Monday, 31 December 2012

No 43 The Bahamas

Hi from Clare,                                                   Sunday 31st December 2012

Before leaving Nassau we managed to buy a new 8hp outboard for the dinghy. Andrew is very pleased and for the moment we speed everywhere with me bouncing up and down on the seat; fortunately the trip is quick. I'm sure once we know exactly what the new outboard is capable of we will slow down to a more leisurely pace. Andrew was hoping for a trade in on our 5hp outboard but as they say in the classics 'tell him he's dreaming' certainly not in Nassau. So the 5hp is now in the locker and we are hoping for a private sale before leaving the Bahamas. The buckets we removed from the locker to fit the outboard are now in the bathroom along with additional fuel drums; having a shower is becoming a balancing act!

We departed Nassau last Saturday and we have spent the week slowly making our way along the Exuma Cays. We visited Highborne Cay, Shroud Cay, Hawkesbill Cay, Cambridge Cay and Big Majors Spot at Staniel Cay. Most of these places we have been to before but it is a lovely part of the world. The weather has been terrific with clear skies, sunny days with the temperature in the high twenties. The aqua clear sea water is spectacular; we can stand on the bow and see our anchor and thirty metres of chain.

Highborne Cay Resort beach and a couple of lost tourists waiting.

The highlights have been strolling around the private island of Highborne, taking our high speed dinghy through the mangroves at Shroud Cay, sunbaking at Hawkesbill, snorkelling at Cambridge and socializing at Staniel Cay. We are currently anchored off Big Majors Spot (Staniel Cay) with many other cruisers. Andrew said "even our friend Steve is here, you all know Steve - Steven Spielberg". His $200 million mega yacht Seven Seas is about 286 ft long, 44 ft wide and has multi levels. It has a fun water slide from the top deck into the sea and a string of water toys attached to the back of the boat (ship). Today is windy so the guests are wind surfing. They have white gazebos and sun lounges erected behind the hill on a small and private island close by; way to go! Now they are all off in a sea plane that has turned up near-by.

Shroud Cay mangroves and Steven's yacht "Seven Seas"

We had a very enjoyable Christmas. We started the day with a very pleasant 27 miles sail to Staniel Cay to be with Kiwi friends Peter and Raewyn on "Saliander". I cooked an Aussie rack of lamb and roast vegies for dinner on Eye Candy and then we went over to "Saliander" for coffee and cake. There were seven of us altogether and with good company and a few laughs it was a perfect Christmas evening.
"Saliander" left the next morning for Cuba and we backtracked to Cambridge Cay for some snorkelling and solitude on lovely deserted beaches. The tropical fish and coral gardens are very pretty and the sunsets are stunning. At night it is dead quiet and very peaceful. The park ranger came by to wish us a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. He had a friend with a gun from the Royal Bahamian Defence Force, he wished us a Merry Christmas also then left - phew!

Peter and Raewyn and the the Christmas gang on "Saliander"

Cambridge Cay deserted ocean beach

We have now returned to Big Majors Spot at Staniel Cay. You may recall when here in June I took photos of the pigs that swim out to the boats for food scraps. Yesterday a group of young people got out of their dinghy to hand feed them. The biggest pig would weigh around 100 kg and back in June one of the pigs bit our friend Kortney on the butt. We were happy to stay some distance away and just watch.
Once again we snorkelled Thunder-ball Cave; this is a well publicized and popular spot. Fortunately we arrived in time to go through the cave before the crowd. There are many tropical fish that hang there away from the current and the light from the cave opening is aqua blue. Outside the cave there is beautiful soft coral growing on the walls. By the time we left the area was teaming with people and unfortunately due to all the flapping fins we could see the damage to the coral since our first visit in 2004.

We will stay here a few more days before continuing along the Exumas. We casually know quite a few people here and so there is no shortage of interest.
We wish all a happy, safe and prosperous 2013.

Love Candy xx

At 7:18 PM30/12/2012 (utc) our position was 24°11.07'N 076°27.61'W

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Friday, 21 December 2012

No 42 Berry Islands

Hi from Clare,                                          Wednesday 19th December, 2012

So we left Miami last Tuesday 11th December cutting it fine; one day before our USA Visa ran out. We had a fast beam reach sail across the Gulf Stream and arrived as planned the following morning into Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. We were last here when crewing on Pacific Dream in 2004. We asked the Islander who took our lines "so what's changed since 2004?" his reply was "nothing" and he wasn't exaggerating, e.g. the Bahamian flags that surrounded the Bar are still there but now in tatters.

The tree lighting ceremony and Innamorata looming up behind

We meet up with our English friends Carol and Steve on "Innamorata" and also the people from two yachts that came through the 23 bridges with us on the way to Fort Lauderdale. We had Carol and Steve on Eye Candy for drinks before the eight of us met up at a festive gathering in town that evening for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. There was dance music and the town folk provided dinner. Everyone was very happy and after endless official speeches the local Member proudly announced that by December the Berry Islands will have its first bank and by January its first resident Doctor - I guess we are not going to get Internet Access here!

The following day we sailed 26 miles with "Innamorata" to Fowl Cay where we took shelter from the strong Northerly winds for two days. But there was plenty of entertainment with yachts dragging due to a strong current running through the anchorage. Fortunately for us we were some distance away and tucked up nicely behind a small headland. We could see during the night when the wind dropped the other boats rolling violently and we listened to their distress calls to each other "I think we are dragging" The following morning most of them relocated; two ran aground.

At Fowl Cay we meet Pete and Raewyn on the Kiwi yacht "Saliander". We have been speaking with them on the radio net for some time. Eight of us had morning tea on their boat and Raewyn cooked fabulous date scones and also very tasty cheese scones. Pete is a keen fisherman and went out in his dinghy each day catching fish in the changing tides or collecting Conch from under his boat. He would definitely do well on the TV series Survivor.

On Saturday "Innamorata" headed for Nassau on New Providence Island. We decided to sail 43 miles to the west end of the island. We spent the next two days relaxing, enjoying wonderful sunsets and of course doing some boat chores. The waterfront homes in this bay are part of a gated community and most of the beach is private. There is a public section at the end of the bay where we went for a walk. We met a chap sitting on the beach watching his children at play. As soon as he spoke we established that he was an Aussie with comments like "where are you going?, ah there's nothing here mate." We were a bit amused but the purpose of this story is to highlight the difference between the hospitality of the American people as opposed to the Australian way. You may recall that in previous newsletters we have raved about the generosity of the American people who have offered us the use of their car or driven us around for endless shopping. Well our little Aussie on the beach said "there's a pretty good shop over there if you need food, but it's a bit of a hike though." (so where is the offer of a lift?). We thanked him for the information and we were glad we didn't need any food.

Bahamian Sunset and our anchorage in Nassau

We sailed 13 miles along the island and into the Nassau on Monday. We met up with "Innamorata" again who had organized us a mooring ball as they have long standing friends who live here. We had dinner on Innamorata last night and met their friends and tonight we are having drinks with both "Innamorata" and "Saliander".
Since arriving we have managed to obtain some internet access on the boat. Believe me it wasn't easy, it took two days, three trip to BTC (Bahamian Telecom) and four hours of sitting in front of a Customer Service Rep who clearly, for whatever reason, was having great difficulty processing our request for a sim card. One Rep was wrapping her Christmas presents while she "worked". The following day the same Rep spent two hours with one customer. Andrew told me later that they were talking about the customer's marriage break down. The three Reps kept disappearing out the back for prolonged periods of time and the cashier was engrossed in a private phone call. At one stage Andrew asked the customers "Is it always this bad?" and they just nodded. Anyhow eventually we got some internet access. However it is very slow and Skype is out of the question. So whilst we are in the Bahamas we will be relying on WiFi connection which I guess will be hard to find.

Today Andrew has been researching buying a new outboard for the dinghy. He has been up to the Mercury dealer twice asking questions and has come back very despondent. He said "they are not the slightest bit interested in selling anything." At one stage he was locked in the sales office alone and just left. If it wasn't so frustrating it would be funny! He will try again tomorrow when he has the energy to do battle.

We will stay in Nassau for the next few days waiting on the right weather to travel south down the Exuma chain. There is a bit of a blow coming and so we will wait for that to pass so we can travel slowly and stop off in all the lovely spots along the way.

Love Candy xx

At 1:00 PM17/12/2012 (utc) our position was 25°01.48'N 077°32.94'W

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Monday, 10 December 2012

No 41 Fort Lauderdale

Hi from Clare,                                  Sunday 9th December 2012

So now we are ready to leave America. Like most of our cruising buddies we are looking forward to spending less money. Just about every cruiser we sailed the Atlantic with has postponed boat repairs until reaching America. The advantage is that we speak the same language and customer service and product quality is assured. So for Eye Candy, new sails, boom bag, dinghy, life lines, anchor chain, clears in the dodger, canvas repairs, toilet seats and of course our own wine label - see photo.

Our very own Label and the Ft. Lauderdale Ocean Cruising Club gang we had lunch with
Karyn, Steve and Clare are together in the back

We have spent the last week in Fort Lauderdale with American friends Karen and Steve who ran us around shopping for boat bits and supplies. By using their membership card we shopped at the discount store Costco which is the most amazing shop. They sell to hotels and restaurant and so the quality of meat, fish and fresh produce is excellent. The only trap is bulk sales, pity we don't have a freezer. However we happily bought bulk canned products. I spent $850 there and at least that much again in the supermarkets for items I didn't want in bulk. Then the fun began, I managed to find places for everything except a slab (36 cans) of Coke Zero. It is sitting under the kitchen table and for the moment it's making a nice foot rest. I updated my inventory list on the Ipad - if it crashes I will be at a total loss as I have things crammed in every available space.

The entertainment in our anchorage at Lake Sylvia, Ft Lauderdale

Why bother you might ask? Well supplies in the Bahamas are scarce. Many islands have no or very little shopping. There are good supermarkets in Nassau and George Town in the Bahamas and at Marsh Harbour in the Abacos however these destinations are far apart. What I have read about Cuba and heard from the cruising community is food shopping is limited and very expensive for the tourist; often four times the normal price. Some items like toilet paper you just can't buy. Anyhow we are now prepared and I understand the expression "shop till you drop."

Although we worked hard, life was made easy thanks to Steve and Karen's hospitality and generosity. We popped in and out of their home nearly every day for hair washing or clothes washing, trips to ship chandlers, hardware stores and speciality shops. We had dinner on Eye Candy one night so they could enjoy bobbing about on the water while their yacht 'Threshold' awaits them in Turkey. However, we spent many more enjoyable hours chatting over a coffee or a cold drink on their balcony. We were so welcome in their home it was actually sad to depart and leave the friendship behind. Thinking about it now, we have so much food on the boat we could have brought them with us :.

So we are now in Miami. Last time we were here in 2004 I was robbed so we are being doubly cautious. Yesterday we walked through the local mall and down to the beach. Miami is a happening place and the shops stretch for miles; I can't believe how many shops. The thing that struck me was the amount of shops selling the same products. If two thirds of the shops disappeared, the selection would not be reduced e.g. there are a multiples of sunglasses shops, camera shops, electronics shops etc and I saw three Starbucks Coffee shops in the same street. People are buying and the restaurants are busy. I looked at what people were eating and the food was expensive and very ordinary. The wine was flowing freely, the three Starbucks were packed and the ice cream parlours were doing a roaring trade. One woman who walked passed us was on the phone saying "the outfit cost $2,500 so I ordered it." When considering the news reports about how much debt the country has, the whole scene is frightening.

Miami beach scene

We are now enjoying gorgeous weather. Lovely sunny days in the high twenties and warm nights sleeping under one light blanket with the hatches open and plenty of air flowing through the boat. We are back in shorts and T-shirts and the water temperature is 24 degrees. The sea water is clean and Andrew has started up the Water-maker. There was a slight leak and a drop in output so Andrew spent a few hours yesterday crunched up in small inaccessible places to remove the Clark pump and replace four O-rings. I think he thought the job was a lot easier eight years ago when he first installed the Water-maker.

I think we will be leaving tomorrow afternoon for the Bahamas. We have to go 40 miles east across the Gulf Stream with the current traveling north. We will do an overnight passage and basically land in the Bahamas wherever the current takes us. Our plan is to make landfall at Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, so we will see how we go. There are many other cruisers anchored in the Miami area all waiting for that elusive window to make the crossing so we won't be alone out there.

Love Candy xx

At 11:53 PM8/12/2012 (utc) our position was 25°47.23'N 080°08.80'W

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

No 40 Thanksgiving

Hi from Clare,                                Monday, 3rd December 2012

We experienced our first Thanksgiving lunch with the cruising community at Vero Beach Florida. The food was plentiful and delicious and as one lady commented when viewing our combined efforts, "It's a pity we can't cook?" We ate out on the verandah in lovely sunshine enjoying good company and music provided by a two piece jazz band. Eye Candy won two door prizes, Andrew won a $20 gift voucher from the fresh fish market and I won a Harmonica. Our American friend Prue on "Exuberant" found it quite amusing that I would go to a Thanksgiving lunch and come away with a Harmonica. She is expecting a recital when next we meet. So we went to the music shop the following day and bought a beginners book. So far I can play a few basic tunes and there's a chance I will drive Andrew crazy. Oh well, I figure it's payback time for the constant racket of the ship's radio.

The Thanksgiving Feast

The prize winners and Breakfast with Prue and Burt
Vero Beach has been nicked named Velcro Beach as it is very hard to pull yourself away. The marina people are very friendly, the facilities are excellent. The anchorage is calm and a free bus runs hourly into town for shopping. It's a very comfortable existence and it would be very easy to stay.

We took our dinghy up the river with Prue and Bert and experienced an American breakfast in a quaint sea side restaurant. Blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, French raisin toast and bacon and eggs isn't something I could eat every morning, but it was a fun outing.
We tore ourselves away from Vero Beach mid afternoon Friday and traveled 20 miles along the ICW to West Palm Beach. From here we could either go outside and sail down the coast to Fort Lauderdale or we could take a shorter route and motor to Fort Lauderdale via the ICW. After two nights of waiting in vain for the strong wind to drop we decided to take the ICW route. This meant negotiating 23 low bridge openings along the forty miles to travel. The bridge openings are either on the hour and half hour, or on the quarter hour and three quarter hour. So as you can imagine we couldn't afford to miss too many openings or we would not make the distance.

 In the early hours of Sunday morning four boats including Eye Candy left the West Palm Beach anchorage for the first bridge. It didn't take long before we realized there wasn't a mathamatician amongst the other boats and so Andrew took the lead calculating the distance and speed required to catch the next opening. After a few bridges the others would call Andrew on the radio asking "Do you think we can catch the next bridge, what speed do we have to do?" We decided to let a couple of openings go as the speed required was 7.2 knots and we had some smaller boats with us. So we would sit at a bridge for 25 minutes waiting; time to relax and enjoy a bite to eat and a coffee.

We arrived into Fort Lauderdale around dark. We are anchored in Lake Sylvia which is a man made bay about the size of a football field and surrounded by up market waterfront homes. There are several canals running off from this lake where there are more beautiful homes with expensive power boats parked alongside. Our friends Steve and Karen on 'Threshold" live close by in one such canal. We first met Steve and Karen in Sardinia, and they are home at present having left "Threshold" in Turkey for the winter.
Steve and Karen have been wonderful making their home available to us, running us all over town for supplies and provisioning in preparation for our trip to the Bahamas and Cuba. Today is the first time I have had some spare time to write this newsletter. I still have provisions to store but Andrew and Steve have gone off hunting for some tools, so I have seized the moment.
We have also been very busy socializing. We had dinner at Steve and Karen's home the other night and met up with Ron and Sue on "Gemini". We have been in contact with "Gemini"via the radio in Europe but never actually met. So when they arrived for dinner Sue put her hand up to her mouth as if holding a microphone and said "Eye Candy, Eye Candy this is Gemini, Gemini" it was just like old times, she sounded exactly the same.
The following day Karen organised lunch at a local restaurant so we could meet a dozen of their cruising friends. They were all long time cruisers, some had circumnavigated the world and others had done it twice. We talked cruising non stop until we were the only ones left in the restaurant. Fortunately Steve and Karen are well known there and so the staff just left us alone and worked around us cleaning up. We all agreed cruising is terrific and there is no need to stop.

Yesterday we walked to a park along the waterfront where local families gather in great numbers for a picnic lunch and a free jazz concert. It was a lovely sunny day and the place was packed. Steve commented that after twelve years of living locally but cruising extensively he comes to local events like this and doesn't know a soul. But we had only been there for fifteen minutes and he ran into someone he used to work with when he was a pilot, so that blew that theory. But not to be out done, we even ran into someone we knew; a fellow cruiser of course but nevertheless , we knew them.

I think we will be here for another week. We are waiting for the wind to drop so we can cross the Gulfstream and head for the Bahamas. At present the forecast is suggesting that our first opportunity is around the 11th. Still if we are caught here in a holding pattern, this is a pretty good place.

Love Candy xx

At 6:54 PM3/12/2012 (utc) our position was 26°06.30'N 080°06.67'W

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