Go, Go, Go…and We’re HERE!!

After our day of rest in the Great Harbour Cay Marina at the Berry Islands, we were back to hustle and bustle the very next day. We refueled and moved Rode Trip from Great Harbour out to Bullocks Harbour. At Bullocks, Brian was able to get back in the water for some much anticipated fishing. That evening we dined on lobster tail and lion fish, delish! The next morning, from Bullocks Harbour, we caught a southeast wind to sail up and around the northern end of the Berrys; then motored straight into bashing waves down the east side of the islands for several miles to land at the Market Fish Cays for the night where we dropped the hook behind Soldier Cay. This area had a great swell, but supposedly does have great fishing. We had no time to fish since it took so long to get there against the wind and we’d dropped the hook at sunset. Bright and early we moved once again, a shorter trip but still motoring against southeast wind, from Market Fish Cays down to Little Harbour Cay. Little Harbour looked like a nice nook on the chart, but there was a great swell here too. We did spend the afternoon exploring by kayak and Brian was able to fish. After much hunting, he’d finally retrieved two conch from the bottom and made a conch chowder for supper. The next morning, you guessed it, on the move! We hauled anchor by 7:45am to get moving toward New Providence Island (Nassau). The forecast didn’t pull through and we motored the entire passage, fortunately there was little to no wind and the seas were glassy unlike the bashing waves we’d had the previous two moves. We anchored just before sunset at Rose Island for the night. One more trip to go and the forecast was in our favor! Northeast winds had us smoothly sailing all the way from Rose Island to Shroud Cay in the Exumas.

We’d made it to the Exumas! I really wanted to explore Shroud Cay, but we only had one day to spare and a few errands to tend before our friends’ arrival. So the next morning we hauled anchor again at about 7:45am – this time with a brief visit from friends who were passing by in their dinghy. We’d met s/v Ramone last year and now were both back in the Bahamas and both anchored at Shroud! Ron and Simone recognized us the evening prior when we’d sailed into the anchorage and dropped the hook under sail. “Of course, that must be them!” Ron had said. We also had a suspicion that we knew the neighboring catamaran, which was confirmed for us when their dog, Skipper jumped into the dinghy for his evening trip to shore. It was great to see s/v Ramone and we’ll be spending more time with them since our plans for traveling the Exumas coincide. From Shroud Cay we had a strong northeast wind shifting to east by mid-day. Rode Trip sailed beautifully! We screamed down the island chain, and with a reefed main and the jib we hadn’t seen any speeds under 6 knots! In half a day we’d made 34 miles and once again sailed into the anchorage and dropped the hook at Big Majors Spot.

We had traveled whichever way the weather allowed; motored, sailed, it didn’t matter because we were finally at our rendezvous location! Now we can kick back and resume island time!20131220-075917.jpg

From Intracoastal to Bahamas…

Once again, we continued along the Intracoastal Waterway long after sunset; an afternoon review of the forecast told us we mustn’t delay our departure. In fact, we would need to set sail a day earlier than we’d planned. Brian an I were getting used to this travel by night; but we were exhausted, famished, (oh, poor cruisers trying to keep a 6:00am-8:00pm schedule) and still had 13 statute miles and 7 bridges between us and the next anchorage. Rode Trip creeped along the canal under cover of darkness, with the stealth of Kung Fu Panda barreling through the forest, her engine broke the humid, still silence of the night roaring, “RRRAAA-RRRAAA-RRRAAA.” Brian was at the helm and I at the spotlight, majestic displays of holiday lights held our spirits high.

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We slipped into Lake Worth, FL and headed toward the cluster of anchor lights twinkling in the sky on the vast, dark lake. We set the hook, back of the row. Another review of the weather to make certain we weren’t being too rash about this decision. This was our chance to make tracks. We changed our dirty clothes (worn the entire trip from St Marys, yuk!) and dropped the dinghy into the water to head to the grocery store. Publix was just a short walk from the dinghy beaching area; a shady looking spot up a narrow creek and beneath a bridge. I spotted a cockroach crossing my path in the flashlight beam as I hoofed up the hill toward the roadway.

Grocery shopping was a blur and I know we bought several, spontaneous items because we were leaving the states. The one very important thing we did buy was a frozen pizza and as soon as we got back to the boat that pizza went straight into the oven! Last minute internet chores were checked off our lists and we contacted our parents to inform them of our float plan. When the alarm sounded the next morning I’d thought I’d just laid my head on the pillow.

We hauled anchor, made one pit stop for fuel, and set out into the great blue yonder.

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The trip was entirely uneventful, except for a few squalls passing through at dawn during our second day at sea.  I spotted two sets of double rainbows between the downpours.IMG_7538And three waterspouts, the first close enough that we hastily dropped the sails and motored in the opposite direction.  IMG_7541

We motored the entire way to the Berry Islands and dropped the hook after dark in Bullocks Harbour. Beneath the light of a nearly full moon, we tidied the deck and spotlighted the water to admire its clarity as even at night we could see down to the sandy, grassy bottom. The night was warm; warm enough to take advantage of the privacy offered by darkness. Cockpit showers! Feeling refreshed, we ate a quick pasta dinner and settled into bed.

The next morning there were no alarm clocks, rather roosters crowing from the nearby island woke us from a peaceful sleep. We ate a hearty breakfast and readied our paperwork in order to meet with customs. I hailed the Great Harbour Cay Marina on the VHF and they assigned us a slip as we made our way into the harbor. Great Harbour is fantastically sheltered, the marina is quaint, and the locals friendly. Raymond assisted us into our slip and contacted customs. We had decided to treat ourselves to one night at the marina for laundry, internet, and showers ($1.50/ft).IMG_7543IMG_7544

Miko assisted me with laundry, he ran water into the machine via hose and waited until the rinse cycle to fill the machine with the hose once again. Between washing, Miko introduced Brian and I to the marina manatee. We gave her fresh water to drink and watched her chow down on a lunch of piling growth.IMG_7546IMG_7567IMG_7573

 

The band around the manatee’s tail was put there for tracking, but it is rubbing her tail and cutting into her skin. Miko says attempts to remove the band have thus far failed.

More to come from the Berry Islands. So far enjoying a bit of R & R dockside!

The Cement Plant

Brian and I have experienced the Intracoastal Waterway in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. Admittedly, we aren’t fans of motoring for hours and hours…but fortunately the ICW enables us to continue moving when weather doesn’t permit offshore passage. In VA, NC, and GA there were many opportunities to sail along the ICW. We could leave in the morning without a solid plan and late in the day scout out a creek on the charts that we could tuck into to anchor for the night. The scenery amidst frequent line-ups of traversing boats consisted of winding rivers, gaping sounds, and lush marshes that were alive with jumping fish, playful dolphins, herons on the hunt, cackling ospreys, and swooping pelicans. After a day or two of motoring, if the weather permitted, we could usually find a nearby inlet to pop out for a jaunt in the ocean.

The ICW through Florida is a different animal. The winding rivers have transformed into straight canals; depths remain questionable. The marshes are gone and canal banks are lined with homes, docks, cityscapes, beach towns, and bustling roads. Bridges span overhead; some 65′ and others requiring a call on the VHF to request an opening for safe passage. (A great listing of all the FL bridges and schedules can be found here.) One can still catch a glimpse of herons, ospreys, pelicans, and dolphins. And now, manatees are abundant too. The challenge for us along this section of the ICW is that anchorages seem to be few and far between. (As evidenced by our running aground in search of a nook to drop the hook.) Inlets presenting opportunity to get offshore are also few and far between along Florida’s never ending coastline. We plan long days, but we hope to not motor into darkness. The changing tidal currents influence our speed (as they do all along the ICW); sometimes boosting us at a steady 6 knots, sometimes slowing us at 3 knots or less. We don’t push hard when motoring because we are diesel hoarders. This is why few anchorages make travel plans difficult; we cannot simply run until an hour before dark and then drop the hook. There are, however, ample marinas but that just goes against our cruising ways and budget.

Fortunately, we have access to the internet while underway via our AT&T data plan. This has enabled us to search the infinite wisdom of Google in collaboration with our charts to find anchoring opportunities. Some frequented cruising sites for this area are: ActiveCaptain, The Salty Southeast Cruising Net, and Dozier’s Waterway Guide. Imagine our dismay when searching to find nothing between St. Augustine, FL and Daytona Beach, FL…we’d be motoring all night! Thank goodness for the knowledge of fellow cruisers! We found one blog, and thereafter a few others, that shared with us this hidden gem. Thanks, Bill of s/v Galena, for great record-keeping and even better blogging! Of course, s/v Galena is a Westsail 32!

The Cement Plant is a canal near mile 809 that runs to a non-operating cement plant. The coordinates are: 29-29.8N 081-09.0W

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Along the shoreline are a few homes and a Sea Ray boatyard.

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To enter, it was recommended we favor the south shore. We favored the south shore, near the docks, and moved toward the center as we entered the canal. Depths at the entrance ranged from 5.2-ft, 5.5-ft, and 6-ft at high water. Through the canal depths were variable 6-ft to 7-ft. Continue past the Sea Ray boatyard to anchor at the end of the canal where depths increase, varying from 8-ft to 10-ft. These depths remained consistent when we exited the following morning, although at that time the tide was falling.

There is swing room for light conditions with 3:1 rode; but you will find yourself close to shore.

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We shared this space with two manatees and one small sailboat. Below you can see the back of one manatee and the hairy nose of the other. This was the best view of the manatees that we saw as they lay atop the water, taking occasional breaths and seldom flicking their tails.

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