Saturday, January 15, 2000

Bahamas Millennium Tour - MacGregor 26X

The Bahamas are a great place to visit. The water colors are beautiful, the beaches warm, the Kalik cold. The sailing, provided the winds cooperate, can be nearly perfect, with enough distance between ports to feel like each one is an accomplishment. Even though this would be my 8th Bahamas trip, I was really looking forward to it. My wife, Joyce, thanks to our two children finally moving out of the nest, was free to accompany me for the whole trip for the first time.

Any trip involves several stages, the planning stage usually sets the time frame, destination goals, boat equipment additions and modifications, and home front details such as bills paid or delayed, mail, newspapers, neighbors alerted, etc. Next is the actual loading and provisioning of the boat, last minute checks of trailer and tow vehicle ( For this trip an 8500lb 29' Fourwinds motor home with ford 460 V-8 guzzling a gallon of gas every 7 miles) various business and personal phone calls, check the locks, shut off the water ( a burst pipe while I was away once caused a mess ) and you're off on another adventure. Visits to relatives and friends along the way made the trip to Miami from Annapolis a pleasant 3 day drive instead of my usual 18-20hour blitzkrieg.

We pulled into the pleasant Crandon Park marina on Miami's Key Biscayne the afternoon of the 28th, rigged the mast, and unloaded the contents of the motor home into the boat. It went faster when we towed the boat with the Astro van, because we were already moved aboard and using the boat as a travel trailer. The motor home adds an unnecessary level of complexity to the package and is probably more trouble than it is worth for a short drive of two or three days, but it does have a hot shower, generator, and A/C if needed. We are hoping to spend several months on a combined boat/motor home trip to the Baha peninsula sometime in the future, and this was a little test of the concept for us. Amazingly, we watched as an M-26X pulled into the dock, the somewhat bedraggled crew scurried over to a vehicle and began changing out of wet T-shirts. Turns out it was one of our customers from Maryland, Rob Savio and his wife, just returning from their first week in the Bahamas and the 15kt west wind made for a rough return trip. They were excited about the trip, which was their first ocean passage in their MacGregor. Congratulations on a safe trip, Rob!beach2.jpg (116521 bytes)

Day 1: The next stage involves prepping the boat, last minute provisioning, equipment checks, storage and security provisions for tow vehicle and actually getting underway. We launched the boat the next morning, gassed and iced up (block ice lasted 4 days) parked the motor home and trailer next to the marina office for better security ($25/wk fee) and departed 0845 for Bimini. (P.S. the marina does not like motor homes because they are more of a security risk, and suggested I park it in a fenced storage yard a half-mile away next time). The west wind of the previous day had shifted to NW 10-15kts as we scooted out towards the tip of Key Biscayne. Nearing the ocean, we stopped to flood the ballast tank and hoist a reefed mainsail, then motor sailed out onto the deep blue.

Out past the shallows the waves become more orderly, with occasional whitecaps to splash a little spray over the bow. Winding out the working jib and shutting off the motor, we played our sailing game for a while, holding a good course and making 3-5kts through the waves on pretty much a beam reach. Joyce enjoys watching the flying fish, Portuguese man-o-war nettles, and even a Dolphin or two. 10-15kts may be perfect sailing on more protected water, but in these small, lightweight boats you know you are on the ocean. Since we got a relatively late start and wanted to get to Bimini as fast as possible, back in went the motor at a quiet hum, pushing the speed up to 7 and cutting several hours off the time across. The noon "sight" or "fix" with the GPS showed a more northerly set to the course than anticipated, requiring a course correction from 95 degrees to 105 degrees.

Arrived Bimini at 3:30 PM, time enough to gas up and check in to customs. We tied up at the customs dock to a convenient forklift, there being no cleats handy. Current fees are $100 per boat up to four persons. We carry a shotgun, which we always declare and have never needed in all 8 trips. Getting these details done in the afternoon means we are free to leave as early as we like the next morning, and with 85 miles to go, an early start is a good idea. We toyed with the idea of spending the night at the dock of Weems marina nearby, and tied up briefly for a walk about town. Bimini is definitely laid-back. Tourists and locals alike stroll around with open bottles of rum etc. Streets are full of a happy mix of pedestrians, mopeds, golf carts, bicycles and trucks. When the electronically amplified fire and brimstone preacher started raving, we ran back to the boat and sought a quieter anchorage, and were partially successful. We had drinks and dinner aboard, punctuated occasionally by a crazed Bahamian in a speedy motorboat roaring by with attendant wake.

Day 2: The motorboats continued sporadically all night, even 3am! Turned out we were close to a little dock all the Bahamians use, and had we been a couple hundred yards further north in the anchorage we would have been beyond most of the boats. Oh well! Underway by 0700 after breakfast and speeding toward Chub Cay @15mph. I have thought of sailing or motoring across the banks at night, puttering slowly at 5mph under autopilot, but the Gulf Stream crossing and other hassles wear you out, and a nights sleep seems more important. Crossing the banks is a really nice trip on a calm, sunny day, with the smooth green water flashing past and the bottom so clearly visible you can see each starfish and sea cucumber. "Otto" the autopilot steered happily across azure seas for hours while Joyce and I read and relaxed in the cockpit and below decks. Eventually the breeze combined with the boat speed produced a chilling effect that required some sort of a windbreak. Although several after market dodgers are available for the boat, they can be a bit cumbersome to walk around, but I solved the problem by propping a square seat cushion up against the midship stanchion and tying it with a short line. I plan to experiment with a short Plexiglas windshield that would attach to both stanchions and to a bracket in the center on the sliding hatch. Holes in the Plexiglas would allow bungie cords to temporarily hold it in place when needed, and it would serve somewhat as a spray shield also, yet store easily under the rear berths.

The trip to Chub Cay took 12 hours the last time but thanks to a larger motor and calmer seas only 7 hours this time. We passed several larger sailboats who had left earlier or left from Cat cay ( 9 miles south of Bimini). Most will sail straight through to Nassau to avoid having to thread the shoals around Chub at night, but our faster speed puts us in Chub in time to gas up and go snorkeling at Mama Rhoda Rock. The reef and caves along the rock edge are one of the best snorkeling areas in the Bahamas. After refueling and dinner aboard, we took advantage of the reasonable conditions and continued on to Nassau. The 36 miles under power was choppy and damp, and took 4 1/2 hours. Entering the Nassau harbor at night is always a bit uncertain, the city lights overwhelm the small channel marker lights, but it is essentially straightforward. We anchored amidst a crowd of cruising yachts in a shallow portion of the harbor, for a well deserved nights rest.

Day 3: Fri. 12/31/99 We circled through the nearby marinas looking for a friend aboard "Sopot" to no avail, gassed and iced up and rented a slip at the Nassau Yacht Haven., where we washed off the accumulated salt (on us and the boat) and rearranged the interior clutter. After lunch and grocery shopping we walked over to the old Paradise Island bridge (Potter's Cay) and shopped for conch fritters among the vendors. The hike across the new bridge put us at the new Atlantis casino, very fancy, which is designed to quickly strip your wallet of excess funds. We had a drink at the outside bar/ restaurant and Joyce really enjoyed a walk through the picturesque grounds of the complex and the undersea aquarium glass tunnel, with sharks circling overhead inches away.

While we were not charged for the walk, friends recently were charged $20 each and reported the lagoon restaurant and bar now closed to the public, so it would be best to check and find out what policy is current. We passed a couple getting wedding photographs taken next to a waterfall and thought about our own vows 32 years ago and the path life has taken us, and wished them good luck. Back to the boat for shrimp cocktail and munchies as we relaxed and read in the cockpit in the shade of the Bimini top. A short nap in anticipation of the rigors of the all night Junkanoo refreshed us and the marina showers finally had hot water by 11pm. The new millennium was ushered in with champagne toasts with other boaters and fireworks from all around. Several of us headed downtown for the festivities. Junkanoo is a colorful, noisy festival with costumed marchers and bands. We staggered back at 4am to get some sleep.

Day 4: Checked out and were off Porgy rocks, the departure point for the Exumas, at 0930. The crossing was bouncy but O. K., with 10-15 NE and a course of 125-135 degrees. More motor sailing with reefed main and jib. Quite a few other boats were crossing also. Our GPS had died on the trip to Nassau from Chub, and did not revive. Was it the Y2K bug? Arrived at ship Channel Cay and found a deserted beach club for day-trippers from Nassau. Anchored alongside beach and enjoyed the facilities, lizards, and a visit from the resident peccary (native pig) who sniffed at my sandals, said "No thanks" and ambled off. We picked up a bag of beach trash as our contribution to the appearance of the beach before moving to a nearby anchorage for "cheeseburgers in Paradise". A large, wooden schooner joined us, with crew taking the obligatory beach tour, so our cleanup efforts presumably were soon appreciated.

Day 5:, Sunday 1/2/00 After a deluxe pancake breakfast, we sailed the short distance to Alan's Cay and beached the boat on a tiny beach on Leaf Cay, to the amusement of several boaters who were beaching their dinghies. The trick is setting the stern anchor, which holds the boat off the beach, then quickly hopping off the bow and setting a bow anchor. A small wooden step on a loop of line from a bow cleat makes reboarding at the bow easier. Alternatively we sometimes anchoredhawksbill.JPG (113113 bytes) the bow and while Joyce let out more scope I backed the boat towards the beach, with rudders up and helm seat raised. As the boat closes with the beach, the power tilt comes in handy to prevent grounding the motor. With a shout to Joyce to snub off the bow anchor, I jump off the stern into 1-2' of water with the stern anchor to secure to the beach. This way we can use the swim ladder for boarding. Joyce ( a former high school biology teacher) enjoyed her "iguana walk" and we found Mr. and Mrs. Iguana at home in the ruins of a cottage. Next it was off to Highborne Cay for ice and a short visit, then back to the banks under sail, scooting past Norman's Cay. A nasty rainsquall was hovering over S. Norman's so we sailed past but the next one caught us. I put on a bathing suit and foul weather top and sailed on through. We needed the fresh water rinse anyway after crossing the banks to the Exumas. Past Elbow Cay the white sand beaches of Hawksbill Cay beckoned. We found a secluded little creek entrance and anchored for a walk, but later decided to move because it's difficult to figure the tides there and we didn't want to chance being aground in the morning. The sand on the beaches was exceptionally fine and soft. We pitched our camp and read happily until the sun set. Joyce fixed a nice dinner, washed down with plenty of rum punch, Mon!

Day 6: A little rolly last night. Wind shifted more to the southeast. We sailed off the anchor in fine style to set an example for the other "Yachts". We tend to sail mostly the short runs between cays, and motor sail the longer runs. Larger boats often motor the short passages and save their sailing for the longer passages. One reason I do not carry a sail cover is to reduce the potential that you will be too lazy to remove it and sail. Soon, unfortunately we were punching into a nasty chop and 20kt winds on the nose. UGH! Did 10 miles and pulled into the lee of Warderick Wells Cay, then sneaked through the shallows towards Belle Cay. We almost made it, but aground we were in 12" water and I had to get off and tug and shove the boat into deeper water then go 2 miles around to make 100 yards! We anchored for lunch past little Belle Island on an unnamed cay with sandy beach and loads of little conch. The low tide had stranded the conch ashore and the hot sun looked like it would bake them in their shells, but Cap't Jim intervened and tossed them all back into the water, hopefully to grow to be bigger conchs. Motored through scenic pipe cay, past the marina at Sampson Cay, finally ending up at Staniel Cay, where we anchored in 4' in the town basin. Our schedule had quickly become dawn to dark, and we were now turning in by 8pm.

Day 7: 1/4/00 Tues. Had some water leakage into the bow area yesterday, and think it may be coming in around some of the fittings or bow light. Happily have a tube of silicon and promptly "goop" everything in sight. Moved to Staniel Cay dock for gas, ice, and a walk to the grocery store. One store had no change for a twenty so could not buy there, and the other closed as we walked up "for a couple hours, Mon! ", so it was back to the boat and off to the fabled "thunderball grotto" for snorkeling. A portion of the James Bond film "Thunderball" was shot here. This is probably my favorite snorkeling place in the world, with fun to feed fish and a big cave with skylights. We tied to a dinghy mooring for the swim, then moved to a regular mooring to wash off and have lunch. Then off down the chain of cays to Little Farmer's Cay, where we met the proprietor of the Ocean Cabin restaurant and bar, Mr. Terry Bain. His grandfather had started the business years ago, and although he had left the Island as a young man and seen the world, he was back with his wife and children to stay. It was a delightful walk around the small Island, with dogs, chickens, and goats aplenty. They said no one had brought their sailboat into the shallow town dock before, but we made it in and out with no problem, Mon!

We hurried off at flank speed to Cave Cay, whose enclosed, shallow lagoon promised a peaceful nights sleep. Entering the lagoon we saw "Beware of Dog" signs on pilings and anchored next to a small sandy "islet" in the middle. " Let'em swim out", I thought. While Joyce started dinner I pitched more small conch back in and wandered down to the far end of the sandy spit. I froze as I realized I was looking at Dog Tracks! I guess they swam out! The size of the dog tracks was alarming, and I nervously looked around while back pedaling to the boat. Would low tide connect us to the "Hounds of the Baskervilles?" Unfortunately the pond was private and the manager of the to-be- built- marina came out in a boat and tried to run us off but eventually agreed to let us stay, with another warning about the dogs. By this time I figured the dogs would have us for breakfast, so it was with relief when we pulled out the next morning!

Day 8: The weather was turning real nice, and it was just a short ride to Rudder Cut Cay, where I had visited an abandoned house with great beach 5 years ago. Well, another "Private, No Trespassing" sign awaited us. I guess the days of free beaches throughout the Bahamas are coming to an end. Even though you rarely see anyone, them whats owns their Islands wants no visitors! Blithely ignoring the sign, I took a reluctant Joyce for a walk up the hill to the house, which was unoccupied but no longer abandoned, as a new generator and other evidence of at least occasional habitation abounded. We picked up a couple bags of trash to help out as we walked back to the boat. What the hell, I thought. We set up camp with beach umbrella, mats, cooler, portable stereo, beach chairs and I raked the beach clean with a rake I had brought along just for the purpose. We enjoyed our stay, saw no one, and left the place looking much neater. I may be a little crazy, but I would like to return with a gasoline-powered mulcher and grind up the old palm fronds etc. and mulch the trees along the beach.

After lunch and a swim, we went outside at Rudder Cut for some roly-poly on Exuma sound (read; Atlantic Ocean) and ducked back in a few miles later at Adderly cut. This saves some tortuous motoring through poorly defined inside channels, and is faster. We made it to Barre-tarre, the tip end of Great Exuma Island, and tied up at the shallow town dock, for the short walk to Cap't Lloyd's seafood restaurant. A beautiful view from their terrace was improved with a couple of cold Kaliks, and dinner of local cracked conch, rice, and tomatoes was tasty and inexpensive. In places like this there is no menu and dinner tends to be what is available. It is best to radio ahead and let them know how many to expect, and what you would like. Sometimes lobster or fresh fish can be procured. We moved just before dark over to the lee of Hog Island, and spent a peaceful nights sleep

Day 9: Thursday, Jan. 6th. There was more wind this morning, with a shift to the east. We trail-blazed our way around Hog Island over to Sugar Cay across uncharted shallows, luckily the tide was up pretty good otherwise we may have had problems, but it saved considerable backtracking. The last exit onto the sound was Soldier Cay, and when the 12' water depth was blasted by the 6' waves of the sound, a nasty 8-10' chop blocked out path to deeper water. With sail slatting into the wind we hit the biggest waves I ever put a trailerable MacGregor into. One almost stood us on our end, but we made it through and turned towards our final destination, Stocking Harbor off Georgetown, some 11 miles away and 320 miles from Miami, Florida. It was the roughest part of the trip, wet, bouncy, and we were grateful to make it into Georgetown Harbor. We were the only boat to come in to Georgetown from the north that day. Any others stayed put rather than face the 20-25 kts and steep seas. The problem is you go a little ways and say "This isn't too bad", and keep going and by the time you think "this is bad!" you are basically committed and hopefully the worst will be over shortly anyway.

We enjoyed a "tour" of the various anchorages and all the yachts therein, ranging from humble craft to lavish, with very few in our size range, and no other trailerables. We ended up in Georgetown harbor at a new pier being built for a houseboat rental business, where the owner happened to be on the pier and charged us $15/night, a bargain. We took the walking tour of Georgetown, shopped, cleaned up the local beach of trash, had drinks on the terrace by the pool at the "Peace and Plenty", had both lunch and dinner at the "Two Turtles Inn", our unofficial hangout in Georgetown, and retired to the boat, exhausted.

Day 10: Friday Jan. 7th Up at the crack for beach raking duty. Fresh muffins from the town bakery were tasty, but for the real sweettooth you had to get "Mom's" rum cake or doughnuts from her van (and a hug). "Mom" is an Island legend, serving up homebaked goodies for longer than anyone can remember, and her black rum cake is worth the trip by itself! We indulged in a 2nd cup of coffee and listened to the cruisers "chat" on VHF channel 68 at 0800. Then shoved off from Mike's pier and chugged over to the "Chat and Chill Bar and Grill" beach AKA volleyball beach (5 nets and daily games at 2pm)

volleybeach.JPG (84008 bytes)It is a very nice beach so we anchored just off the beach on a falling tide and were soon the object of wonder as we were completely surrounded by sand. I drained the ballast tank so the incoming tide could float us easier and settled back for a relaxing day on the beach, with beach umbrella, sand mats, stereo, etc. and the grouper fingers and fries of the "Chat and Chill" nearby. When we needed something off the boat we just walked over and climbed aboard. We had a great sunset while having a spaghetti dinner in the cockpit and floated free in time to move to the protected inside anchorage before dark.

Day 11: Sat 1/8/00 Up, breakfast, Cruiser's vhf chat, Morning aerobic beach walk (about 2 miles attended by about 16 yachties) We're beginning to get the hang of the place. Hoist sails and sail across to the marina. What's this? The depth finder has a stripe through the LCD, blanking out partially the depth info. Not good. After gassing up, and lunch on the restaurant deck overlooking the harbor, it was back out for some more recreational sailing. You almost forget how much fun it is to not have a destination, just sail around for awhile, ending up at Mike's pier and the "Two Turtle's" for the Redskins - Lion's game. My daughter's fiancé is a big skins fan and we knew they would be watching at home. A few too many Kaliks and dinner and it was good-bye Cap't Jim, 'til tomorrow.

Day 12: Sun 1/9/00 Tinkering with the depth finder, it seems to have moisture inside it. It finally shorts out and won't come on at all. While this is bad news, it would be a lot worse if we had a deep draft fixed keel boat. The mild S.E. breeze continues and we decide to head back, taking advantage of the favorable weather. The trip back, largely downwind, is almost anti-climactic. The visibility into the water is better because the sun is generally behind us now. 1 1/2 hours to soldier Cay, then on to Rudder Cut Cay for lunch and a snorkel/swim.

The beach still has my rake marks above high tide, and I don't see any trash to pick up. We called the Ocean Cabin Restaurant on Little Farmer's Cay and made dinner reservations, then headed up there to Big Harbor, stopping at Big Farmer's Cay just long enough to walk its beach and pick up a bit. Saw a small herd of goats, with young kids scampering about. At Big Harbor on Littler Farmer's Cay, our anchor dragged for the first time. The bottom was very hard so I hooked my bow anchor on a sunken boat. There is a long beach, and we picked up several bags of trash in an hour and still saved some for other visiting yachties. One of the most unique pieces of "trash" was a propeller, partly buried in the sand. I tried to dig it up but it was attached to an out drive, which may have been attached to a boat? The lobster dinner was delicious, and the walk back to the boat was challenging in the pitch dark, through the Island graveyard (not kidding). No Street lights out here, Mon!brkvw.jpg (129657 bytes)

Day 13: Mon. 1/10/00 A beautiful morning with palm trees staring in the companionway at us. Time for a morning beach walk and, we can't help ourselves, picking up another box of trash. The beach looks so much better, but a derelict boat at one end has sprouted several bags of trash. It has to go somewhere. Motored to Black Point, an off the beaten track Bahamian community that is just beginning to think about tourism. Several locals were working on their racing sailboats, getting ready for the family island regatta in Georgetown in March. The cash prizes are a big incentive for these sailors. Years ago these were work boats that raced, now the work boats are all motorboats, and the race boats just race. It was quite breezy and we hoisted sail and sailed wing and wing all the way to Staniel Cay, across the shallows where the big boats can't go. At the restaurant we met a former customer who was cruising for a year on a 32' boat. He and his wife seemed relaxed and happy.

Full of fuel and food, we motored back through the pipe cay chain all the way to Warderick Wells Cay. We had our pick of protected anchorages, and picked one where the very low tide exposed a wide, shallow beach, pock-marked with holes from, we believe, sand crabs, but we never saw any. Mercifully, there was hardly any trash, but we got what was available. The lizards were tamer here and Joyce was amazed to see one little fellow actually climb up on to her foot. He (she?) scurried away fast enough when Joyce moved a bit.

Day 14: Tues. 1/11/00 Sneaked in the back way to the yacht anchorage, close to the rocks in shallow water, It is very calm and the water surface is smooth, allowing a good look at the bottom. Motored back to Hawksbill Cay and had a nice beach/trash walk, then on past Shroud Cay to Norman's Cay. There is a wrecked plane in a few feet of water and we enjoyed a snorkel all around it. I went into the fuselage and swam over to the pilots seat. It was a bit creepy. Later, we tied up at the old dock. Everything is abandoned on the south end of Norman's. The yacht club, Hotel, beach club, a large private residence, all abandoned. A notorious drug dealer bought the place up quietly is the '80s and conducted his smuggling operations from here. Eventually the law caught up and he fled to Columbia, leaving his assets to decay in the Bahamian legal system. There were just 13 private residences on the island. Thankfully, 'Galinda" at McDuff's quaint little beach bar served up a mean hamburger and cold Kalik.

We continued on to nearby Highborn Cay for gas, and enjoyed the "shark show" right in the marina entrance where as many as 10 nurse sharks circle around and lay on the bottom, letting the current oxygenate their gills without swimming. We went through the Allen's Cays on up to Ship Channel Cay and the conditions were so calm we couldn't resist setting the autopilot for Nassau, covering the 30 miles in a bit over two hours, and anchoring behind "Trash Cay" for dinner. Trash Cay needs to be seen. Or is better not seen. What an eyesore! It is the graveyard of tons of commercial metal junk, completely covering the cay at least 10 feet high. Defeated at last, there was nothing I could do but turn in for a good night's sleep.

Day 15: wed Jan. 12 Into Nassau for gas and Ice, then out the ship Channel towards Chub. No GPS, no depth finder, a little rolly and spray flying but flogged the Honda 50 onward. We really should have sailed but I preferred to spend my time at Chub snorkeling, though we did hoist sail for the last couple miles. We anchored in the lee off the beach for lunch, then moved to Mama Rhoda Rock for a nice, long snorkel. Conditions were good, sunny and not too breezy. We fueled up (again, and gas was $2.65 to $3.05/gal in the Bahamas), tied up to the marina dock and relaxed aboard. After happy hour, we walked the beach (no trash available) and watched the sunset from the swimming pool verandah. Very beautiful! The Chub Cay restaurant offers a pleasant dining experience with white tablecloth, candles, and soft music, very nice, and reasonably priced. The broiled grouper was excellent. We moved out to the anchorage at night, so as to be ready for an early a.m. getaway.

Day 16: Thurs. Jan. 13th Several powerboats and one sailboat actually beat us out , but we were underway by 0715, powering towards Cat Cay, 75 miles away with no GPS. It was a great ride, perfectly calm, sunny, warm, with "Otto" steering. About 1:30 a green blotch appeared which quickly became recognizable as Ocean Cay, about 12 miles south of Cat Cay, so a major course correction was in order, and Cat Cay appeared a few minutes later, arrival time being 2:30. The weather forecast from Miami reaches Cat Cay, so I listened as we fueled up, and decided to take advantage of the perfect conditions and complete the trip to Key Biscayne, in just 4 hours, arriving at no name harbor for dinner aboard at 7pm. 120 miles in just under 12 hours, and ahead of a major cold front.

Just a little carelessness and we were "lost" getting back to the marina. It took a while to figure out the lights, and a good thing it was calm or we would have had more problems. I did not do a compass course from one marker to another, relying on my " familiarity" with the area. But I had only come in at night once, in 1988. So we did some extra motoring around Biscayne Bay, and finally pulled into the marina at 9pm. It was very humid and still so we bolted for the motor home and cranked on the generator and a/c and slept in the queen sized double bed, having hurriedly pulled the boat out on the trailer and rinsed it off (under a light).

Day 17: Friday Jan. 14th The last stage of a trip involves disassembly and cleanup of the boat and prep for the drive home. It didn't take long. We left most stuff in the boat, just removed the jib, dropped the mast, tied it down and hauled. We were out of the marina before 8am. Crossing the parkway bridges, we saw (and felt) the white capped waves and 20knot NW winds. At Ft Lauderdale we drove along the ocean and watched with fascination as waves pounded the beach and wind driven sand made the surface blurry. Winds were 20-30 with higher gusts.

A friend who had left on a cruise ship to Nassau that very day later reported 24' seas in the gulf stream and winds to 60mph (including the ship's speed). We were glad to be back. Had we been stuck in the Bahamas we would have just waited it out in Bimini at the Complete Angler's bar. By Sunday things had calmed down and another friend headed over to Grand Bahama Island in his 38' boat. So it goes, cruisers coming and going, waiting for the magical "weather window" for the Gulf Stream crossing to Paradise.

We stopped at a campground in Georgia just off I95, hooked up a hose and washed the salt off both boat and trailer, flushed the engine and trailer brakes, then waxed the boat completely. I winterized the head and water systems and changed the oil and filter on the Honda. Luck was with us, no rain back up the road home, so the freshly shined Mac 26X took its place in the line-up at A-1 Sailboats, ready to reawaken with the warmer spring temperatures. It took another day to strip, clean, and winterize the motor home, and another 2 days to sort through the mail, start the paper, return phone calls, restock the fridge etc. and an entire day typingbeach.jpg (149466 bytes) this account up before the trip was truly over.

Now the planning and scheming begins anew.

Happy Sailing from Cap't Jim