Long Island Bahamas

We spent two weeks anchored in Thompson Bay Long Island, moving from the North end near cruisers beach to the town anchorage every 3-4 days. This is a large and beautiful bay. Amazing that there were less than 20 boats there at any given time we were there. We joined in a couple of the cruiser organized events: a beach potluck and a dinghy drift as well as a few happy hours at Sou’ Side and Tiny’s. Shared a delicious pizza at Tiny’s!

One day we joined two other cruising couples to drive a rented van around the north end of the island. The bar at Broken Bridge was closed for construction. What a beautiful spot, and they are building a truly nice meeting place. There is a fast flowing current under the actual broken bridge.

Pictured above Ted (Boatel 1) Elaine (Sea Ya), Tom, and Mark (Sea Ya).

This shallow cave was over the edge of the ledge and a long way down at the monument to Columbus and the aboriginal people.

Diane from Boatel 1 and Mark from Sea Ya at the monument to the original inhabitants and Columbus who landed here.

We looked for a local lunch restaurant, but found most were closed on Monday. So we went to the Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort for lunch. Good food and a beautiful beach and view of the west side of the island.

We found this unique art shop and the owner reopened the shop so we could all have a look.

Her husband makes beautiful objects d’art out of thousands of seashells and she is very talented with basketry. You’ll have to zoom in to see the tiny shells this beautiful artwork is made of.

We ventured to Long Island to rendezvous with cruising friends we haven’t seen since they left SYC in Groton, CT eleven years ago. However, after enjoying the Ragged Islands and Jimento’s for an extra week, they elected to sail to Georgetown to avoid several days of strong winds. We heard there were lots of dragging anchors in that over-populated anchorage during this storm. We stayed safe and were well protected on Long Island. There were 17 boats in the harbor with lots of swinging room and none dragged anchor.

We decided to use the last day of east winds to sail downwind back to Georgetown. We sailed in company with Sea Ya and Allie May. This was a fabulous sail for us sailing flat at 7-9 knots. We were able to rendezvous with former SYC members Mark & Michele on the new to them, sailing vessel Reach.

Fun evening at the Peace & Plenty restaurant where we also met up with Chuck Wright another former SYC member. Great time reminiscing and planning future cruising locations.Friday, Tom filled our water tanks. We also purchased some groceries and Anita was able to get her hair cut. Saturday, Tom purchased and siphoned 10 gallons of diesel from jerry cans into the main tank. Then we moved the boat to a different cove on Great Exuma near a couple of very small cays or islands and two resorts.

Tom has completed the installation of the electric windlass and has spliced the new anchor chain to the anchor line. We just need to check that it can all be stored in the anchor locker and get the new Rocna anchor unwrapped and shackled to the chain.We are looking forward to having our first guest aboard. Sandy, a sailing friend from home will arrive tomorrow bringing our mail and a few essentials in her carry on luggage. It will be fun to sail, swim and play tourist along side her!

2018 Stats and Sailing

Caption: a picturesque no wind day on Long Island in the Bahamas.

We began our cruise south on September 22, 2018. Our stats for the year from then onward include:

11 nights at sea

81 nights at anchor

9 nights at a dock

1800 nautical miles traveled

5 states in the U.S. / 2 countries

We continued our stay in Elizabeth Harbor Great Exuma as it has many anchorages and interesting places to explore. We moved around every 3-4 days and we still didn’t stay in all of them. We stayed in Kidd’s Cove the most as access to the shops and WiFi at the BTC office in Georgetown is easiest from there. Next would be Volleyball beach where most activities take place. Here, we often chose to anchor in the inlet on the side of the beach. The music from Chat n’ Chill was not quite as loud there. However, the Bahamian taxi boats have one speed, real fast through this anchorage. Hence the boats at anchor will bounce or roll in daylight hours. Honeymoon Bay, Goat Cay, and Sand Dollar beach were very picturesque and oh so quiet! Many boats anchor at these quieter spots. No matter where we went it was never crowded like Block Island or Watch Hill on a summer weekend. A weekly census of boats was reported on the morning net. I think 120 was the most I heard scattered throughout Elizabeth Harbor. We hear, in years past there have been over 400 boats here at once.

We took several breaks from projects to enjoy various activities and walks on the beach.

The Electric anchor windlass project has proven to be more challenging than expected. The motor below decks is in such a tight space that Tom needed to cut away a non-structural bulkhead to make room for it and to have access to install it.

As the deck part was finished and bolted down, covering the holes in the deck; we decided we could sail on to the next island. We enjoyed the past thirty four days in the Georgetown area and look forward to exploring more of the Bahamas 🇧🇸; though we will probably return here as it is a great spot to get good free water and so much more! Water costs 30 cents a gallon in Long Island and 50 cents a gallon in the Abacos. We hope to add a water maker some day.

On Thursday, January 10 we set sail for Long Island, 35 miles away. As soon as the sails were set two engine alarms sounded: water temperature and alternator. We quickly shut it down and continued sailing. Tom discovered the alternator belt was missing. It was under the engine and had broken. We had a spare belt, so Tom dug out tools and opened up the engine room and proceeded to get very dirty while Anita hand steered through reefs and islands. By the time the engine was fixed we were out in deeper water with a straighter and longer course.

Yeah, time to post a watch, engage the auto pilot and make lunch! Our down wind sail in relatively calm seas all day was really nice. So pleasant, Tom was reluctant to turn on the engine to motor the last mile to the anchorage even though we were slowing down due to lighter winds when sunset was an hour away. Thompson Bay approach does not have any coral reefs and multiple anchorages are well labeled on the chart; so no concerns about seeing through the water late in the day. We were the 13th boat to anchor in the north end of the harbor. The next day we took a walk across the narrow part of Long Island, on a mostly coral road; to the eastern shore and walked the beach before joining other cruisers for happy hour at Sou’Side bar.

We finally used up our ration of ice cream that we had purchased in the states. After defrosting the freezer, it was time to breakout the ice cream maker and start making gelato. Mint chocolate chip first than vanilla using coconut milk and Irish Creme flavoring; so perhaps it’s more like coconut cream.

Anita is also starting to bake: berry scones and French bread, and whole wheat bread so far.

Yes, we are living and working on our boat in exotic harbors! Our sonic wind instrument on top of the mast is no longer discoverable by the network. It is more challenging to sail without this instrument that provides wind direction and speed. However, we will add some ribbons to the shrouds and continue to sail the old fashioned way. Tom climbed the mast stairs and/or was winched up while in the bosuns chair. He was not able to remove the device as he couldn’t get high enough to get a two handed grip on it to unscrew it. We will need a different style of mast climber or a rigger’s help in the near future. Sadly, they no longer make this model. Although the manufacturer may be able to repair it. We’ve ordered the older style with the spinning cups and will wait for that to arrive before continuing with this repair project.

Every once in a while we check the weather app to see what we’re missing where family is located:

We need to add Bangor, Germany, China, and the U.K. to the list of where family is 😉.

Life is good in the Bahamas!

How about where you are?

Ocracoke and Oriental, NC

Picture:  Fishing vessels in Oriental, where stories of Blackbeard abound

Disclaimer for our non-sailing readers: sorry for the technical jargon in this one. Some of our sailing friends will appreciate the details of the challenges we’ve experienced and how we overcome them.

The fifty-mile excursion from Wanchese, NC (on Roanoke Island) to Ocracoke, NC was uncomfortable yet necessary.   The latter because there are few choices of protected anchorages in the broad and shallow Pamlico Sound. We left at first light with a little help from the dock master. The west wind had us pinned to the dock.  Our normal backing down with an aft tie spring wasn’t working. Tom asked the dock master to move our one remaining dock line on the starboard stern cleat to the last cleat on the dock and we were able to back into the open space beside the dock and finally head out on our own.

After motoring about 10 miles down the eastern channel of Roanoke, we were able to set full sail and head southwest.  We have a small camber spar jib that is self-tacking; so, there is little need for us to be out in the weather tending it. We chose to leave with a windy forecast (West 15-20MPH diminishing to 10MPH as the day progresses) as we didn’t think we could make the 50-mile passage under motor alone in daylight hours.  Well, forecasts are not always right, it stayed windy!  Furthermore, as it had been windy for some time the waves although not big (1-3 feet) were confused.  This made for a very bouncy, corkscrew kind of ride.  Like riding a bronco, I imagine.  Picture things falling in the cabin and a lot of rocking and rolling in all directions.  The windshield was soon covered in salt and difficult to see through.  Solution: steer by instruments: chart plotter, compass, speed and depth readings.  The sea finally calmed for the last hour as we meandered through the approach channels to Ocracoke.  The trip took nine hours and we certainly didn’t eat very well: gingerbread muffins, peanut butter bread and snacks.  Too rough to make a sandwich or heat soup!

Ocracoke has a small secure harbor with an active ferry at the curvy entrance. Yes, we met the ferry right at the entrance and waited outside the channel in 5 feet of water for them to pass. Then we motored to the far end of the harbor and anchored near a couple other sail boats.  It took a few hours for our brains to realize the boat was no longer rocking.  Is that muscle memory?  It is a strange and somewhat unsettling sensation.

We checked the distance (36 miles) and forecast (favorable winds and sunny) to our next destination: Oriental, NC; and decided to forego exploring the local wild horses and vicinity in favor of returning to the ICW and our trek south.  Temperatures have moderated recently and we are seeing highs in the mid 60’s and lows in the low 50’s. Yet, New England is experiencing snow and freezing temperatures already.

Saturday, November 17th we motor sailed in light winds across the remainder of Pamlico Sound and into the Neuse River.  Meal preparation and cleanup not a problem. Much better day!

Oriental is a very small harbor with limited anchoring.  So glad we found a spot to anchor inside the breakwater!  The two free slips at the public dock were occupied.  The marina docks are mostly empty at this time of year, but we had just spent four days at a dock in Wanchese.

The next morning Pegu Club motored into the harbor and began setting their anchor right next to us when I noticed a spot had opened on the public dock.  They quickly hoisted the anchor and moved to the free dock.  We always enjoy spending time with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club.  They also started their cruise from Shennecossett Yacht Club. We chatted animatedly as we walked together to the local Marine consignment and Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Later they came over for dinner, games and popcorn. This is the cruising lifestyle we truly enjoy! The below picture was taken by us as we returned to Lone Star at sunset.

Entering the ICW

We left Hampton, VA on November 4th in very light winds. Motoring across Hampton Roads on a Sunday was incredibly quiet. Just a few other pleasure boats about, one large container ship, and a couple small tug & barge combinations.

It was such an easy passage that we decided to carry on past Hospital Point; the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway, referred to as ICW.  We were surprised we made such good time and were soon directed into the Dismal Swamp Deep Creek lock just before 2:30.

There were 4 other boats in the lock with us.  The lock master was real nice and provided lots of information about the canal and options of places to stay.

We stopped for the night directly after the Deep Creek bridge around 4PM.  It now gets dark around 5PM, since the time change today!

This bulkhead tie-up was our first non-anchoring or sailing night since leaving home.  We do not often dock as our vessel is a trimaran and too wide (22′ 6″) for most slips.  We vastly prefer the freedom and peace of mind of being at anchor versus tied to a dock.  However, the canal was quite still and narrow.  There is certainly no room to swing at anchor.  Street noise was loud, but not bothersome and subsided before bedtime.  Tom made a quick run to a local Food Lion for fresh food as this was a very good supply stop and a short walk away.

The next morning, we started at 7:00AM to continue motoring through the Dismal Swamp.  We wanted to catch the Mill Creek Lock for the 11:00 AM opening.  This part of the man-made canal is straight and often runs right beside a highway.  When the road curves away it is so quiet and the only sound is nature.  The overhanging trees although contributing to this beauty are also a hazard to navigation when they fall in the canal or when a mast rubs against a low hanging branch and it rains pinecones, leaves and nuts all over the deck.  We heard a few bumps from sunken debris as well, truly not a good feeling.  The weather was warm and overcast with occasional drizzle or a brief downpour.  We were very thankful for our enclosed cockpit.  We caught up with two other sail boats around 10:30AM; it was perplexing as they often slowed or stopped.  Finally discovered via VHF that they were not sure of the height of the fixed bridge ahead.  Six boats arrived at the lock almost a half-hour late.  Luckily, the lock master still let us through the lock and the bridge.  The lead boat was a catamaran, they were directly ahead of us in the lock when eight feet of water was rushing out of the lock.  They managed to get a mooring line jammed under a cleat and had to cut it.  Scary to see the boat scrape along the lock wall and suddenly drop three feet.  Lessons learned: handle your lines continuously and have a knife handy.

Very shortly after the lock, we heard another thunk under the boat.  Anita quickly put the engine in neutral and saw a large submerged log under and moving with Lone Star.  We hooked it.  After a half minute of drifting Tom suggested trying the engine. It made a loud noise and stalled.  We then drifted to the side of the canal and the trees rained down on us.  We shouted to the boats following us to pass us as we were disabled.  The last boat, Jade East was very kind and threw us a floating line to tow our bow to the center of the canal while we dealt with the 30′ tree.  Tom managed to tow it to the side of the canal with our dinghy once it was free. Thankfully the engine did start after that and we were able to get on our way once again.  We noted that our speed was slower at the same RPM and the steering was off center, but still responsive.  There were no leaks inside the boat and no vibration of the propeller so we continued on with Jade East following.  We decided to anchor before the Elizabeth City opening bridge due to the South winds predicted; more protected on the North side of the peninsula.  Glad those two motoring days of hand steering in close quarters are over!

A look in the water with the GoPro the next morning revealed blackness; the fresh river water is the color of iced tea due to the tannin from the trees and roots.  Tom would need to dive over the side to check if we have any damage from the submerged log.  He used his wetsuit and dive tank so it took a while to setup.  In the meantime, Anita continued to sweep the debris off the deck.  You guessed it!  Tom couldn’t see under the brown water either.  He felt around and removed small twigs and debris from the rudder and discovered the tips of all three propeller blades were missing.  Tom did not feel any dings or dents in the hull or rudder and we are not taking on water anywhere, yeah!  The rudder is now back to normal.

We moved through the Elizabeth City opening bridge and anchored off Pelican Marina. We looked at the sea walls that offer free dockage and didn’t like the current wind conditions that would push the boat against the dock.

Pelican has a dinghy dock and let us do laundry and take showers. We also walked to town and had a very delicious lunch at Hoppin’ Johnz; smoked meats with southern barbecue flavors.

We have ordered a new propeller and some spare parts and they will be delivered to a Marina on Roanoke Island about 50 miles south of here.  We are scheduled for a short haul next Wednesday morning.  We continue to work on our project list.  Tom finished the installation of the ham radio and has listened to the waterway and weather nets, but has not transmitted yet. He also installed the EPIRB bracket, the radar reflector, and tidied up some loose wires.

We plan to sail about 40 miles south to Manteo on Roanoke Island tomorrow.  Yes, sail!  Across Albemarle Sound, a nice stretch of open water.

Adventurous Day Sails

We left Maryland Yacht Club on Friday, October 5th heading for St. Michaels about 30 miles away.  Unfortunately, our late start (12:45PM), light winds, and squally looking skies had us changing our plans and looking for a closer quiet anchorage.  Captain Tom spent more than an hour below researching a new location on the fly; thank you dear!  We ended up motor-sailing up the Chester River on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  There is a large Wildlife Refuge on the east side of the river.  Really quiet place!  All the way up the river Tom kept asking, “How’s the cell signal?”  Anita would check her phone that was plugged in near the helm station.  Answer: 3 bars; a bit further up the river, 2 bars; upon entering Reed Creek, MD, 1 bar.  However, once at anchor “No Service” and it is 4:45PM, too late to choose another location.  Tom was able to send out a position report to immediate family to let them know we were out of touch for a night.  The blog will have to wait!

This was a very beautiful anchorage, nice big bay only one other small moored boat in it.  A few big houses on shore and a small creek or two nearby.  The evening was spent researching our next location without the use of the internet.  That means look at a chart and try to find a town, with roads near shore, and perhaps the label TWR; which may mean cell tower.  Tom described the next port as having a very narrow mile long channel with 4 foot draft (our minimum required) and having to pass under two bridges.  One fixed bridge with 10 feet extra of mast clearance and one that was an opening bascule bridge; the opening is reported to be 48 feet wide (um, we are 22.5 feet wide). Tom particularly liked the anchorage beyond the bridges as there was a boat launch where we could tie the dinghy and walk to West Marine and a grocery store. Anita responded with a hesitant, okay.

The morning was a time to work on projects.  Tom finished fixing the broken cockpit seat and he installed the new ladder bracket in the port forward storage area.  Yeah, much easier to get in there now!  Anita repaired some stitching on the cockpit enclosure, prepared and cleaned up from meals and did a bit of reading.  We discovered two more boats had joined our quiet anchorage in the late morning. Right after lunch we motored south down the Chester River toward Kent Island.

On the way in the narrow channel, we discovered the depth was a bit deeper than reported, whew, that’s good!  Lot’s of small power boat traffic here, absolutely no other sailboats.  Anita’s thinking, “Let the Adventure begin, this is out of my comfort zone.” After winding around a few corners the view final opens up and the bridges were VERY close together, like 500 feet maybe. There was a 1 knot current against us and we had a 25 minute wait until the next bridge opening. It was actually easy to maintain station by powering forward and drifting back with the current.  Once the bridge opened, we had to let one small sailboat going down-current go first.  We followed another boat into the channel from our side.  Then saw just how narrow that opening was, oh boy, and there are dolphins (a grouping of vertical wooden piles shaped like a teepee) inside the opening to close it up some, yikes!  The boat wakes were bouncing off the solid walls; great more turbulence.  Anita pushed the throttle ALL the way forward (never did that before) and quietly swore like a sailor, then prayed her thanks we made it through okay.

Picture: Looking back at the two bridges; the narrow opening of the lower bridge is the tiny light blue area in the center of the picture, above the O in Lone Star.

We still had a few more miles to go winding around in a marked channel, then following chart depths into Goodhands Creek, MD.  There were about six other anchored and moored local boats here and a bit of traffic from small trailerable motorboats and fisherman. It’s also Columbus Day weekend.  We are right next to a very tall cell tower and have full cell service, yippee!

On Sunday, we took the dinghy ashore and walked a couple miles to West Marine and a SafeWay grocery.  We found Talenti ice cream on sale – 2/$6, and bought too much other stuff,  so we used UBER to get a quick ride back to the boat launch ramp.  Well worth it!

We had purchased chicken and pork chops so took out the new Weber propane grill and had us a feast.  We love to grill large quantities than cut it up and package in vacuum sealed bags to store in the freezer for later use.  Time consuming now, but well worth it later when making a quick stir-fry, casserole, or perhaps sandwiches.

Today we finished up a quick project with our current anchor before leaving for St. Michaels.  We have 30 feet of chain and the rest rope.  We needed to replace two shackles with one new one and swap ends of the line.  We tend to use about 50-80 feet of the 240 feet we have.  Tom had spliced a new thimble on the new chain end of the line last night after dinner.  While Tom worked on hardware replacement, Anita measured and moved the anchor line markers to read correctly so we will know how much line we have out.  Once the new anchor windlass is installed, we will put on a bigger anchor and new chain and line.  Yes, the windless and new anchor are on the project list too.  We love that we can get more done when we are on the boat full time.

Sailing to Maryland Yacht Club

I’ve delayed writing this last day sail from the Sassafras River to the Maryland Yacht Club as we became very busy with cruising friends and activities that the Seven Seas Cruising Association provided here at the Maryland Yacht Club.  Wow!  What great people, so much useful information, and such a fun time!  However, we slept for 10 hours last night. to catch-up.

Okay, so the last sailing day to get to this beautiful spot.  This was our shortest day sail so far, only 35 miles.  It was still mostly overcast.  Rain, thunderstorms and a cold front were predicted later in the day.  As we did not have any cell signal, we decided to press on before the weather hit.  We were directly into the wind for the first 10 miles or so.  As we traveled further south the bay opened up and we were soon under full sail on a close reach.  We decided to get out of the main channel and make a straight line course over some shallows to our destination.  All was great until…

… we snagged a dark colored crab pot.  Our speed suddenly went from near 7 knots to 3.2.  Normally, we can back off of these by turning into the wind.  We tried that about six times with no luck.  We were definitely dragging something.  Anita was standing on the port hinged cockpit seat when Tom was on deck raising the port dagger board.  When she reached over to tighten the dagger board line, the seat hinges ripped out of the bulkhead and sent her feet flying backward (seat and all) onto the cockpit floor.  So lucky it was only a skinned shin!!  Next boat project – repair seat hinges.

We discovered we were not caught on either dagger board.  It was either on the propellor or the rudder.  The water in the bay is not transparent, meaning one cannot see through it, so putting a camera in the water would not help.  After 40 minutes or so we finally came up with a plan.  We dropped an anchor.  Tom donned his snorkeling gear and dove over the side with a line attached to his waist.  He used a suction cup to hang onto the boat and was able to free the buoy in three quick dives.  After he was back on board, he divulged there was a current pulling him away from the boat.  Good thing he had the suction cup and line!

The remainder of the trip we both stood watch and Anita hand steered around numerous dark colored crab pot floats.  Reminds us of Casco Bay Maine!  We anchored in the well protected cove behind the Maryland Yacht Club.  (See picture above)

The thunderstorm arrived after dark.  Gusty winds, lots of rain, thunder and lightning too!  The wind also shifted 180 degrees.  It was hard to tell for sure, but we were thinking the anchor had dragged.  Amazing how calm it became once the storm passed. We re-anchored in the morning as we did not like the new location, nor trust that the anchor was set properly.  Anchor’s been fine for the past five nights. Then it was time to setup the dinghy and venture ashore.

We plan to move Lone Star closer to Annapolis Sailboat Show tomorrow as we will work at the SSCA booth for 3 hours on Thursday afternoon.  We hear the anchorages are filling up, so wish us luck!!

Transiting C&D Canal

Picture: approaching a bridge as we transit the Chesapeake/Delaware Canal west bound.

Tuesday morning, September 25th.

Ah, what a difference a full night sleep and a nice hot breakfast of egg sandwiches make.  Lone Star was beginning to roll at anchor as the wind had shifted to the southeast.  We were ready to continue our trek into the Chesapeake Bay by 9:30AM.  Winds were southeast 10-20, still some southerly swells in Delaware Bay.  We were able to sail the 30 miles or so to the beginning of the 14 mile canal, then motored.  The wind dies in the narrow canal and they require the motor on anyway.  It’s ok, we don’t mind making hot water with the engine seeing there is very little sun for solar to provide it.

We only saw two other pleasure boats in the entire canal.  It is really quiet around here!  We expected to see more pleasure craft heading south at this time of year.  Upon exiting the canal we motor-sailed into head winds and a contrary current to the Sassafras River.

The anchorage we chose in the Sassafras River was near Turner Creek and across from Money Creek.  Seemed fitting as last night we were near Money Island so why not stay near Money Creek?  We were once again the only boat anchored there.  Arriving around 5:30PM we decided to leave the sails uncovered as they were wet from occasional light rain showers throughout the day and it was almost sunset.  Have I mentioned we really like our enclosed cockpit!!  Neither one of us needed a rain jacket yet, besides the rain is warm!  We had hoped for a lay day here.  However, the weather forecast was okay for the next day and lack of a cell signal encouraged us to press on to our destination: the Maryland Yacht Club in Pasadena, MD.  We will be attending the Seven Seas Cruising Association gathering (SSCA GAM) there.