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

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dave and Joan and Mike and Ann's Most Excellent Adventure (14 - 23 Feb)

Our friends Dave and Joan Wolf came to visit us from 14 – 23 February. We had a busy itinerary planned, traveling to places like Shroud Cay, Hawksbill Cay, Warderick Wells, Staniel Cay and Highbourne Cay – in addition to trips downtown in Nassau. As it turned out, however, we had to make major changes to the schedule because of weather. So what follows is a talk of two Bahamas, a few of the beautiful nearly deserted Out Islands of the northern Exumas and the ever-busy and cruise ship filled Nassau.

The Northern Exumas: Shroud Cay, Highbourne Cay and Allen Cay

As I said, Dave and Joan arrived on the 14th and we departed for the Out Islands on the 15th. Our initial destination was Shroud Cay, just inside the Exumas Land and Sea Park. The ride was a little choppy, but it really wasn’t too bad. It took us about 5 hours to get to Shroud. We then took a mooring ball and deployed the dinghy. I must say that it was a bit choppy even in the anchorage. Deploying the dinghy was not the easiest of tasks, but we did get in down and ready to go. Since we had a bit of a ride to get to the Shroud Cay Creek we wanted to show our friends we decided to wait until the following day -- when we hoped the water would have calmed down a little and would be a little less choppy.  Meanwhile we headed for a small protected beach on our side of the island and spent maybe half an hour walking around.

Before we left Nassau I had heard that there might be a little weather coming. Our hope had been to get to Warderick Wells before it came in. We had already sat out a light storm at Warderick Wells and knew the mooring field to be well constructed, well maintained and fairly well protected. Moreover, we would be able to go ashore and explore new parts of the island even if the wind was blowing. It looked, however, like the storm was coming in a little sooner than I had hoped and that we would need to form contingency plans in case we didn’t get a mooring at Warderick Wells (I am not sure I touched on this in our last entry or not, but basically, you have to be on the radio, and close enough to Warderick Wells to receive the broadcast, by 0900. The staff then makes a list of who is departing that day and who wants a mooring along with their length and draft. They spend ten to fifteen minutes musing, then make mooring assignments for the day. If you do not get a mooring ball, then you have top priority the following day.) As you might have guessed – and as we feared – because of the storm, nobody was leaving their mooring, so we had to come up with Plan B.

Staniel Cay is about 20 miles beyond Warderick Wells and has a marina. We had not been there before and a number of people had recommended it so our first choice was to go to the Staniel Cay Marina and weather the storm there. Sadly, we weren’t the only boaters to have that idea; their marina was full. There were a couple more alternatives, but next safe harbor on the list was the marina at Highbourne Cay. We had visited it by dinghy when my mom and sister visited so it wouldn’t be a brand new experience for us, but it would for Dave and Joan. We called Highbourne and they did have slips available so we made a reservation. We decided, though, that we would go ahead and explore parts of Shroud before heading back to Highbourne.

I discussed Shroud Cay in our last entry; it is really an archipelago of three islands cut by what appear to be two rivers which stretch from one side of the island to the other. In the northern creek you can take a motorized dinghy from one side to the other. In between you can explore the mangroves and other kinds of plants, birds and animals en route to the Sound. It is really quite an experience.
In some ways on Shroud Cay you feel like you are a true
explorer. Maybe no boidy has been here before ...
then you see the "slow"buoy in the middle of the channel.

Well, after finishing with the creek we headed back to the boat in the dinghy. Let me just say, it was a helluva ride! It was choppy enough to get just about everyone wet, even though we weren’t traveling THAT fast. Getting the dinghy back aboard the boat was also a chore. One of Ann’s jobs is to get in the dinghy and hook it up to the winch. Usually it isn’t too difficult. Because of the chop on the water, this time it was like mounting and riding a bucking bronco. Yeee Haww! 

We headed to Highbourne and pulled into our slip at the same time the heavens opened up. I mean as Ann was handing the lines to the dock hand to tie us up it started sprinkling. By the time we were all tied, it was coming down like cats and dogs. It was a true Bahamas squall; the wind was blowing, the rain was pouring and we could hardly see across the marina. It only lasted a little while – thirty minutes tops. Although it remained windy, cloudy and unseasonably cold (it seems the weather was the result of two cold fronts meeting in the Bahamas) it didn’t rain any more.

Highbourne Cay is a private island. The owners appear to own several “cottages” that they rent out, a marina, a small store and a restaurant. The last time we were here, we weren’t technically “guests” as we anchored out and dinghied in. This time, though, we were paying money (a lot of money – I’ll come back to that) and were official guests. Still, we really didn’t do much different than we did the last time. We walked the island’s roads and visited the beautiful beach on the Sound-side of the island, but I guess we should have felt more “official.”

The one thing we did this time that we did not do the first time was eat at Xumas, the Highbourne bar-restaurant. Now I am not going to tell you it is the best restaurant at which I have ever eaten, but I would give it a good solid “B” – and an “A” for location as I don’t think there is another restaurant within 40 or so miles. Actually we had two meals there, lunch and dinner. For lunch we had appetizers and a couple of beers. For dinner, three of us had seafood dishes and one of us had pork. All-in-all, it was a good but expensive meal.

A Happy Stop Sign at Highbourne Cay
Speaking of expenses, the marina itself was pricey – but as the only marina within 20 or so miles, that is understandable. However, what rubbed me the wrong way was the cost of the electricity. Now I know they have to produce their own electricity and I know that since (for some strange reason) they don’t use solar or wind power and instead rely on a big generator that the electricity is expensive. However, for one fifty amp hook-up they charged us $62 per night!!! Now that is ridiculous. So, since it was a little stuffy the first night we were there, we turned on our air conditioners.  Nyah, Nyah, Nyah! If that wasn’t bad enough, water was 50 cents per gallon (remember when gasoline was 29.9 cents per gallon?) Well, the water in the marina looked pretty clean so we just turned on our water maker – and used their high-priced electricity to make some low-priced water.

On the 18th the worst of the storm appeared over so we headed out. Instead of going back down the archipelago, however, we went further north, to Allen Cay. We have already been to Allen Cay and reported on it in our last entry. This time, however, it was a LOT choppier in the anchorage so we didn’t even deploy the dinghy (apparently Ann didn’t want another bucking bronco experience). We do have some pretty good binoculars on board so Dave and Joan did get to see the iguanas. We also saw a VERY big fish in the anchorage – and we saw him on two different occasions. Now I am not going to say it was a shark, but if I were a betting man …


On the 19th we returned to our marina in Nassau and the following day headed onto town. We took a bus downtown that followed a route that we had not been on before. When we got to town we went straight to the high-falootin’ area of Nassau, but no one really wanted to shop there. So, we followed up with the Straw Market where we got a few things at what we hope were greatly discounted prices. We followed that up with a “lupper.”
The entrance to what was once the "Royal Victoria Hotel."
The only thing that is left is the gardens, the rest has been converted
into socially useful but aesthetically unpleasing buildings.

Lupper, as you may or may not know, is a word of my invention intended to combine “lunch” with “supper” (just as "brunch" combines breakfast with lunch). If I eat a good noon meal, I am just not going to be able to eat supper. So, if I am going to have something around lunch time, I would prefer to eat a late lunch – say 2 or 3 PM – and then forget supper. That, my friends, is a Lupper. Anyway, we had a combination of conch fritters, cracked conch, grouper fingers and something else. (Yes, Mom and Kathy, we went to the same restaurant and had almost the same meal.) It was scrumptious!

On the 22nd we decided to do a historical day. We went to the Bahamas Historical Society Museum, the Queen’s Staircase, Fort Fincastle, and the Nassau Water Tower (which, for some reason, is supposed to be historical – but I don’t quite get it). We decided on another Lupper and went to Senor Frogs. Now if you haven’t been to a Senor Frogs before you won’t know that for the younger crowd – particularly those on a cruise ship – it is a place to drink as you can get free shots for answering trivia questions (Ann, I am not going to say a word. Not me. Nope.) For the Middle Age crowd, it is a chance to chair dance and try to be as cool as you once were. For the older crowd, it is a chance to make fun of both! Dave and Joan left the following day. We hope they had as good of a time with us as we had with them.  

Now I have some disappointing news. My foot is not getting any better. So we are going to leave the boat in Nassau and fly back to the States on Saturday. We are then going to try to find a doctor somewhere who cares about the fact that I have two gaping holes in my foot, a pretty serious infection, have had my quality of life significantly impaired and knows what to do about it. Apparently this kind of doctor is pretty hard to find. (Sorry, but I had to vent somewhat.) Anyway, we are going to hold off on the next Blog Entry until we get back to the boat and have something interesting to say.

ANN’S NOTES:   Michael pretty much covered the past couple of weeks…

We did have a wonderful time with Dave and Joan even if we had to change plans a few times.
The Queen's Staircase

The off and on loading of the dinghy was an experience … a wet bucking bronco no less … plus one of the hooks that  attaches  to one of the cables, that attaches to a larger hook, that is attached to the winch broke. So we had to use the weight of the dinghy to keep the broken hook in place while it was being lifted  back on the boat. Not a fun time but we got it done. The broken hook has been replaced with a shackle that is much better. Thank heaven…

Our day exploring Nassau was fun ... there is so much history on this island. I had just finished reading a book titled “Winds from the Carolinas” and the lady at the book store said it was the “Gone with the Wind” of the Bahamas. It was very really good book … a little on the long side but it gave me a sense of what it was like back in “the day.” I thought the Queens Staircase was really beautiful. It was carved out of the limestone by slaves. It has 66 or 67 steps, on step for each year that Queen Victoria ruled. The whole day was fun. Yes, I did a shot at Senor Frogs … they were playing a music game of theme songs from movies and tv shows … the answer was  The Adams Family. It was like name that tune only the prize was a shot.

I don’t really have a wild life count per say…we did see birds, fish, sea rays, iguanas, all the normal creatures on the islands. I was busy keeping company with friends and holding on for dear life in the dinghy.

Yes … we are heading back to colder weather on Saturday. Send good thoughts to Michael. We don’t want to leave Traveling Soul but we need to get her Captain and his heel well and the infection gone.

Thanks for reading our blog and we WILL have only good news in the next blog…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Exumas, Stage 2: 7 - 13 Feb, 2013

And we were off! We were headed south – away from Nassau and into the mysterious Exumas. This was only going to be a quick six day adventure so we decided we would spend most of our time visiting two islands, Shroud Cay and Warderick Wells. On the way back we added a third, Allen’s Cay. Why??? Don't you know me by now? You will have to read on, of course, to find out.

Days 1 and 2: Shroud Cay.

I pulled out of the slip magnificently (primarily because there was very little wind) and the trip began.  The route from Nassau to Shroud wasn’t too exciting as the waves were only about 2 feet, less than the 3-4 footers we had when my mom and sister were here. Shroud Cay is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. (Created in 1958 this 176 square mile park was the first of its kind in the world and is famous for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment. It is the first marine fishery reserve established in the Caribbean.) As we pulled in we noticed that there we about half-a-dozen boats already there, but they had anchored just outside the mooring area instead of taking mooring ball. We learned that their reason for this was simple. The wind was calm, so no one needed to be concerned about his/her anchor and the Park charges for mooring balls. The fee varies with the size of the boat, but for us it cost $30. We decided that wasn’t too much AND we kind of wanted to support the park. So we went ahead and took the best of all mooring balls (since nobody else was on one) and paid for the privilege. I think we have decided, though, that since we have to pay for a ball at Warderick Wells (see below), the next time we come to Shroud, we, too, will anchor outside the mooring area.

This photo of Shroud Cay gives you some sense
 of the meandering nature of the salt water creeks.
Anyway, Shroud is an unusual Cay. It has two salt water “creeks” that divide the island into thirds. There are also a number of littler creeks that make inroads into the cay and go varying distances. All of the waterways are lined with mangroves and other salt water vegetation.

You can take a motorized boat (our dinghy) along the northernmost creek as long as you keep the engine at idle speed – which we did. The creek doesn’t make a clean shot straight through the island, it meanders its way across. Moving at idle speed, it probably took us probably the better part of an hour to get from one side to the other. Putting along the creek was kind of cool in that I almost expected to see trout, ready for the catching, in the river below. Oddly, though, we didn’t see too many fish of any kind – though we did see the shadow of a large turtle heading away from us as fast as he could! When we reached the end of the creek, we were rewarded by a beautiful beach, maybe a quarter mile long, on the Sound side of the island. We piddled around there for a while, finally saw some small fish and headed back down the creek.

Because we did not know how shallow the creek and its environs got, we really didn’t pay attention to the tides before we entered. We did, however, bring our little portable depth gauge and a pole that was about 4 feet long so we could check the bottom when it started getting shallow. On the way back we discovered that parts of the creek grew very shallow. The through occurred to both Ann and I at the same time.  When was the last time you saw two intrepid pioneers making their way down a salt water creek? What happened when they went aground? Why it was the movie African Queen, of course, with Mr. Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) and Miss Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn). Only since I can’t get my foot wet, if we would have been stuck I am afraid it would have been Ms. Brown doing most of the heavy lifting. Can’t you just see Ann, walking in front of the dinghy, rope over her shoulder, pulling us forward step-by-step?
Our visiting friend at Shroud Cay. He looks smaller here,
but was in reality five or so feet ;long.

After we got back to the boat, we went to bed and slept like logs. I woke up early the next morning and went around the boat making my morning check and what did I see off the back deck? A five foot nurse shark!!! I got Ann and she was able to take its picture. We watched it for a while and eventually saw other fish around it. Could one have been its offspring? It was hard to say. Anyway, it stayed around for about two hours.  The only reason we could figure was that, for some reason, it liked the sound of the water slapping against the side of the dinghy.

Days 2 – 4: Warderick Wells. Warderick Wells is the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park. To get a mooring ball there, you have to be assigned one. They can’t be reserved, so all you can do is come up on the radio net at 0900, request a ball, hope that several people are leaving, and await your assignment. If you don’t get a slot that day, you are on the waiting list for the following day. We got lucky. The first time we asked for a ball, we got one; mooring ball 15, right smack dab in front of the park headquarters.

The first day we were there, we went ashore and, first, went to the little gift shop. We got some t-shirts, a book, some of those laminated cards that help you identify what kind of flora and fauna you see and a couple of other things. We then went out and hiked one of the trails and found Barefoot  Beach, one of the many small beaches on the island. On the path, we met Bob and Virginia Keene aboard their boat Shadowfax. Over the next few days we got to know them fairly well. Bob is a retired submariner. They are even more footloose than we are. They are headed south for a while, until they decide they have gone far enough. Right now, they aren’t sure whether that will be Turks and Caicos or Trinidad.
Ann in front of a sperm whale skeleton on display at
Warderick Wells. It died because it ingested plastic.

Saturday afternoon we visited Boo Boo Hill. On Boo Boo Hill, cruisers leave wooden driftwood plaques containing the name of their vessel and the year they were there. We didn’t have any wood with us, so didn’t leave a plaque of our own this time (we will next time), but we did find the Finally Fun plaque of our friends Sharon and Andy. We also visited the Warderick Wells Blow Hole and then went   back to the boat. Later that evening, we attended the weekly Saturday night cocktail and appetizer party on the beach. We had some unusual visitors at the party. Hutia are the only land mammal native to the Bahamas. They are an endangered species that have been reintroduced to Warderick Wells. I swear there must have been 12 – 15 of those little suckers at the cocktail party. They came right up to the edge of the treeline and must have been waiting for someone to feed them – a real “no-no” in the park. We have noticed one thing in our visit to Warderick Wells; the animals, whether Hutias or curly tailed lizards or any other kind of little animal do not seem to be at all afraid of humans. In taking pictures of lizards you can get down to within a couple of feet of them before they start to meander off.

We had planned to leave on Sunday but we were told that the winds were going to pick up and it was not going to be good cruising weather. So, we stayed another day in the mooring field. We weren’t the only ones – on this particular Sunday nobody left (you can imagine how disappointed the boats who were waiting for a mooring must have been.

Anyway, we left Monday morning on our way back to Nassau. We thought about going down a little further, but we had to be back in Nassau on the 12th so we could pick up our friends Dave and Joan Wolf and didn’t want to have to spend eight hours on the water heading back to Nassau. It was still a little windy from the front that went through on Sunday so we decided to go about half way back to Nassau and spend the night in between Allen’s Cay, Leaf Cay and Southwest Allen’s Cay. Now what is unusual about these three islands (other than the anchorage formed between them is one of the most idyllic we have seen in the Bahamas) is that these islands are the only home of the endangered Exuma iguana. Unfortunately, Allen’s cay is so close to Nassau that speed boats come from Nassau carrying tourists who want nothing more than to feed the animals. As a result, whenever the iguanas hear a dinghy approaching the island they come out on the beach and wait for a handout. Oh well.

A few of the iguanas on the beach at Leaf Cay.
Man those are ugly suckers!
On Tuesday morning we headed back to Nassau, arriving at the marina at 1:00 0r so. We refueled so we are ready for our next adventure.

Just so you know, yes, we did have a maintenance issue. I think I have figured out why the battery monitor and the inverter display don’t agree as to then the batteries are fully charged. I believe the generator is putting out too many volts – and that this is the cause of the problem. Tomorrow I am going to run my hypothesis past my good-submarine buddy, expert electrician Bill and see what he thinks of it. Meanwhile, I am going to try and find someone who can make the adjustments on the generator.

ANN’S NOTES:  It was nice to get out into the open water once more and just hang out on the boat for a while. Michael had a few ideas about how to save some energy that made me really plan ahead for the next day. It really was not that difficult but I had to make sure we had snacks, water, soda and ice to drink during the day. He wanted the fridge to stay shut during the day to keep the cold in plus turn down the temperature so the inverter would not have to work so hard to keep everything cold. Once we turned on the generator to recharge the batteries I could crank up the temperature in the fridge again.  I have always been good at “energy management,” I learned it on our other boat Sans Souci. Anyway , the captain said to pack up the igloo cooler for the day and I, being an excellent first mate, did as I was told…that does not happen very often but I want this energy problem solved as much as he does. I am not sure that the igloo plan worked but the fridge door stayed shut.

Shroud Cay was just beautiful. Only a few boats in the area we were in. There were lots of coves to explore and beaches to see. The trip down the lazy river was fun, it did get very shallow on the way back and I did think I would have to get out and haul the dinghy over the sand bar. One of my all time favorite movies is African Queen and I thought I would have to play the Bogart part. I saw no leeches so I was okay.

Warderick Wells was interesting. The mooring field is a circle with two openings at each end, during low tide there is a round sand bar that you can walk on. Also when the tide comes in it really is fast and you do not want to be in the water when that happens. We did a lot of hiking around the island. Some places are easy but most of the island is limestone and it is very sharp and jagged. The trails are well marked and pretty easy to follow. We did meet some wonderful people at the beach get together and than on our boat. Michael did not like those creepy semi-little furry rat like animals. The darker it got the closer they came, they were under the picnic table by the time we departed, much to close if you ask me.

Leaf  Cay/ Allen Cay was another pretty spot. We had it all to ourselves for a little while, we got the dinghy down and went to shore to check out the iguanas … again not my favorite animal in the world but interesting.  The  night sky was full of stars and it looked like you could just reach up and touch them. It reminded me of when Caylin was a little girl and she could still see the moon one morning in the morning shy. She said she wanted it and I asked her where she would put the moon if she had it…she looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes with her long lashes and said..” in my pocket’….silly grandma…I should have known.

Wildlife Count…

Thursday 7  Feb 2013  Shroud Cay 
·         1 Turtle
·         2 large rays

Friday 8 Feb 2013  
       Shroud Cay   
  • 1 Nurse shark
  •  3 Rays
  • 1 Turtle
  • 1 flying fish
  • Reef fish
        Warderick wells
  • 2 sting rays
  • Small shark
  • Small black and yellow bird
  • Small fish in a hole in the limestone
  • 2 rays
  • 10 – 12 hutia (rodent) at night at the beach party
Sunday 10 Feb 2013 Warderick Wells
·         Blue Crab
·         2 large rays
·         Small reef fish

Monday 11 Feb 2013 Leaf Cay
·         12 or more iguana


Traveling Soul … Out


Traveling Soul … Out

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Waiting for Parts in Nassau (1 - 6 February)

For nearly a week we sat at the Harbor Club Hotel and Marina in Nassau. If you recall, we dropped off my mom and sister and had intended to leave the following day heading south, back into the Exumas. Well, as I reported then, our inverter went on the blink. Instead of producing 125 volts, it was putting out 180 volts. Instead of running our stereo and television, it was burning them out. Luckily for us, the refrigerator and other essential appliances appear not to have been damaged, just the TV and stereo. BUT before we head out again, we needed a new inverter. I contacted the manufacturer and, despite my concerns, Xantrex honored their warranty. On Thursday 1 February they sent me a replacement via UPS next day delivery. Of course, it didn’t arrive the next day (Friday), which meant that the first time I might conceivably see it was Monday. On Monday we e-mailed Xantrex, then later called them to find out where the package was, and learned it had just arrived in Nassau (hardly overnight), and they would start processing it the following day (Tuesday). We finally received it on Wednesday.

But before I tell you about finally receiving the inverter and its installation, let me first tell you how we spent our time waiting for it.

As I mentioned I spent most of Wednesday the 29th on the phone with Xantrex trying to get the part down here. On Thursday, I spent much of the day waiting for an e-mail from Xantrex telling me that it had been shipped. As you can imagine, both Ann and I found ourselves getting more and more bored. (Yes, Virginia, you can get bored even in Paradise!) On Thursday night, though, GiGi and Vic on Salty Turtle, a 44 foot Defever, asked us over for drinks. We got a lot of information from them about the southern Exumas and a new recipe for rum punch.  

On Saturday, we had another day to kill, so we thought we would walk down to Fort Montagu, which was only a bout ½ mile down the road from us. For those of you who don’t know (and there is no reason any of you should, the present version of Fort Montagu was built between 1741 and 1742 by Peter Henry Bruce, an engineer. It was built of locally-cut limestone and named after the Duke of Montagu. The fort was intended to be used in conjunction with a sea battery – called Bladen’s Battery, which was located on Potter’s Cay, further into the harbor – for the protection of Nassau Harbour.  The fort and Bladen’s Battery were finished in July 1742 and mounted with eight 18-pounder, three 9 and six 6 –pounder cannons. Originally, the fort contained a rain water cistern, barracks for officer and soldiers, a guardroom and powder magazine. What is amazing is how small the fort is. I am guessing maybe 40-50 yards on each of four sides. How it would have served as a fort, I am not sure.

Fort Montagu
For those of you who are aficionados of the American Revolution, however, Fort Montagu is best known as the site of the United States Marine Corps' first military action. In 1776 Continental Congress ordered Commodore Esek Hopkins to take a fleet of eight ships to capture a large supply of gunpowder the British had stored on New Providence Island. After two weeks of sailing, Captain Samuel Nicholas landed with his 234 Marines two miles east of Fort Montagu. The Bahamian militia retreated to Fort Nassau, so Fort Montagu fell unopposed. It turned out the 200 barrels of gunpowder were stored at Fort Nassau instead of Fort Montagu and the Bahamian governor was able to load them on merchant ships before the marines arrived. While the marines were not successful in their primary mission of retrieving the gunpowder, they did bring back 46 cannon and thousands of round shot for General Washington's army.

We also ran into a fish market and a couple of stands selling food. The fish market prices seemed to me to be a little high, but that may have been because we were not locals. The little food stands, by contrast, seemed very reasonable. They didn’t have cracked conch but one lady did have conch fritters – four for a dollar. They were very good. We also learned that the proprietress had been working the same corner for nearly 20 years. During the week she worked at a law firm (I am not sure what she did) and on weekends she sold food in Montagu Park. She said she earned enough to send her children to private school and one to college in Canada. She was very proud of her accomplishments – and well, she should be. I have to tell you, though, there weren’t a lot of customers the day we were there, and to put her kids through college and private school she sure would have had to sell a lot of conch fritters at 25 cents per!

Just to make sure we didn’t get bored Saturday evening Ann suggested … what else? … a party!! Our friends from Salty Turtle were already gone, so we walked the dock Saturday morning and found Regina and Bill aboard their Silverton Meant 2B, Ruth and Bill aboard their Nordhaven Tautaug, and Tom and Susan aboard their American Tug Arion. We invited them all to a BYOB get together during which Ann provided some of her patented artichoke dip.  Bill and Ruth had been to Nassau and the Exumas many times before and provided some interesting observations and some goods advice. It was the first time for Tom and Susan (who are traveling with Bill and Ruth) so they were kind of following their friends aboard Tautaug. Both of those boats were planning to leave in the next couple of days and continue heading south. Bill and Regina, however, had decided to spend the month here in Nassau. That worked out well for us because Regina is another Yoga person like Ann AND Bill used to be in the Navy and actually knows something about electronics and electricity! (Just in case I screw up the inverter installation.) Oh! Did I mention they once lived in Woodbridge, VA??

On Sunday we took a bus to what I would call the Middle Class Beaches in Nassau. The beaches on Paradise Island are for the very rich. Cable Beach, on the west side of New Providence, has several major hotel/resorts like the Sheraton, Sandals, etc. But Junkanoo Beach , the middle class beach, is right across the street from what seemed to be the smaller locally owned and operated hotels – kind of like the equivalent of Best Western – that probably pre-dated the big chains. Who knows, maybe it was one of these hotels at which James Bond stayed while he was in Nassau hunting down all those Russian spies! (Well, okay, I must admit I can’t see any of those hotels requiring tuxedoes even in their heyday.) Anyhow, it was a good-sized beach with several little bar/food stands. The clientele seemed to be in their twenties and maybe early thirties and they sure seemed to be enjoying the bar half of the food stands. Ann and I found one that was a little quieter (meaning they weren’t serving shots) and had a Kalik (one of the local beers).
Junkanoo Beach. On the right side of the picture you can
see one of the stands that sold beer and shots. In the
background you can see one of the ubiquitous cruise ships.

On Monday and Tuesday we hung around the boat waiting for UPS. After a number of phone calls and becoming the “squeaky wheel” at the local UPS representative, the package finally arrived on Wednesday. Ok, I had studied the installation manual. I was just putting in the boxes themselves, most of the wiring was already in place. All I needed to do was unhook the old box, connect the new box and voila! How hard could it be?? It turns out to have been a little harder than I was expecting.

Now you have to understand that the inverter is placed in a location that is VERY challenging to service. It is between the outside bulkhead (the wall of the boat) and the fresh water pressurization system, in an area that is about 18 - 24 inches wide. The only way to get to it is to lay on your right side, on an inclined platform, in kind of a sitting position and try not to put too much pressure on the air conditioning system at your butt. So, basically, it ain’t very comfortable. After turning off all the electricity in the boat (I wasn’t taking any chances) and getting into position with all my tools, the first thing I had to do was disconnect the DC cables from the batteries; check. Next, I had to disconnect the AC input cables from the inverter; check. Then, I disconnected the AC output; check. There were a few other small cables that I needed to unplug and I did that too. Now it was time to unscrew the inverter and lift it out. It weighs 24 pounds and I was laying on my side. Nevertheless, I managed to get it out and hand it off to Ann. Check and double check.

The back of the now infamous inverter.
 I wish I had a shot of its location. Then you
would have really fvelt sorry for me.
The next series of tasks was to work everything backwards for the new inverter: screw it in place, reconnect the AC output, the AC input and DC cables in sequence. Now just to give you a flavor for the difficulty of the task, I spent at least 30 minutes trying to screw one “doggone” ground wire (uh, that’s not the word I used at the time) into the back of the box; it was sooo frustrating.
Anyway, after the last cable was tightened and the last screw turned it we turned on the unit and – it was behaving badly. Well I wasn’t going to spend all day troubleshooting so I asked my new friend Bill from Meant 2B it he could help. He could and did. Within about 10 minutes he figured out I had connected some of the wires wrong and in another 10 minutes he realized that some of the connections I had made were separating.  After asking his wife to go get some of his tools (and really, my failure to connect some of these wires was based on my amateurish crimpers – a factor I will rectify here soon) he repaired everything. We owe Bill.

The next day we were off. Our next report will come from somewhere “down island,” as they say.

ANN’S NOTES:    What Michael did not say was that I am the one that does most of the phone calls. I was the thorn in the side of the Bahamas UPS office. From one day to the next we were not sure if the package had cleared customs or not … and they always said they would call me back … not so. It got to the point that they knew my voice and the name of the boat. I try always to be nice, one always catches more flies with honey than vinegar (some wise old person said that but I can`t remember who) I was waiting for a return call when the inverter arrived. Now the fun part started…again …not so. My name changed to “Ann…will you get me … (one of many items…screwdriver, electrical tape, crimper, etc, etc)” You see where my day was spent…all I could really do is go for things, keep him company and be a cheerleader. He did his very best to get it all right and I finally got our new friend Bill over to help … thank heaven for new friends.

Michael told you many things about Fort Montague what he forgot to mention was in this very tiny fort they had a very large oven. Yes boys and girls, just what the Bahamas needs is an oven. They did not bake bread in this oven but heated up cannon balls. The ships were wooden and the “hot shot” would start fires on board and sink them. Nowadays it would just melt the fiberglass boats but still sink them all the same. Also what kind of oven mitts would one use to remove red hot cannon balls? Just wondering…

We have had some fun evenings meeting new boating friends…I really like getting together, having a drink, sharing some food and exchanging funny stories. Every boater has them and laughing together is good for the soul. We also exchange where to stay, what anchorages have good holding, where the best beaches are, and the name and numbers of good repair people. All must-haves when you live on a boat.

I want to take this space to thank my sister-in-law, Kathy, for leaving me her crock, leopard  skin-design shoes. She wore them over when she came to visit and left them with me when she left. I love them because they are easy to wear, slip on and off and I can wash the sand out of them. I have been in the water a lot since Michael cannot get his heel wet.  I do all of the dinghy beaching and un-beaching…and the crocks are perfect … so again, Kathy, thank you so very much. Oh! They are also cute and fun to wear!

 Since we were stuck in the marina most of the week the only wildlife I have to report is a few long-spined sea urchins clinging to the seawall . They are black and the spines are very sharp, the dock master takes a long handle shovel and tries to remove them from the wall, he gets most of them but they are back by the morning. Such is the life of the urchin.

I will have a much better wild life report next blog entry.

Thank you for following us…

Traveling Soul….OUT

Friday, February 1, 2013

Nassau, Normans Cay and Mom and Kathy (23 – 31 January)

When I last left you we had only been in Nassau a day or two and, though we had traveled around a little, we really hadn’t explored downtown Nassau. On Tuesday the 22d we caught a bus downtown (at $1.25 per person) and FINALLY discovered places where we might want to take my mother and sister, who were coming to visit on Wednesday. Now don’t get me wrong, we really wanted to take them out into the Exumas so they could see the real Bahamas, but we also wanted them to have an opportunity to see the touristy section of Nassau because they were, well, tourists. Moreover, we are slave to the weather and the winds looked like they might be acting up a bit on Thursday and Friday.

So, to make sure we had something for them to do for their days in Nassau, we went downtown and discovered, among other things, the Straw Market. For those of you who have never been to Nassau, the straw market used to consist of several dozen (a hundred?) ladies who made things from straw to sell to the tourists. There were straw baskets, straw hats, straw thises and straw thats. Now, however, the market consists of several hundred ladies selling some of the same straw goods, plus T-shirts, wooden figurines, shopping bags, purses, shot glasses, etc, etc. It is on e of those places where the average Bahamian can benefit materially from the tourist trade and the average tourist can benefit from the competition among vendors. Just a little further down the street, of course, were T-shirt shops, the ubiquitous diamond stores and Gucci, Armani, Versace, Fendi and a plethora of other designers.

A scene from the Nassau Pirate's Museum.
And if you aren't kind to the chef, this is apparently
the table on Traveling Soul! AARGH!
On Wednesday evening my mother and sister arrived and on Thursday we went downtown. We started with the Pirate Museum AARGH! (According to Ann, you have to say AARGH! every time you refer to pirates or piracy. It’s a law, or something like that.) The museum consisted primarily of twenty or so life-sized displays showing pirates in and around Nassau. It also had a number of “true or false” placards testing your knowledge of the pirate (ARRGH!) age. I learned a number of things about pirates like the democracy on board pirate ships (they frequently voted for their captain) and the code of conduct (frequently written and the crew forced to sign – or go somewhere else). Anyway, it was fun for all. We then ate lunch – and had cracked conch, conch fritters, French fries and grouper fingers. I think everyone liked the cracked conch the best (hurray for the taste buds of my family!!), followed by fritters, fingers and fries in order.

After lunch we went to the aforementioned straw market.  Everybody looked and looked and looked (except me, of course, I am not much of a shopper). After lunch we took a taxi back to the marina to decide what to do the following day.

On Friday we took a taxi to Paradise Island. Paradise Island is difficult to describe. It is kind of a Bahamian Las Vegas. It has a casino, a bunch of hotels, several townhouse developments, some huge houses and a marina. True, there is only one casino, but the place is just – how can I put this – just glitzy; glitzy like Vegas. The big difference between Vegas and Paradise Island is that in Vegas you can walk around and see many of the attractions for free. All they really want you to do is to gamble. In Paradise Island, you need a pass of some kind to see anything but the casino itself, lobbies of the various hotels and some of the higher end shops. It was amazing; we walked for about half-an-hour and didn’t see anything other than hotel lobbies and a few slot machines. It was really disappointing. Anyway, after walking around for a while and not seeing anything interesting we decided to head back to the boat and plan the next few days. Paradise Island gets a big ZERO in my book.

Some of the beautiful sea creatures for sale near the
Straw Market in downtown Nassau
On Saturday, we headed out. It was a bit challenging getting out of the slip. We were at the end of the pier, bow in, with several boats to our stern that were perpendicular to us with their bows lined up with our port side. In other words, I didn’t have too much room to port or I would run into one of the other boats. We did, however, have room to starboard. So, I backed out with a slight angle towards starboard until I got a little maneuvering room, then spun the boat around (you can do that with two engines – you put one in forward and the other in reverse – and you can almost spin in your own length). We put in some fuel and we were off.

It wasn’t THAT bad out. It was probably 2-3 feet waves with the occasional 4 footer. Everyone handled it well, reading and absorbing the sights all the way. It was about a 4 ½ trip to Normans Cay, our first stop. We got in about 2:00. The anchorage I had chosen was kind of the southwest side of the cay and was plenty large enough for a bunch of boats. When we arrived there were about ten. I saw the perfect place to anchor but there was already a trawler there. Oh well, there were several other spots  that looked inviting. As I suspect you already know, within 30 minutes of us anchoring and settling in, the trawler left my preferred spot. Oh well, we kind of hung around the rest of the day. Dinner that night was – what else? – steak and lobster.  It was scrumptuous.

On Sunday we downloaded the dinghy, and I have to tell you it is a lot easier than the Whaler was. About 11:00, Ann Kathy and I set off. Mom stayed on the boat as the wind was blowing and it was a bit choppy even in the anchorage. I think she wasn’t quite sure of how smart it was for her to climb down the ladder onto the swim platform and into the dinghy while boat was moving around the way it was. I must say, though, that dinghy riding was about the only thing Mom didn’t want to do; she was up for almost everything else. I only hope I am as strong, agile and spry when I am 82 years old.  
The Peg-Legged Mike and the Regular-legged Ann on
Norman's Cay. My sister has all the best pictures.
maybe we can get them from her when she gets back to Colorado

We landed on a beautiful sandy beach near the Norman Cay Villas and walked inland for a little bit. Normans Cay had been the headquarters and main transshipment point for Carlos Lehder, one of the really bad druggies to come out of South America.  The small airstrip on the island had handled about 15 planeloads worth of drugs per day until the Bahamian authorities (at the urging of the US) raided the island, captured Lehder and extradited him to the US. His bullet riddled house is still there, though we didn’t get to see it this time; I was still in my “walking boot.” Anyway, one of the reasons I had chosen  Normans Cay for our first foray into the Exumas was to go to the little bar and grill, McDuff’s.  As we should have guessed, McDuff’s was closed for renovation. They told us that the restaurant and the island’s four villas would be back in business by the end of February. Now, I have seen renovations in progress before. If those villas are ready by the end of Feb I will eat my hat. However, all was not lost as the real reason Kathy wanted to come to the island was so she could be photographed in the water, swimming. On that score, mission accomplished.

We took one more  dinghy trip later that afternoon and found a shipwreck. Given the remains, it appeared to have been a pretty good sized wooden boat, maybe 50 feet in length. The bow still existed as did some lines attached to the bow. But most of the rest of the boat was in pieces scattered along the coast. Whenever I see a wreck like that I have to wonder how long it has been there and what were the circumstances of her sinking.

On Monday we uploaded the dinghy and decided to go to Highbourne Cay. Highbourne is about 5-6 miles north of Normans and would put us a little closer to Nassau when we had to leave the following day. Moreover, I had heard there was a little restaurant on the island that we could visit. It was a nice trip there, only about an hour or so, and we anchored without incident. Shortly after anchoring, though, I heard on the radio that the Highbourne Cay restaurant was closed on Monday. Hmmm, I am beginning to wonder:  Is this a conspiracy?? Anyway, Highbourne  is a private island that has a resort housing community, in addition to a kind of marina resort. They had a nice general store that had some real touristy items plus some grocery store stuff. Kind of an odd assortment of goods, but it seems to work for them.

We walked over to the Atlantic side of the island and found another long beach. On this one the sand was much finer than it had been on Normans and was almost as nice as the sand at Treasure Cay in the Abacos. I don’t know how long it was, certainly well over a mile and as far as you could see there was no one; perfectly empty. Moreover, there didn’t seem to be any trash. We aren’t sure whether that is because the resort people pick it up regularly or because there just isn’t any. Anyway, it was cool seeing a beach in such good condition.

While at Highbourne, Ann and Kathy took a walk out to the end of a dock at the urging of another visitor. There were eight very good sized nurse sharks. (I can’t say any more about them as Ann is accusing me of taking “her stuff.” So to prevent mutinous conditions aboard Traveling Soul, I am going to stop and simply say that Ann will tell you more about the sharks below.)

We left fairly early Tuesday morning for Nassau as Kathy wanted to go back to the Straw Market to buy some things she didn’t get around to the first time. We got in around 1:30 and the three ladies were gone within minutes. Mom and Kathy came back with little gifts for themselves, everyone in their families and (it seemed) everyone else they would ever know!  They left the following morning and, surprisingly, everything they had purchased fit into their baggage!

 Okay, there is one issue I have left out of the discussion. I know you gearheads and pessimists were waiting for me to tell you what broke during the trip. Well, here it is: our inverter went belly-up. About three days into the trip, the aft cabin circuit breaker flipped. Then we found one of the surge protectors had burnt out. Shortly after that, we found that two fans no longer worked. Then we discovered that the stereo receiver and TV no longer functioned.  At the same time all this was happening, I noticed that we seemed to be using more electricity and that the batteries didn’t fully charge after 5 hours of charging. I was perplexed. After we got back to the marina I delved into the problem and found that our inverter, which was supposed to produce 120 volts from our 12 volt batteries, was in fact producing 180 volts!! No wonder our equipment was burning out and no wonder the batteries were always low.

I called an electrician and he told me what I didn’t want to know; that our inverter couldn’t be fixed. I then called Xantrex, the maker of the inverter, and am now waiting for them to tell me whether they will honor their warranty. If they do, they will send the inverter Fedex and we should get it on Saturday or Monday (allowing for Customs bureaucracies, etc.) If they do not honor their warranty, I will buy a different brand of inverter from my friend and repair-guru Rick and hope to get that by Monday as well – though I may have to have someone help me put it in.  NOTE: For those of you who don’t know, the inverter takes 12 volts Direct Current coming out of a battery and turns it into the 120 volts AC needed to run regular electrical appliances. So, without the inverter, our refrigerator (and other key appliances like coffee pot) won’t work.

Anyway, as long as we do not have an inverter we are stuck in the marina. Now being stuck in a marina we spend about $120. For everyday we are at anchor we spend, well, about $10 in diesel fuel. You can see why we would rather be “on the hook” as they say. Well, I want to get this on the way before my daily subscription to the internet portal ends, so we’ll keep you posted on the inverter and see you later.

ANN’S NOTES:  After reading Michael`s part of the blog  a thought just passed in my head.  We seem to always be “on the hook” and there are two very different kinds of “hooks”…the expensive one that cost us many boat units and the nice one that lets us just float on the water in one place and relax.

My thoughts so far on Nassau and the Exumas, is that I need to give them more time to grow on me. The people are so very friendly…down town Nassau is ok…lots of big boat cruise people with fanny packs and the smell of sun block and mixed rum drinks. The marina is nice, again friendly people, nice pool and good location for shopping and such. We have met just a few fellow cruises and that is fun. I am just not sure yet if I like this area of the Bahamas … I will keep an open mind and see what the universe has in store for me.

The visit with Barbara and Kathy was wonderful. Kathy likes to find out what is around the next corner and she did her fair share of exploring. Barbara just wanted to know why we are living on a boat and thought she’d try a little of that for herself … plus the opportunity to be with her two children is something a mother cannot pass up.

I will have to agree with Michael`s comment on the Atlantis resort. Unless you are staying at the resort you can`t even use the front entrance to get in … you have to use the door that goes into the casino and then walk to the lobby that way. That just sort of makes you feel unwelcome right away…in order to just look around at the pools and gardens you need to pay to take a tour…or get a $120 per person day pass. That is just crazy…now that being said…I will most likely pay that fee when Caylin and Gavin come to visit…they do have lots of cool things for kids to do.

This morning I took a few taxi rides to get all the stuff the spike in our inverter blew out. I bought a new fan for the guest room … aka the  mermaid room. A new 19 inch flat screen…down three inches from our 22 inch one because I could not find a 22 inch one on the island…believe me I looked.  I did find a receiver and the man from the store came to the marina to make sure that it fit. YUP, you guessed it, the receiver was 0.3 inches too long and 0.1 inches too high. He did take the broken TV and receiver and said he could fix them. We shall see…

Since Michael already gave you the wildlife count…I will have to confirm that these guys were BIG…

Traveling Soul….OUT