Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nov 26, 2013 - Morehead City to Palm Coast

 Log of the Salty Turtle: October 24th thru November 26, 2013

  • 10/24/2013 Morehead City to Mile Hammock's Bay, NC 37nm
  • 10/25/2013 Mile Hammock's Bay to Wrightsville Beach, NC 35nm
  • 10/26/2013 Wrightsville Beach to Southport, NC 23nm
  • 10/28/2013 Southport to Doster's Loop (Waccamaw River, SC) 64nm
  • 10/29/2013 Doster's Loop to Butler Island, SC 19nm
  • 10/30/2013 Butler Island to Dewees / Long Ck, SC 52nm
  • 10/31/2013 Long Ck to Beaufort, SC 72nm
  • 11/3/2012 Beaufort to Herb River, GA 42nm
  • 11/4/2013 Herb River to Wahoo River, GA 42nm
  • 11/5/2013 Wahoo River to Frederica River, GA 37nm
  • 11/6/2013 Frederica River to Bell River (off Fernandian, FL) 43nm
  • 11/7/2013 Bell River to Fernandian Harbor Marina, FL 1nm
  • 11/9/2013 Fernandian Harbor Marina to Pine Island, FL 43nm
  • 11/10/2013 Pine Island to St. Augustine Mooring Field, FL 12 nm
  • 11/12/2013 St. Augustine, to Palm Coast Marina, FL 22nm
            Total Miles To Date: 537nm

Yacht Design is rather like making love to a woman. The approach is completely empirical. In the end, the male, even though he might be successful, usually had no idea how and why he had succeeded.”

Prof. E. J. Richards

Music washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 
 Berthold Auerbach

Moon Set At Dawn
Stroke it..Ride It...Pound It” and Wait and Wait Some More:

The trip down the ICW, to me, is always a joy and an adventure in it's own right especially with good crew like Paul and Stacy Brannon aboard – boat people to core and enjoying every minute on the water. The thing about the ICW is there is no telling what will be around the next bend.

Mile Hammock's Bay (actually a part of the Marine Corp Base at Camp LeJeune) has always been a source of entertainment. This year was no exception. Just as we got the anchor down and our traditional anchors' down drinks in hand we heard the approach of a couple of big Sea Stallion helicopters flying in low from the West. They began a slow circle of the Bay, stirring the waters with their down drafts and sending up clouds of dust from the land. Then the first Stallion in line slowed in flight and hovered with it's rotors just visible above the tree line next to the anchorage. Then the rhythmic beat of the engines completely changed to a throaty roar of engines under full power and obvious strain. The chopper lifted above the tree line and we could see what looked like an I-beam slung under it's belly. The helicopters were doing heavy lift drills and we were in for a show. Each chopper in turn would circle the Bay a couple of times, hover over the lift site, and discharge or pickup it's “cargo.”

They did this until just about dark. We enjoyed sundowner's, hors d'oeuvre, a free show...and a bit of noise. 

Sea Stallion Heavy Lift
  Turtle and company left next morning bright and early and were at anchor in Banks Channel off Wrightsville Beach in time for lunch ashore and to stock up on Robert's Grocery's famous chicken salad and pimento cheese. Our plan was to leave at first light the next morning for Southport and be tied up well before noon. Our intent was to spend a couple of days there just enjoying the town before continuing on our journey South. The “early” part was not to be.
Stroke it, Ride it, Pound it
We arose as planed around 6:30, made coffee, cranked the engines, and headed on deck. We were greeted to the splash of 1500 swimmers in flights of around 300 all “hell bent for election” to round the turning mark just to our South and then down channel toward the ICW. Turned out it was a Mini-Iron Man and both exits to the anchorage were blocked. We had lost our opportunity to leave for at least the next 2 hours...but man what a show. I used to work corners as part of the safety crew in SSCA Sports Car Races but this is the first time I ever saw “corner workers” on paddle boards one complete with his own “rescue dog” - a big yellow labrador apparently having the time of his life. Paul told me the Iron Man motto was “Stroke it, Ride it, Pound it”...has sort of has a ring to it doesn't it. We made Southport by 2:00 AM after enjoying our second surprise in two days.

Safety Workers
You see what I mean about the ICW? Some people would see the chopper noise as an irritating pain in the butt or would go ballistic over the “un-called for delay” at Wrightsville Beach. Me, I see entertainment, a chance to enjoy a second cup of coffee, and the addition of a little spice to our journey. The ICW can be heaven or hell. The choice is yours.

Pigs Can Surf:

The old Salty Turtle is not a fast boat. She lumbers along at a steady 7 knots and doesn't get in a hurry to do anything. I always said that if the Turtle ever hit 12 knots she have to have fallen over a water fall and a steep one at that. In short the old girl is built of comfort and a bit of a “pig” in the speed department...but she was to prove me wrong in the Sounds of Georgia.

We lumbered our way South thru the always beautiful Waccamaw – in Spring with it's coat of new life green and fall with the orange glow of warmth from the low sun on the brown of the cypress. It is beautiful and there is a settling peace about the place. South to our favorite anchorage in Dewees / Long Creeks. With it's full marshes and hint of Charlestown on the horizon. South thru the skinny ever changing waters of the Low Country and on to Beaufort, SC where we took a break and enjoyed the hospitality of the town. South to Herb River near Thunderbolt, Georgia where the ICW starts it's winding road thru the Sounds. 

Charleston Harbor
  Georgia is notorious for it's skinny water but in truth Georgia is easy – you just play their 8' tides. And you only have to play the tides in 3 places: Hells Gate just South of Isle of Hope, Little Mud River North of St. Simons Island, and Jeckyll Island and Sound. The rest is deep. The only problem this year was weather and an abundance of wind. It was in Jeckyll Sound that the Turtle showed me a thing or two.

We anchored along with half a dozen other boats in the Fredrecia River off St.Simon's Island and rode out a blow of 25 to 30 knots over night. The weather looked iffy but the forecast was for improving conditions with NE winds below 15k. Our next stop was to be Fernandian Beach, FL, a trip of just over 40 miles, but to get there the ICW passes just to the West side of Jeckyll Island and East into the inlet where you round Red 32 and turn almost 180 degrees back West into Jeckyll Sound and the shelter of Cumberland Island. Gigi polled the crew and we decided to go for it. With a rising tide and wind and current in the same direction at the notorious R32 it should not be too bad. Yea Right. 


The 8' tide was almost full when we passed thru the ICW behind Jeckyll and eased out into the inlet and the 2 mile journey to R32. The inlet quickly turned into a bash with 5 foot seas with an occasional 6 footer's on the nose. Not unsafe but a bit more than we bargained for. At R32, we waited for an opening in the waves, put the helm hard over and turned our stern to the seas for our run back inshore. Things went from a “bash” to “peace” in a matter of seconds. It was then that this old, lumbering, pig of boat surprised me (I think everyone). We went from a 5 knot bash to a steady 8 knots...then her stern would rise to an on coming wave and she would surf at 12 knots down the face, riding like some ancient pig on a surfboard for about 100 yards until the sea slid under her and then she would slow to 8 and rise to the next and again build until she was surfing at 12 and start the process all over again. We surfed our ass off all the way in behind Cumberland Island. So you see, at that point I knew “Pigs” can surf.
Paul & Stacy
We anchored in Bell River, a well protected anchorage, about a half mile from the dingy dock in Fernandina. The next morning we moved Salty Turtle to Fernandina Harbor Marina to make it easier for Paul and Stacy jump ship. The next morning we each in our own way cruised the town and rendezvoused at the Palace Saloon, the oldest Saloon in Florida, and took what has become “the” traditional photo. By 4:00 in afternoon Paul and Stacy, had packed their stuff in a rental car and headed back home to take care of my Aunt and Uncle in Athen, Georgia. I know for a fact their car had at least one more thing than they had when they signed on as crew. They left with a car full of “dreams.” Dreams of cruising again in their own boat.

Palace Saloon

How Not To Take a Mooring Vol. 2:

After the winds died down (winds again – winds seem to define this trip), we headed for Pine Island 112 miles above St. Augustine, FL. We were thru the Bridge of Lions the following day around 10ish and headed for our assigned mooring ball near the back of the field absolutely determine not to make as spectacular a show of our selves as we did the previous year (if you remember, last year we managed to get the ball stuck on our shaft struts and actually moor backward – hard to do but we did it just the same).

We cautiously approached the ball (Gigi put us right on it). I hooked the short pennant that barely reached the cleat and hauled it over the rail and slipped the eye around one horn of the cleat. Right here is where things started to slip out of our grasp....and turn a bit ugly.

I was focused on the ball and had already fed a line from the bow thru the eye in the pennant when the wake from a sportfish bounced the shit out of the Turtle, ripped out our starboard bow cleat and left it dandling like an errant earring from the bow. The Turtle was washed backwards at a good clip and I snatched the cleat and dropped the pennant before it sucked both me and that damn cleat overboard. We regrouped and tried again..but were rattled by now and each pass was a near miss. By this time 3 dingies from other boats had come to our rescue, with their help, the Turtle was soon secured to a mooring pennant on the port cleat. After a rum, I put the shit back together and added the starboard mooring line.

What happened? A number of things. First, the pennants are quite short and short pennants are always a pain in the tail. Second, the perfect timing of that damn sportfish and his significant wake. Third, Vic getting his come-up-ins for thinking again. All the boats I've ever been on the cleats were backed from hell and gone. To pull them out you literally have to pull the bow off. The cleats on the Turtle are designed to pull thru a hole in the center of the cleat and held on with wood screws– strong as all get out used as directed, weak and worthless if you pull in the opposite direction as I did. Old Vic did a permanent fix in Palm Coast a few days later with epoxy, wood plugs, and 5200 calk/adhesive.

I learned a valuable life lesson. I don't think St. Augustine Mooring Field likes us...and a little about our cleats.

To Give a Shit...or That Bloody Head:

We arrived at Palm Coast Marina for a planed stay of a week...and are still here two weeks later. We do love it here but, as usual, have stayed well beyond our planned stop over and but don't know why but it always seems to work out that way. Tom and Olga, Gigi's cousin and wife, live here and Bill another of her cousins lives in Orlando a couple of hours drive away so we do Thanksgiving while we are here and visit back and forth. It is a great spot to replenish supplies and fix what we have broke to this point.

The list: Fix a coolant leak on both engines, replace the injector pipe seals on the starboard engine (minor but needed doing), rebuild the horn that quit on the way down, and fix that damn bow cleat. We had all that done and our visiting finished by the first weekend and we were on schedule to leave Monday (we hate traveling on the weekend in FL. It is a zoo). Monday came around on the jukebox and it was blowing a gale and raining in buckets we stayed. It was about then that the head reared its... ugly head. It had been running slower and slower since we left Morehead. I knew what it was and dreaded the thought. It had to be calcification in the pipes from the head thru the ParaSand (small waste treatment plant) to the overboard thru hull fitting. I don't so much mind wallowing in my on poop but dealing with head plumbing is brutal.
That Bloody Head

Better to do it here since we have a dock and access to transportation. Gigi ordered new hose, a Y-valve, and when the parts arrived late Wednesday I tore the head system down Thursday morning. It took half a day of getting my language right and a pure bloody struggle (if you know me you can take that bloody part literally). There was no way to get to most of the plumbing without pulling the head. Those of you that know what working with PVC chemical, odor free hose is like will understand, the language and blood bath (mine) that followed. The next day I put it back together with even more blood and gnashing of teeth.

The head won every battle but I, Old Vic, won the war. I have not been that sore and beat up in a long long time, but the good news is we can “give a shit again” and man does it flow (not us the head).

The plan was to leave Monday the 25th and be in Vero for Thanksgiving but a cold front is moving thru (again) and we will stay in Palm Coast until probably Thanksgiving morning or break a hard fast rule and leave Friday after Thanksgiving and travel on the weekend (god forbid).

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,


Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12, 2013: There's a Nip In the Air

October 12, 2013: There's A Nip In The Air
The way I see it, you got two choices. You either gotta get busy livin'...or busy dyin'.”
Frank Darabout

“Fun is about as good a habit as there is.”
Jimmy Buffett

There's A Nip In the Air:

There's a nip in the air and I'm considering “long pants” for the first time since last November (god forbid). Salty Turtle is provisioned, as readied as we can make her, and straining at her lines as if to say “turn'em over, run'em up, and lets's go”...go South (for swimsuit weather – have I mentioned I don't like cold weather). We are ready, the boat is ready, but it is not quite time yet. There is one more thing to do – a wedding. 

Solar Panels
It has been a busy and expensive summer. We have rebuilt the high pressure pumps and injectors on both main engines...and the generator. Rebuilt the rams on the stabilizers. Added 1000 watts of solar power and installed a battery monitor. Although I'll admit having Shay Glass as a friend and helper made this job less painful. The Turtle now sports a brand new Force 10, 3 burner propane, cook stove with custom outside cabinet to house the propane – it is a beaut, looks like it grew there. The old electric stove will never ever ruin a meal of mine again – actually considered selling it but didn't want anyone to go thru what the beast did to our food... besides I got too much pleasure out of throwing the bastard in the dumpster. 

New Propane Storage
Our annual haul out at Bock Marine brought one surprise, as I took apart the second seacock to clean and grease it fell apart in my hands – not good, as a matter-of-fact, quite bad. A failed seacock under way could ruin your whole day..and then some. With the help of Dale and Kenny at Bock Marine we replaced every seacock below the water line...all 12. Don't ask how much that cost. While I worked on the seacocks Gigi waxed the topsides and made the Turtle all beautiful. 

And of course, between projects and doctors visits, we managed to see our grandchildren and their parents (always good). The bad part of cruising is the lack of time to visit our kids so the few visits we get are even more precious. I can't wait to take Malo “Madog” Copelan, Noel's son, and Gigi's “Triplets” snorkeling in the Bahamas or just for a splash on the beach at Twin Cays. I can close my eyes and see them running that curve of pure white sand, little naked “butts” shining in the sun, splashing gin clear water everywhere, and looking for treasures with their sponge like minds and bodies soaking up all that is above and below the surface. It's a dream but man has to have his dreams doesn't he?    

By the end of next week Oconee will be winterized and put to bed for her winter's sleep. Our last emotion filled visits with friends will be behind us and we will be ready...almost, that is. My cousin, Chris Dunn's son Christopher is to be married in Columbus, Ga on the 19th and we are going. It looks like a great party with a mini-family reunion thrown in for good measure. We will spend the night with my Cousin Stacy Brannon and her husband Paul in Athen on the 20th and drag them back with us to Morehead City where they will join the crew of the Salty Turtle for the first leg of her trip South. We hope to head out on or about October 23. I can't wait to be moving again.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

Friday, May 31, 2013

2013-05-31 Georgetown to Palm Coast, Florida

April 29, 2013 – 5/31/2013: Georgetown, Exuma to Palm Coast, Florida

04/29/2013: Georgetown to Black Point Settlement 54 nm
04/30/2013: Black Point to Big Majors Spot 9 nm
05/01/2013: Big Majors to Nassau Harbor Club, Nassau 74 nm
05/8-9/2013: Nassau Harbor Club to Vero Beach, FL 237 nm
05/15/2013: Vero Beach to Titusville, FL 65 nm
05/16/2013: Titusville to Palm Coast, FL 66 nm

Total Miles to Date: 2002 nm

Red Stripe
The Sea finds out everything you did wrong..or did not do.” - FRANCIS STOKES

There must be more to sailing than the mere setting out to sail from A to B via C. There must be exploration, not only of new areas of the ocean, but of new parts of yourself.” - TRISTAN JONES

Palm Coast Marina

Boy on a Bollard: National Family Island Regatta, Georgetown – April 26 thru 30, 2013

Gigi's cousin Tom Cook joined us in Georgetown for National Family Island Regatta. Tom's wife Olga is in Russia helping her mom and Tom signed on as crew for the trip back to the states. We met him at Peace and Plenty's Bar (of course). Peace and Plenty's bar is the home of the Doc Lerman – The Doctor of Libation (read bartender). The Doc makes the best drinks in the Bahamas (and that's saying something) and if he likes you he will introduce you to some his “regulars.” I've spent many an interesting day in discussion some of Doc's friends. This year Gigi and I met John Sanders, the head of the Bahamian Post Office and his best buddy Vince (for the life of me I can't remember his name) who was second in charge of the Power and Electric Service for the Islands. Both x-racers and full time racing fans. The stories they told... .

To us National Family Island Regatta starts when the boats arrive as deck cargo on inter-island ships. Gigi and I make a point of being there for the unloading. The slings used to unload the boats are enough to stop the heart of most OSHA inspectors here in the States. The unloading and re-rigging is a show in its self. 

I was doing my usual wandering around taking pictures when I noticed a boy of about 11 or 12 sitting on a yellow bollard intently watching the boats as they came off the ship and their masts stepped. After taking a couple of photos I wandered up to the boy, introduced myself, and struck up a conversation.

William, that was his name, was the skipper of the brand spanking new E Class sloop, “One Bahama” in the Juniors Regatta. William is a bright young man. As each boat was unloaded he told me about her good and bad points and her skipper's “abilities.” He proudly told me he had finished second in the last regatta and he was going to “reach” first this year. When Gigi, Tom and I left William was still quietly sitting on his yellow bollard watching the boats lowered into the water. When we dropped by the dock a few hours later William was still there as intent on his boats as ever. 

One Bahamas” was built and sponsored by Sir Durwood Knowles, the first Bahamian to win a Olympic Gold Medal for sailing. Sir Durwood has spent his life encouraging young Bahamians to sail and to carry on the Bahamian boat building traditions. Sir Durwood would be happy and proud to know that those traditions were secure in the hands of William of the yellow bollard...and other like him.  
One Bahamas

Oh! The Racing was spectacular this year. Red Stripe out Black Point and Tida Wave out of Staniel Cay were tied for first going into final race with Running Tide from Long Island a distant second.

All three boats got excellent starts with the edge going to Red Stripe. At the first windward mark it was Red Stripe by just feet followed by Tida Wave...but Tida had to tack to make the mark. Which should have been no problem and kept her in second except.... Lady Maril another Staniel Cay boat just plain screwed up and held on trying to ooch their way around the mark. Lady M's bow man failed to tell the skipper that Tida was dead in from of them. Had it not been for our friend Smashie Furgerson who told the helmsman to tack just in the nick of time she would have center punched Tida and sunk her. As it was she did tack just in time to hit Tida a glancing blow and take both boats totally out of the race and the series. Red Stripe sailed a safe race and finished first for the race and the series. 


If would have been a very different race if Lady Maril had not taken Tida Wave out of the picture. Red Stripe would probably have still won but man it would have been fun to watch. I expect Staniel Cay is a very very small island at the moment especially since the skipper of Tida taught the skipper of Lady Maril to sail.

When Salty Turtle reached Black Point a few days later the whole island was just sobering up. 

Red Stripe Head For Home and First Place

Nassau to Vero Beach - Vic Amazes Himself

At 7:00 AM on the 8th of May Salty Turtle dropped her lines at Nassau Harbor Club cruised slowly under the twin highrise bridges that connect Nassau proper and Paradise Island. We were headed for sea and the USA. Nassau harbor is a busy place. This day was no exception. At the request of Nassau Harbor Control the Turtle and half dozen other boats held in place for about 30 minutes until a cruise ship docked. Then boogied out the harbor entrance before a second cruise ship came in. Like I said, Nassau harbor can be a busy place. 
Nassau Harbor

It was a beautiful day with clear sky and a 8 to 10 knots of South East wind – just perfect for a crossing. We ran at bout 7 knots down the Northwest Channel and Tongue of the Ocean fishing for Mahi but not catching. And hit the banks at Northwest Channel Light (that doesn't exist anymore. Only a short stub sticks above water) and headed across the banks. The SE wind went flat by the time we dropped off the edge of the earth into the Atlantic at Hens-In-Chickens / Great Isaac just N of Bimini at around 11:00 PM.

Northwest Channel "Stub"

The winds according to Chris and all other weather web sites were suppose to do just that - go light an variable with flat seas and 5' swells for the next 3 days. But..when we hit the Gulf Stream the wind went NW at 15 and 3 - 4' chop in our face and square seas. Off Lauderdale I ran the boat in shore about 2 miles off the beach in hopes it would ease the chop. It did but it was still uncomfortable...and stabilizers don't do much for head seas....shit! The Turtle and her crew were tied to one of Vero Beach's mooring balls by 2:00 PM on the 9th. It was not the worst crossing I've ever had but it was not fun and my old ass was whooped. 

Little Green Heron

Now the rest of the story...

Some times I amaze even me with my ability to screw up. About mid-way across the banks it was time to cook supper and switch from Port to Starboard fuel tanks (the generator only works off starboard tank). Salty Turtle had about 40 gallons of fuel left and port tank and about 190 in starboard – more than enough in starboard tank to finish the run to Vero Beach.
We cooked and ate a supper that could not be beat and I went back down to shut the fuel supply off from the generator so that I can turn the fuel polishing system on and continue to run on Starboard fuel tank (the polisher uses part of the plumbing for the generator and both can't be run at the same time). I always run the polisher when underway and polish the tank we are running on, in this case Starboard tank. Well....Old Vic accidentally turned the "return to aft tank valve" open...and we kept on keeping on...for a while at least (this little detail will become important and apparent later in the tale).

Six hours later Gigi and Tom were on watch, Vic was asleep, and we were about 20 miles out into the Atlantic when the port engine shutdown followed shortly thereafter by the starboard engine. I was awake and in the engine room as instantly as an old fart can move. It took a few minutes to shake the “sleepy fuzzy” out of my brain and figure out we had run out of fuel in the Starboard tank. Just where the hell did that 175 gallons of diesel fuel go? We could not have burned that much in 6 hours...more like 24 gallons? No time to think about that now. I switched to port and bled both engines. This little operation took a lot longer than it takes to write this and we positively will not talk about the “diesel geyser” I produced when I pressurized the fuel filters with the electric lift pump and took my first ever diesel shower. Gigi fired both engines and after a few tense moments they cranked and we were on our way again.
That was the good news. The bad news was we did not have enough fuel in Port tank to reach Ft. Pierce.

Nassau West Entrance Light
After a few minutes to clear my fuel fumed soaked head and a large cup of coffee I figured out the fuel had to be in the aft tank, went back to the engine room, and yep! the handle on the aft tank return line was open. So in theory at least, all 175 gallons that had been in Starboard was now in the Aft tank put there by the fuel polishing system. We ran on Port until dawn. Then shut down both engines, shifted the polishing pump to deliver fuel from aft to port tank to make sure there was no air in the fuel line (and the fuel was in fact there) and then re-cranked on Aft. We were back in business and with enough fuel to reach Ft Pierce. Yee!! Ha!!
Like I said, sometimes I amaze even me at my ability to do something really dumb. Tom jumped ship in Vero (can't figure out why) and Gigi and I continued on to Palm Coast alone. We anchored off Titusville on the way and were lucky enough to have the anchor down and a rum and tonic in hand in time to see an Atlas V launch...pretty cool.
We are currently tied up in Palm Coast Marina waiting for the diesel shop in Dayton to rebuild the generator and port engine high pressure fuel pumps. With luck we will be back under way by the end of the week. North Carolina here we come...baring something else breaking, of course. 
John Watling Rum
Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,
Vic Copelan
PS – Thanks Tom for the help and for your excellent dingy driving. It sure made taking photos easier.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bedlam...Bahamian Style: 4/17/3013

April 7, 2013 to April 18, 2013: Black Point to Georgetown, Exuma
4/08/2013 Pipe Creek to Staniel Cay / Black Point Settlement 16 nm
4/09/2013 Black Point to Little Farmers (Western Bay) 11 nm
4/11/2013 Western Bay to Black Point 11 nm
4/15/2013 Black Point to Georgetown 54 nm

Total Miles to Date: 1493 nm

Little Farmer's All Age School
The trickiest part of any voyage or cruise may turn out to be the short leg between any harbor entrance and dock, both on the way in and the way out.” Carleton Mitchell

In certain places, at certain hours, gazing at the sea is dangerous. It is what looking at a woman sometimes is.” Victor Hugo

Kevin Rolle:

The first year Gigi and cruised the Exumas was 5 years ago..can't be that long ago, but it was. We were knee deep in 4 weeks worth of laundry. The guide books said the only place really to do laundry in the upper Exumas was Ida's Rockside Laundry in Black Point Settlement.

We anchored in the bay off Black Point and headed for the dingy dock with a boat full to running over with dirty clothes. Lugging three bags of laundry and sundries we headed down the dock and up to the street. Gigi and I each had a bag in our outboard hands plus the huge LL Bean bag strung between with Gigi on one handle and me on the other.

We had just reached the street when the Black Point Police car (ain't but one) pulled up beside us and stopped. Gigi looked at me and I looked at her with that question of a look that says, “What have we done..and we just got here too?” look on our collective faces. The Officer rolled down the window, peered out with his big Bahamian smile and said, “You folks look like you need a ride to Ida's. Hop in.” And that is how we met Kevin Rolle and he has been a friend ever since. We fell in love with the Black Point community at that instant and have been hooked on its friendly helpful people ever since.

Friday, two weeks ago, we were at anchor in Pipe Creek when Kevin came by in the police boat out for a day of fun with his sons. We waved. Kevin flashed us one of his big Bahamian smiles, waved back, and headed off toward Compass Cay. We didn't know it at the time, but that was the last we would see of our friend Kevin on this earth. Kevin was to die saturday night of a pulmonary aneurism. He was flown to Nassau but did not survive. Kevin was just 46 years old. He left behind a wife and family and three communities in shock (Black Point Settlement, his brother's in arm in the Bahamian Police Force, and us Cruisers). He will be buried with full military honors in Nassau this Friday as is only fitting.

Kevin was more that just a policeman and preacher. He was the heart of his community. He was the best ambassador Black Point could have chosen. And he was our friend...and in truth, a friend to countless other as well.

Bedlam..Bahamian Style:

Black Point Settlement is home of some of the best “C-Class” Bahamian Sloops ever built like “Smashie” and “Seahorse” built by Van Fergersion and his son Bo. In the off season or when they are built or repaired they sit high on a sloping, iron rock, bank in back of the All Age School known as “da yard.” Every since I have been coming to Black Point Settlement I've wondered just how in the hell do they get a fixed keel, one ton boat from the iron rock to water with no mechanical help or conveyance without destroying it. I have always admired and been amazed by the Bahamian approach to projects like this. This year I found out how it was done and actually got to help launch “Seahorse” (something I can now check off my “bucket list).

First, timing. “Tings” don't happen at an appointed time here. They just happen when “day” happen. People start showing up as if the time was set by some internal Bahamian clock – Seahorse's launch was no exception. I knew that much at least so I watched from the Turtle until people started to show and then jumped in the dink and headed for shore. No one was in charge or gave orders. Men just assemble on both sides of Seahorse grabbed “holt” and then bedlam broke out.

Everyone shouting at the top of their lungs, everyone in charge, and everyone with conflicting orders. “Pulleft! Pullrite! Slidtinga! Pickdastarn! Fardroll! Ramovedabord! Straitendatinga! Diswaymon! Disway! Slakline! Slakline!” It was a den of shouting, pulling, tugging, and all in opposing directions, plywood being slid under the keel, water pipe rollers between the keel and plywood, and slowly the boat pushed, shoved, pulled and rolled its self to the water with toes that should have been smashed and arms that should have been crushed left undone. All to a den of shouting that the multi-languages of Bedlam could not have held a candle too (imagine all those words plus many more shouted at the same time in a staggering rhythm and you will have it about right). Then she was a float, all was quiet, and the Bahamians left as if someone had punched their time clock, leaving Bo, Van, and I standing on the iron rock watching “Seahorse” rock to the gentle swell of her new home patiently awaiting her mast and lead.

For the record, I am still in awe (as in shock and awe and as in true respect for ) how Bahamians approach projects like moving Seahorse. All I can say is it is still a mystery to me just how the job was done and why no one was hurt, but it did happen and no one was… and I got to be part of whatever did.
One “ting certain Mon”...it was pure Bahamian...Pure Bahamian.

(I apologize for the photos. I screwed up and left the camera's autofocus set on manual..thus the blurry images)

Hand Line Fishin':

After a week of waiting for a window to head down to Georgetown and the 60th Family Island Regatta on Monday the15th one finally opened. It wasn't the best window in the world but it was the best we were going to get for at least another week with winds in the 10-15 knot range on the nose and 1 to 3 foot seas. So we were off out Dothom Cut at first light.We had heard that mahi were everywhere and we should get a boat load on the way down and we were anxious to try our luck.

We had hand lines in the water within the hour. Our friends had told us to fish with rigged ballyhoo with a pink skirt on it's nose, about 120' behind the boat and run about 7k. We zigzagged our way south running on and off soundings with no luck. It was Gigi's watch (of course, she is the fisher lady) and she had just fixed her lunch (again of course) and the Turtle was in about 100' of water when the fish hit .

We have no boat rod or reel (we will next year) - we use hand lines. Our technique is to let the fish drag behind the boat a bit before we pull him in to take the fight out of him and pray a shark doesn't get him before we do. We keep a bucket handy to dump the extra line in as it comes aboard. Gigi hauled and I dumped the line in the bucket, we swung him aboard and dumped him in the scuppers. The Turtle Crew had caught a 10 to15 pound Cero Mackerel (about a 4 to 5 meal fish). Cero is similar in flavor and texture to a King Mackerel. Within 30 minutes he was cleaned and in the frig ready for supper.

That evening at anchor in Georgetown off Kid Cove, we marinated a couple of pieces in zesty italian dressing, grilled him, and had him for supper with a little wild rice. Mmmm Gooood!

Our friend, Jim off “No Regrets,” says we should be off soundings for mahi. On the trip North we will try that...but Cero ain't bad by a long stretch and we still have 3 meals left in the freezer.


That Time of Year..

It is that time of year again... the time when all us cruisers feel a “stirring.” Like the great flocks of migrating water fowl just before the spring thaw something awakens in our very marrow and swings our compass Northward. A bit of restlessness descends on the anchorages and clouds our collective thoughts. Our senses are heightened to every color and sound. Every swim in that gin clear water is absorbed and savored to the fullest. Every sunset takes on a special heightened must see priority and the pastels of the dieing sun somehow are exaggerated. We visit our friends in the settlements with emotional hugs and smiles of “until next year” at every meeting. “Goodbys” take on a bit more permanence and heart felt poignance as friends depart - friends that we will not see again until the fall... and some never ever again in this life. All cruisers know that goodbys are part of the lifestyle but they still go straight to the heart (we have known people that quit cruising because they could no longer take the goodbys). 

cow fish

The words “fair winds,” “safe travels,” and “until next year” fill the air waves on the VHF as boat after boat hauls its anchor and heads North. North to the States. North to Canada. North to Europe. North to England. North to Home. North to Family and Friends. North to the “unreal world” we all left behind.

And Salty Turtle will follow in their wake North as soon as Family Island Regatta is over...but not yet..not, just yet.

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great Exuma Gas Wars: 2013/04/07

March 3rd to April 7, 2013: Pipe Creek to Little Farmers (Upper Exuma)

3/08/2013 Pipe Ck to Black Point/Bitter Guana/Big Major Spot 27nm
3/10/2013 Big Major Spot to Black Point 6 nm
3/13/2013 Black Point to Sampson Cay 10 nm
3/17/2013 Sampson Cay to Little Farmers Cay (Oven Rock) 21 nm
3/18/2013 Oven Rock to Black Point 9 nm
3/19/2013 Black Point to Alan's Cay 53 nm
3/20/2013 Alan's Cay to Nassau Harbor Club 33 nm
3/22/2013 Nassau Harbor Club to Pipe Creek 73 nm
3/31/2013 Pipe Ck to Big Major Spot 6 nm
4/03/2013 Big Major Spot to Pipe Ck 7 nm

Total Miles to Date: 1406 nm

The Journey is the Reward.” Taoist Proverb

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might as well stay home.” James Mitchener

Mike and Maril Doster's Visit:
The weather was awful and expected to deteriorate even further. We were tucked into Pipe Creek all safe and secure but Mike and Maril were arriving on the Watermaker Air's 3:00 PM flight and... god our dingy is so small when it comes to facing a 5 mile ride one way in 3' chop on the Banks or (god forbid) the sound. Jim Treadwell, our friend off “No Regrets,” volunteered to go down in his 17' inflatable. Man that would have been a miserable trip in our dink. He saved 3 wet butts.
Once the front passed the weather cleared and Mike and Maril could not have had better weather week. The week went by in a blur as they usually do when friends are together. We went snorkeling down at what we call “Mushroom Reef” near Compass Cay Cut and, to our surprise and delight, Maril took to snorkeling like a duck to water. G and I took them over to Tucker's Compass Cay Marina where you can swim with his pet sharks (for some reason both Mike and Maril demurred). Tucker also servers up one of the best (and most expensive) hamburgers in the Bahamas. After lunch we walked his beautiful beaches.


Speaking of beaches, I think one of the most beautiful in the world is on Twin Cays about a mile off Sampson Cay on the Banks between Sampson and Pipe Creek. It is known to us as “Magic and Missy Beach.” Buck and Vicki Dawkins and Jim and Barb Thompson named it after their pups Magic and Missy that loved to run the beach and swim the shallow lagoon. The beach is a crescent shaped and with pink / white sand with a texture so pure and fine it feels like standing a feather bed for the feet. The beach is ringed by clear aquamarine waters with deep water accents of navy blue. This beach truly is “Magic.” 


We finished the week with a whirl wind tour of Black Point Settlement, Bitter Guana Cay (home of an iguana research project) and finished with the swimming pigs on Big Major Spot and lunch (not BBQ) at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Let me tell ya seeing Maril face to face with iguana was worth the price of admission. Next time we hope to get them down to Little Farmers for some of Earnestine's famous chicken souse.
Bitter Guana Chalk Cliffs

Breadboy The Gas Can Savior:

Not long after Mike and Maril Watermakered their way home the outboard on the dink became hard to start. I suspected water in the fuel...as it turned out water was the symptom not the cause. I pulled the pickup line to the gas tank and the whole fitting came off in my hand. This was not a problem it was a disaster. Our dingy is our life line. It is everything. No dink. Can't get ashore. Can't get groceries. Can't go snorkeling. Can't go fishing. Can't visit friends. We were in a “fix” as they say in the South.

We were anchored off Black Point doing laundry at the time of the disaster. I gave Breadboy, a friend of ours, a call on the VHF and asked if he knew where we could find a new or used gas tank. Without blinking Breadboy said, “I think I got one Vic. It got some fuel in it but you can pore dat out.” An hour later he returned to Salty Turtle with an old tank half filled with ancient fuel...and would take nothing for the tank. Breadboy was quickly elevated in our eyes from “friend” to “savior.” After dumping the fuel, rinsing the tank (twice with very expensive gas), and running the piss out of the outboard for a while we were back in business...almost but that's another story.


You don't make friends down here or anywhere for that matter for what they can do for you. You make them because you like them and respect them. But when the chips are down friends do what friends do everywhere...save your butt when they can. Bahamian friends are no exception.

The best thing that came of this whole experience is the knowledge that we really do have a friend have a friend here and his name is Breadboy.

The Great Exuma Gasoline Wars:

It all started about a month ago when the fuel barge that brings fuel to Staniel Cay in the Exumas broke down and had to be hauled for repairs in Nassau. It could not have come at a worse time. Starting about the first of March colleges in the US have spring break. That means that all the Mega Yachts loaded down with kids complete with gas guzzelin' sportfish boats in tow head for the Exumas, anchor off Staniel and Sampson Cays, belch Seados and other gas powered toys, and descend on the fuel docks at Staniel and Sampson to suck up fuel and gas.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club ran dry almost instantly. That meant the only source of fuel and gas between Highborne Cay and Gerogetown ( a span of close to 80 miles) was Sampson Cay Club. Mike, the manager of Sampson, immediately announced no more gas or fuel except for folks tied to his dock or locals in need until further notice. He had no choice, otherwise the 5 Mega Yachts anchored off Sampson would suck him dry in a matter of days. Sampson gets its fuel from a different source than Staniel but he is lucky if “da barge reach” every couple of weeks..and even then it is nothing better than a “Bahamian guess” when it actually will. By-the-way, if a Bahamian says tomorrow he means he ain't got a clue – could be tomorrow, could be next month, “when it show up it reach.”

About 3 weeks ago it started to get real serious and took a nasty turn. Salty Turtle was under power headed back from Black Point to Sampson to tuck up next to Sampson for the next cold front when the VFH crackled to life. A Bahamian (who we will call Sam) that rents boats was calling Sampson to see if he could get some gas for his boats. Fly, the dockmaster on duty, told him they were still not selling gas. Sam snapped back, “You gotta' do something Mon!”and he said it with a tone I had not heard before - this was serious. Fly responded with, “Nuttin' I can do Mon.” You could tell Fly was a bit irritated but under control. A heated discussion erupted on channel 16 VHF in front of God and everyone who was listening..and in the Bahamas that is everybody. Gigi and I looked at one another wide eyed in astonishment. In our 6 years here we have never seen “tings gets dis” serious.

A few days later I was over at Sampson and the fuel crisis was reaching a real critical stage. Mike was almost out of fuel for his generators (if he ran out that meant no electricity and the Mega Yachts at his dock that suck up electricity at almost as an unbelievable rate as they do diesel fuel under way). Mike was down to serious rationing for gas as well. He was selling only absolutely necessary amount to locals that depend on gas for their livelihood. The situation was getting desperate and tempers were getting short.

After listening to Mike's tales of woe Gigi and I eased back out to the Turtle to listen to the Wolf Pack woop Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. About an hour after we left Sampson full scale warfare broke out. Boatboy (name changed to protect the righteous) who also rents boats was there to get gas when Sam storms up to the dock and demands Fly sell him gas. Sam has a habit of being a bit slow to pay according to stories we have heard. Mike immediately injects himself into the situation. Asked Sam to come into the office where a heated discussion boils over into a shouting match. Mike finally calms Sam down and agrees to sell him gas.

Sam heads back outside and announces to the world that Mike said to, “sell him gas.” It would have been fine if he had left it at that but no. Sam decided it was time to insult Boatboy and add to his coup for the day. Well, those of us who know Boatboy, know he ain't no little guy and is not a person you would want to piss off. Boatboy told Sam he needed to get his gas and shut up. Well Sam could not leave Boatboy alone and got right back in his face. Boatboy told Sam “You better not do dat again!” He did and Boatboy exploded and Sam hit the dirt. It took 5 grown men to pull him off Sam or so I'm told. Mike told me later that Boatboy called that night and apologized even though he didn't start the fracas.

The war finally ended in another 2 Bahamian weeks ('bout a month Mon) when both Staniel and Sampson started getting gas and fuel again on some sort of a regular schedule. I don't know whether this was the end of the war or just a lull in the battle but for now peace has returned to the Exumas and there exist a somewhat shaky truce to say the least. 



purple sea fan
This has been our best year snorkeling by a long shot for a couple of reasons. First, Jim Treadwell took us under his wing and shared his reefs as far North as Jeep Reef off Little Wax Cay and as far South as BAS Reef (Big Ass Shark) off Little Major Spot. Second, with a little confidence under our belt, we found new sites on our own such as Osprey Reef near Compass Cay Cut and No Fishing Reef off Big Sampson Cay. We have seen new growth of Stag and Elk Horn Coral (very encouraging), large stands of Purple Sea Fan Coral undulating with the current, some of the largest Angle Fish I've ever seen (some as big as large platters) and two huge Barracuda (longer than me and bigger around than my leg) and even a live Tulip Mollusk close to 18” long boogieing along on in single foot fashion off Rat Cay at over 6 feet a minute...yes, I timed the bugger.

Tulip Molusk

Every place we find seems better than the last. Neither Gigi nor I tire of just getting in the water and going walkabout and seeing what we can see. 


Want to know where these reefs are? We'll show ya. Let's go swimming. Yea Mon!

To Come:

We have spent the last 2 months basking in the warmth of waters and friends in the upper Exumas. This has become our home as much as Matthews Point Marina in North Carolina is our home, but it is time for a change. Monday we head down to Little Farmers to take the photos for the All Age School there then back to Black Point for laundry, haircut, and pizza and then we will catch the next weather window to Georgetown. There Gigi's cousin Tom will join us for Family Island Regatta (60th anniversary this year) and help us bring Salty Turtle back to the States in early May..or late May..or whenever she reach.

Black Point Sands

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


PS – We also made a fast trip to Nassau to get a crown put back on one of my teeth...but that's another story. Thank you Clay and Rita-Kay!!!!!!!