Sunday, March 12, 2017

When the winds Blow…..

February 28th – March 12th 2017

Well it seems that here on GWTW we have adopted a national anthem.       No, it’s not the Australian one, Advance Australia Fair and it’s not the USA’s Star Spangled Banner either.


Ours was written by two brothers who live a little closer to home. They’re from  the land of the long-white-cloud and the song was a top hit from the NZ pop group Crowded House. Have you guessed the name yet? It’s actually quite a fitting  anthem for us given that the lyrics talk about the one big thing in our lives that dictates when and where we go. Yep it’s the “Weather with You” song! and the lyrics go like this “ Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you …you take the weather, the weather with you” And on that note I reckon you already know what comes next in this post.



So here we are in the beautiful Bahamas, a place that most people think of as paradise, and it is on a nice day. But we have truly fallen out of favor with the weather gods this year. It’s slow going when the winds are howling and a howl’n they have been pretty much since we’ve arrived here. This past week has been no different. Since leaving Ship Cay at the top of the Exumas there has been a couple of very nasty fronts blow down from the northern USA. These fronts just reek havoc with every sailors’ plans, including ours.



The forecasters were so full of doom and gloom that they scared the pants off most of the boats and they scattered every which way. They literally upped anchor and headed for the hills, well  that’s metaphorically speaking of course, because as the Bahamas are so flat and devoid of hills, they actually headed to marinas. But we, being the brave or stupid souls that we be, decided to sit out three full days of 35-40 knot winds and squalls at Normans Cay, alone. That actually had its upside as we could put out as much anchor chain as we liked without anyone else getting their nickers in a knot over it.


The wind in the rigging is a nice thing to hear, but not all day and night for three days. Still it gave us a chance to do chores, yep they are always lurking around the corner, fix things that weren’t previously broken but now were, read books and ponder both life and why things break for no given reason. So far we have no answer to the latter.

While we sat at Normans Cay we discovered purely by chance while fishing for a can of corn from the adjoining bilge, that our forward bilge under the starboard bed had sprung a leak. From where we don’t exactly know but suspect that the bilge pump outlet had been siphoning in water while we’d sailed down from the Berrys in rough seas. To our horror there was around 110 litres (25 gallons) of water in it when we opened it up to check. Liam spent an entire day replacing the existing bilge pump with a new kickass one and installing a very loud high water alarm. I spent all day washing off all the drowned contents of both bilges, drying them off and repacking them back into their former watery storage compartment and then moving roughly a year and a half of dry stores back onto the bed. We were both stuffed by the end of the night but very grateful that I needed that can of corn!



With a slight lull in the wind Liam was granted a shore pass and dingied to the beach to burn our paper and plastic trash. It’s amazing how much can accumulate in such a short time.

After three days the wind calmed down to a mere 25 – 30 knots. In need of a change of scenery we headed south towards Black Point, forty miles away. We were having a perfectly lovely sail, that is until we had to harden up and head more east than south. The seas got bigger and steeper, yuck, and the foredeck was constantly awash with waves breaking over the bows. Double yuck. Were we having fun? Not on your nelly!.


We endured five long hours of crashing and banging and finally pulled the pin. Abeam of Staniel Cay we motored in to join the brave band of fifty other yachts anchored there riding out the continuing strong winds. It was a good decision.

We found a snug spot in the prime location just off Big Major’s Spot aka Pig Beach. In recent weeks there has been a lot of press regarding the world famous swimming pigs. Seven had been found dead, the cause of which was unknown. One report blamed the boaters for giving them alcohol, something we definitely do not believe, others said it was from the ingestion of salt water but no one really knows.


Anyway, we are pleased to report that this sounder of swine are still alive and kicking. We counted four big heffers and at least fourteen small to mid sized ones. And they all look perfectly fat, happy and healthy. Following the incident a warning sign has been placed on the beach re feeding them, not that the tour operators or tourists give a rats about it. Since our last visit in 2015 we noticed that food bins and a large tub for freshwater have also been placed there. During our stay this time construction of a shade cabana for the high profiled porcines has commenced. We’re guessing that the penny has finally dropped re the power of the tourist dollar when it comes to the value and  well being of this herd of trotting bacon.

    P3102196  P3102236


P3102221   P3102252


Once the winds calmed down we took to the dinghy out for a spot of lobster  hunting. These critters can be pretty elusive at times but Liam did manage to spot one and he in turn spotted us, which made for a hasty retreat on his part. Sadly for us he lives to tell the tale. On the way back home we did a drift snorkel through the cut between Big Majors and Fowl Cay. The current was hooting through at a couple of knots as we glided at speed over the fish and corals below. It was so much fun that we went back and did it three more times. Later that arvo Liam launched Shadow the drone  and we got some great ariel footage of the pigs, the boat and the surrounding waters. Just as soon as we get sorted the video will be added to this post, but in the meanwhile you’ll have to settle for some still shots.



Now we are down at Black Point, a small community that is very boater oriented. Since being here I’ve had my haircut in the outdoor salon that has to have THE best view of any hair cutting establishment on the planet. We’ve once again seen the fabled “Green Flash”, that makes a total of four in the past 11 years. We’ve enjoyed a couple of great rum punches at Scorpios bar and grill and caught up with friends not seen since 2011.

Loads of washing have been done and Sunday morning music has been brought to us courtesy of the melodic tones of the church choir belting out songs of praise to the almighty. And tonight we’ll go ashore and feast on a traditional Bahamian buffet at Lorraine's CafĂ©.



Tomorrow we’ll be making a change in direction as we set sail to a new destination in the out islands of the Bahamas, Cat Island. It’s some 50 miles east of here and with the forecast of south easterly winds we’re chomping at the bit to set the sails again!



Cruiser Info :

Dinghy dock at the government dock, trash skip also at the shore end of the dock with donation box.

Rockside Laundramat :  Run by Iada , call on ch 16. Open Mon – Sat 0830 – 1730, Closed Sunday.  Washers and dryers DIY or drop off service. Sells cold drinks, souveniers, marine supplies, hardware supplies and wonderful homemade carrot cake. Free wi-fi and dinghy dock.

Scorpios Bar & Grill : Open everyday 0800 till late. Cruisers happy hour Tues, Thurs & Fri, 1600 – 1800. Great food, fab rum punches and great people.

Lorraines Cafe. Open daily lunch & dinner, specials announced on ch 16.

There are other eating places in town as well that we are yet to try.


Saturday, March 11, 2017


The Bahamas Beckon

16th –28th February 2017

After clearing out with customs and immigration in West palm beach ( there's a story behind that which I'll note at the end of this post) and saying goodbye to Bob and Lorraine from S/V Scaramouche, we woofed down a quick bite of dinner, upped the anchor around 8pm and headed out the Lake Worth Inlet just on dark. It wasn't our preferred departure time but as I've said many times before, everything always takes longer than you think. Paralleling the coastline south as far as Miami, we then planned to hang a hard left to cross the Gulf Steam towards Bimini in the Bahamas.


It was a glorious night for a sail. A good size moon lit the way and a blanket of stars twinkled above overhead. The gentle motion of flat seas and a soft west-south-west breeze pushed us along. As a backdrop to all this the lights of Florida and the silhouette of her skyscrapers added to the magic .

I remember thinking how very sad it was that after all these years, six in total, we won't be sailing in the USA 's home waters again. It's strange how the mind wanders at night, but not for long.


Now one would think that there'd be very little traffic on the ocean at night. Wrong. It's like the friggin’ interstate out here sometimes and tonight was one of those nights. Between cargo ships, fishing trawlers, cruise liners, pilot boats, tugs, tugs towing barges and pleasure craft who all seemed to want the same patch of water as us, well lets just say it keeps you on your toes and keeps the mind pretty well focused.

Our Vesper AIS ( automatic identification system) alarm on our nav computer was sounding off for hours warning us of approaching ships, some a little too close for comfort at times.

The transition from night to day arrives slowly during the winter months and as the sun rose, daylight revealed the deep azure waters slowly turning to the pale hues of the Bahamas.

untitled.png donnie & Judy  Bimini

Arriving in Bimini we were greeted by our friends Donnie and Judy from S/V Blue Sky waving enthusiastically from the shore. It was great to see them over here. We were all very excited at the prospect of cruising together over the coming weeks. This was to be their first time for cruising the Bahamas and we were going to show them what we considered all the best spots.



We spent a few days in Bimini waiting for some very strong winds to pass. Tucked up in a well protected anchorage at the far end of the entrance channel we were snug as a bug. The wind howled but GWTW sat rock solid .

At around 5am a construction barge with a huge spotlight brought daylight to our anchorage a few hours early. The skilled captain maneuvered his vessel in rather tight quarters avoiding the three anchored boats .

DSCN0526  DSCN0525 

The barge came within a few feet of GWTW which really got our attention. Given that another barge was due in a bit later we decided to relocate to the other side of the bay where nothing would interrupt a good nights sleep.


Sadly, next morning we trundled out of Bimini alone. Our friends on Blue Sky had received a distressing phone call the evening before. One of Donnie's best friends, Ken, had been badly injured in a skiing accident in Utah and was now in a coma. So instead of sailing east with us they sailed west back to Miami where they'd board a plane to Utah to stand vigil with Kens family. Our prayers went with them for Ken to make a speedy recovery.


P2172057  P2172078

It seemed over the next week that we were being plagued by bad weather systems . The winds clocked around from every direction making us choose our anchorages carefully. We headed for the Berry Islands where we knew the bays and coves well. With two nights here and two nights there we felt we were constantly on the move.



As we moved slowly south we decided  that the western end of Nassau Harbour would be the best place to drop the hook and avoid the next frontal system which was due to last three days. Surprisingly,  when we  arrived we were the only boat there. All the others who we shared previous anchorages with in the Berry's had run for cover to a marina. In the Bahamas that decision can be a very expensive one.



We heard many calls over the VHF radio requesting berthing rates from the various marinas in Nassau. One marina came back with a costing of six dollars per foot and that would not include power or water. Yikes! Needless to say a little later we heard the same boat calling up another marina. No doubt looking for something a bit more reasonable.

After the front blew itself out we pointed the bows east, unfurled the screecher and sailed over the shallow waters of the yellow banks arriving at the north anchorage of Ship Cay a few hours later.


The water colours over there are picture postcard perfect. The bay has a little beach and is surrounded by a good assortment of coral reefs and bommies, many of which support ecosystems for a variety of fish life. But more importantly, there are lobsters too!




We stayed here for four peaceful days soaking up the serenity. By day we did boat chores, read books, snorkeled and caught our dinner from the seas bounty. By night, after watching the sky turn golden then dusky pink as the sun set over the horizon, we’d  fill our tummies with the “catch of the day” and settle in to watch a few episodes of our favorite TV series. Life doesn't get much better I must say. If only everyday was like that.


                 P2252123       P2212090 


Cruiser Info:

A note for foreign flagged cruisers following in our wake.

If your vessel’s cruising permit expires while your boat is still in US waters (ours did due to unexpected health issues while in our home country) the whole "moving the boat thing" gets a bit messy. You will not be issued another cruising permit unless you take the boat out of US waters and remain out for 15 days.

However we have been told, but this hasn't been verified by any one with authority, that you can surrender your permit to Customs if you are leaving the country via commercial means. Then upon your return to the US the permit will be reactivated for the remaining time left on the permit. Again this has not been verified so you'll need to check this out yourself with CBP ( Customs and Border Protection )and be sure you record the officer's name and badge number who gave you the information.

Ok, so if you didn't do either of the above and want to move your boat to another port you will have to go to your local CBP office and purchase a permit to proceed for $37. Then when you arrive at the next port front up in person to the CBP office and clear in . They will need your ships documents and clearance from your previous port which they will hold until your departure. Again there is a cost involved. Then when you go back to get your permit to proceed again you'll pay a $19 departure fee for your outward clearance papers and you'll then have 48 hrs to depart. Bottom line is that letting your cruising permit run out becomes a costly and time consuming pain in the arse.

So plan wisely and don't get caught out with an expired cruising permit while your boat is in US waters.