Georgetown, Great Exuma

Georgetown, Great Exuma
There is a Paradise!!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Howdy, faithful followers! I’m sure I’ve probably lost a few during the past few weeks, but we have been extremely busy since returning to the USA. As I write this, we are in Los Angeles, waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle. We have a 3 hour layover, so it is the perfect opportunity to write without interruption. I can’t believe it is already the 3rd of June!! One month ago, we were still in Nassau, Bahamas, waiting to cross to Bimini.

When I last left you, we were still in Warderick Wells, at the Land and Sea Park, waiting on weather to improve, so we could sail to Nassau. We spent a windy, warm day with our sailing friends on Easter Sunday. The Park Ranger invited everyone to his residence for a pot luck meal. There were probably 50 people that gathered and shared a fine meal. It was the only pot luck I have ever been to that had NO desserts!! Of course, it is late in the sailing season and everyone is low on provisions, and no one wants to heat up their boats baking something in their oven. AND, there were no Easter eggs in sight, and NO bunny rabbits! We did say a prayer before dinner though.

One of the boats traveling with us at the time, was called True North. The captain, Dennis, is a dentist from Deadwood, South Dakota. He and his wife, Debbie, had picked up guests in Emerald Bay two weeks earlier, and it was time for them to fly home. However, with the high winds and waves, they were not going to make it to Nassau in time for their scheduled flight. They decided to charter a seaplane to pick them up in Warderick Wells, on Monday, April 25th. They were waiting on the beach for the plane, when they got a call that the seaplane would not make it, due to thunderstorms surrounding Nassau. Bummer! Shortly after they returned to the boat, the skies clouded over and the thunder and lightning storm surrounded us! Boy, did it ever rain. All day. We not only saw lightning, we heard it as it arced across the bay!!! It was really very scary! One hit from the lightning, and we could lose all of our electronics. We spent the hours aboard Nightingale, playing cards and dominos, to keep our minds off of the storm. I thought we might have to spend the night there, since the rain would not let up, but about dusk it let up long enough for us to escape back to Dream Ketcher.

The next day, the seaplane landed safely, just outside the harbor and charged in to the beach to pick up Steve and Kitty. Then we watched as the pilot jockeyed for the correct position in the wind and waves, then sped up quickly and lifted into the blue sky. It was definitely exciting to watch!!

On Wednesday the 27th, we finally got the break we needed and we headed north to Norman’s Cay. This island used to be owned by a drug Lord, who had his own private air strip. One of his planes went down, out in the east bay, and is now used as a diving spot. At very low tide, you can see the top of the plane. There are now only a few people living on the island, and they run a restaurant and small resort. We had read that they had the best hamburgers in the islands, so we decided to see for ourselves. Each burger was $18.00, but it was good!

The next morning we headed for Nassau, and stayed at the same marina as we had previously. Once again we spent one day downtown at the straw market, looking for last minute gifts. Gail and I were intent on finding a vendor who makes jewelry from sea glass. She had changed her location, but after a little effort, we found her and admired her work. I became convinced that I could create similar works of art, so I resolved to find as much sea glass as possible in Bimini.

Late that afternoon, we headed over to Atlantis, to spend a little more time in the casino, and see the aquarium one more time. We had a great time. Dave and Gene in the bar, and Gail and I on the slots! As always, the time flew by before I could win my millions! Dave was enjoying a cold one and struck up a casual conversation with the guy sitting next to him. As it always does the conversation turns to where are you from, “Seattle,” Dave says. “I’m from Aberdeen,” says the guy seated next to him. “Really?” Dave says, “I just retired from Rayonier in Hoquiam.” “I used to work for Rayonier,” the guy responds, and the conversation went to, do you know so and so, or so and so and sure enough, 4000 miles from Hoquiam, he finds a connection to Rayonier. It is truly a small world.

We spent the rest of the time in Nassau reprovisioning the boat, doing laundry, and catching up on email. Just as it did when we were first in Nassau, the wind picked up and prevented us from leaving. It was still sunny and warm, just very windy, which makes the water very choppy! It was great weather for swimming in the pool, and we took advantage of the many restaurants nearby. We were especially impressed with a Chinese restaurant only a few blocks away. We were able to have all of our favorites; Singapore Noodles, Pot Stickers, and General Tso’s chicken. The best part was….it tasted exactly like our favorite restaurant back home, Chinese Garden in Longview, Washington!!!! Since moving to Olympia in 2003, we have not been able to find a good Chinese restaurant that measures up to Chinese Garden. We had to come thousands of miles away, to Nassau. What a delightful surprise that was!!!

Finally, on Wednesday, May 4th, we were able to leave Nassau and head for Bimini. It is a long way from Nassau to Bimini. Last time we made this crossing, we spent the night anchored on the bank, with three other boats. This time, we decided to sail all day, and night, and arrive in Bimini on Thursday morning. It worked really well. The first day we sailed on “the tongue of the ocean”, which is thousands of feet deep. Then, about dusk, we crossed onto the Bahama bank, which is an average of 15 feet deep. Dave and I took turns at the helm throughout the night, and I found it very comforting to be sailing with 6 other boats. It was a beautiful clear starry night, and we kept in touch by radio to check on everyone’s progress.

In the morning, we had a gorgeous sail into Bimini, without the difficulty we had previously. We followed the deep blue band of water safely into the harbor, and moored once again at Bimini Blue Water Resort. That afternoon, Gail and I headed for the beach to hunt for sea glass, and could not believe our good fortune. I filled up both of the pockets of my shorts, and vowed to bring a baggie with me the next day.

On this stay in Bimini, the resort pool was open, and we made good use of it in the hot weather. We also spent a day touring the island with two other couples who had not done so before. We rented a 6 passenger golf cart and went to the resort at the far north end of the island. We checked out the condos and homes for sale, and the marina and shops. We also took time out to visit their beautiful pool area. It is a large round pool with a fountain in the center. Surrounding the pool is a tier of shallow water with lounge chairs. You can lay in the chair and let your feet hang in the water. It felt great!! I’ve never seen a pool like that before.

We decided to have another fabulous cook out, and took full advantage of the barbecue area. Instead of lobster, we grilled steak. It tasted sooooo good! All of us are a little tired of seafood. We also had dinner our last night in Bimini, at the Big Game Club. The next day, some of us would be parting ways, as we headed for the USA. True North and Big Easy were heading for Marathon, Florida, and Nightingale and us for Stuart and Fort Worth.

Sunday, May 8th, Mother’s Day, we all headed out of Bimini, and had a very gentle crossing of the gulfstream. We had heard that the Coast Guard had stepped up security following the killing of Bin Laden, and we were sure we would probably be stopped and boarded. Thankfully, that did not happen. We got into Lake Worth around 6:00pm, and spent a quiet night on the anchor. It was really depressing to be anchored in 8 feet of water and you couldn’t see the bottom. What a difference from the Bahamas.

We were up early the next morning and sailed further north to Fort Pierce, to the same marina we spent 5 weeks at last winter. We were pleased to find that our friends on Why Knot, Howell and Jo, were back again, too!! When we parted in February from Fort Pierce, they went to the Abaco’s, and we went to the Exumas. We had a great time catching up. We also ran into our friends on Shin Fain, and High Spirits. That meant dinner in the same restaurant, 3 days in a row. Oh well, it was worth it!!!

While in Fort Pierce, we also met up with Gene and Gail, from Nightingale. They had rented a car in Stuart, and picked us up for a shopping trip in Vero Beach. After stuffing the trunk of the car with as much as we could, we headed for the beach and had lunch shoreside at Waldo’s. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the ocean was as tame as a pool. One woman was floating on a blowup mattress!

The next day, we headed out bright and early for a long day on the water, up to Coco Beach. Why Knot decided to join us on the trip up the ICW, so that evening, we took the dinghy over to their boat for some Tex Mex cooking. Dave and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite, and our German chocolate cake was a big hit with Jo.

Morning came too fast, and we were up early again for another long day on the water. Everything was great until we passed Titusville, then we were attacked by Love Bugs. No, not VW’s, these are bugs that fly while mating, that are rampant in some areas of Florida. They covered every white surface of the boat, of which there are plenty, and kept trying to land on us. I finally took the cowards way out and went below, leaving Dave to fend for himself. A few miles out of Titusville, they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Thank goodness!!!!

That night, Why Knot and Dream Ketcher took advantage of the marina in Daytona. We had a quiet night, then rose early again and continued our trek north. Why Knot stayed behind to do some needed maintenance. It was cloudy and you could feel a storm brewing. Late in the afternoon it finally hit. The visibility was terrible, making it very difficult to see the channel. When the rain came, it came with a vengeance!! And, the thunder and lightning had us on edge. There was no place to stop, so we just kept on going, and thankfully, by the time we arrived in St. Augustine, the storm had passed. We had dinner at our favorite restaurant, O. C. Wight’s, and listened to a guitarist we heard there, last time, who sounds just like James Taylor! It was awesome!!

We took the next two days off, and spent some time roaming through our favorite old city. Of course, a trip to St. Augustine would not be complete without partaking of the delicious gelato! We were greatly surprised to run into San Francisco Dave, and his friend, who we had not seen since we were in Green Cove Springs together, one year ago. They are headed for the Florida Keys. We enjoyed catching up with them and made plans to go to the Bahamas together next winter.

On Tuesday, May 17th, we continued north to Jacksonville, where we spent the night at the free dock downtown. There was only one other boat there. In the morning we began the last leg of our journey, the trip back to Green Cove Springs. It was a bittersweet trip up the St. John River, and we arrived at our destination in the early afternoon, then tried to find a functional mooring ball to tie to. Once that was accomplished, we took the inflatable over to the dinghy dock, and set foot on land, once again in our home away from home.

On Saturday, Dream Ketcher was hauled out and placed on jack stands in the work yard. It was then that the work really began!!! We packed box after box with things to send home: clothes, gifts, shells, tools, etc. We mailed about 8 boxes priority, and 8 more parcel post. Then we rented a small storage locker and filled it with sails, cushions, the dodger, bedding, towels, etc. Over the next 5 days, we managed to fill the floor area of the locker and half way up the walls. Next, we wiped down every surface on the interior with a solution of water and vinegar to prevent mold, and then I wiped down every wood surface with Murphy’s Oil Soap. That boat is spic and span inside!!!

One of the last jobs was cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer. We came back with more frozen meat than we had planned, so we doled it out to friends that were continuing north and to some friends that live in the marina. Then Dave got the awesome job of diving into the depths again, to clean the bottom of the units. I have to admit that both the refrigerator and the freezer served us very well. It is an old system, but considering the outside temperatures we were in, and the temperature of the water, the units stayed very cold. The frozen meat was frozen solid!

Once everything was clean and tidy, and everything was off the boat that we deemed necessary, the boat was moved to the long term storage area. She is covered with a black netting to prevent leaves and bugs from landing on the deck, and to protect the deck from UV rays. I was amazed at how well that works! Then it was time to say goodbye to our home for the last year.

We had rented a van from Enterprise to help move things to storage, and now that we were done, we decided to use it to go visit our friends Dave and Renee from Lunar Sea, at their new condo in Pompano Beach near Fort Lauderdale. We drove part way down on Thursday the 26th, and stayed at a Marriott in Melbourne for the night. We had a delicious Mexican dinner not too far from the hotel.

On Friday, we drove on down to Pompano to enjoy a few days with our friends and see the over 55 community they are now living in. It is really quite something! It is a huge facility, and has all the amenities that you could ever need. We were really impressed with their woodworking shop, a real Man’s dream shop. Their condo was very nice and very quiet. I hope we have something similar one day.

We spent one afternoon at the local casino. We had a good lunch at the buffet, then settled in for some fun in the casino. After a couple of hours, it was time to go, but we could not find Dave and Renee, so Dave went to look for them and I decided to donate a little more money to the slots. Within 5 minutes, I had won $110.00. That was fun!!

All too soon, it was time to head back to Jacksonville, before the crunch of holiday traffic. Ever since watching the Masters in April, we had been wanting to play golf, so on Monday, Memorial Day, we rented some clubs and headed to a course we’d been eyeing on Fleming Island. It was the perfect day for golf, not too hot, and with a nice cool breeze. It took us the first nine holes to remember how to play the game, but we did okay on the back nine. Can ‘t wait to do it again!!!

On Tuesday the 31st, Dave and I flew up to Washington DC, to spend a little time with our son, Austin, and his wife Cindy. He works at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from DC. He is the Operations Supervisor and has spent the last 6 months helping them get a restaurant up and running. We had a fabulous meal in the new Bell 20 – An American Tavern, and got to celebrate Cindy’s recent graduation from Georgetown Law. She has already accepted a job with the Justice Department in Newark, NJ, and they will be moving to New York City in September. Can’t wait to visit them there!!! We are sooooo proud of both of them, and we are so happy to see them attaining their goals!

We also got to spend some time with our new grand puppy, Tiger, a Shiba Inu. She is so cute, and very independent. She is not a snuggler, and I was bound and determined that I would get in a one time cuddle, and I did! I had to use a little bribery with cheese and crackers, but it worked! We got to spend time with her at the dog park, and saw her in action, playing with her friends, and with her best bud, Roxey. This Roxey is a black lab mix, that wants nothing more than to be cuddled. Hope Tiger picks up a little of that from Roxey!

Wednesday night, while Austin was working, Cindy, Dave and I went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, in 3-D. It was great fun!!

On Thursday, Austin accompanied Dave and I as we toured the old Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It includes a museum that tells all about Lincoln before and after he became President. It was pretty fascinating!

Then Austin was off to work, and Dave and I spent the rest of the afternoon in Annapolis, stocking up on T-shirts for Dave, and buying a few last minute gifts. We had a nice late lunch on the sidewalk, taking in the view of the water and people watching.

Now it’s Friday June 3rd, and we will be arriving in Seattle on Dave’s Mother’s Birthday! We get in around 6:45pm, so we’ll head straight to dinner out to celebrate. We can’t believe we have been living on the boat for a year now. We had so much fun, learned an incredible amount, and made so many new friends along the way! We are looking forward to seeing all of our friends and family, but will miss the good weather and blue water of the Bahamas. However, the Bahamas is no place to be during the Hurricane season, which started June 1st and will continue until November 15th. So, we plan to be home until after the Christmas Holiday, and then we’ll head back to Florida and the Bahamas for another 6 months. Six months on, six months off, sounds pretty good doesn’t it?????

Love and Hugs,

The Admiral

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hello again! Yes, we’re still in the Bahamas. However, there has been a mass exodus of boats heading north towards home. Every morning there are fewer boats in the harbor. When I left you last, we were in Georgetown, Great Exuma Island. We stayed there for 2 weeks, and we could have probably stayed longer. I can see why a lot of people go and stay there for 2-3 months.

Our first full day there, we dinghied across the bay to the town dinghy dock, behind the Exuma market. We set off on foot to see the town, which is all on one road that surrounds Lake Victoria, a very small lake. There are two markets, a gas station, a couple hair salons, several restaurants, a bakery, three gift shops, a library, clinic, government building, and a straw market. We walked around the entire town, which took about 40 minutes. Then we went to the Peace and Plenty Resort for lunch and a cold beer.

After a delicious lunch, the women headed across the street to the Sandpiper, to do a little shopping, and the guys headed for the local hardware store, called Top to Bottom. They have it all, just about anything you could ever need or want. They even had a selection of ripped off DVD’s, so we picked up a couple for $5.00 each. There is no other way to buy DVD’s in the Bahamas. Even in the DVD store in Nassau, they were all ripped off copies.

When everyone was finished shopping, we met up at the Two Turtles Bar. While we were waiting for everyone to get there, we watched some locals play dominos. There was one very colorful, loud character playing, that kept slamming the dominos down when he made a play. He told us he was “the Teacher”. He kept beating his opponents, and pretty soon, he was in need of new players, so Gail and I decided to give it a try, even though I’d never played before. I had pretty good beginners luck, and after I finally beat him 5 games, he decided he had had enough! It was so much fun!!!

One of the other interesting places was the library. It is open every day except Sunday, from 10:00am to 12:00pm. They have a special section that is for books to be exchanged, that is fairly large. For $3.00 per year, you can trade as many books as you want. What a deal!!

The next day, we crossed the island and went to the beach to look for shells. I have quite a collection of tiny shells, some medium, and some large conk shells. It was a long hike on the beach, and the surf was quite high and the undertow looked pretty powerful, so when we got back to the opposite side of the island, we headed straight into the water for a swim. Then we moved on over to Volleyball beach, and spent the afternoon swimming and reading in the shade of the palm trees. Ahhhhh!!!!

Most of our days in Georgetown were mostly the same. We did find good snorkeling in a cut between two islands, that is surrounded by sand bars. We hunted and hunted and finally found a rare shell called a Cowery, as well as a few Conch shells and Sea Biscuits. The water is so clear, that the snorkeling is great. Gene and Frank tried to do a little fishing, but were not successful. After the snorkeling, we would go back to Volleyball beach for the remainder of the afternoon.

In the evenings we would get together on Nightingale and have either drinks and appetizers, or sometimes we would do a meal. Then we would play Mexican Train Dominos, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. But always at sundown, the conch shells would be blown, and Dave would play “Taps”.

One of the highlights of Georgetown was the Tuesday and Thursday night poker games at the St. Francis Yacht Club. For a $5.00 buy in, you received a huge pile of chips and a playing card that designated where you would sit. There were usually about 50 players spread over 5 different tables. When the action started, you would go in and find your chair. Husbands and wives are never allowed to start at the same table. Then we would play Texas Hold ‘Em for 20 minute periods. Each successive period, the stakes would be raised. Eventually, people are weeded out and moved around, and the action is down to one Final table. The top 5 people win a portion of the buy in. It was such a hoot!!! I was pretty intimidated the first time I played, since I had never played Texas Hold’Em before, but all of the cruisers were friendly and helpful. My goal that first night was not to be the first person out, and I succeeded. I played way longer than I thought possible, and even outlasted Dave.

Our group usually went up to the club early and had dinner before playing, as did quite a few others, and ended up playing well. One night, Gene came in 2nd and won $45.00, then another evening, Evan came in 1st and won $120.00, and on our final evening, Dave came in 1st and won $75.00. I was so proud of him!!! The amount of the winnings is determined by the number of people playing on any given night. Although I was never the big winner, I got one of the best compliments one night while playing at a table where I had three men to my left. If I decided to play my hand, they would moan and groan and say, “If she’s playing, I’m out!” Made my day!!

One day, there were nine of us that wanted to tour Great Exuma Island, so we pooled our money and rented two cars. The guys all went in one car, and the women in the other, except for our designated driver, Gene. Poor Gene! In the Bahamas, they drive on the other side of the road, and, the driver is on the right side of the car. This presented quite a challenge!! Especially since none of the roads have a centerline. Gene did a really good job, but we still laughed every time he went to use the turn signal, and the windshield wipers came on.

We first went south from Georgetown, and toured through an upscale residential neighborhood full of mansions. Then the rest of the trip was like a third world country. They really are poor people. Tourism is their only industry. Everyone who lives on the island is a shopkeeper or employees, and their homes are all made out of concrete blocks. Small homes with no yards.

We visited some ruins on the south end, of homes that had been built in the 1700’s. There was also a huge salt flat down there. All that salt made us thirsty, so we stopped at a roadside Tiki Bar that was open for some snacks and a soft drink. They had no snacks, but Mama, the baker, had a shop in the garage next door, and she opened up to sell us some goodies. We had banana bread and sticky buns, and afterwards, went over to see what else we could buy. I took back some coconut turnovers to have for breakfast, and others bought bread and rum cakes. Mama had a picture on the wall of her alongside Goldie Hawn. Apparently, she and Kurt Russell, and their boys, were in the Bahamas, and stopped by like we did. Goldie, dug right in and helped Mama bag her newly baked bread. The Tiki Bar and Mama also provided lunch several days for the actors and crew of the newest Pirates of the Carribean movie, who were filming just off shore. They had several pictures of that, too! No, I didn’t run into Johnny Depp. Rats!!!!

After our snack, we drove back just north of Georgetown to an area called “the Fish Fry”, where we had lunch at Haley’s. We had been there one other time, and had a fabulous grouper lunch fixed by Shirley, in a shack. She used to be the chef at the Four Seasons resort until it closed down. This meal was equally as good, and only $12 a head. Then we hit the road again and headed for Barre Tarre on the northernmost tip of the island.

Barre Tarre was a sleepy little fishing village, but the women found a basket maker who also made purses and bags, etc. While the women shopped, the men found the town bar and had themselves a cold one. On the way south again, we stopped at the Emerald Bay Marina. We had heard terrific things about it, and it did not let us down. It is pretty new, and has wonderful floating docks for $1.00 per foot per night, for no frills (power, water, cable). There are fabulous shower facilities that include shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and even shaving cream. The best feature is the free high speed internet and the FREE laundry! They had four brand new Sears Kenmore washers and dryers for FREE! They also had a cruisers lounge above their office that was huge and very tastefully decorated in a French/Island motive. Looked like the lobby of a Marriott. There was also a bar room available that was BYOB and another room with a pool table. The main room and the bar both had big screen TV”S, and internet hook up.

We all walked around with wide eyes and our tongues hanging out. Much to our surprise, we saw Christopher Robin at the dock and went down to talk to Louise and Gerard. They will be coming to Georgetown soon, so we will be able to visit with them again there.

Sandal’s Emerald Bay Resort is next to the marina, so we went over to check it out.It is spectacular!! The main feature is the HUGE outdoor pool area. There were dolphin statues are spouting water, and a swim up bar. Around the pool were overstuffed lounge chairs with umbrellas for shade. If you wanted to be active, you could play shuffleboard, croquet, or chess on a human size chess board. There was, of course, a beautiful white sand beach. We thought we might have dinner there, but it is an all inclusive resort, so for the price of the room you get to eat and drink all you want with no additional cost. We found out that if you stay at the marina, you can pay $180.00 per person for a day pass to the Sandal’s Resort, or $225.00 for a day and evening pass. Yeah, right!! So, instead, we hustled back to Georgetown and had dinner on the boat.

We did decide that our first stop as we sail north out of Georgetown, would be Emerald Bay, and that is exactly what we did. It took us about 3 hours a few days later, to sail up the coast to the marina. We were all very anxious to do A LOT of laundry, and watch the Master’s golf tournament on the big screen TV. We spent the mornings washing everything possible, and the afternoons and evenings watching golf and playing dominos. We were in heaven!!!!!!

On Tuesday, April 12th, we cast off the lines and headed north for Galliut Cut. Gene and Frank tried once again to catch some fish for dinner, but the fish were not cooperating! There was not much wind blowing, so it was slow going, but it was another beautiful day!

After throwing out the anchor in Galliut, we launched the dinghy and headed to shore for more shelling. The tide was a little high, so it was slim pickings. That evening, we gathered for another lively game of dominos.

We spent the next day snorkeling, trying to find the area that Evan had told us had excellent snorkeling. At this point, we were searching high and low for Helmet shells, very tropical looking. Frank and Gail had already found some, but I had not been successful. We are also looking for the most beautiful Conch shell. We did find a few candidates and a few sand dollars.

Thursday the 14th, we hauled up the anchor and headed to Big Major Spot. The wind did not cooperate until the last hour of the trip, then gave us a nice blast to get into the anchorage. It felt good to be back in familiar surroundings, although there were not near as many boats as there were previously.

We decided to venture over to Thunderball cave to have another look at the fish. There were fewer people snorkeling, so we had a much better look at all the beautiful fish and coral. Afterwards, we headed over to Staniel Cay for lunch at the bar. But first, we took a dip in the pool to wash off the salt water.

While we were waiting for lunch to arrive, who should show up, but Greg Norman, the Australian golf pro. Better known as “The Shark”. He had just flown in and was headed by speed boat for Fowl Cay, over by Big Major. I have to admit, he looked pretty darn good!

We had a great lunch, then walked up to the Blue store to see if they still had a shell for sale, that Gail had seen when we were there before. At that time, the male shopkeeper had told her it was $20.00. Imagine her surprise, when the lady shopkeeper sold it to her for $5.00!!!! It is a very nice looking Trumpet Conch shell. Not quite as much fun as finding it on the beach, but they are very rare.

We then headed back over to Big Major, but of course, had to stop and see the swimming pigs! Someone had thrown a whole bunch of food in the water, and then left, so we got to see them swim for their meal. I still can’t get over the sight of them!!!

The following day, we headed out in the dinghy for more snorkeling. We cruised over to Fowl Cay, to a sandy and grassy area that should be good to find Helmet shells. We had only been there for a minute or two, when Gail spotted one with her viewing bucket. She told me it was down there, but I would have to find it myself. So, just like an Easter egg hunt, I dove in the water and started combing the area. I found a HUGE one, then Dave spotted another, fairly close by. I decided to keep looking, and after another 10 minutes or so, I spotted another smaller one. In total, we probably snorkeled for about 2 hours, but found all of the elusive shells right at the start.

While we were snorkeling, a big giant sting ray came gliding by. They are so big they really frighten me, but I’ve been told that they are more afraid of me! Speaking of gliding by, a speed boat passed us, with Greg Norman and his entourage.

On Saturday the 16th, we headed further north to revisit Warderick Wells, and the infamous Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This time we are staying in the North mooring field, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is shaped like a big horseshoe, with a large sand bar in the center. Surrounding it is a ribbon of deep blue water where the mooring balls are.

There is also a pretty good snorkeling area where we have been a few times. The park is a “no take” zone, so we saw a lot of fish and HUGE lobsters. They seem to be laughing at us, as we stare at them with our mouths watering!

We took one day to walk up to Boo Boo Hill, the highest point on the island, where there is a pile of driftwood of every shape and size. Each piece has the name of a boat on it that has visited the island. On our last visit, we found a long weathered board that we thought would work well for our boat name. On the sail north, I put the following on it: Dream Ketcher 2011, Olympia, Washington, Dave and Patti Kuchenbecker, Whitby 42, and an anchor in the corner. I will try to get some pictures posted, but it has been almost impossible due to the slow internet connections.

Since we have been here, the winds and waves have really picked up. The mooring field is well protected, but outside, the winds are 20-30 knots. So, we have had to stay put. Looks like we’ll be here until maybe next Wednesday the 27th. For Easter this Sunday, the park is having a pot luck meal at the park warden’s house. Should be fun!

Last night we got together on Nightingale and played Hearts until late. Tonight we’re getting together with a few more boats on the beach for appetizers and sundowners. Never a dull moment.

I will probably not post again until we are back in the US, as it can be difficult. It will take us 2 days to get to Nassau, and then 2-3 days to get to Bimini. Not sure how long we will have to wait for a weather window to cross back to Florida.

May 4th, we will have been living on the boat for 1 year. Seems impossible that that much time has passed, but I am anxious to be back on land again for awhile. Most of all, we are anxious to see all of our friends and family again!!!

Love & Hugs,

The Admiral

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don’t you just love ‘em??? These are the famous swimming pigs of Big Major Spot in the Exumas. They are huge and very fast swimmers! They see your inflatable coming towards the beach and they swim out to see what food you have for them. They have very sharp hooves, so you do not want them to get too close, but it was difficult to out maneuver them. Just look at the size of those ears!! These pigs should be able to fly! We had so much fun watching these wild pigs. There were about 7 in all, and we were amazed by their stamina, and by how far out they could swim. Definitely one of the highlights!!

Now back to where I left off in Nassau. The Saturday before we left, we decided that everyone should get together for one last dinner together before some boats in the group parted ways. Fourteen of us piled into a taxi van and headed to what they call “the Fish Fry”. It is a group of restaurants all built around the port where the fishing fleet comes in. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner, then went outside and found that the catholic church was having an outdoor carnival. We strolled through the booths and danced to the music, and watched as the kids danced to the beat. A good time was had by all!

By Monday morning, the high winds had subsided, and we had a terrific sail down to Shroud Cay. We arrived there in mid afternoon, and soon after, we dropped the dinghy down in order to do some exploring. There is actually a well on this desolate limestone island, along with lots of shrub height trees. The rain, slowly over the millennium, dissolves the limestone, creating an intricate labyrinth of pockets and tunnels that collect and hold the rain, thus providing the fresh water needed by the plants. After a bit of exploring, we were able to find the well. Dave took a drink, and hasn’t died yet, so I guess it was okay!

The next day, we moved on down to the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells. This is a much bigger island than Shroud, and is covered with trails. It is a protected area, and you are not allowed to remove anything from the park. No fishing or shelling, etc. You must leave everything as you find it. There are three mooring fields. We stayed in the middle of the three, known as Emerald Rock. The rock is so named because it looks like a mushroom, and is covered with green plants. We did take the time to go snorkeling near the rock, and saw some colorful fish. Not a lot, but enough to get a taste of it.
In order to register in the park, we had to take a long dinghy ride up to the northern mooring field, where you are absolutely astounded by the colors of the water. It is a very shallow bay that has a ribbon of deep blue water running around the outside edges. All of the boats are moored in this ribbon. In contrast, you have the white sand under the very shallow turquoise water. Just north of the park headquarters, is a white sand beach with a grass hut covered picnic table. This was just perfect for a couple of sundowner parties. Also on the beach is the skeleton of a big grey whale. HUGE!

We spent the next few days hiking the many trails. First up was the hike to Boo Boo Hill. At the top, all of the cruisers who have been there in the past have left a token with their boat name on it. Usually a piece of driftwood or a shell, but some are a bit more creative. We did not leave one this time, but did find a piece of driftwood to use. When we go back on our way north, we will deposit it then. We also took a small side trip to the Blow Holes. Dave called them “the nostrils of the sea”! Two small holes that get the surge of the sea, and blow sea water up for quite a distance. You can definitely feel it! It also sounds really spooky; like ghosts saying “Boo, Boo”. Hence, the name for the hill.

We were eager to do some snorkeling, so we dinghied up to the north mooring field to meet with Gene and Gail, from Nightengale. Wherever the snorkeling is supposed to be good, buoys are placed for you to tie up to. The current was still running a bit strong, but we finally got tied up and in to the water. Then it seemed really strong! I was afraid if I let go, I wouldn’t get back to the boat. We finally tied a cushion onto a line, and I floated on that, but I couldn’t see anything in the water. We gave up and decided to try Emerald Rock. This time, there was no current, and there was a lot to see. So many vibrant colors! Fish of every shape and size, and colorful coral. We spent about an hour with the fishes, then went back to the boat to relax and read for awhile. The snorkeling was not near as good as in the British Virgin Islands, but we still enjoyed the experience!

That night we had a get together on the beach. There were probably about 30 or so people there, lots of good food, and Rich from Dolphin brought his guitar and amplifier. We talked, sang, and rocked the night away. And oh my God, the sunsets we’ve seen!! One of the traditions here in the Bahamas, is to blow conch shells immediately after the sun goes down. So of course, Dave had to try that! He actually is very proficient at it! Of course, all those years of playing the trumpet helped. So, every night the conch shells are blown, and then Dave plays “Taps” on his pocket trumpet. We always hear lots of cheers afterwards, and have had an occasional caller on the VHF with praise.

The following day, we set out with two other couples, and went for a looooong hike to the other side of the island, where the third mooring field is located. The entire island is made of limestone, with sharp crags and deep holes. It was very slow going, and there were times where we were unsure of where the trail was, but fortunately there were faded yellow arrows to help keep us on track! Lots of scrubby brush lined the trail, as well as a tree called Poisonwood. It looks just like a ficus, only it is as dangerous as poison ivy. Touch the leaves or the bark, and you will get a rash. We had to be extremely careful.
On our way, we discovered the remains of an old 1700’s settlement. The homes were all made from limestone and sand, and the fences were piles of limestone rocks. What a rough life they had!! It reminded me of the prison setting in “Papillion”, where all of the prisoners are sent to an island to eke out a living. All of the way, we were kidding each other about being on “Survivor”, and we were greatly surprised to get to our final destination, an area called “Pirate’s Lair”, and see that it made a very fitting “tribal council”! It was a clearing in the middle of a grove of palm trees, that was lined with conch shells, and had a fire pit in the center and a fresh water well. This was where the pirates would gather for a little rest and relaxation, hidden in the trees. Then we walked out to the beach, and were stunned to see the beautiful white sand and the gorgeous turquoise bay! You just have to see it to believe it!! After the hot hike, I went right into the cooling water, while the others combed the beach for shells. We then had a picnic lunch at a carefully concealed table, that had a hammock along side. We decided that we did not want to negotiate the same trail again, so we opted to walk up the eastern shoreline which became rugged rocks just north of the bay. It was still easier walking than on the other trail. When we got back to the settlement fence, we crossed back to the other side of the island. It had taken us 2 hours to get to the pirate’s lair, and a little over an hour to bet back to our starting point. By the time we got done, I was so tired and sooo sore!!

While Dave and I were resting up, we noticed a trawler near to us, trying to lower their inflatable into the water from their upper deck. Suddenly we heard a big crash sound and looked over to see their inflatable, upside down in the water. It was a much large one than ours, about 14 feet, and had a 40 horse motor and a steering station. This was not good!! The owner was most worried about the motor leaking gas, and was anxious to get it overturned. Dave went over to help, and they decided they would need to tow it to shore, for a better chance of flipping it over. Once there, they had some difficulty, but with the help of another willing man, and his wife, they got it flipped. We found out that one of the tackle blocks on his hoist had broken, causing the inflatable to drop. He lost a few items that were in the tender, and the last we heard, 2 weeks later, the engine still won’t start. In the Bahamas, your dinghy is your car, and without it, you are at the mercy of others.

On Sunday March 13th, we set sail for Big Major Cay, home of the famous pigs. The wind was so good that we actually sailed, no motor!! It was probably the best passage we have had, and absolutely made us glad to be alive, and thankful to be able to experience this adventure!! We set the anchor and then sped over to Staniel Cay Marina in the dinghy. It was a bit farther than we had anticipated, but a glorious day to cross the beautiful waters. As we pulled up to the dock, we spied our friends Joy and Joe on High Spirits. We spent some time talking with them, and were invited to come back the next night for a fish dinner. Afterwards, we explored the marina. We were amazed to see nurse sharks and sting rays all over in the water surrounding the dinghy dock. Every afternoon, the fishermen clean their catch on the rocks next to the dock. All of the excess is then thrown to the sharks, and they are not willing to miss a meal, so they hang out a lot! The marina is attached to a small resort that offers a bar and restaurant, a lovely swimming pool (the smallest I’ve ever seen!), and several guest cottages. If you rent a cottage, you are provided with a Boston Whaler to use, as well as snorkeling gear, and if you like, you can sign up for a meal plan, and eat all of your meals in the restaurant. It is a very nice little resort that gives you the real feel of the Bahamas.

The next day, Joe and Joy invited us to join them on an excursion around the Staniel Cay island in a golf cart. We gladly accepted and had a great, although dusty, time. To wash away the dust, we took a swim on one of the beaches we passed. Joy and I were having a great time, when suddenly, we saw a big black ray in the water. He passed right by us and headed for the shoreline. He was followed by another smaller ray. I looked around to see if the sharks had followed them, but they were nowhere to be seen, thank goodness!! Afterwards, we went back to their boat and had a fine fish dinner. We were joined by our friends Tammy and Jerell from Osprey, and Marnie and Doug from Close to Home. Good food and good times were had by all, then we made a beeline back to the anchorage at Big Major.

Tuesday March 15th 2011

Hooray!!! The big day finally arrived. My sister, Judy, was flying in to Staniel Cay from Seattle. Around noon, we hauled up the anchor and motored over to The Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Should have been an easy trip, right?? Well, you know us, it’s always an adventure! The water around the marina was about 8 feet deep, except as you get nearer to the beach. The dockmaster told us to bring the boat to the inside dock (close to the beach), and dock in front of the HUGE catamaran and between our friends on High Spirits and Close to Home. Okay! I was very skeptical that we could get around the HUGE cat, since that would bring us even closer to shore, so I listened very carefully to the dockmasters instructions. But not closely enough! With only 5 feet between us, I carefully turned past the catamaran, and promptly ran aground. I started to back up, but the dockmaster said no, forward, forward, get closer to the cat. Closer???? I went forward, through the sand and we passed with only one foot between us, then slipped by High Spirits, and very carefully nuzzled in to the dock. Whew!!

After that thrilling experience, we headed for the bar and had a beer and some grouper fingers (like chicken, only fish). Then it was time to head for the airport. We had arranged to have a taxi bring us back from the airport, but to get there, we would have to walk. So we did. We passed the graveyard, the school, the clinic, the bakery (which is actually a house where they bake bread in their kitchen), the old marina, the government dock, the Baptist Church, and General Isle store, and finally reached the airport. It took us about 10 minutes. It is actually only an airfield, with a small open air seating area with a thatched roof. Samantha, the airport official, pulled up in her golf cart, with about 2 minutes to spare, and we soon heard an airplane make its approach. The plane landed and taxied right up to where we were waiting. It was a small 9 passenger plane, with the luggage compartment in the nose in front of the cockpit. Thank goodness Judy brought small bags!(giraffe, of course!) It was soooo good to see her! She not only brought herself, but she brought a small piece of home-our mail. Unfortunately, the taxi never showed up, so we walked back to the marina. Since Judy had been on airplanes for most of the previous 18 hours, she was glad to stretch her legs, and see the sights!

We got her settled on the boat, and immediately changed to swimsuits and headed for the swimming pool. It is set in the middle of the rental cottages, and has a nice patio area surrounding it, complete with comfy plush lounge chairs, palm trees and exotic flowers. The pool itself is about the size of a large hot tub/spa. It is an L shape, and along the bottom of the L is a seating area. It is also the deep end. It didn’t matter. It felt wonderful!!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool area, swimming, reading, and drinking those great island drinks (Pina Colada, Judy, Pina Colada! She could never remember the name). We also introduced her to our cruising friends, who welcomed her with open arms. We later dressed and went to dinner at the restaurant. When you make your reservation, you also pick which entrée you want. Then at 7:30pm, everyone is seated, and the meal begins with soup. On this day, lobster chowder. Mmmmmmm! Then salad, followed by the entrée, dessert, and coffee. It was delicious!!! Especially the lobster chowder!

On Wednesday, we got a slow start, then took the dinghy over to the 007 Thunderball cave. This is where they filmed a very small portion of the movie, but the entire movie was filmed in the Bahamas. We had a fabulous snorkeling adventure. There is a small cave opening that you can enter at low tide, and then proceed into the main area of the cave. It is quite large, but not as large and cavernous as my mind had envisioned. I thought there would be stalagmites, etc., but the roof of the cave was quite boring. It did have a hole in the top, so sunlight could get through and keep it from being dark. There were A LOT of fish. Every size and shape. There seemed to be more just outside the entrance, than there were in the cave itself. We spent about an hour mingling with the fishies, then went back to the marina to rinse off in the swimming pool, and enjoy another afternoon of laziness. Exactly the kind of vacation Judy wanted and needed! We had a late lunch at the bar, and that evening we watched a movie.

Thursday, ST. Patrick’s Day!! The marina was all a buzz, because they would be hosting a big green party! Green beer, 2 for 1 rum punches, and corned beef and cabbage for dinner. We needed to do some boat errands. We filled up with water, then used the dinghy to take the dirty laundry to the wash woman at Isle’s General store. For $10.00 a load, she would wash, dry, fluff, and fold the laundry. Yahoo!!! We left our large pile of laundry, bought ice cream and a few other items, and headed back for another afternoon of lounging by the pool. We were entertained by a group of vacationers from Michigan. A group of 5 couples, vacations together every year. On this day, they were having an “Amazing Race” on the island. The last few clues, and the finish line, were at the pool, so it was really quite fun to watch.

In honor of ST. Patrick’s Day, we invited our resident Irishman, Evan from Anna Livia, to join us for dinner, as well as Gene and Gail from Nightengale. We joined the throngs of partiers, most dressed in green, for a fabulous dinner outside on the upper deck. There was also a band playing music. The music wasn’t bad, but the vocals were terrible. Karaoke would have been better. Oh well. We were still in paradise with friends, family, good food and drink, and watched another beautiful sunset. It doesn’t get much better than that! (As a side note – Evan said that he never ate corned beef and cabbage in Ireland, that it is an American tradition)

On Friday, it was time to move the boat back to Big Major Spot, to avoid the hefty moorage fees at the marina. The departure was just as interesting as the arrival. The HUGE catamaran had left, but, there were now three other boats in the way. The dockmaster assured us that they would all be asked to move for our departure. The first to leave was a 120 foot yacht that had been sticking out past the end of the dock about 30 feet. He went forward and immediately went aground in the shallow sand. Using all of his bow and stern thrusters, he was able to get free and backed on to the gas dock for refueling. One of the other boats left, and the third backed off about 10 feet and wanted to know when we were leaving. As soon as they were out of the way! We then backed the boat down the length of the dock, and with the help of our friend Buddy from CanFlor Girl, we made the turn and headed out of the marina. Judy rode on the bow pulpit all the way to the anchorage. The wind blowing gently against her. As we lowered the anchor, we could see the swimming pigs on the beach. While we read in the cockpit of the boat, we had fun watching the inflatables and small boats that went to feed the pigs.

First thing Saturday morning, we headed for piggy beach, armed with bread for the hog armada. We weren’t even close when they first ventured out. I tried to throw the bread far enough away that they would have to swim away from us, but those guys are quick!! Our friends from Nightengale and Big Easy joined us, and we had fun watching the pigs on the attack. We laughed so hard! We heard a scream and turned to see Big Easy Gail jump to the other side of the dinghy to avoid being bitten in the butt by a feisty pig! Their yellow lab, Kassee, was going nuts, barking at the pigs.

After that wild adventure, we took our dinghies on a long ride up to Sampson Cay, the next island to the north. They have a very nice marina there, with a store, a restaurant and bar, a laundry, showers, and many palm trees. We enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant, then headed back to the anchorage. It was low tide, so the water got a little shallow in places, but the colors of the water were spectacular! We spent a quiet evening on the boat, watching “Thunderball” and eating popcorn.

On Sunday, we accepted an invitation from Big Easy to come over and watch the Huskies play North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. They have a satellite TV dish and Sirius radio. Frank and Gail are from northern Mississippi. They live on 160 acres, in a log home. Gail was born in Memphis, and has a beautiful southern accent. Frank was born in Holland and it is interesting to listen to his Dutch accent. Kassee is a beautiful white lab, and we had a great time spoiling her! It was so much fun to watch the Huskies, and we certainly did our part to cheer them on, but unfortunately North Carolina came out on top. Later that evening we went over to Nightengale for sundowners. Frank brought his conch shells, and he, Gail, and Dave blew them when the sun went down. Then Dave hauled out his trumpet and played Taps. The sun didn’t let us down. It gave Judy, one last gorgeous sunset for her trip.

Judy’s week went extremely fast!!! Monday morning the wind had picked up. It was going to be an interesting and wet ride over to the marina. We decided to go early and lounge one last time around the pool, have lunch, and then head for the airport. We loaded up the dinghy and set out for Staniel Cay. It was pretty rocky and rolly, but doable, until we passed around the point of Big Major. We had just put on the rain coats, and were now headed directly into the wind and waves. Very soon, the water was spraying over the bow, drenching us, and filling up the boat. We decided that we wouldn’t be able to bail fast enough to get there safely, so we turned around and headed back to the boat. We put out a call to the Island Taxi, and found that they would pick us up and return us for $100.00 round trip, so we split the cost and decided to ride over in comfort and safety. The taxi picked us up about 10 minutes after we arrived back at the boat, so we headed on over to the marina, wet clothes and all. We spent the afternoon having lunch at the bar, drying out by the pool, and having one last Pina Colada. Then, it was time to head for the airport. Fortunately, the Taxi man had a golf cart that he wasn’t using, so he offered to let us use it. With a little extra time, we took Judy on a brief tour of the island, before pulling up to the airfield. Before we knew it, it was time to say good bye. If only we had had more time! We thoroughly enjoyed having her with us, and I know she enjoyed it too! You can’t go wrong coming to this beautiful place in the world. Dave and I took the golf cart back to the marina, by way of the store. Thank God we did. The cold Dave had when Judy first got there, was now transferred to me, and little did I know how bad it would get. We were fortunate to find a bottle of Nyquil in the store, that would help me through the next few nights. We had an uneventful ride back to the boat in the water taxi, and I immediately laid down for a nap.

The next morning, we hauled up the anchor and sailed down to Black Point. By the calls we heard on the radio, everyone was headed for Black Point. Our friends on High Spirit were already there, and decided to host a dinner party at Lorraine’s, the local café. The guest list topped out at 20 cruisers. We arrived about 5:00pm and chatted, then a shrimp platter was passed around the room. A while later, Lorraine set up a buffet that included ribs, chicken, fried conch, fried lobster, cole slaw, potato salad, mac & cheese (not like the US version. It is more like stacked macaroni, and then baked. Not a lot of cheese sauce, and they add peppers), and chocolate and white cake for dessert. We all ate more than we should have, but we had a great time (in spite of my cold).

On Wednesday, we decided to check out the iguanas on a nearby beach. Just like the pigs, as the dinghies approached the beach the iguanas came out to see what we had to feed them. The biggest one was about 3 feet long, but most of them were much smaller. You had to keep a careful watch, as the buggers tended to sneak up on you. After the feeding frenzy, we took a walk on the beach, looking for shells, and then headed back over to Black Point.

Our group decided to go sightseeing on the island, so we inquired to see if we could rent a couple of golf carts. Because there are a limited amount of paved roads, they had only one golf cart with the proper tires to use on the unpaved roads. We decided we would go in shifts to the Castle home and the nearby beach. Dave and I were in the first shift. We got about 3 quarters of the way to the Castle, when we blew a tire. Luckily, we had a VHF radio with us, so we called the rental shop for help. We were informed that the cargo ship had just docked, and he would not be able to assist us until the ship was unloaded, which would be about 2 hours. He suggested we call the Castle for assistance. So, I called the Castle, but no one responded. Fortunately, their neighbor called back to say that he was on his way to town and would be happy to assist us. He arrived about 20 minutes later and gave us all a ride back to the dock.

The cargo ship was tied up at the dinghy dock, so we would not be able to leave for several hours. We watched the ship unload for awhile, then we walked to a nearby restaurant that was famous for its homemade pizza. We ordered two of the specials and washed it down with ice cold beer. It seems we have gone to having 2 meals a day – a late breakfast, a late lunch, and then appetizers with our sundowners. I should be losing weight. Yeah, right!!

The decision was made that our cruising group would all venture down to Georgetown. This will be our southernmost destination. So, Thursday morning we set sail for Cave Cay and anchored just inside of the channel we will use to go out into Exuma Sound on the eastern side of the islands. The wind was making it pretty rocky when we anchored, but by bedtime the sea was nearly flat and the stars were out in full force.
Bright and early on Friday morning, March 25th, we headed out the channel and into Exuma Sound. There was not much wind blowing, so it was a slow ride, but it gave 2 of the boats a chance to troll for fish. We had only been out about 20 minutes or so, when Gail from Big Easy announced that Frank had a strike. He hauled in a 3 foot Mahi Mahi. Yum!! Fresh fish for dinner. The rest of the trip was uneventful. We did pass many boats already heading north, including Osprey, who we hoped we would see again in Georgetown.

In the early afternoon, we arrived in Georgetown and took a mooring ball off of Volleyball beach. Soon after, we dinghied ashore for a cold drink at the Chat n’ Chill bar. They call Georgetown “Adult Daycare” and I can see why. In the height of the season there will be over 300 boats here. They have scheduled activities such as volleyball, poker, yoga, bridge, etc. You can swim, snorkel, or just lounge on the white sand beach. People come here and don’t leave for months.

But, I must leave you now. I will tell you all about our adventures in Georgetown when I get the chance to write another blog and get it posted. I need to get to town now, just to get this much posted. Rest assured that we are having the time of our lives.

Hope all is well at home. Say hello to those who know us. Stay safe!

Love & Hugs,

The Admiral

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wednesday March 2nd 2011

Hello from the Bahamas!!! We spent the last few days in Miami saying good bye to our old friends, and making crossing plans with new friends. We also attended the Coconut Grove Art Walk. They close off a large portion of downtown along the waterfront, fence it in, load it with booths full of all kinds of art, and charge a hefty fee to get in. It also made it very difficult to leave the marina. Most all of the art was too expensive for the average person to buy, but there sure were a lot of people in attendance, each of the four days.

Our crossing group decided that the weather, wind, and waves, looked favorable for Tuesday, February 23rd, so we got busy doing last minute chores: provisioning, getting fuel and water, copying forms for customs officials, and having our mail forwarded. We called back to Olympia, to have them send us our mail, and the gal informed us that we had a large package. We were not expecting a package of that size, so we asked her to open it. Turns out it was a portrait of me, painted by the mother of my old high school boyfriend. She was moving into an assisted living facility, and Mark found it while he was clearing out her home. He thought I might like to have it. Boy! Was I ever curious to see it. We had Matt go pick it up, and then take a picture of it to text to me. What a surprise to see an oil painting of me from 40 years ago!! I never knew it existed. It was very nicely done. I wrote Mark a long letter, thanking him for the portrait, and telling him about my life, since breaking up with him, so I could date Dave. I’m hoping I will get an email back from him, telling me about his life. When the rest of the mail caught up with us, it was not nearly as interesting!!

We also discovered that we needed immigration cards from the US, to get back into the country after we leave the Bahamas. You fill out a form on line, and then set up an appointment for an interview, at the nearest port office, which in this case, is the Port of Miami. We needed to rent a car for the day, and because the Miami Boat Show was in full swing, the cost was double. Ouch!! We got to the port office and gave them our form ID number, and he asked where the second one was. OOPS! Seems that you need a form for each person, not one for the boat. It would take us far too long to go back to the boat and get computer access, so we went outside, and Dave tried for 45 minutes to complete the form on his Blackberry. It kept kicking him out of the site, so we did the next best thing. We asked our GPS to find the nearest Marriott, and she did, .3 miles away. We pulled into the portico, parked, and walked in as though we were already registered guests, then walked to the business area and logged onto one of their computers. In about 3 minutes we were done and on our way back to the port office. We handed the official our second number, and about 2 minutes later, we had our immigration cards in hand. So much for the interview!

The night before departure, we tried to go to bed early, but I really wanted to watch, “The Bachelor”. Darn TV show anyway! I finally caved in about 9:30, and decided I could live without seeing the rest.

At 2:00 am the alarm went off and we scurried about preparing the boat for departure. At 3:00 am we were all ready, except one boat that needed a little more time. They thought we were leaving at 3:30, not 3:00, but at 3:20 am we all cast off our lines from the mooring balls, and threaded our way through the marina, and out through the channel into Key Biscayne Bay. Lucky for us, it was a full moon, so we had a little extra light. Since we came into Key Biscayne the same way we were leaving, we used our GPS to lead the way. All was good until we heard a Coast Guard warning on the radio, that there was a hazard to navigation at marker #1. That was right where we were!! We kept a close watch out, but never saw anything odd, however we did encounter several sailboats that had anchored “in the channel”, that we had to weave around!! The Coast Guard could have also been referring to two of the channel markers farther out that were supposed to be lit, but weren’t! Thank God for GPS. We were able to go to where the markers were marked on the GPS, and avoid hitting the unlit ones.

After passing Cape Florida, we entered the Atlantic, and were soon in the Gulfstream. We had a beautiful crossing. The seas were calm, the sun was bright, and we were able to motor sail most of the way. There were four boats altogether; Journey, Christopher Robin, Anna Livia, and us. We were in the lead most of the way, and got to the channel at Bimini, a little ahead of the others. Rather than wait for Journey to lead us in, since she had been there before, we decided to follow another sailboat just entering the channel. Unfortunately, he was a little too far ahead of us, so I followed the GPS channel. Bad idea! The shifting sands had changed the channel and very quickly we were into shallow water. We tried to avert it, but ended up getting into even shallower water. We were stuck on a sand bar, a beautiful white sand bar, and the tide was still going out. There was nothing we could do but wait for high tide, which wouldn’t be until 11:30 pm. It was now about 2:00pm. We would have a long wait!!

Shortly after, the rest of our group arrived and we told them via radio, about the change in the channel, which was not well marked. We watched as they passed safely by, and asked that they send someone out to help us. As the afternoon passed, we had the opportunity to help several more boats who did not want to end up where we were. Two of them missed the channel completely and were headed for the sand bar on the other side of the reef. We watched it about to happen, and tried to get their attention on the radio, telling them to “turn left now!!” They finally heard us, but not before they bumped. Luckily they were able to back off and turn left.

About 4:00 pm, a speed boat came out from the harbor to assist. His name was Orlando. By this time, Dave had already set an anchor out 200 feet at a ninety degree angle to the boat, so that we would be able to “kedge” directly toward the beach, and the deeper water, as the tide came in. It would also keep us from going farther onto the sand bar and away from the reef. Orlando confirmed that it was the right thing to do, and that there was nothing he could do at this time. He told us he would come back about 10:00 – 10:30 pm, and check on us.

As the afternoon wore on, several more boats passed by, and some stopped to see if they could help, but there was nothing they could do. One man said he would come back out at high tide, around 11:30, and escort us through the channel and into the harbor. Yeah! As the sun started to set, another boat took a wrong turn and was grounded also, but after the tide started to come back in, he was floating again in no time. We slowly lost almost all water beneath us, and the boat gently laid down on her side. We were thankful that there was only sand, and no rocks. It is extremely difficult to walk on a boat at a 40 degree angle, and even more difficult to try to get down inside the boat. I tried going down the companionway ladder, lost my footing, and ended up doing a monkey swing, and smacking my head into the mug holder on the wall.

Dave did an awesome job! He worked so hard getting the heavy anchor and line into the dinghy, in rough current, and getting it set just right. Then as we slowly started getting more water under us, he would use the windlass to take up any slack in the line, and slowly start turning us, and dragging us, toward the deeper water. He now has bruises all over his shins and scrapes on his knees for his efforts. I was so proud of him!

Once the water finally started getting deeper, it seemed to go more quickly than when it went out. We were finally upright again, and when we finally had a little water under the keel, the surf would pick the boat up and then slam it back down on the sand. The boat would make a big thud and then all the rigging would rattle and shake. This went on for quite awhile, but it did allow Dave to get the boat turned in the right direction, and we would inch closer and closer to the deeper water.

Our greatest fear was how we would make it through the channel in the dark, without running aground again. When 10:30 passed and there was no sign of Orlando, we became very concerned. We were close to being totally afloat. Dave kept kedging, and all of a sudden he yelled, “We’re afloat!! We have to go NOW!!”. Luckily, we already had the motor running, so I put it in gear and headed toward the beach. Unfortunately, the moon was blocked by clouds, so it was very dark. Dave turned on our spotlight and lit up the beach, and we used it to guide us into the harbor. I said a few thousand prayers! Our friend on Journey had arranged for us to be able to tie up to the gas dock when we got in, so he and some dockhands were waiting for us. Talk about scarey, I’ve never attempted docking in the dark. We had to try twice, but finally we were in and tied up at 11:50 pm. We thanked all of the helpers with a beer (the usual form of payment in the Bahamas), and had a beer ourselves. Then off to the showers before going to bed. We slept well that night!!

The next morning we had several couples stop by the boat and thank us for helping them through the channel, and check to see how we were doing. We were the talk of the town! When Dave checked in at customs, they asked how we were, he said we were much better now that we weren’t on the sand bar anymore. They said, “Oh, you’re the ones!”, and gave us a permit for 150 days. The day before, everyone in our group that checked in only got 90 days.

We spent the rest of the day checking out Alice Town. It has one main street, that is just wide enough for two vehicles to pass, but if you are a pedestrian, you better get out of the way! They drive on the opposite side of the road and most of the vehicles are golf carts!! Most of the people on the island are very poor, and their homes are in bad shape, but they are happy. All of the shops are tiny one room buildings. But, they do have an ice cream truck, just like the old days, and with quite a variety for sale. You can hear the music it plays, all over the island.

Wednesday evening, our group bought fresh lobster and conch, from the fishermen on the dock. So, Thursday morning we got a lesson in how to clean and prepare lobster, from Gerard and Louise on Christopher Robin. She then made a marinade to soak it in and we returned it to our refrigerator. The marinade was made from olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, worstershire sauce, tobacco sauce, Old Bay seasoning, and garlic.

We then walked across the island and went swimming in the ocean. It felt soooo good! A little cool, so it felt very refreshing. Most of the ladies went beachcombing, but I stayed in the water and picked up shells with my toes. At long last, Dave dragged me out of the water and we walked back to the boat to prepare for our evening feast. At 4:00 pm, one of the ladies instructed all of the women in how to prepare a conch salad. Which means that you cut the conch in tiny pieces and then add tomato, celery, peppers, lime and lemon juice. The conch is not cooked, you eat it raw! I think it is an acquired taste, but they eat it everywhere in the Bahamas.

The real hit of the night was the lobster. We cooked it on a charcoal grill, and it was fabulous!! We rounded the meal out with the conch salad, a pasta salad, rice, beans, pumpkin bread, and brownies. Yummy!

On Friday we went with another group of cruisers to breakfast, and had the best omelet I have ever had! I’m not sure why it was so good, but it just had a little sweetness to it. One of the women said it was probably made with fresh from the chicken eggs. Maybe so! I don’t think I’ve ever had eggs that fresh.

After breakfast, we joined the group on a trip to the Shark Lab on Bimini’s south island. We had to take a ferry across the bay, then a bus to the lab. It is a privately owned research facility. The woman in charge is a working on her PHD from the University of Miami. It is a three year project, and she has about a half year to complete. She has several volunteers that work with her. She is studying the effects of a change in environment for the Lemon Sharks in Bimini Bay. A new resort is being built, that has destroyed a large portion of their breeding grounds, so she is studying their effect on this species. It was fascinating! She took us out to their holding pens in the lagoon, and showed us how they handle the sharks. When they are flipped over onto their backs, they go into a trance like state and will not resist. The researchers can then make an incision and insert a tracking device, before sewing them back up. They need no anesthesia, and the sharks feel nothing. When they are flipped back over, they swim away easily. These yearlings were about 2 feet long, and really cute. They are more scared of us, than we are of them, and will not bite unless they are provoked.

A year or so ago, the TV show “Mythbusters” went to the shark lab to find out the truth to the rumor that a drop of blood will attract sharks. They started with a drop of human blood, and got no reaction from the sharks. When they used a drop of fish blood, the sharks and many other fish, were instantly attracted.

When we arrived back in Alice Town, we tried to go swimming again at the beach, but it was too wild. We opted instead to rent a golf cart and see the rest of the island. We drove all the way up to the Bimini Bay Resort. It is a gated community built around a marina that housed mega yachts. This is where all the rich people live. They have their very own white sand beach to swim at that looks like they rake every day. No garbage anywhere. The homes, of course, are gorgeous.

That evening we discussed our plans to leave the next morning, and about 8:15 am, we cast off our lines and headed out of the harbor. A short time later, we passed through a narrow channel between some rocks and onto the Bahama Bank. This is a shelf on the ocean that is about 57 miles from west to east and about 187 miles from north to south. It is also only 10-20 feet deep, and has the clearest turquoise water imaginable. We sailed about 45 miles across, and then anchored for the night in the middle of nowhere. No sight of land anywhere! After nightfall, the water was a little rougher than we would have liked, making it difficult to sleep.

At the crack of dawn, we were on our way again, but the water and wind was making it pretty rough the entire day. We were just like a big old rocking horse, going up and down the waves. Thankfully, neither one of us got seasick. The rough seas slowed us down more than we would have liked, so we into Frazier’s Hog Cay, just before sundown. We were just very glad to be there!! There is not much here: a dock, a mooring field, a restaurant and bar, and showers(of a sort). Mostly, it is a rocky island with scrubby vegetation, that is a way station for cruisers.

I spent the next morning writing this blog entry, while Dave tinkered with the boat. It took far longer than I had anticipated. Later in the day, we met up with all the other cruisers on the porch of the Berry Island Club, the only establishment for several miles. Everyone looked at the weather forecasts and made decisions on where they were going next. We will have a one day window of opportunity, before the next front comes through, so we decided to go to Nassau, with a group of 7 other boats. We made plans to leave at 7:00 am the next morning.

Bright and early the next morning, we left the mooring field and headed for Nassau. It was a little more choppy than the forecast had called for. We were back to being a rocking horse. We had our staysail up to begin with, and after several hours, we were able to raise the mainsail. The last few hours were on calmer seas and it was quite enjoyable.

Around 2:00 pm, we were granted permission to enter Nassau Harbour. We passed by the cruise ship docks and past some incredibly big yachts, before finding the marina that we would be staying at. Fortunately, I was able to get the boat into the dock without any trouble. As we were tying the boat up, I announced to those on the dock to greet us, that it was Dave’s birthday. Of course, everyone broke into song! I’m determined he’ll have a great birthday!!

After checking in, I headed for the swimming pool. AAAAHHHHH! So refreshing!! After lounging around the pool for awhile, I took a shower, and then we made plans with the others to go have a birthday dinner at “the Poop Deck”. After a short walk, we all had a drink at the bar while waiting for our table. There were twelve of us! When we were all seated, Dave wanted a picture of the group, and a gentleman from the next table offered to take it. Yeah! Soon afterward, the waiter delivered a “Happy Birthday” shot to Dave, courtesy of the guy who took the picture. We then enjoyed a great meal and learned more about our new friends. I can’t believe how many people from Ohio we have met! We also found out that our new friends, Gene and Gail on Nightingale, are friends with Howell and Jo on Why Knot, the couple we spent so much time with in Fort Pierce!! Both couples are from Port Aransas, Texas. We then went back to the marina for a good nights sleep.

During the night the winds picked up and the rains came pouring down, which helped clean the salt off the boat. This morning we went to Starbucks, yes, Starbucks, so we could try to get online. Later, we took the bus in to town to go to the straw market. There were 10 of us, and right after we got on the bus, another bus pulled diagonally in front of the bus, blocking both lanes. He was angry that all 10 of us had gotten on his bus. He refused to move. Cars began honking, but he still would not move. Finally, our bus driver drove up on the shoulder to try to move forward, but he cut him off again. After a few more minutes, the other driver finally gave up and moved on. Our bus driver then gunned it, and sped past the other bus. It seems to be a very competitive business!

Traffic moves very slowly in Nassau, so it took us awhile to get into downtown. Once there, we got out and began walking the main street towards the straw market. We passed many “tourist traps” along the way, including duty free liquor stores with cheap prices on Rum. The straw market itself is one giant tent with about 10 aisles. Each aisle is crammed from top to bottom with tourist stuff, and every ten feet is a new salesman trying to get you to buy the same stuff from them. Crazy!! Dave bought a new wallet and a t-shirt. I bought a Bahamas beach bag with a parrot embroidered on it. We also bought 5 ripped off copies of current movie hits, and prayed they would work on our DVD player.

Next stop was for something to eat. We found a small café that was fairly crowded, so we figured it was probably good. Dave had grouper fingers and I had chicken fingers. Both were very good! After that we stopped in a linen store that had a lot of nautical décor. I found an oval mirror surrounded by metal shells that I thought would look good in the aft head(bathroom). Our last stop was at the liquor store where we picked up some coconut rum and some 151 rum. We then caught a bus back to the marina.

Tonight, we went to the casino at Atlantis, the big, very expensive resort on Paradise Island. As long as you are willing to gamble, they will let you in. Otherwise, the resort is off limits to the public, unless you are paying a fortune to stay there. Or, you can pay $40.00 each to tour their aquarium only. So, we hit the casino instead and found to our surprise that they do not charge for the aquarium at night, so we ended up seeing it for free!! It is all based on the lost city of Atlantis, so the super large tanks all have pieces of the ruins in them. They have all sorts of fish to see, as well as humongous manta rays, and even some jellyfish tanks. We then spent several hours in the casino trying to recoup money we have spent on our boats. Everyone was impressed with the Dale Chihuly glass that is on display throughout the resort. Amazing!

Hope all is well at home. We heard there was more snow in western Washington! Our weather of course is fabulous, however, the winds and waves play havoc with trying to plan sailing days. We know we will be here in Nassau for the next 4 days, as nasty high winds are predicted from the North. I will try to blog again from one of the outer Exuma islands, but it will depend on where we get our next internet connection. Until then, stay safe and healthy!

Love & Hugs,

The Admiral

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday February 8th 2011

Believe it or not, we are still in Miami. We are still waiting for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas, and the winds have not been favorable. In the meantime, we’ve been having a ball!!

We are in Dinner Key Marina, in Coconut Grove, the southern most part of Miami. It is a pretty upscale part of Miami; beautiful homes and high end shops. The downtown area is called “the Grove”, and includes many restaurants and clothing boutiques, a bookstore and movie theater. We have enjoyed many meals in the restaurants, and even went to see “The King’s Speech” at the theater. It was a good movie, but I’m not sure it is Best Picture worthy. It didn’t have enough action for Dave.

Because we don’t have a car, we have become very good bus riders. If you take the bus going north, you end up at Crook & Crook Marine (they aim not to live up to their name!). When you go south, you end up at West Marine. Each ride is 25 cents. We have been back and forth many times, and are thankful for the transportation.

However, we wanted to broaden our horizons a bit, so on the weekends, we take advantage of the $9.99 per day special at Enterprise. The one we use doesn’t have very many compact cars, so each weekend, we have ended up with a mini-van. This has led to some great outings with our new friends.

Speaking of new friends, we found a couple from Ontario, Canada, on another Whitby 42 like ours, Dave and Renee on “Lunar Sea”. It is their first year living aboard, also. We also met a couple from Virginia, Dave and Kathy, on “Orion”. They have been living aboard and cruising for the last 5 years. (Seem to be a lot of Daves!) One day, we loaded up the van and headed for South Beach, Miami. What a crazy place!! Lots of neon, tons of restaurants, and outrageous people everywhere!! We walked up and down the waterfront, then had dinner at a sidewalk restaurant. As you walk through the myriad of sidewalk establishments, each one tries to outdo the others, to get your business. The one we settled on, offered us 20 percent off our meal, and the first round of drinks, free. We had a very nice meal, and enjoyed our first drinks, then Dave decided he wanted a second. When the bill came, that second Mai Tai cost $19.00. Couldn’t believe it! It’s been the source of a lot of jokes lately!!

We spent one day on a day sail, on Cort and Carolyn’s catamaran. The huge beast took up the whole channel, as we made our way out. They are new to the boat this year, and had never had the chance to actually sail the boat, so it was fun being in on the inaugural sail. When the sails were unfurled, we couldn’t believe all of the silt, salt, and old wasps nests that rained down on us. They had been furled for quite awhile. We were then in for a nice sail, enjoying the sunshine the whole time.

After the first week here, Cort and Carolyn decided to move their catamaran across the bay, to No Name Harbor. So, last Saturday we drove over to see them and took Dave and Kathy along. We ended up driving to Hollywood (Florida, that is) to walk the boardwalk there. Not quite as entertaining as South Beach, but we still had a great time. Afterward, we drove to Fort Lauderdale and did a drive-by of the beach, then cruised through the mansions lining the canals throughout town. Pretty amazing!!

Sunday we drove back to No Name, and took Cort and Carolyn to a burger joint to watch the Super Bowl. They had about 20 different burgers on the menu. While we ate, we rooted for Green Bay. It was one of the better Super Bowls, since it became a close game, in the second half. I knew our friends, Kathy and Norm, back in Longview, were ecstatic!! They are the biggest Packer fans we know.

Earlier, we found a great sports bar here called “Monty’s”, where we watched the play-off games. They have an outdoor area, under thatched roofs, that easily seats about 300 people, and hosts about 50 big screen TVs. We were fortunate, one afternoon, to have live Reggae music. Really quite good!

Our days are mainly spent doing boat maintenance and running errands. Since we are on a mooring ball, we have a 10 minute dinghy ride to get to the dock. Sometimes, it can be pretty tricky, if the wind and waves are high. It seems as though we are usually going out to the boat after dark, making it even more challenging. The ride back and forth gives us the chance to see what boats have moved on, and which new ones have arrived.

We have also been having an infestation of Portuguese Man of War jellyfish. They are really strange looking. The top looks like a clear pot sticker, with a blue bottom, and then blue tentacles hanging down into the water. It floats along on top of the water, being blown by the breeze. They have a very painful sting. So, no swimming!

Not too much else happening here. We did get a call from Austin last week, telling us that he has a new job. The Marriott in Crystal City, Virginia, right across the border from Washington, DC, needed a Supervisor of Operations, so they contacted the Wardman Park Marriott for a recommendation, and they sent them Austin. He was hired on the spot, after his interview. He starts on February 11th. He will hold this job until this summer, when Austin and Cindy move to New York City!! That’s right, the big apple! Cindy graduates from Georgetown Law this May, and was recruited for and landed a job with the Justice Department in Newark. They will make their home there for a couple of years, and then hope to relocate to Seattle. So exciting!!

Meanwhile, back in Olympia, Matt is celebrating his 6th year with Empire Office Equipment, as an Internet and Copier Technician. Wow, where did the time go?? We are so proud of both our boys! Matt and Jacinda are planning to go back to Hawaii this spring, and we are hoping to accompany them and James, on a trip to Disneyland, next Fall.

So, here we sit, waiting, still. Looks like maybe this weekend, or the first part of next week, will be good for crossing. We need a good 3 days to get all the way to Nassau. It’s hard to wait, but this is a pretty good place to hang out. At least we’re finally back to wearing shorts and flip flops every day! (I know, I know, quit bragging!)

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, and maybe when I write the next post, it will be from the Bahamas!

Love & hugs,

The Admiral

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thursday January 21st 2011

We are in Miami!!! But before I tell you about that, let me tell you about some of the interesting things we did in Fort Pierce to help pass the time, while we waited for some good sailing conditions.

We were not the only boat waiting it out. The boat next to us, a Benetau 411, was owned by a couple from Port Aransas, Texas, Howell and Jo. He is a retired sales rep, and she is a retired school teacher, after 31 years!! They have two sons, also!

There was also a catamaran from Bellingham. Yes, Washington! Talk about a roomy boat! I’m jealous of all the space, but I wouldn’t want to dock the thing. It is owned by Cort and Carolyn. He is an architect in LaConner.
Dave loved having some guys around to discuss the weather, radios, charts, repairs, etc. He gained some wonderful information, and I’m sure he gave out some, as well. If he disappeared for 20-30 minutes, I knew he was out on the dock talking with one, or both of them.

On the first Friday of the month, Howell and Jo invited us to go with them to Jazz night, at the city marina park. There was music, food, venders, and beer. We walked around the park, looking at all of the “trinkets” for sale, and had a couple of beers, then sat on the seawall and listened to music. It was a little nippy out, so we decided to go somewhere warm for dinner, and found a restaurant close by. We had a great meal, and learned more about our new friends.

The next morning, we set off again with Howell and Jo, for the farmer’s market, held every Saturday, at the same venue as the Jazz night. This time, there were twice as many venders; some with trinkets and some with produce or baked goods. They also had music, which we sat and listened to for quite awhile. Then it was time for lunch, so we piled in the car and found a restaurant called “Captain’s Galley”. It seemed appropriate, so we stopped. The food was great, the prices were low, and we really enjoyed the company we were with.

Fort Pierce is so close to Vero Beach, about 12 miles, so we took advantage of that and went to the marina’s Thursday night happy hour every week. It was fun to see some old friends and meet some new. Howell and Jo went with us to the last one. The wind was blowing, and it was a bit cold, but we had a great time, and were the last ones to leave. We gave them a quick tour of the beach area, and then had dinner at the Riverside Café.

We also had a little football fun while in FP. We had dinner with “the gang”, at the marina restaurant, and then watched Oregon and Auburn in the BCS championship. We really thought Oregon would dominate the game, but Auburn’s defense was just too good. At half-time, the restaurant was closing, so we moved down to the cruiser’s lounge for the second half. It’s pretty comfy in there: nice poofy couches and chairs, a big screen TV, a library and reading area, game table, etc. It was late when we headed back to the boat, but we had a great time watching it.

The Seahawks vs. New Orleans was another game we really enjoyed. Who would have thought that the hawks would come away with a win. We were so excited to see them play Chicago, but it seemed like the old Seahawk team, not the one from the week before! We met up with the gang, again, at the marina restaurant, and watched on their big screen TV.

We will always remember watching the Steelers play the Ravens. We were attending the 5th annual Chili Cook Off, at the marina. I decided it might be fun to enter the contest, with my daughter-in-law, Jacinda’s great recipe. So, I made a huge pot of chili, and took it to the contest. There were 10 entries, and we tried to sample them all, and then everyone voted for the best one. While we ate, we were serenaded by a father on guitar, and his daughter on keyboard. They were really good!! The other entertainment was the play-off game, on a small little TV in the opposite corner. Those attending the cook off, were all cruisers or marina liveaboards, but they are from all over the USA, so it was fun to experience watching a football game with them. One woman was a New England Patriot’s fan, who desperately wanted Pittsburgh to win, so the Pat’s would not have to play the Ravens. She was a real hoot!

After the votes were tallied, Jacinda’s chili did not win the prize, but it did get lots of compliments. Dave and I thought it was hands down, the very best, but we may be a bit prejudiced.

Fort Pierce is known for its large population of manatees. We did not see any for the longest time! Then finally, we saw five of them, under and around the docks. What a strange creature they are! And very friendly. If you are swimming, they will come right up to you and rub against you. But, because they are so docile, they do not know to be afraid of boats. Many of them have cut marks on their backs from boat propellers. Many of them are killed every year by boats, and lately because of the cold water. Poor manatees!

On one of our last nights in FP, the gang got together for one last dinner at the restaurant. We had a few extra people with us: Cort and Carolyn had friends from Sedro Wooley, Washington, visiting them; and another British couple on another catamaran joined us, Richard and Marie. We had a wonderful time swapping tales and eating seafood. Howell, Jo, and the Brits, will be leaving for the Abacos, while the rest of the gang will be heading to Miami.

And so, on Wednesday the 19th, Dave and I said our good byes to Howell and Jo, and sailed off for an overnight trip to Miami. It was cloudy when we left, but by the time we got 3 miles offshore, the sun was shining bright. We motor sailed all day and into the early morning hours, with a nice breeze from the West. When night fell, a beautiful full moon lit up the sky, and the water was calm as could be. We started having trouble maintaining our speed, and realized that we were bucking the gulf stream current. Dave decided we should move closer inland. That helped a lot.
In the morning, when we reached Miami, the water was so clear, you could see the fish swimming below. It was a beautiful sunny day, that topped out at 82. After finding our mooring ball, and trying to get a little more sleep, we headed into shore for a shower. Boy, did that feel good. After that, we walked over to “Scottie’s” restaurant, right on the water, and had nachos and beer, and watched for Cort’s catamaran, “Celise Spirit”, to arrive. When we were done, we realized that there were clouds gathering, and that we might be about to get a thunderstorm, so we opted to head for the boat. It was a good thing we did. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get from the marina dock to the boat in the mooring field. Shortly after we arrived at the boat, and just as “Celise Spirit” entered the harbor, the heavens opened up and the rain poured down. We spent a quiet evening, hunkered down in the boat, as we were both pretty tired after our night offshore.

Today is another beautiful day, though a little windy. Too rough to cross to the Bahamas. We will most likely be here for at least 5-7 days, waiting for just the right conditions to cross over. It will take us about 12 hours, so we will leave in the early morning hours, to arrive there in the late afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed, that we will not end up here for several weeks, waiting for weather.

Hope all is fine back home. We miss you all. We are having a great time, but it is difficult to be away from home so long. It seems like our time is standing still, and the rest of the world is going on without us.

Take care and stay healthy. Send us an email when you can. DO NOT CALL. The charges in the Bahamas are outrageous!! Only call if it is an emergency. Email is your best bet, but if you don’t get a reply right away, it means we are in some small tropical bay where they don’t have Wifi. When we get to a destination that has Wifi, we will get back to you.

Love and Hugs,

The Admiral

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 11th 2011

Howdy faithful followers!! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I wrote in last. No, nothing horrible has happened. We are alive and well. However, we are not in the Bahamas, yet!! We are still in Fort Pierce, Florida, waiting for a good weather window to sail down the coast to Miami. While the rest of the country has been hit with the cold nasty weather from Canada, believe it or not, we are being affected down here. Not near as cold, of course, but when you live on a sailboat and it gets down to 30 degrees at night, it feels pretty darn cold. If we were in Seattle and it got that cold, we wouldn’t even think about being on the boat! Other than the week that Austin and Cindy came to visit, we have been wearing jeans and sweatshirts most of the time!

I’m getting ahead of myself though! Dave and I spent the week before Christmas having new batteries installed in the boat. Six new beauties! They were our Christmas presents!! We decided that the old ones might not make it through 6 months in the Bahamas.

We also managed to finish our shopping and get our gifts in the mail, and send off our Christmas cards. While we were at the mall, we also treated ourselves to a movie, “The Tourist”, with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. We really enjoyed it!

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, we realized how much we really missed our family and friends. I thought we wouldn’t have any problem, but the holidays are just not the same, when those you love are far away. We tried to chase away the blues by going out for a prime rib dinner, but the only restaurants we could find open were Chinese and Mexican. With visions of “A Christmas Story”, we settled for Mexican. Later that night, we called and talked to Matt and Jacinda, who were spending Christmas Eve with Dave’s parents in Seattle. It sounded like they were all having a great time! Then we called Austin and Cindy, who were in Minneapolis with Cindy’s parents. They were cold! There was a foot and a half of snow on the ground and the highs were in the teens!!! They had taken their new little puppy, Tiger, with them. She loved the snow. So much so, that when she “did her duty”, she did it on top of the highest snow peak, then just grinned as Austin or Cindy climbed up, to clean up after her.

On Christmas day, we drove up to Vero Beach and had a potluck meal with all of the other cruisers up there. There were not as many people as our Thanksgiving potluck, but it was just as much fun, and we had a ton of food! After our mid-day meal, we had a group of musicians play carols, while we sang along. As soon as we were back on the boat, we made calls to the kids again, Dave’s parents and aunt, and to my sisters and brother, who were spending the holiday at MaryLynne and Ted’s mountain home above Lake Chelan. With nearly 2 feet of snow on the ground, my brother and nephew were having great fun sliding down the hill on a sled run they had built! We enjoyed talking with them all, but it really made us miss them all the more.

After getting their fill of cold weather, Austin and Cindy flew south to join us in Florida. We hit the road and joined them in Fort Lauderdale on the 30th. We spent that evening at Lulu’s Bait Shack, a sports bar, right on the beach. We had a great meal and enjoyed watching the Holiday Bowl; the Huskies vs. the Huskers. Washington had played Nebraska back in September, and it was not a pretty game! This bowl game will be a favorite in Husky legend for years to come. We not only won the game, we dominated it. It was so much fun, and I’m glad we had someone to share it with.

We spent the next day on the beach, laying on the warm sand and playing in the surf. That evening we spent New Year’s Eve at a restaurant close to the hotel, had a glass of champagne at midnight, and were back in the hotel room at 12:10, ready for bed. It’s hell getting old!

On January 1st, we loaded up the car and headed for Coconut Grove, just south of Miami, and checked into another Marriott there. What a beautiful place!! The hotel is just across the street from the marina that we are trying to get the boat to. We walked over to check things out, then walked a few more blocks to the downtown area. We were amazed at the number of shops and restaurants. That night we went to another sports bar for dinner and watched Wisconsin and TCU in the Rose Bowl.

The next morning we drove over to Key Biscayne and spent the afternoon at the beach. It was perfect! Just the right temperature, lots of sunshine with just a little breeze. If the water had been just a little warmer, it would have been heavenly! Afterwards, we drove up to South Beach, Miami, and walked around a large shopping mall near the beach, then had dinner.

Monday morning we headed for the Keys, but first made a stop in the Everglades, to see some gators! We took an airboat ride, which was very loud, and very exhilarating. We saw a few alligators and lots of birds. Back at the safari park, they had an alligator show that was very impressive. Then we saw lots of alligators in their zoo area. Cindy walked up behind one and he lashed out with his tail and dove into the water. I’m not sure which of them was more scared!

After a quick lunch, we headed to Key Largo, and checked into yet another, very nice Marriott. It was right on a waterway, lined with boats. We walked the pier and then stopped at a tiki bar for a drink. That evening we had dinner at one of Jimmy Johnson’s sports bars, and watched Stanford play Virginia Tech. It was nice to see another Pac-10 team do so well!

Tuesday, we drove on down to Key West, did some shopping and had lunch on the dock. Back at the hotel, we took advantage of the fabulous pool and hot tub, then had dinner at the tiki bar on the waterway.

We hated to see it end, but on Wednesday we headed back to Fort Lauderdale and sent Austin and Cindy back to DC. We could not have asked for a better week of weather. I was extremely disappointed that we were not able to meet them in the Bahamas, as we had planned, but we had a great time anyway, and they were happy just to get some sun!

So, here we are, waiting in Fort Pierce. There are some other boats here, waiting with us. We have been having fun, going to the local farmers market, and listening to jazz, and having dinner out with our new friends. Last night we got together and watched Oregon in the BCS Championship game. Hard to believe that we were actually rooting for Oregon, but we really wanted another win for the Pac-10. But, it was not to be.

The temperatures are going down again. It will be in the low 40’s tonight, lower tomorrow. We might be able to leave this weekend. It will be a bit warmer, if we can get to Miami. At least we don’t have all of the snow that the rest of the east coast is experiencing.

I will try to write again when we get to Miami. In the meantime, stay warm, and well.

Love & Hugs,

The Admiral