Bimini Sands Marina

Nine days after ordering our steering parts “express” we received a call that they had arrived by plane to South Bimini (where we were anchored off of) but were delivered to a shipping agent on North Bimini.  So, we dinghied to land, walked two miles and caught a ferry over to North Bimini to meet Pedro at the North Bimini ferry dock.  After an hour of waiting and asking around, Pedro the garbage man stopped by in his fully loaded garbage truck to hand off our prize package.  Locals wear many hats.

Back to the anchorage we went and installation began immediately.  What Captain Notoriouslyunderestimatestime thought would be a three-hour project took probably ten.  In all fairness, modifications had to be made to adjust a modern part to a twenty-three-year-old boat.  He did a great job.

It had been nine nights, ten days and an entire bottle’s worth of Alka-Seltzer chewables on this roly-poly, quiet anchorage.  Mostly, we spent the time with logistics and prepping the enormous steering project.  Captain Tossalineinsteadofhiscookies did fish a bit.  Not much was around.  He has a chum bag that he fills with last night’s dinner waste.  He drops it over the boat on a tether to attract the fish and then throws a line out.  The chum bag attracted two Queen Triggerfish.  Triggerfish are intelligent creatures.  They usually eat slow invertebrates, like sea urchin.  They are notoriously hard to catch because of their tiny mouths, strong jaws and skin like armor.  Most fishermen spear them.  They are delicious.  These two stinkers would swim up and chew all the goodies right through the little holes of the chum bag.  (They don’t like spinach.)  Then they would nibble at the tails of artificial bate at the end of Captain Ohcomeon’s line.  I became enamored with them.  Then they became my pets.  Then they became off limits as fair fishing game.  They hung out by the boat and I fed them every day.  Other than a successful installation and renewed steerage, they were the best part of that week and a half.

Photo credit Dr. Google Free Triggerfish image

The steering cable, plate, and chain were installed in very tight quarters, with very strong language and very much effort.  It was a race against the weather that we won.  Had the installation gone more smoothly we were going to use the calm weather window to sail to a five-star marina at West End, Grand Bahama, sixty miles away.  But since it turned into a two-day project, we needed to tuck into a marina around the corner on South Bimini, two miles away, before the winds came.  Up went B.P. and off we went steering in crazy squiggles for the joy of it and to test it. 

Unfortunately, we had to follow our tracks over the exact spot where we grounded and did the damaging battle with the mighty Kraken.  The seas were far more settled but still, I was nauseous and spooked.   As cool as Captain Cucumber is, I could tell he was feeling it, too.   We were jumpy.  I stood on the foredeck visually sighting and Captain Easynow helmed right over that quadrant of the sea that I will never forget in my life.  We successfully passed it and crept into the cut to the marina with six inches under us and hearts pounding.  First, we fueled up and then we went to tuck into a dock.  Not my favorite activities.  I was gazing at my wits’ end even though things were going well. 

We grounded about where those breakers are.

There was no one to help us with the lines for docking so I had to jump off the boat and onto the dock with the docking lines and secure them quickly.  I jumped off of Echoes with a midship line in my right hand and the bowline in my left.  I singled up the midship line on the first cleat on the dock and pulled the line tight and hard to help slow and secure the 22,000-pound fat ass boat.  Much to my great surprise, I ripped the cleat right out of the dock.  This sent me flying backward and fairly high into the air.  I flew inelegantly across the dock and into the sea with an enormous splash and quite a bit of seawater up my nose.  I at least had enough wits left to save my expensive prescription sunglasses.  A fellow boater came to our rescue and checked first to see if I was ok, which I was, and then to secure the boat.  I floated with a hand on the dock as there were no ladders to climb out on and I could not pull myself up.  The man said calmly as he worked the lines, “Now don’t be alarmed if you see a shark as I saw a nurse shark a short time ago.  All he will want is to be petted.”  I have scuba dove with nurse sharks in the past and know they are harmless.  It was more the bull, lemon, and hammerheads that I spoke of in the previous post that were running through my mind. 

With the boat secure, Captain Giggling (I’m sure it was a funny sight to see) shut off the engine and lowered Echoe’s ladder for me.  I climbed out dripping sea water and snot and this is when Captain Thatpartofthebodywherewasteiseliminated made his terrible mistake.  He began one of his long, technical “teaching moments” on how I should have noticed the rust on the cleat’s bolt and chose the next one down.  What he didn’t know, that I pointed out to him, was that if I had followed his advice, Echoes’ nose would have been three feet deep in the concrete dock.  But he must not have heard me and it did not deter him from a long dissertation on brittle compounds and staying alert. I interrupted him sharply to put an end to the speech.  I expressed my feelings more fully to Captain Don’tpushyourluckbuddy in private later that evening. 

This is Nicholas Sharks taking a snooze in the foreground.

The winter weekly rate at Bimini Sands Marina is $100.00 for a week.   That is the cheapest we have ever come by. By comparison, the five-star marina I wanted to go to would have been $250.00 a night.  But I bet they have handsome dock hands and that their cleats don’t pop.  None the less, we are happily and lazily regrouping.  The winds are blowing.  Let them.  We will stay here snugly until we have a most perfect weather window to venture the next sixty miles to West End. 

This is John’s hand next to a local’s we met at the Thirsty Turtle. Captain Alwayssowitty said, I bet my doinky doink (or something like that) is bigger. He replied, Not a chance, mon.

I know I have been wordily indulgent but my mom likes my stories.  So here is a very fishy story.

Trip and Pulltha Triggerfish had been married for many years.  They lived in a reef near the cold Atlantic and hunted in the adjacent bay during the day.  One day, a huge, strange, sea creature came to rest in their bay.  Behind the creature was a bag full of delicious delicacies.  How fortunate that the tiny holes in the bag were too small for other fish but just the right size for Trip and Pulltha’s teeny tiny mouths.  It was like having free, fine dining in their backyard.  They visited the creature several times every day.  Eventually, the creature stopped sending out the bag but began to poop out new scrumptious morsels like shrimp tails whenever they swam close.  This was even easier and better.  Num, num, num!  But then a day came when the sea creature slowly swam away.  They missed their sea creature very much.

Much to Trip and Pulltha Triggerfish’s glee, another huge, strange sea creature came to rest in their bay.  They quickly swam over to the creature and waited for it to provide a bag or poop.  Sure enough!  The creature pooped out a small piece of shrimp.  Trip, being the faster of the two, swam over and opened his tiny mouth as wide as he could and swallowed the shrimp whole.  But that is not all he swallowed.  Hiding inside the shrimp was a hook that lodged into his belly.

Pulltha watched with fascinated horror as Trip thrashed and struggled only to disappear up into the sky above the creature.  She shuddered a bit and sped away to safety.  Then a slow and wry smile began to play at her lips. Trip had been an abusive bully and also made her sleep in the cold Atlantic where she shivered every night.  She swam toward the warmer bay shallows with a wiggle in her tail.

When she found the temperature that suited her she began to search for a nice hidey hole to call home.  She spied a narrow door that led into a dim coral cave.  She entered enthusiastically and yelped in surprise when she bumped into a napping, strapping, dapper Triggerfish named Happy.  Startled, he opened his eyes wide.  Well, pinch me.  Am I still dreaming?  He said.  For you are even more stunning in reality than in my dreams!  This made Pulltha blush an even more beautiful blue as she smiled an enormous smile with her teeny tiny mouth.

And they lived happily ever after.

The end.

Bimini, Well We’re Waiting Here Near Alice Town

It has felt like recent posts have gotten a bit artsy fartsy so we decided to go out and cause a doozey of a ruckus to provide you with more exciting material. 

The crossing of the Gulf Stream went well.  We waited for desirable weather.  We left Angel Creek Cut out of Key Largo to travel to South Bimini, Bahamas.  It’s a great trajectory to take because the current in the Gulf Stream pushes us north as we head east.  We set our destination just south of our desired landing and with the Gulf’s help we ended up landing spot on.  It was fifty-eight miles and took over ten hours.  We motored, motor sailed and had a couple hours of beautiful eight-knot sailing.  

We chose an anchorage just south of South Bimini that does not get good reviews.  There is a surge, swells, the holding is not ideal and protection can be poor from certain winds.  However, the weather looked good for the night and we planned to sail on the next morning early to West End, Grand Bahamas, weather permitting.  The weather did not cooperate so plan B was implemented to move two miles north and get a slip at Brown’s Marina in Alice Town, North Bimini. 

We have had a few high drama dockages in our history that you may have read about.  The most damaging was a small but somewhat expensive ding in the gel coat from the very dock that we were heading to.  The current that runs through the waterway in Alice Town is fierce and temperamental, i.e., Kraken country.  We chose to approach the dock at slack tide.  This is the in-between time when the tides are changing from coming in to going out or vice versa.  This is when the current is at its tamest.  It was a well thought out, sailorly plan.

We hauled up B.P. and headed the two miles to the cut to get into the waterway and the marina.  My gut was already churning due to our past experience. The cruising guide clearly states to never attempt the cut in west winds as the seas get unsettled and unruly in the narrow and sharp turns.  Thankfully, the winds were from the east.  Did I mention the sharks?  I saw them in this very cut on my way in last year.  There is a research center on South Bimini studying nurse, bull, hammerhead and lemon sharks.  This is shark city.  Here is a photo I took last year off a dock not a quarter mile away from the cut. 

And here is a photo I took from my phone yesterday.

We rounded towards the approach with perfect timing for slack tide.  But, what we saw were a lot of rolling waves and unsettled water.  There are shoals all around the cut and so it made sense in these winds to see waves like these on the shallows. We had much discussion about what to do next.  We really wanted to keep with our timing for docking.  We slowed down and watched a small fishing boat navigate the cut with relative ease.  We double checked the depth on our charts in the narrows and it was ten to fifteen feet.  Our keel is just short of five feet so there was plenty of sea.   We agreed to move forward with our plan.

We passed the first navigational marker and proceeded toward the second.  A large swell lifted Echoes up, surfed her for a while and then dropped her, hard, on the seafloor.  Guess who was there baring his teeth?  A mighty and enormous Kraken had three of his arms around our keel and was wrestling Echoes with a powerful hunger.  He was not smiling.  He was not howling with laughter.  He was fighting with all of his might to smash Echoes onto the rocks and eat us up. The sounds I heard were an agony I hope never to hear again in my life.

Hold on tight!  Captain Clearhead yelled, I’m going to give it hell on the next swell and we are getting back to the sea with everything she’s got. 

We waited for the next swell and the engine roared its battle cry but the wave just pushed us sideways as the Kraken threw another strangling arm around us.  

I have no steerage!  I have no steerage!

Our steering broke on the grounding.  The Kraken had the steering cable in his teeth as he shook his ugly head.  The helm spun and spun with no connection to the rudder.

There is an emergency tiller in the lazarette (storage area) by the helm.  Captain WonderfullyanalItakebackevrythingI’veeversaidagainstit had just checked, lubed and played with it before we left Marco.  Every time and I do mean every, I put dock lines and fenders away in this lazarette, he says, Stay clear of the emergency tiller.  Do not block the tiller.  The tiller was not blocked.  I have never seen a person move faster.  I stood watch at the helm calling out upcoming swells, their size, and direction.  I noticed people gathering on the distant beach to watch the drama.  I was glad of it because I wasn’t sure that we wouldn’t be swimming towards them and wanted their eyes on us.  I thought of that hungry Kraken and his shark gang.

There is a plate on the decking that unscrews just behind the helm.  Once that plate is off, you screw in a pipe.  There is another pipe that screws on to the first pipe perpendicularly to make it a T.  This is the emergency tiller that you manually rotate left and right to turn the rudder and steer with.  It is only about three feet tall so Captain Soakingwetfromwaves was on his knees so he could muscle as much strength as he had in every turn.  It required the kind of strength that only adrenaline can provide.  He yelled his orders out to me over the terrible winds and waves as I needed to be the eyes and work the throttle.  I yelled back the timing and angle of the approaching wave and he would tell me when to give it hell.  I would rev the piss out the engine on his command and pull it back when appropriate.  We fought that Kraken with everything we had in us.  Finally, finally, finally, we rode a swell up, powered through it and back out to sea.

The first thing we did when we were safely offshore was to check the bilge.  This would be a ready sign if we were taking on water from the damage of cracks or holes.  The bilge was gleefully quiet and empty.  Then we ran around checking things visually.  So far, so good.  Captain Stillcalmashell checked and auto helm still worked.  He patted me on the back.  My bottom lip trembled. 

Don’t lose it on me now.  We still have work to do to get to safety.

Aye aye, Capn.

We decided the best bet would be to return to the anchorage we came from by using the tiller and the autohelm to get us there.  It is awkward steering at best.  We slowly approached our anchorage.  I dropped B.P. and at last, we were safe.

The very first thing Captain Extremelyfocused did was to feverishly take everything out of the lazarette and tear apart the steering system.  I asked for five minutes.  I went into the cabin and sat down, soaking wet, (totally against my rules) and played two games of Wordscapes on my phone.  Aren’t I nuts?  It was the best way I knew how to stop the screaming in my head.  Words are my refuge.  After two quick games, I changed clothes and started cleaning.  The cabin was wet with seawater that had dripped off of us.  Cabinets opened and barfed out their contents.  Tomatoes and pears had launched from a basket above the sink in the galley onto various walls and burst to smithereens.  Man, do tomatoes have a lot of little seeds.  We both worked diligently and quietly on our projects. 

Captain Mechanicalgenius deduced a pulley plate had snapped, had disassembled it and was on the phone ordering a new one within a couple of hours.  He has the owner of Edson International’s personal cell number and was told he could call it twenty-four seven for assistance.  However, John was warned that Will was from Massachusetts and on super bowl Sunday he might be a bit inebriated.  Next, Captain Notrunningoutofsteamyet snorkeled Echoes in the cold, wavy sea diving under her, again and again, inspecting every inch.  Shockingly to me, everything looked good.  There is a saying that sailboats are much tougher than the sailors who sail them.  Well, amen to that.  After the snorkel, we attempted to take the dingy in to grab a taxi to the airport to clear customs as is protocol.  But hurricane Irma took out the landing we had read about in the cruising guide and we did not see other options.  So, we decided we had enough for one day.

That night, I had several glasses of wine and a very satisfying cry.  Captain Reflective and I discussed our misjudgment and shared a very large piece of hard to digest humble pie.  We will now have another mantra to add to our growing list.  Never approach a cut in any kind of unsettled sea state.

Since then, we have engaged the help of our friends on Soul Divers who are patiently waiting for us on Green Turtle Key.  They have researched, advised and provided encouragement and good humor.  We had a lengthy check in to customs and immigration as we had to explain our delay.  Where are you anchored?  The immigration man asked.  Man, that’s a shitty anchorage, was his reply.  It is a roly-poly, keep you up at night, don’t leave anything on the counter anchorage.  But we were grateful for it none the less.  We scuba dove Echoes and thoroughly checked every inch of her rough and tough bottom, keel, rudder, propeller, through hulls and girly parts.  She has a beautiful, big bottom.

Fear is an interesting animal.  I don’t know what it is about my Captain Wasn’tthatexciting and our two sons.  They certainly don’t process fear like I do.  But put Captain Whitefacedandsweatypalmed on a plane or rollercoaster and then I’m the brave one.  Show any three of my men a needle and they will sweat profusely and likely pass out.  The doctor and dentist are their Kraken.  Yet one son is becoming a small aircraft pilot for the fun of it and has taught mountain climbing, river rafting, and backcountry snowboarding.  The other son is in the Army National Guard and dances through gas chambers, tosses live hand grenades like water balloons, likes to drive fast and furious and shoot that backcountry snowboarding with his brother.  Fear is a fickle and baffling thing.  In this story, I was scared shitless.  Oh no, foul-mouthed just settled into my shoebox.

We have been at the same roly-poly anchorage for seven nights now.  The part that Captain Expiditeimmediatelyatanycost ordered last Thursday is still floating around the Bahamas.  We spend every day trying to move it along.  Welcome to the Bahamas.  It is the laid back nature of the islands that we love the most until we are waiting on a very crucial part to be delivered to a disabled vessel on an anchorage with no address.  Without exaggeration, we have made over twenty lengthy calls to Fed Ex and customs trying to help make it happen.  We make a call and then wait an hour for processing and then call back to push it through to the next contact and start all over again.  Right now, the part has cleared customs in Nassau and awaits someone to apply our payment of a VAT tax to help pay for all of this wonderful help we’re getting.  No one knows what happens after that as to how to get the part from Nassau to Bimini.  That will be tomorrow’s mystery.

We have plenty of everything we need and we are safe.  Captain Can’twaittodigin assures me the installation shouldn’t be a big problem.  I have picked out a five-star marina to head to when we are able where I will polish my princess crown, feast on fine dining, do laundry and clean heads.

I hope for my sake and not yours, that all of my following posts will be artsy fartsy and filled with cloud and fairy tales, lucid dreams and mediocre poetry.  The adventure continues…

(Find your way to the home page and sign up for email notifications if you would like to be emailed when there is a new post.  I promise not to give your email address to the Kraken.)

Crossing the Gulf Stream Tomorrow

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We were on the boat eight days solid before my feet hit land in Key Largo.  It was an eight-day adjustment to sea life and living with Captain Ilovehimbutthatisabitclose.  We danced around each other adjusting to each other’s close hulled idiosyncrasies.   I must admit, I have my own.   Living within forty narrow feet gets a bit tight.  Especially with all of the provisions and tools we are bringing with us.  It gets cluttered and dirty quickly and this drives me bit bat sh*t crazy.  So, I have my systems.  Captain Sheiscompletelynuts does not always appreciate my ways but I get my she’s just bonkers passes as he gets his.  Mine are usually about cleanliness and organization.

Where is my screwdriver?! He frowns.

I put it away when he set it down in the midst of a project.  He stares daggers at me while I apologize and retrieve it for him with a winning smile and softshoe spin.

I have a thing about cleanliness which is difficult because of the scarcity of water and tiny quarters.  I have a hand towel, a dish drying towel, and a glasses drying towel among several other designated towels.  Then, to make things more confusing to Captain You’vegottobekiddingme, I have a rotation system.  I rotate all the towels once the hand towel gets gross.  The hand towel goes into the laundry.  The glasses towel is the fresh towel.  The glasses becomes the dishes towel, the dishes towel becomes the hands.    See???  Well, HE doesn’t.  And I insist, to put it nicely.  And so… I will be busy with my own thing when I hear Captain Notsosubtle clear his throat loudly as he gazes at the ceiling as if watching butterflies while pretending to cleanse his crotcheral area with my clean dishes only towel.  Or, I hear loud and dramatic sneezing only to look over to see Captain Totallyobnoxious pretending to sneeze violently into my glasses only towel.  And, he did the floss dance with my hands towel.

Our broken stuff is fixed.  Our wine, libations and food are stocked.  We added a portable freezer that is stocked with $500.00 of meat.  Good meat is scarce in the Bahamas.  We have made so many wonderful additions to make this year more comfortable.  We worked very hard to get to this very point.  Echoes was scrubbed, stocked and fixed with a new AIS VHF Garmin (Thanks again, Jackson!) radio.  We are set to go to the Bahamas.

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We are currently anchored on a cut off Pumpkin Key that leads to the gulf stream in preparation to go over to the Bahamas tomorrow.  There are five other boats anchored by us taking advantage of the same weather opportunity.  I will write to you next time from the Bahamas.  But before we go, I have to tell you about the dream I woke up to this morning.

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I was sitting at the sea’s edge on a bench made of driftwood.  I had a worn shoebox on my lap that was heavy with its burden.  I was solemn and contemplative looking out at the sea.  The box held most of my weaknesses and faults.  I knew I had to look at each one separately and release them back to the sea’s sky where she would recycle them for me.  Since the box was full, I needed to release them now or they would spill over wreaking havoc on my daily life.  Or, if I was careless and put them in a bigger box, I would no longer have the strength to carry them to the sea sky.  So, I sat looking long and hard at the sea to build my courage to look inside.  The Captain and I had fixed, stored, provisioned, cleaned, and researched so much in preparing Echoes for this crossing.  I did not want to bring this extra baggage with.  I needed to clean out my shoebox.

With a deep breath, and with much trepidation, I cracked the lid of the box.  The first to fly out was Impatience.  He quickly swirled out, white like a ghost, up into the wind where he was obliterated into a mist carried away in the wind.  Next came Bravado and Self-centeredness boldly charging out of the box only to be gulped up by the sea sky.  Following them was Lazily Unfocussed.  She fell out of the box and down towards the sea confused until the sea sky scooped her up and blew her into oblivion.  And I will not give you the whole tally of my faults because I am not that brave.  But finally, I looked into the box and Foul-mouthed was lingering and sticking to the corner.  I chased that little plucker around that box with my hand furiously.  Finally, I said, Dag nab it, you little rascal.  It’s time for you to go!  And Foul-mouthed reluctantly flew out into the consuming sea wind.

I sat there with my empty shoebox feeling extremely humble.  I was relieved and glad the box was empty but did not enjoy the experience, not unlike cleaning a toilet.  I gazed at the cleansing sea sky and gave it my gratitude.  I promised myself to not let my shoebox fill as quickly next time and to empty it before it got too heavy.  And then a certain salty peace settled over me and I said to myself, Wake up!  It’s time to wake up!  I’m ready to cross to the Bahamas!

The Everglades

When a boat sits lonely in the elements upon the water for six months it tends to complain when its beloved owners return to her. Our VHF (emergency and means of communication with other boaters) radio quit working within the first hour after pulling out of Marco.  We have a back up, hand held radio but we will need to replace the old VHF. Echoes has had many other small and large complaints as the days have worn on.  But mostly, she is thrilled to have us back with her and to be free upon the sea.

We had a cold but pleasant motor to our first anchorage in the Indian River in the Everglades. 

Captain Theprincessisgettingsmarter set B.P., our anchor.  (Read the blog post Back to Long Boat Key if you would like to know what B.P. stands for and you are not easily offended by sailorly language.) We bought a new, fancy snubber that secures B.P.’s chain and relieves some of her pressure.  We were excited to give it a try.  We knew heavy weather was coming so we tucked ourselves three miles up the river.  We grilled pork tenderloin, opened a fresh bottle of wine and watched a full moon rise off the horizon to eventually light up the starry sky with its mystical light.  Echoes glowed almost purple in the moonlight.  The river was calm and the dolphins were hunting fish in the mangrove.  You could hear them breathing through their blowholes and their bodies slapping the water in the hunt.  We went to bed happy and content. 

Two hours later the winds, rain, thunder and lightning came.  The temperatures dropped. It got down to forty degrees which is laughable to my northern friends but not to me with no heat. Echoes spun on B.P.’s chain around and around.  The chain would yank her with a great force when it reached the end of its leash.  The spinning was wild and unnerving because of the current, waves and the wind. The chain would scrape against the keel with a loud, low, painful groan.  The banshees whipped through the rigging making a haunting howl.  I would peer out my port window to see if we were floating down river or just around again on the chain.  And I then I saw him.  The kraken’s tentacled arm pushed Echoes’ stern into another spin.  He howled in laughter with the banshees.  Captain Notsleepingeither ventured out in the storm many times that night to check B.P.  Our new snubber kept letting loose so he finally switched back to the old one.  The kraken tormented us all night.

We woke up with just a few inches of water under us.  Unbeknownst to us, the chain let itself slowly out when the new snubber let loose so that we eventually drifted into the shallows.  We needed to sit another day to let the weather pass so we waited until high tide to reset.  Captain Befuddled raised B.P. to find she had her panties in a bunch.  Apparently the chain wrapped itself around the anchor a number of times during the spins.  It took quite a lot of strength and time to undo the mess.  And then the depth sounder and the wind instrument took a shit as we went to re-anchor.  And because the details are long and tedious I will sum it up by saying, the kraken and the lighting blew some gizmos.  But Captain Remarkablytalentedmechanicallyaswellashandsome messed with connections and fuses and dealywacks until we had a depth gauge again.  But more replacement parts will be needed. 

And that was our first twenty four hours. 

It has been four days since then and we are currently anchored off of Islamorada in the blowing, northerly wind researching, tracking down needed parts, fixing things and writing.  Guess who is doing what?  And because I have spent many daydreaming hours at sea to get here, my head is full of stories.  I will leave you with one.   

Sir Earl Turtle swam up to the Sea Princess and asked her,

Why do you drip salty tears into the already abundant salty sea?

I have recently returned to the sea, Sir Earl.  I have left my kingdom in the far north and I will miss my safe, stable palace, my grand throne with the simple handle that flushes and I will miss my many bottles of purple and amber elixir among other comforts.  My throne on the sea is rudimentary at best and my elixir comes in boxes.  But much more than this, I will miss my family, friends and pet parrot in my faraway kingdom. 

Does your faraway palace move upon the earth for you to explore as you and your Captain so love to do? 

No, it does not.  It is frozen solid in frigid temperatures onto the earth upon which it was raised. 

Does the elixir lose its magic from the bottle to the box? 

Well, no, not exactly. 

And the people of your kingdom, do they not celebrate that you are the Sea Princess as well as the Princess of the Flushing Throne on Frozen Land? 

I suppose they do understand this about me. 

And does it not make their hearts happy to know that your heart is happy at sea? 

Maybe it does, Sir Earl. 

Have not the seagulls followed you today in your sea vessel?  And didn’t the pelicans perform their acrobatics for you?  And when the sun sets, do not the cormorants whisper their goodnights to you with their wings flapping in the wind?  Sea Princess, are there not others to love your parrot? 

Yes, Sir Earl, I think so. 

Did not the dolphins leap in joy at your bow to greet you back to the sea?  Do you not have friends here who have missed you?

Yes, of course, Sir.

And, isn’t your Captain happy at sea?

Yes, very, Sir Earl, and this makes me happy.

Then why do you focus your thoughts on the barnacled underbelly of things?  Why not choose to place your thoughts on the brilliance of sea life in front of you?  I have a terrible itch that I cannot reach.  I do not dwell on it all day.  Instead, I rejoice in the delicacies of sea grass and jelly fish, and the endless sea to explore.  When I do think of my itch, I think about the day I will welcome my fish friends who will eat the parasite that is causing my itch.  Princess, think about what has made you happy today.

You, Sir Earl Turtle, I was thrilled to see you in your slow splendor pop out of the sea and I am grateful for your visit.

Sir Earl Turtle simply nodded once at the Sea Princess and dove back to the depths and his tasty sea grass. 

And the Princess transformed fully back into the Sea Princess.

Not the end.

But she does live happily ever after.

Marco Island

The roar of the waves awaken my desire for exploration.  The pull of the tides draw me to the sea’s beckoning vastness. Well, it’s more like Captain Snoresalotandloudly awakens me and the pull of bacon in the fridge beckons to my vastness.  We are back on Marco Island working on our sailboat, Echoes, in preparation to head to the Bahamas. I’ve missed you, my muses. You commiserate my bellyaching and encourage me to call Captain Awealthofmaterial snarky names. I must suffer for my art!

Each prior trip leaves us with new knowledge, new challenges and an expensive list of desired boat improvements. We spend the summers researching and planning for the repairs and purchases. We also spent ten days in December working on the boat. We have a new water heater, tedious parts and doohickies have been replaced, tweaked and pampered. We removed the forestay (rigging that holds up the jib sail on the front of the boat) to replace a bushing on the roller furler. In other words, we spent a week learning how to loosen all of the rigging on the boat, remove the front huge wire thingy that’s connected to other wire thingys that hold up the mast, all to replace a simple five inch plastic tube that cost seventy dollars. It would have cost over three hundred if we (and I use we very lightly) did not do it ourselves.

We (princesses who fetch tools have value, you know) have also been working on replacing the radar. The old radar worked perfectly during sunny weather when we would diligently test equipment. However, in the fog and at night it would get sleepy and confused not unlike myself. Fortunately, our oldest son, Jackson, works for Garmin and so our new, shiny Garmin radar was a great price. However, there was a disconnect between the connections of the twenty three year old radar and the new, as well as in the software. It took six trips up and down the mast and countless hours to replace. But now we have a new radar love….🎵 I’ve been sailing all night, my hand’s wet on the helm 🎵.

We are wrapping up projects, provisioning the boat and waiting for the last few purchases to be delivered. One of these purchases are T Shirts with our new logo on them. Check out the awesome artwork at the top of this page. Captain Hasgoodideassometimes asked our friends’ very talented son, Zach Filipek, to design a logo for us. John gave him a list of things that mean something to us: a link to the Pink Floyd song Echoes, a compass, a saying that Captain Repeatshimselfalot has almost worn out, and the infamous kraken. Zach put it all together in a way we couldn’t have even dreamed of. I love the compass rose as the reflecting setting sun. Artists amaze me.

My parents are not with us in their condo this year. It is not the same without them here. When we returned to Marco last year my dad had just been admitted to the hospital with a host of serious complications. We ended up flying him back to the Chicago area in medical transport. At one point in the Hinsdale hospital, all five of his doctors concurred that end was upon him. Family flew in and friends gathered to say goodbye. He opened one eye, saw all of us and couldn’t miss the party. Against all odds, he rallied. He worked very hard, kept a wonderful attitude and regained his independence. He is now at my parent’s home in Burr Ridge making big breakfasts, sipping wine at cocktail hour and watching football. If only the Bears could have pulled it off for him. My parents are unsure if they will get to Marco this season and the condo will most likely be sold this year. It doesn’t make sense to bring Echoes back to Marco. We are hoping to leave her in the Bahamas but don’t know if the stars and our budget will align. When we untie the dock lines, Echoes will be homeless.

Our goal is to leave at the end of this week. We will make a couple stops in the Everglades to look at plants and birds and rocks and things. And then on to the keys to eventually position ourselves to cross the gulf stream to the Bahamas. We plan to go to the islands of the Abacos first where we will hopefully meet up with our friends on Soul Divers, if they will wait patiently.

Last night I asked Captain Inhisdreams what was our plan was for today. Aha! he said enthusiastically pointing a finger at me. Tomorrow! he continued while waggling his finger. I’m so happy you ask! Tomorrow we will wake up and engage in (insert a certain intimate act here.) Then we will go to West Marine and pick up our autohelm part. Then we will go to every hardware store on the island only to be left wanting. Then we will go to the boat where I will fabricate the needed part to install the autohelm. Then we will (insert another variety of intimacy.) Then we will put the autohelm back together and start on the freezer project. Then we will go home where you will make me a scrumptious shrimp dinner while I sip on a gin rickey. After you finish with the dishes and rubbing my feet we will (revisit the morning act.) To which I replied, You must be feeling quite youthful in your delusions, Captain. Indeed! he yelled with the waggling finger, But I will need my rest so we should go to bed now and (insert a creative varietal here.) What a long, strange trip this will be.

A Red, White and Blue Land Ho!

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I bet you thought Captain Letskeepgoing got his way and we sailed off into the great blue yonder.  Or perhaps you thought a giant kraken finally sunk his teeth into us and we were nothing but kraken caca.  No, no.  We are safely in Marco woefully dismantling Echoes for her season of rest on the dock.

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Our return trip was another cosmic ride in the transitions elevator only this time from sea level to land.  We began the return with a glorious nine hour sail to anchor completely alone on the Mackie Shoal with nothing but sea around us for over thirty miles in any direction.  We were alone because others wisely waited as the seas were a bit unsettled.  We bounced around uncomfortably at anchor until it settled down in the wee hours.

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From there we had another lonnnng day until we reached Cat Cay and anchored for a couple of nights to wait for the appropriate weather to cross the gulf stream.  We enjoyed a couple of quiet days swimming,

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Captain Makingswimangels

watching a remora sleep,

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and gathering our wits to return to the states.

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We watched a beautiful sunrise behind us as we left Cat Cay to cross the gulf stream.  After nearly four months on the water the seas turned to an eerie, glassy reflection for the first time.   I reflected in its reflection.

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I reflected on the beautiful, friendly Bahamian people we have come to love along with their relaxed way of life.  No one is a stranger to them.  If you are there, you are theirs.  For instance, a little boy ran out of his house and stood in the road when he saw us coming up the street.  NONE shall pass!!  he yelled, Until SIMON says!  And so we laughed and played and earned our right to continue on our way.   Everyone who drives by you waves or asks if you want a ride.  A grocery store clerk told us at length how she wrecked her eyesight by working in an office cubicle but now that she can see the sea her eyesight is getting better.  She told us this long story as there were a line of five people waiting and no one seemed to be bothered by the delay.   It is rude not to make small talk with everyone you meet.   I reflected on the joy of receiving basic human acceptance.  Bahamians don’t look through you or try to hurry you along out of their way.  It is heartwarming to be seen by a whole entire community.

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It was if all my kraken fearing stress had finally worn the darn sea out.  Even when we reached the gulf stream the waves were nothing but a little role.  We did get a bit concerned when we smelled smoke.  I took my professional sniffer (I do smell research when I’m home in Minnesota) into the cabin to make sure it wasn’t coming from there.  It wasn’t.  We noticed a haze in the sky and realized it was smog from Miami as we approached.  What a difference a mere fifty plus miles across the sea makes.  It was a bit of a culture shock.  We went from buying local fish from a couple of teenagers to standing in Fresh Market in Coconut Grove awestruck.  I swear we were in the grocery store for two hours spinning on the possibilities.  An hour of that was in the wine section.  And then we went out to glorious restaurants… Indian, Italian.  The first night, we were a mile off of our mooring ball and a block from the marina when Captain We’renotintheBahamasanymore realized he was barefoot.  We had to stop and buy slides for him.  Mostly, Captain Itsthebestwaytoshop laments that he can’t drink beer while grocery shopping.  I realized quite suddenly as I was surrounded by Miami TV type beauty that I look like a ship hippy; no make up, my hair hasn’t been cut or colored since December, my clothes are functional, are sorta cleanish and who wears a bra on a boat?  Miami was enjoyable but shocking.

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We worked our way down the keys as far as Fiesta Cay.  We had a special private party with a rack of lamb, shiraz, a full moon rise followed by heat lightning and dolphin swimming around our private anchorage.  It was a memorable night.  A few days later we chose a new route that uses the intracoastal to reach the Everglades sooner.  It was fun to try new navigation but it was stressfully shallow and we hit a submerged piling of some sort even though we were going very slow.  BAYAYAYAYNG!  It was scary.  Captain Igottoseethis dove our keel and said there is a nice, large semicircle dent in the iron keel.  We won’t take that short cut again.

We love the Everglades.  There are miles and miles to get lost fishing in.  The birds are back in their splendor and plenty because of the fresh water.  It is beautiful and abandoned.  We enjoyed gunkholing and our last days at sea.  Our boys and daughter in love were coming to Marco in a week to visit.  We had much to look forward to.

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We have limited cellular access in the Everglades but I received notice that my dad was in the hospital.  We got to Marco as fast as we could and went from the dock to the hospital.  He had a kidney infection, blood infection and double pneumonia.  The night before I arrived my mom was in the hospital with a kidney infection although she refused to be admitted.  They like to do things together.  Remember my post on my dad, my hero?  It is fitting I started this years blog adventure with him and end it talking about him as well.  He is an inspiration and he just happens to be my biggest blog fan.  I was going through his paperwork and bills and found mounds of printed blog posts.  My, I am prolific!  My dad is stable now, he is in his retirement center in the Chicago area and we have hope he will be back to his golfing, dancing, joking ways soon.  But it was touch and go and a difficult two weeks.  I do not believe in coincidences.  Once I got to Miami I downloaded the book Echoes’ previous owner wrote, Selah in the Storm, by Ana Donovitch, that I mentioned in a previous post.  I read about her trouble with Florida healthcare after her Captain was tragically hit by a car.  Ana’s book helped to prepare me to earn the hospital staff’s nickname for me, the General.  I am thankful for Echoes, Selah, Ana’s book and the universe’s timing.

Tomorrow we will be driving in a meandering way back to Stillwater, Minnesota via St Augustine, Nashville, Kansas City, Chicago and home.  As we tuck Echoes in I am melancholy leaving her behind but am so incredibly grateful for our adventures this year and super excited to explore more of the Bahamas next year.  Maybe we will stay a little longer.  At the same time, I am reminded of truly the greatest adventure of all.  The adventures of the heart.  Like sailing, love is a privilege, a pleasure and often a pain in the ass.   Like all great adventures there are storms, bugs, kraken, smooth and rough seas, and wondrous surprises.  Never take the people and the love you have for granted.  Never stop stirring up new love adventures in this great big beautiful world full of crazy people that are hungry to love you back.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent, celebrate, refelct and poke fun at Captain Nowhedoesn’tgettotellmewhattodoalldaylong!  Captain Myspecialloverwhotakesmeongreatadventures and I look forward to blogging and sharing with you next year.

 

 

To Great Harbor Cay Marina

 

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We anchored at Royal Island to position ourselves for an early departure for a long sail to the Berry Islands.  It was rough and roly and I was wrassling with B.P. who was being a big B.  She ripped the snubber out of my hand.  The snubber sank along with Captain Iknowwhathewasthinking’s mood.  He jumped in the water and dove often and deep to finally find and retrieve it.

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The snubber is the rope with the black plastic.  It hooks on the chain and you cleet the other end off on the boat.  I works as a shock absorber and also reduces wear on your boat from the chain.

Before we anchored we took Echoes out the unfamiliar and unmarked cut we would be using the next early morning so that we could follow the breadcrumbs on our navigation unit when we left in the dark.  We awoke at 5:00 am to begin our full day sail.  We put up the sails and followed our breadcrumbs out to the Providence Channel as the sky began to brighten.  Unfortunately, the wind was worn out and was determined once again to give all humankind weather predictors the middle finger.  We took the sails down and engined for eleven hours.

At long last we dropped B.P. after Captain Optomizeoptomizeoptomize checked out a gazillion possible anchor spots on two different islands.  We grilled the last of Elmer the Mahi.  Mmmmm.

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We sailed the following day for six hours through some persistent and wicked rain to Great Harbor Cay Marina.  There was heavier weather coming with fifty mph gusts predicted for the next couple of days.  The marina was packed full and had to turn away boats looking for safe harbor.  That night the marina hosted a pot luck with music from the cruisers.  Some friendly retired musicians on a beautiful and spacious power cat brought out their keyboard, amps, disco lights and microphones.

20180414_202450 The professional couple were accomplished musicians and singers but leaned toward show tunes and hymns with heavy falsetto.  A marina employee jumped in and picked up the pace a bit.  Average Joe finally worked up his nerve to come to the mike for his first public appearance with his out of tune guitar.  He sang Cover of the Rolling Stone with a cracky voice and the crowd went wild.  That gave courage to a barrage of shoddy musicians with excellent taste in music and the crowd doubled in size, singing and dancing.

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It was here that we met Charlotte and Diane and the research vessel Garvin’s team.  Garvin was a boat full of thirteen Marine Biologist PHDs and PHD students on a trip to repair and collect data on echo tracking devices for whales.  There are five kinds of whales in the Bahamas.   Charlotte and Diane own and operate the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization.   Google their website, watch some cool videos about whales and leave a donation!  We told them about Echoes, from the Pink Floyd song :), and how our boat’s name is related to the Echoes of whale calls.  They were giving a presentation to the other scientists gathering information with them.  They invited us aboard Garvin the following morning to attend.

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It was a two hour, fascinating presentation on everything whale.   I particularly enjoyed hearing about gathering whale doo doo to analyze diet and stress hormones .   Some whale species’ keester cakes float and some sink.   It is not easy to collect.  The collectors are dragged along the side a boat (the sharks are more likely to attack if drug behind the boat) until a whale blasts a deuce.  It is a voluminous affair.  Then they have to dive through it to collect it in special nets.  We learned that the Sperm whales in the Bahamas are smaller than Sperm whales in other parts of the world.  They believe this may be due to limited feeding ground and dwindling food supply.  Also, they are working with MIT as they are finding dead beaked whales with blown out eardrums due to the Navy using a part of the Providence channel to practice submarine sonic cat and mouse mock warfare.   They are trying to find a way to protect whales from entering these waters during these times.  These ladies have dedicated a whale share of their lives to whales.  We were grateful to have spent time with them, their lively group and to learn a great deal about whales.  And, they were just plain fun.

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