Apr 292022

Our Raymarine display is acting up and it is the master unit. So when it has issues or shuts down so does our other display and navigation. Not a great feeling when you loose the road map and depth finder. So Scott will take some time here in St. Augustine to fix this problem.

Traveling to St. Augustine is similar to the last few days. Speed zones, homes on the rivers, pristine landscape. We had some dolphins playing in our wake but they were camera shy. It is an easy cruise for the Captain once again.

Here at the marina Scott gets to work under the dash to work on the display units. It takes him a few hours but it is up and running again, including the water temperature gauge that we lost months ago. He isn’t sure if it was loose connections or the unit overheating in the sun. If it continues to act up now at least it is the slave unit so it won’t shut down both navigations. If it doesn’t have anymore issues then it was likely loose connections which we wouldn’t be surprised about.

I get some laundry done and catch up on the blog. It is so windy that we have waves in the small bay with over 20 knt winds on the stern. We are again thankful for an easy entrance slip in these crazy winds. We will be here for 2 nights as we get this done and grab a game of pickleball at a local place with 4 courts. They play Saturday mornings so tomorrow we will make our way there.

Best pickleball play ever on this trip. All players were at least 3.5 and most a 4.0. I only played 3 games as I was way out of my league at a steady 3.5. Scott had some great games and wore himself out. It did take an Uber to get to Treaty Park but it was so worth it. Back at the boat we plan our next few days. We know there is a first come, first served free dock on the north side of Jacksonville so that is our plan A. Plan B would be if it is full then we will anchor near there. I wash the boat thoroughly and Scott gets caught up on all the work for the company, including taxes. We decide to go to the Conch House Restaurant for a dinner date. Food was okay, not great but the atmosphere is amazing. They have several of these bird nest dinner spots that overhang the water. It is a great concept and makes this place very popular along with its beautiful grounds.

Apr 282022

The easterly winds have picked up as we move out of our slip at the Yacht Club. It was an easy entrance and slip to get out off as Scott placed the bow out when we came in so now we just cruise out. Thank goodness. These easterlies just don’t let up.

We were supposed to stay 2 nights at the yacht club but they overbooked. So we found a place a bit north for another night. The anchorages in this area are tough for our size boat as we need so much swing room and old sunken derilicts are taking up a lot of prime anchorage space. You don’t see them until you are almost on top of them. So when it is tight we just go to a marina here in Florida.

It is another day of meandering rivers with homes along the shores with beautiful scenic marshes. A well marked channel and at least 10 feet or more is welcomed by the captain as we make our way to Palm Coast.

This marina is a gated community with a resort atmosphere. A restaurant, pool, resort, tennis, but no pickleball, and lovely grounds is a welcome sight for a tired cruiser. This area is less traveled and not much is around here. The main A1A is outside the gates. So we opt for an early evening and prepare the journey for tomorrow to St. Augustine.

Apr 272022

Getting up a bit later than usual we know we are moving north to Daytona. Scott is able to find a Yacht Club that has 4 pickleball courts on its grounds. We haven’t played in a couple days so we are fixing for a game.

Going to Daytona from the south has a lot of speed zones. We usually run about 9 knots or so with a current push if the tides are in our favour. Homes are adjacent to the water’s edge so there is reason to make less wake. With all the pristine lands around the manatees are moving further north at this time of the year so wake zones and a slow pace are in order. It’s an easy passage and we enjoy this part of Florida with its well marked channels and not too much traffic.

The Halifax River Yacht Club has a pool, restaurant, bar, pickleball courts, learn to sail program, a boater’s lounge and ferel cats. Yes, there are kitties. I get my fix of cat cuddles after the alpha male accepts me. Ridley, Catalina, Grayson, Thomas, and two more that wouldn’t come around me all call this boater’s lounge home. One of the members, Frankie, takes care of them. They are drop offs from unwarranted owners. In the long run this is a better home for them. The grounds are beautiful, they are fed daily, have a safe place to run, away from traffic, are neutered or spayed, have check ups and regular flea meds, and get love when they want it. The members take pride in their presence but Frankie and her husband, Scott, have captured the hearts of these little furs.

The firemen are playing pickleball so we head over and get in on some games. Mostly they only play themselves but us new folks give them a good few games. It is a great afternoon of fire and water!

Apr 262022

A really nice night on the hook. The winds died down for awhile. Heading north today to Titusville, Florida the home of Cape Canaveral. The trip north is pristine with natural rivers meandering through small towns. There are a lot of boathouses, decks, homes along the shoreline on one side and swamp on the other. The bugs are starting to make appearances as more fresh water is available. Hornets, butterfies, moths and some pesky black beetle bugs visit us regularly.

Not much to write about with this journey as the landscape looks so similar. We arrive in the afternoon to an anchorage about 3 miles away from the launch. Space X is sending Falcon 9 to the ISS with 4 astronauts. It is their second manned flight. The launch is still expected to go off on schedule at 4:00 AM so we set our alarms and look forward to the history making launch.

3:30 AM BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. It’s time for the launch. Scott sets up the IPad with Space TV and we take in the preshow showing the command centre and the countdown of checklists in the final few minutes prior to launch. We are so close to it that the lights from the launch pad are shining on the water in the anchorage. There are 4 boats here taking in the flight. We expected far more but it is 4 AM afterall.

3,2,1, blast off……as always the light show from the engines light up on the ground and propel the spaceship higher and higher. Then comes the sound of the thrusters, engines and all the night is lit up with the rocket blast. It climbs higher and higher into the sky as we watch til we cannot see it anymore. We watch to see if we are able to see the booster coming back to earth on a remote controlled barge in the Atlantic Ocean. We are not able to see it at all. However on the Space TV network we are able to see that the booster landed perfectly on the barge. Literally in the centre of the X on the barge. That is amazing! With no more to see we wander back to bed and sleep the rest of the night away.

Apr 252022

Goodbye Fort Pierce as we begin an early start to our day. We love the palm coast to the space coast here in Florida. It features lots of mangroves and open space but narrow channels for us to travel. It is just so low key as we leave the large boats of South Florida and head toward the more casual, more prestine areas in north Florida. Although the channels can be narrow they are well marked with 10 foot depths most of the way.

Scott has chosen a large anchorage in Melbourne, FL to hold out for a brisk 20 knt wind from the east. Melbourne has a pier that we can dingy to and take in the city beach area. The pier is adjacent to a park so you can run your puppers if you have one. The folks come out at night to watch the sunset too. There is about a foot tide so bring your fender for your dingy.

In town there are lots of restaurants to choose from. It is a sleepy little area but you can get your fill of ice cream, pizza and some casual dining on the beach. The beach area isn’t crowded but it does have a nice surf with an easterly blow. There are a few BNB’s as well but it isn’t busy here at the moment. We have always enjoyed this part of Florida with its laid back and small town atmosphere.

We grab a pizza from the market and grab an ice cream as well. Then head back to the dingy and watch the sunset as it passes under the bridge. Back on HP we prepare for the trip to Titusville where we will anchor as close as we can to the Space X launch scheduled for 4:00 AM. With the name of Heliopause we just can’t miss a space launch. It’s Space X’s second manned flight.

Apr 242022

The last day here in Palm Beach e decided to head out to Peanut Island for a last evening hike. This was mainly because we had to get low tide to get “Otter” back in her davits. We go under our dock to get her on the back of the boat but that can only be done at low tide as the water is 3 feet lower. So we head out for a hike by dingy to the island. We are surprised to find that it is touristy with paved walkways, beaches, camp sites and restrooms. The island is very tidy and we watch many folks have their Saturday evening sunset on the beach. Had we known that all this was here we would have brought our own dinner and had a beach sunset date. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk around the perimeter of the island. There is another reef here that is very protected. Although a manmade reef it has a boardwalk, a marina is coming with the update to the Coast Guard Station, a helipad renovation and many more upgrades to this cute island.

Back at HP we pack up the bikes and store everything for our traverse north on the ICW to Fort Pierce. It will be about 70 miles travel stopping at an anchorage. Tonight we prepare for route, pack up and enjoy our last day “not working”.

The travel to Fort Pierce is a casual cruise north on the ICW. We pass some estates, massive homes or vacation houses, along the way. The trek is fairly straight forward with 10 foot depths most of the way through narrow but well marked channels. We will anchor in an area that is protected from the east winds as usual they are blowing about 2o knts. The anchorage has several liveaboards already anchored here however we found a tight space for us. There won’t be much current but there will be a tide of about a foot. The winds continue throughout the night. A “neighbour” visits us to tell us how bad it is here. That we have to watch the massive currents, and that we will shift in the night. We should move and find shelter. Scott analyzes the currents, tides and winds and decides we will be fine but should have a watch. I sleep up in the salon and check many times throughout the night. It was fine. We did speak with another Looper who was here a couple nights ago and apparently the same guy came by to tell them the same hogwash. He just didn’t want neighbours. Only 1 night here is enough. NASA has postponed a planned launch for a day so we will make our way to watch it in Canaveral.

Apr 232022

This marina and area is a sport fishing boat destination. Most boats are high helms with downriggers and fishers everywhere. With this weather we did not see many go outside onto the Atlantic Ocean. Most stayed in their slips. We are here too as we ride out 28+ knot winds for days. The winds are from the NE and E and as we are now on the ICW and on the west side of the ICW we don’t feel too much wind. This marina is very protected. There is a pool, hottub, pump out at all slips, diesel at all slips (how about that folks) and good docks with pelican poles. The tide is about 3 feet so sometimes getting on and off is a challenge. On the flip side there is a ladder at the slips for ease. The water is super clear. We like it here so much that we ask about a week long stay.

There is a beach within walking/biking distance, another sand low tide island that has boats on it permanently that sit on the sand during low tide. The beach area is a snorkel spot where we spent some time exploring the manmade reef. It is still in its infancy but the waters are calm, fish are abundant and it is only 5 minutes away. Pickleball……………..yes there is pickleball. A really nice club that we take Otter to and leave her on the beach. The tide rolled in on one of those NE blows and brought in more water with a seiche so we decided to bike it next few times. It is a half hour bike ride so a good warm up. Great games divided into groups according to skill level. We went 3x. Scott was able to play with some 5.0 players as the Championships are being played in Naples starting the day we leave. Over 3000 candidates on 62 courts over the course of 8 days.

We also did a grocery run by bike after Scott picked up a set of saddle bags for his bike. That helped a lot with not having to carry the heavy items in a backpack. We wandered down to Riviera Beach and watched some 2 man beach volleyball and grabbed an ice cream. There was also boat maintenance to do. Another scrub of the hull with the Snuba System and her running gear is new again. Scott says the bottom looks really good. While he was cleaning the bottom there was a barracuda under our neighbour’s boat the same size as Scott. Each was watching the other even though the barracuda really couldn’t care less about having a diver in with him. Our Canadian Flag has seen some wear and tear so I took it down and sewed the seams back together. Now she looks almost good as new. Our Dalhousie Yacht Club Flag is in dire straits. We aren’t sure if is is going to make it but we promised to not take it down. It has traveled with us the entire way and will stay that way as long as it holds on.

After being here a week the winds are more in our favour. We will be more protected on the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) so we will head out tomorrow on our first real trek home. It will be familiar territory the latter part of the day as we had been here in 2017.

Apr 172022

Checking weather it looks like the winds changed again. Another week of clocking winds. We talk about it and decide that we are leaving the Bahamas for good. We will have lots to see next year when hopefully Mother Nature is back on her meds. We are quite disappointed but are confident in our decision.

Preparing our exit visas to leave the Bahamas we are fortunate that the Immigration Office is on site at this marina. Scott will head ito the office for 9 AM opening and then we will be on our way.

We are out of the marina along with at least 10 other boats heading back to mainland USA. Another rolly day expected as we cross the Atlantic Ocean, through the Gulf Stream onto our destination. It is following seas so we are not rocked near as much as yesterday but they are still about 4 ft rolls. Our route to West Palm Beach has been done, another marina booked, and we decide to stay at least a couple nights. Oh Henry is there in the anchorage. They decide to pull up anchor and come over to us. We spend a couple hours chatting about their weather issues while they were in the Bahamas. We are glad they were able to keep most of their plans but they too lost about 5 weeks due to weather.

Initially we were to spend just a couple nights here but again those winds are to become dastardly. What the heck we’ll stay here for a week and get a night free.

Apr 162022

We are up and out at the crack of dawn. Our new friends, Gary and Carie from Island Paws, is on their bow waving us goodbye as we head north. They will leave to go back to Miami tomorrow as their plans have changed due to weather too. It’s a beautiful morning as we pass the supply ship leaving port and other heading out to fish. Bimini is known for its fishing and a bunch of folks made the trek over for the Easter Weekend. There is a celebration of Easter here at our marina today called “Homecoming” where everyone that calls Bimini home comes for this weekend where they gather together, have some fun in the pool, restaurant and bar specifically open for this day. We will miss it but wish everyone a Happy Easter.

Heading north on the Atlantic Ocean it’s a tough one. Beam waves hit us the entire way due to the easterlies that have come in. Not many pictures as the ralph factor is pretty high today. Scott stays diligent at the wheel and we roll into West End anchorage around 3:00. We are both tired. It is rolly. We didn’t expect it to be this rolly as the winds are coming around both points and creating a sloshing effect. After over an hour of this we contact the marina. They have a spot for us. We head in easily and are now trying to fight off headaches and nausea. Again not many pics. I’d like to say we have been to West End, Bahamas but in reality we have only been to our slip there.

Apr 152022

With a weather window coming up in a couple days we have looked at the foreseeable weather patterns. They are not good for travel after this next jump. We were going to go The Berry Islands, then Nassau then head north to Spanish Wells. That will not be working in the 2 weeks we have left here. We would get to Nassau and be stuck again for another week. Looking at options we decide the best course of action would be to head north to the West End in Grand Bahama, near Freeport. Then we could head west along The Abacos for a week and head back to the West End to head home. The weather looks favourable for this route. Finally a plan.

So with a couple days to spare before the weather window to head north to West End we jump in “Otter” and enjoy a good day on the water. Being a westerly wind we are able to enjoy this east side of Bimini. Again we head out to our favourite low tide sand island spot. There we meet up with a few other folks and wade ankle deep around looking at conch and throwing some back in the water as they were baking in the sun. There is a small uninhabited island that we are able to wade to. It seems to have a history as we see thousands of old conch, long since their prime, very deep along the edges of the island. Scott figures this must have been a small excursion place where folks came to enjoy a conch dinner and a stroll. The view is spectacular and the contrast in colours leaves so much to the imagination. There a couple was interested in our dingy and if we liked it. Another half hour spent chatting about our favourite topic, other than our kids, boats, dingies, and outboard motors.

It’s market day too. This time we see the ship is being unloaded so we know the market is on. As we leave this little sand paradise and head toward town we stop at Joe’s Conch Shack to go to the market and leave the tender. Scott’s fitbit charger broke so he is also off to the small electronic store in hopes there is one there. Coming back empty handed he also grabs anoter homemade bread from Charlies. Bread $6.00, Lettuce, $3.00, grapes, $3.00, bananas 4 x $.75. Prices were pretty good. On the way back to the mother ship we stop at One Eye Dog to see April and Larry. Turns out they had left to go to the market. We must have just missed them. The liquor store is a small store near the ferry dock on North Bimini so we stop in there and grab some local home brew beer. Sands and Kalik beers are made in the Bahamas and about $40.00 a 24 bottle pak. With our wares we head back to the boat.

Back at HP, Scott plans our route to West End, the anchorage is chosen and we get ready for a rocky journey.

Apr 132022

We have been waiting for a weather window to go to The Berry Islands for almost 2 weeks. Again, the locals are saying this is the windiest they have seen in decades for this long duration of time. Our crossing to The Berry Islands is a 90 mile, about 140 km, cruise to Chub Cay. Chub Cay is one of 2 established areas in “The Berries”. It was our original plan to spend some time here between the isolated anchorages of this archapelago. Since winds are not getting better and we have lost some time waiting for the good winds we are now going to skip the Berries for another chance next year.

Being in Bimini allows us to really get to know the area. Again we can take out “Otter” for a good run between North and South Bimini Islands. We find a nice patch of sand and hang out with Alcyone again in the middle of the reefs. It’s a breezy one today but in a decent direction that we can at enjoy the sights on the water.

Scott was hoping to do some snorkeling and spear fishing for a mahi however once out in the open waters the winds were too much for a snorkel. We did stop over at the cruise port where a Holland America ship was. “Rotterdam” was bringing in the cruisers today and they toured the area.

Finding a small canal where the locals live, and likely some foreign investors, we find half built or partially remodeled homes. Hurricane Dorian in 2019 decimated Bimini with sustained winds over 200 mph for over 48 hours. Then covid hit. There is a lot of unfinished business here. Tourists are starting to come back but it is a slow process. Bahamian regulations still must show proof of vax, a negative covid test to enter and wear masks indoors. A lot of folks we met Stateside said they were going to wait to come to the Bahamas until they were rid of the requirements.

We are always making friends with the wildlife too. We fed a crab some apple and he quickly learned the sweet taste. We had to ration is supply. There is always pickleball. Everyday we play with Patty and Todd on our duct taped lined tennis court. It works great and it keeps us all very happy.

Another bonus of Bimini are the sunsets. Every Night a stunning view of the yellow and orange sky settles on the royal blue waters and creates a fascinating ora of colours.

We are prepping for the 10 hour cruise at 8 or so knots to Chub Cay. Drinking water filled, dingy covered, lunches and dinner made and batten down all the hatches to make the cross. It will not be a great crossing with winds predicted ESE at 10-15 knots but that is the best there is to get us east to Chub Cay.

Apr 082022

The wreck of the Sapona is about 5 miles off the west coast of Bimini. The winds this morning are not favourable for a visit but are to lie down a bit by this afternoon.

Assessing the winds are favourable we jump in Heliopause with Patti and Todd from Alcyone and venture out to see the famous cement ship.

She was purchased and moved to Bimini, using it as a warehouse for alcohol during the era of Prohibition The owner also intended to use the ship as a floating nightclub, although this plan never came to fruition. In 1926 the ship ran aground in a hurricane and broke apart during a rum run.

During WWII the wreck was used for target practice by the US Army and Navy. Flight 19 vanished while returning from a bombing run to the Sapona.

The wreck lies in about 15 feet (4.6 m) of water, the stern broken off and partially submerged by hurricanes that struck in 2004. Little concrete is left on the hull because of the effects of bombing and weathering.

It is a great space for snorkeling and fishing as well. Scott quickly jumps in the water and checks the anchor hold. He snorkels around the wreck where people are swimming in the crevasses and jumping from what is left of the deck. As the engineer scans the wreck he quickly realizes that no one should be anywhere on or under the remains. It is barely being held together and will fall at moments notice. He only swims at a safe distance from what is left of the hull.

Coming back to the boat he notices the grasses move and determines there are conch living here. We are allowed 6 conch per day per boat. He only takes 4 and the larger ones of the lot. Conch in The Bahamas is a staple for the locals. We foreigners have restrictions but it seems the locals do not based on the amount of thrown out shells we see.

Heading back before the winds pick up yet again Patti and I contemplate how to cook this delicacy. Scott researches the internet to learn how to shuk the conch properly. He does figure that part out but the cleaning of the conch is more difficult. A local watches him struggle and comes to the rescue. He shows Scott how to do it properly but I think those skilled hands won’t be happening any time soon.

 Posted by at 1:55 PM
Apr 072022

The day the provision barge comes in is market day scheduled for 1:00 at Joe’s Conch Shack. We grab our bikes and head back to North Bimini again. Heading directly to the market as we want to be sure to see what is available early in the day. The barge hasn’t been unloaded yet. Oh well, island time.

Making the most of the trip we again head into the hardware store. Scott is thinking of picking up another water filter and wants to check out the price. Turns out it is double the cost so he says he wants to consider if this is a must or can it wait to get back to America.

Making the most of the day we bike to the Dolphin Museum. The Dolphin Museum is a labour of love by a local artist. He has been collecting ocean treasures for over 30 years and making art out of the sea glas, shells or whatever he can find. We didn’t go in but I think we may pay a visit before we leave Bimini.

We decide to head up King’s Hwy again to the local beach called Radio Beach. It is a soft, sand beach with local drink shacks, restaurants and bars, all island style. Not the upscale style but it is perfect. The beaches on this island are so stunning that one cannot be better than the other. It is a super hot day today in the 90’s or high 30’s C. We stop under the shade of the trees and take in the beauty. Then a golf cart scoots by and it is One Eye Dog and Queen of Virginia. They stop and we chat awhile. They too are looking for the market. We make a date for dinner at a later time this week.

One more pass to check if the market is open, and it is not, so back to the ferry we head. We are all overheated by this point so a pool swim and a cool bevy are in order. Apparently the market was ready at 5:00. Island time……

Taking a walk on the beach at the marina both Patti and I decide to take along garbage bags to pick up the various plastics and trash along the shore. It is actually pretty tidy likely due to the amount of waves we have been having that keeps washing the shoreline. We do find a lot of plastic caps. We have decided that the street to the ferry could use a clean up so that will be our focus on other days.

Apr 052022

It’s a windy day but we make the best of it. Taking our bikes to the north side, via the ferry, Alcyone and us stop for coconut bred at Nate’s bakery. There are 3 islanders who create their version of bread and available fresh daily. Traveling on Queen’s Hwy we are able to be with the locals who live here. It is a small narrow island. There are homes and tourist spots like the Straw Market where you can pick up some vibrant clothing. Most are brought onto the island by the provisioning barge but the items are still unique. Lots of colour. We head down to the hardware store where the guys head in for a peak to see if they have the goodies they like to have extras of for the “just in case” moments.

On the east side of the island is the Hilton World’s Resort. Biking through here you wouldn’t know you were in the Bahamas as it looks and feels like an overdone North American Resort. Trams filled with people, restaurants flooded with people, the beach is full and the cruise ship lines are in port. It is not the feel we look for and are happy that this is not our destination. It is upscale and I’m sure a good time for those looking for the condo feel and every whim cared for in one spot.

On the way back we also travel on the one land highway called the King’s Hwy. This is more of a local residents area. Many folks homes are here and beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. The last hurricane that came through ruined many homes so lots are in partial repair or disrepair. Even though this happened years ago many foreigners did not rebuild. It is such a beautiful island and the people very kind.

Later we can take the dingy into the area separating the north and south sides of Bimini. The ferry is crossing with folks running to and from. We travel the channel and find a few small areas to anchor close to North Bimini. New construction is extending the east side of the island in and around the World’s Resort. Excavators are working to create deep waterways and using the dredged sand for extension of the island.

Apr 032022

We pinch ourselves. We have talked about going to the Bahamas under our own steam, for years. We are here. Again we will be here for awhile as several weather patterns pass around us. Winds, thunderstorms, clocking winds are following us everywhere but we are in paradise now. Safely tucked into the marina in South Bimini we want to explore the north and south of this island. The north island of Bimini is the major hub of town. A ferry, literally a 30 ft pontoon boat, takes you across the passage to the north side. It’s $3.00 each way. Golf carts, scooters, bicycles are abundant with some cars as we travel the one lane Queen’s Highway to the end of the 3 mile island.

On Sunday most of the conveniences are closed so after making a trek in yesterday we now know where the stores are that we have to visit. First is the Sim card for the phone. A data plan of 250 gig, throttled at 125 gig, for $90 is our monthly plan. There is one that is unlimited for $140 per month. Then the hardware store so the boys know how well stocked it actually is.

We were taught at Joe’s Conch Shack how to shuk conch and the life here in the islands. The conch are literally making the island larger as they through the conch shells on top of each other and create mounds of shell along the shoreline. A conch is usually harvested around 5 years old. They lay a lot of eggs making this the main staple for the people who live here. The conch live off the seagrass in shallow waters all over these islands. Conch has the texture of rubber. We are not keen on it but in a ceviche it is tolerable. I will have to learn to cook this delicacy as food is so expensive, especially proteins.

On our way back to the marina we stop at the shipwreck of the Gallant Lady. The once small freighter sailed out of Belize City and was smashed up on shore during Hurricane Mitch in 1997. At least that’s what the legend says.  In 24 years the once proud ship has been reduced to a rusty mass, barely recognizable as a lady of the sea. The relentless waves have slowly destroyed the ship, eating away at its steel like a hungry shark.

We head back to the marina and the pool for a dip. The tennis court now has pickleball lines thanks to Scott and his florescent orange duct tape. Games of pickleball with Alcyone, Todd and Patti, are a nightly staple.