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Man-of-War Cay

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At anchor watching the sunset

At anchor watching the sunset

Moored in MoW from the cockpit

Moored in MoW from the cockpit

This morning we tried to beat the low tide out of Hope Town, got underway at 7:30, but even though we have a fairly shallow draft sailboat we had to carefully watch the depth gauge. Our depth gauge is the oldest piece of electronics we have to rely on, it has a very loud and annoying alarm to warn you that you might be going aground, it always scares the crap out of me when it goes off, I’m yelling at Virginia “What the F__k is that?” Oh the depth gauge “honey press the silence alarm please.” She pressed it but it continue screaming; depth through the cut going out of Hope Town reading 6 feet we need 4.5, plenty of water! Bottom line it would not shut up, loud annoying buzz we are pushing the only button on the device, we could turn it off but we need it because its 1 hour before low tide and its damn shallow in places and unlike the forgiving mud bottom of the Chesapeake Bay this bottom is sand (no problem), coral (problem) and rocks (big problem). The noise was driving me nuts, we taped over the buzzer, after an hour listening to it, I ripped the buzzer off the back, silence! We dropped anchor just outside the town, shortly after we anchored we went swimming and snorkeling to cool off. After getting cleaned up some friends (Linda and Kip) from Mischief, a classic Alberg 37, came for a visit, later we had lunch and went into town. The town has a really nice grocery store and of course several churches, we walked to the ocean side to check out the beach, it appeared to be rough, we watched a sailboat navigating through the south Man-of-war channel, it appeared too rough for our boat (or I should say us). After a short tour of the town we came back to the boat had cocktail hour then had a great scrimp dinner. We think we will do another day here then head over to Treasure Cay, then Great Guana Cay, from there we will start on our trek south to Little Harbour. Little Harbour will be our last port of call in the Abacos. From there we will head to the warmer waters of the Exumas. Stay tuned!



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Marsh Harbour

The passage over Whale Cay channel was pretty tame, we left early to hit the high tide and it was smooth sailing all the way to Marsh Harbor. We took a slip at Marsh Harbour Marina for several nights, the marina was very clean, with a small pool but best of all is the Tiki Bar called the Jibroom. We got to know the owner Tom and his son Steven along with a whole cast of folks. Many of the cruisers that were there use this marina as a base, they rent a slip for 3 months or longer and mostly party with all their friends, but because the rent is very inexpensive they can go on short excursions to other islands and then come back the Jibroom. Pretty cool huh? We went to the huge supermarket called Maxwells several times, you have to understand that most of the islands have tiny stores that may or might not have what you need, if they do you can bet it will carry a sticker shock price. Maxwells was not inexpensive but it had everything we needed, close by was a liquor store which sold Bacardi Rum for $16 for 1.75 L while Miller beer was $44 a case, California wines $25, so we stocked up on Rum! Marsh Harbour is the largest city/town in the Abacos, but it is not on the ocean so there is no beach, the town itself was clean and colorful but busy with real cars and trucks (most small islands use golf carts to get around).As the cars drive on the wrong side of the road (sorry Ian) and the roads are very narrow, walking can be dangerous because it seems cars have the right of way. So on Monday we had a pot luck dinner at the Jibroom with the rest of the cruisers, then Tuesday morning we left for Hopetown. We tried to sail as much as we could, but the winds called the Trade-winds blow most of the time from the east at between 10-20 mph. We were going east so we had to tack into the wind. We were in no hurry to get here so we took our time.

Elbow Cay Lighthouse

Elbow Cay Lighthouse

Elbow Cay Light Gear train

Elbow Cay Light Gear train

Hopetown Street scene

Hopetown Street scene

From our mooring in Hopetown Harbor

From our mooring in Hopetown Harbor



From the lighthouse Hopetown Harbor



We arrived in Hopetown, located on the north end of Elbow Cay, around lunchtime. The harbor was pretty full of cruising boats mostly on moorings, there are a few places to anchor but the bottom does not have good holding and the moorings are everywhere so we took one. Once settled in we fired up the dinghy and went into town to scope out where we were going to have dinner. The narrow streets with white picket fences and unique small houses painted in bright colors, and friendly folks made this a really charming town. For dinner we settled on Capt Jacks, looked like a fun place with happy hour starting at 5 and Tuesday was Taco night they said till they ran out. We came back to the boat to close it up because it looked like it was going to rain, sure enough it rained for about an hour, so we eat on the boat Capt Jacks will have to wait. Today we went to the Elbow Cay Lighthouse, wow what a neat lighthouse.  We went to a little museum earlier and read the history of that lighthouse, built in 1860 and rebuilt in 1932. It seems that the primary occupation of the town folks up until it was built were wreckers. Wreckers wait for a ship to run aground then they go out and salvage the goods. Before the lighthouse there was an average of 2 ships a month on the reef, so they were very unhappy about its being built and tried to prevent the workers from completing it. Today it is still manned and using the same technology as when it was built. Amazing to think they built it by hand with no power tools. The Fresnel glass lens has to weigh several tons and this was I think over a 100 feet high. Today the light keeper still has to wind the weights 3 times each night to keep the lens turning at maybe 10 rpm.

We have a cold front coming thru on Friday with gale force winds so we will just stay put till it blows though.

First Mates view of Marsh Harbour and Hopetown

Marsh Harbor was our next stop after Green Turtle Cay. It has a lively community of cruisers, which was welcome by us after the quiet of GTC. This time we were in a slip at the marina. Next to us was a gorgeous sail boat from Maine. Elaine, Steve and their sweet dog Ella were the owners. They were a bit younger than Bob and I, but Elaine and I started talking like we were old friends. Their boat had developed some electrical problem, so to ease his frustration; Steve got out his guitar and played for awhile (after calling an electrician).

The marina had a great set up. There was a Tiki bar, open on two sides to let the breeze blow through. The décor was tropical, and I had a hard time not breaking out in a Jimmy Buffet song. In the back was a lovely patio, which had a set of stairs that led to a gazebo. Out front of the bar was a modest size pool. The neat thing about the bar was that you could stop in any time of day (or evening), and immediately be drawn into the current topic of conversation, or have a conversation with person sitting next to you. Everyone has a story. The young guy next to me was a chef on a 130 ft. boat that belonged to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens team.

We are currently in Hope Town on the island of Elbow Cay. The streets are quaint and narrow, with cascading flowers in vibrant colors. The houses all along the water edge are also painted in striking colors. The architecture is old style and so very charming. It seems almost every house has been converted into a business to take advantage of the tourist dollar. The one striking feature on the island that draws more attention than any other is the red and white candy-striped lighthouse. It is a 120 ft. tall beacon, and the only manned lighthouse remaining in the Bahamas. We climbed the 110 winding steps inside to view the hand-wound kerosene light, and the magnificent prisms. The reward at the top was the 360 view of the surrounding area. Before the lighthouse was built, there was an average of one ship wreck a month. The salvage business was a big business, so the people of that time tried to sabotage the building of the lighthouse by sinking the supply boats at night.

There is a pretty Methodist church in the center of town that plays beautiful chimes at 12 and 6 every day.



Off to Marsh Harbour

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This will be our last night in Green Turtle Cay, we have had a great time but we must be moving on. We need fuel, water and supplies and we’ve been told the Big city of Marsh Harbour is the place for that. If we can get a slip at Marsh Harbour Marina we will do that. The trick is getting there, from here it is not very far, about 27 miles, but there is one small area of about 2 miles that is tricky. It’s called Whale Cay, or as some folks say “The Whale” or “doing Whale Cay” whatever, it is an ocean passage that is a narrow cut between Whale Cay and some nicely placed rocks. With the wind blowing hard from the east right into this passage it sometimes makes large rolling breaking waves, so you have to time yourself so you are not there when the waves are breaking. Every morning at 8:15 there is a cruisers radio broadcast from Marsh Harbour that gives weather reports and also Whale Channel reports. Everyone listening can chime in on a topic and comment. So tomorrow morning looks like a good time for “doing the Whale”, if we find it is too rough for us we can turn around anchor someplace and wait till Sunday which actually looks even better than tomorrow.

Here’s a picture of Virginia happy as can be driving the dinghy around from White Sound after a day at the beach.



First Mate’s View of Green Turtle Cay

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Last Sunday morning Bob and I did some front porch sittin’  in front of the Customs building, while waiting for the customs officer. We sat across from a pink house with bright green shutters. The sign outside the cafe read , THE CRAZY LOVE CAFE.  Most all places along main street were closed this morning, but THE CRAZY LOVE CAFE  was open and busy.

The island has a variety of churches representing various faiths. The houses may be old and worn, but the churches are in good shape. From our vantage point on the porch, we couldn’t help but notice that the churches were well attended. Adults and children alike were dressed in their Sunday best. The boys had on sparkling white long sleeved shirts, and the girls had on pretty dresses, and their hair was done perfectly. The people are beautiful and very friendly, always passing by with a shy hello.

Yesterday we met two other couples who were cruisers like ourselves. We had lunch together at Shorties, a little road side stand, with picnic tables out front. Both couples were from Virginia.  After lunch we walked the beach. Bob and I had our bathing suits on under our cloths, so we took our first dip in the sea. It’s exactly like those picture post cards, white sand, blue/green water, and empty beaches. While bathing we also met another couple from Toronto.

Green Turtle is very small. It is totally non-commercial. No golden arches here. There is one short main road, with locally owned stores. They have a nice variety of local restaurants. All stores and restaurants appear to be just one room. We spoke to a couple of store keepers who said their heritage goes back in some cases as much as 8 generations.

Fresh fish is caught daily, and I hope to get some while we’re here… There is also a bakery that sells home made goods. We want to sample some of what they sell as well. Conch is on all the menus and said to be delicious. I guess we’ll have to try that too.


We’re on Island Time Now

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For New Years we put the boat in a slip at a marina close to the girls in Palm Beach Florida and had a great celebration with our daughter Erin, Packy and Ashlyn. We appeared to have a good weather window to cross over to the Bahamas on the morning of the 3rd. When we left at 3:30am there was no wind; the ocean was fairly calm with seas less than 2 feet. We had to run the motor the whole way, but when we got close to the Bahamas we had enough wind to motor sail which added maybe a knot to our speed.

Our point of entry was above the West End called Indian Rock. Unlike going someplace on the bay where you have land around you, this is the middle of the ocean. The only land we could see was the West End, but many rocks, sand bars and the like to make for a bad day so you had to navigate to this small channel. Just before we got there, the GPS started messing up and I did not trust it, so I was hand steering the boat using a single buoy as a point of reference. We made it through the narrow opening and onto Mangrove Cay for the night. Absolutely a deserted island, there were no sound at all – pitch black except for the moon and stars, awesome.

So 2 days later we are in the Black Sound at Green Turtle Cay.  We got here in time to clear customs, but when I hiked over to the office the man said my wife needs to be here also. Everything I read said “the captain only to customs, everyone else mast remain aboard.” He said to come back tomorrow at 9 with your wife. So we went in this morning and waited, a policeman said he was coming in on the 10:30 ferry, we waited till 11 no customs person, we are on island time now, mon. . .  I’m going back into town this afternoon, and I promise some pictures, we forgot the camera thinking that customs was the most important thing.

The First Mates view of the crossing

The first big leap in our journey to the Bahamas was crossing the Gulf Stream, an “ocean river”, flowing northward at two knots or more, with the greatest speeds in the center of the stream. It can be a tame kitty, a raging lion, or somewhere in between. There are a number of factors to consider: wind speed, wind direction, and sea state. On our first two attemps to cross we had to turn back. The weather report seemed to indicate a green light, but the water was very lumpy. The third try was a success, so we’re here.

The crossing was about 50 miles, but it took 12 hours. I should explain that once we entered the Bahamas, we still had about 100 miles to go before we reached an island populated by people. When I say we anchored for the night, it was next to a little spit of land in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Thankfully the ocean was like a mill pond the past few days. The beauty all around us was incredible. The silence was total and complete. Nothing. The scenery kept changing as night began to fall. The sky became an intense orange, then red orange. The sky was on fire! Once night was complete it was the blackest I’ve ever seen. There were big bright stars along with a gazillion small ones, twinkling stars and shooting stars. As an added bonus all the stars reflected on the ocean surface. We were in awe of the scene before us.

A word about the water. It was/is clean and clear. In 17 feet of water we could still very clearly see the ocean floor. The varied colors of the water catch your eye – a graduated spectrum from the pale aquas through the deeper teals and on to midnight blues of the ocean depths.

Did I mention that we had not seen another human being or boat in three days?



False Start

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December 27, 2012

We lost our free Internet connection yesterday so we took the dinghy ashore to find a hotspot and check in with Customs before we leave. We found WiFi at a marina to check up on emails and weather and news. We walked over to the customs office in Riviera Beach because the online form we filled out made no sense, I tried to make an appointment but the next available was on Monday, but the lady their was really kind and went ahead and gave us our numbers. We will need them to get back into the US without a big hassle. So it appears we will try again to cross on Saturday morning around 4AM. The next time that the wind and seas are correct will be Jan 3. We thought about that option or going down to Key West or leaving  from Miami. All are available options and who knows.

If we don’t post beforehand or even if we do, have a Happy and prosperous New Year.


December 26, 2012

We tried to cross over to the Bahamas this morning, we wanted to hit the inlet at Lake Worth (Palm Beach) at 4-4:30 but it was after 5AM when we got there. The tide was coming in so it was pretty rough thru the inlet, but once we were in the ocean the sea swells were about 4 feet coming every 5 seconds. Each one would kill our boat speed to nothing, there was not enough wind to sail which would give the boat the power to punch through those waves. So we decided to turn around and come back in, as Dan reminded me (watching our progress on Spot down in George Town, Bahamas) we are retired now there will be another weather window to make the crossing. So we are in a pretty spot just south of Peanut Island just southwest of the Inlet, the next possible crossing might be on the 29th, after that it will be next year.

Yesterday we had Christmas with our oldest daughter Elizabeth, Adam and Skyler. Old Santa was really good the got a big screen TV, Wii, lots of toys and games. I got a new Kindle Fire, Virginia got extensions on the top (Bimini). I’m not kidding that was what she wanted. When I installed the solar panels, the Bimini needed re-stitching after all the strong north winds we saw coming down the ICW. I found this canvas shop in Ft Lauderdale that did a great job on fixing the top so I asked them if he could add an extension to the front to join it with the dodger. Done.

I am without a cell phone, Chris let me keep my business iPhone until the end of the year, it went back today. We got Vonage which will work anyplace we have an Internet connection, cell phones will only work in the USA. I am in the process of transfering my cell phone number to my Vonage phone, should know today if that worked.


Dec 23, 2012

We had dinner aboard with Liz, Adam, and Skyler last night, it was wonderful. Skyler had a sleepover with us, she really seemed to enjoy all the goings on at the marina, this morning the party catamaran sailboat next to us left for a 3 hour cruise. Everyone seems to really enjoy themselves, when they come back the music is blaring Jimmy Buffet tunes and lots of laughter and smiles. Could be the refreshments served, I reckon. After they left we got in the dinghy and went around the marina only problem I had water in the gas tank, had to row back in, now I need to find a fuel pump to fix my tired old outboard.

Here are the photos of the panels, sorry about the first one being sideways, it showed correct in the preview. These are twin 140 watt solar panels that as you can see are almost exactly the same size as our Bimini top, as per usual this was a huge project. It is doing it’s job

Dec 20, 2012

Since we arrived here at North Palm Beach Marina, we have been busy visiting with our close by Florida families. We took our son’s-in-law out for a daysail about a week ago, other than that it has been very busy with projects and making ourselves Floridians. Car, Insurance, and licenses are now Florida. Getting tags for the car was a big mess, in our moving from house to boat we lost the title for our car, lots of time spent at the DMV, but that’s done. One of the big projects on my list was to add solar panels to the top of the Bimini. Once we leave here there will be long periods of being on anchor, so we need to be very self supporting. I did my research and found a local company with a kit that had all the pieces for a do-it-yourself installation. 2 weeks ago I drove down to Fort Lauderdale (65 miles) and picked out the parts I needed, they said they would call when ready, 5 days go by I call more delays waiting for parts, I told them I really needed to get started because we are leaving on the 26th. They said it would be ready Monday, again I drive down and they act like what are you doing here! Long story short they didn’t have all the pieces so I had to drive round and find all the missing stuff. I started today, hopefully tomorrow I’ll get done I’ll post pictures of our solar panels. Next comes that propane tank project.

I think the WiFi issues are fixed, Tom suggested I check out RadioLabs,  I received a WaveRV Marine Antenna several days ago and it connects fast, basically plug and play that works. Next I need to give up my iPhone, it won’t work in the Bahamas so I’ giving it back to Chris, who has let me “borrow” it till now. So I’m going to transfer my cell number to Vonage, that way when we have WiFi we will have a phone! got to love modern technology!


North Palm Beach

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Monday, December 3, 2012

As much as we liked Stuart, we decided to go further south to Palm Beach Marina. The trip today was not far, but entailed many bridges most only required a call on the VHF radio to the bridge tender. Then ask for a bridge opening, but 3 or 4 of them opened only on a schedule. So we were rushing to make the next opening then slowing down to a crawl because the next bridge might be a mile away but it didn’t open for 30 minutes. This trip was the first time we actually saw Manatee. Ever since we got to Florida ICW we saw signs warning you to go slow look out for Manatees. It seemed like a scam we never saw any but Florida spent a fortune with all the signs, but today we saw many of them slowly lumbering along. Starting around Georgetown, SC we started seeing dolphins, usually they suddenly appear in the stern wake of the boat. As soon as I get the camera, they move to the other side of the boat. We still get a thrill when they swim along not 2 feet from the side of the boat for sometimes 20 minutes or so.


Its December Already

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

We are doing our shoreside things this morning, laundry, grocery shopping, and of course catching up on the website. We are on a mooring, meaning we are in a marina, but not tied up to the pier instead on a mooring ball. Sort of like anchoring but safer, plus you have all the amenities of restaurants, showers (endless hot water), shopping and your body finally realizes you are not rocking in the waves. But to get to shore we use our dinghy and tie up with many other dinghys (see in photo).The marina is at the foot of the bridge going into Stuart, Florida called Sunset Bay Marina.

Saturday, December 1

We won’t have a long day today so we got lazy and got a later start. I should have checked my emails before leaving; an old Navy buddy, Benny (now JJ), that lives 10 miles away left a message to get together before we left! Also we got a message from Virginia’s friend Cindy and Dan to sail close by so they could get a picture, woops we missed that also. We need to do better monitoring Facebook, emails, ant text messages.

Once we got settled down on our mooring, we meet a high school friend, Vernon, who was waiting at the dock for us. We had a great time catching up and hoisting a few to celebrate our arrival to Stuart.


At Cape Canaveral

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Just a short post from my smartphone we are getting close to our final Florida destination to be with our family. We haven’t decided if that will be Stuart or Lake Worth.

We spent a day in St. Augustine and had a great time with Lauren and her son Cyrus. We gave them a dinghy ride out to where Shadowfax was on a mooring and had a wonderful meal at A1A close to the bridge of Lions.

It really is nice to feel this Florida sun, that morning we left Charleston it was 34 today 70.