Wednesday, December 20, 1995

Bahamas Adventure Part 2 - MacGregor 26X

Any successful trip begins with the planning. The plans for this trip began with the arrival of M-26X hull #9. Right from the start I knew I wanted to duplicate last winter's M-65 trip to the Bahamas. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two trips, if possible, in terms of effort required, expense, entertainment value, sailing pleasure, or whatever. So I set out to equip the 26X specifically for the trip, adding options to duplicate or improve on what was on the 65.

A partial list of improvements would include: depth finder, knot meter, vhf radio, am-fm stereo w/inside and outside speakers, 12v fan, compass, extra interior lights w/ red & white bulbs (for night vision), additional shelves, bins, racks, etc., Bimini top, swim ladder, 50 hp motor w/ power tilt, pressure water system with 15 gallon tank and both inside and outside showers, mainsail luff slides, roller furling jib, racing spinnaker w/pole, trapeze w/harness (what?), custom pedestal guard w/ table, boom vang, 1 man mast raiser system, GPS, EPIRB, shotgun and about 800 lbs. of personal gear, an inflatable dinghy w/ 2hp outboard. Almost all of these items are now available as options on a new MacGregor 26x.

After all the effort to prepare for the trip, the actual drive to West Palm Beach went smoothly and with rigging, launching, and last minute provisioning readily accomplished we (my longtime friend and sailing companion Mark Svenson and me) were at last ready to depart.

Day One - Depart WPB Lake Worth inlet approx. 0930 course 105, speed 13-15 kts. Making good time in favorable conditions. Fuel consumption 6 gph, noon GPS fix 16 miles to go. Unfortunately, We are out of gas and the wind is on the nose, 5-10 kts. Now making 3-4 kts, sure wish I had brought 2 more 6 gal. tanks, but then we would have missed a pleasant if somewhat tedious sail to West End, arriving 6pm. After putting out the fire in the alcohol stove fuel tank cover, (remove cover before lighting), we fixed a killer dinner of steak, potatoes, onions and cheese noodles. Mark and I had planned to diet and lose a few pounds on this trip, (starting tomorrow).

As the anchorage was a little rolly, we deployed the "flopper stoppers", a device that looked like two stacks of witch's hats and hang over the side into the water. They worked somewhat like that, but better when we suspended one from the boom and the other from the spinnaker pole, as far out as we could swing them. All this fiddling was a pain, and we never bothered to use them again. It was much easier to simply anchor in shallow protected water, or even beach the boat if we wished.

Day 2 - (12/3/95) Motored into nearby West End marina for customs clearance. It felt a little strange to be back just 11 months after the 65' trip. Mark enjoyed the tour of the defunct Jack Tar Village resort, with its beautiful but deserted beach. I felt a bit like a tour guide. After clearing customs we attempted to sail to Xanadu but quickly were reminded we were not in the 65. The 20 kt S.E.wind slowed our vmg to 2 kts under reefed main and partially furled jib, turning the 20 miles into a potential all day ordeal. A quick about-face put us on a comfortable broad reach back to West End, where we tackled the protected but shallow northern coast of Grand Bahama Island. With about a 4' tide, the shallow areas get very tricky at low tide, and we found ourselves scraping the bottom with the prop several times. A spare prop would have been a good idea. We made it to the middle of nowhere and anchored, (Crissy-swash, an area of mangrove islands with no beaches). Enjoyed a bottle of white wine and spaghetti dinner w/ salad. (Tip - cook up all the hamburger at once; it will keep for days and you can add it to almost anything).

Day 3 -
We sailed off our anchor in the early A.M., enjoying our coffee in the cockpit while Crissy- swash became a memory. Seems we got some bad advice andski.jpg (26251 bytes) went 10 miles past the canal yesterday. No matter. The wind petered out so we stopped and swam/ snorkeled in the clear greenish water. It was perfect conditions for water-skiing, so we took turns until Marks two hundred plus pounds broke the tow rope. It did appear long overdue for replacement. We sailed wing and wing for awhile, then hoisted the spinnaker for a nice 10-mile run, with no water ballast. Just be careful! We sailed right up to the canal entrance. The Grand Lucayan Canal was an interesting and scenic boondoggle that cost somebody millions. The hundreds of inland and canal front lots were never developed, and a huge abandoned hotel stood in mute testimony to the folly of man. There was one bridge where we had to lower the mast a bit to get through, no problem, mon!

Exiting the canal, we motored over to Peterson Island (part of the Bahamas National Park) for some excellent shallow coral snorkeling. Lots of fish! Had a great sail 2 hours to Port Lucaya, where the friendly folks at the Port Lucayan Marina offered us a free night's dockage. It was a brand new marina with beautiful showers and heads, (greatly appreciated after several days with primitive facilities). The free water taxi ran every 30-min. across to the quaint tourist area of Port Lucaya, with 21 restaurants and a casino. A Bahamian fish dinner w/ complimentary rum punch sure hit the spot after a busy day. The sounds of the bandstand faded as we nestled into our bunks.

Day 4 - Decided to rent a car and do the usual tourist stuff. Did 157 miles of not much. Read about three neat sounding restaurants. Two were closed and we couldn't find the other one. Visited two Bahamas Nat'l Park sites, both a 3 on a scale of ten. Wallace Groves Park (named after the founder of Freeport) was a beautifully landscaped area of 11 acres, well worth the visit. Had an unusual dinner of Southern ham hocks at " Fat Man's Nephew " restaurant in Port Lucaya. Foolishly gambled away $1.50 at the International Bazaar. Ended up watching a movie at "Cap't Kenny's, the local " meet market ", while Mark endlessly and fruitlessly chased women.

Day 5 - Lots of telephone calls to make further plans. Time consuming. Checked into shipping the boat back from Nassau, which would give us more flexibility. Bureaucratic BS and $800- $1700 est. Checked out of Port Lucaya Marina and into Lucayan Village Marina, across the harbor. Much nicer, with a beautiful pool w/ hot tub, and direct access to the beach and "mall" area. After the hassle of driving yesterday I was ready for some beach time! After a mediocre dinner at the "Caribe Club", we set sail for the Berry Islands (about 9pm) with a following breeze and full moon. Slow and lumpy, making 3-4 knots, saving gas, but not sleep.

Day 6 - Sailed all night, little sleep. Tried auto pilot, not good in the sloppy conditions. It worked O.K. motor sailing until winds got lighter, and then fluky winds caused problems with slatting sails etc. Finally gave up and hand steered. We saw several ships but no close calls. Beautiful sunrise, one of the most enjoyable facets of night sailing. Amazed by the sight of breaking schools of fish. Tried trolling for an hour but no luck. Arrived at Great Stirrup Cay @ 10.30, 62 miles from Grand Bahama.

There is a really nice beach in Bertram's cove, with good snorkeling. The cruise ships stop here regularly, and I stopped here with the 65'. This time we went right up to the "dinghy dock". The friendly caretakers invited us to stay, but after a short swim we flogged on across the shallow (2') inside route to Bullock's Harbor on Great Harbor Cay. The outside route was deep enough for the 65'.

Bullock's Harbor was the residue of a large, defunct, golf resort. The gorgeous beach on the other side of the island was just a short walk. This was one of the prettiest beaches I had ever seen, with a rustic snackroom to get a beer and burger at. A deserted beach house beckoned Mark and I to set up housekeeping. You could happily spend a week there, but we spent two hours, then back to the boat to cross the banks on a falling tide to Little Harbor Cay. Didn't make it. Too shallow even for us. So here we are, 4-5 miles from anywhere in 18" water, anchored next to a "sand bore", a sand ridge normally underwater, that dries at low tide. Although it's breezy, there is little wave action due to lack of water, so hopefully we'll get a good night's sleep to make up for last night.

Day 7 - Great night's sleep. We drifted with the rising tide toward Little Harbor Cay while fixing breakfast. Drifting is a most relaxing if somewhat sluggish mode of travel. After a quick visit to Chester at "Flo's Conch Bar", we found an ideal small beach with overhanging palm trees (a rarity) and had our morning swim and snorkel. Continuing on in the wake of the 65', we stopped at Frozen and alder cays (another swim, just couldn't resist the beautiful water), tried to sail (1.7 kts max.), and eventually motored to Chub cay. Our arrival at flank speed created a stir among the cruisers there, and quite a few comments about the boat, where we had been, etc.

The reef off Mama Rhoda rock is a popular snorkeling spot, and we joined several other dinghies anchored there. Of course, our "dinghy" was a little better equipped than most, and after our snorkel the fresh water shower, change to dry clothes, rum punch and stereo, did elicit an envious comment or two from the wet and cold rubber-dinghy yachties. Small boats do have their advantages.

While snorkeling Mark spotted two lobsters, almost invisibly tucked into crannies in the shallow reef. A woman nearby came over and speared one for dinner (her dinner). It seemed a shame because the lobsters are so neat to look at underwater, but they are too tasty for their own good!

We gassed up ($2.25/gal.) and looked around the small marina. There was a splendid sunset, and I took photos of two men sitting on lawn chairs in the water. The no-see-ums were vicious so we headed out for a rum punch and rock n' roll party (and dinner) aboard our boat in the anchorage. All in all a great day!

Day 8 - We departed Chub Cay under sail bright and early for Andros, about 18 miles away. The boat self-steered in 10-15 kts perfectly at 4-5 kts speed, about 60 degrees off the wind. In about 3 hours we spotted the island and confirmed our position with a quick GPS fix. Heading in the channel, a water tanker from Nassau was gaining on us from behind. A short burst of throttle quickly opened the gap back up, no doubt surprising the ship's captain as we had sails up at the time.

Morgan's Bluff, named after the pirate, was a quiet place with a decent beach with weird sand like quicksand along the water's edge. We sank in 12" walking in it. We motored inside the reef (Andros has the third longest barrier reef in the world) about 12 miles to the largest town, Nicholstown, but a nasty surge prevented us from docking at the town dock, and waves breaking on the beach discouraged us from beaching the boat. Besides, the town looked like dirt.

Back out through the reef we headed for Nassau but wind on the nose at 15-20 kts was too rough to make decent headway. The M-65 could go through pretty well, but most 30 -40' boats would have a tough time. After a bit of punishment I elected to head back to Chub, about 30 miles, which we did in 2 hours under jib and motor. The jib seemed to steady the boat, and may have provided some drive. Back at Chub we gassed up again (thirsty bugger!) and rented bicycles for a tour of the small one road island. Walking out to a rocky point, I felt the wind had dropped and when the no-see-ums descended at dusk and we escaped to the outer harbor, I decided to take advantage of the improved conditions and continued past the anchorage towards Nassau. Mark just laughed when he realized what I was doing, and 3 hours and 36 miles later we were drinking White Russians at 'Cudas bar.

Day 9 - After breakfast aboard, we gassed up (again) and found the M-65 I sold last spring which had been sailed to Nassau by a delivery crew for the owner. We rafted alongside and convinced the marina not to charge us, as we were the "dinghy". We had permission to use the 65' but after Mark and I looked at the work it would take just to get underway, decided against it. We just took off in the little boat and spent the day sailing around Paradise Island, anchoring at various beaches off Rose and Athol Islands, snorkeling, drinking rum punch, you know, the usual.

One of the boats at the Chub Cay anchorage, a 39' sloop, had left with us, heading for Nassau, the day we went to Andros. So we were a bit surprised to see them and learn that they abandoned the Nassau trip due to rough seas and poor headway, and anchored at Whale Cay, some 6 or so miles from Chub. When the wind shifted to the west overnight, they had a nice sail downwind to Nassau. We chided them a bit about making 6 miles in their 39' boat the day we made 95 miles in our 26'. I don't like to wait for better weather, but most of the cruisers refuse to sail upwind, and in the Bahamas the wind direction changes often so it's usually not necessary if you're not in a hurry.

We had dinner at the "Poop Deck" restaurant, then enjoyed watching a video movie on one of the M-65's two color TVs. Mark abandoned ship for the comfort of the larger boat, while I "toughed it out" alongside.

Day 10 - Much halyard slapping and a little dockline jerking but an O.K. night's sleep. (helpful hint: use bungie cords to pull docklines from their center towards the boat. This greatly reduces dockline jerk) Looks like a good day to stay put! Worked on M-65 in the morning and shopped for return trip to Fla. after lunch. About 3pm, with 25-30 knot winds, we ventured bravely (or stupidly) out the inlet. It was a wild ride in 6-8' waves with rolling whitecaps. Too much! Returned to port with one knockdown and some damage to shelf in galley (screws pulled loose). The boat handled much better under power than under sail, not surprising, as maneuverability and speed control are better under power. We saw no other small boats go out. Later that evening we walked over to Paradise Island for a tour of the "wonderland" and had hot chocolate aboard the bouncy M-26 to warm up when we got back. We both bailed out to sleep in the 65', much calmer! Hopefully tomorrow we can make it back to Chub.

Day 11 - Nice breakfast of pancakes. We took our time leaving Nassau. There was no rush and we weren't too anxious to repeat yesterday's adventure in the inlet. Happily the wind was down to 20kts with somewhat more favorable direction (more broad reach then dead down). The ride back to Chub was like " Mr. Toad's Wild Ride " at Disneyland. Some roundups in the 6-8' waves, some 15-20 knot speeds zooming down waves (but mostly 9-10). Took 41/2 hours, 36 miles. Our compass course and speed estimations were a little off and I had to do a GPS fix to find Chub as we were a little south of our course. I always feel a little guilt when I do an electronic fix, as if my seamanship is somehow faulty.

Gassed up at Chub and motored 7 miles to tiny Rum Cay, the only lee between Chub and Bimini, where we fixed another memorable spaghetti dinner, with Nassau coconut bread and a salad and dessert. We thought of having "Desert First" in honor of friends we had met with a boat of the same name. Tomorrow Bimini or Bust!

Day 12 - Lots of rain last night. The boat has been surprisingly dry, with no noticeable rain or spray leaking in. I had done plenty of caulking before the trip. We departed at 7am under reefed main and partially furled jib, wing and wing, making 5-7 kts in the breezy conditions. Passed real close to a nasty looking breaking reef. Brrr! Hit max. 12.8 kts 2x surfing down big waves. We needed to sail about 15 miles to get within fuel range of Cat cay, but we were making such good time that t we sailed about 20 miles before " shifting gears" to power.

Arrived Cat Cay at 2pm for a combined avg. speed of 10 kts. Had we sailed the whole way our ETA would have been around 9pm, a nervous nighttime approach, or an uncomfortable night anchored on the " Banks". As it was, after gassing up at Cat cay, we enjoyed a visit to "Honeymoon Harbor" where we inspected the hulk of an Islander 30 that had come to grief due, no doubt, due to anchor dragging in a storm. Then it was off to the " ferrocement ship wreck", a popular snorkeling place that boasts thousands of fish and colorful corals. You can actually swim right through the sides of the ship, where the concrete has disintegrated. We headed into Bimini about 4:30, in time for a leisurely stroll around town. The sunset, accompanied by a tasty snack of Island wings, was spectacular. After dinner at the "Red lion", we paid a short visit to "The Compleat Angler", Hemingway's hangout in the 30's.

We anchored in the narrow channel at South Bimini, and, since it was after dark, assumed no one would be out and about. So we were startled when a large dive boat appeared, whose Captain informed us that it was unwise to anchor there. (An understatement). He went directly over our anchor line, and I cringed at the thought of those huge twin props and my 3/8" line, but by some miracle he missed the line. We quickly moved to a nearby abandoned marina "slip". And our dive buddy, upon his return later, thoughtfully slowed down as he passed us, before resuming his full throttle pass down the narrow (75') ecologically fragile canal. Dats de Bahamas, Mon!

Day 13 - Up at 4.30 and underway at 5:00. I tried to sneak out with Mark still in bed, and nearly lost our little outboard as I pulled out of the slip when we bounced off a piling, snagging the dinghy motor a bit. The outgoing tide was moving us sideways faster than I could get to the controls after releasing the dock lines. You always have to be careful, and crew is helpful even on a small boat.

We blasted towards Ft. Lauderdale at 15-18 kts, passing a couple of other boats that had left just ahead of us. We were lucky (again) on our Gulf Stream weather, as winds were 15 kts behind us. We soon had to throttle back, as the building waves began to exert their influence. We added the water ballast (after a near broach). No problem! Rock 'n roll to Ft. Lauderdale, arriving 10am. (47mi.).

After gassing up for thankfully our last time (and at a mere $1.25/gal.), we headed up the ICW toward West Palm Beach, some 45 miles distant. A couple of bridges later (and a mysterious malfunction in our VHF), we decided to drop the mast to speed up the process of passing bridges.

We also speeded up the boat, adding 3 mph to our top speed. There are many "no wake" and "manatee" areas where 6 kts is the limit, but even so we were back at Cracker Boy marina at 3pm, plenty of time to retrieve our van and trailer, pop on the boat at a nearby ramp, and return to their fenced storage yard before their 4:30 closing time. It was fun to pull the boat onto the trailer, then just drive off, because all the mast lowering and tie down work had already been done. Ramp time was less than 2 minutes! It was great to be back in "civilization" again (and $1. beer at the Crown and Anchor Pub).

Day - 14 - With the warm, sunny weather we didn't mind the part of a trip no one wants to talk about. Going home? no, cleaning up! The boat was a salt crust, and every surface, nook and cranny needed washing, rinsing, waxing, WD-40, etc.etc. There was laundry to do, misc. groceries to give away, fishing rods and foul weather gear to rinse and dry, engine and boat winterizing chores and more. We finished the final check at 3pm, and our rig was ready to tackle the most dangerous part of the trip, the 1000 miles of Interstate 95. All in All, it was a great fun trip, and the 26X came through with flying colors. With a modicum of common sense, (and more gas) I would not hesitate to explore all the Bahamas clear down to Great Inagua, where it's just 65 miles to Haiti, or 50 miles to Cuba, or...

The two weeks spent aboard moves the M-26X clearly into the "cruiser" instead of the "weekender" category. I wish everyone who buys a trailerable boat "to learn how to sail" would do a couple of real trips with it. They would feel sorry for the owners of larger boats, stuck in their expensive slips, instead of envious. Of, course, it was fun for Mark and I to fly back to Nassau and spend another week aboard the '65. There is something to be said for 32000 lbs. and a knifelike entry when sailing to windward. I wonder if MacGregor will ever build a water ballasted, accordion-hulled extendible/collapsible trailerable liveaboard???

Happy Sailing from Cap't Jim

Friday, December 1, 1995


Due to business time constraints the window for this trip was only 8 days, but because of the opportunity to cruise in company with another M-26X, I decided at the last minute to just go ahead and "GO". After quickly dropping the mast on Saturday, 11/30, I spent about an hour throwing some things into the van and then left for a dinner engagement. I was operating on autopilot from many previous trips and hoped I wouldn't forget anything important.

Up at 0330 and on the road at 0430, (early AM is definitely the time to travel), I pounded relentlessly down I95 @65mph, through constant rain and drizzle, past Jacksonville Fla. and after 18 hours driving was ready for a nap in the boat. Usually I make the bed in advance. This time I had to drag the blankets etc. into the boat from the van but eventually created a comfy nest and crashed for 4 hours. Up at 2am and back on 95 nonstop to the Keys, arriving Bahia Honda State Park @ 11am, after a nice breakfast in Key Largo. By 1:00 PM I was rigged, loaded, sorted, launched and ready to go except for provisioning. Where were the other boats? A short nap after lunch proved too tempting and soon I was making up for lost sleep big time. You can't cheat mother nature for long.

John and Allison Wikle from North Carolina on " Island Girl" came in from a great day sailing and snorkeling and we quickly reconfirmed plans to leave the next morning for the Dry Tortugas ( about 100 miles from Bahia Honda). We all went out provisioning, had dinner at a small local restaurant I couldn't ever find again, put up the mosquito netting and sacked out.

There was a small trimaran docked near us and we met the owner, in the morning. John Patterson is a boat builder by trade and avocation who had trailered his latest creation, a 20' trimaran weighing 750lbs from his home in Michigan. No matter how far you drive (1250 miles) and how far you plan to sail (100 miles) there is someone who has just driven further (from Michigan) and is sailing further (to Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas @ 400 mi.) and in a much smaller 20' boat yet!

After a leisurely breakfast we set out into a beautiful warm, sunny morning with a light following breeze. I put up my "cheater" spinnaker so called because the M-26 is 3/4 rigged and the spinnaker is masthead rigged from a Catalina 25. With no support at the top of the mast it is a " light air only" sail.

Poor John had to motor constantly to keep up. Later the wind freshened and shifted north and John passed me with his 150 genoa while I was struggling to douse the spinnaker and unfurl the jib. After balancing the boat on a close-hauled course I took to the trapeze ( actually a bosn's chair ) for about 45 minutes, coming in only once for a course correction and a cold beer. We had a ball and sailed for 6 hours, almost all the way to Key West.

After gassing up in Key West amid a demonstration of U.S.Army Helicopter assault troops rappelling down from the helicopters onto a ship (very noisy) we were glad to be away from there and off to the Marqueses Islands, about 20 miles. We motored over at what I hoped would be an economical speed of 13-14 knots, arriving just before sundown to fix a bountiful dinner of steak, potatoes, onions, wine, and "gourmet" chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Wed. Dec. 4 - Day 4 - Up at 0630, motored out into the calm morning and saw some birds diving on baitfish, so unleashed the trolling rods and began to circle. John Wikle puttered up a little later and went on ahead on a course of 280 degrees. No luck fishing so I flogged the Johnson and passed John. I ran out a six-gallon tank and then it was time to sail. The breeze picked up and a reef in the main became necessary. The course was a beam to close reach, so the boat balanced well. When John finally caught up he couldn't believe it. I was catnapping on the stern in 15 - 18- knots of wind and 3-4' seas while the boat faithfully sailed 280 - 300. Occasionally a larger wave would knock me off course and require a little tweaking of the wheel. John continued to motorsail alongside as we had only about 10 miles to go and he was a bit nervous about going on the tilting deck to hoist the main. This being their first open water passage they did well to stick it out.

After arriving at Ft. Jefferson John and Allison took the tour while I walked around and chatted with some campers. Ft. Jefferson must be the only National Park that allows free camping, and people bring over kayaks to get around between the islands.

The local fishermen sell their wares and will even cook them for you if you want, but we passed up lobster for Hamburger. Moral- don't take meat to the Dry Tortugas, take extra beer to trade.

We filled up, and the cookies were holding up.

Day 5 Said good-bye to John and Allison. The were concerned about getting back to work on time. Hey Mon! What could I do? It was too bad they left. The day started out calm and sunny and very warm, in the 80's. A nice day is exactly what you need after a rough passage, and really makes a difference in your attitude. I chugged over to Loggerhead Key, a "private" Park Service Island where you are supposed to request permission to land, Naturally I found all this out while basking on the beach at the tip of the Island. While basking I noticed a little movement, a small hermit crab scuttled along, and I scooped him up to be my companion on the trip back. Hermit crabs are quite lively and entertaining fellows, but I have never succeeded in feeding one although I have tried meat,cookies,cheese, crackers, apple, sea weed etc. They all die in a few days, so I decided to let this one go when I got back to Bahia Honda. The snorkeling was decent, and I saw a nurse shark, lots of barracuda and a loggerhead turtle.

The caretaker had mentioned a wreck only a mile away so off I went in search of treasure. Luckily the Ft. Jefferson Divers showed up and led me to it or I never would have found it, even though a teensy bit sticks up above the sea. It looks like a bird sitting on the water. After a fun snorkel around the wreck I was ready to head back but... the anchor refused to budge off the bottom. A fair amount of tugging and swearing later, I decided to let "Big John(son)" try. At about 1/4 throttle the anchor came up, somewhat the worse for wear. A black looking cloud was looming on the horizon so I scurried back to Ft. Jefferson.

Sure enough, the perfect day deteriorated to torrential rain by 4pm when a little squall blew through the anchorage, but I was snug and dry down below. Heated up some leftovers for dinner and turned in early in anticipation of an early departure for Key West.

Day 6 - Underway 0600. Followed a fisherman out the channel, chuckling to myself at what he must have thought when the little sailboat behind him kept up while he accelerated to flank speed.

Passed half-moon shoal at 0730. Out of gas at 8:10. Sailing, light air, no ballast making 3-4 knots. GPS fix says 11.4 miles to Marqueses. 1030, breeze increasing, time to fill the old water tank. Amazing, boat speed actually increased one knot. Saw several cruising boats taking advantage of the window to sail to the Tortugas in beautiful weather. Now doing 5.5 kts, course 90 degrees, boat balanced, stereo on, novel in hand, Bimini sunshade in position, cold soda and sour cream 'n onion potato chips. Is this Heaven or what? Heaven was short lived. Guess I was having too good a time, 'caus the wind proceeded to die and that was when I noticed a nasty little current about 1 knot west. At 6pm I completed the 11,4 miles. that I started at 8:10 that morning. That's right, 10 hours to make 11.4 miles. It was HELL!!

I moseyed over closer to the shoreline, casually checking the chart, Huuumm! Looks like some CLUNK! rocks hereabouts. The centerboard bounced over a brain coral head but happily the rudders missed it. I hit the only rock in the area! I noticed some cruisers anchored nearby and sailed over to investigate. Actually the hope of scrounging some spare gas was what attracted me to the other boats

Managed to beg some surplus dingy gas from some cruisers who were returning to Key West (Actually traded for rum and munchies). Thus fortified with 4 gallons, I putted economically back, tying up to a gas dock @ 9pm, too tired to be attracted by the sounds of revelry from downtown.

 Day 7 - Definitely the first customer at 0600, I filled two tanks and went out into the pre-dawn darkness. It was still quite calm and after the frustration of the preceding day I let 'er rip, 20 kts towards Bahia Honda key some 30 miles distant. It was still early as I passed Looe key reef, so I went over and picked up a mooring and fixed a fine breakfast while waiting for the sun to climb high enough for good snorkeling light. Unfortunately a rain squall came along and soon the exposed mooring area was choppy. Oh Poo! Well, may as well end this trip with a ten mile run in the rain. The rain is very local and on the way back I passed in and out of showers several times and raced alongside one where I could steer in and out of the rain along the edge of the shower area at will. Back at Bahia Honda ramp, there were the Wikles, just hauling out. They took the leisurely way back while I am more of the mad dash type. The sun broke out and soon we were all tidied up and ready for the trip north. Having different plans, we said our good-byes , they headed for the hiway and I headed for the shower, a nice long hot one. Some day I'm going to install hot water on the MacGregor, probably a small propane flash heater, or possibly some kind of solar heater. Before leaving, I remembered the little hermit crab "Hermie", who was still in the boat in a bowl in the sink. I got him and found a nice spot for him (her, it) in the sand near the beach. It was slow going back up I95 past Miami and after driving through more rain I stopped at Riviera Beach ( near West Palm) at one of my favorite restaurants, on Rt. 1, the Holiday House where a complete family style buffet is served, a real feast including triple layer cake for $7.99. After that, I couldn't make it much further so a dark lumberyard parking lot beckoned. It's great to be curled up snug in your bunk in the rain, and the trailer is as secure an anchorage, as you are likely to get.

Day 8- In the morning I got the bright idea of leaving the boat in a storage lot in Stuart Fla. ($1/day). As I planned to return over the Christmas Holidays I figured the gas savings would pay for the storage, with less wear and tear on the tow vehicle (and me). Rai Aubrey did this last year with his boat Stuart is right at the cross Fla. canal the goes through Lake Okeechobee to Ft. Meyers, and I thought that would make a fun trip. Then it was back to pounding out the miles on I95, relentlessly pushing on, fortified with coffee at a surprisingly crowded waffle house midnight, arriving home at 2:40 am, much to the "delight" of my spouse.

-Cap't Jim