Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are We Having Fun Yet???? You Bet!

Here we are, the happy couple, warm and safe on board M/V Steadfast in Highbourne Cay.

The same old characters are here, for instance, Joe from Cool Runnings.
He's still smiling.

The hat is 15 years old.  He doesn't remember where it came from or what the faded, tattered and torn logo means any more.'s air conditioned, don't you know, and the visor is terrific!  Good for another 15 years.  
-I never get rid of dis hat!

Well, a storm front is coming.  Today the wind and seas were good until after dark, and...the head tanks needed dumping.  

-Let's go fishing!  
We'll have fun and get a chore done to boot.  We can get out onto the Sound and back before everything turns snotty.

a small black fin tuna...I'm happy.

Wahoo!  31 pounds of him.

Our fellow cruiser, Rich, from New Horizons came fishing with us.  He worked hard to reel in this behemoth.  Super happy!

The reef sharks got to it, but we got the lion's share!

Look at the meat!  We fed everyone on the dock!!!  Dock mates happy.

Even the sharks at the bottom of the fish cleaning station were happy.

Everyone's happy.  
It's Better In The Bahamas, Mon!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fish, Sharks and Birds

Yesterday was a gem of a day!  Clear skies, calm seas.  Perfect for making the 50 mile or so crossing from Nassau to Highbourne Cay.  Here is a representative photo of the peaceful day we had...I was so into it, the camera was crooked!
 Visibility was exceptional:  I spotted a Baracuda, a Nurse Shark, a Dolphin, numerous reef fish and lots of big, red star fish as we were underway.

All those little markings on the chart plotter indicate a coral head which could be anywhere from 10 feet to just inches below the level of the water.  It's always an "all hands on deck" time, everyone keeping their eyes peeled for danger ahead.

Arrival at Highbourne is always fun.  Here you see one set of range markers (aides to navigation) Captain B has to line up to get the correct angle for entering the channel.

Sharks linger at the end of the fish-cleaning dock night and day.  Last year we identified three or four different varieties of them.  I'm okay swimming with Nurse sharks, but Bulls and Reefs?  No way.  We are completely confident that the Marina staff has fully briefed all those cold-blooded fiends on proper conduct regarding the roped off swimming safety zones out front.  Not.

This morning and then again this afternoon, these little Bananaquit birds came inside for a visit.

I am very glad they left their bigger, messy Sand Piper friends outside!

We'll be camping out here for many days.  Nelson has free run on the 6 mile beach on the Sound side.  There is a fantastic restaurant and small grocery story of sorts, and always other cruisers to meet and greet.  Almost time for my evening libation.  Cheers, to my family and friends.  Until next time, keep the faith, stand firm and don't give up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We've Moved South

Hello from the sunny islands of the Caribeann Sea.  Today we are on Paradise Island, Atlantis Marina.  We made way from Old Bahama Bay at West End to Chub Cay on Sunday.  It was a bit of a rough go at first, with seas at 4 feet.  

This is what my blinds looked like when we made fast in our slip.  The boat really bounced around for some time at the beginning of the day.Things calmed down as we made our way onto the Bahama Banks.  We did try fishing, but got one strike and lost it.  No fish for supper that night.

Things are looking up for the Chub Cay Club Marina.  A new buyer (they say he's from Texas) has bought them out of years in receivership.  The new buildings are painted, enclosed and under inside construction once more.  Yippee!  A lovely place to visit.

In the event of an emergency, people better have shovels.....

We stayed one night in Chub and as sea states were rather benign the next day, we made a leisurely crossing to Nassau.  This big cruise ship came up behind us as we entered the harbour.

On any given day, 3-4000 tourists arrive to this small island.  They are all that keep this economy going.  All anyone is talking about, in the Taxis, on the buses, on TV or the radio, in parliament, is the newly enacted VAT of 7.5%.  Prices have increased, even above the tax increase.  Jobs are so scarce, many people only work a maximum of 10 days a month, sharing the jobs between three and four people.  

Last evening, Captain B treated us to dinner ashore in the Atlantis Village.  We were early, hungry and impatient.  I snuck in to see the 31 wait staff of SeaFire at roll call and then a time of prayer before the restaurant officially opened.  As I chatted up the hostess, she said, 
-Yes, we are all full time here...but...the restaurant closes four days a week.

Steadfast does our bit:  we pay marina fees, we eat in restaurants, shop in the stores and we hire boat cleaners.  A pittance in face of the great need here.

Today I revisited my favourite part of Atlantis, the aquarium.

This is the new baby Manta Ray.  Atlantis studies them, protects them and nourishes them until too big to keep.  At the point they become too big for the aquarium (a spectacular 20 feet wingspan) they are airlifted out to sea and followed by satellite for the rest of their lives.

Today they were two tiger sharks in residence.  They did not swim together though.

 Nassau Grouper...the big ones!

As a child, I always thought sea horses were big enough for a person to ride on.  These guys are only 2.5 inches long!

We are hoping to meet up with friends here in the morning.  Seas and weather are looking good for us to make run for Highborne Cay after lunch.  The Exumas, Mon.  Heaven on earth.

How is winter going at home?  Are you all still keeping warm?  
 That's our news for now.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Old Bahama Bay

We've been here in Old Bahama Bay for six nights.  Calm, peaceful, rainy, blowy.... R&R.

Tomorrow, we leave at 8 am.  We are shipshape and bristol for the morrow.  Our aim is Chubb Cay and then on to Nassau, but you never know.  We may bail at Lucaya.  Right now, we have wifi, so I thought a little update and a picture or two would be in order.  The further "down island" we get, the worse the internet service becomes.

 Thursday night, no filters.
(click to enlarge and truly enjoy the picture)

Saturday night, starburst filter.  We have front row seats to the Creation Story here!

We'll be having breakfast on the fly bridge in the morning as we get underway.
Wish me luck in the sea sick department.  It's early in the season for me and I am susceptible to the worst of it now. Things do get better as the season progresses, but for now, I grow pale at the very thought!

Good bye and God bless to my friend Nemo, who left this mortal world today.  He will be missed, but eternally loved.  Strength and peace to those who loved him most.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We Done Reached!

Yesterday morning, the new ice maker arrived, was installed and summarily began producing ice cubes.  Yippee!  We were all set to move south to West Palm Beach and the lovely marina there, staging for the next available crossing window.

Underway by 11:30, we had a simple lunch on the fly bridge while we motored down the ICW (InterCoastal Waterway).  I got out my quilting books to amuse myself during the two hour trip and Captain B began playing with his instruments...not always a good sign, as you will soon learn.  As we approached the intersection of the ICW and the St. Lucie Inlet to the Atlantic, there was some quiet discussion about did we want to "go outside" or stay "inside"?  Considering bridges and  no-wake zones on the ICW, we opted for leaving the quiet, calm, predictable "inside" and headed out into the chop and slop.

Four foot waves tossed us around, gave us a few slams and reminded me why I usually take drugs for seas like this.  After about an hour, we angled our course to take the waves more forward, hopefully more comfortably.  More checking of instruments and calculations on the Captain's part and he announced we'd make West End "easily" before dark.  A sharp left turn, and we were making way to the East.  Groan!  I wasn't ready.  There was nothing to do now but hang on.

The waves became confused and hit us from several angles.  The Gulf Stream, flowing opposite to our course, did its best to drag us away from our intentions.  Land disappeared and we were at sea, alone and getting ready to barf.  Did you know salty popcorn helps settle seasick stomachs once the barfing has finished?

The good news is, Steadfast rode it well.  We arrived safely.

I love seeing the southern birds:  Pelicans, Herons, Egrets, Cranes....

And then...there's the Birds of Paradise

Here's a whole flock of them!

We are now at Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina.  A delightful little place on the West End of Grand Bahama Island.  On the other end of the island, the busy end, is Freeport and Lucaya.

The immediate plans are for some well-deserved R&R.  If things look good on Sunday, we will make our next move, probably to Chubb Cay.  Maybe some fishing too?????  Wish me luck, and stay tuned for what comes next.  One never knows when a good story will come to light.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Snow Birds in Someplace Warmer Than Home

Yes, that is what they call people like the Captain and I, Snowbirds.  We migrate south to escape winter.  As I rock gently on board Steadfast, wearing flip flops and summer clothes, my family and friends across Canada report snow drifts higher than they can reach, and temperatures so low they are difficult to read.  If you are disgusted with me for taking the easy road, read on to hear the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says.

The first two weeks on board are as physically challenging as daily workouts at the gym, with a trainer pushing you to work harder!  I complain every year, to no avail.  It just isn't right to cram a whole year's amount of physical exercise into two weeks.  After two days living aboard, I have pulled  and stretched muscles I never remember meeting personally before.  It feels like a steam roller flattened me overnight.  If I'd seen it coming, I would have dodged it for sure!

Perhaps it's the three foot gap I need to jump to get between the boat and the dock.  Maybe it's the narrow companionways and stairs.  It could be handling lines under tension while transversing the locks on the ICW.  For sure it's the heavy lifting, hauling three months of supplies from store-to-car-to-boat that has contributed to my noodly-feeling arms and legs.  No way has it anything to do with the fact that I am 14 years older than when we first began this lifestyle!

Shopping at Sam's Club for everything we will need/want for the next three months at one go is a little intimidating.  We needed help to get three, over-full carts to the truck.  At the Marina, we wore a groove in the cement docks to our boat, back and forthing to unload it all.

Then the real fun began....dividing those economy sized packages into single serving baggies.  Life definitely took a turn for the better the day we installed a deep freeze on the fly bridge.

Good news/Bad news/Good news:

Where there's a will, there's a way.

The ice maker died and NO ONE can survive a winter in the islands without one, so we need a new boat!

Captain B and the Marina manager found a new ice maker that will fit where the old one was installed, so if it works, we can put off buying a new boat this year!

While the Captain was away, I filled the water tanks, put in a load of laundry and took the dog for a walk.  I came home to find no water pressure, no toilet flush, no hand washing.  Getting ready to refill the water tanks, I was concerned and confused, because that was not normal and this boat is also 14 years older than when we first met.

 Captain B arrived at that very moment and saved the day/the boat/my life!  A hose had fallen off the hot water tank, a geyser of water was pumping into the engine room and ....  It never dawned on me to go below and check things out.  By turning off the water pump and the hot water tank, Captain B stopped the emergency.  The bilges are now fresh and clean, and all pumped out once more.  Whew!  It's time to put my boat-thinking hat on.

Note to self:  Stay committed, life is a challenge on every level.  Look for the happy spots in each situation.  Rejoice, give thanks, pray without ceasing.

Yup, the "garden" of basil, cilantro, mint and amaryllis has been planted.  The water and fuel tanks are full. The water maker is commissioned.  All systems are tested and we are mostly ready to move further south, first to West Palm Beach and then across to Bimini.  Yippee!  Winter has officially arrived aboard Steadfast!

Happy New Year, Rosemary