Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Miami Beach the sun sets across the bay behind the Miami skyline – sometimes it’s between buildings, sometimes behind a building.  It is always a show. (Find the airplane in the picture.)

Crossing the Great Bahama Bank between Bimini and New Providence, the sun went down and this light fog rose from the perfectly still water.  The sky and sea merged, and everything turned pink and light blue.

The chart names this little island near Norman’s Cay “One Tree Cay”.  It is.

I’m on the beach waving at you from below Camp Driftwood on Shroud Cay.

We bushwhacked across a stony hill to a seldom visited beach near the northern end of Shroud Cay.  Bill crawled back into this cave.  He said it was shady and cool inside.  I bet it had snakes.

This 8 foot tall contraption had washed up on the shore.  It was aluminum, all welded together, with the yellow hollow plastic things along the bottom.  It was firmly fixed in the sand.  Any idea what it is?

The interior of Shroud Cay is a morass of mangrove creeks and sand flats.  I think the African Queen is just around the corner.  We will wait here for the gin bottles to float by.

Greetings from Big Major’s Spot, Exuma, Bahamas.  I have not been a very good blogger.  Bill asked me tonight if I had given up on writing. We have not had good internet since we arrived in the Bahamas.  My old cell phone has a BTC SIM card that can access the internet if we have a cell phone signal.  Bill and I have been in the mostly uninhabited part of the Exumas.  There are two cell towers in the area.  One at Highbourne Cay and another about 50 miles south in Staniel Cay.  The part of the Exumas between the two towers is really pretty, but, it’s sort of remote. We like it there!  Big Major’s Spot, where we are now, is just over the hill from Staniel Cay with a 300 foot high antenna, so we now have internet.

When I last wrote we were waiting on a higher tide to go through Hell Gate in Georgia.  We made it through all the shallow parts in Georgia: Hell Gate, the Florida Passage, Creighton Narrows, the Little Mud River, and Jekyll Creek without a problem.  However, when we were motoring cross the Sapelo Sound we found a spot of 4’-6” water in a place where the chart said 16’.  Irish Eyes went hard aground on a falling tide. We needed 5’ to float.  It took us about 20 minutes to get off and into deeper water.  We raised our sails and ran the engine while I hung over the edge of the boat to get it to heel over to get the keel off the bottom.  I was not excited about hanging over the edge of the boat.  I was sure the water was very cold.  Thankfully, I did not fall overboard.

It was cold in Georgia and north Florida.  We spent two nights in St Augustine and wore our jackets anytime we were outside.  When we got to Vero Beach it was finally warmer.  It was nice not to have on long underwear and down filled coats.  Finally, on February 13 we arrived in South Beach, Miami Beach.

Our usual anchorage near Belle Isle was unusually crowded.  Bill spent a good bit of our first night sitting in the cockpit watching the closely packed anchored boats dance about in the wind and tide.  He wanted to be sure we were not in danger of hitting any other boat.  As soon as the sun came up, we moved to a more isolated spot near the Julia Tuttle Causeway.  The view of the huge houses and large motor boats along the shore of the Venetian Islands was impressive.  Our new anchorage gave us an opportunity to explore a different, more northern, part of Miami Beach.

It was cold in Miami.  One morning it was 43 degrees!  The local fashionistas were wearing boots, scarves, and hats.  I was sporting a sweatshirt.  We took in the Miami Boat Show on Sunday February 15. Anything and everything a person could possibly want, and not necessarily need, for a boat was on display.  For us it was a cheap day; we only bought two beers.

Bill made two bus trips into Miami to buy boat parts while I stayed on board Irish Eyes.  I was knitting a blanket for our granddaughter Olivia. I finished the blanket, and we sent it along with our winter clothes to Julia in South Carolina.  Goody bye down; good bye long underwear; good bye socks; good bye electric heaters...

South Beach was the perfect place to people-watch.  We did our laundry, bought groceries, shopped a bit, ate in restaurants, and drank in bars all while watching the oddest of people walk by.  It was fun.

The weather forecast for Monday, February 23, was perfect for crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini.  We made our final trip to the grocery store. Bill got fuel and water.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we pulled up our anchor and headed south to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne.  The Sunday boat traffic on Biscayne Bay was heavy.  Boats were everywhere.  It was a zoo.  A jet ski even roared by purposely splashing water into our cockpit.  By sundown all the crazies went home, and we were quietly anchored outside No Name Harbor.  We had an early supper and went to bed ready to go out the Florida Channel in the morning.

Bill’s wristwatch alarm woke us up at 3:00am, and we were underway by 4.  I am not a big fan of going through a narrow shallow channel in the dark on a falling tide with no moon, but we made it just fine.  Our crossing was uneventful and smooth.  We saw lots and lots of Portuguese Man of War jellyfish.  They looked like light blue, clear balloons floating on the surface of the ocean.  The weather forecast for the next two days was favorable for heading east then south from Bimini towards the Exumas; after that – not so good – the wind speed would increase and blow directly at us.  If we spent the night in Bimini, we would be stuck there for at least a week.  We decided to clear in with the Bahamian government in Bimini, buy a case of rum, and leave immediately.

We arrived in Bimini at 2:30pm, docked at Weech’s Bimini Dock, and chatted with Kimini (the dock master).  Bill went to visit customs and immigrations.  We ran across the street and bought a case of rum.  With everything done, we were underway again by 4.  Sailing across the Great Bahama Bank, the sun set with a beautiful green flash, probably the best one we have ever seen.

The wind died completely as the sun set, and it was perfectly calm.  The low level fog (or dew clouds) were rather disconcerting; everything was hazy - gray, pink, or baby blue.  I saw phantom boat lights two or three times when something moved in the water, causing the water to phosphoresce, and lighting the fog from below.  Since it was completely calm, we decided to anchor just before midnight to get some sleep.  We just pulled a mile off to the side of the course line on the chart and anchored.  More phantom boats appeared and disappeared around us.  It was eerie.

At sunrise, we continued on sailing, then motoring, for all the next day and night, arriving at Norman’s Cay before noon on February 25.  As predicted the wind picked up from the south.  We were really glad we had not spent the night in Bimini.  Other boats that crossed over from Miami with us got stuck in Bimini for almost ten days.

We spent two nights at Norman’s Cay, then moved south to Shroud Cay. The creeks at Shroud lead over to beaches on the Exumas Sound side of the island.  In our dinghy we toured the creeks enjoying the beautiful scenery.  The outboard motor on the dinghy was not running very well.  Bill had worked on the motor and thought it would be ok.  Well, the motor didn’t run well, and we managed to damage the propeller by running aground.  Bill rowed us about a mile and a half back home to Irish Eyes.  It was a looong trip.  The biggest risk was that when we came out of the creek and into the open water, the wind and current would sweep us past Irish Eyes, and we would next be in Cuba.  I guess all is well that ends well.  I caught Irish Eyes as we swept by, and of course, Captain Bill had stored away a spare propeller for the outboard. Not a perfect replacement, but one that fit and worked.

A week at Shroud Cay was long enough.  It was time to move.  We made the huge leap, all of 10 miles, down to the south anchorage at Hawksbill Cay.  There we stayed a couple of days swimming, walking the trails, and just soaking up the warm temperature.

Our next stop was Emerald Rock at the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park headquarters on Warderick Wells.  Each year we engrave another year on our sign that stays atop Boo Boo Hill.  We climbed the hill to the large pile of signs from boats and found ours deep in the pile.  The sign had suffered some damage losing the corner that had 2014 carved into it. Bill did some repairs and carved both 2014 and 2015 on the sign.  When we took it back to the hill, Bill found the missing bits.  With our sign resting on Boo Boo Hill, we are assured of good luck in our travels.

On March 11 Bill decided to go hiking on the rocky trails in the park.  I decided not to go along. Bill has boots, I have flip-flops.  After he got back we discovered that the flushing handle on the toilet would not pump.  That is a really bad thing.  I have found a toilet much preferable to a bucket.  My handy captain spent the rest of the afternoon rebuilding the bronze and china beast.  Finally, the pieces were back together, and the toilet was working again.  Whew!

We left Emerald Rock after our fourth night there.  The wind was forecast to blow really hard from the east southeast for several days beginning in the afternoon, and that was where we wanted to go.  We had a quick, but wet, morning sail to Big Major’s Spot where we are now.  The wind did blow, but everything was just fine in this sheltered spot.
The water is beautiful, the temperature goes from about 75 at night to 81 in the daytime, Bill is doing little boat projects, and I am knitting and reading.

Our friends, James and Sandra Little, will be here next week.  They are bringing us a proper replacement outboard propeller along with several other things we forgot.  It will be like Christmas.

Hope Spring comes to you soon.

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