Thursday, June 26, 2014

BAM! Storm Hideout in Quirky Compass Cay

anchoring, cruising destinations

Notice that faint beige-y stripe?  It’s a sandbar we were forced to hit.
After a couple idyllic days crashing Carnival’s cruise ship island of Little San Salvador (click here for to read about that), we found ourselves jockeying for safe anchorage storm cover back in the Exumas.    We chose Compass Cay, where jockeying required choosing which barrier was the softest to crash.

Entering Compass Cay is a tricky affair in the best of conditions; threading through a plethora of closely spaced sandbars.  Our wind-filled sails and the prevailing current put us on a nice trajectory for a narrow, sand-free anchoring spot.  We readied our anchor….  

cruising destinations
Dredging to enlarge Compass Cay.
Good idea!
Then a big power cruiser, turned down from Compass Cay's tiny marina, shot out from behind a rock, and promptly anchored right where we were about to.   Our only alternative besides crashing into them was to smack into a sandbar, far softer than their boat.  The offending cruiser was puzzled by our behavior, clueless that they were the cause of it.

Before the blow, there was time to explore ashore.  We played with the sharkies (click here for more about that),

cruising life, cruising destinations
Cruiser memento at Compass Cay.
An hour or so later, to our chagrin, they left for another anchoring spot.  We were not so secretly pleased their alternative anchor spot was rougher.  We took advantage of the opening to move, as our neighbor got the word out via VHF that we’d swung a bit close to their boat.  Fortunately there was no harm done and an apologetic offering of home-made hummus was a good start to a new friendship.

cruiser destinations, cruiser activities
Surprise!  Truly fresh egg option at
Exuma’s quirky Compass Cay.
We returned the next day for a long, leisurely hike.  We were tickled from the get-go with our first encounter with the delightful cruiser mementos (there’s got to be a specific name for these and if anyone knows please chime in) – creative “found” sculptures emblazoned with cruiser boat‘s names and arrival year. 

We wove through the branching trails to a sweet little crescent beach, visited the dilapidated cliffside “Hesters House,” with its Pebbles and Bam-Bam-like “gym,” ambled across a low-tide landing strip, and were pleasantly surprised to see a veggie garden thriving and the cluck-cluck source for farm fresh eggs.

cruiser destinations, cruising life, hiking
Sweet little crescent beach at Compass Cay.
What a refreshing spot!  Especially after our first Exumas stop this year, at high-falutin’ “non-marina / resort guests are not allowed to walk on [sully?] our island or use our internet” Highborne Cay.

All in all, Compass Cay a good place to weather a blow, a fun spot to wander once its settled, and worth a repeat and further exploration, from what we heard from other cruisers.  Just watch out for those sandbars!

Location Location

cruising life, cruising destinations, hiking
Captain and studmeister Wayne
weightlifting at Hester’s House,
Compass Cay. Yeah, Baby!
June 26, 2014 BAHAMAS (retrospective), Compass Cay (N24.15.273 W76.30.825).  Currently in Jacksonville FL, working to restore our cruising kitty over hurricane season.  Once my hard drive images are restored (soon!) watch for more retrospectives of the cool places we visited earlier this year.  Meanwhile, we just moved our boat onto the hard at Green Cove Springs, Florida until November.  Then, it’s off to The South Pacific!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Land Pig’s 2 Words

cruising life cruising transitions
Moving vehicle?  Yup.  Straight from the Heart’s gracious loan of their mini
enabled the move of a good portion of our Spartan possessions.
Dirt Dweller. Land Pig. These colorful decriptions cruisers and live-aboards* might use to derisively describe what we’re doing for the next five months.

*Live-aboards home is on a boat, even if it’s not going anywhere.  One could arguably accuse some live-aboards of “swallowing the hook.”

It’s easy affect a sense of superiority when your home is wherever your sailboat takes you.  Your view changes whenever you decide it’s time to change it; the boat may be small, but we can justifiably boast about our awesome back yard.

Yet even for cruising misers like us, there comes a time to pay the piper.  Hurricane season (June – November in the Northern hemisphere) is the perfect time to support our lifestyle with that four-letter word called work –or, more quaintly -- rebuilding our “cruising kitty.”

Last year we lived aboard when we worked, in Jacksonville Florida’s lovely Ortega Landing Marina. 

Wayne worked a graveyard shift, 11 pm – 7 am.  It made car sharing easy; no conflict with my West Marine hours.  But graveyards really wreaked havok with Wayne’s sleep patterns.  His desire for no sound, vibration or scent during his sleeping hours, which could occur anytime within an 18 hour window.  Cooking, accessing anything on the boat, phone calls, getting on or off the boat were all potentially disastrous sleep disrupters.

Miraculously, our marriage survived that rough patch.  Part of it was a mutual agreement, which Wayne might fairly call my “Never again” (work a graveyard shift in a boat whose only two rooms are “inside” and “outside”) edict.

This year Wayne again landed work (4 pm – 2 am; in between a swing and a graveyeard shift) in Jacksonvile for hurricane season (and once again I will return to work at West Marine).  We’re glad to be back. 

Despite our logistical challenges last year, Jacksonville echoes much of what we love about Pacific Northwest hometown Portland OR (Vancouver WA, technically).… Friendly folks.  Eclectic walkable neighborhoods.  A thriving arts and creative culinary community. Even a strong preservation of architecture and a port town big river running through it.  Jacksonville exudes its own quirky, local sense of identity.

The two clinchers for us? 
  1. Relative affordability.
  2. When it comes to (re)entering the Caribbean for cruising, Florida’s a whole heckuva lot easier from the Southeast than from the Pacific Northwest.

It’s nice, though a little different this year reconnecting with our Jacksonville liveaboard friends as “landpigs.”

As with boats and nearly all life’s choices, there are tradeoffs.

cruising life, boat maintenance

Bottom line benefit most land pigs take for granted.We give our thanks multiple times daily.
While we are “land pigs,” these are the two words we’ll revel in multiple times daily, until we return to our watery nomadic life:

Two ply.**

**Some cruisers manage their bottom line by not stowing rather than flushing their t.p. (toilet paper), opting for a stinkier bathroom in exchange for healthy head hygene.  Bigger budget cruisers may invest in spectacularly robust heads (marine toilets) that require neither stowing their used wipees aboard nor one ply to keep their head happy. Your average cruiser, however, will secretly groan in envy, at least in this one respect.

Location Location
June 18, 2014.  Jacksonville, FL.  Until this Sunday, our boat will remain docked at the JAX Naval Mulberry Cove Marina (N30.12.980 W81.40.234).  Then we’ll put it “on the hard” (store it on land) until November, when we’ll begin preparation to cruise the South Pacific.  We are, meanwhile, (gasp!) moved into a one bedroom apartment in Jacksonville for the interim.  Now that we’re moved in and my Mac’s dead power cord’s replaced, expect more frequent blogs, especially after the bulk of my yet-to-be-published cruising photos get resurrected.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Unusual $9/day Marina & a Half-Naked Boat

cruising destinations, mulberry cove marina
One of our boat's guards here.
After our unwelcome intruder aboard (click here to read about that), we needed to decide where to go.  Not because of the intruder, but because we needed a place to hang out long enough to get our temporary "dirt dweller" digs set up.  It's just a bonus that armed guards and patrol aircraft watch this marina, and the land entry requires an individual-by-individual security check-in, too.

cruising life, marinas
Landmarks to our boat's location.
We're here because the location's convenient -- between our prospective Jacksonville jobs and where we'll drydock our boat in Green Cove Springs.  We're also here because it's only $9/day to park at new concrete floating docks (versus the kind we needed to "lasso" at points further South -- click here and here to see what that's like).  It's not free (like this marina -- click here to check it out), but it's close and well worth it.

jacksonville, fl cruising life cruising destinations
Not a typo -- it is a "dive in" movie, not a "drive in movie"
(like this one where the cars were golf carts).
Life's a little different here....
For non-yachties, the magic of floating docks is a rising tide floats all boats.  When the dock goes up, the boat goes up with it.  When the dock goes down, the boat goes down with it.  That prevents the need to rappel from the boat to the dock, which generally happens at least twice daily when the docks are stationary.

jacksonville, fl cruising life cruising destinations
JAX Mulberry Cove Marina, our home safe home.
Plus, docking here comes with free marina showers, free power, free water, free laundry and access to all sorts of other goodies, like really cheap groceries (from a non-profit grocer), a free indoor and a free outdoor and indoor Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Where are we?

jacksonville, fl cruising life cruising destinations
Near-naked without her sails, Journey
at dusk; JAX Mulberry Cove Marina.
We're at Jacksonville's Naval Base, Mulberry Cove Marina, thanks to Wayne's 20+ years in the military, granting him veteran retiree rights to stay here.

Before long, we'll be sailing Journey to Green Cove Springs.  Wayne's first day of work was today.  My employment is not far behind.  

We've stripped off Journey's sails for storage; she looks half-naked.  We've left up the dodger and bimini for now, as we're still living aboard and today's heat index hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit -- Wayne missed out on that while he worked in an air conditioned building.  We have air conditioning here but are missing a few pieces of wood to prop it into place. We've sanded the boat's exterior teak and revarnished (well, technically, cetoled) part of it, soon to finish the remainder.  Wayne rinsed the saltwater from our outboard and drained the fuel, so's not to repeat last year's fiasco (click here for that RTFM learning experience).

cruising life
Today's weather.  I sweltered, and I don't swelter often.   
As soon as we're settled into our apartment for hurricane season, I'll get assistance resurrecting my scattered iPhoto Library, which means more cool cruising images to come.  My images from March until mid-May, which is the majority of my 2014 cruising photos, are currently inaccessible.  The timing has to be right to give up my computer for a day or two.

Location Location
June 9, 2014 Jacksonville, FL United States (N30.12.980 W81.40.234), JAX Naval Base Mulberry Cove Marina.  Lots of great retrospectives coming from our 2014 Bahamas cruising with as-yet unpublished images.  Next cruising season, we're off to the South Pacific.  Meanwhile, time to replenish that cruising kitty!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Crappy Charts

cruising destinations, passage making, navigation
Navionics iPhone $16.99 application
image of Bahamas Flamingo Cay, Jumentos.
For a mere $16.99 on my iPhone, or, if I had one, an iPad, Navionic’s app rocks… mostly.  Even in the Bahamas remote Jumento island of Flamingo Cay, I can view a pretty decent map with marked anchorages, though the all-important depths are not listed.

For much more. The Navionics chip for our Lowrance chart plotter display of Flamingo Island looks like an EKG mated with a simplistic toolbox of curveless geometric shapes.  There is some crude similarity to Flamingo’s actual outline and just enough latitude and longitude to know where it’s situated, but that’s all.

cruising destinations, passage making, navigation

Crappy; this is how our chart plotter depicted Flamingo Cay. 
Normally, it delivers useful and accurate information or
it would get tossed overboard.
Funny, same company, in this instance, radically different charts. Guess the timing (our Navionics chip is older) and the medium ([old] iPhone [4] versus an older still Lowrance chart plotter [not sure its age -- came with the boat) makes a difference.

Thank goodness for our Explorer Chartbook of the Exumas and Ragged Islands.  We get an accurate image of the island, its anchorages (including what kind of weather conditions are safe for each spot), and depth.  Paper doesn’t “talk” to our autopilot, but it does at least provide the information we need to find out where we wanted to go and how to get there.

cruising destinations, passage making, navigation

Exumas and Ragged Islands
Explorer Chart Book –we’re a fan of
their navigation series; they’ve steered us well.
Redundancy; paper charts, electronic chartplotters and phone navigation backups.  That combo keeps us afloat (and not aground).

cruising destinations, passage making, navigation

Flamingo Cay detail, Exumas and
Ragged Islands Explorer Chart Book.
Before next year’s South Pacific and beyond cruising season, we’ll relook at what we have (like recently purchased newer plotter chips) for each (perhaps a replacement for our Lowrance chart plotter). 

Like many wines, price is not always an accurate indicator of quality.

Location Location
7 June 2014, BAHAMAS retrospective from March 2014 Jumentos, BAHAMAS.  We are currently at JAX Naval Base Mulberry Marina (N30.12.980 W81.40.234) planning to soon drydock 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, though some are awaiting a long overdue iPhoto technical transfusion.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

But the Lobster Are Still There!

fishing cruiser destinations
Lobster at Florida Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Park’s welcome center
saltwater aquarium about the only way I trust my current
“underwater” camera to take photos.
“Ya Mon.  We go get some lobsta,” the Rum Cay locals we befriended told us (click here to read about them).  Resourceful folks.  They were the inspiration for the conch fritter potluck dinner using their locally caught conch.  One of their friends taught a friend of ours to catch land crabs, and somewhat to our relief was not successful in catching the “tasty” lemon shark he was angling with reel (he was more used to fishing with a hand line).

“Isn’t lobster season over?” Wayne asked.  (Lobster season in the Bahamas ends March 30th; our conversation took place a week or so into April)

Our friend looked puzzled.  “Lobster season?” he replied.  But the lobsters are still there!”

Of course one wouldn’t expect lobsters to know when the season’s over.

Or do they?

Fast forward about three weeks.  We were snorkeling at lovely Lighthouse Beach in Eleuthera.  Our cruising friend and proficient lobster hunter Andy from Andante flagged Ann of Krazy Lady and me.   The lobster he spotted could feed a small village.  Ohhh, he looked luscious and our trio loves lobster (Wayne can take it or leave it).

But it seemed too risky to nab him outside lobster season.  We swear he must’ve known; he came toward us and practically danced a little cha-cha.  “Neee-ner neee-ner you can’t get me!” we sure he was saying in lobster-speak.

Maybe next year it will be different; maybe not.  At least we did capture some conch and catch some mahi mahi.  We know better than presuming we can count on our hunting skills for provisioning, in or out of lobster season.  As Tightwads on the Loose” author Wendy Hinman quips, “We caught more fish by being nice [gifts from others who caught fish].”

Location Location

4 June 2014, BAHAMAS retrospective from April 2014 Rum Cay and Eleuthera.  We are currently at JAX Naval Base Mulberry Marina (N30.12.980 W81.40.234) planning to soon drydock 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, though some are awaiting a long overdue iPhoto technical transfusion.