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Month: February 2014

Paddleboarding and The Blue Hole anchored off White Cay

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It was a 19nm sail down to White Cay where we ducked in to set anchor. Peter almost missed the turn as we surfed the boat through the cut. It was pretty clear that it was too shallow to go forward through the next part so we followed the breadcrumbs on the chartplotter from the previous owner in to a sharp turn to starboard and settled in next to another sailboat.

Peter and I took the dogs to shore with the dinghy. There were many small islands and little tiny beaches but not much sand around the islands. Mostly lava rock and no shells. We watched the sunset from our private beach then went to say hello to another ketch anchored nearby.

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We got back and had the rests of the snapper caught the day before. It was a rough and rolly anchorage because there was so much current being pushed through from two different locations. That night we swung all the way around over and over. We kept the mizzen up to hopefully point into the wind but the current kept swinging us in circles.

Tuesday 2.18.14 first thing in the morning Gunner told us he needed to go potty and as soon as we got him to the Astroturf on the aft deck, he went pee right away!! Old dogs can learn new tricks!

Leah wanted to go for an adventure on the paddleboards so Peter helped finish getting them ready. We are missing the screw and nut that holds the fin on so he secured it with a zip-tie instead. I was extremely leery of drifting away from the boat with just the paddles. The current was wicked and the night before the guys had trouble swimming back to the boat while carrying their dive gear. As long as the guys followed us in the dinghy for the first part of the paddling I decided to give it a shot.

I had no idea how calm and beautiful it was about to be once we got around the point where the waves were breaking! Finally we were able to move from our knees to standing up and then we paddled through the crystal blue green waters. This really is the stuff dreams are made of.

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There were sting rays and bright blue fish swimming under us in the sandy shallows. We saw a few turtles too.

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Peter and Josh went back to get the dogs in the dinghy. When they got back to us, I got Betsy out for her first time on a paddleboard! She is such a good water dog :) We weren’t ready to try it with Gunner yet. He was feeling much better but we figured he just might not have the strength yet for something as crazy as that.

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After a bit of doggy paddling we got towed over on the paddleboards to the trail that leads to the Blue Hole of Hoffmans Cay.

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The four of us and the dogs hiked up the trail until we could see the big hole in the middle of the island. Its something like 600 feet deep and connects to the ocean so its all salt water. We heard Jacques Cousteau discovered it many moons ago.

Peter jumped off the cliff into the deep blue hole and the rest of us climbed down a little further. It was amazing! The edge just dropped off into a deep abyss.

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There was a cave like area that had been worn away and tucked up underneath, completely undisturbed in the sand, was written “Journey.” I knew it must have been left by our friends aboard S/V Journey who arrived there just a couple weeks before us. Sailing Journey, we’re right behind you!!

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Betsy and Gunner went swimming with the boys and then we hiked back out.

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We headed back to the boat then checked out the beach closest to us. Peter and Josh took their Hawaiian slings over to the outside of the island and tried again for some dinner. Peter got one lobster and one unknown species of fish. When we finally filleted it up later that night we discovered the fish had some sort of parasite inside so we tossed the whole thing overboard :( We BBQ’d chicken instead with a tasty little lobster appetizer. Still a pretty good meal for living on the hook!

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Sunsets and Sand

Saturday 2.15.14 We laid low through the stormy weather and got a little laundry and blog posting done.

Sunday 2.16.14 We woke up and prepared the boat to leave. The fuel dock was an interesting experience. The stern line had to be extra long to reach the dock. There was a small fishing boat that pulled up next to us single handed and his stern swept into us and bumped our hull because he didn’t have control of the boat. No damage was done, thank goodness.

After leaving Great Harbour, we headed North up and around the Cay and back east and south down the other side. We stopped just across from the cove at Lover’s Beach.

All four of us took the dogs to shore at a beautiful white sandy beach and Leah and I were in shell heaven! There were so many unique shells there.IMG_4834

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The dogs were happy to run on the beach and get some new smells. Gunner decided he was going to eat a bunch of sand. Crazy dog.

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The sunset was spectacular. Our little slice of heaven. 

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That night Gunner got real sick and threw up several times. His dinner that night was fish and rice so it really smelled bad as it went through the grate in the cockpit. I spent the whole night, literally until 6:30am, cleaning up puke over and over again. It wasn’t exactly calm water either which made it worse. Peter tried to stay awake with me but his gag reflex kept him at a safe distance away.

Monday 2.17.14, totally sleep deprived, I went back to shell city to find a few more treasures and let the dogs go potty on land again. Gunner must have learned his lesson because he didn’t even try to eat anymore sand.

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We saw some sort of reef shark checking out the boat. It wouldn’t come quite close enough to figure out what kind it was.

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We enjoyed the morning with turquoise all around us.

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Pretty Pretty Bahamas…

Valentine’s Day at Lover’s Beach, Great Harbour Cay, Bahamas

Thursday 2.13.14 we spent a good portion of the day putting the boat back together and cleaning up. We filled our water tanks, did some laundry and Peter fixed the anti-siphon hose on the generator. Turns out the boat right next to us on our dock used to cruise with the previous owners of our boat, Steve and Judy, all the time! Jon and Arline (SV Kasidah) probably know our boat better than we do :) What a small world! Jon helped Peter with the hose and they talked boats for awhile. Josh and Leah made a trip into town to grab some groceries while I stuck around the boat to finish laundry and write a few blog posts while I had wifi. Dinner that night was grilled steaks we bought at Costco before leaving Florida :)

Friday 2.14.14 Valentine’s Day – We left the dogs to watch the boat from inside the cabin and got a ride from a Bahamian man that runs the water company. He didn’t want us to pay him for the ride but we gave him a little anyway. He drove us to the east side of Great Harbour Cay down a dirt road. There were big houses scattered along the way with beautiful patches of countryside in between.

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We finally arrived at a clearing in the trees that opened up to a white sand beach. Our new friend offered to come back to pick us up in a few hours so we entered his phone number into the sat phone so we could call him later. The water was the most gorgeous color of clearish turquoise and just barely covered the sand that extended out to a small island about a half mile away.

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We began trekking across the sand bar towards Lover’s Beach. The current had carved out areas that were deeper than others and as we waded through, the water came up to our bellybuttons. We carried our beach bags, backpacks and dive bags up on top of our heads like they were precious baskets of water being brought back to a village.

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The sand was soft beneath our toes and there was only a tiny bit of sea grass and urchins in the water to carefully step around. On the other side of the sand bar I found my first whole sand dollar!!IMG_4675

The cove in front of us was what dreams are made of. The many colors of the water here in the Bahamas are so surreal.

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We walked a little further around the point where Peter and Josh could go diving for lobster. It was very rocky and sharp on that side of the island where the waves had eroded away the lava rock. As we set down our bags Josh saw a bunch of coconuts growing behind us. He took one of the Hawaiian slings to knock down a couple coconuts. We really are WHERE THE COCONUTS GROW! Leah had no trouble busting one open on a lava rock. The water inside was like a taste of heaven. It was so refreshing on a hot day and definitely helped rehydrate us all. Livin’ the dream :)

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The guys went out diving and Leah and I put our masks on and checked out the shallows on the inside of the cove. Eventually Josh came back to bring Leah and I out to where the guys were diving. Leah had on her Nikes and I had my fins. We put on our masks and snorkels and started exploring the underwater world in front of us. We saw pretty bright blue reef fish and colorful coral up and down the valleys of white sand. We wished we had brought our underwater camera! Unfortunately there were no lobster here or anything else to spear but we had a blast snorkeling around anyway.

After awhile a while sand beach appeared on the shoreline as a signal it was time to come in. I was the only one without shoes or booties so I carefully climbed over the lava rock barefoot. Just call me Jody Lundin! (one of our favorite TV shows back on land is Dual Survival with Cody Lundin. Everywhere he goes, he is barefoot. He treks through the most dangerous places to survive like the Amazon, Sahara and Alaska wilderness)

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Back where our dive began, we brought out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some fresh tangerines that Jon and Arline gave us. After lunch we trekked back across the sand bar. Along the way we found dozens of sand dollars in a path back to shore, almost like a yellow brick road.

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While we waited for our Bahamian friend to pick us up, Peter and I walked up the riverbank a little bit and saw a lionfish in the seagrass. Those suckers really are everywhere now. Crazy how fast they have become an invasive species. They carry a wicked toxin and have killed off much of the existing reef life.

 

Can you see the lionfish?

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We also saw a starfish close by. First one of the trip!

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When we got back to the boat we had to break the news to Jon and Arline that we didn’t have any lobster to contribute to the BBQ we had planned for that night. Jon was making his conch fritters. Luckily, the guys from the fishing tournament gave us a huge filet of King Mackerel. Peter served it up sashimi style. Holy crap that was good!!! Nothing like fresh sushi straight out of the ocean. We all crashed hard that night after a long day.

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Diving the Sapona Wreck and Crossing the Bahama Banks

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2.10.14 We left Brown’s and went back to the Sapona wreck at Turtle Rock. This time the anchor dug in good. Peter dove the anchor, then came back to help me get the watermaker fired up. It took a bit of deciphering but we finally figured out how to unpickle it from when the previous owners stored it last. It’s slow but it works! 6 gallons an hour is actually pretty good in terms of watermakers. There is a tiny tinge of saltiness in it but nothing a little ice won’t cover up :) Now we are totally self sufficient!

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Peter couldn’t wait to jump in! This man is a fish :)

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The guys played around with the Air Line hookah system for a little bit right off the boat. It works pretty well to just leave the engine on the aft deck and run the hoses off the back. That way they don’t have to mess with lifting it up and over the lifelines down into the water. There wasn’t a whole lot to see under the boat but it was fun to play around with it. They did a quick inspection of the bottom of the boat too. One of these days we need to clean the bottom now that we are in clear and warm enough water. Another thing to add to the list…

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After awhile, they decided it was time to go look at something really cool and swam over to the wreck with their masks and snorkels. It was a little intimidating for me and Leah so we stayed at the boat for now.

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If you haven’t read the page on our website that explains why we chose the name “Where The Coconuts Grow,” be sure to check it out and click the link ‘here‘.

We are finally in a place where we meet all the requirements of what we call the 80/80/80 Rule:

80° Air Temp

80° Water Temp:

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80′ Water Visibility:

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And we see coconuts floating by all the time ;)

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The next day (Tuesday 2.11.14) we all took the dinghy over to the wreck to look for lobster and so Leah and I could look around a little. It was amazing! There was a nurse shark hiding inside the wreck and lots of small fish and coral were fun to look at too. Even though it was just a nurse shark, I wasn’t too interested in getting close to it. Peter and Josh are like fish so diving down to nab those tasty little buggers was no problem for them. Still difficult nonetheless, but we ended up with four lobsters and two conch.

After dinner we pulled up the anchor, began the stowing process and left around 7pm to begin our crossing to the Berry Islands. The Bahama Banks are no joke either. There are some crazy deep areas and it was a good 70nm stretch. To our dismay, the winds were much stronger than we anticipated, giving us an average of 20 knots on the nose. This was yet again another long passage motoring into the wind. This time Peter, Josh and I did fine without taking any seasickness meds. Leah took some just in case. It was a very rolly ride. Trying to use the heads was like being on a roller coaster!!

Half way into the trip we noticed a lot of sea water rolling back behind our port side lockers in the galley. We were heeled over pretty good and dipping the bow into the water a lot so it was really tough to find out where it was coming from. We emptied out all the lockers, sopped up the water and finally determined nothing else was leaking.

We still don’t know what it was, but we have a few ideas. Either it was leftover water that ended up in our anchor locker as we took water over the bow, or it was from one of the seacocks backflowing into the boat as we crashed down from the waves. The aft head had spilled sea water over from the bowl. It hadn’t been locked shut properly and there was just too much pressure to keep the bowl from filling up. The most likely culprit is the leaking anti-siphon hose that is connected to the generator. At least its all clean and dry now!

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Wednesday 2.12.14 around 6:30pm we made it into Great Harbour Marina. It was dark but we had storm clouds on our tail and we got there as fast as we could motorsailing and tacking like crazy. The marina is super protected and tucked away. Docking was easy and the still water was incredibly peaceful. It was so nice to just be still. The showers were hot, the wifi reached the boat (although spotty and super slow) and there was a restaurant nearby to fill our bellies after a long crossing.

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Houston, We have a problem: NO STEERING

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Saturday afternoon, 2.8.14, we began to stow everything away to head back to Brown’s Marina. The water tanks needed to be topped off and we needed to fix the leaking bladder tank. The anchor went up without any trouble and we began to navigate away from the adjacent sand bar. Suddenly, it was very apparent to everyone that we had NO STEERING!! The current was strong, but there’s no way it could be strong enough to counteract our steering all together. The rudder position moved back and forth clear as day in the autopilot gauge but the rudder itself was just not moving.

In a panic to stay off the sand bar that was almost underneath us we let out the Genoa to the port side to catch enough wind to turn the bow in the direction we were trying to turn. With the help of our trusty prop walk to starboard in reverse (she only goes to the right in reverse no matter which way you steer) combined with full sail to port, we got back to our original location and quickly dropped the anchor again.

Peter dove off the back to see if the rudder moved at all as the wheel turned and to see if maybe it was hung up on something. Negative on both. There were no obstructions and it was no longer connected to the steering mechanisms.

Immediately, Peter told me to go get the emergency tiller arm. The previous owner, Steve, had it strapped inside the corner of the forward hanging locker with old, crusty and almost disintegrated bungee cords because they had been untouched for so long. This is one of those things that you haul around with you ‘just incase’. It’s a massive two-part aluminum pipe that could double as a weapon if we were feeling barbaric.

I scrambled to lift it up through the companionway into the cockpit and bring it out to Peter where he needed to insert it through the hole in the aft deck. It runs diagonally down into the aft cabin. The mattress had to be pulled off to access a removable board covering the hydraulic steering arm that connects to the rudder. We had the emergency tiller all ready to attach and then… BINGO! That was it! One of two bolts holding the top of the arm in place was completely busted off. With it just hanging there, the hydraulic steering system was unable to grip and turn the rudder. We were lucky it was only a bolt and nothing worse. The second bolt had bent a bit from the force of keeping it all together but it kept holding. There had been a grounding wire attached to the bolt intended to diffuse the electrolysis in the water and had completely disintegrated the bolt from the inside out. Guess it should have been placed somewhere else :(

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We made it back to Brown’s Marina two hours later. Josh steered us all the way with the emergency tiller arm while Peter navigated from the helm. By the time we arrived, it was already dark and the current was whipping through the channel as usual. It was past closing time so no one at the marina answered our call on the VHF radio. We tucked in on the outside of the dock behind a catamaran in the only space that was visibly available to us at the time and hoped someone would come out to help grab a line. It took two tries but the Mary Christine was finally tied back up at the dock safe and sound for the night.

We were all exhausted so we tied up the dogs in the cockpit to guard our home and walked up the road to Sherry’s for some dinner. It was a decent local meal but way overpriced. The bill was $100 for four people for some fish and lobster plates. After our minor disaster, it was worth not having to make dinner. Plus we got to relax in a super cute little beachfront patio.

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Back at the boat everyone at the dock was wondering what had happened. With the help of new cruiser friends John (S/V New Moon) and Alex (S/V Nikimat), Peter was able to put a new temporary bolt in, reconnect the hydraulic steering arm, and they even temporarily fixed a leak at the stuffing box packing nut. Before they made the fix Peter borrowed John’s 4lb hammer and used a screwdriver to pry off the emergency tiller arm. It had to be done that night or Peter and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep.

We spent that Saturday night 2.8.14 and Sunday night 2.9.14 at the marina. Betsy had been confused and shamefully peed on one of the cockpit cushions while we were underway coming back from North Rock. Poor thing. It was just too hectic when we lost our steering. Sunday we cleaned the boat and did a tiny bit of laundry. The cockpit cushions and covers got washed on the dock and the guys did a soap test on the water tank bladder to see if they could find a leak. That night we grilled some steak and lobster with our neighbor Alex. It was a nice relaxing evening before casting off the docklines  again in the morning…

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