Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life in Nassau

It has been a while since my last blog post and my life has changed dramatically since then. I have been putting writing off because it has been difficult for me to think about anything but my dad and his death. I was hoping one day I would wake up and feel some sort of amnesia which would enable me to write an entry that only described all of the great things we are experiencing. One would think that being surrounded by crystal clear blue waters, coconut palm trees, and tan, smiling faces would placate my feelings but they really haven’t helped tremendously. Of course I am hopeful that as time passes I will get used to the changes in my life and will be able to see the beauty around me more clearly. In the meanwhile, I am doing my best to readjust to life on the boat, without my father in my life. I set a goal with Chad that I would write on the blog before the end of the month and as you can see I am close to my deadline. As we sit at the Green Parrot, a restaurant/bar boasting a free dinghy dock and wifi (which is currently not working), I feel compelled to meet my goal even though I feel no amnesia.

Being in Nassau has been a good distraction since there is a lot more to do here than in other places we have stopped in the past few weeks. As I mentioned before, the Green Parrot has been a daily stop for internet and to meet some other cruising couples. A large portion of these people have surprisingly been French Canadians. And we thought we had traveled from far away! We have had dinner and drinks on a few other boats where the conversations were mostly in French. These experiences have actually been the most foreign since our trip began. It was the first time I felt like I was living in a foreign country even though everyone living in Nassau speaks English as a mother tongue. One very interesting couple has worked for a non-profit aid organization which brought them to East Timor, Cambodia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a few other countries during their wars. Their stories were inspiring.

Two days ago we went to the Straw Market and saw many local artists and craftsmen, hustling their products to all the tourists. My past shopping experiences in Morocco and Italy definitely benefited me here. Everyone bargains for better prices and it is generally expected that the locals will try to sell you something for twice the price they are willing to actually sell it for. I bought a few picture frames, a straw clutch, and a painting. After seeing the same painting at another booth with a different name painted on the bottom, we questioned whether or not the woman actually painted our picture although she did promise she did. It was nice to finally decorate the boat a bit and having a framed picture up of my dad gave me a chance to see him every day in some way at least.

Yesterday, we left our dinghy at the Nassau Yacht Haven (free because we used their showers for 3 dollars each) and walked to the City Market for groceries. After we had finished paying we found out that there was another grocery store just a bit farther away that had much cheaper groceries. Oh well. We did get to speak to a local 19 year old girl about her life which was interesting. She bags groceries there for no wages, only tips and wheels grocery carts to marinas for cruisers. It’s a free service and was well worth the tip we gave her to get 6 more bottles of water, ice, and a lot of provisions for the Exumas to the dinghy a mile away. She had a full scholarship to a university in Florida for basketball but had to give it up because she got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. Her father is a fisherman and is out at sea for months at a time so she lives with her baby and mother. She hopes to get back into basketball and school so she can reapply for the scholarship next year. Her story is only one example of the poverty we see every day in the Bahamas. Ironically, food is so expensive and the US dollar is worth the same as the Bahamian dollar.

Today we will go back to the Nassau Yacht Haven to do laundry and then spend the rest of the evening trying to find space on the boat for the cleaned laundry. Most of it gets stuffed in the pilot berth or in our teeny closets and the rest will remain on the settees until we get company which forces us to find more appropriate places for it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Crossing the Great Bahamas Bank

After Bimini the next group of islands is 75 miles to the East. The majority of the distance is spent crossing an area of water called The Great Bahamas Bank. Depths average 20 feet and you can see the bottom the whole way. Because the area is so large we had to choose whether to sail through the night or anchor on the bank and continue in the morning.

Both options have draw backs. Sailing through the night means navigating through a small cut in the reef at the end of the Bank and more obviously, little sleep. On the other hand, anchoring on the banks at night can be uncomfortable. There is no protection from the wind and waves and more importantly you risk being run down by an freighter.

We chose to anchor on the Bank just before dark since neither of us really enjoy sailing at night, and we hadn't seen a freighter all day. I strung several lights from the rigging and tried not to think about the sound a freighter would make when it hit our boat. The motion of the boat coupled with the rumble from the engines of passing boats made for a restless night.

The following day we made it to Chub Key- a private island with an overpriced Marina and resort. Unfortunately, the weather has kept us pinned down here and we were forced to take refuge at a dock. We are happy to have the long distance hops in the past for a while. It should be a leisurely trip towards Georgetown where we will pick up some friends in 3 weeks. Tomorrow we leave for Nassau.


We finally had fishing success two large Barracuda.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We Made It!!!

We left Key Biscayne Wednesday morning bound for Bimini. Worried that we wouldn't be able to complete the crossing in the daylight hours I dragged Nicole out of bed at 4 am. She pleaded for a few more hours of sleep but eventually accepted the fact that my mind could not be changed. When we made it to the Key Biscayne Channel at 4:30 I realized that the channel markers were not lit. We sat adrift inside Biscayne Bay until first light at 6:15 and I got a well deserved "I told you so."

The much anticipated gulf stream crossing was no problem at all. It was calm enough to row across. We hooked two large fish and one power boat along the way. All three of them got away with a lure. The most difficult part of the journey was the entrance to Bimini harbor. Charts show 12 feet but it has shoaled to 6 or 7 and only one out of the four entrance markers were present. We kept trying to guess what the different shades of blue and green meant in terms of depth, but we had no idea.

We spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday clearing in and exploring the Island. Everyone is very friendly. I guess that is the way it is when you live on a small island.

Monday, January 18, 2010

South Beach: Have I got a deal for you!

The last two days we have been anchored off of South Beach being tourists. The main street in South Beach was closed to traffic and there were blocks of booths with interesting art and other goods. It is well worth the walk from the anchorage on the West side of the island to check out the local artists.

Opposite the booths the street is lined with restaurants. The marketing at the restaurants here walks a fine line between good advertising and fraud. They get you in the door with offers of 2 for one deals and freebies, but inevitably the cost of the free stuff is built into another part of the meal. We first learned about this when we were looking at the menu in front of one restaurant. A waiter approached us and said that if we sat down right now we could get 20% off. When we said maybe, he said, "I will throw in a free bottle of wine if you order one of the specials." After he told us that he would throw in a free round of shots, we said we were sold.

We sat down at a table right on the street and he told us about the specials. Nicole wisely asked, "How much is the paella?" The waiter responded $120 without a hint of exaggeration. We both laughed hysterically and said thanks, but no thanks. I would have felt bad walking out if I didn't feel like he was trying to take advantage of us.

Now after 20 percent off, the meal would be $96. For a nice restaurant it is not unreasonable to pay $100 for paella, a bottle of wine and a round of shots, but weren't those other things, that I didn't really want suppose to be free? At $120 I will take my Paella with a side of with gold.

The restaurant we settled for had a more reasonable menu and they offered us 2 for 1 drinks. The catch was that the deal was per person. We would each have to order 2 drinks. The cost of a cocktail (not listed on any menu) was $20. Again, the cost of the free one is built into the cost of the one you are paying for. We skipped the drinks and had a mediocre meal.

The whole experience left us with a bad feeling about spending money in South Beach. If I came back I would make sure to ask about the price of everything. Prices are not written anywhere and if you don't ask, you will be charged more (this happened later at a food cart.) I would also be prepared to haggle for everything, including food, something I haven't experienced even in countries with a barter economy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Weather Window

Everything we read has said to wait for a good weather window to cross over to the Bahamas. In this case the weather we are waiting for is wind from any direction except north. When a north wind opposes north flowing current of the gulf stream steep waves develop. We had similar conditions on a smaller scale in the Delaware Bay which can be seen in a video here.

When we attempted to leave Lake Worth for West End in Grand Bahama the wind was forecast to be 5-10 knots out of the North becoming East at 10 knots. As we pulled out of the inlet at 1 a.m. we had gusts to 20 knots out of the north with 2-3 foot seas near shore. If we continued conditions would have deteriorated and neither of us were looking for a rough night time sail.

We are waiting for a new weather window in Miami which would allow us to leave pre dawn on Tuesday morning. This time we would be leaving from Miami bound for Bimini.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Almost There

Here is our To Do list before departing this evening.

Fill Water
Fill Diesel add stanadine
Buy Bahamas Guide
Buy Explorer Charts
Buy New Jerry Can
Buy 6 gals Denatured Alcohol
Change zincs
Clear scuppers
Secure starting battery
Research Wireless Solution
Check on wind gen repair
Buy American Flag

It is almost complete and we moved the boat just inside the inlet. Tonight we are going to meet up with friends who will help us do some last minute provisioning and laundry. Thanks Ron and Elaine!

My hope is that our next blog post will be from West End in the Bahamas. However, if the conditions aren't good when we get offshore we will turn around and wait for another opportunity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Planning a Crossing

We are looking at an early Thursday morning departure for the Bahamas. More to follow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An impromptu anchorage

One of the best pieces of advice we were offered before departing was, "just because no one else is anchored their doesn't mean you can't." At 5:30 it was twilight and the bridge tender informed us that he would not be able to open the bridge for another 20 minutes. A quick survey of the area showed 5 foot depths outside the channel and a Chili's 200 yards inland. Easy decision! We anchored just north of the bridge outside of the channel and ran to Chili's.

We had another very cold day today, but the wind helped us make some good progress. We only planned on going 17 miles today, but the two anchorages in guide book were too shallow and not protected enough for us. I got bold at one point and decided to turn off the ICW towards a few sailboats moored along the edge of the river. We quickly ran aground. Thankfully I was able to back us off the bottom. At the end of the day we covered 42 miles. Only 10 more miles to Lake Worth which I think may be our home for a few days as we wait for weather to make a crossing to Grand Bahama.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ft. Pierce

Yes, Ft. Pierce is 60 miles short of our destination, Lake Worth, but neither of us regret stopping early. Soon after we entered the well lit inlet the temperature dropped sharply and rain started. Sixty miles of progress south is not worth a night at sea in below freezing temperatures.

We dropped anchor around 12:30 last night and spent most of the day catching up on sleep, watching movies and trying to keep warm (low of 28 degrees tonight.) Tomorrow we will be moving south, probably on the ICW given the current forecast.

Friday, January 8, 2010

En Route to Lake Worth Inlet

5:25 EDT N 27.59 W 80.27 COG 164 at 5.4 kts.

We left Cape Canaveral (actually the Habortown Marnina on Merrit Island, they have the best rates around) at 10 this morning and we are currently motoring towards Lake Worth Inlet. The forecast was for West winds 10-15kts in the afternoon becoming North West 15-20 tonight. So far none of that has been correct. We had South winds most of the day and there is nothing right now.

I would much rather be sailing than motoring, but having the engine on gives us enough electricity to have on two computers. Nicole is watching Grey's Anatomy and I am surfing the web. We just finished our dinner (Linguine with Italian Sausage) and we will be settling into our watch schedule soon.

Lake Worth is an exciting destination for us because it is considered the first "good" crossing point to get to the Bahamas. We may decide to continue on to Miami and make the crossing. It will depend on the weather and how anxious we are to get to some warm weather. It is cool to think that we are less than 48 hours of sailing time away from Grand Bahama.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back to the boat

We are sitting in the Stewart airport in NY awaiting our flight to Orlando which has a connection in Atlanta. Hopefully the snow storm in Atlanta doesn't slow us down. I can't believe we are going we are going to see temperatures below freezing on the boat tonight. We should be able to use the electricity on the dock to power the small electric heater.