Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas in Bimini!

Happy New Year to all of our blog followers!!  Yes, we made it to Bimini on 12/24 with Erik and his friend Austin to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, aqua blue waters and warm sun of the Bahamas.  But it was a very rough ride for me!  So we had several easy days cruising our way to Ft. Lauderdale and then spent some time buying even more food and supplies for a fun Christmas week.  The wind refused to die down and in fact increased slightly as we tried to find a weather window so the boys would have a full week in the Bahamas.  So after looking at the buoy and wind reports we decided it would be doable, just not great to leave early Saturday morning.  The guys arrived on Friday and were psyched they could travel over with us.  So before the sun was up we departed with good thoughts.  But I made two huge mistakes.  I assumed I could tolerate 3-5 foot waves with the guys taking care of everything on the boat because we had easterly winds and would take the waves on our bow.  NOT!!  The Gulf Stream makes a mess of the waves so they came in all directions and were unpredictable and of course higher at times than predicted.
Second mistake was to have everything ready to throw Mexican casserole together in the crock pot so we would have dinner cooking during the crossing.  Only I took too long to get it together and half way through we hit the inlet out to the Atlantic and "all hell broke loose" with crazy waves.  So I had to suddenly abandon the galley to keep from getting sick and left an open salsa jar, dishes of chicken and onions all carefully cut the night before and perched myself at the salon door, thinking I could get back to the galley as soon as we passed through the inlet.  But no, I never left my perch the entire trip (7+ hours) and sadly listened to stuff crash all over the galley!  What a mess when we landed at Brown's Marina in North Bimini!  Oh well, here are the pictures to document our adventure this week.
Heading out the New River in Ft. Lauderdale to reach the inlet to the Atlantic.

Our path up to the beach side of Bimini, lots of small pastel colored building which are homes and businesses.  

Sunset Christmas Eve, always peaceful!

The Speyer family at the beach on Christmas for our first Bahamian swim. Not a wave in the ocean! 

Erik and Austin happy to be on vacation!

Joe's Conch Shack where the guys enjoyed  freshly made conch salad, not for me!

Sapona dive and snorkel sight that the guys enjoyed as a stop over on our way to anchor out for a few days.  Erik's head is the tiny dot in the middle of the picture.  

Austin looks happy to have a fun place to explore! 

And look who has the helm!  Calm waters that day as we went south to Gun and Cat Cay.

This is a working light house on the south side of the uninhabited Gun Cay. 

While on anchor, Austin got busy with fishing and caught a few unidentifiable fish to grill up for lunch.  The fresh fish was rather tastey but that skinny one got thrown over board with a foul taste! 

We found decent sized conch as we walked around shallow water at the Gun Cay beach so the boys experimented with opening the shell to extract the fresh meat.

The trick is to whack off the top point of the shell and scrape the conch out in one neat twist of the knife. 

Looking down the shell, the conch awaits its demise. 

Conch out and ready to be diced up for some chewy but tastey snacking. Only the white part is eaten. 

The beach we took the dingy to had lovely warm shallow water at its edge and was full of sting rays that float by.  They were curious and came up to us to check out our feet.  Later we saw kids feeding squid to them so likely these sting rays were used to being fed so actually were coming to us to beg for food.  

On the way back from the beach to the peacefully anchored InSpeyered 2.  Later that day, Thursday, we learned that the winds were changing and strong northerly winds were on their way.  So we up anchored and headed back into the marina earlier than we had planned.  Right now we are snugly tied  up for the New Year's weekend.  Tonight we will go to a special festival for New Year's Eve.  Fun times to end the vacation for our special boys!  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Getting Closer to the Bahamas

On Thursday 12/15 (my sister's Birthday!) we pulled into Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach.  We arrived middle afternoon so had plenty of time to take our walk and check out the area.  It turns out this is a very nice marina and is convenient to places to shop and to rent a car.  So Friday we got our car and headed to Miami for Al's one week follow up eye appointment.  Driving to Miami is horrible because the closer you get, the more cars there are and the highway loses lanes, becoming more narrow and traffic stops!!  Unlucky for me, I did the driving because Al, with one good eye, wasn't supposed to drive and he didn't need to stress his vision before the check up.  The wait for the doctor was long because she is so thorough and is always behind.  But it was worth the wait.  All good news at this visit.  Al's vision is much better than just one week ago and beyond the expectations!!  The gas bubble is dissipating fast which also helps with his vision.  The doctor only said very positive things and reduced the drops we have to remember to put in his eye.  So we left feeling elated and knowing we can really go to the Bahamas!
See how happy we are?  We had a great dinner with Mo, my college roommate and her husband, Harry to celebrate the good eye news.  The rest of the weekend we spent shopping for new stuff for the boat as our Christmas.  We bought real exciting stuff like bed pillows, towels and a fry pan.  Doesn't get much better than that!  We also found a wonderful Italian market and went crazy buying up treats to take on our trip.  So we are stocked and psyched!  Erik flies down on Friday and his good friend Austin is our special guest for the Christmas week.  Right now it looks like the best day to cross with the right winds and low wave levels is Friday so we will have to go without the boys and they will have to fly over to join us.  But weather changes and we are hoping to wait until Saturday. 
So today is Monday and we went a whopping 11 miles but it took way too long because of bridge openings and our poor planning.  The only excitement was seeing Coast Guard gun boats patrolling an area just before our last bridge for today.  Al put the throttle into high gear to get to the bridge for a scheduled opening and then suddenly we see the gun boats and one circled around and followed us closely for several heart stopping minutes.  Then it pealed off and we proceeded slowly to the bridge (just making the opening time).  Turns out, we were in the Trump property area and since they are present for the holidays, the security is high all over.  (It would have helped to know about the high alert area and not be scared of our imminent arrest!!)
It is a beautiful and quiet night.  This is the view off the stern in the direction of where Mr. Trump is spending some time.  Off behind the Mangrove trees is his palatial Florida home.  We didn't see it from the ICW but we also didn't know to look for it!

And looking West is another beautiful sunset.
Tomorrow we continue the slow journey to Ft. Lauderdale.  There are 14 more bridges between here and Ft. Lauderdale, a distance of 40 miles and lots of "slow, no wake" zones.  So we will only cover 20ish miles over each of the next 2 days.  At that point, we wait patiently for our weather window to open the way to Bimini and Christmas! Next blog will be of the crossing and landing in Bimini.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looper Magic Prevails!!

Having a lead buddy boat, namely Short Vacation lowered the stress of traveling south so we are now only 50 miles from North Palm Beach. We will travel that distance tomorrow (Thurdsay) and that means a bit over an hour drive to Miami for the eye recheck on Friday.  We had an easy 12 miles of travel from Pine Island Anchorage to arrive at the lovely city of St. Augustine this past Saturday.  Not to complain to those of you in very cold environments, we had 2 chilly days of travel so were forced to don some winter type clothing.
It was blustery as we tied our boats to mooring balls.  This is the stern of Short Vacation as she points toward Castillo de San Marcos the oldest masonry fort in the US.

The tall building in the middle is the ornate Flagler College.

In town we walked the streets and found a great place to have a late lunch.  We passed "Al's Pizza" restarant which seemed so appropriate since that is one of Al's favorite food groups!  But we chose a place called Columbia instead.

The wind kept the chop up in the Mantanzas River with Short Vacation positioned in front of InSpeyered 2. When we got to shore via water taxi, we learned that more looper magic was bestowed upon us because not only was St. Augustine dressed up in lots of lights and Christmas decor, it also just happened to be the day of a Spanish festival and later the Christmas boat parade. 

We enjoyed listening to music as thes flamingo dancers entertained the crowd. We also enjoyed some free ice cream treats as we watched.  And just as the sun was setting, we made it back to our boats and prepared to watch the parade that circled around us at least 3 times so we enjoyed the perfect place to view the spectacle.

You can see that St. Augustine spares no expense in lighting up its waterfront shops, hotels and restaurants.  The view put us in the festive mood for Christmas! 

Amazingly the wind died down in the night and we had a pleasant night of peaceful sleep! Sunday was a calm day of travel with little wind and much warmer temperatures so the shorts came back out of the drawer! We headed to Daytona and stayed at the Halifax Marina where Al and I had another treat given to us by Short Vacation.  They had a certificate they bought in a silent auction at a boater function that covered all expenses for 2 nights at Halifax and they shared the second night with us.  So we stayed for a much lower cost, splitting what they paid for the certificate.  The looper magic goes on!  But funny thing as we approached Daytona.  I misjudged the timing and got into doing boat chores like cleaning toilets, and suddenly Al is calling me from the bridge on the intercom letting me know he had the boat lined up with our slip and I was not getting the lines and fenders ready!  That is a first for me to not be prepared for a dockage and I promise it won't happen again!! 
Monday we again traveled following our lead buddy boat and split off as we chose to anchor 10 miles sooner near Titusville.  
We had this Titusville anchorage all to ourselves for a very calm and warm night. 

The moon rise was as spectacular as the sunset. It doesn't get any better than this!

This was taken last night from the pier we tied to in Micco, Fl at Sabastian River Marina which takes me to the last part of the looper magic story.  We have had a problem with the generator for the past several nights.  It seemed to have a fresh water leak in the cooling system because it would run and then suddenly shut off.  A BIG problem when planning a trip to the Bahamas to anchor in beautiful places. Last night we were close to an anchorage chosen because it seemed we could take the dingy to shore to get a walk in when I called the nearby marina, Sabastian River Marina to ask if we could bring our dingy in to tie up.  Well, after having a jovial conversation with a very generous and friendly guy, it turns out, he has been a Grand Banks dealer and must have a special spot in his heart for Grand Banks owners.  So rather than allowing us to bring in the dingy he offered a "gratuitous" slip in the marina!!  And the marina is a full service boat yard so we not only got to stay in a marina for free but the generator was fixed this morning and we took our walk both last evening and again this morning without dropping the dingy into the water.  For us that is a "hat trick" or 3 wishes met at once!!  So now we have our boat working well again and are only 50 miles from our destination.  Life is sooo good for us, hope all our readers are also finding happy times.  Thanks for following our adventure!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy, happy to be Traveling again!

Yup, Captain Al is back on the bridge with the helm under his control!!  We are both so happy to be back on the boat and moving south!  We managed to march through too many medical appointments and too much cleaning of the "dirt house" in Hendersonville.  We enjoyed seeing friends and enjoyed our lake view.  We also had a great week with Erik and a peaceful Thanksgiving.  Then it was time for Al to fly from Nashville to Miami for his preop check up for the surgery to remove the oil bubble in his eye.  He "passed go" and surgery was set for December 6th.  I flew to Jacksonville on Friday December 2 so we met up once again on the boat that Friday.  Much to our chagrin, the work scheduled on transome teak wood at Lambs Yacht Center never got done but the marina helped us with a rebate on part of the cost of our slip there and then today, surprised us with really nice jackets for colder weather with their logo, (some of the wearables that they sell in their marine store).  So we left feeling much less upset with their lack of service.  
But the best part of the story is more Looper Magic.  Al has very little vision in his left eye, so we planned to leave and do short days of travel with the first mate at the helm more often to give the captain time to rest and heal.  Then yesterday we got a call from old friends on Short Vacation who had some engine problems and came up to Jacksonville for professional help.  The magic happened when they called to see if we were still in Jacksonville and ready to leave.  Yes to both questions and today we had a very easy day of "follow the leader" with Short Vacation being the lead boat.  We moved about 50 miles, 25 on the St. John's River and 25 going south on the ICW, with very little effort or stress and are happily on anchor next to Pine Island.  Tomorrow we will have a fun Christmas experience in St. Augustine with lights, a boat parade and a beautiful city to explore with friends.  This is a great start to moving south despite Al having limited vision in his left eye.  But as a follow up to his surgery, his surgeon was very happy with the outcome of removing the oil bubble and some scar tissue and putting in a naturally dissipating gas bubble.   All is well so far and Al is on the last lap of the retina detachment surgery.  Now on to heading to a warmer environment, an eye recheck on 12/16 and then meeting up with Erik in the Bahamas for Christmas!