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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Up the ICW From Palm Beach to St. Augustine: The Story of the Great Tarp Monster (April 24 - 29)

(A voice begins reading the Blog; a voice that sounds oddly like a narrator of one of those 1950s science fiction dramas):

It began like any other day I had experienced in my 60+ years of living. The sun was shining and life was generally good. Little did I know what the day would hold for me – and potentially for the rest of mankind. The creature that attacked us had tentacle-like strings hanging from its limp but surprisingly strong body. It was … But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you the story from the beginning.

I woke up at 0630, Ann a few minutes later. Although the sun wasn’t completely up, I was sure it was going to be a beautiful day. There were about five knots of wind, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the water was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The weather was perfect and so was the crew. Ann and I are getting very good at getting the boat ready for cruising. She works on the inside and I work on the outside. (I am sure you remember my checklist –curl up the hose, bring in the electrical cord, retying the lines, etc. so I won’t repeat it here.) And today, the first day of our trip north, we were especially good. The fuel dock was supposed to open at 0800 so we left our slip at 0730 to be the first in line. With no wind, I maneuvered like a champ (if I do say so). A dock hand had even arrived at the fuel dock a little bit early and helped us tie-up. We docked, refueled and headed out - all in about 20 minutes.
The glorious day on which we left.
Little did we know what loomed ahead
We got to the ICW in about 2 minutes and I was right; it was a glorious day. The sun was out and a gentle breeze was blowing. The houses we were passing on both the left and right were those magnificent dwellings with huge boats out front. It was great and life was good. We arrived at the first bascule bridge on our route, the Parker Bridge, almost exactly on time. (For those of you who don’t know, bascule bridges are draw bridges over the water (in our case the ICW) that stop traffic to open the bridge and let boats through. Some open on demand and some have a schedule they follow. I hate it when bridges have a schedule and we have to wait for the bridge to open, especially if there is a strong wind; it can blow you all around.) We had to wait only about ten minutes, then the bridge tender opened the bridge for us and we and the big sports fisherman behind us. Thirty minutes up the ICW was another bridge, the PGA Bridge (no, I am not kidding you; they take their golf seriously in Florida.) If you time your travels right, you don’t have to slow down for the PGA as it opens fifteen minutes after the Parker. We had to slow down a little, but not much. Under the bridge we went.

This isn't the home of the Tarp Monster,
but it is a Bascule Bridge similar to the
Monster's Lair
 Then, as we were passing under the bridge, we both heard and felt it: Kathunka, thunka, thunka. (Actually, Ann and I are debating whether it was a kathunka, thunka-thunka or a whoopa-whoopa-whoopa. But this is a technical issue that we won’t get into right now.) At any rate there was something seriously wrong making the boat vibrate. Something seemed to be wrong with the port engine. I put the engine in idle and the kathunking stopped. Then, with the engine idling, I turned up the throttle and still, there was no vibration. It only vibrated when we were in gear. Ann went down to look at the engine and it wasn’t spewing oil or falling out of its mount. So, although I wasn’t sure, from these indicators, I figured it wasn’t the engine, it had to be somewhere else in the drive train. But where? Was it the shaft? Or maybe the propeller? I didn’t know, but whatever the cause there was some serious kathunking going on. At any rate, we could still move at about six knots on the starboard engine. So, Ann got out the Cruising Guide and started looking for a nearby marina that might be able to help. We called a couple of them, then found one close to our position – near the Donald B Ross Bridge over the ICW – and we pulled in.

We pulled into the fuel dock and the dock master and I looked at the engines. They looked good to both of us, so we ruled the engines out as the source of the problem. The next alternative was that something was wrong with the props. To check that out, we had to get a diver to look under the boat. The trouble:  no divers were available until 3PM. We really didn’t have a choice, so we took a slip at the marina and waited. At about 2 PM a diver – named John – showed up.  He was a nice guy who had no idea what was waiting for him under our hull. He went in and stayed down about 15 minutes. When he came up he was covered in … well, I am not sure what it was. Because he carried it draped over his body it looked other worldly, but it wasn’t. John told us that when he first saw it he had to convince himself that it wasn’t the creature from the Black Lagoon or something. Anyway, it appears to have been some sort of tarp that is brown on one side and has some sort of silvery lining on the other. Because our props had chewed it up so badly, a lot of the silvery stuff was hanging like tentacles from the body of what we will forever remember as the unforgettable “Tarp Monster.” The cost for the diver? Less than .075 Boat Units (of course that didn’t cover the cost of the marina, but we were hoping our “boat unit” luck was changing.

The Grizzly Tarp Monster.
Okay, the next day we got ready to go. I woke up at 0630, Ann a few minutes later. Although the sun wasn’t completely up, I was sure it was going to be a beautiful day. There were about five knots of wind, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the water was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The weather was perfect and so was the crew. Ann and I are getting very good at getting the boat ready for cruising. She works on the inside and I work on the outside. (I am sure you remember my checklist –curl up the hose, bring in the electrical cord, retying the lines, etc. so I won’t repeat it here.) And today, the first day of our trip north, we were especially good. (I know, you have read that before, but it was kind of déjà vu for me, as well.)

 Anyway, the second day was wonderful. We went past Jupiter Island and the properties were even more magnificent than they were at Palm Beach. One of the dock hands told me that a national magazine reported that the people living on Jupiter Island controlled nearly 10% of the nation’s wealth. And Tiger Woods supposedly has a house there.  The real story of the day, however, was the dolphins.  They were all over the place. We saw singles, duos and even a pod of four. We even had a couple come and play alongside the boat. One would come to the surface and kind of roll over on it back, exposing its underside to the sun and possibly the bow wave. That one would then right itself, move to the outside and let its partner do the same thing. It only lasted for three of four minutes, but as you can imagine, Ann was in heaven.

We arrived in Vero Beach, our destination for the day at about 2:30. We headed straight to the mooring field. They have kind of an unusual setup at Vero Beach.  You are assigned a mooring ball, but you could be assigned a ball with two other boats. You would then “raft-up” with your new best friends by tying your boat to the first one there; the first one, in turn ties to the mooring ball itself. Although we saw a couple of boats moored in this manner, we were assigned our own mooring, #20.

Before the attack of the dreaded “Tarp-Monster,” our plan had been to spend two nights in Vero Beach. The mooring balls are secure and inexpensive, and the marina has a number of excellent facilities, including a shuttle bus that will take you to the beach on the ¾ hour and to town on the ¼ hour.  Ever since Ann heard that, she figured she would be able to get back to the Red Onion. As some of you may recall, the last time we were in Vero Beach, Ann’s friend Bill took all of us to the Red Onion for lobster rolls – and delicious lobster rolls they were. Since then, Ann has wanted another. Moreover, we had not really taken our dinghy down since getting the davit motor fixed. I really wanted to test the motor in an area where we could get some mechanical help if we needed it – and Vero Beach seemed like the place.  So, down came the dinghy (which worked like a champ, by the way), and off we were to catch the shuttle to the beach (where Red Onion is). Darn! We just missed the shuttle, but all is not lost. According to the young man at the marina, it is a pleasant four block walk to the beach. Well, off we went. And went. And went. And went. My God, the woman took me on the Vero Death March just so she could have a lobster roll!! After all was said and done, Ann had a new blister on her toe and some sunburn on her face; as for me, my right heel was killing me ( a perennial problem that keeps me from my third favorite activity, running), but we did each have a lobster roll – and it was good.

We got up the next morning and headed out. I must admit, though, we did touch bottom a little in the channel heading back to the ICW from the marina. I am not sure what the problem was (me, the charts, the markers, or a combination of all of us) but I don’t think we are any worse for the experience (i.e. I don’t see any additional boat units in the immediate future).  Anyway, today’s scenery was much like yesterday’s with one exception. We saw so many dolphins yesterday, that Ann decided that rather than try to keep track of each individual dolphin, she would track the total number she saw. Today’s total? Hahaha. You have to read Ann’s Notes later in the Blog because she won’t let me tell you.

Just one of many cottages on the "Rodeo Drive-ness"
portion of the ICW
It is difficult to describe the terrain as we traversed the ICW. It seems to be a combination of Rodeo Drive, Route 1, I-95, Route 66 and La Rue des Idiots in the following sense. I have already described some of the magnificent houses and boats. I won’t duplicate that here other than to say that my descriptions and even the pictures we took can’t really capture the grandeur of parts of the waterway primarily because there wasn’t just a cool house or two, but there were miles of them. And, as a waterfront groupie, I found them especially beautiful.
Some of the "Route 1-ness" of parts of the ICW
That said, parts of the ICW were more like Route 1 in the eastern US. Along the waterway, there were trailer parks, shanty towns, campgrounds, anchorages for derelict boats, etc. I didn’t see too many 7-11’s, but there were plenty of bait shops that sold soda and munchies; I think that is the equivalent of a convenience store for fishermen. And I didn’t see any places that advertised Girls! Girls! Girls! But maybe that’s just because I didn’t know where to look. Seriously, in addition to the upscale areas, we saw a bunch of commercial establishments and some pretty beat up trailers and shacks. 

The ICW is also, of course, the primary north-south route for boaters – and for locals trying to get somewhere and do something with their boats. It can get very congested at times.  Power boaters may not want to wake us and other, slower boats, but they have places to go and people to see – and only a weekend in which to do it.

And finally, kind of like I-95, the ICW is La Rue des Idiots. Imagine someone waterskiing down the middle of I95 – we don’t have to imagine it, we saw it. In fact, we had to slow down one time because a young man fell into the water about ¼ mile ahead of us. Imagine an old man sitting in a small rickety-looking boat just off the center span of a major bridge across the ICW, complaining that every boat that passes rocks his boat with their wakes. He conveniently forgets, of course, that it is illegal to tie off to a bridge, to fish in the main channel of the Intracoastal and to impede the flow of traffic under the bridge. I guess he thinks that those particular rules don’t apply to him.

Okay, enough philosophizing about the ICW, we anchored that night at Coco, near Coco Beach. It was an okay anchorage. If there would have been a stiff wind, we wouldn’t have had much protection from the west or the south. But luckily for us, there wasn’t much of a breeze at all. In fact, by morning, the boat had drifted to a position that was almost on top of the anchor (which means we did more drifting than dragging). Anyway, about an hour after we arrived, another large motor vessel showed up. (We will meet them ;later in St. Augustine)

We left Coco at 0800 the following day. Because we had traveled so long and so far yesterday, this was a relatively easy day. The Intracoastal produced more of the same, except that we passed more sailboats headed north. There was also quite a bit of the waterway – maybe 10 or 15 miles – that was almost literally a ditch. The Intracoastal went from shore to shore with presumably enough depth not to go aground (I pretty stuck to the middle of the channel). Anyway, we arrived in Saint Augustine on Sunday 29 April. We are going to spend three days here on a mooring ball (.021 of a Boat Unit per night), then spend the last night at a slip in the marina so we can get some water (I mean “take on” some water – that’s the more nautical way of saying it), clean the boat and get some fuel before we head on north.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to seeing St. Augustine’s Old Town and the 450 year old fort and taking the bus – which costs $1 for you youngsters, but for us “seniors" defined as over 60, we get half fare! I will try to file our next report before we leave St. Augustine, but if not it will probably be from Hilton Head.

ANN’S NOTES: Michael has pretty much told you about traveling down the ICW...The views vary mile to mile. Not everyone in Florida went belly up when the ecomomy went south...pun is intented :)

I think I need to explain my morning routine since you know what Michael is doing on the outside of the boat...and I do get pulled away from the inside to help him adjust the lines so I can handle the lines by myself while we are pulling away from the dock. I apperciate the efforts he puts in to make that happen. Anyway...back inside the boat I am busy with all sorts of smaller but inportant details. And more details are being added. First I have to make the bed...a small ritual to keep me centered and remind me this is our home and needs to be treated as one. Then the following...get dressed...apply sun screen...make sure ALL HATCHES are closed and secured. FYI...we have a lot of hatches to close. Then there are the windows in the salon and galley...all have special locks that keep the windows from rattling and sliding open. We have little plastic capes on them that have been replaced ... I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave and Joan for finding them at Fisher's hardware store in Springfield. The latest detail of which I have take control is that we now take our 'snacks' and drinks up in a cooler. The "amp nazi" (hey, I resemble that remark!) thought this would help with saving the inverter while under way ... it seems to be working since I don't have to open the fridge during the day. Then I make the coffee, wash, dry and put all he dishes away. Okay, we are almost all done. I have a blue computer bag that I keep all the needed First Mate/Navigator stuff in. What you may ask would be in such a bag? You may ask ... well... Charts, ICW book, anchorage book, my cell phone, camera (where do you think all these pictures come from?) and a few personal items...sun block, chap stick, fan, spray bottle, etc. and my PINK and two Yellow sticky page remakers. I will tell you about the way I keep track of our location in another posting. And of course a navigators friend -- a good part of binoculars. All of the items need to go up to the second deck...Than we can GO!!!!

When Tim was visiting us he showed me how to tie and store my lines the way most sailors do. I had wanted to learn how to do that since moving onto the boat. As you can see I have got the 'hang'of it...again pun is intented :) and THANK YOU TIMOTHY WILLIAM BROWN for showing your mom how to do that...I love you :)

A couple of the many dolphins included in the Dolphin Count

Last item...my happy annoucement...the Dolpin count...

27 April 2012         28 dolphins

28 April 2012          27 single dolpins   1set of 3 dolph9ins for a total of 30

BONUS: 2 Mannatees

29 April 2012: 7 single dolpins     2 sets of 2 for a total of 11

I was a happy boater!!!
Traveling Soul...OUT

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preparing for the ICW (18 - 24 April)

Well, tomorrow, we are securing our lines and heading back out to sea … actually we are heading out to  the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, called variously the ICW, the Ditch, and the “Inside” by our fellow cruisers. In general, our plan will be to cover about 60 miles per day, anchoring out along the way, then, once in a while, when we get to someplace we really want to see, stop at a marina and smell the roses. Our plan is to stop at St. Augustine, FL, Charleston, SC, near Cherry Point, NC and maybe Virginia Beach before heading up to the Chesapeake. We think that will take us about six weeks, but it may be a little bit longer. We shall see.  So the next several Blog entries will be about our travels. However, before we can start that journey, we had to get some things fixed, so this entry is more for those of you who are gear heads, geeks and mechanics than it is for those of you who are reading this Blog for the destinations rather than the journeys.

But before I begin, I have to announce a stunning realization. Over the past month or so, in dealing with the electrical systems on the boat I have had to use the equations E=I*R and P = I*E and a few others.  The fact that I had to use these equations would not be particularly surprising to most engineers or even some repairmen. But what is absolutely stunning is that I learned them about thirty eight years ago when I was taking EE 301 – or what cadets called “Juice.” Now Juice wasn’t my best subject and I am not sure how well I knew and could use these equations back then, but I am amazed that I can remember them all these years later without having used them much in between. And to think, we cadets used to complain about all the trivia we were learning. How was Juice going to help me be a better Army officer? How was it going to help me lead men into battle? Little did I know that while it may not be essential for an infantry officer, it is absolutely crucial for a retiree setting out on a cruising adventure.

Ok, now back to the mundane. Most of this entry is going to be about maintenance and repairs. I may have mentioned in our last entry that we had three major items that we needed to get fixed: the heads, the steering and the winch in the dinghy davit.  Each of them has a story (of course, or I wouldn’t be writing about them).

First, the heads. I wish I could tell an entire, start-to-finish story about our heads. Sadly, all I can do is to recount the current chapter in the continuing saga. Before Tim, Carrie and crew arrived our heads began to act up. We knew what to do as a stopgap (put salt in the water with each flush) and we executed that plan very well. But after we came back from our house-closing trip, the heads began showing yellow and red lights again – and anything other than green is bad. However, this time the problem was with not one of them, not two of them, but all three of them. Well, we managed to last a few days with minimal functioning in the heads, but as soon as we arrived in West Palm Beach we called a marine plumber. The owner of the company was very responsive. He showed up the same day, looked at our heads and promptly told us that while he might be able to fix two of them, we really should buy three new ones. He proudly told us they were only $1300 each, plus the labor to put them in, of course, and he would be happy to order them for us that very day. Now what I should have told him was that he was wrong. What we really needed to do is to buy a brand new ten million dollar yacht with working heads, but we weren’t going to do that for the same reason we weren’t going to buy three new heads; because it costs too much money.
This is one of the dreaded Lectra San units.

Anyway, once he understood that he wasn’t making a big sale, he sent one of his technicians out to take a closer look. The technician, Bob, decided he needed to take our heads back to the shop for testing, repairs and an overnight muriatic acid bath. We pointed out that if he took both of them that we would be headless (so to speak), so he agreed to take one, give it an overnight bath, then return to re-install that one while he picked up the other one. Well, about 3PM in the afternoon on Friday we hadn’t received our head back and hadn’t heard anything from Bob. He had said he wanted to give them an overnight acid bath, not a weekend bath. So we called to ask what was going on. The phone person said she would check with Bob and have him call back. To make a long story short, after a few more phone calls to them, someone knowledgeable did eventually call back and said that Bob still had to do this that and the other and that we could probably have our head back on Monday. I was not a happy camper and let them know that wasn’t the proper answer. The lady-who-answered-the-phone must have detected an unhappy customer and had some influence within the company because I got a call shortly afterwards that saying that both heads would be disassembled, bathed in acid and returned on Saturday. And you know what? They were.

We know we are going to have another issue with the heads when we get to the Chesapeake. The Chesapeake has brackish water; it doesn’t have enough salt in it to make the Lectra Sans work. So, our plan is to have one Pura-San put in (the new, sparkling, updated really cool Lectra San-type head that doesn’t require salt) and to add an ounce of salt to the other heads until we head south again. Then maybe next year we will have to buy yet another head and so on. So that was one boat unit. (Boaters don’t like to talk about the cost of things because we all know that boating is an expensive hobby/lifestyle. So, we talk in euphemisms. One Boat Unit is … well, let me put it this way. Do you know what the B.O.A.T. stands for? Bring On Another Thousand. I think you get the picture.)
Ain't she a beauty?
And look, she is no longer leaking hydraulic fluid!
The second issue was the steering. I don’t remember whether I wrote about it before, but both the upper and lower helms were leaking hydraulic fluid and the steering on the flybridge was – in technical terms – “squishy.” Now I could live with it in the Bahamas, but in some places the ICW seems less than 100 feet wide. If you get two boats coming at one another, and throw in an idiot or two who insists on passing while all this is happening, then you want to make sure you can pilot the boat through the eye of a needle. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. I don’t want my steering to fail when we are close to other boats. So, Ray from Florida Rigging and Hydraulics came on board and fixed the steering and told us a lot about our steering mechanism that I didn’t know. In short, I learned a lot at the same time I got the steering fixed and spent another boat unit.

 Now we had people working on the heads and the steering, but we were having trouble finding someone to work on the davit’s winch. We weren’t sure whether the problem was mechanical or electrical, so who do we call? The problem was that you could raise the dinghy with the remote, but when you took your finger off the “up” button the dinghy started going down. It seemed to me that it was a mechanical issue – maybe the brake wasn’t engaging or the clutch was slipping, but I wasn’t sure. We finally got hold of Scott at Ramsey Marine. He told us he thought it was electrical, but he wouldn’t have time to work on it until the middle of the following week. So, he thought we should try to fix it ourselves. He said he thought it was one of three things. It might be dirty electrical connections on he davit, so we should clean those up. Alternatively, it might be a bad remote switch. If cleaning the connections did not work, he said, he could test the remote for us because his workshop was only a few blocks away. Or it might be a bad motor. If that was the problem, we would probably be here a while until the motor arrived. He then left and asked us to call him if we had any questions.

What I really appreciated about Scott was that he didn’t try to “up-sell” us. Like certain marine plumbers did. He gave us some expert advice and suggested we use that advice – free of charge—and save some money. Well, we cleaned the connections and in the process discovered that one of the connectors had broken. As is usually the case, however, knowing what is wrong is not the same as being able to fix it. I tried to solder the broken prong into place, but my fingers, my soldering iron and the solder would not all fit in the same tight space.  I tried a couple of other things and decided that I was making things worse rather than better. So, I called the cavalry (Scott). Scott always returns phone calls, but he still didn’t have the time to come out and help us. Eventually, though, Scott got in touch with another electrician, Arie, who came out on Monday morning, asked for the manual and got right to work. After that, he pulled some things, unscrewed some other things and told me what had broken was not just the prong on some plastic block, but the rectifier for the unit. Okay, I may have remembered E=IR, but rectifier was beyond me – that must have been for the “hives” in the class. (An inside joke that only a few will understand. Sorry.) Apparently, because of a loose connection, the unit was getting only a fraction of the electricity it needed. It wasn't a 700 pound capacity winch anymore, it was behaving like a 350 pound capacity winch. But Arie knew that you could replace a rectifier by connecting four diodes. In short, after two hours, Arie fixed the problem. This one cost only 1/6 of a boat unit!
Two of our big black 17,000 lb breaking strength lines.
One of the issues we discovered in the Bahamas is that we did not have enough lines (ropes). We had enough to tie the boat up, of course and a couple of specialized lines to use as snubbers for anchoring, but when the wind really starts blowing we really wanted a couple of extra lines. So, we went to Boat Owners Warehouse (much cheaper than West Marine) and bought some. We have a set of five blue lines, so we decided to get another complete set or black ones. Now these aren’t the lines that your granddad used to lasso stray dogies on the ranch, these are double-braided, ¾ inch line whose breaking strength is 17,000 pounds. We bought five of them with lengths from 35 feet to fifty feet. We intend to use them both to dock so we can give our regular blue lines a break, but in a hurricane, we would have ten ¾ inch lines, one 1¼ inch line and sundry smaller ones.  I am hoping that would be good enough. The cost for the new lines? They ain’t cheap – just under ½ a boat unit.

And finally, we cleaned the boat. I mention that for one reason. We had some terrible rust spots on the boat that had resisted our best efforts for months. We had tried just about everything. When we were walking back to the boat one day, Ann struck up a conversation with a guy who was strolling the marina docks with his son. It turns out that he details boats for a living. We asked him about our little stains and he suggested FSR – Fiberglass Stain Remover – so we bought some. My goodness it is wonderful! It takes all sorts of stains off of the deck without hurting the paint or the gelcoat. It is amazing stuff. And that turned out to be only 16/1000 of a Boat Unit.
ANN'S NOTES: It has been an interesting and expensive couple of days. We did get a lot done thanks to some very good repair men...yes..some did try to upsell but once they knew we were not going to buy they did their job well.
Ann's all important phone --
her connection to he kids and everybody else.

I  became a real happy boater once I came into cell phone range once we saw the coast of Florida!! I am now back on face book and in the land of grocery stores. I even bought some fresh flowers for the boat...the Bahamas has many flowers out in nature but none you can place in a vase to enjoy.

We also rented a car for a few days so we could do some errans and go shopping. We went to Target and to Bed,Bath and Beyond. We bought a sign in BBB that reads "Paradise Ain't Cheap"...that is so true with this stay in Lake Worth.

I am so excited about heading back to VA/MD. I think the trip up the ICW will be fun and intersting. We are well provisioned,the boat is in good shape and the Captain and First Mate are ready to GO!!!

Traveling Soul...OUT

Thursday, April 19, 2012

There and Back Again (April 7 - 18)

I know what you are saying. “Washington, DC? How could you have been in Washington DC? Does this motor vessel have wings?” No, it doesn’t have wings, but we decided rather than take the admittedly slim chance that something could go wrong at (our house’s) closing that we would attend in person so we could sign all the paperwork and answer any questions our buyers might have. So we flew out of the Marsh harbor International Airport on Saturday 7 April and flew back on 12 April.
We arrived late on Saturday and our friends Dave and Joan Wolf picked us up from the airport.  We were supposed to arrive at 11 PM or so. We did not get there until after midnight. Why were we late? You might think the weather was bad … no, that wasn’t it. Perhaps the plane needed some maintenance that took longer than they thought it would … no, that’s not it either. Actually, what made an entire planeload of people late was the first officer was late in getting to the plane. Let me say that again. The first officer was late. When the captain made the announcement, he said she would probably only 10 – 15 minutes late. Unfortunately, she was late enough that we lost our take-off slot and had to wait until another one opened up. What can I say? This is the way we consumers let airlines be run. Grrr.
An Easter Egg Hunter Preparing to Delve into the bush!
Okay, the day after we arrived was Easter Sunday and Dave and Joan had us and our progeny over for an Easter Egg hunt and Easter Dinner. Now the Easter Bunny (who looked a lot like yours truly) always does a pretty good job of hiding Easter Eggs, but this year he outdid himself; he hid the eggs so well that after the hunt, four eggs were still at large. A couple of days later Joan found one, but so far no one has seen hide or hare (hahaha) of the other three.

On Monday we closed – and it was the smoothest closing I have ever attended. That afternoon we spent time calling the utilities and closing our accounts. The electric company was easy and efficient, but the gas company representative acted as if she had never heard of an account closing before and asked Ann if she would go out and read the meter. Since we had moved out of the house six months ago and since it now belonged to someone else (as Ann explained) we thought that was kind of inappropriate. Unless, of course, they were going to pay us for our time – I think the rate of one of their meter readers would have been entirely appropriate.
On Tuesday we ran errands. We had to buy a tax program so I can request an extension now and do my taxes later; we had to buy a new American flag – our current one is beginning to show signs of too much wear; we had to buy some TV show DVDs because we just wanted to. We also had to get our hair done. Ann is in the process of changing her hair style and had a perm – I know, I know, it has been a long time since Ann has had a perm but you will all get to see her when we return for the summer. As for me, I know most of you think that we famous authors should have our hair coiffed at some high class cuttery. Not me, though. I have decided to put on the air of a regular guy and have my hair cut at an old-fashioned Barber Shop. Besides, do you know how much those high class cutters want for a regular haircut? No thank you, I think I’ll stick with Joe at the local barber shop.

On Wednesday, I had a meeting downtown at the Carnegie Endowment to finish a project we all started a couple of years ago, and on Thursday the 12th we were on our way back to the boat.
Marsh Harbor from the air ... Yes, all
that stuff really is marsh!
We had always planned to leave the Bahamas and head back to Florida in mid-April, so we figured we might as well get the boat ready and start back as soon as possible. Unfortunately there was a cold front passing through Marsh Harbor and it seemed to move very slowly. Just as importantly, no one was predicting any good weather for crossing the Gulf Stream for a while. So we waited. Friday, Saturday and Sunday all seemed to drag out. When I know I am going somewhere, I want to get up and go! Finally, it looked like we would be able to head out on Monday morning. Our initial plan was to take two days getting to West End – anchoring somewhere around Manjack Cay on the first night and around Great Sale Cay on the other. If we did that, we could be at West End by Wednesday night and cross the Gulf Stream on Thursday. That sounded good because it looked like Thursday would provide the best weather for the crossing; they were predicting two feet waves.

As we got under way Monday morning, however, Ann pointed out that we would be arriving at West Palm on Thursday evening and would end up calling repairmen on Friday, hoping they could come and look at our problems before the weekend. If they couldn’t, then we would be in the marina (paying some exorbitant rates) for all of the following week. So, we did some quick recalculating and decided that we could make a long day of it on Monday, cruise past Manjack and go straight to Great Sale. That way we could arrive at West End on Tuesday and cross on Wednesday.
So we were off. As always, when you go from the Marsh Harbor area back to West End, you have to pass through The Whale (This should be said in a deep thunderous voice). Now, I have already explained the treacherous seas around Whale Cay when we came through it the first time, so I won’t repeat myself here. I will say though, that one should never take the Whale lightly (and we didn’t). We came through with flying colors; there were maybe 5 foot rollers on our starboard beam that kept our attention, but all in all, it was a pretty good passage. With the autopilot working (thanks to my brilliant detective and repair work), it was a bit of a boring trip – long and boring.

One thing that broke the boredom was a call we overheard on the radio from Mickey and Gary on Little Mick to someone else. Little Mick had been with us at Marsh Harbor Marina for a week or two until they went south to see what was down there. It turned out that they, too, were on the way to West End and back to the States. They move a little slower than we do, but we decided we would all link up at the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End and potentially “buddy-up” for the crossing.
Great Sale Cay at sunrise. See? Once in
 a while I do get up that early
Anyway, at about 6:30 PM we dropped our anchor at Great Sale, had a drink, ate a satisfying dinner of chilly and a sandwich and went to bed. There were about 20 other boats there, but it is a pretty big anchorage and not one of those tight little ones I have come to hate. The wind was blowing at about 20 MPH gusting to 25, so I set up my little Garmin anchor thingy (I hope you will excuse all these technical terms)and my anchor alarm just to make sure we didn’t go anywhere – or more precisely to make sure we knew if we were going anywhere. The wind abated about 2AM and we all got a pretty good night’s sleep.

The next morning, we were off again across the Little Bahama Bank. It started out to be another B-O-R-I-N-G day, until, at two points off the starboard bow (I have always wanted to say that), we saw them. TWO, not one, but two frolicking dolphins saw us and came straight towards the boat. The water was so shallow and clear that you could see them coming at us from a good 100 yards away. When they got to the boat, they took turns riding our bow wave and having so much fun that I was jealous!
Ann's dolphin friends. Don't they look
like they are just having too much fun?!
Anyway, about 3:30 or so we left the Bank and hit the good ol’ Atlantic Ocean. It is amazing. The average depth of the portion of the Little Bahama Bank that we crossed is probably fifteen feet. Within about ½ mile or so it drops off to over 1000 feet and with the changing depths, the water changes color. From the turquoise of the Bahamas, it becomes the deep blue of the ocean. Looking back from the Atlantic to the Bank, it seems as if God took a pencil and separated the light blue of the sky from the deep blue of the ocean with a line of turquoise.  We took some pictures, but they don’t do the scene justice. It was truly magnificent. Okay, enough artsy-fartsy stuff; time to move on.

 We arrived at West End at the same time Little Mick did. She left Great Sale about 30 minutes behind us and she travels slower that we do. So, I know you are asking, “How the heck did Little Mick get to West End the same time you did?” Okay, I’ll tell you. There are two ways to get from Great Sale Cay to West End. One is to go almost due west until you get to Memory Rock, then turn south. As I said the average depth along this route is about fifteen feet, though it gets a little shallow right around the Rock where it drops to eight feet or so. The other way is through Indian Rock Cut. Now, the chart lists the depth there at Mean Low Water at 4.9 feet. (Mean Low Water is supposed to be the average water depth at low tide over a period of time.) Our boat draws 4.5 feet of water and we were scheduled to be at the Cut right around low tide. I may be a dummy, but not THAT kind of dummy. Needless to say, we went around Memory Rock. Little Mick, however, draws only 3.5 feet, so she went right through the Cut and had, Gary said, about two feet under her bottom the whole time. And that is how Little Mick showed up at West Wend about ten minutes ahead of us.
Old Bahama Bay is an expensive marina. It costs $2.99 per foot, which is pretty pricey but not exorbitant, until you add the mandatory $15 per day for water and (for a 50 amp boat like ours), another $27.50 per day for electricity. For us it came to nearly $200 for one night. You can see why we only wanted to stay here one night and didn’t want to have to wait here for good crossing weather. In fact, some of the sail boaters who arrived at the same time we did decided to anchor in rather poor holding ground rather than pay those rates. I can’t say that I blame them.

As always, the actual crossing of the Gulf Stream was anticlimactic. If you have a good boat and you wait for good weather, crossing this little patch of ocean isn’t that much of a problem – especially when your autopilot is working. On the way across, we chatted with Little Mick and a few other crossers. Ann read and dozed, I played with my radar and chart plotter, ate a sandwich, read some of the operators manuals for some boat systems – as you can see, it was a pretty unexciting crossing.
So finally, let the fireworks blaze, the ticker tape fly and the champagne flow; we are back in the Good Ol’ USA.

I forgot to say we went to s Steak Night at the Job Room
where Desmond was performing his Limbo. This time
we actually had a camera!
Immediately upon arriving at the marina, we called US Customs and Border Patrol to check in via the Local Boater Option – for which we had previously registered. For those of you planning on leaving the country on your boat, you should look up the Local Boater Option program on the web. It saved us a trip to Customs and a lot of time. Second, we called Marine Plumbing so we could get our heads fixed. I am not going to go into great detail, because I don’t know what the details are. However, as you know we have had … let’s just say … we have had a few issues with our heads. Luckily for us, we had at least one of them working through our time in the Bahamas – until the last 2-3 days. So, the first task we need to accomplish is to get our heads fixed.  It is a long trip from our slip to the onshore bathroom at the marina. The third task was to call Florida Rigging and Hydraulics. They, we were told, would probably be the guys to fix both our dinghy davit and our steering. For all you mechanically minded people, who read this Blog for no other reason than to learn all about Lectra San heads, Sea Star Hydraulic steering systems and Dayton winches, I promise to let you know details about all of those systems and more! But that will have to wait until next time as I really need to get this entry out.

ANN’S  NOTES:  A lot has happened since my last entry…                                                                              
The closing for our house was ‘all good’. ..the new owners are a young family with a three year old son and a dog…nice normal people . They love the house and were so excited about living in the neighborhood. I told her she had to hang a humming bird feeder so the hummingbirds that took me five plus years to attract will have food when they return. I hung a feeder every year with no luck and just as we were putting the house on the market last spring…like magic I had two regular visitors at the feeder. I feel the same way about hummingbirds as I do about dolphins…just pure delight and magic. It makes me feel good that the house will be filled with love and laughter once more.
Ann wanted another picture of the dolphins
in her section of the Blog
Once we were back in Marsh Harbor we got ready to head back to Florida. Since our winch no longer works and we were without a dinghy…it is cradled safe and sound on the second deck…we had to ask our fellow boaters with dinghies in the water for a ride across the harbor to the grocery store. We went shopping and took a taxi back to the marina…we now had food for the crossing.

The crossing was good and again I was filled with wonder and smiles as the two dolphins came to play with me. This time I have pictures to prove it…you know how excited I was with just one dolphin… imagine how delighted I was with TWO!! What a wonderful universe we live in that has such beautiful animals to love…just another OMG moment to treasure.
Michael is correct in saying that at times the crossing can get boring…I kept busy reading …and yes …I did doze. I was fighting a sore throat…I think I got it from the airplane air…just breathing everyone’s else germs in. I also liked watching the flying fish as we cruised by. Those little guys know how to travel a long distance…sort of look like humming birds once airborne J

So…now we are in Florida…waiting for repairs before we head up the ICW. I am back in the land of cell phones and grocery stores…

Traveling Soul….out

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tim and Carrie and Caylin and Gavin (March 31 - April 6)

The day before Tim, Carrie and crew arrived we needed to redeploy the dinghy so we could use it at some of the anchorages we planned to visit. Unfortunately, to raise the dinghy we need to use the winch; the winch, of course, chose today to fail. We could raise the dinghy, but the instant we took our thumb off the “up” button, the dinghy started slipping down.  It seems as if the brake mechanism had failed.  So, somehow, we raised the dinghy using the “up” function as a brake, ensuring that the dinghy didn’t slip more than a foot or so as we were trying to raise it and put it in its cradle. I realize that doing so could have wrecked whatever serves as the clutch function on the winch, but, since we are leaving in a week or two, we really didn’t have much of a choice. At some point we were going to have to raise the dinghy so we could leave. Anyway, we got the dinghy back in its cradle and won’t be able to deploy it until we get the winch fixed and/or the %*+&^$*%#@ dinghy replaced.

Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin arrived at 4:50 PM or so on Friday. They had been up since 3 AM, catching three different airplanes, so the first night we did little more than grill some burgers, chicken and hot dogs, show everyone around the boat, and crash. Although Caylin went right to bed, Gavin took some time adjusting to the new environs. He woke up several times during the night and his Mom and/or Dad had to take care of him. (You will notice that statement did NOT say Grandma or Grandpa had to take care of him; we have been there and done that with his Dad!)
Gavin preparing for his first "adder-plane" ride,
with his sister in the background.
As I said, it took Gavin some time to adjust his sleeping habits to the new bed. Actually, it isn’t his sleeping habits as much as it is his lack-of-sleeping habits that were an issue. Actually, it isn’t even his lack-of-sleeping habits as much as it is his wonderfully LOUD VOICE when he isn’t sleeping. In fact, he has such excellent lungs that I am very, very glad that the designers of our boat put the third cabin grandkids’ stateroom forward and the master grandparents’ stateroom aft. In between? That’s for the parents, of course.

Anyway, on Saturday morning we were off to the magnificent Treasure Cay. Some of you may be detecting a pattern here. Ann and I both love Treasure Cay and enjoy sharing it with others. As you will recall, however, we  cannot deploy our dinghy; that means we have to go to the marina. Oh well.
Tim (the big one in  the cowboy hat), Caylin and Gavin at Treasure Cay.
It is about a 2-hour trip from Marsh Harbor to Treasure (as we insiders call it). As we started out, everyone wanted to go to the flybridge. So, as soon as everyone else was up, I headed up and turned on the autopilot. I know, I know, most of you have already guessed; the autopilot didn’t work. So, I went through my extensive checklist to make sure I had completed the complex, detailed procedures necessary to use the system. Let’s see. Turn it on? Check. Push the Auto button? Check.  Hmmm, that’s it for the checklist and it’s still not working. Well, since the symptoms are the same as they were the last time it failed, I think I know what the problem is – the connection for which I had awarded myself the “autopilot connection award.” That’s okay, I used the autopilot down below. I got us to the marina and docked perfectly.

One of Carrie's artistic photographs of Treasure Cay, which I believe she has entitled,
"One of Carrie's Artistic Photographs of Treasure Cay."

It was then off to Coco’s. Now, any of you who have been to a beach bar or a seaside eatery – whether in the Chesapeake or in “de ilands” – know that service is s-l-o-w. It has always been a little slower at Coco’s. This time, though, rather than trying to fill an order for two people, the staff was trying to fill an order for six. All was not lost, however, as there was a floor show! Well, actually we brought our own floor show. Last year, it seems, Caylin took ballet and this year she is taking tap dance lessons. Gavin not only copies Caylin but knows how to do “boy things” like tackling his sister. Anyway, it just so happens that there was a small stage at Coco’s and the kids put on a show for everyone who was there. After we got our lunch (and Caylin, the very picky eater, actually kind of liked cracked conch!) we walked to the beach for a few minutes and then back to the boat to rest so we could all go to the pool that afternoon and prepare for tomorrow morning’s trip to the beach.
Caylin performing her rendition of "A Combination of Tap, Ballet and
Jumping Around." She is joined by her brother who played
the Jumping Around Role to perfection.
On Sunday morning, after Tim and I had run 3 miles, and while Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin were at the beach, and while Ann was cleaning the boat, I plotted my next assault on the autopilot. Actually, the answer was simple: it was the connector itself that was failing. In fact, when Tim returned, he googled ST7000 and found that corrosion and faulty connectors were major complaints about the device. I knew what I had to do; cut the connector out and splice the wires together. Moreover, it appeared that this would be one of the few times when I both knew what to do AND had the right tools! My only major concern was that the wires on both sides of the connector would have the same color code; otherwise I might end up splicing the power wire to the data wire and the ground to something else. I knew that they should all be color coded according to industry standards – but what “should be” is not always the case in the recreational marine industry. After I marked the cable, I cut the wires and lo and behold everything was properly color-coded. With Tim’s help, I then connected the appropriate wires and held my breath as we turned everything back on. Voila! It all worked!!! I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday evening, back to the pool and Wednesday night, steak and lobster! A working autopilot and steak and lobster, what else could a guy want?

Early Monday morning we had to get under way. We had made Tim a reservation with Dive Guana to go SCUBA diving. The only difficulty was that we had to get from Treasure Cay to Great Guana before the 10AM start time. That meant we had to get there by about 9:30; that meant we had to leave by about 8:00 AM, and that meant I had to get up about 6:30. Now getting our boat underway is not that complicated but, for me, is a five strep process:

1.       Check the oil, coolant and belts on the engine
2.       Turn on all the electronic equipment we are going to be using
3.       Set up the route in the Chartplotter
4.       Undo the water connection and roll up the hose
5.       Turn off the electricity, take the electric cables down and roll them up (not as easy as it sounds because the cables can be very stiff)
6.       Re-wrap the lines.

All of that is pretty self-explanatory except the bit about re-wrapping the lines. The best way to tie up at a marina is to put the looped end of the lines through our cleat and wrap the bitter end around the piling. (The bitter end is the free end for you landlubbers.  See? This is an educational Blog!) However, since there are usually only two of us, it is difficult, if not impossible to get the lines off the boat as we are backing out of a slip. So, what we do is to shorten the lines and just run them from the cleat around the piling back to the cleat. That way when we are ready, Ann can just pull on one end of the line to unwrap it from the piling. Now when there is no wind, re-wrapping the lines is relatively simple. When there is a wind, it is sometimes necessary to retie up the boat with different lines so you can untie the lines connected to the pilings. I hope that was clear. If not, you can someday buy me a beer (or a Maker’s Mark Manhattan, on the rocks with a splash of cherry juice) and ask me for details. Alternatively, you can send $19.99 to Re-Wrapping Lines c/o Traveling Soul.

We were underway shortly after 8 and made it to Orchid Bay Marina by 9:30. Tim did his SCUBA thing while Ann, Carrie and the kids walked around town – including going to the World Famous Nipper’s.  No, they didn’t party. Instead Ann had a Diet Coke while Carrie and the kids each had a glass of water – or so they told me J. That afternoon, Ann, Caylin and I went to the Orchid Bay pool. Caylin is turning into quite a fish! She can move all over the place with her innertube AND, as long as she is wearing her goggles, (or as Gavin calls them, “woggles”), she can go completely underwater. I think she is getting swim lessons later this summer so next year she should be able to do even more.
Caylin after a plunge to the depths of the pool.
On Tuesday  we had a minor incident with our best working head – actually I should say we had the first problem with our best working head. (If you recall we have three heads: one does not work, one is working at about 50% capacity and one is at 90% or so.) Now with six people on the boat sharing one-and-a-half heads – including one two year old and one four year old – stuff is going to happen. So, exactly how the toilet paper got into the toilet and stopped it up, I don’t really know. I just know that Ann asked if we had a plunger on board, which we don’t. I have always been afraid that the pressure generated by a good plunge would be too much for the band connectors around tubing (not PVC pipe like you have at home) and might really create a mess. (Now that we have had an incident, though, I need to research that theory more – and hope I am wrong.) All was not lost as a few weeks ago we had bought a snake. The problem is that I didn’t like it either, because it has a very sharp point. Again, marine heads have tubing, not piping. I was afraid that the pointy end might punch through the tube. Anyway, Ann used the snake and it worked!

Two days later, we had the same problem. This time, however, the snake got caught in the tubing. That meant we had to suck the water out of the toilet, disconnect the head and try to find the end of the snake and how it was caught. When we did all that we could see the problem. Tim suggested literally “unscrewing” the snake and … (drum roll please) … it worked! We also learned a lesson: the main thing that can cause problems with a marine toilet is toilet paper. Every guest (including little people if they are using toilet paper themselves) needs to know how to use less, rather than more, TP. Also, I think all of us had a tendency to follow the old boater’s slogan, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.” The problem is that toilet paper tended to accumulate from one user to the next. As a result, our new lesson is: remind everyone to conserve toilet paper and to flush each time you use TP. Now some of you may be wondering why I spent so much time talking heads and toilet paper and wishing I would get back to writing about the fun stuff. Hey, man, it is all part of boating!!!

We had another problem later in the week; we overfilled our water tanks. Now, I think I have explained before that when the new water tanks were put in, because they were plastic and can expand beyond their intended size – and buckle the floor – they should have put a check valve of sorts to prevent overfilling. But they didn’t. If we do overfill, the water tanks can bulge and literally lift up the floorboards above them. So, whenever we fill the tanks we keep a close eye on them. Now, when you have four guests on board, especially when two of them are little people, sometimes your attention gets diverted and you forget that the tanks are filling – until it is too late. That is what happened to us. The solution to the problem (as long as nothing gets broken or permanently stretched out of shape – and we don’t think anything did) is simply to turn on some spickets and drain some water out of the tanks.  However, when you do that, you have to remember to turn off all the faucets when you have drained enough water. Again, our attention got diverted and we drained all the water out of the tanks. When we do that air gets into the fresh water system and we have to bleed the water pump to let the air out before the water will start flowing again. We did all that and right now the water system seems to be working. All’s well that ends well, especially when we learn something: When we have guests on the boat (and we REALLY like guests on the boat) we need to have a system to ensure that we can pay attention to our guests AND pay attention to the boat.

Eventually we returned to Marsh Harbor. We got there Tuesday afternoon and went to the pool where Caylin continued to amaze us with the continuing evolution of her fish-like abilities. Gavin may also develop those kind of capabilities, but right now he is about mixing cups of water and pouring them on his sister. The next day Ann took Carrie across the harbor to a few of the stores in the area where she bought a couple of shirts for the kids and a necklace for Caylin. After that, Ann had to take everyone who was awake to lunch so she could show them her favorite local food: BLT (On the special Bahamian bread) with onion rings Mmm.
Caylin preparing for another dunk to the pool's depth, with her
mother making sure she comes back up.
Before we knew it, it was Thursday and time for the crew to leave. Gavin was looking forward to being on another “adder-plane.” (The English language is sometimes not rich enough to capture all the subtleties and nuances of 2-year old speak, but in this case, I think adder-plane is a pretty good representation of what he said.)

Update: After Tim and crew arrived at the airport, they found out the Sky Bahamas flight on which they were booked was going to be delayed by an hour; that would give them a very short connection schedule in Nassau. Well, they took the flight, missed their connection in Nassau and subsequently missed their connection to BWI. Since it was just before Easter weekend, there were no other flights available. It looked like they would be stranded in Nassau.
Here are Tim's words:

Tim's Notes (Special Edition)
Title: Before a Pouring Rain it is Windy
After an amazing stay on the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul, we woke up on their last day to some winds.  The winds had subsided by noon, so all was good, or so we thought.  After a 2 hour wait at the Marsh Harbor International Airport, which consisted of one terminal, one gate, and many prop planes, we learned that our flight to New Providence, Nassau on Sky Bahamas was going to be delayed by 45 minutes.  I commiserated with some business men, and shared his flight information with them to see if we could get on their flight as they had already missed theirs.  The flight was supposed to be 25 minutes, so we would have 80 minutes to get through Customs and Immigration.  After we collected our luggage, we made their way to the International Terminal at the Nassau International Airport, which is located on the opposite side of the airport.  We arrived at the US Airways check in counter to find that we were not allowed to check in because we did not arrive 90 minute before their flight.
Upon learning of the missed flight, I went to the Sky Bahamas counter  to see if they would be able to assist.  However, because it was "the weather" that caused the delay, they reported that they were not obligated to assist in anyway; they met that obligation. The best US Airways could do is to put all 4 of us on a waiting list for a flight out the next day.  But really, the odds of all of us getting a seat on the one and only flight out, when all flights were fully booked was "slim" and nothing else available until Tuesday (this all occurred on Thursday).  I called the travel insurance they used when they booked the flight, however weather is not covered.   In Marsh Harbor, the businessmen that I had talked with found a flight on Jet Blue leaving the next day and booked a room in the Nassau Sheraton.  After some discussion on our options, I booked a flight for 4 to get back home, albeit into a different airport than we started this adventure from.  One of the businessmen booked an extra room at the Sheraton getting us a great rate.
 At the Sheraton, there was a Jewish Passover convention.  This only comes into play because when it rains it pours. We were told when the reservation was made that we would either have two beds or a roll away bed.  After about an hour or two after check-in we found out that there were no roll aways available.  Therefore Carrie was kneed and slapped all night long, as she slept with the kids in the bed, while I called room service for extra sheets and pillows and slept on the floor.  At check-out the Sheraton further discounted the room for them.  
The lessons learned through this experience:
  • 800 numbers are expensive and NOT toll free when outside of the US.  Get a SKPYE account and add money to it. 
  • When booking a trip, book the flights from departure to arrival all through the same outlet.  We made the error ofbooking the flights through to Nassau with one service, then booked the flightto Marsh Harbor separately (because it was cheaper) with Sky Bahamas. It may cost extra, however the cost of booking a one way for 4 people at the last minute was more than the cost of an all inclusive round trip. (I will personally avoid flying Sky Bahamas in the future.  We are not fans!!!)
  • If you book through Travelocity, and you miss a flight, or think you might miss a flight; they should be your first call!  They can take care of much more and will be able to get more $$ refunded to you. 
  • Completely random Americans in a foreign country can be a lifeline for you.  The men that helped us out were awesome, and would not even allow us to buy them a drink at the hotel.  They only asked us to"get your kids home for Easter."
  • Good family friends are always willing to pick you up from an airport,especially if your vehicle is in an airport 90 miles away. 
  • When traveling with kids, an amazing traveling partner is needed.
ANN’S NOTES:  I will keep my portion of the blog short and sweet since this addition is rather long.
Having the family visit was so much fun, seeing the Bahamas through the eyes of an almost five year old and a very verbal two year old is interesting.
Caylin turned into a mermaid in the pool,she had her whole face in the water and loved it. Now she just needs to get her arms and legs working together and she will be a great swimmer. I think having dad as a swim coach will come in handy this summer.
Gavin liked floating around in his innner tube and pouring water from one platic cup to the other.
Both kids loved the boat and had a great time...some days were better than others but all in all we had a wonderful time.
Traveling Soul ...out