Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Into the Deep Blue Sea!

Sunset from somewhere in the North Atlantic!
We left Fort Pierce, Florida at about 0930 on Thursday 28 April. We arrived at our anchorage just off Cumberland Island, Georgia at about 0930 Friday, 29 April. Yes, we spent 24 hours cruising in the deep blue sea and traveled 253 miles, for an average of just over 10 statute miles per hour. Why did we make this trip in the ocean? Well, we had just spent 10 days at the boatyard in Stuart, FL and we had fallen way behind where we wanted to be. No, we aren’t under any pressure to be at any specific place at any specific time, but we did want to get moving. On a normal day traveling the ICW we make somewhere between 60 and 70 miles, so doing 253 miles in one 24 hour period put us four days ahead of where we would otherwise have been.  Second, we had just spent a whole bunch of money at the boatyard in Stuart and decided that we did not want to spend a lot of money on marinas. One way to do that, of course, is simply not to stop. And finally, it has been over a year since we had completed an overnight and we decided that it was about time that we did it again – for braggin’ rights if for no other reason.
So, how did it go? We had been watching the weather for over a week while at the boatyard. It looked like Thursday and Friday were going to be very good days to go “outside,” as we cognoscenti call it. When we first started watching the weather, the predictions were for waves 2-feet high with the wind from the south. Now you can’t beat those wave predictions as I don’t think NOAA forecasts anything less. And the wind direction? If it were from the south, it would be at our back, so we would have following seas. We were set. As the week progressed the forecast began deteriorating a little, though just a bit. After a few days the predictions were for 2-3 feet waves. That is still near perfect and we were looking forward to it. The day before we left the predictions had made it to 2-4 feet, but the winds were still predicted to be from the south to the southeast. Now, to be honest, that is kind of what we had been expecting since we started planning the trip, so were weren’t dissuaded – but we certainly did not like the trend. We were chomping at the bit to get underway before the weather deteriorated any further. On Thursday morning we were off!

Now, we obviously like boating. But 24 hours of up and down … and down and up … and sideways and up and … did I mention it was for 24 hours? You get the picture I am sure. Although the first couple of hours were a little more choppy than we had planned, once we made the turn to the north the motion became a little more manageable and we got into a pattern … up, down, sideways, down, up, other sideways, etc. The motion didn’t seem to bother Ann at all. Spot, well she went into her special hidey-hole for the first couple of hours, then reappeared to eat, get scratched and use her littler box. After that, she did okay – though she clearly thought we had lost our minds. As for me? I did okay. I don’t get motion sickness, but I will admit that the constant up and down did cause a little bit of uneasiness. I drank some ginger beer and tried not to focus on anything but the task at hand.
When we travel outside parallel to the coast, we usually cruise about 10-15 miles offshore. Other cruisers like to stay closer, but we have a couple of reasons for keeping our distance. First, we want to stay away from lights on land. You would be amazed how far a single red light can shine at sea on a dark night. If you are near shore, some of those red lights can seem a lot closer than they really are. Or even worse, you can convince yourself that the red lights you see are on land – when in reality they belong to a huge tanker not too far away. Second, there are places along the coast (usually near major ports) where there are bunches of navigation aids marking a channel, a shoal, a fishing area or something else. At night, when our radar picks up ten to fifteen nav aids it becomes difficult for me to separate them from any boats that might be in the area. In fact, one time I was so busy matching various buoys that appeared in the charts to targets picked up by my radar that I missed a sport fishing boat that was zipping by about 50 yards off my bow! That was certainly a wake-up call and sent us further off the coast.

 Cruising offshore during the daytime is one thing, cruising offshore at night is something else entirely. Some of our friends do it often, and to them I am sure it is almost second nature. But for those of us who only do a 24-hour jump outside a couple of times per year, it can be downright spooky. Remember I told you that we want to stay far enough offshore that we don’t get confused by lights on land?  That generally means there is little ambient light. Now imagine a moonless night. If you are thinking that it would be very, very black outside then you are thinking right! There is no way you are going to see anything if it is not marked with lights (as almost everything at sea should be) or if it does not appear on radar. We generally pick up a radar target 4 miles out, if it is going to pass anywhere close to us we make a significant turn to the right or left so we are far enough away when we pass it – and track the blip until it is well past us. Now that we stay far enough out that we don’t have ten or more nav aids as radar targets, we can manage everything pretty well.
Although they are very hard to see, there is a herd of wild
horses behind the fence. They are from Cumberland Island.
Well, obviously we completed our overnight and came to rest at Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cumberland is one of our favorite places, as there is so much history, so much wildlife and magnificent beaches, beaches, beaches! This year we hopped in our dinghy and rode up and down the island on our own little expedition of discovery. We found the Plum Orchard – a place where we had not yet been – and discovered they have a really cool dinghy dock. We didn’t use it this year because we were busy exploring other places on the waterway, but next year I have a feeling we will use it extensively.

We had pretty much decided that because of the expense associated with our batteries and generator, that we would do a lot of anchoring this year as we headed up the waterway. I have to tell you, though, that for me this isn’t much of a hardship because I really LOVE anchoring. Ann likes it too, but no one likes it as much as I do.  Before we started anchoring, thought, there was one place we wanted to go … Jekyll Island, Georgia. While there, we bicycled around, provisioned for the next phase of our venture re-met our friends Russ and Lori and generally had a great time.
On the way up we refueled at Brunswick Landing Marina (still the lowest fuel price in the area, but it seems to be creeping upwards), then we anchored successively at Walburg Creek, Bull Island, Toogoodoo Creek, East Minim Creek and Carolina Beach. The three most interesting anchorages were Cumberland, Walburg and Toogoodoo (I like Toogoodoo in part because it is so fun to say and easy to spell).

On Jekyll, Lori was showing Ann how to make bracelets.
Spot was keeping a close eye on the proceedings, in case
 Ann needed her help.
The island separating Walburg Creek (where we stayed) from the Atlantic seems alternatively to be called St. Catherine’s Island and Walburg Island. As St. Catherine’s it has been designated a National Historic Landmark because of its rich human history. A succession of Spanish Missions were established on the island during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Current archeological work is discovering (among many other things)  how Catholicism was practiced and taught in the Georgia missions was different than the way it was taught and practiced in, for example, St. Augustine.  In 1670, when the English established a settlement at what would become Charleston, SC, the beginning of the end of the Spanish missions was in site. The island has an interesting English history also, but I don’t know enough to write about it.

The island is interesting for another reason. Although it is difficult getting good information about the program, from 1974 through 2003 the Wildlife Survival Center of New York's Bronx Zoo kept hundreds of exotic and endangered animals there to propagate and then release them into their wild native habitats. The preserve was established so scientists could study several species of birds and mammals in a habitat as close to wilderness as possible. The island's large spaces, its large enclosures and its private grounds, to which no visitors are allowed, permitted zoologists to study how animals would act in "herd situations" or determine what would happen if captive beasts were reintroduced to the wilderness.
I wish I could find out more about that program.

Sunrise on Toogoodoo Creek
Anyway … In addition to the cool pronunciation and spelling of Toogoodoo, the Creek provides an excellent set of anchorages. While we were in the area, the winds were from the west – and were 20 – 25 knots. We looked at a number of places that we thought might offer some protection. We found nothing– until we looked at Toogoodoo. The Creek meanders through the countryside sufficiently that if you follow it far enough – and we followed it for about 2 miles – you will find protection from just about any direction. When we got to the point where we dropped out anchor, we had trees and a slight hill giving us fairly good protection from the wind. It was great. It is now on our list of favorite protected anchoring places.
All of this anchoring gave us an opportunity to test our expensive generator and our new set of batteries extensively. And I have to tell you that … (drum roll please) so far, so good!
After Toogoodoo and Carolina Beach it was on to Beaufort, NC – which is where we are now. Our next entry will close out this year’s trip up the ICW and will likely contain a list of summer projects we have to complete before we set off again next year.
Ann's NOTES: I really to not have much to add...
Our time in the Atlantic was fun and exciting. My "go outside" meal is meat loaf and mashed potatoes. I make it the day prior so it is a simple meal to reheat while we are under way. The nice part is with the new generator and batteries we did not have to count amps while the micro wave was on.

Michael and I have been going up and down the ICW for six years now, and every year we find new and interesting things to see and do. Two years ago we decided to really discover Georgia, we spent extra time exploring the little towns on the ICW and off the main part of the waterway. Our country and states have some many hidden gems. Small town museums, National Parks with guided tours, it truly is interesting and amazing. I think the next state to explore will be North Carolina.
I am looking forward to that.

Our  winter adventure is almost over, Traveling Soul will be in her slip in Solomons MD, She will get some new bottom paint, a few upgrades in the salon, a good cleaning and reorganization for her next trip.

Remember you are welcome to visit our land base ... Spot loves company..
Have a wonderful summer, thank you for following us..
Traveling Soul..OUT  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Boatyard

I know, I now, you didn’t expect another blog entry so soon after the last one. Well, we are kind of stuck in a VERY LOUD boatyard watching the paint dry on the boat next to ours and watching workmen spend our hard-earned money. There are two reasons why we are here. The first one relates to the battery problem we have been having for several months now.  I hope to be able to resolve that forever – you will have to read on before you know how. There was another problem, however – a problem with our generator – which turned out to be the much bigger and much more EXPEN$IVE problem, costing  more boat units than I can count. For a discussion of our NEW generator, you will have to read on or skip forward.

Batteries, Batteries and More Batteries

You will remember that I have been complaining about my batteries ever since we left the States. Four years ago when I was having similar problems, I decided that I would spend whatever it took to solve the problem. I was told that Lifeline batteries were the top of the line, that they had a five year warranty and that they usually lasted much longer than that. I bought two of them for my inverter bank and a year later bought two for my house bank. Fast forward three-and-a-half years. Our inverter batteries are now producing at about 60% of the capacity they produced when they were new. I have to crank up and run the generator twice a day for about 2-3 hours in order to keep our food cold, our phones charged and our computers on-line.  I contacted Lifeline to ask them what I should do. Their tech rep told me that it appeared I had a “minor sulfation issue” – that’s right he considered a drop in 40% of the batteries’ capacity a “minor sulfation issue.” Isn’t that like telling someone whose boat is sinking due to a huge hole in the hull that he has a “minor fiberglass issue?” or a guy who has been decapitated that he has a “minor neck wound?”   Or a guy who has suffered a massive coronary that he has a “minor cardiac issue?” “Minor sulfation issue” my patootie! Needless to say I was not particularly impressed with Lifeline batteries or with the technical support offered by the company.

So, I contacted several friends who are especially knowledgeable about these things and have boats similar to ours. I asked them three questions: (1) How many amp-hours they had in their battery banks, (2) How many battery banks they had on their boats and (3) What kind of batteries they used, golf cart or big 8-D batteries. (NOTE: An ampere hour (abbreviated Ah, or sometimes amp hour) is the amount of energy charge in a battery that will allow one ampere of current to flow for one hour. An ampere is a unit of measure of the rate of electron flow or current in an electrical conductor. Our refrigerator, for example, requires about 10 amps per hour, or 240 in a 20-hour day.) This first thing I learned is that the measly 1100 amp-hours I had in my two banks was clearly not enough. We have a pretty big boat, but people with smaller boats than ours have more A-H that we did. Moreover, we use Alternating Current (AC) extensively. We have a household-size GE refrigerator on our boat, for goodness sake. Other people have made different choices; some don’t have electric refrigerators or freezers, some have smaller ones, some have propane appliances, some have special marine 12 volt – 120 volt refrigerators, etc. We like having the luxury of a big household refrigerator. That means we have to have enough battery power to run it for a reasonable period of time. 1100 amp hours wasn’t going to cut it.

Second, we learned that several (though certainly not all) of our friends have combined what I call their “inverter” banks and their “house” banks into one. There are advantages and disadvantages to that approach. On the one hand, for example, it is much easier to keep track of what is happening to your batteries when you have only one bank. In addition, you can use the juice from all your batteries equally. On the other hand, if you have a big bank you may have issues charging all your batteries in a reasonable amount of time. So, to me, it doesn’t seem to be a slam-dunk one way or the other.

Third, I learned that many (though not all) of my friends were using golf cart batteries on their boats. I knew, of course, that many people on power boats used golf carts, but I was a bit surprised at the number of my friends that did. The most important reason they cited was that the Golf carts are smaller and easier for one man to handle. While that is true, because most golf carts are usually 6-volt (requiring two batteries wired in series to produce the required 12 volts) larger banks will require two to four times as many connections as regular batteries. Connections, of course, lead to inefficiencies and the potential for problems.

After that input, I initially decided to increase our battery bank by at least 50%, to put all batteries in one bank and to convert to golf cart batteries. Then, I talked to the boatyard (Whiticar, in Stuart Florida) that would have to do much of the work. They had a couple of observations and suggestions. First, they understood completely my desire to increase the size of our bank. Second, they wanted to make sure I understood that while they were perfectly willing to put in all golf carts, it would be a lot more costly as they would have to find and/or make space for the new batteries (even though we would be taking out the old batteries, it was not a 1:1 exchange) and they would have to reconfigure and re-wire the banks that I had. They suggested that I think about making a one-for-one exchange with my existing 8-D batteries, then find room for two more. They thought, and I eventually agreed, that it would be a lot less work (read a lot less expensive). Moreover, let’s face it, while some of my friends are agile enough and handy enough to move and re-connect their batteries in the coming years, I am not going to. I can reconnect batteries regardless of their weight, but if I really need to move them, I will whip out the two most important items in my tool bag – my checkbook and my cell phone – and find someone who can do it for me. So, the fact that that golf carts can be handled by one man (they are still about 70 pounds each!) is not that much of a selling point.

So, here is what I ended up with: 6 x 8-D batteries with 330 amp-hours each for a total of 1980 Amp-hours. Now, most 8D batteries have around 250 amp-hours, but I figured in for a penny, in for a pound.  I know what most of you are thinking, “Brown, what the hell did you do? Increasing your AH capability by 50% is one thing, increasing it by a factor two is another!” You may be right, but I decided to go big or go home. Here is my thought process: (1) I am tired of worrying about how many AH are left in the banks and when we are going to have to turn on the generator. (2) We all know that the less the depth of discharge (DoD) of a battery the longer it will last. In the case of these particular batteries, the manufacturer indicates that when they are normally discharged to 80%, the service life (measured in cycles) is likely to be 2.5 times higher than if they were discharged to 60%. When my previous inverter bank was new, I would frequently discharge it to 60% (never below 50%, of course). Now, because I will have twice as many AH available I should not be discharging it to less than ~80%. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll last longer.

My original intention was to keep all these batteries in one bank – but, since I have so many AH there may be a problem. I have two very good, modern battery chargers, one part of the inverter-charger combination and a separate 80 amp battery charger made by Charles, one of the best on the business. I am not going to go into the workings of modern three and four phase chargers, but suffice it to say that using two chargers will not cut the charging time in half. In fact, the only way to tell how much the second charger will contribute (if at all) seems to be to test the various configurations. So, what I had the technicians do was to give me a switch so that I can either combine all the batteries into one bank or separate them into a 4-battery inverter bank and a 2-battery house bank. Before we leave the Yard I will test the two bank solution versus the one bank solution to see how long it takes my two chargers to charge the batteries. Based on that observation, I will normally carry them in one configuration or the other. I will keep you posted.

The Generator

OK, even though the batteries cost upwards of $500 each and even though there was quite a bit of labor involved in moving out four 200 pound batteries, and moving in six two hundred pound batteries, the eventual cost of the battery challenge will be insignificant in comparison to the cost of the generator challenge.

We have always had problems with our generator. Initially it was the solenoids. After we fixed those it was the fuel system. When we had the fuel system repaired the cooling system began acting up. This year we had problems with the radiator cap and the heat exchanger. Well, we have finally hit the point where the heat exchanger failed catastrophically – failed to the point where the damage it caused to the rest of the system cannot be fixed.

In our generator, as in most marine generators, a fresh water-antifreeze mixture circulates through the system to keep the generator cool. As this mixture circulates, it cools the generator, of course, but at the same time the mixture becomes hotter and hotter. Eventually, the fresh water-antifreeze mixture runs through the “heat exchanger.” The heat exchanger takes the cool salt water that the generator has sucked up, runs it past the mixture to cool it down, then dumps the now-hot saltwater overboard. In our generator, somewhere along the line, the heat exchanger broke and allowed salt water in to the fresh water cooling system.  You know how corrosive salt water can be. Unbeknownst to us, the salt started corroding the insides of the fresh water system and punched holes in it until just about the whole generator was compromised and feeling the effects of the salt water. When the tech looked at our generator he said he would have to replace this, replace that and replace something else, just to see if the generator could be flushed and repaired. He didn’t know how much that would cost, but it wouldn’t be cheap, OR we could get a new generator. To paraphrase a famous song, “We closed eyes, we held our nose … we paid the money.” We are now the proud owners of a brand new 17kW Onan-Cummins generator. 

This generator is so quiet … c’mon, c’mon, you are supposed to say in unison, “how quiet is it?” Anyway, it is so quiet that we (mainly Ann) decided to take up the carpeting in the galley. (Nobody wants carpeting in their kitchen. We kept it there because it attenuated the sound from the previous generator). When we started picking up the carpeting we found parquet flooring, as is the case in the rest of the boat. Ann spent some time repairing the floor, filling the holes from carpet nails, etc. and now we have a beautiful hardwood floor in our galley. Yes, it has a few scars and a few gouges, but hey, who among us does not?

Side Trips
While the boatyard boys were working on the boat, we took two side trips, one to downtown Stuart and one to Saint Augustine. We kind of had to. In the first place we were going nuts just sitting there; in the second place they had to turn off the water and electric while they put in the batteries. Moreover, they had to build scaffolding for the generator to pull it out of the generator room, then maneuver it through the saloon (living room). For our trip to Stuart, we rented a car, visited West Marine, Publix (the Florida grocery monopoly) and a few other places. The most interesting was downtown Stuart where they were holding their weekly Farmer’s Market. The vendors didn’t really have anything that we needed, but it was nice to see folks peddling their wares on a nice sunny Florida afternoon.

St. Augustine was … well, it was St. Augustine. It is probably my favorite city along the ICW and has more history and tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at. For example, did you know that, English propaganda notwithstanding, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States? Did you know that Ripley’s first “odd-itorium” is in St. Augustine? Anyway, we spent three days at a motel in St. Augustine and had a really good time. When we got back to the boat, we found that they had put in the batteries, had removed the old generator and put in the new one – though the new one hadn’t been connected yet.

Finally, on Wednesday we left Stuart and headed to Ft. Pierce to fill up with fuel and head into the wild, blue yonder. But you’ll have to wait until next time to learn about those adventures.
ANN’S NOTES:  OK readers….TEST in ten minutes…Subject 1.. size of batteries and the number of Ah that corresponds with them? Subject  2..How many batteries and battery banks does Traveling Soul  currently have ? No cheating..ok..open book test.

What Michael did not tell you was that Me, Myself and I gave up valuable storage space in the galley to put in those big ass batteries. I figured since it is the fridge that sucks up so much power, that is was only fair that I sacrifice some space under the bench sitting area.

The new generator is very pretty and quiet. The big red salt encrusted one is in a scrap metal heap and the pretty new one is earning its keep. Heaven knows we paid a small fortune to adopt it and give it a new home.

St. Augustine was great, I found a nice motel just outside of town that takes pets. Traveling with Spot puts a whole new twist in finding accommodations.  If you ever need a nice place to stay , it is called the Southern Oaks Inn. Clean room, comfortable beads, mini fridge, mini microwave, coffee pot, very good  breakfast, pool , wifi, and free parking. Surcharge $15 per day to bring a pet.
I know Michael wants to send this out so I am going to close out.

We are heading back to the condo. It is going to be a busy summer full of family, friends, trips, and the normal medical and dental appointments.

Hope to see all of you soon, come visit!!!
Traveling Soul…OUT

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Coming Home

Ok, so I guess the real news is … we’re ba-ack. Yes, friends and family, we took advantage of that Sunday weather window and returned to the United States. The seas were as we predicted, i.e. not particularly good. Ann has made Spot a place on the sofa, though, covered with blankets and other stuff to make her feel safe – kind of like the forts we built as kids.  But before I get to the details of how/when/why we returned, let me discuss our travels before Palm Beach.
Ann and Mike with their friends Russ and Lori eating lunch at Xuma, on
Highbourne Cay

After escaping the wind at Hawksbill and making one last visit to the Exuma Land and Sea Park we started meandering home. If we were “going” home, we would have taken the shortest route and just waited for weather windows between the various stops. Since we were “meandering” we wanted to head in the general direction of home, but made sure that we stopped and smelled some of the roses along the way. Our first stop was Highbourne Cay. Every year we look for an excuse for going to Highbourne. We go there for one reason and one reason only: it is the home to what is probably the best Bahamian restaurant south of Nassau, Xuma. Located on a cliff just above a wonderful little beach with some beautiful views, more importantly, the restaurant serves some of the best food we have had in months (with the obvious exception of Ann’s). Ann and I shared both a lobster salad (scrumptious) and a fish sandwich which was cooked to perfection.

Normally when we leave Highbourne, it is off to Nassau where we spend a couple of days, dodging thieves and enjoying the sights, then we go to Chub Cay where we anchor one more time, then on to Bimini and eventually home. But since we were “meandering,” this year, we decided that we wanted to do something different and to include the Berry Islands in this year’s itinerary. In fact, we decided that we would go from Highbourne to Alder Cay in the Berries in one day – that is over 80 miles, about half of it over some serious ocean. We don’t usually go that far that fast, but were encouraged by our friends Russ and Lori who had similar intentions. The only thing that concerned me was that their power catamaran is generally faster than Traveling Soul. You will be glad to hear, though, that we made it. In fact, we left Highbourne about 0630, just at sunrise, and arrived at Alder at about 1530 – about 9 hours later.

We anchored at Alder for one night. We had initially planned to go a little further and anchor behind Bonds Cay, because we were concerned about the swell behind Alder. You can just look at Alder and know that with any southerly seas there is going to be significant swell in the anchorage. Lucky for us, however, there was virtually no southerly component to the seas and thus virtually no swell, so we decided we would spend the night there with two other boats that had beat us to the anchorage. The next morning headed out for Great Harbour Cay Marina, a more manageable distance of 60 miles away. I kind of wish we would had anchored a few more times in the Berries, but the island group is very shallow and, since many (most?) of the islands are privately owned, you can’t get much further ashore than the beach.

Some strange patterns in the sand near Great harbor Marina.
Shortly after we set out towards Great Harbour, I could see, in the very great distance, a structure that looked like a small city in the middle of the ocean. I double checked the charts to make sure there wasn’t an island that I had somehow missed. I then decided that it looked more like an oil rig, but again I didn’t  see any reference on the charts and hadn’t heard of any oil strike offshore in the Bahamas. I watched it for an hour or more and finally asked Ann to take a look through her fancy-shmancy stabilized binoculars. She told me it was a ship. “C’mon,” I told her, “even I can tell the difference between a ship and an oil rig in the middle of the ocean!” In reality, of course, it was a ship. Actually, it was two ships. It turns out that the Norwegian and the Caribbean Cruise Lines each own an island in the Berries so their passengers can get off the ship and play for a day. One owns Little Stirrup Cay and other owns Big Stirrup Cay. I swear they aren’t more than a couple of miles from one another. Exactly why they like to “cuddle” like that I will never know. Anyway, these ships are HUGE and from s distance look like cities themselves.

The reason we had come to the Berries in the first place was to go to Great Harbour Cay Marina. We had heard that the marina and its population were very social and that management organized events for almost every day of the week. While it is true that everyone was friendly, there were a few people who were social enough to organize events and it was these folks that made the week for us. So, we want to offer special thanks to Chris and Barbara on their boat Hallelujah, a 48’ Hatteras, and Arch, a single-handler, on KaJen, a Marine Trader. We met them at the Beach Club, a cute, clean little bar/restaurant just off Sugar Beach. They invited us to go with them to Carriearl, a boutique restaurant and hotel, for Sunday brunch. They knew the owners from previous visits to the marina and we had a blast. The owners are truly characters in the most positive sense of the word. If you go to the marina on Great Harbour Cay and do not go to Carriearl, you will have missed the opportunity of a lifetime … and they serve pretty good food as well!

Great Harbour is an in interesting island with a fascinating history. In the late-sixties, it was the place to be. People like Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Brigitte Bardot (ooh la la!), Telly Savalas, Jack Nicklaus and F. Lee Bailey vacationed here and development of the island was going strong. In fact, there was a world-class golf course (that had three professional tournaments), together with a mammoth golf club. Many of the island’s houses still stand (others have deteriorated significantly) and the golf course is, I suppose, technically playable, but Great Harbour Cay is a shadow of its former self. In my opinion it just goes to show what a corrupt, incompetent government can do to an economy – as is the case here and on so many other islands in the Bahamas. You can still sense, however, what it once was and what it might have been.

We stayed in Great Harbour for six days, then saw a weather window that would allow us to get to the Ocean Reef Club in Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island.  We had heard of the Club through some friends who told us that it was inexpensive ($1/foot!) and a lot of fun. Our original intention was to spend a week at the Club, then wait for a weather window to head back to Palm Beach. After the first day or two at Ocean Reef, however, the forecast window closed shut. It looked like there might be an opportunity to leave on Sunday (which would have been out fourth day there), but if we did not leave on Sunday, none of our weather sources showed a good travel day for another 10 days. So, we decided to leave early.

We did swim in the very, very nice Ocean Reef pool, and we had dinner and lunch at their pretty mediocre restaurant. We did not participate in the afternoon Bingo games, but we did enjoy the live music on Saturday afternoon. Overall, we were so focused on leaving that we did not give Ocean Reef a chance. With that said … I have to point out something. On “D” dock, which was for larger boats, there were ten, count ‘em ten Canadian boats, five US boats and one French boat. That is empirical proof that the Canadians are in the process of invading the Bahamas. Again, none of them invited us aboard their vessels so we cannot verify how much arms and ammunition they are doubtless carrying down below. Since many of you don’t believe me, I may have to write a whole blog entry on this nefarious scheme in the near future.

YOu can see the restaurant, the swim-up bar and the swimming pool.
We really had a great slip!

Anyway, we are now sitting in North Palm Beach for a few days before we take off for the Whiticar Boat Yard in Stuart where we hope to fix the generator and the battery problem FOREVER. When we get it done I will tell you what we did. Lord, I hope this works.

ANN’S NOTES:  I am Happy to report that Spot is sound asleep, curled up in her cat bed next to me, as I enter my blog comments. She is not in some strange sail canvas cover on another boat.

We did have a yummy lunch at Highbourne Cay which was made that much better by sharing the meal with our friends Russ and Lori. We have had a fun time exploring and eating our way through the Bahamas with them.
I think next time we go to the Ocean Reef resort, we will actually leave the property. We were so fixed on watching the weather that we did not even go to the local straw market. Our slip was very nice, and we were directly in front of the pool. No long walks, no lugging towels and stuff back and forth, we just stepped off the boat onto the dock, and claimed our chair pool side under a little cabana. NICE!!!!

So it is time to wrap up this year’s adventure in the Bahamas. All-in-all it was a good one. We did not have to hide from any strong west winds like last year. We did have some wind from the north and east, but really not bad. We saw some new islands, meet some new friends, and enjoyed the company of old friends. Spot had her own adventure and caused us a few heart palpitations. Traveling Soul, considering her age did well, she produced water and her generator held out and produced electricity as long as it could and most important, she kept us safe.

Remember to save your pennies and plan to visit us on our next adventure.
Thanks for reading.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spot's Great Adventure

Some of you have heard and some of you haven’t. That is why we are publishing this Special Edition of our blog. Yes, Spot went on a walkabout. Don’t fret, though, she is back in her bed even as we speak. Let me tell you the story the way she told it to me.
Spot’s Great Adventure
It was dark, around 0300 or so, and time for me to do my regular late-night inspection of the boat. I prowled fore and aft, port and starboard, up and down just checking to make sure everything was ship-shape. I noted a couple of deficiencies about which I would have to notify my staff, but all in all everything looked okay. I was playing with my squirrel –just to make sure he didn’t get lonely you understand – and then I looked up. I couldn’t believe it, but I could see stars. That meant someone had left the top hatch open, and that meant I could get outside, and that meant I had to go exploring. Now, up to this point my staff had diligently closed and locked the hatch, but someone appeared to have forgotten. Either that, or pirates were aboard. Yikes! It was up to me to check. I slowly climbed the steps and saw that I could make the leap from the top step all the way to the upper deck. Ready, set, jump … There, I did it. I knew exactly what to say, “One small step for a cat; one giant leap for cat-dom,” I meowed.
I looked around. Nope, no pirates. Whew! I was glad of that. My primary purpose accomplished, I decided that I would do a little exploring. I looked around a little more. When I had been up here before, my staff made me wear a leash, so clearly there was something up here I was not supposed to see or something I wasn’t supposed to do. Oh look, I can slide down the windows to get to the lower deck. I’ll bet no one has done that before. Whee! Oh look, from the lower deck I can jump onto the dock. I have only tried that one other time and then I ended up in the drink. Wow! This is not only exploring, it is dangerous exploring!! I REALLY feel like a cat now!
Ok, here I go … Yes! To paraphrase a great human, “Free at last, free at last, thank the Great Cat Almighty, I am free at last.” I can’t say that. I am a serious explorer now so I have to come up with my own saying. How about, “Watch where you are jumping so you don’t land in the water!” or “A boat, a boat, my cat-dom for a boat!” Okay, so maybe I’ll have to work on that.
Spot's Hidey Hole was in the center of this sail on a
catamaran a few boats down from us.
Exactly how she got there, we are not sure.
Now that I am on the dock, what should I do? Well, I could get back on the boat – but jumping six feet upwards is a lot harder than jumping six feet downwards. Well, my staff usually walks on the dock, so let me try that. Hmmm … This is kind of interesting. Oh, look there is another boat over there. It has two hulls so it must be a cat-amaran. I should go over and introduce myself. Oh look, it has a small opening on the second level just made for cats to explore. I think I’ll go in there.
At that point I must have dozed off or fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, one of my staff was outside calling for me. Hmmm … should I meow in response or should I just let her continue to look. Before deciding the proper course of action I thought I would have some breakfast … except my bowl wasn’t here. Neither was my water. Imagine, it has come to this … just because I went exploring my staff will not bring my food and water to me. I guess I’ll meow and let the humans know where I am. Oh, look a human is coming to get me. That’s good because after all that exploring and having some breakfast, I think I’ll take a nap.
\Signed Spot\
Elsewhere on our Bahamas Adventure we have had some stuff happening. I think we told you last about the winds in Big Spot Major and how we were stuck in the anchorage for several days, then how we went to Black Point to get some bread and do some laundry. Usually, after we leave Black Point we head straight to George Town. This year we decided to make it a two day event, so we stopped after night one at Lee Stocking Island.
One of the beaches at Lee Stocking Island
First, I have to say OMG, it is a beautiful location and it might become one of my favorite in the Islands. The island itself has several hiking trails, one of which takes you to the highest point in the Exuma chain. In addition, there are two or three different beaches that have that enchanting island beauty and at least two superb anchorages with protection from the east and the north. But no, folks, that’s not all. Lee Stocking is the location of the abandoned Caribbean Research Center.  Now, as we learned from the abandoned US Navy Base in Eleuthera, when they abandon something in the Bahamas, they just up and leave. At the Research Center (abandoned in 2011), there are filing cabinets full of files (seriously!); there are books, fiction and non-fiction, ready to be read; there is a dock waiting for boats, mooring balls waiting to be used, and relatively new furniture waiting for someone to sit, lay or otherwise use it. I mean it looks like they left there a couple of days ago and intend to send the boat back for the rest of their stuff. We actually found a photo of the research staff and a thank you letter from one of the former interns. It was kind of eerie! We only stayed one night, but intend to stop back on our way north.
An open filing cabinet at the abandoned
Caribbean Research Center on Lee Stocking Island.
 Inside were letters, strategic plans
for the Center, etc.
While there, we had drinks with Brian and Kim, the crew of the catamaran Freedom. It seems that Brian is a lobster fisherman and catches lobster for dinner. We need to hang around them and learn how he does that!
After Lee Stocking, it was on to George Town. We went to George Town for two reasons. First, we wanted to see our friends Russ and Lori on their boat Twin Sisters. We linked up with them and had drinks the first night, dinner with them the second night and lunch the third day. Russ and Lori like George Town and had spent 51 days there, enjoying the sun, surf and people and they caught us up on all the doings in and around George Town. 
Our second reason for going to G’Town  was to get ready for our trip further  east. We had intended to go as far as San Salvador, then come back through Rum Cay and Long Island. Next year we thought we might go down to the Raggeds. “Why?” you might ask were we going to take that journey.  Because that is the path that some people conjecture Columbus followed through the Bahamas before he ended up at Hispaniola. However, we figured we needed at least seven really good weather days – and we simply could not find them. Actually, the week we arrived in G’Town turned out to be the longest stretch of good weather we had. Yes, it is possible that if we waited longer that we might have been able to find our weather window. But if we waited longer, we would not be able to pursue Plan B.
Plan B is meandering north at a leisurely pace. We went from George Town to “The Marina at Emerald Bay.” There we caught up with the crew of Sequel to … who we had met last year on the way to Marsh Harbor. We had seen their boat along the way at several places, but had not physically linked up until Emerald Bay. We also rented a car. We were going to go sightseeing, but ended up going to an auto store (NAPA), two different grocery stores and driving down the Queen’s Highway, just exploring a little.
Ok, I know you are asking why we went to an auto parts store. Here’s the scoop. I went down to check the oil level in the generator – which I do frequently. Usually, we don’t need oil, but this time we did. So, I took the top off the generator (I need to do that to put oil in) and noticed that the area around the radiator cap was all corroded. In fact, the corrosion appeared to have lifted the cap off the heat exchanger.  I thought that was strange, so I took the cap off and found that not only did the cap itself come off, but so did the entirely assembly to which it was attached! We went to the auto store to buy a new radiator cap, which we did, and tried to get a new neck assembly – which they do not sell. In the event, I used a product called JB Weld to attach the neck assembly and put back on the radiator cap. Because of the way it fit, the radiator cap isn’t keeping a lid on the pressure, like it is should, it is just keeping the water-antifreeze mix from spilling out. Oh well. I am guessing it will cost another boat unit.
After Emerald Bay it was up to Lee Stocking again, then to Big Major Spot, and finally on to Hawksbill Cay. On the way to Big Major, I hooked a nice Mahi, got him up to the boat, and then had my 130# test leader break!!! I can assure you the fish didn’t weigh 130#, so it is pretty clear the line was deficient. Grrrr!!
A picture of Traveling Soul from a hill on Hawksbill Cay
We went to and stayed at Hawksbill for two reasons: (1) Our friends Russ and Lori were there, and (2) we expected and received some pretty significant winds (25 – 30 MPH gusting to 40). We took the opportunity to explore a small part of Hawksbill and it was really unusual. It had a large mangrove/sandy area that went maybe a mile into the island and connected with what looked to be a trail from the north. I wish we would have had more time, but we will certainly try to make some more next year.
Ann’s Notes:   So…waking up and NOT having Spot greet you… I knew right away something was not right. Michael and I looked in all her places that she hangs out in, believe me, on this boat she has a lot of them. The next step, after finding the second deck hatch door open, was to get dressed, grab her treats bag and call her name while walking the docks. Also praying that she was not floating in the water. Several good things did happen, the most important was she was safe and we found her. She also answered my calls with a very strong “meow” so I could locate her. Spot does not like being in the wind and we were in a marina to get out of the wind. She was smart when looking for a safe place to get out of the wind. I found her inside the sail cover, looking out to the dock, on a catamaran.   The owner of the boat heard me calling and heard Spot also, we both looked up and there she was. My light colored cat in his tan colored sail cover.   The lesson I learned is that next year when cruising, she will have an additional tag with our boat name and Bahamian phone number. Yes … she is micro chipped … and Yes she has a tag on her collar with our US phone number. The down side is that the out islands do not even have doctors for humans … forget about Vets with micro chip readers.
We have had a wonderful time exploring some new anchorages. Meeting new friends and spending time with old ones is such a blessing. 
I am hoping that next year we can explore the Columbus route and also have a few visitors to share Traveling Souls with.  Start saving your pennies, friends and family, your stateroom awaits you.
Spot the Explorer
Traveling Soul…OUT

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Eating Our Way Through the Exumas

This is going to be a bit of an unusual blog; unusual because we really didn’t do much except get caught in a wind storm that just wouldn’t quit. Now the wind was from the east, which is good and we were in an excellent anchorage with superb holding, which is even better. The problem is that we pretty much had to stay in the anchorage and we couldn’t even go anywhere safely in our dinghy.  Well, we found something to do – basically, Ann cooked and I ate. But before we get into detail, let me discuss some of the adventures we had before the gale.

The last time we wrote you we were getting ready to cross from Eleuthera to the Exumas. Doing so involves crossing about forty miles of serious (3000+ feet deep) ocean so we had to wait for decent weather. And we really timed it right – the weather was just about perfect. I dragged a line a line behind the boat hoping to catch a fish. About 1/3 of the way across, I did get a strike. I got to the back of the boat, got settled and started slowing the fish down by increasing the drag on the reel. I am not sure whether I increased it too much or the fish just got lucky, but he got away. My line didn’t break, however, and I still had the lure – a lure which I continued to use for the rest of the trip – though it was to no avail.

The Exumas are an island chain in the Bahamas consisting of 365 islands with a population of about 7000. The islands themselves are quite varied. Some are large, some are small; some are inhabited and some are uninhabited; some are lush and some are arid. The one thing they have in common is that, taken together, they provide some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and are surrounded by more shades of blue than E.L James has Shades of Grey. Our first stop in the Exumas was at a particularly beautiful spot – just off O’Brien’s Cay – that we discovered last year with our friends Dave and Joan Wolf. (You may remember that just as we were getting ready to lower our dinghy so we could go snorkeling, the generator broke. This year we have had no generator problems J).

The view from O'Brien's Cay.
After a night at O’Brien’s we reserved a mooring ball at Warderick Wells, an island that serves as the headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We have been there several times in the past and continue to be amazed at the beauty of the place. It is nearly impossible to capture these tremendous sights in a single photo because it is not the simple 2x2 or 4x4 picture, it is the fact that the entire horizon is so magnificent. Anyway, while we were at Warderick we also walked up to Booboo Hill and looked for boat signs of our friends – sorry, guys, we didn’t see any.

One of the many views from Warderick Wells.
Before leaving Warderick, we knew weather was coming. We also knew we had to take care of a couple of maintenance items. I think I said in the last entry that we had solved our battery problem. Well, I jumped the gun. We certainly made the batteries better, but I decided – based on advice from the manufacturer – that I would equalize the batteries one more time. To equalize, we needed to be at a marina. There was a second maintenance item. We often check the purity of the water coming out of our faucets and out of our water maker. I have noticed a bit of a decline in the quality of the coming out of our water maker over the past several weeks. I think I can improve its performance by flushing the membrane. Basically, that means putting a hundred or more gallons of fresh water through the system to clean it out. I can best do that at a marina where I can replenish our water supply after I flush. For those reasons, we decided that we would go to the marina at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club before anchoring and preparing for the Big Blow.

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Can't you just see Sidney
Greenstreet in one of those Adirondack Chairs?
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is very difficult to describe. Remember the movies we used to watch where a group of expats, usually Brits, would congregate at the local watering hole? The movies would usually star people like Sidney Greenstreet or maybe even the great Bogey. They were usually set in Africa, sometimes in South America, or once in a while on some exotic South Seas island. Anyway, that is what I see when I look at the Staniel Yacht Club; expats at some local watering hole. Maybe it is because some of the pictures on the wall are of the James Bond movie Thunderball which was filmed in local waters – and the crew used the Yacht Club as the local pub. Now, don’t get me wrong. The SCYC is probably THE tourist destination in the central Exumas and I have no doubt that it makes money hand over fist, that there are more mega-yachts than expats, and I haven’t seen a Sidney Greenstreet lately.

Now, our original intent was to go to some anchorages about which we have heard a great deal, but that we have never used. There are a couple places near Pipe Cay, in particular. Alas, the Pipe Cay anchorages were pretty full so we went on to Big Major Spot. Some of you may remember Big Major as containing the semi-famous Pig Beach where the pigs will swim out to your dinghy for food. Anyway, we picked out spot, dropped our anchor and hunkered down. The first day, winds were 35 – 40 knots, gusting to 45.  On days 2, 3 and 4 they were 25 – 35 gusting to 40. We were beginning to wonder if this was going to be one of those forty day and forty night things that the Lord visits on man once in a while, but it eventually started letting up. The island, though, provided very good protection and while we felt a bit of a chop, the anchorage was generally calm. Even more importantly, Big Bertha, our 110 lb. anchor held very well.

Okay, so let me return to the topic with which I started the blog. What do you do with four days aboard a boat with winds outside such that you cannot leave? Well, you read, play computer games, do a few boat projects – and you eat. You eat especially well if your first mate is one of the best chefs on a cruising boat anywhere. I sometimes kid Ann about all the pots, pans and cooking gadgets she has stuffed into the galley, but I am here to tell you that woman can cook! Here is our menu for the four dinners we had while at Big Major Spot:

·         Thursday: Rack of lamb, seasoned with the perfect mixture of Dijon mustard, rosemary, fresh lemon juice and olive oil.  Served with lightly buttered summer squash and seasoned Israeli couscous

o   Critics comment: This was Ann’s first try at rack of lamb and it was scrumptious. I am serious. I have had rack of lamb at some top-notch restaurants and Ann’s was among the best I have had.

·         Friday: Four cheese tortellini lightly brushed with a mixture of olive oil, butter and parmesan cheese served with salad using Ann’s Grandmother’s special salad dressing

o   Critics Comment: Although it was made with store-bought pasta, I am here to tell you that Ann always makes superb tortellini.

·         Saturday: Baked Eggplant Parmesan: Sliced, breaded, baked eggplant layered with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses served with organically grown fresh Arugula salad from Hope Town

o   Critics Comment: It has been a long time since we have had eggplant parmesan. As an avowed carnivore, I will only eat it when it has lots of cheese and is perfectly seasoned – and Ann has absolutely broken the code on this meal.

·         Sunday:  Lamb Chops served with Provencal-style cassoulet consisting of white navy beans, Italian sausage, bacon, rosemary, bay leaf, onions, and carrots in a white wine sauce. Homemade Rustic bread was also available.

o   Critic’s Comment: Ann’s mother is French and taught Ann the secrets of making a good cassoulet. Ann took that recipe and those techniques and improved them by about 500%. It is to die for. And with perfectly cooked lamb chops? What can I say??

·         Monday: Cornish Game Hens lightly seasoned and basted with butter served with pan-roasted zucchini and succulent mashed sweet potatoes

o   Critic’s Comment: The Game hen was ideally cooked with the perfect seasoning and just the right amount of butter.

·         Tuesday: Pork medallions marinated in a special Bahamian barbecue sauce, consisting of Kalik beer with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, coconut rum, Worchester sauce, fruit, hot pepper, red wine vinegar, sugar and sea salt.

o   Critic’s Comment: Sometimes BBQ sauce can be too sweet for pork; not this BBQ sauce. Mmmm pork medallions. Mmmm barbecue sauce. Mmmm Kalik beer. What is not to love?

After stuffing ourselves for several days, we moved on to Black Point. There are two reasons people go to Black Point. The first is to do laundry. Ida’s Laundromat has something like twelve washers and twelve dryers – plus the cost is reasonable. There is a second reason. When you go to Italy you think of pasta; when you go to Paris, you think of luscious pastries. When you go to Black Point, you think of Mama’s bread.

Ann’s Notes:  Soooo…my galley may be on the small side compared to my wonderful kitchen in our condo …BUT…I can create some very tasty meals. Plus I know how to provision our boat after five years of practice. Add some windy weather, our dinghy secured on the second deck, and lots of time on my hands, it is the perfect culinary storm for me. I did try a few new recipes and improved upon a few old ones. I did lots of reading and kept busy with my other hobby, cross stitching. I tried to keep Spot busy by playing with her. She can get bored and cause all sorts of havoc if not entertained properly. Since she could not prowl around out on the deck, it was blowing like stink outside and since she only weighs eight pounds, her chances of being blown away were on the high side. We also started to watch the X-Files in the middle of the day. Dave and Joan got the whole TV series on DVD and let us borrow them. I was not sure I would like it at first but I got sucked into it after a few episodes. Go figure … now that the wind has calmed down, we need to do some beach walking, I think you can figure out why.

We have been able to meet up with some good friends when we departed our anchorage at Big Major Spot and moved Traveling Soul to Black Point. As Michael said, the reason we go to Black Point is that they have a Laundromat and a sweet little Bahamian women that everyone calls Mama. Mama is known for her coconut bread and her fresh white or wheat bread. You call her daughter Loraine and put your order in over the VHF radio, and like magic pick up your bread the next day.  We also had a nice Happy Hour with our friends Vic and Gigi on Salty Turtle. Vic had his son, daughter-in-law and six year old grandson visiting them. It is always fun to catch up with those two, they have been cruising the Bahamian waters for many years. They know all the locals and share their cruising knowledge with us. I found something pretty interesting. The grandson during the day went to the local island school and went to class with the island’s children. That will be a memory he will always have while growing up. Also the daughter-in-law was French and grew up in Brittany. I had a wonderful conversation with her, since that is where my mom and grandfather were born. I have many wonderful memories of visiting  my great grandmother and all sorts of aunts and uncles in that part of France.  It was so nice to reminisce and share my experience with another French woman. My mother would be so proud of me, I have very fond memories of the time I spent in France as a child and young adult.

Thanks for following us…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Friday, March 3, 2017


After Spanish Wells we headed south along the west coast of Eleuthera.  Eleuthera is an interesting island in that it is long and skinny measuring 110 miles long, but only two miles across at its widest point. It is actually the site of the first European settlement in the Bahamas. In 1648 one William Sayle convinced a group of London investors – called the “Company of Eleutherian Adventurers” (most of whom never actually set foot in Eleuthera) – to put their money behind a group of pilgrims who wanted to pursue religious freedom in Eleuthera. (“Eleuthera” is a Greek word for “freedom.”) Investors were promised substantial return on "wrecks which shall be recovered upon or near the islands... and also all mines of gold, silver, copper, brass or lead, ambergris, salt; and all rich woods, either tincture or medicaments which shall be found on the island." To make a long story short, the ship upon which the settlers set forth from Bermuda – along with almost all their worldly goods – sank along a reef that is now known as the “Devil’s Backbone” just off the northern coast of the island. They took refuge in the “Preachers Cave” and continued their settlement efforts with varying degrees of success.

That doesn’t describe our efforts, however. We were very successful. When leaving Spanish Wells for the main island, boats must pass through the dread Current Cut. It is a relatively small passage through the group of islands that stretch southwest from Eleuthera. It is called current cut because there is a lot of water flowing through the passage and it is often moving very fast. During the spring tides, it can move at over 10 MPH. For a sailboat whose top speed in 5-7 MPH, this can be a major problem. It can also be a problem for a power boat with substantial engines (like us). However, if one plays the tides and tries to traverse the cut at slack tide, it is not that big of a problem. (Just for your information: Determining when slack tide will occur is more difficult that you might think. Often, slack is at the same time as high and low tide; when the tide stops coming in, it stops for a bit before it starts flowing out – thus it is slack. However, when all the water that can build up during high tide tries to flow through a small opening – like Current Cut – it can’t get through in time, thus slack occurs some time after high or low tide. Here is the catch – no one has thought to make a table of slack tides, so we approximate the timing for slack tide by waiting 30 or so minutes after high (or low).)

After cutting through the chain of islets, we headed down island. We spent the night at Rainbow Cay – a small island just off Eleuthera – but it really didn’t look like it had anything for us to see or do, so we moved on to Alabaster Beach. Wow! It is not as magnificent as Treasure Cay, but it is beautiful. It is about a mile long, 20-30 yards wide, very, very clean and has a bunch of different kinds of shells. Moreover, while we were there they were holding the RIDE FOR HOPE, a long-distance-for-fun bicycling event. Many of you know I really enjoy bicycling when I am not on the boat, so maybe next year I can combine both hobbies – we’ll have to wait and see. At any rate, they had a very festive atmosphere, giving away water and selling beer, wine and other consumables. We only stayed for a little bit, but it was fun and interesting. We also learned that the Bahamas now has at least one “craft beer.”
An old gas pump at the abandoned Naval Base

For years, Kalik and Sands have had a virtual monopoly on beer in the Bahamas. Just about the only foreign beer was Heinekin, so you had three choices. For the same reasons that craft brewing became popular in the States, however, it seems to have become at least acceptable in the Bahamas.  The Pirate Republic Brewing Company makes three different kinds of beer and all of them are pretty darn good – certainly a change from Kalik and Sands.

After learning about the bicycle event, learning about the new beer, and talking with some of the cyclists, we went exploring. We had heard that on the other side of the island there was an abandon US Navy Base. What? I asked myself; what would that be like. We had read that it was only about a 15 minute walk, so we set off. About 45 minutes later, we found the base – and yes, it was abandon. It had started in 1950 as an experimental center and became a full-fledged naval base in 1957.  Over time it evolved into a combination SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System – to track Soviet submarines) base, and part of the Air Force’s Atlantic missile tracking system. It eventually closed in 1980. It seemed like the US just took everything that could be moved and walked away, leaving buildings and infrastructure in place. Since then, it has turned into pretty much a dump as the locals get rid of their large trash there, e.g cars, toilets(!), and trucks.
The pink sand beach below the abandoned Naval Base

Just below the base, on the Atlantic side, there is a magnificent pink sand beach. While it has its share of flotsam and jetsam, it is not as bad as you might think. If the Navy had held on to the property, I would have been glad to take it off their hands J

After Alabaster Beach, we headed down to Rock Sound. We had been here last year, but we liked it as an anchorage in that it had pretty good protection from most directions. It also had an excellent grocery store, a good liquor store, a nice gift shop and a really cool “ocean hole.” The ocean hole is about a mile inland and looks just like a lake or pond – except that it is 600 feet deep and has salt water from the Atlantic, not the sound! It connects through the limestone that is the Bahamas. We tried to take a picture of the fish, but I don’t think it came out very well. Anyway, it is very cool.

After we walked up to the Ocean Hole, I thought it would not be that far to walk to the other side of the island and catch another Atlantic Beach or two. Well, after we had been walking fifteen minutes, a Bahamian lady came by and picked us up. It turned out the beach was much further than I thought it was, (at least an hour’s walk, maybe even longer) but she owned a restaurant on the north side. It was Rosie of “Rosie’s.” She asked us if we wanted to have lunch at her place, and since we preferred to have ride back rather than walking, we did. Below her house/restaurant/inn there was another nice beach. She served us some excellent grouper fingers and a nice, wholesome Kalik beer. Ah, what more could a man want! And yes, after we paid the bill, she did take us back to the boat.

We only anchored for three days at Rock Sound. We moved to a marina for two reasons. First, there was supposed to be a cold front coming through that would involve some fairly stiff winds that would start in the east, go to the south, then the west, etc. Even more importantly, however, we had a boat issue. I had noticed for the past couple of weeks that our batteries did not seem to have the capacity that they once did. Now they are 3 ½ years old, so you can understand how the capacity might decrease. BUT, these weren’t just any batteries, they were Lifeline (brand name), 8D (size), AGMs (type). I am not going to go into detail on battery construction right now, suffice to say that Lifeline is supposed to be the Cadillac of batteries AND they have a five year warranty AND their price is commensurate with their reputation, so I was a little upset when it looked like they were failing after 3 ½.

I had read up on what needed to be done and I e-mailed Lifeline. Everything said I needed to “equalize” the batteries. Over time, battery plates tend to acquire a sulphate coating which hinders the chemical action between the electrolyte (sulfuric acid) and the lead plate.  By equalizing the battery in a controlled overcharge the outer layer of the plate, including the sulphate coating, is blown off, rejuvenating the battery and allowing all the surface area of the plates to interact with the electrolyte. For my Lifelines, I needed to generate 15.5 volts and keep it up for 8 hours. If that failed, I intended to do it a second time, so we thought it better to go to a marina rather than keep the generator going for that long. The only real test we could give the batteries would be after we left the marina. And guess what … it looks like it worked!!!

Doubled-up fenders at the Cape Eleuthera Marina
The marina experience itself was kind of so-so. It was a resort marina, which means among other things that they have swimming pool – and yes, Ann went swimming. It also means they had a pretty good restaurant. Unfortunately, it also means there is nothing else to do within walking or biking distance. We rented a car and went to Governor’s Harbor and a few other places, but we had done the same thing last year – we were running out of things to do. To make matters worse, the weather front did come through and we learned the marina does not handle westerly winds well; in fact, it handles them terribly.

And that brings us to the end of our Eleutheran Adventure. Our next entry will be from the beautiful, ever-changing Exumas.

Ann’s Notes: I really do not have much to report…Michael has covered much of what went on. I think I am learning more than I really want to know about batteries. I do know for sure that I like batteries when they work properly and I do not like them when Michael becomes worried about them. He had been keeping track of amps, volts, and inflow charging. I think he may even have a power point presentation if you are interested. All I know is that several times at night, at random times, my fan stops working, the fan that is next to my side of the bed to keep me cool-ish. So when the fan turns off, I wake up. Michael is testing the batteries. Getting the picture?  My concern over the batteries is much more self-centered, Michael wants the whole boat to run well, I just want my fan to run all night without interruption.
Ann at the marina's swimming pool

Our walks have been pretty interesting. Our standard joke now is that our destinations are “only about fifteen minutes away.” They must be “island minutes” because forty-five minutes later we might be close to our destination. I think any place that has been abandoned is rather interesting, I just wonder what it would have been like to live in that place and what the history is of the location and the people that spent part of their time on earth living there. I feel the same way about old books and photographs. I find it interesting to see how quickly Mother Nature and her plants can reclaim the ground once people move on. I found a beautiful wild orchid growing in the midst of all this rubble. We also saw a small herd of wild goats; they just appeared in the middle of the road.

While at the anchorage at Rock Sound a call went out from a fellow boater. His wife was having some major back pain and really was in a lot of pain. They managed to get her to the local clinic, the doctor’s advice to her was to fly back to the US, start doing Yoga and move off their sailboat. Not very helpful to say the least ... SO…. most cruisers have a pretty good first aid kit on board designed for their personal issues. With all of Michael’s Achilles heel surgeries and my neck (I am fine ... no worries), we have some GOOD pain management meds on board. I also have some Rx strength lidocaine patches that my wonderful friend Joan gave me before we departed, to add to my personal kit. People offered all sorts of help and brought – medication, my Lidocaine patch and a few Ambien – to their boat. I offered Reiki and reflexology, but she needed rest more than anything. I just got a thank you message from her today so I guess with all the cruisers pulling for her and pooling our resources, we helped get her through a bad week or so.

Spot is doing well, roaming the boat while we are at anchor, hunting patches of sun during the day, rolling over to have her tummy and chin scratched and generally loving her time with us.

Thank you for following us…stay tuned…the adventure is not even half over..

Oh…just FYI…the wonderful restaurant called French Leave at Governor’s Harbor, still have a beautiful view but NO LOBSTER PIZZA…Damn..

Traveling Soul…OUT