Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An intertim update

Chris here... I was posting this info on a message board and then realized it would make a good blog entry, so here ya go!

Yes, we made it to Nassau. There are two reasons we stopped here. First, my wife's parents wanted to visit and we wanted them to visit. The most cost effective and weather independent place, after Bimini (we really wanted to get out of there) to choose was Nassau. Second, the kids wanted to go to Atlantis - a hotel/casino/waterpark here in Nassau - if we have time.

Now that we're here, we realize how much it's not our cup of tea. We're on the eastern end of the island, and we've been told not to leave the marina (which is fully enclosed and locked with chain at night so nobody from the outside can enter) after dark. Apparently there is a lot of crime in the area, but it's where all the marinas on New Providence (i.e. not Paradise Island across the bridge) are, and the marina we're staying at is the cheapest in town at $1.75/ft + $8/day for water + $0.45/KWh for power. We had been told not to anchor in Nassau harbor as the currents are terrible and the wake from passing boats gets ridiculous. After being here for not even a day, I'm ready to move into the anchorage. That's not to say that the marina isn't nice, but it's expensive, doesn't have floating docks and it's a good 4 1/2 foot climb from the boat to the dock during low tide. The marina is incredibly rolly - we're constantly in motion from side to side, and the boat next to us is so close that at high tide we literally need bumpers between us. We decided to stay at a marina since Kristen's parents will be staying on the boat starting tomorrow.

Anyway... as I said, the ride over here was a good one. It was a little hairy figuring out the whole Northwest Channel thing. During the day it may be wide open, but at night all you have are charts showing exposed rock and coral head, and a quarter mile passage in between. When you are pointing at it from 70nm away and have to deal with set from the current, you get a little nervous as to whether you're lined up right - GPS or not. I'm fortunate as our autopilot is slaved to our GPS, so the two constantly feed each other information to account for drift, currents, etc. Regardless, we were still logging coordinates every 30 minutes and plotting our course on a paper chart, along with our magnetic heading, just in case we had a GPS failure. Night passages are interesting in shallow water. The longer way around, but deeper (north from Bimini and then around the Berry's and then down) would have added over 150nm to our trip, but everyone crosses the banks and the Explorer charts we use are the gold standard for the region. The waypoints I used were directly labeled on the charts and have been proven for many, many years. We made it through, but it was very nervewracking as we watched the depth meter move to 12ft at times, and we wondered if we were about to hit a shoal or coral head.

The trip across was nice though. We haven't gotten to sail a whole lot on this trip. Weather windows have been scarce, short, and the wind always seems to be on our nose. In this case we took the path less traveled by cruisers - around the north side of Bimini and across the banks - to account for wind direction. By taking this route, as opposed to going south to South Cat Cay and across the banks, we changed our heading by over 15 degrees and it gave us the ability to sail a close hauled course across. Because the winds were only 9-12, even being close hauled we were at a gentle heel, so it was very comfortable. The waves were light so I don't think we could ask for anything more. The temperature never went below 70, although the humidity must have been over 100% (everything was soaked by morning), so we were never really chilly.

For those who have never done anything other than daysails, I can tell you that one night passages suck. You don't sleep the night before trying to think of all of the details you may have forgotten for the next day (now we have an ever increasing in size checklist we follow pre-passage), so you're usually somewhat tired when you start the passage. Then your body isn't used to being out on the water, so your muscles are constantly compensating for the motion of sailing, tiring you out more. The first night of watches is exhausting. Your brain knows you are getting in the next day, so that's all you think about. Then your eyes start drooping, and it's all over. During the day you can pass the time with activities such as fishing, but at night, everything is about maintaining night vision and looking for other boats or marks. After 3-4 hours you are just exhausted. On a multi-day passage, your body gets used to being at sea and the rhythm of watches, so you are much more comfortable and rested, but this doesn't happen on a one night watch.

Let's see - what excitement did we have on our journey over... we did a bunch of fishing. We caught 4 or 5 barracuda on our hand line and threw them all back. One had to be close to 3ft long, but they may or may not contain a disease called Ciguatera (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciguatera) which can lead to a debilitating lifetime, incurable nervous system disorder. Yeah, we're into trying new things, but not if they have a major effect on our nervous system. We actually met a couple who contracted it years ago and are still dealing with it. We also ran some conch out on a spoon on my new trolling pole and caught some smaller, yet to be identified fish (I'll post pics shortly). Kristen made me throw them back since "you'll never eat them!" I promise I would have. I'm rather depressed about the whole thing. Wait - I'm over it now! We also lost a bunch of tackle. We had to respool our handline, and in doing so we had to retie the snaphook at the end of the line. Apparently, the knot wasn't quite right and we lost a bunch of leader, some ball bearing swivels and a big squid lure - about $75 in all. Oh well, it happens.

What else? We broke our BBQ. Apparently, Kristen was putting the propane regulator on it and twisted too hard, and the regulator broke. You try to find a regulator for a Magma grill while in the Bahamas. We called all around Nassau and nobody had one, so now we have to pay to import it - $58 in shipping plus a 45% customs fee. Moral of the story? Have spares for EVERYTHING before you leave the US. Our BBQ is critical since cooking with our stove generates so much heat on the inside of Pelican. Using our BBQ reduces our need to cool her.

We had a flying fish attack us. Sometime around 3am I awoke to Kristen laughing. "What's up?" I asked. "I was just sitting here and a flying fish came across the cockpit and landed on my feet! They stink!" I got some video of it flopping around our cockpit floor before Kristen grabbed a paper towel, scooped up the fish and threw it back from where it came.

We ended up arriving at the marina earlier than we were expected. As a result, we had to tie up in a temporary slip for a few hours. While in the slip, we met a family with kids the same age as ours. Wouldn't you know it? They were leaving in 30 minutes. They are heading to the Exumas too, so hopefully we'll have the opportunity to meet again.

All in all, though, we're pleased to be in Nassau. It will provide a great jumping off point to head to Norman Cay, our planned first stop in the Exumas chain. Kristen's parents will be here through Monday morning. While here, we hope to go out fishing one day, and stay for a night at the Atlantis Marina (normally it's $100 per adult and $80 per child to go to Atlantis, but if you stay in their marina at $4/ft, everyone on the boat gets complimentary access to the waterpark). We'll be looking for our first weather window after Monday to head out of here.

In the meantime, we'll get some pictures from our passage up and hopefully some video, and we'll be sure to report back about what being a big Bahamanian city is truly like. I'm hoping you can't judge a book by its cover.

We're in Nassau!

Chris here... I thought I'd put up a quick post. Kristen's parents are here, so we're going out in a few minutes. Anyway, we made it to Nassau. The passage was WONDERFUL - wind was around 10-12kts and at 35 degrees apparent (for those who don't know what this means, it means it was from the right direction) and the waves were 2 feet or under. It took us about 22 hours to make it here, and we kept a speed of about 5-6kts, under sail, almost the whole way. Last night from around 11pm until about 4am this morning we had to motor with the wind right on our nose, but we could sail the rest of the way, and it was beautiful, gentle, decently fast sailing. We actually had to slow down this morning so we wouldn't be here too early! We took lots of pictures, some video and have a few stories to tell, but they will have to wait for the next couple of days. We'll work on getting them up as fast as possible, but just know that we're safe, sound and happy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Heading to Nassau Tomorrow!

Chris here... The sun is setting on our two week stint in Bimini. While we've enjoyed beautiful sunsets, like the one above from tonight, great Bimini Bread, nice people and a laid back attitude, we're happy to be moving on and to be heading further east. While Nassau doesn't really completely match what we are hoping to experience here, it is a great opportunity to meet up with Kristen's parents who are flying in tomorrow.

Today was spent as all pre-passage days are - loading the dinghy (now with the lock removed), cleaning up the clutter inside in preparation for sailing, checking oil and coolant, plotting courses, checking equipment, etc. It was close to 90 degrees with 100% (or more) humidity, so it was lots of fun running around. I am soooooooo glad we got air conditioning on Pelican!

If you click on the above chart, you can see our planned path across the Grand Bahama Banks. Yes, the depths are all in feet. The wind is predicted (not from Chris Parker - we'll hear his forecast in the morning) to be around 10kts from the north, moving to east and then southeast on Tuesday. Because the wind will be moving toward our nose, we're probably going to sail through the night to try to reach Nassau on Tuesday morning. If the wind cooperates enough, I'm hoping to pull out our asymmetrical spinnaker (a huge colorful lightweight sail at the front of the boat). The only hairy part of the trip will be passing through the Northwest Channel during dark, but we've had numerous people tell us we should be OK. The channel is surrounded by rocks and shoals, half a mile to each side of the passage, so you have to be fairly accurate on your course.

Anyway, we'll be running the SPOT as usual, so feel free to follow along! The link is to the right under "tracking". We'll talk to you when we get to Nassau!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


We just saw that Jeanneau in the video come back in, although a 50' double masted modern schooner was on their way out getting slammed...

Nassau soon!

Chris here... Boy, what a wild week or so of weather! It's been blowing pretty hard here for many days and the waves have followed suit. I'm actually fairly glad we didn't head out on Thursday - the surf was pretty good, although not nearly like today. There are actually several boats in the marina today taking cover. I've included a video below showing what it is like today - with some footage toward the end of someone who decided to go anyway...

We're very excited to head to Nassau as Kristen's parents are flying in to meet us! The original plan had us going to Nassau earlier this week and they would meet us there, stay over at a hotel for a few days and then head home. Then, plans changed - we missed our window and Kristen's parents had some things they needed to take care of at home. Then we looked into how much it would cost to ship the items they were going to bring (random boat stuff) into Nassau, and found that it would cost the same to fly one of them here, so we offered to fly her Dad to Bimini and have him join us on the trip to Nassau. THEN they called back and said that they would BOTH fly down, meet us in Bimini on Monday evening, and sail to Nassau with us and stay on Pelican for a few days. Does it stop there? Nope! We listened to Chris Parker this morning and he highly recommended not crossing on Wednesday (we had planned to cross the banks Tue/Wed), so now the plan is to have her parents fly into Nassau, stay there at a hotel for Monday night, while we leave Monday at noonish or so and head all the way to Nassau, sailing overnight. Phew!!! How plans can change!!

So, at this point, subject to change, we'll be heading out Monday morning and will hopefully land at Nassau sometime on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm so glad we have a blog!

Chris here... Thank you to S. Kennedy, one of our blog followers! She reminded me that the lock was actually brass and that a bit of it was peeking over the top. I grabbed our hacksaw, sawed through it like butter, and it's off! I kept staring at everything that said "hardened steel", and Kristen kept saying that there wasn't enough to saw, but apparently there was, and we're all good! So now we'll wait for the NEXT window on Monday and head to Nassau. Yippee!!!!

A couple of pics

Here is what we're trying to remove...

No Joy Yet

Chris here... Well, we still haven't gotten the dinghy engine unlocked yet. We ripped apart the boat and searched EVERYWHERE, including the inside of the vacuum cleaner, and we just can't find the keys. We're going to dive under the boat later when the sun is more overhead and we can see - maybe the keys fell in the water and are still magically right under Pelican.

In the meantime, I've found that there are no locksmiths in Bimini. The closest ones are in Miami and Nassau, but we can't get there. There are a bunch of SSB Nets here in the Bahamas. For those of you unfamiliar with SSB's or SSB nets, our SSB is like a HAM radio, and nets are scheduled times when groups of people get together to talk over them. The nets have a "controller" who manages the communications to make sure everyone isn't talking over everyone else. The nice thing about SSB's is that you can communicate over far distances with them. The other day I was talking to a friend in the Spanish Virgin Islands (about 1,000nm south of here) over the SSB, and we consistently hear people from the central US and as far away as Mexico. Our weather comes to us over Chris Parker's SSB Weather Net.

One of the southeastern US, Bahamas and Caribbean specific nets is called the Cruiseheimer's Net and it starts at 8:30am, right after we listen to the weather. Boats from all around the listening area can "check in", letting everyone know where they are or where they are going. In addition, it provides a scheduled opportunity for one boat to reach out to another, allows people to announce regional, national or global news, and allows people to ask questions about what to do when they have an issue. Today I asked if anyone had any idea on how to remove the lock from our dinghy and got several good ideas and a few interesting ones. One of the ideas was to tow the dinghy in reverse, raising the engine out of the water. Another idea was to put the dinghy on the mailboat to Nassau and meet it there. Someone else suggested finding liquid nitrogen and freezing the lock. To their credit, they also suggested freon, which is a bit more available here than liquid nitrogen. Anyway, the point is that it's really cool to be able to reach out to the cruising community to ask a question and get so many responses from people you don't know.

I also posted the question as to what to do on Sailnet, an Internet message board I frequent. I enjoyed one suggestion to call AAA and a locksmith. Unfortunately, I don't think the closest AAA office in Miami will send someone across the Gulf Stream. Regardless, I do appreciate everyone's ideas!

So, we're going to wait until 1-2 when the sun will be from the appropriate direction to see underwater, and then we'll dive to see if we can find the keys. If that fails, they have a sawzall at the maintenance shop here at Bimini Sands, and we're going to try to cut the bar off the dinghy while being careful not to burn the dinghy fabric from the sparks.

Perhaps we're, yet again, getting a sign from someone about heading across the banks. Listening to Chris Parker this morning he said that the wind would be on our nose at 15-20kts and the waves would be 4-5ft right on our nose. He suggested not crossing Thursday as it would be miserable. We would have probably done it anyway - we can handle uncomfortable, but we shy away from unsafe. Anyway, the wind is supposed to abate on Sunday afternoon and be down to 10kts or under on Monday, so even if we can't get this lock off before then we should still be able to head to Nassau in calmer seas and towing the dink. We'll let y'all know how it goes later today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


UPDATE: Well, I haven't even posted this blog entry yet and I already have an update. When we put our engine on our dinghy, we lock it using a special outboard engine lock (click here). Well, we put the lock on the dinghy a week and a half ago, and now we can't find the key. As a result, we can't take the engine off, and we can't tow the dinghy with the engine on. We've searched EVERYWHERE. We have to wait until tomorrow to check the lost and found, and if we can't get out of the harbor by 9-9:30, we're stuck here for another day, which means that we don't make South Cat Cay, which means that we may not be heading across the banks on Thursday. Arghhh! Lesson learned? Make sure you keep all of your spare keys in one place, and make sure you have spares. Hopefully someone found the keys and turned them in.

Chris here... We're going to try to get out of here. There's a window on Thursday and Friday, if you want to call it such. Chris Parker, yesterday, said that the wind would be ESE at 12-17kts on Thursday and Friday, with waves of 3-5 feet across the banks and maybe 6ft on the Northwest Channel/Passage to Nassau. I was looking at his e-mail weather report today, and it shows a sea state of 8-9' for the Abacos, going to 10' going into Friday. His report shows slightly smaller seas for the central Bahamas. I have to find out which is right, so we're going to listen to his 6:30am broadcast tomorrow morning to find out. It's nice having someone watching out for the weather for you, but it's also good to learn how to read it yourself.

If all goes well, tomorrow we head to South Cat Cay at around 8am to take advantage of high tide out of the marina, and then on Thursday morning we'll head across the banks. It's about a 58nm trip across the banks, and we're not sure if we're going to continue through the night to Nassau (another 50nm or so) or try anchoring on the banks (with the waves - yuck) and continuing in the morning. The weather and waves will pretty much dictate what we do. The worst area is supposed to be when we cross from the banks into the Tongue of the Ocean - the very deep area (over 10,000ft deep in parts) that is surrounded by the banks and the other Bahamian islands. Where the banks and the Tongue of the Ocean meet there are a lot of confused currents, confused seas and confused winds. This can make for some pretty big waves. Can you tell I'm a bit apprehensive? With the forecast, it will be interesting (yeah, that's the word) to see what it's like.

Once we get to Nassau, we'll probably be staying at the Nassau Harbor Club (the harbor is full of big ships, big currents and the bottom is pretty much scoured clean - you CAN anchor there, but we've been heavily warned), or maybe the Paradise Island Harbour Club. Kristen's parents MAY join us for a few days depending on the availability of decently clean and decently priced hotels. I was looking at hotel pricing and it jumps from like $80-$120 all the way to $300+ a night, with nothing in between. There are interesting reviews of some of the cheaper places (this one for example - click here). If Kristen's parents come down, we'll probably look at staying at the Paradise Island Harbour Club since it has decent reviews, a decent price, MIGHT have availability and has a marina for us, plus a free water taxi that will take you to downtown Nassau.

We're only going to stay in Nassau as long as Kristen's parents are around. I need to check into pricing at Atlantis (check Atlantis out) because we thought it might be nice for the kids for one day. The last I checked, it was $4-$5 per foot plus water plus a significant electric charge. My guess is we'll probably skip it - our checkbook is getting very light with all of the marinas we've been staying at.

After Nassau, we'll probably be heading for Normans Cay towards the northern end of the Exumas and then onwards south as far as we can before we have to head back.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Twilight Zone, and Pics

Chris here.. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone today. A few days ago I was reading a blog entry about a boat that had their refrigeration fail and lost their entire 50lb meat stash from their freezer. Then we figured out that a lot of the interference on our SSB radio was due to our refrigerator compressor motor so we'll have to turn off the fridge when we need to use the SSB. I mentioned that I didn't like to do that, and when Casey asked why I explained that I am always afraid it won't turn back on again. This afternoon, I noticed the refrigerator and freezer temperature had gone up quite a bit (fridge at 48F and freezer at 39F), and yes - when I checked it - the motor wasn't running. Great! And no manatees this time to share foul language with! We ripped apart the condo, tried to pull apart the unit and just couldn't get it to go. I called up SeaFrost and asked for help (we're calling from the Bahamas and we have 70lbs of meat in the freezer! Help!). Their first question - when you turn the thermostat, does it click? I turned the thermostat and all of a sudden Kristen yelled that the unit was on! The tech support dude had no clue why it went off in the first place, but we both decided that the fact that it was running was a good thing. I can't believe I was just talking about how bad it would be if this happened less than 24 hours before it actually DID happen! Weird...

Anyway... here are a few pics. I know the underwater ones aren't overly thrilling, but we have one of those waterproof Olympus 1030SW digicams and we just had to try it! Hopefully we'll find some water with more life as we progress towards the Exumas.

A picture of paradise, looking towards Miami 55 miles away

Pelican at Bimini Sands

Our neighbors from Averill Park on New Moon. You can see how empty the marina is.

And we thought it was tight for US to get through the channel!

This is pretty much how everything gets to Bimini.

Here's the Sapora, a wrecked rumrunner now turned into a snorkel spot.

Inside the Sapora

Also inside the Sapora

Again, inside the Sapora

On the seafloor next to the Sapora

The water is so clear!

Here's why you need chain on the end of a Danforth anchor. This is our dinghy anchor, and as you can see it's completely unset. The chain holds the shank down low and allows it to set. We don't have any chain, and even with 60ft of rode out in 10 feet of water, it still won't set.

Casey snorkeling.

Kaitlin snorkeling.

This had to be the cutest hermit crab! These guys are all over the island.

As are these guys - all over Florida, all over Bimini, and they just get bigger from here!

Weather Update

Chris here... The wind and seas are supposed to stay big for at least a couple of more days - tomorrow and Wednesday winds will be mid 20kts with waves 6-8ft. They are supposed to decrease somewhat on Thursday and Friday, so I think those will be the days we'll be making a run for Nassau. The run from Bimini to Northwest Channel will be 60-70nm (depending on whether we leave from the northern tip of Bimini or head down to South Cat Cay first), and then there will be another 40-50 miles to Nassau. We'll go all night just to make sure we get in before the wind hits again on Saturday.

We're still trying to coordinate a get together with Kristen's parents, and we don't know whether that will occur in Nassau or somewhere else. Everyone would prefer somewhere else, but the only other place would be Georgetown and we have no idea how long it will take us to get down there with all of the stops in between. Anyway, I'll try to get some pics up today along with some comments on the nature walk we went on yesterday and the "Kid's Club" the kids went to on Saturday.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Where there's a spare wire, there's a way

Chris here... I love fixing things in exotic places. That is the definition of cruising, right? Actually, I love fixing things in exotic places when they are easy to fix. Hard to fix... not so much.

In this case, I didn't know if I had an easy or hard to fix problem. A couple of days ago after the power went out I noticed on our battery monitor that our start battery was only charging to 12.65v It should have been above 13v while on shore power. I put off looking until today. Who wants to work when you can explore?

I opened up our condo (not an easy feat... pull up the companionway stairs, move the toolkit, move the miscellaneous tool bags, move the broom, move the gaff, move the 22 other things we store behind the stairs, open the door to the condo, pull out the spare life jackets, pull out the large storage container, pull out the... I think you get the idea). Actually, getting access to the area is half the reason I put off work back there!

I put the multimeter on the start battery just to confirm that it was only at 12.65v. Houston, we have confirmation. By the way - a GOOD multimeter with a digital display, continuity tester, DC testing to 20v, AC testing of some sort and resistance testing is absolutely critical. There's a model that has clamps that you can touch to a cable and it will measure the current without disconnecting the wires, and the clamp can double to hold the unit steady when you need to get into a weird place (click here to see the unit). I wish I had one! I've seen a few people with them and they are soooo handy! I do have a good multimeter though, and I've used it a million times to track down electrical gremlins. I should have a spare.

Anyway, I took a look at the cables connecting to the battery. One cable to the generator. One cable to the engine. One cable to a battery selector. Ummmm... where's the cable to the charger? I do believe I found the issue. OK - the first step is figuring out what the problem is. The second step is figuring out how to fix it. I looked at the new charger - no wire coming out of the echo charger port (the echo charger is the smaller charger that is built in to the bigger unit specifically to charge a second, smaller battery bank such as a start battery). I seem to be on a roll! Now why isn't anything connected there? The old charger worked - we just transferred all the wires to the new one.

OK... no small wires connected to the top of the battery that may have lead to the old charger. There is a small wire on the battery selection switch. That must have been it. Let's pull MORE stuff out of the condo. Hmmm... what's this 10 gauge wire with tape on its end sitting on the floor? I seem to recall someone asking why there's a loose wire on the floor when we first installed the new charger. Once again, get out the multimeter. Put it to continuity mode. Touch the selection switch, touch the other end of the small wire. Beep! Beep! Beep!

From here, it was just a simple matter of screwing the spare wire onto the terminal on the new charger. I looked at the battery monitor, which is another critical item to have when cruising - our batteries are essential to ensure we have refrigeration for our 70lbs of meat, to power our SSB so we can get weather and make emergency calls, and to run pretty much every other piece of electrical equipment on the boat when we're not connected to shore power. Having a good battery monitor that shows you the voltage and active usage is critical. Anyway, the monitor was now showing 13.2v - perfect!

Anyway, the moral of the story? If you see a loose cable and you don't know where it goes, figure it out!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Piccolo Pete, Charlie's Bread, and my new friend Jameson

Kristen here – Never trust what you read. The guidebook said that the residents of North Bimini were unfriendly which is absolutely untrue! It was a bit of culture shock for all of us. Yesterday we went to North Bimini on the dinghy. We motored the whole length of the island in very bumpy and wet seas, unable to find the dinghy dock. We stopped at a random dock to ask directions. A very nice man told us exactly where to go. We found the spot, which turned out to be a beach at the opposite end of the island. There were a bunch of men sitting on benches who saw the confusion on our faces when we couldn’t find something to tie the dinghy up to. They told us to tie up to a sign at the top of the beach. Our immediate reaction was that we should lock everything up tight because they would probably try to take something. But you can’t let that stop you from enjoying a new place. You have to have faith, so off we went.

We hurried through Alice Town and headed straight for BatelCo. Chris wanted to check on the price and coverage of cell phones in the Bahamas. As we were walking, a man sitting on some stairs, outside a place called Precious d’Paris jumped up and introduced himself to us. “I’m Piccolo Pete you know!” he said. “I’m famous around here”. Again, our immediate reaction was one of disbelief. When is he going to ask us for money, I thought to myself. He was a quite lively fellow. I’m still getting used to the Bahamian accent, so we had a bit of trouble understanding him. He asked us how old we thought he was. We didn’t want to be rude, so ventured a guess in the 70’s. Then he said that he was 95 years old. We couldn’t believe it! He told us that he owns the Precious d’Paris and does a show there. Then he started singing his own version of God Bless America, and dancing to it as well. We were still having trouble understanding most of his singing and wanted to get to BatelCo before it closed, so we excused ourselves and thanked him for the chat.

When we got back to the boat later, we Googled Piccolo Pete, and to our surprise he was telling no lies. He really IS famous! As it turns out, he was a fishing guide, and friends with Hemmingway, and was the inspiration for much of The Old Man and The Sea. He is a jazz singer as well. That’s it, we’ve got to shake our old ways. Everyone is not out to get us or steal our stuff or ask us for money!

After Piccolo Pete we went on to BatelCo. The lady there was very nice as well. After she answered all of our cell phone questions, we asked how to get to Charlie’s Bread. The woman at the market down the street from the marina had told us that Charlie had the true Bimini Bread. After getting directions, we headed off. We found a house with a sign on it saying Charlie’s Bread. When I went up the broken concrete stairs and peered in, I could see a regular living room. “I must be in the wrong place”, I thought. This is a house, not a bread store. So, we went to the building next door, which was a market. The man there said that Charlie was home and we should just knock on his door. Reassured that we had the right place, I went back up the broken concrete stairs and knocked on the door. Charlie and a very bright eyed and giggly little pigtailed girl answered the door. “Do you have any bread today?” I asked. “Sure, how many do you want?” he replied. I said we wanted two, and he went off to get it while the little girl tried to escape. I assured him that we would keep her from running out the door. She was just the cutest thing ever! She kept giggling and running at us and then running back to a chair. Charlie came back with two loaves and we paid and said thank you.

Once again, it was not what we were expecting. At home you can’t sell bread out of your front door. Apparently in the Bahamas you can. And let me tell you, it’s really good bread! It’s light and fluffy white bread with just a hint of sweetness. Tomorrow I’m going to make some French toast out of it! YUM!

On the way back from Charlie’s we stopped in a couple of shops to find a keychain for Kaitlin’s collection. The stores were a bit of a shock as well. They were all very small and crowded with random stuff. Souvenirs and clothing, beauty products and groceries were all sold in the same shop. Nothing was fresh or new. Several of the keychains we looked at had rusty rings on them. Soda wasn’t presented in a glass display case. The three soda choices available were located in a small college fridge in the back of the store.

A little further down the road, a man with a bag of lobster tails stopped us and told us he’d seen us before. He said when he met us before, he was going to show us where to find lobster. We had no recollection of any such encounter. He then asked if we wanted to buy his bag of tails. We told him no thanks. “Only $50”, he said. I looked at the clear plastic bag of tails with a bit of pink liquid sitting in the corner and contemplated taking him up on the offer. We said no thanks, we would be catching our own the next day. Then a local walked buy and he told him $60 for the tails. Darn, I thought, I should have at least asked to smell them, and then bargained him down. There were at least 6 or 7 large tails in that bag!

When we finally arrived at the dinghy, everything was still there. The kids said they were glad to be going back to the boat. Alice Town made them uneasy. I explained to them that the people here relied on tourism for a source of income. The Bahamians are going to do everything they can to make sure we have a pleasant experience, and encourage more people to come to their island. It made sense, but I wasn’t entirely sure of my statement.

Tonight at dinner, I was proven correct by a resident. We explained to our waitress that we weren’t used to such friendliness as we have experienced in Bimini. She told us that she was raised to be nice to the tourists because they were the ones who supported the economy, put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. It was somehow reassuring and sad at the same time to hear that. It was nice to know that the people we had met were being genuine. But at the same time, they were only being nice because we were tourists. When we walk down the street we stick out like a sore thumb. There are only a handful of people here, so just about every native recognizes you. For instance, tonight the shuttle driver said he remembered seeing us drive out of the marina on the dinghy when he was driving the pontoon supply boat into the marina. It’s a small town!

I met another interesting fellow this morning while I was doing some exercises on the beach. As I was lost in my stretches, a young man came up and said hello. He explained that he would be raking the beach, and I didn’t need to move. After a couple of minutes, he came up and introduced himself. His name was Jameson. He asked where I was staying and how long I was staying for. After hearing my answer he seemed a bit sad. He explained that everyone he meets leaves and never comes back. Or if they do come back, they don’t remember him. I told him he was lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and he would have to expect such things from tourists. I also said that I would try to remember his name, and say hi if we ever came back to Bimini. So if any of you come to Bimini, be sure to ask for Jameson, and tell him Kristen from Pelican sent you!

Today we tried our hand at lobstering. Well, I should say tried our hand at finding lobster. We dinghied out to the Bahama Banks and looked for ledges of grass. Everyone has said that is where they hang out. We tried about three different locations with no luck. We saw starfish, colorful tropical fish, a baby stingray hiding under some old discarded boat batteries, something that looked like a long legged spider, but no lobsters. I hear that once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to find them. Hopefully that time comes soon!

To add to the hurt, a new boat pulled into the marina this evening. We invited them to eat dinner with us, but they declined because they were about to eat the 6 lobsters caught earlier that day!! Sure, rub it in why don’t ya! As it turns out they were from Averill Park, NY (a city right next door to our hometown of East Greenbush). They have been cruising 6 months out of the year since 1972. Tomorrow we will go pump them for Bahamas and lobstering knowledge. One of these days I’ll get my free lobster!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We decided to stay put

After much discussion today, we decided to stay in Bimini until the front passes. It will be tough to be sitting here tomorrow and Saturday, watching the calm winds and clear seas, and knowing we could have been out on them. Our primary concern was the fact that should we break down or if the front moves faster and is here by Saturday morning, we would have been in for a wild ride. If it was just Kristen and I, we probably would have gone.

Some of the decisions we make are based on the fact that we have kids aboard. One of my recurring nightmares after we made the decision to cruise was that we would be hit by deadly weather and I'd be asking myself "Did I just kill my family?" Kristen keeps telling me that we made the decision to cruise as husband and wife, and that she wanted to do this as badly as I did, but I'm always wondering, in the back of my mind, how selfish am I to put my family at risk like this? We've made many investments in safety (for those of you that don't know what all of these are, they should all be google-able) - liferaft, 3 EPIRBs (don't ask), SPOT, satellite phone, redundant GPS's, paper charts, jacklines, this blog with information as to our destination (aka floatplan), etc. Regardless, I'm somewhat protective of my family for some reason, and, even though Kristen doesn't always think I do this, I tend to err on the side of caution.

Our path across the banks - 61 miles of nothing but shallow water

In this case, we would have been butting up against some nasty weather. We would have left Gun Cay tomorrow morning early, taken the whole day to cross the Great Bahama Banks, passed through the Northwest Channel in the late evening, and then sailed through the night to get to Nassau sometime on Saturday morning. There is NO place to hide when crossing the banks, and once you've crossed you can really only anchor around Chub Cay (yes, the kids went crazy when they saw there was a Chub Cay). Chub Cay is supposed to be a pretty rolly anchorage, and if the weather detiorated early, we'd be stuck there for 4-5 days.

So, we've decided to take the cautious route and leave Bimini when the weeekend weather is gone, hopefully by Wednesday of next week. In the meantime, we took the opportunity to visit Alice Town on Bimini today (more on that later), and we'll hopefully find some activities to do between now and when we leave.

Thinking of The Clash

Chris here... I have "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" from The Clash running through my head. Just the song title - not the whole song. We're having a very, very tough time making a decision today. It's past the middle of March, and we're sitting in Bimini. I was listening to the cruising nets on the SSB this morning listening to all of the boats heading back to the US. Starting Saturday, early afternoon, the weather is supposed to deteriorate with strong winds and large waves (25kt+ winds and 8-10' waves) coming through the entire Bahamas region. The decision? Do we leave Bimini this afternoon, anchor off of Gun Cay, head across the Bahama Banks tomorrow all day and all night to get to Nassau, so that we'll be fairly close to the Exumas for when the weather gets better. Or, do we stay in Bimini for a week or more until the weather clears, and then head across.

One side of me says that heading to Nassau now is a symptom of "Get-There-itis", a very bad and dehabilitating disease. We'd be butting up against bad weather, which, if we have a breakdown or it moves in faster, could be a bad thing. On the other hand, our weather guy was pretty sure about Friday and Saturday being OK (5kts Friday morning, to 10-15 in the afternoon, to 15-16 on Saturday morning) and it would be nice to be positioned in a spot that we could just head to the Exumas from as soon as the weather clears. I'm just concerned about it being mid-April before we actually get to the Exumas, and then having to make a decision on when to head out of the hurricane belt as soon as we get there.

Anyway, between the squalls coming through here (we didn't get hit bad, but I understand there were 50-70kt winds in the Abacos north of here) and trying to make this decision, it has put me in a bit of a mood. I know what the safe and prudent thing to do is, but it is supposed to be safe to cross the banks too... Arghhh!!! I just can't make up my mind.

To top it all off, I'm really getting frustrated at our SSB radio. We need it to communicate with our weather guy. We can hear transmissions just fine, but nobody can hear us. There are a million things that can cause the problem, and that's the problem. What do we try to fix? We've already re-crimped the antenna cable to the antenna tuner and shortened the cable, but that hasn't solved the issue. We need to climb up the backstay and check the connection of the cable to the backstay next. If that doesn't solve it, trying to figure out what the problem is will be VERY difficult.

It just makes for a frustrating day. Oh well. We'll figure it out and let y'all know.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

Well, we have arrived in the Bahamas at the start of the rainy season. When I say start, I mean start. It started raining HARD around midnight and it has barely stopped since. According to our weather forecaster, it's the first precipitation event to hit this region for a very long time. Oh yes - the power went out at the marina too. When the rain first hit last night, we remembered that we left a bunch of stuff on deck, so we ran up to put it away. Simultaneous with that, as we pulled the hatch open, there were a bunch of blue and white flashes in the close area, then the flickers of all of the lights at all the buildings surrounding the marina, and then nothing. And then flickers again. And then nothing. And then flickers again. I realized I should probably disconnect us from shore power before we fried something on board. Oh yes, and the leaks. We found several new ones. Fortunately, they all seem to be coming from hatches (so far, knock on wood). They are always in the most convenient of places - right above the V-Berth, right above the galley, etc. We bought extra weather stripping in the US before we left. Hopefully we have enough. We have about 5 hatches to do.

So, today, we're just gonna hunker down in Pelican, make some corned beef hash for breakfast with our leftovers from last night, and do some school and rainy day activities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Snorkeling for the first time

Kristen here - After the wonderful shark sighting yesterday, I stayed up until 3AM last night researching sharks and how to avoid them. Every time I felt sleepy, images of shark attacks came rushing through my head. So I armed myself with information. As it turns out there are very few species of shark that attack unprovoked. They also only feed from dusk till dawn. Most websites just said don't snorkel at night and don't provoke a shark. Duh! Who would provoke a shark?

This morning I woke up at 9AM and went for a run around the island. I found a nature trail and a shark research center. Oh good, another reminder. The nature trail was really nice and had lots of informative markers. I will have to bring the kids through that later. When I got back to the boat, we gathered laundry together and started 2 loads while I took my shower. In order to conserve laundry and water, I've taken to showering while stomping on my running clothes. I lather up my hair with shampoo while still in my running clothes. Then I take them off and stomp on them while conditioning my hair. They actually come out smelling better than when they've gone through the wash!

When the laundry was finally done, it was around 3:00. That would put us in snorkeling territory at 3:30 to 4:00. Hmmm....I think I'm still a bit nervous. 4:00 seems a bit close to dusk to me. The kids were excited, and a bit nervous as well, but I didn't want my feelings to rub off on them. It was also an unusually calm day with no swell to push us around. The next couple of days are suposed to be wavy, so today could be our only chance to snorkel for a while. I knew in my heart that my fears were irrational and unfounded, so I decided to conquer them right away. We all piled into the dinghy and headed for the back side of the island, where a local told us there was some good snorkeling. We motored around a bit and saw nothing but a flat grassy bottom. Certainly nothing that looked like an ideal snorkeling spot. Off in the distance we could see the wreck of the sapona standing out of the water. We had researched that spot and knew it was favorable. We also saw another sailboat anchored next to it. Nothing seemed to be eating them, so we all decided to go there.

On the dinghy ride to the sapona, we saw huge starfish, empty conch shells discarded by the conch fishermen, odd looking round things with black dots on top of them, no 14 foot man eating sharks, and a few fish. When we arrived at the sapona, the sailboat people were just swimming back to their boat and pulling up anchor. The sun was still mostly overhead, so we all donned or snorkel gear and hopped into the water. Ok, Chris went first and then we all followed. After working out some kinks and learning how to breathe with a snorkel, we all swam up to the wreck. It was really amazing. There were many schools of colorful fish inside and around the wreck. A school of needle nose gar swam at the surface. There were also a lot of clear colored, very hard to see jellyfish in the water. You could tell when you bumped into one because it felt like a mosquito bite. Casey got hit first, and then we all got hit. After a while we got used to it, and just brushed them away or delt with the sting. After watching the fish and coral for 1/2 hour or so, the shadows started creeping in, and I started getting nervous again. Chris agreed that it was time to go. If there is another calm day, we will surely be back to check out more of the sapona.

On the way back, I patted myself on the back for conquering my fear. Adventure doesn't come to those who don't venture. I'm sure my fear will be there next time, and it's good to be careful, but I won't let irrationality keep me from enjoyment.

We sped back to the marina and watched the fish, coral, grass and sand pass beneath us. I am mezmorized by watching the sea floor pass by. When we were in Lake Champlain, one of my favorite activities was to lean over the front of the dinghy and watch the bottom while Casey drove. Here you don't even have to lean over, you can see straight to the bottom when you are just sitting on the edge of the dinghy! Its amazing!

Oh! Happy St. Patricks day to everyone! We had the traditional corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight. Thank goodness I remembered to buy some before we left Florida. There is even some left over for sandwiches and hash tomorrow. Yum!

The weather is supposed to turn nasty with swell building to 9-10 feet on Saturday. It looks like we are going to hang out here until after then. We can't cross the Grand Bahama Banks with it's 10-15 foot depths in 10 foot swell! We would be bumping across the bottom the whole way! So tomorrow we are going to check out the nature trail, the shark center and go geocaching. Yes there are even geocaches in South Bimini! We also still have to check out Alice Town in North Bimini.

Ta ta for now!

A couple of comments on what we've found so far...

Chris here... We're staying at the Bimini Sands Resort and Marina. Dockage is $1.10/night, which apparently is slightly on the high side, but the facility is brand new with security guards, floating concrete docks, clean areas, new buildings, laundry ($3 per load, washer or dryer), restaurants and apparently room service to your boat (no, we haven't tried that). The place is empty. Apparently it will fill up on three day weekends or holidays, but other than that it stays fairly empty. The facility has free wireless, and it works well with the Skype service we've bought ($2.99/month for unlimited calls into the US). I'll recommend it as one of the better facilities we've stayed at along our trip. Yes, I know we're not following the traditional cruising path of anchoring out all the time, but we enjoy the comfort of being tied up to a dock and the good sleep that tends to go with it. We can afford it for now, and the places we've visited thus far have good facilities, but I know we should relish in them while we still have the opportunity. Oh yes - it's also quiet (while there is nobody here). It's a very short dinghy ride (5-10 minutes) to Alice Town, and access to snorkeling via dinghy is easy. We don't have to worry about our dinghy either since there's security 24x7. Our Verizon cell phone works here, but it's $2/minute to use. The restaurant wasn't as expensive as we'd expected - most entree's were between $12-$20, and appetizers were $5-$10. I think we pay the same price at Red Lobster. I know things will change as we move farther in, but I thought I'd report on our initial entry point.

By the way - the whole aspect of leaving to cross the Gulf Stream to get to Bimini from as far south as possible? Totally true. If I could have started 20 miles farther south than Key Biscayne, I would have. The winds are almost never from true south, and with the current pushing you north, you have to be very far south to have a good angle to sail over. We ended up just north of Bimini, even while pinching at 20 degrees off the apparent wind. The course we should have sailed would have put us 5-10 degrees off the wind and we would have had to take our sails down or have them flog themselves to death. We ended up doing just that - taking our sails down - for the last 5 miles of the trip so we could turn south and actually make landfall. So the lesson to be learned? If you want to get to Bimini, the gateway to the Exumas, go south, young man, go south.

Pics that go with the last blog entry

Kristen forgot to wait for me to include the pictures in the post, so here they are. For several of them you'll need to click on them to see the details.

This is "The Sandbar" where hundreds of boats congregate every weekend to drink and party. Unfortunately, this is about as close as we got.

Here's Melissa who was super nice to us while in Key Biscayne. We had a lot of fun hanging out with her in No Name!

At 7am-ish we slipped out of No Name and left the US behind us.

You can probably just make out the "LAST" at the top of our depth reading. From here on out we were in water from 500' to 3000' deep.

Land Ho! Click on the picture and you can just make out Bimini in the background.

The water color started changing as we closed in.

Here we are playing follow the leader. If you click on the picture, you can see Kristen and Casey ahead of us in the dinghy sounding out the channel to Bimini Sands. It's all the way to the left of the leftmost rock formation. It turned out that we had 7' of water (and could have had a little more) at high tide, so we were fine.

Here we are filling out the pile of customs and immigrations forms. Some of the questions were funny. They provided us with all of the forms at the Marina and then I took a 3 mile van ride ($8 round trip, and they waited for me) to the airport to check in.

Check out some of the questions (click on the picture to enlarge). I think these forms are more meant for larger vessels.

And here we are in our slip at Bimini Sands. The place is empty! It's one of the cheapest places to stay in Bimini ($1.10/ft/night), although you have to dinghy over or take the water taxi to North Bimini where Alice Town is.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We're Here!

Chris here... We made it to the Bahamas!!!! Yippeee!!!! Three months to get here, but we did it, and it feels like quite an accomplishment.

On Friday we met a couple of people who had boats at the marina we were staying at. The two of them spent a bunch of time with us going over the Bahama charts and telling us about the different places to visit. We've been taking every opportunity possible to chat with as many people as possible to find at as much as we can about where to visit.

On Saturday we hooked up with a wonderful person, Melissa, that I had met on a sailing message board. Melissa lent me her car (a Miata - I must have looked funny getting into and out of that thing!) while Kristen worked with her to try to replace a spinnaker halyard on her boat. I'll let Kristen tell you more about that, but she had the opportunity to use our new Topclimber contraption to climb to the top of Melissa's mast.

While Kristen was scaling steep cliffs, I headed over to West Marine and the grocery store to get some final items before we left the US. With the import duties into the Bahamas, prices on goods are often much, much higher. As I went from aisle to aisle at West, I remembered that we were missing items like replacement bulbs for our navigation lights, a stern light for our dinghy, a spare circuit breaker for our power system and other stuff. Yeah, that bill wasn't cheap. I then headed over to the Winn-Dixie on Key Biscayne. Kristen gave me a list of stuff to buy which included a lot of fresh vegetables and various other items that would be difficult to find in the Bahamas. By now it was almost 1pm and we still had to leave the marina in Key Biscayne and head to No Name.

I brought the two seater Miata back to Melissa's marina (Thank you soooo much!!!) and picked up Kristen. I figured I'd pick her up first so that she could unpack the bags while I returned the car to Melissa. Being a two seater, it takes two trips. It sure was nice to drive a stick shift though - I've missed my little sports car (don't feel too sorry for me). Anyway, I dropped Kristen off at our marina with our stuff, drove back to Melissa's marina again and then she drove me back to our marina. Lotsa lotsa driving :). Kristen had gotten Pelican pretty close to ready by the time I arrived, so a few minutes later we were able to untie our dock lines and head out.

We wanted to move to No Name Harbor so that we could shave an hour or more off of our trip. No Name Harbor is closer to the ocean, and since the trip to Bimini is a long day already, it's nice to shorten it as much as possible. Our motor to No Name was uneventful - no groundings or crashes. We passed an area called the sandbar where hundreds of power boats were anchored (one raft must have had over 30 boats), intertwined with roving police boats and fireboats. There were more women in bikinis there than I've ever seen in my life! Alas, when I slowed down and feigned engine trouble, Kristen saw right through me, so back on the throttle I went and we continued our short hop (6-7 miles or so) to No Name.

Our arrival at No Name was heralded by flashing lights and lots of fanfare. Actually, it wasn't for us - it appeared as if the wall at No Name had been set up as a staging area for processing offenders at the Sandbar. There was a huge mobile police command center on land, along with 2-3 parked ambulances, about 10 cop cars, and boats rafted 5 deep being searched by officers.

Unfortunately, what was also at No Name was a very full anchorage with a mix of sailboats waiting to cross to the Bahamas, other cruisers, power boats - large and small, and lots and lots of noise. We picked a spot between a 50 foot catamaran and an older Islander sailboat and dropped the hook. We let the anchor chain pay out, set the anchor (for those of you not familiar with anchoring - you put your anchor line out to a calculated length, let it sit for 5 minutes to "settle", and then go hard in reverse for 30 seconds - this both digs in the anchor and lets you test its holding) and then realized that we were only 10 feet from the bow of the boat in back of us. There really weren't any other places that were better to anchor, so we sat around waiting for a few of the smaller powerboats to leave.

An hour or so later, a few did, so we circled around and dropped the hook closer to the harbor entrance. When we set the anchor, we found that we were basically just dragging it backwards - it wouldn't set. We later found out that the bottom is mostly rock with a thin layer of sand, so it's best to set a fortress anchor off of the front of whatever other anchor you set in order to catch a crevice. Anyway, four resets later (maybe the last one was just so I could try to convince Kristen to get an electric windlass) we were anchored back in our original spot, this time much closer to the catamaran than the Islander. I also didn't set the anchor, I just dropped it and then paid out the rode. On top of that, because of how tight the quarters are, we didn't put out the recommended amount of anchor rode - for those in the know, we were at three to one - maximum. It gets better though...

Melissa decided to join us in No Name. She doesn't have a dinghy, and we didn't feel like launching ours since we'd just have to spend a lot of time putting it away again a few hours later, so she rafted up to us. Rafting is when someone ties their boat to yours with bumpers between you. She didn't set an anchor - she rode off of ours. So here we were, a catamaran 15 feet off of our bow, another sailboat 25 feet off our stern, poor holding, unset anchor, short rode AND another sailboat, 36ft in length, tied up to us! Kids, don't try this at home. I figured we were leaving the next day though. We had a nice dinner, hung out for a few hours and socialized (great excuse NOT to prep for passage), and then hurried to get the boat ready for the next day.

I tried to sleep that night - I really did - but all I could think about was how close we were to the Catamaran and I continued to wonder if the anchor would hold. I think it was around my 200th time of looking out the hatch to see our position - some time around 3:30am - that Kristen finally said "I'll stay up and see if we move while you get some sleep - you really need to sleep if we're leaving for the Bahamas tomorrow!" I took her up on the offer, and fell asleep about 30 seconds later.

Kristen here now - Yea, I figured one of us had better be awake while sailing the next day! I stayed up from 3:30 AM until 5:30. The boat didn't move an inch during that whole time, so I caught a few winks from 5:30 till 6:30. I used those two waking hours to finish up my half year report to the home schooling liaison. I was worrying that the kids weren't learning enough, but after writing that report, a feat that took no less than 10 hours of typing, I've been reassured that they are getting a sound education. Having that task completed has been a huge weight off my shoulders.

At 6:30, everyone was up and prepping to leave. Melissa was already awake and ready to peel off as well. She is an airline pilot and is used to odd hours. Oh, I had an awsome time climbing her mast the previous day. The Topclimber worked great, and I highly recommend it to anyone. This is coming from someone who is scared of heights! I got to the top of her mast in 15 knots of wind and felt perfectly comfortable up there. It was slow going to get up there, but once you get used to the Topclimber, it's very easy to use.

Once Melissa was off, we pulled up the anchor and followed her out to the ocean. The wind was a bit stronger than predicted (as usual), and the waves were pretty heavy. I was patting myself on the back for putting on a scopalomine patch the night before. There wasn't time for breakfast, so I just grabbed an energy bar to give me a little boost. That was a big mistake. Those energy must have been sitting around for too long, because I became quite green soon after. I thought, "That's funny, why am I getting seasick? The scopalomine has always worked before." After *loosing* the energy bar, I felt much better, but still not 100%.

The wind was ever, ever so slightly off our nose as we pointed our way across. We had full sails up, and were fighting to keep our course. While focusing on the horizon (to keep from getting more seasick) I kept a lookout for more flying fish. Chris and Kaitlin still haven't seen them, and continue to tell me that they think they are just a myth. I saw a few, but they are so fast that by the time Chris looked, they were gone. While Kaitlin was watching with me, we saw what looked like a leaf stick out of the water. We watched it and realized that it was a sea turtle! I yelled for Casey (sea turtles are his favorite), and he launched himself to our side of the cockpit. He was quick enough, and caught a glimpse of it as well. We could see its flippers and it's whole shell. That was an extra special sighting!

Other than that, we didn't see any other wildlife in the Gulf Stream. After lunch I was feeling a bit better, so we decided to put out the hand line. We tried about 4 different lures without success. It was then time to play the look for land game. Whoever sees land first gets to be the first pilot when the dinghy gets launched. The winner was Chris. He confirmed his win with the binoculars. Once he pointed out land, it was obvious, but until he did, everything looked like a light blue blur above a dark blue ocean. When we looked where he was pointing, we could make out a bunch of tall buildings. The ocean sure does play some tricks with your eyes. When we finally got close we realized that these weren't tall buildings, just 2 story hotels.

Now everyone is really excited. We're officially in Bahamian waters. We watched the depth meter as it begins to once again show depth. On the way over, the depth meter stopped reading at 504 feet. That must be the limit of how deep it can read. Which reminds me, we had something weird happen with the depth meter as we approached. When we were still in 2,000 feet of water our depth meter all of a sudden went to 25-30 feet for 5 minutes or so. We speculated that a whale, or a large school of fish was passing under us. But usually they don't stick with the boat for that long. The meter then went back to a deep reading for about a minute before returning to 25-30 for the next 15 minutes. Now we knew something weird was going on. Chris said that it could have been a submarine doing some test runs. Whatever it was, it sure freaked us out!

We approached the island of South Bimini. What a wonderful sight. This was it. The moment we had been waiting for. The kids were jumping for joy and we were all in a state of disbelief. It was now that I almost admitted that I never thought we would make it here. I had this premonition that something bad was going to happen, and prevent us from making it to the Bahamas. No, I thought, we weren't on land yet. I had better wait.

As we approached South Bimini I got on the binoculars and scouted the island for the entrance to the marina. Chris said we were heading right for it, but I couldn't see a thing until a motorboat disappeared into a small break in the rock wall. There it was! Now, how do *we* get in? I went up to the bow and watched the water color. No handy channel buoys here folks! No time like the present to test out my non-existent water reading skills. We headed straight in and everything was going fine until our nose was half way past the rocks which were 20 feet off of each side of us. Casey was calling the depth out as we approached. It's hard to read the depth meter with polarized sunglasses, so we have one of the kids call out the depth as we go through questionable areas. So Casey called out 9 feet, 8.5, 8, 7.5. Now it used to be that we would get nervous when we hit 15 feet of water. We're coming from Lake Champlain where the depth hardly ever goes under 100 feet! Our boat draws about 5 feet 10 inches. We round that up to 6 feet. Casey called out 7 feet, 6.5. Now our hearts were pumping. Our nose is just about to enter the area with rocks on both sides. The water looks the same color as it had been. I thought we just might make it. I can see dark blue water about 20 feet in front of us. If we get grounded here we are in big trouble because we could get swept into the rocks. Where was that boat hook when you needed it? Now our nose was in. Casey called out 6 feet. The blue deep water is 10 feet in front of us. Oh please let it be OK. Two inches of water lies between our keel and ground. *Bump* Ut Oh! So close and yet so far. Now there is a split second decision. Deep water no more than 10 feet ahead. Do we push forward or back? We chose back. Chris reversed us, and we didn't move. The boat is drifting to port and closer to rocks. I'm on the bow watching to see if we move. Then slowly, with the lift from each passing wave we start to reverse. The wave hits, lifts us up a bit and we bump along the ground while moving backward. Phew! That was a close one.

By now it's about 4:30, and high tide doesn't come until midnight. We decided to head south to Gun Cay where we knew of an anchorage. Morale was low because everyone was looking forward to a shower and a good nights sleep. The kids and I went swimming the day before and didn't get a chance to rinse in fresh water. We were hot and salty and cranky.

A two hour motor later we were once again navigating our way through 9 feet of water to get to the anchorage. It was an area to the East of Gun Cay. There wasn't any protection, but the winds were predicted to be light so we dropped the hook. Casey and I could see the anchor as it hit the bottom. The clarity of this water is just amazing! As Chris reversed we watched the anchor bump along the bottom. Then we let out about 50 feet of chain. The anchor dug in and we settled in for the night.

I made dinner, and we all ate like tomorrow would never come. We were famished! As soon as dinner was done, we went to bed. At some point in time I remember waking up from the boat rocking. Chris explained that he was worried we would hit bottom at low tide with all of this wind and waves. We were getting quite tossed around in our berth at the bow of the boat. I could hear the wind howling all around us, but I was still too tired let it keep me awake. Chris couldn't sleep and went to the cockpit in the rear of the boat where it was a bit less rocky.

This morning we were up early to listen to Chris Parker's forecast. We also had to be on our way to the marina by 10AM to catch high tide at 12:30. Morale was still a bit low because of the rough night. When we checked the wind speed it reported a max of 39.5 knots the night before. Wow! I guess it really had been blowing! We launched the dinghy while we were still at anchor. The plan was to head for outside of the marina, put the motor on the dinghy, and then dinghy into the marina with the handheld depth sounder. Then lead pelican into the marina. We pulled up the anchor and got underway.

The winds were favorable, so we sailed over to the marina. Things were much better now because it was high tide, and we could follow our path from yesterday and be assured of the depths. This depth thing is going to take some getting used to! We got to 1/2 mile off of the entrance at about 12:30. This was the exact reported high tide. Now came the fun of putting the motor on the dinghy in not so calm seas. As the dinghy and boat rocked up and down 2 feet or so, the motor was hoisted over the side of the boat. It's on, it's off, too high, a bit lower, oh no, now its smashing into the dinghy. Phew it's on, quick tighten the clamp, no it's off again. There, now tighten the clamp, let the hoist line go slack! Who needs a workout when adrenaline can do it for you?!

So, Casey and I were off to depth sound into the marina. We approached the frightful spot from the day before and never saw the meter go below 7 feet. Super! Plenty of depth now. We have a whole extra foot to play with. We motored back to Pelican and she followed us in. It was quite an accomplishment. After getting in and tied up, I finally admitted my fears to the rest of the family. "I can't believe we're here", I said. "I truly thought we would never make it".

The gentleman at the marina who helped us dock asked how many people were aboard and brought us the proper paperwork for entering the country. We all had a chuckle at the questions on the paperwork. Have any members of your crew died on the passage here? Have any rats been sick or died on the way here? I wasn't positive if we had rats aboard, and if we did I'm not quite sure how to ask them how they felt during the passage. There was a shuttle service to the airport where customs was located. Chris checked us in while the rest of us remained quarantined to the boat. Darn, stuck with the food and air conditioning. Bummer.

We made lunch and played Wheel of Fortune while waiting for Chris to come back. It wasn't long before we heard the boat rock and saw feet pass by the window. Chris poked his head in and asked for the Bahamas flag! YAY! It's official.

Now we could leave the boat and explore. Casey started to secure the dinghy while I cleaned up the boat. "Um mom....I just dropped the dinghy lock into the water". "Are you serious?" I answered. "Yes, completely". No problem I thought. No time like to present to test out the diving gear. I donned my mask and flippers and sat at the edge of the dock. Have I ever mentioned that I am quite afraid of sea creatures? I know that most people jump into the ocean and swim. But there are creatures down there that can *eat* me! Whenever I talk to cruisers who snorkel, the first question out of my mouth is, "How do you know it's safe?". The last response I got was that sharks only feed at dawn and dusk, so as long as you don't swim then, you'll be fine. It's also easier to see in the water when the sun is high, so snorkel around noon time. As I was sitting at the edge of the dock, about to dive 15 feet into murky water at 2:00 PM, I figured it was close enough to noon for my comfort. *Splash* In I go. To my surprise, my heart didn't even start pumping fast. I was perfectly calm. Then I looked down and saw a school of 5 or 6 large fish swim right under me. Up goes the heart rate a bit. Still nothing bigger than me, so I'm ok. I ask Casey where he dropped the lock and when I look to that spot from the surface I can see the silver flash in the sunlight. I'm intent not to make the kids nervous about snorkeling, so with them watching I plug my nose, pop my ears and go for the lock. Down, down, down. Interesting, I thought, my ears don't even hurt. I thought they would at 15 feet. I grab the lock and shoot up to the surface. After my success and hearing about the fish, the kids immediatly donned their snorkle gear and jumped in. We all had a great time cooling off and watching the tropical fish swimming around and under the dock.

When we got out, we had a whole new layer of salt encrusted on our bodies. Casey looked at me and said, "Mom, your skin is really peeling now!" I looked at my sunburnt shoulders and said, "That's not skin, that's salt!". We decided to check out the pool and showers. To our suprise, it was a fresh water pool. What a dream! I think by the time we were done swimming, and rinsing off, it was a salt water pool.

The showers were just fantastic. The little trickle of water that dropped from them felt like heaven. I only used about a penny size dollap of shampoo because I didn't think those drips would be enough to rinse my hair! But they were enough and we appreciated every man made drop. You see the difference between an island and a cay is that an island has a fresh water source and a cay doesn't. I'm not sure if South Bimini has fresh water, but we tried to conserve just in case.

We went back to the boat to grab Chris and check out the ice cream at the marina store. By then it was 5:30 and Chris suggested we hit the restaurant for dinner. I had no bread to go with the hamburger I had thawed, and the prospect of making buns was not really appealing. Dinner out sounds great Hon! I was a bit worried about the cost though. Everything we read said that everything was much more expensive here. I was estimating that an ice cream would be 3-5$ each. Who knows what a whole dinner would be. We looked at the menu and were pleasantly suprised. Prices were a bit elevated, but not exorbitant. We had fried conch, conchh fritters, conch burger, jerk chicken, chicken fingers, and spring rolls with 4 sodas for $75 including tip. The portions were quite huge too. We then hit the marina store for ice cream. Again we were suprised to find reasonable pricing. I think the ice cream was around $1.50 each. The cold beer was $4 a bottle though. And a new hat for Chris was $28. We skipped the beer and hat. Oh and Poppi, I hate to tell you, we bought a new plastic reel for the hand line. We will once again return our current reel back to the dumpster. They had an assortment of plastic reels for only $4 at the marina store, and we just couldn't pass it up!

On the way back to the boat we were attacked by no-see-ems. These were truely invisible bugs with very sharp teeth. We all hurried below deck and shut every hatch to prevent their entry. After a few minutes, I decided to take a walk along the dock and look for fish. Kaitlin came with me. We saw bunches of fish swimming around the rocks. She even saw the big ones that I had seen under me earlier. We walked along a bit and Kaitlin kept saying Whoa!, or Look at that one! Then she said, "Mom, come quick, this one is HUGE!" I ran over to her, looked over the edge of the dock and saw a nurse shark swim by. We followed along the dock and I yelled to Casey. He didn't hear me, so I went and knocked on the boat. I told him about the shark, but by the time we went back it was gone. How exciting, a shark swimming along. And only 20 feet from where we had been swimming about 4 hours earlier. Hmmm....this is going to take some getting used to.

We will probably be here a couple of days while we check out this island and North Bimini as well. We're here. I just can't believe we're here.