Monday, January 27, 2014

End of the Bahamas chapter of the story

On Saturday, all day long, Junie had been talking about lobster. We had seen a local guy snorkeling around throwing lobsters into a floating cooler. We had heard that he was selling them for, like, 4 for $20. Junie sat in the cockpit with a twenty dollar bill, all day, waiting for this guy to pedal past on his bicycle. It looked like we had missed him. No lobster on our last night in the Bahamas.

Looking out across the banks. Roux was a little bit
wistful - or maybe that was me. This was also where
we had seen the Lobster Guy snorkeling earlier.
Just after I finished the 'last blog post from the Bahamas' that evening, I took Roux out for a walk. We walked over to the beach that overlooks the shallow banks to the north. Roux walked onto the sand, laid down and just looked out across the water. It was like he knew that the trip was wrapping up and he better take in the view. I followed his advice and we sat there for a while.

On the way back, I struck up a conversation with another local guy that worked for one of the fishing boats and mentioned that we were sorry to have missed the lobster guy. He said, "No mon. He still out dere. You not miss him yet. But catch 'im quick or dey all be gone". I had taken the twenty bucks with me. The fisherman and I scanned the water and spotted Lobster Guy just coming out of the water and loading up the basket on his bike out on the jetty. Five minutes later, I had scored, not 4 but, 5 lobsters for my twenty bucks. I went back to the boat a hero. Not very long after, we were eating broiled Bahamian Lobster tails at the table in the cockpit. Absolutely wonderful. We thought we had a picture but, apparently, the card in the camera was full. So, no pic.

Junie's back has gone from hurting a lot to hurting a helluva lot and all the time. We need to get her straightened out. Certainly, there is nothing more pressing than getting her healthy. She called the doctor and begged them to fit her into the surgery schedule ASAP and they did.  As a result, we need to get back to the US, park the boat and get back home pretty quickly.

We left Old Bahama Bay Marina, West End, Grand Bahamas at 6:30 am the next morning. We had a companion boat follow us out. 'Knockabout' has an experienced cruising couple aboard and they were also headed across the Gulf Stream to Lake Worth Inlet to the Palm Beach area. I think they were kind of watching out for us. And we appreciate that. The weather forecast indicated that we would probably see some waves on our nose early in the day. But, by midday, the winds were supposed to collapse entirely. That would mean that, by the time we actually reached the Gulf Stream, it should be calm. That is exactly how it happened.

We motored the entire way with some kind of sail up just for stability. Our friends on 'Knockabout' quickly took the lead. Their boat is designed as a motor-sailer - 85 hp engine with a 28 inch prop - so they kicked our butts in the speed department. They were just about out of sight when we got a call from them on the radio. Their GPS had failed so their primary navigation tracking was gone. They were going to hold course and asked us to keep track of them in case they started wandering too far north or south. We ID'ed them as a target on our radar so we could still see them even when they were beyond eyesight. It was our turn to watch out for them.

The waves started slacking off after about 3 hours and we were rolling along nicely. Up in the distance, we saw the distinctive white with red stripe of a U.S. Coast Guard boat circling around a small fishing boat. Their Zodiac was up close with the fishing boat. I said, "Looks like they are getting boarded. Good thing we have our papers that show we have been boarded recently." Recall that, back in October at the beginning of our trip, we were boarded by the Coast Guard, thoroughly examined and given a yellow sheet of paper to prove we passed. I was really just joking but, sure enough, they were soon chasing us down. They hailed us on the radio to let us know that the small boat would be coming along side.

We dug out our papers and handed them our folder full of stuff. Now, we are pretty organized. So, the folder we handed them has all of our ships papers, copies of ID's (including Roux - seriously - even his AKC papers), Bahamas Customs forms and, of course, our yellow sheet of paper from our last boarding. They reviewed our package, handed it back, asked us if we had noticed any suspicious boats leaving in the middle of the night, told us to have a nice day and motored off. Not sure what they may have been looking for. They took off headed west and, not surprisingly, were hailing 'Knockabout' 30 minutes later.

The Gulf Stream. Really.
The wind died entirely. The ocean went flat. It is only 54 nautical miles from West End to Lake Worth Inlet. They can be real long or real short miles. All of those scary stories about the Gulf Stream would seem hard to imagine if this was the only exposure you ever had. We have had different exposures. We considered this a blessing. We can sail other days. Getting across the Gulf Stream this easy is OK with us.

When we started to see the tall buildings of Palm Beach appear over the horizon, Junie switched the SIM card in the phone from the Bahamas Batelco service back to Verizon. We soon had voice, data and web access again. We came into Lake Worth Inlet on Sunday afternoon and, let me tell you, there is no cold weather here right now. The inlet was a zoo! Sport-fishers returning from their day charters were rolling through pushing 8 foot wakes. Little boats were zipping around trying to avoid getting swamped. Sailboats were criss-crossing in between. There were dive flags right next to the speeding boats. People were cussing on the radio, boats were anchored around the sand bars and beaches and sticking out into the channel. After the peaceful cruise over from the Bahamas it seemed like a rude arrival.

Palm Beach buildings from about 7 miles out.
The tallest things we have seen in a while. 
We made our way to Old Port Cove Marina and tied up at the fuel dock. They were just about ready to close so, rather than mess with moving to a slip and make them all stay later, we just stayed put for the night. For us, it was as good as any other slip in the marina. We moved around the corner to a different slip this morning but we will be out of here tomorrow. We thought we might get the chance to run north to Charleston before Junie had the surgery but we won't have time and the weather isn't cooperating. This place, Old Port Cove, is great but, after some deliberation, we decided to take SeaClearly back to the same marina in Stuart where we left her in November. We had a good experience there last time. Also, it is a little bit out of the way and, therefore, a lot cheaper.

Our Bahamas Courtesy Flag is down now. The
big USA flag is still flying off the stern, as always.
So, we are back in the US. Today, I took down the Bahamas Courtesy Flag that has been flying over SeaClearly since we cleared into the Bahamas back in Bimini.

One last item of interest regarding re-entry - the Small Vessel Reporting System, Local Boater Option (SVRS - LBO). Upon arrival back to the US, the first obligation is to clear Customs and Immigration. We had signed up for this SVRS - LBO before we left. It involved a trip to Norfolk to the Customs office to register the boat and crew. When we got to Palm Beach, all we had to do was call in, give our registration numbers, and we were in! No need to actually go to the Customs office in person. Very helpful.

We will be picking up a rental car and driving back north on Friday or Saturday into, what appears to be, a full blown winter storm. The weather back home, in the Outer Banks, calls for 3 - 5 inches of snow. They are warning people to be prepared to be isolated and locked in their homes for days. Great.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Last Bahama stop

If all goes as planned, this will be the last post from the Bahamas. We left Port Lucaya on Thursday morning to move around the corner of Grand Bahama Island to West End. Specifically, to Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina. Three marina stops in a row is a record for us on this trip but it it a little easier on everybody. It was a short trip of about 30 miles. We didn't have to get up very early, the tide was a non-issue at both ends, no big seas or winds. A very peaceful trip.

West End is a very common first or last stop in the Bahamas. Back in Prohibition days, it was quite the hub of illicit alcohol. Now, it sees a lot of sailboats, motor yachts and sport fishers. Old Bahama Bay is nice, neat and pretty. It is isolated from the town and pretty far from Freeport so it is quiet. There are no groceries available but there are two restaurants. 

Chilly and cloudy

The weather patterns that have kept the east coast of the US cold have reached here. We were in jeans and sweatshirts for the first time in a while. I doubt that we will get much sympathy for a breezy, 65 degree day. Today is warmer again so back to shorts and tees.
Not so chilly and cloudy

Tomorrow morning, before sunrise, we expect to pullout and head back across the Gulf Stream to Florida. The weather should be mild and we hope there are no surprises. We should be entering through Lake Worth Inlet and arriving in West Palm Beach in time for the 5:00 slack before ebb tide.

One last trip to the beach

I think we are all ready to go but it is a  little sad, too. Our trip is far from over but we are leaving the Bahamas. What a time we have had.

Bumpy ride to Lucaya

We left Chub Cay on Sunday, on short notice, after deciding to sail overnight to Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama. We wanted to make some progress north and the timing was such that this overnighter seemed to be a really good option. We needed to go out of Chub Cay and then slightly northwest for a few hours, through the Northwest Channel, before turning almost directly north. This would take us up the east side of the Berry Islands. The wind was in our face as we left but promised to lessen and, when we turned, should give us some easy sailing through the dark hours. The plan, therefore, was to motor until we got past the channel.

Chub Cay to Port Lucaya - 86 nautical miles.
Drop-offs clearly visible. And, again, the water color
differentiation is pretty accurate.
The Northwest Channel, which we also came through on our way south, transitions from the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean onto the Great Bahama Bank – so, once again, we go from thousands of feet of water to 15 in a very short distance. This day’s passage was uneventful except for the number of boats we saw. It had, clearly, been a good day to leave Florida and come to the Bahamas. There were probably 15 or 20 boats coming our way, several actually still flying their quarantine flags indicating that they had not yet stopped to check in to the Bahamas. It is likely that all of these boats crossed the Gulf Stream, bypassed Bimini, and were arriving at the channel at sunset as we were coming from the other direction. It appeared that they had a long, but pleasant, trip and good weather window. We went through the channel as the sun set beautifully in front of us and then took a right. We already had sails up to take advantage of what wind we could as we motored. Now we could actually sail.

For a while.  We shut down the motor and, with the genny and main, glided along quietly – slower, slower, slower. The wind dropped as expected but maybe a little further than expected. We didn't want to go all that fast because of the timing for our arrival. If we went faster than 5 ½ knots, we would get there in the dark. This is not usually very helpful. However, the 2 ½ knots we were making wouldn't get us there for a long time. After about an hour, we lit up the motor and, just above idle, we could make 4 knots. It was a clear, dark, starry night. The red and green running lights on the bow were bright enough to see the bottom through the clear water.

At some point in the night, when Junie went down to catch some sleep, I was still motoring along quietly and the wind bumped up a little. Over the course of the next three hours, the wind increased by degrees. I backed off, and finally shut down, the engine. We had 6, then 8, then 10 knots of wind. First in a close reach, then a beam reach as it swung through north and northwest as predicted. We were sailing along nicely! Eventually, the wind clocked all the way around to the southwest and we were downwind sailing.
Here, I have to stop and review a ‘SeaClearly practice’ that we have. We decided, early on, that we would not go into a night sail with any more than a staysail and reefed main. That way, you don’t get caught with too much sail in the dark. This particular evening, you remember, we only had 2 – 3 knots of wind and the prediction was for under 10 all night. You can probably guess the next turn in this story. 

As I sailed on, the wind slowly, insidiously, moved higher just slow enough to lull me into complacency. Oh, sure, it went up to 12 knots for a minute but it went right back down to 10. Then up to 15, but only briefly. So it went for two hours. At about 2:00 am, when the wind touched 22 knots and the waves were starting to push us from behind, it dawned on me that I had been caught. I was going to have to go wake up Junie and get rid of some sails before it got worse. We were already beyond the wind strength the forecast called for. Now, all bets were off and we didn't know how much weather we were going to get. Junie came out of the cabin just about then and, of course, immediately made the observation, 'Wow, it got windy!’ 

This is a screenshot of the AIS showing
the ships in Freeport as we were approaching
Lucaya (just to the east). Many of these ships
  had crossed our path during the night.
Yes, it did. And, almost predictably, this was the time when the genny furler jammed and we could only get it 2/3 of the way furled. Given that, and the now 24 knot winds and 4 foot following seas, we dropped the main entirely. Now, none of this is easy in the dark and wind and bouncing up and down. Coming up into the wind to take the stress off the sails means pointing into the steep, now 5 foot, seas.  But, we got trimmed out and the, unintentionally, reefed headsail gave us all the speed we needed in the 25 knot winds and 6 foot seas. So much for the weather forecast.

Now, for the kicker.  We were, by this time, crossing the Northwest Providence Channel that separates the Berry Islands from Grand Bahama Island (not to be confused with the Northwest Channel we passed through earlier) . In fact, we had been in the channel already when this episode began. This is a huge section of ocean with Freeport on the other side on Grand Bahama. Freeport, we have learned, takes advantage of the very deep water that stays deep right up to the coast. It is s a major transshipment hub for international traffic. If you want an education in shipping and logistics, go look that up some time. As a result, it is a major thoroughfare for cargo ships, tankers, tramp steamers – oh, and cruise ships. Earlier in the night, before the wind kicked up, I had no less than 10 large ships – 4 going left, 6 going right – crossing our path. Well, I guess technically, we were crossing theirs. I felt like I was playing ‘Frogger’ and we were the frog. The AIS kept us painfully aware of where they were going to hit us so we could try not to be there. This level of activity went on all night. While we were fighting the sails, waves and wind.
If Monet painted grey seas...

Sunrise showed us some waves. Believe
me, bigger than they look.
The wind continued to do us no favors and now backed around to the west. Nice. Now we have steep, 6 – 8 foot waves on our beam. We rolled back and forth. Not violently but a lot. Somehow, Roux had found a comfortable spot in his stern bed and wedged himself in. He never complained. We just kept riding towards our destination. The sun came up and we could now see the waves we were dealing with. As is often the case, it doesn’t help. It may be worse. The waves that give you the worst motion are not always that ones that look like they will. And vice versa. It just messes with your nerves.

By the time we were approaching Port Lucaya, we were ready to be done with this trip. The early sailing was great, the night was unbelievably pretty. Even the ships were interesting. The waves, not so much. We made it into Port Lucaya with no problems and got fueled and docked. Port Lucaya is, by far, the most commercial location we have stopped. We didn’t know exactly what to expect. 

It turns out that, although the cruise ships actually dock miles from here in Freeport, they bring busloads of people here from the cruise ships for shore excursions – snorkeling, dolphin watches, etc . There is a little touristy village with the typical T-shirt shops, local arts and crafts, restaurants. Not our normal stop. But, good for a couple of days. And, right at the end of our dock – a Pizza Hut!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Exiting the Exumas, Passing New Providence, Bouncing off the Berrys

Saturday, January 18, at 5:00 am, we weighed anchor and turned SeaClearly west. We left the Exumas Cays behind us and watched the sunrise over them as we left. We set out on the 50 mile trip across White Bank headed for West Bay, New Providence with a plan to anchor there for one night and then move on.

West Bay is an interesting spot. It is the furthest west point on the island but there is a shallow bay that you can reach by entering through the reef from either the south (if coming from the Exumas like we were) or from the west (if you are coming from the north). We missed this stop on the way down because we didn't arrive in time to make a daylight entrance to the bay. Now that we have seen it in the daylight, I am really glad we didn't attempt it.

The undersea geography of New Providence is pretty interesting. The south and east coasts open out onto the banks - miles and miles of water that is rarely deeper than 12 - 15 feet, much shallower usually. The north and west coast drop, almost immediately, from 10 to 25 to 2500 to 7000-10000 feet. Yes, 10,000. West Bay is at one of those edges. As we approached from the south, we sailed over the drop-off, then back onto the shallows toward the reef. The most unnerving thing about the approach is that it appears to be wide open water except for one rocky cay off to the left about a mile. In reality, the reef is only covered by 3 - 5 feet of water everywhere but the entrances I mentioned.

West Bay, New Providence island. And, yes, those colors are
very accurate. The shallow or deep water  and reefs
 are obvious. We anchored in the sand by the pushpin.
In the daylight, coming in from the south, you can clearly see the dark coral and rock (awfully close) in contrast to the white sand of the clear passage. Once you are inside, it is shallow and clear. We started to drop our anchor out pretty far in the bay just because we were leery of the depth. In the middle of the process, I was hailed on the radio by 'Faith', a boat that was already anchored in the bay. He was kind enough to instruct me where to find the best bottom for good holding and assured me that we would still be floating with our 5'8" draft. I yelled out to Junie to bring the anchor back in and explained the situation since she had not heard the conversation (since she was out on the bow, clanking out anchor chain). Had we anchored where we were, we would probably not have held because there was only a bit of sand covering hard rock bottom. Thanks 'Faith'! At low tide, we had less than six inches of water beneath us but we stayed where we anchored.

But, 'Faith' wasn't done helping us with experienced guidance yet. The following morning, we lifted the anchor and I had decided to just go back out the south entrance the way we came in. It was really the wrong direction and would add a couple of miles to our trip for the day but we had a path to follow safely. As we headed out, I got another call from 'Faith'. In a most unassuming manner, her captain pointed out that, of course, I could go that way if I wanted. Or, he could give me a specific waypoint to drive to that would take me out the west entrance through the reef to send me the right direction and save some time. You gotta love helpful people.

Chub Cay Marina, Berry Islands
Chub Cay Marina definitely won the award for the best
docks that we have seen in the Bahamas...
... although, not many boats were taking advantage of them
while we were there. This is really a sportfishing marina and
this isn't their time of year. But, hey, we like sportfishers.
So, after this quick overnight, our only stop on New Providence island, we headed through the reef (how South Pacific-ish) and pointed north toward Chub Cay, Berry Islands. Once again, I was amazed to watch the depth drop from 10 feet to several thousand within a few hundred feet. Our, relatively short, 30 mile trip for Sunday took us directly up the Tongue of the Ocean. Which meant that we would be sailing in water thousands of feet deep all day. It is the most beautiful cobalt blue imaginable. We have not seen a ton of wildlife on this trip but we have always seen Flying Fish when we are in water like this.

It was a mellow day and an easy trip. It is always a little easier on the crew of SeaClearly when we are arriving to a marina. No dinghy to fool with, easy on-off, access to grass. There were not many boats in Chub Cay Marina on this day. The trip to the fuel dock was uneventful, the docking was easy, the place was pretty nice. We got settled, got Roux settled and went out to dinner at their restaurant. A welcome break after several days at anchor.

We had intended to stay here for a couple of days but the weather picture (plus some sketchy laundry facilities) incent'ed us to change plans on short notice after one night - again. I was whining because, as I looked at the weather, the good weather seemed to be happening at night. Junie pointed out that we know how to sail at night. We agreed that we should prep for an immediate, afternoon departure and do an overnight trip to Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama island, right next to Freeport. Less than two hours later, we were gone. This turned out to be a great decision, a marvelous experience but a rough and rolly end. More on that next time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hawksbill Cay

Almost unbelievable colors
Even Junie's tie-die can't compete for color. The wind
from the northwest brought some cooler temps, too.
I have to back up a few days because we have been, basically, without internet coverage for a while. We were on a mooring ball at Hawksbill Cay for 4 days. This is just a gorgeous place. We both have said that this, more than anywhere so far, epitomizes the vision of the Bahamas that we had in our dreams. Of course, everyplace we have been is beautiful, nice and incredible. But Hawksbill Cay made us feel like we had achieved the goal in a very specific way.

We had already made up our minds to start heading back towards home. Junie's back is not getting better. The doctor had indicated that it would continue to hurt but, as long as she could take the pain, it should not get worse. Wrong. It hurts her a lot and more often. Roux is still old, still grumpy (always has been, sort of) and, despite being in better shape than he has been for a while (running down the beach and swimming!), it is work to manage him. It is time to go.

Me- feeling pretty good

But, the weather did not want us to go northwest yet. So, we left from our R and R at Highbourne Cay Marina and went back south about 18 miles. The entry to Hwksbill was very straightforward from the west (read that, no protection from the west - zero). Even though we knew there was some weather coming from the northwest, we stopped here. Partly because of the mooring balls. They give a, probably artificial, sense of confidence that you will still be in the same place in the morning.

Roux's new hobby - making
'sand angels' on the beaches

Day One was an easy day. Only a couple of boats chose to join us for the first night so we were pretty much alone in an isolated spot with a full moon rising behind the cay. Beautiful.

Day Two morning, everybody left. We were all alone. Talk about paradise. Well, for some of us. Junie is a bit more social than I am and the concept of being totally out of touch is not appealing to her. I, on the other hand, am more of a closet introvert. As an example - when we got our new iPhone, we moved the service off of my old phone. So, now I had an older iPhone that was a great alarm clock, had a copy of iNavx (our navigation program with working GPS, could connect to wifi when we had it and had a good camera. Just that nobody could call me. Much to Junie's disapproval, I declared this to be the perfect phone. Junie spent a good deal of time standing out on the deck, facing toward the nearest hint of civilization, phone raised in the air, trying to grab the occasional signal. She is the reason we have friends.

A glimpse of weather to come

Day Three, the weather arrived. The reason we had not started north yet. In the afternoon, we started to get Roux ready for his beach trip. It quickly became obvious that it was just too dangerous. The waves had already built to 3 - 4 feet. Our bow was going up and down every few seconds. The odds of making this run without someone getting hurt were not good. Roux was looking pretty disappointed but it was a call we had to make.

And then it got worse. We have been out in the ocean, in pretty big waves, in the dark, many times on this trip. This was probably the worst beating we have taken. SeaClearly probably thought that this was the time when good sailors put to sea. She may have been right. We had, now, after one night all by ourselves (nice, but a little creepy), 6 other boats on mooring balls along with us and one unlucky boat that arrived in this nasty weather just after dark and couldn't seem to find the mooring ball. They ended up anchoring just west of the mooring field. We found out the next day that they lost their only boat hook while trying to grab the mooring ball in the steep seas so they had no choice.

We spent the night dipping and rolling and pitching. The cabin was noisy (I thought about saying 'cacophonous' just because I have never used that word in a real sentence before) from all of the stuff banging around - dishes in the cabinets that were secured were still shifting, the few dishes left in the sink kept slamming back and forth, anything that wasn't tied down, padded and locked flew open. Everything was creaking, straining, thumping and sliding. Then, we got more wind. And lightning. We grabbed an assortment of electronic gear - radio, GPS, phone, iPad - and shoved it into the oven to shield and protect it in case we got hit by a bolt. Fortunately, not.

We had to move out of our forward cabin because the noise and motion got to be too much. The ride up and down was sort of fun but the twisty motion thrown in was uncomfortable and unpredictable. Junie took one settee, I took the other. Roux started whimpering in his aft cabin so we got him out and put him on the floor between us, low in the boat. As usual, we have no pictures taken during the calamity. Just picture all of us, huddled in the center of the boat under blankets, wedged in and holding on to the seat cushions to stay lying down. Moving was pretty dangerous so we only moved when necessary or when something new came loose and threatened to break itself or something else.

Ready to start heading west - and north.
We worried about the other boats. SeaClearly is a big heavy boat and our motion tends to be dampened because of it. Several of the other boats were much lighter and smaller. I am sure they were getting pounded. And, the boat closest to us was the one on anchor so we were afraid they would start dragging. We even set up our anchor monitor, despite being on a mooring. Ultimately, the night passed, the sun came up and the weather settled. But, nobody was in a hurry to move. Even though Roux had been waiting since yesterday morning, he was not anxious to get in the dinghy after the ride last night.

We stayed one more night to settle down and then started our trek north. The first move was back to Highbourne Cay but not the marina. We just anchored off the island for the night as a jump-off point to head back across White Sound to New Providence Island. No stops in Nassau this trip. We were headed for the west end of the island to another anchorage called, appropriately, West Bay.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Homeward bound- Sort of

We spent the last few days at Cambridge Cay on a mooring ball. It is part of the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. This was one of my favorite spots, thus far. It has a tricky approach (for our draft) which makes it adventurous. It is just beautiful. And it has great snorkeling. What else do you need? Oh yeah- beaches for Roux.

Bell Rock at Cambridge Cay. Roux's beach.

We ended up here by a fluke, really. We were going to make a short,one hour hop north from Black Point. But, when we left Black Point,the wind was perfect. We hoisted sails as soon as we cleared the harbor and had some of the best sailing ever. It was soon time to turn to our target destination and we couldn't do it. We just couldn't abandon this great sailing day.
Cambridge Cay mooring field from a sandbar exposed
at low tide. And, yes, it rained.

We just kept going for three more hours and ended up at Cambridge Cay. We had a great time, met some more nice people (Hello Rick and Eva!).  As it turned out, when we left there, the sailing was still great and we sailed almost all of the way to where we are now.

Bell Rock from the ocean side. With the ever-present
ocean trash in the foreground.

We are back at Highbourne Cay Marina for some refueling - us and the boat. We have been living self-contained for the past ten days. On mooring balls or at anchor, we need to make our own electric, have enough water and dinghy everywhere we need to go.

Our watermaker has not lived up to expectations. It has been kind of hard to test since you really can't run it until you get to fairly clean water. No muddy water, never harbor water. So, by the time we could test it, we already needed it. Turns out, it was only managing to make marginal water. According to our water tester thingy, it was not even up to minimum EPA standards for tap water. Guess it is time for a new membrane.

We did run the watermaker and put water in our aft water tank for washing and such. We reserved the front tank for drinking and cooking and only used the foot pump (which, you may recall, we replaced just before we left Miami). We filled that tank with good RO water from this marina when we were here at New Year's. Along the way, we shuttled in some jerry cans of good water from Black Point's free water. It is a little odd. It is just a spigot sticking up along the street with a stainless steel nozzle. It is great RO water -some of the best we have seen. Free, but the only way to get it is to dinghy in, fill cans, haul them back and pour them into the tank. But, worth it.

Electric-wise, we do OK. Our refrigeration sucks a lot of power but the generator replenishes. The wind generator does a good job if we are getting higher winds. Solar panels come in a distant third. It may be time to upgrade those. After a while though, you need to go plug in and let the batteries equalize - basically a slow soak to drive the charge all the way down deep.

And then, there is groceries. We still have most of the basics either canned or frozen. No danger of starving. But, there are some things we run short of and miss. Bread. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. It is amazing how many meals on a boat end up just being crackers, nuts, chips, granola bars, etc. Ice Cream. But that just doesn't happen much. Consequently, we have both lost weight just by default. We went to the little 'grocery' here today and got a dose of island pricing. Town House Crackers $7.35, broccoli $5.85, bread $6. They are the only game in town and everything arrives the same way we did - by boat.

We are rested, fed at the restaurant, met some nice folks (Hello Ed and Janet!), topped off all of the tanks, equalized the batteries and checked the weather for the coming week. We have decided to start making our way back home, knowing that it will take a while because the weather doesn't always cooperate. Like, this week for instance. We thought we might start heading north and west and stage for a crossing back to Florida sometime. Chris Parker (weather guy) says we should find an anchorage and wait until next week before we bother trying to head that way. So, tomorrow morning we will leave here and move about 20 miles south to Hawksbill Cay to hang out. Such is life on a boat.

Photo Op

We are back at Highbourne Cay after about 10 days at anchor or on moorings. We all needed a marina fix, some AC and  we paid for some good internet service while we are parked here for a couple of days. I thought I would take this chance to post some of the pictures along the way that may not have made the blog.

King's Highway, Alice Town, Bimini
King's Highway, Alice Town, Bimini

Bimini Bull Sharks
The big boy

Junie and Roux by the pool at Bimini Big Game Club.
One of their claims to fame is that MLK Jr. worked on his
famous speech in one of their cottages.
Sailing toward Highbourne Cay

Roux in shades. Calm sailing, no life jacket.

Motor sailing with main and staysail

Approaching Highbourne Cay. The really big boats don't fit
in the marina so they anchor outside. They ranged from 153
to 215 ft. Some were pretty, some just big.
Nurse Sharks at Highbourne Cay

Nurse Sharks at Highbourne Cay waiting
for scraps from the fish cleaning station

Taking a stroll on Highbourne Cay

Ocean side of Highbourne
Ocean side of Highbourne
Ocean side of Highbourne

Ocean side of Highbourne
Ocean side of Highbourne

Some marina neighbors for New Year's Eve

Shroud Cay - Dinghy in Paradise

Shroud Cay beach and mangroves

Roux at Shroud

Junie. Still trying to get Roux to hold still for a pic.
Shroud Cay vegetation