Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sail from Bimini Sands to Gun Cay and North Cat Cay

Jim - ever the astute captain1
As promised, here are our pictures from the sail to Gun Cay and North Cat Cay!  A wonderful day with the warm tropical breeze, the water under the hulls.....almost heaven!  And then a wonderful dinner of conch salad, steak and wine when we got back to the dock!

You can see the bottom - the water
is about 8' here!
Gun Cay - check out that
beach!  Wish there had been good
holding ground - I would love to
have gone ashore here!

View from the starboard hull

Captain Jim in his element

The first mate checking things out

And after a leisurely sail back to Bimini Sands, it was time for a relaxing evening repast - steak, bimini bread, fresh made conch salad and white wine.....all while listening to the wind whisper in the rigging from the breeze!

North Bimini

Trip into North Bimini

The channel between North and South Bimini
Taken from the ferry

On North Bimini - Alice Town

The beach on North Bimini

The view from the ferry coming into
North Bimini

Guy Harveys Big
Game Resort
Veteran's Memorial on North Bimini

We had a wonderful half day exploring North Bimini - it is a small area, but big on history!  We took the ferry over from South Bimini and then rented a golf cart for 1 1/2 hours and drove end to end and even had time for lunch at Guy Harveys Big Game Resort - all in all a wonderful day in North Bimini!

This is how they
roll in North Bimini!

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Bimini

Today was a wonderful day!  We awoke to the sound of rain on the cabintop, which made it oh so easy to sleep in an extra couple of minutes - what a blessing!  Breakfast was up at the Petite Conch at the Bimini Sands marina, and then we slipped the lines and we were off to explore Gun Cay and North Cat Cay, about 10 miles away, over the Great Bahama Bank.  The water was absolutely beautiful - that gorgeous turquoise that you dream of seeing in the Bahamas and the Carribean!  The wind was blowing 20 kts, but was in our nose, so no sailing - we motored, but did put the jib up to help speed us along a little bit.  When we arrived at Gun Cay, there was not a good anchorage, due to the huge amount of sea grass that almost completely covers that little cove, so we motored around both Gun Cay and Cat Cay.  We saw a hawksbill turtle - that was such a neat thing - he poked his head out, looked at us, poked his head back in, floated around a bit, and then poked his head back out, looked at us, and then down he dove. 

We checked out the beach in front of the marina condos on our way back in, because both Jim and I wanted to swim, but once we saw the nurse sharks swimming in the shallows (I had nightmares of JAWS.....Betsi being eaten by a shark!!), and the huge manta ray, just swimming back and forth through the shallows, we changed out minds, and opted instead for some R & R by the pool.  Speaking of manta rays - on our way to dinner, swimming between our pier and the rocks was a mamma manta ray and her little baby!  What a blessing - that was such a gift for me to be able to see that!

Tomorrow morning will find us leaving Bimini behind and heading back to the USA.  Jim will be up early - leaving before sunrise to cross the stream and head for the Los Olas City Marina at Fort Lauderdale.  We will be meeting some good friends for dinner Sunday night, and take care of some last minute cleaning and packing and then we will hit the friendly skies and fly home to Virginia.  Two Sheets will be in Fort Lauderdale for a couple of weeks and then Jim and his crew will bring her up to Virginia. 

So for now, fair winds and following seas until next we meet!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bahamas 2010 and 2011

All is well?  Yes, all is well.  That is the traditional Bahamian greeting, no matter where you are in the beautiful Bahamas.  Jim and his crew brought the boat down to the Bahamas from Virginia in November 2010, on the inside edge of the Gulf Stream and it took them 5 days to reach Sunrise Marina and Resort on Grand Bahama Island (GBI).  It was an interesting passage with periods of calm and no wind to 24 hours of squall line after squall line.....needless to say the passage was not boring by any standard of measure!

Jim and the crew flew home to Virginia the middle of November, and Jim and Betsi were flying back to GBI to spend the Christmas holidays with Becky, Betsi's mom.  They flew back into GBI on December 21, 2010 and Becky joined them on December 23.  Early on the 24th, Two Sheets was on her way to the West End of GBI with a destination of the Old Bahama Bay Club.  We arrived that afternoon, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening on Two Sheets.  Christmas morning dawned bright and beautiful, and after a relaxing and peaceful morning we all went down to the beach for a swim and a snorkel.  The water was absolutely beautiful.....and swimming with fish, and barracuda?  Quite an experience!  Had Betsi known there were barracuda in the water.....maybe would have changed her mind!  We celebrated Christmas dinner later that night up at the Bonefish restaurant at Old Bahama Bay - a wonderful way to have spent Christmas - especially considering that the weather back home was snow and cold!  But, as temperamental as Mother Nature can be, she threw a curveball at us! 

December 26 we were planning to leave for Abaco.....but our plans were foiled when we woke up to winds blowing in excess of 30kts, a cold front that had dropped the temperature into the 40's, seas running 10 feet and rain.  So we snuggled in for a day of complete relaxation.....reading, taking care of small things onboard.  We ate lunch onboard courtesy of our chef extraordinaire Jim who created tortilla pizzas and chicken soup.  Dinner was conch fritters and cracked conch, and a movie.  Jim was so comfortable on the settee, and I hated  to wake him, but at 10p.m. the movie was finished, and I got a sense that we should double check the lines once I woke the sleeping husband.....who did not want to go outside in the cold and check the lines, but did.....all was fine with our boat, but ...... when Jim checked from the bow of Two Sheets......Anatok, a 110' steel yacht, which had been moored about 30' in front of us was now less than 2.5' from the bow of Two Sheets.......not what you want to see or experience at 10p.m. in a strange marina, on a cold, wet and windy night!  Jim came back down into the cabin, asked Becky and Betsi to collect passports, medicine money….necessities….and to dress in our warmest clothing because we were going to have to evacuate Two Sheets.  Betsi called the office of the Old Bahama Bay Club and explained the situation, and the office sent down two of their security guards to assess and take care of the situation…..unfortunately, neither guard knew anything about boats!  Betsi and Becky were off the boat and told to stay in the women’s shower room where it was warm and safe until the situation was taken care of.  The situation was a bit more complicated with the fact that we were tied up at the fuel pier, and the only thing holding Anatok were 3 lines and her shore power cable……Jim had the foresight to shut off the shore power seconds before Anatok snapped her shore power cable and swung out from the pier approximately 15 – 20 feet.  After trying various ways to pull Anatok into the pier (virtually impossible given the wind, which was now blowing at 45 – 50 kts with gusts to 60 kts), the side note here, the manager also did not know anything about boats either – so Jim was the only one with any knowledge of how to fix this situation; the manager gladly gave Jim permission to lead   the security guards got into the backhoe bucket and was swung onto the deck of Anatok and found lines onboard and they were thrown to the guys on the pier, who used the backhoe to pull Anatok back to the pier where she was safely secured – this time with six doubled lines!  It is now 1a.m. – 3 hours since Jim noticed that Anatok had broken her lines!  Jim is now known by all at the Old Bahama Bay Club as the “Savior of Old Bahama Bay”, and needless to say for the remainder of our visit, we were given the royal treatment!  The weather finally broke on December 28, but Becky was flying home the next morning, so rather than go the Abaco, we headed back to Sunrise Marina and Freeport, arriving late afternoon.

After getting Becky off to the airport the next morning, Jim looked at the upcoming weather, and we decided to cut short our trip, and head home December 31.  This seemed like the perfect time to get some work done on Two Sheets, and she was Bradford Marine bound.  We took her around to Freeport Harbor and Bradford Marine for engine repairs on 29 December.  Her engines was pulled and a total rebuild was done (her engines are 11 years old and this had never been done, so it was time.  And a good thing we had that done, because we had a cracked cam shaft – a major issue if that had happened when we were underway!)  Even though the yard time was longer than expected, Two Sheets is now in fabulous shape, and we have a 25% increase in engine power!  We highly recommend Bradford Marine on GBI if you need yard work done!

Jim and Betsi spent New Year’s Eve in Ft. Lauderdale at the Hilton on the beach – a wonderful hotel, with great views, and there is a story of our experience there, but we’ll save that for another time!  We headed home on New Year’s Day and flew back down to GBI April 8.  The boat is finished and we provisioned and prepared to leave GBI on Tuesday, April 12.  When we arrived at Sunrise, we met our across the pier neighbors – Yavuz and Yildiz Orer from Istanbul, Turkey.  You know, there are just some people when you meet them, you become instant friends and feel a kinship toward?  That is how Yavuz and Yildiz are!  We immediately felt as if we had known them for years, and we shared sea stories and meals together several nights prior to our leaving.  We introduced them to grilled fish ala Jim style, along with homemade conch salad (the locals at Sunrise have given Jim a new name – “Conky Jim” because he can dive, crack and clean the conch and make conch salad as good as any native Bahamian!) and Yavuz and Yildiz introduced us to Turkish style spaghetti (yummy!!  Can’t wait to make this dish at home!).  Tuesday, April 12 found us catching an afternoon nap in preparation for our evening passage, and sharing one last repast with Yavuz and Yildiz – a delicious cup of coffee.  Then it was time to say goodbye – and lots of tears for Betsi as she was already missing her new friends!  But we expect to see them again – as they traverse the United States, and Betsi feels a cruise to Istanbul coming!

As we raised the sails in the waning light of a Bahamian sunset, the wind directly in our face, we bid a fond farewell to GBI for it is Bimini bound we are!  The wind is blowing 16 kts, the engines are purring and we are making a steady 5 – 6 kts.  It is a 12 hour passage to Bimini via the New Providence channel and the Straits of Florida.  Once we hit the Gulf Stream on the edge of the Great Bahama Bank we are truly on our way…..with lots of large ship traffic – it is like being a shipping freeway!  Both Jim and Betsi kept watch that night.  Several times during the night we had to slow down, because we did not want to arrive too early in Bimini and have to sail back and forth waiting for the sun to rise!  We arrived right on time in Bimini – about 7a.m.  and made our way in the entrance channel to the Bimini Sands Resort and Marina on South Bimini (the only place to stay – this marina has floating piers, great showering facilities, a pool, restaurant, beach club, bar, beach club restaurant…..we will not stay anywhere else in Bimini!  And the dockage rates are about the best we’ve seen - $1.10 per foot, $10 electric charge per day and metered water @ 0.35 per gallon). 

After sleeping for a couple of hours, Jim and I were up again at 11a.m. to shower and change and it was time to explore Bimini!  We walked about ¾ of a mile to the “ferry” which is really only a shallow draft boat, to cross over to North Bimini.  Once we arrived at North Bimini we rented a golf cart and drove the length of the island, stopping to explore various sites such as the remains of Hemingway’s Compleat Angler, buying some “Bimini Bread” with coconut, with a final stop at Guy Harvey’s Big Game Resort for a late lunch.  A wonderful first day in Bimini (Wednesday, April 13).  Thursday morning, April 14 dawned rainy and warm, so Jim and I slept in, the sound of the rain on the cabin top lulling us to sleep in – just a bit more!  This morning has found us puttering around – updating the blog, cleaning engines…..but the skies have cleared, and we are planning venture out in a bit. 

Till next time ….. fair winds to all!