Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bahamian Seafood

The highlight of the day was our trip to Stuart's Conch shack for lunch with several friends. Some of us rode bikes and three talked a local in a truck to drive them the 1.5 miles to the restaurant. The picture of the shack says a thousand words. Our friends had told them we were coming for conch salad and macaroni and cheese. Well, the only offering of the day today was the salad as there was no cheese on Bimini! Our group filled the place. As we drank our Kalik beer(Bahamian beer), we watched Tarzan dice up the conch, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions, add the seasoning and squeeze the lime. the fellow outside the shack can be seen skinning the conch which had just been shelled. The salad was delicious and plenty filling and we ended lunch with ice cream from the ice cream truck which goes up and down the street everyday. Poor Joe had to make a ham sandwich to take to the Conch Shack due to shellfish allergies.

I was able to buy some fresh produce at one of the little roadside markets as the fruit and vegetable boat came in from Nassau with fresh produce. In fact when we stopped earlier in the afternoon, the lady told us to come back in an hour as the produce had just arrived by boat and would be much fresher. This happens weekly.

I have included some pictures of the beaches and Queen's Highway, one of 2 main thoroughfares through town to give you an idea of the size of this town. Most people are making a subsistence living and everyone is very friendly. All of us felt very safe in this area.

At 5 pm we convened at Big John's , a local bar, with all the boaters leaving tomorrow to plan our next two days. Weather permitting we will leave in the morning and sail across the Banks, about 50 miles and put out the anchor tomorrow night. The next day we will have about 30 miles to Frazer Hog Cay, one of the Berry Islands. We may stay there for 2-3 days due to weather, mostly increased wind not conducive for getting to Nassau which is the next leg of our journey and the gateway to the Exumas. We don't expect to have internet service until Nassau, maybe Tuesday.

I am having difficulty uploading images today, so will have to add later.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Today we spent the whole day for relaxing in Bimini, actually it is North Bimini. South Bimini is across the channel, a short ferry boat ride. North is where the boaters are as there are 6 marinas. Blue Water is very nice and priced right. It is the fullest of the marinas and is the one with the most sail boats. I think it is deeper than some of the others. Took this shot of High Spirits after we landed, notice all the jerry cans we have for diesel(yellow), gasoline for the generator and outboard engine(red), and fresh water(blue). We use the cans to carry material back to the boat.

Had breakfast at Captain Bob's with several of our sailing group. Fairly good prices, pancakes and ham for $8.00. Left to right: Jerel, Tammy, Kathy, Bill and Joy

Just kind of relaxed all day. We did go down to the beach where I took this sunset shot.

This afternoon Rip stopped by and sold us two lobster tails. Joy's dinner tomorrow night while I eat leftover mushroom pasta. Lobster tails cost $10 for both of them.

After dinner we hiked over to a local bar. We were told yesterday that they would have a DJ tonight, but it was closed at 9 pm. No DJ. We walked over to the local sports bar up the hill and had a drink, and danced to Wade on the guitar. Wade has a charter fishing business as well as a dive business. The bar is about 8 feet long. Just opened up on Friday.

Tomorrow we will spend some time getting the boat ready to leave on Friday. Need to fill up the water and diesel tanks for our trip across the Bahamas banks to the Berry Islands and down to Nassau.


ps Still working on the phone situation, looks like we might get a cheap prepaid phone in nassau.

pps Found out today that does not work in the Bahamas, so no Glee and no NCIS.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We Made It!

Well, we made it to the Bahamas, entry port Bimini. Up at 3am after a fitful night to depart at 4am, across the Key Reef and out into the Gulf Stream, 78 miles to Bimini. The first hour off the voyage was rough with rollers coming in, causing a lot of movement. Joe was taking hs Dramamine again, but by 8am was feeling better and the Gulf Stream was tame with one to two foot waves most of the way across. the first 2 hours it was dark and we followed the lead boat through the reef area. Once the sun was up, we were cruising comfortably in the open ocean. I took a photo of our knot meter. Our normal cruising speed is 6 knots and we made 9 knots due to the gulf stream. We also saw the depth meter max out at 520 feet, even though we went to 3000 feet. We have included a few pictures of daybreak, Joy at the wheel, and then some of us celebrating with our fellow boaters after our crossing at a local bar and then conch restaurant- fried conch, conch fritters, etc. Joe was able to get a grilled cheese sandwich.

Our coming into Bimini was the most stressful. We would have gone aground if it hadn't been for a sailboat who had gone aground earlier in the day and was still lying on it's side. The markers were hard to spot and you had to run very close to the beach. We turned around at the last minute and returned to the appropriate channel! That was after hearing on the VHF radio that we were in the wrong spot. Scary! We are at a marina, and you can see the starfish, rays, sea urchins, a fish swimming around the boat. The water is beautifully blue(pics tomorrow), and very clear.

Monday, February 21, 2011


We have reached the farthest south. We left Marathon this morning and headed north to Rodriguez Key(near Key Largo). Took about 8 hours to get here.Tomorrow we are leaving at 4 :15 am as part of a parade of boat, about 12, heading to Bimini. I felt a little seasick the first hour, must have been because we have been on shore for 18 days a Marathon.

Got to sail most of the time today, less than 3 hours on the engine for an 8+ hour trip.

Pictures today of the grass field next to our boat, where you can not go even in your dinghy. Also a picture of Joy at the helm, and a picture she took up on the deck of the sails.

Not too much else is new. Going to set up a Skype phone account, Josh's suggestion.
Probably will still get a Bahamas cell phone so people can call us in an emergency.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Final Preparations

No pics today. Tomorrow we start our sail toward Bimini, the westernmost Bahamian Island, but as of today there was a slight modification in our group's plan, all dependent on the wind. The winds have not shifted around to the southeast yet, leaving the Gulf Stream with rough seas tomorrow morning, so all nine boats heading across are going tomorrow to Rodriguez Key, staying close within the reef, an eight hour trip. We will anchor and stay overnight there and then plan to leave around 5 am on Tuesday to cross over the Gulf Stream. It is very comforting having nine boats, two with a lot of experience with us. Everyone is very cautious and making decisions based on the most up-to-date weather reports.

In preparation today, we did our laundry, put safety jack lines up on the deck, topped off on water, etc. Jack lines run from bow to stern and when in rough seas or just during our gulf stream crossing, if I have to go up on the deck to do anything, I will be tethered into the boat.

This evening we went over to Steve and Linda's for dinner (again). Steve's brother and family came into town for a couple of days and they wanted us to meet them. Daisy, Steve's sister-in-law is a champion horse shoe thrower, competing in the international competitions. Three years ago she won in her division. At Steve and Linda's marina is the sorriest looking horse shoe pit you have ever seen, but Daisy was a good sport and tried her hand at the horseshoes. She gets a ringer 53% of the time. We learned more about this sport then we thought possible, and enjoyed meeting them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Well today is Sat, Feb 19 and we are almost ready to go. Today while Joy and Steve Franko went charter fishing, I walked down to Marathon Marine yard to get a switch so that Steve can replace the old switch for the front head shower pump. After Joy got back(see picture of the CATCH OF THE DAY, she put in the switch.

We got our diesel, water, and gas the other day. On the way to the pumps, we ran aground just off the last boat in the mooring field in about 4 feet of water.
We finally powered off to the right, moved about 10 feet and suddenly we were in
10 feet of water. Must have been a high spot on the harbor floor.

Monday is a holiday at the marina, they are all city employees. there are about 10 boats leaving on Monday for Bimini, Bahamas. We are going to leave at noon for a 20 hour overnight sail with a almost full moon, and fairly flat seas. Should be
an interesting experience. we will have radio check every couple of hours, Joy is planning on sleeping from 8 pm to midnight, then I try to sleep 12 to 4 am.

High Spirits is ready to go. Everyone who knows boats says she will not let us down and get us safely to Bahamas.

The big news there is that Nick and Sue Buehler are joining us for at least a week in the first part of March. They are in the midst of a trip to Hilton Head, Key
West and then the Bahamas.

We want to take time and thank Linda and Steve Franko for all of their friendship over the past years, especially these last couple of days where Steve has worked on getting all the little problems we had with High Spirits fixed ( esp the front holding tank). They are great friends and love to play Euchre. Ladies versus Gentlemen.

We will have spotty Internet in the Bahamas so we will not be posting every day but we will blog when we can at Internet cafes and at marinas that have WiFi.

Thanks to everybody who reads and follows our adventure. It has been a fantastic
experience for me. I know Joy feels the same. I could not have done this trip without her love and support and ability to put up with some pretty dumb stuff that I have done the last 8 months.


PS Pictures today include one of Ann, the administrative assistant at the Marina, a group shot of all the people leaving on Monday, Molly and Joshua( two sailors from Boston, MA), and Joy holding the prize catch of her fishing adventure!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Preparation Work

Well, it is morning on Feb 16, 2011 but I am writing about activities yesterday, Feb 15, an odd day. Joy can write about today later tonight.

Most of yesterday was spent getting ready to leave for the Bahamas as early as next Monday. We finally got an appointment to get our Local Boaters Cards which makes it easier to check back into the US when we return in the Spring.

We have our safety lines to install, purchased a single side band radio receiver, another VHF radio, finished the tax returns, and hopefully have our banking all set to be out of the country for 2 months.

Linda Franko has a printer so we can print out NH return, they do not accept e filings at this time.

We did have a chance to use Neflix downstreaming to watch a romantic comedy with Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman, and Greg Kinnear, Something about You. It was our Valentine's Day movie a day late.

Hope all is well with everyone. When we go over to the Bahamas, the only Internet connection we will have is when we are at an Internet cafe. Our Verizon wifi card will not be operational there. So the blog postings will be not as frequent.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Chores and meetings

The winds are down and the sun is strong and so Francis and Linda are on their way across the Gulf and up the west coast of FL. We will miss them, but are sure we will cross paths again, probably in the Bahamas.

Our day started with taking apart the sump pump in Joe's bathroom, a frequent headache. At the present time, the sump pump throws a breaker everytime it is put on.
Today we bought a replacement back-up pump, and we are investigating the cause of the breaker shorting out. Since showers are few and far between in the Exuma chain in the Bahamas, we need to have it working when we depart.

The Bahama Bound meeting was informative and an opportunity to meet other cruisers interested in leaving when we are. The leader has been over there eight times and has lots of knowledge to share. We even heard the story of their catching a 54 in mahi with a yo-yo(Cuban reel), which is what I have. When they hauled it aboard they didn't know how to fillet it so called out over the VHF radio and received guidance on how to proceed. I have been buying some fishing lures, so hopefully will have some luck. Several boaters are ready to leave at the next weather window, which could come as early as Thursday or Friday, but more likely Sunday. We plan to be ready by Sunday. It is very exciting, but a bit scary and will be great having some "buddy" boats around.

Our friends, Steve and Linda, who are gone for several days to a wedding in West Virginia, lent us their bikes and we have been able to do several errands much more easily today.

Happy Valentine's Day to all. We had a quiet dinner on board and enjoyed this beautiful sunset.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another Day in Marathon

Well it truly was another day in Marathon, at least for the Mikos. Francis, Linda, and Sophie were supposed to leave this morning, but 25 knot winds out of the north changed their minds. So we got to spend another day with them.

Sally and Manny joined us for breakfast at the Stuffed Pig. Great pancakes.
However, they charge $3 for a tiny bottle of Vermont maple syrup. The bottle holds less than 2 oz. This works out to about $200 per gallon ( and you thought gas was expensive when it went over $4 per gallon). The syrup is so much better than the Mrs. Butterworth they serve for free.

After church Joy and I went to the 17th Annual Pigeon Key Art Festival. Pigeon Key is where the workers lived who built the Florida railroad system in the early 1900s.
It was a nice show, have included a picture. I mostly read my book and listened to the live bands, while Joy roamed around the festival. She did not win any raffle prizes. The all women band, GEARL JAM, played some nice songs. They had a nice blend of singing voices but the insturments were not tight.

We met the Mikos around 5 pm, played some cards and then went to dinner at Key Fisheries. We have decided that we have done too much eating out and are getting fat so it is back to eating on the boat for most of our meals, plus a lot cheaper.

Tomorrow at 1 pm is the meeting of boaters interested in going to the Bahamas in the next couple of weeks when the sailing weather improves. Should be interesting.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cold, windy, and raw

I know everyone up north have difficulty understanding the cold in Florida, because I used to roll my eyes when my sister, Sally, complained of the cold. Today was the type of day that she used to talk about. Of course, this was the first day in a month when the jackets and sweaters were layered on. A cold front from the north finally made it's way down to the Keys, with strong winds, some rain, and cold. Of course, Sally and Manny came down to spend a few days with us and the only warm place was the restaurants. We spent several hours playing cards in the large, unheated meeting area of the marina, as well as enjoying restaurant meals and a trip to the grocery store. Our friends, Linda and Francis have been here since Friday, so the six of us have hung out together. L and F regaled us with their stories of musical boats, anchoring and re-anchoring at all hours of the day and night as the wind changed direction. At one point they were sitting on top of a wreck, not understanding why the boat seemed stuck, until they saw the sign "danger" right next to them in the dark! I think we should write a book with input from many boaters with humorous stories to tell.

Marathon is not like Key West- no historical area, cutsie stores, or attractions, just the main road with a hodgepodge of grocery, Kmart, fishing stores, and dive shops, with some motels and several restaurants, many we have enjoyed. Dinner this evening was at Annette's Lobster and Steak House. If we had been in a hurry, we would have been frustrated, but we had an enjoyable three hours with friends and family in a warm environment with good food.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Well, even though today is the 10th and an even day, Joy asked me to write today's blog. Joy is at yoga class this morning and I am waiting for our clothes to be finished.

We took a couple of days off and took the city bus down to Key West from Marathon. The bus only cost us $1.50 per person each way as we are over 60 and get the senior citizen rate. Normal rate of $3. Bus took about 55 minutes, very pleasant ride along the coast. First part is the 7 mile bridge, just west of Marathon.

We traveled to Key West to meet Linda Miko's sister, Tina and her husband Gary. We had a very enjoyable two days, living in a nice hotel, hot water, king size bed and AC.

Went to some very nice restaurants including BLUE HEAVEN. When we walked in we both said, we have been here before. It is the outdoors restaurant with a rope swing that we had dinner at 11 years ago as part of Mimi's 75th birthday celebration in Key West. Mom wanted to go to Key West, so she brought her entire family there for the weekend. We also tracked down ( Mark Gabriel's help) the place we all stayed at, Suite Dreams. Could not get into see it but did get to see the outside.

Including a lot of pictures this time as there was so much going on. Went to Southern Most Point again. There were 3 cruise ships in port on Monday, our first day. Of course we had to see the sunset at Mallory Square along with Gold Man, and other acts.

Sally and Manny are coming for dinner tonight and for a couple of days here in Marathon. We would like to be able to leave starting Feb 14, but the front head shower pump is acting up again. Probably need to replace it.

Only other stuff we need is diesel, gas, water, and your prayers.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fun and Work

Over the past 4 days we have tackled several repair issues and played with our old boat friends, Steve and Linda, who were our dock mates at E 55th St Marina in Cleveland. Steve and Linda sold their house about the same time that we did and moved aboard there trawler, Yesterday's Dream, on which they have been living and cruising down the Mississippi, across the gulf, and are presently in Marathon Key where we are.

Among our dirty jobs was re plumbing the holding tank, probably the worst job on a boat, and one that no friend should have to help with. However, we are blessed with our good friend Steve, who knows how to fix everything and has a very willing spirit. The hands in the picture are not ours, although Joy did her share of the dirty work! Also, fixed was some loose electrical connections, a sticky valve, and the ladder on the stern of the boat. Thank you, Steve!

Afternoons are for relaxing and playing, so Joy and Steve went out kayaking, while Joe and Linda did some relaxing. There is a picture of the private island off Steve and Linda's marina with a cabin for rent for $2,800 a week. We also saw an iguana, about 2 feet long, sunning himself on a ledge by the water.

The first 2 days in Marathon, we anchored and waited for a mooring ball, starting tenth on a waiting list. There are 250 moorings in the harbor, so by day 3, we were able to move onto a mooring for the next 2-3 weeks; a good spot to be in. Marathon Marina community has free yoga three mornings a week that I am excited about and a buddy board where boaters planning to cross to the Bahamas can meet each other and cross together.

Today, we went out with Steve and Linda to the reef to snorkel. Joy and Steve got in the water with the jelly fish, full body swim suits for protection, and snorkeling gear. The fan coral was beautiful with lots of multi-colored fish. We saw several barracudas, all minding their own business. Later in the evening we watched the Super Bowl until halftime, when we returned to our boat. Of course, we had to critique the commercials and knew we were getting old when there was nothing in the halftime show that appealed to any of us. Tomorrow we take the $3 shuttle to Key West to visit with Francis and Linda, and Linda's sister and husband.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jen, Mark, Erin and Adam

Well we took a couple of days off the boat to visit with Jen and her family. They flew down to Florida, first stop was Vero Beach to visit Melody and Hank. Melody was married to Robert Gabriel, Joy's father, for 20 years. So Melody is a grandmother that our kids grew up with. They enjoyed the pool, it was 76 degrees. Fine for Erin and Adam, a little cold for Melody. After two nights here, we met for lunch on Sunday, and drove them down to Stuart where Sally and Manny live.

Had two great days with Sally and Manny featuring a visit to the Loggerhead Marine Center in Juno Beach where injured sea turtles are cared for plus a nice afternoon on Juno Beach. See attached photos for turtles and beach activities.

However all good vacations have to end so Tuesday afternoon it was off to the airport in two cars ( not enough room for the bags in the minivan we rented). They flew back to a rain forecast, thankfully no snow or ice. The big storm went north of the DC area.

Today is Wed, Feb 2 and we are off again going south to Marathon, Fl. Two day trip.
The mooring area is full, hopefully someone will leave so we do not have to anchor out the whole time. Mooring is much preferred, cheap cost and much better holding so one can sleep better at night. Anchoring is okay if you get a good set, but then you are always wondering if you will drag and break loose while sleeping.

The Frankos are in Marathon, and we look forward to seeing them soon.


I am adding a quick update from Joe's recap of our visit with family. Today we were greeted by a mother and baby manatee (see picture), feeding just behind our boat where we were anchored. They move very slowly, feeding on grass, and then rising to the surface to breathe. We could have reached out and touched them.

After leaving the anchorage and crossing Biscayne Bay, we were out on the Atlantic crossing down the outside of the Keys. We saw a few dolphins and many Portuguese man-o-wars, floating on top of the water like blue balloons with their tentacles streaming below. Our anchorage tonight is Rodriguez Key, just west of key Largo, and very peaceful.