The Bahama Banks

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The weather blew through and perfect conditions were predicted to cross the seventy five miles of the Bahama Banks.  It was a sailboat parade pulling out of the Bimini marinas as every sailor was waiting for the same opportunity.  Captain Alwayswasalittlebackwards reversed out of our slip and the marina like a pro.  We set our way points for the Mackie Shoal about half way across the banks.  Sailboats are slow movers and we could not have made it across in daylight.  Repeat after me, I will never sail in the Bahamas at night!  Not only are the waters shallow, navigational markers almost nonexistent and charts incorrect, but it is not uncommon that local boaters travel at night without lights and freighters do not have the best reputation for being alert to other boats.

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The Mackie Shoal is an interesting phenomenon.  It is a huge shoal just miles off of the Tongue of the Ocean’s depths that sink rapidly to over 1600 feet.  At the Mackie Shoal you can drop your anchor in about eight feet of water.  Captain Youcanneverbetoocareful had us go about forty minutes out of our way to be well off the direct magenta line of this northern route.  I grumbled about it as there were about seven other sailboats who anchored together closer to the magenta line.  I would have anchored with them.

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The next day we spoke with a couple who chose to sail the full seventy five miles in one shot.  They were sailing in the dark through the Mackie Shoals and keeping an eye out for any freighters or boats in the magenta line.  The helmsman spotted a light and was looking through the binoculars to see how far off and what kind of vessel it was.  He followed the light down and saw the small details of a sailboat directly in front of him.  He swerved dramatically just in time to miss a sailboat by fifteen feet anchored right in the magenta line.  Captain Rightagain shot me a sideways smirk as we listened to the story.

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It was a serene and mystic night full of a story telling sky.  The water and wind were a soothing calm.  The clouds were bold and changed shape as rapidly as the water changed color.  There was a reclining cloud elf enjoying a cookie surrounded by his bountiful day’s work of goodies.  There was a huge fish chasing another fish with his mouth open.  The little fish changed shape to escape and the big fish closed his mouth with a frown when he realized the shape shifter changed to manatee droppings.  We watched the demanding sunset and grilled the rest of our lobster and chased it with prosecco.  We watched the welcoming sunrise the following morning as we left early for a long motor sail to Chub Key.

 

 

 

 

Living Here in Alice Town

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I have learned that internet connection in the Bahamas, especially for a sailor, is a rarity. I write offline and post when I can. I apologize for blog bombardment. I have actually learned many things. My phone works but calling is expensive and texting is not. My cellular hotspot does not work. I have learned that people don’t cruise much in the winter because of the winds and conditions. I have learned that the tides here run over six feet and cause all kinds of hell on the way in and on the way out. I have learned that to listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on shuffle totally wrecks it. I have learned that it’s best to sleep with bug spray on, everywhere, if nothing else is on, anywhere.

How did I learn that about the tide, you ask? We left Cat Cay and trolled our way up to Alice town in Bimini. Captain Struckout got two good hits and a run for his money but no fish in the end. I stood on the foredeck watching the shallows as we came in the channel and saw a big shark lurking in the clear water depths. We dieseled up (that landing and takeoff went well) and headed for a marina to tuck into for a couple of nights. It was not too windy and the approach to the dock looked easy. But, I swear, anytime we dock my stomach is in my throat. It is nerve busting. The dock master and a pretty sailor were on the dock waiting to help us as Captain Thinksahead requested via VHF. We pulled up just as we should have and Echoes started swinging off course. Captain Letstrythatagain abandoned the attempt and made another swing around for it. Meanwhile, our friends on the dock were shouting that tide was coming in, causing a raucous current and to over shoot the mark and drift into the dock. Attempt two was abandoned at the last fitful moment. A new sailor had joined to help and suggested coming up to the dock from a different angle. The third attempt seemed to be going well until the current quite quickly and fiercely swung our stern and pushed us like a bully with a tooth ache perpendicular to the dock. There was some noise to it all that I hope never to hear again in my life. Yes, the Kraken was shrieking with laughter. Yes, it did leave a mark. Fortunately, we were pinned sideways to the dock and not on another boat. It was advised we just hang pinned for few minutes until the tide would be more willing to give us up. Apparently there is a fifteen minute window in which you don’t mess with Mad Clyde Tide and we were in that window. Finally, four of us pushed with all of our might and freed us from the dock. We decided to try a slip on the southern side of the dock and aside from having to dodge of ferry, slipped right in.

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We took a walk to check out the town and came across a man feeding a bunch of Bull Shark. He called them his daughters. This was a school of pregnant mothers and other females. No males are allowed nearby if one of the Bulls is pregnant. He said his daughters were angry. A local Bahamian man killed one of their sisters who was pregnant. This was very taboo. It invokes dark magic so no one was surprised when the man drowned two nights later. His friend drowned trying to save him. He was known as the conch man as he fished for, tenderized and sold conch to the local restaurants. He was a well liked man who was active in his church and known all over town for his smile. But, no one must ever kill a Bull shark and especially one with child. The man’s funeral was today. The island practically closed for the funeral and you saw people dressed in their best or with a t-shirt with his picture on it.

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A local man pulled in fishing boat up to the dock beside us after we got back from watching the sharks. He cleaned his bountiful catch of fish and lobster tossing the scraps back to the sea. We bought a dozen lobster tails for $30.00. We grilled half the tails and gorged on them dipped in melted butter. I enjoyed my wine sedative. Afterword, we danced on the dock with our new Aussie friends who helped us land the boat.

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Soon, weather permitting, we leave for our next challenge, to cross the Bahama Banks. The Banks are seventy-five miles wide. Echoes can’t make that many miles in daylight. Remember, I will never sail the Bahamas at night! We plan to anchor out in the middle of the shallow banks, in the middle of nowhere. We should reach the southern tip of the Berry Islands the following day.

The Sky Pirate of Cat Cay

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The Island Nation of the Bahamas stretches over 750 miles with about 700 islands.  The population is a little over 300,000 and two thirds of those people live in and around the capital city of Nassau.  85% of Bahamians are descendants of West African slaves and the other 15% come from settlers from Bermuda or were American expatriates of the Loyalists.  I hope it comforts the spirits of the original slave descendants that their however many greats grandchildren live in a peaceful and absolutely beautiful country of their own.  The islands are quiet and natural.  We are grateful to be here.

We planned to venture back out the cut and nestle into an anchorage on a horseshoe beach off of the Cay after a rather expensive and worth every penny of it night at the marina.  Because we obviously must have pissed off some Sea God along the way, the winds were at 28 knots and gusting.  It was another small craft advisory.  Our bow was pointed to land and the north wind was pushing us hard on the beam and off the dock.  Reversing the boat down the long fairway would have been nearly impossible for us so we needed to turn the boat 180 degrees in a small, windy space quickly.  Captain Itsjustmath had an idea.  We would release the stern line, then the mid ship line and I would stand at the bow with a line singled on the dock cleat.  We would let the wind push Echoe’s ass end around 180 degrees swinging on the bow cleat.   Ready?  It went like clockwork.  The Sea Angels sang.  How’s your stomach now?  Captain Cool asked with a broad smile.

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We spent three nights on the hook off of the private island of Cat Cay.  We studied our charts and guides, read, fished, worked on projects, swam, made great food and drank pretty good wine.  The water was gin clear and we watched a curious and fairly large fish follow John’s lure around for about a half hour.  He wouldn’t bite.

Captain Obnoxious has a habit that puts me on edge and has for over thirty years.  I told you, he does not tire of his own jokes.  Ever.  He relishes saying the word broccoli while belching.  I know this is not entirely for the benefit of annoying me as I have heard him in the garage, or when he doesn’t know I’m around.  Anyway, add beer to the mixture and it is torture.  Brrooccoli, went Captain Gasses repeatedly.  Princess Glaresalot shot him the dagger.  A beer and some casting time later…BRRROOOOOOOOOOOOCOLI!  Oops!  Sorry!  I’m sure it’s not hard for you to imagine how difficult it is to live with any human being in this close proximity for very long, especially your spouse under sometimes intense conditions.  Statistically speaking, half of you couldn’t stand your spouse with all the room in the world to put between you.  Tension was building.  Later that evening, Captain Thinksoutloudandnotsomuch had one too many glasses of honesty juice and made a most unflattering comment with a subsequent suggestion to improve on a part of my personal countenance.  Princess TharSheBlows! went off like a pirate’s cannon.  The next day, Captain Probablyshouldn’thavesaidthat said, I was only kidding.  To which I replied, Right.  Sure.  So was I.  Man, he said, you kid loudly.

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Skipping Over Ocean Like a Stone

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The Gulf Stream is an ocean river that runs north.  It is about ten miles wide and is a few miles off of the Florida coast in the Atlantic.  The stream moves around a bit and it changes speed from two knots to seven knots and sometimes higher.  Crossing the Gulf Stream is not necessarily difficult under the right conditions.  It can be disastrous under the wrong conditions even for seasoned mariners. Weather and wind direction are the key components to watch.  When the wind blows from the north to the south while the Gulf Stream is flowing from the south to the north it causes gigantic waves that they say “stand up” to a possible forty feet tall.  It can be very rough Kraken loving water.

Years ago, John and I attended the US’ largest sailboat show in Annapolis, Maryland to get a feel for the abundant choices of vessels that were available and what would fit our needs.  Climbing around hundreds of sailboats was fascinating, the crab cakes were the best I’ve ever had, the rum drinks called Pain Killers went down easy and we had the great company of my brother and sister-in-law.   We attended a seminar on crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas safely.  The speaker would say frequently, Repeat after me, I will not cross the Gulf Stream with any northerly component to the wind!  And, I will not sail in the Bahamas at night!  (The Bahamas have very shallow waters and the charts are not accurate because the sandy shoals change often.  You navigate with your eyes.)

We were anchored off of Pumpkin Key and North Key Largo hoping to cross to the Bahamas the following day. It would take anywhere from eight to twelve hours to cross with Echoes abilities.  The winds were looking favorable however, there were some thunderstorms predicted in the early hours.  We decided to set our alarm for 3:30 am, check the weather and make a decision.

The alarm went off as did my internal alarm when we saw thunderstorms approaching.  There were conflicting reports but it seemed probable that we would run into a thunderstorm at some point, and most likely, in the Gulf Stream.  The winds during thunderstorms can whip up high and change on a dime.  This is dangerous when sailing.  Captain Fearless wanted to make a run for it but in the end he, too, decided it wasn’t worth it.  We went back to bed with the wind out of our sails.  We awoke around 7:30 to the slight and insulting pitter patter of sissy rain.  There had not been, nor were there going to be, big storms.  So, we had another decision to make.  Do we go for it now, hours later than we intended, or wait another week for another chance?  We decided to go for it.

The risk we were playing with was time.  We would definitely be arriving in the Bahamas in the dark if it took us eleven or twelve hours to cross.  Repeat after me, I will not sail in the Bahamas at night!  This was the dark, grinning Kraken who followed me across the Gulf Stream.  We decided we would sail until noon and then check our estimated time of arrival.  We would turn around and return to Key Largo if we were pushing the light too far.

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Gulf Stream Selfie

The coast off of Florida was choppy but not horrible.  The seas were about five foot.  The Gulf Stream was similar with some large rolling waves interspersed.  It was exciting but not frightening.  We had both sails up and also kept the engine running to make sure we didn’t waste one minute of daylight. There was a little rain, some clouds and some sun as well.  We made seven to nine knots, once we were off shore, which was encouraging for our arrival time.  We pressed on past noon.
It was lonely in the passage.  We did not see a boat, a dolphin, a turtle or even a bird.  There was an endless, beautiful, navy blue sea in all directions.  We spent a lot of time gazing at it.  There was 2400 feet of lonely ocean under us.  As we got closer to the Bahamas we crossed a shipping lane busy with freighters that we had to zig zag around.  Then we spotted land.

Nine to ten hours after leaving Pumpkin Key we navigated through a washing machine wave cut into the entrance channel of Cat Cay.   We raised our quarantine flag and headed to our marina.  (A quarantine flag is proper regulation to alert authorities that you are arriving from another country and have every intention of checking into customs.)  We pulled up to a heavenly, spacious, open dock space at a private marina.  It was a good landing, too.  We were all tucked in for about an hour before the sun went down.  Captain Myhero took our passports to the customs office and checked us in to our new home for the next few months, the Bahamas.

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We awoke in Fiesta Key to a fog advisory.  Our weather app predicted the fog to lift at eleven am.  We chose to approach Key Largo in the intracoastal as there was a small craft advisory and rough seas on the Atlantic side.  Captain Alwaysthinksahead was smart enough to call the local towboat operator to see if there was enough water for us to make it through with a five foot draft.  There are several points on the charts that read four feet and a lot of skinny water in between.   Towboat Joe said good to go.  We wanted to time the skinny spots at high tide so we left in the fog.  This was not the almost costly and ugly divorce causing thick fog from last year’s Long Boat Key Back to Venice blog post but it was a challenge.  The crab pots popped up out of nowhere and you helm more by navigation charts than visually.  The fog did not lift at eleven and when it did it turned into a misty, cool rain before it became a welcomed cloudy day.  Most of the way we had less than two feet under us.  I tapped out and called Captain Calmer to helm when I saw my depth had .1 feet under me.  It was a teeth gnashing.

Most of the time I find my overactive imagination quite amusing for myself.  However, when you mix in any anxiety it is not as much fun.  The Kraken come out.  In this case, it was a very small Kraken.  I have seen much worse.  I but it had big, sharp teeth and reaching tentacles just the same.  Let me tell you, it took a few chiseled, tanned, shirtless sailors to wrassle that Kraken into submission and send him back to the deep.  Mmm mmm.

Where was I?  Yes, in the fog.  As sailing goes, there are lows and there are highs.  Just after .1 under the keel we came upon cormorant rush hour.  There were hundreds of them and they settled in a watering hole right by us.  It was spectacular.

DSCN2875 We made it to our anchorage at Tarpon Bay without touching bottom and settled in for the night.  They winds were picking up as predicted but we were all tucked in.

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Or so we thought.  The next morning the winds were howling and as we plinked on our computers Captain Alwaysobservant noticed the scenery changing.  We were dragging anchor.  We let out extra scope to help temporarily and prepared to leave.  We knew some worse fowl weather was on the way so we headed to The Anchorage Marina in Key Largo to wait it out, do laundry and provision.  We had been on the boat and at anchorages for eight or nine days.  Our dock landing went, okay, I guess.  There was a lot of cross current pushing us one way and wind another and it was trickier than we both anticipated.  Bumpety bumpskin we went in.  As I have said, ups and downs.  As soon as we were secured I went over and watched Fatty Patty Manatee drink to her heart’s content from a dripping hose.

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The Anchorage Marina and hotel was a friendly place with fun people.  Everyone would congregate at happy hour with their guitars, songs and beverages.  We met some seasoned and especially wonderful sailors who gave us great advice on crossing the gulf stream and other local knowledge.  The Black Sirene Restaurant next door had memorable hogfish, coconut fried onion rings, Scotty Miller from Green Bay on guitar playing our requests and a good wine selection.  The princesses mood increased dramatically.  As one of the aforementioned sailors commented, sailors generally sleep like Dolphins.  Dolphins only shut down half of their brains while sleeping and remain alert with the other half as they drift around.  Especially at anchorage, you tend to half sleep and get up to check things quite often.  So, when you are all secured and tucked in at a marina with a belly full of fresh fish and wine you sleep like a water drenched log.

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Our view from the dock         

A couple of days later the cleaned up, charged up people and boat were ready to move on.  There was this fairly permanent small craft advisory that continued to haunt us.  We were to leave the dock, go about three football fields over to a gas dock to diesel up before heading to an anchorage off of Pumpkin Key in north Key Largo.  The cross current and winds were worse than when we came in.  If our entrance was bumpety bumpskin then our exit was crappetty crapyourpants.  About this time a slightly larger than the last Kraken popped up from the deep.  He was squealing, laughing and pointing with his eight arms at all the obstacles and boats we could bump into and at a piling that we actually did.  His laughter sounded like the low, bass, thwopping sound of heavy wind in your ears.  His squealing sounded a lot like a boat screeching its rub rail down a dock.  It took a handful of tawny dockhands to subdue him and send him back to where he came from.  All in all, Captain Takesitinstride did quite well for these conditions.

We set our anchor five hours later off Pumpkin Key and immediately jumped on our many devices to check the vast quantity of weather and wind apps and websites for the following morning.  There was a one day window of good conditions to cross the gulf stream over to the Bahamas, except for some possible thunderstorms.  So we set our alarm for three am and went to sleep like the dolphin.

I will leave you here for now and tell you the crossing story another day.  But I want you to know that we are safely and successfully in the Bahamas.  We are currently anchored just off of Cat Cay.  The princess is purring, it is warm and the kraken are very deep in the ocean where they belong.

WannaIguana?

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Juan Iguana swam up to wish us a Buenos dias.  My Iguana spanish is very limited but I believe he was requesting breakfast.  We were preparing to put our (still nameless) dinghy up on deck before heading out of Marathon.  I knew that iguanas were land and sea creatures but I have never seen one in the sea before.  He was a funny and awkward swimmer.  Juan made it very difficult for me to focus on my tasks, but so does breathing.

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Did you know Iguanas were great divers and swimmers?  Iguanas can stay submerged for up to an hour but usually do so for five to ten minutes.  They are mostly herbivores and eat leaves, algae and seaweed.   They are cold blooded so they love to sunbathe.  There was an article in the local paper this week reporting that iguanas, like me, can’t handle the cold. They were falling forty feet from their tree houses during this last cold snap.  The article said, It is raining iguanas!  It has warmed up now.  I hope the poor fellas thawed out.

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We motored into the wind on the atlantic side of the coast for a beautiful ride to Fiesta Key after a diesel and water stop that went medium well .  It was warm, sunny and unexciting, just the way I like it.  It continued to be transformational as Echoes worked her magic on me.  In fact, a lot of magic had already occured since our cosmic elevator ride to the sea in the cold Everglades.  Echoes is a twenty year old boat and her few mirrors are a bit tinted and slightly warped.  Even wind whipped and disheveled, I have never looked better.  Echoes has graciously shaved fifteen pounds and fifteen years from me.  I wink at myself in the mirror while smiling coquettishly and turn from side to side.  Magic on the sea is very powerful but it is slow to transfer on land.  I went to the restroom in a restaurant last night and their mirrors lied like the scum on the sea.  Apparently it will take a little while longer for the mermaid magic show on the hard.

My new mermaid mystique has its drawbacks.  It is either that or Captain I’mtwelveyearsold’s humor, or the common Bored Man in a Boat syndrome.  But I’m pretty sure it is because I am entirely irresistible that I have suffered through Captain Needsanewjoke’s endless pestering.   He never tires of his same old jokes, or in this case, bets.  He said, I’ll bet you (fill in the blank a certain intimate act) that we will be at that marker in twenty five minutes.  What fill in the blank do you want to bet?  To which I replied, John, your continuous betting jokes stopped being remotely funny well over a week ago.  He answered, I bet you (fill in the blank) you will have wine tonight.  Annoying.  And.  Not.  Funny.  At.  All, said I.  And he came back with, I bet you (fill in an extremely raunchy and wildly imaginative blank) it is, which cracked me up.  Then he declared, I win! and chased me around the boat.

We anchored in the middle of crab/lobster pots as far as the eye could see after another long day of dodging them.  The fisherman sink wooden boxes with a one way door for crabs or lobsters to wander into.  They tie these boxes to a line with a little styrofoam floating ball on top.  The ball is the marker and the line what they use to retrieve the trap.

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We have past probably hundreds of thousands of these. They set them willy nilly so it interrupts sailing in a straight line and my ability to use autopilot.  This is frustrating to no end because I can not set Echoes on autopilot, sit on my princess’ perch and do what I do best, daydream.  Instead, I have to stand at the helm and drive in zig zags.  I am an expert and proficient daydreamer and have the grades to prove it.  I am usually the helmsman because Captain Onit is charting plots, plotting charts, or fixing things.  If you run over a crab pot it can do serious damage to your engine if it wraps around your propeller or gets your sailing parts in a tangle.

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We enjoyed a beautiful sunset in Fiesta Key after a warm and wonderful day.  The following day we cruised the intracoastal to Tarpon Bay.

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I am uploading my photos and came across a strange one.  John, come ‘ere a sec.  Ya? he says.  What is this?  I point at my screen.  I took a picture of my meat for you, he said as he wiggled his eyebrows at me and then went back to his project.

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T’was the Witch of January Come Stealin’

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The cold witch of winter cast her spell upon us.  We tried to escape her by leaving Minnesota behind but her frosty breath and her bone chilling cry in the wind followed us to Florida.  We sailed out of Marco on a chilly day.  Seven hours later we anchored in the Ten Thousand Islands off of Indian Key for a cold night.

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I had pre negotiated a deal with CaptainletsleaverightafterChristmas.  We could leave Minnesota earlier than I would have liked but I needed a day holed up in the middle of nowhere with a book and peanut m&ms to get my head right.  I am a person of transitions.  I ache from saying goodbye to friends, my boys and my daughters in loves, my beloved pet parrot, my in-laws, my parents, my large seated, warm toilet, my fluffy toilet paper, my big, beautiful, bright fridge and the most pleasurable varieties of my wine rack.  The cruising life leaves me isolated and we often do not have cell or email coverage.   It also leaves you generally uncomfortable and in constant continuous contact with your husband who finds great satisfaction in farting loudly.  I need some space to talk myself into all of this.  The best way I know how to get my head right is to get out of my head and then ease back in it as a new person.  Reading is my vehicle.  So I gobbled up an entire 400 page novel from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, within twenty four hours.  Can I tell you a brief quip from “Anansi Boys” to show you why I love Neil so much?  A dragon flew up to a man and said, Mmmmm, you look delicious.  I am going to eat you.  The man tried to scare him off but the dragon laughed at him.  I am afraid of nothing, he laughed.  Nothing? asked the man.  That’s right! said the dragon.  Well, said the man, I have two pockets with nothing in them.  The dragon looked very uncomfortable and flew away grumbling.   I surfaced  from this book a better human being and was more prepared for boat life.   But it was damn cold.

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The day after book gorging day was a howling frigid day of haunted banshees.  We had no cell service but could pick up a lone radio station.  There was a frost advisory with temperatures of 32 and a wind chill of 25.  It was interesting how the DJ was helping Floridians understand the dangers of the cold.  I did learn from freezing on the boat last year and brought my new down jacket (God Bless you, Caryl), hat (God Bless you my knitting smelly work friend, Cheryl), mittens, warm blankets and wool clogs.  We lived in layers upon layers for 5 days.  There was a small craft advisory as well as freeze advisory so we stayed put two more days.  I read the Bahamas chart guide cover to cover while listening to the radio.  I am surprised to discover that I quite like elevator music.  I felt like I was caught between two realities on a cosmic elevator ride back to the sea.  Who knew a B singer singing Barry Manilow covers and fluffy instrumental Beatles music was so magical?

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We spent three nights at Indian key and then sailed a frigid seven hours to the Shark River.  We came upon a pod of about fifty dolphin.  They came to play in the bow of our boat and to restore my faith in sailing and transitions.  Shark River was cold but pretty and no need to worry about bugs when it’s damn cold.  Plus, I shivered that extra five Christmas pounds right off!

The following day we motored most of the ten hours to Marathon in the middle keys.  We kissed the bottom, or hit a log, on the way out of the anchorage but it caused no more damage than heartburn.  It was during these ten hours that I realized how much John reminds me of my boys when they were toddlers.  You would crack up if you saw a fast motion video of us on the boat.  I would be continually perched in one of my queen seats looking forward, standing at the helm, or huddled out of the wind in the sun.  John would be up and down the companionway stairs fifty times, at the bow twenty times, working on sails or other projects or just spinning around like a whirling dervish.  In  between his three meals he would be snacking pretty much always.  When he doesn’t know what to do with himself he turns in circles.  Then I say, why don’t you go play with your legos? (fix something)  Or, why don’t you play a video game?  (look at your navigation charts)  Or, I think someone needs a nap, in which this day he agreed and went and crashed for an hour.  The only time he is quiet and peaceful is when he is sleeping or when he has his bottle.  My Captainnotlazy.

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Six foot long Ricardo Tortardo Turtle, with a pencil thin mustache, welcomed us to Marathon.  Again, Ricardo helped me realize that maybe I really do like sailing.  We are currently anchored just off of Boot Key.  It has warmed up considerably but I am still complaining.  The anchorage is very roly poly meaning that the boat is popping around like a cork in the ocean.  It makes me a bit queasy as I have not yet found my sea legs.  This is our seventh day on the boat and we still have about a third of our water.  I short changed us on a previous post.  We did not get off the boat at all for six days straight.  Tomorrow, we plan to water, diesel and then to sail up to Fiesta Key and then to Key Largo the day after that.   There we will sit and wait for calm weather to cross the gulf stream over to the Bahamas.

 

Two Superb Salty Sailors

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Robert Kelly, my dad, is a lover of sea and sails, a lover of people, a lover of life and a lover of, well, love.  Case in point, my girlfriends have been coming to Marco Island with me for over 15 years for a girls annual getaway.  They call him Dr Love.  Dad is an avid traveler and adventurer.  All through my brothers’ and my childhood dad and mom took us skiing on many a mountain, whitewater river rafting and wilderness camping down the Grand Canyon, fly fishing in the backcountry of Colorado and, most life changing for me, sailing in the Caribbean.  Dad is an encourager extraordinaire and a most enthusiastic follower of John’s and my sailing adventures.   Dad is eighty eight years young and a mature salty sailor.

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Dad has done most of his sailing with his boyhood friend from Chicago, Richard McClow.  Dick made a canoe from scratch in his youth and his love of water took hold of him from that point on.  Dick spent over ten years living on his sailboat and sailing around the world.  My dad would catch up with him in various parts of the world and jump on board.  My folks even sailed the Bahamas with Dick.  Dick and my dad crossed the Atlantic together at the age of seventy.  It took over three weeks at sea before they saw land.  On that passage they encountered fierce storms, foreign strangers who intended to come aboard their boat in the middle of the sea and engine failure.

After sailing around the world, Dick traded in his sailboat for a troller (engine powered boat) and he continued to travel the seas, often singlehandedly, until after 80 years old.  You can image what a wealth of knowledge he has and what a tremendous resource he continues to be for us.

Dick doesn’t spend as much time on boats now as he is traveling all over the United States in swimming competitions.  He took the US first place championship last year in his age group.  I believe Dick is eighty seven.  He is training with olympic experienced coaches to improve his technique and cut down his time.  His goal?  To break a world record in speed for swimming at age ninety.

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Dick and his lovely girlfriend Jill were visiting my folks just days before we departed.  We took the group out on Echoes.  We checked the weather and it seemed perfect for a day sail.  By the time we got out to the gulf the winds whipped up to over twenty knots and the seas were choppy.   We were unable to get the sails up because of the conditions but dad and Dick were grinning ear to ear.  My mom (and my best first mate, Kay) and Jill were excellent troopers and smiled through the wild bucking ride.  Just a bunch of seventy something to eighty eight year olds out in a small craft advisory for a joy ride.

Thank you, dad and Dick, for your example and your encouragement.  You are two extraordinary people and you are my heroes.  May fair winds and following seas always be yours… and a world record.

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Getting things ship shape for the Bahamas

Greetings from chilly Florida.  I heard a collective grumble from my Minnesota friends who are suffering through -14 weather.  Perspective is everything.  Yours?  You have heat.  Last night it was 42 degrees on the boat.  Mine?  I’ll gladly take 42 degrees and sleep with cold toes and nose.

We hope to untie the dock lines and head out in the next couple of days.  We are going to meander to the keys where we will wait for appropriate weather to make the passage to the Bahamas.  Once again, we are on the slowest race to nowhere in particular.

We have spent these last ten days on Marco Island tidying up loose ends.  Ladies and gentlemen!  We have a working anchor light and a happy wife!  The captain pulled himself up the mast with his climbing gear for a bit of electrical work and installed a new light.  He had an audience of people in the neighboring condos watching and commenting from their balconies and a few curious pelicans who flew by.

He has also added water level sensors to our water tanks so we can monitor water usage more carefully.  Water is gold on a sailboat.  Echoes carries 110 gallons of water which we can ration to five days.  That means we can be out on the hook or cruising for 5 days before needing a marina to fill back up.  Let me put this in perspective.  110 gallons divides out to 11 gallons a day per person.   According to USGS, the average person uses 1 gallon of water a day to brush their teeth, 35 gallons to take a shower, 18 gallons to hand wash dishes (we, of course, do not have a dishwasher, which take 16 gallons of water on average.)  You should drink a half gallon of water per day.  Each toilet flush uses 3 gallons of water (average use 7 flushes) and hand washing another gallon per wash.  Some sailors use sea water in their heads but we choose to use precious fresh water as it keeps the heads free from smelly microorganisms making their home there.  This totals 78.5 gallons a day on average per person.  This does not include the many miscellaneous uses of water daily.  Incidentally, a washing machine uses 25-40 gallons per load.  So, you see, 11 gallons a day is quite sparse and it is imperative to know where you are at so you can bathe, flush, and not die of thirst.  However, there is always wine.  John jokes that he can shower with a thimble full and I with a cup and a half.  I cut my hair for this reason.  We get greedy and critical with each other’s water use.  John uses more fresh water to rinse off his fishing poles than his body.  He complains that I am an exuberant flusher and prolific showerer.

Provisioning the boat is quite an undertaking.  We live on 41’10” of length (that is tapered, mind you) and 14’10” beam at the widest part of the boat.  There is not a lot of storage and, I must add, we have more tools aboard than Home Depot carries.   I found wrenches in my underwear drawer.  I did put on a few Christmas pounds. We have been told that we will be lucky to find a paper towel roll for under $7.00 and that a case of Miller Lite is at a minimum $48.00 in the Bahamas.  We are buying as much supplies as we can carry.  I put things inside of things inside of other things and then forget where I put them.  I should make a spreadsheet of provisions and their whereabouts.   Pffft, who am I kidding?  I will certainly remember where the ample amount of wine is and anything else is incidental.

We have become known regulars at Bealls discount store as well as the hardware stores on Marco.  We have a favorite cashier at Bealls.  She is pushing 60, friendly, has a warm smile and grandmotherly appearance.  We were chatting about different geographical nomenclature such as pop vs soda, water fountain vs bubbler, etc.  She mentioned that the English call swimming suits costumes.  John told her to be careful with the English as they refer to a lady’s most essential parts as fannies.  So, he warned, do not refer to the thing you carry your water and lunch in as a fanny pack!  Well, she said, it might be lunch to someone.

Ta ta for now.  Captain Wegottagetgoin is barking.  I hope to tell you a story before we go.  Blog with you soon!