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.

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.