The Virgin Islands

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American Yacht Harbor

American Yacht Harbor

Pete and I arrived in St. Thomas to find Delphinus safe and snug at the American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook. The marina is a bustling place with lots of boats coming and going, and restaurants and shops lining the waterfront – everything geared toward the American tourist.

Dinner with Friends

Dinner with Friends

We caught up with our friends Bernie and Sherron Wahl, who arrived on the s/v Ballerina the day before we arrived. Pete’s first Caribbean 1500 was with Bernie about 10 years ago. The two have kept in touch over the years. We all enjoyed pizza and cold beer at the Island Time Pub, with a great view of the harbor, with Anthony, a crew member of Ballerina’s trip from Grenada, and James, our crew member.

After a couple of days of engine work and provisioning, we departed St. Thomas for Caneel Bay in St. John. Here we returned to the enjoyment and peace and quiet on a mooring ball in the harbor. We took a whole day and did nothing but read and relax. Ahh..back to the life of a cruiser. Caneel Bay is the site of a former sugar plantation and the ruins have been incorporated into a very nice resort.

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We soon discovered that this is the rainy season here. The good news is that most of the rain comes during the night and early morning. The bad news is there is a hatch over my side of our bunk which we keep open to catch those nice breezes. Most nights I woke up after dreaming about water being sprayed in my face only to realize it was raining again. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for being in paradise.

Rainbow over Caneel Bay

Rainbow over Caneel Bay

Butterfly Escort

Butterfly Escort

Next, we headed for Road Town in British Virgin Islands to catch up with a mechanic who will look at the port engine. As we entered British waters we acquired an escort of small yellow butterflies. They flitted all around the boat, rarely landing, and we continued to encounter them throughout the US and British Virgin Islands.

Fort Burt Marina

Fort Burt Marina

We stayed at the Fort Burt Marina, which turns out to be the home of Conch Charters, the company we chartered from 10 years ago. The Pub is still operating at the dock, which was the first place we tried conch fritters. Our son Brendan enjoyed them so much he tried them everywhere else we went in the BVI and became something of a conch fritter critic by the end of that charter trip. Pete and I stopped in this trip for old times sake.

Pete at The Pub

Pete at The Pub

 

 

 

 

Finishing Install

Finishing Install

As I’ve written before, the definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places. In addition to the port engine issues that are now fixed, we had to replace the wind transducer (at the top of the mast) and run a new cable down through the mast. Here is Pete making the final connections at the base of the mast. The space he folded himself into actually under the settee in the salon. I think it took him longer to get himself into and out of that space than to make the final connections.

Trellis Bay

Trellis Bay

Our next stop in the BVI was Trellis Bay. The community there is somewhat of an artists colony. There is a large shop featuring the works of the local artisans and produce from organic farmers. We had lunch at the de Loose Mongoose, where Pete tried Roti, a West Indian curry stew served with a large wrap. It seems to be quite popular in the local restaurants.

 

Sunset

Sunset on Trellis Bay

Yost Van Dyke

Jost Van Dyke

Next we made the obligatory party stop in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. This harbor is the home Corsairs Bar and Grill (best restaurant in the BVIs) and Foxy’s Bar (a favorite spot for cruisers). We enjoyed a great lunch at Corsairs, which looks more like a sailor/biker bar. The food was delicious.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the cruising community really is small. As we were returning to Delphinus from lunch on shore we were flagged down by a couple in another dinghy. We were delighted to see it was John and Jennifer Stallings from s/v Noel’s Delight. We originally met them in Emerald Bay in the Bahamas and then again in the marina when we limped into Southport, NC with our broken dinghy davit. We spent a fun afternoon swapping stories over cold beers followed by great wings and rum punch at Foxy’s. We hope to catch up again soon as we are both planning to head further south.

Sunset

Sunset

We headed back to US territory again and cleared customs in Cruz Bay, St. John. Unfortunately, we arrived right behind two ferry boats and had a long line to wait in. After lunch and grocery shopping we pulled up anchor and made our way to Francis Bay. This area and most of St. John are part of the US National Park Service (NPS), so the natural beauty is preserved.

Near Francis Bay is a partially restored sugar plantation, Annaberg Sugar Plantation, dating from the late 1700s. Look for the blocks of carved brain coral used in the doorway pictured below. As beautiful as the location is, I can’t imagine that the slaves who labored there found any joy in their surroundings.

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Arched Doorway

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Windmill Ruins

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View from Annaberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped into Coral Bay, another eclectric artists community, located on the east side of St. John. It is one of the few places that allow anchoring so there are many live aboard sailors there. One entrepreneur built a floating bar in the middle of the harbor. There are small herds of goats that roam the community freely, keeping the grassy areas neatly trimmed.

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Shop Sign

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Goats Keeping the Park Neat

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Floating Bar

 

 

 

 

 

We returned to Francis Bay and used the dinghy to explore the surrounding bays. Cinnamon Bay hosts a NPS campground, complete with small cabins, platform tents and a beautiful beach.

We snorkeled along a marked underwater trail on Trunk Bay (also maintained by the NPS). Another beautiful beach with lots of people visiting for the day.

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As I finish writing this we are back in Red Hook getting Delphinus ready to rest while we head home for Christmas. We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends again and celebrating the holidays together.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the crew of Delphinus!

Stay tuned and stay in touch.

 

Caribbean Bound

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This post is Pete’s log of his journey from Portsmouth, VA to Tortola, British Virgin Islands:

Our Caribbean cruise began at 0639 on November 11, 2015. Delphinus crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, passed Cape Henry lighthouses and entered the Atlantic Ocean for the 1400 mile sail to the British Virgin Islands. On board was Captain Pete and crew: Ron Fox, James Dylewski and Bob Alexander. We were in the company of 32 other sailboats participating in the World Cruising Club’s (WCC) Caribbean 1500 and ARC Bahamas rallies.

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Cape Henry Lighthouses

We encountered some interesting weather along the way – winds varying from 6 to 50 knots, seas as high as 12 feet and waves coming from two or three directions at the same time. Delphinus and her crew handled these conditions very well, sailing at common speeds of seven to eight knots, with spurts at 10 to 13 knots.

Some items needed repair, but none that affected seaworthiness. We had a continuing problem with the port engine eating starter motors two day out. So the starboard engine was the primary propulsion in light winds. We will focus on electrical issues and potential hydrolock issues with the port engine when we return after Thanksgiving at home.

We did enjoy some recreation during the trip. We fished quite often but due to our sailing speeds we didn’t have much luck. We caught a small (less than three pounds) false Albacore that we threw back. We lost a sizeable Mahi as we were landing it – but he bit through the leader and was free before we could gaff him. On the next to last day at sea we caught a 15 pound Mahi that provided two wonderful meals for the crew.

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Bob Filets Dinner

We encountered several large ships along the way. Our closest approach was less than half a mile from a tanker heading to Spain. It’s common to have boats pass within 20 miles or so. We can see their Automatic Identification System (AIS) identifiers on our chart plotter, and we pay a lot of attention to the closest point of approach (CPA) to avoid getting too close.

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A Tanker at Sea

The trip took 8 1/2 days to complete, ending just before midnight on November 19, 2015 in Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola, BVI. We were greeted by the WCC staff and provided with celebratory rum punches after getting Delphinus tied up. The crew picture below (from left to right): Captain Pete, Bob Alexander (Seaford, VA), Ron Fox (Yorktown, VA) and James Dylewski (Erie, PA).

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Delphinus’ Crew

Below is the tracker showing the course we traveled. Our course didn’t follow the rhumb line (the red line) due to winds. Our course is the lighter line. To ensure we got closer to BVI we sailed on a beam reach as we encountered the east trade winds that start about 300 miles north of the Virgin Islands.

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Course Tracker

The morning after arriving we enjoyed breakfast at the marina restaurant – eggs, bacon, omelets, brewed coffee, etc. The first order of business after breakfast was rinsing and washing Delphinus to remove the crusted salt (yes, salt crystals do build up) from the deck and rigging. Getting showers at the marina and a relaxing afternoon of small chores followed.

Friday evening we enjoyed a happy hour sponsored by the WCC and dinner with crews of other boats. Many stories about weather, equipment, breakdowns, fishing and meals were shared and enjoyed. There were boats from Great Britain, Canada, Belgium and New Zealand participating in the rally. New friendships were made and old ones refreshed.

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Delphinus

On Saturday morning we left Nanny Cay for a quick stop at St. Johns Island, US Virgin Islands to check in with US Customs. Our next stop was American Yacht Harbor Marina in Red Hook Bay on St. Thomas, USVI, where we left Delphinus and Pete returned home for Thanksgiving.

While in Red Hook, Pete noticed a boat that we had chartered 10 years ago – Clewless. This boat was our first family charter vacation with both kids. It was a memorable family vacation that we still enjoy reminiscing about.

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Clewless

Next week we’ll return to Delphinus, meet up with old friends Bernie and Sherron Wahl (s/v Ballerina) in Red Hook, explore the US Virgin Islands for a few days, check back into the British Virgin Islands for a while and then head back home for Christmas.

Stay tuned and stay in touch!

Let the Journey Begin

This will be a brief post. More details in a week or two when I get pictures and details from Pete.

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At about 6:30 this morning (November 11) Delphinus, along with her skipper (Pete) and crew (Ron, Bob & James), departed from Norfolk, VA for Tortola, British Virgin Islands. They opted to leave Portsmouth and spend the night on Little Creek in Norfolk to be closer to the starting line this morning. You can follow their progress here: http://www.worldcruising.com/Carib1500/eventfleetviewer.aspx

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The scheduled departure date was Sunday, November 8, but the rally staff were watching the formation of Tropical Storm Kate and prudently decided to delay the fleet’s departure.

They are anticipating arrival in Tortola in seven to ten days. After getting Delphinus secured, Pete will catch a flight home for Thanksgiving. He and I will return to the Virgin Islands and begin our journey shortly after Thanksgiving.

If you are inclined, send your thoughts and prayers to the crew of Delphinus for fair winds and following seas.

Stay tuned!

Countdown to Departure

The departure date for our next trip is fast approaching! This time we’ll be heading to Caribbean, sailing with Caribbean 1500 rally from Portsmouth, VA. The scheduled departure date is November 8 (subject to weather conditions) and planned arrival in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) is about 8 to 10 days after departure. The plan is to then cruise the Leeward Islands (Anguilla through Dominica) and Windward Islands (Martinique to Grenada). As we learned from our time in the Bahamas, plans are great, but we also need to be flexible.

Like New Engines

Like New Engines

But to catch you up to date on our prep work … Pete has spent a great deal of time working on the engines. Both engines were given plenty of TLC, new pumps, new hoses and belts, overhauled alternators, and new injectors. Pete removed rust spots and repainted both engines. Now they look like new! Here’s hoping they’ll operate like new also.

Haul Out in Cape Charles

Haul Out in Cape Charles

We took a short trip to Cape Charles Yacht Club to haul out Delphinus for a bottom cleaning, new zincs and to change the lubricants in the sail drives. The next morning we motored back to our marina (wind on the nose of course). After arriving we learned that Tropical Storm Joaquin had turned into a Category 4 Hurricane and was aiming for the Norfolk area. By now, we know that didn’t happen, but in anticipation we stayed busy getting the house and boat prepped just in case. In the end we did have extreme high tides and Pete spent a good bit of time checking on conditions in the marina. In the picture below, the water had risen over the seawall.

Extreme High Tide

Extreme High Tide

The following weekend we drove to the Annapolis Sailboat Show. We always enjoy this show to check out all the boat stuff and boats. Colleen and her boyfriend Brendan joined us this year and we all enjoyed our traditional lunch of roast beef sandwiches at the Fleet Reserve Club. While walking through the show we happened upon the booth for the Cape Charles Yacht Center and saw a poster with an image of Delphinus in the travel lift – very cool! We also caught up with friends at the show and at the Caribbean 1500 Happy Hour.

Back to boat prep … Work on the generator turned into a major overhaul that was finished only a week ago as it was reinstalled. The overhaul included new pistons and rings,  deglazing the piston walls, fuel injection pump overhaul, and new injectors, heat exchanger overhaul, new water pumps (fresh and seawater), and much more. In the end the generator looks brand new.

Installing Generator

Installing Generator

Like New Generator

Like New Generator

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Mainsail

New Mainsail

We had also ordered new sails (mainsail, genoa and gennaker) for Delphinus which were recently installed . We’ve taken her out a few times since to check out the sails and can definitely feel the difference in the power from the sails which translates into increased speed for Delphinus. This should shave some time off the trip to the Caribbean. We also had the boom raised a bit to increase visibility from the cockpit and to be above Pete’s head if the boom should swing by.

 

New Cockpit Cushions

New Cockpit Cushions

I’ve been busy with a few projects of my own. I completed new cushions for the cockpit. The old ones were showing their age and were not very comfortable. The new ones have thicker, softer foam. During the process, my seamripper became my best friend. I think I took each one of them apart at least twice to get them right. Hopefully, I don’t have to do that again anytime soon! I also made some flat fenders for use in marinas when we are up against pylons. I sprained a finger wrestling the foam into the fenders. Who knew sewing could be harmful to your health? Pete also asked for a collision mat to be used in case we run into a foreign object and need an emergency patch on the exterior of the boat. That was the easiest project by far. The investment in the Sailrite sewing machine has been officially recovered!

As the departure date for the Caribbean 1500 gets closer, we are focused on final preparations. Pete completed a review and refresh of all safety gear onboard, completed refilling and documenting our spare parts inventory, prepared written procedures for many boat operations. We’ve been shopping for and stowing the non-perishable food items we may not be able to easily find in the islands. I’ve also started preparing and freezing several meals to make meal prep simpler while underway. We’ll stock up on the perishables this week.

Our crew members for this trip are: Ron Fox (he crewed with us to the Bahamas last year), Bob Alexander (Pete sailed with him 5 years ago on Kia Orana), and James Dylewski (new crew, but with lots of bluewater experience). All are fine sailors and we look foward to a pleasant and quick trip.

I’ve decided to skip the ocean journey this time. Around the rally, I’ll join the group of FIFO wives (fly in & fly out). Pete will get Delphinus settled in the US Virgin Islands and fly home for Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, we’ll both fly to Delphinus and begin our Caribbean cruising adventure.

Right now, we’re closely watching the long term weather forecast and following a couple of weather systems that may affect the departure date … safety first!

Stay tuned!

Back in Home Port

It’s been quite a while since our last post, so here’s a recap of the last leg of our trip home from Southport, NC and the repairs and preparations for our next major trip.

Damage from Davit

Damage from Davit

We pulled into Southport Marina and arranged for repair of the davit and fiberglass, including replacing a broken 1/2 inch bolt. The repairs were completed within a few days which gave us time to spend with our son Brendan and enjoy the restaurants and shopping in Southport. We also ran into a couple we had met in Emerald Bay in the Exumas in the Bahamas. I’m amazed at how often we have crossed paths with other cruisers we met in different ports. They were preparing their boat to return to the Bahamas and then head further south to the Carribean. We hope to see them again when we head there later this year.

Waiting for dinner at Provision Co.

Waiting for dinner at Provision Co.

Sunset over Southport, NC

Sunset over Southport, NC

 

 

 

 

 

With repairs completed, we were once again ready to resume our journey home. As we approached the Atlantic from the Cape Fear Inlet the winds came up to 20 to 25 knots causing large waves that would have made the journey very uncomfortable. We decided to head a little further north on the ICW and exit to the Atlantic through Masonboro Inlet. We had a major concern about going under 65 foot fixed bridge. We lost all of our mast top instruments last year going under a fixed bridge and didn’t want to repeat that. It was low tide so we thought we would give it a try. Just to be safe, Pete went up the mast about a mile before the bridge and removed the wind transducer and anchor light. He stayed at the top as we passed under the bridge to see how much clearance we had. Thankfully, we had about two feet of clearance. Brendan had the helm while I was holding Pete’s safety line (and holding my breath until we cleared the bridge).

We made our way to the Masonboro Inlet at dusk and found much calmer seas. We motor sailed with a reefed jib. The winds stayed steady and we made 8 to 10 knots for most of the night. We set a course to pass south of Cape Lookout and then around Cape Hatteras. By morning the wind abated as we turned north. The west winds dropped below 10 knots as we continued motoring for the remainder of the day.

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

By late the next night we were off the coast of Virginia and turned into the Chesapeake Bay just before sunrise. We tied up to our new home slip at Bay Point Marina at about 0800 on June 25, 2015, completing our 8 month trip through the Bahamas, Florida Keys and the southeastern Atlantic coast. We estimate Delphinus sailed over 4,000 nautical miles during this cruising period. It was a surreal feeling to know we had completed our first cruising journey, met many wonderful people and made many new friends.

We took the next few days to clean out Delphinus, emptying the refrigerator and freezer, and taking linens and clothing home for laundry. I have thoroughly enjoyed having my full sized washer and dryer at home – who knew an appliance could bring me happiness!

Pete has been busy since with his list of projects. He leaves home nearly every morning to “go to work.”So far we’ve completed a good bit of his list:

  • New helm station foot rest
  • Oil changes and servicing of all motors and pumps
  • Pulled the engines and generator for medium overhaul service and thorough degreasing/cleaning of the engine compartments (I think most of the grease came home on Pete’s clothing and under his fingernails)
  • New sunscreen covers for windows
  • New backing plate for port davit
  • New salon cushions
Helm Station Foot Rest

Helm Station Foot Rest

Engines Removed for Service

Engines Removed for Service

New Sunscreens

New Sunscreens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still have a few more projects in process. I have the materials on order for new cockpit cushions and new sails are due to be delivered at the end of September. The engines were reinstalled this week so we can now take Delphinus out for some local sailing. Pete is still working on the generator and should be reinstalled sometime in the next couple of weeks.

We are looking forward to our trip to the Caribbean in November to cruise the Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands.

Stay tuned …

The Challenging Trip Home

Fair Warning

Fair Warning

So far the return trip has been challenging to say the least. It would seem that Delphinus does not really want to return to the Chesapeake Bay. We expected to be back home in late May or early June and as I write this we are in Southport, NC awaiting another round of repairs. More on that later.

Local Rooster

Local Rooster

On our way back we spent a few more days in Key West and had more fun exploring, eating and drinking. This time we were there for 32nd celebration of the Conch Republic. On Saturday afternoon we caught the Annual Red Ribbon Bed Race which entails outrageously decorated beds on wheels and costumed racers. It provided a good excuse for us to sit on a restaurant’s second floor balcony and enjoy the festivities.

Bed Race

Bed Race

We continued the journey along the Florida Keys, including another visit to the nice folks at White Marlin Marina in Marathon Key and then on to Key Largo. Somewhere along the way we noticed that Delphinus was just not handling well in terms of steering. She was just not as responsive to changes in course and the auto pilot needed to make wide corrections. We speculated that it could be a problem with the sails, the current or the auto pilot.

We sailed from Marathon Key with Bruce & Rhonda on Lila Jane, and anchored off the Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo. Pete lost another pair of prescription glasses overboard and rented dive gear to look for them. He did not find his glasses but did discover the reason for the steering issues … the starboard rudder was missing! After several phone calls we made arrangements to have a new rudder manufactured and installed in Fort Lauderdale.

Corroded Rudder Shaft

Corroded Rudder Shaft

Once in Fort Lauderdale, divers went below to remove the remaining rudder to use as a mold to make the new one. They also removed what was left of the rudder shaft on the starboard side. It appears that corrosion worked its way through the shaft until it just fell off.

We had already planned to leave Delphinus in Fort Lauderdale for a week while we traveled home and then to Massachusetts for Brendan’s graduation from UMass Amherst. As planned we flew back to Norfolk and then drove to Amherst, MA for the graduation. It was a wonderful weekend and we’re so proud to see Brendan realize this goal. My Dad was also able to join us there for the celebration.

Brendan's Graduation

Brendan’s Graduation

Pete stayed in communication with the folks making the rudder and it looked like it was going to take more than a couple of weeks to complete the job. He decided to return to Fort Lauderdale as planned and I opted to stay home and enjoy the shore based luxuries for a little while longer. Pete steadily worked through his summer project list for Delphinus and I returned to Fort Lauderdale at the end of May.

Haul Out

Haul Out

Leaving Fort Lauderdale

Leaving Fort Lauderdale

Finally the new shaft and rudder are ready for installation. Delphinus was towed from the slip to the haul out well on June 3. After all of the delays to date it was refreshing to see the installation go smoothly and we splashed on June 5 as planned. Our two week planned stay turned into five weeks and we were both ready to resume our journey. Because of the height of our mast we are unable to use the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), so we planned to travel in the Atlantic but close enough to shore to pull into a marina or anchorage most nights.

498Our stops in Florida included Riviera Beach, St. Lucie Inlet, Fort Pierce, Port Canaveral, Ponce de Leon Inlet and St. Augustine. Our trip off the ocean into Port Canaveral was during an intense thunderstorm with 40+ knots of wind, thunder and lightening causing very limited visibility. Once the storm let up we docked at Port Canaveral Yacht Club with a sigh of relief. A good friend of mine from my IBM days, Denise Brannigan, met us at the yacht club where we caught up on old times. It was great to see her again!

Dessert at Cafe Solo D'Angelo

Dessert at Cafe Solo D’Angelo

While in St. Augustine, Pete’s brother Bob and his wife Peggy joined us for a day on Delphinus and dinner in town at Columbia. We spent a few days there enjoying the old city’s sites and restaurants. As we were preparing to leave St. Augustine, we spotted friends on the catamaran Shampagne pulling into the harbor. We first met Richard and Marsha in the Bahamas. We were able to visit with them for a short while before it was time for us to depart for Charleston, SC.

Sunset

Sunset

We had planned the trip to Charleston for an overnight passage. This was my first solo night watch and was a bit scary. Pete and I took turns standing watch and the night passed uneventfully. We arrived in Charleston early the next afternoon and took the rest of the day to rest. The next day we spent exploring the city, but the extreme heat drove us back to the air conditioned boat.

Approaching Thunderstorm

Approaching Thunderstorm

We are nearing the end of this journey and looking forward to getting home again. Our plan was to leave Charleston and make another overnight run to Beaufort, NC where our son, Brendan would join us for the last leg of the trip back to Norfolk, VA. We left Charleston about 5:00 AM and motor sailed throughout the day. Late in the afternoon we got caught in a strong thunderstorm with 50+ knots of wind and very heavy seas. Pete noticed the dinghy swinging side to side on the davits and wanted to tighten the lines holding it, but the winds were still too high for him to leave the cockpit. In another moment one of the davits ripped right off the boat, leaving the back end of the dinghy dangling in the ocean.

Missing Davit

Missing Davit

He quickly cut the davit lines and straps holding the dinghy close to the boat, and secured the bow line of the dinghy to a cleat. As the winds let up a bit, Pete tethered himself to Delphinus and set about securing the dinghy to be towed. The good news was the davit itself remained with the dinghy and thus avoided another expense and long delay waiting for replacement of a unique stainless steel structure.

Southport Sunset

Southport Sunset

We diverted to the inlet at Cape Fear and anchored at about 1:00 AM on Friday morning and got some much needed sleep. The next morning we pulled into Southport Marina and arranged for an estimate to re-attach the davit and repair the fiberglass. The good news was that it could be done easily. The bad news was that they can’t start work until Monday.

Brendan rented a car and drove down on Saturday to wait with us. We are hoping the repairs will be completed by end of day Tuesday and we’ll leave Wednesday for an overnight run to Norfolk from here. In the mean time we’ll enjoy the scenery in this quaint seaside town.

Stay tuned and stay in touch!

 

Back to the U.S.A.

After completing the replacement of the starter on the port engine, we departed from Palm Cay Marina, New Providence, on our way back to Bimini. The trip included an overnight anchoring at Chubb Cay, about the half way mark. Pete was up before sunrise and after the anchor was up we proceeded on the long trip to Bimini. As has happened so many times we had barely any wind, so we motor-sailed our way to Bimini. We arrived in late afternoon and ready for our last cold ones in the Bahamas. Coincidently, we met a couple who were on a catarmaran that is the same make and model as Delphinus. We spent the evening with them and a few of their friends comparing boats and talking about great Bahamas cruising locations.

Sunrise in Bimini

Sunrise in Bimini

Leaving Bimini at first light (one of the handful of sunrises I’ve actually seen) ended our five month tour of the Bahamas. We’re leaving behind the crystal clear blue waters, beautiful scenery and welcoming people of the Bahamas and returning to the US with very mixed emotions.

Stowaway to Fort Lauderdale

Stowaway to Fort Lauderdale

About five miles from the Florida shoreline this little bird hitched a ride on Delphinus. He seemed in need of a rest. After perching on a lifeline for a while he snuggled between pillows in the cockpit and took a nap. Once rested he proceeded to explore the interior of Delphinus, finally popping out of one of the hatches to finish the rest of the trip on a lifeline. As we entered the channel to Fort Lauderdale, he realized he was home and took flight again. It was a very nice escort home!

View From Dinner

View From Dinner

We arrived the afternoon of April 2 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, docking at Pier 66 Marina just inside the 16th Street Bridge. We docked among the mega-yachts, including Steven Spielberg’s 7 Seas. After cleaning up ourselves and the boat we decided to walk to a restaurant for an anniversary dinner (our 32nd). We quickly realized that we were there at the height of spring break. The beaches and restaurants were packed with tourists. We both felt a kind of sensory overload with the sights and sounds around us. The road traffic was fast and noisy. People were everywhere. There were so many buildings, signs and businesses. It made me want to retreat back to the relative peace and tranquility of the Bahamas.

Bridge Lift

Bridge Lift

Full Moon over Ft. Lauderdale

Full Moon over Ft. Lauderdale

Sunset

Sunset

Surrounded by Luxury

Surrounded by Luxury

We rented a car for a few days to run errands. Sensory overload changed over to giddiness as we walked through a Publix grocery store and had so many selections to choose from. We stocked up on fresh meats and produce, as well as our favorite non-perishables. Over the next several days we had some much needed work done on the boat and continued to explore all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer. We enjoyed having steady cell phone coverage and WiFi access and caught up with family and friends stateside. We even were able to spend an evening with a good friend, Alex and his girlfriend Dani, who we’ve known since Alex was a Cub Scout with our son Brendan. My how quickly they grow up.

Wildlife in Park

Wildlife in Park

The next part of our journey is to explore the Florida Keys. First stop is the southern end of Key Biscayne, anchoring at No Name Harbor. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a gem of natural beauty just south of all the development of Key Biscayne. We walked throughout the park and had lunch at a café in the park overlooking the ocean. The park was bustling with people enjoying a day on the beach, riding bikes and hiking the trails. A very nice day indeed.

Cape Florida Lighthouse

Cape Florida Lighthouse

Stiltsville House

Stiltsville House

Off the coast of Cape Florida is an area of houses on stilts, like a neighborhood on the water, referred to as Stiltsville. It is now part of the National Park Service, but dates back to the 1930s.

Dinner

Dinner

Over the next couple of days we continued to move south through the keys, anchoring off Pumpkin Key (a very small uninhabited island) and then Tavernia Key, which is much more developed. Along the way we caught a snapper which provided a delicious dinner and saw many dolphins and sea turtles. We even had several dolphins swimming along with us for a while!

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Dolphins!

Dolphin Escort

Dolphin Escort

Sunset

Sunset

We spent a few days at the White Marlin Marina in Marathon Key. If you are ever passing through there by boat, I highly recommend it. Annabella, the dockmaster, is always ready with a smile and lots of local knowledge, plus the facilities are great. While there we restocked Delphinus through the local Publix and West Marine. We are really enjoying the ready availability of American retail! The morning we left White Marlin Marina we got to enjoy watching dolphins in the harbor. They even swam alongside as we left the dock.

Houseboat for Sale

Houseboat for Sale

Our next stop is Key West, where we immersed ourselves in the local tourist attractions. We stayed in the mooring field run by the City Marina. The marina even has a section for houseboats, each of which shows its owners eclectric personalities. We have to come into the City Marina by dinghy, where we have access to showers and trash disposal.

We did find one out of the way place, Kim’s Kuban, where we had the best Cuban sandwich so far.

Chick in Hog's Breath Saloon

Chick in Hog’s Breath Saloon

One of the things Key West is known for is its free roaming chicken population. They wander in and out of bars looking for crumbs. You can hear roosters crowing throughout the city.

Cuban Musicians

Cuban Musicians

While we roamed Key West we stopped for drinks or meals at Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fogarty’s, Camille’s, Louie’s Backyard (spectacular view), Pepe’s and Schooner Wharf. Most of the bars feature live music throughout the day and evening. For the most part, the food was okay but the mojitos were very good!

Milepost Zero

Milepost Zero

We toured Truman’s Little White House and Hemmingway’s house. Both offered insights into the people and lifestyles of the not too distant past.

We visited Fort Taylor, which is now part of the National Park system, but was once a strategic defense outpost from the mid-1800s through 1947. Interesting to learn that it remained under Federal control throughout the Civil War, and was headquarters for the blockade of southern ports.

Flaming Juggler

Flaming Juggler

Each evening on Mallory Square, about an hour before sunset, street performers set up shop along the waterfront. They range from musicians, acrobats, and jugglers. Each ropes off an area and invites the crowd to step closer and watch his act. They work for the tips they receive from the crowd, so there is typically a plea for donations before the end of each act. Other vendors set up stalls selling crafts, food and drinks. Overall, it has the feeling of a fair or carnival and ends each evening with the crowd watching the sunset from the seawall.

Southernmost point of US

Southernmost point of US

Of course we had to go to the marker for the southernmost point in the US. It is surrounded by the Southernmost Hotel, Southernmost Beach Café, Southernmost Waterfront Hotel, etc. While waiting in line to take pictures with the marker, we overheard one of the trolley drivers refer to us as the “Southernmost Tourists” in the US.

Sunset

Sunset

Time to leave Key West for quieter locations.

Refugee Boat?

Refugee Boat?

We spent a night anchored off the Marquesas Keys. They are a group of small islands surrounding an inner harbor. The entire group of islands is a nature preserve so we couldn’t go ashore. Along the southern edge of the Keys we saw several small boats wrecked in the water and on the beach. We suspected they may have been used by Cuban refugees, which we were later able to confirm.

Near Marquesas is the US Navy’s bombing and strafing range. We found it quite ironic to be this far from Virginia Beach and still hearing the roar of fighter jets.

Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson

Our next stop is the Dry Tortugas, named because there is no source of fresh water on the islands. Here we found the water to be almost as clear as it was in the Bahamas. The main island houses Fort Jefferson, now a National Park. We anchored just offshore of the Fort and were pleasantly surprised at the number of tourists who visit the Fort through a daily tour boat and a couple of sea planes from Key West. Fort Jefferson was built along the same lines as Fort Taylor in Key West; although Fort Jefferson appears to be better preserved. National Park Service personnel and their families live in quarters within the Fort. There are a couple of nice beaches for swimming and lots of good spots for snorkeling. The Fort is still surrounded by a sea water moat, complete with a resident crocodile.

Moat

Moat

Tour Boat and Seaplane

Tour Boat and Seaplane

Lighthouse

Lighthouse

Of the many displays within the park depicting life in the Fort, there is one that reflects the modern history of the Fort. Fort Jefferson has been the US arrival spot for many Cuban refugees. The display includes actual boats used, photos and stories. The Park personnel provide food, water and shelter to the arriving refugees and coordinate with other government agencies as to their integration into America. A conversation with a Park Ranger confirmed that the boats we saw on Marquesas were likely used by Cuban refugees.

Our visit to Dry Tortugas ends the forward part of our journey. Now we will begin to retrace our steps to leave Delphinus in Fort Lauderdale while we fly back home to attend Brendan’s graduation from UMass in early May. After that, we’ll begin working our way back up the East Coast to the Chesapeake Bay.

Stay tuned and stay in touch!

Northward Bound

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Grilled Lobster Tail

Grilled Lobster Tail

After Colleen left, we had no particular agenda or schedule. We opted to leave Staniel Cay for Black Point Settlement to do laundry (Ida’s Rockside Laundry) and catch our breath. While finishing up the laundry a local fisherman pulled up to the dock outside Ida’s selling his catch of lobsters. We bought a large tail and grilled it for dinner that night. Yummy!

Lorraine's Cafe

Lorraine’s Cafe

Lorraine’s Café even hosted a St. Patrick’s Day celebration for the cruisers in the harbor, with a buffet of traditional Bahamian foods and lots of green decorations. It was a great night to meet fellow cruisers and celebrate a traditional Irish celebration. Each of the ladies received a string of green beads and a green candle to mark the occasion.

Sunset

Sunset

While we were anchored at Black Point Settlement we were visited by the Bahamas Defense Force for a routine boarding and inspection. Rumor had it that another American was arrested the day before in the harbor for having unregistered guns on board. When you enter the Bahamas you must declare any weapons and ammunition you have on board. You are allowed to keep them as long as you do not remove them from the boat and you can account for all ammunition. We believe the Defense Force conducted a more thorough inspection than is typical because of the recent arrest, but the boarding party was polite and pleasant.

DSCN1021Our dinghy was very low on gasoline and we were awaiting word that Staniel Cay had received a shipment. Rumors spread among the cruisers at Black Point about when the ship would arrive and finally we heard on the VHF radio that the fuel ship had restocked Staniel Cay Yacht Club! We made our way back to Staniel Cay, topped off the dinghy fuel tank and had lunch in the Yacht Club.

After lunch we pulled up anchor and made our way around to other side of Fowl Cay. It felt like we had traveled a great distance (instead of just a few nautical miles) because the area was so quiet and peaceful. There were only two other boats anchored there. I was amazed at how dramatically nature has shaped the rocks between Fowl Cay and the Exuma Sound.

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Pipe Cay Map

Pipe Cay Map

The next day we decided to head back North through the Exumas to visit the spots we had skipped on our way South. First stop was Pipe Cay which was home to a U.S. Navy DECCA station that is now abandoned.

Picnic on Sandbar

Picnic on Sandbar

Pipe Cay also has many sandbars which are dry at low tide. With the dinghy we circled the cay and had a picnic lunch on one of the sandbars. Later in the day, that area will be underwater at high tide.

 

High & Dry

High & Dry

We were able to get a mooring ball the next day off Cambridge Cay. We took the dinghy in to explore the island and hike to the trails. It was obvious the water was shallow so we decided to drop the anchor a good bit off shore and wade in to the beach. After a hot but interesting hike around the island we returned to the beach to find our dinghy was high and dry with no more than a couple of inches of water anywhere near it. This seems to be a pattern for us! This conch was also caught in the low tide, so we carried it out into deeper water.

Stranded Conch

Stranded Conch

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Thinking it was already low tide we waited for the water to rise, but it hadn’t even reached low tide yet. A considerate cruiser from a nearby boat brought his dinghy close and offered to take us to our boat and bring us back later when the tide came up. Thank goodness he did because it was still about two hours before the tide rose enough to float the dinghy!

There was also some great snorkeling in the area. Because it is part of the national park system, there were moorings for the dinghies so you didn’t have to drop an anchor and potentially damage some of the coral beds. We saw a wide assortment of fish (including a barracuda swimming nearby), coral and fans – more than at any other place we’ve snorkeled.

Hiking Trail

Hiking Trail

Salt Deposit on Beach

Salt Deposit on Beach

We returned to Warderick Wells and hiked through some different trails than on our last visit. These pictures show a long wall that had been built many decades ago. Also we found salt pockets near an oceanside beach.

 

Water Spout

Water Spout

Next stop was Hawksbill Cay, still in the Exuma Land & Sea Park. That night we saw what looked like a thunderstorm forming in the distance, complete with a water spout! We watched it carefully, realizing that we would be very vulnerable had it moved in our direction. Lucky for us it moved away.

DSCN1189We decided to stop again at Highborne Cay on our way. Pete says the cheeseburger at Xuma is the best he’s had in the Bahamas and wanted one more before we moved on. The cheeseburger is layered with a large beef patty, sautéed onions and mushrooms, bacon, cheese and fried onion straws. The food and the view did not disappoint.

20150329_19155620150327_151537We now find ourselves back in Nassau staying at the Palm Cay Marina. It’s a very nice facility with a beach, swimming pool and restaurant. This is the first opportunity we’ve had to wash down the boat in a couple of months. We spent the afternoon scrubbing all the salt and grime from the decks then rewarded ourselves with a swim in the pool, followed by all you can eat pizza in the restaurant. We were both looking forward to a good night’s rest only to be awakened several times with high winds, thunder and lightning – a cold front moving through.

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On Saturday we rented a car from the marina and went into Nassau to get laundry done and do some shopping. For $13 I had two loads of laundry washed, dried and folded.  I felt like a kid in a candy store when we went into a fully stocked, American style grocery store! I had to refrain from buying too much, knowing we plan to be back in Florida within a week.

Graycliff Hotel

Graycliff Hotel

We stopped for lunch at the Graycliff Hotel in the older section of town. Pete bought some handrolled cigars and I found a real candy store (chocolatier) and bought some truffles. The Graycliff was originally built in the 1700s and has changed hands several times over the centuries, sometimes as a private home and other times as an inn or hotel. The architecture and gardens are quite beautiful, and a stark contrast to the fast paced city outside of its walls.

 

Graycliff Pool

Graycliff Pool

Graycliff Gate

Graycliff Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, the drive around the island, including some wrong turns, took us through neighborhoods of abject poverty, touristry areas, wealthy homes and middle class neighborhoods. Nassau (and the island of New Providence) is in contrast with the rest of the Bahamas that we have seen. Nassau is a big city with all of the advantages and disadvantages of a big city. The “out islands” are a collection of small settlements where the residents are fairly self-sufficient. They may not be what we consider as wealthy, but they have homes to live in and sufficient food to eat. We have gotten the sense that residents of the settlements take care of each other.

View from Restaurant

View from Restaurant

As I write this we are planning to work our way to Florida over the next several days with the plan to cruise around the keys and the Dry Tortugas. We had planned to fuel up this evening and leave first thing in the morning. When we tried to start the engines, the port engine made awful noises and wouldn’t start. Turns out a starter that Pete had replaced earlier in the trip has failed, with parts of it sheared off. At this point Pete is not sure if there may be starter pieces in the engine which could cause much more serious issues. We’ll do some more research in the morning before deciding whether or not to leave.

We are going to try to work our way to Chub Cay and then Bimini before crossing the Gulf Stream to Fort Lauderdale. We will leave the Bahamas with mixed feelings. We will miss the beauty of the islands and the warmth of the people. We look forward to returning the “land of plenty.”

The Southern Exumas

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Another Beautiful Sunset

Another Beautiful Sunset

It’s been a while since my last post because we’ve been busy with visitors and had limited internet access.

Pete’s brother Brian and his wife Stephanie flew into Staniel Cay to spend a few days with us at end of February. We had walked to the Isles General Store, looking for some parts, and met Brian and Steph hitching a ride on a local’s golf cart near Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We had a few drinks at the Yacht Club and gave Brian and Steph a chance to acclimate before taking the dinghy back to Delphinus. We enjoyed a swim off the stern of the boat and then a quick dinner on board.

Overlooking Exuma Sound

Overlooking Exuma Sound

Because the winds were still pretty high, we took the dinghy back to Staniel Cay the next day to hike to the Exuma Sound side of the island. We found a lot of very high end new construction – almost like a gated community, without the gate. It also restricted access to the Exuma Sound beaches. Eventually we found a public beach access and were in awe of the powerful waves and rock formations. We ended up back at the Yacht Club for lunch, drinks and shooting pool.

Swimming PigsThe next day the winds calmed and Brian and Stephanie rented paddle boards. Pete & I took the dinghy and met them at Big Major’s Spot, which is known for its swimming pigs (who are looking for food.) Brian and Stephanie arrived before us and stayed well offshore hoping the pigs would not try to upset their paddle boards looking for food. When we arrived, we were able to divert their attention. I think they smelled the Ziploc bag of galley scraps we brought. One of the “mama” pigs actually tried to climb into our dinghy as we got close to shore. I swatted at her snout and told her to get down, which she actually did! They are very used to human interactions.

Our Greeter

Our Greeter

After observing the pigs (adults, adolescents, and babies) I’ve come to the conclusion that the “mama” pigs are not at all nurturing. When the adolescents and babies started going after food that had been dropped on the beach, the “mamas” flung the babies away their snouts and tried to bite the adolescent pigs.

Pirate's Beach

Pirate’s Beach

After feeding the pigs we found a delightful beach nearby which has been set up by other cruisers with tables, umbrellas and lots of mementos. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, snorkeling and some paddle boarding lessons for Pete & I.

 

Paddle Board Lesson

Paddle Board Lesson

 

 

 

 

 

Brian and Stephanie’s visit continued with a whirlwind of activities … paddleboarding, snorkeling the grotto (where 007’s Thunderball was filmed), and exploring the settlement. Their last night with us was topped off by catching up with some local fisherman and purchasing some of their fresh catch for dinner that night. Yummy!

Me, Stephanie & Brian

Me, Stephanie & Brian

After seeing Brian and Stephanie off, we departed Staniel Cay, only to run aground on a rock not far off the docks. It was quite embarrassing to sit there and see other boaters at the docks watching to see when we would be free. We were fortunate in that the tide was rising and within a half hour we floated off. Next stop – Little Farmer’s Cay.

20150226_173540We anchored off the shore at Ty’s Bar & Grill. Pete took the dinghy into to shore to check things out and met a nice young man named Aaron (about 10 years old). Aaron was curious about who lived on the sailboat with Pete and what it was like. Pete promised that if Aaron got his parent’s permission we would come back the next day and take him out to Delphinus on the dinghy. True to his word, Pete called the folks at Ty’s and arranged to come in and pick up Aaron the next day. Aaron enjoyed the dinghy ride and the tour of Delphinus. We even gave him a chance to sit at the helm. We returned to Ty’s for dinner and drinks. Aaron stayed with us all evening, even downloading several video games onto my phone so I would be able to play when we left. If we are ever back at Little Farmer’s Cay, we will definitely stop at Ty’s. Aaron’s Aunt & Uncle run the place and provided outstanding service, food and drinks.

Underwater Piano

Underwater Piano

On our way to Georgetown we spent a night anchored off Rudder Cut Cay. The nearby island, Musha Cay, is owned by David Copperfield. Rudder Cut Cay is also privately owned. Off the shore of Rudder Cut Cay, David Copperfield sunk a stainless steel sculpture of a grand piano and a mermaid in about 15 feet of water. It’s a great snorkeling spot and quite a site to see!

Chat 'n Chill

Chat ‘n Chill

We finally arrived in George Town, Exumas, the southern end of the Exuma chain and something of a meca for cruisers. We heard over the VHF that there were over 300 boats anchored there and looking over the harbor at night, it was easy to believe. All of the anchor lights appeared like a close-up constellation of stars. We were there for the Sunday afternoon pig roast at the Chat ‘n Chill beach bar and were totally amazed at the number of dinghies lined up on shore and people gathering under the palm trees. The food was delicious and the beer was cold. Who could ask for more?

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Capt. Pete

Capt. Pete

Again, this area has more boats and people than we’ve seen since leaving the US. We took the dinghy into town on Monday to re-provision and found the dinghy dock two and three boats deep. The town of George Town is bustling compared to many of the communities we’ve visited, with locals and cruisers alike. We were delighted to find a bank with an ATM, which we haven’t seen for weeks. As so many of the small businesses in the island settlements only take cash, we were running low on reserves. There is an actual grocery store with aisles and carts; although the day we visited was the same day the mail boat was due to arrive to replenish the stock, so the shelves were a little bare.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunset

Sunset

We have run into people through our travels who think the cruiser community in George Town is a great thing, with lots of organized activities and sense of community. We were fortunate to be part of an event that showed the true sense of community. While listening to the VHF one morning, we heard about a medical emergency on another boat. Turns out the injured person had a neck injury with numbness in his extremities. Word was sent out for assistance to safely move the injured person from his boat to shore where an ambulance could transport him to a medical facility. We just happened to have a neck brace on board (thanks to our friend in emergency medicine) and offered it up as part of the solution. Quickly another boater offered a paddle board to be used as a back board and another offered his tender which could easily accept and transport the patient to shore. In less than an hour all of these assets were consolidated, transported to the patient, and the gentleman was moved onshore to an ambulance. That is truly a community that works.

Capt. Pete

Capt. Pete

Our next stop was the Emerald Bay Marina, just a bit north of George Town, to await Colleen’s arrival. My Dad was supposed to travel with Colleen, but unfortunately he had a mild heart attack two days before they were supposed to leave. As I write this he is back home and recovering nicely. When I explained to Dad the troubles Colleen had, he said he might have had another heart attack from the travel stress!

Sunrise

Sunrise

Colleen’s travel morning started out badly when the cab she had arranged for the night before did not show up at the appointed time (o’dark early). She called for another who promised to be there in 15 mintues. Thirty minutes later with no cab in sight, she jumped in her car to drive herself to the airport. She got to the gate for her flight to Philadelphia just before they were about to close the plane door. Her flight from Philadelphia to Miami was delayed because the flight crew wasn’t there. As a result she missed her connection in Miami to George Town, Exumas. Without asking her, the airline booked her on a flight to Nassau with a connecting flight the next morning to George Town, and offered no accommodations in Nassau. Pete & I scrambled and found her a hotel room for the night.

She was on an early morning flight which arrived in George Town about 7:00 a.m. Unfortunately her checked bag did not follow the same path she did. She came off the plane wearing a sweatshirt and jeans as the temperature and humidity climbed. We met a local woman from the same flight who worked for the airline and who also had to stay overnight in Nassau. She took our information and promised to look into finding Colleen’s bag once the offices opened for the day.

Capt & Colleen

Capt & Colleen

We stopped at a local place for breakfast, walked around George Town and then found a souvenir shop and bought some shorts for Colleen.  The lady from the airline stayed in touch with us by phone throughout the day and by mid-afternoon the bag had arrived at George Town Airport! I think Colleen finally relaxed once we had her bag in hand.

Piano & Mermaid

Piano & Mermaid

Our next stop was at Rudder Cut Cay for the night. Our friends Rick and Helen, of Symmetry, were nearby and joined us on Delphinus for drinks. The next day we all snorkeled David Copperfield’s piano sculpture again. What a sight to see a full sized grand piano and mermaid under the water! We continued to snorkel near the local beaches (which are all private and included a guard dog) and found stingrays, fish and starfish. We found a cave which was accessible, with its own little beach at low tide and a natural chimney for light!

Starfish

Starfish

Guard Dog

Guard Dog

Stingrays

Stingrays

Colleen in Cave

Colleen in Cave

Natural Chimney

Natural Chimney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0484We returned to Little Farmer’s Cay and Ty’s Sunset Bar & Grill for another night. While walking around the beaches on the island we found piles of conch shells. The locals dive for the conch, clean them and discard the shells. We picked up a couple of shells to decorate and use later.

Sneakers Garden

Sneakers Garden

I’ve noticed throughout the islands that when something, a house, car, boat, etc., is abandoned it will be overtaken by nature. Trees, vines and grass will take over. Here I found a pair of sneakers in the lawn of an abandoned house looking almost like garden planters.

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Next stop is Staniel Cay and Big Major’s Spot. We spent the rest of Colleen’s vacation exploring this area with her. We hiked around Staniel Cay to the Exuma Sound side and showed Colleen some of the highlights of the community there. She was quite adventurous climbing to the edges of the cliffs. Colleen and Pete snorkeled the grotto and a sunken airplane off Staniel Cay.

We made a visit to the swimming pigs at Big Major’s Spot, feeding them our scraps and watching other families do the same. Colleen enjoyed photographing them, especially the young ones. At one point I was just standing at the water’s edge watching them when one of the larger sows bit me on the backside! I’m still sitting gingerly as I write this.

Swimming Pig

Swimming Pig

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Delphinus Conch Shell

Delphinus Conch Shell

Our next stop that day was back to Pirate’s Beach – this time with our conch shell to paint with Delphinus and leave it as a memento along with all the others. We had just assumed that the tables and chairs on the beach were left there by other good-hearted cruisers to be enjoyed by all. After eating our picnic lunch and swimming we were greeted by the “owner” of the table we were using and told we had to leave it. He informed us that he brought that table here on his motor yacht and we could not use it! Kind of a deflating end to a fun day. Colleen commented that he was the first unpleasant person she had encountered in the Bahamas.

Drinks Before Dinner

Drinks Before Dinner

We finished off Colleen’s vacation with dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, which was a wonderful experience. They have two dinner seatings each evening and ask you to preselect your entree when you make your reservation. When it is time to sit down to dinner, they ring the dinner bell and seat you. From that point on everything is taken care of. We were served soup (conch chowder), salad, our entrees and dessert by a friendly, efficient staff.

Colleen's Plane

Colleen’s Plane

The next morning it was time for Colleen to catch her flight from the Staniel Cay Airport. The airport consists of a runway, parking apron and an open air gazebo which serves as a waiting area. We were greeted by a local who took down Colleen’s information, weighed her bags, and even asked how much she weighed. The planes flying out of here are small and they work to evenly distribute the weight of their passengers and luggage throughout the plane. In case you can’t see it in the picture, Colleen was terrified to get on the small plane. Her return home was safe and uneventful.

We’re not sure where we are headed next … maybe back north through the Exumas to visit a couple of Cays we missed on our trip south. Stay tuned and stay in touch!

 

 

The Northern Exumas

Highbourne Cay Stop Sign

Highbourne Cay Stop Sign

We made the 26+ mile crossing from Rock Sound in Eleuthera to Highbourne Cay at the northern end of the Exumas chain. We had planned to replenish our fresh water tanks using our water maker (reverse osmosis) while making the crossing but this was not to be. After many hours crouched in the starboard engine compartment, Pete realized it couldn’t be repaired without having replacement membranes shipped in. This necessitated an overnight stay at the Highbourne Cay Marina so we could fill our water tanks using their water (at 50 cents a gallon).

Sharks!

Sharks!

The marina is built to accommodate mega-yachts and sea planes. It kind of felt like we were hanging out with the rich and famous. They also have “pet” sharks which hang out at the fish cleaning station waiting for a meal.

Pete worked the phone and found his “guy” for water maker repairs in Fort Lauderdale. We were able to order the parts and have them delivered to Staniel Cay, a place we planned to stop to pick up visitors. In the mean time, we are in extreme water rationing mode.

Rest Stop

Rest Stop  

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Beach Art

Beach Art

Happy Iguana

Happy Iguana

The weather turned against us and we had to return to Highbourne Cay Marina for shelter for a few days. This time we took advantage of their bicycles and rode to the other side of the island for a walk on a beautiful beach. We also took our dinghy to nearby SW Allens Cay to visit the iguanas. We brought along some grapes to entice them out and were not disappointed. After restocking our food supplies from the marina store and topping off the water tanks, we are off to Norman’s Cay.

Sunken Airplane

Sunken Airplane

During the 1970s and 1980s Norman’s Cay was headquarters to a prominent drug lord and was patrolled by armed guards. He built a landing strip on the island and ferried his drug shipments in and out. One of his planes crash landed in the bay and remains there to this day. A portion of the fuselage is still visible above the water and you can see the rest of the plane resting on the bottom in the crystal clear water.  At some point the drug lord gave up his hold on the island and today there is a major construction project to build a marina and resort.

Check Out the Colors

Check Out the Colors

20150212_144140Next destination is Shroud Cay at the northern end of Exuma Land & Sea National Park. The park strives to preserve the natural balance of wildlife and plant life. We anchored on the western shore of the island and took our dinghy across the island through mangrove lined creeks. When we emerged on the eastern side of the island we found a most amazing beach! I think all the different shades of blue and turquoise could be seen from this beach. This was also my first lesson in starting, driving and stopping the dinghy, and we made it back to Delphinus okay.

Moonscape Hiking Trail

Moonscape Hiking Trail

 

Banshee Creek

Banshee Creek

Our next stop in the park was Warderick Wells, also the park headquarters. We were able to pick up a mooring ball and stayed for a couple of nights. The park has several hiking trails, including one to the top of “Boo Boo Hill” where the views are spectacular. The hike took us over rough sandstone (which to me looked like a moonscape), wading through Banshee Creek, and finally a sandy path to the summit. From there we can see the whole island, including some impressive blow holes. On Saturday evening the park sponsored a cruisers happy hour. Everyone from the mooring field brought food to share and our own drinks. It was a great evening to get to know other cruisers and the park staff.

Summit at Boo Boo Hill

Summit at Boo Boo Hill

Moving further south in the Exumas we spent a couple of nights anchored near Black Point Settlement. We had heard that the community is very welcoming to cruisers and it is so true. Without a watermaker I haven’t been able to do laundry on board, so we carried five bags of laundry to the Ida’s Rockside Laundromat. In addition to laundry, Ida had homemade donuts and carrot cake for sale. She also offers haircuts, which Pete took advantage of as he was looking a little shaggy. We stopped for lunch at Lorraine’s and bought a loaf of her Mom’s coconut bread. It made great french toast!

Sunset

Sunset

We heard through other cruisers we met at the laundromat that a delivery boat had arrived with fresh produce. We walked to the little market and bought a fresh cabbage and some plantains. As we have moved further away from the big cities like Nassau and Freeport, we have had to adapt to what is available in these small settlements. Word of a delivery boat arrival is cause for celebration on the island and in the anchorage.

Another strong weather front was moving in and the anchorage at Black Point did not offer enough protection, so we moved to a spot off Staniel Cay with more protection from the wind. The Staniel Cay Yacht Club was even having all the boats in their marina move because of strong winds. We really are at the mercy of the weather. Our plans change when the weather does.

Desserted Island

Deserted Island

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Locations

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Locations

All of our parts arrived in Staniel Cay and Pete got the watermaker and generator both running smoothly and none too soon. We were down to 1/8 of a tank of fresh water. Pete likes to say that the definition of cruising is fixing your boat in exotic locations and lately that’s been very true.

Yesterday we watched the supply boat arrive, so today we (along with all the other cruisers in the area) made our way to shore to shop. We found plenty of produce, milk and frozen meats. We caught up with our friends, Rick & Helen from Symmetry III, for lunch at the yacht club.

As I write this we are preparing for another windy night but feeling content. Our water tank is full, as well as the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Tomorrow, Pete’s brother Brian and his wife Stephanie arrive from the frigid north for a visit. We’ll plan to visit the swimming pigs, snorkel, swim and further explore this part of the Exumas. Stay tuned!