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, April 30, 2013

Back to Great Guana

Tuesday, April 29 - Yesterday we left our mooring in Hope Town harbor and anchored just south of White Sound, which leads to Sea Spray Marina and Resort. Ginny, Chris, Mary, and Rich took the shuttle down from Hope Town and we enjoyed dinner together.

If you have been to the Abacos, you probably know about the Cruisers' Net. It's a VHF radio program (a better word escapes me) that's on every morning at 8:15 which includes a weather report, boating conditions throughout the Abacos, conditions in the gulf stream, local businesses promoting special events, dinner specials, tours, etc., and cruisers sharing information with other cruisers. We listen to it every morning and it's particularly helpful when we don't have internet access to get weather information ourselves (like today). This morning's forecast for the week was dreary at best: there's a high percent chance of showers and thunderstorms every day this week and today it's 90%.

With that in mind, Wayne and I discussed our options. We've hit most of the main places of interest and all we really want to do at this point anyway is snorkel. The ocean has been too rough and the winds too strong for safe or enjoyable snorkeling conditions thus far, but it looks as though we may have a window of opportunity tomorrow and Thursday. Winds are expected to be less than 5 mph and we can see that the Atlantic is calming down. Yes, there's a 70% chance of showers and thunderstorms and it will be overcast, but it appears that ideal conditions are not in the cards, so we'll try to make the most of what we have. Friday winds are supposed to be back up to 20-25 mph.

The question is, where to go? After exploring our options, we decided to go back up to Great Guana Cay and pick up a mooring ball in Orchid Bay, for several reasons. First, we'll be close to lots of great snorkeling around Fowl and Scotland Cays and on the east side of Guana. Second, if the weather doesn't cooperate, we will (maybe) at least have internet access. If we had continued our southerly course from Elbow Cay, it's unlikely that we would have had wi-fi at all, since we would no longer be in the main part of the Abacos where Bahamas WiMax has hotspots.

So, we left our anchorage near Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay and motored north a couple of hours to Great Guana. I settled in with domestic chores in anticipation of a soggy day: did two loads of laundry, made yogurt, made cinnamon rolls to put in the freezer (all ready to pop in the oven), measured and mixed the dry ingredients for two loaves of our favorite herb bread, and other miscellaneous household chores.

But did it rain? Only a few drops - long enough to zip up our cockpit enclosure (where we sat trying to get online with our usual degree of frustration) and close open hatches. And to think that we could have spent the afternoon snorkeling after all! But then we wouldn't have freshly baked cinnamon rolls tomorrow morning.

Yesterday and today I have been obsessed with trying to call my mom, with no luck. We have Skype, but gave up hope of acquiring an internet signal strong enough for a conversation, and Wayne's cell phone, which at $2.00 a minute, is reserved for emergency calls only. Well, when we finally got online here in Orchid Bay, I found an email from Mom telling me that her Aunt Dolly (Betty) had died. It was expected, but we didn't know if she had days or months. Aunt Betty was such a dear lady and the last of eight siblings. We will miss her terribly. Our deepest sympathy to Denise, Debra, Dan, and their families. May God grant you all his comfort and peace.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hope Town, Elbow Cay

Hope Town is our favorite spot in the Abacos so far. It's a lovely town in a picturesque setting with friendly people and a nice balance of amenities.

We've explored the town and marveled at the view from the top of the lighthouse. We've enjoyed time spent with friends—Liz and Devin on Moosetracks, Charlie on Un Sea Sing, Chris and Ginny on Ginny C, Rich and Mary on Change, and (briefly) Glen, Cathy, Jan, and Mike on Chatty Cat. I think we're all headed in different directions today.

We've achieved mixed levels of success with boat chores. We THINK the depth sounder is fixed. Wayne went up the mast yesterday to see if resetting the Bullet wi-fi booster would fix that problem, but it seems that the unit isn't getting any power. Either the unit or the wiring is broken.

In half an hour we will head in to town for the 11:00 service at the Methodist Church. We were planning sail down to the southern part of Elbow Cay near Tahiti Beach, but decided to stay in the harbor one more night. Since Wayne wasn't able to get our Bullet working and we won't be near a Bahamas WiMax hotspot, we probably won't have internet access for a few days.

It's been disappointing that winds blowing at 15-20 knots from the N-NE almost since we've been in the Abacos have made for poor snorkeling conditions. At least high temps in the 70's with the cool breezes make being in the water less appealing :)

Can you find Lena Bea?

Lena Bea with Hope Town lighthouse

Friday, April 26, 2013

Great Guana, Marsh Harbor, and Man-O-War

Friday, April 26 - I started to write this on Monday and have an entry for each day this week, so you may want to read this post from the bottom up. This is a long post with lots of photos, so grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and welcome to our world this week in the Abacos.

We frequently don't have internet access when we are at anchor, especially now that our Bullet 2 wi-fi booster isn't working. If you don't hear from us for a few days, that's usually why.

We just arrived at Hope Town harbor and picked up a mooring ball with the assistance of Chris and Ginny in their dinghy. 

Charlie just entered the harbor and Wayne is headed out to help him with his mooring ball, since he is alone.

Some other IP friends are here this weekend: Liz and Devin onboard Moosetracks. They are new retirees and have been living aboard and sailing about since leaving their home in St. Petersburg on 12/12/12. We read on their blog that they were in the Abacos and contacted them a couple of days ago. They are in Hope Town for a wedding. We look forward to seeing them and getting caught up.

Thursday, April 25 - Wayne and I are now even. I left my camera at Nipper's on Monday, and last night Wayne left his VISA card at the Jib Room. He also realized this morning that our depth gauge wasn't registering. Not a good thing when there's a full moon and you're in a very shallow harbor (the full moon makes low tides lower and high tides higher than normal). We wanted to be well clear of Marsh Harbor before low tide, but first Wayne had to get his credit card and fix the depth gauge. We left the dock and anchored in the harbor, got the dinghy down from the davits, and off Wayne went after calling the Jib Room and confirming that they did indeed have his VISA card. Mission accomplished, he was preparing to get in the water and dive under the boat to check out the depth gauge, but thankfully, it had inexplicably started working. Yay, God!

On to our destination, Man-O-War Cay. The entrance to the harbor is very narrow with only room for one boat to pass through at a time. As we prepared to enter, Chatty Cat was coming out, so we turned around and waited for them to emerge. They were leaving to join everyone else at Hope Town on Elbow Cay and we debated heading over there instead and returning to Man-O-War later. There's a constant dilemma of staying with our friends—we enjoy being with them—or doing our own thing, which we also enjoy. It's all a matter of balance. We knew they were going to dinner tonight at a restaurant that was hosting a special "full moon party," and since we had been out to dinner with Charlie last night, we didn't want to eat out two nights in a row. That's another dilemma: we hate to be party poopers, but two restaurant meals a week is enough for us. Of course, if we joined the others in Hope Town today, we would also join them for dinner. And we would have a great time with them.

We decided to stick with Plan A. Upon venturing into the harbor between Dickie's Cay and Man-O-War Cay, we realized that it was very tight and the mooring balls were very close together and other boats had anchored among the moored boats. Plus, we nearly ran aground. Wayne couldn't get out of there fast enough. We found a nice, roomy anchorage on the outside of Dickie's Cay and ate lunch.

I wanted to explore the sandy areas exposed by the low tide, so Wayne dropped me off and waited in the dinghy. 

I found and possibly saved the lives of many little creatures that were left high and dry by the receding water. I came across this print of a starfish in the sand and a few inches away, the starfish had somehow flipped over (Is that even possible? I would have loved to have witnessed that maneuver!) so that he was sandy side up, probably to protect himself from the hot sun. I gently picked him up, placed him back in the water, and watched him come to life, stretching and wiggling all of his little limbs. He actually appeared to dance!

Then I asked myself as I walked away, was God happy that I did that? Or had I just disrupted the natural order of things? What are your thoughts?

We continued on in the dinghy and tied up to a dock outside of Albury's Sail Shop, where they make handcrafted canvas bags of all types, colors, and sizes, as well as hats, placemats, and other canvas goods. Some are constructed with batik fabric made on the island of Andros in the Bahamas. Their work is beautifully done and well-constructed.

Wednesday, April 24 - A friend of Wayne's from church, Charlie Singmaster on Unseasing, was in Marsh Harbor, so we decided to head over to Mangoes Marina for the night. It is a very shallow harbor and we came in at low tide, so Ray, the dock master, put us at the end of the T dock until it was deep enough for us to move to a slip. Charlie had heard us radio the marina and was there to help us dock. We visited with him for awhile, then Wayne and I walked in to town. There wasn't much to see. They do have a beautiful, well-stocked grocery store, Maxwell's, so we stopped in and left with a quart of strawberries and three bananas. 
Hurry with the picture, already!
I need to find me some GRASS!

Charlie was alone and we had planned to have him over for dinner when we eventually caught up with him. However, that occurrence coincided with rib night at the Jib Room, so we invited him to join us there instead. It was a short dinghy ride across the harbor at Marsh Harbor Marina. We had a hearty and delicious dinner of barbecued ribs, potato salad, and cole slaw. It was fun visiting with Charlie. His wife can't cruise with him anymore because she has such a problem with seasickness, even when the water is calm. Charlie told us about his experience on the way over. He crossed the gulf stream on an overnighter from Marathon all the way to West End. He had to motor, ended up in rough seas, and got a bit banged up in the process. Said he'll never try that again.

Tuesday, April 23 - There was still so much to check out on Great Guana Cay and we weren't ready to leave yet, so we decided to head north a ways to an anchorage in Baker's Bay. A tiny nearby island, Spoil Bank Cay, looked like an interesting place to explore, both on land and in the water; it also had a pretty beach. We decided to anchor there for a while while we checked the place out. I put on my snorkeling gear and began to swim toward shore, but there was a considerable current and I returned to the boat. So we loaded our gear into the dinghy and headed closer to shore. Wayne quickly realized that it wasn't his kind of snorkeling and I agreed that there wasn't much there, but it doesn't take much to fascinate me, so I was content. I observed a few barracuda, some angelfish and others, a sea cucumber, many large, red, sea stars and other live shells. 

Wayne was anxious to get back to the boat, so I didn't have time to see what was on shore. When we returned, we heard Ginny G. hail Change on the radio and congratulate Mary and Rich on their first Whale crossing. They stayed behind at Green Turtle when the rest of us crossed on Sunday. When we heard later that the winds were supposed to switch to the north and increase from five to twenty knots and stay strong for the rest of the week, we were concerned that they would be stuck at Green Turtle for awhile, so were relieved to hear on the VHF that they had made it across. I knew they were close by because they were on channel 17, which has a range of about a mile, so I hailed them when they finished talking. Ginny G. and Change were headed to Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana, in the same harbor that Chatty Cat and Broadwater II had moored the previous two nights, around the bend from where we had anchored. They left this morning for Man-O-War Cay. 

We pulled up our anchor and started toward our anchorage in Baker's Bay. A few minutes after ending my conversation with Mary and Ginny, the wind picked up to 25 knots. What a blessing that they were safely across, although the wind did make docking a challenge for them. If you remember, they had a very unpleasant time crossing the gulf stream and didn't care to experience anything like that again.

Monday, April 22 - I was up early and by 7:30 was busy taking everything out of the freezer so I could defrost it. Did the refrigerator, too (yes, it too had frost). I've learned to expedite the process by using the hairdryer, and by 10:00, the job was done and everything was re-stowed and reorganized.

The skies appeared threatening and barometerbob.org was predicting showers and thunderstorms, but that did not stop Wayne and me from loading up our stuff and heading over to the Atlantic side of Great Guana Cay with the intention of snorkeling. The reef is accessible from shore and is said to be the third largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef and the one in the Florida Keys. My heart sank as we walked through Nipper's Beach Bar up on the bluff (if there's another way to get to the beach, we don't know it) and saw the breakers pounding the beach below. No snorkeling for us today, so we left our gear on a rock and opted for a stroll on the beach instead.

It began to rain just as we picked up our gear and headed back up to Nipper's. Do we walk the half mile or so back to the dinghy and motor back to the boat in the rain? Or do we wait it out at Nipper's? The worst that could happen is that we would be stuck there for awhile and enjoy a nice lunch, I reasoned with Wayne. We chose a vantage point up in the gazebo with a lovely view of the ocean and watched the rain pour down for about half an hour. Aside from a few early imbibers huddled around the bar, we were the only customers there. Finally, we made a run for it to the enclosed restaurant down below and took seats at the bar where we could watch TV and get caught up on the news. It was the first we had watched TV since leaving home.

The rain stopped just as we finished lunch and resumed with increased intensity immediately after we were back on the boat. It was a perfect afternoon for a nap, and I slept for two hours!

At 6:00 I realized that my camera was nowhere to be found. This is a new underwater Olympus Tough camera that Wayne got me for Christmas—I haven't taken a single underwater picture with it yet—and with a sick feeling in my stomach, I knew that I must have left it at Nipper's. I called them and was relieved that they had found it up in the gazebo. Thank you, Tanya! Wayne wasn't quite so thrilled that he had to go back and get it, but fortunately, the rain had stopped for the day.

At 8:00 I called to check in with Chatty Cat. We were anchored in Fisher's Bay with the dinghy put away, and they and Broadwater II were at mooring balls in Settlement Harbour, a mile or two away. They invited us over to play Farkle, so we got the dinghy down from the davits and headed over. The water was calm, unlike last night, when we got part way there and turned back because it was too choppy. We had a good time playing Farkle and Sequence with Cathy and Glen, their travel companions, Jan and Mike, and Anne and Jeff from Broadwater II.

Sunday, April 21 - We anchored off Great Guana Cay and immediately headed in to shore for the world famous Sunday pig roast at Nipper's Beach Bar and Grill. We left the dinghy tied up on the beach at Grabbers Bar and Grill and walked up the hill to Nipper's. What a place! It sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a gorgeous, seven mile-long beach. The tacky but cheerful colors of the place charmed me instantly, and tropical music and great people watching gave it a festive atmosphere. We joined our friends on the upper deck. Wayne enjoyed the pig roast buffet and I enjoyed my lobster salad sandwich. We BOTH enjoyed the rum punch.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Green Turtle Club Marina

I thought this post went through on Friday and just discovered that it didn't, so will try again and add an update.

Friday, April 19: We are tucked in at Green Turtle Club Marina, docked next to Ginny C, with ChangeChatty Cat, and Broadwater II close by. And as you can see, we finally have internet access. Not dependable, but we have it at the moment, and that will probably be the case from now on.

Apparently, a cold front has moved in. I'm sitting in the cockpit and just told Wayne that I could use a sweatshirt. Wouldn't you know, after three nights at anchor relying on the generator to cool us off, we're finally at a marina, paying an additional $20 a night for 30 amp electric, and can't even take advantage of the a/c. Life is tough.

It's been a long trek from West End to here. We covered 51 miles on Tuesday to Great Sale Cay, 49 miles on Wednesday to Powell Cay, seven miles on Thursday to Manjack Cay, and nine miles today. Green Turtle Cay could be considered the beginning of the main part of the Abacos, and everything from here on is pretty close together.

I had been dying to get in the water and finally had the opportunity on Wednesday at Powell Cay. There was no reef and we didn't see any fish (except for quite a few stingrays from the dinghy on the way to the beach and a few nurse sharks), but we had a great time snorkeling with Broadwater II and Chatty Cat, gathering sand dollars and sea biscuits. With 85 degree water, similar air temps, and nothing in the water that we needed protection from, we had no need or desire to don our wetsuits. Sunscreen alone, though, was not enough to protect our backs from sunburn.

Yesterday the other two boats moved on to where we are now at Green Turtle Cay, but Wayne and I opted for an anchorage on the northwest side of Manjack Cay. It was a beautiful anchorage and we were the only boat anchored there—exactly the break we needed after nearly two weeks of long days and traveling with others. With twenty knot winds and choppy waves, it was too rough to go far in the dinghy or snorkel, but we did a lot of hiking and beach combing. And of course, we relaxed and soaked in the beauty of God's creation, so grateful for the privilege of being able to do this.

We were anxious to have internet service so we could find out what was happening with Dennis and Shirla. Dennis's email included a long list of equipment they had replaced—they accomplished a lot in a few days! Unfortunately, the weather window for crossing to the Bahamas closed starting today and another opportunity doesn't appear to be imminent, so they are headed back to Punta Gorda. Dennis and Shirla, if you are reading this, we miss you guys and are so sorry your trip was cut short.

Now we await the appropriate weather conditions needed to traverse "The Whale," an area that can be treacherous if conditions aren't just right. Ginny said we may have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday, so it looks like we'll be staying put for awhile. That's fine with me.

Our internet service here isn't allowing me to upload photos, or do much else online for that matter. I'll try again later.

Sunday, April 21: Since weather didn't appear to be favorable for them to cross the Whale in their trawler until Tuesday or Wednesday, Chris and Ginny decided to spend a week here and wait it out. Ginny C and Change had a horrendous time crossing the gulf stream—with horrendous bruises to show for it— and they weren't eager for that kind of excitement again. The Green Turtle Club Marina gave them a good weekly rate for dockage and golf cart rental, the primary means of transportation on the island. It's three miles to New Plymouth and the four of us drove down on Saturday morning.

As we made our way through town, dozens of people garbed in black clustered around the church made it obvious that a funeral was about to begin. As we walked about town we saw several signs on shop windows saying they were closed for  George's funeral. Two hours later when we passed by the church, the funeral was still in full swing. As we finished lunch and ice cream at McIntosh Restaurant and Bakery across from the cemetery, we watched the mourners finally congregate at the gravesite.

Last night after dinner ten of us gathered in the resort lounge for a rousing game of Catch Phrase. It was only a warmup and we didn't keep score, but there will be a rematch and the guys better watch out, because the women are ready.

It's rainy today, but winds have calmed down and Wayne and I are ready to tackle the Whale. Chatty Cat and Broadwater II will take the inside route, since they are catamarans and don't draw as much as we do. We hope to make it to Great Guana in time for the weekly pig roast at Nipper's Beach Bar.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Made it!

The Gulf Stream is like a river in the middle of the ocean and it flows north at about 2.5-3 knots. When there are winds from any northerly direction, crossing can be miserable, depending on how strong they are, and even treacherous because the wind and current work against each other causing large, turbulent waves. Some cruising boaters wait weeks for the right conditions. Winds from the southeast today provided the green light we needed to cross.

We had a safe passage and docked at Old Bahama Bay in West End of Grand Bahama Island at around 2:30. YAY! Before we could do anything else, we had to clear customs. While Wayne went up to do that and check in, I checked to see if I could pick up a wi-fi signal from the Marina and was successful. YAY again!

All five boats (four catamarans and us) clustered at the bridge in time to make the 4:30 a.m. opening. I think it was around 9:00 a.m. that the sky began to darken and radar showed scattered showers and thunderstorms that didn't produce more than a few drops of rain and minor rumbles where we were.

After motor sailing until late morning, winds picked up and switched direction, so we enjoyed a fabulous sail for the rest of the trip. We were amazed to learn later that we were the only boat that actually sailed; the others all ran their engines the entire trip, but we got in shortly after they did.

The folks from Change and Ginny C are docked directly across from us. Mary and Ginny came over to welcome us, then the whole gang hit the pool. All fourteen enjoyed dinner together to celebrate our crossing and Jeff and Anne Peltier's wedding anniversary. From this point on, some will stay together and some will scatter.

Only we, Ginny C, and Chat-Eau have taken their boats to the Bahamas before.

I know a bunch of people who are going to sleep really well tonight.

On our way . . .

. . . at last! Don't know when I'll have internet access.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lightening hit en route to Fort Lauderdale

Where do I start? Yesterday started out splendidly as we left our anchorage at Rodriguez Key, but quickly began to deteriorate at the point when a weather alert came on the radio, warning of severe thunderstorms with hail, frequent lightning strikes, 50-70 knot winds, possible waterspouts, and three inches of rain per hour.

Wayne and Dennis had decided to skip our planned stop at No Name Harbor, 44 nautical miles from Rodriguez Key, and continue on to Fort Lauderdale, about 70 nm. Dennis was understandably anxious to get his auto pilot taken care of, and Wayne thought we might have a weather window favorable for crossing to the Bahamas on Sunday rather than Monday. Moving on to Fort Lauderdale would give us options.

As the sky became darker and the warnings more ominous, I became scared and desperate to head for the relative safety of No Name Harbor. Wayne and I "discussed" it at length, but the captain overruled me and tried to be reassuring.

I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, so I scurried about the cabin, securing everything in sight, grabbed all of the portable electronic devices and stashed them in the microwave to protect them from lightning, helped Wayne put up extra sections of our cockpit enclosure, and whatever else needed to be done. I then hunkered down in the aft cabin with Emma to wait out the storm and buried myself in a book in an effort to distract myself from what was happening outside.

Some time later Wayne stormed into the cabin and said, "Call Shirla! I've been trying to hail Aurora on the radio and Dennis on his cell phone, but they don't answer! I want to make sure they're okay."

I called Shirla but got her voicemail.

When I joined Wayne in the cockpit, I was relieved to see that the storm had passed and the rain had mostly stopped. Wayne had been watching the radar carefully and turned to the southeast, away from the storm, when it appeared that we were headed right into the worst of it.

A little while later, Dennis finally called us on his portable radio. Aurora had sustained a lightning strike that had damaged their electronics, including the VHF radio, but he and Shirla were fine. Thank goodness!
Aurora, approaching Fort Lauderdale later in the day
Yes, that's a cruise ship - Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas -
yes, she's moving, and yes, we're directly in her path.
Shirla took this photo of us (that's us on the left)
We had decided early in the day to skip Lake Sylvia and spend two nights instead of one at Las Olas Marina in Fort Lauderdale. We made the 5:30 bridge opening, Wayne and I stopped for fuel, and we docked at 6:15.

The dockmaster gave us a slip right next to a beautiful yacht. She was custom built for Tiger Woods in 1997, according to the two guys who had been hired to detail the engine room.

We were all exhausted, but famished and not excited about cooking, so we walked over to Bubba Gumps for dinner.

Dennis has been taking inventory of the boat, trying to determine what's working and what isn't. I'm not clear on that, so I won't attempt to give details. What I know for sure is that the antenna at the top of their mast is gone and in its place is a black blob and lots of things don't work. The insurance adjuster won't be out until tomorrow, so Dennis and Shirla will wait and take it from there. One thing is clear: they won't be crossing to the Bahamas with us tomorrow. We hate to leave them behind, but there's nothing we can do to help. I feel so bad for them. After months of preparation and provisioning, it's a huge disappointment, but their attitude is amazing. They are amazing. So positive and matter-of-fact. On the plus side, they have no time constraints, so we are still hopeful that they will get their repairs done and join us in the Abacos in a week or two.

Our friends on Chatty Cat and Broadwater II who are docked at the yacht club, took the trolley over and joined us for dinner at Coconuts this evening. Tomorrow morning they, Toucana, and Chat-Eau will join us to make the 4:30 a.m. bridge opening and head across the gulf stream to the Bahamas. Mary and Rich onboard Change and Ginny and Chris onboard Ginny C. (trawlers) crossed yesterday, apparently also under less than desirable conditions. Ginny's email to me this morning said, "We got battered way too much yesterday. Lots of bruises and broken stuff. Poor Ginny C is boasting her first duct tape."

Things can only get better, right?

Mary, if you are reading this, Happy Birthday! You did it! YAY! I hope you had a fabulous time celebrating both events in the Abacos. See you soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rodriguez Key to Lake Sylvia?

We have nearly perfect conditions this morning and are enjoying a fabulous sail with a clean boat, thanks to the rain shower that roused us from our slumber to close our hatches at 4:30 this morning. We left our anchorage at Rodriguez Key at about 7:00.

Aurora in the Florida Keys
Yes, that was the actual color of the water yesterday

Aurora sailing off into the sunrise
(wish I'd thought to get this photo earlier)
Dennis on Aurora called us a little while ago to say that the drive mechanism that controls the rudder on his autopilot is dead. He called West Marine to order the parts, but won't have it until Tuesday. The group has a weather window for crossing and reservations at Bahama Bay on Monday; we'll have to explore our options.

Shirla called while I was writing this. They have decided to have the part(s) shipped to Bahama Bay so that our departure won't be delayed.

Emma seems to have settled in more quickly than usual on this cruise. When we first set out on a trip, all she wants is to be in our bed—with me—and sits at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me to come down, unwilling to join us in the cockpit. This time she was content to be down below by herself after a day or so, and moves back and forth from the bed to the settee. I wish Emma enjoyed being in the cockpit with us (at anchor she's okay with it), but what matters most is that she is content. I divide my time between sitting with her and sitting with Wayne.

I noticed this morning that Emma's ear seemed to be bothering her, so I checked and found that it seems to be infected. Fortunately, I have the stuff to clean it out and medication to treat it with. Poor baby.

We may skip our intended anchorage at No Name Harbor this evening and go all the way to Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale. Conditions are favorable to keep on truckin,' so truck we will.

If you haven't checked out the Cesaris' (Aurora) blog yet, it's a must-read. Shirla writes so eloquently, I pale in comparison. http://thecesaris.blogspot.com/

Motor-sailing now. The sail was nice while it lasted.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marathon City Marina

Marathon City Marina is a huge field of 226 mooring balls, and we have been there when it was completely full. Plenty of room this time, though, and we are moored next to Valhalla and Aurora.

Wayne had to run in to West Marine to get a remote microphone for the VHF radio. The one we have in the cockpit has been misbehaving and Wayne sometimes has to bang it on something to get it to work.

Valhalla, Aurora, and we dinghied over to Burdine's Waterfront Restaurant for dinner.

This was posted on the menu

In my prayer when I woke up this morning, I said to God, "Please let this be the day when things start to go in our favor." It was not to be.

I've told you about a few of our mishaps, but it's the many minor things not worth sharing or reading about that tend to wear you down. Make no mistake, though, it's all small stuff.

Wayne and Dennis determined that, because strong ESE winds would not be in our favor today, it would be best to spend a second night in Marathon. I was excited about the options available to us with a full day to do as we wished, even if all I did was work on my to do list. Two things I CAN'T do when we're underway, though, are to go for a walk and do errands, so I decided to make a final run to Publix, possibly my final opportunity before crossing. Surely there was SOMETHING I had forgotten to bring!

I looked up at the sky as we prepared to get in the dinghy and, although it was mostly clear, there were some ominous clouds to the southwest. "Is it supposed to rain today?" I asked Wayne. It's been very warm, so we had three hatches and a number of port holes open. He wasn't sure, so I checked the weather app on my iPhone. Zero percent chance of rain. We're good. I casually stepped down on the bedroom hatch which is directly over the bed, thinking, "Well, it's not going to rain, but there's no reason to take a chance." Normally, we never leave hatches open when we leave the boat.

Off we went, to a dock Wayne had tied up to on a previous Publix trip, about a mile and a half away. Unfortunately, the whole area was under construction and we could find no public dinghy dock. We finally asked a woman sitting in her backyard if she knew where we might be able to tie up. She offered her friend's dock (she was visiting), so Wayne left me there and off to Publix I went.

I was a woman on a mission, walking along the plaza, eyes fixed on Publix half a mile down the road, when suddenly I felt a strong force drawing me to the door of a shop. I walked in and lo and behold, I was at the Sandal Factory Store, with possibly more sandals than I have ever seen in one place before! I was in sandal heaven!

I called Wayne to see if I had time to browse or if he wanted me to hurry. Take your time, he said. YES! Ten minutes later he called back to tell me that it's pouring out, he's soaked to the skin, we left hatches open, and he was headed back to the boat. "Finish your shopping, wait until the rain stops, and take a cab back to the marina," he said.

WHAT??? It's raining??? I glanced out the window. Sure enough. Okay, I can deal with that. There are worse things than being stranded in a sandal shop during a rainstorm. A few minutes later it dawned on me that I keep a couple of plastic rain ponchos in the dinghy bag for such occasions. I started to call Wayne but he was already soaked. And slowwwly making his way at no-wake speed back to and across the mooring field. Oh, well.

I must digress here to explain that I am always on the lookout for comfortable walking sandals. I have really tender feet and if I walk more than about a mile in a pair of sandals, no matter how comfortable they are, I can't wear them again for several days because my feet need to heal. If I know I"ll be doing a lot of walking, I'll even bring an extra pair with me so I can switch. Thus, I need several pairs so I can rotate them. Or just not walk.

The deluge didn't seem ready to stop, but I was tired of trying to wait it out, so I paid for my (one pair of) sandals and continued on to Publix. As I crossed the parking lot, a gentleman returning to the car with his wife and their purchases dropped a bottle of wine on the ground! I couldn't believe that it didn't break! A woman pushing her grocery cart behind them admonished him, "That's alcohol abuse!" True story.

The marina was just over a mile away, so I chose to walk instead of take a cab. I called Wayne when I got close. He said that he and Emma would be waiting at the marina to pick me up. They weren't there when I arrived, so I waited a bit, then tried to call him. No answer. He finally showed up. The dinghy had run out of gas and he had to row half a mile against strong wind to get to the marina while keeping a careful eye on Emma. She and I stayed behind to minimize weight while Wayne rowed back to the boat, filled the tank, and returned to pick us up forty-five minutes later.

Wayne had a big mess to clean up when he returned to Lena Bea during the downpour. Lots of rain in the cabin to wipe up and dry out, but nothing serious. Thank goodness I closed the hatch over the bed!

We'll be leaving at 7:00 tomorrow morning for Rodriguez Key.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back on the Grid

We haven't had cell phone service since shortly after leaving Marco Island yesterday morning, so you'll see that I've added a couple of posts and edited the first one. We are approaching the Seven Mile Bridge and our ETA at Marathon is 2:30.

Wednesday, April 10: It is such a pleasure to awaken to quiet as opposed to the rude awakening of the generator starting up! Our house batteries have never been up to par, and Wayne finally replaced them this winter. That means we don't need to use the generator to charge them enough to make coffee in the morning, and we no longer have "power" struggles over my need to use power and Wayne's need to conserve it. I can use the inverter and don't have to worry about discovering that Wayne has turned it off when I thought it was charging my cell phone or computer battery. To further reduce power consumption, Wayne swapped out the halogen bulbs for LEDs in the main cabin. This has the added benefit of not giving off the heat of halogens, which is considerable when there are nine bulbs.

Today the group is dividing up. The three catamarans—Chat-Eau, Chatty Cat, and Broadwater II—are able to take a short cut inside the Keys because they have shallower drafts. We mono hulls—Lena Bea, Aurora, Valhalla, and North Star—must take a longer route through the Hawk Channel to avoid shallow water. Lena Bea draws 5 feet. We may meet up with the cats—as well as a couple of trawlers that cut through the Okeechobee—in Fort Lauderdale. If not, we'll see them in the Bahamas.

We are sailing today with ESE winds, 15-20 knot winds, and 1-2 foot waves.

Little Shark River

Tuesday, April 9: Little Shark River, in the Florida Everglades, is a notorious hell-hole due to its occupation by gazillions of the blood-thirstiest mosquitoes you never want to meet.  Unfortunately, it is also the only protected place between Marco Island and the Keys for mariners to stop for the night. With winds out of the east at about fifteen knots, the group decided to risk a possible rolly night for a mosquito-less night, and anchored about ¾ of a mile offshore. Now, Wayne and I have anchored in Little Shark River two or three times and have never had a problem, but based on its reputation, that had to have been a fluke. Nearly everyone we've talked to who's been there has a horror story to tell.

Anchored nearby are Dennis and Shirla (Aurora), Anne and Jeff (Broadwater II), Cathy and Glen (Chatty Cat), Sherry and Louis (Valhalla), Steve and Nancy (Chat-Eau), and Kathy and Steve (North Star).

We motored most of the way today, as the wind was mostly on our nose. No social time tonight; Wayne and I were ready for a quiet evening, and I think most of the others probably were, too. It's been hectic preparing for this trip, we spent the entire weekend and time the past couple of evenings socializing, and we need to charge our batteries. 

We enjoyed a nice dinner and now Wayne is trying to fix the washdown pump. I did a small load of laundry, just because I can. We bought a little washing machine (no dryer) that fits perfectly in the forward shower. I tried it out before we left home and it works as well as my machine at home. It will be such a treat not having to spend time schlepping laundry in the dinghy and sitting in laundromats, which were especially hard to come by in the Exumas.

So far things have gone pretty well for the group, although one boat got the mooring line tangled in its prop while preparing to leave Fort Myers and another boat snagged a crab pot while approaching our anchorage tonight (unfortunately, it was crab-less). A third couple had a problem with their rudder that delayed their arrival here by a few hours. We, of course, had the gennaker and washdown pump issues. If anyone else had problems, they kept it to themselves.

YAY! The washdown pump is now working!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fort Myers Beach to Marco Island

The last couple of days have been interesting. We've had a couple of minor boat issues and it's been a bit slow getting into the groove of things onboard. I always have to relearn at least 50% of the technical stuff I need to know on the boat if it's been awhile since I've used the equipment. Wayne and I also need to get into a rhythm, which takes a few days. Routines, communication, and priorities need to be worked out. Sailing stuff comes first, of course, but we are south of Marco Island and will soon be without cell phone service for a day and a half and I want to get this posted to the blog before that happens.

We moored at Fort Myers Beach around 5:00 p.m. on Monday. Several of the others were headed in to check out a sand castle building competition and the local restaurants, but we felt the need to just relax on the boat for the evening after so much busyness of late. We invited the folks from Aurora, North Star, and Valhalla over for drinks and appetizers, then settled in early.

Tuesday morning started out fine until Wayne appeared from the cabin with the dreaded spinnaker. Now, we really haven't had many problems with the spinnaker (more accurately, gennnaker) on this boat, but I still suffer from post traumatic stress related to spinnaker issues on Wind Dancer. So whenever Wayne decides to put it up, I groan. Yesterday he asked me, "Why do you always groan when I want to fly the gennaker?" Well, I didn't have to answer the question because we wrestled with the darn thing for at least an hour. Wayne forgot to secure the sock before we hoisted it and lines got tangled up, which led to a series of other issues. Our gennaker is 1400 square feet and no fun to wrestle with in the wind.

As we approached our anchorage in Smokehouse Bay on Marco Island, a guy in a dinghy came up to us and gave us directions to help avoid the shallow water in the center. I saw the name Imagine on the dinghy, but the guy did not look like Don and I couldn't convince myself that it was him. Maybe it was the hat or maybe his beard was different, I don't know. The funny thing is that he did the same thing when Aurora came in to anchor, and they didn't recognize him either! Unfortunately, Don is having serious back issues, so he and Anita are headed back to Punta Gorda.

After anchoring, Dennis, Shirla, Wayne, and I hopped in our dinghies and went ashore. We learned that there's a dinghy dock right behind the Winn Dixie store (brilliant!), so Shirla and I picked up a few things, then went for a walk while Dennis headed down to West Marine.

We joined Sherry and Louis (new Mariners, s/v Valhalla), Don and Anita, and Dennis and Shirla aboard Aurora for snacks, then Wayne and I went ashore for ice cream and to harass the rest of our group, who were docked at a local yacht club and dining at a nearby restaurant. 

This morning started out not so well. Our anchor chain was caked with mud, which would not have been a big problem, except the washdown pump wasn't working. Wayne tried everything to get it going, but to no avail. He finally resorted to using a bucket, which he lowered down with a rope to scoop up water, and slowly and tediously washed down the anchor chain with bucketful after bucketful of water as I brought it in with the windlass. We got underway an hour and a half late.

Emma can find a cozy spot anywhere.
See her in the bottom right corner?
Now we're enjoying a nice sail, with ESE winds at 10-12 knots and 1-2 foot waves. Our ETA at Little Shark River for tonight's anchorage is 6:00.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Headed to the Abacos!

Hey there! And welcome back! It's been two years since our last journey to the Bahamas and we are returning, this time to the Abacos in the northern part of the Islands. On previous trips to the Bahamas we have traveled to the Exumas, which are farther south, and the Ragged Islands, which are at the southernmost part of the Bahamas, about 50 miles east of Cuba. In the Abacos, 80% of the islands are inhabited and in the Exumas, 80% are uninhabited. When we were there in 2011, the Ragged Islands had a total population of about 50 people.

We left our home in Punta Gorda on Friday. Our boating club, the Mariners of PGI, had their annual regatta and weekend blast at Burnt Store Marina, which about 100 people participated in, including us. We had a great time, as we always do with the Mariners, and left Burnt Store a little after 10:00 this morning after stopping at the fuel dock to top off our tank and get a pump out.

Fellow Mariners of PGI friends
who will be traveling to the Abacos 
We are currently in the ICW, east of Captiva and at the southwest end of Pine Island. Our destination today is Fort Myers Beach, where we will pick up a mooring ball along with about half a dozen other Mariner boats and possibly other Punta Gorda folks en route to the Bahamas.

After months of planning and preparation, it feels great to be underway at last. We hope you will join us vicariously on our latest adventure.