29 June 2015

The Clones Of Man O'War Cay, Bahamas

I'm kind of a sci-fi geek so everything I know about human cloning comes from books like Frank Herbert's Dune (don't trust Duncan Idaho), movies like Star Wars (don't trust the stormtroopers) and TV shoes like Star Trek: TNG (don't trust the Mariposans). Do you detect a theme here? Clones are clearly not to be trusted. 

Of course, you shouldn't believe everything you read or see in the movies or on tv, so when I heard we were going to head to Man O'War Cay, I was excited to see real live clones up close and personal and find out if they really are evil. Of course, I was also a bit apprehensive, because if they did turn out to be evil, then they might capture me and do unspeakable things, like force me to eat conch fitters.

Have you been to Man O'War Cay? It's a small island in the Abacos, about two miles long, which was first settled in the 1798 by folks who commuted from Marsh Harbour to farm on the island. In 1820, after being shipwrecked on the island, Benjamin Albury decided to stay and marry. Make note of this name - Albury. We had heard that a large portion of the 300 folks living on Man O'War Cay today is an Albury, married to an Albury or can trace their family history back to the Albury clan (you can see the family tree here).

We took a walk up to the cemetery to see how many Albury headstones we could find. We actually did walk up. I think it was the first hill I had seen in the Bahamas. Hill might be a bit of an exaggeration, but things have been so flat in the Bahamas that you notice even the slightest incline. 

It's a pretty little cemetery, tidy and well taken care of.

This was our favorite Albury grave - love the nautical theme.

With such a small population, you can see why the residents of Man O'War Cay may have turned to cloning. If you get too many Alburys marrying and having children with too many other Alburys, then you might run into some problems. Cloning is the obvious solution.

For those of you who have been to Man O'War Cay, you might not have noticed the clones. You have to look closely. When we went and visited the Albury Sail Shop, I noticed that the ladies sewing the colorful bags for sale all looked suspiciously the same. Granted, I wasn't wearing my glasses, but I'm thinking they were clones. Which is smart - why train new ladies to sew, when you can just clone folks with proven sewing expertise? Okay, maybe they were all just cousins, but I'm not so sure.

The clones residents of Man O'War are a reserved bunch. I've read elsewhere that they don't care too much for outsiders. Which doesn't make too much sense. You think they would actively court outsiders as it might eliminate the need for cloning if they could entice some of them to stay. It's a pretty conservative place - folks are religious and the island is dry. They don't mind if you drink on your boat and you can BYOB when you eat out, but the types of folks who get smashed and then wander the streets singing Miley Cyrus songs loudly (and off-key) in the early hours of the morning are frowned upon. 

It's an interesting island to putter around for a day or two. The prices at the grocery stores aren't too unreasonable (yes, there are two grocery stores on such a tiny island), there's a pretty beach to walk on, you can check out the local boat builders and there are plenty of quaint houses and colorful flowers to admire. We only stayed one night, in part because we didn't want to pay for a mooring again and in part because we felt like we had seen and done all there was to do pretty quickly.

The Man O'War harbor is pretty much a mooring field and the holding is supposed to be poor, so we opted to pick up a mooring ball. Our pals managed to anchor in the harbor amongst the moorings, which was a smart move because when you pay for a mooring ball, all you get is the mooring ball. The sign at the marina dinghy dock makes things clear - all facilities are reserved for boat owners who spend big bucks on a slip. If you're on a mooring, you can't even drop off your trash without paying a fee.

Would I come back to Man O'War Cay? Maybe. It's a pleasant enough place with a well protected harbor, but it lacked something which I can't really put my finger on. But am I glad I visited Man O'War Cay? Absolutely. It was an interesting place to explore and now I know that clones aren't all evil. They are some perfectly nice ones living in this little corner of the Abacos. 

LOGBOOK NOTES | Thursday 21 May - Friday 22 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 21
Total Time - approx 4 hours
Anchor Up - No Name Cay
Anchor Down - mooring ball at Man O'War Cay 
Number of Clones Spotted - at least 4
Number of Clones Lurking in Secret, Underground Chambers - unknown
Groceries Bought - tortillas (note to self, bring more next time) 
Cost of a Mooring Ball - $21.50

Next time on the blog...we head to Hopetown, where I discover the utter deliciousness of Bahamian mac n'cheese. A gazillion times better than that stuff that comes in a blue box. 

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26 June 2015

Wearing A Toaster On My Head & Disappointing Pigs | No Name Cay, Bahamas

"Do you remember that night you wore a toaster on your head?", asked Jane, my pal from SV Wild Blue. If my other pal from SV Wild Blue, Charlie, had asked this, I would have dismissed it as some sort of random nonsense. From time to time, Charlie says (and texts) some peculiar and very funny things. Often rum is involved. But this was Jane speaking. Jane is sensible and coherent when she talks. I was confused.

"What are you talking about Jane?", I asked with a very perplexed look on my face.

"You know. It was that night you guys couldn't find your boat." It was all starting to come back vaguely to me. Then she showed me a picture. Yes, indeed. I was wearing a toaster on my head. I have no idea why. Maybe I was trying to look like the Duchess of Cambridge with all of her stylish hats and fascinators. Maybe this will be the next big thing at all of the royal weddings and christenings - ladies wearing small appliances on their heads.

It was an interesting toaster. Not your usual plug in, two-slice kind of toaster you can buy at Target or Walmart. No, this was the kind of toaster that doesn't require electricity, with four sides to place bread on so that you can make toast on the burner of your propane stove.

Just in case you were wondering, of course I'm not going to publish the picture. I look stupid in it. After all, I'm wearing a toaster on my head. 

Instead here's a picture of Jane and Charlie. I'm sharing this as a sort of preemptive strike, as I have this feeling that the picture of me with the toaster on my head is going to show up on their blog one of these days.

Oh, by the way, we found our boat. And, yes, there was rum involved. 

This all took place at No Name Cay. We went there after our time at Green Turtle Cay in search of pigs. Well, I might have been the only one chomping at the bit to see the pigs. I had seen all of these pictures of the famous swimming pigs in the Exumas and thought they were adorable. Have a look yourself here - aren't they cute? We weren't anywhere near the Exumas and, a bit like Veruca Salt demanding her golden goose, I wanted to see my own adorable, swimming pigs now!

Turns out they weren't adorable. And they don't swim. So disappointing. We left our offerings of old food from our fridge in the designated trough, stared at the boring pigs for a while and then left. Not a single picture taken.

Later we went snorkeling. Fish are much more interesting. And they swim. 

Much, much later, I wore a toaster on my head. A word of warning - if anyone ever offers you multiple glasses of Nassau Royale rum liqueur while holding a small appliance in their hands, just say no. Or, at the very least, make sure there aren't any cameras onboard. 

LOGBOOK NOTES | Wednesday 20 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 5
Anchor Up - Green Turtle Cay
Anchor Down - No Name Cay
Total Time - 45 minutes
Number of Glasses of Nassau Royale Drunk - apparently too many 
Pigs vs Fish Smackdown - no question, fish rule

Next up on the blog...is Man O'War Cay populated by clones?
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24 June 2015

Goombay Smash & Clearing In | Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Can you imagine flying into a foreign country and spending six days there before you show Customs & Immigration your passport and get it stamped? It just baffles me that when you arrive in the Bahamas by sailboat, you can sail around for days on end before you clear in. Of course, you aren't supposed to step onto land until you've forked over some money in exchange for a cruising permit. But you can go snorkeling, watch the sunset from your boat and have happy hour with your pals on their boat. Land might be a bit overrated. 

Eventually, there does come a time in every cruiser's life when you need groceries and rum punch. Not necessarily in that order. We had to find ourselves an island that had three things: (1) a Customs & Immigration office (without a surcharge like Spanish Cay); (2) a grocery store and (3) plenty of Goombay Smash. We found it all at Green Turtle Cay. 

In the Bahamas, only the Captain can go onshore to clear the boat and crew in. Scott is our Captain, so he drew the short straw and had to deal with all the paperwork and bureaucracy. Two things he really loves. 

First stop, the dinghy dock at New Plymouth. 

Next stop, the Customs & Immigration office in this cute pink building, which also houses the post office and public toilets. Always important to note the locations of public toilets when you're middle-aged. You never know when you're going to need one.

Scott filled out some forms, gave the nice lady $150 and she gave him a 90-day cruising permit. It pays to have a relatively tiny boat (34.5') . If ours had been a few inches bigger, it would have cost us $300. After forking over the money, Scott headed back to the boat. The whole process from lowering the dingy, doing the paperwork and zipping back to the boat took less than an hour. I've waited in passport control lines far longer than that at certain airports. Much nicer in the Bahamas - the sun is shining, the officials are smiling, there aren't any police officers with guns and dogs scrutinizing everyone and, best of all, the place that sells Goombay Smash rum punch is just around the corner.

Scott, being a dutiful husband, came back to the boat to collect me before he had a Goombay Smash. He could have gotten away with it so easily. "Sorry, I've been gone so long. You just wouldn't believe the lines at the Customs & Immigration office. It was horrendous! And all the paperwork I had to fill out. And then, I had to go through a full body scanner, followed by some more paperwork. And then they sent me to another office to pay the fees. It was hell." I wouldn't have known any different being back on the boat. Of course, while Scott was clearing in, I may have had a beer. Don't tell him. 

We poked around New Plymouth for a while before our Goombay Smashes. I love all the brightly colored houses, flowers and the narrow streets. 

Then it was off to find a grocery store. Founded in the 18th century, New Plymouth is the main settlement on the island. You can find pretty much everything you need there including groceries. We went into one grocery store and asked if they had coconut bread. Their response, "Coconut bread is just white bread with coconut in it." We moved on to the next store down the road - Sid's Food Store. They will gladly sell you a loaf of coconut bread. They understand that coconut bread is more than just white bread with coconut in it. It's happiness wrapped up in a brown paper bag, just waiting to be devoured for breakfast in the form of French toast. 

Finally, we made it to the Blue Bee bar, the home of Miss Emily's famous Goombay Smash. Although Miss Emily is no longer with us, fortunately her daughter Violet knows the secret recipe and blend of coconut, pineapple and rum. People leave autographed t-shirts, boat cards and business cards on the walls to memorialize their time at the Blue Bee. And some of them write things on the wall that they probably wish they hadn't after one too many Goombay Smashes. You know, because they got themselves all smashed on Goombay Smash.

After cutting ourselves off (while we still could), we walked around to check if our boat was still anchored safely. Good news - the boat was still there and the crew from S/V Wild Blue had arrived. Guess what that meant? After they cleared in, we went back to the Blue Bee for more Goombay Smashes. Any excuse will do.

The next day, we went for a dinghy tour of Black Sound and White Sound. Many boats choose to dock or pick up a mooring ball at one of the marinas in these sheltered sounds, like the Green Turtle Club where we tied up our dinghy. The Green Turtle Club is a pretty posh place, but the folks there are friendly and we snagged a little bit of their free WiFi while sipping on Kalik beer (thanks Charlie!). 

We also got five gallons of drinking water at the marina. Earlier in the day, we ran into some folks we had met at Indiantown. We were comparing stories of our water woes. Turns out that while we had been getting by with a gallon per person a day or less (and that includes bathing, cooking, drinking etc), they were going through 20 something gallons per person a day. Imagine the showers you could have with that much water! No wonder they smelled better than us.

Green Turtle Cay was a smash hit with us. The Goombay Smash at Blue Bee probably had something to do with it, but so did the friendly people, the picturesque buildings and the laid back way of life.

LOGBOOK NOTES | Monday 18 May - Tuesday 19 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 4
Anchor Up - Manjack Cay (Coconut Tree Beach)
Anchor Down - Green Turtle Cay (off of New Plymouth)
Goombay Smashes - 5 
Days Flying the Q Flag - 6 
Gallons of Drinking Water Bought - 5

Next up on the blog...disappointing pigs and wearing a toaster on my head.

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22 June 2015

Crazy Cats, Coconut Bread & Coconut Beach | Spanish Cay & Manjack Cay, Bahamas

We love the folks on this boat. They sure are some crazy cats. I'm talking about the people on board, not the three cats that live there with them (although they're a little crazy in their own way). 

We had met Charlie and Jane from S/V Wild Blue at Indiantown Marina and we ran into them again at Spanish Cay, where we hoping to clear into the Bahamas. It was a surprise to see them. We thought they were a day ahead of us, but there they were, anchored right outside the breakwater of the marina. We dropped our hook right behind them. There was no way we were going to dock at the marina - $108 plus tax and not including water. No thanks. I'll take fabulously free anchoring any day. 

Scott took the dinghy and went to check about clearing in at the marina. Turns out that if you aren't staying at the marina, there is an additional $50 charge to clear in at Spanish Cay. Ah, yeah, I don't think so. I'd rather invest my $50 in more worthwhile causes - like groceries. So we decided to keep flying our Q flag for a few days longer and clear in at Green Turtle Cay. 

While we weren't willing to fork over $108, if you do have some spare change in your pocket, then Spanish Cay looks like a nice place to spend it (keep in mind the charges are per foot, your costs may be higher). The owners and staff are friendly, there are three adorable dogs who will slobber all over you, they have free Wi-Fi (and you have no idea how important this is until you spend some time in the Bahamas!), the bar looks nice and, most importantly, they sell coconut bread. 

Have you ever had coconut bread? I knew very little about the Bahamas before we left, but the one thing I read about constantly was the coconut bread. Scott picked up a loaf and the stories are true, it is delicious. Turn it into French toast, cover it in maple syrup (or the faux Aunt Jemima version) and you have a winner. Scott loved it so much that we ate it pretty much every morning we were in the Bahamas. I'd like to think it was a testament to my cooking skills, but you really can't mess up fried bread that you then drown in a giant puddle of maple flavored sugar syrup.

Although we didn't end up clearing-in at Spanish Cay, we anchored there overnight. I'm not sure what we ended up doing that night. Oh, wait, I remember. We were with Charlie and Jane, so I'm pretty sure we had a few beers on one of our boats. We ended up having a number of beers, rums, rum liqueurs and wine with Charlie and Jane on both of our boats during our time in the Bahamas, so I can't be sure whose boat we were on that night. But one thing I am sure about, it was a fun night. Because Charlie and Jane are fabulously fun. So fabulously fun that we ended up heading to Manjack Cay the next day with them.

Manjack Cay is an uninhabited island with a few anchorages you can drop the hook at. Of course, we picked the one that is reported to have difficult holding - Coconut Tree Beach. If we had read our guidebook, we might have known this. We didn't. 

Charlie and Jane had reached Manjack before we did and were sitting out on their deck sipping on their beers when we arrived. It's always good to have some entertainment when you drinking beer - maybe listening to some music, watching the sun go down or laughing at folks dragging anchor. Those folks would be us. Just in case you were wondering.

We all hung out at Manjack for a couple of nights - drank some beer, worked on boat things and went snorkeling. Now, I know what all the fuss about the Bahamas is - the water is warm and there's pretty fish to look at!

LOGBOOK NOTES | Friday 15 May - Sunday 17 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 56
Total Time - 7 hours 40 mins (15 May) & 4 hours (16 May)
Anchorages - Spanish Cay (outside marina breakwater) & Manjack Cay (Coconut Tree Beach)
Price of Coconut Bread - $6 (at Spanish Cay)
Days in the Bahamas Flying the Q Flag - 5 

Next time on the blog...we finally clear in at Green Turtle Cay. Hands down, my favorite inhabited island in the Abacos. The Goombay Smash may have something to do with it.

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19 June 2015

The Bahamas Sure Ain't New Zealand | Mangrove Cay & Great Sale Cay

I almost hate to say this, but I was a tad bit disappointed when I saw my first Bahamian island. How can I put this delicately...it was flat. So flat, you might not have even noticed it if you weren't looking for it. I don't even have a picture to share with you, that's how uninspiring it was. Usually, I'm all like, "Scott, Scott! Take a picture of this! Make sure you get a picture of our anchorage!" This time, I said nothing and Scott never reached for his camera. 

Maybe it was because we were tired from our Gulf Stream crossing, but when I saw our first Bahamian anchorage all I could think of was dropping the hook and having a beer. I didn't even think about taking a moment to stop and stare at all of the splendid beauty and scenic landscapes around me - because there wasn't any. At least to this untrained eye.

I think it all comes down to expectations. My only real sailing and cruising experience is in New Zealand. Do you like dramatic scenery? Then New Zealand is the place for you. I think there's a reason they make all those Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies there. It's drop dead gorgeous. The Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands are chock full of volcanic islands, rugged cliffs and stunning anchorages. It looks something like this.

Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
Okay, maybe that's a bit unfair to compare New Zealand to the Bahamas. But I do remember thinking - really, there's got to be more to the Bahamas than this. (Don't worry, we later did discover the unique charms of the islands and its people.) 

Our first stop after the crossing was Mangrove Cay. Although we don't have a picture of the anchorage, you can get a glimpse of its flatness in the picture below. Not quite what I was expecting, but I was glad to see it as we were shattered by this point.

Putting the sails up on our way from Mangrove Cay to Great Sale Cay

So, how did we find ourselves at what I now affectionately call Pancake Cay? Once we passed Memory Rock, we found ourselves in the Little Bahama Bank, which is a shallow sea around 85 nautical miles wide and 35 nautical miles long. After crossing the deep waters of the Gulf Stream, it was amazing to look out at miles and miles of nothing but water so clear and so shallow you can see the bottom. It's at this point, I really start to pay attention to our depth sounder! I know everyone grounds their boat sooner or later, I would just rather it be later.

We motored for hours across the Little Bahama Bank, surrounded by nothingness, until we came across Mangrove Cay. It's a tiny little island. Basically, just a rest stop while you're on your way to someplace else. Kind of like Walmart is for RVers. Except, in this case, no one lives on Mangrove Cay so you can't pop out for some milk and bread. I don't think anyone really lands on it, unless they have a dog. 

We stayed on our boat the entire time because (a) we don't have a dog; (b) it didn't look that interesting; (c) we were tired and possibly a bit cranky and (d) we were under quarantine

"Quarantine? What are you talking about? What horrible disease do you have?" This is what you might be asking yourself if you're not a cruiser. Once you cross into another country's territorial waters, you have to hoist up a yellow flag, also known as a Q flag. You're basically like a social pariah who has to be quarantined until you clear into the country. While you're flying the Q flag, you're not supposed to set foot on land. You can sail around and anchor where you want, but you have to stay on your boat. That was fine by us.

After getting some shut-eye at Mangrove Cay, we hoisted the anchor, put the sails up for the first time and made our way to Great Sale Cay, or what I affectionately call Crepe Cay. Yep, that's right another flat as a pancake (or French crepe) island. No people. No shops. No going onshore. Just another road-stead on our way to clear into the Bahamas. 

LOGBOOK NOTES | Thursday 14 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 36
Total Hours - 8 hours 25 minute
Number of Tacks - Too many (discovered our winches need to be serviced)
Anchor Up - Mangrove Cay
Anchor Down - Northwest Harbour, Great Sale Cay 
Days Flying the Q Flag - 2

Next time on the blog...we try to clear into the Bahamas, discover its charms and meet up with the crazy cats on S/V Wild Blue.

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17 June 2015

Sailing In The Dark & Eating Mediocre Cookies | Gulf Stream Crossing To The Bahamas

If you know anything about me, then you'll know I love cookies. Especially cookies with chocolate chips in them. Lots and lots of chocolate chips. In fact, there are days where I could dispense with the cookie part all together and just eat handfuls of chocolate chips. However, in this heat, everything melts all over your hands faster than you can eat the chocolate chips. Messy and wasteful. Far more sensible to eat your chocolate chips in cookies. The cookie part kind of helps keep the chocolate in control.

So, when I knew we would be making the crossing from Florida to the Bahamas on our sailboat and that this would entail sailing in the dark, the first thing I got was a bag of cookies. Because, sailing in the dark requires a lot of cookies. The only way I coped with my first proper night passage in New Zealand was by eating lots and lots of cookies.

The cookies we got in New Zealand were delicious. Sure, they were store bought, but they had lots of chocolate chips, butter and sugar in them. Delicious. It was only because of these cookies that I managed to survive my first experience sailing in the dark. Every time I got scared, I ate another cookie. Sailing in the dark is scary. I ate a lot of cookies. I got a tummy ache. But it was worth it.

This time, I bought a package of Chips Ahoy cookies with Reese's cups. Because, what could be better than cookies with some Reese's cups in them. Peanut butter and chocolate in a cookie - what's not to love? And the whole "Ahoy!" thing seemed appropriate for being on a sailboat. That was the theory, anyway. Turns out the cookies were pretty mediocre. 

You'll be surprised to know that I didn't even finish the package on the crossing. That's how mediocre they were. It probably helped that the passage itself was uneventful and relatively easy. I actually wasn't too scared. I don't actually know what was more surprising - that I didn't eat all the cookies or that I didn't panic the entire time. Either way, it was a win-win. No tummy ache and Scott was able to sleep without me waking him up in a panic. 

Want to know more? Here's how it all went down and why there were cookies leftover.

After heading down the Okeechobee Waterway and ICW from Stuart we anchored at Lake Worth near Palm Beach and "staged" ourselves for the crossing. The weather window was looking good. Our boat still seemed to be intact. We had cookies, so it was all systems go. Our plan was to leave Lake Worth early in the morning, cross the Gulf Stream during the day, make it to the Memory Rock way point before it got too dark and then make our way across the Little Bahama Bank in the dark to our anchorage at Mangrove Cay. 

We're a sailboat and we're slow. So, we knew we would have to cross something in the dark - it was either going to be the Gulf Stream or the Little Bahama Bank. Given all those pesky freighters, cruise ships and other boat traffic making the crossing, it seemed sensible to cross the Gulf Stream in the daylight. Plus if the weather turned feral on us, it would be easier to deal with during the day.

Well, we're really not great planners. At our best, we're indecisive together and at our worst, we decide what to do separately and kind of forget to tell each other about our separate decisions. Often our separate decisions turn out to be different decisions, so we spend more time trying to decide which decision to take. 

Anyway, we got up, hemmed and hawed about whether we should go. Hemmed and hawed some more about what time it would be best to leave at. Then we gave up, had some breakfast and realized our time window to cross had disappeared faster than chocolate cake left unattended at a kid's birthday party. 

We decided to kill some time (and postpone making a decision) by heading out to the Lake Worth Inlet to test the waters and see what it was like. You have to remember, this was only the third day that we had our new-to-us boat on the water. She was pretty new-to-us. So taking her out for a little test drive was pretty sensible. And a huge wake-up call. 

There were big waves crashing around in the inlet. Up one side, down the other side. Up and down. Things crashing down below. Cookies falling on the floor. We slogged and slogged trying to beat our way through the waves. And then we turned around. 

Turns out indecision can be a good thing. After seeing those waves, I was so glad we hadn't left early that morning. Friends of ours who had left in the early hours said it was rough. I don't think they had any cookies with them. Poor things. 

So, we turned back around, puttered around with our sails, I practiced helming the boat, we anchored, took a nap and waited for things to calm down. At 6:00 PM we decided to go for it and we headed on out. Not nearly as rough as in the morning. A bit of a slog to get through the inlet, but eventually things got calm and it was all good. 

We saw a cruise ship at one point, but they kept their distance, altered course and went around us. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

We saw a few other ships making the crossing, but not many and they all kept their distance. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

The sun went down. The moon came up. The waters were calm. Not scary at all. No cookies required.

At one point, Scott thought he saw a meteor crashing down through the sky and into the water. We figured if the world was going to end at that point, at least we had enough canned goods and booze to survive for a while. Never did figure out if it was a meteor. Maybe it was a spaceship with aliens in search of chocolate chip cookies? I'm sure they've heard good things about our baked goods. I'm pretty sure this is what will cause the aliens to invade - they'll enslave the human race and force us all to work in factories making cookies for export to other parts of the solar system.

Okay, back to the story. We each took turns napping during the night. When Scott was down below, I noticed squalls off on my left and right. Despite the lightening, I stayed calm. I wasn't scared. Sure, I ate a few cookies, but I was hungry by this point. And the best part is, I didn't wake Scott up at all in a panic during my shift.

Things got really slow. Like really slow. I could have gotten off the boat and walked to the Bahamas faster than our boat was going. That's one of the problems with the Gulf Stream. It is giant river with a strong current. It can be your friend and "push" you where you want to go. Or it can be your enemy and your boat has to fight to get across it. And with the wind coming directly on our nose, we couldn't put up our sails to try to get a lift and go faster.

Also, if you're going to cross the Gulf Stream, the weather has to be right. Otherwise, you might die. Okay, maybe not die. But it might be really scary. Fortunately, the weather was fine. It was slow, but it wasn't scary.

Eventually, the sun came up. It was pretty. We headed around the Memory Rock way point, made our way across the Little Bahama Bank to Mangrove Cay and anchored easily. I wiped the cookie crumbs off my shirt, turned to Scott and said, "That wasn't too bad. Do you want a cookie? I have some left over."
LOGBOOK NOTES | Tuesday 12 May - Wednesday 13 May 2015

Total nautical miles - 78
Total time - 21 hours, 50 minutes 
Anchor up - Lake Worth, Florida
Anchor down - Mangrove Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Lowest speed - 1.5 knots 
Number of barracuda caught & released - 3
Number of "meteors" spotted - 1
Number of cookies leftover - 8
Number of tummy aches - Nil

Next time on the blog...our first impressions of the Bahamas. Spoiler alert - it's flat.

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15 June 2015

Heading Off To The Bahamas, Annoying Questions & The Importance Of Biceps

A little more than three weeks after we bought our new boat, the big day came and we left Indiantown Marina and headed off to the Bahamas for our shakedown cruise. There were lots of bridges, a lock, some drama, changes to plans and a way too much motoring. Probably a typical day making your way down inland waterways.

Our starting point, Indiantown Marina, is located along the St Lucie Canal on the Okeechobee Waterway in southern Florida. If you turn right when you go out of the marina, you can carry on through Lake Okeechobee and all the way to the Gulf Coast. If you turn left, you head out towards the South Fork of the St Lucie River and up towards Stuart. From there you can turn onto the ICW and make your way to the Atlantic Coast. We turned left. Or port, if you want to get all technical about it.

Source: NOAA
Just after we got out of the marina, we encountered our first set of bridges. Compared to our old boat, our new boat seems so tall. As we just bought her, the last thing I want to do is decapitate our boat by knocking off her mast as we pass under a bridge. I guess I'm just not good with spatial perception, because I was 100% certain we were going to hit the Indiantown Bridge as we went under it. 

Scott just looked at me like I was nuts and tried to patiently explain math to me, "If the height from the top of our waterline to the top of our mast is 48' and the height of the bridge is 55', which one do you think is shorter?" Doing math problems is too stressful when you think you're going to hit a bridge, so I just closed my eyes until we passed under it. We still have our mast by the way.

Right before the Indiantown Bridge, there was also railway bridge. Luckily, it was open so we could motor on through. No need to worry about trying to hail them on the VHF to ask them to open it. Another bullet dodged. 

After the first two bridges, we had a very peaceful trip down the St. Lucie Canal. I like the canal. It's like a wide road with plenty of room for two lanes of traffic. Even I can drive our boat down the canal and not hit anything. Or, worse yet, ground the boat. We passed the time looking at the houses along the way and wondering what the giant stone heads were all about.

And then we hit the St Lucie Lock. The thing I had been dreading most about the trip. I've never been through a lock. Yet another piece of engineering ingenuity designed to damage your boat. We hung outside the lock for a while with some other boats while waiting for it to be opened up to eastwards traffic. When we got there, the lockmaster had said that he would let us know when we were to proceed into the lock. The lock opened, the other boats behind us started inching forward, one of them told us we were supposed to enter, but we still hadn't heard anything on the VHF. A bit of drama as we eventually made our way into the lock. 

Once we got in the lock, they threw down two lines - one to me on the bow of the boat (the pointy front end) and one to Scott at the stern (the back of the boat). You have to hold on tightly to your lines and slowly let them out as the water level lowers in the lock. If you mess this up, your boat can go drifting out in the lock or scrape up against the side of the lock. I breathed a sigh of relief as the lock gates opened and we made it through unscathed. Everything was tickety boo. Or so we thought.

Before we left Indiantown Marina, we pestered Matt and Jessica from MJ Sailing with lots of annoying questions. Questions like, "Do you know a good place to anchor for free in Stuart?", "Where can we get diesel that won't cost us an arm and a leg?" and "Where can we get cheap beer?" They're a sweet couple and clearly someone raised them right, because they always smile, offer help and advice cheerfully even when they're probably wishing inside that we would stop asking them questions.

They're also smart little cookies because they know the answer to pretty much any question. If you want a free place to anchor near Stuart, head to Pendarvis Cove right across from Sunset Bay Marina. Get diesel at the North Palm Beach Marina right before you hit Lake Worth. And if you want cheap beer, pick up a some Imperial at the IGA in Indiantown. Only $3 for a six-pack, which works out to 50 cents a can. Yes, you read that right 50 cents for a refreshing 16 oz can of Costa Rican beer. 

When we got to Stuart, we checked out Pendarvis Cove, but the wind was coming from the wrong direction and we had never anchored our boat before, so we took the easy way out and picked up a mooring ball at Sunset Bay Marina for the night and chilled out with some beer and junk food. Not only did we get free WiFi, but we also got showers the next morning. Turns out it was our last proper shower for the next four weeks. My mother gets horrified when I tell her things like this. 

The next morning, we discovered our windlass didn't work. We were so excited that our boat came with a windlass. It's a nifty little device that does all the hard work of anchoring for you. It drops your anchor and chain and it picks it back up. You can just stand back and watch without straining your back or biceps. Kind of like watching the Olympics from your armchair. You cheer the athletes on, but don't have to break into a sweat yourself while you sit back and sip on an Imperial beer.

We had had a few problems with our windlass before we left Indiantown, but just when we were going to need it most, it up and died. It's a good thing Scott has strong biceps, because that meant he was going to have to suck it up and do all the anchoring himself. The anchor and chain weighs a lot, so better him than me is what I was thinking. 

Source: NOAA
After cursing the windlass, we set off (smelling fresh as a daisy from our showers, I might add) under some more bridges, up the St Lucie River and onto the ICW. This is when my role as Communications Officer really kicked in. Not only do I manage our blog, but I also get to talk to bridge operators on the VHF radio. It's a bit off-putting knowing that you're basically talking on a party line when you call to ask them to open the bridge for you. Especially when you end up saying, "This is the sailing yacht Tickety Boo requesting your next bridge opening." What's wrong with this sentence? I'll give you a clue, I forgot I was in the States and I called our sailboat a "yacht". 

In New Zealand sailboats are routinely called yachts, no matter what their size. If we had documented our boat in New Zealand, it would have been called S/Y Tickety Boo (short for sailing yacht). But our boat is US documented and we're using it in the States, so when a 34' sailboat gets on the VHF and proclaims itself as a yacht, everyone turns around to look for the mega-yacht making its way down the ICW. What do they see instead? A teeny-tiny sailboat with a crew of two and no movie stars on board. I sounded like an idiot. Eventually, I got the hang of things and started referring to our boat as sailing vessel Tickety Boo.

Despite all of the VHF drama, I have to say, I loved it when they would respond with, "No problem, Captain, I'll open the bridge for you now. Have a great day." There's nothing like getting a promotion from Communications Officer to Captain from a bridge operator. I still can't tie a bowline to save my life, but now I'm a Captain!

The trip down the ICW was pretty quiet and uneventful. As we headed out into Lake Worth, we stopped to get diesel and gas at North Palm Beach Marina. And then Scott spent an hour or so trying to get the windlass to work. No luck. So, we untied the docklines and went to find a place to anchor for the night in Lake Worth. We spent a good chunk of time checking the area out before we settled on a spot near a mooring field on the southern side of the lake. After trying the windlass one last time, Scott dropped the anchor by hand and we settled in for the night.

Source: NOAA
LOGBOOK NOTES | Sunday 10 May - Monday 11 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 51
Total Hours - 4 hours 45 mins  on 10 May and 14 hours 15 mins on 11 May
Anchor Up - Indiantown Marina, Florida
Anchor Down - Lake Worth, Florida
Stuff that Broke - The all important windlass!
Number of Locks & Bridges -1 lock and 12 bridges
Number of Groundings - Nil 

Next time on the blog...we head on off to the Bahamas and cross the Gulf Stream! 

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12 June 2015

Bahamian Bits & Bobs

We had a blast on our shakedown cruise in the Abacos, Bahamas and I plan to blog about our trip over the next few weeks. However, now that we're back at Indiantown Marina in Florida, we've got tons to do on the boat over the next week or two, so I won't be able to get to the Bahamas posts until next week. Plus the "real feel" temp today is 103F/39C, so, to be honest, I don't feel like doing anything productive, whether on the boat or the blog. Except complain about the heat. I find that very productive.

In the meantime, I thought I would tantalize you with a few photos from trip and share a few bits and bobs about our time in the Abacos.  

Getting ready to put the sails up on our way from Mangrove Cay to Great Sale Cay.

I'm not normally a fan of these pastel colors, but I have to say, it really works in the Bahamas. This was taken at Green Turtle Cay. Hands down my favorite inhabited island in the Abacos.

Our new Magma grill. Scott made us some fantastic meals on this. The Bahamian chicken is wonderful marinated and then grilled. It has been so long since I've eaten skin on a chicken that I had forgotten how good it is all crisped up on a grill.

This is Evy the Cat. She is one of three cats that belongs to the folks we buddy boated with in the Bahamas. They brought Evy over for a visit and she made herself right at home. After taking a nap in our v-berth, she got put back in the dinghy to go back to her boat. After which she promptly jumped into our dinghy. Clearly, she wanted to live with us. After she got put back in her dinghy and chauffeured back home, she jumped in the water and swam around her boat before climbing on board. This is my kind of cat.

The mooring field at Man O'War Cay. The only time we paid for an anchorage while we were in the Bahamas. Man O'War is an interesting place. I think everyone is related to one another. Or else it is populated by clones.

View of Hopetown Harbour from the top of the famous red and white striped lighthouse. You can pay for a mooring ball in the harbor or do like we did and anchor for free outside the harbor. Doesn't this picture just make you want to go visit the Bahamas?

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10 June 2015

Cost Of Getting A Sailboat Shipshape & Shaking Her Down In The Bahamas

Tickety Boo anchored on the Little Bahama Bank in the Abacos.
Come on, let's face it, we all want to know how much people spend on stuff. 

How much did that handbag which Nicole Kidman was sporting at Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas really cost? How much did the neighbors spend on that new car of theirs? How much did that cute dress cost your co-worker? How much did the people next to you at the marina spend getting their new boat ready to cruise? And how much did it cost them to take their boat for a month-long shakedown cruise to the Bahamas? 

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how much Nicole's handbag cost, but from what our friends say, it was a super cute bag. 
But I can answer those last two questions because we just got our new-to-us 1987 Moody 346 ready to go cruising and we spent the last month in the Bahamas shaking her down.

Are you curious? Are you just a little bit nosy? Then, have a look at the details below of how much we spent.

Getting Tickety Boo Ready to Cruise (18 April - 9 May 2015)

When you buy a new boat, there's one thing you can be sure of. You're going to spend a lot more money on your boat. The purchase price of the boat is just the beginning. There are insurance, documentation, equipment, repairs, maintenance and marina costs that you'll have to shell out for. And it isn't just a one-off thing. You'll be shelling out money on your boat for as long as you own her. Maybe that's why they say that the two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day that you buy your boat and the day that you sell your boat?

We spent a whopping $7,487 getting Tickety Boo ready to cruise over a period of three weeks. Yikes. Yikes indeed. 

So what did we spend all this money on? Let's break it down.

INSURANCE | Total = $1,506

We bought two types of insurance policies. The first was Tow Boat US insurance - kind of like what you might have for your car. When it breaks down or you run out of gas, you give them a call. It cost $158 for an annual policy and covers us in the States and the Bahamas.

The second type of insurance we got was with IMIS (underwritten by Concept Special Risks) and covers damage to the boat, liability, personal property etc. Kind of like homeowner's insurance. It cost $1,348 for an annual policy which covers us on the East and Gulf Coasts in the States, the Bahamas and the Caribbean Sea (excluding Cuba, Columbia and Haiti). Our policy requires that we are laid up from July 15th - November 15th during hurricane season (as in we can't operate our boat) at Indiantown Marina in Florida (it is considered a hurricane hole). 

That's a lot of money for insurance! To make myself feel better, I worked out the per month cost - $125. That still seems like a lot. We're thinking through what we might do in terms of insurance next year to bring costs down. Maybe just get liability on our boat? Definitely drop Tow Boat US if we aren't cruising in the States.


We bought our boat through a private sale, but we did use a broker to hold the money in escrow, do title/lien searches, get the boat deregistered in Canada and take care of our US Coast Guard documentation paperwork. 

EQUIPMENT | Total = $2,099

We had to buy a lot of stuff for our boat. A lot of expensive stuff. Although, I bet we spent less on equipment than Nicole spent on her handbag. 

Some equipment was identified in our pre-purchase survey and had to be sorted out in order for us to be insurable (and safe). Things like two new anchors and 150' of anchor chain - all for the princely sum of $1206. But, I guess if you're going to spend a lot of money on your boat, making sure you have top-notch ground tackle is the place to do it. We also bought safety related items like updated flares, recharging kits for our PFDs and a replacement bag for our Lifesling totaling $204. A new steaming light and antenna set us back $123. 

But it wasn't all boring stuff - we spent $83 on decals with our new boat name and hailing port, we got a new BBQ ($264) and two US flags and one Bahamian courtesy flag ($66). Why two US flags, you may be asking? I had read that your flag is supposed to be one inch long for every foot length of your boat. But after I got it, took it out of the packaging, threw the packaging away, I decided it looked really over-sized on our boat. So I bought a smaller flag to use instead. We'll keep the larger flag as a back-up. 

REPAIRS & MAINTENANCE | Total = $3,009 

There were a number of boat projects we had to do before we could operate Tickety Boo. You can read all about them in this post, as well as check out our Boat Projects page. There were a few big jobs - like putting new bottom paint on ($771), replacing some thru-hulls ($1,546), changing out our sacrificial zinc ($336) and sorting out some electrical issues and getting our stern light to work ($200). 

MARINA COSTS | Total = $663

Of course, if you're going to work on your boat, you need someplace to do it at. For us, that was Indiantown Marina in Florida, where we bought Tickety Boo (check out this post if you want to see what the marina is like). We spent three weeks at Indiantown - 11 days on the hard in the workyard and 10 days on the water in a slip.

So there you go, our costs for getting Tickety Boo ready to go cruising in the Bahamas. Now, let's have a look at how much our month-long shakedown cruise cost us.

Bahamas Shakedown Cruise (10 May - 9 June 2015)

The purpose of a shakedown cruise is to test our your boat - see what works and what doesn't, identify what changes you want to make and figure out what else you need to buy for the boat. Basically, a shakedown cruise is a process by which you figure out how much more money you're going to have to shake out of your wallet to keep your boat happy.

It's all to painful to think about, so if you're going to go on a shakedown cruise, why not head to the Bahamas to do it? In between making lists of stuff you need to fix and stuff you need to buy, you can distract yourself with snorkeling and Kalik beer. 

Overall, we spent $1,024 on our shakedown cruise, which works out to $256 a week. It's less than we spent traveling around the States in our 13' Scamp travel trailer ($434 a week - see here for details), in large part due to fabulously free anchoring!

So here's how it breaks down.

GROCERIES | Total = $429

This is broken down into three categories - provisioning in the States prior to heading off to the Bahamas ($267), groceries we bought in the Bahamas ($159) and ten gallons of drinking water we got in the Bahamas (25 cents a gallon). To be fair, we only paid for five gallons of water - our pals on S/V Wild Blue picked up the tab for the other five gallons (thanks!).

Everyone tells you how much more expensive things are in the Bahamas, so we stocked up on a bunch of stuff before we left. Lots of pasta, rice, cans of tomatoes and beans, onions and other fresh veggies, cheese, coffee, milk (UHT and powdered), brownie mix (which sadly didn't cook properly in our oven), tortillas, meat (a couple of pork loins, kielbasa and some brats) and, of course, a bag of Hershey's miniature chocolates. We also stocked up on some beer and booze, but those costs aren't included in here. 

My approach to provisioning was really laid back compared to when we cruised in New Zealand. Granted, we weren't out cruising as long this time, but I also learned some valuable lessons from New Zealand - trying to keep track of our provisions is a huge waste of time and you can never have too much coffee or chocolate on board. (If you're interested, you can read more about provisioning in New Zealand here, here and here.)

We also topped up our food supplies while in the Bahamas - buying things like eggs, cheese, bread, salami, chicken and tortillas.

We still have a fair bit of food left which will help keep our grocery budget down during June. 

DRINKS & EATING OUT | Total = $133

We probably spent a bit more on drinks and eating out then we anticipated, but we had fun doing it (even if some of the food was mediocre). 

One of the best places we dropped some money at was the Blue Bee bar in Green Turtle Cay. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to order the Goombay Smash rum punch. So delicious! You'll end up ordering another glass (or two or possibly three). 

One of the best values we found was Bahamian mac n'cheese. Nothing like what you get in the States. They serve their mac n'cheese in squares, kind of like a casserole, and usually as a side dish. I was feeling peckish one day and got some at a snack bar in Hopetown - only $4 and it filled me right up. 

We also had a mediocre dinner at Cap'n Jack's in Hopetown, lunch at the Wrecking Tree (where Nicole Kidman was spotted a couple of days previously) and snacks and drinks at McIntosh's, both in Green Turtle Cay.

FUEL | Total = $250

We spent $201 on 50 gallons of diesel for our boat and $48 on ten gallons of gas for our dinghy. We ended up motoring far more than we would have liked (including both Gulf Stream crossings) which ratcheted up the fuel bill. However, we still have around 5 gallons of gas left and somewhere between 15-20 gallons of diesel left. 

LPG | Total = $8

Before we left, we filled up one of our LPG tanks (our other one was full). We use LPG to cook with, so it is pretty important to make sure you never run out. Otherwise, someone I know gets pretty grumpy if there isn't any coffee in the morning. We used up one tank, but still have quite a bit left in our other tank. 

MOORING BALLS | Total = $44

One of the biggest ways we saved money was to anchor every night except two. Anchoring is free. Mooring balls aren't. And marinas in the Bahamas are incredibly expensive. Staying at a marina in the Bahamas wasn't ever going to happen. Some places are over $3 a foot. It would have cost us over $100 to stay at many marinas in the Abacos, and water and electricity aren't always included. Definitely not in our budget. Plus, its so much nicer to be on the hook watching the sun set in a beautiful anchorage. 

Although we anchored the majority of the time, we did pick up two mooring balls. The first one was at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart Florida on our first night. There is a free anchorage just across the way, but the wind was going in the wrong direction, we hadn't anchored this boat before and our windlass wasn't working. So, we took the easy way out and picked up a mooring ball. For $23, we got a place to park our boat, free WiFi and a hot shower. 

The second time we picked up a mooring ball was in Man O'War Cay. The harbor is basically a mooring field and we read in our guide that the holding was poor there. So, it was the easy way out again for us. For $21, we got a place to park our boat, no WiFi and no showers. Not such a great deal. 

CLEARING IN | Total = $150

Boats cruising in the Bahamas are required to get a cruising permit (which also doubles as a fishing permit). The cost is based on the length of your boat. Under 35' and it will cost you $150, 35' and over and it will cost you $300. Our boat is 34'5". The lady at Customs & Immigration wanted to round up to 35'. If you know anything about Scott, then you'll know that this wasn't going to happen. After a bit of discussion and some phone calls, she agreed that our boat was indeed less than 35'. So in exchange for $150, we got a 90 day cruising permit. 


We ended up buying some clothes pins (can't have too many of these on a boat) and a can opener. Our can opener broke. When you live on a boat, depend upon canned goods for dinner and are in an anchorage without access to stores, restaurants etc. then this is a disaster. Surprisingly, one of the things I always say to Scott is that it is so important to have a back-up can opener on board. Did we have one? No. So we bought a $6 can opener in Marsh Harbour. Worked the first day, then once we left Marsh Harbour, it stopped working. Awesome. I wonder if Nicole keeps a spare can opener in her handbag?

So there you go - what it cost us to get Tickety Boo shipshape and take her out cruising in the Bahamas. It's just too depressing to look at how much we've spent, so I'm off to see if we have any Bahamian rum left. That might help ease the pain, especially as a bottle of Castillo rum only cost us $10.

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