Tuesday, 30 April 2019...Royal Island, Bahamas, to West Bay, New Providence Island, Bahamas...It Is ALL About The Weather....

I already mentioned that we have never been to Eleuthera? Well, we thought yesterday was the day to go there...until we started looking at weather reports and forecasts, wind forecasts, etc. this morning. It was obvious when we got up this morning that the plan to go to Eleuthera was not going to happen. Now, what?

We came up with another plan that would take us to Highbourne Cay in the Exuma Islands, Bahamas. Based on the information we had right then, we could probably pull this off today, but not tomorrow. The winds were going to strengthen and change to a more unfavorable direction.

We decided to head west in front of the strong east winds. This would ease the motion of the boat and take us to New Providence Island 32 miles away. We needed to find a protected anchorage before the sun went down. There are too many shallow areas in the Bahama waters and too many coral heads that must be seen in daylight hours. Because we were sailing downwind in front of the east wind, the boat was literally surfing down the waves at 10-12 knots. We usually move along at 5-7 knots.

We will be staying here until either we get a definite wind direction change or the east wind lightens up. The photo shows tonights beautiful sunset. It was a relief and a pleasure to be watching it from this secure sheltered anchorage. We are grateful!

Monday, 29 April 2019...from Lynyard Cay, Bahamas, to Royal Island, Bahamas...We Were Rockin’ and Rollin’ “Out There” Today...

We were underway by 0700/7:00a.m. this morning, heading for the Little Harbour Cut (a “cut” is a pass between two land masses where ocean currents rush in and out with the tides), then out into the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was basically from the northeast, but moved around enough to produce confused seas. The wind speeds were up and down as squalls approached us, then slid away without raining on us. The wind speed was up and down, so sometimes we used sails, sometimes one engine, or sometimes, both sail and engine.

We headed for Royal Island, which is located to the north of the north end of Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. We have been to some of the Bahama islands before, but we never went to Eleuthera. The cruising guide says the long, thin island is 90 miles long and 2-3 miles wide, except at the ends. It describes the land as “similar to Scotland” with lakes and woodlands spread over rolling hills. A group of settlers from England and Bermuda came to this island in 1648 looking for a place where they could make their own laws and live how they wanted to live. This group of 100 people and 2 clergymen called themselves “The Eleutherian Adventurers”. Life was difficult as the group struggled to house and feed themselves in an unknown place they called “Eleuthera”, taken from the Greek word meaning “freedom”. Day to day life was made harder by the Spanish who were trying to claim sovereignty over the islands...and the people...plus there were pirates sailing these waters trying to claim whatever everyone else had.

Eleuthera has always been mainly an agricultural island. At one time, pineapples from here were sent to England and the States. Today, pineapples, tomatoes, and citrus are grown and shipped to Nassau.

So, tonight we are anchored with 8 other boats at a well protected anchorage at Royal Island. We moved the boat 56.7 nm in a little over 11 hours today. The second photo shows the clouds gathering behind us to “push” us around Egg Island and toward Royal Island. The third photo shows what we saw in front of us at the same time...a rainbow over Egg Island! Somehow, that was a special ending to what had been a long day of bouncing over the waves. PS...I added the third photo from yesterday’s visit to the lighthouse ruins near Little Harbour, because I really liked it and wanted to share it with everyone!

Sunday, 28 April 2019...Little Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas (+Afternoon move to anchor at Lynard Cay for the night.)...A Little Bit Of Little Harbour History...

After spending a quiet night on a mooring in Little Harbour last night, we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. It was a perfect time to do a little exploring around the harbor. First, we went in the dinghy over by the two obvious caves in the hillside overlooking the harbor. On the way we saw sea turtles swimming.

Next, we headed for shore. Once the dinghy anchor was set, we left the beach and walked a few steps to the building called the Museum, Gallery, and Gift Shop. Inside, there were many beautiful bronze cast artworks for sale. In one corner, there was a display dedicated to Randolph Johnston, the man who came to Little Harbour in the early 1950’s seeking a paradise in which to create his original works of art.

In 1950, Randolph Johnston left his teaching position at Smith College in Massachusetts, and set sail with his wife and three sons, searching for a place where he would be inspired to create his bronze sculptures. They sailed to Little Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas in 1952. He applied for permission to homestead there. At first they lived on their boat, then they lived in caves while they were building thatched-roof living spaces. Eventually, they built a permanent house from coral blocks. Once the house was finished, Randolph built a bronze casting foundry, so he could start producing his art work. He used the lost wax casting method. Peter, the youngest of Randolph’s three sons is also an artist who continues the tradition of bronze casting. We were told that today four generations of the Johnston family are involved with the artwork produced at Little Harbour. They are internationally known artists. The little settlement around the harbor has grown to 40 structures and Pete”s Pub is a gathering place for locals and transients.

After learning about Randolph Johnston and his descendants, we walked down the sand track and followed the signs directing us to the ruins of the old lighthouse. As the path got smaller and we walked through sea grapes, large maguey plants, and casuarina trees, we headed toward the high point of land overlooking the opening of the harbor channel. The lighthouse was established in 1889. The ruins of a concrete base for the lighthouse and concrete quarters for the keeper and his wife are still there on that hill. In modern times, a steel frame was constructed beside the ruins and the light was powered by solar energy. In 1999 Hurricane Floyd decimated the area and the steel tower was destroyed (as was 80% of the settlement around the harbor). Another tower and light was put up to replace the old one. This tower and light was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. There is no functional light at this location today.

Back on Exit Only, we had lunch, then discussed what our sailing plan was going to be from here. We decided we are going to leave at high tide today around 1430/2:30 p.m. There is a sandbar at the mouth of the channel, so, even though we only carry about four feet of draft, we always err on the side of having plenty of room under our keel. We want to be in position to go through Little Harbour Cut (out into the Atlantic Ocean) at first light tomorrow morning, so we decided to go anchor on the south end of Lynyard Cay tonight. We are planning to sail/motor-sail 56 nm tomorrow to Royal Island at the north end of Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. We are moving south...one day at a time...

Saturday ... 27 April, 2019 ... Little Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas...Doin’ Things Island Style ...

Four of us were wide awake at 0450/4:50 a.m. this morning as a thunder and lightening show was happening over Marsh Harbour and the rain came pouring down. We were checking the cockpit to make sure everything was stowed and not blowing away, checking hatches and ports to make sure they were closed, and looking at our phones for weather information to find out exactly what was going on, It is a real adrenaline rush to wake up and hear that pounding rain! A few minutes later, everything had been checked and taken care of, so we could go back to our bunks. It rained very hard for about an hour, then suddenly...it was over. It was like the faucet had been turned off. When we eventually did climb out of the bunks around 0700/7:00 a.m., we found at least an inch of water in a couple of containers in the cockpit. The sun came out, the puffy white clouds were in the blue sky, and it was like nothing had happened.

We had breakfast, then gathered the last of the trash into a heavy black bag. Dito and the girls got in the dinghy with the trash bag and paddled their way to the dinghy dock. The trash dumpster is located near-by. Dave and Dito had stowed the dinghy engine in the cockpit last night in preparation for sailing this morning.

We left Marsh Harbour around 0930/9:30 a.m. and headed south along Great Abaco Island. Roughly 4-1/2 hours later we arrived at Little Harbour, Great Abaco Island. This is a small well-protected anchorage. To safely maximize the anchoring space that is available, the owners of the land around the harbor have put down mooring balls. That way, they have control of where people put their boats, and they make money off of all of us renting the mooring balls on a night by night basis. The mooring ball has a long rope with a loop at the end. The deckhand on the boat has a boathook that is used to reach down and grab the rope. Using our own rope, we connect it through the mooring rope and attach our rope to both bows (because we are a catamaran), so our boat is pulling evenly on their mooring. We will be staying here tonight and tomorrow night, because we are waiting for the East winds to come in Monday morning.

We took the dinghy into shore in the late afternoon. The small harbor has a small settlement of people around it and a small, but lovely beach. There is a “down island” vibe the moment you step onshore. The first thing we noticed as we stepped from the dinghy into the crystal clear water was the unique row of “island swings” set up among a row of pilings. The next thing we noticed as we walked on the sand track (where the cars drive) next to the beach, were the “speed bumps” made out of recycled pieces of huge rope.

Then, there is a funky beach pub sitting right there overlooking the beach and the harbor. It has a sand “floor”, wood holding up the roof that shades everyone and everything, and very few walls. The ocean breeze blows through no matter what direction the wind is coming from, because the land is very narrow here. One minute you are standing on the leeward (protected) harbor side of the land, then you follow a narrow boardwalk up and over a small rise (no land mass in the Bahamas is over 200’ high) and there is the Atlantic Ocean roaring onto a windward beach. One of the folks at the pub showed Z and J the “put the ring on the hook” game. There is a hook mounted on the wall. There is a string about 4’ long attached to the wall at one end and attached to a ring at the other end. You pull the string out straight, then let go with a twist of your wrist and try to get the ring to land on the hook. Z, J, Dito, and Dave all tried to do it...and eventually,...after a lot of tries...they all succeeded!

Little Harbour has a bit of interesting history that I will talk about tomorrow. We were too late to go in the small museum dedicated to the family who settled here in the 1950’s. I want to see the museum before I try to tell their story. Until tomorrow...

Friday ... 26 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas...Odds ‘n Ends For The Boat ...

Came to “town” with a list of things we needed to do...find a mailbox, buy water maker high pressure oil, try Bahamian bread, get a dinghy bilge pump (for pumping rainwater or splashed saltwater water out of the dinghy), buy Rustoleum paint for marking the dinghy motor in such a way we hope a would-be thief would not want it, and as always...buy more food!

We do not really need more provisions to put on board right now, but after we leave Marsh Harbour, our next chance to find a wide variety of provisions will be in George Town, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. This morning, we did not buy a lot, but we did replace some of the things we have used and did buy some fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and eggs. The intrepid blue wagon came along with us on our journey. We pulled the wagon to the grocery store, used it as our trolley inside the store, and repacked it for the return trip to the dinghy dock after we paid for our groceries. We passed several folks who had chartered a boat for the coming week as they headed to the store to provision. A few people commented that they wished they had a blue wagon, too! When we got back to the boat, we opened all the bags of apples and oranges and laid the vegetables we had bought by the pound in the fresh air. The store is air conditioned, therefore, the produce is quite cold compared to the outdoor temperature. When we bring the produce outside, the bags tend to form condensation. We let the produce come to ambient temperature with the breeze blowing over it. Once it is dry, we individually wrap each piece in paper towel, so the fruits and vegetables do not touch each other. This minimizes the bruising that can occur on a moving boat.

I asked Z and J to hold the bread we bought at the local bakery. There were several bakeries in town, but Dito said he went to the one that had the longest line waiting to be served. He saw the people were all buying bread, so he bought some, too! It has a very fine texture and is so light! Tastes good, too!

We are planning on leaving Marsh Harbour tomorrow morning and heading south to Little Harbour. Right now, we have no idea how much time we will spend wending our way south through the Exumas. It all depends on the weather and wind, as well as how many stops we make and how long we stay at each place. Fortunately, we have access to good weather information and we have very good cruising guides that tell us where we can go, where we can anchor safely, what kind of wind protection is found in each anchorage, and what to expect when we get there. We have an over all “big picture plan” that includes several possibilities, but as we actually move the boat, we are making up our itinerary one or two days at a time.

Thursday ... 25 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas ... Back To Marsh Harbour ...

We moved the boat from Great Guana Cay back to Marsh Harbour first thing this morning. We motored with one engine, then the other one without sails, because the winds were very light and the sea was smooth. About half way in the 10.7 nm passage, Dave slowed the boat down to 1.5 knots and Dito sent his drone up into the sky to circle above the boat taking videos of the boat in motion. I have not seen the videos and Dito has only previewed them, but he says he thinks he got some good footage.

Coming into the Harbour, we went straight to the fuel dock at Harbour View Marina. We did not need fuel, but we did want to top up our water tank, buy a bag of ice, and find out if they would let us do laundry there if we were not staying in the marina. They said we would pay more than a boat at the dock, but we could use their laundry. Dito and I got off the boat with the laundry bags and went up to the marina office to purchase tokens. They take U.S.A money or Bahamas money all over the Bahamas. The washing machines and dryers were large-size, but I still needed 3 machines to do clothing, towels, and bedsheets for 6 people. Nice to have sweet-smelling laundry again!

While the washing machines did their thing, I walked out to the street in front of the marina. Right outside the front entrance to the Harbour View Marina, there was a man making conch (pronounced “conk”) salad right before my eyes. I asked if I could take a photo of the shells and he said it was O.K. The law says conch cannot be taken unless they are full grown. Obviously, taking young conch means there will be fewer conch available in the future. There are many kinds of conch around the world, but the Bahamas are famous for the Queen Conch. This local delicacy is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Some say conch is similar to calamari...firm white meat with a chewy texture. It is eaten steamed, deep-fried, or raw with citrus juices and fresh vegetables, or added to other foods like soup or chowder.

While I was doing the laundry, the rest of the crew had moved off the dock and gone out into the harbor to anchor. When the laundry was done, I called for a ride to the boat. Dave and Dito came in the dinghy to pick me and the laundry bags up near a convenient ladder on the dock right outside the laundry door. Back on Exit Only, Sarah and the girls were busy cleaning up the boat. The girls were sent to open the hatches (openings in the deck) and ports (openings on the sides of the hulls) that they could reach. Several hatches and ports are over the bunks, so they climbed up on the bunks and opened them so the fresh breeze could flow through the boat. We have a few more “boat errands” to do in the village tomorrow, then we plan to move south to Eleuthera or the Exumas. We will see where the wind chooses for us to go!

Wednesday ... 24 April, 2019 ... Great Guana Cay, Bahamas...Back To The Same Beach ...

We did school this morning, then had lunch. We all looked at the local weather forecast, the wind direction predictions, and the local cruising guides and decided this was a good place to stay one more day.

Yesterday when we went in to the beach, besides our sand shoes and goggles for snorkeling, we had cameras, buckets, and scoops for playing in the sand, plus a net bag for collecting seashells. Today when we went to a different part of this wide expanse of white sand beach, we had sand shoes and goggles, plus 2 kayaks and a paddle board tied behind the dinghy. We had quite a flotilla heading for the beach.

Everyone had a great time paddling the small boats, racing the small boats, seeing who could overturn the other person’s boat, and trying to use the kayaks like paddle boards. In between rides, the kids were swimming in the clear shallow water looking at the small fish swimming with them.

After spending time at the beach, we put the small kayak across the bow of the dinghy and 4 of us got in to return to the boat. Sarah paddled the larger kayak and Dito paddled the paddle board back to the boat.

Back at the boat, Dito and Dave were talking about trying some “skurfing” with the dinghy. Real “skurfing” is similar to water skiing, but uses a modified surf board that is shorter, wider, and has 3 large fins. On Exit Only, they like to do a modified version of “skurfing” using our dinghy pulling someone on the paddleboard. The winds were light and the sea surface was smooth, so it was a perfect time to try it out. The girls rode in the dinghy with Dave while they pulled Dito first. Of course, the girls wanted to try it, too, so each girl took a turn sitting on the paddle board with her dad. The dinghy went slower, but it was fast enough to make it a fun ride for them!

Once they finished going around in circles and returned to the boat, the girls wanted to jump off the bow (front) of the boat and swim to the stern (back). Everyone has really gotten into “this water thing”! We are happy about that, because on a boat, we are all about the water!

Tuesday ... 23 April, 2019 ... Great Guana Cay, Bahamas...I Love The Turquoise Water And The Turquoise Clouds ...

We were still at Spoil Cay when we woke up this morning. The wind had shifted to the NE and had been pushing the boat around half the night. The motion of the boat woke me up about midnight. Fortunately, by 0130 the wind had decreased and the rest of the night was calmer.

We did school this morning, then tried to help Dito with his video/photo project. He asked the crew to stand on the bow of Exit Only while he got in the water with his GoPro enclosed in the bubble casing. He had several ideas in mind, so he took photos and video several different ways. Because Dito was in the water, he had to deal with the small choppy waves that kept rolling by and the huge puffy Trade Wind clouds kept moving over the sun, making the light change almost constantly. He was pleased with some of the results. You can see one of the photos showing us on the bow above the water and the keels of the boat showing underwater. I really liked that one.

Soon, it was lunchtime. There was a big decision to make...should we eat lunch before we move the boat or eat after we move the boat. We decided to go ahead and move the boat first. We only had to move 1.3 nm to go to Baker’s Bay beach on Great Guana Cay. After filling in the boat log, I started making lunch while the boat was sailing. When we arrived at our destination and the anchor was down, we turned our attention to getting ready to eat at the cockpit table. Today is Sarah’s birthday and we celebrated her birthday at lunch with a fresh apple coffee cake I made last night.

After we cleaned up from lunch, we got ready to go in to the beach. There was this long, long white beach and only two dinghies on it when we arrived. We spent some time enjoying the sand and the water, then went back out to Exit Only. As we looked at the beauty all around us, we noticed the turquoise clouds! Everyone who knows me, knows I love the color turquoise and wear it often. Of course, I love the incredible turquoise water found in the Bahamas. On a bright sunny day, the shallow aqua blue water of the Bahamas Banks is often reflected upward and the color turquoise shows up on the bottoms of the white clouds. Amazing! You can see it in my photo!

We were anchored in 11’-12’ of crystal clear water. We showed the kids how to climb up the ladder attached to the starboard (right) scoop at the stern (back of the boat). They practiced swimming from the starboard scoop over to the port (left) scoop and back. They figured out they could grab the dinghy painter (the line that is attached to the dinghy) between the scoops and hold on to it. The painter has a carabiner at the other end to attach the dinghy to the boat or a dinghy dock, or whatever. Next, they went up to the bow, jumped in the water, then swam under the boat between the hulls from the bow (front) to the stern (back). While in the water, they saw a variety of fish and found a starfish, too. It was a successful day for Beginning Snorkeling 101.

Monday ... 22 April, 2019 ... Spoil Cay, Bahamas ... We Had Our Own Private Island For A Little While ...

We knew the winds were going to go from ENE to more E today, so we decided we would leave Marsh Harbour and head to near-by Spoil Cay, which is located near the north end of Guana Cay.

Today was Easter Monday in the Bahamas, and basically every business was closed. They celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. However, the large grocery store did open on a half-day schedule this morning. We decided to stock up on bread, shredded cheese, lettuce, and eggs before we left. That meant a walk over there and back before leaving.

Sarah, Z, J, and I walked to the store. We split the short list and headed in two directions. I told J she was in charge of groceries. She said she would organize them. There she is in the cart surrounded by her organized groceries! It was a quick trip and we were soon back at the dinghy dock being picked up.

We decided to have lunch on board before we took up the anchor and moved on. A little over an hour later, we left the harbor. We were able to sail the 10.3 nm over to an uninhabited island named Spoil Cay. They also call this Shell Cay, so I was very interested in seeing what kind of shells we would find.

Sunday ... 21 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Grand Abaco Island, Bahamas...Easter Sunday In The Bahamas ...

We decided we were going to go to church this morning. Sarah looked up some possibilities and we chose one that was about 1-1/2 miles away from the dinghy dock. Marsh Harbour is a small town with one stoplight that is spread out around the harbor.

First we got in the dinghy and went to the dingy dock. Then we started walking on one of the bigger streets that went away from the water. We walked for about 20-25 minutes and thought the church we were looking for was “just a little farther around that curve”. Then, we looked up and saw a sign that said “Marsh Harbor Gospel Chapel”. It was up a small hill on the right. “Yes!”, we suddenly unanimously decided that we would go there.

We really enjoyed the service. There were lots of songs for the congregation to sing and the speaker was very good. The theme, of course, was Easter, but as well as we know the Easter story, the presentation was engaging. The kids got to go to Sunday School, so they met some of the other kids from the congregation.

After the service was over, many of the people spoke to us and thanked us for coming. We thanked them for the service. Then, one lady asked us how we got there, and we told her we walked. The next thing we knew, she had found us a ride back to the dinghy dock! We did not mind walking...really!...but, it was very nice of the folks who took us to the waterfront. It was fun for us to get to ask a few questions about what it is like living in Marsh Harbour.

In the afternoon, Dito, Sarah, Z, and J took the dinghy and met two other boat families at a local snorkeling place called Mermaid Reef. They had a bit of a challenge, because the reef was on the windward side of the island, so the water was choppy. At least everyone did get to see some tropical fish!

Saturday ... 20 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Grand Abaco Island, Bahamas...Big Changes From Morning To Evening ...

We started today out under threat of a big weather front pushing through bringing thunderstorms, lightening, high winds, and pounding rain. The first photo tells the story. I am sure all of that happened somewhere, but fortunately, we watched those dark clouds come toward us, then suddenly start to move around us. We did get some wind and some rain, and some lightening, but nothing like we expected when we first saw those clouds! The winds kept changing direction and blowing hard enough that 2-3 boats began to drag in the anchorage. Amazingly, the vast majority of held their boats in place.

We did do school today, because we missed a couple of days this week while we were moving the boat. This is our second day of being on the boat watching for dragging anchors...ours or theirs. We have not had trouble dragging with this anchor, but we always try to be vigilant. We take care of the boat and it takes care of us!

We all love pizza. We have started talking about how much we would like to have a pizza, so I made up a batch of dough before we started school. The dough had time to rise. When we sailed to Savusavu, Fiji, many years ago, there were two women there who worked at the tiny yacht club making pizza. We always enjoyed their pizza. We got to know these ladies and I asked them for their dough and sauce recipes. They gladly shared them with me. Today was the first time I have made pizza myself in a very long time, but it turned out well. Let us just say...there were no leftovers! We really liked the pizza, but I also like the memory of meeting those ladies and using recipes they shared with me a long time ago. We call it Fiji Pizza.

The last photo shows how the harbor looked at the end of the day. Hard to believe the comparison between the first and last photos! The wind has died now, and a few stars have come out between the clouds in the sky.

Friday ... 19 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Grand Abaco Island, Bahamas...Learning A Little About The Bahamas ...

The harbor is definitely more crowded today than it was when we went to bed last night. During the night, the strong winds moved in and continued to blow hard all day. We ended up staying on the boat all day watching to make sure we were not dragging anchor and that no one around us was dragging anchor. This anchorage is supposed to be one of the most sheltered in the Bahamas and we are happy to be here.

I have been writing my blog when I could...sometimes at anchor and sometimes when we are sailing along. Each day I try to take my photos and think ahead what “my story” will be. I have a notebook arranged so I can list which three photos I am thinking about using and then I make notes about what story I am thinking about telling. It has taken me awhile to work out my system for planning what to do, then for keeping track of what I did. Staying here at Marsh Harbour for a few days has given me a little extra “downtime” to catch up with my good intentions!

We had school today for Z and J. We have not been having school while the boat is moving, so when we stop, we make a real effort to make it happen. Both of the girls are good students, so the lessons usually go pretty smoothly. This is the girls’ first “foreign country”, so we were making an effort to introduce facts about the Bahamas while we are here.

The country is officially called the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, but everyone just says “the Bahamas”. There are 700+ islands and cays (pronounced “keys”) included in the country. We entered the country at the northernmost island, Grand Bahama, so we can choose what to see from 699+ islands south of that! I am sure we will not go to all of them!

Around 397,000 Bahamians live on the islands and cays today. Christopher Columbus actually landed on an island in this group that he renamed San Salvador Island on his first voyage in 1492. The earliest permanent European settlement was on Eleuthera in 1648. In the later 1600’s, Spain, France, Britain and the Netherlands all attempted to colonize in the islands. At the end of the 1600’s and into the 1700’s settlers from Bermuda came to these islands because they thought Bermuda was too crowded. The British had taken control of the Bahamas and appointed a Royal Governor by 1728. Because the American colonies were fighting the British for independence in the late 1770’s, many British citizens in the colonies moved to the islands to get away from the war and to live in part of the British Empire. The Bahamas became a free and sovereign country on 10 July 1973, after 325 years of peaceful British rule.

Thursday ... 18 April, 2019 ... Marsh Harbour, Grand Abaco Island...Real Cruising Involves A Lot Of Walking ...

t was a beautiful sunny day here in Marsh Harbour. There are a lot of boats in the harbor, but so far it is not too crowded. I am sure more will be coming here to anchor as the front comes through beginning tomorrow.

We are in real cruising mode now. We went into the public dinghy dock and Dave let the rest of us off there this morning. We had a small map of the area and knew the general direction we needed to go to find Maxwell’s. We read that this is the largest grocery store in the Bahamas. Again, we do not need lots of groceries, but we wanted to see what they have and it felt good to get on land and walk around.

The kids accepted it well when we explained to them that we would be walking to the store. They were carrying the empty backpacks that are cooler packs...very light with nothing in it at that point. It was roughly a one mile walk. The hard part is remembering that cars drive on the left side of the road here, so we find ourselves looking at the wrong lane to see if cars are coming. When we got to the store, I got a shopping basket and Z, J, and I went inside.

Dito and Sarah continued walking another mile to get to the Fed Ex Store. Sarah’s phone “bricked” and she has been in touch with Google. They will send her a replacement phone, but she has to return the broken phone that is under warranty. All of this is complicated by not being in the States. She sent the phone to her folks. They will send the phone to Google. Google will send the replacement phone to her folks and her folks will send it to whatever address Sarah gives them.

When Dito and Sarah got back to the store, the kids and I had done a little shopping for “light” things. I had one heavy thing...5 pounds of flour. (More about the flour in a minute.) We had a decision to make...do we leave with what is in the basket that can be carried easily in the two backpacks and the two canvas bags we brought with us, or do we buy a few more things we want that are heavy and ride in a taxi. We opted for the second option. The girl bagging our groceries called a taxi for us and 10 minutes later we were in the taxi and rode for 5 minutes, thence were back at the dinghy dock. We called Dave on our Google Fi phone and he brought the dinghy to pick us up. Dito and the groceries went out to the boat first, then Dito came back and picked the four of us up to go back to the boat.

About the flour and Crisco...I bought the five pounds of flour and a 1 pound tin of Crisco to make my own Bisquick-like product. The l pound of Crisco is mixed with 2-1/2 pounds of flour (or 10-11 cups) plus salt, powdered milk, and baking powder. I like to use the faux Bisquick to make impossible pies and drop biscuits when it is my turn to cook. I also use it for pancakes and quick breads when I want to make something quick and easy.

Wednesday ... 17 April, 2019 ... Manjack Cay, Abacos Islands to Marsh Harbor, Grand Abaco Island, Bahamas (25.5 nm) ...

We left Manjack Cay this morning heading for Marsh Harbour, Grand Abaco Island. About half way to our destination, we started hearing people on the VHF radio asking if anyone had information about the Whale Cay Passage. We had seen this place on the chart, but I had not paid special attention to it until I heard all the radio traffic.

Quickly, I looked Whale Cay Passage up in the Abacos Bahamas Cruising Guide. First, I want to tell you that some very kind people who came to Port Lucaya to haul their catamaran out of the water to be stored until next year, met Dito on the dock there. He told them we were going to the Abacos and they said they were returning from the Abacos. Then, they got this book out of their boat and gave it to us! It is packed with specific information and suggestions for sailing everywhere in the Abacos. I did not personally meet these folks, but I would thank them if I knew where they were now! We are using the book all day everyday!

Back to Whale Cay Passage...the book describes the area around Whale Cay as getting increasingly shallow on the ocean side which causes the :”shelf effect”. The big rolling waves from the Atlantic Ocean come in constantly. If heavy weather, especially a Nor’easter, is happening, the high seas get so high they can close the passage with heavy swells that are too dangerous to move through. The locals call that “a Rage”. Fortunately, the passage was full of fairly calm 3’ seas when we came through this morning.

You can see Baba is getting lots of help with steering the boat! Truth be told, Dave is usually sitting at the helm watching, but we usually turn on the Autohelm 7000. Dave sets the course and the Autohelm does the steering. When we are entering anchorages or harbors, we do hand steer. The last photo was taken as we came into Marsh Harbour.

Good news about the frig! Dito did maintenanace on the battery terminals and the frig immediately started functioning normally! We are all very happy about that!

Tuesday ... 16 April, 2019 ... Manjack Cay, Abacos Islands, Bahamas...When The Wind Goes Down, The Mosquitos Come Out ...

That is exactly what happened last night. Even though we were anchored a fair way offshore, the mosquitos managed to find us and all of us ended up with too many mosquito bites. We wish the wind would blow a little harder and blow the mosquitos away!

Waking to a quiet anchorage today, it was a good feeling to know we planned to stay here all day and night. We will head out tomorrow. We have been doing daysails and anchoring at night, so everyone is pretty much rested...still, it is nice to stop and enjoy the islands. We have been pushing a little harder than usual, because we know another weather change is coming and strong winds are going to come from all directions one time or another. We need to be in a well protected anchorage that can protect us from all directions. One of the best harbors is at Marsh Harbour on Grand Abaco Island, Bahamas.

Today, we concentrated on checking out Manjack Cay. First, we did school...then lunch...then we put our swimsuits on, got in the dinghy, and went exploring. Our new dinghy engine is getting broken in and we are very happy with it. The tide was rising, so we headed for the water that forms a “river” heading into the center of the cay. The water was about 2’-3’ deep and crystal clear. It was fairly easy to spot sea turtles, small manta rays, small nurse and reef sharks when they swam over the white sand bottom. It was much harder to see them when they headed for large patches of sea grass and blended in with the darker color. We saw a lot of animals, but I was not fast enough with my phone to get good photos of them.

Dave and Dito took the opportunity to do maintenance on the electric windlass. The windlass is located near the central bow of the boat. Our 70-pound Beugel anchor is attached to 200’ of 3/8” high-test chain. It is all heavy, so we use the windlass to raise and lower the anchor.

There are a couple of cays between here and Marsh Harbour that we normally would anchor at for a night or two, but we will pass them by tomorrow when we head for Marsh Harbour. That anchorage can be very crowded and we want to be sure we are tucked in there before the front goes through. P.S. Dave and Dito are still working on tracking down what is causing the problem is with power not getting to the frig.

Monday ... 15 April, 2019 ... Sailing from Great Sale Cay to Manjack Cay (pronounced “munjack key”) (49.1 nm)...There Is A Reason They Call It A “Shakedown”....

We have been watching the grib files and other sources of local weather and we know a major wind shift is coming in later today. The winds will be changing 180 degrees...from SE to NW. We are headed to Manjack Cay where we can anchor in the shelter of the cay. Although there is a large popular anchorage there, it will probably be crowded with charter boats and locals, so we are going “around a headland” to a smaller anchorage our cruising friend from Port Lucaya told us about. It just happens that he is going to be there tonight, too. The small anchorage is called Coconut Tree Beach. I like that name, but must admit I did not see one coconut palm tree among all.the other trees.

We try to sail whenever we can and the boat was moving nicely with a double reefed main and a reduced foresail. (Remember, we only have one foresail in place right now. The other one is still in the cockpit in a sailbag. It has been too windy to attempt to put it back in its place.). We were rocking and rolling until about 1330/1:30 p.m. We noticed the sky darkening behind us and strong, cool gusts of wind started to push on our sails, The storm that had been predicted had arrived. We shortened sail even more and turned on the engines. Most of the storm went to the south of us, but some of it caught up with all of the boats in the channel. It blew hard and rained hard for a short time, then everything calmed down again.

By the time we arrived at Manjack Cay and put the anchor down, the winds had changed, the seas smoothed out, we were protected, the rain had stopped, and the sun came out! We shared our small anchorage with two other sailboats. Dito put the dinghy in the water and took Sarah and the girls on a “rece” (a reconnaissance mission to check out the area). We have been told there are sea turtles, manta rays, and both nurse and reef sharks that are easily seen in the clear shallow waters close to the cay. We plan to take a dinghy ride up the “river” of shallow ocean water that flows toward the center of the cay tomorrow at high tide. We heard there are lots of sea turtles there. Looking forward to a quiet night.

Sunday ... 14 April, 2019 ... Sailing from West End, Grand Bahama Island to Great Sale Cay, Bahamas (47.9 nm)...The Wind Is Blowing Harder...

We left West End this morning, focused on getting well on our way to the Abacos Islands, Bahamas. This group of islands is one of the most scenic areas of the Bahamas and several charter boat companies are located there. We had 20+ knots of wind and were literally rocking and rolling along.

Early today, we were running downwind with a 15-18 knots of SE wind pushing us on our way. We did not have the main up, but unfurled the genoa foresail. This sail is furled (rolled up) around the headstay. Then, we unfurled the code zero (a second foresail) which is on an auxiliary line attached to the top and bottom of the forestay (rigging wire from the bow (front) of the boat to the top of the mast). One sail stretched out to the port side (left) and the other sail stretched out to the starboard side (right). Running “before the wind” or “downwind”, this is called “wing and wing”. It really looks beautiful when we are sailing like this...until the winds strengthen and the seas get bigger (wave height is higher). That is what happened today. Suddenly, we were wishing we had “shortened sail” (rolled up the sails to make them smaller) when we first realized that the winds were strengthening (blowing harder).

We pulled on the lines back by the cockpit to furl the genoa and it rolled up quickly. We tried to furl the code zero, but it was still catching too much wind and to say it was uncooperative is a huge understatement. There was a tad bit of drama as Dito and Sarah went forward. Dito literally unfastened the loose foot of the sail from where it was attached and physically pulled the sail down onto the deck. Sarah sat on the sail to keep it from blowing off the deck and into the water. Once the whole sail was down on the deck, they began to push it back into the cockpit while Dave and I pulled on it from the cockpit. Once the sail was contained in the cockpit, the drama was over. These are new sails and they are cut differently and mounted differently from our old system. We are having to learn about these new sails and their peculiarities. Lesson learned today...furl the code zero first and do it before the wind accelerates. This is why the first few weeks of sailing are called “the shakedown”. Appropriate name in more ways than one!

We anchored at Great Sale Cay for the night. There were 6-7 other boats anchored there. We had met at least 2 of them somewhere else. That is what happens...you keep seeing the same boats, because we are all generally going to the same places. We pulled in just before sunset. Z looked at me and said, “I do not see any houses or lights.” I started laughing. I wish I had a picture of her face when I explained it was an uninhabited island and nobody lived there. I could watch her processing that concept. She did not realize until that moment that there were islands where no one lived.

Once we were anchored and had cleaned up the cockpit and salon a tad, it was time to have supper and relax.

Saturday ... 13 April, 2019 ... Sailing From Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas Island to West End, Grand Bahamas (30.8 nm)...

We left Port Lucaya this morning and sailed for 6 hours to West End. This is the first of three day-sails that will take us from the south side of Grand Bahama Island around and over the top to the group of islands called the Abacos Islands (still in the Bahamas). We had a good sail. Everything seemed to be working well except one of our wind generators still is not wanting to spin. Also, we think there is a problem getting the power from the solar panels to the rest of the boat. Dave and Dito are working on tracing down what is or is not happening.

We decided the anchorages near West End might not have good holding for us tonight, so we went to the Old Bahama Bay Marina and tied up to the wall. West end is a long way from Freeport, the second largest town in the Bahamas. The resort area at West End includes the marina, hotel rooms, a lovely two-tiered swimming pool, a beautiful beach, a restaurant, etc. After we tied up the boat, I got off and immediately headed out to find the beach. We were last in the Bahamas in 2006. I still remembered those beaches and could not wait to walk into the crystal clear water. The kids had trouble choosing between the fancy swimming pool, the beautiful beach, and the playground! What to do first? When Z and J finally got to the beach, Z’s loose tooth came out...and she dropped it...right in the sand! She left her tooth in the Bahamas! (Do not worry! Tooth or no tooth...I am sure the Tooth Fairy will come by the boat tonight!)

There was a group of people, both locals and tourists, gathered around the beach bar. We soon discovered about 22 of those people were from central Florida (where we just came from) and they were part of a skydiving group. This is an annual event. They charter a plane to bring them to West End and do several dives on different days onto the beach at this resort. Half of the skydiving group wore wing suits and half of the group used parachutes. It was quite a sight to see!

Friday ... 12 April, 2019 ... Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas...We Came Here To Buy A New Dinghy Engine...

We all woke up rested this morning. That was a good thing, because we have a lot to accomplish today. We are planning on heading out of here tomorrow.

Dave wanted to get a new engine for our new dinghy. He wanted an 8 hp Yamaha 2-stroke engine. Two-stroke engines are not sold in the States, but we knew they still sold these engines in the Bahamas. When Dave called the dealer in Freeport, he found out they did not have any 8 hp Yamaha engines in stock. They did have a 15 hp engine in stock. Our only hesitation about getting the bigger engine was the heavier weight. We want to be able to carry the engine mounted on the dinghy when the dinghy is in the davits. After thinking about it, Dave decided to go with the bigger engine.

Also, they wanted to find the MyAliv store. When we met with Dito’s friend last evening, he told us about MyAliv...a phone system used in the Bahamas that allows us to carry a Hot Spot with us. He also told us about an App called Windy that gives up-to-the-minute information about winds in the local area wherever you are. The other program he told us about is called Navionics. The program lets you use your phone to create a personalized route for your specific boat through rocks, reefs, sand bars, and bays. We are really happy to have local information and grateful to him for sharing.his favorite navigation programs.

In the meantime, the ladies of the crew went to the Port Lucaya Marketplace in the courtesy car provided by the marina. This large area was developed for the tourists who come in droves from cruise ships. The people are ferried in from the cruise ship to a special dock, then they get on buses that carry them to the Marketplace. There was no cruise ship in port today, so there were not too many people roaming around.

In the afternoon, Sarah and I road in the courtesy car again. We went with a lady from French-speaking Canada and a French-speaking lady who lives in Cancun to the largest grocery store in the area, Solomon’s. Sarah speaks fluent French, so she enjoyed speaking with the ladies. They also spoke English, so I could join in, too. We did not really need groceries, but we just wanted to see what was available. We bought a couple of things, but mostly looked around. Nice store. The prices of goods brought from the States all have a 35% import duty plus a VAT of 12% plus a 4% service charge if you use a credit card to pay your bill. All of these fees bring the prices up to roughly half again what the price would be in Florida. We knew this ahead of time and that is why we shopped and shopped at Florida prices until the boat was literally full of food we wanted.

Back at the boat, Sarah took the kids to swim in the resort pool. The pool has a bridge across it and a waterfall at one end. Very nice! Then it was time for supper and last minute jobs like filling the water tanks and doing a last load of laundry. Bahamas...here we come!

Thursday ... 11 April, 2019 ... Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas...(152.6 nm)...We Made It To The Bahamas!....

We arrived this morning about 0800 (8:00 a.m. after our overnight sail to Port Lucaya. We tied up to the fuel dock near the Customs and Immigration office. We put up our Cayman Islands flag of registration and a yellow “Q” flag. The yellow “Q” flag stands for “Quarantine” meaning you must get permission to enter the country before going anywhere or doing anything in that country. We were all happy to be here!

The officials wanted to see our passports, a crew list (personal information like name, age, citizenship), and our boat registration papers. We also had to fill out forms from the Bahamas government for each crew member.

After Dave returned from the Customs and Immigration office, we filled up our fuel tanks, then moved to a slip at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club in the immediate area. We were all feeling tired and decided to clean up the boat a little, then get showers. We ate lunch on the boat, then the kids were ready to go to the pool. It is a beautiful pool!

In the evening, we sprayed the salt off the boat deck and cleaned up any extra gear we were using while sailing that we did not need in the marina. We decided we would stay here 2 nights, so we could take care of some business in Freeport, 5 miles inland from the coast.

At the Customs Dock this morning, Dito saw a friend he had met back when they were working on the boat at Harbortown Marina boatyard (Ft. Pierce, Florida). This friend was crewing on a catamaran just leaving the Customs dock as we approached the dock. He has a condo and a sailboat based in Port Lucaya. Talking to him later, Dito discovered he had crewed on a friend’s catamaran from Boca Raton to Port Lucaya last night. They crossed at the same time we came across from Port Everglades/Ft. Lauderdale. Dito’s friend is very knowledgeable about sailing in the Bahamas and agreed to meet with us at the marina in the evening. We really appreciated his advice about different islands and anchorages. He also told us about some of the charts and telephone apps that he likes to use. I think we are going to like using them, too!

Wednesday ... 10 April, 2019 ... Sailing from Jensen Beach Bridge south to Port Everglades, FL, then overnight to Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas (152.6nm) ...It Has Been A Long Time Since I Did Night Watch...

We left Jensen Beach Bridge early this morning and headed south along the Florida Coast. We did not head directly east to the Bahamas because the Gulf Stream flows strongly from south to north off the eastern Florida coast. The Gulf Stream is roughly 30 miles wide (it is strong in the middle and weaker on the sides) and moves at 3-5 knots to the north. It is impossible for a sailboat to cross the Gulf Stream without getting set (pushed) at least 20 nm to the north of their course. Therefore, we wanted to move south along the Florida coast, then cross the Gulf Stream where it is narrower. Also, Ft. Lauderdale is south of Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, This is our preferred port of entry, so when we get set to the north, we will be closer to our Bahamas’ destination.

We made our way down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) to Port Everglades. Another reason Dave wanted to go around the buoy off the Port Everglades inlet was that is the same buoy we passed on our outbound leg when we started our circumnavigation in 1995 and the same buoy we passed on our inbound leg when we returned in 2006. We had a nostalgic moment today as we rounded that buoy and made a 90 degree left turn (east) to the Bahamas. As we headed east with a SW wind pushing us toward the Bahamas, the setting sun put out a magnificent glow behind the silhouette of the tall buildings of Ft. Lauderdale. Wow! That was a spectacular “Hi” and “Bye” to Fort Lauderdale!

As darkness deepened and we moved quickly along in front of the SW wind, I told Dave I was feeling a little nervous about doing night watch by myself after such a long time. I am not afraid of doing night watch, but suggested we do it with two people on watch this first night out. We all agreed that was not a bad idea. Dave and I said we would take the watch until 2300/11:00 p.m., so Dito went to bed. Dave and I did the watch and by 2300 we were really tired...the kind of tired that puts you to sleep two minutes after you lay down. Dito was on watch, so Dave and I went to sleep. At 0430/4:30 a.m. I woke up and immediately thought, “Oh, no, I must get up and see if Dito needs to be relieved, because he must be so tired being on watch by himself!”. So, I got up and told Dito I wanted to help, because I knew he must be exhausted With a rather sheepish grin, he admitted he had only been up since 0400/4:00 a.m.. Seems Dito did watch from 2300 to 0100/1:00 a.m., then Dave got up after 2 hours sleep and told Dito he could go to his bunk. Dito slept until 0400/4:00 a.m. Long story short, we made it through the night, all looking out for each other! We arrived at Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas Island, Bahamas, about 0800/8:00 a.m. this morning. (See the next entry...continued...Thursday, 11 April 2019.)

Tuesday ... 9 April, 2019, Jensen Beach (Bridge), FL, USA ... Today Is The Day ... We Left The Dock! ...

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning and several of our dock friends gathered on the A dock to untie our lines and give us a send off. As we moved away from the dock, one of the guys said “No matter how many times you do it (set off on a cruise), it is always exciting!” That says it all! On the other hand, since this was our fourth attempt to leave the dock, we thought this was really exciting!

As enthusiastic as we were about starting our cruise, we had already decided we were not going to go very far the first day. We were all really tired from doing the last minute preparations, so making it a short sailing day seemed like a good idea.

When Dave and Dito refit the boat, so many things were upgraded and changed. In so many ways, the boat feels the same to us, yet we realize we do have some new things to learn about and get used to. Right now, Dito is the only one who seems to speak the language of the electronic charts we installed. I make a lot of the daytime entries in the logbook when the boat is moving, so I am going to have to learn enough about the navigational instruments to be able to do get the information I need to record in the log book.

We have all talked about how familiar the boat feels. I can walk through the boat in the dark easily, because I know where every handhold and step are located. At odds with this feeling of familiarity is the feeling we are out of practice with the routines that keep the boat moving smoothly. We know what to expect when the boat leaves a dock, arrives at a dock, when the anchor goes down and comes up, etc. We just have not recently done all the repetitive actions that go with making the boat sail well. Not to worry...we know it will come back quickly and soon become automatic. Until that happens, we are constantly reminding each other of what needs to be done...then, making it happen.

We stopped at Jensen Beach Bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway, 11.4 nm (nautical miles) from Ft. Pierce. Not a great distance to be traveled, but a huge symbolic distance away from A dock. We moved the boat! We are on our way!

Monday ... 8 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... One More Day At The Dock ...

Wow! We are all focused an what is going to happen tomorrow (Tuesday, 09 April), but we have some important things to do today, too.

Sarah took Dave and Dito out to the St. Lucie County Airport. Customs and Immigration are located there. In June of 2007, Dave and I left Dania Beach, Florida, and brought sv/Exit Only up to Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce to put her into storage on the hard. Dave took the official boat papers to the Customs office at the airport. He was told the papers would be kept there until we returned to put the boat back in the water. Well, almost 10 years later, Dave and Dito returned to Harbortown to begin the refit of the boat. Finally, almost 12 years later, we were ready to leave the States...and we needed to have our boat papers back!

Today, when they went to the same office at the same airport, the same man who filed the papers away all those years ago, took the same papers out of the file and returned them to us. Wow! It is really happening!

A friend brought Sarah back to the boat after she returned the rental car. All we have left to do is get up tomorrow morning, turn in our keys to the marina, and go!

Sunday ... 7 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... Two More Days Until We Leave ... So Far So Good ...

We are preparing to leave without talking too much about it! Is that possible? I think we really do plan to leave on Tuesday morning, but we have been here before...only two days to go...only to have something cause us to change our plans. We will continue to whittle away at the To Do List.

There is a children’s song sung by the Veggie Tales called “We Are The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”. The lyrics talk about many things pirate do and then the Veggie Tale Pirates sing, “But we do not do any of those things. We were joking today about being the “Sailors who keep getting ready to go sailing”, but so far, we are the “Sailors who do not go sailing.” We were laughing when we were singing those words, because we are feeling pretty confident that we will really leave this time!

We admit we have gotten a little lazy about stowing things properly while we have been living at the dock. The boat does not move too much, so everything stays where we put it. Now, catamarans are a stable platform, but that does not mean they do not leap or slew sideways off a wave sometimes when we are sailing. It has been a long time since we have worried about such things, but today we officially got the odds and ends stowed so we are ready to go to sea.

We are ready to go! We are feeling like we are turning a page and starting a whole new chapter which will unveil itself day by day. That is the thing about sailing...you can make all the plans you want to, but everything is dependent on the weather and the winds. In the end, you just go with it...literally...you go where the apparent winds are taking you or you wait until favorable winds appear, then jump on them and take a ride! Here we go...

Saturday ... 6 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... Happy Birthday To J! ...

First thing this morning Dave, Z, J, and I went to the Saturday Market. Back at the boat, we enjoyed French pastries from the market and some fresh fruit. Sarah and I wanted to get an early start on the shopping list we did not get to finish yesterday. We went straight to Walmart, then Dollar Tree, then stopped for lunch at Panera, and finished with a run through Aldi. That is it! We are declaring the provisioning done!

Joss is going to be five years old on Monday, 8, April. Since we are seriously thinking about leaving on Tuesday, 9 April, Sarah decided to celebrate her birthday today. J was very excited and was ready with a plan.

She had already told us days ago that she wanted a blue cake with blue icing and cherries on top. She asked for the same kind of cake for the first time when she turned 3 and happened to be visiting us in Phoenix...blue cake and blue icing with cherries on top. Last year when she turned 4, she also asked for the same cake. We do not think she really remembers those cakes, but she has seen photos of those birthday celebrations and says she remembers. Anyway, I was happy to make another blue cake for her fifth birthday!

The menu J requested for the meal was macaroni and cheese (her favorite!) with broccoli. She happily wore the “birthday glasses” that have become a tradition in her family. Then, it was time for dessert. The candle was lit and it suddenly began playing “Happy Birthday To You”. Next, came the presents and she enjoyed opening each and every one. She loves My Little Pony, so she enjoys wearing the unicorn headband when she dresses up. Her favorite pony is Rainbow Dash and J loves his multicolor mane and tale.

After we finished supper, cake, and presents, Sarah took Z, J, and the rest of J’s birthday cake to a few of our dock friends’ boats to share birthday cake with them, too. Everyone accepted some cake and wished J a very happy birthday. Some of the folks even sang to her!

Friday ... 5 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... How Six People Using One Rental Car Get The Boat Ready To Go ...

Sarah is the designated driver on the rental contract for the car we are renting. This means she has to drive whenever anyone wants or needs to go anywhere. Now that we are getting serious about leaving next week, we keep coming up with last minute things we want to do before we leave.

Today, Dave and Dito needed to get some supplies for a project, so Sarah carried them to the stores. Later in the day, Sarah drove Z, J, and I to Walmart to do our final big dry goods provisioning. With J in the basket, I headed one way while Sarah and Z headed another. The plan was to do some individual shopping, then rendezvous near the dairy case to start working our way through the grocery aisles to the front of the store shopping for the boat.

When I was almost done with my personal shopping, my phone rang. Dito had called the repair business where they had taken the brand-new generator for our water maker earlier in the week. We had received a recall notice for the generator and the people at the business indicated they could do the repair “soon”. Today they told Dito they do not have the part and do not expect to receive any of these parts for weeks. Dito then called a place in Stuart (a 40-minute drive south of here) and they said they have some replacement parts. Their policy is “first come, first serve”. Dito said we needed to stop shopping, so Sarah and I could go pick up the generator, then, return to the marina to drop me off, and pick him up...to go to Stuart to get the generator repaired there. The rental car is very small and we do not have room for all of us to ride in it at the same time.

Later in the afternoon, it was pouring rain at the boat. We had a thunderstorm with lightening and strong winds from the south right on top of us. Since our cockpit faces the north, our cockpit was relatively dry and Dave and I had only moved a couple of things to keep them dry and secure. Suddenly, a wind gust of at least 40 knots came directly from the north and drove the rain into the cockpit area and through the open doors of the salon where we were sitting. Wow! That got our attention! Twenty minutes later, the storm had moved on and a bright rainbow filled the sky!

When the rest of the crew returned from Stuart to the boat later, we were amazed! They had taken our generator to Stuart, dropped it off at the dealership, gone to the park while the repair was done, picked up the upgraded generator, and brought it back to Ft. Pierce. Now, we have our generator packed up and stored away, ready to go. We went from having to wait for the part to getting the repair done today. Amazing! We are so grateful! We sure did not want our fourth attempt to leave thwarted by “waiting for parts”. We are almost afraid to talk too much about leaving...but it is going to happen...sooner rather than later!

Thursday ... 4 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... Is It A Bird? ... Is It A Plane? ... It Is A Drone! ...

All of us on the boat are constantly taking photos of the world around us. We are trying to record the preparation we are doing to get the boat ready to go again. We are using whatever knowledge of technology we have to share our boat world with others who are interested. Having mobile phones in our pockets has made it easy to photograph anything that catches our eye.

Dito has introduced us to his drone. It is a Mavic Pro. It can fly for up to 25 minutes and records both videos and still photos. Dito’s phone is connected to the drone and lets him see what the drone is seeing. We have all seen those beautiful photos taken by a drone as it flew above a sailboat anchored in a picturesque anchorage. We all want to see Exit Only in one of those photos!

On this beautiful sunny day, the wind was light and the conditions seemed good for practicing with the drone. Here at the dock, the drone can take off and land on a stable surface. Doing the same from a moving boat deck could be a challenge! Sarah bravely volunteered to catch the drone. She wore protective gear on her hands, arms, and upper body. Dito put the drone through its paces several times and Sarah successfully caught it every time.

Now that we are talking about leaving Florida, Dito has some special drone shots and videos in mind. We always take pictures of Exit Only in scenic anchorages, but now we will be able to show a bird’s eye view of our boat in the anchorage!

Wednesday ... 3 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... What Is In A Go-Bag? ...

We did “short boat school” this morning, because today was “library day” for Z and J. We have certainly enjoyed having the library just a 5-minute walk away from the boat. They have a lot of activities for all ages, but we have been interested in the children’s program. The have story time every Wednesday morning, then occasionally show movies on Saturdays. They always come up with extra activities for the school kids during breaks.

Dave and Dito decided it was time to repack the Go Bag. A Go Bag is one of those things you would never go sailing without, but you always hope you never have to open it. It holds things you need with you if you have to physically leave your boat for a life-threatening reason and get into the life raft. We came back from our circumnavigation with an unused Go Bag. It was interesting to open it after all these years and see what condition everything was in.

We started from scratch with the Go Bag for this trip. Everything is new. This is not a complete list of everything in our Go Bag, but I wanted to give y’all an idea of the kind of things we put in there...flares, a fishing kit, solar/wind-up flashlights, a signal mirror, a rescue kite with string, emergency blankets, an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and a Power Survivor hand pump water maker.

Dave and Dito were able to disassemble and recycle the Power Survivor we already own. After unwrapping it from the last trip, they discovered it was in amazingly good shape. They flushed the water maker out and put new preservative in it. Dito was using the hand pump while he poured the distilled water through the system. Dave held the new tubing over a bucket as the distilled water successfully flowed through.

Once the preserved Power Survivor water maker had been tested and dried out thoroughly, it was once again carefully wrapped up to keep it clean and dry. It was packed away in the Go Bag. We hope we do not see it again until this trip is over!

Tuesday ... 2 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... Bugs and Boats ...

We woke up to a marina filled with fog this morning! It is such a strange feeling when we cannot see the huge high bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. The end of A dock looks like a “portal” to somewhere...the dock ends and there is apparently nothing there.

After boat school, we started preparing lunch. We had invited some boat friends who are also living at the dock over for lunch. We had talked to them and discovered that they had retired from working at McMurdo Base in Antarctica. We all had so many questions, we decided we needed to sit down with these folks and ask about their experiences there. I found it fascinating that people enjoy working where it is so cold and I wanted to know what adaptations are made to make life possible in that climate. Those of y’all who know me, know that the last place I want to be is somewhere cold. I have lived many years of my life in the “polar opposite” (a pun) environment...low deserts. At least that is what I thought until I heard them tell us that Antarctica is considered a different kind of desert. The snow is very “dry”. Amazing!

Speaking of surprises, let me tell y’all what happened after we set the table and all 9 of us started to sit down to eat outside at the cockpit table. At that very minute, after a few sprinkles of rain, a cloud of love bugs arrived at the marina! Love bugs swarm in April in Florida and today was the day! They are part of the group of flying insects called March Flies. They only live a few days, so the life cycle is short. They do not bite or sting. They do not target people. They land on any and everything. If you smash them, the acid in their body is released and it can be messy and can damage a car’s paint job. If you are driving on an interstate road and drive through a swarm of lovebugs, your windshield can become so covered with their smooshed bodies that you have to stop and clean the windshield. They were landing on our table and our food! This will be one of my more memorable meals because of those bugs!

The love bugs swarmed in...and they swarmed out. We did manage to have an enjoyable lunch and then we were treated to a Power Point presentation about living at McMurdo Base. It was very interesting. I will have to admit the photos were beautiful. I was surprised to learn about the open volcano located near the base and how scientists study the fumaroles and lava tubes. Then, there are the divers who study the frigid water and the animals that live there...both in and out of the water. I could not believe how many scientists were working out in field camps spread around the area. Learning about living in Antarctica was fascinating!

Monday ... 1 April, 2019, Ft Pierce, FL, USA ... Making Our Lists And Checking Them Twice ...

A lot of the big jobs are already done, but there seems to be an ongoing list of smaller job to do. While we were doing “boat school” this morning, Dave got a notification of a recall on the brand new generator we purchased as part of our water maker system. We were instructed to take the generator to an authorized dealer. The dealer will order the part and replace the old part with the new one when it arrives. We have had access to fresh water from the marina dock, so we have not had a chance to use the water maker yet.

At the dealer here in Ft. Pierce, Dave and Dito were told the repairs would be made on a first come, first serve basis. They were told there were not too many generators in front of ours on the list, so it would be repaired “soon”. Dave and Dito were glad to hear that and thanked the folks there. Back at A dock, they soon discovered that folks on other boats had received the same notice and had gone to different dealers in the area. Everyone had been told either to get “on the list” or “make an appointment”. It seems no dealer actually has the replacement parts on hand in their shop.

We are starting to talk about leaving, so we are thinking about the “right before you leave” shopping we want to do. We decided today to make a run to Walmart and pick up only things that come in boxes, packages, or bottles. In other words, it is too early to stock up on extra frig stuff or fresh stuff. By making this trip today, we hope we have less to do on our “absolute last” shopping trip later this week.

We are almost afraid to talk out loud about leaving. We are hoping against hope all will go well and we can sail away from the dock soon. We are trying hard not to dwell on the three attempts we have already made to leave that each ended suddenly with a radical change of plans. We are focused and getting ready to go...and going!