It was a calm day with no wind and no waves, so we ventured in our dinghy out to the reefs of Great Guana Cay with our spear and snorkeling gear. It took us a while to spot any lobster, and when we did, even longer to catch them. But with a little bit of practice and teamwork we caught four. They are super-fast and the first few slipped from our grasp!
Our catch was four big lobster and two beautiful conch. We were so excited!! The lobster were not easy to catch but Amelia used a spear to trap them and then Grant grabbed them from the the bottom. A lot were pretty curious and made it easy for us by coming out of their rock ledges quite a bit. Amelia tried a few times to strike them, half-drowning under water, and after a few attempts quickly got the hang of it and was able to predict their reactions better. Grant was always there to quickly grab their sharp bodies with his gloves and throw them in our mesh bag.
The meat came right out of the tails and Grant devoured his!
The conch were easy to catch– they move at a snails pace. The trick is finding them, and we finally did! Amelia always feels bad for the conch because she likes quirky creatures and these have little eyes. It’s the eyes looking up at you that make it hard!!! Anyways, Amelia opened the first conch by using a hammer and chisel to puncture its shell near the top. (There is a precise spot but it is hard to describe).
Then, you jab a knife in the punctured shell and basically cut the muscle the conch is using to hold itself in the shell. Amelia’s came out pretty easily.
Grant’s conch put up a good fight but Grant won in the end. After getting the conch out you cut away their brown skin and insides until you are left with the hard white meat. To get the brown skin off we used a sharp knife, but some people like to “bark” it by using their teeth to peel the skin off. (Seriously I am not making it up). We used a hammer to gently tenderize it a little and then cut it into small pieces for conch fritters.
The batter for the conch fritters includes 3/4 c. flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay (would add more next time), 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 c. milk, vegetable oil for frying and some powdered sugar to drizzle on top. I also added some green pepper bits and onion, you could also add corn or another vegetable.
Then, fry them in oil, turning, until done. It was like cooking a pancake, when I saw the little bubbles in the batter it was time to flip it. Very filling! It made a little too much for two people. After many days of hunting, searching, and close calls, we finally lucked out and had two days of feasting!
Wow, it is really Christmas! We are thinking of all our family and friends and trying to make it seem as much like Christmas as possible. Christmas music, a tree, lights and even a “fireplace crackling” youtube video have all helped!
Before Christmas Eve we were in No Name Cay and took our dinghy out on to the reef for some snorkeling and to find lobster. Warning the video is my first attempt and choppy :) Grant saw one but we couldn’t catch it! The reef was beautiful with big sea fans, brain coral, colorful fish and the deep blues of the water. We have spent many hours looking amongst the coral for lobster, in grassy sand for conch and trawling for fish but no luck!
On Christmas Eve we had calm weather for “The Whale” – a passage most vessels must take ocean-side to get farther south in the Abacos. Our weather was great with little ocean swell. It did rain on us but that was good because it cleansed salt from out boat. Taking advantage of the deeper ocean depths, we trawled two lines on our passage but still no luck!
We anchored by the beach on the northern end of Great Guana Cay (home to the famous Nippers bar). Amelia snorkeled some more for conch, and then we walked the beach. Our land foraging resulted in one coconut! Amelia used her massive strength to open it and we celebrated Christmas Eve with at least one uncanned thing. This is our first Christmas wearing only sunglasses, t-shirts and shorts.
Our 20-hour crossing from Lake Worth, FL to Great Sale Cay, Bahamas was “pretty good…” We left at midnight with a mega-yacht sailboat named Meteor. She was gorgeous in the moonlight, a brand new, high-end 150 foot ketch. It was a good sign that we had picked the right time to go out the inlet. Slack tide AND when the pros were doing it.
The waves were pretty large but spaced far apart, so Velocir could glide over them instead of crashing into them. It was a motor ride the whole way with little wind. The moonlight was pretty and being in the open ocean again was soothing. We were dodging freighters by the miles instead of the feet. Amelia took the first watch and we rotated every 3 hours or so. We both get seasick, last time it was Amelia, this time Grant. He stuck it out all night though.
In the morning hours we entered the “banks.” As we crossed the reef, the deep ocean depths became a steady 14 ft. deep, and the ocean blues turned to a bright caribbean blue green. Visibility in the bank was clear 30 feet down.
We made it to our anchorage in Great Sale Cay just after dark, other boats anchor lights the only other light besides the stars; and anchored just inside, moving up into more protected waters the next morning. There were a few boats there, some had checked in at West End (a spot farther south) others like us were still waiting to go into a port. We raised out yellow Q “Quarantine” flag that says we have not yet cleared customs.
Our boat fared well on the crossing. Our Christmas tree got pancaked. Grant put on his sad face for the photo. We relaxed our first day in the Bahamas with a Star Wars marathon, unable to go onshore until we cleared customs and happy to rest and relax.
Our first beautiful sunset in the Bahamas! We miss sunsets, unable to really see them on the East Coast. The next day we headed for New Plymouth in Green Turtle Cay to check in. The wind was very choppy head seas and we could not make much ground so we anchored in Allans Cay.
Finally we got to Green Turtle Cay on Tuesday and are now cleared in! Amelia went into town as the “Captain” to clear us in. The customs agent was very hot and cold. While Amelia was there two people came in bearing food gifts for her and she was extremely friendly to them. We were hassled because Grant was not there even though the rules say that only the Captain may come in. She said Amelia could not sign for him on the customs form and withheld his passport. She insisted that “couples” should always come in to customs but not larger groups because “her office was only big enough for two people.” (We are unclear on who signs for everyone on larger groups???). It was very strange and hard to believe that husbands do not sign for their wives every day. Everyone we know who has cleared in has sent in the male spouse as “Captain” and never had a problem. She even told Amelia she had committed forgery by signing him in. Grant came in and flashed his smile and we went on our way. That, coupled with her lack of fishing knowledge (we read to have our fishing permit endorsed for spear and cast net but she didn’t know what a cast net was so she wouldn’t include it, end of story), made it a strange and confusing check-in.
The town of New Plymouth was very small and quaint. The buildings were very traditional and colorful, though many were abandoned. Everyone was very friendly and said hello to us. The town and everyone’s golf carts are all decked out for Christmas. We walked around for a while and then had a delicious dinner of Conch Fritters and Rum Punch at Pineapple’s Bar and Grill while we watched the sunset.
Today we went to the beach. It was windy so we read books, tried some fishing and played with a bunch of hermit crabs we found running around. A cool, windy day here is still a great day!
For our first night in the Bahamas, Amelia made some One-Bowl Pizza to use up our cheese. It is easy to make the dough and sauce, then just add the cheese and toppings. First, the dough is made by adding 1 c. water and 2 1/4 tsp. yeast to the bowl and letting sit for ten minutes. Then, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, 3 1/3 c. flour (sometimes I use 1 c. wheat) and 1 tsp. salt. Mix together in the bowl. The knead in the bowl or on a counter (if you have one) until smooth. Press into the pizza pan and bake at 350 degrees while you are making the sauce (about 15 mins). The bowl is then used for the sauce. Mix together 1 6 oz. can tomato paste, 4 oz. warm water, 2 tbsp. honey and 3 tbs. parmesan cheese with as many of these spices as you have: 1 tsp. garlic, 1/8 tsp. red pepper, 1/4 tsp. basil, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 tsp. onion powder, 1/4 tsp. oregano, 1/4 tsp marjoram.
Once the sauce is ready, take the crust out, add the sauce, cheese and toppings and bake for another 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and pepperoni is crisp!
Tomorrow we are going to head to a secluded anchorage for some snorkeling and fishing!
We have found our weather window from Lake Worth to the Bahamas and plan to leave tonight at 2 am! From now on, we will continue to update our blog when possible and will always do the SPOT when in a new place.
We thought it would take a week, possibly weeks, to find an acceptable weather window over to the Bahamas. This is because in the winter months the wind comes more from the North, and then opposes the Gulf Stream current from the South causing large waves the “stand up” and be higher and rougher. Luckily, we have been watching the weather and a good window is happening right when we’ve made it to the inlet we will leave from.
As we’ve travel farther south into Florida the houses and boats keep getting bigger. Endless lines of houses, each worth millions! Amelia said, “If we had millions of dollars I think we would be doing exactly what we are doing. Maybe just a little bit nicer.” Then Grant made the point of how lucky we are to honestly say this is what we would be doing if we could do anything right now.
While we were sailing down to Jupiter we got an airshow from an aerial applicator really close to us.
From St. Augustine, FL to Lake Worth, FL we only used 4 gallons of fuel. This means we sailed roughly 260 miles on the ICW straight!
Before leaving for Florida, we have taken one last trip to the grocery store. I found some tofu packets I was happy with. They will be a nice way to change up meals. Hopefully we will catch enough fresh seafood we won’t need to use our stored goods!
As a treat, I wanted to roast some Chestnuts. It was really messy! Reading online, it said cutting X’s on them and then boiling them for 25 minutes would keep the chestnuts more moist than baking them. Peeling them was easy with some and difficult with others. They were good though!
We have spent the last week around Cocoa Beach, FL, being spoiled by family and friends.
Our list of “last-minute” items and meals was fulfilled by Grant’s Aunt taking us around to Panda Express for lunch and to get snorkeling fins at a place we could not have walked to.
That weekend we met our friends from MD who have also made the change to warmer weather and now live in FL. We all went our for burritos and then had sushi for dinner. We walked the beach, and slept in a real bed! We were very spoiled and happy to see our friends.
Our story of inadvertently “trespassing” onto a military base:
We are both USCG Licensed Captains. This means we “get” to pay Lockheed Martin $140 for a Homeland Security background check that gets us a Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC). The TWIC card gets you clearance onto secure ports of entry in the US (shipping ports) and is what the TSA uses to work airport screening (you can use it as your sole ID to board a plane), and in some cases it grants you access to military bases. The Captains License itself is a valid US passport.
There wasn’t a safer or more covenient place to leave the boat in Cocoa Beach, FL while meeting our friends, so we called the marina at an Air Force base to ask if our TWIC card would let us stay the night. The answer was yes! We were very excited!
When we got there, everything was great and everyone was very nice. A few people even came by and were interested in our boat. Showers, good wifi and laundry! The only thing left was to ask if our friends could come pick us up at the marina or if we would have to walk outside the gate. The marina said we would have to ask security. We walked up to the main gate and explained our question. Then it went downhill from there…..
Apparently we are not allowed on the base. The security seemed confused as well, but it was decided that those permitted on-base with TWIC cards are on “official business.” And the game of “who said we were allowed?” was passed around a few different teams without any success other than “a person in security when the marina called to ask.” By now it was dark and after 4 hours of questions and confusion, we were told we could stay the night but had the leave in the morning. A thorough report was filled out about the incident.
The guard was extremely nice and said he felt bad. He basically told us what to do to stay- anyone with a DOD Military ID can get us a 3-day pass to enter and leave the base. (So, just to clarify, we could work airport security and enter ports of entry but cannot use the military base marina, but, if anyone with a Military ID vouches for us we can enter and exit by ourselves for 3 days. But we could in fact enter with a TWIC card if there was a work-related reason, but using the marina does not count.) Yes, it is all clear now, thank you. (Note: We respect that Military Bases are for military personnel and do not believe that we were entitled to be allowed on in any way, it is just an interesting situation.)
We were permitted to walk back to our boat. We got back to the boat and quickly found some nice retirees among the Friday night Tiki Bar Party to “sponsor” us the next day for the 3 day pass. Soon after, our guard called to say he had to physically see that we were on the boat. He came by with two other guards carrying machine guns that were a bit more aggressive. The one with a gun said we were “trespassing” by being on the dock next to our boat and to get back on our boat. He also enlightened us by informing us that he had never heard of a TWIC card. Then they left us for the night. The retirees apologized for the intrusion, explaining that you never see them, let alone wielding guns at the marina—especially during Friday night Tiki Bar.
The next morning we had our 3 day pass. We were okay with the situation. Everyone was extremely polite and helpful including the guards. They accommodated us instead of making us leave and went out of their way to help us stay. I was really blown away with how great everyone was. But when the marina thanked us for staying and implied we should come back, I really don’t think we will be back!
Grant did a rig check when we were at the marina. Everything looked great, especially the spreader boots Grant had sewn out of leather! Coming down the mast he also greased the main sail track to make the sail come down faster.
Now we are headed to Lake Worth, FL for a weather window to the Bahamas.
Velocir has lights and a little fiber-optic tree!
More and more we are spending the day traveling with other cruising boats. A couple of days after St. Augustine, we shared an anchorage with 3 others, then met up with 10 more boats on our way to a bridge opening!
We were able to sail the whole way from St. Augustine, FL to Cocoa, FL. Our only problem was a bridge at Haulover Canal. We picked up on the radio that the bridge was having a mechanical problem and was closed. It is located on an open stretch and there were heavy winds. The Coast Guard said it would be a few hours. We anchored. Five minutes later the Bridge Tender came on the radio and said she was going to open it in 3 minutes because there were so many boats waiting and her mechanic wasn’t going to be there for a while. (So apparently it was a pedestrian gate motor problem). We hauled up anchor as quickly as possible and barely made the bridge. Boats who had turned away to go back went as fast as they could to make the opening. We went through, hearing another Coast Guard notice that the bridge was closed. About 15 minutes later she opened the bridge again. We hope this communication error didn’t cause problems for anyone because turning back meant miles to a good anchorage!
Now that we are close to our “jumping off point” of Peanut Island, FL we have been working on our provisioning. We have about 300 cans of food onboard. All cans are labeled with sharpie and paper taken off to prevent bugs.
My favorite essential is Tomato Paste because I can make pasta sauce with it by adding olive oil and spices, and pizza sauce by adding water and spices. My biggest disappointment were two cans of Manwich I bought. It is a sauce, not ground beef mixture—probably every one else knew that, lol.
We are anchored south of Cocoa Beach nearby lots of grocery stores. The boat is getting crammed full of food and supplies as everything will be more expensive in the islands. We are also catching up on some projects while we wait here to see Grant’s Aunt and our friends Kelly and Joe! Today, in the warm, sunny 78 degree weather we took hot sunshowers in the cockpit of our tiny sailboat, enjoying the same view as the multi-million dollar houses as dolphin fished all around the boat.
Settled by the Spanish and known as the oldest city in America, St. Augustine has lots of charm. We had been looking forward to getting here to and spending the day walking around the old town and historic fort.
At 8 a.m. we took a mooring right next to the fort and were excited for the view and access to showers. When we got to the city marina office to pay, they said the moorings around the fort were taken, and that the owner probably “went for a sail.” We moved, but no one ever came to the others and it seems like people “buy” the nice public moorings next to the fort, because we got pushed back like eight empty moorings.
It was a nice sunny day, though still a bit cool.
We had a quiet day walking around learning about the history.
Towards the end of the day, we decided to find food. There was a bus to a grocery store, but the bus only came every two hours! Instead, we walked to a local market that had a lot of produce, steaks, and shrimp.
The shrimp was $4 a pound. Amelia cleaned them up and Grant prepared his delicious Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta! We are looking forward to more seafood, especially in the Islands. Grant has been working hard putting together fishing gear to get us ready for the Bahamas, where a fishing license comes with our cruising permit.