Welcome to Gypsea Heart

This blog documents the adventures of the sailing vessel Gypsea Heart and her crew Rankin & Sandy. Thank you for visiting our blog and we encourage y'all to poke around and explore. We have many features which will enable you to keep track of us and in touch like subscribing below. We hope you enjoy your visit and follow our adventures.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

San Cristóbal, Galapagos (Ecuador)

As you may remember, back in June 2010 we took a family vacation to the Galapagos to celebrate Janie’s birthday (Rankin’s mother) .  We were so excited, because this time we were back only now we were on our own boat. 

We left Las Perlas (Panama) around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29th.  The winds were light so we tried to fly our spinnaker (a light weight sail), unfortunately, it got tangled so we dropped it and pulled out the jib.  The next day light winds called for the spinnaker again, so we made repairs, raised the spinnaker and had a nice spinnaker sail for the next couple of days.  Over the next few days, the winds gradually increased and we were visited by a large pod of dolphins.  Winds continued to build and by Day 6 of our trip were blowing at 25-30 knots which brought about 10-12 foot confused seas nothing life threatening, but not comfortable.  Day 7 (Wednesday, April 4th) with winds and seas still up, our starboard prop seems got fouled by something … good thing we had another engine.  By Day 8, the wind and seas dropped and we were forced to motor, and we arrived San Cristobal Island (Galapagos) on Day 9 (Friday, April 6th) around 4 p.m.  We quickly created our sea lion defense system (SDS) and then stopped by Saol Ellie (Patrick & Myra) for happy hour.

We spent about a week touring around the San Cristobal island visiting the Interpretation Center, provisioning with fresh fruit/veggies, sitting in internet cafes and constantly fending off the sea lions each night in a somewhat rolly anchorage.  

San Cristobal
We arrived at the Galapagos
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On walk to Interpretation Center, we saw this boat

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Art made from plastic which washed ashore
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Good old fashioned mail box!

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Sea Lions still managed to get through our barriers
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Sea Lion barriers on Gypsea Heart

After about a week, I took a hiatus and flew back to St. Louis for a few months.  Rankin and Gerry continued the adventure across the Pacific and began their journey on Tuesday, April 17th. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Panama–Shelter Bay Marina & Panama Canal Transit

After a four day trip from Jamaica, we arrived in Portobello, Panama on Saturday morning (February 11th).  Upon our arrival, we were completely surprised by the large number of boats anchored in the harbor.  During our last visit in 2007, there were only a dozen boats or so anchored in Portobello.  As we entered the harbor, there were about 30-40 boats anchored.  We had heard from other cruising friends that the Western Caribbean had changed and is more populated, but we were still quite surprised by the difference.  

We were in Portobello basically just resting and waiting for a phone call from our Panama Canal Agent (Erick) to give us the “go ahead” for our transit.  We walked around Portobello absorbing all the changes to this small town.  Captain Jack’s was now the place cruisers hung out to check emails and have a beer.  The brightly colored buses still motored around town, but the town had a different feel to it than our last visit.  It felt invaded and changed.  

On Tuesday morning February 14th, we got the word from our agent Erick that Gypsea Heart was scheduled to be measured for the Panama Canal transit on Wednesday, February 15th, so we hoisted our anchor around 10 a.m. and motored to Shelter Bay arriving around 2 p.m.  Since our last visit to the Panama Canal, we installed a new piece of equipment on the boat, an AIS (Automatic Identification System).  This new equipment allows us to receive data (i.e. name, speed, direction, position, possibility of collision, etc.) on commercial and private vessels (with AIS) and it also transmits our data to other vessels.  We consider this safety equipment, because at night, in bad weather and in high traffic areas (like the Panama Canal) it assists us in avoiding collisions with other boats sometimes very, very large ships.   As we entered the Panama Canal, we felt AIS was well worth every penny.  Below is a picture of our Raymarine chart plotter which shows our boat and the other boats in the area.  Our boat is represented by a black boat (near the top right) and the red X in the boat is our destination and all the other boats are represented by triangles.  Most of the vessels represented by triangles are large, large ships waiting to transit the canal.  Hopefully, you can see the benefits of this equipment.

AIS marks on Charplotter as we enter Panama Canal
Chart plotter with AIS as we enter Panama Canal

The next day we were measured for the transit.  We had hoped our stay in Shelter Bay (a pricey marina) would be short, however, it lasted close to a week.  We did use the time wisely visiting with new friends and getting re-acquainted with old friends whom we haven’t seen in years, spending many hours provisioning and storing purchases, doing laundry and topping off fuel basically preparing for our long South Pacific passage.  The time went by quickly and before we knew it our transit day was upon us.  We got our lines, tires and line handlers.  Jack and Heather (other cruisers) volunteered to be line handlers and we paid two young local boys to line handle also.  Our responsibility to our crew was to provide a place to sleep and food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) during the two day Panama Canal transit.  We also had the responsibility of providing food but not sleeping arrangements for the pilot.  So during our transit, we had to providing sleeping arrangements for six people (including ourselves) and food for seven which meant cooking for the four line handlers, Rankin, myself and the pilot. 

Line handling crew & Captain Rankin
Line handling crew and Rankin
On Tuesday, February 21st, we left Shelter Bay marina around 1 p.m. and began our Panama Canal transit.  First, we anchored in a nearby area called the Flats to wait for our pilot.  Around 3:30 pm our pilot boarded Gypsea Heart and we motored to the first set of locks, Gatun.   We then safely tied up along side a large (about 80 foot) tourist boat that provides three day cruises through the Panama Canal.  Thanks to our line handlers, pilot and of course the Captain of Gypsea Heart (Rankin) everything went smoothly and we proceeded to the anchorage.  Around 6 p.m., we dropped the hook then had a quick dinner before our pilot left for the evening.  The rest of us stayed aboard and popped the champagne in celebration of our Panama Canal transit and also officially christened our sailing vessel, Gypsea Heart.
Pilot Boat
Our pilot arrives on Gypsea Heart
Gatun Locks
We made it through Gatun Locks
Christening Gypsea Heart
Christening Gypsea Heart
Celebrating our Panama Canal transit
Celebrating our Panama Canal transit

The next day another pilot arrived early around 7 a.m. and we raised the hook and continued our transit.  We motored two to three hours before arriving at the next lock, Pedro Miguel.   Here we were tied up to a monohull named Adventure Bound on our starboard side and a red French monohull on our port side.    We remained tied up with these two vessels through the Pedro Miguel lock and the Mira Flores locks.  Due to the fast currents and the large vessels, transiting the canal can be dangerous and it’s tiring for the captains.  We have heard many stories of sailboats loosing control and either being pushed against the concrete walls or worse turning sideways and being pushed against the huge steel gates.  

For the most part, our transit was uneventful though we did have a small incident where the French boat scrapped along the lock cement wall though luckily no one was injured and the boat was not damaged.  It took all day to transit the last two locks and finally we arrived at the anchorage called La Playita located in Panama on the Pacific coast around 5 p.m.  Our friends, Debbie and Terry from Wings, were there to greet us.  They were so generous and took our line handlers, lines and tires to shore for us and had us over for a lovely dinner that evening.  We couldn’t thank them enough for their generosity. 
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Our Canal pilot and Captain Rankin
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The captain had a difficult job
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Gates in the Panama Canal
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Huge ship tied behind us in the Canal
Transit Panama Canal
Photo of Gypsea Heart captured by Canal camera
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Unusual Art building located on Panama Canal
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Terry from Wings helps us upon our arrival
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Celebrating our Panama Canal transit with Wings
We spent about a month in the La Playita area doing last minute chores (installing a backup autopilot), more provisioning (fresh fruits and veggies) and socializing before the big jump.  The La Playita anchorage was rolly and uncomfortable, so it wasn’t our favorite place, and we finally moved to Balboa Yacht Club just a short distance away and grabbed a mooring.  We found this anchorage far more comfortable and the water taxi service provided by the yacht club made our last minute provisioning and chores much easier. 

On Saturday, March 10th, we attended the Pacific Puddle Jumpers party which provided us with a “touristy” glimpse of the South Pacific Islands (a little disappointing).  We were hoping for a little more substance regarding the islands, the jump and weather.  No problems … we met a lot of great people and had fun.

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Pacific Puddle Jumpers Party

Since our friends Walt & Pat couldn’t join us for the big jump, we decided it would be helpful for watches and such to have an additional crew member.  So Rankin put out the word and on Friday, March 23rd, we met our new crew member, Gerry Moore.  After meeting Gerry, we felt that he would probably be a good fit until we reach Tahiti, so Gerry moved aboard.  On Monday, March 26th, a little later than scheduled, we left the mainland of Panama and sailed overnight to Las Perlas arriving around 10 am the next morning.  We were only in Las Perlas for a few days before a weather window opened up for our trip to the Galapagos.  So we grabbed it and on Thursday, March 29th, we left Las Perlas for the Galapagos. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Montego Bay, Jamaica

We left Port Antonio, Jamaica on Thursday, February 2nd around 5 p.m. and had decent night sail to Montego Bay, Jamaica.  We dropped our hook in the harbor which was a feat in itself because there was very little room.  When our friends, Debbie & Terry on the sailing vessel Wings who arrived just ahead of us, went into the marina it freed up a nice anchor spot for us so we quickly grabbed it.
Montego Bay has a very nice yacht club with soft comfortable chairs and a nice billiards table, however, traveling into town requires a taxi.  So, of course, we took a quick tour around Montego Bay stopping at the Mega Mart (the name says it all and we just couldn’t resist) and hitting some “cruise ship” touristy places like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  The tour of the city was quick only a few hours, because besides shopping there wasn’t much else to do or see.  The next day we watched the Super Bowl enjoying a wonderful meal of jerk chicken while watching the game (New England versus New York Giants) on a big screen projection TV.
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Finally, on Tuesday, February 7th, we got a good weather window for our sail to Panama.  The original plan for a trip to Columbia was cancelled Mother Nature just didn’t want to cooperate, so we headed for Panama.  We left Montego Bay around 7 a.m. and four days later, we arrived in Portobello, Panama on Saturday, February 11th around 9:30 a.m.   The sail from Jamaica to Panama was pretty much uneventful except the traveller broke and the wind wasn’t as consistent as predicted which meant we had to motor more than expected.  Not a problem, we arrived in Panama and was time to get ready for the Panama Canal Transit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Port Antonio, Jamaica

On Sunday, January 22nd, we spent most of the day waiting for customs and immigration. No problem, mon, it’s Sunday.  Clayton from the health department came aboard around noon and gave us the thumbs up.  This meant we were allowed to remove our quarantine flag, raise our Jamaican flag and were now permitted to leave the boat though we were still waiting for immigration. Another boat arrived this morning called Wings (Terry and Debbie), so we met them and became quick friends. Terry and Debbie are finishing their circumnavigation which began 10 years ago and have been so kind to share their South Pacific and other experiences with us.

Well, Immigration arrived around 5:30 p.m. while we (GH & Wings) were having cocktails aboard Gypsea Heart. So Immigration came aboard Gypsea and checked us all into Jamaica. Free from the check in process, we decided to grab a taxi and have dinner at Anna Banana, a nearby restaurant. The restaurant was located on the water with a view though it was too dark for us to see anything. The menu had a nice selection of fish, chicken, shrimp, pork and beef.  We all wanted jerk chicken or pork, however, many things were not available because the restaurant had a big musical event the night before and ran out of many items (like jerk chicken and pork). We didn’t get any jerk chicken or pork that night, but the shrimp curry was pretty good.  No worries maybe another time, Mon.
We’ve spent the last week exploring the little town of Port Antonio with it’s craft stands and fresh fruit and veggie market.  We’ve met several of the Jamaican women at the local market, Norma, Diane, Kelly (Diane’s daughter), Joanne, Mama (Joanne’s mother) and those are just a few.  These ladies sell their goods almost every day except Sundays when most go to church.  In some parts of the market, as you walk along the rows of fruits and veggies, there is a distinct smell of ganja (pot) in the air … no problem, Mon.   Below is a picture of me, Norma and Debbie along with the fresh fruits and veggies from Norma’s stand.

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Though the little town has a bustling feel, everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming.   As you walk around town (looking lost), there are many people willing to help you find anything you may need and even things you don’t realize you need.  While walking around town one day, we met Water Rat whom we called Mr. Rat.  He’s a local Jamaican man with a rather buff physique who claims to be a vegetarian.  We say claims because we’ve asked other local residents if Water Rat was a vegetarian and they just laugh, so we’re a bit skeptical.   We needed bread, so Mr. Rat took us to the local bakery where they sell 5 lb loafs of bread … it was enough for us to split with Wings.  While at the bakery, we also tried the patties, pastries with beef filling, which are very tasty especially with hot sauce.   Mr. Rat then took us to Jennifer’s stall in the crafts market. Jennifer is his sister.  As with many Jamaican people, Jennifer was very nice and we purchased a very nice folding hot plate from her.  Once our purchases were made, we said our goodbyes to Mr. Rat and continued exploring the town on our own.
Another day while casually walking around town, we ran into two non-Jamaican ladies, Boom from Boston and Christina from England who told us about a wonderful little espresso café and sandwich shop.  They also confirmed that the Italian Job, a local pizza restaurant, was worth a visit, so of course, we gave both the café and restaurant a try and were not disappointed.  We have made a few trips to the café where we not only had lunch but also delicious coffee and tasty chocolate crescents.  In between trying out the different restaurants in town, Rankin purchased fresh live lobster from a local Jamacian man for $6 each which we grilled for dinner one night …. MMMMM!!!
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Lobster for dinner!
Here at the Errol Flynn Marina, where we’ve decided to stay, we’re surrounded by beautiful tree covered hills.  From the local Jamaican people, we had heard good things about the Blue Mountain coffee and decided to visit a coffee plantation.  We (Gypsea Heart and Wings) hired a guide Omar, nicknamed Mac. By the way, we discovered that most of the men here have nicknames (like Water Rate mentioned above it’s a nickname).  We left the marina around 9 a.m. Thursday (1/26) morning, and after three hours of slightly bumpy and very windy roads, Mac pulled over next to a small shed.  We followed Mac down a flight of cement stairs along the left side of the shed and at the bottom were greeted by two dogs (Scarlet & Blackie) and an older lady. Apparently, we had arrived a Old Tavern Coffee Plantation.  The lady’s name is Dorothy Twyman, the owner’s mother, and this was their cottage. Dorothy took us on her balcony which overlooked their coffee plantation that was located quite a distance down below us. It required binoculars to watch the men picking the beans.  Dorothy explained the process to us and answered all of our questions and then invited us into their little cottage.   First, we visited a very small “coffee” room where a lady (Pamsy) sat perched on the stool sorting the beans. It was Pamsy’s job to pull out any odd shaped or bad beans these beans would be used for the ground coffee not the whole bean package.  The fairly large coffee roasters were located in the same room and this is where the bean tasting was performed. Dorothy gave us four different beans to try Peaberry, Medium roast, Medium-Dark roast and Dark roast. Once we tried the beans, we determined which two coffees we’d like to try prepared. We chose Peaberry and medium-dark roast. We were escorted out of the coffee room and into her sitting area which had a wonderful view of the Blue Mountains and their coffee plantation. She gave a few books to look through while she prepared our coffee selection and snacks and made us feel extremely welcomed in her home.
It wasn’t long before we were enjoying coffee and treats while absorbing the beautiful view of the Blue Mountains. The coffee was very good much better than the Blue Mountain from Silver Hills plantation which we bought from the market.  We bought 8 ounces of the Peaberry for $18 and 8 ounces of the medium dark roast for $12. They have a website http://www.exportjamaica.org/oldtavern/, so if you would like purchase some of their coffee just click the link.

More people arrived and it was time for us to move along.  This plantation wasn’t what we expected, at least from our past visits to coffee plantations, but it was interesting, comfortable and Dorothy is a lovely and inviting woman.  We had a wonderful trip and this experience was a pleasant and unique surprise.   Thanks Mac!  Below are pictures of the Blue Mountains, Dorothy next to a coffee plant and Pamsy on her stool sorting beans next to the coffee roaster.

Blue Mountain Old Tavern Plantation_01 26 12_0001     Blue Mountain Old Tavern Plantation_01 26 12_0007     Pamsy sorts beans with coffee roaster to her left

It hasn’t been just fun, fun, fun here in Jamaica though that’s been most of it.  We have done boat chores fixing our main sheet which broke during our trip and doing a few other minor repairs which we have put off until now.  These tasks didn’t take long and soon it was time for a trip to Boston Bay, the place to be for Jerk food.

On Saturday, January 28th, we (Gypsea Heart and Wings) grabbed a taxi (Andre) negotiated our rate and off  we went to Boston Bay.  It was pitch black so we couldn’t see much but we could tell part of the drive was along the coast. The road was a little bumpy, narrow and weaved back and forth (sound familiar) with Andre driving very fast.  About twenty minutes later, after making one stop to drop off eggs, we arrived at Great Huts Resort. We had heard you could have dinner and see a show on Saturday night at Great Huts, so at the last minute we made it happen.  Great Huts (www.greathuts.com) is a resort and has a range of rooms and many facilities. The reservation and dining hall where we were located was a tree house with a large fake giraffe displayed in the middle and a bird aviary off to the side. The floor was brightly painted with leaves and birds and the table and chairs were made out of trees. We had to climb steps which were almost as steep as a ladder to get to our table. The restrooms were located to the right and were shaped like little huts. It was tricky finding the restrooms because it was pretty dark and it would have been easy to walk into the mens instead of the ladies.

Juliet, the lady we had communicated with earlier in the day, was very nice and professional and promptly had someone escort us to our table upstairs right in front of the stage.  Leslie seated us and took our drink order two pina coladas and two rum punches. We asked about the dinners since all we knew was that we were being served chicken (two with redstripe and one with peanut sauce) and pork (preparation unknown). Leslie explained the redstripe is a type of jerk and the pork was prepared with jerk seasoning and sauce. We were thrilled because Boston Bay is known for the best jerk. Shortly after we placed our drink order, our pumpkin soup and banana fritters (a mixture of flour, milk sugar and bananas) arrived.  It was delicious and then the show started.

There were eight singers/dancers though mainly they danced and the music was prerecorded. The dancers were black Jamaicans dressed in traditional green, black and gold outfits. The ages of the performers ranged from young girls around 10 to 12 years old to the lead man who may have been late 40s early 50s. They mentioned during the performance that usually their company has 12 members instead of just 8, but they had transportation problems.

The performance told a story about the history of Jamaica beginning from when the people were taken from Africa, and the music and dance reflected this difficult period. It continued with the next period of slavery and how the slaves would watch the European balls and then mix their own dance with what they had seen watching their masters. The performance included a May pole dance which reflected the European influence and the dance were performed in May each year. If the dance was performed properly good crops would come. Next, they displayed the music and dance of independence and then sadness which came after independence. I think the Bob Marley influential music came next followed by a version of rock and roll that’s when audience members were encouraged to dance. Here are a few photos from the dance routines performed.

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The dance performance wasn’t something you’d find in Las Vegas. As a matter of fact, before the show began the dancers did not look very enthusiastic. However, it was a nice performance and the audience participation helped boost everyone’s spirits and entertainment value.

After the performance, we noticed Christina and Boom (mentioned above) were also there. Apparently, they watched the performance (just needed to buy a drink) and ate dinner not at the Great Huts restaurant but at a hut outside.  So if you want to watch the show and save a few pennies, you can buy a drink watch the show and then have dinner right outside of Great Huts in one of the many jerk shacks.  We visited a bit with Christina and Boom and met Boom’s husband Coco. That night, we also saw a couple whom we ran into at the Italian Job, the local pizza restaurant in Port Antonio … what a small world.  About twenty minutes later, we were home again with full bellies and completely content. 

We’ve been in Jamaica for a little over a week now and due to weather it looks like we won’t be leaving for Panama until late next week.  We’ll see and keep you posted, so keep checking back with us.  Take care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sail Long Island (Bahamas) to Port Antonio (Jamaica) 384 nm

After waiting for over a week for a decent weather window to Cartagena, Columbia, we finally had an opportunity to head south for a few days not to Cartagena as originally planned but to Jamaica Port Antonio to be exact.  So, we left Clarence Town Long Island Bahamas around 6:30 a.m. and immediately realized there’s no wind at least not enough to sail. No wind means no sailing, but we threw out a couple of fishing lines and immediately heard the zing of the reel. I slowed the boat while Rankin reeled in the fish which we soon determined was a barracuda not the fish of choice in this area for fear of cigutera a poison which can affect the nervous system.  We got it to the side of the boat, unfortunately, the fish managed to get under the boat and around our rudder. Since we couldn’t pull him up, Rankin let out more fishing line and the barracuda came into sight at our stern. Rankin managed to jiggle the fish off the line then while holding the line with lure in hand he cut the line and then I reeled in our lureless line which easily came unwrapped from the rudder (YEAH). What a relief.  We were glad when that was over and there was no damage. We kept the other line in the water and quickly had another fish on the line.  This fish was a fighter and it was so exciting to watch him jump and fight. It took Rankin about twenty minutes to reel this big boy in. It was a Mahi Mahi.  Rankin gaffed him and we brought him aboard. While Rankin was holding the gaff, I tried to spray his gills with alcohol. Meanwhile, the fish was flopping around spraying blood all over us and the boat (YUK). Next thing we knew, he was off the gaff and back in the water, but still on the line. We tried to get him aboard again, but the line broke.  The fish and our new lure were lost. We decided not to put any more lines in the water for a while. I took the helm while Rankin rested.
With no lures in the water, we continued our trip motoring about twelve hours.  Finally around 6 p.m., the winds picked up enough to sail. It was wonderful turning off the engine and hearing just the peaceful sounds of the ocean and winds. We had a nice evening sail though it looked a bit squally at first the weather later cleared. We did three hour watches and felt pretty rested that night. Later in the evening, we saw a 165 ft Motor Yacht called Norwegian Queen which we spoke with on VHF. This just happened to be the same motor yacht we saw in St. Simon Island, Georgia last year … what a small world.  
Around 9 a.m. on Friday, January 20th we arrived the Windward Passage and were buzzed several times by a low flying helicopter which we later determined was the United States Coast Guard. Shortly thereafter, the Coast Guard hailed us on VHF channel 16 and asked for our vessel name and home port which we gladly provided then they promptly flew off.   Our travel through the Windward Passage was uneventful. We saw a few large vessels but the passage wasn’t nearly as busy as we had anticipated. We had a very nice sail with wind 10-15 knots, 100-120 degrees, seas 4-6 feet. Around mid morning, we noticed the beautiful outline of Cuba to starboard and a similar outline of Haiti to port.

Friday late afternoon the wind picked up and the next thing you know we were sailing along with 25-30 knot winds around 120 degrees (not so bad off the aft quarter) and seas building to 10 feet (aft quarter again not too bad).  At this point with evening approaching, we decided to add two reefs to the main and a couple of reefs to the jib.  Gypsea handled like a charm, AUTO (our autopilot which we haven’t named yet) kept up with wind and seas, and we were comfortable. However, due to the direction of the wind, we ended up jibing our way along our course to Jamaica.  Our chart had a zig zag pattern down it like someone had sewn a stitch across the screen. Since we were jibing about every two hours, we altered our watches from a three hour watch schedule to a two hour watch schedule.

Saturday morning conditions still persisted but didn’t worsen.  We noticed the outer shield to our main sheet (a line which holds the boom in place) broke apart, but the main sheet didn't completely break (YEAH). Since we still had a reefed main up, we secured the boom with a another line in case our main sheet completely separated. We will replace or repair the main sheet in Jamaica. The wind finally dropped to 10-12 knots about three hours out from Port Antonio and seas quickly calmed to about 5-6 feet.  Winds again dropped and forced us to motor the remaining two hours into Port Antonio.
As we came into the anchorage, we waved down a couple in their dinghy and they (Tony & Jacqualine from the sailing vessel Jakker) directed us to the dock for the night and told us we could check in with immigration and customs tomorrow. We've already met several cruisers at the dock and it looks like a beautiful little spot with white Christmas lights decorating the nearby buildings and the sounds of tree frogs in the background. We were allowed to stay at the dock for the night with customs and immigration coming tomorrow to check us into Jamaica. With the boat secure, we had a cocktail before calling it a night.   Until the next time …

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Long Island (Bahamas)

Around 9 a.m. on Monday, January 9th, we raised the mainsail, the anchor and then the jib leaving Conception Island behind.  We dropped two fishing lines in the water hoping we'd get lucky and had a wonderful sail down to Long Island experiencing winds 10-15 knots and rolling seas about 5-8 feet.  It was a bright sunny day and it felt wonderful to sail again.  Suddenly, we hear the high pitch ZZZZEEEE of the reel.  I quickly take the wheel and head downwind to slow the boat while Rankin began reeling in our catch.   As fish the fought and jumped, we quickly realized we had a Mahi Mahi (dolphin) and he was quite large.  Rankin worked hard reeling him in, I grabbed the gaff while autopilot steered the boat.  Rankin quickly gaffed it and brought the fish aboard.  I took the obligatory photos as Rankin smiled and held up his catch.

With the fish aboard, I handled the wheel while Rankin managed to fillet it as the boat rose and fell with the seas.   It was unnerving to watch him wielding the sharp filleting knife while we rocked along.  We arrived in Long Island around 3 p.m., anchored and had fresh fish for dinner.  Shortly after our arrival, we were joined by two sailboats Dreams Float and Curiosity.

We haven't been to Long Island since February, 2003 and it hasn't changed much.  We went ashore the other day to explore and quickly discovered not much has changed.  It's like time has stood still here (except now we have WiFi).  Mario and Claudia still own the Flying Fish Marina and are as nice as ever.   The Packing House still sells local fresh fruits and veggies.  During our visit to the Packing House, the papaya were very green and one of the ladies went behind the building to check the tree and see if they had any riper papaya.  Unfortunately, I was out of luck maybe next time.  The people are still as friendly and accommodating as I remember and one of the reasons we loved this little community so much.  It was sad to find out that the larger grocery store (Harbor View groceries) located near Clarence Town had closed, however, the other small grocery is still open. 

We haven't done much exploring during this visit though we did enjoy an excellent Conch Burger at the marina restaurant.  It was very tasty and reasonably priced.  Rankin and I each had a Conch Burger, split an order of fries and each had water for a total of $20.  It seems that the prices haven't changed much down here either (YEAH).

Lately, we've been spending time plotting our course south and watching weather.  A weak cold front just came through the other day with little impact here, however another strong cold front is expected here on Monday.  Based on weather, it looks like we'll be here until that time and then head south to Jamaica unless we can get a good window to Columbia.  We'll keep you posted, so keep checking back for updates. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Conception Island

We left Dreamer and the Exumas behind on Thursday, January 5th evening and had a beautiful night sail to Conception Island, a land and sea park, about 80 nm east.  We arrived Conception around 7:30 a.m., took a quick nap then had a nice snorkel on a coral patch located near the boat.  It was a beautiful, sunny warm day, so we continued exploring and met another boat anchored nearby named Foxy Lady (Steve & Barbara).  Steve works for the Bahamas Trust and they are responsible for tagging the turtles in the nearby creek.  Steve & Barbara also provided the "lay of the land" for us of particular interest were the dive moorings located on the southern part of the island but that's for another day.

We stayed in Conception Island for about three days.  There were a few sailboats anchored about (YachtSea, a Leopard cat, Dreams Float, Hunter 49, Curiosity, a cat) but what surprised us were the very large motor yachts which stopped to visit the island.  Two large motor yachts had stopped in Conception Island during our short three day stay.  The motor yacht Pacific caught our attention mainly because of the helicopter located on the back of the vessel.

M/Y Pacific, check out the helicopter

Another surprise was the discovery of our hidden crew member, a little gekko, we named Herbert.  Herbert was aboard during our entire visit at Conception Island.  I quickly snapped a picture notice his unique tail.


As with any boat, a few things required our attention.  The generator (Ole' Betsy) stopped running, so we spent part of a day troubleshooting and resolving the issue (impeller).   We replaced the impeller and removed the little impeller pieces and we're good to go by mid morning.   We also received an error message on the watermaker which required our attention.  We replaced the necessary filters and we've been happy with the continued operation of the watermaker. 

In between repairing things, we moved the boat to one of the dive moorings mentioned above.  Steve (Foxy Lady) had mentioned a wall dive which sounded great.  We found the dive mooring located at 23.48.631N and 75.07.185W and tied off.  We pulled out our dive gear then decided to test some used equipment we recently purchased.  Gear ready, we jumped into the water and try to descend, but couldn't ... needed more weights.  So, I got out, grabbed more weights for us both and then we were able to descend.  We quickly determined the current was pushing us farther and farther away from the boat and began having a slight equipment malfunction.  After much effort, we sadly aborted the dive.  We were not thrilled, but it was probably the best decision.  We cleaned our gear and moved the boat to a new anchorage located on the southwest side of the island near a beautiful beach.

We motored to our new anchorage and observed that the guests from the motor yacht Pacific, mentioned above, were enjoying the beach with tents, chairs, food, kayak, ski doos, etc. setup.  We didn't anchor very close to shore so everyone could enjoy a little privacy.  There appeared to be one crew member, distinguished by their black t-shirts, for every guest.  About an hour after our arrival, a large covered boat sped by our boat, picked up the guests and whisked them away presumably back to the motor yacht Pacific.  The crew members were left ashore and quickly gathered up the tents, chairs and other toys and equipment left behind.  The crew did a bang up job wrapping up everything in about 30-45 minutes.  It was a buzz of activity and fascinating to watch.  By 5 p.m. all was clear and we had the anchorage to ourselves.

Though we enjoyed our visit to Conception Island and hadn't received our invitation aboard the M/Y Pacific, it was time to leave.  On Monday, January 9th, we raised the sails, pointed the boat south and sailed to Long Island.

NOTE:  When we arrived Long Island and had access to internet, we tried to find additional information about the motor yacht Pacific.  The little bit we could find is that the motor yacht is 279 ft long with a 52 foot beam.  It was built in 2010 by the German builder Lurssen Yachts.  We don't know who owns it or the value.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Halls Pond Cay (Exumas)

We left Highborne Cay on Monday, January 2nd around 10 a.m. with fishing and sailing in mind.  I guess between the two boats, we each had a different priority of the two thoughts.  While we were trying very hard to sail and did have a very nice spinnaker sail with our fishing line trolling through the water, Dreamer II was motorsailing along the coast also with a line in the water.  Dreamer II was far more successful fishing catching a nice size mahi mahi.  Though we didn't catch any fish, we did catch something ... a bird.  It was the only thing that came aboard the boat that afternoon.

Pre-spinnaker sail
Our catch of the day

We finally made it to our original destination Cambridge Cay around 5 p.m. with Dreamer II (Bill, Walt & Pat) arriving about an hour earlier.  Dreamer II came aboard and everyone enjoyed a wonderful fresh fish dinner that evening. 

The next day everyone was hunkered down in their boat as a cold front pushed winds into the 20-30 knot range.  After one day on anchor, both Dreamer and Gypsea Heart moved to a mooring ball for about $20/day well worth the hours of sleep being on a mooring will provide.  Since the weather wasn't cooperating for exploration or snorkel trips, Dreamer came over for dominoes, dinner with dessert (brownies and ice cream) MMMMM.

On Wednesday, January 4th, the wind had finally settled down enough for us to move, so we slowed motored through the shallow depths and corals heads then anchored at Hall's Pond Cay.  It was a cold day, but the sunny was out so why not explore.  Pat had mentioned that she heard that Johnny Depp owned this Cay, however, we weren't positive.  Though as we dinghied closer to the beach and spied the "Restricted Access" signs posted ashore, we were beginning to believe this rumor.   I did a little checking and it is true Johnny Depp does own this island.  Here's what I discovered, "After falling in love with the laid-back Bahamas lifestyle while filming “Pirates of the Caribbean”, Johnny Depp began a search for his own tropical island to get stranded on. And in 2004 he found it in the beautiful Exumas, buying Little Hall’s Pond Cay for US $3.6M as a retreat to enjoy with his songbird wife Vanessa Paradise and their two children. The actor recently made news by publicizing that his island will be run exclusively on eco-friendly solar power. There’s little question that escaping from the prying eyes of the paparazzi was also a prime motivator for Depp’s island purchase- he supposedly refers to his little piece of paradise as “F**k Off Island”."   Well, that says it all.  We didn't see Johnny, so sorry to disappoint, but here are a few photos which shows a little beach and various amenities that to me has Johnny written all over it especially the "Restricted Access" sign with the skull and cross bones.

 The next day everyone (except me) snorkeled at the "Aquarium" while I relaxed aboard Gypsea Heart.  It was sad but today was our last day with Dreamer.  We were each going our separate ways.  We were leaving this afternoon for Conception Island and Dreamer was headed to Staniel Cay.  We had a wonderful time cruising with Dreamer and everyone aboard.  They will be sorely missed ... until the next time.