Friday, March 31, 2017

Clifton Heritage Park

Plantation ruins

At the corner of our Bay in Paradise is the Clifton Heritage Park. It was established to preserve the area and the artifacts from earlier cultures. To us, at first, it looked like a great wander along the beach. All four boats agreed to meet at the beach at 11:00 for a walk and picnic lunch. After locking three dinghies together, we headed down the beach. Again, the water is just too amazing to put into words. As the sun comes out from behind clouds the water simply glows in various shades of blue and turquoise. The sand gives way to rock formations that house tiny pools of water that are so clear you don't realize there is water in them.

The path veered from the beach inland a bit and we were walking under a canopy of leaves. Tucked back at the base of some of the trees we saw three feet tall termite nests. Every once in a while we would hear a bird sing, but never saw it.

As the path led back to the beach we spotted a structure of some kind being built. It had benches and a roof and looked like the perfect place for us to stop for lunch. We pulled sandwiches, snacks and beverages from our packs, kicked back and relaxed as we listened to the waves lap against the beach. There was a sign that showed a map of the park. We still had lots to explore. By 1:00 Don said, "Next time you guys suggest a walk on the beach, I need to ask more questions." But the best part of our journey was up ahead.

We passed Flipper Beach where the TV show was filmed. We passed an area where all the vegetation was dry and grey. This must have been where a big wave came ashore during Hurricane Matthew. As we continued on through the more formal part of the park, the destruction became more evident. There were areas where rubble was piled and you could see the outline of roads that had been washed out.

We passed another shack where there were wet suits and snorkels hanging. For a fee, you could engage their services and snorkel out to some sunken statues. They were the ones that informed us that we needed to have a wristband to be in the park. But there had been no people or signs up to this point to tell us that. We said we would pay when we saw where to pay. As we rounded the corner, we saw the Visitors Center and Gift Shop. One problem. None of us brought any cash since we hadn't seen any any need for any when we initially investigated yesterday. Fortunately Dave had his credit card and we were cleared to wander the rest of the park. We were glad we did. This end held all the history.

The first thing we noticed as we headed toward the cliffs along the water's edge were some statues. They were made from palm tree trunks. The heads were simply carved and each has a blue head scarf tied. The statues were facing various directions and represented the slave women looking for their Africa. It was gut-wrenching. Around the corner were the remains of four stone cabins that housed the 67 slaves that worked the cotton and sugar cane fields. None of us left that area unaffected.

Now we were walking along the rocky shore of New Providence. Off shore we saw a propane tanker tied off waiting to unload fuel for the energy plant. The cliff leading up to the plant had "the hundred stairs." It is reported that these stairs were used by the pirates to sneak their bounty ashore. Some of us were too chicken to walk out to the edge (Brenda) while others (Mike) freely peered over the ledge at the indentations carved into the stone by the force of the waves.

That ended our three mile tour of the park. We could either go back the way we came or take the shortcut back. Even though it was the road, we chose the short cut. Another mile and we were back to our beach and our dinghies.

Blue Moon and Amata Marie are heading out tomorrow in different directions, so we had another evening of appetizers and sundowners to celebrate the time we had shared. We look forward to bumping into them again in the future.


West Bay, New Providence

Pat, Don, Jim, Dave

We are anchored on the west end of New Providence. Nassau is located on the far east end of this island and has the only medical facilities in the Bahamas that can deal with a broken arm. New Providence is 21 miles long and we could anchor or get a marina on the east end, but for several reasons we chose West Bay anchorage and are glad we did.

Our flotilla here included Island Tyme, Amata Marie and Wrinkles. We were soon joined by Blue Moon, who we knew from Marathon. They had sailed to Andros, but it wasn't what they were after, so they joined us here. Sweet! Now we have eight people to play with.

Jim on Amata Marie wanted to find a local grocery store, so the boys and Pat headed out on the trek for food. Nancy, Gail and Brenda stayed back on the beach to "guard the dinghies." The hike took us along curved roads and over hills. Don spied an ice machine attached to a building on a side road. He smelled the possibility of a cold beer, so we followed him to investigate. Sure enough it turned out to be a well stocked mom and pop convenience store conveniently named "Mom and Pop Shop." That cold beer tasted mighty fine. Good thing we brought our coozies that we have learned to carry with us at all times! Pat and Dave started walking back to the beach, while Don, Jim and Mike forged onward. About two - three miles later a Shell station appeared with a Fresh Market behind it. Big, beautiful, well stocked and expensive. Think Whole Foods on a "add 30%" sale. Mike picked up a loaf of Rosemary Olive bread and a loaf of Walnut Raisin Bread. Jim's purchases were stuffed into the three backpacks and the return trip started. The hike was far longer than expected and Don gratefully applied some bandaids to his heels that Mike had in his wallet.

While the boys were walking, Pat and Dave had gotten a ride from a local, Fina. As they were riding, Pat noticed a Princes Margaret Hospital sticker on the window and started talking about Brenda's adventure. Fina's husband, it turns out, is a General Practioner at PMH. She insisted that her husband have a quick look at my hand to insure all is well. She lives just around the corner from the beach. What a sweetheart! Not only did she have her husband look at my hand, which he said was doing fine, she insisted that she take us into Nassau for our appointment on Wednesday. In addition, she again insisted that she take Don and Gail to the airport when it was time for them to fly home. What a stress reliever. We were trying to figure how to get across the island without having to pay the $40 each way taxi fare. Now we have Fina and know about the local bus as well.

The grocery store hikers also got a ride back the last couple of miles to the beach. A shuttle bus which takes cruise ship passengers to the west end for snorkeling or water sports stopped and picked the three boys up. The air conditioned bus felt pretty good to them by that time. Don gave the driver a nice tip which really made the guys' day. They heard him hooting and hollering, "Gonna buy me some rum!" as he drove away.

When everyone finally made it back to the beach, we were exhausted. We agreed it was nap time, but we would meet on Amata Marie at 5:30 for appetizers and sundowners (a toast to the sunset). We met again the next night on Island Tyme and what feasts we had. There was smoked salmon, salmon dip, artichoke dip, pork loin fingers with sweet horseradish sauce, Little Smokie links with dates, fresh fruit, mango chutney over cream cheese, olives, the two breads, crackers, cheese, apple crisp and a delious cream cheese mixed with cool whip and Key lime mix. As you can see, even though we are anchored out in the middle of a bay, we are eating well.

Each person brings their drink of choice to these gatherings and Dave on Blue Moon loves to offer Mike one of his PBR beers. Seriously, of all the wonderful beers to celebrate each of these memorable Bahamian days he drinks a PBR. There is only one other PBR fan in existence as far as we know and we won't name him (Bob) to save him the embarrassment. Oops, did I mention his name? Bob.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Onward To New Providence

Chubb Cay to New Providence

As you know we changed our route to get Brenda to a hospital in Nassau, New Providence, the only place in the Bahamas that deals with broken bones. Along with Amata Marie and Island Tyme we crossed from Chubb Cay to New Providence arriving in West Bay. It was nice that we had an easy 7 hour crossing, but the lack of wind was disappointing to Wrinkle's crew. We are the smallest boat with the smallest (by far) diesel, so we need to press on sails in order to keep up. We try to put up all three sails whenever possible which helps us stay with our sailing companions.

The waters in the Northwest Channel reach 2700 meters and are a super dark blue color. All three boats ran out fishing lines in hopes of catching something tasty. Unfortunately the fish just weren't interested today. The seas were flat and the winds were calm. We had the mainsail up and the staysail pulling most of the day, but the poor little diesel had to run at 60 percent all day. We averaged 5.5 knots which is all we usually plan for in our routing.

West Bay anchorage

We could see multiple burn sites on Andros off to the west as they are still cleaning up after hurricane Matthew. The three boats chatted on the VHF occasionally which helps on an uneventful passage. The first sighting of New Providence was the Atlantis Resort. It looked like a monster freighter off on the horizon. We don't plan on visiting the resort because it is way out of our budget range.

We took the northern pass into West Bay watching the reefs on either side. There were a few boats in the anchorage ahead of us, but this bay has lots of room. All three of us set our hooks in the sand and began tidying up. Instead of rushing to get our dinghies launched, we chatted with each other on the VHF. As the sun set Mike blew his conch shell and then Island Tyme played Amazing Grace on their stereo. After grilling chicken we added potatoes and a salad for our our celebration dinner aboard. Another major step accomplished in our adventure. Now we need to find out how to get Brenda to a hospital for a permanent cast.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mackie Shoals to Chubb Cay


Chubb Cay, Berry Islands

Our 45 mile run from Mackie Shoals to Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands was pretty uneventful. We started with all sails up and motor at about 60% and stayed that way all day long. There was more boat traffic and it was amazing to see the big yachts towing their full-sized fishing boats behind them. It was incredible to watch our depth sounder go from 12 feet to --- as it couldn't read the 800 foot depths of the Northwest Providence Channel. Chubb Cay took a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew and the entrance to the harbor is still chained off. We arrived at the anchorage on the west end of Chubb Cay at about 5:00, nine hours after leaving Mackie Shoals. We dropped our anchor on the west side of the channel in 10 feet of water. We were tired, but managed a hot tuna casserole and blueberry muffins for dinner. Mike took a "shower" in the water and serenaded us with a conch song at sunset followed again by Amazing Grace. We took a couple of post card pictures of Island Tyme with the sun setting behind it.

Island Tyme

By 8:00 all three boats were gently rocking their passengers into a peaceful sleep. We planned on leaving the next morning for West Bay on New Providence.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Bimini to Mackie Shoals.

Bimini, to us, is the gateway to the Bahamas. But to get there you have to let go. It was hard to leave, and we did manage to eke out an extra day in our nice private marina, but we begrudgingly threw off the dock lines and all three boats headed toward Mackie Shoals. The Shoals are about half way between Bimini and the Berry Islands in about 10 feet of water. This is the place to drop anchor, grab a good night's sleep and continue on in the morning. At least in theory. We pulled out of the marina at slack tide and headed into the anticipated chop. The north waves breaking against the entry wall were impressive. We knew this chop awaited us, but would only last a couple hours until we rounded North Rock and angled off toward Mackie Shoals. In theory. Mike was worried about Brenda's arm getting bounced, but with a pillow in her lap, she was fine. She even took her turn at the wheel with no problem. As we rounded North Rock we had a good, rambunctious 45 mile motor sail pinching into the northeast wind. With all sails out and our motors powered back we made our way to the Shoals. As we continued on, the waves settled into a more gentle back and forth, up and down motion (think Door County, Joni). You can't imagine the beautiful clear blue waters with the bright white splash off of our bow. And we were only in 12-15 feet of water for miles and miles. We saw a couple of boats, but mostly it was just the three of us. Our GPS led us right to Mackie Shoals, which is basically a lump of sand, and set our anchors. Conch blowing, Amazing Grace, dinner and sleep. In theory. The waves were supposed to settle down, but that never happened. Mike "slept" in the cockpit to avoid the sounds of the water drains bubbling and the chain pulling. Brenda cuddled into the corner settee to try and keep from falling on the floor. The waves never did let up. At 7:30 am we were on the vhf with Island Tyme and Amata Marie. "Let's get out of here!" And we were off to Chubb Cay.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

One fish, two fish, blue fish.....where's Brenda?

So we made the Gulf Stream crossing and docked our boat quite expertly if we say so ourselves. We have to brag about our good dockings, because other times it ain't so pretty. Everything is coming up roses. Then the next morning Brenda decides to point out two beautiful blue fish swimming near our dock to Don and I. In her excitement she quickly tries to take the stairs to the lower dock level. The only problem was there were no steps. Ouch! One very sore left arm and wrist are the result.

We iced her arm down and wrapped it up in an Ace Bandage. The next day she was still too sore to use the arm, so we pulled out an arm sling from our first aid kit. This seems to help a little as she toughs it out for two days of exploring Bimini. The cruising community offers all kinds of help and advice including where to seek medical assistance. Well, in Bimini there is a local clinic that does have an x-ray machine, but they don't know how to use it. We go to see the doctor there anyway and come away feeling pretty good about the diagnosis. No major damage. A sprain or maybe a minor crack in a small bone.

The next morning Brenda is still not really improving which means we really need to get professional medical advice including an x-ray. Most of the locals said we would have to fly back to the U.S. Finally we found out that Cat Cay provided volunteer doctors for transient boaters. They even had an x-ray machine. One couple, Dieter and Maya made numerous calls arranging the clinic visit and transportation to the island.

On Friday we hopped aboard Orlando's power boat for the 11 mile ride to the private Cat Cay club. We arrived about noon and knocked on the volunteer doctor's residence door. After several minutes a disheveled young lady answered the door in flip flops, shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt. "Hi, I am the doctor on call." she announced. As we entered the clinic the young doctor explained that she had never done an x-ray before, so bear with her. She looked over the colored picture cheat sheet explaining the machine's operation as she chatted with us. Her husband then walked in dressed just like her except he had a nice cool drink in his hand. Well this is going to be a first. Two doctors in flip flops, shorts, t-shirts and one carrying a drink. Welcome to the islands mon.

The two doctors reviewed the quick start guide to x-ray machine operations and then announced they were ready to give it a go. They stood around the corner of the x-ray booth and pushed the button. "Did anything flash?" they asked. Brenda replies, "No, but it did beep." Believe it or not they did actually produce 3 good x-rays in the end. The bad news - one broken arm just above the wrist. The good news - no surgery needed. The two doctors worked together and after two tries ended up getting Brenda set up with a hard splint.

We will need to change our itinerary now as we need to get to Nassau to find a doctor who can properly cast Brenda's arm. Our buddy boat readily agreed to our change of plans and we hope to get to Nassau by March 25th to make the arrangements. The boat ride back to our marina in South Bimini was really bouncy and the captain's boat started overheating a couple of times as we crossed. It sure was good to get back to Wrinkles.

The adventure continues.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Onward To The Bahamas

Q Flag raised in Bimini

The entire community of cruisers in Boot Key Harbor was alive with excitement that a weather window had appeared for a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. Every boat seemed to be route planning, provisioning, topping off tanks and discussing the weather possibilities. It looked like many of the boats would leave Marathon on Friday or Saturday to head to Rodriguez Key near Key Largo. This is a good jumping off point for the crossing to Bimini. Others, like us, felt that moving to Rodriguez Key on Sunday followed by the crossing on Monday looked the best.

We knew we were going to travel with Don and Gail (Island Tyme - Endeavour 37), but for the crossing we joined up with Jim and Nancy (Amata Marie - CSY 44) as well. Jim and Nancy are experienced cruisers and just plain nice people. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know them better and learn from them as well. After a couple of sad goodbyes with some friends we dropped our mooring lines on Sunday morning at 6:20 a.m. to start our next adventure.

Marathon to Rodriguez Key is a 50 mile sail up the Hawk Channel. The boats all performed well and the crew of Wrinkles shook off their roots from Boot Key Harbor. We do hope to spend another winter there next year. We all arrived at the north anchorage of Rodriguez Key in plenty of time to enjoy a nice sunset and an even better moonrise. A number of boats there we already knew. A couple of them decided to join our little flotilla for the crossing at 3 - 3:15 a.m. the next morning.

We have both been fighting colds, so we took NyQuil and set two phone alarms to ensure we would be up before three. The v-berth was warm, so we turned on one of the 12 volt fans for some air movement and a little white noise. After setting out breakfast bars, a thermos of hot water and our sailing gear we crashed into bed. The next thing we remember hearing was our VHF saying, "I guess Wrinkles decided to sleep in rather than leave this morning." Crap! We jumped up, saw it was 3:10 a.m. and had Wrinkles moving in under 10 minutes. Not bad considering we had to dress, eat, gear up and raise the anchor. We had managed to sleep through two alarms chiming and even some hails on the radio. Mike can sleep through most any noise, but Brenda is normally a very light sleeper. Gotta love NyQuil.

Moonrise at Rodriguez Key

We left Rodriguez Key (Key Largo area) at 3:20 a.m. in the company of 5 sailboats for the 75 mile crossing. Two faster sailboats took a slightly different path which left us with two other boats to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini. The winds were 12-15 knots SSE which worked perfectly for sailing. All three boats stayed within eyesight the entire trip, chatting on the radio occasionally. The waves were a bit big at first at 3-5' and a bit on the nose as we tried to make some southing before hitting the strong northerly Gulf Stream current. As the day wore on they settled into a nice 2-4' size that just felt like a sleigh ride. We had all three sails up and Wrinkles did herself proud keeping up with the two much bigger boats we were with. Gail later told us the bottom paint looked really good on Wrinkles as we heeled over far enough for Gail to see it most of the trip. Other than having to work our way around a few monster sized freighters (that were going to cross way too closely to our path) the sail was fun, exciting and interesting.

Jim set a trolling line out and caught a 48" Mahi-Mahi and announced we would all be having fresh fish for supper that night. All three boats set a good pace and still stayed in visual contact. We arrived at Bimini Sands Marina just before 5 p.m. The cut into Bimini Sands Marina is just plain hard to see for first timers until you get all the way up to the channel markers. We decided that rather than stress about the entry that we would follow Amata Marie in as they had been there previously. We all found a slip and cheerfully tied up our boats. After a short cab ride Mike cleared in with five other sailors at the local airport- we are official!

Some of the flotilla sailboats.
Wrinkles tucked into her slip.
Q flag down - courtesy flag up.
Celebration picnic.

Each boat received a huge portion of Jim's fresh Mahi-Mahi to cook on their own for a celebration picnic ashore. All the boats prepared their own fish and a dish to pass. Brenda made some coleslaw and we took along a bottle of champagne that we had received as a gift from Roger and Peggy (Never Say Never). We all toasted our trip while eating some amazing fresh fish. Not a bad start to our trip.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

1st Annual Boot Key Harbor Madri Gras

Turning hats into Mardi Gras masks.
Brenda offering our gift to the Krewe.

We were lucky enough to be in BKH for their first annual Mardi Gras day. The organizers asked harbor residents to sign up for donations to the meal, drinks and festivities. Once you were on this list the Krewe came around Fat Tuesday a.m. to accept the donations and make merry. Four dinghies came through the moored and anchored boats with full costumes, Zydeco music blaring and lots of energy.

Brenda ready for the Krewe.
Mardi Gras party goer.

We donated potatoes, onions and garlic which would later be cut up and added to numerous other donations. The Krewe and other volunteers would make gumbo and other great foods for all the party attendees later in the day. Dependable Dive Services (Tom) had 20 pounds of live crawfish flown in from Louisiana.

We needed Mardi Gras costumes, so we recycled the New Year's Eve hats that Jim and Joni brought with them during their visit. Mike cut them up and made a couple of masks which worked out pretty well. Brenda donned her mask and beads for the Krewe as they stopped by Wrinkles for our donation. We disappointed them by not having any beer or shots ready for them. Seriously? It was 9 a.m.!

When the Krewe passed by on their way back we were better prepared for their festive mood. We set out some booze and offered them some shots. One participant wanted our whole bottle of Oakheart rum as a donation. We said sorry, but take a shot of your choice. They wiped out our cranberry vodka and put a healthy dent in our brandy bottle. That Krewe had a great time, but some of them ended up missing most of the Mardi Gras party as they burned out really early.

A little Louisiana food anyone?
Mike, Brenda and whatever he was.
One small plate of crawfish.

We donned our costumes and motored into the marina to join the festivities. What a ball we had. Drinks, lively Zydeco music blaring, everyone dancing and having a great time. The food was finally served around 3 p.m. and it was awesome. Gumbo, bread, potato salads, King's Crown cake, jambalaya, and later the crawfish. Yes, Brenda and I actually tried the fresh crawfish. We didn't follow the "Bite, suck and twist" directions to eat them, but we did eat the meat out of the tails. That part was really tasty.

It was a really fun day spent with the other cruisers and liveaboards of BKH. This is a truly fun adventure we are on.