Monday, February 23, 2009

Puttin in Time on Planet Earth, Watching the Fireworks up Very Close

Nick and Linds find the Parrot.
I put down my drink long enough to take this.
It is now 15 seconds old. I was ready.

Waiting at the Parrot for Linds and Nick.

Watching the third of two forecast cold fronts move through in 2 days. It is overcast, windy and cool. Relative I know but cool none the less.

Friday evening was very interesting in the Nassau anchorage. Just after dark a self propelled barge moved into position about 50 yards from Meredith. It appeared to be stationary. Odd but then in Nassau you get used to it.

We retired about 9:00 p.m. and were soon sound asleep after a busy day buying discount liquor - Belvedere Vodka for $29, Crown Royal for $12, Bacardi 12 year old for $17 (LITRE bottles dude). Lot of work hauling that home. And then the tasting. My goodness. We were quite enervated let me tell you.

About 10 p.m. we both woke with start. That is what they would say in polite novels anyway. Bloody hell erupted on Meredith. BLAM....BLAM....BLAM. First thought for each of us rousing from a deep sleep was "The Boat is Lost, We're Going Down". No boat could withstand the impact of the blows we heard.

Wait a minute. We heard them. No impact. What the hell? The barge was the firing station for the weekly Atlantis Resort fireworks display. The show had just begun and when we hit the cockpit - naked of course, I mean really - it was just warming up.

We sat literally beside the firing station and saw the best fireworks display of our sheltered lives. A few moments of concern as flaming debris hit the deck and water around us but the deck wash pump took care of that.

My life may be 5 years shorter but what a blast.

Nick and Linds just walked in so gotta go.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Other Boats' Stories

It has now been 8 days since we spent any money. Except for the beer I am buying at the Green Parrot Bar as I write this.

This is article is just for fun.

Reading my last blog the crew of Douce Folie V who have became fast and good friends of the crew of Meredith wrote this:

As sailors, we do understand the fact that you report on problems and difficulties. This is sometimes the only stories we can tell.... Recently, our grandson had been hospitalized for a pneumonia, Andrée's mother too for a heart attack, our condo is taking water by the roof and our dinghy engine died.....
Here in Florida (Hollywood) we are still having cold fronts and windy weather.

Benoit and Andree we hear you. We get cold fronts all the time here in Nassau. But they are warmer here.

The landlubbers just aren't on board. Good luck getting home good friends. We think we will brave Cuba next.


You should talk to the skipper of Freja (not the Freja we started our journey with Ben, a different one). He ran aground in Marsh Harbour on a falling tide. Noting his dilemma (you know the old waterline about 6 inches above the water) we went to console him. He was really in his cups. Another boater tried to help by using his dinghy to pull on a halyard to try to heel Freja over.

Freja's skipper handed the halyard over to the dinhyman and the dinghy took off. Sadly the skipper had not cleated the bitter end of the halyard to anything.

Yup. The halyard pulled right out of the mast. No spares either.


The cake is awarded to the crew of Isla, a Pearson 42 with 7 foot draft and a 65 foot mast. We are not sure what these people are but they are not quitters.

Before getting to Bahamas they hit not one but TWO bridges in Florida with the mast of Isla. Each hit took out the entire masthead works - antennas, anenometers, masthead light, the whole works. Now the only problem here is that each bridge has a scale on it telling the boaters how much clearance is available.

Deciding to only travel only at low tide to avoid further repeats of the bridge ringing Isla then found itself stuck hard aground - in the middle of a bridge which had opened for it. The bridge of course could not close. For a very long time.

We encountered these people when responding to a plea for help. They had been hard aground about 5 miles south of Great Sale Cay. They had run their boat into a huge, I mean enormous, charted HAZARD zone. They were right in the middle of the thing and had missed an entire high tide while waiting for a friend to come to their aid with a trawler to haul them off.

Over the course of an hour we heard that:

  1. They were following friends who had a lot of experience and the friends ran them aground,
  2. The wife who normally watched the depth meter had gone to make supper and no one checked,
  3. The alarm on the depth sounder worked but it did not ring the alarm buzzer loud enough,
  4. The gps had failed and gave wonky readings,
  5. The skipper had left the helm on autopilot while crossing the shallow bank to take some pictures and was no near the instruments or chart when the grounding occurred.
Enroute to give aid as the tide was rising for their second time the following questions were asked and answered (remember we have gained a good deal of experience in being aground):

Have you dumped your water to raise your water line? No. We do not carry any water.

Have you moved all your heavy movables off the boat, eg. chain anchors, clothes, everything? No. It will not do any good.

Have you got your anchor out to kedge off? No. This no was adamant.

Meredith slowed her pace as there was obviously no need to hurry. These were very nice people and we wish them no harm but their whole strategy for getting off was getting a boat with a big enough motor.

Two nights later as we set the hook in Settlement Point off New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay we noticed that Isla was anchored just off our port bow.

We moved.

You will never hear that story about Meredith in these pages. Somebody else's maybe...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paradise in Many Forms

Written from the Green Parrot Bar -
Right Across Nassau Harbour from Paradise Island Resort

It has been suggested that we are only reporting bad news and some readers wonder when if we will ever start having fun. Actually we are trying to report the more interesting bits not the bad bits.

We long ago decided to live the best life we could imagine. At the moment this is it. There is nothing imaginably better that what we are doing.

Does it look like we are suffering:

Sailing by Windvane From Little Harbour, Abacos to Royal Island NE of Nassau

While the Skipper's old Celestial Navigation class at the Goderich Power Squadron was wrestling with its written exam the crew of Meredith was dining aboard My Bless I in Royal Island Harbour. Our host, Sergio Carvalho, is a retired Submarine Captain in the Brazilian Navy. Captain Carvalho also taught Celestial Navigation at the Unites States Naval Academy in Annapolis, a neat little tie in with the Power Squadron, don't you think?

We met Sergio and his friend Valter in a protected harbour on Royal Island, just at the Northwest corner of Eleuthera Island. Meredith headed for Royal due to its protected harbour. A major storm was predicted and Meredith needed cover.

When it became apparent the forecast storm storm would not materialize as forecast the mood grew festive and we agreed to meet aboard My Bless I for a celebration. Connie and Valter cooked up a storm, Bob brought movies and charts to trade and Captain Carvalho warmed up his bartending skills.

The Captain's specialty is Caipirhina - A Brazilian Drink of Muddled Limes, sugar and Cachaça, a sugar cane alcohol. On hearing that skipperbob served a variety of this drink at Sock Burning Party #1 the Commander insisted on showing the skipper how to do the drink properly. In several variations.

Captain Sergio, on the Left and Valter
Installing some Weather software the Skipper traded

Valter is a cool guy who just bought a used Delta 36, made in Brazil, and he and Sergio are sailing it home. Valter needs to make it a slow trip because his wife, who is now divorcing him, is unaware of the boat's existence and he is concerned the judge might not believe his plea of poverty.

It was without a doubt the best storm of our trip.

So far.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Shooting Whales in the Abacos

Written from Bakers Bay, Guana Cay, Abacos No Lat/Lon available

No, we are not taking berths on a Japanese scientific boat. As much fun as that sounds!!!

Bahamian Whale Shooting is just as exhilarating and not nearly so messy.

The Abacos are divided into North and South parts. These parts are separated by a giant shifting sand bar which extends across the entire width of what is called the Abaco Sea extending from Whale Cay on the ocean side to Treasure Cay on the Great Abaco Island side.

To get from North to South you must Shoot the Whale - transit a narrow little inlet on the north en d of Whale Cay and enter the Atlantic. Then you sail two miles along Whale Cay and slide back into protected waters through an equally narrow inlet on the south side of Whale Cay.

The Budget Committee says the trouble with the inlets is that they resemble the captain of Meredith: plenty wide enough but very shallow.

Shallow is bad at an inlet as any swell with an easterly component comes in off the Atlantic and builds immediately into BREAKERS. Naturally for the two weeks before we attempted to shoot the Whale the winds were steady out of the East South East.

Every one else was reluctant to try the Whale. Finally Meredith grew tired of waiting. Off we went.

Motoring into 6 to 9 foot waves the entire 3 mile inlet and then wallowing along the 2 mile length of Whale Cay in the same 6 to 9 foot waves was a relative breeze for the erstwhile Meredith.

That night we anchored all alone in Bakers Bay at the north end of Great Guana Cay. Bakers Bay used to be a reserved stop for a cruise line. The cruise line stopped using it because they had to cancel too many trips due to bad weather at the whale.

Their loss. We slept very nicely in a protected anchorage formerly reserved for the paying public.


The Adventure Story:

Oh, yes. One boat did try just after us. The waves hit it much harder than Meredith and there was steady green water over the bow.

Halfway through the Whale Inlet the pounding of the waves caused the anchor to throw off its lashings. Over the side it went dragging 200 feet of chain and 200 feet of nylon rode with it.

The anchor, of course, snagged bottom.

Now the hapless crew found themselves anchored in the 6 to 9 footers. They were not terribly happy. The only solution was to cut the rode and give away a 65 lb CQR and 200 feet of chain and 200 feet of 5/8 nylon. Call it a $3,000 day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Green Turtle Cay - Dragging at 35 knots

Green Turtle Cay - Lat/Lon: 26.77 -77.33

Well, ok, we were not dragging at 35 knots. We were only dragging at 3 knots. The wind was 35 knots. And it was 3:30 in bloody morning.

When I rose for my usual mid morning bladder relief and as the wind was up a bit with a passing cold front, I decided to check our position at anchor. While tactically a good move it ruined 3 years of careful husbanding of my poor overworked heart muscle.

We had dragged. When I hit the sheets we were 7 boat lengths ahead of this nice trawler, Clair de Lune III. I mean it was very nice. Ken and Evyta, its owners, had provided drinks for Meredith the night before at the weekly meet and greet on the beach.

Turning to get my clothes I called Connie to the aid of the boat. Connie has a lightening trigger when her home is threatened and was up in a flash. Before I got my briefs on I saw we were now only 2 boatlengths off the poor old Lune.

Clothes have never been a big part of my life and I saw no reason to sacrifice my boat to save some poor sensitive baptist an embarrassing sight. So out I went as God intended (I know I do this a lot). Damn - the Lune was only 1 boat length. I could see us approaching her.

As I hit the starter on Meredith's diesel Connie, quite chaste in her sweattop alone, ran to the bow to bring in the anchor chain hoping to slow our forward progress. Good old diesel - started this time. But the wind was so loud I could not hear it. Meredith was shuddering in the blast of wind so much I could not feel the diesel either.

I assumed it caught and damn if it did not let us down. The poor keel on our boat struck the anchor rode from Lune and we hung up. THANK GOD. This delayed our progress rearward as the wind caught the bow and drew us perpendicular to Lune. This pas de deux gave me enough time to goose the throttle and bring Meredith across the Lune's bow, our stern missing her bow by no more than 1 foot. God's honest truth.

We headed up into the raging wind and looked for another spot to anchor.

Finding one we settled down to a night on anchor watch. Within 30 minutes 8 boats had dragged, sequentially losing their hold on the precious bottom. No collisions thank goodness but the anchorage resembled the dance floor at a howdown.

Next morning we took a slip at the marina. The fee of $70 a night was not too bad. Best part was that the restaurant and bar bills were deducted from your moorage so it was either free food and booze or free moorage. Our first night we dined with a charming couple who thought Conrad Black to be a rather nice fellow. "We remember him growing up. Not a lick of trouble from that one". Was the line.

Not too shabby for a little dirt track sailor and his Nascar honey.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Great Sale Cay - First Real Stop in the Abacos

While Turtle Watching Connie caught this Big Old Sea Turtle on Film
Great Sale Cay

The first stop for most sailors intending to enjoy the Abaco Islands is Great Sale Cay, about 110 nm from Lake Worth Inlet, Florida.

Now a Cay is not much when viewed against the horizon, and most cays cannot be seen from 6 nm away.

Great Sale Cay on Approach - 2 miles off

Your navigation wants to be spot on. You cross either to Memory Rock or West End from Lake Worth Inlet. If you are watching your depth sounder you see your operating depth move from 450 feet to 10 feet in about 20 seconds.

Your depth stays remains at 6 to 15 feet for the next 75 nm.

No playing video games on your chartplotter. Sailing the small Bahama Bank is a treacherous nerve tautening exercise in which the depth sounder rules supreme. It really does not matter what the chartplotter says, if your depth is 5 feet you have problems.

A navigation error of 20 feet off course is all it takes to ruin a good day.

Coming out of West End dead in the centre of the charted route we found ourselves in 6 inches less water than our boat needed to float. Forty Five minutes later we had moved 15 feet to the North and found 7 feet which we had for the next 45 miles into Great Sale Cay.

The depth sounder rules supreme down here and you take your eyes off that dial only at great peril.

Great Sale Cay is one of the nicest sites we have visited in all of the Bahamas. On arrival we were one of 3 boats. Next morning we found several new guests:

Naturally as soon as you have two boats you have an excuse for a party and Meredith hosted this one:

From Left to Right: Crew of Consort, Kitty from Tamare, Ken and Julie from Lee Ann, George and the frontal hair lobe of Georgia of Agapi, Russ from Tamare and Steve from Seeker.

It was a good and fortuitous visit: All of us at Great Sale that night met again at Green Turtle Cay where we have spent near a week now storm stayed under a succession of punishing cold fronts.

On which more later.

What About Those Elephants?

Last post and before the bar call distracted me I promised to talk about dancing elephants. Some of you have already heard this.

Crossing the Gulf Stream, or any other strong tidal current, there is a rule of thumb to gauge the weather: elephants.

As you leave North America (in the case of the gulf stream) you watch the horizon. In good conditions you see a parade of dogs and cats marching nose to tail.

In moderate conditions you see a line of horses marching and in challenging conditions you get a regular Circus parade of Elephants marching across the horizon.

If the elephants are dancing you do one thing: turn tail and run like hell for the mainland.

It does not matter what the forecast says or what the buoy report says, just get out while your breakfast is still in your stomach.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Gulf Stream, Elephants Dancing and West End

West End at 7:00 a.m. After the Crossing -
This is the whole of West End, There Ain't No More

We left Vero Beach Florida on the forecast of a 3 day window for crossing the Gulf. We were not alone.

First night we entered a little cul de sac on the ICW called Peck Lake where we followed Skipper Bob to the letter. Promptly we ran aground. All the other boats, none of whom followed Skipper Bob even remotely, entered with ease.

The next day we headed off for Lake Worth Inlet intending to anchor in West Palm Beach just inside the inlet so we could get a good start for Bahamas. A group of 5 of us, Lee Ann, Agapi, Radical Jack, Grace C and Meredith agreed to maintain radio contact on the passage. A little security blanket.

Our plan was to arrive at Lake Worth Inlet early in the day, rest up and depart at about 9:00 p.m. This would allow us to make our first Bahamian anchorage before sundown.

Clearing customs in the Bahamas is a beginner's lesson in naval approach of a foreign land. You fly the Q flag from a yardarm, a yellow flag informing all who approach you that you have not cleared customs and are not permitted to land or to take boarders. It also applies to other quarantine situations but thankfully not for us. When you have gone through the customs process you take down the Q flag and fly a courtesy flag of the country you have entered. Not flying the courtesy flag is dimly viewed by most countries.

Arriving at West Palm early in the day we slept or pretended to as we built up reserves for the overnight trip to the Small Bahamas bank. Some of the boats were heading for Memory Rock from which point they would enter the bank and head for Great Sale Cay.

Meredith was bound for West End where we would clear customs and then carry on to Great Sale Cay.

It takes a long time for the clock to turn when you are waiting for something in trepidation, an entire day passed between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

I am now going for drinks with friends and will have to finish this later.