors all other the world. Herb is a bit of a ledgend to sailors and just who he is I have only heard secondhand or through rumors. What I do know is that Herb’s forcast is considered gospal to many. Well at 6:30 there was guy guy who had contact with herb and ever night at 6:30 he would broadcast it to all of us less connected boats over the VHF. Afterward there would be sort of a Q & A about it for which people would make there conclusions about what to do with what they heard. Over the past days the forcast had been sounding better and better as the winds started to sound as if they would shift from East to Southeast to South at under 10 knots. These are magic numbers from cruisors, so chatter started about possible crossings on Tuesday or Wednesday.

We awoke Sunday to tired after Saturday’s party’s to do anything but listen to the weather and the more we listenned the more our minds started working. It looked to us that if all went well we could leave on Christmas Eve to cross over to the Bahamas, it was time to pull up our anchor again and prepare for our first Gulf Stream crossing (one not on a fast motor vessel).

The longer weather wait, December 22, 2003

Bring supplies into No Name Harbor on Key BiscayneToday we were moving over to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. This is a popular jumping off point for boats heading over to the Bahamas. We just had a few chores to do before we lefted our anchor and worked to meet some cruises for the trip over. The first thing we wwanted to do was have me dive under the boat and change the zinc. I had though this would be an easy chore once we got to Miami where the water would be warm and inviting. Today it was in the 60’s and rainy, I jumped in and the water felt as cold as it did in New England, but soon the job was done and it was time for chore number 2. This one is one I have been putting off, it was getting Jen to raise me up the mast so I could see what was wrong with our light at the top. Being not so found of heights the trip up was long and unnerving, but once up the I get down to work, careful not to drop anything. What I discovered was that I had bought the wrong blub and if it was anything but that I couldn’t fix it anyway. So after taking a few pictures Jen lowered me back down to earth and we decided we would have to go without light up there for awhile.

Bill Baggs State Park on Key BiscayneAt about 2:30 we pulled up the anchor and headed over. About an hour and a hour later we had crossed Biscayne Bay and were headed into No Name Harbor. The anchorage was crowded with quite a few boats, but we managed to squeez in between two of them although I’m not sure they thought there was enough room we sat fine and we settled in for the day cleaning the boat before the sun went below the horizon. Soon it was time for the 6:30 weather forcast and everyone was out for it. We had moved into No Name and we didn’t recieve it as well since he broadcast it for Dinner Key, but what was forcasted raised a lot of chatter so we listenned in on as many conversations as we could. Many people were hoping on leaving that night now re-thought there plans, while people like us just sat tight because we weren’t planning on leaving until Wednesday. It seemed everyone was more confused on whether to go or not after the farcast then before, so Jen and I happy stuck to our plan and hoped someone would still be here who would like to cross with us.

Don’t Go, December 23, 2003

The next day we awoke to find a beautifully calm sunny day and many boats starting up there engines to head out across the Stream. I had meet a few boats who were undecided on whether to head over or not and we went over to another boat to talk it over. They decided they would head across and round North Rock near Bimini and keep going across the bank. I had hoped that they would stay and wait until tomorrow so we could travel with them, but no such luck. We sat there and watched the harbor clear out, but we were determain to stick with our plan because the weather tomorrow was suppose to be better then today.

So as the harbor cleared out we perpared to head into town to check the internet one last time and pick up some last minute supplies. The day was hot and the sky was clear, everywhere we went it seemed we were running into people preparing to head off tomorrow. We headed back into Bill Bragg’s State Park where the boat was anchored and when we got to the entrance we had to play two dollars each as an entrance fee. This seemed strange since we were already in before and was doublely strange when he didn’t seem concerned about the case of beer I was hauling even though I was steading next to a sign that read “No Achoholic Beverages”.

We got back to the boat and started packing up and doing last minute cleaning before we headed back in to walk out to the point to eye the channel we would be headed out at two in the morning. It looked straight forward enough and as we looked out the water looked beautiful and calm, it appeared as though we had picked the perfect time. Outside many boats had anchored out also ready to make the passage, but not wanting to pay the anchoring fee at No Name. Little did they know that the harbormaster had been fired a few days before for letting a boat tie up to the bulkhead over night, so presently boats were not being charged for anchoring. There were more boats anchored outside then inside the harbor, which didn’t leave us many to go by and talk to to see if they wanted to be out “buddy boat” for the crossing. Many people have a buddy boat to talk to during the crossing for safety sake. I was sure we would have no problem finding one once we were there, but most had either left or had different plans from us. This left us alone as we went to bed that night.

Jen was very nervous as I sat there thinking about the passage. Everything was looking good, and as rain storms went overhead that night around eight just as forecasted flet all would be great, we would cross tomorrow and Jen would see it was no sweat.

The point of no return, December 24, 2003

I awoke at 1 in the morning and started getting ready, everything was already ready so I just started turning things on and getting the charts and everything in the cockpit. When Jen got up and got ready it was around 2 and I really wanted to get underway. We rasied anchor and headed out. The wind was light from the east and we headed on our course far south from our destination. We were headed to Bimini, but to get there with our speed we had to head far south of that target. I had us averaging just below 5, but with the wind and waves still out of the east we were only making four knots. The waves were pretty big, but they were nice long ocean swells so we kept heading out on our course.

About two hours out I noticed a dark cloud behind us, and soon we both so lightning ahead of us to the northeast. That was already past us, but I didn’t like the like of the dark cloud covering the stars on our stern. Soon I felt the rain and we turned on the radar. There I could see a small dark patch about to over take us, we were going to get wet, I could only hope there was to lightning in this cloud. It started to rain hard soon after and the wind picked up, but I assured Jen it would be over soon and in about 10 minutes it was, but soon after it passed us that cloud also started giving off lightning, thankfully it was sparing us the light show when over top of us. Another cloud could be seen coming in behind us and Jen was thinking we should turn back. This didn’t seem like such a bad idea, ecept it was still going to be dark for two more hours or so and I had no desire to nogiate the channel in the dark. I told her we should keep going and look at what things looked like in the daylight.

Daylight broke, and we had not had rain for some time. There were scattered clouds in the sky, but none looked threatning, so we kept going. Jen was not enjoying the passage the way I had hoped, but the light calmed her so we kept going. The wind was changing to the south and south so we raised sail and started to make better time. The Gulf Stream had us in it’s grips now taking us three knots north as we fought it by heading southeast. It was winning the battle, but not to badly so I changed course again to help stop it from taking us to far north. We were not doing as well as I had hoped on speed which was why it was taking us farther north than I had estimated.

Soon we were surrounded by a huge pod of dolphin jumping all around us. It was eery and calming at the same time. We kept heading east hoping Bimini would show itself before to long. At about 10 we started to see other boats on the horizen, which made Jen happy knowing other boats were out here in the seas. The 2 or less forecatsed wasn’t even close as there were easily waves of eight feet or more the whole way. ABout 9 miles out she showed herself, Bimine started to emerge on the horizon. We were still a long way, but we would make it. It seemed to take forever, but soon we started heading south to the harbor entrance right at the same time a catemeran started in. Bimini is reported to have a very tough harbor to navigate, it is shallow and has a bad swell in a west wind. We had planned to get to Bimini during high tide which is one reason we left so early, but because of our slow passage it was now about 3, dead low tide. The wind had also swung around to the southwest now so there was a 2 to 3 foot swell entering the channel. These are the conditions the guide books tell you not to enter. We were determained, tired from the passage we started in behind the cat. I had asked for depth readings from him and at first I was getting them, but right at the cortical part they staopped and never returned. We headed in the old channel near the beach, but it quickly got shallow, so I backed out and started to try the other rout, out near the sand bar, but as we headed in a big 70 supple ship ran aground. This didn’t go over well for us, as I was going to follow his path in, but I tried to head around him, only to hit sand when a swell came in and placed us on the bottom.

Again I quickly reversed out of there, and decided to head into the marina on South Bimini. It was right there in the channel (they are one of the reasons the channel here is so bad), so we headed in and tied to one off the numerous empty docks. The place was new and seemed very nice and very empty. No sooner had we tied up that a dockmaster came by and told us we couldn’t stay there. We told him about running aground and he quickly dismissed it and told us to just stay near the beach and go straight in. We told him we had attempted this and he stopped short of calling us incompitant, but told us what to do anyway. We were unhappy about it, but decided to have another attempt. We talked to numerous people on the way out of the marina who all gave us the same advice, “Do it tomorrow during high tide, don’t attempt it now.” I felt I had to give it one more try, so we turned the corner after the small jetty and headed in along the coast. It was a fetile attempt, we started toward the North Bimini Harbor only to run aground soon after the jetties. This time I headed right back into the marina and tied up again. The dockmaster was not happy to see us, but after Jen explained that there was know way we could get in until tomorrow morning he reluctately decided to let us stay the night. First we had to check into the Bahamas, so he called us a bus.

A bus on South Bimini is really just a taxi, and before I had even gotten to start filling out the paperwork for customs and immigration, the “bus” was there. The driver took me to the airport, which on such a small island was probably walkable, and showed me into customs and immigration. Then he informed me he would be waiting outside. Custon in any country is always an interesting experience, but in the Bahamas like so many other Caribbean island, it is a lesson in patience. I was directed to a table where I started to fill out the paper. Soon a yound “immigration” official came over and informed me that I should have filled the forms out before getting to the airport. I tried to explain to him that the “bus” had come before I had the chance, but he didn’t really care, I believe he just wanted to give me a hard time. The forms where long and each one of the many forms I was filling out asked the exact same things. Things like my address, boat name, and reason for my stay were filled out so many times I started to wonder about the possiblity of using a copy machine. The forms were basically the same, but at the top each one was labeled something like, Health and Medical or Bahamian Fishing Permit. Slowly I made it though them and once the immigration officer came over he took great joy in pointing out all the mistakes I had made. It seems many forms didn’t like asking questions the same way so to spice it up they changed them. One for would ask, “List crew of you vessel.”, while the next one would ask “Below write the names and addresses of the Captain and Mates aboard.” They were actually both asking the same thing, wanting a list of everyone on the vessel. But I wasn’t sure whether I had to list myself everything as well or just Jen. It turned out they always wanted us both listed, so I had to go back and list myself a few times. When he asked where the rest of my crew was I imformed him that I thoug only the captain was aloud to disembark to check in. With this he looked at me quizlly and informed me that Jen was suppose to sign a form which she hadn’t, so he went into the other room while Jen amazing signed it out of nowhere. When he returned we finished the maze of paperwork and he stamped a few pages, informed me he would not give me the 6 months of time I wanted in the country, then sent me off to customs.

Customs was one crate away on the opposite wall of the hallway. Here my customs officer was much nicer when she pointed out still more mistakes I had made on the forms. She even laughed as I joked about my stupidity in not being able to fill out the forms correctly. Soon she was also stamping my forms and taking my $150 fee for a cruising permit and fishing licence. Right as I was about to be set free in the Bahamas she realized that she had been stamping my forms with yesterdays date and I had to get them all stamped again. After a half hour or so I was free and I went back outside to get a ride back to the boat. As I stepped to find no “bus” waiting for me. I looked around sure this must be some sort of joke. All I saw was a sort of junkyard of deralict automobiles, it seems the airport also doubled as the junkyard. I stepped into what served as the terminal buildings, but got know reaction at all. This was surprising as it is hard for an obvious tourist not to be accosted by many taxi drivers in almost any Caribbean Island I have ever been to. Here I was seemly invisible, which if I hadn’t wanted a ride back to the boat would have been terrific. I finally asked a lady who I believe was the tickey agent if the had seen “the bus”. She told me it was right outside, which to my amazement it was. I walked out and saw the driver driver unloading a strange assortment of boxes which appeared to be stero equipment. I asked no questions, I just hoped in and waited for him to finish. Soon I was back at the boat, now officially in the Bahamas.

Jen and I had a flag raising ceremony and afterwards I went up to pay for the marina. This took an amazingly long time as again I had to fill out a strange amount of paperwork before being informed that he wanted me to pay in cash, but he had no change. This was a problem not easily solved until he went up to the restuarant after searching the office for change for 10 minutes. Finally we could relax so we took a walk out to the jetty where we watched other boats calmly sail right into the harbor in North Bimini. We left a little foolish not being able to do it ourselves, but tomorrow we would go in at high tide and all would be ok. For now we made some dinner and had champayne to celebrate our successful crossing. Then we headed off to bed because it had been a very long day.

A warm welcome to a lovely place, December 25, 2003

We awoke the next morning and had a shower at the marina. The Bimini Sands where we were staying was a very nice marina, but since all the action was on North Bimini we were headed over there. High tide was about 9 so we nervously pulled out of the marina about 8:30 so we were still on a raising tide when we attempted to make it into the channel to the North Bimini Harbor. We rounded the jetty yet again and headed in. We had watched a few boats enter the night before, but there was still a bit of a swell so Jen and I were both a bit nervous. Well it proved to be silly as we glided over the bottom not touching once and headed in Bimini Harbor.

We had planned to stay a Weech’s Bimini Docks, because the price was right, but as we pulled up the dock was pretty full. I found a spot on the inside the the last dock and as we pulled up all the cruisors already there were right there taking our lines and helping us tie up. We talked to the cruisors on the dock and exchanged horror stories about each other crossings.

After that it was time for Christmas, Jen’s sister had remembered to give us some presents to open on Christmas day so we opened them up, getting some DVD’s to play on the computer and a neckless for Jen. It felt great to have something to open on Christmas, but afterward I was feeling pretty bad. I was coming down with something and after talking for about a hour then openning presents I had had it and I laid down for awhile. So as Jen explored Bimini and meet new people that first day I was down below sleeping off a cold that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Soon the afternoon was getting near the evening and Jen had just come back from walking around when I heard some shouts above deck. I pulled myself off the settee and went above to find our friends from Orienta who we had not seen since Elizabeth City, NC coming down the dock. They had left from Angelfish Creek and had crossed the same day as us. Here they were with there two children and we had a very joyous reunion. Soon after the other cruisors had arranged a Christimas cocktail party on the dock so we all gathered and we all again got to meet one another and get to know each other better. It had been a great day except for the cold I had and from the minute we got to the docks we had a wonderfully warm welcome. It doesn’t take cruisors long before they are comfortable with each other and soon it was like talking with old friends. Unfortunally, I tired quickly as my cold was still keeping me down and I left Jen to rest aboard. Jen joined me soon after and we celebrated the rest of Christmas watching our new DVD Finding Nemo. Down for the count on Boxing Day, December 26, 2004

I awoke the next morning to the sounds of Junkanoo at 5 o’clock. This festival is is celebrated all over the Caribbean and I could here the beats of the drums on the boat. We had planned to get up and check it out, but I was feeling no better then before and Jen was peacefully sleeping so we did no celebrating on Boxing Day. Once up we took a walk and I got to investigate our surroundings. There was talk of leaving today and I felt like prehaps I could go. Once back at Weeches we got the weather report from Kelpy and it called for 15 to 20 knot winds from the NE. This didn’t excite Jen or I so along with Kelpy we declined to head out as we noticed the waves starting to build outside. This didn’t stop many other boats and by mid morning the dock was starting to empty.

By lunchtime the winds had really kicked up and we were glad to be sitting comfortably at Weech’s. We went to the beach with our friends from Orienta Xavier and Christine. There two lovely daughters Natelia and Daniel where playing in the sand and collecting shells. I introduced them to collecting seashell, which Jen and I have discovered seems to only be a New England hobby. Once I introduced it to them they vigrously went around the beach collecting me sea glass. They are traveling on a 27 foot Vega sailboat and with four of them there shell collecting is limited to only the best, so as they collected shells they were carefully looked over by Christine to see which ones were keepers. It was great fun.