Saturday, October 30, 2010

Onward: Highborne Cay to Staniel Cay, Exumas

Our dolphin escort on the way to Highborne Cay
We had two easy days of cruising from Eleuthera, first to Highborne Cay, where we were the only ones at the anchorage there. We are definitely ahead of the snowbird crowd -- most folks don’t seem to be heading south until November and with the waning hurricane season. But, here we are, and we had a glorious day! We arrived at Highborne Cay just after lunch (mahi-mahi reubens, yum!) where we tucked in nicely, with the anchor set and secure, ready for the coming cold front that was forecast to sweep through the Bahamas later in the night. We then spent the afternoon enjoying the light breeze and good weather by snorkeling from Eclipse and and looking for lobster holes. I saw lots of gorgeous reef fish from banded butterflyfish to blueheaded wrasses to small, shy grouper but no lobster. Oh well! We were on the inside edges of Highborne Cay on the Bank; the tide was ebbing and we didn’t feel like having to fight that along the outside, where we would have had better luck, I’m sure. We had a gloriously calm evening, with dinner and a DVD on the aft deck before bedtime. 
Saturday morning we cruised to Staniel Cay, still ahead of the cold front that is forecast to arrive. When it did come through, you almost couldn't tell, as the winds really didn't pick up much at all. We toyed with the idea of anchoring near Samson or Compass Cay, but opted to keep heading south. Once at Staniel, we anchored just east of the famous Thunderball Cave, although it took a bit of seeking to find a good spot to drop anchor, as some areas of the bottom are mostly rock and coral scree where the current has swept the sand away. But, we set the anchor in a good, thick stretch of sand, and are holding well in the lee of the small cays, with little current in this area. Our lovely weather of the last few days has continued, so we snorkeled and swam about, to check the anchor and to check out the grotto at Thunderball Cave. We startled the daylights out of a group of French-speaking snorkelers when we entered the grotto from the opposite side --- they weren't expecting anybody to  emerge from the depths of the east side! 

Coming into Staniel Cay, heading to our anchorage behind
Thunderball Cave. 
Staniel Cay is very quiet -- not only are there few boats, but it turns out that most of the Staniel Cay folks (Jake from the Dive Shop, Dave from the Yacht Club) are all Stateside at the Lauderdale boat show! Ok, so our timing isn't the best for seeing familiar faces, but we're just following the weather! Tomorrow, after having checked and re-checked the current weather forecasts (keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Tomas, currently well below Cuba) we've decided to keep heading south, this time heading out on Exuma Sound, making for Long Island and the anchorage at Calabash Bay. We'll have some outs along the Sound should we need them, but Ron is chomping at the bit to do some fishing! Hopefully the wind and waves in Exuma Sound will cooperate to make it a lovely crossing!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crossing the Northwest Providence Channel

Well, we’d been debating it all evening long last night, as the OPC (Ocean Prediction Center) forecasts for today were looking somewhat more favorable for a crossing down to Egg Island. When I awoke, Ron was working out and when he realized  I was up, he came scrambling down from the flybridge to say the seas were the calmest we’d seen all week. We checked the weather yet again, and yes, seas were more favorable today: 4-6’ east of the Bahamas, 2-3 seas west of the Bahamas. Thus, we decided we would go for it: prepare and batten everything down, and take a look out the channel. If things looked ugly, we wouldn’t have to go out, but simply return to re-anchor in another snug spot. between the raindrops of a passing squall, we made ready: we pulled up Eclipse on deck, stowed the bike trainer and folding bike, tied down the table, chairs and extra cooler on the aft deck, pulled in the sun shades, tied down the salon furniture, stowed every, any and all items that could move, did engine rooms checks and then double-checked our efforts. It took us a good two hours to batten everything down, but finally satisfied with everything, we hauled anchor. We actually timed our departure rather well, as we went through Little Harbor Channel on the waning end of the incoming tide so waves, winds and tides were in concert, and happily exited without concern. 
The easterly swell on the Northeast Providence Channel 
The first four hours we rode a beam sea with waves of 4-6’, with an easterly 2’ swell. Winds were east at 15-20 knots. Comfortable, really, and Equinox loped along, making good time at 8.5 knots. The skies cleared nicely too, so that it was sunny and bright. About halfway through, in the middle of the Northeast Providence Channel, the winds shifted slightly becoming more northerly, so that we were getting more of a quartering sea on the aft port side. This made for a loopier ride, but again, not bad at all! It's always reassuring when the boat is handling the conditions so easily, with things aboard all snug and ship-shape, stowed safely and securely. It was also nice to know it's only a 6-hour passage and not an all-night crossing; we arrived at the western end of Egg Island in by mid-afternoon and had the hook down on the western side of The Current, Eleuthera by 5:00 pm. 

Another perfect evening on anchor!
After a glorious sunset to the west, we are now preparing dinner and relaxing for the evening. I for one, am delighted that we are farther south and tucked in on anchor....nothing better than this!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flame Conchs and Rain Squalls

It's been a busy couple of days here at Lynyrd (Skynyrd) Cay! Since it's the tail end of hurricane season, it's really quiet this time of year...yesterday we went into Little Harbor, thinking we'd eat lunch at Pete's Pub,, they are renovating and building new decks, so nothing was open, not even the sculpture foundry. The water was rocking and rolling into the small harbor entrance there, so it was not a dinghy ride for the timid, either...but hey, we had time on our hands and we used it! We walked about the stretches of inside beaches on Lynyard Cay, realizing how remote it is...nothing on the southern end but a small, tidy fish camp and acres of brush and scrub trees. We explored a bit farther north as well along the water, and went lobstering closer to North Bar Channel in the late afternoon on Tuesday. I opted to be dinghy girl, piloting the boat while Ron checked the underwater layout, looking for lobster lairs amid the ledges and rocks...soon enough, Ron found a pair of tasty tails for dinner! I now stand corrected that the Sea of Abaco has no lobster....but am taking the stand that we were very close to the channel cut, so...the open Atlantic wasn't too far away! In any event, an impromtu Asian stir fry with lobster was a delightful dinner for us on the aft deck Tuesday night.
Pete's Pub --- closed for a bit of sprucing up during the offseason
Today, we met Charlie, an older, bearded Conky Joe Bahamian who set up the little fish camp ashore here at Lynyard Cay. When I woke up today, he and a friend were busily raking the sand along his little section of beach tucked into the limestone crags, making things neat and tidy. Charlie came by in his skiff, inviting us to walk along the beach on the Atlantic side of the Cay, explaining there was a trail across island from his campsite. Who were we to refuse? It was wild beauty over there...nothing but the breaking waves on the ragged limestone shores with gorgeous stretches of sand in between. What startled us though, was the amount of plastic flotsam garbage and jetsam trash that obviously washes up there on a daily basis. Here I was, looking for "sea glass", yet I had to pick my way through more "sea plastic" than I could ever imagine. Sad, beyond sad. Plastic water bottles were the major culprit, along with mounds of fishermen's netting, buoys, flip-flops, plastic containers of all shapes and sizes, and remnants thereof. While I found some delightful pieces of sea glass nonetheless, trapped in the ragged limestone shoreline, the ubiquitous plastic trash was a disturbing presence in an otherwise pristine place. 

Charlie's buoy and flotsam collection at his camp
Watching the waves crash along the shore
When we returned to the inland shore and took the dinghy back to Equinox,  we met Charlie yet again, who pulled up alongside in his boat to give us a gorgeous driftwood and shell lamp/sculpture. The main feature is a magnificent striped Flame Conch of some size that is really breathtaking. I kept asking what we could give him in return/exhange for such a piece, but he demurred at every was almost awkward! (Unfortunately, I couldn't understand his Abaconian accent all that well  -- although between the undercurrent of engine noise and the shish of wind, but I tried!) Thus, we ended up with an amazing piece of true Bahamian art for the boat. Charlie then began working on a new-to-him Bayliner Ciera that needed some TLC and repair, which he had anchored in front of his beach. Ron offered to help him with it, again to no avail, and later, Charlie towed it away with his little skiff.

After lunch, we thought we'd do some lobstering. First, however, we went to get some fuel for Eclipse. We decided we'd go to the closest place -- nearly an hour north! -- and headed to White Sound, since Sea Spray Marina had fuel. We tried to stay in the lee of the small islands on the way north, and it was a delightful ride with the wind at our backs, galloping over the rolling swells! We could have gone to Marsh Harbor, but it was farther to reach, and since we didn't have a jerry can to fill (just the gas tank aboard) we thought we'd go to the closest place. It was fun; we had bit of grilled conch (yummy) while we were there at Sea Spray Resort and during our meal, chatted with a father and son who were on island, visiting from the States. 

Ron relaxing at Sea Spray Resort and Marina before lunch
Unfortunately, our happy repast was quickly ended when we looked over our shoulders and realized we had a squall line marching down on us. There was no out: we were going to be wet on our return trip to the Equinox. We quickly dropped off our trash, fueled up and headed back south into the stinging rain that greeted us as we got out into the Sea of Abaco. Oddly, even while fighting not only the rain but also the oncoming waves, it seemed to take us less time to get back! (Maybe because Ron was flying us over the wave tops in a devil-may-care-we're-already-wet attitude? :) Hard to tell, between the rain and the spray!) It didn't matter, as we were thoroughly and completely soaked by the time we reached the safety of Equinox. But dry inside? Not quite!

While we'd locked up the boat while we were gone, unfortunately, we'd left 4 hatches open for ventilation in the blazing sunshine of the earlier day...thus we had quite a bit of water to mop up beneath them on our return! Our bedding (happily) took the brunt of rain that came in the forward open hatches, and the carpeting in the pilot house soaked up the rain that came in the smaller hatches there. Thankfully, the down comforter in our cabin was easily pulled off the bed and dried, with nothing beneath nor beyond it getting wet that a towel couldn't handle! The carpet piece in the pilot house was pulled up (thank goodness for the rubber carpet mat beneath!) and dried as well. Still...our fault for not realizing the potential for rain while we were gone, and closing the hatches anyway! (What were we thinking?) We know better, certainly....and on a boat, somehow, you feel closer to Mother Nature and should thus be more aware! 

So, after a late afternoon of domestic chores of wiping down and laundering wet items,  we had another delicious dinner on the aft deck. It felt deserved after our full day! As a reward, tonight we are on anchor yet again, enjoying the beauty of the clear, starry night. As the full moon wanes, it's hard to comprehend the sheer numbers of all the stars above us -- the Milky Way is completely visible here, as there aren't any lights from horizon to horizon. As I look about the boat in a 360 degree scan, all I see is darkness...literally, not a light anywhere, as we are on the edge of the Atlantic with only a spit of land between us, the sea and the sky. Serenity, in its most elemental form. How cool is that??

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Free Bird!

We moved Equinox today, leaving our fun little anchorage off Great Guana Cay to head south past Marsh Harbor to remote Lynyard Cay --- or as I call it, Lynyrd Skynyrd Cay. I probably am dating myself...but, it just jumped into my head! It definitely works one here but us and the free birds! (Remember to listen to the bass line the next time you hear that song. LOVE it!)

Looking out at North Bar Channel...breaking rollers across
SO...we cruised for almost 4 hours, playing with the engine rpms and charting fuel burn, as we made our way south. Once south of North Bar Channel, we found a beautiful little protected lee cove off Lynyard Cay, just north of  Little Harbor. Thus, we are perched on the edge of the Abacos, awaiting some better rush! As we look out, the Little Harbor cut is appears a tad rough at the moment, with “elephants” marching along its mouth. The forecast is for seas to be 5'-7’ on the Atlantic; while we know the boat could handle it, we aren’t going anywhere for the moment. We have no desire to be bounced about and beaten up, lurching along in beam seas. 

Equinox tucked into a lee alongside Lynyard Cay.
After the anchor was down and set, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the aft deck and then put Eclipse in the water. We went to the beach along Lynyard Skynyrd Cay, where Ron snorkeled a bit looking for lobster holes, and I beach-combed for sea glass. It’s a rather  remote cay, and there were some interesting tiny bits of old sea glass, their colors softened by the sand. I even found a few flamingo tongue shells -- my favorite! The shells are rather small, and since flamingo tongue populations tend to be very localized, their shells aren't that easy to find, even while diving, I've discovered. They tend to be found on reefs with a lot of sea rods and sea fans; I’ve heard some marine biologists refer to them as “goats of the sea”, since they like to forage and munch on the sea fans. So, it was kind of neat to see their shells on the beach here. Too bad the seas are too rough for diving!

Our lee anchorage, looking calm and protected

The Atlantic from the opposite shore of Lynyard Cay -
definitely a lot rougher! 
We also cruised around the shoreline in Eclipse, looking for lobster holes and ledges, but, as is the norm here on the Sea of Abaco, there were no lobster here. Lobsters are usually found on the outer reefs, not on the inside...but, hey, we were out in the dinghy and enjoying ourselves! We returned to Equinox to have a relaxing, cozy and full-moon-beautiful night aboard, grilling some amazing filet mignons, with sides of  roasted onions and Brussel sprouts, and big baked potatoes. Judging from the amount of left overs we now have, we should have split everything in half!, what will tomorrow bring?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Breezy But Beautiful!

Another sunny but breezy day in the lucky we are to be here! Ron and I had a great day, beginning with working out on the bike trainer in the early hours. The view across the water was fabulous, from the birds sailing around, to the flying fish popping out of the water (fleeing from what, I wondered?) to the Bahamian cargo boat that made its way south on the Sea of Abaco...just lovely serene views that definitely made the time fly by!

Getting ready to ride

After a bite of breakfast, we did a few small boat projects through the late morning before we went ashore, docking at Grabber’s again. We took an hour’s walk about the island, along the main road harbor on the west side before going over to the beach on the east side to see how the ocean was behaving. It looked a tad rough...!

Walking along the main road near the harbor
East side of Guana Cay

Heading to Grabbers with game colors on!
We spent the afternoon at Grabber’s watching football...Ravens-Bills, of course! Guana Cay locals and visitors alike congregate there to watch sports on Sundays, and while Steelers fans outnumbered us, we were able to watch both games with mutual respect! (Steelers barely eked it out over Miami, and Baltimore managed the same over Buffalo. We were all grateful to win!) It was a great time...although, just for once, can’t the Ravens win a game without it going down to the wire?? It seems every week we have to cheer and suffer at the same time...and this week was no exception, as it went into overtime, again! Thank goodness Baltimore managed to win, but please: we are tired of the stress of cardiac football!

After the game, we returned to the boat and pulled Eclipse into her chocks on deck, getting her secured and stowed for moving on tomorrow. We're watching the weather, and while we love it here, we think it's time to move on so that we are farther south. Perhaps stay near Marsh Harbor or points beyond, ready to take advantage of any calmer conditions for our crossing to the Exumas when we have the chance.

Fisher's Bay, Great Guana Cay

Relaxation time is calling! Hanging out at Grabber's
We moved the boat earlier today, just a few miles south along the coast of Great Guana Cay, down to Fisher’s Bay. The anchorage here is a bit more protected from the easterlies which are piping along at 20 knots or so, and the water is deeper closer to shore as well, providing a more protected lee. So, once the anchor was down on Equinox, we had a leisurely day. 

After all the intense focus and push to accomplish and complete the to-do lists before casting off the dock lines, it feels utterly decadent to do...not much of anything! We each kicked back, read, did crosswords, checked e-mail and then dropped Eclipse into the water so we could dinghy over to Grabber’s for a bit of lunch. It was really a rather lazy day, with nothing much going on except for the frisky winds. 

Grabber's Bed, Bar & Grill as seen from Fisher's Bay
We’ve decided to enjoy the journey and take our time exploring; while we've been to Great Guana Cay before, we've not seen much of the island beyond the main harbor area on the west side, and Nipper's on the east beach. (I'm not counting all our dives and explorations of the reefs offshore Great Guana in July!) So, since the wind is picking up a bit, cruising and crossing from the Abacos farther south will have to wait a few days. This time of year there are few other visitors, as most families are locked into school-year schedules and routines, so it's a delightfully quiet time to be here. 

Ron and I made it down the quaint and crooked dinghy dock (no level or plumb-line ever touched this pier!) for a delicious lunch pool-side at Grabber's, a beautiful little resort/bar & grill on Fisher's Bay. As the first "resort" on Great Guana Cay  -- actually, just a few rooms, a bar and a dock -- it was originally known as the Guana Harbor Club. It's also famous as the home of the "Guana Grabber", their signature rum drink! As their resort website says, it was "created here and honored the world over by those that have had a few. In fact, few sailors travel through the Abacos with stopping in for a taste". Of course, Ron and I had to indulge in one with our meals...!

The dinghy dock at Grabber's, with plenty of ladders for all
After a leisurely lunch, we returned to the boat for siestas, more reading and relaxing. A rather slow day aboard, but one definitely appreciated!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On Anchor: Great Guana Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

We cruised through the night last night, straight across the Little Bahama Bank and around to Green Turtle Cay, where we dropped anchor around 0230 this morning. The full moon gave us an amazing amount of light, and it was comfortable to be in familiar waters, having spent so much time here on several different occasions. Once the anchor was set and the boat secure, we slept until Customs and Immigration opened, when we popped Eclipse in the water so that Ron could head to New Plymouth to clear us in. 

And our little stowaway from yesterday? She flew the coop, of course! She clearly had eaten (and left us a little “thank you note” on the flybridge as well) so I can only assume she made it safely to land, as close as we are to the islands here! When she came aboard, she definitely was far from home, being miles from land at that point. 
Once Ron returned, we immediately hauled anchor and set out again, as we knew the winds were forecast to increase later in the weekend and we wanted to get around Whale Cay in good weather. As it was, we had quite benign conditions in Whale Cay Cut, and made our way quietly to a lovely anchorage in Baker’s Bay off the northwest coast of Great Guana Cay. Anchor down before noon, without another boat around!

Whale Cay Cut with just a few small swells
Once there, we did a light wash and wipe-down of Equinox to make sure she was free from any salt spray, enjoyed a bit of lunch and then did some boat projects: Ron set up our new bicycle trainer for use with one of our folding bikes, so we have a way to get consistent cardio exercise when we’re aboard. He’s pretty excited about it, as am I...that was one component we were lacking when the winds were so fierce last winter and we couldn’t get off the boat as much as we liked. The trainer is up on the flybridge, so we'll have extensive water views while working out! While Ron was busy doing that, I did some much-needed scrubbing of the aft deck table and chairs, getting rid of the boat-yard grit and grime, and re-installed our mesh sun-shades around the perimeter of the cockpit. It really creates a lovely sun porch, providing a bit more privacy and keeping the temperatures cooler.

Our view of Spoil Cay with the sun setting behind it to the west
We swam, read and relaxed the remainder of the day before dinner on the aft deck at sunset, which was gorgeous in its own right. We enjoyed a light salad and fire-roasted veggie pizza (CPK, of course!) with a glass or two of wine, sitting and just enjoying being here. Then, Ron discovered the views to our east were just as spectacular; the full moon rising in the darkening lavender sky along with clouds over the cay reflecting the sunset’s pale pinks from the was so beautiful as to be surreal! Once darkness came, we managed to watch a DVD before a very early bed-time. It was a long day, after a long passage, and we are simply happy to be here!! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beautiful passage to the Abacos!

What a glorious day! We were up before the dawn today -- I couldn’t sleep past 5:30, to be honest, thinking of the small details I still had to attend to before we set out. But...once things were taken care of and the last item stowed, we cast off the lines at 0705. Ron had been aboard a good 45 minutes ahead of me as I was closing up the condo, so he had done a thorough systems pre-flight by the time I go there. It seemed like a breezy morning, but it was nothing more than the warming catabatic winds coming off the water...we cruised out through the St. Lucie Inlet on the tail end of a rising tide with nary an issue. 
Captain Ron at the rail enroute to the Bahamas.
What a lovely day for the crossing!
AND...the boat is running SO smoothly. All the engines are purring (the mains are actually running a few degrees cooler than they did this summer, but that could be a function of the cooler water temps in general), and it just feels like we are slicing through the water with ease! Tuning the props was key; absolutely no vibration on the port shaft whatsoever! Lovely! Ron is ecstatic with the results of all the work we had done...efforts well worth it! We’re now settling back into the routine of logging engine temps, rpms, fuel burn and oil psi along with our position, speed over ground and course heading each hour. It’s a comfortable routine and feels oh so nice!! Plus, it helps that the sun is shining brightly, the seas are gentle -- at most, 2’ swells with a 6 second interval -- and winds are light, in the 6-12 kt range. Glorious!!
As I write this, a huge full moon has risen in the east ahead of us as we make our way to Green Turtle Cay. We had a leisurely dinner aboard (chicken, simply grilled with a bit of spice rub, asparagus and some dirty rice, along with a touch of wine -- decadence!!) eating in the pilothouse as the sun was setting and the moon rising. Right now, the moonlight shining on the water seems to be like a pale mellow “yellow brick road” leading us to Oz, as we are riding right along its moonbeams. Serene and beautiful!
Oh, and yes, we have a little hitchhiker with us as well! This afternoon a little yellow-breasted warbler literally flew into the pilothouse, and came to rest on the chart table to the portside of the helm. She looked absolutely exhausted...didn’t ruffle a feather as I took a light dishtowel from the galley and gently moved her outside to the portside stairs leading up to the flybridge. We are in the middle of the Little Bahams Bank, miles from any bush, and I don’t know how far warblers generally fly....but she was definitely wiped out! She was sitting there looking dazed, with her beak open, head tilted up, so I dripped a bit of fresh water into her, which she swallowed, a bit startled. I let her rest of a bit, then, seeing how she was fighting to keep her footing on the towel in the wind, I tried to move her to a more sheltered spot. But...she wasn’t having any of it, and fluttered away. I felt bad, since I didn’t think she was all that rested, but...not much I could do!

Our little stowaway -- a yellow-breasted warbler
Then, some hours later, during dinner the little bird returned, alighting along the starboard PH doorframe! She looked at us, looking a bit more bright-eyed than before, then fluttered away again, circling back around the boat. She did this twice before I took the small water dish and dishtowel up to the flybridge, thinking she could perhaps alight on that for better purchase out of the wind....only to discover she had already made herself comfortable on the flybridge cushions, snugly tucked into the corner of the settee and the flybridge helm station! I placed the water dish and some bread crumbs as near as I could without disturbing her too much, and departed. Hopefully, she will get a good night’s sleep, have a bit of water or food, and when dawn comes, we will be within flying distance to land for the little lass!! Good karma, in my book! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Departure day!!

Well, it's departure eve, actually, but we will be heading out in the early morning and I won't be able to access any internet until Friday (10/22) at the earliest, when we hopefully will be clearing in with Bahamian Customs and Immigrations at Green Turtle Cay, which should be our first port of call. The weather here continues to be lovely and calm and is forecast to continue, with seas just 2-3 feet, so we are taking the blessings of the seas as they come! Let's hope the forecasts are accurate and we have a smooth crossing to the Bahamas!

We have covered a LOT of ground the past few days -- weeks, actually -- getting Equinox set to cruise after her hurricane season lay-up. All systems have been either inspected, repaired, maintained, tweaked, stocked, oiled, painted, petted, polished, or shined, and I have to say, it's reassuring to have checked and double-checked everything! We are feeling secure, happy to be aboard in our ship-shape little ship, for Equinox is in top form!! From stem to stern, we've got things in great working order and she is looking so pretty and pristine, that we are almost reluctant to take her out in the spray. Well...not really. We're looking forward to getting out there and just be cruising: being on the water, under the warm sun and feeling the breeze, smelling the sea air. No regrets or resentments for all our hard work, and we are so grateful for all the fabulous efforts of those who helped us along the way. It's all very appreciated!!

And so...tomorrow we cruise! We're aiming to reach the Turks and Caicos, so will be ambling our way south through the more protected areas of the Bahamas. We've got a bit of time, and while conditions here are favorable, we will also be keeping a wary eye on the unsettled weather to the south affecting the Caymans and Jamaica. Let's hope that is the last of this year's hurricane season rain events, shall we? In the meantime: bon voyage!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lists, lists and more lists...

And I don't mean listing to port. Or starboard, for that matter! But at the moment, lists rule our lives, as we are busily checking off the items on our various and sundry endless to-do lists in our effort to prepare for departure. We have been focused, efficient, productive and, at times, frantic, in our quest to accomplish whatever we can each day!! To say it's been high-speed is an understatement, but then again, I am married to Ron, who is high-speed personified. :) There just seems like there's a lot more to do this go-round since we haven't lived aboard the past two months, and we have a lot to restock, re-provision and re-supply!  

Sunday and Monday included runs to Publix for pantry dry goods, toiletries and sundries, with time-consuming inventorying and re-arranging of items aboard Equinox to accommodate the new stuff. Eclipse was dropped into the water and run over to the dealer for maintenance and servicing -- routine stuff and, actually, not really needed since she had so few hours on her engines since we did maintenance last, but...better safe than sorry. Tingum had to be relocated to the dealer as well (her bilge pump isn't working for some reason) in between numerous phone calls, and runs to various places for odd spare parts, holding tank supplies, fishing tackle, office supplies, pharmaceuticals, and dry cleaning. Not to mention runs to the post office and bank, since we are closing on our new slip here at Outrigger Harbour, just to add more items to the list!! AUGH!

We'd also arranged for some canvas repair/replacements for all three boats: a small hatch cover needed replacement on Equinox after we lost one in the winds, a new cover for Eclipse was needed as the other was was becoming more tattered, torn and duct-taped than useful; we also got a bait well cover for Tingum, and oh, what the heck, we ordered a new cover for her as LOTS done there. (G&G Canvas to the rescue!!) This amid toting propane tanks for re-fills and topping off, taking the scuba tanks and regulators for inspection and servicing, doing a big meat/wine/cheese provisioning at Sam's Club yesterday, getting new glasses for Ron, coordinating boat detailing, finally getting the wind indicator fixed by Martek, tracking down orders of supplies not yet delivered, dealing with the bike shop regarding a receipt for the replacement of the bike box that was damaged by American Airlines on our trip to CA....the list goes on!!! I spent a fair bit of time aboard in the galley with the vacuum-sealer, re-packaging the newly-purchased foodstuffs into manageable quantities for the freezer, while Ron dealt with the unexpected: fixing the nail puncture/slow leak in the tire of the truck, having to do back-track to pick up some supplies that didn't come in on time as promised., for the weather report: It's been utterly, simply, fantastically GLORIOUS weather here for the past two weeks. Low humidity, lovely temperatures, wall-to-wall blue skies, light winds, seas of 2' or less...just fabulous cruising conditions, naturally. All the while we are still in hurricane season and simply preparing to depart...and unfortunately, we're not out there yet, unable to enjoy this perfect crossing weather. (You gotta love Mother Nature!) Nevertheless, we are hoping to head out in two days, on Thursday, and are keeping a close eye on the new tropical depression brewing south of Cuba that will no doubt rain on our parade. The law of averages dictates that, since we've have such good weather while preparing and provisioning, right?? Oh well! We will be ready come Thursday, and simply go with the flow! Not a problem to wait for the weather -- it'll be easy once we've done everything else!! SO, what's next on the list?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Equinox is back in the water!

Equinox in her slip at Outrigger Harbour

Yes, we are back afloat!! Equinox splashed last Tuesday at American Custom Yachts, where she received her beautiful paint job (hull and cap rails, among assorted other items), had her through-hulls, bow thruster and running gear cleaned, and the dive compressor dissected, diagnosed and repaired. Ron has been double-checking every boat system since then, from having the John Deere folks aboard for a thorough check-up of the main engines, to getting repairs done on various and sundry small items (the display panel on the Frigibar freezer needed replacement, for one) and generally doing routine maintenance items so that all systems are go! All this while I was in Wisconsin visiting with my dad, who is doing very well and now home from the rehab hospital! Ron covered a lot of ground, indeed. we're down to the usual crush of work that seems to arrive during the last couple of weeks before any long-distance cruise: basically trying to get all the numerous to-do lists to coalesce and get them completed efficiently. Today, I was back aboard in the galley, deep-cleaning the empty refrigerator and wiping down the pantry shelves before sorting, stowing and inventorying  foodstuffs and cleaning items. (Whenever the boat is out of the water, no matter how little time is spent in the shipyard, things always seem to get grubbier than usual!) While I was up to my ears in Clorox Clean-up wipes, dry pantry items and canned goods, Ron changed out all the water-maker filters, the Seagull System boat-water filtration module, air compressor filter and the holding tank vent charcoal filter. He also changed the 12 kW oil and transmission oil -- both of which were done well before their scheduled maintenance interval, actually -- just to be sure every system has clean oil, fresh filters, and is in pristine condition for cruising. We are ready to go!! 

We have a full day ahead tomorrow too, as there are a few items on Eclipse that need attention, not to mention getting Tingum squared away for storage while we are gone. There are a multitude of other things that we need to attend to as well, thing at a time! Rest assured we will also be watching the Ravens-Patriots game tomorrow, never fear! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inventory and provisioning...

...are not exactly exciting things to write about, but that's how I spent the majority of my day yesterday! Ron was out and about with other errands (mail forwarding service, bank, etc) in the morning, while I pulled out my trusty clipboard and inventoried the pantry foodstuffs before bagging them for toting to the boat next week. This time, it's harder to estimate how much we need to bring since we think we will be gone longer...but then again, through experience now, we have a somewhat better handle on what foods we eat frequently and what foodstuffs are a luxury and not really practical to have aboard.

For example, even though we lived aboard most of the time when we were on the Chesapeake, we had a grocery store nearby and yet didn't really think about what type of foods we ate more frequently during the course of 6 months, or what items we only used once in a blue moon in a new recipe. Prepping to go farther afield, we tried to stock up accordingly, yet we found we still ran out of favorite items sooner than expected during our travels this past winter and spring. It's something to be considered while cruising in the islands, since some things are harder to find than others! Specialty items like capers or good olive oil, marinated artichoke hearts or balsamic vinegar...hard to find if not impossible, while other items are plentiful. We also found we preferred to use local fresh vegetables where ever we were, and so with a few exceptions, we use our freezer space for meats. We now know a bit better which things we definitely need to stock up on, and what items we can do without. least, I hope so!! Itemizing and inventory continues!!

 Ron with Paul and Muriel aboard Tingum in Manatee Pocket
We also have our friends Paul and Muriel in for an impromptu weekend visit, so we are taking a bit of a hiatus from boat chores while they are here. The weather was exceptional -- sunny, calm, and glorious, so it was out on the water! We went out in Tingum, cruising to Manatee Pocket for lunch at Shrimpers, then up the St. Lucie River, then back east and out through the St. Lucie inlet onto the Atlantic for a bit of fun in the sunshine. It was a great time, albeit a short one, since I'm heading to Wisconsin tomorrow to be with my Dad and family for a few days. He's still rehabbing after his back surgery, and a lovely chance to be together prior to our setting out aboard Equinox. So...a busy, busy, busy few days...but we'll just keep at it, and try to keep all the balls in the air. Or, oars in the water, so to speak!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back in business!

Apologies for the lack of posting lately...too many errands, too little time these days! The pace has been frenetic in many ways, and not just boat-related! But...most importantly, Equinox is getting ready to splash! We are looking at this coming Monday for the big day -- I have to say, it feels like we've been out of the water forever, not just a couple of months!! Equinox is currently getting her bottom painted, and her running gear is freshly prepped for the water: cleaned, scoured, primed and properly Propspeeded! 

ACY guy doing his thing to make Equinox look fabulous!
Looking sharp and ready to make good speed!
Ron and I have made list after list of things to get done, and are down to the final details that still need to be accomplished, from small items to large. Since we're not taking Tingum in tow on this trip, we had to move a lot of the fishing and scuba gear off her and stow it back aboard Equinox. While we love the versatility of having Tingum along for diving and fishing, we feel that the longer open crossings we'll be facing would be accomplished more safely without a boat in tow. (I preferred near-perfect sea conditions in which to tow anyway, which meant longer waits in port for great weather windows!) While we will miss having her creature comforts, speed and range for diving and fishing, we will simply make do with our inflatable, Eclipse. Far safer and much less stress during voyages, especially when it will be just the two of us aboard. 

That being said, we actually got out in Tingum today. Ron dropped the boat into the water off the trailer, and I ran it down the St. Lucie River and up the Indian River to the condo, where I then picked him up. While the weather was a bit blustery and cloudy, we couldn't resist just cruising the ICW a bit, eventually going over to Shrimpers in Manatee Pocket for lunch before a leisurely ride back to Outrigger Harbour. It felt great to be out on the water again! 

As to other things that we've been busy with, we've gotten extra paper charts of the Turks and Caicos, double-checked the spares inventory and ordered needed items (making sure we have enough fuel and oil filters for routine changes, for example), double-checked the different routes through the Bahamas en-route to T and C, double-checked the entry requirements for Customs & Immigration (love Noonsite for that!) and are tweaking our food provision lists. Provisioning is always a work in progress until departure, although this time provisioning will be a bit tougher -- we cleared out the majority of foodstuffs aboard knowing we were going to be out of the water for two months. (Not to mention that the boat would be getting rather hot inside without A/C!) So...we have a lot of things to get aboard! Right now, we're trying to add a bit more variety to our meat list, since we got a bit tired of eating so much chicken and pork-chops last winter...! We're going to hit Sam's Club for most of the meat, so I foresee a lot of time at the vacuum sealer, repackaging the large family packs into smaller 2-3 serving packs for freezing and storage. We will have to buy things in a multiple trips, so that we don't end up with too much food and too little freezer space! Again, lists are imperative! (Especially since Ron is sometimes rather good at impulse shopping!) Guess I should add a bit of chocolate to the list to appease his sweet tooth...?