Thursday, April 6, 2017

Washed up on the beaches of Normans Cay we found this SeaDoo, a fiberglass dinghy, an inflatable dinghy, and two motorboats.  All looked great from a distance, but close up, all were wrecks.

While we were at Shroud Cay, the wind blew from the southwest calming the usual surf on the ocean side beaches.  We used the opportunity to visit some that we had never seen before.

Bill patrols the beaches of the Bahamas for “good stuff”.  He was looking for two milk jug crates and found them.  He does look happy with his find, doesn’t he?

The interior of Shroud Cay is a maze of creeks winding through the mangrove swamp.  This camera does not have a wide enough lens to show it all, but here is just a little bit.  We spent three days slowly traveling in the dinghy through these creeks.

Earlier this year several of the pigs at Big Majors Spot died either from dehydration or from being fed large amounts of beer and booze.  They now have this partially completed shelter to get out of the sun, signs saying “no booze”, and an old cooler for a water trough.  I wonder if the pigs miss the beer.

Pirate Beach has been improved with a picnic table donated by the crew of the motor yacht Pirate and treasures left behind by others.  It is quite the resort.

I live in the Tennessee mountains, so having a real sunset every evening is a treat.  No two are alike, every one is different.

Hello from Big Majors Spot in the Bahamas, home of the famous swimming pigs.  We have now been in the islands for three weeks.  On March 20, our refrigeration was fixed, our laundry was done, our groceries were bought, and our fuel and water tanks were full.  We untied our dock lines from the slip at Crandon Park Marina and sailed out into Biscayne Bay to anchor off No Name Harbor at the southern tip of Key Biscayne.  Crandon Park Marina turned out to be a nice place to stay before heading to the Bahamas.  If the anchoring and dinghy-tying-up laws in Miami Beach get any stricter, Crandon Park may replace Miami Beach as our last US port of call.

The Gulf Stream weather forecast for the next day (Tuesday) sounded good for crossing over to Bimini.  Wednesday’s Gulf Stream weather would be even better, but the following two days would be impossible. We needed a total of three days of good weather with the wind from the right direction, not too strong, not too light, and with no rain to get all the way to Highbourne Cay in the Exumas.  Bill and I debated whether we should leave on Tuesday or Wednesday.  We decided that Tuesday would be the better day.  The Gulf Stream would be do-able, Thursday would be a good weather day to travel across the banks, and Thursday afternoon’s bad weather would not catch up with us until after we were in Highborne Cay.  Both of us were ready to go.  We set an alarm for 3am.  After a quick breakfast, we pulled up the anchor and headed out in the dark.  Bill dealt with the anchor while I steered in the moonlight around the other anchored boats and past the tip of Key Biscayne to the Florida Channel and out into the ocean.  I am not a big fan of steering in the dark, but with Bill watching the radar and GPS and calling out the compass courses for me to steer, I got us safely out of Biscayne Bay and into the ocean.

The crossing was sort of comfortable, motor-sailing with 3-4 foot in waves in the Gulf Stream, but the seas dropped to less than a foot as we approached Bimini.  We arrived in Alice Town at Weech’s Dock at 2 pm.  With no one in sight at the marina, we tied ourselves up.  Captain Bill went to Customs and to Immigration to clear us into the Bahamas.  I remained on the boat because as crew I am not allowed to leave the boat until we are cleared into the country.  He returned with our cruising permit, stamped passports, and a mixed case of Bahamian and Haitian rum.  He gave Mr. Weech $20 for the use of his dock, we untied ourselves, and we were gone.  We sailed north around Bimini then east across the Great Bahama Bank.  The wind died, and we motored on.  Bill did his sums and determined that if we kept motoring, we would arrive at the rocky Highborne Cay Wednesday night – in the dark -- not good.  If we anchored for the night on the shallow banks, we would arrive Thursday in the afternoon but after the forecasted 30 to 35 knot east winds started – also not a good plan especially since we would be traveling straight into that strong wind.  The solution to the dilemma was to anchor on the banks for a few hours to delay our arrival until after dawn.  We moved about a mile south of the route that most boats use as they travel between Bimini’s north rock and a place called Mackie Shoal.  We anchored just after sundown, ate supper, went to sleep, woke up at 3 am when the moon rose, and continued motoring east.  The sun came up, the wind filled in, and we sailed on toward Nassau taking turns napping and steering the boat.  The sun set again, the wind went light, and we re-started our engine.  We changed course away from Nassau to pass south of the west end of New Providence Island.  While I slept, Bill and the boat did a mile-long dance in the water to avoid a collision with a south bound oil tanker that altered course ahead of us as she turned to run toward the power plant on the southeast corner of New Providence.  The incident left Bill a little unnerved.  The tanker either did not see us or did not care.  Without any further incident, we arrived at Highbourne Cay as the sun rose at 7:30am.  Fifty-four hours out of Florida, the last leg of the journey to the Bahamas was over.  We both took a long morning nap.

As predicted the wind picked up to 25-20 knots with occasional higher gusts late Thursday afternoon.  We stayed onboard Irish Eyes reading, knitting, doing small boat chores, and resting up.  We watched a 70’s Gardner McKay movie, “How I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew”.  It was a hokey movie.  The six girls mostly smiled and posed.  None of them ever even got her hair wet.

Finally, on Monday, March 27 the wind had settled down, and we were rested up and ready to move on. It was a long trip that day, about 5 miles.  We anchored off Norman’s Cay for the next few days.  Norman’s Cay was being developed with a marina, hotel, and airport all under construction.  We dinghied around the island looking at the excavators at work.  I checked the beaches for shells while Bill looked for “good stuff”.

Our next stop was Shroud Cay.  Shroud is part of the Exumas Land and Sea Park, and except for some trails, the island is untouched.  The creeks leading over to the ocean side beaches are great fun to explore in the dinghy.  We saw lots of fish and sea turtles swimming in the warm creeks, and we walked along the beautiful beaches.  Since we first arrived in Miami, Bill had been looking for two plastic milk crates to hold his project supplies.  He was lucky and found two milk crates in perfect condition, one blue and one black, washed up on the shore.  After cleaning the sand off them, he put them on the boat.  The blue one was from Scotsburn Dairy in Nova Scotia, and the black one was from Hood Dairy in Portland Maine.  It had written on it, “If caught stealing this case, you will be prosecuted”.  I guess the milk crates were just gifts from the sea.  I’m not too worried.

The wind once again had a hand in where we went.  The normally strong southeast wind was broken by one day of light easterlies.  We wanted to go southeast, so we raised our anchor and headed 30 miles southeast to Big Majors Spot, just north of Staniel Cay where we are now anchored.

Since we have been here, we have watched the swimming pigs, we have watched the tourists feed the swimming pigs, we have had our first Bahamian restaurant meal with a Kalik beer, and we have seen and chatted with several people we have meet here in previous years.  The sun is out, the weather warm, the water clear, and the sky blue.
There is a cold front expected to pass over us early Friday morning.  This one has caused some havoc in Alabama and Georgia.  We should have some squalls and west wind, but it should not last long.  Wind from the west is not a great thing here because the islands offer only a few places with protection from that direction.  But, it’s not supposed to be very strong and should shift around to the north quickly.  Our plan is to just stay where we are anchored and ride it out. Our friend, George Brown, will arrive at the Staniel Cay airport on Tuesday, April 11.  We will not go too far from Staniel Cay before then.

A Happy Easter to you all.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When we pass through drawbridges, we talk to the bridge tenders on the VHF radio.  We ask them to open for us, and we thank them after we pass through.  We wave at them, and they wave at us.  The drivers in cars don’t hardly even know the bridge tenders are there.  Most are friendly, and some come out of their control rooms to wave.  They all wish us a good day.

When we anchored in Miami Beach, we had the Miami skyline behind us.  You can see the cranes adding more and more to the city every day.  Did you know that Miami was incorporated in 1896 with a population of 300? It is only 11 years older than Kingsport.

This huge staghorn fern was growing on tree along Alton Road.  It encircles the tree.  I think it is really neat.  Do you?

We were in a slip at Crandon Park Marina doing repairs when this mother manatee and child floated by.  She is big… maybe 1000 lb and 8 feet long.  There are scars on her back and tail where she has been hit by boat propellers.  Manatees are too slow to get out of the way.

This is our engine.  The round thing at the top right is the compressor for our refrigeration.  It is what failed and kept us in Miami.  To the right of it is a brass hand pump that sucks water out of the bottom of our icebox.  It too is new.  Bill broke the old one right after he replaced the compressor.

Greetings from the Crandon Park Marina on Key Biscayne.  Irish Eyes has now been in the Miami area for almost three weeks.  Up to now it’s been warm, windy, and sunny, but Thursday morning it was 56 degrees when we woke up.  Brrrrr.  We have had some mechanical problems which have kept us from leaving for the Bahamas.

We left Vero Beach early on February 20.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and the weather was getting warmer and warmer as we headed south. Monday was Presidents’ Day, and we worried that there would be lots of small boat traffic darting this way and that, but few people seemed to be out.  By 4 that afternoon we were peacefully anchored in Hobe Sound, behind Jupiter Island and its golf courses.  From that point south there were 36 drawbridges before Miami, six of them before the next good place to anchor in North Palm Beach.  It broke Bill’s heart to stop so early, but if we had pressed on and had any delays at the bridges, we would have gotten to Palm Beach in the dark.  Besides, the early stop meant early cocktails.  Hooray!

Tuesday was a long and boring day going through the bridges. Sometimes, we had to wait as much as an hour for a bridge to open.  By 5 o’clock we were in Boca Raton.  There, between the Palmetto Park Bridge and the Camino Real Bridge, is a wide spot east of the ICW called Lake Boca Raton.  I had a hard time thinking of it as a lake.  It was small, and most of it was too shallow for us.  But, we found a suitable spot just off the waterway and happily anchored among several other cruising boats.  Wednesday dawned with rain and wind; it was not good traveling weather.  With no deadlines, we stayed put.  It rained 1.3 inches, and the wind blew 20 knots with frequent gusts up to 30 knots. Bill did some indoor boat projects while I knitted and read.  I liked taking the day off.  It was dry and cozy inside the boat, and it was a welcome break from the bridge marathon.  By 4pm the cold front had passed, the wind stopped blowing, and sky cleared.

We were up and away early Thursday.  There were still bridges ahead, and just north of Miami was Baker’s Haulover, a shallow spot scheduled to be dredged later in the spring.  We got there at low tide, and the TowBoatUS and SeaTow boats both were circling like vultures.  We were more than a little worried.  Although at times we only had inches of water below our keel, we luckily never touched the bottom.  The drawbridges were not a problem either, except for Miami’s 79th Street Bridge.  We called the bridge tender twice on the VHF radio without getting a response.  After 15 or 20 minutes, the bridge tender came outside his ‘house’ and looked around for awhile, then he went back and called us on the radio asking if we wanted an opening.  He must have been taking a nap when we first arrived.  After passing through his bridge and traveling a mile or more, we looked back and his bridge was still in the up position.  Four lanes of traffic were still stopped.  Maybe the guy just quit and went home, who knows.

By suppertime we were safely anchored in Biscayne Bay near the Miami Beach Mt. Sinai Hospital.  Our friends on Dot’s Way were anchored nearby as well as a large motor yacht, Rockstar.  Whew.  We had cleared the first big hurdle of our journey.

Next, we needed to fix a couple of things that had raised their heads on the way down.  First up was the inflatable dinghy and its new outboard motor.  When going fast on a plane, the outboard propeller would suck air, the engine would speed up, and the dinghy would slow down.  That cycle would be repeated over and over.  Calls to the shop that sold us the engine and to the dinghy manufacturer gave us three possible fixes.  We could saw a notch in the dinghy transom to lower the engine thus putting the propeller deeper in the water.  We could pump up the inflatable dinghy really, really hard thinking that the heavier new engine needed a harder dinghy to support its weight.  Or, we could buy a pair of hydrofoil fins and bolt them to the engine anti-cavitation plate to make the plate bigger and keep air from being sucked into the propeller.  Cutting the dinghy transom just seemed too drastic.  Pumping the dinghy up hard seemed easy at first, but the foot pump was in the bottom of the port cockpit locker and too hard (?) for Bill to bother to dig out.  Buying hydrofoil fins and bolting them to the engine appealed to Bill.  He could buy them at West Marine, and he never passes up a chance to go shopping at West Marine.  Off we went on the MetroBus, MetroMover, and finally MetroRail.  Bill got to visit his favorite store (and buy a few things he didn’t need), and I (that is we) had a nice lunch at a Coconut Grove restaurant.  Back at the boat, pumping up the dinghy fixed the problem, and later attaching the hydrofoil fins to the outboard helped the dinghy get up on a plane faster.

Our second problem was the VHF radio.  On the boat the VHF is like the telephone.  We use it daily, not only to talk to other boats, listen to the weather forecasts, and call marinas, but we also use it like an old party line telephone to listen in on our neighbor’s conversations.  That’s really important, right?  Anyway, last year we were disappointed in the radio’s range, so in the fall during our annual haul out, Bill had the cable to the antenna replaced.  That made things worse, not better.  He suspected the yard had done a poor job of soldering the connectors on the ends of the wire.  He wanted to solder the connectors himself.  There are four of them; one at the radio, two at the bottom of the mast, and a final one at the very top of the mast.  Bill bought a super-duper, hotter-than-hot soldering gun for the job and did the first three by himself.  Now, the last one; that one was a problem.  It was at the top of the mast, almost 50 feet in the air, and I had to pull Bill, his tools, and an extension cord up there.  Yuck.  Well, I did it.  Bill re-soldered the connector.  The radio became much better.

After supper Saturday night Bill was washing the dishes, and we were running the engine to cool the frig and charge the batteries.  Bill said, “I smell something burning.”  Living in a plastic and wood boat with 50 gallons of diesel oil, five gallons of gasoline, and 40 pounds of propane, that was not what I wanted to hear.  Both of us immediately began looking for the fire.  It turned out that the electric clutch on the refrigeration compressor that is mounted on the engine had shorted out and burned up.  A fuse blew and stopped the smoke, but we no longer had our best way of keeping the freezer and refrigerator cold.  We could still run the engine with its alternator to make 12v electricity, change the 12v into 125v with our inverter, and use that electricity to run the much smaller cooling system that we use when we have normal electricity in marinas.

Bill decided that night that, if he had the right tools, he could replace the burned up clutch himself.  Sunday, he went to Advance Auto, bought some tools, and set to work.  Everything was going well until there was a loud bang, and oil and Freon blew out of the compressor.  Somehow, he had damaged a seal causing all the refrigerator gas to leak out.  Now, the whole compressor was trash, and all our Freon was gone.  Bill found the business card of the local refrigeration technician who repaired the system in 2011 and gave him a call Monday morning.  They talked, he agreed to do the work, and Bill gave him the part number for the compressor on the phone and by email.  We heard from him one more time, but not again.  After ten days Bill got aggravated enough to order a new compressor on ebay, to order a vacuum pump from Amazon, and buy Freon and a gauge set from Advance Auto to do the repairs himself. We moved the boat to the Crandon Park Marina so we would have electricity for the vacuum pump, and in two days Bill had everything running again.

During our refrigeration troubles, we had a lovely surprise.  Our friends Sondra and Tom Price, who used to live in Kingsport, were vacationing in Florida.  They drove to Miami Beach, and Bill and I met them at Books and Books on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall in South Beach for lunch. It was really great to see them.

One of the perks of being in Miami Beach with refrigeration problems, was the chance to try different restaurants.  For our last Sunday lunch in South Beach, we went to a fried chicken place called Yardbird.  It was not your regular KYC sort of place.  We had a starter of deviled eggs topped with fish roe, followed by a platter of fried chicken served with cheese waffles and watermelon.  There was a spicy hot sauce for the chicken and a bourbon-maple syrup for the waffles.  Dessert was bacon doughnuts with butterscotch sauce.  It was a different and memorable meal.

It was time to start getting ready to cross to the Bahamas.  As Bill was finishing up on the refrigeration, I caught up on the laundry.  Since we were in a marina, it was an easy walk down the dock and across the parking lot to the washing machine and dryer and where I did everything alone.  It was so much easier than loading everything in the dinghy, leaving the anchored boat and going ashore, carrying all the clothes and things to the laundromat, dealing with other people doing their laundry, then toting everything back to Irish Eyes.  Thursday was the first grocery store perishables run.  We took the bus to the Winn Dixie here in Key Biscayne.  Bill went to the hardware store while I shopped, and we returned on the bus.  There is still more food to buy, water tanks to fill, and things to do before we can leave.  I just hope nothing else breaks.

The five-day forecast this morning showed calmer winds with good weather for crossing the Gulf Stream early next week, and we hope to use it.

As it says on my tee shirt, "Life is good".

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wherever we go we have dolphins playing around us.  Sometimes they seem to be looking at us from above the water.  Sometimes they seem to be chasing fish disturbed by our propeller.  And sometimes, they seem to be just playing.

Between Beaufort, SC and Paris Island we fell in with a fleet of racing sailboats.  We ran our engine to stay out of their way and to stay out of their wind.  They certainly worked harder at sailing than we do.

The salt marshes in Georgia are in many places completely undeveloped.  I find them oddly beautiful.  Our problem with them is that they are also shallow with a large tidal range.  It can sometimes be a challenge to press our 5-foot draft through the shallow spots.

Cumberland Island in Georgia has woods full of lots and lots of armadillos.  We saw perhaps 15 in one afternoon.  They seem to be even more stupid and slower than their more familiar (to us) close relative, the possum.

Cumberland Island is a national park.  Most of the island was used by the Carnegie family as a winter vacation and social gathering spot.  This is Plum Orchard, one of the family homes.  We took a guided tour of the inside.

Every Trident nuclear missile submarine needs to be degaussed before setting off to sea.  If you have a submarine that needs a little degaussing, come to the Kings Bay Naval Base.  We hear they do a bang up job.  This degaussing station is where you will need to go.

Sunrise in the Palm Coast Marina found us hard aground, healing to starboard, and stuck in our slip at low tide.  We had to wait for the water to return to leave.  Why were the larger boats to the left and right of us not aground?  What did we do wrong?  Curious minds want to know.

Hello from Vero Beach.  Bill and I are enjoying the warm Florida weather.  For a short time, we were not sure if we would get to the Bahamas this year.  Bill and I both had some health problems.  Bill had hernia repair surgery in November.  I had two surgical procedures to get rid of a kidney stone in December.  Bill’s surgeon released him in December.  My doctor told me on January 5 to pack my bags and get on thet boat.  I did what the doctor ordered.  Packing in earnest began as soon as I got home from that appointment.

On January 13, we had all the things we thought we needed, probably some extra things too, packed into my 1978 Chevy Blazer, and we made 8 hour drive to New Bern, NC.  Over the next twelve days, Bill worked on his project list.  Two big jobs were installing a new alternator on the engine and replacing the fluid in the refrigerator/freezer holding plate, but the whole list had over 30 items.  I shopped for the groceries and the other stuff we needed for the trip.  We saw our dear friends Bill and Phyllis Pardee twice for dinner, and we drove down to Oriental one evening to have supper with our old friend Susan Banks.

On what should have been our last day in New Bern, Bill began the annual maintenance on the dinghy’s outboard motor.  It was the last item on his list.  I was down below when Bill appeared with a handful of rusty metal.  The outboard has a steering shaft that the engine rotates on when it is steered just like the leaves of a door hinge rotate on the pin.  The rusty bits were the remains of the steering shaft.  Bill could still steer the outboard, but it was more than stiff, and the whole thing threatened to come completely apart.  Once we are in the Bahamas our dinghy is like our car.  It is the mode of transportation between land and our boat.  We decided we would feel better with either a repaired outboard or a new one.  Bill called an outboard motor sales and service place.  The fellow there explained how long it would take and how expensive it would be to repair our outboard.  The replacement part would cost $150.00, but it would take many hours of labor to install.  A trip to town and a bruised Visa card later, we became the proud owners of a new Yahama 9.9 horsepower outboard.  By then the wind had picked up, and it was too windy to leave our slip anyway.

At noon the next day, we untied our dock lines and started our trip south.  Our first night out was spent in Adams Creek, a short 4-hour motor and sail down the Neuse River.  The weather was clear, but it was a little cool.  One of my Christmas presents from Bill was a 12-volt bunk heater.  It is like an electric blanket but goes under the sheets.  We gave it a try on our first night out.  I crawled under the covers of what should have been a cold bed, but found it delightfully warm and waiting for me.  It gets my vote for one of the best presents ever.  A cold front passed over us during the morning of January 26 bringing rain and lots of wind.  We took the day off, and stayed where we were.

The trip down the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina was almost uneventful.  I did run us aground at the New River entrance, but we quickly freed ourselves.  The weather was not that cold, but it was windy making it feel colder than what the thermometer said.  My bunk was again toasty warm that night when I was ready for bed… nice.  The tide and current were with us, and we made it by the other trouble spots in NC without any real problem.

In South Carolina we stopped at the Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach.  We walked around the adjacent shops all full of things we did not want or need, then we had dinner with my sister, Elaine, and my brother-in-law, JP.  It was, as usual, good to see Elaine and JP.  The rest of the state passed quickly by.

We timed our trip through the numerous shallow spots in Georgia passing through each at either high tide or at least on a rising tide.  When we got to Cumberland Island, the forecasters were predicting a cold front with thunderstorms and high winds.  It had been a few years since we had been to the northern part of the island, so we anchored in the Brickhill River near Plum Orchard, one of the rather grand Carnegie “cottages”.  We walked across the island to the beach side and found lots of shells on the beach and lots of armadillos in the woods.  The armadillos were slow and stupid creatures.  We could walk to within a yard of them, and they would continue their sniffing and rooting in the leaves.  If we got closer, they would just trundle away.  Later, Bill went for another walk on the island while I baked bread.  (He likes walking in the woods a lot more than I do.)  Bill met a man and two women who were Park Service volunteers living at Plum Orchard.  They told Bill they gave tours of the partially restored house on the hour every day if anyone comes to the door.  We stayed an extra day just to have a tour of Plum Orchard.  The tour was great.  Our docent said that the house had been made safe, but lots remained to be done.  They had some furniture in a few of the rooms and were actively looking for more original or period pieces.  It was easy to see how grand the house had been in its heyday.  I wished the tour had lasted longer than its one hour.  There was far more to marvel over than we saw.

The next morning, we left Cumberland Island and headed on down the ICW entering Florida at last.  It was a warm day, and we made great time.  In the late afternoon, it was time to decide where to anchor for the night.  Bill figured that the sun would set while we were passing through the 10 mile long Cabbage Swamp Canal.  With houses and docks on one side and the swamp on the other, there would be no place to anchor there, but he thought light from the houses would make it easy to see where we were going.  I was not so sure.  The sun went down and it got dark.  It was not so dark in the straight and easy to navigate canal, but it was completely dark when we left the canal and entered the winding Tolomato River.  At our first chance with our spotlight lighting the shore around us, we pulled off to the side and anchored near a Danish sailboat.  After a well-deserved drink, the nearly full moon rose, and we finally could see again.  We had done well.

Our next anchorage was to be at Fort Matanzas, just south of St. Augustine.  It was a beautiful sunny day as we made our way by St Augustine, through the Bridge of Lions, and south to Fort Matanzas.  When we reached Fort Matanzas, it was low tide.  The wakes from the small motor boats buzzing around us were breaking on the shallow shoal between us and the fort.  Captain Bill decided there was not enough water to get to the anchorage.  I heartily agreed.  He decided we would continue and get a slip at the Palm Coast Marina a couple of miles to the south.  Bill called the marina.  The offered a slip without water or electricity for $20 a night.  Never one to pass up a cheap offer, Bill accepted.  We got Irish Eyes tied up in the slip and headed for an unlimited hot water shower.  Clean and fresh smelling, we took a short walk to the European Village, a restaurant filled shopping center.  Both of us enjoyed our dinner at a lovely Portuguese restaurant.  We went to bed feeling safe and well fed.

About 5 in the morning Bill woke up clinging to the side of the bed trying not to roll out.  I found myself hanging onto the other side trying not to roll into Bill.  The slip we were in did not have 5 feet of water in it at low tide.  The tide had gone out leaving Irish Eyes aground and lying on her side.  There was nothing to do but wait.  By 10 tide had risen enough to re-float the boat.  With the help of some guys living on their boats we managed to back out of the thick mud and head south once more.  What an experience.  The slip was only $20.  I guess we got what we paid for.

After Palm Coast, everything was fine; nice temperature, sunny, and not too windy.  All was well until we reached New Smyrna Beach where the ICW meets the Ponce de Leon Inlet.  Once again it was low, low tide. We were following the red and green channel marks but then, whump, we were aground.  It took us several minutes to get off the bottom, and we bumped again before we found enough water to float.  While we were trying to find the deep water, we watched a 40 foot Pacific Seacraft sailboat go by the same spot without any problem.  Oh well.  We passed through New Smyrna and anchored just before entering Mosquito Lagoon. We had a quiet night floating among a collection of rapidly decaying local boats.

Another cold front was headed our way on Valentine’s Day.  We made it to Cocoa, put down our anchor off the town, and decided to spend two nights.  The front brought lots of wind that night and on the second day. Fortunately for us the wind did not keep us from going ashore for a meal and taking a walking trip across the bridge to Merritt Island and the grocery store.

Back on the boat, Bill decided to work on our deck wash down pump. The pump pumps sea water through a hose on the deck allowing Bill to wash the mud off the anchor and its chain as he pulls it up.  The pump had gotten very loud and was tripping its circuit breaker.  Bill discovered a ball bearing in the pump motor was shot.  After another trip across the bridge, this time to West Marine, he had a new wash down pump.  By bedtime it was installed.

The long President’s Day weekend was rapidly approaching.  We decided to make our way to Vero Beach and take a mooring ball to avoid the holiday boat traffic, so here we are.  It takes a while for us to get into the boat routine.  I must learn how to cook on a Barbie-size two-burner stove, to use the small galley space, flush a marine head, and motor along from sunrise to sunset.  I am happy with boat life today.  It helps when we are in warm and sunny Florida.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

We unexpectedly found pigs on a beach at No Name Cay in the northern Abacos.  Like the pigs at Big Majors Spot in the Exumas, they are a major tourist draw.  Look at the people who have come a couple of miles by boat to look at the pigs and feed them.  Why?

The No Name Cay pigs have their own municipal water supply.  It is decorated with ads from local businesses and a thank you note to the “Pig Whisperer” for his relentless dedication to the pigs.  The sign with a picture of a dog and a pig asks “Why do we love one and eat the other” then goes on to list the adorable traits of pigs.  Yuck.

A near constant stream of people come to feed the pigs.  Someone brought them a case of rather large asparagus which they apparently do not have a taste for.  Oh yea, Bill says we eat pigs because they are made out of food.

Just around the corner from the pig beach is a mangrove lined creek.  It was more interesting and prettier than the pigs.  Bill got us a little too close to the mangrove roots, and I am a little worried.  It would be too easy for a snake to be hiding somewhere in there.

In the early morning fog on the Waccamaw River in South Carolina we passed this daymark.  It is a navigational aid and marks one side of the channel.  An osprey nest all but completely covers the red triangle that is the marker.  It is their nesting season, and there are chicks in the nest.

Hello from Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern, NC.  Irish Eyes is back in her home slip.  It will take us a few days to clean up the boat and pack all our things into the ancient Blazer before the well-traveled crew of Irish Eyes heads home.

When I last wrote we were anchored at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.  While we were there Bill made his third and last batch of beer using the ingredients we bought in Miami.  In the evening we shared a glass of the second batch with another cruiser who declared it to be good beer, but both of us already knew that.  From Lynyard Cay we moved a bit north to Tahiti Beach with its sand beach and coconut palms for a few days.  We had several thunderstorms which brought some rain, and the first of the rainy season rain brought mosquitos.  They were hardy little buggers that could fly even when the wind was blowing, so bug repellant spray traveled with us when we went to a restaurant to eat or went shopping --- DEET, the perfume of the rainy season in the Bahamas.

When we had entered the Bahamas in Bimini back in March, we had been given a 90 day leave to stay in the Bahamas.  The clock had been ticking, and we needed to visit the immigrations office in Marsh Harbour to get a 30-day extension.  We anchored the boat in the Marsh Harbour harbor and took a cab to the Government Center on the edge of town.  The cab ride was a great improvement on last year’s long walk in the blazing hot sun.  Cool and dry definitely beat hot and sweaty when we filled out the necessary forms and dealt with the officials.  We got our extensions.  Bill could see no reason to waste money on the return taxi trip, so we walked back.

Marsh Harbour with its one stoplight seemed like a metropolis after months in the smaller islands.  Maxwells, the grocery store, was a real supermarket and the near equal to a Florida Publix.  It was a little overwhelming to see all the goods for sale after doing my shopping in a series of one room stores behind the owner’s house.  I explored Marsh Harbour’s numerous gift shops, and we ate in the local restaurants.  One morning we took our huge bag of dirty clothes to the laundromat.  It was Tuesday, and the office in the laundromat was closed.  That meant we had to get our quarters elsewhere.  I went to the small grocery store next to the laundromat.  The young woman I spoke with said not all quarters would work in the machines, only US coins and older Bahamian coins would work.  The woman kindly sorted through the quarters in her cash drawer to find the good ones and asked the other cashiers to do the same.  That was enough to get me started.  I sent Bill to the bank to get more quarters.  The bank tellers were not as accommodating as the store cashiers.  They just gave Bill a roll of quarters in exchange for his ten-dollar bill.  Bill and I had to sort through the quarters to find ones that would work.  Our success rate was less than thirty percent.  Finally, after several more trips to the bank, I had enough good quarters to finish our laundry and a pirate’s treasure of quarters that would not work.  I had forgotten to bring my DEET, and the mosquitoes that were busily hatching in the broken machines behind the laundromat had a feast on my legs.  I moved to the front of the building, so that the bugs would have to fly farther to get me.  It didn’t help much.  Later, and fortunately for us, on our last trip to Maxwells, the cashier saw Bill’s box of quarters and asked if he wanted to exchange them with her.  The answer was yes, and she counted the pile and gave him bills.  Bill and I were afraid we would be giving away Bahamian quarters for Christmas presents.

We listened to the radio weather reports and studied the internet.  Tropical storm Bonnie would go up the United States east coast, there would be a pause in the weather, and then another larger area of bad weather would follow.  That bad weather would last perhaps two weeks in the Bahamas.  While we don’t really think that the weather can be forecast three weeks in advance, it sounded like the “pause” would be a good time to sail for home.  If we went slowly up the northern Abacos and let Bonnie get out of the way, we could be back in the US before the two weeks of nasty weather arrived in the Bahamas.  Yep, it was time to head north.

We left Marsh Harbour and after a short stop at Bakers Bay, went around the ocean side of Whale Cay, and anchored at No Name Cay which is just south of Green Turtle Cay.  As a surprise to us, No Name Cay had pigs.  These lucky pigs had a 1000-gallon water tank, plastic boxes for shelter, and a keeper who wore a pig keeper tee shirt and came every day to feed them split coconuts.  A constant stream of motorboats from the local resorts brought guests to see the pigs.  During daylight there were always at least ten people standing on the beach looking at the pigs and offering them something to eat.  Unlike the Big Majors Spot pigs, the No Name Cay pigs didn’t swim out to greet the people bringing them food, but maybe these pigs were just new at the game and needed to learn that skill.  I am still mystified by the lure of pigs.  Why do rich people want to feed pigs on a beach?  What is the draw?  I much more enjoyed taking a dinghy tour of the mangrove lined creek that flowed through the island.  It was very interesting.  I had never seen such a forest of head high, twisted and tangled, red mangrove roots reaching down into fish filled water before.  If it had not looked so snake-y, I would have stayed longer.

Tired of two days of tourists and pigs, we motored to Green Turtle Cay towing our dinghy behind.  We went ashore to drop off some trash, buy a loaf of bread, stretch our legs, and take a look around.  It was sunny, still, and hot, and we were about the only people moving around.  We stopped at Miss Emily’s famous Blue Bee Bar to get out of the sun, sit down, have a beer, and cool off.  An old business card from our first visit to the Blue Bee Bar in perhaps 1986 was back on the boat.  My guess is that the business has been there much longer than that.

The wind continued to be extremely light.  We motored up the Sea Abaco stopping first at Allans-Pensacola Cay for one night.  The sand fleas there were terrible.  Our attempt at a beach walk was ambushed by the sharp toothed flying beasts.  We put in all the screens before sundown, then we sprayed the screens with insecticide to stop any fleas that could fit through the holes.  I do not like biting bugs.  The next day we motored all day to get to Great Sale Cay.  That would be our last night in the Bahamas.  We anchored off of a small sandy beach, so we could have one last beach walk.  Well, the beach was rocky and not very pretty.  Bill walked around the corner to look at a wrecked sailboat and scared up a big black pig with tusks that been busy rooting in the sand along the shore.  It charged out of the brush sounding like a galloping horse, and gave me a fright.  What is it with pigs?  This one was truly wild.  I have no idea how that black pig got there.  Great Sale Cay is not close to any town.  There is not a thing on the island except trees and shrubs.  Back at the boat, we put the deflated dinghy on the deck, mounted the dinghy’s outboard on the stern rail, and took a last swim in the Bahamas.  Sad.

On Tuesday, May 31 we were underway by 8am headed for Charleston staying east of the Gulf Stream.  There was no wind, so we were motoring.  After a day of motoring, Bill was worried that we would run out of fuel before we got to Charleston.  He altered our course to the west to put us in the Gulf Stream both to give us a little push to the north and to put us closer to the Florida coast in case we needed to stop for fuel.  Fortunately, the wind did pick up at times letting us turn off the engine and sail.  Nothing exciting happened on our three-day trip.  We saw a few ships, dolphins, and birds.  In the evenings there were thunderstorms all around us, but none came over us.  Watching lightning strike the nearby water was impressive.  We were just glad it was nearby, not close.

We entered Charleston Harbor just after 8am on June 3, tied up alongside the Mega Dock at the Charleston City Marina, and were officially cleared into the United States by Customs and Border Protection before noon.  It was hot.  We were probably the only boat without air conditioning on the dock; and the smallest, too.  The motor yacht Fountainhead was our neighbor.  Google “yacht Fountainhead” to see all the details.  Trust me when I say it is bigger than Irish Eyes.  It was flying a Cayman Islands flag which means it is registered there to avoid US taxes.  We fly a US flag.  That Is all I am going to say about that subject.

Our stay in Charleston was short, one night.  The forecasted nasty weather behind us had spawned a tropical storm named Colin.  Ahead of it, thunderstorms were predicted for coastal waters.  We made the decision to go up the ICW towards Georgetown and anchor there for the night.  The greenhead flies followed us in spite of my swatting and killing hundreds.  At McClellanville, the water was 4.5 feet deep.  We pushed poor Irish Eyes’ 5 foot draft through the mud for about a mile. Maybe if everyone paid their taxes, the Corps of Engineers could afford to dredge the waterway.  At sunset we anchored in the Waccamaw River just north of Georgetown.

Tropical Storm Colin was to cross Florida and come straight up the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.  The forecast was for 6 inches of rain and 50 knots of wind.  With that forecast we decided to stay on the ICW.  We stopped early the next day in Thoroughfare Creek off the Waccamaw River so that Bill could go swimming and look at the rudder which was acting funny after our mile of mud.  The fresh water and sandy beach attracted a lot of local motor boaters who spent the afternoon swimming and partying.  It was entertaining to watch.  When it started to thunder everyone left, and we had a peaceful night all by ourselves.

The next two nights were spent in Little River in the marina.  We saw my sister and brother-in-law which as always was fun.  Tropical Storm Colin turned out to be for us a non-event.  It rained a little and the wind blew a little, but it was nothing like the forecast.  The barometer did drop to 1004 mb Monday night, and that was really the only unusual thing.  When we got up Tuesday morning, the bad weather was gone and the sky was clearing.

We left through the Little River Inlet and sailed out into the Atlantic past Sunset Beach, Holden Beach, and Oak Island to the Cape Fear River.  The current and wind were both against us in the river making the trip upstream slow and tiresome.  It was almost sunset when we anchored at Carolina Beach.

Our plan was to motor to Wrightsville Beach, rest there until after supper, then go out through the Masonboro Inlet into the ocean and sail overnight to Beaufort Inlet.  From there we would motor in the ICW to Adams Creek, rest and spend the night there, then sail to New Bern the next day.  That was exactly what we did.

The trip to Beaufort was sixty-six miles long.  It would have been a stretch to sail that far in the daylight.  We chose to leave before sunset and arrive after sunrise to make the passages through both inlets easier even though it meant traveling mostly in the dark.  One year we came through the Beaufort Inlet in the dark at 11:00pm.  It was scary, and I’m not doing that again.

We sailed the entire way from Masonboro Inlet to Beaufort Inlet only turning the engine on to pass through the inlets.  In the dark I was confused for several minutes by different colored lights going on and off behind us, but I eventually realized that they were fireworks just over the horizon at Carolina Beach.  Bill saw some military flares when the Marines at Camp Lejeune lit up Onslow Beach for an hour or so.  There were no other surprises, and it was a nice sail.

When we got to Adams Creek we anchored, ate lunch, took a nap, had supper, and slept like babies through the cool night.

Saturday, June 11 we were up early and on our way to Northwest Creek Marina sailing up the river with all three sails set.  This was the last leg of the journey.  We were tied up in our slip and chatting with our neighbors before lunch – 139 days away from our slip and with just less than 2000 nautical miles under our keel.

The cleanup has begun and the packing will follow shortly.  This was our 9th trip to the Bahamas on Irish Eyes.  Bill and I are still speaking to each other after 4 months in a space 34 feet by 10-1/2 feet.  We had fun together and will probably do it again.

We will be home soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Anchored at Staniel Cay one morning Francois came over from the nearby anchored boat, Kel Bel Vie, in his dinghy to tell us that he had taken pictures of our boat the evening before.  This is one of them.  Nice, huh?

From time to time we have found flying fish on our deck in the morning.  This year we have twice found squid.  This one left a mark on our dodger window four feet above the water before falling to the deck where he left a nice ink stain.  I did not know squid could fly.

The ocean side beaches on Great Guana Cay are rocky cliffs.  The view goes for miles.

In low spots between the cliffs, plastic trash washes ashore.  It is a horrible thing.  Don’t dump things in the sea.

The Bahamas are made of limestone, so of course there are caves.  Bill took this flash picture inside one of them.  The fresh water filled pool is big enough to swim in.  I would not go in.  It was big and dark.  You never know what might be waiting inside.

We are allowed to have up to six conchs on the boat at any one time.  We stumbled into three large ones which Bill cleaned and I cooked.  They are just big, slimy snails.  See the slime dripping from the thing.

This is a a lionfish.  They are pretty, but they are dangerous.  Besides the feather-like spines you see, the fish has needle sharp poisonous spines that can cause a nasty sting.  Bill and Russ Veldman speared eight of the fish, and we ate them for dinner.

Warderick Wells is an island in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  It is illegal to collect shells there, so people have picked them up off the beach and used them as cairns to mark the trails.  I think they are prettier than the usual piles of rocks.

This is the ninth year we have been to the Bahamas.  We put this sign on top of a hill near the park headquarters the first year, and we have carved each year’s date into it every year since.

One coral head we swam around was inhabited by hundreds of French grunts.  This is just part of the school that was passing by below me.  Russ accidentally speared one of these the day we got the lionfish.  We ate that one along with all the lionfish.

I am going to call these four fish ‘angelfish’ because try as I might and looking in my books, I can’t tell if they are French angelfish or gray angelfish.

This spotfin butterflyfish was leading a school of French grunts around and around a coral head.

Purple sea fans just wave back and forth majestically in the current all day, every day.

Sometimes I think the queen angelfish are the prettiest fish on the reef.

I had this beach at the north end of Shroud Cay all to myself.  Mine were the only footprints.

As we were sailing from Ship Channel Cay to Egg Island, an Australian catamaran overtook us.  He was already anchored at Egg Island when we arrived, and he brought us this picture of our boat under sail.

Approaching Abaco the first thing we saw on the horizon were forest fires on the southern end of the island.  The sun shining through the smoke cloud made it look like the sea was on fire as well.

The day after we arrived in Abaco, we took the dinghy to Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour for a cheeseburger and beer.  That is a Bahamas national flag flying outside.

It has been a long time since I have written.  [I am sorry, Dorman, but I have been busy.]  To make up for my tardiness, I added a lot of pictures this time.

Julia, Josh, Isabella, and Olivia arrived at the Staniel Cay airport on April 2.  We were really glad to see them.  They had a delayed flight then security problems, and they almost missed their flight from Nassau to Staniel Cay.  Unfortunately, their bags were still in Nassau.  Julia had her purse with her, and the girls had their backpacks, but none of their checked luggage made it.  After a little shopping for necessities, we all went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a cold drink (or two) and a late lunch.  Suitably recovered, all six of us piled into our little four-man dinghy and headed to Irish Eyes which was anchored in front of the famous Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame.

Early the next morning Bill and Josh went back to the airport to see if the luggage had come on the 8:00 flight from Nassau.  The bags made it; Josh had his short pants, and Isabella and Olivia had their bathing suits. We were all set.

We made a quick run over to Pig Beach at Big Major’s Spot to fed the pigs the leftover pancakes from our breakfast.  I still am amazed at the number of people who pay good money to see the swimming pigs.  There are several motorboat adventure tour companies that bring people 70 miles south from Nassau or 50 miles north from George Town just to feed the pigs.  The pigs swim out to greet boats, and the pigs, like pigs anywhere, eat nearly anything they are offered.

The weather forecast for the time of our guests' stay was not the best – a couple of good days, a too windy or maybe stormy day, then some more good days.  We headed north to Cambridge Cay hoping to get a mooring ball in the protected harbor where the kids could swim and play on the beach during the bad weather.  When we arrived all the balls were full and there were several boats anchored waiting like vultures for someone to leave.  We cruised through the mooring field and anchored off of Bell Island.  The evening was pleasant with a beach walk, a swim, dinner, and an early night.

Not far from Bell Island was a shallow coral area called the Sea Aquarium.  There were tons of different fish and beautiful coral outcroppings making it a great place to snorkel.  Isabella and Olivia each had a new mask and snorkel.  The snorkels were not very well made, and they leaked.  That was okay.  The kids were not going to dive under the water - just floating on the surface, drifting along in the current, and looking at the fish and coral below.  Isabella and I swam off together looking at the fish. Isabella raised her head and said the clown fish and the parrot fish looked like they had on make-up.  She was right.  They did.  Olivia, at age four, simply screamed.  The hundreds of fish swimming around her were frightening, actually terrifying.  All she wanted was to get out of the water and back to the safety of the dinghy.  Later on Irish Eyes, Isabella was looking at fish books identifying the different fish she had seen.  She recognized several in the photos.  Her sister, Olivia, said the fish she saw were straight.  They were silver and had yellow on them.  I found a picture of a yellowtail snapper, and she immediately said, “That’s it.”  Olivia had indeed seen fish.

Unable to get a mooring at Cambridge Cay, our best course of action seemed to be to return to Big Majors Spot where we would have reasonable protection from the strong northeast wind and rain predicted for later in the day.  The wind was supposed to be light and variable or maybe light from the northeast in the morning before picking up in the late afternoon.  We pulled up Irish Eyes’ anchor and headed back south.  The wind fooled the weather forecasters.  Half way to Big Majors Spot the sky darkened, and the wind began blowing about 20 knots from the south.  Not a fun sail.  It was a rough, wet motorsail into the wind with water coming over the deck.  At one point I looked at the knot meter and our speed was 0.9 knots, barely crawling.  Bill and I normally would not travel in conditions like that, but we were.  Isabella, Oliva and Josh were fine.  Julia was a little green, although she improved after a dose of Dramamine. 

It took us about four hours to get to Big Major’s Spot.  Just after we arrived the sky to the north turned very dark, the wind swung to the northeast, and it rained hard.  Isabella and Olivia helped Bill catch ten gallons of rainwater in plastic jugs.  I had not rinsed myself off from our snorkeling adventure, so I sat outside in the rain, but the wind was cool and the rain drops were big enough to hurt.  I finished my shower indoors.

The next morning the sky was a brilliant blue with plenty of sunshine. The Self family and I headed to Pirate Beach at Big Major’s.  Over the years several cruising boats had brought picnic tables, chairs, a grill, decorations, and even corn hole equipment to the small beach.  It was a great spot for just hanging out.  Olivia would later say it was her favorite place.

We took several dinghy trips to other nearby beaches in the next couple of days.  One afternoon we waded on a nearby sandbar looking for sand dollars.  Everyone found at least one. I found a camera.  It was a disposable camera, full of sand.  I hope whoever lost it had another camera with pictures of their trip.

Sadly, the Self family had to go back home on April 7th.  The girls had school and Josh had work.  Their journey did not get off to a good start. There was an especially big crowd at the airport, and it took three plane trips to ferry everyone to Nassau.  As luck would have it, the Selfs ended up on the third plane (which was actually the first plane on its second trip).  That made their connection in Nassau tight, but they make it.  As they were getting on the plane, Olivia told Josh that she wished they were getting off the plane and just beginning their vacation.  Me too, sigh.

Our friends Bill and Phyllis on the motorboat ‘Oh My!’ were also anchored at Big Major’s Spot.  We spent the next couple of days catching up with them first at a beach potluck dinner then later on a dinghy trip looking for sand dollars and shells.  Friends kept us from feeling too lonely.

We stayed at Big Major’s Spot for a while.  Bill made another batch of beer (which was very good), and we weathered a dry cold front.  The cold front meant lots of wind, cloudy skies, and slightly lower temperatures.  It dropped from 77 to 72 degrees which at the time seemed quite cool to us.  On April 12th it was time to move on.  The garbage was full, and we needed a few gallons of water.  We said good-bye to our friends and headed south to Black Point.

In Black Point Bill went ashore, filled two jugs with water from the town’s tap, dropped our garbage in their trash trailer, and put a little money in the donation box on the trailer.  He met the folks from ‘Cookie Monster’ and made arrangements to meet them at Scorpio’s for the Cruiser’s Happy Hour.

There were several boats in the harbor, so the Happy Hour was lots of fun.  Robin from ‘Cookie Monster’ was a retired math teacher.  She had taught at the Black Point All Age School when she was in Black Point before.  The Assistant Principal at the school, Mr. Musgrove, came to Scorpio’s to see Robin and arrange for her to teach again.  Bill had brought a couple of refrigeration books along on this trip planning to donate them to the school in hopes that someone would take up the trade because the nearest refrigeration technicians are in Nassau and George Town.  Bill talked to Mr. Musgrove about donating the books to the school library, and Mr. Musgrove invited Bill to come to the school next morning to talk to the kids in the middle grades, all seven of them. The next morning Bill combed his hair, put on his one pair of long pants, socks, shoes, and a collared shirt, and went to the school.  He almost looked respectable.  He talked briefly to the kids about his career as a chemical engineer and left his books.  Robin sat in the corner of the room and smiled.

After the excitement of Black Point, we needed a little peace and quiet.  Starting in Black Point in the north we began a beach-a-day journey down the ten-mile-long uninhabited southern end of Great Guana Cay.  We explored one limestone cave by dinghy and another by foot.  We walked beaches, collected shells, and relaxed.  While anchored at Isaac Bay, we checked out the nearby coral heads with a glass bottom bucket, picked the one that seemed the best, put on our fins and masks, and went exploring.  We saw beautiful tropical fish and several lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive fish from the Pacific with no predators in the Atlantic.  Someone, somewhere released a pair of lionfish and the fish have flourished in the Bahamas.  Although pretty, they eat the native fish and reproduce rapidly.  Lionfish have 18 venomous needle-like spines that can cause a very painful and serious reaction if a spine pierces the skin.

At the south end of Great Guana Cay we turned back north and returned to Black Point.  I did our laundry, and we had dinner and drinks with our friends Dorothy and Glenn from Dot’s Way before continuing on north to Staniel Cay.

In Staniel Cay Bill and I went grocery shopping.  We found almost everything we needed at the Blue Store and the Pink Pearl Supermarket.  The bread lady was baking that morning, so we stopped at her house and bought a loaf of coconut bread and another of white bread.  With clean linens and food aboard, Irish Eyes was ready for guests.

We met Russ and Gayle at the airport, and the four of us had a late lunch/early dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  I do like their grouper fingers.  As we were leaving we watched the fishermen at the dock cleaning their catch.  Dozens and dozens of sharks were feeding on the guts and bones that were tossed into the water.  A local fellow with one arm was trying to convince some young women to wade into the water and pat the feeding sharks on the head.  He leaned over and scratched their heads with his remaining hand saying they were really just pets.  I would like to know how he lost his arm.

After a nice calm evening and good night’s sleep, we pulled up our anchor and made the obligatory stop at Pig Beach. Russ and Gayle saw the swimming pigs.  Later we sailed to Bitter Guana Cay where there are iguanas on the beach.  Some of the adventure tour boats that bring folks to see the pigs, also stop at the Iguana Beach.  There are signs saying not to feed the things, but the iguanas expect food. They eat fruit.  All we had were raisins.  I am not sure they were big fans of raisins.  While they ate the raisins, they sure looked like they expected better.

From Bitter Guana Cay we sailed down to Jack’s Bay Cove on Guana Cay anchoring there with one other boat.  We explored the western side beach with its lone pine tree, crossed over to the little cove on the eastern side of the cay to inspect the piles of plastic sea trash that accumulate there, took the dinghy into the cave in the rocks to the north, then toured the rocky shore on our way back to the boat.

Our next stop was Galliot Cay.  There we found two keeper conch. Bill cleaned them on the beach along with one we had found earlier.  They would later become conch chowder.  Before leaving the next morning, we took the dinghy to Big Farmers Cay where we walked the beach, checked out a small cave, and waded in a mangrove creek.

Returning to the north we anchored in Isaac Bay where we toured the coral head that Bill and I had scouted earlier.  After taking some underwater photographs, the lionfish hunt began.  Bill and Russ speared eight.  Bill said it was like shooting fish in a barrel; it was so easy. While Bill was cleaning the fish, one of the venomous spines pierced Bill’s hand through the thick rubber gloves he was wearing.  The internet says to place a cloth soaked in hot water on the spot as soon as possible.  He did.  Bill said it felt like a hornet sting.  Russ finished cleaning the fish. I poached them in white wine and lime juice. Lionfish have white, flaky meat without a strong fishy taste.  We enjoyed our fish.

We headed to Black Point for a drink and dinner at Scorpio’s.  Dot’s Way sailed past us on their way back from the Ragged Islands and suggested we all meet at Scorpio’s for supper.  We did just that.  Russ and Gayle enjoyed talking with the other cruisers in the restaurant.

We spent the last night of Russ and Gayle’s Bahamian adventure anchored at Staniel Cay.  Bill took them to the airport in the early morning, and we moved the boat back to Big Majors Spot where it was a little calmer.

The weather forecast was grim once again.  A cold front was coming with its west winds and rain.  It was time to find a more protected spot.  We sailed up to Cambridge Cay with its all round protection, this time far enough in advance to assure that we could get a mooring ball.  While waiting for the bad weather to arrive, we walked the beaches and sand flats.  The pre-frontal rain came at 3am on Thursday May 5th.  It rained about ¼ of an inch, and we caught a little rain.  The real front came through around 8am with lots of rain and 30-35 knot winds.  The rain was great, we filled both of our water tanks and put 25 gal in plastic jugs to boot.

The following day, we left Cambridge Cay and reserved a mooring at Warderick Wells, the Exuma Park Headquarters.  Some say it has the most beautiful water in the world.  On our first trip to the Bahamas we carved our names, the boat name, and the year in a piece of mahogany we found on the beach.  We left it atop Boo Boo Hill with a pile of similar signs left by other cruisers.  Each trip we have carved another year in that sign.  We climbed the hill and without too much looking found our sign.  Bill carved MMXVI into the sign, and we put it back on the hill.

With summer coming, it was time to head north toward the Carolinas, even if ever so slowly.  After two nights tied to our mooring ball, we left Warderick Wells and spent one night at the south end of Hawksbill Cay.  We took advantage of the calm weather to explore the sand flats and rocky cays at the south end of the cay.  It too was a pretty place.

From Hawksbill we sailed up to Shroud Cay anchoring at the north end of the cay where we stayed three days.  Of course we explored the north mangrove creeks making the loop and going all the way through the island to the ocean side beaches in three places.  We went up north to Little Wax Cay and even to the rocks beyond checking out all the beaches as we went by.  We snorkeled on Neptune’s Oasis, a coral garden we had never visited before.  I loved looking at the beautiful water and sand.

Leaving Shroud Cay we motored in light winds to Ship Channel Cay at the north end of the Exumas then the next day sailed and motored to Egg Island in Eleuthera.  From there we again motored in almost no wind across the 50-mile-wide Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos where we are now anchored off Lynyard Cay.  We will rest there for a day or two then spend the next few weeks in the Abacos before moving on.

We will see you in June.