29 March 2007

Hope Town to Marsh Harbour to collect Ding Ding III

March 29, 2007

After returning to Hope Town to sell Ding Ding II, we met Mary from London who was in the Bahamas with her employer. Mary works as the private teacher for an English girl while her family is in Miami every year for three months. She wasn’t teaching the week she was in the Bahamas so she hitchhiked aboard Whisper to Marsh Harbour and caught the ferry back to Hope Town. As Hans says: “I didn’t complain.” Maybe we’ll make the cover of the sailing magazine, “Latitudes and Attitudes.”

Kit Kat's favorite game

Kit Kat's favorite game is "attack the bilge pump." She loves it when there is water in the bilge and she is continually trying to attack the water!

See you in the Exumas!

An update on our travel plans:
we're leaving Hope Town today to go to Marsh Harbour to pick up the new dinghy.
Friday: sail to Little Harbour which is at the southern end of the Abacos.
Saturday or Sunday: sail to Eleuthera
Sunday to April 13: make our way to Staniel Cay starting in the Northern Exumas and heading south.

We'll be out of communication for at least a week since we'll be stopping at small, uninhabited cays (islands) until we get to Staniel Cay. So in the meantime, don't worry about not hearing from us, we're okay and when we get to Staniel Cay we'll post some fantastic pictures of the Northern Exumas. How's that for optimism!

Hope Town's lighthouse

March 29, 2007

We realized this morning that we've never posted a good picture of the Hope Town lighthouse. We've really gotten to love Hope Town because it is a neat little town with a good bakery/grocery store, great beaches, easy day sails, of course the fun people, but none of that would be the same without the lighthouse. It adds a certain amount of character to the place.

Reaching the finish line

March 29, 2007

Today is Thursday, March 29, an ordinary day for a lot of people, but a very special day for the crew of Whisper. We’re meeting a distinguished individual at the airport this afternoon to join our adventures. His name is Ding Ding III and he is a 10’4” inflatable dinghy all the way from Connecticut. We’ve already picked up his means of propulsion, an 8hp outboard, and we can’t wait to meet him and zoom around the anchorages and to the reefs! Our dear friend Ding Ding II is leaving us today to join the crew of another sailboat, Goosebumps. We’ll miss Ding Ding II, but hope that he will be happy and well looked after in his new home. Farewell Ding Ding II!

We’ve been working out the intricacies of customs in the Bahamas in order to import our new dinghy without paying the 40% duty the Bahamas requires on all imports. We spent some time at the efficient and friendly customs office in Marsh Harbour where we paid the duty on Ding Ding II which allowed us to legally sell him and import Ding Ding III duty free. We’ve been hankering after a longer dinghy for a long time, not only to take us out to the reefs where we can’t get in Ding Ding II, but also to provide a more dry, stable and quick ride in the harbors. In Ding Ding II we’ve been getting soaked almost every time we go anywhere and have taken to wearing full length rain coats on hot sunny days! Well, as Kristen’s dad would say: We’re glad we’re able to provide so much humour to the anchorage!

Sunday night was meant to be our last night in Hope Town, so our friend Dave treated us and the crew of Gray Fox to dinner at the Harbor Lodge. The food and wine were excellent. It was a real treat to go out to dinner and it was nice to spend some time with good friends that we’ve met here in Hope Town before leaving.

We sailed to Marsh Harbour on Monday to take care of the customs’ paperwork and pick up a few supplies. On Tuesday morning we sailed over to the Southern end of Guana Cay and of course unsuccessfully looked for lobster. The season ends in a couple days so we’re starting to get desperate! Pass me the dynamite honey!

Yesterday, in the spirit of harvesting dinner from the sea, we sailed Whisper north and out into the ocean to do some deep sea fishing. It was a bit of a roller coaster, however, and after an hour or so Kristen started to feel really quesy so we turned around and sailed to Hope Town on the Sea of Abaco (the protected, shallow waters of the Bahamas).

Dragging the lures behind Whisper whilst deep-sea fishing.

let's check the first lure....seaweed.

anything on the second lure? seaweed again.

As a wise Mexican once said: When there's no fish for dinner, make tortillas! Dinner in the cockpit anchored off of Guana Cay on Tuesday night: homemade tortillas, black beans, tomatoes, green peppers, scrambled eggs. Yum!

What, Hope Town? You thought we left? No, the lighthouse in Hope Town always pulls you back. Actually, it turns out the guy who bought Ding Ding II is anchored in Hope Town so we sailed back to make the sale. We met up with Toby from the catamaran Lickety Split and spent a rousing few hours at Cap’n Jacks with, gasp, people our own age! It was very exhilarating, but we didn’t get back to Whisper until after 1AM and are feeling the effects this morning.

A schooner underway between Marsh Harbour and Man-o-War Cay.

21 March 2007

Springfield VT in the Bahamas!

March 21, 2007

Talk about a small world. Yesterday I met two guys on vacation here in Hope Town that grew up in Springfield and N. Springfield, VT, my hometown! Dick Merrick grew up in N. Springfield and Phil Jasinski grew up on Wall Street, just across town from me. Of course, they graduated in '61 and I graduated just a few years later, in '97. We had a great time talking about the town and how it has changed over the years. Their graduation class had 250 kids, while mine was around 100.

I still can't get over that I bumped into fellow Springfielders--my dad would be proud!


Time to say adios

March 21, 2007

We listened to the weather forecasted by Chris Parker this morning on our SSB and it looks like we’ll have a decent window to cross to Eleuthera sometime early next week, either on Tuesday or Wednesday. The winds are still strong today (25-30 knots), but they will be moderating throughout the week and into the weekend and are forecast to be around 10 knots on Tuesday. The seas should settle down as well, so we’ll keep a close eye on the weather and pick our best day. Another cruiser in the harbor, who is also planning on spending hurricane season in the DR, is also crossing to Eleuthera at the beginning of next week, so we’ll try to coordinate if feasible and perhaps cross together.

Last Friday there was a small party in honor of Don’s 76th birthday, the arrival of Dave’s girlfriend from Florida, and our anticipated departure to points south. It was a great time with good food and conversation.

Linda & Don on Don's 76th birthday.

Our Hope Town Gang assembled. This is the group of friends we have been hanging out with in Hope Town. The men in the back: l-r Gordon, Dave, Don, Hans, Brad; the women in the front: l-r April, Carla, Kristen, Linda

Hans, Kristen, Carla & Gordon.

The Hope Town Sailing Club hosted dinghy races on Sunday from Optimists, Sunfish and traditional Abaco dinghies. We went out on Gray Fox with Carla and Gordon to watch the races. Of course, today’s race for cruising sailboats has been postponed because the winds are too strong for the race committee. We’re going out anyway to practice using our storm jib.

Abaco dinghies underway.

20 March 2007

Hope Town

March 20, 2007

We’re in Hope Town, still…
Last week we sailed up to Man-o-War Cay to drop off our genoa (the larger, older sail that flies from the front of the boat) with a sailmaker to restitch the UV protective cover which was fraying. We then sailed over to Marsh Harbour for some final food and supplies provisioning before heading south to Eleuthera and then the Exumas. After sailing through Man-O-War to pick up the genoa, we returned to Hope Town on Friday to wait out a cold front. The cold front passed and we’re ready to go, but a series of strong HI pressures are causing high winds and seas in the entire Bahamas, all the way through Saturday. The forecast for almost every day is: 20-30 knot winds with 7-11 foot seas at 6-10 second intervals. Whisper could easily sail to the Exumas in these conditions, however it would be hard work for us and quite uncomfortable. We’ll stay put for the time being, but Hope Town fever is setting in!

Hans parents, Roger & Karin, are arriving at Staniel Cay in the Exumas on April 13 for a two week vacation. We’re very excited to see them and to spend time together in the Bahamas. We would like to leave the Abacos by April 1 in order to arrive at Staniel Cay ahead of the 13th, so hopefully the winds will calm down in the next two weeks!

In the meantime, we have a new list of small projects we would like to complete so we’ll stay occupied while waiting for the weather. Yesterday we worked on stopping the leak in the rudder post. We think we were successful, but, as with all boat projects, it usually takes a third try for a good solution! One of the next projects we’ll tackle is permanently installing the SSB antenna. It’s a very simple job, but it requires one of the cockpit lockers to be emptied in order to fit a human (usually Kristen since she is smaller) inside.

Sorry there are no pictures to accompany this update. We’ve been a little lazy with the camera lately. We look the same, except Hans has a new haircut and a shave!

16 March 2007

What works for us

March 16, 2007

We recently received some questions about cruising and outfitting from a reader of this blog. We have omitted their email for the sake of privacy, however perhaps others will find our thoughts & response useful:

A 36' Catalina is a good sized boat, however, speaking from a 27' boat perspective, get the smallest boat that you think you will be comfortable on. Everything is exponentially cheaper (dock lines, dock fees, rigging, sails, anchors, running rigging, hardware, etc. etc.). When we first moved on to Whisper, it seemed like everything was on top of everything else and in the way, but now that we've been living on her for 6 months, we don't even notice the small space. A Catalina is a good boat for the Bahamas, however when we bought our Albin Vega our main focus was a seaworthy, solidly built boat. Catalina's tend to be better for racing, lake and coastal weekend sailing. I wouldn't want to make any long passages to windward or any ocean crossings in a Catalina (nor a Hunter or Beneteau). Having said that, lots of people are here in the Bahamas in those same boats and are very happy. So, it really is your own personal preference. A book we found very useful is John Vigor's "20 small sailboats that will take you anywhere." But again, our cruising plans extend beyond the Caribbean.

In terms of budgeting: We have an estimated budget of $1000/mo. So far we've stayed to that budget, although this month we had to stitch the genoa and we're about to buy a new dinghy so we'll go over that. We're hoping that each year that passes, we'll spend less money. Most people spend a lot more than that, it just depends on your lifestyle. Since we've been in the Bahamas, we've only paid for dock space twice, and haven't paid for any moorings. We sail all the time and have spent just $75 on diesel in 6 weeks which will last us until July we hope. We also only go to bars for happy hours about once a week and spend $25 and we never buy food out in restaurants. Water here is .25/gallon. Basically, your budget can be as little or as much as you want/can manage.

Power: We keep our batteries fully charged with an AeroGen wind generator and a small solar panel. Since the wind is always blowing in the Bahamas, our batteries are always full. We can't emphasize enough how essential it is to have an independent charging system. Many, many boats have gasoline-powered Honda generators or have to run their engine daily to charge their batteries. Not only is that expensive, but it is a nuisance and causes wear and tear on the engine. That said, our power draw is small since we don't have refrigeration. We mainly need power for cabin lights, the computer and charging different electronic devices such as the handheld VHF and the camera. All of our power is 12 volt DC. If you were to get refrigeration, make sure that you budget for adequate solar panels and wind generator equipment to keep your batteries charged. Hans rewired and configured our power system on the boat with the help of Hot Wire Enterprises located in Florida. www.svhotwire.com We do not have air conditioning nor feel the need for it since it is about 60 degrees at night and 75 in the day. Many people do have A/C, however we just don't like it and have fans in the cabin for when it gets hot.

We have had little to no luck fishing and getting lobsters, much to our frustration and disappointment! We keep at it though and hope for a lobster dinner one day soon. Lobster can be found in water that is 6" deep to very deep. We usually end up looking for them in water that's about 10-15 feet deep.

In terms of equipment, we have relatively simple systems on Whisper. We don't have refrigeration, although we are considering adding it at some point. Our holding tank holds 14 gallons and we use it when we are in protected harbors and then empty it when we go out sailing. Almost no one uses pumpouts here in the Bahamas and it is very common to let your sewage drain overboard, which of course is free.

We don't have insurance on the boat, so we can't really help you with that.

As for recommendations for equipment, we can suggest the following:

Get the biggest anchor you can handle on an all chain rode, in fact get two oversized anchors. That way you'll be able to sleep at night. For Wisper we use a 35lb Delta as our primary on 100ft of chain and have a Fortress FX-23 as a secondary anchor on 50ft of chain. These anchors are both rated for 50+ foot boats. We also have two more anchors stored down below for the BIG blow. We don't have a windlass, but depending on the size of your boat it might become necessary.

Get a dinghy that you know that you'll be happy with. Be prepared to spend some money on this item. Chances are that you'll spend far more time motoring around in your dinghy than sailing your boat. We made the mistake of getting too small a dinghy, and are now looking to replace it, which is a real hassle. Most people have either a RIB or an airfloor inflatable. Avon, Apex, Caribe and Achilles are good brands. It is very nice to have a large enough engine to be able to get two passengers up on a plane in the dinghy. Make sure you have a way to store the dinghy on board for making passages.

Make sure you get a boat with an engine in very good condition. When you survey the boat, hire a diesel mechanic to look over the engine and drive train and do a compression test. While it will cost a little bit of money, it is absolutely worth it since almost no surveyor will be able to adequately evaluate an engine.

Again, make sure that your electrical system is up to the demands you will put on it, solar panels and wind generator are key.

The last piece of advice I'll give you is to read a lot before you go. We have run into many cruisers who seem to have no clue about proper seamanship, boat maintenance and staying safe on the water. It's a little bit scary, really. Buy and read Nigel Calder's "Cruising Handbook." While a lot of the information in his book is aimed at absolute perfection, which is out of the price range of most of us, his principles still apply. The other book we find essential is also by Nigel Calder: "The Boatowners' Mechanical and Electrical Handbook."

Waves crashing at the Pelican Cays

14 March 2007

Meow meow meow, YUM!

March 14, 2007
7:17 PM

They left exactly one hour ago with some dessert. They’ve gone to Jerry’s boat for dinner and dessert so the coast is clear for at least two more hours. Let me check one more time….yup, their dinghy is attached to his boat and I can’t see them anywhere. Now’s my chance for some real food to stave off my hunger pains. They keep promising to give me the tuna from Angie and Amy but it’s all false promises. They left a plate of some pieces of leftover pork tenderloin from dinner last night along with some sausage. Now if I can just tear through the plastic to get to it. Good thing Kristen hasn’t cut my claws yet like she keeps telling me she is going to do. Ha! I’m through. Ooooh yuuuuum. Pork tenderloin all for me. I’ll leave them the snap peas and one piece of tenderloin.

I’m feeling….really….really…t-i-r-e-d….yaawn…time…for…some…rest….

12 March 2007

Land and Sea Park, Abacos, The Bahamas

March 12, 2007

This weekend we took a trip south to Sandy Cay which is part of the Abacos Land and Sea Park and is marked on our chart as a “coral garden.” We left Hope Town on Saturday afternoon and sailed towards Tilloo Cut to anchor for the night. The sailing was easy with 10 knot winds from the north. However, dark clouds appeared on the horizon and we spent half of the 3 hour sail in raincoats. We anticipated a quiet, secluded anchorage after crowded Hope Town harbor, but when we arrived we discovered that we had to share the spot with at least 10 other boats. It was still a nice spot though and the winds really died down at night so we slept well.

A surreal sunset just after the rainstorm.

We sailed out of the anchorage after breakfast and had a great sail towards Sandy Cay. The closer we got, the more apparent it became that we would not be able to snorkel due to the large swells coming in from the ocean. Instead, we dropped anchor on the leeward side of one of the barrier cays and went ashore to watch the waves break on the ocean side. It was fantastic! Unfortunately, our solitude was disturbed by a charter boat who decided to anchor right next to us although there are many other similar islands all along that stretch of the Sea of Abaco. We lay on the beach for an hour or so and then weighed anchor to sail back to Hope Town.

We had a little excitement with our dinghy as we were watching the waves. As we were walking back to the beach where we had hauled Ding Ding II onto, we spotted him bobbing in the water close to shore, drifting away with the current and waves. We both ran at top speed and Hans was able to swim fast enough to catch up. From now on, if we can’t tie a line to a tree, we’ll always throw the anchor down in the sand!

Waves crashing on the rocks.

Whisper at anchor in the lee of the island.

08 March 2007

Sailing with Dave

Sailing with Dave on his 45 foot Shannon. Kristen is at the helm, doing about 8 knots.

Still going strong in Hope Town

March 8, 2007

We’ve been spending a few days in Hope Town going to the beautiful beaches around the island, and also going for short day trips on Whisper.

Above, a picture of Tahiti Beach on the southern end of Elbow Cay, where Hopetown is also located. We went here for the day on Saturday, and even though it wasn't a work day in the real world, we still felt pretty lucky to be there.

Yesterday we sailed to Man-O-War Cay, the island north of us in blustery conditions. It was a beautiful day for a sail, although the Hopetown Sailing Club thought that it was too windy, so they postponed the days race for the following day. Undaunted, and disappointed that the race was cancelled, we set out for Man-O-War. On the way there we were on a broad reach with one reef in the main and our 120% jib doing a comfortable 6 to 6.5 knots most of the time! We dropped the anchor in a quiet cove and dove overboard to scrub down Whisper’s bottom, which we haven’t done since we went into the water in Norfolk in November. All things considered, it didn’t look too bad, but it took us two hours of hard work to get the barnacles and slime scrubbed off. The sail back was to windward, so we put a second reef in the main and a couple of rolls in the jib and headed south. Again, it was a beautiful sail. Whisper was well balanced and cut through the waves with ease. Too bad the race had been postponed as we felt like we could have schooled everyone! The winds were about 20 knots gusting to close to 30.

The race, which had been postponed, was held today and even though the winds were a bit weaker, Whisper still sailed very well, and we ended up 9th of 12 boats. Hardly stellar, but definately an improvement from the last race.

Above, a picture from today's race.

Above, Kit Kat in her racing position, inside the starboard cockpit locker--her new favorite place.

We’ve now been in Hopetown for two weeks. Much longer than we anticipated. However, because we’ve stayed for more than just a couple of days, we’ve been able to develop friendships with lots of cruisers here in the harbor, something we consider much more valuable than seeing every single cay and island in the Abaccos. We share dinner or are invited for dinner on someone else’s boat every other day it seems. It is nice to be able to get to know people on a deeper level than the “where are you from” and “how long are you planning on sailing for” questions. We should note, however, that almost no one comes over to Whisper for dinner (not for lack of invitations) but, we presume, because she is a bit small… or maybe we just smell bad!

One of the main streets in "downtown" Hopetown.

Last night's sunset

04 March 2007

Hope Town, Abacos, The Bahamas

March 3, 2007

The winds have been great the last couple days, so we’ve acted like real sailors and have gone sailing yesterday and the day before. Yesterday Kristen, Hans and Dave from “Shannon Glyn” sailed Whisper 4 miles south to Tahiti Beach which is at the southern end of Elbow Cay. Despite the alluring name, we did not stop at the beach but instead dinghied a little further south to look for lobster and grouper. As seems to be the norm these days, we did not get ourselves dinner although we did find an active coral reef with lots of fish, coral heads, sea fans and even a nurse shark sleeping underneath the rocks. We tacked all the way south and anchored under sail. When it was time to go, we hoisted the main and simultaneously weighed anchor to sail away from the beach and back to Hope Town. Dave invited us over for a hamburger & hot dog dinner on his boat and Don and Brad joined us. Hans played some guitar and we learned the not only is Don a good singer, but he remembers lyrics too!

The day before we were treated to a sail on Dave’s boat, a 45 foot Shannon Yacht. It was a fairly windy day and the seas were a little rough, but at 38,000 pounds, the Shannon Glyn sailed at 7-8 knots with ease. We took turns steering, trimming the sails and sitting on the bow pulpit. It was a real treat to sail on such a first-class sailboat.

We plan on staying in Hope Town until later in the week. The next race for cruising sailboats is on Wednesday and we want to attempt to have a better showing than the last race. We’ve also met some great people here and we’re enjoying their company.

Dave, the Captain of Shannon Glynn.

Don, from the boat Epilogue, and crew for the day on Shannon Glynn.

Shannon Glynn under sail.

Kristen and Hans posing for the camera.

Kit Kat blocking her eyes from the sun which is disturbing her beauty rest.