Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sailing to Panama

After spending a day and night along on the Hogsty atoll (such an amazing place!), we set our course for Matthewtown, Great Inagua to clear out of the country. Arriving to the anchorage in front of the town presented us with a problem. The surf was up and it was a very bumpy area. Two other boats rocked and rolled in the swell.
Matthew in front of Matthewtown.

We launched the dingy and had to time boarding it with the swell. We ran out of dinghy fuel back while exploring the reef (I told Jared we should have filled up back in Georgetown), so we ended up having to row ashore this time. It was slow going, as we fought the huge swell passing abeam to us. Eventually, we landed ashore without taking on any water. After pulling Hermes up the beach and making sure all was secure, we set off to complete our list of errands. Stef and Zach walked the mile to the customs and immigration offices (they are no longer located at the Government docks. Instead you have to walk about another half mile to a warehouse building. Thankfully, it is clearly labeled Customs and Immigration). Jared completed the grocery shopping and getting fuel for Hermes.

A couple of hours later, we were back ready to launch into the building surf. 2 years of cruising and we've never had a mishap. Our luck ran out this time. This beach had a reef running the entire length of the beach out to sea. It is super shallow, so we couldn't get in until we were into deeper water.

As we were trying to launch, a huge wave overtook us and we were thrown back onto the reef bordering the beach. The dinghy was filled to overflowing, groceries floating about, and some shoes and things washing ashore. We sorted things out and tried again, with success. It was a nerve-wracking time and we swore we'd never try to go ashore in high surf again. This was just too dangerous.

Once back on board Roundabout, we put away our groceries (thankfully, no salt water damage, even the bread!). We thoroughly rinsed everything in fresh water, including the starter battery box. After drying everything, we were ready to take off.

We hauled anchor around 5pm and sailed off into the sunset towards Panama.

It took us about 5 days to arrive. Unfortunately, we arrived in the dark, which is never ideal. As this is a  busy area, we figured the charts would be pretty accurate. They were and we followed in the lighted buoys and our chart to the anchorage just outside of the marina. We did not want to enter Shelter Bay marina in the dark.

The next morning, we pulled in and docked at the haul-out area, as we prepare to haul out to do some boat jobs. We are going to strip the entire bottom and apply fresh barrier epoxy and antifouling paint.
We are also going to change the seals and oil in our saildrives (we did the engines and generator oil/service recently). We hope to splash within a week or so, as we prepare to transit the canal on the 17th.
More of our adventures in Panama coming up in the next few posts. =)




Bahamas!

A dolphin visited our boat and swam with us all day long! So magical!

We have sailed the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and explored all over the Caribbean from Barbados to the Bahamas. We have seen more marine life and stunning water colors since arriving to these lovely islands a few weeks ago. We keep saying, "Wow"!
Nature's swimming pool! 
Family time!
Steve and Tina captured this lovely pic of our dolphin friend. To see more of Steve's amazing
photography skills, check out his website: www.stevezmak.com  
Tree swing at Chat-N-Chill beach.

We swam all day with our dolphin friend!

We met up with Jared's parents in Georgetown, Exumas who flew in for a week. It was so good to see some family after almost 2 years away. Our friends Steve and Tina also came out and stayed aboard with us for the week. We explored the town of Georgetown, swam with a dolphin right at our boat for a day (it stayed until nightfall, but what an amazing experience), and moseyed on over to Chat-N-Chill beach for a day. That place is tons of fun! Volleyball courts, little beach shack, swings, swimming with the stingrays, treehouse, slacklines, and all sorts of things for kids (and adults) to do. We met all sorts of people and made new friends. We can see why people get stuck here for awhile.

Family volleyball match.

Exploring Georgetown.
Roundabout at sunset, Great Inagua Island.

After sailing around Great Exuma island with the grandparents, it was time for them to return to California. We said our 'see-you-laters' and set off for White Cay with our friends to see the pigs. We sailed north for a couple of hours and anchored off of white cay. The pigs are a bit shy at first, but friendly. After seeing we had some goodies for them, they slowly entered the water near the dinghy. They sat like little puppy dogs, mouths wide open, awaiting the treats. We fed them lettuce, carrots, and apples. Zach brought some cheese pizza and a chocolate chip cookie along for his snack, but they fell out of his bag on accident and the piggies gobbled them up! I hope their tummies were ok after that rich food! When they saw we were out of food, they slowly wandered back to the beach.



The following morning, we dropped Steve and Tina off at a little restaurant on the beach across the bay. Turns out, this was the same restaurant featured in the Fyre Festival documentary. We had a couple of cold drinks while they waited for their taxi.


We were surprised by lemon sharks feeding close to shore, so of course, that distracted us for awhile. They are so swift and graceful in their movements!



Just after sunrise, we exited the cut and out into the ocean for a sail north to Rudder Cut Cay. It is all about the tides and current, here in the Bahamas!

We heard there was an underwater statue that needed to be discovered. Turns out, this is one of David Copperfield's islands. He also owns Musha Cay and a handful of others in the area. If you have a spare $42k, you can rent Musha Cay resort for a day.

We dropped the hook of Rudder Cut Cay and dinghied over to explore the sea caves and the mermaid/piano statues. It's pretty easy to free dive down to the statue. Word on the street is that the original one was stolen a few years ago, so this one they affixed to a concrete block. Another cruiser mentioned seeing a 6' nurse shark in the area, but we didn't see it. As we sailed by Musha Cay, a gentleman came out of one of the remote houses and waved at us. Could it have been the famous magician himself? We couldn't tell from so far away. If so, hello Mr. Copperfield! =)


From there, we moved on to Great Inagua. We anchored off one of the beaches and fed the iguanas lettuce. They are quite a beautiful mixture of pink and green skin, and very friendly.
We made a pit stop at Blackpoint for some of Lorraine's mom's special coconut bread, as well as her coconut raisin cinnamon bread. These made amazing french toast!

Meeting Lorraine's mama and buying some fresh coconut bread!

We spent the night anchored off another beach on Great Inagua. They all seem to have iguanas roaming around, so you can't miss out on seeing them.


They come up to you as soon as you land on the beach. 

Thunderball Grotto was our next stop along the island chain. We spent one night anchored off of the Grotto and then moved around the corner to Big Majors Cay to wait out a blow coming through. The pigs here are famous and know it. They are a bit more aggressive than the shy White Cay piggies, but simply hold up your hands and they will go find someone else that has some tasty morsels for them. We saw lots of little piglets here as well.
Cruisers' beach, Big Majors Cay

Crystal clear water!

Hermes at the edge of the gorgeous water (cruiser's  beach)

Pigs of all shapes and sizes! The little ones were so cute!

Nurse sharks at Staniel Cay.

Fun tree at Chat-N-Chill beach.

Petting the friendly stingrays.
We spent a few days hanging out at cruiser's beach, snorkeling the grotto again, checking out Staniel Cay (go swim with the sharks off the marina), and waited for a fridge part to show up from Watermakers air (we replaced the compressor module). After swapping out the parts, we were back in business and made our way up to Little Halls Pond Cay, also known as Johnny Depp's private island. You will know for sure it is his, because of this sign on the beach: "This is NOT Disney. You are NOT welcome". We were hoping to catch a glimpse of our fellow pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, but alas, he was out sailing the high seas during our visit. Right next to his island is a rock known as The Aquarium. This place has the most tropical fish we've ever seen in one place! Wow! We wandered around the other little islands and beaches, and prepped to cross over to the island of Eleuthera the next day.

We sailed about 5-6 hours and dropped the hook in greenish tinged water off Poison Point. The kids built a little campfire and we cooked dinner and made s'mores. We invited the other boats in the anchorage and made some new friends. The next morning was Monday, so we dinghied over to The Island School for a tour. Zach heard about this amazing marine science school and wanted to check it out. Stef ended up with a job offer at the end of the tour (no, she didn't take it,but perhaps a summer position in the future).  Zach  decided to apply to attend their Sophomore year. If you are in the area, please go see all the projects their students are working on. Simply hands-on project based learning at its finest!

The next couple of days were spent adventuring around Rock Sound with our new friends. One of them had a daughter Cadence's age, so she was happy to finally have another sailor girl to hang with.

We saw two of the big Ocean Holes inland, cliff dove, and crawled through Cathedral Cave, winding around the spider webs, bats, and all!

Planning on where to jump off at the Ocean Hole  (closest one to Rock Sound)

Cathedral Cave with the bats

At first light, we sailed back over to the Exumas and anchored off Norman Cay. This is also one of the islands featured in the Fyre Festival documentary. The current here can be wicked, so be sure to set out a 2nd anchor (aka bahamian style anchoring), otherwise you risk the anchor chain messing up your bottom paint when the current is one direction and the wind another.

From Norman Cay, we spent another night at Rudder Cut Cay, and then moved on to Georgetown, as we hopped our way south. We rode out another weather system here for a few days and went to play at Chat-N-Chill beach every day. So. Much. Fun!

Mid-afternoon, after getting some last minute provisions, we set off for Hog Cut Cay. We ended up not liking how it looked, even with high tide (take your dinghy in ahead if you are uncertain of the depth. A portable depth sounder is VERY handy for situations like these).

Sunny on Castle Island.

Shipwreck treasures on Hogsty Reef Atoll (Sand spit)

We anchored off for the night and at first light, went around the long way, around Long Island. It definitely has the correct name. We spent the night off of Castle Island (this beach is really cool and the old abandoned lighthouse deserves a look as well--don't go inside though, its falling apart). Snorkel the reefs there, as you'll see lots of pretty fish and colorful coral.

Anchored off Hogsty Reef Atoll.
We moved on to Hogsty Reef Atoll the following day and had the place to ourselves for the afternoon and evening! This is a truly amazing place, with so much wildlife! We found a few conch and made fritters (freeze them for 24 hours, then you can easily remove them without breaking the shell). You can only visit this place when the sea and weather are very calm. There are over 200 wrecks in the area. Ashore, there are lots of shipwreck treasures like pottery, glass, square nails, and remnants of cargo. We placed these on a flat piece of concrete towards the pillar on the east side of Sand Cay. Please add to these but don't take so that others can enjoy. Some of the pottery is stamped London 1888. You can snorkel some of the wrecks (you'll see at least 2 large cargo shipwrecks and the rest are below the surface). There's nice coral, lots of conch, and fish.

Next morning at daylight, we sailed on to Matthew-town, Great Inagua. We cleared out, got some provisions, dinghy fuel, and then set off on our 5-day passage to Panama! Jungle, here we come!

Next up: we arrive in Panama, haul out, explore the jungle, and prep for the canal transit.













Sunday, March 24, 2019

Coming Full Circle: Return to the BVIs and USVIs



This was a bit of an emotional time for us. As we lost our first boat to #irmaria in Nanny Cay back in 2017, seeing the BVI and USVI post hurricanes was an experience to say the least.
Sunny loves her beach time!

Approaching Virgin Gorda, BVI

A flock of flamingos fly over Virgin Gorda. 

After checking in at Spanish town, we headed straight for The Baths, one of our top favorite spots. The kids wasted no time jumping off the boat and swimming ashore to play among the passageways in and out of the gigantic boulders.
Huge tarpon visited each night. 
Captured this remora with the GoPro. It hung around our boat for most of the day!

We stopped by all of our favorite spots, explored new places, and reunited with old friends. We spent a few days in Nanny Cay, just for memories and to sort of close out that chapter. We also checked some boat jobs off the list.

Installing a brand new cone clutch.

Exploring old hangouts.
The well-loved playground

It was so great to see all of the progress since the storms. The islanders are resilient people with strong hearts. Stef took an opportunity to teach a robotics class to a group of local children.

Teaching a class on robotics and coding, using Ozobots.
A few of the places we stopped as we sailed around the islands:

Stern-tied ashore at Benure's Bay.
Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada


Anchored off a sand spit off Jost Van Dyke Island, BVI
A racing pigeon visited us off Anegada. We looked up his tags online and sure enough, he was involved in a race. We learned they won't leave until they get fed and watered. After a little refreshment, he coo-cooed at us and flew on his way!
It followed us everywhere and peered into the hatches at night, as if asking to come inside! Sure did leave a mess behind though...

Us as we sail away from Tortola.

After checking out the BVI, we hung out in St. Thomas for a few days to stock up on provisions and wait for a good weather window for passage to the Bahamas. Check in was simple using the ROAM app. No need to visit customs or immigration until time to clear out and get a zarpe for the next country.

We toured the local marine science institute, which was right near our anchorage.

Marine research institute

Mural on the institute campus

Sundowners and lots of great fun with friends every day!
Fun times with friends! Brewer's Bay, St. Thomas USVI

Boat kids playing in Brewer's Bay, St. Thomas

Early on the morning of our departure, we heard someone shout to call 911. We saw a dinghy heading towards shore. I pulled out our medical kit, called 911 and Jared headed to shore in our dinghy. A nearby cruiser, who happened to be a local nurse was en route, as well as our friends on Dragonfly.
Jared took the CPR kit ashore with him and assisted with efforts to revive the man.
A lot took place that frustrated the entire anchorage of cruisers, but basically, the man died as a result of poor emergency responders. The ambulance was about a mile away and took 45 minutes to arrive. The responder would not assist, so it was the cruisers who pulled the victim up out of the dinghy and placed him on to the stretcher.

The cruising nurse mentioned to us that she was teaching a CPR course later on that afternoon and offered to include our family at no charge. We took her up on that opportunity, especially as Matthew had gone ashore with Jared. Matt pulled the dinghy ashore all on his own, as Jared had leapt out to assist with the situation. We felt it was worth delaying our passage for a few hours to take advantage of this opportunity.

After spending a couple of weeks here, it was time to move up to the Bahamas, where family and friends were flying in. Bahamas, here we come!

Hermit crab peeking out to say hello. Brewer's Bay, St. Thomas USVI