Where is YOLO?

...Off to the Sea for Adventure

...Off to the Sea for Adventure
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

Monday, December 27, 2010

Georgetown has velcro on the beaches

We finally made it to Georgetown in plenty of time to meet up with Mark. We love it here! While in Staniel we again met some more cruisers to continue south with. Two families who had just met also, we joined in with their flotilla of 2. Both families have beautiful catamarans and have been MORE than hospitable to Andy and I. The Hufford family is aboard Eclipse consists of Geoff and Michelle and their 3 sons Alec, Jerome, and Miles from the Milwaukee area. The other is a family from OREGON! The Womak family consists of Dave and Leslie and their daughter Michelle. We've had a great time with these two cruising families! 

After leaving Staniel Cay, we headed south to a protected anchorage for a bonfire the next night on Great Guana Cay and had a great night for viewing the lunar eclipse (aboard eclipse, weird huh?) The night after the eclipse we decided to make a all night passage in the dark under a nearly full moon to Georgetown. On that night sail we all stayed in eyesight of each other and that's where we slayed these pretty fish. It was a good thing we had buddy boats that night because our GPS froze on us while we tried to make the intricate approach into the harbor in the cloak of darkness. Dave turned his catamaran around and guided us in and we found a safe anchorage for the rest of the night. Thanks for bailing us out Dave!

Now in Georgetown, we have been meeting all kinds of people, both old and young. It's a really neat cruising community here in GT. Although we would have loved to be with our families over christmas, this place is an EXTREMELY close second to that. For Christmas dinner we shared the beach with over a hundred other cruisers for a potluck dinner. Andy and I (pretty much just andy) made a chicken curry dish to share. It was a big hit. We had the greatest feast of the whole trip that day. 

After I scarfed down the great food I had to dine and dash to pick up our friend Mark Tinucci from the airport. So I hopped in the dinghy and crossed over to town and hitched a ride to the airport. He's on a well deserved vacation and we're thrilled to have him aboard and we can't wait to start having some cool adventures with him. 

I gotta cut it short, but the next entry will be stellar!
King Mackerel that Andy caught on the night sail to Georgetown 

Dolphin fish murder

Our new cruising friends aboard "Eclipse". We caught the fish and the nice folks of Eclipse and Texas Two Step prepared a delicious feast with it!

New Georgetown friends Chris, Eddie, and Mia on christmas day at the potluck (notice my sweeeeeet charlie brown christmas tie)

Our table for the potluck christmas dinner on Stocking island. left to right: Dave & Leslie (Texas Two Step); Annie, Haven (6 year old), and Andy (???), Gary and Celeste (Sol Surfin); Andy, Michelle (Texas Two Step) and Lance

We found our new beard idol! Ed is one funny guy!

A sailor's bandaid. Duct tape survives short term salt water exposure better than a traditional bandaid.

Ted and Shannon from "Salty Dog" along with Dave and Leslie on Texas Two Step at the coffee shop with us. MARK MADE IT OUT TO SEE US!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Exumas are our playground

The Exuma Cays are the most beautiful and rugged paradise we have encountered so far.  We left Nassau after 3 days it wasn’t our kind of place.  We didn’t like the big busy city, the tourist traps, and especially hated worrying about security and locking the dinghy up at the dock.  It was only a short daysail to reach Allens Cay, which is famous for its rare breed of Bahamian iguanas.  First, one iguana came toward us, as soon as we landed on the beach.  Soon there were more than 30 of the strange looking lizards surrounding us and wanting food.  They weren’t satisfied with the carrots that we brought for them but still came too close for comfort.  The anchorage at Allens Cay was nice and the island is deserted but it is busy with boat traffic since it’s so close to Nassau.  

Atlantis resort in Nassau was nice, but you need more money than we have to fully appreciate it.  We were only allowed in the casino and at one public beach on Paradise island.  We had to get out of Nassau!

The next day we headed further down the chain of Exuma islands to Normans Cay.  This island was once home to a drug smuggling cartel and cruisers weren’t allowed to stop there.  Now the only evidence of its rough past are several shot up buildings on the island and a large twin engine smuggling plane that crashed in the same bay that we anchored in.  It is a DC-3 and sits fully intact in about 8 feet of water.  As pilots we thought this was the greatest place to snorkel and swimming through the old airplane was a blast. 

Here is our Phenomenal anchorage at Allen's Cay.  We found these old ruins whilst running from the iguanas.

Look closely at all those black lizards on the beach!  Lance is scared in this picture, because they sneak up on you when you turn your back!


The island is mostly deserted but has a few buildings and an airstrip.  We walked across the runway to find “McDuffs” a chill island bar that we had read about.  The owner/bartender poured us some Kalics (Bahamian beer) and we met another pilot named Clyde.  He blew the tire on the nose wheel of his Baron and was stuck on the island for a couple days.  A new wheel was on its way and when it got there we helped him put it on.  He had another trip to Norman Cay the next day and offered to bring us a case of beer from Fort Lauderdale.  Unfortunately we never got it.  Clyde, if you are reading this we are anchored next to Thunderball cave at Staniel Cay now, if you are flying by you should drop the beer to us on a parachute.  Click on the link to see our exact SPOT position and try to drop it as close to YOLO as you can.  I’m only joking, but that would be the coolest way to deliver beer ever!  By the way Clyde was that you that gave us a low pass in the Baron at Warderick Wells last weekend?  It was pretty awesome!

The DC-3 wreck at Norman's was cool



There was a cold front coming from the north and bringing strong winds so we had to find a safe place to wait it out.  The Exuma Land and Sea Park is a protected area where no fishing or taking of lobster is allowed and a place called Warderick Wells right in the middle of it offers protection from the wind and mooring balls to tie onto.  We got there on a beautiful Saturday and found out there was a happy hour on the beach that night for all 22 boats that were in the park.  After a hike up to BooBoo hill where cruisers leave pieces of driftwood with the name of their boat carved in as a gift to the weather gods, we wound up on the beach where the happy hour party was going on.  It was finally a chance to meet the other cruisers that we are sharing the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas with!  One younger guy from Chile named Sebastian was equally happier to meet other cruiser under 50.  The net day we went snorkeling together and saw a plethora of lobster the size of Lance Armstrong’s legs.  It was forbidden to capture them or to spear the huge grouper in the park, but it got us excited for future chances of harvesting these delicious sea creatures.  We spent 2 days dancing at our mooring in 30 knots of wind, grateful for the ball bedded into the rock below.  On the cold and windy day we hiked back up BooBoo hill with Sebastion, his father Fred, and Fred’s wife Michelle.  At the top we got a chance to leave the piece of driftwood with YOLO carved into it as a gift to the weather gods.  Watching the waves crash into the cliffs and water shooting out of the blowholes was a good reminder of how powerful the sea really is. 


This skeleton from a 52 foot Sperm whale was at Warderick Wells where we stayed for 3 days to wait out the weather.



Made another friend



Exploring WW with our old dinghy and new friend Sebastion

BooBoo hill

Cruisers spend a lot of time carving and painting on driftwood.  Notice YOLO in the middle.

On Tuesday we departed Warderick Wells behind the front and rode the 20 knot winds to Compass Cay.  Our new friends from Chile also sailed their 42 foot Catamaran alongside us and we anchored together again.  Michelle cooked us a fantastic dinner aboard “TIKI” and we had a late night telling stories and learning about each others cultures.  The next morning we all went snorkeling/spearfishing in their fast dinghy since our old orange one won’t hold air and is giving Lance and I more stress than we should ever have in the islands.  We were outside of the protected park and finally got a chance to harvest some fruits of the sea.  We speared two lobsters, one small and one enormous with a fat tail!  Then we also speared three small fish one Bar Jack, a Yellowtail snapper, and one reddish fish with big eyes that we couldn’t identify.  That night Michelle and Fred cooked the lobster for us with white wine and there was enough for all five of us to feast!


Fred, Michelle, and Sebastion aboard their fast dinghy at Compass Cay

Spearfishing is like underwater hunting and we are addicted


Leaving Compass cay was relaxing because we only had about 10 miles to cover in order to reach Staniel Cay.  We took our time and did some trolling behind the boat out in the deeper water along the way.  Just after leaving the compass cut I heard the fishing reel zipping away and landed another fish.  We identified this one to be a Horse-eyed Jack and it was good eating size.  The place where “TIKI” and “YOLO” anchored is beautiful, and our boat is still there.  It is close to the small town and yacht club on Staniel Cay, and it is right next to the Thunderball cave.  Thunderball Grotto was featured in the Bond movie by the same name, and also in a Disney movie called “Splash.”  Sebastion, Lance and I swam right to the entrance from our boats and after snorkeling through the small hole we were amazed at the size of the Grotto.  The cave opens up into a huge dome about 20 feet tall with countless colorful fish schooling inside.  We even found another entrance on the other side that was closer to our boat so we left that way, what a beautiful place!  After the swim Lance and I were eager to find some civilization so were took our dilapidated dinghy to shore.  Whilst trying to find the dump we stumbled upon a gorgeous hiking trail which went along the top of a ridge north of the village.  Eventually we did find a place to throw away our trash and found an abandoned hard-bottom dinghy much better than ours.  The day turned into a quest to find the owner of it and it appears that no one on the island knows whose it is.  We found a neat little library and ran into the “TIKI” crew, together we walked to a small market and stocked up on some very expensive perishables.  


Horse-eyed Jack caught whilst trolling


Once again we were spoiled by Michelle with another great dinner made from the fish we speared and caught.  There were several sharks attracted to their catamaran because of the fish guts/heads that Sebastion dumped overboard.  We had the bright idea of putting one fish head on a hook and trying to catch one of the massive nurse sharks.  Well guess what?  The frickin shark ate it and suddenly Lance had to reel in a feisty shark that we thought to be about 6 feet long!  After it put up quite a fight Sebastian netted the beast and luckily it turned out to be only about 4 feet long.  His dad was on the internet and identified it as a Lemon Shark.  There was a lot of meat and we wanted to eat it, so we googled “how to fillet and cook shark” Lance spent about an hour cleaning and skinning and cutting it up into fillet sized pieces.  Now both our freezers are full of the shark meat and we’ve eaten two Lemon Shark steaks already which actually turned out to be quite tantalizing!  The Chileans had to leave for Georgetown early yesterday and we are already missing our cruising buddies.  I’m sure we shall find them again in Georgetown.


Shark!!!! made for an exciting evening

Feeding a wild pig at the beach.  Supposedly they swim but we couldn't get him to.


We got a lead on another dinghy several miles away on Fowl Key and made the long trek in the old deflating dink all the way.  It turned out to be a good deal on a blue Achilles with a wood floor and we bought it!  We named it Papa Smurf and it rides nice, about twice as fast as the old one, even with the same 3 hp engine!  On the way back to YOLO we towed the old dink behind the smurf and saw another boat registered in St. Paul.  Of course we had to investigate and we found a friendly couple in the cockpit enjoying Lobster sandwiches.  Their boat is called “Antigone” and they are from Lindstrom, MN the same small town as my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins.  They didn’t know my family but only spend the summers in MN.  They called us later on the radio and invited us back for conch fritters at happy hour and we were happy to attend.  The fritters were delicious and the rum was flowing like a waterfall, it made for a fun dinghy trip back in our new ride in the dark. 
  


The old yellar and the new Papa Smurf!
Now we are sitting at Staniel Cay yacht club.  A very cool island bar that has internet and pool!  Today our goal is to bring our old dinghy to the boatyard where captain Tony gave us permission to leave it.  Staniel cay has a great community and is my favorite island of the trip so far.  We will probably be back after Xmas for the big Pirate Party and new years regatta. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chub Cay (Berry Islands)

After exploring the Sapona Shipwreck we found a quiet little spot to anchor on the east side of North Cat Cay to get some rest for our 80 mile journey to the Berry Islands the next day. Again, trying to make landfall before dark, we planned and executed a 3AM departure from our anchorage off Cat Cay. Thankfully this was just before high tide, giving us a little buffer under our keel to work with in the dark. The whole 80 miles from Cat Cay to the Berry Islands was in very shallow water across the great Bahama bank. We never had more than 10 feet below the keel. And it was often as close as 2-3 feet from scraping bottom! However, we followed our guidebooks and charts closely and came out unscathed. The winds were favorable for most of the sail and we made great time. Since the water was so shallow, the seas didn’t have room to build and the livin was easy. One of the better sails we’ve had on the trip so far!
MVI_1277
We made it to Chub Cay with plenty of time to find safe anchorage and enjoy a sundowner. We also had time to do some twilight snorkeling to investigate the consistency of the bottom we were anchoring in (something we’re getting used to doing now that the water is warmer). Not too much going on at Chub Cay so we left the next day to make a 7 mile journey to Frazers Hog Cay. This new anchorage gave us more protection against the NW winds building over the next couple days.
On our way, Andy set out a trolling line as he always does except this time he actually had some luck. It’s pretty embarrassing to report that it took us this long to land our 1st fish of the whole trip. He hooked into a beautiful 13lb Wahoo! It gave a tremendous fight at first but gave up after a few minutes. Andy reeled her in and gaffed it while I bashed its head with the club before bringing it aboard. It was a nice looking fish, but much smaller than a normal Wahoo. Fine with us though, we have little room for refrigerating/freezing fish. We have already enjoyed two meals and have about 3 more to go before this gift of the sea is gone.
14 lb Wahoo! Finally caught a fish while trolling behind the sailboat.
He was delicious, provided 4 awesome meals and our freezer is still full of the rest 


We made it to our next anchorage with the whole day remaining to explore Frazer’s Hog Cay. This was even a bit more off the beaten path than Chub. We cleaned up our catch and had some Wahoo & Eggs for breakfast. We dinghied to shore, left our stuff on the beach and walked about a half mile or so to the nearest civilization which was only a bar. We had a cold one then walked back to the beach and did some more snorkeling, ate some more fish and relaxed for a while. The fishguts we threw overboard earlier attracted a couple Remoras. Not knowing what they were other than “big fish”, and in haste, we threw a line in the water to try and catch one of them. Sure enough they took the bait and we had another big fish on the line. Andy fought with it for a few minutes until it somehow got stuck on the bottom of our boat?! We were perplexed as to what the hook (or fish) could be stuck on… Turns out the Remora has an appendage on its head for attaching itself to other larger fish (usually sharks) and waiting for the crumbs of its host’s meal to fall back. This thing, after being hooked, managed to attach itself to the bottom of our boat and it was holding on so tight we couldn’t pull it off with 60# test line! Finally it let go after several minutes and we were able to land it and identify it only to find out this kind of fish is inedible. But it was fun!
This was a Remora we caught at anchor.  Weird looking but not edible so we released

We awoke at sunrise this morning to get a good start on our 35 mile passage to The capitol city of Nassau on New Providence Island. We just arrived and it is here where I am updating our blog. I’m sure there will be a lot to write about from Nassau. For now, McDonalds is closing and so is my free internet. Stay tuned!

Oh ya... GO DUCKS! Civil War game today and I'm missing it.

BAHAMAS (BIMINI)

We spent our 1st day in Alice Town exploring what the small city had to offer. We found some really cool beaches and met some locals working on cleaning out giant turtle shells and conch shells. They were known as “Uncle Stinky” and “Sucka Bobby”. I think we were the Suckas though. Somehow they swindled us into buying them booze at the liquor store. I don’t really even know how they did it. Oh well. After meeting a few more locals, we found that these two guys were pros. All in all, our 1st day on the island was kinda low key. We were pretty exhausted from our 2 night passage.





The next day we set out in an effort to learn how to spearfish. We bought a Hawaiian sling spear in Key West but had not yet used it. Man was this fun! It’s like hunting and fishing all in one! It takes a lot of patience and a good lung capacity. It’s an excellent workout and we’re still getting the hang of it. We speared a few smaller grunt fish, but nothing really worth eating.

This was also the day we met our new friends Lee, Rick, and Greg. Great guys from the SF Bay area. Lee was in the furniture making business and, come to find out, he had a contract with UND (Andy and I’s alma mater) and told us he probably made all the dorm furniture we had back in McVey hall! Lee had a beautiful Morgan 41 sailboat named “Door #3” after the Jimmy Buffett song. He had just restored it after it was sitting mostly untouched for 9 years in Marathon, FL. He had just sailed it across to Bimini with his two longtime friends. We met Lee just before we started spearfishing. He saw our stuff and asked a couple questions about snorkeling where we were. One thing led to another and we started talking about the whole trip Andy and I were undertaking. I think he was pretty impressed. Later that evening, he invited us over to his vessel for drinks. The 5 of us were living it up, so loudly that another skipper from across the dock came to see what was up. Soon it was a party of 6. Good times were had by all!

The next day, Rick (who is some kind of music producer in California) downloaded, onto one of our external hard drives, all kinds of cool new music for us to rock out to on the voyage to come. Thanks Rick! We’re sifting through the stuff as I type. You got some weird music on here, but we’re really diggin the Brian Eno and Yo La Tengo. Your guy Mike Farrell is pretty cool too.

We spent our final morning in Bimini helping Lee with some boat stuff and getting the music from Rick. Lee and crew were leaving the next day to go back to California (leaving the boat tied up at the marina in Bimini) and they were nice enough to give us all their perishable groceries off the boat. Thanks again guys! After about 48 hrs in Bimini, we set out to explore more of these near islands and what they had to offer. After a quick daysail south on our way to North Cat Cay, we stopped at an exposed shipwreck called “Sapona”. We dropped anchor and headed in via dinghy to check it out. This was my 1st experience snorkeling a shipwreck and it was pretty rad! This shipwreck was actually a boat of ferro-cement construction built by Henry ford in 1911. It was designed as a WWI troop transport and after the war (during prohibition) it was a rumrunning boat between Miami and the Bahamas. It’s rumored this vessel was actually a floating drinking club for the high class folks of the time who wanted to get their booze on. It sank in the height of prohibition a few miles south of Bimini. I guess even the skipper was partaking.


Recapping with words this time... Keys and Gulfstream Crossing

Now I have finally found time (and internet) to write a little for our thirsty followers! We had a great time in the Keys. After Key West, Andy’s Girlfriend, Titli and her mother Deeksha (or “Dee”) joined us for a part of the adventure between Key West and Marathon (Vaca Key). The plan was to sail them all the way up to Miami, delivering them to Dee’s brother’s family in time for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately the winds did not cooperate at all. Our headway was cut drastically by 20 knots of wind on the nose with seas to accompany such a blow. Not all was lost though. We were able to make an afternoon stop at Bahia Honda key which had a really nice beach. When we made it to Marathon we spent some good time in a marina. We talked the manager into a 50% discount on transient docking and free water/electricity! We’re awesome. Dee made us a GREAT multi course meal one night with lots of foreign influence. We enjoyed it on the beach and had a great time. Andy rented a car (again with the sweet hook ups from his sister, Emily, and drove up to Miami with Dee and Titli. I stayed behind with YOLO as she required (and deserved) some much needed attention. With all guests gone I had plenty of room to tear things apart and put things back together again. I was a busy electrician and plumber.
Lance and I relaxed one day and let Titli and her mom captain the vessel
Bahia Honda beach



Andy made it back to YOLO Friday evening with a rental car FULL of provisions and supplies to ready YOLO and crew for the 1st international passage. Extra food stores, maps and charts, guidebooks, spare parts and even a beautiful painting from Dee to add to the ships d├ęcor (Thanks Dee!). As soon as we had all things stowed properly we casted our lines and set off to the east.
Titli's mom entitled her painting "Gift to Poseidon" and gave it as a gist to YOLO!
The passage was only about 90 miles total and we wanted to assure a daytime arrival into port. So we left the Blackfin Resort & Marina at approximately midnight with our sights set on Bimini! This gave us the option to slow down, if need be, to make it by sunrise on Sunday. We also planned a strategic snorkeling stop at the famed John Pennecamp State Park off the southeast shore of Key Largo. It’s a protected reef with lots to offer curious snorkelers and SCUBA divers. Also it’s the only state park in the country that’s entirely underwater. We stopped there around 3pm Saturday and tied up to a mooring buoy and set out for some really cool snorkeling. It’s always fun to go to places like these with your own vessel and share the area with gaggles of tourboats full of tourists paying big bucks to do what you’re doing on your own for free!
Holding hands with "Christ of the Deep" at 20 foot depth



As soon as the sun set we swam back to YOLO, climbed aboard and set out to cross the infamous “Gulfstream” between Florida and the Bahamas. For those not familiar, the gulfstream is the steady (and strong) northbound current between Florida and the Bahama banks. It usually flows at around 2-3 knots. It doesn’t sound like much, but, it’s actually the largest ocean current in the world by volume of water moved. So vessels crossing west or east get broadsided, especially in boats as slow as ours. We needed about a 35 degree correction to our course just to maintain our track. This crossing, as long as you know what you’re doing can be very easy. But crossing when the winds oppose the current can be deadly. We had a calm window on Saturday night to make the crossing and the seas were dead calm. There were thousands of feet of water beneath us and not as much as a ripple on the water all night for our crossing. It was actually kind of eerie.
Taking advantage of the smooth crossing, we motored at a good clip across and made it way too early. We had to stop for a few hours just short of Bimini to wait for sunrise as we were obviously unfamiliar with the arrival into that port. Not a particularly easy task to stay put in a thousand feet of water that’s pushing you at 2.5 knots northbound. After a while I got the autopilot working perfectly maintaining a heading directly into the current at near idle speed on the throttle and we were staying pretty well put.
As the sun rose, I raised the Quarantine flag, or “Q flag”. (It’s a yellow flag that is raised upon 1st port of entry into a foreign country signifying the need to clear customs. After customs and immigration has been taken care of, the country’s flag in which you are visiting, called a courtesy flag, replaces the Q flag and remains up throughout your stay.) We expertly piloted into the port through some pretty shallow, albeit clear, water (Glad we waited for the sun!) We found a slip at a marina and went to clear customs. All was smooth and we returned to raise the courtesy flag and start our Bahamas adventure!
Hoisting the Quarantine flag to alert customs of our arrival at Bimini