Calm Days Mean Move Baby Move!

WOW!!

A full view of the one rainbow and some of the second is visible on the left. Hope Town farewell gift

Before leaving the Abacos we still had a few items on the list- like lunch at Hope Town Inn & Marina. A few years ago they completed a major overhaul, adding pretty villas, a resort-like dining area and a swim-up pool bar.

Swim up pool bar

Swim up pool bar. Have I whetted anyone’s appetite for an island getaway?

As with all resort dining in the Bahamas, the food quality and service is generally excellent. Some places even have reasonable prices, and of course easy access by dinghy.

 

Seafood platter lunch at HT Inn and Marina

We shared a seafood platter lunch at Hope Town Inn and Marina. My libation was a Caribbean Margarita

Tuesday found us in one of our favorite places, Little Harbour. Pete’s wasn’t open (maybe that was a good thing). They celebrate their 50th birthday later in January. Wow- everyone will have a blast I’m sure 🙂

The channel into the harbor from the Sea of Abaco (see photo of chart in prior posting) is narrow and shallow. Many boats can’t enter even at high tide. We happened to get there right about high tide just ahead of a sail cat, trawler and a couple of monohulls who were traveling buddies. One comes in no problem but I looked back and saw the other sitting in the channel, then goes sideways. Uh oh. Turns out the towed dinghy misbehaved; the long painter line getting wrapped around the rudder when the captain slowed way down. One reason we never tow ours.

Buddy boat leaves, boaters come to help and Fregatta has tow line tangled

Buddy boat leaves, boaters come to help and s/v Fregatta has tow line tangled

Several – ok 12-15 salty sailors headed south on Monday Jan 16; seas 6-8ft, ENE 15kts+. They had an exhilarating sail for sure; we heard later it was quite the ride. In our compact power kitty we like much smaller numbers, so we and others (all sails) headed out Wednesday in 2ft swells that diminished to nothing as the day wore on.

The fishing report for Wed: Nadda. No nibbles no sightings.

Pastel sunset at Royal Island, Eleuthera

Pastel sunset at Royal Island, Eleuthera. We anchored off the west end, not needing to enter the harbor

The forecast promised 4, count them, FOUR days of benign traveling conditions, one day of moderate south winds, then a nasty sounding Low pressure system would arrive. If we averaged 53nm/day, that’d get us to George Town Saturday afternoon. Totally doable and we could even stop for fuel at Highbourne Cay, then for laundry and Mom’s coconut bread in Black Point.

Day #2: Thursday Jan 19. Fishing report: one too large to keep barracuda early on before reaching Fleeming Channel. In the spirit of full disclosure I have to admit we made a error in that we came to a stop which allowed the active fish to get tangled around our rudder. Sound sorta familiar? All ended well thankfully, but a line tangled around a prop would ruin our day. We then discussed how to do better next time- cuz what if it’s a fish we want!?

Precious few boats along the way, but naturally we had to alter course to allow the trawler to continue on his chosen path.

Bahamian fishing trawler as we head to Highbourne

Bahamian fishing trawler as we head south to Highbourne Cay

By 4:30 we reached our intended destination: Shroud Cay in the Land and Sea Park. Room to anchor with good holding in 6-8ft. A calm and pretty anchorage we shared with one other shoal draft boat.

Day #3- Friday- another picture perfect day. Shroud Cay to Black Point.

What a great way to start the morning!!

What a great way to start the morning!!

Calm and clear at sunrise

Calm and clear at sunrise.

I love being underway when the wind barely whispers and allows the water to lay still. The visibility is awesome and if you are looking and lucky you might be rewarded with underwater views without having to be in the water!  We came over a section that looked like a sea star nursery; 30-plus orange/red small sea stars scattered about on a bottom that looked a little different –must be the right nursery environment.

Black Point and what we call Little Bay, aka Castle Beach immediately around the southern point are two “must-stops” for me. The harbor looked rather empty, likely due to the impending weather, yet one vessel anchored near Rockside Laundry caught our interest. Why yes, another PDQ family member!

PDQ Soulstice

PDQ Soulstice. The large rectangular building is Rockside Laundry- showers, deck, hair cuts, supplies

The laundry is an excellent place to meet other cruisers and this time was no exception. We still wanted to beach comb (Ok, I did) and when Soulstice came later to Little Bay we got together to finish learning as much about one another as humanly possible.  Oh don’t worry, we did not leave Black Point without Mom’s coconut bread!!

Laundry with a view at Ida's Rockside laundry. TS on left, Soulstice on R

Laundry with a view at Ida’s Rockside. Twin Sisters on left.

Much better, thanks Ida

Hair cut time. Much better, thanks Ida

Day #4- Saturday Jan 21st: Amazingly the forecast held for low SE winds.  This was a good thing, since we planned to trail a line when out in Exuma Sound after leaving the banks side at Farmers Cut. Speed just shy of 7kts, and less than one hour in the Sound- zzziiiinggg!!! The yellow/green color screamed Mahi and so it was. But just not aboard our vessel. The photo below proves we did hook her.

She jumped and zoomed around, mostly toward our port side. We did well, Russ calling out, “Neutral, forward (throttles just in gear, with no speed), go right or straight” as required, to get her reeled in and not wrapped on that prop! With fish of a certain size, my help is needed at the stern, so I leave the helm, throttles in neutral and this is why I want to fish on calm days. Russ has her gaffed and the hook is still in. He’s got her pulled up to the lifelines and has me pour in some rubbing alcohol. Another lesson learned: don’t pour a drink until the guest is fully on deck!  She acted like it was a firecracker; jumped off the gaff, dislodging the hook and flung herself back into Exuma Sound. That would have made a fantastic video, but as you can see we often need a third person for the good stuff. 🙂

Early Mahi gets hooked, but she jumps off gaff & hook when we pour in booze

Early Mahi gets hooked, but she jumps off gaff  when we offer a drink

A short time later Russ landed a SkipJack tuna, ensuring at least one fresh catch dinner.  Still only half way to George Town, let’s keep fishing! Sigh.

One easy chore needed doing so I sent Russ below so he’d get a break from helm duty. I hear a loud splash and look left, about 50ft off our port side. A flash of yellow/green streaks toward our stern just below the surface. I rush into the salon to warn Russ of a possible “Fish on!” and then ZZZIIIIINNNNGGGG. I’m starting to feel like Pavlov’s darn dog: hear the sound, shout Fish On, take the wheel, (being sure to stop Autopilot) and follow instructions. I now “get” the excitement of catching dinner, plus gotta get our money’s worth buying the rod, reel, line, lures, hooks, weights, gaff, net, hook puller, gloves. Sure beats the Cuban yoyo we used to have; I’d always worry we’d catch more than we could handle. We still have one yoyo and sometimes we attach it at the port stern for two lines in.

This guy puts up a good fight and we spent at least 15mins getting him aboard. This time when Russ had him on the gaff and pulled up we undid the top line of the side gate and very slowly pulled him on to deck. We skipped the booze for the fish; but we sure wanted a celebration libation! I mean I never imagined we’d be so successful at a time when the Mahi aren’t schooling. Come March the Mahi are schooling and you can easily catch several all about the same size. We saw that last March at Staniel Cay when there for Russ’s birthday.

thank you for the excitement and dinners

Thank you for the excitement and many meals to come

Once tucked in at RedShanks, Russ began the next step, but did he need help? Nah, just go for it

easy 3 ft I'd say

Easy 3 ft I’d say

 

A Lemon Shark checks out the catch but we don't see him eat the scraps

A Lemon Shark checks out the catch but we don’t see him eat the scraps

 

Next!

Next! SkipJack Tuna. He doesn’t look happy.

 

Ruby red SkipJack tuna meat

Ruby red SkipJack tuna meat

Most of that one long fillet

Approx 1/3 of what Russ skillfully carved off.

 

The cedar plug- Mint Candy Apple is this year's color!

Cedar plug- Mint Candy Apple- this year’s color! Used my light blue nail polish.

 

RedShanks next to Zwoi, Swiss cat, Renee and Heidi

RedShanks next to s/v Zwoi, Swiss sailing cat.  Very calm before the storm

 

Blowin' and rainin' but not as bad as CP forecasted. Whew!

Blowin’ and rainin’ but not as bad as Parker forecasted. Whew!

 

Watching our path as we've swung 120 degrees

Watching our path as we’ve swung 120 degrees

Above is our anchor drag alarm app in use. You set it using the “anchor down” symbol when you drop the hook. Then set the alarm distance and that’s your circle. If the boat goes out of the circle, the alarm sounds. So far the only times it’s sounded is when we forget to turn it off when leaving an anchorage.  Our Ultra anchor has been worth every penny so far.

Once the winds backed down we expected another 4-5 day stretch of near perfect weather, just the thing to allow us to move up and over to Monument Beach on Stocking Island. And who might we meet there?? Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

A New Year with: Benj, Pete and Jack

Glow the Red

Glow the Red Sky at night. Soon will be our delight.

So who are these guys you ask?  Benj our 24-yr-old son, Pete’s Pub and Bar Jack the fish who came to dinner!  New Year’s Day was our long-awaited day, for our son would fly in from the cold VT northlands. How wonderful to see him walking down the dock (he got to the marina fast!) and collect that huge hug that time apart makes so necessary. I’d spent days baking and menu planning and praying the weather would cooperate.  Russ assembled his new fishing gear.

We dined on a lobster dish since Benj doesn’t get much seafood in VT, exchanged tiny Christmas gifts and basically basked in the joy of being together.

Cooking 4 tails for first dinner with Benj

Cooking 4 tails a la shrimp cocktail method. Could also grill but I like this when using the meat in a dish, not alone.

Have you heard of Bees Wrap? It’s a reusable, washable food wrap. Billed as sustainable food storage, the large size is 13″x14″ and comes folded in a thin cardboard envelope. Made in Vermont of course.  Smells wonderful too!

Babka and Benj's gift of Bees Wrap

Our traditional Babka and Benj’s gift of Bees Wrap

Tops on the “while I am here” list was Pete’s Pub and fishing, with paddle boarding and exploring close behind. Monday was a bit brisk but we decided to head down to Little Harbour to get started off on the right foot- well, the right beach bar anyway.

We like to save a project for Benj to help with; another tradition thing. This time, instead of sending our son up a 60 ft mast we sent him into the water to change the zincs. Sometimes “zincs” are made of aluminum but we still call them “zincs”.  We put new ones on when hauled out in September and you can see from the one on the right what it looks like now.

They sure do their job, which is to protect the propeller and shaft from electrolysis.

The new and the 4 month-old one

The brand new “zinc” and the 4 month-old one.

Time for fun. He took to this paddle board like a fish to water. Ah, youth.

Tuesday Benj & I walked over to the beach- had my sea glass baggies but no photo device. I collected a decent handful but Benj landed a fresh off-the-tree coconut. We like when he provides add’l food!  The tall palm had several coconuts laying on the ground but also several ripe ones still attached. In Skee-ball like fashion, he knocks one down on the second try and voila! We have fresh coconut.

I got sea glass, Benj got a coconut!

Amazing guy; sees food, retrieves it and prepares it for delicious eating! Thank you!

Along the road back to the harbor we hear squawking sounds and yep, sure enough, a large flock of Abaco Green Parrots is hanging out in a small pine grove, taking cover in the palm trees and bushes as we inch closer. What a treat to see them up close and personal.

Earlier we’d seen a remora swimming around the boat. He/She appeared again when we tossed the coconut husk pieces in the water. I tried to get a decent shot while kneeling under the stern seat.

Remora checks out coconut husks

Remora checks out coconut husks. False food alarm and not anything worth becoming attached to. 🙂

The fishing gear got readied and inspected, while I tried to think positive thoughts about venturing out the cut to fish offshore. The guys went out in the dinghy- just out of the harbor- to test out the gear and prime the need-to-fish pump!

N Bar to Little Harbour chart view

Little Harbour at chart bottom with the cut that line between the reef. Headed north to next cut at North Bar. We anchored where you see the circled A in pen at top left of photo.

Wednesday morning was good enough to venture out, so we did. Going out one cut, means you have to come in. That worked out well as Mr Bahamas Runner took a nibble and we reeled him in just before we were about to head back in at North Bar.

YaY! He got one.

YaY! He got one.

Same as with the coconut, Benj prepares the fish for eating.

Benj guts and filets his Bar Jack, aka Bahamas Runner

Benj guts and fillets his Bar Jack, aka Bahamas Runner.

 

fresh catch of the day: Bahamas Runner- but we caught him!

Fresh catch of the day: Bahamas Runner. Very good eating, despite looking rough around the edges.

 

Buckaroon Bay- Benj sharpens fish knife

Buckaroon Bay- Benj sharpens fish knife for the next day- was a bit dull for today’s job

Now- cue the Jaws theme and yes! It’s a shark fin moving through the shallows about 5 yds next to us. We all agreed, shark- color, movement looked right, and the book listed at least two possibles for our area.
Let’s see, another blessed low wind day; what shall we do?  Have bait, will fish. The best part, once again did not get photographed; we saw several nurse sharks resting in sandy patches between what was mostly all grassy bottom, on our way out. Maybe the remora needs to leave Little Harbour to find a host.

A bite but no catch. Dolphins though, but not the usual variety.

Off Elbow Cay

Off Elbow Cay- headed for Tilloo Cut

We came back in at Tilloo Cut which is right at Tahiti Beach with a couple of teeny cays alongside as you enter and turn left. Very scenic.

 

Tilloo Cut- looking at the backside of Tahiti Beach

Tilloo Cut- looking at the backside of Tahiti Beach.  That sandy beach has decent beach combing

 

Tahiti Beach -with Lubbers Quarters in background

A closer look at the backside of Tahiti Beach -with Lubbers Quarters in background

A quick lunch aboard then we moved up a mile to anchor off Firefly Resort. Yes, we made it to Firefly for dinner that night!  The next morning, Friday, rather than move the big boat back down to Tahiti Beach Russ ferried us in the dinghy. Me first, then Benj with the paddle board.

 

The next day- looking at Tahiti Beach and out the cut

The next day- looking at Tahiti Beach and out the cut

 

Heading slowl out Tilloo Cut behind a charter cat

Heading slowly out Tilloo Cut behind a charter cat. Blue and calm- just how we like it

And what do you know, another lovely low wind day. By this time I was with the fishing program and actually looking forward to a leisurely (one engine speed 4kts) trip up and around Elbow Cay, entering back in to the Sea of Abaco at North Man o’ War cut. Unfortunately the fish weren’t biting at all.

Elbow Cay Lightouse- ocean view looking in

Elbow Cay Lightouse- ocean view looking in

Seeing Elbow Cay from the outside was a new one for us and after coming in the cut by Man o’ War Cay we had now used three new cuts for a total of four; the only ones we would ever use because Whale Cay cut as you may recall, is one we will never use.

Every morning at 8:15 is the Abaco Cruisers’ Net: weather, Sea of Abaco conditions, cut conditions, community, invitations (local businesses/restaurants), open mic.  The cut conditions are often rated 1- 5, with 5 being the best. I give each one we used between Wednesday and Friday, a Fantastic 5.  Trauma or turbulent 2 or even a Tempting 3 – no way do we do the cuts then.

A cold front would arrive late Saturday so we ended up in Hope Town, on the same mooring as 10 years ago when we chartered a Maine Cat 41 through Cap’n Ron (Abaco Multihull Charters).

Saturday we packed in as much as possible; farm market, walk through town, a visit to Om Grown Greens, beach walk and a late afternoon lighthouse tour.

Om Grown

Om Grown Greens- the greenhouse

These organically grown sprouts, shoots and micro greens began as a personal endeavor and grew into a small business. Om Grown provides their freshies to a handful of grocery stores in the Northwest Bahamas. Every other Saturday they are the main attraction at the tiny farmers market in Hope Town. More great timing for us as now we could stock up (they make a delicious sunflower sprout pasta salad with thick spaghetti, EVOO & garlic) and Benj could farm chat. The owners invited us to see their operation, so we stopped on our way to lunch at On Da Beach.

Ready for delivery to market

Ready for delivery to market. Hardy sprouts- they last a full week in the fridge

Fresh micro greens from OM Grown- delicious pasta salad with greens, garlic. oil & parm

Fresh micro greens and sprouts from OM Grown and that yummy pasta salad

Perfect timing also, to see the action at the lighthouse. In addition to the window re-glazing, an expert had been called in to assist and instruct on how to overhaul, clean and maintain the kerosene system, which hadn’t been done in decades.  While the kerosene lantern was out of commission during this time, a large light-bulb filled in.

temp lightbulb while kerosene lantern is down

Temporary light-bulb while kerosene lantern is down. It is whiter than the warm kerosene glow.

Remember that pallet of kerosene jugs shown in a prior post- they are getting hoisted up now.

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Harbour view from LH- TS is left of Yellow power cat

Harbour view from lighthouse -Twin Sisters is left of yellow power cat, near top of harbour

Sunday found us snug aboard all day, the wind howling and the temps dropping to mid-60s. Monday Benj took the ferry over to Marsh Harbour, ending up safely and uneventfully back in Vermont later that night.

Benj in ferry - Donnie XII

Benj in ferry – the Donnie XII about to depart Hope Town for the 20 min ride to Marsh

We would linger another 5 days in Hope Town before heading the few miles over to Marsh to stock up. Tuesday, January 17 we’d head back down to Little Harbour to stage for departing the Abacos Wednesday morning.  Exumas bound- see you there!!

It’s the Bahamas, mon!

img_3892-800x579In a nutshell: settled weather, cold front, mostly settled, calm, cold front: repeat. Projects in paradise, cell phone works or maybe not. Wifi- oh yes, then oh no. Island Life and if you remember to set your clock to island time, it’s all good.

Our first time in the Bahamas (2011-2012) I don’t recall what we did for phone service but it wasn’t much. We had Sirius/XM weather on the chartplotter and at times would hear weather reports along the way. Wi-fi was readily available at many places: marinas, cafes, and laundromats. In George Town we’d lug our laptop in to town and pay for wi-fi where you could sit and plug in for a while.

Then the Bahamas began making cell service and data more readily available, so if you replaced your SIM card with a Bahamian one you could buy phone and data time. Kinda pricey but easier and not as much need to dinghy in with that oversized laptop. Then we took a year off and RV cruised so the Bahamas could make more progress. Last winter (2015-16) we landed in Bimini and purchased a SIM card for my cell phone which I inherited from Cap’n Russ who got an iPhone 6 that fall. That gave us a Bahamas phone number. Local calls run 15cents/minute for outgoing and incoming local calls are free.  You can text locally too for dirt cheap.

How it works is that you put money on your account, which is a two-part deal; one is calling and the other is data (web, email, local texting). That worked well for us. If you are brave you can try to keep that same phone number alive by putting $5 every month or so on your account. When you return next time and exchange the US phone chip for the Bahamas one, you hope it all works…. and it did! We then put more money on so we could have 5gig of data to use. This data used to expire in 30 days but now it’s longer; a nice improvement on the part of BTC.  You can check your balance easily and Russ keeps track of both balances; calling and data. Good thing too.

In the middle of a call to Marsh Harbour Marina, the call drops and my attempts to call back elicit a voice message insisting we have a lack of funds. This being only my second call since arrival, with an account balance of $13.93, no way did we spend more than $2 so far. Sigh. Russ emails BTC and two days later, no reply but our account now has $13.  Who knows what happened, but I’m not asking.

With two weeks until our marina reservation and three until the best thing a New Year could bring (wanna guess??) we had plenty of time to work our way east from Green Turtle Cay before ending up in Marsh Harbour.

WOW! A newly paved road. Never seen this before in Bahamas

WOW! A newly paved road. Never seen this before in Bahamas. Green Turtle is happy!!!

We walked around the settlement (beaches too), checking out the lobster dinner specials, purchasing the always beautiful Bahamas calendar and spending over $7 for a pineapple. Oh and then add 7.5% VAT ( which is really a sales/use tax on just about everything). Not sure how the average Bahamian affords food, household goods, etc.

Church

New Plymouth , Green Turtle Cay. Church looking festive.

 

A real fixer upper

A real fixer upper, ready to fall any moment

After the winds abated we waved good-bye to Green Turtle Cay.  No turtles spotted; however we did see a Swallowtail Kite. (no, not a kite; the bird)

We managed “Don’t Rock” passage without hitting the rock or the sandy bottom :-), walked the beautiful beach at Treasure Cay and ended up anchored in Fishers’ Bay at Great Guana Cay; all in one day, making water along the way. After a tasty lunch at Grabbers and perhaps just a tad too many sips of their signature drink- what else? The Grabber, we walked through the settlement. Alas, no Milo in his little yellow shack (rumors of his demise may or may not be true) and Dive Guana has moved to a huge space at Settlement Harbor from many years at Fisher’s Bay. Troy says in addition to more rental boats he will be selling fish and lobster.

Feral cats- dontyou hiss at me

Feral cats- don’t you hiss at me. Yes, I fed them some grouper scraps.

 

Home built power cat- they can beach it,

Home built power cat- they can beach it, but wow it sure is small.

 

Fishers Bay sunset & sv Aquila

Fishers Bay sunset & sv Aquila

Russ managed to squeeze in some paddle board time in between, let’s call it,”trying to diagnose and fix our watermaker stench”. The ferry route goes in between Sandy Cay and Garden Cay, off Man o’ War and what great timing to be there as the ferry zooms by. Russ went from standing to sitting in an eye blink.dsc04373-800x476

After a one night stop off Man 0′ War we headed into Hope Town for four nights. Pick a mooring, any mooring! Woo Hoo! Not exactly empty but plenty of moorings available from all of the various places. We like to support Truman (Lucky Strike) who has a sparkling reputation for well-maintained moorings; look for the double green floats and plop the loops one to each bow cleat and you are golden.

Thursday was night #2 of a three night run of the St James Players’ “Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch”. Tickets an affordable $10 and a chance to check out the newly completed Community Center; was good to get into the spirit. Lots of singing and no shortage of “the true meaning of Christmas” in the story which takes place “out west”.

The girl below couldn’t bring herself to wave her hand through the flame even though I showed her how. Smart kid to be wary.

Torch lights path to community center as we head in for the play- Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch

Torch lights path to community center as we head in for the play- Christmas in Bethlehem Gulch

The cast of 50+ hardly fit on the stage. An excellent show.

Maine Cat has a new MC38. Read that it won best sailboat at the Newport Boat Show this year. We got a look when Captain Ron (Engle, not Rico) brought one in that will be in charter

Capn Ron brings in the new MC38, sv TinTin

Cap’n Ron brings in the new MC38, sv TinTin

The lighthouse was getting a glass facelift; soon she’s going to need repainting. The Saturday we were there (Dec 17) was not only a tiny farm market but the Lighthouse gift shop celebrated one year anniversary with 20% off. We did laundry over at the Lighthouse Marina, zooming over to the market and lighthouse to kill time in between. A very successful morning.

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img_3974-800x600

 

Working on the glass panes

Working on the glass panes

A few years ago we rented a golf cart with Keith and Masha (his crew) to tour the beaches, bars (no ballads thank you) and scenery around Hope Town, further than one can easily walk. While the guys enjoyed a coldie at the Abaco Inn, Masha and I hunted for sea glass. I wanted a do-over of sorts, but the golf cart turned into two bicycles (it’s all flat he said) and we even forgot to bring water. But we did bike a few miles down to the beach near the Abaco Inn and collected a few handfuls of sea glass.

 

Biking. Too bad we didn't really stop at Firefly.

Biking- I survived. Too bad we didn’t really stop at Firefly.

Windy conditions persisted all weekend but Come Monday the wind backed way down; perfect to head down two miles to Tahiti Beach, and so we did, anchoring just above Bakers Rock and making water. We spent two nights, starting off each morning with a low tide beach walk that if you know me, was more of a slow stroll with a lot of stopping to pick up treasures. I was thrilled to find well tumbled sea glass pieces scattered about as if an Easter egg hunt for two-year-olds was taking place. Pretty shells and coral helped fill up the snack baggie I’d brought.

Did you know that beach walking is an acceptable way to work on your tan without appearing to do so? 🙂

Tahiti Beach

Tahiti Beach

Can you see the face!!?? Over Lubbers Quarters. A bit Grinch-y

Can you see the face!!?? Over Lubbers Quarters. A bit Grinch-y

Matt Lowes Cay

Matt Lowes Cay- near Marsh. We spent a day to make water and relax.

Matt Lowes Cay- the ferries race each other

Matt Lowes Cay- the ferries race each other. Wait for me, wait for me, wait for me, Hope Town Ferry!

Thursday Dec 22 found us anchored in Marsh Harbour and Russ with a loudly complaining lower back. The walk up to Maxwell’s ruined him terribly, but we managed a short trip in again to A&K Liquor Store.

Friday morning we fueled up at Marsh Harbour Marina (& Jib Room) and our C-6 slip was perfect for us. I even got to practice lassoing the pilings. Ok, so we won’t give up on anchoring. 🙂 The electric worked wonderfully and was metered. Solar helped keep the dial from turning too fast. Water is take it or not at $5/day. Pricey, uh? We stayed 10 days. Used lots of water but since it’s well water with bleach we couldn’t put any in our tank. It’s easy to bypass though, just attach our water hose to the dohickey at the stern, turn off the internal water pump and voila! you are using water that’s not from your tank…. and you don’t have to listen to the pump noise!!

I’d tell more about our pleasant stay but then I’d have to relate another biking story where I agreed to go to one place but since it was closed, why not ride just 1.5 miles more to Maxwells, the big grocery, and sure we know the way and who cares if  the roads are narrow, the drivers crazy and my bike has a floppy pedal? So yea, you don’t need to hear all that. :-), so how about this:

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, Blessed New Year. And remember, “Don’t be mean in 2017”.

Dec 7 & 8: About as good as it gets

Sunrise over Great Sale Cay 7am

Sneak peek sunrise over Great Sale Cay Thurs Dec 8th

As crossings go, I don’t think anyone needed weather guru Chris Parker to say “favorable for all interests.” Tuesday was spent in last minute preparations, like calling AT&T to get this year’s scoop on temporary rate suspension. This is never an easy call; usually the help person has no clue what this is, but this time she did and Russ navigated his way through with the help of last year’s notes. We even received a $60 refund of erroneous charges from last winter.  We don’t make the suspension official until we are past the inlet and on our way. Then Russ calls and can wrap things up very quickly thanks to documentation in our AT&T file from the prior call.

I’d balked at leaving from Ft Pierce because, “I had a bad experience.” (you must say those words slowly, a la Italian Job)  However the winds were right, the current was ebbing out but not at max and well, we really didn’t have much choice! A couple of other boats were around but not going east, so it was just ‘lil ole Twin Sisters by herself in that big ocean.

Seas were pleasant at 1-2ft but more in the Gulf Stream, as expected, but not awful by any stretch. The worst was the wake from a huge container ship heading north to Norfolk. Miles of ocean and we have to cross paths. We’d slowed down for a few minutes, crossing well astern and at least one mile away, but that wake was monstrous and Russ said we came within inches of burying the bows.(not a good thing) I was bracing myself down below; my clue that something was up was that we’d slowed from 12ts to 3kts in a heartbeat. Yikes.

As sunset approached we raised our yellow quarantine flag, snapped a few photos and ate our chicken salad dinner. The moon would light our way until we anchored in a few hours.

Two and 1/2 hrs from Great Sale. Dinner time!

Two and 1/2 hrs from Great Sale Cay. Dinner time!

Exactly 12 hours after tossing off the mooring lines we dropped anchor on the west shore of Great Sale Cay, an uninhabited cay that is highly used as a stopping place. Yes, it was dark, or nearly. The ½ moon provided enough light to see and we got settled without any shouting, one sailboat neighbor near us; the other 5-6 anchored up inside Northwest Harbor. Yep cuz it’s going be windy tonight- not.

We’d gone 130 nm today. Felt fortunate and very blessed. A little relieved too, because Thursday would be only 54nm and then we’d be in a safe harbor for the nasty winds.

Sunrise was a delight, the virtually non-existent breeze allowed the water to lie flat and reflective. Was perhaps the best sunrise and travel day ever.

Where sky meets water at the peaceful time of day in paradise

Where sky meets water at the peaceful time of day in paradise

 

Peek a boo, I see you Mr Sun

Peek a boo, I see you Mr Sun

I don’t recall very many days like this one, where the morning sky and water are one. Being on the open water helps. 🙂

boats several miles behind us- water was truly that flat

Boats several miles behind us- water was truly that flat

Light and variable; ideal conditions for anchoring anywhere, for motoring effortlessly and as a precursor to a cold front, aka Norther. But the crappy weather was a day away, today we are loving it. Calmer than calm. Gail of m/v Orient Express would say, “a toe nail painting day.”

Our destination: Green Turtle Cay and a mooring in Black Sound, then clear in!

P.S.- be sure to say Cay as if spelled “key”. 🙂

Vero Beach – again??

Some things are too good to give up and a secure mooring in a protected “harbor” with easy access to free public transportation is frequently high on most cruisers’ want lists. Add in a large floating dinghy dock, lots of washers and dryers, dog park, other parks and a great Saturday Farm Market reachable via bus or walking and is it any wonder Vero has earned the nickname Velcro Beach?

Travel day two after St Augustine would take us through Mosquito Lagoon which, you may recall, is loaded with dolphin and manatees. A few years ago we encountered Vicki and Del in their outrigger canoe- if you missed that post- click here. We’d anchored in Rockhouse Creek Friday night, with an enchanting (can you tell I need new adjectives?) view of the Ponce inlet and lighthouse. S/v Ti Matou arrived and popped over for a boat look-see and I do believe our cleats and chocks were admired for the very first time 🙂   Ok- so Mosquito Lagoon begins about five miles south of Rockhouse Creek and very soon after we upped anchor we see a small-ish center console with what looked to be a- oh wait- it’s an outrigger canoe and it’s Vicki and Del!! Too bad they were headed in the other direction.

The effects of hurricane Matthew appeared everywhere we traveled. Boats washed up on shore, docks destroyed and that’s just what we could see.

Probably not quite the hidey hole he wanted

Probably not quite the hidey hole he wanted

Another pretty sunset- this one along the Indian River from our causeway anchorage

We wanted to stop at Melbourne Beach and walk in to our favorite beach market so we braved the windy forecast and formulated a plan to stop and still get to Vero before things got too nasty. The plan was perfect, only when twins approached the pier we could see that there would be no going ashore to the market for this crew.

We landed at VBCM at 12:30 and got the last/only open mooring ball. All balls full and many rafted. Still not as full as you’d find right before and at Thanksgiving.

Almost all orders are in!

Almost all orders are in!

Note the long, narrow box- what might that hold? Fishing rod???

New flag on a polished pole

New flag on a polished pole

How many trips to Publix? Let me count. Four? Between that and everything else, our waterline was low, very low.  Friday Dec 2 was the local boat parade, one of at least 32 throughout Florida. The parade in 2010 was twice the number of boats as this year and larger too, but it was fun to see and we had an ideal perch to watch the boats.  And, for the first time since our first rafting in 2010, we had a raft buddy who we didn’t know. Nice folks on Cruisin’Cat– new owners of only two weeks! Boy do they have a lot to do,as we can attest to.

The largest boat brings up the rear

The largest boat brings up the rear

Our friends on Traveling Soul surprised us and came in to another Vero Beach marina, so we made lunch plans and to check out Holiday activities at the nearby Vero Beach Museum of Art.

Stars on the bow tips

Stars on the bow tips- so sweet. Can you see them?

Adding some class to our lives. Note the painting is of a wreck; not my idea of a fun time

Many boats took a favorable crossing window on Thursday Dec 1; we hoped for one as good. But first we had Dentist appts on Monday Dec 5 before we could leave. Wed, Dec 7 began to look appealing so we finished up our preparations and devised two plans; one would be an overnight if the weather window shortened on us.

St Augustine Nov 19-24th

Strike a pose

Strike a pose!

Since Oct 2010 when we began our full-time nomad lifestyle, St Augustine has been a faithful stop on every trip south and every trip north, except one; and that includes the 12 months in the motorhome. This time would be a longer stay in two parts and would include Thanksgiving. Yes folks, imagine that, we would not spend Thanksgiving in Vero Beach- gasp! Why you ask? Was this truly the year of shaking things up a bit and not doing the same old stops?

A couple of years ago the city of Vero Beach decided to limit the maximum size of boats on the moorings, to 50 ft. Well, that may seem smart until you realize that the mooring field has mandatory rafting and two or even three boats could be rafted together on one mooring.  Not a problem for us, but a problem for “the other TS” who we like to share Thanksgiving with. Last Nov they got a dock spot but the docks aren’t the greatest there, so this year when they said “let’s do the cruisers pot luck Thanksgiving in St Augustine”; we said sure! Ah what we do for our friends. 🙂 We reserved mooring balls well ahead because even with 90 moorings (no rafting here) they fill up.

Part I of our St Augustine stay was at Rivers Edge Marina, up the San Sebastian River which comes up the backside of downtown St Augustine.  Not a fancy marina, by any means, but within walking distance of a nearby Winn Dixie, a large fresh produce stand, an ABC Liquor store, a restaurant (Hurricane Patty’s) and a Metro Diner which serves up a yummy breakfast. And you can still walk into historic downtown easily. Yes, we did all those.

The Saturday we arrived is Nights of Lights and with flashlight in hand for the return walk, we headed to the green along with thousands of others; more humanity than we’d been bunched up with in a very long time.

23rd Nights of Lights kickoff in St Augustine- the Saturday before Thanksgiving

23rd Nights of Lights kickoff in St Augustine- the Saturday before Thanksgiving

First the tree is lit, then all the lights are turned on- trees, buildings, bushes, you name it. This is big time lights.img_3075-800x600

The perfect selfie spot

The perfect selfie spot

We worked on crossing to-dos; provisioning and finding a place to store non-perishable items. We have several airtight bins that fit under the flybridge helm, along with other stuff. Once in a while that space needs to be cleaned up and rearranged. Russ gets that job and he’s working on that while I’m doing laundry. He says as I step aboard, “bad news.”  My reply, “oh we ran out of room?” Worse than that I must tell you; a rodent!!!!  The evidence: chewed-on foam pads we had stashed up there; we use them as cushioning for the tied snug dinghy. I call it a mouse but Russ thought the sizeable chew marks indicated otherwise. Was kinda funny because just that morning Russ commented about the cat he saw and that perhaps mice were around.

We put foil over various openings after scurrying sounds indicated the critter had gone out for the night. And since then, no further sign of any rodent visitor. Whew. Can’t have mice on a cat now can we?

St Augustine Part II involved a strenuous voyage of 3 miles back down the San Sebastian and over to the municipal mooring field. Our assignment of M3 brought smiles to our faces as not only is it south of the Bridge of Lions it also affords a very short dinghy ride in. And then on Tuesday, the moment we’d been anticipating! Sing along with me, “Traveling Soul is coming to town, Traveling Soul is coming to town, the other TS is finally in town!”

They caught the 12:30 opening, giving Ann and I time to shop in the afternoon.

Here come are buddy boat!!

Here comes our buddy boat!!

Assigned M7. Kudos to the marina who knowingly or not, put us fairly close together. A girl’s shopping trip was in order as was happy hour (or 2) aboard the “Bristol” Jefferson 52 (motor boats can be in Bristol condition can’t they?). Good times, great stories and primo G&Ts and V&Ts made with Ann’s homemade tonic. Not so much a drink as an experience.

Speaking of experiences, the four of us ventured out Wednesday on a 12 min walk up King Street to the St Augustine Distillery housed in a former ice plant. Besides the distillery the restored building contains the Ice Plant restaurant with bar and seating for roughly 50.

Opened in 2014; a very popular year for distilleries to open. This explosion of distilleries is astounding, with virtually none of the six or so we’ve visited over the last few years, existing in 2010 or even 2012 for that matter. Donuts, distilleries, dining. Triple D. 🙂 (however we love fresh lobster & Mahi too)

We punch in at the St Aug distillery

We punch in at the St Aug distillery

The distillery uses all Florida ingredients or at least USA

The distillery uses all Florida ingredients or as close to Florida as possible.

Our tour guide was an exuberant local woman who works at the distillery. These guys produce gin, vodka, rum and bourbon.

We learn about cracked ice and why size matters

We learn about cracked ice and why size matters

We saw the usual equipment; fermentation and distillation tanks, bottling and labeling station and since bourbon is made here, lots of white oak charred barrels. To be termed bourbon the proof must be 80 or more. This bourbon is barreled at 110 proof and sold at 94.

In the gift shop another man creates Gin & Tonic and Old Fashioned

In the gift shop another man creates Gin & Tonic and Old Fashioneds to sample. Love this free tour!

Lunch at Ice Plant

Lunch at Ice Plant- all in a bourbon state of mind. Old Fashioneds for all

Lori's lunch at Ice Plant

Lori’s lunch at Ice Plant…. who needs dinner?

Then Thursday the reason for being here; we call it Thankful-for-Friends-Giving. This would the 4th annual St Augustine Cruisers’ Thanksgiving Potluck. Landlubbers roast turkeys and ham and the rest of us bring a side or dessert, chairs, drinks, plates and whatever else you need to have a good time!

The weather was perfect; maybe a teeny bit too much sun for some but considering rainy and windy would have ruined the day, this was ideal. The venue is completely outdoors at the City Marina, next to the mini golf with a view of the Bridge of Lions.

 

Ann brings the turkey hat

Ann brings the turkey hat

 

Mini golf behind the table

Mini golf behind the meat table

We met the daughter of Tom Neale.  He and his wife gave up their home and careers to move aboard their Gulfstar 47 Chez Nous in 1979. Since then, they’ve raised two daughters aboard while cruising. Tom is now editor at large for PassageMaker Magazine and columnist for BoatUS, but we first “met” him and his family while reading “All in the Same Boat”. Written in 1997 the book shares the Neale family stories of living and cruising aboard. If they could do it “back then”, we surely could too with all of today’s modern technology. This book was one of our early inspirations.

Melanie says this is the boring segment of her life right now! Compared to her growing up years, I guess it could be.

Melanie Neale

Melanie Neale in navy polo shirt.

Ann’s turkey hat was very popular and received many accolades and a walking tour!

Hey can I borrow the hat and wearit around?

Hey can I borrow the hat and wear it around?

We made some new friends and re-connected with ones we hadn’t seen in a while. All in all everyone had a great time and the free Bloody Mary table was a huge hit; I just wanted the olives.

Friday we’d say good-bye and spend 2-3 days traveling further south to Vero (Velcro) Beach. There, crossing preparations would continue in earnest while we waited for a calm day to head over to the Abacos. How long would we have to wait? Days? Weeks?

 

Oh wait, we are in Florida!

dsc04337-800x600For some odd reason I am usually oblivious to crossing the FL/GA line. Yes, maybe the correct music would help- say “Cruise”, by…. you guessed it- Florida/Georgia Line!  But we were well into our day, as in anchored and ashore, before I realized we’d crossed the line. That’s the problem with being so mindful of Georgia.

Wed, Nov 16 found us anchored in a new place; Ft George River (no fort) at Talbot Island (fka Ft George Island- so ok must have been a fort) to go ashore and visit the Kingsley Plantation. This is the oldest still-standing plantation house in Florida, with several preserved buildings and the remains of most of the original slave quarters. Our friends Ann & Mike on Traveling Soul (aka “the other TS”) had visited and said the plantation was worth a stop; and it was!

Fort George River by Kingsley Plantation

Fort George River by Kingsley Plantation

It’s a few miles north of the St John’s River and west is Jacksonville, so I think we might have been in the outer limits of Jacksonville. The geotag on the iPhone photos indicated Jacksonville, so let’s go with that.

Talbot Island, Kingsley Plantation on the Ft George river.

Talbot Island, Kingsley Plantation on the Ft George river. Old wharf ruins but hard to see

Low tide Ft George River at Kingsley Plantation

Low tide Ft George River at Kingsley Plantation

The dock was substantial and large, thanks to the tour boats that bring folks in who don’t want to drive. The self-guided tour is free and you get a phone that knows where you are and has a spiel for 8 to 10 stops of the plantation. At 2pm the ranger (nice guy but a bit stuffy) gave a tour of the Plantation House, Anna’s House and the garden.

In 1814, Zephaniah Kingsley moved to Ft George Island and established a successful plantation. He brought his wife and children. Here’s the interesting part: his wife, Anna was from Senegal, Africa and had been purchased by Kingsley as a slave. When they married, she was 13 and he 41. After 5 years she was freed. Anna actively participated in plantation management, which was kinda necessary because Zephaniah was often away at sea or off acquiring additional property in northeast Florida.

At first, Indigo was the primary cash crop but that was replaced by Sea Island Cotton, a silky long-fiber cotton. Indigo was a messy and deadly crop to process. The entire plant was used to create a mash with other liquids and the slaves stood thigh deep in the mash to stir it. Thanks to various toxins that got inhaled or would leech in thru the skin, the slaves who worked the Indigo often died after five years.

Use all the plant to make indogo dye

Use the entire plant to make Indigo dye

Slave quarters

Anna’s house

Mr. Ranger told us how the slaves had to whistle when they carried the food from the kitchen building to the main house. This was to show they weren’t eating any as they walked along.

The whistling way aka breezeway at Kingsley Plantation

The whistling way, aka breeze way, at Kingsley Plantation

The following morning we continued our journey south, crossing the St John’s River as we inched closer to St Augustine.

On ICW heading toward Sisters Creek Bridge

On ICW heading toward Sisters Creek Bridge

 

Does this mean we are triplets?

Does this mean we are triplets when on this creek?

I’ve lost count of the many opening bridges between Mile 0 in Norfolk and Mile 1015 in North Palm Beach that have been replaced by 65ft fixed bridges or by a taller opening version that allows most boats to pass under without needing an opening. Here’s another.

Another bascule bites the dust. Sisters Creek Bridge is nearly all dismantled

Another bascule bites the dust. Sisters Creek Bridge is nearly all dismantled

A few miles south after we crossed the St John’s River- carefully, since you may encounter container ships, crazy locals and a strong current, we came upon a place to be respected; the Atlantic Beach Bridge.  The trouble is not height, but width. The ICW is somewhat narrow here and when the flunky bridge engineer designed the bridge he made the pass through span just too darn narrow. The current has to push lots of water through less space and oh by the way the waterway takes a slight bend here. At times you could have a 6kt current here! Ideally, you’d like a moderate current in your favor or not much of one against you.

Amazing trip planner that I am, we’d be coming through with at most a one and a half knot current with us; perfect. The get-going-early boats were ahead of us and the later and slower ones were well behind. Except for a few local boats we had the ICW to ourselves. 🙂  We always engage in a conversation about this spot and how one trip (back in 2010 ?) we encountered a tug and barge at the worst possible spot.

Today, ok nothing on AIS, that’s good for starters. We’re looking ahead to see if anything is coming toward us and just as we get to the spot where we can actually see around the bend- oh crap is that a CG buoy tender headed north? Well, we have the right of way because those traveling with the current do. But Russ slows down cuz they are bigger than us, but good guys they are, they hail us on VHF and say they’ll wait for us. Oh thank you. Whew. And no AIS either.  What is it with so much “meeting up” at the worst possible spot?

Strong current flow thru Atlantic Bridge thanks to narrow pass span

Strong current flow thru Atlantic Bridge thanks to narrow pass span

That night and the next Twins hung out enjoyably anchored at Pine Island oxbow where we worked on ordering boat stuff we needed to have delivered to us at Vero Beach, watching and photographing the birds, and oh-ing and ah-ing about the sunsets.

Pine Island Oxbow

Pine Island Oxbow. Pretty nice uh?

 

Heron doesnt mean to ntrude on courting Roseate Spoonbills

Heron doesn’t mean to intrude on courting Roseate Spoonbills

 

This is getting too personal, I got to hide my head!

This is getting too personal, I gotta hide my head!

See you in St. Augustine!