30 January 2007

Sailing on Whisper

Here is a video of Whisper sailing from Spanish Cay to Green Turtle Cay. Hans climbed up the rigging to get the shot.

Spanish Cay to Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

January 30, 2007

We had a beautiful sail yesterday from Spanish Cay to Green Turtle Cay. The wind was blowing a steady 15-20 knots from the NNE and we had a great downwind run, averaging about 6 knots. We rigged the preventer for the main and the whisker pole for the jib, turned the autopilot on and enjoyed the trip. Lots of dolphins came swimming in our bow wake to everyone's excitement (except kitkat who remained fast asleep down below in the sun). We arrived at Green Turtle Cay in the late afternoon. The harbor is very protected so we put the hook down and went ashore for a walk on the beach.

sunset at Spanish Cay

A dolphin swimming with us to Green Turtle Cay.

28 January 2007

Spanish Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

January 28, 2007

We’re at a marina at Spanish Cay while the cold front is passing by this afternoon and evening. It’s a little uncomfortable to be on the boat right now since it’s pretty bouncy in the harbor so we’re taking advantage of the resort facilities and are using the internet at the bar, after which we’ll play pool, ping-pong and hop in the hot tub. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon! There are a couple other cruising boats here and we’re all getting to know each other. All a friendly bunch—some from Halifax, Nova Scotia; Maryland; and Florida.

Kristen testing the waters of the hottub.

The rocky waters edge.

A view of the Little Bahamas Bank from the marina.

Whisper in her slip.

26 January 2007

Double Breasted Cays, Abacos, Bahamas

January 26, 2007

The fishing dock at Grand Cay

The main street in Grand Cay--just big enough for a golf cart, which is how people get around town.

We left Grand Cays and motored a short one hour to Double Breasted Cays, just east of Grand Cays. These are uninhabited cays and are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the Abacos, some even think in the entire Bahamas. When we arrived we found it easy to agree with the guidebooks. The are comprised of many small cays, mostly rocky with shrubs, and one cay, Sand Cay which is a large sand bar and is picture postcard material. Some people had been there before and we found remnants of a bonfire, but besides that, it was untouched and pristine.

Above, some images from Sand Cay at Double Breasted Cays

The warm waters of Florida and now the Bahamas have steadily eaten away at the zincs which protect our engine and propeller so Hans took on the noble task of diving in 21 degree (Celsius) water to change the propeller shaft zinc and check on the raw water intake seacock (the engine temperature seems to be marginally higher these days, but we think it is just a result of the rise in water temperature and perhaps running Boris at a higher RPM than we did down the ICW).

The old zinc from the propeller shaft compared to the new zinc.

We picked up the anchor on Saturday morning to head to Spanish Cay, some 40 miles away, before the next cold front. We would have stayed longer but felt that we needed to be in a more protected harbor. These more northern parts of the Abacos consist of smaller cays with only a few anchorages offering all-around protection, so after much debating and hemming and hawing, we decided that our best option was to move south, although quicker than we wanted.

We're trying to set the record straight about Kit Kat. See, she seems pretty happy, enjoys the sun, enjoys being in the cockpit when we're sailing, and, yes, she enjoys her food. But she's not starving, she's just on a diet for her own good. So don't let her pathetic postings fool you.

25 January 2007

West End to Grand Cays, Bahamas

January 23-25, 2007

We’re writing this at anchor in Grand Cays, one of the northernmost cays (pronounced “keys”) in the Bahamas. We came here via West End and Great Sale Cay over the course of two days.

We left West End on January 23, the day after we arrived, first thing in the morning, around 7:30AM. (The marina cost $70/night and we want to save money like that for first-rate meals out!) The chart showed Indian Cay Channel as a viable shortcut on the way to Great Sale Cay, however, once we arrived at the “entrance” we weren’t quite sure where exactly to go and we didn’t want to rely entirely on our GPS to get us over a shallow coral reef. Instead we trekked 10+ miles north to Memory Rock and turned due East to Great Sale Cay, bypassing Mangrove Cay on the way. The total trip was about 50 miles and we arrived after dark around 7:00PM.

Kristen on the bow, hamming for the camera

Sunset on the Bahama Banks on the way to Great Sale Cay.

The trip across the banks was the first time we were able to see the reputed crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. As soon as we entered the Banks, the waves subsided with the shallow depths and we were able to see the bottom all the way to our anchorage. We motorsailed in about 3-4 meters of water, leaving the steering and pilotage up to the GPS and autopilot and sat on the bow for the majority of the day. Hans saw two sea turtles swim under the keel.

After listening to the weather report by Chris Parker on our SSB radio at 7:00AM, we swam down to the anchor and looked at Whisper’s keel underwater. The bottom was mostly all sand and grass. Kristen tried to catch a fish for breakfast but was not as successful as the turtle we saw swim by and catch a fish at the bow. We weighed anchor around 9AM and headed towards Grand Cays, about 18 miles away. There was no wind at all, so we had to leave the job up to our trusty Beta engine, Boris. Along the way we motored through a pod of dolphins and they all took turns swimming through our bow wake.

Approach to Grand Cays

We arrived at the anchorage at Grand Cays around 1:00PM, quickly ate lunch, inflated the dinghy and went ashore to check out our first Bahamian town. The population of Grand Cays is about 500 people, all living in a very densely populated small town. There is one car belonging to the telephone company, but lots of golf carts which is the second most favored form of transportation, with boats being the first. The houses appear to be all concrete/cinder blocks covered with wood and all look rather weathered. The school is large and we saw all the kids get out of school in the afternoon wearing their uniforms. Very smart for a small island, miles from any other population center. After two visits to the phone company office (Batelco) which was closed both times (employee at a long lunch!), the women who worked in the government office allowed Kristen to use their phone to call her sister who is sick. We stopped at Ron’s Hot Spot for two cold Kalik’s, the local beer, and then walked down to the docks and met some fisherman who sold us almost 2 pounds of lobster tails for $14. We initially paid $14 for one pound, but then a second fisherman, Ellis, scoffed at our small bag and threw in 3 more tails for free! We took our lobster back to the boat and cooked up a great lobster curry with a recipe from a fellow cruiser who has authored “An Embarassement of Mangoes.” Caribbean Spiny Lobster tastes different than Maine lobster—it is not as sweet and a little stringier. Kristen prefers the Maine lobster, but there were no complaints when the lobster curry was served.

Lobster dinner part 1: the tails pre-cooking.

Lobster tails being boiled/steamed.

Lobster tails marinating with green peppers, onions, lime juice and spices.

Bon Apetit!

On Thursday, the 25th, we got in the dinghy and started to explore the area beaches. We also spent some time trying to learn how to read the depth of the water based on the colors. Tricky business, but something we’ll learn, hopefully not the hard way! The first beach was covered with seaweed and consequently was a little smelly. We moved on to Well’s Beach which faces West and was beautiful. There were lots of conch (pronounced “conk”) and starfish on the bottom as we dinghied over. We lingered a little too long and the black clouds on the horizon caught up with us as we were on our way back. The rain was freezing cold and also hit our skin like beebee gun pellets. The salt spray from the ocean didn’t help much either. That squall was the beginning of the cold front which kept us on the boat for the rest of the afternoon and the evening. We played Scrabble and pored over the chart and our guidebooks, thinking about where we’re going next. Kristen made chicken soup with dumplings for dinner and we had a Scrabble rematch. The score stands at 1-1 and counting.

Deserted beach at Grand Cays

Another deserted beach at Grand Cays, this one is Mermaid Beach, one of President Nixon's old vacation spots.

A sea urchin Kristen found on the first beach, "Mermaid Beach".

22 January 2007

slightly longer video

This is a test of sorts. We'll see if it works. You should be able to see some video from the crossing if you click on the box below... technology at its best!

short video

West End, Grand Bahama Island, part II

January 22, 2007

OK, so we finally made it to the Bahamas. Yipee!!! The crossing was bumpier than expected, with somewhat confused seas, so we ended up motorsailing the whole way. All in all, the trip took us almost exactly 12 hours, 2 hours less than we had expected.

When we arrived Hans tidied up the boat and Kristen went ashore to do the necessary paperwork associated with clearing in two people, one sailboat, one cat (who eats for two), one dingy, and two bicycles. (Yes, we all now have official Bahamian cruising permits, even the bikes).

sailing along in 600 meters/1800 feet of water.... kind of makes you think twice about going for a swim.

Land Ho!

After some nice showers to wash off the salt, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out here at the Bahama Bay Marina where we are spending the night. Now we're off to bed, (after all, it's already 8.30pm!) Tomorrow we'll head across the Little Bahama Bank to either Great Sale Cay or Grand Cays.

Parents and other intrested parties: It is unlikely that we'll have phone or email access for the next couple days or so. Don't worry, we'll be in touch as soon as practically possible. There is a cold front moving through the area around Thursday or so, so we might be anchored at some deserted Cay for a few days waiting for the wind to die down.

Kristen takes the yellow quarantee flag down and hoists the Bahamian courtesy flag in its place. The "Q" flag is flown by a vessel that has not yet cleared customs and immigration.

Bahamian courtesy flag flying from Whisper's spreader

West End, Grand Bahama Island

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it across safely. We left at 4 am and got in at around 4pm. The trip was uneventful, winds were 15-20 knots from the southeast, shifting to the south, and seas were about 4-6 feet. We will write a more complete update later.

21 January 2007

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

January 21, 2007

Good Luck Patriots!

We've had an interesting time in Ft. Lauderdale over the past week and a half. We've spent the majority of our time running back and forth between Sailorman, West Marine and the boat working on various projects and getting a new (to us) SSB transceiver installed. On Thursday we pulled the anchor up and went for a sail on the ocean to make a practice run through the inlet in the daylight and to test out our self-steering at various points of sail. We were by far the smallest boat out there and our major obstacle was not the 4 foot northerly swells but the seemingly 8 foot waves put out by wakes of overtaking and passing mega-yachts.

The 17th Street Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale.

A cruise ship at dock in Ft. Lauderdale.

When we returned to our anchorage we were greeted by the Ft. Lauderdale Police--marine division, who informed us of the 24-hour anchoring restriction on the waterway in Ft. Lauderdale. We were prepared for them and Kristen waved a new law passed by Jeb Bush which overrules any anchoring restrictions for non-liveaboard boats. We then engaged in a lively discussions on semantics and, as usual, you can't argue with the police, so we moved the boat. On their behalf, they were just doing their job as their chief requires of them, and they were as agreeable as they could be in that situation. We are now staying at a mooring ball at Las Olas Municipal Marina where we have full use of showers, internet and an on-site laundromat. Luxury! (at a price, of course...).

It is unfortunate that Ft. Lauderdale is so unfriendly to cruising sailboats. It boasts that it is the "Boating Capital of the World," yet the marinas are all priced extremely high and there are only 10 mooring balls that cost $30 a night (most mooring balls along the east coast are $10-15 with $20 in Annapolis, although you can anchor as long as you want in Annapolis). The city itself is wonderful for any kind of boat because the saying is true "if you need something for your boat, and you can't find it in Ft. Lauderdale, then it doesn't exist." It is just a shame that the most useful city in terms of boating on the eastern seaboard also is the most inaccessible and most inhospitable city for all but the largest mega-yachts, powerboats and sportfishing boats.

All of our Ft. Lauderdale woes, however, will soon come to pass. We are leaving for the Bahamas on Monday morning at 1AM! Yes, just 14.5 hours from now! The winds are steadily shifting to the south right now and will blow from the southeast and then the south at 10-15 knots while we are out on the water. The seas are forecast to be 2-4 feet. From everything we've read, it appears to be ideal conditions for the crossing. Our first stop is Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End where we'll spend a night at the marina, check in with customs and then proceed onwards across to the deserted cays we've been looking forward to!

Hans pre-haircut, acting very nervous.

Hans mid-haircut.


Kristen at work sorting out all the spares on Whisper.

Key Lime Pie

January 21, 2007

Key Lime Pie is the pride of Florida bakers; it is also Mandy Brown's (SnowDay co-captain) favorite dessert. On our way to Ft. Lauderdale with Snow Day, almost two weeks ago, we stopped in Lantana and all enjoyed the best Key Lime Pie in Florida (as featured in Bon Apetit magazine). Well, on Friday, we rented a car to make our final provisioning runs, and we just had to provision our stomaches with some more Key Lime Pie. Mandy, we thought of you...don't you wish you were going to the Abacos so you could have stayed with us in Ft. Lauderdale?




Going north is not such a bad idea, sometimes!

18 January 2007


We've downloaded Skype onto the computer with hopes that it will provide us with free phone calls to family and friends. However on the first try, it appears that we don't have a strong enough internet connection, which seems odd since we're at an internet cafe. The guinea pig was Kristen's sister, Angela, and she got 3 hang-ups and then 2 10 second phone "conversations" with Kristen, before the connection quit.
So, for all the skype users out there, is this our connection giving us difficulties, or is there some skype trick that we need to learn? I called the 800 number for UPS to test it and I was able to get a 30 second phone call.

15 January 2007

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

January 15, 2007

It looks like we’ll be stuck here in sunny Ft. Lauderdale for at least another week waiting for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Snow Day weighed anchor yesterday morning towards Miami and Key Largo where they’ll cross to the Exumas. We’ll all meet up again on an deserted cay somewhere in the Bahamas. We’ll magically have frozen pina coladas and cold key lime pie when we arrive! Until then…fair winds & following seas. It will definitely be a little lonely without Snow Day and her crew, we’ll miss them tons.

Two iguanas sunning themselves on a dock. These iguanas are wild and everywhere...of course we didn't notice them until Matthew and Abbey pointed them out to us.

The crew of Snow Day dinghying to town and checking out the iguanas. Abbey and Matthew have taken over the duties of Captain for the dinghy, including getting the engine started (it's not a turn-key operation, but a pull-start, like a lawnmower), no easy job and mighty impressive for an 8 and 10 year old!

Kit Kat "helping"

Snow Day weighing anchor en route to Miami. Bon Voyage!

Goodbye Snow Day, see you soon!

Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer (sil-vur sur-fur), noun. Gray-haired, slightly immobile individual, male or female, of the species homo-sapiens, engaged in the practice of operating small inflatable watercraft while in the upright position, utilizing the left hand for bracing and the right hand for operation of the craft. (see illustration below, Plate 3.7)

First observed in their natural habitat in Vero Beach, Florida, Silver Surfers have been reported along the eastern seaboard of the United States, extending into the Bahamas and the West Indies. It is suspected this practice evolved from the sub-species’ desire to remain dry whilst powering their vessels over bodies of water at low speeds. Scientists suspect that the life-span of this sub-species will be short since the behaviour itself will eventually result in capsizings and drownings.

Plate 3.7 Silver Surfer, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, sighted 15 January 2007 (note the distinctive gray markings near the head which gives the sub-species its name).

13 January 2007

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

I'm sitting at Southport Raw Bar in Ft. Laurderdale. I finally got fed up trying to get wifi on the boat and took it to the bar. We're on the outskirts of Ft. Lauderdale, about a 10 minute dinghy ride to this bar which has a dinghy dock and is also close to a grocery store and marine stores. On Tuesday we'll rent a car to drive up to Palm Beach to get the last of our mail and to make some final food provisioning runs. Snow Day is leaving to head further south tomorrow morning so we'll part ways until we meet again somewhere in the Bahamas. Until we get our weather window, we'll be messing around on the boat, working on odd projects and twiddling our fingers until the wind blows gently from the south.
Keep checking the blog and soon the pictures will be of coral heads showing through aquamarine waters (if you want those pictures now, check out Voila's blog! Maybe, just maybe, we'll meet them in the Abacos!).

10 January 2007

Lantana to Ft. Lauderdale (or, A tour of new mansion on the waterway)

January 10, 2007

*Jan. 13--*Happy Birthday Roger!!* (Hans' dad)

I finally got a connection long enough to load pictures!*

We left Lantana, Florida this morning at 7:45 AM, ready for our day of 14 bridges, the majority of which are restricted in their opening times. We calculated our speed and the distance between the bridges so we could avoid circling around just north of bridges waiting for the next opening. We got most of the timings right, with an exception 7.5 mph push from Boris to make the last bridge and we dropped our anchor at 2:30 PM in Middle River, on the north end of Ft. Lauderdale. Snow Day (and two other cruising boats arrived) shortly thereafter. We hope to stay here until the next weather window when we can cross to the Bahamas, probably in one week, although we’re unsure if there are anchoring restrictions here. I guess we’ll find out when the police boat pulls up alongside!

Our trip today took us through a highly developed section of the ICW. Below are some photos displaying the architectural styles along the way. Not exactly our cup of tea for a house, but probably pretty comfortable inside. Kristen approves of most of the pool/tiki bar/lounge chair area/tropical garden landscaping. Some of the houses were so big that they we couldn’t tell if they were hotels or single-family compounds. Matthew, on Snow Day, was trying to guess how long it would take to walk from one end of the house to the other.

It's not just the houses, the condos are massive too!

Before we leave we still have a few projects that we’d like to finish and also a little shopping to do. On Friday we’re planning on going to Bluewater Charts to stock up on guide books and charts of the Caribbean that we think we’ll need in the next year or so. We’re both very excited for that shopping expedition, Bluewater Charts will be excited to see us no doubt, however our checkbook will groan!

The Goodyear Blimp!

Kristen and Hans hamming for the camera while steering. Hans in his favorite hat and Kristen in her new John Deere t-shirt.