Christmas And New Year’s Eve. In The San Blas Islands

We’re alive and kickin’, here in the San Blas islands! Internet service is more available than expected, but usually requires precise placement of a cell phone (used as an internet hot spot) at the highest outside point possible. It’s a familiar sight here, to see phones encased in plastic bags, hanging from, or being hoisted up a mast. At best, the service comes and goes, making uploading challenging, with the strongest hours coming in the middle of the night…oy! Some people have boosters installed on board, to up the strength of the signal. Others travel to anchorages that may have better service.

We do not have a booster, and are trying not to spend our time chasing the internet, so getting a signal worth doing anything, for any amount of time, is basically a crap shoot.

I’ve finally caved, and have spent several all-nighters (with nap breaks during weak service periods) while we’re in a location with decent service, to catch up a bit, and share what we’ve been up to for the past two months. Yes, I guess I could have written a post without photos attached, but that would just be mean.

We made our way from Linton Bay, on Panama’s mainland, to the eastern Holandes Cays in the San Blas islands, where we anchored in the Swimming Pool. Named for it’s shallow, clear blue water, the pool lives up to it’s name. The anchorage provides an nearly 180 degree view of the surrounding reef, and the breaking waves are easily heard day and night.

The views behind us were just as beautiful, with the colors of patch coral in the distance.

On our first morning at anchor in “the pool,”  we had a visit from Venancio, one of just a few master mola makers in the San Blas. We’d been told to keep an eye out for him, and were surprised to see him so far east.  Venancio told us that he makes the eight hour round trip to the eastern Holandes from the island where he lives, just once a week, so we were lucky to catch him.

Venancio came aboard with a trash can full of molas, and some beaded bracelets. He took each mola out, and explained it’s design as he laid them out for us to see. They were beautiful; full of color, and all hand stitched.

We chose several of our favorites, and then Venancio packed up his trash can, loaded it aboard the ulu (wooden canoe) and covered it well, protecting the molas from the salt air and spray.  Mola purchase in San Blas..check.

The week before Christmas, we heard a general announcement on the vhf that there was going to be a cruiser gathering on Barbecue Island, located at the front of the anchorage, just behind the reef. We were excited to meet the other cruisers in the anchorage, and arrived with an appetizer to share with the group. The weather was perfect, and we met many new friends. (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

Once the sun set, locals on the island, who run a small “resort” (I use that term very loosely) lit a bonfire for us. Their fire starting was far from skilled, as we watched them spray the huge pile of wood and palm fronds with gasoline! (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

As expected, Scott spent many hours in the Aluminum Princess, exploring the anchorage and the area around the expansive reef.

He always has his pole spear handy, as his snorkeling outing often turn into hunting expeditions…many times successful ones!

Scott dropped a lobster head into the water behind the boat, to see what might bite. It seems that Triggerfish find them pretty tasty. Regulars here in the San Blas refer to Triggerfish as “Bob.” Maybe because there are many in the waters here…not sure. Bob likes lobster.

On windy days, current would run through the anchorage at close to four knots, making swimming very challenging. Scott’s solution was to take the Princess to one end of the anchorage, tie himself to it with a 30 foot line, and drift along behind it, as the boat made it’s way back through the anchorage in the current.

He  caught quite a few very large conch like this, having just enough time to get to the bottom and grab them before being pulled along. Neither of us were up for the job of cleaning conch (eewww), so we shared them with some of our new friends in the anchorage…and joined them for some fresh ceviche as a thank you!

We would get regular visits from the Gunas, in their ulas (dugout canoes). They usually had molas and jewelry for sale. We already had more molas than needed, but were happy to fill their water jugs with fresh water, and occasionally a juice for small children. They also took our aluminum cans, to sell to the Colombian trader boats who recycle them.They both row and sail the ulas, and the women’s traditional dress is beautiful.

There is no trash removal service here in the San Blas. Bottles are broken into pieces (the theory is that the pieces will eventually turn into sea glass) and dropped overboard when in deep water (at least 150 feet), along with steel cans (anything that will rust away). This isn’t just practice reserved for the San Blas islands, the U.S Coast Guard has similar requirements for trash removal offshore.

All other trash here is burned. Being new to the San Blas, we weren’t sure which beaches were acceptable for this, as all of the islands here are owned by Guna families, whether they are inhabited or not. Until we learned the rules of trash burning etiquette, Scott improvised.

Channeling his inner “MacGyver,” Scott fashioned a rack from a wire coat hanger (I’m shocked that we had one on board, although he probably had it squirreled away for just such an occasion),and placed it in the bottom of an old varnish can. He punched holes in the bottom for air, and voila!, a burn can for the grill was born.

This would have been the perfect solution if we burned every day, or made less trash, but we do neither of these things. Instead, Scott would spent two hours or more burning everything from paper to an old pair of shorts.

Positive…our trash burned down to a tiny pile of  ash. Negatives..it took hours, and we had to close up the saloon, to avoid being choked out from the smoke.

Luckily, or new-found cruiser friends invited us to join them for a trash burn run. We followed them about 20 minutes from the pool, to a beautiful spot, where they meet to burn trash. Fires are made near the waterline, so that high tide will wash away the leftover ash.

We soon realized that trash burning here is a social event. Once the trash has burned, and while we wait for the ashes to smolder and cool, it’s time for bobbing with drinks in the clear blue water; now that’s my idea of a day’s work!

By the way, wearing some kind of shirt is a must in the water here  (unless you’re our friend, Sharda, who is blessed with skin from Trinidad!). I learned this the hard way, frying my shoulders and back from the reflection of the hot sun off of the water.

When we first arrived, there were few boats in the anchorage  here, but during  the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. the numbers grew.

 

Of course, Christmas would not be complete without lights! We lugged along our holiday lights, and Sea Life was quite a festive sight in the anchorage. (photo courtesy of s/v Sundowner)

After enduring a stretch of windy weather in the pool, with the accompanying currents and insane salt spray, we decided to change locations for the next go-round. After the new year, we headed around the corner to the Hot Tub (yes, from the pool, to the hot tub..tough times).

With more protection from the winds, the water in “the tub” is much calmer, and the current much less strong. In addition to more beautiful views, the water is supposed to be warmer than in the pool, hence the name. However, we found it to be much cooler…ahhhh, refreshing.

 

 

Scott found a great honey hole around the corner, catching lobster and Lionfish. They are invasive, so he tries to kill them whenever he can. Lionfish are also good eating, but challenging to clean, due to their poisonous dorsal fins.

Once again, Scott used lobster tails for bait, and attracted a huge Bob! He grabbed his pole spear, and shot it right from the cockpit, without even getting wet. Unfortunately, Big Bob did not go down without a fight, flopping and bleeding all over the cockpit when Scott removed the spear tip.

Scott delivered this massive fish to our friends, Jon and Shannon, on s/v Prism. They were waiting for a new dinghy motor, requiring them to row everywhere.

In case you’re wondering, Howard is enjoying life in the San Blas. He keeps an eye on us from one of his favorite perches, up under the solar panels, and loves when the fish light goes in the water each night.

So our first few weeks in the San Blas were off to a great start. We made many new friends, and enjoyed the beautiful views. More to come, as we explore new anchorages. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rondón

When we visited Delmar on our golf buggy day, he invited us to return for a rondón, a traditional African-Caribbean dish. It sounded like fun, and meant more coco locos, so we agreed to come back. After spreading the word around the anchorage a bit, we wound up with a group of ten. Delmar’s place is “just around the corner” from the anchorage, so we were able to arrive by water.

We are unable to get off of the bow of Aluminum Princess, so while the inflatable dinghies pulled up onto the sand, Scott anchored us fore and aft.

We then waded to shore, and made our way across the beach and up the steps to Delmar’s.

He immediately came to greet us, and made quick work of cutting coconuts, which he serves the coco locos in.

He was quite the one man show, serving us drinks, and another group food. We chatted and enjoyed the view, while waiting for our turn at rondón.

 

After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that rodon is a soup made up of different types of seafood (fish, crabs, small lobsters or shellfish), with coconut milk, plantains, vegetables, peppers and spices. The word rondon comes from the words “run down”, which refer to going down somewhere to look for vegetables or fruits for cooking the dish.

Rondón is a traditional dish shared by different countries, so the ingredients and spices vary from region to region. Our rondón meal was “interesting;” not the most flavorful meal I’ve ever had. Aside from a dumpling, plantains, and some kind of fish, it was hard to discern what else was on our plate (I’m fairly sure that it included a pig’s tail).

Both the food and sauce were grayish in color, and it was very hard for me to get a knife through any of it it. Oh well, we try and be open to new things on this journey, and the drinks and views more than made up for it.

When it was our turn to eat, we all gathered around a large table under the palapa. Delmar played music for us while we ate. I think he enjoyed the break.

After dinner, some of our group made their way back to the anchorage, while Kevin and Marina and Scott and I stayed. Delmar built us a fire on the beach, and we enjoyed ourselves until way after dark.

Although it wasn’t our favorite meal, our host, the atmosphere and of course the coco locos were great, and we can now check rondón off of our list!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Movin’ Down Island

With the forecast calling for winds below 20 knots, we planned to move out of El Bight and farther down the coast yesterday morning. However, on our trip into Bonacca for some food and an ATM run, the winds appeared to have picked up instead.

The Aluminum Princess slogged through white caps and sizeable waves in the open waters between our anchorage and town. With Scott wanting to tow her behind us when we moved, and concern for a comfortable stay at anchor, we decided to wait until this morning to change our location.

However, as I worked in the cockpit late yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the towels drying on the line weren’t whipping quite so violently (after getting slapped pretty good in the head by one earlier, I should know). Realizing that the winds had died down, I woke Scott from a nap, and we scurried to ready and go. It was only an hour ride to our next anchorage, but we liked the idea of waking up the next morning already settled.

We raised anchor and headed out of El Bight, around the corner and further down the coast of Guanaja. As always, the views did not disappoint along the way.

As planned, the Aluminum Princess tagged along behind for the ride. After a short and easy hour, we arrived at our next anchorage, off of Graham’s Cay.

Graham Thompson runs a small resort on his island, appropriately called Graham’s Place.

We’d already planned to visit, having heard great things from fellow cruisers. Most hotels and resorts, and some islands in general, aren’t always welcoming to cruisers. Sometimes this is for good reason, but for the most part it’s frustrating and unnecessary. In addition to him being friendly toward cruisers, we now have another reason to like and meet Graham.

Unfortunately, we had no luck with Mexican Fed Ex, and getting the compressor for our refrigerator through customs. At whits end, Scott got Defender involved, the company we ordered the parts from. After more back and forth with no clear instructions or reasoning on the issue, Scott told Fed Ex Mexico to send the stuff back.

He then received an email asking for his credit card number, to pay for “fees and storage.” There was no cost given for said “fees and storage,” and Scott replied that he did not intend to pay. He was through with the matter, having done what little they’d asked of him, with no result or explanation as to why.

Defender has been just as frustrated with the issue. They have someone who deals just with Fed Ex, and with international shipping, and can’t get a resolution. Fed Ex Mexico wants Defender to pay 500.00 for return shipping. Defender has decided to just let the parts go, write it off and refund Scott his money (less original shipping). The company has been terrific to us the last few years, during our refit, and this is a true testament to their exceptional customer service, going above and beyond for Scott.

Ok, so we now turn to Honduras, and getting the stuff shipped there. I again reach out to our friend Louis, who is proving an invaluable resource. He suggested that I contact Graham Thompson, to ask how to proceed. A great idea; a local man, who could point me in the right direction.

It turns out that Graham didn’t point at all. He quickly replied to my email, giving me the information for a shipping company based in Miami, that he and his son use for things that they cannot get locally. Once our parts are in Miami, we can choose to have them shipped via boat or plane, with his name on the package. When they arrive in Guanaja, Graham will be notified. He will pick up the items, pay the fees and we can reimburse him…hoo-RAY!

However, this stupid saga continues. When Scott called Defender to re-order his parts, he feared the sale price originally offered had ended. It indeed had, but they honored the sale price for him…of course. However, the parts are now on back order until the end of the month! This was disappointing to hear, as we know that there are perfectly good parts sitting in Merida, Mexico!

We plan to go ashore and say a big hello and thank you to Graham, as well as get final details before the parts come in to Defender and the order goes through. Since it will take weeks for that to happen, and for the stuff to arrive here, we plan to stay here a few days and then head on to Roatan. We’ll stay there for a few weeks, and then return here to wait for our shipment. Neither location is a bad place to be stuck!

Here are a few photos from our short trip “down island.”

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Boats Big And Small…And Many Friendly People

We are surprised at the amount of large, commercial boats that come and go from this area. In addition to the many commercial fishing boats that work the local waters, there are often larger ships loading and unloading goods. One ran aground recently, just behind where we’re anchored. Two fishing boats helped to free it, before it headed south.

Since there are very few cars on the island, and the main town is only accessible by water, most locals seem to motor, or row where they need to go by boat.

Water taxis are also popular, ferrying both locals and the few tourists that visit back and forth.

Scott got the chance to use one recently, when the Aluminum Princess had a set back. We also discovered how great the locals, and our cruising friends are.

We were on our way to town for “shopping day,” when the supply boat brings the weekly load of fresh fruits, vegetables and supplies. Scott went to increase our speed, and instead the motor revved up, but our speed remained the same.

Not wanting to get stuck in the choppy waters, we turned back and putted our way toward Sea Life. Whenever Scott tried to increase speed, the motor would again rev up, but not accelerate. He was almost certain that the bushing between the hub and the propeller had worn, allowing the motor to rev without engaging the prop. So it seems we needed a new propeller…the search began.

I started with emailing our friend, Louis. He was one of the first cruising friends we’d met in Isla Mujeres, and has spent much time here. I got a quick reply, telling us to find a local couple, Jim and Cathy. He described where there house was, and also told us to just ask anyone about where to find them. He also told us to see Hans, a German man who lives here on the beach (he also makes a mean pizza, more on that later).

We headed to shore, and stopped in to see Klaus and Annette, a friendly German couple who have been here for over 20 years, and run Manati bar. They also told us to go talk to Hans, so we walked the grass path, and over the bridge to see him.

Hans told us that he could “rig” the prop, but if we wanted a replacement, it should be available in town. Scott had already researched this, and had put in an email to the business he thought may have what we needed.

We stayed and enjoyed beer and conversation with Hans and others at his small bar, and then headed back to Manati. Annette and Klaus told us to stop by the next day, when they would help us call the store, just in case we got no email reply.

The next day, after our sweaty hike, we stopped into Manati, but found no one downstairs. Scott decided to give the email some more time, as we were still able to use the Aluminum Princess at a slow speed. A day later, we received an email reply. The place in town had what we needed…hurray! We were so happy not to have to order it!

That afternoon, a local panga boat made it’s way to our swim platform. It was Louis’ friends, Jim and Cathy! With all else going on, we’d forgotten to ask about them. It seems that Louis had emailed the couple about our situation, so they stopped by to see if we needed help. I think Scott wants to stay here permanently.

We stopped into Manati after our second hike, and found Klaus and Anntte sitting down to lunch. They had seen our boat tied to the pier the day before (we’d left it there to go and hike) , and went looking for us at Hans’. It seems that they’d called the store in town on their own, and were trying to let us know that the part was in stock. It’s so nice to have so many people here look out for us.

I convinced Scott to take a water taxi to get the prop, instead of putting back and forth to town in the choppy water. He dropped me at the boat, and then went back to shore. Annette phoned a water taxi for him, and soon he was off to town in style.

With part in hand, Scott now wondered how he’d work on the motor while we were at anchor. When the Aluminum Princess is up on the flybridge, the motor hangs off the back. He thought of taking it to the pier at Manati, and backing it up into shallow water. Eventually, he came up with this “MacGyver” idea that worked great!

The prop went on in no time at all, and after a brief test drive (with turns that I will not allow when I’m onboard) the Aluminum Princess is back in business!

A few more boat photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Day On Staniel Cay

Earlier this week, we ventured over to Staniel Cay for the day. There are few options to dock your dingy on the island. You can pay to dock it at the yacht club, but the logistics of our dingy make that difficult. The public beach next to the yacht club is available for free, but you have to anchor off shore and wade in..hmmm. The general store that we visited earlier in the week has a dock behind it, but it’s reserved for their patrons.

There are several places on the island that rent golf carts, the general store being one of them. The idea of a golf cart was fun, and we would also have the most hassle free dockage. We again tied up at the dock behind Isles General, were given a golf cart, and told that there was a battery charger under the back seat should we need it. Hmm…people use golf carts for long periods of time (like playing 18 holes of golf) without needing to charge a battery, but oh well. We were off and running..

We first did a spin through “town,” which consisted of the yacht club, two other restaurants, a church, a clinic and two more grocery stores; the “blue” store and the “pink” store are literally right next to each other.

Pink Store

Blue Store

When getting our golf cart, we’d asked about buying fresh bread. We were told to check at the yellow house, before the blue store. We found the yellow house, just before the blue store like they told us. I expected some kind of bakery, with a sign, but this was definitely someone baking out of their house.

I poked my head into the open side door (of someone’s house) and gave a hello. A woman appeared behind us with a big smile, and asked if we wanted bread. We had a choice of either white or coconut, we chose white. She pulled a saran wrapped loaf off of a shelf, where it sat between her paper goods and various other things. I blocked out the condition of said kitchen where I assumed this bread was baked, paid her 7.00 and we went on our way (the bread, by the way, is terrific!). I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll go into someone’s home for what we need.

We continued on, stopping at the “wholesale” liquor store and laundry, where we bought beer and then to the Atlantic side of the island. There are really big houses being built there, complete with ocean views on one side, protected piers on the other, clubhouse, etc. I’m sure this island will look very different in the coming years.

As we continued on, we quickly realized why we were given a charger. Our battery was obviously on the older side, and wasn’t going to last us the entire day. Our golf cart had really hard time on inclines. This was a frustrating, as the hills here are not big by any means. Big, four-wheel drive-type carts would pass right by us, making Scott crazy. We’d rented the cart at 9:30, and by 11:00 we were at a quarter charge, and on the Atlantic side of the island. We decided to head to the yacht club for lunch and a plug-in.

All routes back to the west side of island involved a hill. We chose the one with what seemed to be the smaller hill. Once up that hill, our only road took us up another, bigger hill. Yeesh. Scott got out and walked to the top of the hill to make sure that there was a public road on the other side, and not someone’s private, do-not-enter driveway (this had happened before).

By now, our battery light was blinking, meaning that we were on borrowed time. Trying to save every bit of usable juice we had, Scott got out and pushed, while I floored the gas pedal (ha…if we only had gas!). We just made it up the hill without rolling backward, and Scott got his cardio for the day!

We paused at the top. Scott caught his breath, and we took advantage of the views.

The term “road” was used loosely, for the route down on the other side of the hill. It was a steep decline, made up of ruts and large stones. In addition to being power-challenged, our gimpy little golf cart also lacked good breaks…on a flat surface. The whole way down this stupid “road,” I was terrified that we’d blow one of the tires (which were low on air, so maybe that was harder to do), break an axle or just plain flip over. I prayed that disaster would happened sooner than later. Flipping at a slower speed meant less chance of death.

By the time we reached the bottom, the poor cart was rattling to beat the band. The road bottomed out into a big puddle from the previous night’s downpour, and veered hard right, toward the road to town. Thankfully, no one was coming or going, and Scott mercifully missed the lake-like puddle as we careened to the main road. At this point, I considered an entire liquid lunch. I hoped that their beer was cold.

We literally coasted into the yacht club, and were shown were to plug in (no one around us was plugged in, because their carts worked!).

Our lunch in the bar at Staniel Cay Yacht Club was great (I decided to add solids to my liquid lunch). The James Bond movie, Thunderball, was filmed throughout the Bahamas, and underwater scenes were shot right near the yacht club in Thunderball grotto. There are photos on the wall of the cast, hanging out at the bar. The yacht club has been around since the late 50s, and seemed to be quite the hangout in the 60s. It’s polished up a bit since then, but still has a great atmosphere.

So we’ve eaten lunch, had some beer and cooled off. It was time to check the battery. On the way, we stopped to see the nurse sharks at the sea wall. The yacht club feeds them, and some were sizable.

Back to the cart. The battery was still blinking bars for “empty.” It was time for a trade in. We managed to get back to the general store, having to push up a small hill along the way. They close from 12-2 for lunch, but we lucked out and found the man who had helped us in the morning behind the counter. We explained our dilemma, and he brought us a replacement cart to use for the rest of the afternoon.

It soon became clear that we had gotten his best cart the first time. This poor thing had an even harder time going up hill. It also made a random, scary, shuddering noise. Determined to see the ocean, we continued on. When we found the ocean path, Scott backed the poor cart up the path as far as it would go…until it stalled. I was now sure that we’d either have to walk back to the other side of the island, or spend the night right where we were. Luckily, we’d had a huge lunch and I had brought plenty of bug spray with me, so we were good either way.

We followed the rest of the path to the ocean over look. The views were beautiful, and we were glad to not be traveling out in it. There were white caps out as far as you could see.

When we returned to the cart, it had half a charge, and she thankfully started up for us. We headed back to the yacht club for another drink, and another shot at a better charge. Here’s our second, even sadder ride.

After some mango daiquiris, we gave in and decided to head for the general store. I wanted to make a stop at the blue store along the way, and it was getting close to sunset.

We coaxed the cart up the ant hill of an incline to get to the blue store. This one was half the size of the general store, not offering hardware or auto parts. I grabbed some fresh stuff for salad, more milk, some Ramen noodles and Scott added some cookies to the pile. Here’s the scale the the woman used to weigh my tomatoes. Scott loved it.

We drifted down the ant hill and back onto the main road. There was one more hill that we had to get up, to get to the general store. So once again, I floored it while Scott pushed the even bigger cart up the hill. The cart shuddered it’s way into the general store lot, and we left her to die. All in all, it was a fun way to see the island, and was worth the hassle and the heavy breathing.

On our way home, we stopped at the yacht club’s fuel dock, for gas. They are the only location on the island that offers fuel, and regularly run out! We’d heard on the vhf radio (aka island phone) that they currently had fuel so we stopped. It was comical how high the fuel dock was.

We paid for our 5.35 a gallon to fill the tanks for the Aluminum Princess and then headed back to the boat. Quite a day!

Here are the rest of our Staniel Cay photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aluminum Princess

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Aluminum Princess, here is her story:

In 2003, the surge from Tropical Storm Isabel damaged the boat we had at the time. While it was off being repaired, Scott was without a boat, and terribly upset about it. Our neighbor across the street sold him an open john boat for 100.00. Of course, Scott had to “upgrade” it, and after several phases, the Aluminum Princess was born:

A dashboard was installed, with steering wheel, radio with Ipod plug-in and of course…cup holders! There are also two comfy seats inside for us. Scott uses the handle of  the outboard to dock the boat, but all other steering is done from inside the pilot house. The speed is controlled with a cable that he installed, which runs from inside the pilot house back to the motor.

Scott has used this boat extensively. It took regular trips from our cove to Annapolis and Baltimore, and has spent many, many many hours on the bay in general. The Aluminum Princess has been to St. Michaels, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and back and has also made several trips out through the inlet at Ocean City, Md. and up into Delaware waters in the ocean.

For the last ten years, the Aluminum Princess has been used in all seasons. In the winter months, she is equipped with a portable propane heater and a sheet of vinyl that folds down in the back to seal the pilot house in, keeping it toasty warm inside. Scott regularly took her through the ice in our cove (she can break through ice up to four inches thick!) and out into the bay, where he shared the waters with only barges, Coast Guard boats, and an occasional sailboat. She was handy to have in early spring, when our big boat was still winterized. We would often take her into Baltimore for lunch on nice days. Even in months when our bigger boat was ready for travel, it was nice for Scott to be able to just jump in the Aluminum Princess and spend time exploring the waters near our cove.

Since our cruise budget did not allow for us to purchase something that Scott could use in the same way, he went about figuring out how to make the Aluminum Princess more cruiser friendly. Her sharp edges were not conducive to tying up next to rubber dingys, or the fiberglass sides of a boat that we may be visiting. After much thinking and research, Scott purchased closed cell polyethylene foam to construct a collar around the sides and roof of the princess. He installed a solar panel on her roof to power the boat, a depth finder and some navigation lights for night travel.

She hasn’t had any final water testing, as the last of the collar installation was done as we traveled south. But finally, here in Biscayne Bay, she got a maiden voyage with her new look!

All went well, and the collar has even improved her ride.

We will still keep our rubber dingy, which is now my ride! It’ll be good for just going to shore for quick trips and such. The Aluminum Princess will be invaluable to Scott for diving, fishing and long range exploring. She and Scott have covered many miles and hours on the water, and we can’t imagine this adventure without her!

Check out a video of her in action!

Here are more photos of the Aluminum Princess, and her transformation!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Franken-motor

Our “eventful” day continued when we prepared to go to shore. The fuel valve on our dingy motor has given us problems relentlessly since we bought it eight years ago. Yesterday, it was leaking fuel all over the place. Now at wit’s end with the motor, Scott began hauling out a myriad of tools, clamps and hoses. The valve he had onboard that would work was too large, so to make it fit he also replaced the fuel line.

The whole process took about 90 minutes, and then we were on our way to shore. Scott’s homemade, temporary fix worked like a charm. Follow the process/mess.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Ocean Leg From Beaufort, SC to Fernandina Beach…FLORIDA!!

As of this morning, we are officially in Florida!! With the journey being approximately 18 hours, we chose to leave Beaufort, SC at 4pm. That would prevent us from coming through the St. Mary’s inlet near Fernandina Beach in the dark, something Scott feels is the smart thing to do.

Our trip went off without a hitch. We had glassy water coming out of the Port Royal Sound inlet, south of Beaufort. The swells were still calming down from the previous day’s big winds and rain, but they gave us no trouble. Scott took us out of the inlet, and up until 7pm, when I took over until midnight.

Surprisingly, I actually enjoy the night watches. In the dark, I can’t see what’s causing the boat to roll, making it less stressful. I just keep an eye on the radar, and the gauges, and keep the music going! With an almost full moon, it was very bright out there, when I did need to see boat traffic (which was good, considering we crossed two shipping channels in the dark).

Howard did amazingly well on this trip. I chose not to try and medicate him, and got much better results. He’s getting used to the louder sound of wave noise, versus the more quite waters of the Intracoastal. The rolling motion of the boat is becoming more tolerable for him too, although we do try to put pillow and/or blanket “bumpers” around him.

We’d put the paravanes out just before the 6am shift change, as the winds picked up a bit. As we came close to our turn for the St. Mary’s inlet, we met a  wicked current coming at us. It knocked our speed down from 7 knots to just over 4…sigh. Once we were around the corner from Fernandina Harbor Marina, Scott slowed the motor to an idle, so he could bring in the paravanes. Luckily, the opposing wind and current kept us somewhat in place, while he got them in and secured.

So now it gets interesting….We called for a mooring ball assignment in Fernandina Harbor. (For those of  you who don’t know, a mooring ball floats on the waterline, with a line that is secured to the ground below, and another line that extends from the ball with a loop on the end of it. You bring your boat up to the ball, snag the loop, tie to it, and you’re done) They told us to choose any one that we wanted, which we did.

However…this is where the “without a hitch” part ends. Once you tie to a mooring ball, it settles in off of the bow of your boat, to one side or the other. Because our boat catches more wind at anchor than a sailboat, the opposing wind and current caused the mooring ball to go one one side of the boat, and the loop (which was metal) to go on the other. Now we had the ball beating against one side of our hull, scratching the paint, and the metal loop (did I say it was metal?) beating against the other side of our hull, taking the paint off!

Scott proceeds to tie as many random things off of our stern, to create drag. In other words, he wanted enough drag for the current to grab it and pull the boat back, causing the ball to completely go to one side.

In addition to the round fender, Howard’s emergency life line, a wooden step stool and a bundle of blue towels, there is an empty gallon jug, and a orbital sander case, and anything else that was not bolted down, under the waterline.The reason that the blue towels and sander case were used, is because Scott discovered that a tupperware bin in our lazarette had filled with water, so they were water-logged.  This was caused by a clogged hatch drain and an ajar lid, go figure.

The glob of stuff helped for the moment, as the ball and it’s line went off of our starboard side. In addition, Scott duct-taped a towel around the metal loop, to stop it from taking more paint off of the hull.

So now that the mooring ball and loop are behaving, Scott gets our inflatable dingy out, so we can go to shore (our aluminum dingy on steroids is not quite ready for prime time). He finds that his waterproof, meaning submersible bag with dingy attachments (lights, lifejackets, etc.) is also full of water! Really?!!? Waterproof?? Submersible??

After he gets all of that out to dry, and hopefully still work, he attaches the dingy motor, that has had issues since we bought it. He, of course, has to spend time working on that, so that we have a prayer of starting it.  This is the motor that goes on my dingy.  Scott wanted to replace it with an electric outboard, but funds ran out.

In the meantime, the current and wind are now going in the same direction for the next six hours, so Scott’s glob of “drag” is now alongside the boat, instead of behind it. We have to untangle it from the dingy, and haul it back into the cockpit. Oh, and along the way Scott slammed his finger in a hatch.

So our timing for ocean travel was terrific, but timing for a mooring ball was terrible! I suggested that we just relax and stay onboard for the rest of the day, and venture into town tomorrow. Ha! Scott is determined to go to shore, after the circus of events. Cross your fingers folks! While you do that, here are some photos of our ocean journey from Beaufort to Fernandina Beach.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”