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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bahamas Nassau 25 February 2010

Wandered around Nassau with its houses neatly painted in pastel shades - with a distinct preference for pink. The tourist trade seems to be doing well despite the economic downturn with a daily influx of cruise ships - we have seen up to 4 ships docked at the same time. The town is very much oriented to this trade with many shops selling the usual momentoes and duty free clothes, watches, electronics, booze etc.

Yesterday was another rainy day but we braved the weather to walk over the bridge to Paradise Island and visit the Atlantis Hotel complex. The whole complex is imaginatively designed with its own pastel coloured shopping area, Mega-Yacht Marina and the hotel itself where one can freely roam through the foyers and casino - the latter having an enormous collection of one armed bandits, Black Jack and Craps tables - with lots of people using them. One of the most interesting features is the sunken foyer which is surrounded on 3 sides by an aquarium with floor to ceiling glass panels filled with many tropical fish of all sizes all swimming through the recreated sunken ruins of the fabled Atlantis. For a fee one can snorkel through the aquarium.

Very fortunately for Dutch Link and crew, Jeannette was awoken by the increase and change in in wind direction at 0430hrs this morning - to find that we were dragging at quite a speed toward the Island Supply Boat dock. We were up in time to fend off another anchored sail boat that we dragged past and to start the engine and raise anchor before disaster struck. Many other boats were experiencing the same problem so it was getting quite hectic circling around in the dark in a NWerly gusting over 30 knots. We took the easy way out and docked at the partly free fuel dock. Unfortunately we were later asked to move on as the dock was used by quite large commercial boats and we were preventing them from docking. So with the help of several fellow yachties we managed to extricate ourselves from the dock to which we were pinned by the strong onshore wind and reanchored at 1000hrs. Luckily the anchor seems to be well dug - however, it was dug in before with our usual 2500 rpm in reverse and we still dragged when the southerly wind changed to a strong NWerly. People say the bottom here is foul with all sorts of rubbish - old car parts, shopping trolleys etc so it would be possible to snare something and then unsnare when the wind changes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sail Bahamas Bimini to Nassau, New Providence Island 22 Feb 2010

20 Feb Had a leasurely stroll around the southern tip of North Bimini.

Encountered huge numbers of stranded Portuguese Men of War jellyfish on the coral sand beach - like small balloons.

Further along a wreck was rusting away hard against the coral - reminder of what can happen.

Alice town looks as though the downturn in the economy has hit it quite badly with many of the buildings either in ruins or in need of repair. The marina where we moored is almost empty - however this is low season for them and we understand from chatting to a local man that they are quite resilient to the economic whims - and there more than enough food in the ocean for them to survive.

Left Bimini at 0900hrs in the company of S/V Just Imagine and S/V Vespera and headed north for North Rock. There we turned to the right and headed eastwards over the Great Bahama Banks, a most amazing feature. The Banks are a huge coral sand plateau with water depths averaging around 5 meters stretching in the north from Bimini 100 miles eastwards to the Berry Islands and over 200 miles southwards.

It feels somewhat unreal traveling such long distances in such shallow but exposed water which is so clear you can see the bottom not far below you. We had almost perfect weather - 10 kts wind and blue skies surrounded by calm turquoise water - what made it not quite perfect was that the wind was on the nose so motoring. The sunset was amazing. By 2000hrs we had covered the 60 miles from North Rock to the NW shoals, a few miles west of deep water.

There we dropped anchor in the dark some 1 1/2 miles north of the track most boats take and a bit sheltered from any easterly swells by the shoals (anchor position 25deg 31.49N 078deg 13.98W), in the middle of nowhere with no land in sight - a surreal experience - under a starry sky. Soon after we anchored, S/V Just Imagine and S/V Vespera anchored close by - very comforting to have some company in such an exposed place. After an almost motionless night we raised the anchor at dawn (0600hrs) and motor sailed into the sunrise. Had originally planned to sail to Chub Cay but did not like the look of the anchorages there bearing in mind the squally weather forecast for the coming days .

So we changed course for Nassau where we anchored at 1630 hrs on Sun 21 Feb. (anchor position 25deg 04.725N 077deg 19.688W) with the famous Atlantis Hotel in the background. Took 4 attempts to find a place to anchor - first 3 attempts were in an area with thin sand and rocks. Plan to stay here until our son Richard arrives on 1st March.

Have not been ashore yet - rained all day yesterday 22 Feb. Forecast is for rain to stop later this morning 23 Feb.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sail Miami to Alice Town, Bimini, Bahamas 19 Feb 2010

Yes, we finally crossed the Gulf Stream and are now in the Brown's Marina in Bimini. Checked conditions at the critical Fowey Rocks at 0330 hrs only to find that wind gusting to 18 kts - too much for the crossing. Checked again at 0530hrs and wind had lessened enough so by 0630 hrs, anchor up and motored out of Miami . Initially we had 2 to 3 meter swells in the Gulf Stream but this quickly reduced to just a few feet. Unfortunately this also meant that we only had 1 1/2 hours of sailing before the motor had to be started again. 8 miles off, to our surprise we could see welcome sight of the very low lying island of Bimini. All in all an uneventful pleasant passage. On negotiating the shallow poorly marked entrance channel to Alice Town on Bimini, we were thankful we had turned back on Tuesday as it would be very dangerous in a strong onshore wind. Forecast is for another depression on Monday and Thursday - we are thinking of traversing the Great Bahama Bank tomorrow to Chub Cay - possibly anchoring overnight somewhere on the Banks as the distance is just too great to do during one day - we check the weather againg tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sail aborted Miami Beach to Bahamas 16 Feb 2010

Left the anchorage at 03.20 hrs this morning. To start with very little wind but as we got further offshore the wind steadily increased from the NW. By the time we were on the edge of the Gulf Stream, 12 miles offshore with the sea water temperature having risen from 21 to 25 celcius, the wind rose to 25 knots gusting 30 with several rain squalls - could have been the North Sea. Decided to chicken out as general wisdom is not to cross the Gulf Stream in northerly winds above 15kts. Also negotiating the shallow Bimini entrance channel with a hard onshore wind was not something we looked forward to. So with 2 reefs in main and a small amount of Genny, we changed course and headed back to Miami hard on the wind with the foredeck getting a regular ducking - good test for the water tightness of the anchor windless repair (it passed the test) . By 1045hrs we were back at our anchorage south of Belle Ilse close to Miami Beach. Next weather window is Friday.

Motor Miami River to Miami Beach 15 Feb 2010

The crankshaft pulley arrived from Annapolis as planned (thanks to Dick Vosbury and Lee who took it through the snow to UPS) and the Engine is once more in working order. Left the Marina at 15.30 just in front of a cargo ship being towed backwards to the sea - one tug ahead , one tug behind. The advantage of this for us was that all the bridges open like clockwork without us having to call up. We are now anchored in same place as before close to Miami Beach and Belle Isle. Jeannette immediately dinghied in to Publix supermarket to stock up while Mike converted the workboat back to a sailing boat. Plan is to raise anchor at 0300 hrs Tuesday morning for the 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream to Bimini in the Bahamas - hopefully we should be there by early afternoon if all goes well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Miami River 14 Feb 2010

On Friday spirits were lifted somewhat by a call to a very good helpful family Volvo Penta engine repair company we had used previously in Annapolis (Vosbury). Dick Vosbury immediately remembered that they had the right pulley on an in stock engine and was willing to remove it and send it asap to Miami - so we keep our fingers crossed that it can get through the snow around Annapolis and arrive here late morning tomorrow (Monday).
Yesterday we had a good day at the Miami Boat show - the largest in the USA - which is spread out over 3 locations in the city.
Today did a few chores including changing the gearbox oil in our 2 Yamaha outboard engines.
What will tomorrow bring??

Friday, February 12, 2010

Miami River 11 Feb 2010

Unfortunately, we are back up the Miami River at another boat yard, this time Austral International, next to MYEW with our engine in bits. On checking the engine a couple of days ago found the V belt slacker than normal and some play in the coolant pump pulley .
Decided that, as we have had a slight coolant leak for some time that it would be prudent to change the coolant pump ( and the timing belt as this has to be removed anyway to get to the pump). Mechanic was on board today - unfortunately, he damaged the crankshaft pulley when trying to remove it - last info on delivery time for new pulley is 7 to 10 days. We will try to improve on this but it looks like we have missed the good looking weather window for the passage to the Bahamas that is forecast for early next week.

As our visa expires in a couple of days time, we have applied for an extension via an organisation called Immigration Express which was advised to us by the Miami Customs and Border protection Agency in Miami Port. Cost of the service - Four hundred dollars.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Miami Beach 8 February 2010

Another walk along Miami Beach rewarded by closeups of Royal Terns,

Black Ringed Gulls,


and more Black Skimmers. Now understand the description -"knifelike red bills".

The temperature was cooler today and the Sanderlings where sheltering from the wind in the shallow imprints of footsteps in the sand.

Along Ocean Drive, things have calmed down since the Super Bowl and all the stands and stages were being dismantled. One monster vehicle stood out .

Monday, February 8, 2010

Miami beach 7 February 2010

The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami 31 to 17. Judging by the revelry in Ocean Drive this afternoon, there will be a lot of sore heads tomorrow.

Had a stroll along the beach and encountered flocks of Black Skimmers - these seems to be a different variety to those in the bird book as they have white all round the neck.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Miami Beach 6 February 2010

5th Feb had another stroll along Ocean Drive - the hype for the coming Sunday's Super Bowl is increasing - all sorts of tents along the beach with several pop concerts and the media is out in force giving live interviews and chat shows for all to see.

6 February the wind picked up to 25 kts from the W /WWN as a front moved over keeping us on the boat to keep watch as we swung towards the shore. Up North several states were having a tough time with big snowfalls in Washington DC causing transport mayhem including flight cancellations.

Spent the day using newly constructed press to rebuild generator water pump - first time Mike has been able to replace the mechanical water seal without damaging it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miami Beach 3 February 2010

Continued to sort out boat then took the 25 cent South Beach Local bus to the southern end of Miami Beach and walked back along the Beach.

Preparations are in full swing for the Super Bowl festivities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Miami Beach 2 February 2010

31 January had a stroll round the Art Deco part of Miami Beach which is straddled by Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive. On the beach they were constructing various side shows for the big upcoming event - the Super Bowl .
1st February was a washout - torrential rain most of the day - so did not leave the boat. Studied the Bahama charts but decided not to use the 2 day weather window to make the crossing - looks like we may now have to wait till next week. After many months of motoring in flat water , the boat needs a lot of rearranging to convert back to a sailing boat - so that is the plan for the coming days.