Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holidays in the Islands

We celebrated Christmas with some of the same traditions - ONE present to be opened Christmas Eve and turkey.

The local grocery store, Maxwell's had a deal on last Tuesday buy one turkey, get one ham for free!!! Of course, I had no room in our tiny fridge but I couldn't pass it up. I bought both frozen solid and we took everything home from Marsh Harbour to Treasure Cay in the rental truck we got to drive mom and dad to the airport.

I cooked the ham on Wednesday and invited Sandra and Sebastian from Jamoco and Ken and Sarah from Skedaddle to dinner and it was a great feast and very festive. Sandra also brought French chocolate truffles. Yum.

We decided to run to Marsh Harbour on Christmas Eve because the Jib Room at Marsh Harbour Marina hosted a potluck for cruisers and they supplied turkey and ham.

The boys and Scott did a dive on Thursday on a shipwreck and were totally pumped. We had a terrific sail on Friday and sang Christmas carols as we dipped around 6 knots on a great reach into Marsh Harbour. We took a dock (thanks to some Christmas $$$ from Uncle Gary) at the marina and we're here for a few nights because of the blow today (Boxing Day) of 30 to 35 knots.

Santa still made his way to our boat and the kids got lots of dive stuff and snorkeling gear and art supplies, etc. It was a good day. We missed family and friends, to be sure, but as Molly said, we were making new memories for our family here on a gorgeous day. By the way, my mac and cheese was the hit of the day, if I do say so myself. I also made a great coffee cake for the morning along with gingerbread. Maggie on Water Hobo made terrific shortbread so we didn't suffer for treats. Elizabeth also received a few small gifts from our new friends here, much to her delight.

It's blown and hard here today and our skype connection isn't as great as we had hoped to chat with family back home.

Still, we are sitting cozy at the Jib Room, playing cards, watching football and enjoying the company of our fellow cruisers.

I'm doing two loads of laundry (now that the water pressure is back up) and trying to get motivated to clean up the boat from Christmas festivities.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting into the groove

It's amazing how it does take a few days to gear down from the hyperactivity of the past four months of go go go to finally be in a place that is definitely not on North American time.

Lots of places we go, the store keepers are taking a break mon, things move slowly here and it's just fine.

Internet access is iffy sometimes, and you just have to wait.

It's still been stormy here and we've had a few tense moments navigating around Hopetown, a gorgeous town with a fabulous surfing beach. But overall, we're getting into the groove.

Tonight's our last night with mom and dad before they head out on their tiny plane to Nassau. We had Christmas dinner on board last night with turkey and all the fixings, it was steamy down below and a gale outside.

Mom and dad had a damp and cold ride back in the dinghy and today it hasn't warmed up too much but the sun was brilliant and we just took it easy by the pool and beach and hung out. It could be worse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's better in the Bahamas

The still waters of the Bahama bank
Yay - last week we had got ourselves down to Lake Worth near the inlet to be ready for any possible weather window. It was only a little over a week to Dec. 14 when Lisa's mom and dad and Reggie were to meet us in Marsh Harbour in the Abacos in Bahamas and we were growing more anxious with each day.

We had met a couple from Maine in a boat called Civil Twilight. They and friends of theirs had crossed a few times over to the Bahamas and we had talked to them about reading the weather, etc. We met up with both couples in Lake Worth where we were all anchored and waiting.

We thought Friday looked good. Then at 5:45 a.m. Alan and Geri from Civil Twilight emailed us to say that they were leaving Wednesday, that day because a brief window had opened up to cross the Gulf stream - we were leaving!!!!

We threw some groceries on board then headed out to sea. The wind was blowing 10 to 15 knots from the northeast, not necessarily ideal due to the northerly 4 knot current but it was supposed to die. Of course it never did. The gulf stream was incredible - we left at about 3 p.m. from Lake Worth and in the daylight we could see it ahead of us, like a roiling river in the middle of the ocean. We started crossing the Gulf tream and the waves were about 4 to 6 feet with the occasional 8 foot wave. We took them on our stern quarter and Elizabeth started feeling seasick. Once we were across the stream, about 7 hours later, she perked up and we tucked into bed and started watches. We crossed into the Bahama Bank. It had been so cold in Lake Worth, below freezing and the gentle breezes and calm in of the bank was a welcome change. We motorsailed across the northern edge of Grand Bahama and finally tossed out our anchor at a small cay 26 hours after leaving Florida. The next day we cleared customs at Green Turtle Cay and headed out across the Whale Passage to Treasure Cay, where mom and dad had reservations.

The Whale, as it is known, is a small cut through some islands from the ocean into the sea of Abaco. It can be deadly and treacherous due to to the steep shelf and the currents between the ocean and the islands meeting. We started taking big seas on the bow, about 8 foot giant waves that picked up Messenger like a plaything.

We motorsailed behind friends of ours on their boat. The sun was shining, the sea was a sapphire blue and the uninhabited island on the lee shore was dotted with palm trees.  Although it was scary, it was exhilerating - we had to whoop and holler. It was either that or puke.

We tucked into Treasure Cay, a beautiful protected anchorage. We gathered together on the beach bar and had a celebration beverage.

The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. It has taken us days to absorb the fact that we've made it here.

Mom and dad and Reggie came in yesterday to Marsh Harbour. We'd sat tight in the anchorage all day Monday due to a 30-knot blow that came in on sunday night and the weather was still cold, about 60 to 65.

Oh yeah, and just to prove it is a small world, we had gone to the community church here on sunday and met a lady who was not only from Jarvis but Eleanor (Johnson) Grimm was also the daughter of scott's grandma's best friend, Marg Johnson.

Eleanor and her husband Fred had kindly invited us to dinner at their beautiful oceanside home for dinner but we'd had to cancel due to the weather. What a pleasure to meet them though!

we're now planning to tour some of the Abacos with mom and dad for a few days and savour our time with them. Reg flies home New Year's Day to spend January back at home doing exams and then he'll join us hopefully in Georgetown, in the Exumas further south in the Bahamas chain.

It's warm there but it has to be pretty terrific to compare to the waters and beaches of the Abacos.

It'll soon be time to find out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

we're here!

we made it to the Bahamas thusday. posting from my kindle so will post again tomorrow hopefully.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A week aboard Messenger

A lot of non-boaters may think that life aboard is all romantic sunsets and beach parties. Well, we have seen some amazing sunsets and sunrises, we have walked some pretty fantastic beaches in Florida and the water is blue here, deep cold blue with a frothy salt spray.

We've also seen dolphins,pelicans, manatees and beautfiul birds soaring above us and the marshlands and mangroves that dot the landscape.

Darn good thing too, because life aboard is busy busy busy and an endless series of projects, big and small.
When life depends on the maintenance and upgrades to your vessel, priorities snap into place.

So we are on our way to Lake Worth today after spending a week in Vero Beach, Florida. We can't believe we spent a whole week there but here's a snapshot of life aboard Messenger:
Saturday, Nov. 24(?):
Arrive in Vero Beach at about 1700 hours after driving about 53 miles from Cocoa, a nice village on the ICW, not far from Cape Canaveral.

Got a mooring ball all by ourselves but expect to raft off with other boats soon as most of the mooring balls have at least two boats to one ball, some with three. This is a major stop to reprovision for sailing snowbirds. We checked in with the marina after launching the dinghy then headed back to the boat and made dinner and crashed by 9 p.m.
No bus service today but we got up, made a decent breakfast and just after lunch walked a mile or so to the beach at Vero which was gorgeous with white sand and surprisingly warm water. We met a family from Quebec we've seenoff and on since New York who are headed for the Dominican Republic. We stopped for ice cream and walked back to the boat to make dinner. A game of Yahtzee finished off the night. We are trying to eat through the fridge so we can stock up on fresh provisions for our trip to the Bahamas.We also checked our email, did a quick skype with family and checked on our banking.
School is in from 9 to noon. Scott started evaluating the need for parts to mount the man overboard pole we bought last year and to switch the head over to an overboard pumpout. Our head, which I've already written about extensively, is a self-contained unit that requires marina pumpout service. But when we go to the Bahamas, pumpout service is not oftenavailable so most boats go three miles offshore and pump waste overboard via a thruhull. We had a thruhull but no Y-valve to switch to pump out the holding tank. We took the FREE bus from the marina up to a great little plaza with a West Marine on one side and a Publix supermarket on theother.We stopped at West Marine and discovered a great dive shop where we bought some gear and hose for the head and then we were ona mission to go up to the mall where there was a Macy's. It was a rushed trip because the bus service ended at 5 pm.
Scott caught an early bus to get parts for projects while Lisa and the kids did school. Then in the afternoon, Lisa did grocery shopping with three shopping bags anda dolly while Scott and crew did some work on the boat.
Provisioning day - all four of us left and caught the 10 a.m. bus to Wal-Mart where we proceeded to spend five hours shopping for food, engine oil, and miscellaneous items for the boat. Before taking a taxi home (we had three shopping carts full so couldn't ride the bus), we met a couple from Newfoundland who were taking all the cardboard boxes out of the bags and tossing themas they waited for the bus. I thought it was OK to take cardboard from the States onboard but the lady told us a horror story of bugs taking up residence from boxes of cereal onto their boat and it took them a long time to get rid of them. That motivated all four of us to rapidly ditch all the cardboard we had - boxes that held cereal, cookies, etc. Amazing how much packaging there was. Aidan was upset that no one seems to recycle in Florida, it seemed a crime to throw all that paper into the garbage.
Back at the dinghy dock, Scott and Aidan did three runs on the dinghy to get all of our stores aboard. Then Lisa spent two hours packing food away.Ugh. By 7 p.m. we were all ravenous so made dinner and fell into bed.
To our collective dismay, the day before we had learned there was no pumpout service to the head. However Scott was even more upset as he had to go to the holding tank and fix the Y-valve on. Elizabeth wisely opted to do schoolwork and keep on top of the laundry ashore while Aidan did school aboard and Lisa caught an early bus to pick up a few more things from Publix, namely the frozen turkey breast she wanted for Christmas dinner, as well as a few Christmas presents. She ran back at 11:30 and caught a bus after dropping off the groceries and went to the hair salon!!!! Yay!!!! First trip in four months. Walked the mile back to the boat and jumped into the shower as did Elizabeth. Elizabeth finallly got to see one of her favourite TV shows in the lounge after all the adults left and then we walked to a great restaurant about half a mile away on the river where most of us had fish.
We were going to leave today but because Scott was all day working on the head yesterday, we decided to do school, then go at the boat with a clean up. Scott installed the man overboard pole and changed the chain over on the anchors and straightened them up. After school, Scott and Lisa ran into do a few errands to pick up oil filters, a few odds and ends at the grocery store and a fishing pole for Scott from West Marine and some Christmas presents at a huge book store we found behind the plaza. Back at the boat Elizabeth and Scott travelled back and forth from the water dock with  gerry cans to top up the water tanks and then Scott ran to get diesel and gas cans filled up and topped up the fuel tank. Lisa also installed all of the electronic charts for the Bahamas on the two PC laptops, sorted out the EPIRB registration, did some emails and online banking and checked weather websites. Then it was back to the lounge to do one more load of laundry (does it ever end???),showers, and met two cruising families from Quebec who might be crossing with us in a few days (fingers crossed). By the timewe got back to the boat, it was so late we just had eggs and bacon and pancakes for dinner while watching the Christmas boat parade on the canal.
We stowed the dinghy aboard again and got ready to head out Saturday morning.

We hope to cross from Lake Worth inlet (north of West Palm Beach) to West End, at the northwest tip of Grand Bahamas Island. It's only 55 miles point to point, not much further than our jaunts across the lake to Erie, PA but with the Gulf Stream and weather patterns, it's not so easy.

We don't think we can leave for at least five to six days.