Thursday, August 11, 2011


The Cloisters, not Covent Garden. Desserts galore, no desert. Never to sidestep the editor again.

Under sail at 5.3 knots on a beam reach toward Block Island Sound. And it's only 9:00 AM.

Leaving New York

Good morning from Greensport. We are anchored off Horton Lane Beach about 400 yards from shore on the eastern end of Long Island. After eight days in NYC we had no real travel plan except to get in to Long Island Sound. Dead flat sea and no wind had us motor past Oyster Bay, past Port Jefferson, past Mattituck Inlet and finally to here as the sun set at 7:55.

NYC is a new must stop destination for us. We had a great time. Ali moved aboard for the duration. Charlie flew up for the weekend. And Katie, Kyle and Judy just happened to be in town for a show. Dinner at Maze at the London Hotel was an event to be remembered. The kitchen selected the menu, the food was outstanding, the staff exceptional. What a great treat.

But finally meeting Judy was the highlight. It was like a meeting of old friends.

All this in addition to Covent Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, a couple of Shake Shack attacks, lunch at Momofuko, desert at Milk Bar, walks on the Highline and Ali's Sundowners Party aboard. We took an extra day to rest.

While the 79th Street Boat Basin is not pretty (or well maintained, or the least bit helpful), it is in a great neighborhood, close to shopping, restaurants, easy transportation and the rest of the city. We came in at low tide (bad idea - never again) and left on a high tide (quite easy). The quantum physics part is being able to leave 79th Street at high tide, run eight miles down river to the Battery, and then run eight miles up the East River to hit the high tide at Hell Gate. We calculated a 7:00 high at 79th Street and a 9:14 high at Hell Gate. This gave us a 2 hour 14 minute window to run 16
miles. Unfortunately we were 20 minutes late leaving 79th Street and a resulting 30 minutes late at the Gate. Speeds of 8.2 in the Hudson and 6.2 in the East River dropped to 2.2 at Hell Gate. The Catalina 38 we passed did only one knot through Hell Gate. But with an early morning start we put in a twelve hour day to Greensport. A great start for what is now a short hop to Block Island. We think.

Today we sail (closer to) home.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here we go again....

We left ENDURANCE in Baltimore on May 8 after having been aboard since November 16, 2010 when we picked her up in New Bern and headed South again. Baltimore was our agreed upon end of The Bahamas Adventure. Tess was to write a wrap-up blog entry and close out the trip there since we had first left Baltimore on or about May 1, 2010. Did you see that blog entry? Neither did I. I guess this is the trip that Tess won't let come to am end.

Over the past 15 months we have spent all but three on the boat and moving. We can blame the Slater clan mostly (Alyssa & Dave's wedding last September and this June's Slater/Ericson family holiday with the twins to Iceland and Sweden - should we be complaining?). After sixteen weeks in the Bahamas we have nothing to complain about. But we are likely ruined for domestic life in shore.

Now, Saturday July 30, we are six miles off the Jersey Shore headed to Sandy Hook. Then a week in the Big Apple before heading to Maine for the rest of the Summer. This can't last forever, can it? Tess? Tess?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 17 - April 28, 2011

The quiet times……sometimes we leave posts unwritten because we’re having such a good time that we feel terrible verifying the reality exceeds the dream.  Sometimes we leave posts unwritten because we have no internet connection; sometimes we’re waiting for input; sometimes, most often in fact, the silent gaps in our postings are because we are in the “drudgery mode” of the trip. 

This past eleven days have been days of mostly just work….anchor up by 7:00 am, means Tony’s up and checking in at the office and with the weather bureaus and checking all the boat systems long before first light.  We have moved the boat through miles and miles of territory we saw for the first time just a few months ago (but it was colder then).  We’ve had a few delays for weather, and we’ve been exceedingly lucky and/or smart in our choices to delay, hold still, or speed up.  We’ve been on the edge of some harrowing systems, but we’ve been only on the edge of those systems.
Scott's Eggshell Scrimshaw - Bahamas 2010/2011

Our biggest highlight over this past stretch was Easter, spent in Portsmouth, VA with Messenger and Georgia-E.  Tony and I split off from them just before the last storm (4/16).  We left Wrightsville Beach and ran some long, long days covering 96 miles in one run.  Those days were spent with a schedule of early up and out, then one hour shifts hand steering through the mind-numbing tedium of the ICW.  We finally came to the last stretch making it through 4 bridges and a lock with precision timing, to pull in to the Tidewater Marina at Mile Marker “0”!!! And there we sat.  And got off the boat to see if our legs still worked.  And, went to bed later than 8:30 and slept later than 6:00!! We had a BLAST in Portsmouth, VA;)  Messenger and Georgia-E pulled in on Holy Saturday after their similar, exhausting run.  Never daunted, Lisa had Easter “in the bag”.

Endurance & Georgia E in Eggshell
After quick showers and reconnaissance, Messenger has all three boats off for a lovely dinner-theater event that night to see “The Conspirator” at the local dinner/movie venue.  We closed the night with just the Captains and First Mates off to the local Irish Whiskey Bar “Still” to enjoy some of the best imports to be found in liquid form.  At first light Messenger has already had an egg hunt and baskets, and at 11:30 the three boats were sitting down to a lovely Easter brunch on the docks with sun-shading Easter bonnets and Ray-Bans feasting on Messenger’s ham and ‘sunshine salad’, Georgia-E’s mashed potatoes, Endurance’s coleslaw and watermelon and (later) a burned but edible Pineapple Upside-down Cake.  If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with – and we do.

The light air sail flies as we head North on the Chesapeake

All three boats left Easter Monday and are now in the upper Chesapeake; Georgia-E spun off yesterday for a quick tour of St. Michael’s, while Messenger and we are in Annapolis; we’ll wait out the rest of today for this nasty storm front to pass, and then to Baltimore, tomorrow.  Baltimore – home away from home for us.  We simply cannot wait.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That's over!!

Yikes!!  Sustained winds of 37 with gusts to 57!!  Four foot waves in the anchorage.  Ninety minutes of "Yikes!".  Can we sleep now?  Get on with our trip?  At 9:15 p.m. we have a steady 11 to 12.  Radar shows it all out to sea; trailing all the way down to Charleston.  The sun will be out tomorrow.  We'll have sun.  And we're headed Home....

Proof of our journey...

 Our fine feathered friend.

Georgia E under sail in the Gulf Stream!

Home, but under quarantine.


 The Big Blue!!!  And the Little Blue.

For this we come home?

Tornados?  What a welcome home!

Trip to Georgetown (South Carolina, not Great Exuma - unfortunately), was uneventful and fish-less. George and I had spent several hours at Hadley Creek Tackle Shop in Charleston "gearing up" for a few days of South Carolina coastal fishing. Spinning rods and tackle and ten day licenses, but, as they say, "we was skunked". We did spend a pleasant night anchored at Harbor River and saw them jumping. Likely moving too fast on the ICW for either trolling or casting this light gear. It ain't the ocean, my friends.

Rained on and off (mostly off) as we made it to Georgetown. A pretty little town that was once the rice and timber capital of (and thus, the third largest city in) South Carolina. Harborwalk Marina looked brand, spanking new and we had a delightful walk in town checking out the historic markers and great buildings. George Washington actually did sleep here.

Prior to our afternoon naps, beer and fried oysters at Buzz's Roost reminded us of the Cruisers' Life we recently left in the Bahamas. Sitting at a bar at 3:00 in the afternoon will be surely missed.

George subsequently managed to catch two catfish off the boat. Technically, they were Gafftopsail or Schooner-Rig Catfish; what George calls Ocean Blue Catfish back in Florida. The first one could have fed a family of six, the second a family of four. But, not in South Carolina. Immediate release required. Dinner at the River Bend Restaurant, resulted.

Next morning we were off to Charleston International Airport in an Enterprise rental car to send George back home. A great trip. Great crew. Great fun.

And now, we are headed Home. Up the ICW on Thursday to the Calabash River off Little River Inlet on the South Carolina-North Carolina border. Next morning, we are in North Carolina and South Carolina is $11 richer without having given up any of her fin-fish resources to Endurance.

Now, in North Carolina, they actually throw fish at you. As we left the Cape Fear River through Snow's Cut, we turned back North on the ICW at Carolina Beach Inlet. When we came through here last Fall, the shore was lined with fishermen. Same, this time through. I don't know if it was a South Carolina fish that chased us clear through to these foreign waters, or a North Carolina fish that just felt bad for us, but as we made the turn, a three foot fish hits the side of the boat, jumps as high as the lifelines and almost lands in the cockpit. If the enclosure window was rolled up (battened down against this Northern cold wind), we would have either had him for dinner or heard him laughing at us. In any event, as close as we have come to successful fishing in U.S. waters.

A long day to Wrightsville Beach put us in their great little anchorage with a nice dinghy dock at Wynn Park. Walked to the Post Office and the Beach. The place is jam-packed with young co-eds working on their early season tans and social lives.

Our travel plans, though, are thwarted for Saturday. The front moving through on Saturday promised rain which would require us to get really wet as we waited for the next four "timed" bridges on this next part of the ICW. Then,  NOAA issues a Severe Weather Alert for potentially damaging winds. Then several of the bridges close to openings due to high winds. Then NOAA upgrades it's Alert to a Tornado Watch (till 9:00 tonight). And the Coast Guard says there are six to nine foot waves in Bogue Inlet.

We're staying put. As of 5:00 p.m. still no rain, but "blowing stink". We'll either be on our way at 0630 tomorrow (to catch the first bridge opening at 0700), or you’ll hear about us on the news.

In either case, we are headed Home.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We made it Home! Back to the US, at least.

Left Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island at 1000 Thursday for the 410 nm trip to Charleston.  Our start was timed to assure Georgia E that the rising tide would keep us off the rocks in the skinny entrance to Sunrise Marina.  We even had a dinghy escort to be sure we all stayed in line.  Once outside the cut, Georgia E went head to wind and raised their mainsail.  Thinking the race was on, Endurance did the same, set a preventer and then turned its stern to the wind to head West.  Georgia E immediately called to find out where we were going.  “West” we say, “and you”.  Our first shared waypoint was apparently mis-keyed on Georgia E and they were going East.  A funny start to our adventure.

Swinging West then North around Grand Bahama Island, we were at West End and then Memory Rock in about three hours and then, out of the Bahamas.  Wow!  Bittersweet.  We so much wanted to be home; but so badly hated leaving the Bahamas.  What a great trip it has been.  We seriously thought that we would have a three week window after which we would grow bored and want to return to the States.  As it turned out, December 17 to April 7 gave us sixteen great weeks of sailing, relaxing, just having fun, and ignoring the world which you all call “reality”.  We met great new cruising friends, and helpful and friendly Bahamians.  We were also assured that we could get a Bahamian residency card “in 20 minutes, citizenship in half a day”.  Tempting; yes.  Practical; no.  Are we coming back?  Certainly.  Here, or somewhere else.  Whether it’s the Bahamas, the Caribbean, or some other sailing destination, we certainly feel that we can take Endurance, and more importantly, ourselves, there.  Can’t wait.

But, on to our passage.

George arrived on Wednesday afternoon, so we had a full crew complement (three).  Unfortunately, Wednesday night we entered the US versus Canada International Rules Eight Ball Tournament.  George, anxious to show the Canadians how to manage the felt field, became at first surprised, then concerned, then outraged, then too drunk to care that we were actually playing Canadian Rules (who knew there was a difference?  Look it up!).  In shock and horror, we adjourned (late) to the cockpit of Endurance where the evil Canadians proceeded to finish off the Havana Club which I had so carefully hidden from US Customs and Border Protection.  CBP should hire Canadians to ferret out smugglers.  No pay.  They’ll just drink their finds.

In the morning, George was useless as a deck hand.  Once off the dock, he was back in his berth.  How does the song go?  What do you do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?

Light winds from the East and South are predicted for the next four days.  A perfect weather window that could take us all the way to Norfolk.  If we had a hankering for being colder, sooner; rather than later.  So where did the Northwest wind come from?  Never mind.  We sailed a good twelve hours from Memory Rock into the Gulf Stream, until about two in the morning on Friday.  Then in the morning, we are sailing again.  Our 52 hour trip had us sailing at least half the time.  At one point, we were sailing over 10 knots in ten knots of wind.  Thank you to the three and a half knot current of the Gulf Stream.  Tess suggested we reef down so that Georgia E could catch up.  I was concerned that if anyone saw an Island Packet reefed in ten knots of wind, we would be forced to go to Remedial Sailing School. 

In any event, we had what should be considered a perfect Gulf Stream passage.  Light wind.  Good current.  Great weather.  On the dock in Charleston by 2:00 p.m. Saturday.  I had planned a six knot per hour passage getting us in on Sunday afternoon.  Not bad for first timers.  And Georgia E was right behind us.  Stu says that they always caught up on Tess’ watch, since she would throttle down to let them catch up.  George and I would then pull ahead.  But, all in all, we had a great joint venture.

Also boarded an unexpected passenger about midway through our passage.  While we thought we were safe bringing home an American Gold Finch, when Sibleys’s showed us we had a common House Finch (yellow variant) aboard, we withdrew apple, oatmeal and granola bar service and shooed it away before CBP started asking questions.

George asked as we approached Charleston whether it was more exciting to leave a port or arrive, we unanimously agreed that getting there was what it was all about.  And it is.  Being on the Charleston City Marina Megadock is like being home.  Restaurants, groceries, Tuesday Mornings, massages (for one), credit card usage; this is what America is all about.  Our Crew Dinner at Slightly North of Broad (on King Street) was extraordinary.  Our Passage Sunday Breakfast with (and compliments of) Georgia E was fantastic.  And our final dinner at Poogan’s Porch was what Charleston is all about.

Monday, after buying new spinning rods and reels, we are off the Megadock at 2:00 p.m., through our first swing bridge (the Ben Sawyer) by 3:00, under our first fixed bridge (barely 65 feet), and now (by 6:30) anchored in the Harbor River (not Harbour, anymore), on the ICW.  Headed to Georgetown (South Carolina) so that George can see the ICW north of Ft. Lauderdale. We are truly “Headed Home”.

See you all soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More Manatee


In the Berrys, but Homeward Bound

PH has left the vessel.  Ahhhhh…..

After a great “final” week in the Exumas, exploring those unexplored parts of the Exuma Land & Sea Park we have bypassed on our various passes through over the past three and a half months, we headed to Nassau for re-provisioning and now are headed up through the Berrys toward Grand Bahama (Freeport and Lucaya).  That destination provides our jumping off point for the States.  Florida, Charleston, we’ll see how far we can make it in our initial passage.

Friday’s passage our predicted NE at 10 was W at 20 plus.  A great sail, though beating most of the way.  We reefed down at 24 knots and again at 29 knots, but were at anchor at Cabbage Cay - Little Harbour Cay ahead of any squalls.  He says beating, I say, it was truthfully quite nice…it went into the edges of some squalls, the sky was a little gray, the sea a little rollier than usual here…it was just like sailing in Maine, and felt quite right all in all.  Once we set the anchor, the wind abated, the sea calmed, the evening was lovely for a few hours of de-salting the cockpit and galley (oops, I meant to close that, honey)

Saturday we had a great sail up the Berry chain past Great Harbour and Great Stirrup and around the west side to Bullocks Harbour.  Wind abeam almost all day.  A great sailing day.  And a great fishing day.  Four Cero and three Bar Jacks.  We ended up with about eight pounds of fillets.  No more fishing for a while. 

Okay, so I’ll do the shortened blow by blow straight from the log book:
9:20 anchor up;
 9:51 Bar Jack beheaded in pail on board;
10:55 Bar Jack #2 in pail;
11:00 #3 Got Away;
12:22 Cero, 21”;
  *ACM takes shower after beheading and bagging this one, scales all over his arms – showers on fly seat in aft of cockpit…refreshing!
12:53 Bar Jack #3
1:13 Cero, 18”;
1:27 Another damn fish, Cero 19”
2:06 “Oh shit, the biggest yet” Cero  then, “I’m exhausted, I can’t fish any more today”

3:20 Anchor set; he starts cleaning fish.  Fish cleaning ends at 5:30! (With another shower – neighbors hopefully averting eyes)

And we are in the calmest grassland bottoms imaginable.  And what do we see?  Manatees!!  Poor Capt. Tuna had little time to raise his eyes with that infamously sharp knife in his hand and seagulls swarming and calling above, but I could linger all afternoon (and did) just lowering my blood pressure watching these two serene sea elephants come up for a bit of air with a mouthful of grass and weeds sticking out of their mouths, then slowly roll over themselves back down for another gulp.  Once submerged, a 3 foot mushroom-cloud of sand bubbles toward the surface as evidence of another clump of dinner torn from the seabed.  They stayed just off the port and aft side of the boat until sunset…quite a treasure for our memory books.

Finally dinner was made:  Spanish rice and lightly battered and fried fish for the hungry workman today.  How many recipes can we steal from Gordon’s Fishermen?!?

It was a beautiful evening sky; no brilliant green flash, but a gentle setting of the sun into 80 degree water, over a calm horizon with blues and pinks blending and bouncing off the water and back to the sky.  What a split personality we have:  oh to be home among those we love again; oh to be here in a safe secluded anchorage in Hollywood weather conditions…….Home and family still wins, but how lucky are we to have the luxury of that decision?  

Tomorrow, we sail Homeward.

Tess & Tony's Excellent Bahamas Adventure, by PH

A grand tour of the Exumas, Bahamas starts with a Flamingo Air flight aboard a 9 seat plane – a “Barbie plane” bound to Staniel Cay from Nassau.  The 45-minute flight showcases the brilliant and varied blues of the Bahamian waters.  The pilots are competent.  The plane is island-worthy – well worn, but serviceable.  It brings me safely to Tess & Tony who wait under an open air “gazebo”.   Tess & Tony share a story about a woman who lives on Staniel.  She flew in 40 years ago and after flying in over the amazingly clear waters, declared she would never leave.  How lucky for her.  How lucky for me that my good friends have invited me.  AHHH!  It feels so good to be here.  I can feel myself relaxing already.

First a stop at the local market where fresh produce, eggs, etc have been purchased and set aside for pick up upon my arrival, which fortunately coincides with the arrival of the weekly supply boat.  We’ll eat well for the rest of the week.  Then we’re off to the dock where the dinghy has been tied.   A pit stop at restaurant beach allows for a change into my island attire and a short walk to the Staniel Cay yacht club for a Kilik, perhaps.  Or rather a decision to race back to the boat.  We’re anchored at the Big Majors, famous for its swimming pigs who hang out on the beach waiting for food scraps from the tourist boaters. 

The weather is perfect for a late afternoon, early evening swim.   The T&T team spoils me immediately by serving grilled spiny lobster tail with cole slaw for dinner, accompanied by wine from Lisa aboard “Messenger”, who made sure that Tess & I would have a bottle to share.  Tess bakes an amazing ginger cake by improving upon a recipe from the book “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” by Ann Vanderhoof.  Tess substitutes maple syrup for molasses.  Tony & I can’t get enough of it.  We have it for breakfast the next 2 mornings.  Yummy!

The book has been left on my bunk’s shelf for my reading pleasure.  The perfect book for a cruise through the Exumas where the author details her own island hopping adventures.  It’s a book that has been recommended to me several years ago.  I am delighted be given the chance to read it aboard Endurance. 

After a hearty breakfast, day 2 starts with a visit to the hungry pigs.  It’s slightly unnerving when they swim toward the inflatable, but we manage to avoid any mishaps by tossing the food away from us.  Tony also maneuvers the dinghy away from any danger.  The pigs are large and appear to be very well fed.  Good eating for the locals when the cruisers are gone for the summer.  We’ve got many more anchorages to explore and it’s a beautiful day for a sail.  Yes.  We sailed from Big Majors to Cambridge Cay within the park boundaries of the Exuma Land & Sea Park. Cambridge Cay highlights include snorkeling, swimming, beautiful beaches and sunset cocktails aboard “Chandelle”.

Day 3 we’re off to Wardrick Wells, the headquarters for the park.  Again we swim and snorkel after a hike up Boo Boo Hill where Endurance has placed their driftwood plaque among the hundreds of others left by cruisers throughout the years.  We found fellow cruisers’ names and had a great view of Endurance on the mooring.  There is no fishing allowed within the land & sea park.  Fines are $500/person per fish.  The fish seem to know this as they stay within the boundaries and thrive.  The current is strong.  Tony encourages us to hold onto the dinghy while he drifts over the reef.  The snorkeling is excellent.  We see gigantic grouper and spiny lobsters as long as our arms. 

Day 4 finds us at Shroud Cay.  Again we swim & snorkel.  The highlight is a dinghy ride through the mangroves to an isolated beach on the sound side of the island.  We’ve been sailing on the banks, the shallow side.  The beach is right out of the Bahamas brochures.  The water is beautiful, indescribably beautiful.  The sand feels wonderful on my feet.

Day 5 sail brings us to the Highborne Cay anchorage where we swim again.  Swimming is an every day, usually multiple times per day activity.   Swimming, reading, eating, cribbage, exploring new anchorages, sunset happy hours.  What an amazing vacation.  AHHH!

Day 6 means a move to Allens Cay famous for its rock iquanas.  They definitely look like miniature dinosaurs.  Fascinating.  The water is still beautiful.  The anchorage has plenty of room for more boats.   Of course, we swim off the back of the boat.

Day 7  - So sad, we must make our way to Nassau in order for me to catch my flight from Nassau to Boston the following day.  The wind is light.  The weather is hot!   The longest passage of the trip is uneventful.   Docked at Nassau Harbor Cay Marina for the 3rd time, Endurance and its Captain & Admiral are practically locals.  They know the ropes and arrange for my taxi ride to the airport.  There is a pool.  We swim again. 

Departure day - After a morning swim (of course) in the pool rather than the sea, a grand tour of the Bahamas ends with a taxi ride to Nassau’s newly remodeled international airport.  The driver, Mrs. Moss, points out interesting facts along the way.  The couple I’m sharing the ride with are returning to Hampton, Virginia after spending the last 5+ weeks helping their friend bring his boat from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.  They have sailed the boat through the same territories that I have been reading about in “An Embarrassment of Mangoes.” 

What a relaxing and exciting vacation, an amazing and memorable adventure with my forever friends.   AHHH!   We had a pisser of a time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mid-March Update

Yikes!!  No update since February in George Town.  We’ve been around the Exumas since then.  Little Farmers Cay.  Black Point Settlement.  Lee Stocking Island.  George Town, again.  Emerald Bay, again.  Black Point Settlement, again.  Big Majors Spot.  Bell Island.  And, back to Big Majors.

 Since the Photiades visit (took weeks for my liver to recover), we headed to Emerald Bay Marina for fuel and water and laundry and groceries.  Had a real Klondike Bar, which was like a frozen fantasy after months without ice cream.  Emerald Bay was quite a reunion with plenty of boats we have come to know and love.  Great snorkeling in Exuma Sound and at Sandals Beach with Messenger and Ivy from Three Belles, included.  

 Then off to Black Point up the Exuma chain.  Our transit back to the bank side from Exuma Sound was through 3 to 4 foot breaking waves at 29 to 39 knots of wind against the outgoing tide.  Once inside, it was great Bahamas bank sailing, but for our catching a 3+ foot Barracuda which I was happy to shake off the hook before his teeth made contact with my fingers.  

Dinghy racing in George Town.

Dolphins were feeding in Black Point Harbor on Saturday (March 12) when I tuned in to Chris Parker’s 0630 weather broadcast on the SSB.  A week of continued Easterlies predicted.  Great day for a bike ride to the “Castle” and White Point where there is a beautiful beach and a quiet anchorage.  Great views of the Sound and the Bank from the ridges and the two are no more than 500 yards apart.  Also ran in to friends of George and Sue Nostrand from Vermont who happened to be guests aboard an anchored trawler.  Small world, Black Point.

 Sunday’s fishing expedition (as you all have probably heard by now) was more adventure than anticipated.  Having caught a large Gar and tossed out a large Barracuda and a Needlefish, I beached the dinghy to clean my catch.  After filleting the Gar I tossed the big knife (yeah, the big, sharp knife) in to the bucket which held the fish remains to be disposed of.  I clearly said to myself “That’s a bad place for the knife.  It will go overboard when you clean the bucket”.  Sure enough.  It did.

The dilemma was this.  Retrieve the knife amongst the fish guts at the ocean floor (without snorkel mask), or get a mask and retrieve it properly assuming that I could find the spot again.  Expediency won out.  I dove.  I squinted through my unprotected contacts.  I grabbed the knife handle.  I shot skyward through the water.  The knife blade shot skyward through the dinghy.

Just a scratch, I tell myself.  As I climb in the dinghy, I look for signs of a hole.  None.  I start the engine and the dinghy’s bow goes up.  As does the sound of bubbling water.  Uh, oh….

The new dilemma.  Head to the boat to remove the motor and hoist the dinghy on deck before it sinks?  A long shot.  I head back to the beach.  Luckily, I have a radio.  Necessary since, even though I have an emergency patch kit, I have no pump to re-inflate my destroyed boat.  I call for Tess to find a Good Samaritan to bring me a pump, “in about an hour”.

Sure enough, Bob from Shazza arrives with my pump and a gracious lunch which Tess prepared in anticipation of not seeing me for a while.  Bob and I drank the beer.  Though my patch held till I made it back to Endurance, it was clearly a temporary solution.  I needed a real patch adhesive.  Luckily, Painkiller, in its continuing battle with a leaky dinghy had a storehouse of patching products.  Over the next two days, with dinghy on deck, a (hopefully) permanent fix was made.  An expensive fishing lesson.  And the Gar went overboard as too wormy to be appetizing.

 Effects of a bad day fishing.  Emergency Scotch Supply finally broken into....

Eastern Daylight Time.  What a shock and surprise.  Does that mean it’s Spring up there where you guys are?  Here, it was $20 for a two pound lobster tail (perfect on the grill), and the green flash of the sunset on our first day of EDT.  Give us a call when the crocuses are up.  Two’Fer Tuesdays at Sampson Cay Marina.  A calm clear morning at Thunderball Grotto.  Lunch on the deck at Taste ‘n Sea.  Great sailing in 15 knots on the beam on the Bahamas Bank.  An afternoon at Rachel’s Bubble Bath.  We can get used to this whole idea of Springtime.

Man and dogs kayaking at Black Rock.

 Now, snug again at Big Majors Spot, we are hunkered in for a 12 hour front passage and await Paula’s visit on Wednesday.  Chris Parker has promised perfect weather into next weekend.  We are planning a last hurrah through the Exumas.  Then Nassau.  Then we head for home.  Via the Abacos?  Florida?  Charleston?  Norfolk? 

We’ll let you know, when we know.  See you all soon. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

A quick but busy visit to George Town

The time began,
Early on March 4th.
6:30 we left,
And walked out the door

Boston to Charlotte,
Then Nassau too.
And off to Georgetown,
Three planes we flew.

Patricia and Elvis,
Planes, car and a boat.
At 9:30 we arrived
For three days afloat.

For Tess and Lynn,
It had been 20 years.
Since they saw each other
There were many tears.

Tony and Tess,
Amazing hosts.
Gave us their cabin,
And a wonderful toast.

Four days of Exuma,
A few things to note.
The highlights enjoyed,
On the IP 45 boat!

The food just rocked,
Even more than the surf;
Thanks to Tess’ great cooking,
On her home turf.

Early on Saturday,
It was off to the race;
Tony, I and a crew,
Hoped to save face.

There were jibs and sheets,
And sails in our face.
My job was to grind,
And we took 3rd place.

Tony says grind
And adjust the “travel”;
And I say what else,
Should I get out a paddle?

Messenger, Pain Killer,
And Skedaddle too.
A GA from Northwestern
Can you believe it’s true?

A lost soul at sea,
Maybe just a paddler.
We found him though,
It was Ken Sadler.

The mornings were great ,
The snow far gone.
Listening to the “Net”,
And Rockin’ Ron.

Then confusion set in,
On Tony’s great Endurance.
When we forgot the name,
And called it Insurance.

Rumor has it,
He’s changing the name.
Cause he loves the stuff,
Who can you blame?

Take & Toke,
Or Chat and Chill.
Food and drink,
We had our fill.

And our favorite dish,
There was nothing to lack.
Tony grilled to perfection,
Our fish friend, Bar Jack.

Then off to St. Francis,
One last night to pass.
With great new friends,
And a dingy with no gas.

As Sunday night wound down,
And we stowed all the play
Tony and I
Conquered Mount Gay!

Or it conquered us,
It’s hard to decide.
I slept great that night,
Beside my bride.

Special thanks go out,
For Tony & Tess.
For extending their home,
Our lives have been blessed.

Be safe as you said,
To all the new places;
And enjoy each day
Seeing new faces.

We quickly are missing,
The ocean so blue.
So one last shout,
Thank you, thank you!!

Jeff & Lynn

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

George Town Photos with Ali!

And together again....

Welcome to March!

Well, it’s been a long time.  It’s the end of February already!

Here we are watching another beautiful Bahamian sunset.  At Lee Stocking Island for a second time, we have gone South, then North, then South again.  Ali arrived from New York City on Sunday, February 13.  That was three Sundays ago!

The weather in George Town kept us in harbor for most of the week.  The dinghy ride in to or back from the boat (and often both ways) was wet and miserable (if being splashed in mid-February by 80 degree water is what you consider to be miserable – thank goodness the air temperature never dropped below 82 degrees!).  We left on Friday morning after finishing out of the money at Thursday night’s Texas Hold’Em Tournament (Ali did hold in there almost to the last table, though).

An easy 12 mile sail North was expected, but huge following seas made it a bit uncomfortable.  Likely the largest swells we have seen since the Frazier’s Hog to Nassau run with George.  No fishing this time as I hand-steered the entire way.  ( oooh, how much the captain leaves out!  The swells were paired with ugly gusts and nothing on the right angle – it made the dinghy ride look reasonably dry!)

Coming in to the notorious Emerald Bay Channel was a treat.  They routinely close it if there is wind from the NE at 25.  Having an ESE at 25 is okay, I guess.  Huge breaking waves – in the channel!  As we go up one, we lose sight of the buoy that a minute ago was right beside us.  Yikes!  (We also never had a visual on the sail boat entering moments before us, who left George Town half an hour earlier than we did…that is to say, swells were big enough to not have visibility more than 2 boat lengths ahead, especially if you’re hyperventilating)

But once in, it is calm as a mill pond.  And the Marina at Emerald Bay is by far the nicest we have ever been to.  Great docks.  Great showers.  Free laundry.  A multi-level clubhouse with a bar, reading rooms, big screen TVs, pool table and a private club feel to it (but a private club that would invite us as members – imagine that). (this is what the Wentworth wants to be – a first class marina in all ways, from radio contact to dock hands to courtesy shuttle to grocery and liquor store …they are the bomb!)

Had a great beach and snorkel day with Ali on Saturday at the adjacent Sandals Resort beach.  Even used their great umbrella lounge chairs.  There was a small reef there just chock full of bait fish about six inches long which just swarmed around us as we swam.  Pretty cool.  Tess and Ali attempted a kayak ride out toward the channel, as I followed on a bike.  (Not having sufficiently forgotten the terrifying entry to the channel, Tess balked and needed to head back in to the Oz-like marina!)

Sunday was a Haircut Day.  Alison did an admirable job, without the first time jitters (and gouges) of my Spanish Wells haircut.  Cribbage, reading, beach walks and more cribbage filled the day until Ali’s flight home in the early evening.  Though we didn’t travel far or to any of the diverse islands here, it was great just to be “home” with family for us.

Ed & Karen from “Passages” (our IP40 mentors) were at Emerald Bay with their guests and we, of course, took advantage of the opportunity to squeeze more tips and experience from them.  We also finally met and spoke at length with Josh & Jen – the newlyweds from New Hampshire – aboard “Sheliak”.  And we were able to spend time with Steve & Alice from “Ocean Star” before they took off for Turks & Caicos with Monday’s weather window, planning to go South until there was no more South to go.

Our Monday was a boat work day.  Oil, filters, laundry, circuit breaker replacement and generally getting our house in order.  Tuesday was a full on office day.  But Wednesday, we had a glorious (and flat calm) exit from Emerald Bay and headed North to an empty anchorage at Little Farmers Cay.  What a difference from the Festival mob.  What a great place to relax and swim and reconnect with the clear, warm water.  After a few days in Black point (to score one more loaf of  Lorraine’s coconut bread), we headed South again on the Bahamas Banks side of the Exumas.  On our way a pair of feeding dolphins highlighted the tranquility of the Banks.

Now at Lee Stocking Cay, site of the Caribbean Marine Research Center.  I flew through True Grit and Mike Birbiglia (thanks. Ali!), and have broken down to read sailing how-to books (some would say, it’s about time), and a stack of legal magazines that have been sitting around since October (some would say, that’s a first).  The respite quiet and solitude have been lovely since leaving Georgetown’s city-like feel, but it’s time for us to return to cruising friends for a bit and look forward to a visit from Jeff and Lynn.  This is the Regatta week kick off, and we should have our eyes wide open to a festival of cruisers.  Georgetown, here we come!

Today, we head South.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome to Geoge Town

February 17, 2011

Oh, be careful what you wish for!  After such anticipation of Alison’s arrival and dreams of sailing away to some of our favorite spots and discovering new ones, the winds came with gusto!!  Alison arrived safe and sound on Sunday afternoon and was immediately whisked away to the local Trivia Night at St. Francis Resort for dinner, drinks, and competition.  If we’d only listened to her answers better we’d have walked away with a bottle (or two) of rum!  Painkiller left with a bottle of wine (2nd place)….coulda, woulda, shoulda………

Monday morning dawned with winds howling, so we spent the day soaking up some good sun on a hike up and over Monument Hill for a fabulous view of both the Georgetown Harbor and the stirred up Exuma Sound.  The sea was frothy and excited; definitely a wise decision to stay in the harbor, and after a walk through some of Exuma’s indigenous forest and plants we headed to the Chat n Chill for lunch and a few Kaliks.  We met up with Carl, Riva and Ivy of Three Belles and played a few good rounds of Mexican Train Dominoes: Painkiller, Endurance and Ivy.  Ivy and Alison soaked up a little more sun and avoided dehydration well before we all headed back to Endurance for a simple dinner and more conversation.
Tuesday morning winds still beating us up.  Tony and Alison snorkeled from the boat in to shore, passing over mammoth starfish and being sure to avoid all barracuda.  After laying in the sun and sand in the lee of Monument Hill we returned to the good ship Endurance via dinghy and were treated to cocktails and hors d’ouerves aboard the beautiful Three Belles.  There is no question some boats have an elegance that words cannot describe; Carl, Riva and Ivy have restored this boat, their home, to a true work of art. 

Wednesday’s forecast is starting to wear on our nerves.  Making lemonade from lemons, Alison baked up a great batch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast and off we went to explore Georgetown proper a bit, and again soak up the chill at the Chat n Chill for lunch and beverages…and beverages.  Alison took control of the dinghy, passing from student driver to proficient aqua-motorist with a little coaching from Mom and mostly Ivy.  Now, if we could get the big boat off the anchor!  We closed the night with drinks at Hamburger Beach at a potluck BYOB sponsored by ARG (Alcohol Research Group)…the Georgetown cruising community takes their research pseudo-seriously!

With all intention to sail and fish on Thursday, the winds have not abated and now the sea state is even more kicked up.  …. We laze about like lizards in the sun – books, sunglasses, casual visits from other boats, sun bathing above decks….and then off to Volley Ball Beach to meet Painkiller for a round of more ‘chill’ and dehydration prevention before Tony and Alison head out to St. Francis Resort for the weekly Poker Night.  $5.00 per person entry---perhaps they’ll win enough to declare on the customs forms!  There is no pain in our daily excursions to ‘chill’, that’s for sure, but we fear the sails will forget what they are meant to do if we don’t lift that anchor soon!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Some catching up...Black Harbor to Farmer's Cay

Getting in to a groove….

Just noticed that our last post brought us to January 31 when we caught our first Bonito or Little Tunny coming in to Black Point Harbor.  Our second Florida Bonito was caught as we headed down Exuma Sound to Lee Stocking Cay.

In the interim, we had a great time in Black Harbor, hitting all the “must see” cruisers’ spots.  First, the Rock Bound Laundrymat (sic) at which proprietor Ida also gives haircuts!  Tess treated her Scottish Lion’s Mane to a little love from Ida—sitting in a “camp” plastic chair out front, looking into a harbor of  crystal blue with boats at anchor, Ida cut away in between selling tokens for washers and dryers.  Tess was DELIGHTED to be shorn a bit.  

Next, Lorraine’s CafĂ© with great food, donation based wifi and a help-yourself beer cooler and bar.  Lorraine’s mom makes the best coconut bread we have eaten so far.  We pulled out the real toaster one morning to take advantage of that (big electricity user, that toaster hasn’t been seen in a long time).  Next “must see” was a tour of the Garden of Eden with a small band of fellow travelers (Painkiller, Georgia E and Ocean Star).  The Garden of Eden is a sculpture garden filled with limestone, rock and driftwood pieces in the artist’s front and back yard.  The yard itself is like a lava lake of limestone with numerous sink holes in which fruit trees, banana trees pigeon peas and vegetables have been planted. The artist’s wife gave us a botanical tour of their delights - a stunning variety of tropical plants, and especially fruits, identified for us.  Even tasted a tamarind pod, thanks to the expertise of Steve from Ocean Star.

The hot stroll was topped off with a cooling sit in the harbor in her pink tube.

But despite our great time at Black Point, we moved South to Little Farmers Cay on Thursday, February 2.  We had 16 to knots on the beam the whole way and sailed our best sail of the trip (have we said that before?).  Once again Tess and the girls took advantage of the Pink Relief.

The reason for Little Farmers Cay is the famous “Five F”.  The Farmers Cay First Friday in February Festival.  This is the 25th annual event.  The Cay has a population, we are told, of only 55.  But in addition to festival-goers and other dignitaries from other islands (including Saturday’s visit by the Exuma High School Marching Band), there were 117 cruising boats in attendance.  As you might imagine, the cruisers dominated the local bar scene; highlight of the cruisers events was an open-mic jam night with Scott of Painkiller looking like Mick Jagger himself as the announcement was made that “all bagpipes were mandatory”…he brought tears to a few eyes with Amazing Grace at sunset and the largest round of admirers throughout the Yacht Club.  
The other highlight for us was Saturday’s Bahamian C-Class Sloop Regatta.  These are essentially 12 foot dinghies with a single sail that is gigantic.  They are crewed by four to six guys who try to keep the massive mast from going over by hiking out on a windward 2x8 that slides a good 10 feet out on one side of the boat or the other.  Pretty exciting and colorful sailing.  They start from a dead stop at anchor and raise anchors and sail simultaneously at the starting gun.  Lots of banging and clashing of boats, but no protests are allowed.

Sunday the anchorages thinned out quickly.  It seemed that half the boats made the sail North the 10 miles back to Black Harbor in order to get a seat in front of a big screen television at Lorraine’s or Dasharmon’s for the Super Bowl.  The other half joined a train banging South into the wind and waves for the 50 mile trip to Georgetown.  We followed the latter group (see Bonito above), but jumped off at Lee Stocking Cay to check out the Marine Research Center here.  Haven’t seen it yet, but had some great shallow grass snorkeling with the Messenger kids (huge rays, reef fish, Margate and barracuda) and the Pink Relief came out as well.

After grilling up the day’s catch as a pre-dinner appetizer, a six foot barracuda made its rounds around the boat.  We threw him the scraps from our catch which he grabbed voraciously.  Result – IDEA!!  I grabbed the spinning rod which had a large squid lure attached and was able to sight cast it right to him about 20 yards from the boat. WHriiirrrrrr… goes the line as he grabbed it and ran.  As I pulled the line taut, he jumped a good four feet out of the air and a distance of at least 15 feet.  Extraordinary.  Lost the fish, but got my heart racing.  Glad to get the hook back, but  more glad to not have to get him off the hook myself.        

Ended the day with a Game Night on Messenger.  Thank goodness they are around, since they bring a little bit of home to these tropical surroundings. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tess!

January 27, 2011

We started this morning at 8:00 am with a snorkel into (drum roll please) Thunderball Grotto – as in ‘Bond, James Bond 007’ fame.  We arrived at a perfect slack tide (no ripping currents to terrify me) with a very flat sea (easy viewing, no wind to give a chill, no surprises) and with 5 other dinghies of boats from this anchorage (safety in numbers, remember I wouldn’t let Tony in to Rocky Dundas because it was only the two of us).  Let’s put the icing on this birthday cake:  one of the boats with us (Flying Fish) has a certified dive instructor/Marine Biologist/RIW (Really Interesting Woman) (Janet) who was awesome before, but she said she’d go and ‘spot’ me since she knew I was a certified Nervous Nellie and her husband who could be Bond himself but he really does some of the stuff – like, used to own and run a crab boat in British Columbia – yeah, like The Deadliest Catch Guy.   

The snorkel was great.  Michelle and Vern of Enchantment; Dawn and Randy (our actual snorkel organizer) of Nirvana Now, Beth and Scott of Painkiller; Flying Fish and Endurance were all there and had great viewing.  I need to get the movie again to prove to Tony I’m just like Pussy Galore!

After the snorkel, we headed back to our boats and learned that Painkiller had a starter problem.  While I came to Endurance, Tony and a small village of guys worked with Scott to diagnose and plan repairs to Painkiller.  Returning to Endurance, Tony set right to work on my birthday present:  my Lookee Bucket!  Previously we took a walk to the landfill to dispose of our on-board trash, and scavenged a ‘new’, well-used but serviceable 5 gallon bucket.  Tony scrubbed it up, cut out the bottom, screwed in a piece of plexi-glass (thanks to Enchantment!) and did a final seal with silicone goop.  Works like a charm!  Think: glass bottom boat, or telescope to the underwater from the dinghy.  We can watch fish, coral, sea bottom, and of course, our anchor!  

The Lookee Bucket.

Well, after hearing about our day today over the radio, Messenger coyly said, “well today was a pretty special day wasn’t it?  Anything else special about today?”  So, I told him about it being Mozart’s birthday…and MY birthday, too!  Forthwith, I was regaled with a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday to me.  The sentiment was so very sweet.  But, dear readers, there have been a few other versions of the song I’ve heard todayJ

After all the extensive clean up of “5200”used on the Lookee Bucket (from lips, to bathing suit, to cockpit floor) we went over to Painkiller for our sundowner cocktail and a chat.  After a pleasant evening, Scott ducked below, popped up a moment later and said “I bet you’ve never had Happy Birthday played to you on a bagpipe” and he launched into a Highland rendition!  Stunned is not sufficient a word.  After Happy Birthday we had a taste of the traditional Highland fight song and he closed with Amazing Grace.  Simply tremendous.   

THEN, Beth comes up with a full-size beautifully frosted chocolate cake!  Those of you on land cannot necessarily appreciate how difficult it can be to ‘whip up’, especially when your boat’s been full of all the neighborhood men talking about broken boat parts, repair nightmares, and conjecturing about duty fees!  And, of course, the practice sessions of Happy Birthday which Scott learned special for today!

After having our fill of cake, we gave a shout-out in the dark to Dream Catcher behind us asking if they wanted some chocolate cake…a 5 second pause and then a bellowing of “Chocolate Cake?!?  YESSSSS” so off we scrambled (the 4 of us) with cake and another cocktail to join them in another celebration among boaters.  We wrapped up the night quickly seeing lightening in the offing…just enough to entertain our eyes, not anywhere near enough to give concern.

54.  It’s obviously going to be another great year!