Monthly Archives: January 2013

Getting into the Bahamas rhythm!

It’s Wednesday morning  and we are in Black Point, Exuma, home to what is widely believed to be the best laundry in the Bahamas.  We plan to test it out.   There are plenty of boats here and the crowds at the laundry are testimony to the popularity of this spot as a good place to get clean sheets.  While there are plenty of machines, there are even more cruisers so it’s mobbed.  The island is also known for Loraine’s coconut bread.  I ordered two loaves for pickup in the morning.  Yumm…

Yesterday we were treated to a snorkeling and shelling trip by our friends John and Wendy who live aboard their 65’ Canadian built aluminum trawler, Windermer.   I have to say that this boat clearly qualifies as a yacht, complete with granite counter tops, a Sub-Zero fridge that’s larger than our fridge at home in Essex along with two case freezers that hold hundreds of pounds of food.   On a practical note, he uses about as much electricity in two hours as I use in 24 hours.  There is a price to pay for everything.  Nice boat though.

Their dink, no let’s call it a launch,  has a 50hp engine  so a trip to various spots was quite a treat for us.  Tooling about in a center console launch at 30kts is a lot different than our little inflatable, that’s  for certain.

The goal of our outing was to visit some of their favorite snorking spots so we could collect shells and sand dollars.  And, we found plenty.   Brenda  also snorkeled for the first time yesterday under the gentle guidance of Wendy.   We were on a quest for sand dollars and they were particularly fun to collect as they are just laying on the bottom.  The white ones, which we now have plenty of, are actually dead and bleached .  Some were 3-4” inches across.   What fun.
We also found lots of fun shells.  We had looked before but with their help, we went to the right spots.  It’s a lot easier that way. 

We snorkeled over a great reef that had loads of fish and wonderful purple sea fans.   Unfortunately, the photos underwater don’t really do justice to how beautiful it really is.

I enjoyed using the go-pro video camera and took some footage of us underway blasting along in the launch.  These videos aren’t that great but I can’t edit them right now. I hope that a video is better than 1000 well chosen words.

Here is one that I took at Thunderball Cave the other day that’s fun.I have to say that being able to snorkle each day is so amazing.  However, in spite of my wetsuit, water in the 78 degree range begins to feel cold after a while.

And yes, it’s still really windy.  At least it’s not hot as the breeze keeps things cool.

Wendy and John are just so nice and generous.  We love spending time with them.  Happily, their home port is in RI so we will see them next summer.  They expect to come to our Gam in Essex on June 22nd

Remember the pigs on Big Major I wrote about the other day?   These porkers will happily take the food out of your hand.  Happily, not chunks of skin taken along with the snack.After feeding them we headed over to a great spot where some cruisers had set up a tent and chairs.  What a great view to enjoy a sandwich with.   Catch those James Bond shades.  Appropriate given the proximity to Thunderball Cave.  Looking cool in the shade?So far, we are toughing out life in the Bahamas.  Hope we can stand another 4 months.  Perhaps…

The residents of this island are total porkers!

It’s Monday and we are still enjoying our time here in Big Major Spot.  Yesterday Brenda and I had an easy day of walking on the beach and wading in shallow water looking for shells.  While it’s still windy at 20-25 most days,(did someone say that the Bahamas are windy in January?)we enjoyed doing our beach combing on a windward shore, out of the wind.  Given the great popularity of this anchorage(there are over 50 boats in here and room for another 25-50, I expect)the beaches are pretty well picked over.  In spite of that we still found some nice little shells.  We also came upon a great starfish that was compliant and agreed to pose for a photo as long as we returned him to the water after the shoot.  Yes, this color is true, he/she was a brilliant red.  Amazing.

We also visited with some of the local residents who were wading out into the water hoping for a treat.  These pigs are a local attraction and are always happy to visit with anyone offering handouts.  These guys are really big, weighing several hundred pounds at least, and certainly couldn’t be convincing stand-ins for the three little pigs that we all know and love.

The white one had a particularly cute face, actually the other two were down right ugly, perhaps even pigish, and oinked in a pathetic way when we didn’t come through with the requested offering.  I shudder at the thought of what might happen if one of these porkers tried to climb into the dink in their quest for handouts.  I felt badly that I didn’t come through yesterday so I’ll head back today with some veggies today.

When we returned from the beach to Pandora yesterday I spied a ray swimming slowly along the bottom under the boat.  I quickly donned my fins and mask and jumped in with my video camera in hand.  I was able to follow him for several hundred feet and got some great shots.  Unfortunately, the videos will have to wait till we have big bandwidth so I can load them up.  The videos are really fun.

Today we plan to visit Thunderball Cave for some snorkeling with some friends.  I can’t wait.

On Tuesday we plan to head south a short distance, about 5 miles, to Black Point Settlement, one of the larger settlements, a relative term, I am told, in the Exuma chain.  After that we hope to visit Little Farmer’s Cay, a bit further south, for the weekend festival that begins on Friday.  This is one of the best events of the winter season and features racing on Bahamas sloops, the local traditional sailing craft as well as special events ashore.  We also hope to get our hands on a simcard for the i-pad so that we can use BATELCO, the local phone company,(Bahamas Telephone Company, Get it?)for getting e-mail and posting to our blogs. That will be a lot easier than using the SSB and running the posts through our son Christopher who has been happily handling this for us when we are out of range of wifi.

Interestingly, this morning I contacted the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club to reserve a mooring for the festival.  I was successful in securing one of only four left.  Lucky me!!!  My call on the radio set off an avalanche of mooring requests and within ten minutes they were all booked.  I guess that “the early bird catches the worm”.  Between that and the three little pigs thing, I guess I have tortured the nursery rhyme thing enough for one post.

Perhaps I will quit while I am ahead before I lapse into another rhyme.  So for now, all I can say is that this little piggy has no interest in running all the way home as I am just having too much fun.

Staniel Cay and a bit of surf and turf

It’s Sunday morning and yet another sunny day in the Bahamas.  Yesterday we motored about 20 miles into a brisk wind, unfortunately as I would have much preferred to sail.  The forecast for the next few days calls for strong winds from the east which is too close to our course to allow for sailing.  That’s fine as we had planned to spend a few days at Big Major Spot and Staniel Cay, where we are now. Staniel Cay is known for Thunderball Cave, a very popular snorkeling spot which we hope to visit while we are here.  This may be a familiar name to you as the cave was used as a filming spot in the James Bond movie of the same name.  The entrance to the cave is only accessible at low tide when the current is slack and you can get into the cave without diving, something that a snorkeler wouldn’t want to do.  I am told that there is a hole in the ceiling where sun streams in.

Also, another “attraction” is that Big Major Spot is known for their wild pig population.  I understand that these guys are very used to cruisers and will swim out to your boat to get any treats that you might have for them.  I expect that we will visit them today and I’ll be reporting back on our “encounter” soon.  I wonder if they are they are the bacon sort of pigs?  I’ll call them “turf”.

We are anchored about a mile from Staniel Cay so getting there by dink is a bit of an adventure with wind and waves on the bow.  Our run into town yesterday was a bit rough and took quite a long time.  Once there, however, we enjoyed walking around the settlement, visiting the local grocery and yacht club.  Everything in the Bahamas is brought in by ship and between the extra freight and duty, prices are high.  Believe it or not, we paid $7.50 a pound for red peppers.  The lady in the store said that the were like gold, no kidding.

We also had a great lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club a fun place that seems to be the social hub of the island.  They have a signature rum drink that’s just terrific.  It’s made with coconut rum, cranberry and pineapple juice. Yumm… As you can see, the club is a casual spot.  I didn’t see a New York Yacht Club burgee hung from the ceiling.  I wonder if the NYYC offers reciprocity with “members” of this club.  Perhaps not.

Speaking of “surf”.  This morning was the arrival of two nurse sharks off of our stern.  I just stuck my hand into the water off of the swim platform and got this shot.  They look little but aren’t.  I expect that they were about 4-5 feet long.  They were having a nice nap it seems and were there for about a half hour.  I wonder if Brenda will be swimming today?  Perhaps her “encounter” with the ray the other day has made her more brave.  Anyone want to place some bets on a swim today by Brenda?

We have been working our way south through the Exumas and are now only a short distance from George Town and are looking forward to meeting up with our boys there on the 9th.

I’ll close with a great sunset.  Not bad…

It is indeed better in the Bahamas. And A LOT warmer than Essex.

It’s Friday morning and we have been in the Bahamas for a week now.  We are now in the Exumas and visiting one of the largest islands in the chain, Warderick Wells, part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park managed by the Bahamas National Trust, a  25 mile stretch of islands running south from Warderick that are protected .  Interestingly, studies have shown that protecting patches of habit benefit other areas nearby as protected species do better in the parks and migrate into other non-protected areas.

A few days ago I tried out my underwater case for my i-phone and took a number of photos and videos.  It was great fun, I have to say.  With the clear water, which these photos don’t really do justice to just how clear it is.Our friend Bill looking graceful.Some pretty little tube worms.To see your shadow on the bottom is a remarkable sight.  Even at night the shadows of the moon are distinct. One major issue that we have faced, and were warned about prior to coming here, is that the weather is something that you have to really pay attention to.   Today’s forecast is a good example of how quickly things change.   Today’s wind is from the ENE at 20kts dropping to 15kts.  Saturday will be more mild with winds in the 10-15kt range.   This quickly will change with freshening winds from the E-NE in the 20s and higher for the next 4-5 days.  What this means is that one day’s great sail can quickly turn into a need to seek shelter for a number of days while waiting for the next weather system to come through.

This also means that you have to choose your anchoring spot very well.  While it’s windy today the seas are quite calm as we are in an area that’s protected from any seas.  However, for several days we were in a very different position when we anchored in areas with fiends where there was quite a long fetch from a windward shore, allowing for a nasty chop to build.  This meant that any excursions in the dink were a bit harrowing with lots of water splashing over the side.

Perhaps the best example, or worst depending on how you look at it, was when we returned to Pandora the other night after dinner and a game of dominos with friends on another boat.   The winds were blowing  about 25kts which meant that we had to step into a dink that was bucking around in the chop running alongside their boat.   After scrambling into the dink we motored off into the dark.  In the short distance to Pandora we caught a good deal of spray including a bucket load of water into our faces.  Imagine how much fun that was for Brenda when her next planned stop was to be bed.    Well, we both stripped off our wet clothes in the cockpit and headed down for showers.     The lesson for us is that anchoring in the right spot depending on what’s coming weather-wise is the key.  Had we been tucked up against a shore with an island buffering the seas and wind we would have been in a very different position.  Well, perhaps that’s more than you really want to know about wind and chop but it’s what life in the Bahamas is all about.   All of this has also reinforced the value of our water maker which is doing well in keeping us in plenty of fresh water.   Remember, a salt free boat, and crew, is a happy boat.   As the saying goes, sort of, “when Momma is unhappy (or salty), ain’t nobody happy”.

By contrast, we are moored in similarly windy conditions right now and yet are very comfortable, thanks to having picked a good location, with good protection, to spend a few days.

Yesterday we had a great sail, around 25 miles in brisk winds.   It was fun to romp along for a few hours doing 7-8 kts all the way in clear blue waters.  It’s so different from anything we have ever experienced in our past lives.

The view from the ranger station here is spectacular.  Look at the contrast from the deep blue channel and the sand flats.How about this whale skeleton they have reconstructed on the beach?  It’s really big.Lastly, with the really really clear waters here we often see wildlife that we missed in the past.  Yesterday a rather large, perhaps in the 5’ long range, sand shark swam past our anchored boat a few times.   What an impressive creature.  I wish I had gotten a photo.

Well, off to explore the island.  Oh yeah, did I mention that today is in the low 80s and sunny?

I didn’t know what clear water really was. Wow!!!

Imagine being able to see 100′ in the water…  Me, I thought that I understood what that would be like.  I WAS WRONG…

On Monday we left the Nassau area to head over to the northern Exumas to begin our run down to George Town over the next few weeks.  Our first stop was Allen’s Key, home of it’s very own native iguana population.  This place is just amazing with water that is so clear that you can’t believe it.  I went snorkeling both Monday and Tuesday and enjoyed great visibility on the small reefs that ring the harbor. I tried my first hand with underwater photography and it was lots of fun.  However, I am still not sure that I have my SSB set up properly to send larger files.

My first try with underwater photgraphy. There were plenty of fish to look at.  I like the butterfly fish a lot. 

Brenda went swimming with a friend and spent an hour in the water, it was such a perfect temperature for her.  Toward the end of her swim a really large, perhaps 4′ across, ray passed her by.  I have to say that she was a very big girl about this and continued to tread water.  She didn’t even scream at all.  She was only a little anxious but I expect that her heart rate went up a bit as she had heard that they were gentle creatures, even if they are HUGE! The ray passed on and all was ok again.

To say the water is clear doesn’t begin to make the point.  “So Bob, how clear is it?”  Well, it’s so clear that when it’s calm you can’t see where the anchor chain enters the water, it just goes down from the air into the water and to the bottom where you see the anchor in the snow white sand.  A friend described the sensation as though the boat was floating in air.  I’d say that about sums it up.  It’s a completely new experience for us.

Today we are in Norman’s Key and will be waiting out the strong winds which kicked up into the 20-25kt range overnight and are expected to stay in that range for the rest of the day.

The signature attraction of Allen’s Cay, the Iguanas, are just so much fun.  These creatures, and they look like miniature, but not small, dinosaurs, are just amazing. There is a beach where they hang out waiting for the cruisers to come in and feed them.

I know that we are not supposed to feed them but watching them compete for a piece of cabbage is just too much fun.  One will grab it and others try to snatch if from them.  Sometimes a single scrap will pass hands, no make that mouths, three of four times. It sort of reminds me of work back in my last life.  You just bring your dink up to the beach that has dozens of 3-4′ long lizards milling around and toss them vegetables.  They are so aggressive I wouldn’t recommend trying to have them snatch the food from your hand.

Hopefully I will soon be somewhere with WIFI so I can post some photos to go along with these posts.

Getting settled and on our way to the Exumas

It’s Monday morning, warm and sunny with light winds forecasted for the next few days.  We are anchored on the north side of Rose Island, a short distance from Nassau.  Yesterday morning we decided to leave Nassau for the short run with some friends to get a feel for transiting the shallow banks and coral reefs.  Unlike the States, the Bahamas don’t have very many navigation aids or buoys, actually, they have almost none, which makes it a very different sort of cruising.  In the states markers tell you what to avoid but here you only move when the visibility is good so you can see the obsructions.  The good news is that the water is impossibly clear, even in downtown Nassau, the largest city in the Bahamas.  To be moving along in 20′ of water and see the bottom as if the water is only a few feet deep, which it sometimes is, with reefs everywhere, can be very disconcerting.  Where we are anchored now it’s about 15′ and yet you can see the bottom as if it was only 3 feet deep.  In fact, last evening, after dark with the half moon,you could see the shadow of the dink clearly on the bottom.  It was very different than anything we have ever experienced.  In spite of having heard so much about the clear water, it’s amazing to see it first hand.

The water is so clear that you always take a visual check on your anchor after it’s down to be sure it’s well set. For example, yesterday when we anchored, a French Canadian from another boat anchored nearby took his dink out over our anchor and looked down to see if it was well set.  He put his head into his glass bottom bucket and gave me a high sign that all was well.  It was a very nice gesture and I appreciated his help.  When the water is calm boats almost seem to be floating on air.  That’s a lot different than our experiences up north.  Taking advantage of the clear water I dove on Pandora yet again to check if there was any evidence of damage from last summer’s grounding.  Happily, with the exception of the big bite in the front of the keel, all appears to be well.  Whew!!!

The weather for the next few days is forecasted to be very settled which is good as it will give us some more time to get used to moving through the shallow banks while having particularly good visibility.  The winds are expected to pick up into the 15-20 range by Wednesday night and then a bit higher into the 20-25 range from the E/NE by Thursday so we will want to be somewhere that’s well protected from the wind or at least the chop.

After our arrival yesterday to Rose Island we decided to head to the beach with our friends. The landing was our first on a beach with a surf and it was a unique experience to be sure.  We did our best to time our run for the final few yards to coincide with the the wave breaking on the beach so that the next wave would sweep us up onto dry sand.  Actually, that went pretty well but we did have to scramble out of the dink onto the beach at just the right time to avoid the next wave.  It was comical to see one of the other boats time things less well and have a wave come right over the transom of their dink and fill it half full of water and sand.  Oops.

On the way back out through the surf it was a different kettle of fish for us.  While we did our best to time our departure between waves, we were caught unawares and were swept back up the beach before we had made it even twenty feet.  We tried again and made it although in our haste to jump back aboard Brenda landed on her behind in a jumble of wet clothes and sand in the bow having missed the seat as she scrambled aboard. As you can imagine, there was plenty of laughter along with the indignity of it all. Brenda was a good sport and rinsed off when we got back to the boat and hung out her clothes to dry.  We weren’t alone having difficulty and friends had a similar experience getting off too and got plenty of sand and water in their dink.  Note to self, be sure to put the camera in the dry bag next time.

Speaking of surf, after our run from the beach yesterday, I went for my first snorkeling run with some friends.  While I have been snorkeling plenty of times over the years, it’s a much different feeling to do it off of your own boat.  The reefs at Rose were nice but not in particularly great shape.  There were plenty of fish but not a lot of healthy coral.  Perhaps that’s because it’s so close to Nassau.  I expect that conditions will improve as we head south.

Today we are heading to Allens Cay which is at the top of the Exumas chain and an easy 30 mile run from Nassau.  Our arrival in Allens will mark our entry into the more remote areas after the more populated islands of the northern Bahamas.  Allens will also put us within a reasonable distance of George Town, where we will be meeting up with the boys in a few weeks.  Allens Cay is about 100 miles from George Town and with nearly three weeks to make that distance we have plenty of time to enjoy spots along the way.  Heck, with nearly 1,800 miles under our keel on this trip, 100 miles seems like a day sail.

I can’t begin to describe the color of the water here, perhaps aquamarine is the closest color that I can think of.  An aquamarine stone that you sail over.  Clear and blue sparkling water.  Hard to imagine, actually.

Well, I have to say that it’s good to finally be here and I am very excited about making our way south.

Nassau and the Bahamas, finally!!!

On Thursday morning we picked up or anchor in Ft Lauderdale and headed out into the Gulf Stream.  The all important weather forecast calling for winds that would be convenient to sailing were forecast to be there so out we went. The forecast from Chris Parker called for SE/S winds at about 15kts that would be clocking around to the SW and ultimately to the North that evening and freshening to 20kts, ideal conditions for crossing the banks and running down to Nassau.  So, we left with fingers crossed.

The crossing went fine except that it was a bit rough with a wind driven chop from the South in the stream and as we were sailing on a close reach, we were romping up an over each wave as it came into our starboard quarter forward of the beam. We made good time and entered the banks in the early afternoon.  For a while we motor-sailed into a light wind on the banks but finally, after dark, the wind shifted abruptly to the north, so we could sail again, following a semi-dramatic squall as the forecasted cold front passed.

Around 02:00 on Friday we went through a particularly tricky cut, Northwest Passage, that wasn’t marked by any navigation aids (It is the Bahamas of course) and again into deep water again to Nassau. I have to say that going through a narrow spot that’s only about 1000′ wide, surrounded by “dangerous rocks” on both sides of the cut all the while in the pitch dark with no visibility beyond what I can see on the plotter.  There aren’t even any bouys to see when it’s light.  The charts call for marks but we were told that one was hit by a freighter a few years ago and has never been replaced.  It’s just so different in the Bahamas after coming from the US, where every buoy change is announced by the Coast Guard and you’d never find a major mark ignored for years at a time.

While the trip was a bit rougher than Brenda would have liked and she certainly wasn’t too enthusiastic about her first overnight passage, it all worked out just fine.  To be on the boat overnight the first time is disconcerting to be sure and I can still recall how it felt the first time I was out overnight many years ago.  Overall, we made the nearly 170 mile trip in good time and were able to sail about two thirds of the way. Best of all, after year of planning and dreaming, we are here and it is great.

Today the sun rose and streamed through puffy thunderheads to our east.  It was just magnificent.  You will just have to trust me on that given the whole no picture thing and all. Brenda is now sitting up in the cockpit in her jammies and enjoying a cup of latte that I made for her.  The picture is completed as she is knitting away on her current project.  Not bad to be outside looking at clear water on a sunny day on January 19th.  Yes?

Today we plan on making a short run with friends over to a nearby island where we are told the snorkeling is terrific and the sandy beaches made of powder soft sand.

No more Bahamas, here we come, now it’s Bahamas, WE’RE HERE!!!

Well, we are leaving Ft. Lauderdale for the Bahamas in the morning. Hopefully.

Here in Ft Lauderdale for the last few days we have been very busy running around celebrating birthdays, Brenda’s that is, provisioning and doing last minute laundry.  It’s been a bit overwhelming but great fun.

It’s nearly 9pm on Wednesday evening and we are just finishing up getting Pandora ready to head out to cross to the Bahamas tomorrow.  The forecast seems to be about right although getting a fair bearing to cross the gulf stream and make it onto the banks may be a bit tough as the wind will be from the south.  In order to make what is in essence due east from Ft. Lauderdale, we have to head on a south east course which is south of our destination in order to compensate for the strong set to the north that we will experience as we cross the gulf stream current for the 50 miles to the banks.

The weather forecast suggests that the wind will be out of the SE/S in the morning, just barely south enough to provide a good direction for us to sail so we will be hard on the wind.    It seems that we will have to hold a course of something like 100 to 11o till we reach the banks. It is possible that the wind will begin to shift to the south west before we get to the banks which will help.  However, if we can’t make the needed course we plan on taking a more northerly route and go north of the banks entirely into the Northwest Providence Channel and then head south around the Berry Islands as the wind clocks to the north, which is supposed to do on Friday.   This is a bit further but will allow us to follow the clocking winds more easily and sail an more comfortable course.

Well, all of this weather stuff is a bit daunting as it is uncertain at best and will take us out over night, something that Brenda hasn’t done before.  However, I love sailing at night and am hopeful that it will go well for Brenda too.

Well, enough about the crossing for now.

Ft Lauderdale is unique in part as it’s the only city we have visited by boat where there is a dock for our dink that’s right near a major shopping mall.   In fact, when you pull up to the dock the mall, and it’s a big one, is just across the street.  Pretty funny to enter a mall pulling a wheel cart with groceries.  I felt like a bag lady.   Got any soda cans I can return for you?

If that’s not unique enough, there is plenty of wildlife there too.  How many malls can boast that they have their own native manatee population living right near by?  These are beautiful creatures.   Really big, beautiful creatures at that. How about iguanas?   This guy was about four feet long.  No, he wasn’t in a cage,  just keeping an eye on us from the other side of a fence closing off a vacant lot.   And, he’s not the only one there.   Speaking of wildlife?   How’s this for a sport?  He came right by us where we are anchored and blasted around us a few times.  This looks like just so much fun. The jet pack is attached to a motor that looks like a surf board.  He came right by and hammed for the camera. I should note that our friends Linda and Richard that had dinner with us the other night in Boca sent us photos of a banana tree that they have in their yard.  It’s a very special banana that Linda calls “Bob”.   So, why “Bob”, you ask?This is because it has grown from a small tree that I gave her when she worked in the same company that I was at.  It’s been nearly ten years since I gave it to her and when she moved to Florida she took it with her and planted it in her yard.   But wait, there’s more.  This banana, or should I say the banana from which “Bob” descended, was bought by me and Brenda when we were dating in high-school back in the early 70s.   Do the math, that’s a long time ago and Bob’s no spring chicken any more.  Hmm…

We kept the plant at home, then college and for over 20 years in our greenhouse.  We had to give up all of our plants when we  got rid of the greenhouse a few years ago. If you can become attached to a plant, this banana is one that meant a great deal to me and Brenda.   I can’t tell you how exciting it was to hear about “Bob” and to see these photos.  On top of all that, “Bob” produces hundreds of bananas each year, something that he never did for us.  It seems that he’s happy with Linda and Richard.   Perhaps some day I will be able to taste one.When Brenda and I purchased this plant way back when we never imagined that we would be aboard Pandora about to head out for this amazing journey.   Who knew what life would bring?

However, perhaps the greatest highlight for us here in Ft Lauderdale was a perfect celebration for Brenda’s birthday on Wednesday.  We enjoyed a great dinner out looking over the the water.  On top of that we visited friends for “sundowners” earlier in the evening and our hostess surprised Brenda with a cake.   Doesn’t Brenda look happy?  I have never met anyone who enjoys being a birthday girl more than her.  Happy Birthday Brenda!!!Wish us luck.   We hope to be able to continue to post regularly using WIFI from the Bahamas, which I hear is widely available.  

Stay tuned for more and please keep those cards and letters coming and wish us a fair crossing.

Yes, there’s more to come, way more.


Boca is just so…Well, Boca. How about 20 bridges in 57 miles?

It’s Sunday morning and we are sitting pretty in the heart of Boca Raton.  This place is just a perfect example of overstated elegance.  Can you say “mine is bigger than yours”?   It’s good to be back aboard after a great month at home in CT.

We arrived in Ft Pierce late on Wednesday evening after a long day of traveling and spent the next two days running around with our rental car to pick up last minute items that we need to spend the next four plus months aboard in the Bahamas.  As you can imagine, that’s a lot of stuff.  For example, we have on board nearly 20lbs of coffee. While there are some groceries available in the Bahamas, they cost about double what they cost here.  Given the amount of money we have put into groceries, I can’t even imagine spending double that amount.  How about $40-$50 per case for beer?   Makes you want to drink rum. That’s about the only thing that’s cheap over there.  Me, I’ll take that.

So, after two days of running around we were happy to shove off to begin moving south again on Saturday.  That day we only made about 20 miles and stopped exhausted for the night in Stuart in a really lovely harbor, Manatee Pocket.  We had a really nice dinner at a local eatery on the water.  Sitting outside on a deck in balmy January evening weather was certainly a contrast to Essex.  Well, I we did have to wear sweaters, but they were light weight.  I don’t want you to think that it was total Heaven.  Close, but not total Heaven given the sweater thing and all.

Here’s the sunrise that greeted me on Sunday.  Not a bad view to begin the day.After resting up we headed out early on Sunday to make our run to Boca Raton.  Actually, we weren’t sure where we were headed that day but as the day progressed we found out that our friends Melinda and Harry were aboard Sea Schell (their last name is Schell, get it?) in Boca so we thought that it would be fun to connect with them there.  I wouldn’t have thought it possible to make it all the way, nearly 60 miles in one day but we made it.

Normally, we could have easily made that sort of distance but in this case there was 20, count em, 20 bridges between us and our destination.  And nearly all of them had to open (on their own schedule) for us to pass.  And, I should add that if you are only a minute late they generally won’t hold it for you. Remember,  this is Florida, the home of transported New Yorkers.  Here a minute is a New York Minute and they ain’t foolin’.

To give some context to the number of bridges, in all of Georgia we only went through, actually under as they had 65′ clearance, a total of five.  Florida is certainly different than Georgia, that’s for sure.  And here, most are low so you have to time the openings with most opening only twice an hour.  Believe me, it’s tough to make the openings on schedule and several times I really had to put the peddle to the metal to make it in time.  I expect that my fuel consumption yesterday was higher than normal.

One thing that’s different here than other areas that we have visited on this trip is that folks with money, or at least those with money that want to show the world that they have money, are here in Florida.  There is just no end to the display of wealth.  Home after home line the waterway, each bigger than the last.  And, if a big home on the water isn’t enough, how about putting a 100’+ boat out in front just in case you want to spend a few days on the water.

When you get to Palm Beach you know that you are where the .001% hang out.  This is a yard that is host to the really big guys with one yacht larger than the next.  White is the color of choice it seems, but this grey one is a cut above with it’s own helicopter, color coordinated of course.How about this for classic grace?  What a beauty.  I’d live on this one.  Jeeves, please fetch me another latte, post quick. This “expedition yacht” looks like it can go nearly anywhere.  I wonder if it does or if the owner is too busy making money to spend time aboard.   Really a sharp looking yacht to my eye.It seems that not everything afloat is totally over the top here.  This must have been a tear down that wasn’t torn down.  Perhaps the deal was “it’s yours if you take it off of my property by the end of the month”.  Only his crane operator knows for sure.  Hmm…Speaking of cash and carry, I wonder if these guys were on the prowl or a dead hedge fund manager, perhaps one that had just taken a look at what his tax bill was going to be under Obama.  It was fun to go by the Breakers, an old time classic hotel built by Henry Flagler.   Brenda and I stayed there on business in a different lifetime.  It’s  spectacular place, let me tell you.   Even more opulent than Pandora, if you can believe it.Speaking of opulent, how about those hedges.  I’m thinking that it must take an army of workers to keep them in proper trim. All I can say is “nice patio”.At least there is some sanity here although not much.  I wonder if the owner of this cute little tug is at peace with having the most diminutive vessel in town?I just love lighthouses and this one that marks Jupiter Inlet is particularly nice. All and all, this next chapter of our voyage is getting off to a great start.  While yesterday was long and tiring given the need to constantly time the bridges and dodge boat traffic on a busy Sunday, we really enjoyed the day, 20 bridges and all.   Did I mention that we went through 2o bridges in a single day?  Trust me on this, that’s a LOT of bridges.

And, to cap off the day, we were able to enjoy a lovely dinner aboard with our old friends, Linda and Richard, that moved to Florida years ago.  Linda had worked in the same department that I did for many years and we hadn’t connected since the moved away.  They had never been on a boat before so meeting them on a dark dock to run them out in our dink was quite an experience, I am sure.  They must have really wondered what they were getting themselves into when they looked over the side of the dock to this little rubber  boat bobbing below.   “OMG, he’s going to take us out into the dark in that….?”  Good news, a wonderful evening with no loss of life.

Today, to Ft Lauderdale and it looks like we may have our weather window to cross over to the Bahamas as soon as this Thursday. Fingers crossed.

In the mean time, it’s a lovely sunny day with puffy clouds.  Oh, did I mention that the water temperature is just shy of 80?  Perhaps I’ll leave it at that for now.


Preparing for liftoff and on to the Bahamas with Pandora

It’s Saturday morning, only a few days untill we head back to Pandora and the second half of our journey.  We’ve been back in Essex for nearly a month and really enjoying time with family and friends.  In spite of our both catching colds as soon as we returned to Essex, we have had a great time.

Here is Essex CT it’s been quite cold and snowy with something like 6″ of snow hitting the ground just after Christmas.   If this early snow is any indication of what the winter will be like here, it’s going to be a long one.  I am sure glad that we are going to be enjoying “winter weather” of a different sort.  For me, it will be my warmest winter EVER and none too soon.

We have been working for some time on a provisioning list for when we return to Florida and it looks like all of our work preparing Pandora with all sorts of food prior to our departure from Essex and along the way has paid off as our provisions are in pretty good shape.  Yes we still need a variety of things such as perishables as well as the all important wine and beer but we are in pretty good shape.  Our last minute shopping list, while impressive by usual weekly shopping standards, is not that overwhelming.   I expect that we will be able to get everything on the list in the two days that we have allocated for shopping prior to shoving off.

I have also ordered a number of spare parts that I have shipped to my friend Keith’s home in Vero Beach but it seems that we are in pretty good shape to leave.

I key milestone coming up shortly after our return to Florida is Brenda’s birthday.  Make a note in your calendar, it’s January 15th as I am told that there is consideration being made to declare this a national holiday.  However, national holiday or not, Brenda would prefer to celebrate with our boys.  However with a planned rendezvous with them in George Town on February 9th, we have to get back to Pandora so as to allow plenty of time to make the crossing.  Wish me luck in making this birthday a memorable one for Brenda, but in a good way.  Who knows where we will be on the 15th so I will have to come up with a fun birthday celebration for her.  Thinking hard….

Speaking of crossing to the Bahamas.   The weather for crossing the Gulf Stream has been very much on my mind.  With the constant parade of cold fronts barreling down from the US, we have to time our departure carefully so as to make the trip as comfortable for the birthday girl as possible.    Another issue to consider is if we will just make a run for it when the weather is good and continue all the way down to Georgetown or to break it up into segments.  Me, I’d personally like to break up the trip if we can so that it is as fun as possible along the way.  I’d love to make a stop in Nassau on the way so that Brenda can enjoy a short visit there on our way further south.

In spite of the fact that we aren’t even in the Bahamas yet, I am beginning to make plans for getting Pandora back to RI in the Spring.  As I have some favorite crew that I enjoy spending time with, I have already made a few calls to put the thought in their heads for late May.

Well, think of us on Wednesday as we wing our way south to Florida.  It’s pretty funny to make the trip that took us three months in just a few hours buy plane.

As I think about the crossing here’s what I should try to avoid with that birthday girl. This would surely be a CLM )(career limiting move) Perhaps a crossing more like this would be preferred.    Hmm…

Fingers crossed…