Mar 292022

As we decide our journey without the joy of friends and family we have decided it would be a good idea to take a month in The Bahamas. The main reason is that 180 days for staying out of the IRS system and having to pay taxes in the USA. 30 days in The Bahamas will keep us under that amount. So we are now planning that journey.

We do take some personal time and head to Crane Hammock. This is the Central Park of Marathon. There you can trek through the groomed paths for about a mile while enjoying nature and learning about the trees, history and get back to nature. The Hammock was first owned by a group of families from The Bahamas back in the 1800’s. There they made a small village of 6 homes where only one stands today. It is made of shells and limestone. It is the oldest home outside of Key West in the Keys. Here the families fished and brought their goods to Key West to sell. Then in the 1900’s the Crane Family purchased the lands with the intent of keeping it as virgin as possible. There home still stands on the edge of the Gulf in its mid century statue. While there we take on a fish pedicure. It is weird at first but then the experience is quite nice. Our feet are better than any paid pedicure I’ve had.

Provisioning for a month journey takes some planning. Food is brought into the islands by provisioning barges which makes food very expensive. A tube of toothpaste is $8.00, coke is over $20 for a 12 pack, beer and wine and meats are exorbidant too. So we are gathering up as much as we can to pack into the fridge and freezer and making sure all systems on our ship are a go.

There will be no air conditioning on this journey unless we stay in the odd marina. The islands are mostly on anchor staying out of weather and winds and navigating sands and coral heads.

Scott buys a new anchor. The one we had was a day trip anchor and not trusted in any winds of value. He had no problem changing it out by using Otter, the tender, to drop the old anchor and connect and raise the new one. We have a nice anchor for sale if anyone needs a new one. A screen door is picked up for the noseeums, food is bought, covid tests done, custom forms filled out, plotting the route complete, oil, engine, generator checks done, and travel with 5 other boats confirmed. We will be staying in a marina in South Bimini as this area has little spots for getting the lay of the land before we head into the other islands. The plan so far is Bimini, The Berry Islands, Providence Island and checking out Nassau, then up to the north in The Abaco Islands, then back to the USA to start north to head for home.

Wish us luck as we travel onto new horizons, beautiful blue waters and the amazing Bahamas.

Mar 202022

With a couple days between Heather and Joe leaving and Tracey and Brian coming we wash the boat, tidy the interior and finish off some quick jobs that we had left because, well, we were having way too much fun. Miss you two already.

Tracey and Brian were held up by a storm passing through the US so by the time they arrived it was after dark. They missed all the scenery on the drive on the way south. A long day behind them we all get settled and get to sleep for the next day.

Waiting out some winds we take in the pool for a couple days with some of Brian’s homemade mojitos and margueritas. Being the great chefs they are they find fresh fish at the fishery and cook us up some amazing tuna. We are well taken care of in the chef department while they are aboard. We also head to Key West and rent bicycles for the day. We are able to see all of the big tourist spots. In Mallory Square, where folks come in to enjoy the nightly sunset, we stop at a bar and order Key West beer and mojitos. Very potent mojitos. We didn’t stay for the sunset as we really wanted to see more of the city before the daylight was gone. Heading into the Duval Street area we hop off the bikes and walk the street grabbing an ice cream and meandering the shops. It is a bit more busy than last week with Heather and Joe but I’m sure covid has still kept folks away. The roosters and chickens are everywhere including in the outdoor restaurants and bars and stopping traffic while they decide whether to cross the street. The cruise ship area is empty of ships and passengers. President Truman’s home and the southern Whitehouse, as it is called, has many visitors along with Hemingway’s home entertaining the tourists. As our day comes to an end we stop in for happy hour and $5.00 margueritas and enjoy the last of the day. Then the trek home and see all the turquoise waters again.

We did head out to Sombrero Reef when the winds calmed. We stayed there all day snorkeling and enjoying the day. It is always a good roll with the waves out here but we decide to stop and stay the night in an anchorage as the winds calm near shore. We are entertained by a dolphin show. The young ones were jumping and swimming by our boat with mom and the tiny ones watching us as they fed by the boat. The show was spectacular. While Tracey and Brian were here at least one of us caught sight of a stingray jumping out of the sea, manatees, dolphins, sharks, a green turtle, rainbow parrot fish and many others while snorkeling. Even a goliath grouper was seen while snorkeling.

Scott and Brian got out the hookah snuba system (a combination of scuba and snorkeling) to clean the underside of the boat. It took about 1.5 hours with both of them scrubbing off the barnacles and gunk growing. Most boaters hire a diver to scrub the bottom but with Scott having his scuba license the DIY solution makes more sense, for us.

Sunsets and sunrises, great food and life long friends made this 10 days amazing. Looking forward to next year wherever that may be.

Mar 102022

We have a few days on our own before Scott’s sister, Heather and her hubs Joe, join us for a couple weeks. It’s so exciting to share this adventure with family and friends. They arrive in Fort Lauderdale, rent a car and drive the 3 hours to Marathon. We had a lot of windy days but we’re still able to take in a few days on the ocean in the Mother Ship, Heliopause. Scott and Joe spent some time learning about salt fishing and picked up some chum. If you chum they will come is the motto here and come they did. The chum is to attract the little fish that attract the large fish. We headed out to cast and reel in some dinner. The chum comes in a box about the size of 2 bricks and frozen. You place it in a “net Bag” and let it defrost in the water as the food melts and feeds the fish. There were so many little ones. They caught a puffer fish, fully puffed, yellowtails, a remora, and some other small sizes. A couple swallowed the hook and could not be saved. So Scott put it on the line instead of the shrimp they had been using. One bite, then 2, then 3 and whizzzzz went the line. As the fish jumped out of the water it turned out to be a shark about 6 ft long. Scott kept trying to let it run but the 250 ft line was quickly running even with the tension being torqued. He got off the line. When Scott reeled it in not only was the fish gone but the hook was now straight.

On another day we went out to Sombrero Reef to snorkel. This reef is the 3rd largest reef in the world. I ended up breaking my toe after it was caught under the mooring line to hold the boat. No snorkeling for me. Heather and Scott headed out and saw so many types of fish and coral. Stunning coloured turquoise blue water with a multitude of yellows, oranges, purples. The winds started to pick up after lunch so we headed back to the marina. The fellas decided to try their luck at trolling on the way back. After a couple hours of this we were ready to give up when the line started. Scott manouvered the boat while Joe reeled in whatever it is on the line. Joe reeled it in enough that Scott could jump from the helm, grab the gaf and grab the fish. Heather wins when she yelled tuna. A blackfin tuna on the deck, 11 lbs. There is dinner for the night.

There was a lot of pickleball, sunning by the pool, table shuffleboard and sightseeing. Key West was a treat. My toe was still really sore and thanks to One Eye Dog and their help I secured a “boot” from April and Larry to make it through the next week. We were able to walk around and snap photos of the iconic buoy at the southernmost point of the USA, the Truman area, Duvall Street, and many other sights. We are not much of the party scene so the trip took about 4 hours.

On another day we headed up to Islamorada and stopped at The Bass Pro Shop. Roosters and chickens with their young were everywhere. These Key West roosters live here in The Keys like squirrels do back in our hometown. They are everywhere clucking and doodling in the most random areas. Add that to the iquanas, pelicans, seabirds and water critters too. Here in this Bass Pro there is a restaurant and bar, as well as feeding the Tarpon. Tarpon are large 100 lb plus fish with mouths on the top of their heads. They stare at you looking for food and can make a suction sound when getting the shrimp you buy to feed them. No, they are not interested in your french fries from the table. After having a really good marguerita, feeding tarpons and wandering the store we stop for dinner on the waterfront patio. Food is okay but not great. We rarely eat out so this is a treat any way you look at it. It was so windy at the boat and it is sheltered here.

During their stay we were making some large purchases for The Bahamas trip. Our boat has no outdoor storage for any lines, fenders, propane tanks or anything you need to live on it. So we picked up some dock boxes from West Marine. They came in while Joe and Heather visited. We would have rented a car but Larry from One Eye Dog was kind enough to drive the mile to West Marine and pick them up, in 2 separate trips. The first is a 6 ft long box. Larry was not worried about putting the box on the top of the roof of the car. They strapped it down and off they came to the marina. The site was more than funny seeing the box on the top of the car and then carting it back to the boat with the 2 of them on each side. Thank goodness the small one fit in the back seat. Then came the paddleboards or sups. We decided on hard ones rather than the inflatable only because the areas we will go with them will have sharp shells and coral. We think they fit nicely on the bow of Heliopause.

We thank Heather and Joe for all the help getting Heliopause ready for the Bahamas and can’t wait to share more time next year.