February 01, 2010
Obviously, we have been slow to get our blog going. The weather,
travel and boat fixing has kept us very busy. So here is the first
report that covers the last two months.
After two days of driving we arrived in Fernadina Beach to find the
boat in excellent condition. We escaped the internal damage from
mildew or critters that have affected others in previous years.
After three weeks we headed south. The next few days we motored down
the ICW through the fields of waving brown grasses, bushy areas draped
with Spanish moss, and pastel coloured mansions with manicured lawns,
two boat docks and sometimes a plastic snowman or some Christmas
decorations – but no snow. Dolphins, often in pairs, would rise up as
two arches that circle over a spot in the water then glide down
effortlessly, then repeat the cycle repeatedly. Once a ten foot one
jumped out of the water about 15 feet from the boat.
We motored from sun up to sun down to move as quickly as possible
south to a warmer climate. Florida weather changed greatly. One day we
sweated in shorts and tee shirts then the next day were wrapped in
wool hats, mittens and layers of clothing – dreaming of our furnace in
Equipment problems left us tied to a mooring ball in Vero Beach (
about half way down Florida on the right side) Our steering became
stiff and after a couple of dives on the rudder, expecting weeds, and
disassembling the steering cables, the culprit was the bearing at the
top of the pedestal. Of course such bearings are no longer available,
so Edson is happy to send us a new pedestal in a few weeks. Of course
we are so happy that we can stimulate the US economy. A leak in the
dripless (sic) shaft seal was also a major concern since I am most
annoyed with water molecules that don’t know their place and want
invade the inside of the hull.
We were in no name harbour for a couple of weeks. Most of the fixes
were done (new pedestal, leak gone, installed the radio – after a
repair trip to California. The weather was incredibly cold. Miami folk
were shocked. Record low temperatures were being set. This morning the
temperature was six degrees inside the boat and 1 degree outside, but
with the 20 knots of wind we are clearly reminded of skiing. This has
taken us by surprise and regret having left our heater in Fernadina
Beach because we were certain (sic) we would never use it. Fortunately
we have sleeping bag and some fleece blankets and a sleeping rug from
Oz so we can stay warm.
Getting the right weather was a challenge – no wind with the word
north is the conventional wisdom.
And finally …
We arrived in the Bahamas at Morgan’s Bluff, a small town at the north
end of Andros Island.
The crossing was OK, but with a few challenges. The wind was forecast
for north west but less than ten knots. We started out as five boats
determined to arrive in Nassau about 150 miles and 35 hours later.
After a few hours in the gulf two boats returned to Miami because of
the rolling. The NW wind was averaging 16-18 and sometimes went to 20.
We were able to use the mainsail although we continued to run the
motor for maximum speed. As the wind decreased we used more sail.
Being a stiff boat we maintained about 7.2 knots and did not wallow as
much as the more conventional cruising designs. About half way across
one boat had decided to stop Bimini – about 45 miles from Miami and in
the Bahamas. Another was considering Bimini, then after the emergence
of motor problems decided to stop there. So we were on our own. We
arrived on the bank about 2:00 p.m just north of Bimini then motored
until 1:30 am on Wed before anchoring near the North West Passage
which we want to cross in daylight. Light is gone from 6:30 p.m. until
6:30 a.m. Many stars and a small sliver of moon poked through the
black. Of course we can see nothing around us. Only the lights of
boats are visible. There are no navigation lights over the 60 miles we
traveled. Distance perception is very inaccurate. Life is controlled -
quite well this time – by the chart plotter and electrical autopilot.
We ran the motor all the time. With only a few knots of wind, the
water was more or less flat except for a continual roll. It was quite
mystical in a way as well as daunting because of the absolute
darkness. We had a moment of great concern as I saw a very large
fishing boat bearing down on us at great speed around midnight. It was
not changing course as I expected and coming closer and closer. I
turned quickly to one side and Maj-lis flashed a spotlight on out boat
as well as a quick flash at the boat. It made a quick turn and was
gone. I think the lack of depth perception was a contributing factor
as well as fatigue and perhaps the need for brighter navigational
lights. After emerging onto the “Tongue of the Ocean” we headed
towards Nassau on flat water, which was up to 5000 feet deep, but
decided that Morgan’s Bluff was a shorter and interesting alternative.
So around 2:00 p.m. we arrived – the end of a 32 hour trip.
We rented a car with two other couples and toured Ambros Island. Here
there4 are trees and some produce is grown – quite a contrast to the
After traveling 12 hours across the “white bank” we arrived in Normans
Cay. Norman’s was infamous during the 80’s as the work site for a
ambitious entrepreneur who was the sole transporter (up to ten
DC3’s/night) for all the cocaine produced in Columbia. Having read a
book about the rise and fall of Carlos Lehger’s business the walkabout
was quite interesting. The once pristine and lavish resort is in ruins
with the walls of the buildings hiding amongst the trees and brush …
the bullet holes still clear to remind one that this was not a church
The anchorage was another memory maker A squall came through at night
with 30 knot winds that clocked 180 degrees in 30 minutes and with the
help of the current pushed us and another dozen boats around in. I
stayed in the cockpit for a few hours enveloped in darn and armed with
a spotlight and adrenaline watching one boat come within a few feet of
another and wondering if we were on another boats dance card that
night. When the light broke through it revealed we were all OK. And we
prepared for another leg of traveling.
After seven hours of sailing – yes sailing, No Motor – at about seven
knots, we anchored in Little Bay , just south of Black point. The
water here is so aquamarine blue and the beach so white. We walked for
a while on the land and were given a tour of a house built by a couple
on the edge of what may be a marina some day. What a view they have
from inside the colours are astounding – dark blue ocean water one
side light blue on the other, dark gray stone dark green leaves and
low snarly shrubs on the land. At night, the blue sky is replaced by
the black sky, with a bright full moon painting the shore and water
with a pale bluish light. Shining a flashlight down from the deck
reveals the white sandy bottom 12 feet below as if the water is almost
We traveled about 300 miles in ten days and are now in Georgetown. We
planned to stay only a few days then move on. But the char plotter
died just as we were entering a cut that gave us a hard time last
year. With the help of another boat we went through the cut then used
the aper chart for the next 46 miles. I am now in e-mail conversation
with West Marine trying to sort out what to do. Probably the usual
wait about four weeks and help the Bahamanian economy in the usual
June 10, 2009
We have now been back in Toronto for a month. Where is the heat?
We will be in Fiji & Australia for August and September to be with Jasmine and her parents. Then back to Blue Blazer in November intending to return to the Bahamas.
April 12, 2009
We arrived in Ft Pierce from Green Turtle Cay after a thirty hour trip. Chris Parker forecast a short period of benign weather. These are rare, so, we left earlier than planned from Green Turtle Cay to go to Ft.Pierce. Chris, however, was not quite right. Everyone we crossed with concluded they would not have went had they known about the sea state on the bank, particularly between the bank and the Gulf Stream. Here we had 6-8 foot waves from the 20-25 knot south winds. Now I am more used, but not comfortable yet, to seeing wave tops about 6-8 feet above the toe rail come looking at our cockpit with a covetous look like a Barracuda eyes a grouper. In about eight to ten days we will arrive in Fernadino Beach where we will spend a couple of weeks cleaning and preparing the boat for the summer. The Bahamas has left us with many great memories, pictures and stories. It has been a great learning experience … and will continue we are sure.
April 07, 2009
Our trip from Royal Island, Eluthera, across the Northeast Providence Channel (Eluthera to Great Abaco) consisted of 11.5 hours of washing machine time. The 15 knots from behind us was fine except that it took a nap in the afternoon, so our speed dropped to 4 knots. The Atomic main increased our speed. BUT the 6-7 foot swell on the beam was unrelenting. Given the wing on wing sail position we had no way to stop rolling between 20 degrees on one side then tossed over to 10 on the other. I’m still looking for my left eyeball. We came in the Little Harbour cut and anchored at Black Point Cat, near Pelican Harbour. We moved on to Hopetown, a very quaint, well kept town that appeared to consist mostly of small houses converted to vacation cottages that are a potpourri of pastel shades punctuated by the occasional explosion of brilliant red, pink or yellow flowers. We moved to Man-o-war Cay to attend its “historical day”. Loyalists arrived here circa 1780 to escape harassment by the republican mob. Now many well kept homes (no garbage, everything painted, flower or shell gardens, a few well stocked stores, a functioning economy – boat building, fishing, tourists) border the concrete roads. Golf carts, the usual conveyance, leave you little room, but courtesy is common so “no problem mon”. Most noticeably everyone is white. A few Haitians work at the more menial jobs. But they ferry to their homes in Marsh Harbour for the night. They are highly regarded as hard working folk who likely departed Haiti on a less-than-seaworthy boat to find employment to support their family back in Haiti. This is a strongly religious community with about four fundamentalist churches for the 150 residents. Alcohol cannot be sold here. We attended an award ceremony for two outstanding citizens. In addition to the speeches, three hymns and prayers were included in the agenda. It reminds me very much of rural Ontario about 60 years ago. It is the most economically viable community in the Bahamas. Half of the island contains the local fulltime residents. The other half is dotted with cottages/mansions, all nestled into the vegetation. Picturesque describes everything you see here. We snorkelled on the ocean side and were surprised to see many larger fish (14" rather than 6-8") than we see on the bank side.
March 31, 2009
Towards Abacos and end of trip. We said good-bye to the beautiful Exumas yesterday as we were heading towards Eleuthera, out present location. (Ignore the map,it gor screwed up. We are not in Buffalo) We left with “Briarpatch”, our buddy boat, early yesterday morning i.n strong wind from a south easterly direction. We had spent two nights in the Marine Park at Cambridge and snorkelled in the sea aquarium, where we were surrounded by many tropical fish. The dinghy ride back to the boat was long, wet and uncomfortable. Don was decked out in his snorkeling gear and I in a garbage bag. The anchorage at Cambridge is just beautiful, with its low landing landscape surrounding us and the colours of the water that never stop to amaze us with its beauty. You cannot help but feeling happy and thankful and at peace when you let all of this sink in. Our experiences with the weather have been that it is mostly blowing around 20 knots or more (more than normally for Bahamas) and that means we stay put until a weather window opens up with more comfortable wind and this lasts for a few days. Yesterday, with the wind still quite strong, we had some waves that were 8 to 10 feet. At first they were a little initmidating but after a while they were fun. Our speed was over seven knots most of the time and we actually saw 10.5 knots at one tme. Ths was gps speed since ur water knotmeter died before we left the U.S. For Don, this was one of the best sailing experiences he has had for a while, disregarding the race around Stocking Island in Georgetown, in 20 knots of wind and close-hauled and the rail sometimes a foot under water. At present we are motor sailing in little wind towards Hatchett Bay. We hope to be in Spanish Wells tomorrow afternoon. It is a place worth visiting. Don just caught a 3.5 foot Barracuda. It would not taste good and those big teath sure looked scary. After a good dose of alcohol it was sufficiently comatose to allow Don to remove the hook and let it go. There are moments of excitement on the boat such as when we discover that we have caught something on the line that we are trailing behind. We were hoping for another Mahi Mahi but that would be too much of good luck. Later the line was hit but after reeling in the line we found our lure was chopped in half and the hook gone. In three days we plan to cross the North East Providence Channel from Royal Island, near Spanish Wells, to Little Harbour on Great Abaco Island. This will require about 11 hours to travel the 55 miles. The wind and weather is supposed to be fine. Boats have been waiting over two weeks to do this crossing. It is not something one wants to take lightly. For that matter there are lots of things such as inlets, cuts, surges and currents that we have learned to take seriously. Chris Parker, the weather guy, here talks sometimes about conditions that will “roll your eyes out”. We know what he means.
March 16, 2009
We have been in Georgetown for almost a month. The time has been flying and we think this is an amazing place in so many ways. First of all, the opportunities are endless to make new acquaintances and it so easy to fall into the habit of getting together with cruising folks almost every day. There is also a lot of space for solitude and quietness.. The beach is miles long and the shrubs provide shelter from the winds along the trails. The colours of the water continue to mesmerize us . In Georgetown there is no lack of entertainment amongst the cruisers. Especially during the regatta week , the calendar gets packed and it reminds us how life was in our working lives. But instead of beating the traffic and the snow, we have get-togethers on the beach, under the palm trees and the beautiful ocean colours are wherever we look. And lots of fun in the activities: joining a team in a competition to build sand sculptures, volunteering in a coconut harvest race, playing in the band. We went in the sail boat race around Stocking Island and another in Elizabeth Harbour. What an adrenaline rush from the excitement of the close boats, winds, and waves. The healing of the boat was certainly more than any of us have ever experienced, the result of lots of sailcloth and strong and gusty winds. We did well (a second and a third) and got two bottles of rum(one of them we lost in the sea) and flags. The “Non-Talent”show, started the regatta week and it took place on Volleyball Beach, by Chat and Chill, the regular hang-out for cruisers. Here cruisers showed of all their musical and theatrical talents in an outrageous and hilarious show which got standing ovations from the 200 of us spectators, all cruisers. Tonight the regatta week will end with a Variety Show (23 acts) and it is expected to be a entertaining as the first one. Don has joined a group of "musicians "who will perform with a few songs. Tomorrow we will be leaving Georgetown and heading north again. We don’t have time left to proceed father south so Long Island will have to wait until next year. We will take time to explore some of the keys we missed going south and we look forward to snorkeling and fish and maybe catch another Mahi-Mahi. Our little grand-daughter, Jasmine, is growing every day and keeps her parents awake, so they are now well into the joys of parenthood.
February 27, 2009
Ross: Hello from Georgetown- the narcotic summer camp for the geriatric set. About three hundred boats are anchored. Getting a spot that allows you to swing 360 degrees and not hit anyone is a challenge. Hence the weather report is so critical in determining who you may be dancing with. The day before Jasmine was born we had to re-anchor three times and that night some boats were crunching. The next day however we were rewarded with news of Jasmine’s arrival. Life is quiet busy here – yoga, swimming classes (total immersion), happy hoursss…and of course boat fixing. Many folks stop here for months. We are impressed with the cruising community in Georgetown. Many folks put a lot of time into making the community work. If you have any problems you can count on getting help after presenting your problem on the “Boaters General”section of the daily VHF cruisers net. Lots of activities (volleyball, bridge, board games, swimming …) are available during the day. The big Cruisers Regatta will start next Wednesday. This is THE major event here.We’ll stay for it then start the trip north. We are registered in the racing events. Traveling in the Bahamas as well as the ICW, was more demanding than I expected. Currents and surges complicate anchoring and in the Bahamas there are few protected anchorages from west winds. We are used to sitting in 20-25 knots of wind with the anchor chain rubbing the hull as it reaches well past the stern to the anchor. And the wind hits us broadside rolling the boat sideways. Deep water is now 10 feet. It is weird sometimes to be looking for shoals on the port side while there is over 5,000 feet not to far to starboard. I caught a four foot Mahi Mahi while coming to Georgetown. What a feast we have had. It is hard to get good food in the islands so this was a particular treat. Bahamas weather is a series of lows that come about every four days with a wind that goes 360 degrees and blow 20 -25 from the north. Planning has been the pits since our two day stop over turns into a ten day stay waiting for a weather window. Apparently the winds should be more constant as the season moves on. Traveling back to Florida I expect should be easier – but I’m not convinced. The most important news in the Siddall family life is that we have a brand new family member.!! Diana gave birth to our first grand-daughter, Jasmine, on the 17th of February, after many hours of difficult labor that eventually required an emergency C-section. All is well and she and mom and dad are getting aquainted. We are dying to see her and we have a trip booked for Oz in early August. Meeting Jasmine will be better than being here in the Bahamas!!!!
February 10, 2009
We went to the Five F Festival in Little Farmer Island and anchored at the west side with about 30 boats. The festival was planned to be a weekend of of fun, but so far the cold and windy weather appears to have severely restricted the activities. The dinghy race was interesting – about 18 ft dinghies with a tall mast, single sail and two short boards protruding from the side on which sit daring “rail meat” to keep the boat upright and to tease the sharks . We have now moved back up north to Black Point and hope that in the next week the wind will allow us to get to Georgetown. The weather has become a major pain. We have been able to travel only about every ten days. This weather is stated to be unusual for the Bahamas, but it appears to some, sailors and Bahamians, that it has become the norm for the last few years and is likely a longer term change. The high level winds that drive the parade of low cells across the US has changed their route. More often now the cells do not make the left turn north as quick as before. So they continue their march into the Bahamas and bring along their cold air and winds. Consequently cautious sailors have fewer options to travel. We have found ourselves “stuck” for weeks. Uncautious sailors will dine on winds and steep waves that are served up by the ocean – a powerful and sometimes contemptuous chef. . An occasional wreck on the shore is a poignant reminder that the sea has no compassion. The Bahamian islands are both stunningly beautiful and a bit depressing. There are lots of vistas for stunning photos… The boat appears to be floating in air when viewed from underneath. But the dominant fact is that there is little to maintain an economy, so the communities are: sparse, scratching for tourist dollars, trying hard, but short on hope. There are many "stalled"developments with partially constructed walls and rusting machinery, or elegant developments, without noticeable customers. The book “Wind from the Carolinas” (Robert Wilder) is a good read and illustrates the difficulties folks have had making money here. But, it is certainly possible to have a good life here – depending on our definition of good. Hiking is limited because of the low, but dense bush and it is often difficult to land the dinghy. The land has all its original timber removed and low level secondary growth fights for survival in the thin layer of soil. The rock here is limestone that is heavily pockmarked from centuries of rain. It looks like a sponge, but the edges are razor sharp. Having sandals on your feet is a great way to reveal the relative hardness of sharp limestone and your flesh. Believe me you should bet on the limestone. We learned quickly that one’s foot must be totally covered. Fortunately, bugs have not been a concern yet, but there is the possibility for malaria and we have the pills. The Bahamas are not a “guest friendly”place so far for the folks we have talked to. Some hosts have traveled in rough conditions to arrive at airports to pick up guests who then sit on their boat in safe, not scenic anchorages. Guests are not happy given the cost to get here to learn that this cruising lifestyle has got more to do with Maytag than matinis – lots of sleepless nights rolling around in a washing machine worrying about your anchor, or, more importantly, that of the boat to windward. I have yet to see a martini. Cruisers are a little weird. We meet other cruisers frequently and conversation is always fun. But an odd lot we are. We are living a lifestyle – it is NOT a holiday. Nobody knows anything that has happened anywhere in the last four months, or cares for that matter. Life is too focused on keeping comfortable, and alive, today. Fellow cruisers get really enthusiastic about how to manage electricity, and prepare food. The top of the social ladder are those know the only facts of life that matter – when does the mail boat (with the veggies) really going to make its weekly arrival, and how does the control unit on my fridge compressor work. The clear water is stunning however. We look forward to enjoying it more, but must get nearer to the reefs on the ocean side – the home of sharks and baracuda – when the wind dies down and the clouds go away.
January 31, 2009
We have been anchoring at Staniel Keys, a small settlement, for almost a week. As all anchorages are here in the Exumas, this one is also extremely lovely with water colours of the bluest green, slivers of white beaches and limestone rocks. There is a very exclusive resort nearby, called Fowles resort where you can rent a three bedroom house for a week for $19,500!! We planned to stay a day or so then move on, but two cold fronts, with strong winds have us and forty other boats hunkered down for about seven days. Another cold front will arrive in four days, so we will be here until it has passed. In the winter cold fronts occurring frequently, every third day or so, so one travels only after they have passed. Travel is dictated by the weather, paticuarly wind strength and direction. Finding a place to anchor so you can sleep, at least, for part of the night, consumes our attention since these fronts bring strong winds from all directions. Instead of listening to the CBC morning news with Andy Barrrie, we listen to Chris Parker – the weather guru and we hear him at 6.30 am on our single sideband radio. We cannot receive any stations on the regular radio, so we have become extremely oblivious about what is happening in the rest of the world. This is indeed a rather strange feeling. The cruising lifelstyle has many lessons and it takes a while to “graduate” to the cruising mindset. Weather, boat repair, water, and food are so much on our mind as compared to living on land. Food stores are far apart and few. We live on what we have stored on the boat for weeks and that means we eat canned fish, meat and canned vegetables, canned fruit, beans and rice, and rice and beans. This is probably very similar to what the Bahamian menu. In the small settlements there are food stores, which consist of one or two small rooms by someone’s house. There are a few shelves with canned and dry goods, a small home freezer with frozen meat and fresh fruit and vegetables once a week – when it arrives with the mail boat. Everything is double to four times as expensive as at home.We went to the Pink store and the Blue store, the local food stores here and bought some oranges and other fresh produce. As we have not tasted oranges for a while, we could not stop saying ahh and ohh, as the taste was so exquisite!!There is something to be said for being without stuff for a while. When it is there, one appreciates it ten times more! Someone told us cruising is about fixing your boat in beautiful anchorages. Boy, have we felt that being the case for the last three days, mainly Don, who is the resident mechanic! Our fridge has refused to cooperate with us so Don has been arranging his limbs in twisted positions, to get access to the fridge components and figure out what the problem is. He is still at it, while the sun above is shining so bright and the wind is so brisk and the scenery just about heavenly. He is a little frustrated, but out of nowhere we met Frank and Lisa McGee from the Mimico YC. Frank has been coaching Don on the mysteries of refridgeration and had tools and material to help. Eventually it will be resolved. With Captain Don on the helm, everything seems to get resolved and I am slowly learning not to stress out so much. Not so easy though, as I like every day to be sweet and mellow, as the scenery seduces one. The folks that we meet along the way are all terrific people. We have now been with Briarpatch since we arrived in Bahamas. So much to learn, we discover so many things, that were not part of our life in the wintry north.. We are hoping for several days of settled weather by the end of next week so we can attend the annual “First Friday in February Farmers Key Festival” – known as the five Fs party. This festival features legged races, sail boat races, raffles, food, a chicken run, donkey dancing, men and women’s best leg contest – nothing serious of course but I have noticed Don is wondering if leg wax would help. Apparently it is something one should not miss. After this we will move on to Georgetown when the weather allows. We are curious about what that will be like. For some it is the"Mecca"and they stay there for months It is a bit of a "playground"with lots of daily organized activities for all the boaters, lots of socializing etc. We have to check it out of course. The Thunderball Grotto is located here in Staniel Cay. You may remember it from the James Bond movie Thunderball. It was neat to snorkel amongst a cloud of brightly coloured fish. The grotto was a room in a rock island with an opening in the top. It was much smaller than the image in the movie. Very, very soon, our grand-daughter, Jasmine, will be born. It can happen any time and we are anxiously waiting. What a sweet delight it is, to think about this little person, who will be part of our family and who we all will adore.
January 16, 2009
We have now been on a mooring ball in Warderick Wells, a Land and Sea Park, in the Exumas, for the last two nights. This is an incredible beautiful place to stop at for a while and many have said this is their favourite stop. We came here all the way from Allans key, approx. 40 miles, to find protection from the strong northerlies that were forecast for the end of the week. We missed a number of lovely anchorages on other keys, but are happy to be here because the cold front has hit us today with nasty cold winds and grey skies. It has been a "stay-in-the-boat "day, mainly as the Captain needs his rest to look after one of his eyes, which did not seem to respond well to all the diving that happened yesterday. As we entered this harbour from the Bank, we were practically swept away by the beauty of the water colours. It is crystal clear. You can almost see every speck of sand, 30 feet below even. The colour changes from ink blue, when the water is deep. When more shallow it is various shades of green. When the sun illuminates the green and dark clouds are in the background, as it was the other day, one feels ready to burst out in song . And on the shore are limestone rocks and beaches with the whitest sand. Finally we have arrived!!!We felt we could now stop and "smell the roses "for some days and not have to worry about weather and wind. One of the highlights being here is the snorkelling and we tried it twice. We have to pick a time of slack water and then put our dingy on a dingy mooring over an area of coral reefs. After that it is just a jump from the dingy and we were transported to a different world! Fishes of various sizes and all kinds of colours and shapes swam by us, appearing not to care that we were there. And there were many! Each one a piece of art in itself. Life can truly be magic when nature has been left undisturbed. We are not allowed to fish here and that is a good thing. The social life is as active here as in any other place and tomorrow afternoon the head quarters here are arranging a “happy hour”for all us boaters and there are quite a few of us. We stayed in Nassau for two nights, in a marina, together with “Briarpatch”, our fellow travellers since we left Bimini.