Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Our Way South

As we were waiting on weather to leave we met up with several other cruisers that were headed out also. We kept in touch via radio and had a couple meetings on our different destinations and routes. We would meet at Chat and Chill beach, charts, ipads, and notebooks at the ready. We would come to be known as the Chat & Chill Rat Pack.
On the 15th of March we finally pulled anchor and headed out the South cut with our sights on Rum Cay. To get to Rum you have go to the north end of Long Island. We would have liked to stop at Long Island but we were on crunch time and it would have to wait till the return trip. It was a long day as it took us about 11 and 1/2 hours to make the run with the wind almost directly on our nose.
The numbers are where I sent my spots from. Each leg is approximately 4 hours

We all set anchor in Rum to settle in for a good night rest while several other boats elected to bypass Rum and keep going to Mayaguana and even others shooting directly to Puerto Rico. Seems bypassing Rum may not have been a bad idea as the next morning as we were pulling anchor we all complained how rolly the anchorage was and how no one got any sleep. Our next leg would be an overnighter to Mayaguana, 27 hours in fact. During the daylight hours sometime Dirk was able to hook and get into the boat an intact mahi. No sharks sharing with us this time.

The day drug on and soon the sun set to a complete black night. We all kept ourselves awake with radio chatter checking in on each other and playing dodgeball with the big cruise ships and freighters that seem to pass too close. The moon finally rose right before the sun and soon we began to see land. Of course once we spotted land it was still many hours till we reached our anchorage. At one point I was sitting staring into space when I thought I saw a splash in the water, my eyes were tired so I wasnt sure what I saw. I then saw it again but only saw a couple shots of water being blown into the air. Hummmm, I turned to Dirk and said I think I see whales, sure enough, we were in the migratory waters of the humpback whales. Very cool but scary too. I have seen the videos of whales encountering sailboats. Anyway we radioed the boat behind us as we knew they had two kids aboard and wanted to make sure they got to see them. They were closer then us and saw one breach very close to the boat. By this time we were close to our anchorage and could see some of our pack already anchored. Looking at the display you could see the boats that have AIS as it looks like a parade.
Once we had the anchor down we settled in for the evening. We decided that we wanted to stay an extra day and check out the reefs here as this is one of the furthest and most unvisited islands in the Bahamas. There arent too many residents here as it is usually used for a fishing village. A buddy boat Tangent also decided to stay a couple days extra too.
This shows our route from georgetown to Mayaguana
The following morning Dirk and Andy from Tangent along with their son Drew took off in search of something to hunt. It was a productive morning as they returned with a 20 pound Nassau Grouper. They went to the outer reefs and so had to get the grouper carefully while being watched by 3 reef sharks. Quiet the excitement that I could care less to hear about. After they moved on and couldnt find any lobster big enough they decided to return to the boat.

A bit later in the afternoon I asked Dirk to take me to walk the beach. I only found one seabean and pretty much no shells. Oh on the return trip to the boat we spotted some small coral heads that we thought might be fun to snorkel. We went down and low and behold there were several lobsters sitting in holes just waving. Not the place we thought we might find them but sometimes you never know. Soon Andy and his son Drew who had been hunting some small corals came by to see if we had any luck as they had not spotted anything. They were in the water in a heartbeat once they saw we were finding lobster. We ended up with a nice addition to the grouper.
Two slipper lobster and two spiny
The following day the guys decided to have one more hunting day as we would leave the following day. Another grouper, this one about 12 pounds, and a few more lobster were added to the freezer. That would be the last of anything we could stuff in the freezer.
We decided between us all that we had enough seafood to have a feast with. That evening we headed over to Tangent ahd had lobster balls, lobster dip, seared Mahi, and grouper fingers. Wow, it was all delicious and we all stuffed ourselves. The next morning was spent cleaning up the decks, raising the dinghy and getting the boat prepped for the short trip to the Southeast anchorage where we would stage for our crossing to the Turks and Caicos. That evening we pulled into the anchorage, set the hook and Dirk dove in to check the anchor. While checking it he found a conch laying right under the boat so he picked it up and proceeded to make his last conch salad. It was early to bed as we had a 3:30am wakeup to make the trip south. But not without toasting the last of the Bahama Islands with a cold Bahaiman Kalik.

Turks & Caicos, here we come.....
The Q flag is ready

A Link to Dirk Playing The Sax on the Beach

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Finally on the move

We waited in Staniel Cay area dodging cold fronts till our part was flown in on the 17th. In the meantime We met new and old friends coming and going.
One of Many beautiful sunsets we experienced

One day our friends Val and Ray on M/V Valkyrie decided to put on a little music jam session on the beach. Jim on Pirate provided the propane for the grill and everyone brought what they wanted to cook along with something to share. Dirk had started playing the saxophone last year, so they asked if he would bring it to the beach to play. They had all the equipment, keyboards, guitars and such, Jim provided the tent and Dirk brought his amp and sax. It was a great turn out of old and new friends and a beautiful day on top of that.
Let the entertainment begin
Sing it Janie
Dirk and his first time playing in public
Play it Dirk
What a beautiful day and a full parking lot
Fixing a bit of conch salad
On the 17th our part arrived from Canada to Fort Lauderdale and same day was flown over to Staniel on the 3:00 Watermakes flight. By that evening Dirk had the new replacement part installed and we were making power once again. Everybody decided that since we would all start going in our own directions that we should have one more party on Pirate Beach so one boater provided the fish, another the shrimp and french fries. We all brought the sides and a fish fry we had. Thanks goes out to the men for tending the hot oil and cooking as we socialized. Lots of Corn toss was played, food eaten and conversation had.
Corn toss
Dirk and I with Birgit from M/V Moonrise
On the 22nd we finally managed to pull ourselves away from Staniel Cay. Finally the weather would cooperate for a couple days. We decided to travel the outside route as Dirk wanted to fish and we thought it might be a nice sail. Our goal would be to get to Rudder Cut Cay. On the way we got 2 Mahi, one was decent size, not huge and the other was only half a fish. As Dirk was reeling it in he saw what he thought to be a second Mahi fighting for the bait but it was actually a shark attacking the poor Mahi. Dirk reeled and reeled till we got it in a saved a bit of meat for us.
What the shark left us
With the two fish we still managed to get alot of meat from them. We pulled into The cut and cozied up to the shoreline, dropped the anchor and had a wonderful evening with sundowners on the back deck. We were just south of Musha Cay which is owned by David Copperfield. He has put a statue of a mermaid with a piano under the water by the Ruddar Cay in about 10 feet of water so we decided to have a look see the next morning. This is not my photo, something I pulled off the web but it looked just like this. Dirk had his go pro and took some cool video.
We also explored just a bit before we headed back to the boat showered and picked up anchor to head south to Rat Cay. Several of the boats we had been hanging with the last couple weeks were there also and left about an hour or two before us. On the radio all we kep hearing was fish on, fish on. One in the box, two in the box and so on. We hadn't had one bite.....guess our luck ran out yesterday. Between 2 of them I think they landed a total of 6. Oh well....they kept heading to Georgetown and we pulled into Rat Cay for the evening and anchored with the only other boat there. Dirk decided since he had no luck on the outside that he wanted to try lobstering a bit. We took the dinghy close to the outside but it was far too rough and he settled on finding some conch, which he did, three of them. Back to the boat, clean up, make dinner and call it an evening. The following morning we Headed to Emerald Bay Marina. Its the first one we have been in since leaving our marina in Merritt Island.But first he wanted to back track a bit to the area our fellow boaters caught the Mahi at the day before. No luck except a barracuda which we hate to catch as they are a bear to get off your line. We finally gave up and started heading south again. When we got about a mile north off solider cay we had a hit. I jumped behind the wheel as usual taking directions on which direction to turn. Whatever we had on was big, it kept diving and swimming away as the line just kept buzzing off the reel. What did we have? Dirk fought it for sometime and soon began to tire. He thought at one point the fish got off or tired as it quit fighting so much. When he finally got it to the boat we couldnt believe it. It was a huge Wahoo, the biggest we had ever seen. I held onto the line as Dirk tried to gaff it but kept missing. Finally he got a good hold right in the gill plate right before the hook just dropped out of its mouth. Im scampering around trying to figure out how to help him get this thing on board. He finally heaved it over the life lines and onto the deck. About a third of the wahoo had been bitten clean off by a shark! And were glad it was as we would have never landed it if it were still fighting to the end. As it was, it had just about bled out by the time we got it on board. Dirk was so tired but set to work. He ran below to get his scale but found it was too heavy.
One happy but tired man
Thats a heck of a fillet
We got some nice steaks
He weighed each fillet he got off the sides and they were 20 pounds, when he had nothing but the carcess left it was 30 pounds. So all in all what he got on board was a 70 pound fish. We estimated that had it been whole it would have weighed about 100 pounds. That was one big fish and we managed to get 40 pounds of meat from it. Now what to do with it all, our freezer space is only so large. We ended up giving some away to friends who dont have such good luck when fishing.
We got some nice steaks
I managed the boat as Dirk cleaned up a bit and before we knew it we were at the entrance to Emerald bay. We stop here for several reasons, one, they have 50 cent a foot dockage on the seawall. This is new as you use to have to get the $1.00 slip which is cheap too. The wall is a bit of a walk to the main building but we just dinghed right over. They also have free, yes free laundry which in itself pays for more than a day. You are required to pay for a minimum of three days regardless of how long you stay. We were planning on three anyway. They also have free wifi and a great cruisers lounge with pool table and big screen TV. We pulled in and headed to the fuel dock. Its an easy in and out so we decided to fill the tanks here. It would be the first time putting fuel in since we left our marina. After filling up we headed to the seawall and Dirk did an outstanding job of parallel parking between two other boats.
Dirk enjoying the A/C, free wifi and TV.
The following day our friends Kate and Steve from Blue Summit came in to the marina so they could prepare to pick up their daughter. We decided to rent a car together on the 28th and head into Georgetown to reprovision. Figured it would be alot easier that way then via dinghy. We hit the Exuma Market and the Prime Island Meat Market which had a great selection and if you call them the day before with an order will freeze it for you. Guess they know it taxes a cruisers freezer trying to freeze meat. I didnt have much room but I was craving chicken and beef at this point and got a few pounds of each. When we returned to the marina we put the refrigerated goods away and walked over to a nearby restaurant to have a late lunch where the bartender/ waitress set us up with some incredible rum drinks Bahamian style. Basically, so strong that Dirk went to bed for nap time when we got back to the boat. With the windsbeing so bad we ended up staying in Emerald Bay for about 8 days. The winter fronts keep coming back to back making travel really hard. But it did give me time to catch up on the blog and I managed to was a couple loads a day playing catch up, its a busy place that laundry room. That is unless you get there at 5am which I cant do. After 8 days we decided to untie the dock lines and head for Georgetown, the cruising regatta was over so the chaos should be over. We ended up having pretty high seas to the point we both had to take seasickness medicine. That doesnt happen too often. Lucky for us it was a short trip but the 2 to 3 hours it took felt like an eternity. We finally made it and searched the anchorage for a place to go finally setteling on a spot by Monument Beach ther wasnt much space so like many others had to anchor in the channel. The next morning abot 30 boats were leaving so we found a spot closer to shore next to Moonrise. All the friends old and new from Pirate Beach were here and we met up with them on Volleyball Beach for a jam session that Valkyrie had organized. They had some great talent show up so we decided to do it again a couple days later which would be Dirks Birthday. He turned a milestone 50 and I wanted to do something special but it is hard to organize anything when friends and family are so spread out. I baked him a Rum cake and made him his favorite, Key lime pie. We headed to the Chat & Chill beach for a wonderful array of returning talent and some new. Dirk got up and did several songs. So proud of him as he has been practing a lot and getting so much better. He also seems to be getting a bit more relaxed in front of strangers.
Dirk the Birthday boy
I was planning on taking him to dinner at St. Francis Resort but Val asked if we would like to join them on their boat for drinks. I left it up to Dirk and he accepted the invite. She and Ray invited a couple other boats over and we all threw a little last minute munchie stuff together and met for a great evening with new friends. The next couple days were spent doing last minute shopping and stocking up for the trip south. Now we would have to be patient and sit a bit longer to wait on weather.......

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dirk's Guest Appearance And Take on The Grounding

I had told Nancy a while back that I would "Guest write" the blog every once in a while, mainly when something went wrong in a big way.  Well, it is that time again. It was a dark and stormy day..actually it was daytime, sunny and about 75degrees, but that wouldn't make for a good story.  So there I was, IMC, upside down and my air medals were dangling.. All jokes aside now.  It was in the late afternoon and we came back on the outside, meaning in the deeper water, from Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay .  We made it through the cut with no problems as we had done numerous times before.  From there it is only a few miles along a channel to get to the anchorage for the night.  We were all in the cockpit, talking and not really paying attention, which was my first mistake.  As we came by the fuel dock and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, I looked at the Chart plotter, which showed me just a little off to the port side of our many previously recorded tracks.  My next look was to the depth finder, which showed about 6 1/2 feet.  Keep in mind that we need to have 5 1/2 feet not to go thump, thump, stop.  We did have the sun setting in our faces, which prevented us from seeing the different colors of the water.  The channel is normally easy to see since it is deeper and therefore has darker water.  I asked Nancy to help me by keeping an eye on the depth with me.  No sooner then I said that, it went thump, thump, thump stop. We now showed less than 5 feet under us, which I could confirm by the lack of movement of the boat in the water.  The port side was about 2 feet out of the water and the starboard side was not.  We were leaning a pretty good bit to the starboard side.  Luckily the tide was at dead low and was starting to come in.  So if we only wait 5-6 hours, we should be floating again.  NOT!!  The little, well reef that I decided to visit was getting shallower in front of us, meaning that when the tide comes up, and we start moving forward from that strong current, we will get pushed further onto the reef and may become the new permanent resident here.  Our only way was to get back off this reef the way we came.  That however was easier said than done.  We all couldn't believe that we did this, but no one freaked out (too much).  My first concern was the boat, but since we have almost a 2 inch thick hull and a full keel that is 18 inches wide I was not too concerned.  I got on my snorkel gear and took a look under water.  Yeap, we were stuck.  As I looked around the reef, I saw lots of other places where boats had sat and left their mark on the hard coral bottom.  After realizing that we were not taking on water, Larry and I tried to get the second anchor set behind us, therefore preventing us from drifting further forward once the tide comes in.  Only having a 75lb spare anchor with 100 foot chain made it impossible to get the anchor were we needed it to be.  So we put it back in the dinghy and kept brainstorming.  A dinghy from the Motor Yacht " Nota Bene" had come by earlier and offered their assistance.  So in my dinghy I went and talked to the Captain of the boat, who was very nice and told me that he would be over in a few minutes.  He had a close to 20 foot dinghy with a 90hp motor on it.  Hopefully that will do it.  We got back to Renegade as Bobby and Francie from S/V Barefootin stopped by, telling me that the locals in the bar were taking bets on how long we would be stuck there. So now we had 2 dinghies to help us and the tide was rising too.  The plan was to pull us back with the big tender, while Bobbie would push our nose over, so that we would be going into deeper water.  It must have taken both dinghies, and me in full reverse, about 45 minutes, but we started moving and got of the reef into deeper water.  Just in time too.  Looking to the north, there was a nasty squall line coming our way.  We made it about 1/2 mile to find some cover behind an island, threw out the anchor and didn't even have time to back down on it.  The squall took care of that for us.  I am so glad we got off the reef when we did.  If the squall would have caught us on there, it could possibly have had a different ending.  That being said, a big thanks to all the helped, and Larry and Lisa, for not freaking out(too much) LOL I needed to scrape the barnacles of my keel anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest On Board

We have known Lisa & Larry for a while now as they were in the same marina as us in Merritt Island. We've known them for years but just recently got to know them. We would go out on the weekends to anchor at Ski Island area just to get away from the marina for a while. They have a motor vessel but we wont hold it against them....M/V Jersey Girl. There were times they took us on a day trip down the ICW to anchor for the day, hang out and have lunch and we took them out once for a sail in the ocean. That trip turned out to be wild as the winds and waves were crazy, but that's a story for another day. Anyway before we left Florida this year they expressed interest in coming for a visit. We all made plans to make it happen and this is the week it was happening. They arrived on the 31st at Staniel Cay on a fairly windy day.

The plane is here

First things first. We stopped at Isles General store to buy some last minute items, then Dirk and Larry took the luggage back to the boat. Lisa and I proceeded to walk down to the Laundrymatt/discount liquor store and purchase the required alcohols, then we continued on down to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club so we could grab a late lunch, early dinner. We saw Shawn and Cynthia from Arkuda seated with their guest and went to say hello. We decided to get a big table together and I got to eat my first meal out since being in the Exumas. Hamburger and onion rings. Yummy.....Once finished we took a peek at the nurse sharks that like to hang around the docks looking for handouts.
It was a non fishing day so it was a little light on the sharks. We then loaded into the dinghy to head back to Renegade and let them get settled in. The next day we decided to stay put and relax a bit and do what there was to do in the area. First up was a dinghy ride to Pig Beach where they got to experience the swimming pigs.
That's one big pig chasing him 

Three little pigs, so cute

After the pigs chased us around for a bit we fed them and had photo opts with them. Both Lisa and I loved the three piglets. We then headed over to Pirate Beach for a couple games of Corn Toss and sat relaxing watching the view.

what a view
The next morning we made our way up to Pipe Creek and took advantage of low tide to do some snorkeling and exploring.

Little bits of art people leave around
I saw this one a couple years ago, now its been repainted
Lisa playing cat woman
After we finished we headed up to Compass Cay and anchored in our normal spot to enjoy the evening. Lisa worked on her sign which would be placed at Boo Boo Hill while I cooked dinner and the boys went out trolling in the dinghy. Next morning we were off to Warderick Wells in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We went and checked in taking our signs with us to place on Boo Boo Hill.
in front of the whale ready to hike to Boo Boo Hill
And the signs are placed
After the hike we headed back to Renegade for a quiet rest of the day. We had a remora fish that had been traveling with us since before we picked up Lisa and Larry. We tossed our scrap food over every evening and he I guess found us as a free food source. We tossed some scraps of meat over board and soon had several sharks about. Of course with two men on board that meant game on. Women below to find more meat scraps and Dirk hopped about getting his go pro ready to film it.
This was a reef shark we think

They weren't scared a bit
As you can see they werent small sharks and at one time I think we had three of them. The boat next to us followed our lead but were stupid enough to get in the water with them. I expected at any moment for a bite to occur. You could tell by the behaviour of the sharks that they were becoming agitated. Oh well, natural selection.....The next morning we headed back to Staniel Cay as the weather was going to start deteriorating again and this would be our only day to sail on the outside and do some trolling. One small Mahi was reeled in and filleted for dinner on the spot.
Little one, but she fed us well

We headed into the cut and headed past the yacht club as the sun was beginning to settle lower into the sky. Dirk told me to help him check on depth as it seemed a bit shallow. Before I knew it I heard a thump and we stopped abruptly. Now let me say we have covered this stretch of water so many times that I cant count them. Why today did we find the reef that we know is there. I think it was a combination of the setting sun and a bit of not paying really close attention. We were hard order of business was to make sure there was no damage. Dirk donned his wet suit and proceeded to hop in the water to check the situation out. I kept going below pulling floorboards up to make sure there was no water coming in. Listening for the bilge pumps, or high water alarms. Saw no water, heard no alarms or pumps running. So far so good. It was low tide so we knew we would have the water to float us again but we had to wait. Since the tide was coming in we were also by the channel which meant that as the boat floated we would be pushed further onto the reef. We tried deploying a second anchor to help us stay where we were but with all the chain it just kept getting caught in all the crevasses and wasn't doing any good so we pulled it back in. Finally a mega yacht owner had a crew member come out with their big dinghy and try to pull us back into deeper water. The currant was so strong that he wasn't able to keep his boat pointed in the right direction. Finally they figured out that if he pulled us backward while Bobby from S/V Barefootin used his dinghy to push our bow that we made some movement. It took several tries but finally we were floating once again. Just in time too as we saw a squall coming which would have been incredibly nasty for us if we would still have been stuck. We managed to make it to the tip of Big Majors drop the anchor and we didn't have to back down on it. The winds kicked in and did it for us. Whew, what a rush, the adrenaline was pumping and perhaps a drink was in order. Guest were fine, the boat appeared fine and like Capt. Ron says about squalls, "they come on you fast and they leave you fast". All was quiet so we settled in. The next morning after a rolly night we moved back over to Pirate Beach and enjoyed our last full day with Larry & Lisa as they were due to fly out the following day. Next morning we made the most of the remaining time we had together. Dirk and Larry went and sat on the beach as Lisa packed up. Then we returned them back to the airfield and said our goodbyes.

Time to say goodbye

We hit the Blue Store and headed back to Renegade. We had to wait now for a part to be delivered from Canada to Ft. Lauderdale FL and flown in to Staniel Cay. When our guest were here our new wind generator stopped working and we found that the controller had gone out, so we wait...and wait.