Westsail 32 Mary Rose in Central Bahamas

Westsail 32 Mary Rose in Central Bahamas

My learning curve has increased to the point that it would most likely resemble a malaria germ if you could see it. Much of the water we are navigating is very skinny…(read shallow)! It is actually possible to sail with a boat speed greater than your depth. You can read a previous post regarding grounding at Little Harbour Cay written by Admiral Nelson. We ran aground at high tide on a falling tide so we had few options to mitigate the situation. These are the actions we took that allowed us to get Mary Rose afloat again and continue on our way.
We alerted other boats in the area of our situation and invited anyone to offer assistance.
We unloaded the dinghy off the bow and put the engine and fuel tank on it so we could set anchors up stream of the falling tide.
We then loaded the anchors, one at a time on the dinghy, and drove them out to deeper water and set them in place. One on the stern and one on the bow. We put anchor buoys on the anchors so we could find them in the event that we had to detach anchor lines in the process.
We then attempted to winch her off the sand bar with the bow windless and a main wench in the cockpit.
Unable to budge her so we checked tides and discovered that the next high tide would be about six inches higher than the one we ran aground on. This was good news.
We kept the anchor lines taught so Mary would not slip any further into the shallower water.
Mary gently lay over on her port side and then slowly began to right herself on the rising tide.
I began to wench as soon as there was any sign of buoyancy. I did not want to loose any advantage or wait until the scheduled high tide.
The windless and the wench were enough to kedge Mary into deeper water at around 2:30 AM.
I added more line to the stern anchor as the bow swung around with the force of the bow anchor windless.
We left both anchors attached and set and went back to bed after a good hot breakfast.
The next morning we retrieved the anchor that had been attached to the stern and put all the ground tackle back together like it belonged.
We are fine…….Mary is fine…….and we have learned new skills that we had only previously read about. We also learned that we MUST pay closer attention to tide tables and adjust our plans accordingly.

We have learned to read the water depth by the color and also not to rely on charted depths as being accurate.

We never assume that any boat at anchor in the harbor will have an anchor light on.
We nearly hit a large boat on a night land fall that was at anchor and did not display an anchor light.
We have learned that the anchor drag alarm only goes off at night. Still can’t figure this one out. I leap out of the bunk and go top side to get a visual on the situation and then check the GPS for position. We have never actually had an anchor drag…….it has always been the boat swinging at anchor due to wind direction change or tidal current change.

What else have I learned???????

No matter how well you prepare there is always a challenge that will present itself. Like what you ask???? Well why do I seem to, all of the sudden, have an electrolysis problem? I had anodes that lasted almost two years and now they are burning through in about two months. I need to get answers as to how to track this problem down. Please email me if you have any suggestions or techniques to track down the source of this problem.

It seems as though we have a top seam leak in one of our water tanks. We loose water when we are in heavy seas and the water in the tank gets bounced around. We will replace the water tanks next summer before we leave again in the fall.

Weather, weather, weather!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t tell you how important it is to understand weather and also have a reliable resource for regular weather updates. Without accurate weather reports you end up in an anchorage without proper protection and it gets very very rough. We will add a single sideband receiver to the mix for the next trip so we can get better weather reports. This trip has been one successive cold front after another. With each cold front there comes a big blow and massive wind shifts. The good news is that the further south we get the more settled the weather will get and the easterly trade winds will be a bit more predictable. In fact a front just came through as I am writing this and the winds went from calm to over 25 mph with a temperature drop and rain.

Plan, plan, plan and then plan again and then have a contingency plan! You simply can not rely on your GPS, chart plotter and electronic navigation equipment as your sole source of navigation information. You MUST use charts and guide books and local knowledge if you can get it. You must involve everyone on the boat as everyone is responsible and you must have their input. Remember this……A good navigator is never certain of his certainty but is always certain of his uncertainty. I think this is a line in one of Jimmy Buffets books. I can tell you for certain that you must study the charts and write out your plan.

Here are the items that are on our daily travel plan sheet.

1. Tides…..local time for each high and low as well as the variance to mean low water.
2. Weather forecast for the area obtained at 0730 from a local broadcast.
3. Any radio frequencies or channels that will be needed for communication. Today’s example is the Exuma Park monitors channel 09.
4. Destination is written down along with the chart book where it is found as well as the page number.
5. Two alternate destinations are listed. What happens if the weather changes and the anchorage at your intended destination does not give you protection for the proper direction? What happens of you have a problem and you are unable to get to your intended destination? Both of these situations have happened to us and we were glad we had an alternate already selected. This is much better than trying to figure out a new plan in the face of howling winds and heavy seas.
6. Any special notes for the intended route. These might include approach notes you learned from one of the cruising guides or perhaps where to find the Free RO water or to buy bread or do your laundry. Maybe it is a “to do” list upon arrival. (update the blog, call family, supplies needed) Just note the important stuff.

We are in a safe well protected anchorage tonight. We are securely attached to a permanent mooring at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park on Warderick Well Cay.
N24° 23.884 W076° 37.968 We were lucky to get one as they are booked solid. We will stay here until we get another good weather window to travel. This is the most beautiful tropical anchorage that I have ever seen to date. I highly recommend this as a place to visit if you are ever in this area. We are not able to download photos over the park system but we will add some at a later date. Our next stop is most likely Black Point Cay. They have FREE RO water, cellular phone service and Wifi. Thanks for reading the blog and be sure to leave us your comments. Captain Don


No Tow Boat US When U Find You Find Yourself Sideways In The Bahamas!

To say that the past 24 hours has been attention-grabbing and challenging would definitely be an understatement! The voyage began early in the morning on the 25th from Great Harbor @ Stirrup Cay. It had been a bumpy anchorage with little protection from the winds and waves. So we made the assessment to pull anchor and start our journey south to Little Harbor in the Berry Islands. Our thought process was that Little Harbor had better protection from the elements and it may be a little warmer. Not sure how well thought out that decision became about an hour into this adventure. Of course the winds were not behaving as forecast, the winds were rocketing @ 25-30 knots off the nose!! Which means we were taking a beating! We tried changing tacks but no matter what we tried it was taking us too close to land or to far out in the Atlantic. We had wave rollers 6-7 feet coming over the sides of Mary Rose which made it look like the dams had broken! We found ourselves soaking wet and exhausted. What should have been a 4 hour passage turned into a 6 hour passage. The final 5 (felt like 20) nautical miles we started tacking back and forth to obtain a better angle to the humongous waves. When we finally saw the opening to Little Harbor it was like a lost puppy finally finding it’s way home, we were excited that rest was just around the corner! We found ourselves relieved and ready for a quiet moment and some warm soup. I took my place on the bow keeping a look out for coral heads and low water. My competent Master of a Captain at the helm guiding us through the crystal blue waters. All of a sudden Mary unexpectly put her brakes on and I hear the Captain spit out some incomprehensible words that I’m sure do not need to be repeated. “We are stuck on a sandbar” he yells. The winds coming from behind us at 20-25 pushing us farther up into the forbidder zone. So there we were… cold, tired, exhausted and grounded… and not slightly grounded we are talking full blown, keel to the center of the earth grounded!! The strange thing is I have been studying how to read the colors of water to guesstimate depth and the color would have indicated 7-9 feet. The Captain with eyes tightly glued to the map on the Garmin saw we should be 5.9 range. What the…..??!! Not that any of that made any difference at this point. We were stuck, rocking ridges to port and starboard. Captain jumps into his take charge mode…blurting out directions as he is wrestling with the dinghy trying to get it untied and thrown over board. As the Admiral calls out on the VHF radio for any assistance to only find Bahamian silence. No Tow Boat US in the Bahamas we can vouch to that! We desperately tried to free the hold on Mary to no avail. Bill and Barbara who were a Cat anchored up the canal a little way heard our cry for help and came to lend a helping hand. For hours we fought the current and winds. Capt Don and Bill running to and fro in the dinghy. Both of them evaluating the state of affairs. We tried to kedge our Mary out to the sinking sand. Roughly 9pm we decided to call it a night and wait patiently until high tide which was noted to came back in at approximately 0400. As we retired into the cabin, cold and fatigued we could feel Mary continue to lean to the starboard side. We had anchors out to keep her from declining to the port side since that was the direction the wind and tide would be coming from. By midnight Mary was completely lying on her starboard side and we sleeping, well should I say trying to rest, in a more or less vertical position! It was similar to being in one of those Funhouses that I would visit as a kid at the carnival. We could hear things sliding in the cabinets, shoes descending across the hull..it was incredible! Capt Don and I found ourselves laughing.. what else could we do!? We had no control over the situation and came to the conclusion that there had to be a rational for finding ourselves in such a predicament! So after we concluded our laugh we adjourned to the cabintop where we sat on the side to watch the massive orange moon melt into the horizon. There we began to look within ourselves to find the message hidden in this adventure. By 330am we had kedged Mary back into the deep water. Mary Rose began to dance in the water as we began dancing around our once again erect cabintop! We must divulge that there were no pictures taken, mainly because we did not want a memory of how Mary looked lying on the sand bar like a beached whale. The pictures posted were taken after she was back in the deep water to give everyone a view of the area of this adventure. All is well and we both learned a few things about each other as well as about ourselves!

St Petersburg to Freeport, a Crew’s Perspective by Mike DeGeorge

Thanks to our dear friend Mike DeGeorge for his wondeful insight and guest blog.
Captain Don

25JAN2010 St Petersburg to Freeport, a Crew’s Perspective by Mike DeGeorge

I returned home on Saturday, Jan 23rd, after 8 days aboard Mary Rose V. I want to thank Don and Lana for allowing me to join them on their inaugural voyage from St. Petersburg, Florida to Freeport, Bahamas. As I write this, Mary Rose is some where amongst the islands headed toward Nassau in 15-25 Kt winds and 3-8 Ft seas. Don and Lana have done a great job blogging each step of the journey. So, I am thinking to myself, “What more could I possibly add?” This writing may wander from one thought to the next and for sure will not be poetic….for the record, I am not apologizing for that.

Why would anyone want to…..
... sail hundreds of miles in the sun, rain, wind, swells, darkness
… search for shelter and anchor from the elements
… tire from hours of keeping watch, sailing/sleeping
… get sea sick from greasy fries and sailing into the swells in the darkness
… wish for a hot shower and clean clothes after two days without

It is hard to understand if you focus only on what may appear to be the “inconveniences”.

I wanted to go on this initial leg of Don and Lana’s journey for many reasons…
… spend time with great friends
… experience the unexpected and magical moments
… wanting to learn more about myself and what I am capable of
… motivated to stretch myself beyond my comfort level and grow

It is easy to understand when you awaken in the middle of the night to take your turn at the helm. Ascending from the belly of the boat, the water is like glass, 2000+ feet deep, in all directions and reflecting the stars or the steaming light (I can’t tell which). No boats, no land. Looking out a little further in all directions, it looks like fog, but it is really just darkness. We are heading into the abyss. If it was not for the sound of the boat gliding through the water and the changing picture on the GPS, you would not be sure you were actually making progress toward your destination. Looking up past the apparent fog on the horizon, there are billions of stars in all directions. Your own personal planetarium….only it’s real (I think)! Oh yeah, did I mention the illuminated plankton glowing and dancing in the water moving past the boat and in the quiet wake of the hull. I have never seen anything like it. Just one of many first time experiences that seem like a dream.

It is about relying on your own capabilities, preparing for what might happen (let me tell you, Don and Lana ARE prepared), and then relying on your skills and faith to get you through nature’s challenges. As we were crossing the gulf stream from Key Largo to Freeport in the middle of the night, there were times when you thought you were the only boat on the water until you looked at the radar screen. At times, it looked like a ware movie (or video game) with incoming bogies waiting to be shot down. I lost count of the blips on the screen. We knew we would be crossing shipping lanes, but what were all of these reflections on the radar screen? Ghosts, ships, or ghost ships? Were they real? Yep, they were real. We could see ship lights 3-6 miles out with good visibility, but not sure what kind. Then we realized they were giant oil tankers in every direction. Trying to figure out if they were coming toward us or going to miss us….we were highly motivated not to get in their path (and stay on course for our destination). I am pretty sure the tanker crew would not even know if we happened to become a hood ornament on the hull or a speed bump in the water. No need for a night time stimulant when you are trying to avoid meeting Davy Jones before sunrise. Then it was my time to sleep while Captain Don took the Helm. I was tired but could not sleep thinking about the radar screen and the ships lurking in the darkness. Then, when I finally did go to sleep, I was wakened by a surge in the sound of the engine only later to learn that we were being chased in circles trying to avoid a shrimp boat. It was a time for having faith in your captain, admiral, and a sound boat. Then, I relaxed and fell asleep.

It is about connecting with nature and other cultures. It is about helping people along the way. The people on Grand Bahama Island are incredibly friendly. They rarely walk past you without saying hi or good morning. Our waitress sang us a song at breakfast. We wanted to meet more of the local people and see how they live, so we walked down the street (away from the tourist area) to catch the bus. After a friendly barter, the public city bus (van) driver (Rudolf, 59 years old, never married, 11 kids, 10 grand kids) agreed to give us a personal tour of the island. He took us down town which highlighted the courthouse, jail, auto parts store, grocery store and others. The driver said high to someone at every corner. We moved on down Queens Highway between the ship yards and the oil storage field. We eventually made it back to the coast and down a road where many local Bahamians live. Houses were made of cinder blocks. Segments of land along the road were owned by different “families” indicated by the names on the signs (i.e., Mack). If you were a blood relative in the family you could build on the land. Driving down the road, some of the houses were convenience stores, bars, and a bakery (see Lana’s previous blog post). We got to see how most of the local people live and even meet a few along the way. Oh, did I forget to say we stopped and tasted the local rum? Next time you see Admiral Lana, ask her about “Fire In The Hole”…..enough said.

It is about enjoying good friends. My last night on Mary Rose V….We are all a little tired….Lana having swam with the Dolphins just a few hours earlier….Enjoying an island beverage. And then….Captain Don started calling and pranking our relatives telling them he was a Constable with the Commonwealth of the Grand Bahamian Police and they needed to come to the Bahamas to bail us out of jail for swimming naked on the beach. We laughed so hard, I was crying. Thanks to those who we took advantage of and for being good sports.

Was it a vacation, adventure, unique experience, magical, peaceful, uncertain, challenging, fun, tiring, amazing, a great time with great people? Yes…..AND MORE!!!

A Well Deserved Day Of Fun


We started our day today by sleeping in. After a nice lazy morning we took the water taxi to town. While there we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast @ Zorba’s. The employees were welcoming, they were exceedingly focused on customer service and the food was superior as well as served in hefty quantities. Bit of advice if you find yourself in Freeport Grand Bahamas and are looking for a great place to eat we highly recommend Zorba’s. Words of advice… eat breakfast and/or a late lunch since prices for dinner almost doubles after 4pm.

We meet a few new friends along the way…

Then Don and Mike proceeded to catch the city bus so they could go shopping for a few items. Engine oil was on the list (cost $30/gallon, lesson learned: make sure you consider the amount of oil required for oil changes while provisioning) & steel fishing leaders since something kept biting our 30 pound leader off and taking our bait.

While the guys went to town I went on my dolphin adventure. The dolphins were beautiful and just what I had imagined. The water was very cold even with scuba skins on but there was nothing that could have kept me out of that lagoon. I was going to finally have my dolphin encounter no matter the circumstances… even cold water!

Later that evening we all met back at the marina and played Dominos. May I say that Mike spanked the “Master” Captain…. final score Mike 252, Master 517!

Stellar day!!


01.23.2010 Landfall and Anchorage at Great Stirrup Cay

Safe landing at Great Stirrup Cay +25° 48' 51.72", -77° 54' 1.92"

If you have questions please ask in the comment section. Requests for photos, descriptions, and weather reports will be posted when time permits. (SM-Chic, IL)

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Freeport Grand Bahama to Stirrup Cay

It is 0600 and Mike has left for the airport to catch his flight back home. We will miss him but I know his family miss him more. He was great crew and made our trip a pleasant experience. Thank you Mike for your wisdom and friendship. We look forward to your next visit.

Lana and I are leaving Freeport this morning to sail to Stirrup Cay about 50 miles SSE of this location. We met a great couple Len and Isabelle on Nocturne and they will be sailing in the same general direction this morning. We will make the decision later tonight at anchorage when and where to sail to next. Strong winds are forecast for the next few days so we may just stay at Stirrup Cay for a few days. It is very unlikely that there will be any type of phone or internet connection for several days. We will post updates as soon as we are able.


Port Lycaya.. The Back Roads

Yesterday we spent the day touring the back roads of Great Bahamas. We left the glitz and glamour of the tourist sector and took the back road path. We visited Freeport as well as St Lucaya.

This was very awakening journey. My eyes were opened to a new level of culture and behaviors. The people of this island are warm and welcoming yet as you can see from some of the pictures that the level of living is not what most of us would call customary. Poverty does not seem to be an issue designed for these people as they work hard and sing praises. These folks to do not sing in a soft timid voice, rather they sing in a fashion where there are no misconceptions of who they are singing to or how truly grateful they are. They seem to find the blessings in everything they do, every breath they take. It is very spiritually uplifting. There was a time when I was much younger that I inadvertently looked down on people, pasted judgments based on my own ignorance. Nowadays I find myself wanting to rescue, to help, to feel sorry for these wonderful people not living up to what I consider the conventional. I had to be reminded recently that this is their ethnicity, they are joyful and content. My judgments and misconceptions on this way of life should be put aside. They sing praises of gratitude, how many of us can do that in the middle of a slightly uncomfortable situation, how many of us find the blessings on a day to day basis even through what we consider difficult times?? I am learning to find peace and happiness in the blessings big and small that come my way each day. Hurricane Katrina that ravished New Orleans also hit this island leaving behind devastation. Many lives disrupted. Today life goes on cheerfully with minimal regards to the past. Little thought wasted on the “poor me” mentality as some of us find ourselves in when faced with thorny situations. What I have noticed in the island people is that they find a way to forge ahead even if it means turning their home into a bakery, slaving over hot ovens all day just to pay the bills. At the moment, the children go to school in their nicely pressed uniforms run and play and build relationships with each other as they begin to form the next generation to carry on the traditions of such a wonderful island.

Patience.. Dreams Do Come True

And so it is........................


Key Largo Florida to Grand Bahama

We left Rodriguez Key just off of Key Largo Florida on Tuesday 1-19-10. We had a great anchorage there and were fully rested for our first gulf stream crossing. Winds were forecast out of the west clocking to the north by 4 am the next morning. We know that crossing the gulf in north winds can be rough but the winds were forecast to be light with waves no more than 3-4. After we crossed the reef at Key Largo we steered a course of 052 degrees magnetic straight to Port Lucaya in Grand Bahama. Lana's post documents the events and conditions with photos. Here are the technical details. Arrival at Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas 2:45PM. Total trip miles, 421 nm. Miles this segment, 135 nm. Total fuel consumed this segment 13.5 gal. Total time 23 hours. We are at N 26 - 31.097 W 078 - 38.187 The Marina is Grand Bahama Yacht Club. It is a private gated yachting community. It was a great deal. $1.40 per ft per night with a 40 ft minimum. Pay for 2 nights and 3rd night free. Free wifi, free water taxi to and from dinner and errands, pool, laundry, nice showers, we highly recommend this marina. Note: no fuel at this location at this time. We cleared customs at Port Lucaya Marina and topped the fuel tanks, $3.69 a gallon. Customs and immigration was a breeze and the people were a joy to deal with. This is low season for this island and it is like we have the whole place to ourselves. We will depart on Saturday....more later.


Mary & Crew Arrive Safely At Port Lucaya, Bahamas

Yes we made it safe and sound... we are in the Bahamas. Total time: Marathon FL to Freeport Bahamas: 22 hours! The Gulf Stream was a piece of cake. All the horrible stories we have heard from other boaters... does not include us.. this time We had a fast but smooth sail across... we had winds from the unexpectedly from the north for a little while but no big waves! Top speed 9 knots! It was a great ride while the Captain slept. Yes, this time it was the Capt sleeping not the Admiral!

During our sail time across the Gulf Stream we learned a lot about navigation, esp avoiding tankers and shrimp boats at night! It is mind boggling trying to figure out direction of travel, size of the vessel etc etc etc in the darkness We saw flying fish.. please see picture on last post... These fish are amazing, they look like fish but with wings, they take flight from the water leaving behind them a runway then they take flight which we can't quite understand how they do it since they have no feet or legs, then they take flight and fly for a very long distance before landing back in the water. It is one of the craziest things I have ever observed.

The experience has been amazing so far. Completing Immigration and Customs formalities was a breeze. A lot easier than we expected. The Captain enjoyed being addressed "MASTER" All the required paperwork, which were several pages, requested, "Master's signature" he loved it! I'm sure I will not hear the end of this for quite some time!! The people are friendly and very focused on customer service. The water is beautiful! We are staying at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club which we highly recommend!

Mary is very happy and content in these waters. Look at the clearness. This is 13 feet deep water and you can see the bottom as if it was just a few inches deep. We saw starfish and sand dollars lying on the bottom, jelly fish swimming and the temp?? 78 wonderful degrees!! It's great being able to FINALLY shed the thermal underwear and fleece! Shorts and t-shirts today.

And yes this is a house!! It was one of the first sights we saw upon entering the Port of Lucaya.
Once again.. Thank you Mike for joining us. Having the extra person on board has decreased the amount of stress that would have been on board with out your help.
Peace and hugs to all!