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!