Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Good bye Bahamas, hello Provo

I can't tell you how many people have told me that the Bahamas were the best cruising grounds. Unfortunately, I have this need to see things for myself, a trait that has had its miss fires. Our 3 day stay at Clarence Town morphosed into a 2 week stay. Boy, can we milk a clock?
These crabs come out of their borrows in the rainy season, millions of them. The natives eat them.

We were looking at a nice 3 day weather window. That's enough to get us to the Turks and Caicos. We really wanted to have more stops along the way, but lets get serious, the way we cling to each stop, there just isn't enough time. Provo is about 180 miles away, and those are nautical miles. With our "speed demon" of a boat, that's about 48 to 50 hours of sailing. Staying up 48 hours was nothing in my college days. I think I did it once a week, which would explain my grades, but no seriously, I am quite witty with 8 hours of sleep. After little to and fro we decided it was a go. We squared up with the marina, and backed out unceremoniously.
Bye bye Clarence Town. Look at that water!
At first the wind was on our nose, but light. We motored at about three and a half knots. The waves were small, but there were these swells that rolled the boat, up the hill, and down the hill. I promised Marie things would be better in about 8 hours. For once, I didn't lie. The swells diminished and wind switched over to our port side. We motor sailed for about 16 hours at a nice 5 knots. And then it all died. I mean it went flat. Here we were in 10,000 feet of water, and it was all becalmed. So, we motored, the whole 48 hours, we motored. Now, when I put this boat together, I didn't think much of sound insulation, I mean, it is a sailboat right? Man was I wrong, when we motor we might as well just put a saddle on the engine and ride it! Anywhere inside the boat, it is so loud that we have to scream at each other. Imagine, if you will, 48 hours of this.
Looks like a lake!

Eva and Hadrian looking over the calm ocean.

A foot puppet can make life interesting.

Actually, after a while you can sleep quite well with the engine noise. That is if nobody plays with the throttle. The kids may not have noticed that anything had changed. They just went about their day and slept through the nights. For Marie and I, things were a bit different. We would take turns at the wheel, about 4 hour shifts, though I take longer shifts because she tends to the kids too.
From 30 miles away you could see the sky glow over Provo. We were a couple of miles away at about 8 am. I had read that the entrance to the harbor was so tricky that it was best to use the complimentary pilot service.
Hadrian helped guide me through the harbor. The pilot boat is in the background.
A pilot is a guide that escorts you into and out of a harbor. We called the marina, and after a little confusing garbling back and forth a pilot appeared  to guide us in. It was a winding trail through the reefs, and yet again we left stripe in the sand. 
Eva sitting with the Customs agent at Turtle Cove Marina. I think we got half off the regular price!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Onward to Clarence Town

We plowed out of the Redshanks anchorage on a low tide, literally plowed. Our draft is 7 feet and the depth sounder read 6...I believe the depth sounder. I am sure we left a stripe in the sand. We left at 4:30 pm, on a low tide. Why? I had this need to draw closure to the George Town experience. I have come to realize that we tend to just get too comfortable in an area and just dwell, and it was happening again. Don't get me wrong, we have had the time of our lives. We have met many great people, and forged bonds. Some I am sure will last a lifetime. Call me the incredible barbecuing party bear.
These lobsters think I am their friend!
Eva and Hadrian lookout for coral heads as we leave Elizabeth Harbor.
The truth be told, we are way behind schedule. Yes, I know that this may sound like an oxymoron, but even out here, there are elements that dictate a schedule...like say "hurricane season". We should be down by Grenada no later than August to avoid hurricanes.
Our next destination is Clarence Town on Long Island. It is a 10 or 12 hour sail, so we must sail over-night in order to arrive in the morning, with enough daylight to navigate around the coral heads at the entrance of the harbor.
We had a pretty nice sail, but there were times that the depth of the water went from 3000 feet to 30, and the waves kinda build up in these areas. The seas were so rough at times that I had to hold on with both hands.  Everything on the boat got rearranged. We did not however, have to steer the boat the whole way through. Otto Mann, our wind vane steering system drove the whole way there. The only problem is he doesn't have any eyes so we must always be on watch for any other boats.
The aftermath of an easy sail, a view of the main salon.

A view of the galley.

A view of the main salon, port side.
 The entrance to Clarence Town was a scary proposition with 2 out of 3 buoys that mark the entrance, missing, and the depth of the water again went from 3000 feet to 30. Needless to say, we made it. My guess is that we have a team of guardian angles working on our case, constantly.
After a brief scare from the marina, saying that they didn't have room for us, they found an empty slip. and we were soon nestled in, and connected to shore power for the first time in a month. The first thing on was the air conditioner. I sat there with my mouth wide open over a vent for a while. It's the little things!
Every place has it's unique and endearing characteristics. Clarence Town and Long Island has it's churches, and many, many cemeteries. In fact, someone needs to enlighten them to the cremation alternative as space is running out.

We were planning on staying here for about 3 days so we rented a car to run up and down the 80 miles of roads. We stopped to see Hamilton's cave. I wasn't too sure about this but Marie was playing tourist so I just followed, not expecting much. That cave was impressive. The mere scale of it! It must have been about 100,000 square feet, like a "Home Depot". There were 5 species of bats that called the cave home. Lenard the owner and tour guide told us that they would play hide-n-go-seek there as children, many decades ago. My guess is they must have used dogs to sniff the hiders out?
One of many chambers inside Hamilton Cave.
We continued our drive up the island, and stopped at the Stella Maris Marina. Well not really stopped, but more like slowed down. There is not much there. Next was Santa Maria Resort, the northernmost destination. Not quite what we were looking for, we were back in the car after a brief walk. Marie had read about some 18th century plantation ruins that seemed promising so we went searching. There was a decent sign off the main road, Queens Highway, that pointed the way. The road went from paved to dirt to over grown with foliage, about a mile altogether. It got rougher, and then just dead ended at the waters edge, no place to pull-over, it just ended. We got out and followed some tracks on the beach that looked like they came from somebody better informed than us. As we walked along the beach we came across a distinct row of conch shells that led to a path in the woods. So, we followed that path. We came across very well produced signs that assured us that we were on the right path. It was about a half mile walk in the woods before we arrived at the ruins, a rock wall and 2 small roofless sheds so overgrown with brush that you really couldn't make out much. The mosquitoes had us where they wanted us. We had to run out of there.
We stopped at a not-so-super "supermarket" on the way back home. The need for a semantics police becomes really apparent at times. We bought a box of pasta that turned out to have more protein than carbohydrates, maggots!
The following day we drove to "Deans Blue Hole". Right off the beach, I mean 3 feet off the beach, there is a 600 foot deep hole. It is about 70 feet across. Free divers come here to practice and compete. It's amazing and eerie at the same time, it's amazingly eerie.
Marie and Hadrian in front of Deans blue hole.
Later that same day we drove up to Stella Maris Resort. Different than the marina by the same name. They had two pools, one was a tidal pool, quite cool. The kids really enjoyed their time at the resort, and I enjoyed my time at the resorts bar, You see I had to consume so that the kids were allowed to use the facilities...a win-win if you will.

Back at the Flying Fish Marina, our neighbor is quite the fisherman. He returns each evening loaded with wahoo, tuna, and dolphin, more than he could ever use. I am more than happy to take some off of his hands. In fact, I'm so happy with this arrangement that I bake him bread, it's the least I could.
Wahoo by the bag full, what a treat!

I bake bread for my generous neighbor, to keep my conscience clean.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Never Never Land

We were cruising for a couple of months before we ran into another boat with children on board. I was feeling a little like Columbus must have felt as he looked for India all the while his crew murmured of a mutiny. My crew doesn't murmur, it's more of a beller.
Elizabeth Harbor is a kids mecca. There are about 50 children in the "City of Lights" (refer to previous post). The adults are constantly looking for ways to keep them busy, myself included. We constantly have play-dates, it's just a mass shuffle of kids. We send one that way, and they send two this way. There seems to always be the pitter-patter little feet every where. They climb in one hatch then out of another, like meerkats. They swing from the lines and rigging. They really use all of the space they are confined to, all 3 dimensions of it, up down, and sideways. I have learned to tune them out quite successfully. 
Eva and Hadrian are starting an herb garden.

Eva with Lily in the background. They're going to grow gills.

Hadrian in a kayak race.

We are seriously close to checkout time here. In another month the trade-winds will blow strong, and it will be too hard to head south. I honestly have some reservations about leaving the flock, and for several reasons.
Just a minute ago two dolphins came by the boat and the kids put down their pencils and jumped in the water to swim with them, is that cool or what! How many people experience that? They are beautiful animals...the dolphins, not the kids.
I have never been one to leave a party early, but it's time, it's time to leave Never Never Land.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Are we making progress?

For centuries we wrote on paper, and for the most part we have had a decent survival rate, some book burnings aside. If you write something down on paper, chances are it will be around for a long time. Now some of you may not remember this, but back in the 90's I put a lot of information on what they called 5.25 floppy disks. Later came 3.5" floppy disks, but these were not floppy at all, they were quite ridged. For at least whole decade I stored things on floppy disks. When is the last time anyone has seen a floppy disk reader? It's a good thing I have had nothing important to say. It seems my creditors did not use these, that, or they have very good memories?
I have also had very bad experiences with televisions. I do not own one, but over the past few years when I find myself as a guest at a place with a television I find that I cannot even turn the thing on. I mean there are three controls on the coffee table, and you must press the correct buttons on each of these controls or you get nothing. All the controls have the same buttons, more or less. Only the true owner can start the system, if this is not so, somebody throw me a bone here. Is it only me, has the world moved on without me? I think not.
I thought things were changing, back in 1985 I had a cell phone. It came in a briefcase, and weighed about as much as I did at the time. Not long afterwards came the Motorola cell phone, we called it "the brick" because it had the uncanny proportions, and weight of a red clay brick...we're making progress. Back at the turn of the century someone went too far, and made a few cell phones so small that you couldn't even dial, the numbers were too small. Then came the "smart phones", these phones allow you to upload your life. You no longer have to remember any numbers. You can access your email, bank account, electric bill, and yes your phone bill. Do not lose one of these babies, or you'll be set back ten years. 
So, here we are, it's 2014, it seems that satellite phones have come of age, it's their turn, they have waited patiently. With a sat phone you can make phone calls from even the most remote places on earth. They do not require land based antennas hence the name, satellite phone. They have come so far that you can even use it to get on the internet...or so they told me. What a novel idea, I can use this sat phone for calling home from any location the winds might take me, and download crucial weather reports. I was sold. I have had my sat phone for a year now. I have had 4 different tech geeks (sorry bout this guys) trying to accomplish what the company says you can do, data, and no one has been able to receive a byte! So now I find myself way far from home with no way to get weather other than to ask my neighbor on the boat next to me, who bought a HAM radio instead.