Sailing on Mer Soliel

The mainsail for Jeff’s 44ft PDQ Anteres Catamaran Mer Soliel has been mended and it is time to try it out!  Perfect conditions yesterday in the Sea of Abaco, winds ~10-15kts.  Example of Jeff’s Boat

Barry (S/V Beach Cruiser) and Nuel from Man-O-War joined us and we sailed all day!  The guys figured out how to rig the mainsail correctly, tried the jib, and rigged the screetcher to work correctly.  It was an awesome sail, and we were doing 4.5-8kts.

I was taking pictures of everyone and my hat blew off!  Someone yelled “Man Over Board” and everyone went into action… jib rolled in, main centered, everyone on deck searching, me pointing at the hat.  But unfortunately, since the hat was so flat, I lost sight of it.  We searched for a while, but finally gave up.

Time for lunch, we set out a feast of meats, chesses, fruit, nuts and sangria.  You couldn’t do this on a monohull, it would be heeling too much.

What a beautiful day!  Sailing on  Mer Soliel Pctures

Random thoughts: When did I become the Queen of the Fridge?  Our fridge is a very tight fit… things are placed like a puzzle in order to fit.  But that means that one person has to take charge of the fridge.  Guess that’s me!

Grateful for it all…

Hello from Lynyard Cay and Little Harbour

We motored down to Lynyard Cay (from Lubber’s Quarters) since the wind was on our nose, but it was a nice ride down, only ~2 hours.  Lynyard Cay is the last Cay on the Atlantic side of the Sea of Abaco.  There is a small beach on the Sea of Abaco side you can walk on… but the Atlantic side of the island is wild and rocky.

We spent the night at Lynyard Cay (June 14), then left Mer Soleil in the anchorage and took Stormy Monday over to Little Harbour to day anchor (June 15).  We didn’t want to spend the night at Little Harbour because the surge coming in from the ocean makes for a very rolly anchorage.

The main attraction in Little Harbour is Pete’s Pub and Gallery.  We had lunch at Pete’s Pub and waited out a squall that went by.  Pete’s is a fun place with typical Bahamian fare on the menu.  After lunch we walked to the Gallery. It is a little surprising to find a Gallery this far south in the Abacos.  The Johnson family has been sculpting for 3 generations and showing and selling their work from the gallery.  My Dad said he bought a belt buckle there about 30 years ago and I bet he still has it.

So happy we made it south to Little Harbour, but this is as far south as we plan on going on this trip.

Unfortunately, we started to have refrigerator issues, it just kept running, which was sucking the energy out of our batteries (so no charged PC to write blogs!).  Also the dinghy outboard was running very rough.  Mer Soleil was also having charging issues and his sail was torn.  So back to Marsh Harbour where we were able to take care of all of the issues.  We sailed all the way back to Marsh Harbour ~4 hours… it was awesome!  The fastest we saw was 7.1 knots, it was a glorious sail!  I said to George, the one thing that would make it a perfect day would be a Bloody Mary!  George got right on the radio and told Mer Soleil that once we anchored we had to go find me a Bloody.

While we were sailing back into Marsh Harbour we passed a couple of boats that hailed us and said they were from the Melbourne/Vero area.  Once we all got settled in we all decided to meet at Snappas (only place open on Sunday) for Happy Hour (Bloody Marys!) which morphed into us all having dinner together.  So much fun to get to know cruisers, talk about where they have been and where they are going.  Discuss “boat issues” and get new ideas for taking care of them.  Cruisers rock!

Once in Marsh Harbour (June 16), Capt’n Bob came over and tightened the stuffing box, so it wasn’t letting water in anymore, which reduced the number of times the bilge pump had to run, which helped with the power issues.  George was able to get the fridge working again, and we had help from Ally at the Moorings with the dinghy.  Everyone pitched in to remove Mer Solei’s main sail.

After a wonderful lunch at a new Jamaican restaurant in town, we had a nice sail to Man-O-War (June 19) where the master sail maker lives.

We are now back at one of my favorite anchorages, the “Low Place”, which is the north anchorage at Man-O-War.  This time when Jeff went in the water to dive on his anchor, he came up with a starfish! We will take the sail in tomorrow for repair and decide our next move based on the estimated time to repair the sail.

We are having very hot days here… head index up to ~97 on most days… we might start heading home within the next couple of weeks.

Lynyard Cay Pictures

Little Harbour Pictures

Lynyard Cay & Little Harbour

Jeff finds a star fish!

Random thoughts…    Boating is the ultimate equalizer.  When we meet new people we all ask “What kind of boat do you have?”, “What is your draft?”, “Where are you from?”, “Where have you been?”, “Where are you headed?”…   We often never find out what folks did/do for a living “in the real world.”  They could axe murders for all we know!

Grateful for it all…

Hello from Lubbers Quarters and Tahiti Beach

We finally made it out of Marsh Harbour!  We waited in Marsh Harbour for the bad weather to pass.  TS Andrea brought some impressive squalls and at least one that woke us up at 3:00am and kept George up with > 30mph winds.  Me?  I went back to sleep, I can sleep thru anything!

Jeff on Mer Soleil’s girlfriend is in the states, so he decided he wanted to get out of Marsh Harbour also.

We poked out of the Harbour on Monday (June 10) and had hoped to head south, but it was blowing 20mph from the south with 1-2ft chop in the Sea of Abaco… so we decided instead to head East to Man-O-War to the North Anchorage at the Low Place.  I just love this anchorage, nice beach for swimming or snorkeling and a nice beach on the Atlantic Ocean side for walking.  Once we got there Jeff dived on his anchor and did a little snorkeling.  Next thing we know he is at our boat holding up a Conch shell…  low and behold, there isn’t a Conch in it, it’s an Octopus!  So cool!

The weather finally cooperated yesterday (June 12) and we headed south and are now at Lubbers Quarters.  We didn’t get to sail down since the wind was still out of the south, but we had a nice motor trip.  It has started to get crowded here, lots of boats (power & sail) to dodge in the Sea of Abaco.  And we were especially wary of the of the ~60ft power boat that was towing a ~20ft center console power boat as their tender, that crossed right in front of us.

We had lunch, the requisite siesta, then headed to Tahiti Beach for the afternoon.  Tahiti Beach reminds me of the island and shallow sand areas at home in the Melbourne area where folks congregate to sit in the water on their noodles, play music on their boats and enjoy libations.  We watched as nasty weather crossed over Marsh Harbour and not us.  Apparently Marsh Harbour just attracts it, being on the largest land mass.

Our refrigerator had been acting up the last week or so, running more often than it should… which caused us to be energy deficient.   So we had been running the engine for a couple of hours during the day to keep the energy levels up.  But this morning, the fridge finally just quit working!  Jeff, our buddy boat, to the rescue with a spare thermostat!  It is working again and our plans do not need to be derailed to head back to Marsh Harbour.

In celebration we went to Cracker P’s Bar & Grill for lunch.  They use their Sapodilla fruit in their BBQ sauce which they use on their Mahi sandwich and Grilled Conch, delicious!  Such a cute place right on a small beach; with hammocks, lounging chairs, a cupboard full of board games, volleyball, bocce ball, croquet, horse shoes, badminton, ping pong and darts.  We played a quick game of darts, but the weather was threatening and the wind had moved to out of the West, putting the boats on a lee shore.  We got back to the boats just before it started to rain.  Nice nap weather.

Tomorrow we are headed south to Lynyard Cay where we will anchor in the deep anchorage and walk on the Atlantic side beaches.  Then we will either make a day trip in one of the boats or take a dinghy 1.5 miles south to Little Harbour.  Stay tuned…!

Lubber’s Quarters pictures

Random thoughts…  Sailors say “It’s blowin like snot out there!”…  really?  That is gross!

Grateful for it all…

Jeff & Octopus in a Conch Shell

Lubbers Quarters & Tahiti Beach

Home Sweet Boat

I flew home for a few days to take care of some business.  I took a taxi to the airport, without even thinking about if there was more than one airport or terminal, I just said “take me to the airport.” I was dropped off in front of a small non-air conditioned building with airline counters inside and outside seating for passengers waiting for their flights.  I don’t see Baer Air?  I must have looked confused, because a very nice airport employee came and asked me what I was looking for.  Turns out I was I the wrong terminal… and the correct terminal would be a very long walk.  He got right on the phone and asked someone to come and get me in a “club car.”  Club Car in the Bahamas = Golf Cart.  I was whisked away on the runway, after we waited for a plane to take off in front of us, to the correct terminal.  The correct terminal was air conditioned with leather seats for passengers waiting for their flights, nice!  All 7 passengers for the flight on the 8-seater Navajo airplane had now arrived and after we all paid our departure tax of $26 we folded ourselves into the airplane and we were off an hour early!

It was a beautiful flight from Marsh Harbour to Melbourne, Florida.   There are no words to describe looking down at the turquoise waters and sandy or rocky bottom.  Our sailing journey departing Melbourne on March 18th and arriving in Marsh Harbour on April 30th took over a month.  The flight back to Melbourne took 1.5 hours.  “It is not about the destination, it is about the journey”… truer words have not been spoken when it comes to traveling on a sailboat.

What was the best parts about being home (back in the US)?

  • Hugs!  Hugs from my grandkids, from my family, from the very few friends I had time to see, Hugs!  Spending time with everyone was precious to me.
  • Petting and loving my sister’s kitty (formerly known as my kitty)
  • Air Conditioning…  sleeping in air conditioning, lounging in air conditioning, sitting an reading in air conditioning… you get the picture.
  • Hot showers… I took 2 on my first day home!  I kept waiting for someone to bang on the door and say “You are using too much water!”
  • Driving… believe it or not I had missed driving around with the radio going full blast singing at the top of my lungs.  I am going to have to try that out on the boat on our next jaunt.
  • Drive-Thru Window …  hamburger at Wendy’s, eat while you drive, one of life’s decadent pleasures.
  • Dish Washer… no hand washing dishes!
  • Missing my husband…  after 2 months of solid 24 hours a day “together time”, I didn’t think I would miss him!  But I did J

I was only home 4 days, was busy from early AM taking the grandkids to soccer camp to dinner time.  So different from the typical lazy days on the boat where if I have done a chore or 2 I call it quits for the day so I don’t overexert myself.

Flying back to Marsh Harbour I felt like I was going home, it felt right, I looked forward to kissing George and being on the boat.  George had moved the boat into the Marsh Harbour Marina while I was gone because the winds were gusting to > 40 MPH and there was a lot of rain.  He would have been fine at anchor but wasn’t getting much sleep, being alert all night to the anchor possibly dragging or other boats dragging.  We dumped my bags on the boat and went up to the Jib Room restaurant here at the marina and had a delicious lunch.   George has been on a Conch diet, so he had Conch Quesadillas…  they were good!  He has also had Conch Pizza, Conch Nachos, Coconut Conch, Conch Fritters, Conch Salad and lots of Cracked Conch in our travels thru the islands.

After lunch, a much needed nap was taken since I needed to rest up for the evening festivities, a fish fry potluck at the Jib Room for the marina guests.  The Jib Room provided fried Grouper, fried Mahi Mahi, Conch Salad and dirty rice; all the boaters brought side dishes.  One boater brought pies from Vernon’s on Hope Town… we had heard a lot about Vernon’s pies, it was a delicious pleasure to try the Key Lime and Chocolate pies.

We will be here a day or 2 to take care of laundry, enjoy the pool and regroup.  Back out to the anchorage on Monday, then wait for it to stop raining and head south.

Home Sweet Boat…

Grateful for it all…

Grandkids in the Pool

 

 

 

Beautiful show in the sky!

We are anchored in a small anchorage on the North side of Man-O-War Cay.  Last night we had a beautiful show in the sky!

We had a sunset on our stern and a full-moon rise on our bow at the exact same time.  I know these pictures look like they were taken at different times, but it was at the same time!

Then we watched a Delta rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, FL!  I couldn’t get a good picture of it though, since it was 8:30pm and very dark.

Just amazing…

Grateful for it all…

Sunset at Man-O-Way Cay

Full-Moon Rise at Man-O-Way Cay

Hello from Man-O-War Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

We motored into the wind to get to Man-O-War from Treasure Cay on Thursday.  We anchored in a small anchorage on the north side of Man-O-War so we could go into the main anchorage at a high tide.

The north anchorage is on what they call the “low place” where the Sea of Abaco and the ocean are only separated by a small spit of land.  But it was enough to offer protection from the ocean and the easterly winds.

On Saturday we came into the Eastern anchorage of Man o War.  There are a lot of boats in here and moving around is very tight.  Most of the boats in this anchorage are being “stored”, so there is no one on them.  Good thing too, since I was glad to not have an audience watch me run us aground!  Did I say moving around in here is very tight?  Chad from Edwins Boat Yard #2 came out in a power boat and after much pushing and pulling finally got us off the sand and onto our mooring.  I was very frazzled, so George handed me a beer so I could equalize.

Man-O-War Cay is a small island, only about 2.5 miles long.  We spend the Saturday morning walking thru town and enjoying the sights.  This island is famous for its boat building history.  There are several boat yards here with good reputations.  William H. Albury was famous in the country for his tremendous boat building skills. He built his first schooner at the age of 14. Albury died in 1972, but the boat building on the Cay still lives on.  Most residents (~300 residents) are related to Albury.

There was a fundraiser going on for the high school, so we bought some Conch salad for $5 and took it back to the boat for lunch.  It was delicious!

We went back into town to enjoy dinner at the Dock and Dine at the Man-O-War Marina.  I had Parmesan encrusted Mahi and George had their special D&D style fried Mahi… both with Peas & Rice and Mac ‘n Cheese of course!  Really good food!  Man-O-War is a “dry island”, but I was permitted to bring my own wine for dinner and they provided a wine glass.

It is Sunday and we will head back to Marsh Harbour at high tide…  Merrilee is back in town for that date with Cap’n Bob at Pete’s Pub!

Man-O-War Pictures

Grateful for it all…

Hello from Treasure Cay

When we left Marsh Harbour we looked at the wind direction, and decided to sail back to Great Guana Cay.  We had a beautiful sail back and stayed at Great Guana for a couple of days.  I walked on the beautiful beach, we walked thru town and we swam at Grabber’s.

When the wind shifted out of the South it became very rolly and uncomfortable.  We wanted to go into Treasure Cay, but it wasn’t low tide, so we decided to sail back across the Sea of Abaco and spend one night in Red Bay at Water Cay.  There isn’t anything there but a quarry and a lot of flies.  Other than that, it is a great anchorage with good protection from South-ish winds.

On Sunday we came into the protected bay at Treasure Cay at high tide.  The anchorage is in a resort and residential community.  It will hold ~20 boats.  When we got here it wasn’t very crowded, but there was a predicted LO coming thru on Monday with breezy wind conditions expected, so the anchorage was filled up by Monday night.

For $10 a night and you can use the marina facilities: showers, internet access (qualify iffy), laundry, etc.   Leave your laundry with Shantel and she will do it for you for the same price as you would do it yourself!  There are a few shops here: grocery, bank, Batelco, liquor store, post office, canvas shop, electronic, car & bike rentals, bakery (Florence’s-best cinnamon rolls ever) & hardware.  And just a few restaurants, we had lunch at the Coco Beach Bar, with a typical Abaco menu, and a gorgeous view of the beach.

Treasure Cay is best known for its 3.5 mile crescent shaped beach that is one of the most beautiful in the Abacos. National Geographic has listed the beach as one of the 10 best in the world and numerous travel magazines have given similar high ratings. The sand is silky soft, the shore is absent of any coral outcroppings and the water depths are very gradual, making this one of the most user friendly beaches anywhere.  My computer geek friends might remember the Windows XP screen saver of the sailboat at a small island?  That is what I thought of when I saw this beach.

Treasure Cay has been developed as a golf resort, and so it feels more like visiting somewhere in Florida, maybe the Keys, than feeling like being in the Bahamas.  But I am glad we stopped here so I could walk on the beautiful beach.

Treasure Cay Pictures

We stayed a few days until the winds diminished and are now headed to Man-O-Way Cay…

Grateful for it all…

 

Georgio! (Italian Citizenship)

George’s Mother Alice was born in Pirano, Italy (which is now part of Slovenia.)  When George was born Alice had not yet become a US Citizen, so per Italian law, George was a Italian citizen.

In 2011 we decided to pursue having his Italian citizenship formalized.  2 years later and we are happy to say we can now call him Georgio!

And to you ladies out there, if he pinches your ass, I sincerely apologize.  For some reason he thinks it is required behavior now.

This picture was taken in September 2012 after our visit to the consulate in Miami.  Our friend Jim gave us the flag because we all thought we would come home with the formalized papers.  Not so… but we were grateful for the flag anyway and now we can fly it proudly!

Georgio the Italian!

Grateful for it all…

Phone and WiFi in the Abacos, Bahamas

Since we will be here for ~3 months we have been investigating and experimenting with the communication options here.

Phone:  You can purchase a SIM card for an unlocked GMA phone from Batelco for $14.95.  You can purchase GMA phones from them also (~$20-$40 for a non-smartphone.)  We went to the Batelco office in Marsh Harbour.  You can add airtime (voice calls) and data (internet & email) to your phone.  You can buy airtime cards (voice calls only) in $20 denominations and 1Gig data cards (email and internet) for $30 (the day we were there we got the $30 1Gig data cards for $20, they were on sale).  To load the airtime or data, you just dial a # from your smartphone (once the Bahamian SIM card is installed), then enter the unique # on the card, and the balance on your phone is updated.

Update 6/21/13:  You can add airtime to your phone on the Batelco website if you have registered your SIM card with them.

If you bring a GMA phone that is not unlocked, we hear you can get it unlocked in Marsh Harbour for ~$60.  We opted to have ours unlocked by Cellcorner.com for ~$30.  They will email you a unlock code.

We did not see any options from Batelco to make your phone a hotspot.  But while we were in Lake Worth I found this Android app PDANet that will allow you to tether your phone to your computer OR make your phone a hotspot.  We tried it on both our phones, the wireless hotspot and tethering (USB connected) worked on my AT&T Samsung Galaxy II, but the tethering was all we could get to work on George’s Boost Mobile Samsung Galaxy II phone.   So in theory, you could buy data for your phone and then use an app to tether it to your computer so you could get on the internet on your computer.   However, we are finding that 1Gig doesn’t go very far!  See *

Having a phone has already come in handy.  We have used it a few times to call home and to call locally here in the Bahamas.  Roaming rates on your US phone can cost up to $2-3 a minute, while the rates here to the states (depending on when you call) are closer to .50c a minute.

WiFi:  There are 2 main providers of WiFi here in the Abacos, Out Island Internet (OII) and Bahamas WiMax.  Their rates are very similar (~$15 a day, ~$100 a month, ~$200 3 months).

The key is to get a good connection to their hotspots on the islands.  In December we purchased an “IslandTime System” (high gain antenna) from Island Time PC at the SSCA Gam in Melbourne.  We purchased our own router, but you can purchase one from them also.  The router allows us to use all of our devices on board (2 computers, 2 phones & 1 Ipad.)  We can easily see hotspots from > a mile away.  We occasionally find unlocked hotspots, but it seems these days, most folks have theirs secured.

We are experimenting with an AT&T hotspot mobile MiFi box that I bought on Amazon.  I thought it was unlocked, but it wasn’t, so we paid ~$26 to have it unlocked by Cellcorner.com.  To get it to access Batelco services, you have to purchase SIM Card for $14.95, then purchase 1Gig Data Cards ($30).  In order to get the data applied to the SIM Card, you have to put the SIM card in a phone, load the data card, then put the SIM card back into the box.  * But it turns out this may not be a good option for us.  We have been using it for 3 days now and have already used .5Gig.  This could get pricey! We use the internet a lot for email, blog posting, uploading photos, surfing the internet, checking weather, etc.  What we may do is go ahead and purchase 2-3 months from OII or WiMax and use the MiFi box as a backup.

Update 5/25/13:

  • We anchored in Red Bay at Water Cay.  We were between Marsh  Harbour and Treasure Cay and could physically see both of them, but could not get OII or WiMax, but we were able to use the MiFi Box because we could get cell service.
  • Once we hit 100% on the first Gigabyte on the Mifi Box, we received a message from Batelco on the box that we had hit 100% and that they would be slowing down the service.  The service definitely slowed down, almost unusable!  I added another 1 Gigabyte and it did not speed back up!  We didn’t try to fix it since we think this isn’t a good solution for us.

Here is what worked for us…

First know where you are going to go and verify that Batelco, OII and WiMax will offer service there.  If the services will be available:

  • Phone:
    • Bring a unlocked GSM phone
    • Purchase a Batelco SIM Card $14.95, then add air time
    • Optionally add data time (email & internet)
    • Optionally try a “app” for your smartphone (i.e. Android app PDANet) to make your phone a hotspot (note:  we have not tried this in the Bahamas, but it worked in Lake Worth)
  • WiFi:
    • Get a high gain antenna and router (i.e. Island Time PC)
    • Purchase OII or WiMax WiFi (the longer the duration, the more cost effective) Updated 5/25/13:  In the future we would select WiMax over OII…  OII requires us to continually re-login and WiMax didn’t.

Grateful for it all…

 

It is time to leave Marsh Harbour…

It is time to leave Marsh Harbour, but I think we did the island justice.

Restaurants:

Jib Room: The Jib Room seems to be the cruiser’s hub on land.  It is on the East side of the anchorage and their motto is “it is worth coming to the other side…”  It is a family run marina and restaurant with a pool and laundry facilities.  They have a BBQ special on Wednesday’s and Steak night on Saturday’s.  Following the meals there is entertainment…  Rake & Scrape and Desmond the Limbo Man.  Must do evening while in Marsh Harbour.

Snappas, Mangoes and Curly Tails:  These restaurants are right on the water in the downtown area and offer the quintessential Bahamian menu… Fish, Conch, Burgers, etc.  A lot of it is fried and all of it is good.

We took the Albury Ferry to Hope Town ($27 roundtrip, ~20 minutes 1 way).  I think that Hope Town is the quaintest of all the settlements here in the Abacos.  Hope Town pictures.

We snorkeled at Mermaid Reef.  Mermaid Reef is considered the best reef for “beginners” since you can swim to it form shore and it is rather shallow.  The reef is not very colorful but there are a lot of fish.

We had a beautiful sail to Great Guanna Cay to go to Nipper’s and Grabber’s for the day on Two Step (catamaran) and a quick powerboat ride back to Marsh Harbour courtesy of Dickie & Nan.

We enjoyed the cottage Merrilee stayed in (Pelican Beach Villas).  It was on a beautiful peninsula very near Mermaid Reef.  Just gorgeous.

But it is time for us move along and see other islands here in the Abacos…

Marsh Harbour Pictures  (added new ones to the end of the gallery)

Great Guanna Cay Pictures (added new ones to the end of the gallery)

Grateful for it all…