Around (George) Town

After our rushed trip from Florida to the Exumas, it’s nice to be doing, well … not so much.

 

This is something people think we do all of the time, but sitting around a beach bar is actually a rare treat.  This one is new – the Peace & Plenty Beach Club in Elizabeth Harbour.

Lori, Cort & Max

 

This is the entrance to Lake Victoria in George Town where the dinghy dock for town is located.  Calm this day, but wind & strong tidal current can result in 1’+ standing waves.  A further challenge is that while incoming boats technically have the right-of-way, some don’t look or don’t care, leading to the dangerous game of chicken.

 

Always some interesting boats found about the harbor …

And creatures!

These lumps are frogs resting on a window sill!

 

The weather has been warm & beautiful, but some windy days have us “hiding” in one of our protected hidey-holes.  This has given me time to work on a new tab for this website “Our PDQ Enhancements”.  Probably only interesting to other PDQ 34 powercat owners, but if interested, click on the tab on top or click here: Our PDQ Enhancements tab

Our PDQ 34 Enhancements

Fortunately this picture was from over a year ago… Hopefully our projects will continue to get smaller & smaller!

 

I have tried to make my Lobsta Crawl slideshow from my last post appear properly, but without success.  So I’ll try one last time.  Just a 10 minute slide show with highlights of last summer’s cruise to Maine.

Click link to take a look:  Lobsta Crawl slide show

 

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Florida to the Exumas – Just like that!

Weather windows crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas can get very dicey mid-January into March, as the cold fronts cascade across the country.  After a great visit with Benj, we were scheduled to leave the Fort Pierce City Marina (well, kicked out as our 2 months was up) on January 9th, giving us 1 1/2 days with a rental car to finish up preparations.  We would then head south on the ICW to West Palm to await (hopefully) only a week or so for a good window to cross to the Bahamas.

Early AM in Fort Pierce – After all, this is the “Sunrise City”

However, a great weather window was opening up on January 8th, which meant only 1/2 day of final prep & leaving from Fort Pierce, much further north & a poor angle to cross the Gulf Stream.  But … when the weather looks good in January, you go!

Sunset on the Bahamas Banks

As common this time of the year, our great weather window was short, but “Windy” & our other weather apps showed this calm area moving south towards the Exumas.  So if we didn’t stop at Bimini, but just keep going, we’d be enveloped in calm winds the entire way!  While not crazy about doing a 240 mile overnight, we were in Palm Cay Marina, New Providence (near Nassau) 27 hours later clearing Customs.  We were set to rest up & wait for another window, but our great luck continued!  The next AM the weather was calmer than the forecast so we got underway once again & headed to Staniel Cay, Exumas.  After a quick grocery store trip, we headed to nearby Black Point for lunch at Lorraine’s, do our laundry & most importantly pickup some of Lorraine’s Mom’s coconut bread – the best ever!  Then another move to Little Bay & then Big Farmers for beach combing.  And then a perfect window to continue on to George Town, but wait … there is more!

SO calm! Just past these little cays is the Atlantic Ocean!

The weather was so calm that we rafted up with our friends on Adventure for a great fish feast.  Oh, ya – the fish – we caught 4!  One barracuda we threw back & one mahi got away, but that left two beautiful & tasty 3′ mahi!

Sorry, hiding under the dinghy won’t work!

Lots of mahi fillets for our feast, giving some away & topping off our freezer.

Then the next day, onward to George Town for several calm days anchored at Monument Beach to see our friend Cort & start paddle boarding in the beautiful, blue water!  This was all in 10 glorious days!!  We know it won’t last, but absolutely enjoyed every minute!

Lori enjoying the sunset off George Town.  What?  Live on land someday??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecticut to Florida

Our annual 1,400 nautical mile trip from Deep River, CT to Fort Pierce, FL went fairly smoothly.  One minor, but annoying issue can be, well … other boaters.  Some years we’ve unfortunately been caught in heavy packs of boats (especially at opening bridges with our prior sailing catamaran).  Tempers flare, people are rude on the VHF radio, boats yell at other boats who “cut in line”, give lectures on “proper seamanship”, sailboats yell at powerboats who (in their mind) didn’t give them a “slow pass” & then the Coast Guard yells to those boats that “Channel 16 is the calling & International Distress Frequency – move your idle & passing traffic to another channel as channel 16 is blah, blah, blah”.  Not very relaxing…

This year started with a “oh, here we go again” moment between 2 trawlers while we were anchored at Atlantic Highland, NJ awaiting a window to head offshore down the NJ coast.  While resting up we heard repeated, loud 5 short air horn blasts – the danger signal when collision is imminent or there is a serious concern for another boats intentions.  Needless to say, we bolted up to see what maritime disaster was about to unfold.  Oh, just one of the two trawlers traveling thru the anchorage at idle speed apparently didn’t like that the other was heading towards “his” spot to anchor!

 

Fortunately, this did not foretell our trip.  In fact, it was the easiest & most peaceful trip south yet!!  Due to us being a little early, we got ahead of the crowds, while bad weather behind us delayed others.  There were many days of only a few passings making a much, much more enjoyable & stress free trip.  Lots of time to enjoy the scenery! 

But you can never relax too much – though I suppose the machine guns on the escort boats would have gotten our attention.  Yes, we were that close as we realized a minute later when the sub’s monster wake reached us & a few things crashed about our cabin.  I considered yelling at them on the VHF radio, as some sailboats do, for not giving us a “slow pass”, but I thought better of it…

 

 

 

 

 

To keep life interesting, every year there is a hurricane or tropical storm close enough to get our attention.  This year it was Hurricane Michael passing inshore of our Moorehead City, NC location, so no serious concerns for us, but we did head to a very secure marina, Moorehead City Yacht Basin.  At first I was a little perturbed that the dockmaster put us in an odd, far-in slip against the bulkhead.  In the end, we were thankful, tucked in nice & comfy with the wind right off the bulkhead behind us.  You can’t tell from the photo, but the wind further out in the marina was gusting up to 52 knots with occasional sheets of water flying across.  Just to be on the safe side, we took all normal precautions, doubling up lines, taking down our canvas top, etc.  which ended up being unnecessary, but we didn’t mind!

 

We arrived at the Fort Pierce City Marina a day early for our 2 month reservation.  Originally we were planning on having new cushions & a full canvas enclosure made for our flybridge.  We “chickened out” on the enclosure, but went ahead with the new cushions which are a huge improvement over our 12-year old original ones.

Hey! Who stuck in this donut picture!

It was great that Benj could fly down for a few days!

It was bad that the Fort Pierce City Marina was performing major dredging during our time there – I’m not sure my hearing will ever be the same (the dredge spent days right next to us).  Not very restful either – the dredging took a break for the holidays, but the construction equipment on the nearby spoil islands worked (& beeped) 7-days-a-week, including Christmas Day!

Lots of various maintenance projects & lots of stocking up for the Bahamas in January!  Can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Lobsta Crawl to Maine

How we spent our summer vacation

For 6 weeks, we joined 12 other PDQ catamarans on a flotilla to Maine called the Lobsta Crawl.

Dick, Carol & Beth of Rhumbline Yacht Sales (the original factory dealers & now the used broker for PDQ’s) annually plan & lead a flotilla of PDQ catamarans to a variety of exciting places which have included the Exumas, Georgian Bay in Canada, even to the Baltic (yes, Finland to Sweden – although the PDQ’s were transported across the Atlantic by ship).  This year: The coast of Maine, on the hunt for lobster.

We had already planned to be in Connecticut so we were fairly close, but many of the PDQ’s came north from Florida just to participate.  Most of us were in 34′ PDQ powercats, but also one 41′ PDQ powercat & one 44′ PDQ sailing cat.

 

The kick-off at Block Island

Not being big follow-the-leader travelers or buddy-boaters, we weren’t sure what to expect, but they were a great bunch of people & we had a fantastic time!  The schedule was loose with only 8 or so organized/scheduled stops/group dinners, leaving lots of days to explore an area longer, go off on our own or to add our own stops.

We even made the local paper in Newburyport, MA

The flotilla gathered at Block Island for the big kickoff, then headed north making about a dozen stops thru Massachusetts, New Hampshire & onward to Maine.  Our original northernmost stop was to be Northeast Harbor, but fellow PDQ owners invited us further north to their private John White Island.  Although only a few of us made the further excursion (the foggiest of the entire trip), we were rewarded by a fantastic time with Jack and Diane, our hosts & builders of this amazing rustic island house mostly built themselves including bringing the building materials in by boat.

Maine is a magical cruising ground with its breathtaking scenery & endless harbors, each with an unique draw.  Nevertheless it can be challenging with fog, up to 10′ tides & several million lobster pots.  In some areas they are so thick you can’t imagine fitting thru, especially when they completely fill up a channel.  To top it off, when in an area of strong current, they get pulled mostly & sometimes completely underwater!

One of our unplanned stops ended up being our favorite.  Benj & Lily decided to visit for a weekend.  Even though Vermont seems like it should be a short drive, it’s not, so we searched Google Maps versus our charts to find them the shortest drive near the area of Maine we would be in.  We checked out a place called Belfast – a nice little town with a town dock…  Not only did they have room for us, they were holding a large Celtic Festival right on the waterfront with a large fireworks display 200 yards off the docks.  In addition to the festival,  they hold the largest indoor farmers market with a enormous variety which impressed even our Vermonters.  Uptown we found the best French bakery ever!

Did we enjoy any lobsters?  You  bet!  Over 14 different ways.  Even found donuts!  For a little slideshow of our trip, click here:  Lobsta Crawl video

Once time to head back south, we all split up, having different plans & destinations.  Ours was back to Deep River, CT for boat work, birthday celebrations & resting up before we head further south of the winter.

Catching Up from last Spring

We left you hangin’ since last spring as we were leaving the Exumas & beginning our trek back north.  On our way from the Bahamas to Florida, we traveled thru the Berry Islands via an unusual, shallow route.  This banks route is a bit of a shortcut which takes you about 20 miles from Bonds Cay to Great Harbour Cay.

Without a chart plotter you’d have no idea where to go, as the bottom everywhere looks just like this.  However most of the banks are only 1′ – 3′ deep!  On our chartplotter, Explorer Charts shows a little dotted line to safely  bring you thru a narrow path of slightly deeper water.  This was our second trip via this route, but we decided to kick things up a notch & anchor overnight right in the midst of it all.

Time for a sunset paddle- hope to return before dark

Of course, I had to paddleboard into the sunset.  Lori was probably doing some planning . . .

I did make it back & then we did make it the approximately 1,200 miles back to New England for the summer without any real issues or problems.

Russ

Lori has something better to do . . .

Lori working away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 8 industrious years of keeping up this blog, Lori is reluctantly being torn away by her blossoming jewelry & beading creations.  That, along with cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, boat chores, keeping the boat log, navigating, trip planning & all doesn’t leave her with too much spare time!  So Lori has “suggested” that I take over, particularly since I was the one who started this blog back in 2010 & well, pretty much started the whole crazy idea of cruising full-time on a boat.

I’m warning y’all I won’t be able to do as good of a job as Lori, but since I don’t want to take over the cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry …. It looks like you’re stuck with me for a while …

Russ

 

 

 

 

 

Exuma IS Sweet Like This!

Around Islands Race the day we left GT- as we head out the northern cut- Conch Cay Cut

Sunday, March 11 dawned one hour later than the prior day! And we almost missed the weather on the 8am Net, but our own sources still promised low winds out of the south with a reduced chance of thunderstorms; only 10%. The Regatta “Around the Islands” (Stocking and Elizabeth) sail boat race began at 9am so we waited until all the classes had started, since they were first heading north past us and out Conch Cay Cut too.

Good thing we waited because very soon after entering Exuma Sound, thunder rumbled far north and the sky was not clear blue and pretty. I looked at the satellite picture on Storm app and wow, just wow. Maybe we should have checked the weather forecast for Staniel Cay too. A massive rain/squall blob (blob is a technical term you know) was up thata way moving from west to east with a smaller tail-piece hanging down that could affect us.

Fishing lines out and moving slower than usual, we slowed down more and figured it might completely pass through by the time we got near Rudder Cay or Cave. Well, the fish still weren’t biting, not even a lousy barracuda and once we neared the darker clouds, Russ brought the lines in. We managed to avoid all but some light showers but the squall had brought strong winds and confused waves, making for a very lumpy, bumpy, hobby-horse ride. I’d skipped lunch but Russ had eaten while the waves were still behaved (uh oh- bad decision).

We decided to leave the Sound using Rudder Cay Cut rather than further up at Galliot and the relief was immediate; the cut was calm and flat especially since the current, the wind/waves and Twins were all heading in the same direction.

A slew of boats were anchored by Rudder Cay and snorkeling the Mermaid Piano placed by Musha Cay owner illusionist David Copperfield. We did it once in Ortolan; think that was my last time snorkeling. Our destination was Big Farmers Cay but then we’d backtrack a bit to Cave Cay the next morning to hide out for a day and a half.

From Big Farmers anchorage.

Strong-ish winds were due in for a couple of days and with enough of a westerly component that we needed more protection than “next to nothing”. Cave Cay Marina, aka Safe Harbor Marina is another one of those never completed Bahamas development stories. The only phase that appears complete, is the marina and quite honestly that’s all we care about. 🙂

Floating docks, fuel only sold to slip customers, a laundry room and several paths to guest-only beaches. I’d heard the shelling was very good on one of the ocean facing beaches, so I was rather pleased about a couple of marina nights.

Cave Cay Marina entrance- a very protected basin, but anchoring in it is not allowed

Plane arrives to Cave Cay- another bonus- watching for planes

Back to Big Farmers-this time to go ashore and walk the beaches –maybe see some goats and the baby rays that enjoy the protection of the tiny creek at one end of the beach.

The goats at Big Farmers didn’t disappoint

Goats made one appearance that I detected with my excellent hearing. But not a single ray of any size in the tidal creek. Hardly any young conch either.

Ty’s was on our must-stop list this time and we had one possible afternoon calm enough for a lunch stop, then move up to more protected anchorage for the night. Mission completed!

We have it all!! Ty’s, the beach, our dinghy and Twin Sisters!

Tys- we really like Ty’s Sunset Bar & Grille: the view, the great food and we always meet new peeps and the occasional Potcake.

Delicious lunch at Ty’s on Little Farmers: Coach’s rum punch, cracked conch, slaw, peas & rice and a Cheeseburger in Paradise for me

Potcake at Ty’s. “You lookin’ at me?”

Little Bay, aka Castle Bay has become more well-known over the past six years since we first discovered it. Small but still able to hold more than 25 boats easily, the two small beaches are lovely to look at and fun to explore at low tide. For beachcomber me though, the best part is the easily accessible ocean-facing beach loaded with shells, coral pieces, sea fans and sea glass.

The days of very rough ocean while we were still in George Town really did a number on sea fans. Many more than usual are washed up on the beaches and it took a few beach walks to realize the likely cause.

Others have discovered this gem of a beach and I worked harder than usual to collect sea glass but I did pick up a larger, older piece, which is something I always find on this particular beach. While sea glass is always washed up on the beach, at low tide large amounts of glass would collect in a shallow shelf at the water’s edge; just reach in and grab it. Not this time- not a single piece. Again, I’m sure that those large ocean swells had a hand in making it disappear.

Crooked sunset at night, means?

 

The well-known castle along the anchorage south of Black Point ( Little Bay)

Emerald Sunset View Restaurant, Black Point-why no working on Friday 11am?

We’d heard about a new restaurant in Black Point and Ida gave us directions any navigationally-challenged person could follow: up the road, past Regatta Park. The tour boats bring in loads of tourists for an authentic Bahamian lunch every day. Apparently business is so good that three places aren’t enough, so this will be a fourth. Located too far up the road for most cruisers to even wander by and find it, I’m guessing it’s more for the boat loads of untanned/sunburned tourists who visit the Bahamas for a vacation getaway.

Palm weaving to make baskets.  I wonder how much she gets paid per foot.

In a perfect world, or maybe if this was May, we could plan our days and keep to that plan which contained only one requirement, Russ birthday lunch or dinner at Staniel Cay. We accomplished this in past years, but wasn’t looking promising this time so we planned to settle for an early birthday lunch on Sat March 17, St Paddy’s Day. Festive at least and live music too!

So spiffy- the yacht-y attire matches the tender- of course dahling

Staniel- the small, dinghy tie-up beach at the YC that is a PIA at low tide.

The Captain gets into the Irish spirit- one strand we kept, the other two went to two very blonde youngsters 🙂

Anchorage number one was off the YC and an easy dinghy trip in to shore.

Russ gets artsy with a sunset shot at Staniel Cay

Remember back in St Augustine I wrote about m/v Bumfuzzle? We’d been following their blog back before blogs were born, probably for 12 years we figure. News of them being in the Exumas heading south (past Bahamas south) was met with eager anticipation that’d they’d surely get to George Town during our long stay. Sure enough they did but the stars didn’t align well enough and we never came closer than seeing the boat at anchor or Ali and the kids heading the other way in the dinghy- felt just like the experience we had back at St Augustine’s Camachee Cove Marina.

Luck and patience happened to be our friends during our earlier than hoped for stay here – see?

The Bums in paradise- we didn’t want to anchor too close- that’s not a polite thing to do

We’d learned about transmission trouble on board Bumfuzzle which while not good at all, is at least not as bad when you have two engines vs. one. Russ offered assistance in getting the rebuilt tranny (yes, another techie term) placed back where it belongs since our revised itinerary would place us near them when help would be needed. How great would that be?- meet these famous folk and help them! I dared not even begin to count on it happening, but Russ did need a birthday gift of some sort, right?

After the early birthday lunch at the Yacht Club, we left our “swing with the tide” anchorage and anchored behind Big Major; a first for us, but for many it’s a long-term winter hang out place. From mega yachts to the smallest of cruising boats, you’ll find them around here. Pig Beach is nestled in one corner, we chose the other hoping to be out of the tour boat lanes but there’s no such thing.

Sunset from Big Major anchorage

The wind has shifted to SW and laid down to 2 kts. Russ heads over to help drop and slide the transmission into place- back in 3 hrs

The morning would be transmission time! I have to say I hope it’s never our turn. While Russ was away I held down the fort, fending off large delivery barges and speed boats! I also got us on the next day list for a Warderick Wells mooring.

M/V Legend II slides right by us on its way to Fowl Cay

m/v Legend II slides up to the dock at Fowl Cay- Isn’t Bumfuzzle anchored in a great spot?

After the longest “I’ll be back in an hour’s time”, Russ returned with proof that it takes three guys, a woman and 2 kids to get a transmission back into place! Pat still had plenty of work ahead of him but at least the darn thing was back in.

Nick, Pat and Russ- relax after the transmission ordeal. Photo credit to Ali who emailed us 🙂

Now to dinghy around and see the sights!  Nick had heard that by one of the small cays behind Fowl Cay could be found many large rays, so that was our first stop. A little bummed to not see a single ray, but the exquisite watercolors with an underlay of beautiful sand more than made up for it.

The Birdcage on Fowl Cay- private residence of founders Libby and Stewart Brown before they sold the Fowl Cay Resort

Just past those tiny cays straight ahead is Exuma Sound- very calm in barely a breath of wind

Somewhere behind Fowl Cay as we search for the promised huge rays

We dinghied past Pig Beach just so I could show you what it looks like. The pigs are cute little pink piglets when they are babies but as they grow they become more feral; hairy, small tusks and snouts that are very upturned. Pig beaches can now be found throughout the Bahamas- a tourist attraction that we hope fades some day.

Pig Beach- a very popular attraction for the tourists who come by small rental boat or via the plethora of tour boats from Nassau and Great Exuma- many miles away

And then we needed to depart to our next anchorage off Pipe Cay- one of our favorite spots. We are often the only ones there.  Lovin’ our Exuma Life!  If you missed the Exuma song in the prior post, you just gotta hear it- go back and click on the link. I’m hoping the blog that has the song, never goes away.

Yep, taking the shallow draft route again