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I’m On A Boat- New Video Series

Just this last month we’ve started a new video series called “I’m On A Boat.”

It will cover all sailing projects and endeavors apart from our cruising on Velocir.  Here are the first three installments about a Camper Nicholson 31 owner fixing fiberglass, gelcoat blisters and running rigging.

Hope you enjoy!  And if you haven’t watched our other series “A Day in the Life: Cruising Albin Vega Velocir” you can watch at www.youtube.com/svvelocir

A guide to repair and fixing fiberglass blisters on boats. This is a common problem among sailboat hulls produced in the mid-seventies. Narrated by a Camper Nicholson 31 owner completing this project himself by prepping and filling his blisters with epoxy resin. An informative how-to on this topic with demonstration and step-by-step instruction.
Redoing the running rigging on a cruising sailboat involves measuring, measuring and measuring. Then we head over to Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies for a tutorial of the different standard line selections, discussing their uses, breaking strengths and design qualities. After we’ve made our selection, the handy line counter does its job and we have our new running rigging. http://www.velocir.com http://www.baconsails.com
Camper Nicholson 31 owner repairs cracks and crazing in the gelcoat on the hull. This is caused by impact to the hull, manufacturer error in too thick gelcoat and bending around forward bulkheads. He uses a rotary tool to grind the crack down to the fiberglass, then he fills it with and Interlux epoxy filler called InterProtect Watertite, uses a longboard sander to sand and then it is ready for painting. http://www.velocir.com
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Velocir makes 98 miles in 14 hours

We had waited in Old Point Comfort, VA two days for good weather.  It would take us three days (140ish miles) and realistically the weather didn’t look good for the entire week.  Our family had planned a party and relatives were coming- oh  no!

It was a tough to be so close but yet so far.  We’d gone out and come back one morning when NOAA called for S  10-15 knots but it was ENE 25 knots all day. With 4 ft choppy swell on our beam, Velocir couldn’t make much speed and we were getting tossed around, so it wasn’t worth it.

The next day the wind finally turned S 25-30 knots.  A bit rough for Velocir, but we were headed N so the angle to the waves was okay.  We put up our main with a reef in it, kept the engine going and let out a scrap on genoa that keeps us from rolling in heavy seas downwind.  We were screaming down the bay at 7.5 knots the whole day!!!!  From 6AM to 8PM we made 98 miles to Solomons, MD.  Quite a feat for us and a distance we’d thought would take two days.Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse by Velocir

The Chesapeake is fun because instead of bouys our new marks are historic lighthouses.

Commercial Fishing on the Chesapeake by Velocir

Amelia saw some major commercial fishing on the Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to the Rappahannock that she didn’t know existed.  There were three massive blue fishing trawlers (like you would see in Alaska).  Bigger than shrimping trawlers, probably over 150 ft.  They were doing circles off the channel, which was very confusing to us and other cruisers around us.  Many people tried to call them on the radio but they did not respond.

As we got closer, Amelia realized each huge trawler was momma boat to two 30 foot silver fishing boats that were open-deck and had two giant 20 foot cranes on deck.  The cranes supported giant nets, and the two smaller fishing boats would circle around dropping the nets and picking them up again, while the huge trawler circled them. (Three groups of momma trawler with 2 crane boats)

To complete the whole process, two white planes circled them in the sky the whole time, obviously a part of the fleet.  Amelia was surprised this kind of fishing went on in the Bay?!?  Also worried because she spotted a sea turtle nearby.

We made it to Solomons, MD with an hour of daylight left to spare, staying at a friend’s dock.  Our last day is tomorrow!!!!

Back to the USA: Good & Then Really Bad

To get a sense of the first two days of our voyage please watch this video:

It was our “watch activity” to record a little something about how everything was going.  To summarize the video: everything was going GREAT.  Beautiful weather, a fresh caught Snapper for dinner, doing a little sailing (only used 6 gallons fuel the whole way), boosted speed by the Gulf Stream.  It was so great, and the weather predictions continued to be so good (wind 10 knots, calm seas) that we decided to be ambitious and continue for St. Augustine.

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Then it all went downhill and ended very badly for us.  The boat is healthy and we are healthy.  But the whole ordeal was so traumatic we couldn’t bring ourselves to take any video or photos so we will just describe what happened.

At about 6 pm Amelia was preparing dinner and we changed watches.  Everything was great.  The weather was calling for calm wind and seas, with a slight chance of thunderstorms inland and south of our location, near Lake Okeechobee.  We were sailing along at 7 knots in the Gulf Stream 30 miles NE of Fort Pierce, FL, and we were going to push another day for St. Augustine.

After about 15 minutes on watch Grant spotted thunderstorms forming on the horizon.  Dinner was finished.  We immediately took down the main and reefing leaving a little genoa out for stability, got out our hatch boards to protect the main cabin, putting on our safety gear.  Boat check, cockpit check.

The first storm was south of us, and was going to miss us, but we turned the motor on to get closer to shore and closer to Fort Pierce.  Given the drastic change in weather our destination was now Fort Pierce.  We were north of the inlet, and the Gulf Stream and swell was continuing to push us north, but we motored through the swell.  It tossed Velocir every which way being so close to the wind and swell.  The wind picked up to 30-35 knots and the swell increased.  Amelia wedged herself in the v-berth while Grant steered.

Amelia closed her eyes to try and relax and let the time pass, knowing it was only hours before Velocir would be safely inland.  She looked up too see how Grant was doing and noticed smoke coming from the engine.  She immediately leapt up and started screaming to turn it off.  We turned the engine off.

The thunderstorms were all around us now, and one was approaching.  The weather reports had changed– now thunderstorms/squalls with winds reaching 55 mph were being predicted, with squalls continuing throughout the night and into the next day. Velocir calmed down immediately as we turned north again with the swell astern (behind us).  Waves, peaking at about 10 feet, still crashed over Velocir, soaking the cockpit, but the movement was not as violent.

A hard downpour and winds came with the storm, but it was only the edge of it and lasted about ten minutes.  Amelia sat in the cockpit steering and having a mild panic attack, while Grant tried to fix the engine.  A water intake hose was kinked, so he quickly replaced it.  Amelia never wanted to sail Velocir offshore again, wanted to stop cruising.  What was so bad about living in a house and turning up the volume on your TV when the thunder got loud? Closing a window when it rained?  What was wrong with us?  Grant fully agreed but told Amelia to get it together.

Amelia quickly composed herself and the rain stopped.  She started pumping the manual bilge pump.  There was A LOT of water in Velocir.  The engine cooled down and we started it up again, went a little ways and it overheated again.  Amelia pumped out Velocir again—more water.  We tried again to let the engine cool, thinking maybe the oil pressure was just having a hard time recovering.  More water came into Velocir.

Every time we turned the engine on not only was it overheating, but more water was coming into Velocir.  Was it pumping raw water or exhaust water into Velocir?  How could that be related to the overheating, if at all?  The only way to know for sure was to unscrew and remove the cockpit floor (a fair weather option only).  The water could be coming in from other places too:  the cockpit drains, a thru hull, the water tanks etc.  More storms were coming and it was now dark.

The moon was half-full, but we could see lightening nearby.  And without an engine we did not have enough speed to get 30 miles to Fort Pierce because the Gulf Stream continued to push us north.  We called the Coast Guard to keep them advised of our location and situation in case things deteriorated.  We asked for an updated detailed weather report.  She replied it was, and we quote: “nasty.”  A few minutes later Grant started to feel physically ill, exhausted and had to lay down.  Thirty hours of 3-hour watch rotations were catching up to him.

After another storm passed the wind shifted from SW to N.  It was freaky.  Now we could not sail.  We tried to sail West, closer to shore.  But with the swell and Gulf Stream we couldn’t make any progress.  The wind pushed against the prevailing swell, causing steeper chop.

It was time to call it quits, our safety is priority one.  We hailed a tow boat to come get us.  It was now 1930 and it would take them 2.5 hours to reach us—okay.  It felt like forever before they arrived.  The Captain kept hailing us, asking if we could see his blue flashing light.  He was ten miles out, could we see it?  No.  Six miles?  No.  Four? No.  Amelia tried to explain Velocir is only a few feet off the water and that we would probably not spot him for a while in this swell.

Finally he got near Velocir and threw us a tow line.  Grant went up on deck and wrapped it around our bollard that has a ridiculously reinforced backing plate.  Thank goodness for that!! ..because he was towing us almost directly into the swell.  Velocir was bucking and hammering, literally being pulled through the waves.  The tow boat slowed down a little in some parts because it was just too rough.

28 miles before we were inside the cut.  Amelia had been steering, still in warm weather clothes.  She was freezing in the night, so she went down to change while Grant took the helm.  He steered Velocir behind the Tow Boat for a long time while Amelia huddled under a blanket.

Then, Grant started not feeling well again, and Amelia came up to relieve him.  We sat in the cockpit together for a few moments while Grant realized the NAVIK did not look right.  The lower paddle that helps steer the boat (when in use) was horizontal in the water, not vertical as it should be.  Grant was able to grab it before it completely detached from the upper unit.  (The cast aluminum frame it is pinned into had shattered).  Due to the force of the waves and speed?  Not sure, we were not going faster than usual but we were getting thrown a bit.

Grant headed down below.  Amelia sat down on the starboard side of the cockpit and saw a jerry can full of diesel fuel perched, all alone, on the deck.  What?!?  She calmly yelled down below, “take the tiller for a minute,” then grabbed the can before it went overboard.  With a harness and life jacket on, she quickly went forward to put extra lashings on the other three jerry cans still on deck.  The amount of water pouring over Velocir was immense.

8.5 hours later, at 4 AM Velocir was at a marina in Fort Pierce.  It cost us $1400 to be towed in.  Quite a bit to swallow, but we would do it again.  In the long run, I think we got off easy.  He told us he didn’t charge us the full rate and we believe him.

We are now members of Tow Boat US, which we hadn’t joined before because we didn’t think we were coming back to the States so soon and then forgot. For us:  If Velocir runs aground we can get her off, and if Velocir has an engine problem inland we can anchor for a few hours and fix it.  But unfortunately this one unlikely situation where we would need a tow happened to us.

As soon as the Tow Boat left we called family, started the customs clearing-in process, and checked email .  Amelia read this blog comment aloud as Grant changed our water soaked sheets so that we could collapse in bed:

WOW!! So, my Hubby and I sat down last Sunday evening…. found your blog and enjoyed EVERY picture, video and comment. We’re just learning to sail and you have sparked a dream in us!!! You make it look like so much fun! I know we have MUCH to learn, but you have taken the fear out of it for me!! Thank you for sharing all that you have! It’s a lot of work!! We have a Flying Scot which we’re removing old paint and repainting ourselves!! It’s a blast!

Thanks again and have a safe and fun trip back to the US!!!

Amelia, exhausted, could not help but laugh.  We are still laughing at the comedic timing, it was so perfect.  This is one of the first comments we’ve ever gotten from someone that’s not close family or friends.  Thank you, we hope this experience does not dissuade you.  Despite this event, every bit of preparation we did has paid off and we have had almost zero problems overall.  It’s been extremely rewarding, all the time we’ve spent together and all the amazing experiences we’ve shared.  With the ups must come the downs.

24 hours of retrospect: everything is okay, we made the right decision, these things happen, thankfully it happened within the USA, cruising is fun, this is the only bad thing that has happened in one year of being on the boat and it turned out fine, we still like cruising and will continue for a while, a house one day will be nice.

The engine is now fine….we think.  It was a series of little mishaps that resulted in the overheating.  The hose kinked starving the engine of water.  This caused the coolant to overflow.  Without the coolant it wasn’t cooling down.  The exhaust hose had come loose and was gushing most of the exhaust water into the bilge.  After repair and test runs we think we are good now.

There was a Publix grocery store near the marina we were towed to.  Being around so many people and a large developed area, we just stared at everything.  Inside the grocery store we grinned like idiots at all the nice and inexpensive food.  Grant bought beer and ice and now he is happy.  Amelia bought strawberries and now she is happy.

UPDATE: THE GULF STREAM DILEMMA

We have had several people ask us about the squalls we ran into off the coast of Florida and why we made the decision we did; so we decided we would take a moment and review the situation, our potential options and the factors leading to our decision. These are excellent questions to ask and lessons can always be learned.

So, lets recap: “Nasty” squalls predicted for the next 36 hours, large (peaking 10ft) steep confused swell, shifty heavy breeze, no engine, taking on water from an unknown source.  Our position: 30 miles offshore in heavy shipping traffic unable to make ground, Gulf Stream pushing us NE 3+ knots

Options:

1. Heave-to:

We heard this a lot from people, the classic salty thing to do. Heave-to, lash down the tiller and strap in, go below and take a nap, let mother nature rage, the boat can handle it. When the weather lightens up try to fix the engine or sail on in to St. Augustine.

Why we didn’t: Well we did, for a little while. Vegas do heave to well; however, from that point on North, the Gulf Stream begins to head NE and the coast of Florida goes West a bit, so if problems worsened we would be a lot farther than 30 miles off the coast. (If you are 30+ miles offshore it is extremely unlikely a towboat will come to get you, the Coast Guard will come and rescue your person, not your boat).  Also, we could not in good conscience have no one on watch; many freighters use the Gulf Stream to save on fuel and bright lights or no, like the race boat heading down to Mexico last month, freighters do from time to time run things down.

Let’s not forget a big one, exhaustion. It is near impossible to sleep on Velocir when she is pitching every which way. We had been underway for over 36 hours and 3 on 3 off was beginning to wear on us physically and mentally. We would not have slept that night and if conditions had worsened we would have an even harder time with it.

2. Get Towed

While we were in touch with the Coast Guard we also got in touch with TowBoat US to find out if they would even come out to get us and what that might cost. There is a $150 insurance you can buy, but this is about the only scenario we could think of we wouldn’t just want to handle ourselves. So, to add on to all the reasons listed above not to continue on is the idea that the tow services are not as likely to come any farther than 30 miles out to get us, especially if conditions worsened. That assumed we would be even near a navigable inlet. We had our EPIRB and a life raft, but if had more problems we could lose the boat and that would cost us a LOT more than a tow.

So, all of these reasons and a few more combined to paint a pretty clear picture of the most reasonable thing to do. When reviewing all these options the #1 motivation was to keep us safe, while the tow was certainly expensive and not at all glamorous, it was the safest thing to do.

In the end it was one of the most miserable experiences of my life. We broke our wind vane, got numerous cuts a bruises, and were really glad we put a huge backing plate on the bollard on our foredeck we were towed through that mess on. The engine problems and water coming in were what we suspected but could not confirm, a series of minor problems that took about 20 minutes to repair. The predicted 36 of squally Hell that was predicted never materialized.

Hindsight, we should have hove-to and continued for another pleasant day of sailing. However, with water coming in from an unknown source and an easy exit  quickly slipping from our grasp I would make the same decision a hundred times over.

North Bight to Fresh Creek, Andros-Mahi Mahi-Velocir aground-Marina $tay

We traversed the east coast of Andros another full day from South Bight to North Bight.  Still wide-open anchorages with no protection but nice beaches on-shore.  And still no fish!!

We kept going north, headed for the town of Fresh Creek.  Velocir started inside the reef, motoring up through the shallows now that the wind had shifted unfavorably.  We kept getting bites on our spoon lure but they escaped each time.  Grant reeled it in to see that the hook was so rusted and dull it had actually broken off on one side, so he replaced it with a new hook.

Before the inshore route got too shallow, Velocir headed outside the reef.  Here our other lure, a 6 inch green fish for Mahi Mahi, comes into play.  Just off Green Cay (a different one than we’d just visited) we got a bite!!

Mahi Mahi by Velocir

Grant struggled with all his strength to reel it in.  It was Amelia’s turn on the reel, but with the fight this Mahi was putting up she didn’t volunteer to trade jobs.  It took about 20 minutes of hard work to get the fish in.  As soon as it was alongside, Amelia gaffed it perfectly and brought it aboard.

Mahi Mahi by Velocir

It was a beautiful male Mahi Mahi.  You can tell because the head is more blunt than the female.

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

We entered Fresh Creek’s narrow channel a few hours later.  It is a larger town (comparatively) and has an old lighthouse, Androsia factory and beaches.  According to our chart, guidebooks and other blogs, there are three mooring balls in the harbor.  Anchoring is not possible due to the scoured bottom and very heavy current.

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

We went past the marina towards the mooring balls.  Two were taken by a trimaran that is permanently there.  The other one was free, so we slowly motored towards it….and ran aground.  It was low tide, so we would be okay.  But we were so tired from the past few days we worked as hard as we could to get unstuck. 

After various tactics probably totaling 30 minutes, Grant jumped in the water and rotated Velocir 180 degrees.   He could see from the contour of the sand that if he moved Velocir about 5 inches over she would be free.  Amelia shifted the weight of the boat by moving forward and aft as Grant rotated the boat.  (Only possible on a boat Velocir’s size!)  He then grabbed the pulpit, pulling himself into the boat and shouted “go.”  Amelia knew he was now safely out of the water and put Velocir in gear.  We were free! (On the upside, we are now intimately familiar with our depth sounder’s readings.  3.3 is AGROUND.  3.5 is AFLOAT  Good to know….)

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

Between reeling in the fish and pushing Velocir off the sand, Grant was sore all over.  It was time to dish out some money for the only marina, Lighthouse Yacht Club- something we have only done one night our entire trip.  What a relief!  Protection from the sea, steps away from land, internet, showers and free ice.  Not a bargain, but not a choice.

Fun with Family! (Velocir alone time)

Hi All, we have been on blog hiatus for a while visiting family and friends but are now back to share Velocir’s voyage.  Velocir has been lonely the past couple of weeks.  Amelia went to sail with family in the BVIs while Grant stayed onboard for a week long of heavy weather (note to self: take down flags when wind is 40 knots for days).  However, an interesting tidbit is that we’ve noticed cruisers will leave their flags up until only inches of the fabric is remaining.  We think it is a status thing:  My boat has been in the Bahamas SOO long my flag is a piece of string.

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This week, Velocir continues to wait for us, bobbing about on her anchor close to town, as we have a fun visit with Grant’s parents.IMG_0885

We stayed at Regatta Point (in the background) and really loved the location.  Velocir was in sight of our room, which was great.  We could see her rolling around in the gentle chop and smiled, thinking “yay, a week on land in a real bed that doesn’t move!” We enjoyed on demand hot water showers, a sleeping in a normal rectangle shaped bed, and marveled at life with refrigeration and counter-space.

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Luck was with us and we had beautiful weather to explore the town and islands all through the week.

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We spent some time on the boat doing a little sailing, exploring, and motoring through the cruising fleet.

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We went sailing on Velocir around Elizabeth Harbor.

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We watched the Bahamian sloops sail.  Like the Log Canoes of the Chesapeake, these craft have a shallow draft and huge sail plans, crew will climb out on the board you see in the photo to balance the windward side. This day the boats had their small main sail alone as it was blowing near 20 kts, but normally they have a large, distinctive mini gaff on the top of the main sail. A striking similarity has been noted between this sail design and modern racing boat’s flat top mainsail designs. The Family Islands Regatta is in a few weeks, we have heard it is a riot and wish we could be here for it.

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We walked the many beaches, hiked up to the monument and around the hills of Stocking Island. We also recently got a map from a cruiser who keeps up the trails on Stocking Island, man there are a lot of trails to beaches, vistas and through the trees and scrub.IMG_0840

Grant went spearfishing out on the reef, but no dinner! He saw yet another small (we think) bull shark, but as usual they are more interested in cruising the reef than chomping on neoprene.

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We snorkeled a blue hole full of fish. Though not marked on our explorer charters, we heard of an underwater cave entrance in the mooring filled hurricane holes of Stocking Island. Here we found a bunch of different fish as well as sunken inboard and outboard engines. Grant’s Mom even spotted a Bearded Fireworm out at the reef!

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We checked out the local shops and bought a fish identification book—these are Atlantic Spadefish. They are 14-16 inches long and supposedly good eating, too bad spearfishing is prohibited here!

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We feasted on lobster and organic beef from Uruguay sold at the Driftwood Café, one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots in Georgetown!

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We watched tons of gorgeous sunsets and (whether we wanted to or not) the music from the Heritage Festival in Regatta Park roughly about where the sun is setting.

It was a real treat to share this wonderful area and the cruising lifestyle with our parents and, although we are slightly reluctant to get back on Velocir after being spoiled on land, we are excited for what lies ahead.

Catch of the Day- Mega Lobster & Rum

Today we went offshore to spear fish with our friends aboard Sandpiper.  They go offshore to spear pretty much all the time for food, and have a Hawaiian sling (a type of spear)  that we could try out.  We found some coral and got into the water.  Sandpiper got some fish right away. Grant saw a huge lobster in a hole but it was successful in hiding far enough in that we couldn’t get him!

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Then, just as we were about to leave, Mark from Sandpiper came back with a fish and said he had spotted another lobster.  Grant went over to the spot and speared a medium-sized lobster.  Amelia spotted a mega-lobster and Mark speared it.  It is the biggest lobster we have seen!

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Our friends on Sandpiper put a lot of time into spearfishing and it really shows!  They usually get snapper for dinner and will fillet Lion Fish too.  They shared a Lion fish fillet with us and it was really good!

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Because we only caught a medium sized lobster, we baked it for an appetizer and then made burritos with some chorizo from the store.  Amelia made handmade tortillas because the store didn’t have any.  She used 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons lard (substituted butter), 1 1/2 cups water.  Mix all together and then lightly fry on a skillet.

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The chorizo, can of black beans, onions and green pepper was heated up in the same pan after the tortillas were made.  (The tortillas took a long time, rolling them out and heating them.)

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And to finish the meal we added fresh cantaloupe slices, still chilled from the store!   Fresh produce is still a luxury.

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Sunday night was Oscars night—our chance to reconnect with American celebrity culture.  Another cruising boat put on a voting contest at Chat and Chill, the bar on Volleyball Beach.  Amelia spent hours researching websites and blogs to create her “winning list” because with all the business of cruising we haven’t seen or heard of most of these movies.  She entered her picks into the contest’s computer (all very sophisticated) and won the grand prize, a bottle of Pusser’s Rum, by a landslide.  Amelia would like to thank the NYT and Washington Post websites for their advice.

-We continue to relax here in Georgetown for a while, having fun with the regatta and scheming about what we will do for hurricane season.

Catch of the Day- Mahi Mahi!

The weather has really calmed down (finally!) so we decided to make our way south to Farmers Cay on the Ocean side, taking the opportunity to do some fishing.  We went into the town of Black Point and optimistically bought a bag of ice in case we caught fish (a deal at $3) and stopped by the grocery store one last time to find lettuce and some local tomatoes (also reasonably priced).  Produce!!!  So far so good!

We motored out the cut with some heavy current and made our course along the 80 foot ledge, that drops to about 150 feet—beyond that our depth sounder couldn’t tell us.  It was a nice calm day out.  As soon as we got out Amelia saw some fish activity in the water, we motored over but no luck.  Grant had two reels and a hand line out. A little while later he saw some activity in the water, we went over and a Mahi Mahi picked our nice reel that we had put 150 feet back!!!!!!

Catching Mahi Mahi by Velocir

Compared to a Barracuda he didn’t put up much of a fight.  They are smart and he actually tried to swim towards and under the boat to escape.  Unfortunately that made him easier to reel in and Amelia just moved the tiller to make Velocir move every time he tried to swim under the hull.

Catching Mahi Mahi by Velocir

As soon as Mahi Mahi are caught, they turn from a brillant Green-Blue coloring to yellow, to green and finally grey.  It is very sad and beautiful!

Coming in the cut at Farmer’s Cay, we anchored next to a little sandy bay.  We went into town quickly before dark to see if there was any produce.  Nothing and no boat for at least a week.  We stopped by the local bar.   Everyone was watching Whitney Houston’s “private” funeral on CNN.  That is when we realized we have not seen or checked the news since we left Florida.  Even when we have internet we have not even thought to look.  As a news junkie, this was a big realization for Amelia.  We are changing little by little.  Life is slowing down.Catching Mahi Mahi by Velocir

We thanked the fish a lot for being our dinner, and then baked him up with a seasoning Amelia’s mom made us.  It’s a combination of paprika/garlic powder/black pepper/onion powder/oregano/thyme and cayenne pepper and is especially good on swordfish.  Amelia also made Homemade Potato Salad, (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/worlds-best-potato-salad/) which was delicious.  Making it from scratch really forces you realize how unhealthy it is!!  Better than baked potatoes on a hot day though.  With the ice we bought, we’ll even be able to have cool potato salad tomorrow!!!  Cold food is a novelty.

Northern Land and Sea Park- Shroud Cay

Before we left Norman’s Cay and entered the legally protected waters of the Land and Sea Park, Grant tested his luck at spearfishing fish for the first time (not lobsties).  Amelia watched from the dinghy as Grant swam around some coral heads he had found near the cut.  He was going to practice his skills on slow lionfish that are an invasive species people are encouraged to spear.

As Grant looked around the coral for lionfish he came across a black grouper trapped between him and the coral.  Without hesitation he speared it his first try!  We had expected to spend at least an hour practicing on using the spear for fish.  Instead, Grant had dinner in five minutes!

The next day we motored with a light unfavorable breeze to Shroud Cay, one of the northernmost islands of the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  Shroud is known for its mangrove canals that run across the island.  The Park allows boaters to traverse the northernmost canal.  It was a fun ride through the island with a bit of heavy current.  As we began the current was against us, then it switched and we turned off the engine to for a slow ride.  The current started to pick up quite a bit and swirled us out into a sandy beach.Shroud Cay by Velocir

It was soft silky sand.  We walked along and onto the sandbars exploring.

Shroud Cay by Velocir

When we returned to Velocir the wind had shifted and we moved to a more protected anchorage for the night.  (Finding an anchorage protected from swell in the Exumas has proven to be a challenge.  Even with an East wind West swell seems to emerge.)  The anchorage was part of the Park’s mooring field.  There were a few boats anchored but only one on a mooring.  We hiked up the path of the anchorage’s small beach to an old well Grant found referenced in a vintage cruising book we brought.  It said the well was used for fresh water for boaters (we took a little for showers).

Shroud Cay by Velocir

A short blog with not as many adventures.  We are relaxing a little and taking long walks on the beach, followed by good books in the evenings.

Cruising’s Holy Land–the Exumas

We left Rock Sound with the sunrise, making a good sail southward to Highborne Cay in the Exumas.  The crossing was about 60 miles through protected Eleuthera sandbanks and out into the unprotected Exuma Sound.  Just as we crossed through the last part of Eleuthera we caught a pretty good-sized fish!  As Grant reeled it in a small shark started to attack it.  Luckily it just cut its tail and we didn’t lose it.  We made some yummy fish tacos for lunch the next day.

Fish Tacos by Velocir

Our decision not to take our sea-sickness medicine, Stugeron was a bad one.  Amelia felt the worst she has the entire trip, even so much as to reference a voyage she experienced years ago where she was so sick for 9 days she vowed never to set foot on that particular sailboat ever again.  She spent most of her time on the floor of Velocir waiting for the voyage to be over.

Luckily it was a fast transit with our spinnaker up.  We made it into Highborne Cay with plenty of daylight and anchored among quite a large fleet of mega yachts and cruisers.

Mega Yacht Slide by Velocir

If your mega-yacht is high enough, at least four stories, you can attach a huge slide to it and trail four jet skis behind!  We are not used to being around so many other boats after our secluded weeks in Eleuthera.

We have to admit that we are a little wary of the Exumas.   We know it is that sought after paradise of cruiser’s lore.  The place to be.  But it seems this is a resort and marina based island chain catering to the wealthy mega-yacht elite.  If the island is not private it is owned by a resort and marina.  After being spoiled in the secure friendly harbors of Eleuthera, the popular Exumas Land and Sea Park which covers a large area has filled their anchorages with moorings they charge you for.  To sum up—the Exumas is not for the poor.  It is extremely crowded with cruisers and there is a charge for everything.  Despite this, I think we are still going to love it here and in the end not spend very much at all because we provisioned so well in Florida.

Sailing Velocir Albin Vega

We sailed for Norman’s Cay the next day to find a more protected anchorage.  This island is popular because it has the remains of an airplane that crashed into its sandy shores during the 70s when the island was used for drug smuggling.

Our first day here was one of the most beautiful and relaxing we have had.  We roamed the beaches, snorkeled the sunken plane, hunted for conch, watched a huge beautiful ray gracefully inspect our empty conch shells, ate conch fritters and watched an impressive fireworks display and a glowing full moon.  It was Disney magical.  Perhaps there is some truth to the lure of the Exumas.Normans Cay by Velocir

Shades of blue and green water in the shallows of Norman’s Cay.

Normans Cay by Velocir

Huge conch bed opposite our anchorage.  The best we have seen!Sailing by Velocir Albin Vega

A halo around the sun adding even more beauty to our tranquil setting.  We hope to explore the Land and Sea Park in the coming days and see even more sea life!

Unhappy Barracuda, Laundry and Water

The weather has been very very windy.  It seems like the wind hasn’t calmed down for weeks.  We had a favorable breeze so we sailed from Hatchet Bay to Governors Harbour.  It was a wet and windy sail, but we made it in a few hours.  Governors Harbour is an old city that was once intended to be the capital of the Bahamas.  There are a few beautiful old churches and a nice government building right along the water.

The government building is home to a monument/spicket with a plaque commemorating the city water of Governors Harbour.  Free city water!  We took our collapsible water jugs and hose to fill up our water tanks.

Velocir holds about 80 gallons of water.  We have the original 30 gallon plastic Albin Vega water tank forward under the v-berth.  Then, just aft of this we put a soft plastimo water tank.  It is 40 gallons but with the limited space of that compartment we estimate having filled it about 30 gallons.  Our third water tank is a plastic 20 gallon tank located in our starboard cockpit section, giving it easy connection to the sink just feet away.  The two forward tanks are separated but also joined by a Y valve.  One hose is run aft to the sink to another Y valve that joins the cockpit tank.  This way if one tank becomes contaminated, springs a leak or has a problem we won’t loose all our water, just one tank.

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After filling our tanks in four runs, we had extra water for doing laundry.  Amelia used our bucket for washing and a collapsible plastic basin for rinsing.  Then, everything was hung up with clothespins to dry.  There was a lot of laundry in the pile!

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The next day another sailboat came into the harbor—the Schooner Liberty Clipper from Boston.  On our way out of the harbor headed for Rock Sound, we motored by and said hello.  We had some friends in common and it was nice to see another tallship again!

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The sail to Rock Sound was much calmer….it could even be described as relaxing and fun!!!  Grant caught a mackerel and a barracuda and Amelia caught a big barracuda!  Coming into Rock Sound its namesake became clear—there were quite a few rocks underwater (but clearly marked on our chart).

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After we anchored in Rock Sound the wind picked up again.  We settled into the boat down below playing card games, cribbage, reading books and making homemade bread.  (The price per loaf has exceeded Amelia’s max of $3.50 a loaf she is willing to pay).  Favorite bread making recipe site is, coincidentally, called:  www.cookingbread.com and their joint blog www.thekneadforbread.com.  All photos are amazing and I chose the Farmers Bread recipe, substituting maple syrup for molasses.  Very good!

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The next night we did something out of the ordinary.  We went on a date!!!  It was nice to have a special evening, watching the sunset together overlooking the water.  Grant picked the restaurant and it was great.  We were the only patrons there and ate conch quesadillas and shrimp pizza—yum!

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We came back to Velocir just before another squall went through.  The weather will improve tomorrow according to predictions and we will sail onward to the Exumas!

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