Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in home port!

We pulled in at 11:00, and were greeted by boat neighbors Trish Carney (Serenity) and Rick (Priden Joy) who came to help with tying off the lines as Ron backed into our slip. SO NICE TO BE HOME! Despite the cold and foggy weather, our spirits weren't the least bit dampened, and were very grateful to be to tied up and secure in the slip!! Murphy's Law did show up at last, as it was Sunday, so of course, clearing Customs and Immigrations was not going to happen!! Even the after-hours phone number was futile, so....we technically were quarantined to the boat! We finished up the boat log, shut down the electronics in the PH, and documented our efforts at clearing in, then....made the best of it: CHAMPAGNE SUNDAY!!

Boating by Braille...

Well, the fog never lifted all Saturday, nor did it budge Saturday night, NOR into Sunday! We came around Cape Henry into the Chesapeake Bay with radars running (as always)in conjunction with the AIS and chart overlay...LOVE the technology!! And totally needed it in the butter-thick fog that covered everything! Of course, we also chart our position on paper and keep copious notes of course over ground, speed over ground, lat & long and important engine readings, too...but the fog was AMAZING!! Truly instrument-rated piloting!! We checked in with the Cape Henry Tower to confirm our route up the Bay and to reassure the big-dog container ships and tugboats that we would stay out of the channel along the green cans. Ron did a great job piloting most of the night from 10-3; he was totally jazzed and enjoying himself immensely especially since the seas were flattening beautifully, so he took a longer-than-usual watch. With the calm waters, I slept like a log, then handled my watch until well after sunrise. Sunrise being relative in the dank gloom, that is!! Ok, so the fog was white as opposed to being dark!

We had so many AIS contacts anchored off Annapolis it was almost funny. I took a shot of the chart plotter showing all the ships...they weren't going anywhere in the fog, or were waiting their turn to come into port. When we crossed under the Bay Bridge, we couldn't see the stanchion on either side of us, but if we looked up while we were dead under the bridge, you could see it for a moment. Disorienting!!

Our first glimpse of land after 96 hours at sea was LITERALLY when we came alongside Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows eerie sight, actually. The fog continued to be so thick that when we reached the Key Bridge, we actually could see part of the stanchions there...but nothing else. Check out the photos!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back to a following sea!

We spent an uncomfortable night bouncing, rocketing and rolling our way to Cape Hatteras, watching an amazing array of squalls pop up all around us. Nary a raindrop came to give us a free wash-down though, to Ron's disappointment (and my relief -- who needs to be in a squall off Cape FEAR, for pete's sake??). Of course, bad weather and rough conditions always seem magnified at night, although I'm sure we were far more comfortable in our Kadey-Krogen than the poor sailing vessel we had for our sole company out there. Even when we rolled 30 degrees (which DOES get one's attention), at least we weren't on an angle the entire time like the sailors had to be. We were delighted that we'd taken down the bimini top and secured everything so well with the rolling, rollicking ride.

Once around Hatteras, a smooth following sea (WHAT a difference a course adjustment makes!!) was lovely. Unfortunately, with dawn came FOG as thick as I'd ever seen it -- you could barely see beyond the bow. Literally, just a few yards of visibility was all we had, but having the radars on and running (one set in close, one set out a bit farther) and using the chart overlay feature was great.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Waves + Swells = Exciting Ride

The weather changed from sunny to cloudy and squally, and the resulting ugly seas combined to convince us to head closer to shore, so at 6 pm we changed course towards Charleston if we needed an out rather than take the rhumbline up to the Carolinas. (It wasn't much of an option, as we were so far offshore that we had 9 hours to go before we would have reached port.) But winds increased to near gale force conditions, gusting over 35 knots. The wind was whipping the water, taking the tops of the waves off and skittering them along like snow blowing along an icy street. The hard part was not the 8-10' following seas from the south, but the huge 6-8' NE swell that would roll in from the outer Atlantic. When the swell and waves met up at times, it was downright intimidating. Looking UP at the waves from the pilothouse was a bit unnerving for me, to be honest!! I found that watching the waves was a mistake, for I would brace myself each time, always anticipating the worst boat motion! Of course, my imagination was always worse than the reality, so made for a tense ride. If I busied myself with something and just let my body adjust to the boat motion, it was actually much easier!! By 10 pm, we were out of the Gulf Stream, and conditions improved markedly, with no NE swell and smaller waves. With the better conditions, we changed course yet again, to continue to the Chesapeake.

So...Right now we're bouncing our way towards Hatteras, about 35 nm offshore. While closer to shore, we would have been smarter to angle to Wilmington NC, rather than head for Charleston(although that was a known port to Ron and easier to enter at night). But now, our course to Hatteras is giving us a quartering sea on the stbd stern, so we're rolling a bit at times. I admit, I LOVE our stabilizers!

Ron of course, had to put out the fishing lines...and the first fish to hit was a bluefin tuna!! YUM!!

We caught several false albacore after that, but it was catch and release with them, since they are supposedly poor eating. They sure do put up a fight though!! And we're getting better at landing them now too, which is a good thing. Now all we need is our filleting skills to improve!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

At Sea!

Well, conditions have been pretty benign, even with the winds out of the east currently. We had pleasant conditions right out of OBB, so took a starboard turn and headed north rather than angle across the Gulf Stream to Stuart, FL. We encountered some beamy seas in the Gulf Stream of 6-8' with the east winds, but nothing that Equinox couldn't handle as we cruised about 45 nm offshore the Florida coast. We're making excellent time in the current, going about 9.5-10.2 knots, currently offshore at the FL/GA border. Weather is partly cloudy and according to the weather, south winds will continue!

Departure Day!

Well, we're off! It's incredibly sad to be leaving Old Bahama Bay, but we want the boat north and in the Chesapeake for the spring and summer. Ally is ready to be back living aboard, and once the weather in Maryland turns to spring temps, it's glorious there! It will be difficult being without the boat if we don't bring her home this trip. Weather is the deciding factor, though, and while conditions aren't optimal, they are okay and should be fair-to-middling for the next few days.

Thus, we're not sure if we will just cross over to Florida, or head north back to the Chesapeake. We are taking it as the weather dictates; right now the winds are from the east, and are forecast to be 2-4', with larger 4-6' waves in the Gulf Stream. The long-range forecast is for southerly winds, which we want if we are in the Gulf Stream! As long as we have south winds, we'll go for it and head north...!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goodbye to the Girls....

Ally and Claire are heading back to Delaware today, to spend the remainder of spring break with the Messanos. The girls have had a great time together, and after eight days of fun, sun and happiness, are more than reluctant to leave! Still, they're definitely looking forward to being back with Claire's folks and friends, and having cell service again!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Equinox Day!!

Yes, a day in our honor!! Actually, one of two, but the vernal equinox is my favorite, since it is the first day of spring, and the whole spring and summer are now on the horizon!! On March 20, 2009, at precisely 7:44 A.M. EDT, the Sun crossed directly over the Earth's equator. Because the sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes. The next equinox will occur on September 22 at 5:18 P.M. EDT. You can be sure there will be a party!!

Since the torrential rains of last Wednesday and Thursday, the weather has been the more typical breezy, sunny, and 70s. We've spent the past few days scuba diving, snorkeling for lobster, hanging by the pool or doing boat projects. We changed out the big General Ecology water system filter, cleaned and polished more of the metalwork, and took care of the usual feeding, petting and grooming of the boat. Gotta show her the love! Which we do!!

Ron cleaning and lubricating the gaskets on the forward hatches

Friday, March 20, 2009

Reunited with Miles Aweigh!

Miles Aweigh made the crossing from Port Everglades today!!! We were wishing them good weather, because the Gulf Stream was forecast to be a bit rough. However, Dede, Shelley and Capt Kevin made it easily, cruising at 11 knots most of the way until they stopped to cut loose their new tender Miles Behind, which they'd been towing. Shelley piloted it in from about 8 miles out. We'd been hailing them on the VHF for quite some time with no response; apparently their flybridge radio was not turned up/inoperative.

Turns out we weren't the only ones hailing them with no response, for the USCG cutter Kingfisher came alongside with lights on and asked them to stand to for a bit while they they confirmed the registration and ownership, etc!! After her identity confirmed and all questions answered, Dede was finally allowed to head on into Old Bahama Bay. Ron and I were out diving at the time and missed all of this; while we hailed them from the dinghy right before our dive (again, no answer) when we hailed them again after our dive, Miles Aweigh was already in the marina and tying up!! Needless to say, there was raucous celebration and cheer as we reunited!! Dinner and tales aboard Equinox lasted until the wee hours!

Miles Aweigh and Equinox side by side at Old Bahama Bay

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bimini Back to Old Bahama Bay!

We're home, so to speak, back to slip S-7, and how nice it was to hear Kyle's voice (one of the OBB dock hands) on the VHF radio as we lumped our way back into the marina this afternoon! After a perfectly flat calm day of SPECTACULAR diving yesterday off Bimini at the dive sites
"The Caverns" and "The Bimini Wreck" (with 11o visibility!!) we looked at the evening's forecast and knew we had to beat feet back to West End if the girls were to head out as planned next Monday. While it would have been nice to stay and do more diving, the weather gods had other ideas....and the winds started picking up in the night, with rain. The forecast today was for steady rain with seas of 2-4' and east winds 10-15 could have been sort of benign, and as we left Bimini, the seas were flat and we were glad to have made our way home at the right time. But...with an ugly northerly swell with the increasingly choppy waves, we ended up getting tossed fore and aft as we made our way back. Clearing the Great Bahama Bank helped eliminate the chop, so it wasn't terrible, but not comfortable either. We were glad we left when we did, ash the forecast now only predicts the weather to get worse over the next 4-5 days. So, despite a few hours of rolling and pitching, here we are, ensconced back in our "home" slip and loving the Bahamas!! A rainy day of cruising beats a day at work any time!! Plus, the folks here at OBB are what make it truly special; although the facilities in Bimini were new and fabulous, we love being back with our friends here at Old Bahama Bay. The captains and crew of Equinox will sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eagle Rays Escort!

Today was a perfect day of diving...the seas so flat and calm as to be unreal. The big PLUS was that the visibility was so amazing! We could see the sand ripples at the bottom of the ocean at 80'....and the SHARKS that were swimming along the coral formations of the reef. This, FROM THE DINGHY!! In the morning Ron and I did "The Caverns" at 75-80' with Claire Messano aboard the dinghy as crew and sunbather (who spotted the sharks below!) while Ally stayed aboard Equinox to do some SAT prep work. Ally's ears are still too congested to dive, unfortunately...but she did accompany us in the afternoon, when she came with us as crew for our second dive on the "Bimini Wreck" just a mile or so outside of the approach markers to the cut to Alice Town. The old barge is an older wreck, nicely encrusted with corals and sea fans, and immediately upon descent as we checked our anchor setting, Ron and I came across a large Hawksbill turtle who was clearly disgruntled at our disturbing its rest. From there we explored the exterior and interior of the wreck...filled with huge schools of silversides, yellowtail snapper, parrotfish, and wrasses, to a VERY large "VW"-sized grouper that didn't want us crowding him as we shared the interior of the wreck! It was so amazingly CLEAR that at our safety stop at 15' on the anchor line, when we felt a tug on the line we looked up to see Ally looking down at us from the dinghy, and it was like we were looking through a window. No surface ripples, no wave action, just clear as air. Sure wish we had a picture of that!! But we did get a photo of one of the dozens of eagle rays in the channel as we came back to the boat!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dive Time

Well, turns out that the queasiness of the crossing on Sunday was not due to the conditions, as Ally spiked a fever yesterday and apparently has been dealing with a bout of the flu/nasty UR viral bug ever since arrival in the Bahamas. Fever, chills, ear aches, head congestion and general achiness abound, so we've tried to ease her pain with rest, and lots of sunshine. Stuffing her full of lobster, tuna and conch as well, but in reality, she's eating very little. We hope it's a temporary bug and will leave her as soon as possible! Poor kid!

While Ally rested and Claire took care of her, Ron and Karyn explored in the dinghy and made two dives off the north shore. The sea was made up of those incredible, unbelievable, surreal shades of Bimini blue from palest periwinkle to aquamarine to cobalt...Gorgeous! Calm conditions, so we explored the Caverns, a dive site at 70-80', then went over to the shallow site of the infamous Bimini Road to Atlantis (kind of stonehedge-like paving stone formations on the ocean floor) then later did a shallow whuffo site but with LOTS of fish, from a good sized stone crab, scorpionfish, cowfish, scrawled filefish and many, many pairs of angel fish, both queen and French. The schooling yellowtail grunts and chubs were amazing in their number. Did see a trio of lionfish on the first dive....they are everywhere, unfortunately. (Alien invaders from the Pacific). We may head to Cat Cay tomorrow weather permitting, but right now...enjoying the glow from a (mostly) great day.

We won't dwell on the fact that Ron's wallet went AWOL ---unfortunately most likely overboard---- after stopping to refuel the dingy at the gas dock. Since he didn't get out of the dink and Karyn did, it couldn't have gone anywhere else but into the water...and he realized it was missing when we arrived back at the boat, after a long, fast dinghy ride from the gas dock. Not so much fun there! Oh well. We'll just take the good with the bad. It happens!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Road to Atlantis...

Alicetown on North Bimini

....or, the BIMINI ROAD!! Today Equinox lumped along in quartering 3-5' seas and made it to Bimini Bay Resort in Bimini, The Bahamas. Truly a lovely day, with sunshine and light winds, but an uncomfortable southeasterly swell to the waves made everyone (even Karyn!) a bit queasy. (Perhaps also due to the celebratory late night the evening before, hmm?) Nevertheless, we slipped out of Old Bahama Bay before sunrise and aside from the short choppy pitching of the boat, had great conditions: light winds, SSE 10-15 and mostly clear skies. We had a large pod of dolphins come greet us at one point, but I think Equinox was pitching too much for them to ride the bow wave very comfortably; they didn't stay long. The girls are already ensconced at the pool as Ron and Karyn clean up inside the boat while Oneil, one of the Bimini Bay Resort dockhands, is getting all the salt washed off the boat outside. (Thank you Oneil!!!) The resort looks quite nice and we're looking forward to seeing the changes to the island since the last time we were here, when we did a live-aboard dive trip on the Nekton Pilot in 2003.

Monday, March 9, 2009

BACK to the Islands....

6 DAYS out from heading back to the islands!! Ally's spring break starts March 13th at 3:00, and we will be flying down to Grand Bahama to rejoin the boat on Saturday morning!! We are all looking forward to being back aboard! Right now the weather is gorgeous there...of course, due to change when we arrive, but we can still be optimistic!!

We'll spend one week with Ally and her friend Claire, tentatively heading to Bimini for a few days before we then send them home to DE/MD. The last week of March, Ron and I hope to head north (weather permitting!!). While it would be wonderful to get the weather window to bring the boat back north to Baltimore, I'm not counting on it. There are NO schedules when it comes to the weather and boats, so we'll take it as it comes!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Congratulations, Jordan!

Ron's nephew Jordan had his bar mitzvah this weekend, March 7th, so we all spent the weekend down in Rockville, MD with extended family and friends to celebrate. The weather was absolutely beautiful (in the 70s!!), Jordan did great and the party was very fun time, chatting with old friends and catching up with distant relatives.