The Details

On Dec 22nd, we departed Peck Lake, as early as possible. As it was Friday and a holiday weekend, we expected the waterways to get busy in the afternoon. There are seven opening bridges between Peck Lake and our anchorage near the entrance to West Palm Beach. And each bridge is on a different schedule of openings. The challenge is to try to get between them with the correct timing, so as you don’t have to wait a half hour for the next opening. And, of course, the current is against us.

Finally, we dropped anchor south of Peanut Island and began to make preparations for the crossing. I cooked some hard boiled eggs and made up some salmon for sandwiches. Murray checked the engine and alternator belt alignment.

Saturday dawned with grey skies and the wind in the wrong direction. Was the weather report wrong? We were in a quandary and the radio calls between boats indicated that we were not the only ones. Finally a rain squall went trough and the winds changed to the predicted direction. Quickly we pulled the dinghy onto the deck and headed out the inlet.

With the outgoing tide against the on-shore wind, the inlet was ugly. Square waves bashed us for about a mile and then settled down somewhat. The boat tucked into a close-haul and we were trucking. The boat was heeled over ( leaned over ) 20 to 25 to 30 degrees and my “house” down belowdecks wasn’t faring to well. Once the bookcase threw its extra cards and books on the floor and the throw cushions from the starboard settee joined them, things settled down somewhat. But, I don’t move around much in those conditions.

With the wind blowing from the southeast, we weren’t able to head to the Berry Islands, so changed plans our destination to Lucaya, Grand Bahamas. We dodged a few ships but the crossing was quite quiet. As we were under full sail, with no engine runing, we had to hand steer the whole way. You see, the autopilot takes too much power. The wind continued and we arrived at the entrance to Lucaya at 0400. Low tide. There is not a lot of water in their entrance but a vessel ahead reassured us that we would find enough water. When we turned on the engine, it was not pumping cooling water. Shut down quick! Now, we sail in. Between the markers, around the corners, drift past the marina and drop anchor under sail. Whew! A job for the morning to check out the cooling system.

In the morning, the engine pumped water fine (wouldn’t you know!) and we motored to our slip. Customs and immigration were handled quickly and then it is time for brunch. The afternoon was spent dozing by the pool.

Christmas Day was hot and muggy. A celebration dinner was laid out on the pool deck with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, plus Bahamian favourites like peas and rice , macaroni and cheese. Rum cake was served for dessert. Friends shared our table and enjoyed the spread.

Boxing Day we awoke to rain that varied from a deluge to a patter. When the skies cleared, we left the marina ( $64/ day ) and anchored nearby. Our alarm went off at 0600 on the 27th. We hauled anchor and sailed ( again! ) all the way to Great Stirrup Cay, at the top of the Berry Island chain. It was a lumpy anchorage and we left again early the next morning to motorsail 20 miles south to Hoffman Cay. This is a good spot to unwind.

The wind is predicted to blow hard for the next few days, so we will remain here. Murray is in his element, catching fish one after the other from the cockpit. I enjoy the beach walks and shelling nearby. We had our first dive of the season yesterday and bagged a lobster and a conch. The new knee seems to work just fine with fins and climbing into the dinghy.

Last night, we organized the first beach cocktail party of our winter and all of the boats anchored nearby attended. Now, what to do for New Year’s Eve….?

Hopefully your holiday season has been full of fun with family and friends nearby. Take care of each other and best wishes for 2007.

Hugs, Murray & Heather

Christmas Crossing?

Yes, it is almost here. Today is Dec 21st and our tree is decorated and set up in the centre of our table. All of the lockers are stuffed full, ready to cross over to the islands. The laundry is done and everything is ready, I think.

Except for the weather. Today it is blowing hard and our wind generator and solar panels are filling up the batteries. Right now we are anchored at Peck Lake, which is just a wide spot to the side of the ICW. But, there is access to the beach and we may go for a walk later. Friends, George & Nancy Marvin from Trumpeter, live just a mile down the ICW and invited us over yesterday. We showered, did laundry and borrowed the car to pick up the last minute fresh stuff. Then they plied us with steak and wine and even ice cream! It is wonderful to have good friends.

Tomorrow we will move on down the ICW to West Palm Beach and anchor near Peanut Island to be ready if this window materializes. Saturday and Sunday’s forecasts seem to show that we can get across the Gulf Stream without too much pain.

Will we have turkey and presents? Well, there is a turkey breast in the new freezer, just waiting for the right day. And, as for presents, there are a few things stashed in the cupboards that will find their way into the stockings. Things like batteries, a headlamp, Sudoku books, flavoured coffee and small boxes of chocolate. Little treats. Our best presents are the love we have for each other and all of you, our friends and family. Without that, presents are just more stuff. And, of course,the gift of good health. Murray will be more than happy to stop coughing and I am glad that I can walk, without pain. Those are the important gifts.

Once we get to the islands, then we will have to decide if we head straight to Staniel to enter the New Year’s Regatta or, if we meander through the Berry Islands. All will depend on the weather as another cold front will be hard on our heels. We don’t get snow but get the strong north winds that cause us to take shelter.

When we are underway, we will let you all know and also of our safe arrival. Meanwhile, enjoy some eggnog for us! Sit by the cozy fireplace with the snow blowing outside and marvel at the family and friends around you.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

New Adventures

Well, at about 12:30 today, Dec 10th, we cast our lines off and departed the dock at Green Cove Springs. Off for another season of adventures in a small boat.

Arriving at the marina on Nov 20th, we found the boat to be in good condition after the summer, with very little evidence of mildew to be found. Murray buffed the hull again, with Aquabuff, and she shines as though she was brand new. We put on a new coat of bottom paint and did a few other jobs aboard. By Tuesday, Nov 28th, we were ready to launch.

Then, tidy up the mess down below as friends arrive on the 30th! Linda and Kuyler flew down for a week visit to help us get the boat ready. We put them to work, washing the yard dirt off of the deck, polishing the ports both outside and in and helping me stock the boat with cans and other groceries. Meanwhile, Murray was dealing with his own issues – a wind generator to install ( replacement for the old unit ), a cracked elbow on the cooling system, leaking stuffing box, etc etc. Mostly we tried to stay out of his way!

But it wasn’t all work and no play. The marina had a lovely Thanksgiving potluck on the 23rd and even us Canadians got in on the act. Paul, the yard manager, supplied a turkey and a ham and the boaters brought the rest. Yumm. With Linda and Kuyler, we managed to take one night off to visit Clark’s Fish Camp in Jacksonville. That was an experience! Delicious seafood in interesting surroundings and good friends to share it with.

When Linda and Kuyler headed back, we got really serious. I had an opportunity to purchase a used Sailrite sewing machine, on launch day. It had a few problems but we got those ironed out and it works like a charm. I made a canvas storage bag, with a full length zipper, to store Murray’s Fortress anchor. Now, we are looking at making our own dodger and bimini, in the spring.

The waterline slowly disappeared as we hauled groceries back to the boat and stowed them away. The new portable Engel freezer is jammed packed with meats and tucked in the aft cabin. The freezer in the icebox is filled with cold meats and cheeses.

Now, to remove the old batteries and install the new ones. Those are darn heavy things! We created an elevator with a milk crate and the spinnaker halyard. That job went better than we expected. The biggest hold-up was the laundry. But, after about 3 hours, it was done and folded.

Today, we got up, closed the boat tightly and set off insect bombs to kill any cockroaches that might have decided to travel with us. Then air the boat out again, stow the car away, and toss the lines.

The sun is shining brightly but the wind has a cold bite to it. We will travel as far down the river today as we can, entering the ICW tomorrow. And then, travel as fast as we can, heading south. But that is only at 6 to 7 knots! Arising at dawn and anchoring at dusk, we can expect to make about 60 to 70 miles per day, equivalent to one hour by car. Slow, huh?

Once we get south of Vero Beach, we will start looking for weather windows to cross the Gulf Stream. But, that is a few days away.

My new knee has not given me much trouble. Occasionally, it swells up some and I try to sit down more the next day. But, there is no pain or heat in the joint. All good things.

We finally found a new, tiny tree for the boat and acquired some lights today. Soon, we may get some decorations up for Christmas. I keep forgetting that it is so close.

Stay warm everyone.

Hugs to all, Heather & Murray