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.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Cumberland, Jekyll and Points North

Ann and I both love Cumberland and Jekyll, two of Georgia’s barrier Islands, and we wanted to share them with Dave and Joan. Unfortunately, the forecasters were predicting nasty winds and weather, and we were afraid that if we anchored at Cumberland, we would pay the price. So, instead of visiting them in the proper order, we shuffled things around. We decided to go up to the marina at Jekyll – to hide from the winds – then back to the anchorage at Cumberland so we could explore the island one more time. And we were glad we did. We measured winds at 50kts on our anemometer and friends of ours who were anchored at St. Mary’s measured 54. Needless to say the winds were a-whistlin’ that night!

One of the wild horses at Cumberland.
While it was windy, it wasn’t raining so we spent some time showing Dave and Joan one of our favorite places in Jekyll. Several years ago we had spent a week on the island and bicycled all over so we knew the attractions fairly well. We visited Starbucks, of course (several times), and the grocery store. We also took a golf cart trip to the Horton House. (In 1735 William Horton was granted the title to Jekyll Island by the trustees of the colony of Georgia. Following a Spanish attack that destroyed his first house on the island in 1743, Horton, with help from indentured servants, rebuilt a new home that still stands today.) We also had dinner at the marina’s restaurant and played a round of miniature golf. I would tell you who won, but since it wasn’t me and this is MY blog, I’ll just leave that detail out.

After Jekyll we backtracked to Cumberland Island. We downloaded the dinghy and went ashore. I just love the National Seashore at Cumberland. It is miles and miles of open beach, cluttered with nothing but seashells and the occasional chair and blanket from visiting families. This is the island where I first became an amateur “sheller” and where, in the past, I have seen wild turkeys, armadillos, deer, wild horses – and this time I even saw a raccoon! We also visited Dungeness, the Carnegie mansion that burned in the 1950’s, Light Horse Harry Lee’s original grave and we saw bunches of wild horses. In short, it was an action-packed two days.

After Cumberland, it was on to Brunswick Landing Marina where we bade farewell to Dave and Joan who had to get back home. We filled up with fuel, made a trip to the grocery store for essentials and, after waiting an additional day, were off, on our way back up the Waterway. We decided to pass up the banjoes that we heard the last time we visited the “Two Way Fish Camp” and the twangy voices of Kilkenny Marina, and instead anchored at a couple of the many beautiful anchorages we have seen as we have traveled the ICW.

Our next stop was Thunderbolt Marina, just outside Savannah, GA. To get to Thunderbolt, you have to pass through a spot named Hell Gate, one of the perennial trouble spots on the Waterway. As I was looking at my updated electronic chart, I saw a note that said, “Dredged to 12 feet, 1997.” What? Maybe long, long ago … in a galaxy far, far away … someplace named Hell Gate was dredged to 12 feet, but not this one and not in this century. Oh well, we made it through. I guess that’s what count s.

We wanted to stop at Thunderbolt primarily because our friends from Virginia, Frank and Sue Fucci, were visiting Savannah while traveling north in their RV. We have met Frank and Sue at several points along their travels, including Colorado when we were visiting my sister, Baltimore, where their son and grandkids used to live, and now Savannah. We had snacks and a beer or two on the boat, then  went to one of the local eateries, where even if the food wasn’t delicious, the weather was good and the company even better. It was also while at Thunderbolt that I finished Phase II of my sanding project. I have now completed the railing on the aft deck and the teak strip on the starboard side.

After Thunderbolt we were off to Beaufort, (Byou-fort) SC where we stayed on the private dock of our friends Kyle and Kathy from Now and Zen. They have a very cool home in Beaufort with a 50 foot dock that has electricity. They weren’t home, so they offered us the use of their dock. We needed – wait for it – a fifty foot dock with electricity – so we took advantage of their hospitality. The only little glitch was that we had to dock the boat ourselves, which we don’t usually do. Anyway, everything went well and, after docking, we enjoyed a cool beverage in their cool boathouse and enjoyed the day. Thanks Kyle and Kathy.

From Thunderbolt, it was a couple of nights on the hook, then on to Charleston. In my continuing effort to teach you damn Yankees how to speak proper southern, Charleston does not really have an “r” in it; it is a “w”. So, Charleston is pronounced, “Chawl’ston,” and that “w” is very soft. I learned that pronunciation from my friend Mark Tracy who has been in the city almost 40 years. Mark and I started West Point together almost 50 years ago and graduated together four years after that. I don’t think, though, that even Mark knows how thoroughly he has been assimilated into the southern collective. He has that “Chawl’ston” thing down perfectly. His wife, Roseanne, is originally from Joisey. Though she doesn’t have the southern accent down quite as well as Mark, she has nevertheless been assimilated almost as thoroughly as he has, and she is now a true southerner at heart. They took us for drinks on the roof of a local sports bar and we all had a great time.

We stayed at the Charleston City Marina’s notorious MegaDock. It is probably 2000 feet long and we were at the very end It took us fifteen minutes just to get from our boat to the marina office and another five to get to the courtesy van parking place. I mean good Lord, we needed a ride to get to our ride!

This was our serving at Smoke. 
The smoked Cuban (center) was especially good.
While in Charleston we also took a culinary tour. Charleston is becoming quite the foodie Mecca and since we do not know which restaurant is at the top at any particular time, we took a tour. We visited three restaurants (and a gelato-joint for dessert) and had four courses at each. This particular tour focused on Upper King Street and concentrated more on the lighter fare that on the fancy stuff. At a place called HoM (House of Munchies) I liked the BBQ chicken on flat bread best.  (It was kind of like a pizza.) Ann, I think preferred the grilled cauliflower with buffalo sauce. At the second restaurant, Smoke, they gave us some of their famous barbecued chicken wings– that was as dry as any BBQ chicken I have ever had and a surprisingly good Cuban with smoked pork and their own with their own homemad thousand island dressing. For a side dish they had coleslaw very different than Ann usually makes. While I, of course, like Ann’s better (I know where my bread is buttered), she kind of liked theirs. The best course, however, was at Rue de Jean where they served us mussels in garlic butter sauce as well as pommes frites. They were both scrumptious; the garlic butter sauce was especially good.  For dessert, we went to Paulo’s. I am not sure Paulo’s gelato was the best I have ever had, but he is the neatest character by whom I have been served any Italian dish. He was kind of like a nice soup-Nazi from the Seinfeld Show TV – for those of you who recognize the reference. At any rate, after 12 courses and gelato for dessert Ann and I were both pretty full.

From Charleston we have only a few more stops before we reach home. We are going to have to keep moving and miss some of those places, like Georgetown, SC, as well as Bath and Plymouth, NC that I still wanted to visit. Oh well. I am going to close this so I can get it underway while we still have a good internet connection. 

Ann’s Notes: After proof reading Michael’s portion of the blog, I realized how busy we have been having fun. The visit with Dave and Joan on board was great. I really enjoy sharing all the wonderful attractions on the ICW. Now that I am really into walking, I appreciate my surroundings so much more. We did a lot of walking in Cumberland. Also the Park Service has a really great way to do their walking tour of the ruins of Dungeness.   If you have a QR reader app on your phone , you can point it at the sign and it will give you the  history  of the building or area that you are viewing. They also have the option of calling a phone number that gives you the same information. We used the audio tour a lot, it just makes the tour that much more interesting.

Ann and Dori on Charleston's Ravenel Bridge
Dave and Joan had a great time with us, as we always do when the four of us are traveling together. I think it helped Spot re-adjust to Michael and I and the boat.  They had to get back to VA to do some family stuff.

We have been lucky this year in meeting with friends alone the way. Frank and Sue are great friends and have stories similar to ours, only they  live on a land yacht. They both have a great sense of humor and spending time with them is always special.

Charleston… what a beautiful city and a beautiful bridge. I determined even before we got there to walk the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River. This is how the story goes..

Back when we were in the Fort Pierce Marina in April, we had drinks and appetizers with our good friends Scott and Teri Miller aboard their boat Miller Time. Dave and Joan were with us, so naturally they were invited. Scott and Teri had friends with whom they were traveling together. They introduced their friends, Bob and Dori Arrington on Liberdade. Boat cards were exchange, a good time was had by all and we went our separate ways.

Flash forward to Charleston, we are eating dinner and watching the boats enter the fairway at Charleston City Maria – by the way we were on the outside of the Mega dock, great view but that is another story. Anyway, we see Liberdade cruise in; my new friend Dori was in the marina! I had been trying to figure out how I was going to make my goal of walking the bridge happen. Michael really did not want me to do it alone. It was far from the marina, and was a long walk. He wanted to make sure I would be safe. I went outside my comfort zone, called Dori and asked if she was a walker and when she said yes…I asked her if she would like to walk that beautiful bridge with me the next morning. We had a great time getting to know each other, we had four and a half miles to do that, and that distance did not included the on walking ramp to the bridge. It was a beautiful overcast morning, lots of clouds to block out the direct sun, a nice breeze  and two very motivated women. It was wonderful! We called Teri and told her that WE DID IT!!! 

After walking the bridge, going on the Culinary Tour was guilt free.  The tour was fun, the food good and I got to eat all the Brussels sprouts at the last restaurant, they were yummy. To top off the day, we saw Mark and Roseanne, shared the view of Marion Square and had drinks with them. It made for another perfect day in their town.

Also, we went shopping the Farmers Market the next morning, wonderful. I love Charleston!!!

Traveling Soul…OUT

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Florida and North

After leaving Old Port Cove, we arrived safely and soundly in Fort Pierce, Florida. Ft. Pierce has a nice marina that is cheaper than Old Port Cove by about $23 per day. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but hey, $23 here and $23 there and after 43 or so days, you have a BU. Okay, so we only spent six days there, and didn’t quite make a whole BU; it is the principle of the thing. While at Ft. Pierce Ann walked around quite a bit, we Ubered to Publix and West Marine, I sanded the aft railing on the boat, and we got re-acquainted with our friends Scott and Teri Miller aboard their huge 58’ Kadey-Krogen named … what else? … Miller Time.

The real news from Fort Pierce, though, is that our friends Dave and Joan drove all the way from northern Virginia to bring back our cat. YES, SPOT IS WITH US ONCE AGAIN!!! As I am certain Ann will tell you below, Spot fit right back into her first home. After a quick “sniff over,” she approved Traveling Soul for cat habitation and settled right back into her regular sleeping habits. In addition, Dave and Joan are joining us for a couple of weeks during our trip up the Intracoastal. So, with four humans and a cat, we had a pretty full boat when we left Fort Pierce the morning of the 9th. Our destination was the Space Coast of Florida – specifically Cape Canaveral.
We had, of course, passed what Floridians call the “Space Coast” many times. And while we had visited Cocoa and Cocoa Beach, we had never taken the extra time and effort to cross the Indian and Banana Rivers to get to the area around Cape Canaveral itself. This time we did. To get to our marina we had to locate and traverse the Canaveral Barge Canal which has two bridges and one lock. I think the lock raised us a total of about one foot each way, so it was not a very big deal. The marina where we stayed, the Ocean Club Marina at Cape Canaveral, was pretty nice; it had a swimming pool that Joan checked out, clean restrooms, good showers and very nice docks.

Ann's photo of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket.
Appreciating the marina, however, was not why we were there. What we really wanted to do was get to the Kennedy Space Center. We took Uber (a cruiser’s best friend) and paid less than half of what a taxi would have cost. It took us about 20 minutes and cost about $30 for the four of us (Spot did not want to go; she wanted to sleep instead.)  Now for those of you who have not been to the Space Center, I can only describe it as Disney-like. After paying a healthy sum up front ($57 for seniors), you can attend several different Imax theaters where you can see a number of alternative three dimensional movies. You can also take a bus tour of the Cape Canaveral Space facility where you can visit various launch pads (including “39A” from which nearly all Apollo Missions were launched), see and receive information on different kinds of spacecraft and rockets, see the original “Mission Control” from the old days and enjoy number of other exhibits – some fascinating, some interesting and some ho-hum. In short, I would probably recommend it to just about anyone for different reasons. Kids will enjoy the 3-D movies, some of the simulations that are available and a number of different kids’ exhibits. We seniors will get more of a kick out of seeing in person what we had previously seen on TV and usually in the company of Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

While at Canaveral, we got lucky. The night we were there, there was a launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. It was cool having seen the rocket on the launch pad earlier in the day and being able to watch it take off and disappear on its way into space. I have kind of “before” and “after” pictures.
The Bridge of Lions at St. Augustine.
After leaving the marina and anchoring one night where we ate some luscious steaks cooked on the grill by yours truly, we were off to what is undoubtedly our favorite location in Florida, Saint Augustine. There, we took Dave and Joan to the restaurant that serves what is probably the best fish and chips in the country – the Prince of Wales. The following night we tried to go to Harry’s, our favorite Cajun restaurant in Saint Augustine, but even on a Monday night it was too crowded; the waiting time was 45 minutes. Instead, we went to the Tini Martini Bar, then to Aviles, the restaurant attached to the Hilton. The martinis were, of course delicious, but the meal was only okay and for the price should have been better. In fact, Ann’s was cooked so poorly that she had to send it back. I don’t think we will be returning. For future reference, I think the only way to get into Harry’s without waiting forever is to go to the Tini Martini Bar (our favorite place for a drink before dinner) at 4:30. That should put us at Harry’s by about 5:15. I am guessing that by going that early, we should be able to get a table.
Other than go to restaurants, we went to Starbucks each morning while in Saint Augustine, went to the market street a couple of times and visited the Spanish Military Medical Museum – a fascinating experience for anyone interested in either the military or medicine. In addition, Ann, Dave, Joan and Teri Miller (from Miller Time) went on a tour of Flagler College while I vegged out on the boat. 
We left St. Augustine on April 16th. About ten miles north of the city we saw three individual Customs and Border Control boats checking on local fishermen. Okay, now think about this. I understand that our president is concerned about the security of our border with Mexico, but at least eighteen border control officers, three machine guns and several hundred thousand dollars in equipment are currently massed protecting America’s border with … uh … no one along the ICW north of Saint Augustine. Maybe they were trying to keep the Georgian Rednecks from fishing in Florida’s waters, or maybe some Cubans were trying a strategic envelopment along the coast.  Otherwise, I am confused. 
Since we had spent three days on a mooring in St. Augustine and a day before that on the hook in the Indian River, we needed to fill up our water tanks, so we headed to Beach Marina just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Now most every cruiser knows that the water throughout the marina is very shallow. We were kicking up a lot of mud in our slip on the outside of the T-dock. But what most people don’t realize is that the individual piers do not have any rubber or plastic trimming. That means that when your boat ribs against the pier, it is aluminum on fiberglass – a battle that the boat is sure to lose. Sure enough we had two long scars on the side of the boat. (Yes, I know we should have had a fender down there. We did, but our fender got squeezed out of the space between the boat and the pier.) Dave and I managed to clean the black mark off, but the scar will probably remain until we get a god waxing.
One of the still-standing slave cabins at Kingsley Plantation
After Beach Marina, we cruised only about 13 miles to Fort George and the Kingsley Plantation. It is a very small anchorage just outside a National Park Service facility based around the Kinglsey Plantation just outside Jacksonville, FL. We had visited twice before and thought Dave and Joan would enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, one of the things that had made the trip so informative was the use of the “Audio Tour” capability that the NPS had maintained – until recently. For technical reasons (read budgetary reasons) the audio tour is no longer available. Since so much of the facility was based on the audio tour, it was kind of a letdown from previous visits.

Our initial intention had been to cruise from Ft. George to Cumberland Island where we would anchor for a couple of nights, then travel to Jekyll – which is just  few miles down the waterway – and finally to Brunswick, GA where Dave and Joan would leave us. However, because a front was coming in and Gale Force winds were expected, we decided to reverse the order of our Cumberland and Jekyll visits. In other words, we would go to Jekyll first so we could enjoy the relative protection of a marina, then we would backtrack a few miles so we could anchor at Cumberland in better weather. 
Spot back on board and in one of her favorite haunts.
Ann’s Notes: Our sweet little feline is back!!! Thank you Dave and Joan for taking such good care of her when she got so sick. She has been eating like a little oinker; put it in her food bowl and she goes right to town eating. Like Michael said, she adjusted to the boat in just a matter of a few hours. It is wonderful to have that sweet feline spirit back on board.
The time has really flown by with Dave and Joan on board. We all had a great time together. We went back to some of our favorite locations and experienced a few new ones.

I really enjoyed the Kennedy Space center, I remember watching all the space launches and splash downs with my dad. He was a real fan of NASA. It just really brought back so many fond memories.  My dad would be just amazed on how different space exploration has become. When the SpaceX was already in orbit, the two fuel  rockets  were returned to earth on two different landing pads, and will be used again for another launch, the sonic boom told us that the they had returned to earth. No more parachutes and splashdowns.

I know Michael wants to get this blog out so I am going to keep it short.

We are slowly making our way home, we have more friends to visit on the way. We should be back in Solomons, MD by the end of May.
We will keep you posted..
Traveling Soul…OUT

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Bimini and Home

The infinity pool at the Bimini Sands Marina. Absolutely beautiful.
If you will recall we were having problems getting Bimini Sands Marina to respond to our phone calls (their number was out of service), to our e-mails or to any other form of communication. Although we had made back up reservations at a less desirable marina, we really wanted to stay at Bimini Sands. Our plan was to leave Chubb Cay early in the morning, arrive at the marina at 1500 or so, take on fuel and ask if they had an extra slip that we could have. Surely they would respond to face-to-face communications. Okay, I won’t keep you waiting other than to say, don’t you love it when a plan comes together? We arrived at the marina at 1515, took on fuel and moved right into our slip. The cost was a buck a foot (the last one of those we will see for a while), but we had to pay $30 per day for electricity regardless of how much we used. That is a little high, but not out of line with other marinas in the area. So what did we do? We pulled into our slip and promptly turned on the air conditioning. This is the first time we had the AC on since we have been in the Bahamas. Did we really need it? Well it was a little warm and there was very little breeze, but we certainly could have survived without it. However, we were paying plenty for electricity, dadgummit, so we decided to treat our selves.

Bimini consists of two islands, North Bimini and South Bimini. South Bimini has an airport and several smaller resorts (including Bimini Sands a Resort and Marina). North Bimini has Alice Town, Bailey Town and Resorts World International – a Hilton property. Resorts World is very pricey and, according to the reviews we read, not a very nice place. Alice Town is home to most of the other marinas in the area and is crowded, not very pleasant aesthetically, not a secure place to leave your boat, and has drivers who drive down the only road on the island like a bat out of hell. Our marina in Bimini Sands addressed all those issues and was well-protected from any weather that might come around and had two really great pools – one was an infinity pool! Moreover, you could take your dinghy or a taxi-ferry combination to North Bimini if you wanted.

We took the taxi-ferry combo and, for the first time in the Bahamas, the taxi and ferry drivers tried to cheat us! The taxi driver told me to pay him for both the ferry ride and the taxi ride. It sounded kind of odd, but I did it anyway. Then, when we got off the ferry, the ferry pilot wanted another $3 for the ferry ride. Rather than argue, I just paid it; it was only a couple of bucks after all. The same thing happened coming back. This time, however, I started to raise some questions when the ferry driver wanted me to pay for the ferry and the taxi up-front. When I explained what happened to us when we came over the first time, the ferry driver said, “Oh you must have taken the wrong ferry.” I pointed out that could have been the case, but there was only one blue ferry – which the taxi driver had told us to ride. He immediately backed off and said he could explain things. He didn’t and in the event he decided I didn’t have to pay him after all.

While in South Bimini I walked the beach that was just around the corner from the marina. Man, that was a hard beach to walk! Usually, I can find some hard sand near the water’s edge. On this beach, however, all the sand was soft and mushy. It was almost like quick sand. I made it about half way down the beach, but finally had to turn back.

As I mentioned we took the taxi/ferry into Alice Town. As you probably remember I am a big Hemingway fan – that is why my writing style is so close to his. In fact, some say I am a better Hemingway than Hemingway. I’m just sayin’. It is true that I haven’t won the Nobel YET. I will. I am certain. Probably after the Pulitzer for Poetry (see my previous two blog entries). I say this because Earnest and I have kind of the same philosophy of writing.  When once asked about writing, he replied, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Actually, I usually reverse that process. I often bleed from working on boat projects, then sit down at the typewriter while waiting for the bleeding to stop.  

Ann, in front of the ruins of the Compleat Angler
At any rate, since we were in Bimini, we had to see the Complete Angler which is the hotel where he stayed while in the islands fishing. It was here that he was inspired to write The Old Man and the Sea and, of course, Islands in the Stream. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the hotel because it burned down in 2006. We could and did see the dock where he kept his boat Pilar back in the day. In fact, the last time we were here we stayed there.

We were also going to eat lunch on North Bimini. The ferry driver told us the best Bahamian food was at Sherry’s, a shack on Radio Beach. Great, I thought, our last lunch in the Bahamas will be real Bahamian fare. As it should be. We went to Sherry’s about 11:45. There were two guys at the bar in various stages of inebriation, and one Bahamian woman who was chatting up the guys and nursing a beer. Unfortunately the grill itself wasn’t opened. We asked when it would be, we got some hems and some haws and the lady said Sherry usually opens at about 12:00. Ok, we can wait. We decided to stroll around Bimini for a little longer and came back forty-five minutes later. Still no Sherry. The men suggested we go down to the next shack on the beach, which was CD’s, CJ’s, CQ’s or something like that. We walked down and, while I really like Bahamian food, and I understand that Bahamian food shacks aren’t always the cleanest and most sanitary places around, there was no way I was going to eat at C-somebody’s. We ended up going to Sharkey’s, an outdoor bar and grill on the marina side of the island. Ann and I shared a grilled lobster and we each had a Kalik. Although it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, it was pretty darn good.

It is 94 miles from Bimini to Lake Worth, where we reentered the good ol’ USA. For most of the trip we were headed NNE and took advantage of the Gulf Stream. It pushed us forward at 2-2.5 MPH faster than we would have been going. At about 3:00 we entered Lake Worth and by 4:00 we were anchored and trying to tell ICE that we were back in the country. In years past, all we needed to do was make a phone call, answer a few questions and voila, we were legal.  This year, not so fast, they wanted us to use their new easy-to-use App!. Ann spent about an hour on the phone getting acquainted with ICE’s interpretation of “easy-to-use” and becoming increasingly frustrated. Eventually she threw up her hands and was willing to throw her phone overboard and turn us into fugitives for the rest of our lives. I can see it now: Traveling Soul hitting its top speed of 10MPH and a high speed ICE boat with well armed men in black uniforms chasing us.

Well, instead we waited until the next day and, after fiddling with it for over an hour, completed the form on the App. It sends video of us to the Customs Officer, but get this, he comes in all dark on our phone so we can’t see his face. It was kind of like an anonymous source testifying in court, or perhaps even more appropriately described as the mysterious cigarette-smoking guy on the X-files. The more I think about it, though, the more I understand. If I had any affiliation with an App as terrible as this one was, I wouldn’t want anyone to know my identity either!

After what will hitherto be known as the “App episode,” we anchored for a night at Lake Worth, then, the following day, went to our designated slip at Old Port Cove Mariana. We rested there for a couple of days, then headed out to Arizona.

My mother hasn’t been in particularly good health, so we decided we would go visit her as soon as we came back from the Bahamas, which coincided with the time my sister was going to be there.  I am not going to go into any detail concerning her health, other than to say that Mom looks and sounds like she is improving. Nevertheless, we all agreed that it would be good for her to move somewhere so she can be closer to family. Since my mother is not an eastern girl, and won’t even think of coming to Maryland, that means she is going to go to Louisville, Colorado (near Boulder) to be closer to my sister and her family. It looks like she is going to move in late May, so we can take maximum advantage of her Long Term Care Insurance.

When we got back from Arizona, we spent a night or two at Old Port Cove, then headed north about 50 miles to Fort Pierce’s Municipal Marina. And here we sit. Dave and Joan Wolf are due in today with Spot, our cat. The five of us will leave tomorrow morning on our way north. We ain’t going too fast as I don’t want to outrun the warm weather.

Our last sunset in the Bahamas.
Ann’s Notes. I am so happy to be back in the United States, it is hard to believe that less than 100 miles off the coast line of Florida you can be in a third world country. Bimini, at one time, I am sure, was a beautiful island. Now cars, plastic bottles and pollution has really made the island sad to visit. I just feel badly when I walk in the town that all I see is trash and pot holes. The people are friendly, and how they even afford the basic essentials of living, I can’t figure out. The cost of food alone is high, they grow very little of their own food and have no farm land. Everything is imported from the states and then taxed upon entry to the Bahamas. I feel even the oceans around them are going to fail them soon.

Ok…on to happier thoughts

Remember to count your blessing when you are in the grocery store, the shelves are full, fresh produce is available and affordable.

Spot was been with Dave and Joan for 81 days, loving and excellent care, I will admit. However she is coming back to us TODAY!!!. I am more than excited. I have to keep reminding myself that she will more than likely have mixed loyalties when she arrives. We need to give her time to readjust to Michael and me. Having Dave and Joan travel with us for several weeks will make that transition for Spot easier.  I need to give her time and space to do that, that is what I keep telling myself.

We have some new travel intentions on our trip north on the ICW. It is always fun to explore new places.

We will keep you posted on our stateside adventures..

Traveling Soul OUT..

Friday, March 15, 2019

Big Major Spot - Highbourne - Chubb

After Lee Stocking, it was back to Pig Beach and Big Major Spot. Big Major is far less scenic than Lee Stocking, but it is very well protected from winds coming from the north and east – and that is exactly the directions from which we expected the winds to come over the next several days. They weren’t supposed to be terrible, but bad enough so that we wanted some protection. So we went to Big Major and waited.

Waiting at Staniel

Staniel Cay is right next to Big Major and the closest and coolest island around. Although all we were doing was waiting, I learned something while at Staniel. Sitting and waiting is not as inexpensive as I had thought. You see, I have a Nook, from which I can order and read Barnes and Nobles e-books. Since I am a fairly fast reader, I have to download a book maybe every other day. At $10-$15 per book, that can become kind of costly. Just a thought.


Bored people also give lessons on watermakers to people who probably don’t really care about them. It was also at Staniel that our watermaker came even closer to giving up the ghost. As you may recall, we use reverse osmosis to produce fresh water. Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water by trapping contaminants on the membrane and allowing pure water to flow out. It can remove 98 to 99% of most contaminants including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, arsenic and a plethora of other chemical and organic contaminants. In its basic form, reverse osmosis requires a very high pressure pump and a special filter (membrane). Ours also has a simple sensor to tell us when the water is pure. Newer, more modern watermakers have all sorts of cool gadgetry, but ours is pretty old fashioned.

Before we left the States, we had our high pressure pump rebuilt. You may remember that it was difficult to find someone to rebuild it because it is a pretty old pump. Since we have had it back, though, it has performed like a champ. I knew our membrane also needed to be replaced, but simply did not have enough time after getting back the pump. Since we have been in the Bahamas we have flushed the membrane twice with fresh water – essentially trying to get those trapped ions, molecules, and larger particles out of the system. We are now at the point where she is just not going to flush anymore.

Anyway, the EPA recommends a TDS measurement of less than 500 PPM (parts per million) for tap water. When our watermaker is working correctly we can get 200 – 250 PPM easily. However, the sensor in the watermaker seems to shut the system down if it is making less that 450 or so – and because we apparently are producing water outside of its parameters, it currently wants to shut down the system. Since we are going to be in the Bahamas only another week or so (more about that later) we are not going to be able to find, buy, ship and replace a new membrane. Instead, I just turned off the sensor. I can hear you now, “Hey, Brown, what are you doing? Trying to get sick?” Well no. Actually, we have a gadget that measures TDS and it says we are producing water with 450 or so PPM. Moreover, we run all of our drinking water through a Brita filter that reduces the PPM one more time. In short, we are confident we will be all right until we get back to a marina and eventually the States.

Stateside Bound

I mentioned that we are headed back to the States a little early this year. My mother, who lives in Arizona, is not doing particularly well and we thought we ought to go out to AZ to see her. My sister, who is constrained by having to w-w-work (I hate using four letter words), is going to visit her at the end of March and we thought it would be great if we could all be there at the same time.

Anyway, by the first week in March we were actively watching for an opportunity to get to the States. From the northern Exumas, we have to travel about 220 nautical miles to Lake Worth. Try as we might, that is an absolute minimum of three days for us – roughly 75 NM per day. As we study the various weather prognostications, all we can see is two nice days together, then a space of four or five days before we can get a third day that might be good enough to cross the Gulf Stream.  For those of you who know the Bahamas, here is our initial plan: get to Highbourne Cay, wait until Monday the 11th, then put the pedal to the metal and go all the way to Chubb Cay, anchor there for a night, then head out for Bimini early the following morning. We will end up staying in Bimini for several days (at least until Saturday the 16th) before we can launch for home. We have looked at various alternatives but given the weather windows we have it looks like the Highbourne to Chubb to Bimini to wait ton then make our run to Lake Worth is our best bet.

I also calculated our fuel usage. After the 240 nm trip, we would have almost 20% reserve which was plenty. Most captains are willing to go with about 10% reserve, but even though I am more chicken than most, I figured 20% would be fine.

Highbourne – Chubb - Bimini

We have been to Highbourne a number of times over the years and have traipsed pretty much all over the island. We had missed one beach, however, which we promptly walked. We also, of course, needed to go to Xuma, the best and most expensive restaurant in the Exumas. Rather than go for the pricey dinner, however, we decided to go for the slightly less expensive lunch. To give you an idea of the cost, Ann almost ordered a hamburger until she noticed that it cost $25 – that is not a typo, $25 for a burger. Now I know burgers can be delicious, but $25 delicious? I don’t think so. Instead we ordered some conch fritters which were very good and a seafood pizza which was decidedly mediocre. Next time, we’ll go for dinner.

Then we waited for the weather.

And we waited

We had intended to leave shortly after 6:00 on Monday the 10th, but I had forgotten that we had just “sprung our clocks forward.” So, when we got up at 0600 it was still dark outside. We waited until 0700 when we could see the anchorage and launched for Chubb. It was easy weather and easy-peasy cruising as a British friend of mine would have put it. The only problem was that we ended up going a little faster and using a little more fuel than I had intended. Hmm. Would that come back to haunt me? Maybe.

When we got to Chubb, I plotted our course for the next day. Yikes! I had made a mistake. I had thought it was a little over 80 miles to the marina, it turns out it was a little over 94. That’s about an hour-and-a-half difference in travel time. Also, I realized that my fuel calculations had been a little optimistic. With the extra distance and the speed we made the day before, we would only have a little over 10% reserve, which might have been enough for the ICW, but not for the Atlantic Ocean. We now had a little problem. If we left at first light, we would arrive in Bimini at 1700 at the earliest – about the time everyone closes. Who would assign us a slip? Who would pump our fuel? You can see the problem.

Complicating everything was the fact that we could not raise the marina where we wanted to stay on the telephone – their number was disconnected – or on the internet. It was also one of the two places in Bimini that sold fuel. So we had to make reservations at a different marina, Brown’s, and decided we would figure out how to get fuel later.

I lay in bed thinking about the problem until I came up with the obvious solution. We had to leave before light. I woke Ann up at 0430 and told her the new plan. We would depart Chubb shortly after 0500 and arrive in Bimini by 1500. We could then stop at our preferred marina for fuel and ask if they had an overnight slip. If yes, we would refuel, call and cancel our reservations at Brown’s, spend the night at Bimini Sands and all of our problems would be taken care of. If not, we would refuel and we would still have a place to stay a little way up the Bimini channel. Ta Da!

OK, my preference would be to stop here and jump forward to tell you how everything worked in Bimini. But I am afraid my darling wife would give her version of events which just might be decidedly less favorable to yours truly. Now, before I begin, you have to realize that nighttime travel on a boat is very, very different than daytime travel – especially when you are trying to maneuver in tight quarters. This particular night was dark. I mean it was black. It was as black as a witch’s heart, as black as a thousand foot hole, as black as a coal pit, as black as … well, you get the idea.

On the way out of the anchorage there were two sets of lighted markers. One set was working perfectly. We could see red on one side of the channel and green on the other. They were right in back of us and I knew exactly what I had to do to get out of the anchorage. The other set of markers were about 300-400 meters away and they had only one light burning, the green light was lit, but the red light was apparently burnt out. I remembered coming in that I thought the markers were pretty close together, so while we wouldn’t have to squeeze to get through them we would have to pay close attention.

This was the boat immediately abaft our port 
beam when we  made our starboard turn. 
You can see how dark it is. But at
 least he had his running light on!
I turned on minimal lights for the interior, turned on the running lights, then turned on the radar. After I lined up the various radar targets with markers on the chart and the anchored boats, I put us in forward and we were underway. Slowly, very slowly we moved through the first set of markers. No problem. I lined up on the far green marker and headed directly for it. My plan was to head for the green marker, then turn away as we got close. That way I figured that I could make sure that I missed the unlit red marker. I sent Ann forward and asked her to guide us between the poles with hand signals. My plan worked – well, almost worked. Ann kept telling me to move away from the green pole, but I was more worried about the red one, so I kind of stayed on course – until the last minute second fraction of a second when I realized how close we were to the green pole. Instead of coming about 5-10 feet from the marker, I came within about 5-10 inches (or maybe .5 – 1.0 inches). It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the green marker coming up, it is just that estimating distances at sea is very difficult. At sea AND in the dark, well, forget about it.  I kept the starboard engine in forward and put the port engine in reverse to turn the boat to the left, and then I threw the steering wheel to the left. I was happy when we did not hit the marker dead on and ecstatic as we squeaked by the pole and didn’t touch it anywhere along the side. I guess I was lucky that night.

Once we got beyond the markers, it should have been simple. All I needed to do was turn hard to starboard and set forth. However, before I could turn the boat I got soooo disoriented that I almost turned the boat in a full circle before I realized what was happening. I looked outside and realized that wasn’t going to help, so I focused on my chartplotter, lined up the course and headed out. This was not my finest hour.

As we proceeded westward we came across a few boats going our way or going eastward that did not have any lights whatsoever. We generally picked them up on radar, but nor having running lights on is not only illegal, it is stupid and irresponsible! I just don’t understand how and why people could do that. They are not only risking their boat and lives, they are risking ours as well. Also, there is a pole marking the Northwest Channel. It sticks up about ten feet from the water and is supposed to be lit. As is so often the case in things for which the Bahamian government is responsible, the light is burnt out and the marker is a major hazard to navigation. I had timed our arrival at the marker to occur at first light because … well … lighted markers are often burnt out in the Bahamas. As you can tell, I get a bit upset about things like this. 

Ann’s Notes. As you all know I am the one who proof reads the blog before it goes out into space, or where ever blogs go to be read.

The very welcome sunrise.
I had to chuckle when Michael made his confession. I have a pretty low resting heart rate, however, that dark morning on the bow, staring into the darkness and with a green light marker quickly approaching, the heart monitor on my FitBit almost had a flipping heart attack. So why, Captain Oh Captain do you send your only crew member and wife of forty five years into the darkness, with one simple mission. Signal me if we are getting to close (he said) OK..I can do that. The catch is you have to listen to me. As all of you know from previous statement about going to restaurants at night and than having to come home in the dinghy…I HATE MOVING IN THE WATER AT NIGHT…PERIOD…DOT.

 Michael is an excellent captain of Traveling Soul and can become laser focused in a nano-second, and responds quickly. He is like a Zen master; he becomes one with the boat, and chart plotter.

Then to top it all off, I see behind us three lights off to our Port side. We have a rather large 50 foot-ish sail boat that wants to pass us. We made contact with him on the radio, and he took the lead, followed him from a distance until we got onto the shallow water of the Bahama Bank and he veered off in another direction.

I have been doing a lot of reading also, if I am not cross stitching or cooking for fun, I read. I have a box of books , some at left behind by Dave and Joan, some I exchange with friends and then recycle and some I get from exchange libraries at marinas. A take a free book, leave a free book.

We are actually on the last part of this Bahamas trip, we have lots to do when we get back…it will be great to have my cell phone again.

Spot update, she is pretty much her sweet feline self, she needs to gain some more weight and she will do that on her own schedule. Dave and Joan have been by her side with loving care. We are blessed to count them as family.

Traveling Soul …OUT

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Emerald Bay to Conception Island

About 25 miles from Emerald Bay and about 30 miles from our destination at Conception Island I saw two white birds flying about ½ mile dead ahead off our bow. It was a little unusual to see such small birds this far from land, but I really didn’t think too much of it. Of course, I had heard the tale that when you see birds in the ocean that means that fish aren’t far away. In the Chesapeake that usually meant a lot of birds diving on the water. But only two birds? Who seem to be just flying from one point to another rather than fishing? I wasn’t so sure. Then I spotted five more white birds which seemed to be just sitting on the water in almost a straight line about a mile off our port bow. I thought for a minute about altering course, just in case they were watching a school of fish, but decided that was kind of silly. Five little white birds after mahi-mahi? I didn’t think so. Instead, I called Ann’s attention to this little oddity. I said, “Hey, Ann, take a look at these birds off our port …” Then it happened. Whirrr! Yes, fish on!
Black Fin tuna. MMmm Mmmm good!

Ann and I have worked out a set of procedures for what to do when we catch a fish. Since, however, we had not even had a single bite this year, I was concerned that we might be a bit rusty. The procedure is simple: I turn off the synchronizers, put the engines at idle, put the transmission in neutral, then rush to the stern, reel in the non-fish line and get to the rod and reel with the line.  Ann, meanwhile, takes over the helm, and responds when I tell her to move “forward” or shift to “neutral.” Even though it had been a year since we had practiced, it all took place flawlessly.

Initially, he took out quite a bit of line, but I wasn’t concerned. I still had him and, after a few minutes, found that I could reel a little line periodically. He didn’t seem to be fighting as hard as a mahi and wasn’t jumping at all – which mahi usually do – so I began to think that might be a tuna and that maybe I should bring him a bit faster, so I could get the line back out of course and catch a mahi. I remembered, though, that last year I brought in a mahi faster than I should have and once he got within maybe a hundred feet of the boat, he found enough energy for one final flurry of activity – and got away. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. Anyway, when I brought the fish to within about 50 feet from the boat I could see “color.” Now I don’t know how many of you fish or watch fishing shows, but as the fish gets closer to the boat and closer to the surface you can see color – even though you cannot make out the shape of the fish. Because the light rays are refracted by the water you can’t tell if it is a ten foot long mahi or a one-footer long barracuda. When I saw color this time, I could not tell how big or what kind he was. But it looked like it could be a four foot mahi. Well, it wasn’t; in the event, it turned out to be a tuna – a good sized tuna to be sure, but a tuna nonetheless. He will give us several decent-sized tuna steaks. Of course, it wasn’t a mahi. But at least it was something and I will not be skunked this year.
Some of the sharks waiting for the offal from ONE tuna.
We waited until we were anchored that evening to clean him. And, while I won’t get overly graphic, I am sure it comes as no surprise that we do cut off the head at some point. Well, I cut it off and threw it overboard. Before it hit the bottom there was a five-foot nurse shark scooping it up. As I threw away more of the offal, more sharks came. Now this was only the leftover parts from a single tuna – but at one point we had five sharks ready to take anything else we threw overboard. This to me is amazing. Okay, maybe the first shark just happened to be close enough to see, smell or hear the head hit the water. But the others arrived in the space of less than a minute or two. How close could they have been? I have just read a little bit about sharks’ senses – but what I saw still doesn’t compute. Needless to say, we didn’t go swimming that night.

We didn’t have the tuna for dinner that night; we had already decided on lobster instead (we eat well on Traveling Soul). Instead we had it the following day. Now last year when I caught a tuna, Ann admitted she really didn’t know what to do with it, so she found a Thai recipe that had peanut butter. Now, I like peanut butter, but not with fish. Anyhow this year she had a new and different recipe. OMG!!! It was fantastic. I had a bite or two and was telling her how good it was. She told me that I should try it with the dipping sauce. I did. Man oh man, it was doubly fantastic. I still want to catch a mahi, but another tuna wouldn’t be too bad either.

Conception Island is part of the National Land and Sea Park system administered by the Bahamas National Trust. The entire area is protected; visitors are welcome but should take nothing and leave only footprints. The park here was established in 1964 and has not seen human habitation since the very early 1900s. It is on the migratory path of several bird species. In fact, when we woke up one morning, we could actually hear birds calling to one another from the interior of the island. This is unusual in that we very seldom see, let alone hear, birds on most of the cays and islands. Finally, A few people believe that Conception was the original landing point of Columbus. Others believe it was one of the first three landing sites. Personally, I am pretty sure it wasn’t the original landfall, but it could have been one of the other islands where he went ashore – it just depends on how you read the evidence.  

The first day we were there, we took a long walk on the nearby beach. It was good enough, but not the best beach we have seen in the Bahamas. It had very nice sand, was about 50 feet wide for most of its length, and was about two miles long. I guess the biggest problem was that it was pretty steep. Moreover, once you got into the water, there was a drop off that put you chest deep or more when you were least expecting it. Plus, there were very, very few shells. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have become a beach snob.

One of the magnificent birds we saw at Conception. 
He doesn't have the "Zorro Mask" of an osprey and doesn't
have the white tail feathers of an eagle. 
What kind of bird is he?
Later that afternoon (we had to wait for high tide) we went to the creek that ran through the island. It looks like a very shallow river with mangroves on either side, and it almost bisects the island. It is in these creeks and mangroves that the young of many species of fish, birds, turtles and others spend their early months away from predators. As you ride through the mangrove creeks, you have to wind from side to side steering clear of the many sandbars in the area, but if you continue to the end you will be rewarded with sightings of a number of sea creatures. We saw probably 20-30 sea turtles of various sizes, a couple of birds (one of them was of a species about which we are still arguing), and what I think are some baby flying fish.

The weather reports showed about 3-4 days of good weather as we prepared to leave. Although Chris Parker (one of our weather sources) though there might be a little higher wind and waves than the other two on whom I rely, we were pretty sure it was going to be pretty good weather. Boy, were they wrong.  Windfinder (a website we use) specifically predicted waves between 1.3 and 1.7 feet high. The waves we saw were 3-5 and were getting even bigger. We believe one of three things happened: (1) There were “dark waves.” Some of you may recall my “dark wave theory” that attributes the difference between weather predictions and reality – specifically with regard to wave height – to dark waves. Dark waves are an analog to the notion of “dark matter” which is the physicists’ fudge factor between their predictions and reality. (2) A low, a high, or a medium front moved into the area surreptitiously, wreaked its damage and left without anyone knowing anything about it. (3) Chris Parker is a better meteorologist that I gave him credit.

The Columbus Monument at the northern tip of Long Island.

At any rate, about an hour into our trip, we decided to take a detour and finish our journey the following day. That may have been a mistake. Since we decided to hide on the northern tip of Long Island, we had to turn almost due south, which put the waves almost directly on our beam. And did we pay for that! Okay, maybe not the worst hour-and-a-half we spent on Traveling Soul, but pretty close to it. I’d say it was easily in the bottom 10 and maybe the top 5. In short, it was not a pleasant ride. We did get some shots of the Columbus Monument on Long Island and finally got some respite when we reached Calabash Bay.

The next day, the weather was perfect. Go figure.

How perfect was it? It was so perfect that YES, I caught another fish – a MAHI-MAHI. It wasn’t the biggest I have ever caught; in fact, it was fairly small. I am guessing it was 2 ½ feet or so and maybe fifteen pounds. Ann had the helm and I had just laid down for a power nap when Whirr! Again! We went through our procedures, I sat down with the rod and up in the air he went. It wasn’t a big jump and he wasn’t a huge fish.  But this time I was sure he was a mahi. I reeled him in expertly and voila, mahi for dinner.

Two years ago, the first time I caught a one of these magnificent fish, I tried to filet him. I had my book, I had watched a video and I had my friend Russ. Unfortunately, what we did to that fish can be better described as butchering than filleting. This time, though, I didn’t do too badly if I say so myself. So, even though he is a bit small, he will give us at least two-and-a-half meals. (The half meal is a couple of fish tacos, which we had a couple of days after I caught him.) Ann doesn’t want me to catch anymore fish and since I cannot do it without her, I guess that will be the end of my fishing adventures.

That evening we spent the night at Lee Stocking Island. There is nothing special about Lee Stocking, other than the fact that it is one of the most beautiful, and quintessential Bahamian locations in the islands. It is one of those spots where you can look around 360 degrees and see nothing but myriad shades of blue interspersed by picturesque islands, many of which are at least partially rimmed by sandy beaches. In 1967 John Perry bought the island for $70,000. He turned it into a first class marine research center, which he hoped would be self-sustaining through medicines and technologies which its scientists would discover. Alas, it was not to be. As we reported in 2016 (or so) the center was closed in 2011. In classic Bahamian style everything was left in place: filing cabinets, paperback books, kitchen equipment, beds, computer screens, everything.

On that happy note, let me turn it over to Ann.

Mike fileting his last mahi.
Ann’s Notes:  

I have to say our dinghy ride in Conception was wonderful, I have never seen so many turtles in one area. The last time I did see a lot of turtles was in Little Harbor in the Abacos, and that was three or four years ago.

The weather has been a real mix, a few days of beautiful, light wind days, than no breeze at all (those are the ones I dislike, A LOT) I would rather have bounce and wind than dead calm.

I have been distracted by events happening at home and have not been as supportive as I should be. Thus Michael’s comment about not being able to fish. I do react when the fish struggles when caught and that takes the fun out for Michael. However, I do like fresh fish and I am getting better at cooking tuna the way it should be cooked. I will work on being more positive and supportive, we only have a few more weeks left in the Bahamas and I know he wants to fish  some more.

An update on Spot, she is on the mend, still not completely well but in the loving care of Dave and Joan. I know in my heart she will be her usual spunky feline self soon.

We are slowly heading north and back to the States.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Thursday, March 7, 2019

George Town (2)

I closed the last blog before we left George Town because it was getting to be a bit long. We stayed in George Town for a few more days, though, and have had a couple of memorable occurrences that I need to report. The first was the Dinghy Ride From Hell. As I explained last time, we are anchored near Sand Dollar Beach. We generally like this particular anchorage because it is close to the various beaches and because it is close to “Chat and Chill” the quintessential beach bar. Now don’t get me wrong, the cooks at Chat and Chill have no idea how to cook a hamburger, French fries, grilled fish or BBQ (theoretically their specialty) and quite honestly I would not ask them for a cup of boiled water (in part because I do not think they know how to boil water and in part because bottle of water with ice costs $3.00). The only thing they do know how to do is to get a cold Kalik out of the fridge … that is provided you are willing to stand at the bar for 5 minutes while the bartenders chat with their friends and flirt with other cooks and wait staff. That part is it is classic Bahamian behavior, but I digress.

One of the downsides of anchoring at Sand Dollar is that it is on the other side of the harbor from the settlement at George Town – nearly two miles. Now in the best of times George Town is not a booming metropolis. The Bahamian population is only 2500 and the shopping opportunities are fairly limited, but that is where the grocery store (with all those luscious sardines), the liquor store, the hardware store and the gas station are. To get to the settlement, of course, you have to take your dink through Elizabeth Harbor. The harbor is normally very calm, somewhere between sea state 0 (calm and glassy) and sea state 1 (calm and rippled) as it was when we first arrived. When the wind starts picking up, however, there is a little more action on the water, maybe somewhere between sea state 2 (smooth, wavelets) and sea state 3 (slight wavelets). Now in the grand scheme of things sea state 2 is nothing; in the big boat we wouldn’t even feel it. Sea state 3 is a little bumpier, but even Spot could take it. Unless, that is … unless you are in a dinghy.

We had already made a run to George Town while the Harbor was in sea state 1. After the wind picked up we were smart enough to wait. But the wind continued for several days and we decided we had to give it a shot, we were running out of gas for the dinghy and even more importantly we were running low on half-and-half for our coffee (yes, we really rough it when we anchor out). The trip over really wasn’t too bad, only one or two rogue wavelets made it into the dinghy and neither of us had any more than few splash marks on our clothing. That was because the wind and wave action were behind us, pushing us in our desired direction. After shopping we turned around to head home – that was when we learned that the “wavelets” of sea state 3 can be a bear.

You may recall from our last entry that I have become quite the (self-proclaimed) poet. Although my poem “Black Point”)in the last blog) may not win the Pulitzer, I think you will understand why I believe “The Dinghy Ride from Hell” has a real chance.

The Dinghy Ride from Hell
Elizabeth Harbor was not very kind
But we had to get groceries, especially some wine.
This leads to the story that I, here, will tell,
Of a ride on a dinghy – a ride straight from hell.

As we watched from our boat the wavelets looked small,
We thought we could make it – not e’en a close call.
Though when we embarked and started across,
The sea changed our minds and we learned who was boss.

We bumped and we thumped and we bounced all around.
The only good choice was to really slow down
We were moving so slowly I can’t fathom how
The water kept coming right over the bow.

Closer and closer to our boat we drew
As the salt water drenched both captain and crew.
When we finally we reached Traveling Soul
We felt we had been in a large mixing bowl.

The lesson my friends is really quite plain,
We continue to learn it again and again
Though you may think you have figured it out,
Mother Nature’s in charge -- of that there’s no doubt.

The day after the above noted dinghy ride, we were due to meet Russ and Lori for lunch across the Harbor at a place called February Point. You can probably understand why we were approaching this particular luncheon with some trepidation. We went back and forth on whether or not we would go, until about 1130, when it was time to move out. In the event, Ann donned her foul weather gear and we took off. The winds had definitely died down and the seas were not nearly as hellacious. Barely a drop of saltwater made it into the dinghy.

The next day we set out for the Marina at Emerald Bay. The marina is owned and operated by Sandals and, as a consequence tends to be pretty high end – both in operation and in price. It has, however, been just over three weeks since we had been to a marina and I wanted to flush our watermaker again, to fully charge the batteries and to let the generator and various electronic systems rest. I must admit, although I know it doesn’t make much sense, I tend to be a bit anthropomorphic with regard to Traveling Soul. Just like people need rest and relaxation once in a while, I think boats and their systems occasionally need time for rest, refit and recuperation.

Although the car was generally in surprisingly good shape, 
if you look closely, you can see that the 
hubcaps were held on with zip strips.
The first full day we were at the marina, Ann got up very early to work out at their fitness center and to start several loads of wash. Although laundry at the marina is free, unless you get up early it can be nearly impossible to get hold of a washing machine. When you go early – and I mean very early – though, there usually isn’t a problem. In fact, by about 0900 she had completed her task and we were preparing to enjoy the rest of the day.

On Wednesday, again with our friends Russ and Lori, we rented a car from the resort and took a trip south.  As we drove from the marina I noticed that there were a couple of medium sized resorts, several small resorts and a number of vacation rentals. What I did not see – and you usually see in the out islands – is any partially finished homes. I am not sure why. Maybe Great Exuma is wealthier than most of the other islands.

The salt marker showing ships 
where to anchor for their load of salt.
On our way south we saw three things of interest. One was the salt ponds and the salt marker. In the Old Days, Little Exuma, like many of the out islands, had salt ponds. They would get the water in the various ponds, dam it up, wait for the water to evaporate, then load the salt in barrels for transport to Nassau. That we all knew and we had all seen before salt ponds before. What we did not know was that in Little Exuma they had to put up a large marker (30-ish feet) at the top of a hill marking the salt ponds. The marker was so the ships coming in from the ocean side of the island would know where to anchor. I also learned that the salt these ships carried was very valuable, so much so that they would occasionally send Royal Navy ships to escort them and that they mounted a cannon near the marker to protect the salt from the Spanish and from pirates. Interesting, No?

The next thing we saw was Santanna’s. Santanna’s is one of those bar and grills in the Bahamas that has achieved near legendary status. While making the move “Pirates of the Caribbean” Johnnie Depp not only ate at Santanna’s, but apparently raved about it. Russ and Lori had been coming to George Town for at least six years and have always wanted to eat at Santanna’s but had never made it this far south. Well the four of us finally made it. The grouper I had, and the lightly breaded lobster Ann had were certainly good, but I don’t know if I willing to call it the second best restaurant on Great Exuma as Trip advisor does (besides, it is on Little Exuma). Would I go back again? Absolutely, especially if someone else were pays the bill. It was about $70 for the two of us – for lunch.

The line marking the Tropic of Cancer at (surprisingly enough)
Tropic of Cancer Beach
Finally, the real reason we rented the car was to see the ruins on Little Exuma. As most of you probably know the modern history of the Bahamas began in about 1783 when the American colonists who had supported Britain in the Revolutionary War found themselves in a difficult situation – their fellow countrymen wanted them tarred and feathered, dead or out of the country. Most chose the latter. Many of these former Loyalists were given land grants in the Bahamas by the Crown. A certain Baron Rolle was one of those loyalists. He moved with his family and his slaves to Little Exuma and established a plantation to grow cotton. Well, anyone who has been to any of the out islands of the Bahamas knows that you are not going to grow much. Rolle’s enterprise failed and he left Little Exuma, but not after freeing his slaves, many of whom took Rolle as their surname – hence the number of Rolles throughout the Exumas today. Anyway, a set of ruins, purportedly from this era, exists on a hill on Little Exuma.

Ann, after one of our many walks to the edges of the marina.
In this blog I have very seldom said anything negative about the Bahamas, the Bahamian people or the Bahamian government. That isn’t because I have nothing negative to say, it is just that I am a visitor and generally keep those opinions to myself. But there comes a point when even I can’t keep my mouth closed. The Bahamas practically depends on tourism for its existence as a nation. You would think that if they had a set of ruins, to which they refer as a “Bahamian Heritage Site,” that they might put just a little effort into taking care of it. Okay, maybe the Bahamian government doesn’t need to put up a sign explaining the importance of these particular ruins, maybe they don’t have to point out that parts of the house are not original – like the cistern with modern rebar, or the garage with a couple of wrecks inside, maybe they don’t even want to mow the grounds or maintain the property, but you would think they might want to haul away the 1960’s-era toilet and bathtub which are in the middle of the house. Apparently the Ministry of Tourism is spending its time and budget on the swimming pigs of Staniel Cay. I just can’t decide whether the government of the Bahamas is terribly inept of horribly corrupt.

Okay, now that I have vented, let me turn it over to Ann.

Ann is falling behind in her duties and can’t write this time. Send her an e-mail and encourage her to write next time.

Traveling Soul … Oops. Wait a minute
Wait! Wait! I will do my part..
Ann's Notes..
OK...there has been a lot going on in the States that I will not bore or burden you with right  now. I have been distracted by those events, I will admit.
I do want you to  know that I did enjoy my time in Georgetown very much, well...the dinghy ride not so much. 

Lori, on the first day at anchor, showed me a path across Stocking Island to get to the Atlantic side of the island. The path is used so much that you can walk it in your bare feet, at the end of the path you have the most beautiful beach to walk. Miles of white sand beaches with very little plastic on it. Michael and I tried to walk the beach at least once a day, it is good to get off the boat and enjoy your surrounding as much as you can. 
Our time together with Russ and Lori on Twin Sisters is always great. It is a blessing to find fellow cruisers that you can spend a lot of time with, relax and do some island exploring with. Thank you Russ and Lori for sharing some time with us.
Russ and Lori also introduced us to one of their friends, Erin and Chris on their boat Barefeet. They were anchored next to us in the Sand Dollar anchorage. They are real adventurers, on there first boat, a 43 foot sailing PDQ catamaran, they started their journey from Boston and it took them five years to circumnavigate the world. I went over one morning to just talk to Erin and ask questions. We also had them over for dinner They have a wed site if you want to read about their trip
Also I need to update you on our little Spot, she is going to be fine but right now she is not a well little feline. Keep her in your thoughts and send her good vibes. We love and miss her more than we can express. Dave and Joan continue to love and care for her, such a gift to have friends and family in our life that we can count on for unconditional love and support.
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Traveling Soul...OUT