Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Tahiti Beach & Beyond

I left you at Tahiti Beach the last time and this is where I shall pick it up with some photos of our stay.

Tahiti Beach anchorage

Tahiti Beach loaded with coconut palms

Looking back to the beach at low tide.

Renegade and Dea Latis

Dirk getting us some fresh coconuts

The anchorage was fairly empty the first evening with only about 5 boats in it. The next day however it began to fill up as there was a cruisers race close to Hope Town and I think once people finished racing they headed down to the anchorage. Being a live aboard cruiser I can’t imagine why these people want to race their houses. Well most of the people that cruise only live aboard the boat while cruising and return to their homes once done and so they only carry on board what is needed. I don’t need my stuff flying about as I have that enough already. Dirk and Dave had gone hunting that day and were gone for a couple hours returning with only a small hog fish. Dirk said the reefs they visited looked dead and some looked bleached which is a shame. For those not familiar, some people will actually take bleach and take it over the reefs to flush the fish and lobster out and kill them. This is illegal and it has huge impacts on the reefs and all the fish it comes in contact with. It actually bleaches and kills the reef and all the fish. What a shame as the people that do that are only hurting themselves for future hunting.  Once Dirk got the hog fish filleted he pan cooked it and I made a smoked fish dip out of it. It wasn’t my best batch but it was edible. Later on he decided that it was so calm that he would try it again. He returned with nothing but said he enjoyed his snorkeling. As the sun went down we sat on the back with a sundowner enjoying some music and just relaxing. On the 21st we decided to pick up anchor and head down to Tilloo Bank and drop the hook close to the island as the winds were suppose to pick up from the east. We took the short cut which meant we had to wait for a rising tide to take the channel by Lubbers Cay which is the home of Cracker P’s. We inched our way through and found 6.5 feet a couple times. We draw 5.6 and it makes you hold your breath till you at least see that 7 foot mark again. Its only sand on the bottom but still with the width of our keel she would sit there like she did in Vero Beach until the tide came up a bit. Dea Latis was about 15 minutes behind us and set the hook right beside us. We were the only two boats here and that evening we had sun downers and when the sun went down the guys blew the conchs to mark the passing of another beautiful day.
Insert photos
Dirk & Dave blowing conchs at sunset
The next day was a bit overcast and drab but we had plans to take the dinghies across the sea of abaco to Snake Cay. It’s a nice little dingy trail with shallows that house many starfish, stingrays, and turtles.

Beautiful large cushion starfish we had photo opps with

Dave and Tanya's turn, then we returned him to his home back in the water

It’s beautiful when the sun is out because you can see right through the turquoise water but with the cloud cover it was hard to see really anything. By the time we were through the trail the sun was getting low on the horizon and we had about a 2 mile ride back in rough water. We had to head north a bit in order to turn back south and head to the boat as the waves were too big to take on the nose. I got quiet the workout as I find it is easier to ride in the dingy standing up and holding onto a rope. I call it doing my palates because there is so much balancing to do and your core muscles really feel it. Not to mention the legs. As we were getting closer to the boat the sun was just sitting on the horizon and was sinking fast. We had split up from Dave and Tanya as they chose a different route back and they move a little slower. As soon as I was back on board I put the anchor light on so they could see our location and got the binoculars out to scan the horizon. I was beginning to worry when I didn’t see them for a bit and then in the distance I saw a speck coming into view. Whew, had me worried for a minute. After a long day we grabbed a shower and some dinner then called it a day. While in the Tillo Bank area Dirk and Dave took the opportunity to do a little hunting and they both scored 3 lobster apiece. The bigger one was an 11 inch tail and the other two were about 7 inches.I don't think were going hungry anytime soon. Yippie.....

Not bad for a days catch

This is his biggie for the season
The next morning we listened to the weather guru Chris Parker and checked our favorite online weather sites. Not one of them was giving us a favorable forecast for heading south. We had a weather day to get south to Eleuthera but the thing is, once you are in Eleuthera you don’t have many choices of where to go and anchor. The winds in the near future are due to be in the 30 knot range and the holding in many areas is iffy at beast. After talking it over we made the decision to head back to Hope Town and wait the weather front out while our friends on Dea Latis made the decision to try and make the hop to Eleuthera. They have friends that were flying in and really needed to make this crossing. One reason why Dirk and I make it a rule that you can pick the time or the place to fly in but you can’t pick both. We are basically at the mercy of the weather and when Mother Nature says you’re not moving, you don’t move. We said our goodbyes and we hope to run into them again on down the road. Dirk was enjoying having someone that liked to hunt buddy along with him. We have since heard they made the crossing just fine and made it to Spanish Wells just fine. We slipped back into Hope Town and grabbed a mooring. I was worried that they may be full with people preparing to wait the weather out like us. We really didn’t want to have to spend a week in an overcrowded, busy Marsh Harbor at anchor where we would have to worry about dragging or being hit by a dragging boat. We grabbed a shower, cleaned up the boat a bit and decided to head into Captain Jacks for a burger and a beer.

Hope Town Lighthouse

Another photo of the lighthouse from our mooring

While doing laundry I found this pretty hibiscus
On the way back we noticed there was a boat we had met in Tahiti Beach on a mooring so we ended up going over to say hello. They invited us aboard and we chatted a bit before heading back to Renegade and calling it a night. The next day the winds were suppose to be calm and Dirk took the opportunity to go hunting. He took off about 10:45 and didn’t return until about 3pm. We kept in contact via radio and he returned with 4 lobsters and a conch. Time to start freezing these so we have some for our guest when they arrive. We had Linda & Bill from m/v Ruby Slipper over for sun downers and sat on the back chatting by almost a full moon.

Bill & Linda M/V Ruby Slipper
Bill wanted to go hunting, so Dirk and him took off about 11 the following day to check out some other reefs. Many hours later they returned and Dirk had gotten 2 more conchs, 2 more lobsters and 1 nice sized hog fish. Bill didn’t do so well but he had fun anyway. This morning as I write this the winds have picked up just a small amount. We are looking and waiting for our next weather window which seems to be ever changing in order to hop down to Lynyard Cay and then make the day long crossing to Spanish Wells in Eleuthera. Till then……

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Through the Whale Passage and Onto Other Places in the Abacos

We pulled anchor about 9ish on the morning of the 11th to make the trip across the Whale Passage and onto Great Guana Cay. The Whale Passage is a short ride to the Atlantic, through a set a reefs and back down into the sea of Abaco. The only way to avoid it is basically have a boat with just about no draft so you can go across the shallows. Most boats however cannot do that. I took the opportunity when we first took off to do a bit of house cleaning, vacuuming and such. Just about the only time I can vacuum is when the engine is running or the generator and I want to take advantage of the power. All was nice and calm for a bit but then as we got closer to the inlet it started getting very rolly. The cat and I went upstairs in the cockpit. I knew he would be getting sick and I wanted to control the damage. I had not prepared as I should have and before long I was hearing items falling out of shelves and rolling around. I headed below to tie everything down and as I did I watched the TV swing very hard away from the wall. Geeeze, I quickly tied it in place and set about laying lamps down putting kitchen items inside the sink. We radioed back to Dave & Tanya on s/v Dea Latis to be prepared. They pulled anchor about an hour after we had and I wanted them to be ready for this. The waves and wind built and a couple times we saw seven foot waves and took them on our side. We slightly changed our course to take them more on the nose but one can’t be too off course due to the reefs that sit right below the surface. We trudged on and on until we finally made our turn back into the channel and headed for Fishers Bay in Great Guana. We found a nice sandy patch and dropped the hook burying it in up to the shaft. After settling in, cleaning up and having a shower Dirk and I headed into town to Nippers. We were 2 of about 6 others there including the workers. We decided to walk the beach and soak in some of the scenery. Just a reminder, you can click on any image and enlarge it for better viewing.

The Atlantic looking from Nippers

Dirk Enjoying his beach walk

After returning from our walk we ordered two frozen nippers and settled back to watch the ocean lap away at the shoreline. Soon after, Dave & Tanya from Dea Latis showed up and joined us.
After sitting and chatting for a bit we decided to take a walk down to Grabbers to grab a bite to eat and have a frozen grabber while watching the sun set. There use to be a dock here that dinghy's could tie up to but with the hurricane that came through last summer it has been taken out. So now you just have to beach them. On shore instead sits a barge boat that they use to move cars about from island to island. I'm sure its final resting place is here as they are on island time here and it will rust before it is moved.

We also noticed a huge container ship sitting on the reefs as we came back through the whale passage. As we sat watching the sun set the mosquitoes and no see ums did a changing of the guard with the flies. It was time to make tracks back to the boats.

Dave & Tanya from s/v Dea Latis

Beautiful sunset

Our dinghy with Renegade far right in the anchorage

The following morning Dirk and I took the dinghy out to the Atlantic through a small cut in the island. The waves were rolly but not too rough. He did manage to bag a lobster and after a bit we called it quits, headed back to the boat and prepared to head to Marsh Harbor. It was time to restock the fresh fruits and veggies and they have a great grocery store here.

Dirk & I enjoying a night out at Snappas

Marsh Harbor anchorage from Snappas

We ended up staying several days here due to the winds and on the day after Valentine’s day we took off for Hope Town because we wanted a good hidey hole to wait out a passing cold front that was expected to bring winds into the 40 knot range. I’m glad we left Marsh Harbor early as we needed to have a rising tide to get into the entrance. Once we got in we realized just how crowded and full they were. Dirk went forward to look for open moorings as I drove Renegade through the maze of floating obstacles. Can I say I was just a wee bit nervous about it? Usually I pick up the moorings as Dirk does the operations but today we switched and we got hooked up without a problem. Our friends on Dea Latis followed in about 30 minutes after us and picked up the ball next to us. About a half an hour after that a squall decided to grace us and within a matter of seconds the boats were being blown around. Geeeeze, where did that come from? There was a couple next to us trying to pick up a mooring during this and Dirk took the dinghy out to assist them. Within a short amount of time I think every ball in the harbor was full, and they stack them close.
Dea Latis sitting right in front of us

Renegade in Hope Town, love the red & white lighthouse

All that evening and the following day it rained on and off. Wasn’t so bad as our decks needed a good fresh water wash down. We had Dave & Tanya over for cards at about 5 which is what time the winds started. By the time they left that evening we were having winds clocking about 28 knots steady. As the evening went on we clocked winds gusting to 40 and had to keep setting the high wind alarm higher and higher as we wouldn’t get any sleep with all the beeping. Throughout the night I would wake up as I would feel the boat swing on the mooring and come to an abrupt stop, the whole while hoping the mooring held. The next morning the winds had died a bit and Dirk was ready to check out the reefs once again. I stayed behind as did Dave and he returned with a couple conch and one lobster he nabbed. Later on we ventured into town and walked the beach. It was nice to get off the boat for a change.

Hope Town streets are so bright and cheery

The Hook House where my sister vacationed

Atlantic view just off the Hook House

Borrowed from Dea Latis, this is Hope Town Harbor with I believe Renegade circled in red. Like I said, they pack them tight.

The next day both Dirk & Dave went hunting and Tanya and I did the laundry and hit the harborview grocery which is nice as you can just dinghy up to it. One dozen eggs, 2 bell peppers and 2 onions set me back $7.50. Guess it could be worse like the $10.00 I paid to do one load of laundry. Ah, not to complain, I’m in paradise. Later the guys came back with one lobster and 7 or eight conchs. They took them to the beach to clean them and then took some time to make Dave a conch horn. I assume he spent some time practicing as by sunset he had it playing very well. Today we headed to Tahiti beach where I write this. So let me go enjoy the sunset and I will catch up again soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In The Bahamas

At 3:30am on Tuesday the 5th the alarm went off signaling it was time to go. The night before so many boats came into the anchorage anchoring on top of each other and on top of us. We were close to the inlet so they all wanted to be close. This anchorage is huge and I don’t understand the mentally of some people. Guess you don’t have to be smart to own a boat. As we were getting ready to leave the radio became alive with chatter and you heard many anchors being lifted in the dark. It was going to be a stampede to get out of here. Of course as we are about to pull our anchor Dirk turned on the running lights and our green was not working. Hummmm, we just checked them the other night. So we changed out the bulb, pulled anchor and headed out the channel along with about 10 other boats. Probably more behind us as we left about 4:30. S/v Dea Latis was travelling with us and we all settled in for what seemed like a great crossing. Hardly any winds but it was much better than the winds we had been having the previous days. The waves were low and all we had was the gentle ocean swells. The sun rose to a beautiful morning and when we saw the turquoise waters of the Bahama banks come up we knew we were home free. We did have a few rough miles as the depth of the Gulf Stream met the shallows of the banks but it wasn’t the horror stories we heard of from several people crossing on different days. We traveled across the banks as we watched the sun set behind us and once again nighttime was upon us.

Sunset on the Bahama Banks
Shortly after dark we pulled into Great Sale using our radar to navigate and anchored in very calm waters in the North anchorage. We popped a celebratory German Beer to toast our arrival, I hit the shower and we both hit the bed. It had been a long day. All in all it took us 16 hours from West Palm Beach inlet to Great Sale. Not too shabby. The next morning after many hours of sleep we awoke to find the water was as calm as glass; you could look down and see every blade of grass on the bottom. As we watched the parade of boats leave the south anchorage we just sat, relaxed and had coffee in the cockpit enjoying the morning.

What a calm morning

Our buddy boat Dea Latis
About 9:30 we decided to take off and head for our next anchorage which would get us closer to Green Turtle where we were to check in. It was a short day of motoring and we dropped the hook in Crab Cay as close as we could tuck in as there was some wind due to come in and we wanted the protection of the island. The wind did pick up during the night, but nothing major. We did get the weather update and they were calling for a front to move in and we had to be in Green Turtle for customs but the wind would be clocking south which would leave the anchorage very exposed. We decided to use the Bahamian phone and call ahead to the Green Turtle Club to see if they had any mooring balls in White Sound. Apparently the hurricane that came through last summer wiped out the balls and they never replaced them. We decided to go with the second option and that was to get a slip in the marina. It’s not the cheapest place to be but they have the dock and dine special where whatever you pay on docking fees you get that as credit to eat and drink. First order of business was to anchor by the government dock and have the Captains go in and check us into the country.

Anchored off New Plymouth

Dirk raising the flag. We are legal now
We had been flying the yellow Q flag since we got here and we were ready to raise that Bahaman flag. The customs office was easy as usual and Dirk said he had never had a customs agent as nice as the the one we got. She even gave us 120 days to cruise before we would have to revisit immigration to have it extended. We should be headed back by then so no problem. After raising the flag we headed into White Sound and into the Green Turtle club marina, got the boats tied up and headed into the office to check in.
Once that was done we headed over to the bar and ordered a round of Tipsy Turtles. Believe me, after only having pop tarts for breakfast and no lunch they indeed made us tipsy. We did however enjoy the scenery of the bay and it was nice to set foot on land once again.
An octopus we saw right under the dock in just a few feet of water
The next course of action was to clean up the boats a bit, grab some marina showers and meet back at the bar at 6pm for drinks and dinner. Several other boats pulled in and the guys helped to get everyone squared away and settled in. Before we knew it, it was 6 and time to head back to the bar.

Dave & Tanya
 We drank another few dock dollars and headed to the screened in porch or dinner which consisted of a burger for me and conch fritters and conch salad for Dirk. He couldn’t wait to catch his own and as we dove into food we chatted and got to know Dave and Tanya a bit more. After dinner we went back and had an after dinner Tipsy Turtle and met another couple from s/v Clairvoyant, Brian & Jeanne. We laughed, exchanged stories, and listened about the horrible crossing they got to experience. Back to the boats and early to bed as the next day was suppose to be good wind direction for the men to go hunt and gather. Once breakfast was served and things were settled Dirk and Dave loaded the dinghy down with snorkel gear and pole spears and headed out to the reefs. Tanya and I decided to take a walk across the island and walk the beach on the other side. Because the winds were coming from the south, the north side of the island was very calm. Almost hot and it was nice to have a breeze every once in a while.

Beach at Green Turtle

If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see the dinghy circled in red where the guys were hunting
As we walked the beach we could look out and see the dinghy with the guys. We sat back and relaxed enjoying the sun and peacefulness of the beach as we were the only two on it. Aside from the regular array of flip flops, glow sticks and other assorted garbage one finds here we did both manage to find a sea bean. It was a good day. As we made our way back to the marina the men radioed to check in and say they would be back soon. When asked if they had any luck, they had. Hummmmm wonder what they had. They arrived shortly after us and had managed to bring dinner back. Dirk got 5 and Dave got one. Wow, we were all excited. I believe it was Dave’s first time to hunt lobster. At least using a pole spear.

Dinner, yummy
 So we decided to have Brian & Jeanne from Clairvoyant join us all on Renegade for a potluck. Dirk boiled 3 of the lobsters and grilled the other 3 and I did up the garlic butter and a fresh cucumber & tomato mint salad. Dave and Tanya made wonderful beans and rice and Brian & Jeanne brought over a great warm pasta, garlic, and spinach salad. What a feast we had and we all ate till we were stuffed. Since we didn’t eat our docking dollars we all decided after dinner to retire to the bar and have a few drinks to top off the wonderful meal. The next morning we were to be checking out and we needed to be gone by 10am or else there wouldn’t be enough water to get out. The entrance is about 6 feet at low tide and one time when we came in here with our last boat Tybee Time we did have trouble getting in and managed to ground a few times before bumping our way across the sand bank. The winds were due to clock around again out of the North East and we decided it would be fine to anchor in the front by the government dock. We usually anchor here every season and have only had it once when it was really rolly. We and Dea Latis were the only boats out here so we could pick our anchoring spots as we wished. Well there was one other gentleman that was here and we knew him from the boat yard in Cape Canaveral. He was telling us then that he hoped to make it over here and I’m glad he did. Dave & Tanya decided to go into New Plymouth to sight see and Dirk and I went out to see what he could hunt. I stayed in the dinghy and puttered around as he scrounged up a good size lobster and 3 conch. It was pretty rough out there and I was soaked from waves splashing over the side. When we got back Dirk made quick work of the conch and whipped up a conch salad as I made an early dinner of Curried Chicken. We ended up in bed about 6:30 pm and watched 3 episodes of 24. The season we are watching is pretty grabbing and it was hard to stop watching. The winds were suppose to be 20 to 25 knots but I think we only saw 20 once or twice so it made for a comfortable night’s sleep once you could get to sleep. There was a bar right on the water that was playing its music so loud that I think everyone inside has got to be deaf if it was that loud out here. They continued on till about 2:30 am and I finally fell into a good sleep until about 4:45 when the fisherman and ferry’s began their day. Oh well, 6:30 am is early usually, but on a boat it’s hard to sleep past that time as most islands have roosters that make sure your awake. I’m not complaining, believe me. So this morning we gathered the weather and are planning on heading across the Whale tomorrow and onto Marsh Harbor where we will wait out another front and re provision as my fruits are gone and my vegetables are almost all gone. Till then the men are out hunting again today and we shall see what they return with.

Monday, February 4, 2013

In West Palm Beach Heading to Bahamas Tomorrow

Renegade in the slip in Harbor Town Marina. Dirk took this shot from the top of the mast and it shows the finally completed decks

Well I guess by the heading you know that we left the Harbortown Marina in Merritt Island finally. Everything that we could stuff in got put on the boat and it was time to go. We pulled out on the 27th and made a short trip down the ICW to Malabar and anchored in a new spot to us close to a small island right off the markers.

Very calm night and the only one anchored at Malabar
It was a calm beautiful night and after waking up, having coffee we took off with Vero Beach in our sights.

I was sitting on the best seat in the house

It was the place we would stay to wait out weather, do final provisioning for fresh fruits and veggies and get Butters to the vet for his Bahamas check up. There was a front that moved through so we decided to stay put for four days which allowed us to get a few things done and get back into cruising mode once again. Friday the 1st we decided to leave to make it down to West Palm Beach in order to catch a weather window opening soon. The winds were still strong but since we were travelling on the inside it wouldn’t be too rough. As we came out of Vero you must make a turn under the bridge as soon as you hit the channel but there was a power boat going very slowly through the bridge and we decided rather than cut him off to turn north and turn around and drop in behind him. That was our plan at any rate. Once we got into the channel to turn we had a north wind bearing down on us and current pulling us toward the bridge. The channel is also very skinny through here so as we were making our turn the current and the wind caught us and took us not 3 feet past the channel marker, we were stuck. We tried to back out but the current was making it impossible. We thought about using our dinghy to pull us off but we were so close to the marker we may have hit it if we drifted more. So we bit the bullet and called Sea Tow. Sea Tow is basically AAA for boaters and we had been paying for it for almost 4 years and never used it before. Today was the day. Forty five minutes later he showed up, hooked up to us, pulled us back into the channel and safely away from the marker. It all took place in about 10 minutes. When we were filling out the paper work Dirk asked him how much it would have cost if we didn’t have them. Whew, it would have cost us $800.00, guess it pays to have it. Hope we don’t need to use them again though. Once we got underway again it got a bit rough even for the ICW. There were 1 to 2 foot waves with choppy white caps all around. It wasn’t bad because it was behind us and gave us a nice push. Needless to say we made up some of the time we spent sitting aground. We did have some dolphins visit a bit and we watched them for about 30 minutes before they became bored and left.

Catching dolphins out of the water is hard to do

Here I got one surfacing and one heading back under

We anchored south of the Jensen Beach bridge so we could have a bit of protection and had a comfortable nights sleep. Saturday was our day to travel the worst part of the ICW. This is a very popular location, lots and lots of boat traffic and too many timed bridges that you must be dead on to get right. This is also where we have had the rudest bridge tenders. This time it wasn’t so bad, only one managed to rub me wrong as I didn’t copy him the first time and he screamed at me the second time. So as we passed under the bridge I killed him with kindness, thanked him for the opening and wished him a wonderful day. There, take that.  As we left the last bridge the traffic was really bad. Large fishing boats blowing past us throwing us all over the place. We continued on around to Peanut Island and passed it to anchor in the south anchorage. We had our new friends Tanya and Dave on Dea Latis at the front of the anchorage and found a spot close to them. Later that evening we discussed plans for a crossing over sun downers. It looks like there will be a window opening on Tuesday/ Wednesday so our plan as of right now is to leave here about 4:00am on Tuesday morning and head over to Great Sale Cay. We are looking at about 100 mile trip and it should take us no more than 20 hours to do it. So hopefully the next blog you get from me is one telling you that we made it and we are not still in the states waiting on weather.