There and back again

Well, it’s been a few months now. Here’s our much overdue post on coming back to the States.

So the engine never got fixed. As Tig took apart more and more of the iron beast, it became clear that it was not going to work, even if he pimped me out. Instead, we threw ourselves into Regatta week and partied it up over on other people’s boats.

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West Bay, New Providence Island.

We sailed from Georgetown to Blackpoint, then up to Norman’s Cay in the Exumas, then to West Bay, New Providence Island. From West Bay, we crossed the Gulf Stream to Fort Pierce. It was ~350 nm. We did it without the engine, and we took rest days in between.

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We arrived a little too early at the Fort Pierce inlet, so the captain wisely slowed us down until there was daylight. Then Wildie sailed into the channel to meet TowboatUS (we pre-arranged a tow to Harbortown marina, and nope, we can’t dock under sail!)

During the next month, we prepared Wildie to be trucked up to Maine. Then it was time for some fun.

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Our journey came to an end. Although we didn’t get further than the Bahamas, we did get to explore some newer places (to us) like Long Island and the Raggeds. Hopefully there will be more adventures in the future.

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What a perfect cruising day looks like

Maybe it was fate that engine troubles cut our trip short. Not long after, I ran into sv Serenade outside Exuma Market. We had met them in Annapolis, through sv Hurrah. Mike, Torunn and their two lovely girls live in Norway. They were spending a year in the U.S. and Bahamas.

The day Fairchild left, Serenade invited us on a day sail.

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V and E love spending time together.

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There was some snorkeling, some beach time, and lunch aboard. Then we headed back to Crab Cay.

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K took O for a dinghy sail. O loved it, look at his happy face!

Tig had caught a nice-sized lobster, so we had dinner on sv Serenade. He made his signature dish, ginger scallion lobster. After a yummy dish, the night was complete with music-playing.

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Regatta week

Georgetown Regatta Week in pictures.

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V participated in the Arts and Crafts show. She displayed her mermaid peg dolls, painted sand dollars and a small basket we worked on together. She sold a peg doll and the two sand dollars!

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V put most of the money she earned into the raffle, which benefited the local Red Cross. She won a beautiful silver and sea glass necklace that every boat wife (including me) coveted!

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If you want to keep kids occupied on a beach, just bury $40 worth of quarters in the sand. Kids activities included a treasure hunt, soccer game and foot race.

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Lord of the Flies, with balloon swords and shields.

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Talent show fun. My favorite was the “Anchoring Dance” song.

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Softball game: cruisers vs. locals.

And, of course, the Coconut Challenge. Although I was politely offered a spot on the team, I am decidedly way too non-competitive (why are all these overly-buff guys chasing after a pigskin non-spherical object again?) So I bowed out and cheered from the sidelines instead.

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(Photo Credit: sv The Amazing Marvin)

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(Photo Credit: sv The Amazing Marvin)

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The Fairchild team won the Coconut Challenge Race, but not without the “Great Coconut Scoring Controversy.”

There was a pet parade, and oh, a sailing race. Tig crewed on Fairchild, of course. I hung out at the beach, and neglected to take any pictures. The conversation that night went like this:

Me: Sorry Tig, but I have to tell ya. Watching a sailing race is not very exciting.

Tig: I hate to tell you, Serena, but being in a sailing race is not very exciting either.

We had a great time hanging out with sv Fairchild, sv Singing Frog, sv The Amazing Marvin (which is truly Amazing), and sv Serenade. Goodnight Georgetown.

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Georgetown memories

I think our sophomore cruise could be safely divided into three time periods: B.F., D.F., and A.F. (tongue-in-cheek for “Before, During and After sv Fairchild“). It’s been wonderful for the kiddos.

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(Photo credit: Fairchild.)

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V and O had their first sleepover on another boat. It’s a big milestone for this sibling pair. (Photo credit: Fairchild.)

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And we had their kids over for a night.

Not only has it been great for the kids, the menfolk got some much needed fishing time–Tig and Jesse aided and abetted each other’s spearfishing obsession. Here are some beauty shots of a big lobster Tig caught.

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(Photo credit: Fairchild)

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Their adventures and misadventures included a dramatic dinghy flip, stern-over-bow, while coming back from fishing.

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(Illustration credit: Jesse on Fairchild)

Except for a handful of sea urchin spines in Tig’s foot, everyone was safe. Fairchild’s dinghy engine was flooded, so the boys paddled to the nearest boat and got a tow back. The next morning, they recovered all the items that fell overboard, including a GoPro camera, fishing spears, dinghy anchor, etc. Only the grouper was lost forever.

We have lots of wonderful memories of dinner together, not to mention the numerous tows they’ve given us. Our lives are truly richer for cruising friends.

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Engine Saga – Part 2

This is Part 2 of our engine saga. After limping back to Georgetown, we had three different people come over to look at our engine. At this point, the engine would crank, but it wouldn’t fire.

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Expert guest #1. 

Trade: cruiser, diesel mechanic, marine electrician, and bachelor musician.

Matt, our first volunteer, spent a good hour with Tig testing the up and down the fuel system. They bled everything, tested compression with WD40. Finally, they narrowed it down to either the lift pump (easier fix), or possibly the fuel injection pump (bad).

Nice guy, good sense of humor. Thanks, Matt!

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Expert guest #2.

Trade: older salty Frenchman, former captain of a French submarine, very experienced cruiser.

We met Expert Guest #2 via a French Canadian translator at Chat n’ Chill beach. He was very nice and both men volunteered to come over to check things out. Tig had rebuilt the lift pump, by now, and was ready for round two.

“You know,” the translator joked, “If he fixes your engine, he gets to sleep with your wife.”

Ah, French maritime etiquette/humor.

Unfortunately–or fortunately–after an hour, the engine still wouldn’t start, thereby relieving me of the question of being pimped out. All kidding aside, they were really sweet guys and we were grateful for their help.

Likely suspect: fuel injection pump.

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Expert Guest #3.

Trade: Bahamian diesel mechanic.

So I called in a local diesel mechanic in order to get a third and final opinion. After a bit of wrangling, he says, “You have three options.”

“Serena,” my captain barked, “write this down on the iPad.”

I dutifully jotted down the mechanic’s dictation:

1. get a new engine.

2. rebuild the engine

3. rebuild the fuel injection pump

Oy.

We planned on pursuing Option #3. But in the meantime, Fairchild was nice enough to give us a tow when we needed to move. Thanks, Jesse!

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Engine Saga – Part 1

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Here’s how it all went down, the short version.

1. Duncantown, Ragged Island. We’re getting ready to leave the Bahamas to another Caribbean Island. Tig has been babying the engine the entire trip, changing filters, adding oil, changing oil.

2. Afternoon departure, Tig turns on the engine. It takes a second longer to start. He turns it off. Checks the engine room. Turns the engine on again. Also a slow start.

3. Cue ominous music.

4. We motor-sail until it gets dark. I put the kids to bed. Around midnight, the wind dies and we’re bobbing. We’re 35 miles from our destination. Tig turns the engine key. Nothing. He tries again. Nothing.

5. After 7 or 8 long tries, the engine starts. Now we’re concerned that the engine won’t start up again when we need it. So we leave it on.

6. After some debating, we decide to turn back to Georgetown. If it’s a small engine problem, we can fix it. If not, we’ll be in a place with more resources than Duncantown.

7. By sunrise, we pass Duncantown, where we had left the previous day. We motor on. By 10:30pm, we started to go through the Comer Channel. Tide is going out. Super low tide. We might hit bottom (MLW depths ranging from 5.2 – 7 ft). And there’s no moon.

8. The waters get a bit too skinny. Tig throws down the anchor and we wait a couple hours until the tide comes back up. We leave the engine on, neutral. Then we proceed.

9. By next morning, we reached Georgetown. We arrive at Crab Cay, near the pavilion. We see that Fairchild is there. As we pull in to look for an anchoring spot, Tig throttles down. The engine sputters out and dies.

10. I tell him now’s a good time to throw down the anchor, and he does. The engine won’t start anymore. Having delivered us safely to Georgetown, it decided to call it quits.

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Duncantown

We did some more fishing on Buena Vista Island, where we met the one inhabitant, Ed. We enjoyed talking to him and getting a tour of his little farmstead which included sheep, chickens, baby chicks, ducks, peacocks, and a small orchard of coconut and papaya trees. At the time, he was still building his house.

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We caught a nice sized lobster.

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A small rock-hind grouper.

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And a tasty hogfish. V asked me to make a fish stew like the Maggie B. She brought the book out, laid it on the table and told me she opened it to the recipe for me.

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So this was my version: In a pot, saute garlic and red onion until soft. Add potatoes, carrots, and cook for a few minutes. Add one can of coconut milk and one can of diced tomatoes (drained). When potatoes are cooked, add small chunks of white fish meat, lobster meat, cook until done. Season to taste. I like to use a Caribbean mojo seasoning.

After Buena Vista Island, we headed south towards Duncantown.

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Coming into Hog Cay on a rainy day.

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The settlement of Duncantown had this wonderful little hut built. It is a place for cruisers to get together and the location of the much anticipated annual Valentine’s Day party.

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I like all the little touches that make it special (note the sea bean hanging ornament on the right).

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Next to the hut was an outdoor shady canopy. Here Tig is talking to sv Destiny. We liked the mix of people there, though we wished there were some kid boats.

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The Raggeds

The weather forecasted a week of Easterly trade winds, so we took advantage of the window to head back to Long Island and then turn south toward the Jumentos/Raggeds.

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From the Explorer Charts:

The Ragged Islands are not just more southerly Exumas but rather unpopulated wilderness with only one tiny settlement…

Cruisers must be self-sufficient here; there is one settlement in the entire chain with few services.

I was a bit nervous about going to a place with very limited services, but Tig reminded me that it was no different than  the Berries. The Ragged Islands were even more wild and beautiful.

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Most of the time we had anchorages all to ourselves.

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Sea cave in Flamingo Cay

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An osprey flying over it’s nest.

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Some good shelling at the beach.

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And, of course, spear-fishing. V is his snorkeling buddy and spotter (for lobster, yummy fish and sharks).

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Tig speared a small queen triggerfish. At this point I have to mention that ciguatera is a real danger when eating reef fish. We’ve known a couple of people from our last cruise who came down with this foodborne illness. Tig sticks with smaller fish (the toxin bio-accumulates) and avoids all barracuda and jacks.

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Derecho

The salty weather word of the day (from Wikipedia):

A derecho (/dəˈreɪtʃoʊ/, from Spanish: derecho [deˈɾetʃo], “straight”) is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can cause hurricane force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods.

I’m laying down in bed trying to sleep. The left side of the bed rises 6″ and then drops, repeat on the right side of the bed. The process repeats itself every 5 to 15 seconds until after breakfast the next morning. Not very restful, but the kids don’t seem to mind. You’d think I picked a bad anchorage. And you’d be right. But half a dozen other boats are anchored with me in our little bay.

We’ve all hunkered down waiting for the cold front to arrive and the wind to clock around from E to S to W. The geography of the central and southern Bahamas does not fare well with W winds. And a prolonged exposure to strong (20+ knots) of W winds means everyone is looking for a place to hide.

It all started a couple weeks ago, with something called the derecho (see above). Cruisers have been calling it the worst blow they’ve sat through. A Black Swan. If Nassim Taleb had been there, he would have enjoyed writing up the case study.

The night of the derecho, we were coming in to Georgetown from Lee Stocking Island. I knew that the wind was going to shift to the W-NW during the night, so we tucked in to Goat Cay. We put down the anchor around 3pm. Winds were predicted at ~25 knots. There were about 175+ boats in Georgetown, and most of them want to be on the other side tucked behind Stocking Island, because that is where Chat n’ Chill and Volleyball Beach is. It’s the water cooler of Georgetown.

A couple of boats came over to Goat Cay later in the afternoon. There were a few boats in Crab Cay, which also had good protection, but the majority of the boats were either at Stocking Island, or the Monument or on the West side near Georgetown itself.

We had just finished dinner when the wind picked up. At first, it was just the sound of whistling over our boat. Then there was a burst and it seemed as though an invisible hand slapped Wildie. Water bottles, and loose items slid across the table and fell onto the floor. I turned on the electronics and popped up to take a look. All three boats in Goat Cay were well anchored and swung together. We turned on the VHF to channel 68 (the cruiser’s hailing channel) and heard mayhem. Boats dragging, anchor lines snagging, boats getting beached. Luckily, no one was hurt, though there were a couple of boats with severe damage the cruiser’s net was abuzz with requests for lost items and repairs. Kamarad later reported that on Lee Stocking Island two boats broke off, one beached and one got blown to sea but came back. Piper, who was at Staniel Cay during the blow, told us a 75-foot power each dragged and almost hit them.

No one expected the blow to be so strong. But, with the trauma fresh in everyone’s mind, the next predicted blow was met with high alert. We were in Long Island with Fairchild a few days before the next blow. We debated whether to ride it out in Long Island, where there is no SW protection, or to head back to Georgetown. We had even checked out a hurricane hole in Stella Maris on the northern part of Long Island. Most of the time, deciding where to anchor isn’t so arduous, but this time, it felt like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

In the end we decided to be conservative. We pulled up anchor and sailed the 20+ nautical miles back to Georgetown to seek shelter from the front. Unfortunately, there are 170+ boats in the harbor with the same idea. We arrived in Georgetown about 36 hours before the predicted front, but already the good spots are full. Crab Cay had 10 boats, one of them Piper. We circled around and said hi; we were glad to see them again. Lisa reported that the talk on the net made this upcoming front sound like the next Armegeddon. Red Shanks, the storm anchorage in Georgetown was pretty full. The west side of Goat Cay, which I’ve never seen any boats there before, already had five boats. We made six.

Unfortunately, with east winds, we bobbed up and down with the ocean swell all night. The blow was as expected, maybe not as strong from the SW as predicted. I even started to suspect that staying in Long Island may have been a viable option, until I ran into one of the cruisers who was there through the front. Winds up to 50 knots, he reported. Mighty uncomfortable night.

Like I said, a rock and a hard place.

In happier news, back in Georgetown, we found Piper again! We are happiest with other boat families, hanging out at the Nut Bar. Tripp came up with a great activity for the kids.

Joint boatschool day! The challenge was moving heavy objects (a 50lb water jug and a large rock) from one end of the beach to the other and up onto a table. We gave them a pile of assorted beach trash (lumber, sticks, Styrofoam) and some ropes and pulleys, but no instructions. Their teamwork and ingenuity was amazing – you could see the neurons sparking! –Piper & Tink

Setting up the pulley system.
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Moving water jug across beach. (Photo from sv Piper.)
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Lift a big rock. (Photo from sv Piper.)

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. There’s something to be said about the post-party letdown, when cruising boats go their separate ways. We’ve enjoyed hanging out with Piper and Fairchild so much. With any luck, we just might meet again.

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Long Island

Long Island was a first for us. Up until then, we had been revisiting all our old cruising grounds. Naturally, I was feeling excited and a bit anxious about sailing to a new-to-us place. But first, a few more pictures from Georgetown.

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O tries his hand at the net.
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Feeding conch bits to the rays on Chat n’ Chill beach.
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A rainbow over Elizabeth Harbor
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Sunset in Georgetown.

Luckily, we met sv Fairchild in Georgetown and the kids enjoyed having new playmates. So when Bethany and Jesse expressed interest in sailing to Long Island, we were thrilled.

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Fairchild over for a playdate.

We left Crab Cay in the morning after some fussing with the secondary anchor (thanks, Jesse!), then off, with the sound of the conch horn. By 10:30, the engine was off and it was an easy sail most of the way until we got closer to Thompson Bay. The waves started to build up and it got uncomfortable, but that was short lived. By 3:30pm, we anchored in the lee of the land and the waves settled.

The next morning, Fairchild arrived and anchored nearby. Tig did some much needed engine maintenance and changed the composting head. Such is cruising life, there’s always a long list of things that need to be done.

The best part of Long Island was renting a van together with Fairchild and exploring.

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We were told that this abandoned church was a must see.

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Dean’s Blue Hole, where some swimming and hiking happened.

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All around the island, we saw boats that were blown in. Long Island was hit hard by Hurricane Joaquin.
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Mostly it was a fun day for the kids to hang out.

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The beach near Adderly Plantation.

We found that Long Island was similar to Eleuthra in it’s ethos. More laid back, and more of a sense of the local life there. Georgetown, to us, is a necessary evil. A place to get topped off on water, fuel, and any services needed, and also to make connections. But, for us, the real fun cruising happens elsewhere.

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Buddy Boating again

My friend Wendy joined us right after Christmas for a 10 days and all I have is one picture to show for it. Why? Because we were too busy chatting away like we were in high school again.

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It was nice to have a helping hand aboard, whether with sailing or with the kiddos, though we did find our boat to be shrinking…or maybe it’s the kids that are getting bigger?

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We sailed from New Providence to Allan’s Cay, down to Norman’s Cay, where we met another kid boat, Kamarad. A buddy boat! Simon and his three girls were on winter break. The girls spoke mostly French, but somehow the kids all managed to play despite the language barrier. Simon and Tig got to go on a couple of “man-dates” aka spearfishing trips, but we didn’t get anything. Instead, V picked up a big conch and we had conch fritters on our boat.

We sailed together to Staniel Cay and revisited a couple of familiar places.

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O returns from his first snorkeling experience at Thunderball Grotto.

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Of course, the swimming pigs.

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The Kamarad girls preferred to watch the pigs from their dinghy.

After our adventures at Staniel Cay, Wendy had to catch a flight home. We left Staniel Cay that day and had a beautiful beam-reach sail to Lee Stocking Island. We made our way down to Georgetown in the next couple of days.

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O caught a little fish off our boat.

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V made a friend, B.,  from Italy.

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Watching conch salad being made at the Conch Shack.

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The conch are delivered live, about five tied together with a rope through holes (see bottom right). My understanding is that three conch can scheme to get away, but five won’t agree on any one direction (I believe we call that a committee), so they stay stuck.

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Kamarad rejoins us!

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Five little monkeys.

Sadly, winter break came to an end and Simon and the girls left. We miss them.

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I think we know you

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We would have skip the entire island of New Providence if it weren’t for 1) the weather front coming, and 2) we had to wait for my dear friend Wendy, who was flying into Nassau right after Christmas.

Tig decided to book us a stay at Palm Cay Marina, which was a welcome stop since the garbage was piling up and our fuel, water and food stores were getting low.

The staff greeted us with smiles when we reached the fuel dock. A worker from the dockside came over and gave the kids cookies. There was a beautiful pool and beaches protected by breakwaters. Marinas are like the Land of the Lotus Eaters. Best to steer clear of them or you’ll find yourself dreamy-eyed and empty of wallet.

We left the fuel dock to go to our assigned slip. As we rounded a corner, I saw a flannel-gray sailboat next to our assigned slip. The owners of this beautiful boat, Sargo, smiled came forward to the bow, as all boat owners do, to protect their vessel. Tig turned into the slip across from ours and started to back into our slip. Our neighbors were chatting and helping out a bit with the lines. I noticed the gentleman was on our finger pier, and he was being super friendly.

“I think we know you,” he said.

Hmmm, I thought. I don’t remember seeing them–and especially that striking boat–at anchorages, they must recognize us because we stick out a little bit.

“I think we had dinner one time,” he continued.

Tig thought he said I think we should have dinner sometime. “Yeah sure,” he responded, because Tig’s a nice guy. We were still figuring out the lines and the pilings, so we were a bit distracted.

“We had dinner with mutual friends, Mark and Marta,” he prompted us.

Suddenly, hearing familiar names reeled in our attention. We all started looking at each other quizzically.

“I remember a friend named John,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s me,” he said.

Now I was feeling bit embarrassed. Up till then I hadn’t look at him too carefully.  Pieces started falling into place. Yes, he did look awfully familiar now. “Are you the one with the aluminum boat?” I asked.

Affirmative.

“With only soft shackles,” I continued, grasping for more details.

“Wow, you remembered that?” he laughed.

“I didn’t recognize your boat.” In my head I had pictured a shiny aluminum boat. Sargo was a soft matte gray, like the Stoneware baking pans I covet.

“We’ve never seen his boat,” Tig clarified.

It’s a beautiful boat, I tell you.

It was starting to come back to me. We met Mark and Marta at Constitution Marina when we were getting ready to cruise the first time. They were also getting their boat, Por Dos, ready for a cruise. Mark and Marta very sweetly invited us to dinner to introduce us to John and Laurie, and to ease my mind about cruising.  So Tig and I arranged a babysitter, which was no small feat, and we all gathered at a bistro in Charlestown. Over dinner Mark, Marta, John and Laurie shared their cruising experiences with us and helped put my mind at ease. I learned that John had bought an aluminum boat and it only had soft shackles. Laurie and John cruised when their kids were younger and were getting ready to cruise again in a few years.

We never saw John’s boat, Sargo, but he spotted us coming out of the Cape Cod Canal back in 2013 and sent us an email, “looking good.” he said. (It’s something sailors say to one another.) We didn’t tell him about our engine cutting out in the canal.

Later on during that trip, we met up with Mark and Marta and their boys in Spanish Wells and had dinner with them on Por Dos. They went on to cruise the Caribbean and the Med, through the Panama Canal to the South Pacific and ultimately to Australia.

And here we were, several years later, hanging out with John and Laurie again.

And by the way, we did have dinner together that night.

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We had a nice stay at the marina.

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The marina had a courtesy car, which we took advantage of. We visited the local produce market.

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Crabs at the market.

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Food shacks before the crowds came.

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Berry Islands

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The Sapona wreck, where Tig and V snorkeled.

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A peaceful crossing from Bimini to the Berry Islands.

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Caught a barracuda, it ran off with our lure.

After a week in Bimini, we were looking forward to visiting one of our favorite places in the Bahamas.

The Berry Islands is a great place to:

::  Snorkel and spear fish. One of the reasons Tig wanted to cruise again was a chance to improve his game. He already speared 10+ lobsters and 4 lionfish. Check.

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::  Gather on the bow to watch the meteor showers.

::  Get some #nakedsuntime. Moderate and wise interaction with the sun can help shore up on pro-hormone Vitamin D and its anti-cancer properties. Read more here and here.

::  Go skinny-dipping. Although there were a few more boats than last time, the Berry Islands are still infrequently visited enough that we could shed the casts of civilization, including clothing.

::  Take a technology sabbath. No wifi, no internet.

::  Hike to the Blue Hole, one of our favorite spots from last time.

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Sophomore cruise: Bimini

Our sophomore cruise is a bit like having a second child. There are fewer pictures, but lots of processing reflecting. Things you thought were hard with the first child/cruise, don’t seem as daunting with the second. And things you took for granted with the first child/cruise, you learn to appreciate.

We had left Key Biscane (No Name Harbor in Billy Bragg Cape Florida State Park) at 3am to cross the Gulf Stream. It was a moonless night, and nine sailboats were anchored outside, staging for a morning crossing. There were a few tense moments when we realized some of the channel markers had moved, and we had to search for them with a spotlight. It didn’t help that we were hobby-horsing and waves were crashing over the bow. The crossing was rougher than we anticipated.

By early morning, the kids woke up, and threw up despite the Dramamine I gave them; and I wasn’t feeling that great myself. Once in the cockpit, though, they each found their own comfortable spot to rest.

Around 8:30, we caught a mahi-mahi. It gaves us a little excitement and perked us up a bit.

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Tig, seasick, but happy.

As the day wore on, the motion eased and we felt more comfortable. Seeing Bimini buoyed our spirits.

As we entered the channel, I went to the bow for visual navigation–I’m pleased to report that I didn’t flip out like last time. I was happy to see the familiar sight of the Big Game Club, which we anchored near. Tig knew where to check in at Customs and Immigration, and where to get a Batelco SIM card for data.

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The turquoise waters is just as beautiful as I remembered it. It’s like color therapy for my soul.

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There were a couple things we looked forward to in Bimini that didn’t quite pan out: going to Radio beach and getting some homemade guava ice cream.

Last time, we found lots of treasures at Radio Beach, but, three years later, we found it bereft of sea glass and tile. We think either the hurricanes swept them away or people have picked through everything, though I did find a heart sea bean. And the little store with homemade ice cream wasn’t open the whole time we were there, so we opted for fresh made coconut bread instead.

Cruising again also made us realize the things we took for granted the first time around.

Weather. Our last cruise, the weather was amazing, sunny and dry. This time, we had days and days of rain in Bimini that kept us from snorkeling. Our bedding and clothes were getting damp and we were all starting to get cabin fever. I realized that I didn’t fully appreciate the fabulous weather we had the first time. I told myself that when the weather cleared up, I wouldn’t take it for granted.

Bugs. The wet weather also brought out vicious no-see-ums. I didn’t remember getting anything more than the occasional mosquito bite last time in the Bahamas. This time, I was getting about 20 bites on each leg, despite using bug spray. Again, I had failed to realize how lucky we were the first time. Once the wind picked up, I breathed a sigh of relief and counted my blessings.

No kids boats…yet. Last time, we had met Tommy Dundee and Night Music along the way, and it really helped our spirits to have a buddy boat and for the kids to be with other kid boats. Spending time with Night Music in Bimini was so fun, we miss them! We’re hoping to find more kid boats as we get closer to the Exumas.

On the brighter side, the kids are so much more capable! Now that they’re older, the kids sleep in the aft cabin, which gives Tig and I some adult time in the evenings.

Seven is great age for cruising (and five is better than two!)

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The kids “paddling.”

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O checking the fishing lines off the stern.

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V helping us pull up the anchor.

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Haulover Canal

Between New Smyrna and Titusville is a sweet little anchorage called Haulover Canal. Over a dozen manatees chill out at this watering hole. These beautiful creatures continue to charm us, just like they did three years ago.

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Although we tried to maintain a respectful arms length away, they came up right up to us, nudging our kayak. They were so close, we could feel their breath…but no, we didn’t touch them. I find it hard to believe that these gentle giants inspired the mythical mermaids, but I guess beer goggles can do wonders for weary sailors.

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They frolicked. The babies nursed. Once in a while they breached, much to our surprise.

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The kids even took a turn paddling around. V wisely gave them wide berth.

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Unfortunately, they also took a liking to sucking on our boat. I tried to tell them that our boat wasn’t that clean, but they wouldn’t listen.

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Jacksonville

After a long month it felt exhilarating to cut the dock lines, even if only for a short hop to Jacksonville.

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We left around noon and arrived at Jacksonville Landing around 4:30. Conditions were mild and docking was trauma-free.

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Over the next couple of days we explored a bit. We watched the Veteran’s Day parade, went to the park and library, and rode the Skyway. After two nights, we discovered a Harley meetup was happening near us that evening so we moved to Metropolitan Park. That would be our jumping off point to New Smyrna.

And just like that, we’re cruising again!

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Projects, projects, projects

We were at a working boatyard for exactly a month, down to the day. It was a long month of getting the boat ready, with a few moments of fun thrown in. Here are a few of the highlights.

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Ripping out the old head.

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New Airhead composting toilet installed. No more holding tank or smelly hoses!

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Our dinghy was in bad shape and needed some fiberglass work.

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And painting…

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The engine needed some work, so I saw a lot of this.

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Our messenger line, a stand-in for the halyard that is threaded through the mast, rotted away in the Florida climate. So we were without a line that leads to the top of the mast…which means that Tig had to find a way to get to the top of our mast and drop in a new messenger line. Getting a crane would have set us back a couple of weeks and $500, so Tiguyver spent a few sleepless nights figuring out a way in his head.

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He came up with this rig to climb the mast, which would would probably cause an uproar among armchair cruisers. Let me be very clear. We do NOT recommend this. You could kill yourself free-climbing a smooth metal pole if you fall from 50 feet in the air. The rigging could fail. I’m not posting a tutorial on how to do it. You can YouTube how to climb a mast unassisted. Tig did what he had to do, given our circumstances, and we had a few safety lines set up. Still, it was a risk.

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Near the top. He was able to drop in the messenger line, which I pulled through from the bottom of the mast, along with the jib halyard.

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Then he had to go back up again to drop in the main halyard messenger line. This time, he used the jib halyard and a bosun’s chair. A bit more safe.

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Putting the boom on. It’s resting on my shoulder.

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In between, we spent some time doing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy.

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And provisioning…

Our internet has been and will be intermittent, so posts may be infrequent. You can follow us closer to real time on Instagram or Twitter or just check on the sidebar.

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Experience is the desert

Well it hasn’t been an easy few weeks, they don’t call it livin’ on the hard for nothing.

Most days I want to cry and throw in the towel. But these words from James Altucher comfort me:

In your heads, right now, is that desert. The stories we tell ourselves that create not only who we are but who we aren’t: the excuses, the fears, the angers, the anxieties.

People on every side laugh at you for trying. But they don’t know why you are doing things. What motives you have. Only you do.

Experience is the desert. Belongings are the chains. Adversity is the desert. Opinions of others are the sand traps.

Everyday, one foot in front of the other.

Crossing the desert.

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All our crap below Wildie.

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Two-and-a-half years of entropy have taken its toll on her.

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The hull cleaned up and bottom painted. Port Supply sent us the wrong colored bottom paint, so Wildie has a little black dress now.

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Getting ready to be splashed.

To water.

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Recently stacked wood pile. #WinterIsComing t.co/TNGhGDmoJx

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Bubble tea, mango moon cakes, sesame balls, bamboo bread, cream puff, and Japanese raspberry pastry. Mmm. Flushing t.co/F7sP9t2DmA

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Argh. Snowing now at home.