Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 16, 2016 Blocking our boat at St Mary's Boat Services

 Rocky said they usually start work early in the morning, take a break during the heat of the day, then work into the evening.  So as soon as I woke up, I decided to head to the bathroom. We can’t use the head on our boat when we are “on the hard”.  About 8:00, they moved our boat to our “parking spot” for a couple months.  They put 12 boat stands under our boat to support it and then took away the slings.  It’s kind of nerve wracking to watch.  But they did a great job.  Then they brought a ladder that was more like a set of stairs with a railing for us to get on and off the boat.
no more clear blue water :(
moving the boat through the boat yard
slotting it in between 2 other boats
bringing in the boat stands
they place the stands where needed (we trust them)
the owner of the boatyard, Rocky, adjusting the stand
chaining the stands together across from each other
taking away the straps-need more than fingers crossed
free standing on the boat stands
moving our dinghy to under our bow
bringing us our ladder/stairs
our view from the stern
We had their resident marine mechanic check out our shaft.  He gave us his opinion, which was to remove the adhesive that attaches it to the fiberglass and re-evaluate. 

prop looked pretty clean
corrosion on the stern tube
After the boat was settled, we decided to get a rental car to run some errands.  We wanted to get a window air conditioner to help make it bearable in the Georgia heat.  We also wanted a camping port a potty to use during the night.   Too old to make that trip or hold it all night.  Dave also needed some tools for the upcoming jobs.

We are only about an hour’s drive from where our mail is held, so we wanted to drive to Green Cove Springs to pick it up.  They could forward it to us, but there were a couple packages and that gets expensive.  Since we had a car, it would be a fun drive. 

After Enterprise picked us up, took us to their office and checked us into our car, we drove right to a little BBQ spot we saw along side the road.  We missed Georgia BBQ.  It was a little take out place only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  So we were glad we stopped while we had a car. 

We hit several large stores looking for the air conditioner first.  While I was waiting outside of the Sears store, I made room reservations for us at La Quinta.  We wanted a little welcome home time to regroup with a nice shower and big bed. 
/blocking boat,shaft,

June 15, 2016 St Mary's Boat Services/hauling out

OK, today we had to go to work. 
First we talked to St Mary’s Boat Services.  We had been in touch with them by e-mail from the Bahamas, so they were expecting us.  We planned to go to their boat yard later this afternoon when it was closer to high tide.  They would pull our boat out of the water that afternoon.  It was only about 10 miles up river, so less than 2 hours away. 

It took us about 2 hours to clear with Customs and Immigration.  We are right on the Florida/Georgia border.  We started with Georgia because last year, they just took our info over the phone and that was it.  Well, they wanted us to bring our boat to a marina in Brunswick so they could board our boat for inspection.  That would take us a day to get there and a day to return.  And the expense of a marina slip for the night.  We called them back to explain that we were having concerns with our shaft and didn’t want to move our boat.   We were scheduled to have our boat hauled out at a boatyard that afternoon.  Then they said we could check with Immigration in Fernandina Beach, Fl, since they were closer.  When we called Fernandina, they gave us a different number for a new central call center.  So the third number asked us all kinds of questions and let us clear through them.  We discovered that if we had registered a float plan with the American Customs and Immigration before we had left in January, we could have checked into the US through an automated system.  At this time the Customs officer said that site wasn’t user friendly.  Hopefully it will be in the future.  Seems crazy that we had to go through so much rigamarole when we are US citizens and there are thousand of non US citizens walking across the southern border of the US with no questions asked. 

Our boat insurance has to be renewed by June 24.  So we were e-mailing back and forth with our agent.  We are supposed to be north of latitude 30.5 from July 15 to November 1.  This boat yard is at 30.44 and we will be there until some time in September.  I guess they can call this an AI marina, which we learned was an Additional Insured Marina.  We want to change our coverage so we can go to the Caribbean next year, but he couldn’t give us new quotes until we gave him a new “storm plan” for hurricane season.  So I had to download and print the form, fill it out, sign it, take a picture of it, and e-mail it back to him.  Crazy. 

About 2:30, we headed up the St Mary’s river and then into the North River through flat grasslands up a meandering river to the boat yard.  They had good directions on their website to avoid the shallow areas.  We made it by 4:00.  We met Rocky, the owner, as we backed into their lift channel.  He tied us to the docks on each side.  Then they slide two huge straps under the front and back of the boat.  There is a set place where they are supposed to go to distribute the weight correctly as it is lifted out of the water.  The boat weighs 24,000 lbs if it were empty.  Our manual shows us where the straps should to and we reviewed it that afternoon.  After the straps are in place, they give a plank to walk off the boat.  Then we watch them lift it out of the water and over land.  SCAREY!!  But it all went fine.
straps holding the boat
ready to be lifted out of the water
Dave making new friends (owner's son Clayton)
They lowered it until the keel sat on a block of wood, power washed the boat and just left it in place for the night in the slings.   While they were washing the boat, we met a couple neighbors in the boatyard.  Claude was working while Mickey was sitting in the shade.  I had a great visit with her and heard all about the boatyard.  She was 82 and has been around boats all of her life.  She has had her Coast Guard Captain’s license sine the 80’s.  I can’t wait to hear more of her stories. 
power washing

When they finished washing the boat, they gave us a ladder to climb back into the boat.  We just did some reading and called it an early night.  We’re still trying to get back on a normal schedule.

I have a video of lifting the boat and moving it over land, but the wifi isn't strong enough to download it.  So I may add it later. 

June 14, 2016 Anchoring at St Mary's Inlet, Georgia

When I took over this morning, we were adjacent to Jacksonville, FL.  Almost home! Besides watching for traffic, I usually do some exercises and pray the rosary to stay awake.  If it’s not too rough, I can play solitaire on my phone.  I even read a few articles that I had downloaded in iBooks.  And the moon was reflecting on the water.  Love that view. 
last moon on the water for awhile

We were outside of the channel into St Mary’s inlet by about 4:00 am.  I went below to go to the bathroom (since I don’t pee over the side) and told Dave where we were.  I didn’t need him yet, because it was a long channel that starts about 10 miles off shore.  But I wasn’t sure I would want to leave the helm to wake him later.  So he was up within the hour.  We entered the inlet and anchored off the to the south along the ICW by 7:00 am.  That was 40 hours from the time we left West End.  We thought we made pretty good time. 
Yeah!  Land Ho!!

After making sure everything was secure, we both went to sleep until sometime in the afternoon.  We were pretty much zombies and didn’t do much of anything that day.  I contacted our travel agent in Rapid City to help with our flight arrangements for SD/MN around July 4th.  That’s not too far away.  Since Dave is doing a round trip within 2 weeks, but I am staying longer and returning from a different location, we thought it would be easier to use an agent.  Plus she could play with the dates and times to find us the best deal.  We started with about $650 each and ended up with each being close to $400.  Thanks Gloria at Bursch Travel in Rapid City (used to be Modrick’s).

June 13, 2016 Gulf Stream off of Florida

I relieved Dave after midnight.  He said there had been a few ships in the Gulf Stream.  When I took over, I could see with our AIS that there was a ship that would cross our path at an angle.  The AIS told me when we would cross paths, but I wasn’t sure if we would be in front of it or behind it.  So I played around with our speed and realized that if I sped up, he would cross behind us at a safe distance.  As it got closer, more information showed up.  It was the Disney Cruise ship.  So it was probably heading into the Cape Canaveral port. 

We were able to sail for most of the morning.   We had a perfect angle to the wind.  And the wind was stronger than had been predicted.  Since we were in the Gulf Stream, we were sailing at about 10k.  Usually we are lucky to get 7.  The Gulf Stream usually adds a 3k current. 

Dave likes to be at the helm, so he stayed there most of the day with a nap in the afternoon.  I usually keep us fed, nap and read a lot.  During the day, he added 10 gallons of fuel to our tank from our jerry cans on deck.  He also had to move the dinghy.  It was hanging on our davits, but rubbing against something on our stern.  About 4:00, we took down the Bahamian courtesy flag.  The wind really beat it up this year.  I went to bed early again to make it through another night.  This routine has worked out for us.  We get 4 or 5 hours of sleep at a time.  When we used to do 3 hours shifts, we were always tired. 
/disney ship sunrise , peeing, taking down flag
finally convinced him to tether when he pees

June 12, 2016 Passage from Great Harbour, Berry Islands to West End Grand Bahamas

About 1:00 am, I got up to give Dave a chance to sleep.   He said there had been a lot of ship traffic in the Northwest Providence Channel as we crossed it.  The ship traffic actually stopped us from going north as early as we wanted to to avoid stormy weather.  But so far, we have just been watching lightening off to the west.  He checked our SSB e-mail and we did receive an e-mail from Chris Parker.  We pretty much knew the weather prediction, but what he gave us were latitude and longitude coordinates of where we would reach the Gulf Stream, then where to go to stay in the Gulf Stream, and then where we should start to move to the NW and cross the Gulf Stream and exit it without having to fight the current.  That is what you call individualized service!  So Dave entered the coordinates into our chart plotter and set up a route.  With that, our autopilot would follow the course and make the appropriate turns for us.  If we are sailing, we may have to vary from that course to take advantage of the wind, or adjust our sails.  But it is a great plan to go by.  Then Dave crashed for the night.

I didn’t have to worry about staying awake in the wee hours of the morning because I ran into a lot of traffic heading into and out of Freeport, Grand Bahama.  It is the second largest city in the Bahamas, after Nassau.  I wanted to head north west past Freeport.  And all the ships where heading north/south in and out of port.  So I had to head more west and try to time going behind some of the ships.  I also had to change my speed to be sure to miss some boats.  We started using a great feature with our AIS (automated identification system).  It will bring up a little square that tells me how close we will pass the ship and in how many minutes.  We like to stay at least 3 miles away from the big ships.  That gives us time to change course if need be.   If it looked like we were going to be closer, I would usually slow down to let them pass by.  I didn’t want to try to pass in front of them unless I had a 5+ mile difference. 
heading into the thick of things
good morning

Outside of Freeport, ships seemed to be lining up to enter the port.  One ship really had me confused.  First he was crossing my path in front of us perpendicular to our boat.  Then he was going the opposite direction parallel to us.  Then all of a sudden, he was crossing our path at an angle.  I figured he was circling to get in line.  So I finally called the captain on the VHF radio.  I explained to him that I was going to West End and wanted to pass him on his stern.  I wanted to know if he was going to continue on his course and at the same speed.  He assured me that he was.  So I thanked him and reiterated that I was planning to pass behind him.  Most of all, I wanted him to know that we were there.  We’re so small compared to their ships.   And I have heard horror stories of huge ships hitting sailboats and not even knowing they hit them.  We wouldn’t cross these channels if we didn’t have AIS. 
trying to go behind this ship
and these are only the boats that have AIS and have it turned on

Dave relieved me about 7:00 am. I lasted longer than I thought I would.  I guess with all the traffic and then the sunrise, I was wide awake.  

I cooked breakfast for us and then crashed for a few hours.  We had motored through the night, so we decided to stop at West End for fuel.  I woke up around 11:00am and helped Dave anchor by noon.  There were all kinds of big fishing boats lining up to get fuel in the marina.  We got in our dinghy with the diesel fuel cans to see if we could weasel our way in-between them.  Dave figured most of them would want gasoline.  We had to tie up our dinghy a ways away from the fuel dock and walk with 4 empty 5 gallon cans to the fuel pumps. 

When we reached the fuel dock, the boat tied up there had just cut into a chilled watermelon and was handing out slices.  It was awesome.  I don’t remember the last time I had watermelon.  Either it wasn’t available, or it was really expensive in the Bahamas.  We talked to another power boater.  He was from Ft Lauderdale.  It only takes them 2 hours to get to West End.  But I can’t imagine how much fuel they go through. 

We walked back to our dinghy with Dave carrying 2 of the full 5 gallon cans.  We thought we could pull up off to the side to pick up the other 2.  We started visiting with a guy walking his dog.  He figured we were on the sailboat that he saw anchor because we were in our dingy.  He was on a 361 Beneteau (36 ft) from St Simon’s Island, GA, which is near Brunswick, GA where we spent last summer.  He just bought the boat last year and this was their first trip to the Bahamas.  They were also heading back that night, but were going straight across to Florida, then up the coast.  They didn’t have an AIS, so were hesitant to go nonstop like we planned to.  He was younger and new to sailing.  We had fun answering his questions.  I think we are easy to approach and have had smaller boats.  We thought it is great that they were making it happen. 
good bye Bahamas

We took off by 3:00 pm.  We were both in the cockpit until after we had dinner.  Then I took my early nap.  I relieved Dave about midnight.  Usual ship traffic, but much less out here than in the Bahamian channels.  He relieved me about 6:00 am. 
Dave showing how we tether to the boat

holding the tether that is hooked to the jack line that runs the length of the boat on both sides

June 11, 2016 Great Harbor Marina, Berry Islands

We listened to the weather again this morning to plan our passage back to the states.  We are looking for 3-4 days of decent weather to go all the way to Georgia nonstop.  We decided we would leave early evening and travel overnight to West End, Grand Bahamas to refuel if we have to motor most of the way.  Or we will just by pass West End and keep going.  About noon, Dave called me outside to check out the clouds.  There was a storm passing to the north of us with a waterspout (a tornado on the water).  That was the first we had seen.  It was amazing to watch.  We could see the clouds swirling as it changed.  
This afternoon, we took the diesel cans in to the fuel dock to fill them before we left.  As we were getting into our dingy, a drone hovered over us for a long time.  We really don’t like that.  I stood there with my hands in a “what’s up” position or waved at it to go away.  After it left, we headed in for fuel.  Maybe someone is just having fun.  But we can’t help but wonder if they are checking out our boat and plan to come by when we are gone. 

The entrance into the harbor was a long channel with a rock wall on either side.  It must have been widened for ship traffic.  After getting fuel, we checked out the marina.  There was a little restaurant and gift shop along the dock.  We tied up and decided to have lunch.  They said they only had hamburgers today, but we had a choice of sides.  Dave said it was his lucky day because hamburger and fries were his favorite.  He knows how to get a smile out of everyone.  While we waited at a table outside, Dave decided to visit with a guy cleaning fish down the dock.  He was a fishing guide and was cleaning their catch from the day.  He likes to learn from the locals. 

After we ate, I walked over to a grocery store for one more thing.  Dave went back to visiting with the captain.  When I joined them, he was cleaning conch.  We learned a different technique from him.  And we asked him about whelk and “curbs”.  He said the smaller whelks were the best.  The larger ones (which we had) are too chewy.  And the “curbs” are the things you have to peel off the rock.  He said he had to charge so much more for conch salad if people want the whelk and curbs in it because there is so much more work involved with harvesting and cleaning them.   If we run across them again, we’ll decide if we have the time to mess with them.  Not sure they are worth it.  

Chris Parker, our weather guru, has a 6:00pm broadcast on the Single Side Band radio only for participating members to call in for advice.  We were on his list, but when he gave us his recommendation, our reception was bad and we couldn’t understand what he was saying.  So before we left, I sent him and e-mail asking him to repeat the information.  He works alone on Saturdays, and is pretty busy.  So I wasn’t sure he would have time to get back to us.  And he doesn’t work on Sundays.  We still felt confident to leave.  It’s just nice to have his opinion for our specific plans. 

We left about 7:30pm.  Dave took the helm first and I decided to lie down and nap before my evening watch.  Before we were out of reach of the Bahamian Telephone tower, I sent a second e-mail to Chris Parker asking him to send his response to our Single Side Band e-mail address, in case we were outside of tower range. 

the mail boat
raising anchor to leave the Berry Islands

about 20 minutes after the anchor sunset

June 10, 2016 Bullocks Harbour, Berry Islands

It was stormy again today.  But after things let up, Dave loaded up our fuel cans and went to shore in the rain for gas.  The fuel dock is south of town in a bay where the Great Harbor Marina is located.  We needed gas to run our water maker and charge our batteries.  The solar panels weren’t keeping up in this cloudy weather.  Plus we don’t think the batteries are charging as they should.  That will be another project for the summer.  

When he returned, we decided to go into town to check it out.  We tied up our dinghy at the government dock where the mail boat comes in.  Then we walked about 6 blocks to a grocery store.  They had a lot of basic food on their shelves, but their produce was pretty sorry looking.  We decided we wanted cereal for our crossing back to the states (an easy breakfast if it’s hard to cook).  We found a couple boxes for about $5.50.  All the others were in the $7-8.00 range.  I don’t know how the locals can afford to eat.  Eggs were $3.80/dozen.  We have been paying closer to $2 elsewhere.  That’s one thing we haven’t been able to substitute.  The powdered eggs we tried were hard to get to your nose.

park in Bullocks Harbour

our boat at anchor

June 9, 2016 West side of Great Harbor Cay, Bullocks Harbour

Today, we thought the wind would be changing to the north and east, so we moved the boat to the west side of Great Harbor Cay.  Because there is so much shallow water in the area, we had to go north around Great Stirrup and Little Stirrup Cays and down the west side of them to get to an anchorage near Bullock’s Harbor. 

2 cruise ship lines use the shores of the Stirrup Cays for their “Tiki Villages” for shore excursions.  So we passed 2 cruise ships anchored off shore.  It was kind of windy and cloudy, and I felt sorry for the passengers that only had a few days to enjoy the Bahamas.   When boats are at anchor, they usually swing with the direction of the wind.  These 2 boats were anchored 90 degrees to each other.  I can only imagine what they use for anchoring.  There were boats going back and forth from the ship to shore transporting people.  There was a blue section on the beach that appeared to be rows and rows of beach chairs.  Not our kind of beach experience!

As you probably already know, Dave usually stands on the high side of the boat and pees overboard when we are underway.  The water was kind of rough, so he asked me if I thought he should go below to pee (for safety reasons).  Since the high side was towards the cruise ships, I pointed out to him that there were probably people on the cruise ships watching us sail by, even if we couldn’t see them.  Duh?!

After we anchored on the west side of the island, we had a squall show up out of the west.  We had some pretty strong winds with very little protection.  I guess the prevailing winds can be predicted, but squalls often show up from any direction.  So we didn’t go to shore for anything that day.

June 6, 7, 8, 2016 Great Harbor Cay east side

You could tell there was a change in the weather today.  It was kind of overcast all day.  And all the big fluffy clouds were gone.  The wind had picked up, but not bad.  We have been listening to the info about the tropical storm hitting Florida this week.  We have several friends that have returned to the states and are moving up the coast.  Safe travels to all of them!

We reluctantly left our peaceful anchorage this morning.  We only went about 10 nm to the east side of Great Harbor Cay.  The wind will be from the south and south west for the next couple days and we’ll have better protection there.  We anchored in a nice bay.  Everywhere else in the Berries, the east side of the islands are rocky shores.  So this is about the only place to be when there is a west wind, unless you get a slip in a marina. 

beach off our bow
The weather was still overcast and raining off and on.  Early afternoon, we decided to take a dinghy tour of the bay.  We saw someone driving a tractor on the beach.  I think they were cleaning the sand or smoothing it out in front of a property.  Still funny to see. 

We ended up beaching our dinghy to check out the Beach Bar.  It was election day, so they couldn’t serve us any alcohol, which was just fine, cheaper bill.  We had lunch, then they closed until 7:00pm.  But we were free to stay and use their wifi.  I was kind of hoping so, and brought our lap top along.  We spent the rest of the afternoon posting more of my blog and doing some updates. 

tractor on the beach??
wish it had been nicer to enjoy this beach
Beach Bar with outdoor seating under the round roof
view from Beach bar back towards boats in the anchorage.  We're the furthest away
Happy birthday to my brother, Don and brother-in-law Jim!
Another stormy day.  Spent the day cleaning.