Friday, January 28, 2011

First Tracks

Back home in the wintery north-west of Canada, my immediate and extended family are hitting the slopes, battling the snow and cold, seeking the ultimate in powder triumph--first tracks.  Here in the sunny, southern side of life, Nelson and I are getting first tracks almost every day, Bahamian style.

Here it is Friday again and just two days away from the great delight of welcoming my sister onboard Steadfast for a short holiday.  We can't wait to show her off to our friends and to introduce her to all our favourite joys of the Caribbean life as cruisers.
Stay tuned for more hilarity and drama as Steadfast drifts thru the azure waters, island-hopping from one adventure to another.  Let me know what you would like to read, hear about, or see in up-coming posts and I will do my best to produce for you.  Is there something you just can't bear not knowing about life at sea?
We can learn together.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rock a'bye Baby

It began shortly after midnight. Our gently rocking bed began to rock and roll. It was as if a perverse older brother started violently rocking little sister’s toy cradle to see how much it would take to toss Dolly out of her comfy nest among the blankets.

This Dolly, for one, was not impressed.

The winds at 18 knots were blowing from the Southwest. As the tide ebbed in the opposite direction, the waves began to build. Wavelettes, once lapping our hull, grew in size and began slapping and then punching us mid-ships, giving Captain and Crew a rude awakening.

Being a Doll with a reversible stomach (one pays extra for this model) I immediately took solace in the drug of choice: Gravol 50 mg. p.o.

-How quickly does it take effect, my friend Lesley once asked?

-Never. Quickly. Enough.

-Isn’t that the truth, was her voice of experience.

All was battened down securely, the precious Grandchildren photos tucked safely between cushions to avoid them smashing to the floor, shattering the glass and frames. There was nothing left to do but to wait it out for the next few hours. Even bolstered with pillows, I was rolling side to side on the bed.

YAWS! Sidewise motion always gets the weak stomach.

-Let’s switch. Let‘s lay sidewise on the bed and get forward motion.

PITCH instead of YAWS.

-This is sooooooo much better, exclaimed the Captain.

And with that, he fell soundly asleep. If this were a cross-word puzzle, the answer to that clue would be:


Ah, the joys of the conjugal bed.

Eventually, the drugs and change of position took effect, giving the desired result of sleep. We woke to a glorious morning in Big Majors Spot, gentle wavelettes, clear and sunny skies over the anchorage. With a forecast of heavy weather coming, squalls and gusts to 50 knots, Steadfast pulled up anchor and made way to safe harbor in Compass Cay.

How about you? Do you have a strong stomach and a stalwart inner ear that keeps you on an even keel? Or are you more like me, green around the gills, rushing madly for the rail when things get a little topsy turvey?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hit and Run

Why do these things always happen when I’m fast asleep and naked? Could it be, just once, I’d be wide awake, fully clothed and there to see it coming? Of course they say beware what you wish for….

We knew the blow was coming—everyone did. To that end, we left Big Majors and set up in the lee between the Majors a day and several tide changes before the onset. Captain B is meticulous when deploying the anchor. Once we’ve pulled back to take up slack and see if it’s caught, he then does a visual check, either by swimming over it with a snorkel and mask, or taking the dingy and Lookie Bucket to ensure peace of mind. Through Friday and Saturday, he checked it after each tide change--four times. Yes, it was dug in, well-set, and unmoving.

After dinner and a movie last evening, we did the usual “walk around” before bed. Wind and Depth finders were on standby alerts, the monitors visible beside the bed. All was ship-shape and secure. Nelson is getting over his aversion to going potty on the fake grass we so sweetly provided for him on the forward decks, and so we all turned in for the night, rocking not too gently in the building winds.

Cruisers’ Midnight (between 9 and 10pm) found us engulfed in thunder, lightning, rain and darkness. The wind was whipping at 25 knots. The blast of an air horn, never a good sign, woke Captain B and he reluctantly threw off the covers to investigate. No, we had not lost our position, not dragging anchor, not too close to our neighbours. When he opened the port side door…


A dark-hulled sail boat was careening broadside towards our bow pulpit, riding directly over our anchor chain. The lady skipper had her in reverse at full throttle and the husband in the shrouds forward was screaming at her to

“Move it! Why are you in reverse?”

She had to move, but if she had gone forward, she would have run aground in the shallows. Did I mention we have a full moon, meaning LOW low tides? By the time of the collision, the sailboat had moved sufficiently back to miss having her salon windows impaled by our bowsprit. What disaster that would have been.

While the sailboat crew did their best to gain control of their runaway vessel, the crew on Steadfast was busily tying on fenders, readying lines and adding layers of whatever clothing came to hand in the dark. Spot lights, docking lights, deck lights, house lights came blinking on in all directions, as one vessel after another around us became aware of the situation. Captain B got the engines started and ready in case we had to take evasive action. In t his case, it was like locking the barn door after the horse has fled. The sailboat wanted to come along side and tie on to us.

The current in full rip would not allow the distressed vessel to maneuver close enough. Probably a good thing for us. With dogged determination, she made her way north thru the anchorage, where she finally reset her anchor for the remainder of the night. She didn’t “run” far, and being the only dark coloured hull in the anchorage, she was easy to spot come daylight.

Dawn found us rocking broadside to the swell coming down the gullet from the Sound, turned 180 degrees from where we had been 6 hours earlier. Captain B is sporting a double tensor bandage on his hugely swollen right knee and the first mate is resplendent with the biggest purple goose egg on her left thigh. Steadfast is now engraved with two four-foot gouges on her portside forward quarter. Nelson seems to be the only unscathed survivor. In the midst of the melee, he took one tour of the deck to get the gist of things and then hie-tailed it back to his crate, either to hide (likely) or go back to sleep (lucky dog).

I have now added an addendum to the Storm Preparedness List:

Wear SOMETHING to bed when turning in for the night.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Let's Fillet Some Fish

Today, we have reached Nirvana.  Clear skies, calm seas and...

F I S H!

After going out with Good Friend Gale and coming home empty-handed yesterday, I was ready to redeem my good name as Food Provider on Steadfast. 

We cut the umbilical cord to the dock, threw off the shackles holding us fast, and pulled out into open Ocean enroute to Staniel Cay and Big Majors.  Just off Over Yonder Cay, we trolled through a school of Dolphin and hooked up two at once.

Ever since I hooked Something Too Big to Land, back in the day,  I have taken to tying off my rod/reels to the nearest cleat on the boat.  This afternoon, I was very glad I had.  While we were bringing in the first fish, the second one refused to wait patiently.  He fought the good fight and pulled the whole rod into the water.

Now the Bahamian protocal for cleaning fish goes something like this:

The first thing I do is "bleed" the fish and put him on ice.  In this case, I cut off the heads to fit them in the cooler, so that does two things at once.  We have now changed the name of Steadfast to

Slauter House Float.

There was alot of blood.

I learned the fine art of filletting fish when we were first married and living on Al Capone's island in Florida.  I got a refresher course on Block Island, with my friend Rick Guinnan.  Filletting a fish means you don't necessarily have to get into the yucky stuff.  Let's get started. 

A word to the wise:  going swimming first, because after there are blood and guts in the water around your'll see.

Step One:  cut along the dorsal line, flip the fish and do the same underneath.  Proceed to cut the flesh along the bone until the spine is exposed.  Avoid the body cavity.

One side removed. 

Two sides done.

This is when the WisenHimers quip, "Fillet and Release".

Step Two:  Removing the skin.  I have seen two methods that work, but the second one requires very strong hands and is extremely difficult for me when working with a bigger fish.  The Bahamian men grab a corner of the skin and just rip it off using a pair of pliers.  The choice is yours.

Once the skin is off, the red meat lateral line is exposed.  Step Three:  remove the red line, either with a vee cut, or by cutting the fillet in half.  I don't think this is an absolutely necessary step.  If people were stranded on an island or life boat, starving to death,  they could definitely eat this part of the fish.  Step three is for people who like their plated fish to be mild tasting and uniformly one colour.

Step  Four:  cut into serving size pieces, rinse in clear water, towel dry and pack to freeze.
This fish yielded 16 servings.  The second fish was a give-away to another cruiser, so I gallantly did the bloody part, but left the skinning to her.

Now remember the part about swimming first?
Here come the scangers.

I hope you enjoyed the filletting lesson.  It's sort of like Grade 11 Biology, without the reek of fromaldehyde, followed by a delicious dinner once the work is done.

It's Friday again, and you know what that means.


 I have been cleaning up my following list lately, you know, dropping the ones I never read anymore and who never read me either.  Well, it turns out, it's a numbers game after all.  Once bloggers realize I've moved on, they drop me too.  Followers are a fickle lot.  I love the ones who are here to read, make friends and leave comments.  If you are here visiting for the first time, please be advised that I do not "follow-me-I'll-follow-you" just for the sake of numbers.  My name is Rosemary.  What's yours?  Want to be friends?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Bird in the Hand

Bananaquits are tiny, nectar eating birds of the Caribean.  Black and white upper bodies with bright yellow bellies, these birds are pretty and popular entertainers around docks.  Very easily tamed, they will eat from your hand, sit on your shoulder, or fly into your boat for a visit.

Sometimes they need a hand to find there way out again.

Friday, January 14, 2011


After a false start on Monday, we made Nassau Tuesday around noon.  Coming into Nassau Harbour, the first thing we see is the cruise ship terminal. 

Now that's a BIG boat!

The Chart Plotter shows lots of activity.

Next we come to Atlantis, the all-time best aquarium/resort I've ever visited.  Somehow, we never seem to convince Captain Buz to pay the exorbitant marina fees to stay there.

Directly across from Atlantis, we find the commercial boat terminal, followed by Potter's Cay, where the local fishermen sell their catch.  Can you smell it from there?

Next stop, deisel fuel.  Over 400 gallons at $4.25!!!  There are times when sailboats have their unbeatable good points.

From Browns Boat Basin, we can see our slip at Nassau Yacht Haven.

A daily water charge is required, so we relented and washed the boat...a good, long, luxurious scrub, rinse and shammy job.  This is the marina we usually stay at when passing thru Nassau.  Over the past ten years, we have gotten to know the dock master Sydney and his crew, and they us. 

Welcome back, Steadfast!

Ah yes, the unrelenting rocking with the wake from harbour traffic, the sirens as police transport prisoners between court and The Big House at top speed down Bay Street, the sunken or half sunken boats littering the bay--we are back.

One overnight, a quick trip to the grocery store and the marine store for a new float switch and we were off again.  The winds are changing soon and we don't want to be stuck here.

I remember our first time crossing "The Dreaded Yellow Bank".  The cruising guides had us on pins and needles, terrified of hitting hundreds of barely submerged coral heads.  We have learned to tackle this portion of the trip with the sun on our beam, or better yet on our stern, to easily see the dark circles in the water.  It's all about "reading the water" as they say around here.

We reached Highbourn unscathed and plan to stay for at least 4 days until the NE wind eases off and the seas lay down again.  At least we can relax with no agenda.  We are where we want to be--The Exumas, mon.

When was the last time you had to wait out the weather?
Did you have a good time doing it?


Monday, January 10, 2011

Deep Sea Fishing

Old Bahama Bay, a long time favourite marina in the West End of Grand Bahama Island, was beautifully rebuilt after its total destruction by hurricane 4 or 5 years ago.  It made for a lovely first stop for Steadfast after crossing the Gulf Stream last Wednesday.

After 4 nights taking refuge from high winds and heavy seas, we decided it was "now or never" to make our move before the next cold front, expected Monday or Tuesday.  Clear skies and mild following seas greeted us as we left OBB Marina in our wake.

The Wahoo, king of the mackerel family, are running, and we were ready.

The scream of the reel as a 30 pounder takes the bait gets my heart pounding.  Yeehaw!  Fish!!!

Strike one.

15 minutes later, another strike.  This time, we brought our very first tuna aboard.  (a small one--18 pounds).  My mouth was watering instantly. 

Another strike out, followed by 2 lines attacked simultaneously.  Both Buz and I worked a rod until one had to be put aside in the holder to concentrate on one fish at a time.  Buz muscled a HUGE wahoo right to the edge of the swim platform, where, hear our shouts of frustration, it threw the hook. 

Strike three. 
Boo hoo.

 Now it's my turn.
30 pounds of speeding muscle, bulletting through the water at 60 mph!  What a fight.  THIS is fishing.

Captain Buz and I are an unstopable team.  One is at the helm and one is at the stern, but when it comes time to bring a big boy into the boat, it takes 2 of us.  See me with a thrashing 3-4 foot long fish at the end of a 6 foot steel leader.  There is no way to reel in anymore line and the fish is still 6 feet away from reach.  I hold onto the bucking rod, while Buz valiantly leans over the side of the boat to scoop Mr. Big Fish into an over-sized net.  You have to visualize this one on your own, because there was no one else available to take the picture.

We had to cut off his head so he would fit in our biggest cooler.  Thank goodness for an on board  ice maker .

Two fish in the ice cooler beats three that got away.  Fresh fish for supper and some to share--we are very pleased with ourselves.  This was a very auspicious beginning, leaving us eager for more another day.

Do you eat fish?  Do you like to catch them too?  I'm wondering if all that work used up enough calories to warrant dessert?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Crossing the Gulf Stream

Ship Shape and in Bristol Fashion, we were on our way as soon as the sun was up yesterday morning.  
Clear skies, calm, following seas and light winds made for a perfect day to cross the Gulf Stream to Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End. 

Nelson settled in for the duration.  He never complains, but he does let us know that he is enduring this business we call fun.

Five miles off shore from Stuart Inlet in Florida, the chart plotter and depth finder show us in 56.1 feet of water and no land in sight. 

In the middle of the stream, the depth finder stopped recording after 486 feet.

For several hours, there was nothing to look at:  no land, no boats, no birds, no weather, nothing at all.

Not even anything to see on the chart plotter.  Thank heavens for an autopilot that keeps us on track, even taking into account the cross current of the Stream that wants to push us off course.

After a little one-hour nap on my part, a trip to the galley to make popcorn on Captain's part and counting the hours til it would be over on Nelson's part, we were 15 miles out from our destination.  The wind changed, the waves grew and the boat began to buck, pitch and yaw.  I HATE the yaws! 
The first 4.5 hours were a piece of cake.  The last 40 minutes were miserable.

Somebody got sick...

Somebody tried the ostrich method of hiding from danger.

See how you can see water and sky in the picture above?
Now check out the whiteout conditions as the waves slapped us in the face.

We slogged on to the entrance of Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End, taking the assault broadside.  Wave after wave slammed into the hull and sprayed up over the fly bridge, 25 feet from the waterline. 

Land Ho!
Safe haven, and not a moment too soon.  Nelson was about to lose all hope.

Clearing customs was a routine formality, allowing us 90 days stay.  We had asked for 120, but the officer here is not authorized to give us more, or so he says.  The $300.00 cruising permit/fishing license was duly handed over, forms, letters, certificates stamped, we were deemed fit for admission, and Mr. Customs Official was back to his engrossing soap opera in no time.  Bureaucracy is the same everywhere,

as is solicitation.  Want to buy some (not so fresh, almost dead) lobster, lady?
Then give me some chips or chocolate bar.

He settled for an apple fresh from Publix in Florida and left us in peace.

Our first goal had been to make a safe crossing and that was accomplished.  We knew weather was coming and we took the "window of opportunity" we were given.  Now we sit on this side of the Gulf, waiting for the next chance to venture further.  Today, thunder, lightning and 40 knot winds are keeping us inside reading, staying in contact with the home office, doing laundry, playing the ukulele, laying courses for Lucaya and then on to Nassau.  Storms are storms, relatively speaking, but here we have rain, not snow, blowing palm trees not snow drifts and fellow boaters to share the fun with. 

Let me help pull those lines. 
Can you push us off the dock enough to position some more fenders? 
What do you read on your weather map?

It's not the destination that's the journey.  The adventure has already begun.  So glad you are along for the ride.  Drop us a line, leave a comment and let us know:

Are you getting sea sick?
Ready to launch the dingy and go fishing?

  We are prepared for all eventualities.