Welcome to the cruising blog of Wayne and Michele Sharp!

If you want to learn a little bit about cruising, satisfy your curiosity, live vicariously, or be entertained, I think you've come to the right place.

Feel free to ask questions or post comments in the comment section of each post; I will respond to all of them. You can also email us at reluctantsailor@me.com.

We've written a book based on the blog from our first journey in 2007 - Adventures of a Once Reluctant Sailor: A Journey of Guts, Growth, and Grace. It is available online from my website at reluctantsailor.net, and from Apostle Islands Booksellers, Copperfish Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Your local bookstore can also order it for you. We've included over 170 color and black and white photos.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Our final night out, anchored at Pelican Bay

It felt good to be settled in Pelican Bay our last night out with Dennis and Shirla (Aurora) and Cathy, Glen, Jan, and Mike (Chatty Cat). Aurora was the boat that was struck by lightening near Fort Lauderdale and didn't make the trip, but Dennis had her put back together and they came out to welcome us home and hang out for the evening.

Our friends aboard Chatty Cat had a VERY lucrative fishing trip coming back and cooked us up a fabulous dinner of grilled wahoo and mahi. We spent the rest of the evening aboard Chatty Cat, playing cards and enjoying the camaraderie.

Of course, it was only fitting that a doozy of a thunderstorm hit during dinner; I think we were all a bit more anxious about that than we would have been just six weeks earlier.

Having previously cruised mostly alone and being independent spirits, Wayne and I were a bit apprehensive about traveling with so many other people. It ended up working fine, with a perfect balance of solitude and togetherness. We'd be with another boat or two for a couple of days, then do our own thing for a couple of days before meeting up with someone else and hanging out with them. Our major focus was snorkeling, which didn't seem to interest many of the others to a great extent.

The Abacos have far more marinas, restaurants, and things to do ashore than do the Exumas, so that made it a different experience as well. We almost always anchored out when it was just the two of us, but because we were traveling with other people who preferred staying at marinas, we did the same. And that was fine - we had a great time.

Of course, as always, it's the people who make the difference and we sure lucked out there. We couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of friends to travel with, so we conclude this adventure with fond memories of them and the times we shared.

That's all for this trip. Check in with us again in 2015 for our (probable) next one.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

Michele and Captain Wayne

Sunday, May 19, 2013

St. James City

We're happily anchored off St. James City on the south end of Pine Island, surrounded by many dolphin families to delight us and welcome us home. We have never seen a dolphin in the Bahamas, and we've spent about fourteen weeks there, but we can always count on them to be here waiting to welcome us home at one of our last anchorages of a long trip.

Note to selves: Do try to avoid the area between Fort Myers Beach and here on Sundays. The boat traffic - 99% power boaters - is horrific and they seem to know nothing about boating etiquette. We told ourselves that on the way down, but forgot.

Tomorrow we have a short distance to travel to Pelican Bay, where we will meet up with some of our Mariners of PGI friends, who are on a three-night cruise. We'll be home on Tuesday.

Everyone in our group has made it back from the Bahamas now. Ginny C and Change arrived in Palm Beach today.

Busy day at Fort Myers Beach
If you zoom in, you can see three people up there -
there's a very small person in the middle.

Thirty-six hour passage to Florida

It's 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. We spent the night anchored in the Gulf, somewhere about 30 miles south of Marco Island, and left at 4:45. We're ahead of schedule. After leaving Lynyard Cay in the south Abacos on Thursday morning at 5:45, we sailed 36 hours straight to Rodriguez Key, off Key Largo, and from there, to our anchorage last night. It was an okay passage, but we mostly motor sailed. It wasn't our intention to keep going, but seas were a bit rough on the Banks where we intended to anchor. We knew we wouldn't get much sleep anyway, and the winds were good, so on we went.

As I did the 11:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. watch Thursday night, I noticed a pain in my stomach that became increasingly difficult to ignore. As 3:00 a.m. approached, I couldn't wait to find something to ease the pain and curl up in bed. I knew what the problem was. It was a flare up of gastritis that I first experienced on our trip in 2007 which sent me to the ER. Since then, I've had about four episodes, but hadn't had one in a couple of years, so I assumed the bugger was gone. Checked the first aid/medicine box and found prescription pain meds, which had expired in 2011, and three Zantac, which had expired in 2010. Dang! I knew what I was in for. In desperation, I took one of the expired pain meds, but it did nothing, nor did the Zantac or Tylenol.

Spent all day Friday in bed, except for when I was up vomiting. Had too much pain to sleep or do anything else, except pray that it would go away. Meanwhile, Wayne is not having a fun day, either. The display on the cockpit chart plotter had gone out, so he had to keep running down to check the one at the nav station. I was oblivious to this, because he was too busy running back and forth to check in on me. He certainly could have used my help, but I was in no shape to do anything.

We finally reached our anchorage at Rodriguez. I foolishly kept thinking the pain would go away by itself, but eventually had to face the reality that it wasn't. I checked Around Me on my iPhone and found that there was a CVS pharmacy 2 ½ miles away. It was 7:00 and I didn't want Wayne to have to go; he'd had an exhausting two days and very little sleep, and it was doubtful that he could be back before dark, but we had no choice. He called the pharmacy to see if there was someplace nearby to tie up the dinghy, which there was, and headed in to shore with his portable VHF radio, GPS, and cell phone. Wayne couldn't find the dinghy dock, so he ended up tied to a private dock where no one appeared to be home. Fortunately, the large dog who greeted him loudly was friendly and more interested in fetching the sticks Wayne threw for him than attacking him.

About an hour and a half later I had the medicine I needed and was able to get a good night's sleep. Still couldn't eat or do much on Saturday, but the pain and vomiting had subsided. Today, I feel like a new person. Hallelujah!
Wayne wrestling with the whisker pole
Two cruise ships
Norwegian Sky 
Ha! These ship tenders appear to be colliding
Enchantment of the Seas

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Heading out after Hope Town

Today, after two and a half lovely days with friends in Hope Town and exactly one month in the Abacos, we begin our trek back to Florida. Tonight we will travel only about fifteen miles to anchor off the south end of Lynyard Cay. Tomorrow we plan to continue south/southwest about thirty miles in the Atlantic, round the south end of Great Abaco Island, and cross Northeast Channel about seventy miles to an anchorage on the north end of the Berry Islands at Great Stirrup Cay. Friday, depending on conditions, we will either spend the night anchored off Cat/Gun Cay or travel about twenty mile farther and anchor off Riding Rock. Saturday conditions look good for crossing the gulf stream to Florida. We should be back in Punta Gorda on May 21 or 22. We are ready to be home.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer two-day finale than what we've had with Ginny, Chris, Chuck, Betsy, Mary, and Rich in Hope Town, our favorite spot. We've enjoyed chatting and hanging out together, exploring the town, walking the beach, climbing the lighthouse and basking in the view, and of course, eating together.

Monday evening Ginny and Chris made THE BEST cracked conch, and we enjoyed dinner by one of the pools at the marina, which we had all to ourselves. We ended the evening with a hotly competitive  game of Catch Phrase (the women won best of three games).

Yesterday the shuttle from Sea Spray Marina, on the south end of Elbow Cay, picked us up and brought us down there for dinner. They had a barbecue buffet, which was yummy and reasonably priced, live music, and a limbo party, complete with a dramatic blazing finale. A very fun evening.

My next blog post will probably be on Saturday from Florida. If you would like to track our progress, I have moved our Spot locator link to the top of the lefthand column (it got lost on the bottom of the page). 

I'll leave you with a few more photos from Hope Town.

We climbed 101 steps to the top
Lena Bea, at end of long dock
Ginny C in front and Change across from them

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Man-O-War, Mangoes, Mother's Day, and Visitors

Between our expedition to the south Abacos and today's arrival at Mangoes Marina in Marsh Harbor, Wayne wanted to make another stop at Man-O-War. I had to needle him a little bit and say that he was having regrets over not buying himself a bag and needed to return to Albury's Sail Shop. I wasn't serious and was surprised when he said yes, he really wanted a bag but couldn't decide what kind to get. Now, I'm a bag lady and had no problem indulging him with a return visit, so off we went. Only problem was that we escaped buying anything for ourselves on our first visit, but I couldn't do that a second time, especially when Wayne decided he needed THREE bags. I bought one. They are such nice bags and so well constructed. The sailcloth they're made from is sturdy, but not bulky.

I took a photo of Annie Albury sewing a patch on my bag. She is the granddaughter of sailmaker Norman Albury. Norman’s wife Selina, founded Albury’s Sail Shop about 50 years ago.
Annie Albury, sewing the patch on my bag
Wayne's new bags
After bag shopping, we headed down to the ice cream shop where we indulged ourselves again, then sat at a table outside to get caught up on internet stuff. It was the best Bahamas WiMax connection we have had since losing our booster, so we made good use of it. I was actually able to upload 32 photos to Facebook! The highlight, though, was being able to call Mom on Skype to wish her a happy Mother's Day, but better than that, I got a bonus: three for the price of one! My sisters, Andra and Jodi, were with Mom because she had just returned to the Twin Cities from Florida on Friday, so I got to visit with all of them. Being able to do that makes being away from them today on Mother's Day easier to take. Every year previously we have been in Minnesota for Mother's Day, and Mom usually rides back with us from Florida. My sisters and their families and our kids and we all get together to celebrate the holiday and Mom's homecoming, and it's nice to be able to see everyone shortly after we get back. Also, May is my favorite month of the year in Minnesota and I like to get as much of it as possible.

Wayne lost his mom in September and my thoughts today are with his siblings, Robin, Greg, and their families. My cousin Denise just lost her mom on April 29, just three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. I'm praying God's blessings of comfort and peace for Robin, Greg, Denise and the rest of the family, and so many others I know who have lost their moms recently.

Joey just called to wish me a happy Mother's Day. Thanks, Babe, I love you. Amy's parents from Michigan are visiting Michael and Amy. I'll give them a call later today.

Since we'll be starting our trek back to Florida sometime the middle of this week, hopefully, we had a lot on our to-do list and accomplished most of it yesterday and this morning. We'll be traveling for longer stretches - no more lollygagging - and not much time for boat chores. Yesterday I made yogurt, did two loads of laundry, baked bread and breakfast bars from the mixes I made up ahead of time, and cookies from the dough I froze before we left home. My oven takes so long to heat up that I figured I'd do it all at one time, and replenish my dwindling supply of frozen provisions. I also hard-boiled a dozen eggs for quick and easy eating on the way back. We even have a clean boat now, so we're all set.

Betsy and Chuck are here! The taxi dropped them off at about 1:30, an hour after we docked at Mangoes Marina, and we were so excited to see them! They are here to spend the week with Ginny and Chris on Ginny C, who are docked right next to us. Mary and Rich, on board Change, are docked on the other side of them. Ginny is on her way back from spending a few days with her grandkids in Connecticut and should be here at around 6:30. We had everyone over for drinks and appetizers and the eight of us will have dinner at Curly Tails at 7:30. For those who don't know, we're all members of the Mariners, our boating club in Punta Gorda. Fun!
Dinner with the gang at Curly Tails in Marsh Harbor

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saving the best till last

We got a late start leaving Marsh Harbor on Tuesday and anchored south of Tavern Cay off of Tilloo Cay. Snorkeled inside of Tilloo Cut on the ocean side of the rocks there. It was the first time since we've been in the Abacos that it was calm enough to do this. Snorkeling was the best we've had so far, although even relatively small ocean swells made us feel like we were in a washing machine at times.

Wednesday evening we headed for an anchorage near the south end of Lynyard Cay because we knew that Charlie on UnSeaSing would be there. We invited him over for dinner and had a nice visit. He is headed back to Punta Gorda via Hole-In-the-Wall, the Berry Islands, and South Riding Rock, a route similar to the one we will be taking next week. Charlie doesn't have a travel buddy and part of us feels like we should be traveling with him, but we're not quite ready to go back.

Remarkably, conditions were calm enough Thursday that we were able to dinghy two and a half miles from our anchorage near the south end of Lynyard Cay to Little Harbor, although it was a bit bumpy. We didn't have an agenda, except to explore the settlement, which we found quite appealing. Walked up to the lighthouse ruins, walked the beach, checked out Pete's Pub, which wasn't open yet, and explored the gallery, which was.

After our visit to Little Harbor, we headed over to Sandy Cay reef in Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park, a national park, which was supposed to have some of the best snorkeling in the Abacos. It surpassed our expectations. Finally the seas and wind had calmed down enough that we were able to enjoy the snorkeling experience we had been seeking since our arrival in the Abacos on April 15.

How I love to revel in God's creation! Few things bring me greater joy.

We saw sea turtles, sharks, spotted eagle rays, spectacular underwater seascapes of coral, fish, and plants. It was magnificent and well worth the wait! God saved the best until last. If we had snorkeled Sandy Cay reef first, our other snorkeling experiences would have paled in comparison. This way, we were better able to appreciate their more modest beauty first. We probably won't have another opportunity to snorkel on this trip unless we have to wait for a weather window, because we will be leaving for home on Tuesday or Wednesday and will be busy with other things until then.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Recap of the week

Preparing to leave Marsh Harbor for Little Harbor, about twenty miles away, but we may make an intermediate stop if we see good snorkeling conditions. I'm waiting for a load of laundry to finish, and Wayne is trying to get the depth sounder working . . . AGAIN.

The reasons we haven't blogged all week is because, first of all, there's been nothing interesting to blog about, and second, because we've been hanging out with friends a lot and doing a bit of snorkeling.

Tuesday and Wednesday we moored in Orchid Bay on Great Guana; Thursday and Friday we anchored at Treasure Cay; Saturday we anchored in Fisher's Bay on Great Guana; Sunday and Monday we docked at Harbor View Marina in Marsh Harbor.

Showers and thunderstorms were common this week.

Did a bit of snorkeling at Baker's Bay, where we saw more golf balls(!) than fish, and around Delia's Rock on the west side of Great Guana, where we found a few small coral heads and fish. Alas, continued large ocean swells kept us away from the barrier reef on the Atlantic side.

5-foot Barracuda
Yesterday we braved the chops and took the dinghy a couple of miles to a mooring at Mermaid Reef, just outside of Marsh Harbor. We found a small area of coral with plenty of fish, but considering that one website touted it as one of the top three snorkeling spots in the Abacos, we also found it disappointing. Granted, we didn't explore farther out because it was so choppy, so the reef may have been larger than we thought. We realized that we could have crossed the harbor, tied up the dinghy, crossed the street to the beach, and snorkeled from shore, but Wayne thought the reef was 1500 feet out, so maybe there was more to it.

The fun part, though, is that the fish there have been trained to know that snorkelers often bring food with them, so I felt a bit like the Pied Piper of Mermaid Reef, and that was BEFORE we shared the corn we brought with us. Wayne and I photographed each other feeding the fish and got our fingers nibbled on a bit, too. Sure hope fish don't carry rabies. I'll post more snorkeling photos later.

We anchored at Treasure Cay on Thursday and went in to shore to explore the beautiful beach and the upscale (for the Bahamas) resort there. They have a nice grocery shore, but I bought nothing. As we headed back to our dinghy, we saw Chatty Cat entering the marina, so we met them at the dock. We spent Thursday and Friday evenings having dinner with them (Cathy, Glen, Jan, and Mike) and playing games, then did the same on Saturday evening at Great Guana. They are headed home now, so we won't see them again until we get back to Punta Gorda.

Broadwater II crossed the gulf stream to Florida on Saturday, which concerned us because it didn't sound like the conditions would be favorable for them. They sent us emails that evening, and although they didn't have a particularly fun day, they made it safely across.

Upon docking Sunday in Marsh Harbor, we found that Chat-Eau and Toucana were there. We hadn't connected with them since shortly after reaching the Abacos, so were pleased to see them. The six of us went to Snappas to partake of their Cinco de Mayo party, but fled after a couple of margaritas, as the DJ made it impossible to converse. We ate at Curly Tails on the second level of the Conch Inn, where we enjoyed a lovely sunset and conversation with Nancy, Steve, Jack, and Carol.

Yesterday morning Nancy and I went for a walk. On the way back we stopped by George's stand where he makes THE BEST conch salad, freshly prepared while you wait. Wayne and I ate ours for lunch, then went snorkeling at Mermaid Reef. We were expecting Change and Ginny C, who were docked at Mangoes Marina next door when we got back. Friends of Nancy and Steve from Punta Gorda, Peter and Julie, flew in yesterday afternoon, and the ten of us went to dinner at Mangoes.

This morning we had breakfast at Mangoes with Ginny, Chris, Mary, and Rich. We had a great time with everyone this week. I told Wayne no more restaurants, though, until next Sunday or Monday when Betsy and Chuck arrive. Can't wait to see them!

Chat-Eau is headed back north, so we won't see them again until Punta Gorda. Safe travels, Nancy and Steve.

George prepares conch salad

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blog stuff

A couple of people have emailed me and said that they tried to post comments on the blog but were not able to. I went in to my settings and changed it so that you don't need to do word verification to comment. It's intended to keep out spam or something, so if you see "unusual" comments, please disregard them. If that doesn't fix the problem, I don't know what else to do.

Also, if you subscribe to the blog, sometimes you will see multiples of the same entry. Sometimes Blogger will hiccup (five times yesterday, I think) or sometimes I will go back and do an edit or add photos. You will miss nothing and avoid aggravation if you only read the most recent one.

Now that the sun is up, I can see that the sky is mostly clear. A snorkeling day? Let's hope so! It's a bit strange to wake up to the sound of crowing roosters, but I like it.

Have a great day!