Friday, November 29, 2013

Today was a Good Day.

After a gray and gloomy Thanksgiving, today started with a beautiful rainbow after probably the best sleep that I have had since we got to Georgetown. The breeze was cool and with no rain it meant not closing the hatch and stifling in the humidity. We will be saying farewell to our friends on Jalapeno tomorrow as they continue on with their circumnavigation. But being the wonderful people that they are they swam over to help finish up the jib while the wind was down some. We will miss them and will keep up with their travels on their website We cleaned out the port berth and started getting it ready for Tripp and Dana's visit. So excited and praying for good weather. Went into town and took away the garbage, picked up some supplies and enjoyed meeting some of the locals. Ms. Anita Cook is 81 years young. She praises God with every breath. Such a lovely woman we gave her one of our pens and she was sitting in front of her house still holding it when we came back by from our errands. We also met a nice young man from Montreal named Alex. He is leaving his boat here for a couple of months while he goes back to work on another boat. I think that the thing I have enjoyed the most about our trip is the people we have met that we would never have come in contact with had we not come on this cruise. When we came into town on Wednesday afternoon we had planned to have pizza. ( yes I was having a pizza craving) but the lady at the place that makes pizzas was out of cheese. She offered to run to the market and get some cheese that night but we were concerned how late that would put us trying to find our way across to our boats(also the bugs were awful that night and she only had outside seating) so I told her I would be back yesterday. Yesterday was to nasty to make the trip so we went today. She remembered us and made us a delicious pizza! Freddie has been trying to get a picture and identify what the little black things that are hanging around under the boat are for the last couple of days. He thought that they were little squid. Preston thought they we small fish. When Preston dove through them to head back to their boat today there looked to be little ribbons of ink in the water around them. Sure enough they are little squid.
Freddie took our picture after we got the jib secured
from the top of the mast before we brought him down.

Yes they are squid.

lots of them

Ahh... my pizza..YUM

The Pizza Hut Bahamas Style complete with only outdoor seating.
The rest of the pizza building also contains groceries.

Another popular eating place next to the grocery store.
 You walk between them through the back to the dingy dock.

Yes it was a good day!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Georgetown and Thanksgiving

Georgetown is the busiest place we have been since we left the states. There is an active cruising community here with a Beach Curch and everything but the season has not really started yet. We are eager for Monday when Tripp and Dana will fly in to stay with us for a week. We would like to take them up to Staniel and let them enjoy what I feel is the most interesting and beautiful place we have seen so far if the weather cooperates. For Thanksgiving it has been windy and squally so we are just hanging out on the boat. The jib has been hand sewn and partially raised thanks to help from Preston, Tara and Dan. If we can get some light winds we will get it fully raised. We did find time the last couple of days to do a little exploring. We had a great dinner in town with our friends from Jalapeno last night. My first time in the dingy after dark. We did manage to find our boat although there was some question about where exactly it was in the dark. We have climbed to the top of Monument Hill ( I think we are turning into mountain goats) hiked into town and swam with a friendly dolphin that usually hangs around volleyball beach. Since there wasn't anyone over there I guess he decided to come and play with us. Preston and Tara Freddie and I had great time playing tag with him. You could tell he was enjoying the interaction. He even came back over to Jalapeno and played around with them more after we all got out and they swam back to their boat.
Freddie hauling the (my) case of soda and some groceries to the dingy
 from the best stocked store we have seen in the Bahamas.

Monument Hill. And yes we climbed it!

Stray Cat from the top of the hill.


The path up the hill.

Tara taking pictures as the dolphin swims around us.

He would just hang out and wait until you swam up to him and them
swim away and come back. Looks like he is grinning to me.


The entrance into Lake Victoria where you tie up to go into town. Tiny little passage.
 We missed it when we first went in because it was so rough and the waves obscured the entrance.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Early Rising

We anchored in Kemps Bay after a short motor . These short sails are equivalent to going from St. Marys to Kingsland or Woodbine but take around 3 hours. We drop the hook and take a short ride over to the cliffs and beach in search of lobster. We didn't find any but enjoyed the time in the water. We came back to the boat and secured the dingy and motor for our longer trip through the cut and to Georgetown. We are going to shadow Jalapeno through the cut and will be leaving at 4am. That's right 4 am. Everything revolves around tides and weather and distance to travel. You do not want to go through a cut (the exit route between Cays that get you from the banks to the sound ) in a tide against wind situation. This can result in what is called a rage. Nasty bugger that can cost you your boat and LIFE. Tara had calculated the timing perfectly so that we went through a slack tide  and had time to get to Georgetown and enter that cut with good light for negotiating the reefs around that entrance. Negotiating the cut at Little Farmers was a little tricky and got bumpy as we entered the sound but was less terrifying than trying to leave out of Florida in the early morning with the lights from the city making it harder to see on the water. After entering the sound I was again on the bucking hobby horse and in combination with being inside and chart plotting and working the ssb started to get slightly seasick. I took some meds and lay down outside for a while and was soon better. Freddie set Otto the autopilot and started sewing on the jib. We made it to Geogetown by 1pm with only confusion and anchored off of Monument Bay. Jalapeno sailed in a little later managing to catch and fillet a Mahi Mahi  negotiate the cut and get a perfectly baked loaf of bread out of the oven. They invited us over and I brought peas and rice and chocolate chip cookies to go with the fresh grilled fish. Good food and good company. We were all tiered and went to bead around 7pm.
It is really dark!

A sewing we will go!

Rainbow at sea.

Our new home for a while. Off Monument Beach in Georgetown.


We weighed anchor and left our snug spot behind Big Major (pig island) and headed for Black Point a short 3-4 hr trip and little closer to where we would cross over to the Exuma Sound and Geogetown where we will meet up with Tripp and Dana for a week. We pulled up and dropped anchor in the bay a short distance from the SV Jalapeno that we first met in Warderick.  We dropped anchor and took the dingy into town anxious to tap into the free internet that we had read about in our cruising guides.
Tara and Preston on Jalapeno had just spent an hour on the net but the power just went out and we were unable to connect. A supply boat had just came in ( a HUGE deal in these places) and the entire town was on the dock getting supplies. We spent the night celebrated our Anniversary. And Tara tried to use her Sailrite sewing machine to fix our jib but it would not go through the material without  breaking the thread. That was a huge deal for us because that machine weighs over 50 lbs and they were kind enough to bring it over to Stray Cat and give it a try. We went into town the next day and picked up a few things. Checked with Luraine to make sure that she received the bibles, hats and pens we had put in her truck for the church and finally hooked up with the internet!
A kind gentleman gave us 2 needles to use to try to fix our jib giving us three to hopefully not break to hand sew the repair. We then left to go to Little Farmers and stage for an early exit through the cut and motor to Georgetown.
Our 42 anniversary dinner. Hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies.

SV Jalapeno , Tara and Preston and her brother Dan.
Great People! They are headed around the world!

Leaving Black Point for Little Farmers.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Life is GOOD!

WE have been unable to have internet connections for a week. But our week has been great. Except we still haven't gotten the sail fixed. New friends on Jalapeno, a young couple and her brother on a 36 ft. PDQ tried to help sew it with their sailrite machine and it kept breaking the thread. We will need to try in Georgetown. Meanwhile we left The Land and Sea Park and motored to Staniel Cay to hook up with the guy who might be able to fix the sail. spent the night in the marina and got some diesel and water then went around the corner and anchored off of Big Major Cay. Now this was cool because one of my major wants was to see the swimming pigs and Thunderball Cave and this is where both are. Met some great folks that were staying in the cottages at Staniel and enjoyed hanging out with Brett and June. We also met back up with cruisers that we had first met at Warderick, Double Eagle and Jalapeno.

Inside the Grotto

Fish everywhere

Thunderball ledge

Hungry Pig 

Freddie getting friendly with the natives

The water was Crystal clear and the weather was wonderful our entire stay. We had a wonderful time. We have begun to enjoy our cruise and have almost forgotten the challenges to get here. Almost. We still have a sail to get mended and a passage through the sound to Georgetown to navigate.
We weighed anchor on Wednesday the 20th (our 42nd wedding anniversary) and headed the 15 miles to Black Point to pick up some internet and get closer to Georgetown. Soon after we got the the supply boat came in (a very big deal!) and everyone was at the dock picking up their supplies. The power also went out and so no internet. This morning we came back over to the island and finally an updated blog post! We had taken some bibles and pens to Ms. Lurraine for their church and will check and see if she got them in the confusion yesterday. We will then head another 15 miles to Little Farmers Cay to get ready to head to Georgetown tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It is Blowing a STINK here as they say.

The wind came in right before 6 am. I heard the wind generator start to hum and it hasn't stopped. This morning was just breezy but still averaged around 20 mph. Now 20 is when it slows down. We are securely tied to a mooring at the Land and Sea Park which has a reputation of taking good care of their moorings. I sure hope so because if ours breaks we will be on the rocks before we could do anything to stop it. We did take a little hike up to Boo Boo Hill this morning before it got to bad. Neat place, with mementos left from former cruisers. This is the only place where you are allowed to leave anything in the entire park. There is a lot of history here and the hikes are interesting and definitely require good shoes or the lime stone will eat your feet . We were almost alone here this morning but 2 more boats came in to get out of the wind. With all this wind the boat motion isn't to uncomfortable. We have more wind than we did in Bimini but are more protected. We hope to get out a little more tomorrow and get more pics from this beautiful place.
Spray from waves crashing against the rocks going out to the channel.

Boo Boo Hill may look a little like a high school bonfire before it's lit
but it is a special place for cruisers. we hope to get back up here to add
Stray Cat's memento before we leave.

In the belly of the Whale. Literally. Exhibit at the park.

This guy comes around every evening and met us not ten minutes after we snagged the mooring.

One of the snorkeling pics.I saw his Daddy somewhere.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New Providence Island, Lyford Cay to Highborne Cay

Well I slept for almost 10 hours and was still a little fuzzy but it was time to go. There was no movement in this marina, a big change from the wind and surge we had in Bimini. We topped off our water at .25 per gallon and fuel for $5.21 and headed out. As soon as we got outside of the entry channel we hit wind and wave. My hobby horse was bucking again. Freddie had just unfurled the jib when I looked up and saw that the top of the jib was no longer attached. This was not good (again) We had a jolly good time and not a few harsh words taking the jib down on our bucking horse. Good thing is that it happened so soon that we were just outside of a small anchorage right next to Lyford Cay. It was a tricky entrance but a beautiful cove for us to anchor and check out the damage.
Lyford Cay Marina

Freddie diving the anchor. It did not hold our first try but held fast the second.
Freddie came back with this beautiful conk while diving the anchor.
After we took his mug shot we sent him home.

We tried to fix the jib but after breaking 3 needles we knew that we needed professional (or at least mechanical) help. At first light we took off for Highbourne Cay. That is the first marina in the Exumas in search of a sail repair man. Since we had just fixed the topping lift on the main and had no jib we were a motor boat. Highbourne had a place for us but no sail repair man and the internet was down most of the time we were there. Oh well we had a wonderful (but expensive dinner) and met some new friends and were off the next day heading to Warderick Wells. That was the farthest we could go in one day. Highbourne is  private but it does open up it's marina to transients ( that's us come and go cruisers) check out the sharks under the fish cleaning table.
That Stray Cat's AFT in Highbourne

A nice local man and one of the Captains of a fishing boat cleaning the catch.

These guys hang around every day at fish cleaning time.

Beautiful sunset from one of the small porches at Highbourne.
You will notice a theme from many cruisers of a multitude of pictures of sunrises, sunsets and  such. Out on the water you really notice these things so much more than on land. The clouds, stars and colors in your surroundings are spectacular. We haven't had the opportunity to get to many photos of people since most of our time has been at sea but our surroundings have been beautiful
 ( when I wasn't afraid that the elements were trying to kill me that is.)
 Next post Exumas Land and Sea Park

Friday, November 8, 2013

Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank

We said Goodbye to Browns Marina at 6 am on Thursday and started out on the next leg of our journey. Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank, a large body of water that is shallow and needs careful navigation. This trip is to long to get across and through the Northwest Channel during the amount of daylight that is available during this time of year so the plan was to spend the night on the Bank as close as possible (outside the shipping lanes, Kinda a boat highway) as possible and transit the tricky Northwest Channel early the next morning.
Leaving Bimini at Day Break Thursday November 8th

Mackie Shoal, One of our waypoints on this trip,Just a big stick out in the open water with no land in sight!

Sunset on the Great Bahama Bank
The darker it got the more the boat jerked and swung at anchor. This was very disconcerting since I was already a little paranoid about getting run down by some tanker on autopilot with the Captain asleep at the wheel.I had numerous solar walkway lights like you see in the pic. all over the boat to help make it visible. After about three hours Freddie had had enough. We weighed anchor and slowly made our way into the inky blackness towards the Northwest Channel Marker. A little after midnight we were approaching the marker which was another unlit stick ( I guess there was a stick we never saw one. We were just worried that we would hit it in the dark since the charts said to make sure not to go to far to the North or South of the marker or you would end up striking coral or a wreck in the shallows surrounding the passage.) It was not advised to transit this passage without prior experience at night. We had seen lights from another ship go through ahead of us and not heard a Mayday and there was a boat off to our port(left) that we thought we would slow down and follow close behind through. Next thing we were being hailed on the radio and the ship to our port was our friends from Canada we had met at Browns Marina in Bimini. They had left Bimini after we did that morning. They were hailing thee boat to let us know were planning to watch us go through and follow behind just like we had planned. In the dark they had no idea who it was until they hailed us. We ended up talking each other through the passage. I can't tell you how comforting it is to here a friendly voice as you are undertaking something that literally terrifies you. They ended up heading off toward Chub Cay to find anchorage and we headed on down to New Providence Island (you know it as Nassau) since it was around 2:30 in the morning and we could make landfall a little after noon. I wasn't interested in tackling anything else in the dark! Although the stars are beautiful I am so over these night passages.
We chose Lyford Marine to rest our weary bones. Sean Connery is suppose to live here so if I see him I will tell him Hi for you.
It is 6 :30 pm and dark so it is time to go to sleep now my 1 and 1/2 hours of sleep from yesterday just weren't enough.
Fair winds, We are off to the Exumas tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Just 5 Days in Paradise

We arrived in Bimini on Saturday afternoon November 2nd and we plan to pull out tomorrow morning November to head across the Great Bahama Bank. We are looking forward to continuing our journey down the Bahamas chain. This crossing will take to long to complete so we will have to pull off the designated route a couple of miles and drop anchor for the night. The forecast looks good for an easy sail and I am hoping that it proves as accurate as the previous window. We need to get closer to Georgetown to meet up with Tripp and Dana in December. We have found firsthand that weather can keep you in one place for an extended time and want to be sure not to get caught to far from Georgetown. The wind has been screaming here since midnight the night we got here. There has been so much wind that our wind generator has been able to supply our energy needs without help from the motors until today when the wind started to decrease. We had a large catamaran show up on Sunday during the day just to make repairs and head on down to the Virgin Islands. There was so much wind that it damaged their new mainsail. I would not have wanted to go back out there.
Cat coming in for a quick stop and go on Sunday
We then had another Cat come in early Monday Morning. They had a group of sailing students that chose to make the rough crossing Sunday night. They had a wild ride but their Captain and Crew made sure they made it safely. They just left today to head back over and work on some more sailing skills. One of the students just bought a 55 Cat and will be taking it to the Virgin Islands to charter. There are a couple of other cruisers at the marina one couple from Canada and another group from the interior US.
Michelle, the excellent Crew of Cat Tales

We have had a couple of amazing meals here from this place that is known for it's excellent food and bread among cruisers. We went back a second day and walked to the next town to pick up a couple of loaves of bread from Charlie who bakes it in his home every day.
You can't believe the crowds at lunch time until you taste the food!

Yum Yum  Charlie!

The Bahamian people are generous and kind and we are looking forward to our time here with them.
Got to go and see if I can get some homemade mango ice cream before they close.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wow We did it!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity and emotions. We have navigated the streets of Miami by foot and bus. Sometimes scary and most times confusing. We have had only cold showers and boat work, messed up motors, more boat work, missed weather window and more boat work but then SUCCESS!
Yes we actually crossed the Gulf Stream and entered the Bahamas!

The people at Crandons are really nice and the anchorage is secure but the showers leave a lot to be desired and the is no internet connection on the Key. You are isolated and no one knows anything about the bus schedule or routes. Getting boat parts is a challenge. But challenges make us grow. We were preparing to cross on Friday when we noticed an oil leak from our Starboard engine. Not Good. Our Starboard engine is the one that had so much work done on it and was our more reliable engine. The Port engine is getting air in the fuel line somehow and will occasionally shut off. We have a short weather window to cross or we will not be going anywhere for another week. Freddie is thinking about heading back home to get the engine fixed and I am thinking that if we head back home without getting to the Bahamas that Stray Cat will go up for sale.

Stray Cat on the mooring second from the right in Crandon's Marina

Well after sleeping on it and working on the engines all day Friday we decide to leave Saturday morning before the weather window closed and had a wonderful sail across. We left at 6 am and headed out before the sun came up. It helped following a couple of fishing boats out of the channel before they sped off and left us.

 Once we hit the open ocean we set the auto pilot on 95 degrees true and soon put up the sails. We made great time and the wind and waves were just as predicted. Less than 2 ft seas and wind coming from the south/southeast. The cold front is suppose to be moving in after midnight and winds will start clocking out of the northeast and the Gulf Stream will get nasty. But today it was beautiful. Only scary thing was we spotted a waterspout that traveled closer for a while and then disappeared.

We hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and went straight in the channel to Browns Marina and are tied up there for two nights. They brought us the paperwork to the boat to fill out for customs and immigration which is right beside them. Easy check in and they only charged us $150, which was the old rate. Working on a slide show of all the pics for the picture page on the website. Heading to bed exhausted and happy.

Browns Marina Bimini
The water is so clear