Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Return to West End

We are now back in West End, having cruised most of the night for a mid-day arrival. We pulled into our slip to the delighted cries of a raucous greeting party comprised of Shelly and Casey Miles, from Miles Aweigh, who were most excited to be reunited with Ally and Taylor again. Shelly and Casey helped the Old Bahama Bay dockmaster, Peter Watson, get Equinox secure in her slip, then the two went stampeding down to Ally's cabin to awaken the still-sleeping beauties! Ally and Taylor shared the 4-6 am watch, and were most proud of themselves for having done so! They were still asleep upon arrival to the marina. Meeting new friends and reuniting with old ones is the best part of the cruising life!

Anchored at Allans-Pensacola Cay

Enroute back to West End, we anchored at the gorgeous, uninhabited cays of Allans-Pensacola. It was a beautiful calm evening on anchor, and the girls explored the island a bit by dinghy. We had a fellow cruiser come by to barter conch for Coca-colas, which we gladly provided (although didn't accept the conch -- we have enough already). We enjoyed meeting and chatting with him, though, which is what cruising is all about! We plan on leaving about midnight to cruise the Little Bahama Bank back to West End for a daytime arrival.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Party at Great Guana Cay...

...Only at Nippers!! We hooked up with Brendal again, for what turned out to be a private charter over to Great Guana Cay for the day, as some folks backed out at the last minute. We joined the flocks of folks heading to partake in Nipper's famous pig roast, pool and beach party. We had a great time! Brendal let Karyn skipper over to Great Guana through Whale Cay Channel (a tad rough but not breaking) and while Taylor was a bit queasy with the conditions, she came through okay. We let the girls explore the beach before enjoying the huge buffet lunch, Ron found some great cigars, and we all sampled a couple of the famous "Frozen Nipper" rum punches before dancing the afternoon away. Hard to beat a classic beach party!! It was a great time!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Diving with Brendal

We really wanted to dive the outer reefs along Green Turtle, but not knowing the reef and with the conditions being a bit on the rough side, we decided we would go out with Brendal, the owner/operator of Brendal's Dive Shop at Green Turtle. (www.brendal.com) He knows all the sites, having been in business here since 1985, and has been featured in many a travel magazine and travel guides. His warmth and personality made everyone feel at home, from the snorkelers aboard, to the certified divers with lots of dives. We had a fabulous dive along the backside of Crab Cay, through caverns and swimthroughs. After an hour of diving in 73 degree water, though, we were frozen!! The rum punch on the way back to the dock was a great form of antifreeze!

Diving & Message in a Bottle!

Yesterday we all went out in the dinghy to explor e the east side of Green Turtle and do some diving. It was still pretty rough, with good 4' swells, so after looking for some promising reef areas (and failing) we went back towards shore and tied off on a mooring buoy near a shallow dive site called Sea Gardens. Ally worked on her tan while Taylor, Ron and I dove the site, to check out how Tay was underwater and to refresh her skills since her last dives earlier in June. Tay was relaxed and comfortable; as Ron said, "Taylor, you're a natural!"

After the dive, we decided to explore the gorgeous white sand beach of the south tip of Green Turtle Cay, and lo and behold, in the seaweed at the high tide line, Ron found a green bottle, corked, with a rolled scroll of paper in it!! A message in a bottle!!

We took it back to the marina with us, and took part in a great cruisers' potluck lunch behind Brendal's Dive Shop. Later, back aboard, Ron scored the bottle with a file and cracked it open. It startled us a bit, because it was in Spanish! Which made it even more cool! Unfortunately, some of the message was washed away, as there had been moisture inside the bottle, but what we could read was as follows:

"...Escuela de la Armada Espanola Juan Sebastien de Elcano
...en la mar da 19 de marzo de 2005
...-ando en demanda del puerto Santo Domingo en situacion
... - 50' N y 86 52' W a 1200 hours

There was more, including a partially legible e-mail address, but also the general address of the Juan Sebastien de Elcano tall ship in Madrid Spain! We did some checking of the coordinates, and figure that the tall sailing ship must have put the message in the bottle into the sea somewhere in Honduras, judging from the latitude coordinate, although we couldn't find any references to a Santo Domingo near that coordinate. Still, very cool!! What we love the best is that Equinox and the Juan Sebastien de Elcano have crossed paths before as the tall ship was in Baltimore last summer! We took photos of the ship as she was in the harbor, with all her sailors in the rigging. Here's a photo I took last summer as she was leaving Baltimore:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sister ships!

We arrived in Green Turtle Cay this afternoon, to find our sister ship, KK5814, Deep Sea Nine on the t-head in front of us! We'd heard about the family aboard from the folks at Kadey-Krogen, since they are all divers too! We had a great time meeting for the first time and later we combined forces with the Laukiens for a joint Christmas eve dinner at the Green Turtle Club restaurant. We had a wonderful time telling stories and exchanging background histories!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back in the Bahamas!!

And, Taylor is finally here! She's a trooper....after the weather created chaos in the midwest, closing the Milwaukee airport for a while, Tay had to deal with the associated flight delays. Her initial flight was going to be so delayed into ORD that the airline sent her by car! Of course, the car was so delayed in coming, she missed her connection anyway, and spent the next 15 hours in the airport among the crush of everyone else who was delayed. She finally got to Charlotte (where we were supposed to meet 12 hours earlier) and was gratefully picked up by Jodi, Aunt Jen's friend. After a night there, Tay got on the next (also delayed) flight to Freeport, and joined our merry group around 4 in the afternoon!

We shared a lovely holiday dinner with the Miles' aboard Miles Aweigh last night, and are bound for the Abacos today, over to Green Turtle. The weather is kicking up a bit, so all the better to cruise while we can.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Counting the Days...

...until we are back in the Bahamas aboard Equinox. While she is currently berthed there, we're back in Baltimore until Ally's winter break begins. We'll spend the remainder of the year aboard, along with Ally's cousin, Taylor Damrow, and hope to cruise the Abacos again. Green Turtle Cay, here we come!

Interior of the Green Turtle Club

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wisconsin Winter Interlude

Ok, a major break from the boat as I spent the weekend with my family in Wisconsin, at Dad and Sandra's new condo overlooking Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. Getting off the plane in Milwaukee was a bit of a shock to my system, for it was only 5 degrees and that was not accounting for wind chill! There was snow on the ground, and more was falling. Let's just say it took my breath away!!

Anyway, the new condo is absolutely lovely and just perfect for them! It was a relaxing time; I got to see my brother-in-law Peter, sisters Jennifer and Kiki, and nieces Jordan and Taylor while we spent time together decorating the tree, getting pictures hung and things organized after the move, watching the Packers (and the Ravens), and generally indulging a bit. As always, good to be home!

Our only disappointment was that Ally couldn't join us due to school and social obligations, but she'll come out again with me in the spring or summer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving in the Bahamas

Ally and I arrived in West End, Grand Bahama the Friday before Thanksgiving, and took a cab to Old Bahama Bay Marina. Equinox had arrived in port the evening before, and cleared customs that morning. Ron, Ally and I were just happy to be together again, and Kerry and Karen enjoyed being on dry (albeit windy) land after the long trip down. Merry celebrations followed....!

Unfortunately, the conditions were rough and tumble offshore so we opted to stay near Old Bahama Bay. We went out each day aboard our tender, Eclipse, staying near West End to lobster, conch and dive. Ron spent a day with Melvin, one of the local conch divers, and learned the Bahamian techniques to finding and cleaning conch, as well as where to find lobster. Melvin made conch salad for us on the back deck, and we had lobster omelets the following morning.

As luck would have it, we met some kindred souls aboard Miles Aweigh, Bill and Dede Miles and their daughters Shelly and Casey. They had crossed from FL for the holiday, and wound up berthed in the slip next to ours. We totally hit it off, from the girls love of diving and sunning to our mutual dream of cruising and living aboard. We joined forces for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast, sharing traditions such as triple-baked southern cornbread stuffing to mashed sweet potatoes with pineapple to barley-mushroom risotto. It was a fantastic evening: good food, fine wine, new friends and new traditions! Never knew there were such things as chocolate turkeys!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Easy ride down the Florida coast

Equinox had good weather the remainder of the trip, following the coast down from Charleston and fishing all the way south to Stuart, FL. The fish are still winning, getting away more often than they are landed. However, they've had a few fillets for dinner, so it's not all in vain! In Stuart, they pulled in for a night’s rest at our old stomping grounds, the Hutchinson Island Marriott Marina. Ron was delighted to see everyone again, and they all were asking about Ally and me. Definitely good to be in port! Of course, Ron had to take Kerry and Karen to Conky Joe’s, for a bit of old time Florida fun. There is one weather window opening on Thursday, so they'll make the crossing then. Let's hope the forecast holds!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Safe in port at Charleston, SC

Equinox is now ensconced in Charleston, SC. They made it back last night to about 3 miles offshore where the conditions were calmer with the wind out of the west; instead of going at Cape Fear in the dark (nothing like an unknown port at night), they opted to follow the coast until Charleston, where they entered the river in the morning. They plan on resting a couple of days, and are getting an marine electrician in to replace the GFI outlet and double check the wiring for safety. Thank goodness, for I can’t believe how relieved I am to hear that they are safe!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caught in the washing machine....

...of heavy weather off Hatteras. I received an unexpected sat phone call from Ron at 1315 local, with their current position of 33.040N 77.152W, course of 321 degrees, and speed at 7.7 kts in confused, horrible seas. Waves of 15’ or more, wind gusts to 45 kts, they’ve made no headway south and are heading to Cape Fear. They've endured a few rolls of 40 degrees, which is rather exciting to say the least. (Ok, hearing that, I'm grateful I'm not along.)They've had an issue with some water getting in one of the forward portholes, and the water shorted out one of the outlets in our cabin (causing a lot of smoke and excitement aboard, apparently.) I can live without any more such excitement, personally.

Back on track, but weather looming

Well, in Beaufort, NC, thermostats were changed, plugs tightened and all repairs inspected by a mechanic, and thus, they were underway again by evening. They were aiming south once more, straight for the Bahamas, with a forecast of NE winds at 15-20 kts, and 6-8’ seas, but forecast to diminish to 2-4’ as winds died off. Not the best forecast right out of the gate, but if it followed true, conditions would improve. It was a restless night for me, imagining the seas and winds, and early this morning, much to my dismay, the forecasts had not improved. If anything, the conditions were worsening, and I feared for their comfort and safety. Pouring over the NOAA sites, seeing the blunt warnings of “GALE FORCE WINDS EXPECTED SAT” did nothing to ease my fears.

The 0830 sat phone call came, and Ron sounded tired. Indeed, the conditions were worse than they anticipated, and at 32.405’N, 76.491’W, but they were going forward. They are slogging along, having to slow down in the 10’ seas and not making good speed in the pounding conditions. Hearing that the weather was to turn even worse with the impending low-pressure system bearing down in 48 hours, Ron reported that they were altering course to head more westerly to hopefully find calmer waters. The next 24 hours are going to be ugly, no doubt about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Engine trouble off Hatteras

My heart sank this morning, for I awoke to a text message from Ron, saying they had an engine overheating, as well as one electronics issue with the port helm monitor. Currently they were limping back into Beaufort, NC. on one engine. While they think it is a thermostat issue, it could be much worse...but we will find out when they have a chance to get a mechanic to look at it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November: Heading South!!

Equinox is heading south, and I'm not aboard. Ally's school schedule dictated our remaining behind, while Ron and another couple, Kerry and Karen Moser, took the boat south. I’ve got to admit, NOT going along on this trip was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ron and I are a team, so not going was excruciating -- we keep each other in balance, so without my (ahem) cautious voice of reason in his ear, how was this trip going to go? Yep, I'm worried!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Human vented pressure valve

Murphy's Law....just when you think you have things under control, there's always something that goes awry. Take, for example the dinghy davit. It was on the list of things to inspect prior to our leaving, We were on our way to Hartge's for all the inspection and punch list items, but during our last night in Annapolis, the davit hydraulic unit pump decided to bleed out. It just sounded different as we were about to put the dinghy up in its davit, so I went down in the engine room to find out what was happening, and found it was spewing hyrdaulic oil into the pan beneath it.

Of course, the location of said unit is outboard of the 20Kw genset and aft of the starboard engine, and the way to reach it was by slithering over the engine exhaust elbow, if you were small enough. That would be me. I checked where the oil was coming from, and lo and behold, part of the vented oil cap came off in my hand! Argh! How would we get the dinghy up now? (We could always tow it to the West River, but...not the remainder of the way south!) It definitely needed attention. Using the walkie-talkies, Ron and I discovered that if I pressed my hand over the broken cap in its hole, it would provide enough pressure to enable the davit to work. We used it in small spurts to bring the dinghy to its cradle.

Meedless to say, it's on the top of the list for Hartge's to inspect and fix when we get there. Can't go to the islands without a dinghy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October: Preparation Month!

I was rather busy this month! Between getting Ally to school and back from the marina, I spent my days provisioning: buying engine spares, generator spares and numerous other mechanical systems spares, plus enough food to last 6 months and then some while Ron worked. I made lists, checked them twice, thrice and then revised them many times more, as items were purchased and stowed aboard, systems were inspected, suspect items rejected and replaced, experts called in for advice. The boat was hauled, zincs replaced, fresh bottom paint applied; I coordinated mechanics and cleaners. Throughout it all, I inventoried like a fiend, organizing the spares, food and last-minute tasks as best I could, and occasionally wondered where Murphy was going to play a hand in proving all these attempts at preparation to be in vain.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September again...

It's back to school for Allison, and coordinating preparations for the boat's trip south this autumn. We had a visitor during the second week of September, as Karyn's Dad came to visit for a week from Wisconsin. Ally graciously gave him her cabin for the week, and tucked up into the pilothouse for the duration. I made up the PH settee into a double bed, and made it as cozy as possible for her; she loved it and it all worked out quite nicely.

Dad fit right in, and we didn't alter our basic daily routine of getting Ally off to school, Ron off to work, then my doing boat maintenance & cleaning during the day. In the evenings, we either feasted aboard and followed dinner with a movie, or went out to eat. On Sept 10th, we showed him the town, via an evening dinghy cruise to the Inner Harbor for Ron's birthday dinner at Ruth's Chris' Steakhouse at Pier V. At 82, Dad is pretty agile, and got in and out of the dinghy with greater aplomb than I anticipated. We had our boat neighbors, the Medicos off Medici over for dinner on Friday night, another feast with friends!

The only drawback during Dad's stay was that the weather didn't really cooperate during most of the week, being rainy or cloudy. Plus, the entertainment system on the boat had developed some glitches (Ally's and our cabin TVs were stuck on different channels and would not reset.) that were annoying.

While all eyes were glued to the Weather Channel for news of Hurricane Ike, we were then took Equinox down the Bay for a cruise to Annapolis for the weekend. We had glorious weekend weather, with more dinghy cruising up Ego Alley, around the Naval Academy, then over to dinner at O'Leary's for another night out.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

End of an Era...

Sad News…we received the call early Sunday morning at 4:30 am, that Ron’s beloved grandmother, Ally's great-grandmother "Nana", Jessica Cone, passed away at 96. We were underway from Bay Bridge without the chance to say good bye to anyone there, and were back in Baltimore before noon. From there, it was off to NY for Ron, to help coordinate the funeral arrangements and begin our grieving. Nana personified elegance, generosity and grace, and we miss her dearly.

Jessica Cone with Ron, circa 1960

Nana with Allison, Mother's Day 2006

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bay Bridge Marina!

We came over to Bay Bridge Marina to be with our friends Al & Kim Baldoni, and Rick and Maria Davis and their kids. It was of course, low tide when we came in the Bay Bridge Marina channel; I called ahead to get local knowledge from Capt John, a friend of the Baldonis, who told us to keep to the starboard side of the channel coming in and we’d have plenty of water. Nevertheless, I hate seeing the depth sounder going blank, unable to get a reading because its mere inches from the bottom! (They say you haven’t cruised the Chesapeake if you haven’t gone aground…but that’s another story!) At any rate, Ron had no problems piloting the boat in, and pivoting and placing her against the bulkhead just past the entrance to the marina. And…SO GOOD to see the Baldonis and Davises again! Ally and the kids took off to the pool immediately and we adults soon followed for some Vitamin D ourselves, along with cocktails. Full blast sunshine, good friends, and a few drinks later, all was right with the world! We had a great late dinner in Stevensville at Rustico’s, and returned for dancing out at the tiki bar behind Hemingway’s overlooking the bay until the wee hours. Ahh!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cruising in our backyard, the Chesapeake

We've done a couple weekends back to back over in Fairlee Creek, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, meeting up with various friends and having them raft up with Equinox while we're on anchor. For those who haven't been there, Fairlee Creek offers both a marina and a protected anchorage inside a large cove. Getting in through the cut can be tricky at times, depending on the time of the tide and the resulting current that rushes through, but once inside, the river is a great place to anchor, swim, wakeboard, tube or water-ski.

Ally always has a smile on her face wake-boarding or skiing. She loves it!

With our good-sized ground tackle and all-chain rode, we prefer to dig in and set it well so that we can rest easily at night. Despite how calm it can be on some summer nights, the current always affects our deep hull, so we will swing, even in no wind. (Wind doesn't seem to affect us as much, since we're so heavy, but the current definitely does.)

The only drawback to Fairlee is that it is a very popular anchorage, and often, it becomes quite crowded. This often results in watching the "anchoring olympics": watching folks anchor who clearly haven't done it before or (worse) haven't a clue as to how to put out enough line to keep the anchor set. Forget having them even think about the appropriate swing room needed between any nearby boats...!

The first weekend we were there, we too had a bit of difficulty anchoring, but only because we fouled the anchor on a huge, 50' long aluminum piling that was lying on the riverbed. I can say that with certainty, because our windlass pulled the entire thing up out of the water! It was scooped up in our Delta anchor, caught almost precisely at its middle, so was teetering out to either side as we pulled it up. Ron came out of the PH to check it out, because he couldn't believe what I was telling him. We managed to slide the anchor off the piling on the first try, thankfully!

Later, we were joined by Dan and Trish Carney along with their friend Cynthia, aboard Serenity on Saturday. They rafted up to us and we were delighted to find we had a crab feast planned, thanks to Ron's ingenious buying of nearly a bushel of crabs from a local waterman, who happened to be working his crab line in the river. I steamed the crabs in Old Bay that evening and we all ate like kings! Perfectly done (if I say so myself), heavy and sweet!! We had enough left over that I picked crab meat for the next two days, making crab dip, crab balls and crab-mango-avocado stack appetizers.

This past weekend we were with the Messanos aboard Clairbuoyant, and again, enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. The kids all went tubing and wakeboarding, and Ally and I went skiing as well. A great place to spend a hot summer weekend, for the breezes on the flybridge were wonderful!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ode to a Boat Dog

A sad day for us, as we have lost our beloved dinghy dog, Trek. At the age of ten, he developed a bad disc in his back. Despite various treatments, it never improved and he lost neurological function in his hind legs, and could no longer walk. He will be greatly missed by us all.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wedding in Cancun

While not aboard this week, nevertheless, we've had a fun week in the Yucatan at the Club Med. We flew down to Cancun the last week of June for the wedding of Paul McDonnell and his fiancee, Muriel Cornelis. (Ron was the best man, as Paul had been for Ron when we were married 22 years ago!) A fun group of family and friends attended, literally from around the world, from Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Maryland.

Ron and I dove the first five days we were there, from north of Cancun proper, then over by ferry to Cozumel's Columbia Deep with Paul, after which, we said a brief hello to Don Julio for old times sake. (See photo at right --->) From there it was to the cenote Chikin Ha, then to Puerto Morelos for immense nurse sharks and the wreck of the C-56. All in all, a satisfying time underwater, amongst the preparations and partying for the wedding celebration!
We all got to know each other during the week-long vacation, and kept very busy. Some enjoyed the sights from Chitzen Itza to Tulum, others the Club Med activities, from tennis to sailing to waterskiing to lounging on the beach with a drink in hand.
The wedding was truly elegant; held seaside on the lawn of Club Med on Friday evening, followed with a beachside reception, dinner and dance party until late in the night. Dancing in the sand barefoot to the steel drum band was fabulous! We all enjoyed it and were delighted to share the memories together!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jimmy Buffett: The "Year of Still Here" Tour

Yes, we couldn't resist, and did it again....! While it meant a weekend away from the boat, it was worth it, as we had 2nd row center seats at Philadelphia's Citizen Bank Stadium, with Dan and Trish Carney, Allison and her dear friend, Claire Messano. Ally had just finished her week at tennis camp in Florida that morning; Claire and I picked her up at the PHL and then rejoined the others for an entertaining afternoon of tailgating, people watching and music at our own little "Tiki Bar" amongst the hundreds of other parrotheads. The weather was brutally hot and humid, and of course, it wouldn't be Buffett if it didn't rain....and rain it did!! Right after G Love opened the show, a huge thunderstorm cell aimed right at the stadium, drenching us all in the outfield. After a bit of a lightning delay, we commenced to rocking out with Jimmy and the Coral Reefers for the next two hours, uninterrupted and undeterred by the continuing rain and drizzle. As usual, Jimmy seems to truly enjoy his summer job! It was a GREAT concert, with all the old favorites and gold standard songs; while it didn't have the synergy of a new album/CD like last year's "Take The Weather With You" Tour, it was, for us, still fabulous after all these years! After his encores, Jimmy threw his wrists bands to the audience, with one aimed DIRECTLY at Allison...who was most bereft when she dropped it!! As the kind souls in front of her bent to retrieve it for her, another woman to the left snatched it up and kept it herself. Luck of the draw, I guess...but it was intended for Ally!!

It was a great time, a family event that made memories to cherish and enjoy. Here we are!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Steve's Yacht Yard, Annapolis

This first full week of June after Ally finished school and was off to Evert Tennis Academy for a week, Ron and I took the boat down to Annapolis for a week of scheduled boat work. Ron will commute from Eastport while we address the final few nagging punch list items that remain to be rectified. While the boatyard and the docks aren't much to brag about (new docks are due in July -- much needed!), the view of Annapolis and the Naval Academy to the west are glorious indeed!! We arrived in the midst of a heat wave, and with the temps hovering around 100, we've missed having the BMC pool nearby, but dinghy rides have helped to cool us down each evening after Ron has returned from work in Baltimore. Trek is doing much better on his course of prednisone, and is able to get up and about without too much discomfort. Of course, I'm walking him 7 times a day, with his need to pee from the steroid use. Poor guy!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day weekend in St. Michael's!

We hosted Paul McDonnell, his fiancee Muriel Cornelis and her two daughters, Emilie and Alexia, aboard Equinox for the long weekend of Memorial Day. Thankfully, the weather gods smiled on us and we are finally rid of the rainy and cold May weather. (Maryland suffered through the wettest May on record this year, which was dismal at best, and cold and stormy often.) Ally was most delighted to have the girls aboard again, and the three of them were inseparable the entire time.

SO...sunshine and warmth were welcomed! We anchored out on the MIles river, enjoyed Ron's homemade crabcakes and grilled tenderloins for a superb surf and turf dinner, and walked about town window-shopping. On Saturday Ron, Paul and I used the water taxi to get our road bikes ashore, and the trio of us aboard our Trek Madones did a 28-mile loop around to Easton, Oxford, and then across on the Oxford-Bellevue ferry back to St. Michael's. A fabulous picnic lunch packed by the girls and Muriel awaited us on our return, which we all ate on the beack at Leeds Creek before spending the afternoon waterskiing and tubing. A glorious day!! You might even say we all had the "Time of my Life!!", which was the theme song for the evening dinghy cruise for we five women, -- we sang our hearts out to music while cruising on the still waters at sunset. Sunday evening we all enjoyed a lovely dinner at 208 Talbot, and quiet time on the boat. Monday we returned reluctantly, stopping at Kent Narrows for a fabulous lunch of steamed crabs before continuing on home to Baltimore.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Annapolis for the weekend

This past weekend we cruised down to Annapolis, as we needed to leave Eclipse, our dinghy, at Maritime Solutions for repairs. (Time to get rid of the duct tape holding together the aluminum radar arch, after the welds failed while in the Bahamas!) We hosted a couple of Ally's schoolmates, Mary Seaman and Olivia Segalman for the weekend as well. They're all sophomores at Oldfields School, and it's always fun to have Ally's friends along, since they make the journey so lively. Ally enjoys sharing her love of cruising (particularly when running the dinghy, which she considers "her" boat) and Annapolis is always a great destination with its pretty architecture, rich history, water views, and (most important to the girls) good shopping all within easy walking distance!

Before arriving in Annapolis, though, in the midst of the usual Saturday morning sailboat races, we offloaded the dinghy since we wouldn't be able to do so once in our marina slip. Ally and the girls brought the tender in, following in our wake, as we headed for Yacht Basin where we had a reservation. As we approached our slip, there was a bit of excitement as the dinghy started stalling out in the middle of Spa Creek. After a few frantic moments of confusion on the girls' part, we tossed them a line and simply pulled them to the pier as we slid into our slip. Well, we were there to bring the dinghy in for repairs, after all...just one more thing to add to the list.

Ron and I stopped at Fawcett's for a few items (and were pleased to see that they are well-stocked again) before hitting the Middleton Tavern for their oyster shooters and steamed shrimp. The girls, of course, went shopping. Ron and I returned to the boat and began to diagnose the dinghy, mystified as to why it would start so nicely, but then stall when put into gear. When the engine refused to lift out of the water, Ron used our glass-bottom bucket to see what was going on....and found the dinghy bow line wrapped around the propeller. Aha!! Ally was demoted from dinghy pilot back to swabbie for that one!!

We easily cut the line loose, and after picking up the girls downtown with all their purchases, we took a leisurely ride up Spa Creek, listening to the radio and singing in the sunshine. After that, we enjoyed a late dinner at The Chart House (with a wait despite our reservations due to the crowds) but the delicious food and great views made up for any delay. We enjoyed the evening together, again taking a cruise up Ego Alley to drop the girls off for some Ben & Jerry's ice cream for dessert. We headed back in the boat and let the girls walk back. They arrived back just in time to beat the thunderstorms that prevailed the remainder of the night.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Back in Baltimore

It feels so good to be home! The journey is over, and being back aboard with Allison again is lovely. We really missed her! Then, throughout the week, being welcomed back by the marina staff and our pier neighbors has been delightful.

We've already enjoyed 2 fabulous Italian "pier dinners" aboard Medici with Charlie and Trish, our slip neighbors, with various and sundry folks stopping by for drinks and conversation. It's always convival and cheery, everyone happy to be back aboard after the winter lay-up, everyone catching up with one another about their family happenings and future cruising plans. Good to be home! Charlie and Trish keep teasing us about the lovely shade our boat provides theirs, as the solid profile of Equinox definitely towers over their SeaRay, and blocks out the afternoon sun. No need for an shade awning when we're in the slip next door, that's for sure!!

Best of all, we are now back aboard full-time. It's an easier commute to work for Ron, although a bit farther to get Ally to school, but at least its an easy drive with all the traffice coming IN to Baltimore, and we've the reverse commute. Trek, too is happily aboard, and I'm enjoying my early morning walks with him, with my views of Ft. McHenry across the quiet harbor. At that hour in the morning just after daybreak, the solitude and peace of being on the water are very much in evidence despite the ever-increasing sounds of a city awakening in the background.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On the ditch again!

Off to a fresh start on the ICW today....breezy conditions still prevail, but are due to subside by Friday, when we hope to make St. Augustine. From there, IF the winds and waves allow, we will run offshore. With all our shenanigans yesterday, it was a lovely, quiet run in the ditch, with Ron or Kerry alternating at the helm, and Karen ably keeping track of our progress on the charts and alerting us to any bridge restrictions. Not surprisingly, I didn't take the helm all day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lessons Learned

Wednesday began windy and wild, which did not coincide with our plans. In fact, we couldn't have chosen a nastier time to try to bring Equinox home. Nevertheless, despite the forecast, we ended up going offshore...Ron headed out the inlet, saying it was just to "take a peek" at the conditions. He was hoping that if we ran just a couple miles offshore, it wouldn't be too bad. I was not a happy camper - or cruiser- and voiced my concerns, but Ron was focused on the schedule. As we exited the jetty, Kerry came up, looking sleepy and disheveled, and when he looked out, he said with some disbelief, "So.....we're running offshore?" We looked at each other, both skeptical about this decision, but Ron just said "You bet!" While our Kadey-Krogen can handle rough seas, being stoutly built, we both thought, "why be miserable when you don't have to be?"

Right out of the gate we were in 5-7' seas, and soon they were nearing 10'. This all within a couple miles from shore! I admit to being rather worried, but I'm good at that. Still, I imagined a 10,001 things going wrong, and listened intently to all sounds from the engine room, not wanting to lose an engine to bad fuel, stirred up from the violent seas, and checked again that everything was battened down, strapped down or pinned shut. We were as secure as we could be, and the engines were humming along beautifully. Gratitude was aplenty!

I then started using my phone to text my sister, Jennifer and daughter, Ally, for two reasons: to let them know the new float plan of going offshore, and (more importantly) to distract and calm myself somewhat in the increasingly rough seas. It did help...but then, I noticed that Kerry went dashing down below, and when he didn't return after a few minutes, I went up to the pilothouse. When I found Ron looking more than a bit green, I then realized what was going on...that everyone was seasick, but me!! (I hadn't seen Karen yet this morning, either, despite two attempts on her part to make it to the piltohouse.) Think there may have been a bit too much Tommy Bahama rum the night before....not a wise choice before heading out to sea the next morning!!

Thus, my saga started. I took over the helm station, and stayed there for the next 6 hours, as everyone else was out of commission. We bounced, slammed and slid our way along to Port Canaveral, that being my executive decision to bring us back inside....I had had enough of this! The autopilot fought and wrestled with the seas while I clung to the helm, watching as the waves seemed even larger...pushing high above the bow, looming ever taller, with the boat rising, rising, rising and then momentarily going weightless a moment or two, before slamming down as we crested the wave. Sometimes violently, sometimes careening off balance down the front of the next wave, sometimes just gliding forward to find the next big wave. By now the seas were definitely 14-18', with the occasional 20-footer....yep, pretty much what was forecast. Winds were gale force, about 30 knots, and stayed there most of the day. It seemed like every sixth or seventh wave was a slammer, and none were polite about shoving Equinox around!

When Ron managed to be functional about 3:30 or so, and pried my hands off the newly worn grooves in the wheel, he took the helm to finish the approach into Port Canaveral. I was toast, and hit the saloon couch to crash for a bit. (Ron had said he didn't sleep much in our forward cabin, what with the waves literally tossing him up in the air and his having to listen to the anchor chain bang about the chain locker.) I can't say I had much sympathy at that moment.

By 5:00 we were in the Port Canaveral inlet, and moored up in the marina, with the guys wobbling around and trying to wash, scrub and/or chisel the salt off Equinox.
Dinner was a sandwich or two for those who could stomach them, before a very early bedtime. Bliss!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Try, try again...

Well, we're trying again, hoping to bring home Equinox from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay. This time we have some crew to help us out, another boating couple Karen and Kerry Moser, off their 56' Carver, Concrete Idea. Seasoned boaters and former USCG Auxiliary members, they're very interested in trawlers and cruising farther afield, so wanted to come along and help us out. We're flying down to FL on Tuesday night, and hopefully the weather will cooperate, although at this point, it looks dubious for the first day or two we're there. We'll wait and see!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Back from the Bahamas....

Well, it's hard to be home without the boat. We are flying back down to FL on April 15th, to try once more to bring Equinox home. Despite the glorious time we had in the Bahamas over spring break, the weather window for our trip back home to the Chesapeake never really materialized, so we ended up leaving the boat in Ft. Pierce for a couple weeks. We'll get a few last-minute punch list items taken care of while it's there, gratefully so ... and hope the weather gods are more kind to us this next go round. Yeah, we know...schedules and boating don't mix, but until the time comes when we are able to cut the dock lines, we do the best we can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shark dive!!

It isn't every day you get to hang a shark cage off your transom, and dive with dozens of lemon sharks!! A bit of good karma came into play for us, unexpectedly, when our nitrox dive compressor stopped working. While that was not in the plans, in our bid to get some airfills and compressor advice from another dive boat at the marina, we met Greg Barron, who runs shark cage dive expeditions in the San Francisco area. He was in the Bahamas with the R/V Tiburon out of Florida, on a charter for a German groupd to do some shark cage dives on the Little Bahama Bank. While he couldn't claim to be an expert with compressors, he said he'd try to give us a hand to figure out what was wrong.

Alas, Greg could do little for our compressor, but he stayed for a bit as we chatted after his diagnostic efforts. Following a tour of Equinox and learning of our passion for diving, Greg asked if we wouldn't help him out, and use Equinox to host some dive photographers on the aforementioned shark dive!! The dive photographers? None other Douglas Siefert, a well-known, award-winning dive photographer, as well as Australians Ron and Valerie Taylor!

We took Equinox out early Easter Sunday, and spent the day alongside the Tiburon, diving with sharks. We hung a floating shark cage off our transom, and put a "shark bone" in the water: a perforated pvc pipe filled with fish guts, which attracted the dozens of sharks that circled the boat. It was an amazing opportunity to watch the sharks in the wild.

For those
who aren’t dive enthusiasts, Ron and Valerie are true pioneers in the world of scuba, ranking among the top elite in shark and underwater photographers. Working alongside Peter Gimbel and Stan Waterman, their underwater footage for the 1971 shark classic, Blue Water, White Death showed the world images never seen before, from diving among feeding Oceanic Whitetip sharks to the first-ever 35-mm footage of an encounter with a Great White Shark. Icons in the underwater film making business, the Taylors’ diving and shark expertise has been called upon for films such as Jaws, Jaws 2, Orca and others. Douglas, along with his girlfriend Emily and the Taylors, were only in the Bahamas for a few days, returning from the 2008 Explorers’ Club Annual Dinner gala in NYC, which had as its theme "Exploring Planet Ocean”. They were en-route to some further shark filming adventures in Fiji after this brief Bahamas stopover. Ally really enjoyed meeting the Taylors and was captivated by their stories.

Ally and her friend Claire Messano were the first in the dive cage while the rest of us were on scuba gear, checking out all the sharks. You can see the Claire's exuberance at being in the shark cage...she and Ron's co-worker Liz McMann were our newcomers to the amazing realm of the shark.

Ron spent hours in the water taking photos with his new camera gear, while I just snorkeling with the girls initially, then dove amongst the lemon sharks in the clear Bahamian water.
Every time I turned around, there was another shark passing by, close by! While the weather wasn't the best (namely, torrential rains) and the current really ripping, it was still truly exhilarating.
We would do it again in a heart beat!! We had a fabulous day, and didn't return until well past dark. Once back in the slip, we hit the restaurant there at West End for a delightful dinner to celebrate the great day and fun new friends.

Monday, March 17, 2008

After a couple days at Spanish Cay, we cruised down to Powell Cay for a bit of anchoring out and lobster hunting. Ron is most adept at that, and we were hungry for a bit of lobster. However, the winds were howling enough that we wanted a more secure anchorage, so headed further south to Green Turtle Cay, which was fabulous! We took a slip at the Green Turtle Club on the northern end of the Cay, and explored that part of the island on foot. There is a tiny community of about 450 on the island with their main town, New Plymouth, full of very quaint out-islands houses and shops dating back to the 1800s. Very pretty and definitely old Bahamian, but on the southern part of the island, so we cruised into town by dinghy and by rental golf cart, which is the fun way to get around. We walked through town, hit the local museums and had as much conch salad as we could find!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

All went according to plan for most of the trip...out of FL on the night of March 14th, with smooth cruise under moonlit skies and calm seas over to the Little Bahama Bank by dawn, then finally arriving Spanish Cay by late afternoon of the 15th. We spent a couple of days at the private resort there where we did a bit of diving, hiking and exploring. The place is privately owned, but you can clear customs here and stay aboard at the marina, having the use of their pool and hot tub, etc. We met Richard, their chef from Amsterdam, during a nearly private gourmet dinner, as we basically had the place to ourselves. There were only a couple other boats there so it was our own bit of paradise!