It's been over six months since I've posted and LOTS has happened since my last post. My mom, from Oklahoma, came to visit in Key West and finally got to see Tabula Rasa! We had a wonderful (but too short) visit and she "partied" with us on Duval Street! What an awesome Grammy! She wisely did not travel with us on the dinghy as she still remembers when I overturned the wave runner and dumped her into Lake Freeman! Oops....
December was filled with work and my son, Alex, visiting me briefly for Christmas. My daughter, Catherine, spent the Christmas holidays in Key West on the boat.
January 16, 2015 was my last day of full-time work at IU Arnett Hospital. I miss all of "my peeps" I worked with and can't express how tremendously honored I felt with the amazing send-off parties and well-wishes. I feel very blessed to have worked with such wonderful, caring and talented people!
So now we begin the Real Tabula Rasa Adventure! On January 19 in the wee early hours of the morning I left Monticello, IN with our new crew member, Kitty, to join Scott in Key West aboard our boat. Poor Kitty did not know what was in store for her. The three of us spent the next month preparing to depart and waiting...and waiting...and waiting...for a good weather window to safely travel to Chub Cay, in the Berry Islands. We finally departed at high tide, at 0130 on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. Our new friends, Butch and Francis captured our departure in the daylight hours of the morning. We added fuel (whick took about TWO hours) and headed out into the big blue Atlantic. Our passage took a total of 24+ continuous hours. We had a safe passage and a great sense of accomplishment that we had co-captained successfully to our first stop!
We "checked in" at Chub Cay, a full afternoon process because the Customs and Immigration officer was out to lunch, then had errands, and THEN had to process the 6 person Watermaker Air flight! Welcome to "Island Time". After an early dinner and bedtime we headed out at 0700. Winds had picked up slightly in the marina, but when we hit the channel exit...OMG! Swirling confused seas and 6 ft waves hitting us on the quarter-beam with gusto! The next several hours through the "tongue of the ocean" were rough and rougher seas, but Tabula Rasa handled it beautifully. (Contrary to what Kitty's vet said, cats DO get sea sick! Ugh!)
After a long travel day we were safely anchored at our destination, Highborne Cay. Hooray! The next day we visited the Highborne Cay Marina for lunch. It was simply beautiful...and we really enjoyed a well-deserved Sands Light to celebrate our travels. We visited the "grocery store" at Highborne Cay and I was disappointed by the poor supply. (LOL See later post!) Bahama beer was $85 a case! NO we didn't buy any. We also traveled to Leaf Cay, home to some very big, prehistoric-looking iguanas.
From Highborne Cay, located in the Northern Exumas, we traveled to the Exuma Land and Sea park, landing at Shroud Cay 2/28/2015. The winds were still strong easterlies at 15-20 kts, making hiking or snorkeling impossible, as launching the dinghy would have been very difficult and dangerous in the high winds and rocking seas. So after waiting two days with no relief from the winds we headed south to Hawksbill Cay, also in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Again the winds were not cooperating and we were unable to leave the boat at anchorage, so on March 3 we headed further south to Big Major Spot. We had successfully made it to the Central Exumas!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will say that our time spent at Big Major Spot was really fun. Swimming pigs, James Bond movie sets and the famous Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We visited Staniel Cay, Fowl Cay and Thunderball Grotto After 9 days of travel we arrived at Staniel Cay Yacht Club where we ate, drank and talked with OTHER PEOPLE! We hadn't spoken with another couple in NINE days...WOW! Culture shock for me, but a cruising life I am really embracing. We met lots of interesting people and had wonderful adventures.
After constantly watching our weather window to head further south we departed Big Major Spot 3/7 and anchored off Great Guana Cay at an area known as Little Bay. It was beautiful and private. We traveled by dinghy to the town of Black Point. There are three establishments for eating/drinking and a small food store that was closed until some Canadian cruisers had the owner called to open it. I purchased some onions and limes...Yay! Fresh produce! Again, it was windy and we had to wait for calmer weather.
From Black Point, we found a weather window to meet our friends from Monticello, IN in Georgetown. We stayed for almost 2 weeks and enjoyed some relaxation(us), kayaking (me) and beach exercising (me). Once we picked up our friends the winds were once again becoming obnoxiously strong and prompted us to move to Little Bay anchorage. After our several hour trek we found a perfect anchorage with perfect weather and waters of glasstop smoothness. We enjoyed a wonderful swim and dinner before bedtime, only to awaken to hellacious winds making everyone queasy! Definitely time to move the boat to calmer waters...
We took our Spring Break friends, Randy, Rochelle and Danielle, to Big Majors Spot to see the pigs, snorkel Thunderbolt Grotto and see the nurse sharks swimming the dinghy docks at the Yacht Club. We continued to battle high winds until the ultimate windy night at 3:00am we experienced 51 knot winds!!!! The entire anchorage was awake with boat lights on and chatter on the VHF radio. Sailboats and powerboats were dragging anchor...Several boats moved into open waters and one boat (aka MegaYacht) ended up on Pig Beach!!!! Uh Oh! Can you say "Bad Bad Day". It took two days and two boats to tow the MegaYacht Serque to get $$$repairs$$$. Our trusty Rochna anchor held firm. I love my anchor! Our friends also got to experience the middle-of-the-night "rain dance". This is my term for sleeping soundly with all of the portholes and hatches open (A/C broke the day we left US waters) only to be awakened by buckets of torrential rain pouring upon you...bed linens soaked, inches of water inside the boat and the mad dash to run through the boat closing her up! Usually by the time everything is closed and hot as hell the rain stops! Argh! Our friends' final cruising experience came when we couldn't get them back to Georgetown for their flight home. (OK we COULD have, but I don't call 6-7 foot seas a good option.) Ultimately we scheduled a private charter plane to return them home. We hope our friends had a wonderful time, especially Danielle celebrating her 13th birthday aboard Tabula Rasa.
April 2015, now we are on our last leg of our cruising season. I'm seriously questioning WHY I thought working in Indianapolis June1 was a good idea!?!?!?!? We make it to Little Farmers Cay, as we were told they have a population of 50 people and 5 bars! This is our kind of town! LOL This was a huge favorite of ours and the deserted beaches on the surrounding cays were incredible. In addition, we had a few days of good weather with minimal winds! (Truly unusual during this cruising season!)
From Little Farmers Cay we headed to the Exumas Land and Sea Park, as we had such bad weather earlier we were unable to visit. We visited Shroud Cay where we took our little dinghy via small canals to a hiking trail. We had a wonderful adventure! We hiked Warderick Wells and thoroughly enjoyed the park. The irony of the park is how little fish and and wildlife we actually saw. We truly saw more fish and birds outside of the park boundaries than we saw inside the park...Sad!
Exuma Land and Sea Park
Shroud Cay, Exuma Land and Sea Park
From the Park, we traveled back to Highborne Cay. Funny how my perspective changed, as the little store for provisions suddenly looked like a "great, well-stocked grocery store" after just 6 weeks of travels. HaHa
Our next stop was Eleuthera Island at Settlement Point. Once again, fierce winds kept us from anchoring at our intended spot and we ended up at a nearly deserted anchorage. We had a lovely time visiting Spanish Wells, near Russell Island. We were strictly warned NOT to advertise how lovely this spot was, as no residents wanted any more transient visitors. We thoroughly enjoyed this quaint island, especially Budda's Bar, which Scott is sure to review in his Tiki Bar Review section. Again we waited for a weather window before heading off toward our northern trek toward the USA.
From Eleuthera it was now time to start making our way north. It was so windy we had major issues with making our way to places we had planned. We made our way to Little Harbor, which was my first "cut" I captained through safely. We anchored off a small cay which let us snorkel a beautiful reef in a rare good weather window. We then made our way back to the Abaco Islands and Great Guana Cay. We had a great time at the infamous Nippers and met a real live World Series Champion Minnesota Twins baseball player! We also watched a beautiful yacht burn right into the water...I cried and Scott was perplexed that not ONE firefighter, Bahamian coast guard person or other government official came to its rescue. We had our evening cocktails and prayed our boat would never have the same horrible fate. Better sea and weather conditions then led us to anchor at Green Turtle Cay, a great place indeed. Who knew Tiki Bars had swimming pools?!?! Drink, get hot in sun, dunk in pool, repeat! Awesome indeed! I could've stayed several weeks in this idyllic little cay. Great food, good drinks, friendly people and a lovely anchorage.
We then had to head home via the Bahama Banks. Our original trek to the Bahamas (2014 Cruising Season 1) took us through the Atlantic Ocean to the Abaco Islands. Our return trip would be via the Bahama Banks. We checked and rechecked the weather, yet were tricked one final time. We experienced 5+ foot seas and had to readjust our final route plans to make our way safely to Stuart, FL USA.
Our Last Adventures before returning home...
So in Summary,
What we did RIGHT...
We navigated and anchored as a great team. We were well-provisioned with exactly the right amount of food and dry goods. We made safe and smart decisions on the fly. We had a great amount of fun together. Scott was amazing at fixing things and I was a great captain at the helm.
What went WRONG...
Things Break--and NEVER at the right time. Over 50 knot winds at TWO different anchorage when all FOUR weather sources did NOT predict it!!! I contracted an acute mulit-articular arthritis (probably from some tropical mosquito) that lasted over a week... I then contracted food poisoning back in Stuart FL while our A/C was out and our boat temp was over 90 degrees.
For the FUTURE...
If you ask me, I'll tell you I would live on our boat forever, traveling the world. If you ask Scott, he'll probably say we"ll decide season to season" as he likes his time away from the boat. I'll be working in Indianapolis this summer and he will be trying to sell our home in Monticello, IN. We will be together on the weekends planning our next AMAZING ADVENTURE!
After hundreds of emails and constant harassment from Paula I am now updating the blog. I also added lots of NEW Tiki Bar Reviews for Key West, Abaco, Exumas and Eleuthera. I also started a collection of Crazy T-Shirts...I'm not sure why, but I did.
For the record I have legitimate reasons as to why I could not blog until now.
The first reason I could not blog is I was in Key West from November through the middle of February. I caught the dreaded "Key's Disease". For me it was nearly incurable and for most in Key West it is incurable. How do you catch this disease you ask? Typically exposure to Key West for greater than 10 days will put you at great risk. What are some of the symptoms?
1. Extreme allergy to the "W" word (Work).
2. Acute lethargy.
3. Dehydration that constant beer consumption can not quench.
4. Inability to remember where you left your cell phone on Duval Street.
6. Give A Shit Meter is always on empty.
Unfortunately, I had all of these symptoms and a few more that made blogging virtually impossible. There is no cure for this disease, but you can hope for partial remission that will not progress once you have left the Keys. Prognosis is good from that point forward as long as you do not return to the Keys. Fortunately, or unfortunately (Slight relapse here) my cure was Paula. She fired up the boat and cast off the lines with me kicking and screaming and I finally calmed down by the time we arrived in the Berry Islands.
The reason I could not blog after putting the "Key's Disease" at rest was communications or lack thereof in the Exumas. It sounds cool and romantic to get away from it all in the islands and for a while it is. But, we all have become so dependent on constant communication. Paula and I have parents 80+ and were very uncomfortable not being in touch with them on a more routine basis. The Internet has become everyone's 'go to' place for knowledge. How to repair something, how to find parts, how to order something, and how to creep on the Mega Yachts next to us. We spent much of our time in the Exumas without cell service, email, WiFi, and Internet. We purchased local Bahamian cell service and WiFi, but it did not work any better. When we did get WiFi near a marina, restaurant, etc. the bandwidth was terrible and had speeds just this side of dial-up. Consequently, blogging was out of the question.
I will briefly cover the 2015 cruise season from my point of view from the 10,000 foot perspective as Paula will, as always, give the fine details and color of our cruise season.
We were originally going to the Caribbean this season, but last year all of the sailor/cruisers we met said "If I have not visited the Exumas I must go there first as the Caribbean is a beaten path and the Exumas are very remote with few people/boats. So we adjusted our plans to cruise the Exumas. After this cruise season I realized my idea of less traveled is considerably different than my cruising friends. Most popular anchorages were 15 to 35 boats. Moving between islands felt like Chicago at rush hour. Many boats going north and south with some from east and west to keep things interesting. There are islands to get away from other boats and people but you need to hunt them down. I find Abaco's less dense than the Exumas. My opinion. As for the Exumas if I had one word to describe it it would be "Windy". If I had two words to describe it they would be "Beautiful Water".
We originally left Stuart and headed to Key West non-stop. We were in Key West from November through mid February.
We left Key West and headed to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands to check in. It took around 30 hours and was for the most part a gentle ride. This was Kitty's maiden voyage and she sounded like Linda Blair on the Exorcist through this leg of the trip. Later Kitty developed into quite the "Boat Kitty" and sat at the helm with Paula most of the time. We checked in at Chubb Cay and found nothing open to drink or eat so we went back to the boat.
We left Chubb Cay early the following morning and proceeded to Highborne Cay, Shroud Cay, Hawksbil Cay, Big Majors Cay, Staniel Cay, Lil Bay Black Point, and on to Georgetown over the next couple of weeks.
We hooked up with Indiana friends in Georgetown and proceeded north to Lil Bay Black Point and Staniel Cay. After they returned home we proceeded to Lil Bay Black Point and Lil Farmers Cay. I am sure Paula will talk about this in greater detail and I will review the Tiki Bar.
Next we proceeded to Hawksbil Cay, Norman Cay, Shroud Cay, Warderick Wells, and Highborne Cay,
We left Highborne Cay and proceeded to Spanish Cay, Eleuthera.
After Eleuthera we proceeded to the Abacos. While in the Abacos we visited Little Harbor, Marsh Harbor, Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Fox Town
After Fox Town we returned to Stuart and had a pleasant crossing.
Cruise Season Statistics:
$4,530 of fuel purchased (Yes, Dad that is a lot)
Alcohol and food bill was much more than the fuel bill
74 days in a row on hook without going into a marina
Most expensive beer: $85/case for local beer at Highborne Cay (No, we did not buy it)
51 knot winds at Big Majors anchorage that tore off the Bimini (Forecast 15 to 20 knots)
57 knot winds at Mermaid Reef anchorage in Abaco (Forecast 5 to 10 knots)
Groundings: 0 this season (Does not count dingy)
Paula was at the helm 90% of the time.
Casualties during season:
1. Generator Temp Sensor went out (Hell), but
thanks to Bob Senter we identified the issue.
2. Generator Belt broke
3. Bilge Pump went out. Replaced it with Randy
4. Insinkerator handle broke - Guests
5. Stern navigation light cover broke - Don't ask
6. Dingy got banged up - Don't ask
7. Paddle Board fin lost - Guests
8. Bimini ripped off frame - see 50+ knot winds
9. AC System went down at start of season
10. 2 toilet seats down - Guests
11. Davit (Operational) stopped in extension mode
12. Dryer knob broke. required complete dryer being
pulled out, top and face plate removed - Guests
13. Guest stateroom towels bleached - Guests
14. Starboard windshield wiper broke
15; Water Heater T&P Valve had to be replaced.
16. Inverter went out while going through the famous
Whale Cut in Abaco - Reset and all has been well.
17. My pride on several occasions.
After the close of this season and before the beginning of the next season there is much to be done. Repairs, PM (preventive maintenance), and more importantly improvements we have learned through the past season's experiences.
All and all a great season with my Princess and proof that God protects drunks and idiots. :) OK, OK, that does not pertain to Paula, but more importantly proves just how important I am to the crew of this boat.