Onward’s Cruise Journal 2014
Florida & Bahamas


Updated: 2 February 2017

December 2014

1 Dec 14; Monday; Stuart

  • We spent the morning doing boat tasks. In the late afternoon we headed off to visit Ingred and Ron Libitzki at their new condo. Last year when I visited them they were planning to sell their home on Sewells Point and buy a smaller condo. This year I found they had bought the condo, gutted it, and were in the final stages of completing the renovation. As with everything else they do, the renovation job is an outstanding bit of work. After we got the tour we headed out to Manatee Pocket where we had dinner together. I enlisted Ingred to co-author a Mainsheet article that captures her expertise in detailing and refinishing a C470.

2 Dec 14; Tuesday; Stuart
  • After spending the morning doing boat stuff, we headed up to Vero Beach to pick up spare parts for the Yanmar and Fischer Panda. Along the way we stopped at my favorite marine liquidators store to look for the arcane bits of boat stuff that one doesn't know one needs until you see it.
  • Peg and I have been having a dialog for sometime about footwear for deck work. I have made it an absolute rule that I will not go on deck barefoot but will wear shoes with toe protection. There are just too many things on the deck looking to bite ones toes — particularly when in a hurry. I keep a set of Crocks without heel straps always ready for me to quickly slip on when heading out on deck. However, Peg likes to go barefoot because she finds the footing less slippery. The problem is, this drives my safety concerns up the wall. So much so that I found that when she was out on the deck barefoot, all I did was watch her feet out of concern for her hurting herself — instead of paying attention to driving the boat! In spite of my pleas, she refused to buy and wear some Crocks. After I impressed on her how big a concern this was to me, she agreed to find some comfortable shoes to wear on deck. So today, we found a shoe store in the Vero Outlet Mall where she bought a nice pair of leather slip-ons. What a woman!
  • Shoe shopping done we headed to the PGA Reserve to visit Tom Talkington who was at he's father's home there along with his son. Marshal completed college and joined the PGA pro golf tour and was in FL for a tournament. Tom's dad has been battling cancer for some time and unfortunately progressed to the point where he had to move back to Tom's home in Jacksonville TN. Tom grilled up a delicious meal and we had a grand time catching up since we parted ways in the Bahamas last Spring. Peg and I hope that things turn for better to allow Tom & Dana to sail Heeling Time back to the Bahamas again.

3 Dec 14; Wednesday; Stuart
  • Today was the day to do "motor stables" as they used to say in the Army: time for periodic maintenance. The change of engine oil and filter went well with little mess as did the annual change of transmission oil. Next came the new belt for the alternator / water pump - a snap with the neat tensioning tool. I was on a roll and took on the raw water pump impeller change. The start was a snap: getting the cover plate off after Peg had emptied out all the booze from our liquor stores. Then came the impeller removal. This took almost 2 hours before I finally was able to get the special pliers on the impeller and lever it out. Of course I spent a lot of effort cursing the engine designers. Once I had the impeller out, the new one went in easily. Peg had found a SS ring at the marine liquidators for us to use on the mainsheet block attachment to the traveler. It turns out its ID: 1.75" was perfect for containing the impeller with vanes compressed so I could slip it in place.
  • Worn out by the impeller issue, I showered and we then headed off to do some additional provisioning.

4 Dec 14; Thursday; Stuart
  • Another shopping foray to top off food and beverages.

5 Dec 14; Friday; Stuart
  • Shop till you drop day! We headed out early to go to Harper Fabrication where Jeremy had ordered a section of the 1.25 x 4" oval aluminum extrusion that I needed to mount the electric winches on the arch. We finished up at Shearwater Marine, a Yanmar parts dealer, to complete the spares inventory. Along our driving route I had stopped at autocrats stores to look for a better tool to extract the Yanmar's raw water pump impeller but found none. So, while the spare parts were being totaled up, I was looking at the tools and mentioned my impeller issue. The man looked up and said to wait a minute. He then appeared with an amazing thing. It seems Yanmar listened to the groaning of people like me and they redesigned the impeller so the cover side has a female threaded inset. This mates with the threads on an extraction busing with a center bolt that as one screws in it pushes the impeller off the drive shaft. Neat! I bought the new impeller and extraction bushing. Now I will have to be sure to look for the new impeller when I buy replacements.

6 Dec 14; Saturday; Stuart
  • I cut the plywood sheet I bought yesterday to fit across the seat area of the forward shower as a removable shelf. This will allow out beer and wine and other bulky items to be stowed below it while all the miscellaneous boat stuff can be stowed above. This makes that storage are much more usable. I then varnished the shelf so it could be installed in the morning.
  • I spent a good deal of the day working out the installation of the winch support strut, cutting it to size, and then beginning the installation. Peggy was an immense help dealing with this awkward task which is suspended over the water. She has the patience to simply be there to hold things and provide the right tool or component — an excellent partner in boat work and most of life. Drilling the mounting holes is such an awkward location took a lot out of me so the task only got partially done.
  • We got cleaned up and went into old town Stuart for a bit of a driving tour and then a walking tour. We finished up with a good dinner.

7 Dec 14; Sunday; Stuart
  • I cleaned out the shower compartment and installed the new shelf. I then cleaned, inventoried, and restowed all the boat stuff.
  • On today's shopping trip, we hit Joanne Fabric. Peggy needed some bits for a craft project of hers and I went looking for some foam to replace that in the navseat chair bottom which had begun to deteriorate.
  • Back at the boat, I cut a piece of SS sheet I'd gotten from Harper to fit over the SS tubing that forms the base of the navseat's chair. I then drilled holes and used wire ties to hold it in place. Then Peggy cut the new foam to replace the old. We inserted the new foam and had a nice firm-seated chair where the tubing won't make ones butt sore after long hours.
  • With Peggy's help we completed the mounting of the winch strut on the arch and I worked out the final winch mounting locations.

8 Dec 14; Monday; Stuart
  • I had kept the box for the Nespresso machine until I made sure it was working. They included an instruction booklet where all the processes are shown in somewhat abstract cartoons that I found more difficult to deal with than if they had been written in latin. It made it look much more difficult than it was. I soon had the unit rinsed out and I made my first cup of expresso (decaf). Delish.

9 Dec 14; Tuesday; Stuart
  • We were out on a final task run early. First was laundry and after getting things started, I headed out to run errands while Peg managed the laundry. Haircut, propane refill, rental car fill-up, bank for cash, postoffice to mail grandchildren's gifts, and hardware store were completed in time to pick up Peg and the finished laundry. We decided to make our last food shopping run to Publix and then have lunch at the Chipotle we kept driving by. Shopping complete and hungry, we headed for Chipotle. When we got there we found it wasn't open yet and we were a week early. So it was back to Onward to deposit our clothes and food and have lunch. We also got the last packages we were expecting: a charcoal water filter and a pair of expresso cups.
  • As I went to return the dock cart, I found a diver about to start work on a nearby boat. Serendipity. I arranged for him to clean Onwards bottom.
  • Now that I had 2 good winches, I decided to repaint them from olive-drab (shades of my days in the Army) to aluminum to blend in with the arch. So I spray pained them and while they were drying in the sun I drilled all the mounting holes to place them on the new mounting strut. Meanwhile, Peg managed to get all our stores stowed and we actually had a salon back.
  • While Peg and I were organizing the cockpit, we were visited by Dean, an Australian who had just purchased a C470 in brokerage. We chatted for a few minutes and he invited to stop by near the gas dock to see it as they were preparing it to sail back to Australia.
  • We returned the rental car and when delivered back to the marina, we headed out to visit our new Australian friend. Dean and Sally were aboard busy completing the refit of the boat. They told us that apparently the boat had been damaged by lightning or a small electrical fire shortly after it was commissioned. It had then sat on the hard for the last 10 years or so. Dean had been looking for the boat of his dreams to retire early on and found this hull. The minor cosmetic damage to the forward head and berth area were completed by a local craftsman. The result was they have an essentially new boat that they were adding completing fitting out. Their plan was to sail via the Bahamas through the Panama Canal back home. It turns out that Peggy's C470 was also sailed back to Australia as was the C470 owned by my friends Steve and Mary Jane Floyd. I guess the Ausies know a good boat.
  • We had dinner at Wahoos and then returned aboard and slept very soundly due to pre-departure exhaustion.

10 Dec 14; Wednesday; Stuart to Ft. Pierce
  • I was up at 0500 to get ready to depart the marina. Chris Parker confirmed the weather window for Thursday - Friday continued to hold — Good! I made plans with Tom to meet at the Ft. PIerce inlet as they sailed by after departing Vero in the morning.
  • As the newly painted winches were ready for mounting and the arch and mounting brackets were in place, Peg helped me bolt the winches in place. This went quickly and easily — in great part due to having someone there to assist at every stage with tools and nuts and bolts as I wove my body into a pretzel to be able to find a hole in the framework to work through. With their new aluminum paint job, the winches essentially disappeared visually. I planned to complete the installation in the Bahamas by running the power cable and attaching the dynema lift line to the winches and blocks — then I will cut over to the electric winches from the manual.
  • There was a strong crosswind on the bow and I hard time getting out of the slip and turned in the narrow fairway but it went OK. We pulled into the fuel pier and topped off the port stern tank. We also got to say farewell to Sally and Dean and wished them well on their journey back to Australia on their C470.
  • Onward arrived at the A1A fixed bridge on the St.Lucie River at 1130 only to find the water level extremely high with only 63.1' of clearance. We anchored and waited until 1500 when the clearance was over 63.5' We crawled under it and the metal rods for both the static brush and the windex scraped along the concrete arch. A bit nerve wracking! Rounding Sewell's Point went well although I did see an 8.2' minimum depth just W of the ICW junction. When we got to the other A1A bridge, we again found the clearance low and again the tips of the metal rods scrapped the arch. However at the Jensen Beach bridge, there was no problem with clearance. What is is about the state of Florida that they can't consistently build bridges that provide the required clearance. They must have the same people that run national elections working on bridge design.
  • We passed under the Ft. Pierce bridge after dark at 1800 and thankfully clearance was not an issue. I anchored along the inlet on the S side just E of the USCG station where there is a wide point. That done, Peg and I collaborated to make a batch of stew. While we were cooking, I heard a "boop-boop" outside and when I looked out I found a 35' USCG cutter nearby recovering a life ring with a strobe attached — I'm not sure if this was an exercise or if they had just lost it. About a half hour later, Onward was lit up by the spotlight of a large local police boat which passed on by only to be followed by a smaller brother. I guess we looked honest as they let us be.
  • It was a quite night and we slept soundly. Usually I am unable to sleep soundly the night before a crossing due to anxieties about preparation. But, for some reason, I had no problem tonight.

11 Dec 14; Thursday; Ft. Pierce to Little Bahama Banks
  • I was up at 0500 to do the last minute tasks before departing the US. The morning was sunny but very cool. We managed to have all the important stuff well in hand when Persistence with Tom & Chris Lacquement turned into the inlet after leaving Vero at 0900. At ~1130, as they passed by, Onward fell in with them and another buddy boat, First Love, with Gil and Charlene from Northeast MD aboard. Together we headed out of the inlet. It was near slack tide and the wave conditions were very benign. Nice. We were soon on a heading to take us to Mantanilla Shoal.
  • Some years ago, I wrote a simple spreadsheet model for Gulf Stream crossing from Lake Worth to West End. This morning I participated in a Chris Parker web chat — a very nice set up that I tried for the first time. Neat! He gave me the GS velocity profile for the route we would be taking. I plugged this into my model after modifying it for the longer distance between Ft. Pierce and Mantanilla Shoal. Unfortunately when I built this model, I forgot to write down the algorithms that I used to make the computations — so I had to sit down and decode the formulas in order to refamiliarize myself with how it works. This time, I learned my lesson and wrote out notes on each step of the process for future use.
  • The wind was light and from the WMW so we deployed the mainsail mainly to provide stability as we crossed the 5-6' long-period swells with minimal wind chop. At 1800, Peg and I started our 3 hour watch schedule. It was an easy crossing with only a bit of rolling to contend with. I was running ~ 400 - 500 rpm below Onward's normal cruising speed to keep pace with the other boats. I eventually fell in as the third in line and used radar to keep position relative to the others.

12 Dec 14; Friday; Little Bahama Banks to Spanish Cay
  • In the wee hours, the moonrise was spectacular — according to Peg as I was asleep. I attempted to get what would have been a beautiful photo of the other 2 boats sailing ahead in the moonlight. However my DSLR is smarter than I and I couldn't remember the right settings before the shot went away. At 2400 we crossed onto the banks and passed the Mantanilla Shoal waypoint.
  • I was back on watch for sunrise and got to see a beautiful sky. Watch keeping with Peggy is wonderful as it is so seamless. The sun came out and I was soon too warm with all the layers I needed to handle the night chill. It was great to be back to shorts and Tee! By midmorning, clouds had moved in. It looked like the harbinger of the squalls Chris Parker had said were a possibility in the coming morning. By about noon the clouds dispersed and it turned into a nice partly cloudy sky.
  • The Persistents had heard from friends that Spanish Cay Marina was again open after having been damaged by hurricane Sandy and Customs and Immigration was in operation. Solitaire I had heard me trying to raise the marina on VHF and raided back to say the marina was empty. An hour or so later, I heard Free Spirt was able to raise them and I was then able to confirm they were open and C&I would be available until 1600.
  • We sailed into the marina at ~ 1500 and once the boat was tied up we headed in to C&I. Unfortunately, we could only get a visa for 90 days. But the checkin was easy and quick.
  • I met the Free Spirits, a couple who have taken a year off to cruise with their 3 children who range from 6 to 11 years. This brought back a lot of pleasant memories of my first cruise to the Bahamas in company with the Ehlers and their three children on Jubilee.
  • Joseph is carrying forward his plan of honing the performance of himself and his band to the point where they will start playing gigs in southern California. He had been looking at getting a new Fender electric guitar that will be able to maintain his settings when played long and often. I encouraged him to buy it and pursue his dream. Today I learned that he had received the new guitar and was ecstatic: "I could not fully appreciate the guitar last night when i got home from my trip, but this morning it really opened up for me.  It is the most playable electric guitar I have ever touched.  It feels wonderful in my hands.  It lends to fast fret work and bending making it much easier to be expressive than with other guitars. Most important, It has an incredible and warm natural tone with a sustain beyond what I knew was possible.  It is an absolute dream to play with and I cant wait to break it out with the band next week.  I am really in love with it." Nice!
  • We invited the Persistents and the First Loves over for cocktails where we all got to meet each other face to face. We had dinner at the restaurant where Peg and I both had a delicious blackened grouper sandwich. Our personal batteries were soon run out and a sound sleep ensued.

13 Dec 14; Saturday; Spanish Cay to Manjack Cay
  • A beautiful clear and sunny day greeted us. The original forecast for increasing winds and potential squalls went away and now winds <= 10 kts were ours for the day. After breakfast, Peg and I went for a walk of the island. The island is privately owned. Most is owned by one person with ~ 6 other private homes. The marina and all the infrastructure, including a 5800' runway are owned by the principle owner. In my previous visits, I hadn't the opportunity to walk about, Today I got to see how beautiful the island is and discovered both hotel and condo facilities for rent. We met the new island managers, Chris and Debbie, who are a very energetic duo who are revitalizing the island operations. I spent time with Debbie interviewing her to update the Spanish Cay data in the Bahamas Cruisers Guide. She showed me a book that had been written about the earlier owners who had converted it into their private island and I had enough time to scan some of the history.
  • We departed the marina at ~ 1300 and sailed E on the Sea of Abaco under genoa alone to Manjack Cay where we anchored. Just after getting the anchor down, a dinghy with David and Steven from Grace came over and checked the anchor for a good set. What service! They had met the First Loves at Vero and had gone over to say hello.
  • Once settled, we did a bit of organizing. We invited the Persistents, First Loves, and Graces over for dinner with the ulterior motive of eating up enough food to allow access to our overstuffed cooler and freezer. Our guests arrived at 1800 and we proceeded to have a grand time. David presented us with a gift of a Santa that he'd painted on a small plastic float they found on the beach. Neat! Chris brought a salad and Charleen brought an apple pie! We served stew over rice. Such a meal! It was very good to be back in the Bahamas and experiencing the bonhomie of the crushing life.

14 Dec 14; Sunday; Manjack Cay
  • We headed ashore at 0900 and walked up to say hello to Bill and ? who kindly allow cruisers to visit their beach and walk their trails. We then headed off for a hike to Ocean Beach. Peg and I hiked to the far SE end f the beach where we found beautiful beach topography with a series of small headlands and sand coves only 100 to 200' wide. We found a number of beautiful vistas. We rejoined the group and headed on a looping trail around the NW end of the island and thence back to the anchorage.
  • We spent a quiet afternoon enjoying the sunshine and reading. At 1800 we headed over to Persistence to spend a couple of hours telling each other cruising stories.

15 Dec 14; Monday; Manjack to Green Turtle Cay to Hope Town
  • Onward was underway at 0800 to Green Turtle Cay. We anchored about 0900 off of the mouth of Black Sound and Ventured into New Plymouth. We hiked up to the BTC office to find that it was only open on Thursdays! So, we headed back to the dinghy and were soon underway to Hope Town.
  • We had the calmest passage I've made of the Whale! As we sailed by the N end of Guana Cay, we could see an amazing beehive of construction activity with about 20 huge homes being built. There are now a large number of huge homes on the property. Impressive.
  • We motorsailed with the genoa for the balance of the trip to Hope Town and had the good fortune to arrive just before high tide so transiting the shallows was no problem. We were surprised and pleased to find the mooring field and > 15 empty moorings. We easily snagged one close to the harbor mouth and breathed a sigh of relief. Our plan was to spend the Christmas holidays here in the picture-postcard beautiful harbor and I had rushed a bit to get here because I was afraid many others had he same idea. We opened a bottle of Cristalino Prosecco to celebrate our arrival then headed off to Captain Jack's for dinner and bingo night.

16 Dec 14; Tuesday; Hope Town
  • A perfect sunny and calm day. Peg and I moved Onward to another mooring and it was nice to have many to choose from as we had learned last night that the mooring we were on was restricted to 40'. That done, at 0845 we headed in to go to the BTC office which was supposed to be open today. We walked around a bit waiting until 0945 for the office to open but no joy. We decided to take the ferry to Marsh Harbour and just as we walked around Froggy's dive shop, the ferry took off! So we went off to the coffee shop and relaxed and read over a delicious coffee until it was time for the next ferry.
  • We caught the 1130 ferry and were in Marsh Harbour by 1200. We quickly walked to the BTC office only to find they had moved it. As we got to the new location we were met by the Persistents and the First Loves who had just got their SIMs straightened out. We bought 2 new inexpensive GSM phones and 3 sim cards. Put $ on pre-paid plans on all 3 SIMs and got the phones and the mifi cellular modem up and running. Relief! Setting up telecommunications is a major component of being able to spend so much time here in the Bahamas.
  • We bought some movies to watch and I arranged to get some ebooks. Then Peg and I realized we really didn't need anything else as we had so thoroughly provisioned in Stuart. I was starving by this time and one of the gift shops we stopped on recommended the Oasis restaurant. We headed there and I remembered going there before. We had a wonderful lunch of sushi (California rolls), pepper steak with rice and crispy pork and fried rice. Delish.
  • We hoofed it back to the ferry for the 1600 trip back to Hope Town. Once back aboard and after a short nap, we spent the rest of the evening getting electronically hooked up and caught up with family and friends.

17 Dec 14; Wednesday; Hope Town
  • Another beautiful clear, warm and calm day. Having gotten the SIM cards and phones yesterday, a good bit of the morning was spent getting everything set up and working properly — and making note of what was done.
  • I also got to spend a bit of time working on retirement issues that needed to be dealt with now that I've survived this long. Not a bad problem.
  • We invited friends Bill and Margaret from Magareta, and Bob and Francie from Barefootin over for a pasta dinner. We had a great time catching with them up and telling cruising stories.

18 Dec 14; Thursday; Hope Town
  • Another great day. Wonderful weather. I spent most of the morning trying to get ftp to run. A lot of the time was spent making record of the rather complex communications I maintain aboard Onward. I often have so many things going it is very easy to get confused or to forget a change made while in the middle of several things.
  • I went ashore to Vernon's grocery. He is a Justice of the Peace and a Notary and I needed to get a document notarized before sending off to the US. The good news was there were 6 freshly baked key lime pies and I managed to snag one. The bad news was that Vernon had come down with the flu bug that has hit the area hard. So he was home in bed. It seems a child was visiting Texas, came back to the Bahamas and attended a school program and thereby transferred a flu bug to the community. It seems to be ending but we have to keep our fingers crossed.
  • We went over to the movie night at the ball field. Peggy had a hamburger and I had a hotdog as we waited for the movie to start. After a bit of How to tame your Dragon II, we called it a night.
  • Tonight I received a recording made on Joseph's iPhone of him playing the new guitar. A wonderful sound!

19 Dec 14; Friday; Hope Town
  • Perfect weather: warm, clear, sunny, calm. A small High is located just SE of the Abacos making for amazing winter weather.
  • This evening we went down to the Abaco Inn. We enjoyed cocktails watching an amazing pastel sunset over the ocean and then the Sea of Abaco. We followed this up with a prime rib dinner. Delish.
  • Peggy and I were reading in the salon when we heard a hail. Holly from the Southbound Cruisers group had sailed into the harbor while we were at dinner. Holly and the two guys who sailed over with her stopped by just to say hell.

20 Dec 14; Saturday; Hope Town
  • Another beautiful as the nearby High has moved just NE of us.
  • We headed for the Coffee House at 1000 and were soon sitting in the shade on the deck overlooking the harbor sipping a delicious brew. I spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out why I can't do an ftp from the cellular data network. The ftp process works fine using the shore wifi connection. All I have been able to find out is that some hardware or software involved is changing IP addresses and I can't figure out where it is happening. I guess I will just have to deal with being able to publish website updates only when I am connected to a shore-based wifi. The good news was being able to do FaceTime with Laura, Elena and Kian. I really get a kick about how well he recognizes me — all those Crazy Grandpa videos must have had the intended effect.
  • It was such a gorgeous day! We took a walk along the ocean beach S until we reached the beachfront bar and pool for Hope Town Harbor Lodge. We went in to make a reservation for Christmas Eve dinner there. Then we abled across the street to have lunch on the patio overlooking the beach.
  • We spent a lovely afternoon reading in the cockpit until sundown. I was amazed to get a FaceTime call from Laura and the children as she pushed them home in the stroller from a birthday party. Neat: stroller to boat videoconferencing.

21 Dec 14; Sunday; Hope Town
  • The clouds that had threatened late yesterday afternoon dissipated and did not return this morning. We have had an amazing streak of clear, warm, sunny, calm days. A cold front is on the way for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

22 Dec 14; Monday; Hope Town
  • Another gorgeous day as the pre-frontal squall forecast went away. Good!
  • Today's big task was getting legal / financial documents prepared and sent off to the US - a consequence of surviving my 70th birthday this year — gotta keep the economy going! Vernon, of key lime pie fame, is also a Justice of the Peace. He recovered from the local flu and was back at work this morning and able to notarize my signature. I found the local Hope Town Hideaways real estate office would do a fax for me but the US fax line was busy a likely consequence of it being a Monday morning at year end. I finally decided to use a premium internet fax site and then mail the paper copy as backup via Francie from Barefootin who was flying back to be with grandchildren for Christmas.
  • We went ashore to walk the town and see the Christmas decorations and take photos for our Christmas card.

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23 Dec 14; Tuesday; Hope Town

  • Ah well, we reached in deep and managed to find what it took to live yet another beautiful day in paradise. We are made of sterner stuff.
  • I'm still fixated on trying to make ftp work on the BTC cellular data network. Last night I had a bright idea in a dream: see if the Verizon JetPack cellular modem which works seamlessly in the US for ftp would work in the US. So I reprogrammed its APN (thankfully it was unlocked) and switched the BTC SIM card into the JetPack. I was able to connect to the network with no problem. However the ftp process still failed. This was important to find out because it now clearly says the problem is with the BTC servers back in Nassau.
  • While I was engaged in all of this, Peggy put together an eCard for us to send out at Christmas.
  • I haven't been very successful at knocking off all the boat tasks that need to get done. But yesterday and today I managed to scrub off all the various marks the hull seems to pick up in the journey S. Peggy heard about a cleaning product: Sno-Bol from a women's sailing site and she bought some to clean the ICW mustache. Unknown to me, she had gone out when I was napping and cleaned the port bow. So, when I went out with the pump sprayer of lemon juice, I was startled to see that side of the bow clean. So I got to do the starboard side and Peg reserved the right to judge…
  • We went ashore for the annual Christmas Caroling. I've done this several times and have found one of the charms is the chaos. The local organizers are always surprised at how many visitors join the group. Then there is the narrow lanes that make it a challenge for a large group to keep together and keep in synch. My loud voice ends up calling out the number of the carols to those at the far end of the line. Much fun, much laughter, dogs that walk along to enjoy the process, egg nog libations, chocolate mint aperitif, rum shots, cookies — it's a hard night's work. Along the way we bump into many cruiser friends.

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24 Dec 14; Wednesday; Hope Town

  • Peg & I worked on an update of our Christmas card and began sending it out. Peg had composed the images and done a lovely job. I found it very rewarding to be able to reach out to our many friends to share our joy on this holiday.
  • In late morning, I took Peggy into town for coffee and some internet work at the Coffee House. Then we went off Christmas shopping. I had been wandering shops with her all along the East coast trying to identify something she liked and didn't have — an impossible task. So I gave her an ultimatum: we find you a Christmas present from me or you have to stay ashore. The result was buying her a new canvas bag to tote on our forays ashore. The bags are made from sails by a local woman and Peggy selected her Hope Town Lighthouse signature bag. Very nice!
  • Along our ramble, Peggy found a new home for the orchid plant that had graced Onward's salon during its blooming period. She nestled it into the crook of a tree in the waterfront park.

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  • On the return to Onward, we stopped by Free Spirt to chat with Marsha who asked for a printed copy of my bread dough recipe. So on returning to Onward a printed a copy and brought it to her. Then I wrote an email to Joana Ehlers who with her family on Jubilee, I spent my first winter in the Bahamas. She had originally given me the NYT No Knead Bread recipe which I subsequently adapted. Her family and the Free Spirits have almost the same distribution of children and ages at the time of Jubilee's cruise. Neat!
  • Peggy and I got all gussied up and headed off to town at 1845 to attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at St. James Methodist Church. We were early and were surprised to be greeted at the door because we were recognized from our caroling exploit last evening. Nice.
  • The service of carols, readings, and a short homily was very beautiful. A wonderful experience. It finished with the participants walking out of the church carrying a small candle to bring the light of the Newborn King into the dark external world. Beautiful.
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  • Peggy and I then headed off to the Hope Town Harbour Lodge where we celebrated the day with a bottle of champagne and a delicious meal. As we walked back to the pier we were the only folks stirring in the quiet town.


25 Dec 14; Thursday; Hope Town

  • Merry Christmas to All!
  • A very lovely day in a very beautiful spot. This is the first Christmas that Peggy and I have spent together and we both reveled in the experience. God is good!
  • I received a very valuable and extremely useful Christmas present today. And what makes it more interesting is that it is a good example of "Pass it Forward". The story is that back at Manjack Cay, I had noticed that Peter and his brother Steve from Grace were friends of the First Loves. As I had already invited the Persistents and the First Loves over for dinner, I extended the invitation to the Graces and we all had a great time. Yesterday, while I was chatting with Marsha on Free Spirit who asked for the Onward Rosemary Olive Oil Bread dough recipe, I also chatted with Peter an Steve who were visiting there in their dinghy. I groused to Peter about my persistent problem with trying to make ftp work over the BTC cellular data network. This is something that has been a frustration for the last couple of seasons. More so because I've never been able to find someone at BTC who had any idea of what I was talking about. None of my IT-literate friends had come up with a solution either. Well, Peter suggested I could bypass the problem by using a VPN - virtual private network. I had never done the homework to see if this might be a solution. Now that I had narrowed the problem down to the BTC servers, Peter suggested that they simply had blocked the ports I needed for ftp to work and that the VPN would bypass the block. So early this morning, I did the homework, set up a VPN from StrongVPN.com, and tried it out. Eureka! It Worked! All those hours of frustration were gone! I promptly put a bottle of wine in the dinghy to thank Peter.
  • Peggy and I went ashore at 1045 and as we alighted from Venture we got to say Merry Christmas to Truman who had just ferried the Catholic Priest over from Marsh Harbour. We snagged a seat in the shade of a tree in the waterfront Jarett Park and celebrated Christmas mass with many locals and boaters. We also got to do a lot more caroling! Peter and Steven were there and I got to had off my thank-you present after Mass.
  • On returning to Onward, Peggy and I worked together to prepare for Christmas dinner with the First Loves and Persistents. I made an antipasto and we prepared an eye round roast with small potatoes, onions, and carrots. Peg whipped up baked brie with walnuts and bourbon. Delish.
  • When our guests arrived, we had much more food than we could eat. But, we did a good job of trying! Even the rain which moved in during the evening didn't dampen out spirits.
  • Through the magic of FaceTime and cell phones Peggy and I got to visit with our loved ones back home. A very nice Christmas!

26 Dec 14; Friday; Hope Town
  • The morning dawned cloudy and overcast. I spent the morning clean up various ash & trash on the computer — all those things that were not possible before I set up the VPN.
  • By noon the sun was out and we got ready to head over to the Hope Town Inn & Marina of the afternoon. Peter on Grace had organized a photo contest to be judged at the marina. Brown Tip, a Bahamian Rake & Scrape institution was to play from 1300-1600. Peg and I went through our photos for the last few days and selected photos to enter. We found our cruising buddies there, Persistents, First Loves, Graces, Margaretas, Barefootins, Free Spirits, ….
  • Hope Town Inn & Marina has been transformed into a beautiful marina from what was once two tumble-down operation. The pool bar and patio is a gorgeous place to hang out on a day like today. So Peggy and I spent a lovely afternoon enjoying good drinks, an amazing Bahamian "Not your regular grilled cheese" and cracked conch bites. Delish.
  • There were about a dozen photographs entered in the contest. Fellow revelers got to vote for the best photos. Peter painted sand dollars as prizes - beautiful. The interesting thing was that all the photos were displayed on various electronic devices and all but one of these was an Apple device of some type. Peg and were in the competition but not prizewinners. We got some dancing in as the threatening clouds went away. After a fun afternoon we returned to Onward for sunset and spent a relaxing evening reading.

27 Dec 14; Saturday; Hope Town

28 Dec 14; Sunday; Hope Town
  • Fronts, mild but cloudy, continue to dawdle and seesaw across Elbow Cay. Peggy and I were off early to do laundry at Hope Town Inn & Marina. We were in luck and found the two washers available. Peggy is new to the Bahamian Laundry Dance. So I had to put her on guard while I got the laundry and bought tokens. That proved to be interesting as they are short of tokens. I discovered Peggy and I had left our $ in the dinghy and while I went to get the money, our tokens got bought by someone else!. Didn't matter because Peggy was already loading the washers. One of the marina staff had to open up each of the units to get tokens - and found only 4, enough to get started. Only having to repeat the process to get the other 2 tokens we needed. In the few minutes between putting Peggy "on guard" and me getting back with everything, there was a line for the washers 2 - 3 deep! Timing is everything.
  • We spent a leisurely afternoon with me working on boat tasks. We finished up by me making a couple of thin-crust pizzas and watched a movie, Captain Philips.

29 Dec 14; Monday; Hope Town
  • A gorgeous, clear sunny day. Apparently fronts are gone! Peggy went to get her hair cut while i worked aboard. We did some last chance food shopping when she was done. We then said farewell to friends in the harbor as we returned to Onward. We were underway by 1200 and put into Lighthouse Marina for fuel and water. Margareta and Barefootin also decided to use this window to head to Eleuthera and departed just ahead of us.
  • We exited the harbor at 1300, just before high tide and headed S to Lynyard Cay. We managed to catch up to Barefootin along the way. There were more than 20 boats anchored along the cay - a flotilla ready to use the window to head south. We set anchor about 1630. We did a bit to make sure we were ready for the crossing in the morning before we declared cocktail hour. A comforting meal of beef stew over rice and then some reading to get relaxed for a good sleep.

30 Dec 14; Tuesday; Lynyard Cay to Current I
  • Up at 0445. Pre-crossing insomnia - minor case. Checked gribs and synoptics and they looked consistent and good. So it is off to Eleuthera in the pre-dawn light. We exited the cut about 10 min. before sunrise through gentle swells < 4' @ 8-10 sec. There were dark clouds on the E horizon with rain squalls. But winds were < 10 kts from the SE. We got a good washdown from 2 or 3 short squalls; good for the boat. The squalls did not have any winds with them just nice rain. By 1000, the clouds lifted to the N and a beautiful day ensued. No other vessels departed with us but two came out about an hour later. Wonder what everyone was waiting for. I was expecting a real parade given the crowd at Lynyard.
  • As we got off shore, I set up the new Williams cell phone booster amplifier and high gain antenna and arranged the MiFi cellular modem to make use of it. It gave a boost of about 2 bars immediately. I was able to use the internet > 12nm off the SE coast of Great Abaco. I lost it during the middle section of the crossing but had it back well N of the Egg Islands.
  • Sometime during the crossing, the ships nm log turned over 38000 nm! Now another ~ 10000 nm need to be added to account for those logged on the RL80C chartplotter before I converted to the E120 in November 2007.
  • Whales, I've lamented about how, in all the miles I've sailed aboard Onward, I had only seen one small whale in New England waters — and that sighting was iffy. Last year i moan about how the 3 boats behind Onward on the sail from Long Island to Conception had seen several sperm whales. Well, today that changed. At about 0930, I looked up and just off the port bow, I saw something like a dolphin, only larger. I called for Peggy to come up to the cockpit. Then the one shape was joined by several more. Soon there were about 20 or more. Peggy had the good sense to put the engine in neutral and we ghosted by on the mainsail alone in the light W wind. I got to get some video of the group. I wish I had had the presence of mind to grab the Nikon. Ah well. The group continued to mill around in a tight pack in 12000 feet of water until we were out of sight. I'm sure there were calfs among the group but it was hard to tell. They were all ~20' or less. Some wiki research indicated they were pilot whales. Neat!
  • We arrived at Big & Little Egg I about 1230 after a very easy crossing. As we headed across the NW bight of Eleuthera toward Current Cut, we passed a large schooner, Liberty Clipper, that had been at anchor. As we passed it raised anchor and headed for Current Cut. I called on VHF to ask the captain if he intended to do the Cut and he said he did. I told him that I'd slow down and let him make the transit first. He said he appreciated that because it would be tricky with the strong current and it might look like the vessel gets turned around. So, as we got to the mouth of the cut, Liberty Clipper was well ahead and essentially drifted through with the current using the engine to steer. At the sharp turn on the S/W side, it got carried past and it did look like it was coming back toward the cut as it made it back to hug the SW shore and proceed W. To make things more interesting the local mailboat, Bahamas Beautiful Day, came in from the SW and tied up on the SE side of the cut just before the schooner went through. We dawdled outside until they had gotten well past the cut before we zipped through on the current which was strong even near high slack tide.
  • We anchored for the night in the little cove W of the cut where I have spent many nights before. This was the first time that Onward had been alone though.
  • Once anchored, I looked at the water temperature, 87º, and immediately put down the swim ladder and climbed in. Wonderful! After swimming a bit, I had a nice washdown on the stern step and then went up on the deck to dry in the sun. While I played, Peggy chose to work on things that made use of being near a cell tower for phone and internet. The usual problems: credit cards that are allergic to charges from the Bahamas — then the need to fix this in spite of warning them about it. Things seem to have gotten worse since the big data thefts as the banks seem to be paying more attention.
  • Peg and I were enjoying the sunset over cocktails when we heard two gunshots. We then saw a tall, lean, unkempt man in camo pants come out of the scrub along the shore and run in the shallows parallel to the beach as it headed into the cove. He disappeared into the scrub again only to reappear about 5 min later and go back the way he came. We heard another gunshot and I saw a splash from the bullet hit the water about 100' behind the guy. He disappeared into the scrub from whence he first appeared. A bit disconcerted, we discussed if we were far enough off shore and decided to finish cocktail hour. About 30 min later, the runner came back out of the scrub and waded the shallows across the mouth of the inner cove heading W toward the remains of a smoking fire on shore. He disappeared near the smoke. Then the fire got stoked up and we could see some flames. We then so no more of the runner.
  • Peggy went below to warm up the meal I'd take from the freezer. While she was gone, I decided to move. So I weighed anchor and moved about 0.25 nm E back along the shore toward the Cut. I anchored where there was only a sheer rocky shore with no beach as I wan't interested in having a visitor during the night.
  • For the first time in all my cruising in the Bahamas, I began to question my decision not to carry a weapon aboard. On reconsideration, I decided it was still a good policy for me.
  • We had a delicious meal of beef stew and mashed potatoes and enjoyed one of the DVD Peggy had bought me as a Christmas present, "Now you see me."
  • It was a very still and peaceful night and I slept soundly in spite of the runner incident. However after a period of sound and peaceful sleep, I began to dream about the runner. Strangely, my dreams were multi-leveled: I would be in a dream about the runner and force myself awake to check things only to find myself in a dream that I had to force myself awake from to check things only to find that was another dream. I finally did manage to wake up and go out and check things. I reassured myself that no one could climb on Onward's sides or the stern without making a lot of noise. I also made note to work on emergency procedures with Peggy in the coming days.I'm going to start looking for aluminum or brass carpet tacks to spread on deck at night.
  • In the Abacos, I talked with friends about having read and heard of bad-guy human traffickers now in the business of trying to sneak Haitians into the Bahamas and then on to the US. The Haitian influx has been a problem for years in the Bahamas. Each year I have seen a refugee boat or heard of an intercept by the Bahamian Defense Force. However the "professional runner" aspect is more recent and has made me a bit more wary.

31 Dec 14; Wednesday; Current I to Cape Eleuthera Marina at Powell Point.
  • My final period of sleep was deep and peaceful and I awoke in time to tune into Chris Parker. He indicated that the synoptics and gribs I'd already downloaded told the story and that we would have gentle E winds to travel to Cape Eleuthera and then on to Warderick Wells tomorrow.
  • We weighed anchor at 0715 and headed SE. It was rather amazing to be able to work on the internet for at least the first 27 nm of the traverse of the Bight of Eleuthera.
  • It was a beautiful sunny day and the transit was peaceful. We put into Cape Eleuthera Marina at 1530 and were soon settled in a slip. We discovered they had just put in a new pool so after checking in we headed over for a swim. What a nice end to an afternoon. To top it off we decided to try out the restaurant which just reopened.
  • We went over just before sunset and found ourselves alone. We were given a table on the deck that had a great view of the harbor and the sunset which we enjoyed over drinks. The chef had operated a restaurant in town. The meal with fresh fish was outstanding. Peggy and I agreed it was the best meal we had eaten on the whole 2014 cruise — and that covers a lot of restaurants. A DJ had come in while we were enjoying our drinks and we enjoyed a nice selection of music over dinner. We stopped in to complement the chef and staff and that seemed to make their day. As we returned to Onward, Peggy and I both felt badly that there were so few people in the restaurant. Then about 2200, we heard a more noise from the restaurant but could not see it from our slip. We celebrated the New Year with some Proseco then called it a night. In the morning we learned the restaurant had been packed and they had partied most of the night.