Charleston, South Carolina and on to Brunswick, Georgia

 

PHOTOS LINKS–>>  https://photos.app.goo.gl/El4XfmTnsxDWSC6L2

https://photos.app.goo.gl/8XO3kRXd8VB9Ar0K2 

We left the Georgetown area at dawn via the Winyah cut and sailed for Charlestown. This was our first outside passage since entering North Carolina and Moorhead City.

Arriving in Charlestown after an easy day passage we chose to anchor for the night in the Ashley River in an area just south of where the Charlestown City Mega Dock Marina is located. We desperately needed laundry, foods, John’s beer and other essentials, as we had been unable to get ashore really since Morehead City.

The following morning we went into the marina and had a slip at the end of the mega dock. The dock is 1/3 of a mile long, getting to the laundry or bathrooms was a major trek. Our plan was to use the marina for a few days to stock up, do laundry and clean up the boat, after the ICW we needed all the facilities. We planned on just a few days in Charlestown and then sailing the outside to Brunswick, stopping at different places each night, but the weather kept us hostage there for 6 days.

Most of the days were sunny, but the winds were in the wrong direction for our sail south. A few days we had strong winds and massive thunderstorms during the afternoons and I was very thankful for the shelter of the marina.

We really saw a lot of Charleston, by foot of course, but after being dropped off where we wished, as the marina had a courtesy car/van. We would tell them where to drop us and then get a ride back from the Harris Teeter grocery store. When we arrived Harris Teeter was where the courtesy van dropped us to shop for groceries. Well, I had never been in one of these before, but quickly found what excellent produce, breads, cheeses and sushi they had for sale. So nearly everyday we met the van driver at the Harris Teeter grocery store for pick up and of course bought back sushi for dinner.

“Founded in 1670 Charleston is the oldest and largest city in South Carolina. It is known for its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts. The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park both overlook Charleston Harbor, while Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, lies across the water.”

Our first day out in Charlestown we walked the entire historic King Street Antiques and fashion district, plus the French Quarter, starting at The Confederate Museum along Meeting Street to The Battery and then along East Bay Street to the Water park area. We explored the historic Market on Market Street, visited the Confederate Museum and really enjoyed the whole flavour of the city.

Another day we went to the Maritime Center and got a water taxi across the Cooper River to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. There we spent the day exploring the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, destroyer USS Laffey, submarine USS Clamagore and the Vietnam display. John really enjoyed all the displays.

The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the USA. She played a significant role in the Pacific offensive in late 1943. The ship earned 11 battle stars for WW2 service. It carried a crew of 380 officers, 3,088 enlisted men and an air group of 90 planes. During the 1950s she was modified for jets and converted to an antisubmarine carrier. The Yorktown served in the Vietnam War and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts. We visited every deck and every display. John was fascinated.

The destroyer USS Laffey was built in 1944 and decommissioned in 1975. Again we enjoyed the information and exploring the ship. I found the submarine USS Clamagore quite amazing, as it was so small and cramped inside. She was built in 1945 a few weeks before the end of WW2 and decommissioned in 1975.

Another visit was to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

The building is South Carolina’s most historic building. Completed in 1771, the Exchange and Customs House was the economic, social and cultural center of the colony. The SC delegates to the First Continental Congress were elected there in 1774. The Declaration of Independence was presented to the citizen from the steps there. The Constitution was ratified in the Great Hall. George Washington entertained there in 1791 and the British used the cellar as a Provost prison during the American Revolution, plus pirates were imprisoned there in the early 1700s. Another interesting visit!

Yes, we enjoyed Charleston, loved the old architecture and atmosphere.

 

Our next stop was going to be Beaufort SC, then Savannah, but we got to the mouth of the river near Beaufort, a beautiful anchorage there, –

http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=31.177385&lon=-81.410600  

and decided to sail through the next day and over night for Brunswick. Reason being there were hurricanes around, Irma being the main threat.

Our overnight passage was again one that will not be forgotten! We had very unexpected, not predicted squalls. The lightening was everywhere around us across the skies, striking down into the ocean, the thunder was banging and I was a nervous wreck. I had to abandon the cockpit and hide down below, poor John was left the whole night watch to tend to as the weather continued through the entire night. He told me how he had to watch the radar and try to avoid huge cells developing ahead and around us, they were just morphing all around! It was very tense and stressful for him he had never seen anything like it before.

Arriving in Brunswick we anchored off of Driftwood beach near the entrance and John slept. Later in the morning we moved to an anchorage near Morningstar Marina. This is a very sheltered peaceful anchorage close to Morningstar marina where they allow you to use their dingy dock in order to get ashore and get supplies. We went to the nearby Harris Teeter grocery and were once again able to get sushi.

http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=31.177385&lon=-81.410600 

We decided to get into Brunswick Landing Marina ahead of time and ready for the fast approaching hurricane Irma and our trip home. And we were sooo relieved that we did….

We checked in and it soon became apparent that we needed to secure Aeeshah very well for the possibility of a hit or a near miss from Irma. This included all the canvas, jib, main sail, covers and everything on deck that could move. The forward cabin became the storage locker. I did take advantage of having every cover off and did any necessary sewing repairs, which meant it wouldn’t be a wasted effort if Myra gave us a wide berth.

We were/are very impressed with the marinahttp://www.brunswicklandingmarina.com   The dockage includes wifi, laundry, use of 2 clubhouses, beer on tap, wine different nights a week and many socials. The staff are excellent, other residents very friendly and helpful, – we had 5 offers of a car to borrow! The Brunswick area is handy with all the shops we needed and areas to ride our bikes. However with all the preparation we hardly had time to explore the area.

With the approaching hurricane we decided to hire a car as a get away plan. We were in a mandatory evacuation zone which actually means you are supposed to leave, but can stay. There was a curfew put in place from 6pm till 8am, if you were to leave the county you would not be allowed to return till government decreed it safe. So with those conditions in place we decided to stay with Aeeshah. We needed to be there in case the docks broke loose, floated above their restraints or incase another boat were to break loose and crash across to our dock. Also we had volunteered to watch our neighbour’s boat. So we had a car and as the area evacuated with little traffic on the streets we were able to get to the shops to buy what we needed, but do little else. There were about a dozen boats in the entire marina with people aboard, it was deserted.

The wind started the night of September 9th and blew through that day and the night of the 10th and morning of the 11th was particularly bad. The wind blew up to 84 knots (as recorded on our instruments), the boat was taking a beating, shaking and straining. Outside in the early hours of the morning there was a dreadful banging. Upon investigation John discovered that a boat across from us, (the only one not to take his jib down), the jib was unfurling and slamming back and forth. Its mast was literally bending in the gale.

Sooo John along with Don a neighbour braved the elements to try to secure the jib. John got wacked in the eye by a halyard with a cleat attached that had broken free on the rebel mast. It was not possible to secure the jib as the halyard had snapped/broken and so the jib was left. – By the morning it was a shredded mess and John had a nasty sore eye.

The water rose during the morning so that there was little room left on the supports for the floating docks. The water rose over the car park, the docks were higher than the land as the water flooded ashore, but finally it rose no more and settled somewhat and finally by day’s end started to drain. The next morning dawned a beautiful day!

During the drama of September 11th our daughter Christina, gave birth to her son, Quest in Bermuda. This was the baby that she had wanted forever, after so many lost, finally she had a baby boy, thus he was called Quest.

“Everything we experience—no matter how unpleasant—comes into our lives to teach us something.”

—  Iyanla Vanzant

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Down the ICW Mile 205 to Mile 410

 

PHOTO ALBUM –>> https://goo.gl/photos/XV3LypU49onwrGr76 

Morehead City is located at mile marker 205 on the ICW …. we need to be at Brunswick Georgia by September 5th which is mile marker 680 – a distance of 475 miles. Our plan is to travel the ICW for  30 plus mile stretches a day. Or if necessary sail on the outside along the US East coast to make time if we need….What is the ICW?  This is the Inter Coastal Waterway, which is an inside channel which goes all the way from Norfolk, Virginia – mile 0 heading south all the way to Florida. It  travels through the “countryside” plus the towns  along the way meaning that we can stop nightly, plus can visit historic sites, have hikes and explore. The outside passage along the US East coast is not usually easy to travel as it opposes the Gulf Stream, so can be rough going against the current, slow and the weather can be nasty too, but it can be quicker and doable in very favorable weather.  

John and I were up at 6:00am and set off for our 1st stop, which we planned to be Mile 244 Hammock Bay at mile 244. First we needed to travel from Cape Lookout along the outside shoreline to Morehead City at mile 205 and then the 40 miles to our anchorage. This was a very ambitious day ahead.

Once out of the shelter of the large bay at Cape Lookout we found that the wind was against us and there was a good size sea rolling in. It was most unpleasant and we took a bit of a beating, thus putting us at Morehead City at 9:30am. John was very doubtful as to whether we could make it.

 1st leg: Morehead City @ Mile 205 – Swannsborje @ mile 229

The ICW travelled past lovely homes and marshy areas full of egrets and other wading birds. It was lovely despite the cloudy weather, the threatening thunderheads and cloudy conditions. The waterway was very busy with Sunday boaters full of people whizzing past making their way to the inlets.

There were the occasional fishing boats returning to port, and fishermen wading in the shore waters. We had the Atlantic Beach Bridge at mile 206 to pass under. Whenever going under these bridges you know that there is enough clearance by a few feet, but it really looks close. Our mast is 58 feet and the clearance is normally 65 feet, from below it looks impossible. Our second bridge was the Cedar Point Highway Bridge at mile 226. Here we needed to be mindful of currents too, but all was fine.

By afternoon those thunderheads were rumbling nearby, the rain was damping the cockpit and we had stronger currents against us. There was little hope of making our destination comfortably, so we opted to stop at Swannsborje at mile 229. Our anchorage: http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=34.620763&lon=-76.548910

There we anchored just off the main channel in a side channel that led to a low bridge next to Swannsborje. Normally not ideal circumstances as there were strong currents running, 15 knots of wind and a bridge behind us. However John believed our online advice from the Active Captain site that had 28 recommendations.

As we were settling in with a cup of tea a boat approached from the shoreline. The man aboard introduced himself as Dave, the “harbour master” and self-appointed mayor of the little island next to us. He welcomed us to Swannsborje. We mentioned walking to any nearby grocery store and before we knew it he returned having arranged transport with a couple ashore. Off we went meeting Shannon on the dingy dock. She then very kindly took us to the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. It was a random act of kindness bestowed upon us! We were able to replenish our fruits, veg, breads and dairy. As it turned out this was an excellent anchorage, had a peaceful nights sleep and the anchor came up clean.

2nd leg: Wrightsville Beach @ mile marker 283

Again we were up with the sun at 6:am. There was a dead calm over Swannsborge with a pretty sunrise shining through the misty early morning light. It was lovely!

And then the mist started to close in so we had fog like conditions, making the waterway quite eerie. Camp Lejeune is found at this stretch of the waterway it extends for 18 odd miles. This is actually a practice area for all the armed forces, used as a firing range it can sometimes be closed. For that day it was open, but we did see blown up tanks and vehicles in the marshes. It was quite eerie.

 

Following we had the Onslow bridge, this is a swing bridge which only opens on the hour and half hour, we had a 10 minute wait for the opening. Luckily there were no real currents running.

We were going along carefully at New River inlet mile 246 when BLAM!! We came to a sudden stop! The canal had gone from 4 foot under the keel to 0ft and we were aground! So John tried forward, didn’t work then finally full reverse pointing towards the inlet and we were free. However there was still considerably shoaling, very thin water which I find scary. I know it is mud and soft, but still hated hitting the bottom.

Just after this I saw a large alligator. It was on the surface ahead, swam under as we were approaching and then surfaced about 15 feet off our side. – Still John swims at various anchorages, I think he’s crazy; I also lock Chico in at night. Meanwhile as we travelled on it was still quite misty in areas and foggy in others, but the scenery was lovely. Many birds along the shoreline and ospreys nesting on top of the marker poles.

The US 210 Highway Bridge was our next obstacle, shoaling was mentioned in the ICW guide book as being a problem here, but we were under the bridge and fine. Looking at the homes along the side of the river is fascinating. There are many grand properties. Some as high as 4 stories with full porches and then long walkways on stilts out over the marshes to the shoreline where they have their boats pulled and stored. We hardly ever see a property that is not beautifully maintained. The properties really are very impressive.

At mile 260 we had the Surf City Swing Bridge, this one was to open on the hour, we arrived with half an hour to wait, so well back from the bridge, John cut the power to idle and we eased up to the bridge for the opening.

Next, yes another bridge: the Figure Eight Island Swing bridge at mile 278, which opened every half hour, but we missed it by 5 minutes so had a 25 minute wait. It was then 4:30 and we knew we had our last bridge for the day ahead; it opened only on the hour. We needed to make the 5:00pm opening for the Wrightsville Beach Bascule Bridge or be stuck waiting. John pushed Aeeshah as much as we dared, still needing to beware of shoals and we made a good attempt, but missed the opening by just a few minutes. This time we had an hour more or less to wait. Then the bridge operator opened late, by 10 minutes, I had to call him on the phone to get his attention. By then it was 6:10pm, there still were a few miles to go. We arrived at our anchorage at Wrightsville Beach mile 283 at 6:45 after covering 50 difficult miles. We were both exhausted! Our 2nd anchorage: http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=34.684713&lon=-77.119263 

This anchorage was lovely! It lay between the seaside banks and the marshy islands down the inlet to Wrightsville Beach. We did have boats whizzing by, but there was a wonderful sea breeze, plenty of room to swing and the holding was excellent. A bonus for us was that the anchor came up clean, not muddy!

3rd Leg: Southport mile 310

Our next destination Southport on the far side of the Cape Fear entrance. The ICW along this stretch was a mix of marshlands and very nice properties. I enjoyed looking at the different landscapes while watching the depths on the depth sounder.

The first challenge was a bank of shoals off the Carolina Beach area, once again we kissed the bottom, but John was getting better at finding the way off. He simply guns the engine in different directions till we slide off. Our first bridge was Snows Cut Bridge followed by Snows Cut, which as its name suggests is a cut through in the form of a channel. Now being in the cut was like entering a different land. The sides were made of rock with high banks a large fir trees.

However this cut at the Cape Fear end is reputed to have very shallow shoals due to the strong currents that run with the flow and ebb. To avoid the shoals John took us, as was advised by our Active Captain Garmin navigator, 150 feet off the red maker, however we still kissed the bottom or rather we hugged it. Right aground we were and it was quite a supreme effort to get us off this time, but John eventually managed to get us off. Afterwards we were into a ships channel and over Cape Fear with no problems and at Southport Marina.   http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=34.684713&lon=-77.119263 

We had called ahead and requested a side tie at the marina; the fellows were waiting for us. They were very nice chaps, did our pump out (sewage tank emptying), fill our diesel and had us hooked up to electricity in no time. Awwww, AC was just wonderful.

The rest of the day we were busy doing, laundry, cleaning inside and out and getting rid of all trash and such. Then that evening we walked into Southport, which is a very nice village, and we had an excellent seafood dinner at “Provisions”.

SOUTH CAROLINA

4th leg: To Calabash Creek @ mile 342

We left Southport around 8:00am with “just” 30 odd miles to do and we didn’t do too badly as we arrived in Calabash Creek just after 2:00pm. However, as usual, we went aground a few times. The first was at Lockwood’s Folly. Again we knew to be careful due to shoaling, but we still kissed to bottom, John ran us off. This area of the ICW is close to the sea so is really affected by tides and currents and has a 5-foot drop with the tide. Now we were travelling on a rising tide, but it was just starting to rise.

There were many lowland marshes and scrublands along the sides, again the birds were prolific, and all types ospreys, seabirds and wading birds. For the later half of the day there were many houses on the mainland side of the canal, these homes were quite substantial spaced further apart with long walkways to their docks. Quite a nice area to live.

Entering Calabash Creek we were fine even with a 5ft shoal that was reported at the entrance, we anchored up. Our anchorage: http://map.iridium.com/m?lat=33.917198&lon=-78.027923 

We soon went to explore in the dingy. Heading up the creek towards Calabash village was all marshland with tall trees in the distance we wondered if we would be able to dock. Well, Calabash was a really tiny little place that seemed to specialize in very local fishing boats and crew, or a big tourist boat to go to the outer shoreline for a visit, no place to dock and signs saying so. We did go and check out Little Inlet too, but there again was nothing of much interest there.

5th leg: Waccamaw River – Enterprise @ mile 375

We knew this was to be our most challenging day so far because of what we had ahead.

1st Mile 347.2 Nixon Crossroads Highway bridge 65ft

2nd Mile 347.3 The little River swing Bridge – opens on demand

3rd Mile 349.1 The North Myrtle Beach Connector bridge 65ft

4th At mile 349 till mile 352 The Rock pile

5th Mile 355.5 – 65ft – Conway Bypass Twin Bridges Mile

6th Mile 356 cable for an overhead gondola, clearance 67ft

7th Mile 357.5 Grande Dunes Bridge – 65ft

8th Mile 360 Grissom Parkway Bridge – 65ft

9th Mile 365.4 U.S. Highway Bridge – 65ft

10th Also at Mile 365.4 SCL Railroad Bridge – which is usually open

11th Mile 366.4 Fantasy Harbour Bridge – 65ft

12th Mile 371.0 Socastee Swing Bridge – opens on request

13th Mile 371.3 Socastee Highway Bridge – 65ft

14th Mile 372 Construction/restrictions – Carolina Bays Parkway Bridge

It was another lovely sunny day for travelling. We found for most of the day we past through areas newly developed properties. It is known to be an area that has been developing rapidly and is very popular with visitors to the coastal region. The waterway was very busy with jet skis and powerboats. We were challenged for most of the day, but fully entertained too.

From bridge to bridge there were areas of shoaling, submerged pylons, tree stumps, and rocks. The most worrisome area was the notorious rock pile; here the canal had been blasted away from the rock and thus leaving rocks lining the sides and bottom. We had been advised that traveling through on low tide was a good idea as you can actually see the rocks. Plus to call ahead making sure nobody else was entering this stretch, especially barges, as we needed to stay in the dead center. We were fine all went well, and actually the rock pile was a very pretty area, lined by the rocks but also large trees, I even saw turtles on the rocks sunning themselves.

So we entered the Waccamaw River in the early evening without having any problems. The Waccamaw River is very beautiful, peaceful and full of birds of all types; huge trees including Cyprus trees with Spanish moss line the shores. That evening there was the most amazing sunset over the river.

6th leg:  Waccamaw River – Butlers Island anchorage @ mile 395

Traveling down the Waccamaw River 20 odd miles to Butler’s Island was relaxing. The river became wider and deeper, the scenery was beautiful. There was the settlement of Bucksport that we past, and some very large plantation homes but generally the river was lined with massive trees. We saw numerous ospreys and their nests, many many wading birds, dragonflies and butterflies hovering around, the amazing Cyprus trees with Spanish Moss hanging from their boughs in all peacefully quiet atmosphere.

We anchored off of Butler’s Island as I had been told it was a good area to explore. It was very lovely and we did enjoy dingying around during the afternoon, but the mosquitoes and no- see-ums in the evening and early morning made it an area we were happy to leave.

7th leg: (Georgetown mile 402) Western channel mile 410

We enjoyed the rest of the Waccamaw River on our way to Georgetown where we planned to get a slip at the marina and stay for the eclipse on the 21st August. However when we called we found that everywhere was fully booked as 100,000 or so people we also traveling to Georgetown for the eclipse, so we went further down river to an anchorage just off the ICW with marshes on both sides.

Now this anchorage was lovely, with schools of fish being chased by dolphins and bombed by birds all around us. However the marshes meant that the bugs were about in the evening, which made life somewhat uncomfortable. So we moved the next morning.

8th leg: Winyah Bay, mouth of the Waccamaw Bay

Here we anchored next to the North Island and planned to stay for the eclipse. The day was just lovely, sunny with a nice breeze. We dingied to the shore and tied our dingy to a pylon of the lighthouse dock and set off for a shoreline walk.

Along the way we spoke with locals enjoying the day, watched fishermen wading in the shallows and others wading and swimming off the sandbars. At the mouth there is a long breakwater made of large boulders, it extends out to sea for some miles thus making the approach much calmer. We continued walking along the shoreline beach. There the water was much cleaner and John even dove in to cool off. It was a long, much needed walk after our days traveling the ICW

It was the 21st August, the day of the eclipse; John was excitedly awaiting the phenomenon. As the hour approach, so unfortunately did the clouds. However we lucked out as just for the few minutes of the eclipse the clouds did separate enough of us to see the sun covered fully.

The first, unusual symptom was that there was a rainbow in the clouds. Then gradually the light got dimmer and dimmer, stars could be seen shining in the dull blue sky, on the horizon was a continual sunset around us and then trough the clouds we saw the eclipse.

The atmosphere was eerie, surreal like being in the twilight zone and then it gradually got brighter again and all was over. It was an experience that we both will never forget.

The beginning is always today .- Mary Shelley

 There are no wrong turns only unexpected paths. – Mark Nepo

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Short visit to Cape Lookout and Shackleford island

 

PHOTO ALBUM –>> https://goo.gl/photos/76dGdxurBcBxgAo59 

Friends had recommended the Cape Lookout area to us, saying it was very beautiful and well worth visiting. We didn’t have much time as the bad weather held us hostage in Morehead City for an extra few days, but we decided to visit the area and we were not disappointed.

Lookout Bight and Cape Lookout National Seashore

The guide book described it as “one of the most beautiful anchorages in all of the Carolinas, Lookout Bight “ “ Miles of unspoiled, dune backed beaches of Cape Lookout National Shoreline provide the perfect setting to search for seashells of the giant whelk or watch the antics of Laughing Gulls, a variety of terns, willets, dunlins, cavorting oyster catchers…”

Anchoring in the large Lookout Bight by midday we had lunch and set off to explore. We headed to what we thought was a boardwalk that would lead us to a track and to the abandoned village. We were wrong; this was a disused, falling apart boardwalk that led into the marshes that was not an access to the “village”. So we opted to walk along the beach and exposed sandbars.

We walked along the inside of the bay for miles as the tide went out. It was wonderful to be taking pictures, walking and enjoying a new adventure. We crossed the huge dunes separating the bight from the Atlantic seas and were just stunned by the beauty of the beach and shoreline. The beach goes on for miles and miles, in fact 7 miles out and then the sand bars for a further 8 miles into the Atlantic. Again we walked the shoreline, now I was collecting shells too, so I was even happier. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

The following morning we dingied over to the famous Cape Lookout Lighthouse. It has been a landmark since 1812 and still shines the way to those that travel/sail the waters. The lighthouse’s unique diamond markings actually mark north and south with the black diamonds and east and west with the black, again showing the way. At the lighthouse we climbed to the top, all 200 plus steps and what a fabulous view from the top! We could see for miles. The ranger gave me his binoculars so I could view the wild horses across on Shackleford Island. They were in the water of a marsh bay happily splashing and enjoying the cool.

We then set off to walk to the abandoned village, but the sandy track was very hot with the sun baking down and we just reached the first of the structures. For our walk back we crossed to the other shore and enjoyed walking the beach back.

After lunch we went in one of the parks ATVs for a tour of the Cape. This comprised of a very interesting history of Cape Lookout, the village, (we found out we had made it to the village store on our walk) and then along the beach out to the end of Cape Lookout. The island was made a national park many, many, years ago, but the people who owned the properties were allowed to stay for 25 years. The last of the islander left in 2005. We opted to stay out on the bar for an hour and walk around; again it was just wonderful and so very beautiful. The sandbars extend for another 8 miles off the shoreline, just incredible!

Back at the dingy John suggested we pop over to nearby Shackleford Island. This is where the wild horses of Shackleford banks have roamed from the 1500s when Lucus Vasques de Ayllon’s colony failed and the horses were turned free. They are now protected as they have their own unique bloodline. They number about 150 and care completely for themselves. We were not disappointed as there were several right there grazing. We had an excellent day.

We were planning on leaving the next day, but the weather came in so that the morning was just pouring with rain and very miserable, so we stayed. As the weather lifted in the afternoon we went for a very long walk over the dunes on the shoreline. We walked to the end of the peninsular and back to the boat via the other side. It was wonderful; birds all round, wide open beach, wind blowing, waves crashing and nobody around for miles.

“What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for ‘hope.’ If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, ‘I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it.”  — Linda Ellerbee

 “To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Leaving Bermuda twice and arriving in North Carolina

 

PHOTO LINKS —->>

1 Back in Bermuda  https://photos.app.goo.gl/tHIRHhlHotkwae1h1 

2 Final crossing to North Carolina   https://photos.app.goo.gl/s3gWCgpM2ACmIDUh2 

There we were on our second return trip to the U.S. East coast! Yes second try, a week before we had to abort our passage due to the weather coming off the US coast.

 

We checked out of St Georges on July 4th. The weather looked great despite localized squalls. We were all set, had Ethan, our excited Grandson aboard, we were all fueled up, plenty of food, off we went, the weather forecast was good, but turned out to be false.

After the 1st 12 hours we had encountered dreadful weather, winds up to 42.8 knots, squalls, high seas, and all coming from the south west exactly where we were trying to head in North Carolina. However we persisted as the weather according to our information was going to become settled and winds were to blow from the south. However this did not happen, we had ever increasing seas, we were having to sail very close to the wind, the going was very slow and uncomfortable. So after 48 hard hours we headed back to Bermuda.

 

We had a good-sized stainless shackle holding the jib sheet block that gave way… broke. John and I were trying to reef the jib at that the time and bang! It just went. The jib was all over the place sheets slamming and oh what a mess, of course this was at night. Then other various small breakages, lines that were chaffing, water had entered due to waves crashing right over bow and landing near the hardtop, it was practically impossible to move through the boat, it really was quite dangerous. Plus our auto pilot muscle – driving arm/mechanics was busted, so no auto. Luckily that gave way just as we limped back into St Georges harbour. The authorities were great! There they were waiting for our arrival and had been monitoring our progress. Anyway we were back in Bermuda on the 7th. Once back we found out that flights on the east coast had been cancelled due to the system we were heading into, soooo glad we headed back!

Back in Bermuda we had repairs, plus had to get new expensive auto pilot muscle flown in. We restocked ready to leave again.

Our family was really happy to have us back and we did get to go to our daughter Chrissie’s baby shower, which was just lovely.

I got to do the walk around St Georges taking pictures of the old Town. I just love St Georges!

Plus we spent one afternoon at a beach off of Paget Island with Rhianna, Gavin and Lily.

By July 15th we were off again, – no Ethan, he had enough the previous trip. The weather looked great and our first 2 days out were amazing, but not enough wind. However neither of us was complaining.

Following were 2 days that we had good sailing wind, plus bigger seas and nights with rainsqualls accompanied by thunder and lightening. We actually saw lightning striking the water off a ways, which I found very worrisome. However the seas weren’t bad and we were making good progress.

Our final day was another lovely day; blue blue skies and a good breeze lending us a nice board reach to finish our crossing. It was fantastic entering the channel – the Inter Coastal Waterway and passing under a bridge and on to the marina. Just after noon we were dockside at Morehead Yacht Basin, as suggested by John and Kay off svBad Bunny. I can honestly say, “I will NOT be doing a long passage again for a long time” I am happy to do the over nights, short hops, island to island, for now anyway.

Since arriving here in Morehead City we have been doing a massive clean up and fix up. On the passage over the engine’s regular fuel leak which had been a drip,    drip,   drip,    filling a cup a week turned into a drip, drip drip, drip, filling the same cup in a few hours. So the mechanic – Mike – told us a new fuel pump was needed. That’s one of the jobs. The list is quite long thanks to the beating we took on the 1st passage.

We have enjoyed our marina, the 1st in a year. There is everything we need, plus friendly folks and the use of the marina car.

We have borrowed the car most days to drive and get all we need and to have a quick look at the surrounding area.

We enjoyed a walk along the waterfront and through the neighborhood. It is a very nice area. Dinner out was excellent, one restaurant, “Floyds” the dish I had was amazing. Shrimp with a cheese grits side. I discovered grits are really good.

Rig heavy, reef early, and pray often; for God does not assure us an easy passage, but He does promise a safe anchorage…

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have” Eckhart Tolle

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America’s Cup, Tall Ships, J Class races, family times and fun with friends

 

PHOTO LINKS—>>America’s Cup  https://goo.gl/photos/KqPG3SoxFg17XNtD6

Tall Ships–>> https://goo.gl/photos/4kNmF1VHCGpg4E4C6 

Canada, Ethan’s Graduation —->> https://goo.gl/photos/Jhta8knd5qRpAEbC7

PHOTO LINKS below, 1st J-Class racing, 2nd our 40th anniversary –>>

 https://goo.gl/photos/FqR9UjLm3p7iQyfGA     

https://goo.gl/photos/w9cEQ2gwdBNDHPj46   

Bermuda on Aeeshah

When we first arrived in Hamilton Harbour on Aeeshah we were confused/uncertain as to where would be the best spot to keep the boat. We needed an anchorage or mooring, which afforded easy access to the shore and home. So we looked around and decided to anchor up in the islands of the Great Sound, between Nellie’s and Hawkins’s islands, until such spot could be found. For our 1st weekend the family visited and enjoyed the regular swimming. Gavin had brought his boat and Jae had brought his so we had a boat along each side of us, – that was a 1st. We had a lovely family day with swimming and early dinner.

The following weekend we moved Aeeshah to an anchorage along the north side of Long Island. Jae, Kate and May came along in our boat while Gavin met us there on his boat. Again the day was enjoyed swimming. Gavin also took a number of the family to Somerset where they enjoyed the sandy, shallows of the King’s Point area. Another early dinner together was enjoyed – an excellent day.

Meanwhile we had secured a mooring off of Hinson’s Island and a private dock along the shoreline of the mainland where we could easily and safely leave the dingy. Plus we had the loan of one of Gavin’s bikes for transport, so we were well set up.

America’s Cup racing

 

 

We visited the America’s Cup racing in the Great Sound during the 1st America’s Cup race-week; this was on the second day of racing. It is amazingly exciting to watch! The AC boats just fly! Literally fly at times, the speeds are amazing! The screech from the forces, the sight of the AC boats up in the air on their foils is incredible! We had gone out on Gavin’s boat with several others, and then Katie and Lily came along later on Will and Kathleen’s boat. However the races were quite boring for the little ones being not even 2 years old and so afterwards we went to the islands to swim. It was an exciting day out for the adults.

The following week we were out again on board Gavin’s boat, to watch the races, this time our friends John and Kay off Bad Bunny and their friends Michele and Randy came along. This day was extremely windy, it was doubtful if the boats would race, but they did…. And what exciting races they had too. It was during one of the races that Emerities pitch-poled, yep right in front of us was the turn marker and around they came and over they went. It was quite incredible to see. Oracle won that race.

Meanwhile back at the boat, John and I were heading to the house each day to do chores, mainly maintenance, John patching leaks in the roof, painting etc. I was doing cleaning, clearing and organizing, helping Chrissie who is expecting a baby boy in September. Plus we had regular appointments and such to catch up on. So it was very handy having the boat off the shoreline of Darrel’s Warf and just riding down Harbour Road and home when necessary.

We visited the America’s Cup Village during one of the first weeks of the racing. We went with our son Gavin, wife Katie, her Dad, Uncle, aunt and sons.

What and incredible set up! It really was worthwhile as we were able to wander around and appreciate the technology close up. The set up is just incredible, as my daughter Kate said, “it’s not even like being in Bermuda” To get there we caught the America’s Cup ferry and we had lunch in the Gosling’s enclosure which looked out over the finish line. However the wind died that day, so we did watch the boats practicing, but the races never happened as by then the wind was under 6 knots. Afterwards we walked to Dockyard and caught the regular ferry back to Hamilton. Another excellent day!

 

The Tall Ships

The Tall Ships arrived in Bermuda and were docked in Hamilton. We went to the Harbour Nights street festival where they were along side. Our daughter Chrissie, – Island Fusion – was also set up as one of the vendors selling her fused glass jewelry. We walked the length of Front Street looking at all the stalls and of course at the tall ships. It was a fun evening.

When the Tall Ships left Hamilton there was a parade of sail along the North shore. John and I first had a close up look at the Tall Ships by taking a dingy ride in Hamilton Harbour. Then we went with Gavin on his boat, along with our daughter Chrissie, friends Kay and John off Bad Bunny and Gavin’s fellow photographer Becky to follow, photograph and watch the parade of sail along the North shore. It was a wonderful day, the weather was just perfect, these Tall Ships under sail are magnificent! Again an excellent day out on the water!

 

Ethan’s graduation

The time arrived for me to travel with Gavin, Katie, (son and daughter in law) Lily and Rhianna, (Granddaughters) to Canada to attend, (Grandson) Ethan’s Graduation from Pickering College in Ontario, Canada. We flew out on the Thursday, had 2 cars, as there were a few of us and plenty of baby gear and stayed in a large rental house.

 

On arriving Gavin, Rhianna and I quickly got ready to attend a reception for the graduate’s families. We were a bit late arriving, which was fine as we only missed the drinks and snacks. However we were in time for the special presentation and awards. All of which was very entertaining and really helped with understanding the atmosphere of Pickering. The school was founded by Quakers and is still run on the Quaker principles.

The following day we had to be ready for an 11:00 start to the graduation. It was held in the school auditorium and we were lucky to get seats halfway from the front. There was the processional with all the faculty filing in, followed by the graduates. After which there were various speeches, the award of certificates of graduation, the valedictorian speech, which was excellent, further speeches and the school hymn. Overall it was an excellent ceremony, which lasted 3 hours, but really was very interesting.

Following the graduation there was the throwing of hats on the front stairs and refreshments in the cafeteria. I must say the refreshments were excellent!

That evening we all went out to dinner to an excellent Oriental restaurant, which served a huge buffet of amazing foods.

Our final day was Katie’s birthday. We went to Newmarket, which was the small town where the school was located. There we had an excellent breakfast and then wandered around. It is a lovely town and it just happened to have a Gay Pride march on, plus a farmer’s market and an artisans market. We spent the morning meandering the markets, pond side and pathways. The weather was excellent and we had a wonderful morning.

On the Sunday we were back to Bermuda arriving on Father’s Day. It had been arranged to have a Father’s Day/Birthday celebration at Gavin’s that later afternoon. There we all had a very nice evening together.

J Class racing

It was really the final week of all the sailing that followed. We went to the J Class races off of the North shore. Off in Gavin’s boat we went along with our friends John and Kay again. Watching the J Class sailboats was thrilling. They are just amazingly huge classic sailboats that are so very elegant when under full sail. It was a lovely day watching the races and quite nerve racking when the boats were hard under sail and crossing each other’s way when tacking.

The final week the Red Bull races concluded, Bermuda did very well as the beginners! Plus the America’s Cup was battled out between Oracle and Emirates teams. We did see some of the finals from a distance, but with Emirates way ahead it was a foregone conclusion that they would win. The really amazing spectacle was all of the hundreds of spectator boats including mega yachts across the Great Sound watching the racing.

40th Anniversary celebration

Katie and Gavin held a 40th Wedding anniversary celebration for John and I at their house. It was for just family and our close friends. Again an excellent evening! They had organized our favourite Indian restaurant to supply curries, our daughter Chrissie did decorations and the weather was perfect. Everybody had a fun relaxing time.

Meanwhile John and I have completed just about every chore we had been challenged with during our time on island. And our time was just about over as July was looming which meant time to move on to the East coast of the USA.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. – Anais Nin

When you are grateful – when you can see what you have – you unlock blessings to flow into your life. – Size Orman

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Aeeshah’s Passage to Bermuda

 

PHOTO LINK —->>>   https://goo.gl/photos/kB4Luroc3zWj5gycA 

Boot Key, Marathon to …..

The time arrived for us to start to head to Bermuda,

so on the morning of May 5th we left Boot Key. We had heard over the radio the warning of some approaching showers, possible squalls, but John was confident all was fine. Once outside Boot Key Harbour we could see large black clouds approaching, then we could hear the distant sound of thunder.

We were heading downwind with the main and jib out, but as the wind increased we brought in the jib, just in case…About an hour into our trip the black clouds had caught us and were right on top when WHAM! The wind just blew hard out of the opposing direction sending the main slamming kablam into a jibe, thank goodness for the preventer! This was short lasted as the wind came around again to behind us and just blew hard from downwind. There wasn’t much rain but the wind reached 42 knots and there was still distant thunder rumbeling, we really only just had a glancing blow from this “front” that passed over.

The winds decreased and we motor sailed to the Key Largo area, 49 miles in 8 hours. We anchored on the north side of the key in gusty conditions. During that night we were awakened twice by the anchor alarm, once was a false alarm with just a wind shift. The second time was the real alarm, our anchor was dragging and we were heading towards the shallows. So we attempted to re-anchor and finally found a spot on the south side of the key where it was more sheltered.

The next day the 6th May we really did every imaginable job on the boat in order to make her ready for the up-co0ming crossing to Bermuda. I basically stripped any loose items and packed them snugly into the bow cabin. The wind changed again so we moved once again into the inside – north side of the key, finally finding another spot to anchor.

May 7th the wind was still blowing with too much north, so we delayed leaving, until noon. Then we set off for Bermuda.

It was a really lovely day, the waters were beautiful, the breeze was perfect, we saw dolphins jumping around the boat, the colours were just wonderful blues, turquoise and greens.

Off towards the North Bahamas coast we sailed due to the direction of the winds. However as the afternoon progressed so did the wind increase and as we were by this time in the Gulf Stream, the wave size mounted higher and higher as the wind was against the current of the Gulf Stream. It became quite rough so we altered our course to head more towards Bimini and out of the main flow of the Gulf Stream.

Sometime around 11:30pm when I was “sleeping” in the aft cabin, I was awakened by John who was exiting the engine room with a cup, which he said was oil, but not to worry as he had everything under control. About 20 minutes later there he was again, this time with a full pint cup of oil, but again John reassured me all was fine. However just a short while after that he was again in the engine compartment the entrance that opens into the shower and he said I’d better go up top to help out as we had a big problem.

Well it turned out that an oil pipe had broken/cracked and we had an oil leak. As the wind had died we had been motor sailing, but now we turned off the engine while John attempted to fix the leak. Another problem was we were just off Fort Lauderdale, the second busiest cruise ship port in the world, and yes, there were cruise ships all around us. We had to contact several cruise ships to warn them of our position.

John was in the engine room with the stinking hot engine trying to fix a leak while I was in the cockpit keeping watch and starting the engine when instructed, with a large swell rolling the boat all over, and cruise ships stalking us.

Wellll, the pipe then broke right off and the engine sprayed oil all over the engine room and into the shower area….what a mess!! So now John had to try to rig a fix of this pipe. He tried plugging it with various homemade plugs, but they all blew out again spaying oil everywhere each time. Nothing was working, and then John saw we did not have any oil pressure! No oil pressure means no working engine. It was nearly 4 in the morning by then, so with nothing we could do we gave up and drifted along in the Gulf Stream.

By morning we had contacted home using our sat phone, to tell one and all we thought the trip was cancelled. We contacted some friends in Florida to ask about the best place to make for to get engine repairers or as John thought a new engine. We were very sad, so depressed. We rested and drifted in the Gulf Stream trying to head for the Florida coast.

Around lunchtime, after some sleep,  John decided to have one last go. As the engine was cold he took off the whole piece which the pipe was on, plugged the hole with some epoxy we had, let it dry, filled the engine with a whole lot of oil we had on board and crossed our fingers it would work. Turning on the engine there was a slight flutter in the oil gauge, which told us we did actually have oil pressure, which was excellent news. John fed the engine as much oil as needed, started her up and voila we had oil pressure, the plug held and we were back on course. All we didn’t have was an engine alarm as it had been dismantled, so we had to constantly watch the oil pressure if the engine was running, while on watch. It was such a relief to be back underway!

By this time it was May 8th, late afternoon, we had lost about 18 hours, but never mind, we were on the way again.

The following days and nights had winds of 10 – 15 knots or less, the seas were rolling swells, the skies were beautiful blue with white fluffy clouds, just lovely weather. At times the sea was so calm it was glassy and the sky and ocean blended together with no horizon being seen. We were just averaging about 5 knots, which meant we would take longer to get to Bermuda, but as it was so comfortable, we didn’t care.

There then followed a couple of days with semi overcast conditions, it was misty at night, the wind did increase and with it the seas and it became quite rough making moving below deck or trying to stay in bed quite challenging, however, we didn’t really mind as we were over halfway home.

While out we had a wonderful full moon, saw dolphins, had Longtails – Bermuda tropic Birds flying around Aeeshah, saw Portuguese Men Of War and lots of seaweed, life was very peaceful each day just blending through the night into the next day. At night we found there were a surprising number of ships, several we had to contact, one of which we couldn’t see his lights but knew from the radar was close.

Bermuda…..

On the morning of May 16th, 9 days after we started I saw Bermuda in the distance. It was just a wonderful feeling to actually be heading home. Both John and I were overjoyed and very proud of our achievement.

We sailed along the Southshore, our daughter Kate saw us from just below Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. We had been in contact with Bermuda Radio and welcomed home.

As we approached the Eastern end we could see other sailboats approaching too, we had not seen even 1 when we were crossing, now we could see over 8 others arriving too on slightly different courses. Through the Towne Cut we went and over to HMS Customs at Ordinance Island to check in.

After 9 days, 2 hours, we had arrived…. From Key Largo, Florida we had travelled 955.2 miles at an average speed of 4.3 knots, very slow, but we arrived!

That evening we just rested, enjoying being at anchor where the boat was steady and not rolling, we crashed out and slept for nearly 12 hours.

Gavin our son, visited the next morning bringing us some odds and ends we needed. We wandered around St Georges enjoying walking on land. We got our data set up and started the huge tidy up. Everything that had been packed away needed to be unpacked, the boat needed cleaning inside out and we had a huge amount of laundry.

Our daughter Kate with baby May and partner Jae visited that evening having dinner with us. It was lovely to see May who was now over a year old, walking and starting to talk. We had a very nice, simple barbeque dinner.

The following day was again another of cleaning, sorting and unpacking. Our daughter Chrissie visited us for lunch and a few hours aboard, she is now 5 month pregnant. Again we enjoyed walking around St. Georges. It is such a scenic, historic, town.

Then it was time to move to Hamilton, so off we set along the Northshore to find an anchorage in the vicinity of Hamilton.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it. – Pema Chodron

 

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The last of Isla Mujeres, the passage north and Key West followed by Marathon

 

PHOTOS link–>>     https://goo.gl/photos/9qm7JVAo3ukqLc4u6 

The last of Isla Mujeres, the passage north and Key West followed by Marathon

We had waited and waited for fair winds to sail to Cuba, but time passed and we decided to make a change of plans. The new plans had us going to the USA east coast to get ready for our sail to Bermuda. Our Cuba visit was delayed until later in the year after the hurricane season and then we can spend a good 2 months in Cuba. Our buddy boat Mikiai was still set on sailing to Cuba, as they were not pressed for time.

Meanwhile, while we waited for the weather we continued to go for walks ashore and enjoying the Isla. We dingied along the shoreline and found that towards the southern end there was an amazing zip line set up. We both would have loved to ride the zip line along the cliffs, across the bay and back to shore – maybe next time. Chico had his final vet check for his medical travel cert; we had many social evenings and prepped the boat for our passage.

Finally the weather cooperated and we knew we would be underway. Setting off on March 29th we had several hundred miles and nights at sea. From the beginning the passage was not the one hoped for, on the way out when I faced the wind for John to hoist the main sail, the mainsheet slide all the way out of the blocks. This was while the seas were starting to roughen up, for me it was an anxiety spike that left me unsettled. The seas on leaving northern Isla were nasty. As there was a fairly strong wind blowing – up to 25knots, the seas were up and due to the shallows surrounding Isla Mujeres it was out right rough! We were going right into the large seas which started rolling over the bow. John did wonder if we should head back, but I felt we would then have to go through it all over again so we continued…..

 

The 1st day was really unpleasant, constantly rough with higher winds than expected, gusts up to 30knots, the seas had the regular swell, but a heavy chop on top. Neither of us ate anything except saltine crackers, by later afternoon I was seasick and really feeling like hell. I wasn’t any good as crew. John was then faced with the whole night watch, which loomed ahead. I had to go below and passed out between being thrown about. Thank goodness that near midnight the seas and wind calmed to moderate and the passage improved.

Day 2 John slept on and off most of the day, while I was on watch, but the wind and seas were up and down all day. Plus we had an unexpected current pushing us into the Gulf of Mexico. This meant we had to sail quite close to the wind and with the swell and seas broadside it was again rough and uncomfortable. However my seasickness had gone and I could even read! So keeping watch wasn’t quite as boring and tedious.

The second night was dreadfully challenging. After John took over that night the Gulf Stream current was opposing the wind, which made for dreadfully rough conditions. We had waves crashing over the boat; it was dangerous to try to maneuver through the boat. One wave crashed down on the aft starboard side, ran down into the lazarette, through it and swamped the aft head. It was a dreadful night passage. As the sun rose we decided to cut up between the Dry Tortugas towards the inside passage towards the keys. Reason being it was easier and calmer. Finally once on the inside of the Cays the seas settled and we sailed nicely.

By the time we were off of the Marquises Cays we had decided to stop there and rest for the night. We couldn’t make it rest of the way to Key West by nightfall anyway. So there we stopped and crashed out for the night. Even Chico was mightily relieved. He climbed up onto the arch on the solar panels and looked out.

Continuing the next day to Key West we arrived by lunchtime, stopped at the mooring field, took the dingy in to the town, caught a taxi to the airport and checked in to the USA.

Key West

Key West is just as it was 6 years ago, maybe a bit busier, it is a fun town. We went the mooring field at Garrison Bite where we tied up to a buoy.

Being in the mooring field gives us access to the secure dinghy dock in Garrison Bite, plus the laundry facility and showers. If we had used the anchorage we would not have had these facilities and still would have had to pay to use the public dingy dock. From the Garrison Bite dingy dock it is only a 10 minutes walk to West Marine and then along the boardwalk into the front of Key West.

We also have access to the grocery stores by securing our dingy under a highway 1 bridge and climbing up the bank there before us are 2 shopping plazas! All the stores we need for supplies, foods, and services.

 

We have purchased our sat phone – an Iridium – It arrived a few days ago and we are very pleased with it. It does, texting, emails, SOS, calls, and even facebook.

Next to arrive to was our water maker – a Rainman. We now can make water at a rate of 18 gallons an hour.

Everyday we go for walks checking out the sites/sights along the roads. Key West has many interesting storefronts, bars/saloons, quiet homes and makes for great people watching. There is a large interesting cemetery too, which we wandered around.

Another fun activity is to take the dingy along the many mangrove canals. There you can weaver along behind homes, under bridges and roads while enjoying the scenery.

Due to the weather we were in Key West for longer than we had planned. The wind just kept blowing from the east exactly where we needed to head. Finally, we had a break and we headed off to Marathon.

In Key West John and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! We took the day off, went for a nice long walk and had food at the raw bar that we both enjoyed before.

Marathon

It was excellent weather to have a slow sail to Marathon. We saw dolphins along the way, it was so smooth, a real but rare treat. Again we are quite familiar with Marathon having spent time there before we set off over 5 years ago. There were plenty of mooring balls in Boot Key City Marina, so once again we are attached to a mooring.

Boot Key Harbour Marina is excellent! It has all the necessary facilities plus bikes you can borrow for free. Each day we borrow a bike and ride to the various shops to get what we need. I do love riding a bike. We have stocked up on everything we need, Chico was vetted, we made the boat ready for the possible 10 day passage and are just set to leave!

We met up with our neighbours in the mooring field, Joe and Ginny. They saw we were from Bermuda and came over to chat as they had sailed there back in the 80s. They have been cruising for 35 years! What was just astonishing was that after chatting Ginny told us their ages, she is in late 80s and Joe is an astonishing 92! They only look to be in their 70s! We had several pleasant evenings out with them enjoying the local seafood. 

Finally we were leaving on our passage back to Bermuda!

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,

Can circumvent or hinder or control

The firm resolve of a determined soul.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

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A road trip in Mexico

 

Road trip in Mexico

 

PHOTO LINK–>>  https://goo.gl/photos/rEA8fjiVT2P2HQpr8   

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John and I planned to do a short road trip to see just a little part of mainland Mexico. We set off on the ferry to Puerto Juarez, then a taxi to where we had arranged to hire a car at “American car hire”, In Cancun.

Once on the road we followed the M180 towards our 1st destination Izamal, 200 or so kilometers away. The “motorway” was quite unexpected being very well maintained, straight and empty of much traffic. We guessed the reason being most of the Mexicans couldn’t afford a car. We stopped for lunch at a service area and had tacos for lunch. Then off again to:IMG_3679


Izamal, (Mayan for “Dew of Heaven”).

IMG_3691Izamal is simply lovely! It is known as the “Yellow City” as all the buildings within it are painted yellow or gold, this indicates religious symbolism. (However nobody seems to remember when this 1st started or why).

 

 

 

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Driving in you are struck by the beautiful architecture of the quaint town. We had not reserved any place to stay and so chose to ask at a lovely hotel right on the town square, San Miguel Arcangel. There we got a room for an amazing $35, plus it was with everything we could wish for, AC, wifi, etc.


Convento de San Antonio de Padua

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Was the first site we visited. This is an amazing enormous golden yellow structure that is found off the town square commanding the view over the town. This convento sits atop the Maya Temple Ppal-Hol-Chac, (House of Heads and Lightning), which was taken down to its base in 1533 by the Spanish Franciscan order. The original stones from the Maya temple were used to build the first monastery in the New World, completed in 1561.

We climbed the stone steps of the IMG_3769convent that lead to an massive arcade with 75 arches. There a covered court way encloses the grand courtyard, the Atrium, which is 8,000 square meters, the largest in Mexico and second only in size to the Vatican. It is quite awe inspiring to see.

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We walked the long arcade and then ventured inside the church looking at the different statues, the altar and the frescoes, which are reputed to be some of the most beautiful and well preserved.


IMG_3742Victoria cab carriages

We could see from the top of the arcade the Victoria cab carriages, which lined the square next to the convent. They apparently were named after Queen Victoria. They are all gaily decorated and had horses wearing matching hats.


IMG_3824Kinich Kakmo, (Fire Macaw with face of the Sun)

We next went looking for the pyramids that surrounded the town plaza. From the arcade of the convent we could see 2 of the remaining 3. We eventually found the sides/base of Kinich Kakmo, not seeing any other way up we scaled the side.

 

 

IMG_3831It was quite a steep climb up the first layer of the sides of this pyramid, from there we could walk around the sides to the front of Kinich Kakmo where there were further steps to the very top. This pyramid stands at 115-feet and from the top we could see right across Izamal to the countryside beyond. We decended via the proper access rather than down the side we scaled.

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That evening we had a lovely meal and the next morning we again wandered the streets of Izamal. We explored the market and tiny shops all of which are named individually above their entrances. Then we were off to …….


Chichen Itza.

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IMG_4016This ancient Mayan site dating back to 879 AD covers 15 square kilometers and I can honestly say we explored the entire restored site, 4 square miles. Chichen Itza was a great center for the teaching of philosophy, science and art. Each building had a function related to those subjects. The city had two sections the first is the religious part and the second was the science section.

 

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We started at the Ball Game court; the court is large with high walls along the sides and at each end the North Temple/Temple of the Bearded man and the South Temple. Next there is the Temple of the Jaguars, the Temple of the Eagles and the Temple of Venus.

 

IMG_4001Pyramid of Kukulcan

This pyramid stands at 24 meters – over 75ft right in the middle of the site. It has nine platforms each smaller than the one below. There is a staircase of 91 steps on each of its four sides that represent the cardinal points. The dimensions of the pyramid represent the 365 solar days of the year. The 91 stairs also represent the number of days between the solstices, just so clever! An absolutely amazing pyramid.

Temple of the Warriors – Group of a Thousand ColumnsIMG_4069

Which is east of the Pyramid of Kukulcan was our next stop, again architecturally very impressive to see all the rows columns that had been made by the hands of Mayans hundreds of years ago. From there we saw the steam bath area and the market. The Temple of the Aged, the Ossuary Pyramid, Temple of the Nuns and Akab-Dzib, (monument to philosophy) were a few of the other spectacular Mayan ruins we saw on our Chichen Itza visit.

IMG_4121I must say that there were dozens and dozens of venders selling their wares around the site. It was the place to find absolutely everything locally made by Mayans.

 

 

 

 

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The woodwork and ceramics were of excellent quality and workmanship. They told us that they came from the surrounding villages. As the site was without many trees for shade it was extremely hot walking around I wished I had an umbrella.


IMG_4173Valladolid

Was our next destination. Again we had not made reservations at a hotel and again we lucked out with Hotel Zaci, a lovely, inexpensive hotel not far from the town square. We checked in and then walked around Valladoid.

 

 

San Servacio Cathedral and Central PlazaIMG_4186

In Valladolid the town square/Central Plaza is large and very pretty. There is a water fountain in the middle with a statue of a Mayan woman pouring water from a ceramic jug and in front of it there were some “mayan” dancers performing for the tourists off of the many tour busses. It was interesting to see the costumes are made with dozens of beautiful feathers.

 

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Around the outside of the plaza was an arcade walkway lined with arches with the little shops. It was lovely strolling around before we went to dinner.

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San Servacio Cathedral sits at one end of the town square. It was originally constructed in 1545. Again it was historically interesting  to look at and to see the religious artifacts inside.

 

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Calle 41A and Ex Convent of Sisal

In the morning we followed Calle 41A, which is reputed to be the prettiest Calle/street in the whole of Yucatan, to Convent Sisal.

 

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There were very few people around and it was a pleasant early morning walk. Neither of us found the Calle to be anything special, but it was lined by many very old buildings. The convent was quite plain, but maybe that is the beauty of it.

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IMG_4407Coba

It was off to Coba next. There we found a large Mayan site spread out under the shade of trees, shade at last. Coba means Ruffled Waters and is belied to be one of the oldest Mayan sites dating back to 300 – 900 AD. It actually started growing a few centuries before Christ until it reached a population of about 50,000 inhabitants on the 80 square kilometer site. There were causeways/sacbeob that radiated from Coba towards other Mayan cities. Coba was a storage center that traded with other Mayan cities.

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We really enjoy walking around the site. It is a very large spread out site consisting of groups or areas, as shaded it was not terribly hot to walk the several kilometers between the groups of ruins.

 

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Grupo Coba

was the 1st area we visited. Located between the Coba and Macanxoc lagoons, the large buildings outlined a plaza divided by three sacbeob/white roads and has the structure know as “the church”. Next we headed to Grupo Las Pinturas, here the structures are named after the wall paintings that were found within the main temple.

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The highlight was Grupo Nohoch Mul.IMG_4406

The Mayan architects built the highest structures of the city on this area as there was a slight inline. At 42 meters the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan is found here and you can climb to the top. At first we were both hesitant to climb, it was fully exposed to the harsh sunlight and very steep. However John headed off and so I thought, well if he’s climbing so will I.

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It is a steep, long climb up all of the slippery, uneven 120 “steps” to the top. From up there we could see for miles and miles around, what a view! The climb was well worth it, in fact getting down was far harder as the worn steps are very polished from all the wear over hundreds of years, they shine and are slick with narrow edges. We both really enjoyed Coba.

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IMG_4485Tulum

Off Tulum we headed driving along the regular country roads past all the interesting villages and settlements.

 

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Tulum is perched on the high limestone cliffs of the Caribbean Sea below. It was not a particularly important site for archeologists. It is thought to have been inhabited for a relatively long time and at even the time of the “conquest”.

 

 

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Tulum faces east; the Mayan called it Zama, (City of the Dawn) and was the port for the area. Trading with the Mayan as far away as Rio Dulce, Guatemala, the dugouts would follow the shoreline inside the reefs. Today it is the most visited site in Mexico due to its scenic location.

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We enjoyed wandering the cliff tops looking at the ruins and seeing the wonderful views. However clouds were hanging above and out at sea so it was not as spectacular as I imagine it usually appears.

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That evening spent the night at a hotel close by which again was very economical. In the morning we started to head back to Cancun. We did stop along the way at:

 

 

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IMG_4585Puerto Morales

This town is on the coast and actually port that we could have pulled into on our way from Belize.

 

 

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From the drive through and the stroll on the front Puerto Morales is quiet, pretty and quite sheltered. Maybe one day we will pull into the anchorage.

 

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Back in Cancun we dropped off the car, get the ferry back to Isla Mureles and before we knew were back on Aeeshah. It was an excellent land tour!

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. – John Maeda

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them. – Marcus Aurelius

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

 

PHOTO LINK —>>  https://goo.gl/photos/r4eYR8hPXncRXxV87  

It’s off to Mexico

 

IMG_2731The passage:

We set off for Isla Mujeres on Tuesday the 7th with 3 other boats from the anchorage. Leaving Cay Caulker at 9:00am our plan was to sail for 48 hours the 240 miles to arrive in the morning of the 9th. Out through Long Cay pass we went finding it quite rough with seas bigger than expected, the predicted calmer weather was not yet a reality.

I resolved myself to just sitting in the cockpit and hanging on, as long as I don’t get ill I am reasonably happily but bored. However this boredom soon turned into action stations. Both fishing rods were ziggggiiinnngggg!!!! OMG so we had rough seas of up to 8 foot two rods going, we are sailing at a good 6+ knots, Chico is going stir crazy as he thinks of the taste of fresh fish.

So, I take the wheel, head up 10, then 20, then 30 degrees to slow us down. This of course means we IMG_2739bounce about even more. Plus I hang on the Chico by his harness to stop him from launching him self at the rods too. John is at the stern trying to reel in the biggest fish. It fights him as he slips about on the wet deck, finally settling himself next to the cockpit to try and launch the fish, but then the 2 lines have crossed! Now the real problem is how to untangle the 2 lines while the fish fight to be free. John recruits me to, hold the rod with the biggest fish while it fights, while managing the wheel and Chico in the other hand. Let me just state……this was not easy!

 

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However I managed and John managed to untangle the lines/rods plus get the smaller Mahi Mahi on the deck. He placed it in our large cooler while he came to rescue me, but the fish managed to jump out and flip the cooler. So back he went, killed the fish on the deck and secured it. Finally John took over the rod from me and landed the large bull Mahi Mahi. I got the boat back on course and up to speed while still wrestling Chico.  John managed to kill and gut the fish, but as he was by this time sliding around in the blood bath on the stern. He stabbed his foot and got covered in his own blood and fish blood. He was exhausted afterwards and had to rinse off at the stern. That was a great distraction from the rough seas.

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The rest of the passage was incredible; we sped along at a record-breaking speed, up to 10 Knots. The result was we arrived in Isla Mujeres at 5:00pm February 8th, we had travelled 247.9 nautical miles in 32 hours average speed of 7.6 knots for us it was just incredible. The other boats, 2 of which left at 7:00 am 2 hours ahead of us pulled in around 8:00pm. Our friends on Mekaia arrived the next day close to noon; they had stopped over night to rest at Isla Cozumel.

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Checking into Isla Mujeres:

WOW what an ordeal, check in was an all day event. We arrived around 10:00am and sort of finished at 4:00pm, no lunch, many photo copies and trips to the bank later.

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1st we went to Port Captain, who informed us we needed 5 copies of everything, all paperwork, passports and boat papers. Off we go then back to find he never gave us the crew list to fill out and copy, off to photocopy again. Then saw a health personal that check our temperatures, asked questions and stated we should have had the boat “sprayed” in Belize for bugs..??? Off to pay at bank, then it’s back to Port Captain, then off to immigration, off to bank back to Immigration, off to Port Captain to see Customs and another department of health, more paperwork, off to bank back to Port Captain on and on!! Plus that was not the end of it we still had 5 days to go to Cancun to purchase a temporary boat import license.

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CancunIMG_2998

We headed to Cancun two days later with Jack and Christine off of Mekaia to do the boat import. Arriving there after waiting a while we were informed we needed copies of everything all over again, just crazy, plus they all had to be a certain size, AND we needed the serial numbers of our engines! Well long story short: we made up the serial numbers, got a taxi to the closest photo copy place, back to the import office and finally managed the final step just taking a morning to do so.

IMG_2992Off to find the shops we then headed. After getting a taxi into downtown Cancun we wandered the streets basically getting lost. Lunch was next, we went into a small Mexican restaurant and had a wonderful Mexican lunch which we all enjoyed. After which we got a taxi to Plaza Los Americanos. This turned out to be a huge mall. Jack and Christine set off one direction and John and I another, meeting up later. It was quite confusing after not having seen any real civilization for months, in fact John and I found the stimulation quite exhausting.

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Isla Mujeres

Is a lovely island. It is far more developed than anywhere we have been recently, but at the same time it is still quaint and has an atmosphere of its own. Being a tourist destination the fast ferries arrive all day bringing and taking tourists back and forth to the mainland.

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The buildings are colourful and attractive in the true Mexican style. The Mexican food is excellent! The prices are wonderfully inexpensive. There are 20 pesos to the $, a meal and drinks is usually around $10 – $15 US$.

 

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IMG_2738We are anchored in the anchorage, where the water is turquoise and clear, but chilly. The town is across from us and so it is easy to access. The town lies on the northeastern side of Isla Mujeres. We have enjoyed roaming the colourful streets and looking at all the wares for sale. The grocery store is a treat!

The western shore is wonderful, having a long stretch of boardwalk, which makes for wonderful walking. The views over the rocky shoreline are beautiful. At the northern end is a wonderful shelter beach and a long palm lined, sandy beach with calm shallow waters perfect for a relaxing day at the beach. (As long as you don’t mind sharing with all the other tourists).

Graveyard

The little graveyard that is hidden in El Centro/Downtown Isla Mujeres is a delight to visit and wander around.

 

 

 

The graves are actually shrines commemorating the dearly departed, each tells a different story. The pirate and slave trader Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja ‘s grave is found there. However it took us two visits to locate the gravesite.

IMG_3019Cancun again

We visited Cancun again. The main attraction this time was the shops. We caught the fast ferry over and then visited a Wall mart – same as any, but very inexpensive, and then The Plaza Los Americanos.  As mentioned this is a huge mall where there is an over-whelming amount of shops of any type needed, but not as inexpensive as in regular shops. We enjoyed strolling around getting a commercial fix the highlight was the grocery store.

The lagoon, Laguna Makax,

We volunteered to watch our friend Jack and Christine’s boat Mekaia while they were visiting friends. We were both anchored in the main anchorage, which is very pretty but notorious for dragging anchor. After only a few days of watching Mekaia she dragged. We were both below deck when we received this call on the radio, “The boat Mekaia is dragging into your bow!!” Well it was action stations, I had the wheel of Aeeshah avoiding Mekaias stern as she dragged down on our bow. John was in the dingy over to Mekaia, onboard and starting her engine, 5 other dinghies with fellows from other boats came to help too. So all turned out ok, her 2 anchors were reset, we were all ok, but it was very stressful, with winds blowing 30 plus, rough water and Mekaia misbehaving.

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2 days later more bad weather was expected, this time we moved both boats and re-anchored both boats in the lagoon, which is totally protected. It was a fortunate we did as when the northerly came through we could hear on the VHF all these boats in the anchorage dragging and needing help, one ended up aground having also hit 3 boats.

The lagoon is perfectly enclosed by mangroves, not the prettiest of anchorages, but protected. We have now visited the anchorage in the lagoon 3 times for the northers that keep blowing through. From the anchorage we can get ashore at Oscars, which is a very nice restaurant, plus we can use their free wifi and have enjoyed several evening get togethers with other cruisers.

Punta Sur/South Point and Templo MayaIMG_3186

After getting a taxi to the Lighthouse we explored the South Point and Maya temple located there. The views from the cliffs above the South Point are stunning. The colours of the sea are just unbelievable. All along the point are pathways, they follow the top and then trail down under the cliff and follow the shoreline in each direction. We enjoyed walking along looking out over the water. There were iguanas sunning themselves on many of the rocks of the over hanging cliffs.

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The Maya Temple is very small, built there as it faces east and so being the point to get the 1st rays of the sun light in the morning.

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John and I walked back to the boat. We jumped the wall next to the lighthouse and followed a pathway along the cliff top towards the western end. The walk was wonderful along the cliff tops and then the shoreline. However it was also very hot. Again there were iguanas all over the rocks sunning themselves. We walked a good 2 miles and then cut across the island back to the dingy. A great walk, but oh so hot.

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 Isla Mujeres Carnival

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It just so happened the carnival was happening while we were in Isla Mujeres. A large stage was set up in El Centro and one day while wandering to the store we saw the children practicing on the stage. So it was decided that a group of us would attend the evening performance. We arrived for the 8:00 pm start chose our table and get our food and drinks from the many stands set up around the square.

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Well the performance actually started at 9:00ish. The 1st act was quite an odd one as it consisted of many quite large ladies in glistening, bright costumes doing a sort of jig and waving their arms to music. The second act was the children dancing and from there on there were different groups of dancers many of which were very good. The best act to me was a man who had multiple silver hooler-hoops he was spinning at a terrific speed from all parts of his body while he stood in all sorts of poses and did some amazing jumps while still spinning. We all had a fun night.

IMG_3625Hacienda Mundaca

This is the house that the pirate Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja built for the girl he loved. The story goes: For many years he plied the seas from Cuba to Africa with human cargo getting rich at the expense of others. When the British Navy made his piracy and slave trading no longer easy he furled his sails and settled in Isla Mujeres.

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He saw a beautiful 18-year-old young woman called La Triguena and fell in love. He built a whimsical hacienda with exotic gardens, entered by arches carved with her name. She however loved and married a local fisherman.

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Fermin Mundaca de Marechaja went slowly insane due to “love’s labour lost” We went with Jack and Christine one day to visit the hacienda. It must have been very nice in its prime, but now is just a sad ruins of what was once there.

 

“The essence of wisdom is to see that there is always a solution once you realize that the mind, which seems to create so much suffering, has infinite potential to create fulfillment instead.” – Deepak Chopra

“The great thing to remember is we can do whatever we wish to do provided our wish is strong enough.”  – Katherine Mansfield

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Belize … Cay Cauker, Turneffe atoll, Long Cay and the Drowned Cays

 

PHOTOS here–>> https://goo.gl/photos/etG9dmmcWmw7NZj26   

John and I spent January in Belize and just love it there.

 

IMG_2674Cay Caulker

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In the dingy we rounded both islands finding hidden coves and canals. The water is very shallow close to shore as much of the shoreline is mangrove, but there are accessible bays. On the southern end of Cay Cauker we found a canal that led to abandoned boats and what looked like the beginnings of a marina? There were IMG_2716water birds all around, from Egrets to hawks. The second island to the north is mainly untouched and so mainly mangrove swamp, however from the water we could see where new development is starting.

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We roamed on long walks around Cay Caulker from one end to the other. Finding a pathway that took us along the shoreline on the outside of the island all the way past the airport to where new homes have been built on the border of what mangroves still survive. The airport is a strip of sandy runway in a long field where you can actually cut across to get to the other side, very rustic.

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The homes look to be very nice, but to get there must be quite a challenge as there are really only pathways that you could just about get a golf cart along. (Golf carts are the only motorized transport). However further along this walk, which is called “The Trail” and is sporadically sign posted, the construction crew has completely destroyed the pathway. It seemed a shame to us that they are developing this wonderful island by destroying the only open land they have left.

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However the walk was excellent, we saw lots for birds and the views from the bays are beautiful. In some mangrove areas there were schools of dozens of huge We did this walk a few times, as it was good exercise in the heat.

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IMG_2561Turneffe atoll

We set out for the atolls outside the reef and our first stop was the northern part of Turneffe – to Rendezvous. To get there from Cay Cauker we went out of a cut in the reefs next to the northern Drowned Cays. This meant we avoided Porto Stuck, but we had to be very careful heading out over the barrier reef. It really is quite scary seeing the reef just below the bottom!

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John was very happy as we had a good strike on one of our lines and it was a Mai Mai of about 30lbs. Chico was able to enjoy eating a load of fresh fish off the stern as John cleaned the fish so did Chico. We also had a pod of dolphins follow us and play along side and in front of the boat for miles and miles. They are wonderful to watch.

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Arriving in Turneffe, we were again amazed by the size of the atoll. It is 30 miles long north to South and 10 miles wide, which is 300 square miles! Inside there are hundreds of islands, ranging from just sandy mounds to mangrove isles to complete islands. You could really take years to explore the whole of the area. At Rendezvous we were the only cruising boat, there was nobody around. We spent the rest of the afternoon dingying past the closest shoreline where we could see fishing camps, with huts where the fishermen stay/camp when out for days gathering conch and fishing. The shoreline is lovely, but going ashore we found too many no-see-ums to make staying long an option.IMG_2408

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Instead of heading straight off the next morning we went snorkeling off the reefs that surrounded us. The snorkeling was very impressive, beautiful corals and many fish of all types. It was then off to the southern Turneffe, several hours away. Arriving later in the afternoon at Joe’s Bay, which isn’t really a bay, just an area where we could enter through the reefs and anchor for the night. There we again lowered the dingy and dingied around. Again there was one fishing shack on the shore, but nobody, nor any other boats around just mangroves along the shoreline and many birds.

IMG_2444Lighthouse Atoll, Long Cay

Long Cay is the southern most islands on the Lighthouse atoll it is the easiest of the cays to anchor near as Half Moon Cay is a ways inside and it means motoring and navigating very shallow water with many reefs to avoid. So we anchored in the anchorage to the west of Long Cay. It was absolutely beautiful there. The water is as clear as glass, the colours are just amazing and around us there was nobody except our friend’s boat, Mekeia in the distance. We had actually met them along the way while sailing across. That afternoon we went to the reef that acts as the barrier to most of the atoll and snorkeled. It was absolutely glorious! The best snorkeling we have ever had, we both agreed.

 

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The water is just incredibly clear and as the reef has an abundant population of fish of all types. The corals were stunning. It was a very pleasant afternoon. That evening we enjoyed drinks while aboard Mekeia with Jack and Christine while we had another glorious sunset.

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IMG_2479The following morning we found out that the weather was closing in again ….. another front was approaching, so we had to leave the following day. We went ashore onto Long Cay where we explored along the islands trails. There is a diving resort – just a small rustic 8-room place, but they offer diving and that was what Jack was off to do.

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We followed wooden walkways through the mangroves to see a bit more of the island. It is quite amazing the length of these wooden walkways, they must have been built at some expense. However they IMG_2523are deteriorating from lack of maintenance, the same as the other “resort” on the island – Itsy – it is in an idyllic location but looked empty and in need of some repair, we were told it is for sale. The walk was wonderful and we saw many handsome iguanas sunning themselves along the wooden walkway. The walkway ended at a wooden home in the middle of the mangroves, it looked to have been abandoned many years prior. To return we cut off to walk back along the shoreline.

Again in the afternoon we snorkeled in the magnificent reefs. Jack had re-anchored just near us and found on the reef off his stern a huge nurse shark. It was peacefully asleep on the side of the reef.

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He also told us that he dove the Blue Hole, going to 140ft. Then later did another dive off of Half Moon Cay where they were off the edge of the reef and surrounded by large reef sharks that were circling them. So interested were the sharks that the dive leader signaled them out of the water. In the beginning of the dive they were surrounded by groupers, which would allow them to pet their tummies, even roll to the side to accommodate the diver’s petting. It sounded amazing to both John and I.

IMG_2653Drowned Cays

From Lighthouse atoll we sailed most of the day back into the inner cays arriving at Shag Cay Broge, in the group of Cays called the Drowned Cays. This is a large group of Cays that are mainly mangroves or surrounded by mangroves. It sounds boring, but it was again very a beautiful area.

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We explored using the dingy following long broges, as they are called through the mangroves. Broges we found are canals that the current has swept clear through the mangroves. There were many, many birds wading in the shallows and apparently there are many manatees, but we didn’t see any.

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The colours were beautiful with the reflections on the calm water. Turquoises, greens and blues of all hues just gorgeous! A friendly dolphin visited us daily and the birds flew all around. It was very peaceful. We enjoyed riding in the dingy for miles around the mangrove cays and stopping to walk on the ones that were accessible to our dingy.

Cay Caulker againIMG_2106

 

Once again we went through Porto Stuck, but with far less stress as we had managed to skim over the bottom before. Back in Cay Caulker we enjoyed daily walks all over the island. We stocked up, had several lovely evenings with friends and set off on Tuesday February 7th for Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

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We have to live life with a sense of urgency so not a minute is wasted. –Les Brown

 

Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling. –Margaret Lee

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