Thursday, April 30, 2009

Scootin Along

We are really making some headway on the way north, we hopped out for a 24 hour leg on the ocean from Fernandina Beach, FL to Charleston, SC, skipping Georgia entirely in the process. The ICW winds so much through Georgia, we more than halved the distance traveled by going out, and made better speed while doing it, so we are making great time. We visited Cumberland Island, which used to be the getaway spot for the Carnegie family, there remains the skeleton of the mansion they built, as well as all the servants quarters, a graveyard full of Carnegies who died in Pittsburgh, and a population of wild horses still flourishes on the island, it is a beautiful island with expanses of forest, salt marshes, and a beach along the whole eastern side, it was easy to see why they chose it. The jaunt outside was a little crappy just cause we didnt get much real sailing in, with the wind just off our bow we were close hauled the whole time and didnt get much push out of it, but it wasnt so bad, and it got us some distance. The coolest part about the sail was the dolphins that played in our bow wave a couple times, there were 10 or so and they stuck with us for 15 minutes on two seperate occasions, it is amazing to see them flitting around under the boat, obviously doing it just for the fun of it. They will even roll on their side sometimes right on the surface and look up at you, and both times they stayed with us until I left the bow to check on the navigation, I went back up and they were gone, I really think they are interested to see us up there. Once we got into Charleston we met up with our friends from More Cowbell and had a great time exploring the city with them, it is a beautiful old city. The guys split up with the girls at one point and we went to a cigar and wine shop while they went shopping, I sat down and played some chess with Dave, a nice maduro in one hand and a glass of wine in front of me, I was livin large, it was great, and then the girls came back before I finished the cigar and I have not heard the end of it since, I dont think Erin will ever talk to me again. Sorry Erin.
We will probably be in New Bern around the 7th of May or so, but its hard to speculate, we never really know what we are doing. Once we get back we will be doing a little work on the boat, probably on the house, and then heading out into the world, who knows where. I will get some pictures up soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Made it

Sandpiper has returned. After leaving Great Sale Cay at 9 am on Sunday, we arrived in Cape Canaveral around 9 am on Monday. The crossing was great, we couldnt have asked for better, we sailed for the majority of the trip, the winds were great, the seas were as calm as could be expected in the middle of the ocean. Mark wasnt feeling well so I took the majority of the watch and I enjoyed every minute of it, I had Sandpiper wing and wing for a couple hours when we first got in the stream, and had her sitting around 9 knots for a good while with the current behind us and a steady 15 knot wind. It was a pretty uneventful crossing, which left a lot of time for my mind to wander, Alan told me he misses my random thoughts, so this is a brief view into what goes on when my mind was idle sitting at the helm.
I remember once Alan was in 4th grade, and I was making fun of him for not knowing what some word meant, and when I did I said something about his vocabulary being so small, and he didnt know what vocabulary meant. I thought that was pretty ironic.
Of all the neighboring letters in the alphabet, I think G and F would get along the worst, B and C are the cool kids, not like the jerk ones, but the ones that all the other letters look up to and wish they could be like. M and L are totally hooking up.
I posted a video a while ago of a ridiculous Saturday Night Live song called I'm on a Boat (again dont click if you are offended by bad music and/or language), I couldnt get it out of my head while we were sailing so I started thinking up a new version about Sandpiper's return to the US, and it started getting pretty good, so I thought I would share it here. It doesn't quite fit the song perfectly, but I thought it was worth a share, we are thinking about recording it, we need a stand in for T-Pain though.

Woah, a boat ride for three. Now who should I take?
and.... Grandad

This is it, get the sails ready
It's about to go down
Everybody in the place get up on deck
But dont stub your cleat catchin toes.
We sailin this, lets go.

Im on a boat, on a sail boat
Everybody look at me cause I'm sailin on a boat.
I'm on a boat, on a sail boat
Take a good hard look at my mother's father's boat.

I'm on a boat with my brother, take a look at me
Straight travlin the Bahamas as slow as can be
We bustin five knots on full sail, it aint no joke
You can't stop me and my brother, cause we're on a boat

I'm tyin bowlines, and hitches on cleats
I'm eatin oatmeal and spam be cause its so cheap
But I eat in high style, when I spear a fish
Too bad the ciguatera makes my hands and feet itch.

I'm goin back to the burgh, lookin for jobs n'at
And errbodys sayin "ya, good luck with that"
But I got my college degree
And that will come in handy
When im workin at McDees
Makin quarter pounders with cheese

I'm on a boat and
It's goin slow and
Im wrapped up in my grandmother's homemade afghan
Ya my sails aren't fast
Thats ok with me
Give you time to work on that
US economy.

Look at me I'm on a boat with my brother,
A 36 sloop with a red sail cover,
Hey, there goes a whale, and there goes another,
When the wind opposes the current, the sea gets rougher.

Hey ma if you could see me now
I call the right side the starboard and the front the bow
Gonna sail this boat to New Bern somehow,
If we can do that, anything is possible.

Ya, I never thought I would be on a boat,
And I really dont mean to gloat,
But the Bahamas sure were sweet.
No, I never thought I'd see the day,
With the east coast comin my way
Believe me when I say, that days a good day.

I'm on a boat, on a sail boat
Take a good hard look at my mother's father's boat.
I'm on a boat, on a sail boat
Take a good hard look at my mother's father's boat.

I hope I have some big names in the music industry in my expansive reader base, I 'm thinkin this could get pretty big. I wrote some of that after being up for a long time on the crossing, you may be able to guess which ones, hah.

So that is the kind of stuff I think about when my mind is free to wander, and I could go on for ages longer if I listed all the crap that goes through my head. So other than zoning out, I mostly just enjoyed the ocean and the sky around me. On the way out of the islands, a couple porpoise were playing on our bow, doing flips and zig zaggin around on our bow wave, it was pretty awesome, they stuck around for a good 15 minutes. And I am relatively certian that I almost witnessed the end of the world in the middle of the night. I was watching the night sky, which is absolutely spectacular when you are in the middle of the ocean, and watching the satelites go by, the occasional shooting star. And then I saw a particularly bright shooting star, and it got brighter, and brighter, and then grew to an intense bright white streak and exploded with a burst of light that filled up the night sky like a supercharged bolt of lightening, it was such an impressive sight that I stood up and gawked, noticing that there was a white smokey streak left in the sky where it had been. It was a little scary. But we made it, cleared customs, and are now chilling out enjoying the American soil with a trip to the Kennedy Space Center and Wal Mart to renew our pride in our nation. It should just be 3 weeks or so now till we are back in New Bern, feel free to give me a call any time, its good to be back and I would love to chat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sandpiper going wing and wing into her last Bahamian sunset
Our escort out of the islands.
The sun sets on the Bahamas...

And rises on the United States.
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Back in the US?

Well dont I feel dumb, I am now in the northern cays of the Abacos, and again, I thought I was going to get a chance to post on here before we left Green Turtle Cay, but their entire internet was down and a little after we left the entire island lost power, alas, that is how it goes in the Bahamas. So I guess we are going to have to do the crossing by ourselves since I didnt get that last post out in time, I am sure a lot of you are disappointed you missed that opportunity...  Anyway, we are sitting in Angelfish Point right now to wait out a front, and it just passed right over us. The lightening was amazing, that was one thing that I really missed down here, we never had any thunderstorms since I got down here, and tonight was the first lightening I had seen in months and it sure came in strong, when I was out watching there was not a single moment for the entire time that the sky was not lit up somewhere by a lightening strike. Sitting in a little secluded spot with a 50 foot metal pole just asking to be hit is a little disconcerting, but the storm was pretty incredible. I take back what I said about the Abacos, I really just wanted to say "Abacos shmabacos" they really were never bad, and they only got better as we went along. Hopetown and Man-O-War were especially nice.
    So, by the time I get this on my blog I will probably be back in the US, how exciting is that? Feel free to give me a call, right now, because I am in the United States of America and would be thrilled to talk to you! Ok, I am not really. Not right now. But it feels good to say it, and when you read this I will be... so... I guess I can say that. Allright, we head out to Great Sale in the morning, the last stop in our journey home!

It's Dive O'clock Somewhere

  Well, I thought I was sill going to be in Man-O-War Cay for the 10th and I would be able to post my last entry before we left, but we decided to head out to Hopetown in the morning. The trip was only about 5 miles, but it was directly upwind, and with such a short sail and great weather, Mark and I decided to tack our way upwind under only sail. We about doubled the time and distance of the trip, but it was satisfying, we sailed right up onto our anchor without running the motor at all. Once in Hopetown we did a little exploring, it is a typical Abacos town, with brightly colored houses, a beautiful pink sandy beach on the ocean side, little shops on every corner. A unique aspect of the town was the lighthouse which it operates. It is a 100 year old lighthouse, and it still runs the way it did the day it was built.We asked the keeper if we could come at dusk to help (read: hinder) him when he lights it, and he was glad to have us. So that made 4 little girls and 7 adults, everyone from Sandpiper, Gottalife, Bird, and Casa Mare, crowded into the little light room at the top of the lighthouse. The light is powered by kerosene and can be seen from 17 miles away, I was expecting some grand torchy gizmo that would impress and amaze me, but when we got up there... it was just a... kerosene lamp, just like a coleman lantern, a little wire mesh bubble where the gas burns, which amazed and impressed me in the opposite fashion that I was hoping for. The light is concentrated by Freznel lenses, made by Freznel himself I believe, and there were 5 sections, like gigantic magnifying glasses, on a track that goes around the light. The keeper lit the kerosene, and we then took turns turning the handle that lifts a 1200 lb weight, which turns the lenses as it lowers. It was pretty amazing to see, and then to go back to the boat and watch the beams of light that we just helped create.
    The 10th of April was also my deathday, and in honor of that, I bought everyone ice cream cones and made a delightful hogfish dinner from the fish I caught the day before, and a strawberry cake with fudge icing. It was a good deathday. Geneva informed me that one of the ghosts in Harry Potter also celebrates his death day, so I think that is enough to legitimize its celebration.
    We are now in Green Turtle Cay, and we are mere days away from making the crossing to the states. We are going to be hopping from Great Sail to Cape Canaveral, it will be somewhere around a 36 hour sail, and with just Mark and I on board it wont exactly be fun, we will handle it just fine, just not fun. So... if you want to fly to the Bahamas for a thrilling sailing experience, and you know how to read a compass, you are welcome on Sandpiper, just be here by Thursday, we will have you back in the states (you too can feel cool by calling it "the states" while you are here) by Sunday. The closer we get, the more excited I am to get home, just the fact that I will be able to talk on my cell phones is enough. We are currently waiting for a little front to blow through, and after that we have a small window on Thursday, hopefully big enough, though we might have to wait till Sunday, but regardless, we will be back soon, and after that we will be making pretty god time on the way home. On the way down we were traveling in the winter so the days were shorter, now the days are getting longer and we have more travel time, which is all that really limits us when we are going up the ICW. We will also hopefully be making some hops on the outside, the Gulf stream goes north, so we can go out and ride that to get over some of the bad spots in the ICW, like the bridge filled Florida and the endless winding in Georgia. We should be back in a month or so from our start on the ICW, so sometime mid to late May, depending on when we get our weather window.
    I will be getting around the country quite a bit when we get back, and I am thinking about buying a car, though I have not put much thought into it yet, but if anyone has a car they are thinking about selling, or knows anyone who is, or just has some general advice about buying a car these days, you should let me know. I dont know if the crap going on with GM will lead to some good deals or if it would be bad to buy from them? Maybe I will just hitchhike to get around. Anyone going to be in the North Carolina area around the middle of May? Hah, if so, maybe I will catch a ride with you wherever you are going.

Abacos Shmabacos

    We have made our way up to the Abacos Islands, our final destination before we make the crossing back to the US. We have been to a few spots through the islands, and it is all beautiful, but we have heard so many good things about it and I have to say, I am disappointed. The Exumas exemplified what I was expecting in the Bahamas very closely, and after that, the Abacos are a little disappointing. It is very built up here, this is a popular destination for yachts to come, being so close to the US. Don't get me wrong, the islands are beautiful, but we have not yet found a place to go get lost in the wilderness without the invasion of civilization. A good example of this fact is that I am sitting out anchored in the middle of a bay off of Man-O-War Cay, and I get a random wi fi signal that I can connect to. This isnt all bad though, we just experienced the world famous cinnamon rolls in Treasure Cay, we had them for breakfast 2 days in a row, and today we went into town after dinner for an ice cream dessert, so civilization has its plusses.

    The diving here is beautiful, we had a great day when anchored at Royal Island and came back with a boat full of fish, notably 2 big hog fish and a tiger grouper. The hog fish are touted as some of the best tasting in the Bahamas, and it certainly was delicious. We even used its reputation to our advantage, scoring a shooter for the spear I found as a trade for a hogfish fillet, and someone else let us borrow a spear, they called us the next day saying the lionfish and hogfish we gave them was the best fish they have had yet in the Bahamas. But dont tell anyone, it is illegal to buy sell or trade goods or services in the Bahamas without paying proper duties, we have heard that about 1000 times. One bad thing about the reefs being so full of life is that the prolific life brings prolific predators. At the reefs we dove today, I had to abandon a grouper I shot and was trying to pry out of his hole because a shark came snooping, and later a couple baracuda chasing after me turned into 6, then 8, then 14, then 17 barracuda faces  looking in at  me from all directions, it was pretty intimidating, and when I gave up on the hunting because of them and headed back to the boat, a big ol shark came moseying by as well. With just one day left until I make it to one entire year of being alive, I decided to play it safe and call it a day.

    Today is April 10th, on this day last year I got into a car accident that nearly took my life, or rather, very briefly did take my life, and here I am a year later living the good life in the Bahamas with nothing but a couple scars and a deeper appreciation for my friends and family to remind me of it. So I decided that I would call today my deathday, just a couple weeks after my birthday, and instead of getting things from people, today I would give to people, just because so many people helped me on this day last year, and hey, I got some money out of the whole deal, what better way to spend it. So, if you would like, come on down to the Bahamas and I will buy you a drink and make you a delicious hogfish dinner.

    Turns out we are going to be back in the states sooner than we thought, we are planning on crossing some time after the 15th of April, and will be back in New Bern a month after we cross, that is unless we just decide to hop on a plane as soon as we get to Florida and leave Sandpiper on a mooring somewhere. It is crazy how many derelict boats you see, there are some in just about every mooring field we come across, I want to know what the deal is with that, when can you legally just take one of those boats? Now that we are sailing again, I have a lot of free time, I mean, not that I didnt have free time before, I guess my mind has a lot of free time now, the task of sitting behind the helm not being very mentally taxing, anyway, I have been using that time to do important things like memorize the phonetic alphabet, write sappy poetry, I am sure that my posts will involve a lot more random stuff, like I wrote a remake of the I'm on a Boat song, look for that later

Thursday, April 2, 2009

William Trubridge

Sitting here in Nassau affords me the ability to do things like watch videos online. I met this guy William in Long Island, I actually went to the blue hole where he is diving with him and talked to him about it a little bit. He set the world record free dive, and he told me to watch his youtube video, and it is pretty cool, so here it is

3-30 Manana Iguana

We have made our way up to Allens Cay, one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting from the beginning. Before we got here we stopped in Norman's Cay, which used to be a stronghold for drug trafficking, but now is known mostly for the one bar on the island, Macduffs. It was less cool than I was hoping, but the diving around the Cay was great, Mark even got a grouper and 3 lobster, his first real kills of the trip. We are trying to keep our seafood intake down because of the ciguatera, but it is tough when that is your only source of meat aside from canned hamburger that looks like it is from 1846. Wherever we go, when people hear that we have ciguatera, we are instantly the topic of conversation, like at Macduffs, we got all kinds of questions and advice, like "dude, that sucks, you know you have that for life right? that sucks", and lots of helpful stuff like that. So we give most of the fish to Gottalife, its hard to resist a few bites when its sitting in front of you though, and we decided that lobster is ok to eat... and its pretty much gone anyway, might as well live it up right?
We are now at Allens, after a day of all motor and no sails due to an uncharacteristic day of no wind. The thing that makes Allens famous is that the islands are inhabited by iguanas, hundreds of iguanas. Tourists always feed them, so when you go to the beach they come pouring out of the woods, right up to you. It is a little intimidating, especially after hearing stories of people being bit and how aggressive they are. I cut up some Siggy meat to feed then and they were all about it, I started a few fights which is always fun, a hoard of iguanas would scurry and fight trying to get to the meat whenever I threw it. But when I ran out they were unhappy, I was sitting on the beach, having what I thought was a polite conversation with one of them when he decided that my toe might be a tasty treat and he gave me a little nibble. It was an interesting experience.

3-28 I've Got a Fever

Now on our way back up the Exuma chain, we get to go through all the spots where we just passed through a couple weeks ago, which means that everyone already has an impression of us, which is usually a good thing, but sometimes... its a bad thing, like in the particular anchorage in which we are currently anchored. There is a boat that stays on a mooring and coordinates the anchorage, and we came in and were about to anchor and she gets on and starts telling us we cant drop anchor there and starts telling us to go to the left of the anchorage, we insist on cardinal directions, and we finally get to a place she was ok with. Right after all this Priority calls us on the radio just to bust our chops about the transaction we just had, during which I called the lady "the mooring Nazi", and it turns out she was listening... and then a couple days later, completely unexpectedly, the park volunteer guy takes us back to the boat on his dinghy after a hard days work and a few room temperature beers, and he picks up who else but the mooring nazis, so I was profusely apologizing, it was just the kind of situation that leaves you never wanting to have to face the people again, and, well, here I am. I called them on my way in to make sure there were no hard feelings, jokingly... kind of...
I got in the water again for the first time since the day I got Siggy (thats what we named the monster amberjack that gave us ciguatera), and it was kind of crazy having that tingling sensation all over, but it wasnt bad, and I speared 3 decent snapper, so its all good. We also went to Rachael's bubble bath, which is a kind of pond in Compass Cay that is right by the shore but totally protected except one cut in the rock where the waves are funneled through and 15 foot surges come crashing into the pond, causing a wave to go through the whole thing and filling it with bubbles, its kind of like a wavepool with bubbles, it was pretty cool.
Ok, this post has been kind of boring, I will throw some sharks in to spice things up now. We went down to Pipe Cay again, which we touted as the best diving we had seen when we went before, and it held up to our standards, we came back with a bucket full of 6 fish, one of them a good 12 pound snapper Brian bagged. So we were all sitting around in the dinghys preparing to fillet our fish, not getting anything in the water, and sharks start circling, I have no idea how they knew, but they did. We started into the fish, cleaning fish goo off our hands in the water and things like that, and the sharks come up right underneath us, skimming the surface, there are 3 of them, a couple around 6 feet and one good 9 footer, lemon sharks I think. So I start taunting them, holding my hand in the water until the last second, so they surface right next to the dinghy and at first I wanted to touch one, which I did, but then I decided I want to grab one, and one of them came after my hand, and when it got close, I grabbed its dorsal fin and lifted it up out of the water and it started thrashing, it didnt like that very much, and then shot off when I let go, it was pretty awesome. My next goal was to hug one, but regrettably we were done with the fish and had to quit, so I never accomplished that goal.
We obviously see a lot of boats down here, so we try to find the best names that we can, and try to think of new ones. Sometimes a key part of a boat name is what you could name your dinghy, something that goes well with the boats name, that would sound good when you are calling it over the radio, for instance, our friends on More Cowbell named their dinghy Tink, so they would be on the radio saying "Tink Tink Tink, More Cowbell". Well the name I thought has the most potential for a spectacular dinghy name is a boat called "Thats What She Said", but I have not thought of a suitable dinghy name for it yet, so you all should try to think of a good dinghy name for a boat called Thats What She Said. I will send the winning entry an awesome Bahamian Prize, and if its good enough, maybe I will use the name for my first boat, which I guess I plan on doing some time, buying a boat, its an intriguing lifestyle, and plus when I get older there is a summer camp just for old people with boats.


I am sitting at a public computer at the Atlantis resort in Nassau, just thought I would put up a quick update. This place is absolutely gorgeous, every nook and cranny has some bit of extravagance built in. We spent yesterday in the waterpark, where they do things like take a crazy waterslide and then send it through a shark tank just to give it that touch of extraordinary, although you are going so fast you cant even see the sharks as you fly through. We spent the evening perusing the shops and restaurants around the resort, I splurged on some Ben and Jerrys, it was worth every penny.... $10 for an ice cream cone, ridiculous. I am staying in the Atlantis marina with Gottalife, and we are preparing for todays resort adventures, I will hopefully be back later with a couple posts I have written.