31 Dec 2016

Early hours of New Year's Eve at sea off the coast of Mayaguana

I'm making the most of having an internet signal as we sail off the coast of the southernmost Bahamian island of Mayaguana en-route to the Turks and Caicos.  It's my watch as Paul catches some sleep and very windy but we're well reefed down and in a couple of hours will be turning south and putting the wind behind us which will make for a more pleasant sail.  And within 8 hours we will be in the marina relaxing by the infinity pool of the associated 5 star resort .... a cocktail or two beckons!

It's been a passage of three parts: The first 12 hours motoring with next to no wind, the final 12 hours with high winds and the 20 hours in the middle very pleasant.  At the moment I am staring up at the most amazing canopy of stars .... no light pollution here!  It's really warm too as we're now back in the tropics, not that the Bahamas was remotely cold. We're looking forward to seeing something of the Turks and Caicos as we have never stopped before .... photos to come.  Time to check the chart plotter again now ....

29 Dec 2016

29/12/2016 : Georgetown, Exumas

We're not leaving for the Turks and Caicos until 4pm this afternoon and so we are relaxing today given our next two nights will be at sea.  There will be very little wind for the first twelve hours but then we will pick up winds as a new weather front catches us up. So a journey of two halves ....

This morning we went for a hike to the highest point in the Exumas, Monument on Stocking Island. It was worth the climb as the views were amazing.

28 Dec 2016

28/12/2016 : Starting the long haul south-east

We had a great Christmas in Blackpoint Settlement and made some good friends along the way.  Dinner on Christmas Eve on a neighbouring catamaran was fun, as was dinner ashore on the big day itself.  We went along wearing some novelty reindeer antlers much to the amusement of most people there but soon donated them to the DJ and the restaurant owner as the evening got underway.  On Boxing Day we hosted dinner aboard Tumi and had another fun evening, so all in all a big success despite the very high winds!

This time of year is known to have predominantly north-easterly winds, perfect for us to sail south-east from the Bahamas to the British Virgin Islands .... or so we thought.  With all the lows in the northern hemisphere, we are seeing unseasonally strong trade winds blowing from the south-east, and forecast to continue doing so for the next week or more.  Not what we want or need when we have friends flying into the BVI on 15th January.  So we've decided to try and hop down in stages and yesterday saw us complete the first and short stage down to Georgetown on Great Exuma.  The forecast ENE at 16 knots actually translated into winds of 22-28 knots just south of east, making for a beat into wind and swells but we managed to sail all the way.  Yet again it's shaken our confidence in the accuracy, or otherwise, of the forecasts.

Stage two will see us depart Georgetown for the Turks and Caicos islands where we plan on spending New Year subject to the marina there having availability ..... fingers crossed!  And then stage three will be a 3-day sail to the BVI later next week when we're hoping the wind strength will have lessened and that there might be a little bit of north in the forecast.  Fingers crossed.  We've never stopped in the Turks and Caicos before so it will be nice to see somewhere new.

In the meantime we're giving our new bbq a go tonight for the first time.  It's a free-standing affair, double-skinned (the outer skin doesn't get hot - or at least that's the theory) with a small fan underneath the small charcoal chamber to regulate the air flow.  Good old German engineering .... sounds almost too good to be true!

24 Dec 2016

Christmas Eve - Black Point Settlement

We have spent the past few days relaxing in different anchorages, and getting to know some more sailors better. The past two days we have been in Black Point Settlement, the last bastion of the real Bahamas and have been joined here by several Canadians and the odd american boat. We are the token Brits in the anchorage but hey ho! We have been to happy hour on shore the past two evenings, the rum punches are lethal here and last night they were not taking any prisoners! There was a party on and the drinks and music were full on, with loads of the locals there enjoying the scene. On the way back to the boat, I dropped the kill cord for the outboard in the water at the dinghy dock, stripped off and went in to retrieve it. Fortunately the water was neither too deep, nor were there any predators nearby and I was able to find it quickly, climbed back aboard and motored back to Tumi sodden.

Today has been a baking day, we have been invited to dinner on board a catamaran tonight and we are doing the hors doeuvres so we are making savoury scones and baking bread rolls, my bread making skills seem to be coming on in leaps and bounds.

Tomorrow we and most of the other boaters are gathering at 4:30pm for drinks and christmas dinner at 6pm on shore at Lorraines, apparently last year's spread was really good so we are going to give it a try.

The christmas winds are here too, and we let out an extra 10 metres of anchor chain just to be sure we would hold. There's plenty of room in the anchorage so it wasn't an issue to any of the other boats.

Anyway, that's all for now, a very Merry Christmas to all our readers!

20 Dec 2016

20/12/2016 : Big Majors Spot, Exumas

After a good crossing from the Berrys to Highbourne Cay at the northern end of the Exumas chain, we continued further south to Warderwick Wells after a night's sleep, to make the most of the north easterly wind before the wind clocked to the south east, which would have made sailing untenable.

Warderwick Wells is one of our favourite places in the Exumas, a national park that is ruggedly beautiful with the Atlantic crashing on the eastern shore and a protected lagoon on the western side where the mooring field is.  The water is the most amazing turquoise colour and the sand white and fine.  Ashore are hiking trails, blowholes, wildlife and, on the highest point of the island called Boo Boo hill, a pile of driftwood where passing sailors inscribe their names.  We added Tumi's to the pile.

We enjoyed a couple of hikes over the weekend spotting plenty of curly tailed lizards, a blue tailed skink, a snake and several butterflies. There have been very high tides (full moon) and a number of the trails were underwater but being ever the adventurers we ploughed on!

As we found in recent years, staying in smaller anchorages with a focal point ashore is a great way of meeting fellow sailors, sharing stories and plans.  There is a wooden gazebo on the beach at Warderwick Wells and on Saturday night about 30 sailors from around the world met up for sundowners.  Amazingly we met a couple from Sheffield and so were able to chat about places closer to home too.

After another windy weekend we sailed three hours south yesterday to big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay, another favourite place and home of the swimming pigs. Despite being the last of 5 boats leaving and heading for the same place we were the first to arrive, Tumi being the great boat that she is for pointing close into the wind.  The deep water channel to leave Warderwick Wells is narrow and we came close to clipping a moored catamaran which suddenly moved with the wind but Paul's quick action averted a collision, thank goodness. And now we're back in the land of communication, albeit frustratingly slow!  It's amazing how much we miss it when it's not available so we're making the most of it now.

One thing we have got to start doing is looking for a good weather window to sail to the BVI in time for friends arriving. Winds in this part of the world are generally from the south east or north east.  It's a 5 day sail and as we will be travelling south east we want wind from the north east to enable us to sail and not be motoring into swells.  As it's looking at the moment we may have to change our plans to spend Christmas here as the winds clock to the south east on Boxing Day so we will probably sail down to Great Exuma just before Christmas and wait for the next north-easterly weather window to sail on from there.

16 Dec 2016

15 Dec 2016 Sailing to the Exumas

We have had a couple of relaxing days in the Berry Islands after leaving the Great Harbour Cay Marina. We had to motor around the top of the islands and in through a cut to nestle behind Cabbage Cay and Little Harbour Cay. There were two other boats already at anchor and we dropped the hook a reasonable distance from them in about 3 metres of water at low tide. Taking the dinghy to explore the waters between the islands we negotiated our way through shallows and deep channels, with turtles and stingrays galore scooting out of our way. It's surprising just how fast turtles can go when they want to, but equally refreshing to see so many in such a small area.

By the time we had returned to Tumi, another catamaran had dropped anchor next to us so we had company for the night at least. The couple on the catamaran next to us invited us over for sundowners, and Jane was playing her steel drum when we went across. Debra had a go, and did very well at it, with Tom and me accompanying on a scraper and rattle. Surprisingly a good sound!

We found a restaurant on the island (total number of inhabitants:3) called Flo's Conch Shack and we had lunch there yesterday with Tom and Jane from the catamaran next to us. As we tied up at the dinghy dock, three sharks (one adult, 2 juniors) started circling around the dock, obviously used to being fed with the conch and fish scraps.

When we booked the meal we were offered the choice of fish (snapper) lobster or conch. We both chose lobster, but when we polled up to eat, the choice was conch or fish only, so that's what we ate with coleslaw and rice and beans, true Bahamian fare.

We ate far too much, and then as tradition demands left our legacy on the walls of the shack.

Back on board, there was no wind and it was really hot, so we both jumped in the water to cool off, a first for this season, now we just have to top up the tans!

Getting a signal to access the Internet has proved somewhat challenging and we have to try every angle possible to succeed ...

11 Dec 2016

10/12/2016 : BBC on Great Harbour Cay

That's baking, bread-making and cycling, all part of today's activities.  Whilst it's very beautiful here and somewhat off the beaten track, buying groceries isn't straight forward so we decided to open the Tumi bakery and successfully produced a loaf of bread and some bran muffins ... very proud!  The French lady on the boat moored next to us even gave me a lesson in baguette making so we'll be putting that to the test in the near future.

The marina provides complimentary bikes to explore the island so this afternoon we headed out for some fresh air and cycled around 8 miles on bikes with no gears nor brakes .... hard work on some of the hills I can tell you!  They also arrange social events so last night about 20 of us dined on the dockside and put the world to rights, all good fun.

The previous evening we were lucky enough to be given three freshly caught lobster tails and, after looking up how to cook them, produced a very attractive plate of food which tasted absolutely delicious.  Accompanied by a glass of white wine, we dined like kings.

It's pretty windy this weekend and so unusually for us we've opted to stay in the marina for a week ... at least this way we can get off the boat easily.  Tomorrow morning we're off for Sunday brunch at the only hotel on the island .... a small boutique place on the beach run by an English couple.  We called in today to book a table and we're welcomed with complimentary drinks .... all very civilised!

7 Dec 2016

Up Shark Creek without a paddle ... 7 Dec 2016

We went kayaking today, up Shark Creek (sounds somewhat proverbial, doesn't it?) into the mangroves and back again without any mishaps, capsizes or loss of paddles, contrary to the title (although it probably got your attention!).

Once Debra got the hang of paddling (this was her first time) she did very well, although our shoulders now feel the benefits of the exertion of effort and we will probably both be in need of a massage tonight. However, despite the exertion, we both really revelled in the peace nad tranquility of not having to listen to a four stroke outboard engine as we glided up through the main channel of the creek as far as we could go and still turn the kayaks around. Shallow waters with carpets of sea grass swaying in the current a few inches below us, exchanging places with deep pools where swimming would be so welcome (if it wasn't for the sharks .... actually, we didn't see any, disappointingly).

Having done the creek, we then ventured out into the Atlantic Ocean (or at least a bay of it) to get to a beach club for a late lunch and a few well earned beers.

We borrowed the kayaks from Steve, the manager of the marina we are staying in, a really nice guy, and so helpful. In fact, we would heartily recommend anyone visiting here, it is go nice. We will happily ride out the coming storm here.

6 Dec 2016

6 December 2016 Great Harbour Cay

We set off from Key West at 2:30pm with great expectations that the weather was going to play ball and allow us to sail all the way to Great Harbour Cay. Hmm. As we left Key West we expected the winds to veer from East to southeast so that as we headed east we would be close hauled but able to sail relatively easily. Well, the winds decided not to move as predicted and we were really pushing the envelope sailing too close to the wind, but also into the waves. Not a comfortable sailing situation. By the time we got to midnight, we had had enough and diverted into Marathon Key to an anchorage that is deep enough to take our draught to get some sleep and see what the weather was doing in the morning.
At 6am, we got up, checked the weather forecasts yet again to see that the winds had shifted round to the south east, we could go. We changed our approach this time and took the Hawk Passage (inside the reef) as far as some shoals, then branched outside into the main Gulf Stream waters. As we got further round the Keys, we started to head northeast and the sailing really started. The first part of the Gulf Stream was rather bouncy, the result of days of wind over tide, but once we got out into the deeper water things calmed down a bit and we were blistering along and it turned out to be a great sail. As we approached the North Rocks near Bimini we calculated that our average speed for the last 4.5 hours was 10 knots - not bad at all!
We turned into the Bahama Bank as the winds moved to the south, meaning that we should have had a good sail onwards across the bank, however, the short punchy waves on our bow had other ideas and it turned out to be something of a slog with the bow being pounded by every other wave coming towards us, no sleep for either of us last night so we arrived pretty jaded at high water today. The tally for 24 hours sailing - 180 miles, a pretty good average speed of 7.5 knots.
We are now tucked up in the cosy marina we like here on Great Harbour Cay, planning to stay for a week to allow a severe weather pattern to blow through and we will remain in our hurricane hole while it exhausts itself.

4 Dec 2016

4/12/2016 : Readying to set sail to the Bahamas

By lunchtime today the winds will swing from the nort-east to south-east enabling us to start the one and a half day sail to the Berry Islands in the Bahamas.  The trip basically breaks down into 3 parts : 12 hours sailing just outside the reef along the length of the Florida Keys; 12 hours crossing from Florida to Bimini, including the Gulf Stream and then 12 hours across the Bahama Bank where the water will be between 3 and 6 metres deep and the most amazing turquoise colour.  We're hoping the forecasters have got it exactly right this time ..... it looks almost perfect sailing conditions for where we want to go, and that doesn't happen too often!

We've enjoyed being in Key West and to some extent are sad to be leaving the US where everything we need, be it food, spares, entertainment, facilities, is readily avaliable but are looking forward to the beauty of the Bahamas. We've used the extra few days here to undertake a bit of boat maintenance (something neither of us particularly enjoys so we tend to avoid) but also to enjoy the local colour, brew and Christmas preparations, all in all making it a fun place to be.

30 Nov 2016

30/11/2016 : A change of plans, Cuba is off!

We're both feeling pretty disappointed at the moment having just taken the decision not to go to Cuba.  The recent death of Castro has the country operating an official 9 days of mourning with everything closed : No restaurants, bars or public buildings open in the lead up to his funeral on Sunday.  We finally managed to find that the marina we would have had to enter through is open, after a frustrating day making calls and talking to people, but that was about the only thing.  Our only weather window to cross the Straits of Florida was tonight.  So of our week in Cuba, it would have been closed for 4 of the 7 days.  Add to that the cost of entry and marina fees (over £650), then we decided it just wasn't worth it this time on every level.  So, despite getting Canadian dollars sorted and buying a lot of things to take as gifts for the Cubans, we'll head to the Bahamas instead, probably sailing straight there leaving tomorrow morning.  C'est la vie ...... with a little bit more time to wait for another weather window it might just have happened but not this time.  So we're sad but pragmatic ....

28 Nov 2016

28/11/2016 : Chillin' in Key West

We're having a lazy few days here enjoying the sunshine and atmosphere, and lunching out each day given we don't expect to have much opportunity to do that in Cuba, and the Bahamas come to that, although to a lesser extent.  Yesterday we visited Ernest Hemingway's home (he was here with his second wife in the 1930s), something we didn't do on our last visit.  This trip has a big Hemingway connection however given he moved from Key West to live with his third wife in Havana and the marina we will be staying in over there is named after him no less.  Hemingway was a big presence in Cuba and lived there for 20 years before returning to the US and taking his life just before his 63rd birthday.

As for his time in Key West, he wrote about 70% of his novels here in a relatively short but obviously creative period.  His property was built by a shipping magnate in the 1850s and still had an outdoor cookhouse when the Hemingways bought it in 1931.  He converted the top floor of the neighbouring coach house into a studio and ran a cast iron walkway from the verandah outside the master bedroom of the main house directly to it using the cookhouse roof as support, so he didn't have to go outside and across the garden when his creative juices were flowing.

Hemingway was a bit of a one with women and had numerous affairs.  When he was involved with the woman who was to become his third wife, his then wife decided to install a swimming pool in the garden of the family home in Key West.  Not only did she site it on Hemingway's favoured boxing ring, but she spent $20,000 on it, a lot of money back in 1937!

Hemingway's home, like many in Key West, has metal roof tiles.  Following a fire back in the late 1800s it was decreed that all new and replacement rooves had to be made from metal .... won't burn and more resistant to hurricanes. This ruling still seems to be in place today.

It's looking like Wednesday evening is our weather window for crossing the Straits of Florida to Cuba so tomorrow and Wednesday will have to be about stocking up with provisions, including gas and fuel, laundry and being officially cleared out of the US so we have the right paperwork for entry into Cuba.  We've been told to take Canadian dollars (as opposed to US dollars) with us so today we went off to the Bank of America to exchange some, only to be told they wouldn't do it for us unless we had an account.  Fortunately we'd been chatting to a chap in the queue who has an account and so he ordered the Canadian dollars for us through his account.  Very good of him .... we could have been money laundering for all he knew .... but the kindness of strangers we meet along the way adds so much to our experience.

We probably won't be able to post anything to the blog whilst we're in Cuba but we'll takes lots of photos and will update it once we arrive in the Bahamas.

27 Nov 2016

27/11/2016 : Key West, Florida

We were lucky enough to be able to sail all the way from No Name Harbor to Key West without having to resort to motor-sailing!  Two whole days of wind and from the right direction too ..... doesn't happen that often.  That said the forecasters got it wrong again: Sunday's forecast was for 15 knots and we actually had over 25 gusting 33, a good job we know what we're doing.

Key West is as colourful, vibrant and trashy as we remember it but charming to boot.  So many different nationalities strolling along Duval Street, marvelling at the bizarre and beautiful all rolled into one.  Every other building is a bar or restaurant .... no need to go thirsty here!

Because we arrived on the Thanksgiving weekend there are a number of events taking place and so we wandered along to the international sand sculpture festival. What those artists can do with sand is incredible.

The weather is beautiful, if a little windy in the exposed anchorage, but the sunsets are stunning.  We'll stay here a few more days waiting for a good weather window to cross to Havana, Cuba.  I'm excited about seeing Cuba if a little apprehensive about the officialdom we might meet .... health inspection, sniffer dogs etc etc, all part of the clearing in process and to a level we've never experienced before.  But a lot of sailors are visiting now so I'm hoping the process is not too problematic.  We'be booked a couple of private tours in a 1950s car, one around Havana and the other to Vinales.  Cuba is a big island and to see it probably would take several months, something we haven't got this time, so it will just be a taster and if we like it we might visit again in the future.

Off ashore now ......

22 Nov 2016

22/11/2016 No Name Harbour, Biscayne Bay

We can't believe how Spanish it is here in the Miami area, from conversation to music to looks.  English definitely seems to be a second language!  That said it's a fun and friendly place to be and naturally very beautiful with manatees swimming around the boat and Pelicans flying above it .... not that I trust them when they're on a bombing mission..... the bimini bears testament to the accuracy of their bombs.  Say no more.

Now we're the proud owner of the new and improved dinghy and outboard, we're using them to explore our surroundings so today saw us flying across Biscayne Bay at around 12 knots to visit Coconut Grove, a suburb of Miami.  $400 on clothes later we beat a retreat.  The return trip was a bit more bouncy as the wind had built up, the swell also, but we made it back with no problem.

We spent yesterday evening in the company of a nice British couple, also anchored in No Name Harbor, and enjoyed several G&Ts before they fell back into their dinghy and made their way home.  A fun night all round.  This morning it was down to earth with a bump for Paul changing the impeller on the generator .... never a dull moment!

One more day here and we'll start the 200 mile sail to Key West.  We'll break it twice (too many lobster pots around to sail after dark) and then Cuba beckons.

20 Nov 2016

20/11/16 : No Name Harbour, Key Biscayne

After our maintenance day in West Palm Beach, we enjoyed a fun couple of days dining on the waterfront, exploring Peanut Island, visiting a farmer's market and even going to the movies.  The payback was getting up at 1am this morning to sail down to Key Biscayne, just south of Miami, so we would arrive at high water .... objective achieved and we're now at anchor on a wonderfully warm and sunny day, relaxing in the cockpit surrounded by other boats, many of which we're hoping are day trippers from Miami and that things will quieten down a bit this evening.  We must be getting old!

The sail down wasn't too bad at all but we lost the wind after Fort Lauderdale and had to resort to motor-sailing.  And we had a 1.5knot current against us most of the way which slowed us down considerably.  The forecast front that we hoped would generate some winds never materialised .... another triumph for weather forecasting! We're beginning to question why we bother checking!

So now we'll have a few days here exploring the Key and Biscayne Bay, something open to us now we've got the "new improved dinghy and outboard".  Let's hope there are no speed cops around!

18 Nov 2016

18 Nov 2016 Temporary Repairs done and pulled up for speeding

This morning we rubbed down the first application of gel coat and applied another two coats, rubbed it down and waxed/sealed it to weather proof the damage.

It's not a professional job but good enough to last the season until we can get a proper gel coat repair man on the case. It is weatherproof and though I say so myself, not a bad first attempt!

We had a nice lunch ashore to celebrate the fix, but on the way to a walk at Peanut Island we were exercising the 9.9hp engine when we were pulled over by the sheriff. It seems that we were in a no wake zone making more than a little wake so he put the blues and twos on and we were caught. A brief bit of grovelling and apologising seemed to do the trick, and we were let off with a warning, Phew! However, the same officer in the launch obviously needed a quota today and we saw him pull three more boats in quick succession. We have learned our lesson and will be taking things a little slower from now on.

17 Nov 2016

17 Nov 2016 West Palm Beach and a lucky escape!

Our trip down from St Augustine to West Palm Beach was a journey of two definite halves. Despite the weather forecast saying that we would have northerly winds of between 15 and 20 knots, there was next to nothing, and we spent all of Tuesday motor sailing down the coast. On Wednesday morning at 1pm, the winds picked up (even though they were actually supposed to decrease according to the same forecast) and we were able to switch off the engine and actually sail. From that point, we averaged about 8 knots for the rest of the journey and really enjoyed the sail. We have come to the conclusion that the weather forecasts are rubbish everywhere. We arrived in WPB at around 4pm and we're able to pick up our normal anchoring spot in Lake Worth, just next to some really large gin palaces that are British registered. It's a bit like home from home seeing the red ensigns.

It's been a maintenance and shopping day today (and not just food shopping).

A few days ago when we were in St Augustine we had the heating system running in the evening and morning when the weather was a bit chilly. Unbeknown to us, a fender had draped itself over the heater exhaust outlet and it got VERY hot to say the least.

 The fender was actually burnt through which is frightening on its own, how it never caught fire, we will never know, but we consider ourselves very lucky to have got away with it. Not just the fender was damaged, the hull obviously got hot too, and the gel coat cracked under the heat. The frightening thing is that if the fire had taken hold, our gas cylinders were right next to where it would have been ablaze. That would certainly have been the end of Tumi, and probably us as well.

The area around the exhaust has been charred as you can see from the photo, and we decided to patch it up for the moment and get it repaired professionally at the end of the season as it will need greater expertise than I possess.

 We started repairing the burnt and cracked part of the hull this morning, removing all the flaky bits of gel coat and sanding down the rough edges ready for the new gel coat application. The gel coat repair kit I already had was minus the hardener which had evaporated over the past year or so and that meant a trop to the chandlers ashore to get some new supplies. While we were in the chandlers, we stocked up on a few other bits and spares and then headed for the Publix supermarket to get some bananas. As usual, when you don't expect to see special offers, some buy one get one free (especially the mixed nuts) and bargains such as UHT milk at half the normal (exorbitant) price. Anyway, 157 dollars later, we had the most expensive bananas ever and had to get a cab back to carry them to the dinghy dock.

Speaking of cabs, we are really impressed with Uber - I downloaded the app onto my phone a few days ago and we have used it twice to carry groceries from the supermarket. Both times, the cars have been good, the drivers very polite and helpful and the tracking capability of the system let's you know exactly where your driver is. We will definitely be regular users going forwards.

Anyway, I have applied the first layer of gel coat this afternoon, will let it harden tonight, rub it down and put another layer on tomorrow morning. It won't be pretty, but it will do the job for now as we will need to haul out to get the work done and as our fridge and freezer use keel cooling, we would most likely lose our foodstuffs and we don't want to do that.

13 Nov 2016

13 Nov 2016 St Augustine

We have been here for a few days now, enjoying the town and we have been made very welcome by Kendra, the cousin of a friend, who has taken us out and about socialising and introduced us to her friends. We like St Augustine, we have been wandering around the town, exploring the lesser trodden parts and have found some wonderful shopping in the 'local' streets away from the tourist trail.

The dinghy and outboard have been tested out, and are working well, once the boat is on the plane, we scoot along much quicker than we ever did in our last boat, and longer distances will not be any problem now. We are looking at going to lunch at a waterside restaurant 5 miles away and the thought doesn't put us off at all.

We were visited in the mooring field by a couple who noticed our Ocean Cruising Club flag yesterday and exchanged experiences with them, they have circumnavigated twice and were able to tell us of their experiences in the Pacific. something for us to look forward to.

We will sail south to West Palm Beach on Tuesday when the winds are favourable (at least according to today's forecast, but the change daily) and we expect the trip to take about 30 hours to complete, but in the mea time, we will still relax on our mooring ball being woken up early in the morning by the klaxon horn of the nearby Bridge of Lions as it announces its opening to the world ... good job we go to bed early!

7 Nov 2016

7/11/16 ... Ready for the Off

After a relatively relaxed weekend overall, we've spent the morning readying everything to depart just before high tide this afternoon - it started raining yesterday afternoon so we decided to spend another night in the marina.  This involved taking the new dinghy and outboard out for a spin up Egan's Creek ... quite a turn of speed, and that's whilst we're running the engine in at under half throttle.  I was also pleased to see how easy it was to hoist the outboard onto the deck using the new gantry and "four to one pulley system" ... no effort at all to lift 90lbs of engine.  I'm glad Paul no longer has to manhandle a heavy motor, often in less than calm conditions.

So today we start the journey south. After seven months on dry land I'm feeling a little apprehensive but know I'll be fine as soon as we're underway.  We'll have to spend a few hours at anchor at Cumberland Island so we can time our arrival in St Augustine to coincide with high water tomorrow afternoon, but Cumberland Island is beautiful with long sandy beaches, wild horses and the homes of the Carnegie family.  We've been before but are looking forward to a quick revisit.  So at around 2am Tuesday morning we'll be upping anchor to experience our first night-sail of the 2016/17 season.  I'd forgotten how tide-constrained we are in Florida, hence the middle of the night departure.  Oh well, at least it's warm at night!

6 Nov 2016

6/11/2016 Back on board in Fernandina Beach

The clocks were set back last night so we had a second extra hour in bed (the first one was last week when we left the UK). The last few days have been busy for us, getting Tumi ready for sailing again. The coppercoat has been sanded back a bit to expose the copper again, the engine and generator have been serviced, the sails are back on and furled, the sprayhood is in place and the interior no longer looks like a scene from a disaster movie. We are getting a state of order back into the boat. Today we will put the bimini back on, and then test out the new dinghy and outboard. We sold the old outboard yesterday too - a bit of a bonus as we could have been left carting it around for quite a while waiting for someone to buy it, and space is always at a premium! The initial provisioning has been done, America is SO expensive for foodstuffs and supplies, I wouldn't want to have to shop here all the time, especially with the pound being so weak, but we have to eat so what choice do we have?

Amelia Island where the boatyard is was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Matthew and there was a tidal surge that wrecked the municipal marina in the heart of Fernandina town. The boatyard office was two feet underwater but Tumi was high and dry in her cradle. Having looked over the boat, we are both very relieved to see that there was no storm damage from Matthew, a couple of pins were shaken loose from the safety rails but we replaced those with some new ones and we are in good shape. The sails went on much easier than last time, which probably means we know what we are doing now (phew!) and we hadn't forgotten how to do it. The dinghy arrived shrink wrapped and was soon inflated, the outboard wasn't as heavy as expected and we had that on the transom sharpish, added the oil as required and all we needed then was some fuel. It gave me a chance to read the manual to see how the thing works, all very different from the last one.

One thing has struck us very quickly, how friendly the sailing community is, we have been offered rides to supermarkets and gas stations and have been made to feel very welcome. That's why we keep coming back to sailing, that and the lovely warm temperatures!

We are heading out from the marina today up the inlet to Cumberland Island, home of the Carnegie family where we will anchor overnight, then sail down to St Augustine where we will stay for three nights or more.

16 Mar 2016

15/3/2016 : Back in Fernandina, Florida

It seems no time at all since we left Key West for the Bahamas but just over 4 weeks after arriving in the Berry Islands, we departed New Providence for the sail back to Florida feeling a bit sad that this season's sailing was winding down.  We had hoped to break the 3 day passage with a stopover in West Palm Beach but looking at the forecast we realised a direct run would be more sensible and so 66 hours after departing we arrived in Fernandina in the middle of the night. Having been here before last November, we knew where to go and so picked up a mooring, had a very early breakfast and went to bed, shattered but glad to have made it safely.

The trip up was good: only 13.5 hours of motoring when the wind died, a smooth sea (unlike the crossing over to the Bahamas in mid - February the wind and current were in the same direction), warm and sunny weather and visits from dolphins along the way.  We didn't see many other boats but did witness an amazing lightning storm to the east of us over the Gulf Stream which lasted for hours.

After clearing back into the States yesterday we spent several hours at the laundry .... not all glamour! ..... so now everything is clean on board.  The marina has a very pleasant members lounge so at least we were able to wait in comfort whilst the machines did their thing.  Paul also got to sample his long-awaited BBQ aligator ribs, postponed from last year when the restaurant was closed.  Apparently they were very tender and tasted a bit like veal .... I waived the chance to sample them!

We'll be heading to the marina where we'll be leaving Tumi on Friday so have a couple of days R&R before the jobs of taking off the sails, packing, polishing the hull and wiping things over with white vinegar solution to detract mould from forming whilst we're away.  We won't be back out until the end of October which feels an awful long time to be not sailing but it will be lovely to be back on terra firma and spend time with friends and family .... not to mention closing Easton Court and overseeing its conversion into two houses.  It's going to be a busy few months for us but hopefully time well spent in terms of being able to finally sell the property and free ourselves up longer term for our ongoing sailing adventures.

We've travelled 2950 miles since we splashed Tumi back into the water in late September and have really enjoyed exploring the east coast of the USA from Annapolis down to Key West, and revisiting the Bahamas.  The friendly welcome of the people we have met, friends we have made along the way and interesting American Civil War and War of Independence history, together with the natural beauty of the Bahamas, has all made for a great trip.  Thanks for following us this season and we'll be back blogging around Halloween!

11 Mar 2016

11/3/2016 : New Providence Island, Bahamas

We're all feeling a little glum today, Jon and Hannah because they're flying home tonight and Paul & me because we've got to head north now to Florida to ready Tumi to be left for the hurricane season.   We can't believe the time has passed so quickly but we have to get back to the UK to oversee our conversion project.

We had a good sail over from Shroud Cay yesterday after spending our final night in the Exumas there on Wednesday.  Shroud has large mangroves to explore in the dinghy and so that's what we did, pumping it up three times during the excursion .... the slow leak is certainly speeding up!  We also built our own cairn, a permanent reminder of our visit given we never got to Boo Boo Hill on Warderick Wells to place the piece of driftwood with all of our names on it.

New Providence island, home of Nassau, has a bit of a bad reputation for safety so we've never visited it before but that is where the international airport is so here we are.  We were lucky enough to be told about a retired sailor with a private dock alongside his home and so we're moored up there.  It's on the quieter side of the island but there's not much in the vicinity so we're killing time a bit today. We did venture out for lunch at the one neighbourhood beach bar. The view was good ..... we'll leave it at that!

Tomorrow morning Paul & I will leave for Florida.  We had hoped to spend a couple of days in the Berrys again on the way through but there's a good weather window over the next few days before the winds die so we're going to be sensible and go when the conditions allow.  Our next entry will be from the US in a few days time so it's goodbye from the Bahamas for now.

9 Mar 2016

9/3/2016 : Hawksbill Cay

We've had a busy few days, hence the lack of blog entry, visiting Big Major Spot to see the swimming pigs (photos to follow), snorkeling in Thunderball grotto and also visiting Cambridge Cay, a first for us too.  The weather was very calm for the first few days but returned with a vengeance overnight whilst we were at Cambridge Cay, far exceeding the forecasts and making it a bit of an hairy exit.

Cambridge Cay is simply beautiful being surrounded on all sides by pristine white beaches and turquoise seas ... what's not to like?  It is however one of those places a
where are deep draft means we have to leave the Bahama bank and re - enter the Atlantic side of the Exumas before cutting into it.  After our reasonably successful fishing endeavours of last week, we cast out the line again and almost immediately Paul reeled in a yellow - fin snapper, a 5 out of 5 in our eating guide.  He was only around 12" long though,  not really enough to feed 4, and so we threw him back to live another day.  Almost straight away another bite revealed an Amber Jack (a 3 out of 5 eater) but this was smaller still and so went back overboard.  Paul's still after the big Mahi Mahi that got away on the sail to Great Inagua .....

And now back to our departure from Cambridge Cay!  Despite being a sheltered anchorage, there was a bit of a roll and Hannah was feeling a bit head - achy so we decided to leave and hopefully find a calmer spot back on the Bahama Bank side of the island chain.  That meant exiting via the Atlantic and boy what an exit!  With a strong current flowing out and very strong  winds blowing in over shallow waters, the waves did cut up a bit and we were heading straight into them so it made for a rough ride to say the least. Fortunately we only had a couple of miles to do before we could cut back in to the Bank and much calmer waters.  After that it was a great sail and we nearly caught something big on the end of the fishing line but it broke the 50lb line and got away, lure and all.

So now we've been at Hawksbill Cay, part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park as is Cambridge Cay, for the last two nights with the clearest turquoise waters imaginable as far as the eye can see.  We had a great day yesterday hiking on the island for a couple of hours in the morning before enjoying an afternoon BBQ on the beach, this time without iguanas sizing us up. The only downside has been the continuing roll making sleeping not easy so we'll probably move on again today, hopefully to Warderick Wells if they have a mooring for us.

Only two more days left of Jon and Hannah's holiday now so we'll be Nassau bound tomorrow to make sure we get them back in time for their flight.