Berry Islands, Andros, and Nassau

Our son, Alex and girlfriend, Jenna flew in to Nassau on Thursday afternoon, April 4th. They each had only one carry on backpack. Alex’s was very heavy and nearly half filled with spare parts for us. TSA entertained them in the US by trying to guess what the parts were. They didn’t guess any correctly. Bahamas customs only wanted to know the name of a marina or dock our boat was at. We were anchored off Junkanoo beach near the cruise ships so our boat was not near a dock or marina. Rather entertaining to see them insist on the name of a nearby dock. They finally used the name of the cruise ship dock. The taxi ride and picking them up at the beach via dinghy went smoothly. Around 10 PM, the hull started vibrating with deep bass music that was playing on shore. It didn’t stop until 1:30AM. Welcome to Nassau!The next day after breakfast, we sailed down wind out of the harbor heading northwest for the Berry Islands, 35 miles away. The wind was lighter than expected so we motor-sailed occasionally.

As soon as the anchor was down near Pigeon Cay, guess who went for a swim?After dinner, Alex & Jenna went out on deck to watch the sunset.

Jenna wanted to call her Dad to wish him a Happy Birthday 🎈🎂 🎉. Alex scrambled below, dug in his bag, and raced outside again. Mommy radar was blipping. Eventually, we hear happy giggles. It seems our son asked a question with something shiny and was accepted; on our boat at sunset in the Bahamas ❤️ 🇧🇸 🥰. We were all surprised and very happy. They couldn’t stop smiling and inspecting the very pretty ring.Alex had asked her Dad for permission to marry her. Which is why he needed to propose before her call home.

We stayed another full day at this private anchorage. Alex & Jenna took the dinghy for a long run, so they could walk on the beach of Bird Island and swim in the shallows. They brought back a few very small shells and saw some little silver fish. Sunsets are a time to be outside:On Sunday, we sailed a few miles to Chub Cay and anchored by the beach. Tom & I drove the dinghy to the marina to get two loads of water. Alex and Jenna swam to the coral wall to see more little fish.

Alex captured the best photo of the gorgeous sunset at Chub.Tom and Alex just had to finish the project they started; installing the new Tank Tender gauge. Completed at 8:30 PM. Tom had earlier installed a pickup tube directly in the deepest part of the water tank. Now we can measure how many inches of water we have in the tank. Much nicer than running out!The next day, we motored a mile or so to the south coast of Chub Cay and tried to anchor at the entrance to the mangroves, planning to dinghy into them to see the turtles. The anchor just skidded along the top of the hard bottom and it was a lee shore with 12 knots of wind that were increasing. Time for Plan B.

Off came the sail covers, up went the sails, we turned off the engine and sailed 14 miles to the north end of Andros Island. Our entrance into the harbor was quite exciting as a brief rain squall came through with heavy rain and 20+ knots of wind. Alex expertly steered Lone Star through the reefs on both sides. Then hovered in the wind while Tom and Anita lowered and wrapped up the sails. We had plenty of protection from the southerly winds for the next couple days and a new place to explore! We waited until afternoon when the sun was lower to dinghy ashore. We poked around a few wrecks on the beach:Lone Star at anchor, a beached Tug, and Tom for perspective.

We explored Henry Morgan’s caves and (lower picture) his lookout point where the pirate is alleged to have watched for ships to plunder. This place is now called Morgan’s Bluff.Our full day on Andros Island was a mix of sun and clouds. We also started the day with light winds that turned gusty in the afternoon. We went ashore in the late morning to make 3 dinghy runs for water and walk around a bit. It was too hot and not much more to see. We went back aboard to hide from the sun. The next day was also supposed to be cloudy with occasional rain showers steady 10-15 knot winds with gusts in squalls around 25 knots. However, southwest winds would carry us downwind back to Nassau. The forecasters got only the cloudy part right. Winds were under 10 knots all day, we motor-sailed for 9.5 hours, rotating the watch every hour between the three of us.No rain for us until after sunset. We were safely anchored at a little island just east of Nassau called Athol Cay.

Snorkeling here was pretty good. Both Tom and Alex took video. Tom and the affianced couple took the dinghy to a beach on the south side of the island in the morning. In the afternoon, they snorkeled again near Lone Star on the north side. This was actually better; more fish and variety of coral. Somehow Tom still squeezed in an engine maintenance project: replacing the salt water pump and belt. He also went swimming and scrubbed the bottom. Busy day and everyone is tired, but happy!

It’s hard to believe eight days have flown by so fast! We raised the anchor and jib for the short motor sail through Nassau Harbor. We anchored off of Junkanoo Beach again and met Bahama John’s Taxi on shore. He took this picture for us:It was a nice vacation for Alex and Jenna and we are so glad they could come for a visit and leave engaged to be married! Congratulations you two, we wish you a long and happy life traveling the world to your hearts content. We hope you visit us often as we sail about.

After a few days to do laundry, restock, and wait for winds other than straight east, we sail east to Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

Sailing Northern Exuma’s to Nassau

The day after Dad and Ilse flew home to New Hampshire, we had restocked fresh food and water, done the laundry and were sailing north. We sailed 50 miles the first day from Georgetown to Little Bay Great Guana Cay. We stayed three nights anchored near our friends on Pegu Club.

We joined Kimberly for a meandering walk to town one day for a few groceries and a look around. Nice view of the harbor and east side of the island too!The next day we all took a walk ashore with specific plans to visit a blow hole on this windy day.

We enjoyed a lot of laughs here! We also got together in the evenings for cards and one night we watched the James Bond Thunderball movie as Pegu Club will be heading to “the cave” where it was filmed soon.

When the strong winds abated we bid von voyage to our friends. Thank you Kimberly for the great pictures of us sailing off anchor. What fun!

We took advantage of favorable winds to sail 45 miles from Great Guana to Norman’s Cay. Fantastic reach under full sail on the Bahama banks. We averaged 7 knots per hour. Crystal clear water and easy navigation.On Sunday, March 31st, we motored about five miles from Norman’s Cay to Highborne Cay Marina for diesel fuel. Very tricky navigating, but we had very good sun and clear visibility. We called Dad to wish him a Happy Birthday and showed them the anchorage where we waited for word it was our turn to get fuel in the Marina. The shadow of our mast in the absolutely crystal clear water.The Marina was inside a very snug cove beside the cell tower in the center of the above photo. After fueling up we motored around the corner to anchor in the lee of Highborne Cay for the night. The anchorage was busy with mega yachts and all their toys including inflatable slides hanging off the sides and jet skis tied to the back. Surprisingly it was a very quiet night. The next day we motored a couple of miles from Highborne to Leaf Cay to photograph the Iguanas on the beach; or as Tom refers to them, mini dinosaurs.This is the anchored on the shallow sands between Leaf and Allen Cay.Looks like another lovely, deserted beach, except for the many Iguanas 🦎 !There are three in the above photo!The sedate elder is cautious, but calm.A closer look at the many tracks left by the critters on the beach.Oh, the beautiful view. We appreciate this every day!

After our visit ashore, we motored around to the outside of Allen’s Cay to make our departure for Nassau tomorrow easier. This was a deep water anchorage with a slight sideways roll due to the ocean currents being contrary to the light winds.

We motor-sailed 40 miles from Allen’s Cay in the Exumas to Nassau Harbor New Providence Island Bahamas the next day. We have a ringside seat for all of the cruise ship activity. Four ships in port when we arrived. 

The big ships come and go regularly, but do not make a big fuss. The Tiki Bar at the beach on shore and the local huge flock of birds disturb the peace much more than the ships. This is a very secure area as their are cameras everywhere. We feel safe anchored here with a few other cruising boats.

We took the dinghy ashore the next day for a walk around town then a longer walk to a large grocery. Met a fun, and happy local Grandma, Carmen McPhee. Although she lives here now, she calls herself Exuman. When we told her we’ve spent four months in the Exumas and love them; she declared we are Exuman too and gave us a group hug. After our big grocery shopping trip we took a taxi back to the dinghy as we had too much to carry. The variety was fantastic here in a city, a bit fresher, and prices slightly lower. What’s not to love!

Return to Roanoke Island, NC

Picture:  Arrival at OBX Marina in Wanchese on Roanoke Island, N.C.  The travel lift on the right is where we hauled the boat.

We finally grabbed a two-day weather window to sail south from Elizabeth City, NC!  We enjoyed some fine sailing across Albemarle Sound for most of the day.

In 1989, when sailing Sundsvalla north from the Caribbean, we anchored in a popular harbor near Manteo on Roanoke Island in mid-summer.  We thoroughly enjoyed the long-running outdoor theater featuring, “The Lost Colony”.  This is the story of British colonists that arrived on Roanoke in July 1585 and no trace of them was found in 1590.  Read more here.

What a difference Manteo is today!  The channel to the eastern side of the island is extremely shallow and narrow.  The only other boats we saw were small power boats. Manteo bay is filled in by storm tossed sands and dredge spoils.  The locals say that they have a lot of horizontal water but not a lot of vertical water. We were lucky to find a deep enough spot (5 feet) to anchor for one night.  It was so far from land we did not try to take the dinghy to shore.  The western channel has a long low bridge that we cannot get under with our 55′ mast.

On Monday, November 11th we motored to Wanchese at the south end of the island by meandering down a slightly deeper channel. We decided to pay for a side tie at a dock at OBX (Outer Banks) Marina as nasty weather was predicted.  Good choice!  This small bay is used by many commercial fisherman.  No one anchors here as they would block the docks. Although this marina does not offer WiFi, our cell phones have good service and work as a personal hotspot.  We are grateful for unlimited data!  We’ve actually only found WiFi on a few occasions on our travels so far.  In Wanchese, we’ve enjoyed some walks to nowhere and warm showers.  Thankfully, we have plenty of provisions for now so, no need to venture out in the cold, sometimes rainy and often windy weather.

On Wednesday, we woke to a 6:00 AM alarm to get a quick hot oatmeal breakfast and leave the dock to head for the lift well at nearby Bayliss Boatyard.  Our short haul revealed only propeller damage and the new prop was ready to install.  Phew that’s a relief!

The motor back to OBX was not long enough to test the new propeller in any meaningful way.  That will have to wait for out next outing. We paid the Marina to stay here for two more days due to strong winds and heavy rain.  We’ll keep working on projects and perhaps I’ll do a bit of baking to stock the freezer and warm our bellies and the cabin.  Should I bake brownies or gingerbread with raisins?

Hanging Out in Hampton, VA

We made an exception the morning we left Fishing Bay in Deltaville VA; we woke to an alarm clock at 6:00 AM.  Then readied ourselves with warm oatmeal, hot drinks and layers of warm clothes. Then Tom hauled the anchor just before sunrise.  We wanted to take advantage of the early morning winds for our last trip south in the Chesapeake.  As the day wore on the winds diminished.   We motor-sailed to maintain boat speed of over 5 knots.  The southern part of the bay narrows, there are strong currents, tugs and barges, BIG container ships, and many fishing vessels.  After alternating 2 hour watches all day, we were both on deck for the last two hours.   We motored all the way up the Hampton River and anchored across from Hampton Public Piers along with four other boats.

A side note here to explain the process of researching and choosing our next destination.  We are sailing to places we’ve never been before.  First, we check the weather using at least 4 different applications (Intellicast website, Predict Wind, Storm, and Windy) or the weather radio on the VHF when there is no cell service.  Knowing our weather window, we estimate how far south we can travel in the given daylight hours.  Next, we research locations within that distance using online and paper cruising guides.  Finally, Tom researches our likely destinations on Active Captain, a crowd sourcing app that cruisers use to rate and discuss harbors.  We have one other valuable source of information.  Fellow yacht club members and friends, Dan & MaryAnn Crouch have shared their logs of the past 7 years of sailing Cutting Class to FL and the Bahamas.  They are already in Florida this year!

Active Captain had told us there was room for 3-4 boats across from Hampton Public Piers.  Before heading up the river Tom called to verify there was room for us and there was.  The irony is a few storms have brought a lot of wind and this past weekend 11 boats were anchored here for the Nor’Easter.  The highest winds hit us between 10PM Saturday and 1AM Sunday.  We ended up staying up until 1AM as three boats were dragging their anchors and attempting to reset them in heavy winds, rain, and thunderstorms.  So glad our anchor held!  The small monohull on our port side that dragged had no engine so was getting a tow from another dinghy.  It took them two hours and at least six attempts at setting and hauling the anchor to get it to hold.  The much larger monohull on our starboard side gave up and moved way down river after 5 or more attempts.  The next morning, the 47′ catamaran that was now close in front of us dragged and reset his anchor.  This one made us the most nervous as he has a lot of exposed surface area (more windage) and if he dragged it would be into our three bows (we’re a trimaran).  Well we made it through that storm and another blow here, all is well.

We are very close to downtown Hampton and many conveniences are near.  We are taking this opportunity to receive mail and packages, do laundry, stock up on food, boat supplies, and prescriptions.  On Monday, we walked 2.7 miles to a super Walmart and used Uber to get back.  Today Tom borrowed a bike from the Marina as he had to go in multiple directions to pharmacies and a small hardware store.  We do carry a folding bike on board, but borrowing one saves time and energy.

Tom has started the next big project – installing the ham radio, tuner, and antenna.  All will be located in, or through, the aft cabin which we currently use as our storage area.  The first task was to empty out the cabin so he could install a ground system under the large bunk.  The ham radio also functions on the Single Side Band frequencies and will be a source for weather information as well as communicating with the cruising community and friends and family once we are outside the U.S.  Tom studied Morse code and radio intricacies, took the Ham test in St. Thomas in spring of 1988 and received his call sign; N1FUN, while we were on our first cruise onboard Sundsvalla.  He’s looking forward to being on air again soon.  Any other ham radio users out there?  What ‘nets’ do you listen to?

Installing the antenna by sliding it up the aft stay was very difficult. The casing had to be spread and much force applied. Tom first tried from a bosuns chair, then hip harness. What finally worked was removing the stay (after replacing it with a halyard) and tying it down next to the mast.

Saturday, we took a half day to visit the VA Air & Space Museum. It was educational and fun. Great displays and awesome volunteers; lunar module simulator engineer and a ham radio operator were memorable. The view of the harbor entrance from the rooftop was beautiful:

Heading south in the Chesapeake

Picture:  Nice and warm on a cold windy day in Deltaville, VA once the Captain and Engineer cleaned and repaired the cabin heater!

From the beautiful and quiet Goodhands Creek on the East Shore of the Chesapeake we motored in light winds straight south to St. Michaels.  We toured the local maritime museum using a reciprocal agreement with the Mystic Seaport Museum.  Nice place with friendly staff, it was quiet as it’s their off-season.  Well done exhibits with lots of info about the history of the local area.  One noteworthy highlight was the round lighthouse that has been restored.

We had an occasional cell signal of one bar so were able to send email and text on and off.

Bad weather was predicted, so we decided to head back to Annapolis four days before we could pick up our new dinghy.  We chose Weems Creek that borders the Naval Academy as it is well protected from all sides and has good holding.  Real nice place!  We were entertained by the Navy crew teams practice a couple times.  There was a convenient ramp to bring the dinghy ashore and we enjoyed several walks into town from here; once for exercise and to see Annapolis, another time for boat supplies at West Marine.

WEEMS Creek and Lone Star are in the background here:

We look forward to a return trip to this lovely anchorage.  Our “lay” days were filled with boat projects.  Tom tackled a big one; mounting the chart plotter in its permanent home.  It looks good right behind the steering wheel and it’s easier to read and manipulate as it is closer to the helmsman and no longer blocks the view when it was resting on the forward dash area.

On Sunday, October 14 the last day of the Annapolis Power Boat Show we motored around the corner to South Anchorage in the Severn River.  This is a wide-open bay.  We did NOT stay here over night, just attended the show, picked up our new Ports-bote 10’ dinghy, towed it back with the old 12’ Porta-bote and Torquedo electric motor. We then motored Lone Star around the corner into Back Creek for a four-night stay.  You guessed it, another cold front with rain and wind.  Nice to have the option to stay put when the weather is less than ideal.  We enjoyed several walks from here to the Post Office, Laundry, Hardware store, West Marine, and Giant for groceries.  Fun to meet up with a fellow SSCA cruiser at the hardware store and again at the grocery.  We shared an Uber to get back to the dinghy with more than we could carry.  The project in this harbor was outfitting the new dinghy with davit lift points, a drain plug, registration numbers and such things as must be carried: anchor, locking cable, engine, oars, ladder, etc.  We like the new smaller dinghy, easier to lift on davits and it seems to go faster.

Finally, on Thursday, October 18 we had a nice NW wind to push us 45 miles south to Solomons, MD.  Ah, it’s a few degrees warmer, but not for long.  A very large cold front stretched from Canada past Florida took a few days to pass by and brought lots of wind again.  We walked the boardwalk and local streets for exercise when it was too windy to sail.

Our last evening in Solomon’s, we finally caved to the cold weather and attempted to start our Dickenson diesel cabin heater.  Oh no, it won’t start!  Tom inadvertently twisted and broke a short piece of copper tubing while cleaning and dismantling the heater.

Wouldn’t you know we have a LOT of tools and spare parts on board, but no copper tubing.  We contemplated staying here another day to locate some, but the urge to press southward and seek warmer weather won out.

VIRGINIA

It was a long day of motor-sailing.  In the afternoon we were heading into the wind and sun as we were approaching Mill Creek, VA.  At one point, we had to quickly turn the boat to avoid a long fish trap: many sticks drilled into the bottom in a long row; we thing there is an underwater net between the sticks.  These were not marked on the chart, yet there are areas that say Fish Trap where there is no evidence above the water, confusing to say the least.  We arrived in Mill Creek about 20 minutes before sunset.  A few more boats came in after us.  There were about a dozen boats anchored in this beautiful and quiet place.  Only private houses here, no cell service, no dinghy access and no hardware store.

The following morning, we pressed on to Deltaville, VA.  This is a large spread out yachting center, second largest in Virginia we are told: Norfolk is larger. There are many creeks and many Marinas.  At first, we planned to go in Jacksonville Creek, but another cold front is approaching and Tom preferred the shelter and swinging room of Fishing Bay.  Darn, no cell service here either. A friendly member of the local marina gave us a ride to the hardware store a couple miles away.  Yippee, we were able to find copper tubing and a few other essentials on our list.  Despite the offer for a ride back, we opted to walk the two miles back for two reasons.  The first was for exercise and the second was to be able to stop at West Marine; not that we bought anything – this time!  We were looking for a “fishing yoyo” that the hardware attendant told us about.  We think it may work to store and control the downhaul line for our jib.  Eventually we will order it from Amazon or online at least.  Upon returning to Fishing Bay Marina, we spotted a couple cruisers on computers and cell phones in a lounge area.  They shared the WiFi password and we stayed for an hour or so to catch up on communications and check the weather.  Yup, another cold front coming through tonight; no rain just wind up to 30 miles an hour primarily tomorrow morning.  We’ll stay another day and fix the heater!

We leave tomorrow Thursday, October 24 tentatively heading for Hampton, VA.

Annapolis Sailboat Show

This is my first blog after opening up the site to the public.  There should be no more login needed.  Hope that makes it easier for all.

HOT!  Wow, it was the hottest day we’ve had yet.  92 degrees and it felt hotter.  We ended up keeping Lone Star anchored at Maryland Yacht Club and caught a ride with the folks on a neighboring boat, “At First Sight”, that rented a car.

What a treat to ride and visit with another cruising couple of a similar age and experience.  We ended up working together at the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) booth for a couple hours at the show in the afternoon.  There were a lot of people at the show even though it was the first day.  Glad we did not volunteer for a weekend day when it will be overcrowded.  It was fun to have people stop by and really want to chat and learn about this cruising organization.

We had time to see the show and find half the things we hoped to research.  Most important we saw the demo 10’6″ Porta-Bote dinghy that we purchased and will pick up at the end of the Powerboat show.  We will be selling the 12’8″ one as soon as possible.  We are researching Balmar high-output alternators for our Yanmar engine and lithium batteries.  This time of year there are fewer hours of sun to charge the batteries with solar.  After a few cloudy days in a row, we need to run the engine for a couple hours to charge the batteries.

The picture is of Tom visiting with Tony Smith at the sail boat show; former owner of Gemini production catamarans, now demonstrating a prototype of Zephyr, a 15′ three person, 8′ wide, light-weight trimaran with an angled sail.  Really cool!  He’s looking to find a young entrepreneur that wants a startup company, interested?

After the boat show we drove most of the way back to Pasadena, MD and went out to eat at a popular restaurant: Two Rivers Steak & Fish.  Great food and good company!  Anita had her first crab cake on a roll; she won’t be afraid to try others.  This one had no filler, just honest crab and grilled to perfection.  Tom had a Caribbean Jerk chicken sandwich that he really enjoyed too.

Despite the heat we had a lot of fun, meeting new people, seeing the show, and a yummy local dinner out. Amazingly the next day is the coldest one we’ve had yet; it was only 62 degrees with clouds and drizzle.  However, we finally left the beautiful Maryland Yacht Club.  More about this in the next blog…

The Journey Begins

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Thanks for joining us!  We will post highlights of our adventures here for friends and family.

We returned from our first two-year cruise in August of 1989.  We are so excited to be sailing south this year, 2018; 29 years later.  Our goal at this time is to escape winter: the cold, shorter days, and the snow.  We have no idea how long this journey will last.  As we said last time, we’ll sail as long as it’s fun for both of us.  To all of our family and friends that love winter – ENJOY the cold, snow, ice (the ice boating Tom will miss) and the extra hours of darkness for catching up on sleep!  We plan to soak up Vitamin D from the sun, experience different cultures and foods, explore coral reefs and sail and swim in warm tropical waters.

We will need to maintain our floating home as we go.  The project list of things to install, repair or enhance is rather long.  Thankfully the safety list that must be complete before we leave the harbor is short.

We plan to rendezvous with other cruisers at the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) annual gathering in Annapolis, MD at the end of September for: cruising seminars, an exchange of sea stories and practical information, camaraderie and lots of fun!  Then on to the Annapolis boat show for one final shopping spree.