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.

Apr 022022
 

The winds were calm for the night for a good night’s sleep here at Pumpkin Key. In the morning 5 boats head out Angelfish Cut on route to Bimini. The cut is a narrow well marked channel to the Atlantic. We did not see less than 7 feet at high tide. As One Eye Dog and another Catarmaran, Queen of Virginia, make their way across at 15 knts, Alcyone, Santosha and ourselves take the slow rate of 9 knots across. The crossing was amazing with only 1-2 foot seas with rollers just off our beam. Winds were calm out of the south. The amazing royal blue colour of the Atlantic Ocean is fascinating. The colour is such a deep royal it mesmerizes you as you cross into the Gulf stream and have an extra couple knots of push. Scott takes advantage of the push and sets a heading so the boat will follow the heading but not have to compensate very often for the extra push on the beam.

Getting into The Bahamian waters we put up our yellow quarantine flag. Not for covid, but a custom of going into another country by boat, until you clear customs and immigration. The Captains hop in the jelopy, where Scott pulls the door closed and the entire door skin and handle fall off, and there they go to customs at the airport in South Bimini. Bahama style. The fellas get through all the government regulations and we are now legal in The Bahamas. They are chauffeured back to the boat and we replace our yellow flag with the flag of this new to us country.

We are slipped in South Bimini at the Bimini Cove Resort Marina. Water is metered as is power. There is an infinity pool that is the same colour as the ocean. Beach and snorkeling on premises and the ability to fish in the marina. Our fishing licenses come with the Custom fee paid online and our cruising permit. There is lots to see but our first priority will be SIM cards for our phone. Too late in the day to get that now so we head off to the pool where we meet our You Tube Channel Canadian influencers, C-Shels. We have been watching their videos for years. We spend about an hour with them at the pool and head back to the boat for dinner as the noseeums begin to appear.

 Posted by at 4:28 PM
Apr 012022
 

We have reservations at Marlin Bay until April 14 however when the weather aligns for a crossing to the Bahamas you take it. They are few and far between, especially this year, with these crazy winds we have been having. So we choose an anchorage north of Key Largo and begin our day with at least 5 other boats heading out. Some are continuing north and others are crossing. There are some shallow waters we will traverse today however those will be done at high tide. Always watching tides, weather, winds while traveling is a must. The channels are narrow in parts as well but large enough for us to still enjoy the sights. We pass Islamorada and Key Largo. Along this trek we are welcomed by a family of dolphins who give us a show for about 15 minutes. I did manage to take some video. This experience is such a wonderful experience that it is hard to put into words.

Approaching the anchorage our friends One Eye Dog are there along with 2 other boats. This is a large anchorage and a good 10 foot depth for a longer day of travel from Marathon. It took us the better part of 8 hours and 75 miles behind us.

We are so excited for the next part of our travels to the Bahamas.

 Posted by at 12:28 PM
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.

Feb 202022
 

The winds calmed so we decided to take advantage of the seas. We headed out on “Otter” to Boot Key where the anchorage and mooring balls have to be seen to believe. They go on throughout the entire bay. Every available space is taken up. It would be a sailors dream to pass through here to see all the different styles of sailboats. Masts are everywhere.

We stop into City of Marathon Marina where we find Cheri Baby, Alcyone, Dark Side and Weeble & Wobble. We’ve met them at various stops along the loop and now find ourselves together in Marathon a few miles apart.

After passing through Boot Key anchorage we head up to Sister’s Creek to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on this journey. Sombrero Beach and Reef is here. The reef is about 2 miles offshore with mooring balls to use so that your anchor is not used on the protected coral. We will be bringing family there when these winds finally calm down. The beach is small compared to most beaches we have seen in Florida and very busy. There is a dingy area to bring your dingy to.

We also decided to snorkel on the way home. We had heard that lobster were plenty by a shipwreck and shoal about 3 miles off our marina. As we get there it is getting windy yet again. Not in the forecast but Scott jumps in to take a look. Seagrass and sand is all that he sees. Except for the 6 foot shark that is feeding on the very shallow area after Scott gets back into “Otter”. The fog is rolling in and the wind is picking up as we head back to the mother ship for docktails.

Feb 182022
 

Our posts will be about our excursions and daily comings and goings while we stay here in Marathon for 5 weeks. Scott’s sister and hubs are coming into town and long time friends later on in the month.

As we get acclamated to the new life of not moving around we find ourselves tired and relaxed. The thing about doing the loop is that it is a great endeavour but it is work. Planning routes, stays, groceries, even fuel and pump out stops and not knowing the areea make the task quite cumbersome. Research of things to do, where to visit also play into the equation. Not always is a marina available so always having a 2nd back up plan is needed. Having a break for this time is well appreciated.

Pickleball. Yes, pickleball. We have found at least 2 places to play. One is right across the street from the marina and the other is an Uber ride. Uber charges double the fees here in the Keys so keep that in mind if traveling here. We have found a post office close to the place to Uber to but the winds have kept us from using that ability. We have only been once. The closest one is about a 3.0 level or lower. Key Colony the Uber ride one, is 3.5+ ability. It’s still fun to have the option to play everyday if we wish.

Valentine’s Day was a big surprise for me. Scott picked up some teak chairs and had them delivered just in time for a bevy on the back deck. We had been talking about replacing our weather beaten aluminum chairs for some time. Love the new look.

We had another visitor from our marina back in Ontario. PattiJo and Doug visited us for a couple days as they trailer south for the winter. They like to stop at State Parks and enjoy the hikes, trails and wildlife. They came down to Marathon on their way just to see us. We are so happy to see them.

While they are here the winds were fairly strong still. We decided on dinner the first night while they set up their camp for the day and made their way down here from their Long Key campsite. Great tales of both our trips as we spent the evening chatting and remininscing.

We planned to bike to Pigeon Key together the next day, stop for a lunch and play pickleball. Pigeon Key is a small island containing the historic district of Pigeon Key, Florida. The 5-acre (2.0-hectare) island is home to 8 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which remain from its earliest incarnation as a work camp for the Florida East Coast Railway. Today these buildings serve a variety of purposes, ranging from housing for educational groups to administrative offices for the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation.  The new 7 mile bridge links the south of the Keys to Marathon. The original 7 mile bridge was due to be demolished once the new one was built however instead of demolishing it sections were taken out so that the land portions could be used as pedestrian and cycle paths to Pigeon Key. We wondered around Pidgeon Key for about an hour and then started back. By now we are craving lunch but the amazing views we see on the bridge take our breath away and it takes us awhile to get to lunch. We decide on authentic tacos from a taco truck. Amazing tacos at La Palapa. If you love Mexican food this place has the best tacos around.

It was then biking to pickleball to begin the first lesson for PJ and Doug. It is always a blast teaching this sport to new folks. Hopefully we will be seeing them on the courts this summer. Thank you so much Patti Jo and Doug for visiting us and enjoying the sights of Marathon. Will we see you on the water next Fall?

Feb 122022
 

We did enjoy our stay at the anchorage, and hoped to be here a few more days, but the winds are coming in. We added a couple extra nights to our reservation in Marathon so that we can get in early before the 30 knt winds start. Leaving the jetty into Marco Island left us with flat seas and a beautiful day for a cruise of 80+ miles. Scott decided to go on plane at about 18 knts for a few hours because we have heard that the crap and lobster pots are abundant getting to the keys. We are only off shore by over 3 or so miles and follow the landscape all the way on the Gulf. About 20 miles from Marathon we slow down as we start seeing a lot of crap pots. Those bowling ball size styrofoam floats marking the pot are hard to see. One clip of those and we could be in for a tow.

Scott slows to a consistent 8 knts and we both watch out the window for the next 3 hours dogging pots like a frogger game. There are thousands of them in these waters and it does take at least 2 watching. With the temps warming to a nice 80 degrees and calm seas we really don’t mind the trek. It was a nice cruise all the way to our slip.

Arriving in Marathon we tie up and enjoy the sun as we sit on the back deck. We are on vacation now with no significant moving for 5 weeks. We decided to stay in The Keys as a winter over, comfortable stay because we have never been here before. The temps are usually consistent in the 80s and lots of Loopers like to stay long to take advantage of a cheaper rate than a daily transient price.

We are at Marlin Bay Marina & Resort. They rent condos and apartments to tourists, mainly from Miami, a heated pool and hot tub. The grounds are well maintained and the staff is very courteous. Pump outs at every slip, once a week, and views of the gorgeous waters of the Gulf.

Feb 112022
 

We are happy to have had 2 days in Naples. We enjoyed the stay but are really happy to leave. We enjoy the laid back style of life without our every whim met. That is Naples. Beautiful with an Italian flair, stunning homes, shopping til you drop at any designer you may choose to visit. For us we long for the relaxed atmosphere with birds, dolphins, nature. We are heading to Marco Island to a recommended anchorage.

As we meander through the jetty at Naples the Gulf meets us with flat, open water. With only 16 miles to go it is still a welcome sight. Flat waters, calm winds and boats everywhere. We will only be off the coastline by about 4 miles all the way to Marco Island. The waters are a turquoise blue and dolphins play but didn’t visit us today. We are running about 8 knts.

The jetty to Marco Island is busy with boats. Lots of sizes and types. The island was a brainstorm by a couple of brothers decades ago. They saw the vision of water passages with homes lining the passage, some inland homes, marinas. Their dream is shown in the landscape of the amount of the water passages, homes, restaurants, etc.

The island is a staging for boats like us waiting to head to the keys. Smokehouse Anchorage is lined with large homes, apt, condos. The waterway into the anchorage is a well marked channel with mostly 10 ft depths. The current can rush at the entrance to the channel at low tide and high tide. Watch for the standing waves if you encounter a westerly wind content. There is plenty of room for boats but I’m sure there are times when this anchorage is very full. It is so protected that many consider this a hurricane hole to hold out. The temps today finally reached over 80 degrees and the nights dropped to 57.

Scott has seen an ingress of water into the pod oil. He changed the port side, or left side, while in Clearwater. He changed the starboard side, or right side while on anchorage. A haulout is in our future to replace the seals on the drives. Boat maintenance in exotic places. We drop “Otter” and head to the grocery store to pick up provisions. The store has built a dock specifically for this purpose. The Winn Dixie is not far away. On our way we meet up with another boat that we have met a few times along the route. Indigo is anchored not far from us. We pop over on the way to groceries and decide to have docktails and share stories. It was such a beautiful night as we chatted on the patio before heading back to the boat for dinner. We are off to Marathon in the morning crossing our fingers that the weather maintains the calm seas for our 100 mile journey.