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The Volvo Ocean Race – Miami

While a lot of life has recently been about preparing to welcome our first little sailor, we did get a unique opportunity at the end of May to visit the only U.S. port of the Volvo Ocean Race in Miami.  

Considered the Everest of sailing, the VOR is an intense 39,000 nautical mile, 9-month around the world sailing race with 10 port stopovers. And, the timing worked out ideally as we had already planned to be at a family reunion on the East Coast a week after the race events so we decided to make a “visit-as-many-friends-along-the-way-to-the-race/reunion” road trip of it.

With a goal of being in Miami for the in-port race and start of the next offshore leg to Lisbon, Portugal, we packed up the car and drove the 1300 miles to Ft. Lauderdale. We had two overnight stops on our route there and overall it was a relatively easy ride for the then 7-month pregnant admiral.

Once there, we connected with part of our cruising family, Ted and Mili of s/v Morning Glory, and made weekend plans that revolved around catching up and being at the center the race. First stop was the Race Village in Bicentennial Park, Downtown Miami. As we drove near, even with the multi-story America Airlines Arena clouding our view, we could see the tops of the 103 foot masts piercing the sky (for context, Kaleo’s mast was a mere 43 feet in comparison).

Masts piercing the sky

Walking up to see the six 70-foot long thoroughbreds of ocean racing was electrifying, at least for us sailors. These boats are made of advanced carbon and Kevlar skins, with canting keels (the fin on the bottom of the boat pivots laterally) and can often sail faster than the wind speed. And they are all equipped with exquisite paint jobs to match their prestige.

Naturally, we’re cheering for Puma, the American team in the race. And after having spent months watching Mar Mostro (the name of Puma’s boat) claw her way around the world via the Internet, we were elated to see her in person. There she was, tugging at her lines waiting to pounce back on the water, sporting signature black sails with the Puma logo jumping up as if from the ocean itself.

The bow of Mar Mostro bridled to the dock

Then, as if the day couldn’t get any better, none other than Ken Read, a legendary sailing champion and the skipper of Mar Mostro, came strolling up the gangplank. It was all hands on deck as we grabbed the camera and scurried over to meet him. The picture hardly shows it but Matt was practically speechless.

Up close and personal with Ken Read

Ted chatted up a security guard and soon enough we found ourselves down on the dock right within arms distance of the race boats. Matt and Ted talked with Rome Kirby, the youngest guy on the Puma team (and in the VOR) at 22. When asked how he got on board with the Volvo Race he replied, “gotta start small and win all the dinghy races.” Hmm, something for Matt to work toward.

Chatting with Rome

After admiring the perfectly crafted lines of Mar Mostro’s hull and drooling over sailing equipment that alone is worth more than most boats, we sauntered around the rest of the village. Highlights included the 3D theater, the grinding competition (Matt completed it in 11.3 seconds, Volvo sailors do it in 9 flat), and seeing Iker Martinez, the skipper of a rival team, Telefonica.

Grind faster!!

With our fill of the village it was off to Morning Glory where we spent a gorgeous night anchored out under the glow of the Miami skyline. Swimming, dinghy rides, grilling and the gentle roll of being at anchor brought a flood of wonderful cruising memories back. To really make it more like cruising, we wrapped the night up with great friends and our traditional game of Mexican Train. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we raised the anchor and headed past South Beach and off-shore to the race course. We knew it was the right direction as we followed the VOR boats out, all in a stately line as if they were horses parading before the queen’s court.

Headed out to the course aboard Morning Glory

What started as a beautifully calm day, quickly turned tempestuous as a rollicking wind brought in storms. With waves crashing over the bows of Morning Glory, we spent the next few hours tracking around the race course as the VOR boats came ripping by, sometimes as fast as 20 knots. Again, for context, Kaleo sailed at an average of 5 to 6 knots. And after quite a few lead changes and a hard fought race, Puma came steaming by Camper in the last seconds of the race to take 3rd. Not the first place we were hoping for, but with a 39,000 mile race, it’s how you do in the long haul that truly matters.

Rounding the mark just behind Telefonica

The weather cleared as we returned to port with anticipation of the next day’s race, the start of the next offshore leg. After church on Sunday, the guys took Ted’s powerboat out to chase the racers into the Gulf Stream and given the limited amount of shade on board, the gals elected to relax by the pool.

In conditions opposite the previous day, virtually zero wind and a flat ocean, the guys zipped and zoomed around the course, at times within throwing distance of the race boats. The highlight of the day was following Puma out to sea as Read pointed the bow towards Lisbon, Portugal. They followed Mar Mostro out for about an hour waving them off with a holler as they crossed into the Gulf Stream to eventually take another 3rd place coming into Lisbon.

Headed toward Lisbon

Not only was it great to see Ted and Mili but we can’t thank them enough for making it possible to get so close to the action in Miami.

One last note, Matt’s taking donations to purchase Mar Mostro, which is now for sale for a few million. If he receives enough to buy it, all those who donate are promised the ride of a lifetime!

 

A Weekend On The Water

There’s nothing like the feeling of getting back on the water after life on land for awhile. Whether it’s been a week away, or for us – weeks away, being welcomed aboard a gently rocking boat by dear friends is one of the best ways to start a weekend.

 Peaceful Sunday sail aboard Our Way Too

We hit the road for the coast as the sun rose Friday morning for a long weekend with good friends aboard their boats and to check out the Southwest International Boat Show. Once we pulled into Kemah, which grows on us with every visit, it was all things boats all weekend.

  • We settled in aboard Our Way Too, where we’d be staying with Katie and Dean for the weekend. In our cabin was the cutest and most thoughtful gift, a Lil’ Legends life jacket to help keep our little sailor-to-be safe when out on the water.
  • The afternoon was spent checking out the recently expanded West Marine (which is now about five times bigger than when we were outfitting Kaleo) and visiting with Carolyn, our broker at HSH Yachts. It was great catching up with her and after all the sailing and cruising talk, we couldn’t help but let her know that  if the right boat comes through the area, call us – we’ll be ready. She knows what we’re looking for.
  • Next stop, Alternate Latitude, our cruising friend Steve’s Voyage 440 catamaran, which seems like a cruise ship compared to our former Kaleo and his former monohull, Anchor Management. Along with his sister, visiting from Milwaukee, we headed out for an easy sail, tacking back and forth across the bay while smiling about everything. In fact, Alternate Latitude is available for charter in Galveston Bay and the Caribbean if you’re looking for some time on the water. You’ll be in good hands under Captain Steve and on a very comfortable and sound vessel.

 Cruising around the bay aboard Alternate Latitude

  • And, it wouldn’t be a day on the water without a little seafood, so as soon as Katie wrapped up her work at the boat show, we all headed off the beaten path to a local favorite, Gilhooley’s for their famous oysters and shrimp. After a fun and filling meal with great company, we made our way back to our berths feeling stuffed like flounders.
  • The Saturday morning sun beamed as we hopped into the dinghy for some exploring. Two highlights included playing bridge limbo with the high tide and dinghying over to Wanderer, the actual boat from the cruisers’ cult classic, Captain Ron.

Scooching under a bridge with just inches to spare

 Up close and personal with the boat featured in Captain Ron

  • After lunch, it was off to the boat show, where we checked out a host of beautiful new sailboats, only furthering our fever. We chatted with Carolyn again, visited Katie’s booth for Redfish Island Marine and even ran into an old friend and sailing instructor, John Brown.

Scoping out a new Lagoon

Catching up with John at the boat show

  • We had a quiet evening on board and were up early Sunday for a dinghy ride for breakfast at Classic Cafe. The 20 hp outboard on Dean and Katie’s dinghy made it a much quicker trip than last time. Two new sailing friends, Chris and Tammy of Living and Loving Life, joined us for breakfast and we all talked about … you guessed it, boats and cruising. Soon we were all back aboard Our Way Too for a long Sunday sail on the bay
Sailing alongside Alternate Latitude

We stayed as long as we possibly could and eventually made our way back to the dock where we reluctantly wrapped up the weekend. Thank you again to our generous friends for opening their floating homes to us. We loved every sun soaked, sea breeze filled moment.

 

Volvo Ocean Race – The First 40 Years

If you’re determined to be in the sailing game, you have to do this Race.

- Sir Peter Blake, a famous VOR skipper

We may pass on all other major sports but we wouldn’t miss a moment of this nine month RACE AROUND THE WORLD!

Considered the “Everest of Sailing”, the Volvo Ocean Race is a sport in a league of its own. It’s the world’s premier offshore race, an exceptional test of sailing prowess and human endeavour, which started almost 40 years ago as the Whitbread Round the World Race.

This video is a compelling history of the race. It features dramatic footage from rounding Cape Horn 20 years ago to the Volvo Open 70’s that slice through the water today. It’s a little less than an hour long and if you’re even remotely into sailing, we bet you’ll be hooked after the first few minutes (be sure to watch in full screen mode).

And just as some people anticipate their favorite teams progressing toward the Super Bowl, we’re already counting down the days until we’re on the water welcoming the boats’ arrival from Itajai into Miami in May!

 

Portsmouth & Norfolk, VA

From the Outer Banks we ventured across the Albemarle Sound and while it shares a similarly precarious reputation with the Pamlico, we had a safe and smooth crossing to Coinjock, NC.

Crossing the Currituck Sound, NC

On Tuesday we pulled into (or rather through) the small North Carolina town of Coinjock along the ICW for a night’s stay at Midway Marina and then spent the next full day motorsailing to the town dock at Great Bridge in Chesapeake, VA.

Fun wall of friends in Chesapeake, VA

Nestled between a bascule bridge and lock, this wall dock is a perfect overnight stay before locking through the next morning. Bonus: With Simpatico and Jesse Marie on the same route, we formed a great neighborhood and enjoyed a fun dinner out at Toro Loco, just a short walk away. I love how cruisers’ paths weave in and out, mixing in new friends with the familiar, along our travels.

Serene 78° day along the ICW in Chesapeake, VA

Friday morning it was on to Portsmouth, VA, a small seaport that’s managed to hold onto its 18th-and 19th-century charm for over 250 years. With Downtown Norfolk just across the river, we planned to slow down and take in the towns. We tucked Kaleo into the scenic waterfront town dock at High Street Landing and were off to enjoy the temperate day (mid 70’s by day, high 60’s by night).

Our backyard at High Street Landing in Portsmouth, VA

Taking the paddle-wheel ferryboat to Norfolk, VA with Jesse Marie

Over the next couple of days we:

  • Visited the expansive Chrysler Museum of Art. 62 galleries with over 30,000 works of art from around the world (made up mostly from the private collection of Walter Chrysler, Jr.) gave us a full afternoon of meandering and is not to be missed if you’re in the Norfolk area. Did we mention it’s FREE?! One of our favorite sights was a temporary exhibit where video technology captures the movements of the viewer, so that you interact with and become a part of the artwork itself.

We’re part art!

  • Feasted on a sushi dinner at Domo Sushi before wandering around town and eventually to the Town Point BrewFest to enjoy some live music

Trifeca of greatness. Battleship Wisconsin, Nauticus, and the schooner Virginia

  • Watched an outdoor movie on the fantail (back deck) of the Battleship Wisconsin. The feature film, The Poseidon Adventure, was an action-adventure disaster film about a cruise ship that capsizes and a rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety. Though dated (1972) the story wasn’t lost on us sailors, especially since we were watching it aboard such a mighty battleship.

Battleship Wisconsin set up for its “Fantail Film Festival”

The Poseidon Adventure on the deck of the Battleship Wisconsin

“Fantail Film Festival”

  • Returned home to find the dock to Kaleo underwater! The full moon made for a HIGH tide and us wading to our front door.

Wading across the dock to our floating home

  • Spent Saturday morning at the Portsmouth Farmer’s Market and the famous Skipjacks Nautical Wares before heading back to Norfolk to explore Nauticus, a maritime and naval history museum on steroids. Along with hundreds of exhibits on naval warfare, NOAA weather prediction and even a shark petting tank, a visit to Nauticus also includes a self-guided tour of the Battleship Wisconsin. Though we were on it the night before, the 887 foot long, 45,000 pound ship is impressive to say the least.

Captain Atlas at Nauticus

The mighty and stealth Battleship Wisconsin

  • Met up with friends and fellow cruisers Rick and Linda of s/v Sojourner (finally!) who also hail from Texas. We’ve only virtually known them since the beginning of our trip when they gave us much appreciated guidance on traveling the Gulf Coast. It was a joy to finally meet them in person where we got to know each other better over dinner at AJ Gators. Thanks for the ride home too guys!

Exhausted from the full day, we tumbled into bed with plans to continue north the next morning.

{this moment}

Happy Wednesday! Hope your week is coming along well.

{this moment} – A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple moment to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by SouleMama’s Friday ritual.

Amelia Island, FL to Charleston, SC

We departed St. Augustine on Saturday morning where our route took us up the ICW to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, the northernmost town on Florida’s east coast.

Looking out over the Fernandina Yacht Club and Harbor

With plans to head offshore from the St. Mary’s Inlet just north of Fernandina Beach the next morning, we took the rest of the day to explore the town with our friends from “Simpatico” and some of their friends (now our new friends) aboard “Magic Beans.”

Strolling the tree-lined streets, we drifted in and out of an eclectic collection of local stores, shops, galleries and boutiques. A mid-afternoon ice cream stop helped keep us cool and upon a glowing review from Don on “Magic Beans,” we stepped into Pablo’s for a little A/C, margs and Mexican dinner.

Fernandina Beach welcome center

Lots of pirates roaming Amelia Island

Full on fajitas but not ready to call it a night, the sounds of live music brought us to the garden patio of Cafe Karibo where a local band, Hofmann’s Voodoo, was staged beneath huge oak trees, singing and strumming a guitar and mandolin to a funky mix of Americana and Acoustic Blues until about 8:30. An ideal way to wrap up an early evening as we still needed to prep “Kaleo” for our 30 hour passage to Charleston the next day.

Enjoying the music of Hofmann’s Voodoo

Monday morning we checked the weather, said our radio farewell to “Simpatico” and topped off on fuel at the marina. We made 7 knots on the ebb tide (outgoing tide) leaving St. Mary’s Inlet, hoisted sails and were making great time toward Charleston, about 140 miles away.

Late afternoon, Matt went down for some rest with plans to get up around 10 p.m. Lighting woke him up a bit sooner and with the winds gusting in the low 20’s we decided to reef the main (reduce the amount of sail so as not to get over powered by strong winds). No sooner had we got in the first reef when the winds picked up above 25 knots.

With a thunderstorm behind us and ever-growing sea state, we played it safe by going to our third reef (the smallest amount of main sail out). It was a wise move as within the hour winds were blowing at 30 knots and the ocean swell was running about five to six feet. It seems our smooth offshore sailing streak had run its course as we spent the remainder of the night reefed down with following winds and seas. Though we were getting rocked and rolled, we gained the benefit of speed where at times we were surfing down the waves at 9+ knots, a new record for us.

After what seems like an incredibly long night, dawn broke with only about 30 miles to Charleston. If we kept up the evening’s pace, we could have made it in 6 hours sooner than planned. That did not happen as the winds soon shifted to 15 knots from the NE, exactly the direction we were headed (not good). So we spent the remainder of the day painstakingly tacking toward Charleston and finally arrived in the harbor at 7 p.m, 6 hours later than planned.

With darkness approaching and already 36 hours into this passage, we decided to pull into a slip at the Charleston Maritime Center where we could tie up safely and get some much-needed, solid rest.

As we crawled into bed, Matt mentioned having a lot of pain in his right eye which was pretty bloodshot. By the time morning came, he couldn’t open it and was in intolerable pain. A quick Google search led us to Access Healthcare, a quaint, modern medical center within about a mile’s walking distance of the marina. After 15 minutes with Dr. Dave, Matt was diagnosed was a corneal abrasion, a scrape on the clear surface of the eye. He walked out with an eye patch, a need for a pair of those nifty disposable sunglasses you get after dilation (which we picked up from an optometrist down the street) and a prescription for pain management. Ouch!

Captain, er Pirate-in-pain Matty

With the captain slightly out of commission, still exhausted from our abusive passage and with tons to see and do in Charleston, we’ve decided to make the Maritime Center our home for the week. We look forward to some rest, recovery and a fun week of exploring the incredibly charming Charleston.

“Kaleo” at harbor in Charleston Maritime Center

N 32° 47.39 / W 79° 55.42

Bahamas to Florida Passage Timeline

Assuming all fuel and water are topped off, the evening before any significant passage is spent prepping the boat and ourselves for safety and ease underway.

This involves, but is not limited to, securing the dinghy outboard motor on the stern rail, deflating and storing our dinghy on deck, checking the main engine oil, alternator belt and fuel filter, inspecting standing and running rigging, uncovering the main sail, running our jack lines (safety straps that run the length of the boat that we clip into when going forward of the cockpit), preparing meals that we’ll have underway, organizing and securing all movable things inside the boat and laying out the clothes and PFD’s we’ll wear.

And here’s how we spent the 30 hour crossing from Green Turtle Cay, Abaco to Ft. Pierce, Florida.

6:30 – Matt wakes up to tune into Chris Parker’s weather forecast. It confirms favorable conditions for a smooth Gulf Stream crossing with winds 5-10 knots from the east, southeast and two to three foot swell on the ocean.

Kaleo pointed toward the homeland

7:00 – We pull up the anchor with Matt at the bow and Christie at the helm. The chain rapidly clanks up over the bow roller, most likely alerting everyone in the anchorage that a boat is leaving.

7:02 – Scooted past the sleeping “Honu Lele” and entered White Sound Channel toward the Sea of Abaco. 55 miles to Great Sale Cay, our intended staging anchorage for the crossing.

7:30 – Christie makes egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast while Matt programs the day’s waypoints into the chart plotter.

10:00 – The wind picks up so Matt rolls out the jib to motorsail.

10:09 – The wind dies so Matt rolls the jib back in to stop it from flapping against the shrouds.

12:00 – Lunch is served, salads with summer sausage and crackers for Matt, grilled Veggie-cheese for Christie.

14:30 – The wind picks back up and Matt rolls out the jib again.

16:00 – The wind has held and Kaleo glides along at 6 to 6.5 knots with only the rumble of Mr. Beeker (our affectionately named engine) to disturb the peace of the island we’re floating past.

16:15 – Matt finishes his second book of the day. (Life on a Rock and The Sun Also Rises)

17:30 – We arrive at our intended staging anchorage of Great Sale Cay. Feeling good and decide to sail on through the night and get to Florida by Saturday afternoon. About 110 miles to go.

18:30 – Christie heats up premade foil packets of Quinoa stuffed bell peppers which we enjoy in the cockpit as the beginnings of sunset beckon nightfall.

19:00 – We get cell reception from a lone island tower and use our last $8.00 of Bahamian cell credit to call AT&T and have our U.S. cell phone taken off vacation hold and call  family and friends to let them know of our adjusted plans.

19:15 – Matt goes below for his sleep shift while Christie takes the helm.

20:30 – Our fishing reel starts to click, click, click signaling fish on! Matt jumps up to bring it in while Christie goes for the gaff hook and gloves. Much to our dismay, the fighting fish is nothing more than a large Barracuda which we unhook and release. At least we didn’t lose a lure.

Fishing false alarm with a barracuda on the hook

21:00 – Christie scans the horizon as a few twinkles turn into a comforting blanket of stars in the pitch black sky.

23:30 – A bright flash wakes Matt up. Turns out it’s lightning about 10 miles off our stern, not Christie taking pictures in the night. Matt joins the storm watching party in the cockpit and eventually takes over for the admiral to get some rest.

24:00 – The storm passes well to our stern with strobing flashes indicating its location.

2:30 – A silver quarter moon rises and gives lighted dimension to the waves around us.

3:00 – The engine mysteriously lugs and dies, leaving an eerie silence in the night. We sail on at 4 knots while Matt opens up the engine room to start diagnosis.

3:20 – The motor cranks and starts back up after Matt traced the problem to a drained starting battery which didn’t have enough power to run the electric fuel pump, starving Mr. Beeker to silence. After hot-wiring into the house batteries, it was back to full steam ahead at 7 knots.

5:30 – Streams of sunlight begin to pierce the sky signaling the approaching sunrise.

7:30 – Breakfast is again served, this time it’s cereal.

8:00 – Our speed increases to a near 8 knots as we’re pulled northward into the strong currents of the Gulf Stream.

9:30 – Christie crafts notes to fill a couple message in bottles and we toss them overboard in the ripping current of the Gulf Stream.

Casting message in a bottle #1

Tossing over message in a bottle #2

10:30 – Matt lowers our tattered and torn Bahamian flag as we sail back into U.S. waters.

Kaleo has seen many Bahamian isles under this flag

11:00 – Looking over our stern, we realize there is a fish on our line. We reel in a bluefin tuna, which was a little too small to eat so we cut it up for bait.

11:20 – We were welcomed into Florida by a pod of about a dozen dolphins and a double rainbow. Our playful friends escorted us in for about half an hour, some doing synchronized leaps and dives that were so well timed we thought they had escaped from Seaworld.

Welcomed under double rainbow

And escorted in by playful friends

12:30 – We motor through the channel entrance into Ft. Pierce Inlet and quickly realized we were making our grand entrance into the coast of southern Florida on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend! Boats big and small swarmed the waterways buzzing around at speeds that shattered our laid back island pace. It was an abrupt annoucement that we were back stateside.

1:15 – We dock at Harborview Marina to treat ourselves to A/C, a freshwater bath for Kaleo and a long night’s rest. First stop in the U.S. was “A Touch of Brooklyn” pizzeria where we overindulged in a gooey fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil Pizza Margherita.

1st stateside dinner, classic Pizza Margherita

A clean Kaleo resting after returning us safely stateside

6:30 – Matt finishes washing the boat, and Christie wipes the last surface inside clean. After long showers we crawl into the V-berth and are asleep before we can say goodnight.

Great Guana Cay

Since Thursday we’ve been enjoying the beaches of Great Guana Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.

Poolside at Nipper’s

With Kaleo secured in Fisher’s Bay, it was a short walk into the settlement. Located at the center of the Abacos Islands, Great Guana Cay features miles of pristine white beaches and is home to the legendary Nipper’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, perched on a forty-foot sand dune, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Nipper’s overlooking the Atlantic

Nipper’s is a cruising crossroad with visitors from around the world stopping in for the view, pools, lively conversation and frosty signature drinks. Another draw to Nipper’s is its close proximity, just a few stair steps away to the world’s 3rd largest Barrier reef that can be reached by swimming right off the shore.

 Matt doin’ a little island farming on the way to Nipper’s

 Enjoying a signature Nipper

Friday, we headed to Nipper’s to make a day of the beach, pool, and restaurant. Surprisingly uncrowded, we had our pick of a “dune front” table overlooking the Atlantic where we spent lunchtime enjoying grilled Mahi ceasar salad, a chicken Waldorf Salad wrap, signature Nippers and visiting with fellow cruisers. We spent the heat of the afternoon swimming in the ocean before heading back up to lounge poolside.

Swimming in the Atlantic at Great Guana Cay

Enjoying the Abacos

While at the pool, we met a family vacationing on the island that we would soon learn we have a lot in common with. Their daughter and son-in-law (our age) live in Dallas, not far from where our townhouse was in Lakewood. Christie also went to the University of Texas at the same time as their son-in-law AND their son is a copywriter at an ad agency in North Carolina with a guy Matt used to work closely with at The Richards Group. Small world.

And to add to the camaraderie, our friends from “Honu Lele” walked up the path to the pools at about the same time. With so many great people hanging around, we tabled our plans to sail to Treasure Cay that day and stayed another night in Great Guana to continue the fun well into the evening.

Honu Lele” dancing the night away

We returned to the beach on Saturday afternoon to meet up with Honu Lele and to snorkel the Great Abaco Barrier Reef. An easy swim out brings you atop a well-developed reef system that starts less than fifty feet from shore, and rises from a depth of about forty feet to within inches of the surface.

Diving the world’s 3rd largest Barrier reef

Tossing the football with “Honu Lele”

Amidst swimming, snorkeling and sunning we made plans for a taco dinner aboard “Honu Lele”. On the way back to our boats in Fisher’s Bay, we all stopped into Grabbers, the other beach bar and grill on the island, for snack time appetizers and a dip into their pool before returning to “Kaleo” to cook up our contributions for the Mexican Fiesta dinner.

Aboard “Honu Lele”, we dined on ground turkey and pulled chicken tacos and sipped Mojitos in the cool breeze. After a radiant sunset, the kids brought out glowsticks to light up the night and Sheri baked delicious chocolate chip cookies. We laughed over the light show performance in the cockpit and indulged in the warm cookie treats.

 Our neighborhood from the porch of the dinghy dock

Sunday we watched an excellent Lifechurch.tv message titled, “I Quit Living in Fear” and lazily prepped the boat to head for Treasure Cay. After sailing off the anchor, we drifted by and briefly visited with our friends aboard “Fishhead” who had just arrived to explore Great Guana. We waved good-bye to them with plans of our courses crossing again in Green Turtle in a few days and to “Honu Lele” with plans to meet back up in “Treasure Cay” the next day.

N 26° 39.99 / W 77° 07.10

Returning Through The Exumas

The past week has been punctuated by the sweetness of revisiting some of our favorite Bahamian islands and the inevitable departure of good friends.

The sands of Hawksbill beach

Over the past week, we’ve:

  • Sailed with “SYL” up to Little Farmers Cay and met back up with “Morning Glory.” We hiked across the island to walk along the Atlantic beaches, went to boat church and explored Oven Rock Cave.
  • Set the hook at Castle Beach near Black Point, where we first met “Morning Glory” a few months ago. Ranking as one of our top anchorages on the trip, we swam off the back of “SYL”, snorkeled and spearfished the nearby rock walls and conversed well into the night over highlights of the trip so far.
  • Docked for the day at Regatta Point in Black Point to do laundry and visit Lorraine’s cafe for Internet, home-baked bread and above all, her famous cracked conch.
  • Glided up to Staniel Cay on Thursday for groceries and more snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto. It was just as spectacular as before but this time the water was much warmer. In the afternoon we moved the big boats over to pig beach at Big Majors Cay to anchor for the night and see our grunting swimming friends one more time.

A colorful reef fish in Thunderball Groto

These folks didn’t know the pigs were hoping for a dinghy ride

  • Hugged goodbyes with “Morning Glory” as Friday made their departure for Florida.
  • Sailed with “SYL” up to Hawksbill Cay as Rusty radioed sail trim tips over to Matt. He was ecstatic at having Kaleo sailing so sweetly and grateful for Rusty’s advice.
  • Marveled at the most magnificent oceanside beach we’ve seen yet. A long hot hike over Hawksbill led us to a vista overlooking electrifying turquoise water with a powdery white sand beach that can not be done justice through pictures or words. Rusty even found a message in a bottle from a 5-year-old Bahamian boy named Truman. That’s two message in a bottles found on this trip so far!

The crescent beach at Hawksbill Cay

 

  • Reminisced with “SYL” about first meeting them one cold November day back in Kemah. Over dinner and Mexican Train we laughed at all the trials “SYL” encouraged us through as we made our way down the Gulf Coast, Bahamas bound.
  • Motored away from “SYL” on Saturday morning as we made our way north for Spanish Wells, Eluthera and The Abacos.

Overall, it was an enjoyable way to wrap up our time cruising throughout the Exumas. And while we will dearly miss “SYL” and “MG”, plans to meet back up while cruising the east coast have already been discussed.

National Family Island Regatta in GT

Tuesday marked our return to George Town for the 58th Annual National Family Island Regatta.

Racing for the windward course mark

The best sailors from every major island in the Bahamas converge to compete for the “Best in the Bahamas” title and a year’s worth of island pride.

The frenzied A Class starting line

Racers hiked out on the prye. Notice the name?

Criss-crossing the course

We’ve met many of the locally-built sloops’ crews and were cheering for the No. 5 boat from Long Island, “Running Tide” and the No. 18 boat from Black Point, “Red Stripe”! Along with these fiercely competitive races is a built-up Regatta Point with brightly-colored booths serving delicious local food, frosty rum drinks, and DJ’s pumping lively music, all Bahamas style!

Intently watching for No. 5

The Black Point favorite, “Red Stripe”. Go Lundy!

“Barbarian”, a little off course

A few of the days, we anchored Kaleo in the thick of the action near the finish line. It was close enough to Regatta Point that we could literally feel the music and smell the BBQ roasting. Hot and sunny afternoons were spent meandering through the huts at Regatta Point with throngs of Bahamians and the ever fun crews of “Storyville,” “Morning Glory,” “Pipe Muh Bligh” and “Palaola.”

A race boat heading out to the start line. Up close and personal with “Kaleo”

The market with hand-woven straw baskets and batik fabrics

The streets of Regatta Point

Que romantic race moment

In the evenings, we would move “Kaleo” to a more peaceful anchorage on the east side of the harbor and unwind from the frenetic but fun energy of locals still swaying to the music in George Town. Of course, we took advantage of the well-stocked Exuma Market, propane truck, bank and such before leaving the harbour.

Though planning to leave Friday morning, we ended up staying an extra day to catch a few more races and spend more time with Deana and Troy of “Storyville.” With heavy hearts, the time has come for us to take diverging routes but can’t thank them enough for all their friendship, advice and encouragement over the past several months. They have truly become part of our family on the water and we look forward to visiting them somewhere down island soon.

The crews of “Kaleo” and “Storyville”

With fond farewells we prepped “Kaleo” for an early Saturday morning departure bound for Little Farmer’s Cay.

N 23° 30.39 / W 75° 45.88

The Jumentos

Over the past week we have truly been off the grid anchored in some of the most remote islands in the Bahamas.



 Kaleo under sail to the Jumentos

The Jumentos are a short chain of small rocky islands about 60 miles from Cuba at the closest point. There are few protected anchorages around these ocean-exposed islands and we became accustomed to the constant rolling motion of Kaleo being rocked back and forth in the cradle of ocean swell. Most of the time the swaying was tolerable but four times per day, when the tides changed, the motion caused a ceaseless clanging of everything shifting within the boat. Thankfully, the majority of our time was spent off the boat exploring the islands’ rugged beauty and hanging with Ted and Mili aboard their more stable, two-legged cat.

Matt on a quest for coconuts

Our anchorage in Water Cay

For what the Jumentos lack in conveniences and calm anchorages, it makes up for in rugged, untouched territory ripe for adventure. Our daily excursions had us:

  • Living resourcefully by catching and baking our food, making fresh water from the sea, burning to dispose of our trash, and keeping ourselves constantly entertained with nature and each other
  • Dingy exploring a large cave on Flamingo Cay

Coming out of Flamingo Cay Cave


  • Hiking cliffs overlooking the ocean while the gals hunted the beaches for washed-up treasures

The captain and his winged friend exploring

  • Visiting with “Maggie M”, a boat we crossed over from Marathon with, and meeting their friends on “Three Penny Opera”
  • Surveying the wreckage of a seaplane along a nearly perfect sandy crescent beach

Seaplane wreckage

  • Spearfishing where Matt speared his first fish, a Queen Triggerfish. On one trip out, Matt speared a fish that got off and hid under a rock. The injured fish quickly attracted two 5-6 foot sharks looking for an easy meal. Matt swam off deciding not to come between the sharks and the meal he had just prepared for one of them.
  • Hosting a bake-a-thon, whipping up fresh french bread, an apple crisp and vanilla ice cream
  • Enjoying Sunday boat church service, courtesy of Lifechurch.tv, followed by conversation in fellowship that truly brings home the message
  • Beachcombing Water Cay for sea beans, tropical shells, and rare colors of sea glass
  • Sharing hearty meals and meaningful conversations while watching for the ever-elusive “green flash” at sunset

Our time in the Jumentos wrapped up as strong winds and sea states were forecast to move into the area by mid-week. So, we were early to bed on Wednesday night with plans for a 6:00 a.m. departure to make the 40 mile upwind battle back to Thompson Bay for Easter Weekend.

Conception Island

We left Thompson Bay, Long Island on Tuesday morning with plans for a beautiful sail to Conception Island*, a remote uninhabited island northeast of us.

Christie exploring the beach cliffs

The day started benign enough as we  sailed up the protected waters along Long Island. As we rounded the top of the island into the open Atlantic, the sea state worsened making for a rough sail the rest of the way (another 15 miles, 3.5 hours).

We navigated around a reef and into the anchorage where we dropped the hook in translucent blue waters that lapped up to a perfect sandy beach. Conception Island is secluded, small and is surrounded on all sides by deep ocean (unlike the Exumas, which have shallow sand banks on one side) which makes the anchorage a little rolly but provides access to amazing reefs. The only way to the island is by boat and despite a few others in the anchorage we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.

Upon waking up the next morning, we headed to the beach to peruse for sea beans, shells, and flotsam treasures. Then the gals enjoyed a swim in the crystal blue waters while the guys tossed around the Frisbee.

Matt leaping for the Frisbee catch

Exploring a small cave

A fun hike up to the point

Hiking up the dune

A beach junk swing

In the heat of the day we snorkeled with “MG” on reefs just a few hundred yards from where Kaleo was anchored. It was some of the best yet in about 10 feet of water with coral heads that rose almost to the surface. With a little current flowing against us, fins were in full gear as we snaked through cuts in the coral toward what seemed liked endless heads rising from deeper and deeper water. Rainbow-colored reef fish scurried about as we marveled at the staghorn and brain coral of this underwater city.

The highlight of the snorkel trip (if you want to look at that way) was Christie setting a new speed swimming record when she spotted a shark less than 50 feet away. A blacktip reef shark, about 3-4 feet long, was hovering near a reef as she rounded the corner and locked eyes with it.

After propelling herself away like a jet ski, we all caught up and decided that the shark was likely looking for easy-to-catch small reef fish (not a skittish swimmer). S0 we continued on the beautiful coral sightseeing tour and then returned to the boats for showers, dinner and a movie.

With appreciation for yet another beautiful island, unique in its own way, we charted a course for our next stop to Rum Cay.

*No attempts for baby-making were made during the stay on this island.

N 23° 51.07 / W 75° 07.27

A Sail to Joe’s Sound

Most of Tuesday was spent taking care of laundry at Long Island Breeze Resort (beautiful views) and grocery shopping as we planned to sail north along Long Island the next day.

Long Island Breeze Resort

With laundry wrapped up, groceries bought and loaded aboard, Matt headed out to get fuel for the generator. He stopped at a local dock where Ted was talking with a Bahamian fisherman named Rodger. Matt joined the conversation and later inquired about buying lobster. Without hesitation, Rodger handed him five tails and despite several pleas to pay, he refused to take any money in exchange. Overjoyed by Bahamian generosity once again, Matt thanked him profusely and brought our gifts home as a welcomed surprise.

Wednesday morning, we pulled up the hook and left Thompson Bay and with the wind at our backs, we set sail for Calabash Bay. That made for downwind sailing which just happens to be the best and most leisurely point of sail. With Kaleo running wing-on-wing (the jib out to port and the main out to starboard) we cruised along at 5.5 knots under puffy white clouds through electric blue waters. (Think the color of Sonic’s Ocean Water.)

Sailing wing-on-wing

For lunch, Matt grilled two lobster tails on the cockpit BBQ and we melted drawn butter in the sun. It was a gold star cruising day as we lounged back with bellies full of delicious lobster.

Lobster lunch about to hit the grill

We arrived at Calabash Bay to find it rolly and somewhat uncomfortable, so we tracked back a few miles to the more protected cove of Joe’s Sound. The charts say the entrance is “narrow and tricky” with a “rocky bottom and swift current”. The chart was right. We pulled up to an entrance about 30 feet wide with coral and rocks on both sides. What made it tricky was that the only trail through the water deep enough for Kaleo was about 10 feet wide and made a snaky “S” curve through the rocks.

Navigating the narrow entrance into Joe’s Sound

With Christie on the front shouting the direction of deeper water, and Matt piloting Kaleo, we were almost all the way through when the boat slid to a halt in soft sand (thankfully not rock). No amount of motor forward nor backward would release us as the current pushed us deeper aground. “Morning Glory”, who had just entered the cut before us, turned back, tossed a tow line our way, and with their help and the rising tide, we cut through the sand bar like an elephant would struggle to fit through a dog door.

“Morning Glory” towing us off the sand bar

Deep water right up to the edge of tidal flats

In for the night, Matt set two anchors to keep us in the narrow channel when the tide shifted. The reward for navigating the entrance and extra anchoring work was a peaceful, glassy calm spot surrounded on all sides by low hills and tidal flats.

N 23° 37.67 / W 75° 19.95

Regatta Results

Friday arrived with one thing on our mind. The results of the races were to be announced that evening at the Regatta Awards Ceremony.

We won 1st Overall in our class!

“Around the Island” Race Crew with 2nd place finish flag, custom caps & bottle o’ rum

“SYL” volunteered to be the water taxi back to Volleyball Beach, allowing us to leave our boats in Red Shanks. The gals headed to the beach for the info-session “Eating Well While Cruising” and the guys dinghyied into St. Francis Resort to track down Internet. They soon returned to the beach where Matt was recruited to play a round of tug-o-war.

As the cooking class wrapped up the guys smelled the food being prepared and we all decided it was time for an early dinner. We feasted on racks of ribs and fresh Grouper at the Chat N’ Chill moments before the awards were to be announced.

Admirals and Captains enjoying dinner & sundowners at Chat ‘N’ Chill

The guys were too antsy to sit, so they hovered behind us on the beach as the first round of awards were called out. The “longest fish caught underway” went to “Guiding Light” who caught a Mahi, the first fish to be caught in the race in the last three years! Various awards for photographs taken during the races were handed out next and the well-deserved “baking underway” prize went to our very own, Deana, who made her famous cheesecake, which was voted first place by all three judges!

Then it was time for the multi-hull results. First up, the “In Harbor Race”. Third place was “Sun Burst”, the crowd applauded and we drew in a breath. Second place, “Guiding Light”. And taking first place, by 8 seconds … “Sea Yawl Later!” We all jumped up and ran forward to hoist the huge 1st place pennant (flag) awarded to Rusty and crew.

Pictures, cheering, and awards for the other boat classes and soon enough we were back in the same place waiting on the results of the “Around the Island Race”.

Third place went to “Guiding Light”.  Second place to “Sea Yawl Later” and first place to “Sun Burst” with only a 20-second lead. While another first place would have been great, “SYL” won first place overall with a first and second place finish. Congratulations and talks of next year’s race filled the canopy under the trees as we all reveled in the fun of racing a craft powered only by the wind.

“SYL” nearly floated above the water on the ride home as we all laughed, joked and held out the immense first place flag.

Bahamas Passage

Here is a snapshot of our route and video from sailing the Bahama Bank.

Our path from Marathon to Nassau as recorded by our SPOT took about 45 hours.



Category: Bahamas, Cruising, Friends, Route, Sailing  Comments off
Flying the Bahamian Flag

With the Bahamas so close that we could taste the conch, we pulled up anchor in Boot Key Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, and headed east.

Kaleo sailing toward the Bahamas. Taken by our friends aboard Storyville.
Matt taking a break from trimming the sail

The weather window was right and the five boats we had been planning the passage with were either getting ready to pull up anchor or had left a little earlier. As we sailed out into the deep waters of the Atlantic, the silent question aboard Kaleo was “how smooth will our crossing be?” After a 45 hour passage we’re happy to report that all-in-all, it was a wonderful trip into the Bahamas.

The first few hours after we sailed out of Marathon were quite rolly and uncomfortable and as we headed for “the Stream“, we hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t get worse. During our every-three-hour radio check with our buddy boats, we intently listed to what those in front of us had to say about the conditions. Some reported the same rocking and rolling but two of the lead boats said it was beautiful and smooth sailing up ahead. We altered course a bit and sailed toward those reported smoother waters.

We entered the Gulf Stream about 20 miles off the coast of Florida and were treated to unbelievably great conditions. Other than a few large container ships we had to avoid (one that came alarmingly close, despite telling us on the radio that he was miles away), the whole night we motor sailed at 7-8 knots (the Gulf Stream current was quite helpful). As Troy on Storyville put it “you could water ski out here.” At dawn the sea state was again rolly and rough as a the winds picked up and the swells increased to 4-5 feet. But things calmed down again as we passed South Riding Rock and into crystal clear waters of the Great Bahama Bank.

Still with no land in sight, the day was spent sailing, and occasionally motor sailing when the wind died, over the sea floor that we could easily see through 20 feet of pristine water. We were joined by dolphins that torpedoed around the boat like curious kids of the newbie on their playground.

One of our welcoming dolphins. Taken by Deana aboard Storyville.

At sunset on day two of the trip we hove to (parked the boat by opposing the jib sail’s force to the rudder’s force) to ensure that we wouldn’t get into Nassau before sunrise and to get a few hours of rest. Well, Matt got rest while Christie burned off the sugar-free Red Bull she had just drank as it was her turn to be on shift before we decided to heave-to. She used the time, and energy, to clean the boat, to fully catch up on this past season of Mad Men and to keep an eye on the other boats that were hove-to.

Sunset on the Great Bahama Bank

As soon as the night’s sky was filled with the most bold and bright full moon, the group got back underway and headed for our next waypoint of Northwest Channel, the entrance of the Tongue of the Ocean. With shoals on both sides and strong currents, the channel can be fairly tricky to navigate through, especially in the dark. So, all six boats within our flotilla lined up pretty tightly, like elephants trunk to tail, and kept in close communication as the depth sounder went quickly from 10 feet to 15 to 25 to 100 to the unreadable depths of 6,000 feet.

The next 10 hours were spent mostly motoring toward Nassau Harbor. Matt was sound asleep when morning came and Christie was treated to an amazing sunrise off the bow and a majestic moonset off the stern.

Soon enough we had radioed Nassau Harbor Control for permission to enter, were cleared and were on our way to dock at the Nassau Yacht Haven to wait for customs and immigration. The check-in process went smoothly as three customs officials boarded Kaleo, remaining in the cockpit, to complete the paperwork.  The only hang-up was that we were over-charged by $150 due to the customs officers not being familiar with the rates based on vessel length (or so we’d like to assume). Note: The official cruising permit fees for the Bahamas are $150 for vessels 35′ and under, $300 for vessels 35.1′ and up. We were essentially forced to pay $300 in cash, although Kaleo is 34′, as there was really no way to convince them beyond our attempts to point out our understanding of the rates. Frustrating to say the least but we plan to investigate the facts further and to take it up with the main customs office in hopes of a refund.

We took down our yellow quarantine flag and hoisted the Bahamian flag to prove Kaleo was now cleared to cruise the Bahamas. Dead tired, but excited to finally be here, the crew of our group of buddy boats met at “The Poop Deck Restaurant” for a celebratory dinner. We finished the evening sipping champagne and sharing sailing stories aboard our friends’ boat, Storyville, then it was back to Kaleo for a deep slumber.


N 25° 04.5 / W 77° 18.9
Bahamas Bound!

We’re like kids on Christmas Eve today as we prepare to set sail for the Bahamas tomorrow!

Fun sign at Boot Key Harbor Marina

Our plan is to leave Marathon tomorrow afternoon, around 2:00, and sail overnight, crossing the Gulf Stream, to South Riding Rock. The weather window we are taking should make for favorable crossing conditions. At South Riding Rock we will cross onto the Bahama Bank, an area about 10-12 feet deep with crystal clear water, and head to the Northwest Channel. If the seas are calm enough, we will drop an anchor on the bank and take a nap before heading into the Tongue of the Ocean which is about 6,000 feet deep. The last part of our passage will take us down to Nassau, where we can check into the Bahamas and get some rest. If the weather starts to turn for the worse, we will head to our back-up spots of either Frazer Hog Cay or Morgan’s Bluff.

The trip is about 40 consecutive hours of sailing and/or motoring. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be and beyond ready to be in the tropics. So, here goes …

While offshore and out of the country, we will lose our cell service. We will also be without internet service for a few days but you can track our progress by clicking the “globe” icon below (also in the upper-left corner of the site) which is constantly updated via our Spot Tracker.

Once we get settled in, we plan to get a Bahamian cell number. We will also be able to Skype and update the blog when we have internet. And, if you haven’t already, join us as virtual crew on our facebook page where we post more casual updates of our adventures. That’s it for now :o).

A Marathon Sail

We’ve been spending the start of our new year by moving further south. After leaving the Tampa area, we spent a few nights at anchor along the ICW as we motored down to Fort Myers. Then, we picked up a mooring ball for two nights in Fort Myers waiting out a strong storm front and rain that came through. While in town doing laundry, another cruiser asked where we were from, and to our reply she said with excitement “Oh, you’re the kids!” It seems our reputation proceeded us as our friends and fellow cruisers, the Sittons, mentioned we would be coming through the area soon. For a little context, at the start of our adventure a handful of other cruisers we had gotten to know (and our diesel mechanic) started affectionately referring to us as “the kids,” a name that stuck. We like it and it certainly suits us as we have so much to learn from their experience and advice.

The main, full of wind, from Fort Myers to Marathon

On Friday morning we dropped the mooring ball in Fort Myers and topped off our water and fuel before heading out into the Gulf. The wind was blowing in the opposite direction of what was forecast (blowing SE, forecast to be NW) dashing our hopes of a smooth downwind sail to Marathon. Combined with seas from the west, meaning they were perpendicular to the boat, made for a very rolly ride. Though uncomfortable, we were making good progress so we moved on past our backup stop of Marco Island to keep heading toward the Keys. The wind continued on the nose until about 7 p.m. then started to clock around to the west enough to raise the main sail. That helped speed but just after dinner we heard the dreaded “thunk” of a crab trap hitting the prop. Thankfully it didn’t get wrapped up in the shaft (which would have necessitated a dive trip into the water to cut it loose). With the darkness, it was impossible to see and avoid the crab traps so we decided to shut down the motor and raise the remaining sail. The wind filled from the west and much to our delight, Kaleo was gliding along at 6.5 knots under full sail (and only full sail). The peaceful quiet of water lapping past the hull and the whisper of wind through the rigging reminded us why we love sailing. It’s a beautiful feeling to be moving along in your house, powered completely by mother nature. About midnight, the sailing was still great but our speed would put us into the Moser Channel before light (a big no-no as you never want to enter a new channel in the dark). So we dropped the jib and sailed under just the main at about 3 knots to ensure a daylight arrival. With sunrise came wind on the nose, the motor came back on and we weaved our way under the Seven Mile Bridge and into the Atlantic Ocean.

About an hour later, Kaleo was securely anchored in Boot Key Harbor with gorgeous 70° weather under sunny skies. We promptly changed into swimsuits and fell asleep lounging in the sun on the foredeck. A few hours later we took the dingy in to check out the marina and take showers. The city marina, though utilitarian, fosters a great community of sailors and liveaboards. When checking into the marina we even received a welcome bag from the local cruisers’ net. Think of a “net” as an interactive morning radio show for every boater in the area who has a VHF radio and wants to join. We’re looking forward to listening in tomorrow. Coming back to Kaleo after dark, we were awe struck by just how many boats are in the harbor. There are rows and rows and ROWS of anchor lights lit up like a city on the water and our best guess is that we’re neighboring at least 300 other boats.

Dusk at Boot Key Harbor

Tomorrow, our friends, Erica and Sean, are driving in from Fort Lauderdale to have lunch nearby and Monday we plan to do a few last minute errands. Then, it’s time to get serious about our crossing to the Bahamas. We’ll have our eye on the next weather window with plans to stage in Angelfish Creek (or somewhere nearby) for the crossing.

N 24° 42.16 / W 81° 06.23

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