Friday, February 20, 2009

Feb 20 - Exumas

Feb 15 – Nassau
We were welcomed to Nassau with fireworks at 10:00 last night. We’re not sure what they were for but they came from Paradise Island. Maybe they were for Valentines Day, or maybe it was part of the Kelly Clarkson show last night at Atlantis. We did some chores around the boat in the morning. We had an unfortunate occurrence and one of our 160 litre flexible water tanks got a hole in it. We had to drain both of the flexible tanks and then mop up about 20 litres of water out of the bilge. Water is scarce in the Bahamas and you have to pay for it just about everywhere. We were fortunate that at the marina we were staying there was a flat fee for water and we were able to refill the tanks at no additional charge, but we certainly felt badly letting all that precious water go down the drain. We had a spare flexible water tank that had previously leaked around the nozzle, and Dave was able to fix that one and install it.
After all that fun, we packed a lunch and walked across the bridge to Paradise Island and went to the beach. It was packed with tourists and folks off the cruise ships. It was a nice little beach, but there was quite a bit of surf and it was challenging to actually get in the water. Annie buried Kristen in the sand and she had sand and shells in her hair for the rest of the day. After the beach we walked to the Marina at Atlantis to try to better understand their rate structure that ranges from $4/ft to $7/ft. We learned that the slips farthest away from the heart of the complex are a little more exposed to weather but $4, while those in the heart of the basin are $7. The amazing thing was the number of megayachts (100’+) that were tied up in the inner basin

Feb 16 – Nassau
After listening to the weather we decided to stay put for another day. There is supposed to be another cold front coming through today and high winds tonight. There was a light day of school done in the morning and then we went for a walk through Nassau in the afternoon. We got caught in a couple of really heavy rain showers, but the rain is warm so it isn’t too bad. The Disney Cruise ship was in the harbour and we had fun spotting the folks off that boat. There is a street of really high-end shops that are all duty free that target the cruise ships. We also wandered through the straw market where there are lots of little stalls selling crafts. Many of the ladies were sewing patterns on the outside of straw bags. We had a late lunch at a Senor Frogs over looking the harbour, but they had to close up the windows because it was so cold and windy. It was a sort of silly place where they gave everyone balloon hats to wear on their heads and bead necklaces to wear around your neck. After lunch we walked away from the harbour to climb the Queen’s staircase. It is a steep, steep staircase that is cut away in the cliff and leads up to a fort overlooking Nassau Harbour. We missed the entrance and ended up climbing up easy way to the top of the hill and then coming back down the staircase. It is really amazing to think of all those slaves, hundreds of years ago, working in the intense heat, to carve this ravine in the stone and then building the stairway.

Feb 17 – Hawksbill Cay
After talking with Warm Rain yesterday, we decided to follow them about 50 miles south-east of Nassau to Hawksbill Cay. The anchorages here are not like what we are used to at home with nice snug harbours. Most of the anchorages are exposed and it is difficult to figure out where you will be comfortable, as the wind shifts around. It was nice to have someone give us some pointers. It was a great day for a sail with 15-20 knots of wind from the North East and we able to really sail for the first time since who knows when. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull the mainsail up as the halyard that we need to pull it up has slipped out of it’s track at the top of the mast (again). We were still able to go over 5 knots most of the way, but with a 50 mile day, starting at 9:00 that was going to put us into the Hawksbill kind of late so around 3:00 we put the motor on to get us up to 6 knots. We were able to drop the anchor and get it set first time at Hawksbill which was a relief as sometimes we have a hard time getting the anchor to hold. It was around 5:30 when we got settled and we quickly dropped the dinghy in the water so we could explore the beautiful white sandy beach before the sun went down. The water was that beautiful aqua color that you see in pictures – it looks just like what you expect for the Bahamas! When we got to shore, Warm Rain was already there, and a few minutes later Nicki May came in too so we had a nice visit on shore. We are inside the Exuma Land and Sea park so you aren’t allowed to take anything – no fishing, no conching, no shelling, so we weren’t even allowed to take the shells we found back to the beach. We had a late supper and went off to bed.

Feb 18 - Hawksbill Cay
After much debate, we decided to stay in Hawksbill another day. We had hoped to get a mooring at Warderick Wells at the park headquarters, but they didn’t have any available for today. The forecast didn’t sound too bad, and there was still lots of exploring to do. Nicki May decided to stay too, but Warm Rain moved on. After a quick day of school, we went exploring in the dinghy and walked over to the other side of the island. The views are just beautiful here. When we got back to the boat there was quite a swell coming into the anchorage and it was pretty rocky-rolly on the boat. We decided to move north a mile or so to another anchorage with hopes that it would offer a little more protection. There were mooring balls there too, and it was supposed to be a windy night so we thought that might be a good idea. We had a hard time getting the mooring ball for some reason, and dropped the boat
hook (again). I got in the dinghy and rescued the boat hook and then passed the mooring line up to Dave on the boat.
The kids thought it would be fun to spend some time playing "Swallows and Amazons" and set up a camp on the island by themselves so I took them to shore with some blankets to make a tent. The beach we went to had a trail that led up to a Loyalist settlement with the remains of 10 houses built in 1785. It is sort of weird to think that this settlement didn’t survive, while Loyalist settlements in Nova Scotia did survive, when it seems to us that the climate there is so harsh. I left the kids on the beach for about an hour, and then Dave and I went back to pick them up and we explored the Loyalist settlement some more. Then we went back to the boat. The motion was pretty bad, so we decided to go for a swim to get off the boat for a few more minutes. I got really cold swimming for some reason – must have been the combination of too much sun and then too much water, so Dave made a great supper of spaghetti and meat balls.

Feb 19 – Warderick Wells – Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters.
We had a really bumpy night as the boat was heading into the wind, and the waves were coming at us from the side. It must have had something to do with the tide as it seemed to getting better and worse through the night. We decided to leave around 8:00 and hope we would get a mooring at the park today. If not, we would go a little farther south to one of two other places that seemed to be more sheltered. As it worked out, there was a mooring for us today and we were all settled by about 11:00. There are about 20 boats here in this beautiful protected harbour. The center of the harbour is a shoal sandbank of white sand and then the channel around the edge of the harbour is beautiful shades of blue so it is really beautiful. It was so wonderful to get out of the waves into somewhere peaceful. Of the 20 boats, there are three other boats here that were tied up with us in the Dismal Swamp – pretty amazing. The Dove, Zingara and Calliope are all here. When we went to the office to register we saw huge land hermit crabs. Also there are lots of little grey and yellow birds that love to eat sugar right out of your hand. There is a group of coral heads right off the office and we went snorkelling in the afternoon. Kristen was a little nervous at first to go snorkelling near the coral, and she thought she would stay in the dinghy. Dave and I finally talked her into giving it a try and she was amazed. It really is just like swimming in an aquarium. There are so many little fish swimming around. We saw purple fan coral and we also saw a lobster. In the evening there was a pot luck so we went over and we got our blankets back from Calliope – remember? We left them in Oriental back at Halloween and Annie from Calliope picked them up for us!!
So now for the update on amazing technology. We are here at this little island with no power except what they get from the generator or the sun, no roads, no cars, no stores. They do have satellite though, and through the satellite hookup they can offer (for a small fee) internet to the boaters, so here I am, by this little island, sitting on our boat, sending this over satellite to update the blog. We were also able to call home using Skype. The kids have been using MSN. This is not the world that Christopher Columbus sailed in!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Feb 15 - Nassau Bahamas

This is just a quick blog entry to let folks know that we have safely crossed the gulf stream and we are in Nassau in the Bahamas. We left from Marathon at 11:00am on Thursday, Feb 12. It was a bit sloppy for the first few hours of our trip. We saw a sea turtle as we crossed the reef that is a few miles off the Florida Keys. The seas calmed down as we got into the gulf stream. The water is a beautiful dark blue. We arrived at South Riding Rock that is on the edge of the Bahama Bank at 3:00am. We could make out the rocks with the aid of the radar and the moon. We checked out the chart and it looked like there would be enough water for us to continue onto the banks, with nothing less than 10'. As the sun rose we looked over the side of the boat and could see bottom! The water is so clear and such a beautiful blue. Over the course of the morning the girls kept watching the bottom and saw many starfish, some normal fish and a shark circling around! At one point we had eight dolphins swimming with the boat. We had been in touch with the folks on Side By Side, a catamaran with two kids on it through the night and followed their lead in a decision to anchor near Chubb Cay. We had a bit of a time finding a good place to anchor, but we were finally set around 3:30. The swimming and snorkeling was great. Marc and Sabrina kayaked over from Side by Side to give us some Mahi Mahi that they had caught. In the morning we had a quick swim and then pulled up anchor and set off for Nassau. We arrived in Nassau in the Nassau Yacht Haven Marina by around 3:00. We were cleared in through customs within about 30 minutes. Nikki May, another boat we talked to as we traveled across the gulf stream was already here. Shortly after we arrived, folks from another boat came over to ask about our Nova Scotia flag. They are from Baddeck! The boat is Warm Rain, and their mooring in Baddeck is very close to ours, but we had never met them before. It sure is a small world!

Rudder the Sea Dog Oct 2000 - Feb 2009

Rudder came to us back in December 2000. He was a strong brute of a puppy and was cute as a button. The cutest of all Chocolate Lab puppies. We learned many things that winter including the fact that getting a puppy in December in Nova Scotia means house training in the winter with snow and such and that isn’t a good idea. People told us that the best thing to do with a puppy was to keep them in a crate most of the time. He could sleep in there and it would become his den. A safe place he’d love to be. Ha! He whined and he cried for hours that first night, and the second, and the third. We tried everything to be good and disciplined dog parents, but eventually we learned to accept that Rudder would sleep in bed with us. We kept him in his crate when we went to work. He learned how to squeeze out of the sides of the crate. We put clips on the side of the crate. He still got out of the crate. We learned that crating isn’t the best thing for all dogs! For a lab, he actually didn’t chew all that much stuff. He left the baseboards alone, and the furniture. I do remember him ruining my good leather boots, but for folks with a puppy we didn’t loose too much. Accept maybe our sanity. There was more than one occasion when either Dave or I had had enough of him. It was time to put him down. It was time to find a new home for him. Once I called a dog-trainer that bred labs, looking for some moral support, or maybe some suggestions on what to do. She said that she euthanized all the Chocolate Labs that were born at her kennel as they are a genetic mutation and they are unstable. Thanks. But we persevered – we are very stubborn people. He went to obedience class, not once, but twice. He spent most of the time alone with me on the stage when all the other dogs were working nicely together in the gym. He just couldn’t get over the excitement of seeing those other dogs! Obedience class was all about positive re-enforcement and he was supposed to get a treat for everything he did right. He was so over-the-top to get that treat that it created bad behaviour and we had to stop giving him treats. Several years later, Dave ran into the dog trainer, and mentioned that Rudder was our dog. She asked if we still had him, and when Dave said we did, she said "He sure was lucky to get you as a family". For a couple of years we had to stop taking him for walks where there would be other people. He was so unpredictable. He could be great, but every once in a while he would get really upset – either excited or scared. One thing that would set him off was if someone was carrying a large bag… And of course, there was always the challenge when he saw another dog…
Then came the allergy years. When Rudder was about two, he started chewing all the fur off his feet. The vet put him on steroids to stop the itching, and while that did mitigate the itching, it created a whole new set of behaviours. In hindsight, we think some of the bad behaviour on walks and his over-the-top excitement about everything was because of the steroids. It also made him obsessed with food. You couldn’t leave a bread crust on the counter for 30 seconds, even if you were in the kitchen. He would jump up on the kitchen table if the crust of a peanut butter sandwich were left there. Once he ate a whole basket of peaches, pits and all, that I had carefully put in the sink so he wouldn’t eat them. I can’t count the number of times he would pull on the corner of a bag that didn’t get properly closed in the cupboard to get the cupboard door open. We lost countless loaves of bread, and more than one bag of Halloween candy that way. When he was feeling particularly sorry for himself, eating socks or underwear seemed to be on his agenda… We got pretty meticulous at making sure everything was put away, carefully, every day.
When Rudder was about seven, the steroids started to deteriorate his muscles and that had to stop. He was put on prescription dog food (think $$’s), and a new medicine that was used in transplants in humans (think more $$’s) but he did get better for a while. Then he got worse again and we limped him along until the summer with hopes that life at sea would be good for him.
You’re probably wondering why we would bother. Rudder was such a kind and loving dog to our family and we had so much fun with him. Probably our favourite thing to do with Rudder was to swim. He was the best swimmer I ever saw. When you were in the water with him you could grab his tail and he would pull you around. I’m sure he could swim a mile if he needed to. He was obsessed with pulling things in the water. We have a raft at the cottage and he would spend 10 minutes at a time trying to pull it into shore.
Rudder was having a great time on the trip. He got to spend all his time with his people. He got to meet lots of other people and everyone was nice to him. People rarely scared him anymore. He still got really excited when he saw other dogs, particularly golden retrievers, but he could walk right by some dogs without a second glance. His allergies were getting under control. We could have other people over to the boat and after Rudder said "hello" for a couple of minutes he would go off and lie down.
On Thursday morning we were doing our final trip to shore before we headed off to the Bahamas. Dave and Annie took Rudder to a little fenced area where he could go off leash and run around. Kristen and I took the bikes to the grocery store. There was a small gap in the gate in the dog run area and Dave and Annie tied it together with two straps. They took him down to the other end of the run and took him off his leash. He bolted right down the run and over the straps and was off to find Kristen and I. Dave took off after him but once Rudder had something in his head there was no stopping him. He ran to the highway and didn’t see us down the sidewalk so he took off across the road. He was struck by a little truck. When Dave carried him back to the sidewalk he was still alive. There was no blood. He died about five minutes later. There were three sheriff cars that stopped and helped. Someone went back to the park to get Annie. The animal shelter came to get Rudder and took Dave, Annie and Rudder down to find Kristen and I at the grocery store. Rudder is going to be cremated in Marathon in about a week and they are going to keep his ashes for us until we get back to Florida.
We left Marathon right away as we just couldn’t stand the thought of staying there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Marathon - Feb 11

February 10 – Marathon

Well, we’re still in Mararthon. We’re hoping there will be a weather window on Thursday or Friday for us to get to the Bahamas, but it’s not looking as good today as it did yesterday. Time will tell. In the meantime we are doing our final provisioning. We have been keeping busy here in Marathon, and there never seems to be enough time in the day. A week ago Saturday there was a marine flea market and Dave found our exact depthsounder/knotmeter rig brand new in a box – this was something we’d been looking for, as sometimes the display doesn’t work on ours. Anyway he was able to get the whole thing for around $100 which was awesome!! He came home and had the display replaced in about 10 minutes and now we have replacements for both of the thru-hull fittings for depth and speed in case one fails. On Sunday we went to the Dockside Bar/Restarant to listen to a band in the afternoon. The highlight was a 91-year-old man that came on stage and played an awesome piece on the trumpet and then sang a song. He was great! It was hard to believe he was 91. That evening we went to the marina where they had a TV projector to watch the super bowl. It was a great game - we were a little disappointed that the Cardinals didn’t win, but they certainly gave it a good shot. It was a far closer game than we expected. There was a huge storm that blew through here last Monday night. There were wind gusts up to 40 knots and there was lots of thunder and lightning. Apparently there was hail in some parts of Marathon! That doesn’t happen very often! On Tuesday the kids went to home-school PE (physical education) that is put on by the town. On Wednesday we went to the pot-luck at the marina but forgot to take plates, so that didn’t work too well! It was a cold and wet trip in the dinghy as the harbour was really rough. There are often about 20 kids there, ranging in age from 3 – 18. On Friday we rented a car and went to Key West. It was a long day with lots of walking an rip-sticking. It is a neat place to visit, but there certainly is no need to go and spend a week there on a boat! On Saturday we drove up to Miami and Fort Lauderdale and did some final provisioning at Walmart and got more of Rudder’s prescription dog food. On Sunday, Annie went to the Art Festival with Penny off Carpe Diem. I took Kristen down to the Turtle Hospital where we learned about all the sea turtles that live in the Keys and some of the injuries and diseases they get. They had about 40 sea turtles in the hospital. About a dozen are permanent residents, but most will be released back into the wild. Dave ran some errands with the car. Yesterday morning Dave returned the car and did some laundry and the kids did their schoolwork. In the afternoon Annie met a friend (Kashara) in the park and I took Kristen back to the Turtle Hospital to find out about a turtle that we had heard was tangled in some fishing gear on the reef. Fortunately it was fine and they had been able to get freed up. We met Dave at West Marine and then went back to get Annie. It was really wet travelling in the dinghy (again). Today I went up the mast to free up the Main halyard that had slipped out of its pulley and to bring down the anchor light so we can see if we can get an LED replacement so it doesn’t use so much power. We have more errands to run this afternoon and tomorrow, and then hopefully we’ll be out of here on Thursday or Friday.
Once (If) we get the Bahamas, there will be less access to the internet, so I’m not sure how often I will be updating the blog – I will try to do it every couple of weeks.

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