3.26.2011

Night Passage|Abacos|Little Harbor|Nassau|Bahamas


We spent the day preparing for our overnight sail from Little Harbor in the Abacos to Nassau to pick up our soon arriving guests. There is a lot of work involved in preparing for an overnight crossing. The journey must be mapped out with the paper charts then entered into the chart plotter and the GPS then reviewed once again for verification. Some say that it is nuts to do all this repetitive plotting but we feel it is important since we will be traveling through skinny water with scattered reefs as well as 10,000+ feet of water with Atlantic swells, if we were to have equipment failure our back up plan is already in action and we believe there is no such thing as too much planning. After our course is plotted the next important preparation is to get our fishing gear ready to be dropped as soon as we reach the ledge, fish for dinner, very important! Sandwiches must be made, in case no fish are caught, another backup plan, plus the Captain likes to snack on his watch so the Chips Ahoy must be assessable. The sea cocks in the head and galley must be closed; any heel over 10 degrees causes’ water to back up in the sinks which puts us at a risk of taking water on board. Then we must assess the cabin area, all loose items must be securely stowed, it’s amazing how objects can find their way unbound and go flying across the cabin in a 20 degree heel. All systems must be checked such as the level of oil in the engine, amount of fuel on board, belts are checked for wear, seals for leaks, and an overall visual of the engine compartment. The dinghy must be brought on board and secured as well as the 75 pound out board motor which is not an easy task. Sail covers removed anchor up and stowed.
The list goes on and on, it is quite a chore preparing for an overnight passage.

Once underway I am in charge of the watch schedule and set up, we normally do 3 hour watch rotations with 30 minute lapse time in between to allow the person coming off watch to wake up and freshen up, it also allows the person coming off watch to unwind before going below to rest. We also use this time to give a brief report of what is going on, what has happened, and just say hi to each other.

Now it’s time for night watch on Mary Rose, close your eyes and join me.

The night breeze is blowing; the air is damp and brisk as it passes over the side of your face. The coolness is not uncomfortable but just enough to keep your senses vitalized. It is early morning and the only sounds you hear is the whoosh of the water as it moves out of Mary’s way the sound is rhythmic almost hypnotic, then you can hear the occasional flutter of the mainsheet as excess air spills over its massive sides and the gentle snoring of the captain as he rests below. The air is damp and smells of fish and musk. The scenery is dark, all you can see is the vast blackness as you peer out into the water and the white trail of sea foam the rises out of the darkness and surrounds you as Mary’s bow cuts through the water. In the water you also notice the dazzling bio luminous that salsa through the disturbed water, giving the image of diamonds in the water. In the distance you can make out the vague line that separates the sky from the water. The sky is cosmic and painted the darkest blue like a blank painters pallet sprinkled with zillions of silver twinkling stars, no moon, no clouds just vastness. Your senses must stay alert as you sail into the darkness. Keeping ever watch on the horizon and radar for others wishing to invade you space. You stand ever so often and meticulously scan the horizon, a slow 360 degree turn in search of white, green or red lights that appear and disappear as vessels approach closer and closer. There just ahead, you see a red light, you quickly refer to the radar screen to validate what you see, but there is nothing there, you ask yourself if maybe your senses are playing tricks, you verify visually and yes they are there and they are approximately 2 miles off your bow. You transform in to action mode and try earnestly to hail the approaching vessel, “Vessel on the south east side of Great Abacos heading north, this is sailing vessel Mary Rose on you port side. Do you have a visual on us?” You wait with annoyance for a reply, nothing heard. You repeat this time with more passion, “Vessel on the south east side of Great Abacos Island heading north, this is sailing vessel Mary Rose on you port side. Do you have a visual on us?” Still nothing heard as the red light approaches closer and closer! Within nano seconds your mind begins to seek through all the information you know and have learned about sailing, and then in an instant it hits you, you have no option but to change course!! You jump below as Mary dances through the rocking seas and you flip the engine switch to the on position, you jump back into the cockpit with lighting speed and grab the tiller off of the autopilot and fiercely push Mary Rose’s bow off the wind , she responds quickly, her course changes dramatically and you pass the sailing vessel approximately a quarter of a mile to your starboard side, collision avoided! The scoundrel boat must be oblivious to what has just occurred as they sail along through the darkness with no radar reflector, no one manning the helm what kind of idiot can this person be? Hence, one reason there is constantly the need for night watch! After avoiding a near collision it is time to get Mary back on course shut down the engine and drink a cold glass of milk to calm the nerves. As the adrenaline wears off you return to the challenge of keeping your body alert and aware of your surroundings…coffee time! You settle down in the cock pit as you look around you realize that the Atlantic swells are living up to their reputation, the swells have grown to 5-8 feet and are approaching about every 3 seconds. Mary’s bow is crashing through them with both power and with reverence. We are wrapped in two of the most powerful forces on earth, the ocean, the sky and either could open up and devour us at anytime, and this fact we have great respect for. Sailing is all about respect. As your night watch advances forward, your body grows tired as well as your mind. You begin to think about things, people in your life, mistakes made, regrets discovered, loves lost before their time, upcoming week’s menu, for me, tonight, my thoughts this early morning is my surroundings. It is incredible the concepts your mind will divulge when your body is fatigued. You park yourself in the cock pit, body fighting not to give in to the fifteen degree heel that resulted from an unpredicted increase in wind speeds. In a quick glance you notice under the boom that there is a light off in the distance, you struggle to stand and maintain your balance to evaluate the situation. It’s bright and elongated, your first thought is it’s one of those pesky cruise ships, but within a split second you realize it’s the moon rising! What a glorious sight to behold, large bright and orange and interconnected with the ocean. You stand in awe, giving little consideration to the struggle you body is fighting, your focus is this magnificent sight but in your mind you realize with the rising of the moon come new obstacles! The light of the moon is tremendous and lights up the surroundings. It seems to magnify the water and the swells that you knew were there before but now come to life. You look around and no longer is there just the darkness but now you behold large ominous outlines of the enormous swells that Mary has been pouncing through. You also notice there is a wind driven chop on top of the frequenting swells. Totally different visual! The waves crashing over her bow are now illuminated as tons of water and sea spray shower the deck. You look around at the sights and notice dried salt all over the cabin top, the stainless steel glistens as if it were covered with crystals. The phrase of, “out of sight out of mind” comes in to understanding during times like this. It is a stunning but also an intimidating view. Mary Rose relentlessly beating forward, determined to deliver her crew safely to port with the occasional rogue wave coming up over the bullwork causing an embankment forcing the trapped water to gush back towards the cockpit and finally exiting through the scuppers. Your thoughts are interrupted by a new sound….beep,beep,beep,beep comes from below. You find yourself feeling bittersweet, your body wants to rest but your mind knows that there are treasures that may be missed with sleep. The Captain pulls himself up the companionway with that usual big beautiful smile, “How’s it going!” You look around and smile as you think to yourself this is all a true blessing! I am blessed to have the opportunity to follow my dreams...this I realize.

Kisses and hugs to the Captain; now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.
Henry David Thoreau

3.21.2011

Marsh Harbor | Peas | Haitian Community

The soul partakes in and is fed by the light of the Universal Spirit. Rudolfo Anaya


Once again the Capt and I found ourselves in wonder of how well our existence through this world is controlled if we just let go and let God, the universe, the spirit take command.


Here is our story.

We had magnificent self made plans to sail back to Marsh Harbor this past Friday to reconcile our business deal with Florida Yacht Charters as agreed upon, then we would travel down to Sandy Cay to fish in the blue holes and snorkel. We were so excited to get this business transaction complete so we could have some fishing time before picking up our soon arriving guests in Nassau.

We arrived back in Marsh Harbor as planned to discover that the transaction had been postponed until the following Wednesday due to someone not following through on their responsibilities prior to taking vacation time. Putting it mildly, we were a bit upset; no frustrated and irritated better describes it. We made an agreement and now the other party has conked out on their end of the agreement. This took our time at the blue hole away, added extra expense to us as well as added stress as we had to be in Nassau by Thursday to prepare for Mike and Alex’s arrival. Our minds automatically shifted into rescue mode. We started examining all the possible what ifs, what if the weather does not permit us to get to Nassau in time to meet our guests? What if Florida Yacht Charters are making excuses just to delay us with no plans to pay us? We spent a good 48 hours exploring every negative outcome that could exist then coming up with a counter plan of attack for each. After we had finally exhausted ourselves with planning strategies I looked at the Captain and tried to convince him and myself that there was a reason for this massive delay and inconvenience… what could it be??

We were sitting contentedly one morning at the settee on Mary Rose sipping our steaming hot French vanilla flavored coffee and listening to the static cluttered cruiser’s net on the VHF when an acquaintance of ours came on the net and announced that this upcoming Sunday he was planning a community day for the children in Peas (a Haitian settlement here in Marsh Harbor) and Capt Ron was looking for donations of chips, hot dogs and such. Hooray!!! This must be the rationale of our imprisonment in Marsh Harbor! Most of you are aware of our love of the Haitian children; consequently the Capt and I have been discussing whether it is safe for us to return to Haiti this year with the upheaval that continues to ferment there. We hurriedly finished our coffee and walked briskly up the dock in search of Capt Ron to obtain more details of the event. He explained that he was born and grew up in the Peas settlement and it bothers him to watch the children live through what he had to live through and he wanted to provide a little joy for the children so whenever the resources allow he plans little events for them. The children are our future he explained and someone must nurture them and show them how life can be. Ahhh, this is it and we will not only donate to the cause we must attend!!
The next day I walked to the store and purchased Kool-aid, bags of coconut marsh mellows and cups. Sunday afternoon we met Christian, a friend of Capt Ron’s, on the sidewalk in front of the marina with the sack of treats as well as 48 pairs of shoes! (Thank you Jane at the Harborage, Gordy and Cynthia and Shannon, William, LeeAnn, Rivers, and Alex for the donations of shoes!!!) We jumped in Christian’s car and off we went to the Peas. What a difference a couple of miles can make! We arrived at the Peas, it was as if we had stepped out of the resorty Abacos and into the real world of Haiti. The leisurely atmosphere was the same, the haphazardly built houses the same, the beautiful friendly children the same, the smells that floated through the dusty air the same. Peas is piece of Haiti, these people brought a piece of home, a piece of their culture across the ocean to the Island of Abacos in search of an enhanced, flourishing life.
The grill was fired up and smoky, the music playing loud, the neighborhood adults standing around watching with suspicious eyes as strangers invaded their world, the children running happily to and fro on the rock-strewn, dusty ground, most with no shoes or shoes that were way too small. This is it the Capt and I said to each other as our hearts filled with peace, this is where we were meant to be…the reason we were delayed.
The Captain cheerily took control of the grill where the hamburgers and hotdogs sizzled and blacked while the Admiral made friends with the children and spied those who needed shoes the most.
After eating and games it was time for the Captain and I to start our mission of passing out shoes to a few needy children. The first pair of shoes, the Capt gifted to my little boyfriend, Kiki. He was a swift kid with shoes that couldn’t keep up with his feet. He was a sweetheart of a boy and we just happened to have a pair of tennis shoes that fit him… imagine that! Capts, Ron and Don took him aside without me noticing and gifted him the shoes, afterwards the boy vanished for quite some time. He re-emerged later with a clean yellow striped button down shirt and his new tennis shoes. He came up to me, looked at his shoes, looked up at me, and gave me a massive smile and a hug that could have strangled an anaconda! What a true blessing, this is food for my soul!

The remainder of shoes were distributed one pair at a time throughout the settlement. With empty bag in hand we made our way back to the party site. As we navigated our way through the uneven rocky paths a twelve year old boy wearing girls flip flops ran in front of us, as he sprinted off, he blew out his flip flop, perfect timing! The Captain called him over; in reply the boy cautiously approached us. The Captain explained to him that today was his lucky day as he was going to get a new pair of shoes! The boy walked with us back to the party site as the Capt sang Jimmy Buffet to him... bet you can guess the song!! Fortunately we had left a couple pairs of shoes at the party for just this moment. As it would be the shoes fit perfectly!
There were a lot of children that we couldn’t help that is a sad fact but we are grateful that we were able to gift forty eight children with new shoes that actually fit them so they can now navigate the rocky terrain safely and decrease the risk of injuries to their feet!!
Always remember that a delay may end up being a blessing in disguise! Yes the universe, God, and the powers that be do know what is best for us even when we can’t see it!
After all was said and done we received yet another blessing.... transaction taken care of today instead of Wednesday as planned.. so yes we still may get to go fishing!

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

3.19.2011

Anchoring Etiquette/Anchoring Terms


We were in Marsh Harbor in the Abacos a couple of weeks ago and we set our anchor in a nice area well away from any other boats in about seven feet of water with excellent holding. We went to town and took care of a few chores. When we returned to our boat there was what appeared to be a new boat at anchor, right on our bow. Mary Rose and this boat were way too close for comfort and safety. We were close enough that I could hail the boat by voice and they instantly replied. I asked the captain how much rode he had out and he said it was about 120 feet. I asked him if he could shorten his rode to increase the distance between our boats. He indicated that he was not able to do that due to his boat sailing at anchor and his concern that it would dislodge his anchor. I then offered the suggestion that he may have anchored a bit too close and should change locations that would allow for his need of excessive scope. He replied that he had been at anchor for three days, he was here first and it is I that should move or increase my scope. I gave way to his squatter rights and let out more rode to increase the distance between our boats. While I was doing this the Admiral knew what action to take and immediately initiated the “your too close boat repellant”. What’s that you ask? Well it is Johnny Cash on high volume through the cockpit speakers. The first song is “Don’t take your guns to town”. The other boat simply closed up the companionway and ignored the repellant and retired for the evening. This repellant has worked successfully on many other occasions, but not this time. I could not understand how a responsible boat captain could act so unreasonable and unsafe in a crowded anchorage. At least this was my perception of the situation. How could this boat have been here for three days and no threat or even noticed when we anchored earlier in the day? The answer to this question was in the wind. The wind had clocked around and when our boats swung around on the anchor their boat swung in an arc about twice the distance of our swing. I was not sure if this boat captain was arrogant or clueless as to anchoring etiquette. So now you know the motivation for writing this blog on anchoring etiquette.
This is not going to be a discussion on “how to” anchor but rather some thoughts on anchoring etiquette. What do we need to consider when we anchor in crowded harbors and other tight quarters where there is limited space?
To prevent confusion in the use of terms, please refer to the Anchoring Terminology at the end of this post.
Please be a responsible captain when you anchor in a crowded harbor and consider your neighbors. If your boat requires excessive scope to give you peace of mind then anchor in an area that is less crowded and perhaps put a marker on your anchor so that other boats will be aware of your excessive scope. If your boat sails at anchor then use one of the many remedies to fix that problem. There is a reasonable expectation that all or at least most of the boats will set their anchor within an established guideline of scope. This range may be 5:1 and up to 10:1 for heavy weather. If we all follow these guidelines then there is no need to go from boat to boat and ask them about the length of their anchor rode. Frankly I am not comfortable asking sailors if theirs is longer than mine.

Anchoring Terminology

Anchor - A heavy object attached to a vessel by a cable or rope and cast overboard to keep the vessel in place either by its weight or by its flukes, which grip the bottom.

Anchor Rode - When in use, every anchor is attached to the vessel with a rode. The rode may be a piece of line, a piece of line spliced onto a length of chain, or all chain.

Changing the nip on the Anchor - If you use rope, periodically reverse the ends (“change the
nip”) to distribute the wear.
Ground Tackle - equipment, as anchors, chains, or windlasses, for mooring a vessel away from a pier or other fixed moorings.
Scope - In normal conditions, a safe minimum anchor scope ratio is 5 to 1 (warp or chain length to depth). In heavy weather 7 to 1 or 10 to 1. Depth is the depth of water at high tide, plus the height from water line to the bow roller. Scope is the actual amount of anchor line paid out when the boat is safely anchored. For example, if high water is 20ft deep and your bow roller is 5ft above the water, you need 125ft (i.e. 5 times 20 + 5ft) of scope to anchor.

3.18.2011

Marsh Harbor/Junkanoo

It was a bittersweet moment as I watched the cab in Nassau drive away with Jessica and Lilly in the back seat to deliver them to the airport after 3 brief weeks in the Bahamas to start their voyage home. They were with us for a total of 2 months which felt like only a few short weeks. It was a blessing having this opportunity to share my dream with my daughter and granddaughter but one thing I learned during their visit is children grow up and there comes a time I guess that we must let them go to find themselves and their own way in this life. Not an easy lesson but one long past due for me. This was my time to let go, step back and allow my children to live their lives as they choose. So as Jessica and Lilly fade out of my life for the current time, the Captain and I grow ever closer as we move forward in our journey. Next stop, the Abacos. This will be our first trip north to visit the islands of Abacos so the feelings of apprehension due to the unfamiliar set in along with the stimulation in our souls as we once again head out into the unknown. The sail was a long overnighter which allowed me the time I needed to think and process my feelings as well as do a little fishing. The sail was peaceful and calm as the stars guided our way north. We reached the Abacos early morning and dropped anchor at Sandy Cay to rest before we continued our journey north to Marsh Harbor where we had heard there was to be a Junkanoo that evening!! The Captain and I have wanted to attend this event for the past couple of years and unfortunately the powers to be decided it wasn’t the right time for us to experience the brilliance of this festival until now, ohhhh yes it was the perfect time, with me being in a funk and both of us missing Lilly’s free spirit and miles of smiles, well yes it is the perfect time and we would be attending!

We arrived in Marsh Harbor with just enough time to drop anchor, tidy up, clean ourselves up and find the government dock. There is great holding in the harbor so anchoring was a breeze. I scurried around with butterflies in my belly as I prepared for this next adventure, Junkanoo.
The word "Junkanoo” is said to be derived from an African slave master and trader named "John Canoe" in the 17th century. These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bushes when they had the chance. While in the bushes, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery.
We arrived early and found first-rate seats on the bleachers that were set up alongside the narrow road; little did we know that there would be little time for sitting. You could feel the excitement building in the air. There were no drunken fights or negative attitudes just a crowd of people full of electricity waiting for this thrilling festival to begin. In the distance you could hear the first group warming up, bugles, trumpets, drums made of goat skins all preparing for their chance to show off their talents for us to enjoy.
At last it was time, I looked down the road and all I could see was a sea of many colors so dazzling and brilliant that it was overwhelming to the eyes. The people dressed in vibrant


multicolored costumes, joyous celebration, the music, the dance, it was more than I could have ever expected. Some of the costumes weighed in at over 100 pound and all were homemade with sparkles, magnificent colors of paint, beads! It was a mix of Mardi gar and a high school pep club. There was so much energy in the air. This is a celebration I highly recommend attending if the opportunity presents itself! (Lots more fotos will be posted on our dreams followed site as soon as we have adequate internet service.)
We really enjoyed our time at Marsh Harbor. We spent a few days at Mangos Marina where we showered, caught up on our laundry, and spent some internet time. Ray is the dock master and is very helpful. We highly recommend Mangos, it is reasonably priced, in a convenient location, easy in and out, the internet is iffy but the bathrooms are clean and if you are lucky you may find yourself serenaded by the beautiful Haitian songbird that ensures the facilities are clean! Marsh Harbor is a great place for provisioning, cheaper than Nassau with a much better selection. There is a regular grocery store as well as a bulk warehouse if you are in need of large quantities.
Unfortunately there was a forest fire on the island that lasted for days. Smoke became bothersome for many people whenever the winds would shift and carry the smoke over the harbor waters. I saw my first explosion when the fire reached a propane tank. Fortunately no one was hurt and the fire was put out a week later after an enormous amount of man power hours. Thanks to all the volunteers that worked on keeping the island safe!
Thanks to all the happy birthday wishes that were sent to the Captain. We had a absolutely great day. We attended the “pig roast” at Nipper’s which we do not recommend attending. There was no pig roast only roast pork which was dry, the rest of the food not so good either and the price... way too much. Our recommendation is to skip the pig roast, save the money and go snorkling!!

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau

Peace and Love,
Capt Don and Admiral Nelson

3.04.2011

ANDROS | BAHAMAS | CHICKCHARNIES


Andros was a splendid place to visit, although the cruising guides do not offer much information regarding this charming island. The island is notorious for the mystical Chickcharnies that that is believed to inhabit the island. These birdlike creatures are known to have huge eyes and nest in the top of the pine trees. Many of the locals are very superstitious and attribute any catastrophes or waywardness that transpires on the island to these beasts. It is warned not to agitate the Chickcharnies for if you were to encounter one that was feeling frolicsome, it is said that they will attack you and turn your head completely backwards. Yes, we were lucky and escaped the island with our heads intact.
The length of the east coast of the island is one of the largest barrier reefs that have very few opportunities for entry. We found our port at Morgan’s Bluff. Morgan’s is a commercial harbor but has an easy approach and the locals welcome all. Well advised to anchor deep and to the side of in the harbor as Andros is the main supplier of water and fruit to several islands throughout the Bahamas. Morgan’s Bluff is a small harbor but an exceptionally busy harbor with commercial traffic.
There is no designated dinghy dock but there is a rough wall by Willy’s Water Lounge that can be utilized with skill and calm water. The people of Andros are warm and welcoming. Many are fisherman and cargo workers as there is also a massive fruit orchard on the island. The harbor provides very few services, there is internet at Willy’s where you can also enjoy a cold Kalik while you browse the web, the shower is located outside behind a vacant open air bar. The shower area is secluded with a beautiful view of the beach and water, on a down note it wasn’t very clean. There were used condoms and dirty diapers on the ground below the shower that required a stick to relocate them prior to showering. There is free water that you will need to fill jugs and haul to your boat. The town is not within walking distance and requires a rental car if you necessitate a trip to town. In town you will find a great bakery where you can purchase fresh baked breads, a laundry where you can have your laundry done at a very reasonable price.
We rented a car and dropped off our laundry and spent the day exploring the island. There are numerous beautiful beaches and mystical blue holes on the island where you can swim. We did stop at a restaurant called Taste and See located at Love Hill, the food was outstanding, in large quantity and modestly priced. Following our meal we spent time chatting with owner who was a true delight to converse with. Her name….. are you ready for this??!! Cinderella!! That was her true name!
Within walking distance of the harbor is Henry Morgan’s cave. The cave is alleged to be one of the caves that the pirate Henry Morgan used to hide his treasures. There is a nice picnic area located at the entrance of the cave just be on alert for the Chickcharnies!!
Last but not least…. Andros is where Lillian received her first long awaited coconut!! She is now an aficionada of coconut jelly and water!! She also had her first conch experience and graduated to Dinghy Captain!! Memories to last a lifetime!! Yeah LILLY!!


Pilot notes from the Captain. Coming off the banks at the Northwest Passage and sailing to Nassau can be a difficult task into the prevailing southeast trade winds. We were faced with motor sailing a tight close haul into the southeast winds and it did not look to promising for a daylight landfall in Nassau. After two or three long tacks the next port tack put us on a course to enter Morgan Bluffs harbor. I made the decision to head for Morgan’s Bluff and wait for more favorable conditions to continue on to Nassau. Looking back, it was the right thing to do and will consider this as a sailing strategy in the future for this passage.