Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FW: heron

St Augustine where we are resting. The front came by...no big deal but since we are here for today, I am working on the bilge pump, etc. Hopefully this afternoon we will get to sightsee and then leave here tomorrow to continue up the ICW.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


We are on a dock at Palm Coast Marina-only because there are lousy anchorages between here and St. Augustine. That's our goal for tomorrow and to hang out on a dock there for the storms to pass. Then it is on again at our snail's pace for home. We'll be lucky if we get home before mid-June. The ride is beautiful, particularly in the early mornings and late afternoons. Above Vero Beach the ICW gets more natural and some places look like Jurassic Park! Of course there is development and some phenominal estates on the water but we like the rustic parts best.

Today we saw a HUGE manatee with a smaller one nearby.The adult was surfacing and rolling back into the water like a porpoise. We saw only part of the back and the tail and all THAT was at least 5'!!!! And the porpoises were playing around all day. About sunrise the water was like satin and there was a porpoise arching up and down in a slow rythm. It was surreally peacefull! Later, one even came along side the boat and looked at us, twice! WAY cool! I was sitting on the deck with my feet off the side and it was only about 24" from my toes! I heard there are eagles north of this. Maybe we'll see some tomorrow.

I like the ICW as something very different from the Bahamas but understand that it may not be our cup of tea very often. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous so we've had three great days of motoring - after two weeks of getting the engines fixed. We still have 'issues' but hopefully we'll not need to get them professionally taken care of until Cobbs Boatyard in Norfolk - or home.

I'm not painting until we get to St. Augustine. It is hard to do it while we're on the way right now. But there is the triptych that I started in Bimini and it is coming along beautifully. I have one part finished and the other two are in good shape. Hopefully one more part will be done in St. A. I'd like to do some sightseeing there, too.

The rum punch is kicking in. I'd better go cook dinner 'for I forget how!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Local Boater Option

Immigration has a new feature which allows you to call into them rather than show up in person for future entrances into the country. It is called the LBO or Local Boater Option and is open to all US citizens. You can only get it at specific offices in Florida (Miami, Port Everglades, and West Palm Beach), Peurto Rico and the Virgin Islands. You have to call first and get an appointment. You bring your passport and boat documentation. The interview takes about 10 minutes and they issue you a number which lets you in without the hassle of having to report in person. It is good forever and is free. There are 11 places in Florida in which you can enter and use this service. Otherwise you need to report in person within 24 hours or face severe penalties. This is in addition to the decal you need for Customs but, with these two, you can enter the country by phone. Finally, a good deal from our government.

On the hard

In Bimini we discovered that the oil looked streaky and gray. Showed it to several people and there was no general agreement as to the problem. Changed the oil, including the filter and it still looked that way. Turns out that there was water mixed in with the oil. The fresh water coolant level was fine which meant it must be salt water and the only way for it to get in was through the exhaust. But the engine would run. Pumped out the sludge several times and got mostly water out. Put some new oil in and decided not to run it until we got to the states. If this ever happens to you, PUT DIESEL FUEL INTO THE OIL TO CUT IT AND MAKE IT EASY TO GET IT PUMPED OUT. Of course we learned this after the fact but it really works.
We left Bimini the next morning on one engine and motor sailed the 80 miles to Palm Beach, Lake Worth in beautiful weather. The Gulf Stream was a non event with the wind from the ESE and 2 to 4 foot waves. We anchored just south of the entrance (see previous discussion about customs) and had dinner on Puff. The next day got the boat into a yard (Cracker Boy) and hauled. Not a bad feat for a boat that could only make left turns. We rented a car and went to Immigration to check in. No problem...so now we are completely legal.
We have been lucky to get a good mechanic. While we can’t go anywhere anyway, we are having general work done on both engines: new belts, filters, hoses, getting the heat exchangers rebuilt, etc. Hopefully the new parts will be installed early next week. We have also found a guy who has been working on the refrigerator. We think we have diagnosed the problem, after a year and the debacle with those #*@$^#& at Lamy Marine in Norfolk (see earlier)..
Other than that, we are doing small projects and hanging out. We keep running into cruisers we met in different places along the trip as everyone seems to be making the trip north.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bye Bye Bimini

Hello all,
First I have to apologize to you for these impersonal emails.  Finally we are in the States and will have pretty easy access to the internet for a couple of days while we are at Cracker Boy Boatyard getting the engine fixed (again!).  I hope you will write and give us your news while we can have a dialogue!  (What a concept!)
No more turquoise water.  No more vast horizon with just an occasional island.  No more flying fish "escorting" our boat home. Now it is all memories, photos and souvenirs.  We collected empty conch shells, fan coral, pretty shells of many colors and sizes, sea beans and beach glass.  We made friends with countless strangers, also boaters, whom we have found again all the way from Georgetown in the Exumas up here to Riviera Beach!  Now we're embarking on yet another chapter in this adventure.
On Wednesday Kathy, Lew and I walked down N. Bimini island to go beach combing.  As we passed the Fisherman's Paradise Restaurant, Desne Smith (the owner/chef) came out to say hello.  She gave us some of the history of the island including the large estate across the street and stories from the Hemingway era.  Before we left we had made arrangements to have a big family style dinner for at least four more boats on Thursday evening.  It turned out to be 14 boats and a fabulous way to say good bye to the Bahamas.  We were delighted that Desne could put together a delicious grouper dinner with cole slaw, peas and rice and a cracked conch appetizer (plus corn and green beans and ice tea and a fruit punch) for so many people on such short notice.  The best part was that it was only $15 per person!  A dinner like that would have cost us $40 anywhere else in the Bahamas.  If any of you are traveling that way, you can reach Desne at work (242) 347-3220 or home (242) 347-3370 to arrange your own dinner party.  But it is more fun to meet her in person.
Bimini is the best place to start or end a Bahamas vacation.  It is only 40 miles east of Miami but, because of the strong current, getting across the Gulf Stream is rarely a straight shot.  We were about 70 miles from the Lake Worth Inlet, near Palm Beach.  We left Bimini with about 20 other boats on Friday morning crossing the Gulf Stream in near perfect weather. 
The statistics of this trip so far have been too detailed to list but the synopsis is this: 95 "Lovely Wonders" which include animals, sunsets, beaches, and social gatherings; 58 irritants that are as wearing as water torture but not life threatening; "only" 21 scary and/or dangerous incidents that could have been worse, 8 of which were actually life or health threatening.  On this long trip so far we have spent 42 days in the Abacos, 85 in the Exumas and only 6 in Bimini.  We could enjoy many of the places we visited again, and again.
Now we're living aboard about 20' off the ground in the boatyard.  There are three or four other boats that are "populated" but the yard is locked up until Monday morning.  Our rented car is outside where we can get to it if we want to.  There is another catamaran "Harmony" to our right.  Between us, in this order, are "Lady Rapscallion", "Tranquility" and "Mayhem".  At least "Mayhem" is surrounded by "Tranquility" and "Harmony" and not the other way around!
The Intercoastal Waterway part of this adventure will begin as soon as the engines are good to go again.
We hope you are doing ok in your many adventures. 
 Cheers from Florrie & Lew

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Friday, April 11, 2008

homeland security

How can I describe this one. You get a decal which allows you to check through customs by phone. You call them with a number you got from another cruiser because they don't give you one when you get the decal. You are put on hold for about an hour only to her a voice which hangs up on you. You dial it again, now getting very close to port, to be put on hold (your call is important to us...) for another 40 minutes to be told that you have to be tied up at a dock or anchored in order to check in (IF YOU CONTINUE TO TRAVEL OR TIE TO A TREE OR RUN AGROUND, YOU ARE FREE TO BE HERE WITHOUT GOING THROUGH CUSTOMS...NOW DON'T YOU FEEL SAFER?)
Ok, being a law abiding soul, we anchor in West Palm Beach and call customs. Now it is 6:30 and we wait on hold for another hour. Finally we are cleared through by someone with a foreign accent. Tomorrow, after we get the boat hauled to fix the head gasket on the port engine, we have to go ashore and rent a car or take a taxi to go through immigration at the nearest airport because the law gives you 24 hours to clear immigration or else! And this is supposed to be a shortcut? It used to be you called customs and they either came to the boat or let you in. That was it...the whole process of entering the country. On the bright side, I guess I have an honest voice because they never asked me about what I had to declare or if I had any firearms (I don't) or fruits or vegetables, etc. etc.
Long and short of it is that we are back in the USA after a beautiful day (East at 10) with the gulf stream being a non event.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


We left Nassau at about 10 AM on Saturday for an overnight trip to North Rock, just north of Bimini. Listening to weather reports, we prepared for the possibility of cutting short our plan to go directly to the US. Lightning was in the sky. According to other people's radar, it was about 30 miles away but headed to cross our path. By then we had picked up two more sailboats in a five boat flotilla (we were traveling with Puff and The Suzanne). We slowed down and were only using 1/3 jib so that we would reach North Rock by dawn and would have a choice: push on or go south to Bimini. About 7 AM Sunday, as we were getting close, there was a lot of discussion on the radio and it was decided to go into Bimini. We rounded the light and went south only to be hit with the thunderstorm. It was pouring buckets. One boat was about 100 feet behind us and we could barely see their lights. We hove-to on one motor for the first time. Harmony was sideways to the 6 foot waves but rode steadily going southwest at less than ½ knot for ½ hour while the storm blew through with 30 knot winds. One of the other boats took a wave over the stern which broke off their davits, holing the dink and they had to drag it behind them upside down.
Coming into port was hairy. Someone on land was trying to give directions but it sounded like we needed to leave a rock to port and come between it and the shore - we were looking at ferocious breakers. We went for it only to do a 180 because there was no water between the shore and that rock. Wrong directions - so we went north to find the pass and got into the marina. As we got there we turned on the port engine to get into a slip. Yeah? No port engine so at about 10 AM Sunday we got to the gas dock where we remain. No starter! We will probably stay here until we get one shipped from the states. OR, if we get a really good weather window, take the starter off the starboard engine, put it onto the port engine, start the port engine and leave it on for as much as it takes while putting the starter back on the starboard engine. At least we have that option but given previous problems with the port engine …
So we sit here. Lew had expected Bimini to be a fancy place with lots to see and do. Wrong! Since the fancy boat traffic goes up to Lucaya, this place is almost empty. At least it is cheap at $.75 per foot. Every other marina had been $1.25 - $4 a foot. Three boats, including Suzanne, left this morning leaving Puff and us here.
On the bright side, we caught a 43 inch Mahi Mahi on the trip over and had fresh fish (very hard to find in the Bahamas) for Saturday dinner. Dinner on Sun night with Puff and Suzanne finished off the Mahi Mahi and we all slept very well at the dock only to wake up at 5:30 in another thunderstorm. Now it is about 8 AM and it is clearing up. Who knows when we'll really head for the States …
Florrie's addendum: During the 24 hours between the anchorage in Nassau and the dock at Bimini, we had to take turns at the helm. Even with an auto pilot that meant someone had to stand watch for other boat traffic etc. At one point in the middle of the night all three women - Kathy, Sue & Florrie - were on the helm at the same time. We chatted a bit. Kathy was hand-steering Puff, a 39' sail boat, while Dave slept. Florrie was paying attention to the auto pilot and doing her nails while Lew slept. Sue was just enjoying the night and stars from the bridge of their 39' trawler, The Suzanne. It was a pretty unique initiation into a very different sisterhood. Bimini is lovely, sitting on the edge of vast sand bars and shoals which means gorgeous turquoise water. There is a little cay covered with Mangroves a few hundred yards to the east that is covered with White Ibis or Egrets. The Pelicans sit on any available piling. Maybe Kathy and Florrie will get to do some more shopping before heading to the States.

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