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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bimini to Chub Cay to Nassau (20 - 22 January)

Oh what a glorious day. The temperature must have been in the seventies, the wind about 5 knots out of the east and as a consequence the sea was like glass almost all the way across the Great Bahama Bank. You could look down into the fifteen feet of absolutely clear water and see starfish lying on the bottom, little fish scurrying about and, yes, we saw the occasional shark. Most of them were in the one to two foot range but Ann saw one that was large enough to have its own entourage of little fish hanging around its back (just like you see on Shark Week) and I saw one that must have been at least six feet long. It was absolutely amazing – as Ann said, it was almost as if you had your own horizontal aquarium. These are the days we pay to be boaters!!

There was one spot, though. I had seen it in the charts and it said that the water was six feet deep at low tide. Well, I thought we would just make sure to go over it in higher tide. That was easier said than done. The trip from Bimini to Chub Cay was about 95 miles long and that is about a full day for us – especially when the sun takes so long to get up in the morning. We really couldn’t leave until about 0810. We got to Cat Cut at around 0930 – pretty close to low tide. Well, we could sit around for a couple of hours – and those of you who know me know that wasn’t going to happen – or we could try to make it over the shallow parts. Now I should remind you that our draft is 4’6”, so it is not as though we were taking that big of a chance. Moreover, this is listed as the route ferries from Bimini take when going to Nassau.  Plus, I could see a Monk 36 in the distance which has a draft of 4’and she seemed to make it through all right. In short, we decided (actually I decided since Ann was reading her book and I didn’t think both of us ought to be worried) to go for it.

In the event, we always had 2+ feet of water under our keel so the water was at least 6’6”, but we did kick up quite a swath of sand. And it was sand, I am not sure I would have been as adventurous if it had been rocks or coral.

Anyway, we arrived at Chub Cay at 1630 and dropped anchor. There were a couple of other boats there and one, a catamaran, had kids swimming in the water just off the boat. The day was so perfect and the water so smooth I thought about dropping our kayak and taking a paddle. But for me, that meant putting on my rubber leg protector, pumping the air out to make sure I don’t get my wound wet and pulling the kayak to the back of the boat so I could get in it. In short, it wouldn’t haven’t been as spontaneous as I would have wanted. Besides, I was tired. It may not sound too hard, but spending all day enjoying paradise can be tiring! Anyway, we decided to hell with it; Ann and I poured ourselves a drink and went up on the flybridge. Actually the evening on the flybridge was not as idyllic as it sounds as Ann found all the noseeums in the neighborhood. She probably got at least half-of-a-dozen bites on her legs. Me? Nada. In fact, I didn’t see or feel one all night.

It’s about 50 miles from Chub Bay to Nassau and, while the weather cooperated fully, we couldn’t watch sharks and starfish as the water was 2000 – 3000 feet deep. Darn. So we reconciled ourselves with reading various guides on Nassau and the Exumas and trying to decide how we were going to spend the next several days.

We arrived at Nassau Harbor and requested permission to enter at about 12:30. We cruised past four HUGE cruise ships. I mean HUGE. They look big when you see them from shore, but when you sail your little bitty (relatively speaking) boat past these behemoths, well, you realize how small you really are. Paradise Island – the real ritzy and touristy part of Nassau – was  to our port and New Providence (the island on which Nassau itself sits) was to starboard.

We are now in our marina. It isn’t too bad; it has a pool, is not too far from a grocery store and (wait for it … wait for it …) is right across the street from a Starbucks. Calm down, Joan.

This is our second day in Nassau and we have been our exploring the area around the marinas. To tell you the truth, it ain’t much of a tourist zone. Tomorrow we’ll probably expand our explorations by taking a jitney downtown. Oh! It is our second day in Nassau and we will be here again tomorrow. I guess I am now qualified to write the definitive history of the city, Nassau: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Anyway, we are now getting ready for my mom and my sister to arrive tomorrow. We are going to pick them up at the airport, spend a day or two in Nassau (depending on the weather), then head out to some of the out islands in the Exumas. I am hopeful that will be the subject of our next entry.

ANN’S NOTES:   I am going to back track to Bimini. We were docked next to a beautiful 56 foot Selene motor yacht.  Darlene was the proud first mate on board and she gave me a tour of the boat. They bought the boat and become the second owner.   The first owner had an interior designer and it is just a show case, all granite, glass and lush fabrics. It really is a floating modern condo.  I still love our boat and she took a tour of Traveling Soul, our boat is more a Victorian condo.

The crossing to Nassau was wonderful. Looking down into that Caribbean blue water is just amazing. It was like traveling in a 3-D aquarium. The water was so clear and of course that gave me the idea to do another kind of wildlife count. These waters are known for the very large starfish, I mean this guys are as large as a dinner plate. Every time I looked down into the water I could count them by the dozen.

The marina in Nassau is pretty nice. The location is perfect, a good size shopping center is just across the street. The grocery store is just like any store in the US, you can find anything you might want or need. Again the people are so very friendly and helpful.

Now for the wildlife count…

20 Jan 2013 Alice Town Bimini Bahamas to Chub Cay… 144 Starfish ..8 small sharks and 2 very big sharks..YIKES…

21 Jan 2013 Chub Cay to Nassau…nothing to report

Traveling Soul…..OUT

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Crossing and Bimini (17 - 19 Jan)

NOTE: We are havoing some technical problems uploading pictures, so again, we shall go pictureless. I will go to my technical guru, Tim, for assistance. Hopefully, next time we can post picgtures again.

Here we are, thoroughly ensconced in Brown’s Marina in Alice Town, North Bimini. Although it looked like there were some nicer resort marinas in South Bimini, we came to the northern island because it looked like the Customs and Immigration Offices were just a little closer and easier to clear. I may have been wrong about that, though. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they aren’t difficult, but when the Office is about a mile down the street, it is raining and you are wearing what is called a “walking boot,”(which is definitely not designed for walking), it can be a bit of a challenge. Anyway, here we are at Brown’s Marina enjoying what I hope will be the first sunny day since we have been here.

Brown’s Marina, so why are we staying here? Well, I could tell you that it is because I like the name, but that would be only partially true. I could tell you it is because it is only $1 per foot – and that would partially be true. The other reason is because this is the marina where Pilar was docked. Pilar? Who the heck is Pilar? I know you are asking that because I would be asking the same thing were I you. And if you do know, don’t tell your neighbor as I want him to read this whole blog entry before he finds out.
The Crossing
On Thursday 17 January at 0810 we set off from Fort Lauderdale for Alice Town in Bimini, the Bahamas. Crossing the 60+ miles of ocean wasn’t too bad; it wasn’t as smooth as last year, but it wasn’t bad. The forecasters said there would be 2-3 foot waves and they were almost right. I think we had 2-4 feet with a 5 footer popping up once in a while. We have been in a lot worse, however, and we crossed at about 9 knots or 10 statute miles an hour. We saw Bimini on the horizon at about 1400 and closed on the marina about 1500. By 1600 we had cleared Customs so we took down our yellow Quarantine Flag and put up the Bahamas courtesy flag.
On the way across, I was again amazed at the color of the water. I am not sure if the water of the Gulf Stream is a deeper blue than water in other places or whether it only seems like it to me, but the substance that absorbs all the frequencies of light except the one that reflects as deep, deep blue is, to me, stunning. Moreover, the water column, at various points, is about ½ mile deep. When you have only a 2” fiberglass hull separating you from that water column, it can be an eensy weensy bit scary. When these two sensations are combined, it is truly awe inspiring. Enough of this poetry stuff, on to other things.
When we arrived, Tom, the owner and captain of a 65’Selene named Excalibur helped us tie up. Tom bought the boat in Seattle, took it up to Alaska, down through the Panama Canal and into parts of Central America before turning around and heading up to the Bahamas.  He is staying in Bimini through Sunday because his wife, apparently, is a die-hard Patriots fan and wants to see the football game. We only met them for a few minutes, but since they, too, are going to the Exumas, maybe we’ll see more of them. I really want to see inside that boat!
The largest islands are North Bimini and South Bimini. North Bimini is about seven miles long and 700 feet wide. Its main settlement is Alice Town, a collection of shops, restaurants, and bars surrounding a single road known as "The King's Highway". Although there are some big shops, many are the size of a large close closet and the grocery stores are the size of your living room. As to the bars, well, I can tell you authoritatively that there are more liquor stores in Alice Town then there are grocery stores. We have only eaten at one restaurant so far where we had Ann’s favorite meal, cracked conch and batter-fried onion rings finished off with Kalik beer. Now I know some of you are thinking that meal didn’t sound too healthy, but you would be wrong. We know because the MENU actually had one of those little heart thingies next to the cracked conch – indicating that it was heart-healthy. And EVERYBODY knows that the menu has to be right. Somehow, I guess, the cracked part overcomes the deep-fat fried part of the meal.
We haven’t been to South Bimini, though we know it houses an airstrip, South Bimini Airport, and offers a quieter alternative to North Bimini. There is a small community of homes on South Bimini known as Port Royale. There are also at least two resort marinas that don’t charge much more than they do here.
In general, Bimini has two claims to fame. The first is big game fishing. In the Bimini museum, the locals almost talk about it as if big game fishing was invented here. Although it most certainly wasn’t it is the dominant industry. Even the bars and restaurants depend on fishing as many anglers go to the island by boat to fish during the day and enjoy the local nightlife after dark. The second and related claim to fame is the presence of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway lived on Bimini from 1935 to 1937, staying at the Compleat Angler Hotel. He worked on To Have and Have Not and wrote a few articles while he lived here, but mostly he fished trolling the deep blue offshore waters for marlin, tuna and swordfish. Even after he moved away he returned to Bimini again and again. On one of his trips he heard of a man catching an Atlantic blue marlin weighing in at 500 pounds caught just offshore. That story allegedly inspired him to write The Old Man and the Sea. Major parts of Islands in the Stream, a novel organized by his wife after he died, took place in Bimini. In fact, there is a scene in one of the first chapters about Brown’s Marina (Brown’s Dock in those days). The scene starts with:
“Just then, from one of the boats tied up at BROWN’S dock, a rocket rose with a whoosh high into the sky and burst with a pop to light up the channel.”
Hemingway notwithstanding, our overall impression of Bimini is that it is kind of run down. The current recession hasn’t helped as the marina occupancy rate is somewhere around 25% and the cottages don’t seem to be doing much better. However, our sense is that Bimini has been on the way down for quite some time, probably since its heyday during prohibition and later in the fifties and sixties. Many of the houses and cottages we have seen are in drastic need of a couple of coats of paint AND some serious maintenance. There are, for example, window air conditioners complete rusted out, bare pipes showing through walls, and chunks of masonry laying on the ground. Even more disconcerting is the trash that seems to be laying all around. Beer bottles, soda cans and Styrofoam are all over the place. Did it look like this when Hemingway was here? I don’t know but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, there are other historical tidbits we have discovered (thanks to Wikipedia and the Bimini Museum):
·         Singer Jimmy Buffett supposedly spent some time on South Bimini while writing one of his books. (If everything we have heard about his presence is true, he must move around a lot!)
·         While not a resident of the island, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited in 1964 and worked on his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech while there.
·         Among Port Royale's notable residents was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who was excluded from the U.S. House of Representatives because of allegations that he misappropriated committee funds for personal use. He stayed in Bimini from January 1967 to April 1969 in self-imposed exile until the Supreme Court ruled that the House had acted unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell, a duly elected member. In 1972 Powell died of cancer in Miami. Following his funeral in New York his ashes were brought to Bimini and scattered in the waters surrounding the island.
·         In May 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart’s presidential bid was derailed after media reports exposed an affair with model Donna Rice. Photos taken of the Senator on an overnight trip to Bimini on the yacht Monkey Business fed the media frenzy. An intimate photo of Rice sitting on Hart's lap on one of Bimini's docks was the nail in the coffin for Hart’s presidential run.
·         The final scene of Silence of the Lambs was filmed in Bimini. I think it is the scene where Hannibal has escaped and is calling the FBI agent.
Ann`s Notes:  We made it!!! I have to admit that when we were sitting in the doctor’s office the thought crossed my mind that we would be spending the winter somewhere down south in the USA. I am just glad that Michael is a real trooper and I can do the wound care or else we would be doing the above mentioned scenario .
The crossing was a good one, we picked a good time to cross the Gulf Stream, no wind coming from the north.  We had to really follow the markers to get into the marina. The channel really hugs the shore line and it is also pretty narrow in some spots. We were glad to finally be in the Bahamas and we celebrated by having lobster tails and boxed mac and cheese.
The paper work that we had to fill out and turn into Customs and Immigration was three pages long – plus the marina’s paper work. All the paperwork plus 300 dollars cash will get you into this country and you get a bonus fishing license to boot.
Alice Town is much like Fox Town, very friendly people but very poor conditions to live in. They have everything they need, power, electric, sewer, churches, school systems, grocery stores (of sorts) but very little industry or income. Plus the island is dirty in most public places. The trash is just people not caring what the island looks like. Beer bottles, take out containers and such…I just don’t understand why people don’t care enough to throw trash away and pick up after themselves. Needless to say recycling has not come to this island yet.
We are looking forward to having Michael’s mother Barbara and his sister Kathy join us on board. They arrive in Nassau on the 23rd and will be with us until the 30th. We will be exploring together and seeing what the other islands have to offer.
Traveling Soul….OUT


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

West Palm Beach (22 December 2012 - 16 Jan 2013)

When we left you we had just arrived in West Palm Beach Florida and were thankful for finally being in the land of sun and sea. For those of you who don’t know, it gets cold up north. I know Virginia isn’t too far north, but it is north enough for me! We know because over the holidays we went back to northern VA to visit family and friends  to make what are becoming the never-ending doctor’s appointments.  We had a lot of fun with family and friends (not so much with the doctors) and got lots of very nice Christmas and (for me) birthday presents. Probably the best was the Christmas present Ann gave to me, an oil painting of our boat, done by one of my West Point classmates, John Everett. Ann learned on Facebook that John is a hell of an artist – who’d a thunk it – and asked him to paint Traveling Soul. Thanks, Ann and thank you John. It is a wonderful painting. But now, Christmas is over and it’s time to focus on the future.

Although we may have to make some health adjustments (this damn foot infection just won’t go away), right now our intentions are to head for the Bahamas, host my mom and sister on Traveling Soul – and everybody else who wants to come visit us – and stay in the Bahamas until mid-April. Before we take off on this adventure, though, we have to make preparations. That includes provisioning, repairs and a few improvements. So, that is what I am going to talk about in this entry. At the conclusion of this entry I will also talk about how we will handle the blog in the future.


Ann came back to Traveling Soul on 9 January, a few days before I did, because she needed to start provisioning even while I had to see the doctor. She hit the ground running. Most of you know, or could probably figure out, that we eat pretty well on the boat – mostly because Ann is a wonderful cook. Well, to cook on the boat we need to have ingredients. One thing we learned last year is that, in the major towns and cities, the big Bahamian grocery stores will have just about anything you might want. There are, however, two important caveats to that observation. First, we intend to spend quite a bit of time away from the major towns and cities. Most grocery stores that we will be visiting are about the size of your living room (really!) and have a lot of canned goods and dry goods, but not so much in the way of fresh produce, frozen foods or refrigerated stuff.  Second, in those locations where stateside-like grocery stores are available, food can be very expensive. Our goal, therefore, is to bring the kind of food that we think will be hard to find in the out islands AND to bring lots of the food that will be expensive in the Bahamas. We are stocking up, for example, on frozen steak, hamburger meat, chicken thighs as well as some ethnic dishes like pasta and Italian sauces, Mexican food and spices, and some Chinese food.  In addition, of course, we raided the local Costco and Wal-Mart for non-food provisions like laundry soap, toilet paper (we need special TP for the boat’s toilets), razor blades, deodorant, etc.

When I got to West Palm on the eleventh, we went to West Marine and Boat Owner’s Warehouse. In addition to people provisions we needed to pick up some boat provisions. In the Bahamas I will need to change oil in the main engines so we needed 10 gallons of SAE 40 motor oil. We also needed some cleaning supplies, miscellaneous spare parts, some parts for projects I hope to accomplish over the next few days,  


It wasn’t all about provisioning, as we also made some improvements on the boat. First, for my birthday Ann bought me a kayak! It is a 12 foot long, sit-on-top, fishing kayak with several extra stowage compartments called a Pompano 120. I should have already taken it out, but I haven’t, primarily because I didn’t know how long we were going to be sitting here. But it is ready to go; it’s tied down on the forward deck awaiting the crossing.

Also for my birthday, our kids bought me a computer program called “HomePort.” It goes with my Garmin chartplotter and allows me to download the charts (from the chartplotter) onto my computer. It then allows me to plot courses on a (relatively) user-friendly computer interface rather than the clunky, user-unfriendly chartplotter interface. I have already plotted our course from West Palm to Bimini and am chomping at the bit to plot one to Nassau.

Ah, but that’s not all! You will probably remember that in October we bought a new dinghy. Well, we didn’t have time to buy a proper cradle before we headed south, so we kind of jury-rigged one. While I am usually pretty and honest in this blog, one thing I either forgot to mention (or was too embarrassed to talk about) was how close we came to losing the dinghy on our nighttime ocean trip. Although we had used some pretty strong rubber straps to hold her down, at some point we apparently had seas that were rough enough to tear apart the rubber and knock the dinghy askew in her makeshift cradle. We didn’t discover the problem until later and determined, then and there, that we needed to find a better method for tying the dinghy down. Since Ann and I weren’t going to have time to take out the old one and put in the new one before we left for the Bahamas, we asked Rick, our friend, broker, and one of the few boat-repair-people-we-trust-completely to put one in for us. He did and I’m tellin’ ya, that dinghy ain’t goin’ nowhere!

We also bought a cover from the dinghy to protect it from all the sun and salt to which we will continually expose it over the coming years. (Note that I didn’t say we needed to protect it from the cold – as I am hopeful we have seen the last of cold weather for quite some time!) We also bought a bridle so we can tow the dinghy when we are just traveling a short way, and we made a cable so we can lock it up if we need to. Usually, you only need to tie the dinghy to the dock and no one will try to take it. There are some places in and around Nassau, however, that are a bit sketchy and we have heard that there are people who think they need your dinghy more than you do. Now the cable and lock we made are not going to stop a determined thief, but we are hopeful that it will convince him to try the next little boat at the dock.

There are two more things I count among our improvements. First, I bought a “Hawaiian sling” from Andy and Sharon aboard Finally Fun. A Hawaiian sling is like a cross between a slingshot and a spear gun; instead of sending a rock at a bird, it sends a spear at a fish. I know you are wondering why I needed a Hawaiian sling. Because, my friends, this winter I am going to catch some LOBSTER! And maybe a few other fish too. I am not going to say anything more until I bring them to the boat (and then believe me, I will document it ad nauseum), but I fully intend to catch some in the Bahamas. The second improvement we made was to put in my rod holders. I bought the apparatus a few weeks ago so I could keep four rods on the aft deck in case we want to go fishing. I have now put it up and hung my rods from it. I am now one step closer to catching fish (or at least one step closer to getting my line wet). Fish, beware … I am coming for you.


We also had three repairs done – and did one repair ourselves. For the past several months we have not been able to start our generator from the helm. We have to go down into the generator room and start the thing from the panel on the generator itself. It is not terrible, just a pain in the patoutie. In Charleston, we hired a guy to fix it, but he couldn’t. So, in West Palm we asked Rick, our “go-to” guy to see what he could do. Although he couldn’t fix it either (apparently we need a factory-trained Westerbeke mechanic), he was able to give us a work-around. We’ll be trying it out when on the way to the Bahamas.

We also asked Rick to fix our inverter. The inverter, you will recall, is the electrical device that changes DC battery power into the AC power that we need for our refrigerator and other household-type furnishings and appliances.  When we had it put in last year, the electrician did not hook up the salon (the salon or saloon is the “living room” of the boat) outlets to the inverter so we could not use, for example, pour cool entertainment center unless the generator was running. Anyway, we asked Rick to re-wire parts of the system so we can listen to the stereo, watch television and actually charge our computers (and other devices) from the salon outlets.  He did and we can!

Finally we asked Rick to see if he could fix our bimini (the canvass that covers the flybridge on the top deck). When we had it made in Charleston, the lady made it VERY tight, so tight in fact, that neither she nor we could fasten all the zippers and connectors. She thought that when we got to the warm weather that the canvass and eisenglass would expand and that it would be easier to connect everything. Well, even in the 80 degree heat of West Palm, Ann and I couldn’t get everything connected, so we thought there might be some tricks of the trade that Rick might know and asked him to connect it if he could. He did.

OK, now the repair that we did. Just before we left Charleston we sprang a small leak in our fresh water system. We cut out the offending piece of hose and reconnected the hoses together. It was more difficult than it sounds (everything on a boat is more difficult than it sounds), but it really wasn’t that bad. Well, on Monday the 13th we sprang another leak. We tried to patch it with silicone and duct tape, but it didn’t work very well. We really didn’t have a choice. We decided we had to cut out the offending length of hose and replace it.  It took about half a day, but we got everything done and we now have pressurized fresh water once again.


Our initial plan was to leave from West Palm and travel the 74 miles to Bimini. That route, however, would put us directly in the face of the Gulf Stream. We then decided to head south about forty miles, then cut across across sixty miles to Bimini – that way we wouldn’t be heading straight into the Stream. But it also meant we had to travel nearly 100 miles across the ocean. So we can up with Plan C. On Wednesday the 16th we traveled in the ocean from West Palm to an anchorage in Fort Lauderdale – it was about 50 miles. Tomorrow, we will head the rest of the way to Bimini. We’ll leave early and hope to be there in the early afternoon.

We are going to stay at least one night at a marina in Bimini, maybe two. The following night we’ll anchor near Chub Cay on our way to Nassau. And, night after that – if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise – we’ll be in Nassau.

For this trip to the Exumas, our intent is to write an entry about at least once a week and more often if our adventures dictate. The problem, of course, is going to be connecting to the Blogosphere (as we Bloggers call it) to post the entry. We’ll be connected in Nassua, but in the northern Exumas where we intend to spend most of our time, there are only one or two WiFi spots. Anyhow, we’ll try to keep this going as often as we can.

 Ann`s Notes:  I cannot believe that we are starting our second year on Traveling Soul. I hope 2013 is as much fun as last year and that we can share this adventure with friends and family.

Christmas in Virginia was wonderful , watching Caylin and Gavin open presents and listening to their comments was priceless. We also got to visit with Flo Arndt , Carrie`s mom. While in town I spent some time with some of my favorite friends and that is always so special. Thank you, Jane for the movie, watching Parental Guidance with you was fun. Since we are both grandparents it was a perfect movie. I also had a wonderful afternoon with Rixie, sharing a pedi and then lunch was what I needed. I love our “talks.”

New Year`s Eve was spent at our favorite French restaurant with Dave and Joan…we even made it to midnight this year .

Michael is still under the care of a wound doctor and I am still trying to get those darn holes to heal. I must admit I am getting rather good at all this, if I was still a girl scout I would have earned my badge by now.

We are looking forward to our trip to the Bahamas. Heaven knows we are well provisioned and will never starve to death. It is a lot of work to think forward 3 or 4 months and what we may need but I think we have a good starting point.

Wildlife Count

Sat 22 Dec 2012   ICW Vero Beach to West Palm Beach                      4 single dolphins     1 Bald eagle

                                                                                                                        Pod of 3 playing on the side of boat

                                                                                                                        1 Playing and jumping in the wake

I want to wish all our readers a happy and healthy 2013, aren`t you glad the Mayans were so wrong?

Thank you for following us …

Traveling Soul OUTl