Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finally In The Bahamas


Off To Nassau_003 We left Palm Beach at 4am on the 27th and had a relatively straightforward trip across to West End, Grand Bahama.

The wind was a bit on the nose to start with, which combined with the strong north set of the Gulf Stream made us think we would have a hard trip again (3 years ago the trip to Bimini took forever and we were hoping not to repeat it).  But after a few hours the wind came round more to the south and the Gulf Stream died out after about 30 miles and the trip ended up as a simple sail under sunny skies – we even caught a small Mahi Mahi to really spice up the trip.

Bella crossed with us and we were soon tied up at West End, customs formalities complete and cracking open a cold beer to celebrate their first international trip, the culmination of our 1100 mile trip from Annapolis.

The next day we parted company, Bella to the Abacos and us towards Nassau, the first part of the trip was definitely not what we signed up for.    Off To Nassau_014

We were just out of the marina and some squalls turned up, dousing us with heavy rain and killing the wind, we were then shocked to see a water spout about a mile away heading towards us. 

We fired up the engine, and furled the genoa leaving just the main to douse should it get too close.  About 10 minutes later it broke up and a new one formed about 200 metres off our stern, or exactly where we would have been if we hadn’t fired up the engine!  Off To Nassau_020

We don’t have any photos of that one as were too worried about it!  Luckily it went the other way and we were spared the damage – a scary sight indeed.

The rest of the sail to the Berry’s was superb, we averaged 8 knots and romped along, we caught a tuna and dropped anchor in Great Harbour just after dark. 

Next day off to Nassau, bagging a King Mackerel to make it 3 fish in 3 days, another water spout but far enough away to be interesting, finally getting into Nasau at sunset.

We are picking up Josette here for a holiday hence the rush through the Berry Islands, we will have to enjoy them on the way back north.

So another month gone by, and we are hoping that in December we can stop endlessly sailing to the next place and enjoy the Bahamas.

Friday, November 26, 2010


West Palm Beach, FL

Well we have finally made it to Florida and are ready for the trip to the Bahamas.  After the anchor troubles in Charleston we had another excellent overnight sail to Cumberland Island, 163 miles at an average of 7 knots arriving by 1pm and best of all having a warm night at sea.

Cumberland is one of our favourite spots on the US coast, (see our posts from 2007) and we had another great visit.  Since our last trip here the Parks Service have opened up the Plum Orchard estate on the north of the island.  Cumberland Is_023

Unlike Dungeness this one is preserved as was and the tour gives a great insight into the life on the island.  As well as the formal living areas, it takes in the servant quarters, kitchens and machine rooms.

The electrical system was designed by Thomas Edison to showcase his invention of DC electricity to the Carnegies and their wealthy friends – a more appealing marketing strategy than inventing the electric chair, which he did to demonstrate how dangerous Westinghouse’s AC system was!

From Cumberland Island we motored down to Saint Augustine on a flat calm day.  It was our first trip here as with our draft the entrance has always seemed a bit daunting given we always like to leave when it is windy, but this time the weather forecast, tides etc seemed to look good for the in and the out trips.

The entrance has recently shoaled and has some buoys missing so it never promised to be easy, and with the setting sun making visibility even harder, we had a stomach wrenching trip in.  The initial line up was easy, but as we passed the second set of buoys we suddenly found ourselves with no visible markers in front – where the hell is the next set? 

We carried slowly on in as the deep water was reasonably obvious as we had breakers on either side and finally picked up 2 port hand marks off to the left but still could not see the starboard marks, just breakers and a  beach.  The further in we got the more worrying this was, so we headed across to pick up the port marks, but on local advice didn’t want to get too close to them due to the shoaling.  Imagine our surprise as we passed the first port mark to realise it was a starboard one!   A sharp left turn and we were back in the by now very narrow channel and safely in.  We were never in any danger as there was deep water where we were, but still a bit of a scare!

St Augustine_007St Augustine is lovely, it is the oldest inhabited city in North America, having been founded by the Spanish in the 16th Century. 

The town has two sets of attractions the old colonial  bits, including a large fort, plus in the 19th Century Henry Flagler turned the town into a super resort for the rich and famous, building 2 enormous luxury hotels and much of the town infrastructure.

St Augustine_100These old hotels  are now used as a University and the Town Hall, providing useful civic function but maintaining the stunning architecture and interiors.

I am not sure how many University dining halls can boast Tiffany stained glass windows, but I can’t imagine it is many!

We leave St Augustine on a beautiful warm day with gentle easterlies, the trip out is easy as we have better visibility and having been past the markers once it is a bit more obvious what the much altered and somewhat randomly buoyed channel is supposed to be doing.

The forecast is spot on and an hour or so after we clear the channel the wind fills in from the ENE at 20 knots and we have a superb sail down to Palm Beach, 210 miles at an average of 7.5 knots, arriving in Palm Beach early in the morning.

We have had a rather hectic week here as we make the final preparations for departure.  My visa expires at midnight on 26th so we have no choice but to leave by then, and the water maker membrane that survived 12 month pickled while we were in the UK decided to have a melt down during the 6 week pickling after leaving Annapolis, so we needed a new membrane fast.

We got fabulous help from Murray Marine, meeting me at the dinghy dock on a Saturday morning and fitting a new membrane in the housing.  Trouble was that while this solved the problem, the water quality was poor.  I spent 2 days rebuilding and rewiring the system to eliminate lots of little problems like voltage drop, worn feed pumps etc but while each fix improved it slightly the water remained marginal. 

We finally worked out that the problem was a faulty membrane from Spectra, and Dick Murray did a great job of finding another one at very short notice and getting it fitted for us on Thanksgiving Eve, ready for a hurried departure!

Hopefully the next post will be from the Bahamas!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diving In Charleston Harbour!

Our planned early start quite literally hit a snag today.  We get up and are ready to go, starting to lift the anchor at 0830, but sadly by 0840 we have given up trying to lift the anchor and I am getting out my dive gear! 

We are badly snagged on something very solid and there appears no other option than to explore the depths.  Our friends Mike and Karen from Chapter 2 come over and stand by to help in the dinghy and I head off down the chain into the surprisingly cold water and rushing current of Charleston Harbour.

It's not the diving I am used to and at about 15 feet I lose all visibility and am left groping my way along the chain in the pitch dark, knowing that at some point I will come upon some large and unknown object that is snagging our chain!  I proceed very slowly with one hand out in front and eventually find the chain disappear under a large concrete block, probably an old mooring.  I can see nothing, I know if I let go of the chain or block I will never find it again without returning to the surface some random distance downstream of our boat, possibly under another one, it's cold and the current is strong and it is all a bit scary!

I try to pull the chain loose and out from around the block but can get no slack into the chain as Matsu is pulling back hard on it, so I return to the surface for a think on how to proceed and to escape the gloom and cold. 

The first plan is to let out plenty of chain and then Linda motor forward to remove the tension while I try to release the chain.  Another scary descent and 5 minutes struggling to make headway and then I decide we should wait for another attempt when the tide changes as it will be much easier to do when all is working in the same direction.  I am also very glad of a warm shower and a jumper as I am starting to get very cold!

We then have a frustrating wait, sitting in the cockpit trying to keep amused.  Finally at around lunch time when the water slacks off I drop in for another attempt and a better look round, I want to find the anchor and buoy that, as one option is to detach the anchor from the chain and pull them up separately.  This time I retain some visibility and with no current the whole thing is a lot less scary than before, I successfully navigate the block and find the chain exiting on the other side, and follow this to buoy the anchor.  I then follow it back and start trying to shift the chain from underneath.

It is badly stuck, probably as a consequence of us trying hard to lift it this morning, after much sweat and (almost) tears I start to make some headway and eventually have both ends of the chain in my hand and the mid section trapped beneath the rock.  More tugging and eventually I free it, draping it over the mooring so that we can lift it up.  I return to the surface with 99% of the job done but heart in mouth that we won't get it snagged again, and we immediately start winching in.  All goes smoothly and we are soon free of the bottom and "ready" to leave - just the small matter of me wearing a wet suit, the boat covered in dive gear and odd ends of rope .

As Linda motors slowly down Charleston Harbour I get showered and changed, pack away the gear, and we are soon shipshape and heading out of the channel to sea, it’s 160 miles to Cumberland Island and I am exhausted already!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


We had a superb sail from Cape Lookout across to Wrightsville Beach and then after waiting for another window, had another excellent overnight sail down to Charleston, arriving early morning after another 7 knot average passage.

En route we had an amazing visit from a huge pod of dolphins right at sunset.  To Charleston_045We spotted a couple and then by the time we were at the bow they were coming from all over the area to join in.  We were sailing at 8.5 knots at the time under blue skies, and leaning over the pulpit with 15 dolphins zipping along is a memory that will not fade for a very long time.

Another miracle was actually capturing a good photo of one of them for the first time ever!

We had planned to keep pushing south but Hurricane Tomas and the continued unsettled tropical weather makes that a less sensible plan so we have spent a very enjoyable 10 days here, relaxing, walking round this immensely interesting town and sampling some of the superb food.  It now seems as if the tropical waves are finally coming to an end, plus I need to be out of the USA by 26th November so time to get going again.

You can track our progress more accurately now from the “Where Is Matsu” link below, I have set this up with our radio email to give regular updates of our progress – many thanks to Yotreps.

The weather has been either warm and sunny shorts time, Charleston_010or clear and freezing cold jumpers, jeans etc alternating as the cold fronts come through, but leading to some amazing scenery at sunrise.  With the cold air hitting the warm water, we get a stunning start to the day.

The other land mark while here was yet another birthday for me, celebrated in style with lunch at an excellent French restaurant.  Linda has bought me a Kindle so lots of reading to do as I wade through the books on that plus the still full shelves of old technology!

Anchor up tomorrow morning and off to Cumberland Island, then Florida and the sun.