Thursday, April 20, 2017

Northbound

When we told fellow cruisers that we were having Windbird's last owner on board for two weeks of cruising from Georgetown to the Abacos, we got a lot of raised eyebrows. I'm sure all were imagining a domineering former owner from hell making life miserable. Clearly, they didn't know Judy Handley. In the eight months since we bought Windbird from Judy and Mark we've gotten to know each other over phone calls, emails, a few visits, and reading each others blogs, and Dawn and I have come to really like Judy and enjoy her company. And on the boat is no different, she's a wonderful guest...particularly since we were able to dispense with the boat briefing!

We did some more chores on Tuesday before Judy arrived, and afterward we moved the boat back over to our favorite anchorage between Monument and Honeymoon beaches. We then did a bit of a dinghy tour around Georgetown before dinner. Yesterday Dawn and I had to run back across to Georgetown with the dinghy for more groceries (the mailboat came late Tuesday) and to fill one of our propane cylinders. After we got back and had lunch the weather turned pretty ugly with a series of small squalls moving through the harbor followed by cold, steady drizzle. I was thinking of every excuse not to snorkel but Judy pointed out we'd be getting wet anyways. Touché. The overcast conditions made the underwater colors pretty drab but there were a ton of fish out, so it worked out. And in any case the weather improved steadily, so after snorkeling we had an early dinner at Chat-N-Chill, and then took Piper and some drinks to Honeymoon Beach where Jerome from Gamma Gamma had put together a small, weather-delayed beach party complete with campfire and strumming guitars. It was a really, really nice way to close out our time in Georgetown. Hard to believe we're northbound already, our time in the Bahamas has flown right by.

This morning we woke up at 5:45 to take Piper to the beach and then launched into our boat preparation routines. Judy volunteered to listen to Chris Parker while we got ready, which I really appreciated as this weekend and next week are shaping up to be fairly active, weather-wise, and potentially a bit challenging for northbound travel to Eleuthera and the Abacos. We had the anchor on the bow roller by 7:05 and were heading for Conch Cay Cut under full sail a few minutes after that. The cut itself wasn't terribly rough but Exuma Sound was a bit lumpy. The wind was mostly due east at 17-19 with gusts of 21-22 kts. We had one reef in and I considered putting in the second a few times but never did, and we made really good speed: it took us 8 hours to go 53 miles to Black Point. Both Dawn and I felt a little seasick a few times but helm time alleviated those symptoms...we were handsteering as the autopilot once again proved incapable of keeping up with conditions. It underscored that I really, really need to get the autopilot working well before we take off on any extended offshore passages - such as going straight from the Abacos to South Carolina. There is a software update I can try; I'm thinking I'll start there and then get some help from Garmin Support.

I really like Black Point, especially since the anchorage isn't rolly this time (there was NW wind when we were here with my parents one month ago). We took Piper for a walk soon after arrival and the same young Bahamian kid who asked to walk him last time again approached and asked us if he could walk Piper. Too cute. We ran into some cruisers from Spirit who invited us to Cruisers Happy Hour at Scorpios Bar & Grill, so we went back to Windbird to retrieve Judy and then headed back into town. It was a fun hour or two hanging out with Rich and Ruthie from Spirit and Jim and Chris from Radio Waves. Since we got back we've been planning our passage up to Warderick Wells for tomorrow and deciding where we're going to snorkel when we get there, we had a dinner of grilled jerk chicken, and Dawn renewed our BTC data package so Judy and I could catch up on blogging. Between the early getup and the long, fun day of sailing I'm pretty bushed, so I'm heading to bed...but really looking forward to our fourth visit to Warderick Wells tomorrow, during which we'll see our friends Dan and Isabelle on Epiic for the first time since Ft. Lauderdale!

Monday, April 17, 2017

36

It was my 36th birthday today, but it was mostly just another day on the boat. Dawn went to water aerobics this morning while I varnished and fixed the hawse pipe (yet again - drilled new holes and used oversized screws and washers, hopefully it holds this time). Once she got back we repositioned the boat over to Georgetown and I made a few water runs and attempted to get diesel for our jerry cans while Dawn did two loads of laundry at the laundromat. I say "attempted" because the Monday after Easter is a holiday here so most everything was either closed or had limited hours. I showed up at the Shell station 5 minutes after they closed, and there was nobody who could pump diesel around the Exuma Yacht Club docks. No biggie, I can do it tomorrow morning, and in any case we don't actually need it. I think we could get back to the States on the diesel we have now and I'm planning to top off in Marsh Harbour.

After laundry was done we had lunch and launched into a bit of boat-cleaning. We have to do that more often than the average boater thanks to our four-legged friend on board. I never thought he shed that much until we moved aboard. His fur gets absolutely everywhere, in amazingly large quantities. I shudder to think how much makes it into our engine (Yanmar 4JH's don't have an air filter). So we beat rugs and cleaned upholstery and swept and cleaned the heads and swept and wiped down the cockpit. Then I decided to clean our cockpit cushions which haven't been cleaned in forever and have some mildew spotting on them. They didn't come completely clean - maybe Judy will have some tips on what she used on them. By now I had an ever-so-rare cleaning bug up my butt so I attacked the dinghy with some inflatable cleaner. It worked well but still ended in frustration as it was way too rough out. There weren't too many boats on the Georgetown side when we moved so we were able to tuck way in - further than I thought our draft would permit - but during the day the wind backed so we no longer had the protection of the small cays just SE of us.

After putting away the cleaning supplies we showered and put on nice clothes, enjoyed an early sundowner, and then took the dinghy over to Peace & Plenty Hotel for a 6:30 dinner reservation. We were originally planning on eating at St. Francis Resort (where we attended open mic music night yesterday) but they're not open Mondays - and it's for the best as we would've got soaked on the mile-long dinghy ride across the harbor. The Peace & Plenty put on a really nice meal of blackened Mahi, veggies & potato topped off with a birthday piece of rum cake. We don't really eat out much these days, when we do it's usually with guests or an order of fresh conch salad or conch fritters at our favorite beachside watering holes. The dinner did make me just a little irked that I haven't caught a Mahi yet. I love Mahi. I have lures that Mahi supposedly love. But they've been ignoring my lures while practically jumping into friends boats. For not being much of a fisherman back home I've caught fish fever pretty hard this trip. I'm still not much of a fisherman but the desire is there!

Tomorrow we have a few more chores early and then Judy Handley arrives from Boston via Atlanta. Tomorrow night we're getting together with Rick and Robyn from Endangered Species. They knew Mark and Judy ten years ago when they were cruising the South Pacific at the same time. On Wednesday we'll probably do some snorkeling and hiking, and maybe get in one last game of volleyball at the Chat-N-Chill. We'll be leaving early Thursday and hope to make it up to Black Point, and then on to Warderick Wells on Friday. Our friends Dan and Isabelle on Epiic just crossed from Nassau to Norman's Cay today so it appears we'll be getting together in Warderick after all. We're super excited about that.

I got my work schedule for May yesterday. There is a nine-day international trip starting on May 17th that I'm thinking is going to be tough to drop, and maybe I don't want to (55 hrs of pay, layovers in London-New York-Amsterdam-New York-London). So we're going to try to get the boat somewhere in the US that's convenient by May 15. With a really good weather window it could be South Carolina. Otherwise it'll be somewhere in Florida, and in that case I'm pretty tempted to get our canvas done right there while I'm off flying. I'll bid for a bunch of days off in mid-late June, and that's when we'll plan on bringing the boat north to the Chesapeake for the summer.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Three Months In

We had another really nice sail over from Long Island to Georgetown on Thursday. The wind was NE to ENE at 17 knots for a really broad reach, but we only had to gybe twice, to enter the Three Fathom Channel into Elizabeth Harbour. There was a pretty decent ocean swell on our quarter, which made for active steering conditions - the autopilot couldn't keep up - but it was still fairly comfortable and we made the 25 miles in about 4.5 hours. The cut into Elizabeth Harbour had a few good rollers in it but nothing breaking. We remained under full sail right up to the Monument Beach anchorage, sailing through a good portion of the Georgetown fleet at 7 knots in the process. That was fun, and we got a few nice comments after the fact. From here on in, we'll be inexorably northbound - for this season, anyways.

We've now been out cruising for three months, two of those in the Bahamas. We're certainly not old hands, but neither are we total noobs anymore. We've learned a ton about our boat and how to best sail and maintain her, about navigation and weather and passagemaking, about docking and anchoring, about what duties and procedures work best for us, and what tasks each person is most suited for. There hasn't been a day that's gone by where we haven't learned something new. And yet, for all that, it's been surprisingly easy. At no time have I felt completely over my head. Dawn gained an enormous amount of confidence in herself and the boat (and hopefully me). Our preparation & self-sufficiency proved up to par; at no point did we have to lean on another boat for tools or spares or know-how. In part I think we've been lucky to not have been tested with anything beyond our skill level before we were up to speed - but we've also been pretty careful not to put ourselves in sticky situations before we were ready to handle them (with one notable exception, our night exit at Farmer's Cay Cut in heavy conditions).

Reflecting on our two months in the Bahamas in particular, here are a few things that have really struck me as a noob cruiser:

It's Not Rocket Science
Because it's the first foreign land we've visited, because there's so much shallow water and many reefs and fierce currents and a long history of shipwrecks, the Bahamas held a certain amount of intimidation factor for us. But you get out here and you run into a lot of really normal people, plus more than a few complete knuckleheads, who have been doing this for years and years and have managed to keep themselves out of trouble. Most of this isn't all that hard, it's just plain common sense. This is one area where I'm really lucky to have Dawn, because she definitely has the edge on me in that area and has proven over the course of the trip that she'll reel me in when I need it.

Navigation Is Actually Easier Here
Ok, lights and markings aren't up to U.S. standards and neither are the out-of-date government surveys or the charts (paper or electronic) based on them. But the privately produced Explorer Charts are fairly accurate, and there are a number of electronic charts for iPad and chartplotter based on them. Even where accuracy is wanting, you have the advantage of actually being able to see the bottom! Before arrival I was super nervous about learning to read the water. Within the first few days, I had it. Shallows, rock bars, reefs and stray coral heads are all pretty obvious. This assumes, of course, that you're only sailing during the day on the banks unless on a route known to be free of stray heads, with good over the shoulder light, and relatively flat water.

Go Where The Wind Takes You
The winter weather isn't exactly benign here, but it's pretty predictable. Listening to Chris Parker on our SSB each morning, we knew when major systems were on their way, usually four or five days in advance, and could change our plans accordingly. Thus were we able to freely move up and down the Exumas three times despite what old-timers described as a more-active-than-average winter. There are a limited number of times to move in any particular direction and these are further restricted by the limited number of anchorages with protection from west- and north-component wind. Get tied down to a schedule and you'll miss the available windows.

Tides and Currents Rule All
Maybe this comes more naturally to people who grew up on the ocean; I know I have to think about it, and typically do at least six or seven times a day. The tides aren't huge here (2.5 to 4 feet) but taking a six-foot draft through shallow approaches to desirable anchorages makes them pretty important, and then you consider the huge volume of water that flows through a limited number of cuts resulting in strong currents. A cut that's just fine when the current is flowing with the wind can turn into a dangerous mess after the tide reverses. Current more than anything determined the timing of our deep-water passages, while tide and the availability of light determined the timing of bank-side passages.


Good Ground Tackle Is Worth Its Weight in Gold
Mark and Judy Handley swore by their 66-lb Spade anchor on 5/16" G4 all-chain rode, and it wasn't just them trying to sell the boat. This anchor does a hell of a job of laying down on the seabed nicely, biting and digging in right away, and resetting itself immediately after each swing. And you will swing mightily, every six hours as the current reverses in the majority of anchorages. Trust in one's ground tackle does wonders for the skipper's ability to sleep soundly (diving on your anchor and a good drag-alarm program for your smartphone are the other key components). Last week we did our first Bahamian moor in Joe's Sound due to the narrowness of the anchorage. That's a rarity out here these days - it's mostly a relic of the CQR anchor, which did a poor job of resetting itself after a swing. In most anchorages good modern tackle makes the Bahamian moor unneccessary, which is nice because it's a lot of work to put down and pull up.

You'll Never, Ever Be Bored
Silly me, I thought I was going to get caught up on my pleasure reading out here. I haven't even got caught up with my boat reading! For that matter, I thought I would write more, and it's everything I can do to get my column out once a month and update this blog once a week! Just everyday living - meals, cleaning, bathing, taking the dog to shore - takes up more time than land living. Then there is watermaking/hauling, reprovisioning runs, trash disposal, dinghy refueling, boat maintenance, repairs, and occasional deep cleaning to do. Moving the boat takes up a lot of time, even on short passages, when you consider the time it takes to get the boat ready to go and putting it to bed when you're done. So it's not like there's unlimited spare time to begin with, and then there's so much great hiking, snorkeling, and dinghy exploring to do out here. And then there are the sundowners, and happy hours on your buddy's boat that just sailed into the anchorage, and impromptu potlucks and bonfires on the beach. I initially thought this busyness was simply because we're new, but now I'm not so sure. I do think it accounts for the appallingly shabby cosmetic condition of a lot of the cruisers' boats out here. We had to take nearly a week "off" just to get some varnishing and other mostly-cosmetic maintenance done. 

Guests Are Nice, But...
Most cruisers are ambivalent at best about guests, an attitude I never quite understood until now. Don't get me wrong, I love having guests on board, and Windbird is really nicely set up for it. But guests inevitably tie you into a schedule because there are a limited number of places they can meet and leave the boat. This has inevitably led us to moving the boat more than we need to and spending less time in some really spectacular anchorages than we'd like (and probably has contributed a lot to the "busy" syndrome I mention above). And it's meant spending less time with some really cool cruising friends we'd probably have buddy-boated with. Even when you share an anchorage with people you know, having guests aboard makes you less likely that you'll socialize outside your boat. None of which is to say that we intend to stop having guests onboard. But we're definitely going to emphasize the necessity of schedule/destination flexibility on their part (even if it means buying last-minute tickets), and we're going to take care to schedule time "just for us" between guests.

Bahamians Are Some of the Friendliest People on Earth
That's all. I just love 'em to death. Outside of Nassau I have yet to run into a Bahamian asshole, which is more than I can say of the cruising community (where they're still rarer than average). The further from Nassau you go, the nicer they get.

Georgetown is just Pretty Nice
Ok, I've spent some time here now. I see the appeal. It's a pretty harbour. There's a lot to do, and a lively cruiser social scene. Services are plentiful and convenient. There's an international airport for guests to fly in and out. And anybody who's been here for any length of time develops a network of friends here, often encompassing the neighboring boats in "their" anchorage. But yikes, I'm not sure I understand the folks who sail straight here, anchor in Elizabeth Harbour for all winter long, and then sail back to Florida. Georgetown is pretty nice, but gobsmackingly spectacular is right next door! The week in Joe's Sound made me realize how great it was to be out of Georgetown, and I wasn't particularly thrilled to come back. Of course then we met some cool folks at the Chat-n-Chill...and invited our friends from S/V Finally over for happy hour Thursday...and Friday night there was an awesome beach party & musical jam session on Honeymoon Beach....

That's it for now, though I'm sure I'll think of a few things later. Some of the above might sound like bitching, but far from it. This isn't vacation, it's a lifestyle - one that involves a certain amount of work and discomfort and uncertainty, but one that yields daily rewards that most working stiffs can only dream of for 51 weeks out of the year. I'm having a blast out here, and I'm happy to report that Dawn and Piper are both really enjoying it as well.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At Home in Joe's Sound

It's hard to believe we've been here almost a week - the days just keep slipping away. We arrived here in Long Island last Thursday after an unbelievably perfect sail from Georgetown - a 12-13 knot beam reach with all three sails flying. It was Brad and Amber's only sail of their visit, and it was a doozy. The only negative was that once again, we didn't catch any fish despite trolling the whole way. We arrived earlier than planned, so we anchored just outside Joe's Sound while we launched the dinghy and used the hand sounder to check out the narrow, shallow entrance. At ninety minutes before high tide there was just enough depth across the sandy bar but the current was still running pretty strongly. An hour later it was down to a half knot and the entrance went quite smoothly. The inside anchorage was quite a bit narrower than the charts showed, so we belatedly decided to put down two anchors. In the middle of doing so I accidentally got the secondary anchor rode wrapped around our prop, and I had to don a mask and snorkel to go down and clear it. A half hour later the current reversed and we swinged right onto the shallow sandbar I was trying to avoid. Grr. I powered off it and considered repositioning the secondary anchor, but the sun was already down. This was our first time trying to set up a Bahamian moor and it didn't go so well. As a consequence I got to get up at 4am to power off of the sandbar a second time.

Our first task on Friday, therefore, was to reposition the secondary anchor and set up a really proper Bahamian moor. This time it went swimmingly: the secondary rode is lashed to our primary anchor chain and the connection point was then lowered about five feet below the surface so that both rode and chain clear our keel and rudder when we swing. We've been quite snugly positioned right in the middle of the channel ever since. Our anchoring job was tested shortly thereafter: we took the dinghy to the Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort just in time for an incredibly strong squall line to blow through. At the resort I would estimate that the winds were 60 knots, accompanied by torrential rain and an impressive lightning display including at least one hit on resort property. It hit a few hours earlier than forecast; I hadn't meant to be off Windbird. But our anchoring job held nicely. Our friends Dave and Leslie on Texas Two Step arrived just before the squall and barely had time to drop their primary before it hit.

On Saturday Brad, Amber, Dawn and I rented an SUV from the Cape Santa Maria resort and spent the day exploring Long Island. At nearly 80 miles long and with much of its coast too shallow to cruise in a boat of our draft, this is the best way to check out Long Island. We visited the Columbus Monument on Cape Santa Maria, hiked the Adderley Plantation Ruins near Stella Maris, had lunch at Max's Conch Bar in Deadman's Cay, snorkeled the incredible Dean's Blue Hole (670 feet deep, and a little eerie...and wayyy eerie once you get about 45 feet down, I will attest), visited the South Cape, checked out Father Jerome's churches in Clarence Town, and made a reprovisioning stop at Hillside Grocery in Salt Pond. It was a quite long day and we didn't do much once we got back to the boat.

On Sunday Brad and I went out spearfishing with Dave and Leslie while Dawn and Amber went hiking on Galliot Cay. Afterwards we got together for an early dinner on Texas Two Step, then went over to another small uninhabited cay with a couple of other cruisers for a full-moon bonfire on the beach. Brad and Amber went back to the boat a bit early with our dinghy to pack their bags and finalize travel arrangements, and Dave and Leslie dropped us off a bit later.

I took Brad and Amber to the docks on the north side of Galliot Cay via the shallow northern portion of Joe's Sound early Monday morning. Their cab was running on "island time" but nevertheless got them to the Stella Maris airport before their plane left. With our guests gone, Dawn and I cleaned the boat and then lapsed into a bit of an exhausted funk. I mostly read all day. Later Dave and Leslie invited us to T2S for dinner and some games.

Yesterday we had been planning to cross to Cat Island but the winds and seas were still too high so I went spearfishing with Dave instead, and finally managed some success of my own. The most productive reefs here tend to be in 30-35' of water and it's taken a bit to improve my bottom time to the point that I can get down, spend some time really hunting, and still have enough air to get back up. Dave was, as usual, fairly deadly. He gave me one of the Margates he speared, which together with several smaller ones I had made more than enough meat for a Fish Taco feast Dawn prepared for the four of us aboard Windbird last night. Again we played games fairly late into the night.

This morning we were hoping to cross to Cat Island but decided to stay put after all. The reason is that Judy Handley is flying into Georgetown on Tuesday, we want some time there before she flies in to take care of practical matters, but it's forecast to blow like crazy Friday through Sunday. So we extended our stay in Joe's Sound and went to "town" in our dinghy, which involves about three miles of fairly intricate, shallow channels that can only be traversed at high tide. Dave and Leslie were close behind, so we waited for them and did our errands together. We went to the grocery store, liquor store, and gas station. Shortly after we got back we all went spearfishing, though the girls soon tired of our hunting seemingly-nonexistent prey to peel off with one of the dinghies for shallower snorkeling. We were both productive today, and Dave speared an enormous hogfish that we'll be having for dinner tonight. Tomorrow we'll be sailing to Georgetown, and then sometime after the 18th we'll start working our way north. We just found out that there's an excellent chance that we'll be able to meet up with our friends Dan and Isabelle on Epiic as they work their way down the Exumas. We're really looking forward to that, as we last saw them in Ft. Lauderdale.





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Weigel/Phillips Moto Mayhem

Brad & Amber Phillips have been close friends of ours for a good 15 years now, and we've had a lot of cool adventures with them. We've traveled to Amsterdam, Italy and Thailand together; we've sailed together in the BVI and now the Bahamas; we've flown small planes to Mexico; we've visited each other's homes regularly since Dawn and I moved back to Minnesota (we formerly lived near them in Washington state). But a disproportionate number of our adventures together have been on motorcycles and dirt bikes. The four of us spent our respective anniversaries (1 day apart) on a 3-day ride in the Pacific Northwest; later we all rode the full length of the Blue Ridge Parkway together. Brad, Dawn and I rode from Portland to Alaska in 2011, and Brad and I alone have done a lot of small rides and a couple big ones: up the East Coast in 2010 and down the length of Baja California (via dirt bike) in 2013.

So naturally enough, our present sailing adventure soon turned into a moto adventure, at least for half a day. Bret and Teresa on Elusive had rented scooters with the Mike and Blanche on Saltwater Taffy a few days ago; they told us where to rent them and some of the things to see around the island. The scooters turned out to be 125cc machines in pretty decent shape and at a pretty good price for the Bahamas ($35 for 4 hours). We were on the road and headed southeastward on Great Exuma Island by 10:30 this morning. We detoured down a dirt side road on Little Exuma to visit "Tropic of Cancer Beach," went all the way to the end of Queens Highway on the south end of Little Exuma, checked out an abandoned plantation in William's Town, had fantastic seafood for lunch at Santana's Grill, and picked up some rum cake for an after-supper dessert at Mom's Bakery ("Free Hugs!"). On our way back we checked out the Salt Pillar and then rode all the way to Steventon on the north side of Great Exuma before returning the bikes right on schedule.

After we got back Dawn and I reassembled our cockpit table, which we're happy to have back in place. I've applied five coats of Epiphanes Rapid Clear, top and bottom, followed by three coats of Epiphanes Clear Varnish to the bottom. Now that it's on place on its swinging mount I will apply five or six coats of varnish to the top and sides, the first of which I did this afternoon. We also took the masking tape off of the cockpit combing, as we applied our final/sixth "re-coat" this afternoon. It looks really nice, as does the engine control cover and compass trim that we just stripped and revarnished. Lots of cruisers hate varnishing, but I kinda enjoy it - there's instant visual gratification. Of course now that everything else in the cockpit looks decent, the companionway hatch that we revarnished in Charleston looks kinda crappy by comparison. And several of the dorade boxes are already flaking enough that they'll have to be completely stripped. Egh!

Brad and Amber crashed hard while we were varnishing, though I was able to rouse them afterwards to go hiking with us. We all piled in the dinghy with Piper and headed over to Sand Dollar Beach on Stocking Island, where we hiked a really nice sandy trail to the ocean side and then south to the Elizabeth Island Cut. From there we took the beach back west and north to the dinghy. It was a really pleasant 90 minute hike, and we got back to the boat just as the sun was setting. Before it got completely dark we were visited by four dolphins - I think the same four we saw with Mom and Dad on the day we arrived in Georgetown. They were being quite playful near our boat so I took off my shirt and jumped in. One of the juveniles swam close enough that I was able to touch him, but then they all moved off. Pretty cool anyways.

Tomorrow we'll be heading to Long Island, where we hope to get into Joe Sound (we'll scout our way with the dinghy and a handheld sounder first to make sure we can do it). If not we'll tuck into Calabash Bay. On Friday a mild cold front will be passing, on Saturday we hope to rent a car (or more scooters!) to explore the island, and on Sunday we'll move south to Salt Pond. On Monday Brad and Amber are flying from Stella Maris to Nassau, then Atlanta, and finally Portland. Tuesday or Wednesday Dawn and I are hoping for a break in the northeasterly trades to visit Conception Island, but if not maybe we'll do Cat Island or just explore Long Island some more before returning to Georgetown. We've been mostly stationary for over two weeks now, and I'm excited to get some wind in our sails again!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Projects in Paradise

"The definition of cruising is doing boatwork in exotic places," or so goes the oft-repeated saying. Well, we've been doing a little too little boatwork in exotic places lately so this week was catchup time. We didn't get the entire list completed but we made a dent. A lot of it was cosmetic: revarnishing brightwork, cleaning the teak deck, polishing all the stainless steel, washing and waxing the cabin top, and so forth. There were a few periodic tasks like lubing the steering cables, plus repairs like fixing the water maker, retuning the rig, and chasing down a battery charging issue. And of course the usual boat chores like reprovisioning, making/fetching water, and cleaning in preparation for our next guests. But since we are in Georgetown, we did have to take time to have fun, and so we quit around 3-4pm each day for snorkeling, hiking, visiting friends' boats, or dropping in for pickup volleyball at the Chat-N-Chill. There were a number of friends & acquaintances boats here: Elusive, Saltwater Taffy, Someday, Brown Eyed Girl, Aria, Crimson Katheryn, and Texas Two Step. And then we've gotten to know quite a few people who we just met here including Finally and Imagine. A few nights ago we had a beach party on Sand Dollar Beach that lasted long into the night; it was a really nice experience and we met a ton of cool cruisers. So life has been pretty good here in Georgetown.

That said, I have had a bit of an itch to get moving again and explore further south in the bit of the season that remains. For us, that will be practically limited to Long Island and perhaps Conception, at least this season. Our very good friends Brad & Amber flew in today; we'll rent scooters to explore Great and Little Exuma Islands tomorrow, then cruise over to Long Island on Thursday. Brad and Amber will fly out to Nassau from Stella Marris on Monday or Tuesday, then we'll have a bit of time to get to Conception and back if there's a weather window before Judy Handley flies into Georgetown on April 18th (which we're really looking forward to). I'm exhausted from a long couple of days here so I'm headed to bed now, but as always excited to see what the next day brings.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shock to the System

During the nearly four weeks we spent cruising the Exumas between Nassau and Georgetown, the largest village we saw was Black Point, which had a population of 230 as of the 2010 census. Georgetown, "the big city" in the Exumas, has a population of 1437. So it was a bit of a shock to the system to fly back to the U.S. and drive in the Atlanta metro (pop 5.7 million) during rush hour, then fly a four day trip with long layovers in New York City (pop 8.5 million in city limits) and Los Angeles (12.8 million in metro area). Those three cities alone have roughly 72x the population of the entire Bahamas! The good news is that I got my FAA medical taken care of on Friday, and the captain I was flying with was quite generous and let me make all three landings, so my landing currency is reset. Otherwise I would have had to go back to work before May 6th, right around the time we'll be crossing back to the States.

While I was gone it blew pretty hard for several days, but straight out of the Northeast. Windbird was quite protected on her mooring in Gaviota Bay, and Dawn had no trouble ferrying Piper to shore. They got quite a bit of hiking in on Stocking Island and visited with friends while I was gone. Dawn also stripped and sanded several pieces that need revarnishing: our cockpit table, the engine control cover, and the teak trim ring around our compass.

I finished my trip at 6am yesterday (I flew the redeye from LAX) and had several hours to kill before my flight to Georgetown. By pure coincidence, my friends Duncan and Katie and their two boys had just arrived on the redeye from Portland and were waiting for their connecting flight to St. Thomas, where they were taking the ferry to Tortola to begin a bareboat charter. Duncan owns a 51' Jeanneau that is in charter service with The Moorings; I've chartered boats in the BVI and elsewhere using his points several times over the last few years. I normally go to the "Interline Regatta" in the BVI with Duncan & Katie every October, but skipped this last year since Dawn & I were at the Annapolis Boat Show, so it was good to see them. We plan to have them aboard Windbird this summer or fall, and we hope to have Windbird at the 2018 Interline Regatta.

I landed in Georgetown just before 1pm and was surprised to see Bret and Theresa from Elusive when I walked out of customs. They were meeting their daughter who was arriving on the American flight that landed just after mine. We shared a taxi downtown, and I met Dawn next to the Exuma Market. We reprovisioned right away, we filled our jerry cans with water at the dinghy dock, then dinghied across to Windbird. Piper was very happy to see me! We went across to the Chat N Chill and had a late lunch of conch salad and a shared hamburger, then headed back to Windbird and moved the boat off of the mooring and anchored further north, right in between Monument Beach and Honeymoon Beach. It's a nice spot but quite deep; I dove on the anchor as the sun was setting and it took me a few tries to find it in the dark, silty (stirred-up) water.

We have a rather long list of deferred boat maintenance (mostly cosmetic stuff) that we'll be working on this week. Today Dawn continued with her sanding/varnishing project, while I borrowed a Loos Meter and retensioned our rigging, worked on the watermaker, and cleaned up some SSB connections. After lunch we took a break to return the Loos meter to its owner and run across to town to see if the fresh produce had come in yet (it hadn't), get more water, and buy a hawaiian sling and spear at the Top-To-Bottom store. Tonight both Dawn and I took the paddleboard out; I stopped and visited with several boats we know that just came in yesterday. Boat work continues tomorrow but hopefully we'll find some time to run over to Sand Dollar Beach for snorkeling (and spear-fishing!) on the offlying reef.