Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Revisited

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Christmas Revisited

In late December 2007, Oconee and I were hanging out anchored off Dinner Key. It was my first Christmas away from home and family. I was just a little bit home sick and feeling a touch sorry for my “sorry” self when Christmas came to me. The story bares repeating, if for no other reason than I like it.

To all my Friends,
Merry Christmas,


A Christmas Story - Dinner Key, Coconut Grove, Miami, FL:

It had been one of “those” days - frustrations over batteries and still no solution. It was time for a change of pace. I needed to get off the boat and adjust my attitude. Mule and I headed for Sonny’s, a local watering hole tucked in between two up-scale marinas in the Grove. I wandered in, took a seat at the bar and ordered a New Castle. New Castles usually help.

While I was contemplating the bottom of my glass and considering ordering another beer, a young black man with a toothy smile and a friendly continence drifted in and took a seat at the other end of the bar. I never learned his name but he looked like a “Ray” so I am going to call him Ray. He was the kind of guy that had a kind word and a smile for everyone - the world was his friend. It did not take long to realize that Ray had been given a over abundance of happiness and love but had been a bit short changed on the lesser important things in life - money and intelligence.

Peggy and Ernestina, the bar maids, greeted Ray and wished him Merry Christmas. As the three friends stood talking, Peggy gave Ernestina a knowing glance and without so much as a word she headed for the kitchen. Soon Peggy returned with two Christmas presents for Ray, one from each of them. Ray just beamed and ever so deliberately peeled the wrapping off the presents like you and I would peel a grapefruit.

Ray received that day a fishing rod..., a tackle box..., and a double shot of the “Christmas spirit” with a touch of humanity on the side. On Thursday; December 20th, at 4:20 in the afternoon; Christmas had come to Dinner Key, at Sonny’s in the Grove; Miami; Florida. I was lucky enough to witness its coming.

Merry Christmas To All,
From Oconee, Mule & I,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No-Name-Harbor to Sampson Cay, 12/23/2009

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West Palm Beach to Sampson Cay, Exumas:

12/01/2009: Lake Worth to Las Olas Marina, Ft. Lauderdale, FL – 49nm, Mile Marker: 1065sm
12/08/2009: Ft. Lauderdale to No-Name-Harbor, Key Biscyne, FL -34 nm, Mile Marker: 1098sm
12/10-11/2009: No-Name Harbor to Nassau, Bahamas – 163 nm
12/12/2009: Nassau to Normans Cay, Exumas – 43 nm
12/16/2009: Normans Cay to Sampson Cay, Exumas – 34nm

Total for Voyage: 1046nm.

Oconee is at anchor snuggled up to the western shore of Sampson Cay. Sampson is shielding us from a brisk ENE wind of about 25 knots. As is my usual routine, Gigi has just finished listening to Chris Parker and writing down the weather “guesses” for the next few days (we live by weather) and I'm sitting in the cockpit, sipping coffee and watching the day come alive. And it's a dismal one with gray scudding clouds, squalls, and winds in the 25 knot range. Poor weather is not all bad it has given me time to reflect on the events since our last post – a perfect passage to Nassau, a not so perfect passage to Norman's Cay in the upper Exumas, conching and a green flash, a perfect asshole in Sampson Cay.

The Passage:

We passed a pleasant few day in the company of Ron Linginer in Ft. Lauderdale. Ron, as usual, was a gracious host and, I might add, a good friend. Then moved on down the coast off shore to No-Name-Harbor, on Key Biscayne, Fl, in company of Cat's Paws, with Mack & Shirley MacVean to position our selves for the crossing to the Bahamas.

The passage to Nassau was so good you should be envious.  It was positively one of the most beautiful 26 hours I've ever spent on the water.  The Gulf Stream was a piece of cake almost flat and only held us in it's grasp for about 3 hours.  We went thru schools of Portuguese Man-A-War all with sails set heading god knows where.  Pods of dolphin jumping, arching, tail walking and swimming with the boat.  Flying fish skittering across the waves. And the icing on the cake was the Navy blue of the Gulf Stream set against floating rafts of gold Sargasso weed.

Cat/Gun Cay Cut that led us on to the Banks was a little of a “pucker” but certainly doable.  You approach Gun Cay and go within 50 feet of shore.  Then hard right for about 500 yards till the water is deep and blue.  Hard left following the deep water thru the cut.  Hard right onto blue green water of the banks following curve  of Cat Cay's Southern shore. Continue for about a mile and then you are home free and headed for Tongue of the Ocean 60 miles away.  And yes no marks.

The night on the Banks was magic. The sky was so clear and the water so calm it was hard to draw a line between where water and sky met.  And the bow wake was creating "stars" of it's own in phosphorescence almost as if answering the beauty of the heavens. 

The Tongue Of The Ocean and N.W. Providence channel were like glass....and they usually woop my butt.  NW Providence light (yes light and it was working that night) was a zoo of ships but that's normal.  We were approaching Nassau just as the sun crept up over eastern horizon. Oconee cleared in with Nassau Harbor Control and by 8:15 AM we were tied up at Nassau Harbor Club waiting on Customs and Immigration to clear into the Bahamas. The Customs lady was nice, the Immigration man was drunk and an pain in the butt. This 26 hour passage will live in my memory for the rest of my life. 
Passage to Norman Cay in the Upper Exumas:

For every ying the is a yang and I knew the cruising “gods” would exact a toll at some point...I just didn't know it would be so soon. Oconee and Cat's Paws were not in Nassau long. In my opinion, Nassau is a place to clear into the Bahamas, re-provision (read buy rum), and get the hell out as quick as possible. Nassau is not the Bahamas - filled with crooks and politicians (but I am being redundant) and is the exact opposite of most of the rest of the Bahamas – friendly, helpful and safe.

On Sunday we headed for Normans Cay about 40 miles across the banks with about a 3 mile stretch of water known as the Yellow Banks about mid-way across. This particular uninviting stretch of water is sprinkled with black, ugly, coral heads just below the surface – not really a problem in good light but you must pay attention.

Just as Oconee entered the Yellow Banks the engine shut down. G and I got it re-started. Two minutes later it shut down again. My attention went from coral to engine very quickly. We radioed Cat's Paws on the VHF and asked her to be our “eyes” while we focused on keeping the engine running. All I wanted to do was get thru the coral and then I'd “lie-a-hull” (stop the boat) and dig into the engine. It was not to be. After about the 20th re-start it died and would not relight.

We put Oconee under full sail and beat our way out of the Yellow Banks with Shirley acting as our eyes for coral. She was a great help it left us free to sail the boat. When Cats Paw announced we had cleared the “heads” I shut down the boat and checked the fuel filter. The filter was OK but there was just enough air in the head of the filter that when we fell off a wave the engine would get a “gulp” of air instead of fuel. I cleaned the seals on the filter and refilled the filter with fuel. Problem solved.

About 2 miles out of Normans Cay I noticed we were quickly catching up with Mack and Shirley. He had shut his engine down with over heat problems – his alternator belt that also drives the water pump had disintegrated. Oconee took him in tow and were soon snuggled up to the West side of Normans Cay at anchor. Mack is a master mechanic and had soon figured out it was just an old belt...but the belt when it few apart did just as “Murphy” would have predicted. It hit the coolant overflow tank and cracked it. Mack replaced the belt, and calked and duct taped the tank – back in the saddle again.

Norman's Cay is an interesting place. Once the center of cocaine smuggling for the Bahamas, it is now a private island complete with bar, MacDuff's Bar and Grill, centrally located just off the end of the airport runway – easily accessible off the beach by dink or by plane...and the “puddle jumpers” fly in often just for lunch. Normans is shaped like a horseshoe with a shallow lagoon complete with the skeleton of an old C-47 that didn't quite make the runway during the peak drug days. Today it has great for conching.

The crews of both boats love conching ...and conch. It took more time to get into the lagoon by dink than it did to take our limit of legal conch – the limit is 6 per boat, by the way. After cleaning the conch we settled in for sundowners and what was going to be a gorgeous sunset. G commented, “this might be green flash territory.” I got the camera. We moved to the cabin top for an unobstructed view, sipped, and watched. The horizon was absolutely clear. As the sun slowly sank beneath the sea, I pulled the trigger on the old Nikon and just held it down letting it fire a series of photos just as the sun turned from yellow to green. ….And I got the whole thing on pixels (see web photos for the whole sequence).

Sampson Cay:

There was a Westerly blow coming and anchored off the western shore of any cay is no place to be in a West wind. We headed for Sampson Cay Club and Marina to “hide” until the blow was over. Sampson is usually a peaceful place to wait out a blow complete with nice restaurant and bar (excellent Rum Punch Sampson Style). This time was a little least for 2 days of the stay until “The Asshole” left.

There was this obnoxious German mega yacht owner. He treated the staff at Sampson with contempt and complete disrespect. No one mattered except him and his needs. His yacht was complete with all the toys including a BBBig ocean racing type boat equipped with twin large diesel engines as a dink. This particular Sunday morning he cranked the engine at 8:00 AM.  You could not hear yourself think in the marina. He literally shook the lady in the sail cat behind him out of her bunk. She came on deck in her “jammies,” stood on deck with her hands over her ears. Did that phase him? Nope, he sat on deck drinking his coffee and glared. This guy was a real shit.  Probably the biggest shit I've met over my years on the water.  The only good part was he had toasted the engines 2 days ago trying to get off a sandbar in the lagoon.  Why he though he could run the boat in ankle deep water I'll never know.  He at least had good entertainment value.  Everyone watched and no one made a move to help (I compromised and took photos). It is rare among cruisers to not instantly go to the aid of someone in trouble. We made an exception for The Asshole.

When he cranked this morning it was to see if the damn thing had experienced some sort of miracle cure over night.  I should say the engineer cranked while The Asshole sat and watched.  When he finally shut it down there was a cheer that went up throughout the marina with echos of "asshole" reverberating thru out.  Didn't phase the shit one bit...the good news was his transmission only ran in reverse, the engines were belching blue smoke, and there was only a trickle of cooling water laced with steam.  There is some justice in the world.

We plan on staying anchored off Sampson until after Christmas (they have a great Christmas Dinner).

Merry Christmas to All,

Vic & Gigi

PS – I'm thinking of doing a short post on Christmas day. Keep an eye out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Palm Coast to Los Olas Marina, Ft. Lauderdale 11/9-22/2009

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Palm Coast, FL to Ft Lauderdale, FL – November 19 to December 2, 2009:

11/ 19/2009: Palm Coast to Daytona – 27nm.

11/20/2009: Daytona to NASA Causeway Anchorage – 47nm.

11/21/2009: NASA Causeway to Spoil Islands Anchorage Near Palm Bay – 35nm.

11/22/2009: Palm Bay to Vero Beach Mooring Field – 25nm.

11/27/2009: Vero Beach to Hobe Sound Anchorage – 42nm.

11/28/2009: Hobe Sound to Lake Worth Anchorage – 14 nm.

12/01/2009: Lake Worth to West Palm Beach Anchorage – 9nm.

12/02/2009: West Palm to Los Olas Marina, Ft. Lauderdale – 40nm.

Total to Date: 762nm.

ICW Mile Marker: 1065

Palm Coast to Vero Beach, Florida:

We spent a wonderful early Thanksgiving tied to the dock at Palm Coast Marina. Palm Coast was like old home week for us. Steve & Aggie, off Nellie Bly, a couple we met in the Bahamas last year were spending some dock time doing “work” penance to rebuild their cruising kitty. Then Pretty Penny arrived with Bob and Penny, friends from Sampson Cay last year. Pretty Penny is a 52 foot motor cat that looks like an “aircraft carrier” when viewed headed down the ICW.

Tom and Olga, Gigi's cousin and wife, arranged an early Thanksgiving dinner for us on the 16th. We arrived at Toms just in time to see the Space Shuttle launch. Seeing a launch has always been on my “bucket list” - I got pictures

Palm Coast is sort of a neat place. It has miles and miles of walking trail. Lots of community activities and Piazzas, one of the best Italian restaurants I've ever eaten at...and cheap too. Piazzas is a “different” place. The owners and waitstaff are all dressed in black that looks like it came right out of the Blues Brother..or maybe the mafia. The night before we left G and I went by for dinner and stopped to tell the owner we would seen him next year. This guy is short, muscular, 50ish, jet black hair, with dark brown eyes and all Italian. He reaches up, cradles G's head between his, huge hands and gently kisses her on both cheeks. This man knows how to do business....and G loved it.

I've always been a bird lover – I share this love with my brother Ronnie. In truth it was he that first sparked my interest in the almost infinite variety of birds. Ronnie helped me see that for every environ there is a species of bird that exploits it. Palm Coast is made up of low county with a labyrinth of canals, tidal marsh, and mangrove. It is a country built for Ibis. Almost everywhere you see flocks in flight or groups poking about the marsh or mangrove. On occasion you see one walking like god's clown down the middle of the road. It's then you realize how well designed these bird are to exploit the marsh. Their outsized feet remind one of the mangrove roots they feed among with toes designed to spread the load over the water laden earth. Their curved beak is a perfect tool for probing the marsh for food. It is a design perfect for it's habitat but on a hard surface road it sure does look the odd bird out.

Old Vic came to Palm Coast with 4 acquaintances and left with 4 new friends. Friendship and Thanksgiving have always been linked in my mind and after this Thanksgiving even more so. We parted Palm Coast on the 19th headed for Vero Beach to get the dingy engine gone thru before we made the jump to the Bahamas. The hard part of cruising is you are always leaving friends behind. The good part of cruising is new and old friends are only an anchorage away.

Mosquito Lagoon is a wide open and shallow. It is just north of Titusville and Cape Canaveral – you can see the space shuttle launch gantries as you sail south. Usually this is a place to “get thru” but not this trip. It was a highlight. The wind was north and it actually gave us a sail (well motor sail) and some new friends, a pair of dolphins joined us and swam close to Oconee's quarter wake (right beside the wheel) for almost 20 minutes. Usually when you grab a camera the dolphin do a disappearing act but not this time. For almost 30 years I've been trying to get good photos of dolphin. This was my day. It was almost like they were posing for the camera. Mosquito Lagoon gave me another check mark on my “Bucket list” - get good photos of dolphin.

We anchored for the night off a small island near Palm Bay about 15 miles north of Vero Beach. Cooked a supper that could not be beat and settled into the cockpit with an after-dinner cocktail in hand. It was an absolutely clear dark night with just a sliver of a moon and stars splattered across the sky from horizon to horizon. The Space Station was supposed to be visible at around 7:06 PM and we wanted see if we could catch a glimpse as it passed over from the northeast to southwest. Right on cue she winked on, passed quickly over head with its steady firefly hued glow, and blinked out in the south as she passed in the wake of the earth's shadow. By noon the next day Oconee was rafted to Cavalier (Al and Jan Sullivan - new friends) in the Vero Beach mooring field.

Vero Beach to Los Olas Marina, Florida:

We used Vero to finish our re-provision for the Bahamas, get the dink engine a good tuneup, wait mail, and relax a little. This year we just happened to be here on the real Thanksgiving Day and Vero does it right with a pot luck for over 200 cruisers, music, and a flea market. And all just a short dink ride from the boat. The beauty of this type get together is the “diversity” (to use a overly used word). In the mooring field were boats from all over the world: almost every state in the good old USA, France, Canada (of course. I don't think there is anyone left in Canada), Germany, and many more. Everyone bringing their favorite foods. And again, Thanksgiving brings a time for renewed and new friendships...

Oconee and crew headed south on the 27th for Lake Worth. Gigi and I had had our mail shipped there. You know you are in South Florida when curly tail lizards scamper about as you walk, every community is “gated,” English is a second language, boaters have no concept of courtesy (unless it's the Cuban macho brand), and you have to lockup everything that ain't nailed down - even have to lock the dink to the boat at night.

Oconee left Lake Worth late on the 1st of December with the idea of getting as far south as possible to make the next days run to Los Olas Marina in Ft. Lauderdale as short as possible - 19 bridges makes this a pain in the butt. And any of you that follow in our wake do not make this run on the weekend. Most of it is a narrow walled canyon of zillion dollar homes and condos. Any boat wake reverberates off the walls making for endless wakes and a miserable trip.

We anchored for the night in a little pocket of deep water literally right off town of West Palm Beach. What a beautiful spot and we had it all too ourselves. We kept waiting for the cops to show up and run us off but no one bothered. In the middle of the night the wind built to 25ks and shifted to the southeast...shit! That nice anchorage turned to a rough as a cob. The wind built the seas to 2 to 3 feet and the current laid the boat ass to those seas with the anchor stretched out behind the boat. Usually when wind and current fight to control the direction of the boat it is no contest, current wins, as it did that night. It's sort of like trying to sleep on a roller coaster with the waves making a bass drum out of the stern and you inside. Not fun! Little sleep! We left a first light.

The good news was because the weather was lousy there were few “Florida Crazies” on the water and the canyon actually worked to our benefit by knocking down the waves and shielding us from the wind. Again for those of you that follow in our wake, if you run this area of the ICW the bridges are timed opening. You need to run at least 6.5ks to make the bridges on their schedule or you will spend a lot to time holding in place at the bridges.

Most bridge tenders are pleasant and professional but then there are those few... Of the nineteen we faced that day only 2 will live in infamy in the hearts of Oconee and crew - the Ocean Ave. Bridge & the Oakland Park Bridge. As we approached the Ocean Ave. bridge there were 3 boats in a line with Oconee the caboose in the train. I was close enough to read the name of the boat in front of us...and that is close by any standard, when the bridge tender says, “can't wait on the sailboat in line gotta' open for traffic.” And he closed his span and Oconee waited a half hour for the next opening. We would have cleared the bridge only minutes behind the last power boat. Shit!!

It had been long, wet, tedious, day on the water as we approached the Oakland Park bridge, the next to last bridge in the string. It was only 3 miles and one more bridge until we would be tied securely to a dock, beer in hand, and looking forward to a nap (remember last night gave us little in the way of rest). G called the Oakland Park bridge tender to make sure we would be included in his next scheduled opening. No answer. Called again, no answer. Called yet again, NO Answer! Called a 4th time Still NO FUCKIN' Answer! Oconee and I did a not so dainty about face, circled and approached the bridge again (slower this time). Again the closed bridge forced us to do an about face . The the VHF came to life “do you folks want an opening?” As calmly as G could she responded, “Yes and we called you 4 times.” Now we have 3 miles to go to make the scheduled timed Sunrise Bridge opening and only 20 minutes to do it. We got there 5 minutes late and had to do “round abouts” for 30 minutes. Dock, Beer, Nap, and Showers had to be put on hold...damn it! Thanks to a bridge tender that was probably taking a nap of his own.

By 3:00 PM we were tied up next to “Cats Paws” and our friends Mac & Shirley and were settled in to a berth at Los Olas Marina. Early next week Oconee will make her way south to Key Biscayne, take on fuel and water, and prepare for the jump across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. The ICW charts are soon to be put away 'til spring. The Bahamas charts are already dug out and being pored over to set our course for the crossing. It looks like it will be a Christmas in the Exumas and a New Year Day Junkanoo in Staniel Cay in store for Oconee and crew. We are excited.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS – Voyages seem to have themes they develop on their own. This one seems to be “friend – new and old.”

PPS – For the first time Gigi contributed to our photos. Can you tell which are hers?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beaufort, SC to Fernandina, FL 11/12/2009

Beaufort, SC to Palm Coast, FL:

11/4 – 5/2009: Beaufort to Fernandian Beach, FL – 126 nm.

11/8/2009: Fernandina Beach to Pine Island Anchorage – 44nm.

11/9/2009: Pine Island Anchorage to Palm Coast Marina – 33 nm.

524 nautical miles to date.

Remember The Bridge Opens On the Hour and Half Hour...”:

Remember the persistent scupper hose leak? Well it was still with us when we got to Beaufort. We moved the boat into a slip to make things more convenient to fix the hose and a half dozen other thing Oconee insisted I fix. I left the “hose job” to last since since it require me to assume the shape of a pretzel to even get to it. I hauled everything out of the quarter berth, grabbed my bag of bits and pieces needed to fix the problem (bits and pieces I'd spent half a day in Charleston chasing down), and inserted myself upside down into the quarter berth. I'd bought the WRONG “bits & pieces” - 1/4” too big.

Nancy, one of the folk that ran the marina, called her husband, Hank, that worked at the hardware store on Ladies Island just across the bridge on other side of the ICW. Hank had just what I needed. The Marina had a courtesy car they would loan you for one hour and it was available. Problem solved.

Nancy said, “You know we usually don't let people take the car to Ladies Island because the bridge opens on the hour and half hour but you are going to see Hank.” The last thing she said as I went out the door was, “Remember the bridge opens on the hour and half hour...”

Perhaps I should tell you a little about ICW bridges. Usually they open either on request (get to the bridge call them and they open) or on a fixed schedule like Ladies Island Bridge (hour and half hour). Normal procedure for fixed schedule bridges is you give them a call on the radio as you approach, they acknowledge your existence, and you are included in the next opening. If no boat is at a fixed schedule bridge they don't open. I've heard of some that didn't open even when a boat was there simply because they did not call the bridge but...

Back to the story... . I jumped in the car and traffic was just bloody awful. It took 20 minutes just to get across the bridge to the hardware store. Hank was great. In 5 minutes I had what I needed. Hank even volunteered to modify some parts for me if needed ( I love SC folk they are great). The power went off just as I approached the register. No power, no can pay. That took 10 minutes to fix. My hour clock is ticking and the traffic is still bumper to bumper – Atlanta has nothing on Ladies Island for traffic at least. I jumped in the car, wove my way thru the parking lot and inserted myself into a side street with a light and a turn lane. Three cycles later only one car had made the turn. There was one guy that just would not poke his nose into traffic and everyone was having to go around him. It took 10 minutes to make the turn. The traffic is bumper to bumper all the way to the Ladies Island Bridge but it is moving. I've got 10 minutes before that damn bridge open. I can still make it and be within my hour's limit.

The wheels of the car are actually on the bridge with seconds to spare...I ain't gonna' make it. I look up river and then down river and there are no boats...I got this one in the bag. The tender sound's his siren, the gates come down and the bridge opens. He opened that damn bridge for NO ONE! I'm doomed – never seen a bridge open for no one.

Nancy's voice is ringing in my ears, “Remember that bridge opens on the hour and half hour...” It sure does boats or no boats!

And Port Royal Sound Spat Us Out..:

We had planned to leave on Tuesday for the trip off shore to Fernandian Beach, FL. It is about a 125 mile trip out Port Royal Sound, down the Georgia coast and in the St. Mary's River to Fernandina. For Oconee that means about 22 hours and an over night voyage.

We left at 11:00 AM, that gave us the advantage of having the tide with us. G and I had figured it would take us about 3 hours to reach the sea buoy at the entrance to Port Royal Sound and make the turn down coast. We had not figured on the tide and the current Port Royal and full moon could give. We made 9 knots down Port Royal Sound and by 1:30 PM it has spat the Oconee out into the Atlantic Ocean like a watermelon seed between the fingers of a young boy. I'm glad as hell Oconee did not have to push that current. By 3:00 PM we were off Tybee Roads, the entrance to the Savannah River, and wallowing our way south at close to 7 knots.

We were treated to flocks of Northern Gannets diving for their supper. Gannets are open ocean birds and come to land only to breed. The Gannets put on a show, folding their wings tight to their body as they disappear below the surface of the water in their quest for food.

It was one of those rare cloudless days and we were lucky to see both a beautiful sunset and blood red moon rise. A clear sky at sea is like none other. You feel like you are part of the universe not just living on the fringes of it. It is a feeling city life can not even approach.

We spent the rest of the night slowing the boat down. Oconee and her crew did not want to enter the St. Mary's River in the dark. We hit the St. Marys just before dawn and spent about 30 minutes waiting for enough light to enter. By 8:00 AM we had the anchor down in Bell's River off Fernandian Beach, FL. We celebrated with a “Bloody Mary” and crashed for a well deserved nap.

Happy Birthday Gigi - November 7, 2009:

When I asked G what she wanted to do on her birthday she said, “Go to the farmer's market in Fernandian.” So that is just what we did – bought some veggies, locally made olive tapenade, and spent a pleasant day roaming the streets (read shops). We had a great lunch at one of G's favorite restaurants, 29 South, and the town even had a parade in her honor. It might have been because of Veterans Day but I choose to think it was for G. G and I both had a good time. G even let me have a drink at the Palace Saloon, the oldest tavern in FL. The Palace has been in existence for over 100 years. It's Pirate's Punch has been made by the same receipt for over 95 years and is still mixed in the same 55 gallon drum and served like a draft beer, on tap.

We had planned to go up to Cumberland Island and spend Saturday and Sunday but Hurricane Ida changed our plans – we boogied for Palm Coast Marina and a secure place to hunker down incase she decided to come our way. Here we will have an early Thanksgiving Dinner with Gigi's cousin Tom and his wife Olga, gam a little with some friends we met last year in Royal Island, and do a little re-provisioning with help from Tom, Olga, & Steve and Agie off Nellie Bly.

Until Next Time,

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gig

PS: Gigi took the photo of me in her reading glasses – says it makes me look “metrosexual” whatever that means. I'm not so fond of it but there it is, what can I say.

PPS: The photos of the sunsets at Beaufort were so spectacular I could not resist publishing more than one. Hope you enjoy them.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Mathews Point to Charleston

Matthews Point Marina to Charleston, SC:

10/20/2009: Matthews Point to Swansboro, NC – 46 nm (46 nm total)

10/21/2009: Swansboro to Wrightsville Beach, NC – 48 nm (94 nm total)

10/25/2009: Wrightsville Beach to Calabash Ck, SC – 53 nm (146 nm total)

10/26/2009: Calabash Ck to Cow House Ck (off Waccamaw River), SC – 38 nm ( 184 nm total)

10/27/2009: Cow House Ck to S. Santee River, SC – 33 nm (216 nm total)

10/28/2009: S. Santee River to Dewees Ck, SC – 32 nm (248 nm total)

10/29/2009: Dewees Ck to Charleston, SC – 14 nm (261 nm total)

Let's get er out there on the water. Anything gonna' happen, gonna' happen out there, Boss.”

Capt. Ron

Let me start by saying this is “Oconee's” year. It's her year to go south and “Gigi's Island's” turn to sit, not so patiently, at Matthews Point waiting for our return in the spring. Boats are like women they don't like it when you run off with another boat and will extract their “pound of flesh” when you return to them.

Gigi and I had prepared for this and brought her “jewelry” - new hatches and a complete canvas enclosure for the cockpit to spiff the old girl up a bit. I spent all summer getting her ready: did her teak, cleaned her from stem to stern, fixed numerous problems she had saved for me but, unknown to me, she was not quite thru slappin' Old Vic around.

We had planned to leave on Monday, the 19th of October, but an unusual stent of cold weather left us snuggling up to the “electricity” so we could have heat for one more day. The next morning “Skat” and “Oconee” cut their dock lines and headed out bound for Swansboro. Skat and her crew, Jim & Barb Thompson and their dog Missy, will be traveling in company with Oconee for a time.

It did not take long for Oconee to show us who was in charge. The bilge pump kept coming on. The source was the deck hose from one of the deck drains. Oconee is so loaded down with “stuff” (that 10 cases of beer is an essential) the scupper drains are below the water line when we really power her up and they leaked like a sieve. We backed off a few turn on the engine, cleaned the anti-siphon valve on the bilge pump and the problem was under control (we'll fix it when we get to Wrightsville Beach or so I thought). I was no sooner back on deck when the tack on the engine went nuts – no real problem I know what 1800 rpms sounds like. I'll check the connections when Oconee comes to rest tonight.

Time for that second pot of coffee... Below at the sink cleaning the french press in prep for the new brew, Oconee stopped her sink up just for me. So thoughtful. The old “hand plunger” trick fixed that (at least I can fix something). What's that I smell? Oil? Yep, oil. The pan gasket bolts had loosened up again. This has been a recurring problem with this engine. But she had not done it all summer. Why now? I'll fix it in Wrightsville. Oh well that's sailing.

The trip from Swansboro the next day was a record for us. There are 4 swing bridges between Swansboro and Wrightsville Beach and only one opens on request – the rest open on a fixed schedule. A schedule that usually does not correspond well with the speed of a sailboat (power boats make em we don't). Today the fates were with Skat and I we hit every bridge dead on time with virtually no waits.

Needless to say our stay at Wrightsville Beach was spent fixin' problems....or so I thought. The bilge hose leak was to linger. That was the bad news. The good news was I had had a deck leak when it rained hard in Oconee ever since I own the boat. I now knew the origin of that leak – that damn bilge hose had a small split in it under the hose clamp. I'll fix it in Charleston.

The Sunset Beach Bridge & Beautiful Anchorages:

With the exception of running aground 4 times the next few days are defined by a little nostalgia and one beautiful anchorage after another. I didn't run aground once last year but have already done so 4 times this year and all but one my fault. Admittedly I was in the channel 3 of the 4 times but if I had been focused I would not have looked so stupid. Oh well....

The Sunset Beach bridge it the only cable operated pontoon bridge left on the east coast of the US and maybe in the world for all I know. It is a throwback to a slower paced time. A time before runaway condos. A time where most beaches were family beaches. My family spent our summer vacations at Sunset in the company of my Sister-in-laws family and other good friends. Our children grew up there. We learned to castnet for shrimp and to slow down from the hustle of work here.

This will be Oconee's last trip thru the Sunset Beach Bridge. The old lady will be replaced by a highrise by the time we return next spring. As we passed thru for the last time I leaned out of the cockpit to personally thank the bridge tender for the opening and let him know I would miss “his” bridge. He nodded and with a slight down cast look said , “Me too.”

The next 3 days of the Charleston leg of the trip was defined by the anchorages – all beautiful and all different. Calabash Creek actually defines the boarder between North Carolina and South Carolina. It is adjacent to Little River Inlet. You anchor in the bend of the creek, lined with trees and small sand beaches. The opposite shore is a curve of sloping oyster shell banks of white and silver with a hint of pink. Stir into that scene the warm light of a setting sun, a little music, a friend or two, and sundowners and you have a small piece of heaven.

Cow House Creek could not be more different. You turn left off the Waccamaw River and enter the narrow cut into the creek. The Waccamaw is an old, bendy , cyprus lined river that snakes its way thru South Carolina from just below Myrtle Beach to Georgetown and is one of the most beautiful stretches of water on the ICW. Cow House is really not a creek (at least not any more, I'm sure it was once before the Waccamaw took a “meander” and cut it off). You anchor behind what is now an island cut off from the river and in complete isolation. There is a feeling of peace here. Here nature rules. Civilization could be a million miles away. It is a place, that if you let it, will share it's peace with those that seek its solitude.

The ICW crosses the Santee River not once but twice (N.Santee & S. Santee). The best anchorage is in the S. Santee. Here Skat and Oconee settled in for the night. The next day gave us a run thru Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. It is flat country with finger like deep creeks flowing thru the marsh with names like “Five Fathom ,” Bull ” and “Toomer.” As the name implies wildlife abounds. G and I have seen wild cat here and, this year, a bald eagle sitting regally on and oyster shell bank.

We spent the night in Long Ck off Dewees Ck. It is one of my favorite anchorages on the ICW. You anchor in 20' of water and see 80' next to the banks (rarely do you see even 20' on the ICW these days). Only 15 miles from Charleston you might as well be on the moon for the difference. The only hint you may be near large cosmopolitan city like Charleston is the loom of it's lights at night and the sails of the new Ashley Bridge on the horizon by day. This is a special place filled with the call of birds tucked back up in the marsh. Here small hummocks of trees push their way skyward like small islands rising out of the saw grass. Add the parade of masts and superstructures of boats just visible over the marsh (see photo of Skat over the top of the marsh on in the web photos) and you have one example of why I love this life.

The next morning we pushed on thru the Ben Sawyer Bridge, across Charleston Harbor, and by 11:00 AM were tied up at Charleston City Marina to live the good life (well city life) for a few days. Charleston always brings good food, a great place to stretch your legs, and...time to fix stuff that's broke or at least git part to fix stuff that's broke.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Off Like a Herd of Turtles....

We Are off Like a Herd of Turtles...

October 18, 2009:

The tanks are full, the gear is stowed, the “to do” list has gone from pages to lines, Oconee is bursting at the seams with “ship's stores” (including 9 cases of beer & 6 boxes of wine), and the “Old Girl” is way down on her waterline. We are as ready as we can be.

Let the voyage begin!

Let's see where was I before cruising was interrupted by summer. To put it quite bluntly Gigi and I have not stopped running since the end of the music festival at Ocracoke in early June. At the end of the festival we crossed the Pamlico Sound to Washington, NC, for a reunion with “Oconee” to start to reclaim what a year of sitting idle had done to my poor girl. She gave me a list that was a bit daunting: clean the fridge that obviously something had died in, install new hatches, refurbish all the teak, clean her from from the stem to the stern, get a full enclosure built for the cockpit (ain't gonna' freeze our butts off again), install AIS (poor man's radar), rebuild the old Dell computer for navigation and single side band communication. Then the real race started.

Gigi has a new granddaughter, Taylor Faith Perry and it is without a doubt a Grandmother's duty to make multiple visits to “take care” her and do a little bonding with her other granddaughter, Brennan Grace . I must say they are real cuties and Old Vic is a little smitten himself. Then multiple trips to Richmond for doctors visits and to move “Gigi's Island” to Matthews Point Marina where she will spend this winter.

In mid-August, G and I took a little road trip. My son Noel & his wife Celine have moved to De Moines, Iowa and it was time for a visit. Along the way we visited our friends John & Vicki Skemp in Marshall, NC, Wild Bill Morris and his fine lady Donna in Knoxville, and Becky & George Shennan, in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of NC. We took in the State Fair in Iowa (what a state fair should be by the way). Visited and photographed the Bridges of Madison County of movie fame. And visited John Wayne's birthplace in Winterset, Iowa.

Back home at Matthews Point Gigi sprinted for Richmond for more doctor's visits and then on to Cary to squeeze in some quality time with her grand babies. I drove to Georgia to help my brothers rebuild our dock at Lake Sinclair (never built a dock from the bottom up but there is a first time for everything). Then it was back to Oconee to finish up her demands with a side trip to Trenton, Georgia (my brothers and I have some property there).

Oh yes, to round out the summer we suspended work on Oconee & Gigi's Island for visit with old friends. Buddy Bulow and Sible Shirley now live on a farm complete with, horses, chickens, fainting goats, and a couple of donkeys. Blackjack,the male donkey, (see photos) fell in love with Gigi. I accused her of playing with “Buddy's Ass.”

As I write G is finishing up her chores on “Gigi's Island” in hopes of a noon departure tomorrow.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

PS – If you follow the link to my photos on the website you will find photos of our summer adventures.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

De "Gigi's Island" She Done Reach: 5/21/2009

De “Gigi’s Island” She Done Reach: 5/21/2009

5/13-14/2009: Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas to Cape Canaveral, FL, USA - 214nm.

5/15-16/2009: Cape Canaveral, FL to Cumberland Island, GA - 167nm.

5/17/2009: Cumberland Island, GA to Amelia Island, FL - 10nm.

Passage to St. Mary’s... NOT!: 5/13-14/2009

The “Island” was anchored in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay. The morning broke bright and clear with an ESE wind at about 15ks with plans to take the Mule over to New Plymouth and spend a pleasant day exploring one of my favorite towns in the Bahamas. Then we listened to Chris Parker, the weather guru. It looked like we had a good window to make the passage to St. Mary’s, Ga, but not if we waited until the next day. New Plymouth would have to wait ‘till next year.

We had a pleasant sail down the banks and were off Great Sail Cay by supper time (fixed one of G’s favorite meals - chicken in a wine with mustard sauce over rice). Gigi had the 9 to midnight watch and I retired to get a few winks. There were thunder heads all around but the Island seemed be living a charmed life for the moment and none were coming our way. At change of watch we were about an hour from leaving the Banks and Gigi took my place in the bunk. Just as we were leaving the Matanilla Shoal (edge of banks) the moon erupted from the sea between two huge thunder heads. It was like watching a volcano with a deep orange and red moon spat out the top of the clouds.

We hit the Gulf Stream at 3:00 AM and things went from sugar to shit. The seas were supposed to be 3 to 5 from the South but were very confused and instead of the predicted 3 to 5 they were 5 to 8 footers. Eight foot seas are “doable” in relative comfort but the “confused” made it miserable. The boat would handle it but it’s inhabitants were being thrown all over the place - sort of like a punch drunk prize fighter taking round house punches, a-left-then-a-right, a-left-then-a-right. Not fun and hard on old bodies and gear. We hoped when we altered course to St. Marys it would be better. It was worse... much worse. We chucked our plans for St. Marys and altered course for Cape Canaveral, 70 miles to the NW.

By sunup we were approaching the Eastern edge of the Gulf Stream the seas had organized themselves into a nice SE swell. We eased into Canaveral planning tie up at a marina, clear US Customs, and crash. The cruising community is small and we were met at the dock by John Stevenson, a single handler we met in Marsh Harbor of “Sarah” fame. We were too late to clear in so we just crashed and met John for supper later. He told us that Customs when he cleared in confiscated all his vegetables and meats even his prepackaged meats that had been shipped into the Bahamas from the States. Since Customs did not know we were there and we still had good weather...why tempt fate? We left the next morning for St. Mary, GA, keeping company with John in “Sarah.”

Cumberland Island, GA & Amelia Island Yacht Harbor: 5/15-16/2009

The Island and Sarah headed off shore Saturday morning sailing for the entrance of the St.Mary’s river and Fernandian Beach, FL., about 150 miles North. The trip was as good as it gets - gentle southerly breezes and following seas. By 10:00 AM on Saturday we were off Fernandina. Since US Customs does not work on the weekend we decided to anchor behind Cumberland Island, enjoy the sights on Cumberland, and move down to Fernandina late in the day on Sunday.

John joined us for supper. Then we all crashed early to catch up on some sleep. I’ve said it many times Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth. Where else can you have live oak canopied lanes, wild turkey, Spanish horses, salt marshes, and an 18 mile beach almost to yourself. The Park Rangers and guides make the island history and lore come alive. Our Ranger had been living and working on the island for close to 30 years and still gets excited helping to tell it’s story. I love Cumberland.

Back on the boat we hauled anchor and headed for Fernandian just ahead of weather...again. We ended up at Amelia Island Yacht Harbor about 3 miles South of Fernandina just ahead of a front. Amelia Island Yacht Harbor is very protected but maneuvering is also very tight. Good Old Vic, broke one of his major boating rules, “Never put yourself in a position where you have to use seamanship.” I made a wrong turn down between two piers. With cross current and cross wind the Island had to be turned around (she does not back) and motored back out of what I just got us into. Gigi’s Island is about 45' in length with bow pulpit and dingy davits and the fairway between the piers was about 47' - had no time to be figure it out just time to rely on instinct. I backed and filled the Island turning her in her own length, ricocheted off a piling, and just managed not to hit a single boat...but I did put a scratch in Gigi’s gelcoat from a U bolt on that damn piling. It was one of the best pieces of boat handling I’ve every done even if I did hit something. Luck counts.

De “Gigi’s Island” She Done Reach: 5/18/2009

After we docked Gigi called Customs and arranged for them to come clear us in Monday morning.

Over the winter, I read the biography of Mr. Evans W. Cottman, “Out-Island Doctor.” He taught high school chemistry in Indiana for 30 years and then moved to the Bahamas in the 1950s. Note I called him “Mr.” not “Dr.” The Bahamas had such a lack of doctors at the time they would licence almost any person with a scientific back ground to be a “practicing” doctor. When Mr. Cottman landed at True Blue, on Crooked Island he was the first “doctor” the island had ever seen. The local constable literally took him door to door, knocked on the door, saluted, gathered the people within, and announced, “De doctuh he done reach!” Translation, “The doctor had arrived.”

At 11:30 on Monday the 18th of May, “de Island she done reach.” We cleared US Customs and were back in the US of A.

We are currently hold up at Amelia Island waiting for the weather to clear. It has been blowing a bloody gale and raining sideways for the last 3 days. These conditions are expected to continue unabated until late Thursday. We have had 9.6" of rain over the last 24 hours and that does not include Monday or Sunday. As I write the boat is heeled over 15 degrees in the slip from the wind and it sounds like someone is throwing buckets of water at the boat...I think I’m growin’ webbed feet.

We hope to get out of here on Sunday (after the seas have calmed down) and head back off shore for Southport, NC, about a 270 nm to the North...if we don’t get blown away or drown first.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John's Bahamian Pub Crawl 2/12/2009

The Pub Crawl of John Grossenbacher: 5/12/2009

5/3/2009: Marsh Harbor to Great Guana Cay - 9 nm.

5/4/2009: Great Guana to Man-A-War / Elbow Cay, Hope Town - 17 nm.

5/7/2009: Hope Town to Lynyard Cay - 26 nm.

5/8/2009: Lynyard Cay to Marsh Harbor - 24 nm.

5/11/2009: Marsh Harbor to Green Turtle Cay - 23 nm.

5/2 to 11/2009

Let’s see where was I... .

Oh yes, John Grossenbacker’s visit. We arranged to have the taxi drop John at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbor - figured we might as well start John’s crawl out right. The Jib Room, on Saturday night has “Steak Night”with Desmond doing the fire limbo and Jason with Rake & Scrape music. Marvin, the chef at the Jib Room, cooks one of the best steaks to be found - a 1 pound New York strip cooked exactly to your taste, mmmm good.

Sunday we sailed over to Great Guana Cay and had a “nip” at Nipper Bar over looking the Atlantic and then settled into Grabbers on the beach in Fisher’s Bay for lunch and a laid back evening. There was one young Bahamian boy doing “archfull” flips into the pool. John figured he was practicing for the Olympic Bahamian Diving Team and commenced to act as “judge” for the practice session. When John would give him high a score he would beam and flash him a big white “toothfull” smile.

On Monday we beat our way over to Man-a-War Cay and after anchoring took Mule in for lunch at the “Dock and Dine.” Man-a-War is a working man’s island. Here you can get sail and canvas work done. Man-a-War is the home of the great Bahamian boat building traditions that go back for centuries. The Aubry’s still build quality boats here but have moved on to fiberglass. However, if you want wood it is still available, as witnessed by the photo of the raw knees and ribs soaking in the harbor waiting their day to become part of a some sound wooden boat.

Man-a-War is unique among the islands in that it was founded by Methodist. It is still very religious and is a “dry” island. The only other island I know of that is similar is Spanish Wells. The island is clean, neat, full of flowers, and friendly industrious people. Everywhere you look there is a quite lane with colorful houses painted an array of bright, heart lifting, pastels.

While in Man-a-War we were lucky enough to meet Sammy Aubry. Sammy, like most island men is a boat builder, in his 64 years of life he has built 18 boats. His favorite is the “Thrice Mine” - an 18', outboard powered, runabout. Why the name? Sammy will be happy to tell you the story. As he says in his old English brogue, “Caus Ioo owned her three times.”

Sammy built the boat as a young man in the 70s. While it was still sitting in the yard a man from the States strolled in, saw the boat, walked twice around her, got out his check book and she no longer was Sammy’s. Ten years later Sammy heard the boat was for sale and he brought her back (are you keeping count? That’s two). Well Sammy kept her on a mooring in the harbor off his dock. One night during a storm the “Thrice Mine” decided to go “walkabout” and when Sammy got down to the harbor the next morning all that was left was a frayed mooring pennant floating in the water and no boat. A week later Sammy got a call from the Bahamian Defense Force in Nassau. And guess what, they had picked up the Thrice Mine, off New Providence island almost 100 open sea miles south of Man-a-War Cay. Sammy brought her home and re-christened her the “Thrice Mine.”

After lunch and a good walkabout on Man-a-War we hauled anchor and rode the rising tide into Hope Town on Elbow Cay about 10 miles South of Man-a-War. We need to play the tides going into Hope Town. At dead low there is only about 5 foot of water and Gigi’s Island draws 5.5 feet.

We spent 3 days in Hope Town giving John the “full” tour. As you know from a previous post, Hope Town is one of Gigi and my favorite spots, with its flowers, majestic light house, good food, and secure mooring field. We took John on a Mule ride to Lubbers Quarters and Cracker Ps for lunch and for a walk on Tahiti Beach. Then poked our nose into what G and I call “Turtle Creek” the home of those salty Winner Malone sailing dingys you saw in the last post and...turtles flying around Mule’s bow. Then ended the day with a swim and a snorkel around the point with the bronze sculpture of the little girl doing a cartwheel.

While snorkeling, John and G met a nurse shark. I was swimming back to get Mule to pick them up at the time and missed the experience. By the time Mule arrived John “loud” as how he was ready to get in the boat. Despite the shark John loves Hope Town as much as we do.

On Thursday we slipped our mooring in Hope Town Harbor with the intent of sailing south to Little Harbor and Pete’s Pub. On the sail down we were hailed by some new friends we had met in Hope Town, Rob and Laura Stevenson on Arita - a 50' wooden boat built in New Zealand from a single cowery tree. Rob is from Sidney ( a true Aussy, mate) and Laura is “the Queen of Florida” (or so Rob says). They were nice enough to take the photos of Gigi’s Island under sail. It’s not very often a photographer gets a photo of his (well G’s ) boat under sail. It was very nice for a change.

When we got to Little Harbor there was the surge from hell that made it impossible to put the engine on Mule (The Island can only get in Little Harbor at high tide). We sailed back and anchored in the lee of Lynyard Cay. Rob and Laura anchored near by and brought the photos of the Island over. After a bit of a gam we talked them into joining us for drinks and a movie ...and they brought the movie.

I don’t think I’ve explained how we handle movie nights aboard the Island. Gigi’s computer is set up on the companion-way hatch facing aft, and external speakers attached. That makes room for 4 to 6 folk to see the movie in relative comfort.

We had a great sail back to Marsh Harbor on Friday. The Island and her crew ended John’s “crawl” with an evening at Mangos with Brown Tip and good old “rake & scrape.” John exited the “conch crawl” for the “rat race” back in the States on Saturday. John you are great crew and we miss you.

We made the passage around Whale Cay to Green Turtle on Monday and are currently anchored off New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay. Today is the ending of one journey (our winter voyage of the Bahamas) and is the beginning of another (our journey home to North Carolina). It is a sad and happy day. With a little luck and good weather, we will make the crossing back to the US late this week or early next week. Our plan is to ride the Gulf Stream as far North as weather will allow and then clear customs in either Canaveral, Fernandina Beach, or Charleston.

Faiwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Guana & Elbow Cays - 4/26/2009

Lucky & The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughters: 4/19 - 27/2009

4/19/2009 - Marsh Harbor to Great Guana Cay - 9nm.

4/20/2009 - Great Guana Cay to Hope Town, Elbow Cay - 15nm.

Great Guana Cay - Brown Tip’s Rake and Scrape:

It was a hard beat (into the wind) to Great Guana Cay. There is an old sailor’s saying, “Gentlemen do not cruise to weather.” But sometimes there is nothing like a hard beat into the wind to really get your blood going and today was one of those days. It was a great sail and a perfect set up for the rest of the day. The reason for the trip to Guana was “Brown Tip” and his “rake & scrape” group were playing at Grabbers on Guana Cay and both G and I enjoy “rake & scrape.” The second reason was to do some research. Grabbers was supposed to serve the best Mahi sandwich in the islands (they do, by-the-way).

How to describe “rake & scrape?” Well first it is truly a Bahamian invention, it is original. It is high energy with an islands type beat. In “rake and scrape” music percussion (drums, etc.) are replaced by the common ordinary carpenters saw. The teeth of the saw is “scraped” with the back edge of a butcher knife, and the blade is tapped in time as the blade is warped to produce different tones. It is surprising the amount and variations in sound that a common hand saw can produce in the hands of someone like Brown Tip.

Brown Tip and his crew got cranked about 2:30. Brown Tip by day is a diver (boat bottoms, change props that kind of thing) and in the evening he comes alive as an entertainer. He is a long, tall, black, drink of water, with a winning, smile full of brilliantly white Bahamian teeth (The women love him). Give him a little feed back and he turns into a blur of pure energy and music that will make even an old fuddy duddy like me start moving in places I didn’t think could move.

Once the “frozen Grabber’s” started flowing, Brown Tip swung into high gear (see photos). They were dancing on tables, ladies finding them selves mysteriously in the pool, and then Andrew from the Jib Room in Marsh Harbor, showed up wearing a T-shirt and pair of shorts with “peas & rice” written on the cheeks of his ass. Did you ever see those National Geographic specials about alligators where the old bull’s roar under water would cause the water to froth and boil? Well Andrew has a way of “shakin’” his bootie that will cause a T-shirt to do the same “ting.” Gigi was most fascinated. She just sat there and “giggled.” I ordered another “Grabber.”

After supper back on the boat Gigi and I sat watching the anchors lights across the anchorage in Fisher’s Bay wink on and the stars answer in kind set in a moon less sky. It was the perfect end to another great day in paradise.

Hope Town - Lucky and the Light House Keepers Daughters:

Hope Town on Elbow Cay is one of the pettiest of the Abaco islands. It has small narrow streets kept neat and clean, lined with colorful, wood frame homes, set against a back drop of the emerald green of the Sea of Abaco and the blue of the reef speckled Atlantic. The local people are decedents of the Loyalist that fled the States after the Revolution (although they call it a “civil war,” not a revolution). The island reminds me of my Ocracoke Island back home even the old English brogue of the islanders are very similar. They are friendly in nature and always helpful - can you tell I like it here.

One morning on the Cruiser Net, a gentleman named Dave came on during open mic and asked for help burying his neighbor’s dog. We figured that if he asked for help there was a reason. Gigi and I decided we should go - figured there would be a ton of cruisers respond, but as it turned out, no one except us did.

Dave was in his late 60s and his neighbor Mrs. Marie Pender, was in her late 70s. Dave and I dug the grave in her back yard over looking the blue Atlantic and Gigi put her arms around Marie and Miss Mary (her sister) and gave what consolation she could. Marie truly loved Lucky and was quite emotional - Lucky had been her companion for 11 years. Between tears Marie and Mary shared stories of their island with Gigi. Marie and Mary were the daughters of the lighthouse keeper for Elbow Reef Light in the 30s and they both remembered following their dad up the 101 steps to the top to wind the clock like mechanism that ran the light and set the kerosene light ablaze.

Gigi and I had climbed to the top of the lighthouse the day before and taken photos of course. The view is stunning (see pictures). The lighthouse is still lit by a kerosene lamp and still run by the same clock like mechanisms used by Marie and Mary’s dad so many years ago. Lucky was truly a lucky dog to have had Marie for a mistress and Gigi and I feel very lucky to have new friends on Elbow Cay.

That evening we sat in the cockpit having our sundowners and listening to the soothing strains of Pachabell’s Cannon as the lighthouse light was lit, clock wound, and she began her slow rotation with rhythmic flashes in perfect time to the music. I wonder? The sea held the key to all life did it also hold the origins of musical rhythm?

A special event:

On April 22, 2009, in Cary, NC, Gigi’s daughter-in-law, Kristen Perry gave birth to Taylor Faith Perry, 8 lbs,4 oz a healthy baby girl. Congratulations to: Christian, Kristen and Brennan Grace (big sister -2 years old)...and of course to the new “Grandma, Gigi.”

Lubbers Quarter / Tahiti Beach via Mule: 4/23/2009 - 11 nm.

It was a blustery day but it was out of the East. If we stayed in the lee of Elbow Cay we could easily make the run in the dink down to Cracker Ps on Lubber’s Quarters for lunch and do some exploring on the along the way. Cracker Ps is a local pub famous for it’s food and full moon parties (last year I lost my billfold on the way back from one). The Pub was named for a local character named Cracker Pender. Who, legend has it, immigrated in the 1920 to avoid prosecution because he had the misfortune of shooting the sheriff in Washington, GA.

We had a fine lunch. Then made the run back across from Lubber’s Quarters to Tahiti Beach and spent a few hours exploring the beautiful water and pink sand beaches. The shallows are filled with critters, urchins, bone fish, conch (too small to take), and all manner of life. We cruised White Sound, pickup some dingy fuel and started back up the coast hugging the shore of Elbow Cay. In a small cove we spotted a mangrove creek that looked inviting and slowly entered the shallow waters. Just inside the entrance to the cove it widened out to a beautiful, shallow lagoon. Turtles swam just beneath the surface, as if flying in air darting to an fro across Mule’s path. And strung out in front of us like a string of pearl were 4 of the most perfectly restored Winner Malone Abaco Dingys I’ve ever seen (see photos).

As we eased out of the cove on a little point, with steps carved out of the coral stood a bronze life size sculpture of little girl doing a cartwheel(see photo). There appeared to be no way to reach this remote place except by water. Why was is there? We may never know. That’s the thing about exploring if you go look, God or the Bahamas will deliver the surprises.

Monday we are headed for Man-A-War Cay, home of some of the best boat builders in the Bahamas and then back to Marsh Harbor to pick up John Grossenbacher, a friend of Gigi’s, for a week long, island hopping, pub crawl. As the Cracker P says, John, will “leave the rat race and join the conch crawl.”

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic & Gigi

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Marsh Harbor to Little Harbor

Of Blue Fish, Grouper & “*&^% #” Computers: 4/7-16/2009

4/9/2009 - Marsh Harbor to Sandy Cays / Wilson City Ruins: 21nm.

4/10/2009 - Sandy Cays to Little Harbor: 5nm.

4/12/2009 - Little Harbor to Marsh Harbor: 23nm.

Marsh Harbor - Sarah: 4/7/2009

We had been at anchor in Marsh Harbor for a couple of days when a rather water worn Pearson 424 eased into the anchorage. A man of about my age with graying hair set in a pony tail walked forward and eased her anchor over the bow and lay the chain in a very seaman like manner. He was single handing and obviously knew what he was doing. There was something familiar about the gentleman but I was not sure what...

All of a sudden I realize that anchored in front of the 424 was a 41 foot, Rhodes Bounty also built by Pearson. Pearson started building boats in the 1960s and went out of business in the 90s. I had a real opportunity for a great photo (at least from a sailor’s prospective). Here was a fine example of the first very generation of Pearson yachts and one of the last boats they ever produced to be had in one photo. And, Got it!

As G and I went ashore later in the day I gave a glance at the stern of the 424. Her name was “Sarah.” And I was pretty sure it was not just “a Sarah” but “the Sarah.” A few years ago Dale and Corie, friends of mine that had the slip next too me at Matthews Point, had given me a copy of a dvd titled “Sarah’s Atlantic Circle Cruise” - an excellent cruising video done by John Stevenson, the owner. Mule did an about face and we slid up to her stern. The gray haired gentleman came on deck and I asked, “Is this the famous Sarah and are you John.” John gave us a great big toothy smile, laughed and answered ...simply, “Yes.”

We had just made a big batch of chicken soup so naturally we invited him for drinks and supper. John brought wine, books to trade, and copies of his latest two videos. A good evening was had by all swapin’ lies and sippin’ rum. And Gigi and now knew a celebrity plus had a new friend.

Of Blue Fish & Grouper: Sandy Cays: 4/9/2009

We left Marsh Harbor on a mission. We finally had a day that we could snorkel the reefs off Sandy Cays about 21 miles south of Marsh Harbor. Sandy Cays face the mouth of North Bar Channel and are open to the Atlantic Ocean swells and for that reason you need days that are basically flat calm to snorkel their waters. In the Bahamas this time of year calm is rare as the proverbial “hen’s teeth.” Sandy Cays Reef is part of the Land Sea Park System and is protected from fishing or taking of anything but photos and memories. Thus it is as pristine as it gets.

By 2:30 we had anchored “Gigi’s Island” off the ruins of Wilson City in the Bight of Spencer, saddled “Mule” with her engine, and were tying her to a mooring ball off Sandy Cay’s reef. It was a beautiful sun drenched day with crystal clear water. You could see the reef just below the surface but nothing would prepare one for what we were about to experience. As we slid over the side of Mule into the water a forest of stag horn and coral of all variety just explodes into your vision. We were on the wall of a channel with coral, fish, and color as far as the eye can see.

That day we swam with an 8' eagle ray, 2 blue fish of about 80 pounds, a large grouper of yet undetermined specie and when I say large I mean the size of me (it felt like it anyway). Then there were schools of blue tang that just envelope and adopt you into their school. And there was the lone barracuda...we gave him “his” space. It was a day to remember. Gigi and I have been hoping for another calm day so we can sneak back down to Sandy Cays but to no avail.

Little Harbor - Pete’s Pub, Wild Pig, & Computers: 4/10/2009

The “Island” tiptoed her way into Little Harbor at high tide. Little Harbor is one of those places where we have to enter at high tide. The entrance at low water is only 3 feet deep and we draw 5.5 feet. Pete’s son Greg was having a wild pig roast on Saturday I wanted to see how the Bahamian’s do it.

Pete’s Pub is a true open air bar with beach sand for a floor, decorated by Tshirts from all over the world, and memorabilia of all shapes sizes (see photo of a customers cell phone nailed to a support). To boot there are great drinks, great sea food, and good fun. Pete’s dad came to the island in the mid-50s with his family. His dad was an artist working mostly in bronze sculpture. The island has natural limestone caves so he and his family moved into one of them lock stock and barrel and established his foundry above. Things now are a bit more conventional. Pete and his children live in a traditional houses but Pete inherited some of his father’s artistic talents and continues to produce bronzes in addition to running a fine bar.

Pete’s son Greg cooks a mean pig - best I’ve had in the islands. Back home we use hickory or oak to cook a traditional pig for a “pig-pickin’” in the islands they use “buttonwood” to produce the charcoal and add green leaves of the buttonwood tree to make smoke and add flavor, similar to how we add “bay” leaves for the same purpose Downeast. Greg’s sauce is a blend of traditional NC and Georgia kind of vinegar base with a touch of “Jerk” seasonings. The result is mmmmm good.

Sunday morning I switched on the computer to check and see if Gigi was a grandmother again - her daughter-in-law, Kristen, is due any second. The “hateful computer” went through the bios boot but refused to go on to boot the operating system. “Oh! Shuck!”, I said ...or words to that effect.

Would you believe it last year, at Little Harbor, the day before Easter, my computer went belly-up - same day, same time, same place one year later. Lighting (figuratively of course) does strike twice in the same place. We boogied back to Marsh Harbor (only place with a computer doctor) on Sunday and spent Monday running diagnostics and trying to figure out what to tell the “doctor” when Tuesday rolled around (Easter is a Friday and Monday holiday for the Bahamas). By Tuesday night my computer was alive and back in action. This is the second time Abaco Computers has saved my bacon.

Next up is a trip over to “Nipper” for a nip and “Grabber” on Guana Cay for a dose of “Brown Tip’s” rake and scrape.” Somebody’s gotta’ do it.

Fariwinds & Rum Drinks,


PS- I’ll explain “rake and scrape” next post.
PPS- Kristin is sill hangin’ in there - no grandbaby yet. News at 11:00...

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