Sunday, April 15, 2018

For reasons unknown to me, cruisers stack up rocks in neat little piles along the rocky shores.  This curly tail lizard must have found the cairn on Shroud Cay to be the prefect place to wait for a lunchtime treat to fly past.

Back in 2008 we found this old weathered board washed up on the beach.  Bill scratched our names, the boat’s name, and the year in the face of the board with a beer can opener, and we placed it on top of Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells Cay.  Every year since we have come back, and he has added another year to our sign.

This is the view across the Blackpoint Harbor from the house we rented for our children and grandchildren to stay and visit with us.  The stone paved path leads from the house down to the water where it is nearly low tide and where the white sand is emerging from the blue water.

This is Eli, Ann’s son, swimming down to a coral head in the Bahamas.  He’d make a pretty good fish.

We can not identify this flower-like anemone growing on the coral.  It is not in our books.  While it looks like a plant, it is really an animal.

With everyone watching and ready to laugh, Bill made his maiden voyage on a stand up paddle board.  He was a natural, a success from the word go.

Coming back to the anchored Irish Eyes from the beach at Bitter Guana Cay, all eleven of us would not even begin to fit in our four-person dinghy.  Five people traveled in the dinghy while the remaining six were towed along behind holding on to a rope.

Josh, Isabella, Michael, Olivia, Ann, Scarlett, Julia, Kaelyn, and Eli stand behind the now resting sow which minutes before had been chasing them down the beach to get the pancakes they were carrying.  A 500 lb hungry pig is a fearsome beast.  A resting pig… not so much.

At Normans Pond Cay Bill and I waded in the water and walked on the beach picking up the treasures we found before throwing them back.  This is Bill with one of his finds, a reticulated starfish.

We have been to Normans Pond Cay several times, but this year was the first time that we have seen iguanas there.  Two were resting in the shade of a group of casuarina trees.  This is the female.  She is not quite 3 ft long.

Hello from Georgetown, Exuma.  We have had a busy couple of weeks.

When I last wrote, we were anchored at Shroud Cay.  During our four days there, we took our dinghy into the interior creeks and mangrove swamps of Shroud Cay stopping at the beaches on the eastern side of Shroud Cay.  We dinghied around to the ocean side of the island.  We had the cruising couple from the sailboat Blue Away over to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by sharing six bottles of Guinness stout that Bill brought from home.  It was a beautiful stay in a beautiful place.

Two back to back cold fronts were forecast to exit the Florida coast and come into the Bahamas.  We returned to the Norman’s Cay cut for protection from the wind.  We stayed for three days waiting for the wind to die down to a reasonable sailing speed.  When we arrived at Norman’s Cay, a large motorboat, Miss Anna, was anchored there.  We chose our spot 240 yards away from her.  Other boats came and went, but we stayed, and so did Miss Anna.  At sundown on our second night, the distance separating us had decreased to 75 yards.  I watched Miss Anna.  She was not moving with the wind and waves.  She had dragged her anchor and was aground behind us.  The professional crew calmly waited for the tide to rise as they served dinner to the guests on the aft deck of the yacht.  When the dishes were cleared away, Miss Anna floated free, and they re-anchored again, 240 yds away.  The next day a large sailboat which had been anchored on the other side of us also ran aground behind us.  Bill and several other cruisers went over in their dinghies and helped him get off.  It really does not take much to entertain me.  I just sit in our cockpit, knit, and watch the world unfold around me.

On March 23 the wind was blowing from the north at a reasonable 10 to 15 knots.  It was time to head south.  We pulled up our well buried anchor and sailed to the Emerald Rock mooring field at the Exuma Park Headquarters on Warderick Wells Cay.  Bill went into the office, paid our fees, and retrieved our driftwood sign from the top of Boo Boo Hill.

There is a huge pile of these driftwood signs on the hilltop.  Each has the names of cruisers, their boat names, and the dates of their trips to the Exumas.  Leaving a sign is supposed to assure cruisers of good weather and a pleasant trip.  We have been using the same sign for all eleven of our trips.  It is amazing that the thing survives all the wind and rain that blow over the island, and equally amazing that we can find it in the ever-growing heap of signs.

On Saturday night on the beach at the park office, there is a cruisers’ happy hour party.  We had also been invited to have a cocktail on a 22 foot sailboat moored near us at Emerald Rock.  So, off we went party hopping.  The couple on the sailboat, a Marshall Catboat named Done Reach, were retirees from Rhode Island who now live in Spanish Wells on Eleuthera.  They were taking a two-week trip on their little sailboat.  Bill and I enjoyed swapping tales with them, and they enjoyed the Black Eyed Pea dip I have named Tennessee Caviar.  They also enjoyed the ten ice cubes Bill brought as a present to their refrigeration-less boat.  After we left Done Reach, we went to the cruiser’s happy hour to meet the other cruisers and most especially Ron and Phebe, the crew of the sailboat Noodin, who we had met last year.

Sunday morning, we slipped our mooring and headed a few more miles south.  Our intended destination was Big Major’s Spot with its famous swimming pigs.  But when we got close, Bill looked through the binoculars and saw lots and lots of boats at Big Major’s.  We changed our plans, changed our course, and anchored off Sampson Cay where there were only two other sailboats.  Irish Eyes made it three.  Later, three or four large motor yachts anchored near us to avoid the coming high winds.  But that was fine, I had rich people playing on all kinds of expensive water toys to watch from my cockpit.  It was great entertainment.

On the windiest day, Captain Bill decided that we, like Jimmy Buffet, needed a restaurant prepared Cheeseburger in Paradise.  Our closest option was the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, a mere 5-mile dinghy ride away.  Off we went.  After the first mile, we were wet, salty, and not making much progress against the wind and current.  I asked Bill if he REALLY needed that cheeseburger.  I think he was just waiting for me to say something.  He immediately turned the dinghy around, and we spent a couple of pleasant hours walking on the Sampson Cay beaches before returning Irish Eyes for homemade sandwiches and beer.

The last time I did our laundry was in mid-February while we were moored in Vero Beach.  The dirty clothes locker was dangerously full, and my underwear drawer was almost empty.  The Rock Side Laundry in Blackpoint is the best coin laundry in the Exumas.  It was time to go there.  And anyway, our children, their husbands, and all the grandchildren would be there in a few days.

Our anchor was down in Blackpoint Harbor on Good Friday afternoon.  We tidied up Irish Eyes, I did laundry, and Bill gave me a haircut to prepare for our visitors.  Our good friends Ron and Dee from the sailboat Ursa Minor were in Blackpoint too.  We spent Easter Sunday afternoon catching up with them in the cockpit of Irish Eyes.

Early Easter Monday morning, and I mean really early, like 5am, my phone began pinging with rapid fire text messages describing our traveler’s progress.  All nine members of the Murdoch clan began their journey to Blackpoint from Michael and Ann’s new house in Nashville on Easter Sunday evening.  First, there was a flight from Nashville to Ft Lauderdale, then an airport shuttle to their Ft Lauderdale hotel for the night.  In the dark of Monday morning starting with that previously mentioned 5am ping, the journey resumed; another shuttle to the executive airport, followed by a charter flight in a small plane to Staniel Cay, then a golf cart ride to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a late breakfast.  Properly fed, they and all their belongings had 6 mile speedboat ride from Staniel Cay to the government dock in Blackpoint where a car and a truck met them and for a ride to their rented house on the water.  The five grandchildren were already in their bathing suits, splashing in the beautiful, clear, blue water and playing in the white sand before Bill and I could cross the harbor in our dinghy to meet them.

What a wonderful week we had!  The house we rented had a stone path leading down the wooded hill to the water on the Blackpoint Harbor.  At high tide the water was probably 3 feet deep, at low tide there were acres of sand flats to tromp over.  Perfect!  The kids could swim or build sand castles.  And, there was a small kayak and two stand up paddle boards to master.  The wraparound porch on the house was great; from there we could watch the kids only having to move the furniture from time to time during the day to stay out of the sun.

One day, all eleven of us piled aboard Irish eyes and went on an excursion.  We sailed our little boat, crammed with people both below and on the deck, a couple of miles south to the Hetty’s Land beach.  Bill, Julia, Josh, and Eli took the dinghy and went snorkeling and spear fishing on several of the nearby coral heads.  The rest of us, Ann, Michael, Kaelyn, Isabella, Scarlett, Olivia, and I, looked for sand dollars on the beach and played in the shallow water and in the sand.  While the snorkelers came back with only pictures of fish, the beach goers found their sand dollars.  Irish Eyes was anchored so close to the beach that the beach goers could just walk through the water and, after a few swimming strokes, climb back on board Irish Eyes.  When the snorkelers and the dinghy returned, we motored back to Blackpoint where, after several overloaded dinghy trips between the boat and the shore, we celebrated with drinks and dinner at Scorpio’s bar and restaurant.

On a “rest” day at the house Josh and Julia took the dinghy and went fishing off the rocks near the entrance to the harbor, but after an afternoon of fishing, they only brought back one fish.  They had fun anyway.  While they were away, the rest of us lazed about, built sand castles, splashed in the water, played on the porch, and generally wasted the day away punctuated only by a swim in the breaking waves on the ocean side of the island.

On our second trip on Irish Eyes, we motored the six miles north to the famous Swimming Pig Beach on Big Major’s Spot.  When it was discovered that no one had thought to bring food for the pigs, Bill ducked below and cooked two dozen pancakes for the beasts.  Once ashore, Ann had the pancakes in a plastic grocery bag.  The pigs, like all pigs, instantly sensed food.  First, Ann tried to distribute the pancakes to the kids who wanted to feed the pigs.  Then, she tried to appease the herd of pigs that were chasing her by feeding them a few.  Finally, under a direct frontal assault, she quickly dumped all the food on the beach and danced about holding her empty hands in the air to prove she had no more food to give.  Fully fed, one of the large sows dug out a bed in the sand and lay down at Ann’s feet.

Back on Irish Eyes as Michael made sandwiches for lunch, all the kids jumped off the bow pulpit of Irish Eyes and into the water as each tried to make the biggest splash.  They all watched from the deck as a large shark swam under the boat and over toward the swimmers at a nearby boat.  Eli got his wish to jump into the water from Irish Eyes.  Olivia got her wish to see a shark.  None of the jumpers were eaten by the shark.

There are large iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay, and we went to see them.  There was absolutely no wind, so we motored through the glassy and sparkling clear water.  The children sitting on the deck broke into a port side team and a starboard side team and had a competition counting the starfish on each side of the boat; on the bottom, in the grass, clearly visible 25 feet below us.  Anchored off Iguana Beach, the kids swam to the shore while the sensible adults took the dinghy.  We walked and swam along the beach feeding the iguanas bits of canned mandarin oranges.  Since all eleven of us would not fit in our four-person dinghy, Bill trailed a knotted floating rope behind the boat and towed the children back to Irish Eyes.  Julia (yes, she is a child) said she has waited 38 years for her father to tow her behind the dinghy.  We saw the people on a nearby anchored boat both stare and laugh at us.

On their last full day, tired of walking and sure that fishing success could be obtained with boat better than our dinghy, the travelers rented a 9 passenger golf cart and a 16 foot motorboat from Ulrisa and Breadboy, the owners of the house.  Josh, Julia, Ann, Kaelyn, Isabella, and Eli took the motorboat and went snorkeling in the morning while I played in the water with the mermaids Olivia and Scarlett.  In the afternoon Josh, Julia, Michael and Eli went fishing.  They caught several trigger fish, but thankfully they brought back only pictures and not the fish.  Ann, Kaelyn, Isabella, Olivia, Scarlett, Bill, and I took the golf cart to the blowhole to see the surf driven geyser shoot up through a hole in the rocky shore, then to another sound side beach for a shell collecting walk, and lastly on a tour of every paved rode on the island.  13-year-old Kaelyn drove the golf cart (It was a bit scary.) until we saw the island policemen in the distance, and Ann took the wheel.  Ann, who has never driven on the left before, proved remarkably adept.

The somewhat sunburned visitors left on Saturday retracing their path back to Nashville where they arrived after midnight.  Bill and I spent the day hosing the sand off the decks of Irish Eyes and feeling very fortunate that we could share one of our favorite places with all our family.  I am pretty sure they had a good time.

The wind changed after they left, coming from the west and blowing across miles of open water.  We bounced through the night while our anchor held us off the lee shore.  Then in the morning, we left headed south to the better protected Lee Stocking Island.  The island was once a research station, studying marine life.  The research funding dried up, and the place has been pretty much abandoned.  Rumors say a billionaire bought the island but could not get the permits to build a resort.  Bill and I dinghied along the sheltered sides of Lee Stocking Island and the adjacent Normans Pond Cay walking lots of beaches.  One morning at we had a nice rain shower and filled our water tanks to the brim and also put another 30 gallons of water in our six 5-gal jugs.  While we were anchored, a couple we met two years ago, Robin and Corbett on Cookie Monster came and anchored nearby.  We had a lovely time with them and with a Polish/American couple on the sailboat Aldebaran at a four-hour happy hour hosted by Cookie Monster.

After a few days anchored at Lee Stocking Island, Bill and I continued our journey south enjoying (?) a rollicking sail in northeast winds to Georgetown.  We had our anchor down at Sand Dollar Beach in the Georgetown harbor by mid-afternoon.  Georgetown has two grocery stores, a gas station, laundry, propane, beaches, and restaurants.  We will stay a few days while the wind blows, with our riding sail up and our flopper stoppers in the water, once again waiting for a cold front to go away.  The plan is to then head to Conception Island, turn around, and begin our slow trip north hoping that the winter cold fronts are behind us and that calm settled weather awaits.

Monday, March 19, 2018

When there is a full moon, the sun goes down on one side of the boat while the moon comes up on the other.  We like the moon.  It lets us see in the dark of night.

You may not recognize the “new” Bill.  With a scraggly beard and this horrible tropical get up, I’m trying to disassociate myself from him, but I am afraid I’ll not lose him even in a crowd.

We spent a week anchored at Normans Cay as a couple of cold fronts passed over us giving us strong winds and cool (68F) weather.  We wondered around the island both ashore and in the dinghy.  They have built a 5000 foot runway for private jet planes and are constructing a megayacht marina with planted palm gardens.  We enjoyed four $8 beers at the old but now gentrified McDuff’s restaurant where lunchtime hamburgers are now $25.

To me it seems that there is something wrong with flying in on your float plane to hop out and swim around a crashed cocaine hauling C-46 that is resting in six feet of water.  But, that was what these people did one day at Normans Cay.

We found a leak in our diesel fuel tank and had to backtrack to New Providence to buy the things we needed to repair the tank.  In the morning the sky looked like this.  You know, “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”  We arrived before the weather turned bad.

This is the fuel tank coming out of the boat.  Bill has already removed the table, the floor boards, the metal rods that hold the tank down, and the wedges that hold it in place.  You can see just a little bit of the filthy bottom.

Scrubbed clean and with epoxy putty spread into the corroded spots, the tank looks much better.  The dinghy foot pump’s hose is still attached to the tank.  We had pressurized the tank with air to find the leak.

I don’t have a ‘before’ picture of the bilge, but it was really filthy.  Now clean, it is not pristine, but it is so much cleaner and better smelling.

I am not fond of marina living.  Everything is hard.  Even getting off the boat is a job for a gymnast.  My legs are so short, and the gap is so long.

With the tank repaired, we are back doing what we came to do; relaxing, taking in the view, and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day from Irish Eyes anchored at Shroud Cay.  [That is when I wrote this.  It has taken until now to upload it to the internet.  ...and you think your internet is slow...]

When I last wrote we were anchored in Miami Beach.  It took us about a week to buy our food, some missing spare parts, and the things we had forgotten to bring from New Bern.  We toured around Miami and Miami Beach, sent our winter clothes to Julia, and had a few restaurant meals.  I really enjoyed watching the crazy people in Miami Beach.  It was like watching the animals in the zoo.  But, after nine days in Miami Beach I was tired of people watching.  The boat was ready to go, and so were we.  So, we pulled up our anchor and headed just a little farther south to No Name Harbor on the southern tip of Key Biscayne.

By anchoring outside No Name Harbor for our last night in the US, we had a much shorter (and much straighter) trip in the dark to the open ocean.  To try something a little different this year, rather than going to Bimini, we planned to sail all day then all night to reach Morgan’s Bluff on the north tip of Andros Island in the mid-morning of the next day.

The anchor was up, and we were underway at about 5:30am on Monday, February 27.  The moon had set by the time we got underway, but the sun was scheduled to rise about 6:15.  In the dim light before sunrise, the navigation marks were easy to see as we motored out the Cape Florida Channel to the ocean.  I was much happier not having to find our way down the channel by searching for the red and green daymarks with a spotlight.

The crossing of the Gulf Stream was uneventful.  We passed north around Bimini in the mid-afternoon and kept on going.  In the evening the moon’s reflection on the water behind us was breathtaking and its later setting was spectacular.  The moonlight made it much easier to identify the boats going by us and to see the several other boats anchored on the shallow banks for the night.

When we got to Morgan’s Bluff the next morning, we had been underway for 28 hours.  Whew.  Bill went ashore to check us into the Bahamas.  I stayed onboard Irish Eyes because the Captain is the only one allowed on land ‘till we have been cleared into the Bahamas.  Bill got the paperwork done, and the immigrations officer gave us leave to stay until July.

Several years ago, we met a couple who raved on and on about Andros and Morgan’s Bluff.  They spent a large part of the winter there.  The woman in this couple told me how great it was to watch the Bahamian women make Androsia batik fabric.  The fabric is sort of tie dyed in bright colors with motifs of shells, fish, pineapples, and other tropical things.  I would love to see the fabric made.  Well, the Morgan’s Bluff we saw had three buildings; a bar, the harbor master’s office, and a filling station.  Google told us that the Androsia factory was an hour’s drive south in Andros Town.  It was far too far for us to walk.

Since we didn’t find much of interest in Morgan’s Bluff, and since the weather was going to change and bring rain and strong winds, we decided to move on to New Providence Island.  In light wind we motored the 30 nautical miles to New Providence’s Southwest Bay and anchored off the entrance to the Albany Marina and Resort.  Our guidebook says the marina may be the most expensive in the world at $6.00 per foot per night (with a 50 foot minimum) plus a $500 per day resort service charge plus the usual 7.5% VAT.  Tiger Woods and some “friends” own the place. It was almost dark by the time our anchor was down, and we collapsed for a full night’s sleep while our anchor held us safely in place for free.

Our destination the next day was Norman’s Cay.  To get there before dark, we put up our sails and ran the engine to keep up our speed.  The boat heeled over until the starboard rail was in the water.  It was a rollicking motorsail, but we managed to get the anchor down on the west side of Normans Cay before sunset.  While we were underway, Bill was sitting at the navigation station and discovered that his feet were resting in seawater.  Somewhere in our quarter berth (which was full of all sorts of boat things and small amounts of beer, wine, and liquor) there was a leak.

Bill spent the entire day Thursday taking the things out of the quarter berth, finding and repairing the leak, and putting all the stuff back in the quarter berth.  The leak appeared to come from two of the four screws that hold the antenna tuner for the shortwave radio to the foot of the quarter berth.  The screw ends go into our rear anchor locker which fills with seawater when the boat heels to starboard.  (Remember, we put that side of the boat underwater?)  Well, the water leaked in around the screws.  There is always something to fix on a boat.

A cold front was approaching the Bahamas from the US.  The wind would to be strong, first from the southwest, then the west, then the northwest, and finally from the north.  The Bahamas Meteorological Office forecast for Sunday hilariously said, “Boaters should remain in port.  Winds northerly at 20-25 knots in the northwest Bahamas… …seas up to 20 feet in northerly swells across all areas, across the ocean.  No significant weather expected.”  While we laughed at the “No significant weather...”, we decided to move into the Normans Cay Cut where we would have protection from the west and north winds.

Friday, the wind picked up a little, but as the weather gurus said there was more to come.  The number of boats anchored around us increased over the next two days.  Our Kingsport friends, Rob and Minta Fannon, came in their boat, Caroline, and joined the anchored fleet on Saturday.  The wind continued to clock around and blow about twenty knots.  The water in our anchorage was fairly smooth, not completely calm, but not too bad either.

On Sunday we had planned a dinghy exploration trip with the Fannons. But, with twenty knot winds, spray flying, and an air temperature of 69 degrees, we instead spent the afternoon chatting in the cabin of Irish Eyes rather than riding around in a wet dinghy.

Our bad weather came from a couple of cold fronts that had dumped snow over the eastern United States and had spawned a severe nor’easter in New York and Boston.  We stayed anchored in the Normans Cay Cut for a week.  We did move the boat around in the anchorage twice.  Once because another boat anchored too closely to us, and once again for better protection from the choppy waves.  During calmer periods we went exploring.  Bill began his hideous habit of collecting beach trash.  So far, he has brought back to our boat a small blue ball, a diver down flag on a float, a sandy baseball hat, and a medium sized cone shaped Styrofoam fishing float.  Unlike Bill and his random junk collecting, I am trying to be very discerning in my shell collecting.  I have only saved a single perfect large top snail.

One afternoon while Bill was piddling about, he opened the cover to the bilge.  The bilge is the nasty, dirty underworld of the boat where the 36 gallon fuel tank lives.  Bill saw diesel fuel floating on the bilge water.  We got out the garden hose we use to wash off the anchor when it is muddy, attached it to the wash down pump, and washed the oil out the bilge with seawater and detergent.  Twelve hours later there was oil in the bilge again.  There was a leak in the aluminum fuel tank.  The tank was as old as the boat, and for a couple of years Bill had talked about taking it out and inspecting it.  It seems he waited just a little too long.

We decided it would be best to go to a Nassau marina to work on the tank.  The boat would be safe with the engine inoperable, we could find most things we might need to repair the tank, and we could take the tank off the boat to work on it.  Palm Cay Marina on New Providence was the closest cruiser friendly marina.  To slow the leak, Bill pumped 20 gallons of fuel out of the tank and into the five gallon fuel jugs we carry on deck.  On Friday, March 9 we motorsailed from Normans Cay to Palm Cay Marina.  By supper time we were tied up in a slip at one of their docks.

Saturday morning Bill began the task of removing the fuel tank from the boat.  First, he made a couple of trips to a grocery store to buy gallon jugs of water; not for the water, but for the jugs.  The last of our fuel went into the emptied jugs and the inside of the tank was wiped out with paper towels.  Then, we unbolted our table from the floor and tied it in place on top of one of the settees.  We removed the salon floor, set it aside, and took out the tank.  The outside of the tank was a filthy, greasy, gross mess.  We put it in the cockpit on top of a sheet of plastic.  Bill scraped off most of the mess, then he wiped off the rest of the crud with a whole roll of paper towels wet with clean diesel fuel.  Next, we moved the tank to the dock where Bill scrubbed it with a wire brush and paint thinner.  He pressurized the tank with our dinghy foot pump and found the tiny leak by painting Joy detergent and water over the bottom of the tank.  The lowest part of the tank was corroded, and the leak was in one of the corroded spots.  Bill put some epoxy putty on all the corroded areas and left the putty to harden.

Early Monday morning, the remains of another cold front passed over us.  We had 4.8 inches of rain with thunder, lightning, and lots of wind.  I was glad we were safely in the marina.  Palm Cay had several courtesy cars available for marina visitors to borrow.  In the Bahamas they drive on the left-hand side of the road.  Fortunately, the courtesy cars are right hand drive (the British kind).  Bill drove while I navigated on a trip to three of the marine supply stores in downtown Nassau to buy the things to patch the tank.  With all the rain, the streets were full of standing water.  The rain continued on and off all day, so we got only a little more work done.

Tuesday, Bill painted the whole bottom of the fuel tank with epoxy resin and put fiberglass cloth and epoxy on the lowest part of the tank.  That done, Bill decided to clean the area of the bilge that was under the tank.  I did not offer to help with that nasty job!  I admit the bilge looked (and smelled) much better when he finished.  Wednesday, we put the tank back in the boat.  Bill attached all the hoses, and we filled the tank with diesel fuel.  We watched and did not see any oil in the bilge. Hooray!!  The engine started and ran just fine.  We were free to leave the marina.

While the tank was out, the cabin was in chaos.  The dining table was atop one of our settees, and the settee cushions and Bill’s tools were everywhere.  I was glad when it was all over.  If Bill had not been able to fix the fuel tank, I do not know what we would have done.  Our two daughters, their husbands, and all five grandchildren plan to meet us in Blackpoint the first week in April.  They will stay in a rented a house because all eleven of us will not fit on the little ol’ Irish Eyes.  Just the thought of our having to go back to the US to get the tank replaced was devasting to me.  I have to be in Blackpoint that week!  I can’t miss the kids and grandkids.

We left Palm Cay Marina Thursday morning sailing to Highbourne Cay for the night.  After a peaceful night anchored there, we left Highbourne and sailed the ten miles to Shroud Cay, one of our favorite places in the Exumas.  We will explore the creeks around Shroud Cay for the next couple of days.  Another cold front is to pass over us next week, so we will move then to find better protection from the expected winds.

Hope those of you with snow soon see some Spring Green.  It was an unusually cool 63 degrees this morning.  I have on a sweatshirt, but my feet are still bare.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Onslow Beach Bridge in Camp Lejeune is still open after we have passed through.  This bridge is operated by the United States Marine Corps.  During the day time, it will open on the hour and half hour for waiting boats to pass through.

We can still see the high-water mark on the gum trees in the swamp along the Waccamaw River just south of Myrtle Beach.  The high water was caused by rainfall from hurricane Joaquin in October of 2015. Seventeen people died in South Carolina during those floods.

Some days the wind blows, and the water is rough.  Other days it is dead flat calm.  We then feel guilty leaving the ripples of our wake behind and disturbing the scene.

The Georgia marshes have a beauty all their own.  Unlike in the summer, in the winter the beauty is not disturbed by green head flies and mosquitoes.

In Fernandina Beach we motored past this barge loaded with wrecks from last year’s hurricane.  It is sad, and they have only just begun to repair the damage.  The city marina there is wrecked and is closed.

In Dania Beach, Florida we passed this spaceship-like boat.  Bill thinks it takes people to Mars on the weekends.

After traveling for twenty-four days, we can watch the sun set in the west behind the Miami skyline.  At last, we are here!!!!   ...and warm.

These two signs greeted us at the tiny dock on Miami Beach’s Collins Canal where we used to tie up our dinghy to go shopping at the Publix food store across the street.  There are more and more of these signs here, and there are fewer and fewer places to tie up our dinghy.

Also, the places that we can anchor have been restricted by an act of the Florida legislature.  Some of the best spots are now off limits.  Well actually, the prohibited places are in front of some wealthy and influential people’s houses.  We just pick another spot.  This chart is from the Waterway Guide.

Greetings from sunny and warm Miami Beach, Florida.  The temperature has been in the upper 70’s or low 80's for the last few days which makes us both happy.

On January 10th Bill and I were ready to leave Kingsport.  Except for our clothes, the car was packed.  We just had to clean out the refrigerator and box up the New Years’ leftovers.  I made us chicken sandwiches for lunch; sliced chicken breast on white bread, chicken I had roasted a couple of days before; with mayo, salt, and pepper… nothing hard, nothing crunchy.  In the eating I managed to break a molar into five pieces.  It was Thursday noon.  I could not get an appointment with my usual dentist until Tuesday.  Bill and I were ready to cry.  Bill decided, with my encouragement, to leave the next morning for New Bern, unload the car, and come back to Kingsport for me on Tuesday.  It turned out that the tooth was past saving.  My dentist made an appointment with an oral surgeon for Wednesday, January 17.  Bill came back from New Bern, he took me to the surgeon, the remains of the tooth were removed, and we were once again ready to go.

The temperature in Kingsport was 6 degrees.  It was time to head south for real.  We had replaced the 1978 Chevy Blazer in the fall.  The annual drive to the coast in the rusted-out Blazer (RIP) was probably the most dangerous part of our trip.  In its place we now have a 2012 Ford Expedition.  We were packed, and we were gone on January 18.  This year’s trip was quieter, smoother, and far more luxurious.

It was cold in New Bern.  The city water to the boat slips had been turned off to protect the pipes from freezing.  On a slightly warmer day, the water was briefly turned back on.  We flushed out the antifreeze from the boat’s fresh water system, and we filled our tanks.  I stocked the boat with food, and Bill went to West Marine to buy his boat stuff. We were ready to go.  

On January 24, a week later than we had originally planned, we untied the dock lines of Irish Eyes and set sail.  Well, that is not really correct, we motored down the Neuse River towards Beaufort, NC.  During our trips south, we actually do very little sailing.  The Intracoastal Waterway is generally narrow, and the wind is not usually favorable, so we mostly motor.  Besides, when the motor is running our boat, like your car, has heat.  It may be cold and damp outside, but it is warm and dry in our boat.

I made two purchases of cold weather gear this year.  I bought myself a pair of fur lined Ugg boots and a wind proof balaclava.  Both purchases have been great.  I was not sure the balaclava was going to work.  It was thin, and I could not imagine it keeping my head, neck, or face warm despite the on-line claims from the twenty-year-old skiers and snowboarders.  Well, a sixty something grandmother endorses the balaclava highly.  Maybe I’ll write a review.

I feel like we have made record time getting to Florida.  We spent two nights in Myrtle Beach seeing my sister and brother-in-law.  One of those days was a rainy day on which we would not have traveled anyway.  The only other bad weather we have had was in St. Augustine.  We ended up spending three nights/two days there.  The first day the temperature as in the upper seventies, and we shopped and ate out.  The second day was foggy, windy, and cool.  Not the best weather for travelling on the water.  That day, rather than continuing on, Bill walked the seven-mile round trip to WalMart, Lowes, Home Depot, and I’m not sure exactly where else looking for still more of his boat stuff.  I am not a WalMart shopper even in Kingsport, so I did not tag along.  We did stop for two nights in Vero Beach.  That gave us time for real showers and a big restaurant meal.  It also gave me the opportunity (?) to catch up on the laundry.  [The winter clothes, long underwear, thick socks and heavy sweatshirts are now clean and ready to send to a daughter.  Once the clothes are gone, we will have room on the boat to store the Bahamian Rum.]

From Vero Beach it was a one-day trip to Hobe Sound.  Starting from there, 34 drawbridges would have to open for us before arriving in Miami.  Since most only opened twice an hour, we had to wait an average of 15 minutes at each one.  Around lunch time on Bridge Day 2, we realized it would be dead low tide when we went by the Bakers Haulover Inlet.  Our information told us the water would be 3-4 feet deep in a narrow spot between a hard coral ledge and a sand bar.  Irish Eyes needs 5 feet to float.  Bill found a lovely place, Maule Lake, in Sunny Isles Beach for us to anchor for the night.  The lake was just down a canal from the ICW and was a large flooded limestone quarry.  There were several local boats anchored with no one on board.  There was only one other occupied cruising motor boat there.  Since it was Friday, I expected lots of boat traffic after 5pm.  That did not happen, and we spent a lovely quiet afternoon and night in Maule Lake.  The anchor was up by 7:30am, and we were underway to pass the shallow spot at high tide and to go through the last three bridges.  The anchor was down before noon in Miami Beach near the Julia Tuttle Causeway and the Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Over the next few days we will be buying groceries and the things we have forgotten, and we will sending our winter clothes away.  Then, we will kick back and wait for a good patch of weather to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  Unfortunately, Miami Beach has new rules limiting where one can both anchor and tie up a dinghy, and one of our favorite dinghy docking spots is now a tow away zone.  Bureaucracy !!!!  So much for “the freedom of the seas”.

Cheers and stay warm.

Friday, June 30, 2017

This chart of the coast from North Carolina to Cuba shows the route of our trip this year.  The red line is our trip south and through the Bahamas up to our arrival in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos.  The green line is our route during this blog entry.  Although the green line is long, we sailed it in just seven days.  The red line took five months.  The blue water is shallow and the white water is deep.  To me it seems backwards, but Bill says they do it that way to save ink.

There is not much to see at sea.  It is just water and sky like this.  At night we have stars, planets, and the moon, but my camera will not take their picture from the moving boat.  That is why I don’t have many pictures this time.

This is the inside of the pump that pumps water through our engine to cool it.  The black rubber thing in the middle is the impeller.  Two of the vanes are broken off and are sitting on top of the pump.  Bill replaced the pump with a spare one the day before we left the Bahamas.

Hello from Kingsport, Tennessee.  Bill and I arrived back home Thursday evening, June 22.  Now we have all our projects here at our house to keep us occupied.

When last I wrote, we were anchored in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.  We stayed there for ten days.  The weather forecasters I wrote about last time were right; we had rain and thunderstorms almost every day we were in Marsh Harbour.  It was humid, and when we were not having a storm, there was very little wind.  Bill did boat projects getting Irish Eyes ready for the ocean trip back to the US.  I mostly read and stayed out of his way.  I did not knit much because it was so humid I could not hold the yarn.  We went into town a few times to do a little shopping and to eat in some of the restaurants.  Bill made his fourth and last batch of beer on the boat while we waited on the weather to clear.

Finally, on Saturday, June 10, the weather forecast was decent.  We left Marsh Harbour and motored north in the Sea of Abaco, past several islands, then around the ocean side of Whale Cay before returning to the Sea of Abaco.  While the trip around Whale Cay can sometimes be a little rough, this year the sea was calm, and we traveled just off the island’s coast.  Sometime in the mid-afternoon, Bill noticed the engine temperature gauge was reading a little higher than usual.  We anchored, and Bill checked the pump that pumps the sea water that cools the engine.  Two of the vanes on the rubber part that goes around inside the pump were missing.  They had broken off and plugged the hose.  Bill picked the broken vanes out of the hose, removed the old pump, and installed our spare one.  All I did was watch and worry.  We motored a little way farther to make sure the water pump was working, then we anchored for the night at Powell Cay.

It had been a long time since we had been swimming.  As soon as the anchor was down, we were in the water with our pool saddles and a beer.  The water felt really good.

With a forecast of light winds from the southeast slowly changing to southwest over the next four days, it was time to leave the Bahamas.  The genoa sail was up and the engine was running by 7:40am Sunday.  We were headed back to the US.  The course was set for Charleston and the autopilot was steering.  Over the next four days, we motored some, we sailed some, and we motor sailed some.  Off the coasts of Florida and Georgia there were thunderstorms and showers in the Gulf Stream that we could see.  We stayed to the east of the stream to avoid the storms. Only one storm came over the top of us, but it was in the daylight.  Thunderstorms are worse at night or at least they seem worse.  Not only are there the wind and rain, but with a 48-foot-tall aluminum mast it is hard not to worry about lightning.  Our last loaf of bread, store bought, was gone.  I, with encouragement from Bill, made some yeast rolls as we sailed along.

As we neared Charleston, the forecast said our good weather would hold, so we altered out course for the Cape Fear River in North Carolina.  The next forecast was not good, so we turned toward Winyah Bay and Georgetown, South Carolina.  Six hours later NOAA changed their mind again, so we again changed our course back to the Cape Fear River.  Wednesday evening, Bill did some calculations.  We were going to arrive at Cape Fear River entrance at 1am -- in the dark -- not a good thing. We tied two reefs in the mainsail making it as small as we could, and Bill tied a bucket to the stern of the boat and threw it in the water to slow us even more.  That worked; Irish Eyes arrived around 7am Thursday.  It seemed like a long time since we had seen land.  While we were at sea, we worked two to four hour shifts, one of us sleeping while the other watched the boat.  There was not much too look at except blue water, the sky, and the clouds.  Occasionally, we had atlantic spotted dolphins swim with us for a while to break the monotony.  I know I do not want to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat.  An ocean crossing would be way too long for me.

After calling Customs and Border Protection in Wilmington and receiving clearance to enter the US, we continued up the Intracoastal Waterway to Wrightsville Beach and anchored there.  We were both very tired.  We considered sailing on to Beaufort overnight, but after four days and nights of only sleeping a few hours at a time, a full night’s sleep sounded too wonderful to pass up.  

Friday morning, we left at sunrise, went back out into the Atlantic, and sailed on to Beaufort, NC.  That leg of the trip took about twelve hours.  If we had stayed in the ICW it would have taken us two days.  The trip to Beaufort was uneventful until we arrived at the Beaufort Inlet.  It was quitting time of the next to the last day of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament with its over $2,000,000 in prize money.  Let’s just say the huge sport fishing boats were in a rush coming home through the inlet, and there were a lot of them.  Their wakes combined with the waves coming into the inlet and the tide flowing out made it a rough, bouncy, wet, and almost terrifying entrance.  What a ride!  We anchored for the night near Fort Macon, the first safe place to stop.

Saturday, we travelled up the ICW to the Neuse River and then on to Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern.  It had been a week since we had touched land in Marsh Harbour and six days and seven hours after leaving Powell Cay.  It was hot in the marina, and the first thing on the list was to put the air conditioner on the boat and start it going.  We got it on the boat, but it would not start.  My 38-year-old Chevy Blazer started right up, and we drove to Lowes to buy a new air conditioner.  With the new air conditioner installed and set to cool the boat, Bill and I took long showers with unlimited hot water before going out for a pizza.  The small things in life are really luxuries, a cool dry boat, a good shower, a pizza, and sailing to the Bahamas with the one you love to name a few.

It took us four days in the marina to clean the boat and pack our stuff.  We left New Bern around noon on Thursday.  The rusty old Blazer made another trip to Kingsport safely.  Bill and I are slowly getting back into the swing of life on land... dirt dwellers again.

We had a good trip.  Maybe we will go again.

Friday, June 2, 2017

We have two blue plastic pool saddles with us this year.  They are a square piece of foam with cutouts for your legs.  You sit on them, float in the water, and drink beer.  If only they had a cup holder.

Several islands in the Bahamas have iguanas.  These two handsome fellows were on Leaf Cay north of Lee Stocking Island.

Bill collects beach junk. In the top picture he has a stand up paddleboard he found washed up on the rocks.  It was too heavy to carry back to the boat.   On the left is a mornings work; old rope, torn nets, fishing floats and (get this) a fresh washed up honeydew melon.  He tried to eat the melon.  On the right is another plastic fishing float.  That thing is now tied to our boat's lifelines.

At the north anchorage off Hawksbill Cay in the Exumas, the mega yacht Wheels had set up this collection of beach toys for their charter guests. There was a sliding board, jet skis, kayaks, chairs, umbrellas, tents, paddleboards, a buffet lunch, a photographer, and a "dinghy" with four 400 hp outboards to move it all.

While the yacht's guests were enjoying their toys (actually they mostly sat in the chairs), we watched two sea turtles forage on the bottom near our boat coming up for air every five minutes or so.  During the ten years we have been coming to the Bahamas on Irish Eyes, the turtles have become both more numerous and larger.

Atop Boo Boo hill is a collection of driftwood signs left by cruisers over the years in hopes of being granted fair winds and a safe return.

This is our sign resting among the others.

Sometimes you don't need the Weather Channel to know bad weather is coming.  This thing contained 30 kt wind and an inch and a half of rain.

I like sunsets.  

This is one of dozens of parrotfish on the reef at Sandy Cay in the Abacos...

...and this is some elkhorn coral not far away from the paotfish.

Hello, from Marsh Harbour, Abaco.  We are now headed north, but slowly, waiting for more settled weather to sail back to the States.

We hung around in George Town to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a cruisers’ beach potluck on Flip Flop Beach.  It was well attended by both humans and mosquitoes.  The beach was recently sold to a developer with big plans, so this may have been the last party on the undeveloped beach.  The dry laid stone walls, the thatched roof stone bar, the picnic tables, and fire pit that cruisers have built over the years may shortly be replaced with more magnificent structures and ‘No Trespassing’ signs.  Or, maybe not.  This is the Bahamas, and they are much better with plans than with accomplishments.

Two days after the party, the cloudy, rainy weather left, the skies cleared, the forecast improved, and we left George Town sailing north to Lee Stocking Island.  It was not far, just a half day’s sail north of George Town.  We had visited Lee Stocking several years ago.  It was a nice place and deserved a return visit.

Lee Stocking Island was home to the Caribbean Marine Research Center. There were houses, science laboratories, workshops, storage buildings, an airstrip, and tons of equipment.  Several US universities sent students to the center to do studies on coral, fish, and conch and to operate the center’s deep dive submarine.  In 2012 NOAA’s research funds were cut, and the center was closed.  Everything was just abandoned in place.  Today it is a Twilight Zone ghost town.

Much to our surprise, a freight boat came into the research center’s dock while we were there.  Men on several small boats came up from Barraterre, a town just to the south, and unloaded boxes on pallets and building supplies then took it all some place on the island in a truck. Kevin and Cris on the sailboat Après Ski told us there are plans to open the center again, but the internet talked of a New Yorker’s plans to develop a "fully sustainable, carbon neutral, five-star sanctuary and wellness retreat" with ”70 luxury hotel villas, 15 private estate villas, an energy farm, spa, organic farm, whole food restaurant…”  Who knows?  Anyway, for the present we could walk anywhere on the largely untouched island.

While anchored at Lee Stocking Island, we climbed to the top of Perry’s Peak, the tallest point in the Exumas, all of 125 feet.  There were great views from the top.  We took a dinghy trip to the nearby Normans Pond Cay where there was an abandoned salt pond and lots of young conch.  In between our shore trips, we swam in the crystal clear water around Irish Eyes.

We left Lee Stocking Island on May 10th.  After a pleasant sail in the Exuma Sound, we anchored off Galliot Cay.  There is a pretty beach on the banks side of Galliot Cay and a rocky, plastic trash covered beach on the Exuma Sound side.  I walked about on the sand beach and played in the shallow water.  Bill, of course, went over to the rocky side to look at the trash.  He came back with yet another big plastic float which he proceeded to tie to our boat’s lifelines.  This one even had a reflective tape covered post sticking out of it’s top.  I have not the faintest idea what he plans to do with all his plastic s___, I mean prizes.

On the day we left Galliot Cay, there had been a local police boat and a Bahamas Defense Forces boat cruising about in the area.  They tied their boats up at a rocky spot on the cay, and several people, both uniformed and not uniformed, came ashore and wandered through the trees and shrubs.  We later learned that they had arrested two Jamaican drug runners and were looking for their island stash.  Thankfully, it was not near where Bill had gone.

Many other boaters had sung the praises of Ty’s Beach Bar on Little Farmer’s Cay.  We decided to pick up our anchor and make the five-mile trip to Ty’s for supper.  Everything went well until Bill discovered that the 1.7m spot on the chart where he was trying to anchor was only 1.5m deep at low tide.  Irish Eyes needs 1.5 meters of water to float, and that 8 inch difference was the difference between floating and sticking.  We were stuck.  Our engine would not move us.  Bill dropped the anchor under the bow and piled 50 feet of chain in a heap beside it on the bottom.  It was all very embarrassing.  Everyone could see Irish Eyes facing in the wrong direction with her chain hanging limply down while the nearby boats bobbed happily about facing into the wind and pulling on their anchors.  We quickly got in our dinghy and went to TY’s Bar to drown our sorrows in a beer and to wait for the tide to rise.  We left the boat so quickly, I forgot my camera, so I do not have any pictures of Irish Eyes aground.  Ty was very friendly and sold us several beers and some great food for supper.  By the time the sun set, Irish Eyes was floating once again.  The sunset was spectacular.  Irish Eyes was right in the center of all the other people’s photos.  At the next low tide in the early morning hours, Irish Eyes’ keel bumped about on the bottom for a short while.  Bill slept through it all peacefully.  I felt every bump.  We left Little Farmers Cay the next morning safely floating on a high and rising tide.

Continuing north, we sailed from Little Farmers Cay to Little Sampson Cay.  On our first several trips to the Exumas, Little Sampson Cay was the home of the beautiful Sampson Cay Club and Marina, and we usually stopped there.  The people who worked on the island were friendly, the food in the restaurant was good, and the bar was a nice place for an ice cold adult beverage.  We have bought food and fuel there, I have done our laundry there, and we have walked all the island’s trails and beaches.  For some reason John Malone, the owner of the property, decided several years ago to make it private for his family’s exclusive use.  The pretty rental houses are still there, but the fuel dock, marina, restaurant and bar are all closed.  ‘No Trespassing’ signs dot the beaches and docks.  We anchored Irish Eyes off the cay and took a dinghy trip around the island.  Everything was pretty, all was well maintained, but nobody was about.  It seemed a shame…

Once again, we were expecting a cold front with some southwest or west winds.  We decided to make our way to the Cambridge Cay Mooring field which offered all around protection from the wind and waves.  The front did pass over us, but it was not a strong one.  Bill and I walked on the beaches, cruised around in the dingy, and swam in the beautiful water.

We left Cambridge Cay continuing north to Warderick Wells, the headquarters cay of the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  The day was hot, without a breath of wind.  The sky was overcast, and looked as if it would pour rain any minute.  We had a reservation in the park’s north mooring field for mooring ball number 14.  The sky got darker and darker.  It really looked ominous with a great black rolling cloud extending from one horizon to the other.  We had just tied to our mooring (second try), and put our things away when the wind suddenly went from zero to thirty knots and the drenching rain came.  Bill filled both our water tanks and all five of our 5-gal plastic jugs with fresh rain water while the wind pushed our stern alarmingly close to the rocky shore, but the mooring held use safely away.  It was nice to have enough water to be able to have a long fresh water rinse after each swim – more than my normally allotted 2 quarts.

The park allows cruisers to leave behind mementos made from driftwood on the top of Boo Boo Hill, the highest point in the park.  We have a large weathered mahogany board there with ‘Irish Eyes’, our names, and the dates of our trips to the Bahamas all carved into the surface.  After walking to the top Boo Boo Hill, we started looking for our sign in the enormous pile.  Bill was searching through the signs when I saw part of ours right on top.  Somehow it had gotten broken in two, perhaps tossed about by last fall’s hurricane Matthew or maybe just stepped on.  We found both pieces and headed back to Irish Eyes where Bill repaired the break and carved the tenth date in the sign, MMXVII.

Bill has made four batches of beer on this trip.  We had bottled and carbonated a 2 gal batch a couple of days before we arrived in Warderick Wells.  A boat I mentioned before, Après Ski, was on the mooring next to us.  Bill asked them over to sample his latest brew.  They were amazed at how good a non-traditional home brewed beer could be.  The next evening, after we put our repaired sign back on the pile, we went to Après Ski to sample Kevin’s homemade conch fritters.  They were great.

Our next stop was Hawksbill Cay.  When we reached the anchoring spot, it looked like a small resort had sprung up on the white sand beach.  A mega yacht, Wheels, had every imaginable toy lined up on the beach for their guests.  There were shade tents over beach chairs, an inflatable slide, jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, and some clear plastic motorized kickboards that would tow a person around while he looked at the coral and fish below.  It was all quite a sight.  The crew from Wheels put all the stuff up every morning and took it all down and back to the yacht every night.  Bill and I walked on the northern sand flats and beaches. Bill walked the trails to both the north and south ocean-side beaches, the Russell Plantation Ruins, and then across the island in three different places.

We spent one night anchored at the southern end of Shroud Cay.  At high tide we took a dinghy trip up the southernmost creek on the island to the ocean side beach.  I think that might be the prettiest spot in the Exumas.  While we were back in Warderick Wells, Bill talked to one of the rangers about three dead tropic birds we had seen earlier in the year on the northern beach at Shroud Cay.  The ranger said there was a dog problem on Shroud Cay.  The island is uninhabited, so we were not sure what he meant.  Walking on the southern beach this visit, we saw lots of dog footprints that did not seem to be with a human footprint.  As we were leaving the beach, we saw three medium sized dogs running along the creek.  They barked and whined at us from shore, but thankfully they could not get to the dinghy.  I guess they had been abandoned on the cay.

Monday, May 23rd was the day to cross Exuma Sound to Eleuthera, the first of several all-day trips.  We headed out early, ringing our ship’s bell as we passed the sailboat Wilma.  Wilma is home to a young German family with four children.  We had first seen them in George Town, newly arrived from the Caribbean, where Bill had given them copies of charts of the Bahamas, and they had given us a box of marzipan from their home town of Lubek.  The children love to swim but were out of the water as they were leaving for Nassau.  For us it was a light wind day, but we managed to sail most of the way to Rock Sound in Eleuthera motoring only the first and last few miles.

We spent five days in Rock Sound.  Bill did the grocery shopping, we ate at Sammy’s Place, and we toured the creeks and beaches around the harbor by dinghy.  One beach had lots of Atlantic winged oyster shells in the shallow water.  It was a shell we seldom see.  I did not pick up all of them, just a few.  It was hot and humid in Rock Sound, but the cure was simple.  Bill had bought two foam rubber pool saddles before we left the states, and every afternoon we jumped in the water, floated in our saddles, drank beer, and cooled off.  Remember all the rainwater in jugs from Warderick Wells?  It got put to good use every afternoon.

It was time to go, and the wind was from the south, so we sailed north up the coast of Eleuthera to Governors Harbour.  The town there was, as always, pretty and active.  We did a little shopping and had dinner at the Buccaneer’s Club.  Bill also bought us two huge conch salads from a local man working out of the back of his truck by the harbor.  The conch salad served us for the next two suppers.

After only one day in Governors Harbour, we made the all-day trip to the northern tip of Eleuthera stopping to anchor at Royal Island.  It was a pleasant trip except it was hot.  We beat the heat with a nice swim in the island’s harbor.  Despite investments by Jack Nicklaus and Roger Staubach, Royal Island is a failed resort development.  There are a clubhouse, one house and several tent hotel rooms that are in use.  There are also an abandoned golf course, decaying roads, and idle construction equipment.  We found the natural harbor nice even without the planned 200 slip marina.

Still moving north, we made another all-day trip from Royal Island to Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.  It was 50 miles in open water with container and tanker ships crossing our path.  The wind died during the day, and we motored most of the way.  The anchor was down before sunset and fortunately for the cook, the last of the Governors Harbour conch salad was in the refrigerator waiting to be served.  The next day we took the dinghy up to Sandy Cay to go snorkeling in the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park.  It was fun to drift in the current looking at the fish and coral below.  Bill had installed little stick-in bifocal lenses in my mask, and I was several times quite confused to find the reef had jumped from far away to too close for comfort.  (I took them out when we got back to the boat.)  We also walked on the Lynyard Cay beaches right up to the newly installed ‘No trespassing beyond this point” signs.  In the past we used to walk over to the ocean side beaches.  Oh well, change; you have to love it.

We left Lynyard Cay May 31st sailing to Marsh Harbour.  I did our laundry while Bill did some grocery shopping.  

The weather forecast is not the best for the next several days.  According to Chis Parker, the short wave radio weather guru, a cold front is going to “fester” in the Gulf Stream and the northern Bahamas for the next several days with squalls and thunderstorms.  It is well protected here in Marsh Harbour, so we will stay a few days to let the weather settle down.