Saturday, February 27, 2021

Bimini Bahamas: The Art of Conch Salad

Big Mike, making tropical conch salad at his stand on Queen's Highway in Alicetown, Bimini. Edible performance art, IMHO.

Chris(tine) and Chris(topher) placing their orders at Big Mike's Conch stand in Bimini.

Conch, or Lambi as it's called elsewhere in the Bahamas was not love at first bite. But conch salad, a Bahamian specialty, won me over. The fruit version—in addition to conch, the best bits scored and chopped—it contains finely chopped: pineapple, apple, pear, orange lemon and/or lime, tomato, cucumber, onion, as well as some salt, and in Big Mike's case, a pepper sauce. In short, it's a killer fruity ceviche made with shellfish.

What is a conch? We saw some today—alive.

We came across this conch, today, in the sand flats across from Brown's Marina, North Bimini.

Was it an empty, shell, already harvested? I turned it over to find out.

See the critter inside? It was the conch, not a hermit crab,
who would find a conch shell far too cumbersome.
We guessed this conch was there because it was too small to harvest, given the appetite for conch and its easy proximity to the island.

Big Mike proffers up a finished serving of his conch salad
while his sidekick photobombs him from behind.
Photo was taken by Christine Barnes of s.v Scintilla.
Big Mike's stand opened two years ago and is as popular with the locals as it is with tourists, both there and to-go. I asked him if the island was nicer with less tourists. He said "Less tourists, less money, Not so nice."

Big Mike's serves more than conch salad; this was my fish dinner—snapper.

The dinner and the salad were more than I could eat in a sitting. I followed Christine's example and brought some tupperware to bring my leftovers back. 

Nothing was left besides the bones on my snapper. My dad would be proud.
Photo was taken by Christine Barnes of s.v Scintilla.
Our dock mates, Holly—behind my fish bone—and Jared, to her right, joined us and were glad they did.

The meal was also more expensive than I expected for a roadside stand—$25, though that was for the conch salad, the dinner, and 1 Kalik beer. But it was delish!!!

Conch shell pile by another restaurant on North Bimini.
"How many conchs do you go through a day?" Christine asked Big Mike. About two-to-three hundred a day, he said. Dang! No wonder those conch shell piles are so big all around the Bahamas!

Interested in learning more about conch? Check out these prior posts

Have you ever eaten conch salad? Or any other Bahamian culinary specialty? What and where? Do share!!!

Location Location

Near full moon over the antennae tower on North Bimini.

We're still at
 Brown's Marina (25 43.340N 79 17.930W) until the winds are favorable to head to Nassau. Currently, if we went with the wind. we'd get blown back to Florida. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Day 18: Bimini-Bound!


S/V Free Spirit, kicking our butt on the way from Miami to Bimini, the Bahamas.
We left at oh-dark-hundred, also known as anchors up by 6 am.

But first, a little more backtracking . . . (though I couldn't resist leading with this pretty sunrise sail photo)

The night before we left, we met up with our cruising buddies, Chris(toher) and Chris(tine) of s/v Scintilla. They showed off their sailing skills, right up to the last minute into the Key Biscayne anchorage they selected for us to meet up. We motored.

Chris and Chris of s/v Scintilla, sailing into the Key Biscayne anchorage, Miami in the background.

After getting rocked and rolled from Pompano Beach to Miami, once we came inside industrial Miami's breakwaters, the wind and waves calmed. When we stopped off at Cramer's Marina for fuel and to refill our water tanks, docking was relatively stress-free—a nice change of pace. The folks at Cramers said the winds rocketed through at 25 knots the previous night.

Night skyscape from our Key Biscayne anchorage.

Taking nightscapes is challenging and even more so when at anchor. Yet it was calm and clear enough to take a good nightscape the night before we left for Bimini.

Stilted homes of wilder bygone days in the Key Biscayne channel.

We traveled the Key Biscayne channel years ago, headed south to the Florida Keys. This time, they marked the initial part of our passage to Bimini. I wrote about the story of these historic stilted homes in this blog post.

A double rainbow as we exited the Key Biscayne channel struck us
as a good omen, heading to the Bahamas at last.

Even at 6 am, the Miami area was a warm 75 degrees, and balmy. Lovely as that rainbow was, we expected at least one squall on our passage.

S/V Gallivant, sailing through a squall on the way to Bimini.

We got two. Chis and Chris of Scintilla and Free Spirit, in the process of kicking our butt all the way across with an extra knot of speed, managed to outrace the second squall. The passage to Bimini was still a much calmer ride than the prior day. We still took our Bonine, just in case, and we're still glad that we did.

View of squall outside our cockpit, on the way to Bimini, Bahamas.

Both Scintilla and Free Spirit arrived at Brown's Marina in Alicetown, Bimini about 45 minutes to an hour before us, despite our all leaving Miami around the same time.

S/V Gallivant, a Gulfstar 45, at Brown's Marina, Alicetown, Bimini, the Bahamas.
The water really is that color, and that clear.

Location Location

We arrived at Brown's Marina (25 43.340N 79 17.930W) at high tide, at 3:45 pm, as planned. Getting into Browns Marina can be overly challenging at low tide or when the current is running strong. It's still close enough to the Gulf Stream that the water rushing past under our hull sounds like the whistling wind.

This blog post is a retrospective of two days ago. More on picturesque Bimini in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Day 17: Escape to the Bahamas: Our One Indispensable Item Today

We took this and boy, are we glad we did!!!
If you haven't already watched the 11-second video, the reason we needed the Bonine should be clear,

Location Location

We anchored at Key Biscayne, Florida: 25 41.813N 80 10.442W.

This is a retrospective of yesterday. By the time you see this, we should be anchored or anchoring in Alicetown, Bimini, the Bahamas.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Day 16: Escape to the Bahamas: On Display on the ICW

Our stop: the industrial anchorage of Lake Worth, Florida, West Palm Beach.

I almost called this post "Death by 1,000 Bridges." It was "only" 16 bridges, but all but three opened only twice an hour, just long enough to let its queue of vessels through. We motored for nice hours, marking an average of two bridges per hour. 

"What's the height on that one?" Wayne asked the bridge tender. "SIxty-five feet, at low tide"
the bridge tender told him. Our mast height is sixty two feet.
We breathed a sigh of relief once we passed.

Boca Raton bridge. Note the traffic coming and going through this narrow, termporary bridge opeing.

Note the 25-knot wind speed across our beam. This gave Wayne a good forearm workout all day.
The ICW is protected. The winds were much more intense "outside" on the coast.

How does the other half—no these days—the one-percenters, live? "Sothebys" read of the realty signs for an (Intracoastal waterway (ICW) sign we noticed. Given today's stat in one of my morning news feeds, with US median home prices at $303K, I can't imagine most of the ICW-facing homes would move for less than at least a couple of mil.

A few of the many upscale intracoastal homes we passed that surely must cost multi-millions.

Despite the swearing-in of Biden a month ago, as we travel through the area a stone's throw from Trump's current Mar a Lago resident, the only political signs we saw proclaimed die-hard Trump support.

No positive Biden signage anywhere,

I found it ironic that the homes that displayed Trump signs were the ones that least looked like part of the 'hood, and more like the January 6th stormers of the White House. Those who were most likely to benefit from the business-at-all-costs and wealth-protectionist policies displayed no signs of their political leanings at this stage.

Wedding party on the ICW. Outdoors, but definitely no socially distancing or masks.

Along the ICW between Lake Worth and Pompano, there were a few brief glimses of
untamed areas where the Australian pine—ironwood—held sway.  

What I didn't get a photo of: the spring-break-like atmosphere. Boats all over, with lots of bikinis.

Location Location

Our last bridge of the day, #14, 14th Street, Pompano Beach, Florida.

We spent the night at an anchorage off Pompano Beach, Florida, 26 13.368N 80 05.910W. The current plan is to jump from Miami to Alicetown, Bimini, tomorrow. This morning it's just 4 bridges, then out to the ocean, then back in for protected anchorage again for the night before we leave. This is a retrospective of yesterdays trip. from West Palm Beach to Pompano, Florida. Today's jouney will be covered in tomorrow's post.

As long as we were window shoppong, why not look for our next home, maybe something like this?

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Day 15: Escape to the Bahamas—Inside or Outside?

7-second video sailing clip: what it sounds like,
motor off, to sail down the ICW at 7 knots.

 Did it make more sense to blitz from Vero to Miami? or head outside?

Outside—Along the Atlantic Coast

Outside was efficient. There were at least a few places we could tuck back, and take an inlet back to the protection of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). At 150-160 nautical miles, Miami was within a day to two days of 24/7 sailing.

But . . . 

The waves were 5-8' at 5-second intervals, with winds 15-20 knots, with gusts to 25, then to 30 overnight. 

So far, we've only sailed s/v Gallivant for a little over two hours on the outside, in good winds and relatively flat seas. She was f*cking awesome! You could hardly wipe the sh*t-eating grin off Wayne's face.


Slow and dull.  LOTS of bridges—over 20 that required an opening between Vero and Miami. Some might open only once an hour. Our Skipper Bob ICW guidebook was outdated so we weren't sure what in it was still current on which bridges required opening, and if so how often and when they opened, or if they opened "upon request" (which still didn't mean "immediately").

Yet another bridge this in the Jupiter area.
Our sailboat mast goes up a lot higher than the boat in from of us.

We hadn't bothered to check the tides ahead of time to see if they'd drag us down. From Daytona to Titusville, the current often knocked us back from 6 to 4 knots. 

ICW day route: over 60 miles from Vero to Lake Worth with 10 bridges in between.

If we took the ICW, we'd be traveling over 60 nautical miles today, and we needed to do it all in winter daylight hours.

But . . . 

The ICW is a relatively protected waterway. The chop rarely gets very big. We didn't know how Gallivant would behave in gusty winds, getting slapped around by close sets of waves.

Decisions, Decisions

Like Who Wants to a Millionaire? Wayne called our lifeline,  C2 (c-squared) Chris(topher), and Chris(tina) of s/v Scintilla. We met cruising in Vanuatu in 2016, but they hail from Seattle and we've seen them more than any of our other cruising friends since we returned Stateside in 2017. Chris(topher) likes to remind us he has 50 years of boating experience—though he's not much older than we are. Chris(tina) as she's traveled with him for quite a few of those years is the quieter of the two, but no slouch, either.

Chris(topher) said, "Go for it!" Chris(tina) said, "I'd take the ICW."

Today is Saturday. Current forecasts point to Wednesday as the best day to cross the Gulf Stream to Miami. Even with a slow-go, we had plenty of time.

We took the ICW. 

"Godspeed and enjoy the boredom," Chris(topher)wittily texted back. He also complained that at his anchorage at Miami's Marine Stadium, the music didn't pipe down until 4 am.

By adding the wind speed to our boat speed, the wind was likely 25 knots, but on the ICW
the chop was minimal. We considered 7 knots zipping.

We got lucky on the current—we couldn't have timed it better if we planned it. The current gave us a gentle boost along with a steady tailwind. We glided along at about 6 knots on the jib sheet alone for a good portion of our trip.

We love sailing with just a jib sheet out.

What made this warm, sunny Saturday more interesting: it appeared we were not alone in deciding to stick to the ICW—there was a LOT of boat traffic. It kinda reminded me of the Panama canal area, except the boats here were a lot faster and likely with captains fueled more by alcohol than their boats were fueled by diesel and gasoline. It felt like a blend between a fisherman's frenzy and Spring Break on the water.

How the top 10% live: Jupiter, Florida area on the ICW.

We got also lucky with a minimal delay on the bridges. There were 10; two 65-footers, tall enough for us to pass under. Of the remaining 8, half of them opened "on request" and the remainder not more than twice an hour. We never waited longer than 10 minutes.

Parker, our last lift bridge of the day. West Palm Beach/Lake Worth area, Florida.

Once again, Wayne made a brilliant choice. 

"You know, we'd probably be fine if we'd gone outside. Maybe I'm just chicken," Wayne said midway through the day, with a self-deprecating shrug.

I told him when it came to taking the more conservative versus the risky route, my brother said "Chickens live longer." That philosophy may make for less impressive stories, but it's served us well.

Tomorrow, thus far it looks like a similar set of circumstances to choose from, but a lot more bridges on the ICW.

What would you choose?

Location Location

A tour boat cruised past us in Lake Fort Worth this eve. At least one guest was wearing a suit.

We're anchored in the West Palm Beach area of Lake Worth, 26 45.587N 88 02.587W.

We watched the sun drop between two ugly skyscraper buildings amidst a nondescript treeline. No sunset photos worth taking tonight. However, thanks to our sleep-well-at-night large Rocna anchor, we're secure, despite the gusty winds—I'll take that.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Days 10-14: Escape to the Bahamas—Poised to Vamoose "Velcro Beach"

S/V Gallivant sharing a mooring ball with the larger motor-sailor Far Niente in Vero Beach City Marina. 
Ours is a Gulfstar 45, a 45-foot sailboat.

Where did the days go? We arrived in Vero Beach, Florida on a raincheck of a Valentine's Day.

Poke sushi bowl from Ume's Grill, Vero Beach, our late Valentine's dinner out. Delish!
$13.95, high-quality, super-fresh sushi, and food to feed two. Pretty, too!

We had only 3 critical items to complete before we jumped from Vero to Miami:

  1. Pick up our US Coast Guard boat registration paperwork. The registration was supposed to join us in Jacksonville, but it got sent to Vancouver Washington then from there to Sunnier in Fort Pierce to collect. Our boat paperwork's traveled much further than we have!
  2. Get our sail bag repaired and recommissioned. We needed a rental car to take our sail bag to Mack's Sails, who made it, in Stuart Florida to get a new 16-foot zipper for it,. We then took it to a canvas repair shop in Fort Pierce, Marine Canvas and Upholstery, who graciously fixed it that afternoon.
  3. Take our COVID test with our best guess at getting results but also arriving within 5 days of the test in the Bahamas. We did that today, via a Lift ride as the pharmacy would only do tests from folks driving through in a vehicle, not walking by.

Rearview of our Far Niente and Gallivant rafted together on the same mooring ball in Vero Beach, Florida.

We also need one colossal double-dose of cooperation from the weather gods

  1. Weak to no southerly winds in our face as we sail south to Miami—when there's been a steady stream of southerlies of late
  2. Weak to no Northerly wind to cross the Gulf Stream from Miami to Bimini Bahamas.
Not one of our "wishes"—pelican poop on our BBQ (among other places).
Since cleaned. Vero Beach, Florida.

We had some wishes . . . pork fried rice take-out for Valentine's dinner. 
Ume's Grill—the off-the-charts best rated "Chinese" place in town we were able to visit the one day we had a rental car was actually a Japanese place. It was one of our best meals out, and we rarely eat out so we were happy.

Wayne plays chariot driver with our dinghy to Julene (center) and her friends on each side of her,
Tom and Annie from near her Pennsylvania hometown.

We definitely wanted to invite our friends from Sunnier Palms over to see the boat. Sunnier was about a half-hour drive from Vero. Despite rainy weather—I baled water up to my ankles out that morning from our dinghy—some of our friends still made it. Great fun all around!

Wayne Over, also from Sunnier Palms. He also helped us out by agreeing
to play courier on some mail we needed to catch up with.

This also gave us time to 

  1. do a little more provisioning, stock up some spare parts, and a few other odds and ends
  2. get our ducks in a row for taxes
  3. find out the best strategy for maintaining some US phone coverage while transitioning to a Bahamas SIM chip while we're in the Bahamas
  4. square away the other detail for our Bahamas Health VISA
  5. set up our re-entry application to the US (sort of—we weren't able to get full application-only check-in)
  6. wash some laundry from the marina laundromat
  7. enjoy a glorious marina shower with no worries about the speed of our sump pump or how much we were draining our water supply
  8. organize: we only moved onto the boat on January 31st are still sorting the best ways to use space
  9. complete some general troubleshooting and set-up on the boat
  10. paddle—take a kayak trip through the mangroves and marina

Location Location

Fisherman, sussing out which of the stone crabs he caught in his traps are legal. Vero Beach, Florida.
I came across him on my kayak outing.

We're in Vero Beach, Florida: 27 39.445N 80 22.276W, part of the Intracoastal waterway (ICW). 
We appreciate Vero Beach's free bus, the terrific marina showers, and a protected moorage (albeit all too protected for no-see-ums, too). All that and more makes for a place many cruisers "swallow the hook" and stop cruising, which led to its nickname: Velcro Beach.

This stone crab was a keeper: male with a large enough claw. The fisherman
snaps off the claw, which will regenerate over 6-12 months.

We, however, are ready to move on. All we need is the right weather. Tomorrow, we believe. We're hoping Tuesday or Wednesday the conditions will be favorable to sail into Bimini.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Days 7-9, Escape to the Bahamas: Checking Off Our Checklists (& Making More)

Our anenometor clocked 20-knot winds almost directly on our nose at anchor in Melbourne, Florida.

We're not too keen on sailing or even motoring into strong winds, so we waited a day in Melbourne. 

Lotus blossom tile mosiac Maryann amde and gave is for good boat karma, a symbol of
new beginnings. It's the first piece of artwork that went up on s/v
Gallivant. Thanks, Maryann!

Productively, Wayne sorted through all the parts Don and Maryann left aboard for maintainance, and tracked what we need to add to our collection before we leave the US until May.

Even after arriving in Vero this afternoon, Wayne can't resist
digging into his to-do list. Here's he's troublshooting how well
our shower sump-pump works. "Don't use more than 5 gallons," he insists.

My tasks: 

Whittling down my stuff so our v-berth is a guest cabin instead of a storage area. . . 

>Paperwork—finally admitting, I really no longer need my Hewlett-Packard performance reviews ending in 2005 and nor are my Birkman test results relevant anymore either.

>Photos—more of a sort, continued shedding of my past life and yet another promise to scan and discard more photos.

I also worked getting all my tax data together, making sure I capture all the deductions for my freelance writing and editing work.

Combined, these tasks score only slightly below getting a colonoscopy, a root canal or a pap test in my list of favorite things to do.

This to-do list keeps growing. Spreadsheet time!

Meanwhile, our initial stream-of-consciousness list quickly took on amoeba-like proportions, doing its best to burst beyond a full notebook page. "You gotta divvy that out by type of store were going to." Yeah, spreadsheets.

Our Prius stuff from when we returned from Florida in May 2019. This time the RV was our
moving storage unit, so the Prius got off easy. I bought the car in 2017 for $10,800 with 117K miles and
sold it for $4,000 with 162K miles. I will miss it. It averaged over 50 MPG and was trouble-free.

I sold my beloved Prius Friday, February 5th to a Craigslist buyer I thought would see it in the morning and didn't show up until 1 pm. By the time the whole process was done, it was after 4 pm before I returned to the boat. Since I completed my second shingles vaccination the night before, I was dragging after a relatively sleepless night from its side-effects. That also delayed our departure  from NAS JAX by a day. Our buyer graciously gave me a ride to the bank to cash her cashier's check for my car, and back to the Naval Base where our boat was docked.

Our initial plan to get our stuff done was to go to Stuart or nearby Manatee Pocket, where we could anchor for free and some friends of ours volunteered to play chauffer. But Stuart area's relatively shallow anchorages were a bit of a challenge for our 5'10" draft; we rubbed the belly of our smaller 4'3" Pearson in prior years.

After spending 3 months in Fort Pierce, we liked the idea of staying there. but our choices were between relatively unprotected anchorages, strong currents or a marina at $100/night.

Instead, today we left Melbourne in pouring rain and lightning storms to for Vero's Municipal Marina.

Wayne descends off the back of our transom to bail the rainwater-filled dinghy
we trailed before we take off for Vero.

My Macintosh Powerbook in our oven to protect it in the lightning storm.
After the lightning storm I took it out, lit the oven and baked us biscuits while underway.

Once here, Vero's over-full marina accomodated us by allowing us to raft up with another boat to share a mooring ball for $20/night+tax. We're hoping to check off the critical items on our extensive list in the next three days here, and invite our friends from Sunnier Palms to visit (about a 1/2 hour drive away and a short, sheltered dinghy ride to our boat).

From Vero, it's off to Miami once the southerly winds die off enough for us to head south to Miami, await the results of our COVID test as required from Bahamas Customs and Immigration and the right weather, then make 40 mile jump from Miami to Bimini in the Bahamas. 

We're getting closer—really! It just doesn't seem that much like it yet. Soon, though. We are so looking forward to clear waters and shorter to-to lists.

Location Location

We're currently on a ball at Vero Municipal Marina. I'll post a better photo of our boat, rafted to another sailboat to share a mooring ball.

Vero Beach municipal Marina, 27 39.445N 80 22.276W.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Photo credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash.

We're taking a raincheck on our celebration, though we wish you a most excellent Valentine's Day today or whenever you celebrate it.