Friday, December 31, 2004

Marsh Harbour Christmas Holidays, December 2004

Dec 20/04 Marsh Harbour We are listening to Carribean Christmas music, trying to get into the Christmas spirit. There are no "chestnuts roasting on the open fire" or "walks in the winter wonderland" but we do having "jingling bells", Christmas lights, decorated trees, and lots of festivals. Here in the Bahamas, the favorite celebration seems to be the Junkanoo. We have been to two of these already. Junkanoo is a Junior Junkanoo, Marsh Harbourmoving dance group, some with elaborate costumes, loads of drum and noise makers and "energy". Saturday evening was Junior Junkanoo, where all the local schools sent their schools team, wearing team T shirts, and making noise with whatever they had. The equivalent to an outdoor Christmas school concert, the streets were lined with smiling parents, grandparents, visitors, and nearly everyone else from the surrounding area. It was a lot of fun, and we understand there will be more elaborate adult versions over the holidays.

But what really is getting us into holiday mode, is the arrival of our three children. Paul and Brenda arrived Friday, and Rhonda came yesterday, Sunday. They all fully enjoyed their trips, having to change planes 2 times in different airports, a new travel experience for all. It was exciting, especially for Paul. Their last plane, West Palm Beach to Marsh Harbor, was on a 19 seat prop plane, with only 6 passengers. They also had to fun of double security, as they flew via Washington. But in the end all arrived safely and happy to be done with school/work and ready to hit the beaches. GettingOur kids, Paul, Rhonda & Brenda enjoying a dinghy ride the family together is our greatest Christmas gift.

A Christmas Family tradition: gingerbread houses

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the temperature should go back into the 20's by mid week. We have taken the kids to Great Guana to walk the fabulous beaches, explore Baker’s Bay ruins, snorkle and swim with the wildlife. We have been joined by Kathy & Pete on STEELAWAY. Pete and Kathy visited us on RAFT in Annapolis in October. They shipped STEELAWAY to Florida in December and are now in the Bahamas.

Steelaway arrives in Bakers Bay

Watching surfers and flying a kite on the ocean beach

flying a kite on the ocean beach

Anchoring in Bakers Bay

Christmas Eve Day, and we have decided to take advantage of the calm weather to go back through the Whale and visit Green Turtle. As soon as we entered White Sound to anchor, we were greeted by Cardia’s dinghy and the kids went off snorkling on the ocean reefs.
Christmas Day – the winds had picked up, so we walked the beautiful ocean beach before sharing our turkey dinner with the Franklins. roughtime in White Sound Harbour

Boxing Day – the winds are still blowing and blow Larry (Inukshuk) and Bill (Planktos) into White Sound. Larry’s dinghy is overturned and Bill manages to get ropes wrapped around both motors when anchoring. Volunteers in dinghies go out to help Larry get anchored, and move Bill to a mooring ball. We had just settled down for a drink when the radio announced that another boat in the anchorage had decided on its own, it wanted to leave….out go the dinghies again to rescue another one. Planktos in White Sound Harbour

The norther continues to blow strong…so we rent golf carts to go and explore Green Turtle and New Plymouth. The kids get a New Plymouthkick out of driving their cart along the narrow streets.
Pineapples: another rum punch to try

The weather is still hemming us in. Fortunately we are able to get off RAFT at the local marinas, and there are even bars for the kids to go to. Rhonda (our oldest) has to fly out on Dec. 29th from Marsh Harbour and there is no way we can go there on RAFT, so we put her on the water taxi to Treasure Cay, and hire a land taxi to get her to the airport. Not cheap, but its an adventure for her and she makes her plane. Bolo Water Taxi
We were stuck in Green Turtle for New Years, so we went northeast to Manjack (the next Cay) This island is nearly deserted, only 3 homes on it, and the residents are very boat friendly. If the winds/water had been calmer, it would have been a great place to snorkel, pick conch, swim and kayak. But the winds continued to blow, blow, but Brenda and Bev did take a long walk along the ocean beach. The waves were crashing in on the reef. We could have picked conch, but no one in our family likes it so we passed.
New Years Eve, there was a big bonfire on the beach and everyone attended, all the boaters and the residents. Bill & Leslie who live there full time, are fantastic people. They grow most of their own food, fish and conch, use solar power and welcome visitors. They even provide free wireless internet to the boaters -- Paul liked that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Gulf Crossing – Marsh Harbour, Bahamas December 2004

There were a lot of boats in Lake Worth waiting for weather to make the crossing. We have determined that Sunday night (Dec. 5) should be okay, the winds forecast to be E 5-10 shifting to SE going 10-15 and getting stronger as the week progressed. We motored down to the Lake Worth Inlet, anchored for a few hours and left at 8pm. It is 53 nm to the bank, we estimated it would take up about 10 hours, so we would arrive at dawn. Unfortunately, the winds were stronger, the seas confused, and our progress slowed by tacking and it took us 13 hours, but arrived safely. We bailed out at Mangrove Cay, anchoring about 2 pm. tired because the boat motion was too great for anyone to get much sleep but pleased to have the gulf crossing behind us. We are in the Bahamas!!

The next morning we took a nice leisurely sail, without the motor for 1/2 the way, tacking RAFT to Great Sale Cay. This is a uninhabited anchorage, and again we rested. At first light, well rested, we motored to Spanish Cay. It is time to get checked in with customs and start the real cruising. Our Children will be joining us in Marsh Harbour, one of the most north easterly points of the Abacos, they arrive next weekend for the Christmas holidays. We are really looking forward to their arrival, and now are sure we will be there to meet them.

We are really enjoying the colours of the seas. As we crossed the Atlantic, it was rich indigo blue. Then immediately hitting the bank, gorgeous turquoise and you can see bottom at 30'., the joke is that you can count the blades of grass. This morning it had an emerald green hue.

Dec 9/04 Only one obstacle left, between us and Marsh Harbour – the Whale. We had read and heard about its reputation and we were concerned. We had heard from Silent Joy (they had crossed with us and had lots of Bahamas experience) that today was a good day to go, and we took their advise. We had wanted to stop at Manjack, and Green Turtle, there was so much exploring to do, but that would have to wait. We had a very uneventful motor through the Whale, inspected Bakers Bay on the way through and arrived in Marsh Harbour in the early afternoon. This was to be our base for the next month.

Dec 11/04 We went to town, just for a walk, still checking out what stores are in Marsh Harbor and what we can buy here and what it will cost. There is a huge grocery store, Solomons, which is comparable to a regular A&P etc, well stocked with everything, even some Costco brands, good meat selection, baked good, fruits & vegs are not as nice, and everything is equal to US prices or a little higher. Things coming in from US are subject to a hefty duty. We dropped off our propane tank at the local variety store before 9am, and it was returned full by 1pm for $12. (US$ = Bahamain dollars) even the ATM worked to get money out of our Canadian acct.

We had been speaking to a couple on the next boat, a trawler out of Nova Scotia, Claude & Louise, and they invited us over for a drink. He is an accountant, used to work for Revenue Canada, and now works internationally on short term contracts in Africa, Asia etc, and they sail the balance of the year. Drinks turned into dinner, and a very nice evening. We returned to RAFT (by dinghy) about 8pm.

The wind picked up during the night, and both of us were up at 4am checking things out. Bev had a "dream/premonition" about the dinghy, and sure enough it was missing at that time. We both felt sick, the dinghy is our "car" and a valuable part of our cruising equipment. Without it, we can't get off the boat. It was dark, and we couldn't see it, plus we couldn't do anything at that time. The tide was now coming in, it had been low tide about 10pm last night. The tide could have taken the dinghy out to sea, but the winds would have most likely kept it in the harbour.
Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep after that, not that worrying about it would help. Daybreak came at 6am, and about 7am we were able to signal the trawler that we needed some assistance. Claude took Ross out to the far edges of the harbour and around the anchored boats and the shoreline but the dinghy was still lost.

In Marsh Harbor, the sailors network on the VHF radio every morning at 815am. This is a time where you can find out the weather, news, what is happening around the area, and you can network with the other boaters. It is like a coffee time in Florida, only this happens every morning on the radio. We had introduced ourselves yesterday on the net, and felt so stupid when today we had to admit that we had lost our dinghy. Everyone immediately took action, several boats came over to offer their dinghies so we could go search, or go to town, and tell us "it happens at some time to everyone". Within an hour, we had heard from Marsh Harbor Marina, the dinghy had been found, sandwiched between two boats, no worse for wear, except for the rain water it had collected. What a relief. Proof again what a great group of people boaters are and how willing they are to help.

So now we are back in business, have attached another tying line to the dinghy. What had happened, when Bev gets out of the dinghy, she always wraps the rope around the cleat, in a hitch. Then Ross passes all the stuff out of the dinghy, and usually ties the same line in a bowline to the pushpit. Somehow this didn't happen last night, and Bev's cleat hitch didn't hold either. We both messed up. So now we are setting up a 2 line, 2 tie up system so hopefully this is our last time, we have to admit to the cruising world that we can't secure a dinghy.

It is very windy, and rainy today. One front has passed through and another one is expected in the next couple days. This is the predicted weather front that caused us to come directly to Marsh Harbor without stopping at any of the deserted islands, and sand beaches that were beckoning to us as we came across. Marsh Harbor is a protected anchorage with good holding, and a safe place to be right now. The fronts are due to pass through by the end of the week, so we will be able to take the kids, when they arrive out to those deserted islands and sand beaches, to do some exploring, snorkeling, swimming, walking, etc all what we came here to do.
The weather continues to be warm, 70-80's Ross enjoying ocean beach, Great Guana Cayduring the day, little cooler at night.

Nippers: Ron, Brian, Bev (front) Bill and Ross (rear)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Fernandina Beach, Florida – Lake Worth, Florida November-December/2004

Nov 24/04 We continue to head south. Yesterday we were in St. Augustine. We had been there Dec. 2001, looked at all the boats anchored and dreamed we would sometime be there in our own boat...and we were. We are travelling just with Ron Marshall and Larry Webb (both from Barrie) Our new American friends, Chris & Deke, had departed in Charleston, to return home to go back to work. They left their boat in a marina in Charleston and Gail & Ted have slowed down. They didn't need to travel as quickly as us, since they are spending the holidays with Gail's family in Florida.

We had a late start leaving St. Augustine yesterday, Ron & Bill had never been there so did a quick tour of the city, we went to the marina to get fuel, pumpout and make telephone calls. The holding tank was full, full. Right after the pumpout vacuum sucked out all the yucky stuff, we refilled the tank with water, and the pump broke. So now we have a full tank of yucky water. Ross had installed a macerator pump to direct discharge the waste, once we were in the ocean, offshore, but we hadn't used it yet. It had is inauguaral use and we were on our way.

The delay leaving, and lack of good anchorages along this section of the ditch, caused us to just anchor off the channel, where it was a little wider. emphasis on "little". We had to put out 2 anchors, to keep RAFT from swinging, because the water depth reduces quickly off the channel. Another new experience for us. We knew the tides were only 2 ft. and the bottom is soft.
In the middle of the night, we were on bottom. The tide was rising and there was nothing to do about the situation until morning. Using the back winch, Ross was able to get another rope around the stern anchor, and pull us (with a little motor assist) back into the channel and retrieve both anchors and we were on our way. Ron, had a little more difficulty and ended up with something wrapped around either the keel, rudder, or prop and had to go into the water to fix it. He is a SCUBA diver so didn't mind.

We are heading to New Symrna Beach. It is so hard to judge how long it will take us. Sometimes the boat guage says we are going 6 kn. but the tides/river currents cut that back to 4 kn. over ground (like going uphill) other times we get a boost and are travelling 7+ kn. but that always seems to be only for such a short time and with all the inlet/outlets to the ocean, it is impossible for us to determine whether the current will be with us or against us.

At New Symrna Beach, the channel splits and our old charts indicate the ICW goes west through the town. But right between R32 and the green buouy, we get stuck!! Again, we were fortunate the tide was rising and we were able to work our way free. Going through the Shepherd Cut (the eastern channel) there are new buoys marking 10-14 ft all the way. We anchored without incident opposite R46.

Nov 25th – American Thanksgiving A warm, wet day spent motoring down the ICW. We anchored off the bridge at Cocoa Beach and were off to Vero Beach. The city marina offers inexpensive mooring balls, and great facilities so the sailors affectionately call it Velcro Beach. Unfortunately, we are on a mission….wanting to get to Fort Pierce, where Larry had friends for us to meet, and Bev’s parents are coming for a visit. So we only spend one night in "Velcro".

We spent a few days in Fort Pierce, Florida, visiting and taking advantage of Bev's parents' car to do our final provisioning. We always took "having Wheels" for granted, and have now learned to satisfy most of our needs by "hoofing it with a backpack". However when Bev's parents came over to Fort Pierce to spend a couple of days, we definitely took advantage, going to Walmart, Home Depot, automotive and liquor stores, West Marine, etc... loading up on everything we could. RAFT needs a new waterlinCraning wrecked boats, Fort Piercee. But we understand things will be difficult to obtain and very expensive once we leave Florida.

Fort Pierce was badly hit by 2 hurricanes this summer, and there are still signs of the devastation. Blue tarp roofs are very common, masts protruding from the water, boats washed up on shore, missing docks, and many sad tales. We visited with Larry's friends whose 2 year old Catalina 40 has a mast that looks like a pretzel (a new one is on order), bow sprint was bent, some fiberglass and wood work done when it fell off her jackstands. It is difficult to get marina space, as most of the private docks where washed away, and all of the City marina is gone!!

We had a great time in Fort Pierce. Anchoring just south of the lift bridge, enough water (can't say 7-8 ft is lots) we had no problems, but Ron's anchor did drag once.

We are basically ready to go -- have a couple of small jobs to do, but primarily waiting for a good weather window and we will be off. Right now it looks like we may have to wait until the beginning of next week.Ross, Ron & Bill waiting for the courier, Harbourtown Marina Bar

Dec 2/04 We are now motor/sailing the last segment of the ICW for us. We will arrive in Lake Worth this afternoon. (Thursday) But we are only 2 boats now. Larry has stayed in Fort Pierce to help friends get their boats ready to go to the Bahamas.

Barge carrying a sub on ICW