Friday 6 June 2014

All Good Things Must Come to an End

We fly to Toronto tomorrow and it looks like Volver made it to West Palm Beach without any major war wounds.  The winds on our final passage were much lighter than forecast.  Hence, we ended up motoring for the 2nd half of our journey, which was long and slow.  The first night, there was a new moon, and we were surrounded by a halo of lightning storms, with a crown of clear, starry sky overhead.  The second night, we motored right through horrific lightning storms.  Captain did not awaken the first mate for her 4-6 am watch, as he was soaking wet from a deluge of rain, and figured there was no reason for both of us to be suffer through a monsoon.  Volver and crew made it through unscathed, and are grateful to have returned safely to resume our land based life.  

Captain captured this shot of a large herd of dolphins frolickling in the bow wave while first mate napped
We stayed at the Palm Harbor Marina, which is located minutes from downtown West Palm Beach. There was a great clubhouse, with multiple flat screens and good air conditioning.  We spent some good times there in between doing the many chores involved in taking the boat apart, getting her ready to go on a truck.
Enjoying the clubhouse at Palm Harbor Marina
West Palm Beach has great restos, live music venues, and a movie theatre, as well as a cute trolley to help you get your groceries home.  

We enjoyed celebrating another Happy Family birthday, as Michelle turned (a lady never tells) a year older during the last days of full time cruising life, at least for now.
Happy Birthday, Michelle!

We developed a fondness for handmade ice cream at Sloan's, whose interior is a confection itself. 
Sloan's downtown West Palm Beach location

The majority of beaches, shopping, and beautiful gardens are in Palm Beach, which is on an island, just across the Intercoastal Waterway.

Store window, Palm Beach
This winter was a trial run for retirement, planned for several years down the road, and has been an opportunity to help us answer the question:  "Is the cruising lifestyle one we want to adopt for a few years?"  We are not sure if we have the answer to this question.  Certainly, not in this boat.   Volver has been great, but she is a touch on the small side, and her flat bottom boat design, while perfect for Lake Ontario, is less than optimal for the heavy seas we have encountered in the Caribbean:  she dances and skates over the waves, rather than plowing through them, as a heavier boat would.  Her self-tacking jib design is also prohibitive for adding a stay sail for stormy conditions.   And while economical, 29 horsepower is not sufficient to drive her through larger seas when motering/motor sailing is required.  To avoid long offshore passages, purchasing a boat and keeping her in the Caribbean is an attractive option to consider.  Long term, a water maker would be essential.  While water was generally not hard to find, there was never extra to keep yourself and your boat truly clean in the salty environment.  

Sculpture, Via Amore, Palm Beach
Watching the children (above) playing

We won't miss storms, waiting for weather, or being salty all the time.  We won't miss the anxiety of navigating the Bahamas, which presents a whole other level of skill involving waiting for good overhead light and tides that makes even short hops between islands a challenge.  For example, there was no way to leave our last anchorage at high tide AND cross the yellow banks at high tide to get to Nassau.  We doglegged around the yellow banks and crossed just before low tide but in good light.  Overall, we experienced more anxiety than predicted.  But we accept that cruising is NOT vacation, it is another way of living.  The first mate won't miss seasickness, which never fully extinguished, and likely triggers migraines.  We won't miss looking for a SIM card or WiFi.  We won't miss the paucity of fresh produce and the sameness of the restaurant menus. 

We spent alot of time in places where you are not warned that the beverage you are about to enjoy is hot, or the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs will hurt you, should you inadvertently fall on them

We will miss the joys of discovering what each new anchorage, town, and countryside has to offer.  We will miss walking slowly, rarely being in a hurry (no worries, we are on Caribbean time), and seeing nearly every sunset.   We will miss the majestic beauty of nature at every turn.  Cruisers are very friendly and helpful in the islands:  we will miss the casual chats with strangers who become friends.  Locals were also friendly and helpful and we met many that genuinely welcomed us to their island.  We will miss having a flexible timetable, allowing us to stay in many places longer than expected when we wanted extra time to experience the beauty.  We will miss dolphin sightings, and turtle watching from our cockpit/dining room.  We will miss fantastic snorkeling, enjoying the colourful corals and fish, usually just a short dinghy ride from our anchorage.  We will miss the stars:  who knew there were so many up there? 

Shopping on Worth Street, Palm Beach

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda:  the wish we did list:

1.  Have boat cards made.  Very handy when meeting new friends. We appreciated receiving them, especially months down the road when we were thinking, "what were their names?"  Photos of people are better than boat photos!

2.  Ensure that your dinghy engine is reliable and can be started by all adult crew members.  We think it creates an unhealthy dependency otherwise, and there is little opportunity to escape if the spousal temperature overheats in context of confinement in close quarters. Consider a dinghy with a console.

3.  Install a high quality water filter.  

4.  Ensure that all clothes worn on wet dinghy rides (most rides) are quick drying.  Leave the  heavy cotton at home, please!  This never dries once it gets salty:  osmotic attraction of the water in air is powerful.   Quick dry clothes are easily rinsed in fresh water with a touch of ammonia (which readily evaporates) and good as new after a quick hang on the lifelines.

5.  Never sail the Bahamas without the Explorer brand charts, which are both exquisitely rendered and more accurate than other offerings.  

6.  Leave as much junk at home as possible.  We could have done without our gennaker (light air sail), 2 sets of cockpit cushions (we use the folding chairs the most when just the two of us), and a bunch of extra lifejackets.  

7.  You can find almost anything you want to purchase in the Caribbean if you travel far and wait long enough. There is little need to mention this, for you will bring many spare parts (fuel filters, spark plugs, etc).  We suggest bringing some hard to come by pantry items from home, such as jars of artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, pesto, olives, hearts of palm, smoked oysters, etc, which are great to dress up pizza or pasta salad, or serve to nibble with cheese for a light supper.  Our hard to find items included gatorade powder and alcohol based hand sanitizer.

8.  Buy the biggest inboard engine you can find/afford.  You always end up motoring more than you expect.  Our 29 hp Yanmar has been a faithful friend, and is an enormous improvement over the 13 hp of our previous boat, but Volver is hopelessly underpowered for the winds, currents and seas of the Caribbean. 

9.  It is a long distance from the bow to the cockpit and very hard to hear when the wind is up and especially if the bow person is looking ahead.  We used walkie talkies but a wireless headset (we saw some marketed as "marriage savers") would have been useful. 

Volver on the travelift

The Highlights list:

We visited:  British Virgin Islands, USVI, St. Martin/Sint Maarten, Anguilla, St. Barts, Nevis, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, USA

Favorite island:  Puerto Rico!  Beautiful beaches, fantastic snorkelling, terrific anchorages, friendly and helpful people, good shopping, and best restos. What's not to like? 

Captain and Amy on the dock
 in their colour coordinated
outfits, Palm Harbor Marina

Runner up:  Isle de Saintes.  

Beautiful setting, hiking trails, vibrant town and cafe culture.  

Best tourist attraction:  the Botanical Gardens at Deshaies

Favorite Natural attraction:  

Victoria Falls, Dominica

Best farmer's market/fish market:  Roseau, Dominica

Most beautiful anchorage:  Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays, Bahamas

Best Customs and Immigration process:  France!  

Martinique, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, St. Barts (self help computerized system, no hassles!)

Best Snorkelling:  Cousteau Marine Park, Pidgeon Island, Guadeloupe

Best Cruiser's Hangout:  Tie between Sal Pa Dentro, 

Salinas, Puerto Rico and Chat and Chill/Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Bahamas

Best place to stay awhile:  Salinas, Puerto Rico or Georgetown, Bahamas

Best way to miss a wicked Canadian winter: cruising the Caribbean on Volver!

That's all Folks!

Friday 30 May 2014

The Exuma Cays

Well, if you have to be "stuck" somewhere waiting for weather to pass, Georgetown is not such a bad place to be.  But Volver was itching to move when the risk of 40 knot squalls passed.  We motorsailed, again, to Cave Cay, where we overnighted in an anchorage we had all to ourselves.  Very peaceful.  Then we got up and had another motor into Staniel Cay, home of the very hospitable Staniel Cay Yacht Club, host to the swimming pigs, and site of the Thunderball grotto.  

Many nurse sharks sleeping on the bottom of the yacht club floor, waiting for the fishing boats to return, clean their catches, and throw out their fish gut refuse
The pigs were causing consternation on the mainland, and were brought over to Big Major's Spot, where Volver anchored.  

They are comin' to get you....

The pigs learned to swim:  they will arise from their sleep on the beach at the sound of the dinghy engine and will approach the dinghy by sea.  At the time of this photo, we were just heading home from our lunch, empty handed, and had to quickly drive away for fear of upsetting the pigs.  They are not poorly fed and are quite large.  The townspeople's original intent was to turn them into sausages, but the yachties rapidly became enamoured of the swimming pigs, saving their bacon:  who can bring themselves to slaughter a tourist attraction?  As you can see, they are reproducing now!

Mamas don't let the babies eat first here

More rain saw us spending less time at the Thunderball Grotto than we would have liked.  The best time to snorkel this cave is on a sunny day, at low slack tide, so you can both duck comfortably into the entrance and not be too troubled by strong currents.  Unfortunately, it rained for the three days we were there, but the grotto was still quite stunning.  
Thunderball grotto at Staniel Cay

Crystal clear Bahama waters and lots of Sargent Majors

BThere were beautiful sponges and corals outside of the grotto as well.  This was the site where the 1965 James Bond film, "Thunderball" was filmed.  As an FYI for boaters who may plan to visit, plan to pick up a few provisions in Black Point, as the 3 grocery stores the guidebook lists are quite meagre in their offerings.  
Beautiful sunset, Staniel Cay

Next stop, preceded by a lovely sail in a 15 knot easterly breeze:  Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which is a 22 mile long stretch of protected marine land and sea.  We went to Warderick Wells, which likely qualifies as the most spectacular anchorage of the trip, and it receives 100% of votes for most difficult to navigate.  
this 52 foot spearm whale died from ingestion of plastic

The trough-shaped channel is deep, 2 vessels wide, and is filled with a string of mooring balls.  The basin completely fills at high tide.  
Volver on mooring ball, surrounded by sandbars
Low tide

This is the color of the sea when you start to imagine
your rudder is stuck in the sand
At low tide, you can build sandcastles on the sandbar beside your boat:  the Unknown Island gang enjoyed doing this one morning.  The sandbar is so close and the water becomes so clear that one starts to worry one's rudder will get stuck in the sandbar.  
Unknown Island crew on beautiful Barefoot Beach

There was great hiking.  The most popular is the trail to Boo-Boo hill, where one is said to hear moaning of a ghost.  At the apex, there is a pile of driftwood mementos people have made commemorating their boats.  We discovered a lovely and creative example left by Happy Chaos the week prior, and this was like a gauntlet thrown down for the Unknown Island crew, who got out craft supplies, sanding blocks, paint, and epoxy.  The sign was edged in sand and seashells and was a clear winner.   

The Causeway Trail
Nearby are blowholes, channels through the rock that are open to the sea smashing into a cave below.  Water shoots through the blowholes in rough weather.  We had our hats blown off by the force of the breeze through these "rock pipes."

Crab in the hole
We walked to barefoot beach, one of the finer examples of beautiful beaches ever, and found the Unknown Island crew covered in sand.  We tried to find Loyalist ruins one day, and instead found ourselves lost on the island's Atlantic side. 

Many animals live here, including the Hutia, an endangered species of rodent that is indiginous only to the Bahamas, and thrives on Warderick Wells.  One of these nocturnal creatures had the audacity to scurry into the Captain's path, surprising him, and reminding him of the rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  
This Bananaquit joined us for breakfast

Curly tail

Camo ray on the ocean floor

We did unexpectantly spent the better part of the day on a sandbar, while we tried to beat low tide by leaving Warderick Wells in the early morning, which eliminated our ability to use visual navigation to any extent.  The sand bar clearly appears on the Explorer charts, which we don't have, and is sadly lacking on the NV and Navionics charts, which we do have.  So we had breakfast.  And lunch.  And, since half the hull of the boat was sticking out of the water, Captain stood on the seabed and gave it a good scrub.  Then, just as rapidly as the low tide overtook us, it dissipated.  Unfortunately, this was 5 minutes too late to slip out unnoticed by Unknown Island, who wisely waited for light and a rising tide.  We are mostly over the humiliation and there was no harm done to the boat.  In fact, we met another Canadian boat in Shroud Key, who shared our experience and had a good sence of humour about it.

After much hemming and hawing, we decided to make Nassau our last Bahamian stop.  We went to a marina.  We spent a little time preparing for the 40 hour passage, and a lot of time submitting our notice of arrival form to the US Coast Guard.  We had the kind assistance of a nice tech support person from USCG, who was surprised the bureaucrats in Hampton, Puerto Rico, and the USVI had not insisted we file this form each time we departed US seas.  We would not have known had it not been included in our guidebook to Bahamian Cruising.  Then we got to be tourists.  The downtown looks like many other US downtowns:  burned out, except for the area immediately surrounding the cruise ship docks.  Paradise Island is home to the Atlantis resort complex, as well as many other hotels.  There are beaches, a lagoon, a golf course and gated community, and the Versailles Gardens to visit.  For the most part, it reminded us of Florida, as it bore little resemblance to the rest of the Caribbean.

Versailles gardens, Paradise Island
The British emulate the French

12th Century French Cloister, moved to Nassau in 18th C.
Versailles Gardens, Captain at Nassau waterfront
The forecast is fairly benign, some risk of thunderstorms, but this is almost inevitable at this time of the year, and we hope our last two nights of passaging are uneventful.  As much as we are ready to be land dwellers now, we are also lamenting the end of our cruising lifestyle.  Last stop:  West Palm Beach!

The Mailboat, Lifeline of the Bahamas, Nassau Harbour

Wednesday 14 May 2014


We can humbly say this is the truth:  Volver knows how to time her arrival for a party.  Humbly, because there is usually a large dose of serendipity involved.  

We arrived in Georgetown just in time for the 61st annual National Family Island Regatta.  Old time Bahamian sloops race around Elizabeth Harbour, and in our case, they raced right through our anchorage:  some of the boats were close enough to touch, and extend an offer of a beer.  The sloops start from anchored position, with all sails down.  They are not allowed any gizmos, not even a passive wind indicator.  

They are shoal draft, with only about 3 feet under the keel, and have very large main sails and small jibs.  They have such a high sail area to displacement area that they employ a great deal of human ballast, who cantilever themselves out over the water on hiking boards.   

Shacks spring up at Regatta park, serving food, drink and music up to the spectators in the Grandstands!  We had many glorious days of watching these beauties sail into the sunset.  The race seems to be the finale of the Bahamian sailing season, and many boats left at its conclusion, most of them heading back to the US.  

Georgetown is a very easy town to like.   We anchored across the town off of Volleyball Beach, Stocking Island.  This is the home of a cruiser's hangout, the Chat and Chill, and also the St. Francis Resort and Marina, which is very welcoming to cruisers.  The Chat and Chill has a Conch Salad bar, where Naldo eviscerates fresh conch 7 days a week, making a ceviche that we indulged in quite regularly.  He leave the conch guts on a nearby step, and people help themselves and feed the 7 adult and 2 baby/toddler? stingrays that sleep in the grass nearby and feed greedily every afternoon.  
First Mate "petting" the ray

We can not comment on the problems of humans destroying the ecosystem by feeding wild animals when we participated.  The only thing we can hope for is that the Chat and Chill lives on forever!

Yeah, I'm cool.  Just hangin' at the Chat and Chill...
Georgetown is surrounded by many beautiful beaches and hiking trails and the sunrises and sunsets last forever and are characterized by a stunning shade of pink that won't quit.  We were able to swim with a wild dolphin, who circled a neighboring boat several days in a row.   

not Jaws

The water was not as crystal clear as one expects in the Bahamas, so the big guy could silently approach and swim right under you when you are still looking for him.  He seemed oblivious to the funny looking people with big floppy feet and masks who were chasing him.  
it's your friendly circling dolphin

Volver spent a week on a mooring ball whilst her crew made a quick dash to Canada to find her a new home.  After a year lived outdoors, we decided to find a place we can do more of this:  Volver will be moving to Victoria, Beautiful British Columbia.  We look forward to new sailing opportunities, and also to our new land life.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Dominican Rebublic

We made it!  The reputedly ferocious Mona Passage was a puddy tat:  we motored for 13 hours until we had sufficient wind to sail.  Over the 46 hour passage, the wind kicked up to 20 knots, gusting to 25 on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic.  Our new friend Charlie (who apologized for this later) had advised that the entrance to the Ocean World Marina was easy for a nocturnal landing, yet we found it quite a challenge when entering at 4 am.  There were no lights.  There was a green channel buoy on  shore at the back of a decorative pond-like area:  good thing we did not use it for navigating the non-existent channel!  This was placed like a mythical siren, luring boaters to their decidedly un-sexy death!  
The narrow entrance channel with surf breaking over reefs to starboard, 

and a nearly invisible, short breakwater extension.  The green day buoy
was reflective, but not lit and flashing.  You know what they say about
never entering an unknown harbour at night!  To top it off, there is a 
pile of rocks at the end of the fuel dock.  Volver is lucky her keel is intact.

The first mate was up on the bow with a giant spotlight yelling, "turn around, there are no boats here, you are driving into a hotel!" when we saw the Fuel Dock.  Happy Chaos was there and they had told us they would leave their radio on, and a good thing, too, for we swung in behind them onto a concrete dock that was about 4 foot higher than Volver's deck, so there was no chance of being able to swing ourselves up that high to tie off a dock line.   Saved by the Happy people, again!  They came in, many hours ahead of us but also in the dark, with howling 28 knot winds blowing them onto the fuel dock and were also quite disenchanted with the harbour entrance, but had help from some fisherman on the fuel dock to get them tied off.  

The surf was breaking over this breakwater!

Dominican Republic was a whirlwind.  We stayed 2 nights and three days and did a final provision for the Bahamas, where some of the 1000s of islands are visited only twice a month by the mailboat.  The mailboat also brings supplies, which are rumoured to be few in number and expensive.  Our boat has never been so full of canned foods! 

 If you are thinking of staying at the Ocean World Marina, there are a few things to know.  Firstly, it is true that the marina staff are very helpful when it comes to helping you navigate Customs, Immigration, Drug enforcement, and Navy officials, all of whom are very interested in your visit, to every port in the DR.  You are only officially able to depart between 0800 and 1700, but you can sometimes (randomly?) get permission to leave outside of these hours:  you must pay overtime to the many officials for this privilege, and marina staff can not tell you how much this will cost.  Some people had difficulty being granted permission and others less so.  Given that many boaters are simply stopping here in transit while passaging to friendlier countries, it is important to them to have the flexibility to leave at will, to at least try to stage their arrival time in the unknown harbour for the daylight hours.  The navy is on site 24 hours.  After they give your dispatch papers, they stay and watch that you leave immediately, even though their paperwork is good for 24 hours.

Secondly, the marina water is not safe for drinking despite the advertising "certified municipal water."  We found this out by accident minutes before filling up our tanks. The Dominican people do not drink their city water.   Thirdly, although it is billed as free for marina guests, the marine adventure park is merely discounted and is still fairly pricey.  Fourthly, the free shuttle to the Tropical Supermercado takes you to a store where the shelves are half empty (for example, the sole cheese offerings were kraft singles and one french cheese tray) and the meat is scary looking.  It is unfortunate that the marina staff do not share the information one needs to make decisions.  There is a full service supermarket/department store, "the Sirenas" a short taxi ride away where you can buy the world (even burata cheese!) for a low price.   We have been searching since Martinique for a rubber sealant ring for our expresso pot and surprisingly had success there!   Finally, the docks are not 1.5 feet high as the guidebook says, so tie your fenders up high.  

We did the usual marina activities:  boat washing, laundry, pool lounging (though not enough/ much of this), and the first mate found someone to don scuba gear and scrape the barnacles off the boat bottom, sail drive, and prop.  We note the boat is now clearly faster under power, and our wind instrument shows both true and apparent wind speeds, which it has not done for months.  Must have been some algae or barnacle growth impeding its' functioning.  

Heading off on the 200 nm passage to Mayaguana island, we left at 6 pm, not wanting to hassle with the DR port authorities.   We experienced the forecasted brisk breezes of 25 knots, direction of 120 degrees, until 4 am.   The swell was generous, probably the 6-8 feet forecast, and at the beam, so the boat was rolly enough that sleep was not so good that first night.  Volver handled well with double reefed mainsail alone, comfortably making 7 knots of boat speed.   The daytime was pleasant, with lighter air of 15 knots and slower boat speed.  There was fishing.  We won't talk about the wahoo, whose teeth we could see, and whose flesh we could almost smell simmering in butter and garlic, that got away.   We hope to improve the landing on the boat part of this activity.  

During the second night of our passage, just as soon as the first mate sent the captain off for his nap, the wind picked up to 20 plus knots while we had full sails up.  It was thrilling, the boat was moving along at 8.4 knots, but we had a preventer to keep the boom from gybing on the aft winch, so the first mate was running up to the foreward winch to trim the mainsail sheet, then back aft to the jib sheet and the helm, and this is not a sustainable night time manoever!  So the captain kindly came up and we reefed for the night.  We usually do this prophylactically for the solo night watches, but since it was such a calm, light air day, we had not done so.  

Another noctunal arrival saw us with the hook down by 0330.  We stopped at Start point,  a roadstead anchorage, which is basically an exposed stop outside an island in the ocean.  At this anchorage, the depth goes from 2000 feet to 20 feet in a distance of about 1/4 n.m.  Stop quickly before you hit the beach!   It was rolly, but safe for 4 hours of sleep until the sun was up high enough for us to enter the unmarked anchorage of Abraham's Bay, which is a reef protected anchorage, completely exposed to the ocean winds.  The Bahamas islands are giant sandbars, and the anchorages are studded with reefs and coral heads.  Navigation is tricky, and requires someone to be standing watch on the bow at all times.  They are also much more affected by storms that affect the eastern seaboard than the more southern Caribbean islands.  The storms are supposed to abate by mid-April, but this winter has been exceptional, so there is still a need to keep a very close eye on the weather.  

Mayaguana island is the eastern most point of the Bahamas, population 400.  The 9 foot deep anchorage is a very long dinghy ride from town.  We made the trip, did customs, and found the Bahamas Telephone Co. immediately beside the immigration building.   An out of date internet source had advised that one can only purchase a Batelco SIM card on one of three large Bahamian islands, and the first mate and capt'n spent our last several hours in the DR panicking, as we were trying to figure out a communication strategy.  Owning 7 other SIM cards, we were trying to figure out how to activate just one of them to use for roaming, b/c the US SIM card we bought does not roam in the Bahamas.  This panic and frustration was for naught (most is, yes?):  the nice lady in Batelco sold us two months of data (it was on sale!), and a pay as you go phone option.   Joy:  we have access to the weather forecast!  Communication has definitely been one of the biggest complications of our trip thus far.  We are still tied to the Happy Hour bar/resto for WiFi for the blog, as neither computer has functioning bluetooth; hence, we can not tether the phone data and use it.  Happily, the Happy Hour gets you out meeting people.  

April 24 Update:  Volver waited patiently for 5 days for a front to pass.   We could have travelled a short distance the day after arrival, but our next anchorage would have been very exposed to the high wind and waves that were predicted.  Despite Volver and crew having been on the move and very busy for weeks, we easily tired of this amount of resting.   Sean, Evan, and the captain took the dinghy over to fish the reef but found it was so choppy they were getting swamped and gave up on bringing grouper home for dinner.  Lobster is unfortunately out of season.   We are still hoping to hone our fishing skills!

The weather acted as we had read about, but never experienced, in our travels through the Virgin Islands, windwards/leewards.  After a front passes, the winds typically drop and change direction from east/southeast to north/northwest.  Bruce Van Sant, author of the "Gentleman's Guide to the Thornless Path to Windward" implores sailors (because "gentleman never sail to windward," except when they are going that way of course!) to use this time in the lull of the storm to sail east.  We did the exact opposite.  Being bored silly, we decided not to wait for the resumption of the trade winds, and we motored to windward:  all the way to Georgetown, where we are now sitting and enjoying the sunrise.   

The ride was reasonably uneventful.  We left at 4 pm.   Departure times are marked by a tremendous degree of preliminary mulling about and calculating to predict arrival times coinciding with daylight, preferably with full sun overhead:   for example, if we go 6 knots, we'll arrive at harbour at 9 am.  But one can not control the winds and seas, despite years of practice trying.  The first night, there were lightning storms in the leeward horizon.  These were not in the weather forecast.  As Charles pointed out on our passage from the states: "this is my future (the windward direction), "and this is my past" (the leeward direction); keeping this in mind, the lightning was only a little scary.  Mr. Moon did not come out until 0130, so the starry sky was textbook.  

We had a companion for the entire first night's journey.  Migration is a tiresome thing, and this handsome fellow came along, squawking both his arrival greeting, and again at his sunrise departure.  

"No Birdie-Num-Nums for you, in case you have to ..."

Capt'n had a conversation with him, inviting him to enjoy our hospitality as long as he understood that the downstairs was off limits.  Our hitchhiker was respectful.  By her second watch with him, our feathered friend had moved back to enjoy the two hours with the first mate from the comfort of the dinghy.   Their conversation was about creature comforts, and he mostly complied.  He agreed to having his photo taken, despite the trouble of the flash.

The first mate was struck by a migraine the second day and the capt'n kindly toiled alone, relentlessly fussing with the sheets to keep wind in the sails.  Like a vampiress, the first mate arose in the dark to take her night watches.  They are much more pleasant with music, which does not drain our engine charged batteries under power.   We imagine the 2 day passages are similar to the proverbial expression about childbirth:  once it is over, the pain passes quickly and you barely remember it.  Sufficient amnesia that you are willing to do it again.     

Approaching Georgetown

The ocean was like a mirror

So we skipped the out-island hopping experience (we are not much for canned food anyway), and made it to civilization.  For many cruisers, Georgetown is the epicentre of the Exuma keys cruising experience.  Many boats leave Florida each year, make it here, and go no farther south.   There can be up to 600 boats in the harbour at a time.  We have not made it into town yet, but there are allegedly many amenities.  More later!  

Volver's first Georgetown sunrise, reflecting off the mirror-like ocean, appearing as in a watercolor painting