Drifting Through Paradise
The Journey Home.....
We left Luperon yesterday. Today we’re in Provo. The weather system and timing just didn’t work out.
We are really going to miss cruising with September Song. Little Dylan grows by leaps and bounds each day. Every day he is more articulate and fascinating to watch. He learns so many new things each day. It’s such a delight to be able to watch him grow and learn. Physically he’s growing too.
September Song has planned to go to Trinidad and then over west to the Panama Canal and on up to the Sea of Cortez. From there they plan to ship the boat by truck to Seattle. As we all know plans change often, so it will be fun to watch their progress.
As we pulled up anchor in Luperon, Tom sat in his cockpit watching with his chin on the lifelines. I hope we’ll get to see them again before too long. The crossing was windless, the moon full and the swells comfortable. We’re debating on whether we should head out tomorrow for the Exumas. A “weak front” is between us and the Exumas, so we will have to travel through it if we leave tomorrow. If we wait it out, it might keep us here the rest of this week. Decisions, decisions….
April 21, 2000
Galliot Cut, The Bahamas
We are anchored at Galliot Cut in the Exumas. We left Provo Wednesday morning and sailed straight through to Friday at noon when we put down the hook here. We have never eaten so well as we did on this passage. We had lunch at noon and dinner at six. For that matter, we’ve never kept watches so well either. I usually got 2+ hours of sleep every 3 to 6 hours. Mitchell didn’t do quite that well but he did sleep more often then in the past.
On Wednesday we motor-sailed in flat calm seas. On Thursday at 2 am we crossed through the frontal system. As we got behind it, the seas got slightly lumpy and we had wind on the nose. By Thursday morning/afternoon we were sailing with the motor off! We were averaging 6 knots – climbing at times to 7 knots. Friday came and with it, the wind died and the seas flattened out to glass. We motored the remaining miles to Galliot.
We’ve been checking in with Herb the weather guy for the past two weeks. Everyday at 3:30 boats wanting weather forecast for their specific area call in on the single side band radio. Herb then talks to each boat and tells them what the can expect from the weather for the next few days. From April 9 –16, Herb told us the seas would be rough and we should wait in Luperon, which we did. Some boats chose not to follow Herb’s advice – they did not encounter the comfortable conditions that we had. Herb spends 5 hours per day talking to 40 to 80 boats and the radio. He spends another 8 hours putting together analyses for these boats. He does it because he likes to. Some people send him money so he can maintain the ton of equipment he needs to analyze the weather and then broadcast to everyone all over the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific. Herb is quite a guy!
So we’ve been listening to Herb each day and are able to track the progress of boats we know. On this trip, the weather was good for everyone. So as we traveled north we would pass those boats traveling south. It makes me smile to connect a boat name that talks to Herb with the actual boat as we pass it. Yes, this was a good passage. We were able to get into shipboard life quite quickly and easily. Other than dust and a few mishaps in the galley with eggs and oatmeal, we even managed to keep Hetty tidy and neat.
Tonight we’re anchored with four other boats. At least two of them have dinghied to the beach to make a bon fire and hang out. Mitchell and I joke about how “when we had friends” we did that too. This is very nearly the first time we have traveled alone without another boat. I think that we’re on the tail of the migration north. On Tuesday Luperon cleared out (by Friday, today, the boats from Rum to Mayaguana have filled Luperon harbor back up).
September Song, Blue Star, Elan, and 12 other boats left Luperon Tuesday for Samana. Now they are on their way to Puerto Rico. They should be anchored by Saturday morning. We sure do miss them. We’re especially sad to miss out on Dylan’s growing up. We can very clearly see how far he’s come physically and emotionally from Georgetown to Luperon. He’s even started speaking Spanish. Lola is hola, ados is Adios. He counts pretty well too - occasionally missing the 4 or the 9. He’s one very smart kid.
Staniel Cay, The Bahamas
We’re at Staniel Cay – actually we’re anchored behind the Thunderball Grotto (that cool cave where they filmed the 007 movie). Sea Treat loaned us that move to watch and the cave isn’t nearly as big as it looks in the film. Anyway, yesterday looked like a good day to make 20 miles north so we up anchored and headed out. The winds were 10 to 15 knots when we left but quickly grew to 20+ with higher gusts. Hetty sailed at an average of 7 knots – sometimes 8! That’s really fast for us. We even had a reef in the main. While getting underway we heard Day by Day call someone on the VHF! Day by Day, Don & Sylvette, were in Luperon with us. We were going to travel together but they had engine trouble so they left a day after us. We called them to find out where they were and where they were going. To our surprise, they were headed to Staniel too! What are the odds that without planning, two boats leave on different days and end up 400+ miles later in the same place.
To further that spine tingling feeling, we got a call on the SSB radio from Peter and Evelyn on Renegade (we sailed with them on New Year’s Day on their catamaran here at Staniel). Renegade was head this morning to Staniel too! What are the odds?
Staniel Cay is very quiet and empty compared to the last time we were here. Eight boats here in the harbor now when there were more then 20 for New Year’s.
The wind has subsided and is blowing from the west. The forecast is for NNE wind today. So we’ll hang out here for today and when it goes east (forecast to tomorrow) we’ll go to Norman’s Cay for cheeseburgers at McDuffs!
Traveling north elicits a contemplative feeling. It seems like we’ve gone so far and to so many places these past six months. I don’t feel the same as when I was last here four months ago. Then was good, now is good, only different. I think I am more comfortable now. My footsteps are not as light as they were. Six months ago we set out on our first big adventure. Now we’re coming full circle and talking of our next cruise, and the cruise after that. We’re in a cycle now. The saving money, making money part of the cucle isn’t the most fun part of the cycle. But the knowing what we want to do in our lives is very gratifying. We’re living as lily’s in a field and God is very good to us.
April 24, 2000
It’s cool to be able to see the bottom under the boat. The air is still so I can see individual blades of grass among the sand. I think they’re building a marina next to Club Thunderball. They’re putting in docks over there. There are a lot of birds here. We can hear them chattering away in the trees.
Yesterday we snorkeled Thunderball Cave. Peter and Evelyn invited us over for breakfast and then we all went snorkeling. The water is sooo much warmer than it was in December. We also got a close up look at a nurse shark that was sleeping under an outcropping of rocks. We just swam over there and peaked at him – he was four feet away! With the sun shining through the holes in the top of the cave the water was beautiful! We brought baggies of cookie crumbs and those fish know about baggies! I didn’t even get the baggy open and they swarmed Mitchell and I. They averaged 4 to 6 inches in size and nipped at us with their fish lips.
Of course I’ve been saving the spinach pasta shells from the mixed shells I bought in November for Emily the Pig on Big Major’s Spot. We went over to see Emily today and this time I was much braver. We landed the dinghy and I made it all the way to her huge cast iron bowl before she got to me. And once she’d honked down the pasta, she just wandered back up to us sniffing us with her huge pig nose for more goodies. When she didn’t smell any, she was amiable and just hung out.
Don and Sylvette on Day by Day went into town with us. They were cleaning fish at the yacht club so we got to see more nurse sharks and rays. They were after the dorado guts being thrown into the water.
To top off a wonderful Easter I cooked ham, mashed potatoes and corn and along with Day by Day we all went over to Renegade for Easter dinner. It was really nice.
Today, we think we’re bound for parts north…
April 25, 2000
We are at Norman’s Cay. We got the hood down around 4:30 and we were happily munching cheeseburgers by 6:00 at McDuffs.
Mitchell got out his Barker’s Island Yacht Club burgee and hung it at McDuffs. The whole ceiling/rafters are covered with burgees from boaters. Someone even hung their bra.
The owners remembered us and asked about our winter. They are very nice at McDuffs.
The anchorage at Norman’s is quite crowded. Eighteen boats are here. The cold fronts are forecasted to march through here every other day for the next 5 days. We’ll check with Herb and see when he thinks it would be good to go to Nassau and beyond.
April 28, 2000
We are at Allen’s Cay. Today we are going to Nassau.
Allen’s has iguanas on the beach – and a lot of seagulls. The seagulls are much prettier here than in the States. The gray and white is more distinct and they have lovely red beaks. They beg like dogs, though.
We brought the iguanas some crackers. They like the crackers but their eyesight isn’t so good. One iguana over bit and got my fingers. Another snuck up on Don and bit him on the toe. We also got a chance to snorkel a bit. And we ran into Getaway from our marina in Tampa Bay! They pulled in to the anchorage in the afternoon and we had sundowners on their boat.
April 29, 2000
We are being decadent and are staying at the Nassau Yacht Haven. We washed the salt off the boat, off ourselves, off our clothes…. It’s really a nice change.
The city life doesn’t suit us, though. There’s way too much hustle and bustle here.
Day by Day had to check in. When Nassau Harbor Control asked them their last port of call, Sylvette said “Luperon”. Oops. It cost them $100.
So we’ve reprovisioned a lot, got Hetty shipshape, and turned on our air conditioning! Which still works after much neglect this winter. We think that we’re headed for Chub Cay today. Then we wait out a cold front before crossing the Gulf Stream. Then we really will be back in the land of stuff.
Well, my entry as of this morning seems to have jinxed our passage for today. That’s the closest I’ve come to naming a destination before we got there. As soon as we pulled out of the slip and got fuel, the wind was blowing northwest – right on the nose. We decided – or I should say I decided – to anchor in Nassau Harbor rather than return to our slip at the Yacht Haven. Actually, my recollection of our conversation was Mitchell asking “what do you want to do? Stay here or anchor out?” to which I replied “anchor out”.
The day has been so full of “adventures” that it would’ve been a good idea to follow Mitchell’s preference to stay at the marina. In fact, we will never be anchoring in Nassau again if we can help it. We will be staying at the marina on any future trips.
We went to the fuel dock and promptly dumped a gallon of diesel into our cockpit rather than the jerry jug we were trying to fill. Then, once into the anchorage, we put down the hook and a dead dog floats by. The dog had a cinder block tied around her neck and she was quite bloated. She was also floating along with the tide. In fact, we had to use the boat hook to keep her from bumping into our boat. The horror of the situation aside, Mitchell remarks “if someone had asked you: Give me $40 or you will have to push a dead, bloated dog with a cinderblock tied around it’s neck away from the boat… The answer would be easy: “Here’s $40”. Forty dollars for the Yacht Haven wasn’t sounding so bad, I guess.
I decided to name her: Flo. Flo the Dog. Flo T. Dog. I know, it’s in bad taste. When the current changed, after we were anchored for a second time (I’m coming to that story) we saw Flo coming back with the tide. This time she was in the channel area. We kept watching to see if anyone would take notice – few did. One guy dinghied over to her, got a good look and took off very quickly.
So as we were recovering from our “Flo Sighting”, a gigantic freighter began to bear down on us. The freighter got so close, we let out more anchor rode to back away. Turns out we were a bit too close to the freighter docks. Oops. So we had to up anchor, find a new spot, and re-anchor. We actually ended up exactly where we were in December.
Yes, we should’ve stayed at the marina. We won’t make that mistake again!
We talked with September Song tonight. They’re in Puerto Rico. They travel 10 or so miles each night along the coast to avoid the tradewinds. Tonight they are headed for Ponce. Last night they heard the Coast Guard Station San Juan talking to a sailing vessel Hope. Tom couldn’t hear Hope, he could only hear the Coast Guard. Seems Hope was taking on water. I hope that everything is OK. Tom will do some investigating and keep us up to date on any news.
I don’t know what we’ll be doing tomorrow. I think we’ll wake up and see which way the wind is blowing.
May 4, 2000
Rodriguez Key, Florida
We are back in the United States! A little mangrove island called Rodriguez Key. We stayed at Nassau Yacht Haven through Monday. On Tuesday, we took off for Chub Cay. Tuesday was gray with an overcast sky, the seas were choppy – both made for a long day. Wednesday the forecast was for easterly winds through Friday at 15 knots. So we set out across the Great Bahama Banks. We averaged 6 knots all day so we made good time getting to South Riding Rock. We even flew the spinnaker for a while. We talked with Herb as we were passing South Riding Rock and Herb strongly suggested that we not cross the stream as the winds were too strong and the seas lumpy. He said we should wait at least 24 hours before crossing. Only problem is that there was no place to anchor to wait – South Riding Rock offered little protection. So we bit the bullet and kept on going.
Herb was right – we should’ve stayed put. When we got halfway across the seas were running 8 to 10+ feet. The wind wasn’t too strong but it was a bash with the lump seas. The waves and current sucked a lot of our progress away. The speedo registered speeds of 6 to 7 knots over the water but the GPS only showed 2.5 to 3 over the bottom. How depressing! Day by Day bailed out at 6am and headed northwest to make it easier for them. We decided against that because we would only have to make up the southing later on. It turned out to be six of one, half dozen of the other. We maintained a decent course but ended up at Rodriguez Key a little bit later than Day by Day. Normally we were a bit behind them anyway so it all came out about even.
We didn’t get a lot of sleep last night so it’s nice to have the hook down. Tomorrow – maybe Marathon….
May 6, 2000
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Marathon, Florida! It feels to Mitchell as if we were just here. It feels to me as if we were here in another lifetime.
We sailed the Hawk Channel yesterday. A few crab pots, yet it’s very wide and the average depth is 25’ – so no problems there. The wind was at our backs making for a very pleasant sail.
We dinghied ashore last night to call Customs and go to Publix. Publix has a scale so we weighed ourselves. I was very pleased to see that I’ve lost 6 to 8 stubborn pounds. I hope that I can manage to keep them off.
I couldn’t suppress the sill smile on my face as I shopped. So much stuff! Prices so cheap! They had at least 15 feet of space dedicated to frozen pizza! So many choices! I had to ask a grocer which aisle I might find the pizza in. He turned to his colleague and in Spanish said “how do you say aisle 13”. So I got a chance to say “Diez y tres, Gracias”. It surprised him. I’m excited to take up Spanish lesson and Lord knows that I won’t have trouble finding people to practice with.
Mushrooms, 2 cans for a dollar! They haven’t been that cheap anywhere. In the three countries we visited, we have found products that were made in the U.S. yet not sold in the U.S. Cereal, canned vegetables, etc. So it was odd to notice that Publix mushrooms are from Mexico. Weird, huh?
Mitchell had no problems clearing in and I had very much fun shopping at Publix. I can’t specifically say why I see everything a bit differently, it must be our experiences these past 6 months – they’ve colored the way I see things. People here have so much! And absolutely everything is available at all hours of each day.
I just saw a fishing boat go by. On the main steering seat sat the cutest puppy. I also noticed that the driver had his hand on the puppy’s back to ensure that he didn’t fall off. Puppies are thought of so differently here (at least among the more intelligent U.S. citizens). The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and the D.R. citizens don’t coddle their animals.
The beauty of this lifestyle is the huge variety a person is able to experience. In my opinion no one place fulfills it all. The crystal clear water, beautiful reefs and coral, simple Christian lifestyle all makes the Bahamas wonderful. The arid landscape, Hey Jose’s Mexican restaurant, wonderful, friendly people makes the Turks & Caicos unique. The beautiful, breath taking mountains, wonderful people and their lifestyle, wonderful climate all endears us to Luperon. And, of course, the U.S. with all that stuff, ease of movement, free speech, is all incomparable. Of course after all the variety there is something very special about being able to go home to Hetty every night.
I must mention that Mitchell is changing our oil. He’s a true cruiser, always aware of our limited resources. He’s concluded that it’s unnecessary to wear clothes while changing the oil. He’s very smart since laundry is not always available and is usually expensive. In addition to the logical, I like it because he’s a very handsome man (typists note: No, I did not add that last line – it was there and I can prove it).
From Mitch: Well, that’s all she wrote – literally. We had a great sail up from Marathon to Tampa, running through one storm system but otherwise fairly decent sailing conditions. Getting back to the marina was surreal, to put it blandly. We docked only a few feet away from the slip that we had left 6 months prior. As of January 1, 2001, I’m still not adjusted to being here at the dock. Fortunately it’s time to get Hetty ready for our next adventure…..