March 6, 2014

BAHAMAS FINALLY!!


"When it comes to sailing, there are 3 types of wind.... Too much, too little, or from the wrong direction.... ".... Unknown



This blog entry has not been proofed very well… so take it with a grain of salt… or how about a grain of Bahamian sand!  Love to all,  joe

March 26, 2014

It was exactly one year ago today that I purchased Glory Days, my 1987 Pearson 33... My, how the time has flown and so many changes have transpired with the boat and with my personal life.

My goal was to outfit this boat, learn all I could along the way, and set sail to southern tropical waters. I don't even want to think about the money that it took because every screw turned, every wire connected, and every problem solved was a labor of love and a vital part of the journey.  I had an epiphany today when I realized what has happened in exactly one year.  

Here's a couple of before and after photos that sum it up


Day 1... So clean and uncluttered … little did she know what was in store for her.

 
1 year later... Now she's a home


video

OK ENOUGH REMINISCING!! LETS GET ON WITH THE BAHAMAS BLOG NOW!!!

At 4:30 am on Feb 25, I pulled up the anchor in No Name harbor and headed due east to cross the Gulfstream bound for my first port in the Bahamas, Bimini ... Since this was my first crossing, I followed the lead of my friend, David Vollrath, skipper of Swell Horizon for this trip.  We would part ways later that evening as I opted to linger in Bimini for a couple more days while he sailed further into the night with his son, Matt ...

Here's the story from there…
Wow...
The water is where it all changed.
When you cross the Gulf Stream (about 20-30 miles off the coast of S. Florida) you see the deepest most clearest blue you've ever seen. Its blue, blue, deep deep blue blue.

And when you get to land, all the others clear waters id seen in Biscayne Bay pale in comparison.

4:30 a.m. departure...As noted earlier, I am following my buddy David in his 44' Spencer ketch, Swell Horizon.... man, it was scary... into the deep dark night blinded by instruments, the very instruments that are guiding you through the maize... searching for blinking marker to get you into the channel,,, then another,,, then you thread the needle between them to finally make your way to the open sea ahead of you..... but finally, daylight came, and i could not have welcomed the daylight any more than today... 

It would have been much more difficult if i did not have the comfort of following Davids lighted masts as we passed through the narrow channel.

actually the Stream was quite mild today, far less than I know it CAN be... thank you god for soft seas and light winds.... a little more wind would be nice, but I'll take too little wind over too much wind on any day.

After a 12 hour crossing, I anchored tonite at North Bimini right in front of the customs office...  David and I both cleared customs with no snags.... David and his son, Matt, opted to go on sailing and pull and all nighter to get deeper into the islands... but I was too tired and decided to wave good bye to them, and I ended up staying 2 more nights in Bimini

Learning how to use the chart plotter more each day is a must.  I"ve gotten better at it now, and feel like I could program it most anywhere now.... If you program it properly, it sets your course, and then you just follow the waypoints .... and wahlah! its magically gets you there!

the clarity of the water beneath me tonight here in Bimini.... makes you want to just jump in it!
and suddenly, for the first time in years, I have no internet or phone access... its really quite liberating to say the least... No one is calling and I have no ability to text .. I can access email only when I am in a marina or town that has a wifi connection.

My first view of Bahamian water was this... I never knew turquoise had so many flavors...

My jaw dropped...
ahhhh…. safely secured for now…. arrived in Bimini Feb 25th!!   60 miles and my first crossing of the Gulfstream.


David and his son, Matt… we relaxed a bit in Bimini, and then they continued on that same day… sailing into the night… I crashed.

So long David and Matt… they continued on into the night even after we cleared customs in Bimini.
Main Street north Bimini…. golf carts running here and there, cars honking, everybody seemed to know everybody...

i

This is Noah… He repaired the  gummed up carburetor in my outboard for $40… then he stuck around to tease these bull sharks with a little cut bait…. I chose not to swim here.






 I cleared customs at this high tech immigration office… they gave me a 90 day approval to be here!  whoo hoo!

 locals having a good time catching' a mess of fish...
This lovely Catalina 44 belongs to a nice couple from Colorado, Patrick and Jolene… Thanks for the hearty stew you gave me!    
These mountains of conch shells are everywhere… folks eat conchs big time here… it makes me wonder if the sea can keep up with the consumption


i woke at 4:30 this morn to sail away, but the wind was howling like crazy and forecast for Freeport was all rain.. so i stayed here... played an Indigo Girls song all day... fished... watched huge bull sharks cruise by on a regular basis... studied the weather on line... hung out with patrick.... watched a guy cleaning some conch.... walked around town a bit, got a local cinnamon bun, and entered waypoints into my 2 plotters... tomorow will be an 80 mile day, could turn into 2 days... but it is time.. i must go... check weather first in the morn...
I have no cell phone coverage, or internet on the boat... first time in years that has happend.. but I'm ok with it... what a change... i need something like this to open my eyes...
Me cross one section of the ocean.  Me tough?  No way. Me inconsequential to the great blue sea. Me humble…. me feel good.

A safety tether like this is essential if you are a single hander going up on the deck to adjust sails while at sea... It attaches to a chest harness... Nothing could be worse than falling overboard when you're all alone… not a pleasant thought.


DAY 3 BAHAMAS..

its been a nice little rest here in bimini.... 1 night at anchor and 2 nights in the Blue Water marina at one dollar per foot plus power...44 per night...ok i splurged.. but at marinas is where you meet people... like Patrick and Jolene from Colorada on their 44' Catalina... I had coffee over there this morn.... Heres a photo of them.... 

In many ways, this is a 3rd world place.. I was bemused at the local dialect.... honestly, I thought they were speaking another language, but the more carefully I listened, the more I suddenly realized that they were actually speaking English in their slurred and altered fast talking dialect...
the local black folks speak english, but its an english that sounds like 
another  language..... interesting... Is that what they call eubonics? ... I may have that wrong.... but they all seem to be a friendly sort...plus thy are driving on the left side of the road here.

Dear God,,,, please guide my decisions and my skills tomorrow as I set forth on a solo westward direction toward the Northwest Channel and on to the Berry Islands....  I am so blessed and I thank you forever... 
love.

Feb. 28...
My 2 days in Bimini would end today... it was a nice introduction to the islands, but somehow i get the impression that Bimini is more of a stop off point, and not a great example of what the true Bahamas are. .. it's an entry place for many people, but not a true representation of the real island flavor ...
The trip today from Bimini to Chub Cay at 93 miles today would be my longest solo passage to date..., It would be a 16 hour journey.... sooner or later, I have to do it solo,  and this seemed like as good a time as any…. 

At 7:30 a.m., under a drizzlly dawn, I departed away from the dock at Blue Water Marina and entered one of the few marked channels found in the Bahamas.  In less than 2 hours, I would be out of sight of all land as I headed almost due east.  I was amazed at the shallow water depths, of 6-10 feet and watched as starfish on the ocean floor seemed to be looking up at me... at one point a dolphin led my bow, and at another point early in the day, I saw the silhouette of a hammerhead shark that was easily 7-8 feet in length.... I sang out loud, I stared at clouds, and I felt a comfort in knowing I could do this.  Today's modern sailor has the true advantage of technology like a GPS chart plotter that, when programmed properly,  will calculate your course, log your miles, show your course, give your speed and even your estimated time of arrival.  



The other vital piece of electronic gear is the electric auto pilot.  The auto pilot allows you to leave the wheel to do other things like prepare food, go down below, or even take a short snooze.  I have an autopilot, but sometimes it is tempermental, an it actually broke down for the final quarter of the trip... I must find a special part to get it back operational.... it can be very tiring if you cannot leave the wheel to do simple tasks such as make coffee or go to the bathroom.  Plus the auto pilot steers a much truer course than I ever could... Damn, I hope I can get it fixed...





DAY 4 ... Leaving Bimini to Chub Cay... A 90 mile day ahead...

 

She's underway again… she's a fine yacht… responds well and seems to like it.
And she's a fine wench.
The wreck Sapona... An eerie reminder of what could happen… great place for diving I was told

the 90 mile trip to the Northwest Channel was 16 hours… amazing this is the water depth for most of the trip was only about 8-10' deep… starfish smiled up at me all the way… also, a hammerhead swam beside the boat for a little bit.

After dropping the anchor at 1am I woke up to this view the following morn at Chub Cay….Ahhh

Spiky things growing thru the sand...

BAHAMAS 2014 continued….
FEB 25, 2014

Ok... I like it.  I've now been in the Bahamas for 7 days.... if my plans continue as they are, I will stay about 11 more weeks and return home near the end of May…. 90 days in the Bahamas works well for me.  

The past two days have been what I had always dreamed cruising would be like.... gentle breezes that blow me wherever they may although I altered my sails to use what wind is offered to get me where I want to go... I"ve spent the last 3-4 days in central Bahamas in a series of remote islands known as the Berry Islands.... Tomorrow I will sail the final 26 mile somewhat convoluted path to get my arse into what is called Grand Harbor Cay Marina... I"ve been pretty much alone the past 3 days so some people interaction will be a change.  You have to be comfortable with yourself to do this... Some folks might not know how to enjoy a picture post card setting without the companionship of another.  Although that would be nice at times, I'm quite content playing with my camera, fishing, snorkeling, reading, picking, dabbling on the boat, and most importantly studying the chart for my next move… weather is always foremost on my mind… Avoid foul weather at all costs … I'm sure the day will come when I'm hit w/ a big squall and high winds, but so far so good…. I will endure.

So, in no particular rhyme or reason, listed below are some rambling thoughts, photos, and observations from the past seven days

The night view… learning to use the chart plotter allowed me to enter and and anchor into an unknown harbor in the darkest moonless night I've even seen at 1 a.m.

Check out these high class showers at the Berry Islands Club Marina… I just left the door open and shined my hiney out to the great blue sea… no hot water mind you...

The Berry Islands Club Marina was quite remote… Here, I met a fellow single hander like myself, Bill… We shared some laughs and stories...

A little day hike up the hill side revealed a nice view I thought.

The fishing really improved once I headed north deeper into the Berry Islands… dinner of fish for 3 nights...


Spanish mackerel on the left… Amberjack on the right...


Lovely quiet anchorage at Lizzard Cay….
nobody around but me 

Check the chart, check the chart, check the chart, check!

RANDOM THOUGHTS ALONG THE WAY TODAY...

FEB 28, 2014  Talking with Myself...

It was just the other day I was having another conversation with myself.

I was commenting on the fact that I almost never disagree with myself and how well we get along... we like the same kinds of music, and both enjoy travel, sailing, and seeing new places... I noted how pleased I am as we've been getting along so well lately and I look forward to the next month especially.   

Even though we may go days without talking, it's all understood.  And when we get back together, we just pick up where we left off.  I came to realize this state of being about 7 hours into an 18 hour crossing towards the Northwest Channel.  I wish the conversation would have been longer, but myself would have no part of it... too much to do I said.  we'll pick it up later, ok?

But I'm telling you... the next time you want to go somewhere without me, I need a little lead time... is that too much to ask, Joe? You think I don't listen when really I do, and I know more about you than you know.  Just trust me on this one ok?  All I ask is for you is to be kind to me, and please include me on the fun stuff... lord knows you sure have a lot of that.

I don't mind if you carry on about insignificant little details, and I don't mind if you wash the paper plates just to be frugal... I know they're all environmental issues and I respect your ambition to do the right thing, even if that's a small drop in the bucket globally speaking... but I gotta tell you, you crack me up sometimes and you know I only want the best for you.

It was nice talking with you... see you around. 

BACK TO REALITY NOW...

the winds were light and so I was committed to "motor sailing" for most of the trip.  As nighttime moved in, I prepared to sail at night and enjoyed most all of the Bob Segar collection, including "Against The Wind"... The bad news is that the auto pilot stopped working.... I started getting tired around 9 pm, which was about 13 hours into the trip... I had spotted a red flashing marker many miles in the distance which would denote the Northwest Channel...

Then some odd bright white lights suddenly appeared far away on my stern... obviously some vessel was approaching me from the rear... Upon my radio contact, the captain replied and stated that he was a 125' cargo barge preparing to pass me... it's so easy to loose your bearing at night or to identify lights as vessels, much less calculate the distance they are from you...  But he was a friendly skipper and passed me on my starboard side... He said he was 300 yards on my beam, but for all I could tell, it could have been a mile away... distances are very difficult to determine at nightime....

The night stars were breathtaking as well.... Big Dipper and Orion were easy for me to spot.  For the final 2 miles I was totally trusting of my chart plotter... and thankfully, I was able to navigate successfully into an unknown harbor and anchorage at 1 a.m.... drop the anchor and crash...  Now I can see how pilots can land jets into pitch black nights with no visibility using the accuracy of the GPS instrument... It worked like a charm, and lack of confidence in using the plotter had suddenly changed.... I'll sleep in tomorrow and make a plan from there.

If I ever get married again, it might be in this little sea side chapel…. 
what am I saying?! somebody slap me!
 
Guitars, barefeet, and rainbows...

An old abandoned light house marks the entrance to Little Whale Cay… man, I rode some powerful swales pushing me into this cut from the sea to a lovely lee side anchorage peaceful as could be … however, there were submerged dangerous , rocky outcrops right in the middle of the cut…  thankfully, they were marked on the chart and I cleared them easily…  always read ahead on the chart, kids.



Surgery is about to begin… 
A small mackerel, but perfect size for 2 meals...


March 1. (Day 5 in the Bahamas)

This is bit of a long story, but sometimes I just do that… it taught me a lesson on the value of living... it goes like this.

After covering nearly 100 miles yesterday, I opted for an easy day sail under perfect conditions today for a 6 mile lovely sail into an area called 
I tinkered on the auto pilot and then went ashore at the little marina here for internet access... but then something happened that really opened my eyes... a very close call it was.

When I climbed back onto the boat tonight I was trembling... This episode was different than any other, and it scared the BeJesus out of me... I've had some minor close calls in my boating life, but tonight was different, and I thank God it turned out ok.

yes, the bahamas are breathtaking and everyone envisions lots of cyrstal clear water, white sand beaches, sun tan lotion and scenic vistas... but as a single handed cruiser there are some situations where there is a serious danger factor out there, and you'd better never ever, never ever, get too complacent or think it can't happen to you...

There are Certain currents here that are strong as a river and they will sweep you away in no time if you fall in... Like tonight, I'  tied to a mooring ball in front of the Berry Islands Club marina... The name sounds fancy, but its a little dump of a worn out marina run by a cool older black gentleman named Howard... anyway my boat is rocking on the mooring ball like its in a washing machine all day today and still more tonight... it won't let up and makes for a not very pleasant "anchorage".... just boarding the dinghy from the stern ladder was a challenge in itself... rocking, swaying, up and down, all around...  be careful with your footing.... But I had a close call tonight that really woke me up to the dangers that are out there, and how you must always, always have your wits about you.... even if you've made a poor decision, how to make the best of it.

I had taken my dinghy into the dock to use the internet and to stretch my legs since Id been on the boat for 3 days without setting foot on land... It was a pleasant reprieve and I felt good as I loaded my backpack and untied from the dock preparing to return to my boat ... I knew it was dark and the swirling girating current would be out there as I made my way  back to Glory Days, as she rested about 200 yards away from the dock... So I even put on my life jacket which I don't always do..  I pulled away from the dock going extra slow to return... I was smart enough to turn on the anchor light for Glory Days before I left,  so as to help me find her in the dark when I returned... 

so far so good, just putsing along slowing into the channel very slowly.... this trip back home started out fairly calm, but as I got about halfway there I noticed there were some big ass swales and waves coming in an unpredictable sequence against my beam...They seemed to get bigger and bigger , and I still had a long ways to go... it was like these waves were rolling down a big hill coming at me in the dark... they had deep valleys that I suddenly found myself navigating thru.. I increased my speed to try and get ahead of this onslaught of waves in the night... suddenly, it seemed like they were coming faster and deeper, taller and more menacing... some were even cresting with white caps, and I soon realized this was not good.... my little rubber boat was being tossed around like a rag doll...One particular wave rose above my stern scared me just as I made contact with Glory Days... I soon realized that capsizing was a real possibility... I grabbed onto the side rail of the boat and manually pulled myself and the rubber boat around back to the boarding ladder... waves kept crashing into me as I tossed my gear aboard and cautiously climbed on board... 

For a moment I was speechless, but had to act fast to secure the dinghy so she wouldn't get pounded by the waves that were propelled by this ever strong current... I thought to myself what would have happened if I were to capsize in this fast moving current at night .... All my electronic gear like cell phone, Ipad and camera seemed meaningless had they been lost... Thank God I was wearing my life jacket... it was still a challenging job just to raise the dinghy out of the water and lash her down... The boat was rocking to and fro.... my heart was pounding.

I knew it was going to a very long night with a very unsteady boat... she's rolls, she rocks, and I wonder if this mooring ball will hold me here tonight... I can't think about that... This one, this episode that appeared so suddenly and unexpected, took my breath away and I thank God that I was not victim to a rougue wave in this dark night on the first day of March...The power of water must never be underestimated.

 I must find a quieter anchorage tomorrow.  I came downstairs and was actually shaking a bit... it was a close call. I'm alive.


This hole in the rocky bank amazed me… I studied the water rushing through it for quite a while… no grand conclusions…. just good stuff.


 A short trail led to this beach… not a soul in sight except for mine.
A fisherman's floaty device to hold nets afloat…

MOre Lessons in safety,, Kids..
There have been 2 other episodes that made me think just how easily one could get hurt or even die out here.  A couple of weeks ago, at No Name Harbor, it was a gorgeous sunny warm day, so I decided to clean the side of the boat while swimming... It all went well, and so I decided to change the zinc element that is underwater bolted to the propeller shaft.  Its an easy procedure, but it does require using a small Allen wrench underwater with mask and fins, to secure the new zinc to the propeller shaft... First attempt resulting in me dropping and loosing my little Allen wrench while trying to connect the bolts underwater... no problem, I have a spare wrench.  But this time, I decided to tie the little wrench to my wrist using a short piece of rawhide to act as a tether.  So after donning my mask and snorkel, I went down again and made the initial connection to the prop shaft before I had to surface for more air... It would take another dive down to complete the task.

It did not happen, but it occurred to me that it would have only taken one little miscue or miscalculation on my part for that rawhide tether to become snagged or wrapped around the prop shaft as I tighten the bolts... If that would've happened I could have found myself struggling under the hull of the boat to free the tangled tether from my wrist and/or from the propeller shaft... I could have drowned if something like that had gone wrong...I guess I realized this when the rawhide briefly touched the prop shaft while I was underwater and I saw how easily it COULD have happened... lesson learned... don't tie strings to your wrist if you are going underwater to work on your boat... It was not really a close call, but it could have been an easy fix gone bad under different situations... you gotta be smart to do this, and that was dumb.

Another episode  that made me think twice about my judgment happened when I was tying the sail cover back onto the main sail... it was a windy day, and before I knew it, the wind just took my favorite cap right off my head and blew it overboard... I loved that hat, and was determined not to loose is.... I tried to grab it with a boat hook, but it drifted away too fast... I had to make a decision, and my decision was to remove my shoes and shirt and dive into the water to go get that stupid hat... it kept drifting further and further away in the small harbor.... I took one last look to focus on its location before diving into the water... but when I came up, I found myself now level with the water and could not spot the hat... like a fool, I swam briskly in the direction where I had seen it last... drats, it could not locate it... in my efforts to get the hat, I found that I had swum rather far away from the boat, and stupid me did not take the time to put on a life jacket before diving in... nothing went wrong, but it could have.. thankfully, I'm a pretty good swimmer, but it had been a long time since I had swam that kind of distance to get back to the boat... what I should have done, was put on a life jacket before making an excursion like that in my haste... I got caught up in the emotion of missing my tan nylon ball cap that fit so perfectly... things are just things and are worthless, even when you have them… some "things" are just not worth the risk.. let them go… let them go… that's true w/ a lots of things… let it go.

This has been my favorite beach so far… but I'm just getting' started… but it'll be hard to beat this one.. I felt like I was in Spain… Well, I"ve never actually been to Spain, but when I think of Spain this seems to fit … hee hee…




Well folks, this blog post is getting sort of long winded, so let me wind it down… that's odd, wind down the wind… no wonder foreigners has trouble with our language…

But to cut to the chase,,,, I made it all the way to the tip of the Berry Islands and spent 3 days at the Great Harbor Cay marina… I ran into Bill again there and hung out with some other fine boater folks… the marina was really nice and reasonable priced..

Now I find myself in Nassau… the GREAT news is the my daughter, Amy will arrive here tomorrow to spend some time exploring the Exumas with me… the adventure continues…. heck, its just getting started! 

Hang on!







 This was an amazing entrance to Great Harbor Cay Marina… I felt like I was in Morroco… but I've never actually been to Morroco, so what would I know.. I can't even spell it correctly… hee hee..

 Closing shots…. 
Stay tuned for the next part of the journey… into the Exumas!…. I'm not sure when that will be posted, cause it's just too darn hard to sit in front of a computer for hours when there's a fairyland out your back door… but thanks for following along the blog… I know it gets long and drags at times, but it's a record for me and hopefully and inspiration to someone out there one of these days…

onward…  joe

  





video

video



















   





2 comments:

  1. No internet or phone? Sounds like you have already gone to Heaven. My dream is to skip my phone like a flat rock across some beautiful body of water, preferably salt water, after removing the batteries, of course. :-)

    BTW, safety harnesses are your friend, we use them often in the concert world... don't slack on them like you did the life vest on your "hat rescue". Lecture over.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Joe. Nice blog. Thanks for your comment on tethering wrenches to your wrist. I've done this a bunch of times while messing around the prop and never thought of the consequences of getting caught.

    ReplyDelete