Friday, 14 April 2017

Exumas -Lots of wind and fish fish fish!

The Exuma area of the Bahamas is still our favourite place down here.  This area consists of 365 islands or cays that extend over 130 miles. We spend a lot of the winter island hopping these largely deserted places. This year we had plenty of company for exploring the islands and more importantly what is under the water. Along with “Lady A” we had Acadia(Tim and Diane) and Erben Renewal (Steve and Julia), both trawlers (power boats) to keep us company. Tim, Diane and Michel are all former US military sorts so our walks were always at least four miles long.

P1030318 The half way point on a six mile walk on Guana Cay. Kim and Steve opted out to go and spear fish.

P1030312 A windy day on the the Exuma Sound (Tom Wood of NYC on the far left,Tim and Kim)

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Another windy day (there have been many) at Cambridge Cay

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Not a good day for swimming

In the Exumas we spend a lot of our time under the water, that is where the treasures lie.  For some of us it is beautiful tropical fish and for others it is all about dinner! With four boats together snorkeling time becomes quite social and in this group fish spearing was the priority. We have had many appetizer times and shared dinners with the fish that were speared. It is always open season on Lionfish (an invasive species) and the meat is delicious so we have had many. Michel and Kim both speared their first lobsters although they were somewhat under the legal size (we now know that you tease them out of their hole and have a look before spearing them). Kim is getting better at fish spearing and has brought home a number of grunts, a grouper and snappers to grace our table, yum!

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One of Kim’s Lionfish, quite beautiful really (be careful of the poisonous spines).

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Kim and Michel with their catch. I love the expression on their faces, little boys again.

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Snapper, Lionfish, two Grunts, a Grouper, and two Spiny Lobster!

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Another good day of spearing

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A Slipper lobster (rare) and two Spiny ones. Kim wishes he had speared these guys, I traded a fellow cruiser two bottles of juice for the spiny guys. Kim is looking forward to spending time with him next year!

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A close up and yes those are horns…and they were delicious in butter and white wine.

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Enough of the fish, there are some really sweet children (and adults) on the cays. I bring books along to give away and they are always thrilled.

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A fun night on Diane and Tim’s trawler…yes you get REAL lights on those boats!

Just a few classic shots to close out…

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The sun setting beside Acadia

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A nightly show from the  cockpit of the Q.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

First Stop - Bimini

In order to get to the Bahamas on a sailboat most sailors will wait for a ‘weather window’, sometimes for days and sometimes for weeks! This ‘window’ is often the leading edge of a cold front (a west wind) that is moving east from Florida across to the Bahamas. This means that your arrival is followed by a few very windy, cool days in a marina.  This year we had to only wait a few days for our window to sail to the island of Bimini where we officially start our season (it is also a former home of Ernest Hemingway and the setting for his novel ‘Islands in the Stream’).
While killing time on Bimini, waiting for another window to move further south and west into the Bahamas, we walked north on the island and spent a day wandering around the Bimini Island Resort.This is a place we are not likely to stay as guests…it seems bizarre to have such opulence in the middle of a poor island. 
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This pool wraps around three sides of the resort.
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Cathy cooling off in the infinity pool with the Gulf Stream in the background (no we did not ask permission!).
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These villas in the resort are custom built and the smallest ones are only a few million US $$
This year we met a couple from California who we now kindly and lovingly refer to as ‘the kids’ who had purchased their first boat ‘Lady A’ (a 49 foot Jeanneau) in October. When we bought Quiescence we had 11 years to get ready for our trip so you can imagine how much help they needed. Their boat draws seven feet (a relatively deep boat for you non-sailors) and they ran aground trying to enter the channel at Bimini.  We offered to  help get them down to the Exumas where they then plan to continue further south to Puerto Rico. Kim began their education on boat systems and we’ve been together for two months plus now so here they are…
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Meet Michel and Amanda - we are at another ‘cruiser buffet' at the newly renovated Lorraine’s Café in Black Point.

 

Season Four Begins

I must confess I am writing this first entry for 2017 only a few days before Easter, so Happy Easter to everyone. This year’s drive from T.O. to Stuart Florida was a record for no snow and warm temperatures. We’re sorry about global warming but we had dry and sunny weather for all 2,235 kilometers of our drive.

Quiescence is showing the fallout after four years in a saltwater environment so she needed quite a lot of TLC. Kim had serviced the transmission, autopilot linear drive, and the windlass at home so they all needed to be reinstalled. He also replaced the dripless seal for the prop shaft.  The only hurricane Matthew damage we had was that half of our windex (wind vane) on the mast head had been knocked off by flying debris. It still works well enough for us so we will leave it for one more hurricane season before replacing it. All sorts of electrical connections have developed minor corrosion so Kim has been cleaning and spraying many of these connections. Along with aging items that need replacing and the usual work to prepare for launch, we had a lot of hard work before we could go sailing!

 

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One of Kim’s happy places is the engine ‘room’

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The Q is finally ready for launching and more adventures.

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Early January mornings can be chilly.

On our way south to Miami we did have a few cool mornings with a stiff wind from the wrong direction so we took the inside (ICW) route from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Along the way we were waiting for the Atlantic Ave bridge to open for us and as the bridge opened Kim put the engine into forward and almost immediately there was a loud “thunk” and then an even louder “bang” sound. The engine stopped running and we lost control of the boat. As we drifted toward the bridge we were able to convince a small boat to try and pull us through the bridge. This did not go terribly well but we did make it through with only a scrape along the top sides from the wooden bridge fenders that we bumped. Fortunately another boat was able to help us get out from under the bridge and far enough away where we were able to drop our anchor down in the narrow channel. Kim dove under the boat to find a two-foot length of a dock board with stainless screws sticking out that was impaled on our prop. After diving down three times he managed to pry it from the prop. Amazingly there was no damage to the prop and we were quickly on our way again as we had 17 bridges to get through before dark. Just another adventure in the cruising lifestyle…

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The offending hunk of dock board (you can see where to prop blade had cut into it)

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long for an outside sail along the coast to Miami where we waited for a weather window across to the Bahamas.     

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Some well earned beach time.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Exumahhhs!



Well, we have enjoyed the past month in our favourite part of the Bahamas – the Exumas.  The area, also known as the ‘Out Islands’, is a 90 mile chain of small cays and islands.  The waters of the Great Bahama Bank are on the west side and the Exuma Sound (essentially the Atlantic) are to the east. Life moves slowly and nature is at its best here.

We were well sheltered in the Cave Cay Marina harbour. Hot showers...yah !
This year we arrived in the Bahamas in early March, which is later in the cruising season than usual. This meant that as we worked our way south through the Exumas we met friends who were on their way home. We had hello/farewell visits at the same time and enjoyed a Mahimahi meal with each boat before moving on.

 We met our friends Joannie and Keith from Minnesota on the way and enjoyed five days of sailing and snorkelling together.  Keith spent his high school years in Nassau and is an excellent spear fisherman so Kim was very happy to fish with him and pick up some new techniques. Cathy and Joannie were happy to not be watching for shark or Barracuda ‘company’ during the fishing time.  One afternoon they brought back two Lionfish and a crab that they had speared.  After consulting Google we decided that Keith had speared a Clinging Channel Crab (aka Bahamian King Crab). Kim removed the poisonous barbs from the Lionfish and we steamed the crab in a large pot and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.
Keith and Joannie from Pelican


Clinging channel crab. No points for beauty, but those hairy legs were delicious.

The crab and lionfish waiting to be dispatched.

After enjoying such tasty gifts from the sea we thought our fishing run might be over but we had more excitement ahead during Corinne’s visit.  We spent a few laid back days with Corinne at Lee Stockin Island, a retired marine research station.  On our return run to Georgetown, where the airport is, Kim had a pretty good fight with a 30 pound yellow fin tuna and won!  These fish immediately dive after taking the ballyhoo bait. After three or four good runs with the drag set at about 15 pounds they were both finally tired out. We named him ‘Ted’ to reflect his strength and dignity.  Corinne was our official photographer for the occasion so there are plenty of pictures.  We only take as many fish as we can eat (and we have plenty for the rest of our trip) so the fishing rod has been cleaned and stored awaiting next season! 

Not sure who was more tired.  He took one more dive and run after this shot.

Getting ready to tie the fish to the boats stern


We bleed and drag the fish to the anchorage and deal with it there.


At the calm of the anchorage Kim will fillet the fish.  Pictures first !

These tuna are very thick !


20 pounds of sashimi
 It was great to have Corinne visit for a relaxed week – too short for all of us though. (We hope to see Cal and Megan down here next winter!)  Here are a few shots of island life.

It is a tough life but …

Corinne at Lee Stocking

Bathing beauties! We wear wet suits for snorkelling so we can stay in the water for a longer time

Just wandering another deserted beach

A sea slug sunning on the beach?

A girl and her dad

The trees on the small cays don't grow very tall

Walking the beach at Red Shanks

A rare day in George Town at the Driftwood Café … and very good coffee!

The view from Georgetown across to Monument anchorage



Monday, 21 March 2016

Bimini at last!

The conditions for our Gulf Stream crossing were ‘power boat perfect’ which means calm seas and NO wind.  We were happy to finally be on our way even if it did not include sailing.

The highlight of the trip for Kim so far was catching a 20lb mahimahi (we call her Suzie II after our first mahi in 2014 – which was a larger version).  Both freezers and the fridge were pretty full when we left Florida so the 17 meals that she provided required some creative storage.  We caught her trolling while under sail on the NW Providence Channel on the way to Nassau. Of course we had sizable 15-20 knot winds and moderate seas but that added to the challenge and satisfaction of the catch!
The pressure is off Kim now that the freezer is full of fish.

Catch of the day for dinner
 It has been very windy since our arrival in the Exumas, which is our favourite part of the Bahamas, but the sun shines endlessly and it is nice and warm.  Windy conditions whip up waves and plenty of salt spray so we are always wishing for a rain cloud to rinse the salt from the boat. Highborne Marina provided a rare stay at a dock for two nights as it was difficult to find a calm anchorage.  As always we have met a number of cruisers from the US to keep us company along the way.
These “dock” birds would sit and stare at you in the cockpit until you were guilted into feeding them.
 

Just another secluded beach.  This one is on the sound (ocean) side of Highborne Cay.

We are currently anchored at Normans Cay where you can snorkel on a DC3 plane that crashed in the bay during the drug running days of the 80’s.  There is a Beach Club on shore where we can have two burgers and a coke for $75 US. Yikes ! We think we hear our mahi calling….

Waiting for the Bahamas

“Life is what happens when you’re making plans” pretty much sums up our cruising season so far.  Although we left home on January 7th it took until March 2nd to arrive in Bimini in the Bahamas.  Cathy fractured a few bones in her foot just before leaving home so has been sporting a walking cast. By the time her foot could handle extended sailing it was February 15th.  It then took until March for a decent weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream.  Spending two winter months in Florida still beats dealing with snow, especially when your toes are exposed in a cast.  Here are a few highlights of our ‘sunshine state’ time.
As usual countless hours and dollars are spent preparing the boat for the season. In the Bahamas you need to be prepared for anything with spare parts and a shocking amount of food and other supplies.  You know you’ve spent too much when suppliers start reserving parking spots in your honour.

Spend enough and you get your own personalized parking spot

 We spent a record 10 days in West Palm Beach and enjoyed the free trolley service instead of our usual walking. We are in mega-yacht company as you can see from our neighbors.

One of the smaller boats......

Indeed the streets are lined with Royal Palms and with year round good weather, bike paths are complete with repair tools. Kim ran errands around the city on a rented City Bike and discovered this bike repair station along the waterfront in West Palm Beach.  Every hand tool one would need to effect minor repairs to your bike, including a hand pump.

Broken bike repair station
We always enjoy the Saturday Farmers Market that is a two minute walk from where we land the dinghy.  The produce is very fresh and lasts far longer than the supermarket foods.  Orchids of all kinds are amazing to see.  Martha Stewart came shopping too – it seems she was staying at her Palm Beach mansion.



Orchids at the farmers market

Not all of our days were sun bathing temps. On the day we left for Ft. Lauderdale it was 6 degrees C. Nothing that a t-shirt, turtle neck, down vest, blanket and driving gloves didn’t fix.
Boy was it chilly this morning. Florida can get cold !
We don’t sail much in Florida but did get in a motor sail to Miami where we do enjoy anchoring in a multi-million dollar neighbourhood in South Beach.  We attended the Miami Boat Show and admired the inside of a Hylas 63 and an Amel 54-wow!

We also discovered the Botanical Gardens and have included some of the plants we saw.

Spiny tree...ouch !



Clown fig

Ponytail palm

Orange flower palm

Mangrove tree
Along the canal where we dock the dinghy to go into town Kim spied a beautiful iguana with colours we never see in the Bahamas.  The iguanas we usually see are huge but definitely much more ugly.
He seemed to be protecting his space. We were worried he might jump into the dinghy.
Now we are waiting for a weather window to cross the gulf stream…stay tuned