December 2010

Staniel Cay

Hello All

During the night Christmas Day, the winds began to howl. And the howling continued through the next two days with the wind clocked at a maximum of 40 knots during gusts. The wind generator kept the batteries fully charged but the winds were cool. It was time once again for long pants and sweaters.

There was wireless available and we purchased a three day package from one provider. The service was strong enough to take my money but seldom strong enough for us to connect! What a pain that was.

On Monday, we braved the high winds and went ashore to collect e-mails and answer what we could. A little restaurant had free wifi available, with a purchase of some coffee or food. From there, we went to The Poop Deck, at Nassau Yacht Haven for lunch.

SaYes was on a dock at Nassau Harbour Club and together we made plans to depart in the morning.

On Tuesday, the winds finally died somewhat and we hauled anchor and sailed across the Yellow Banks towards the Exuma Cays. The wind was on our stern quarter and we flew across the miles, passing every boat ahead of us, and arriving near Norman’s Cay shortly after 1 pm. The decision was made to continue down the island chain, eventually dropping the hook at Hawksbill Cay, in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We didn’t pick up one of their moorings but they do provide them at many of the cays in the park.

The depths coming into the anchorage were slightly less than shown on the chart and during the evening, we started to kiss the bottom. Thunk, thunk. That sound is never a good one and especially after dark. With shallows surrounding us, we opted to stay where we were rather than blunder about in the dark. My alarm rings at 0615 each morning for the weather net and, while I recorded the information, Murray hauled the anchor just as the dawn broke over the low cay. At that point we had about mid tide and he saw about 6 inches below the keel at the shallowest. He re-anchored and then we made preparations for the real departure.

Shortly after lunch, we dropped anchor near Staniel Cay, in Big Major Spot. Friends, Doug and Connie on High Stepper and Gordon and Lori on Mystic, came over right away to welcome us to the neighbourhood.

We plan to stay here through the New Years celebrations and maybe take part in the Staniel Cay Cruisers Regatta. After that, we have no plans other than to enjoy these islands and the people who live on them.

May the New Year find you and yours with good health and much happiness.

Heather & Murray

Blowing in the Wind

Today we are anchored on the banks near Devil’s and Hoffman’s Cays. The wind is from the west to northwest and the current runs east or west, depending on the state of the tide. All night long, the boats in here jostled and bounced and twisted about their anchors with the wind against the current. The waves slapped against our overhung transom and sent salt water flying into the cockpit. Now the tide has turned and we are just bouncing and tossing instead of lurching. This is a huge improvement.

The wind is supposed to increase and clock more northward during the day, so maybe things will calm down somewhat. Tomorrow, by dawn, the wind should die a little and clock some more, going to the northeast. This will allow us to haul anchor and sail to Nassau. A vessel from Manitoba, “Say Yes” with David and Bob aboard will accompany us on the trek. Wendy, the usual Admiral aboard, has gone home for Christmas and Bob is helping David sail south into the Exumas. They will take a dock in Nassau while we anchor as usual.

The stores will be closing as we arrive but I will try to get tokens for the laundry as soon as I can. That job can be done on Saturday or Sunday, depending on weather. Another cold front is expected through on Sunday with again some very strong winds. Hopefully the stores will re-open on Monday and we can visit the grocery to re-stock our vegetable bin.

On Tuesday, we should be able to continue on into the Exuma Cays, with plans to reach Staniel before New Years. Perhaps we shall enter the regatta once again, depending on the crew situation.

So, those are our plans for the next few days. Written in jello, as always.

Enjoy your Christmas gatherings with family and friends. If we manage to get an e-mail connection, you may hear from us by Skpye. Otherwise, Merry Christmas to all and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!!! Imagine, 2011!

Heather & Murray

Safe Arrival

Just a short message to let you all know that we made another safe crossing to the Bahamas. Departing West Palm Beach near 0300 hrs today ( Thursday ), we motorsailed the whole distance. The waves were less than a meter with occasional splashes into the cockpit. The passage started out quite cool but finally we warmed up in the late afternoon. In fact, it warmed enough to take off our rain gear for the first time in days.

A cold front is expected soon so we will stay put for a few days, at anchor here in the canals of Lucaya.

Hugs to all
Heather & Murray

Frost on the Deck

Remember how I complained about the cold in the last message? I didn’t know how cold Florida could get. Morning temperatures have been right at the freezing point with the wind chill pushing it much lower.

On Sat Dec 4th, we departed Reynolds Marine Park and headed towards and through Jacksonville. It was a cool day but quite comfortable and we anchored near Blount Island, just a few miles from the entrance into the ICW. Arising before the dawn the next morning, we hauled anchor and headed out. Again, it was cold but comfortable in long sleeves, polar fleece vest and rain jackets to break the wind. It was a strong northwest wind that blew us along quickly and we made good time, anchoring near Fort Matanzas just after 3 pm.

But the next morning it was bitterly cold as we hauled anchor with the dawn. Dressed as the day before, I quickly froze at the helm. When Murray took over, I dashed below. There in the aft cabin hung our seldom used survival suits. They had been purchased in the early 90’s and I think that we had them on a total of three times since then. But, if ever they were needed, it was now. Just removing my rain jacket, I stuffed myself into a top-to-toe yellow snowsuit. Now I felt like a little kid sent out to play in the snow but unable to move or bend. But I was warmer! Taking over the helm, I sent Murray down to don his.

All day long, we wore those suits. Actually, in order to move more freely when we stopped for fuel, we removed them at that point and dressed in layers that gave us flexibility. We anchored early once again just north of New Smyrna Beach. The next morning found me digging in lockers once more. I found my silk long johns, again carried aboard since ’97 and never worn. Wearing these under the survival suit, rather than jeans etc, gave me the ability to move more freely and kept me quite warm. One thing that I couldn’t dig out of the lockers, was hats or mittens. That bag of unused items was taken home and sits in my closet. We do have sailing gloves though and those keep our hands relatively warm. This year as I packed clothing, I decided that one long sleeved shirt was sufficient. What an idiot I was! But who could know that Florida would experience the coldest Dec on record? That one shirt has gotten a lot of wear the last few days!

The problem that we have is that, at the end of the day, when we take off those survival suits and go below decks, there is NO HEAT! We don’t have a furnace and our ceramic heater won’t work unless we are plugged into power. Which we are not, when at anchor. So, the little coal oil light burns and gives off some warmth. Cuddling together under the covers is the best way that we have found to stay warm. But, you can’t stay in bed all day!

On Monday, we managed to make contact with old friends, Pete and Lani on MarNel. Sharing an anchorage with them, for the first time in 9 years, was great. On Tuesday, we both motored south and anchored at Cocoa. It has been too cold to get together but we are both staying put today. Plans have been made to go ashore, find a warm restaurant and catch up on all of the news. They have a different vessel than when we sailed together previously. MarNel IV was a Endeavor 42 centre cockpit and MarNel is a Leopard 40 catamaran. They purchased the vessel out of charter in the Virgin Islands, brought it back to the US for re-fit and sailed back into the Caribbean for several years. Health issues brought them back to the US last year. Now, they plan to spend a little time in the Bahamas and we look forward to continuing the good times that we have shared.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will scrape the frost off of the deck once again, haul anchor and head on south to Vero Beach for a few days. I need to finalize some Christmas shopping and send a few small parcels north to the grandchildren. Once that is completed, we will start to watch for crossing opportunities.

Until then, we will stay in touch, write when possible and try to stay warm. Hugs
Heather & Murray

PS Spent a few days in Vero before moving south again on Sunday, the 12th. Anchored in Peck Lake watching weather with strong north winds blowing. Possible window later this week.

Freezing in Florida

Hello everyone

Yes I know that it is December but this morning the temperature here was within 2 degrees of the temperature in Tillsonburg! That is darn chilly. But we do have good news and even better news.

The good news is that the frig parts finally arrived on Wednesday, Nov 24th. It had been ordered in June for shipment in September to the marina. But, it DID arrive. At least most of it.

Murray holding an insulation piece showing the complex shapeMurray measured the coiled refrigeration lines three times and did the calculations to figure out exactly how much line was in that coil. Each time, the number came up short. We had ordered 16 feet of refrigeration line but were only shipped 12 foot lines. I contacted the manufacturer while Murray started installing the unit. Previously he had re-insulated the icebox, installing 3/4 inch R5 foil-backed foam insulation on all sides of the box. He made patterns in order to follow the curves and each cut edge was sealed with aluminum duct tape.

Insulated iceboxThe copper refrigerant lines had to be fed through the wall of the icebox, behind the stove ( which had to be removed for the installation ), through the pot locker, the hanging locker and into the area under the aft cabin berth. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough length to reach the compressor. Together we lowered the heavy holding plate ( the source of the cold for the frig ) into place with me supporting it while Murray secured it in position. Then he constructed a box around the holding plate which works on a spill-over principle. If we had left the cold plate uninsulated the whole box might freeze or at least anything that came into contact with the holding plate would freeze. At first I was disappointed by the reduction in the size of my frig but soon realized that the huge bag of ice was hogging some space. Since our arrival at the boat, we had been using ice to keep our food somewhat cold.

What to do about the short lines, we pondered? Should we have a whole new cold plate with the correct length lines sent to us? How much longer would that take? We contacted the manufacturer again or rather, tried to. His phone said ” no longer in service” and his e-mail address bounced. Now what?

Thinking that our supplier’s business had failed, we wandered to Green Cove Springs Marina. There, friends cheered us up over multiple glasses of wine and convinced Murray that he could add the correct length himself. In the morning he headed to his favourite store, Ace Hardware, where he purchased some 1/4 inch copper tubing, silver solder and the torch needed to solder. Another friend at the marina flared the tubing so that the end of the old piece would fit into the new addition and then be held securely with the solder. Once all was securely held, he connected all of the lines,purged the system and then brought the compressor up to the required pressure. The frig started and ran!! The temperature in the icebox started to fall. Our new digital monitor made it easy to watch the progress of the cooling. That project was finished. There are more photos of the job here on our website.

Quickly the final shopping expeditions were organized and months worth of foods stashed everywhere aboard. Meats were vacuum packed and placed in our freezer. The bill at both marinas was paid in full and we were ready to go. To leave the dock!! Arriving in Florida on Nov 4th, we will be heading off one month later, on Saturday Dec 4th.

But that is the even better news. Tomorrow, bright and early in the cold dawn hours, we will cast off our lines and head down the river towards Jacksonville, anchoring for the night near Blount Island only a few miles from the ICW. It will take us several days to get down where things are warmer but that will keep us traveling southward. On the way, we will test the various systems and stop in Vero Beach if something needs repair. Doesn’t it always?

So, continue to send pictures and jokes to our gmail address but the best way to reach us from now on will be by our winlink e-mail. I will send a quick message from that one to make sure that everyone is registered on our white list.

Take care of each other, write often and stay warm. Hugs to all up north,

Murray & Heather

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