Monday, May 30, 2011

It ain't a crossing without a puking!

And I surely hope this doesn't become a tradition!

Back in March when we crossed over to the Bahamas in choppy seas, we were about seven miles from Bimini's shore when I finally gave in to the nausea I'd been fighting for a couple of hours and puked. I'm just thankful I got that little issue out of the way before very scary 52 knot winds hit us and I had to concentrate on other minor things like surviving.

So on our way back from West End, Bahamas to Florida I wasn't too terribly surprised when after rolling along for hours in three to five foot seas (at least they were following seas and we weren't pounding into them), I lost my lunch. Hans hadn't realized that I wasn't feeling well (I thought if I didn't say anything it would go away) and was more than a bit startled when he came up into the cockpit after a visit to the head, to find me manning the helm with my head thrust into my puke bucket, which was firmly wedged between me and the wheel. I'm just glad that this whole puking thing wasn't a portent for 52 knot winds which I'm glad to say did not happen during this crossing.

Why were we crossing in 'seas' and not waiting for a more reasonable weather window?

Because we were once again on a dreaded schedule (youngest daughter's college graduation) and Mother Nature loves to play games, that's why.

Hans shows Wilbur his 'crossing' plan.

Wilbur begs to disagree and shows Hans his 'crossing' plan.

I think Hans should listen to Wilbur more often.

We arrived at West End (our starting point for the trip home) in the Bahamas but with heavy east winds we couldn't anchor and were at the mercy of the only and very expensive marina there, so needless to say we really needed some good weather news.

What we were getting were forecasts of continuing and unrelenting East winds at 20+ knots which were resulting in 6 foot seas, and I don't do 6 foot seas! But after two days of expensive dockage we finally decided to head on back to the states with a forecast of East winds of 15 to 20 knots and three to five foot seas.

So the next morning we were up bright and early and along with a couple of other cruisers we headed back to the states. We had really hoped to sail most of the way and with the wind firmly on our stern we attempted to sail wing and wing (jib all the way out on one side, and the main all the way out on the other), but the winds actually started dying down and the damned seas kept knocking the wind out of our sails and we had to constantly regroup. Finally a little over half way across we gave up on the whole sail idea and started motoring.

And motoring.

We'd hoped to make the trip to Lake Worth, FL in eight hours, ten max, but the strong Gulf Stream Current, which according to NOAA (aka: Never On At All in my book) was supposed to cease and desist four miles off the U.S. coast (which would then allow us to actually move along at faster than two and a half knots), stubbornly clung to within one mile of the shore line like a cheap date.

It was at the ten hour mark that I puked and started wondering if we were caught in our own Twilight Zone because the cute little red boat icon on my computer was not moving at all, and then Hans informed me that perhaps we wouldn't be arriving during day light hours after all.

Just go ahead and tell me there isn't a Santa Claus why don't you!

The sun went down, our running lights went on, and Wilbur (the smart one) said, "The hell with you two, I'm going down below." And there he stayed for the duration of the trip, resting his tender pitty body on his comfy Steeler pillow.

For the next three hours the seas picked up even more, the skies grew dark, and I didn't care one bit that I'd wiped my pukey mouth all over a shirt of Hans' that I was wearing. Moving about the cockpit was very difficult and couldn't be accomplished in a normal manner and involved scuttling sideways on bended knees.

I felt just like a crab.

Since Hans is not the most graceful person in the world; when he expressed a desire to visit the head I wouldn't let him go (if you think Mother Nature is scary, you don't want to mess with me in rolling seas!) as I was not about to have him take a tumble on his way down below.

It was close to 9 PM (note: 14 hours at sea and not the 8 to 10 I'd been promised) when we finally entered the Lake Worth channel and made our way into calmer waters where we found our way to the closest anchorage. We proceeded to weave our way around the many anchored boats while I tried to find a vacant spot. And for some strange reason while I can hear Hans perfectly while I'm at the bow, he can't hear me at all.

Me (up at the bow with the search light): OVER THERE!

Hans (not going over there): I think I'll go over here.

Me (gesturing wildly): THAT'S TOO CLOSE TO A DOCK!! OVER THERE!!

Hans (still not going over there): I can't hear you, can you read what's on that white marker? How about back there?

Me (waving like an hysterical cockroach): I SAID OVER THERE!!! OVER THERE!!

Hans finally motored OVER THERE and we blessedly dropped anchor.

Due to the heavy seas we weren't able to do any fishing at all on the way back but I have to tell you I don't think fresh Mahi could have tasted any better than the wonderfully hot Tuna Helper I dished up an hour later.

I kid you not.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The one(s) that got away.

We finally started to back track through the Abaco's in order to head home and decided to make West End the beginning point to the U.S., instead of Bimini.

We took advantage of the east winds and made pretty good time. On the last leg of this journey we decided to bypass Mangrove Cay on our way from Great Sail to West End which made for a very long day. Mangrove is a good anchorage but not in strong east winds.

Since we were able to sail and didn't have to motor, I decided to toss two fishing lines out and then waited to see what was going to show up for dinner.

Nothing happened for such a long time, I lost interest and quit watching. Hans had gone down below and I was sitting at the helm when I realized our music speakers were making an odd squeaking noise. I monkeyed around with the volume, got on my hands and knees and inspected the speakers, and then suddenly it stopped. It was when I was sitting back down in the captain's seat that I realized one of my fishing lines was gone. Not snapped off, but completely gone. Just then Hans came back up and I showed him the line that I'd figure eighted and secured with half hitches had disappeared. That's what I think the squeaking noise was. It was the line being stretched by a big fish and finally working its way loose from the cleat.

Hans was of the mind that I didn't tie my line correctly.

I tossed a replacement line out and within about a half hour I had a fish. I jumped up and down with excitement, waved my filet knife about, and wondered what side dish I was going to serve with my catch. I put on my gloves and started winding the line around a winch. This fish was a fighter and I kept hoping it wouldn't get away and then finally, we hauled our hefty three foot prize up into the cockpit.

Me (pissed off): Damn it, it's a barracuda, there goes dinner!

Hans (thoughtfully): Maybe not. Maybe it's another holy mackerel.

Me (incredulous): My God, don't you see his teeth?!

Hans (still thoughtful): All fish have teeth (this trip to the Bahamas was the first time in Hans' life he's ever gone fishing).

Me (in resignation): Well this guy has some pretty nasty teeth and if he wants to meet the ladies it wouldn't exactly hurt him to visit an orthodontist.

So we threw him back and of course I didn't get a picture because camera number two isn't working.

A little while later I realized I hadn't seen the huge spoon lure I'd tied onto the other side of the boat, dancing along the surface, and when I grabbed hold of it I knew my lure was gone. I reeled it in and saw that the knot I'd secured the lure with had come undone. I showed it to Hans and insisted that the weight of a fish had caused this.

Hans was of the mind that I didn't tie my knot correctly.

I lieu of a photo, I copied this from the Internet. An obvious relative of our fish.

We ended up with hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner.

For my next project, I believe I'll practice tying a noose, and we'll see whether I tie it correctly or not.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anchoring in the Bahamas.

Before we set out on our long, long journey to the Bahamas I did a lot of research. Some times I found out too much, and some times not enough. But the whole anchoring thing is what I think weighed on my mind the most.

Here is the gist of what I discovered.




Needless to say, I was worried as we'd never deployed two anchors in our lives!

But I have to tell you now that we found the currents in the Intracoastal to be stronger than anything we've experienced in the Bahamas. And the 2 to 3 foot tides in the Bahamas are nothing compared to say the 9 foot-plus tides we suffered through in Georgia.

The first and only time I saw someone use a double anchor was in Florida. It was a wide open anchorage and after Hans and I were settled in (with one lowly little anchor) I got out my trusty binoculars and immediately had a panic attack when I realized that the only boat there had double anchored and we were obviously doing something wrong!

The captain and mate of this particular boat arrived back to their vessel, via dinghy, shortly thereafter, and I enjoyed a half hour or so watching him unravel a nightmare of twisted anchor lines that will most certainly happen when your boat swings in circles due to the current.

We sat (and swung full circle) on one anchor all night long as we'd done the whole way down the ICW and wondered if this whole unraveling of two anchors was something we could expect to endure ourselves once we reached the Bahamas.

Our first night in the Bahamas was spent in Bimimi and we ended up anchoring in Nixon's Harbor. We used only one anchor and then worried all night long that we'd drag. We didn't, and after that we continued to use one anchor, but any chance he could, Hans would dive down to see if it was secure. We were pretty surprised to find that some times our anchor couldn't dig into the hard bottom but the weight of it, combined with the chain, kept us in one spot all night long.

We held tight in the following waters during some pretty gusty days:

Yankee Carter (don't go there unless you wish to run aground in its very shallow entrance): 25+ knot winds and heavy current in over 20 feet of water in its basin.

Foxtown: 25 knot winds.

Treasure Cay: 20 knot winds gusting to 30 for two days. This was also a very crowded anchorage because everyone knew about the wind forecast. No one used two anchors and some people even had out 80 feet of chain.

Guana Harbor: 20+ knot winds (we were on a mooring).

Fisher Bay (where we did get to watch a boat drag**): 20+ knot winds.

Nixon's Harbor (Bimini): 25 knot winds and strong current.

Little Harbor: 25 knot winds.

We still haven't used two anchors and I'm sure it won't always be that way but for those of you wishing to visit the Abaco's I think you'll find that one anchor is all that's usually needed.

**We were in Fisher Bay on day two of our windy stay when a Sunsail Charter Boat whipped into the anchorage, and I don't think their anchor had even touched bottom before the couple aboard had jumped into their dinghy and headed for shore. This meant they missed watching their boat lift its anchor, brazenly jitter-bug on over to a boat anchored close by and ask it for a dance. It was a couple on another boat, who witnessed this bizarre courting ritual, that immediately radioed for help. Tony from Dive Guana, was on the spot immediately, and he picked up the hailing couple and zipped on over to the Dancing Queen. Luckily the keys were still in the ignition and the captain of the unwary dance partner came up from where he'd been down below, wisely started his engine, and looked on as the rescue crew was able to lift Dancing Queen's anchor and safely move her on to a mooring. After Tony dropped the helping couple off at their boat he sped past us and while laughing, shouted out, "When those people come back be sure to tell them they can't keep my anchor!"

It rained and blew like crazy the rest of the day and you'd think that charter couple might have wondered why no one else was leaving their boat. You'd also think that somewhere on shore they would have heard about their boat's wild gyrations on any one of the VHF radios that all the island bars utilize. But when we went to bed they still hadn't returned and during the night I never heard a call on the radio from them asking if anyone might know where their missing boat may have gotten to. In the morning I spotted their red dinghy bobbing unconcernedly in the water behind their boat, and they left very soon afterward without so much as a thank you very much.

I guess all of us in that anchorage should just be thankful that our hard working, well traveled, and sensible boats were too worn out from the wind and rain to show any desire in joining the 'throw caution to the wind, week long chartered' Dancing Queen in her version of Dancing with the Stars.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

VHF Radio and the Party Line

I grew up in an era where no one's mother worked outside the home, soap operas were religiously watched every day by both moms and kids (and we all hated Erica because she was so mean to poor old Chuck, and it saddens me to learn that All My Children has just recently announced that it's ending its 41 year run), and listening in on your neighbor's telephone calls was a given.

It was called the party line and as many as ten people at a time shared one single circuit which meant only one conversation could take place at a time.

I kid you not.

I have no idea what the hell I thought was so funny here. Maybe it was something I just heard on the radio.

It worked like this; every home's phone had its own individual ring cycle and when you received a call, no one else on your party line was supposed to know about it. But sometimes technology would run amok and when your phone went ding ding instead of ring ring you instantly knew a party mate/neighbor was receiving a call, and every self respecting female picked up her phone, placed a discreet hand across the mouth piece, and avidly listened in.

This gave the ladies great fodder for their over the back yard fence gossip sessions I'm sure!

It wasn't until years later at the ripe old age of eighteen and I started working at the telephone company, that I realized that this whole ding ding issue was what was referred to as a 'case of trouble' and should have been reported as such, but of course never was!

This was all brought home to me recently when I realized that we (mostly I) were listening to our VHF radio with a little more alacrity than was necessarily warranted. Normally, I don't pay much attention to the VHF, but during our trip down the Intracoastal we had to monitor it constantly. All day long cruisers would radio their intent to pass us on either our port or starboard side, and I hate to admit it but we hardly ever had a chance to reciprocate as we usually moved along at a sedate speed of 5 knots and rarely passed anyone else.

Once we arrived in the Bahamas our radio was pretty much useless (ie; no coverage) until we arrived in the Abaco's and entered the wild world of The Cruiser's Net.

Goooooooooooooood Moooooooooooorrrnnniiiiiinnnng Abaco!!!!!!!!!!! was the screaming announcement that woke me up every morning at 8 AM via our VHF channel 68.

Dear God!!! Didn't they know we'd had a few too many Wilbur Wow Wow's (our name for any and all Bahamian drinks) I'd whipped up in our galley the night before, and we weren't quite ready for so much cheer?

Anyway, the Cruiser's Net gives us the daily weather forecast (not always correct) along with all the current events taking place for those who might be interested. After that, channel 68 is wide open for cruisers in need of contacting other cruisers, and that's when my eavesdropping genes kicked in.

Now, you might ask, "Well, if people are calling each other on a public channel how can you be accused of 'listening in'?"

Because Channel 68 is a 'hailing channel' only, that's why. You hail your friends, ask them to move to another channel, and then continue your conversation. So when anyone we found to be even remotely interesting asked their friends to go up one (move to channel 69), we were on it like flies on doggy doo.

And I have to tell you, I never thought that listening to our VHF radio would rank right up there as a memorable Bahamian experience along with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

But it has.

Hans and I rarely transmit over the VHF but we've found that some people can't seem to exist without it, and it pleases me to no end to find and excitedly point out in any of our new anchorages, some of the most prolific VHF users we've overheard. In this way it also makes the Bahamas seem like a small town as opposed to a great expanse of Cays since you hear the same people over and over.

This brings me to a cruiser whom we've heard all the time and yet (thankfully) have never, ever met. 'Starship' has been on the radio 24/7 and I swear the captain sleeps in his bunk every night with his radio firmly in hand. He hails other cruisers all day long, and whether they answer or not doesn't matter to him as he apparently has a long list from which to choose. As for the hapless sucker who's stupid enough to respond, well, he now ends up running errands, lending tools, and being stuck on Starship's VHF speed dial (I know, I know, there is no speed dial on a radio, it just seems like it).

One day he wanted to know if there was any room in an anchorage he anticipated using and this is what we heard: "My Girl, My Girl, this is Starship."

No answer.

"Elizabeth, Elizabeth, this is Starship."

No answer.

"Crazy Cat, Crazy Cat, this is Starship."

And by now Hans and I were snickering and I commented that I bet every one of those cruisers was crouched down below and giving their partners a shushing sign and forbidding them from answering. But when we heard his plaintive wail, "Any boat in Little Harbor!!!! Any boat in Little Harbor, this is Starship!!!" and no one answered (even though you know someone out there heard him), Hans and I literally collapsed in tears of laughter. I can only assume that his reputation and his overuse of the VHF preceded him.

I have no idea if he found a spot in the anchorage or not as I was busy listening to a conversation between cruisers who had the latest weather update.

I only hope that technology doesn't catch up to the VHF like it has to our telephone system. Life on the water would lose a little of its fun without this particular party line!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Catching up

As I mentioned previously, I was away for a week in the middle of April but boy, oh, boy I couldn't wait to get back to Hans, Wilbur, and the Knotty Cat.

My camera died just before I went home, and while I was gone Hans found a duty free shop and bought me a new one (which immediately gave up the ghost and even went so far as to hiss at me just before it died! And believe me, Fuji will be hearing from us!)

Anyway, Hans was so excited to have me return (every woman should be so lucky) that he waited at Snappa's bar (Marsh Harbor) with the camera ready to go and was able to snap this picture of me just after the taxi dropped me off. I'm not sure but I think if you double click on it you'll be able to see me.

And here I am with my single piece of luggage.

Do I look happy or what??

And in that luggage was a very special present to Wilbur from the Easter Beagle who couldn't make it to the Bahamas this year.

Just look at Wilbur's googley eyes as Hans presents him with 'Lambiekin'.

Wilbur falls madly in love with Lambiekin and he lovingly chews on him/her for hours at a time.

This reminds me so much of when Wilbur was younger and he would 'nurse' his stuffed hedge hog. Honest to God, he would knead his paws like a new born puppy and then fall asleep with it in his mouth.

Look at that little piggy nose!

He also had a stuffed toy we called 'Crabby Cake' but one day poor old Crabby Cake ended up 'swimming with the fishes'.

We still don't understand why that happened.

Anyway, Wilbur has a penchant for performing squeaker-ectomies on his stuffies (I think it might be part of his having been accepted into Harvard's Medical School and trying to get a leg up on everyone else) and poor Lambiekin eventually underwent this very same procedure.

But then Wilbur had to be a show off and went a step further and performed liposuction on Lambiekins thighs. His procedure was such a success that he repeated it on Lambiekins arms, and then all of a sudden, Lambiekin was no more.


Lambiekin now rests in Davy Jones Locker somewhere on the east coast of Florida.

Let's hope his/her death wasn't in vain.

All I know is, Wilbur's gonna have to find a stronger source of comfort.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can you guess what this is?

If you guessed 'Boat Yard' you would be right.

And what's a trip to the Bahamas without a trip to at least one, right?

Here's Hans as he wanders back to our boat.

Apparently while I was away for a week and Hans had taken to hanging out at Snappa's Bar, our port engine felt neglected, took up with a questionable group of friends, and picked up a nasty smoking habit. Even after being told to knock it off, she belched out even more smoke and asked us just what the hell we planned on doing about it. We happened to be within a few miles of Boat Harbor Boat Yard in Marsh Harbor and so we marched her smoky butt right on over for some rehab and tough love.

Wilbur wonders if there are any boat yard dogs hanging about.

There was and it was love at first sight.

Bubba wanted so badly to board the Knotty Cat and visit with his new found love. When he realized that wasn't happening he was happy to just croon ever so quietly, "Woooo woooo woooo," and Wilbur squawked back in his rough pitty voice.

Dennis from the boat yard was a really nice guy who'd actually worked in Rock Hall, Maryland for quite some time but after suffering through snow up to their roof he told his wife they were going back to the Bahamas.

Smart man.

He immediately put our fears to rest that it might be clogged fuel injectors and feels that it's most likely carbon build up in her mixing elbow. We've had that in the past and hope that when we get back home we can clean it out. In the meantime we made the mistake of saying oh well at least we still have the starboard engine. The starboard engine caught wind of this, pitched a fit at the possibility of being an 'only engine', and promptly piddled oil all over the engine room floor.

After thinking things over and knowing that oil can only come from the engine itself or the oil filter, Hans checked out the filter and lo and behold, it was loose! He gave it (and the port engine filter) a good crank. No more drips.

So far so good.

For now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long time no post...

...for a variety of reasons I must admit.

One of them being, that while at anchor (something we've ended up doing for very long stretches), I only have about 1 hour of computer battery time and add to that, very poor Internet coverage.

The other reason is that I flew home for a week.

Honest to God I did, but only after arranging for a week of Doggy Day Care for Wilbur. My reason for the whole day care thing was that if anything happened to my baby while I was gone I would want to blame anyone but Hans. And believe me, I wouldn't be worth living with!

Here I am (pouting big time because I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE!!!) with by poor baby and his belongings as we walk to his home away from boat.

Sitting atop Wilbur's Steeler's pillow is his stinky potty patch (in the black garbage bag), and underneath all of that is his bag of dog food. The bag I'm carrying holds his Kong, peanut butter, canned pumpkin (tummy troubles!) shampoo, benedryl (allergies!!), and various topical medicines for whatever ailment Wilbur might suffer from while I'm gone.

Poor Wilbur doesn't have a clue.

I endured a total of six flights (to and from, and BTW I hate flying) mostly because I figured if I didn't show up for a couple of very important functions, Baby Girl (senior college student) would some day see fit to put me in the nastiest nursing home she could find.

I didn't breath a sigh of relief until I was back on our boat in Marsh Harbor with Hans and Wilbur. And I might add that even though we've been through some pretty rough seas, nothing can really compare to the wild 6 AM taxi ride I endured from our apartment to the Pittsburgh airport. I'm not kidding when I say my palms were sweating when I saw the speedometer reach 85 MPH as we weaved in and out of traffic on rainy pavement that for some reason causes any and all inhabitants of this great city to drive like senior citizens in Oldsmobile's

Happier Bahamian days with Wilbur at the beach.

More to follow.