Saturday, May 23, 2015

Road Trip!

After a brief hiatus, we are back on the move! Fort Pierce held on to us for over three weeks and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Harbortown Marina is a great place. We have met many nice people, enjoyed the on-sight restaurant and the marina folks were all great. We intended to spend two days there. But, the weather didn't want us to leave so we stayed a week. The weather still didn't cooperate so we signed up for the monthly rate, rented a car and drove north to our house in NC.

It was a funny trip. Since we were covering the same east coast that we have traveled in SeaClearly, we see all of the same place names as we go north - Daytona, St Augustine, Fernandina Beach, Charleston - except they go by at light speed! The trip from Fort Pierce to Kill Devil Hills only takes us about 14 hours.

Now, we built this house originally (over 15 years ago) to be a second home so shutting it down and leaving it was fairly normal. Shutting it down and leaving it for 7 months is a long time. Fortunately, we had some great neighbors to keep an eye on things while we were gone. We walked back into a relatively clean, slightly stale house that was every bit as comfortable as we left it. No leaks, no damage, no bird nests in the chimney. We hung up the porch swing and poured ourselves a glass of wine. Good to be home if only for a while.

Leaving 3 automobiles sitting under the house for 7 months worried us but 2 of them started right up. The F250 needed a battery charge to turn over. Then, over the next several days, we got all three of them inspected and the license plates renewed (since they all expired in March).

We caught up with the neighbors and got the house functioning again. We used the microwave oven with reckless abandon (we don't have one on SeaClearly). We took long, hot showers. We marveled at the concept of doing laundry just a few steps away instead of lugging it across the marina. Comforts of home.

Emily drove down to visit on Mother's Day and made Junie a happy mom. And, of course, we ate too much - Mama Kwan's fish tacos, Colington Cafe, John's for malts. Yes, in just two days.

We couldn't just hang around forever though. SeaClearly was waiting for us in Fort Pierce. We shut the house back down and took off again. We wanted to go see Dusty, Holly and Reagan up in Virginia before we turned south again. We also took the opportunity to drop off the F250 at our new marina home up in Gloucester so we would have transportation when we arrived.

We had a wonderful time playing with Reagan and visiting with Dusty and Holly. Even though we had just been with them at Atlantis last month, Reagan had changed and grown. But, SeaClearly was starting to tug on our minds pretty hard so, after a couple of days, we hit the road again. The trip back seemed longer but went smoothly. Anytime you spend that long on I95 without a problem, you need to be grateful.

As soon as we got back, we started plotting our departure. The weather was still not being very helpful. We wanted to make the trip directly from Fort Pierce to Southport, NC. That requires a 4 day window which, as far as we can tell, may be a myth. We finally thought we saw a slight chance for a Monday, May 18th exit. Not perfect conditions exactly - a little wind on day one, practically no wind for two days, strong thunderstorms (despite there being no wind) and then a front moving through as we would be reaching Southport. Perfect! So we left. I'll recap the trip later.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Requiem for a Boat Slip

At some point, early in our plans to go cruising on a sailboat, we sat on our back porch and mused, “Wouldn't it be something to just sail away from our own dock, right here, sail all the way to the Virgin Islands and then all the way back here, right to our own dock”. It seemed like a very distant dream at the time but the vision was taking form.

So, we got the boat, built the dock (our own little mini-marina) and parked our baby right outside our back door. It was wonderful to have that easy access for projects, learning the systems and taking care of SeaClearly. The cost of the dock was, partially, offset by not having to pay for a marina.

We made our trip to the Bahamas last year and then, this year, a bigger trip. We sailed away from our own dock, surrounded by well-wishing friends, and journeyed to the Virgin Islands. We have had a wonderful trip down the island chains. We have met people and challenges that have inspired us. Now, we are on our way home. We arrived back in the USA a couple of weeks ago. SeaClearly is floating in a slip at Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce, Florida. The offshore weather was going to prohibit a smooth trip up the east coast so we left her there, under the watchful eye of a friend, and traveled up to North Carolina by rental car. This would give us a chance to open up the house and take care of a few items that had been put off while we were traveling for the last seven months.

Unfortunately, we have a problem. The troublesome inlet into Colington Harbour has finally shoaled to a point that prohibits us from taking SeaClearly home. The latest soundings are not good. The entrance is tricky at best. Boats with less draft than SeaClearly are routinely dragging the bottom. We already had significant difficulty finding days with enough water to get in or out. Our daysailing opportunities had been severely reduced by our worries about running aground or being caught outside with no way in. Or, my worst recurring nightmare, the possibility of getting into the harbor and never getting out again. Or being floated out on airbags.

Short story – we won’t risk taking SeaClearly back into Colington. We have to find her a new home. We were heartbroken at losing this perfect situation. We know that we have been lucky to have this option for so long. We always realized that we had a big bluewater boat that we were floating in a small pond. We may have blinded ourselves to the inevitability of this development but who can blame us for our optimism.

SeaClearly, last year, in her (now former) home behind our house. 
We have made arrangements to keep SeaClearly at the York River Yacht Haven in Gloucester, Virginia. She won't be in our backyard anymore but we think this is a better overall solution. It is closer to the kids in Virginia. We hope the location will also afford us more opportunities for sailing the Chesapeake Bay. 

What about the dream of sailing back home to our own dock? Well, we do regret that we won't be able to close the big loop and sail back to our point of departure. But, as good dreams often do, ours' has grown and changed into more than we could ever have imagined. We are embracing this as a new and different, if unexpected, chapter in our story and we are looking forward to the experience. It turns out that the dream was all about sailing away. We will figure out where to sail next.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Passing north through the Bahamas

Catch up time! I have not posted anything significant for a while so I thought I would pack in a bunch of pictures to help make up for my lack of words. This is a summary of our month-long trip north through the Bahamas as we made our way back from the Virgin Islands.

Long Island

This was our first stop and check-in point to the Bahamas (well, OK, technically, our first stop in the Bahamas was an anchorage of of Land Rail Point on Crooked Island as I described in an earlier post.) Also, one of our favorite new places. The Virgin Islands had not offered much in the way of 'Cruiser Community' so it was especially nice to arrive in Long Island and be, almost immediately, approached by several cruisers ready to swap stories and share experiences.

We met Jeff and Janet from Truant III at the restaurant in Flying Fish Marina. The next day, they invited us to tour Long Island with them in their rental car. We had a great time and were very impressed with Long Island. It seems to be a bit better off than some areas in the Bahamas.

Jeff and Janet, Duane at Deans Blue Hole 

Deans Blue Hole. The deepest blue hole in the world, it
plunges to over 650 ft deep. The platform in the middle is
for the crazy free-divers. It has a line attached that goes all
the way to the bottom with depth increments marked.
We also stopped on the west side of Long Island at Salt Pond and Thompson Bay where we met and enjoyed another pocket of the crusing community. We had dismissed this area as being a little too shallow for us to explore in SeaClearly but now, with some firsthand knowledge, this is on our list of future stops.

Cat Island

A few days later, we pulled a short over-nighter to move from Long Island to Cat Island. We anchored west of the island to stay out of the predicted easterlies. It is another picturesque Bahamian scene with beach bars and small island feel. We met some more nice boat folks and we all took the hike up to the top of the island.

Beautiful view from the highest point in the Bahamas. SeaClearly is one of the tiny white dots anchored in the harbor.
At the top you find The Hermitage. The Hermitage was built by a retired priest, Father Jerome, who had built and re-built many of the Anglican and Catholic churches throughout the Bahamas. He decided to retire here on Cat Island so he bought the high hill and built his home. It is a 3/4 scale replica of a monastery. The perfect down-scaling creates an interesting optical illusion as you walk up the hill. The building seems huge but then shrinks as you approach and duck through the door.


After several days waiting for a good weather window, we crossed the Exuma Sound back over to the Exumas and headed to Black Point Settlement - one of our favorite places from previous jaunts through the area. We timed our approach through Dotham Cut, just north of Black Point, to arrive on the incoming tide with a few hours of daylight left. It is a little creepy coming in between rock ledges and reefs while being pushed along by a 3 knot current rushing onto the Banks.

Arriving back at the Exumas through Dotham Cut. .

Notice the rocks on both sides of the mast.

Black Point has been both a stopping point and a starting point for us at various times on our adventures. It is very familiar by now and it was fun to be back. We got our laundry done at Ida's. We met Ian and Lynn from Windward while we were waiting. Another small world story - they are friends with some of our Cabo Rico friends, Tom and Cheryl, from up in Maryland! We were also fortunate to catch the buffet at Lorraine's Restaurant.

Then, on our way back to SeaClearly, we spotted another Cabo Rico sailing into the harbor! It turns out that Jim and Wendy, on Patty Jean (CR42-18), had heard rumors that they were not the only Cabo Rico in the area. In fact, when we were on Long Island the previous week and met the Salt Pond cruiser folks, we had left one of our boat cards. Those folks, recognizing that Patty Jean must be our sister ship,  passed our information along to Jim and Wendy who then tracked us down through this blog. So, while we were surprised to see them, they knew exactly where to find us!

'Patty Jean' CR42 hull number 18 at far left.
'SeaClearly' CR42-14 on the right.
They anchored right by us. It is such fun to get to see the similarities and differences in these Cabo Ricos. And to share stories, experiences, learnings and lessons. We spent a couple of very enjoyable dinners and evenings together. Then, as cruisers do, we both moved on. We went north and spent a night anchored south of Warderick Wells at Emerald Rock. The next day, we moved further north to Shroud Cay. We have stopped here several times but had never had the opportunity to dinghy up the mangrove creek. It is supposed to be a highlight of this cay and we were determined to get there this time. We picked up a mooring ball and settled in for the afternoon. A little while later, here comes Patty Jean! So, now we had some company for our exploration planned for the next day.

Shroud Cay.
Close-up of the inset showing the creek that runs though
the island from the banks on the left to the
Exuma Sound on the right.

Jim and Wendy letting us take the lead as we wound
through the island...
...and right out to the beach. So very cool.

Jim and Wendy - love birds on an idyllic beach. 

Rose Island

We were now at the point where we needed to start working our way towards Nassau. Dusty, Holly and grand-daughter Reagan were coming to Atlantis to meet us so we wanted to get positioned to make an easy trip over the banks. We certainly did not want to be caught with bad weather and not be able to get to Nassau. We bid good-bye to Jim and Wendy and moved up to an anchorage just off of Highbourne Cay. We sat there for two nights sort of killing time but also savoring our last stop in the Exumas. You just never know whether you will ever pass this way again.

We decided to cross over to Rose Island on the east end of New Providence Island. This involves transiting Yellow Bank which has many scattered coral heads that rise to within a few feet on the surface. Not something you want to hit. It is recommended that you only cross this area in midday high sun so you can see the dark spots that mark potential wreck sites. With Junie on the bow pulpit pointing out the hazards, we went across with no problems (although we have heard stories of crews with a small communications issue - "Are you pointing where I should go or are you pointing at the coral?")

We anchored north of Rose Island and were now within an easy 2 hour move to the Atlantis Marina. Sure we were four days early but at least we wouldn't be late. We found out that Sandy Toes, a beach bar on Rose Island, was celebrating their 5 year anniversary on the weekend with a buffet and music. We dinghied the 1 1/2 miles to the beach behind the bar, picked up one of their mooring balls and then swam into shore. The buffet was nothing special but the entertainment was unique. 'Action Jackson, Fire Limbo King' was getting ready to put on his show when we met him sitting on the beach. When he said, "Let's get some pictures!", we didn't know what we were in for. Only a little later, he started his show which, does indeed, involve fire, limbo and picking up women - literally.

Junie - caught off guard!


On Wednesday, April 15, we raised the anchor and left Rose Island. We called Nassau Harbor Control, as required, as we approached the east entrance to Nassau Harbor. Given their blessing, we proceeded on towards the Atlantis Marina. Our original intention had been to stop for fuel but the current, the bridges and the traffic convinced us we could wait until later for that stop. We went directly into the marina, found our slip and gracefully backed SeaClearly into the highest priced marina we have ever entered. At $4.50 per foot per night, we are living high. Of course, we are the smallest boat in the marina by half. However, the marina fee also gets you access to many of the Atlantis attractions so it actually works out to be a pretty good deal. Especially when you are meeting up with a little grand-daughter.

SeaClearly at the Atlantis Marina

Reagan and Pop playing at the beach with Atlantis behind.

Reagan and mom, Holly, enjoying the rapids -  'Noisy water' as
Reagan called it. Very appropriate.

Reagan, Holly, Pop and Grammy riding the rapids.
Not exactly a 'lazy river' ride.

Reagan was fearless and persistent on the water slides.
While we were at Atlantis, on April 18th, Junie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Dusty and Holly took us out for a wonderful dinner and when dessert came, it looked like this. The waiters sang an anniversary song and a chorus of  'I Can't Help Falling in Love with You'. Sweet.

Berry Islands

Our stay in Atlantis ended on Sunday morning. We, once again, called Nassau Harbor Control for clearance but we were exiting the west entrance this time. There is a little more traffic this direction.

We sailed, nicely sailed, north up the Tongue of the Ocean towards the Berry Islands. We passed through the Northwest Channel and onto the banks southwest of Great Harbor Cay as the sun went down. We dropped the anchor in some arbitrary spot that left us a short trip the following day to reach another marina - the Great Harbor Cay Marina. We got the fuel that we had skipped back in Nassau and spent one night here. We were getting anxious to move on. We left the marina the following afternoon and went back out onto the banks, to some other arbitrary spot, and anchored again so we could leave early in the morning before light. We were up early, as planned, and pointed SeaClearly towards Fort Pierce, Florida - back towards the USA.