Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Living on Land

It's been a busy few days in Ft. Lauderdale so far. On Monday, a Volvo mechanic came out to take a look at the boat. We have a few issues that need to be addressed including water in the port drive (an issue "fixed" in January in Naples), a dead alternator and a fuel error on the port engine. Yesterday we went down the river to the Lauderdale Marine Center. It was an exciting trip down a narrow river - we ended up encountering a huge barge and the Jungle Queen - oh the excitement! The marina is right next to the work yard where she'll get pulled out and we thought it best to just get there asap and be done with the travel.

Today, we moved into a suite at the Candlewood Suites and rented a car. We have a kitchen and full fridge here which is great because Lucky won't be hooked up on land and we would have lost our fridge/freezer goods. It feels weird to be back on land, it's been a couple months since we were home. I felt like I was abandoning Lucky in the nursing home of marinas (the boats there are all getting worked on...) But it's nice here and tomorrow we move into a 1 bedroom suite - yahoo! We'll have a big tv with a DVD player (no more Lost episodes on the computer screen), fast internet, and 2 big rooms - Mart and I live close on Lucky, space is nice ;-}

Martin will post about all the things we're getting done in more detail. He spent the day on-line and on the phone arranging for several people to come by tomorrow. We'll pull Lucky out of the water in the morning and then the fun begins!

In the meantime we have lots of fun stuff planned! We contacted Jack & Barb (whom we met in the Exumas) and the timing was perfect - they returned home (to Ft. Lauderdale) today and we're meeting them for dinner at Coconuts tonight. We're driving up to Delray on Saturday to spend the 4th with CJ & Margie (and pups/parrot). The boat yard is closed Friday-Sunday for the holiday so we plan on playing and getting some miscellaneous things done.

In the next couple of weeks Mart will be hovering over mechanics and I may be off visiting :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Updated Route

We've had a busy few months! When I see it all in one place I'm quite amazed! We're only half way through the trip as well. At some point I need to add up all the line lengths to get an idea of the distance we've gone.

Link is on the right.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back in the USA

We made it back! We had a quick and uneventful trip across the gulf. There wasn't a wave in sight, what a difference from the last time we crossed! It was crazy busy in Ft. Lauderdale when we arrived - a sunny Saturday afternoon...

We tied up, washed the deck, took a taxi to customs and cleared in and left a message with the mechanic. Now it's a rainy afternoon, the thunder is cracking and we're beat...nap time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

We've made it to Cat Cay

We're almost back to the states. We stayed at Hurricane Hole for 2 nights waiting for the seas to calm down. Our time at Hurricane Hole was very quiet, especially after Atlantis. The last couple of days at Atlantis we met a bunch of people and toured a couple different *gorgeous* boats. Ute and Mark spent hours giving us a detailed tour of their 58 foot Kady-Krogen (see pics). Oh my God it's incredible! We also got to tour the 58 Tiara that Martin has been lusting over (another Wow!) The owners, Kurt & Amy, invited us in and we had a great evening having drinks with them the day of the tour and the next evening too! We met another couple on a 43 Tiara like Lucky, Peter and Angela, and had a drink with them as well while we discussed the boat and boating. Ah-hem, we had to dry out at Hurricane Hole after all that socializing. Seriously though - we've met such nice people and had such a great time! It's weird, the first time at Atlantis we were there for over 2 weeks and didn't meet a soul...

Our last 2 days we chilled, had lunch at the Poop Deck, did laundry, and I sat around dazed and confused on Imitrex. We had a couple serious lightening storms come through. This morning we headed out before 8am and found we were leaving with the Marine Max floatilla - dozens of boats all leaving the harbor together - it was kind of cool! (see pics) We were able to maintian 17 knots which isn't too bad (just under our sweet spot of 21). Just before Cat Cay we hit a serious rain storm (again see pics). After watching a dozen lightening strikes hit the water around us I was more than happy to drive out of it and into Cay Cay Marina.

It's really, really hot so we're hiding inside until sundown and then we'll check out the restaurant here. We've heard it's really nice. This is a private island so you can't leave the marina grounds (or stay more than 2 nights). I find that kind of weird.

Anyway - we're off tomorrow morning for Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale. Martin and I are both terribly excited to have use of our iPhones again :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Navigation part 1

The first of a two part post, I thought I'd share a little on how I navigate. The second post will detail how I use the electronics (auto pilot, moving maps, radar) when piloting Lucky. This post will explain how I set waypoints and routes which I use while piloting.

In much the same way you'd put an "x" on a paper map to show where the closest Starbucks is, a waypoint is the same for electronic maps. Put a string of "x"s on the map and join them together - like a dot-to-dot drawing - to show how to get somewhere and you have the paper version of a route.

The picture at the top of the post shows me doing exactly that. The route shown is the part of the route between Cat Cay and Ft Lauderdale where we'll have to go through the cut between Gun Cay and Cat Cay, probably the trickiest part of the whole passage. Unless, that is, the Gulf Stream decides to throw 8' seas at us unexpectedly.

To create this route I use my laptop, running Raymarine's RayTech software. This is a free download that works much like their E120 screens but I can use a mouse and keyboard for entry. Plugged into the USB port is a special CF Card reader by Navionics that not only allows me to use standard CF cards, but also the encrypted CF cards that hold Navionics charts. Trying to read a Navionics chart in a standard CF reader will, supposedly, format the card. At $500 a pop, I'm not about to experiment to find out! One advantage of using the chart chip in this manner is the chart I use to plan the route is the same chart I'll be viewing on the E120 screen will piloting.

Although I plot the route using the electronic charts, I plan the route using the best paper charts I can find. For the Bahamas, that would be the Explorer set of chartbooks.

Once plotted, I pull out the Navionics chart chip and put in a blank CF card. The RayTech software then allows me to export the waypoints and routes onto the card in a format readable by the E120. Putting the CF card, now with a data file on it, into the E120 allows me to import the file into the plotter.

Its a pretty straight forward thing to do and well worth the 30 minutes or so it takes to do each time we're planning a passage.

Weather turns bad

What a surprise. We make plans to travel and the weather turns bad. This after a month of ideal conditions for crossing.

We were supposed to leave Nassau today, crossing the Tongue of the Ocean and the Bahama Bank to Cat Cay. Instead, we're staying two, maybe three additional nights. There's a huge frontal system over Florida and The Bahamas that has kicked up wind and sea conditions beyond our comfort level.

Its crazy here at Atlantis. They're expecting 30+ boats today as part of a Marine Max (a chain of boat dealers) expedition. Along with the incoming, loads of folk here want to stay to wait out the weather. Normally this isn't an issue as the weather that prevents boats from leaving also prevents boats from arriving. The Marine Max crowd, however, are coming from The Abacos, NE of Nassau, and the conditions are more clement in that direction. Clement enough to enable them to make their crossing.

We've been fortunate to get another night (tonight) here in Atlantis and then two nights at Hurricane Hole, the marina next door. Sea conditions should have calmed down enough by Friday that we can leave, though we're hoping we can be going on Thursday. Both Cat Cay and Bahia Mar have been told we're waiting for a weather window and are fine with us coming in "whenever".

We'll post here when we know a little more.

Sigh. I guess we'll just have to go have another "Miami Vice" to sooth our anguish. ;-)

Having a wonderful time at Atlantis

Our visit at Atlantis has Flown by! We had such a great time, I can't believe it's time to go all ready. CJ & Margie arrived on Wednesday and Meliza came in on Thursday. On Thursday we all went to the Cove Buffet for the first time (on the opposite end of the resort). It's the nicest buffet I've ever seen! It was fun to introduce my "old" and "new" friends to each other and better yet that we all had such a great time together! After dinner we headed to the casino. I've never gambled before but we were at the single deck blackjack table and I just had to give it a try :) What a blast! I started with $20 and ended and hour later with $25. A 25% return in an hour - not bad (and a free drink...) :) It was a great night filled with laughs...

The past few days we've spent some serious time relaxing, sitting by the pool, and drinking lots of fruity rum cocktails. We took Meliza on the river ride and we walked a bit around downtown Nassau. It was so awesome to have Meliza here, I just wish she could have stayed longer. I also got a lot of awesome pictures and no more pink streaks! Meliza brought me my new camera - the one CJ & Margie told me about. It's freakin' bomb-proof. It's tiny, 10 mp, shockproof, waterproof to 33 feet and has tons of awesome features. I got it half price because it was green instead of black or silver. How cool is that?

We have been laughing for the past few days over what a "hit" Mel has been here at Atlantis. It seems like there were three times the number of gulf carts cruising by our boat since she arrived. And one employee kept saying something to us every time we passed him (frequently) but neither of us could understand what he was saying. Then we were walking with Martin and the guy said the same thing... Martin exclaims - did you hear what he called you?? "Choco-liscious". Seriously, he is calling Mel "choco-liscious" every time he passes her. Oh my God. But of course now I can tease her relentlessly :)

Now it's Monday... but it feels like a gray, kind of lonely Sunday afternoon, you know that feeling? Mel just left and is on her way home. CJ & Margie are back in FL, they arrived safely yesterday. It feels like the end of a very long and wonderful vacation. I miss our friends and I'm sad to be leaving the Bahamas. It feels a lot like when we left Key West, only more so. How weird to have another 6 months of adventure in front of us. I have to keep reminding myself that there's still so much to come. We're living in such an alternate reality to have so much time and so many adventures. We are incredibly lucky.

So, Martin and I are chilling out, preparing for heading back to the states. It's gray and windy, a little more comfortable than the hot, hot sunny days we've been having. We are going to walk over the bridge and get some more supplies for the trip back. We have a windy day tomorrow, expecting 4-5 foot seas in the tongue of the ocean. It'll be a long day going to Cat Island (about 8 hours at our new and reduced speed). We'll refuel there and stay the night and then head to Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday. It looks like we'll have calm seas across the gulf stream (yay!)

Departure Update!

We have been able to get another night here at Atlantis so we'll be leaving tomorrow and arriving Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday. The seas are pretty high today after a heck of a storm passed through yesterday. Luckily, it delayed traffic coming in too - so we can wait out the waves until tomorrow when it's supposed to be much calmer...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Norman's to Nassau

We had a really nice day at Norman's. I took my first solo excursion on the dinghy! I was able to get it up on plane and didn't wipe out... With CJ's help I was able to get it anchored and everything - okay, not completely "solo" but still :) I went with CJ & Margie to walk the pups on a little cay with nothing but a palm tree on it. We noticed some Ocean Trigger fish and a sting ray coming in close to the shore of the island in very shallow water. Suddenly there was a shark and no ray or triggers. The shark came right up in only a couple feet of water! The current was really strong (we were at mid-tide) which was good because usually the pups go for a swim around the island - well not any more! We think it was a sand shark because it was much darker than the reef and lemons and definitely not a nurse.

The anchorage was very rolly from swell but Martin and I have definitely gained tolerance for the frwapping noise and roll. We woke in the morning and it was incredibly hot and humid. By 10:00am we had another big storm (see pic). We watched a barracuda that was hanging out under and around our boat, then waited for the thunder storm and rain to pass and headed to Atlantis.

The past week or so we've had very calm winds and we had a very smooth passage up to Nassau. We were able to maintain 2600 rpm and 14.5 knots. It's a bit slower than our normal 19-20 knot cruising speed but at least we can still get on plane. We got fuel and docked at Atlantis around 3:00, just in time for another incredible downpour. Once that was over I did 3 loads of laundry and then we had dinner at the buffet. The lull is over at Atlantis - it's absolutely packed. I think there's only one slip free in the marina and it's 2 over from us, hopefully that will be Pazzia's slip tomorrow!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Its not a boat if it all works

That's what they say and its pretty true. While we've had our share of issues since we left Naples, our 6 weeks in the Exumas has really caused things to breakdown. My guess is that its hard on boats down here. You're anchoring a lot, which is always harder on a boat than being at a marina "plugged in". We've also been on the boat a lot more, so more things get used. Lucky has held up well, but there are a few things that need to get resolved.

Most worrying, and the reason for our plans changing, is the port (left side when looking from the back) engine. Leaving Staniel Cay to go to Little Pipe Cay I noticed the port engine couldn't maintain RPM. Our Volvo Penta D6 engines are rated at 370hp each and should be able to reach 3600 RPM at wide open throttle. I usually run at 3150, or 90% of WOT, as I'd read that that's the best load to run a diesel engine at. I noticed two things about the port engine. The RPMs were fluctuating around 3100 and it was running a little hotter, 195F rather than 185. From Little Pipe all the way to Warderick, I lowered the RPMs to 3000 and both engines ran fine, though the port engine came up to temperature (185F this time) quicker than the starboard engine. Mentioning this behaviour to CJ when we were all anchored at Hawksbill, he suggested we change out the fuel filters, which we did. I also checked the props for dings, but they are fine. Leaving Hawksbill today I found I had to lower the RPMs yet again. There's definitely a trend happening and it's not good. So rather than try to get the engine fixed in Nassau, we're heading back to Ft Lauderdale. While I have the mechanics in, I'll have an oil and filter change performed as well. Let them deal with disposing of 10 gallons of oil, rather than me!

An interesting update occurred today since I wrote this. A Lazzara LSX 75 pulled in next to us. They have 4 IPS 600 drives. I've lusted after this boat ever since I heard of them. Anyway, I chatted with the captain and he thinks there could be three reasons. A blocked air filter; an issue with the drive; or a blocked/faulty injector. There's no smoke, so a bad injector is less likely. The air filter is easy to check and replace. The drive oil temperature hasn't been too high, but if there's an issue the oil will appear black. So the captain, Brad, is coming over in the morning to check the air filter and drive oil and then we're going to call his mechanic in Ft Lauderdale. Hopefully, I'll be able to provide an update before I post this.

Update: Replacing the air filter helped a little. The engine is still burning more fuel and running hotter, but less than before the change. I Haven't been able to run the engines under load, so we'll find out more today when we leave for Normans. No smoke and the drive oil seems fine, so still no real idea. It looks like we'll have to run back to Ft Lauderdale to get it looked at. I got some good recommendations for mechanics from the captain, so hopefully we'll be able to get it sorted.

While in Ft Lauderdale, I'll be able to take care of a few other things.

Our house batteries are dying. we have five huge batteries that should provide 350 Ampere Hours of charge. This is a lot - enough to boil our kettle for a day and a half. Instead, we're down to almost nothing after a night at anchor with nothing except fridge, hot water heater and anchor light on. We have to run the generator at least twice a day now. Compare this to January, when we could run a whole day on only one three hour generator run. Talking with other boaters, a four year life seems about right, so it's time to change them. These things are not cheap and very heavy, so getting help putting them in will be required. I'll also take the opportunity to change out the three engine batteries as well.

Our tender mount works well with one slight problem. The bow roller and winch aren't in the center line of the rollers, making it more work than it should be to take off or put on. So I'm going to move the shoes that hold the rollers to the swim platform back about 6 inches. This will have the added bonus of letting the tender lie flat on the rollers, rather than a little tilted as it currently sits. This is going to involve some drilling and epoxy-filling work, stuff best done where there's a well stocked West Marine down the road.

The watermaker is behaving itself. It is still struggling to get the salinity down, but given enough run time gets there. So we've taken to running it every two days for 4-5 hours, rather than every day. Once disconcerting thing is a Salinity Probe Failure that occurs after the generator has been on for more than 5 hours or so. I guessing that vibration from the generator has knocked something a little loose. So I'll probably order a new one when we're back Stateside, as well.

There's a slight leak coming from where the depth finder has been placed through the hull. Nothing dangerous, but it upsets my "dry bilge" sensibilities, so if we need to be hauled out, I'll have the yard fix it.

Leaving the Exumas

I'm feeling really sad that our time in the Exumas is coming to an end. This is a very special place. It's so remote and quiet and the water is so gorgeous. Even though the photos are beautiful, I don't think they capture the beauty and serenity completely. There's a sense of community. I think that most boaters here appreciate how unspoiled it is, and respect the parks effort to maintain the area as a national treasure. The Bahamians are so nice. Among the cruisers, whether staying for weeks or months, by sailboat, trawler or fast boat, you feel a comradery with others who are living the same lifestyle. You have a lot in common even if you're strangers - we all have generators, engines and plumbing systems that break down, shark and snorkeling stories, advice on a beautiful anchorage to try out, and where you can do laundry. It's interesting to hear how people have come to be living on a boat, full time or part time, and what their experiences have been. I had been worried that there would be little to do and that I might get bored. Well that hasn't been a problem! There's so much to do, most of it play (and repairs and cleaning) but mostly play. We've hiked, biked, swam, snorkeled and explored by dinghy. We have met some absolutely wonderful people and enjoyed happy hours, bonfires and dinners. I've read over 12 books and have quilted a several blocks... We've had far more access to the internet than I had anticipated.

Living out here, even for just 6 weeks, can change some of your perspectives. I've come to be thrilled by a store half the size of a 7/11 - but stocked with tomatoes, carrots, eggs and yes, ice cream! The air conditioning on at 77 degrees now feels really cold. Sharks are as awe-inspiring as they are scary looking in real life :) I like raw conch, snail, whatever. Salt water doesn't feel all that sticky and gross. It doesn't seem at all strange to get up at 7:30 so you can hear a weather report on the radio. Dogs on boats are really cool and make the boat a home. TV is completely unnecessary, however, DVDs rock. And finally, daily life doesn't have to be frantic for you to feel "productive" and sleep like a log at night.

And we have learned so much. We anchor without fear of dragging, I'm quite good at plucking a mooring ball loop out of the water with a boat pole, Martin can sneak Lucky into a tight marina slip sideways without anxiety and I've pretty much figured out how to deal with the lines to tie down at a fixed dock. We both use the radio liberally now (and I even remember to switch off "16", the working channel). Martin has learned a ton about many of systems on the boat (reappraisal there - things break down but you learn so much from these experiences!) My talent of waking up instantly if I hear strange sounds (ie George puking) works with water drops hitting the boat. Martin and I can close all eight hatches, drop the bimini, pick up the rugs and pull in the snorkel gear in under 5 minutes, at 4am no less! I don't get an upset stomach when the engines turn on, now I get excited to see the next place. And when we go slow and get beamed with waves and roll, I kind of enjoy the motion instead of getting terrified. At least 4 foot chop doesn't scare me any more and I've learned that other boaters don't like 8 foot seas any more than we do. Oh, and I've learned how to make awesome deviled eggs (it's my specialty now, which I bring to all potlucks and dinners!

We had planned on 6 weeks here and then 6 in the Abacos (more or less). It has been 6 weeks and it's time to say good-bye. Poor Lucky is limping and we need to start our way back to Ft. Lauderdale. Hopefully we'll be able to return to visit the Abacos in July or in the fall. I'm happy that we don't have to shoot straight back - I'm looking forward to seeing Meliza and staying at Atlantis on our way!

Highborne Cay Marina

We've had a great weekend at Highborne Marina. Friday evening we had a barbque and an early night thanks to the mosquitoes - they grow them huge here! Saturday we spent on the beach and Mart and I played on CJ & Margie's jet ski! It was awesome - and it goes faaast. In the afternoon we toured a 1999 50 ft Nordhavn that is here at the marina. It's for sale, hoping to sell end of 2010. Oh she's lovely... Then we all had dinner on Lucky - Martin prepared a new pasta dish that was great. Sunday we hung around the boat, sat reading on the beach for a while and generally enjoyed a lazy Sunday...

We're heading out to Norman's this morning to meet up again with CJ & Margie (they left yesterday). We have one night there and then we're off to Atlantis. Margie and CJ will be in Atlantis (arriving Wednesday) for a few days on their way back to Florida and of course my friend arrives Thursday!

I got pictures of the shark and barracuda that were swimming with CJ & Margie - Yikes! They're in pic-of-the-day2 under 6/11/09.

Here's the screen we get from Highborne Marina when we go to log in...

WiFi Internet Access is restricted to Marina guests

Contact the Marina Office for a Username and password.
Internet access is $10 USD per day.

Note: If the 'Net seems slow, please keep in mind that you're on a boat, in a marina, in the Bahamas, on a Wireless signal, on a satellite link 22 thousand miles each way from the Internet. In short, even at it's best, the service will be slower than it is from any of the hard-wired services on the continents. So, while you're waiting for that web page to load, take a minute to look out the window and imagine how many people are sitting in their office staring at a picture of where you are! (grin..)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mechanical Probs...oh my!

We've been having some excitement on the technical front. I guess people weren't kidding when they said that boating involves a lot of repairs! Martin will blog in more detail about this but the end result is that we're thinking of going back to Fort Lauderdale after Meliza's visit rather than heading to the Abacos. We can get the issues addressed and then we'll head back to the Bahamas and tour the Abacos in July/August. So just a little detour!

Hanging at Hawksbill Cay

We've just gotten in to Highborne marina after a fantastic 4 nights anchored at Hawksbill Cay with Pazzia. We arrived at Hawksbill on Monday and found CJ & Margie anchored there. The anchorage is beautiful and we were able to get close up to the beach. It's a rolly anchorage but the weather turned once again and we had almost no wind for 4 days. We had hard, hard rains at least once a day but once they'd passed it was back to calm water. We did a lot of snorkeling and on Wednesday we circled the whole cay. The north end is a huge shallow sand bar, so light in color that it almost looked like a dessert or sand dune. We weren't sure that we could cut through to the ocean but with the jet ski scouting ahead we were able to in the dinghy as well. The ocean was so calm! We saw several barracuda in the water on the ocean side. We also found a gorgeous area to snorkel. One day Martin and I also went on shore and hiked the two trails there. We got to walk on the beaches we'd seen from water the day before. Once again we had a fantastic time with CJ, Margie and the pups. We had dinners and happy hour and a great time exploring around the cay together...

We both headed to Highborne Marina today. We had another rain storm in the morning and then headed out. The marina is packed with people and we're way out on the end so we have to pass everyone when we go to see Pazzia or to the office/store...so we've already met a ton of people :) And...there's a 50 foot Nordhavn here that CJ scoped for us - it's for sale! We're hoping to meet the people on the boat and get a tour!

Oh! And I have another shark story - second hand. It seems that sharks don't *always* take off in fear or indifference from people... CJ & Margie were snorkeling off the jet ski when a 4-5 food black tip came by - right up to the back of the ski. It just so happens that you can only get back onto to the ski from the back so Margie panicked and tried the side but couldn't do it...She finally frantically scrambled up by the back. CJ followed and then put his camera in the water and snapped a few pictures. The shark was right there, very curious about the ruckus no doubt and hanging out. (A curious adolescent?) Margie, after my own heart, went back to the boat and had a stiff drink!

I want to also explain that I have a great respect for sharks. I don't believe in killing them, fishing them or fining them. They're just doing their thing...I simply recognize that I need to do my thing as distant from their thing as I can :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Off to Hawksbill Cay

We've had a great time at Warderick but after a week here, we're feeling the itch to move on. (I am going to miss the bananaquits though!) Yesterday was a quiet day. It rained until late afternoon. When it got a bit clear we jumped in the dinghy and made a tour of the south side of the island which we saw on our hike. We chatted with CJ & Margie too - they went up to Hawksbill yesterday.

This morning it's raining *again*. I had to smile when Michelle at the office said "it's never this rainy here this time of year". It's been the same the whole trip - an unusual weather year... The good thing is that they've downgraded the forecast winds for the weekend from near 30 mph to <20. Sustained 30 knots would simply not be fun, at all. It also looks like we have some sun in the forecast too.

Our itinerary for the next 10 days is very weather-dependent. The mooring balls at Hawksbill or getting a slip at Highborne are the best options if we have serious winds. We would also like to stay at Norman's again but that anchorage is best with easterlies. So we'll be playing it by ear. We are due back to Atlantis in Nassau on the 16th. My friend Meliza is arriving on the 18th - YAY!

We'll be online if we stop at Highborne or can access it at MacDuff's...if not, we'll see you the 16th!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Enjoying the Routine

We've been at Warderick as long as we've stayed anywhere since leaving Nassau. We really like it here. Life has a bit of a pattern to it. It's sunny, it's cloudy, wonder if it will rain? At 4:00am it's very likely the storm will hit and all hell will break loose. When the sun is out we go snorkeling at least once a day. Or maybe to the island for a hike. We have the radio on all the time now. We've met enough people that it's fun to listen in and see where people are and what they're up to. We can keep in touch with CJ & Margie too as they're just a few miles south of us. Boats are constantly coming and going from the moorings and passing us in their dinghies waving. Most evenings have been social, gathering on someone's boat or on the beach, or porch of the park headquarters in rain. The people we've met are so interesting - everyone has a cool story of what they are doing here and how... We have internet which is awesome, especially when it rains. And I adore the Sugar Birds - they've become quite comfortable on the boat.

Yesterday was a pretty sunny day. We had business to take care of in the morning (it involves pumping out, don't ask). When we were back from that little trip into the sound, I gathered my courage and we grabbed the snorkel gear and off we went - right back to where ol' reef shark was. I jumped in and stayed in. I was so proud :) That done, we headed back to the boat and got ready for dinner. Barb & Jack came over and we had a really nice time. (They headed out this morning on their way back home to Florida.) Then at 4:00am all hell broke lose again - pounding rain and wind and lightening. It was an early morning for us. The sun was up and out by 9:00 though so we did the hike we've been wanting to do - all around the island. You walk across the north end to Boo Boo Hill and then hike the coral cliffs down the eastern side. Cut over to the west side and walk inland paths from beach to beach. It was gorgeous and took 4 hours. We saw several tropic birds (I took a pic to try to show their tails, they are so beautiful), several mockingbirds, many curly tailed lizards, and a hutia ("who-tee-ah" guinea pig type rodent) scared us to death making a racket in the palms. we're both pretty exhausted right now...but preparing some chicken salad for the happy hour social on the beach in a couple of hours. Every Saturday there is a 6 O'clock social on the beach.

We've decided to stay here until Monday. Then we'll head to Hawksbill Cay. Margie & CJ will be arriving there Sunday or Monday too. I'm so excited to see them again! There are really high winds forecast for Thursday and Friday. It looks like something a bit nasty is blowing in. So we'll try to get a spot at Highborne Marina for Thurs/Fri nights. If they are full we'll stay at Hawksbill I think. It's a mooring so we won't drag even in high winds...it might just be a little uncomfortable.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lots o' sharks & happy hours

So, I tried to convince myself that sharks are more frightened of me than I am of them so they run away - therefore the chances of running into yet another one - in pretty shallow water no less - was minimal. Not! Martin and I went snorkeling in the mooring area at Warderick. There are beautiful coral heads and huge lobsters there. Unfortunately there also was a huge, 7 foot shark as well (reef or lemon, not sure). This time I was able to stay calm enough to grab Martin and make sure he saw too and we sloooowly made out way back to the dinghy which was tied to a snorkel mooring that seemed very, very far away. Splashing attracts sharks as it mimics a fish in distress - so you Have to stay calm and not make a mad dash. I don't even think the shark looked our way - he was swimming at the bottom doing his thing and ignoring us. I'm almost happy that we are *once again* having horrible thunder/lightening/rain today because I have an excuse not to get in the water. So, the next sunny day I know I have to get back in or there's a good chance I may hang my snorkel gear up for good and never look back...

After that excitement we came straight back to the boat - I wasn't about to go anywhere deeper to snorkel and all the sites here are deeper... Then a boat came into Warderick - a 43 foot Tiara, Sharon Anne. They tied up right next to us so we yelled over that we thought they had good taste in boats :) We met Len and Sharon in the afternoon and they gave us a tour of their boat. Their’s is a few years newer than Lucky. It's fun to see how someone else has decorated the same boat and how they are using the storage areas, etc. We had drinks on their boat and then we all went over to Island Lady, a 50 foot motor/sailboat of Bennet and Jan's. They invited us, and Jack and Barb over for happy hour. It's the first time I've been on/in a sailboat. It was gorgeous and more spacious than I would have thought. We had a nice evening chatting with everyone. Later in the afternoon another 2 Tiara's pulled in - a 55 ft and a 38 ft. It looks like a Tiara Rendezvous here now!

Martin and I were talking this morning about how nice it is here. You are moored out so you have some space like an anchorage and it's been wonderfully quiet at night. But you have a community here as well and the beach where people can meet up... I hope they weather turns back to sun soon!

Well speaking of, a boat in the harbor just announced over the radio to organize a happy hour at 5:00 on the beach or headquarters’ porch if it's raining...as everyone should be "boat crazy" by then Yay!

Martin and I are about to dive into the back storage room and pull everything out, take inventory and repack. It's getting crazy back there and a rainy day is as good as any to work on it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sugar Birds at Warderick Wells

We're staying at the Exuma Land and Sea Park headquarters at Warderick Wells now. The mooring field is really neat - there is a very narrow channel that loops through the bay. The mooring balls are set in a line throughout. You can see from the pics out the layout looks with several boats here. While pulling into the mooring field, we were happy to see that Searcher was still here. Then, as soon as we began to tie up...the bananaquits came. They are also known as "sugar birds" and they're the only critter in the park you're allowed to feed. I had my bowl out and ready before we got here and oh they are cute!! They'll sit on your hand, come into the boat and check out the kitchen, bedroom... They're fearless little things! And when the sugar runs out in the bowl, they approach the doorway/hatch and tweet their heads off. It's not just my cats that have me trained it seems.

Monday, our arrival day, was another rainy gray day. We watched the birds, read, and of course - we're on line! In the evening we headed over to Searcher and had dinner with Jack and Barb. She's a great cook! It was a really nice evening.

Tuesday was a much better day weather-wise and we took advantage of it. We went up to the rangers station and checked in with Michelle, a volunteer who works every day checking in with boats entering the moorings throughout the park. Then we went on a hike to Boo Boo Hill and beach. Since we still had sun in the afternoon we headed out to Emerald Rock for some snorkeling. The coral heads are marked with mooring buoys which is nice, you can just tie up and jump in. We found a big grouper and a gorgeous trigger fish. The water there is really shallow so I wasn't afraid of sharks...

In the evening there was a bonfire on the beach. We had a good time hanging out with Jack & Barb, Jan and Bennet of Island Girl, and 3 men from the BDF (the Bahamian Defense Force). They are the Bahamian Navy. They were really nice guys and it was interesting to learn about the BDF. Here in the park, they help to enforce non-poaching laws and protect the park along with their regular duties. After a few rum punches we headed back to Lucky in the dark in our dinghy - all of 100 yards. Mart grounded us on a shallow sand bar but we were able to push off - doh! ;-)

Posters Note: another post by Steph that I've had to post.  For some reason as yet undiagnosed, my computer is better able to post to web sites (Blogger, Facebook) when we have a slow connection.  So this may continue for sometime.  It could be the external USB antennae we're using.  When we're with good connectivity and wi-fi (so I can try using the internal antenna as well, I'll be able to narrow things down a bit).  In the meantime, check for the "STEPH" label.