Saturday, 24 January 2009

Bits 'n Pieces

Cruising is a series of short journeys between boat repairs

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Slow Down Squalls

Calm days in the anchorage, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas

Marsh Harbour looking West.

Marsh Harbour, looking East

A commercial vessel makes it way into harbour on western side.

The squall we've been expecting from the west with winds in the 20's and gusting 30 knots plus.

The harbour waters become bumpy.

Gently waving palms turn to violent flapping.

Fellow sailors ride out the squall, watching anchors and hoping all efforts at setting and securing will pay off to ensure there’ll be no dragging.

During the squall the ferry Donnie V passes between us and our neighbour Wild Card.

As one squall passes ahead of the cold front the usually vibrant colors of the Bahamas are drained away. Now it's just plain cold - hopefully just for a day or two!

Squalls and cold fronts just have to run their course. Meanwhile all we mere humans can do is wait. Waiting gives us an opportunity to slow down and spend more time with fellow sailors. Time too to hatch new plans and learn from those who have much more experience!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Who Sent the Balloons?

To whomever sent the congratulatory balloons we received as we crossed the Gulf Stream... thanks! Nice touch, we really appreciated it. One question; how did you manage to place them in just the right spot on the Atlantic Ocean?

Bahamas Sunrise Monday, January 12, 2009

Funny coincidence, Jan. 12, 22 years ago, Robert started work with the company he has just retired from!

Bristol Rose's bowsprit is reflected in the turquoise waters of the Little Bahama Bank

On Sunday evening, we sailed into Bahamian waters. We drop the hook off Green Turtle Cay in The Abacos on Monday at 11:00am. The sail across Little Bahama Bank was great with a full moon to guide us. We raise the yellow quarantine flag and Robert must dinghy alone to shore to clear Bristol Rose and crew through customs. All our paperwork, including Daisie's certificate from the Bahamian Government (thanks Betsy and Jim for your knowledge and help!), is in order so we expect Robert to return soon. Daisie does not understand why he's taking her dinghy without her.

After about 26 hours under sail, Daisie waits impatiently for Robert's return.

Once cleared, we waste no time getting our feet on Bahamian soil, and in the water.

Picket Fences, bright pastels, shutters, golf carts on narrow concrete roads. Welcome to The Abacos!

The first thing we did once ashore on Green Turtle Cay was to buy a homemade ice cream. The peach ice cream brought back fond memories of my Grandmother's ice cream, made from evaporated milk. It's hard to believe we are only about 100 nautical miles from the U.S. as the crow flies. From Florida, it feels like a hundred years away. The horizon was full of boats just outside Lake Worth Inlet when we left. There was a blimp, helicopters, racing boats, container ships..... super busy! Here we are in Green Turtle Cay where the lady at the Post Office calls the Customs Officer from her lunch break to come and check us in, roosters roam the streets, kids go to high school by ferry, and the bank is open two days a week.
The tide is in at the Tiki Bar when we go ashore in the morning to check out the beach.

We spend a blissful night at anchor at Manjack Cay, just north of Green Turtle, and dinghy ashore in the morning. A small sign on the beach reads "Pet Chickens are roaming free. Please leash your dog."

Tuesday. We listen to Chris Parker, the cruiser's weather guy, and make the decision to head south to Man O War Cay, the traditional boat building center of the Bahamas, where we hope to find a mooring in the well protected little bay. There's a cold front coming bringing winds from the south today and swinging around to the west tonight and the north tomorrow with gusts of 30 knots. We'll have to leave early if we want to make it through Whale Cay Passage and into Man O War with its shallow entrance before low tide. According to the Abaco Guide Whale Cay Passage is downright dangerous when seas build up. It has a history of wrecks. "You don't need strong winds for a rage to occur here".

The squall brought only light rain with winds of 25 knots and gusts over 25.

The five and a half hours crossing from Manjack to Man O War took us directly under a squall at one point. Bristol Rose handled the seas (a little bumpy) and the 25 knot winds with ease providing a relatively comfortable ride. The most testing part came at the narrow entrance to Man O War (about 20 feet wide) with 6 feet of water and rocks either side. Once inside we found a narrow bay with a minimum of water between boats either anchored or moored. We'll hunker down here for a few days while we wait out the weather and enjoy exploring the area.

We bought some bread from a lady driving a golf cart around the streets of Man O War. She told us that this candy bright building houses the equipment for the children's sailing school.

Not sure how the boat is launched.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Crossing the Gulf Stream

Overhead cables cross the Intracoastal Waterway near Lake Worth 

We left Vero Beach on Friday to make our way to Ft. Pierce.  Saturday we moved south down the very hectic section of the Intracoastal Waterway to Lake Worth where we anchored out the evening before leaving the U.S. and crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.  The ICW is so busy and narrow in this area that I decided no photograph could possibly capture the chaos of wakeboarders criss-crossing, powerboaters breaking water speed records up and down and general mayhem, and just let it be!

Looking back at Florida...why is a blimp flying off the coast?

Sunday.  The sun is shining and the temperature is somewhere in the 70s. Who cares exactly; once the barometer reaches 70, it’s all good after that. We’re already getting into that laid back, laissez-faire way of life. We’ve left behind the frantic pace of work and mortgage payments. We know we’re headed in the right direction to a more meaningful and less stressful life. It’s a big step. While we have a plan to head northeast, the Gulf Stream will try to carry us north.

In case you have ever wondered, this is what the Gulf Stream looks like.

We’ve heard that a line of clouds hover over the Gulf Stream and that’s exactly what we saw when we headed east out the Lake Worth Inlet in Southern Florida this morning.

The Western edge of the Bahamas is only about 50 miles off the coast of Florida. The Gulf Stream is about 14 miles offshore from Lake Worth. We initially headed east out of the inlet for a few miles, anticipating the northerly current of the Gulf Stream to carry us, rather than heading north east immediately and being carried too far north.

Are we there yet?

We’re motorsailing due to only a light breeze and making great time at around 7.5 knots per hour. The seas are calm, clear blue indigo ink. Flying fish are keeping our company. They look like elegant little birds flying so fast within a foot of the surface. We’ve been watching another sail boat north or us also headed to the Bahamas.  We are used to seeing cargo vessels and cruise ships in and around Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay and we know we want to stay out of their way. 

Robert has set our course to Little Bahama Bank waypoint, just north of Memory Rock. From that point we’ll make our way to Little Sale Cay and Green Turtle Cay where we will check in. With our auto pilot doing the steering, at least one of us has to keep watch. We’re doing about 3 hours on, 3 hours off for the 30 hour trip.

The commercial vessel in the photo above is riding the Gulf Stream, getting a few knots’ assistance from the curent and pushing a wave big enough to surf down! I have to imagine that if anyone who works in ship building could only see these mighty ships ploughing through the seas as we see them out here, it would make their day. How satisfying, to have a part in building something so impressive and useful! When we see them we think of Robert’s Godfather, Uncle Rob, a Ship’s Engineer, who loved the sea and sadly, passed away last year. Where would we be without these huge commercial vessels and those who build and work on them?

The sun sets over the U.S.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Canon Power Shot G9 is Cool

Is this an Osprey?  If you know the birds of Florida, I'd be glad to have your comment.

Robert's camera is so much fun to use that I find myself grabbing it first and leaving my much heavier digital SLR in its case.  For quick shots it's pretty cool.  The Power Shot G9 is a 12.1 mega pixel camera and I'd describe it as something in between an SLR and a point and shoot.  

I especially like the image stabilization when I'm taking photos from the boat.  The 25x zoom is amazing, and the macro feature isn't bad although I'd never compare it to my macro lenses for the SLR.

I'm pleased I was able to get the shot of the bird taking flight as we dinghied around one of the small islands at Vero Beach.  You can see the feet just leaving the resting spot and the soft under feathers as the wings are spread for flight.  It's wonderful to see these magnificent birds up close.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Birds

The wealth of bird life in Florida is almost embarrassing!  We are used to seeing a few cardinals, Bluejays and Gold Finches in our backyard in Maryland but the abundance of life on the waterways as we travel down the East Coast of the United States has to be seen to be believed.  Creikies!  Here the pelicans have to nest in trees to get a rest!  Come to think of it, this country can boast amazing natural riches from east to west and north to south.

The common name for the Anhinga is Snake Bird because only it's long neck and head are visible as it swims across the water.  This bird let us know she did not want to be interrupted while drying her wings.

The brown pelicans are fun to watch as they crash dive into the water to quickly scoop up a fish.

Northern Mockingbird?

Grackle, Charleston, SC

Rafted Up in Vero Beach

Vero Beach mooring, just off the ICW and tucked behind small, sandy islands teaming with life. No alligators sighted by us yet though. The area is also teaming with Canadians! Almost half of the boats are under Canadian flags. Vero Beach (or Velcro Beach) is a popular anchorage for anyone preparing to take the jump off the East Coast to the Bahamas. Plenty of services here!

Bristol Rose is to the left of the catamaran. They pack 'em in here.
Typically 3 to a mooring ball.

Bristol Rose rafted up to Feelin Lucky in Vero Beach, Florida

Thursday, 1 January 2009

5,000 Visits This Year.

Stats, 5,000 to date at the Bristol Rose blogspot.

We started our blog in February 2008 as a way of keeping in contact with family and friends all over the world, as well as a way to track all the sailing resources, photography and other blogs we enjoy.

Once we got running, we added our Laundry Library and B.Y.O.G. blogs, linked from Bristol Rose blog. By far, the B.Y.O.G. blog gets the most traffic but the counter only keeps track on monthly basis and we haven't kept track of the total.

Today, the last day of the year, we have reached the 5,000 visits mark on our Bristol Rose blog, mostly from friends and family but an untold number from others out there in the world whom we've never met. We love to know that friends and family are traveling with us through our blog and we love to to get your messages and comments. Stay in touch.

Robert, Trish & Daisie Dog in Florida
Owen & Elliot in Maryland

PhEwww, What Stinks?

"What stinks?" we were all asking as we got into the dinghy to head ashore for a shower one morning in St. Augustine.

Owen must have left his fishing bait lying on the deck.  A quick check of the fishing gear, no, nothing stinky there.  Boy, you guys really need that shower!  No, the smell is much worse than that.  Wait, what are those spots that weren't there before?
What's that dripping from up there on the spreader?  Who knows, but the boat sure needs a wash down.  Let's take care of showers and we'll clean up when we get back on  board.  Sure hope that stink goes away.  Maybe the head is at fault.

I can't believe it.  I'm killing myself laughing at the sight greeting us as we return.  The boys like to congratulate themselves on their fishing prowess but this is ridiculous - now we have fish falling from the skies?!

So that's the stink!  Blood dribble and all!  That bird I heard this morning must have deposited it's catch up on the spreader and it's finally landed on top of our cockpit cover.  Thanks, but no thanks, this one won't be gracing our dinner table.