Onward’s Cruise Journal 2011
Cruise in the Bahamas

Updated: 2 Jan 12

December 2011

1 Dec 11; Thursday; Ft. Pierce

  • I washed down the hull to prepare it for eventual bottom painting. I found that the application of Prop Speed coating on the prop, shaft and strut was gone. The diver I had clean the bottom in Baltimore told me that it looked like the diver I had in RI had scraped the coating off. So, I spent the rest of the morning cleaning and burnishing all this gear in preparation for repainting. I found the prop of the bow thruster heavily covered with barnacles. This clearly explains why I had been getting so little thrust from it over the last couple of months. I will need to work out how to remove the prop while it is in the water so it can be cleaned. The locking hub that keeps the blades on is a concern because the two small pieces could be easily lost in the water.
  • Early in the morning Hazel Lopez began to clean the hull in preparation for compounding and polishing. He and his stepson were great guys and worked very efficiently and fast.
  • I got a call from Bill Reed saying that all had gone well with is visit to the cardiologist and he would be on site in mid afternoon. He arrived at 1430 and immediately began work. After looking at the damaged area he said it was essentially cosmetic. About 3/16" of the outer plies of fiberglass had been shaved back leaving the rest of the hull structure intact. He said it was uglier looking than the actual degree of damage and that I had nothing to worry about with hull integrity as there was still ~1.5" of fiberglass in that area! He set to work and by 1900 new layers of glass and vinyl ester resin had brought it back to its original shape.
  • Bill and Linda came up in the rental car. I drove them back to Vero Beach so I could keep the car for a couple of days. We had a delicious dinner on the beach along the way.

2 Dec 11; Friday; Ft. Pierce
  • I drove off early to get blood tests done so the efficacy of my new meds and diet could be evaluated. I then ran a bunch of other errands and when I returned I found that Bill was applying the final layers of faring to be followed by gelcoat.
  • After talking to a number of people in the yard, I decided to spray the running gear with Zinc paint / barnacle barrier. I'd heard of this being done when I was in Annapolis. We'll see how it worked. The Prop Speed worked well until it was scraped off. I wasn't up to trying that expensive experiment again.
  • By noon Bill had finished up and the hull looked as good as new. I taped and painted the bow section and along waterline for about 20" down (the area that gets all the hard use) with a fresh coat of Petit Horizons ablative paint.
  • I found a good machine shop in the area: Walaby's Fabrication.

3 Dec 11; Saturday; Ft. Pierce to Vero Beach
  • I was up early and off to Vero Beach to pick up Bill and hand the rental car over to him. On return to Ft. Pierce, I reinstalled my nice clean bow thruster blades and then to did some bottom paint touchup. At 1000 the travel lift came to fetch Onward and she was soon back in her mileiu. Getting out of the travel lift ship was a trick because there was a strong cross wind for the E. With a little help from the staff manning my lines, I was safely out of the slip and underway back to Vero Beach.
  • I put into the marina and went to the fuel pier for diesel and water. The plan was for Onward to go back on the mooring with Ceili who had been alone since my departure. Then Ceili would go in for fuel and water while I held the fort. As I was trying to dock with a strong cross wind, the marina manager vectored a waiting boat to the mooring with Ceili. I attempted to call this boat, Dutchess, to ask her to wait for me so Ceili could be on the outside to get fuel and water but that didn't happen - they did move to Ceili's port side as I was already rigged for having Ceili to port.
  • Once back on the mooring it was maintenance time: change engine oil and filter, change generator engine oil and filter, change engine transmission oil, and then clean up the mess and put Onward back together again. That done, I was beat but I perked up enough to shower and go aboard Ceil for a delicious tuna casserole dinner - the best I've ever had. The the sleep of the exhausted…

4 Dec 11; Sunday; Vero Beach
  • I had gotten a call from Susan Marks a couple of days ago saying that she and Andy were in Ft. Lauderdale and would like to stop by as they drove back to Orlando where Andy had a meeting. I was very happy to hear from these two colleagues from ARL so we set up the visit for midday today.
  • I was up early and worked like a madman to get provisions and gear stowed. I got things almost done before Susan and Andy showed up at the dinghy pier. We first went off to lunch where I found out I was to be their guest. We had great meals and an even better time catching up on things in our lives. We then went back to the marina and I took them out to Onward to see the "underbelly" of cruising - a boat in final stages of provisioning and maintenance.
  • After I took Susan and Andy ashore, Bill and Linda came in and we all went out for one last shopping trip - focus on fresh foods. I also managed to buy a water jerrycan at West Marine to replace the one I had forgotten had a crack in the bottom until I tried to fill it yesterday. That done and the final increment of my meds picked up, we brought the final load of "stuff" back to the boats to face the challenge of finding somewhere to stow it.

5 Dec 11; Monday; Vero Beach to Hobe Sound
  • I took the rental car into town to return in and on the way discovered the Staples store which Google and Google maps says does not exist in Vero Beach. I stopped in to have boat cards printed but they said that they had a priority order to do and I didn't have time to wait. Drat.
  • Onward was underway from Vero Beach City Marina by 1000 for a nice easy passage S to Hobe Sound. The infamous Lyons fixed bridge at Sewells Point didn't try to shave any equipment off Onward's mast this transit and we had no problems transiting the junction with the St. Lucie R which can be tricky with shoals.
  • We anchored about 1530 in Hobe Sound near where I anchored with Moondance last year. I immediately put the dinghy down and set about installing a stiffening strut for the lower section of the starboard davit support. That done I went over to Ceili to fetch the water jerrycan they had filled for me and we chatted about plans for the morning. The weather window which had promised 2 days of winds from the S now had narrowed down to only one. This would make an overnight at Mangrove Cay problematic as it had no protection to the N. We decided to make for West End and hope that we wouldn't get captured there for a long time as i had been in 2008.

6 Dec 11; Tuesday; Hobe Sound to Lake Worth
  • We were underway by 0800 and managed to time all the lift bridges so as not to get hung up for 30 min - although one did require Onward to sprint forward to secure the opening and give Ceili time to move up. We headed for the anchorage S of Lake Worth Inlet and arrived to find only 2 other boats there. We anchored about 1400 and set about final checks and gear stowing.
  • Tom and Chis came in with their catamaran Polar Pacer and anchored nearby. We chatted over the lifelines and they related they had really enjoyed their trip to Cuba last year so much that they intended to do it again this year. Soon the anchorage filled up with boats that had been hanging out at Stuart and N Lake Worth.
  • Linda had whipped up a pot of chili and invited me over but I was forced to decline because I still had so much to do to get gear and provisions stowed and organized. I managed to tire myself out enough that I slept soundly through the night whereas I normally sleep fitfully before a Gulf Stream Passage.

7 Dec 11; Wednesday; Lake Worth to West End, Grand Bahama Island
  • I was out of bed at 0430 and had Onward ready to raise anchor at 0500. The anchor was so well set - or caught under something - that the windlass could not break it out. I finally had to let out about 20' of chain, secure it with a chain hook, and then power forward at high rpm to break it loose! Of course, things like this only happen in the dark! By 0515 we were on our way out of the inlet. This time, there were no boats ahead of me dawdling as there had been at the start of previous crossings from here so the exit process was simple and stressless.
  • I had found recent Gulf Stream current data on www.passageweather.com and had used this to update my spreadsheet model for navigating across the Gulf Stream. As we left the breakwater, I set a course of 115º magnetic (direct course is ~100º). The current proved to be closer in and stronger than the data I'd used so I increased the heading to 121º. The initial few miles of the course was a bit lumpy but it soon settled out. Winds were < 10 kts from the NE and then clocked around to the S. By mid-morning the seas were almost glassy calm before the winds picked up enough to get some use from the sails for the last 20 nm of the trip.
  • Sailing the 121º course took Onward S of the rhumb line for a few nm before the current became so strong, > 3.5 kts, that we were swept N to a maximum of 4.75 nm N of the rhumb. Then the current decreased and we moved back to the rhumb. By the time the outer waypoint at West End was reached, Onward was < 0.2 nm N of it.
  • The entrance into the Old Bahama Bay marine was easy with the only complication being a number of other cruisers who arrived having taken advantage of the same weather window.
  • Once Onward was settled in its slip, I immediately set about completing all the Bahamian Customs & Immigration forms before walking over to the office with Bill. This was the 5th time I've cleared into the Bahamas, the second here at West End. This time there were both an Immigration Officer and a Customs Officer in the office. They were the most friendly and efficient that I have yet encountered. All the while they worked, they kept up a pleasant banter with me - yet had their eye on who was coming and going to make sure no one got jumped in line. What a pleasant experience!
  • With our cruising permits and visas in hand, Bill and I checked in with the marina office. That done it was back to Onward for the first Dark & Stormy drinks of this cruising season. Bill and Linda brought a pot of chili with them so we followed cocktail hour with a delicious dinner. All of us were quite tired due to the early start and intensity of the last few days of preparation. i was asleep by 1900 after completing about 5 entries in a crossword on my iPad.

8 Dec 11; Thursday; West End
  • Just after midnight I awoke to the arrival of the cold front. Winds were blowing > 25 kts from the N. Unfortunately Onward being bow in to the slip, the winds were pressing her against the pilings. The fenders I'd deployed yesterday were no longer in place. So there was nothing for it but to go on deck and rejig mooring lines. I managed to get a line to a piling off the starboard stern and then lead it over the stern cleat to one of the big Harken 66 genoa winches. This made short work of hauling Onward away from the pier. I added a starboard bow line and all was well.
  • Ah! great to wake up and not be in the "move Onward toward the Bahamas mode" any longer. Today was a day to begin organizing all the things that I've been too busy or tired to do over the last 2 months. My adventures with windlass replacement and hull repairs and the resulting delays took a lot out of me. Time to recharge my batteries.
  • I finally got around to organizing my clothes in master stateroom lockers which I hadn't done since the last time I did laundry at Vero Beach. I had become convinced that I was running out of sailing shorts with the velcro closure front cargo pockets that I use to make sure I don't lose my cellphone or camera. I bought a couple of extra before departing Vero. Today I discovered several that somehow got hidden behind other clothes. So now I have LOTS of sailing shorts.
  • Since the marine charges $15 a day for RO water weather or not you use it, I gave the deck a good scrub down to remove the dust accrued while it was in the boatyard. Then it was time to wash me down and go for a long walk.
  • In 2008 when I was last at West End, the Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina had been bought by Ginn Company who also had bought several miles of the West End peninsula and was in the process of building a $4.9B resort, casino, megayacht marina, and residential development. That plan went up in smoke with the economic crash and the development went into foreclosure. The property is now owned by 3 different entities. The Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina is a separate enterprise now and it is as beautiful and well kept as it was in 2008. The residential area on canals near the marina had several new hopes since my last visit and looked quite nice and well kept. A good deal of the infrastructure for the mega project, Ginn Sur Mer, got finished before the crash. The airport, hugh new canal system along the W shore, residential building lots, and the greens and tees for the Arnold Palmer designed golf course are there and in good condition. Someday this area will be a beautiful place to live and play - most likely on not quite the same "Venice of the Bahamas" scale as originally envisioned. My reading about the bankruptcy revealed that the same greed, avarice, and dishonesty that characterized the US housing / mortgage markets were in play with this development with Credit Suisse who got the property in foreclosure being a major player now accused of dishonest dealings in setting up the foreclosed mortgage. Sound familiar?
  • The Celis joined me for dinner. I made shepherds pie by a new recipe I've put together and really like. I found a McCormick beef stew spice packet that I combine with a packet of brown gravy mix. What seems to make the difference is I used 1 cup of water and 2 of wine for the liquid.to make the sauce. Served with mashed potatoes; Delish Brings back pleasant memories of one of my favorite lunches at St. Matthew's School in the 50's!

9 Dec 11; Friday; West end to Great Sale Cay
  • High tide at Memory Rock and the Indian Cay Channel was at ~0700. Onward needs to have a high tide to safely navigate the latter channel. Bill and I had talked about leaving the marina about 0630 or so. The wind was supposed to drop to 10 kts or less and clock to the E. During the night there had been no wind but by 0500 it was up to 2000.
  • Bill came over to drop off the power adapter I'd lent him and on his way back aboard Ceili he missed the step from the pier to Ceili and fell into the water. He wasn't injured but lost the lens of his favorite prescription sun glasses. When I went over to check on him, he was a bit upset at himself (a la me when I do something dumb) and he wasn't sure he was going to depart today and he wanted me to go on. I was really torn as I didn't like the idea of leaving them behind but I needed to use that high tide to move Onward safely onto the Little Bahama Banks. Further, failure to depart today could keep us captured for a week. I eventually decided to depart and wait for them at Great Sale Cay. Linda and Bill manned the lines as I moved Onward out of the slip a real trick as I was stern to the wind which was also blowing toward the boat next to me. Skill with the lines and a bit of luck and I was able to quickly get enough way on to back out into the basin where I retrieved the dock lines. One of the great things about Onward is that it backs up so well with any kind of way on.
  • The transit of the Indian Cay Channel was thankfully uneventful and I passed the shallowest spot with a depth of 8.2' at a high tide of 2.6' - hence the need for leaving on a high tide. I called Ceili on the VHF to report that winds were only ~ 13 kts and seas ~ 1' and Bill called back to say they ware out of the slip and underway. I was very relieved. I held the slower speed I use to transit shoal areas and about an hour after exiting the channel onto the banks, Ceili caught up and we sailed on to Great Sale Cay under cloudy skies.
  • We found only 2 other boats at anchor at Great Sale Cay when we arrived. We anchored at 1530 in the W bight where there is good protection from all but the S. By sunset another 5 or more boats came in to anchor. Cocktail hour restored my wah. It was a quiet night with the front coming through about 2130 with heavy rain but little wind which lasted only 30 min or so.

10 Dec 11; Saturday; Great Sale Cay to Manjack Cay
  • The pre-dawn hours showed the wind < 10 kts from the E. Good traveling weather into the Sea of Abaco. By mid afternoon we were just W of Manjack Cay when I heard a woman make a mayday call. I responded but got no response. When I responded again, Tom on Polar Pacer also responded. We eventually decided it was a prank call. Tom then said he was a Manjack Cay where a number of cruisers were going to get together on the beach for a full moon party. He invited us in. After a bit of consideration, I changed our plans and instead of pressing on to Green Turtle, we put in and anchored.
  • I quickly changed and threw together some snacks and beers to take ashore. I then went over to Ceili where Bill had had some problem finding a patch of sand to set the anchor in. After trying to see his anchor I gave up as there was too much wind chop - I've got to make a looky bucket! Bill and Linda were too tired to go ashore so I endued up going by myself. Tom met me at the pier where everyone was tied up. I thought using someone's private pier was a bit unusual until I learned that the couple who owned the property had invited the cruisers ashore. Leslie and Bill had bought a large section of the cay some 20 years ago and had set about turning it into their little paradise with a nice house, naturally landscaped grounds, a garden, and extensive trails. They conducted us on a 15+ minute walk across the cay to the ocean beach where a large bonfire was prepared. About 20 people from the boats in the anchorage came ashore and a nice party ensued with lots of munchies.
  • Leslie told us a bit about their saga: deciding to live in the Bahamas and build a house on their own land - independently and then finding each other; making the dream a reality; overcoming the byzantine land laws of the Bahamas - with a bit of good luck; until they had a beautiful Island home on more than 30 acres.

11 Dec 11; Sunday; Manjack Cay
  • This was a day to kick back and just relax a bit as well as work on organizing all the stuff I didn't get done before leaving the US. A quiet day alone on the boat.

12 Dec 11; Monday; Manjack Cay
  • This morning I checked with Chris Parker about when the conditions might be settled enough for us to be able to get E around the whale. He replied that the NE swells would not be lying down until Friday or Saturday.
  • Today was a day to catch up on organization. I worked all morning diligently. After noon, I made some chicken salad and then went over to Ceili to pick up Bill and Linda. Then we headed ashore for a walk. I brought along a bottle of wine to give to Leslie and Bill in thanks for their hospitality in inviting us ashore to their little paradise. We spent some time talking with Bill and Leslie about their adventure. They suggested we take the alternative trail back from the beach to see more of the island. So we set off on the cross-island trek and sat by the ocean to eat lunch. We walked further E along the beach before heading back via the alternate route. We came across two beautiful beaches on the SW tip of the island before returning to the anchorage. Once back aboard Onward i was really tired from the walk so I enjoyed my first nap au natural in the cockpit for an hour or so. These naps feel so good but then it is hard to wake up again. But after a few minutes of sluggishness I find I have a lot of energy.
  • I invited the Polar Pacers (Tom and Chris) their friends the Amakuras (Ken and Jean) and the Celis over for dinner. I cooked some ravioli (dried tomato and chicken with mozzarella) along with some italian sausage. This was Bill and Linda's first experience with a cursing ad hoc dinner in the Bahamas. We had a grand time with the Celis bringing a delicious appetizer, the Pacers a salad, and the Amakuras a wonderful apple pie for desert.

13 Dec 11; Tuesday; Manjack Cay to Green Turtle Cay
  • It was anchors aweigh at 0900 to start the transition to Green Turtle Cay to wait out the weather conditions to change so the swells would diminish enough to be able to navigate the Whale Cay passage. I hit the entrance channel to White Sound at about 0940 at high tide and a min of 9.5' at the entrance.
  • This year we decided to put into Green Turtle Club for the next few days. In the past, I'd stayed across the sound at Bluff House. I called early in the morning and made a reservation. Amakura put in just ahead of me and the marina put them on the T-head where they said they would put me. I asked the dock master to move Amakura to the far end of the T-head because the strong off-shore cross wind would make it hard for me to pull in ahead. This didn't happen so, as I expected, the cross wind grabbed my bow as I came in and spun me away. It took me a couple of tries backing in to finally get docked. It wasn't pretty. I was later told by Ken that the that he was prepared to move but the dock master didn't want him too. Ah well - wish I'd known that before i'd tipped him.
  • Since the Green Turtle Club was offering a special where dockage fees would be offset by money spent in the restaurant and bar, the Polar Pacers, Amakouras, Ceilis, and I met in the restaurant for a fun evening of drinks and dinner.

14 Dec 11; Wednesday; Green Turtle Cay
  • While at West End, the wifi signal was so strong that the built-in wifi on my Mac was fine. At Manjack, I never bothered to try for wifi because the locals have protected their routes because of abuse by cruisers. Today I got out and set up my trusty Engenius EUB 9702 Ext USB wifi adapter which has served me so well of the past 4 years. When I plugged it in to my MacBook it failed to come instantly to life as it had done before. A long effort of troubleshooting finally led me to believe it was a driver problem. I'd just recently upgraded to OSX 10.7 and had not remembered to check out the Engenius before leaving the states. A walk ashore to get closer to the marina's wifi allowed me to go on line and confirm the problem. BAAAH! Something I could have fixed easily in a couple of days at Vero Beach was now going to be a major pain.
  • Today we decided to explore New Plymouth and Tom rented a golf cart. It required 2 trips but we all got delivered to town to walk about and do some shopping. In the local hardware store I found the fly swatters with the plastic and metal handle that I've found really work well and are hard to find in the US. At the Plymouth Rock Liquors and Cafe, Bill and Linda found some 7 year old Cuban rum so I decided to get a bottle also. We had intended to have lunch at Sundowers - a waterfront bar and restaurant - but true to its name it wasn't open at midday. Instead we had lunch at a takeout restaurant that had a lot of local business. The food was very good and reasonable.
  • After returning to the marina I took a nap and then did some more organizing. The others decided to eat aboard their boats but I had more feet of dockage to eat off so I went into the restaurant where I had a great filet.

15 Dec 11; Thursday; Green Turtle Cay - The Sad End of the Splendide Era
  • I woke up at 0300 having suddenly realized that if I was going to remove my dead Splendide washer/dryer this was the best chance I was likely to get: I was at a pier; there was a local dump that could take it; the marina offered a way to get it there; and I had 3 other guys to help me with the difficult task of getting it out of the cramped quarters of the forward shower. The hard part was to get it through the stateroom and shower doors. The doors needed to be removed from the frame so at 0330 I was working with my screwdriver to take them off. There were 3 doors each with 6 screws that had to be removed. Of course, over the last 8 years the SS screws had reacted with the aluminum door frames so that 2 screws in the shower door hinges would not budge.
  • About 1000 after the others had had a nice breakfast in the restaurant, Tom and Kevin came over to help with the great extraction. We eventually had to drill off the heads of the recalcitrant screws to remove the shower door. Somehow the 3 of us managed to work in the cramped space to get the unit which was now very rusty out its compartment and through the shower, forward head, forward stateroom and salon thence up and out the companionway and onto the dock.
  • I had very mixed emotions about this. As the Splendide had worked splendidly when first installed, over the last few years it had become problematic and behaved very strangely when it worked. Having found the slow water leak and been able to see the motor and drive parts now that it was removed, i could see how the water leak had slowly destroyed the motor. I was glad to be rid of a heavy nonfunctional piece of rusted metal. I was also happy to gain access to over 12 cubic feet of storage volume. Jean from Amokura pointed out I'd now lost my "chick magnate" - I guess that mean's I'll have to work on my charm! But then again, I believe it was Tina Burke who advised me that going to the various cruising laundromats was the best way to meet other cruisers - and that advice has been good. Too bad there aren't many women who do singlehanded sailing. PS: Any interested women please apply :).
  • While the extraction was in progress, Bill and Linda had taken their dinghy into town to buy a cell phone as the Batelco office had been closed yesterday. Unfortunately they forgot that I also wanted to get a new phone because the charger for the old one had become temperamental. So after cleaning up the trail of rust from the extraction I cleaned me up and Ventured into town to the Batelco office. There I helped decorate their Christmas tree by stringing lights while the woman in the office got me my new cell phone - such a bargain $30! She also told me that Cable & Wireless who bought a controlling share in Batelco last year had set up 4G service in Nassau and Freeport and planned to do the same in the Abacos by summer 2012. What is more is that data plans will become available outside of just New Providence and Grand Bahama Island.
  • The Polar Pacers and the Amokuras departed the marina and anchored in White Sound. In the evening I joined Bill and Linda for another nice meal at the marina restaurant.

16 Dec 11; Friday; Green Turtle Cay Anchorage
  • I did a load of laundry as soon as they opened the door to the laundry room. While it was going i spent time ordering a new USB wifi access device to replace my Engenius EUB 9702 Ext. I decided to get a BearExtender but they could only ship to the Bahamas by USPS - a kiss of death for getting it in a timely fashion. I finally worked out a way for then to UPS it to a location in Florida where Inter Island Imports, a local company that flies in freight regularly would receive it and fly it to Marsh Harbor where it would go through customs and I could pick it up.
  • Having arranged all that, I then met Richard from another boat who uses a Mac and told me he'd bought one of the units I'd just purchased and he found it wasn't very good. Oh JOY!
  • On that bummer of a note, we checked out of the marina on the high tide and headed out to anchor outside of White Sound. I used the rest of the day to do more organizing and taking advantage of all the new storage volume i'd created to stow all the 12-packs of beer that was still on the floor of the salon and forward stateroom. I also had a needed nap.

17 Dec 11; Saturday; Green Turtle Cay to Great Guana Cay: A Whaling We Went!
  • The wind which had been blowing at 20+ kts from the NE for most of the week finally laid down to ~ 10 kts overnight allowing the NE swells at Whale Cay cut to finally get down to 7' or less. So about 0830 we weighed anchor and headed for the cut. Along the way, I asked Bill if he wanted the waypoint i added to mark the deepest part of the cut that I use in my transits. He has problems entering new waypoints underway so he said he'd just follow me. I told him I was essentially just following the Explorer chart book route which his Cmap charts are supposed to embody.
  • The swells got steeper as we approached the cut but still were about 7' max with a fairly long period. However every 5 min or so one monster swell would come in and break right across the cut. I was so busy that I didn't realize this until one broke about 2 minutes before i got to the cut. It created so much foam in the water that my depth sounder started reading < 6'. It was a good thing i'd made this transit enough times to know that the water was deep. So after swallowing my heart, I pressed on through the cut. Once outside the conditions were really mild.
  • As I was exiting, Bill radioed me to say the route his Cmap chart was taking him was through the rocks to the W of the cut! I told him to follow my heading to the waypoint outside the cut which was correct in his system. Ceili came through without incident other than a bit of consternation. Bill later found the inside starting waypoint for the transit he had planned to use was incorrect. Whew!
  • I tried to secure moorings at Hope Town but could not raise the marina on the phone or VHF. So instead we put into Great Guana Cay and picked up moorings from Dive Guana.
  • Once the boats were secure we headed ashore and walked to Nippers where I had a great blackened grouper sandwich - Delish.
  • In the evening, Ambassador Tom from Polar Pacer, organized a get together of other boats in the anchorage at Grabbers after dinner aboard. On the way in were mesmerized by some strange irridescent sea creature as we dinghied in. Then we were greeted by Santa Tom in a santa suite he'd found in a yard sale near the marina at Vero Beach just before departing. So a nice night of frozen Grabbers and fellowship followed.

18 Dec 11; Sunday; Great Guana Cay
  • I was able to get the Engenius EUB 9702 Ext to work properly with my backup computer which is still running an older operating system, OSX 10.4. I ran a test with one of the two local wifi providers using their free 10 min trial service. i was able to connect the Engenius with the backup computer and then use the internet service sharing that Macs have built in to share the wifi connection to my main laptop and iPad. JOY!
  • I then decided to sign up for a week of device with the other wifi provider, OII. Then after signing up, I found this provider would not let me share the connection to my other devices! BAAAAH! I was able to connect up with my main computer by bringing it up to the cockpit - not the best way to do work - but it did work.
  • I picked up an email from Engenius customer support which said the EUB ext had not been sold for a couple of years and was no longer being supported so there would be no new driver to work with OSX 10.7! With that news and remembering the comment of Richard, I went to Amazon.com and bought the newer EUB 9603 model they recommended along with a high gain antenna and cable and had that shipped to Inter Island Imports - hopefully to get on the 20 Dec flight with the other unit.
  • That done and some more organizing completed, I went ashore with Bill and Linda and walked to Nippers. Today was their pig roast and a great spread was offered for $20 a head. Dinner and a couple of frozen Nippers made for a pleasant afternoon.

19 Dec 11; Monday; Great Guana Cay to Man-o-War Cay
  • The winds had continued to lie down to ~15 kts from the ENE so we decided to depart Great Guana Cay. Polar Pacer and Amokura headed out at 0930 and headed for Man-o-War Cay. I have never visited this cay having been put off by the restricted entrance to the inner harbors and their shallowness. My intention was to head for Hope Town. As I can only enter and exit this harbor on a high tide, I didn't want to commit to this destination without arranging for a mooring first.
  • Onward and Ceili weighed anchor at 1100. Shortly after getting underway, Bill called on the VHF to say that he'd detected an overheated electrical smell from his alternator so he'd switched off its external excitation to shut it down. We reduced speed to 5 kts and continued on to the next anchorage where he would troubleshoot it.
  • I could not get though to anyone in Hope Town for a mooring before we departed and still had not raised anyone by the time we were about a mile from Man-o-War Cay. So, I called Man-o-War Marina and chatted about entering the harbor. I was told that Onward should have no problem entering the harbor at half-tide or better. I then made plans to head in about 1230-1300 when the water would be good to spend the night there.
  • I saw Polar Pacer and Amokura anchored of the NW coast of the cay. I talked to them on VHF to see how the anchorage was. They said they seemed to be settled well and there was lots of room. As the weather was forecast to be settled with the cay giving good protection from the E winds, I changed plans and headed in to anchor. One if the principal reasons was that I would feel better going into the Man-o-War harbor after having taken the dinghy in with my portable depth sounder. As I came in Kevin warned me of a bump to avoid - an extension of the tiny cays that stream NW from the outer cay of the harbor. I came in and looked for a sandy spot in the bottom where I set the anchor and got a hard set immediately. A nice feeling after the challenges I'd had with the hard bottoms at Manjack and Great Guana Cays. Ceili came in and anchored off to starboard.
  • I noticed Tom and Kevin were out diving on their anchors. They found Amokura's was not in sand so they swam around until they found a good spot by probing with their dive knifes. Kevin then re-anchored. Tom came over and checked Onward's anchor and found it well buried in sand. Ceili's had found a hard spot so they went off and found a sandy spot and Bill re-anchored.
  • As I came into the anchorage I invited everyone over for a pizza party tonight. I again made a "standard" pizza with real pepperoni and cheese, and a "new-Joe" pizza with turkey pepperoni and no cheese. We had a grand time dining appetizers by Linda, a salad brought by Chris, pizza, and a great fruit crumble with chocolate sauce by Jean. Delish!

20 Dec 11; Tuesday; Man-o-War Cay
  • At 0930, I took Venture in to explore the entrance to the harbor. While this shallow and restricted entrance has been used since the 1770's, I'm glad I made the decision not to go in until I'd explored it by dinghy. I didn't take my portable depth sounder so I will have to go back and record depths. I inspected the E harbor which is deeper first and then went on to the W harbor where the main settlement is.
  • There were a number of moorings available if you looked hard. The locals say the drill is to come in to one where there is enough water for your boat and pick it up unless it says private. Then the owner will track you down - or some have phone numbers on them.
  • I worked out how to get out the NW end of the harbor which gave a more direct path back to the anchorage. Then I put into the dinghy dock at Man-o-War Marina and went in to talk to them about moorings. They had 2 in front of the marina that they said could accommodate Onward at $17/night.
  • I then found the marina store was conducing a 50% off Christmas sale so I got a great deal on some gifts and a backup snorkel mask an swim fins.
  • I took a long walk around the large settlement which is very well kept and provides a picturesque view at every turn. All the local people I met were very friendly. I found a good ships store and Edwin's Boatyard 1 and two well stocked grocery stores - no liquor stores on this cay! Returning to the marina's dockside restaurant, I found the Pacers and Amokuras and joined them for lunch.
  • I returned to Onward for a nap. I received a call from Inter Island Exports saying that my first package of electronics was at Marsh Harbor and they would put it on the 1600 ferry to Man-o-War for me. Neat.
  • I took Onward into the beach near the anchorage and then walked into town. At 1620 the ferry arrived and I helped passengers unload their Christmas shopping. I was rewarded with my package.
  • The Man-o-War Museum was holding a fund raisers tonight for $10 a head for a walking tour of a number of homes on the island. So, package in hand, I headed off to join the tour and find Tom, Chris and Jean who had started at 1600. It took me a bit of walking but I was finally able to join the tour - it didn't help that I'd left aboard.the map they gave me.
  • What followed was a magical night - one of the things that makes cruising such a wonderful experience. The tour started at a small, beautifully kept cottage. It is owned by one of the churches on the cay and is offered free of charge to any clergy that need a quite spot to recharge. What a neat concept!. Here I got clues where my friends got to and headed off to the next stop where I had just missed them. I met a lovely couple who first related a theme which would recur throughout the night: then sailed in, fell in love with Man-o-War Cay, and decided to stay. A couple i met there gave me a ride in their golf cart to the next house where I found my friends. This home was a cabinetmaker's work of art. The construction throughout was a work of art! One of the great parts of the tour was the infectious joy of each of the homeowners we met as they described the finding and finishing of their homes. Each was well decorated a tribute to creativity and good taste - but given the difficulty of finding and getting stuff here - a tribute to their tenacity also. The last three homes we visited overlooked the anchorage. One home just kept on going in a spawning layout - the story was they kept putting up a tent on a deck on the house, discovered they liked the living space so they converted it to a room with a new deck - they repeated this 3 or 4 times before deciding to hide the tent. The last home sat overlooking Onward in the anchorage and owned by the Malms, a retired internist from the Cleveland Clinic and his wife who was a corporate pilot. What truly delightful people to finish up a magical night.
  • Upon return to Onward, I installed my new BearExtender USB wifi unit - the same one Richard at Green Turtle Cay had said was worthless - and found it worked great - perhaps as good as the Engenius unit! Now I am no longer internet challenged.

21 Dec 11; Wednesday; Man-o-War Cay to Hope Town, Elbow Cay
  • I spent the early morning catching up with my websites. At 1030, I headed off to the harbor with my portable depth sounder and a chart to take soundings of the entrance cut and its branches into the E (American) and W harbors.
  • I stopped by to talk to the Ceilis and invited them to go in to meet the Malms. They declined and then told me they'd made the decision to stay in the Abacos instead of going further S in the Bahamas. They are also considering returning to the US earlier that I. I was sad to loose their company because I've really enjoyed their fellowship on the journey here. But every cruiser has to make decisions that meet their needs. I will still head S. I don't want to make the ocean crossings alone so I will look for other boats who are going that way next week when a weather window opens up.
  • My depth survey again reinforced my opinion that I'd done the right thing by anchoring off the NW coast instead of trying to come in without any first-hand knowledge of the entrance. I took Venture through as about dead low tide. The entrances had 9' just outside, 7' at the narrowest part of the cut which is only ~50' wide, and 6' just inside.
  • I found a minimum of 5.3' in the short section at the entrance to the E harbor then depths increased to 10' to 13' inside with good depths for Onward near a couple of rental moorings.
  • In the W harbor, I found the minimum depth of 4.6' just W of the narrowest part of the entrance channel. Depths along the channel to Man-o-War Marina ware 5.5' to 5.7'. Only the W most of their 3 moorings (white with blue stripe) had depths, 7.0', near sufficient for Onward. So it looks like the only place I'd pick up a mooring would be in the E harbor.
  • I took another walk through town visiting shops for another look at gifts. I also left behind info sheets and flyers for them about the Bahamas Cruisers Guide.
  • I returned to Onward to have a quick lunch of leftover pizza. Delish. Then I headed ashore to visit Nancy and Laurie Malm whose home is just W of the low point of the cay and overlooks the anchorage. Nancy was considering buying an iPad and had concerns for how it would be for reading with her eyesight so I promised last night to bring mine ashore for her to try. Nancy found the iPad would work for her. I asked Laurie, an MD retired from the Cleveland Clinic to look over the medical information of the Guide and suggest improvements. We had a nice visit and they were disappointed I'd not been able to get Bill and Linda to come ashore with me. They said I must come visit whenever Onward returns to the area.
  • I returned to Onward and stowed Venture before weighing anchor about 1430 in time to head to Hope Town and arrive on the rising tide Onward needs to enter. Having gotten the anchor up, I was about to turn to head out to sea when I suddenly became aware that Anokura had raised her anchor and was heading down my starboard side. I waited till she passed and then turned behind her intending to follow her deeper 7' draft out as Kevin had warned me where the underwater ridge was as I came in. All of a sudden, I realized Amokura was dead in the water having founded again. I quickly turned to starboard heading closer to the W shore - then I realized that I had lost all navigation information - the chart was there but no gps location or any other data was available! There was nothing else to do but to continue out of the harbor. Onward managed to find a 9' channel though the shoal into deeper water. I slowly moved to a location where I could lock the helm and move into the wind at idle forward while I went below to fix the navigation data problem.
  • Since I installed Onward's navigation electronics, the 5A fuse in the autopilot control computer box had only blown once. Now it had blown for the 3rd time in 3 days! Something had changed so there is a current surge when the circuit breaker is switched on. I changed the fuse and patted myself on the back for being smart enough to buy ten more of these at Man-o-War. That brought back the navigation data but the autopilot control head would not respond when any of its buttons were pushed. So, I opened up its mounting box and removed a SeaTalk connector and plugged it in again. This immediately fixed the problem. Not sure what was going on but I know what I'll be busy doing over the next few days.
  • Meanwhile Amokura was still aground. They must have had their radio off because Ceili and I could not raise them. A local power boat came buy and took a line to try to pull them off. As I needed to make the tide to get into Hope Town and I still wasn't sure my navigation system was working normally, I pressed on - but feeling unsettled about leaving a fellow cruiser aground - even if I could do nothing. I did alert Polar Pacer about the problem as they had moved to an anchorage further to the NW and were not aware of Amokura's problem. The small boat was unable to tow her off but the rising tide did the trick and she met up with Polar Pacer.
  • Onward and Ceili pressed on to Hope Town. With the high tide at 1655, I negotiated the channel ago 1515 and encountered a minimum depth of 6.6' along the way. Once inside the harbor I managed to pick up a mooring on the first go only to find the mooring behind was too close. So I moved to another and again the mooring behind was too close so it was on to the 3rd which was just right!. This is how I get my practice at mooring snagging.
  • First order of business was a rum and tonic to settle myself followed by a delightful shower. I picked up the Ceilis in Venture and headed in to town where we joined the annual Hope Town Christmas Caroling. We had a grand time snaking through the narrow streets of the town which was beautifully decorated for Christmas and pausing in front of quaint homes to sing. One of he last stops offered shots of smooth rum - just what we needed. At the end of the caroling, we returned to the town clinic where we were treated to delicious chicken souse and johnnycake. Delish.

22 Dec 11; Thursday; Hope Town
  • This was a layabout day for me - one I badly needed to just kick back and hang. It has been a long haul in many ways besides distance since leaving Narraganset Bay in September. Living the laid-back, relaxing, free-wheeling, flexible, sailing bum, cruising lifestyle takes a lot of energy. It's great along the way except for a few dark spots, but it is still a constant focused push. It makes a big difference psychologically that I've made the decision to just hang out here in Hope Town until after Christmas.
  • I began the process of tracing my SeaTalk network problem. In the process, I discovered that the 5A fuse I'd replaced yesterday really was still good. ???? Next step will be to clean SeaTalk cable plugs. I will keep my backup A70 stand-alone chartplotter ready to go in the cockpit any time I'm about to negotiate a critical area so I will be sure to have position data.
  • After lunch, I went ashore to walk around in the sunshine and look for photo ops to make my 2011 Christmas card. While walking one of the streets that parallels the ocean, I noticed a small park that I didn't remember being there before. While looking at it, a voice from behind asked me what I thought. It came from the homeowner, Alan Bacon, across the street. He proceeded to tell me how his wife had gotten permission to rebuild the park which had become derelict over the years. She did a beautiful landscape design with stone bordered beds and walks which will be paved with memorial pavers. A fellow iPader, we had a nice chat and I said I'd be back earlier on a sunny day to get a good photo.
  • I finished my walk with a stop a Vernon's Grocery where I was able to pick up one of his famous key lime pies. That done I returned to Onward and made dinner of spaghetti aioli using the quinoa based pasta I discovered in Baltimore.

23 Dec 11; Friday; Hope Town
  • A couple of rain equals came through during the night - good the decks needed a wash. I spent another morning working on websites and doing some organizing for boat tasks. My second shipment of wifi equipment arrived on the 1430 ferry from Marsh Harbour. I Ventured over and traded a check covering the shipping and customs fees for the two shipments and received my new Engenius USB wifi adapter and high gain outdoor antenna.
  • After stowing the gear aboard, I went for a walk in town. I stopped by the new oceanside memorial park and met Cleona Bacon who is a garden designer in the UK. We had a nice chat about the garden design and her challenges in trying to realize it. As always, people provided the greatest challenges. I continued looking for photo ops for my 2011 Christmas card. Along the way I stopped in a number of stores and chatted about the season which all said has been miserable so far due to the weather keeping cruisers in the US and the lingering effects of the poor economy.
  • i joined the Ceilis for dinner at Captain Jack's to take advantage of their 3 martinis for $12 deal. I felt quite relaxed after dinner ;)

24 Dec 11; Saturday; Hope Town
  • This morning I took a bit of a chance (violating the "if it's working, don't mess with it principle") and hooked up my new Engenius EUB9603 USB WiFi adapter. Great!
  • It was a rare overcast day today. I spent the day aboard messing about, working in some lunch, reading, and a nap. A good deal of time was spent putting my 2011 Christmas card together. It would have been nice to have remembered the machinations I went through last year! But, success, I got it sent out with photos I'd taken of Christmas decorated sights around Hope Town and its signature lighthouse.
  • I made an antipasto and then joined Bill and Linda aboard Ceili for Christmas Eve.

25 Dec 11; Sunday; Christmas Day; Hope Town
  • The morning dawned with a blue sky and just a few clouds. I went ashore at 1000 and attended a Christmas Mass celebrated under the shade of a fig tree in the harbor side park. A local resident went over to Marsh Harbour to bring back the local priest and the Marsh Harbour Choir. It was a nice celebration and my first exposure to the revised Catholic english liturgy - they should have left the old one alone! In my humble opinion it is another case of the Catholic Church's hierarchy having its head firmly planted in its fundament as their attempt to bring "clarity" only confuse and obfuscate.
  • After a relaxing day reading aboard, I picked up Linda and Bill from Ceili and headed in to the Ferry Dock where we were picked up in a golf buggy and taken to the Abaco Inn Resort. There we had a tasty traditional Christmas dinner with roast turkey and fixins at a table overlooking Elbow Reef. I was very touched to be given a Christmas present of a nicely carved wooden box for my dresser.

26 Dec 11; Monday; Boxing Day; Hope Town
  • At 0800, Ceili dropped its mooring and headed out to Marsh Harbour. I went over to say farewell and to add a present of pepper biscotti and the recipe to go along with the bottle of wine I'd given them. It was a sad moment to part with Linda and Bill who'd become good friends over our sojourn down the ICW and to the Abacos. But there will be more cruising rendezvous to come...
  • Well today was the day to troubleshoot my autopilot problem. After reviewing the schematics of the network connection to my instruments, I cleaned all the connectors to the ST7001+ control head. This had no beneficial effect so the next step was to check the other network connections in the cockpit which all seemed to be fine. Next it was time find out which unit was causing the problem. The ST7001+ brought down the network depriving the E120 of all network data including gps data. Everything worked normally without the control head plugged in. So, I bypassed it and then set up 3 work arounds to use until I can get a new head shipped here (or possibly fix the old one):  The E120 is now set up to directly control the autopilot;  I also have an ST600 wired remote that duplicates all functions of the damaged head as does my wireless remote.  So all is well if not perfect.
  • I spent the rest of the day working on other boat tasks which include varnishing some teak accessories for the salon. In the evening I invited Paul and Cathy from SV Lucia out of New Brunswick Canada over. They are interested in making the crossing to the Exumas with Onward once a part is received from FedEx. This is their first visit to the Bahamas so we discussed the crossing and projected weather.

27 Dec 11; Tuesday; Hope Town
  • This morning I took the 0800 ferry to Marsh Harbour and walked into town to do some shopping. I managed to find a number of things I needed: a "looky bucket" to be able to inspect my anchor set, a snorkel to go with my new mask and fins, red grease for the windlass. I also stopped at the money store (ATM) and then went on to the grocery. Maxwell's had been a large grocery in Marsh Harbour that burned down just before my first visit. It took a while to rebuild it but there is now a large new US-style supermarket - the biggest and best I've seen in the Bahamas. I got some fresh foods and a few other needed items before heading back to the ferry. About 1/3 the way back I decided to take a cab as my purchases were weighing me down. I was back in Hope Town by 1300 and after lunch and a nap worked on boat projects for the afternoon.
  • Somehow, I had never needed a "looky bucket" in the past as there was always one in operation on one of the other boats I traveled with. After the difficulty in finding a good spot for the anchor to dig in while at Manjack and Green Turtle Cays, I decided I needed one aboard Onward.

28 Dec 11; Wednesday; Hope Town
  • The cold front came through during the early hours of the morning with lots of rain. The winds were supposed to lay down quickly but at 1000 it was still blowing into the 20s. Lucia's FedEx package got delayed by snow in Atlanta so they needed to wait one more day and I decided to stay too.
  • I spent the day relaxing and organizing boat-stuff. In late afternoon Paul came by to say that Lucia's package had arrived so we were good to depart tomorrow to take advantage of several days of settled weather to make the crossing from the Abacos to Eleuthera and on to Warderick Wells, Exumas.

29 Dec 11; Thursday; Hope Town to Lynyard Cay
  • I went in to settle my mooring bill at Hope Town Marina which acts as agent for the local owner; $113 for 8 days - not bad for such a pleasant time in such a pleasant place. I spent some time talking with the marina manager, Aaron. He told me that they had bought the old Club Soleil as well as the Hope Town Hideaways marina properties and were in the final stages of combining them into one large marina. The new piers were all in place with work to install power and water ongoing. New rental villas were nearing completion also as was a new marina operations building. When that is done they will tear down the old yellow office ramble and replace it with additional villas. They will be able to accommodate a vessel to 125' in the new operation.
  • I dropped the mooring and moved Onward over to the Lighthouse Marina to take on fuel and water. It took a bit of maneuvering to keep station and then move in to the fuel pier as two other boats were fueling and watering. That done, Onward departed on the high tide at 1100 and saw a minimum of 8.5' on the route out. The transit to Lynyard Cay was an easy motor in the light winds and I anchored off the beach for the night. Lucia followed and we made plans to weigh anchor at 0530 so we could hit the cut in the first predawn light.

30 Dec 11; Friday; Lynyard Cay to Current Island, Eleuthera
  • I had woke up in the night when the wind picked up from the calm I had expected for the night. I became concerned that something had changed in the weather forecast and the higher winds from the E would make the transit of Little Harbour Cut more of a challenge. But then rain started and I realized the wind was just part of a passing nighttime rain squall. It passed and the calm resumed.
  • We were underway at 0530 and approached the W end of the cut just as there was enough predawn light to see the water ahead. As I made a turn I was startled to see a large white and gray motor yacht anchored to port with its bow facing my way. I hadn't seen it on radar or seen any lights. Then I realized why: it was a cloud formation on the horizon that in the dull light looked just like a nearby yacht! The rest of the transit E out the cut was uneventful - the best kind!
  • It was a bit rolly at first as there always seems to be complex wave patterns in this area with trains coming from 3 or more directions but as they were < 3' they were a minor annoyance that eventually went away. Just before sunrise, the deep blue of the sea became evident. I'm always a bit startled and very impressed by this color when I first observe it on an ocean transit. The light E winds continued to die off and by the time we reached Eleuthera and passed Egg I, the water was so calm it was easy to watch the bottom at depths of 50' or more. Three megayachts were anchored E of Egg I playing with their water toys.
  • The current was ebbing to the W as we transited Current Cut stemming the 3.2+ kt current. I like this better than riding the flood where it can sweep you onto the sandbar to port when you have to make the sharp turn SW.
  • We anchored at the small bight in ~12' of water that was so still and so clear I felt that I was anchoring in someone's swimming pool. I made angel hair pasta with tomato basil sauce - augmented by some of the fresh basil I bought at Hope Town. Delish! A very quiet and peaceful night ensued.

31 Dec 11; Saturday; Current Island to Powell Point, Eleuthera
  • A beautiful sunny still morning greeted us for the transit from Current Island to Powell Point. The water was so still, I spent a long time just watching the bottom 20' below as we headed S to Powell Point. I saw a number of starfish that looked liked they'd just fallen off my ensign. I also saw a few jellyfish but only one fin fish - a young needle fish of some type It was a reminder of how barren the banks are over much of their area. Winds were light so deploying the genoa didn't help much. However, in the last couple of miles - when we had to furl the sails in preparation for going into the marina - a nice sailing wind came up.
  • We were settled in the marina by 1545. I immediately headed off with my laundry bag dreaming of the freshly laundered sheets I'd sleep on tonight. When I returned from this errand, the admiral of the sports fisher in the slip next to me asked if we would like some freshly caught wahoo filets! Wow, what a nice way to be greeted at a marina. Cathy and I soon had ziplock bags full of nice wahoo.
  • Paul and Cathy joined me for a New Years Eve dinner. Cocktail hour was followed by dinner for which I'd made an eye round roast and Cathy brought rice and desert. We had a great time at dinner helped by flowing red wine. We had eaten in the salon and we then retired to the cockpit for desert followed by some sparkling wine, Cava. That done, Paul broke out the bottle of Drambouie he'd brought along. So we sipped and talked waiting for midnight and the new year. Then, we discovered it was 2012 and the bottle of Drambouie was empty - now how did that happen???