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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Friday, February 27, 2009
My mom scolded me again when I called her yesterday morning; for the second time she told me in no uncertain terms that she did not want me to swim with the sharks again - "And I mean it!" she said emphatically. Okay, Mom, okay - I promise I won't swim with the sharks again! - at least not on purpose. I think you'll approve of what I did yesterday, though.
High winds motivated us to move on to Warderick Wells, headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. It was a 3-hour trip from Shroud Cay, sailing and motor sailing. We radioed in at 9:00 to secure a mooring and were surprised to find that we were the only vessel requesting one; we got in at 12:30 and were assigned mooring number 8. The fee for moorings is $20 per night, but as members of the support fleet (we help support the park) we're entitled to two free nights.
We checked in, settled in, then took the dinghy in to explore. Our first trek was over a rugged and pitted black limestone path up to Boo-Boo Hill, where people leave driftwood signs with their boats' names. From that vantage point we were treated to a superb panoramic view of the area.Returning to the beach where we left our dinghy anchored, the sight of two young women feeding birds from their hands as a young man looked on, drew our attention. We wandered over to watch and find out what they were feeding the birds. When they offered us sugar we asked if it was okay, because there are strict rules in this park and one of them is to not feed the critters. We eagerly joined in, but I later asked Judy (park manager) what kind of birds they are and confirmed that it is okay to feed them. She told me they are Bananaquits (nickname: sugar bird) and yes, they are the only birds the park bird guy has given them permission to feed; there is sugar in a container outside the park office that visitors can feed to them.
Well, tell me no more and give me some more of that sugar! I could have fed and watched them all day; we even came back this morning:
This afternoon we went snorkeling off Emerald Rock; what's one of the first things I see when I get in the water? A Lemon Shark.
Believe it or not, as many times as I've snorkeled and scuba dived, prior to this trip I have only seen a shark once before. Sorry, Mom - I didn't do it on purpose this time.
Charmed (Debbie and Craig) and Jay Sea Dee (Jodi, John, and their mini dachshund, Obie) arrived at about 10:30. When we called to welcome them, Craig suggested we all take our dinghies and explore the mangrove estuaries. It wasn't the best time to go based on the tide, but we were game. It was beautiful, like a scene from "The African Queen," although the water was only ankle deep in places and we were forced to drag the dinghies. The estuary snaked through the island and eventually took us to the most breathtaking beach on the Atlantic side. We finally got to talk to the others in person for the first time.
On the way back to the boats the others suggested we get together for a game of Phase 10, so after getting cleaned up they came over to the Lena Bea. Fun game, but this was a marathon - took us 3-4 hours to finish one game.
Charmed and Jay Sea Dee are headed north and we're headed south, so we bade each other safe sailing and parted ways; we'll probably meet up again somewhere, sometime.
By the way, John, Craig, Captain Jim Stengel (who we met in Marathon) and another guy are taking Jay Sea Dee across the Atlantic to Portugal this spring. It will be fun to follow their blog.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Shroud Cay is also our first stop in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The park, which encompasses 176 square miles, is about 22 miles long and eight miles wide and is the largest protected fish-breeding ground in the Caribbean. The park has strict rules that are enforced: you cannot fish, take shells, hunt, pick vegetation, pollute the waters, or leave behind any trash. Penalties for poaching are severe. "Take only pictures and memories, leave only bubbles and footprints." The diving and snorkeling are spectacular, and at Warderick Wells (the park headquarters) they have marked walking trails and an abundance of wildlife. We expect to spend quite a bit of time in the park.
Alex, do you know what the difference is between an island, a cay, and a key? Well, a cay and a key (both pronounced "key") are the same thing. "Cay" is from the Spanish word "cayo" and "key" is English (Do you remember when we went to Cayo Costa in Florida and found all those starfish?). They are small, low-lying islands, made mostly of sand, limestone, and coral, and usually surrounded by coral. Those in the Bahamas are so small that the people here often call the larger islands, such as Great Abaco, "the mainland." Interesting, huh?
This morning before leaving Norman's Cay we were able to hail Debbie and Craig on Charmed, an IP440. They and John and Jodi, on Jay Sea Dee (an IP 485) were in Warderick Wells and headed in our direction. We hope to meet up with them tomorrow or Thursday. We met Debbie briefly at the Annapolis Boat Show in 2007, but that's it. Wayne knows them through the Island Packet email list and Debbie and I have communicated a bit through WMwaves.com since discovering we were both cruising to the Exumas this winter. The camaraderie of the Island Packet community is remarkable.
I'll close my ramblings with an early "Happy Birthday" greeting to my brother-in-law, Scott. Hope you guys had a great time in Mexico.
People feeding "my" sharks
The name of this yacht is "Shadow,"but I think a more descriptive name would be "Darth Vader." Doesn't it look cool?
Now we're anchored at Norman's Cay, which gained notoriety during the late '70's and early '80's as the base for a drug smuggling operation. It's peaceful today but evidence remains in the form of bullet holes in buildings at the south end and a drug smuggling plane which crashed and lies at rest in the anchorage.
Today Norman's Cay is probably known more for tiny MacDuff's resort, whose bar and restaurant is reported by many to have the best hamburgers in the Exumas. We had to check it out of course, so we dinghied in at 6:00 for dinner last night. It's a cute spot with character and a roomy veranda, but probably better suited for lunch with a small group of friends - not so great for just the two of us. In fact, we were the only customers and were outnumbered by dogs by at least 2:1. It was a bit eerie... after dark, in the middle of nowhere.
We each ordered a cheeseburger and a Coke and shared an order of fries for a total of $35 - a bit pricey. We don't expect to have dinner out again except socially, especially with all the provisions we have onboard.
We did quite a bit of snorkeling today, mostly in search of conch for chowder or fritters. There were many enormous shells, but the meat had already been taken, as evidenced by the hole near the top of the shell. I did find one live conch, but we ended up throwing it back in since one conch wasn't enough to do anything with (Wayne's excuse for not wanting to bother with it).
The highlight of our snorkeling expedition today was a Cushion Sea Star, about 14 inches across. My impression of it - after marveling at its size - was that it looked like a cushion, so I wasn't surprised to look in the book and learn its name.
Tonight we did something different - settled in with a movie ("Notes On a Scandal" - I got to choose) and popcorn!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
After our beach walk, I took Emma for a walk around the marina and down the dock. When we got to the end of the dock at the entrance to the marina, we looked in the water and were startled to see about a dozen nurse sharks swimming about and lying in the sand right below us. Of course I had to go back to the boat and get my camera. After watching and taking photos for a while, I knew I just had to do it. I had to snorkel with the sharks.
I stopped at the office to ask Barbara if it would be ok. "You really want to do that? Well, people do it," she said. "Just be sure to get out of there if anyone is on the dock cleaning fish."
I returned to the boat, grabbed my snorkeling stuff and underwater camera, and told Wayne what my intentions were. He followed along with the other camera, uncertain, I think, that this was a good idea.What a rush! The sharks were mildly curious and some came to check me out; one even nudged me with his nose, which freaked me out a bit and caused me to flee momentarily; I had to do this a couple times when they came much too close. I could have easily touched them. Some were about eight feet long and I was told that a couple of them were Lemon Sharks. It was an awesome experience, one I will never forget.Actually, I did it for you. This blog has been too boring and I had to come up with something to spice it up a little.
After we docked, we were met at our slip by Joe, the owner of Cool Runner's Catering Service, who told us about his Saturday night all-you-can-eat buffet served right here at the marina. Except for some conch fritters, we hadn't tried any Bahamian food yet and this was a great way to do it. I can especially recommend the conch chowder - it was delicious. We dined and conversed with two couples who've been cruising together on their respective boats, and a mother and adult son who came in on an 80+ foot yacht with a staff of three. By the way, Cool Runner will deliver food right to your boat.
P.S. Belated Happy Birthday, Robin!
This is our third night anchored at Allan's Cay (which includes the three cays of Allan's, SW Allan's, and Leaf) because it offers protection from just about any direction. Fronts come and go all the time down here, so wind direction is a major consideration. It's a pleasant anchorage and we have lots of company with about 20 other boats anchored here, including Dues Paid.
We had our first beach walk yesterday morning on the Atlantic side of Leaf Cay. I found my first ever sea biscuits - four of them (only three made it back in one piece) - while wading along the shore.
Leaf Cay and SW Allan's Cays are unique in that they are home to large populations of iguanas. Tour boats stop here a couple times a day and boaters who dinghy to shore are met by dozens of the creatures looking for handouts. We brought some slimy, well past its prime spinach, which the iguanas fought over and devoured in ecstasy.
Monday, February 16, 2009
So tomorrow morning we will head for Allan's Cay, about 35 miles away. It will be our first stop in the Exumas.
Alex, you may be interested to know that tonight we had beer and conch fritters at a restaurant here at the marina called The Poop Deck.
After Wayne finishes up dishes and I finish up here, we're going to head out to explore Nassau.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Papa Wayne and Gramichele
Wait a minute! There's Paradise Island! CERTAINLY there must be grass
on a place called Paradise Island.
I thought this was a funny photo because it looks like the cruise ships are on land. The one on the left is Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas, which Wayne and I cruised on many years ago. We much prefer the kind of cruising we do now.
We made it and are happily docked at Nassau Yacht Haven ($2/ft. + metered electric), still with Dues Paid. Wayne checked in while I got online ($10 a day for dial-up speed wi-fi service), then we went up to the Customs Office (aka the Laundry Room).
Betty and Leo stopped by for awhile, then I walked Emma until a downpour hit.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Betty and Leo had us over for "attitude adjustment" and dinner this evening, which was a real treat.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
We have these great little gadgets on our life jackets - a LifeTag system - that set off alarms on the boat if we get a certain distance away. That's so we'll be alerted in case one of us falls off without the other knowing it. It's a horrible, shrieking alarm, and guess what? Wayne forgot to take his LifeTag off before he left in the dinghy. I frantically tried to figure out how to turn off the alarm, but to no avail. I tried to call Wayne on his cell, but it was in a waterproof bag in the backpack and there was no way he could hear it over the sound of the outboard. I left a message ("The LifeTag works really well, but you can turn it off now," with appropriate sound effects in case he needed proof). Finally I retreated to the bedroom where Emma was already hiding out, closed the door and - hey! - I have ear plugs! I finally reached Wayne half an hour later and he told me how to turn the darn thing off - push the same button I had been pushing, but hold it down for five seconds. If you were on one of the many boats anchored around us today, we send our most embarrassed apologies.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Being here afforded me the opportunity to get online, so I have been busy tweaking my posts and uploading photos, as you may have noticed.
Cruisers are such friendly people! Chuck and Judy stopped by this afternoon for a visit and to ask about places to stop along the west coast. Shortly after they left, Captain Jim (who Wayne knows from the Island Packet email list) and his friend, Bob, came over. Captain Jim lives in Marathon and has been doing boat deliveries for the past twelve years. He knows the Keys and the Bahamas very well and gave us advice on our crossing and places to go once we get to the Exumas. They were just getting ready to leave when John and Julie came by. They have an IP 485 - Island Chariot - which they sailed down from their home in Oriental, NC last fall. They invited us over to their dock for sunset celebration (they take their sunsets very seriously down here in the Keys), a daily event. So we meandered over there just minutes before sunset and watched people blow their conch horns (a sunset ritual).John and Julie then invited us onboard Island Chariot for a tour and to meet their beautiful cockatoo, Elvis. Coincidentally, we had been on their boat before - at the Miami boat show in 2006. Check out John and Julie's website at http://islandchariot.com/
Sunday, February 8, 2009
At this point I need to pause and thank other cruisers who have so generously shared their wisdom and experiences with us, which will help us enjoy a safer and richer trip. To them - and you know who you are - we send our heartfelt thanks. And I might as well 'fess up right now to the fact that I am nautically challenged because it won't take you long to figure it out.
During the last trip someone asked me early on what my objectives or goals were for the trip. I think my response was that I just wanted to make it all the way to Punta Gorda without abandoning Wayne. My objectives for this trip are to 1) soak up the beauty and splendor of God's creation., 2) scuba dive and snorkel, 3) do some decent underwater photography, 4) take lots of long walks on as many beaches as possible with Wayne and Emma, 5) collect shells, 6) enjoy the fellowship of other cruisers and native Bahamians, 7) eat all our citrus fruit before any spoils, and 8) read - if I have time.
I probably won't have the ability to post to the blog as frequently as I did last time. The Exumas are quite remote and internet access isn't widely available. That said, we do have a satellite phone with a very slow (think slow dial-up) data connection, which I will attempt to use to email my blog posts. By popular demand, I plan to post lots of photos, but they might need to be added later when I have high speed internet access. We'll see how it goes.
We could hardly have asked for a finer day of sailing: winds 15-20 knots off the beam the entire day.
Last night we anchored in 23 feet of water about fifteen miles west of Everglades City and a couple miles south of Cape Romano Shoals. After years of sailing in Lake Superior, which is hundreds of feet deep, I'm always amazed at how shallow it is around here.
Within minutes of setting out this morning we crossed paths with a Coast Guard cutter and knew instinctively that we were about to be boarded for the first time. For those who don't know, the Coast Guard can board any vessel at any time to make sure we're in compliance with safety regulations and have U.S. Coast Guard required equipment on board. Wayne is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and they do the same safety inspections (but strictly voluntary), so we passed with flying colors (we even had a trash management plan, which few boaters have - ours was the first boat these guys had seen that had one). By the way, the Coast Guard Auxiliary does everything the Coast Guard does except for law enforcement.
I have so much food! But provisions are more expensive in the Bahamas and besides, I don't want to spend time grocery shopping except to pick up an item or two here or there. We have powdered milk and I will bake bread and make yogurt. The frig is well-stocked, my freezer is packed to the brim, and I have canned goods galore. Oh, and dozens of grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. We have one tree of each and I went on a fruit-picking rampage before we left. These two sailors will NOT get scurvy, no siree!
Friday, February 6, 2009
Right now it's noon and we're south of Sanibel.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Could we have loaded
So I sit here writing