Month: May 2016

Change of plans…

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When we took the jib down and hauled it in to our little Haitian friend for repairs, it was a fairly painless job. Mycah showed us that she can carry it by herself…little Miss Independent.

She also went up in the bosuns chair to take a look at the furler for us.

Today when we went in to the jib up, all went well, but raising it back up on the furler was an entirely different matter! The sail repair had been done well, but the part that feeds up the furler was a bit bulky, so it kept bunching up and getting stuck. Several hours later we called it good.

Danny completed assembling the props a couple of days ago, and today checked on the generator because it was overheating.

When he opened it all up he found the area covered in a soot like substance, indicating that perhaps there had been a fire or intense overheating. Our generator has 12000 hours on it (the people that had our boat before us must have run it 24/7), and they are usually good for about 10000 hours. Our generator may simply be giving up the ghost. Regardless of whether it needs to be replaced, or overhauled, the Bahamas is not the place to do it, so in the morning we will set sail for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to get some things on Tanda Malaika taken care of once and for all. Danny will leave out of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday to fly his client, so that gives us 4 days to get there.

Aside from all the hullabaloo, we enjoyed watching countless thunderstorms roll in, dump some rain and roll out today. It was so beautiful. I love the color of the turquoise water contrasted against the darkened grey cloudy skies. We live in an exquisite world.


Marine life….

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I love marine life. For the most part I’ve encountered curious and friendly creatures down below – even when diving with sharks. The one sea creatures that is always ornery though, regardless of where in the world I dive, is the Barracuda. They always act like they have a chip on their shoulder and give you a look that says they’ll bite you if they have half a chance. Most of the time when we are in the water around reefs, barracuda are lurking and follow us wherever we go. Danny and I were on a reef and I decided to fish while snorkeling. I placed a small silverside on the hook and snorkeled to where I could see some good sized fish about 20ft below, and dropped the line right in the middle of them. From out of no where, an entire squadron of yellowtail snappers stormed the bait, and I ended up with one of them on the hook. It was only about 4 or 5 inches long, so I snorkeled over a little deeper to try catch a bigger fish with my live bait, and a 4ft barracuda rushed in, ate my snapper and my hook, and cut my line! I reprimanded him through my snorkel, telling him to voetsak, which is a South African’s way of saying ‘get out of here’, but he was coming back for more. Danny, being the good protective husband that he is, grabbed his Hawaiian sling and came to my rescue, and sent the spear flying through the water at the barracuda. He zigged when the spear zagged, then turned around and came toward Danny with a ‘what the heck was that for???’ look in his eyes. He stared right at Danny as if to challenge him, and as he reloaded the sling to shoot again the barracuda stayed just the right distance away to keep himself out of reach. We finally got back in the anchored dinghy to head back home, and just as we did, the barracuda circled the dinghy right at the surface just like a shark would! What a cranky guy!!!

Today we found an underwater cave and explored it for a while, then took the dinghy over to a beach the creatures have been frequenting. As Danny and I lay in the coolness of the water we were mauled by some friendly stingrays. Up on the beach is a shack where fresh conch ceviche is served, and the stingrays hang out for handouts, and when they saw us they assumed that we had food for them. They kept approaching our hands and rubbing themselves on them to check.

One of them nestled itself between Danny and I, right on top of our feet…

They stayed with us the whole time we were in the water, only swimming off once we walked up on to the beach.

Sometimes they surfaced and splashed around right against us, asking quite sincerely for something good to eat.

We took our jib down and delivered it to a little Haitian man in town to mend the 12” tear. During the process of folding it up on deck, Jude fell through an open hatch and got pretty bruised up, and while eating dinner I broke a tooth! She’s resting up on pain meds and I look like a hillbilly, but it’s ok, because we are living our dream even with bruises and missing teeth!

Danny seems to have really impressed the gentleman he’s flown the last couple of times, because he wants him back again! He will be leaving us again on Sunday, this time heading to Barcelona. When he leaves the creatures and I will sail over to Long Island, Bahamas, get the boat hauled out and embark on our first sanding and painting the bottom, job. We are excited to do it. We’ll also get the sail drive seal fixed. In the mean time our days will continue to be filled with school work, chores and boat projects and more time with the marine life.

Lazy days…

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Having Danny back from his trips has been so wonderful, and we have spent lots of time lounging around and enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

A few of the projects that have been completed, including Danny fixing the windlass. It ends up that Jude and I had diagnosed it correctly after all – there was some corrosion on some of the wiring. He’s also been working on the engines, and they are running considerably better too now. He’s pretty sure the overheating on starboard is due to a clogged heat exchanger.
I washed all Danny’s clothes from his trip, and with Jude’s help, repaired the mainsail where the batten had slid out by pushing it back in and sewing the thick flap back in place that holds it there. Tomorrow I will repair the jib and Danny will try install our new feathering props.
I have continued to swim everyday, and today Danny and I decided to go grocery shopping together. He grabbed his Hawaiian sling and I strapped a dive knife to my leg, and we jumped in with mask, snorkel and fins and took off for the reef.

We found an exoskeleton to a slipper lobster but no live ones, and saw no respectably sized fish to spear. I did retrieve a conch, but didn’t find any more so I let it go – there’s not much you can do with just one. A beautiful black and white Lion fish watched us from behind some coral, and a small ray lay camouflaged in the sand.

Parts of the reef were scattered with purple anemones that looked like eyeballs, and others were densely populated with bright schools of yellow reef fish.

The creatures have been enjoying lots of beach time after schoolwork and chores, and have kept us laughing as usual. Aidan continues with his major growth spurt, and is proudly gaining on Emma every week.
Many boats have left here now, leaving the anchorage wide open and peaceful.

I am grateful to be here for Memorial weekend where it is quiet and people are sparse. I believe I would have a difficult time going to my Dad and Brother’s graves. They are very much alive in my world and I feel them close and hear their voices, and I can’t bare the thought of them being anything but that. My niece made them each a wreath in a Harley Davidson theme which our sweet Mom has placed beautifully.

I am so grateful for Eternal Families. For love, memories and hope.

Busy day

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Our day began with many projects. The creatures did their school work and chores then went adventuring and cliff jumping with their new friend, Jacob, while I made granola and did laundry. When the granola was in the oven I cooked up, shredded and froze 30lbs of chicken for when we are under way, and cleaned inside Tanda Malaika.

Danny texted and said he’d be on the 11:30 flight into George Town, arriving here at 1:20pm, so we finished up our projects and play and took the family car into town and tied up at the dock. While waiting for Danny’s taxi to arrive we picked up our filled propane tanks and sat waiting for him to pull up. Shortly afterward, his taxi arrived and the creatures were so happy to give him hugs and welcome him home. It’s good to have him back.

Our dinghy ride back to the boat was a very wet one, as the dinghy was overloaded with full propane tanks and all his luggage, and took on waves since we were to heavy to plane out. (Our friends, the Nel family, experienced this with us once not too long ago.)
Our new friends from the sailing vessel “Uno”, called on the radio and invited us over for a pot luck dinner and music, so I prepared a large quinoa salad and thawed out the Mahi Mahi that Emma and I had caught, and when it was time we rode over to their beautiful floating home. They are now reaching the end of their two years of cruising, and will be selling their Lagoon 44 in Florida and heading back home to Canada. Steve and Susan have two sons, Jacob and Noah, and are a delightful family. Another amazing friendship we have formed while out cruising. Steve plays the guitar well and has a beautiful singing voice, and between Mycah, Danny and him, we listened to some fantastic music all evening long.

Aidan and Emma hung out with Jacob while Noah played with his friend Jayden. His mother, Paula, and him are visiting with them for a couple weeks and she is such a sweet Angel lady as well.

As the sun set the sky was filled with a gorgeous array of color, while large thunder heads rolled in and later lightning began to flash across the darkening sky.

We all faded fast after the long day, and Danny’s travels had exhausted him, so after a while we went to load up the dinghy to leave and Danny realized that he had pulled the plug out of the dinghy so that our self bailer would empty the water out of it while we dinghied over to their boat, and he had forgotten to put the plug back in. About a foot of water sat in the dinghy! Jude and Danny climbed in with hand pumps and emptied it all out, while we all joked back and forth and chuckled about it, then finally went back home to our girl, Tanda Malaika.

We are so grateful for the many wonderful friends we have. There are some amazing people in this world, and we are privileged enough to meet many as we travel around. It’s tough saying ‘see you later’ each time, but the great thing about it is that chances are we will run into them again sometime. Somewhere out on the great blue sea, on some remote island whose name is difficult to pronounce, we will see them and it will be like we were never apart.

George Town

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I awoke at about 2:30 am to the sounds and sights of thunder and lightning, and walked upstairs to check on the boat. Sitting up at the helm I could clearly see our surroundings as if it were daytime due to the amount of lightning, and we seemed to be ok. At 5am I awoke to the sounds of intense howling winds, and once again went top side to check things out. Emma came out of her room saying she could hear the anchor dragging under her, and almost immediately the rest of the creatures emerged aswell. We decided that since the anchor was dragging because of the intense winds, we’d pull it up and set sail so that we’d be away from the rocky shoreline. So there we were, all four kids on the bow pulling up anchor while I was at the helm trying to maneuver the boat in ways that would be most helpful in loosening the anchor. It took the creatures a full hour of tug of war to pull the 125ft of heavy anchor chain up, and finally we were free and sailing off once again.

I tacked back and forth with reefed sails until we reached the cut to enter the waterway leading to George Town. One has to be quite precise with navigation in the cut because of sand bars and rocky shorelines, and thankfully the starboard engine started to power us through. By 11:30am we made the final turn in to the George Town area, and found a good place to anchor and finally relax.

We took the dinghy in, which involves motoring under a little bridge to a lake of sorts called Lake Victoria, where a dinghy dock is provided.

We tied up and walked in to the town to get some groceries, fill propane tanks and mail off the creatures school work.

The grocery store, called Exuma market, had more inventory than we’ve seen in a long time, and it was the typical ridiculous Bahamian prices.

After all was done in town we went back to Tanda Malaika where we reorganized and inventoried all our groceries, after which I took a nap – during my nap I had a phone conversation with my Mom and can’t remember a word of it. I awoke to Jude and Mycah jumping in for a swim, so I joined them and relished the peace and relaxation that accompanies being submersed in the ocean. It’s my happy place.

After dinner we took the dinghy over to our new friends boat, called Uno, and chatted till I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, and brought one of their boys back with us (Aidan’s new friend) for a sleep over on the trampoline.
I look forward to a good nights rest tonight, knowing our anchor is set and we are not going to drag. Till tomorrow, good night to all.

New Cay

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We once again awoke to explore a new cay, this one, called New Cay. There were about 8 or 10 beautiful beaches all around us, so we picked a couple to explore. The first had many new mangrove shoots all over it, and squiggle marks in the sand from tiny mollusks.

Emma and I found many tiny little shells for her collection.

The second beach we explored had no mangroves on it and was long and narrow.

A strong current flowed parallel to shore, so Mycah and I swam out into the current to swim against it for a while. I finally understand why some people have current pools. It was such good exercise and really interesting to be swimming hard yet staying in one spot.

Once we reached Tanda Malaika we made preparations to fire up the engines and set sail. The windlass was still not working, so Jude and Mycah pulled the anchor up by hand while I started things up. Much to my dismay, neither of the engines would start, so we were quite proud of ourselves to sail off right from the anchor. Our journey took us through some of the clearest, most exquisite water in the world.

We had to maneuver through a narrow cut between two islands, and then entered the Atlantic once again. While underway the creatures scrubbed decks and under the floor board in the stern salon. The boat looks so clean after their hard work.

As the hours past we tried trouble shooting to figure out the engines and windlass situation, and spoke with my trusty friend, Captain Elayne, as well as our friend Captain Dan Zwerg. Both were really knowledgeable and so patient with me. We knew that we were going to have to anchor without the aid of an engine, but rather, with wind power, so we tacked back and forth till we found a suitable area to spend the night. Just as we were about 1/4 mile off shore, the wind stopped completely and we sat totally dead in the water. Our good communication and team work skilsl brought us to the idea of a couple creatures towing us to shallower water for anchoring, with the dinghy. So, we did. While Emma and Mycah towed, Jude and Aidan manually prepped the anchor chain, and then dropped it once we reach 25 ft of water.

I wanted to make sure the anchor had set, so dove in with a mask and began diving down into the darkness of the ocean with a sun no longer shining to give light. The water was murky and dark, and just as Mycah jumped in to dive the anchor with me, a large fat bellied shark swam directly below me, then turned to deeper waters.

I am so proud of my crew. They worked hard today and still kept up with their school work and chores. We are now 11 miles north of George Town, and I’m really hoping that the engine will start up in the morning.

Guana Cay

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It’s always fun to anchor at night then wake in the morning to see what it looks like where you are. This morning we woke to an exquisite scene…gorgeous clear water leading to a long beautiful beach and not another soul in sight.

The creatures were all fast asleep, so I put my swimsuit on and quietly slipped into the water for my daily swim. The ocean floor consisted of sand, and nothing else. Just white sand in ripple formations as far as I could see – which was pretty far, given the clarity of the water. There were also no fish, just me and the sand and sea. Though I’ve never been to space, I imagine it feels much the same as I was feeling…weightless, suspended and able to move fluidly and free with no obstructions. It’s a beautiful feeling which brings me incredible peace, and it is often during these times that I take time to pray. After swimming about half of a mile, I turned toward shore and swam to the deserted beach, where my footprints were the first to break the patterns created in the sand by water and wind. I glanced toward our floating home and smiled, knowing that 4 of my babies were there, comfortable, cozy and sound asleep.

A googolplex of tiny ceriths, bivalves and limpets lay thick and white in a two foot wide band like the Milky Way across the length of the entire beach parallel to the water line. I can confidently say that I have seen a lot of beaches in my 44 years of life, but I have never seen a beach with as many shells as this one. I lay down on my stomach, sorting through the tiny treasures, knowing that Emma was going to have blast and a half here, collecting shells for the jars she fills.

I couldn’t stand it any longer, i just had to call the creatures to come and see, so I called to my playmates, waking them from their slumber to come out and explore with me. I watched them emerge out onto the deck, rubbing their eyes – not surprised because they are used to my spontaneity and craziness, but rather, curious as to what I wanted to show them this time! In no time at all they arrived in the dinghy, greeting me with their sweet smiles and ‘I loves you’s’, as I replied with…”what took you so long, I thought you’d never come out and play!”

Many flat rocks in all sizes and shapes lay scattered higher up on the beach, which Aidan used for skipping rocks. We joined in with him and bounced our flat limestone findings across the gentle waves.

We built towers, and left them standing tall and proud, a memory that we were once there appreciating the beauty.

By late morning we raised the sail, brought up the anchor, started the water maker and moved out across the ocean. In our 8 hours of sailing, most of which was done 1 – 2 miles off shore, the deepest water we were in was 9 ft. It was like we were on a turquoise sandy bottomed lake the whole day. So beautiful.

Mycah played and sang on her Uke, Jude and Aidan made rice crispy treats, everyone read and relaxed and conversed, and at sunset we dropped anchor in yet another wonderland to explore. By tomorrow evening we hope to be in George Town, where Danny will be flying into on Tuesday or Wednesday from his trip.

Thunderball Cave

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We woke to a gorgeous new day and took the dinghy in to Staniel Cay to pick up some much needed groceries. It had been almost 2 weeks since we purchased any and we were completely out of fruits and vegetables. While pulling the dinghy up to the dock, a shark swam along and parked itself directly below the dinghy, and as we looked around we noticed sharks everywhere! They were so cute.

Staniel Cay is a quaint little town. Every house seems to be painted a different bright color and the locals are so friendly.

We found the grocery store called Burke’s Market, where fruit is a dollar a piece, and peanut butter is twelve bucks for 8oz. Needless to say, we didn’t buy much! It’s a good thing we make all our food from scratch and know how to cook.

While exploring around,looking at the beautiful bouganvillia plants, our parrot friend named Rico, walked past with his owner. For those that have followed our blog from the beginning, Rico is the parrot from Panama that would fly away from his owners and we would spend hours trying to find him. It was so good to see him (and his owner, Dolphin). They were visiting Staniel Cay with their kids.

Our next adventure took us to Thunderball Cave. As you read this section, it is important that you have the James Bond music playing in your head, since his movie (Thunderball) was filmed there in 1965. We stealthily launched the dinghy with snorkel gear in hand, and sped across the water to the large rock mound protruding from the shark infested waters.

We quietly set the anchor, slipped overboard and held our breath as we dove down to enter though an underwater opening into the cave, swimming through the darkness among large schools of fish.

The ceiling of the cave has several holes large enough to jump down through, and the creatures climbed up and did it several times. We played around for a couple of hours, admiring the bright coral and sponges, and numerous reef fish.

Finally in the early afternoon we set sail, making our way south once again. We didn’t have a set destination in mind, but figured we’d sail till sunset, then drop anchor and continue in the morning.
About half an hour before sunset we pulled in to a deserted little bay, and went to drop anchor, just to find that the windlass would not work. We checked switches and connections and couldn’t find anything wrong, so Jude and Mycah pulled all the heavy chain out and dropped anchor by hand. We found out very quickly that the anchor could not hold because we were on a large bed of rock, so they pulled it all up again. After moving around and retrying four more times, we still couldn’t find suitable holding, so moved on to another bay to the southeast and tried once more. This time we hit sand, where the anchor dug deep and held us tight. By now the full moon hung beautifully over the horizon and sent a golden path, glowing across the water toward us. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Swine fish…?!

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I had a sleepless night last night. So much on my mind, and being on the Atlantic side, the water was rough and I kept checking the anchor and was aware of different sounds. But, this morning when the morning sun lit the gorgeous clouds, and a steady wind blew over the bow, I knew it would be a good time to set sail. As sailors, even though sometimes we may want to stay some place longer, if the weather is favorable to raise the sails and move on, it’s time.

We moved out across the Atlantic away from reefs and sand bars, and in a few seconds went from a depth of 6 ft to 3000 ft. About 3 hours into our 6 hour sail, we heard the ‘zing’ of the starboard side fishing reel, and just as I grabbed it, the port reel sounded it’s success call aswell. Emma and I looked over at each other with smiles on our faces as we fought our fish. When we first started I told the creatures that I bet they are a Mahi Mahi pair, and I was right! Jude and I got busy and each filleted a fish, prepping them for meals to come.

We passed one of Mick Jaggar’s homes, and so many beautiful islands, and wished we could explore every single one.

When we reached the cut that we had to navigate through with not so great charts, it challenged my navigation and boat maneuvering skills as a skipper. Reading the color and texture of the surrounding water, and with my trusty crew on the bow, we made it through the maze of gorgeousness that was scattered with sand bars, coral heads and rocky shallows.

After successfully moving through the salty labyrinth, we safely arrived at a most peculiar place…the island of swimming pigs called Big Major. (Should have been Pig Major). Giant swine with cute hairy bodies and big pink snouts greeted us on the beach and in the water. Most importantly, they approved of the pickle!

We took hot dogs with us to coax them closer, but ended up not needing them because they came running and were not afraid to get up close and personal.

This guy was so cute, he just sat down in the water and observed everything that was going on around him. Aidan thought that he looked like he had been fed marijuana brownies!

Danny is enjoying his trip to Italy, flying his client once again. The funny thing is that today he sailed with him on his 43 meter sailboat. Poor guy just doesn’t get a break from the dreadful stress of sailing, but at least he does from his wife and kids.
Tomorrow after boat chores are completed we will explore Staniel Cay and play in Thunderbolt Cave, where the James Bond movie was filmed. Until then, it’s time to rest this body…my babies are already asleep.

Shroud Cay

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Last night a feisty storm blew in with 45 knot winds. When I went for my swim yesterday I had dove down and checked out our anchor and knew it was secure, so I wasn’t worried about it but rather about the boats that surrounded us. I stood in the dark out on the trampoline and watched, and was concerned in particular about a power boat that was close by which appeared to be inching its way toward us. As I watched him through the storm, he reached a point where his anchor must have grabbed again, because he seemed to be staying put, and this morning in the light I could see that my concern was valid because he was considerably closer than before. I am grateful that we were protected.The creatures have had so much fun at Allen Cay, exploring and learning about the endangered rock iguanas.

They made several new friends, who came over both nights for movies and enjoyed the caramel popcorn I made. One of them, a 15 year old boy named Quentin, spent the night and began calling me Mom. The creatures had fun jumping off a big double masted schooner that was anchored close by.

After saying our goodbyes we set sail once again, this time on the Atlantic side of the islands in hopes of good wind. The Atlantic is a big ocean and it was fun to think that if we just continued out for a while we’d hit Europe.

Stormy skies gave way, amounting to no wind, so not only was sailing at a snails pace, but I had problems with the engines, so we didn’t make much head way… which ended up being a blessing because we found the most beautiful place ever! A place called Shroud Cay, with many huge beautiful beaches and little water ways and open lagoon areas with exquisite water and vegetation. As we approached Jude told me to be really quiet and not wake the sleeping dinosaurs.

We anchored in a turquoise wonderland, leaving our friendly hitch hiker behind on the boat, and set out to explore.

After turning up into a break in the island, we came into the most gorgeous lagoon of sorts with tropical plants growing densely on the surrounding island.

We couldn’t believe our eyes as we motored slowly, trying to look everywhere all at once – not wanting to miss a thing.

The water was so clear, that 4 or 5 ft of water looked like it was only a few inches deep.

We followed the lagoon around which lead to other canal looking stretches which opened up into more lagoons and canals. A maze of breathtaking beauty.

We came across many beautiful little beaches and in the two hours we explored, we didn’t see another soul.

Mycah was driving the dinghy, and at one point while we were cruising along, her, Aidan and Jude jumped out into the warm water, thinking they were so funny. Emma and I decided we’d be nice and pick them up.

We returned home to cook dinner and the creatures practiced back flips off Tanda Malaika. They are getting pretty good!

Tomorrow morning at first light when I go for my swim, I think I’ll swim through the lagoon. We will continue on to Staniel Cay, where pigs are celebrities and swim freely in the ocean.