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June - July 2006

June 12 - July 18

We spent an enjoyable week in Miami, planning for a cruise through the Florida Keys.  We rented a car and used the time to purchase marine supplies, buy some provisions, and visit several nice beaches.  We anchored for several days in No Name Harbor at Bill Baggs State Park.  The park facility is great and very convenient for cruisers.

We were excited to spend some time cruising in the Keys and experiencing more of the cruising lifestyle.  We made it to Marathon a couple of days out of Miami and discovered that our freezer was not working.  After many hours of trying different things, John decided that the cooling pump was bad.  We still had food in our freezer that we had planned to eat over the next couple of weeks in the Keys.  Throughout these trials, we had to start the generator several times.   After John validated that the freezer pump was not working, the bearing on the fresh water cooling pump on the generator froze up and our generator was out of business.

After some discussion of our options, we decided to forego our cruise of the Keys and head for the west coast of Florida as soon as possible.  We bought block ice for our freezer to use it as an ice box for a few days and sailed to the Everglades later that afternoon.  The next day we sailed to Naples, FL where we stayed at the Naples City Docks and then headed to Ft. Myers Beach.  We located a distributor in Ft. Myers Beach for our generator part and used the city mooring balls for a few days while we waited for the part to arrive.  We also received an estimated cost for a new generator and installation.  The generator repair was successful but as soon as the fresh water pump was replaced the sea water cooling pump failed completely. The generator is 22 years old and we decided to replace the whole thing.

We own a house in Punta Gorda , FL that has been rented until recently.   We decided to use the dock in our back yard and “camp out” in our house while we prepare the boat for land storage during hurricane season.  As this is written, we are having the new generator installed in Ft. Myers Beach.  We have been completing a lot of projects on the boat and doing a lot of work on the boat and also in our house and in the yard.   We plan to finish all the boat projects and get the boat out of the water before the end of July.

We will be visiting with family and friends during August and September.  In mid-October, we plan to continue our work on the boat out of the water and get it in top shape for our journey to the Caribbean later this fall.  Please check back for an update in November.

Last summer we had planned to cruise the Florida Keys and visit the Dry Tortugas after our return from the Bahamas.  Our plans were changed due to our ailing generator, but John was still anxious to get to the Dry Tortugas.  We wanted to get some overnight sailing experience on the way to the Dry Tortugas.  We left Ft. Myers Beach on Wednesday, December 6 about 2:00 pm and arrived at the Dry Tortugas National Park on Thursday at 10:30 am.  We motorsailed 130 miles for more than 20 hours, with winds varying from 3 – 12 knots.  The moon was 2 days past full and the clear skies and calm conditions made a beautiful overnight sail.  We saw numerous shrimp boats and fishing boats along the route. 

June 1 - 11, 2006

conch harvestAs we began our journey back north and to the U.S., we decided to stop at some of our favorite places and to see a few things we missed on the way south.  Our first stop was back near Norman’s Pond Cay for conch.  Ann’s ear infection was gone, so she was able to help with the conch gathering. We picked up five mature conch from about eight feet of water.  One of the captured conch was determined to crawl back into the water while we were posing them on the beach for a picture.  We were able to recapture him before he made it back to the ocean and he joined the others in the pot.  Our second attempt at cleaning conch was much more efficient. 

 

We had sailed past Little Farmer’s Cay on our journey south, and we wanted to visit so we anchored for a night and were the only cruisers on the island that evening.  During our walk on the very friendly island, we saw some excellent wood carvings at a wood carving shop and met the sculptor.  We also stopped in at the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club and met Roosevelt Nixon, the owner and builder of the club.  We had a great visit with Mr. Nixon and learned how the people of the island had worked hard to get their airport built and lobbied the government to get paved roads and electricity on the island.  The economy is booming on near-by islands and the locals have many opportunities for employment in the area. 

We stopped again at Cambridge Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park and enjoyed snorkeling in the Rocky Dundas caves again and were able to take some photographs of the inside of the caves.   As we were leaving Cambridge on our way to Shroud Cay, we heard a report on the radio of a dinghy lost at Shroud Cay from our friends Chuck and Gayla on Sun Tanner.  We had met Chuck and Gayla at Highbourne Cay in early May, but had not seen them again.  We immediately radioed them back to say hello and offer our help in searching for the dinghy when we arrived at Shroud Cay.  Thanks to some helpful cruisers, the dinghy was reported on the rocks at Shroud Cay. Chuck needed the use of at least one dinghy to assist with salvage.  Mike from Scarlett, Pat and Victor from Dolphin Dancer, and John all pitched in to rescue the dinghy.  There were a couple of punctures and some fiberglass cracks that appeared to be repairable.  The motor appeared to be fine.  Chuck and Gayla invited all the boats assisting over for dinner that evening and we had a great meal.  During our second visit to Shroud, we also had time to enjoy the mangrove creek during high tide.  It was such a difference to ride in the dinghy through the mangrove creeks rather than drag the dinghy through the sand.

Amberjack

 


Our journey back to the U.S. took us through Nassau.  We didn’t enjoy the dirt, trash, hustle or bustle of Nassau.  We stayed a couple of nights in a marina and met up with Sun Tanner, Dolphin Dancer, and Queen Angel again.  After a couple of dinners out and some marine supply purchases, we were ready to continue our journey.

We made our way to Frazier’s Hog Cay, then a long sail to Cat Cay before crossing the Gulf Stream to Miami.  John’s fishing luck improved during our northward journey.  He caught several barracuda, a Spanish mackerel, and an amberjack.  He started cleaning the fish on deck as soon as they were caught rather than waiting until we reached our anchorage.

 

 

 





Bahamian sunset

We awoke to gray skies and light rain on June 11 to make our Gulf Stream crossing.  Rain was predicted during the day, but we had been in many days of rain over the past 2 weeks.  About 12 miles out of Miami we encountered a violent thunderstorm with heavy rain and gusty winds.  We had 2 sails out when the rain started and made the mistake of not reducing sail early in the storm.  As the wind started to build, it was difficult to reduce sail and we had little control over the boat.  We arrived in Miami with some damage to our rigging, water in the lockers (we had left 2 ports open), and the realization of the power that a thunderstorm can bring.  We anchored to survey the damage and decided that we needed a couple of days at a marina to put the boat in order.  John focused on boat repairs and Ann tried to dry the boat out in 100% humidity and get 9 loads of wet laundry completed.  We were both exhausted at the end of the day and appreciated a nice hot shower in an air conditioned marina shower.