Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

November 1

For those of you who have been watching the weather, you may have heard that Tropical Storm Noel came near to Florida today.  In fact, by this evening it was upgraded to a hurricaine.  But don't worry about us.  First of all, the "storm" was nothing more than a fairly windy day down here.  I understand there have been some pretty big waves causing beach erosion, but we are safely tucked away several miles up a river and in a neighborhood canal.  Parked here, there wasn't even enough wind on deck to get the wind generator spinning.

   This fact led me to conclude this morning that it would be a good time to get lifted to the top of the mast to install a new wind indicator instrument.  (Replacing the one that got broken off by that f-ing bridge back by Cape Canaveral.)  So up I went, only to notice that it was definitely a bit windier 65 feet above ground level.  In fact, once the instrument was plugged in, it started registering gusts of 20 knots. 

   Now, even with calm winds below, 20 knots is enough to get the mast moving, so it ended up being a little wilder ride than I would have liked.  But I did manage to get everything repaired up there and now I have one more story to tell. 



November 3

   Yesterday I hopped a flight to Utah to catch up with Kathleen and Emmett.  We are all visiting our dear friends Nancy & Mohammed in Ogden.  They have a son, Nabeel, who is Emmett's age and the two of them have been nonstop play machines from sunrise to sunset as best as I can tell.  The two of them are still clearly all sugared up from Halloween.  Kathleen seems, remarkably, no worse for wear after a few days of single parenting.

   Tomorrow I will strive to learn the secret to Nancy's sourdough pancake recipie and then steal a bit of her sourdough starter to bring back to Uliad. 



November 8


   I never used to care for Las Vegas, but I have to admit, that I've come to kind of like it.  I know I shouldn't.  I don't much care for gambling, smoking, crowds, or that incessant nosie from the slot machines.  Nor do I take any great pleasure in burlesque shows, Elvis impersonators, or Celine Dion.  So what's there for me to like about Vegas?

   I guess I've come to appreciate the honesty of the place.  Vegas is what it is, it doesn't try to be any thing else, and lots of people seem happy with that.  I was thinking this as I walked downt the strip last night.  The gentlemen walked past dressed in their fanciest jeans and untucked shirts.  Women were wearing just about anything just as long as it was tight.  And sparkly.  Couples walked arm in arm, the neon lights flickering above, and everyone looked happy to be there.

  Contrast that to America's other great vacation city, Orlando, which we visited again last summer.  Families stumbled like zombies around the so called "Happiest Place on Earth" with expressions on their face looking anything but happy.  But in Vegas, the fantasy just seems to work better.  Vegas knows that it is a seedy, overpriced spectacle and doesn't pretend to be anything else, while Disneyworld pretends to be a perfect alternative universe.  And when you start to get fatigued, and cranky after too much Disney-life, it only causes further irritation to realize that this is all the joy you're going to get from your hundred-dollar park pass today.  That same feeling in Las Vegas is just a reason to double down and order another Red Bull. 

   So I've come to appreciate Las Vegas for what she is and after coming here again this year to teach another medical conference, I'm starting to find my own fun things to do here.  Number one on my list is dining.  In their constant effort to outdo each other, the casinos have brought some of the greatest culinary talent in the world to their top end restaurants.  The best meal I've ever eaten in my life was my 12 course tasting dinner at Joel Robuchon's Mansion restaurant.  It was a ridiculously ostentatious affair of plate after plate of exotic dishes crafted from things like white truffles and osetria caviar, made into foams and gelees and other fussy kitchen tricks.  It was also the most expensive meal I've ever eaten in my life but it was an amazing sensual experience that I'll not soon forget.  And that's what Las Vegas is all about.  Whether your idea of an amazing sensual experience is a giant dancing fountain, a roller coaster 20 stories above the strip, beautiful young nymphs dancing naked, or whatever, Las Vegas is here to offer it to you. 

   My budget is a little more restricted this year now that I don't have a regular paycheck.  Even an average restaurant bill in this town seems like an extravagance.  I was a little downhearted to realize that Joel Robuchon wont be cooking for me this year.

   Nonetheless, I'm still managing to enjoy a few good meals, and taking some entertainment.  I'm having a great time in Vegas, even though I probably shouldn't. But then, that's what the lure of Las Vegas is all about anyway:  enjoying something you shouldn't...right?



November 10


   My seminar I taught here in Las Vegas went well and now I'm getting packed up and ready to go tomorrow.  Kathleen and Emmett are also flying back to the boat a few hours ahead of me from Salt Lake City.  Then the plan will be to shop for a whole mess of groceries (we call them provisions on a boat) and get ready to head for the Bahamas.

   The 60 miles of water between Florida and the Bahamas can be frighteningly rough if the wind blows opposite the Gulf Stream.  And sure enough, right now it looks like there is a good breeze blowing one direction while the stream goes the opposite.  The result is short, steep waves 6-8 feet high and sure to get us all to barfing and making a huge mess of all those groceries we just bought.  So we'll be keeping a close watch on that and getting ready for the first good calm spot we see in the weather to get out of Florida.  Wish us luck! 

   I went to see the Cirque du Soleil's show "Zoomanity" while in Vegas.  Kath, Emmett and I saw a Cirque show in Orlando last summer and we all loved it.  Since I'm here without kid this time, I thought I'd see the "sensual" version of a Cirque do Soleil show this time.  It was basically very similar acrobatics except in bikinis and g-strings instead of leotards.  Nonetheless still very entertaining.

  If you've ever watched a gymnast, a contortionist, a ballet dancer, or even a wrestling match and found the whole perfomance vaguely sexual...and wondered what it might look like more obviously so...then Zoomanity is the show for you. 



November 12

   My flight back to Ft. Lauderdale turned out to be quite an ordeal.   I was supposed to fly out at 4pm, but the flight was late getting in.  Then there was some sort of problem with the navigation system on the plane that had to be repaired.  The gate crew updated us all every 15 minutes, which usually consisted of the statement: "We still don't know how long it will be...we're hoping to be done soon and start boarding...we will keep updating you every 15 minutes."

   The bald guy in the row in front of me started twitching.  "If we don't get there tonight, our cruise will be ruined!" he complained to nobody in particular.  Another guy with a fancy cell phone began furiously pressing buttons to call up alternate flight routes.  Yet a third anxious passenger began interpreting the movements of the shadows in the cockpit window.  He finally declared the flight a total loss.  The shadows were not moving in an encouraging way.  Mr. Cell phone reserved another flight (to Charlotte, NC of all places).

   But despite the gloomy mood, the repair was made and we all boarded.  That is, all of us except Mr Fancy Cell Phone who had to wait a moment to cancel his Charlotte flight before boarding.   But the saga continues.  After pulling away from the gate and out to the runway, the Captain came over the loudspeaker and announced a problem with the "thrust reverser" and regretted to say that we'd have to go back to the gate and call the jet repairman again. 

   At this moment, a long haired heavy set guy with a tank top and a Nascar hat sitting directly in front of me began shouting obscenities.  And I do me shouting.  We were in the back of the plane.  He wanted to make sure the Captain could hear just how he felt.  With great oaths, he promised never to fly US Air again.  But based upon his overall appearance and seating position, I deduced that he was not exactly a platinum frequent flyer member or anything.

   Anyhow, we sat at the gate for a while longer, only to eventually be asked to deplane...and soon thereafter it was announced that we should all move down to a new gate where a new and healthier plane waited for us.  We all got onboard and even the most stressed out passengers seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief.  (The cruise is saved!)  Then, I kid you not, the very embarassed Captain gets on the speaker once again to tell us that this plane also has a problem with its navigation system and we'd be calling the repair man again.

   My friend in the seat in front of me immediately launched into a new round of expletives.  I was very glad Emmett wasn't flying with me.  "It has been 8 hours since I've had a smoke!!" He screamed to anyone who might be sympathetic.  Aah.  Now I understood why he was so disagreeable.

  Only two minutes later the flight attendant came out to tell us all to sit down and buckle up because the plane was ready to go.   Throughout this whole fiasco, I was having a grand time reading the newspaper, listening to my Ipod, and just watching all my fellow passengers make spectacles of themselves.  I've always said, if you really want to get to know someone's true with them.  At first, I wondered why people invested so much stress in a situation that was really completely out of their hands.  Why not sit back, read a book, and enjoy the fact that you have a quiet moment to do so.  Why not be thankful that a mechanical problem was found and fixed BEFORE we were all up in the air?

   But then, I've been the stressed out passenger, too.  I've been fuming in a terminal, checking my watch every 2 minutes, and worrying about the 30 patient on my schedule tomorrow.  I've been the guy running down to the car rental counter after my flight was cancelled to drive the last hundred miles home.  I wondered who might have been watching me with bemusement back then.

  So as the plane finally took off 5 hours late, I was having these thoughts about how this sailing life was teaching me lessons.  About priorities, and letting go of the time pressures, and allowing oneself to remain passive when no activity will help anyway.  And you know, it really was a pretty nice flight.  I got a lot of good reading in. 



November 13

Reunited with Kathleen and Emmett, we set out to make our final preparations to leave for the Bahamas.  We had been frightened by reports of $10 gallons of milk in the Bahamas, and resolved to pack as much food as we could onboard before we leave.  The next good country to provision in on our trip will be the Dominican Republic, which is a good 3 months away, so that's alot of milk to store.

   The obvious place for this kind of shopping is Costco, where you can find extremely large boxes of food at extremely low prices.  We spent about an hour filling up two carts with $1008.47 worth of provisions.  Which officially makes that my most expensive grocery shopping trip ever.  The next monumental task was to find room in our little rental car to haul it back to the boat.  See photo below documenting our success.  Then we had to find places on the boat to put all that food.  So Kathleen set herself to discovering and exploiting every last nook and cranny she could find and stuffed them all with our provisions.  Then, so as not to lose anything, she organized multiple storage lists to keep track of where everything was.

  With that job done...we're almost ready to go.  The one final thing on the list was to take the boat to a marina, lift it up out of the water, and put on the newly refurbished propeller that was taken off in Annapolis and shipped back to the manufacturer in Seattle.  We got to the marina only to find them backed up by hours.  We ended up being hauled out at 4pm instead of 1 as scheduled.  Which actually turned out good for us.  Since 4pm was quitting time for the yard staff, the yard offered to keep us up in the slings overnight and put us back in the water in the morning.  This gave me time to change a through-hull fitting and touch up the paint on the bottom of the hull in a few places that had (ahem) been mysteriously rubbed off.  Then I took muriatic acid to the line of sludge that was starting to build up along the waterline of Uliad.  All work was done and I felt like quite the proud Captain as we motored back to our usual slip for one last day of packing.

$1000 worth of groceries




November 14

As the boat projects get completed, our thoughts are turning toward heading out to sea again.  Our next leg will be to cross the gulf stream to the Bahamas.  This 70 mile stretch of water can get terribly rough in the wrong weather, so it has been my daily routine for this past week to download several weather forecasts.  The gulf stream flows north.  So any wind blowing the opposite direction has the effect of whipping up tall, steep waves.  This has been the situation all week.  Winds out of the north, rough water out in the gulf stream.  But tonight it looks like there will be a brief 24 hour break in that pattern, before it reestablishes itself for at least the next 5 days. 

   We talked it over and have decided to go for it.  It is usually best to sail at night so as to arrive mid-morning in the Bahamas.  Since there are alot of unmarked reefs and shallow spots in the Bahamas, you really need sun overhead to see down into the water and know where the obstacles are.  So the plan is, after looking one last time at the latest forecast, to leave our mooring at about 10pm, and sail to West End, Grand Bahama.  It would be nice to have calmer water than the 2-4 feet waves being predicted.  And the East winds will be right on the nose and we'll probably have to motor most of the way.  But future forecasts only look alot worse.  And to be honest, we're tired of South Florida.  Tired of the noise, the traffic, the crowds.  Kathleen even admitted that after all our provisioning runs in the past week, she's even tired of shopping.

   So off we go.  To sandy beaches, silent but for the winds swaying the  palm trees overhead.  Off to the clear blue warm waters made for snorkeling and exploring.  Off to lonely cays covered by starry night skies undimmed by civilization's light pollution.  A few last cell phone calls and emails--we may be hard to get a hold of from now on-- and we are gone. 



November 15


   The weather guessers turned out to be right on with their forecasts.  We had wind on the nose the whole way across, and seas managable, but a little rougher than we'd like.  We pulled into the Old Bahama Bay marina at West End around 10 am, tied off, shut down the engines, and marvelled at the beauty, peace and silence all around us.  A few forms and $300 was all it took to be welcomed with open arms by the people of the Bahamas.

   After getting our passports stamped, we plugged in the boat to shore power, fired up the air conditioner, and then promptly went to bed and took 3 hour naps after the long night.  By late afternoon, I felt ambitious enough to change the impeller on the generator and give the whole engine room a good checking over.  Emmett took one look at his dirty, sweaty mess of a father and offered to take me swimming at the marina's pool. 

   You'll probably hear me rambling on about the weather alot in the coming months, because so much in the Bahamas depends on the weather.  We decided to stay at the marina tonight because a front is supposed to pass through after midnight bringing 25 knot winds.  There don't appear to be any good anchorages nearby, so the safest place is to stay put right here.  And with the pool, the shore power, and the rum punch at the poolside bar, nobody is complaining.  



November 16

   We made the right choice to pull into a well protected marina.  Around 11pm I was getting ready for bed when it occurred to me that it sounded really windy up above.  So I clicked on the wind indicator to find it was blowing a steady 30-35 knots!  I went up to check the mooring lines and decided that a few needed adjusting.  The crew on the pristine 70 foot yacht next to us then came over to help me tug on a stern line to keep my bow a little further away from the dock.  I thanked the guy, who must have been Australian judging by the way he could say "No worries, mate"  without the least bit of self-awareness that he sounded just like Crocodile Dundee.

   This morning we awoke to find the wind still howling and weather reports for high seas for the next 12 hours or so.  That and the fact that there was a Friday night "Managers Reception" at the beach bar with free hors d'ouvres and drinks was enough to convince us to stay put here for another day.  So I puttered around doing some boat chores while Kath and Emmett did homeschool all morning.  After school, we donned our new wetsuits and tried snorkeling along the beach.  The wind was stirring up the water enough to make the visibility rather poor (for the Bahamas at least) and there were alot of jellyfish about, so we finally retired to the pool and hung out until the reception.

   I declared it our goal to eat and drink enough at the free reception to make up for the $100/night moorage fee.  So promptly at 3:59 pm we sat down and made a meal out of canapes of smoked salmon and creme fraiche, crackers with some sort of chicken curry, BBQ meatballs, and Jerk Chicken.  We then had a taste-off of the two famous Bahamian Cocktails:  it was the Bahama Mama vs. the Goombay Smash.  Kathleen and I both declared the Goombay Smash to be the winner, while Emmett's virgin banana daquiri came in second.  I don't know if we managed to consume a c-note's worth.  But it was fun trying! 



November 17

   Uliad left West End early...well, 9:30 am is pretty early for us these days.  Our original goal was to sail North about 30 miles to a place called White Sand Ridge.  This is a 15 foot deep shoal of sand right next to a deep drop-off into open ocean.  It is also reported to be a place where wild dolphins come and play with scuba divers and snorkellers on a regular basis.  We thought that would be cool.

   Our route took us from open ocean, through a cut and up onto the shallow Little Bahama Bank.  At that point, we realized that the water was going to be too rough, the visiblity too poor, and the time too late.  We could have gone, but that would have meant anchoring in a very exposed location and probably not getting any sleep all night due to the rolling boat.  So Kathleen gave up her dream of swimming with the dolphins for now and we set our course eastward across the Bank.

   There are certain seminal moments in life that are amazing in such a way that words cannot quite capture.  Yet anyone else who has experienced it will simply nod knowingly...things like a first kiss or having a baby.  Crossing onto the Banks is another one of those moments.  You have sailed across the deep blue gulf stream...probably all night.  Then as the morning sun builds its strength, the water begins to change to add greenish hues.  Within a mile the ocean floor rises from a thousand feet to only twenty.  And after being used to the deep water it is hard not to be nervous that you wont run aground.  The color of the water changes to the most amazing swirls of pale blues and greens...each color telling a story to the trained eye about the depth of the water and the bottom that lies beneath.  A Bahamian child grows up on boats, learning to recognize this language of water color.  As a result, the locals have little need for navigation buoys, and the ones that have been placed are frequently neglected or simply absent. 

   We anxiously struggle to learn this new language.  From the bow, we can look through the clear water and see starfish and coral gliding by beneath us.  The shallow sandbars soon stand out in contrast to the safer, deeper waters.

   By sunset, we were still an hour away from our destination, so we anchor in 12 feet of water in the middle of the bank.  In all directions, we can see no land whatsoever.  Yet it is shallow, and relatively calm.  It can be hazardous to travel at night need to be able to read the water.  And as night falls, the artistry of the waters beneath us is replaced by a vast, starry sky made all the more bright by the complete lack of street lights anywhere.  The wind gently blows, the waters lap quietly against the hull, and we start to believe that this is what we've travelled all this way for.



November 20


   There is very little in the way of people across the northern Bahamas.  This suits us just fine for now.  Our first landfall after leaving West End was a deserted patch of mangrove called Big Sale Cay.  Finding no big sales there, we moved on the next day to Carters Cay, where we have been anchored for several days.  This desolate spot is the site of a long since abandoned US missile tracking base.  The Bahamian fisherman come here and camp out in the deserted buildings for a few days at a time then bring their haul of lobster, conch, & fish back home. 

   Em and I went ashore today to wander around the compound--which is quickly falling into ruins and being overgrown by brush.  The fisherman we talked to said that it has been about 15 years since the Americans left the place.  And it keeps falling apart worse with every hurricaine.  He was there fishing with his mother, and after borrowing his Mom's flip flops to protect his bare feet, he gave us the grand tour of the place before going back to his shack.  It looks like a pretty hard life.  No matter how much you get charged for that lobster dinner in the tourist restaurant, I don't think it is the fishermen who are getting rich.

  After that, we motored around in the dinghy and snorkelled over a few coral heads in the lagoon.  We caught a few conch which became tonight's dinner along with glazed carrots and saffron rice.  Fabulous!  I also cought one lobster but it was pretty small and I figured it would just cause fights over who got to eat him.  So back to his hole he went to grow a little more. 

   Part of me wonders how long until we'll go stir crazy out here all alone.  At some point we'll need to find a town, but for now, we have everything we need:  The wind and sun charge the batteries.  We have a full freezer and fridge.  Lots of books.  Good weather.  And the luxury of lots and lots of time to do anything or absolutely nothing.  So after supper we all agreed to stay here at least one more day.

Carters Cay--BahamasEmmett Explores Carter's Cay



November 23



   Thanksgiving Day finds us anchored at a place called Allans-Pensacola Cay.  It was previously two little islands (Allans Cay, and Pensacola Cay) until a few years ago a hurricane came and blew up enough sand to connect the two islands.  What is a poor cartographer to do?  Which name to keep for the now united island?  Our chart labels this place Allans on the north end and Pensacola on the south.  Our Cruising Guidebook hyphenates.  Land changes over geologic time, but this occurs much more quickly in the Bahamas.  Whole areas of the chart are simply labelled 'shifting sandbars' and the mariner is left to use his eyes and his depthsounder to navigate safely.  GPS and electronic charts can only help so much.  At some point, one must pull ones eyes away from the monitor screen and learn to read the depth of the water by its color--very anxiety provoking at first!  But with time and practice, we are growing more comfortable with navigating the way the locals do...the way Columbus looking carefully at the sea.

   This morning we took a pumpkin pie out of the oven, then took the dinghy around to the ocean side of the island and snorkelled on a few coral heads.  I was hoping to find a few lobsters for Thanksgiving dinner.  But some equipment problems with Emmett's mask shortened our trip.  As a result, we pulled out the boneless turkey breast that had been thawing in the fridge.  I grilled it with a spice rub while Kathleen whipped up mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce down below. 

   Around the table we all found so much to be thankful for...time together, safe passages, the incredible beauty of nature around us... and then there were thanks for the things we didn't have...crowded airports or roads, all day football, or tomorrow's hyper-shopping-blitz.  It was truly a Thanksgiving Day to remember. 

   On our way back from snorkelling, a catamaran and a trawler came into the bay and anchored.  The fellow from the catamaran dingied over to introduce himself.  He had sailed here alone from north Florida and we were the first people he had talked to for a couple weeks.  It occurred to me that we had talked to only one fisherman ourselves in the past week, so we invited "the neighbors" over in the evening for pumpking pie and a drink.  Emmett must have been ready to have someone else to talk to besides his parents, because he was bouncing off the wall all evening waiting for our guest to arrive.  Both boats' occupants had been cruising the Caribbean for many years, and oh, the stories they could tell.  What a bunch of characters!  We had a good chat for hours, and finally sent them off well past bedtime.  Tomorrow night the couple on the trawler insisted we visit their boat, while the catamaran singlehander was planning to move on.  Such is the cruising life...everyone keeps coming and going.



November  23


   I woke up this morning and poured a glass of ice water...what a blessing cold water can be on a hot tropical day.  When we first oved aboard, Kathleen was very upset at the taste of the water coming out of our tanks.  "Well, the reason it tastes like a rubber hose", I explained, "is that it came onboard through a rubber hose."  I had visions of a dozen cases of Dasani or Perrier being packed aboard.  But as we moved out of the harbor into clean ocean waters we started filling the tanks with water from our desalinator.  One look into the crystal clear waters beneath us and you can see that, but for the salt, this is good, clean water.  The water maker pushes this water through two filters, then through a special membrane that allows fresh water through, but blocks salt.  The result is clean, fresh water at a rate of about 20 gallons per hour.   Run the machine for an hour or two a day and we have all we need.

   Uliad seems to be coming into her own in the past week.  After a long series of fiascos last month, it would appear that everything onboard that was not up to the voyage has already broken...everything else seems to be doing fine.  At Thanksgiving, it occurred to me that one thing I had to be thankful for was that I had not had to fix anything for nearly a week!.

    You might think that the more you use stuff on a boat, the more things will break; but in fact the opposite is true.  Boats like to be used.  Leave one sit for too long and bad things start happening.  Every time you turn on the electrical circuts, it heats the wires and connections just enough to get rid of any moisture and condensation that might otherwise start corrosion.  A diesel engine, run regularly and maintained properly, will run almost forever.  The toilets, when flushed multiple times per day, no longer have the off odors they did when we first moved aboard.  And the water no longer has a funny taste to it.  Which is good, because we ran out of the Dasani a week ago.



November 25


  For the past two days, we have been anchored off Green Turtle Cay.  There is a little village here...our first contact with civilization (such as it may be) in 8 days.  I thought we might be itching to get off the boat after arriving, but in fact, we dropped the anchor Saturday afternoon, went for a swim, and then relaxed on board the rest of the evening.  We had a nice dinner and watched an amazingly bright full moon rise over the cay.  It was so bright, we could look at the starfish and sea urchins on the sea floor beneath us by the moonlight!

   The solitude of the northern Bahamas was just magical, and in a way, I think each of us did not want it to end.  By Sunday afternoon, Emmett and I come ashore and wander around the little town here.   A friendly dog soon gives up chewing on a cardboard box to escort us through the quiet streets.  Most folks travel around here by golf cart.  The occasional pickup truck has a difficult time turning sharply enough to turn a corner on the narrow streets.

   Even the local constable drives by in a golf cart...complete with a little blue light on top.  Do you think there are many speeding tickets issued in a village full of golf carts?  Don't they all basically have two speeds:  go and stop?  Emmett notices that the local volunteer fire department at Green Turtle Cay has a turtle stenciled on it's station.  Not very comforting a logo if your house is on fire.

   Everything moves slow in the islands.  The midday sun conspires to keep it so.  Soon we wander upon a small ice cream shop.  It is a sliding glass window on the side of someone's home.  but the window is open and there is ice cream inside, so we investigate and are soon sitting in a shady spot, each with a cone dripping down our fingers.

   Several blocks later and our wanderlust has been quenched.  The Caribbean sun has a way of beating any ambition right out of you.  We find our way back to the dinghy and out of the harbor.  Our friend Jack, whom we met a few days earlier at Allan's Cay is anchored here now too.  We putter by and stop for a chat before heading back to Uliad.  Enough for one day, we all agree.



November 26


   We seem to have settled into a routine on board.  I wake up a little before 7am when the morning sun begins streaming in through the windows.  I check the morning weather reports, then Em and Kathleen soon start stirring for breakfast.  After breakfast, one of us starts school with Emmett, while the other gets a few boat chores done: cleaning, repairs, laundry, making water, charging batteries, etc.  School, chores, and lunch are usually finished by 1pm or so.  Then comes snorkeling, hiking, or otherwise exploring wherever it is we might be that day.  If we are "at sea". then it is reading, playing games, or just hanging out on the boat somewhere.  Emmett has taken to reading books by himself at times like these, which makes his parents very proud.  Some days he spontaneously comes up with an idea and spends hours on some creative project:  Last week he made a garage for his Hot Wheels cars out of tape and paper.  Yesterday he drew a giant collage of his favorite toy characters from four sheets of paper taped together.  He certainly has an artsy flair!

   Today after our afternoon swim, we decided to go to town for dinner.  We stopped at "Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar", conveniently located across the street from the local playground.  Emmett charged off to (finally!) go play with other kids, while Mom & Dad sat at a table out front enjoying a cold drink.  What a perfect setup!

   The kids here play the way Kath and I remembered playing when we were kids:  you take off to be with your friends, played whatever games you could think up.  The only rule seemed to be to be back in time for supper.  (We noted several parents whose children did not follow this rule coming over in thier golf cart to fetch them!)  The point being, there was no soccer league or scheduled play date or other sort of adult organized safe activity set up.  Kids were just turned loose to be kids...which seemed nostalgic and strangely reassuring to see. 

   Now the Blue Bee Bar hypes itself as the original creator of the "Goombay Smash".  This drink is something like a pina colada, only more intoxicating.  So Kathleen and I couldn't help but sample the original recipie while we watched the kids play.  Jack came by and we had a good chat with him, and eventually we got around to ordering some food as well.  With two Goombay Smashes in my belly, I was still able to find our boat in the dark...but I'm not sure I would have wanted to try it with three.  Now I know what the cop in the golf cart does...I think he keeps himself busy pulling over tourists in thier rental carts who try to drive home after one too many Goombay Smashes! 

The Blue Bee Bar, home of the Goombay Smash!


November 27


  We had planned to leave Green Turtle Cay this morning and sail down to Marsh Harbor.  At 7am I was up, listening to the weather forecasts.  At 8:15 came the cruisers Net on VHF radio with the condition report of the ocean passes.  To get to where we were going involves exiting the Sea of Abaco into open ocean.  Then after about a one mile run south east, you duck back into another cut and you're in protected waters again.   Sounds pretty simple in theory, but these narrow passes move a tremendous amount of water in and out with the tides.  And just off the eastern edge of the islands here, the water plunges from 20 feet to about 2000 feet in a very short distance.  Large ocean waves roll unimpeded all the way across the Atlantic from Africa and the first thing they run into with all that energy is that underwater cliff that I was just talking about. 

   So crossing on or off the Bahamian bank's East side is never something to be taken casually.  It can be a pleasant sunny day a few miles inland while huge breakers and currents rage in the cut.  Same cut, different time, and it can be as placid a water as anyplace else.

   I had been considering all this and planning carefully for our Whale Cay cut passage.  This morning, the stars were all aligned.  The wind was absolutely calm.  The weather reports did not threaten any significant ocean swell.  The tides were right.  I scurried about trying to make ready.  Several other boats had noticed the same conditions and raised anchor around us.

   Only problem was, those two drinks from last night hadn't finished working their way through my wife's system yet.  She awoke with the feeling that something (a Goombay?) was smashing her skull against the pillow.  She had a look of seasickness about her despite the calm waters around.  "Maybe a couple Tylenol and some water?" I suggested hopefully.  30 minutes later, she looked a little less likely to vomit, but no more likely to come up on deck and help sail the boat. 

   Emmett and I did his homeschool lesson, waiting to see if Mom would emerge anytime soon.  Finally about an hour later, Kath let it be known that A. I was welcome to sail if I wanted, but she would not be of any help.  B: If it starts getting rough in that cut, she would make a point of directing her barf toward my side of the bed.  and C: She would not be drinking any more Goombay Smashes any time soon.

   So we stayed here today.  And spoke very quietly.  Like all good hangovers, this one went away in time to salvage the latter half of the day, which we each spent reading and generally lounging about.  We had a nice spaghetti dinner on board with the last of our fresh milk to drink.  As for the Whale Cay passage, there's always tomorrow. 



November 29

   Our trip through the Whale Cay passage proceeded quite uneventfully.  We motored through calm seas all the way around.  After stopping at a little rock surrounded by sand for a swim and lunch, we sailed on to Marsh Harbor.  This is the main town in this area, complete with a traffic light.  More importantly for us, there is a big supermarket and a hardware store here.  We're hoping to do our final provisioning and supply runs here, then avoid having to stop in Nassau on our way south.  Nassau is a true city, complete with sprawl and crime and pollution and crowds.  Every cruiser we talk to tells us to avoid it unless you have to.  As long as I can find another jar of mayonnaise and some fresh vegetables here, then we won't have to.  Marsh Harbor is probably not much bigger than the town of 1,500 people that I grew up in.  But after the last two weeks of solitude, even this little hamlet seems like a whirlwind of activity.  Why are there so many cars!  Where could they all be going in such a hurry?

   I'll admit that I haven't really learned to slow down yet myself.  At least not on a consistent basis.  After arriving in Marsh Harbor yesterday, I set to writing up my shopping list and scouting out the retail landscape. Then back to town on bicycle this morning with my list of 8 items.  After bringing back 6 of them (a big success for island shopping!), Emmett wanted to go for a bike ride, so back to shore we went...this time picking out a new snorkel for him and some postcards.

   By mid afternoon I was ready to go back for the groceries and starting to talk about where we would go to anchor tomorrow.  Kathleen had by now come down with a mild case of diarrhea and was in no mood to go anywhere.  "Perhaps this is phase 3 of the Goombay Smash," I postulated.  Kathleen was not appreciative of my diagnosis.  But Emmett now finds it hilarious that Mom had a hangover.  This has been reinforced by finding cans of "Bahamas Goombay Punch" for sale right next to the Coke.  It is in fact a sugarey-pineappley sort of soda, and Emmett loves that he can drink it and harass his Mother who doesn't want to hear about anything Goombay lately.

   With my 3rd shore excursion cancelled, I started reading.  But after a few minutes, I was getting restless. Soon I was back to sanding the teak decks on Uliad that I have been slowly working on restoring over the past few weeks.  Em and Kathleen seemed perfectly happy to sit in the shade and read books all day.  Why was I not relaxing as well? 

   In the back of my mind, I know this voyage was not just about a change of scenery, but also about changing myself.  About being a little less goal oriented, a little less focused on ticking off the to-do-list.  About being around more.  Sailing, I know, helps me do that.  I have times when I can just be so present in this moment and soak in the beautiful place and appreciate this  quality time  with Emmett & Kath.  And then a day like today comes along and I'm back to my old self--just so darned uncomfortable with being still. 

  "I'm here", I tell myself, "to slow down.  To stop perseverating on fixing a few more people or making a few more dollars before sunset."  "I'm here to have time--to have the ability to lead a life more deliberate--more self examined."  By the time I had finished self-examining, the port side deck was sanded.

   I put the tools away and then, I'm proud to say, took a nap before dinner.  The think about sailing your own boat is, given enough time, you can go almost anywhere.  But it takes time.  "You'll get there, Steve," I tell myself.  "Just be patient.  You'll get there." 


November 30


  Today marks the official last day of Hurricane season for us.  So we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief over that one at least.  We plan to sail over to Hopetown today, which we're hoping is a little more scenic than Marsh Harbor.  The Harbor in Hopetown is a little too shallow for our 6 1/2 foot draft.  So we'll anchor off shore and run in to town in our dinghy.   To cruise the Bahamas you gotta have either a shallow draft boat or a fast dinghy.  I think Emmett is glad we have the latter.  God help us when he's a teenager.

Emmett on bow of dinghy

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