Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back in the United States.

On Monday (April 20) we checked the weather trying to plan our trip back.  The forecast had changed and the good weather window had moved up and was here.  We finished our preparations, getting the dinghy stored on deck, lashing down the jerry jugs, lashing down the kayak and all of the other things that needed doing.  By 9:00 we were ready and had to head out before the tide was too low to get out of the sound.  On our way out we talked to our friends on Salty Turtle to let them know we would be swinging by where they were anchored to say hello/good bye.  They reported they were preparing to leave also.  We set the sails and headed out.  The forecast was for 10-15 from the southwest but it quickly built to 15-20 and above.  It was an exhilarating sail.  Little did we know that this was going to be the norm for weather forecasts.  We debated about continuing on during the night but chose to take a break at Little Sale Cay for the night and let the winds drop.  Well they didn't, even to the point that the boat anchored next to us dragged their anchor and had to re-anchor.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention the storm overnight.  A lot of wind, rain and lightning.  The forecast had said to expect some squalls.

In the morning we listened to the forecast which called for a much better day then the previous.  We pulled anchor at 7:00 am to get an early start.  We put up the sails again but the wind was more SSW instead of SW and were still blowing 20 knots.  We were pointing too much into the wind and couldn't sail  the line we needed.  We started the engine and began motoring.  We reached Matanilla Shoals, the furthest Northwest part of the Bahamas around 7:00 pm.  From here it was open water until you reach Florida.  Most cruisers at this point hurry across to either West Palm Beach or Fort Pierce.  We chose to aim for Fort Pierce until we got into the Gulf Stream and make a decision there.  The Gulf Stream runs North at about 3 knots so it will move you along quickly if you can stay in it and ride along.  Once in the stream we were doing nine knots and set our sights on Cape Canaveral.  The weather was holding but the wind was from behind us too light to sail so we continued motoring.  We passed Cape Canaveral sometime in the early morning and reset our course for St Augustine.

Things were still going well so we bypassed St Augustine and decided to make for  Fernandina Beach.  The weather was still good, the winds did not cooperate so we had to keep motoring.  The forecast of course was totally different then what we were getting and the front we were expecting to have to go ashore and hide from was constantly changing to the point that it didn't happen.  Thing were still going well but we had a wind shift and it started blowing out of the North.  The shift was forecast but the velocity we got 20-30 was not what they predicted.  The seas built up very fast.  A North wind blowing against an opposing current will build some bad waves quickly.  At this point we opted out of the Gulf Stream and decided on going in at Brunswick GA.  Once out of the stream the seas dropped, the wind shifted and we decided on going to Savannah.  At this point Cori was trying to fish again and did actually pull in three nice fish.  Unfortunately they were not ones that are listed as good eating so back they went.

As we approached Savannah we were seeing more ships heading that direction.  We had been warned by a friend that when in the Savannah River to watch out for fast moving ships.  We crossed paths with several of them at varying distances and at one point could see five lined up to go in.  I don't like playing with these big boys so we decided on going in at Port Royal Sound, the next entrance up from Savannah and go to Beaufort SC.  By this time we were also low on fuel, this being Wednesday and we had been motoring almost the entire time.  Once withing reach of the entrance we contacted a marina to stop for fuel and possibly stay there.  We contacted Customs to let them know we were back and to find out how they wanted us to check in.  They have a system where you can check in just with a phone call.  We did not file a "float plan" with them before leaving so we could not check in by phone.  We had to go to either Savannah or Charleston.  We explained that we did not have enough fuel to do that and got the OK to stop at a marina, get fuel and continue on.  We were not to step foot off the boat.  By now the marina had closed for the evening and we chose an anchorage to spend the night.

In the morning we continued up the river to Beaufort SC and fueled up.  We had paid over $5.00 a gallon for diesel in the islands and were happy to pay $2.93 a gallon.  On our way back out we heard a warning issued by the Coast Guard warning about 20-30 knot wind with higher gusts from the Northeast and 4-6 foot seas in the area.  We checked with Customs and as long as we did not get off the boat we could continue using the Intracoastal Waterway, the good old ICW aka"the ditch".  As we went through Beaufort we were approaching our first bridge and it was scheduled to open in six minutes.  We called them and were told if we reached a certain green marker before they opened we would make it.  I ran the motor up to 3500 rpm and with the incoming tide we were doing 8 knots.  We made the opening, if not we would have had to wait an hour for the next opening.  From then on it was a scenic, winding ride up and down several rivers and channels connecting them.  By 5:30 we were beat and pulled into a very nice anchorage with several other boats and settled in for the night.

We had one light rain shower overnight and more were forecast for the day so we decided to get an early start and pulled anchor to continue on to Charleston.  We only had 17 miles left to go and we were tied up at a dock by 11:30, just as the rain started.  We contacted Customs to let them know where we were and soon a nice man came to our boat to clear us in.  We are now officially back in the USA.  We put on 519 nautical miles or 597 statute miles from Monday to Friday, most of it nonstop in the ocean.

Our plan for the week is to leave the boat here and rent a car and drive up to Virginia to attend Cori's dad's retirement.  At 81 he has decided to retire.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Still at Green Turtle Cay

We are still at Green Turtle Cay because we are just having too much fun here.  We arrived on Monday and tied up at the dock so we don't need to launch the dinghy.  First thing on Tuesday Cori got up and out to look for shells on Gillan Beach.  She has a better idea of where to find sand dollars so that is the latest pursuit.  I stayed back and did a few small projects like servicing the batteries.  In the afternoon we made the trip into town.  Later back at the boat we kicked back and waited out a small rain shower.  After the rain we made our way back to town since it was barbecue night at Harvey's.  We were the only customers there and the ribs were outstanding, I wish I had ordered a full rack but would never have been able to eat them.

Wednesday Cori talked me into going shelling with her.  The plan was for her to walk the shallows and for me to snorkel out a little further looking for sand dollars.  It worked and we came back with quite a few shells.  I unfortunately I was not wearing a hat and sunburned my head.  I have been careful of sunburns on this trip trying to get just the right amount of sun so I am not pasty white but not burned.  In the afternoon we headed into town to hit the library and to pick up some eggs.  The library was not open even though it was scheduled to be.  It is only open three afternoons a week.  I dropped a book off but didn't get a chance to look for more.  I am going through a lot of books on this trip.  Cori needed eggs to make a batch of brownies and an angel-food cake for a get together we were invited to in the evening.  Back to the boat we needed to get things ready to leave early on the high tide.  We had an appointment to have the bottom cleaned and Donny needed the dock space for a couple of boats coming in.  We just went up to White Sound and picked up one of Donny's mooring balls for two days.  We didn't bother to launch the dinghy but Cori took the kayak to explore the shallows.  In the afternoon Cori made another batch of bread since we would need some for sandwiches.

Friday the diver showed up to clean the bottom and we left to go fishing.  Donny had agreed to take the morning off and take us out fishing.  He drives a boat like a maniac, especially to us sailors that only move at six knots.  This was the fastest we have moved since we sold our cars and headed out on this trip.  It was a quick trip up to the inlet and out past the reef to his favorite spot.  We were in about 500-600 feet of water and were bottom fishing.  To keep things simple he only rigged one rod and dropped it down.  As soon as it got to depth we had a hit.  This continued with a quick strike every time we dropped the line, only bringing it up twice without a fish.  At these depths it takes forever to reel in the line so you use an electric reel and let the motor do the work.  In no time we had eight fish and headed to shore for lunch.  After lunch we made a fast trip back looking at the ocean side of the islands.  We were back to the boat by 2:00.  the diver had finished and we just spent the rest of the day taking it easy.

Saturday we left the mooring early to head back to the dock, again needing to be there at high tide.  We were early and stopped at the fuel dock again to pick up some gasoline for the generator and outboards.  We waited there until one of the boats left the dock and we maneuvered back and tied up again.  After that Cori helped Donny with a couple of projects and then headed off to Gillan beach again for some more shells as the tide was dropping.  I made a run into town to hit the hardware store and the grocery store.  I got almost to the store and realized I forgot my wallet.  On the way back to the boat the rain started.  I was able to get out of it and it was only about a ten minute shower.  Back at the boat I got my wallet and started over again.  By my estimation it is about a half to three quarters of a mile into town.  Once back on the boat it was time for some maintenance.  I changed the oil, checked the transmission, v-drive and the belts.  All necessary for our return trip back to the States. In the evening we got together with a group and had grilled fresh fish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Back at Green Turtle Cay

We are back at Green Turtle Cay at Donny's dock in Black Sound, where we started in December.  We came in to get some supplies, fuel and a good charge on the batteries.

After our stay at Powell Cay we motored, upwind, to Manjack Cay.  This time we anchored close to Crab Cay since Karen had told Cori there was good shelling and sea glass on the beaches there.  We took the dinghy for a ride to check out two wrecks on Crab Cay and then around to the beach area.  We couldn't get close to the second beach since it was low tide and the motor started dragging bottom before we got there.  In the morning Cori took the kayak over to the beach and eventually found the beach Karen had mentioned.  She came back with a lot of shells and glass, not to mention two conch.  If the water is low enough she can just reach over and pick them up without having to get out of the kayak.  While she was gone I got my snorkel stuff together and rode over to the wrecks with the video camera but was disappointed.  There was nothing around the wrecks to dive on or film, instead I just shot some video of them at low tide.  They are against the shore and exposed at low tide.  I spent the rest of the day reading.  For the evenings entertainment we listened to the Nascar race on the XM radio.  We both fell asleep before it was over but fortunately they rebroadcast it on Sunday.  In the morning (Sunday) Cori was up early again to take advantage of the low tide and kayak over to "her" beach again.  She could hear a shell calling out to her.  In the afternoon we took the dinghy over to the beach on Manjack and walked the trail to the bluff looking out at the Sea of Abaco.  While there a dark cloud in the distance moved our way and we had a lot of thunder.  It started to rain lightly on our way back but didn't last.  Too bad, we need some rain to rinse everything off.

Monday morning we spent getting the boat ready to go into Green Turtle Cay.  We needed to put a few things away, like shells, so they wouldn't move around and get broken.  We also wanted to get the dinghy up on it's davits since I don't like pulling it and we were planning to go to a dock and wouldn't be needing it.  We had to wait until afternoon to go since the entrance to Black Sound is shallow and we have to wait for high tide.  Once in Black Sound we stopped at the fuel dock to top off our fuel before going to our dock.  At the dock we were met by John on the trawler Nomad that we had met in December.  On the way Cori tried out here new recipe for bread.  As we docked there was the aroma of fresh baked bread coming from the galley.

Here is an example of the friendliness of the people in the Abacos and why we stay on Donny's dock or mooring.  One of his customers had left his boat for "a few weeks" on a mooring while he went back to the States.  A few weeks turned into three months and he was coming back.  His boat had been moved to the dock in front of us to have it ready for his return.  His flight was five hours late coming into Treasure Cay.  The ferry had made a special run to pick up the passengers and brought him to his boat, dropping him off about 10:00 pm.  Not to a dock close to his boat, but pulled up alongside his boat to let him off.  Donny was there to greet him and to inform him that when they brought it in there were signs of a mouse having been on board.  He told him that he didn't need to deal with that right away but to spend the night in one of his bedrooms and then deal with it in the morning.  I don't know of any marina anywhere that would have made a similar offer.

We are planning to spend a few days here checking weather and to plan for our trip back to the US.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Back in the North Abaco area

One of the advantages of hanging out in remote anchorages is the quiet and isolation with only a few boats around.  The major disadvantage is that it is harder to get an Internet connection.  Even with a data plan with our Bahamian phone there is often not a good enough signal.  The data plan was running low so I had to ration what I used it for until it finally ran out before my month was up; therefore we were out of communication for a bit.

The last entry had us arriving in Hope Town again.  If the weather is going to turn nasty there is no better protected harbor in the Abacos.  The front came through over the weekend and the temperature dropped into the upper 60’s to low 70’s and cool enough at night to require an extra blanket but the problem is with the winds.   Cori has wanted to try fishing this trip but has not had much luck, she caught nothing crossing the gulf stream, caught a fish and a half (see earlier posts) crossing “The Whale” when moving to the southern Abacos.  On Tuesday we had been invited to go fishing with Lee and Cheryl on Live Wire.  We were out early, went through Tilloo Cut into the Atlantic and began trolling for big fish.  The first strike was a Mahi but it got off before it could be landed.  The next two strikes were successful and two nice sized Mahi were in the cooler.  The next was a big barracuda that was released since they are not good to eat.  It had teeth about a half inch long.   After moving into deeper water Cori brought in a real nice Wahoo.  After that they stopped biting and we headed in to clean the fish and the boat.  Lee and Cheryl took some of the meat but gave the majority to us.  We had a great dinner of fresh fish with them that night.  It was the perfect end to a great day.  We have been eating fish since and the freezer is still full.  Photos were posted to Facebook and will be uploaded to this blogs photo collection if I have a fast enough connection.  I forgot to mention the whale sighting.  Lee said it was a small pilot whale but it looked big enough to me.  Our first whale sighting.

Wednesday was going to be our last day in Hope Town since we had rented the mooring for a week.  We made the walk to Papa Nastys for barbecue but they were out of everything we wanted except chicken.  It was still excellent.  By the time we were ready to leave the pulled pork was ready so we bought a quart to go.  We got two more meals with that.  I am going to miss Papa Nastys. 

Thursday we dropped the mooring in the morning at high tide to make the run to Marsh Harbour.  We needed to stock up on a few items, purchase more data for the phone and pick up our mail.  Cori’s Dad had packaged our mail and sent it to an address of a fishing shop that we had made friends with.  He was a customer of the company that Cori worked for so there was a bit in common.  Anyway, he offered to let us have our mail sent to him.  It took almost a month for it to arrive and cost $45 to ship it.  This was our first and only mail we have received.  Cori did a couple of loads of laundry, I did a few boat maintenance items and we were ready to get out of Marsh Harbour the next morning.

We left Marsh Harbour in the morning and sailed up to Fish Cays to check out the beach for shells.  There is only one small beach and there are no shells.  Now we know that for future reference.   We continued up to Spoils Cay since we knew that the shelling is great there.  After several hours on shore we made our way to Fishers Bay and dropped the hook for the night.

Saturday was the day we had planned to make the trip around the Whale.  It can be an easy calm passage or the swell of the ocean coming though the opening can be bad enough to make it dangerous to be in the area.  We were checking the weather for several days and expected an easy passage.  The swells were only 2-4 foot so it turned out easy, so easy that we continued out a bit and turned down to make a run along the island at the 50 foot depth line and tried fishing.  Cori had three lines out but with no luck as we spent a couple of hours motoring down and then back to the channel.  Instead of making a run to Green Turtle Cay like everyone else we stopped off at No Name Cay again.  As usual we were the only boat there on Saturday night and two others joined us off at a distance Sunday night.  Cori was able to go ashore on No Name and to Gilliam Bay to look for shells.  Sunday we dinghied into the big pond on the island and explored some of the small mangrove creeks watching the fish in the clear water.  We also saw several turtles and a ray while motoring around.   In the afternoon Cori took the dinghy back to Gilliam Bay to look for sand dollars.

Monday we pulled anchor and had a nice relaxing sail to Green Turtle Cay.  Instead of going into one of the sounds to anchor with everyone else we went up to the end of the island and dropped anchor in Coco Bay.  Not as quiet as were at No Name but quieter than in White or Black Sound anchored with all of the others.  There are a lot of boats in the area since a lot of people are transiting the area starting their way back to the US or Canada (lots of Canadians down here).  We were able to go ashore and take the short walk to the marina where the others were and checked on their plans for the week.

Tuesday we headed out early for a trip to Allans-Pensacola Cay.  It was a five hour trip but it was a downwind run so we had a great day of sailing.  We went to shore but there were no shells worth picking on any of the beaches until we found the trail across to the ocean side.  There Cori found more shells and sea glass.  In the morning we took the dinghy up further into the anchorage to see what we could find.  The cruising guides show some abandoned docks further up.  They also mention “the signing tree” and ruins of a US missile tracking station.   From the dock area, which was just the old poles still stuck in the sand, we found the trail to the ocean side and found the “signing tree”.  Cruisers have been hanging signs and anything else they can find on several trees to mark their being there.  Cori being the one that plans ahead brought a permanent marker and we put our boat name on a hard hat that we found washed up and hung that on the tree to mark our arrival.  Since Cori had left her shoes back where we entered the beach and we eventually ended up on sharp rocks she solved the problem by finding a left and right mismatched flip flops.  They are her new beach shoes.  There is a lot of debris washed up on the ocean side of the islands and flip flops are not uncommon.  I found a large concrete slab in the trees that I believe to be where the missile tracking antenna was.  Following the path back to the dinghy we found the remains of one of the buildings, actually just the foundation.  After going back to the boat for lunch Cori went back to the first beach we had gone to and searched for more shells and sea glass.

Today, Thursday, we pulled anchor early and started back to Green Turtle Cay with a couple of stops.  This being against the wind we motored to Powell Cay and dropped anchor.  On our way here we met up with Temptation and Victoria Gay as they started their way back home.  They plan on crossing to Florida on Saturday.  We will have to do the same but we plan on waiting a couple of weeks and to see more of this area.  Cori is ashore looking for shells; we have been here before so she knew what area she wanted to look in.  There is a tall telephone tower about two miles away on another island so I have a good phone connection so I am able to get emails and get on the Internet so I will be able to post this.

And that is what has been happening in our world.