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A Weekend On The Water

There’s nothing like the feeling of getting back on the water after life on land for awhile. Whether it’s been a week away, or for us – weeks away, being welcomed aboard a gently rocking boat by dear friends is one of the best ways to start a weekend.

 Peaceful Sunday sail aboard Our Way Too

We hit the road for the coast as the sun rose Friday morning for a long weekend with good friends aboard their boats and to check out the Southwest International Boat Show. Once we pulled into Kemah, which grows on us with every visit, it was all things boats all weekend.

  • We settled in aboard Our Way Too, where we’d be staying with Katie and Dean for the weekend. In our cabin was the cutest and most thoughtful gift, a Lil’ Legends life jacket to help keep our little sailor-to-be safe when out on the water.
  • The afternoon was spent checking out the recently expanded West Marine (which is now about five times bigger than when we were outfitting Kaleo) and visiting with Carolyn, our broker at HSH Yachts. It was great catching up with her and after all the sailing and cruising talk, we couldn’t help but let her know that  if the right boat comes through the area, call us – we’ll be ready. She knows what we’re looking for.
  • Next stop, Alternate Latitude, our cruising friend Steve’s Voyage 440 catamaran, which seems like a cruise ship compared to our former Kaleo and his former monohull, Anchor Management. Along with his sister, visiting from Milwaukee, we headed out for an easy sail, tacking back and forth across the bay while smiling about everything. In fact, Alternate Latitude is available for charter in Galveston Bay and the Caribbean if you’re looking for some time on the water. You’ll be in good hands under Captain Steve and on a very comfortable and sound vessel.

 Cruising around the bay aboard Alternate Latitude

  • And, it wouldn’t be a day on the water without a little seafood, so as soon as Katie wrapped up her work at the boat show, we all headed off the beaten path to a local favorite, Gilhooley’s for their famous oysters and shrimp. After a fun and filling meal with great company, we made our way back to our berths feeling stuffed like flounders.
  • The Saturday morning sun beamed as we hopped into the dinghy for some exploring. Two highlights included playing bridge limbo with the high tide and dinghying over to Wanderer, the actual boat from the cruisers’ cult classic, Captain Ron.

Scooching under a bridge with just inches to spare

 Up close and personal with the boat featured in Captain Ron

  • After lunch, it was off to the boat show, where we checked out a host of beautiful new sailboats, only furthering our fever. We chatted with Carolyn again, visited Katie’s booth for Redfish Island Marine and even ran into an old friend and sailing instructor, John Brown.

Scoping out a new Lagoon

Catching up with John at the boat show

  • We had a quiet evening on board and were up early Sunday for a dinghy ride for breakfast at Classic Cafe. The 20 hp outboard on Dean and Katie’s dinghy made it a much quicker trip than last time. Two new sailing friends, Chris and Tammy of Living and Loving Life, joined us for breakfast and we all talked about … you guessed it, boats and cruising. Soon we were all back aboard Our Way Too for a long Sunday sail on the bay
Sailing alongside Alternate Latitude

We stayed as long as we possibly could and eventually made our way back to the dock where we reluctantly wrapped up the weekend. Thank you again to our generous friends for opening their floating homes to us. We loved every sun soaked, sea breeze filled moment.


Adding To The Fleet

The “Texas Navy” is gaining strength and we’ve made some great new friends.

Peaceful evening sail aboard s/v Lonestar

We’ve finally met up with fellow DFW sailors and soon-to-be-cruisers, Katie and Dean, of s/v Our Way Too!. Their boat is berthed in Kemah and they’re all too familiar with the same 4.5 hour drive (each way) that we made while preparing Kaleo for cruising. As we discovered over dinner recently, that isn’t the only thing we have in common as the guys talked boat projects and cruising plans while the gals chatted about staying connected and provisioning. And, as great cruising conversations go, the night (and restaurant) closed on us before we were ready to say goodbye so we made plans to meet up again soon.

The crews of Our Way Too and Kaleo at dinner

Fortunately, soon came quickly (just a couple of days later) and included the addition of new friends, Chris and Staci of s/v Lonestar. Chris and Staci are also fellow sailors who keep Lonestar on Eagle Mountain Lake near Fort Worth. All of us had been trying to meet up individually, but we have Katie to thank for bringing the whole group together.

Chris and Staci graciously hosted us for an evening sail on the beautiful Lonestar and then for a delish dinner at the Fort Worth Boat Club. As one of the oldest yacht clubs in Texas, the FWBC was established in 1929 by a group of businessmen who simply wanted to sail. Now that’s something we can relate to!

 The crew heading out for a sail

After a beautiful beam reach down a few lengths of the lake, we glided back to the yacht club for dinner. And to make the evening even sweeter, Katie and Dean brought a birthday cake to celebrate Christie. Chocolate, of course! We look forward to sailing more together soon!

 The happy birthday girl


Lakeside and Lovin’ It

The end of the Harvest Moon Regatta marked the beginning of a fun-filled weekend with part of our cruising family, Rusty and Linda, of Sea Yawl Later. We joined them at Sitton on the Lake, their retreat on the pristine shores of Toledo Bend Reservoir.

“Sitton on the Lake’s” patio view of peaceful shores

We rolled in to the secluded point just in time for a first-class fish fry, with over 80 fresh fillets, courtesy of Pappy (Rusty’s dad) and his fishing crew.  And it only got better from there as we:

  • Treasured the time visiting with our dear friends
  • Caught up on our lost sleep (from the long drive back after the HMR) on the most comfortable bed ever!
  • Enjoyed the lake view as the warm sun radiated through the overhead trees
  • Took a golf cart tour of the serene Piney Woods’ neighborhood
  • Got the golf cart stuck in a Texas sized mud-hole just off the beach

Unintentional Muddin’

  • Played with all kinds of R/C boats courtesy of neighbor, Larry. He may single-handedly have the best collection of “toys” among anyone we’ve ever met. Thanks for letting us play, Larry!
  • Indulged in Rusty’s famous “to die for” ribs, delish stand-up chicken, Linda’s juicy jambalaya, Granny’s creamed potatoes, and then some
  • Started planning for a “Texas Navy” cruiser’s reunion in 2012
  • Wound down the visit by winding up our adrenaline as we raced Larry’s mini-class dragster up and down the quiet country lane. But really, it can hardly be considered “mini-class” because that thing GOES. FAST. HEAD-SLAMMED-BACK-YELL-OUT-OF-SHEER-TERROR-AND-DELIGHT-FAST! Needless to say we ALL had a TON of fun!!

 Fast ride down a short road

Most of all, we kicked back, relaxed and enjoyed life with good friends. And, all agreed that life seems a lot more peaceful at the lake. Driving home on Sunday, we said a prayer of thanks for meeting, and ultimately, being so welcomed into the lives of Rusty, Linda and their family. We love you guys!

Portsmouth & Norfolk, VA

From the Outer Banks we ventured across the Albemarle Sound and while it shares a similarly precarious reputation with the Pamlico, we had a safe and smooth crossing to Coinjock, NC.

Crossing the Currituck Sound, NC

On Tuesday we pulled into (or rather through) the small North Carolina town of Coinjock along the ICW for a night’s stay at Midway Marina and then spent the next full day motorsailing to the town dock at Great Bridge in Chesapeake, VA.

Fun wall of friends in Chesapeake, VA

Nestled between a bascule bridge and lock, this wall dock is a perfect overnight stay before locking through the next morning. Bonus: With Simpatico and Jesse Marie on the same route, we formed a great neighborhood and enjoyed a fun dinner out at Toro Loco, just a short walk away. I love how cruisers’ paths weave in and out, mixing in new friends with the familiar, along our travels.

Serene 78° day along the ICW in Chesapeake, VA

Friday morning it was on to Portsmouth, VA, a small seaport that’s managed to hold onto its 18th-and 19th-century charm for over 250 years. With Downtown Norfolk just across the river, we planned to slow down and take in the towns. We tucked Kaleo into the scenic waterfront town dock at High Street Landing and were off to enjoy the temperate day (mid 70’s by day, high 60’s by night).

Our backyard at High Street Landing in Portsmouth, VA

Taking the paddle-wheel ferryboat to Norfolk, VA with Jesse Marie

Over the next couple of days we:

  • Visited the expansive Chrysler Museum of Art. 62 galleries with over 30,000 works of art from around the world (made up mostly from the private collection of Walter Chrysler, Jr.) gave us a full afternoon of meandering and is not to be missed if you’re in the Norfolk area. Did we mention it’s FREE?! One of our favorite sights was a temporary exhibit where video technology captures the movements of the viewer, so that you interact with and become a part of the artwork itself.

We’re part art!

  • Feasted on a sushi dinner at Domo Sushi before wandering around town and eventually to the Town Point BrewFest to enjoy some live music

Trifeca of greatness. Battleship Wisconsin, Nauticus, and the schooner Virginia

  • Watched an outdoor movie on the fantail (back deck) of the Battleship Wisconsin. The feature film, The Poseidon Adventure, was an action-adventure disaster film about a cruise ship that capsizes and a rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety. Though dated (1972) the story wasn’t lost on us sailors, especially since we were watching it aboard such a mighty battleship.

Battleship Wisconsin set up for its “Fantail Film Festival”

The Poseidon Adventure on the deck of the Battleship Wisconsin

“Fantail Film Festival”

  • Returned home to find the dock to Kaleo underwater! The full moon made for a HIGH tide and us wading to our front door.

Wading across the dock to our floating home

  • Spent Saturday morning at the Portsmouth Farmer’s Market and the famous Skipjacks Nautical Wares before heading back to Norfolk to explore Nauticus, a maritime and naval history museum on steroids. Along with hundreds of exhibits on naval warfare, NOAA weather prediction and even a shark petting tank, a visit to Nauticus also includes a self-guided tour of the Battleship Wisconsin. Though we were on it the night before, the 887 foot long, 45,000 pound ship is impressive to say the least.

Captain Atlas at Nauticus

The mighty and stealth Battleship Wisconsin

  • Met up with friends and fellow cruisers Rick and Linda of s/v Sojourner (finally!) who also hail from Texas. We’ve only virtually known them since the beginning of our trip when they gave us much appreciated guidance on traveling the Gulf Coast. It was a joy to finally meet them in person where we got to know each other better over dinner at AJ Gators. Thanks for the ride home too guys!

Exhausted from the full day, we tumbled into bed with plans to continue north the next morning.

National Family Island Regatta in GT

Tuesday marked our return to George Town for the 58th Annual National Family Island Regatta.

Racing for the windward course mark

The best sailors from every major island in the Bahamas converge to compete for the “Best in the Bahamas” title and a year’s worth of island pride.

The frenzied A Class starting line

Racers hiked out on the prye. Notice the name?

Criss-crossing the course

We’ve met many of the locally-built sloops’ crews and were cheering for the No. 5 boat from Long Island, “Running Tide” and the No. 18 boat from Black Point, “Red Stripe”! Along with these fiercely competitive races is a built-up Regatta Point with brightly-colored booths serving delicious local food, frosty rum drinks, and DJ’s pumping lively music, all Bahamas style!

Intently watching for No. 5

The Black Point favorite, “Red Stripe”. Go Lundy!

“Barbarian”, a little off course

A few of the days, we anchored Kaleo in the thick of the action near the finish line. It was close enough to Regatta Point that we could literally feel the music and smell the BBQ roasting. Hot and sunny afternoons were spent meandering through the huts at Regatta Point with throngs of Bahamians and the ever fun crews of “Storyville,” “Morning Glory,” “Pipe Muh Bligh” and “Palaola.”

A race boat heading out to the start line. Up close and personal with “Kaleo”

The market with hand-woven straw baskets and batik fabrics

The streets of Regatta Point

Que romantic race moment

In the evenings, we would move “Kaleo” to a more peaceful anchorage on the east side of the harbor and unwind from the frenetic but fun energy of locals still swaying to the music in George Town. Of course, we took advantage of the well-stocked Exuma Market, propane truck, bank and such before leaving the harbour.

Though planning to leave Friday morning, we ended up staying an extra day to catch a few more races and spend more time with Deana and Troy of “Storyville.” With heavy hearts, the time has come for us to take diverging routes but can’t thank them enough for all their friendship, advice and encouragement over the past several months. They have truly become part of our family on the water and we look forward to visiting them somewhere down island soon.

The crews of “Kaleo” and “Storyville”

With fond farewells we prepped “Kaleo” for an early Saturday morning departure bound for Little Farmer’s Cay.

N 23° 30.39 / W 75° 45.88

Leaving for Long Island

Thursday was spent prepping the boat, and ourselves, to leave Red Shanks for our Friday sail to Long Island.

Kaleo resting at anchor before we left for Long Island

Our hearts were heavy as Friday would bring the start of diverging routes among The Navy.

Steve on “Anchor Management” is heading on a fast track to Puerto Rico. Us, more leisurely, to Long Island. And “Storyville” was planning to play in Red Shanks a bit longer. “Pipe Muh Bligh” was undecided and with “Morning Glory” already in Long Island and “SYL” on their way to Turks and Caicos, our time together, at least for now, had come to an end.

On Thursday evening, everyone piled on “Pipe” to enjoy sundowners and talk about the fun we’ve had together over the past few months. Though we’ll see “Storyville” and “Pipe” again at the Family Island Regatta in a few weeks, Steve is staying in PR once he gets there. Before we knew it, the sun had set and with plans to leave at first light it was time for bed.

A few grateful tears, strong bear hugs and a melancholic ride home from Troy (our dinghy was already stored on deck), and we waved goodbye to great friends who have become family on the water.

So with heavy hearts we settled into bed awaiting the 6:30 a.m. beep beep beep of the weather radio alarm.

Daylight on Friday morning came quickly and along with Steve, we pulled up the hook and motored out toward the mouth of Elizabeth Harbour. Troy woke up to radio one last “be safe out there” and other than talking with Steve on the VHF, the world was silent.

Exiting the cut, we hoisted sail and for the first time, pointed our boat in a different direction than Steve’s. He headed northeast and we southeast.

Drifting over the ocean’s surface

Halfway there we passed over the Tropic of Cancer. We now officially live in the tropics.

Matt is always going forward to adjust the sails

While sailing toward Indian Point on Long Island, we talked with “Morning Glory” who was already there to make plans to anchor near each other. We dropped the hook, caught up with them and dinghyied to a nearby beach to hunt shells and stretch our legs.

Christie hunting for sea beans and shells

Returning to the boats, Ted happened to dive his anchor only to discover it was barely holding on to a small rock ledge. Further investigation revealed ours was too! When we had set the anchor and backed on the chain the boat jerked so hard we thought it was buried deeply in the sand. Turns out it just happen to catch a rock ledge on the scoured rocky bottom. The next two hours were spent racing sunset as we motored north looking into alternate anchorages. Just after dark, we found a spot, though a bit shallow, with decent anchor holding so we settled in for the night.

Ted and Mili joined us for spinach lasagna aboard and we all agreed that visually checking the anchor should be the first priority each time we set the hook. The keel softly touched the sandy bottom a few times at low tide in the night but it was good holding helping us to sleep soundly.

N 23° 20.20 / W 75° 07.60

Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht Club

Our final evening with the remaining Navy ships was spent at the “Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club” enjoying happy hour, throwing around the frisbee and taking in a gorgeous sunset.

Christie saving a local starfish

Matt and Ted tossing the frisbee

The yacht club bar

Matt jumping for a high throw

The Navy’s conch shell memento

The Navy being accepted into the yacht club

Now before you think we’ve gone all fancy, schmoozing at the “yacht club”, realize that this is no ordinary club. In fact, it’s a short beach that only exists at low tide. And only accessible by private yachts boats. There is a simple wooden bench and a driftwood bar secured to the rocks so they don’t float away. The backdrop is adorned with creatively decorated and signed conch shells left by members who have come before. And there you have it. A bonified Bahamian yacht club. Design by – and for – the quirky, yet ever imaginative cruising community.

As a place of legend in one of our cruising guides, and positioned in the front yard of our anchorage in Red Shanks, we couldn’t pass it by without a visit before making our way toward Long Island.

Just as many cruisers had done before, we all signed and dated a conch shell and secured it onto the rocky wall. The shell we signed had special significance as Rusty and Linda had given it to us the first time we met them wayyyyy back in Kemah! They had found it on their first trip to the Jimentos and told us to return it to the Bahamas when we got there. The “Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club” seemed like as fitting place as any to keep the promise. Thanks, Rusty and Linda!

Navy Dinner in Red Shanks

To celebrate Christie and Steve’s return to George Town, and with the Texas Navy starting to take diverging routes, everyone gathered at a restaurant in Red Shanks to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.

A Texas-size celebration

Ted had made reservations for 11 and we upon arriving, we were greeted with a large pre-set table with lit candles, linen tablecloth and napkins. “SYL” had arrived a few minutes early and was thoughtful enough to assign seating for the two guests of honor. Hand drawn on little napkins were “Steve from Anchor Management,” “The Admiral” and Matt’s sign “The Admiral’s Servant.”

Christie’s place card

Matt’s place card

As we sat down, the chef/owner brought out complimentary conch fritters to start the evening. Rum punches and Kaliks (Bahamian beer) were lifted as we toasted to our friendship and soon enough the table was filled with cracked conch, cracked chicken, garlic shrimp, and New York Steaks with steamed broccoli and honey-glazed carrots.

The food and service were top notch and the evening was spent over vibrant and engaging conversation. On the dinghy ride home, we stopped to say farewell (for a couple weeks) to “SYL” who left for Turks and Caicos this morning.

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks waiting in George Town for our watermaker to arrive and it should finally be here on Thursday. Once picked up, we’re looking forward to setting sail for Long Island on Friday.

A Week in Waiting

The blog and Kaleo have been pretty quiet the past week while Christie flew to Houston to reprovision on family time and a few things that aren’t readily available out here.

She left on Sunday morning and after another Bahamas church service (just as long but without the shouting), I returned to an empty hull. All our stuff was there but the warmth, energy, and emotion that fills Kaleo was noticeably missing.

Knowing that a ship without its Admiral is like having a compass that doesn’t point north, the Texas Navy stepped up to help me through the week. From breakfast on “SYL” to dinners aboard “Morning Glory”, I certainly wasn’t lacking for wonderful and filling meals.

This week highlighted the bonds made while cruising as each boat we’ve spent time with supported, encouraged, and anticipated Christie’s return with me. I am continually amazed by how much everyone cares for each other and will stop at nothing to lend a hand, cook a meal or bring a smile to your face.

While counting down the hours until Christie’s return, I:

  • Enjoyed ice cream at the laundromat a few too many times
  • Crossed some boat projects off the list like replacing the toilet pump, preparing for the watermaker install, wiring water tank monitors and reorganizing the lazzerette
  • Hiked to some ruins on a nearby cay with Ted and Mili and unsuccessfully searched for caves on another cay

The ruins of a kitchen on Crab Cay

Hiking the ruins on Crab Cay

  • Finished two books and slept in a few days
  • Gorged myself on manicotti during “Italian night” aboard “Pipe Muh Bligh”
  • Crafted, with the help of Ted and Mili, a spray shield for the dinghy to help keep us dry on high wind days
  • Met and hung out with Rusty’s brother Jim and his two daughters, who were all a fun addition to the Navy. The girls kicked transom at Mexican Train and Jimmy, in chorus with Troy, serenaded us all with sailor songs on the guitar

Troy and Jimmy playing sailor songs

  • Appreciated the gracious nightly invites to dinner aboard “Morning Glory”
  • Attended “boat church” aboard “MG” with the entire Texas Navy where we sang worship songs, spent time in prayer and watched a service

“Boat Church” aboard Morning Glory

“Boat Church” parking lot

  • Helped Mili on “MG” sew an anchor riding sail, which when hoisted on Kaleo should reduce swinging at anchor

Matt and Mili working on the anchor riding sail

  • Took full advantage of Skype by getting to talk with Christie a few times each day

While in Texas, Christie told me of her quest to stock-up on some of our favorite foods, boat parts, pampering and pick up a few requests for the Navy. Coming from a close-knit Italian family, most of their time was centered around meals of grand proportion with lots of conversation and laughter. One night (as most) the family got together at Christie’s parents’ house for a full-on Bubba Gump-style Shrimp Fest featuring boiled, grilled, and kabobed shrimp with every combination of zucchini, carrots, garlic, pineapple, potatoes, chicken, sausage and more. Breaks from these culinary feasts included road tripping to Dallas with her Mom and Nana to visit friends, dine at her favorite restaurants, and, in her words, “get put back together” at a few salons.

A round of reprovisioning

When I met her at the airport, the porter happily handed off the 3 giant bags and 1 box, weighing in at 50 lbs each. I was impressed that Christie was able to pack everything so efficiently and then get the freight down to George Town. “SYL” was kind enough to help with the pickup by staging their big boat near the dinghy dock to save us from the 30 minute dinghy ride with all the extra weight. We jumped on board, unloaded the dinghy and were back anchored in Red Shanks before dark.

It was announced on the radio upon pulling in that “the Texas Navy would like to welcome the return of Admiral Christie,” and we all (myself especially) were ecstatic that she was home.

Regatta Results

Friday arrived with one thing on our mind. The results of the races were to be announced that evening at the Regatta Awards Ceremony.

We won 1st Overall in our class!

“Around the Island” Race Crew with 2nd place finish flag, custom caps & bottle o’ rum

“SYL” volunteered to be the water taxi back to Volleyball Beach, allowing us to leave our boats in Red Shanks. The gals headed to the beach for the info-session “Eating Well While Cruising” and the guys dinghyied into St. Francis Resort to track down Internet. They soon returned to the beach where Matt was recruited to play a round of tug-o-war.

As the cooking class wrapped up the guys smelled the food being prepared and we all decided it was time for an early dinner. We feasted on racks of ribs and fresh Grouper at the Chat N’ Chill moments before the awards were to be announced.

Admirals and Captains enjoying dinner & sundowners at Chat ‘N’ Chill

The guys were too antsy to sit, so they hovered behind us on the beach as the first round of awards were called out. The “longest fish caught underway” went to “Guiding Light” who caught a Mahi, the first fish to be caught in the race in the last three years! Various awards for photographs taken during the races were handed out next and the well-deserved “baking underway” prize went to our very own, Deana, who made her famous cheesecake, which was voted first place by all three judges!

Then it was time for the multi-hull results. First up, the “In Harbor Race”. Third place was “Sun Burst”, the crowd applauded and we drew in a breath. Second place, “Guiding Light”. And taking first place, by 8 seconds … “Sea Yawl Later!” We all jumped up and ran forward to hoist the huge 1st place pennant (flag) awarded to Rusty and crew.

Pictures, cheering, and awards for the other boat classes and soon enough we were back in the same place waiting on the results of the “Around the Island Race”.

Third place went to “Guiding Light”.  Second place to “Sea Yawl Later” and first place to “Sun Burst” with only a 20-second lead. While another first place would have been great, “SYL” won first place overall with a first and second place finish. Congratulations and talks of next year’s race filled the canopy under the trees as we all reveled in the fun of racing a craft powered only by the wind.

“SYL” nearly floated above the water on the ride home as we all laughed, joked and held out the immense first place flag.

Retreat to Red Shanks

All the activity and action from the past two weeks’ Regatta had taken its toll and we were looking for a great place to relax.

The gals soaking in the sun

Red Shanks is an anchorage about five miles south of George Town but no where near the same pace. As we motored into the secluded cove, only three other boats were around to greet us. As we set the hook, it reminded us of the private protected anchorages that we enjoyed in places like Black Point, O’Briens Cay and Shroud Cay. Surrounded by sandy mangrove covered cays, the water was glass and Kaleo floated without a tug on her anchor chain.

We dinghyied over to “Morning Glory” to relax in the sun, swim, and live the cruiser’s dream. The guys talked boats, solar panels, and other technical topics while the gals played Bananagrams and lounged on the trampolines. All the while, Ted and Mili were generous enough to run their watermaker for us, filling up our empty jugs as we wait for our Cruise RO watermaker to be delivered in the next week or so.

Matt and Ted jumping off “Morning Glory”

A few hours later “SYL” came into the anchorage and joined the afternoon swim and sun while we all made plans for a potluck dinner. Everyone returned to their respective boats to make a dinner dish and wash the salt off. We then headed over to “SYL” to be greeted by a table set with real linen napkins and glassware. A touch that brought the dinner from a cruiser’s potluck to a gathering of friends over fresh fish, filet mignot, chicken and a plethora of delicious side dishes.

Dinner & great company aboard “SYL”

Kaleo quietly floating at anchor in Red Shanks

Sunset turned into twinkling stars and as the night wrapped up, a crescent moon was our street light on the ride home.

N 23° 29.09 / W 75° 44.29

In-Harbour Regatta Race

Recharged and ready for the day, we enjoyed a warm and filling breakfast of Migas, then dinghyied over to “Morning Glory” and “Sea Yawl Later” who were rafted up together.

The “SYL” crew ready to race

It was the Regatta’s “In-Harbor Race” Day and Matt was crewing aboard “SYL” with Ted from “Morning Glory” under the trusty Captain Rusty.

The guys prepped the boat and soon sailed off leaving the Admirals aboard “Morning Glory” to cheer on the team and enjoy some girl time.

The In-Harbour Race is two laps around a race course marked by large floating buoys and involves sailing both up and down wind. This type of course means that each boat/team will have to make multiple tacks and jibes in order to successfully run the course, which translates into a lot of work for each crew member.

Three fleets of mono-hulls started, then the gun sounded for the multi-hull race as five catamarans sped toward the start line (in a sailboat race the boats are already sailing and can cross the line after the gun but not before, so each team tries to time it as close as possible).

“SYL” crossed the start third in their class and were disappointed as their start had given the leader at least 20 seconds on them. Over the next hour, boats of all sizes and colors battled for the best time on the course.

At one point, “SYL” was neck-in-neck with two other cats, “Guiding Light” and a St. Francis 50, “Penelope”, but in the end, the St. Francis pulled away from “SYL” and “SYL” shouldered in front of “Guiding Light.”

Once more around the marks and “SYL” was third cross the finish line with country music blaring from the loud speaker. Each boat has a (PHRF) rating to help level the playing field, otherwise it would be no contest for the 33 foot “SYL” to compete with the 50 foot St. Francis, as the bigger the boat, the faster it can typically go. The official results won’t be released until the Friday night results party but according to our calculations we think “SYL” came in first or second place.

If there was an award for having the most fun underway, the guys on “SYL” would taken top prize. Their music filled the harbor and had other racers dancing on deck while the guys practiced their “Wind”-inspired choreographed race chants and stance.

The Texas Navy at the Regatta Post Race Party

After the race, we napped and then headed up to the post-race party at St. Francis Resort where “all the racers tell stories about how well they did.” After spinning a few yarns and talking with others, we dinghied home as Matt grumbled about his sore back, neck, shoulders and arms, all from grinding on the winches. He won the prize for first one to bed and soon thereafter, we we’re both sound asleep.

A Drag of a Night

Friday was an R ‘n’ R day aboard Kaleo. Not only were we wiped out from the action of the Coconut Harvest, but we had a eventful and restless Thursday night.

The calm waters before the evening winds picked up

At about midnight, our anchor drag alarm sounded and Matt popped his head out of the companionway to survey the situation. The anchor drag alarm is a handheld GPS with a pre-set radius which goes off if the boat moves beyond a certain distance. We set the alarm in tight anchorages (too many boats close together) or in strong winds as a way to alert us should the anchor come unset. Both conditions were the case for our George Town anchorage.

Matt stuck his head below and said “we’re dragging” over the howl of 25+ knot winds. At a calm but quick pace we started the motor, turned on the depth sounder and dug out the spot light. Several boats were anchored behind us that we needed to avoid dragging into.

Though the hook reset it self and stopped the boat, it placed us uncomfortably close to other vessels. So through hand signals, our hand held radios and shouting over the clamor of the anchor chain being raised we negotiated our way through the sleeping boats out into open and deeper water.

After twenty minutes of motoring around to find a good place that was clear of other boats, we dropped the hook with about 125 feet of chain out (vs. the 70 feet we had down before). Once the hook was firmly set, we fell into an on-and-off sleep while Matt got up every couple of hours to check our position.

We owe a huge thank you to Storyville who responded to our call, offered help, and stayed on the radio with us until the hook was reset. The hook held through the night with no problems and in the morning we moved back to our original spot with more scope.

Later in the afternoon, Morning Glory mentioned there was a calm and protected spot over near them so we picked up the hook and reset closer to the beach and in smooth water. Dead tired and with the in-harbor race the next day, we sunk into the v-berth and slept soundly thorough the night.

Dragging anchor is a reality of cruising and every windy night we hear someone on the radio having the same problem. It’s certainly not something we’d like to experience again and we’re grateful that no damage was done. Matt attributed the anchor working loose to not enough chain out (though we couldn’t put any more because of the proximity of other boats) and the strong wind shifts.

It was a stressful situation for both of us, yet it proved once again, the strength of the bonds we’ve made out here. The following day our “Fleet Family” stopped by to check on us, see if we needed anything and offer reassurance that Kaleo was securely anchored once again.

The Coconut Challenge

It was an action-packed morning as Kaleo teamed up with Steve on “Anchor Management” and Erin on “SYL” to enter the “Texas Navy” in this year’s Cruising Regatta’s Coconut Challenge!

Team “Texas Navy”

We listened to the weather report on the morning net as we gathered all the supplies for the morning’s race. Flippers-to-be-used-as-propulsion. Check. Bucket-to-be-used-offensively-as-well-as-defensively. Check. Life jackets. Check. Empty our dink off all its contents. Check. Then it was off to Anchor Management to meet up with Steve, remove our dinghy motor and oars, and tow it to secure a prime starting position on the beach by 8:30.

Matt and Steve chose a spot that looked like the best launch pad for the first challenge and then it was back to Anchor Management to finish breakfast and strategize.

The Coconut Challenge consisted of four events:

  • The “Coconut Dinghy Harvest” where teams of four paddle an engineless dink with swim fins and scoop up as many coconuts as possible as they drift with only four total appendages allowed in the water at any time. “Any protests or challenges to the rules must be made in writing on a ripe coconut and tossed into Elizabeth Harbor on the first full moon following Regatta.”
  • The “Coconut Hatch Toss” where we each attempted to throw a coconut through a small boat hatch hung above the volleyball net
  • “Coconut Bowling” with the goal of each knocking over an empty Kalik (Bahamian beer) bottle
  • The “Coconut Ring Toss” where we each lobbed a coconut over the volleyball net trying to land it in one of three rope rings

It was a running start from the beach and all 35+ teams were in the water desperately flipper paddling for coconuts floating and drifting in the wind-swept waters. We worked together as Steve and Christie propelled the dink while Erin and Matt reached for the floating points. The whole time being bumped, splashed and jostled by other competitors. “The Navy” rocked as we scooped 65 coconuts onboard before returning to the finish line.

Pre-race briefing

Our coconut capture

Moving over to Volleyball Beach, we didn’t do as well in the Hatch Toss or Bowling but Erin landed a ‘nut in the 3-point ring during the Ring Toss. Ultimately, we had a blast and couldn’t have asked for better team mates.

Coconut Hatch Toss

Coconut Ring Toss

Domestic Wednesday

Even living in earthly paradise requires household chores and Wednesday was a perfect domestic day as the harbor was glass-like without a ripple of wind on its surface.

It’s these type of days that make for the driest and fastest dinghy rides into town, so we took full advantage of it.

The day started off a little rough as Christie took a tumble out of the companionway and smacked her check on the winch. She recovered quickly but will suffer a bruise below the eye and lost a little skin from her leg. But she toughed it out and bounced up to head out for beach yoga taught by Erin. We’re so enjoying her company and yoga expertise.

Matt took the time to do another round of water with the jerry jugs (have we mentioned that were really excited for the watermaker). After yoga, we both headed into town to have the propane tanks filled, get gas for our outboard motor and grocery shop before the winds picked up and the forecast storm settled over us.

Getting propane George Town-style was a new experience as about 35 cruisers and locals all gathered in a dirt parking lot a half hour before 11:00 to wait for the propane truck to arrive that comes every Wednesday. Nearly on time, it lumbered into the lot ready to distribute its payload to our awaiting bottles. Another hour later, our tanks were topped up and we were off to the Exuma Market for some fresh produce.

The weekly propane truck

We all gathered at the boat ramp near the end of Lake Victoria

Leaving the market, the sky foretold of a torrential rain blowing towards us. So we hedged our bets, tossed the groceries in the dink and gunned it toward Kaleo on the other side of the harbor. It’s a good 20 minute ride with the dink loaded down and we could see the rain line marching toward us. A quick prayer got us back to the boat just before the rain started and upon arrival, we discovered that all of our ports and hatches had been closed up tight by a helpful elf. Later we learned that Deana had been sweet enough to come over and close the boat up, knowing that we were still in town. The Navy certainly has a wonderful way of watching out for one another.

Just as we handed the groceries into the companionway, the rain reached us and began to rinse the boat of salt and sand. Matt took a break in the rain to scurry over to Anchor Management to lend a hand with a malfunctioning wi-fi extender. While out, the next round of rain found Matt mid-way through the trip and quickly washed him of all the day’s salt and sand as well.

The rain and wind continued as Chris Parker voiced an updated forecast over the VHF, “the rain would eventually subside but the wind would increase.” It’s nice having the weather guru as a neighbor in the harbor. The weather blowing in earlier than forecast was disappointing as the Regatta Kick-Off Beach Bash was planned to start at 5:00. A few brave dinghy pilots headed in for the start of the party but most of us stayed aboard to hear if it was still a go. The rum punches and Sand’s were flowing on time but dinner had been delayed so we could hear the volume increase from the early party-goers but held out in hopes of dinner to accompany the libations. In the end, dinner wasn’t cancelled but Matt took one for the Kaleo team and headed in for a short while to pick up our dinners before bashing back through the 25 knot winds to enjoy dinner together in a warm, dry home.

Beach Bash dinner tickets. (We did get more than ‘a fry’ ;o).

It will be early to rise for the Coconut Challenge tomorrow so we’ll tuck in early for a windy night’s rest.

George Town, Bahamas

Our last day in Farmers Cay was spent dinghy exploring and lobster hunting. The hunting party was unsuccessful in finding lobster but we did find a huge starfish and lots of sand dollars.

Matt just up from checking a coral head for dinner

An early Wednesday morning had us heading for George Town with most of the time spent motoring into light headwinds. The fishing line was out but again the sea would not give up her bounty.

Arriving in Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, the landscape was dotted with hundreds of masts gently swaying with the ocean swell. The sheer volume of boats and radio traffic was a sure sign that we had arrived.

Our welcome sign from the dinghy dock

George Town is a fabled place for cruisers; a stop for all on the route south and in fact, the final stop for many. It offers great provisioning, free water, lots of marine services, restaurants, an airport and the chance to gather with hundreds of fellow cruisers. With all these amenities comes a different pace from what we’ve experienced while cruising. With different events and activities planned all-day, every day, and over 250 boats in the harbor, GT lives up to its nickname of “summer camp for cruisers.”

Kaleo pulled into the harbor just in time for the 31st Annual Cruising Regatta, a two-week long series of boat races, beach bashes, creative competitions like the Dinghy Poker Run (aka: crisscrossing-harbor-dinghy-pub-crawl) and the infamous Coconut Challenge (more to come on this as we compete), as well as volleyball-, golf-, Bocce Ball-, Ultra Trivial Pursuit- and Texas Hold ‘Em-tournaments. There’s even Tug of War on the beach, a Dance Party with Rockin’ Ron, and a Variety Show (I immediately think “Dirty Dancing” here). In a nut shell, it’s action-packed Adults’ Field Day. Every day. With enough events packed in to make our land-life schedules look downright geriatric.

Our arrival into GT, along with “Storyville” and “Anchor Management” meant the entire “Texas Navy” had been reunited. Just in the few days leading up to the kick-off of the Regatta, we’ve already …

  • Enjoyed a dinner out with Steve at the Chat N’ Chill on Volleyball Beach for our first night in town. Two full plates of ribs, slaw and fries satiated our need to not dirty our own dishes and Matt’s red meat cravings. After dusk, Rusty projected “Pirates of the Caribbean” on his sail near the beach where we, and many other cruisers, enjoyed the open-air movie.
  • Explored the “town” part of George Town on Thursday. After walking around a bit, we stepped into the Exuma Market and were giddy at the sight of so much fresh produce and natural foods. Exuma Market is a fully-stocked grocery store that clearly caters to the cruising crowd with its wide-ranging selections and ideal location directly next to the dinghy dock. After a full cart of shopping, we loaded up the dinghy with groceries and headed back to enjoy the bounty. We’re most excited about finding organic spinach and other brightly-colored veggies, all-natural tortilla chips and organic salsas, ground turkey, flat breads, Tika Masala and Pad Thai sauces, and even some high fructose-free cereal.

“Almost” as beautiful to us as the beaches we live on

  • Met up with Mike and Rebecca of “Zero to Cruising“, fellow cruisers and bloggers who we’ve kept in touch with as both boats prepared and journeyed south. They’ve been in GT for a little while so they generous shared the scoop on where to be for the beach parties each evening as well as where to find whatever we may need during our stay.
  • Celebrated the return of Linda and arrival of her daughter, Erin, aboard “SYL” on Friday afternoon. We joined Rusty in picking them up from town after their flight arrived. Seeing Linda was like being reunited with a long-lost friend and we were delighted to finally meet Erin. The evening festivities started with mild intensions on Storyville, then quickly kicked into high-gear as the Navy migrated to “SYL”, then to “Guiding Light”, then back to “Storyville” for what turned into the start of “24-Hours-of-Steve” in honor of his upcoming birthday. Though it wasn’t until Sunday, the celebration of all-things-Steve started on Friday night with some entertaining choreography (“The George Town Stance” and “The Bosun Chair Bop”) by the captain of “Kaleo” to the beat of “I’m on a Boat,” of course while wearing our flippy-floppies and swim trunks.
  • Took it easy on Saturday morning before heading over to Monument Beach for afternoon yoga and retired early with a movie at home.
  • Attended Beach Church on Sunday morning under the shade trees with cooling sand between our toes. A fellow cruiser gave a nice “sermonette” on opening our eyes and hearts to people we might not normally interact with, much as Jesus did with the tax collector in Luke 19:9. Beach Church is an official church with a statement of faith, pastor and volunteer choir, in which Rusty from “SYL” shares his talented voice. Though the music and style made us thankful for our more contemporary Fellowship Church, it was a blessing to have corporate worship with other Christian cruisers in such a relaxed tropical enviroment.

Heading to Beach Church

  • Stretched our bodies and our definition of a beautiful yoga studio when Erin (a certified yoga instructor in the States) taught yoga at the Kevalli House. The class was held under private pavilion overlooking the glorious Exuma Sound, with palm trees swaying and ocean waves crashing on the cliffs below.

Christie and Erin concentrating on a balance pose

Erin’s Kevalli House yoga class

  • Celebrated Steve’s birthday with a Tex-Mex fiesta potluck aboard “SYL” on Sunday evening. Linda made taco soup, Deana prepared chicken enchiladas with homemade tortillas and sopapilla cheesecake, Mili from “Morning Glory” whipped up corn salsa salad, and “Kaleo” cooked up some turkey tacos. Everyone left stuffed and thankful that Steve gave us a reason to get together.

Tomorrow kicks off the Cruising Regatta with Registration Day and we have plans to team up with the Navy to enter a few events. More to come as the events unfold.

N 23° 31.19 / W 75° 45.53

More Little Farmers Cay

Sunday dawned with brisk winds, and without CP (no weather reports from him on Sundays), the morning was spent waking up late (8:00) and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Around lunch, the guys dinghyied down to Cave Rock Cay to get diesel ($5/gal) and gasoline ($5.50/gal), filling everyone’s jerry jugs. After their return and a nap, we motored our dinghy over to the nearby beach for a hike to the Exuma Sound side of the island. Guided by seasoned Farmers Cay cruisers on s/v Solitare, we hiked over sharp volcanic rock and through thickets of briars and mangroves to the expanse of the Sound.

Exploring the Exuma Sound side of Little Farmers Cay

Everyone was on a quest for sea glass, broken pieces of glass that have been polished smooth by the oceans ever constant waves. Not only did we find green, clear, and blue (rare) pieces but also some beautiful shells and fan coral. The highlight of the hunt was finding a “hamburger bean” (with help from the eagle eyes aboard “Solitare”). The “bean” is from a tree that grows on the Amazon river which drops it’s seeds into the river. They float out across the ocean, “bounce” off the coast of Africa, then ride ocean currents up to the Bahamian and Caribbean islands to be found by cruisers like us. The bean can be polished with fine grit sandpaper to create unique jewelry. We also found two “Columbus” beans, a seed from a similar tree carrying the legend that Columbus always sailed with one in his pocket.

A view well worth the hike

Back on Kaleo, we made tacos with homemade tortillas for dinner. While Matt focused on rolling out wheat flour tortillas with a wine bottle as our rolling pin, I got to Skype with one of my dearest friends, Crystal, and with my parents and with Nana who was over at their house for dinner. We even took the laptop out into the cockpit for them to enjoy the sun setting over the island. Turns out, we may need an alternate recipe as the tortillas left something to be desired. They were about as thick as pancakes but they still tasted like tortillas and we figure that’s pretty good for our first attempt. After cleaning up the galley, we wrapped up the night with more family face time (thanks Skype!) with my godmother, Aunt Cherie and Uncle Ruel as well as Matt’s brother, Jeff, and our sister-in-law Mel.

Catching up with mom and Nana. (Thanks for the just-outta-the-shower pic mom.)

It’s Monday afternoon now and we’ve just wrapped up a breakfast and internet party aboard “Kaleo”.  The crews of “Storyville”, “Anchor Management”, and “Pipe Muh Bligh” ventured over to catch up on all things digital as we set up a shared internet network with the free WiFi we were able to access with our booster from the yacht club. As of now, we have loose plans to go lobster hunting with Steve and for a hike later this afternoon and, assuming the weather shapes up as forecast, we’ll head toward George Town on Wednesday.

We’re looking forward to reuniting the the rest of the Navy as well as meeting new cruisers and local while there.

Little Farmers Cay

Morning came on Friday as scheduled and we pulled up our anchor from Castle Beach and pointed the bow toward Little Farmers Cay.

Sailing south from Black Point to Little Farmers Cay
Our main pulling us through the clear blue water

Moments out of the anchorage we had the sails hoisted and with the brisk 20 knot wind Kaleo was running up to 7 knots under jib and main alone. The wind picked up a little so we doused the jib and ran about 6.5 knots down to the turn into Farmers Cay entrance. We motored slowly knowing it was a tricky entrance and on our first pass in, went south of the channel to stick our keel in the sand. Thankfully we easily motored off the sand bar and into much deeper water.

We dropped the hook near “SYL” and “Guiding Light” just as dark rain clouds developed on the horizon. It didn’t take long for them to break open and drench anything on deck but we were tucked securely below. An hour later, the tide went out and our keel was slightly bumping the sand below and with an even lower tide coming at 3:00 a.m. we had to move the boat. Shane on “GL” and Ted from “Morning Glory” came over to help Matt re-anchor the boat in a deeper spot near the yacht club, which allowed me to stay out of the rain – thanks guys!

Though we had plans to go to Oven Rock Cave, the rain convinced us that tomorrow may be a better day to check it out. So for pretty much the rest of the day, we took full advantage of the free Internet on the boat to Skype, email, and blog.

Saturday, all of the Navy awoke early to listen to Chris Parker and decided about making the run to George Town. The conditions would allow for a spirited move today or we’d have to wait until Tuesday when things are forecast to settle down. In the end “SYL”, “GL” and “MG” decided to make the run but we elected not to as the conditions, while sailable, would have been quite rolly for us. Though we’ll see everyone again in a few days, it was hard to see them go. Everyone brings a wonderfully unique personality to the Navy and it will be different without them for a while.

It was sunny but windy as we dinghyied into Farmers Cay to walk around. A small but quaint community, the little island offers most the things a cruiser needs except fuel and propane. After watching a local named Hall shell conch near the town dock, we stopped into the Lil Harbour Convenience Store and talked with the owner, Tasha. She was in the middle of eating her papaya breakfast and graciously shared some with all of us. She later recruited Matt and Troy to help her fetch a few more ripe papaya from the tree out back. We also tried another fruit she sliced up on the spot that’s a bit like a mild pomegranate though less sweet. She insisted that I try the blood-red fruit from her fingers as it was said to be good for infertility and protects against cancer. Thanks Tasha ;o).

Catching fresh papaya

She even hand wrote a few local recipes that she said we should try aboard our boats. After our fill of fruit and shopping at her store, the group walked up to the Ocean Cabin Restaurant and Bar. A Little Farmers Cay landmark, it’s been progressively added on to over the past 20 years with the help of passing cruisers. The interior rafters dripped boat signs and burgees from all those who lent a hand. Matt helped the proprietor with his website for a bit while we learned more about the history of the island.

The Ocean Cabin
The view of the harbor from the Ocean Cabin

Later in the afternoon Matt and the crew dinghyied up to Oven Rock Cave to go exploring while I took the opportunity to Skype with friends and family. Upon his return, Matt was convinced the the cave was once a pirate’s treasure lair. The entrance was an unassuming but large horizontal crack in a rock wall behind a thicket of mangroves. But upon stepping into the cave, it immediately dropped steeply into the Earth’s belly. At the deepest point was a large pool of water that everyone went swimming in and within the pool were four or five underwater channels that are explorable only with scuba gear.

The beach near Oven Rock

Matt returned to the boat on Steve’s dinghy with ours in tow. Turns out that Matt had just forgot to add oil to the gasoline which would have cause the motor damage had he continued to run it. Thanks Steve for saving us from a potentially ruining our dinghy motor. Have we mentioned that we love cruising with trusted and generous friends?!

With town already covered and sunset nearing, we elected to stay onboard for the evening despite a tempting invite to dinghy up to “Crow’s Nest” for a visit. It was a bit too far for our petite dinghy to travel without getting soaked so we made plans to anchor near them tomorrow.

N 23° 57.79 / W 76° 19.20

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