Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27, 2011

On one of our last days in Miami Beach we went to South Point Park and walked along the paved paths gazing in awe at how much money could be poured into one spot.

This is dawn over the Gulf Stream. Most of the time we had several ships in sight, but there are none in this photograph. The closest we came to any ship was two or three miles.

Thirty miles from land, this little fellow, a bananaquit, landed on our lifelines for a rest on his way to wherever he was going. The breeze has ruffled his feathers a little. While he gave us plenty of time to take his picture, he did not spend any time primping for the camera so he looks a little unkept.

At Normans Cay we were greeted by roaring RIBS as we found ourselves at the finish line of a 30 mile race.

Bill doing what he does best - relaxing in the cockpit shade drinking a beer.

The interior of Shroud Cay is filled with mangrove lined shallow creeks. They wind around and around. Two pass completely through the island to beaches on the Atlantic side of the island.

There are areas inside Shroud Cay that the mangroves have not colonized. At low tide they are desert-like expanses of dry sand.

This is Irish Eyes anchored at Shroud Cay. The boat leaving had been anchored nearby the night before.

We crossed Hawksbill Cay to walk on the beaches there. But, when we arrived we discovered that our flip flops were not really suitable for climbing down the cliffs to the beach. We just walked along the cliff tops and took in the views.

Hello from the beautiful, warm, and sunny Bahamas.

It has been a while since I updated this blog. When I last wrote we were preparing to leave Miami for the Bahamas. While we waited for a cold front to pass over Florida and the sailing weather to improve, I shopped for food and did the laundry. I got a haircut which ended up being very short proving that I was not good at giving instructions to Latinos. At least it will last a long time. We took a day trip to the Aventura Mall, supposedly the 4th largest in the world. It was a two dollar, hour long bus ride from South Beach. The bus drove along Collins Avenue, A1A, right along the beach. We saw all the ritzy hotels and condo towers. The mall was big and expensive. If you wanted a pair of fancy tennis shoes or a piece of trendy jewelry or clothing, Aventura Mall was the place to go. We had lunch there. Bill bought three t-shirts at JC Penny’s, certainly not one of the fancier stores, and I bought a small wooden spoon at Sur La Table. We had an enjoyable and economical day. On the bus ride back, we went by the Fontainebleau Hotel where President Obama was staying the night. There were lots of barricades and police cars, but they just waved the bus through.

Planning on a Monday (March 7) Gulf Stream departure, Saturday became the marathon grocery shopping day. Since we couldn’t carry all the groceries at once, I bought the non-perishables on our first trip to Publix. We got all that put away and decided to run the engine to cool the refrigerator down before I went back for the perishables and frozen food. Bill noticed that the red run light on the fridge was not lit. I flipped the switch on and off, but nothing happened. Bill looked into the engine compartment and discovered the suction line had broken in two at the compressor and all the Freon had escaped. The engine drive refrigeration system was dead. Without refrigeration our trip would be a bad camping experience with all canned food and warm beer. Not good. While we do have backup 125v refrigeration, we would have to stop in a marina every night to get the electricity to use it. We definitely couldn’t spend every night in a marina! We go to places where there aren’t any. Bill was very upset. He could have fixed the system himself, but his vacuum pump and gauges were in the trunk of my car in New Bern. Fortunately, we had talked to a fellow from Awesome Marine Services at the Miami Boat Show and had kept his business card. Monday Bill called Orlando Barreto, and made arrangements to meet him in the Publix parking lot to give him the broken hose to duplicate. Then things got worse. When Bill unscrewed the broken end of the hose from the compressor, he broke the nozzle off the compressor. Bill took Orlando both the hose and the compressor. On Thursday the parts were ready, and we went to Cramden Park Marina on Key Biscayne so Orlando could work on the system. By nightfall the repairs were complete and the refrigeration was working again.

On Friday morning we decided to go back to our South Beach anchorage to buy the last of the groceries and once again catch up on the laundry. It would be more convenient than doing the chores at Key Biscayne although we would have to return to Key Biscayne to leave for Bimini. The weather forecast was good for either a Monday or Tuesday crossing. We shopped and laundered on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday afternoon we motored and sailed to the anchorage outside Key Biscayne’s No Name Harbor to be ready to leave before dawn on Monday.

The alarm woke us up at 3am on March 14th. Bill and I ate a quick breakfast and were underway in the moonless dark by 4:15. The channel to the ocean was not very long, but it has two shallow spots, five or six navigation marks, and lots of worrisome things that crept out of the dark and into my imagination. The waves were a little larger than I would have liked, but they settled down as we went along. This wasn’t our smoothest crossing, but it was our slowest. It was 4pm before we were tied up at Weech’s Bimini Dock. Bill went to customs and immigration and cleared us in. I rested.

I needed to call Julia and Ann to tell them that we had arrived safe and sound. In spite of having been assured by T-Mobile in Florida that I had international roaming, my phone did not receive any service. I borrowed an AT&T phone from another boater and called Julia. Truly frustrated, I went to the liquor and bought eleven bottles of rum. The stuff is very cheap in the Bahamas. After supper we were able to get a WiFi signal. I logged onto T-Mobile’s site and waited 45 minutes for a “live chat” with a customer service representative. I explained the problem. The service person said to switch the phone off, then, after he made a change in their system, he said to switch the phone back on. Presto, change-o the phone worked! I will never understand things like that! While I was waiting to chat, the lobster salesman came by and greeted us warmly. He remembered us from last year. We bought 12 lobster tails for $40. I think we bought the last of his day’s catch. No matter, tastes good. Into the freezer they went.

After a lovely hot shower (my first ashore with unlimited water in five weeks), we set out for the Berry Islands. In years past we have sailed 25 or 30 hours without stopping to reach Nassau. This year the wind was light and the waves were small, so rather than sail overnight we anchored at sundown. We had seen others do it. We just went a mile or so south of the usual route from North Rock to the NW Channel Light to get out of the way. We anchored in a shallow spot called Mackie Shoal with nothing in sight but sea and sky. Although the waves were small, they were large enough to make the boat uncomfortable. I first went to sleep, but later I woke up to lots of boat motion. I decided a Dramamine tablet would help with boat motion anytime, so I got up and took one. It was also a good sleeping pill. I slept like a baby the rest of the night.

Wednesday March 16 dawned bright and calm. We had a Bananaquit, a little yellow and black bird, perching on our life lines. This was truly amazing as the nearest land was Bimini, behind us and 30 miles away! The bird flew away and came back several times. When it finally left for good, I did not see where it was headed. I hope it knew where it was going. This little bird was about the size of a wren. I will never understand how little birds can fly as far as they do.

The fridge broke again. The mount that held the compressor on the engine cracked in two, the compressor fell down a little, and the vee belt went flying off. Bill tried fastening it back with three hose clamps. That lasted about half an hour before they broke. He tried wiring it back with bailing wire. He could not get it tight enough. Finally, he clamped the broken pieces back together with a pair of Vice Grip pliers. That did the trick. It was not perfect, but it worked.

We were headed for Frazer’s Hog Cay, but we were late getting away and our progress was so slow. By mid-afternoon, we knew we would not arrive by dark. We again anchored out of sight of land, this time north of Northwest Shoal. The wind was so calm it was like anchoring in a pond – a pond that reached to the horizon in every direction. Early in the morning we had several boats pass close enough to rock us with their wakes. Once we were underway we saw lots of sport fishing boats taking advantage of the calm seas at a spot where the water depth goes from 6,000 ft to 6 ft in a couple of miles. I hope they caught lots of fish.

We went to the Berry Islands Club and picked up a mooring. Bill took the dinghy to their dock to pay for our night’s stay and get diesel in our fuel jugs to replace what we had burned since Florida. We left early the next morning as the wind and current had us fighting with the mooring ball. Our plan was to head for Rose Island which is just east of New Providence Island (Nassau). The course was an uncomfortable point of sail, hard on the wind with too much heeling for me. The boat went so far over at times that Bill’s new stern mounted bronze bell would ring. It made a pretty good “we are heeling too far” alarm. We changed course and headed for New Providence Island’s Southwest Bay. That ended up being a lovely sail the entire way. We anchored off Tiger Wood’s newly built Albany Resort. From what we could see it looked expensive. A 100+ foot sailboat left the marina at sunset and came out to anchor with us. We have since listened to two mega power yacht captains talk on the radio about Albany Resort. They said it was too expensive and in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think we will make a slip reservation anytime soon. The resort uses about 20% of the island’s fresh water supply just to keep its golf courses green.

The weather forecast for Sunday and Monday said the wind was going to be very strong from the Northeast. We decided on Saturday morning to head for Highbourne Cay which would offer some protection from the wind. The wind was nice, and the sail across the banks was pleasant. There is something about sailing that really makes me tired. Maybe it is just keeping upright on a moving boat. After our 5 days of travel we were pooped. It was nice to drop the anchor and know we didn’t have to move the next day. Sunday we read, knitted, and lazed around. The wind did pick up blowing steadily at 20-25 knots. Monday the wind was still howling. Bill had a new toy – an anchor riding sail. He spent lots of time adjusting his sail. It did help keep the boat from weaving back and forth around its anchor. I baked bread. Since we were confined to the boat, we watched a movie.

The wind died down during the night. We pulled up our anchor and headed for Norman’s Cay on Tuesday. That ‘long’ trip took us about 2 hours. As we entered the anchorage, we noticed a center cockpit motor boat anchored just off the beach. The people on board had lots of fancy cameras and the boat had several flags flying. There was a group of people on the beach who seemed to be talking to the people in the boat. The folks on the beach had fancy cameras too. Bill spotted a little remote control helicopter with a camera flying above the beach. It looked like something from outer space. Our VHF radio picked up the conversation between the beach and the anchored boat. That didn’t help us figure out what was going on because the conversation was in Dutch. All of a sudden a 25 foot RIB boat came roaring into the anchorage followed closely by five more. Someone on the motor boat waved a flag as if this was the end of a race. Well it was. The RIBS had raced the thirty miles from Nassau to Norman’s Cay. The whole group was called Rib Rally. The boats had been shipped over from Holland and the crews were folks paying to play. I managed to get online briefly ( with my Kindle, but I never did find out how much a vacation like that costs. Cruisers from two other anchored boats came over to see the action, and we later ate dinner with them in the Normans Cay Beach Club.

The next day we had another ‘long’ sail, about an hour this time, to Shroud Cay. We anchored near the south creek so we could dinghy up the creek and through the island to the sound-side beach. Our dinghy ride ended up being a dinghy tow. The water was very shallow; to shallow for the outboard. Bill walked along in the water pulling me for a while, and then I got out and walked too. We did make it to the beautiful beach. Bill found an old piece of plastic pipe washed up on the beach which helped him pole the dinghy back to Irish Eyes. He wouldn’t make it in Venice, he can’t sing… and he is not too good at poling a boat either.

We spent another day anchored at Shroud Cay and took the dinghy into a second creek to explore the two beaches that were on the creek’s banks. Among the plastic trash on the beaches Bill found two deflated Happy Birthday balloons that probably blew over from Florida and a restaurant-sized sweet and sour sauce bottle from Lancashire in England. It is sad to see the huge amounts of plastic garbage and fishing gear that washes up on the beaches here.

The wind although light was from the southwest. With no land but Cuba in that direction, our boat pitched up and down with each wave making life aboard a little uncomfortable. We made our third ‘long’ trip, this time to Hawksbill Cay, hoping for a little smoother water. Rather than anchoring we grabbed a mooring ball provided by the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We did not find smoother water, but we did spend two days walking the beach on our side of the island and hiking across the beach to the Exuma Sound side and taking in the gorgeous views from the tops of the cliffs there.

Yesterday, we first motored then sailed to Warderick Wells Cay where we are now. We bought 24 hours of internet access from the park, but I exceeded the 100 Mbytes limit in an hour of looking at pictures of the grandchildren. We went to a party on the nearby beach and met some of the other people here. It was interesting. They ranged from the crew and guests on the 97 foot long “Hooter Patrol” to a couple touring the islands in a folding kayak and from the two Bahamas Defense Forces soldiers stationed here to a newly married couple on a yearlong honeymoon – six months of backpacking in South America and six months sailing.

Today I paid for another day of internet access. Maybe I’ll use it up shopping…

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