Fleet Web Addresses:
Well, the Great Adventure is well and truly underway. We are in Beaufort, NC, just about 400 miles from Rock Hall, MD. and about to start our third week on board. We've had glorious weather: crystal clear, daytime temps in the 60's and moderate winds for fine sailing almost every time we were on open waters.
The Intracoastal Waterway has been called, sneeringly, "The Ditch" by blue water sailors and other hearty types and, indeed, there are many miles of canals but more than half our miles so far have been on quite open water including The Chesapeake, Albemarle Sound, Pamlico and various bays and very board rivers. In addition, the canals are beautiful. We came through the Dismal Swamp when it was aglow with autumn colors, undeveloped, and lightly traveled by other boats. Our only disappointment has been the lack of migrating birds but, at the rate we're moving, they will surely catch us!
Beaufort, with its whole blocks of magnificently restored 18th century ship captain's houses, is by far the most lovely town we've visited and a fascinating contrast to the down-and-dirty shrimpboat harbor of Oriental that was our previous port of call. It calls us now, but I will try to find another e-mail site soon.
Hayden, There are 5 IPs here, four of which are tied in a row on this pier: Unfazed, Ishmael, Sunset Lane , and Imagine. Charbonneau was in Oriental yesterday. Where's Little Brightness?
We love to get e-mail but forgive us if we take a while to answer.
More soon, Vicki and Bill
Those of you "lucky" enough to receive our first epistle (I was short a few addresses) and brave enough to read it through, left us in beautiful BO-fort, NC. Now, we're just 100 miles from BEW-fort, SC after close encounters with fog, Fear, and the U.S. Marine Corps.
South of Beaufort, our guide books advised, we would pass Fort Lejeune and should check to find out when the marines would be using their firing range. Bill phoned ahead and was told, after much hang time and consultation at the Marines' end, that 1000 to 1100 was clear for passage. We scampered on down, approaching the range at 0945 and there were the Marines in a whaler midstream, waving a red flag. Of course, the range is CLOSED from 1000 to 1100! Bill and our friend Gene Alger, both ex-service, were not surprised then or fifteen minutes later when we were told to up anchor and proceed!
We found a splendid anchorage in Topsail Sound, looking out miles across grassy marshes. Just before sunset, two other yachts turned in and anchored nearby. Woke next morning to a real peasouper. Could just discern one of our companions, looking very much like The Flying Dutchman. The other was invisible. Luckily, there was enough of a lift that we could up anchor around 0930.
After a glorious motorsail down the Cape Fear River (with the current at 7.5 to 8k) we went out to Bald Head Island at Cape Fear and just off Frying Pan Shoals. We splurged on a golf cart (no cars) and spent many happy hours driving to various beaches for long walks. Perfect weather--warm, windy and sunny--and we finished with a picnic at Old Baldy lighthouse, while a formal wedding was taking place at the tiny chapel next door. We're at Georgetown now, soon to move on.
Love to all, Vicki and Bill Wednesday, November 15
We are in Charleston, deep in the sunny south. The temperature is in the 40's (5 C), winds 20k and pelting rain is lashing Unfazed. Even crosstied and spring fore and aft, in the middle of a marina a mile up the Ashley River from the harbor, we are bobbing and weaving like a punchdrunk boxer.
Lots of good news, though. First, we had a lovely trip down from Georgetown, with another idyllic anchorage, and a fine accompaniment of birds, including oystercatchers, pelicans, egrets, blue, green, and black-crowned night herons. After a spectacular blowy trip across the harbor past Fort Sumter, we managed to reach here ahead of the weather. We had a couple of gray days to visit the city museum and several historic houses. For us Yankees, Charleston in this weather (well, not today, perhaps) is much more appealing than when we visited with Ben in temperatures of 90-plus. The houses, shops, and churches of the historic district are charming and lovingly restored. There don't seem to be the lovely, gracious squares of Savannah but the streets are tree-lined (sometimes with small palms) and frequently cobbled. Many houses feature "piazzas" on two storeys, and most have reception rooms on the second floor to catch the breezes and escape the noise and dust of the street. Charlestonians came INTO the city in the summer to avoid the malaria-infested rice fields on the plantations. They then returned to the country until The Season in January and February.
This morning we attended St. Philips, "the Mother Church of the colony," established in 1680. The present structure, later 18th century, is neo-Romanesque with a soaring dome and Corinthian columns. Confirmation today, so we had the suffragan bishop, all the clergy and all the choirs. Even, with a very low-key "folksy" bishop, it was most impressive. (Incidentally, I read that the South Carolina Golf Club was founded in 1786 by the rector of St.Michael's, the spin-off church from St. Philips. The members did not have a golf course, but traveled together to Scotland to play!)
The marina provides a courtesy shuttle, so we've enjoyed two fine dinners downtown (one, at The Library, with our IP "cousins," Tom and Pat from Ishmael.) We've also thoroughly sussed out the enormous Harris Teeter gourmet-gourmand delight grocery store and bought a few necessities at West Marine.
So, we're weathering the storm in great comfort and are well-entertained. And, when the scary yellow thing in the sky does reappear, we're ready for "Bew"-fort, Hilton Head, Savannah, and St. Simon's.
Love, Vicki and Bill 19 November 2000
We are in beautiful Beaufort, where the airport recorded 20 degrees (-5 c), an all-time record low. We turned off our heat when we went to sleep and woke to a cabin temp. of 44! It is sunny, though, and we're anticipating a pretty run to Hilton Head, where we will spend Thanksgiving.
I don't think it's post-menapausal hysteria, but I have seen a stork! Actually, I saw a whole colony of American wood storks hanging out with some pelicans and egrets. What a sight.
Yesterday, which began well as we left another idyllic anchorage around 8, deteriorated drastically when I ran aground around 1030 on a falling tide. Bill was phoning marinas so no one was reading the advice to stay way to the port side of the channel. I was in the channel, but not where the water was. We had one offer of a tow but couldn't get the dinghy launched quickly enough to beat the falling waters. So we settled in and by ebb at 1130 we were well heeled. Finally, the 24k winds in the staysail blew us off at 1215. We were glad of the winds then but not so motoring down a big open river toward Beaufort right into a stiff chop that the wind blew straight into our faces. The crowning blow was reaching the last swing bridge before our marina and being told it was too windy to open! Hung out for forty minutes and finally got through at 1530. By the time we fueled up, pumped out, hosed down and made shipshape, it was dark and cold and we were TIRED. A shower and lovely dinner at Emily's in Beaufort restored our spirits.
And, today's another day!
To All our American correspondents and visiting British cousins we wish a most Happy Thanksgiving.
Love, Vicki and Bill
If memory serves, I left you in chilly Beaufort a few days ago. We made a cold, windy, but sunny passage across Port Royal Sound to Hilton Head and heaven. The sun here took the temperature into the 60's, so ASAP we headed for the beach. Skull Creek Marina, our chez du jour, is within Hilton Head Plantation at the North end of the island. From there, with courtesy bikes, we went to Dolphin Head and walked the edge of the Sound we'd so recently crossed.
Thanksgiving Day we rode to the shopping area several miles away on "Main Street" and did a little stocking up at Harris Teeter. Our dinner was magnificent at The Old Fort Pub (an M & J Morrow Selection) 500 yards from the marina, overlooking Skull Creek. We mounted our trusty bikes (in full holiday regalia) and peddled into the dark with flashlights in hand. Celebrated a safe round trip with a brandy toast to all of you!
Waiting out rain and thunderstorms today, then on to Savannah and St. Simon's by week's end.
Love to all, Vicki and Bill
Palm Cove Marina Jacksonville Beach FL
We're about to start day 3 of our expedition, part 2. Our companions are Michaela and Bill Waddington on Bateau Mouche, and their friends (becoming ours) Nancy and Pete Richmond on Ardnagee. Bill is French, hence "bateau" and Nancy and Pete originally sailed their Victoria 34 around Scotland, where its name means "heart of the wind."
Our first night, we anchored at Fernandina Beach. This is NOT a lovely seaside village in north Florida but a horrid city where riverside factories poured smoke and noise and light across the water through the night. It really did seem we were at least in the first circle of hell.
Tuesday, however, was bright and sunny and we soon left F Beach far behind. Cruised in shirtsleeves past white pelicans, egrets, herons, AND MORE STORKS!
Off now to St.. Augustine.
Love to all, Vicki and Bill
When last I wrote, almost a week ago, we were en route to St. Augustine, a short and not very interesting "back yard" run past hundreds of riverfront houses and piers. Did you know that in Florida it is de rigeur to decorate your pier (which is actually an elevated platform with a raised fishing boat and gazebo-like superstructure)? Santa, sometimes in fishing boots, and snowmen compete with the permanent flamingos, all illumined with strings of colored lights or the new icicle lights. So "sorry" we couldn't catch the night scene.
We anchored just off the municipal harbor and went to town in our dinghy. Saw a little of the old town before dinner but had to postpone a proper visit. Our companions wanted a 53-mile run next day to Daytona Beach. From the ICW we could sometimes determine where the beach and ocean lay, about two miles to the east, but could not see them. We motored sailed with a north wind of 15 k at our backs and made our next anchorage in just over eight hours. In case you are wondering, the "anchorages" are simply places in the river out of the channel and deep enough to accommodate us. Not for some time have we had small bays to tuck into. There is no anchoring near the few parks we've spotted and the rest of Florida is so developed that being at anchor simply means being a little farther from ambulances and trains and a little closer to the bridges. I wish Ponce De Leon had shut up about the Fountain of Youth. Maybe a few Old F's would have retired to Missouri.
Two days later and the weather is cold and rainy, with winds gusting to gale force [briefly] so we're forced into a marina in Melbourne. Now that we are in the heart of The Sunshine State, I'm sure you are all wondering what the well-dressed yachty might wear here. My ensemble today, most definitely a salute to "the layered look," featured a navy silk pantsuit (long johns, actually) by Leonard Bean, long-sleeved navy RNLI shirt and fleece-lined trousers from Hawkshead in the Lakes (salute to Our British Cousins), accessorized with matching ragg cap and socks (back to New England), accentuated with navy Cal sweatshirt, fleece jacket, down vest, and finished with Helly Hanson gold and navy foulies and West Marine boots. Had my captain been able to move his fingers, I KNOW I would have been immortalized on film.
Thursday, January 25 Lake Worth
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and, fortunately, he chose to take away the nasty low pressure system and reward his patient seagoing servants with a day of brilliant sunshine to sail (really Sail, with a little help from iron Jenny) down to Ft. Pierce. If you are as ignorant of Florida as I, know that Ft. Pierce is about 2/3 of the way down the state's coast. Our best Florida anchorage yet was found behind a small island opposite town. A half dozen boats and pretty marshes to view, even as the ubiquitous freight trains whistled and chugged down the opposite shore.
Another bright day with 14 knots out of the northwest allowed us to motorsail at 6.5 to 7.5 k. down to Lake Worth where we have joined at least 50 other yachts in the anchorage waiting for the tantalizing, illusive, coveted WINDOW that will allow us to scoot across the Gulf Stream unscathed.
I HOPE that I will not be able to write again until we actually do reach the Abacos, but I'm not sure when or where the saga will continue. We'll let Ben know barebone facts and ask him to forward same to you.
Meanwhile, thanks to one and all for communications and encouragement--they dry up the raindrops a treat.
Love, Vicki and Bill
( VIA Ben and a Phone Call)
Left Riviera Beach (W. Palm) 2230 Saturday evening, January 27. Arrived West End Marina, Grand Bahama Island 0830 Sunday morning and it is GLORIOUS. Crossed on a starry night with breezes out of the East at 5 k. Motored all the way. Quite a swell in the Gulf Stream but easily bearable. Stood ten mile watches and napped below. Total trip about 70nm.
It's hot and sunny and we're off to the beach!
3 February 2001 Green Turtle Cay
Turns out that we made an excellent choice for our crossing. One boat came through the next night and reported a very rough time and it was four days before anyone else appeared from Florida--four days we're VERY glad not to have wasted in Lake Worth! High winds kept us in West End three nights but it was "no problem." We used free bicycles to explore nearby beaches. Bill and I took a picnic, our books and binoculars, one day--saw a few small sandpipers and one boy the whole afternoon. Another day we rode into the village: a string of poor "mom and pops," (many closed) on the land side, fast food shacks selling cracked conch on the sea side. Butlins (English Resort developer) had a huge complex with airport here in the '50's but only a few weed-choked concrete slabs remain. A new developer, who appears to have $$$$$$$, has done a very nice rebuilding of the West End Marina and is busy erecting a cluster of "Bahamian" condos and restaurant. We wish him a modest success. We want him to make a go of it but never to expand and gobble up the beautiful open oceanfront and beaches.
January 31 we left West End on a rising tide and negotiated the tricky Indian Rock passage onto the banks with the intrepid Fays leading the way. Motor-sailed a long (46-mile) crossing to Great Sale Cay--an uninhabited but handy way-station with a relatively protected bay. We three boats were utterly alone, reveling in the dazzling array of stars beamed down just for us.
If you have a map (and the interest) you will see that we crossed above Grand Bahama Island, with Great Sale 2/3 of the way to Little Abaco Island. We anchored next off Fox Town at the western end of Little Abaco. We loved Fox Town. It sees so few tourists that they first opened the bar for us (turning on the stereo and the strobes: so welcome at six o'clock) and then the restaurant (the shopkeeper having to close her shop and open the restaurant in the next room before she could turn her hand to the most delicious batter-fried rock lobster tails on earth.
Next morning we started down the east side of Abaco with the best sailing I have EVER had!! Five hours in 16-20k, beating on a starboard tack, we averaged 6.5k all the way down to Green Turtle Cay. 82o in brilliant sun, we were in shorts and T-shirts, slathering on the sun block.
Slipped through a narrow shallow channel, again on a rising tide, into Black Sound and joined a dozen other sail on moorings. Grilled lobster on Bateau Mouche for the three crews, then back home by dinghy beneath the stars.
Yes, we do realize how incredibly lucky we are and only wish you could be with us.
Much love to all, The Old Old Salts
Let me tell you about Sunday on Green Turtle Cay. All the shops are closed and all the churches are OPEN. Michaela (of St. John's-on-the-Mt) and Bill and I decided to attend the 11:00 at St. Peter's Anglican. We left our boats in Black Sound motored by dinghy to the nearby fuel dock. From there, we walked along the shore a half mile to New Plymouth. New P. was settled after the American Revolution by Loyalists who had to flee after the British were defeated. Their descendants are still very much in evidence: a little inbred but Keeping Up Appearances. If you can picture Siasconsett or any New England village freshly painted in bright tropical pastels and highly ornamented with intricate gingerbread, you can almost imagine New Plymouth, crowded around the Government Dock, houses cheek by jowl between minimal streets. Don't forget, though, to color the water turquoise, and add palms and hibiscus to the vegetation.
The glorious 1200 seat St. Peter's of yesteryear was felled in the Hurricane of 1932 and is a poor cinderblock shadow of its former self. It is, however, dazzling white with fresh Wellesley blue trim and very inviting. As we were passing Gov't Dock, the ferry arrived from Marsh Harbour. When a gentleman in long trousers, black shirt, and dog collar stepped off, we knew we weren't late. Fr. Kenneth MacKenzie is headquartered in Treasure Cay and serves 5 congregations on 3 islands.
The congregation of 100 was impressively integrated, about 1/3 White but ALL the active participants, including deacon, readers, organist, and six acolytes and torchbearers, were Black. There was no adult choir but the youth choir sang a magnificent anthem (complete with two teen girls who led with gestures) and the congregation joined with GREAT enthusiasm "When Morning Gilds the Skies," and the like. The peace lasted about ten minutes and it was REAL. People hugged and kissed (us, too) all around the whole church, many people singing as they went. All the women, except us disgraceful yachties, wore heels, stockings, dresses and hats. The entire, hour-and-a-quarter service was an experience to treasure.
And now for something completely different. After lunch of conchburgers in town, we went "home" changed into bathingsuits, and went by dinghy and shank's mare to the ocean beach for a splendid afternoon of swimming and snorkeling. We did not venture to the real reef but contented ourselves with the half-dozen varieties of fish that frequented the small piece of coral near our beach.
Some day soon, we'll head on south to Marsh Harbour, but for now Green Turtle has plenty to keep us happy.
Love to all, Vicki and Bill
Hope Town Elbow Cay 12 February 2001
The residents of the Abacos, especially White descendants of the Loyalists, cling to a remembered version of the 18th-century English spoken back "home" (England, of course, not the impudent former colonies they'd just fled). They drop the haitches and pay scant attention to r's. Hence, "Marsh Harbour" becomes "Mosh Ahbah" and "Hope Town" you can figure for yourselves.
Marsh Harbour, on the main island of Abaco, is renowned as a provisioning spot and charter center (Moorings) and not much else. Because one of our number was fighting a virus, we spent more than enough time there but we had some pleasant surprises.
The first was "Buck-a-Book," a shoestring 2nd-no, 3rd 4th or 5th-hand, paperback book shack run to help rescue the wild horses of Abaco, whose numbers dipped below ten thanks to "sports" who chased them down in jeeps and shot them, and packs of feral dogs. [Side note: People here like to take all their leftovers, chop them up and mix them into frying cakes called "pot cakes." Local dogs, a meltdown of whatever was around, are also called "pot cakes."]
Second surprise was "Mermaid Reef," probably the only reef around with an anchored floating sign proclaiming its location. Bill and I took our dinghy cross harbour to a marina with a small restaurant that provided conch fritters and Kalik (Bahamian) beer for our lunch. Then walked up over the road and down to a tiny reef that offered access to the reef. We slipped into our flippers. Wrong. We STRUGGLED into our flippers and backed over the coral into the water to achieve that magical fishlike flotation and spectate the busy busy life of gars and barracuda and star fish and a myriad of reef fish.
Finally: Wally's Restaurant, Wally's Miracle, Wally's Institution, a perfect blend of island feel, local and Stateside cuisine, impeccable service, lovely setting. We ate on the covered porch overlooking the harbour, wearing sailing clothes (with earrings for the ladies and "better" boat shoes for the gents as a concession to propriety) but land-based folks were slightly more dresssy and it didn't matter a particle.
Now we're anchored in the harbour of lovely, lovely 'Ope Town, with its gorgeous candy-striped lighthouse, which has welcomed sailors with it's kerosene (Brits, read "paraffin") fueled light for 150 years, impeccably maintained and still going strong. Here's how you go out to dinner at the Abaco Inn in White Sound at the other end of Elbow Cay: dinghy in to the Post Office Dock and hail the van on CH 16 VHF. Soon (that is, Bahamian "soon") it lurches out of the darkness, collects the diners, and hurtles back to the Inn. We had nine passengers for the return trip, including an 80+ lady from Belfast whom we came to know VERY well as one of the 4 in the middle jump seat. She has lived here off and on for forty years, so was not surprised and perhaps amused by the presence of all the young gentlemen (Bill Fay, etc.)
Off today to Little Harbour, probably the most southerly of our destinations and reputed to have the most beautiful harbour in the Abacos. The competition is stiff but we shall see.
Much love to all,
The Opeful Fays
Last time I wrote, we were about to drop our mooring and depart Hope Town. Before we do, however, I have to tell the Island Packet people that, out of 50 some yachts, the one next to us was Whisker, a well-known 31-footer whose owner has single-handed her (with a little help from his arrogant Siamese companion) more than 31,000 miles. They send greetings to you all.
On February 13 we had a brisk but exhilarating beat to Little Harbour in 20k with 6ft swells. The harbour entrance is no more than 50' wide with high cliffs on the leeward side doused with 15' arcs of spray from the crashing breakers. We were, of course, Unfazed. Well, perhaps, slightly fazed, but less so than when we rounded into the harbour and found the channel dotted with a totally incomprehensible assortment of grey, pink, orange, and black balls and fish floats! Two readings of less than a foot under the keel "helped" us to interpret! Once safely moored, we returned with our dinghy and deciphered the true path. Half of Little Harbour is owned by the Johnston family, rather second-rate artists but first-rate bohemian hosts who welcome visitors to their absurd open-air shack, Pete's Pub, their gallery, and foundry. Enjoyed my birthday lunch at Pete's amid the "found art" collage of drowned laptops, failed heads, fish nets, sneakers, long-dead telephones, and much more in gloriously incongruous assemblages. Hiked to the promontory where once stood a lighthouse and could see all the way back to Hope Town.
Man-o-War Cay, our next port of call, is totally different. The inhabitants (all white, incidentally) are fundamentalist, almost puritanical. The island is dry, the principal occupation attending one of the countless church services. Houses and gardens are primly neat. The people are very industrious, engaged in the busy boat-building industry (highly regarded fiberglass fishing boats 15' - 30') or serving tourists. [A side note about tourists. Most of these cays have individual cottages for rent--maybe 30 in Hope Town; far fewer elsewhere. There may be a "resort" with accommodation for perhaps another couple dozen, the yachties, and a handful of day-trippers on the local ferries from Abaco. Tourists are essential to the local economies but, fortunately, don't overwhelm--yet.]
Man-o-War is like most cays, long and skinny (a few hundred yards sometimes), running north south with the harbour on the west (Sea of Abaco) side and gorgeous beaches on the east (Ocean) side with town in the middle. On our way back from the beach, we stopped at the house of Lola the baker who welcomed us into her spotless kitchen to purchase bread, cinnamon buns, and her husband's conch fritter mix. The last we fried that night. It was fabulous!
Heading north, we spent only one night anchored off Great Guana Cay because of approaching weather. We took our dinghy in and walked cross-island to the infamous Nippers Bar on a bluff overlooking the ocean. In that supposed den of iniquity we found a half-dozen quiet sunset watchers--so much for high life!
Another visit to the ocean beach next morning yielded one of our most spectacular beach and snorkeling forays but the wind was really picking up by the time we returned to Unfazed and maneuvering from the bobbing dinghy to the mother ship required exquisite timing. A spectacular run out to the ocean around Whale Cay and back in in an easterly of 25k brought us safely back to a mooring at Green Turtle before the drenching evening showers as the front came in and the wind went north.
After a return visit to St. Peter's Sunday, we took the ferry to Treasure Cay with the rector and his wife. He's an American, late vocation (former ecologist) who went to seminary in Texas. Most kindly, they drove us the six miles to the resort, which struck our "sophisticated" eyes as an unfortunate bit of transplanted Florida. Couldn't wait to taxi back to the next ferry and return to Green Turtle. We'll stay here another day or two until the winds shift back to the South and abate a bit but the sun is shining and we've lots to do.
Hope you are all as well and happy as we!
Cheers, Vicki and Bill
Green Turtle Cay, certainly our overall favorite, now seems like our home away from home. We returned there ten days ago to hide out from some high winds and to bring our companion boats, Ardnagee and Bateaux Mouche, closer to home. On Tuesday, 20 February, those boats departed for Florida. We were very sorry and somewhat anxious watching those disappearing transoms. For over a month we had not only shopped, eaten, played bridge, and generally been companionable, but also reached a comfortable consensus on routes, weather, navigating, and so on. On the other hand, the thought of flying solo was exhilarating. We had a Thursday snorkel trip booked so we took a day trip up to Manjack Cay for swimming and poking around in the dinghy before returning to Green Turtle to anchor in White Sound, the more "up market" bay with two rather posh resorts.
Our snorkeling day was one of the best ever. About fourteen people, half divers, half snorkelers were guided by a gorgeous little bandy cock named Brendal, who displayed his enviable physique and ebony skin wearing a fluorescent green bikini. Once at the dive site, however, he was all business, checking out the divers, and directing the floaters to a coral head only three feet below the surface. Bill and I were chilled without wetsuits but couldn't stay out of the water; the thousands (no hyperbole here, I promise) of reef fish and coral configurations were that spectacular. We capped the day with dinner at Bluff House, overlooking the whole cay and surrounding waters. We spent a wonderful evening with Jerry and Lois Kirschenbaum. He was raised in New York, she in New Jersey, and what do you suppose they do now? Of course, they run a tiny marina on Eggemoggin Reach in Maine and restore classic wooden boats!
When we finally tore ourselves away from Green Turtle, we lucked into another great sailing day and flew north before 20k plus to Spanish Cay. This tiny gem was once owned entirely by Clint Murcheson. Several developers have since gone bankrupt before they could show enough people what a lovely place it is. We were the ONLY boat in their 81-slip marina. One young couple flew in from Charleston in their Piper Arrow, and a group of ten came up from Green Turtle for Sunday lunch but mostly we enjoyed the beaches, bikes, and pool on our own. [The following note is for Marilyn Morrow] We were chased off the beach by a surprise downpour. It blew like stink that night and the breakwater did NOT protect, so Unfazed bobbled like a bad-news cork, AND we paid $1.35 a foot, way above the Abaco average (.75) nowhere near out favorite of .00! So there! There can be trouble in paradise.
Trouble here is very short-lived, however, and a couple of days later we blew into the harbor of Great Sale, an uninhabited cay that we'd used crossing the Bahama Banks coming in. This time, although we started alone, 7 boats arrived from West End by sunset (Including the IP 38 Calista with Jack and Cindy Ward) The season is heating up, and, much as we hate the thought of leaving, I'm glad we were here "too early."
Our last new adventure lay at Grand Cays, said to have the most difficult approach in the Abacos, off limits to charterers, and off the beaten path for almost all cruisers. The cluster of islands consists of Grand Cay, Big Grand, Little Grand, and Felix. Our goal was to slip around Felix, through a half dozen supporting mini-cays, to the harbour off Little Grand. I was on the bow, Bill on the helm, and with the help of rising tide and calmish seas, we threaded our way right in. Unfazed by the warnings of two other sailboats about tough anchor sets, we dug our trusty CQR right out of sight into the sand and headed to town. The cruising guide gives a population of 200. By late afternoon, when all the small fishing boats were in, all 200 were on the piers, cleaning fish or pulling conch. We walked through the small village, noting sadly, that the islands with all-Black populations always seem poorer. Did the White Loyalists who fled the States in the 1780's commandeer the better-endowed islands for themselves or was their European education a telling factor? We managed to put aside such heavy thoughts for a delicious lobster dinner at Rosie's. This small harbourside restaurant is a favorite destination for American sport fishermen seeking just a tiny taste of "local color." They are ferried down for dinner from nearby Walker's Cay and then whisked back to the familiar security of the 200-slip marina with all mod cons. After dinner, our little Honda outboard ABSOLUTELY refused to start and high winds forced us to prevail on one of the gentlemen in Rosie's bar to tow us home. Oh ignominy. [Mechanic tells us the coil is defunct and will need replacing in Florida. Wish Emily were here to row for us.]
After a long day motoring into the teeth of the wind, we're back at our first (and now last) Bahamian port of call. We could leave tomorrow ahead of a nasty front, but the weather in Florida sounds so vile, we think we'll wait it out here where it's 84o and sunny on the beach and NO PROBLEM.
Much love to all, Vicki and Bill
13 March 2001 Adventure Yacht Basin Daytona Beach, FL
In my last epistle, almost two weeks ago, I wrote that we thought we would wait through the incoming front in the delightful surrounds of Old Bahama Bay Marina. The first three hot sunny days confirmed our decision and we threw ourselves shamelessly into our last sunning, swimming, and snorkeling. When the winds proved unpleasant, we took the "bus" (minivan) twenty-five miles to Freeport. Mendham should have such an accommodating service. The driver has designated stops but also stops on and OFF his route (by prearrangement) wherever there is a request. One young man was taken to his house to fetch some documents before continuing with us as far as some government office. The constantly shifting population from newborns to aged with schoolboys and teens in between, was fascinating. Everyone was effusive to neighbors, friendly and helpful to our little handful of White foreigners Downtown Freeport was a great disappointment; no historic buildings, no colorful waterfront, nothing to distinguish it from, say Galveston in 1950: huge commercial port (now containers, of course, said to be a transfer station, Japanese-owned, for off-loading to various US destinations) followed by miles of strip malls, fast food, gas stations, etc. We elected to ride a city "bus" out to Port Lucaya, a beachfront resort area struggling gamely with several thousand US collegians on spring break. The collegians, in turn, were trying to pour in the alcohol fast enough to keep warm in 30k winds with only a few strategic thongs between their bottle-bronzed young flesh and the elements. Turned out, that was a lot of fun for them, if a bit noisy and off the wall for us old fogeys. We returned downtown to do what seniors do best: visit the library and grocery store.
Two days later, we were delighted to be included in an expedition to a national park beyond Freeport. New friends, Dick and Sarah Hardy, were looking for something amusing to do with the car they'd rented. The park featured many varieties of palms and bromiliads, brackish ponds, and gorgeous ocean beach, but the blue hole caves were the highlight. Seawater, eating away at the soft limestone for centuries, created mazes of underground tunnels and open-ended grottos, and eventually connected with freshwater streams. The brackish pools have fish but they've been introduced; the fish, rightfully, afraid to swim through tunnels to the sea. The caverns are also a major migratory stop for bats. [Janet and Tim: did you visit Grand Bahama?]
The evening of March 8 we reluctantly agreed to seize the upcoming window and toasted the Beautiful Bahamas with our last Goombah Smash (don't ask!) Friday morning at 0600 we left West End and laid on all sail to enjoy the WSW breeze. Weather clear and seas relatively calm to start. Winds increased to 20+ and seas to 6ft. in the Gulf Stream but we were so bemused at doing 9 knots over the ground we only gradually shortened sail. Even with the boost, it was a long twelve hours before we were in our slip at Ft. Pierce, 85 miles from start.
Heading north, we've had two absolutely lovely nights at anchor. The first was in the tiny basin off the ICW in Eau Gallie, the second tucked in Sheephead Cut, New Smyrna to avoid strong southerlies.
Luck-o-the-Fays continuing, we're now snug at a slip in Daytona, where we were finishing up the spring lines when a FIERCE thunderstorm commenced. It's still hammering the boat an hour-and a half later and thus you are lucky enough to have this bulletin.
Much love to all, Vicki and Bill
We are slowly recovering from the twelve-hour crossing to Ft. Pierce and enjoying our northward trek. Had a picture-perfect anchorage in the basin at Eau Gallie, and the next night another at Sheepshead Cut off New Smyrna. The former sported an emerald green park and two small marinas sparkling in the sunset. The cut was simply that but won our hearts by sheltering us from the hard southerlies that had pushed us since morning.
Next day we decided to stop early at Adventure Yacht Basin, Daytona Beach. Sky turned pitch black as we left the fuel dock and heavens opened as we were securing the spring. We had a breathtaking deluge but just two miles north a tornado whipped through the marina taking out biminis and causing a lot of pesky damage. Lucky us. Sunset was clear and I walked several miles on the famed Daytona beach. Raved so much that Bill went at sunrise next day. Unheard of!!
Yesterday we anchored peacefully off St. Augustine and took the dinghy in to visit the Castillo de San Marcos and Flagler College for the first time. You knew, of course, that Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain in 1513, but did you know that the English "won" the territory in the Seven Years War and held it as loyalist during the American Revolution. The Americans were so angry, they gave it back to Spain in 1793 and the Spanish ruled until 1821. Well, good on you. I had NO idea!
SW wind up to 20+ by the time we bobbled out of said dink and back aboard Unfazed. We called for an opening at Bridge of Lions for 1100 and stayed on the anchor until he flashed his warning lights. Then it was aweigh and away as Bill kept just enough power for steerage and the wind took is through at a merry klip.
Although it came in gusts, the wind continued to build all day and I saw 40k for the first time ever while I was on the helm. We were on a pretty protected section of the ICW so never had more than a stiff chop. We eyed the big black clouds and expected the worst but saw only sprinkles before we ducked into one of our favorite marinas, the new Palm Cove at J'ville Beach, just above BB McCormick bridge. The thunderstorm struck with a vengeance while we were in Publix. We just sat down with our groceries and waited it out. Again, there were fierce tornados throughout the panhandle and we were very glad not to be witnesses.
Just one short leg now, up the St. John's River to Jacksonville, a first for us. We discovered some fellow Island Packeteers in Ft. Pierce, Chuck and Jeanie Berringer on RELATIONSHIP, and they recommended Ortega Boatworks for our two week layover.
We visit Marilyn and John Morrow on Hilton Head before flying to California to stay with Emily and Ed for ten wildly anticipated days.
Cheers to all, Vicki and Bill
Hold onto your hats, Folks,
Here's the most afazing news yet from your peripatetic correspondents. Talk about your serendipity! Arrived back in Jacksonville after our glorious visit to Em and Ed in Berkeley to discover Unfazed was NOT back in the water.
The chagrined manager of Ortega Boat Works offered us accommodation on a Hatteras 47. That led to a test deep sea expedition and the rest, as they say, is history. Two 250 horse Chryslers (cruising at 25k, easy) flying bridge 27' feet above the water; totally awesome!
We were able to use Unfazed as a down payment and, even with all the fishing tackle (I had NO IDEA what an expensive little hobby that is), we should be OK once we sell 42 Aberdeen.
We've decided on Miami Beach as our home port for easy access to all the big marlin and tarpon tournaments, not to mention the action, and can't wait to get down there to paradise! We're just waiting for our custom "fight" chairs and our custom silk bomber jackets emblazoned with the name of our beautiful new baby,
"FISHFAZED!" and we are out of here!
Now that we are back in Mendham and it is a LITTLE easier to use the laptop, I thought I ought to dash off a short concluding narrative for all those waiting with bated breath.
First, let me assure those who did not notice the April 1 date of what appeared to be our final communique, we did NOT buy a monster sportfisher and retire to Miami Beach. We were incommunicado both because we were pushing north ASAP to get UNFAZED back to Rock Hall for the summer charter season and because the Coast Guard ate my computer.
It was, of course, my fault, and an important lesson, at that. After months of carefully cushioning the laptop on its leather bag and carefully stowing it before each journey, I'd become a little too sanguine on the placid Intracoastal and left it on the nav table. A small Coastie patrol boat came barreling up behind us, dropped to 5k, passed, and then opened the throttle wide. We had never had, and hope never to have again, the wake they threw. I can't imagine the horsepower they must have to catch the nasty drug runners. Despite my best aversion tactics at the helm, they caught us. Everything not secured, fortunately, mostly chartbooks and cruising guides, was flung to the sole from galley to forward cabin. In the midst was the ;a[top. Amazingly, the "only" damage was a crack in the screen, blacking out approximately 1/4 the viewing area. Judiciously moving windows up, down, left, and right, it is possible for someone with limitless patience to read almost any text and perform almost any operation. Let's hope the kitty can find $$ for a replacement soon.
We had some very happy days on the trip north. Just out of the St. John's River after leaving Jacksonville, we anchored off Cumberland Island, a National Park. On April 6 we took the dinghy in to the ferry dock and spent the morning walking trails in the bird-filled forest of live oak, past ruined mansions down to the beach.
That same afternoon we reached Golden Isles Marina, St. Simon's, our home-away-from home. We had a full day's work planned for the morrow but first we went into Brunswick to horn in on yet another Sailing Club dinner. The Richmonds, companions on the Bahamas trip, asked us to crew on their Victori 34 for the next day's ocean race Of course we went. Almost perfect warm sunny conditions with just a bit less wind than we would have liked. With yours truly at the helm [only because the spinnaker took both Richmonds, believe me] we were first in our class. Fun!
Emboldened, we decided two days later to take UNFAZED outside from just above St. Simon's to the Savannah River. The ocean leg was 46 nm which we motorsailed over a light swell. We left our Duplin River anchorage at 0740 and finally dropped the hook again just north of the Savannah River at1900, quite pleased with our passage.
Easter is a moveable feast. Never more so than when cruising. We left St. Simon's just after the Palm Sunday service at Christ Church and were back in Charleston for the Good Friday service and St. John's Passion concert at St. Michael's there. By Easter Sunday we were worshipping at the tiny Prince George Wynyah church in Georgetown, SC--three historic eighteenth century churches to make the season especially memorable.
Monday we made 67 miles up to Southport and anchored to a beautiful sunset in the tiny harbor. Next day the winds increased steadily and the weather deteriorated with each passing mile. By the time we approached Figure Eight Bridge we were in driving rain and sleet with gusts to 40k. Boat handling was a cold, miserable, nasty chore. The bridge could not open in those winds; the only nearby marina told us we'd be mad to try entering and the ICW was much too narrow to anchor. So w chugged back and forth below the bridge, taking 1/2 hour tricks wrestling the wheel as the broadside winds pummeled helmsman and boat. For entertainment, we listened to NOAA repeat his morning broadcast, "Cloudy with NW winds 15-20, gusting to 25." Finally got an opening at 1630 and STILL had 20 miles to Topsail Sound, a fine anchorage on a peaceful night but very rolly with winds whistling across the surrounding salt marshes. We were too tired to care!
We recuperated in Beaufort, NC for a day and made the rest of the trip to Rock Hall in just over a week; docking at 1800 on April 27. We had very windy days on the Chesapeake, some good for sailing, and some just miserable chop with "the usual" wind on the nose. Somehow, though, every evening the wind would die completely, the sun would make its appearance in time for a fiery dive and we would toast each other and our trusty vessel and give thanks again for this extraordinary adventure.
Cheers to all, Vicki and Bill May 2001