Monthly Archives: February 2014

Solidly and seriously stuck in Staniel Cay.

It’s Friday morning and I couldn’t resist an alliteration title for this post.   So, forgive me. 

Anyway, more to the point, our plan, as noted in yesterday’s post, was to move up to Compass or Cambridge Cays into a spot that would be a bit better protected from these persistantly annoying westerly winds.

So, late morning yesterday we cleaned up Pandora and got everything in the proper place for getting under way.

Brenda and I have a very well worked out procedure for pulling up the anchor that involves hand signals for going forward, backwards, port, starboard, stopping and various combinations of same.   So, yesterday, as we have done thousands of times, we began that process of retrieving the anchor.

As we brought Pandora over the anchor and began to pull it up the final 20 or so feet to the deck, the anchor chain pulled up sharply and stopped dead.   Generally, it takes a bit of pulling to get the anchor free of the bottom, especially after strong winds have caused the anchor to dig in deeply.

As we had a particularly strong squall the prior night, I wasn’t surprised that getting the anchor up was more difficult than normal.  So, I secured the anchor chain and signaled Brenda to power ahead to break out the anchor.   However, instead of Pandora slowing slightly as we rode over the anchor, she stopped dead and the bow dipped down sharply.

The anchor would not budge.  We tried pulling from various directions and nothing, nothing, would break the anchor free.  After a while, a couple from another boat anchored nearby came to offer assistance.  My first thought was to use our “look bucket”, a 5 gallon pail with a clear plastic bottom, to take a look at the anchor to see what it was caught on.  Oddly, the anchor was mostly exposed on the bottom.  It didn’t seem that the anchor could be so stuck.

After a bit more pulling to no avail, I decided to put on my wetsuit and go take a look at the anchor up close.  However, the water was over 20’ deep and deeper than I normally like to go with free diving.    Unfortunately, I didn’t have any choice in the matter and dove on the anchor.

What I found is that the anchor was wedged under a limestone shelf and wasn’t going to come out by pulling on it from the chain alone.

First I tied a line to the back of the anchor so that my helpers could try and pull it out.  Well, that didn’t work very well as the line got tangled in the anchor chain.

I was running out of ideas and finally decided to have Brenda put Pandora in forward to take the tension off of the anchor chain.  Then I dove down on the anchor and was able to brace my feet on the bottom and pull the anchor out from under the ledge by hand.  It worked, anchor free.

I scrambled back aboard Pandora and pulled the anchor up into the secure position on the bow.  However, I immediately saw that the shaft was solidly bent.   Not good.  The anchor wasn’t really usable any longer.

Fortunately, I have a large spare anchor that we use when the winds are going to be really strong and put that on in place of the damaged anchor.

I should note that the damaged anchor weighs 65 lbs and the shank that bent is nearly 1” thick and made from forged steel.  I can’t imagine how much pressure it takes to bend something like this.  And bend it we did.  All the pulling and yanking we did on that anchor pulled the shaft from side to side while the flukes stayed wedged in the bottom, unmoving.

Here’s what it looked like when I got it aboard. I plan on tossing it overboard as soon as I find a new anchor from someone in Georgetown where lots of cruisers congregate.   We should be there sometime in the next week or two.   For now, I figure this one is better than nothing as a spare.

This is yet another reason that we have spares for nearly everything aboard Pandora.  You never know what sort of surprises await.

Wrecked anchor or not, I am really glad that nothing but the anchor was damaged by all the yanking and am happy that Pandora is so solidly built.   The process was more of an ordeal than I would have liked but at least it ended well.   I have also been pretty unhappy with the now damaged anchor, a Bruce, as this type of anchor only works well in sand and mud.  Yes, there’s plenty of sand in the Bahamas but a Bruce doesn’t work well in grass or hard sand, where it just skips along and won’t dig in.  There have been many instances, and several on this trip, where I have had to re-anchor time after time and ultimately wasn’t able to get it to set properly.  All and all, I am not unhappy to be getting a new anchor.

Here’s hoping that there are boats around with anchors to spare.

Today?  Now that we are unstuck, perhaps we’ll head up to Compass after all.


Memories of The Bounty and the beauty of Staniel Cay

It’s Thursday morning and we are still anchored off of Staniel Cay in the Exumas and are “enjoying” a fairly rare westerly wind.  Actually, to say that we are enjoying this is not actually accurate.  This area of the Bahamas is well protected from the prevailing easterlies but are very exposed to the west and when the wind shifts to the west, it gets pretty bumpy, which it is as I write this post.  Brenda doesn’t like bumpy.  

As cold fronts run down the coast of the US, they bring with them “clocking winds” where the normal easterly trade winds give way to winds that clock from the normal east through to the SW, West, NW and then back to the east where they belong.    It’s quite amazing how quickly the seas build from the west as the winds clock.  Just yesterday we were enjoying very calm conditions and following a pretty strong squall last night, the wind has settled into the west and the seas are now causing all the boats in the anchorage to bump up and down.  Even though we are fairly well protected behind a small cay (island), there is still some “wrap around” waves making us a bit uncomfortable.   However, it could be worse.  There is a small boat near us that it really taking it on the chin as they buck up and down.   A while ago they were bucking enough to bury their bow in a particularly steep wave.  Better them than me, or Brenda.  She’d love that.  NOT!

Anyway, our plan for today is to jump out into the Exuma Sound and make a short run up north to a very nice area about 6 miles north of here, Cambridge Cay or Compass Cay, whichever seems more protected.  Happily, in this area there are a number of options to get out of the exposed waves when things come from the west.  As an added bonus, we will be meeting up with our friends Ann and Sandy, old buddies from Norwalk Yacht Club in CT.  Our days at Norwalk Yacht Club seem like another lifetime.  They will be joining us in a few days when other friends join them for a week run back to Ft Lauderdale.    It will be fun to catch up and talk about old times.

One of the nicest parts of the day here in the Bahamas is as we watch the sun set.  This time of day finds many cruisers sitting on the bows of their boats, adult beverage in hand watching the western sky turn all sorts of yellows, reds and blues as the sun sets.   Brenda and I really enjoy this time together.   It’s very serene.  A few days ago, when Christopher was with us, we enjoyed a particularly nice sunset.  We even were treated to a “green flash”.  The green flash is when the last of the sun peaks below the horizon, if you stare at the last point of light it blinks a brilliant green.  I caught it on camera but it doesn’t look nearly as green it appears.  I guess it’s just another example of “you had to be there” and we were. Last evening was a bit more exciting than usual highlighted by a visit from a US Coastguard helicopter.  The distinctive orange and white craft approached our anchorage and proceeded to hover and slowly cruise in a lazy circle for about 45 minutes.  It’s very unusual to see the US Coastguard here in Bahamas waters and to see one so close to Pandora was a real treat.  To say they were close is an understatement.  They were so close that we could see one of the crew standing in the open door on the side of the aircraft.  They hovered so low that the down-wash from their rotors kicked up loads of salt spray.  They couldn’t have been more than a 150 yards from us and less than 200’ off of the water.  Brenda and I waved frantically to get their attention and if they saw us, they didn’t give any indication.  I was hoping that perhaps they would wiggle their rotors or something to say HI!  Oh well.

The light was fading but we were still able to get a great shot of them passing by.

Interestingly, this wasn’t the only helicopter sighting yesterday with this guy circling over Staniel Cay for over an hour.  The sighting was pretty neat but not nearly as impressive a sight as the USCG helicopter but very interesting never-the-less.Staniel Cay is one of the more popular islands in the Exumas and has been the location for the filming of a number of movies over the years.  Perhaps the most famous is the James Bond movie “Thunderball”, that was filmed here way back in the mid 60s.   A particularly memorable scene was filmed in an underwater cave, or grotto, nearby.  This site is still a very popular snorkeling spot.  Actually, we are anchored just east of what is now known as “Thunderball grotto”.  It’s pretty neat.  At low tide you can swim into the grotto and there, lit by sun streaming in from a hole above, is an amazing cave full of colorful fish.

Another really interesting feature here and elsewhere in the Bahamas is an occasional breadfruit tree.  These stately trees are prized for their starchy fruit.  This particular breadfruit tree is a descendant of those brought to the new world by Captain Blye himself aboard the HMS Bounty.  Blye was made famous by the mutiny aboard his ship.  That story itself has been made into many movies over the years.

In spite of the trials of Blye and his shipmates, descendants of the breadfruit tree seedlings he was carrying from the Pacific islands made their way to the Bahamas.    Here is a photo of one of the larger breadfruit trees on Staniel.This is a shot of a not quite mature breadfruit.  I understand that the fruit tastes a bit like a potato when cooked.  The Breadfruit was envisioned as an inexpensive source of food for the slave population in the Caribbean.    I don’t know if Breadfruit is eaten by the Bahamians these days.There aren’t many buildings of note on these islands but the local church, most often Baptist, generally are well supported by the locals.  With only about 50 full time residents living on Staniel, clearly a lot of attention is paid to keeping the building in perfect condition.  This church on Staniel is one of the nicer we have seen.Yesterday I went for a walk on the eastern side of Staniel on one of the many beautiful beaches.  This beach was about a mile long and I had it all to myself.   I was very impressed with the sandstone outcroppings that ran to the sea.Over the centuries the Bahamas Banks were alternately flooded and exposed as subsequent ice ages tied up large amounts of water in glaciers up in the higher latitudes.  As the banks here were exposed to the wind, huge sand dunes were built up.   As rain fell, minerals in the sand leached down through the sand and hardened the dunes into sandstone.   As the glaciers receded and the sea levels rose, the ocean carved the stone into fanciful shapes.  Here’s a good examplesof the evolving landscape.  It’s pretty dramatic.As I finish this post the westerly winds are subsiding a bit so I expect we will head north a short distance as planned.  Happily, it’s another sunny and beautiful day here in paradise.  It sure beats snow, in my book.

It’s been nice visiting Staniel and it’s not hard to understand how this spot has been popular for so many years.

Into the Bahamas groove Mon… Time for a nap.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and Brenda and I are taking it easy aboard Pandora after ten days with Christopher aboard.  It was great having him with us and hearing all about his trip to Thailand but having three aboard a vessel the size of Pandora and moving the boat nearly every day to a new spot tired us out.    I guess we are getting old or perhaps soft from winters in the tropics.  Whatever the cause, I’m tired.

So what’s on the agenda?  Here’s Brenda winding a ball of yarn for a tapestry she’s working on.  Not too strenuous.  That’l do for today.  Not a bad backdrop.It was great having Christopher with us.  For the first two days of his visit he slept about half the time.  That’s what 80 hours of traveling will do to you, even if you’re in your 20s.  Actually, for those two days, I think he slept more than he was awake.  Now that he’s gone, perhaps I’ll do the same.  Did I say that I was feeling a bit tired?  Thought so.

Today Christopher flew out of Staniel Cay on a small plane that left around 8:45.  I had booked the flight online last week and was a bit apprehensive that something might go wrong with the reservation.   Alas, all went just fine.    Here’s the “waiting room” at the Staniel Cay airport.  Chris’s flight was just to Nassau but this is also an international airport as some charters come in from Miami.   I wonder who the architect was?  Never mind.

After a bit the “gate agent” arrived to check in the passengers.  Not to fancy.   No security checkpoint here, it would seem.Finally, the airplane arrived.  My brother Bill hates to fly. I’ll bet he’d take one look at this “toy plane” and would opt to swim to Nassau.

Not a big plane, that’s for sure.  Chris mugging at “his” plane.  I wonder if someday he will actually have one of his own?   Hmm…Of course, no departure is complete without a going away shot of the “traveler” from his Mother.   It was a bittersweet good by as we probably won’t see him till June.      So, where’s Christopher going now?  Today he flies to Houston for a visit.  Then on to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and a visit with some college buds.   After that, to Baltimore to see his brother Rob and then on to Providence RI.   He may cap this off with a visit to San Francisco for a month of work and networking with the computer set out there.

Whew… I am getting tired just thinking about all that travel. Me?  Perhaps it’s time for a nap.

Warderick Wells Park in the Exumas. A perfect spot.

It’s Sunday morning and we are sitting in one of the most beautiful harbors in all of the Bahamas.  As part of the Bahamas National Trust, certain areas are set aside as protected national parks.  This approach protects wildlife from overfishing so these “unspoiled” areas can act as nurseries where fish and wildlife can grow unmolested.   Studies have shown that wildlife from these areas tend to migrate and populate other more heavily fished areas. 

Anyway, we are on a mooring here in the heart of the park enjoying the soft morning light.   This view from the ranger station says it all.Each Saturday evening all visitors are invited to a BYOB cocktail party on the beach near the park headquarters.  Brenda, Chris and I decided to join.   Actually, I said something like, “let’s go.  It will be great”.  Getting them to join me was easy.    The group was quite international with a few folks from Australia and others from various spots in the US and Canada.   All and all, a very nice group. While we were on the island, we spied some local wildlife.  This is the only island in the Bahamas where I have seen snakes.   We saw a pretty good one, some 3’ long.  I didn’t get a photo of it.  Brenda was very brave and walked right by it.  However, she did have her hands held up and arms tight to her side.  You know the look… Something like “ew, get me out of here”.  She was very brave.

And nothing speaks “brave” quite like a hermit crab.  These guys don’t make shells of their own and as they grow they find an abandoned shell from some other creature and make it their own.  This one was pretty big, with perhaps a 3” shell.  He was none too happy with our attention.  He could cover distance pretty quickly.  Funny guy.The view of the harbor is very beautiful and with an unusually windless night very peaceful.   Here’s chris retrieving our wine, chips and salsa to share with the gang.All and all, a very nice evening.   Today off for a short hike on the island and then on to our next stop.   We have to keep moving as Chris flies out of Staniel Cay on Tuesday morning.   

Yikes! Pandora’s “head” gecko?

It’s Friday morning and we are anchored off of a lovely little cay, Hawksbill Cay in the Exumas.   The wind has been howling all night long and it looks like the best plan for today will be to stay put for another day.

This morning when I went into the aft head I was greeted by a very alarmed gecko, a small lizard about 3-4” long.   As I picked up something from behind the water spigot this little guy jumped and ran for cover.  He ran up the wall of the shower trying to find somewhere to hide.   Unlike most lizards, geckos have little suction cups on their feet that allow them to crawl up slick vertical surfaces.

So, exactly where would a gecko find his/her way aboard Pandora?  I doubt that geckos swim and we haven’t been anywhere near land since leaving Nassau.  But wait, we were tied up to a dock for nearly a week in Nassau so he might have come aboard there.  Perhaps he came aboard in Ft Pierce where Pandora was tied up for several months.  One way or the other, he must have run along the dock and then did a tightrope walk along one of the dock lines to his new home aboard Pandora.

Well, as “stowaway” critters go, I can’t think of one that is more appealing to have aboard.  On the “less appealing” side, it could have been a spider (we’ve had those before), or a rat (now that would send Brenda screaming), or perhaps a roach or other nasty little bug.

To date on this trip, the only wildlife we have only seen on the good ship Pandora has been a few fruit flies hovering above a bruised tomato in the galley.   So, now the question is “what to do with our newest guest, Gecko?”.

As one would expect of a “girl”, Brenda has a strong opinion on the subject.  It went something like this…” I WANT TO TAKE A SHOWER AND I AM NOT TAKING IT WITH A LIZARD!”.   Well, I guess that about sums it up.  GECKO GOES!

Me, I’d love to have him become a permanent member of the crew.  Besides, he’d surely put a dent in the fruit fly population and so much easier than patrolling the fruit basket for signs of spoiled produce.  However, it would be a shame if we were to squish the little guy by accident.  Sitting on a gecko wouldn’t “sit” well with Brenda, that’s for certain.  Besides, Gecko is very little and we are so BIG.

Ok, so now that I have thought it through carefully and Brenda has hinted at her position on the whole thing I guess our friend gecko headed for shore.  Christopher and I found a spot, a sort of semi-damp microclimate in the middle of the island and let him go.

I do so hope that he is able to find other likeminded critters to be friends with.   Having said that, perhaps I will be arrested for importing invasive species into the Bahamas.  I sure hope that I didn’t upset the ecosystem too badly.  My guess is that Gecko won’t survive too long as it’s a lot dryer here than where he came from, wherever that might have been.

However, I did have to “liberate” Gecko as Brenda had made her position pretty clear and, as far as pets on board, I had a pet aboard when we cleared customs in Chubb Cay.  Who knows, he may actually be a legal resident of the Bahamas.

In any event, he’s “free” now.  Hope it goes well.

A highlight of our visit to Hawksbill was a visit by a seaplane that landed just along side Pandora.  I went to the  beach to talk to the pilot who was waiting for his passengers that were delivered from a nearby island by boat.  It was a pretty neat plane.  I wish I could have gotten a ride.  The pilot was nice but not that nice.It’s now Saturday morning and we are headed, under power as the wind is right on our nose, over to Wardwick Wells, in the Exuma Park.  This is a little jewel of a harbor in the center of the park and the park’s headquarters.   It’s a great spot and was where Brenda and I spent Easter last year, as guests of the ranger and his girlfriend.  

As an aside, if you follow this blog, that I was having some problems with vibration in the propeller shaft.  After much back and forth with the yard in Deep River, CT, and a number of trips in and out of the water, we were unable to pinpoint the source of the problem.  I even had my Maxprop reconditioned by the factory.   Some weeks ago I was speaking with my friend Chris and he wondered if perhaps it had something to do with my shaft zincs.  These are sacrificial metal anodes that are designed to dissolve and attract any stray electrical current so that the propeller and shaft are not damaged.  Anyway, having exhausted every possible solution to the problem, I took a look at the zincs.  They were attached to the prop as normal but I decided to loosen them and move them closer to the propeller and shaft strut.   I also opposed the seams on the zincs so that any inconsistency in the weight distribution would be canceled out by the other.  I also replaced the zinc on the prop itself that had corroded away.    So, what happened?  Amazingly, the vibration is gone.  After investments of well over $1,000, now much I don’t want to be too specific about, the problem was solved by repositioning the zincs.  Thank you, Chris.  Nice idea and it worked.  It’s not the first time that Chris has offered up a solution to a vexing problem.

Frankly, I do wonder why the yard didn’t mention this as a possible solution.  It seems so logical now.  With a few pieces of metal bolted to the prop shaft the idea of repositioning them is just so simple.  Oh well, live and learn.

Exumas, here we are!

It’s Wednesday morning and we are anchored off of a lovely beach at Highborne Cay near the top of the Exuma chain of islands.  This part of the Bahamas is referred to as the central Bahamas with Highborne near the northern portion, not to put too fine a point on it.

The water is crystal clear and the most amazing color of blue.

Our run on Monday from Nassau took us a bit over 30 miles and with winds out of the north east, we were able to sail the entire distance.  The wind was a bit strong so it was a pretty energetic run and I am happy to report that Brenda did very well.  Actually, it seems that her tendency to be seasick seems to be less each year with this year the best yet.  Yahoo!!!

Our first stop on Monday was at Allen Cay, the home of a wonderful population of native iguanas that, for all the world, look like props from a “B” Japanese Godzilla movie.  As you come onto the beach, the lizards come out to look for handouts.  It’s pretty amazing to see 30 or so 3’ long “mini monsters” come out of from the brush.  And sometimes they come pretty close.  Here’s Chris with some admirers.Yesterday we motored a short distance from Allen to Highborne Cay because this island is a bit taller and breaks the wind a bit more.  The currents at Allen are strong challenging and make the boat orient itself oddly to the wind as the tide ebbs and flows against a strong wind.   Here at Highborne, the currents are a lot less so Pandora lies more calmly at anchor, which is much more comfortable.

We are expecting stronger winds, upward of 20kts, tomorrow so we will likely head a bit further south today to take advantage of the mostly favorable winds from the east today.   We will be entering a national park area and “no take zone” which is protected against any fishing or hunting, which is good.  As a result, you see all sorts of fish that you might not see in the other areas.

The winds in this area tend to be from the south east so getting south can be a bit challenging.  In order to sail the wind has to be 40 or so degrees off of the bow.  Otherwise, we have to motor into the wind.  And, if the wind is over say 15kts, it takes a lot of power to push against the wind.  Needless to say, those who have sailboats would prefer to sail.

Chris will fly out of Staniel Cay, a bit south of here, Wednesday of next week so we have to be aware of wind conditions to be sure we are able to get there in time for his flight.   As you might have surmised, we have to pay very careful attention to the weather as picking weather windows correctly when we need to head somewhere can make for a good day on the water.  Pick incorrectly and well, not such a good day.  With the next few days calling for unfavorable winds, we probably should head south today and hang out for a few days while we wait for more moderate conditions to return.

Getting out of Dodge, er: Nassau Monday

It’s Sunday morning and we are STILL in Nassau harbor.  It’s been nearly a week and I have to say that being here is getting a bit old.  However, at least it’s not snowing.

Our son Christopher arrives today and we are doubly excited as we have not seen him in a month.  I am sure that his trip to Thailand has been terrific and we can’t wait to hear the poop.  Brenda is so excited about seeing one of her “boys” that we rented a car so that she could greet him as he exited the airport.  No way was she going to let some random taxi driver bring him to the dock.

Well, we’ll see how I do at driving on the “wrong side” of the road.

In spite of the fact that Nassau is in the Bahamas, it’s not the reason that we visit.  The water is very clear in the harbor by US standards but we are looking forward to heading out into the more rural areas on Monday where the water is remarkably clear.  Fortunately, the weather looks good for a run tomorrow.

Actually, many boats have been pinned here in Nassau for much of the week as the winds have been very strong and from the west, an unusual direction for this part of the world.  And, westerly winds are not good in the Exumas as there are only a few anchorages that are protected from that direction.  So, it’s great luck that more “normal” winds are in the offing now that Chris is arriving.  While the US east coast has been dumped on by Mother Nature, the effect on the Bahamas has been winds that are uncharacteristically unfavorable.  

One good thing about being here has been dining out as there are some very nice places to eat in Nassau.  Last night we capped off our visit with a visit to a very nice Tapas place on the water.  Very good.

Many of the local eateries serve seafood, as you can imagine, and yesterday I visited the docks in Potters Cay where the fisherman sell their catch.  I have to say that it’s pretty seedy and not a place that you’d want to visit in the dark.  Well, not the sort of place that someone as “non threatening” as I am should ever be.  Even during the day I am an easy mark with my goofy hat and camera bag.

Everywhere you go in the Bahamas there are conch for sale.  It is quite amazing that there are any conch left to catch.   If you look closely, you can see a piece of rope going from one shell to the other.  This way, the fisherman can toss the conch into the water to be stored till they head to market.   This way the conch can’t get away.   In Potters Cay there are also food vendors selling all sorts of produce, some of which I even recognize.One popular item on the local’s tables is land crabs.    You can see them in the cage to the lower left of this photo.  These guys smell as nasty as they look. I don’t think Brenda will be scarfing down any of these in the near future.

Anyway, I have to head over to the grocery to do some provisioning for the next week as there are really no groceries, as we know them in the US, here in the more remote areas.

Nassau Bahamas and we are still here…

It’s Sunday morning and it’s been a long time since my last post.  So why is that Bob, you ask?

Well, it’s a long story of computer neglect and I won’t bore you with the details except to say that it’s all better now, mostly.   It seems that my computer, in spite of virus protection etc, had accumulated it’s share of problems over the last few years so I finally “bit the bullet” and took it to a repair place here in Nassau.  Yes I know, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to let someone “have their way” with my life in a country where the video stores openly sell pirated copies of first run movies for $5.00.  Oh well, I left my computer for a few days and magically, all seems to be better now.

So, we have been here since Wednesday I think (time seems to be a bit less well defined here when the water and air are in the low 80s) and we have been touring the area.

On Monday, we expect to head east to the Exuma islands, about 35 miles from here.  Our son Christopher is also due to join us tomorrow for ten days.  We are very excited.  His flight from Thailand, where he has been for the last month, takes him half way around the world and will take something like 75 travel hours, including layovers, some 12 hours long.  His itinerary takes him to these hotspots beginning in Chaing Mai then on to Bangkok, Taipei, Osaka, JFK NY,  Washington DC, Miami and finally here in Nassau where we will meet him in a rental car at the airport.  I wonder how jet lag feels after three days of travel? I hope I’ll never know.

Imagine what fun it is to sleep on planes and airport chairs or three days or more?  Oh, to be young…   I expect he will catch up on a bit of sleep when he’s aboard Pandora.

Nassau is a fun place to visit and we have enjoyed our time here.  Although it’s not, in my opinion, the “real Bahamas”.  For my money, to be out in the more rural islands is preferable to the bustle of the city, here in Nassau.   After a few days “on the hook” or anchor, we opted to come into a marina, where we have been for the last few days.  Amazingly, we ran into a few other couples that we have known for some time and met elsewhere.  It’s a small world.  

Nassau is a city of great contrast from the large poor local population to the constant stream of cruise ships and private yachts that come and go constantly.  However, if you are looking for a glitzy spot to visit there is nothing better than the Atlantis casino across the harbor from our marina.

Brenda and I took our dink over to Atlantis a few days ago to have lunch in one of their restaurants and and enjoyed our visit.  The places was mobbed with tourists from all walks of life and the casino floor was as gaudy and noisy as any I have been to over the years.  I have to say that to be walking through a huge hotel did remind me of my working days.  I can’t say that I miss it at all.

Anyway, it was fun to see something so different.  The outdoors area of the hotel is so polished that it was quite a sight.  This shot shows just how “over the top” the place is.  The huge yachts were a sight as well.  The market umbrellas really set the mood.Brenda and I also got a Bahamas cell phone yesterday although it took a pretty good walk to find the BATELCO store.  After what seemed like FOREVER we now have a working cell phone.  I plan on using it to call my mother.  It was ironic that the store was on Shirley Street as that’s my mom’s name.  Perhaps someone was trying to tell me something.  This sign make it clear to me.  “Bob, call your mom!”.  Will do.  I did.The other night Brenda and I had dinner with the son of the chef at the Essex Yacht Club.  Brent is in the Marines and is stationed at the American Embasy here in Nassau.  It was fun to hear about his life here and he also took us for a drive around Nassau and to see where he lives.  His post here will last a year and then he will transfer somewhere else.  It will be fun to stay in touch.    He’s a nice guy.    He even brought us “official” American embassy shirts?  Double nice guy. Yesterday Brenda and I went for a long walk, longer than we planned and WAY longer than Brenda planned, and visited a number of great spots.   Along the way we stopped at Greycliff hotel in Nassau.  It’s a beautiful historic hotel, supposedly some 200 years old.  We spent some time around the pool.  What a beautiful oasis in the bustling city. While we were there we met this very nice young women, from South Africa.  She had some time off from her job on one of the big cruise ships.  She had grown up on a farm in South Africa.  Very interesting.

We also visited a local distillery for a rum tasting and some lunch.   Yes, it was early in the day so we had just a small taste of their rums.  You must believe me…  What a beautiful spot.  I guess the rum business is going well.  Wonderful colorful buildings. And, yet another picture of me and Brenda.  I guess the above and this shot are sort of like “before and after”.  Now you see us. Above you don’t. The government buildings are pretty here.  Grand, actually. However, once you are out of the “down town” area, it gets really poor very quickly.  I understand that tourists have no business wandering out of town.  Not safe.  However, in town there is substantial police presence.  And, they are very natty.   Internet coverage is a bit challenging for us here.  I signed up for a service here in the harbor but it didn’t work well at all.  To get this posted, Brenda and I visited a local Starbucks (yes, they have them even here) and used their internet connection.   With a purchase, you get an hour of time on the internet. Quick, finish the post.  No time for distractions.  Actually, as I am finishing up I had to buy another coffee as my time had run out.  At least I can type faster with more caffeine.  Faster but with more mistakes. 

As you can imagine, they do a great business selling coffee so folks can check their e-mail. 

So mom, are you there?  We’re still here…

Sailing again at last. On to Nassau.

It’s Monday mid morning and we are sailing along with a gentle breeze on our way to Nassau from Chub Cay, a distance of about 50 miles.  Actually, the engine has gotten a good workout since our arrival back in Florida and today is the first time that the sails have been out since my arrival in Florida way back in November. 

Since arriving in the Bahamas a few days ago we have hung out in Chub Cay, about 40 miles NW of Nassau.  We decided to stay put for a few days to wait for a weather window to make the run and stop in Nassau, along the way, in part because our son Christopher will be joining us there for a ten day visit.

Christoper is currently in Thailand decompressing from his graduate studies at Columbia.   It seems that he spent, by his count, something like 500 weeks on physics and is now ready for a change.  Yeah, no kidding.  So, how about heading to Thailand from New York City for a change of scenery?  Yep, that’s a change.

Anyway, he’s still not quite ready to re-enter the real world so is flying from Bangkok to JFK in NY and then on to Nassau where he will hook up with us.  That’s three non stop days of traveling so it will be interesting to see just how cranky and pooped he is when he arrives.  After he arrives on Thursday, we plan on making a run to Allen Cay at the northern end of the Exuma chain, home of ancient iguanas, the only indigenous population in the Bahamas.  This island was one of our first landfalls in the Bahamas last year so it will be fun to go back.  I have been using this photo as my Facebook photo since last year.  These critters are pretty fierce looking but they are quick to run away if you approach them.   They love to get handouts from visitors.  So much for wild but I wouldn’t want to try and pet one.

The closer you get, the fiercer they look.   I’ll bet that Christopher will love to see these guys. Yesterday we moved from one harbor on Chub to another and visited a little marina on the eastern shore.  It’s run by a Bahamian named Howard.  It’s clear that he works hard at keeping the modest place up and I have to think that running a business like that must be pretty challenging.  The place is simple but well kept.  I would have a tough time being in such an out of the way spot year round.   Like so many building in the islands, it’s brightly painted. We dropped by for a drink at the bar and took a mooring for the night.  We were the only folks in the bar and only one of three boats visiting.  We generally don’t take moorings as we prefer to use our own anchor.  However, the bottom there is pretty grassy and my Bruce anchor hook well into weed.  I haven’t run into much of a problem in the Bahamas south of Nassau but the northern areas are pretty weedy.  Perhaps it’s time for a different anchor. 

In the early evening a small skiff with some locals came by and began diving just off of his dock.  They had hand spears and kept swimming down, time after time.  After a few tries they came up with a good size lobster and then another.  Howard told me that some years ago a few pieces of machinery had been sunk off of the dock to provide hiding places for fish and lobsters.  These artificial “reefs” were actually an old pickup truck and a few pieces of heavy equipment.  Great idea as any sort of obstruction attracts plenty of sea-life. 

Had we stayed for another day I would have had to try my hand at spearing a lobster.

Speaking of diving, yesterday I dragged out my “hooka” compressor, an electric air compressor and long hose that allows me to stay underwater as long as needed.  I hook this unit up to my portable generator  for power.   By having this unit and long air hose, I can dive under the water to clean the bottom, something that has to be done periodically.  The process took me about an hour as it hadn’t been done since leaving Essex CT back in October.

The water here is so clear that you can see at least 100’ so it’s easy to see any “wildlife” that comes near.  Generally you don’t see much but yesterday there were two large 8’ long sharks that kept cruising by.  This is a not-so-great shot of one that kept coming very close to the boat.  Trust me when I say that he was really close, and BIG!  I am pretty sure that they weren’t the harmless nurse sharks. i say this becaues,  at one point, he/she came up to the surface and opened his mouth, I guess to take a gulp of air.  I saw lots of teeth, something that nurse sharks don’t have.  Anyway, I decided it would be prudent to wait a while before getting in the water to clean the hull.  After a while they wondered off so I decided to go in.  However, I did ask Brenda to stand watch and to tap on the deck if she saw anyone coming toward us.  Just in case, of course.

Alas, I was able to get the hull cleaned with no loss of fingers or worse.   However, I was still surrounded by plenty of observers.   A barracuda, perhaps 3’ long kept an eye on me the whole time, albeit from a discrete distance.  A 2’ remora, those fish with a sucker on the top of their heads, kept me company the entire time and he was never more than two to three feet away.  Pretty neat, actually.  A small ray with a larger fish tagging along kept cruising nearby and a very small and colorful puffer fish was also hanging around the entire time.

Happily, no sharks.  However, I must have stopped scrubbing at least 100 times to do a 360 scan to be sure that there wasn’t anyone thinking of making a snack of me.

After I finished I spied this beauty passing by to head into the marina.  We were too cheap to spring for the marina and anchored outside.  I expect that the owner of this yacht isn’t cleaning the bottom himself.  Actually, they had a “scout” boat heading in front of them to chart the depth to be sure that they wouldn’t run aground. Well, I am not totally cheap as Brenda and I did go into the marina to have lunch one day.  It was pretty good.

While we were ashore enjoying lunch, I took this photo of Pandora anchored off of the resort beach.  What a beautiful spot.  We’ll have to come back next year.  Perhaps we will spring for a visit to the marina too. So, here we are today making our run to Nassau where we will hang out for a few days.  Interestingly, the chef at Essex Yacht Club, Michael, has a son in the Marines, Brent, and he happens to be stationed in Nassau at the American Embassy.  We hope to connect with him while we are there.  Fingers crossed.

Our plan in Nassau will be to spend a few days till Christopher arrives.  We will rent a car to tour the island.  Meeting Christoper at the airport as he exits the terminal is also high on our list.  Nassau isn’t really that great a place to visit compared with everywhere else in the Bahamas but we are very much looking forward to a few days there.  Besides, one of the best groceries in the Bahamas is there so that’s good too.

For now, I think I’ll go back up into the cockpit to watch the water go by.  Oh yeah, the water here is really deep, over 7,000 feet actually.  And the color, the most perfect color of indigo blue.   Indigo water with the sun sparkling and an easy breeze.  Perfect.Yes, indeed, it’s good to be under sail again.  

Bahamas at last. Motor boat ride all the way.

It’s Saturday morning and we are here in the Bahamas at last.   We are anchored in a little harbor on the western side of Chub Cay,  an island in the Berry Island chain, about 40 miles northwest of Nassau.  It’s a beautiful cove with clear water.  It’s great to be here, finally.

We left Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon and headed out into the Atlantic and Gulf Stream headed over to the Bahamas.  The conditions were very benign with calm seas and only a light wind on the nose.  I would have preferred to sail and avoid 19 hours of motoring but it’s hard to get good sailing conditions that aren’t a a bit too exciting for Brenda.  Further, we would have likely had to wait a week or more to find an opportunity to cross with favorable winds.  Given those options, we bolted.  Good choice as here we are.

Last year, we were able to sail and it turned out to be a bit much for our first run to the Bahamas with fairly rough conditions and certainly more than Brenda had signed up for.   We had too much wind much of the time and were hit with a number of thunderstorms overnight.  Not great.  So, this year I promised her that we would try for an easy crossing and that’s what we got.

In crossing the Gulf Stream, you have to compensate for the current that pushes you north by steering toward a point south of where you want to end up and let the current sweep you north.   That point is calculated based on how much time you expect to be in the gulf stream and then estimating the average speed of the current.   So, I calculated a spot and adjusted our compass heading and off we went.

“So, what happened, where did you end up when you exited the Gulf Stream?”  Thanks for asking.  Actually, we came out within a 1 ½ miles of where I had hoped, just about perfect.  And, that’s after running about 8 hours and about 50 miles.  Pretty good, I think, actually.  At the center of the stream the current was pushing us north at about 5 knots.  That’s a huge amount of water moving north.

After crossing the stream, we entered the Grand Bahama Bank around 9 pm on Thursday.  It’s pretty amazing to be running along and see the depth go from about 2,500 ft deep to 25 in less than a mile which is what happens as you enter the banks.  So, after crossing onto the banks, we headed the rest of the way overnight in water that varied from 25’ to  15’ deep, typical depth for much of the Bahamas.  The water is so clear that you can easily see the bottom much of the time.   The moon was half full so the night was bright.  However, once it set, the stars were out in full splendor.  With no city light around you could see many more stars than what you’d normally enjoy.

We were also treated to a wonderful sunset and sunsets are typically pretty amazing here in the Bahamas, as we crossed the gulf stream.   Of course, we were out of sight of land so to see water all around you and these amazing clouds was a treat.

A very important event for us, especially for Brenda, was to spread her father’s ashes in the Gulf Stream.  Brenda’s father died three years ago this May and it was his wish that his ashes be spread out on the ocean.   Jack, Brenda’s father, loved the sea but he really didn’t like cold weather so it was very fitting that Brenda released his ashes in 80 degree water on such a beautiful day.  Brenda wrote a very touching post that says more than I can say about this special moment.

On a more pedestrian note, along the way we spied many Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish.  These are very unique jellyfish are about 6″ long and float along with a “sail” that pokes above the water.   I am unaware of any other jellyfish quite like these.   As pretty as they are “don’t touch” is the word as they are quite venomous.  The “business end” is below the surface with yards of poisonous filaments that catch small fish and other little creatures that the MOW feed on.  Even washed up on the beach, to touch one of these will cause a nasty sting.  Here’s what they look like drifting along.  Quite pretty actually, like a translucent bubble. The entire run from Ft. Lauderdale to here at Chub took about 19 hours and Brenda and took turns keeping watch as we motored along.  We took turns throughout the night but there wasn’t much to watch for as we didn’t pass a single boat overnight once we were on the banks. 

We checked into customs in Chub.  I took our dink ashore to a local marina where I retrieved the paperwork.  After filling it out I got a ride in an old pickup truck to the airport where I met with the customs and immigration officers.   To call it an airport is different than what we have in the US.  The “terminal” was a very small building on a single runway.   There is no control tower and the terminal is just for customs.  No snack shop or Starbucks here.  The process of clearing in was pretty straight forward but did involve lots of forms and plenty of loud “stamping” with ink pads and official looking seals.   $300 later we had our cruising and fishing permits and our three month visas and I went back to the marina with my “guide” Dave, a local Bahamian.  Pretty simple actually.   I should also mention that the airport has only one paved strip and its only long enough for small planes to land.  While I was there a great looking float plane landed.  The owner came in to clear customs too and then flew out again to head to his own private island in the Exumas, about 75 miles south.  We have visited near his island, Over Yonder Cay.  A pretty wealthy guy I’d say.

Last evening as Brenda and I were sitting up on Pandora’s fore-deck enjoying  an “adult beverage”, a gin and tonic, actually, a small boat with two Bahamas fisherman motored up to sell freshly caught lobsters and conch.   The Bahamas lobsters are very similar to our Maine lobsters, but without the big claws and conch are a really big snail.The fisherman stay out for weeks at a time and live on a somewhat larger boat while fishing during the day.   They catch lobster and chonch buy diving down in the clear water to find their catch on the bottom in the clear water.   They don’t use air tanks, just free dive down to grab their prey.  Believe me when I say that this is hard work.    Pretty tough guys.   We were happy to buy three lobsters and baked them for dinner.  They were delicous.

Having not gotten much sleep the prior night during our crossing, Brenda and I crashed early.  We were plenty tired.

Well, we’re finally here and the weather is terrific.  Our plan today is to visit the BATELCO (Bahamas Telephone) office today and sign up for a Bahamas cell phone to use for the time we are here.   Land lines are not used here and everyone has cell phones.  In many ways, the service here is better than in the US.  We will also get a chip for our i-pad so we can receive and send e-mail.

I had better sign off now as I think I need some coffee to wake up

Oh yea, as I was finishing up this post we had a mild rain squall that lasted all of 10 minutes.  The squall featured a neat little funnel cloud, sort of like a miniature tornado but over water.  They are generally harmless.   The rainbow left behind after the squall lasted longer than the rain. Perhaps we should head over to that island to retrieve our pot of gold.  If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you.