Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Voyage Home

As we are preparing to pull out we meet two young men that had come from Nassau to do a swim with bull sharks excursion. Unfortunately the excursion had to be rescheduled. The guys work training seals in Nassau and were looking forward to some interaction with a different species of sea life. Freddie gave each one a Jesus hat and pen. Meeting all of the new people will be one of the things I will miss most when we return home.
We pulled out a little after high tide around 10 am and headed west towards West Palm Beach Florida. We were later than I planned because we had pulled over to the fuel dock at Knowles boat yard to top off the diesel. Unfortunately the only employee present a the time  could not help us and did not know  when someone who could help us would be there. Since we were loosing the tide we took off without the extra 20 gallons of fuel. The distance we needed to travel before we would get into the gulf stream would take around 7 hrs to travel barely getting there before sundown if we left before 9 am. I had hoped that we could get into the gulf stream before dark so that I could see the conditions and about decide weather to go straight for West Palm Beach  (another 3-4hrs) or turn north and use the extra push of the gulf stream to take us further (2 1/2 days) north towards Fernandina Beach our first choice of ports to check back into the USA. The trip to Fernandina would be close to 300 miles and that would put us getting in sometime on Wednesday and would require around 70 gallons of fuel if the wind doesn't provide our propulsion. We motor full speed and hit the axis of the gulf stream around 10 pm, turn right and pick up an additional 3 1/2  knots of speed with a manageable amount of bounce. We are now traveling Northwest under a brilliant canopy of stars with a moon shining a path on the water before us like a giant torch in the sky. We were escorted from the indigo blue  Bahamas water by schools of flying fish until dark. Individual flying fish interspersed with large contingents resembling  students rushing out of class for recess. A hazy dawn broke and we found ourselves around 50 miles south of Ft. Pierce Florida in the familiar grey green waters of the South East US coast. Soon we were being welcomed back by a variety of ocean life including sea turtles, dolphins, jelly fish and a variety of birds. The light and variable wind necessitated keeping at least one engine running to continue progress toward our destination. The seas, that so many times caused Stray Cat to ride like a wild horse now were smooth. Stray Cat rose over gentle swells floating as if resting peacefully on the chest of a sleeping giant. Freddie was holding up well during the trip. I did extra cooking to help keep both or strength up and also required Freddie to take extra fluids and rest breaks. The trip continued through the day and our last night at sea. Around 5 pm on Wednesday we pulled up to the Fernandina Beach Marina, filled the almost empty fuel tank and cleared customs. We took off to cross the river and dock in St. Marys just as the sun slipped below the horizon. Home Sweet Home!
Freddie went to his Dr the next morning and had the catheter removed and is doing very well. We are already planning on next season's adventure.

Our latest Bahama friends

Posing proud of his new hat.

Freeport Commercial Harbor.

Waiting at Knowles fuel dock.

Sunset on smooth seas.

Early morning fog in US waters

Our last sunset at sea this season

Goodbye Bahamas blue water

Hello grey/green US waters

Jellyfish to the left of the clothes pins

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Medical Update and Tea Leaves

Very little has been happening around Stray Cat. We have been taking it easy and allowing Freddie to recuperate.Thank You Tammy, we really appreciate your prayers for Freddie's recovery. Freddie did spear a lion fish from the dock but lost it before he got it up out of the water. He also made sure to woop me in a few games of pool and even stayed out till 10 pm in the game room watching the Daytona race. We went to the Hospital this morning at 7 am and had Freddie's Cath. replaced to be sure that he would be in good shape to sail home. I was again more than pleased with the care Freddie received and we were out of there by 10 am. We have a good 4 day window to head home so we plan to pull out of here in the morning around 9 am at High tide. I have stayed pretty busy the last couple of days making sure that Freddie is taking all his medications , drinking lots of water etc. I have done laundry, defrosted the fridge (least favorite job) and prepared nourishing traveling meals (and fudge because you can't beat sugar and chocolate to help keep you going for those all night sails. and I really just wanted some) for our trip home. We can sure tell that we are further north because it got down to 62 degrees the other night. BRRRRR.. So not looking forward to colder weather.
Tea Leaves finally left! The guys should be snug in Ft. Lauderdale by now. The boat has been here since December but the guys went home for a while and got back to get the boat out 3 weeks ago. It was touch and go but they made it. There was also another boat that had engine problems trying to come in the entrance under sail at the same time. The guys helped tow it in after getting it to hold off to let them finish getting Tea Leaves out. We are hoping for a much less dramatic exit in the morning.  Our next Blog update should be from back in the States! Homeward Bound!

Tea Leaves early morning departure in 62 degree weather!

Heading out, just behind the pool.

Thats one of the owners. Notice the winter clothing.

Now to the tricky part. But they did make it.

If you look closely you can see the lionfish and the reflection of Freddie and spear.

Big Fred taking it easy by the pool. He takes taking it easy "SERIOUS" 

I think that allowing a person to win is very important to their physical recovery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Navigating the Freeport Health Care System

We had looked at the weather and figured that we would be here until at least the weekend before a weather window wide enough to get home would open. We were going to get the dingy down and explore the canals, go to the beach and into town. Our plans were hijacked. We were both pretty wiped out after the overnight trip here so we took it easy sleeping in and only replacing the bolt in the boom Freddie wasn't recharging on his virtual day off and continued to feel worn out. He continued to feel worse during the night until by daybreak he was in as he put it " the worst pain that he has ever endured in his life". At the risk of being indelicate he was no longer able to urinate and needed immediate medical attention. We contacted the night security guard who told us our best bet was to go to Rand Memorial Hospital and called an ambulance.The Hospital was around 5 minutes away so they got here really fast. These guys were GREAT. They loaded Freddie up (his first ride in an ambulance), drew blood and started an IV line, got all the necessary information and everything needed for the hospital including giving me a ride in the front seat.When we arrived I was directed to the registration desk while the medical staff took care of Freddie. I have to say I was very impressed with all of the staff. My thanks to Dr. Dean who was wonderful. Things were pretty similar to the US. The building was smaller and this hospital and is very busy handling what would equal our medicaid and medicare patients. They have a pharmacy for you to get your prescriptions quite cheaply, although it is located where you have to go past the mental ward to get there. Freddie was sent home (boat) with a catheter and will have to go back Sunday to have it replaced before we head home. He is responding very well and is taking it easy for the next few days. If he is not recovered to safely sail home by the first of the week we will look at leaving the boat here and flying home then bring the boat back later.
Tea Leaves is still here. The company doing the air bags and towing,  took the guys out this morning at high tide in their small boat to look at the channel. The winds have really been blowing since last night and the waves were crashing over the rocks making it a bad idea to tow them through the shallow pass. Tea Leaves continue to stay. Didn't take any pics at the hospital but here are some from Sunrise Marina and Resort. Not a bad place to recuperate. Nice amenities, floating docks with smooth well protected water and a terrific staff,
The pool although the cold front has arrived and we are from the South, need heat to swim.

More of Sunrise Grounds.


This is an eel that I saw in the walls at the Marina. Freddie felt good enough
to try to spear a lion fish he had seen from the docks. 

Beautiful moon in calm protected marina.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Repairing a Boom and Floating a Boat.

We are happy that we waited and came into this marina. They do have incredible hot water and the cost to stay here until Thursday is less than one night at Chub Cay. We not only have internet but we have "shore power". We have not been hooked up to shore power since October at Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce.
We were also able to get a bolt to repair the boom and get that taken care of today. There is another boat here that has been here 2 months. Tea Leaves has an 8 ft draft and the entrance just isn't 8 ft deep. I was told that they put flotation bags under the keel and pulled it over as if healed pretty far over to bring it in through the channel. I don't understand the whole story behind them coming in but I did meet the two nice young guys who are on the boat today when they were preparing to tow them out. They were hoping to get out at high tide this afternoon but the numbers weren't working. 5:30 in the morning is the next high tide and it is suppose to run another half a foot higher and will hopefully work out. They had guys putting flotation bags under it today to raise it as high as possible. If we had been up this way just a couple of days earlier we could have crossed back to the states and headed home yesterday.Right now it is looking like we are going to be enjoying Sunrise Marina for at least the next 5 days. We will then see if we can get a good window to tackle the gulf stream again.

new bolt installed, repair complete

The boom is a little worse for wear

The work crew preparing Tea Leaves to hopefully leave the Marina

Divers in the water placing flotation under the hull

The large building on the left is a boat yard. It being so close is
one main reason we hung around so long to get in here.

We pulled over to the fuel dock after waiting for a power boat to finish fueling around 10 am. We had paid our marina and lunch bill around $140 and were ready to head out.  The power boat took around 1000 gallons of fuel. Now our bill for 40 gallons of fuel was $272.00 can you imagine the bill for 1,000 gallons. I would need an ambulance! Oh well, it’s only money, gulp.
We left Chub Cay headed to the North West Channel marker. I was really interested in seeing this as if you recall we went through it at midnight with all the chart books warning that you should not go through it at night unless very experienced. I had envisioned a small passageway lined with rocks and cliffs a lot like the Little Farmers
my minds eye of Northwest channel marker and add a pole in the middle

This was the reality. Silly me, The darkness makes scary, scarier 
 What I saw was open water that was shallow ( but nothing compared to what we had been navigating through in the Exumas)  with a rocky bottom and numerous patches of grass.  We saw 4 boats besides us going through the passage and each one to a slightly different route and no one had any problem. Take that North West Passage! The monster when exposed to the light disappeared!
  Onward into light winds on our nose and flat seas we motored to begin our overnight trip to West End on Grand Bahama Island. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed the sun, light winds and smooth seas. AND THEN : The winds shifted and climbed but not to bad. The seas became a little lumpy and their direction confused. Freddie had tried to take a nap,so that he would take the first watch but got up early and I went inside to fix some supper before dark . I heard something strange and the motors slow down. I stick my head out the door and ask Freddie if everything was alright. His answer was NO! The boom has just came loose from the  mast! Oh Great! We start to work and access the situation. It is just about 5 pm and sunset is is less than one hour. We furl in the jib and climb up and begin to work. Let me tell you that that thing is HEAVY. We finally figured out how we could secure the boom for the night but now we are for sure a motor boat until we get this taken care of. Of course the wind and waves decided to make certain that we had a lumpy night. Poor Freddie couldn't sleep ( I think it was from all the adrenaline rush) so he elected to stay at the helm until 4 am. I would sleep and then wake up and check on him every hour. Bless his heart because not 30 minutes after he turned the helm over to me I have a cruise ship looking like it is on a collision course with me so I wake him to ask for his advice. The ship passed to our stern  but was close enough for us to see it very clearly . Even Freddie, who was none to happy about me getting him up, did say that it passed closer than any other ship had while he was on watch. He went back to bed and I handled things from there. As soon as the sun came up I began looking for the closest port to land. Since the seas had been so lumpy and there was a great deal of counter current ( current running in the opposite direction the we are going) we only averaged around 2.8 knts. That is really slow and barely enough to keep the auto pilot working ( which did a wonderful job without any problems). We headed to Freeport looking for a safe harbor and a marine store to get a replacement bolt set up for the boom connection. Of course it also needed to be at a price we could afford. I picked Sunrise Marina which was very reasonable and has floating docks, a Marine service center right next to it. Unfortunately the channel going into the marina is VERY shallow and they only let people in at high tide. OK high tide is at 4pm and we need to wait 45 minutes after that.. We arrived at 9 am and have been hanging out waiting to get in. They better have really great hot showers cause we are both beat. We will see.

We did finally figure out a secure way to tie off the dingy on the davits.
We had been having to bring it up and secure it on it's side blocking
the entire back end of the boat.

This is the boom disconnected from the mast. That hole on the
square thing is where the bolt went through and it was attached
around where you see the big loop of sail.

Back in place with a bolt that is to short through the top and
lashed for the bottom and around the mast. We also lashed the
back of the sail so that it would not move in case the winds got

Hanging around the entrance to Sunrise Marina in Freeport on Grand
Bahama Island.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Black Point, the return trip.

We pulled anchor and headed to Black Point to be able to go in and connect to internet.  It took all of 30 minutes. Yep we had not noticed that we were just around the corner from Black Point the night before. Oh well we live and learn. The charts are several sizes and difficult for us newbie’s to figure actual distances. We were surprised to see how full the anchorage was. I counted at least 36 boats when we anchored and Freddie was able to count over 50 when he counted that afternoon. We just had a boat come right by to drop anchor as I looked up from typing this.  Several boats left this morning headed south and even more have arrived today. Black Point is hosting a big Super Bowl Party Sunday and many cruisers have been making their reservations. We are trying to determine the course we want to take home. That is my big plans for today after I go back into town to take in our garbage and upload the blog. Yesterday I had to go online to straighten out my credit cards. They thought that there was fraudulent activity since the purchases were from the Bahamas and had put them on hold until we verified the purchases. That wasn't so easy to do without internet and the phone numbers that were on the email did not work from the Bahamas. Oh well they just announced fresh caught lobsters at the dock. Since we haven’t had any luck catching our own I think we will check into buying a couple. We may stick around a couple of days.
Black Point anchorage
Ok I forgot to publish this post a while back. He He He.. I'm so silly.

Auto Pilots are PRECIOUS comodities

Auto Pilots are very precious. We left West Bay around 7:30 am and headed to Chubb at almost low tide. The entry and exit is not a problem for a boat with our draft but I still held my breath in a couple of places.  If we were in a full keeled boat we would have had to time our exit differently. There is a little more wind today and this area has a bit more wave motion than the shallow banks that we covered the past few days but not bad really. We unfurled the jib and were making good time.  Not more than an hour out our auto pilot quit. Yep, it has had low battery readings periodically but would come back quickly. This time, we weren't so fortunate. Hand steering a compass heading with the sea swells, current and wind gusts is tedious, tiring work. I go through all of our paperwork on the new auto pilot and find that when the display gives the low battery reading that it is not receiving sufficient power. Well Duh! Remedy press stand by to clear the warning and start the engines to re charge the battery. We already had the engines running so we kept checking as much of the wiring connections as we could get to while taking turns at the helm. Finally auto started to work again for the last part of our trip. We had secured a berth at Chub Cay Club marina and ate fish and fries in the club house. We were pretty tired for a relatively short trip. We took our first land showers this year. I also gave myself a quick hair- cut. I can cut Fred’s on the boat but I don’t have a mirror for outside and don’t want hair all over the front bedroom where the mirror is located. We are going to get diesel and check weather then head out for our first overnight-er this trip to be positioned at West End to cross for home as soon as we get a weather window.
Chub Cay Club

Entrance to Chub Marina

Building renovations, Beautiful place but has fallen into disrepair.
The new owner comes on board next month and is doing a lot
of renovations. The docks were the best we have seen since the States.

The infinity pool with swim up bar.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

No Wind For Us

We picked our way through the coral heads and left Normans Cay about 7:30 am since we knew that we had a longer trip to New Providence and wanted to get there in plenty of daylight.  We elected to again go to the western side of the island as we did on the trip down. As forecasted there was almost no wind. I think we averaged around 2 knots so motoring we go. It is interesting how different things are on the return trip. There are boats everywhere. A lot more traffic than when we came down in November. Now it’s not what you would call rush hour traffic on the roads or anything but it is different. We may have seen on boat on a leg of our journey down in November but are likely to see 20 now.  Our little anchorage in West Bay that we had all to ourselves in November had more than 10 boats last night. The trip was pretty uneventful. We did see dolphins a couple of times but they didn't hang around long enough for me to get but a couple of pictures of them. Freddie kept ready to unfurl the jib and get some help for the motors but finally just gave up.  I worked on my basket weaving; I will post a pic when it starts to look like a basket. I cleaned a lot of the yuck off of the conch shell that I picked up at Normans.  I also read some of my book that my Aunt Jo gave me for Christmas. I am about 2/3 of the way through with it. It is the story of James Baldwin and his sail around the world alone on his sail boat Atom. Thanks Aunt Jo.  We did get settled in time to take the dingy and explore the Park that is on the western tip of this bay. We talked to a group doing an afternoon scuba dive with an instructor that is also professional a kick boxer.  Their Bahamian taxi driver asked us if we knew what beach this was and we said “no”. She then told us that this is Jaws beach, where they filmed Jaws. Glad I found that out after Freddie had dove the anchor! We have enjoyed the best internet that we have had since we left the states here. Freddie finally got the Bullet working and we have taken advantage of it checking weather, anchorages and updating the blog with pictures that don’t take 30 minutes each. Heading to Chub this morning and hang out through the cold front.
Finally got a picture of a dolphin escort

Jaws Beach. Da Dum..Da Dum........
Not even enough wind to stir our Courtesy flag!

Scuba divers getting ready to brave the Jaws Beach water.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spinnaker Sailing, Drug Lords and Airplanes

We said Good bye to Warderick Wells around 9:30 Thursday Morning and headed to Normans Cay. The winds light and the seas calm as we headed North. After motor sailing with the jib the winds were still very light and Freddie suggested that we try our spinnaker sail. After our disastrous experience leaving Black Point and considering that the only time we had ever had the spinnaker out before we had tried to hoist it sideways, I was a little skeptical about giving it a go. Freddie reminded me that we will never learn anything if we don’t try it so I dug out the spinnaker. We not only got it flying but did so without any calamities or cross words. Score another one for Fred! For those of you that don’t know a Spinnaker sail is a very lightweight light wind sail. It is made out of what feels like parachute material and fills out with wind high and in front of the boat like a half of a giant balloon. Sailing with the Spinnaker went well and taking it down was a little more tedious but no real disasters or screaming.

We were anchored off of Normans Cay at 2:30 and were in the dingy headed to explore before 3 pm. Normans Cay rose to fame as Carlos Leder’s base during the bad days of Bahamian Drug trading. There are still some bullet ridden houses and crumbling remains of his territory just north of the airstrip. There is also a ditched aircraft in the southern anchorage that we had a great time snorkeling in. We came across the airstrip while exploring the island and had not understood it was still an operational airstrip until we saw a plane landing directly in front of us while we were standing on the air strip. We then noticed the hanger at the far south end of the strip where the plane let off its passengers and took back off. We were long gone back to the beach before we saw it leave not wanting to be plane food. We had a nice chat with some people that have lived on their boat for 4 years and are looking at coming and checking out real-estate in the St. Marys and Fernandina area this summer. Small world.  Leaving early in the morning for Nassau around a 40 mile trip,a full day when you only do around 5 knts. 
Yes we are flying that spinnaker!

We are getting pretty good at these selfee's  on Normans after
snorkeling the sunken plane and before dodging the flying one.

not a bad pic with a $10 Walmart camera.

Very spooky. All the coral around the seats and such looked
like skeletons.

I wonder if the fish ate the drugs?

Ah Freddie we need to get out of here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On the Move towards Home

Freddie with my life in his hands. Good thing we had went to feed the pigs and I had fed him supper!
After going into town to connect to internet, top off time on our cell phones and the check the weather forecast we took off to Big Major beside Staniel Cay. Yes pig island again. Trying to sail there was a mess. The wind was only supposed to be blowing 15 but it sure felt like more to me as we wrestled with both the both sails. Lesson learned ALWAYS secure the wind generator when working with the main sail. One of our mainsail reef lines broke a blade on our generator putting it out of commission for the rest of our trip. We continued to have issues with both the main and jib, so much so that we put them away and just motored on to Big Major arriving around 3 pm. Some sailors we are! Neither one of us were in great moods, in fact we were both pretty snippy. The pigs make us happy though, so after setting the anchor we loaded up our moldy bread and took off to feed our favorite swine.  Our Bahamian courtesy flag line had chafed  through while we were at Black Point and needed to be fixed. With plenty of daylight left and since the wind had died  I talked Freddie into hauling me up the mast (I much preferred that to me hauling him up there) to restring it. We had a great dinner of left over steak with butter beans and rice and hit the sack. The next morning we took off to Warderick Wells. This time we just motor sailed with the jib and had a great trip. We picked up a mooring again at the Land and Sea Park where we had stayed on our trip down.  After paying for a night we hiked back up to Boo Boo Hill and found our sign we had left in November. They have a nice new memorial bench up there now and we visited with several other cruisers during our hike. We are making short day hops up the chain to be in a position to cross back over and head home. Right now it doesn't look like we can cross for at least another week. Every stop we make we have to make sure we have a secure anchorage close in case of a nasty cold front. Who knows with forecasts that far out. One thing for sure the weather is always changing.
Selfie from the mast behind Big Major
Only two pics. The worst thing about the Land and Sea Park is internet and no phone service. Otherwise, a wonderful place.