Ortolan Cat Floating Resort

View of Monument anchorage from the top of Monument hill. Ortolan is the only cat in the photo

View of Monument anchorage from the top of Monument hill. Ortolan is the only cat in the photo

After returning from Long Island Jan 6 we moved around to a few harbor anchorages, finally landing a great spot off the shore in the Monument Beach section. On the 10th, our son would fly out on the same flight that Cathy, our next guest, would fly in on. We’d hoped to hook up with our favorite island homeowner, Cort, (Carolyn, his other half isn’t being ignored, but she’s home in WA) before he flew home for a few weeks on Sat but site work for the camp house suddenly was in full swing that week. However, Friday the 10th was a new Bahamian holiday, Majority Rule Day and most businesses would close and that included the contractor and his workers. Cort offered his time, boat (which I have dubbed Island Runner), car and rental house and ferried us in, then taxied us to the airport, the market, back to the airport to pick up Cathy and back to the house for lunch and my secret laundry facility.

Customs and Immigration at George Town Airport

Customs and Immigration at George Town Airport

George Town International Airport is small and friendly; more substantial than Black Point yet not as large as Nassau. As we walk up to the door into the terminal, a woman stands holding the door open. “Benjamin Rackliffe?” she queries. If I’d thought faster I could have taken credit for arranging his own personal airline host, because after the flying down ordeal, didn’t he deserve it? Instead the truth was that he was one of two parties who had not checked in online (hey we tried) ahead and since the other one was a party of two, the person walking up had to be Benj. We hung around for a bit as parents are prone to do, then did a publicly acceptable farewell routine (the real mushy one we did earlier on board) before heading off.

One service that cruiser guests provide when they fly home is to take stamped mail and mail it when they get to a U.S., Canadian or where ever home is, mail box. Benj had a package to mail for us (a very special one) along with mail from two other cruisers. It’s an easy and convenient way to get mail out of the Bahamas because if you mail anything from here- kiss it good-bye for two months!

Cathy waits for us at Kermit's Lounge across from the terminal

Cathy waits for us at Kermit’s Lounge across from the terminal


Luncheon feast at Cort's Burger Villa

Luncheon feast at Cort’s Burger Villa

When a guest visits, you wish for the best weather possible and by some miracle Cathy’s 4 ½ days were some of the best so far. She got off to a busy start; we didn’t even let her get settled before our lunch date and tour of Cort’s property.  In true resort fashion though we provided accommodations, equipment, ideas, food, water, sunscreen and let her set the pace and activities. Not sure it’s any surprise that someone still working full-time and in need of relaxing down-time would choose anything but R&R activities- especially those that required slathering on sunscreen.

Cathy views the building site for the camp house

Cathy views the building site for the camp house

Getting up at oh dark thirty to fly then getting dragged around, requires a snooze before dinner

Getting up at oh dark thirty to fly then getting dragged around, requires a snooze before dinner

A beautiful day for a multi-island kayak cruise

A beautiful day for a multi-island kayak cruise

We tested our skills and our memories in playing this game.

We tested our skills and our memories in playing this game. The margaritas were helpful too

As the saying goes, be sure to leave with sand in your shoes.  Hang on to that tan- I say!

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Stuck again Velcro Beach 4/2-4/7

The best laid plans… go awry regularly. Before we left Green Turtle Cay, while we still had wi-fi, we contacted our UPS mail center and asked them to send our “box-o’-mail” to Vero Beach.  For once this worked out perfectly. The fly in the proverbial ointment was our friends at drugstore.com. Nearly every time we order, the package arrives before you can click “submit.” But no, not this time- took a week to get our order, thus helping Vero live up to her name, Velcro Beach, once more. Not our fault, really.

We expertly timed our arrival on Monday so that moorings would be available and we snagged #34 all to ourselves for the entire stay. Each night the 57 balls were full, many with 2 boats rafted. The slips stayed full too. The boat next to us ended up with a raft partner who appeared to own a cat. When all people were off the boats, curious kitty nonchalantly checked out the new boat. After these photos, never saw him again.

The solo drop it in method

Is that a fish I see?

A mega grocery re-stocking trip was in order and we bought so much, between Publix, The Fresh Market and the ABC Liquor Store, that Russ had to agree to a taxi back to the marina. No way could we lug all that on the bus. Oh, wouldn’t that be a sight?  You’d think we hadn’t shopped in months, and for much of what we bought you are right-some foods just aren’t available in the Bahamas.

Tuesday I made French toast- nothing unusual- just that for the first time, my taste buds said, “Yes! This IS delicious!”  Good tasting butter (remember my rant on that slippery topic?), REAL maple syrup and our own Challah bread.

Thursday cooled off to 85 degrees so hey why not bake bread and muffins; we’d hardly notice the added heat- ha!  That slow- moving package arrived, leaving us free to go. We checked the weather, raised the dinghy, changed our anchorage plans to the new mooring field at Titusville, set the iPhone alarm for 7 a.m. and agreed to head off and eat breakfast underway.

Now that we’re back in the ole US of A, the iPhone is on duty as camera, alarm clock, keeper of apps such as Stargazer, FoxNews, Active Captain; email reader/writer, iPod and on- shelf bed pal. The alarm sounds at 7a.m., I immediately check the forecast on The Weather Channel and geeze if we aren’t going to get hit with 20-30mph winds later today and tonight. Eventually Russ pulls up the NOAA weather (WX), we re-evaluate wind and direction in light of the prediction to clock around during the night. Heck, we’re not in that much of a rush to deliberately spend a bouncy night on a mooring or a more sleepless one at anchor hoping we don’t drag. Plus, ideally we’d hoped to at least motor-sail in the ICW but this would not be happening in NE winds. Saturday wasn’t any prize either; Sunday it is for sure!!! Easter; but really it’s all the same. Lamb chops are on the menu no matter where we plop ourselves.

Friday evening a cold front passed by and by 8:30 the Garmin display read 22kts, plus.  At 8pm the local Coast Guard sector at Fort Pierce announced that two people in a blue canoe just north of the Sebastian inlet were not able to get back to shore and to keep a sharp lookout. By 10:30 when we turned off the electronics I don’t think the canoe had been found. The local fire and rescue squad via small boat and helicopter was searching for the boat which had been spotted in the ICW. The lively north wind would have pushed them south, perhaps on to one of the tiny spoil islands. Assuming they even NEEDED help we hope they are home safe and sound, or as Russ suggested, they were back nursing a brandy at 9:30 oblivious to the search.

To my great delight our extended stay allowed us to walk to the Vero Beach “Farmers” Market on Saturday.  Now, the fridge and freezer are bursting at the seams.  Each trip off the boat to “someplace” makes me think, “Do I bring the camera?”  Half the time when it gets left behind I get to say, “Every time I don’t bring the camera, I miss a good shot.” The iPhone often fills in nicely. This was one of those times. At the corner near the marina Russ looks up and sees two parrots sitting on a large branch of a Spanish moss laden southern oak. Even with the iPhone we missed the perfectly framed shot of two, moss dangling on either side. When they flew across the street to another tree we saw at least three more of them. A woman who’d come by with her camera said they were Conyer( ?) parrots.  We were so focused (no pun) on getting a shot with the no-zoom iPhone in low light, I’m not sure, but they may have had color near the wings, otherwise all green dudes.

I stopped back later; alas no parrots. A red-bellied woodpecker pair made up for the missing parrots. The male popped into the convenient tree knot hole before I could get a shot, but I got the female (entire head isn’t red) who appeared to be doing all the work.

Maybe I can lead them away from the nest

Vero Beach Gets Sticky

Early cat catches the 'coon

Scanning the water for breakfast

Once again we gently swing on a mooring in the mangrove surrounded mini harbor that is Vel- I mean Vero Beach marina. We’ve been here since Wed. Nov 16, enjoying the beautiful weather and access to a car even more! Thursday brings the annual cruisers’ Thanksgiving potluck dinner beginning at 2pm with music for your listening and dancing pleasure afterward. The morning will be busy: the women will be cooking and baking while the men check out the wares at the boaters’ flea market.

Now for the sticky part.  In St. Augustine we met John on m/v Vulcan, a Mainship, oh about 36-38’. He’s a never-married Brit, flying solo – no accent though –  with interesting stories of all the places he’s been. Retired 11 years, Vulcan is his third? boat, his first a fishing trawler, second a monohull and recently he’s taken a liking to catamarans. That’s where we come in; moored close together in the St. Augustine mooring field John was checking out the nearby cats and stopped to visit us. Gave him the tour and the guys talked boats, cats and Maine cat technical details.  The day after we arrive in Vero, Vulcan comes along. Friendly folk we are, we dinghy by later to say hello and see what’s up. Oh those Mantas, several here and a decent cruising cat. More eye candy. John mentions that he expects to stay two nights. Russ and I look at one another and provide John with all the reasons to stay awhile; Thanksgiving dinner, free local bus to all the shopping you could want, an easy walk to a hardware store, laundry- with more dryers than washers!- not to mention the price is right. Plus a ton of cruisers, most who love to talk boats!

Several days later and guess who’s still here? Hee, hee- told him so.

We have a comfy, although sorta buggy (sand fleas are nasty) spot next to the mangroves. Benefits are the wildlife: raccoons one morning, osprey the next, augmented by the regular appearance of dolphins, egrets, herons and a dead fish.  I am getting over my dinghy driving fear- call it extreme reluctance –  and am building arm muscles trying to pull that darn string on the outboard.  Isn’t this 2011? I mean who still thinks a string on a pulley thingy will effectively start an outboard motor? Yes, I get it- men can do it and women who work out – on their boats?  Anyway, I am having some luck at getting the beast to start; now if I can only remember which way to move the stick thing that makes the outboard move in the opposite direction from the direction I want to go!!!

Wednesday, I rose to the challenge. After a boat visit and tour of Vulcan, someone commented “let’s see if she can start it on the first pull.”  Wouldn’t you know; I did. Have yet to repeat that feat.

Now, on to the getting our mail ritual. A week ago we contacted the UPS Store to send our mail to the marina.  Last year we gnashed our teeth again and again as each mail receiving event turned into an ordeal. Over the summer we confirmed that we could email our request along with the address as that might work better than calling (often bad timing on our part). We email the store and ask if we have any packages or bulky mail; not expecting any, but sure don’t want to pay to have it sent to Florida. Nothing heard. Next day I call; already this isn’t going well. No, no packages. I explain I had emailed; only the owner deals with emails- ok. I email the marina address requesting no catalogs and send everything else via UPS (we’d prefer Priority but decided since this was a UPS store…).  Please confirm. Confirming email arrives; mail going out Tuesday- UPS.

A week later, no mail. We already have a lost package- another sob story- not another one- please. I call the UPS Store. No record of a package to us. Ends up that it was removed from our spot, but never sent. Fortunately they did the right thing; sent all our mail, less the catalogs, UPS next day free of charge. Nice. I was very delighted to get two pieces of mail from Lats & Atts; the Nov/Dec issue and a check for $75 for my Tale of Two Pirates. They also used two photos; one of Fort Matanzas and at the end, one of Russ & I in our pirate outfits.  No doubt the start of a highly lucrative writing career; ahem, right.  I’m OK being published in a magazine with a worldwide readership.

We pose with John of m/y Vulcan on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thursday brought heaps of delicious food, interesting dinner companions, more Bahamas intel gathering and enough breeze to blow away most of the annoying sand fleas. Our ankles and calves are covered with itchy bites. Not as bad as a mosquito bite thank goodness.

Friday, our mooring companion, Polar Pacer broke loose; we’ll be a day behind. Also bid farewell to one of our inflatable kayaks. It was beyond repair and we salvaged a few parts to use on the other.

Arrived in Beaufort, SC

Sometimes we think we plan so carefully…  Everything must be planned, from weather to our daily route to diesel fill-ups to water fill-ups to head pumpouts to being able to receive UPS shipments & our mail.

Several days ago, we calculated we could arrive in Beaufort today ( this is pronounced BEW-fort as opposed to Beau (BOW)fort , NC), so we had our mail sent ahead to the Beaufort Post Office, held for General Delivery. This PO is one of the few Post Offices within walking distance of the waterfront.

Our first sign that things were off was the swing bridge just before Beaufort was late to open & all we heard were lots & lots of sirens.  When the bridge finally opened & we made it to the dock, we found out that no, Beaufort was not on fire, but that it was Veterans Day & there was a big parade in town!  Great we thought … but wait … isn’t Veterans Day a Federal holiday, as in Post Offices closed??  We have trouble enough keeping track of the day of the week, much less pending holidays!  Oh well, we’ll be first in line tomorrow morning at 8:30!
Lori immediately declared that breakfast in town before the PO stop would be a good thing to do- the cook always looks for a way out!!
We didn’t get to see much of Beaufort due to: lunch, taking the courtesy car to get propane tanks filled and a grocery stop, laundry, washing the boat, paying bills and updating the blog. Always next time. The town is filled with lovely southern homes and the waterfront is beautiful- wooden porch-type swings and a view of the harbor.

Beaufort waterfront 2010

View of waterfront from restaurant back porch

Southern friendliness abounds; we enjoyed lunch at Plums,overlooking the waterfront. A query of our waitress as to a breakfast recommendation  and she had it- Blackstones- a block away. Perfect.
Our first impression of a Publix from our trips to Florida, remains as good as then. You get the feeling that the seafood person (in this case) really has a stake in the store and boy, she went out of her way to get us just what we wanted and offered all kinds of helpful info. So how y’all feeling up north there?