Monday, December 14, 2009

Wifi... Finally!!!

The main website photos and position/log pages have been updated. It's been a nice week away from the internet, but it's also nice to have access again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quick Update

We’ve been away from any wifi for the last several days on St. John, USVI, so sorry the web site and blog have been idle for a while.  This update is via our satellite phone.

We sailed west to the US Virgin Islands on December 8th to wait for a weather window to go East to St. Martin.  We reached our 30 day limit in the BVI so we had to leave or pay a $200 fee to stay longer.  Since we haven’t seen the USVI yet, we decided to explore St. John for a few days.  Most of St John is a National Park donated by Laurence Rockefeller in 1956.  In 2001, by presidential proclamation, George W Bush added almost 13,000 acres of adjoining submerged land to the reserve in an effort to preserve the coral ecology surrounding St John.  It was badly needed as the snorkeling and diving I’ve done so far has shown that the coral has been heavily damaged.  Hopefully the new rules will be followed and the coral will slowly recover.  The coral in the Exuma Cays of the Bahamas was in much better shape, but it’s a lot harder to get to the Exumas, so it’s experienced a lot less damage from tourists and cruisers.   

For those of you wondering why it’s harder to get to the Exumas than the Virgin Islands when the Virgin Islands are a 10 day offshore passage and the Exumas are a few overnight hops, it’s  a matter of logistics and infrastructure.  The Virgin Islands have two international  airports, deep water harbors for cruise ships and an enormous charter fleet.  The Exumas are a collection of 350 islands and cays that have only a handful of airstrips suitable for a small prop plane, no resorts, no charter industry, and only a handful of cottages to rent if you come by air rather than boat.  The only deep water access for a cruise ship was abandoned in the 1980’s as it wasn’t navigable whenever a cold front blew through.  So, visitors are limited almost exclusively to those who come by private boat. 

We’ve really enjoyed our stay in St John.  The beaches are very nice and free of any garbage (as in the BVI) and all beaches have public access (not like the BVI).  The snorkeling is very good as far as seeing cool fish.  We’ve seen several sea turtles and sting rays of all sizes, barracuda, blue tang, purple squids, a blowfish, and all sorts of reef fish. 

We went on a longish hike yesterday with Susan Williamson to get up to Rams Head Point, which a 200 ft bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  A great view.  Quinn wanted to try climbing down the cliff, but we declined.

Tomorrow we’ll head back to the BVI and pay our $200 so we can stay longer.  The Christmas winds are in full swing and it’ll be a rough beat to windward to get to St Martin without the help of a low to stall out the trade winds.    We had planned on spending Christmas in St Martin, but aren’t willing to take a beating to get there, so we’ll hang out in the BVI for a while more and maybe shoot south to St Croix (USVI) for a few days.  As soon as our low shows up, we’ll head for St Martin and points south.

Randy and Susan Williamson came to the USVI at the same time as we did so we’ve been exploring the island together.  Jen dusted off her cribbage skills and beat Randy by 2 games (skunked him twice) after a lot of trash talking from both sides.  Was a lot of fun to watch, even though I have no idea how to play the game. 

Expect a big update to the photos on the web site in the next few days as we’ll have better access to wifi when we get back to the BVI.  The USVI National Park doesn’t have  much in the way of wifi hotspots.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Full Moon Party and Cooper Island

After our stay at Leverick Bay, we headed for Trellis Bay to catch the Full Moon Party at Trellis Bay Village. We arrived by about 12:30 to find the mooring field completely full with a couple of other boats threading their way through it looking for an open mooring ball. As there is no place to anchor due to all the mooring balls, we gave up that idea and moved about a mile across to Marina Cay where there were plenty of space, but quite rolly. As we pulled out of Trellis Bay, we saw Windward Passage (friends from Rock Hall, MD) pulling out of the mooring field with the same idea.

We enjoyed sundowners with Randy and Susan and their guests, Christine and Mary. Then, at dusk Jen, Quinn and I piled into our dingy and motored across the bay to Trellis Bay Village. The party was lots of fun. It was a Tom Sawyer wonderland for Quinn, lots of low trees on the beach with nets, ladders, ropes, etc to climb on. Lots of kids too.

After a very enjoyable West Indies BBQ (BBQ and Jerked chicken, grilled fish, ox tail stew, peas and rice, etc). Jen and I traded watching Quinn play while the other explored the "village". It struck me as a throwback to a 60's conclave, centered around an open-air art studio - Aragorn's Studio. The art studio specializes in ceramic and metal working. The big fireballs were some of Aragorn's work. Check out the photos of the party on our web site. they were very cool.

After a very wet and salty dingy ride back across the bay (Jen swore I was doing it on purpose when the waves broke over the bow into her lap, but it was really bouncy!) and a rolly night on the mooring ball we were happy to slip the lines and head to Cooper Island. We've spent the past two nights here and will leave tomorrow. We spent several hours on the beach yesterday and today we snorkeled off the dingy by a reef. Quinn's getting quite good at swimming with his face in the water so that he can see the "fishies" and coral. He really wants a snorkel and fins. We're on the lookout for some his size.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back to Leverick Bay

We did a four hour motor in light air on the nose back to Leverick Bay. Motoring was OK since we needed to make water anyway. We now have 2 tanks of tasty water.

We'll stay here for three days while I do my PADI certification dives. One day in the pool and then two dives on Monday and two dives on Tuesday. Should be a lot of fun.

Right now we're relaxing to Pink Floyd's Pulse. Quinn asked for his currently favorite song "the clock song". (Time, for those of you who didn't listen to the radio in the 70's, 80's or 90's.) Good stuff.

Jen and Quinn are sitting on the transom splashing with Quinn giggling. Time for me to go for a swim.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 09, Sopers Hole, BVI

Thanksgiving went off very well. Quinn and I started off the day with a nice swim after breakfast. I took the opportunity to check out the port saildrive to look for any damage from the dock line incident the other day. Aside from some missing anti-fouling paint, everything looks OK.

After the swim and a transom shower, Quinn and I settled down to some serious Lego building while Jen started on dinner prep. We skipped lunch but snacked on some yummy appetizers - foie gras pate and brie served on little french mini-toasts. This was Quinn's first try of fois gras and he liked it, but stuck mostly with the brie and toasts. We broiled three Cornish Hens and the green beans on the grill and Jen made her delicious bourbon sweet potatoes. We cooked the hens stuffed with a little onion and fresh thyme and sage in an aluminum tray so we had lots of tasty drippings for gravy. Dessert was pumpkin mousse. We had a mid-afternoon dinner and then settled down for a family nap.

We all woke up around dusk and watched Gabriel Iglesias' "Hot and Fluffy" comedy DVD and then Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. A few games of Trouble wrapped up the day. It was a fun and mellow Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We spent a couple of nights back in Road Town in an attempt to score my replacement RAM for my laptop. No luck once again. Tired of waiting I sent off a grumpy email to Dell and we prepared to leave the Village Cay Marina.

This was to be a new undocking experience for us as we were Med-Moored for the first time. I was familiar with the process of Med - Mooring (read about it) where you back in to a dock, drop the anchor a ways out and then continue backing in until you can step off your transom. The anchor keeps you off the dock and you tie the transom to the dock. In this case, there were mooring balls spaced every 30 feet apart, 60 feet off the dock. You use the mooring balls instead of your anchor to keep you off the dock. The only thing is there are no ropes on the mooring balls and you have to back in, stand on your transom steps down by the water and loop a line through the eye-bolt on the top of it. Then as the helmsman backs up, you walk the line forward and cleat it off at the bow.

Jen handled attaching the line to the mooring ball (fastest bowline in the west) and walked it forward as I slipped Mirasol back to the dock. It wasn't too shabby for our first time.

Leaving the dock was pretty straight forward. We freed all the dock lines from the transom and Jen ran up to the bow to free the bow line and walk it around as I brought Mirasol forward and then backed back around so she could untie it from the ball. That went off like a charm and just as I said "See honey? Easy Peasy!" I heard a very disturbing whackwhackwhackwhack noise coming from the port hull. I immediately stopped the port engine and we found what I feared was the case: I had failed to pull the port dock line all the way on deck and it got sucked down and into the prop. The whackwhackwhackwhack noise was the dock line whipping around with the prop, striking the hull as it went by.

Jen gave the fouled dock line a tug and found it was quite stuck. We were in the middle of two long docks with expensive yacht bows armed with pointy anchors on either side. The plan was to try to get Mirasol to turn to starboard and out of the dock area where we could drop anchor long enough for me to free the line from the prop. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing from the starboard side and getting a catamaran to turn starboard while only using the starboard engine is difficult. As we had no headway, the rudder was useless and with the wind on the starboard it was hopeless.

Another option was to turn to port, but there wasn't enough room to clear those pointy anchors. The last option was to try to back into a concrete dock with only one engine, and no dock hands. That being the only choice, I risked a worse tangle by reversing the port engine for just a second in an attempt to free the prop. Lucky us, when I went to test the line it came free with only a slight tug. I tossed the offending, mangled line on deck and ran back to the helm and drove us clear of the pointy anchors and out of the marina.

So as we were motoring out of the harbor, I was busy grumping about how I managed to leave the dock line trailing in the water, and not paying enough attention to the depth gauge. While I was in the marked channel, I was well on one side of it and grounded the starboard hull on a sand bar. Getting my head back in the game, I threw both engines in reverse and walked her back off the bar without too much trouble. Sigh.

With my head hung low I took us the rest of the way out of the harbor and pointed us towards Sopers Hole and said "Honey, why don't YOU drive!"

We made it to Sopers Hole without further incident, tied up to a mooring, rescued an errant dingy (not ours) and headed to shore for much needed sundowners.

We're staying here for Thanksgiving (Cornish hens instead of turkey) and then maybe off to Peter Island. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

New Photos Posted... Finally

It's taken me a day or two to get to it, but I finally uploaded photos to the main website from Bitter End, the Jumbies show, and the Baths. The BVI gallery was getting large, so I split it into two parts, the first one ending with Spanish Town (just prior to the Baths) and the second one beginning with our trip to the Baths.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Baths, Virgin Gorda BVI

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Baths on Virgin Gorda. We had planned on visiting the Baths on Sunday, but as we were getting ready to ride our dingy from Spanish Town to the Baths, a giant sailing cruise ship, Club Med 2, dropped anchor a few hundred yards from us.
Rather than deal with the hoards from the cruise ship, we decided to loaf for the day instead.

Here's a photo of the Club Med 2 anchored close to us off of Spanish Town and the Baths.

The Baths are a stretch of coastline on the south west side of Virgin Gorda that is piled up with hundreds of huge granite boulders. The BVI's are volcanic in origin and the granite boulders were once encased in less durable volcanic rock
which has eroded away.

What is left is a pile of boulders, many of which are 40' or more in diameter. They are piled up along the coastline, there are lots of tunnels, saltwater pools, and arches that are a lot of fun to wander around in and explore.

Quinn just loved it. He saw pirates and monsters around every twist and turn.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We had a great time last night partying at the beach-side Jumbies Bar in Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda. Every Friday they host a BBQ buffet with a live band. We joined the crew of Windward Passage at a table overlooking the anchorage and enjoyed the local BBQ ribs, chicken and roasted suckling pig. The sides were all local as well, and I enjoyed my fill of island-style macaroni and cheese, which is very spicy and cheesy - just like in the Exumas.

Later in the evening the Jumbies arrive! This is a local (I think family) group who dance on very tall stilts. Quite the show. They sit on the roof to strap on the stilts and then start parading in to the beat of island party music. After a few warm-up songs they start to pull in the guests to dance, and chase those around who are too shy.

Quinn found a friendly 4-year old to play with early in the evening, and they were inseparable. Big games of chase all night. Neither boy wanted to head back to the boat when the Jumbies show ended. Here's Quinn and Axel at the end of the show (the only time we could get them to get close to the Jumbies!).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Virtues of Loafing

Well, I feel like I'm finally back in my cruising groove. We've been hanging out in Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda for the past three days and doing very little except relax. A welcome change after the 10 day passage and then the cleaning/maintenance/provisioning jobs at the marina in Road Town Harbor, Tortola. Here on Virgin Gorda (Fat Virgin) there's been some snorkeling, pool swimming, sandcastle building and a lot of general loafing. I've particularly enjoyed the loafing. Marinas are all well and good for provisioning, recovering, and maintenance... but we really do enjoy ourselves most on the anchor or on a mooring ball.

Mooring balls seem to be our lot here in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI has an astounding number of charter boats, and many folks that charter have little experience or interest in anchoring (this is my guess/assumption based on some observation, charter folks please don't be offended if I'm misrepresenting you!). So, the locals have met this market demand by filling most anchorages with mooring balls. It's a good source of income for them and simplifies the life of the folks who fly here for a week of low risk sailing with beautiful anchorages and plenty of night life. It's a little inconvenient for us since all the choice anchoring spots are clogged with mooring balls (and charter boats, more on this later) but so far we've been content to pick up a mooring ball for $25 a night. That usually comes with a bag of ice and pool privileges, so we don't mind too much.

The BVI is a small group of islands and cays grouped in a rough oval, with all of the major islands within a very short sail (2-4 hours) of each other. Since they are arranged in an oval, the water in the middle is very sheltered and the sailing is attractive to those looking for easy sailing and line-of-sight navigation in idealic tropical environs. Think of it as Tropical Sailing on Training Wheels and you'll get the gist. I'm hoping that as we move south through the Leeward Islands there will be fewer charter boats, more cruisers, and a minimum of mooring balls. Does that make me a cruising snob? Maybe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quiet Day

We spent Saturday night at Trellis Bay along with the Windward Passage crew (Randy, John, Kathy and Charles). Charles had an early flight out yesterday, then it was off to Leverick Bay at Virgin Gorda. We anchored for a while and did a little snorkeling with Randy, John and Kathy, then moved to the overnight moorings across the bay. We all went ashore for swimming in the pool, drinks and dinner at the Leverick Bay Resort.

Windward Passage had to head back to Trellis Bay so Kathy and John can get their flight out tomorrow. I know they are anxious to get back to their boat (Oceana) and get started on their own adventure in the Bahamas.

Today, it rained all day so we just hung out on the boat at Leverick Bay and had school. Not sure what we're doing tomorrow yet - depends again on the weather. We will be heading back over to Road Town sometime this week to pick up a package, then probably back to Virgin Gorda for the Jumbies on Friday night. I will post a photo of the "Jumbies" if we get to see them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Exploration of BVI Begins

John left for home this morning. He's taking a ferry to St Thomas of the US Virgin Islands and then a flight home to Des Moines. We're glad he was able to join us for the trip down to the islands.

After 4 days at dock here in Road Town, we're anxious to start exploring the BVIs. We'll leave today sometime before noon and head East around the southeast tip of Tortola and either pick up a mooring ball or anchor in Trellis Bay on Beef Island. Snorkeling and beaches are on the agenda for this afternoon and tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road Town, BVI

We made it!

The winds continued to blow around 25 knots well into the night on Monday and we continued to make great time. While sailing at 8+ knots is all well and good, it was going to deliver us to the BVIs around midnight. Aside from the hazards of a night time arrival to a strange location, we wanted to enjoy a morning landfall. To slow the boat down we dropped the main and furled the jib until we only had a tiny hank of it out. In that configuration we were sailing at about 3-4 knots through out the night.

At dawn we were approaching Anegada, one of the out islands of the BVI, and their only coral atoll. The wind had diminished to the around 18 knots and we shook out the full main and jib and headed in.

As we approached the main body of the BVI, the mountainous islands rose up out of the mist of a warm tropical morning. It was exciting to see and smell land again after ten long and strenuous days at sea.

Check out the pictures as we post them on the web site. The landfall was marvelous.

We've spent the past three days in Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola. Road Town isn't much of a destination as far as cruising destinations go, but it is a great place to recover from a long passage, fix the stuff we broke on the way and plan our exploration of the BVI's.

Today I went up the mast to inspect the rigging. Happily I found no damage other than a busted up block for our port lazy jacks. (Lazy Jacks are lines run up the mast from the boom to keep the main sail from flopping all over the deck when we drop the main. Not critical hardware, but makes life easier.) It must have broken as we reefed the main in high winds with out letting enough slack on the lazy jacks.

Quinn and I went on a walk to find a replacement. We found one that should work OK at the local rigging shop. One more trip up the mast tomorrow to install it. I was happy to be able to find what we needed here. We'll have to wait until we reach St. Maarten to replace the reefing lines we wrecked.

Tonight Jen and I will figure out where we'll head off to tomorrow. John leaves either tomorrow AM or Sunday AM. Now that we're in port, he's getting anxious and feeling the effect of living with a family and a 4 year old. I figure we'll head to a local anchorage and do some swimming or hit a beach. We'll let you know in the next post.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Norfolk - Tortola BVI 2009, Days , November 1- 9

Day 1, Oct 31: 164 nm

Gulf Stream crossing.

Day 2: 128 nm

Today started out with light and variable winds. We motored and then motor-sailed. Then at around 10AM the wind picked up to around 20 knots and we were making good time. The wind was from the South so we sailed Southeast towards Bermuda, and worked as much South as we could manage. The crew was still recovering from the very rough passage across the Gulf Stream so heading to windward wasn’t very popular, but we had no choice. Today we noticed that we had almost chafed through the 1st reef line in the main sail. We set the 2nd reef and will change the 1st reef line when the seas are calmer. Today the seas were mostly 5’-7’ from the South.

Day 3: 158nm

Overnight continued to be very windy and the winds continued throughout the day from the South and Southwest. Seas were 4-6feet increasing to 6-8 feet.

Day 4: 130nm

Today started with a nice respite from the rough sailing we’ve had to date. The front we’ve been racing south caught back up with us and gave us light NW winds. We rigged the sails for downwind sailing and set about straightening up and getting some rest. We replaced the chafed reef line and took some much needed hot showers! Love the water maker! The day ended up with the wind filling in from the Northwest, giving us 20 knots of fair winds and following seas.

Day 5: 143nm

Today started out windy with the Northeasterly winds, but then we appeared to catch up with the front we’ve been playing tag with (or another one, it’s hard to keep track) and the winds clocked around to the South and died off. We fired up the motor to help out and did some fishing. Didn’t catch anything this time. I guess the fish were hanging out in the deeps.

Day 6: 141nm

The wind continued clocking around to the Northwest and we had a nice downhill ride all day. Winds were around 20 knots and the seas were 6 foot rollers on the stern.

Day 7: 162nm

We’re getting some early Northeasterly Trade Winds now and so we’ve got plenty of wind forecasted for rest of the trip. We had Northeast winds in the high 20’s and 8 – 10 foot following seas the whole day. Two reefs in both the main and jib. We were over-reefed, but doing so to keep boat speed down to the low to mid 7’s. There were large cross swells which caused a very bouncy ride when boat speed was in the 8+ knot range and Jen and Quinn were not pleased with that!

Day 8: 171nm

Tried to keep boat speed down, but even with 2 reefs in the main and three in the jib we spent most of the morning going 8 knots or more in 30 to 35 knots of wind. Big following seas. Hard to estimate in the dark, but seemed to be in the 10 to 14 foot range. We were frequently surfing down the front face at 10 to 16 knots. Exciting and a bit nerve wracking as this is the fastest I’ve ever sailed Mirasol (or any sailboat for that matter). Once again we had heavy cross swells from a distant system that were causing us some interesting moments. At one point we got slammed in the beam by a cross wave while surfing down a big following sea. Mirasol swung around hard sending items normally very secure on their shelves flying. I’m glad that only happened once.

As a treat after the long night, Jen made the crew some yummy Brittany Trawler Hash for breakfast. In the middle of the prep work we were tagged by a beam wave that knocked the coffee press flying. Fortunately, most of the coffee and grounds were confined to the galley counter and the worst casualties were a couple of brand new dish towels.

Day 9: In progress

Good winds on the beam. 18 to 25 knots of wind with 10-12 foot following rolling swells. Right now we’re going at 8.2 knots in 25 knots of wind with 2 reefs in the main and jib (approximately 40% of our sails up) We’re on track for a dawn landfall in the BVI. (Or Not). If it looks like we’re going to get there early, we’ll slow the boat way down overnight to ensure a daylight landfall. We’re all looking forward to dawn tomorrow!

Norfolk - Tortola BVI 2009, Day 1, October 31

We cast off the lines at Waterside Marina in Norfolk, Virginia at 2PM on Saturday, October 31st. We were planning on leaving on November 1st, but with the weather window closing in we decided to leave as soon as John arrived on the boat. Since Quinn had already had a great time Trick or Treating a few days prior, we didn't feel bad leaving on Halloween.

The sail up the Elizabeth River and out of the Chesapeake was uneventful except for a beautiful full rainbow and a few up-close buoy inspections by our helmsman, John. Jen offered to break out the green paint to touch them up as we passed by.

Once through the Bay Bridge - Tunnel and into the Atlantic, the race was on. We needed to get across the Gulf Stream before an approaching cold front overtook us and changed the winds to an unfavorable and possibly hazardous direction. The far side of the Gulf Stream was about 150 miles from Norfolk, about 24 hours away. The front was expected to overtake us just as we finished crossing the south wall of the Stream.

Although we motor-sailed to make the best possible time, the front accelerated and overtook us before we reached the Gulf Stream. This was bad news as it caused the wind to clock around and blow directly opposite the flow of the current, creating very steep and confused seas. In addition, we found that the predicted ground swells from both the Northeast and Southeast further confused the seas.

The witches brew of opposed wind and current mixed with moderate swells from both the NE and SE generated the wildest sea state I've ever experienced. The sea state reminded me of a full washtub that someone had worked into a frenzy with a toilet plunger. The waves were very steep and seemed to come from all directions, with the wave crests more like pyramids than anything else. By 1PM on Sunday the wind had been blowing from the NE at 25 - 30 knots for some time and I estimated the waves to be 8 to 12 feet and nearly vertical at times. This made for a pretty uncomfortable ride for the 6 or so hours we took to cross the 40-mile wide Stream.

I'm happy to report our autopilot managed the confused seas better than I expected. The most disconcerting moments were as rode down the face of a large wave and got smacked in the aft quarter by a breaking wave from another direction. This would fishtail us around so that we were sliding sideways down the face of the wave we had been riding. Within a few seconds, Francois (our autopilot) got her under control and back on course. This took my breath away the first time it happened, but we soon got used to the motion as it happened two or three times every hour while we were in the Stream.

Once out of the current, the seas calmed down quite a bit and to our relief the pyramidal waves disappeared. The front that had overtaken us ahead of the stream stalled on the south side of the stream and in another five hours we had passed back through it. The wind abated to the mid-teens and the seas mellowed to 5-7 foot easy waves for a comparatively comfortable start to Day 2.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Norfolk - Tortola BVI Passage Post 1... FINALLY!

Hi all. We were looking forward to being able to post updates on a daily basis during our passage from Norfolk, VA to Tortola,BVI but it didn’t quite work out that way. The first two days were a bit of a train wreck crossing the Gulf Stream and it was too bouncy to work on a blog. Then, in the middle of the night on the second day, I dug out the laptop, fired it up and started putting together my first offshore blog message. To my dismay, just as I started work on it, my computer gave me Microsoft’s equivalent of the Finger… the blue Stop Error screen also known as the Blue Screen of Death. I was displeased. No matter, a quick reboot should set things right.

Not so much. On reboot, all I got was a blank screen and a flashing Caps Lock key. Sigh. So, I put it away for a calmer day to diagnose. (We were still in pretty rough weather and I wasn’t keen on gutting my laptop in those conditions. It took me a couple of sessions in milder weather to figure it out. It turns out one of my memory cards is bad. I took it out and I have a functional, if dreadfully slow, laptop again!

So instead of several daily offshore blogs, you’ll see only a few since we’re most of the way there now. The next entry will have a summary of our first 8 days at sea. Once in the Caribbean we’ll continue to post notes as interesting (to us, hopefully interesting to you too) things happen.

Be sure to check out the “Our Position” link on the web site for an updated map of our progress.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update on Gregg, Jen and Quinn from Mom

Courtesy of Mrs. / Shelby Merkel


Gregg called at 2 pm EST, said they are doing well, on course, making great time, currently at 29 degrees 26 min N, 66 degrees 5 min W, about 185 miles S/SE of Bermuda. He said the seas were 8-10 ft. last night but glassy today. Surely was good to hear from him :>)

Frank Krause

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update via Frank

Gregg and Jen's computer is down, and they asked me to post this update.

They are through the Gulf Stream and about half way to port. Current position as of this post is 32 deg 53 min North by 68 deg 24 min West.

All are well. Gaich is hoping to be promoted from Bilge rat to cabin boy soon. Jen says don't count on it.

Frank Krause
M 847-858-6046

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Great Photos & Great People

Thanks to Mike & Anne, Northern Express, and Dave & Barbara, Knot Again, we now have some excellent shots of us underway aboard Mirasol. I really appreciate your efforts and I'm already working on getting the photos and the video posted to the website.

I would also like to thank Kathy & John, Oceana, for delivering a variety of items from North Point, including the CD of the photos, a Halloween bag of candy for Quinn from Miss Lori, and a new hatch from Lagoon.

Passage Updates

As Gregg mentioned in his latest post, we will try to make daily updates to our position map on the main website on the Current Position page, I'm not sure what time of day these updates will happen, but my plan is to do it sometime in the mid-morning. The map is an interactive Google map, so you can double click to zoom in, or use the tools provided in the upper left hand corner of the map to navigate. The markers will contain our position and date/time stamps. We will also try to update the blog while we're underway, so check in with us periodically here as well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

5-ish Days and Counting!

Five more days in Norfolk and then, weather permitting, we're off to Tortola!

John arrives on Halloween and we'll be ready to go on November 1st. Quinn will have his Halloween booty, Mirasol will be ship-shape and well provisioned, Christmas gifts and decorations purchased and stowed, and an eager crew ready to set sail for Tortola.

All we need is the right weather. Happily, it's looking pretty good for a sail date of 11/1.

Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands and is one of the most Northwestern islands of the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. We plan to spend several weeks in this area before venturing further South and East.

As the bird flies, Tortola is about 1250 nautical miles (1450 statute miles) from Norfolk, Virginia. Aboard Mirasol, we expect to sail about 1400 nautical miles.

For our landlubber friends, this circuitous route deserves a little explanation. It's all about the Trade Winds. Once we get down to the latitudes of south Florida, the winds start blowing very predictably from the South East. Further south, they blow always from the East. These are the Trade Winds. If we head straight for Tortola, we'll run right into the Trades and be faced with an upwind slog for many days. That is a recipe for a very, very grumpy wife and son. Since I don't want a divorce or to sell the boat in November, we won't go that way.

Instead, we'll head towards Bermuda. Once we're about 100-200 miles southwest of Bermuda, we'll turn almost due south for Tortola. This should keep the wind on our beam and the family smiling!

We hope to make the trip inside of 10 days. A lot will depend on the weather we get, and how much wind. Right now, the forecast for our departure from Norfolk is for very light winds so we'll probably have to motor-sail for the first couple of days. The first leg of the trip is a little tricky as we have to deal with the Gulf Stream and coastal weather. I'll go into that on the next post once I have a better grip on the weather for next week.

Once we're offshore, we hope to make daily posts of our location to our web site and a short update to the blog. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bright lights, big city

It's nice to be back in Norfolk. I love the location of the marina - we are right downtown and the waterfront is absolutely beautiful. Lots of restaurants, things to do & see, even a mall. I know this isn't Gregg's favorite spot, mostly because of the noise and because of how dirty the boat gets here. But for me, it's nice to be in a fairly large city. I've even managed to get a haircut and a pedicure! And Quinn thinks it's the COOLEST to have pizza delivered to the boat (well, that and the ferry rides).

We're glad our friends from North Point, Kathy and John (Oceana), made it in safely today. (Thanks again, guys, for bringing our new hatch down with you!) It'll be fun to hang out with them for a while before the passage to the BVI's. They are also heading south to Tortola on another boat (Windward Passage), then they are returning to Norfolk to take their own boat to the Bahamas.

Anyway, after dinner on the boat with Kathy & John tonight, I spent the evening updating our main website and hemming Quinn's Halloween costume pants. He is adorable, by the way, as a little super hero/muscle man. The festivities begin tomorrow for the little ones with a Halloween party at the Children's Museum, then "safe" trick-or-treating for a couple hours in Portsmouth (a ferry ride from here). We'll let him do it for a while, then go to dinner at the Biergarten. Last year, there was trick-or-treating at the mall in Norfolk on Halloween, so I will check and make sure we can do it again this year. I know trick-or-treating in a mall sounds lame to those of you with actual neighborhoods, but I tell ya, the Godiva and Lindt stores hand out the good stuff. I'm trying to figure out how I can borrow a few more kids!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We've spent the past couple of weeks in Yorktown, both in a marina (York River Yacht Haven) and at anchor in Sarah Creek, just down the way from YRYH. It started out with a busy week with lots of boat maintenance and boat cleaning. Mirasol looks fantastic inside and out, but my shoulders will take a few days to recover from all the cleaning and waxing I did on the hull. The locals at the marina had great fun standing around watching and commenting. Sigh.

We also spent a day in Busch Gardens and a day wandering around historical Yorktown.
The day in Busch Gardens was a lot of fun. They had the whole park decked out for Halloween and since we went on a weekday, the park wasn't very crowded. Quinn got to ride the Elmo roller coaster over and over again with no wait, great seats at the shows, and just about no wait at any ride he chose.

Jen rode the very cool Griffin roller coaster on a double-dog-dare, again with no wait. I missed out on the ride because shortly after her ride, it was closed for maintenance and the line got long.

After dark the fog machines and a spooky soundtrack came on and trolls, witches, goblins and skeletons started sneaking up and scaring the passing crowd. They were pretty gentle with Quinn, but still scared the pants off him a couple times. He had a blast, but I can live without riding tea cups again for a while!

The second week has been much more leisurely. Small chores, maintenance, and a Lego-cleaning marathon (don't ask), but a lot of reading and relaxing too.

No firm plans for the next few days. By mid next week we plan to be near the southern mouth of the Chesapeake to un-pickle the watermaker and make sure it's working and ready for the trip south. We can't use the watermaker in the Chesapeake since all the silt and algae in the water would plug filters quickly. We fill it with preservative chemicals for the summer, a process called "pickling". We're hoping the water at the mouth of the Bay at high tide will be sufficiently clear to avoid trashing too many filters during the recommissioning.

From there its on to Waterside Marina in Norfolk, VA for last minute provisioning and preparations for the trip to Tortola.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thank You North Point

A second summer in the Chesapeake has come and gone. Once again it was made particularly special by our stay in North Point Marina in Rock Hall MD. Thanks to all the good folks there for making us feel so welcome! Jen, Quinn and I were graced by good fortune when we stumbled on this wonderful place when looking for a base of operations for our first season on Mirasol in 2008.

Our return in July 2009 was like a homecoming and we enjoyed our time there so much that we extended our stay by a month! After being on the move for a year it was nice to tie up to a familiar dock and settle in for a while. The marina has a pavilion with lots of tables and grills on the docks were everyone gathers most evenings for dinner. Most days there are at least two or three boats represented at dinner, and weekends are always full. Lots of fun! Quinn loved bringing his bag of toys and making himself the center of attention. Thanks to all who "played" with him!

Anyone looking for an excellent marina with a wonderful community of boaters will find a warm welcome in North Point. We look forward to returning in 2010. Thanks everyone, and we'll see you next summer!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sandy Point, VA

Other than the fact that there's not a whole lot to do off the boat here, we like this spot (our exact location is plotted on our website on the "current position" page). The holding has been great for us (we weathered a gale here last season) and seem to be stuck pretty well now. With the expected winds for the next couple of nights gusting 20-25 knots, we are planning to stay here until Sunday.

Good thing I loaded up on food & UHT milk (and beer/wine, etc.) - it's already been a week since I've seen a grocery store. Thanks again, Kathy, for the use of the Passat! Can't tell you how cool it was to get to drive my old car again! Anyway, we're running out of fresh veg & fruit, but I have a freezer full of proteins, a locker full of *sigh* canned veg, and I still have potatoes, carrots, some citrus, and some bananas that are turning brown. Might get to go shopping on Monday?

We're not terribly busy... Having school with Quinn, catching up on our reading and some chores, maybe even a little guitar hero when we run the generator today (it's overcast so the solar panels are doing nothing for us). Our real constraint is going to be the tanks. Waste tanks are getting full, water tanks are getting low. We are enjoying the quiet, though. There's only one other boat here with us.

Last night, the water here was like glass, so we took the dinghy out for a long ride and found a place to go for dinner. Being stuck on the boat for a couple days will get us a little crazy, but we've done it before. We'll be quite ready to step on shore again on Sunday (hopefully).

Friday, September 4, 2009

and we're live...

The new design of is finally in production. I still have a few things I'm going to add in (videos, etc.), but I just got tired of looking at the old site. RSS is working so you can now subscribe to our site, we've got a nice new current position map which we believe we will be able to update while we're at sea using our sat phone, and there are lots of new photos. Also, I have been looking at other options for the photo gallery, including a flash gallery, but I haven't found a workable solution yet. The one I'm using does require Active X so you will need to enable it (you should get prompted it for it when you load the page) to view the gallery properly.

If you look at the site and find any broken links or other problems, please let me know.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Redesign in Beta

I just finished (I think) with the redesign of our website. Please feel free to take a look around and comment, especially if you find errors.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I'm working on it!!!

I know the main website hasn't been updated in a while. I've been working on a redesign. It's not ready and it's taking longer than I thought, so logs & photos from the last couple weeks (including the Krause visit) will be up shortly in the old design. Hope to have the redesign finished within a week or two.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Curious Conversation


"Mmmph?" I respond, pretending to pay attention to the question while I'm reading a book. A bad habit I have.

"You've always wanted to do a circumnavigation haven't you? It's always been a dream of yours, hasn't it?"

"Hmmm... what? Oh. Yes, well I wrote that off when I decided I wanted to get married. It was a good trade off." To myself I add, especially since she's here on the boat with me for a whole year now and we're looking forward to at least one more, which I never expected to happen.. Figuring that was the end of the conversation, I dove back into my book.

A few minutes later: "How long would it take?"

"Huh? What? Take to do what?" Obviously I wasn't keeping up with the discussion.

"To sail around the world." she said.

"Oh... um... about 3 or 4 years I think." Depends on which route you take and how long you mess around along the way." Ok, now back to the book, it's a really good part... wait, did she say something again?

"What was that sweety?" I said a little strained this time, it really was a good part in the book.

"I said, why don't we do it then?" She repeated.

After a few seconds, I scrape my jaw up off the floor and wipe what was probably a pretty silly look off my face. "Really?" "Are you serious?"

She's serious. Wow. Really WOW.

So, we dug out Jimmy Cornell's encyclopedic "World Cruising Routes" and got to work.

A couple months have passed since this conversation and the planning has raised some timing questions. To avoid hurricane season in the South Pacific, we need to transit the Panama Canal sometime in the spring, probably in April. So, we have a decision to make: return to the US for another summer after this winter's trip to the Caribbean or turn left and head for Panama and the South Pacific. We have a lot of prep work to do and the summer is half over. So as not to rush things we may wait a year. This would also give Quinn another year so he remembers more of it. We'll probably make the timing decision by the end of August.

I'm still pinching myself.

Did I mention I married the coolest lady in the world?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lagoon Escapade - A Very Good Time!

Last weekend Lagoon America and The Catamaran Company coordinated a weekend rendezvous for Lagoon catamaran owners. It started with a cookout and cocktails in Annapolis on Friday evening to get everyone introduced. Saturday morning we gathered again for breakfast in preparation for our sail across the Bay to St. Michaels where we would anchor for the night and enjoy a crab dinner at a local restaurant.

Unfortunately, the weather closed in and several of the boats decided not to make the trip to St. Michaels, or to do it by car instead. Jen and I weren't bothered by the forcast and joined the other three boats that made the sail to St Michaels. It was a bit of a rainy trip across the Bay, and we motor-sailed about half of the way, but it was still fun.

We had two guests aboard for the trip: Nick Harvey, Director of Lagoon America, and Brian Hermann, our friend / broker from The Catamaran Company. We really enjoyed having them aboard and it made the sail just fly by, in spite of the rain. Having two experts on board I was a little self-consious of my sail trim, but either I did OK or they were too gracious to mention any gaffs.

As We dropped anchor off St Michaels, the sun broke out as Jen broke out the home-made guacamole and the Wet-n-Salties. For any new readers, the "Wet-n-Salties" are the official Mirasol beverage, and are essentially a fancy margarita - but better than any other I've had. Jen worked out the recipe during our Bahamas cruise this past year.

After a few cocktails the five of us piled into our dink and headed ashore for a yummy crab dinner. These were our first Maryland crabs of the '09 season, and they were delicious!

Nick and Brian had to return to Annapolis by car Saturday evening so it was just the usual Mirasol crew anchoring out overnight in St. Michaels. We ended up staying in St Michaels for 5 days, enjoying the town as well as a couple nights in a marina so Jen could get some laundry done and Quinn could spend some time in the pool.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Somebody Help Me!!!

I'm dying of BOREDOM! I'm looking for ideas for things to do during my overnight watches to keep myself awake. Let's keep it clean, please.

I can't read underway (or do detail work like sewing, for example) because I get seasick. I've tried practicing knots, but that gets old quick (at least I can do a bowline, figure 8 and even a monkey's fist now without having to stop and think about it). Can't really play loud music because I need to be able to hear the boat if something changes and I don't want to keep other crew members awake. Oh, and if it wasn't obvious, it has to be something I can do sitting at the helm.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bahamas - A Blast!

We're back in the US now, and as we treat ourselves to a few of the goodies not available in the islands, we've been reflecting back on all the fun we had with the wonderful people, beaches, towns and beautiful anchorages we were privileged to enjoy in the Bahamas.

To help with my reflection, I thought I'd pour myself a touch of the delicious island rum... in the form of a tasty Bahama Mama. But it's COLD here in Charleston today! When we arrived two days ago it was as warm as it was in the Bahamas... but it was a TRICK! Today we're being pummeled by a strong Nor'easter with 50 degree temps and 30 knot winds. Brrrrrrrr. I think I'll make that rum drink a hot buttered rum... be right back.

Mmmm yummy. Even better with the rum we brought back. Great stuff.

Where was I... oh yeah, the Bahamas. For us, the Bahamas were a big surprise, even with all the research we did. If you've ever been to Nassau or Lucaya, that's only a very small aspect of the islands. What you see there is Cruise Ship Strip Malls and resort facilities. It isn't at all what the Bahamas are about. Once you get away from the easy to get to tourist areas, the Bahamas are exquisitely lovely.

The Exumas are a chain of tiny islands they call Cays (pronounced keys), about 180 of them. They run in a line roughly northwest to southeast. On the east side of the cays is the Exuma Sound / Atlantic Ocean. Within a half mile of shore you are in thousands of feet of water. On the west side of the cays you are on the Great Bahama Bank. The Bank is thousands of square miles of emerald water less than 25' deep. Most of the time we were sailing in water between 8' and 12' deep. This added a little excitement to the whole thing since scattered around the banks are coral heads that grow to within 3' of the surface. Our boat draws 4' 2". Fortunately, most coral heads are more than 6' below the water. When in shallower water, it pays to have someone on the bow "reading the water", looking for the telltale black circles that means a coral head, or the light tan color of an unmarked sand bore.

To get between the banks and the ocean you must pass through one of many "cuts" between the cays. There are a handful that are navigable in good weather and with the tide. None are to be risked in strong winds or large swells from distant weather systems. In those conditions, called a "rage", the breaking seas are extremely dangerous.

Many islands in the Exumas have someone living there, but there are many uninhabited. There are a few cays that have small towns, such as Black Point on Great Guana Cay, Staniel Cay, and Little Farmers Cay. These towns generally have two or three grocery stores (generally about the size of a 1 or 2 car garage in the US), one school (all ages), a one or two room municipal office, one or two restaurant/bars, and maybe a laundry. There are no banks in the Exumas with the exception of George Town at the southern tip of the chain, everyone else runs on a cash and barter basis. Some businesses take a credit card, but there is a 5% fee to do so, and their phone has to be working at the time.

All the houses and buildings are painted pastel colors. Conch shells are the favorite yard decoration, and there's usually at least one woman baking bread for the islanders and cruisers out of her house. If you wanted to eat a a restaurant, you needed to make reservations, not so that you could get a seat, but so that they would make enough (delicious) food. The people were without exception gracious and friendly.

Just about every cay had at least one beach on either the ocean or banks side, or both. On the ocean side, the waves are big and there's lots of shells. On the banks side, there are usually little or no waves and the sand is white and is often almost as fine as talcum powder. We almost always had the entire beach to ourselves.

We spent two very happy months in the Exumas, almost exclusively at anchor. We only stayed a a marina once, for two days. Beaches, snorkeling, exploring the cays kept us plenty busy.

We also wanted to see the Abaco Islands, on the northeast side of the Bahamas. We sailed from the Exumas to Nassau, re-provisioned in Nassau and then on to the Abacos. The Abacos have a busy tourism industry with most of the islands having lots of small villas for rent. People fly in to the Bahamas via Nassau and then take a 6 or 8-seater prop plane to one of the islands, and then a ferry (25' motorboat) to their cay. Lots of charter power and sailboats are available as well. This area is more what you probably were thinking the out islands of the Bahamas are like. There's plenty of infrastructure support, Internet is easily available and the phones usually work. Groceries and restaurants are bigger and better supplied. However, the water isn't as clear and it's harder to get a beach or anchorage to yourself.

Between the two, we liked the Exumas the best, but it's picking between two wonderful places for sure. I hope they remain as wonderful for years to come. It helps that its difficult to get there, especially the Exumas. Maybe next time we'll check out the Ragged Islands south of the Exumas. Now those are REALLY the out islands.

Bermuda Triangle or another @#$%! Raymarine product failure?

So there were were in the Abaco Islands preparing for our passage back to the States when Jen turned on the navigation system and noticed that our wind instrument was not working... AGAIN. This time it was the wind speed piece of the instrument. We'd already replaced the system twice, once for a bad wind vane and one for a bad base unit. I checked wiring, etc down on deck and found nothing wrong, so up the mast I went looking for trouble at the masthead connection. Sure enough (and happily) the problem was with salt water in the connector at the masthead. Salt water at the top of a 65' mast you wonder? Well, we "enjoyed" some breezy weather at times over the winter, especially in January, and the sea spray evidently gets everywhere. A little compressed air and WD-40 (wonderful stuff) later, the water was chased away and the unit was working properly. Don't ask me why Raymarine has such a lame connector on such an exposed piece of equipment. I can tell by the design that I'll be up there many times doing this maintenance.

Anyway, the day before departure, our Raymaine flux gate electronic compass that is hooked up to the autopilot (Francios) seemed to be askew. The GPS, our old fashioned compass and the sun all agreed we were sailing East, while the electronic compass insisted we were sailing South. "Hmmph... that's not right" Jen said. I was somewhat less civil in expressing my feelings about the matter.

The next day we spent a half hour motoring in painfully slow circles to re-swing the electronic compass. With it pointing in the right direction once again, we turned Northwest towards the Gulf Stream and the US.

That night, sometime around dark o'clock, the compass started playing games again, only this time it was completely lost. Instead of just pointing in the wrong direction, it would slowly swing around westerly, counting down around all points of the compass, around and around and around. I started thinking about those old Bermuda Triangle movies where boaters/pilots experienced spinning compasses. Yikes, what next, a rotating time-warp tunnel and UFOs? Strange things seem plausible at night in the middle of ocean. I glanced up to confirm our trusty old fashioned mechanical compass was behaving properly, which it was, and the hairs on my neck laid back down.

Jen suggested that rebooting the navigation system might clear things up. No such luck... at first anyway. After powering up, the compass resumed it's sedate countdown around the compass one or two more times and then picked a random heading and stopped. 8 button-presses later I had the thing realigned to read in the correct direction and our autopilot was functional again. This happened about a half dozen times throughout the three-day passage. Our first warning would be a beeping error message from Francios, followed by the boat rapidly veering off in one direction or another.

I suppose it's likely to be a bad connection (crossing fingers here) or a faulty Raymarine compass, not aliens or spooky geography or Atlantis. While we're here here in Charleston, I'll check out the connections and then get Raymarine on the phone... again.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Island Living

Before we left for our little adventure in the Bahamas, one of the things I read in a few different places was not to expect customer service to be on par with the US... actually I think one author said "not even close". The customer is almost never right here (exception, I assume, is the service at the big resorts). That's OK, it's just a different way of doing things. Armed with this information, I have kept a very cool head in situations where I might have lost it in the States. That being said, the Bahamians, adults & children alike, have been some of the friendliest and most kind people we have ever met.

Anyway, this poor non-local guy in line in front of me at one of the Island Roots Fest conch salad booths was obviously used to the way things work here. He orders a medium conch salad, which was $8 (a large was $10). The guy hands the vendor a $10 bill and waits for his food & change. Vendor hands him his salad goes back to mixing. A few minutes later, the vendor looks at the guy and asks if he wanted something else. Guy says "No, just my change. I ordered a medium and I gave you $10." Vendor tells the guy, "well, I gave you a large" and he returns to the mixing. Guy hangs his head, says "ok" and walks away.

Another thing you learn quickly is to schedule your errands during the appropriate times. For example, where there are banks (there weren't any in the Exumas except for George Town), the hours can be limited. This photo is of the sign on the bank at Man-O-War Cay. The bank is open one day a week for 4 hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Going, going, gone!

After being on the market for almost a year, our house in Fox River Grove is now someone else's pride and joy (or PITA, depending on how you look at this sort of thing). I hope the new owners have many happy years there, and more importantly, don't drive Bud and Diane nuts.

It was an interesting thing handling a closing from the Bahamas. We didn't have to sit through the endless closing meeting, signing things until our fingers were sore. We let the attorney sign everything for us except the deed, which we signed here in the Bahamas and sent express to the attorney to hold for the closing. I strongly recommend it.

So to all you River Rats, enjoy the summer on the water!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

1000 Years Bad Juju

Jen and I have decided we’re officially Real Sailors. Why? The more sensible among you would figure that it has to do with the skills we’ve developed during our recent travels. We’ve tucked a few accomplishments under our belts: rounding Cape Hatteras, the most dangerous headland of North America, sailed “outside” down half the US Eastern Seaboard, crossed the Gulf Stream, spent months in a foreign country, piloted our way across the Great Bahamas Bank and spent weeks on anchor in all types of weather. All of these are good reasons, but not OUR reasons. Our reasoning is a bit less sensible… we’ve become superstitious. Really, no joke, don’t goof around with this, superstitious. In fact, any infraction with regard to one of our new found “routines” is immediately noted and the offending crew member finds himself/herself sternly chastened.
So what are these new “routines” we carefully adhere to? I’ll run through a few of them here.

Or Not
Think of this one as knocking on wood. It started on our friend John’s sailboat several years ago when I made a somewhat optimistic announcement on our arrival time. We had been on a fast sail in perfect weather all day up the west side of Lake Michigan when I called home and said we’d be in Milwaukee in three hours. No sooner had I hung up the phone that the wind backed and we found ourselves on a dead beat to windward into 25+ knots of wind for the last 15 miles. Three hours turned into six exhausting hours tacking up the coast (since we didn’t have the good sense to fire up the engine and have done with it.) Ever since that day, John insisted that any statement about schedules, weather conditions, or destinations are followed by “or NOT”. For example… “Well, we’ve got the wind on our beam and we’ve been making good time. We should be in by 2pm… OR NOT.” The “or not” is usually accompanied by vigorous rapping of knuckles on wood or fiberglass, crossing of the fingers, and if I had one, rubbing of a rabbit’s foot. This one may have originated with our good friend John, but Jen and I are firm believers in it.

The Backpack
Jen and I have a backpack we use on just about every excursion ashore. It is used for carrying groceries (and rum) back to the boat, or maybe Jen’s camera and a picnic lunch out to the beach. Since this is a boat we need keep the clutter under control, so when we move the boat from place to place we have a habit of tidying up the place a little in case it gets a little bouncy. That keeps us from being distracted by having to run around grabbing things just when the seas get peppy. It’s also a good excuse to tidy up the boat a little. Anyway, it’s come to our attention that every time we stow the backpack prior to the next day’s sail, we never manage to get the weather we were expecting. It’s downright uncanny. Once we figured out the pattern the backpack has the honor of NEVER being stowed. It sits on a seat, ready for use. Since then, we’ve not had any weather surprises. Needless to say, the backpack will remain unstowed, tossed casually (but deliberately) on a bench until we get off the boat. Even then, I imagine it’s going to have an honorary spot in our home. We’ve had a lot of fun toting that backpack about.

A Clean-Shaven Face Never Leaves Port
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. I’m not sure how not shaving became the rule for departure day, but if nothing else it’s a good excuse not to shave. Not that I need any. I think I’m averaging 4 days before the thing starts getting too itchy or Jen decides it’s getting too scratchy.

Do A Little Dance
I think this one started after a long, windy, wet and salty day. We dropped anchor in a cool anchorage, looked around and smiled. Jen did this little happy dance she came up with which involves standing in one place, swinging of the hips and moving of the hands back and forth (in counter-point) with the index finger pointed forward. I mimicked it, which made us laugh. Now, every time we arrive in port we do our little dance to celebrate our safe arrival. Aside from our own amusement of doing the little dance, it also summons good juju which we direct towards our trusty anchor, giving it just a wee bit more holding power. Oh, and I imagine some of our anchorage neighbors have found it amusing.

No Sailing on Friday the 13th… whenever possible, anyway
Jen googled Friday the 13th and found a few references to sailing. According to some, it’s bad luck to begin passage on a Friday in general. Compound that with it being Friday the 13th and… well… you see where I’m going with this.

As I write this Jen just pointed out that Wednesday is April 1st. Wednesday was the day we planned on leaving the Exumas for the Abacos. (Or Not). Since this involves an overnight sail, superstitions come even more into play and we’re not sure if April Fools Day is such a good day to pick. The weather’s supposed to be favorable (Or Not), but wouldn’t that just be a clever April Fools Day joke if we got served up a big cold front to sail through… Hmmmmm…

At Warderick Wells at the top of Boo Boo Hill (don’t ask), there is a cairn where the park encourages visitors to leave a piece of driftwood with the boat and crew’s names carved on it. It has to be driftwood found on the island as Warderick Wells is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which has very strict rules about taking or leaving anything. It’s supposed to give you 100 days of good cruising weather if you leave your contribution to the cairn… so OF COURSE, we did. Warderick Wells is a special place. It is virtually unspoiled due to the strict rules and the fact that the boaters respect them.

The Green Flash
Every day at anchor we try to stop whatever we’re doing just before sunset to be sure we don’t miss it. The sunsets are gorgeous just about every night, with the sun setting over the Great Bahamas Banks, but we’re also watching closely for a Green Flash.
We had heard about the “Green Flash” that can be seen just as the top of the sun drops below the water horizon, but I had always thought it was a myth or a sailor’s’ story. Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End, etc. However, when we reached the Exumas we started hearing boaters talk over the VHF about sundowners (boat drinks) on the beach and to join them to watch for a green flash. Hmmm, this might be something, so we started watching.
A few weeks ago while we were anchored off of Normans Cay, we both saw a bright emerald green spark, or flash just as the top of the sun disappeared. Since then we’ve been looking very closely and have seen two or three of them. It’s very cool when it happens, and it does feel like a dose of good luck.

Well, that’s about all of the superstitions we’ve gathered over the past year of cruising. I’m sure we’ll come up with more. I’ll keep you posted. Or Not.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who's Child Are You?!?!?!

Quinn is fascinated with the world around him, especially fish at the moment. During Quinn's nap some days, Gregg goes out fishing on the reefs. March 8 was one such day. Gregg returned with a few fish and I asked him if he thought it would be too much for Quinn to let him watch the cleaning. This is a boy who gets scared during "Toy Story". We decided to let him watch and see how he handled it, so I went and got him up from his nap and told him he could go out to see Daddy clean the fish. He was very excited and ran straight outside.

I left them to their task because I prefer not to watch - I can do without the blood. A few minutes into it, I hear "cut off his head... his mouth... his tail!!!" All I could say was "Who's child are you?!?!??!" His response to that was "I like looking at fish. Dead fish and alive fish."


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Wow, it's been a while since the blog's been updated. Ooops. Well, the internet access has been a bit sketchy lately down here in the Exumas. I decided to hike into the local village today (we're anchored in a slightly remote bay so I had to walk across the Cay to get here) to check email, download tax stuff (YUCK, but offset by slurping down a couple Kaliks) and update the blog. However, once I got here, the power to the whole village was out so I had to wait around for a few hours. So now, I only have time to say HI and let you all know we've been working on some new blogs and will post them when time and access permit.

Right now we're anchored just south of Black Point on Great Guana Cay. We're hoping to head down to Georgetown tomorrow, but the weather may not cooperate. If it doesn't, well then we'll probably give up on the idea of Georgetown and start slowly working our way north to the Abacos. Georgetown seems to be a bit crowded for our tastes so if we miss it we won't be disappointed - it's not worth a rough sail when the conditions on the Banks are so superior. We do need to do some provisioning so it's either Georgetown or Nassau within a week or two.

We'll update more as soon as we can. Take care all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom...

Time does not heal all wounds. I miss you as much today as ever.

Friday, January 30, 2009

We're stuck - Part 2

Well, weather is not cooperating with us, so we're stuck in Nassau until at least Sunday. We had planned to head for Allens Cay this morning, but the route requires bottom reading, which requires good sunlight. Not happening today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We're stuck... in Nassau

Ok, there are certainly worse places to be stuck right now... We're not in Chicago. :)

We had a huge list of things to get done and haven't gotten to half of it since we've been here, so even if we could wrap everything up in a day or so, the weather window for our next sail closed with the setting of the sun today. Our next shot to leave looks like Friday.

Oh well. Off I go to make a Bahama Mama.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How hard do you work?

We have seen this guy twice now. The first time was during our dinghy ride into the village a couple days ago. We saw what looked like a fast-moving float that maybe a large fish had got caught in and was pulling. As we got closer, we noticed arms, a head and flippers. So, this guy swims out to at least 200 yards off shore (by law) to spearfish. At the time I was taking these photos (for larger images, see our homepage), the wind was blowing around 15 knots with gusts to 25.

Our current plans are to leave West End on Tuesday. We have been weathered in with strong winds from the N-NE (wrong direction for where we're going next). Gregg chatted up a neighbor on the dock, Mike from Cgull Seeker. Mike has been cruising for somewhere in the vicinity of 30 years and he's going the same way we are. We're going to leave when he does.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I love the Bahamas

Today, we resolved numerous issues. We have the part on order for the wind instrument, we procured rum (involving a long, wet and salty dinghy ride into the village), we downloaded more calypso music, and very important, we figured out where we're going next. Additionally, I have quickly become proficient at making a fabulous Bahama Mama. A local fisherman came and knocked on the hull tonight with lobsters - 4 for $20. Dinner is set for tomorrow night.

The rum is not gone. Visitors welcome.

Crisis Averted

Ok, “crisis” might be a bit strong, but as a good friend likes to say… Thirst is a dangerous thing!

I finally resolved our electronics problem after 3 days screwing around with the navigation system wiring and many emails back and forth with RayMarine Customer Support. Apparently, we’re lucky enough to get 2 bad wind instrument pods in a row.

In between the emails with RayMarine, I’ve been busy rewiring and rerouting our SeaTalk communications cables in every possible configuration. It seems the SeaTalk networks (we have three on board… SeaTalk, SeaTalkNG and SeaTalk Express) require very exact wiring procedures that are not well documented, and even when wired correctly some talent in wizardry doesn’t hurt when dealing with communication problems. Having tried every possible combination of connections, RayMarine determined that the new wind pod is indeed a POS and needs to be replaced. The standard RayMarine warranty policy is: you ship us yours and we’ll send you ours…in about 3 to 5 weeks. With only moderate pleading and emphasis on our plight of being cruisers in the Bahamas relying heavily on our wind instrument, they agreed to ship us an advance replacement with my promise (and credit card number) that I will ship the offending pod back to them within 30 days. Thank you RayMarine!!!

The only problem now is how to get the replacement into the Bahamas without paying the 50% VAT tax on it. This is a significant cost as the retail price of this pod is $350. Replacement parts for vessels in Bahamas waters are exempted from VAT, but you have to have the right mix of paperwork and voodoo to pull it off. Enter our mail forwarding company, St. Brendan’s Isle. They advertise that they are experts on getting mail, etc delivered anywhere in the world, and with dealing with import/export issues. I gave them a call and they quickly outlined what we needed to do and how it would work. So, I had RayMarine ship the pod to St. Brendan’s Isle and when they receive it we’ll get it shipped to us in the Bahamas. We’re not sure where in the Bahamas, but we’ll figure that out soon. We have at least until Monday to figure it out.

Oh, I mentioned a crisis being averted. Now that I’m not waist-deep in navigation system wiring, we took the dingy out for a ride to the nearest town and replenished our rum supply. The rum is no longer gone :)

I love it when a plan comes together!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why is the rum gone?!?!?!

"Why?", indeed! I blame everyone who told us in the states "don't provision liquor here - wait until you get to the Bahamas. It's cheaper there." Ok. True enough. If you can find it.

Today, I trekked two miles each way (uphill, barefoot in the snow... ok, not so much, but definitely 2 miles) to find the liquor store in West End Village. Well, I was successful. I found the store. However, when I arrived at around 3:15 p.m., I was greeted by a sign on the door that said "out to lunch, back at 4". Everything I have read in cruising articles about this type of sign in the islands said that "back at 4" was merely a possible return time, if there was a return time at all, i.e., don't expect promptness. So, being that I was alone and it was getting late in the day, I returned to the boat with only a loaf of fresh, locally baked bread (yummy, by the way). Ok, so the bread was kind of worth the trip... but the liquor cabinet is still basically empty save the remaining third of a bottle of Sauza Conmemorativo.

The rum is still gone.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What I do with my time...

...or lately, "Provisioning, provisioning & more provisioning".

I'm going to start this by saying that I am not complaining, just describing.

Since I am the cook on board, I am charged with provisioning the boat. This has been my responsibility since we moved on the boat, but never to this extreme. We are preparing for up to 16 weeks in the Bahamas. Yes, there are grocery stores there, but you're not going to find Jewel or Dominick's on the Exumas anywhere. According to cruising cookbooks, sailing magazine articles and word of mouth, you're more likely to find something more like a shop the size of a cubicle that might have condiments, frozen bread, Velveeta and one refrigerator containing very limited produce (if you're lucky).

Beer is available, but VERY expensive - to the tune of $60/case. Liquor, however, is available and cheap, so I don't have to worry about that. Paper products, when available, are also very expensive, as is just about everything else you might need. Needless to say, I've been loading up the boat as much as possible. Further complicate this with the fact that the fridge and freezer on the boat are each about the size of a med-large cooler. Most of the things I bring on board cannot require refridgeration. Like milk. There's a 3-year-old on board. We have to carry lots of milk. Fortunately, I've been able to find UHT milk. We are currently holding about 8 gallons worth. We probably have around 60 juice boxes, 20 or so boxes of mac & cheese, 60 individual cups of applesauce, and among other things, probably in the neighborhood of around 4 cases of canned vegetables.

Now, let's tack on that I no longer have a car. I did have the benefit of one major trip to the store with the use of Gregg's parents' jeep. The reciept from that trip was around 5 feet long. But now I am sans auto and walking to the store, which is about 6 blocks away, with a West Marine wheeled cart, which is slightly larger than a milk crate. Since I can only carry so much at a time, I have been to the grocery every day for the last two weeks. I'm still not finished. How much food, beer, milk, paper products, etc., would you go through in 4 months?

One more thing. Food in cardboard is bad. Bugs, moisture, etc. So, every food item that comes in a cardboard box must be repackaged in some type of plastic - be it just a ziploc, an airtight container, or actually vacuum sealed (items like coffee, flour, sugar, salt, rice, etc.). This and stowing adds about 1-4 hours to every trip to the grocery. All meats to be frozen have to be vacuum sealed as well. This eliminates the risk of freezer burn and reduces the amount of waste from packaging on board later (important also because some places charge per bag for garbage disposal).

On top of provisioning, I do the laundry (via the hauling the filled wagon to the laundromat), keep the inside of the boat pretty clean, teach school for Quinn, and do all the cooking.

There ya go. I've been a little busy. At least I'm not freezing my butt off in Chicago.

Gotta go. I'm off to the store again.