BAHAMAS TRIP May/June ’10 update 6/17/10

Courtesy:  motuiti.com

Abaco Welcome Committee—–Photo by the kids

courtesy motuiti.com

A little video to get you started.

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/ministry_of_tourism_updates/VIDEO_Bahamas_14_Film_Challenge12200.shtml

If you want to get in the mood with a little Bahamian Music, click on the link.

http://www.abacoescape.com/PlayLists/Bahamian/BahamianPlayer.html

 

Please note:  The most recent post is at the top.  To view the trip in chronological order, scroll to the bottom and read by day.  We welcome your comments.  Just click on “leave a comment” at the head of the comments section.  We love to hear from our readers!

You can click on the photos to enlarge them.  Click again for more enlargement.  Back button returns to blog.

6/17/10

The kid’s’ underwater pictures are up.  You will just have to scroll through the blog to see them all.

6/4/10

Everyone is home and settling into summer.  Aliya is at theater camp in New York state, Griffin is starting basketball camp, Hannah is getting ready for her counsellor training at Camp Toccoa, and Harrison is doing summer reading.  As for Lou and Don, we are catching up on chores and getting ready for the cool temperatures of Lou’s mountain cabin.  Kevin McGary is taking care of a few things on Moonstruck.  Just about our summer routine.

Did I mention the only negative thing about this trip?  From our temporary home base of Gasparilla Marina it requires about a 400 mile round trip to get to the East coast of Florida.  So, this morning at 7:00am sharp we pulled out of the Manatee Pocket and headed West at 16-17 knots—-that is another story.  After 12 1/2 hours, 5 locks, 2 bridge openings, and 90+ degree temps we are back at Gasparilla.  It was a long gruelling day,  but we needed to get home.

Everybody is safely back, and that is the important thing.  There is one thing for sure, though.  Next time we go over it will be for a longer stay.  The real beauty of the islands besides the beautiful water is the laid back life style.  We need to experience that more.

We are still waiting for the kids to write their impressions of the trip.  Until then, let’s keep on cruising.

6/3/10

Lou and I have just returned from presenting outselves at the Home Land Security/Customs Office at the Port of West Palm Beach.  We must be shifty looking characters, as they took a very long time of looking at computer screens before OKing our re-entry into the US.  Capt. Bill Evans said that it was probably a mistake to be legal, as we are losing all kinds of government benefits.  Maybe next time we will be smarter.  I think that they were profiling us.

We will return the rental car this afternoon, and be ready to depart in the morning for Gasparilla Marina, our home port.  Here is one picture from our last stop in Stuart that did not get in.  it is of the Whistle Stop Cafe near the Stuart Corinthian YC.  It is a good breakfast place.  Yes, it is near the railroad track.

Whistle Stop Cafe between A-1-A and the railroad track in Port Salerno at the South end of the Manatee Pocket

6/2/10

We are back in the States.  We left Great Sale Cay this morning at seven_thirty am and arrived St Lucie Inlet at 1140 am.  It was a great crossing.  We started out with 2 footers and it calmed down to 1 footers about half way across.  That was alot better than the 5′ head seas going over.   We also made 25 knots instead of the 14.5 knots going over.  The water was beautiful.  I tried to take pictures of the water where the Little Bahama Bank meets the Gulf Stream.  The mixtures of the Bahama aqua color with the Streams cobalt blue are just beaufiful.  Unfortunately, the color differences are so subtle that the camera does not pick them up well.

We have checked in with Homeland Security and have been given our arrival number.  We now have until 1:00pm tomorrow to present our bodies and our passports at the Homeland Security Office in West Palm Beach.  We will have to rent a car to drive down.  I certainly am glad that they are exhibiting this much due diligence  getting Lou and me back in the country.  I just wish they could keep terrorists off airplanes.  Being the good citizens we purport ourselves to be, we will present ourselves and go through whatever more red tape is necessary.

Hopefully, back to Gasparilla on Friday, clean the boat Saturday, then the real world Sunday.

My attempt to show the colors where the Bank meets the Stream

If you look carefully at the above picture, you may be able to see the cobalt blue of the Gulf Stream mixing with the aqua blue of the Little Bahama Bank water.  It is alot more brilliant when you are there.  If you would like to see more detail, click on the picture then click it again.  The darker areas are not shadows, but are the areas of the darker Gulf Stream water swallowing the aqua colored water of the Little Bahama Bank.  Click the back button to go back to the blog.

5/31/10

We departed Marsh Harbour Marina at 0900.  We made out way past Great Gauna Cay to the infamous Whale Cay Passage.  Because it was more of a wussy than a lion today, we road its ocean swells at 25 knots.  We have had two good runs at it, but never fail to respect this piece of water.  It can take you out.  At 1000 hrs we were at our waypoint at Green Turtle.  We entered White Sound and were tied up at the Green Turtle Club at 1030 hrs.  This is a great stop, and rather than spend two nights at Great Sale Cay we thought this would be nice.

We had lunch at the grill where Lou conched out on conch fritters.  These were supposedly for David Dalton, but she looked as if she was enjoying them.  They are the best I’ve ever eaten.

Because we had skipped the village of New Plymouth on the way down, we rented a golf cart to check it out.  We had a lovely time, and took some great photos.  Lou found out what a Goombay Smash is.  We stopped at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar to try one of her original concoctions.  It’s amazing how clear things become after having one.

LouLou can “see clearly now”.

The village is charming.  Lou said that she could live there.  She also says that most everywhere we go.

New Plymouth Street

New Plymouth Village

New Plymouth the path to Verl’s ship model shop

New Plymouth House

New Plymouth deserted beach—how did that get in here?

New Plymouth

the Methodist Church in New Plymouth

The Wrecking Tree Bar in New Plymouth

Entering the village of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay

Don found his piece of property on a secluded beach.  Here he is enjoying relaxation in his favorite recliner.  Now, if he could only find his remote control.  Oh well, it will show up in island time.

thanks for the drink. Now, where is my remote?

“It just don’t get no better than this”

Cream cheese brownies at the McIntosh Bakery and Restaurant were brought back to the boat for desert with coffee.  Life is sure tough in the islands, but someone has to do it.

New Plymouth McIntosh Bakery and restaurant

5/30/10

Just some notes about the islands of the Bahamas in  general>  When away from the glitz of the tourist areas of Nassau and Freeport parts of the Bahamas can resemble a third world country.  Not where we were.  We always felt free to go where we wanted and let the children explore.  Where we were there were no big hotels and few resorts.  Groceries are expensive at about three times US prices with very  limited choices.  You eat what the supply boat brings in.  Can you imagine a super market in the US with no milk, bread, or vegetables on the shelves.  it happens here frequently.   In many places, water is metered at 25 cents per gallon.  It cost $40.00 to fill Moonstruck’s water tanks.  Electric power is expensive and undependable.  The average charge for a marina to hook you up to electric is$22.00 per night.  Hanging on a mooring or at anchor, which we did several nights, is much cheaper.  Diesel fuel in one of the cheaper places, Marsh Harbour, is about $4.50/gal.  You can figure up what 300 gal. cost.  That is about 40% higher than in the States.  The whole trip took about 9o0 gallons.  When I say the electricity is undependable believe it.  The power company will cut off power anytime they feel a need.  It can last from 2 to 4 hours then come back on.  No one seems perturbed by this.  They just go on like nothing special is happening.

In spite of all this, it is a special place.  It is all about the water.  The small villages or towns are facscinating.  Seeing how simply the people live is enlightening.  Man-O-War Cay is our choice of this group of islands.  It has a great harbor, the beaches are not to be believed, and the people live simply.  It is a working island.  If there were any hotels or resorts on this one, we didn’t see any, and we walked most of the island.  We could live there.

Tourism is the life blood of the economy.  Many people own second homes in the islands.  You probably should own a boat as the only other access is by ferry. There is little or no industry.  They fish, catch conch, or work in a service business such as a boat yard.

If you are looking for a flashy all luxuries resort go to Nassau or Freeport.  However, if you have a sense of adventure go to the out islands and get off the beaten track.  These are the Bahamas we love.

Now back to the trip.

We hope the kids will write their impressions of the trip to be posted later.  They did not see any teenagers during the whole trip.  They were the only ones visiting the Abacos as far as we know.  They had no TV, cell phones, or video games the whole week.  Did they get bored?  Not so as we could tell.  They were interested in most everything they saw.  They took the dinghy to the towns by themselves, climbed the Hope Town Light House, and swam at beautiful beaches that they were the only ones there.  How special is that?

This is the day that we all knew would come.  The kids fly out today.  They packed up, and we checked to see that “their peppers were in order”.  We called Brenda, Taxi 151, on channel 16 of the marine radio (marine radio is how everyone communicates here).  She picked us up, and delivered us to the airport.  The kids are quite the internatioal travelers, now.  They went to the counter with their tickets and passports and took care of business all by themselves.  We saw them get on the plane.  Then Brenda took us back to the boat stopping by the Price-Rite Super Market for a few last minute items to get us back to Florida.

the Kids leaving the boat for the airport

Brenda’s Taxi to the Airport

Kids taking care of business at Marsh Harbour International Airport

Brenda

Harrison and Aliya waiting at MH for plane to Nassau

Griffin and Hannah in MH waiting for plane to Nassau

The kids will fly to Nassau on Bahama Air, Orlando on AirTran where they go through customs, then on to Atlanta and their parents waiting arms.  Yep, quite an adventure for them.  They have handled it well.

Looking at the long range weather, the best days for crossing back to Florida seem to be Wednesday or Thursday.  We will look in the morning at the weather again.  If it is favorable for getting around Whale Cay Passage, and the forecast holding other wise, we will head out of here tomorrow.  The plan is to anchor Monday  and Tuesday nights at Great Sale Cay.  then get an early start for the crossing on Wednesday.  It looks like Lou and I will be doing this one alone, as we have no one with us and no buddy boat crossing.  We will not be able to get weather forecasts at Great Sale.   It is just too remote for radio or internet.  We will just have to see how it feels.  Any light wind out of the southern quadrant is what we are looking for.  Cruising this way is fun, but make no mistake about it, it is serious business.

5/29/10

We cruised slowly back to Marsh Harbour.  We took on 300 gal. of diesel fuel and 160 gal. of fresh water.  The engines are checked, the dinghy stowed, and the boat is ready for the return trip.

Leaving Man-O-War Cay with dinghy in tow

That is the dinghy’s shadow on the bottom in about 6′ of water

The kids wanted to snorkel the reef one more time.  We got the gear and turdged over to Mermaid Reef.  The water was brilliantly clear with the sun shining brightly.  It made the colors of the fish almost glow.  There were so many fish in front of our faces that Hannah got a little frightened that they were so close.  Of course, we were feeding them.  There was every color of parrot fish, groupers, angel fish, yellow tail snapper, several small fish of many colors, and a school of ballyhoo that seemed to just swim around my head.  It was spectacular.  We had some cheap underwater cameras that may or may not have gotten some good shots.  We will see when it is developed.  The kids had a great time.

Fish on Mermaid Reef

Hello

Many, Many Fish

Saturday night at the Jib Room is the big steak cookout.  We took the kids up for the food, music, and dancing.  They had a wonderful time dancing and doing the limbo.  Griffin even got his big 6’5″ frame under the bar four or five times.  The kids had a great time.  We did too.  We will miss this place.

Marsh Harbor Marina and Jib Room

5/28/10

We have spent the day here at Man-O-War.  Went to the beach again.  The water is so gorgeous that it is hard to describe.  When you are in it, it feels so soft that it is almost like silk.  We bought Mahi-Mahi and grilled out for dinner.  Lunch was at the Dock and Dine here at the marina.

Harrison says that this town sure has alot of boat yards>  It sure does.  They do good work at reasonable prices here.  It has been interesting as well as entertaining watching the town work.  There are no cars on the island.  The streets are only wide enough for two golf carts to pass.  Yet they have a gridded street pattern of sorts.  The homes are all different and on small lots.  At 5:00 there is a rush hour of sorts.  Most of the transportation is by ferry boats and freight boats that serve the island.  The freight boats look like landing craft with cranes.  They can dock, off load big pallets of materials, and be gone in 5 minutes time.  They stop at alot of islands and docks on each island.  It works.  We even saw them delivering palm trees.

There is a full moon tonight hanging over the harbor.  It is really kind of making us sad that this trip is sort of winding up.  The kids leave Sunday to start their summer, and we will be working our way back to Florida and home.  Paradise really is all that it is said to be.

No pictures with this, but some were added to the blog below.  Just schroll down to see what was added.

Back to Marsh Harbour tomorrow.  Later.

5/27/10

Some of the pictures are up.  You can go back to Hope Town to see some of the area.  We pulled in today at Man-O-War Marina on Man-O-War Cay after three days of hanging on a mooring and the hook.  We had lunch at the dock grill, and the kids are off to explore the town.  A brief rain shower just passed through.  We like this place.  Oops, have I heard that somewhere before?

Welcome to Man-O-War

As the lady here at the marina said, all the islands are different.  This one sure is.  After a long walk, Lou and I discovered this to be one of our favorites.  It is more of a working island than some of the more touristy ones.  It has a wonderful sheltered harbor, and the marina is great.  The marina also has good WIFI.

A friendly full service marina

One of Albury’s hand-crafted wooden sail boats. Exquisite!

Man-O-War Beach

Man-O-War Albury’s Sail Loft

Man-O-War typical residential street

5/26/10

Man-O-War Beach

Man-O-War the path to Lola’s Bakery

Man-O-War Lignum Vitae the Bahamian national tree

At the risk of boring you with more water pictures——naa, it’s our blog so we do it anyway.

Yep, I still like to look at the water.

I am writing this swinging on the anchor behind Baker’s Rock at Tahiti Beach on the South end of Elbow Cay.  The water is calm and gently rolling with an almost full moon hanging in the sky like a lamp behind me.  Sound idyllic?  You bet it is!  All six of us laid on the bow to watch the stars and moon reflecting off the water.  Absolutely one of the most pleasant nights that I have spent at anchor.

Tahiti Beach is one of the most beautiful places in the islands.  The beach is lined with palm trees, and the clear, aqua, shallow water seems to go forever. It is truly in the words of Jimmy Buffet “One Particular Harbor” where the children play on the shore each day, and all is safe within.   Aliya said that it is knock dead gorgeous.

Tahiti Beach looking toward Tilloo Cut

Aliya and Hannah at Tahiti Beach

Moonstruck anchored at Tahiti Beach

The kids at Tahiti Beach

Aliya with one of the two golden retriever dogs at Tahiti Beach

Hope  Town with two nights on a mooring ball, was all it was “hoped it would be”—-a great harbor with a picturesque, candy-striped light house, and a quaint town around the harbor.

Hope Town Light House

Hope Town Street Scene

Hope Town Back Street

Hope Town Beach Scene

Hope Town kids coming back with Harrison’s braids

Harrison’s braids

Hope Town Harbor looking East

Hope Town kids at Capt. Jack’s

Moonstruck at Hope Town Harbor

Moonstruck on the mooring ball at Hope Town

Hope Town Harbor Sunset

We have been in Hope Town on Elbow Cay swinging on a mooring for 2 nights.  A great place.  The plan is to anchor at Tahiti Beach tonight and be in Man-O-War Cay Friday.   We have had very spotty internet, so no real updates.  We have alot of stuff to add as we get better connections.  So far so good!

5/22/10

Big day for us today.  The kids Hannah, Aliya along with Harrison and Griffin, arrived at the Marsh Harbour Airport.  Yes, indeed, it was a big day!!

Kids arrive at Marsh Harbour Airport

We arrived to pick up the kids via our taxi driver of choice, Brenda.   She provided them an educational tour of the town (not the regular kind of educational tour).  She did this while introducing all but Hannah to driving on the left hand side of the road.  It is a little off putting to say the least.  We picked up a few groceries since the supply boat had come in.  Then it was back to Marsh Harbour Marina.

We did dinner in the Jib Room with music and dancing.  Their Saturday nights are quite special with dancing and limbo.  We all had a great time.

 

Aliya under the Limbo bar

Harrison under the Limbo bar

Kids doing the Cha-Cha Slide

This morning we got out the snorkel gear and headed over the Mermaid Reef.  Here is Hannah to describe what they saw
The water was sea foam green where there was sand underneath, and where there was reef was a dark blue. At first, I thought the fish were hiding, but then I stumbled upon a group (I wouldn’t say school because all the fish were really different) and I fed them some of my Honey Nut Cheerios.

There they are

Cheerios float, so they all floated back to my face, and before I knew it I had a bunch of fish eating right in front of me. It suprised me a little so I started swatting the Cheerios to make them go away and a fish bit my finger. Not hard, but enough to get the message across.  I think it was the big black and blue fish that did it, but it might have been his little orange friend.

Black and Blue Parrotfish

Aliya will post for more.
 Aliya here! Today I went snokeling for the first time! I was so lucky to have my first dive in one of the most famous reefs in the world, Marsh Harbor, Abaco.  Well, I can’t say it was bland. I saw at least 50 types of  fish. And many underwarter plants and even a few crustatians.

Surrounded by fish

 Like my sister, I was bitten by a fish. 😦 it was the stealthy black angel fish.

The Thief—–that is Angel Fish

 I can’t blame him, I had a Cheerio. It just took me by suprise… But overall my snorkeling experiance was great. I now know how to  rule the ocean. Cheerios. Maybe I will go back in the morning before high tide, so the water isn’t as rough.  I can’t wait to get more snorkeling time under my belt! See you tommorow!
The kids had under water 35mm cameras.  Their underwater shots turned out amazingly good!

The kids ready to snorkel at Mermaid Reef

The Jib Room here at the marina had their famous BBQ’d rib dinner last night.  We never thought about there being good BBQ in the Bahamas, but it was absolutely delicious.   Lou ate a whole rack of baby backs.  We had great company at our table as Lou was invited to sit with two ladies that live on the island, Sue and Kay.  Kay owns a dive shop and knows Steve Newman——small world stuff!  Marvin, one of the staff at the marina, did a great job of the cooking.

Update 5/21/10

The Jib Room is a happening place on Wednesday and Saturday evening.  The locals make their reservations early for the good food.  Even though Marsh Harbour is the third largest town in the Bahamas, it is still a very small town.   it is the best place in the out islands to provision.  The supply boat for the grocery stores came in today.  There should be some fresh dairy products and vegetables after the shelves are stocked.  The electric company turned off the power today for 5 or 6 hours.  It is said that they cannot produce enough power for the needs, and it happens frequently.  We are starting to get into this island life style!   Once you get into the rhythm of the islands, it is not too bad.

Sue and Kay at the Jib Room

We went grocery shopping yesterday and did laundry here at the marina today.  Mundane tasks in paradise are not even bad.  Grocery prices are sky high and choices some what limited.  The largest super market in the second largest city of the Bahamas had no milk or hamburger buns.  With the high prices, it must be tough for the average workers here to feed their families.

We will straighten up the boat to get ready for the kids arrival on Saturday.   That will be a big day for all of us!  Here’s hoping Hannah can shepherd them through customs and changing planes in Nassau.
By the way, here is a link to the navigation chart showing the area of our travels.   http://explorercharts.com/images/Chart_NB.jpg

When you click on the link, you should get a magnifying glass cursor that you can put over the area that you want to see enlarged.  The area that we are in is located  on the Little Bahama Bank.  Marsh Harbour is on Great Abaco Island to the far right.  We will be in the area of the Sea of Abaco with the kids.  Lots of great places to see and snorkel.

It is important to note that the depth numbers on the chart are in meters—not feet.  The depths off the Bank are from 2000-20,000 ft. deep.  That is over your head, folks.

Update 5/18/10

The Abacos!

David Dalton arrived at SCYC at about 10:00pm Friday evening.  It is a good thing as we have now found a buddy boat to cross the stream tomorrow (Saturday) with.  Mr. Maxi a 55′ Searay berthed at the YC was planning to cross.  They asked if we would like to buddy up for the crossing.  My answer was “would we!!!!”.  So at 6:15am we pulled away from the dock and headed for the St. Lucie Inlet.  5-7′ rollers in the inlet with 20knot easterly winds on the nose.  We had 3-5′ seas for 3 hours at about 14 knots to cross.  A little rough, but a good crossing none the less.  David Dalton said he would not want it much rougher than that.  Lou did great, and slept for a good part of the passage.

We dropped the hook at Great Sale Cay at 1:30pm after an easy cruise of 18 knots across the Bank.  Took a swim in the cool, clear water, and grilled for dinner.   It doesn’t get much better than this.  We slept like logs with a cool breeze blowing through the boat>  We were up early for the 2 hour run to Green Turtle Cay.  What a great place.

Stuart Corinthian Yacht Club Dock

Mr. Maxi our buddy boat for the Gulf Stream crossing

The anchorage at Great Sale Cay

Cobalt blue water of the Gulf Stream

White Sound Green Turtle Cay

Kevin and the Gully Roosters perform Wednesdy evenings at the Green Turtle Club.Click on the link and scroll down for the dancers.    Let’s Go Go to Abaco!

http://www.motuiti.com/Lets%20Go%20Abaco.html

When finished hit your back button until back here.

Lou and Don at Green Turtle Club. Happy yet?

Moonstruck at Green Turtle Club flying the yellow quarantine flag before clearing customs

David Dalton full of conch fritters at the Green Turtle Club

We would loved to have stayed at the Green Turtle Club for a few days, but we have a schedule to meet the grandkids in Marsh Harbor.  Monday morning looked like a good time to get around Whale Cay Passage,  So we headed for Treasure Cay arriving at noon.  Treasure Cay has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  The place was full of German tourists.

Treasure Cay across from our slip for the night

Abaco Treasure Cay morning across from our slip

Treasure Cay Beach

Treasure Cay Beach

Then this morning it was off to Marsh Harbor to await the grandkids arrival.  We love this place.  Marsh Harbor Marina is a small friendly marina with a Rib BBQ tomorrow night and steak BBQ Saturday night complete with island music.  There is a pool and a great snorkeling reef with small private beach about 200 yards away.

Moonstruck at Marsh Harbor Marina flying the Bahamian Courtesy Flag. We cleared customs and are a legal vessel.

Waters around Mermaid Reef that the kids can snorkel from shore

It was kind of sad today.  David Dalton took a cab to the airport to head back home.  We had a great run.

Hanging Out in Abaco

Click on the link.  You can put it up full screen.  How’s this?  Stone’s music and the contestants for the Miss Universe Contest.  When done hit your back button.

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/ministry_of_tourism_updates/VIDEO_-_Miss_Universe_visits_Abaco_in_The_Bahamas7327.shtml

Update 5/14/10

Lou and I along with Kathy and Norm Blinn left Gasparilla Marina at 9:40am May 11th.  We cruised down to Ft. Myers for fuel, lunch, and a grocery stop at Publix.  Then it was up the Caloosahatchee River and through the Franklin Lock to Rialto Harbor>  Rialto Harbor is a beautiful stop with its moss draped trees and meandering paths.  We walked up to the main highway for some Pizza at a small convenience store.  It was surprisingly good.  Norm and Kathy said it was the best they had since living in Naples, Italy.

Norm and Kathy

Lock on Okeechobee Waterway

Docked at Rialto Harbor

Scene at Rialto Harbor

Moonstruck early morning at Rialto Harbor

Don and Norm the Sunbrella cap twins

Wednesday morning it was time for some serious cruising as we made it all the way across the Okeechobee Waterway to Stuart.  We arrived in the Manatee Pocket at 3:00pm.   A great crossing from the West coast of Florida to the East coast.  We fueled and tied up at the Stuart Corinthian Yacht Club.  Here we are awaiting a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  Sunday or Tuesday look to be the best days.

David Dalton could not stand cowering behind his desk in Chattanooga any longer.  He has decided to venture out and drive down to rescue the winsome Miss Lou from the dastardly captain of the Moonstruck.  He plans to make the crossing and fly back to get his car in Stuart.

Stay tuned as the weather forecast is changing daily.

Update 5/6/10

Both Lou and I have been busy getting personal stuff taken care of for the next month or so.  Kids passports and travel documents are taken care of.  Their flight reservations are made.  We are registered with customs for our return.   We international travelers like to say that our “papers are in order”.  We are taking care of banking and packing tomorrow.  Then it is drive down to the boat Saturday.  Clean the boat and stock up with groceries Sunday.  Norm and Kathy are coming in on Monday.  Hopefully, we will be able to leave on their arrival for a short run to get a head start on the crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway.——–Stay tuned.

Well, plans are fiming up for the crossing to the Abacos in the Bahamas in May.  We are bracketing the trip around the only week that the 4 grand kids are available.  So, the day after school is out they are flying into Marsh Harbour for a week.  Our job is to get the boat over to meet them there.  Just takes a little juggling around.  Now, it is in the hands of Mother Nature.  Ordinarily, in May the weather fronts are mostly through, and the winds have shifted from northerly to the easterly quadrant.  That should make crossing the Gulf Stream more pleasant.

The plan is to move over to Stuart to wait for the weather to be favorable for a Gulf Stream crossing.  The route planned is St. Lucie Inlet to enter the Little Bahama Bank at White Sand Ridge.  Then a course North of Great Sale Cay to either Spanish Cay or Green Turtle Cay to clear Bahamian customs.  From there it is working our way down to Marsh Harbor to meet the kids.

Stay tuned as this is a pretty big adventure for the kids.  Lot’s of swimming, snorkeling, and dinghy exploring..  Just getting the arrangements for the trip is quite a deal.   Coordinating and putting on supplies are like preparing for an expedition.  We are all getting pretty excited about being there with the kids.  That makes it very special for us.  Norm and Kathy Blinn are planning to start out with us to do the crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway.  As we get settled in the Abacos Jan and Bill Evans had planned to fly in, but have now had to cancel.  We are disappointed in that because  they are dear friends, and have cruised many, many miles with us.  It looks like Lou will just have to put up with me with no relief.  Our schedule is just not firm yet, and probably won’t be until we make the crossing and get by Whale Cay Passage.

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SW Florida Cruises ’10

Cruise south from Gasparilla Marina

The 2010 cruise season is officially started for Moonstruck.  On Sunday afternoon Lou and I arrived back at Moonstruck.  She was waiting in the water just as John Chaplin mgr. of Gasparilla Marina said.  With her black hull glistening with a new buffing and wax, she was ready to go.

Monday we stocked up on groceries and drinks.  Sue and Gene had us over for a wonderful dinner with the Florida Crew (all good friends).  Tuesday we drove up to Bradenton to see Jan and Bill.  We then had lunch at BYC.  Wednesday we sorted out the new digital TV sytem on the boat.  I am glad to say that we now have good TV most anyplace we go.

Dolphin in the wake on the way to Boca Grande

Thursday it was time to get travelling.  We pulled out of Gasparilla and moved on down to Boca Grande to meet up with Gerry and Linda Etzold on Monk’s Vineyard, their 36′ Monk trawler.  Gerry and Linda left their home near Annapolis, MD in July and have been cruising the Great Loop.  They are probably about half way and are planning to be home in July of this year.  With them were Michael and Jana Laporte cruising on Second Star a 36′ Krogen.

On the way down we met a pod of  about two dozen dolphin coming directly at the boat.  Several turned to play in our wake.  Lou got a picture of one.

After their settling in the canal anchorage, we met on Moonstruck for happy hour and went to dinner.  Dinner was at PJ’s Sea Grill which is always good.  We all turned in to leave the next morning to anchor for the night in Pilican Bay.

Jana and Michael Laporte, Linda and Gerry Etzold, Lou and Me at PJ's Sea Grill

 Because of predicted winds Monk’s Vineyard and Second Star decided to forego Pelican Bay and move on up to Punta Gorda.  Lou and I were already anchored down, so we decided we were in a good spot for the night.  It proved to be so.  We rode comfortably at anchor.  The temperature was near perfect,  It was a great night at anchor.

Lou doing what she loves best---reading in a quiet anchorage

Just one of the interesting boats in the Pelican Bay anchorage

Saturday morning, after showers and a liesurely breakfast, we hauled anchor and headed for Punta Gorda.  The ride up Charlotte Harbor was choppy but uneventful.  We arrived at Isles Yacht Club at noon.  What a great and active club.  The dockmaster, staff, and members went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Lunch at the yacht club was delicious.  We walked down to Fishermans Village to have a look around.  Then it was back to the boat for a light dinner.

Isles Yacht Club at Punta Gorda. One of the friendliest yacht clubs

Moonstruck docked at IYC

 We thoroughly enjoyed our two night stay at Isles Yacht Club.  It is one of the friendliest, well organized clubs that we have visited—–the food was good, too.  We look forward to returning.

On the return trip to Gasparilla, Charlotte Harbor was a little choppy, so we picked up speed and ran down to the ICW.  Then we slowed down to enjoy the weather that has turned off nicely.  Dolphin were everywhere.  They swam along with us with some so close you could almost touch them.   There seems to be something about the sound made by 4 blade propellars that attracts them.

There are about 5 boats from Canada wintering at the marina.  When we returned we were invited to an impromptu dock party/happy hour where we got to know some of them.  They are a fun group.

Bill and Jan at IYC

Dolphin close along side the boat

Don and Lou at IYC

Hilton Head to Boca Grande ’08

’08 Cruise South

Please note–by placing your cursor over a picture a caption will pop up to help explain the picture.

Lou and I arrived at the boat on Thursday evening Oct. 30.  We have tomorrow to drop off the rental car and get the boat ready for the trip South.  Raymarine is supposed to have the radar back on Friday for reinstallation.  They were as good as their word, and Ed Webber, ace electrician, with a little help from me installed and calibrated it.

In the process of handling the heavy scanner pedestal, I felt that it was a nice day for a swim.  So, that is just what I did.  Overboard in the marina.  Only casualties were a few skinned places and some hearing aids.  It was very bracing.

Goodbye Shelter Cove Harbor

With everything ready, we left out about 0940 Saturday the 1st of Nov.  Winds were from the northeast 10-15 in the am and 15-20 in the pm.  The Savannah River shipping channel was a little sloppy with the tide opposing the wind.  However, upon reaching the sea bouy we turned to a course of 206 degrees, turned on the auto pilot, and road the quartering seas to the St. Marys River entrance at the Florida line.  At 26 knots, it is 3 hours from sea bouy to sea bouy.

26 knots in 3-5 occasional 6' quartering seas

This was probably not a good introduction for Lou to the North Atlantic Ocean.   She is a good sport, and did not get the least sea sick.

The St. Marys River tide was ebbing at full flow.  It slowed us down 3 knots.  It was like a boiling cauldron.  We took solid water over the roof of the boat, but it was no real problem for anything but the windshield wipers.

Gerry Clare picked us up at the Fernandina Harbor for dinner and football at their lovely new home.  Wonderful meal even if Florida did give Georgia a sound thrashing.  Lucy, the Clare’s dog has more miles under her keel than many experienced cruisers.

Tom and Gerry Clare with Lucy

Welcome to Fernandina Beach

It seems that Lou has been here before!!!

Church around corner from LuLu's Bra and Grill.  Episcopalian, of course.

Sunday the 2nd Gerry picked up Lou for a little shopping and touring.  I desalted the boat and took care of some chores on board.  We needed a rest after the last couple of days.

Wally Drew and Gracia, his wife, stopped by the boat.  They live at Amelia Island in the winter and Door County, Wisconsin in the summer.  They have a Sabre 36 Flybridge in the North.  Being very experienced cruisers they are interesting to talk with.

Dinner tonight (at Capt. Norm Blinn’s recommendation) with the Clares at Arte’s Pizza.  Not your normal pizza place.  Excellent!  The Clares are great cruisers, and have put over 15,000 miles under the keel since 2003.

Tomorrow after fueling at Florida Petroleum it will be on to Daytona Beach.

Monday, Nov. 3, 2008

The railroad bridge at Fernandina was broken and could not open until about 9:30 am.  Tom Clare gave us a heads up on it.  We went over to fuel $2.68/gal. plus 7% tax.

Departed Fernandina at 0930.   After much passing of South bound boats arrived at Halifax River YC in Daytona at 1615 hours.  There was a soft grounding at a channel junction below Palm Coast.  No apparent damage.

Florida Marsh near Jacksonville

Halifax River Yacht Club new building

Wonderful meal at the club.  After a shower and a nice meal, the world looks alot better.  Nice to be away from the election coverage for awhile.

We are looking to be in Vero Beach tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008  Election Day

Departed Halifax River YC 0800 hrs.  Fairly easy and uneventful cruise to Vero Beach.  Arrived 1400 hrs.

If I do say so, MOONSTRUCK is looking good in the slip.  Of course if you look behind there is a yacht with a crew of 5.  That puts everything in perspective.

MOONSTRUCK at Vero Beach

Vero is a great stop.  The yacht club was full, so it meant paying for a night at the marina.  However there is good cable TV on board for the election returns.  So, all is not bad.

The harbor at Vero Beach

The yacht on the end is flying a New York YC pennant.

Vero Beach City Marina

Vero Beach is one of the most cruiser friendly towns on the coast—dockage, moorings, laundry, TV lounge, cable TV at dock, WIFI, and a free shuttle bus to the beach or town.

Wednesday Nov. 5, 2008

Long tiring day.  Stopped in Ft. Pierce to fuel up at the City Marina.  Then it was on to Ft. Lauderdale.  We are at Coral Ridge Yacht Club near the Sunrise Blvd. Bridge.

Lou really got on to reading the draw bridge data.  This helped to time the runs between bridges.

There were many no wake, minimun wake, 25mph limits, 30 mph limits, and 15″ maximum wake height areas to go through.  All this coupled with passing boats and limited bridge openings makes a frustrating day for the captain.

Reservation tomorrow night at Coral Reef YC at Coconut Grove.  That is just south of Miami.

If the wind stays down, we will run out Everglades Inlet and back in through Government Cut at Miami Beach.

More pictures tomorrow.

Thurs. Nov 6, 2008

Did I say that life is good?  We are tied up at Coral Reef YC in Biscayne Bay at Coconut Grove just below Miami.  Good weather, temperature, palm trees, great facility, and great community—-what more can you ask for?  Pictures tomorrow, but now for the trip down:

We left Coral Ridge YC and detoured up the New River into the heart of Ft. Lauderdale.  Beautiful homes and mega yachts not to be believed.

Leaving Coral Ridge YC

Ft. Lauderdale New River

This is a big one

We decided to avoid the slow ICW today and run out Everglades Inlet for the run South to Miami Beach.  We entered Government cut and back over to the ICW.

Busy inlet at Ft Lauderdale

Moonstrucks wake in the Gulf Stream

South Beach from Government Cut

Another great shot of the Miami River by LULU

Friday, Nov. 7, 2008

Coconut Grove!  Florida living at its best.  We did a little of everything today.  Shopping, sidewalk dining, boat fixing and cleaning, and a little action (no not that kind)—a guy backed a boat, trailer, and new Tahoe into the water at the Dinner Key boat ramp.  All the windows were down.  Could it be an insurance accident?  News at 11.

Here are the pictures promised yesterday.

OK whoa, now

Here he comes

Tahoe Trailer and Boat

Tow Boat US at the boat ramp

Barnicle, Dade County's oldest house

We stepped off the streets of Coconut Grove to tour
Barnicle, the oldest home in Dade County.  It was built in 1886, and it could be lived in quite well today.

Coconut Grove

The sidewalk cafe society of Coconut Grove.

Cocowalk

Entrance to Coral Reef YC

Lou at Coral Reef YC

Looks like some clouds and showers tonight.  If the weather will cooperate tomorrow, we plan to go out to Boca Chita Key for the night.  Great place to walk the beach and relax.

Saturday Nov. 8, 2008

Pulled out of Coral Reef YC and over to Dinner Key Marina for a pump out.  Then took a slow cruise over to Boca Chita Key.  Do not try to go there on the weekends.  The harbor was loaded.  We took a look, turned around, went outside, and anchored up for lunch.

Coconut Grove from our slip at Coral Reef YC

Same shot at night

Miami looking North from Biscayne Bay

Boca Chita Key

Boca Chita Key was too crowded for us today.

One of the Stiltsville houses in Biscayne Bay

This is just one of the many Stiltsville houses in Biscayne Bay.  You may remember them from “Miami Vice”.

Anchor down at Rodriguez Key

The anchor is down tonight on the North side of Rodriguez Key.  Our first night at anchor for this trip.  The temperature is good, the boat is rolling a little, and the breeze is coming through the hatches.  Should be a good sleeping night.

Sunset at Rodriquez Key

Reservation tomorrow at Marathon YC.  May have to stay there two or three nights to wait out some weather.

Sunday Nov. 9, 2008

Well, the wind shifted to the northeast and picked up to about 20mph steady.  1 to 2′ seas in the anchorage.  We rocked and rolled all night, but Lou slept like a log.
The anchor held like it was welded to the bottom.

Pulled up anchor at 0730 hrs and headed for Marathon.  It was a good but wet ride.  Arrived Marathon YC about 1030 hrs, and it looks like we could be here for a couple of days to wait out the weather.

Hot dog night at the yacht club with drinks 1/2 off.

Monday Nov. 10,2008

Day in the harbor at Marathon YC.  Wind has been steady out of the North at 20-25mph.  It is blowing Florida Bay right into the harbor.  Laundry and grocery shopping today.

Woody Hodgkins at Marathon YC

Woody Hodgkins came by Marathon YC today.  I promised to give him his 15 minutes of fame, and here it is.  Actually, he is the one that interceded on our behalf to get us back in for a visit.  Last time we had  so ungraciously complained about the meatloaf.  The club made up for it with free hotdogs on Sunday night.  Free food will make up for most anything.

Wind is supposed to lay down to 15-20mph tomorrow.  That being the case we will move over to, Keys Fishery, the commercial dock for fueling tomorrow morning and then head for Key West. 

We have a three night reservation at the Galleon Marina.  It is expensive but in the heart of Key West.  Hopefully, by that time the seas will have quieted down enough for the 100 mile or so open water crossing to either Marco Island or Naples.

Lou has continued to use her eye and her Canon (that’s a camera) to capture some great shots of the trip.  She is really quite good in docking and checking for crab pot floats.  A second set of eyes is a good thing. 

Tuesday Nov. 11, 2008—-Veterans Day

We departed Marathon YC at 0720 hrs.  Fueled up with 287 gal. at Keys Fishery.  The commercial dock.  Fuel was $3.25/gal. plus 7 % tax.  That beat the places in Boot Key Harbor at $3.67 plus tax.  The commercial docks are the place to buy fuel.

Departed the fuel dock at 0820 hrs and arrived Key West at Galleon Marina at 1020 hrs.  Key West—–need I say more.  It is like a whole nother country.

We have a great slip in the heart of town near Mallory Square.  The action is near, and there is plenty of it.  Today was Veterans Day, and there was a great parade.  Of course we had to do the sunset at Mallory Square.  I will let Lou fill in about that.  For now here are the pictures from today.

Key West Veterans Day Parade

This is the Navy trying to march.  Sorry, Norm, but for an old foot soldier their marching leaves a little to be desired.

Patriots in training

Little Patriot

Key West Bag Pipes

Galleon Resort and Marina

Mallory Square Freak Show

It has lasted more than 4 hours.  Call the doctor.

Mallory Square Dog Act

Mallory Square dog walking ropes

Great Key West Sunset Shot by Lou

Don and I are at Key West for a 3 night stay after a 2 hour run from Marathon.  The cruise down was just great…a following sea with beautiful sunshine and very little boat traffic.  Keeping an eye out for crab pots and reading the charts kept me pretty busy, however, I did enjoy the trip immensely.

We got tied up before lunch and had time to browse the shops before finally eating at a unique little place called Two Friends.  Thanks to David Dalton, we have suggestions for two great eating places we plan to try before leaving.

This is my first trip to Key West and I have to say it is worth the effort to get here.  I’ve seen sights to behold!!
Some, during the Veteran’s Day Parade, that brought tears to my eyes, while others at Mallory Square, caused me to stare and wonder.  There were various acts being performed…..some participants had little talent while others had none, but all seemed to be enjoying themselves while asking for “tips” .  Don and I stayed at the waterfront til the sunset then returned to the boat for a wine, cheese and fruit dinner.

Tomorrow should be a busy, fun day!!  We still have lots to do and things to see.  It seems there is never enough time to do all the things you want to.

Wednesday Nov. 12, 2008

A day in the harbor at Key West.  We took it fairly easy today.  We strolled around the town and the Truman Annex.  Ate Cuban for lunch and Italian for dinner.  David Dalton’s recommendation of the Trattoria Restaurant was right on.

Of course the action continues each evening at Mallory Square.  Some of it interesting.  Some of it down right crazy.  Pictures from the day follow.

Moonstruck at the Galleon Resort and Marina

LuLu after eating Key Lime Pie for 3 days

Mallory Square musical act

The above was a very good musical act that played and sang island music.  We bought a couple of CDs.

Mallory Square mime

Key West bicycle thing

You see alot of strange things in Key West, but this ranks right up there with the strangest.  This is a bicycle with a trailer attached and a luggage carrier on the roof.  There is one dog in the back compartment and 2 dogs sleeping in the front.  We saw it in several places including going down the street.

Thursday Nov. 13, 2008

Another day in Key West Harbor.  The wind is still blowing, but it is supposed to lay down somewhat on Saturday.  That is delaying our departure for a day to take advantage of the lighter winds.

Today we walked about 3 or 4 miles.  While window shopping we were admiring the little puppies playing in the window.  Lou thought that she might take one home, but their activities changed a little.  It seems they may have adapted a little too much to the Key West life style.

There are only a few pictures today.  One is of the Walgreen’s Drugs that is located in an old theater building with a completely restored front.  Only in Key West would you see something like this.

Key West Walgreens

The others are to show some of the water colors in the harbor.

Key West Dock and Water

Key West Water Colors

Friday Nov. 14, 2008

In the harbor at Key West.  The weather report seems to be holding, so it looks like we are out of here tomorrow.

Here is a picture of Mark at the Jet Ski/boat rental booth behind our dock waving hi to Norm and Kathy Blinn.  Jude was off today, but came by the boat to say hi and to send greetings to Norm and Kathy.

Mark at the Jet Ski Rental booth

Jude from the Jet Ski Rental booth

Fuel prices better than expected down here—$3.15/gal at A & B Marina.

Saturday Nov. 15, 2008

What a difference a day makes.  Wind dropped to light and variable over night.  We departed to smooth seas and a great run.  We topped up the fuel at A & B Marina then departed by Northwest Channel to Green Marker #1.  Then it was 106.3 nm (that is about 125 statute miles) to the entrance marker at San Carlos Bay near Ft. Meyers Beach.  We set the auto pilot to steer 003 degrees magnetic, and let it run.  The seas were so smooth that we were picking up the crab pot floats on the radar.  The only variable from the course was dodging many of the crab pots.  4 hours and we were at the waypoint.

Because the seas were smooth, with the wind predicted to pick up to 25 knots out of the North tonight, we elected to cancel our reservation at Marco Island YC.  We decided it best to go on to the Sannibel/Ft. Meyers area to get into sheltered water for the rest of the trip.  It turned out to be a good decision.

We stopped at Sannibel Marina to eat a late lunch at Grandma Dot’s Restaurant.  This is one of the best we know of.  We then cruised on over to Ft. Meyers to the Royal Palm YC where we are tied up.

Hosed down the boat, showered, and had dinner—life is good.

Pictures of the day follow.

Tarpon rising to bait fish

there were many tarpon in the harbor

The Hatteras sport fishing boat next to us in Key West had under water lights that attracted bait fish.  Many of the tarpon in the harbor would hang around and eat the bait fish.  We once saw about a 250 lb. giant grouper rise into the light.  His head almost came to the surface.  His mouth must have been about 16″ wide.  Never seen anything like it.

It is no wonder that David Dalton knows so much about the restaurants in Key West.  We found where he is hiding his new yacht.

Lucky Dog at Key West

We left Key West with mixed emotions.  We had an enjoyable visit, but I was prepared.  I had stocked up on soap on a rope.

Goodbye to the Galleon and Key West 

Sanibel Island Bridge

Sunday Nov 15, 2008

A day in the harbor at Fort Meyers.  What a difference another day makes.  The wind picked up to about 25mph yesterday evening and veered to the northwest.  We awoke to about 50 degree temperatures and wind.  However we were a snug 72 degrees inside the boat.

The forecasters are calling for cool temperatures until the weekend.  We were planning to anchor a night or two at Cayo Costa and Boca Grande.  Without running the generator all night the upper 40’s would be too cool to be comfortable.  We plan to run on in to Gasparilla Marina, our new home port, tomorrow.  We will probably leave the boat on Tuesday and be home on Wednesday.  It has been a great trip!

Pictures for today are from Fort Meyers. The Edison and Ford estates are right next door to the yacht club.  We walked over there and then down town for lunch.  There is a new Publix market about a block from the YC that is very convenient.

Thomas Edison winter home

Thomas Edison laboratory

Henry Ford winter home

New Ft Meyers Publix that doesnt look like a big box store

The following is a picture of Moonstruck taken from the top deck of the Royal Palm YC.  If you look closely, you may see the dinghy in the cockpit.  We do not do that very often; but for a long offshore trip with no other boats around, it is a safety precaution.

Moonstruck at Royal Palm YC

Monday Nov. 17, 2008

At 1045 this morning we pulled into Moonstruck’s new home port for the next year or so—–Gasparilla Marina at Placida, FL near Boca Grande.  17th day of a great cruise.

There was a single Osprey welcoming us at the turning marker to Gasparilla Marina.

One bird welcoming committee

We are in a temporary slip for tonight.  We will leave the boat to be put away under the care of Capt. John Chaplin.

Tonight we are having dinner at the Fishery Restaurant with Gene and Sue Bell with Sue’s daughter Kim, and Terry and Chreyl Shippy to catch up with them.  Tomorrow Sue will pick us up at noon to take us to pick up a rental car.

We will stay tomorrow night with Bill and Jan Evans in Palmetto.  Dinner will probably be at the Bradenton Yacht Club (our home club).  Then drive home Wednesday.

For you technical guys the trip summary follows:

Trip Summary

940 statute miles
830.2 gal. fuel purchased
17.5 Gal./hr.
1 statute mile/Gal.
48 engine hours
1.1 generator hours (inverter is great)