Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bimini to Nassau

April 17th was our final night in Bimini and we invited Lanny and Jess over again for dinner. We pulled away from the dock about 7:15 a.m. Friday and prepared for a long day to Chub Cay. In fact, when the Captain plugged the waypoint into the GPS we learned that it was ten miles farther than we originally thought, based on what the charts told us. At any rate, we figured we would reach Chub by 6:30 or 7:00 Friday evening. Along the way we established radio contact with George & Janice who were also on their way to Chub Cay in their sailboat, "Calamus."

About mid-afternoon Janice called to say that they were tired of getting knocked around by the waves and were going to anchor on the Bahama Bank somewhere near the entrance to the Northwest Channel and go in to Chub on Saturday. We decided we would do the same and finally got anchored about 5:30 that evening. We arrived at Chub Cay about noon on Saturday and found a place to anchor in an incredibly beautiful setting; unfortunately, the anchorage is just off channel that leads to Chub Cay Marina. Between the tidal surge from the deep water that is a very short distance from the anchorage and the wakes from the boats going back and forth to the marina, we were subjected to a constant side-to-side rocking motion that was not very pleasant!

Our anchorage at Chub Cay.

We put the dinghy in the water planning to go get some ice from the marina; however, the Captain wasn't able to get the outboard motor started. After messing around with it for quite a while, he gave up and ended up going with George & Janice in their dinghy to do some snorkeling in search of what the Bahamians call "summer crab" after lobster season ends. With a couple of successful hits, we were all set for a wonderful dinner of grilled summer crab and fresh Mahi-Mahi provided by Todd's fishing friends in Bimini.

Shhh... don't tell anyone it's a lobster.

The sun sets over the Bahama Bank...

...as the moon rises over Chub Cay.

We left Chub Cay about 7:45 Sunday morning and crossed what is known as the Tongue of the Ocean, arriving in Nassau early afternoon. The water is several thousand feet deep in the Tongue and it was fairly rough even with a very light breeze from the east/southeast. I would hate to see what it's like in big winds!

About halfway to Nassau, we heard a radio transmission about a search and rescue operation for a woman who had supposedly fallen overboard sometime around 4:30 a.m., and we saw the Coast Guard helicopter flying a grid over the water. Then, about and hour later, we heard someone come on the VHF saying that they had found five dead bodies floating in the water and were making arrangements to have them transported to a nearby marina. We later heard that there were as many as ten bodies found, that it was some kind of smuggling operation gone bad and that their boat probably sank, but it's anyone's guess as to what really happened.

The entrance to Nassau Harbor. You can see two cruise ships docked on the right and the Atlantis complex on Paradise Island on the left.

By early afternoon we were anchored in Nassau Harbor just east of where the big cruise ships dock and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading, napping and watching the activities in the harbor. Since we had to do something about the non-functioning dinghy motor, we made arrangements to go to Nassau Harbor Club Marina Monday morning where we were hoping to find someone to work on it. Before going to the marina we stopped at a nearby fuel dock to top off with diesel for a mere $5.03 per gallon (that includes a 2.3% surcharge for using a credit card).

A closer look at Atlantis from our anchorage in Nassau Harbor.

We saw lots of mega-yachts cruising through Nassau Harbor.

After securing the boat at the marina, the Captain promptly got out the hose and spent a few hours washing off the massive amount of salt that had accumulated on the boat since leaving Bimini while I walked to a nearby gas station to purchase a bag of ice.

Our slip at Nassau Harbor Club Marina - "Life's2Short" is second from the front if you can't tell.

Todd also called an outboard mechanic who told him that his labor rate was $75 per hour, with a two-hour minimum. When he learned how old the motor was (1978), he told Todd that any parts they might need would have to be ordered from Miami, assuming they could even still get them, and suggested that we consider purchasing a new outboard while in Nassau. George had told Todd that you could buy an outboard in Nassau cheaper than in the States so I suppose that is the prudent thing to do, under the circumstances. We certainly can't go to the Exumas without an outboard on our dinghy!

So, Todd spent the afternoon shopping for, purchasing and installing a new Mercury 9.9 horsepower outboard while I walked over to the grocery store to see what I could find. Talk about sticker shock! Nonetheless, I found a few things on sale and bought a few other things that were more expensive than I wanted them to be, but at least within the bounds of reason considering where we are.  I should mention that there is an entire shopping center across the street from Nassau Harbor Marina complete with a Starbucks (with WiFi), a Radio Shack, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a bank, a liquor store, a video store, a Mailboxes, Etc., a home store of some sort (Bed, Bath & Home) and several others. There are also three marine stores and a dive shop within a few blocks. Makes it very handy when you're on foot!

At the time of this update, the marina rate is $1.75 per foot, per night, plus $6.00 for water and the electric is metered (not sure what the price is per kilowatt hour). After walking to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner, we took a taxi over to the Atlantis on Paradise Island. Atlantis is a huge resort and hotel complex with a large marina, an aquarium that puts Hemingway's to shame (the Springfield people will know what I'm talking about), a multi-acre water park with slides, river rafting, pools and sand beaches, along with a 64,000 square foot casino and the requisite shops and restaurants. Although not as opulent as the Las Vegas hotels and casinos, it is definitely a spectacular piece of real estate!

A limited view of a small portion of Atlantis. It's just too massive for the camera to capture!

This is an outdoor fountain featuring flying fish.

We spent some time checking out the aquarium and wandering around the beautifully landscaped grounds before making our way to the casino where we played a few slots. Unfortunately, our bad luck with the slots continued and, at $7.50 per beer, we didn't linger long!

Our plan is to leave the marina this afternoon and anchor at Rose Island for the evening before heading to Allan's Cay in the Exumas tomorrow. Rose Island is about four miles east of Nassau and then Allan's Cay is probably another thirty-five miles to the southeast. Our next chance for Internet access will likely be Warderick Wells, Park Headquarters for The Exuma Cays Land And Sea Park, which is about one-fourth of the way down the Exuma chain. Stay tuned as we continue our exploration of the Bahamas!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bimini - The Gateway to The Bahamas

We left No Name Harbor (Biscayne Bay) Saturday, April 12th, and had a rough first hour as we made our way to the Gulf Stream, primarily due to the tide, the current and a number of sport fishing boat wakes. The rest of the trip was bumpy and rough but much better than the first hour. The waves were probably two feet or less during most of the crossing but the confused nature of the water still made for an uncomfortable ride. Upon entering Bahamian waters, boaters are required to hang a yellow quarantine flag on their boats to signify that they have not yet cleared customs. Once that is done, it is customary to replace the quarantine flag with the Bahamian courtesy flag.

This is part of the Bimini Harbor waterfront featuring several small marinas. Ours is the one with the two-story yellow building in the background.

By 2:00 p.m. we were tied up at the Sea Crest Marina and glad to be there! After rinsing a heavy coating of saltwater off the boat, filling out the customs and immigration forms and clearing customs and immigration, we toured the nearby portion of Alice Town and then walked up the hill to The Anchorage for some late afternoon appetizers overlooking the ocean.

The Anchorage used to be a residence whose owner was good friends with Ernest Hemingway, a frequent visitor to Bimini. Hemingway writes about Bimini and the house that is now The Anchorage in his book, Islands in the Stream, which Todd just finished reading. We left The Anchorage and walked down to the beach where we met the local Methodist minister, Skip George III. Skip lives in Manhattan and travels to Bimini to fill in as a guest minister two months each year. Not a bad place to spend a working vacation!

The Admiral visiting with Skip on the beach.

Skip's church on the hill above the beach, overlooking the ocean.

A beautiful sunset over the Atlantic.

The water in Bimini is very clear and has that wonderful turquoise color that people generally associate with the Caribbean. And from the beach, less than a mile offshore, you can easily see the dramatic color change where the ocean floor drops off into the deep, dark blue that is the Gulf Stream.

The gorgeous water surrounding Bimini with the Gulf Stream visible in the background.

Laughing gulls perched on a post at the marina.

Sunday morning we deciced to tour the northern part of North Bimini. The Bimini Islands include North Bimini, South Bimini and East Bimini, with Alice Town on North Bimini being the main center of attraction. Just as we were leaving the marina the Bimini Tram came by so we hopped aboard for a guided tour.

A Bahamian man dressed to the hilt for Sunday church service.

We rode the tram to Bimini Bay, an upscale resort at the northern end of the occupied portion of North Bimini, and then got off part way back so we could check out some of the things our tour guide/driver told us about on the way up. As we walked back we came across two locals cleaning conch and stopped to watch. Conch is widely harvested in The Bahamas and there are huge mounds of discarded shells all over the place!

We also stopped in to visit Ansil "Bonefish Ansil" Saunders, a local boat builder who created "The Bimini Bonefisher," a custom, handcrafted work of art. Ansil builds two boats per year and uses native woods such as horse flesh and mahogany in their construction.

Ansil poses beside his latest creation.

Ansil has met many famous people over the years and one of his favorite stories is that he was with Martin Luther King, Jr. three days before he was assassinated. Dr. King needed some peace and quiet to do some writing, so Ansil took him out in a boat to a secluded area of the island where he wrote his sanitation workers speech. Because of all the death threats he had been receiving, Dr. King also wrote his eulogy that day. According to Ansil, Dr. King wanted to ensure, by writing his own eulogy, that he was not remembered for his many awards and scholastic achievements - those things were not important; he wanted to be remembered for making a difference in the lives of those he represented. It would seem Dr. King got his wish.

Other interesting attractions along Alice Town's main road, King's Highway.

This is called Dolphin House and was built by local author/historian Ashley Saunders, who also happens to be Ansil's brother. The house is built of mostly natural materials, including coral, stone and shells, all found in Bimini. Three mosaic dolphins mark the entrance and a hodgepodge of tiles covers the entire exterior of the building.

A view of King's Highway. Pretty narrow for a main street, isn't it?

This is the site of The Complete Angler, a popular local bar/restaurant that burned to the ground a couple of years ago. It was reportedly a favorite hang-out of Ernest Hemingway's.

It was about 3:00 p.m. when we got back to Alice Town so we went to the Bimini Big Game Club for a late lunch/early dinner where we ran in to Lanny, a sailboater we met in Demopolis, AL the summer of 2006. He and his friend, Jess, are making their way back to the states from Georgetown and stopped in at Bimini to take a break and to wait for the conditions in the Gulf Stream to improve. As it turned out, Lanny's boat is right next to ours in the marina and Jess's sailboat is across the dock from Lanny's.

It was an extremely hot day so we walked back to the marina and sat at a shaded picnic table visiting with Lanny and Jess where we learned that Jess is from northeast Tennessee and that he knew Jack, the owner of "Flagmaker" who died while we were together in Crystal River, FL this past December. Jess hadn't heard about Jack's passing so we filled him in. I know we've said this before, but it never ceases to amaze us how small a world it is among boaters!

About 9:00 p.m. the cold front that had been predicted to move in Sunday evening arrived and we all scurried back to our respective boats as the temperature dropped and the rain started to fall. Monday was considerably cooler and very breezy but there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Todd got out his surf fishing gear and walked over to the beach to try his luck, but it was too rough and he didn't stay long. In fact, as the forecast currently stands, it appears that we may be held up in Bimini most of the week. What can I say, there are worse places to be!

Early Monday afternoon Todd was invited to go fishing with David, another boater on the dock. David is part owner of a 30-foot Prowler catamaran with two 250 horsepower outboards. According to Todd, the boat is a fishing machine! They went down around Cat and Gun Cays and had a little action, but they weren't able to get anything in the boat and came back empty-handed.

That evening we sat out on the dock visiting with Lanny and Jess as Lanny tried, unsuccessfully, to catch fish off the dock. David had planned to go fishing again Tuesday morning but the water was far too rough. The wind had virtually howled all night and it was even cooler and breezier Tuesday than it had been on Monday. George & Janice, the sailboating couple we met at No Name Harbor who encouraged us to come to Bimini, dropped by the boat late Tuesday morning. After making the crossing on Saturday, they had gone down to South Bimini and anchored out for a few days before coming in to Bimini Harbor.

We made plans to meet them for lunch at 1:00 p.m. at Capt. Bob's, just across the street from Sea Crest Marina. During lunch we learned that Janice likes to play Cribbage, as does Todd, so she and Todd made plans to get together later that afternoon to test their skills. Todd and I then walked up the hill to look at the ocean and it was a mess! According to NOAA weather radio, waves in the Gulf Stream have been between eight and fourteen feet all week and the breakers were literally pounding the shoreline, sending saltwater spray several feet into the air!

With the exception of Todd and Janice's Cribbage game, most of the afternoon and evening was spent relaxing and reading on the boat. The wind continued to blow and it was quite cool so we didn't venture far. Wednesday was partly cloudy and still very breezy with a few showers, but David decided to go fishing anyway and, of course, Todd was eager to go along! Michael, the dockmaster here at Sea Crest, also joined them for their morning fishing adventure They left about 7:30 a.m. and came back around noon. The seas were running five to six feet, but Todd said the Prowler did amazingly well in the rough off-shore conditions.

The guys caught two barracuda, had one dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) get off before they got it to the boat, and had a thirty-pound wahoo (a type of mackerel) get cut in half by a shark just as they were getting ready to gaff the fish! They even brought back the wahoo head to prove they had caught one, or at least part of one!

This is David and Michael.

David with what's left of the wahoo they caught!

Michael poses with one of the barracuda.

Too bad barracuda aren't good eating, although the islanders seem to like them.

We thought the boys might enjoy a home-cooked meal, so we invited Lanny and Jess to join us for dinner Wednesday evening. They were very appreciative!

Jess and Lanny, the salty sailors!

Today is Thursday, April 17th. It is somewhat warmer and not as windy and it sounds like the weather is going to continue to improve over the next several days, so our plan is to leave Bimini, at least by tomorrow (if not later today), spend a few days getting to Nassau, and then arrive in the Exumas the first part of next week. Based on what we've been told, there are a few places along the way with wireless access so we will update the blog whenever we have the opportunity.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Best Laid Plans... At the time of our last update we were planning to leave Islamorada Saturday, April 5th, and cross to the Bahamas on Sunday. After a storm blew through Friday evening, the wave predictions for the Gulf Stream worsened and the Captain decided that another day in Islamorada was in order.

With another day came another trip to the grocery store for a few more final items, but this time we went north (or is it east?) to Tavernier rather than south/west to Marathon. The remainder of the day was spent helping prepare dinner and relaxing at Paz's beautiful vacation rental.

Tropical trio of Keeley, Anna Lee and Brayden. Did you ever eat the coconut we retrieved from the palm tree?

Paz, Susan, Carl, Michele and the girls, Keeley and Brayden. Thanks so much for all your hospitality!

On Sunday we travelled about seven hours to Angelfish Creek. We scoped out Angelfish Creek but it was a little narrow for anchoring, so we decided to anchor on the north side of an island between the Angelfish Creek channel and Pumpkin Key. The wind was supposed to be out of the southeast all night so we thought we would be pretty well protected.

About 8:30 that evening a storm blew through with a fair amount of lightning, wind and rain but we were on the outer edge of the watch box and by 9:30 it had essentially passed us by. About 2:30 a.m. we were awakened by wind and waves and were unable to go back to sleep so we got up. Shortly after that a very nasty storm hit us full force with north (not southeast, as predicted) winds well over fifty miles per hour and blinding, pounding rain.

The only thing we could see was the red blinking channel marker for the entrance to Angelfish Creek which seemed to be much closer that it had been when we anchored. Todd decided that we must be dragging anchor so he started the engines and tried to motor into the wind to relieve some of the pressure on the anchor and chain; however, it was too little, too late. By the time I got the navigation software and GPS up and running to see where the boat was in relation to our surroundings, it showed that we were virtually on top of the island near which we had anchored. I grabbed a flashlight to look out the sundeck and, sure enough, we were right on top of the mangroves!

Within a few seconds we drifted into the mangroves and immediately shut down the engines. At that point we were aground and could do nothing further, and we knew we weren't going anywhere, so we went back to bed at 5:30 a.m. hoping to get a few hours of sleep. The tide was still pretty low when we got up Monday morning but we knew it would be rising until about noon so we employed whatever means we could think of to pull the boat off. We got the dinghy down and tried using an extra anchor off the starboard side for leverage but the anchor wasn't big enough and didn't hold well enough to gain any ground. Todd also tried using the dinghy to pull the bow of the boat around, but the engine just didn't have enough horsepower to do us any good.

The morning after the night from hell. Todd works the rope in hopes of pulling "Life's2Short" out of the mangroves... right!

Thankful for the morning after. No damage other than some frayed nerves.

In the end we finally got the bow to swing around, with a little help from the bow thruster and the rising tide, by pulling in the slack in the anchor chain, which was at a ninety degree angle to the bow. When I got to the anchor it had a whole mess of rope and seaweed wrapped around it which, I'm sure, didn't help our situation during the storm. Nonetheless, we were free and when the Captain dove under the boat to check for damage, everything appeared to be in good working order. So other than a few incredibly stressful hours during the night, we were, thankfully, unscathed.

At that point we consulted our cruise guide and decided to go north to Boca Chita Key which is part of the Biscayne National Park. There are no services (not even a trash dumpster) and they don't allow pets, but there is plenty of space to dock boats around the perimeter of the harbor and after the ordeal of the previous evening, we were more than happy to pay the $20 per night dockage fee! Boca Chita is an absolutely beautiful place; its only downside were the mosquitoes and no-seeums that virtually ate us alive every time we left the boat!!!

A gorgeous sunset at Boca Chita.

Boys and their toys. The Miami Dade Fire Rescue conducts a drill on Boca Chita.

We stayed at Boca Chita two nights and George & Mary aboard "Love Knot" joined us about 3:30 the second afternoon. We had seen George & Mary in Ft. Myers Beach and knew they were planning to be in the vicinity so we called and let them know our plans, hoping to meet up with them again along the way. After a nice lasagna dinner that evening, with wine and dessert provided by George & Mary, we all watched American Idol before retiring for the evening.

Another wonderful sunset at Boca Chita.

"Love Knot" pulled out shortly before 8:00 Wednesday morning and we left a couple of hours later to go to No Name Harbor, a popular anchorage just southeast of Miami. No Name Harbor is part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area at the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne. It is also very pretty, pets are allowed and for $15 per night you have access to an on-site restaurant, ice, laundry (one washer, one dryer), trash and free pump-out.

The entrance to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area.

The view of No Name Harbor from the Boaters Grill.

On Thursday we walked down to the lighthouse at the tip of Key Biscayne and trudged up the 118 spiralling steps to the top, which offered a spectacular view of the Atlantic! After our excursion we stopped at the restaurant for a quick burger before returning to the boat. I then did a load of laundry while Todd worked on replacing the float in our shower sump which had stopped working for some unknown reason.

A Great Blue Heron with "Stiltsville" in the background. "Stiltsville" is a group of formerly private homes built in shallow water quite some distance off shore. As you might imagine, most have been destroyed by hurricanes.

The Cape Florida lighthouse at the southern tip of Key Biscayne.

The lens room at the top of the lighthouse.

A view of the lighthouse keeper's cottage and cookhouse from near the top of the lighthouse.

This shot of one of the nation's top ten beaches was also taken from the lighthouse. Miami's South Beach is in the background.

We walked about a mile to town this morning to get a few things at the grocery store and then I did another load of laundry while writing the blog update. The weather is looking good for crossing the Gulf Stream tomorrow so we will likely be up and on our way shortly after sunrise in the morning, barring any further unforeseen difficulties!

The forecast is calling for another front to move through from the north by Sunday evening, so we are considering going to the Bimini Islands tomorrow and staying there until the front passes rather than tackling the three-day journey to Nassau (Key Biscayne to Gun Cay; Gun Cay to Chub Cay; Chub Cay to Nassau). We have been talking to a couple on a sailboat in the harbor who are telling us that we shouldn't bypass an opportunity to see the Bimini Islands and Alice Town so that may be a good option for us under the circumstances. At any rate, our "plan" is to head out in the morning so, once again, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we venture out into the deep blue ocean!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Off to the 10,000 Islands and the Florida Keys

We wrapped up our final few days at Bonita Bills, said our good-byes and untied the dock lines Friday morning, March 21st. Even though we stayed within one mile of the shore line, it was still a rather bumpy ride for the first few hours. After that it calmed down a bit and wasn't too bad for the remainder of the trip.

We arrived at Capri Pass shortly after 2:00 p.m. and met up with Mike & Mary aboard "WhatDazeIt?" as they were leaving their friend's house in Isle of Capri. We also caught up to Bill & Margie aboard "Tortuga" but they ended up stopping at Goodland for the evening while we continued on to Panther Key. We met Bill & Margie through Greg & Sandy at the Moose Lodge the previous Saturday and also had drinks with them at Bonita Bills a few days before we left.

"WhatDazeIt?" on the way to Panther Key.

Saturday was a quiet morning of conversation accompanied by Bloody Mary's and Mimosa's. "Tortuga" came in to the anchorage about 10:30 a.m. and spent some time on the beach with Mike & Mary before the rain came in that afternoon. Each couple has two small dogs and the four "children" were having a good ole time getting acquainted and playing in the sand!

Mike & Mary's dogs, H.I.D (left) and M.E. (right) looking for a handout, i.e., a carrot, aboard "Life's2Short."

Bill & Margie's catamaran, "Tortuga."

Bill & Margie came by late Sunday (Easter) morning to chat and then early that afternoon we met them at their boat to go on a dinghy ride to White Horse and Gullivan Keys. Later that same afternoon we decided to move the boats over by Four Brothers Key to get out of the wind. Bill & Margie had already moved "Tortuga" Saturday afternoon when the wind picked up as it was somewhat more protected than the anchorage at Panther.

Bill & Margie, with their pooch Oscar, as we headed out to explore the islands. Their other dog, Casey, was riding with us.

"Tortuga" headed back toward Ft. Myers Beach on Monday. It was mostly cloudy and still windy so Todd and Mike ended up spending several hours working on battery and wiring issues. The overnight low that evening was a cool 45 degrees but Tuesday was bright and sunny and windy (again). Mike & Mary dinghied over to Hog Key and enjoyed a few nice hours in the sun with great wind protection while Todd went fishing in the dinghy. He had caught a couple of fish on Saturday and came back with a nice sea trout Tuesday afternoon but ended up losing half of it when it slid off the swim deck where he was cleaning it!

Mike was having difficulty finding a good spot near Four Brothers Key to take the dogs to shore so we moved the boats back over to our original anchorage at Panther Key late Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday was still breezy and felt relatively cool on the boat but we joined Mike & Mary on the beach at Panther Key about 2:30 that afternoon and were surprised at how warm it was! We dinghied over to White Horse Key Thursday afternoon but it was just a bit too cool with the wind and intermittent cloud cover, so Mike & Mary went back to Panther and we ended up finding a great little beach on our way back. A little while later Todd went back to "Life's2Short" to get a few supplies and invited Mike & Mary to join us, which they did until the biting insects started coming out and we both headed back to our boats.

A windy day at White Horse Key. As you can tell by the photo, life was very tough for us this week!

Friday was our final day with Mike & Mary and we spent the afternoon on the same nice beach we found the previous day. Todd managed to catch a few more fish Friday morning so we had enough for a fish fry that evening. After dinner Todd and Mike got back in to battery wiring issues and ended up spending another couple of hours messing around in the engine room before calling it a day.

Our "private" sand beach that we enjoyed with "WhatDazeIt?"

Mary cuts the Captain's hair, thanks again Mary!

Sunset views from our anchorage at Panther Key.

We left the 10,000 Islands Saturday about 9:00 a.m. and had smooth water to our anchorage at Middle Cape that afternoon. On Sunday we made it to Islamorada and went to Caloosa Cove Marina to top off with fuel. Surprisingly enough their diesel was $0.10 less per gallon than it had been when we filled up at Ballard Oil in Ft. Myers Beach!

It was a fairly windy day but the seas weren't too bad, although it was noticeably rougher on the Atlantic side where the marina was. After we left the marina we went to Matecumbe Bight to anchor for the evening and took the dinghy in to the canal system of the subdivision where Todd's friend from New Jersey had rented a vacation house. We were planning to move the boat over to the house Monday afternoon and needed to (1) find the house, (2) check out the layout of the sea wall, (3) determine water depth and (4) figure out how best to dock the boat.

Another beautiful sunset, this time from our anchorage in Matecumbe Bight.

It was windy all night Sunday and into Monday, so when we moved the boat to the rental house Monday afternoon, the wind complicated our docking effort. But we made it without damaging anything and that's always a good thing! After we got the boat tied up, Todd got in the water to check the depth under the keel and props and found that both of the shaft zincs were gone, which was surprising since they were just put on in November after we completed the bottom job.

Our private dock on Lower Matecumbe Key, thanks for the invite Paz!

At any rate, Todd donned his mask and snorkel and proceeded to work on replacing the zincs. It took a lot of effort but he finally got one on and decided he'd had enough for one day. It rained lightly several times overnight and into Tuesday morning but as soon as the sun came out, Todd got back in the water and finally managed to get the other zinc on - not an easy thing to do underwater without oxygen!

Todd's friend, Paz, arrived late Tuesday afternoon and we all went to a local bar/restaurant called Lor-e-lei's to watch the sunset. Wednesday was "catch up on laundry" day and, fortunately, Paz's house has a wonderfully spacious washer and dryer that probably cut the number of loads I would have had in half! We also made arrangements for Islamorada Cleaners to come to the boat to clean the salon furniture. He arrived about noon and spent the next hour and a half cleaning several years of dirt and grime off our loveseat and chairs and they look SO much better!

After trying unsuccessfully to find some things we needed in Islamorada, we decided to make a trip to Marathon Wednesday afternoon. On Mike & Mary's recommendation we took advantage of the opportunity to go to the Keys Fisheries to experience the locally famous lobster reuben and, as promised, it was quite a sandwich! After several stops in Marathon, including a much needed trip to the grocery store, we headed back to Islamorada and enjoyed a wonderful evening poolside with Todd and Paz reliving many memories of their college days.

Poolside, the morning after Paz's world famous "Margatini's."

Todd worked on several boat projects Thursday morning, including installing a new antenna for the dash-mounted GPS that hasn't worked since Ft. Myers Beach. Then Todd & Paz went fishing Thursday afternoon and again that evening after dinner but, unfortunately, they weren't successful in their hunting and gathering efforts.

Paz and Todd head out for some afternoon exploring and fishing.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Captain has decided to leave Islamorada tomorrow, anchor out in Anglefish Creek tomorrow evening and make the crossing to the Bahamas on Sunday. It has been a hectic day doing final shopping and laundry and numerous last-minute boat projects, but hopefully we're close to being ready.  As mentioned previously, we will send out e-mail updates and update the blog as often as possible while we're in the Bahamas. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we make our way out into the deep blue! In the meantime, we will leave you with these thoughts about cruising that were sent to us by some fellow cruisers:

"Cruising takes you to where you can hear yourself think and think of nothing. Cruising takes you to a place that takes your breath away and allows you to breathe. Cruising takes you to a place where you know you will never see anything so beautiful ever again and you are so thankful to have been there for that one moment that cannot possibly be repeated, until the next day when it is and you knew it would be. Cruising is the difference between chugging coffee and sipping wine. Cruising is the difference between waking with the alarm and waking with the sun. Cruising is the difference between doing what you must and doing what you will. Cruising is the difference between going to bed when you're beat and going to bed when you're sleepy. Cruising is about living in a space possibly even smaller than your current office with less stuff than would fit in your guest bedroom, completely disconnected from the level of support, convenience, variety, luxury, and control that you have worked so hard all your life to surround yourself with - and feeling wealthy, satisfied and free. Cruising is life times ten. Are you going cruising? Then you'll need a boat."