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May. 26th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Day 2 on the ICW
I traveled 32 miles today. It was uneventful. I passed through two bridges and back eastbound through Haulover canal. I saw more dolphins and manatees. It’s an interesting place. It’s much like a lake or river with local runabouts and other small fishing boats and at the same time there are large ocean going motor yachts and sailboats. Ensign likes to stay on bird watch. When there are no birds around then she likes to sleep. I anchored next to the fixed bridge in New Smyrna. Near four or five other anchored boats.
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May. 25th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Entering the ICW

I departed Cap Marina Port Canaveral. I went through my first bridge. In Florida, I call the bridge tenders on Channel 9. Some open on request and some are on a schedule. After the bridge there is a set of locks at the end of the Canaveral Barge Canal. I called the Canaveral locks on channel 13. I had to wait for a little 10-15 foot houseboat to exit. I went in alone. They tell you to tie off on the side and tell you when to leave after the lock closes and the other end opens. The canal is 5 miles. It is all well marked. If there are no markers then you just stay in the center. The second bridge in the canal opened without delay.

I continued north in the Inter Coastal Waterway for 15 miles. I passed through my forth bridge again with out delay. During the afternoon the wind picked up to 20 knots on the nose. Spray from the moderate chop would fly up and occasionally get me and the cockpit wet. I approached the last bridge before Titusville. I called on the VHF and requested an opening. The response, they will be open in one hour. I decided to drop the hook next to another power boat that arrived just before me. We waited until about ten minutes before the scheduled opening and then pulled up the anchor. I considered anchoring in that area for the night but I wasn’t sure if I could. Later I asked someone at the Marina. They told me I could have stayed there.

I requested a slip at the Titusville Municipal Marina. This place is nothing like the Beverly Municipal Marina. This is a top-notch large-scale marina with dockhands, fuel dock, Marina Office, lounge, marine store. My dockage rate for one night was just $33. Well worth it. I had also considered anchoring outside the harbor but with Ensign, I would have had a very wet and long dingy ride at least twice. As I entered the slip with wind was blowing 20 knots and pushing me off my assigned finger slip. The dockhands were there to assist but I got pushed off by the wind and decided to bail out on my first attempt. The bow pulpit scrapped along the outer pilling. It was just a telephone pole type pilling so no damage. I got in safely on my second attempt.

I’ve seen a lot of dolphins and manatees.

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May. 24th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Spring Cleaning
I spent two days doing spring cleaning. The bathroom and fridge wasn’t smelling very fresh for quite a while. So I went through the whole boat front to back. Everything is deferent now that I’m back in the states. I can just hook up to free and clean water. I can plug into power without first testing it to see if it is even close to what it should be. I’ve rested and reviewed charts and books. With another approaching front I decided I should take the ICW. I’m ready to go single-handed.
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May. 22nd, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Crossing the Gulf Stream

We departed Great Issac at 0600. We put the main up without even turning into the wind. It was on our stern but so light we were motoring along almost at the same speed as the wind. It took us until afternoon to get into the gulf stream. I had very little information on he actual wall of the gulf stream The best piece of information I had was the general center. The chart showed a set of arrows depicting the average center location going from the Florida Keys and north. By mid afternoon we were in the center of the gulf stream. We were doing 8.5 knots motoring with a light wind.

For much of the day I stayed below working on our path and gathering tid-bits of weather. The Chris Parker weather didn’t come in over the last two mornings. The day before we did get noaa weather faxes and I got more through out the day. I tried to interpret it. There was a front moving through but it seamed weak. I received some weather from the VHF. It confirmed the weakening front moving south. We would pass it through the night. Aubrey and Ben wanted to go directly to Lake Worth. I kept working on possible speeds and an estimated time of arrival. It was hard to predict with a closing window of light. We couldn’t arrive near the inlet and have darkness set in before we got in and secure. The timing would be close. Estimating 6 ½ knots we could make it but any slower and we would still be out in darkness. We had to make a decision early. We needed to decide to continue running up the middle of the gulf stream or to turn and head towards the Lake Worth inlet. I knew we would loose a lot of speed once we got out of the gulf stream. I also had heard of additional slowing by a south-bound current along the edges. I made the decision, we needed to continue on through the night. Aubrey and Ben thought we could make it to the Lake Worth inlet. Maybe we could have but it would have been close.

I told Aubrey and Ben to both go sleep for four or five hours. This was around 8pm. As the evening set in, we approached the cold front. I let Aubrey and Ben sleep through it. They had enough and were beat. I watched as thunder and lightning passed to the west and south. Later I watched lightning to the south and east. And a couple times I saw it in the distance to the North. It never came close to us. Around 0200 we were passing through the front. I noticed the dark spots ahead. A couple times I made course corrections avoiding the worst of it. I got out my North Atlantic foul weather gear. I was glad I had it. I didn’t need it for the warmth but it kept me dry. When the sky went very dark ahead of me and the wind picked up to 15 knots I decided it was time to reef the main. Before the front moved through the wind was so light we needed to motor to keep up our speed. Now the wind was up but I decided it would be safer to stay motor-sailing and leave the Jib rolled up. I didn’t want the Jib out incase we passed through any squalls or lightning. It rained for maybe 30 minutes for a couple times. As the heaviest squall passed I did notice 30 knots on the wind meter but it didn’t stay. It dropped back and was soon around 15 knots. We had passed through the front. During the last day we had light 2 foot seas. Now the seas had picked up. We saw 4-6 seas for the remainder of the night. After the front passed through and the wind was at a steady 15 knots, I called Aubrey and Ben up. They took the watch at 0300 for 2 hours. I got some sleep. When I came up at 0500 I told them one could go down while two of us stayed on watch. The wind was still at 15 knots northeast and the seas were heavy.

I had calculated a early morning arrival at Port Canaveral Florida. When I woke up at 0500 we had already slowed down to under 5 knots. The morning wore on and Ben went below for 2 hours 0700 and Aubrey joined me on the watch. We finally approached the inlet at 0900. I was glad we didn’t try to reach Lake Worth the night before.

We were running on fumes since I had decided to motor the whole way. We were only one mile out but I decided it would be safer to fill the tank with one of the jerry cans. We had plenty of fuel onboard with two full jerry cans. I didn’t want the engine to die just as we are coming through the inlet. We dumped most of one jerry can in the tank and continued in through the Port Canaveral inlet. I called on the VHF and arranged a slip at the Cap Marina.

Before pulling into the slip we stopped at the fuel dock and topped up the tank and jerry cans. We had done 38 hours motoring on a full tank of fuel.

Ensign was glad to get to real grass. She really learned that she is supposed to pee on her fake grass. She even went looking for it once. I keep it hung up unless it’s needed and then wash it off with a bucket after she uses it.

As soon as we arrived Aubrey and Ben went to work arranging transportation. They got me to the States. They did their job. I don’t know what I would have done without them. I told them before they arrived in the Dominican Republic that it would be hard, difficult, and not fun. It was all of that but we also had a lot of fun and it was a real experience for all of us. It was extremely hard on everyone. We had a lot of big seas. Aubrey and Ben sucked it up and did everything that was needed to help get us all safely back to the States. Thank You Aubrey and Ben. You are awesome. I love you.

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May. 20th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Crossing The Great Bahamas Bank

Wind Song and three other boats departed the anchorage at Chub Cay at 0330 headed to the Bimini’s. We wanted to go further north. We departed around 0500 headed to Great Issac on the northwest corner of the Great Bahamas Bank. We had an uneventful crossing. We sailed along in a light 5-10 knots of wind. I made coffee, bacon, french toast, end eggs for brunch. When the wind dropped in the afternoon we kicked on the iron-sail to keep us moving at 5 to 5 ½ knots.

We arrived at Great Issac at sundown. We had talked about either anchoring or continuing on through the night. The wind was down it was a calm night. I noticed one sailboat anchored off the lee of Great Issac. None of the cruising guides talked about anchoring at Great Issac. I only had a 1:300,000 scale chart of the area. No detailed charts. The tiny dot on the chart showed Great Issac and the lighthouse. There is actually a few other building. They all look abandoned. I called over the VHF to sailboat at anchor. They came responded. I asked if they had any local knowledge of the waters depths and there current anchorage depth. They could see me and recommended an entry from the south. I approached slowly and found no dangers. We tried a couple times to anchor and finally got it set. Aubrey and Ben weren’t happy with the choice to anchor. They wanted to continue on through the night. Since I had never done the Gulf Stream, I didn’t know what to expect. As usual the cruising Guides, tell tales of pink elephants in the Gulf Stream. I felt it was safer to anchor and start out again in the morning.

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May. 19th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Crossing The Tongue of the Ocean

On schedule at 0830 we departed Nassau Harbor Club. Wind Song left with us. We also added 3 more boats to the group of boats doing the forty mile Crossing of the Tongue of the Ocean to Chub Cay on the Great Bahamas Bank. We all kept in contact on channel 19 as we crossed.

We had a good 15 knots of wind off our stern quarter giving us a perfect broad reach. The seas grew to 5 to 6 feet. The small catamaran in the group flew ahead doing 8 knots. Three of us, including Wind Song, stayed close together and cruised along at 6.5 knots.

We arrived at Chub Cay and I decided to anchor in the outer harbor. I had planned on anchoring out. The other two boats went directly into the Marina. The wind was blowing and it felt like maybe we should go in to the Marina. During the late afternoon the Wind blew 20 knots but it backed down in the evening.

The next day Wind Song decided to get out of the Marina as there was lots of construction going on at it wasn’t that comfortable in the marina basin. We stayed put at our anchorage. I told Mark and Becca to pull up and drop anchor close off our stern as we had 6 feet of water and that would keep them out of the main channel.

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May. 17th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Waiting for Weather

We had planned two nights at Nassau Harbor Club Marina in Nassau. The wind has been blowing 15-20 knots out of the North-East for two days. I got up at 0630 to listen to Chris Parker weather. I made a last minute decision. The wind was already blowing 15-17 knots. We’re not going anywhere today. Mark and Becca from Wind Song didn’t like staying an extra day at the marina but we were all happy with that choice. We needed the break and we were finally around real civilization.

We spent the extra day getting the boat ready for what looked like, maybe another difficult crossing in heavy seas. We changed back to the 110%, smaller jib. We got the dingy secured up on the bow. We filled up with water, diesel, did grocery and laundry. We ordered Pizza from Dominos and watched cable TV from the boat in the evening.

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May. 15th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm The Exuma Bank

We left Farmers Cay the next morning. Wind Song followed me around the cay. I told them as we passed the point of farmers cay that, "I lost the channel and don't know where to go from here." We continued feeling our way Eastward but we knew from the charts that we need to be more north. The problem was it seamed to be a long reef everywhere to the north. Eventually we decided to back track and found an entrance to the north very close to Farmers Cay. At times we were as close as a boat length to the shore line.

We decided to do an easy ten miles up to the West side of the long Great Guana Cay. I knew we would find a perfectly calm bay with no current as it was such a long cay and deep in and around from the next cut. We found a beautifull 1/2 mile long white sand beach at Great Guana. Ensign loved it. I invited Mark and Becky over and the chefs onboard took over and made an awesome dinner.

The next day we did 40 miles up to Shroud Cay. This is a low lying cay with mangroves. We anchored in eight feet of water. I took ensign to the desserted beaches.

The next day we went 30 miles up to Highborne Cay and anchored along the white sand beach. Later, Mar Vida arrived and anchored next to us. We all walked the beach and Aubrey added to her growing shell collection.

The next day we sailed the 40 miles to Nassau, New Providence Island. It was light wind so we dropped the little jib and put up the 155% genny. We sailed the whole way and arrived at the same time as Wind Song. They motored the last half. As we turned more north towards the end the wind picked up to 17 knots and we were healed over pretty hard but we are all use to it now.

We arrived in Nassua and found real civilization. We took a slip at Nassau Harbor Club. Our first order of business, find fast food! I spent $12 at Churches Chicken fast food. The next day we all walked two miles to a McDonalds. We had to take a cab back. The following day I went shopping at a real supermarket. It was awesome. We all had to walk up and down every isle just to see it all. A real grocery store.

The exuma bank has been the best part of this trip. It's a great place.

Aubrey and Ben have been wonderfull. They are the best. I don't know what I would have done without them.

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May. 11th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Entering the Exuma Bank

Technically Georgetown and Calabash Bay are part of the Exuma bank but they are not cruising grounds. I consider them more like a harbor than part of the bank. We spent two nights in Georgetown anchored near Volley Ball Beach and the common anchorage for most cruisers. We had great ribs at the Chat-n-Chill bar. The Georgetown anchorage is across the harbor from Georgetown, along a small island. We did the dingy ride across the bay a few times. It was a 1/2 mile or so. It was easy to get to town but we got soaked everytime on the return ride all the way into the wind.

Georgetown didn't have much more to offer than Rum Cay. It's a much bigger place and very populated but we went looking for food the first night and finally decided our best option would be to go to the ATM for cash and then go back to the Chat-n-Chill on the little island near the anchorage. The next day we did grocery shopping. The grocery store was better than anyplace since Santiago D.R but it still wasn't much. It was more like a little country grocery with limited options. We did find some prepackaged lunch meat and good bread.

We also schlepped jerry cans back and forth filling up with water and diesel. I did another trip and did laundry. Each time I prepared for the trip fully covered with rain coat and covered the laundry with garbage bags.

On the second day at Georgetown, Wind Song arrived with Becky and Mark. I met them in Luperon, Dominican Republic. They followed us up to Caicos. They stopped on French Cay. We were four hours ahead of them and we continued on past French Cay. I did hear them a few times on the VHF during that that night crossing. I was also talking with two boats on the SSB that were sailing with Wind Song. I told Mark and Becky my plan to continue on northbound and they decided to stay with us.

In the morning we had planned on leaving at 0800. The wind was up. I called Wind Song and told them I needed an hour or so to further check weather. I did finally talk to Chris Parker on the Single Side Band. The weather was good enough to go the 40 miles up to Farmers Cay. We spent an hour criss-crossing the bay trying to follow a mess of waypoints for the exit to miss unmarked corral heads. I did a circles a couple times as we tried to determine the best exit route. We kept a close contact with Wind Song on VHF channel 19. I told them after an hour of slow tedious work to exit the harbor that, "we should go back and do that a few more times just for fun."

Wind Song stayed with us the entire day. As we got within a few miles of the Farmer Cay cut to enter the bank, Wind Song was a half mile back. They had slowed as we were arriving slightly early. We were timing the entrance to coincide with slack tide. We were two hours early. The entire trip in the deap water, after leaving Georgetown, was in 6 foot seas. Then nearing the end, Wind Song came over the VHF, "We just lost all our electronics." They started scrambling and told me they were trying to get a hand held GPS running. I told them not to worry. They would following me in and I would talk them in. While we were still a couple miles out I went over the harbor chart describing the plan and pointing out the turns and entrance depths. We both had the same harbor charts. I told them they would just need to follow me and I would continually talk them in and read the depths. As we approached the cut The NE wind was still kicking up heavy waves. I powered up and carefully pushed through. I told Wind Song, "I tend to do a quick circle if I get spooked so not to follow too close" and if they get to far back and loose my track then I would back track. After passing through the cut, it turned to complete calm water. We had ten to twelve feet of water. I told them on the VHF "it is perfectly peacefull in here". They were still powering through the waves getting kicked up by the narrow entrance.

We went another 1/4 mile and I called out depths for Wind Song. We found mooring balls that we had planned on using. We had called ahead and talked with Little Jeff, the mooring balls owner. Wind Song took one and we picked the next one. As I pulled up to the mooring, Ben took the hook to the bow. Ben hooked the mooring pennant and tried to pull it onboard. He couldn't get it up and eventually it pulled the hook out of his hand. I tried to back down on the mooring so we could grab the hook that was still stuck on the mooring line and now in the water. I couldn't get the stern positioned close enough with the heavy wind and current. The current is always strong near the cuts as almost half of the water on the massive bank exits through the cuts to the deap ocean, during a tide change. After two tries I gave up and told ben, "time for you to go for a swim." He pulled off his shirt and shorts and jumped in. We found out the pennant on the mooring was extremely short and couldn't be lifted out of the water. We put another line through the line in the water and finally got secured.

Later, I went over to see Becky and Mark. I went through his electronics and found his problem, a loose wire on the auto-pilot caused all the electronics to go out. Next, Ensign got her turn to go crazy running up and down the beach. After being stuck on the boat for a while, she goes crazy running on the beach. She's very good at fetch and loves to chase that ball and kick up a lot of sand. After each trip to a beach, I hold her over the water and she paddles in the air and dips her paws in the water to wash off.

That night we called on the VHF and arranged for dinner at the only restuarant. We sat at the table next to a TV. They had a table set for us across the room but I told the owner I hadn't seen TV in a long time. So she moved the table settings. We had a great dinners of steak and chicken. Each dinner included Conch n Rice. (you couldn't tast the conch.)

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May. 10th, 2005 @ 09:00 pm Rum Cay to Georgetown

We spent two nights at the marina in Rum Cay. It wasn't much of a marina. We were tied off at the gas dock. It is a terrible, sandy, dusty, dry place. They have a little shack for a marine office. The marina is used by big fishing yachts from Florida. These high end yachts have great fishing territory all around Rum Cay. As the only stick in the Marina we were tied up at the main gas dock. The fisherman would come in at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and cut up their fish on a bench just outside the boat. It was kind of interesting to see the sharks come in and feed on the fish parts they threw back into the water. It wasn't so great when one of the guys tossed some fish crap on a line that snaped off and flew into the v-berth and onto Aubrey's sheets.

We walked to the settlement a couple times. It was a weekday at around 11am. We found the two one room buildings claiming to be groceries, both were closed. We found out to get a real meal for dinner at any of the 2 or 3 restaurants, you have to order by noon. We went to order dinner from Kays Place but she was closed. When we went at 6pm she said you need to order by noon. Do you see the problem? There was only 2 people eating there that night. When we did get food from the marina restuarant it wasn't that good. They have a menu but it's not really worth looking at the menu. They will tell you the four or five options they have available. All of the places in these far off cays always have plenty of Conch on the menu. I found one place that had a conch cook off. You can have; fried Conch, Conch Salad, Scorched Conch, Conch Fritters, Conch Pizza, Conch n Beans, Conch n Rice, Steamed Conch, Conch Burgers, and more. Conch is a horrible, tastless, rubbery meat.

This place was recommended by Bruce Van Sants, Passages North cruising guide. This was another one of Bruce's bad recommendations. After having a couple beers with him in Luperon, I can tell you his technical recomendations for getting from point A to point B and weather information is dead on, good stuff. His recomendations for some harbors and marinas are horrible. If you've talked with him, you would know, he's a "know it all." I'm glad I'm past his know-it-all territory and can start using real cruising guides. How many people have spent hours reading his ramblings? He talks in circles. It's the worst written book I've had to read and depend on. It's the most important book to get you through Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and to the Bahamas. Ater that toss it in the trash.

We departed early morning for Calabash Bay around the northern tip of Cape Santa Maria on Long Island Exumas. We got out past the channel markers with no problem. The channel sometimes carries 5 or 6 feet. We started on a heading and we found reefs and lower than expected water. We had some tense moments while we worked our way along the southern coast of Rum Cay. I scrambled to figure out our exact postion and understand the charts. After getting to the Western Tip in deaper water we raised both sails and headed on a rum line for Cape Sant Maria. The wind was a good 15 knots. We expected the seas to pick up. It did. By the time we were 2 hours out we were in 6 to 8 foot seas. Later as we approached Cape Santa Maria the seas eased up and we had an easy sail around the point.

When we approached Calabash Bay to get through the reef we had a few anxious moments as we started seeing 12 feet for the first time. We had to pass through a narrow cut in the reef. I was reading charts and GPS as we approached the area. I looked up and noticed we were 50 feet from dark water. It had been brilliant blue up until then. I did a quick circle to give us time to study it more. After figuring out which house and flag we were supposed to approach using a certain bearing we headed in past the reaf. We had a long ride in with a lot of 7 feet readings while dodging dark spots. It was calm with only one boat in the area, Mar Vida. I had met them in Dominican Republic and Rum Cay and later saw them again at an anchorage on the Exuma Bank.

We left the next morning. The wind was down and so were the seas. We put the main up and motor sailed the entire 27 miles to Georgetown. I did some boat projects along the way, fixing a ding in the dingy bottom and drilling a hole for the new VHF mic for the cockpit.

We studied charts and books for the difficult entrance to Georgetown. I had set waipoints in the GPS. All that work was worth it. Brie read it over and over to me while Ben stood on the Bow and pointed out the corral patches. I was at the helm watching; depth, GPS, and charts. We went back and forth "feeling" are way in with lots of Corral heads and low water dangers. We never hit ground. I've talked to two other boats that just came in and did hit bottom.

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