May 2012 ~ Abacos
Day 625 ~ Tropical RainsMay 31st, 2012
The day broke hot and sunny. By 10am it was hotter than hot, the inside of the boat baking like an oven. Thankfully there was a touch of breeze, but it was clear this was going to be a scorcher.
A trimaran pulled in and set the hook mid-morning. Anna is in love with tris for no apparent reason other than that they are different. I went over and talked to the couple a bit and arranged for Anna to come back over for a visit when she was done with her grammar and spelling.
Sara got some rare time with Remi all to herself while Anna got her tour. After a quick lunch, the older girls headed over as well and before you knew it Bruce was on the tramp building a catamaran out of their two paddleboards. Add a bucket of sand to support the beach umbrella, one bag of Doritos to stave off starvation, a pitcher of water for hydration and you have the makings of hours of kid fun.
Around 3pm dark clouds moved over. The first big drops were starting to hit as the girls scrambled off their cata-raft. Yet another torrential downpour ensued. We filled our tanks in 8-10 minutes, then had to let the rest of the bounty roll off. We caught enough buckets excess that out came the laundry, sheets, towels and all.
Things broke up an hour later and the laundry was hung out to dry, only to get an additional rinse a half hour later with another 1/2 inch of rain. Not having to run the watermaker is nice, but this could get old pretty fast, actually.
On the plus side, the rain took the edge off the heat and everyone enjoyed a cool dinner on the veranda. We were just getting into the last chapters of Narnia when the mozzies attacked and everyone dove for cover.
Day 624 ~ Tiger!May 30th, 2012
Treasure Cay has a great beach and a nice little community of Florida escapees, but alas, it's time to go. Remi De left first thing while we did some brekkie and finished a few internet tasks with the fast (rare) wifi.
Bruce motored as far as I could see him, 5-6 miles, but by the time we were upping anchor the winds had filled in a bit. After dodging some shallow bands of sand, we raised the main and genny and had a lovely sail all 12 miles up to Manjack Cay's northern bight. It's exposed to the Atlantic to the north, but the winds are light now, and predicted to stay that way, so it should be a nice spot.
We tackled lessons underway and had them wrapped up about the time we doused the genny and anchored near Remi De. Bruce likes to be close to the beach, and is hanging, it appears, just feet off a sand bank. A quick snorkel of our anchor and all's well. The girls couldn't wait to get our dinghy down, so piled into their mini-tubes and floated downwind. I followed them and found Bruce's keels just a foot off the grass; we were mid-tide. "Hey you're going to mow the grass at low tide," I mentioned casually, remembering the advice about never giving advice to other sailors.
"Yeah, I was here at dead low and we were kicking up a little sand. No worries." To each their own.
The sun burst from behind its cloud cover around 3pm and the wind fell off. The temperatures soared. It didn't take much convincing to keep the girls in the water. Eventually, we headed ashore for some beach exploration. There was a certain smell as we got near the beach and we soon found the source. A dead and decaying turtle, a huge one, easily 4 feet from nose to tail. A debate about tortoise shell possession and its legal implications ensued, but no one had the nerve to brave the flies and flip the carcass over to check out its shell, which was clearly still in place.
We hiked along the northeastern edge of the island for a few hundred yards and came to small cove. Bruce was cooling his feet a bit when someone spotted a large shark cruising 50 feet out, in about 5 feet of water. Bruce waded in a little farther and made a splash with his hand. With one powerful stroke of its tail, the shark swirled and charged towards him like a torpedo. Bruce back-pedalled pretty quickly, but the shark chickened out when it got so shallow. His fin was completely out of the water and his belly on the sand.
In the shallows and sparkling sun the distinctive tiger stripes along the 6 foot shark's back were plain to see. Bruce was now standing high and dry. We hightailed it back to alert some snorkelers just around the corner and then decided to bag the hike. Just too hot, but now no one wanted to go swimming either. Wimps.
Day 623 ~ Sea Pearl ShinesMay 29th, 2012
Not sure what got into me this morning. First it was breakfast for the crew, then a batch of epoxy mixing for gluing shoes, hatch knobs and plastic turkeys. That's right, we have a plastic turkey that lost its feet. Good thing he's along.
After getting the stray epoxy off my hands, I noticed the sun shades, first installed back in Deltaville that still needed some extra snaps. Miraculously, I found all the repair parts and pieces with only a few minutes of head scratching. Out came the hammer and red Sharpie. Always use red, because it fades in the sun faster than say, blue, or heaven forbid, black. When, not if, you accidentally make a mark on the deck, or the canvas or window, at least it will fade quickly. You'll never guess how we know this.
There was great banging and some mis-steps but, overall, the sunshades look great now, fit tightly, lay flat and don't get curled in the wind, not that it ever blows here.
I was then taken by an urge to sail Sea Pearl. Sara and Anna were swimming with Remi next door, so Emma and I dropped her and got her rigged.
The wind was light but adequate, the bay nearly flat calm with a low slow roll working in through the cuts to the north. The turquoise water glittered and glowed in the softening 5pm sun as we cut a clean line towards the sandy point a mile to the east. It was ideal, a picture book. Emma was reveling in solo daddy time, and keeping a expert hand on the tiller. We pulled ashore and walked the powdery white beach for a bit, talked about life and growing up and what it means to be the oldest among sisters who can, at times, be really annoying.
We did a quick taco dinner and then leveraged the good internet for some FaceTime with Grandma.
It's a Snap
Emma whacks a few times to get the snaps set on the window covers so that they lay flat.
Day 622 ~ Smoking Remi, AgainMay 28th, 2012
After three days in one piece of paradise we all have the itch to move. I knew that the best way to motivate Remi De for a sail race was to leave before him, but not by too much.
We pulled in 90% of our chain and, leaving Bruce just stuck to the bottom, raised our main, popped him out and were underway. It had seemed there was enough wind and from the right angle to fill both a the main and a head sail. Alas, it wasn't to be. Once we were on our course, we were running dead downwind. We unrolled our big genny but it sagged and whimpered, completely shielded from the wind by the main. Remi De was underway now and letting his big headsail fly. I knew that having my main shadowing the head sail would cost me another chance to put Bruce in his place.
Raising the main beats a Stairmaster, but it still hurts to watch all that energy come crashing down 4 minutes after breaking a sweat getting it in place. Racing's that way though, you have to do whatever it takes to teach the big guys a lesson. Once the main was down, we unrolled our second, smaller headsail and tied it off on the opposite side. This wing-n-wing arrangement is our best possible downwind combination, and has the advantages of being quiet and peaceful as well.
For the first few minutes it looked like Bruce might be gaining but, ten minutes later, he looked a touch farther away. I couldn't help a modest victory dance and perhaps a hoot or two.
A half hour later and he hadn't gained a inch, and may very well have lost some. An hour later, and he was still eating our wake. Eventually Bruce turned off to the north to check out a day anchorage he wanted to see. After all the birthday sugar, chocolate and play, the girls were in rare groucho form so we opted to take a kid break and continue on to Treasure Cay. The bay should also afford us some protection from the predicted southerly winds.
Remi De came our way about 6pm and set the hook nearby. He tooled over with the dinghy to ask about internet and one thing lead to another. "That genny you got sure pulls hard. I just couldn't catch ya, Mate."
There's no response for that, but a wide smile.
Day 621 ~ Birthday MadnessMay 27th, 2012
The girls dear friend Remi turns seven in 12 days. The natural thing would be to celebrate her birthday on her birthday. But, boat lives being what they are, there's no such thing as a certain schedule so Toni, Remi's mom, decided it was best to seize the moment and do a birthday bash while Remi's three biggest fans were nearby.
Bruce stopped by to pick up the fans after breakfast. Quiet settled over the boat. Lisa and I did computer stuff, fiddled on a few things and generally enjoyed a peaceful, tidy boat for an afternoon.
I whipped up some oatmeal raisin cookies to contribute to the munchie madness that I knew would happen next door. Sure enough, we arrived to find all kinds of snacks, sweets and treats laid out. There was Pin the Tail on the Donkey, "Pass the Parcel" and others. Then the girls were back in the water. Bruce set up a rope swing in combination with the "slippery dip" (a paddle board upside down coated with dish soap). All the calories from cake and cookies just kept on a-burning.
We were back at the boat by 8pm. Poor Sara could hardly keep her head vertical. The kids were in bed and drifting off when Lisa realized that we missed our anniversary again. This time by 3 days. I guess we're getting old.
A Perfect Splash
Bruce rigged his paddle board and waterski rope to create great fun for the kids. Here, Anna does a slide with a full twist.
Day 620 ~ Yet Another GoodbyeMay 26th, 2012
With a break in the weather we were hoping Remi De would cast off the lines in Hope Town and head our way. We were just getting a quick breakfast cleaned up when I looked east and saw their distinctive outline headed our way. We had Sea Pearl down in a minute and rigged quickly. Sara, Emma and I sailed out to welcome them. Sara was wiggling with the excitement of having "her" friend back. Compatriots from the Republic of Silliness.
Remi De set the hook nearby and before long the long lost pals were reunited. I headed back to town with Bruce and Toni to snag a few forgotten items from yesterday's Blitzkreig.
By the time the we returned what breeze there had been was now long gone. It was hotter than hot. It didn't take too much coaxing to get the girls to take to the water. Next thing we knew they were doing "banana dives" off the back of Remi De, climbing out, dunking their heads into a large pail of sea water and then doing it all over again. The energy expended boggles the mind.
Lynn of Dedication is turning 10 tomorrow, so the promise of birthday cake and party got everyone cleaned up and gathered by about 3pm. The dinghies converged and the Black Forest cake (with real whipped cream!) and "Citron" cake (lemon pound cake) were ravenously devoured. This was followed by more swimming, then wakeboarding lessons for Emma. She just about got up once, but otherwise had a face plant salt bath time after time.
Dedication leaves for Europe tomorrow so everyone lingers a little longer than normal. By 6:30 the kids are having a hard time standing so we say our goodbyes. Emma, who has found her stride with Lynn in the last few days ("She likes babies too!"), is dejected as we putter home. I can't see tears in her eyes because she is wearing sunglasses. But I know they are there.
Day 619 ~ Sticking to your StrengthMay 25th, 2012
So Lisa does the laundry and the dishes. There's a lot of glamour there as you can guess. Since I produce most of the dirty dishes while cooking and the vast majority of the really spicy laundry there's a little inequity in the mix. I guess there always is.
During one of the recent rain deluges, our buckets were overflowing. In a fit of do-it-myselfness, I grabbed some of my worst laundry in a wad, tossed it into a bucket 3/4 full of fresh rain water. I was tempted to dump in some Lysol just to kill everything, but opted for the safe route and put a couple of glugs of laundry detergent in instead. I did the usual hand agitation followed by a good multi-hour soak. Everything seemed to work fine, and smelled fresh!
A couple of days later I grabbed a pair of undies and, funny thing, the elastic crackled open and didn't seem to have much stretch left. Weird. When I went to take them off that evening, gooey globs of something was stuck all over my skin. Never had that happen before. After trying several solutions unsuccessfully, Lisa suggested I use peanut butter. Really?! Well yes, actually it did work, but by that point I felt like I needed another shower.
Next day, new pair, same thing. Not good. I am usually a slow learner, but these went straight into the trash. "How much soap did you put in the bucket?" Lisa asked.
"I don't know, a few chugs worth 'til it seemed about right." I explained.
"Right" she said, "that's what I was afraid of."
So today, I walked down the stairs and smelled the unmistakable fragrance of WD-40. I looked left and was stunned to see Lisa holding our bathroom door. Not holding it open, or holding it closed but cradling the entire door and trying, futilely, to get it back on its hinges while the boat rocked in a passing powerboat wake.
It seems in a fit of do-it-herselfness, she had decided to take the squeaking hinge problem into her own capable hands and had learned that the doors, when open, just lift off their hinges. Getting them back on is like trying to thread three needles at the same time with three different strands of thread in a perpetual earthquake.
To top it off, WD-40 was running down the hinges. Now I know that some people really like WD-40, and maybe you do. But if you think of it as a solvent more than a lubricant you'll be on right track. It will stop a squeak for, say, a week. Then it will be back with a vengeance and guess what? You'll have to buy more WD-40 since it stopped the squeak so well in the first place. It's just one more conspiracy by corporate America.
Now I should have taken a picture of Lisa standing there, dancing with this door, but of course my first thought was "What in the world?!"
I wiped down the hinges, now that all previous lubricants where well dissolved and then applied just a drop or two of the right stuff, SuperLube, in this case. Teflon versus scented diesel fuel. I'd like to say I just slid the door right back on, but no, it took a couple minutes of body contorting gymnastics to balance everything and hold it just right to slip the door down on all three hinge pegs simultaneously (of course I didn't ask for help).
It doesn't squeak any more.
Other things happened today. We moved with Dedication over to Pond Bay, just outside Marsh Harbor. The kids have been stuck aboard long enough now that both sets of parents decided we all needed to head to shore and stretch legs a little, not to mention help carry groceries.
Day 618 ~ Another Rainy DayMay 24th, 2012
Well this Spring has had more rain and howling winds than we saw during all of last year. Fortunately, a kid boat we first met in Maine last Fall is anchored nearby. So, they all went swimming (if you are wet, why not be wetter) and played Legos to pass the rainy hours. We have water now in every crack, crevice and bucket. Why not do some laundry? Once we get the smell of suds we get even more motivated. Out came the under cockpit locker jugs and in went the brushes and Lysol. Scrub-a-dub-dub.
Anna and I whipped up a couple of loaves of homemade bread. To put a little shine in the day, we made one of them a cinnamon sugar swirl and invited Dedication over for a treat. There were no leftovers.
Rainy days are good for baking. Anna silently makes bread.
Washer Woman Emma
Emma gets into the agitation phase of the laundry business.
Day 617 ~ Hunkering Down, AgainMay 23rd, 2012
The wind predictions are changing by the hour. First, we were going to have 35 knots from the south, then 30 from the east, now it's gusts to 44 from the southwest. We have pretty good protection where we sit so are going to wait it out and see what develops. If we need to move around to Marsh Harbour proper it's only 3 miles away.
Did a full retinue of lessons and lunch. It rained some this morning, but at least is dryer now and blowing hard, 25-30 much of the time. The kids need some exercise so we coordinate with Dedication to head over to Matt Lowe's Cay where the manicured beaches beckon.
The kids don't know each other (yet) so things take a bit to get in the groove. "Private Island" signs are posted on each raked beach. Bahamian law states that all beaches are public up to the high tide line, so we decide to stick it out. About a half an hour later, the island security guy comes over. He's very polite and tells us we are welcome to the beach but asks that we stay there. Fair enough.
The winds are cranking up pretty quickly now, 25-30 knots, so Daniel from Dedication breaks out his kiteboard. It does look fun, but also hairy at times. His is a twelve square meter kite and when it hits the power curve Daniel's 200+lb bulk takes to flight.
We return and the kids go to their boat for swimming and then snacks. The girls are always excited to see inside someone else's boat. The pistachios and crackers don't hurt much either.
It's always amusing how much we have in common with other cruising families. The abbreviated careers cut short, the search for a boat that will do the job, the compromises, the boatschooling, the chore programs. It's amazing how similar life and parenting is in Switzerland compared to Alaska. The long gray days. The techno-obsessed kids. All the things that we left behind with gladness they had as well. Their kids even have to do the dishes! Imagine that, our girls were certain we were the hardest driving parents ever!
Day 616 ~ Sticking to SailsMay 22nd, 2012
Usual lessons with a side of whining from the girls this morning. You'd think they would just save the energy. However, Remi De is nearby so we hold the most precious cards. Rain came and went and came again.
There's a big blow coming, so we had agreed to up anchor and move in the afternoon. One thing lead to another and it was 4pm before we finally had the hook up and the sails flying. It felt like the wind was right on the nose, so Bruce opted to motor straight into it. I already had the main up so decided to tack for a while.
Our first leg lasted nearly a half an hour and gained us a whopping 300 yards closer to our destination. The next was better, and the fourth was dead on. The wind shifted about 20 degrees and we were flying along in 20 knots of wind on a flat sea at 40 degrees off the wind. Perhaps it's ideal on any boat, but ours is really happy with these conditions. Sailing like a freight train, the faster the smoother. We topped 8 knots a few times.
Bruce is headed to Hope Town for good internet. Toni wants to Skype her dad on his birthday, but we all know that's code for being near the shopping. We're not too keen on the wakes, mozzies and southerly exposure there, so opted to part company and anchor in the lee of Sugar Loaf Cay. As we approached, we saw another cat anchored right where I had stuck my finger on the chart. No worries, there was plenty of room.
As we got closer, the boat cut a familiar line. We set the hook and found it was Dedication, a 45' cat flying the Swiss flag who we met in Belfast, Maine, last year. They have 2 kids, 11 and just turning 10. We're both waiting for wind, them for heading to the Mediterranean and us for going to North Carolina so we should get some good play time in.
Turns out the dad, Daniel, and I think alike: stay out of cramped, crowded areas when big winds come. Marsh Harbour is jammed with boats. Any anchoring mistakes there, by anyone, and it's going to be a gelcoat love fest. No thanks. There's a certain comfort in finding you might not be insane after all, or at least lost your mind in the same place as another dad.
Day 615 ~ A Touch of MotivationMay 21st, 2012
Did the usual lessons in the morning. It was cool and overcast still at 9am, so a touch of boat maintenance motivation kicked in. Our forward port hatch was accidentally stepped on while open which popped the lens out on one corner. The take-home is that every time it rains, or we bury a hull, that forward compartment gets wet. Our poor bicycles have suffered terribly with the constant damp, not to mention occasional salt, dousings.
After some false starts, the web informed me that there is only one correct caulking to use for Lexan lenses. It's called Life-Seal, a hybrid blend of polyurethane and silicone. Straight poly products, like 5200, eat away the Lexan. Household silicone like Home Depot sells, just isn't up to the rigors of boat life.
So, out came the tools and the tubes. The lens came out after some prying and tugging. It took an hour to scrape off every last bit of old silicone and clean up the aluminum hatch frame in preparation for the new goo. And, of course, I had to pop it back out after finding my first bead around the hatch wasn't generous enough. I used Frog tape on all edges that could get smeared with overflow, so clean up was a snap (you'll never guess how I learned that little tip). Buckets of water finished up the job with 160lbs of dead weight. This baby isn't going to leak a drop, really....
Remi came over for a few hours while Bruce took his hawaiian sling and went hunting for grouper. No luck. While they were out, a Remora decide to attach itself to Toni's leg. She's a bit excitable, and said, "I walked on water, screaming the whole way" to get back on the dinghy. Would have been a sight to see.
The water was so warm that Lisa and I went for a snorkel, but never did find the actual living Elkhorn coral that Bruce and Toni had found.
The girls and Raftan boys played at the beach all afternoon. The dinner omelettes disappeared in a flash.
Day 614 ~ Smoking RemiMay 20th, 2012
It's Sunday, so we started the day right with Swedish pancakes. The huge stack was in the middle of being gobbled up when Bruce stopped by to pick up Anna and Sara for the boat kid-swap. Tiger (12 yo) came over from Alexina and enjoyed a few cakes herself before we got underway.
Remi De is 10 feet longer than we are, her mast 15 feet higher. Just about any wind, any day Bruce beats us wherever we go. It's a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but such is life. Bigger really is faster. I take solace in knowing he's got four dollars into his boat for every one of ours.
Bruce had his anchor up first but we had raised our main while still on the hook so actually got moving ahead of him by perhaps 150 meters. Using Tiger and Emma, we deployed the genny in a brilliant white flash and cut the engine moments later.
The winds were barely a breath, just enough to keep the sails filled. We were doing 3.6 knots and I watched in dismay as Bruce unrolled his massive screecher (large head sail). The thing would cover the better part of a tennis court, really.
Not 2 minutes later the wind shifted. His screecher isn't built for going towards the wind, only alongside it or downwind. It waffled, then fluttered like a flag. I sheeted in the genny which filled smartly. We were doing 4.5 knots now. Bruce was seen dashing left and right getting the screecher back in; we inched ahead. 200 meters. A maniacal laugh rose in my throat, but I surpressed it. Our victory couldn't last long.
I was wrong. Whether it was the light air, the perfect wind angle or just dumb luck, we held Bruce at bay for well over an hour. The wind would shift a little this way, or that. We both trimmed a little there, then a little there. After a half an hour, Bruce had gained perhaps 50 meters. After an hour passed, he had picked up another 50, then nothing. I kept looking back expecting him to be right on my tail but, no, the winds were just too light to exploit his longer water line's advantage. I wanted to start throwing stuff overboard to lighten the ship. I made some comment about books, linens and such but Lisa just harumphed. No hope on that score.
After a solid hour, the wind shifted forward another 10 degrees. Our genny is only good to about 50 degrees off the wind so it started to luff a little, losing power. With every wrinkle Bruce gained a half a boat length and, bit by bit, he reeled me in. It was clear his intention was to cut off my wind, so I flared up in front of him, forcing him to stall out and fall back, but it was a transitory ploy.
My only hope in keeping up boat speed was to fall off the wind. By sailing about 45 degrees to the wind we were able to match Bruce stride for stride for most of the second hour. It felt great. When we arrived at our destination 12 miles ahead, Bruce was right on target and we had a mile of upwind motoring to make up. However, just keeping abreast of him for two and a half hours felt great. Must have been that bottom scraping that paid off. By any classification rule we'd have come out on top. A rare, golden feeling.
Once at anchor, we traded kids back and compared notes on what had become a fantastic sail in flat calm water. "You were doing pretty good there for a bit, Mate!" he offered. Which means, in sailing language, "You were faster than I thought, but I still beat ya!"
It was a backhanded complement, but I couldn't suppress a wide smile. I'll take it.
Day 613 ~ Kid CohortMay 19th, 2012
We were going to move North, but Bruce and Toni found a great trail and beach on the south side of town so we decided to stay. We go where the kids go, or stay in this case, so we decided to stay put as well. Then, Alexina heard that we were staying so they stayed too and Raftan, French Canadian friends of Alexina, did the same.
So it goes when you have kids aboard.
Bruce and Toni dropped Remi off on our boat and I went with them to Marsh Harbor for some groceries. We assumed we knew the right place to go, but ended up back tracking this way and that. Forty minutes later, we finally found the right dinghy dock that makes Maxwell's a short walk down a shady lane. Great provisioning, virtually mainland selection and prices. Only $3 for a cab back to the dinghy.
Made plans to go to the beach with the kids after lunch. Alexina took the big girls, Raftan followed with their 2 boys (9 and 10) and we brought up the rear with Remi. The beach was nice and the water warm. Waves drew the kids in to play, at least until Rafaël got hit by one and 'saw stars' and Remi got rolled and saw black. Time to take the kids out. The wind picked up and the rain came, so that helped make the final decision.
Whipped out another batch of Mac 'n' Cheese. I bought sharp cheddar at the grocery just for the occasion. A nice salad helped to break up the heaviness, but they don't call it comfort food for nuthin'.
Day 612 ~ Water and SunMay 18th, 2012
We weren't too far along with lessons when the rain seemed to turn from an occasional sprinkle to something more serious. We left it a few minutes to wash the decks, then opened the tanks and drank deeply. We had been full for half an hour before it tapered off.
The forecast called for overcast and intermittent showers all day but, by 12:30 in the afternoon, the cloud line passed to the east leaving behind a bluebird sky. Predictable things happened. We put Sea Pearl down, Emma and Tiger went for a sail and spent the day exploring town and doing what 12 year old girls do: talk, chat and talk some more.
Emma ended up being invited to dinner at Alexina. The evening slipped away in flat calm. The Remi play crew returned at nearly bedtime but, "not the least bit sleepy". Right.
Day 611 ~ Another LighthouseMay 17th, 2012
The usual morning routines of breakie and lessons. Bruce was hoping for a grouper, so took his hawaiian sling spear gun and snorkeled the reef nearby reef. We went along for just in case things got interesting. No dice, very few fish on the north side of Hopetown but some great sea fans and coral whose colors take on a distinct vibrancy in the overcast light.
Alexina came after we were back making Emma a happy camper since they have a 12 year old girl. We ran the whole crew into Hopetown for some off-boat excercise. Small town, but colorful with lots of flowers.
We explored the world-famous Hopetown lighthouse. Hope Town features one of the last operational kerosene-fueled lighthouses in the world. This lighthouse was built in 1862 and became operational two years later, it is striped horizontally red and white. Its light can be seen from 23 nmi (43 km) away.
The Hope Town Lighthouse is one of only three Manual Lighthouses left in the World. It has a spring mechanism that has to be hand cranked every several hours to maintain the sequence of five white flashes every 15 seconds. The lamp burns kerosene oil with a wick and mantle. The light is then focused as it passes through the optics of a first order Fresnel lens which floats on a bed of mercury. High technology in 1862.
Day 610 ~ Juneau LandMay 16th, 2012
A Juneau, Alaska, day. Dark clouds scuttling under a high dense overcast with frequent drizzling showers and intermittent puffs from every direction.
We are anchored once again next to our dear friends, Remi De. We each tackled lesson work until about noon, ate a quick lunch and sent two kid packages over to Remi for the 8 mile motor north. Lynard Cay offers good protection from the Northwest to Southwest, but little from the South, to where the winds are predicted to shift.
Ever optimistic we raised the genny and tried to ride the southerly breeze, but it shifted around with passing squalls which hung over the large land mass of Great Abaco. We eventually doused it and gave up, another victory for Exxon.
Then it started to rain. We eventually pulled in beside Remi De and dropped Spade. She caught instantly against our forward momentum. When we pulled back on her she flipped over and just skipped along the bottom, creating a sand plume you could see from the boat through the clear water. The bottom here is light sand and grass over a hard crust. Not good.
Fearing another Nassau, we switched to the 66lb Bruce and moved over 50 yards. Bruce caught quickly, but wasn't really fully embedded in mixed bottom. Since the winds are predicted to be non-existent, we settled for that.
Got the kids back, and then whipped up a killer Mahi Mahi dinner #2. Blackened with fried red potatoes and a side of green beans. A $24 meal in any self respecting restaurant. Mighty tasty, when it's this fresh.
Day 609 ~ The Monthlong DayMay 15th, 2012
Today was one of those days where every possible sailing emotion is wrung out of you like an old towel that's done double duty on the kitchen floor cleaning up a spilled tub of baked beans.
Everything that can happen on a boat, seemed to happen. Well, most of it anyway. Fish hooked and lost, crazy squall walls, desparate downwind runs, clever sailing tricks (thanks to Lisa!), hairy sailing moments, complete saturation of the body by water etc. The entire day became a Vignette, here:
Despite fickle winds we made it into Great Abaco's Little Harbour with 40 minutes of daylight left. Our dear friends Remi De were there, waiting for us. The girls went spastic as we circled them and exchanged news and greetings. It's been a couple of weeks since we have seen them.
We got the anchor set and enjoyed a late dinner of Mahi tacos and salad. As we drifted off a huge line of squalls decorated the western and northern horizons with intermittent lightening flashes and Hollywood-like peels of rolling thunder. After twelve and a half hours of sailing, and too many emotions to count, sleep came quickly.
Day 608 ~ Leaving Nassau BehindMay 14th, 2012
Underway by 8:30am. Glad to be leaving this dive and hope never to return. We'll see. As we motored under the shadow of Allure of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, the girls gawked at the palace of glass and steel. We were just reaching the pinch point of the harbor entrance when a new shadow loomed; Disney's newer cruise ship was headed in. We turned 90 degrees and held station for 10 minutes while they entered through the channel opening with what seemed only feet to spare.
Once going, we put up sails and headed northeast. The winds were decent, about 60 degrees off the starboard beam and fairly light but enough to keep us moving in the 5-6 knot range. We settled into our daily routine, lessons, breakfast, a light lunch and a game of Clue to wile away the time. The sea was calm and the ride comfortable.
As we approached the underwater shelf that rises to create Eleuthera, I noticed sea birds swirling nearby. They moved toward us and, WHAM, the port pole was hit hard. I grabbed it and began the fight. While Lisa fitted on the fighting belt, I got distracted and let the line go slack. Five seconds later, he was gone and I was crestfallen; it's been weeks, perhaps a month or more, since we had a keeper fish worth fighting.
As we approached the North Eleuthera Sound the wind died. We fired up the port engine and motored towards Royal Harbour, making water as we went.
Anchoring was a déjà-vu affair. The bottom is thick mud that allows the anchor to mush through rather than stick. Tried Bruce twice, then Spade and back again to Bruce. Only four times tonight, half that of Nassau Harbour. Took an hour and a half and we were finally set by 6pm. Getting really sick of fluffy sea bottoms that won't hold. Left the anchor alarm on all night but, other than some intermittent rain and thunder, nothing happened.
Day 607 ~ Goodbye, Jaru!May 13th, 2012
I have heard that there are parents who shelter their children from disappointment whenever possible. The cruising life is not for them. This morning, in the haze of a high humidity tropical sunrise, Jaru upped anchor and made a goodbye pass on their way to Florida: potential buyers for Jaru and a new life in Canada's West for Rod, Cedar, Tiegan and Osa. We love you guys!
More tears afterward and plenty of grouchiness to go around. Sara is pestering and petulent. Anna is snappy and giving a loose rein to her budding lawyer side. Emma is physically sick, stumbling around in a daze and talking in a hoarse whisper. The water park rides, the pizza, the movies the fun and laughter have all taken their toll.
It was a miserable night last night in Nassau, the armpit of the Bahamas. The Booze & Cruise raft slowly motored up and down the harbor blaring the most noxious, pounding, glaring sound pollution one can imagine. They weren't even songs, just 10 second snippets of popular beats interrupted by a DJ that jibbered unintelligible, gutteral noises. Chainsaws at full throttle are comparably uplifting. Oh, and they started at 10pm and ran until midnight.
This would normally be more than enough to get us up and moving, but today it wasn't to be. We're all too wiped out and bummed over Jaru's departure. We'll just have to put up with another night of Nassau's finest.
Sunday meals included Swedish pancakes, Mac & Cheese and peanut butter chip cookies. Can we say comfort food anyone? I hoofed it back to the grocery for a few forgetten items, in part to get them and in part to just get off the boat and stretch. I returned smelling like something from a boxing gym. Lisa pretended not to notice.
After a game of Clue, some stories and blog updates, it was time for prayers and sleep. Tomorrow we sail out of the Pit and on to Eleuthera.
Day 606 ~ Anchoring NightmaresMay 12th, 2012
Have I said how much I hate Nassau? And now, another reason.
The girls and Jaru went in to the park to get the day's wristbands while I stayed behind and tackled some client projects and made bread. Since I was on the computer, I monitored our GPS location from time to time. I ducked down to the kitchen to whip up the bread, which takes about 15 minutes. When I came back up, I glanced outside and noticed that the concrete quay to our starboard seemed a lot closer than it was before.
Flipping open the laptop, the GPS pegged us 40 meters downwind and -current from where we had been just 15 minutes before. It had all been quiet and comfortable. Scary.
We seemed to be holding in the new location so I hung tight and monitored things until Lisa and the kiddies returned. We fed lunch to our girls and Jaru's kids. Then, at 12:47pm we upped the Bruce and tried another spot. Being a little paranoid now, we backed up hard on it. The chain bucked a few times then started flopping around as we watched nearby landmarks slowly slide forward.
We tried another spot, and then changed to the Spade; then another spot and another. An hour passed. Chain came and went, 250 meters worth eventually. We went East, and West and, finally in desperation, into the Back-40 and nearly to the cruise ship docks. At 2:15pm we dropped for the 8th time, this time with a second anchor line rigged to add our 78 lb Brittney anchor in tandem. However, this time Bruce grabbed and stopped up dead. A cheer went up from the crew who had long since lost their enthusiasm for the entire anchoring thing.
Lisa stayed on boat to keep an eye on things while I went shopping. Rod and Cedar generously took the kids to the park and for pizza afterwards. Lisa joined them for a movie while I did more computer work and watched the GPS carefully. We seemed to be holding, thankfully.
Then the dreadful hour arrived. After six months of buddy boating, it was time to say goodbye to our dear friends aboard Jaru. A couple of years ago, Emma would ask about how we'll miss friends while we were aboard. "Right now (2009) there are other kids and dads talking about the same thing."
"Yes," Emma would answer, "but what are their names? Who are they?" Of course, there was no answer at the time. Now we know the Dad, Rod, a city accountant in Canmore, Alberta, and his kids who were wondering the same thing.
Day 605 ~ Doing our DutyMay 11th, 2012
Keeping up with Jaru, it seems we have motored more than we like. Since our next big trip will be from the Bahamas to North Carolina, we should fill up now while we can. But, of course, Nassau fuel docks are the worst. A floating dock, who's ever heard of that? No, these things are gnarly fixed pilings 10 foot on center with huge rusty nails, literally, sticking out of them. I called for reinforcements.
While Cedar took the pint-size crew to the water park, Rod and his dad came over to tend fenders and pull dock lines. Of course, just as we approached, several small boats zipped in front of us and we ended up having to tie up, wait, then move the boat forward 50 feet, against the current and with a crosswind. Always the best of times.
We finally were back on anchor an hour later. Lisa pulled on it hard with both engines. It felt, "mushy" but seemed okay. I took a look at it with the sight bucket and our 66 lbs of Bruce anchor was completely buried. Should be fine.
The adults headed over to the park, while I tucked into the marina crew lounge and hammered out hour after hour of client work. It's a nasty transition from the cruising life to the electronic world, but it beats digging ditches on some days.
Met up with the gang in the late afternoon, explored the aquariums and then returned with an exhausted crew back to the boat. Sleep will come fast tonight.
Living on the boat, the kids are itching to climb the walls.
Living on the boat, the kids are itching to climb the walls.
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Day 604 ~ Clean Fun and Dirty LaundryMay 10th, 2012
Woke up in our least favorite venue, Nassau Harbour. The contrast with the deserted tropical island beaches is pretty severe on the senses, not to mention the brain.
Jaru got permission to head into Atlantis early, so they were up and going first thing. After a quick lunch, we also headed in to the water park for a few hours of water fun.
While I fed the kiddies dinner at the boat, Lisa buzzed over in the "purple streak" Atlantis crew lounge with piles of laundry. Oh, joy.
Day 603 ~ Sailing North, AgainMay 9th, 2012
The winds are predicted to be light today, so I awoke early with the foreboding thought of facing a long day of motoring. I was up with the sunrise and the current has us right over our anchor. I waited for an hour or so and then decided it was time go, despite the fact it was 40 minutes before our agreed-upon departure time with Jaru.
We motored for a half hour to get out of the Norman's Cay cut and then raised the genny and cut off the engine. We were making 3.9 knots. With 36 miles to go that speed makes for a long day.
Jaru got off their hook about 10 minutes behind us. They upped their huge gennaker and slowly started to gain ground, foot by foot. And, of course, they gloated about it. Radio taunts flew back and forth at the speed of light. The mouse was catching the cat for once.
Then Lisa, working on lessons with the girls, had an idea. "Hey, why don't we unroll our smaller head sail and tie it off on the other side?"
Since we were going straight downwind, this would most certainly work, and give us a sail area comparable to Jaru's. We were neck and neck. Jaru was slightly ahead and jibing off a few degrees to keep their sail full. In two minutes we had Lisa's double headsail configuration out and pulling. We were now in the 4.6 - 5 knot range, a full 3/4 knot gain.
I waited for a while then called Rod back, "Hey, where's your hot rod now?"
"Yeah, I noticed you guys sped up."
"It's my wife, the tactician man, she hates being beat."
Hour followed hour. The wind shifted a bit, a squall came through. We jibbed the big genny. Following the squall, the winds got soft and we were compelled to fire an engine. A half hour later, the winds filled in again but this time from the west. We raised the main and were finally moving along a bit.
We slowly turned across the wind as we entered Nassau harbor and set the hook about 5pm, having added about an hour to the engine chronometer, a pleasant surprise indeed.
Day 602 ~ Time to MoveMay 8th, 2012
Planes are that way. First you have to meet them, then you have to catch them. After killing time for nearly a week, we now have to get a move-on to Nassau to make it to Jaru's plane date in two days. The winds are, well, nearly nothing, naturally.
We sailed and motor-sailed north out of the cut at Soldier Cay and turned into Norman's Cay cut, which was rushing with a 2+ knot opposing current. This thing could be nasty with a stiff East swell running.
We set the hook in pure sand. Jaru was about a half hour behind us and soon we were drift snorkeling, the new "best thing" there is to do through the cuts of the Bahamas. Lisa enjoyed an encounter with two Eagle Rays and a small school of Cero Mackerals twitched past in the haze. Where were those guys when we were pulling a lure?
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Day 601 ~ Bandwidth DriftersMay 7th, 2012
We forced the kids to do some school work, but such is life with such cruel parents. I mean, c'mon, "The Pool of the Sacred Dolphin" was waiting!
After a quick lunch, we deposited the kids at their own private sand bar. Who needs rare tropical fish anyway? Well, with nothing better to do, Rod, Cedar, Grandpops and Jess (Rod's sister) decided to see them again and try a drift snorkel or two. We drifted from the sunken plane wreck to the sea aquarium a couple of times and spotted a beautiful hawksbill turtle along the way.
The kids were happy as, uh, dolphins, but Lisa was needing some better internet. She and I buzzed closer to Soldier Cay with the laptop and wi-fi gadgets in hand. Under umbrellas, we found a good connection and completed a few pressing downloads as the rising tide slowly lifted and swirled our floating cyber café. Ah, the joys of cruising among remote islands.
Day 600 ~ Floating on a Sea of GlassMay 6th, 2012
The wind is nearly flat now, as it's predicted to be for the coming 4+ days. We upped anchor and wove our way in tandem with Jaru through the narrow cuts west of Bell Island. We tried anchoring near the sunken plane, but the currents were terribly swift and swirling. After another bad pick, we landed on a sand spur just south of Little Hall's Pond. With recent rains and no wind, we are all hoping to stay as far off land as possible.
We snorkeled the Aquarium and found the water incredibly clear. As the tide fell, the kids spotted an emerging sandbar and had to investigate. Hours passed. Eventually Rod went over to check and found them playing in the "Pool of the Sacred Dolphin", a 5-foot deep pool formed by an oddity of currents and nearly completely surrounded by sand bars.
The kids had begged for a beach weiner roast for some time now. For some unlucky reason, today was selected. It was miserable cooking on the back side under a windless burning sun and roasting on the front side in the licking flames of the beach fire.
Grandpa Jaru had packed a Costco apple pie 6 days ago in Vancouver. After sitting in airports in Vancouver, Toronto and Nassau, being sat on, dropped, stacked, thrown, picked through by Customs, and otherwise abused, it was best summed up as "Apple Smush". The apples were okay and the crust was, well, what would you expect? Thick blobs of choking goo so dense that they sank in salt water and were summarily ignored by the local barracuda who made short work of the hot dog scraps.
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Day 599 ~ Bailing Out a Fellow BoaterMay 5th, 2012
We skipped lessons in anticipation of a morning hike around Compass Cay. We loaded gear and both boats into the dinghy and headed up the mangrove creek at high tide. On the way in, we saw a submerged motor boat and, upon closer inspection, realized that there was no slime growth and it had not been stripped of gear or parts. It must have sunk during the recent heavy rainfall. There was no way to empty out the water at that point so decided to check on the way out when the tide is out.
Hiked the trail to a ruined house on a point, the same one we poked around back in April of 2009. The house had been cleaned up since that time and turned into a sort of island 'gym'. The barbells were made of wood with tree stumps on each end, the pull-up bar was a whittled down door header. With its reclining beach chair, it could also be a great place to just read and chill out. The view was fantastic.
We continued on around and, rather than adding an hour to our trek to make all the way to the point, we sat and chatted while the kids dug gopher holes in the dirt.
Returning to the creek, we saw that the boat was now high and dry. With buckets and cups from the dinghy, and a plastic bailer from the boat itself, we emptied what we could and hoped it would float when the tide filled the creek again. Curious, I figured I could get a few to go back with me for a look-see.
Back at the boat, we guzzled several cups of water and snacked for lunch. Cedar came by to take the kids to the now exposed sand bar around the corner. Once back, the boys and I, Emma and Sara returned to see if all our work was in vain. Amazingly, we found the boat afloat, although the water is so clear the photos don't quite show the reality.
After leftovers and a chapter in Farmer Boy, we all went to bed.
Day 598 ~ Finally UnderwayMay 4th, 2012
The winds are predicted to stop blowing altogether on Sunday. Would sure like to cut the 65 mile distance to Nassau under sail. However, three days after Grampa Paul's arrival, his luggage has not yet surfaced. It was supposed to come on yesterday's afternoon flight, but nothing came. Calling Air Canada, they got the "uh, well, we, uh, didn't actually get it on the plane" version.
We decided it was time to stop waiting and move. Jaru will follow us after the next flight from Nassau on a last hope that, somewhere out of the labyrinth of international airports and tropcial island efficiency, Grandpop's luggage will emerge.
We tried under the Northern tip of Compass Cay, but found the currents swift and the holding mixed. We moved south to the west side of Pipe Cay and waited there for Jaru. Rod had run aground trying to get his anchor out of a band of sloping sand and had to wait for the tide and a blast of wind in his sails to lift him off. I snorkeled most of the anchorage and found it ideal; good holding and lots more depth than there is on the chart.
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Day 597 ~ Sara on Her OwnMay 3rd, 2012
We were doing a quick brekkie on the veranda when a dinghy puttered past with a girl who was about Emma's age. We noticed. Emma and I headed over to introduce ourselves a few minutes later. Alexina, with Peter, Helen and Tiger (12 years old next week) aboard, left England 7 years ago.
The MailBoat (local supply ship) was in yesterday afternoon, so the entire Jaru and DD crews headed to shore for some provisions. One thing led to another and a couple of hours elapsed before we returned. The kids all headed to swing set beach after some lessons and lunch. Tiger and her dad joined us and we swapped cruising stories. He was a programmer/software engineer in another life as well.
Rod, Grandpops and I decided to try drift snorkeling the ripping currents through the cuts. The outer cut looked pretty barren, but the cuts between the atolls just north of Staniel Cay Yacht club were rich with fish, sharks, huge grouper and coral. We made pass after pass, diving and 'flying' over the terrain in the 2+ knot current. We felt like Superman. We had to be careful not to dive to far and hit our heads on huge brain coral as we soared over it.
Once back aboard, Tiegan threw a line over and in 4 seconds had hooked a large mutton snapper. He was whooping and hollaring as they brought it aboard. Sara was transfixed.
"Can I fish?" she asked excitedly. Sure kid, sure. I had snorkeled our anchorage when we set the hook and knew it to be deserted sand and grass. I figured she would give up in a few minutes.
What followed became a vignette on life, found here
Day 596 ~ Filter ManiaMay 2nd, 2012
Sun again! We are thankful. Still windy, but seems to have diminished by a few knots.
While the girls did lessons I tackled our Racor fuel filters, long overdue for a cleaning and replacement. Thinking I had 3 spares on hand, I dove right in, with the typical mis-starts. At one point I had a nice stream of diesel moisturizing my left arm from elbow to finger tips; takes some of the shine out of the moment.
Finally realized it was going to be easier to use the oil sump pump to suck all the water and debris from the bottom of the filter bowl instead of ripping it off the firewall and disassembling it. Of course, this realization dawned only after I had made and cleaned up a considerable mess. Worked like a charm, actually.
After getting it all opened and cleaned, I marched down to my "all filters go here" cabinet and, to my shock and dismay, found only one Racor 2010 2 Micron filter. I had seen some at the Yellow store, so wasn't too concerned. Installed the one I had in the starboard engine room, refilled the bowl and got everything sealed up with as little air as possible. Then, Emma and I zipped over the Yellow store to grab another filter.
But this is the tropics so why did I have my hopes up? They had a Racor 2010s, but only in 30 microns. This would be fine if I had two in a line, but since this is the only filter before the engine fuel filter, 2 micron is probably the better choice. Returned to the anchorage fairly discouraged and trying to figure out the best way to clean the one I had just removed. Toothbrush anyone?
I had a thought. There are 4-5 boats anchored nearby; perhaps someone had one they would be willing to sell. Struck out on the first two tries, SiKander (French guy on a Catana) and Pantagruel (Nice guy, rough boat). As a last try, I motored over to Sail On, a Lagoon 440. The folks are from Port Townsend Washington. In the cruising world that makes us neighbors since we are both from the Pacific Northwest, a rarity out here. We chatted for a while and I asked about the filter. He ducked into his engine room and was back in half a breath. "Got one right here!"
I happily gave him $20 for a part that probably costs $11 back home. Not having to purge the system again was worth it, and more. Put the port side back together and, by now, it was afternoon. There went another tropical morning.
Jaru took kids to beach to hike around the beach and play. Emma snorkeled unsuccessfully for her lost fork. Rod, Grandpa Paul (Rod's dad) and I swam over a sunken plane we found on the chart and then hit the Grotto at high tide. I think this is Rod's 9th time; since their cruising life chapter ends in a couple of weeks, he is suffering short-timer's disease pretty bad. It's a bit tricky with the water up against the gnarly roof of the cave in many places. We saw one guy come out with his back all scraped up and a bit disoriented. He came out purple, but said he was okay. Right.
We divided and swapped kids on our return and Tiegan and Sara tried fishing. No luck on the line, but they did see a rather large Barracuda. Then they played some games before it was dinnertime. Rounded off the evening with our last batch of whipping cream used to top an apple Flapjack dessert that would have made the Haute Quarter Grill back home proud.
Day 595 ~ Sun at LastMay 1st, 2012
The sun was up before we were this morning, a welcome sight after 4 days of heavy overcast and rain. The winds howled throughout the night but, tucked into our little pocket of protection, the boat was flat as a rock all night. Checked the anchor last night with Jaru's lookie-bucket (a five gallon pail with the bottom cut out and filled in with clear plexiglass). Couldn't see the anchor at all, just a line of chain going into the sand. Slept like a baby all night.
I had client work that needed more attention and Rod's Dad was due in from Canada on an afternoon flight. The thought of taking the dinghy around and pounding into 25 knots of wind while buckets of spray drenched us was not a pleasant one. Instead, we opted to take the big boats around early enough so as to leave plenty of daylight for returning to a known calm if needed.
As we pulled the anchor chain in, one of the pigs we fed on Friday swam out to meet us. Either he recognized the girls or his rain-induced fast prompted him to try the nearest boat with life. Aside from being focused on our task, we didn't have any scraps to toss so we kind of felt sorry for the big guy, all that swimming effort in vain. Ever hopeful, he swam around a bit even as we turned the boat to motor out. Looking back, we could see his snout and two floppy ears looking after us, crushed at the apparent rejection.
We first tried our preferred spot right by Thunderball Grotto, a nice snorkeling spot; Jaru went to the opposite side where it was deeper. Once the anchor was set, I just wasn't comfortable with the thought of 25-30 knots of wind pushing our back end toward the rocky ledge of the island. We moved over with Jaru. Should we drag, the closest mass of land, Andros Island, is 65 nautical miles away which should give us some time to react.
Since I had 8 hours left of internet use on my ticket, I figured it would be easy enough to work at the boat. Well, for whatever reason, the paid wifi service is offline more than it's working and I guess today was one of those off days. Ahh, the tropics. Perhaps it was overloaded with all the cruisers with cabin fever who finally got to leave their boats. Or, perhaps it is my computer slowly succumbing to the forces of the salt-water tropics. Between cleaning the USB connections with alcohol and trying several different cords, antennas and connections from our miscellaneous electronics bag, I managed to capture a free wifi signal that worked better than the paid version. Go figure.
Lisa spent the afternoon at the beach with the girls and Osa while I worked and Rod waited for his Dad's delayed plane at the airstrip. After showers and dinner we topped off the evening over at Jaru sharing Rod's birthday cake. Yum!