Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday April 29, 2014 - Key West

Here we are in the wonderfully wild and crazy town of Key West.  It a beautiful day and I am taking a brief break from working in the "marine office" on S/V Midnight Sun II.

We arrived yesterday evening in plenty of time to settle in and go watch the sunset from sunset pier.

The marina is nice but pricey - but location, location , location - its right downtown so we can 
fall of the dock onto the boat. We saw a good band last night - very "Pink Floyd", which fit the location.  At least they sounded like Pink Floyd even though I recognized very few of their songs.  Others swaying in the weed-haze seemed to enjoy it - but i think they were somewhere on the "dark side of the moon".  But Key West is just different.

Here are some other shots of Key West.

I just realized I left my car with my daughter - hope this is not it!!

How can you not love this place!!  At least in small doses.
And remember, you can track our location at Current location of Midnight Sun II through our DeLorme Satellite tracker/communicator.  If you are reading this, we would love to hear from you!  please leave a comment on our blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014 - Marathon

We just spent 2 nights in Marathon City marina. I could see how you could love or hate this place. First, it's big....very big.  There have to be several hundred mooring balls here in the basin. But it is really well organized. The city staff who run the place are extremely friendly and helpful and it is very well run. So why would you hate it?  Well it's big, and if the goal is to get away from people, this is not the place. On the very positive side we were able to dinghy over to a great bar and grill called dockside that is owned by Eric Stone, a bit of a modern day Jimmy Buffet. And the treat was that he and his band were playing.
So that was a real treat

 to see Eric Stone.  


Last night there was a pot luck dinner that we participated in. It was a good way to meet other cruisers. Nice folks as always, and several were good musicians that entertained us with songs. So a good night!

Today was a bit of a lazy day. I did get a couple of small projects done, and we had a walk to Home Depot, getting ice cream on the way. Salty discovered ice cream!!

Tomorrow, we plan to head south.....although it's really more southwest I guess from here. I keep forgetting how far the keys hook around.   

Here are a few pics of marathon marina, although they really don't do justice to how large this place really is. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24, 2014 Key Largo

Before we left Miami, we ate at Scotty's on the harbour.  A great little spot we had visited on our way down.  We took the opportunity of stocking up and a visit to West Marine since we had a rental car.


Salty had a blast on a small island close to the mooring field.

Then we headed south to Key Largo. We ended up motor sailing due to light winds, then motoring.  As the wind built, it came directly on our nose and we had a 45 mile day.  We are now in Key Largo at a nice little marina.  We will be headed south tomorrow as the laundry is about finished!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21, 2014 - Back in the USA

Well we made it back to Miami on the 19th.  What a wild ride we had on the way back.  our route was from Spanish Wells to Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands, then on to North Cat Cay (just south of Bimini), then across the gulf stream to Miami.  We had excellent weather for the first 2 legs - albeit being a little light on winds.

Photos below are from Chubb Cay:

Just a small boat that could not make it into the marina - I think it was 300+ ft....and if you look on the deck, it looks like he brought is sailboat along! 

And here's a treat for any of my Engineer friends catching up on this - a photo of a Bahamian Power Plant:

Basically a diesel engine!  Yes, 98 percent of power in the Bahamas is generated by diesel

We had studied the weather - at least what we could reasonably get a hold of - we were faced with a dilemma: (i) cross on Saturday with conditions that looked like favorable winds; or (ii) wait, but the weather and wind direction seemed like it may not be good for up to a week!.

We got up early Saturday......winds seemed OK, but we could see a thunderstorm passing close by.  We decided to wait out the thunderstorm and see what conditions looked like.  The skies cleared and decide to cautiously set off.  Going through Gun Cut, we made the turn and were faced with breakers...not good, but we got through OK.  We thought the seas would flatten, but they didn't the seemed to be building.  it was not comfortable but it was bearable.  We managed to get a few miles offshore and then a thunderstorm hit us.  We were in the middle of it.  The wind howled, the seas were like a washing machine with waves from all directions.  As a result we were thrown around quite a bit - but the boat did just fine.  I estimated wave heights at 12 feet - but kept that to myself.  In the troughs, I cold not see above the waves from the cockpit; when we hit a crest, we slipped down the face of the wave.  These conditions lasted for about 2 hours, but it seemed like a day.  The photo below was actually from a coupe of days earlier when we approached a storm from a distance.

Why no photos from this storm? Basically the last thing you think about is getting a camera out!

We made it back to Miami by about 5pm.  We were relieved to see the Miami skyline.

So now it is back to reality - stocking up at Walmart in "little Cuba".  And yes, en in the glamour of Miami, there are still "people of Walmart", and most of the check-out girls don't speak English!
Today, I made a trip to West Marine as I had not donated an $$ to them in a couple of months.  We also met up with Cindi from our Boca office who brought me the replacement transmission cable I had ordered.  Incidentally, my temporary repair is still holding up well!
Future plans are to head for the keys, starting tomorrow.  Now we have real internet again, so I have the best of intentions to try to keep up with the blog.  Also, Salty is healing up well from his encounter with a stingray - his leg has been dressed twice daily and is looking much better.
Owls made by JR on Little Farmer's Cay - a reminder of the wonderful time there!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12 2014 - Boat Project Continues

Someone said cruising is all about moving from port to port to perform boat repairs?  Well I am exaggerating - Midnight Sun has performed exceptionally well to date, but the current boat project to a step backwards yesterday.  After re-assembling the transmission cable, everything looked good until I tried shifting and discovered the cable retainer had also broken in the pedestal.........[insert choice words and expletives].  So - Edson Marine, why would you make a cable retainer out of nylon?.....some significant Jerry rigging later (here's a photo in progress) I have a repair, but not sure if it will hold up.  I am in progress at adding a pipe clamp around the repair to strengthen it all.

So I am updating the blog while the third layer of epoxy sets up.

And for anyone that is interested, here is what the temporary repair looked like when finished.  I am pleased to report it seems to be working!!  I think Mr. Heath, Mr. Robinson, and even Jerry's Rigging company would be proud of this work!


Here are some photos from Highbourne Cay.....what a lovely place it is.
There are some amazing boats in here.......and I seem to have deleted the photos...but will get some more.

 The restaurant - "Xuma"
 Beach on the Ocean side
I found some of the photos of the nice and amazing boats here in Highbourne Cay.  Here they are.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11 - Boat Project!

We are currently in Highbourne Cay Marina.  We sailed up here under less than ideal weather yesterday.  We started out on a nice 15-18 knot beam and the winds gradually increased and turned north on our nose.  But we endured it and did fine.  The last hour was a bit uncomfortable.  However on our way in we ran into a hitch...

The cable to our transmission (the gear shift) broke as I came into the marina.  Fortunately it went into neutral and I lost power.  We quickly dropped the anchor in the marina basin nad called for help as there was a large rock breakwater behind us.  The anchor held and we were able to ascertain that  it was in fact the cable that had broken.  With help from the dockhand, we were able to get into a slip shifting the transmission manually from the engine room.  Very hairy!.  So today's project is a temporary fix.  The cable broke just below the adjuster.  I was able to drill out the broken end, and re-tap the end of the cable.  Hopefully it will work.

April 11, 2014 Photo Update

Here are some photos from our recent visit to Little Farmer's Cay, (mentioned in the last post).  We really enjoyed Little Farmers - one of our favorite spots so far!

View from Marina
 Dinner at Ocean Cabin - Lobster $18  and amazing!
Amazing opening hours!

 Wonderful views and beaches
Oven Rock - site of an underwater cave entrance

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014 - Waderick Wells, Exumas

Well here we are again in Waderick Wells – the site of the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  Once again, we are here waiting out a cold front!  This seems to be our spot for that.  I guess you would say that today is one of those mundane days of sailing/cruising.  The wind is blowing 25+ knots, it is now raining, the boat is bobbing around on its mooring ball.  So much of the day is spent sitting around; listening to the VHF to see what other cruisers are up to; catching up on small repairs/maintenance; and generally keeping dry.

One of my tasks for today is to bring the blog up to date, so here goes.

On the last update, I was in the states dropping Austin off at school after his Spring Break trip with us.  It was so good to see him and we hope he enjoyed his time with us.  After returning, we spend another couple of nights in Emerald Bay marina before we started to head north.  From Emerald Bay, we went to Little Farmers Cay and really enjoyed 2 nights there.  The small town was typically Bahamian and extremely friendly.  We learned the history of Little farmers, and here’s the short version that likely does not do it full justice.  But basically, the island was bought by a freed slave who then willed it to his descendants.  However, land can only be passed down to direct descendants – so essentially it is still the same family that occupies the island: about 55 people total.

We had the great pleasure of meeting Terry Bain owner of the island restaurant and mooring balls.  The restaurant is called Ocean’s Cabin, and Terry’s wife, Ernestine is the cook.  We had the restaurant to ourselves and had a wonderfully prepared lobster dinner.  This was also one of the best value meals we have had while here.  Terry should put his prices up – but don’t tell him!  While on Little Farmers, we also visited JR – the local wood sculpture.  We bought some of his hand-made carvings which were also very reasonable.  We met JR and spent a good 45 minutes with him in his workshop.  He signed and dated our carvings.

The water and small beaches around Little Farmers were really nice.  Salty had a blast on the beach as always.  We spent a few hours swimming and snorkeling the area.  Unfortunately we did not make it to Oven Rock – the site of an underwater cave, as we thought it was pushing the range of our dinghy a little.

We left Little Farmers somewhat reluctantly as we really enjoyed our time there.  In fact, I think I would place it top of our list overall for the Exumas.  From there, we sailed……well motored and sailed north in light to little wind.  Knowing that a cold front was expected the next few days, we looked for a protected spot.  We were going to head for Highbourne Cay, but heard they are typically booked up well in advance and that other protected areas in the vicinity are sparse.  Given that we elected to go in to Waderick Wells as we could not raise Highbourne on the VHF.  We spent a night at Emerald Rock which was quite exposed and bouncy.  The next morning we managed to get a mooring ball in the north field which has much better protection……..and here we are.  It looks like we will be here another night or two.

After we moved here, we took Salty for his beach walk and swim.  Unfortunately he had a little run in with the local wildlife.  He was doing his customary fishing in the shallow beach waters (he never catches anything, but it’s fun to watch him) when he suddenly pounced on a stingray.  The ray sshot into the air about 3 ft. out of the water and so did Salty letting out a yelp.  I called him back and he came in with his leg bleeding.  The ray had obviously caught him on the leg with its stinger and left a good sized gash.  We took him back to the boat and cleaned and dressed it.  Fortunately it seems the ray did not get him with a barb, and it looked like a clean cut.  After 2 days with a bandage and plenty of antibiotic cream, he seems to be doing fine.

Well that gets us about caught up.  Today is April 9.  We are seeing our first real bad weather spell, so we can’t complain.  Its about 75 degrees with sporadic rain; winds 20-25 knots and starting to clock around.  As I was writing this the direction has moved from west to northwest which by my reckoning is a little ahead of the forecast schedule………..so maybe this will blow through a little quicker.

Our next stop is a little in the air because of weather.  My plan was to head over to Cape Eleuthera (generally northeast of our current location), but its liking like the wind will not be too favorable for that.  Second choice is to go almost due north and go back to Spanish Wells, but it would be nice if we can break that trip with a stop at Highbourne, otherwise it will be a long day.  Third choice is either Nassau or Andros.  Nassau is the least appealing as we have heard increasing reports of theft from boats.  So we will play it by ear and see what the weather does the next couple of days.  I will likely not be able to upload photos with this post due to slow internet, but will try to do another update soon.  If you are interested in seeing our current location, please visit the delorme link at https://share.delorme.com/Midnightsunii Our current location should be updated about every 15 minutes.  Isn’t science amazing!  It certainly makes navigation a whole lot easier!

On the subject of navigation, a couple of people have asked me what we are using…..well we are not relying on one thing, so I will briefly describe what we do.  Its not out of a text book, but I have worked out a little system that seems to work quite well.  Here goes:

·         For quick overview planning, I use the Navionics App on my iPad – its simple to use and good for figuring out gross distances etc.  If it’s a simple or short course, I can plot it quickly on Navionics by simply putting dots on a map.  We can then steer a course (or use autopilot with headings) to follow the course.  Very quick and easy!

·         For more complex courses or courses that need accurate waypoints, I use iNavX again on iPad and also put the critical waypoints into our Raymarine chartplotter.  I am actually trying to get into the habit of using iNavX rather than Navionics as it has superior features but is not as intuitive.  Also, our AIS links to iNavX and shows positions of other boats and ships directly on the iPad also giving warnings of collision courses.

·         Chartplotter – Raymarine RL70C.  We have 2 of these: one at the helm and one at the nav station.

·         Of course we have paper charts – we are using Maptech. We get all our critical waypoints from the charts or occasionally from the Bahamas cruising guidebook.  On passages, we plot our position on charts making sure it makes sense.

·         More on iNavX….I have found the features on this to be very good.  I can download grib files (weather data) and show wind speed and direction directly on our chart.  Today, I am working on direct transfer of waypoints from iNavX to the Raymarine chartplotter to avoid duplicate entry.  I can do this several ways: (i) email the points, convert them, then upload to Raymarine using the user card; or (ii) transmit the file over NMEA through the AIS and direct to the Raymarine chartplotter.  In theory it looks like this can be done, so I am planning to spend a couple of hours later today or tomorrow and see if I can make it work!

·         AIS – just before the trip I installed a Vesper Marine AIS transponder.  I have been fairly pleased with it so far but have found a few software glitches and bugs.  I am pleased to say I have reported these to Vesper (I think they are located in New Zealand?) and they have got right back to me with answers – their support team is great!

·         Compass – yes, we do have a couple on board!  When Brian was with us, we also used his sextant – just to prove we could do it the old fashioned way.   

·         Of course I should quickly mention safety and communications – we have 2 VHF radios, 2 handheld VHF, a delorme 2-way satellite communicator, and our EPIRB, plus all USCG-required flares etc.