Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Heading North with a vengeance (for now)

Sorry it has been so long.

Paul, Joanne and I had a good trip back to Florida. The clearing in was
uneventful, other than being sent back and forth between two offices several
times. There was no mention of the customs sticker that I was supposed to
purchase for the boat, and no visit to the boat.

I was able to make it to my mother's 80th birthday party. I was told some
time ago that Mom had insisted that we not do anything, and that it had
devolved into just a dinner at her favorite restaurant, but it was a party
after all, and my absence would have been conspicuous, even if I was sailing
a once in a lifetime trip.

I spent a couple of days at my mother's house, leaving the boat to Paul and
Joanne. It was nice to have that option, and I am sure that it was nice for
them to have the boat to themselves. (they tried to hide the evidence, but
there was a lot of confetti in the corners, and champagne bottles in the
trash bin onshore near the boat)

I had to cut short visits to the boat from family, as the weather told us to
get underway Sunday night right after the party. You don't argue with the
weather. The first night was a little rough, and very dark. It was made more
unpleasant by the formation of two new leaks, one in the vee berth, and one
in the main salon. It makes it a little harder when you cannot go below and
stay dry, and when you know you will be drying cushions and gear for a long
time. I think we have fixed one, and hope we have fixed the other. We won't
really know until we have rough conditions.

We made over 200 miles that first night with the help of the Gulf Stream. We
made 165 last night. We are presently approaching the outer banks. We have
the opportunity of heading out into a gale that would propel us quickly back
to New England, or finding shelter for a week or two. I think I may seek
that shelter, though it is tempting. The Gale would not be all that bad with
the wind behind the beam, but it would be cold and wet. I am used to wet,
but not cold.

We may duck into the Chesapeake Bay and stop in Annapolis to see Ben and
Jen. (This may be the first Ben and Jen hear of it). Then I would proceed on
up single handed via New York.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Caught more fish

We caught a few more fish underway, the look like oversized snapper with red
tail and fins (one book has a picture of a Bohar snapper that is a spitting
image) big eye like a grouper but with a with red surround. Big scales,
maybe 5/16 diameter.

Anybody know if they are safe for Ciguatera in the Bahamas?

We are looking to cross the Gulf stream very early tomorrow.


Chubb Key Bahamas

We are making wake for the Gulf Stream, and hope to cross over to West Palm
Beach in the next day or two.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Freezing here up north

We are about pin high with Key West, and let me tell you, it is FREEZING up
here. Two nights now we have had to wear fleeces (even though people here
barely know what a fleece is).

Also, when we went diving, we were shivering cold (no kidding) coming back
from the snorkeling sights. It was sunny, too! The wind was howling.

I managed a kite session in the afternoon, but the wind was kind of light so
I did not do much. There was no practicing jumps or rolls because I was not
certain that I could get back to windward.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thunderball, Swimming Pigs

Thunderball Grotto was very cool, both literally and figuratively. We were
kind of cold, the air temps had dipped to 76 or so, water temps at 74, and
it was very windy. I now have a better appreciation of the cold wimpiness of
my Nieces and nephews who visit from warmer climes. It seems I have adjusted
to the warmer temps to a surprising extent.

The current was very strong, but not enough to keep the intrepid explorers
out. You swam toward what looked like a normal island, but as you got within
20 feet, you saw the entrance to a cave. We were there at half tide, so we
could stay on the surface as we swam in, but just barely. The current was
very strong in the entrance, but it was forcing you OUT, which was
comforting. If it was forcing us in, we would not have dared. We scraped our
snorkels along the rock overhead as we swam. The entrance was about 25 feet
long, with a low ceiling all the way, then it opened up to a hemispherical
chamber, about 30 feet in diameter. The thunder dome had a lot of fish that
were not afraid, and would surround you when you offered some bread.
Streaming down from the ceiling, there are 4 columns of light that pierce
the darkness of the cave, providing light, and accentuating the darkness of
the far corners of the cave.

Once inside, all you had do was look for the sand bottom to find out where
the current was not running as strong, and swim to that location for a rest.
Where the current ran strong, the bottom was scrubbed clean down to the
coral bottom.

There were a few other entrances, some of them quite small, and with even
stronger currents running, which were fun to shoot through.

More on the swimming pigs later.


Thunderball, swimming pigs

Today we are heading to Thunderball Grotto to (google thunderball and
staniel key, and I am sure there are photos).

This afternoon we move on to Big Major to feed the swimming pigs!

Big weather coming, so we have to be holed up somewhere by Tues, then on

We are now planning to continue North to West Palm Beach, abandoning plans
to backtrack to Georgetown for the races. The weather just says NO.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Very nice kiting day; I got my first sunburn of the trip, if you can believe

I put spf 15 on (I was out of 30, Dana), but I was out from 0700 to 1430, so
I guess it wore off. Plus I forgot to spray it on my scalp.

Good day nonetheless, and good kiting. Having a little trouble with the
backroll, but had fun.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not bored anymore

Great kiting day, and my crew arrives...NOW.

Gotta run. Hopefully I can get them to the cruiser's bar in time for Texas
hold 'em (poker night, $5 buy in, no additional chips available)


Hanging out in Georgetown

I have to confess I am bored. I took the time to clean the boat, scrub the
bottom, do some varnish, but I am ready to go.

Many people spend their whole winter here in Georgetown. There is a lot of
things to do. I have been to a bread baking class, a fishing gam session,
and I go to yoga in the mornings. Last night was Karaoke night at St Francis
(a restaurant and bar).

There has not been much wind here, but it is supposed to be around 19 knots
in the morning, so I should be able to get some kiting in.

Paul and Joanne arrive tomorrow, and may stay with me until my return to
Padanaram. I am looking forward to having them here, they are very upbeat
and a lot of fun. We may stay another day or two to let them check out

I attached a pair of pictures of our last Mahi Mahi. It is a very strange
thing to watch them loose their color; it happens all at once shortly after
their death throws. The time from the fish being colorful and green to the
ghostly white is the space of about 10 seconds.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting back into the US

For some purposely obscure reason (namely, another tax) private boaters
making calls in foreign ports must purchase a decal in order to return.

This decal is not spoken of in the brochure "What you need to know before
you leave" by the cbp, so I did not get one. It is purchased online, and no
inspection is done, just a few forms to fill out... In other words, there is
no value added; but not having it looks like it may prove to be a hassle
when I return.

I guess I just have to keep cruising indefinitely...

The cruisers here in Georgetown are very social. Yesterday I went to Yoga in
the morning, bread baking class in the afternoon, and today we had sunfish
races (I won the individual race). It is a fun little ad hoc community.
Every morning the radio cackles to life with news of the days events,
commercial business offerings, and of course, news of Reggie the rat.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Booby Island in Pirates Bay Mayaguana

Booby Island in Pirates Bay Mayaguana was a big disappointment to the three
wandering sailors...just a bunch of stupid birds.

Sunrise over Crooked Island

I took this a few days ago, when Ted and TJ were here. I thought you might
enjoy it.

Swimming with Flipper

Yesterday we had a pretty great experience. We looked over at another boat
nearby, and saw that there was fin passing near a swimmer.

It was clear that the swimmer knew about the fin, and was not getting out of
the water, so we felt pretty sure that it was not a shark.

We saw pretty quickly that it was a dolphin mother and calf, so I swam in
that direction. I intercepted them (they were moving very slowly) and swam
nearby without any real interaction at first. It was thrilling to be near
them, even if I could not see them when they went underwater. They were
about 25 feet away and I had no mask, so I saw them only when they came up
for air.

I asked the nearest boat if they had a mask I could borrow, and they tossed
me one, so now I could see the forms faintly below water at that distance.
After a while, the calf, who was about four and a half feet long, swam by to
check me out. I think it wanted to play.

I unnerved me to be between the mother and calf a bit, but after a little
while it became clear that the mother was unconcerned. When the calf came
near and put his/her head straight down and did a pirouette, the invitation
to play was clear. I did the same, and this was obviously what the calf
wanted, as it darted off and then back (I think it was wondering why I had
not darted off with it). I repeated the pirouette, and so did the calf in
response, finishing with its mouth open in a sort of grin.

It was interacting with me, without doubt. I wish that we had some sort of
ball to see if it would play with that. I did not attempt to touch it at
all, as I had read recently that it is interpreted as a threat, and can lead
to a bite or head butt, both of which can be nasty.

By this time, Pete, Ray and Anna had come over, as well as swimmers from
another boat, and Pete got in the water as well. I had to share the
attention of our little friend.

The mother, in the mean time, was casually swimming around possibly eating
something from the sea floor. She was keeping a watchful eye, but it was as
though she had taken the calf to the boats to entertain the calf, like a
play date with the cruisers.

We found out later that the dolphin had been coming to Georgetown for years,
and would have a calf about every other year. Someone mentioned the name the
cruisers had given her, but I cannot recall it right now.

Very cool.


Where did they go?

I just got out of the Vee berth, somehow the door got stuck, and everyone
was gone...

It was very strange...I woke up with a knot on my head in the vee berth.
There was a party going on outside, but I was not able to get out.

This morning, the party was over and everyone was gone...weird.

We are rid of him for now.

We are rid of him for now.

It was a long time coming, but after two days of servitude under Capt
Walnut, we couldn't take it anymore. He had us doing things like cooking,
washing dishes, hoisting the anchor, dropping the anchor, hoisting the
anchor again, coiling ropes in figure eight patterns, carrying water tanks,
pulling on ropes, mopping the deck, pumping waste, and the list goes on and

The 5 of us decided that the best way to enjoy our visit was to not visit at
all. We have forced Capt Walnut into the forward cabin, and provided him
with a gallon of water and a stale loaf of Bahama bread. We figure that
will provide sustenance for the remainder of our trip. In the mean time, it
is one big party out here in the main cabin. We are eating all the steaks
and fresh vegetables, listening to Reggie music, and just plain leaving a
mess in the galley (and everywhere else for that matter).

Walter is banging on the door, but the thumping goes surprisingly well with
the Reggie music, so it really doesn't bother us. The mutiny party will go
on until we have to leave tomorrow. We are hoping that it won't be too long
after we are gone that Walt figures out there is no lock on the door, but
just incase, we will watch for how long it takes for his next email.

Back to the party,
Ray, Pete, Nat, Kimmie and Anna

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Family arrived

Around 11:30 the VHF crackled with the call from someone hailing Madness.

"Station hailing Madness, please switch and answer channel seven
one over"


"Madness, Madness, Madness, this is Cessna niner seven one eight zulu, we
are about 2 miles north east of the rendezvous point, and approaching at 100
kts, please light us up as we fly by"

It was Ray, flying in from south Fla, with Natalie, Kimmie, Anna, and Pete.
They were able to locate me with the help of the flashlight, take some
pictures, then move on to the airport, and clear customs.

We met at the rendezvous point, the bar at the Peace and Plenty hotel home
of Doc Lerman, the best bartender in the Bahamas, were they had taken a room
for the first night. We all enjoyed showers in water that we did not have to
carry, and hung out for a while allowing for the travelers to rest.

Around 16:00 we headed out in Madness for a trip to a nearby reef for a
snorkel, which was surprisingly nice for one so close in the harbor. We
spotted several deadly poisonous lionfish, a stingray, small grouper, and of
course many parrotfish, angelfish, blennys, wrasse, snapper, tangs,
clownfish, etc.

I went back to the boat a little early and started dinner, cooking some of
the meat and vegetables that they smuggled over from the mainland. (While
they were detained briefly by the customs officials, they were able to get
goods through) We had a very nice dinner of pork loins marinated in garlic
and ginger, ate the last of our Mahi Mahi, salad, and potatoes au gratin. We
cooked and enjoyed dinner under sail in 4-5 kt winds, ghosting along at 1.5
kts or so. Barely moving, but moving fast enough to get back by nightfall.

On the cruisers net (Channel 68 at 0800), we heard the woes of another boat
that had the misfortune of having been boarded by a local pirate. The
cruiser had suffered damage to many of his systems but so far has not been
personally harmed. There is hope for him, however. We know this because he
has managed to send a message via Morse code using what remains of his VHF
and damaged electrical systems. He has managed to sequester himself in a
safe part of the boat, and has set booby traps to kill, maime or capture the
pirate known as Reggie the Rat.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Things just work out sometimes.

The other night we asked a local where the party was, and he told us that we
should go to Emerald Cove and go to the staff party. He said that everyone
was going, locals and tourists, and the drinks would be free, because it was
a big celebration following the fundraiser for the family regatta.

"Just go a few miles up the road on the left".

We walked about 2 miles before we caught our first ride in the back of a
pick 'em up truck. He took us a few miles before he had gone as far as he
was going, and dropped us off.

We walked another mile or so before we caught our second ride, who said
"that is way up there, maybe another 12 miles, and further than I was going,
but I will take you there"

We rode another 15 minutes or so, wondering how we would get back, and what
the cab fare would be if we could find a cab.

When we arrived, we saw that Emerald cove is a Four Seasons hotel, and as we
walked up the manicured boulevard that led to the lobby, we began to
realize that we had been had...there was not going to be a party here with
free drinks for everyone.

But things worked out great. As we approached the bar out by the water, a
woman demanded "what are you guys smiling about?". She insisted that we all
looked like we were cats that had just swallowed canaries. Before you knew
it, we had joined her, her son, and his friends that were here on a Biotech
conference for the week.

We went off to the fish fry with this well heeled group, who were at first
put off by the rough and tumble nature of the place, but it turned out to be
a great evening.

One of the highlights for me was finding out that we never should have
pulled that first Mahi Mahi into the boat. A local named Dwight who seemed
to own a couple of restaurants, told me that if you leave the first Mahi in
the water on the hook, all of his/her friends will frenzy around the boat,
trying to steal whatever the first is eating. "If there are twelve, you will
catch all twelve". All you have to do is have some other lines ready, and
even if you put bare hooks in the water, they will bite; but he prefers to
put a small piece of rag on the other hooks to tempt them that much more.

Next time, we are getting more than one Mahi...

We got a free ride back to the harbor with the conventioneers, and had a
very enjoyable night.

By the time the evening was over, we forgot that we had been duped.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ok, so I was posing, but what a fish!

We just saw a Big Mahi Mahi charge our bait, but he passed on it. First I
saw a fish about a foot long jump straight up in the air, so we al started
to look out over the water, then we saw the back of a Mahi Mahi, going at
least 15-20 Kts charging our bait. It looked like an arrow going thought the

As he approached the bait, he dove just below the surface, but we felt no
strike. It was exciting to see, so much so that we were not all that
disappointed that we did not catch him. We were glad just to see him.

Crooked Island

Yesterday was the first day of proper cruising in a while. I have guests
onboard who helped me sail from San Juan, and now I have given them control
over the Itinerary for the remainder of their stay. They like to move every
night, which is not my favorite way. It lets you see more, but you
experience less.

The day before yesterday, we caught another big Mahi Mahi. This one was
about 4 feet, and had a little more fight in him. We gave him a shot of rum
as his last meal (which stuns the fish). It put him to sleep until his death
throws, which are violent, bloody, and thankfully short. Madness is now
decorated with a few blood stains; tattoos from her Caribbean adventure.

Yesterday we hove to for about 5 hours , ate about a quarter of our big fish
for dinner and watched a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean). Heaving to is
setting the sails so that you do not go anywhere, but the motion of the boat
is OK.

Around three AM we set sail for crooked island Bahamas, and arrived around
10:00. We are now within about 100 miles of Georgetown, were my family flies
out to see me.

The people here are very nice. It is a very very small Seventh Day Adventist
community. We first met Woody. When we asked him where we could snorkel, he
said that he could show us a few spots. We were kind of standoffish,
thinking that he was looking for business as a guide, and that it would be
very expensive, but as we got to know the island more I have become
convinced that his offer was for free.

At our request he directed us to the local diner, which turns out to be his
sister Willy's place. There were no menus so she asked us whether we wanted
the chicken or the conch salad, and I asked How much is the conch salad, I
need to make sure we can afford it. She declined to give a price, but said
"you can afford it, I will give you the sailor's special price". Some of
these places can be very expensive, but the way she said it made me know
that it would be a good value, by local standards at least.

She served us a very nice, meaty conch salad, chips and drinks for $7 and
told us to be back for dinner.

We met up with a pilot and took him snorkeling with us. Later we met him and
his passengers for dinner. They were a group of Norwegians who had done very
well in the Cruise line industry. Remember the Big Red Boat? That was his
until he sold it to Disney. They were good company for dinner.

More later.