Friday, June 4, 2010

The rainbow in Marsh Harbour was complete, but my camera did not have a wide enough lens to include it all, so here is one end. By May the rainy season had started. Every day there was a chance of an afternoon shower.

These are the shells I picked up on the beaches at Great Guana amd Spoil Cays. I’m only picking up the ones I really like.

We sailed around the ocean side of Whale Cay. These are the waves breaking on the north end of the island. For scale the top of the light tower is 8 meters (about 26 feet) above the water. …and it was a calm day.

Back in the USA. Actually, I’m looking out across the mashes and the Beaufort River from Port Royal, SC. The white dot in the center is an egret wading in the marsh. It is not a thing like the Bahamas.

Greetings to one and all from Beaufort, South Carolina

Yes, we made it back to the US, and yes, we have been moving rapidly north.

We left our Lynard Cay anchorage on May 21 and headed north to Marsh Harbor. Bill needed to find the cause of our overheating engine, and I needed to buy a few groceries. Marsh Harbor is the hub of the Abacos: the biggest town on the island. It even has a stoplight! How is that for big? Bill took apart the engine cooling water system; the raw water strainer, engine driven pump, and heat exchanger. There was a small plastic barcode label stuck in the inlet to the engine heat exchanger. Other than that he found nothing. But, the engine exhaust still seemed hot, and there just was not the usual amount of water coming out with the exhaust. Bill didn’t know what else to do, and I certainly didn’t. While he was working on the cooling water, the regulator on the alternator stopped working. Another downer. We needed a change of pace. Since it was Saturday, we went to the Jib Room for a drink (or two), their steak night special, and the Rake and Scrape music show.

The steak was good and the music show was, well, ok. The same guy who was there two years ago was there again doing the limbo. He was something to see (once). His head actually dragged on the ground as he went under the bar. We did enjoy talking to several new couples we met. Our night out helped us forget all the mechanical troubles.

Bill spent most of Sunday working on the regulator. He came up with an ingenious way to make the alternator work without the regulator by hooking up some light bulbs in one of the wires. I had the completely *untechnical* thought that perhaps while working on the cooling system he may have knocked something loose or splashed a little water on the regulator or some such thing. Bill took my suggestion quite well and cleaned and tightened several electrical connections the last of which got the thing working again. He put his light bulbs away.

In Marsh Harbor there is a cruiser’s net every morning on the VHF radio. The weather forecast is read, businesses tell what is going on, and cruisers introduce themselves and ask questions. On Monday a plea for help was broadcast. Someone had poured used motor oil on the ground behind the dumpster at the local seafood store, and the owner suspected it was a boater. Bill and I went over and helped clean it up. It really wasn’t that big a mess and we enjoyed working with the other boaters. Bill went to the Buck-a-Book store and came back with three books and two conch salads. Buck-a-Book sells donated books for a dollar apiece raising money to care for the wild horses on the island. The conch salads came from the local conch salad man, Steamboat, who sells his wares from a brightly painted street-side stand. He is a colorful local fellow who is always featured in any article or travel documentary on Abaco. We left Marsh Harbor after lunch and headed to Baker’s Bay on Great Guana Cay. When we arrived, the conch salad made for a great supper.

The Baker’s Bay Resort has really changed the looks of the northern end of Great Guana Cay. They have built a nine hole golf course, condominiums, and a marina for mega yachts. The beach is still pretty, so next morning we walked its length. I found several nice shells. Trying to be picky this year, I am not keeping everything I see this time. After lunch we made a long dinghy trip to a little island called Spoil Cay. It sits just inside the Whale Cay cut and is covered with shells that wash in from the ocean. Bill and I walked completely around the little island. Bill knocked a coconut down from a tree and opened it when we got back to the boat. We drank the juice, and he diced the meat. I made chicken curry with coconut that evening for dinner.

To go farther north you have to go around the ocean side of Whale Cay. The cuts that take you out into the ocean and back again can be very rough at times. Wednesday morning seemed like a good day to go out around Whale Cay. We left early and had a fairly smooth trip. Listening to the radio it was apparent that both cuts got worse after we passed through. We anchored off Settlement Harbor at Green Turtle Cay. It rained that afternoon, and the wind picked up from the west making it a rough whitecap filled unprotected anchorage. The downwind dinghy trip to town would have been fairly dry, but the upwind (and upwave) return would have been like taking a swim. We decided to wait till the next morning before venturing to the Settlement.

Green Turtle Settlement is a very neat and attractive town. Most of the buildings are well painted and the gardens well tended. We walked around town and went to the local museum. We had a personal tour led by the elderly museum caretaker. She was a Green Turtle Cay native and had graduated from Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee of all places. She was very proud of Green Turtle Cay. The dinghy trip back to Irish Eyes was, as we expected, very wet.

It was Thursday, and the weather forecast was for winds to switch to the south in a couple of days and the seas to be less than 3 feet in the ocean. It was time to head back to the US. We took the motor off the dinghy, deflated the dinghy, and brought them both on board. With the west wind, it was still windy and rough in the anchorage. We figured if we got to the other side of the Sea of Abaco in the lee of Great Abaco Island it would be calmer. This sounds like a long way to go, but we could see Great Abaco Island from Green Turtle Cay. We were right; it was not nearly as rough on the other side. We motor sailed north along the coast to Hog Cay anchoring in its lee for the night. It was a lot calmer there. Bill again took apart the strainer for the engine cooling water, but this time with a flashlight he found the white mud and sand that was clogging the strainer’s inlet hose. After cleaning the mess out of the hose, the amount of cooling water coming out with the exhaust was back to normal and the engine temperature dropped 30 degrees. Finally that problem was behind us.

Friday morning we were underway by 8am. The wind was perfect for sailing. We put up all three sails and headed east across the Little Bahama Bank toward Florida. We sailed until sunset then turned the motor on to motor sail through the night. The moon was full, so we had plenty of light. As we were crossing the Gulf Stream, a thunderstorm to the south caused us some worry because it had lots of lightning in it, but it never caught us. We saw several ships and a couple of sport fishing boats headed in various directions, but none came near. The most interesting ship had “Dockside Yacht Transport” written on its side. It was headed north in the Gulf Stream filled with at least 25 large boats. That looks like the best way to go back home. Maybe next time…

At 5:30am we took down all the sails as the wind died. At this point it was either motor on to Port Canaveral or turn slightly north and head for St. Augustine. That sounds fairly simple, but the trip to St. Augustine is another day and night of travel. Bill convinced me it was a good thing to keep going. He was right. It was Memorial Day weekend, and Port Canaveral would be a zoo filled with naval ships, cruise ships, jet skis, spot fishing boats, and joy riders. As the day wore on the waves increased and the rocking back and forth became truly annoying. We sailed some and motored some. While sailing we had a pod of spotted dolphins stay with us for almost an hour. We saw a 3 foot long turtle swimming along. Then, when the sun set, everything became just dark and boring. The thunder showers stayed over the land, so we got to see the fireworks but didn’t even have to deal with them ourselves.

Sunday morning found us within sight of the St. Augustine lighthouse and the beach. Bill called the US Customs and Immigrations’ 800 number and gave them our Florida Frequent Boater Card numbers. We were cleared over the phone and didn’t have to appear in person. Thanks goodness. We were under the Bridge of Lions and anchored by 10am. It had been a long 3 days.

We rested all day Sunday not even putting the dinghy in the water until Monday, Memorial Day. Bill went to the St Augustine municipal marina and paid for dinghy dockage which allowed us to use their facilities. Our last unlimited hot water showers were in March. I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes and scrubbed off half my tan. We spent the rest of the day walking around St. Augustine like the rest of the tourists and ending our day with a restaurant meal. By the time we got back on board Irish Eyes, we were ready for bed. It was 8pm. Like I said, it was a long 3 days getting back to Florida. Even after a day and a half, I had not recovered.

Tuesday I did our laundry at the marina while Bill went shopping. Of course that meant walking to the West Marine store and the local used boat stuff store, Sailors Exchange. Among his “finds” was a slightly used but much larger rod and reel. Maybe it will help our fishing. Ever helpful, he also picked up diet cokes, beer, and snack food… his steady diet.

Wednesday, when we began to raise our anchor, someone else’s anchor with 25 feet of chain and lots of nylon rope came up with ours. I did a quick look around to be sure we had not hooked out the anchor of any of the nearby anchored boats, but no, it was just junk lying around on the bottom. Bill had me lift it and its bit of bottom ecology onto the deck with the staysail halyard, and we took the creature covered mess to the marina for them to put in their dumpster. The Bridge of Lions opened for us, and we left St. Augustine through the inlet and headed north under sail in the ocean.

Bill’s original plan was to sail until we got tired of it and duck into say Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, or Cumberland Island for the night. That did not happen. In the spirit of “Always a Distant Horizon” we kept going through the afternoon and the night and the next day. Once again we were treated to thunderstorm fireworks, but we never got the wind and rain, just the show. We entered South Carolina north of Hilton Head Island at Port Royal Sound having missed Georgia entirely. We could have gone on to Beaufort (Bew-Fort) but chose to stop in Port Royal instead. We have never stopped there before, but more importantly had we gone onto Beaufort we would have been late for our 5 o’clock G&T time.

Today we inflated the dinghy, went over to a restaurant dock in Port Royal, and took a walking tour of the town. We came back to the boat with a pound of shrimp bought from the local shrimpers, then motored over to Beaufort and anchored off the town. In Beaufort I bought two more tee shirt dresses (I’m wearing the things out.) while Bill looked at used books.

We are now slowly heading back to New Bern expecting to be there by June 15. I can’t believe it is time to go home! Hope to see you soon.

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