Gladlee of Guernsey
America - January to May 2009 (and the Bahamas)
On our continuing trips to the Merritt wildlife refuge we continue to see new things. A mother Raccoon with her three babies, the American Bittern - a rare bird here in the refuge, and of course lots of alligators of all sizes.
8th - 12th January 2009
On the 8th of January we hired a car and drove across to Orlando and visited Universal Studios on the Friday and Epcot on Saturday. At Universal we had a great day, firstly we did the 3D Shrek and then The Mummy ride and amongst other things the Rock Show and Blues Brothers Tribute. We also took part in the filming of a disaster movie where Julie had to scream (quite convincing) and starred with "The Rock" (Ex Wrestler now film star). We stayed at Motel 8 not far away and went to the English pub down the road for dinner. At Epcot we did the planet earth ride and astronaut training, this was quite realistic and therefore frightening! Ron did the test drive and we then went to the countries part and had fish 'n chip lunch at another English pub. We drove back on the Saturday and Julie went on an organised Bird watching trip on the Sunday morning over at Merritt NP.
We left Titusville a day late on the 14th January and headed south towards Fort Lauderdale. Our first night out was spent at the 'Dragon' anchorage on the Banana River and second and third behind Pine Island in breezy conditions. From there we anchored just south of Jensen Bridge before reaching Lake Worth on the Sunday. A long day on the Monday (19th) saw us going all the way to Frank and Tari's house at Lighthouse Point.
21st - 27th January. Lighthouse Point.
We are now parked up in Lighthouse Point, about 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. What brings us here you may ask. Well we are parked on Frank and Tari's private dock right behind Vision - our second home. Despite all the warnings from F & T about the shallow canal we arrived not long after high tide and had plenty of water. We unfortunately???? were not allowed to live on the boat here so had to stay in F & T's house in a Queen bed with en-suite bathroom. Tough life!!
28th January. Maul Lake.
We are spending one night at anchor before going into the marina so that Julie can go and do some Kayaking. Maul Lake is where our original marina was located when we first came over in 2004. Unfortunately the marina was closed for planned development of Condo's. Even more unfortunately is the fact that the development stalled three years ago when the developers went bankrupt and nothing has been done since except for dredging the lake - thankfully.
29th January - 28th February. Hollywood Loggerhead Marina
After a very peaceful night we pottered the few miles back to Hollywood Marina and found our berth for a month - after a little mishap with Julie squashing the BBQ while backing in to the berth (nothing serious). A nice enough place but not quite as cheap as we had hoped as the manager had quoted us the wrong figure in her email but OK. Met a few of the very friendly inmates straight away and at the Friday cocktail hour, met some guys we knew from Maule Lake marina four years ago, Victor and Patrick off m/v "Dolphin". Small world as usual. On the 4th February Molly (Julies Mum) arrived from the UK for a two week holiday. We have taken the opportunity to call this period a holiday also and have been seeing the sights such as the Everglades, South Beach, Key Biscayne etc. Also a visit to F & T's for Molly to meet up with them again.
For Photos and Diary of the two weeks Mum visited please go to Mum's Trip
Preparations also continue amid all the touristy bit for our forthcoming crossing to the Bahamas and subsequent passage north to take over Jan and Adrian's RV.
1st March. Maul Lake
So, we have cut the umbilical chords of the marina and have moved to our old haunt of Maul Lake for a few nights which gives us the chance to finalise a few problems.
6th - 8th March. Oleta Park
One of our real old favourites for the weekend and it is just a real nice easy place. We manage to top up with water again by "stealing" water from the police dock!!!! Also we take the bikes ashore and cycle down to the nearby supermarket for all those last minute items we need before heading across to the Bahamas. While here we make friends with three other boats and have some good social occasions with them. Also find out some good information on the Bahamas. One of the boats is crossing one day later than us so hope to see them over there.
9th March. No Name Harbour, Key Biscayne.
We have moved here as it is the nearest "kick off" point for our departure tonight. Inside a National Park the harbour is a safe haven from weather in any direction. We expect it to be full but there is lots of room. We guess that a lot of boats left last night for the crossing.
9th - 10th March. Crossing the Gulf Stream/Bimini
We leave No Name at 11.00pm for our departure. Not the best time but we need the higher tide and this is the best compromise. We have to weave our way out through shallows and unlit channel markers at night though we have a full moon to help us. Once out into deep water we steer about 30 degrees further south than we need to so that the Gulf Stream current counteracts and moves us north at the same time. Sort of "crabbing" across. At about 10.30am on the 10th we arrive at Bimini to find that our electronic charts out not 'in phase" with the Bahamas and we have to "eyeball" our entry. This is a Bahamas navigation technique of telling the approximate depth of the water by reading the colour of it. We have much of this to do over the next few weeks. Anyway, all is well and we head into the Bimini Sands Marina. A quick taxi ride to the airport by Ron to do our checking in and we are now legal in a new country for the first time in some years.
Of course we do manage to find the inevitable bar so that we can watch the Champions League games on TV. (Football for the uneducated Europeans and Soccer for the uneducated Americans).
Discussions with our neighbour, S/Y "Cricket" about departure and transit of the Bahamas Bank - 50 miles of water that has no more than about 10 foot of depth - usually less give us some changes and better information. We now have an entry point between the reefs we did not know about and good course markers to the deep water at the other side of the bank. at anchor.
10th - 13th March. Bimini.
We spend a few days here to "Bahamanise" ourselves. Also there is a good bar just down the road!! Anyway Bimini is actually much nicer than we anticipated. We are on the south island which is the most remote with not really many people or houses. The resort we are in has another location with a bar (Macky's Sand Bar) which becomes our local watering hole. We go across to North Bimini by the local ferry and manage to find the Bahamas Chart Book we wanted but could not find in Florida. There is also a small Nature Trail which gives us a good walk and we do manage to avoid the four foot long snake. Our real mistake is that on the Friday night before leaving to cross the Bahama Bank we are encouraged to go to the bar with Chris and Robin from the Catamaran "Toucan Dream" and manage to get totally drunk with the resultant hangover the next morning.
14th - 15th March. Great Bahama Banks.
We head out of Bimini south to Triangle Rocks and enter the Banks. After a while you get used to the fact that you are in only 8 to 12 feet of water which is so crystal clear that you see the bottom all the time - and it looks like it is only about two feet away. We have decided to try and anchor on the bank half way across and at seven the first evening we do that. It's not too bad - a little rolly but we are OK. By 4.00am we have had enough. The wind has picked up and we are rolling about like mad so we may as well just head off. A real choppy sea means that we get reduced to about 3 knots headway which is discouraging. Eventually we have crossed the bank and enter what is called the Tongue of the Ocean. an area of water heading down towards Nassau that is very deep (7,000 feet) and sort of shaped like a tongue. Eventually we make it to our destination of Chubb Cay. (Cay is pronounced Key).
15th March. Chubb Cay.
Another rolly night at anchor here so next day we move on round the corner of the Berry Islands to Bonds Cay - supposedly owned by Sean Connery (Bonds?? Cay). We have a better time of it here round the back of the island but still spend a rolly night at anchor.
17th March. Bonds Cay to Cherokee Point.
We are picking up weather forecasts that don't seem too good so we have no choice but to make a dash for the Abacos - our ultimate destination in the Bahamas. This is quite a long passage with no protection from the Atlantic swells. We know that we cannot make it into the protected Sea of Abaco and are therefore heading for Cherokee Point, an anchorage south of where we want to be. We arrive at about 9.00pm in pitch black and soaked through having just gone through a number of rain squalls in the final couple of hours. It really is dark and there are rocks and reefs all about the place. We trust to our electronic charts - a new version recently acquired from "Toucan Dream" - thank you very much - and they prove to be as accurate as we had thought. We get into anchor in a fairly well protected bay and have a reasonable nights sleep.
18th - 19th March. Cherokee Point.
We are stuck here for the next couple of days after our arrival due to bad weather. The wind is blowing and the seas are quite rough. The real problem is that we have to go another ten miles north and then enter the Sea of Abaco through one of the few passages and when the Atlantic swells get too big it is highly dangerous. Better to wait.
20th March. Cherokee Point to Marsh Harbour.
We have picked the day and move off early in the morning. The first passage that we are heading for is Little Harbour Bar and after an initial scare - wrong bit being looked at - we get through very nicely with no problem. We head up another twenty miles and arrive at Marsh Harbour which is apparently the third largest town in the Bahamas - still only 5,000 people though. We will be staying here for a while as the forecast is for 20 - 25 knots gusting 40 for the next week or more. It's not too bad a place to stay with a good supermarket and a nearby bar that has a two and half hour happy hour.
26th March. Lynyard Cay
After enjoying nearly a week in Marsh Harbour we move back south and anchor in the lee of Lynyard Cay. Not too bad but early morning gets a bit rolly.
27th March. Little Harbour.
We make a short move to Little Harbour which is an all round protected bay. We need high tide to get into the bay as the entrance is only 3.5 feet deep at low water and we are 4.6 feet. After one or two anxiety attacks we get in and take a mooring ball from Pete's Pub. Pete's family were the first settlers in the bay and actually lived in a cave in the 1950's when they first settled there. No roads or tracks of any kind - just remote living. Now they have the "pub" and an attached Gallery. Pete is actually a sculptor and works in bronze. There are examples of his work dotted about the bay including an amazing Cow Tailed Ray in bronze.
While here we change the fuel filters - no problem but while at the engine we measure the oil level - MAJOR PROBLEM - we discover water in the oil. This means we cannot use the engine until we find out the problem. Eventually after much wringing of hands we have got in touch with Tow Boat US who have a franchise in Marsh Harbour and also the Boatyard.
3rd April. Tow to Marsh Harbour
Unfortunately the boatyard cannot take us for about 10 days so we get a tow to Marsh Harbour and go into Mangoes Marina. You should try this with no engine and 30 knots of wind blowing - not fun. Julie does a great job on the wheel and we get in with no damage. We get another engineer to look at it and we are confident that it is water coming back through the exhaust elbow due to over-cranking because of poor compression. We can live with this and nursemaid the boat back to Virginia (we hope).
Eventually we get to enjoy our time in Mangoes and meet up with some really nice people who all offer much needed and welcomed advice on our problems.
10th April - 12th April. Man O' War Cay.
After flushing the engine through with new oil a couple of times we are OK to move on so head off for Man O" War Cay. Initially we were going to anchor off in a bay but cannot get the anchor into the stony bottom. We decide that it would be better to go into the protection of the harbour but this means the narrowest entrance we have ever done. It's OK though and we didn't hold our breaths for more than two or three minutes. This place turns out to be really nice and we walk all round the place and go to the beach etc. The only down side is no bar - this is a dry cay - very religious island and they follow the temperance way.
13th - 16th April. Hope Town, Elbow Cay.
Hope Town is one of the original settlements in the Bahamas. Royalists came over from the US at the time of the War of Independence and re-settled here. It is a "quaint or perhaps even Twee" little village but we enjoy the place. A good bar with ESPN2 for us to watch football (soccer for you Americans) keeps us very happy as does a rare opportunity to snorkel on some of the closer reefs on the Atlantic side of the island. This place is also famous for its Lighthouse which was built by "Trinity House" London in the mid 1800's then re-built (presumably after a hurricane) in the 1930's. You are allowed to visit this and climb the 101 stairs to the top. A great all round view from there at 120 feet high.
17th April. Marsh Harbour.
We have just come back over to Marsh Harbour to top up on groceries prior to trying our hand at heading back to the US. Although groceries are available on the smaller islands they are very restricted.
18th - 19th April. Great Guana Cay - Fishers Bay.
We have come over to Great Guana in the hope that we may get a dive in before we head off but the Atlantic seas remain too rough for the boat to go out. Our major enjoyment is to go to the Bahamas National Surfing Trials which are only a 15 minute walk away from where we are.
20th - 21st April. Treasure Cay.
When we try to leave - initially we have problems with the engine again - this time about a 50% loss of power and not able to get any RPM up. We mother things a bit and eventually get going. Things seem to sort themselves out and the engine starts OK that evening and the following day. A walk on what is by far the best beach we have seen here is the highlight of our short stay here. Our plan is to leave here in easy northerly winds which should then come round to the NE and then East. Also we have to go out into the Atlantic to bypass Whale Cay which cannot be got round inside. An early start with no problems and almost no wind to speak of. By the time we are round "The Whale" the wind has picked up to 20 knots and we are making about 3 knots through the water. Then the engine decides to play up again and we cannot get more than 2000 rpm at maximum throttle. No option but to detour into Green Turtle Cay and try and get an engineer to look at things again. Our window of opportunity for crossing back to the US is closing in and we may have to wait another week at least.
22nd - 27th April. Green Turtle Cay
We get our engineer to take a look at the problem - no compression in the centre cylinder. We are running on two out of three cylinders and can do nothing about it until we get back to the US. This means that we either have the engine out and have it re-bored and new piston rings in or we have a new engine. We think that cost wise it is probably better to have the new engine. All we have to do is get the boat to Deltaville!!!!!! Other than the boat problems we actually quite enjoy out stay here and at long last Julie gets her photograph of the elusive Bahamian Parrot.
28th April. Crab Cay
We get away from Green Turtle and resume our trek back to the US. Crab Cay is literally just an anchorage with nothing there other than a few other boats over-nighting with us.
29th - 30th April. Great Sale Cay
Great Sale Cay is about as remote as it gets. Quite a big Cay in the middle of the Little Bahama Bank and again - deserted. Just boats waiting for the next weather window to cross the Gulf Stream and back to the USA. Great safe anchorage though and very sheltered. Problems however seem to be mounting and just as we had entered the anchorage and were getting our Genoa (foresail) in a huge gust of wind made a 12 foot rip in it. Now unusable until we can get it repaired. We get the Storm Jib out which is a small replacement but means we will go slower.
1st -3rd May. At Sea
We are uncertain of our destination as we leave Great Sale but basically all destinations mean getting off the Bank at about the same spot. We will wait and see what the Stream is like. At the edge of the Bank the US Coastguard is there boarding all the US flagged yachts and checking "us foreigners" out by searchlight and small RIB. We make the decision to head for Fernandina Beach rather than Beaufort. This means two overnights rather than four. It is still a long passage for us - over 300 miles and the longest Ron has done on Gladlee - in one step. Our problems with the engine don't create any problem and we motor sail all the way at times doing 7.5 - 8 knots with the benefit of the Gulf Stream. Not sure how fast we would have been with the proper sails. Still though - more problems - our Autohelm keeps tripping and we are unable to use it which means we have to hand steer the boat right through the two nights. Who said this is all fun?????
4th - 7th May. Fernandina Beach, Florida
We get into Fernandina at about the time we expected and with no problems. The place is heaving though and we find out it is the Shrimp Festival weekend. This is when the shrimp boats get blessed by the priest which is exactly what is happening in the picture above. There is a parade of boats all dressed up for the occasion. We are lucky to get a mooring here but for once the gods are with us. During the few days here we re-wire the Autohelm so should have no further problems with that, change the oil etc. Also get to watch the semi finals of the Champions League in the Irish Bar and we quickly become the "afternoon" crowd. Crowd being four of us as we have coerced an American couple to join us from their boat. We first met them last year in the Dismal Swamp and came across them again in the Bahamas. Mark and Michelle from the Catamaran "Reach". Nice couple and now further educated into the great game of football (yes - soccer for you US types).
We have also now made our plans for getting back to Deltaville. We will not do much of the ICW but will take the outside routes. From here to Beaufort, South Carolina - pronounced Bewfort; then again outside to the Wynah River near Georgetown in South Carolina and then probably to the Cape Fear River or possibly Wrightsville. From there we will take the inside route instead of having to go round Cape Hatteras. Also there are no tides on this section of the ICW so no strong currents to get through with our reduced power.
Watch this space.
8th to 10th May (At Sea)
So here we are again with the latest update. Instead of going into Beaufort we made directly to Wynah Bay (another two nights at sea but not too bad other than very rolly) and Georgetown in South Carolina and from there took the inside route (the ICW) north. Still having major problems starting the engine in the morning though once it is started it seems to run OK for the day. We arrive at Wynah Bay at about 5.00am but as this is a major channel we are able to proceed in by following the channel markers and head right through to a creek we already know on the Waccamaw River. Anchored in Thoroughfare Creek
11th May. Waccamaw River
We decide to make a short passage today to ensure that we can make our destination tomorrow so today only 12 miles to a nice little oxbow on the Waccamaw River.
12th May. Calabash Creek, Little River, NC
Another easy-ish day made easier by what we did yesterday. We anchor in Calabash Creek which is just by the inlet of the Little River. This is the place where we are usually concerned about the depths but then find huge Casino Boats coming up the river!!!! We are however now in North Carolina and getting closer all the time.
13th May. Pipeline Canal, Southport NC
A fairly long day sees us get to Pipeline Canal near Southport. We spend two nights here due to forecasted rain - which does come.
15th May. Wrightsville
Not too bad a day although there was still some rain about in the morning, sees us arrive at Wrightsville. A quick trip ashore to Roberts Grocery Store for some essentials and an early night ready for an early start to make the first bridge.
16th May. New River, Mile Hammock Bay
A long day today so that we can get to New River and fuel up before anchoring at Mile Hammock Bay. This is one of the US Marines bases but as it is weekend there are no exercises going on.
17th May. Beaufort - eventually courtesy of TowBoat US
Real problems starting the engine this morning but eventually get it going. Starting to get a bit worried about this now. Anyway, we are heading to Morehead City today and hope to find a berth on the Sanitary Restaurant dock. DISASTER strikes us though and the engine completely dies on us about seven miles short of our destination. Luckily we have a small sail up and manage to just head out of the channel and drop the anchor. A call to TowBoatUS (again) sees us being towed to a full service marina and boatyard in Beaufort (Bowfort), North Carolina. This is the end of the journey for Gladlee for a while and we have decided that Town Creek Marina will now install a new engine. They seem very confident and we are happy with things here. We decide to drive up to Deltaville and recover the RV while the work goes on here which will be about 4-6 weeks. (and a wad of money of course)!!!