More of the Beautiful Bahamas

From Eleuthera to Chubb Cay….here are a few more pics from this lovely part of the World.

 

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Now for The Rest of the Story Part 5:  “Bimini or Bust”

Wow …. it’s already over a year since our Bahamian rescue mission!! I must sincerely apologize if you have been waiting for Part 5 of the Rest of our Adventure. So much has happened in the interim since I last wrote on our blog.  I guess I’ll just say that sometimes life just gets in the way.  But enough shilly shallying, let’s go back to the Bahamas!

Rose Island to the Berry Islands –  about 40 nautical miles

Our goal after leaving Rose Island was Chub Cay in The Berry Islands group which lie east of Bimini and west of New Providence Island where Nassau is located. As we reached along, we reached speeds of about 8 -10 knots on average.  The water colour turned a deep blue-violet, a sure sign of very deep water.  At one point, our chart indicated 3000 metres of depth! Rain had been predicted in the morning but though it was overcast for a time, the sky stayed dry.  Soon the sun came out and a gentle swell, along with brisk north-east winds, propelled us westward along on a steady tack to the Berrys.

Here is a short clip of our sail that day.

 

We had a lovely, breezy sail toward Chub Cay until the winds came around later in the day to “on the nose”.  We decided to cut our passage short and headed into Whale Cay instead.  Though not as far west as we had hoped, we wanted to get into the anchorage while the sun was high enough to see the shallows in the water.  We didn’t need any more holes in the hull!

We saw that an anchorage was marked on the chart between the southern tip of Whale Cay and Bird Cay just below Cat Cay (remember, that “cay” is pronounced “key”). The depths were pretty shallow beyond the marked anchorage but we knew we could ride in a meter of water even with the tides.  But we had to have a careful look at the bottom.  Was it rocky, weedy, sandy?  We doused the sails and motored around trying to find the best spot out of the west wind.  Charts are good but one always has to use visual navigation where it can be shallow.  The sand bars can move all the time and dark sea grass can be mistaken for rock or coral sometimes! The islands in the Bahamas are all pretty low so even a chunk of mast sticking up 45′ into the wind can act as a sail! So windage is a consideration as well. Paul and I eventually jumped into the dinghy to scout out a site.  Finally we decided on a spot just east of Bird Cay over a smooth patch of sand.

As Happy Hour rolled by, we enjoyed a cocktail in the cockpit and gazed at our first glimpse of damage from Hurricane Matthew which had struck the western Bahamas in October of 2016.  On Bird Cay we could see trees that had been thrown over or snapped off by the strong winds.  Parts of the ground cover looked as though it had been rolled up and pushed back.  Debris lined the shore here and there. Though this is a pretty barren island, it was sad nonetheless.

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The next day, we sailed “around the corner” to Chub Cay.  Chub is a popular fishing resort which according to our cruising guides had a restaurant, a laundromat, fuel, ice, etc.  Everything a cruiser could need.  And boy did we need ice!  As I recall, we had tried to get ice at Palm Cay marina on New Providence Island.  But the small store was closed (at 3:30! we are so spoiled in our culture) and all we could buy was some fresh water.  We still had some frozen meat in our cooler that we had brought from Ft. Lauderdale on February 6 and had not yet used on our adventures! Though at this point, I’m not sure frozen was the correct term.

As we approached Chub Cay, we began to see damaged villas at the resort and piles of housing debris on the land.  There were odd empty spaces where it seemed a villa may have been, or perhaps a stand of palm trees.  Things looked kind of bleak.  Then we sailed near to the entrance of the marina but it was chained off with large red floats holding up the chain as a barrier.  Uh oh!  Now what? I turned on my cell hoping for a signal.  Sure enough, Google let us know that Chub Cay marina was closed until further notice.  Dang.

I wrote about our tour of poor devastated Chub Cay in my February 19, 2017 post but I want to give another shout out to the local worker Dan who managed to scrounge us up 10 pounds of Ice…for free!  We obviously gave him a little something for his efforts and proceeded to have a lovely barbequed turkey in a bag meal later that night. If you’d like to see what Chub Cay looks like now, I believe they re-opened this past summer.  Here is a link to their website http://www.chubcayresortandmarina.com/

Our crossing to Bimini to the west began at dawn.  It was a beautiful sunrise.  We basically sailed across the shallow Bahama Bank for 80 nautical miles on one tack.  It was an absolutely gorgeous sailing day.  We hit our top speed of 14 knots and the guys were very happy with that.  I wrote about this trip in some detail on the “Yes it can be done” post of February 21, 2017.  What I didn’t mention was that many cruisers don’t make this jump in one day.  Because a lot of cruising sailboats only sail at 4-6 knots on average, this is not a day trip, especially for those who don’t like to sail at night.  Some cruisers will opt to anchor for the night on the Bank just out of any shipping channels. As our average speed that day was about 8-10 knots, we were pretty confident we could reach Bimini during daylight.  Which we did. It took us around 10 or 11 hours to reach Bimini where we tied up to the dock at Weech’s Marina.

Here are some pictures and video from that passage. Stay tuned to more details from our Adventures coming up in Part 6:  “Almost There or Not Sunk Yet!”

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It’s been a long time….

Hi there! It seems like forever since I (Carleen) was in Florida blogging about our adventures.  Since then, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge as it were…most of it good. I had a really great time in Florida with my sister’s family on the Gulf Coast, got in some “girl time” with my Mom in Florida and on our Road Trip home, spent time with more relatives in NC and BC, endured three horrible weeks in May and June with a terrible cold, and best of all, returned home to the nicest guy in the world. I am truly lucky (except for catching that awful cold. I apologize again to my dear family in BC who I passed it on to!)

So I have to catch up a bit. I am now working on the more-detailed posts about the final legs home from the Bahamas as well as the continuing saga of our newly acquired F-31 Trimaran and her repairs/mods etc.

So stay tuned!

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Manatee!

Two days ago the fam went to Gasparilla Island State Park near the village of Boca Grande.  There are some rocks near an old pier where the snorkeling is pretty good.  We saw crabs, small fish and some interesting shells.  There was quite a current flowing southward along the beach toward Boca Grande pass as well. It was fun to do a snorkel drift by swimming north and drifting south!

The winds have been really strong down here for over a week and on our beach day, they finally calmed down a little.  But as we had found, each day the wind swung from east to west like clockwork bringing clouds in the late afternoon  This day, the same thing happened so the waves built up as did the silt in the water.

There were also two manatees which patrolled the beach.  They were the star attractions for the beach goers that day.  The water was pretty clear and you could easily see their dark shapes gliding along the sandy shoreline.  Now and then you could spot their whiskered snouts above the water as they came up to breathe.

I could see one of the manatees coming from quite a distance so I grabbed my underwater camera, mask and snorkel and sprinted into the water.  I kicked out about 40′ from shore. I had to put the brakes on when a large shape came out of the silty gloom almost beside me.  I was in awe as it had a quick glance at me as it slowly passed by.  I don’t like the idea of organized “swims with manatees” or dolphins for that matter. And I won’t touch one on purpose either. I kept a respectful distance (I hope) and filmed it as it swam by. What a great experience.

Sadly, we didn’t see any dolphins that day.  Sometimes we see them hunting near the Pass and along the shore but not that day.  Oh well…

Hope you enjoy the pictures and videos below.

 

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And Now for the Rest of the Story Part 4: “Paying for Water” or “I think we just hit 13 knots!”

We loved our almost 2 days at SW Allan Cay in the northern Exuma island chain.  The shallow, mostly sandy anchorage was small but protected and lovely with interesting low-lying rock formations, a tiny sand beach, palm trees, quiet neighbours and of course, Iguanas!  This stay allowed us to check off some items on the big “To Do” list such as:  effect sail repairs (by “we” I actually mean Paul….is there anything the man can’t do?), make sure the head was in top shape and working (it was – great work Jim!) and have a good look at the new damage to the hull.

Each day we also learned how 3 of us could live on a relatively small boat.  The F-31 is just about 31′ long and is 22′ wide when unfolded.  This gives the sailor a lot of deck space (ie. more room to store our crap).  But because this is a trailerable sailboat where the pontoons fold into the main hull, there is not a lot of interior space.  I believe the whole rig is around 8′ 6″ wide when folded so it can go on a trailer and legally travel on roads in North America, etc.  The interior has standing head room of about 6′ 2″.  Jim is about 6′ 0″ so this works.  Paul on the other hand, is 6′ 4″.  Poor fella.  Luckily, there is a sliding hatch above the companionway steps where he could stand up straight even in the rain as the boat came equipped with a dodger – a cover over this hatch to help keep the companionway dry in the rain.

Covers over the cockpit such as the dodger and the bimini over the aft (or rear) part of the cockpit, help to provide additional shade and protection from the elements.  Some cruisers fully enclose the cockpit which creates almost an entire extra room.  Our 22′ trimaran “Raise a Little Hull” has a bimini and in the evening, we can cover the cockpit with a patio umbrella screen to keep the mosquitoes out.  On this trip, we didn’t use a cockpit screen.  We did bring along very fine mesh screens for the front hatch and the companionway which could keep out both mosquitoes and no-seeums (tiny biting midges called sand flies in the Bahamas).  Regular screening won’t keep out no-seeums by the way.  You have to use a fabric like bridal netting if you are going to make your own screens.

Back at our rental house in Rock Sound, we had made the mistake of leaving one of the sets of French Doors open with just some loose mosquito netting across it one evening, and we eaten up by no-seeums.  They come at dusk and leave when it’s fully dark (or so I’m told, as I try not to be out at dark with those little buggers around).  The locals all put on long cotton/denim pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts and still cover themselves in Deet at twilight.  Deet is the only thing that I’ve found that works 100%.  I have a homemade spray for mosquitoes and midges but it’s not 100% effective.  It’s good for on a trail walk during the day, but not for keeping swarms of them off of you at night.  The no-seeums can literally leave you scratching for months!  Jim has experienced that and I didn’t want him or any of us to face that torment so we were screened up as darkness fell.  I don’t know whether it was because it was winter, but we didn’t feel that there were many mosquitoes on our trip…thank goodness.

The winds died down to a reasonable speed for sailing and the marine forecast was fine…sunny and warm with a moderate breeze and small following waves.  It was time to leave SW Allan Cay.  Looking at the chart, we decided to head north on a broad reach toward Nassau.  A cruise we had met in Rock Sound told us about a great anchorage on the south side of Rose Island just east of New Providence Island where the city of Nassau is located.  I was excited to sail on the Exuma Bank.  I’ve heard a lot about how beautiful it is when sailing along this shallow patch of land on the leeward side of the Exuma chain.  On the charts, the water we were to sail across showed depths of 3-5 metres.  I will put a pictures of the Banks below. The popular sailing show “Distant Shores” with Sheryl and Paul Shard has a great clip on YouTube about sailing in this area.  (Click Here to watch the video)

Before we hauled anchor, we dinghied ashore in the cool of the morning to see if we could find any of the endangered rock iguanas we heard were in the Allan Cays.  Sure enough we saw tracks and burrows but none of the famous lizards! We hiked across the tiny cay to the south side which faces Highborne Cay.  These low, rather desolate islands are mostly limestone with some palms and scrub trees.  It’s a dry-looking landscape.  Perfect for lizards one would think.

There!  On the beach!  The guys spotted a small specimen.  It was about 18′ long.  We took some pictures and videos.  It didn’t seem to worried about us.  We went back to the beach where the dinghy was as the sun began to warm the rocks around us.  Suddenly we heard rustling in the scrub…all around us!!! We realized that we were surrounded by several of these rare critters!  The biggest that I saw was about 2′ long.  They do have a reddish chest and long claws.  They are also very bold.  Most came eagerly toward us.  I think they were looking for handouts.  Maybe visitors feed them? Tsk tsk.  I hate to imagine that.  Same with the poor pigs at Big Majors.  We heard later on that several of the friendly pigs died because some idiot tourist fed them rum!! Can you imagine?  I have stronger words to describe that kind of sub-human but I won’t use them here.  I was so mad.

I’m glad these iguanas have a relatively safe place in which to live.  They can swim to the other nearby cays I’m sure so that helps. It was great to see them but once again, time was moving on and so should we.

Our passage to Rose Island looked to be about 30 nautical miles.  If we could sail at 6 knots, that would be about 5 hours.

It was a beautiful day and the shallow waters of the Exuma Bank were ridiculously beautiful.  A turquoise blue that I’m not even sure I could paint…and I’m an Art Teacher!  Beside that, how can a painting capture the transparent beauty of that water.  Am I voicing an artistic sacrilege?  Probably.  I’ll take that chance (but I know that I will try to paint that water!!).  We still weren’t used to sailing in these shallows so I was a bit concerned about how deep the coral heads were that we could see.  Paul would probe the depth now and then with our long paddleboard paddle but couldn’t touch one so on we sailed.

The day was really pleasant.  The sun was shining and the crew were in great spirits.  Paul was delighted when we hit speeds such as 10 knots!  His sail repair was great but still largely untested as we were reaching along with the screecher, our big foresail instead of the jib. The guys were often sailing with the “hot stick” or tiller extension.  This allowed the helmsperson to sit out on the beams or the netting for a better view of the telltales on the sails (ribbons or yarn attached to the sails which indicate that your sails are trimmed properly for the wind, thus allowing for maximum speed)

By this date, we were 5 days into our trip from Rock Sound.  We had filled up the freshwater tank before leaving but it was already getting a bit low.  We hadn’t yet had time to try the watermaker aboard, which is a desalinator.  It had been sitting a long time without having been properly “pickled”.  This means that it had not been shut down properly to preserve the membrane (filter) while not in use.  We weren’t sure if the system worked and we didn’t want to take a chance that it would.  So we decided to detour to New Providence Island to get some water and a few supplies at Palm Cay Marina on the south-east side of the island.  Our guidebook said that the marina had a little store for basic provisioning so we hoped to stock up on essentials:  water, beer, maybe some meat and or salad, etc.!  But no, the little store was closed when we arrived around 4:00ish.  I think the gal in the office said it closes at 3:00!

The water was available from a tap up on the quite high dock.  We had brought a flexible hose and could easily reach the tank access with it.  Once the hose was connected I turned on the tap….water spewed everywhere!  I guess some of the water went down the hose as Jim gave me the thumbs up. I think we were quoted 25¢/ gallon…our tank is  about 35 gallons.  I could literally see our money going overboard.  Sheesh!  The dock helper didn’t seem too concerned.  Paul helpfully suggested that they could use a new washer. Again, the young man didn’t too worried.  Island time mon.

Anyhew, at least we had freshwater.  We headed across another 5 nautical miles to the Rose Island anchorage. Being a shallow draft boat, we could wiggle our way past other anchored boats farther into shallower water, keeping an eye on the depth in case the tide went out.  It was a lovely sandy anchorage with several homes set up on the hill beside us and the lights of Nassau behind us to the west.  The boys barbequed and all was lovely.

None of us were really interested in seeing Nassau on this trip as we really needed to keep moving so the next day we set off to sail to the Berry Islands, the last group of islands before Bimini.  This passage was to be about 40 nautical miles.  The winds were a little stiff but it was sunny and the waves were short and spaced fairly far apart.  In short, it was a lovely day for a sail.

One thing we noticed was when the shallow aquamarine banks waters darkened to the indigo blue of much deeper waters.  The colours of the water of the Bahamas are entertainment in themselves.  But not to be outdone, Paul practiced his kiteboarding moves on the netting as we reached along.  We averaged about 7 and reached 11 at one point as the winds increased quite a bit as the day went along.  13 knots or even more were speeds which the guys were trying to reach if conditions were right.  Did we? Nope, not on this leg. The videos of this passage are below.

Once we reached the Berry Islands, we decided to sail into a a shallow anchorage between Whale Cay and Bird Cay to the west.  While it was good to get out of the winds, it was a tricky anchorage as it was 1-2 metres deep with some rocks here and there plus some swirly winds.  We finally found a patch of sandy bottom where we could drop the hook and feel comfortable out of the winds.  After we were settled, we realized that we were seeing a lot of hurricane damage ashore.  The trees looked ragged with quite a few being wind-thrown (the whole tree is pushed over exposing the root system) and wind-blown where they are snapped off at the trunk.  Back in October, Hurricane Matthew slammed through the western Bahamas and the Berry islands were right in his path.  We were to see much more damage on our trip but that will have to wait for Part 5 of the Rest of the Story:  “Bimini here we come…and here we stay”

 

 

 

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Scenes from SW Florida

So I working on Part 4 of our Bahamian adventures but in the interim, here is a bit of what I have been up to.

I have been visiting my sister and her husband over on the Gulf Coast of Florida. They have a lovely rental villa with screened in pool on a canal in Rotonda West, north of Fort Myers, south of Sarasota.

This subdivision is very quiet.  It’s not a party place.  Rather, it’s a laid back area where folks can chill out and relax .  We spend our days reading, swimming and watching the wildlife such as wading birds of all kinds chasing minnows along the canal, smallish gators stalking said wading birds (no luck yet as far as I can tell), turtles sunning themselves, birds singing and so on.  Haven’t seen any armadillos yet or feral hogs but they are around.

It’s been generally sunny, hot and super windy most days with the winds starting out from the East but most afternoons, the wind changes direction (180°) and the clouds blow in so that it can actually feel too cool on the beach and the waves build up in the Gulf making it too rough to swim! So bizarre.

There hasn’t been much rain at all. In fact there are many, many brush fires burning across the state of Florida…100+! The strong winds haven’t helped and folks here can’t wait for the rainy season to start around June…I can’t say I blame them.

Posted in Carleen in Florida, 2017 | 2 Comments

And Now for the Rest of the Story: Part 3 “So technically we are Sinking?” or “Hope the frog can swim!”

They say that “cruising is doing boat maintenance in beautiful places”.  This adage seems to be true. In Part 2 of our ongoing tale, you learned that two days into our cruise homeward, we had hit some rocks or a reef very hard causing some serious concern. As well, you learned that in preparing for our passage from Eleuthera to the Exumas islands, the winds had kicked up so much that we could not sail or even motor comfortably to the places in the southern Exumas that we had hoped to see.  Rather, we ended up at the north end of the island chain.  Further explanation about not being able to sail to our original destination of Staniel Cay is below.  Time was flying by and we knew that with this leaky boat we wouldn’t have a chance to see the swimming pigs at Big Majors Spot or to swim with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay (cay is pronounced “key”, same as quay as in Queen’s Quay in Toronto) or to spend days sailing the shallow waters of the Exuma Bank.  Not on this trip.

Thus we blew in to beautiful South-West Allan Cay, part of a small group of cays which are home to endangered Rock Iguanas (Click Here for more info on these iguanas).

We anchored in about 4′ of water just off of a beautiful sandy beach lined with palms trees and interesting rock formations.  We set our Rocna 33 Lb anchor and then set our second anchor, the 22 Lb Bruce as the winds were supposed to build with gusts up to 60 knots.  Jim always has an eye for how high the land surrounding the anchorage is because higher land usually will give you more protection from the winds.  As the island was relatively low, he thought we ought to deploy the Bruce too though all of the load was on the Rocna.  The anchorage was fairly tight with a sandy bottom and beach to the south but rocks to the east and west, not to mention the two monohulls we had anchored in front of.

Once we were all confident that the anchors had set, I swam over to the monohulls to ask if they were OK with us having anchored ahead of them.  After all , they had gotten there first! We were well clear of their anchors and we all had plenty of swinging room but I just wanted them to be comfortable with us there.  They were two couples buddy-boating together.  The fellow from our nearest neighbour said if he could anchor in 3′ of water like we did, he’d do it too!  They were fine where we were and he explained that we were using a Rocna like they were except that theirs was a 45 Lb.  All was fine and dandy and we settled in for the night.

So…about the “technically we are sinking?” bit.  Jim always tells me that a trimaran can’t sink.  I guess it’s true as most have lots of watertight compartments in the hulls so if one is breached, the others will help hold the boat up.  There is no lead-weighted keel like monohulls have and the pontoons (called “amas”) help balance the whole boat like training wheels on a kid’s bike.  Plus two of our trimarans are made of foam covered in fibreglass and epoxy resin.  So that material floats.  All of this is true.  But after we had hit the rock or the reef back on Eleuthera, there was more water coming in than I was sure we could be comfortable bailing.  You see, we were sponging up the water into a pail every hour.  When I stood at the stove in the galley I was standing in about a half inch of water.  The galley floor, just aft of where you crawl into the v-berth, was continually wet.  The water seemed to be coming from the underside of the main cabin floor via the settee storage compartments and maybe from under the v-berth where the water tanks were.  It was too much to hope that the freshwater tank was leaking.  It was not.  We were taking on sea water, no question.

Jim and Paul agreed that it wasn’t bad enough to haul the boat out but it was bad enough that we should make for home more expediently than we had planned.  The almost constant sponging was tiring though.  Getting up during the night was exhausting.  We all took turns but it was frustrating.  Crew morale was getting low.

Before we left Lighthouse Beach on February 15, the guys put their heads together while I had a nap after breakfast and a swim where I tried to video the damage on the underside.  I awoke to the two of them grinning like fools and high-fiving each other!!  They may have even been pouring celebratory drinks!  Was I dreaming?  Had they found a lost stick of underwater putty and fixed the leak? No putty, but here’s what happened while I was asleep…Jim figured we needed a pump to get rid of the water as it collected under the floor of the head next to the galley.  Why was the water entering the galley floor anyhow?  It was flowing out of a small round access hatch at floor level.  This hatch allowed access to the bilge pump for the shower under the head floor. Bilge Pump?? Of course, the bilge pump!!  They put the round cover on the access hatch, then rigged up a way for the water collecting under the head to get sucked up by the bilge pump.  I think there was some disconnecting and reconnecting of hoses somehow to make all of that work.  They also installed a small stick of the foam we had brought along for repairs into the shower drain.  This foam stick, which I nicknamed “Bob”, would bob up when the water level was getting high indicating that it was time to pump out the bilge.  GENIUS!!  It turned out that we would only have to pump out the boat about every 3 hours, maybe 4 using the handle just above the toilet in the head.  We still took turns waking up in the night to do that but it meant that all of us slept better.  Morale quickly went back up again….until the tack let go on the jib later that day during our windy passage from Eleuthera to the Exuma islands!!!

The tack is the area of the foot of the sail that attaches to the boat.  In this case, the tack was on the jib, the small sail at the front of the boat. It is this sail that allows a sailboat to sail upwind, to drive closer to the direction that wind is coming from…in essence, to sail in a slightly straighter line toward a destination upwind than tacking back and forth on an angle to claw one’s way upwind.  Picture a triangular sail:  the top of the triangle is the head, where the sail is hauled up toward the top of the mast with a line (or is on a stiff furling foil like ours so it can be rolled up around the foil rather than dropped into a bag on the deck); the front part of the foot of the triangle is the tack where the sail is attached to the bow of the boat;  and the aft part of the sail which is the clew, where the controlling lines are attached allowing the sail to swing out to one side or other of the front of the boat.  The jib is a crucial component of a sailboat and we were on the brink of losing ours!

When we originally unrolled and inspected the sails, the jib was very moldy.  It was in sorry shape after sitting rolled up on land for almost 10 months.  It had a clear UV cover on it but who knows how effective those are after a while.  So none of us were really surprised when the tack blew out.  We didn’t have a spare jib so the guys chose to partially furl up the sail so that there was less force on the foil.  They didn’t want the furling system to break as that could mean that the mast would fall down!!!  The part that let go was a round eye on a few sturdy straps that are sewn onto the tack of the sail and which is where the sail is actually attached to the boat.

We were able to partially furl the jib to prevent it from completely pulling out of the foil and keep sailing but this was another reason why we couldn’t sail toward the southern or central Exumas since the boat would no longer point well to windward.  We were forced to sail off the wind, away from our original destination, and so we landed at SW Allan Cay.

The weather proved to be a little unsettled and we knew we could not leave the protection of the anchorage for a day or two. So Paul, bless his heart, took on the task of sewing the straps and the eye back onto the tack of the jib.  Picture yourself trying to push a regular sewing needle through several thicknesses of seatbelt strapping.  Plus, the needle seems a bit dull.  And you don’t have proper UV thread either!!  This is what Paul dealt with.  I gave him whatever needles I had in my little sewing kit.  Jim gave him some dental floss for thread (it’s really, really strong) and he got to work.  Paul must have the patience of a saint as he continued to fight with the strapping ALL DAY.  I’m not kidding when I say all day.  He did take a break for lunch though!  At one point he started to use pliers to push the needle which was dipped in dish detergent through the layers of strapping and sail.  I know that his hands were cramping up, I think two of the needles broke and somewhere near the end of the repair, we found some whipping twine (strong thread-like line) which would have worked great for the job.  When it was all over, we rejoiced.  More rum drinks to celebrate!  One of our neighbours came by in his dinghy and heard about the sail repair.  He said “Hey, I’ve got a sewing machine aboard if you need it!”  We just looked at each other and died laughing.  Of course he has a sewing machine aboard:  a strong one for stitching canvas, sailcloth, you name it.  We have a proper sail repair kit…back in London.  Poor Paul.  What a hero.

While he was sewing and Jim was cleaning our old head pump, I used our down time to do some laundry in rain water which we had collected in a 5 gallon bucket.  Freshwater is a precious thing and finding ways to collect it while on a boat is just smart.  Once the sun comes out, clothes dry quickly and spirits rise as well.

As Jim said, each day we accomplished something:  whether that was getting the Stereo to work, learning to enjoy one’s time down below during a rainstorm, or doing laundry in a bucket.  But we did miss our family and friends and I was glad that I had the means to share some of our experiences via this blog with them.

But what about the frog that I referred to in the title?  Ah yes, the tree frog.  Paul’s little friend.  Back at our rental house in Rock Sound, Paul had spotted a tiny tree frong clinging to one of the exterior door frames.  He thought it was super cute.  The next day the frog was inside, in the room where Paul was sleeping!  Hmmmm….I suspect the poor little thing bonded with his big human buddy (I refer to the frog as a “he” but who really knows except those with a lot of letters after their names).  Paul carefully took him outside and we thought that that was it!  Sometime during the first few days of sailing, maybe at Lighthouse Beach, Paul spotted the frog (it had to be the same one right?) on the transom or back end of the boat!!  A tiny stowaway.  Paul gently put him overboard knowing that they can swim and the shore wasn’t too far away.  But the frog frantically swam back to the boat and hopped aboard.  Well, we were OK with a small fourth crew member coming along as long as he ate his fill of bugs like noseeums.  We weren’t sure where he ended up while we cruised along and hoped that he jumped ship on his own at SW Allan Cay as we had no sightings of him until much later on!  But this too is a tale for another day.

Enjoys the pictures and videos below of our time at SW Allan Cay in the middle of February.

Soon you will learn about more of our creature friends and the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Rest of the Story Part 4:  “Paying for Water” or “I think we just hit 13 knots!”

P S you will notice the three flags we were flying from our lower spreaders.  The highest is the Bahamian courtesy flag:  fly it to show that you have cleared into the Bahamas with Customs.  The second is our Fanshawe Yacht Club burgee.  The third is my Women Who Sail burgee.  I am part of an ever-growing closed Facebook page called the Women Who Sail.  If you are a woman who sails (or boats) and want more info on joining the group, just drop me a line.

 

 

 

 

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Videos & More Pictures from The Rest of the Story: Part 1 (pictures updated April 14)

In The Rest of the Story Part 1, we revealed more details about our quest to bring this poor F-31 home and see her sail again. Here are some more pictures and videos from our time in Rock Sound.

 

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And Now For The Rest of the Story Part 2:  “Reefs aren’t just for fish” or “The S#*t has actually hit the fan” (Pics and Videos added April 14)

It’s been a little while since I posted Part 1 of this story. I’ve been exploring SE Florida. Swimming, snorkelling, hitting a few golf balls, learning about equestrian sports, oggling mega yachts and generally trying to process the fact that on one single stretch of the A1A highway along the shore at Palm Beach, the value of the mansions there would solve poverty in several third world countries. This place blows my mind. But I think all of that is part of another story.

So where were we? Ah yes, I think we’d left poor Jim alone to fend our newly-launched patched up boat off of the jagged limestone shore. I don’t really know how he did it. Turns out that he wasn’t really alone…

Back at Andy’s, the crew secured the mast to the trailer and headed back to the launch ramp. The kids all rode in the back of the pick up with Paul. Once again I followed with the rental car (did I mention this Honda was a right hand drive car? I can’t tell you how many times we all got in the wrong side of the car to start driving!), and Frankie brought the crane truck.

Craning a mast onto a sailboat is nerve-wracking to be sure. This was my first time and though Jim and Paul had helped others do it before, I don’t think it was any easier for them. Jim told me later that he remembered thinking “If the hook lets go, we’re goners”! Geez. But Andy did a great job. Jim and Paul attached the shrouds (synthetic) and the jib on its furler. (Mainsail and the boom were back at the cottage for cleaning etc). As he swung the mast into place, Frankie’s teenaged buddies fended the boat off the rocks as the tide was going out exposing even sharper jagged pieces. At one point while the guys were putting the jib on, the crane’s hook slipped a little. Jim’s nightmare scenario! But Andy quickly tightened it up and held the mast up until they were done. Whew!

“One Love” was afloat with her mast up! Poor Andy looked so relieved. He told us he’d been a bit sick but quite a few of the townspeople – his friends – had said the same thing. Folks seemed worried about him and all said he is a great guy. But though he got through this launch I could tell he was very, very tired.

Jim and Paul reckoned they could motor to the beach by Andy’s place to pick up the dinghy then over to anchor at the cottage a mile or so south. Jim asked if the kids would like to go for a boat ride and they all said yes!! Our first guests. Awesome. I knew they could sail it with the jib if the motor died and I could always go get them with the dinghy. Little did we know at the time that dinghy motor was … shall we say, a little finicky?

By the way, the kids had told me that they had heard that there was a big hammerhead shark sighted at the ramp area recently. I don’t doubt a hammerhead, or any shark for that matter, could find a few snacks there as the conch fishermen often cleaned their catch in this spot. Which leads me to another quick aside: a year ago, fishermen at the main dock in Rock Sound, pulled a big Bull Shark out of the water. By big, I mean like 10′ or so. There’s a video of it on YouTube. I’m not an advocate of mindless shark killing for fins or out of fear and I don’t know what happened to the shark, but I hope it was eaten. Bull sharks are in our oceans and in our estuaries. I don’t mind that … I value that. But I also don’t swim where the waters are murky for that reason. But I digress…

Andy, Frankie and I drove back to town and I was totally confident in Jim and Paul’s patching abilities. We had a quick look below for any gushers before they left the dock of course and none were to be seen. I could see the boat with its happy crew tooling along nicely once the kids had pointed out that they were heading for a shallow sand bar and should “go the other way mon”.

I made for the dinghy and figured “I know how to run these things. What could possibly go wrong if I take it out?” I hauled the boat into the water, and fired it up….nope, nothing. Did I squeeze the bulb on the hose? Wait… there is no hose, the gas tank is in the motor! Dumbass! I checked for gas. Full. Hmm, did I push the choke in too quickly? Yes, that must be it. Tried it again, choke out and voila! It ran. Then it died when I pushed the choke it. Dang it. Ok, I tried it again, keeping the choke out. It ran and off I went. By the time I got the Yamaha 2.5 running, the guys had anchored a couple hundred metres off of the beach and Jim had launched the inflatable paddleboard!!! What? Not to be selfish but I thought I’d be the first on it as I really like anything with paddles but no, here came my skipper sensing I was having motor troubles. What a guy! I love him. He was really good on the board too!

Of course, Jim being Jim, he tried to swamp the dinghy and thought it would be funny to hang the board off the side of it while I motored along. I was “not amused” as the poor dinghy couldn’t steer (not the helmswoman!!). Well, we made it to the boat and began ferrying the kids to shore. I know that I wrote in an earlier post about how one of the boys thought the water was so cold he didn’t want to get his feet wet! Maybe he just didn’t want to have a hammerhead come and try to make friends?

Our crew safely ashore, the sun was getting lower and lower so we headed for the cottage. The good thing was that it was really calm and low tide so any coral heads would be quite visible. Coral heads are hard, a bit like limestone which can be a somewhat brittle but still hard. We need all of the coral in this world that we can get so hitting coral is not a good thing for the boat or the coral.

That night, I’d keep getting up to go look out at the boat. A half moon illuminated her hull as I kept checking that a) she was still there and b) that she was still afloat. Yes I was confident in the guys’ work but what if she hit a rock as the tide changed that they hadn’t seen? What if a gale blew up and I didn’t hear it? (yes, I know…dumb)
The next day was Saturday …sea trial day. The winds were fairly calm, the water in the Sound fairly flat. Jim and Paul somehow ferried the mainsail and boom out the boat with the dinghy and away they went under sail while I carried on with provisioning, last loads of laundry etc. As far as I could tell, all was going well as she was sailing along nicely.

Writing this now, I wonder why we hadn’t thought to have Paul’s handheld VHF out with me as they had ours aboard? I guess we thought that if there were any trouble, Jim and I had our cell phones and they had the dinghy, etc. Upon reflection, maybe it was a bit cheeky? Afterall, the boat had been patched and we were unfamiliar with its systems. What could possibly go wrong?

The next day, Sunday, we got under way. The guys assured me that although there was a bit of water in the “bilge”, it seemed like the patches were solid and doing their job. The trickle of water was insignificant and could be sucked up with a sponge. Whew!!

However, they hadn’t had a chance to work on everything too thoroughly…such as the watermaker (this is a desalination system which creates freshwater from seawater), some of the non-essential electrical systems, and the head (bathroom) system. Well, how bad could that be? The fact that One Love had an enclosed marine head was a wonderful thing in my mind. While I love our 22′ Trimaran “Raise a Little Hull”, her head facilities leave a bit to be desired ….a portapotti next to the mast support in the centre of the cabin and a curtain. We love our buddy Paul who often crews with us when we race, but unfortunately for him, the head on the 22 is next to his head when he sleeps aboard. Poor fella. Here, One Love had a marine toilet and a sink with a hand pump in a head with a door…an actual door, and walls…actual walls!! The Luxury! At least for me. I know the guys would be OK with the “bucket and chuck it” head system and I would do that if I had to…I’m no shrinking violet. But an enclosed head is quite a bonus. Call me spoiled.  Jim did check the black water tank before we left and it was full to the brim! No way to pump it out ashore in Rock Sound and we certainly couldn’t pump it overboard into Andy’s yard! So we waited until we were at least 5 miles off shore to pump it overboard. The tank seemed to pump out fine.

The boat also had a two burner propane stove in the galley (kitchen). Do you know how much a 1 lb bottle of propane costs in Canada? About $5? On Eleuthera they cost $16 US for a 1 lb bottle!! We knew 1 bottle wouldn’t last long so Jim bought a portable 1 burner butane stove and several bottles for a much cheaper cost. We had 2 bottles of propane for the stove and the barbeque but decided that the butane stove would be our “go to” stove in the galley. It’s the same system we use on the 22 when we cruise so it wouldn’t be an issue.

As we headed south around Cape Eleuthera, we were happy to realize that the boat’s VHF radio seemed to be working as we could hear radio traffic on channel 16 and even get a weather channel. We weren’t really sure which electrical systems were fully-functioning so a functioning radio seemed great!

We were headed to our first anchorage at Deep Creek. Looked like it had pretty good protection from the predicted winds and if the name was any indication, there must be a good amount of depth in the anchorage. I was hopeful, naively ignoring the fact that both our cruising guide and the charts indicated otherwise. What a dope I am sometimes! If figured the edges of the dredged channel would surely work out for a shallow draft boat. We went aground almost immediately in the entrance to Deep Creek. (see our post called Not So Deep Creek). No worries, we backed out just fine and anchored outside of the entrance hoping the winds would stay light. They did. It was a lovely calm night. Paul always says that he sleeps better when we are anchored than when we are docked. I am still learning that skill/trust and so I often keep a close eye on where we swing in the night or if the wind comes up etc. I’m a night owl so that is ok.

We met Trevor Pinder the next day at “The Dock”. He said he’d be on the dock to meet us but when we dinghied into town, all we saw was a rock jetty and a lot of shallows! But there was Trevor waving at us from the jetty. I guess that is their dock. In these small settlements, it’s a bit hard to know exactly where the town is! A lot of the homes are spread along the shore but the businesses? Hard to know. Sure I could have consulted the Internet or Google Maps but where is the fun in that? Trevor had some bulbs for us and he thought they might work. Awesome.

We decided we deserved some Ice Cream so we headed into town and asked a kid if there was a place that sold ice cream. It was completely the opposite way that we were walking. No worries. It was here in Deep Creek that we were adopted by a couple of local dogs. Especially a caramel-coloured mutt. Not sure if they are strays or what the locals call “Potcakes”. Potcake is the burnt rice on the bottom of the rice pot and this is what people often feed the strays.

I don’t know where everyone works in this little town. Maybe for Princess Cruises at Bannerman Town (their tropical “island”)? We chatted with a bunch of folks hanging out at Pinder’s marine. One fellow had visited Canada and spoke about travelling to Ottawa and Hamilton and taking the bus to Calgary I think! He loved it and wished he could have stayed longer. It was winter. Was he crazy? The folks here, like all of those we had met so far on Eleuthera, were very nice. Very open and welcoming in a genuine way. The pack of dogs there we weren’t so sure about. There was some snarling and rough housing within the pack and as it came up the road toward us at Pinder’s, the two dogs who adopted us began to growl a warning. Caramel moved close to his new buddy Jim and finally barked to warn the pack that we were to be left alone. And we were. Amazing. Our two canine friends stayed close to us all the way back to the jetty. Hard to leave them.

Southern Eleuthera is a beautiful and increasingly unpopulated part of the island as you get further from the normal tourist destinations. (Todd Vendituoli has some videos on YouTube and Facebook about Eleuthera which feature some excellent drone footage of some of these places. Click on these Links to view his Droning around Rock Sound and  his Trip to Lighthouse Beach videos). We decided to stage for our jump to the Exuma Islands from Lighthouse Beach, the southern-most part of the island. As we approached the beautiful palm tree-lined beach with its interesting rock outcroppings, I couldn’t help but turn to the guys to express what a beautiful place this was when BAM!!! SCRAPE, BUMP, KNOCK, DRAG!! “Oh _______!” (insert whatever strong expletive you can come up with as I’m sure one of us said it.) To say that we had run aground would be a bit of a wee understatement. We hit Hard. Dammit. I had broken my own rule of never taking my eye off the water when entering an anchorage. Sloppy! I knew there were rocks in the anchorage and even a couple of sunken boats closer to the beach. How had this happened? We were just so happy to be cruising into a beautiful anchorage that we didn’t see the rocks, just under the water. Jim figured that the daggerboard hit as well as the hull…yup, on the port side where much of the repairs were. Crap!

So that happened. We sheepishly crept into the area where we’d chosen to anchor, dropped the hook and started to check for damage ie. water coming in. Sure enough. There was a slow but steady trickle. It was too dark to go over the side to have a look so we decided we would take turns getting up in the night every couple of hours and sponging the water off of the floor into a bucket as it was all running to just between the galley and the head. Geez.

The next day Paul and I went over the side and I filmed the new damage so Jim could have a look too. It was ugly. We hadn’t pierced both layers of the hull but the scrapes were heavy and the jagged scarring was plain ugly. Not to mention a little scary. The forward storage compartment under the V-berth had its own slow trickle just ahead of the water tanks. So what to do?

At Lighthouse Beach, we were only about 45 minutes or an hour’s drive from Rock Sound. There was a road that led right to the beach. Maybe we could call Andy and he could come and lift us out of the water again? Were the leaks really that bad? Did we have any of that waterproof putty for sealing such scrapes? Nope. We had looked around for that putty as part of our pre-launch shopping excursions but to no avail. We decided that the trickles were manageable but now it meant that our cruising itinerary would change radically. No lingering and playing in beautiful anchorages. It meant that we needed to book it back to the USA. A big bummer but we had to look after the ship as it were.

So, our plan took shape. We would try to get to Florida as fast as we could with whatever winds came our way. And boy did the winds come our way! We left Lighthouse Beach hoping to get across the to Staniel Cay in the Exumas (surely we had a little time to see the swimming pigs?) But of course, the increasingly strong winds were on the nose. I think winds were in the 20 knot range or more. Thankfully, the deep waters of the Exuma Sound didn’t kick up short period chop. Rather, the waves were fairly far apart but they still built to about 4-5′, maybe more. Nasty stuff to bash into on a trimaran. So we bore off the wind and tried for Highbourne Cay almost near the top of the chain of islands. Dang. So much for the Exumas. Maybe another time right?

It was a bumpy ride to be sure and I started to feed Jim anything with ginger in it. My poor sailor has been known to get seasick in certain conditions. Luckily Paul and I don’t seem to get that though Paul says he can’t go below when it’s lumpy. I don’t have a problem with that though I noticed I tend to crave salty snacks more in wavy conditions. So while Paul was happily sailing the boat (“Hey guys I think I can get her to hit 12 knots!) and Jim was uh, examining the water, I was able to go below to make lunch, get drinks with electrolytes, etc.

So back to the Head for a minute. Ultimately on our first day out, the time came for the head to be christened by yours truly. Jim told me how to work the pumps and said “Go for it!”. Ok I thought but I’m not going whole hog here. Just #1. I told myself that it might be smart not to put any paper down the system even though her former owner had told us it worked great and we could put “anything” down it!! The marine head is a Lavac Head. Folks online seemed happy with theirs. So….I was a happy gal after the head seemed to flush! Ah but my happiness was not to last. As we cruised along, in the next day or two, the head was given a more serious workout. Then while we were lumping along in the waves and stiff winds of Exuma Sound, it happened. A CLOG! Was I not feeding the crew enough roughage? Too much meat? Too much starch, not enough salad? I blamed myself and my culinary skills. The guys tut-tutted my concerns but things were looking a bit desperate as we finally got out of the very strong winds and anchored off the beach at beautiful South-West Allans Cay. (If you look at a nautical chart or Google Earth, you will see a bunch of shallows to the south of the Allans Cays and north of Highbourne Cay. There are lots of cautions for taking this route in but we did it! The visibility was ok and the tide was high enough that we could stay clear of hazards. It was very tricky but we made it through)

So Jim bravely chose to deal with the clog. For a guy who had just had a bit of “mal de mer”, I was amazed. My Hero! Well, as the title of this post indicates, the poop really did hit the fan and anything else that was in the head…sort of!  The air in the head was both brown and blue as the way he was pumping the head built up a mass of air in the lines which had to go somewhere…which was up and all over the inside of the toilet and it’s lid. You see the Lavac system works by air sucking the waste down with air so the lid of the toilet kind of vacuum seals itself to the bowl. So when it all backfired, the crap exploded all over the underside of the lid, the seat! And even spewed out a bit onto the wall.  Poor, poor Jim. My Hero. He came up for air after cleaning up what he could and I cleaned up what remained so he wouldn’t toss his ginger cookies.

Once his tummy settled down, he decided to change the main pump for the spare which looked as if it had barely been used.  The head pump is located high on the wall of the head and when he opened it, crap literally ran down the wall. Yuck! He struggled to reach the pump mounting bolts through a couple of 3″ holes with vice grips while laying on the 2’x2′ floor upside down! The pump which Jim took out was clogged pretty solidly. No doubt the gunge inside it had hardened in the heat while the boat had been on the Hard. Kind of like having our own mini-geological era as the stuff in the pump had hardened to a rock-like solid. Gross. Why the explosion? We learned that one of the valves allowing water to flow in (thus completing the pumping cycle) was closed even though it looked open!! Weird. So Jim added Boat Plumber to his long list of skills. Thankfully, once the head was repaired, it worked gloriously well. We sure take “modern plumbing” for granted don’t we?

We will leave you here as we chase endangered lizards around SW Allans Cay (or rather, they actually chase us!).   Did I mention that Paul brought along his pet tree frog and Jim’s gecko came along for the ride too? More on our animal friends, our new best friend – the bilge pump – and Paul’s incredible ways with a sewing needle in the next instalment.

Stay tuned for Part 3: “So technically we are sinking?” or “Hope the frog can swim!”

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More scenes from SE Florida 

I’m still working on more from our Bahamian adventure (Part 2 of The Rest of the Story is almost ready) but thought I’d post some pictures from the area where I’ve been staying. Some are from events such as those at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center where I finally got to watch Ian Millar ride (though he and his horse Dixon had to withdraw) and the Palm Beach Boat Show. Though I’m in Lake Worth, my typical daily haunts range from north to Riviera Beach (John Foster Park for swimming and snorkeling) down the shore to Ocean Inlet Park near Boynton Beach and in and around Lake Worth, especially John Prince Park. Tomorrow I will explore the historic cottage homes of Lake Worth. It’s been windy and now it will become unseasonably hot! In the mid 80’s!

Posted in Carleen in Florida, 2017 | 1 Comment