Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Being There

Another long post but that’s what happens when we go days of traveling and exploring without finding civilization. Be advised that the pictures don’t really capture all the crazy blue colors of the water down here. . . so, come visit!

A long time ago, well, it seems like a long time ago now, our old friend Mark from Burnahm Harbor, Chicago started giving us his old issues of Cruising World. It seems every picture in that magazine shows a boat all by itself in a beautiful anchorage. I guess we’ve been carrying around pictures like that in our heads ever since leaving Chicago. We’ve had wonderful adventures and some pretty anchorages here and there but lurking in the back of our minds was the idea that we were never there yet. Too much America and usually too many boats. At times I began to lose hope that we’d ever get to the place in our heads.

Monday 2/19 - Crazy wind finally backed down and we broad reached out of Nassau sailing ESE toward Sail Channel Cay. We sailed between 6 and 7 knots the whole way with reefed main and full genny. What a perfect sail. Maybe this will be the day. (Well of course it is otherwise why all the foreshadowing in the first paragraph!) A number of boats left Nassau with us but we could tell by their heading and by their radio chatter that they were all heading for Allen’s Cay. Many cruisers feel a clustering instinct with other cruisers. We do not. We’ll go there too soon but the anchorage we have in mind is off of the western shore of Ship Channel Cay which features some high bluffs. Since the wind is suppose to continue to diminish and clock to the east we think this rather open anchorage will be fine for tonight. As we approach we see all the other boats...ZERO! We nose in slowly and drop the hook in about 8 feet crystal clear water onto white sand. The anchor pulls tight and we are in.

Engine off now we just look around. Open sea to the west and rugged shoreline to the east and completely uninhabited. Some obvious coral heads near shore that will need exploring.

We’re there.

Other ports will follow and we’ll once again be snuggled up in tight anchorages. That’s ok and that’s fun too. It is great to know that you can still get truly away though.

We did nothing the rest of the day except watch the changing sky as the sun set and sipped our sun-downers. Tomorrow we’ll launch the dingy and go snorkeling and exploring. I thought back to all the conversations I had with good intentioned people back in Des Plaines Illinois who tried to explain to me why what I was planning was impossible. Well, it’s not impossible to sail away and life is every bit as good as I ever imagined it to be.

We are going to make short hops from here down to Staniel Cay (45 miles) as a practice run for where we will take my daughter and her husband when they come on March 10.

Life is good.....GOOD AND SHORT!

Tuesday 2/20 - We stay on the hook by Ship Channel Cay. Beautiful day and we want to explore around here a little. We take the dingy over near shore. The ‘shorline’ is mostly very sharp and pointy rock (old coral?) so we keep the dingy away. To the north is a little beach though and we pull the dingy up there and walk around a little. I snorkeled here too. Pretty but not very many fish. Later, we were joined by 4 other boats! So much for our lonely anchorage. This is a lot of area though so not really crowded at all. We actually hear nothing and no one bothers us.

Wednesday 2/21 - We’re off for Allen’s Cay. This is a motor of about 4 miles. I think from now on we will usually see our destination as soon as we get to open water. Allen’s Cay is made up of 3 islands: Allens, Leaf, and SW Allens together along with various un-named rocks and reefs form a well protected anchorage. It is shallow running north and south between Allens and Leaf with anchoring room toward either side. As usual the water is amazing and no problem visually separating the deeper water from the shallow. We anchor about as far north as we dare is soft sand. Probably not great holding but there’s no wind and none really predicted. What there is is a significant tidal current. We anchored about high tide and didn’t notice. Once is started running it turned us about toward the even shallower region. We took the second anchor out in the dingy and set it Bahamian style 180o from the first anchor. Now we can turn in the current without making huge circles. There are about a dozen boats here but still plenty of room.

After watching the play of the anchors for a bit we take the dingy out to explore a little. Leaf Cay is VERY special in that it is inhabited by thousands of Iguanas. Aggressive ones too! As we pulled the dingy up on the sand they were literally running (something they don’t do all that well) towards us. More than a little creepy. Sue stayed in the dingy initially while I ventured ashore. They come close and then they back off. Apparently they’ve been fed by the tourists enough to have learned where an easy meal comes from. OK, that’s enough...let’s go snorking!

We saw some dingys out snorking to the north of us by some rocks so we head up there to see what we can see. Now there is a significant current running. Running fast enough that I can’t make headway against it swimming with fins on. This is not too safe so we decide to put off snorking until low tide when the current will be down.

Reading and naps ensue...

At near low tide we venture out around to the ocean side of the rocks to the north of Leaf Cay. There lies a wonderful reef and the thousands of different tropical fish that inhabit such places. We are always so amazed by this. You just stick your face in the water and there’s a whole world for you to fly over with virtually no effort. Tomorrow we’ll come back or try another reef farther to the north.

Time is on our side. We have about 10 days to make the few little hops it will take to get to Staniel Cay. Then we’ll have a full week to make it back to Nassau to pick up daughter and son-in-law. Weather is being our friend right now so we are free to stay or go on any of the upcoming few days.
After dinner (brats and potatoes) we sit out on the fore deck and look at stars. There is no civilization here at all so the sky is good and dark. Wonderful.

We can’t imagine things getting any better than this.

Thursday 2/22 - We plan for the next few days ahead. First we listen to Chris Parker on the ssb at 6:40 a.m. Weather is good to go for the next few days. We decide to move south. But where to next? Well, why not go someplace where there is wifi since we haven’t been in contact with family since we left Nassau on Monday morning. Okay. We hail the marina at Highborne Cay. This is a private island but if you take a slip at the marina you can have access to shore amenities such as wifi. Well there is a slip available but the price is rather large so we look at our options. If we sail further we can be at Warderwick Wells where there is a ranger station for the Exuma Park and also wifi. We call Exuma Park on VHF 16 and find out that we can make a reservation for a mooring ball there. $20 a night compared to $80+ a night. Okay, we’ve made a decision. Onward. As we leave Allen’s Cay Friday morning the wind is significant and we have to raise the main out on the banks.

The anchor and bow are consistently bowing their heads below the waves as we hoist the main into the wind. Scott discovers that he can actually time his pull on the halyard with the bobbing of the boat. Down goes the boat........up goes the main..... and so on. Reefed and ready to go we head southeast, but not too east since there are shoals and coral heads out there to watch for. Very different that sailing lake Michigan where there is a serious lack of coral heads!

We sail a broad reach all the way to Warderick Wells even missing the one significant coral head at Elbow Cay. Okay. We had to jibe a couple of times to make sure we missed it but better sure than not. We had very nice wind (10-15 knots) off our port quarter for a broad reach with only 2 foot waves. Very nice. Hope we get this when Leah and Jason come to visit. An almost flat sail which Sue always likes. (Sue is also writing this piece).

So what is it like to not only sail for 6 hours on the Bahama Banks but also to arrive at Warderick Wells? Let’s let the pictures speak for themselves. And yes you guessed it. There is nobody here unless they arrived by boat and mostly sail boats at that. Now you’re really somewhere! Somewhere else.

Waderick Wells is the main island for the area called the Exuma Park. This area is protected - no fishing, no taking trash ashore, to taking shells, or shellfish. Our mooring ball is about a mile from the park office which is a pretty long dingy ride. Once there we find a very quaint office with the nice lady from the radio working there. They do have wifi...of sorts. We paid $10 for 24 hours and we could get in but it was desperately slow. Still we could read and write a couple of e-mails but no uploading of this blog with pics.

Waderick Wells itself is gorgeous. That crazy blue water, many sandy beaches and trails all over the place to go exploring. There are some little coral patches with dingy moorings to go snorking as well. We stayed 3 days.

Monday 2/26 - Time to leave Waderick Wells. Before we go we join the Bahamas National Trust. This is $60 but gives you two free nights on the moorings which is $20 a night. So, we would have paid $60 anyway for our three nights and now for another $20 we become members which puts us on a priority list for a mooring ball. Since we know we are coming back with Leah and Jason we decide this would be a good idea.

We have yet to nail down air travel for Leah and Jason out of Staniel Cay so we decide to just go there and do it in person! The wind is likely to be right on our nose with some indication that it might swing to the south-west. It is only about a 16 mile run so we decide to leave late morning hoping to catch the wind shift. We’ve never had occasion to try to tack this boat directly upwind. We know she’s not very good going close to the wind but now we’ll get some actual data. Oh yeah...this is NOT a weatherly boat! We tacked several times and each time through 120 degrees! That is really clawing your way down the coast! After few hours of this we decide to get there in daylight and motor and main the rest of the way.

There is a main channel into Staniel Cay. Outside this narrow channel on the west side of the island bordering Staniel there are about 20 boats anchored. Hmmm...what do they know that I don’t know? Oh well...onward! It gets pretty shallow on the way in - about 3 feet under the keel which I think is actually considered a LOT of water around here! It gets deeper once we are in the channel proper near the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Oh, by the way...there are NO buoys EVER marking ANYTHING down here. You have to really go slow and depend on your charts and your eyeballs! We tried to drop the hook near three other boats but the water was too thin for us. We have less than a meter under the keel and this was at high tide. We continued in to the area near Thunderball Grotto! Yes, this is where they filmed parts of the James Bond movie, Thunderball. There is a boat anchored there and two on mooring balls. We went slow and circled around until I could see a nice hunk of sand (about 10 feet down...no trouble seeing that!) and dropped the hook. Seemed to grab ok but it’s never like the hard pull you get in mud. After laying out about 60 feet of chain I dive in and swim over the anchor. Looks pretty good with the shank buried and one whole wing of the CQR. A little bit of the other wing is sticking out but it is not dragging. We’re in!

We go ashore to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club which is just a fancy name for a tavern. And a great place it is. Lots of atmosphere, lots of sailors (cute ones too!), and cold Kalik and best of all...free and fast wifi! I called Leah on Skype (the greatest invention since sliced bread). Life is good.

I’m thinking of the Jack Nicholson movie, As Good as it Gets, where he says the famous line, “What if this is as good as it gets”? I’m wondering the same sort of thing is a good way. I’m wondering if this is possible...to just sail place to spectacular place taking care of each other and our boat. Reading, writing, exploring...Doesn’t seem possible...but here we are! Breakdowns and storms will come - another day though.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Leaving Nassau

For anyone who has been away from the blog for a few days you might want to scroll down to the story of our crossing from Florida to Nassau.

Hurrican Hole Marina...we're in there ...somewhere!

Monday 2/19/07 - We offer here a couple of pictures from our short stay in Nassau. Later this morning we will once again set sail this time heading for the northern end of the Exumas. We hope to anchor off of the western shore of Ship Channel Cay (cay = key). Yesterday the winds cranked up to near gale here in Nassau for a brief time but today they should be down and from the north-west allowing us another down hill ride. We are on an exploratory mission from Ship Channel Cay down to Staniel Cay about 40-50 miles to the south. Then we’ll sail back to Nassau to arrive on 3/10 to pick up daughter and son-in-law and then take them on a well deserved vacation from Nassau back to Staniel Cay. From there they will take a charter flight back to Nassau and from there back to the frozen tundra that is our beloved Chicago.

We are excited as usual to get going again. We didn’t have time to learn much about Nassau. We did take some long walks and we did visit the fish market under the bridge. Bahamian people are VERY friendly and talk VERY fast and laugh VERY easily. My dream audience!

Conks at the marketplace

From our reading of our various cruising guides it looks like we could be in touch again before reaching Staniel Cay but at Staniel Cay for sure. We are looking forward to getting away from the hustle and bustle of US/Nassau (we skipped Atlantis).

Finally, I offer a little story about our checking in progress...Thanks to all for the comments...we really cherish each one. Onward!


The Customs of Star Trek

We knew there was a checking in process to go through upon our arrival in Nassau. It involves paying $300 and getting a cruising permit and fishing permit (Any fish reading this you can relax. You are safe from us.). OK. Our marina in Nassau contacted the authorities for us and, sure enough, while I was paying (a lot) for our slip a lady showed up from immigration. She looked at our passports and took those cards that you always fill out when you arrive in a foreign land. I was told that Customs would show up at our boat later. This was the day we arrived after 48 hours at sea with little sleep. We were hoping this would be taken care of sooner rather than later as you are not supposed to go wandering about until you’ve finished with all this bureaucracy and we were hankering for cheese burgers. After a couple of hours I went back to the marina office and asked if they knew how much longer it would be for the Customs person to come to our boat. The nice lady there seemed surprised that this hadn’t happened yet and made a call after which I was told that a man would be out around 4:15 or 4:30 and could I stay on board and wait for him. No problem. This gave me time to walk about and find out that the Bahamas $20 phone card that I bought for $15 in Boot key didn’t work (damn Aussies!). I had no sooner gotten back to the boat when two officials arrived from Customs to check us in. They were early but, OK. The younger guy came aboard and went over our paperwork and asked a couple of questions. He then told me that unfortunately he didn’t have the forms with him for our cruising permit but would be back tomorrow at 8:30 AM and we could pay the $300 then. Starting to sound suspicious but as long as my $300 is still in my pocket I’ll play along. We are told that we are virtually cleared and can drop our quarantine flag and raise our courtesy flag which we do.

About 30 minutes later another official arrives looking for the boat that needs to check in. I told him that we were that boat but that it already happened . . . mostly. He seemed shocked and told us that he was the ONLY person that checked in boats for Customs on the entire island. Uh oh. I explained what had occurred and asked him what to do if these guys show up in the morning. I’m to just tell them to contact Mr. Burns. Hmmm...

Well, I smell scam but I still have all my money so I figure someone has a problems but it ain’t me!

The next morning the young guy comes back, not Mr. Burns. Uh oh. I already am planning to give this guy no money. He comes to the boat and is very apologetic and tells me that I must go with him and we’ll take care of the ‘business’ back at some office. Am I in for a one way ride after which I am $300 lighter and find myself sleeping with the fishes? Um, maybe one too many Chicago movies there. He has a badge and everything so I go with him. As we are walking to the car we strike up a conversation (Bahamians LOVE to talk...FAST!)

Now get this...for the next 20 minutes we did nothing but talk about...ready?


Yes. It came up that I was a retired physics teacher and that just launched him into a thousand questions including but not limited to...

Q: Would it really be possible to produce artificial gravity as they do on Star Trek?

Ans: Probably not. Gravity is the force that we actually know the least about and the lack of gravity is also the most expensive special effect to duplicate so easier to just write a fiction about ‘generated gravity’ as long as you are writing fiction anyway (Ever notice how every thing goes to hell on the Enterprise including shields (no stronger than Mark Prior’s arm), life support, and engines but NEVER their gravity.).

Q: I understand that there are such things as black holes but what of worm holes?

Ans: Worm holes are theoreticians with too much time and pencil lead on their hands (nice mental image there.) They just mess with the equations and see if there are any solutions that would include popping out of a black hole if you happened to fall into one.

Q: What about transporters?

Ans: According to the book “The Physics of Star Trek” (ok, we’ve all read this, right?) the teleportation of physical objects let alone an entire functioning (non-republican) human being is totally out of the realm of even the most mind bending science fiction.

Q: According to the treaties of blah blah and blah blah it is certainly legal for ANY country to produce their own nuclear power, right? So how do we make sure that they are not also producing weapons grade uranium.

Ans: You’re way ahead of me on this one.

Needless to say the rest of the check in process went fine and Kevin the Customs officer drove me back to the boat as soon as we were done. Funny. I rarely get to talk physics any more and today I did...with a government bureaucrat!

You have to always be prepared to be surprised.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Florida to Nassau!

This will be a long installment as we have been out of computer service for some time now. So grab a cup of coffee, settle in and read it...and leave comments! We LOVE comments. This is the exciting story of Scott and Sue finally leaving the country!

Part I - Hurry up and STOP!

Anybody who’s been reading this blog for a bit knows that the captain tends to get just a little (his head blows up) antsy after staying in one spot too long. After nearly a month in Marathon (Don’t miss the Overseas Lounge!) I was really ready to go and even more excited to actually start looking for a good day to jump of to the Bahamas.

On Saturday 2/10, we said goodbye to our friends Joe and Peg, weighed anchor, took on fuel, water, and gas and headed up the keys for an anchorage called Channel 5. We’ve been there before and it is a little 25 mile run from Marathon. OK, we were a little rusty...forgot to undo the reefing lines before trying to raise the sail, misinterpreted the GPS and thought we were nearly aground, then nearly went aground due to bad piloting. Sheesh! Finally we got out a ways and turned to the east. We set the sails and kept the engine on for a while to charge batteries and keep our speed up. It was a beautiful sail. We pure sailed for about an hour in the middle of the run and then back to motor sailing when our speed got below 4 knots and stayed there.

We found our way easily into Channel 5 (last time there were some near misses as we got too close to the shoals on the east side). We anchored where we had before, a couple miles east of the bridge amongst a nest of crab pots. Nice. Somehow being on the move changes everything. Same boat. Same us but somehow different as well. And, VERY different from the ‘cozy’ anchorage in Boot Key...we’re the only boat here! The bad part about the anchorage is that it is wide open to the north and that’s where the wind is from but it is pretty light and we’re not worried. We began to worry around midnight with the wind shrieking through the rigging and the boat rocking up and down on 3 foot waves. Anchor didn’t drag but not much sleep that night.

On Sunday, 2/11, we decide to stay so as to maybe leave for Bahamas right from here. It is about an 80 mile shot from here to Riding Rocks at which point you can simply enter the Great Bahama Bank and continue east toward the North West Channel and Nassau. Although it is farther from here to the Bahamas the northerly push we will get from the Gulf stream should moderate that somewhat and allow us to make good time. Monday might have winds clocking to the south-east so that would be perfect. We’d leave around noon, sail through the night and arrive at Riding Rocks around 0800. Could work...now just keep an eye on the weather!

As we had gotten little sleep Saturday night I stole some time to take a nap. While dozing I heard someone holler something about Chicago and then heard Sue say, “ART! What are YOU doing here”? I went topsides and sure enough there was good old Art from Stem to Stern Yacht Care in Fort Lauderdale. He was fishing with a buddy and saw Enee Marie and said, “ I know that boat”. Nice and weird to see him here in the middle of nowhere!

As I was listening to the off shore report in the afternoon Sue came down the companionway and said those words you don’t like to hear, “We’re dragging”! Sure enough the wind had shifted to the east and while that gave us better protection and smaller waves it also twisted our anchor completely around and out of the dirt. We started the engine and I went to the bow to tend to the anchor. I put my hand on the snubber and I could feel the anchor dragging along the bottom. Suddenly it pulled tight and jerked the boat about. The anchor had re-set itself. Thank you! We’re not where we were but we’re still clear of most of the crab pots so we decide to do nothing.

It was a wonderful night. Very calm and crystal clear and we took advantage and caught up on the sleep we missed the night before. Maybe tomorrow we head to the Bahamas. . .

2/12 Monday - No. A line of thunderstorms came through our anchorage starting about 0700 and rained and blew and lightning and thundered and threatened water spouts for the next 5-6 hours. It rained 8 inches on Long Key very near us. This is tedious. There is nothing to do really except to watch our position to see if we are dragging and to wet our pants if we feel our hair stand up on end! A tense morning made more so by the way NOAA gives locations of things. For some reason everything is relative to ‘Craig Key’. Sue and I poured over our charts and guidebooks and could not find ‘Craig Key’. It was infuriating - “. . . a line of thunderstorms some with waterspouts as big as Jupiter have been sighted 3 miles from Craig Key. . . “ Are we near that or not! I called friends back in Marathon but they were not around. I called my brother-in-law up in Indiana and put him on an internet search for Craig Key. He called back a little later and said it was right between Fiesta Key and Long Key and was really tiny. We look at the charts again...let’s see, Fiesta Key. Got it. Long Key.....got it...HEY! We are anchored about 1 mile off of, you guessed it, CRAIG KEY.


Some navigator!

It is Monday afternoon now and the rain is finally stopping along with the wind. We filled two 5 gallon buckets with fresh water just by putting them out on deck. Oh, and there’s about 100 more gallons in the dingy which we were towing for a change to maybe clean her bottom a little. Well, maybe we’ll put some soap in the dingy and call it a washing machine and rinse in the buckets. (I wonder if I could lower the outboard into the dingy and start it up to provide some agitation? Hmmm...better not!)

We may have a weather window for the Bahamas tomorrow. Wind is supposed to be south east going south and then south going south-west and west on Wednesday. That would be perfect. It is more a matter of what is the weather that we will be heading into when we get there and we are trying to get as much of that information as we can before we take off. No sense going on a 20 hour sail just to get your butt kicked at the other end!

2/13 Tuesday - While everything was not going on we had Leah sign us up with the Caribbean Weather Service. This is an SSB deal that is run by a guy named Chris Parker and it is WORTH it. He comes on the air at 0640 every morning with a general weather report for the Bahamas. After that boats can call him on their SSB and ask for specific weather for their next intended sail. He spends about 10 minutes with each caller giving very detailed predictions of wind and waves. Well, we called him this morning and he recommended that we wait one more day as there were still some squalls around in the gulf stream and a pretty stiff west wind when we would approach the banks which can make the transition from 2000 foot deep water to 15 feet deep water a little exciting. So . . . one more day on the anchor. We did little except read. The boat is ready to go and so are the crew. One more day. . .

Part II - Actually Sailing Stuff

Wednesday 2/14. We call Chris in the morning and he thinks this will be a great day to cross and no problem with the night sail. Wheeeee....We make final preparations which is easy as we don’t want to leave until around noon which should provide for an early morning arrival at Riding Rock. Only 92 miles!

Alligator Reef light at left

At 1130 I couldn’t stand it anymore and we weighed anchor. What a baby! It’s a beautiful day but very light winds. We get the main up right away and motor out under the Channel 5 bridge. After clearing the shoals we set a course for Alligator reef. From there we’ll make a slight course correction for Riding Rocks. The wind is almost dead behind us and very light. Yeah....inflated and deflated genny. Still we’re getting some push from the sails even though they do a lot of flapping. We keep them up. It’s a SAILBOAT damn-it! We are on course and making 5+ knots with a little help from the engine. So GREAT to be on the open ocean. When we pass Alligator shoal light the bottom drops out from under us. The depth sounder goes from 20 feet to 100 feet in about 20 seconds. Bahamas here we come!

And a beautiful night sail ensued. We sailed much of the 90 miles and motor sailed the rest. For many hours we went wing and wing making 6+ knots. What a great evening. Except for the freighter. As we all know running lights can get confusing late at night when you’re tired. And anyway, who can remember green is starboard and red is port? Lights have no distance and you never can actually make out the shape of the ship to get its line as to which direction it is actually heading. Sue was at the helm and asked for help in passing the approaching freighter. It seemed far away and heading south. We could see it’s green running light which would be the STARBOARD one right, Scott? At first it seemed we could pass easily in front of it but then Sue looked at the radar again and said, “hey, this guy is CLOSE”. (note to you young sailors out there: If you can hear his engines he is VERY close.) OK, pass green to green but ...green...starboard...port wine, red, green, I’m tired...mommy! We drove around in a figure 8 pattern in front of the oncoming freighter trying to get our bearings. He (yeah, like these guys look out the window ever) must have thought we were playing some sort of game of marine chicken. Finally, Sue said, “THIS WAY” and we did manage to pass green to green by about 100 yards! Not much sleeping after that...too busy cleaning underwear!

2/15 - Thursday - The rest of the night was uneventful. Crossing the gulf stream is an old physics teachers dream come true (well, one of them...). Once we were totally into it (about 20 miles off shore) we had a heading of around 110o Magnetic and a course over the ground of around 75oM. How’s that for relative motion! We didn’t totally shake the effects of the stream until about 5 miles off the Bahama Banks.

It was at about this point that Sue said, “You know the depth meter is stuck at 74 feet”. I turned it off and on again (isn’t this how we fix everything now...reboot!) Now it went to 0.0 feet. Great. We are about to enter a realm where the very deepest part is about 15 feet and we show up with no depth sounder. The other one wasn’t working either. Hold on...two things don’t break at once. I checked the chart for our current location. OK! The water here is about 2400 feet deep! No bottom as far as the sounders are concerned. When we got on the bank they worked fine.

Quite a moment for us. We successfully crossed the gulf stream and sailed most of it. Now we were in our first foreign land (Finally! Thanks for your patience!) We passed the rocks that are named South Riding Rocks and entered crystal clear water about 15-20 feet deep. From here it is a 42 mile shot straight across this Great Bank to a place called Northwest Channel. Here the ‘Tongue of the Ocean’ meets the bank from the east and it is these waters that connect you to Nassau. So, now what?

Well, first of all, it seemed the boat was going slower than it should for the number of RPMs we were running (there was NO wind now). After about 10 miles of motoring/sailing we dropped the hook and I dove down to look at keel/propellar to see if we were dragging anything. Nothing there. I scraped off a few more barnacles off the prop while I was there. What I did notice was there was a significant current dragging me backwards which probably explains why our speed over ground seemed to be too slow. (Our knot meter is broken which would show our speed with respect to the water. With that I could have saved a swim. )

So, go on? Stop? Where to now? Our original plan was to continue on and anchor on the Bank at the other end and then head for an anchorage tomorrow. We talked with Chris Parker the weather master in the morning and he suggested taking a rest and putting in another night sail to make Nassau the next day. No wind he told us until after midnight anyway. Staying put for a few hours sounded good to us so we took naps and relaxed the afternoon away.

Now, about this great Bahama Bank. Understand there is nothing here. Nothing. Pure horizon 360 degrees. The water is amazingly clear and flat. It reminded me of one of those calm summer days on Lake Michigan. . . without the flies. When we dropped the anchor I watched it go all the way down in 15 feet of water like it was right there on the deck. Sue saw a dolphin swim to the surface and down to the bottom again without taking a picture (Sue didn’t take the picture not the dolphin..ok, neither Sue nor the dolphin took a picture. Syntax police are going to fine this.) She has to pick up the pace. We see NO other boats. I am surprised. For all the talk of coming and going to the Bahamas I expected to see some other sailboats. Nope. Just us as far as the eye can see.

So back on it at 1600 hours. Hope to make Nassau in about 20 hours putting us in around noon. We’ll try for a slip at one of the marinas as the weather is supposed to get very windy Saturday and Sunday. Onward!

No wind when we left our ‘anchorage’ but we motored along slowly and marveled once again at the water and the fact we are the only boat...apparently on the entire planet of WaterWorld! In the early evening we were able to start motor sailing and then pure sailing and it was perfect. Except for the unexpected brown/black streak of water ahead. It was about 2 hours until sunset and the sun was behind some clouds when we noticed this dark patch ahead. The depth was a consistent 15 feet at least and the charts showed no markings of anything less. What is that stuff? Sue looked through the binoculars and could tell that it wasn’t grass floating on top. It was something below. Do we go ahead and sail over it believing our charts? Sue says NO! We tacked and sailed by it seeing rocks/coral below. Yikes! Now what. We notice several more dark streaks ahead. We can’t tack through all of them. As we come to the next coral/rock place we hold our breath and easily cruise over. Whew! Maybe we’ve been sailing over these rocks all day and just now noticed them because of the late day lighting. Hmmmm. Anyway now we do trust our charts and continue on. The rest of the evening had just enough wind to keep us going 4.5 - 5 knots on flat seas. Not much to do at the wheel except nudge it a little every once in a while. I could lean back against the main sheet and enjoy. Stars came out full force too and I remembered once again why I got into this retirement business. Sue made a tasty pasta dish and we dined under the stars with the water sliding under the keel. Best waterfront restaurant on the banks! What a night!

We made our way to Russell Beacon (which doesn’t work - like a lot of the ‘beacons’ down here’. ) and then on to North Channel Light which does work. A little apprehension here as the path around the light is a little narrow and we are going through around midnight. No problem though (Sue was able to keep us right on course which is different that my window of 20o either way from the rumb line!) and we once again step off into crazy deep water called the Tongue of the Ocean. Not much wind anymore as we begin the final 50 mile leg of the journey to Nassau. We’re both really tired and go for 2 hour shifts instead of 3. During my 10 - midnight shift it seemed like there was beginning to be a little wind so I unfurled the genoa (We usually keep the main up and reefed for sailing at night wind or no wind.) and got a little boost in speed. Wind was on our port quarter enough to keep the sail filled. We motor sailed this way most of the night. During Sue’s 4-6 shift she got me up because the wind and seas had risen and now Sue was doing her favorite thing: steering in following seas at night. It IS creepy as you can’t anticipate the waves coming under and twisting the boat. Enee is a very forgiving craft though. Kind of like the big, goofy, easy going kid at school that you just can’t piss off.

Engine off now we sailed hard (YAR!...More CANVAS!) all the way to Nassau. The predicted weather for the weekend is for nearly gale force winds on Sunday so we hope to get into a marina for the weekend and hunker down. Sue stays busy on the radio trying to contact marinas without much luck. The biggest one, which is the one we wanted, was full. She finally made contact with Hurricane Hole Marina (that should work!) and got a slip reserved there. Good deal. Outside the entrance to the harbor area you have to officially ask for permission to enter the harbor on VHF channel 16 which we received after spelling ‘ENEE’ a couple of times. The harbor area of Nassau lies between the town of Nassau on New Providence Island and Paradise Island. Cruise ships (5), lots of boat traffic and a reversing current. Not a great place to anchor but lots of boats are.

Lighthouse marking Nassau with Atlantis in the background.

There are two 65 foot high bridges very close together that span this waterway and connect Nassau with Paradise Island. Our marina runs the gas dock between the bridges. We are to stop there for fuel and also to receive our customs papers. There is not a lot of room to maneuver between the bridges and the current is running very fast. I pull up as best I can to the face of the gas dock as Sue stands by with the dock lines. I notice a woman slowly get up and come to the dock to get the bow line that Sue throws her. She better hurry as the wind is blowing off the stern but ‘hurry’ is not in this woman’s vocabulary nor is ‘how-to-tie-a-knot’. I tried to encourage her to hurry as the stern is easing farther and farther from the dock. She still seemed puzzled and slightly entertained by her own knot tying efforts. When I was nearly perpendicular to the face I told her to untie me and I’d come around again. She seemed genuinely disappointed and a little insulted. She’d worked so hard on that macramé’ piece she had constructed with my dock line. When we came around again a young man had come down to help and we were in and fine.

It’s funny, when we are on a long run like this I always spend some of the time that I dedicate to worrying that I’d screwed up my calculations and that we would run out of diesel at some critical time. Remember we have no working fuel gauge but have pretty good data that we use 2/3 of a gallon per hour. Still...you’d like to look at a fuel gauge in the middle of the night and see that you have plenty of fuel. So after being ‘on it’ for 48 hours with lots of sailing but lots of motoring as well we used...16 gallons of diesel. We carry 75 gallons! I got to find other things to worry about! World hunger maybe.

We got the boat into the slip with no problem and lots of help from the dock hands. We are so happy! We have finally moved this little adventure up another notch and have cut the thread connecting us to the good old USA. We are also sooooooo tired. Of course we took turns sleeping for the two days but we never slept more than 2 hours at a time and you don’t sleep all that well on the go anyway. We look forward to exploring Nassau a little, a little re-provisioning, a little hunkering down when the front comes through on Sunday. Life is good...good and SHORT!

Finally, I went to the office to check in and pay for the slip. A very nice lady gave me a very BIG bill. In my tired state I just looked at it the way I used to look a differential equations - puzzlement and awe. Finally I said, “The slip is $2.50/foot, right?”. Wrong. Here’s a little tip boys and girls...either use updated cruising guides or double check the cost before making the deal. Our guide is 3 years old. The slips here are now $4.00 per foot. Yikes. Oh, well...only money. I’ll get more. We dined at the Green Parrot Bar right here at our marina. Cheese Burgers and Kalik beer. Yum. Better than the hard tack and weevil infested biscuits that we eat when we are at sea. Now for some real sleep.

It is Saturday morning now as we post this blog. We’ll post again before we leave for the Northern Exumas on Monday and then as we find other places with internet which I suspect won’t be often.

Above - Enee proudly flying her Bahamian courtesy flag.

Dont forget to COMMENT!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

They're Crossing...RIGHT NOW

Hello agin Scott and Sue followers.

The weather was nice.
The wind was in the right direction.
There wasn't lightning coming down inches from their boat (exagerration...maybe as the weather has been really bad down there....although really after the storm that Chicago saw yesterday they can't really complain)

and so today is the day the sailors are heading across the Atlantic Ocean on their way to the Bahamas. The plan is as follows:
  • Leaving Channel 5 today at noon
  • Arriving South Riding Rocks around 8am tomorrow morning.
  • From there they will continue across to Russell Beacon, where they will anchor Friday evening.
  • On Friday they will continue onto either Frasier's Hog or Morgans Bluff (what are these names....Frasier's Hog...really?).
  • From here they will head to Nassau where they will first and foremost find a phone to let me know they are safe and sound.
Stay tuned for an update on Saturday from either me or the Sailors!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

And....They're Off!

Hello all from Chicago.....this is Scott's Daughter, writing to update you on the sailor's progress. This morning they took off from Marathon to head north along the keys. They will be crossing over to the Bahamas within the week. They are somewhere on the map on the left between Marathon and 'The Bahamas'. The green arrow is at Nassau....I think......which is where we are flying to in 4 weeks.

Stay tuned for updates and plan on hearing from Scott and Sue when they are in the Bahamas!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

We Still Love our BEARS

What a wacky trip! We got to Chicago late Saturday morning after spending the night in the Miami airport (Motto: Welcome to the rudest F_____ airport workers on the planet) and took the Blue Line 'EL' to the Damen stop. Right at that stop is the Blue Line Diner and right in that diner was my daughter, her husband and, bonus, my newly married niece and her husband. We had had no sleep so a bloody mary was in order along with a BIG Chicago breakfast. Yum.

After that Sue and I napped in Leah and Jason's apartment. The temperature in Chicago was single digits. WOW! That brings back memories of waiting for buses and fixing flat tires. The temperature in Leah's apartment MIGHT have been double digits but we had no measuring device.

Saturday night we spent with our best friends, Kay and Gary, out in Brookfield and a giant game of RISK broke out. That was a surprise and great fun.

Time to get serious...game day...HOO! Well, we know how it ended but how it started was with us going to the first bar I ever walked into when I moved (hitched) to Chicago in 1972 - Bernies,- Across from Wrigley Field. Strangely it is Bernie's grandsons who now own it . . . but I knew Bernie. What happened? We went at noon knowing it would be crowded. Yeah...no seats. Damn! I'm usually TOO early. We walked on up Clark street to a joint called YakZies and they had a table right by the giant screen TV. We settled in with the Sunday Trib and a deck of cards. Leah and Jason's friends Mike and Barb joined us and we had fun playing the waiting game. Later, Leah and I walked back to Bernies and found good old Will! Bartender extroidinare and best man at our wedding. Leah got a free hat from 'Uncle' Will.

As to the game itself all I can say is that the opening kickoff was about the most exciting thing I had ever seen in Chicago sports. . . and I was there for Burt Hootens' no hitter! Bears are young and they'll be back but I'm not going to say W_ _ _ 'T_ _ _ N_ _ _ Y_ _ _...That's a Cub thing.

Our trip back to Florida was long and mostly uneventful (Not counting that we almost got on a charter Greyhound with a choir from a Baptist church before we figured out that that wasn't our bus!) Only took a ride to O'Hare, a plane to Miami, Greyhound to Marathon, Cab to the marina, and a dingy ride to our boat. Talk about planes, trains and automobiles!

Enee was fine although there had been a LOT of wind. As such our snubbing line had chafed through so we were pulling directly on the anchor chain. That, in turn, caused the anchor chain to try to open the anchor locker all by itself but all it managed to do was rip out one of the hinges. There's a new project! A neighboring boat owner came over this morning to tell me that his anchor had drug the night before and he bounced off our our boat a little but he couldn't see any damage. Me either but what a nice guy to come over and tell me.

We put off fixing frig until tomorrow for which we are going to a marina. Too tired to mess with all that today and it is still really windy. Me docking this beast in a heavy wind is perhaps a video that should be made ...but not now!

Weather is still ripping out of the north and then east. We will probably be waiting until at least Friday for a window to the Bahamas. That's ok...always have chapters to work on!

OH, one more thing. My daughter and her husband are coming to visit us in the Bahamas (yes, we WILL get there in time!) and then they are going to DC to lobby for funds for physics research. This is all early to mid March. As such, Dagney, the greatest little cat in the world (aren't they all) could use some TLC boarding (not the hockey kind!) while they are away. Any ideas just e-mail me. (listed on the side)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

marathon to Chicago...easy

We began our trek to chilly Chicago by taking the Greyhound from the Marathon airport (yes there is one) to the Miami airport. We called Greyhound before leaving to see if we needed cash and the person said no, plastic was fine. Off we go. Our friend Joe dropped us at the 'airport'. The airport is barely there. No cars. No planes. Nobody working the gates. Just two guys working the rent-a-car desks. I asked if there was in fact a Greyhound and they said yes and that you just pay the driver. Hmmmm...I wonder how the plastic part works? The bus finally came about 10 minutes late. I told the driver where we were going and pulled out my credit card. He just looked at me like I was some sort of boob. I explained that we called and asked. Well, no...he has no way to process a credit card. Of course. So the fare is $62. I count out my money...I have ...no kidding


Whee....a whole dollar left over for Miami.

The bus made a 20 minute stop at a Burger King so that took care of dinner. We arrived at the airport arount 10PM. This was the best we could do for a flight leaving at 8:20...THE NEXT MORNING. We had some hope that maybe there was a late flight that we could switch too. There was...sort of. It had left at 9:30. Oh well. We had more or less planned to spend the night in the airport and that's what we did. That's what a lot of people did. I guess this is somewthat typical in airports but I had not had the pleasure before of seeing bodies strewn all over the place in all sorts of contorted positions.

Sue took the opportunity to do our taxes as there was a fine (but not free) wifi signal in the airport. I listened to iPod, failed to do some Sudukos, walked around and started drinking large quantities of coffee.

The airport started coming back to life around 3:30 and by 4:00 we could check in AND get moved to the earlier flight than our 8:20. Now we're waiting to board and I'm squeezing every cent out of this wifi that I can!

Can't wait to cheer the Bears on to VICTORY!

(Better not have lost our luggage...the long underwear is in there!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bear Down

As will happen this time of year, you strike up a conversation with someone and at some point they might say, "So, where are you going to watch the Superbowl"*? Well, we tell them we're flying to Chicago to watch the game and we just get a faraway stare from a Floridian. It's as if they are waiting for the punch line or like I just spoke that sentence (not this one...the one in question) in German. I guess it is a little nuts. People down here, though, are really sensitive to cold. They can't imagine being subjected to a little cold for even a few seconds let alone a weekend. Lately they've been giving the local weather and when the evening temps are to be in the low 60's or (heavens!) upper 50's they start talking about wool socks and muc lucs (whatever those are!).

But what the hell. Part of being retired is being FREE. I'm not just sailing around, I've cut the ties to secondary education and I'm FREE! Not rich but I got a hundred bucks for an airplane ticket!

And from all reports it looks like Chicago is going completely nuts for this team. Why not? Work is hard. Traffic sucks. You wish you'd picked a different carreer. Who's that woman you married? Whatever. Now, for a couple of weeks, none of that matters . YOUR team is going to the superbowl. A very nice diversion. Maybe we're shallow to get all excited about a professional sports team. Maybe this is why we are hated by so many countries (contries that will be tuning in the Superbowl.). For sure, education, terror alerts, stock prices, and Hillary are more important. So what? So for a brief time in Chicago you forgive your boss, you ease up on the workers, you put old grievences on the back burner. You dig out that old Bear's jersey from the 85 season...good old number 34!

Maybe the Bears will win and maybe not. Either way, Chicago is a GREAT place to live.

CLICK HERE to see what it's like in Soldier Field

*I'm using the word Superbowl with NO permission!