Goodbye Bahamas, Hello Florida

Nassau


There is something about a bar set low that can make for a surprisingly pleasant experience. Based on what we had heard about the city of Nassau, we weren’t looking forward to spending time there- shame on us for judging a book by its cover. After dropping our friends off at the airport, we intended to stay only long enough to restock on food, fuel and water, however just as we were about to haul anchor, Elan noticed a bolt rolling around under the engine. Apparently two of the eight bolts that hold our shaft coupler on had broken off. No biggie, I thought, just replace the bolts and go, right? Nope. Turns out that the bolts were an odd metric size that we did not have stocked in our massive spare bolts container (Elan’s pride and joy). And it was also a Sunday, Easter Sunday to be exact, and apparently Bahamians celebrate Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday as well, so we waited an extra 3 days to finally be able to buy two 36 cent bolts. This also meant that we missed our weather window to the Berry Islands, and spent an additional 5 days anchored in Nassau. A 72 cent fix cost us 8 days… All footloose and fancy free out here, huh?

Massive Atlantis Hotel

Massive Atlantis Hotel

Having bonus time in Nassau as we waited for the next weather window, Élan and I set off on foot to see a few of the sights. We walked all over glamorous Paradise Island, and explored the massive Atlantis Hotel. We discovered a free movie theater at the hotel and saw four movies in three days. We sometimes feel a little media deprived (though, that’s usually a good thing). so we got our fill. We also explored The Cloisters, built for monastery in the 14th Century in France, and transported to Paradise Island in 1968.

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We visited one of Elan’s childhood friends who crews on a mega yacht stationed in Nassau, and discovered too late that two more friends, also from Tonasket were on a cruise ship there at the same time. If you count our friends that just left, that’s 5 Tonaskans in Nassau the same week, for such a small home town, that’s pretty impressive.

Speaking of cruise ships, we were anchored right next to the cruise ship dock, capable of holding seven of those monsters at the same time. Our last day there, we woke up (literally looking up) at Oasis of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship on Earth.

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas

Cost of Living in the Bahamas


Tourism is the main industry in the Bahamas, and unfortunately that means everything, everywhere is tourist priced. Diesel is $6 a gallon, freshwater is 40 cents a gallon, and pretty much any item of produce is $1+ each! I was floored by a $6 grapefruit, a single 8oz granola bar for $8.50, and a pint of maple syrup for $48! However, we did discover that things from other commonwealth countries like New Zealand were cheap (less duty). So, quality cheese, butter and lamb were less than $3/lb. If you add a few $7 fifths of good Bahamian rum, and we weren’t feeling so poor after all.

Goodbye Bahamas, We’ll be Back Again Someday…


After the delay in Nassau, we decided to skip Chub Key and the Berry Islands, and do a 110 mile overnight run straight to Bimini, our last stop in the Bahamas. True to our entire Bahamian experience, Bimini provided us crystal clear water and a long, shell-laden beach all to ourselves. We only spent one night there because the weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream was closing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears as I watched the last of the Bahamas fade into the horizon. We still have lots of miles to go, and many adventures to be had, yet somehow as the international portion of our trip comes to an end, it feels more like “going home” than “going places”. It’s not that I’m not looking forward to the next chapter, it’s just that the last chapter has been so amazing.

We have covered a lot of miles on this trip and the Bahamas have been some of our favorites. It seems to have the best of everything: beautiful beaches, clear turquoise water, spectacular snorkeling, access to good food, perfect temperate weather, availability of boat parts and repair facilities, and the nicest people on earth. I can see how some cruisers spend years here, we may just have to come back again!

At anchor off of Bimini, our last night in the Bahamas.

At anchor off of Bimini, our last night in the Bahamas.

Crossing the Gulf Stream and Entering US Waters


As is typical for us, when we are braced for an infamously rough section of water, we have a peaceful passage. I guess that is the difference between being prepared or being surprised. We chose a good forecast when the current and a light wind were running the same direction. The Gulf Stream runs south to north along the E coast of Florida at anywhere from 2-6 knots. Many 6 knot sailboats like ours run north with the current at 10 knots. We expected to be pushed north to Fort Lauderdale, but halfway across decided to “feel out” a more southerly course. Rather than sail northwest a 10kn, we motor-sailed due west at 4.5kn and made landfall in Miami instead. In case you haven’t noticed by now, we are not sailing purists, and will happily motor or motor-sail if it means not spending an extra day backtracking south again.

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Hangin' out with my friends the dolphins.

Hangin’ out with my friends the dolphins.


Feeling Snobbish

So just like that, we are back in the good ol’ US of A. As sad as I was to leave the Bahamas, it feels good to be “home” again too. A good side-effect of travel is making you appreciate home more than before. If there is one thing this trip has taught Élan and I, it’s that we are uptight snobs. That’s right, I said it. We have it pretty good in the states, and particularly so in the PNW, so our expectations were all set high. This applies across the board: from marina facilities, to food quality, to beer selections, to efficiency in business, and the list goes on and on. I laugh at myself as I look back at our reactions to things on this trip… “you want me to tie my boat to that?”; “what do you mean the only coffee available is Nescafé instant, we are in Jamaica/Mexico/Panama, they grow coffee here!”; “so, its illegal to pump our grey/black water overboard, but the nearest pumpout facility is 2000 miles away, hmmm”…

Clearly, we have adjusted our expectations, and have enjoyed every good-natured, eye-rolling minute of our travels, BUT we aren’t less snobby for it, we are more. Now we can add new things to our list of snobbishness: all non-Caribbean water looks like mud in comparison; I won’t want bother going to beach if I have to share it with anybody else (or worse, if there are no cool shells to be found); and “lobsters that cost more than $1, I don’t think so!”. I’m being a little facetious here, but its true, we have been totally spoiled. Spoiled by a good life back home, and spoiled by great experiences out here. We are grateful for everyday we get to enjoy these things and find delight in the humor of our own foiled expectations.

An Introduction to the ICW

Interested in new boating experiences, we decided to take the ICW, the Intra Costal Waterway, as we made our way south from Miami. The ICW connects New York to Texas via rivers, canals, bays, etc, and sounded like an interesting twist on sailing. What we didn’t realize was that when they say the controlling depth for the ICW was 7 feet, that number is used loosely… as in, it silts up to 4.5 feet in some places (we draw 5). We also didn’t realize until it was too late to get out, that that particular stretch of ICW is the shallowest of the whole darn thing. We inched our way south towards Marathon Key, taking it slow and timing the shallowest areas at high tide, and thankfully made it without going aground. Apparently that’s quite a feat. We talked to several people who say they run aground all the time, but since its soft bottom, they just call it “cocktail hour” while they wait for the tide to float them off.
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Not so sure how we feel about these narrow, winding, shallow creeks...

Not so sure how we feel about these narrow, winding, shallow creeks…

"Spread my wings and fly away"

“Spread my wings and fly away”


We spent a night in Tarpon Basin before I figured out what a tarpon was… man those are some BIG fish, weighing up to 200lbs! Somehow we managed to make it all the way through Everglades National Park without seeing a single alligator or manatee. You win some, you lose some.
People feeding tarpon by hand in the Everglades.

People feeding tarpon by hand in the Everglades.

Osprey taking flight.

We saw a lot of Osprey on the ICW. The navigational markers make great perches for their messy, twiggy nests.

Sunrise in the Everglades.

Sunrise in the Everglades.


We spent a few days on Marathon Key provisioning and taking a bike ride out the Seven Mile Bridge which spans its way from key to key and eventually leads towards Key West. What is it that makes those Florida Keys sunsets so stunning? The sun seems bigger, closer, and so perfectly round as it sinks off into infinity.
Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

Happy to be off the boat and bike riding.

Happy to be off the boat and bike riding.

Sunset from Marathon Key

Sunset from Marathon Key

Sunset in the Keys

Sunset in the Keys


Close to the southernmost part of the US, we turned north again and ran 120 miles overnight to Fort Meyer’s Beach on the west coast of Florida. It was a high maintenance kind of run because of the obscene number of crab/lobster pots that littered every inch of the way. I spent most of the day on the bow calling out instructions to Elan so we could carefully weave our way through them. Often, they were less than 50 feet apart. If there are any crab left out there, there wont be for long.

Not long after we set out, we answered a distress call from another sailboat who had picked up TWO crab pots on their propeller. They were an older couple, and the man was so exhausted after freeing the first pot that he couldn’t keep diving any longer. We located them, and after about 30 minutes of taking deep breaths and diving down with a bread knife, Elan was able to cut the tangled crab pot free from their prop, shaft and cutlass. That rescue put us behind schedule by 2 hours, but it was the right thing to do, and they were very appreciative. In our experience, those good deeds seem to pay off two-fold, and we have certainly been the recipients of many kind acts along the way.

Dodging crab pots under sail... We started calling them 'boat pots' since they probably catch more boats than crab.

Dodging crab pots under sail… We started calling them ‘boat pots’ since they probably catch more boats than crab.


Fort Meyers Beach turned out to be a really fun stop. Not touristy, but definitely a ‘vacation-y” vibe. We picked up a mooring ball in the middle of town, whose fee included access to shower facilities. Wonderful, blissful, unlimited hot showers. And we needed them bad. I’m pretty sure our last hot showers were in Jamaica… in early January… Guess who is a happy girl now!

For the first time ever, we saw another Seafarer 38, who just happened to be on the mooring ball right next to us. We enjoyed chatting with it’s owner and comparing our refits and modifications.
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A REAL Introduction to the ICW
We would have liked to spend more time in Fort Meyers Beach, but as usual, incoming weather kept us on the move. We chose the ICW route again because it was more direct, but were shocked by the number of boats confined in the tiny spaces. After surviving our previous run through the “shallowest part” of the ICW before, we managed to plant ourselves firmly aground early on in the day. In an effort to make room for 3 boats squeezing between two markers at the same time, we drifted just close enough to the edge of the channel to squish Silver Lining well into the soft muddy bottom. Fantastic.

Unable to reverse off the shoal, we moved all of our heavy gear to one side of the boat, hoping that getting it to list would decrease our draft by just enough, but to no avail. Finally, we dropped the dinghy, and Elan rammed the bow of the boat until finally we rocked ourselves back into the channel and we were home free once again. Fun times. That same day, we had another first: requesting a drawbridge opening so that Silver Lining and her 50′ mast could get by a 9′ bridge. We anchored in tiny Cape Haze for a peaceful nights sleep next to our new friends on the boat Night Music.

We were underway at first light the next day because we had a 55 mile run planned to Tampa Bay. Just after we set off, Elan and I were unnerved by a new rumble coming from our engine compartment. Worried that we had damaged something during our grounding, we stopped at the next spot wide enough to anchor. Elan dove in and checked our keel, rudder and prop; It all checked out. Then he noticed that the sacrificial prop shaft zinc was loose: aha! the source of our new vibration. Replacing a zinc is usually an easy 15 minute job, but this one was a corroded mess and the water grew murkier with each passing boat. My jokes about Elan being eaten by an alligator ended when he actually saw a chunk of hairy animal float by him. Eeeww.

Excuse Me, Coming Through!
Two hours later, we were back on our way, with not one but ELEVEN drawbridges still between us and our destination in Tampa Bay. It was stressful jockeying our limited mobility boat in tight channels with current and crosswinds as we waited for road traffic to stop and the bridges to lift, but after a few, I was flipping french toast and waving my spatula at the friendly bridge keepers. We arrived at the mouth of Tampa Bay just before sunset, tired but happy to have arrived safe and sound. We swapped bridge stories with Night Music and were relieved that ours wasn’t the only stressful day… they snagged a crab pot in their prop AND had to request an emergency bridge opening because the current and wind was whipping them toward a bridge. Never a dull moment, I tell ya!
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After our bridge adventures, we spent two nights recovering and waiting out weather at De Soto Park in Tampa Bay. Next up was a 50 mile open water run to Tarpon Springs, the sponge fishing capital of the world. Then our last overnight of this whole adventure, a 175mi, 33 hour motor with zero wind to White City. I spent my night watches feeling nostalgic and sentimental about nearing the end of our adventure as I watched the full moon sparkle on the glassy seas. I’m going to miss this.

Glassy seas. Gold on one side and silver on the other.

Glassy seas. Gold on one side and silver on the other.

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When we were about 30 miles offshore, we had several small song birds land on the boat to rest. Twice they flew inside the boat, but Apollo made sure they knew that they had crossed the line.

I imagine these guys are tired, we were 30 miles from the nearest anything.

I imagine these guys are tired, we were 30 miles from the nearest anything.

"Move it or lose it birdie!"

“Move it or lose it birdie!”

The last 20 miles of the run were all through narrow, grassy wetlands, which evolved into jungly thick swamp. The lush green scenery was a beautiful contrast to the scrubby desert islands of the last 3 months.

Grasslands

Grasslands

An abandoned swing bridge.

An abandoned swing bridge.

Jungly swamp land

Jungly gator territory.

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We spent a night on the inland river at a free dock in White City. We haven’t been to a dock, even for fuel, since we left Panama six months ago… Good thing we like being at anchor! We potlucked with Night Music and met some friendly locals who brought their “low country boil” to the dock to share with us. Delicious blue crab, shrimp, sausage and corn all spiced up and boiled together. This was our first taste of true “Southern Hospitality” and the night ended with hugs and “we’re sure gonna miss ya’lls”.

Tammy, Ashley, Élan, Nick, Stacy and Bob, feasting on a "low country boil"

Tammy (from White City); Ashley & Elan; Nick & Stacy (from s/v Night Music); and Bob (from White City), feasting on a “low country boil”


The next day, we were skunked again on wind for the 40 mile run to Panama City, FL, but we did see a few  sea turtles and had a dolphin escort several times. We spent a day in Panama City getting groceries, exploring (the mis-named) Shell Island beach and walking to Gator Lake, which still didn’t provide a single gator! 
Ethan from Night Music and Élan on Shell Island.

Ethan from Night Music and Élan on Shell Island.

Body surfin' duo.

Body surfin’ duo.

Ethan, Nick and Stacy

Ethan, Nick and Stacy

Gator Lake

Gator Lake

No gators at Gator Lake, just one very brave deer.

No gators at Gator Lake, just one very brave deer.


As I write now, we are en route to Destin, where we plan to spend the next few days. Still no wind to speak of, but a few angry-looking thunderclouds on the horizon which may forebode an interesting afternoon dodging squalls.

We are just a few more hops from Pensacola, where we hope to haul the boat in the next few weeks. Keep your fingers crossed that we can strike a deal on getting the boat home soon.

We hope you all are well. Until next time,
Ashley & Elan

The Exumas, Eleuthera and Nassau

What can I say, the Bahamas are amazing.

Since our last post, we have been working our way north from Georgetown, up the Exumas, to New Providence and Eleuthera. We made the lucky catch of finding another young couple heading our direction, so we have had partners in crime. Josh and Shea on Full Moon, are from Whidbey Island, not too far from our roots in Bellingham.

Shea and Josh from Full Moon

Shea and Josh from Full Moon

Lee Stocking Island

Our first stop after Georgetown was Lee Stocking Island. The abandoned NOAH Research Center there made the whole island feel like a scene from the tv show Lost. Boats, tractors, houses and labs all just sitting as if someone left them 5 minutes ago. Windows open, doors unlocked, dishes on the counters… All a little strange. We weathered several days of high wind on one of their brand new but abandoned mooring balls, so we had lots of time to explore the island.

Élan and Josh built sailboats from beach findings and set them free to sail over the sunset.

Élan and Josh built sailboats from beach findings and set them free to sail over the sunset.

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“What a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts…”
We also did lots of coconut hunting, and therefore had lots of chances to figure out how to get those suckers open. Eventually we found that a machete did the trick for getting to the coconut water in the young green coconuts, and a hammer and hacksaw worked wonders on revealing the yummy white meat in the brown coconuts.

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Crazy for coconut!

Apollo is crazy for coconut! He wont stop begging until he gets his own piece.


Now that we are masters of coconut obliteration, we had to find uses for all those coconuts. I have been drinking coconut water, making coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flour, coconut bread, coconut shell bowls, and I may get around to coconut shell jewelry, but that involves sanding, ick, my boat-life nemesis…
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Separating the coconut flakes from the coconut milk.

Separating the coconut flakes from the coconut milk.


Galliot Cay
We made a one night stop at Galliot Cay, where we snorkeled Galliot Cut in search of conch. Full Moon found a few, but I was too busy looking at coral and fish…
Basket coral

Basket coral

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Going to and from Galliot, we had our first experiences traversing the “banks”. The East side of the Exumas are exposed to ocean wind, swell and deep depths. The banks on the west side are protected from the prevailing wind and swell, and are super shallow for miles and miles. It feels quite bizarre to sail for 4 hours and never see a depth over 12 feet. One day, our average depth was about 8 feet… we draw 6 feet, so it wasn’t much clearance or room for error. The first time we did this, I spent all day on the bow oohing and ahhing at everything on the sea floor and taking photos, while Élan spent the whole day frantically watching the depth sounder and worrying his fingernails down to nubs. There are some benefits to not wearing the title of “Captain”!

Shadow in the shallows.

Shadow in the shallows.

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Little Farmer’s Caye- Population: 52
Shortly after entering the small grocery at Little Farmer’s Caye, we were introduced to the family dynamics of life on a island of only 52 people, where pretty much everyone is related. After a few hours of island gossip, we had a general idea of the who’s who. Although a few cruising boat pass through here every day, the locals seemed excited to have fresh tourists to entertain and be entertained by. Two days at anchor here somehow turned into five, with many hours spent chatting in Altimus’ (“Ali”) Bar, and Tasha’s Grocery store. The boys went fishing and conch diving with Ali, helped him change bilge pumps in his boat, air filters in his tractor, and somehow ended up on sanitation duty: riding around the island (in a re-purposed boat trailer, pushed backwards by an old tractor) picking up garbage from each house on the island- ha, I wish I had photos of that. Us girls chatted with the island ladies, baked bread, learned to fry fish and did lots of beach combing for sea beans.

On a sea bean hunt

On a sea bean hunt

Once again, Élan makes it behind the bar... Hanging out with Ali at his bar.

Once again, Élan makes it behind the bar… Hanging out with Ali at his bar.


A Strange New Obsession is Born
I’ll admit it, I have become obsessed with sea beans! A friend introduced me to my first sea bean on Long Island, and ever since, I can’t pass up a seaweed covered beach without doing a quick sea bean hunt. Apparently, sea beans, or “drift seeds” as they are sometimes called, don’t actually come from the sea, they are hard, buoyant, seeds that come from all over the world. They fall into rivers, get carried to oceans, move around with current and wind and wash up on beaches in other places. The most common ones we have found here are “sea hearts” and “hamburger beans”. They polish up really pretty and can be used in jewelry, etc, but most of the fun is in the hunt. Thankfully, I have converted Shea into a sea bean lover too, so even when the boys get tired of beach combing, I still have a sea bean searching partner. 20130329-173400.jpg

Excited over a sea heart.

Black Point After all of our socializing on Little Farmers, we enjoyed two quiet days at Black Point on Great Guana Cay. We spent one day beach combing for sea beans and a full day baking on the boat.

Blow hole near Black Point

Blow hole near Black Point

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Baking Boat-Style: Without an Oven or the Proper Ingredients
By necessity, we get creative with the new ingredients available to us, but more often that not we have to be creative about the lack of ingredients available out here. Lately I have been doing some experimentation… My first two attempts at making yogurt made from powdered milk flopped, but that was before I realized that my 100% milk from Panama was actually mostly soy. Shea has been schooling me at making fresh bread, pitas on the BBQ and stuffed bread rolls from scratch, which I “bake” in my toaster oven. As I write, I am also enjoying my first ever batch of no-bake cookies on the boat… Why it took me a year and a half of living on the boat to think of that one is beyond me. Anyway, Élan (and sometimes Apollo, when the recipes flop) is enjoying my new interest in baking. I’ll include some of my new boat-friendly recipes soon.

Wheat bread and stuffed rolls, yum!

Wheat bread and stuffed rolls, yum!

Coconut bread, warm from the oven

Coconut bread, warm from the oven

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Staniel Cay
After we got over the shock of seeing SO many boats, specifically mega-yachts, in Big Major’s anchorage on Staniel Cay (we are still adjusting to the crowds as we inch closer to Florida), we dinghied to Thunderball Grotto. This underwater cave was used in the filming of the movies Splash, Thunderball, and two James Bond movies, and for good reason. The swim-in cave has natural skylights and fish swarm close to us. We enjoyed swimming thought the tunnels and exploring the “rooms” full of grouper, squirrel fish, angel fish, trigger fish, sergeant majors, parrot fish and others.
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Swim through caves

Swim through caves

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Staniel Cay is also famous for its wild swimming hogs. We were also greeted by a curious stingray at the same time.

They look cute, but they are big and hairy and hungry, and wanted to get in the dinghy with us.

They look cute, but they are big and hairy and hungry, and wanted to get in the dinghy with us.

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Warderick Wells, Shroud Cay & Highborne Caye
We spent one night on Warderick in the Exumas Land and Sea Park, hiking all over the incredibly rocky island and checking out the ruins of an old plantation. How any one ever grew anything on that island made of rock, I have no idea.

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We dinghied through the estuary that almost entirely divides Shroud Cay to a beach with especially bright blue water.

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On to the Big City, then Eleuthera Island
We arrived in Nassau a few days before Elan’s childhood friend, Colin and his lovely girlfriend Erin, flew in to meet us. We celebrated my *ugh* 30th Birthday in the city and then headed off the next morning to Eleuthera just before sunrise.
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We spent 5 nights in Hatchet Bay, which was once a freshwater lake, that had been cut through to form a perfectly protected harbor. We used this anchorage as a base to explore the whole island.
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The guys were excited to try out their new sling spears and managed to catch us dinner on the first try.
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We rented scooters to check out the north end of the island. Although the scooters each had less than 400 miles on them, they BOTH managed to break down and leave us stranded. We eventually swapped them for two others, only one of which left us hanging, haha, it’s always an adventure out here. We still managed to run up to The Glass Window, Preacher’s Cave, the cave where religious exiles first landed and held services for 100+ years, and found a beautiful white sand beach on the north side of the island.
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After the scooter mishaps, we decided to try our luck at hitch hiking instead, and had much more success. Bahamians are so friendly, and are always willing to offer a ride. This time we went south and explored Cupid’s Cay, James Cistern and Governors Harbor. We found a great shell beach which didn’t exist before Hurricane Sandy created it just a few months ago. I also dragged everyone all over the island in search of a pink sand beach, and finally found a great one on the east side of the island. The color is subtle, but most definitely tinted pink.20130329-171041.jpg
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On our way to Current Island, we caught an Amberjack and several Barracudas. That night the boys snorkeled and speared while us girls beach combed the deserted beaches.

Amberjack

Amberjack

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We were sad to drop Colin and Erin back off in Nassau, their trip went by too fast.

Tomorrow morning we will sail out of Nassau’s busy harbor at day break and head for the Berry Islands. We will make a few stops after that in Bimini then cross the Gulf Stream to Florida within the next week or so. Elan and I are reluctantly admitting that reality beckons us home soon. We are still working out the details of putting Silver Lining on a semi truck for her cross-country ride back to the Pacific Northwest. After that… we still aren’t exactly sure. We’ll see what the future has in store for us!

Until next time,
Ashley & Elan

Celebrating A Year of Cruising! The Bahamas

We made it to the Bahamas, and we absolutely love it here! Here’s the scoop on getting here from Jamaica…

The Windward Passage

After much waiting and deliberation over weather forecasts in Port Antonio, Jamaica, we finally spotted a few days with a reasonable outlook. We hauled anchor and left for the 240 mile, three day and two night passage to the southernmost tip of the Bahamas. A rough patch right in the beginning had me digging for the Dramamine, but after that the seas calmed down and we motor-sailed at a good clip almost the entire way. The wind and sea state were about as great as they ever get in that often dangerous section of water. 

Just passing the hours on their "watch"

Just passing the hours on their “watch”

One of the nights was a little squally, but we managed to stay mostly dry. Here is a picture of our radar/GPS, the big green blobs are the squalls, doing their best to pinch us.
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We felt like the only boat around for a million miles, except when we were rounding the Eastern tip of Cuba around midnight, when it suddenly felt like we were a sloth crossing a multi-land highway. I saw 4 cruise ships during one 4 hour watch shift, and the big container ships were passing us left and right.
Strangely, we didn’t see any wildlife, not a single dolphin, whale, bird or fish, however, the phosphorescence was spectacular I think I say that about almost every passage, but I really mean it! Instead of a vague greenish glow, it was intense flashes of light, each about a foot across, popping up all over our wake. The stars were also amazingly bright. With zero light pollution and not much else to do, we spend hours hanging out with Orion and Casiopia.

Landfall in the Bahamas; Great Inagua
We finally arrived in Matthew Town on Great Inagua. We anchored in water so unbelievably bright blue. I thought I had seen turquoise waters before, but this is it!

Testing out these Bahamian waters.

Testing out these Bahamian waters.

The clear water was a good excuse to check out the hull.

The clear water was a good excuse to check out the hull.

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Matthew Town is a quiet little village with not a lot going on. On our first dinghy trip to shore, we stumbled upon the town excitement of the week: two bulldozers trying to drag a sunken vessel out of the “yacht basin”. Apparently it was in bad shape when customs seized the boat full of drugs a few months ago, then Hurricane Sandy finished her off.
Sunken wreck being hauled off to her final resting place.

Sunken wreck being hauled off to her final resting place.

Bad day for someone!

Bad day for someone!

It wasnt the only sunken boat in the basin, apparently this Catalina only went down a few days prior to our visit. Aside from a few local fishing boats, the only other boats in the basin were a trio of wooden sailboats from Haiti. We were fascinated by these boats. Made by hand from wood, tree trunk for a mast, cheap poly line for all the standing and running rigging, rebar for rudder posts and no motor propulsion. How cool is that! We chatted with a few guys repairing their gigantic gaff rig sails by hand (the entire sail inventory was all sewn by hand) and were so impressed by their ingenuity and motivation to build better lives for themselves.
Haitian sailboats.

Haitian sailboats.

Hoisting that big ol' mains'l

Hoisting that big ol’ mains’l

Now that his trials and tribulations are over, I have to make a confession about poor Apollo. This little guy deserves some kind of award for best boat doggie ever. Due to strict quarantine laws in Jamaica, no dogs are allowed off their boats. At all. For almost two months. Ugh! What a little trooper though. After the initial battle of the wills (us: “do your business on the bow”, him: “no, the beach is right there”, us: “doesn’t matter, you gotta do it here”, him: “don’t be so lazy, the dirt is so close”, us: “sorry dude”, him: “fine, I’ll hold it”, us: *sigh*) he finally came around and cooperated with Jamaica’s ridiculous rule. He’s no stranger to long stretches on the boat though, so we employed all his best on-board exercise tactics: tug-o-war, fetch up and down the companionway a million times a day, barking at dinghies that come too close to his boat, and, his all-time-favorite: the “dot”, aka a laser pointer. Needless to say, Apollo LOVES the Bahamas, where he can run around and pee on dirt to his heart’s content!
"Keep-away" means lots of indoor exercise!

“Keep-away” means lots of indoor exercise!

Sand worshiping!

Sand worshiping! Getting in a good roll before the parents can stop me.

Finally, allowed off the boat!

Finally, allowed off the boat!


The anchorage at Matthew Town was a roadstead- an open anchorage with no protection from wind or swell. As we waited for 72 hours for the next weather window, we had the misfortune of having wind holding us at 90 degrees to the swell. Translation: we rocked and rolled all day and all night long. I think this was probably the most drastic roll we have ever experienced. By this point I can sleep through just about anything, but you know its bad when you can’t wait to get onto your next overnight passage so you can finally get some rest!

Our (hopefully) last overnight in a while; Great Inagua to Long Island
We have been looking forward to putting these months of long-distance passage making behind us. Now that we are in the Bahamas, everything is much closer together. The run to Long Island was 150 miles, the last overnight we’ll have to do for a while.  As soon as we pulled up anchor Elan began putting out the fishing lines, and I hadn’t even finished securing the anchor on the bow before he already had a fish on.

Check out those fangs!

Check out those fangs!

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We thought this bad boy was a wahoo, a delicious eating fish, but it was way more meat that the two of us could make use of, especially at the beginning of a passage, so we let him go. Since then, we decided he was actually a barracuda, and at that big size they are prone to cigaterra anyway, so it was probably a good decision.

The rest of our passage was uneventful, and we made good time to Clarence Town, Long Island.

Clarence Town, Long Island
As we were preparing to enter the channel into Clarence Town, I was on the bow on coral lookout. I was shocked to see that the water became shallow much sooner than it should have and I began frantically signaling to Elan to turn around. As it turns out, we were still in over 50 feet of water, but the water is so crystal clear that I assumed the bottom was much closer than it really was. We dropped our anchor in 9 ft in the lee of Strachan Cay; what a beautiful anchorage. Low sandy islands, rocky reefs and white sand beaches made up our 360 view. 
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The many beaches surrounding this anchorage provided some amazing shell hunting over the next few days. A friend on another boat introduced us to sea beans; they grow in big pods on some sea plant and then wash up on the beach. They feel like hard wood, some are shaped like hearts and some are shaped exactly like a tiny hamburger. Elan’s been shining them up so I can make them into some kind of jewelry.

Sea beans! Heart shaped sea beans and hamburger shaped sea beans.

Sea beans! Heart shaped sea beans and hamburger shaped sea beans.

Umm, I might need a bigger boat!

Umm, I might need a bigger boat!

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All of my beach combing wears him out!

All of my beach combing wears him out!

Our adventures on shore lead us to a cool church, and a tour of town by these goats.
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tour leading goats

Tour leading goats

Lots of old buildings in ruins... once someone stops caring for them it doesnt take long for the hurricanes and undergrowth to take over.

Lots of old buildings in ruins… once someone stops caring for them it doesn’t take long for the hurricanes and undergrowth to take over.

Elan says this is what I look like all the time. :)

Elan says this is what I look like all the time. 🙂

We cant get over how friendly and welcoming everyone in the Bahamas is. You cant walk down a road without people stopping to ask if you need a ride. One day we were picked up on our 30 second walk to a restaurant by a nice couple, expats from Wisconsin, which turned into an all-day adventure hitchhiking around the island to their home, their favorite hangout, their friend’s house. Throw in a little conch salad, rum punches, and some homemade pickled jack, and it was an unexpected but memorable day.

Since catching the barracuda, I have been determined to catch something we can actually eat. We did some fishing from the dinghy, had several bites, but only managed to catch more barracuda, like this little guy.
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It seems barracuda are the only big fish that hang out in the areas shallow enough to anchor. In fact, every time I try to swim off, it seems there is a barracuda waiting for me under the boat. I doubt they’d hurt me, but it is a little too unnerving how curious they are, especially because some of them are as tall as I am. I love this clear water, but sometimes I’d rather not be able to see all those beady eyes looking back at me!
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We weathered out a several day long blow here, but still enjoyed the relaxing days, fishing, reading, checking out a blue hole, and beach combing. 

Making up for missed runs in Jamaica.

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Elan found all of these shells for me in about 10 minutes!

Elan found all of these shells for me in about 10 minutes!

Maybe a little over-zealous with the sand rolling...

Maybe a little over-zealous with the sand rolling…

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Calabash Bay, Long Island

We had a nice motor-sail up the west side of Long Island and around the north end to Calabash Bay. Again, it was like anchoring in a swimming pool. I am beginning to think that everyone should learn to anchor in the Bahamas. Clear water, shallow depths, soft sandy bottom, it doesn’t get any easier than that! As our anchor goes down, I can actually see it catch and dig in, and if for whatever reason we are wondering what it is doing, we can just dingy over to it later and look straight down on it. 
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The beach at Calabash was breathtaking. Pristine white, powder fine sand, that felt like walking in flour… ok, I don’t know exactly what that would feel like, but its gotta be something like this.

During our 2 night stay in Calabash, we had much to celebrate. Sure, February 14th was Valentines Day, but February 15 marks our 1 year anniversary since officially shoving off the dock in San Diego. I can hardly believe that was 6,500 nautical miles, 8 countries, and all those memories ago. “Time flies when you are having fun,” doesn’t even begin to cover it! We are so blessed to be out here doing what we love, and give thanks every day that we have had the health, circumstances and a little luck to make our dream reality.

Someone pinch me.

All my favorite things in one place! My guy, my dog, my boat, beautiful water, white sandy beach...

All my favorite things in one place! My guy, my dog, my boat, beautiful water, white sandy beach…

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IMG_4000Leaving Silver in our dinghy wake.
Just like diving into a pool!

Just like diving into a pool!

Blissful Sail to Great Exuma
Our sail from Long Island to George Town on Great Exuma was picture perfect. It was that over-romanticized daydream vision I had of what cruising would be like: sunny skies, turquoise water, full sails up, motor off, 15 knots of wind on the beam, making 5+ knots in the exact direction we wanted to go, only 30 miles from anchor to anchor and a good book in my hand. After a year of cruising, I now know how rare those days actually are!
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Right now we are anchored in Elizabeth Harbor outside of George Town. What do I say about George Town? Well, it’s a little town of only a few hundred people that is hosting almost 300 cruising boats at the moment. Crazy! The fact that there is good protection, easy provisioning, free potable water, a small airport, and all only a couple hundred miles from Florida means this is one of those places where cruisers get “stuck”. It’s clear that many folks come planning to stay a few days and end up staying for months. Or years. 

We took advantage of the airport and arranged a spontaneous visit from my cousin Greg. The weather did its best to keep us tied to the boat for the 3 days he was here, but we managed several wet dinghy adventures to town and out to Stocking Island.

Me 'n' Greg in the dingy

Me ‘n’ Greg in the dinghy

Feeding a stingray on Stocking Island.

Feeding a stingray on Stocking Island.

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Never seen one of these puffy starfish in real life before.

Never seen one of these puffy starfish in real life before.

High five!

High five!

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Mmm, cracked conch. Like everything on the menu here, its hammered, battered, fried and delicious!

Mmm, cracked conch. Like everything on the menu in the Bahamas, its hammered, battered, fried and delicious!

We explored the trails on Stocking Island and sifted through handfuls of pretty pink shells on the ocean side beach. 
Lots of boats out there!

View from the monument on Stocking Island…Lots of boats out there!

The "monument" on top of Stocking Island is actually just a navigational beacon.

The “monument” on top of Stocking Island is actually just a navigational beacon.

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Ocean side of Stocking
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Yay cousins!

Yay cousins!

This guy circled our boat for forever! He must be lonely because he's the only one we've seen in ages...

This guy circled our boat for forever. He must be lonely because he’s the only one we’ve seen in ages…


A nice thing about having so many boats in George Town is that we have hooked up with a great group of YOUNG cruisers. We have no complaints about the fact that most of our sailing friends are of a different generation, but there is also something really nice about hanging out with people our age too. We tend to be in similar situations: we mostly built up older boats ourselves, scrapped together a few bucks for cruising on a budget, and don’t plan on being out here forever- it’s not a permanent retirement, it’s a just retired-for-the-moment plan. I guess we like the fact that meeting other kids in our situation means maybe we aren’t so crazy after all! And we DO get called the “kids” by other cruisers, but I kinda like that too… it could maybe, sorta, possibly be due to the fact that my 30th birthday is lurking right around the corner, but I’m making no confessions!

Anyhow, we’ll be sticking around George Town for another day or two, then making progress northwest up the Exuma chain. Looking forward to short hops, a less crowded anchorage, and hopefully skin diving for conch. 

Take care, and lots of love from us to you!
Ashley, Elan and Apollo

Captiv(ated) in Jamaica

We originally planned to spend only a week or two in Jamaica, yet somehow, a month and a half later we are still here. We can partly blame the weather for the delay, but mostly we are just enjoying life here too much to rush away.

Full rainbow stretching from Port Antonio to Navy Island.


Montego Bay to Port Antonio

We motored out of Montego Bay for the 90mi overnight run to Port Antonio a few days after Elan’s parents left us. Our forecast was for light winds and calm seas, which we were looking forward to since the prevailing wind, seas, and 1 knot current over the North coast of Jamaica would all be running against us. We left the bay with calm water, no wind, and blue sky, only to be shocked by pouring rain, blustery wind and short, steep seas within an hour of leaving. These less than pleasant conditions continued to bash us for the remainder of our 26 hour passage. Oh Mr. Weather Man, I have a bone to pick with you. We considered ducking into one of the ports we passed along the way, but the forecast was supposed to deteriorate over the next few days, and we were trying to beat my Dad to Port Antonio, where he was flying in to meet us. Besides if that was “good” weather, we didn’t want to sick around to see what “worse” looked like.
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At one point during Elan’s shift, I was down below moping, when Élan suddenly yelled ‘waaaahoooo!’. Terrified, I ran up to see Élan with a huge grin on his face, exchanging fist pumps with a kite surfer who, seeing our boat about a mile offshore, zipped out just to do some spectacular jumps all around us. It was such a cool surprise, and I have to admit it made me feel like a total wuss for being grumpy about rough weather on 40ft boat when this guy was clearly having a blast on a tiny board being dragged at lightning speed across big waves by a kite. Ok, I am ready to be a big girl now.

A couple of brave kite-surfers near Falmouth

A couple of brave kite-surfers near Falmouth


Port Antonio
Our plan was to only stay in Port Antonio long enough to get a good weather window for the infamous Windward Passage, beat 350mi upwind and meet my Mom in Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos 4 days later. However, our weather never cooperated, and in the end, Mom came to meet us in Port Antonio instead.
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In the channel entering West Harbor.

In the channel entering West Harbor.

We have been pleasantly surprised with Port Antonio. Not blighted by the cruise ship plague like her bigger sisters, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Port Antonio is a much more laid back town. I don’t know what it is about the cruise ship crowds, but they seem to bring out all the local hustlers, scammers and hard-sellers wherever they go. Thats not to say that PA is necesarily quiet… we still hear the stereo wars blasting across the otherwise peaceful anchorage every night, though not quite so intensely as MoBay.

We are anchored outside of Errol Flynn Marina, which allows us to use their pool, showers and….. laundry! Our clothes haven’t been in a real washing machine since we left the States, almost four months ago, so its a very nice break from stomping them in our ice chest, using water hauled in jugs from land to boat by dinghy, woohoo!
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Clive comes by on his homemade bamboo raft to trade shells for food. He lives in the mangroves near our anchorage with his 13 dogs.

Clive comes by on his homemade bamboo raft to trade shells for food. He lives in the mangroves near our anchorage with his 13 dogs.

We traded Clive, on the bamboo raft, a couple of cans of food for this trumpet shell.

We traded Clive, on the bamboo raft, a couple of cans of food for this trumpet shell.

We  found this bedraggled soccer ball floating near our boat, we scooped him up, dried him out and Mom gave him a "wilson" face.

We found this bedraggled soccer ball floating near our boat, we scooped him up, dried him out and Mom gave him a “wilson” face.

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Touristing with Mom and Dad
While Mom and Dad were here we entertained ourselves with a drive over the Blue Mountains, one of the highest spots in the Caribbean, and drive around the beautiful, rugged and pot-holed East end of the island.

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Burning the sugarcane fields before harvest on the E side of Jamaica.

Burning the sugarcane fields before harvest on the E side of Jamaica.

We visited Reach Falls, a pretty spot where you can swim under the crashing water to several caves behind the falls, climb from bottom to top, and swim through amazing crystal clear pools, so intensely blue I swear  it looked fake.
Reach Falls

Reach Falls

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Just behind us, under the falls was a large cave

Just behind us, under the falls was a large cave

Climbing through the cave let me pop out here, upstream from where I entered.

Climbing through the cave let me pop out here, upstream from where I entered.

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We climbed up the face f the falls to the calm blue pools above.

We climbed up the face of the falls to the calm blue pools above.

Such an amazing blue!

Such an amazing blue!

Tucked into the 'hottub' where the water bubbles up from under the rock at our backs.

Tucked into the ‘hottub’ where the water bubbles up from under the rock at our backs.

We visited the Blue Lagoon (where the Brook Shields movie was filmed), ate at Boston Jerk (the birthplace of the Jamaican specialty, jerk pork), and toured the unique Eco-tourism resort, Great Huts.
Wading in the Blue Lagoon, where spring water and salt water mix.

Wading in the Blue Lagoon, where spring water and salt water mix.

Jerk pork- cooked over a woodfire and covered with that rusty looking corugated metal sheet. Newspaper for pot-holders. Sheets of paper for plates. A tree stump for a cutting board.... delicious! :)

Jerk pork- cooked over a woodfire and covered with that rusty looking corugated metal sheet. Newspaper for pot-holders. Sheets of paper for plates. A tree stump for a cutting board…. delicious! 🙂

Long something beach

Long Bay Beach

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Looking down from a room at Great Huts.

Looking down from a room at Great Huts.

Trident Castle

Trident Castle

We also explored Navy Island, the island which affords our anchorage in West Harbor such great protection. At various points in it’s history, the island has been home to a Navy Base, a marina, a resort and a housing development. All have been abandoned, the most recent due to fire. The lush green jungle is quickly reclaiming it all.
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On the far side of Navy Island is a quiet beach, protected by a reef, and covered in conch shells.
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I wonder if this means he likes me or he hates me?

I wonder if this means he likes me or he hates me?

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A short walk from the marina is a rocky beach that runs along the side of the channel entrance. For whatever reason, this particular beach is covered in bits of painted ceramic tiles and smooth pieces of beach glass- my favorite!
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And of course, we couldn’t let my parents leave without one smooth day-sail along the coast.
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Can you believe that blue?! This was taken in about 1000 feet of depth.

Can you believe that blue?! This was taken in about 1000 feet of depth.

North coast of Jamaica. Trident Castle is the white building on the left, with the Blue Mountains in the background.

North coast of Jamaica. Trident Castle is the white building on the left, with the Blue Mountains in the background.

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The plants and flowers here are so amazing. Elan doesnt always appreciate me fillng up our camera with flower pictures, but I just cant help myself!

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We tried Jamaican "apples" which were spongy and tasted kind of floral, and the traditional fire-roasted breadfruit.

We tried Jamaican “apples” which were spongy and tasted kind of floral, and the traditional fire-roasted breadfruit.

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Stowaways!
Speaking of flora and fauna… The day after we left Panama (8 weeks ago), we discovered we had a stowaway. Several weeks later, as I was trying to take this shy guys photo, I started seeing double…. that is, I discovered that we actually have TWO stowaways! We don’t mind having them aboard, they eat bugs after all, but they do have a tendency to show up where we least expect them!

Stowaway

Stowaway

These guys show up in the darnedest places! :)

These guys show up in the darnedest places! 🙂


And finally, a quick note on blogging…
When we started this blog, we thought we would just use it as an easy way to keep our family and friends updated on our whereabouts. As you can imagine, we were shocked that our year-end report shows 10,600 views! 10,000 views is small fries for many, but pretty cool for us. We have met new people, swapped info with other cruisers and have had views from 74 countries. Whoa!
Generating enough power to run the computer and finding an internet connection strong enough to upload photos can be frustrating to say the least (I fought with the internet for 14+ hours for this post, and you can see that many of my photos were still funny sizes and were missing captions – oh well), so it makes me really happy to see that so many of you are still following us along. Thanks, and keep those comments coming- remember, we love to hear from you too!!

Our Plan
We are still waiting for that perfect weather window to go through the Windward Passage. Given that we have taken a beating on our last few “good enough” weather windows, we are going to sit tight until we have a “too-perfect-to-miss” weather window this time. Until then, I guess we will just have to endure some more poolside sitting!

A New Year! Montego Bay, Jamaica

Happy 2013!
Like the entire year of 2012, the last month here in Montego Bay, Jamaica has positively flown by. We have been loving it here. The people are friendly, the food is excellent, and the beaches are gorgeous. 
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Sunset from the "hip strip"

Sunset from the “hip strip”

Cruise ships drop hoards of tourists off a few times a week this time of year.

Cruise ships drop hoards of tourists off a few times a week this time of year. Couldn’t believe it when we woke up to not one but two this morning!


An Improptu Visit
Elan’s folks hopped on a last minute flight and arrived on Christmas Day. We were so excited to have a family Christmas, albeit an unusual one. Reed and Mary left 30 inches of snow in E Washington to sit with us on a white sandy beach on Christmas Day instead. 
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Elan and I only bought each other Christmas gifts from the grocery store on Christmas Eve, but it looks like Santa found us after all!

Elan and I only bought each other Christmas gifts from the grocery store on Christmas Eve, but it looks like Santa found us after all!

First fruity fu-fu drink of their visit.

First fruity fu-fu drink of their visit.


We touristed around Montego Bay vistiting Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, checking out the local craft market, and trying the local delicacies like curried goat and stewed oxtail.

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We had some big wind days during their visit but we did manage to squeeze one day of sailing in before they left. We passed our lazy days painting, swimming and shell hunting on the beach. I think I’ve met my match- Mary had an even longer attention span for shell hunts than I did!
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Sampling the yummy produce in Jamaica... check out these avocados!

Sampling the yummy produce in Jamaica… check out these avocados!


Elan’s Dad is an excellent guitar player, and he never goes anywhere without a guitar. As he walked, guitar in hand, up and down the streets of Montego Bay, strangers would stop and ask for a mini-concert and Reed never dissapointed. DSCN2353

He learned Zach Brown Band’s song, “Knee Deep” so he could play it for us. The lyrics are pretty apt:

Gonna put the the world away for a minute
Pretend I don’t live in it
Sunshine gonna wash my blues away

Wishing I was knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze and it don’t seem fair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy 
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

Wrote a note said be back in a minute
Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
Don’t think anybody gonna miss me anyway

Mind on a permanent vacation
The ocean is my only medication
Wishing my condition ain’t ever gonna go away

Cause now I’m knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy 
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

This champagne shore washing over me
It’s a sweet sweet life living by the salty sea
One day you could be as lost as me
Change you’re geography 
Maybe you might be

Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy 
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

Rasta New Years
We spent a fairly low-key New Years Eve with Lee, Serena, Reed and Mary at the Montego Bay Yacht Club. Lee was our bartender so after the fireworks things got a little silly.
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Pass the dreadlocks…
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Life in Jamaica
Jamaica is up there on our list of friendliest places we have visited on this trip. It was all Serena and I could do to NOT hug our first waiter here. Compared to the cool, arm’s-length treatment we received in Panama, Jamaicans greeted us like old friends.
The colors on Jamiaca’s green, yellow and black flag stand for the lush vegetation, golden sun, and hardship of its people. The locals here are the first to admit that life in Jamaica isn’t all fun and sun and pretty beaches. Only independent for 50 years, Jamaicans are still struggling to work things out. Cost of living is high, wages are low, and the Jamaican dollar is losing value. 
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$150 Jamaican dollars would barely buy you a beer!

$150 Jamaican dollars would barely buy you a beer!

Getting used to Jamaican currency... its not every day you get an $11,000 grocery bill!

Getting used to Jamaican currency… its not every day you get an $11,000 grocery bill!


Adventures in Anchoring- Carribean Style
Elan and I are well aware that we have a much more conservative view on anchoring than many boaters, we would just rather have a little too much space, rather than too little, between us and the next boat. It has been clear that we are in the vast minority on this matter of opinion, especially since we crossed through the Panama Canal and anchor near more Europeans, who, by necesity are used to anchoring much closer to one another.
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Take the French catamaran (below) for example. After E and I hemmed and hawed over whether we were too close to the white boat (in the front), the catamaran came and anchored BETWEEN us. We told the captain that we measured their distance with our radar at 115 feet away, and that we had out 120 feet of chain. To us, this clearly meant that we could swing into them if the wind shifted, but he just shrugged his shoulders and spent the night. 

Always room to squeeze a 50ft catamaran between us and a boat that we thought was already too close.

On another day, we were just coming in to the dock on Solent after a day-sail, struggling to “med-moor” (a tricky process of dropping your anchor about 100 feet from a dock, and then backing your boat up, between the other boats, to only tie the stern of the boat to the dock – its the “parallel parking” of the boat world, and it sucks!) on a windy afternoon. Elan was trying to help from our dinghy when the dock line got tangled in the prop, which let Solent drift until it’s prop was resting against another boat’s anchor rope. At that exact stressful moment, I looked out into the anchorage to see another French boat attempting to anchor so close to Silver Lining that they actually wrapped OUR CHAIN around THEIR PROP. They were literally dragging our boat away as they tried to use their windlass to pull their now disabled boat away from Silver. Three tangled props all at once- a perfect storm of sorts. Elan zipped over in the dinghy to dive their prop for them and untangle 8 wraps of our chain from their prop, but in the meantime, their boat bashed scrapes into our hull and bent our stainless pulpit railing. When all was said and done the couple, although very polite, didn’t apologize, much less offer to fix the damage they caused. 

The owners of the French boat, who tangled themselves in our anchor chain, sat back and let Elan untangle them before they dragged Silver Lining away. I watched helplessly from the dock until I talked someone into giving me a ride in their dinghy. What a mess!

The owners of this boat, who tangled themselves in our anchor chain, sat back and let Elan untangle them before they dragged Silver Lining away. I watched helplessly from the dock until I talked someone into giving me a ride in their dinghy. What a mess!

We put a lot of effort into anchoring our home in a safe place, so it’s frustrating to have our safety compromised by someone else’s careless anchoring practices. We were lucky to have escaped with as little damage as we did, but it would have been nice if the other people had at least accepted responsibility. I don’t want to make any generalizations, its not like all French people are bad at anchoring… but why is it that every time we have problems with other anchor-ers it involves a French boat? Oh well, all’s well that ends well, and we are still afloat.

Crossing Things Off the To-Do List
As usual, in between days relaxing with our feet up at the beach, we have done a lot of work on the boat too. Elan finished running some wiring from our VHF radio to the GPS plotter, which allows us to not only receive important AIS info (speed, bearing, name and radio call sign) from large ships on radar but it lets us use the radio more like a phone. We can call those big ships with just the press of a button- pretty sweet! We also finally figured out the problem with our radar… or maybe I should say MY problem with the radar… it seems as if I mis-wired something as I attempted to fix it during the middle of the night in rough seas months ago. Since then, we sent it all off for warrantee work, when we didn’t actually need to… My bad! However, Apollo says I redeemed myself by installing netting along all of the lifelines- this means he is a lot safer and more comfortable running around up on deck. Wouldn’t want to lose the little dude if he ventured too close to the edge.
Elan is proud to be the only person he knows to have replaced a prop with only a snorkel. He and Lee mustered the courage and did it all between breaths gulped at the surface. Our new prop seems to be a much better match with our transmission, but we are delaying our verdict for now since a long passage will be the true test.
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Taking a breather

Guess this is why Serena calls him "Monkey"... Lee climbing aboard after changing the prop.

Guess this is why Serena calls him “Monkey”… Lee climbing aboard after changing the prop.

Hard Goodbyes

After almost a year of buddy-boating with Solent, we may have just parted ways for the last time. Lee and Serena are putting Solent in dry dock in Jamaica while they go home to work for about a month. Elan and I are leaving first thing tomorrow morning for a 24hour run to Port Antonio, on the north coast of Jamaica. From there we will head through the Windward Passage towards the Turks and Caicos followed by the Bahamas. There is a chance that they might catch up with us there, but since we are basically going to start heading in the direction of home at this point, we’ll just hope that our meandering paths cross again, if not on this trip, then for sure once we return to “normal life”.

It was also hard to say good-bye to Reed and Mary, but their visit has stirred up the inspiration for my parents to join us in the next few weeks as well! My dad will be here in 3 days to crew for us through the infamous Windward Passage. He wants an exciting trip, and if it lives up to its reputation, I have a feeling the Windward will provide just that. Mom will be waiting for us on the far side of the passage in the Turks and Caicos… I am beginning to wonder if she is the only one of us with any sense!

Until next time,
Ashley & Elan