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.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tim, Carrie and Crew

Our son (Tim), daughter-in-law (Carrie), 6 year old granddaughter (Caylin) and 3 year old grandson (Gavin) came to visit us from 11 – 17 April. I was a bit concerned that if the weather didn’t cooperate it might be difficult to get them out into the Exumas and to the Atlantis Resort Marina – the Bahamas answer to Disneyland – in six days. To be honest, the weather was some of the best we have seen all winter. It was a bit blustery the day before the family arrived, but from then on the weather was just about perfect.

The day after they got here, we were off to Shroud Cay. We arrived about 3PM and shortly after that, Tim and the grandkids were in the water swimming off the swim platform. Carrie is the official family photographer and took a bunch of pictures. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves – even though they were accompanied most of the time by a juvenile nurse shark. Tim and Grandpa kept an eye on the shark and decided not to let the kids know. We were afraid they might get a bit panicky. In the event, everything worked out very well and everyone had a blast.

You may recall from last year that Shroud Cay is a set of islands that have what seem to be “rivers” running from the Exuma Sound on one side to the Exuma Bank on the other. Actually, they are just channels connecting the two bodies of water. They are 40-50 wide in most places and while the channels can get very shallow at low tide, they are generally about 10 feet deep. While I continue to think they are very, very cool, the little ones were less than impressed. They just wanted to get to the beach I had promised them was on the other side of the “river.” Eventually we did make it to the beach where both of the kids spend most of their time looking for shells.

Although they weren’t enamored of the river ride, both Gavin and Caylin fell in love with a beach that was inside a lagoon on the Bank side of the island. The water was so clear, the sand so fine and the slope so gradual that the kids could freely walk 50 feet or more into the lagoon before the water was up to their waist. They liked it so much that, although we were only at Shroud for two days, they kids insisted on returning several times. 

After Shroud, we were off to Highbourne Cay. Tim and Carrie went ashore and to visit the (very) little store and the marina facilities while the rest of us anchored off the island and rested. Later that evening, though, Caylin insisted on one last beach trip so she and her dad could look for shells. Speaking of shells, I forgot to mention that both Caylin and Gavin turned into very good conch shell blowers! I have seen grown men (and women) fail in the specialized art of blowing the shell, but with a little instruction from Grandma and Grandpa, they turned into serious blowers!

On Tuesday we left Highbourne and headed for Nassau. We had reservations at the Atlantis Resort and Marina on Paradise Island for the last two nights the family was visiting. Atlantis is kind of the Bahamas answer to Disneyland. (Okay, for you purists, I realize fully that there is nothing quite like the Disney parks. However, the entertainment at Atlantis, the wonderful water parks, the several different beaches and the very cool underwater exhibits make Atlantis a wonderful place to visit -- for three and six year old children AND for sixty something grandparents.

Now the Atlantis Marina is a bit pricey at $4 per foot per night. On the other hand, all six of us could get into any part of the resort. If you aren’t staying at the marina or in one of their many overpriced rooms, you have to pay $100+ to use the facilities. Moreover, I won some money at the casino that defrayed some of the expenses J. Did I say casino? Yes I did! As some of you know I enjoy an occasional game of chance – especially when it is called “21.” And yes, I did win a few bucks. I probably only paid for one of the two nights we spent at the marina. But hey! Every little bit counts!!

I almost forgot to mention that, at my request, Tim brought us a device called a Rogue Wave. He also did most of the installation. Rogue Wave is a WIFI antenna and router combination that increases the distance – by several times – from which we can receive a WIFI signal. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we will always be in contact – some of the transmitters are quite a distance from the area where when anchor, but it does mean we will have a better chance of getting a signal. We also get a stronger signal than we used to get.

The kids departed on Thursday and we are planning to leave Nassau as soon as a weather window opens. We have three day trip in front of us. On the first day we will cross about 40 miles of deep (a couple thousand feet), serious ocean and will spend the night at an anchorage at Chub Cay. The second day will be very different. It will be across a part of the Bahama Bank and will be about twenty feet deep at the deepest and about five feet deep at the shallowest. That night we will spend at a marina in Bimini. The third day we will get up very early as we have about a hundred (statute) mile trip across the Gulf Stream. That night we should be at Old Port Cove Marina at North Palm Beach.

It has been fun, but it is time for us to get back home. We have both repairs and improvements we want to make to the boat, we need to do some personal maintenance (among other things, I need to get a decent haircut), Ann needs to get back to being a Facebook regular and making her wildlife counts. Plus, we both need a serious Big Mac! We’ll let you know how all this works out … stay tuned.

ANN’S NOTES:  Ok…it is late and I need to get my part of the blog written so we can send it on the way tomorrow…as normal…I am pressed for time…

I will have to say I had a wonderful time when the “little ones” came to visit”  We were vey well prepared with all the snacks they liked..the list being sent by  Carrie. I really do love spending time with my family no matter the age. The time really did just fly by

Caylin is 6 years old…she will be 7 on the 26 of May…I am sure she would want all of our followers to know that. Now her father is a swim couch and have been for a long time  and Tim is also a strong swimmer and scuba diver. That did not prepare me to watch my little Caylin depart the dinghy and swim to the boat. I must say I was very impressed and proud….granted she had one a life vest…our rules…as grandparents we want to keep the grandchildren we have…never the less…she swam to the boat and it was a fair distance to swim for someone her age and ability. Well done Lady bug..

Gavin…was also a little super hero fish. He mostly like the land portion of the trip. He is such a beach guy.. I was not present ..but  I have pictures of him doing “sand angles”. Now…as you know he did NOT get that gene from me. I tolerate the sand and enjoy the feel of it in between my toes…but to lay down and actually move around in it…NAY…not going to happen.

The scene from ‘Here to Internity” will also not happen..

The sum it all up..everyone had a great time and I am ready to head back to the USA.

We left the VA/MD in October…went across in December and Now it is time to come HOME!!!

See you very soon..

Traveling Soul…OUT



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Exuma II: March 2014

On 6 March our friends Dave and Joan Wolf came to visit. They regaled us with stories of the snow and of the c-o-l-d back in Northern Virginia; we offered stories of our own cold fronts – at times it got down to 75 degrees!! I actually had to put on a sweater one morning just before they got here. Brrrrrr!

The plan was for the Wolf’s to arrive in Nassau, stay with us for eleven days, then to depart by small plane from Staniel Cay, which is about 80 or so miles down the Exuma chain. On the way from Nassau to Staniel we hoped to be able to stop at Emerald Rock, the northern mooring field at Warderick Wells, Cambridge Cay and Big Major Post (yes, that’s the name of an island) and to end up at Staniel – all places we had enjoyed over the past couple of months.

They arrived on Thursday and we had planned to set forth on Friday. Unfortunately, the wind was pretty strong and gusty and it was blowing in the wrong direction for our trip. So, rather than take off, we went to downtown Nassau, visited the Straw Market and had lunch at Senor Frog’s.  For those of you who don’t know, Senor Frog’s is a chain of drinking places built wherever kids of the appropriate age might congregate – in Acapulco, Nassau, St. Thomas, etc. Dave, Joan, Ann and I went last year and enjoyed a couple of beers, their to-die-for guacamole and watching kids enjoy themselves. This year – eh, not so much. I am not sure what the difference was, but I don’t think we’ll be going back to Senor Frog’s any time soon.

The following day we were off. The weather was good and the trip to Highbourne Cay relatively uneventful. That evening we ate at Zuma, the restaurant at Highbourne, and had a great meal. The real story, though, is what happened just outside the anchorage at Highbourne. Just as we were making the turn into the anchorage, we saw a boat named “CV-9.” Now I knew that in US Navy nomenclature, “CV’s” are aircraft carriers, but the boat we saw wasn’t even close to an aircraft carrier. Dave, much more knowledgeable about military history that I, knew that CV-9 was the aircraft carrier Essex, of WWII fame. We surmised that the owner had named his boat after the carrier, so I called “Essex” (not “CV-9”) on the radio. The captain answered and told us the boat was indeed named after the WWII carrier. The next morning a young crewmember of CV-9 came to the boat and gave us CV-9 T-shirts with the captain’s compliments. She told us that the first owner of CV-9 had flown off the Essex during WWII and subsequently named his boat CV-9 – but that is just where the story gets interesting. He had also flown off another carrier, CV-6, the Enterprise – after which he named his car company. You got it; the first owner of CV-9 was the owner of the car rental company, Enterprise. Cool, huh?

After Highbourne we headed to Emerald Rock in the Land and Sea Park. From there, we took a walk hike to Boo Boo Hill, and later to the Loyalist Ruins, both of which I have discussed before. We also saw a the endangered Bahamian Hutia –the only mammal, I believe, indigenous to the Bahamas. They are nocturnal, but Dave saw one just sitting on a rock. We also saw a nurse shark just off the back of the boat. Nurse sharks are commonplace in the Exumas, are generally about 6 feet long (though they can grow much bigger) and are not usually aggressive towards humans.

I think it was the next day that we moved into the northern mooring field at Warderick Wells. From there, we took some more hikes and went snorkeling. Joan, especially like snorkeling and once, even saw what we believe was a reef shark in the water with her!

The northern mooring field at Warderick Wells
Just as we were getting ready to leave Warderick Wells, the weather forecast some significant westerly winds. For those of you who don’t know, the Exuma Bank doesn’t have much protection from westerlies, so you have to kind of adjust your itinerary to the direction from which the wind is blowing and the protection you need. Warderick Wells has some pretty good protection and we were already there, so we decided to stay in place until the wind calmed down and/or changed direction.

We ended up staying a total of five days, doing some more hiking, a little more snorkeling, but mostly just lounging in paradise. When we did leave we headed to Big Major Spot, an island near Staniel – the airport from which Dave and Joan would leave. Now I don’t know why most of the islands in the Bahamas are “cays” and why Big Major is a “spot.” Nor do I know the particular major for which big major was named. I do know, however, that what makes Big Major semi-famous is that there are feral pigs on the island that will happily swim to your boat or dinghy and take bread or other foodstuffs from visitors.

We stayed at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (read Staniel Cay marina – I don’t think the docks would qualify as a true “yacht club” the last night Dave and Joan were with us.

After Dave and Joan left, Ann and I spent one more day at Staniel, then headed to Black Point Settlement to do laundry. Why do the laundry at Black Point? Water is a precious commodity in the Bahamas – depending on where you are it can cost 40 to 50 cents per gallon. Now, we carry 200 gallons of water in our tanks and we make water in our reverse osmosis water maker almost every night. The water we make plus the water we conserve is enough to do almost anything we want – except the laundry.  For those of you who don’t know, laundry takes a LOT of water. So, when we need to wash clothes we head to a local laundromat, the most popular of which is at Black Point Settlement.

Our "White Cliffs of Dover (or Bitter Guana Cay)"
You can see some of the white, the rest  is in the shade, but
 I assure you is normally as white as the rest of it.
I mentioned going to Black Point not because I think you ought to know about our laundry situation, but because Ann and I have discovered a very cool anchorage at Bitter Guana Cay which is between Staniel and Blackpoint. The anchorage itself was uncrowded; there was only one other boat besides us. Besides a nice little beach, the coast line was white limestone like the White Cliffs of Dover. Ok, they weren’t quite as grand as Dover’s cliffs, but they were probably fifty feet high. You could (and we did) walk to the other side of the island to some interesting coves and wave action on the Exuma Sound side. We also hiked a portion of the island. The next time we come, we’ll give ourselves more time and do some more exploring. The island itself is one of two populated with the endangered Bahamian Iguana. These are big, ugly creatures that grow to somewhere around three feet long. They kind of look like small dinosaurs.

This big, ugly guana tried to hide under our dinghy!
After Bitter Guana Cay we headed back to Big Major Spot for a couple of days, then we departed for Cambridge Cay. Cambridge, like Warderick Wells North, is within the Exuma Land and Sea Park. You have to traverse some skinny, narrow nerve-wracking waterways to get there, but once you arrive, it is another of those idyllic mooring fields for which the Park personnel care. It is also fairly well protected from west winds – and we were going to have some westerlies within the next few days according to the weather forecast. 

We waited at Cambridge for about five days. The first two days we explored the area by dinghy and on foot. The last three days we waited for the wind to calm down and/or change direction. The saving grace is that while we were there we met two other power boaters; Sandy and Valt on Amber Isle (a 53’ Tolleycraft) and Sue and Greg on Fat Bottom Girl , a 47+ foot Endeavor power catamaran. In fact, the first of the “weather nights” we invited both couples over for drinks. The six of us got along so well that the second night we all went over to Fat Bottom Girl for heavy hors d’oeuvres, and the third night we went to Amber Isle for after dinner, drinks and dessert.

When we finally left Cambridge we moseyed up to Highbourne Cay. We downloaded the dinghy and went ashore to get some exercise (we had been pretty much stuck on the boat for the past several days at Cambridge) were going to have dinner at the local (excellent) restaurant the following night, but at the last minute decided that we should point the pointy end of the boat north and head for Nassau.

We are now in Nassau and have been for several days. We are waiting for Tim, Carrie, Caylin and Gavin to arrive on Friday afternoon. Depending on the weather (which looks pretty good right now), we’ll head down island for a couple of days, then return to the Marina at Atlantis. The Marina, of course, is located at the famous Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. It is pricey ($4+ per foot), but from what everyone tells it is a lot of fun – for 6o year olds as well as 6 year olds – and we are looking forward to it.

Immediately after the kids leave (on 17 April) we will start looking for a weather window to get across the Gulf Stream and back to Florida. We have been gone over four months and are looking forward to a Big Mac, a real mall and streets wide enough to both ride a bicycle and a car. We’ll probably write our next entry from somewhere around Palm Beach unless we get caught in the Bahamas waiting for the weather.
It has been a while since I have sat down at the computer to write my part of the blog. Michael has giving you a pretty good idea of what we have been up to.
Most systems seem to be working again, we had a head problem when Dave and Joan visited but that did not happen until they were almost ready to depart. We have since had it fixed in Nassau. So we are ready for Tim and family to arrive with all three heads working…well…sort of…they work well enough for the visit anyway.
The famous bananaquit. I didn't think its antics were quite
as cute as did other members of the crew!
While we were in Wardrick Wells, during Dave and Joan’s visit we had a very friendly Bananaquit flew into our salon and look around. They are a small chickadee size bird with beautiful yellow markings on their chest and crown on their heads. This bird took a liking to our boat and would visit several times a day, fly around inside the boat to look around, land on the chairs around our table or anywhere else his little wings would take him. After a few short conversations with him, he would fly away and return at his whim. You all know by now that I want to have a pet…this bird would be a fine pet and it would be free…but I did not want to take him away from his friends and besides I did not have a cage on hand.
Snorkeling  was fun and we saw some very colorful fish. Michael bought a small ladder for the dinghy that hangs over the side if the rather large pontoons . We can now get in and out of the dinghy to go snorkeling. I must say we all did some practice runs before actually leaving the safety of the big boat and the swim platform. It is not a pretty sight getting in and out of the dinghy , but it can be done, not at all gracefully but we are not looking for any extra points on how we look. I just want to get back into the damn dinghy!!!
I know we need to get this blog sent out today so I will stop typing.
Thanks for reading…
Traveling Soul…OUT