Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quick trip up the ditch

As I mentioned in our last post, we are going to try to make it to Maine this summer.  It's a long way from FL to ME, especially when you travel at 5.5 knots, or about 6 mph.  Our first goal was to head up the "ditch", or Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), to the Chesapeake Bay.  From our location at West Palm Beach, FL, we were 1015 miles from Norfolk, VA and the end of the end of the ICW.  Compared to our travels in the Bahamas this spring, travelling up the ICW is blissfully calm, and a very laid back way to travel.  Even though we were on the move every day, we enjoyed the familiarity and the easy travelling up the coast.  We stopped at many familiar places, and a few new ones.

Our first stop was in St Augustine, where we wanted to spend a few days and relax and enjoy and explore this fun town.  Here we are on our mooring, right in front of the majestic Bridge of Lions.

From our spot in St Augustine, it was a easy walk through town, including another visit to the Castille de San Marco, the local castle in town.

We stopped at a few of our favorites, including Fernandina Beach, FL and Cumberland Island, GA before making a hop up the coast offshore to Charleston, SC.  We continued up the ditch through South Carolina and stopped for the first time in Georgetown, SC, a new favorite, before heading up the Waccamaw River.  The Waccamaw remains our favorite section of the ICW, there is something about travelling up this river that is just so comfortable.  Perhaps there is still a bit of river rat left in these salty dogs.  The Waccamaw is a river surrounded by swamp, and is a wonderful place to feel lost in a forest, and yet spend the night on our comfortable,floating home.  Here is our favorite anchorage on Prince Creek on the Waccamaw River.

We stopped early enough in the day for a little exploration of the swamps in our dinghy.  We saw alligators, night herons,and swallow tail kites, along with all the wonderful swamp flowers and trees that make this place so serene.  As we travelling through the swamp, we were enjoying listening to the sounds around us, here we see Kristen taking to oars!

After leaving the swamp, we quickly moved to New Bern, NC, where we took a bit of a break to catch up on some projects.  New Bern is slowly becoming our new home port, as it was so nice to return somewhere so familiar and comfortable.  We enjoyed spending time with old and new friends at the marina, while we were busy with some varnish projects and updating some electronics for our adventures north.

Leaving New Bern, we were venturing in to mostly new waters, and we were excited to get underway.  By this time, it was mid June, and summer had arrived in NC.  Here you can see we have all our sun shades up, trying to hide from the sun!


The ICW north from New Bern is only about 185 miles, and we were ready to get finished with it.  When we were just about all the way at the end, we were delayed by the Great Bridge Bridge, in Chesapeake, VA, because it had been struck by lightning, and they were only opening it early in the morning, and late in the evening.  Thankfully, there was room on the free dock, where we ended up making room for another cruiser coming through.  It was the first time we have rafted up to another boat, or in this case the other boat rafted to us.

They were a bigger than us, so it was a little awkward tying up this way.  I was happy that they were only staying for a few hours, while they waited for the evening bridge opening.  We stayed here overnight, and departed with the early bridge opening. Following this bridge is a lock, and with all the backed up traffic from the bridge delay, we ended up waiting most of the morning for the lock to pass through the commercial traffic ahead of us (they get the priority).  It wasn't so bad, as we had a place to tie up the boat, and a bunch of other boaters to commiserate with, as you know misery likes company.  Here is a view up the canal from our boat, waiting for the commercial traffic, and a flock of geese that decided to cross the canal during all the commotion.

By afternoon, we were passing through Norfolk.  It was really a treat to pass by and gawk at all the navy ships docked there.

As you can tell by the pictures, the day was mostly gray and overcast. However, by evening, not only were we through with the ICW, we were also treated to an amazing sunset.

Next stop, the Chesapeake and beyond...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back to the land of plenty

For our return to the states, we were planning to head north and west through Bahamas, to leave from the northernmost Abaco island chain, so that we could make some good distance north on our passage through the gulf stream.  But we are lazy, and we prefer that when the wind is out of the east, we go west.  That was just the case, it seemed for weeks on end, as we were planning our trip back to Florida.  So, instead of heading north from the Exumas, west we went.  To Nassau, to the Berry Islands, Bimini, and finally, back to Lake Worth, FL, which happened to be the same inlet that we left from in January.  As such, it turned our Bahamas cruise into a nice loop.  Although, the wind and seas were up a bit more than we prefer, it was all downwind, and so it was much more comfortable. 

The upside of our stop in Bimini is that we were able to enjoy the beach here on our final stop in the Bahamas this year.  It was the first Bahamian beach that we visited last year, and it was fun to revisit a place that we held so fondly in our memory.  Thankfully, it delivered, and we had a great time walking and exploring the beach again.

We had a long, 80 nm day ahead of us across the gulf stream and back to Florida, and we needed all the light we could get. Here is the early morning light leaving the harbor at Bimini. 

After nearly 4 months in the Bahamas, we were ready to be back in the USA.  We settled right back in, and found some wonderful food to restock the larder.  Because, you know, the journey is not over.  We are heading to Maine!  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Exumas!?!

I apologize if you get tired of reading about the Exumas, but we spent a lot of time there this winter.  What can I say, we were having fun, excuse me.  We left Great Exuma island with the plan of following the chain of islands all the way north, and stopping in Spanish Wells, before heading back through the Abacos on our way back to the States.  Unfortunately, the weather had its own plan for us...

We left the marina and had a grand sail up the chain of islands to Lee Stocking Island.  This island was once home to a NOAA research facility, but was abandoned some years ago when the funding dried up.  As near as two weeks before our visit, you could land on the island and explore through the old buildings and equipment.  Unfortunately, a new owner is planning some great development and no longer wants people trudging all over the place, and has placed some very unwelcoming signs around the place.  We traveled there with our friends, Ron and Judy, on Cetacean (their blog is here).  I mentioned before that they also have a Tayana 37, and it was great fun to travel with them on and off a few times on our way north.  Here is photo of the two Tayana 37s side by side, ready for the weather.

We ended up here for nearly a week, and had a few opportunities to explore some nearby cays.  On Leaf Cay and Normans Pond Cay, we discovered Bahamian iguanas, and enjoyed some fun photos.  

Tracks in the sand.

There were some lovely beaches here to explore and relax upon.

And mangroves to explore.

All in all, not a bad place to hide from some strong winds.  Once the weather lightened up a bit, it was time for us to move on.  We started our way north, and stopped at Staniel Cay to take in the pigs, where Kristen enjoyed feeding them a few carrots.

We were soon back at Exuma land and sea park, generally re-exploring some of the places we had been, and seeking out some new beautiful places.  Here we are back on a mooring ball at Cambridge Cay.

We found more fun places to explore by dinghy

And more mangroves.

And more lizards.


And generally, enjoying the heck out of this place.  What other pose do you do at a place called the Pirate's Lair? 

So you can imagine that we were ready to leave as soon as possible.

It's difficult to type that as I look at that last photo, but we actually were ready to head back to the states.  We had become saturated with beautiful beaches, and breathtakingly beautiful water.   I think we may have lost our senses somewhere in the Exumas.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Georgetown and Great Exuma!

We spent the next six weeks or so cruising around in the Exumas chain of islands.  It is truly a cruising paradise.  We found plenty of ways to have fun in the sun, but it also seemed like we did a lot of hiding from the weather.  After our brief initial stop in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, we worked our way quickly south through the Exuma chain of islands, down to Georgetown in time for the annual Cruisers Regatta.  We spent about three weeks combined in Georgetown and on Great Exuma Island.  There are a lot of services for cruisers there, and we enjoyed taking a bit of a break from moving the boat so much and enjoying the island life here.

We stopped at the main cruisers beach, at the Chat n Chill, one of the nicest beach bars we have found.  Looking over the "where to" sign post, lo and behold what did we see?  That's 947 miles to Chattanooga in good ol' Tennessee Orange!

A view looking back at the Chat n Chill beach.  It shows off a small portion of the anchorage in the distance (Tatiana is in there somewhere, way, way out to the left).  The area full of house boats in the foreground is referred to as the "fruit bowl", where the house boats go by names of Mango, Papaya, Pinapple, etc.

I took in a bit of body surfing, and Kristen captured this shot of me on the best ride of the day!  (Thank you, Frank, for letting me use your gear)

The Cruisers Regatta had a bunch of fun packed into a week of activities.  We ended up participating in six events total, nearly all with our friends Frank and Mary Grace on s/v Let It Be.  Our first event was the Coconut Challenge, and it is likely the most ridiculous fun we have had in a long time.  Who knew that all that time Kristen spends throwing things like coconuts at me over her head would help us win second place?!?!  We also sailed on Let It Be in both of the regatta races.  Mary Grace did a great job on her blog assembling a bunch of pictures from all of their events.  Check them out here.  We had such a fun time with them during the week's activities!

Here is a view of the anchorage, with s/v Let It Be sporting her new flags from the races of that day, along with others in the anchorage flying all their colors.

As you can see, the anchorage here was a bit busy.  They reported over three hundred boats at anchor here for the Regatta week!

We had a few nasty clocking fronts pass through, and we ended up spending quite a lot of time anchored out of the way in "Red Shanks", a place named after the small cays that provide all around protection.  While a bit further from the action, it was far more protected from the nasty weather.  One of my favorite parts of this anchorage is the bridge that you pass under on your way into town.  It was built for a development that, as far as I know, never happened.  It seems that there are so many examples of big plans that never happen here in the Bahamas.  The bridge is very scenic and pleasant, but there is a run down mobile trailer next to it, reminding you that the construction is over, and the development stopped.  It is essentially a bridge to nowhere that hardly anyone every uses or sees.

By comparison, below is the bridge into the town of Georgetown.  Every cruiser who visits here passes under this bridge, and everyone who lives in town uses it.  It is probably seen and used 1000x more than the previous bridge.  Look closely, it appears as just a break in the shoreline. 

Georgetown was full of the colorful buildings you would expect in a place like this.  Here we have a pretty blue church.

Here is the most inviting pink police station I have yet to see.  It seems that most government building in the Bahamas are pink.  Can you imagine government buildings this color in Tennessee?  

We left Georgetown and moved up the coast to Emerald Bay marina for a brief stay (of 10 days!).  Thankfully, they have the cheapest docks we have found anywhere - $0.50/foot!  We met a lot of cruisers here heading both north to the states and south to the islands.  Here we met some new cruising friends, s/v Cetacean.  Ron and Judy also cruise on a Tayana 37, so we had lots to talk about.  We joined them on a road trip down the island, all the way to Little Exuma, where we stopped at the Tropic of Cancer beach.  Our hightlight of the day.  Here is Ron's timer photo of all four of us, thanks Ron!

Because I know you want to see our feet...

Enjoying the beach!

All in all, a fun visit to Georgetown and Exuma Island, but all good fun must come to an end, and it's time to start our trip back to the states and north...summer is coming!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gin Clear Water!

Arriving in the Exumas, one of the most notable changes was that the water became truly gin clear.  All the water in the Bahamas has been wonderfully clear, but the Exumas were a notch clearer.  Add on top of that the Exuma Land and Sea Park is a marine sanctuary, and you have some great underwater exploring to do. Here we are at Warderick Wells, home of the park office and a nice place to spend some time...

We spent a nice, calm day seeing the Cay by dinghy.  The water was so calm that day, we were doing some dry, speed snorkelling from the dinghy.  This photo was taken at the "Pieces of Eight" reef between Hog Cay and Warderick Wells.

But I get ahead of myself.  We entered the Exumas at Cambridge Cay (Conch Cut, to be precise), and enjoyed a few days on a mooring at Cambridge Cay as a front came through.  We did some hiking on the Cay, and found this nice view of both the beach on the sound side and the mooring field in the distance.

We found some great snorkeling at "the Aquarium"

And even more snorkeling at the Rocky Dundas caves.  Yes, you snorkel into the caves!  It was really cool.  We were thankful we were able to time our trip for low tide and only a slight swell.  We were still both knocked over several times by the swell in the caves!

After some fun at Cambridge, we were off to Warderick Wells and the top two photos.  We hiked a few of the trails there, and set our sign on the pile at Boo Boo Hill.  It was neat to see signs of other boats we had met or of blogs we have read.

The next leg of our journey continues south down the Exuma chain toward Georgetown for the upcoming cruiser's regatta.  Stay tuned for some fun in the sun!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fish On!

We timed our crossing from Eleuthera to the Exumas with a nice ENE wind to carry us comfortably on our SW heading.  With all sails up, we were happily sailing along at 5-6 knots in the 10-15 knot breeze.  The scene was quite pleasant, and on several occasions, we saw schools of flying fish coming out of the water around us.  Well, it was just the previous day that we had spent time on s/v Let It Be, where we had some diving and fishing, and I guess I had the bug enough to try my hand at dragging a hook behind the boat.  As you know, you can only catch fish if you have a hook in the water.

After about an hour we heard the spool start running out, and low and behold, it was a fish!  Not just any fish, but a Mahi Mahi!  And what a beautiful fish she was.  When you first spot the color of a mahi mahi, the brilliant yellow, green and blue colors glow neon.  By the time it was beside the boat, it was already loosing its color, but Kristen still managed to capture some of the brilliance in the second photo.  By the time it was on deck, it had had its final shot of tequila and the color was long faded.  I spent the next hour filleting and cleaning up the mess on the leeward decks (thankfully remembering that the mess could wash off the boat that way).  We now have a freezer full of fish and an experience to remember. Thank you fish.  

We are now exploring the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and will spend then next few weeks here before heading further south to Georgetown.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Horizons

Heading south along the east coast this fall, we found it to be an easier than it was on our first trip north last spring. There were pleasant towns and anchorages to revisit, shallows to avoid, and wonderful scenery to see again.  While we had not seen all of the coast the first time, we knew enough that it was a far more comfortable trip south.  This familiarity extended into our Bahamas cruise as we passed through the Abacos as we headed towards the Exumas.

After our brief visit through the Abacos, we headed south to the island of Eleuthera about two weeks ago, and again, we return to a state of discovering new horizons.  The new is the adventure and it is one of the biggest driving forces that keeps our boat moving.

After a long day crossing from the Abacos, we found ourselves tucked into the cozy anchorage at Royal Island Harbor.

Tatiana at anchor in Royal Island Harbor

We stopped in Spanish Wells for some marina time while a strong cold front passed through.  The town is really interesting, and we look forward to coming back here again.


The working waterfront of Spanish Wells which includes the largest fishing fleet in the Bahamas

More waterfront scenes from Spanish Wells

While there, we met many other cruisers and quickly became friends.  We joined some friends on s/v Let It Be to Harbour Island and the wonderful pink sand beach there - we all agreed that is one of the most beautiful beaches we have seen.

The pink sand beach of Harbour Island

Mermaid in the surf

When we left Spanish Wells, we had some terrific weather for sailing and cruising down the west coast of Eleuthera.  We slowed the boat for a quick look at the "glass window", where the island is so narrow that the ocean has nearly completely divided the island in two.   There is a bridge connecting the two sides, that occasionally gets damaged with strong enough storms.

Glass Window of Eleuthera

There were few other boats cruising this coast of Eleuthera, and we often were the only boat at anchor.  

Here we are in Alabaster Bay of Eleuthera

Our final stop in Eleuthera was on the southern coast where we again met with our friends on Let It Be for some diving!  Wow, what great diving there!

Kristen hovering over the boiling hole

Kristen on a coral swim through

Nice soft coral

We are continuing to head south (not that it's cold, just more stuff to explore).  Our next stop will be the Exumas!