Monday, June 30, 2008

Titusville to Jacksonville

Friday, June 20th, was spent changing the engine oil and doing various odd jobs around the boat. Todd's sister, Jennifer, and fiance Mark picked us up Saturday afternoon at Kennedy Point Marina in Titusville and took us to Winter Springs, FL, near Orlando. That evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of steak and Bahamian lobster.

Look appetizing? It was!!!

On Sunday I got caught up on laundry while Todd went with his sister to take her youngest daughter, Sara, to a nearby YMCA camp. When they returned we all drove to the Sanford marina to check on Todd's parents boat and then we grabbed a bite to eat at the little open-air restaurant next to the marina. Later that evening Todd went with Jennifer to the Orlando airport to pick up her oldest daughter, Shannon, and niece Kelli who just returned from a two-week trip to Italy with Todd's mom.

Jennifer giving "bro" a haircut. Todd accused her of exposing too much gray hair!

Nieces Shannon (left) and Kelli (right). Aren't they pretty?

One afternoon, we noticed that one of Sara's goldfish was floating. The Captain tried to resuscitate it, to no avail!

Todd and I did a little shopping on Monday and spent Tuesday just channel-surfing and lounging around Jennifer's nice, big house, something of a treat when you live on a forty-foot boat! Wednesday afternoon Shannon and Kelli took us back to "Life's2Short" and spent some time checking out the many manatees at the marina.

The manatees were loving their fresh water bath!

Kelli and Shannon with Uncle Todd.

We put in about 75 miles on Thursday and anchored in a canal near Flagler Beach that has both a cement plant and a Sea Ray factory at the end of it. Actually, we nosed the bow in to shore and tied stern lines to trees on shore, but it worked fine and we had a quiet evening with just a brief period of light rain. Although it was a long day, it was relatively uneventful other than a clogged fuel filter on the port engine which the Captain quickly changed.

We arrived in St. Augustine shortly after noon on Friday and anchored north of the Bridge of Lions near the Castillo de San Marcos, an old Spanish fort. Later that afternoon we dinghied to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina dinghy dock to explore the downtown area. The marina charges $10 for twenty-four hours usage of their dinghy dock, including trash disposal and the use of their showers.

An aerial view of the Castillo de San Marcos (borrowed from the Internet).

Our first downtown stop was A1A Ale Works where we ordered a dozen hot wings. Then we toured St. George Street, which has all kinds of shops and restaurants, before stopping at Crab Grabbers Grill for a half-dozen raw oysters for the Captain. On the way back to the dinghy we had a light dinner at Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille before returning to the boat. Just sampling our way through a few of the city's many restaurants!

Our anchorage from downtown, just across the street from Harry's.

We went to town again late Saturday morning and took a tour of what is supposedly "The Oldest House" in America, along with some other historic exhibits on the property. We had a very nice lunch at the Old City House Inn & Restaurant and then toured the Lightner Museum which has an amazing variety of collections and exhibits covering a broad array of subjects.

A very nicely displayed room in "The Oldest House."

One of Lightner Museum's many exhibits.

The Admiral found the shell displays especially interesting!

This is the Music Room.

The building housing the museum is centered around this beautiful courtyard. A wedding was held there while we were in the museum.

This is Flagler College. In 1888, Henry Morrison Flagler built the luxury resort Hotel Ponce de Leon, which now serves as a residence hall and centerpiece for the college. A masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture, Ponce de Leon Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel was sold to Flagler College when the institution was founded in 1968, forty years ago.

After leaving the museum we went back to St. George Street in search of a Greek festival that Todd had read about on the Chamber of Commerce web site. After stopping and asking a variety of people where the festival was being held, we located it and were not impressed. Nonetheless, the Captain sampled the baklava which was quite good! On the way back to the dinghy, we stopped in again at A1A Ale Works but the dark clouds were threatening so we decided to cut our visit short and head back to "Life's2Short."  Even though we were literally surrounded by storms north, south and east of us, we were relieved to only have some light rain.

We left St. Augustine Sunday morning and travelled six hours to an anchorage three miles upstream on the St. John's River. Just before we reached the intersection of the St. John's and the Intracoastal Waterway, a nasty storm hit with probably fifty-plus mile-per-hour wind and blinding rain. Since we were in a fairly wide area along the waterway and visibility was virtually zero, the Captain decided to circle around south of the Interstate 10 bridge until visibility improved. Thankfully, the storm was short-lived and we were on our way again within about fifteen minutes. Not a fun experience!

Today, June 30th, we covered the remaining couple of hours to the free city dock at the Jacksonville Landing in downtown Jacksonville. As we were nearing the downtown area, Todd noticed a huge commercial ship named "Fuji" gaining on us from behind! Fuji's captain hailed us on the VHF radio a short time later and asked us to follow an alternate route just south of the Intracoastal until he got to his destination. We were happy to oblige! Todd asked the captain what he was hauling and he told us he had five thousand Toyotas from Japan on board - amazing what they haul half-way across the globe!

This interesting bridge was near last night's anchorage.

This is "Fuji" bringing five thousand Toyotas to the local Toyota distributor.

Coming in to downtown Jacksonville. The Landing is just beyond the blue bridge.

Since we haven't heard anything from Todd's friend from Switzerland, we don't know if he is still coming to Jacksonville or not, but even if his plans have changed I think we will find plenty to occupy ourselves for the next few days. Jacksonville Landing is a very nice development with about fifty restaurants and specialty shops, and the free dock is situated directly in front of it. There also appear to be other "points of interest" nearby, including the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium, so I'm sure we'll get out and do a little exploring.

As I write this, another storm is moving through Jacksonville with heavy rain, strong wind and lots of lightning. Needless to say, we are both happy to be tied to a cement dock this afternoon! We plan to leave here Wednesday, July 2nd, and arrive in Savannah on Monday, July 7th. We will update the blog again at that time with information about our stay in Jacksonville and the trip to Savannah. In the meantime, have a safe and happy 4th of July!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back in the States

We left Bimini, Bahamas, at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, June 12th, and made the 55-mile, six-hour crossing to Ft. Lauderdale. The seas were generally in the two- to four-foot range, mostly hitting us from behind, so the majority of the trip was relatively smooth. The last hour-and-a-half was a little rougher, but by then we had the coast in site and knew we'd be back in the Intracoastal Waterway soon.

We anchored in Lake Sylvia that afternoon and dinghied to the Southport Raw Bar the next day for a very nice lunch. They have a dinghy dock and the Winn-Dixie is right across the street, so we were able to do a little re-provisioning before heading back to the boat. Lake Sylvia has a 24-hour anchoring limit, so we pulled anchor about 2:30 Friday afternoon and put in a few hours before anchoring in Lake Boca Raton. This part of Florida has a lot of "no wake" zones and low bridges that only open at designated times, so it can be pretty slow going, even for a slowing-moving trawler!

Some of the innumerable multi-million dollar developments along the waterway in south Florida.

This is one of the many low bridges that had to be opened for us along the ICWW in south Florida.

Saturday we covered about thirty-five miles over a period of five-and-a-half hours, including three in the rain, before anchoring at the north end of Lake Worth. Sunday we took the dinghy to a landing at the northernmost part of the lake and were planning to walk to a nearby mall. We got there about the same time as another guy in the anchorage and he offered to give us a ride. His van was parked in the Publix parking lot just down the street, so we happily took him up on his offer! On the way he told us that we were anchored near Jack Nicklaus' house and that Tiger Woods' megayacht was at a nearby dock. There is definitely a lot of money in this part of Florida!

Tom dropped us off at The Gardens mall, which was probably close to two miles from where we left the dinghy. We had lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen and did a little window shopping, mostly just enjoying the wonderful air conditioning! We then walked to The Downtown mall a short distance away to check out the movie theatre but decided we weren't really all that interested in seeing a movie, so we walked back to The Gardens mall where Todd bought a Garmin personal travel assistant at Radio Shack.

We first saw one of these units when our friends Bob & Linda Eckels came to visit us in Ft. Myers Beach in February. It is basically a GPS unit that allows you to look up stores, restaurants and other points of interest that are in the vicinity and it tells you how far away they are and how to get there. It even gives you business addresses and phone numbers! It's really a neat device and will be extremely handy for us on the boat as we are always covering new territory and wondering what's around us. Happy early birthday, Captain!

The walk back to the boat was long and hot, so we stopped off at the Publix to cool down before making the final trek to the dinghy. On the way back to "Life's2Short" we couldn't resist taking a peek at Tiger Woods' yacht, "Privacy." As you might expect, it was a beauty and was the biggest boat around. Of course, after winning the U.S. Open a few days ago, he can probably afford to keep it!

Palm Beach Gardens, where Lake Worth is located, is like Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous! This is Tiger's yacht, "Privacy."

Pulling up the anchor at Lake Worth.

This is Tom's boat, "Essential Part."

Monday we went as far as Jensen Beach and encountered a little more rain along the way, but the heaviest storms bypassed us. Another storm moved through about 4:30 that afternoon staying south of the anchorage, but it cooled the temperature down nicely! We put in another five hours Tuesday and anchored at Pine Island, just north of Vero Beach, with a stop along the way at Ft. Pierce to fuel up at Port Petroleum. We took on 300 gallons of diesel at the bargain price of $4.78 per gallon, including tax, which is actually pretty good considering most places we've seen are around $5.00 and that probably doesn't include Florida's seven percent tax.

Again, the storms popped up all around us that afternoon but we only had some wind and a little rain. The daytime highs have consistently been in the low 90's and there have been thunderstorms nearly every afternoon. Wednesday was no exception. We went another six hours and anchored at Cocoa, Florida, which is near Cocoa Beach but is its own city. The storms rolled through about 5:00 p.m. and, again, the most severe storms stayed to the north, south and east of us. Radar showed watch boxes all around us but we only had to deal with some wind, waves and rain.

Earlier in the day, the Captain had used his new toy (the personal travel assistant) to check out nearby points of interest and located a Mexican restaurant. So we got the dinghy down and headed in to town about 7:00 that evening. With the help of our new little friend, we easily located the restaurant and enjoyed Mexican food and a few long-awaited margaritas. What a handy little tool!

Today we only had a short run of about two hours to the Kennedy Point Marina where we will leave the boat for the next week. Kennedy Point Marina is in Titusville, near Cape Canaveral where NASA launches space shuttles. Too bad there isn't one scheduled any time soon. This would be a great place from which to watch it!

"Life's2Short" at Kennedy Point Marina.

Todd's sister, Jennifer, who lives near Orlando is going to pick us up on Saturday and we are going to spend a little time on land before continuing the journey north. We plan to return to the boat on Tuesday and leave here Wednesday or Thursday of next week, which will give us five or six days to get to Jacksonville to meet up with Todd's friend, Raffael, who is visiting from Switzerland. Then, we're Savannah-bound to celebrate the Captain's 50th birthday with family and friends.

P.S. I realize that the number of photos on this post are minimal, but I have to tell you that the scenery on the east coast of Florida cannot compare to the magnificence of the Exumas. Hence, the lack of photos. Sorry!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Captain's Notes on the Exumas   While some items are fresh in my head I wanted to note them for future reference, hopefully the Admiral will allow us to visit this beautiful place again! The Exumas have to be one of the top cruising grounds in the Western Hemisphere, a trip that cruisers must experience for themselves!   Customs:  We did customs at Sea Crest Marina in Bimini, it was very quick and painless. Just filled out the paperwork that the marina gave us, took the paperwork one block to the customs office, got the paperwork signed, gave them $300, and that was it. If I was not going through Bimini on the way to the Exumas I would have done customs in Nassau.   Fuel Notes-Dinghy. 9.9hp:  In the course of the trip I used 22 gallons. What worked well for us was a 2.5 gallon tank that we kept on the swim deck and then another 5 gallon tank we kept on the sundeck. The 2.5 gallon tank made it easier to fill the dinghy tank.  
Fuel Notes-Marina Locations
  • When fuel is needed it's important to call ahead to make sure the marina has fuel and that they are open. Most businesses in the Exumas close down on Sunday, some fuel docks included. We also found out that the marinas can run out of fuel and will have to wait on the next fuel barge from Nassau, which may take a few days.
  • Sampson Cay was the only place we purchased fuel, and that was just for the dinghy. I believe that Highborne, Sampson, and Staniel all have marinas with fuel. Sampson has a nice large fuel dock that is easy to get in & out of.
  • Little Farmers Cay advertises they have fuel but it appears that is not true as of this writing. The folks on the cay told us that the owner of the "marina" just can't afford to fill his fuel tanks anymore.
  • There is a new marina that is now open on Cave Cay which is located just a few miles south of Farmers Cay. We were told by other boaters that the marina has fuel, water, and elec., even though the marina is still under construction.
  • Chub Cay (Berry Islands) has a marina that has become very snooty. We were told, and experienced, that boaters who used to purchase fuel there were turned down because they were not a marina guest. Folks were also turned down when they needed some dinghy gas and wanted to do laundry. Chub is a good anchorage after a long day but don't expect any services unless you plan on staying at the expensive marina.
  • It is also important that you be very patient when it comes to contacting marinas and other businesses on the VHF. We Americans are used to instant contact when we radio a marina, not so down here. One must remember that everyone down here is on "Island Time" and it may take you 5 or 10 minuets to hear back from those folks you are trying to contact. Just be patient and try the marina every few minuets, don't be an impatient "Ugly American" when it comes to the VHF radio.
Fresh Water Usage:  We averaged 10-12 gallons per day. This is based on each of us having two freshwater showers a week. Water is $0.50 per gallon in most all marinas.

Dinghy Notes:  If you are coming to the Exumas, and you plan to explore this area in your dinghy, it is important that you have enough horsepower to navigate the strong currents that run through these cays. I would not attempt anything less than 8hp on a 10' inflatable. It is also important that your dinghy have a good anchor with plenty of anchor line (25') and 2' of chain. I would also carry a hand-held VHF radio on board.....just in case.

Glass-Bottom Bucket:  Don't leave home without it! It will be your best friend when you check your anchor to make sure it's set, which you should do all of the time down here!

Navigation Charts:  Explorer Charts, both electronic & paper. They are the only way to go down here, very informative and full of good local information. I will also let you know that, based on our experience, the depths shown in most all areas are 2' deeper than the charts show at low tides......YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

Tides:  For planning purposes tides run "about" 20 minuets later in the northern Exumas and up to an hour earlier in the central Exumas than what the tide charts show for Nassau. Our average tide range for April & May was around 2.5 feet........YMMV.

Weather Notes:
  • Since we don't have SSB we used 2 different VHF weather broadcasts that happen daily here in the Exumas. 7:30am Channel 16 to hear the weather out of Highborne Cay. 8:00am on channel 16 to hear the weather out of Exuma Land & Sea Park. By far the best & most detailed weather forecast is out of Exuma Park. We found that they were accurate about 90% of the time......YMMV.
  • Plenty of great anchorages on the west side of most cays as the prevailing winds are from the NE to the SE. If a good blow or storm is predicted out of the west plan ahead as eastern anchorages are harder to find and could be crowded during the busy boating season.
  • Life's2Short either anchored or tied to a mooring ball the entire 7 weeks we were in the Exumas. We found great holding in the sand and sand & light grassy areas. Don't be afraid to get off the beaten path, pretty easy to do down here!
  • We only used one anchor (CQR) and tried to anchor in areas that didn't have much current. Areas like Exuma Park (North, South, and Cambridge anchorages) and Little Farmers Cay we chose to take a mooring ($10.00 to $15.00 per night) as these areas have some pretty substantial current and limited anchoring room.
  • Don't forget to use your glass-bottom bucket or dive your anchor after it's set!
Phone & Internet Notes:
  • Even though Cingular told us our cell phone would work here, it does not. We were able to receive calls but we were not able to call out. Two days after arriving in the Bahamas we just turned off the cell phone. What we did was purchase a couple of Batelco phone cards (.50 per minuet) in Bimini and have used them as we find a pay phone. Don't plan on finding many pay phones down here, we found working Batelco pay phones in Sampson Cay, Staniel Cay, and Black Point. You can also use the phone at Exuma Park but it's going to cost you $3.00 per minute. I'm sure there are other phones at other marinas, this is just where we went.
  • We used Internet access at Sea Crest Marina in Bimini (free), Normans Cay (only available at the restaurant as a paying customer and often very slow), Exuma Park ($10.00 for 24 hours), Staniel Cay Yacht Club (free but not a very good signal), and Lorraine's Cafe in Black Point (wonderful computer room with good access, don't forget to donate $$$ for the use of the service). I believe that Sampson & Compass Cay marinas have access but we did not use their service. I would also suggest that a person get an external antenna for their computer. We didn't have one but other boaters who did were able, in some cases, to sit on their boat at anchor and surf the net in some anchorages.
Shopping Notes:
  • Life's2Short loves to have their beverages ice cold! We paid as little as $3.00 per bag of cube ice up to $8.00 per bag (only did the $8.00 once!) You can find block ice down here but you have to ask for it. Our best deal on block ice was $7.00 for an 18# block, this was at the Black Point store. We were even so "thrifty" we used the melted ice to rinse out swimsuits, soak seashells, and do small batches of laundry! If you drink beer you will pay $4.00 to $5.00 per bottle or $40.00+ per case down here, bring your own beer if you can't afford these prices.
  • The supply boat runs through the northern & central Exumas on Wednesday, your best bet for finding fresh bread & produce is Wednesday afternoon. It is very expensive to shop down here so bring everything you can from home!
Misc. Notes:
  • Plan on bringing snorkeling equipment, the diving down here is sooooo beautiful!
  • An underwater camera is a must!
  • We brought down beach chairs & umbrella, it's a great way to spend happy-hour on a deserted beach!
  • Laundry, while I'm sure there are other places to do it, you really should check out the "laundermat" at Black Point. It's as nice as any laundromat in the USA, though more expensieve.....$3.50 per wash & $3.50 per dryer.
  • Polarized sunglasses are a must, if you can get a polarizing filter for your camera do so.
Please don't hesitate to send us an email, , if you have any further questions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our Final Days in the Exumas

After updating the blog Saturday afternoon, May 31st, the Exuma Park headquarters staff sponsored a cookout on the beach to celebrate the Park's 50th anniversary, providing hamburgers, chips and all the trimmings for everyone in the mooring field - probably about thirty people. They even had several cases of Sands, a relatively new brand of Bahamian beer, so that everyone could sample it.

The area behind our mooring at Warderick Wells dries out at low tide. Our stern was very close to the sandy bottom!

Sunday we got caught up on e-mail and then took the dinghy on a circuitous route around the west side of Narrow Waters Cay, north along the west side of Long Rock and east to Naked Beach. Todd explored the surrounding cay and found a few pieces of sea glass and then we snorkeled Kelly's Reef along side the cay. The water temperature is really nice now, unlike the first time I snorkeled in that area in early May!

More beautiful photos overlooking "Naked Beach" taken by the Captain as he explored the cay.

While we were at Naked Beach, a tender from a 110-foot yacht that was in the south mooring field pulled up to the beach so that its passengers could snorkel. We asked the young captain how much it cost to charter the yacht and he told us it was $42,000 per week, not including fuel, food or booze. Neither of us could even guess what fuel would cost for a boat that size, but we quickly determined that we would not be chartering one any time soon!

When we got back to the mooring field, we dinghied over to the beach and walked to Boo Boo Hill again to check on our sign, which was just as we had left it, and then walked over to see the blow holes since it was close to high tide. We soon discovered that the holes blow air, not water as we had assumed, although I'm sure they also blow water in rough seas or at extremely high tide. The Sound was pretty mellow that afternoon, though, so nothing but air was shooting out of the holes.

On the way back to the dinghy, we detoured to the deck of the Park headquarters to feed some sugar to the Bananaquits, small black and yellow birds that hang out there. The Park staff keep a container of sugar outside the office door so boaters can feed them, and the friendly little guys do not hesitate to eat out of your hand. We even donated a few pounds of sugar to the cause prior to our departure.

Monday we moved to an anchorage on the northwest side of Hawksbill Cay and followed a rugged trail across the island to the northern beach on the Sound side. Along the way we checked out some of the ruins where the last inhabitants of the island lived until around 1900. As you might imagine, the ruins are very primitive and don't look like much by today's housing standards! We also found the remains of an oven surrounded by piles of old conch shells. According to the cruise guide, "these ovens were used for cooking as well as to incinerate the conch shells for use in the making of mortar to line the walls of the houses."

When we got back to the beach where we had left the dinghy, we ran in to Jack & Susan and their black lab, Dakota. We originally met Jack & Susan in Blackpoint and then saw them again at Warderick Wells on Saturday where Susan graciously offered to let me use the Skype on her computer to touch base with my mom. Susan told us Skype costs her about $0.03 per minute as compared to $3.00 per minute to use the Park headquarters phone! Perhaps on our next visit we will look in to getting Skype for our computer.

At any rate, we didn't realize that theirs was the sailboat in the anchorage near "Life's2Short." They were getting ready to walk up to the ruins so we made plans to get together a little later on a beach closer to our anchorage. At that point, we dinghied to the northern end of Hawksbill and found a very nice, spacious beach surrounded by large areas of shallow water and sand flats with a great view of the Sound as well as the Bahama Bank.

The northeastern tip of Hawksbill is a truly gorgeous area!

This shade tree was a definite plus!

On the way back we joined Jack & Susan on the beach near our boats and made plans to have dinner on their boat "Freyja" that evening. We grilled the rest of the Mahi-Mahi that Paul from the motoryacht "Off Island" had given us and Susan prepared some wonderful pasta and a nice salad with rum cake for dessert. It was all delicious and we had a really good time visiting with them.

Jack & Susan left for Normans Cay the next morning but we wanted to stay at Hawksbill another day and go back to the northern end of the island. Early that afternoon, near low tide, Todd pulled the boat closer to the beach so he could stand up in the water and scrub the sides of the boat. It was still five feet deep when we first moved in closer, but it was probably down to about four feet by the time Todd finished.

The Captain diligently scrubbing the sides of the boat.

When we headed north in the dinghy that afternoon, the water was still too low to get over some of the sand flats so we waited and watched it rise. Once we had enough water, we motored to the southeast tip of Shroud Cay and walked around for a while before returning to the northeast tip of Hawksbill. According to the cruise guide, the area between Shroud and Hawksbill is called Hungry Hall. It is described as "a pristine, windswept, wind and natural place" and is definitely a trip favorite.

A temporary stop as we waited for the tide to come in.

Still waiting for the tide to come in. It won't be much longer now!

This is the southeastern tip of Shroud Cay.

We moved to the northwest side of Shroud on Wednesday and explored the north end of that cay but it wasn't as nice as the northern end of Hawksbill/southern end of Shroud. We ended up spending a couple of hours on a west-facing beach on Little Wax Cay, just north of Shroud, before returning to "Life's2Short" for the evening.

More island beauty!

On Thursday, June 5th, we went to Normans Cay and spent the afternoon trying to update the blog, but the satellite Internet wasn't cooperating and we finally gave up. We tried again Friday morning, but even e-mail was miserably slow that day. However, as we were leaving the Normans Cay Beach Club Friday afternoon, we ran in to David & Denise who we had met in Bimini in April. David is an avid fisherman and he and Todd ventured out several times while we were there.

David & Denise were with another couple, Craig & Beverly, on a beautiful 54-foot Viking named "Last Resort." We chatted on the beach for a while and made plans to get together at the Beach Club that evening for dinner. The food was excellent, as was the company, and Chris took good care of us. Chris owns and manages the Beach Club, along with Stefan who we met in late April/early May as we were heading south. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Stefan this time around as he was laid up with an injury.

What a great time we all had at the Beach Club that evening!

Craig & Beverly in animated conversation with the Admiral.

We left for Highborne Cay late Saturday morning and after settling in for a bit, Todd took the dinghy over to the marina to get a couple of gallons of gas, drop off trash and pick up a few groceries. Gas was actually cheaper than at Sampson Cay ($5.40 per gallon) and trash was the same ($5.00 for a large bag). Groceries, however, were outrageous! A loaf of sandwich bread was $6.00; a package of Romaine was $8.00; and it was another $10.00 for two onions and two tomatoes! Even for the Exumas those prices seem extreme, but you either pay the price or you do without.

That afternoon Craig and David buzzed by in the tender and invited us to "Last Resort" for a Sloppy Joe dinner. They had left Normans earlier than we did and were spending the night in the marina. Beverly ordered two dozen conch fritters from a guy on the dock, which were nothing short of huge, and also had a seemingly unlimited supply of wine and other nice appetizers. By the time we got to our "Manwich" dinner meal, we were well on our way to being stuffed! It was another wonderful evening with some very special people.

Highborne Cay has a very nice marina complete with an extremely well-stocked store and golf carts to tour the island.

Craig & Beverly own a resort called Bahama Beach Club on Treasure Cay in the Abacos and tried to talk us in to going there instead of back to the states. Craig even offered us free dockage and said he would put us up in one of his condos. Talk about tempting! If we didn't have commitments in the states, I'm pretty sure we would be heading to the Abacos! If anyone reading this is interested in visiting the Abacos, you should check out their web site at It's looks spectacular!

We went back over to the marina Sunday morning so I could call my mom and stopped by "Last Resort" to say hello. While we were there, Craig generously offered the use of his Bahamiam cell phone; little did I know that it was costing him $7.00 per minute - ouch! A few hours after we returned to the boat, "Last Resort" came out of the marina and passed by "Life's2Short" on their way to a nearby beach before heading back to Nassau that evening.

What a wonderful and fun group of people!

"Last Resort" underway. What a beautiful boat!

We made our final Exuma beach visit Sunday afternoon to a beach on the west side of Highborne Cay. We are definitely going to miss our beach visits when we return to the states. Even though there are beaches there, they cannot compare to the many extraordinary beaches we've seen and visited in the Exumas. It is truly beach heaven!

We left Highborne Cay Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at our anchorage in West Bay, on the west end of New Providence Island (where Nassau is located), six hours later. The east wind, hardly more than a breeze, was to our backs so it was a hot, muggy trip, but at least the seas were relatively calm with swells of probably two feet or less. A few hours into the trip the port engine sputtered and died as a result of a clogged fuel filter. Todd quickly changed it out and we were on our way again.

West Bay was a very pretty anchorage in an apparently exclusive area and we spent a quiet afternoon and evening on the boat, glad to have at least one leg of our journey completed.

A couple of final sunset shots from the Bahamas. What a view!

On Tuesday we were underway by 6:45 a.m. and ended up anchoring on the Bahama Bank about 4:00 p.m. It was hot and muggy again but the water was very calm. Other than some minor swells during the first few hours, the seas were as close to glass as we've ever seen, especially in the Tongue of the Ocean which is thousands of feet deep.  After several weeks of very brief travel days, this was an extremely long day and we were more than ready for a break!

The Bank remained calm all evening and overnight, although we did see some bright lightening off in the distance about 2:00 a.m. and wondered if a storm was headed our way. Thankfully, it wasn't. We left the Bank at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday and arrived in Bimini at 1:00 p.m. Again, we were blessed with extremely calm water and, other than the heat and humidity, the trip was uneventful. At one point we saw a rather nasty looking storm brewing to the south, complete with heavy rain, lighting and thunder, and thought it might be heading our way, but it moved away from us and appeared to fizzle out.

Unlike the last time we were here, Bimini is booming and we were lucky to find a place to tie up. We are at the same marina we stayed at in April (Sea Crest), but they didn't have any available slips so we are tied at the end of the dock. We had hoped to stay here a few days before crossing the Gulf Stream, but they only have space for us tonight and tomorrow night and Friday doesn't appear to be a good day to cross based on the current marine forecast, so we may have to bite the bullet and leave for the states in the morning.

At any rate, we are grateful for the good seas we've had thus far and are relieved to have three of the four legs of our return trip under our belt. Depending on the condition of the Gulf Stream when we get out there, we will either cross to Ft. Lauderdale or to Lake Worth, near Palm Beach. If the seas aren't too bad, we hope to go in at Lake Worth (about 85 miles), but if it's too rough we will cut the trip short and go in at Ft. Lauderdale (about 55 miles). Please keep your fingers crossed for calm seas and fair weather as we return to the Motherland!