Friday, May 30, 2014

Intruder Aboard! Where? Surprising Location....

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This is where the intruder on our boat was standing.
I was in between him and Wayne, whose legs
you can see in our v-berth bedroom.
“Aren’t you afraid of pirates?”

This is one of the top three questions cruiser-curious folks ask, along with
  • Aren’t you afraid of storms?
  • How can you spend that much time together in such a small space without going crazy?
And yet, in ~2500+ miles of cruising in the last two years, mostly outside the United States, we rarely felt compelled to lock up our boat.  This year, other than in notoriously unsafe Nassau (though watch for a future post on the safe haven we discovered there), we did not lock up our boat.  No need.  How many United States homeowners can claim they’re comfortable doing that?

And yet, there’s the perception the world outside our country is a scary, dangerous place.

The biggest scare we got cruising was a few days ago.

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This is my view from where I stood when
we were intruded upon.  The intruder was just beyond
the bookshelf on the left.
Where?  Here in the United States, in a town we called home living aboard over hurricane season last year, and may again this hurricane season.

“How can you not like tying off right across from Hooters?” chuckled a fellow cruiser, when I began telling him about our misadventure.  There was a free dock, welcome to overnighters, right in the heart of downtown, at lovely riverside Jacksonville Landing (Jacksonville Florida).  Music, eateries, flanked with a pleasant park complete with a boardwalk, restful lawns, trees, benches, a pavilion.  Struck us as the perfect re-entry spot after a two day passage to both celebrate and rest.  We took a walk and enjoyed the rare pleasure of being served – with affordable food, no less – enjoying people watching as part of our riverfront view.

Earlier on our walk, I noticed a tall, slender young man with beautiful, delicate features, seated on the riverfront pavilion steps. He wore dark, clean blue jeans and a crisp white t-shirt, and appeared zen-like in his still, serene pose, his eyes closed, his face pointed out over the river.

At dinner, I again noticed him as he walked along the boardwalk. Oddly, his jean tops slid down below his butt, and in between his shirt and jeans, his boxers flashed a broad royal blue band. He was wearing socks, but no shoes. He trailed a couple by a yard or so, but he appeared to not only not notice them; his walk was trancelike. His shoulders were slouched forward and down, and he was dragging his feet. 

Wayne concluded, when I pointed him out, that he seemed “just a bit soft in the head.”  Seems the local homeless shelters were closed for Memorial weekend, complained a veteran, panhandling earlier us on our walk.  We weren’t sure that was true, but could explain the presence of some of the less mainstream folks we observed in the area.

We too, appeared to be a curiosity.  Quite a few folks gazed at us on our boat, wearing expressions of wonder.  While there were two other boats docked there, they were smaller day-sailboats, around 25’ or less.  Comparatively, our 36 ½ foot boat loomed large.  Plus, we were aboard our boat; the other boats were uninhabited.

That night, Wayne and I agreed to awake at 7 am, and set sail by 8 am to take advantage of the peak current flow headed our desired direction.

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Dawn, this morning from our boat in the very safe Jacksonville (JAX)
naval marina, Mulberry Cove.
At 7 am, my alarm went off, I got up, and Wayne snored blissfully in our v-berth bed (check out the photo showing where the vberth is and the nature of the space in our boat).  Given his understandable exhaustion after completing a two-day continuous sail, I decided to quietly make our coffee and wake him up gently with a light, loving massage at 7:30. 

At 7:45, after finishing his massage, I turned, and was startled to see only about a yard away from me, inside our cabin salon that same odd young man I’d observed the night before!

“What are you doing on our boat!?!” I shrilled.  “This is our home!”

He raised his hands, as if in supplication or apology, replying softly in an unaccented voice, “I’m not from around here.”  He turned, and melted silently away in fluid movement, up the companionway stairs and off the boat.  I watched his ankle exit off our boat and onto the boardwalk through our galley porthole window.

Wayne and I don’t believe he meant any harm, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit the incident didn’t scare the crap out of us (figuratively, not literally).

Some “Welcome home.”

Pirates?  We know where not to go to avoid them (click here for a great resource on avoiding pirates and other crime while sailing).  Heck, in our all our months the Bahamas we weren’t even panhandled once.

Oddly, it’s the complacency of familiarity in one of the richest countries in the world that for us encouraged what in retrospect we’d consider riskier behavior.  It’s atypical for us to dock; even more so right in the heart of a city* rather than in a marina, surrounded by other boats much more attractive than our humble craft to someone curious or avaricious.

*Notable exception -- St. Lucia’s Soufriere, where we locked ourselves into our hot, steamy boat – click here to read about why we did that and here for why others should consider giving St. Lucia a miss

What would we do differently?  Not stay there. Or lock ourselves in, as we did in Soufriere.  In the future, we’ll hide knives (Wayne’s more dramatically proposing placing a machete on vberth shelf) in several places around our boat, as well as looking into motion detectors.  One brilliant application another cruiser used was a motion-triggered barking Doberman recording.

What intruder boat scares have you experienced?  What did you do when it happened?  What would you do differently “in the moment”?  What preventative steps steps do you take now to avoid future mishaps?

Location Location
May 30, 2014, United States.  We recently completed a continuous 46 hour / ~230 mile Atlantic passage to the St John’s river inlet near Jacksonville Florida.  We are currently at very safe but internet-less JAX Naval Base Mulberry Cove Marina (N30.12.980 W81.40.234), about 7 miles from Jacksonville Landing's free dock.  How safe is the marina?  Base entry is via gates allowing passage of only those with military i.d., further protected with car, foot and aerial armed patrols. Once we know where we're living, we're off to store our boat for hurricane season in Green Cove Springs, FL.  There is no shortage of unpublished photos and adventure stories to fill the gap between now and cruising season and even transitional tales you won’t want to miss, like, "What two words do we say to offset our wistfulness when not cruising?"  

Cross your fingers for us, please -- we're interviewing for jobs to replenish our cruising kitty.  Tomorrow we should have our U.S. internet solution in place and will resume more frequent blogging.  Update!  Wayne just got a job offer!  Acceptance testing is Monday morning; he begins the following Monday June 9th.  I'm in the process of making arrangements to restart at West Marine.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Land Ho! Vagabonds Touch Terra Firma

Mom, the armchair traveler posing in front of a
Japanese poster in DelRay Beach Florida.
“I want my Mommy.”  Honestly that was my priority for our first landfall back in the States.  We arrived just in time to fight a peak outflow at St. Lucie’s inlet, the entry to a lively little town an hour’s drive from Mom’s (click here for more on Stuart versus the more popular Vero Beach).

Once we sorted out connecting to the internet, reactivating our US phones and renting a car, supplying the captain with a day’s food, I set off with an empty stomach and bundle of laundry for Mom’s.  C’mon, every child, regardless of age, is obligated and privileged to break bread, do laundry, get a hug (or twenty) and get fussed over at their mom’s. Right? 

Seriously, it was the perfect short, sweet whirlwind visit.  Hug. Eat (lots). Talk (lots!). Take and share pictures.  Drive.  Shop.  Do laundry.  Enjoy an irresponsibly long shower with excellent water pressure and wipe my derriere with soft, 2-ply tissue and flush without worry.  Get a pedicure.  Even swim at the neighborhood pool, just like in the good ole days.  Left all too soon, well before my welcome wore out, with an honest, heartfelt promise to do it again soon.

When I got back to the boat, it was time to reprovision, refilling our empty larder for the next several days of passage. 


Return of the Roach Coach
(roadside food out of truck), Stuart Florida.
After our months in the Bahamas, we were agog once again at the incredible selection and how cheap everything was.  Comparatively, most United States grocerie items cost between ¼ to ½ the price of their Bahamian counterparts.   For example, Fritos, Wayne’s favorite starchy pleasure since diagnosed with celiac disease (click here for more on going gluten free), were 2/$5.00 at Winn Dixie, rather than $5-7 for one bag.  And peanuts, 2 for 1…. We bought LOTS of peanuts (and cheese and veggies and Mountain Dew and…).

Avowed movie fans, we hadn’t seen a movie in a theater since November.  So it was date night!!!! “XMen Future Past” was the perfect “big screen” movie after six months without (cruising, we did watch movies on our 13” laptop from time to time).  We munched on Mexican food from a roadside roach coach.

In between Mom’s and movies, our “cruising kitty” job hunt hit high stride with email, calls and internet.  Last year it took three weeks from landing to working.  We’re doing all we can to make that happen as fast or faster this year.  Wish us luck!  Still TBD where we’ll work, though at the moment, returning to Jacksonville’s looking most likely.

Tacos!  You don't get these in the Bahamas!
It would’ve been far more efficient if we’d left from Allans-Pensacola Cay and headed the straight to the Jacksonville inlet.  Instead we added ~40 miles by landing in Great Sail + ~105 miles from Great Sail to Manatee Pocket, motoring 14 of our 24 ¼ hour overnight passage.  After all that, instead of 200 or so miles to the Jacksonvile inlet, we’ll sail ~230 miles -- ~175 miles more (40+105+[230-30]) than if we skipped Great Sail and went straight to the Jacksonville inlet.  When we left Allans-Pensacola, there was much more wind, so we’d likely sail more and use little diesel fuel motoring.

Bottom line?  We added about 3 days of “sailing,” mostly in little to no wind.  At 5 miles / hour, ½ gallon of diesel per hour, purchased at ~$3.70, our route will cost us a worst case of $100 more in diesel fuel.  At least we’re not paying $5.50 / gallon Bahamas diesel prices to refill; otherwise it would cost $150 more to refill our diesel fuel.

Mom's gluten-free care package for Wayne.
Fortunately, my husband understands that like the Mastercard commercials, “The cost of visiting Mom after five months out of the country?  Priceless.”

Location Location

May 24, 2014 UNITED STATES.  We’re in Manatee Pocket, Stuart Florida (N26.59.098 W78.12.951) about to set sail for the next several days to Jacksonville, FL.  There will be no internet during our passage, but our US phones will be in range part or all of the passage and beyond.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Goombay Smash Origin: Green Turtle Cay, Abacos

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Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar in New Plymouth, Abacos.
Modest, except the sign.
“Home of the Goombay Smash,” the sign proclaims outside the otherwise humble Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar in New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos BAHAMAS.

Yeah, and nearly every Bahamian island claims “the best beaches” and seems half the established Bahamian nightclubs swear they are the “Home of Rake ‘n Scrape” or “Home of” something.  Shades of “Lake Wobegon” Garrison Keillor’s wry closing “where all are the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the kids are above average.”  I took the Miss Emily claim, too with a grain of salt.

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Behold, the Goombay Smash.  Note the U.S. $1 bill
– interchangeable in the Bahamas with Bahamanian money.
As my friend Marcie McReynolds drawls, “It ain't braggin’ if it’s true, my Gramma always said.”

Is it?

True, according to Wikipedia.  “Goombay Smash was created by Miss Emily at the Blue Bee Bar in New Plymouth.”  If you haven’t figured out that a Goombay Smash is not a sport, an ethnic musical group (though Goombay is a form of Bahamian music and a type of drum used to play it), or a state of being (though it may have that effect). It’s an iconic (and delicious in my opinion) fruity-tasting Bahamanian cocktail, right up there with a BVI “Painkiller” (click here for more about that).

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Artist image of Miss Emily; a good likeness based
on the less whimsical photo of her posted nearby.
Wolfgang, crewing Andante, insisted on our stopping at Miss Emily’s, and generously treated Ann (aka “Krazy Lady”), Andy (Andante’s captain) and me to a Goombay Smash.

"Is this place really the originator of the Goombay Smash?" I asked, noting I’d tried one elsewhere.  Yes, I was told.  “Was ours the best?” asked the owner, daughter of the late Miss Emily.  Yes, it was, I assured her, touched that she’d care (especially given the worst “Painkiller” I drank came from Soggy Dollar, its originating bar in the BVIs). “The original recipe is a family secret,” she told us. Wikipedia concurs, and reveals “It is believed to have contained coconut rum, dirty rumapricot brandy, and pineapple juice;” way more than our limited liquor supply supports.

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Junkanoo poster at Miss Emily’s gives another
taste of Bahamanian culture
If you’d like to bring a little taste of the Bahamas home, here’s two Goombay Smash recipes.  Be forewarned, like a Long Island Iced Tea there are as potent as they are smooth and refreshing. 

Goombay Smash (Drinkmixer’s)

cruiser destinations, abacos bahamas, green turtle cay, new plymouth, food

Wolfgang gets at taste of “our” (cruiser and tourist,
mostly from Unites States and Canada) culture, festooning
the walls and ceiling throughout Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar.
Goombay Smash (Bon Appetit’s)
Ice cubes
6 tablespoons pineapple juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Malibu rum or other coconut-flavored rum
2 tablespoons light rum
2 tablespoons gold rum
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 pineapple wedges
2 orange slices

Even if you’re not interested in partaking in a Goombay Smash, Miss Emily’s is worth a wander just to take in many amusing mementos its customers leave (the “Sun Your Buns:  Sail Naked” bumper sticker was my favorite).

Location Location
May 22, 2014 We arrived in Manatee Pocket Florida today from Great Sail, BAHAMAS (N26.59.098 W78.12.951); via overnight, 100+ mile sail.  The day before we intended to make it to Double Breasted or Grand Cay, but too Northerly winds and the desire to not run our motor into the wind for two hours landed us at Great Sail instead.  We were not alone; 20 boats anchored there, a popular but boring jump off point between the States and the BAHAMAS.  Indeed, yesterday was our last day in the BAHAMAS.  This post is a recent retrospective of White Sound, New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, from a week ago.  Lots more photos and stories still coming!!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hobnobbing in Harbour Island Eleuthera

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For less than $50 round trip, Spanish Wells
- Harbour Town, takes ~half hour each way,
the fast ferry leaves you with about four
too-short hours to enjoy Harbour Island.
Who hangs out in Harbour Town, Eleuthera? 

British royalty.  Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz. 

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Vrooom! A narrow channel didn’t seem
to hamper the ferry’s speed.
Local homeowners include Bill Gates, Revlon chairman Ron Perelman, duty-free tycoon Robert Miller, J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, media mogul Barry Diller and wife Diane von Furstenberg, and former Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga.

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Even in exclusive Harbour Town, chickens
cross the road (and boat).
And me, for a few blissful hours anyhow.  Didn’t see any celebs (though wouldn’t likely recognize any anyway), but did hang out with “Krazy Lady” aka Ann and Andy of Andante, and a free-range chicken or two.

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Even a simple cement dock was pretty
with Harbour Island’s water as a backdrop

Will let the photos tell this tale….  

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Conch midden, another testament to an abundant appetite for conch.
Location Location
May 19, 2014 BAHAMAS Allan-Pensacola Cay, (N26.59.350 W77.41.353), though this is a recent retrospective from when we were in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera (N25.32.484 W76.44.728) late April - early May, 2014.  Tomorrow we head off for Double Breasted, between 35-40 miles.  From there. we’ll leave the Abacos the first viable weather window to Florida -- most likely the next day.  It's about 110 miles to Ft. Pierce, which we'll sail as an overnight passage, as we typically average ~5 miles / hour sailing.
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Too busy taking in the sights on a tight schedule
to rest in this restful spot.
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The gal at the Harbour Island
tourist office directed us to
this favorite spot of hers.
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In the same area; we were told this "fake"
tree was added later, but it still
looked cool to us.
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Who can resist taking a photo of a little
blue wooden skiff with a backdrop
this beautiful?
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Eleuthera is renowned for its pineapples.
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Valentine’s pink sand beach, Atlantic side,
Harbour Island.
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The water is even dreamier than the pink sand beach.