So…we find ourselves nearing the time when we need to decide where we will go during this next cruising season. We have a couple of choices and thought it might be fun to see what our readers thought. Keep in mind these aren’t actual navigation routes…..just general areas we would depart and arrive…..
This first route is what we did in 2016-2017…..it covers about 1,000 nautical miles (nm) and while we didn’t hit every Island we hit quite a few…..
This second, partially new, route covers what we did in 2015-2016 (Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas) plus adds Cuba, Isla Mujeres, and some hops down that coast that would end in Guatemala. Which is also a good place to be for hurricane season next year.
So….let us know what you think by voting below !!!! Feel free to leave some comments too !!!
On March 31st, we departed from Georgetown with our friends Bill and Judy, they were on their boat Whisper, and we covered the approximately 45 miles to Long Island. For us that’s about a ten hour day. We had heard a lot of good things about Long Island and they all turned out to be true!!
The red pin on the satellite image is Thompson Bay / Salt Pond where we were anchored for the bulk of our long stay in Long Island…..which ended up being about 16 days…..we made one aborted attempt to leave with another of our friends, Mark on Halo, but it turned out to just be too rough that day so we turned back and spent four more days waiting for the wind to die down some more……
Image courtesy of Google maps
We met a nice Canadian couple, who winter in Long Island, while we were at a local restaurant and we mentioned renting a car to see the island. The husband said he knew a minister at a local Boys Club who would let him drive us around in their van if we wouldn’t mind making a donation to the organization. Since we could fit three couples plus our tour guides in the van that was much cheaper than renting a car and we got a free tour guide !!
We have discovered that renting cars in the Bahamas can be problematic. Bahamians don’t have insurance in the way that we are accustomed to thinking about it. If they have a wreck and they are at fault, their insurance company won’t pay to fix their car unless they have what they call “comprehensive” coverage (apparently different from the comprehensive we have in the states that covers window glass etc etc) but it is prohibitively expensive and none of the rental car businesses offer it. On top of that most rental companies don’t take credit cards so you have trouble making sure you’re covered here. Couple that condition with our friend’s George Town experience detailed below and you’ll understand why we went the van route.
Another of our new friends (I won’t mention his name here) rented a car in George Town. He was pulled off to the side of the road trying to get his bearings when an intoxicated local guy hit his rental car head on. When the police showed up they called the other driver by name and he quickly disappeared from the scene. Our friend, however, was whisked away to the police station where he was cited. The whole incident cost him about $300 out of pocket and cost his credit card company $5,000 for the rental car. One day while he was in town walking around he stopped by the police station to try and get a copy of the report for the his credit card company. The officer, without warning, told him he had to appear in court immediately. He was obviously not dressed for the occasion. He was nearly fined for contempt for wearing swim trunks and a t-shirt to court. Fortunately, he was able to explain he had been given no notice that he was to appear and the judge believed him. It was his intention to plead not guilty, but he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the Bahamas until his trial day ….IN THREE MONTHS…which was beyond his visa expiration. Thankfully, when he rented the car, he had found a place that took credit cards and they covered the rental car damage, or it could have been much, much worse. So we decided to put a ban on renting cars in the Bahamas.
The “tour” took us to an old Spanish church with an interesting cave behind it…..the locals call it Shrimp Cave….
my apologies for the odd order of the photos ….they refused to let me rearrange them once I uploaded them this time.
A pink crab in Shrimp Cave….I wonder if he’s pink because of all the Shrimp he eats ? Like a flamingo ?
A stretch of beach on the west side just north of Thompson Bay….
Me hunting for Whelks……
This is the church from our tour …..
We also went down south a short way to a settlement called Dean’s. Now here’s an interesting oddity. In the Bahamas they say “down North” or “Up South”. It was explained to me that because of the general orientation of the sunrise and sunset it appears to rise, or come “up” in a more southerly direction and go “down” in a more Northerly direction….rather than the map orientations where North is usually up and South is usually down.
Dean’s is the home to the aptly named “Dean’s Blue Hole”….. currently the second deepest documented Blue Hole in the world…..the current deepest known one was recently discovered in China…..at least it was discovered after the sign below was made…..
There were some free divers practicing for the upcoming competition. It was interesting to watch them prepare for the practice dives……
Kim’s Manatee friend….
The east side beach scenes……the east side beach in Long Island was the first place we found seaglass in any quantity and Kim immediately started making charms …….
An interesting formation of seagulls….commonly called “gully’s” here in the Bahamas…..
About two thirds of the way as you go up Long Island, there is a resort community that was founded in the 60’s called Stella Maris. The development was surveyed and subdivided but not much building ever occurred away from the main beach area. There are a lot of empty lots and some nice isolated hilltop houses in the area. They also have an interesting salt water pool….why build a pool with all those complicated pumps and filters when you can just cut a channel through the rock to the ocean???? This was one of three pools in the development. If you own a house here you get resort privileges for about $300 a year.
One of our other stops during our tour was a second cave system called Hamilton Cave…..it is usually a guided tour but the guide was already inside with another group so we just wandered around the main entryway waiting…..we decided happy hour was fast approaching and decided not to wait for his return…..
The caves in the Bahamas are frequently more caverns than true caves as they are open in many places above. This is generally caused by erosion and tree roots working their way through the ceilings looking for water……some of these tree roots look like bundles of telephone poles…..
Another shot of Dean’s Blue Hole
The below photos are actually Shrimp Cave but somehow they wouldn’t stay in order as I was writing this post…..
Here’s a shot of Kim to round out this blog entry lounging on a stone formation on Long Island’s east beach……
Since there’s an upcoming period of unsettled weather headed our way, (prediction is 20-25 knot winds for three to five days) I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how we keep ourselves entertained while staying on the boat for extended periods. Sometimes that can be three or more days straight depending on where we are and how severe the weather might be. We like to anchor away from the crowds but that results in longer (and wetter) dinghy rides to and from shore.
We spend all but about two months a year on board, so keeping ourselves entertained can sometimes be a challenge.
I have reached a point where I am reading about a book per week. That can be challenging since maintaining an inventory of books in our limited space isn’t really a viable option. It does present a chance for us to resurrect our old “book club” of which Kim and I were the only members. It was very exclusive!
I discovered a series of books by F. Paul Wilson which mostly revolve around a character nicknamed “Repairman Jack”. These books are set mostly in late 1990’s NYC and Jack is a sort of a private investigator/fixer who becomes increasingly entrenched in unusual cases and circumstances that have a supernatural cause. Jack is sort of a Libertarian / polar opposite to a “Ray Donovan” type. The first book in that series is “Cold City”.
There are related story lines that make up a series of about six books called the “Adversary Cycle” which start with “The Keep” (set in 1941) which was also an 80’s movie of the same name, that butchered the story line. If you like fiction drama/mysteries with some supernatural twists, I highly recommend these books.
I also picked up a Jack Reacher book called The Killing Floor which turned out to be much better than the movies. I can’t imagine why they picked Tom Cruise to play the guy described in this book?? I also read a couple of Randy Wayne White’s “Doc Ford” books which are turning out to be good reads…..thanks for that tip Mike !!!!
I have found my Fire Tablet aka Kindle to be indispensable. Now that we have on board wifi I can download books at will !!! We can also access Amazon videos and games on it !
We didn’t have an opportunity to get a “Bahamas phone” until our second trip to George Town. That has made things much easier as these phones come with wifi hotspots. BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) recently started offering unlimited data for $35 per month. Now we can watch online movies and tv shows through a variety of applications for free !!! Let me know if anyone wants the details of those and I can email them to you. (They work stateside too so you could theoretically eliminate your cable or satellite tv bill.) If you’re planning to be in the Bahamas for an extended period be sure to pickup one of these phones…..you can get a Huawei brand smartphone (pronounced Wowee) for about $59 plus $16 for a SIM card on a prepaid plan. I found this link for an unlocked Huawei phone on Amazon which might work throughout the Caribbean if you get sim cards for each place you visit…..that also makes the blogging easier !!!!
We also love to play board games. But, space again is an issue….board games are out, so we have mostly dice games on board. We play a lot of Yahtzee, we were recently introduced to a new dice game called “Farkle”….and we have a set of dominoes on board if we want to play “Mexican Train”…..it’s a fun game that was taught to us by our dear friend Joan in Florida …..
thanks for the introduction to “Farkle” Doug and Barb on SV Melinda Kay !!!
As we made our way South through the Exuma chain of islands, we found what would become our favorite stop…..Little Farmer’s Cay. We spent a total of about six weeks here (between February and March) before and after a short George Town trip to get Mike to the Airport for his flight home to Tampa.
Satellite Image courtesy of Google Maps
Little Farmer’s is home to the Farmers Cay Yacht Club (FCYC) which is located on the Northeast tip of the Cay. The FCYC is owned and operated by two of the sweetest people we have ever had the pleasure to meet. Roosevelt (Roosie) and Shirley (Bo short for Bolene, her middle name) Nixon have run this Marina for about 27 years and Roosevelt just celebrated his 82nd birthday !!!! Their son Julian and his wife Daryll live just down the street from the yacht club also and are an amazing couple. Julian works for the electric company and Daryll runs a gift shop where she sells her handmade jewelry and is also the local agent for Flamingo Air.
Kim decided to hang her coffee mug, formerly my mom’s, up for this shot…..
The Nixons !!! “Roosie and Bo”
My sister Jo and I in the cave on Great Guana Cay Northeast of Little Farmers.
Jo realizing her lifelong dream of petting a sea turtle…..
This is Kim and I with Earnestine Bain….wife of Terry Bain and co-owner of the Ocean Cabin Bar and restaurant. She is one sweet lady. There must be something in the water at Little Farmers that makes everyone so nice!!! She and her husband Terry (who took this photo and is pictured below at the party) have operated this establishment for over 25 years….Terry’s mother built the original bar. We attended their 25th wedding anniversary and Earnestine’s birthday party while we were at Little Farmers Cay…..it’s a great place and Terry makes a doozy of a drink named for the bar…..we came to know them as “the blue drinks that make Kim sleepy”
Terry and Merissa at the party….
A freshly speared Lionfish….which I gave to our new friend Dave on a catamaran named Fifth Quarter…..then moments later …..
Dave’s subsequent Lionfish sting……if you ever get tagged by a Lionfish submerge the injured area in the hottest water you can stand for as long as you can…..sorry Dave…glad it’s better
On our way South we stopped off for a few days near Staniel Cay which is also near where some scenes from the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed. These were shot at the aptly named “Thunderball Grotto” ……We also hit Big Majors which is the Cay famous for the pigs who live on the island.
This is a shot of Kim which we made for a good friend’s son who needed photos for a project with words or phrases describing him. We thought it would be fun to add a pig….
Dinghy ride Piggy ??? Mike standing “guard” over the dinghy …..
This was an odd one ….I’ve never seen a nurse shark with these kind of markings….
Warderick Wells is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park….they have a loop shaped Mooring field with about 20 Mooring Balls. We spent about six days here waiting for a front to blow through.
The small black bars with the white dot are chart symbols for Mooring Balls…..
At the top of Boo Boo Hill is a pile of driftwood signs with boat names and dates. We found a piece of teak on our beach walk that I used to carve our boat name into….it took about six hours to carve and then I burned the letters to make them stand out….
Our sign placed on Boo Boo Hill….
The enormous pile of boat name signs on Boo Boo Hill….
As we placed the sign Kim pointed out that our boat sign sort of ended up (unintentionally) looking like a gun…..
This is just a quick entry to say thank you to Jahnke Electronics in Green Bay, WI……just before we left Florida we had an issue with our Kenwood TS-50 HF transceiver. It was blowing the inline fuse when transmitting. Without that radio we can’t receive emails or weather reports when we are away from wifi and out of range of the NOAA weather reports broadcast by the Coast Guard on the VHF radio. We also use it to monitor maritime and weather voice networks.
The people at Jahnke checked out our radio, cleaned and aligned it, checked the capacitors, replaced the power button and replaced the memory battery, all for $100 !!! Plus it only took a few days !! It has been working great since then…..they weren’t able to replicate the fuse issue after they maintenanced it and replaced the on/off switch, but it works and that’s the most important thing for us.
Since we recently got our “HAM” licenses we look forward to many years of service from this radio…..thanks to Jahnke……
As many of you know, we are often graced with the company of our good friend Mike. In addition to being a good sailor, generally handy and a lot of fun, he likes to write. So, I proposed that Mike write a few articles for the blog and I told him they could be about anything he found interesting……so, from time to time we will be posting entries from Mike….some will be technical, some anecdotal and some with his own unique blend of views of the sailing life, philosophy, plus some comedy along the way……there may even be some illustrations to go along with some of these entries…….the names will be changed to protect the (innocent/unaware/clueless….haha)
So, without further ado, the first installment of what I guess we will call the “Life of Crewman Stoopid”….Or “Stoopid Crew Quarterly” or something like that…….maybe we should have a contest to name this storyline……???
“Something’s wrong” the Admiral said to the captain. “Stoopid crew has been sitting on the deck for an hour looking at nothing.”
The captain looked up from his coffee, looked toward the bow at Stoopid crew, then back toward the Admiral. ” Looks normal to me” he said. ” No, it’s not” she said. “Go talk to him!”
Knowing that arguing with the Admiral when she had THAT tone in her voice was not only unlikely to be successful, but also potentially dangerous, the captain sighed, got up, and went forward to where Stoopid crew was sitting, staring out to sea.
“Everything ok?” the captain said, hoping against hope for a short affirmative reply. ” Well…”said Stoopid crew, and the captain’s heart sank- not from anything he was about to hear from Stoopid crew-but from the sure and certain knowledge of the smug look that would appear on the Admiral’s face as she was once again proven correct in her judgement and intuition. Well, he thought, she was The Admiral for a reason after all. ” Go on” he said to Stoopid crew,” what is it?”
Stoopid crew looked for a moment at the captain, and then resumed his stare seaward. “You know how we’ve been trying to get to the Bahamas for almost a month now, but every time we think we are ready, we break something else, or the weather turns bad?” ” Yeah” said the captain, who had silently been referring to the Bahamas as “never land” because he was beginning to think they would never actually land there, as it was usually the bad weather AND breaking something that actually was preventing them from leaving.
“Well” said Stoopid crew,” while we’ve been here, we had great times with good friends, fantastic meals and great music from bands. We’ve seen whole pods of dolphins, a huge manatee and sea turtles. Osprey and pelicans hunt for dinner right off the bow of the boat. We find crabs in our traps and fish in our nets and there is always cold beer”
The captain looked at Stoopid crew for a moment, reflecting that this was all true, but that he had never before heard this type of coherent thought from Stoopid crew, and said “so?”
And then it happened. Stoopid crew turned from his seaward gaze, looked directly at the captain with bright intelligent eyes, and said ” It really IS about the journey and not the destination isn’t it?” With that, Stoopid crew got up and began washing the deck, whistling a happy tune with what could only be called a contented smile on his face.
The captain looked at him for a moment, and then got up and made his way back to where the Admiral was anxiously awaiting his return . “Well ? Is he all right ?” she said. The captain looked at her for a moment, and then at Stoopid crew happily working away, and then back at her. “Yeah…yeah he is” the captain said. And then he picked up his coffee, and slowly turned his eyes to the sea, a small, yet contented smile slowly spreading across his face.
“How do you know where you are or how to get where you want to go?”
The question makes complete sense. After all, most people are, at a minimum, accustomed to having at least a road map, road signs and street name signs. Add to that a Tom-Tom, Garmin or other turn by turn GPS, either hanging on their dash or in their phone. On top of that, whether they know it or not, they have had a subliminal geography course going on their entire life. Some people may not be able to find New Jersey on a map, but they can navigate their local area pretty reliably.
What most people don’t realize is that they use a form of marine navigation in their every day life….it’s commonly called Dead Reckoning or D/R for short. D/R is essentially estimating your position based upon your known direction of travel, your speed, the elapsed time and use that to determine a point between where you started and where you are headed. You didn’t know you were a Navigator, did you? Just imagine if someone put you in a car on I-75 (that runs North and South between Detroit and Miami). Pick any spot…assume a speed of 70mph and an lapsed time of 5 hours….where are you ? Ta-da !!! A D/R “fix” or estimated position (EP).
Many people, when they imagine marine navigation envision the use of a Sextant and some pretty complicated calculations based on the angles of the sun, moon or stars coupled with other fancy techniques. Frankly, the sun and stars aren’t always visible, so navigators need a method they can use reliably when they can’t see either, that’s where D/R comes in.
Take a look at the snapshot of the chart below. That’s an image of a “rhumbline” or direct course from an area South of Miami called Angel cut to Cat Cay (Cay is pronounced like “key”) in the Bahamas. That rhumbline is 48 miles long.
For the purpose of the example, let’s use our boat. Kitty Hawk averages about five knots per hour under power. If you average out the sailing speed, 5kts is also a safe number unless the wind really dies, at which point for this example we would fire up the diesel and still maintain 5kts. A knot is 1.152 miles per hour, much in the same way a nautical mile is equal to 1.1 statutory miles.
We will also assume, just to make things simpler and avoid calculating “tacking” (which is changing the course of the boat to take advantage of the direction of the wind) the boat, that the wind is coming out of the South at 10 knots. That means we could sail straight across our rhumbline course on a coinciding magnetic course, using our helm compass and autopilot to be sure we stay on that heading. A course is an intended route….a heading is the actual direction the boat ends up going based on current (like the Gulfstream), wind or other factors. In this scenario we would need to make a slight course adjustment to the south to stay on our rhumbline course due to the Gulf Stream that flows to the North in this area at about 1.5 to 3 knots. (That would be a dream crossing to the Bahamas by the way.) If we left Angel’s Cut at 7pm we could estimate our position on the rhumbline at any given time by multiplying the number of hours passed by our speed of 5kts and our ETA at Cat Cay would be ????
If you said anything close to 9.5 hours later or around 4:30am….you’d be exactly right!!! Congrats !!! You’re a navigator !!!
Generally speaking, there are “road signs” out in the water as well. That way you have a visual confirmation of when you’ve arrived at your intended destination. While the U.S. has the best marked and best maintained system of waterway navigational aids, (called ATONs, as in Aid To Navigation, in the boating world) the Bahamas don’t do as bad a job as some countries. Most of these markers are colored (red or green) and numbered so you know when you are approaching the first or last in a line at an inlet, channel, or where you might be in a waterway. While Cat Cay doesn’t have any channel markers, you have to navigate this inlet by sight. In contrast, Bimini to the North, is marked by lighted red and green buoys numbered 1 for the green and 2 for the red. When numbered, Greens are odd and reds are even.
In this day and age, GPS and chart plotters have made navigation even simpler. Our chartplotter is capable of displaying our course, our speed though the water, speed over ground, heading and our position on a chart simultaneously. It’s always a good idea to have a non electronic backup method, and use it underway, in the event of a catastrophic failure though. That’s where D/R comes in to save the day.