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.