Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bahamas

Dear Friends and Family,

Sixty-two hours from the time we left until we anchored at our check in point of Morgans Bluff on Andros Island in the Bahamas. Sixty-two hours was not what we were expecting, but we’re here and we’re safe and all is well.
We departed Boot Key in Marathon, Florida around 2pm on Thursday. The sail pretty much brought rough seas right from the get go. Jimi considered turning around, but we decided to tough it out. It was a beautiful sun shining day with six to eight foot waves. The waves were fierce and rocked Sanibel around, but she handled them like she was meant to. Ten plus years she was deprived of what she was meant to do and we brought her back to life. I hated the trip, but am proud of the work Jimi did to get us here and of our Sanibel. While we were never in any real danger, I was miserable and mostly stayed below deck. Molly didn’t like the constant rocking either and stayed with me on the aft berth or in her cave (the bottom of Jimi’s dresser).  I would venture to the cockpit on occasion to keep Jimi  company and check on him. At one point on Saturday we lost all wind and were simply floating. I took advantage of this time to clean up taking a salt water bath in the cockpit; it was such a refreshing feeling after being cooped up in the aft berth for two days. During the voyage the depth ranged from 12 feet to 2,500 feet. We reached the Bahama Banks Friday evening and anchored for the night. Jimi had been sailing by himself since we left Florida and needed some rest. He actually took a few naps while Sanibel sailed herself the night before; this is common if the winds are right, but still he needed some real sleep. We slept through the night and then continued on early Saturday morning arriving in the small anchorage of Morgans Bluff around 4am on Sunday. We took Sunday to rest and clean up the inside of Sanibel. With the rough seas, things were not quite as secure as we thought they were. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff was laying around the entire cabin. It was comical to stand and stare at; I wished I had taken pictures, but didn’t think about it at the time. We’ll stay here until we have winds that will take us Southeast where we will island hop through the Exuma chain.

Monday Jimi went to shore to check in with the Bahamian Customs Department. Only the Captain is allowed off the vessel until all parties have been cleared. There’s nothing here to speak of: a gas station and a bar. The procedure for checking in is to go to the gas station and have the clerk call the customs officer of whom someone will come out to check all awaiting parties in. There is a town three miles down the road and we are told we can hitch-hike to get there – everyone does it. The area is quite laid back and safe from any crimes to worry about. The people are super friendly speaking English with a Jamaican tone – “ya mon” . I’m not sure that all the islands are this laid back and friendly; we’ll find out in due time.

The water is about 14 feet deep where we sit and so clear we can see right to the bottom. We have squid under our boat, fish, a couple of huge starfish and other well known sea life. Above the water line we have the dreaded biting horsefly – ouch, known by the locals as Dr. Fly because of its injections – which means the cabin has to be locked up at all times. Jimi has been bitten quite a lot and swells up. I have only been bitten a few times and haven’t had any effects from them (yet), but I won’t say never. It’s a warm 85 degrees here, however, there is a nice breeze and the water is perfect for a cool dip. With the breeze the weather is perfect. The down side is the biting flies that prevent us from experiencing the breeze throughout the cabin. One of these days we’ll make a screen for our hatch, which will allow us to keep it open and get a nice breeze through the cabin.

See the attached picture of the boaters washing machine?
 It consists of a bucket, sea water and a plunger. When washing machines are not available, this is how we will wash our clothes, etc. This is the first time I’ve used it, so I don’t know yet how well it will work. The process goes like this: I pour an itsy bit amount of soap in the bottom of a bucket (we have a five gallon cat liter bucket – perfect size) then I get sea water with our two gallon blue bucket on a rope from the ocean pouring it in to the washing bucket. I submerge my items – in this case I was washing towels – and begin to plunge away (quite vigorously, I learned). Then I take the items out.  I change the water after each set of items because I can clearly see it was dirty. Once everything is soap down I repeat the process without soap. This is the salt water rinse. The third step is to rinse again only this time with fresh water. The fresh water rinse does not require as much agitation or the plunger. I simply dip a few times to rinse the salt water as best as possible and wring.
The final step is to hang the items on the life line to dry. Washing in the morning is best: it’s not as hot and the sun comes will be out all day to beat down and dry the washed items. I found that it can be somewhat back breaking and I certainly get a good workout from it. I have to say though it’s a neat idea and better then wearing dirty underwear – hahaha – had to throw that in there. Oddly enough we didn’t get the idea from the sailing blogs or other sailors. We got the idea from a lady who owned a small dollar store in Florida. I was in there buying a potato peeler (mine broke) she somehow recognized that we were sailors and showed me this plunger she made calling it the sailors washing machine. Just a regular ole toilet plunger with holes drilled  around the top so water and spit through as item are being agitated. I don’t know if she was joking or not, but we bought it. I’d say it seems to have worked except for one problem – it broke during the tail end of my cycle. The plunger was of cheap dollar store quality and we probably need one of those heavy duty black ones. Just another thing to add to our shopping list.

There are several sunken boats next to where we are anchored. Jimi snorkeled them, as I walked to old concrete dock and took pictures. It looks like there are three ships that sunk next to the dock.

We spoke with a Marine Wild Life Officer who told us the boats were derelict and left by their owners. As you can see from the pictures, parts of them are above the water level. Jimi took some underwater video while he was snorkeling. Also, washed up on the beach are a couple more large boats left for dead. The water is super clear – at least 30 feet deep and we can see right to the bottom.

A large Ray swimming near the sunken ships was at least four feet wide and large barracuda up to five feet in length were seen. Both took off when they saw Jimi snorkeling. We stopped to talk to a lady fishing off the old dock. She showed us several small fish she caught and was again quite friendly. She gave us some tips on fishing and what’s good to eat.

Jimi changed the prop on Sanibel. We’ve never had the correct size, but we have a smaller prop and a larger prop. Since our launch, we’ve used the smaller prop. Jimi decided to change it out for  the larger one to see what kind of results we get. The hope is for a quicker reaction, better steerage, and possible faster speed. Sanibel’s top hull speed is seven knots.

Good news involving a phone number for us. As long as we have an internet connection, we will have a phone through Google voice: you can call us or we can call you. I believe we have texting capability too. Right now the service is free, but eventually Google will begin charging. We have already been able to check in with Jeff, Jennifer and my parents. It works beautifully. The number is 303.351.2324.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Amateurs like Richard Tyrell McMullen pioneered yacht cruising and inspired others through their example. McMullen sailed thousands of miles around the British Isles  from 1850 and died at the helm of his yacht in 1891. Other pioneers include London barrister John Macgregor, who cruised in a small sailing canoe, and American Joshua Slocum, who, in 1898, aboard the 35-ft Spray, became the first person to singlehandedly circumnavigate the globe.

Be sure to watch the underwater video Jimi made; it’s really cool.

Happy sailing and love everybody!
Lorie & Jimi

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bahama Bound

 Dear Friends and Family,

Nothing too much has happened in the last week. Our main focus has been to keep a close eye on the weather for our chance to leave.  Fifty-five mph winds whipped through our anchorage last weekend. The wind hit our beam hard, abruptly waking us at 3am. This lasted about ten minutes and the rest of the weather band gave us a good old fashioned thunder storm and a first class lightening show.

Jimi has kept busy with various projects, as there are always projects. I’ve kept busy with my daily cleaning routine and my own projects. Otherwise, we’ve ventured out and about on occasion. Sporadically we’ve had some problems with our oven staying ‘hot’. Jimi fiddled with it for several days and finally got it working (fingers crossed). He asked me to bake something to test it. I baked peanut butter cookies and took some to our boat neighbor Skip, as well as Tom & Colleen.

As the plan stands now we are departing Marathon tomorrow (let us hope the weather doesn’t change its mind). If we do leave, keep track of us on the “Where are We?” tab of our blog: I’ll write again as soon as we are able to renegade some internet. Our course will take us around the North side of Andros Island in the Bahamas where we will check into customs at Morgan’s Bluff and then South where we’ll drop an anchor towards the mid-east portion of Andros Island. We’ll cross the tongue of the ocean to the Bahama’s exuma chain and make our way south east, island hoping. We’ll use of this time to practice our routine and sailing drills.

I was able to include a few pictures.

First is a picture of Tom, Colleen and us, friends we’ve spent some time with during our three weeks here. They had planned to also sail to Morgan’s Bluff and the talk included us making the passage together. However, their plans have unexpectedly changed and they are headed back to Tampa; we will miss their company.

Second is a picture of Lorie next to the tiki hut and dinghy dock.

Third is Lorie and Captain Jack. Captain Jack is the Marathon City Marina’s mascot, if you will. He is 91 years old and lives on his sailboat on the dock. He picks flowers off the trees and gives one (or more) to a lucky lady of his choice every day. He said he landed here is 1952 and has been here since. Yesterday we found out that residents and visitors often bring Captain Jack food and goodies. I wished I had know earlier, I would have given him some peanut butter cookies or made him some Hawaiian sweet breadL 

We enjoy hearing from all of you. We welcome and encourage your comments and questions. Let us know what you would like to read about; and what pictures/videos you enjoy the most.

Happy sailing and love everybody!
Lorie and Jimi

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Marathon, Florida

Dear Friends and Family,

Okay – so, I promised I would write weekly  (as long as we have internet) and it’s been two weeks since I’ve written. I just don’t know where the time has gone. I last told you we were in Key West. We left Key West on March 21st.  As forecasted, the winds were good and we were moving along, however, about midday the wind died. We were just about to give up and anchor for the night when it came back around and was smooth sailing the rest of the way. Using a spot light to stay between the channel markers, we pulled into the anchorage about 9:30pm; we’ve been here since.

We are anchored in the anchorage just outside the mooring field. There are A LOT of boats here and it’s a tremendously busy place. The City Marina charges $22 a day to park a dinghy – WOWSER - that’s expensive. And to think we were complaining about paying $6 in Key West. That will teach us to complain. The upside (if there is one) is included in the price are showers, access the laundry facilities at $6 a load (WOWSER again), a work room, a day room with TVs, internet, and books, and a pump out. Still at that price and we’ve only used the dinghy dock twice we have to make a day out it squeezing every service and moment possible. It makes for looong days.

We’ve made a couple of trips to the local grocery store. There’s a Kmart here (no Wal-Mart), but it is surprisingly small and our luck for finding what we need there has been nil. These stores are located down the channel past the mooring field. We found a small free dinghy dock to park. We walk about half a mile or so to the grocery store with our backpacks, water proof bags and rolling carts. Our first re-provisioning trip was a biggie. Remember my mentioning the fishermen wanting to trade beer for freshly caught fish? Guess what we stocked up on? 96 cans of Miller Lite to trade and 48 cans of Yuengling to drink. We also purchased a pile of non-perishables. After checkout and while loading our bags and cart, the thought occurred to us that we may have bitten off more than we could chew.…ooops. I don’t know how we did it, but we did. We got a lot of attention huffing down the side of the road (no side walks) loaded to the gills with beer and other groceries. It was quite comical and I wished I had had my camera.

Jimi ordered parts for the wind generator, but he’ll work on fixing it later. He couldn’t find the same blades, so he purchased a different brand of blades and a new hub. His plan is to modify what we already have with the new parts to make the wind generator work. This seems to be the common thing for budget minded sailors.
We spent a week of our two weeks here stuck on Sanibel. We’ve had a tiny hole in our dinghy that Jimi decided to patch during our down time. We’ve been unable to find a hypalon patch kit, so Jimi made his own with 5200. The downside is 5200 takes a week to cure which left us with no transportation to shore. We kept busy and got through it though.

With a couple of tears in our genoa, we had to take the sewing machine to the work room at the City Marina to repair it. Even though the genoa is my favorite sail, repairing it is not. Skipping the unpleasant details I’ll just say it’s repaired.….until next time.
I made friends with a Manatee at the marina. As he was swimming past the dinghy, I reached in to the water to pet him……ohhhh……he liked that. We stayed around for nearly ten minutes while I scratched his back, neck and nose. He rolled over wanting scratches on his chin and belly too; he was so cute with his large flippers in the air. Even though he was so big, he was gentle and sweet. I asked Jimi to grab my camera out of my bag, but it was buried and he didn’t. I wished I could have stayed longer to play, but we had to go. L
We (Jimi) finally made a video of the inside of Saniibel. Many of you saw her during her refit and you’ve seen still pictures as well, however, this will give you a mental picture her today. And hopefully it will answer some of your questions regarding our systems, etc. Here is the link to the video:

I’ve also included a picture of a girl who caught a wild iguana at the marina and carried it around most of the day. He was an interesting thing. They run wild here and we’ve seen several of them.

Last night we were invited to a couple’s sailboat who we met at the marina office, Tom and Colleen on Unplugged, for happy hour. We had a great time and may be sailing with them in the future, but nothing has been decided yet. One thing a sailor can count on is making friends easily. The network is incredible and the people are pleasant…maybe starved for attention, I don’t know. When we first arrived here we stopped by the guy’s boat that Jimi recognized from Key West (the boat that is, not the guy), the next thing we knew we were in his cockpit having a few beers. We told him a couple of times that we needed to get going, but he wasn’t having any of it. We enjoyed ourselves. There’s another gentleman that stops by our boat regularly for a chat. It’s a nice feeling to have such friendly folk around all with a common lifestyle and interest.

Yesterday it looked as though we would be leaving for the Bahamas. We rushed around preparing for today’s departure until this morning when Jimi checked the weather and decided we better not go. We are expecting rain and high winds here tomorrow. The marina is reminding everyone to tie down their gas cans, coolers, etc. and take in all cushions. The weather on the Gulf Stream would be fierce, therefore, it looks like we may be stuck here a little longer. It could be as much as two weeks.

Love everybody,
Lorie & Jimi