May 29, 2014

Hola Amigos,

Quick overnight in Straits State Marina, Mackinaw city.  The folks that staff this location are always so pleasant and accommodating.  It is adjacent to the older, admittedly quainter City Marina, but always seems to have vacancies, and is very modern.  Facilities are supported by a small “farm” of wind generators onsite-very cool.  Unfortunately, the state of Michigan has instituted a new fee structure which has not resulted in lower costs to boaters.  The other marina in the area, Mackinac Island State Harbor is gorgeous, but reservations are usually necessary during busy summer months.  Of course, a little shopping was in order-a stop for a smoked herring, and to Shepler’s marine supply for a boat doodad.  Next day, the trip to Presque Isle harbor was uneventful.  Flat seas, and 50 degree, sunny weather made the 8 hour trip an absolute pleasure.  The past few days have taken us through a massive hatch of the “dammit” bugs.  They are the size of mosquitoes, but don’t bite.  Instead, they stick all over the boat by the hundreds of thousands, turning the white hull and decks black, and fill the air in dense clouds, making breathing an exercise in protein inhalation. Presque Isle is the only natural harbor on the west shore of Lake Huron.  There is a marina there, but too small for the Big Girl.  We opted to stay on Alizann rather than dropping the tender in the water for our traditional sippy sippy at cocktail time.  Filets off the grill, and fresh Michigan asparagus were washed down with a little red pop.  Anchor up at O’dark-thirty, crossing the lake today.  Pea souper.  Can’t see the water over the bow.  Oh well, fire the radar up honey, we’re goin’ across.  Twenty minutes out, the AIS chirps.  Upbound and downbound freighters will cross our path within minutes of us.  A quick chat with both captains assures them that we are not interested in a close quarters situation in reduced visibility either.  We’ll hold to the west for 20 minutes while they pass.  They’re gone and we didn’t get a glimpse of either-I love this flippin’ technology stuff.  Pea soup for the next 10 hours until Otto (our autopilot) puts us on Cove Island light, an Imperial design tower, by prolific lighthouse builder John Brown in 1858.  The village of Tobermory provided our next safe harbor, and a beautiful little town it is.  Tied to the wall in downtown(?) gave us a constant stream of nice folks to chat with.  We met up with 3 guys on a boat that was tied to a wall behind the Coast Guard surf boat.  Seems that they had an engine failure last night in the middle of Georgian Bay, which is sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake.  After several hours, the Coast Guard went out to find them, and eventually tow them here, depositing the boat on the dock.  Fortunately, one of the crew on the pleasure boat was a mechanic, and after overnighting a fuel pump, our new crazy Canadian friends were off again.  Around 8 AM, we heard the loudspeaker of the Chi-Cheemaun(Big Canoe in Ojibway), a car ferry that makes the 30 mile, 1:45  trip from Tobermory  to South Baymouth, 2- 4 times a day! The Big Canoe is the largest car ferry in Ontario.  It is 365 ft long and can carry 143 cars and 638 people. Take a peek at the map of the area and you will see why it is busy. LOOONG way around Georgian Bay by car.  After a brunch of whitefish(healthy) and poutine(not) at Craigie’s,  we decided that we oughta’ take a little hike, so out to the Bruce trail for a couple hour stroll in the woods along the lake.  Note:  Poutine(poo-teen)- a decidedly Canadian concoction of French fries and gravy, covered with cheese curds-a DELICIOUS, high cal fuel for those hoary Canadian nights.  Bruce Trail-the longest trail in southern Ontario, traversing along the Niagara escarpment from the falls to Tobermory.  Thursday saw us take a short hop to Wingfield Harbor, on Cabot Head.  This all-weather anchorage is the former location of the Meneray family commercial fishery, and a floating sawmill, all long gone.  What remains is a great little anchorage, with a trail to the Cabot Head light which has been restored by volunteers, The Friends of Cabot Head.  Suzanne and I toured the lighthouse/museum, imagining what it must have been like living here in the late 1800’s.  During that period, the house was accessible only by boat or cart path, and sat in the middle of absolute desolation provided by the logging industry’s clear-cutting the entire Bruce peninsula.  64 degree temperatures put us into bathing suits on our trusty little craft.  On my hands and knees, scrubbin’ off the carcasses of the #@&!! Bugs (at least I got some sun).  A couple of hours of scrubbin’ later, I got my reward-sips on the tender while circumnavigating our solitary anchorage and snappin’ a few shots of the GARGANTUA-a wooden freighter burned and scuttled on shore early in the last century.  Long trip tomorrow, so traditional summer dinner on the grill tonight.  MDO’s secret burger recipe coupled with corn on the cob and tater tots.  I AM a cheap date!

Hasta Luego…….

Addendum:  If you don’t want preachin’ stop here.  Got 2 (NOT GOOD) calls within 12 hours this weekend.  First call-a friend was in an auto/motorcycle accident hours before.  His wife and daughter were on their way to the hospital that he was airlifted to with the intention of removing his life support.  Second call-one of our closest pals was involved in an auto accident the night before.  Eight broken ribs, fractured sternum, and a punctured lung.  He will live, but won’t be laffin’ for awhile.  Further affirmation of the “DO IT NOW” theme.  …..tick, tick, tick.   

P.S. Hopefully, we'll have the utility to add pictures to the log up and running soon.

May 25, 2014

Wow!  Hard to believe that we’re finally on our way.  We have a beautiful day to depart Charlevoix, Michigan.  Temperature at 1000 is 65 degrees, skies are sunny, and the glass is rising.  Out on Lake Michigan, the seas are less than one foot, and the air temperature is 47 degrees.  Water temperature is 35 degrees, but we’re not planning on a swim today.  Instead, we be smilin’ in our toasty pilothouse.  We’ll cover some familiar territory today, up the west coast of Michigan, with a planned overnight in Mackinaw city.  From there, we’ll veer south from our usual summer course to head down the east coast of Michigan to Presque Isle, before jumping across Lake Huron to Tobermory, Ontario on Tuesday.  Weather and seas look very promising for those runs.

It’s been quite a winter.  One of the coldest and snowiest(?) in recent history.  Besides moving a shitton (lots) of snow from the driveway with my trusty John Deere all-wheel drive tractor, MDO (my darlin’ One, the Admiral, Suzanne) and I spent a lot of hours sprucing our plus-sized girl up for The Life.  If you have a dream, pursue it.  Don’t make excuses about why you can’t, do it now.  Tick, Tick, Tick.  But I digress.  The girl got her bottom painted, as well as 5 coats of varnish on her brightwork.  100 or so hours (but who’s counting?) of wheeling, polishing and waxing, and she’s feelin’ like a natural woman.  Some woodworking projects by MJT (yours truly)  will make her galley a lot more user friendly  We made some additions that will make her feel a lot more sure of herself on the big water too.  She got a brand new, P.C. based navigation system (Rose Point), and a secondary radar (Koden) to back up her primary (Furuno) systems.  Positive engine room ventilation will help her digest her fuel more efficiently on cooler air.  Some other cool (I think) modifications, but we’ll talk later.  The constant supervision, cool heads, and strong hands of the boys at Boat Works of Charlevoix helped make it all happen.  Alas, or Friday departure date was not meant to be.  After I moved one of the 3 computers onboard, I got the Blue Screen of Death on the monitor.  Not just the usual BSOD, but one replete with an olive branch and a white dove.  Repair disc-no joy.  2 hours on the interweb, lotsa forums-still no soap.  #@!&***.  Call to the Computer Center, Inc., in East Jordan, Michigan.  No easy fix available over the phone.  Yes, we’re super busy, maybe get to it next week.  Extra Benjamins will move us to the front of the line (those pesky dead presidents do come in handy sometimes).  2 hours later the emergency room calls with the verdict-hard drive cacked.  No, they don’t have one, but can disassemble an external and use that- Ca-ching$!  After 31 hours, 2 terabytes of files are loaded.  Reboot.  Voila!  Back to hacienda.  Moral of the story:  Don’t ever start a voyage on Friday-REAL bad luck.  Positive side, we were still at home, and could fix it.  We got to go out to dinner with our good buds from Scottsdale, Andy and Jody (who will meet us in 3 weeks for a few days of rappin’ and libations on the St. Lawrence Seaway).  Also gave us a chance to further spruce up la casa for our friends Dick and Jan ( yes, we do have fun with Dick and Jan) who will use the joint as theirs while we are gone.

So…We’re about to round the abandoned lighthouse at Waugoshance Point.  The breeze has picked up, 15 knots out of the S.W., and the waves are piling up as the water shoals up to 16 feet or so.  Air temperature is 46 degrees, and MDO is fast asleep on the back porch, which is a balmy 72 degrees.  Mackinaw bridge is in sight, although 15 miles away.  We’ll be under it in 2 hours, such is Life at 8 knots.  …..Later

We woke up to grey skies and rain. The weather service was calling for winds and seas to increase as the day went on. We decided that we should de

part early and head for Battle Island. Battle Island gets its name from the skirmish in 1885 between troops and the Ojibwe. The Battle Island light is perched on a high bluff of 118 feet. Battle Island light was built in 1877 and its last lighthouse keeper resided until the 1991. Seas were building but as we rounded the point to make our way into Battle Island harbor, it was calm. The small harbor was empty.  The mooring balls stated in Bonnie Dahl’s Cruising guide were not present. There was the stripped out hull of a runabout on shore and a dock with lines. No sign of any activity. We dropped anchor and waited for the rain to stop before going ashore to explore. Once ashore, there was an old tractor that appeared to be in working order. The dirt track we followed toward the lighthouse had tire tracks. There was evidence of man in the woods, an lichen covered Chevy truck, and various drums and metal pieces. The lighthouse keeper’s residence looked as though they just walk out and locked the door. Old Electrolux vacuum, box tv, kitchen utensils hanging on the walls, etc. The house appeared to be a duplex. The lighthouse area was spectacular in that it was situated on a tall craggy, bluff looking West through East over Lake Superior. The west waves were crashing below. Definitely, worth the stop.  Back at the boat we decided that we would continue on 5 miles north and spend the night in the village of Rossport. Since this will be the last town that is close to us we decided to gas up , White Star, the tender. We use the tender constantly when at anchor. We splash White Star in the water first thing after the anchor is set.

After 2 days in Loon Harbour, we were itching to get moving on to explore the next harbor. Woke up to fog so thick we were unable to see our anchor ball 100 ft away.  The way out of Loon has no tricky points, but after that we had to navigate through some waters that it would be nice to see.  The radar works great in the fog but is a bit disconcerting when the charts do not line up with the radar imagine. We waited a few hours and the ceiling lifted enough to see the water and the shores of the numerous islands that we would snake through. We spoke to Day Dreams and Waterford who were anchored in Otter Cove and contemplating departing.  We left and less than an hour later the fog descended.  Visiblity was less than a quarter of a mile, but we were committed. We snaked through the passage and lamented on the fact that we were unable to see the beautiful scenery. We were keeping our fingers crossed that once we were closer to land the fog would lift once again.  The entrance into Otter Cove could be tough in the fog as the navigation is based on line of site through a narrows. It is doable but prone to anxious moments when using only radar and the depth finder. The fog cooperated and we successfully transited the narrows into a beautiful harbor with high wooded bluffs surrounding all sides.  Day Dreams and Waterford decided not to leave as a Grand Banks “Ceildih of Washburn, WI ( that was anchored in the Eastern slot at Loon Harbour) has recently arrived an reported thick fog in the lake. As there were 3 boats in the inner cove, we decided to anchor in the East end of the bay in 20 ft of water. We beat the rain. They decided to stay as their next destinations was Woodbine Harbour which is 4 hours away.  Lucky us, they stayed.  We had a nice 2 hour cocktail party aboard Day Dreams catching up and celebrating Gary’s 64 th birthday.  The morning of the 7th we woke up to clouds and 54 degrees. But… we did see clearing to the west. It had the potential to be a beautiful day. Day Dreams, Waterford and Ceildih departed.  We were all alone and the sun was coming out.  We decided to relocate Alizann into the inner harbor, hoping to see the Mythical Moose!! At the end of the harbor is a stream that’s shores are lined with tasty moose grasses All settled in the harbor, tender down, time to take a hike to the waterfall. Up the stream White Star went. We could hear the falls. A short walk and you were at the base of the falls. Boy, was the water flowing over the falls. Not surprising since we have had much rain in the past month. We stopped an took many pictures and decided to continue on the adventurous hike which led to a large lake. The hike was varied in terrain. Climbing over logs, walking through water, climbing up rocks.  The trail was well marked by orange tags and many of the trees that blocked the trail had been cut away. Who are these people who clear these trails in the middle of nowhere? The hike was very pretty. Many mosses, mushrooms, lichens and moose tracks and scat! Needless to say, “It was Wet.” We arrived at the lake which was approximately 3 miles long. More moose tracks! Back at the boat we decided to take advantage of the sunny skies and above 50 degree weather and lay on the boat deck and read. It was beautiful. All alone in the anchorage? How lucky. Of course late in the day, a small sailboat arrived but was determined to be a lone and anchored in the outer harbor out of site. We loaded up White Star for our evening cocktail cruise/fishing trip. We fished but no luck. It was clouding over and getting late so we decided to explore the stream in the large bay looking for “What Else?” MOOSE! No luck, maybe tonight. Stayed up searching the shore for wildlife and listening to the song of the Loons.

Woke up today with beautiful sunshine, up anchor and on our way to Woodbine harbor 28 nm away. The course that Captain Marty laid in was a pretty weave past LaMB Island, Fluor and Agate Islands. Sheer cliffs many shoals on both sides. Lamb Island looked like Marina Cay in the BVI’s from far away. Many red roof buildings.  Lamb island was a favorite stop for boaters prior to the 1980’s. Boaters would stop and chat with the lighthouse keeper and his wife. In the early 80’s Ontario automated most of the lighthouses. According to Archie of Archie’s Fish Charters in Thunder Bay, Ontario was going to let the buildings at the lighthouses decay. Private individuals have decided that these building need to be maintained and or restored for history. The group wants the Ontario government to designate them as historical landmarks and assist in helping with the maintenance. They are going out to the buildings and repairing them. Some are living on the islands and maintaining the houses. Woodbine Harbour is surrounded by tall towering bluffs covered in a mix of hardwoods and conifers. We rounded the corner and to our surprise we were the only one in this popular anchorage. We were greeted by the resident Loons. We spent the first part of the day exploring the Moose area looking for a trail that went to Kenny Lake. We located the trail but could only travel 1/8 mile in. We surmise that few, if any have traversed the trail this year. We aborted our hike in the bush and decided to cruise the anchorage and explore the shores.  On the northwest shore of the harbor there was a primitive campsite with a picnic table. This was not noted in Bonnie Dahl or GLCC.  As we were eating a lovely dinner of steak, baked potatoes and salad, Marty noticed some excited baitfish and then a large fish jump. He suited up with his gear and went off to fish. Mart’s trip was very productive. He caught a 24 inch Brook Trout. Once again with his favorite lure, The Fat Free Guppy. The weather was calling for rain and high winds, seas building 3-5.  We expected a possible rocky night. This did occur.  The evening was dead calm.

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Captain's Log

Hey, Mon.  You Okay?

Nighttime at Emerald Bay Marina.  Tomorrow evening, Andy and Jody come in, and it’s Sayonara to bloggin’ for a week while we play with our old cruisin’ pals.

We ended up staying at Cambridge until Saturday the 27th.  Friday was windy but sunny, and we ended up spending the day on the Girl doing boatchores.  Suz worked on income tax jazz-what a laff, we got no income, while I spent the day in the bilges tightening up hose clamps everywhere I could find them.  We had Lynn and Larry over for blackened Mahi, Beet rosti, and Acorn squash with cranberries.  Lynn supplied the Key Lime pie.  Their stint as hosts for the anchorage was ending on the 29th, and they were thinkin’ thoughts of starting to head back north for the summer season of, can I say   it? -work.  He captains a tour boat in Tobermory, Ontario, and she serves as Mate.  Although we wanted to stay, it was time to move on, and as Saturday morning dawned bright, warm, and almost windless, we dropped the mooring and headed to Staniel Cay, only 12 miles away.  Along the way, we spotted the motoryacht “Rushmore” holding station on the Bank, waiting to enter the marina at Compass cay.  She belongs to some “friends friends” from East Lansing, and we had been instructed to look for them while in the Exumas.  Well, we hailed them on the VHF several times to no avail (they must not have had their radio on).  Oh well.  We anchored off Big Majors Spot Cay (no typo) by noon, and dinghied in to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  We did a recon walk, hitting a couple of markets for future reprovs, and checked out Staniel Cay international airport.  The bar at SCYC called us, and we sat on the porch in rocking chairs, and watched a small part of the world go by.  We figured we’d eat as long as we were there, so had an unremarkable late lunch, (early dinner) there.  Blindsided by a severe case of “dumb#ss”, we returned to the tender landing only to find our seven hundred pound dinghy sitting high and dry on the beach at low tide.  By the time that we had the boat floating again, we had run out of daylight, so the following morning we ran over to the beach where the famous “swimming pigs” resided, checked them out (and got rid of some garbage), then went back into the channel by the Yacht Club to check out “Thunderball Grotto” (so named for the James Bond movie sequence shot there).  We didn’t get into the water, but it didn’t look nearly as cool as the grottos back at Rocky Dundas.By 1026, we had the anchor up, and were headed to Black Point, on Great Guana Cay.  Since we had been delayed at Cambridge by unfavorable wind direction, we opted for a quick “drive by” to check things out prior to our guests arriving.  We arrived at the anchorage outside black Point by 1200, and got the hook down in 26 knot winds under sunny skies.  We checked out Lorraine’s Bakery and Restaurant, and had lunch, while availing ourselves of her very good Internet connection.  On our way back to the Girl, we ran into Bob & Peggy (Knot 2 Fast), who had been here for a couple of days since leaving Warderick Wells.  When we got back to “Alizann”, there was another Krogen, “Morse Code III” anchored next to us.  We had been told a month earlier by some other Krogen pals that the folks on “MC” wanted to get in touch with us, as they wanted to head to the Panama Canal with us next year.  After the hook was up at 1445, The Admiral called them on the VHF, and had a nice chat.  Hopefully, we’ll see them again this season.  By 1635, we were anchor down (for the last time) on the lee side of Little Farmer’s Cay.  Our plan was to head out into the Exuma Sound (Atlantic Ocean) through Little Farmer’s Cut in the morning, as the water on the Bank (and out of the wind) was pretty shallow from here south to Great Exuma (and Georgetown, where we were picking Andy and Jody up).  Our charts told us that there would be a fair amount of current exiting Little Farmer’s Cut.  On the ebb tide in the morning, with the wind out of the northeast, (opposing the outgoing tide), the conditions would be just right for a “rage” in the narrow cut.  The good news was that we figured that slack current would be just an hour or so after daybreak, so if we got off by first light, we’d be at the Cut at just about the right time (I keep sayin’, “better to be lucky than good”).  Once out, we hoped that the seas would be calm enough to fish in the deep bluewater on our way to Lee Stocking Cay, where we’d spend the night before heading to Emerald Bay on Great Exuma.

Well……we were anchor up at Little Farmer’s just after daybreak, and out of the Cut with no problem. Seas were 2-4’ on 5 second intervals, but on our port quarter, so not too bad.  No sooner did I get a line wet than we reeled in a 12 kilo, 40” Wahoo (that’d be 26 ½ pounds, folks).  Next came a 30” Mahi.  We got another Mahi that absolutely dwarfed the thirty incher up to the side of the boat, but couldn’t get a gaff in him before he straightened out the hook and swam away.  Dude, this was our kinda fishin’!  We lost 7 Ballyhoo baits on hits that spun the reels out, but didn’t hook up well.  We also lost one of my favorite cedar plugs that I had skirted with a yellow and Chartreuse silicone squid to something BIG.  This guy hooked up, and was zzzzzzzzzzzingin’ the reel out bigtime.  He was close to spooling out 400 yards of eighty-pound test Spectra line, when I had to dial up the drag to keep him from emptying the reel.  The 5-foot rod was bent to nearly 90 degrees.  I couldn’t even get it out of the rod holder for fear of losing the whole shootin’ match.  All of sudden-nuthin’.  I reeled in a couple hundred yards of line with nothing to show but the bitter end.  I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t break this line by hand, and this dude just laughed at it.  Needless to say, we skipped right past Lee Stocking and kept ripping them up.  We ended the day with the Wahoo, the Mahi, and a couple of small Tunas.  The Admiral made me stop fishing, ‘cause she said the freezers were full already.  This was all in about 5 hours time.  We arrived at Emerald Bay Marina at 1428, and tied up in the “cheap seats”-no water, no electricity.  At $.40/ gal, we can make water cheaper (at today’s fuel prices, around $.10/gal.).  We’ve also found that at marinas with metered electricity, the usage billed to us on their meters seems awfully high (in fact, when we do the math, their consumption figures far exceed what the Girl could possibly use when all of her systems are go, go, go).  This offseason, we’re installing a kilowatt meter (lotsa $$$, but we think that the return will be worth it).  We spent the rest of the afternoon fileting and vacuum bagging fish (I’m REALLY slow at this stuff).  We ditched the ice, and some nonessential stuff, so there was room in the freezers.  At 1730, I was all set to go up to the clubhouse for the marina-sponsored “Happier Hour” (‘cause your already happy) featuring food and drinks, but the Admiral insisted that I take a shower.  I thought that the odor of fish blood ‘n guts was kinda manly, but she didn’t see it that way.  Well………we almost missed out on the goodies.  The marina here is dominated by a gang of Quebecois sailors, and let’s just say that they put piranhas to shame.  Two stacked plates at a time is the norm for a trip to the sparse buffet.  Later, Suz would hear stories about their behavior at the Superbowl party that weren’t pretty.  Oh well, we had food back at the boat.

Tuesday morning, I washed and started waxing our trusty little ship, while Suz did laundry at the FREE laundry room (replete with state-of the-art washers and dryers).  In the afternoon, we rented a car and headed into Georgetown to reprovision our fresh veggies and fruit.  I’m just sayin’, but picture a guy that drives 4 or 5 times a year getting into a car with a right-hand steering wheel and driving on the left side of the road.  A couple of Xanax would have served Suzanne well.  Okay, back to the matter at hand.  The supply boat leaves Nassau on Monday, arriving here at night, and stuff is on the shelves by Tuesday afternoon.  By Wednesday, it’s slim pickin’s until the following week.  Sooo……. Ya gotta get there.  We learned last year that you just CANNOT look at prices here.  If you need/want it, get it.  No matter that things are 2 1/2 to 4 times the price of the same item in the States.  Next, a trip to BaTelCo.  Suz had re-upped the data on our Ipad and phone, only to have them quit working altogether.  The nice lady there got things sorted out, and us up and running again (until next time).  Satellite phones are on the list for next year.  On the way home, we stopped at the butcher shop to pick up some lamb chops, as A & J love ‘em.

This morning, we did some more waxing and cleaning rust off of our stainless steel stanchions (a never-ending job) and office work after another trip to Georgetown.  (Yeah, we had to go back-yesterday we got to the post office to mail some stuff home, only to find a handwritten note on the door, informing all that “Until further notice, the post office would be closing at 1:00 P.M. daily”.)  That’s island life.  After turning in the rental, we walked over to a nearby resort, Grand Isle, and treated ourselves to lunch by their pool.  Having taken many vacations like that in our former life, we marveled at how much our lives had changed.  The wind has died, and the flying teeth are now out in full force.  We had been surprised by the lack of no see ‘ums this year-guess it’s because it’s been so windy.  I’ll take the wind over these voracious little buggers anytime.  A & J will be here tomorrow, so I’ll probably talk at ya in a week.  In the meantime, we think we’ll head back north and revisit some cool spots with our old playmates.

-Later

Good Morning.

It’s the beginning of day 4 at Cambridge Cay.  We’ll be hanging here until tomorrow (Friday), when the wind moves from its’ current west component.  It’s been interesting for the last couple of days, listening to the VHF radio, as cruisers scramble to find spots to anchor/moor in the west wind, as there are very few of these locations in the Bahamas.  Warderick Wells went from about 30% to fully occupied with 20 on the waiting list.  Our anchorage, Cambridge, went from 4 boats to 17, with half a dozen anchored up north of us.  After checking to the weather a few days ago, we opted to stay put.  It’s not like we’re stuck, however.  We might stay for a week even in settled weather, it’s so pretty here.

The day before yesterday, a 120 footer, “Carte Blanche” came in, she’s moored about a half mile south of us.  They have all the toys-jetskis, a 27’ center console, and a 16’ bonefishing skiff, as well as a couple of R.I.B. tenders.  Yesterday, they were dwarfed when the 160’, “Mustang Sally” crept in.  Both are charters-I wonder what the nickel is on one of these for a week of fun in the sun.  I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

So let’s back up.  Tuesday was another absolutely gorgeous day.  The seas were favorable, so we dinghied over to Rocky Dundas, and the grottos at low tide.  It was a fun snork.  The waves washed in and out of the caves, so it was kinda surgey, and once in, it was like a wash machine on the “heavy soil” setting.  Inside, it was shallow enough to stand and check out the stalactites hanging from the roof, as the hole overhead admitted shafts of sunlight.  There were two such caves with some pretty nice corals and fish to visit on the swim between.  We’ll be back with our guests.  Next, we motored over to Compass Cay, where we anchored on a sand spit and hiked overland to “Rachel’s Bubble”.  This is a large pool separated from the sea by a low dam of dead coral, bordered on both sides by high outcroppings.  When big waves hit the ocean side of this dam, the water comes frothing and jetting over the top and into the pool.  Standing in the pool, you get the bubbles, and once in a while, the top of a really big wave.  The water color is a milky blue due to all of the bubbles, and has a strange odor, much like the bubbles coming out of an ozonator in a hot tub.  We giggled there for 45 minutes.  Back home, it was Cuban coffee and hammock time.  We had an early dinner, then went over to Lynn and Larry’s with Ken and Grace for our first foray into the complex world of “Mexican Train Dominoes”.  Well, it wasn’t exactly complex, we learned quickly, but I still managed to get my butt handed to me by the more experienced players (and Suzanne).  After fun ‘n games, we peered into the water off of “Seaquel’s” stern, where the underwater lights had been on since sundown.  There, we spotted a 4’ barracuda swimming amongst the schooling Mullet.  An ominous shadow was visible from time to time, swimming just out of the lights’ halo.  Then it wasn’t in the shadows.  An 8’ (Bull Shark?) swam right through the light and under the boat.  For the next 10 minutes or so, we all watched in fascination as he crisscrossed through the light.  Time to go home, we all got into the tender very carefully.

Wednesday morning, Ken and Grace left for their sail up to Eleuthera, while we headed up to Pasture Cay to do some beach cleanup with Lynn & Larry.   Three hours, and 4 huge trash bags later, the protected iguana sanctuary looked molto bene.  There, we saw what must have been the father of all iguanas, only to be surpassed 20 minutes later by one who must have been the grandfather.  Mission accomplished, we headed back to The Girl for lunch, with plans to do a drift dive out on the coral heads southwest of the anchorage in the afternoon.  When we got out to the reef, it was slack tide, so there was no current.  We found a sand patch, and tossed the hook over the side.  Until the rising current made the snorkin’ too tough, we were treated to the sights that go hand in hand with a healthy coral reef.  Too bad we were still in the boundaries of the park (a no-take zone), as we saw many, many potential Grouper sandwiches swimming along, begging to be speared.  We then pulled up anchor and let the tender drift, holding on to lines trailing from its’ stern, viewing the scenery rolling beneath us.  On the way home, we diverted to an Elkhorn coral garden, where, among other things, we spotted a Nurse Shark under a rocky overhang.  Nearing the boats, Lynn, Larry and Suzanne just had to get wet one more time, and went over the side near a little coral islet.  Their reward came in the shape of a small Hawksbill Turtle swimming lazily along the weed line.  That kinda brings us full circle back to the morning of the 25th.  Still hoping for enough “bars” to shoot this into space.

-Later

Hey There-

On Sunday morning, it was so pleasant and sunny that inertia threatened to take hold, but we had decided to push on down the Exuma chain.  To paraphrase Jimmy- “There’s so much to see waiting in front of me”-or somethin’ like that.  Cambridge Cay was calling.  Halfway there, I discovered that the charging cord for one of the laptops was nowhere to be found.  A quick call revealed its’ whereabouts-in Andrew’s office.  Well…. we could keep on headin’ down-he’d find a way to get it to us.  Right on.  After a verrrrrrrrry relaxed 2 ½ hour ride, we rounded into the anchorage at Cambridge Cay.  Four other boats were already in the huge, sheltered anchorage, leaving plenty of room for us.  While tying to the mooring, I dropped a pin for a large stainless steel shackle (translate expensive) into the water.  After we were secured, it took about a half hour of searching to find the pin on the bottom, which, by the way, now has a bright yellow lanyard attached to it.  Later in the afternoon, the anchorage hosts, Lynn & Larry dinghied over to welcome us, and collect the rent.  We asked them where they were from.  The following conversation ensued: “Canada”.  “Where in Canada”?  “Oh, a small town on the Great Lakes”.  “Where”?  “You probably haven’t heard of it-Tobermory”.  “Really.  You probably ran a dive operation there, which you sold in the Spring of 2014”.  “Are you serious”?  “Yeah, we met you on the dock at Tobermory when we were headed to the Trent/Severn Canal in May of ’14”.  (This was all Suzanne, none of us remembered our first meeting until she described it in detail).  After we got that out of the way, we arranged to go snorkeling with them the following day to a site by Rocky Dundas Cay.  They told us that there was a grotto there, whose mouth was exposed at low tide, allowing you to swim in to a cavern “large enough to hold this boat”.  Cool.  75 degrees and sunny.  Hammocks out, books in hand.  You get the picture.  After dinner, we dusted off the cribbage board, got out the Hoyle’s, and relearned the game.  As good hosts, it was our duty to get our skills up to a level that we’d pass for players so that when Andy and Jody (avid card players) got here and trounced us, it would be a more satisfying experience for them.

Oh man, this is what it’s all about.  The sun came blazing up over the edge of Cambridge Cay, the wind had stayed steady in the low teens all night, which made for perfect sleeping.  We were excited about our upcoming snorkel expedition in the afternoon, so we broke out our new diveskins to get our weights “dialed in”.  (Diveskins are worn for protection against scrapes and sunburn, and also provide a little bit of warmth.  Ours cover our bodies from ankle to neck to wrist, their thickness is somewhere between long underwear and a light wetsuit) Anyway, they’re slightly buoyant, so if you want to dive below the surface, you need to wear a weight belt to compensate.  We got this accomplished in a few minutes, then headed over to the Cay to do some exploring on land.  There, against a backdrop of crashing aquamarine seas and glaring sunshine on the windward side, we did our eco-thing and picked up beachtrash for an hour or so.  While we were on the beach, a couple of new boats joined us in the anchorage, and one left.  We expected that more would arrive during the day, as another front was expected to roll through the following day.  We had a spot o’ lunch (peanut butter on homemade wheat bread), and were ready to go when Lynn and Larry rolled over in their tender to let us know that they thought it was too rough to go to the caves.  Bummer!  Not to worry, Larry asked if we had been to the “Aquarium”, or the “Plane wreck” sites.  Since we hadn’t snorkeled anywhere around here, the alternates would work just fine.  Off we went in the tenders, joined by Ken and Grace (S/V “Pisces”) to the site some 2 miles away, just off Johnny Depp’s private island.  “The Aquarium” was a pleasant surprise, the water clarity was very good, in spite of the windy conditions, and the diversity of small aquatic life there made the trip a success.  Next, we went to the plane wreck, a drug running Cessna which had crashed and sunk upside down in about 20’ of water back in the eighties.  It was kinda cool, but beside a couple of coral heads rising up from the sandy bottom, there wasn’t much to see.  We had just piled back into the dinghy when up drives….guess who?  Andrew, and he’s got our power cord-Yea!

Back at the ranch, Suz made Cuban coffee while I hung the hammocks up on the boat deck so that we could lay out in the sun and warm up (what a couple of dive weenies!).  Through the rest of the day more boats came rolling in, keeping Lynn and Larry busy with their host duties.  By days’ end, there were a dozen other boats either moored or anchored in our cozy little bay, including a hundred footer.  By 1730, L&L, K&G, The Admiral and Yours Truly were sippin’ and rappin’ on “Alizann’s” back porch.  The full moon rose over the scrub on Cambridge Cay, changing the dark water back to a subtle blue-green hue.  It was so bright that you could see the shadows of The Girl and the trailing tenders on the bottom in 13’ of water.  By 1030, we decided that we should either break it up for the evening or move in together.  We opted for the former after making plans to try the grotto snorkeling on the ‘morrow.

One of these days, we’ll get enough cell coverage to post some blogs/pics.  Until then,

-Later

 

 

 

 

Helloooo…….

First thing in the morning, we hopped into the dinghy and motored a mile or so north to Allen’s Cay, where we hoped to see the marine iguanas that lived on the shore there.  We threw the hook out near the beach and snapped a few pics of the many iguanas perched on the rocks surrounding the sandy beach.  Later, we were out of Highbourne, anchor up at 1220.  On our way out, Suz spotted another Krogen in the distance.  We loitered around for a few minutes, thinking that she may be “Sweet Ride”.  As they neared, it was clearly a 42’, not a 44’.  Passing close abeam was “Knot 2 Fast” crewed by Bob and Peggy, friends from the Rendezvous.  We had a quick chat over the rail.  They told us that they had been travelling with a couple of sailboats, and were heading south as well.  We figured that we’d see them down the line.  As we pulled into the Shroud Cay mooring field, the sun was out, and the line of clouds had moved on.  The seas were as calm as could be, so we dropped “White Star”, and headed to the north end of the island where there was a shallow waterway to the other side of the Cay.  This passage, accessible only at high tide, wound through mangrove lowlands (Swamp Girl be smiling’) for a mile or so, terminating at a deserted beach on the windward side.  High above the beach on a rocky outcropping was the ruins of “Camp Driftwood”, the island base of an American sailinghippie back in the sixties.  Later, the spot was used by D.E.A. agents, surreptitiously keeping tabs on the air traffic in and out of Norman’s Cay to the north.  We walked to the top, and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the mangrove lowlands extending west all of the way back to the other side of the island, the Exuma Sound to the east, and Norman’s Cay to the north.  The next morning, we were awakened as the wind shifted to the north at 20 knots.  Dropping the mooring at 0700, we motored to the south side of Elbow Cay and dropped anchor.  The spot proved to be untenable, so we decided to head to Warderick Wells Cay, hoping that the anchorage there would be mo’ betta.  We called Exuma Land and Sea Park’s headquarters there, and were informed that all of the moorings in the northern mooring field were occupied (except for the 3 in the cut, which we figured would be pretty exposed to wind and current), but that there were plenty available in the Emerald Rock anchorage south of HQ.  By then, the wind had clocked to the northeast at 20-23 knots, so we figured that the slight swell in the anchorage would subside as the winds continued to clock around.  We deployed the flopperstopper nonetheless, riding nicely on the ball, a mile or so south of the Park HQ and northern mooring field.  Just an aside here regarding mooring balls vs anchoring.  Although it is often quite possible to anchor rather than pick up a ball, therefore staying for free, we try to take a ball and pay, encouraging the government to continue to put in balls (which are kinder to the environment than anchor chains dragging across the bottom, ruining potentially fragile ecosystems).

At the park HQ, we met Andrew, an American who had been managing affairs here for the past 9 years.  It seems that he came on a boat, started helping out, and ended up running the place.  Besides the National Defense Force guys who run their boats out of the base here, the island is uninhabited.  Suz and I are members of the Park Support Fleet (we donate $ to the park), so we had a “care package” of supplies from the Park “wish list”, which is posted online that we dropped off while we were at the office.  We asked Andrew if there were any chores that the park needed volunteers for, and he told us that he would check with Dave, the maintenance guy, and let us know.  We spent the rest of the day on The Girl, and buzzing around the anchorage on the tender.  Friday was to be an allday hike around the island, but when we checked in with Andrew before starting our walk, he told us that he had to go “down south” unexpectedly, and could we man the VHF, take care of the mooring fields, and run the store while he was gone.  No problemo!  He gave us a quick primer on how to do the stuff we needed to do to assign moorings according to boat length/draft, how to collect fees, and sell stuff out of the store.  Being super organized, he had a “how to” cookbook with all procedures outlined, right down to radio scripts with instructions for boats entering the various fields. We took a 2 hour walk in the morning, then came back to the office and assumed the position, while Andrew headed south to repair a mooring.  The afternoon went smoothly and as we were closing up at 1600, Andrew returned and we handed over the keys.  Good fun, and we had the use of his computer and satellite internet, so that we could check our emails and get weather reports.  We didn’t want to abuse the privilege, so the blogs already written were piling up.  Still no cell coverage, but Andrew told us that it was usually marginal here even on the best of days.

It was still beautiful on Saturday, the 20th, with the temperature climbing into the high 70’s, so we motored back to HQ and the trailhead to Boo Boo Hill.  Supposedly, the hill is so-named due to the ghostly apparitions that inhabit its’ environs during the full moon.  In years past, a schooner had gone down off the coast here, with the loss of all hands.  None of the bodies were recovered, so none were given a proper Christian burial, the result being that these lost souls were destined to roam here forever.  The view was nothing short of spectacular.  Along the way, we checked out the “blow holes”, openings to the surface from the tops of underground caves, where, at high tide, wave action causes water to spurt out like a geyser.  Down on Boo Boo Beach, we picked up a garbage bag full of plastic products, Styrofoam, discarded fishing nets, and etc. which had washed up on the shore.  As we visit these beautiful places, it’s sickening to see all of this pollution left by human hands.  We can’t help but think about all of the marine creatures whose lives are destroyed by entanglements from, and ingestion of this detritus.  Sorry about the downer, but this stuff makes me cranky.  We decided to hang out at Rendezvous Beach, a deserted patch of sand near the Girl, and catch some rays that afternoon.  No sooner did we get our towels down, we heard of trouble in the northern anchorage on our handheld VHF.  A trawler had come in, and lost control in the wind and current, causing it to back down and get hung up on a mooring ball.  I called Andrew, and yes, he did want some help.  By the time I raced out to the Girl, got my dive gear, and got to the scene, he was just about finished removing the trashed mooring ball and pendant from the running gear of the snagged boat.  Chatting afterward, I complimented him on his quick response.  He said: “Yep, been there and done that-many times”.  I returned and picked up the stranded Admiral off the beach, and we headed in to the beach at HQ where an impromptu gathering of cruisers was taking place for happy hour.  The snacks and drinks were good, the conversations better.  Bob & Peggy had come in during the day, and we had a chance to catch up with them as well.  As soon as the sun went down, the Hutias came out in full force.  These guys are the only mammal native to the Bahamas.  They are about the size of a large softball, and look kinda like fat rats with a short tail.  They’re nocturnal, and don’t seem to be the least bit fazed by humans.  From the number of them that were literally dodging between our feet, it’s hard to believe that they are an endangered species.  We motored back to “Alizann” under a nearly full moon, and planned our departure for the following day.

-Later

 

Hola Muchachos!

The next few days at New Providence were quite windy.  Surprise!  Saturday night and Sunday, the surge out of the north continued, wrapping around the point, and hitting us directly on the beam (as the wind out of the east had us pointed in that direction).  First thing Sunday morning, we deployed the flopperstopper, which decreased our roll considerably.  I’ll try to describe the flopperstopper.  On one side of the Girl, we have a padeye fixed to the hull just below the caprail, about 3’ off the water.  Into this padeye, we fix a 10’ long whiskerpole (basically a boom for a spinnaker on a sailboat).  This boom extends perpendicular to the long axis of the boat.  At its outboard end, 3 lines are attached which come back to the boat; one to the top of the mast, to keep the pole level, and one each to the bow and stern, to keep the pole perpendicular to the boat.  From the bottom of the outboard end of the pole is a line which extends around 6’ below the surface of the water.  At the underwater end of this line, a hinged stainless steel panel is attached, which offers resistance to being pulled through the water.  The overall effect is that the rolling motion of the boat is damped.  The system works quite well, and would work even better if there was a pole on the opposite side of the boat.  In fact, we think that we’ll buy another “fish” and hang it off the boom, cranked out on the port side.  (When we built “Alizann”, we weren’t sure about our crazy idea, so thought we’d just do one side in case it was a total bust.)  I’m not sure how that explanation worked out, but I’ll throw a couple of pictures up when we get decent Interweb.  I tore up the outboard motor again, pulled the old fuel pump, and replaced it with the new.  I’ll run carburetor cleaner through the old one, vacuum bag it, and keep it as a spare.  We dropped “White Star” into the water, and made some test runs around the anchorage.  he afternoon was spent chillaxin’ in the sun up on the boat deck in the lee of the bridge, out of the 18 knot winds , and bein’ warm and toasty.  I was smilin’-between the winderators and the solar panels, we were puttin’ money in the bank.  Our battery charge rose as the day wore on, in spite of our constant energy consumption-“Yeah, Baby”!  Holy Mahi Tacos!  ‘Em shur made a great dinner paired with a vinegar-based coleslaw and fresh veggies.  By evening, the swell subsided and the Girl rode well in the gusty (up to 22 knots) conditions.  The sunset as viewed off our back porch was awesome.

 

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The seas were predicted to subside by Tuesday, making it a good travel day, so we spent most of the day on Monday doing-you it, guessed it-boatchores.  Suz grabbed her preptools and varnish brush, touching up areas in the galley, and portlights over our bed.  Meanwhile, I washed and waxed small areas outside.  This is an ongoing deal.  We just work our way around the boat.  When we’re done, we start over again.  Not real rewarding, but necessary to protect the fiberglass, and keep the rust at bay on the stainless.  During the early evening, the wind shifted to the southeast, and the swell was back.  It rained off and on, but no thunderstorms, even though they had been predicted.  During the early hours, the flopperstoppers’ block at the top of the mast started squeaking LOUDLY, inducing that half-sleep, restless mode.  We were both more than ready for sunup, so that we could get up and go.  We ran down the Tongue of the Ocean so that we could wet a few lines in the deep water, but after an hour or so with no bites, we abandoned that course.  A beeline to Highborne Cay would get us there by 1500 or so, as opposed to arriving around dusk, so we plotted a new course across the shallow banks.  We weren’t sure where we were going to anchor at Highborne, as there looked like several possibilities, so we wanted to get there when the sun was still fairly high.  All the while, we were watching a line of thunderstorms moving east across Florida at 20 mph, and wondering if they’d peter out before they reached us.  We were rolling along with the watermaker crankin’ out some fresh water, when I noticed that the water tank gauges are droppin’notrisin’.  What?  No sinks running.  Suz opens the midship machinery compartment, only to find that water is gushing in from somewhere up under the sole on the port side.  I jump down, and shut off the valves on the tanks while Suz turned off the water pump.  Of course, the leak stopped, but not before we lost 100 gallons of precious water.  It took a while to find it, but a hose clamp on a barbed nipple had failed, allowing the hose to pop off (it was double-clamped, but apparently the second clamp wasn’t placed correctly).  The good news was that the wine cellar got a good cleanout as I wiped and shopvac’d out the water that the bilge pump missed.  (Note to self-Maybe I should install a high water alarm in that compartment too).

After a seven hour cruise on this 71 degree, windy, overcast day, we pulled into the lee of Highborne Cay, and dropped anchor in 13 feet of water.  We dinghied into the small manmade harbor to check out the boats there, a couple of hundred footers, and a few sportfishers.  They’re pretty proud of their dock, wanting $10 to land the tender, so we satisfied ourselves with a “from the water” tour, as there was nothing on land to attract us.  We were itching to get south, and hopefully, to better weather.  It looked like Shroud Cay would be a nice next stop for us on our way down the chain, so we planned to head there the next day.

Sorry about the wierd page layout, but we're working on some format changes.  Finally got a good cell signal, so we'll get some blogs up.

Hasta la Vista

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