Long Island and the Ragged Islands

Featured Picture Caption: Setting sail at sunrise from Long Island Bahamas

In our opinion, 2021 is the perfect year to travel farther afield in the Bahamas. The number of boats here this year is greatly reduced. It’s easy to find a peaceful anchorage either alone or with one or two other boats. Maintaining physical distance is very easy to do when traveling slowly by boat. The Bahamian government has added a few regulations to keep their residents and visitors safe. We find filling out the domestic travel visa takes less than three minutes and approval via email has been almost instantaneous. We are grateful for the privilege to sail and explore more of these beautiful islands as we escape the cold winter in New England for the third year in a row.

A glimpse of Thompson Bay and a few more cruisers

On Monday, January 18 we left Georgetown, on Great Exuma and motor-sailed to Long Island. We expected more than 10 knots of wind, but it did not materialize.

Salt Pond Long Island; heading back to the dinghy dock

There were only 8 other boats in this large protected harbor. We had a couple very windy days here and eventually went ashore for a walk and to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables before sailing south to the remote and mostly uninhabited southern Bahamian islands known as the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands.

Raising anchor and sails at sunrise

On Thursday, January 21 we were ready to head south towards the Ragged Islands; on the tails of a cold front of course. We love a good downwind sail! We left anchor under sail power alone at 6:45AM. We sailed 56.7 nautical miles in 11 hours, arriving at Flamingo Cay in the southern Jumento Cays just before sunset. We were all alone in this normally popular anchorage. No internet here, so a nice quiet night of reading on board.

Video: Arriving at Flamingo Cay at sunset

The weather was great for sailing. We sailed off anchor again and kept heading south toward Hog Cay, just north of Ragged Island. Ragged Island is the only inhabited island in this beautiful chain of islands,

Raising anchor the second day, sailing to Hog Cay

Hog Cay is a cruisers meeting place. There is a large pavilion on shore and several fire pits. There are lots of chairs and tables and a beautiful view. Cruisers generally gather around 4:30 pm to swap sea stories and watch the sunset. Bring your own beverages. The cell tower on nearby Ragged Island means internet is available.

Sundowners at the Hog Cay Yacht Club photo courtesy of Carol Hall Burchfield
Hog Cay Yacht Club at sunset

One morning we joined a few friends for a hike across the island. There are many wild goats on most of the islands around here. The goats must be afraid of people or they hide real well in the shrubbery. I did not get a picture of them.

Hiking the trails on Hog Cay

Video: Our destination; windward side of Hog Cay

Harvesting floats that washed up on the beach

On one of the beaches we found intact floats that must have fallen off a fishing boat. Tom and Russ untangled them and brought them back to the yacht club for reuse.

Circling back to our anchorage after our hike

We came back on a different path north of our anchorage. Nice three and a half mile hike. There are so many paths, many maintained by the goats, teehee. On another day, Tom and I took a different path and had to come back the same way as we could not find the ocean side entrance to the paths we had used before.

Walking to town on Ragged Island from Southside Bay, cell tower on right

We sailed to Southside Bay on Ragged Island and anchored there for a deep cold front that hit the whole east coast. One day we decided to walk to Duncan Town. There are supposedly about 50 residents on Ragged. We only saw about 8. We had no luck visiting the grocery. No one was around that afternoon. When the east winds returned we sailed north to Raccoon Cay. Beautiful sail in fairly calm seas most of the time. The below chart plotter picture shows five other boats heading north as well.

Fast sail to Raccoon Cay

Video: Sailing to Raccoon Cay

Another storm was reaching down and this one had a couple of days with a west component to the wind. There are very few harbors in the Raggeds with shelter from west winds. We sought shelter a day early in Low Water Harbor on the south end of Buena Vista Cay and paid the price with a rolly anchorage for the first night. However, we picked a very good spot. By morning other boats were seeking shelter there too. We managed to fit eight boats in with no problem. We celebrated the end of the storm with a small bonfire on the beach.

Bonfire on Buena Vista Cay

During this storm the Ragged Island cell tower stopped working on Saturday evening and didn’t get repaired until Tuesday morning. A couple boats that were working remotely had to sail north in the strong winds to reach another working cell tower before their Monday morning work meetings. So glad we are not on a schedule.

Sundowners on Lone Star

Appreciating another day of life afloat with a snack on our aft deck. We did see the green flash as the sun set into the blue water this day. Disappointed we couldn’t capture it with a picture.

Ice cream social at Hog Cay. YUM!!

We sailed back down to Hog Cay from Buena Vista. A couple of highlights were an ice cream social and a potluck that featured delicious ribs crisped up on an open fire with a few other cruisers that have been in the area for more than a couple of weeks, similar to us. Note: COVID-19 has not made an appearance on nearby Ragged Island. We certainly hope that continues to be the case.

Two beautiful days of sailing to return to Georgetown

We utilized some beautiful southeasterly winds to sail north up the chain of islands. We stopped at Water Cay on Valentine’s Day and grilled some delicious strip steak paired with parsley potatoes and carrots and topped off with mint chip gelato. The next day we enjoyed a smooth sail on the beautiful banks and through Hog Cay Cut before high tide and into Kidds Cove in Georgetown in the early afternoon.

Video: Approaching Hog Cay Cut

We sailed nearly 300 miles in the past month. The last two days were absolutely gorgeous reaching sails.

Our route to Long Island and the Raggeds

As we reflect on our recent travels we are so thankful for our health and floating home, and the freedom to travel among the beautiful Bahama islands safely despite the global pandemic. We hope you also find joy in your lives.

Baby it’s cold up there. 70’s where we are.

It’s mid- February and the U.S. is in another cold snap. Stay warm and connected friends.

Post Dorian/COVID cruise in the Abacos

Picture Caption: northeast beach on Elbow Cay

This is our first trip back to this archipelago since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Abacos in September 2018. We are heartened to see progress toward rebuilding. Bahamians are strong resilient people who love their beautiful islands. Cruising in COVID times means fewer and/or shorter trips ashore. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing and keeping our distance from our friendly fellow man.

Much devastation in Marsh Harbor

We heard Marsh Harbor is focusing on rebuilding the Commercial district away from the harbor. The Mud, an area with a shanty town that was completely washed away, is fenced off and the marsh is reclaiming the land. Many of the shanty town residents perished in the storm, but the number will never be known.

Floating wrecks in Marsh Harbor

Perhaps the owners of these boats have not yet returned to the island? Population in this area is still very low.

We started out using T-Mobile and the BTC cell towers. It was very difficult to download email never mind load a webpage with 3G service. On Black Friday, Aliv cell service had a sale; we purchased a chip with a fantastic plan! $90 for 250GB a month; double there normal 125GB. Time to back up the computers and other devices. Service is LTE/4g fast now too.

BTC tower at half-height

Amazing to see that rebar reinforced concrete buildings were no match for the power of the ocean during a monster hurricane. After 3 days we were ready to move on and explore other islands in the Abacos.

Motoring from Marsh to Green Turtle Cay
Ahh, the water color; so soothing!

Green Turtle Cay Club and Marina is completely rebuilt and operational. So beautiful and welcoming. This is a port of entry and we saw a few cruising boats come and go here.

Green Turtle Cay Club from anchorage

We rented a golf cart to drive (on the left side of the road) to the Settlement to get our 5-day COVID-19 nasal antigen test at the clinic.

Touring Green Turtle

Tom called his Dad and we ended up taking him with us on our golf cart tour of the island.

Beautiful Gilliam Beach on Green Turtle

After our tour and second confirmation that we do not have COVID, we celebrated with lunch on the deck at GTC Club restaurant. Lone Star is centered in the below picture, hidden behind the nice new docks.

Outdoor lunch at the Green Turtle Cay Club

We were itching for a good sail. The 20 knot north-northwest wind normally means do NOT head through Whale Cay cut. We sailed northeast through the cut at slack current with 4-6 foot seas with no problem. The wind was at our backs the rest of the way to Hope Town. Excellent sail, 27 miles in just over 4 hours.

Made it through Whale Cay Cut on a windy day

Hope Town is on the north end of Elbow Cay. We anchored outside the harbor in 5 feet of water. We took a long walk on shore and found this boat tossed high up on a hill by Dorian, a long ways from the water. The leaning mast and rigging hung over the road.

The creek is to the right of this picture
Busy workers renovating the Primary school

Hope Town is recovering and we saw lots of new roofs and renovated homes. There is a lot more work to do in the village. Again the local population has not yet returned.

On Da Beach Bar & Grille is open

Vernon’s grocery was open and we purchased our first Bahamian Mac & Cheese of the season. Dense and baked like lasagne, this one had some hot peppers and was very delicious. We purchased some fresh produce as well.

New solar array in Hope Town

After 3 days we motor-sailed south to Little Harbor. There is a very secure inner harbor here, but we elected to anchor outside as the wind was light. A client/friend of Tom’s came out for a dinghy drift visit in the evening bearing gifts of wine and hats. That means they stayed in their boat tied behind ours, rather than coming aboard. It’s what we do in COVID times. Bruce & Trish graciously shared information about the Abacos and places to see.

Beach outside Little Harbor

The next day we took the dinghy in and inspected moorings for rent and took a walk around the village. We stopped for a fresh lemonade at Pete’s Pub, very pleasantly surprised they were open on a Sunday morning.

Nice spot for a picnic!
Love these homemade swings and sandbox
This is the type of fish net Tom cut off our propellor in the Gulf Stream

Even though there was a windy day approaching we elected to move into the Bight of Old Robinson rather than Little Harbor. We wanted to leave for Eleuthera at first light and would not have a high enough tide to get over the sand bar at the entrance.

Tom and Lone Star at Little Harbor

As soon as the cold front passed we joined the North winds to surf and sail southward to Eleuthera in search of warmer weather and turquoise seas. Stay tuned for that story next time.

Where to from Hampton Virginia?

Tom really wanted to sail offshore around Cape Hatteras to avoid the long hours at the helm through the Virginia Cut. The weather forecast only had south winds or no wind in the forecast. so a motoring we will go toward Beaufort. NC

Early morning look at Portsmouth, VA

We have seen very few cruising boats thus far. We have heard many cruisers are moving onto land until COVID is under control. The boat is a better option for us. We do a lot of research before venturing ashore and avoid hot spots completely.

First boat in the lock, Tom at work as a yacht broker

We left Hospital Point in Norfolk, VA rather early and it paid off as we were first in the lock. The water was lowered less than 2 feet. Cloudy day with lots of birds around.

Motoring through the Virginia Cut

We motored 3.5 miles past Coinjock and anchored to the side of the channel just before sunset. Tom checked the engine before we started out the next morning and found a most unpleasant surprise.

Loose bolts are broken; of four only one remains

The Serpentine belt drive shaft cover plate was attached by only one bolt out of four. He spent a couple of hours taking things apart and analyzing how to fix it. A few phone calls later the necessary parts were ordered, to be delivered next day to Coinjock Marina. The folks at the marina also gave us a phone number for a diesel mechanic and Tom arranged for him to meet us the next day to remove the old drive shaft pulley and install a new one. Amazingly, Tom was able to put the pulley back together with only one bolt(!) so we could motor slowly under our own power back to Coinjock. We stayed on the west side docks away from the restaurant and marina. So glad we hired the mechanic! He worked really hard to remove the nut holding the drive shaft pulley. He finally used a four foot long wrench! Not a tool we have on board. One boat unit ($1,000) later all was repaired and we were ready to move on.

Dockside in Coinjock

We enjoyed some walks around the local neighborhood and never saw anyone outside. Unless you count the Halloween decorations.

Happy Halloween!

We left Coinjock Marina in the late morning so we didn’t travel far; perhaps 20 miles. A cold front was approaching that evening. The next day we used those North winds to sail downwind across the shallow Albermarle Sound. It was a fun day despite gale warnings. We were very lucky to make it through the Alligator River bridge during a lull in the wind. The bridge can’t open under some wind conditions. After traveling 50 miles, we anchored for the night at the beginning of the Alligator Pungo River Canal. The next day we traveled another 50 miles and stopped for the night just north of Bay River in Bayboro, NC.

Sunset at a private anchorage in Bayboro, NC

We chose to skip one of our favorite ports, Oriental, NC due to an impending cold front with strong NW winds. We hid in Adam’s Creek for a couple of nights. Then we made the final inland journey to the Taylor Creek anchorage in Beaufort, NC.

Our route through the ICW, with anchorages noted

We like to celebrate the end of a journey with something special, like a meal out or something hidden away in our own lockers for a special occasion. There are so many nice restaurants in Beaufort and they were allowing very limited dining in. We chose to go to a Mexican restaurant, Mezcalito for burritos. We took half home for lunch the next day. Very tasty, and good strong fresh iced tea!

Yummy burritos at Mezcalito in Beaufort, NC

We finally spotted some of the wild horses on nearby Shackleford Island!

Wild horses on Shackleford Island

As there was no weather window in sight for at least 10 days; Tom decided to do the wiring and relocation of the solar controllers to the galley bulkhead. It took about four days, but he finished! We now have 1000 watts of solar panels to charge our lithium battery bank.

Tom working on the solar panel wiring
A kilowatt of solar finished

We finished all those numerous last minute details that need done before leaving the country via sailboat along with some new ones due to the Pandemic. Things like: laundry, food shopping, pay bills or setup bill pay, fill fuel tanks and jerry cans, setup cell service for overseas etc. All while being extremely cautious: wear masks, wash hands, stay away from people.

The Bahamas has protocols for the Pandemic. We ordered PCR COVID test kits from Everlywell.com and had them shipped to us at Beaufort Docks. They took 4 days to reach us. We used them the day we left, then sent them off via UPS Drop Box. A link to our results will be emailed to us. We completed our Bahamas Health Visa profiles; we’ll add the International Trip when we have our test results. They only give us five days from time of test to arrival in the Bahamas so we must go! Time to go sailing in the big blue Atlantic Ocean.

Summer in New England 2020

We arrived in CT in mid-June when restrictive stay at home rules were just beginning to relax. Outdoor exercise was encouraged, so the day after arriving off we went with a small family group to Arcadia Management area early Sunday morning. I think we only saw two other lone hikers.

Hiking with Jenna, Ipo, Nani, & son Alex

We drove to Maine to drop off a damaged dagger board; for repair, at Greene Marine and spent one night at Anita’s sisters house. Then we drove on to NH for a quick visit with Tom’s Dad.

We had been placing a bunch of online orders as we had some repairs to do. The mast track was very warn where the large batten cars rested. Poor design! Tom had to cut a larger gate in the existing mast track and installed a new super slick track. Then we both worked on replacing the sail slides. Love it when a project goes smoothly and makes a real nice difference! Check out the video below.

Removed the boom and installed new mast track
Installed new sail slides
New track works great!

On Tuesday, August 4th we had the remnants of a tropical storm. We decided to stay at our mooring as it weighs more than 1200 pounds, bigger than any anchor we have! The video below was taken when the winds were 43 knots, that’s about 50 mph. I see at least 3 roller furling jibs flapping. Folks did not prepare. Warning: do not watch the video if you are prone to seasickness when standing on a dock.

Early August Tropical Storm

A few days later we rented a car and drove to NH to join some Kintz family members for a socially distanced lake vacation. We wore masks indoors, ate separately, and most importantly everyone stayed healthy.

Newfound lake vacation

When we returned the rental car, we took a short break to sail to Block Island during the week and sail home on the weekend when most people arrived. There were no crowds on BI. We took a short hike on a new trail and looked down at the surf side beach; all were nearly empty on a gorgeous August afternoon.

Sail to Block Island
Fewer boats in the anchorage than normal
Found a new deserted walking path
Windy day at the beach, not many people

A few days later we joined a few boats from Shennecossett Yacht Club for a weekend cruise to Watch Hill, RI. This event began with a gathering at the hosts’ boat where everyone stayed in their own dinghies. The next morning, we gathered for breakfast on the beach. We kept our distance and still got to visit in small groups while wearing masks. Really fun time and great breakfast sandwiches from a local restaurant.

Dinghies tied to host boat
Breakfast on the beach
… At beautiful Watch Hill

Before we knew it, Labor Day weekend was over and we had sailed up the Connecticut River to Essex Boat Works for a four day haul out to scrub the topsides, apply two more coats of bottom paint, grease the propellor, and change the zincs.

Ready to launch

We made one last trip to NH to visit and play games with Tom’s Dad and enjoyed a hike nearby. Delicious beef stew and yummy pies, thanks Ilse!

Dad and Tom on a hike

We helped plan a last minute wedding shower for our son. They’ve set the date for next May! We’ll sail north again next spring to attend.

Wedding shower for Jenna & Alex

Our next summer project was to install 4 additional solar panels on the pilot house roof. We will have 1 kilowatt of power when the installation is complete. We couldn’t head south until the panels were safely secured. Tom finished that on October 15th. He still has to do the wiring and install a new controller, but that can be done south of here. It’s getting too cold! Although our diesel cabin heater has been working fine, keeping us warm.

New fiberglass brackets to secure the panels
New handrail to guide main sheet past sharp edges
Bundled up to read. Time to head south!

Tom’s yacht brokerage is more active this year than last. People must be realizing boats are a great way to travel and live in isolation. We love this lifestyle and look forward to making a passage south real soon.

This summer recap shows a few highlights only. The majority of our time was spent in isolation on our boat at our mooring. We look forward to a future beyond this global flu pandemic, when we can hug and laugh and be social again. Stay healthy, happy and safe everyone.

Heading South in the ICW

October 16th dawned cloudy with the promise of rain. A cold front was predicted with strong winds behind it. We elected to motor through the rain for two hours to find a more protected anchorage than Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA. We were the only boat to anchor in a small cove at statute mile marker 10 in Chesapeake, VA. The highest wind we saw in this protected anchorage was less than 20.Picture courtesy of Tammy Merritt from her house

There are two routes south at the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW. You may recall last year we chose the Dismal Swamp and suffered propellor damage when a thirty foot tree was kicked up by the wake (waves created by a boats forward motion) of the boat in front of us. The depth of this man-made canal has shrunk over the years from ten feet to perhaps six foot deep as there are years of debris from the overhanging trees.Dismal Swamp 2018

The width seems narrow in spots, especially for sailboats with masts; due to the overhanging trees. We’ve read that there is a large amount of duck weed floating in the swamp this year. Engine raw water filters have to be cleaned often.

This year we chose to transit the ever so slightly shorter route, sometimes referred to as the Virginia Cut. We found depths from 10-16 feet most often and the shorter canals merged with rivers and were often quite wide. There were a lot more birds this year as well. Larger flocks and more of a variety of species. Great Bridge Lock is only a 2 foot rise, quick and painless.Great Bridge LockLooking back to the lock entrance, this crane was dredging near the entrance. Don’t you think the below picture of the winding North Landing River looks wider than the Dismal Swamp?North Landing River

We anchored in Shiloh, NC after nearly 9 hours and 50 miles. It was a long day at the helm, too narrow and many twists and turns to use autopilot. We had the engine on all day. Though the jib gave us a boost with the wind behind us for about 10 miles in Currituck Sound. I was surprised that there were so few boats migrating south at this time of year. However, our night time anchorage had about a dozen boats.

The next day we sailed downwind across Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River. This Alligator river swing bridge was closed for a couple weeks this fall. So glad it was repaired by the time we arrived. It’s a long way around this stretch of water! We anchored for the night just before the Alligator/Pungo canal and enjoyed this beautiful sunset.Alligator/Pungo CanalMorning fog in the beginning of the canal.

We chose Pungo Creek rather than Belhaven Marina for our next stop-over as the remnants of a tropical storm was predicted to race by. We found good holding near the Marina and enjoyed a walk on shore before the blow. Locals were extremely friendly and the neighborhood was filled with very friendly dogs.A TriStar 46 docked in Pungo Creek. Similar design to our Lone Star which is a TriStar 39.

On Monday, October 21 we sailed south to one of our favorite spots: Oriental, NC. This historic town is so welcoming and we love the unusual and practical supplies at the local consignment store. Last year we sold a Porta-Bote that was too long for our davits. This year we dropped off a gasoline outboard and a series drogue. They were replaced recently by a Torqueedo electric outboard and Shark drogue (sea anchor.)Bringing the Series drogue to the consignment store in Oriental, NC. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant behind Tom.

We motored the remaining 24 miles to Beaufort, NC two days later. We completed our southern trek down the ICW in only a week. So excited to have reached our final destination before heading offshore to sail south to the Bahamas!

Next up Preparations and Passage to the Bahamas.

Sailing the Chesapeake

It felt so good to kickback and relax for a couple of days in the Bohemia River. Click the link to see that this is located in the very northern part of Chesapeake Bay, only a mile or so from the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) canal. We had one windy/rainy day then woke up to fog. On the third day, October 4th, we were well rested and ready for a downwind sleigh ride to Annapolis, MD.The anchorage on the Bohemia River.Sailing south with Miles.

The seas were choppy as we headed south and wind gusts were in the high 20’s when we decided to lower the mainsail and continue at 5-7 knots under jib alone. Miles did the same. We wondered if they had an advantage as both their sails are roller-furled while ours are the old style hank on. Our self-tacking jib has a built in wishbone shaped boom, you can’t roll that up! However, self-tacking means we have no lines to pull when we turn or tack the boat. Near the end of the day, we both anchored in Back Creek just south of Annapolis. Miles found an anchoring spot half-way down the creek, near all the Marina’s and dinghy docks. We were directed by a local to a beautiful and quiet anchorage at the head of the harbor, a bit further in. The annual power boat show was underway and we wanted to avoid the crowds and boat wakes in Spa Creek. We met the crew from Miles on shore the first morning to take a much needed mile hike to the Giant food store, a large grocery store. It felt great to stretch our legs and get some exercise! So glad we had the Burley Trolley with us, so much easier to wheel our groceries rather than carry them.That evening we went to a nearby pub to celebrate Helen’s birthday. Great dinner and fun time with them and another cruising couple.

The following day we took our dinghy, laundry, and shower bags down to a marina near where Miles was anchored. They charge a small fee to tie up the dinghy and use the showers and coin laundry. Unfortunately, Miles received a message that their boat was dragging. It wasn’t, but they did re-anchor right in front of us. Much easier to play cards or enjoy afternoon tea!Steve and Helen in their dinghy near their boat, anchored in front of Lone Star.We were literally anchored at the end of the navigable creek.

We were able to rendezvous with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club one day. We last saw them in July at SYC in Groton, CT. We are looking forward to Christmas in Georgetown Bahamas with them!

The Annapolis Sailboat Show started Thursday, Steve and Helen acquired some free tickets and spent the day browsing the show. We elected not to go to remove the temptation to buy more stuff. However, Steve had shown Tom a nifty new device he recently purchased and Tom asked him to buy one for us if they were discounted at the show and they were. So now we own a Bushnell imaged stabilized monocular.After a week in Annapolis we saw a weather window to head south. Can’t pass on fair winds and following seas! On October 11th, we enjoyed a fast 48 mile sail to Solomons, MD.A Chesapeake Lighthouse.We elected not to go ashore here as the full moon tides, called king tides in this area; resulted in flooded docks and the main street too.

We left Solomons just before noon and motor-sailed 35 miles to Little Wicomico River, MD. A fisherman’s haven and a beautiful spot on earth. We entered the narrow entrance channel at sunset, against the current, and through a small fleet of local fishing boats.Such a peaceful and beautiful anchorage.

After a quick warm oatmeal breakfast, we fought the current once again to leave the river. We sailed 26 miles to Jackson Creek in Deltaville, VA. We had a quick lunch then went ashore at a nearby Marina. We had a surprise guest jump in the Portland Pudgy dinghy on our way ashore: a fish jumped into the boat, trying to escape a bigger fish most likely. Tom threw him back in.

The next day we hiked across the peninsula to Norview Marina to take pictures and video of a Seascape custom 55′ trawler cat Tom has listed on yachtworld.com

That was our last stop in the Chesapeake for this year. On October 15th, we sailed the rest of the way down Chesapeake Bay and across Hampton Roads into Portsmouth, VA. We anchored at mile marker zero of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). This is also known as Hospital Point on the Elizabeth River. We only spent two weeks in the Chesapeake this year compared to just over four weeks last year. We had fewer stops waiting for good weather this year. The goal is to not run the cabin heater, which means getting south earlier.

Next up transiting the ICW.

Sailing, Shopping, and Socializing – Ahh Summer!

Lone Star anchored at Flat Hammock, near Fishers Island, New York in late August.

It appears our social calendar was as full as our project schedule this summer. Anita often took time for a brisk morning walk around nearby UCONN campus, sometimes with friends, always admiring the view! Tom preferred to obtain his exercise in the college pool and commute to and from on his bicycle.Avery Point Lighthouse on UCONN property.View of SYC from UCONN.

We first met British friends Steve and Helen Lawrence 32 years ago in Barbados after we each had crossed the Atlantic in our respective sail boats. Since then they have completed a circumnavigation. We were so happy to see them cruise into our harbor in their latest boat named Miles. Here they are after a tour of the Nautilus submarine museum in Groton, CT. We were so lucky to have use of a car this summer. Trips to Defender marine supply store, hardware stores, laundry and grocery stores whenever we needed to go were invaluable. We were prepared to use Uber all summer. Tom’s generous sister and her husband offered us the use of their van. Thank you, dear sister!! The car was also a big help when we decided to move into a better priced storage unit and downsize our belongings a bit more. We were also able to visit our son a few times and help them out with a garage insulation project. We were grateful son, Alex and fiancé, Jenna came to more than a few Friday night picnics at Shennecossett Yacht Club.

Tom’s next Project was installing a new lithium iron phosphate battery bank. He was so happy when he moved the old AGM’s off the boat!So sad that I don’t have any pictures of the beautiful blue inner cells, but here is the finished project. We still have a separate engine starting battery for now. So far we are very happy with the new lithium battery bank. It delivers a steady voltage consistently. We’ve even used the microwave and a heat gun with no voltage drop as our old batteries did.At the end of August Tom’s Dad and friend, Ilse came for a short couple night visit. We sailed to Flat Hammock and anchored for lunch and a walk on shore. What a beautiful day. So glad they made the trip!Our next event was to attend a 100 year celebration at the Montville, CT power generation station that Tom worked at from 1979 to 1987. Great time visiting, reminiscing, and touring the current facility. The food was fabulous as well. We decided to do the majority of our provisioning for the Bahamas right here. This was facilitated by the van we borrowed. This time we stocked up on some dried fruits: apples, peaches, and strawberries. Repacked in vacuum sealed bags for longer storage.Tom is always researching new marine products. We’ve been looking for some specific emergency equipment. Things we want to have on hand, but hope to never need. The first was an emergency rudder or perhaps a tiller arm. What he found is a very compact sea anchor: a Fiorentino Shark Drogue. It is deployed on a bridle off the stern and can be used to steer the boat by bringing it close in on one side or the other. The boat will turn to port if you drag it close to the port side of the boat. It doubles as a reliable sea anchor when the seas are rough by adding a weight to the thimble at the tail end; and once again dragging it behind the boat on a bridle.The item stores compactly in itself and is smaller in size than a basketball 🏀. Very well engineered product made of high quality materials. We purchased one and will practice using it as it is so easy to deploy. The YouTube videos for this product were fun to watch and informative.

Next up will be our second piece of needed emergency equipment: a life raft.

Please click the links (blue underscored words) in our blogs to learn more about the places we’ve been and the friends, organizations and products we support and love!

Cruising in the Abaco’s

Cover photo: sunrise in Marsh Harbor.

We tried to leave Spanish Wells, following Pegu Club out of the harbor one afternoon. We had the main sail up and the anchor bridle off. When Anita turned on the key and pushed the button to start the engine nothing happened. Tom tried too, still nothing. We thought about sailing off anchor, but decided to drop the sail and trouble shoot the problem instead. This happened around 2PM. Tom had spent the day rigging the steering lines for the WindPilot self-steering out in the hot sun. Then he had to dive in the airless engine room. We took apart the engine control panel in the enclosed cockpit as well. Buffing wires and rerouting a few made it work, but the real problem is a couple broken prongs inside a wiring harness. No spare on board so we connected the wires directly and will complete the repair once back in the states this summer.

The next morning we left before sunrise at 6:00 AM to sail from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera 65 nautical miles to the northern Bahamas island group known as the Abaco’s. We had light winds, but were able to sail most of the way, only turning on the engine in the late afternoon. We crossed paths with this container ship…and Pegu Club who left from Egg Island at sunrise. Their towed dinghy is hiding behind a wave.We both anchored in the Lee of Lynard Cay shortly after entering Great Abaco Sound via Little Harbor Cut. It was an easy off the wind 11.5 hour sail and the WindPilot self-steering wind vane quietly and competently accomplished all the offshore steering! Yeah, another successful project completed!

The next day we sailed 20 miles northward to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco. This is one of the larger settlements on Great Abaco. We visited both a large hardware and grocery store, both the biggest we’ve seen all winter with the exception of Nassau. Then back aboard to enjoy the sunset.The next day, we stayed aboard and celebrated Kimberly’s Birthday by grilling steaks and hamburgers on the grill accompanied with parsley potatoes and carrots and brownies and chocolate malted milkshakes for dessert. So happy to have sailed so much with Kimberly and Jeff this winter. We wish them well on their return trip to CT. The next day they headed west, while we headed east for a nostalgic return to Hopetown on Elbow Cay. We cruised here nearly thirty years ago. We had a great walk to On Da Beach restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing and delicious lunch. Thanks for the tip Marcia!We had to wait out some nasty weather at anchor near Eagle Rock…Enjoyed more pretty sunsets …Explored the still operating kerosene historic lighthouse and the amazing view from the top…And a two mile walk on the beach, love the sound of crashing waves on a beach…We enjoyed our six days in Hopetown. Then we motored to Man of War Cay about six miles away. It was low tide when we left. Easy to see how shallow the water was; 4-6 feet deep for a mile or so. Interesting that the water color in this part of the Bahamas is a deeper green, some people call it emerald green, rather than the bright turquoise in the Exumas. This is looking straight down into six feet of water with a sandy bottom while sailing…After one rocking night with south winds; we decided to move back to Marsh Harbor for our final stock up before heading to sea, and north toward New England for the summer. There are other cruisers getting ready for their crossings as well. Always fun to compare plans and swap sea stories. On our walk to Maxwells, a large grocery store, we spotted a cruiser on a folding bicycle with a Burley Travoy trailer holding two ten pound propane tanks. Tom stopped him by asking a question so we were able to see what we purchased online last month. He said, it’s the best purchase he ever made! We’re looking forward to getting ours!

On Wednesday afternoon, May 8; we decided to get the boat ready for sea as we had a weather window to go offshore. We rigged safety lines on deck, disassembled the dinghy, secured a lot of loose items, bought fuel and water. We left at first light on Thursday, and listened to Chris Parker on SSB for a weather update as we sailed out of Marsh Harbor. We also checked a few apps we use to predict weather. Unfortunately, our weather window had diminished. We chose to abort this attempt rather than sail into a gale near Beaufort, NC nearly 500 miles away. We anchored on the south side of Great Guana and enjoyed another new beautiful Bahama anchorage. The next day we had a leisurely sail to Green Turtle Cay. Tom dove over the side to check the anchor as this is a grassy anchorage; labeled poor holding. He also scrubbed and inspected the bottom of the boat. The next day we went ashore to walk around this historical loyalist settlement. It is very neat and clean. It had the best new dinghy dock we’ve ever seen!How’s this for a front yard tree?After a couple days anchored here we moved into quiet Bluff Cay cove on Green Turtle Cay. We were the only boat in this small nearly enclosed harbor. The only sound here is the twitter of birds. The view includes sea turtles and beautiful houses hidden in the trees. One morning some locals were out for their morning swim and stopped to say hello.

We continue to enjoy sailing in the Bahamas as we prepare our boat and ourselves for the voyage back to Connecticut (CT) for the summer months. Yes, we plan to sail south again to avoid a cold winter and we love to sail year round. Looking forward to connecting with family and friends in CT.

Nassau and Eleuthera

We were a bit skeptical about sailing to Nassau after hearing that 80% of the Bahamians live there and the crime rate is high. However, we were pleasantly surprised at how friendly all the local people we engaged in conversations were. The majority of the Bahamian people are very kind and friendly. It is, more importantly, an international airport hub from NY and the reason we decided to go there.

The day after Alex and Jenna left we bagged all the laundry and took the dinghy to Junkanoo beach. We hauled our 10 foot Porta-Bote way up beyond the high tide mark and locked it to a railing where local merchants hawk their wares later in the day. It’s also where the taxis hang out waiting to give tourists a tour. The mile long walk to a very large laundry facility was up a long gradual hill. Tom commented that this laundry was well thought out for its purpose. It had great ventilation, large aisles, and hundreds of machines, all in working order! We enjoyed a much easier walk back although the bags were still heavy. That afternoon we moved the boat a mile east to be closer to the big grocery store we walked to and from. Once again loaded down with too much to carry. We seriously need to find a cart with big wheels! We walked more than five miles today and carried a fair bit; our arms and necks are weary.

Has anyone heard of cruisers midnight? Many cruisers adopt the clock of the sun, like farmers we rise and rest early. Consequently, 9PM seems like midnight. By moving a mile east, we had escaped the throbbing musical entertainment at Junkanoo beach which ends at 1:30AM, half-way into our sleep cycle. Now we were anchored in front of Atlantis Park to the north. They had an easy listening live band that started playing in the early afternoon. Around cruisers midnight, that was drowned out by a dance club on the south side of the river and, you guessed it the noise blared until 1:30 AM. Who needs sleep?

The next morning we hoisted the anchor at 7AM and left Nassau. We sailed close to the wind for 11 hours; hand steering for the first 4 as we were too close to the wind for the electric auto pilot. We were so relieved to get out of the rocky seas by entering Alabaster Bay. Unfortunately, we were greeted by all too familiar loud Bahamian head banging music complete with a lot of foul language this time. Thankfully the entertainment ended at 9:30 PM. Ah, finally a good night sleep!

The next day Pegu Club sailed into the harbor from Rock Sound. We gathered on Lone Star for a fun game of cards and cruise planning as we are both heading north.

We enjoyed a two hour walk the next afternoon with Jeff and Kimberly. We wandered across the island and around the remains of a World War II military base and to this beautiful pink sand beach.Then back to this view of our snug and beautiful harbor. We shared a slow-cooker beef stew and biscuit dinner followed by fresh brownies (thanks to K&J) and a good sailing spy movie: “Riddle of the Sands”, on Lone Star.

The next day we sailed in company with Pegu Club from Alabaster Bay to Royal Island Harbor at the north end of Eleuthera. It was real nice to get a first hand report about the conditions in Current Cut from Kimberly via VHF radio. It was much easier than we anticipated! She even took pictures of us right after we came through the cut.We stayed aboard our boats, visiting each other occasionally, in the nearly enclosed private island harbor of Royal Island for four days. South winds above 20 knots were prevalent throughout this time. Luckily, only the last day had rain squalls. The south winds would have been great for continuing on to the Abacos except for the accompanying waves. The early morning when the wind was at its peak Anita got up several times to check our position. At 4AM we had 3 boats in front of us, at 5 we had only 2. One had dragged their anchor and ended up well behind us. No idea how it didn’t hit us, but very thankful! There was no one on board that boat or 2 others anchored nearby. We did meet the owner two days later, just as we were hauling our anchor to head to Spanish Wells for a few days. He asked us,”Who moved my boat?” We told him the wind and a dragging anchor. He and his family were staying with a friend on a nearby island for the storm. He was very lucky he sustained no damage.

Spanish Wells is a lovely, well decorated, colorful and clean town. On Easter Sunday we walked the beautiful north beach for miles.

A couple days later we spotted these dolphin as we entered the harbor.How’s this for a front lawn?Tom is enjoying the challenge of installing the used WindPilot self-steering. He disassembled and cleaned everything before installing. Rigging lines and tuning to ensure it will steer in any weather. Haven’t attached the wind or water blades yet.We mentioned wanting a cart to Kimberly and she suggested the folding versatile Burley bicycle trailer/hand cart. Tom found one on eBay and we won the bid! It will be in CT waiting for us. We have decided to go back to SYC this summer. We plan to arrive in June. Anita’s current project is restocking the freezer with homemade meals for the upcoming passage.

Next up: heading north to the Abacos.

Sailing Exumas with Friends and Family

On Tuesday, March 12 Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club sailed into Georgetown harbor and anchored nearby us at Sand Dollar beach. They brought some groceries for us from Florida, such good friends! Yes, they’ve been carrying our stuff for 2 months! Who does that? They didn’t even succumb to eating the dark chocolate bars. Such will power! We are always happy to see them and spend time together. Dinner, ice cream, card games, route planning, and rainy hikes across the island; making memories and having a blast!

Boats anchored at Sand Dollar beach.The east side of Stocking Island at Sand Dollar.

Found a good view of our boat hiding under a tree while waiting for the light rain to stop.

Three days later Dad and Ilse were due to arrive from New Hampshire. We motored Lone Star from Sand Dollar beach to Georgetown’s Kidd’s Cove in the early morning hours to get water, do some hand laundry on board, grocery shop in town, and then pick up our guests at the airport. After the first wet water run in the dinghy, Tom agreed we should move again to a more secure harbor; Goat Cay. A wet dinghy ride is not the way to welcome our respected elders aboard our humble floating home for a 12 day vacation.

Tom hitched a ride to the airport and arranged the return taxi. Before our guests knew it, Lloyd the friendly Bahamian taxi driver was loading their luggage into the taxi for them. Here they are arriving on Lone Star via dinghy:

They arrived on the boat around 2 PM on Friday, March 15. We provided big drinks and lunch right away.  They had a rest, then we toured the boat and they unpacked. After a good nights rest, Tom & Anita left them alone on board to enjoy the gorgeous view at Goat Cay. We completed the last of the provisioning by hitch hiking to Island Meats, a small grocery about 4 miles away. The locals are so friendly and happy to share their ride, we learn a bit more about the area each time too! Our last ride this day was from a man at the Exuma Foundation. They provide guided tours of the Exuma’s and organize volunteers for a variety of projects to help those in need, like rebuild a house.

This is what we came home to, Dad and Ilse lounging on the stern soaking up the view and the sun:

We offered options: a swim/snorkel in this beautiful bay or a sail to another harbor. Dad really wanted to go for a short sail. After lunch we hoisted the anchor and sailed north until the channel narrows then tacked back and forth south to anchor at Chat ‘n Chill beach a couple hours later.

On Sunday, we all dinghied ashore for Beach Church and even joined the choir. The gathering afterward with coffee and baked goods was fun too. we did a small boat project: adding markers to our main anchor line that Dad just delivered to us.  Seeing the anchor was most of the way up we motored around the corner from the very busy anchorage to quieter Sand Dollar beach. Dad worked really hard lowering, raising, and once again lowering the anchor with his big toe! We didn’t like the first spot we’d chosen; too far from the beach.We anchored near Pegu Club and were all soon in the water snorkeling to the nearby reefs and beach.Dad, the chemist, commented about the extra fine sand in the Bahamas. Tom’s answer: here soft limestone is pounded by the sea to make fine sand. In New England, hard granite is pulverized by the ocean waves to make gravel and courser sand.

Jeff & Kimberly came over for a visit at sundown and we played a game of hearts with them. Lots of laughs! After another leisurely day at Sand Dollar we moved Lone Star across to Kidd’s Cove to top up the water tanks that we had abandoned on windy Friday. Dad, Ilse and I took a short walk around a small part of town. Then picked up a few groceries at Exuma Market.

On Tuesday, we enjoyed a five hour, 35 mile, down wind sail north to Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas. Pegu Club led the way. We enjoyed a Hearts rematch that evening.

The next day we all hiked ashore to stretch our legs. We found a good view of our boat and had extra people around to take our picture.The island is now deserted, but was home to a marine research center until 2015. We saw an abandoned air strip and a ghost town. A short trail led to a beautiful view of the beaches on the east side of the island.We returned to Lone Star and discovered a nearby sail boat aground on the shallow sands. Tom motored over to lend a hand to this unknown cruiser by first attempting to heel the boat over with a halyard; that didn’t work. Then he relocated their anchor into deeper water. As the tide rose they were able to winch themselves free. We watched from the deck.Swimming here was a definite challenge as there was a current to contend with. Streaming a life jacket on a rope behind the boat was a necessary precaution. Dad still enjoyed his daily swim.

Kimberly joined us in the evening for a card game – Oh Heck this time, quite fun!Dad and Ilse enjoying a beautiful sunset!

On Friday morning a guy on a neighboring boat stopped by asking for our email address. He took the following picture of Lone Star this morning and told us the pot of gold must be on board. We’re still looking, ha!On Friday, March 22, we waved farewell to our friends on Pegu Club as they continued sailing north and we returned to Georgetown. We timed the weather well. We enjoyed another easy downwind run, this one taking six hours to go the 35 miles. We anchored at Honeymoon beach for protection in the upcoming southeasterly blow. Seeing there was no possibility of card games with our friends on Pegu Club we turned to movie watching for evening entertainment. Watching Red October in stereo while the boat is rocking was a highlight. The last three nights we laughed watching Odd Couple first season episodes before bed time.

Swimming in Honeymoon beach was easy and fun. Although once the tide was too low and our guests complained of a stinging sensation in the grass near shore. Thankfully, the sting washed away when they swam back to the boat. A favorite pass time for our guests was playing games: cribbage, barricade, hearts, and UNO.We couldn’t pry them away from the Barricade board this evening to see this pretty sunset, so I showed them the pictures.Sunday was too windy for a dinghy ride and it threatened to rain all day, but held off until over night.On Monday, we moved the boat to a reef near Honeymoon beach in hopes of spotting more fish on their last full day in the Bahamas. Guess we didn’t anchor close enough. There was a current running, making it a challenge to swim. Then it turned cloudy making it very hard to direct them to the reef. They gave up without finding it. They saw only sand!

We motored over to Kidd’s Cove that evening so we would be a short dinghy ride to shore the next morning for their taxi to the airport. We had a real nice visit and believe they had a nice vacation too!Spring has begun and cruisers are beginning to head north now that weather patterns are settling a bit. Time for us to head north as well to see more of the Bahamas.