6-26 Acting the pack mule

Unpacking the boat in 90 degree F weather isn't my idea of fun. It's just amazing the amount of "stuff" the W-43 holds and my lower back will attest to that. I think I read somewhere that for the W-42/43, the figure for 1" of water immersion of the hull is about 1000-1200 pounds; ie it takes about that amount of "stuff" to have the hull lower in the water by 1". I'm not sure how accurate that figure is, but can tell you that our waterline has gone up 3"-4". So, by that calculation, I've taken somewhere about 3000-4000 pounds or so off the boat in the last week. That "stuff" is now spread out all over the house, and Sue's done a great job of trying to keep up with the chaos, indeed, to stay ahead of it. We can now get to every nook and cranny to clean and spruce up without having to trip over ourselves or constantly move something out of the way. What a luxury! I'm pretty sure I see a smile on Infini's face....

6-15 Home in Gulf Harbors

Pos:N28deg13.83min/W082deg45.11min. We've been very fortunate coming up the west coast of Florida. The weather (once again) has been unstable, a very common summer-time occurrence here in Florida. Many thunderstorms and lightning were seen in the distance, but none threatened us and we had an uneventful motorsail to Anclote Island (Tarpon Springs) on a beautiful, clear night, our last for this passage, in 5-8 knots of breeze and smooth water. We have to play the tides going into our channel where we live in Gulf Harbors (New Port Richey) as the water in the channel is just inches under our keel as we transit. At least that's the theory. It's easy to hit bottom around here, but this afternoon there was no drama, and we even had a friend come out in her runabout to accompany us in as a surprise. Thanks, Virginia! There were a group of folks waiting at our dock who graciously took our lines and help tie us up, and the party began.

6-12 Boot Key; Back in the USA!

Pos: N24deg41.19min / W081deg07.40min. Infini is back on US soil after a ten year hiatus! We're anchored in 10' sand at Boot Key (Marathon) after a benign crossing of the Gulf Stream. As we have so often found, the weather predictions and what we experience are two different things. From West End, Bahamas, the forecast was for E-ESE wind 10-15 knots. That didn't happen. We ended up motoring with about 5 knots of wind directly behind us - yuck. Furthermore, the extended forecast wasn't promising at all, which is why we departed when we did. To summarize, the Gulf Stream was relatively OK, but there were many squalls around. During much of this passage the wind forgot to show up and when it did, was about 10 knots from astern, not enough to get us where we wanted to go in any sort of a timely fashion. We did, however, set the pole across the Great Bahama Bank from the NW Channel Light (which, btw, is out) to South Riding Rock, and had a few hours (6) of very nice wing and wing sailing. Eventually, we did our trawler imitation and Mr. Perkins was called upon; we ended up motorsailing most of the way here. As I said, it was either that or wait for who knows how long to get favorable wind conditions. Some passages are like that. Predictions and reality: two different things, especially when it comes to the weather. Lest anyone think this is a weather rant, (OK, so I'm a bit tired...) in spite of all this, Team Infini is happy to be back!

6-10 Update

Pos: N25deg01.5min / W077deg33.9min. Yesterday, we anchored at Norman's Cay in the cut. The current rips thru here so a good anchor set is mandatory. There was lots of construction going on at the entrance; we're not sure what's being planned. This afternoon we've anchored at West Bay towards the outside near Goulding Cay, staging for a midnight departure for the NW Channel Light. From there, our route is to South Riding Rock in the daylight, then across the Gulf Stream to Florida. Depending on the weather, we'll either enter Hawk Channel towards Alligator Reef or go straight to Moser Channel at Marathon. Stay tuned. We haven't gotten off the boat to go exploring for the next few days, so nothing more to report.

6-6 CIRCUMNAVIGATION COMPLETED!!

Pos: N24deg10.71min / W076deg26.73min. This morning was a very special one for us. In June 2000 we visited Staniel Cay aboard Infini and today we once again anchored east of Thunderball Grotto, effectively completing our circumnavigation. Whodathunk? It's been ten years and two months since we left Florida and started cruising and living aboard full time. We didn't set off with a circumnavigation as our goal. Rather, we took baby steps, stopping to enjoy the people we met and the places we visited along the way, and think that only two factors chased us around the world: visas and weather. Visas of the country we were in dictated our length of stay there, and the prevailing and predicted weather conditions dictated our destinations and anchorages. We feel really blessed to have been able to accomplish what we've done safely and in good health, and give thanks to God and our family and friends for the many privileges that have been bestowed upon us. Of course, having a solid working platform such as Infini, our Westsail 43, was a prerequisite for the type of passage making we've done. She's been more than capable and a steady hand throughout. For any prospective cruisers reading this, we hope our blog has been of benefit in its descriptions and information. It's been lots of fun to write as its evolved, and it's enriched our lives as well as we strive to impart information we feel will be of benefit to others, as well as providing a bit of entertainment. We've had a blast along the way and are glad many others have vicariously come along for the ride. Our thanks to all and we'll continue posting as we travel north to Florida, and will also update our picture albums when we get back. BTW, in case you're wondering, to celebrate we went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and hoisted a few. We also enjoyed some conch fritters, fish tacos and a mahi sandwich. All good, and big smiles all around.

6-5 Black Point, Great Guana Cay

Pos: N24deg05.92min / W076deg24.20min. We departed at 0615 and motor-sailed the 50+ miles to Black Point, Great Guana Cay. It was either motor or stay in Georgetown another week, as a trough is hanging around for the next 5 days or so suppressing the wind. We were ready to go, so made the best of it and ignored the motor sound. Some days are like that. Tomorrow we'll find the laundromat, reputed to be one of the most reasonably priced ones in the Bahamas. After, we'll head the 8 miles to Staniel Cay to seek protection from the expected west winds coming in when that trough arrives, bringing rain and possibly thunderstorms (we hope not).

6-4 Update

Well, the kids are gone. Before departure late this afternoon, Ty & Hanne had a chance to snorkel with "Nicki" again. Nicki was named by some cruiser for the nicks on her dorsal fin. She and her baby hung around Infini for a few hours, obviously looking for attention. In the spirit of visiting somewhere and only leaving our footprints, T, H and myself did a bit of a take-off on that theme and used small rocks to form our name as a momento, located below the Monument on Stocking Island. Cruisers have left their signatures this way for a long time. Just before sunset we stored the dinghy and prepared for departure. Georgetown has been a great stop, but it's time to get on up the road.

5-26 thru 5-30 Family visit

Ty & Hanne arrived yesterday and this morning were greeted by a playful dolphin which swam around the boat so they jumped in with snorkel gear and swam alongside him (her?). Of note, we were anchored in about 7' water in front of town. I called Jamie & Behan (sv Totem) who were anchored nearby to let them know about the dolphin, so their entire crew also donned snorkel gear and joined the dolphin fun. This went on for about 45 minutes and was a wonderful experience. Jon & Ashley's flight was delayed in Tampa, so they missed the connecting flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Georgetown and had to be rescheduled for the next day. They did, indeed, arrive, albeit a day late, and it was a wonderful mini-family reunion aboard. The next two days we had rented a 17' Boston Whaler from Minn Water Sports in town, as we figured 6 of us with all our snorkel gear, snacks, etc would have really been squeezed into our 10' dinghy. This proved to be a great decision, as we were able to go from one end of Elizabeth Harbour to another, stopping to explore, walk or snorkel the many spots available in style and comfort. We found a few decent snorkeling spots where the coral and fish life was plentiful, also spotting an eel and a nurse shark. The guys brought up a beautiful, mature conch, so he was a saver that we kept until we finally had room in the freezer to place him for 24 hours, at which time we defrosted him in salt water and easily removed the entire conch from its shell. We had an obligatory stop at the Chat n' Chill and enjoyed the conch salad, ribs and fish platters. T, H, J & A also hand-fed the stingrays, as the parts of the conch not used in the salad are set aside for anyone to feed the rays. They're quite used to the attention, coming right up to your legs looking for a handout. Their skin is soft and their barbs are intact; we haven't heard of anyone having any problems with them. J & A left after a few days for their resort up island, so we took the next day off to stay out of the sun and just hang out. The last few late afternoons have seen happy hours on the beach with a few of the remaining folks still around waiting to head off. We've enjoyed getting to know Jamie & Behan a bit more, and have met a few of the other "kid" boats anchored here at Monument Beach. Behan is one of the co-authors of "Voyaging with Kids," a beautifully written book (available from Amazon.com) about cruising with children. So, it's been lots of fun aboard Infini, and I should also mention the Mexican Train dominoes we've been playing, the great meals we've prepared and the beach walks and hikes we've enjoyed.

5-24 Elizabeth Harbour

These last few weeks have found us anchoring in several spots between Georgetown and Stocking Island depending on the weather. What we did find was that irregardless of wind, unless you go thru the dinghy cut into Victoria Lake at slack water, entering and leaving the lake by dinghy is like getting tumbled around inside a washing machine. At times, we would have been best served by wearing our wet suits! On top of that, our Yamaha 15 HP outboard has been temperamental. I've taken apart, rebuilt and cleaned about everything I know of - twice - but at high load the motor stalls out. Hmmm. At any rate, for Mother's Day we went over to the Chat n' Chill for their Sunday pig roast and conch salad. It's a bit pricey, but a good place to meet other cruisers. During the week we've really been in laid-back mode. A bit of hiking and swimming...mostly just chilling, reading and eating. We've met Steve and Rhonda of sv Cloud 9 and have enjoyed getting together with them a few times. The other night we had a "pizza night" aboard with them and Jody and Dan of Champagne Moment. I made the dough, and everyone brought the toppings they wanted. After 5 pizzas, all of us were stuffed. Every Monday night, Eddies Restaurant has their Rake and Scrape. We hitched a ride with Steve and Rhonda into town from our anchorage at Monument Beach. There were 5 band members who did a really credible job and the dancing music was great. Lots of cruisers and locals, and another enjoyable evening. We got to bed after 10:30...late for us! Yesterday, we did a bit of provisioning as Ty and Hanne arrive tomorrow, and Jon and Ashley Saturday.

5-8 Calabash Bay, Long Island

Pos: N23deg38.07min/ W075deg20.43min. We took advantage of the good weather and headed out this morning from Cat Island, after staging just north of Hawk's Nest Point yesterday afternoon. The latter saved us 10 nm from our position at the very head of the bay as well as a few hours travel time on our route to Long Island. This morning's wind was NE 8-15 knots, and with full main, Yankee and staysail drawing we saw our speed from 4-6.3 knots. The really good news of the day is we landed a beautiful 4' mahi-mahi (dolphin fish) that Sue promptly filleted. Finally! One of our favorite fish, neither of us can remember the last mahi-mahi we caught so we're looking forward to dinner! We're anchored in 15' sand in front of a beautiful sandy beach; the Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort & Villas are nearby. Don't know if we'll visit there or not; that's for another day.

5-3 Exploring New Bight

We started walking in the rain to the Hermitage (I'll explain that in a minute) and were picked up by a kindly sole who drove us to the entrance. Actually, the walk from the beach where we landed the dinghy to the site wasn't that far, but with the rain coming down fairly hard we were appreciative of the lift. The Hermitage is a mini-monastery built by Father Jerome (aka Monsignor John Cyril Hawes,1876-1956) who was a Church architect, building cathedrals in England, Australia and the Bahamas. On Cat Island, he built the St Francis of Assisi Church, the Holy Redeemer Church as well as his retirement home, the Hermitage. The latter sits upon Mount Alvernia at a height of 206', the highest peak in the Bahamas. He lived there 17 years and this served as his spiritual retreat, having been built by hand using native materials. The buildings and furniture are all simple and non-decorative, as if to put the supplicant in closer touch to his surrounds and God. The views from the summit are beautiful and one can climb past the stations of the cross up the fairly steep terrain to reach it. A sundial greets the visitor at the top. The cathedral bell sits in the bell tower which was hit by lightning a few years back. Several small out-buildings serve as kitchen and pump station. The bedroom comprises a small plank for the bed and the tiny chapel is also a simple affair but very moving. Other than the mockingbirds singing, there was no other sound except the wind. As said above, a very spiritual place. Afterwards, we walked down the hill and explored the waterfront area. There's a newer, green-colored building with toilets and a shower for visitors; I can't think of anywhere else in the Caribbean or Bahamas, or anywhere for that matter, that provides such a luxury. We ate lunch at the Sunshine Cafe, where we enjoyed conch fritters and baked chicken. After, Pompey Johnson treated everyone to an impromptu Rake & Scrape on his concertina. His two daughters accompanied him, playing a cowhide covered drum and saw/screwdriver rhythm section. Fun music on the island whose inhabitants think theirs is the best Rake & Scrape of all the Bahamas. When we got back to the boat, I stripped down the Yamaha 15 outboard as it was running rough and was difficult to start. I cleaned the carburetor and fuel pump and changed the spark plugs. It started right up and sounded good, but some late afternoon squalls are rolling thru so we'll have to take a test run tomorrow.

5-2 New Bight, Cat Island

Pos: N24deg17.159min/ W075deg25.268min. We left Georgetown at 0615 and had a nice 50 nm run to Cat Island. Our speed was good to the Hawks Nest Point waypoint but slowed considerably as we motorsailed the last 10 nm to the anchorage in front of the Batelco tower in New Bight due to adverse tide and 20 knots of wind directly on the nose. We anchored at 1645 hours in 6.8' of water at near low tide, so have plenty of water under our keel. There are lots of squalls around and the weather forecast for the remainder of the week doesn't look all that good either. We'll go exploring tomorrow.

4-29 Lots going on

Where to begin? The wind was really honking last week, and our friend Judi's flight was cancelled due to inclement weather. She re-scheduled and arrived this past Wednesday, in time to see part of the 64th National Family Island Regatta which takes place here in Georgetown every year. Racing Bahamian sloop sail boats from many of the Bahamas islands participate and the competition is intense. There are three classes of boats depending on size, and none of the boats have an engine or enclosed ballast. Crew act as ballast and go out on a "pru," which is a long plank shifted from side to side across the boat when tacking. The pru helps keep the boat sailing flat, and timing and coordination, as well as the talent of the skipper to play the wind gusts, is paramount. There were hundreds of spectators ashore and it was a carnival-like atmosphere. Food and drink booths were in abundance and there were kids aplenty playing in three different inflatable bouncy pens. BBQ chicken, ribs, pork and steak were commonly served, as well as conch fritters and conch salad. There were dance and band competitions, a fashion show, a skulling competition and a cultural show. The highlight of the last day was the performance of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band. Future visitors to Georgetown and the Family Island Regatta: this performance is not to be missed! We had just finished a BBQ chicken platter (prepared by Grill Masters out of Nassau) and found ourselves directly in front of the reviewing stand where the Officials sat. What a great place to film from! The band marched directly in front of us for about a half hour, and we took a gazillion amount of photos and movie clips. We've been anchored at Sanddollar Beach at Stocking Island, and the dinghy ride back from town has been a wet one. At least the water's warm. During her visit, Judi conducted a few yoga classes at volleyball beach the last few mornings which were well attended. Between the hiking, swimming, trips to town, the Regatta, yoga, strumming her guitar, blowing the conch horn, and just chilling, she had a wonderful visit, and took the water taxi to town to get the taxi to the airport. We'll be here another few days before the weather calms down enough for us to leave Georgetown; our plan is to go to Cat Island. We plan...God sometimes laughs.

4-23 Update

It's been a mixed few weeks; some boring days, some busy days. Georgetown is a very sticky spot with lots of cruisers staying around for long periods of time. There's a daily VHF net at 0800 channel 72, and the hailing channel on VHF 68 is usually busy. The water taxis and dinghies run around with cruisers filling their water jugs with free RO water at the dinghy dock, as well as shopping or eating out. Here's a partial list of activities: water aerobics, Texas Hold-'Em, volleyball, bocce ball, trivia, Mexican train dominoes, informational talks from cruisers and other experts, music on the beach, bonfires and happy hours on the beach, and daily lunch and dinner specials at a variety of restaurants. Some folks get here and stay for the entire season, then store their boat at one of the local "hurricane holes" (good luck with that) for the season. So, all this as a prelude to say that in addition to attending a few of the former, we've also been busy hiking, reading, and just being lazy. We've done a variety of minor (thankfully) boat projects, and have re-anchored in a few spots just to have a different view. Today, we pick up our friend Judi who is visiting from Florida, and since she's a yoga instructor, she'll be giving lessons on the beach for the few days she's here. Fun and games in Georgetown; all's well aboard.

4-8 Update

These last days have been a hoot. Yesterday morning we dinghied the 1.2 nm across Elizabeth Harbour to go to town. Just in front of the entrance to Lake Victoria we saw the catamaran Tackless Too, with our friends Don & Gwen aboard, who we hadn't seen since dinner at our place in Florida back in October (?) 2016. After coffee and catching up, we found the dinghy dock and walked around town. Georgetown isn't too big and most shops are within a relatively small area. After a bit of provisioning we went back to the boat and in the afternoon dinghied to the beach where Sue cut my hair. For happy hour, we dinghied (notice a trend here...our dinghy is the family car...) to the Chat 'n Chill at Volleyball Beach here at Stocking Island, which closes daily at 1900. I was underwhelmed by my cheesburger, although Sue did enjoy her conch salad. On the way back after dinner, we spotted an SSCA Commodore burgee and stopped by Allegria, where Dee & Mollie invited us aboard where we spent a congenial few hours chatting; it was like meeting old friends again. When we finally returned to Infini, we had been aboard about 5 minutes when Kalle & Doris (sv Blue Sun) came roaring up to invite us to their farewell happy hour aboard sv Worlddancer II, graciously hosted by Heike & Herwig. We hadn't seen the folks from Blue Sun since Cockburn Town, and Worlddancer II since Boqueron. It was a late night... This morning at 0700, I blew the conch horn (yes, I am improving...) as Blue Sun motored nearby saying goodbye. After the 0800 VHF net (channel 72), we dinghied back to town to do a laundry, stopping briefly along the way at sv Champagne Moment to see Jody & Daniel. Unfortunately, we found the laundromat closed until Monday; this surprised a lot of cruisers...We spent the morning going to many of the shops we hadn't been in, and did further provisioning at the Shop Rite. We've found that shopping both at the Exuma Market as well as Shop Rite afforded a good selection of meats and chicken, as well as fresh veggies. We ate lunch at the Jerk hut, joined by Jody & Daniel; really good BBQ chicken, ribs or pork in large portions for $10-12; both of us shared one lunch. For those following, a few details: gas at the Shell station is $4.80/gallon. Provisioning as noted above. There is also a farmer that sells his veggies several days a week across from the Exuma Market. For wine and spirits, the Liquor Store offers a 20% discount when 12 bottles (of any combination) are purchased, as well as forgoing the 5% credit card fee usually charged at most stores. In the Bahamas, this is a very good deal indeed. Btw, to clarify...no, we did not buy 12 bottles; this is for public information only....
Pic: Notice the conch barge getting ready to go to the conch graveyard. Delicious conch salad while you pet the stingrays.

4-6 Sand Dollar Beach, Stocking Island, Exumas

Pos: N23deg30.68min /W075deg44.67min. We had a beautiful run from Conception Island here. Winds S-SSE 14-16; full main and Yankee, speed 6+ knots. We entered the Exumas at North Channel Rocks and motorsailed to here, anchoring in 17' sand. There are lots of boats here; all of us waiting for a cold front to arrive tomorrow bringing strong winds and squalls. We're about 1.25 nm from Georgetown by dinghy; we'll see what the weather does before going exploring.

4-5 River run, Conception Island

What a great time! Doug and Caroline (sv Viento) asked if we were interested in taking a dinghy trip up the river located on the SE side of the island. We packed our snorkel gear and the two dinghies planed the few miles to the river mouth. It's better to enter at high tide as the entrance is quite shallow. We didn't time it exactly, but had enough water to enter on a high-speed plane, followed by a sharp turn to port about 100 yards in. Keep your kick-up gear to rise if you hit; we only bumped a few times, and that after we were in. The river is a miles long mangrove estuary, with abundant underwater critters around. At high tide, the water is crystal clear, and we saw numerous turtles, fish, stingrays, and one nurse shark. We snorkeled the small blue hole and explored the mangrove branches where all the fish hide out. We also dinghied to a beach further in and walked over to the water, finding some beautiful small shells and enjoying the many hues of color. When it was finally time to go, we steeled ourselves and revved up. Unfortunately, the outboard died a few hundred yards before the exit. Actually, that was a good thing, as it would have been perilous to stall out right in the cut. Cause of stall - probably water or dirty fuel. Well, we got out OK and got back to Infini with smiles on our faces. We highly recommend this dinghy river tour, but leave a few hours to explore, snorkel and enjoy the solitude.

4-4 Conception Island

Pos: N23deg51.00min
/ W075deg07.26min. We had a nice run here and anchored in West Bay in 14.5' sand. There are 12 boats here; it's no longer "off the beaten path and out of the way." The island is a part of the Bahamas National Trust, and as such, is a protected area, with no harvesting of marine critters.
Pic: Michael fought for quite awhile to bring in our first strike on our lure...only to find a 3.5' barracuda. Thank goodness it was a painless release.

4-3 Touring San Salvador

We rented a car along with Doug and Caroline of sv Viento. Dorette (242-331-2484) of Dorette's Grocery in CT, arranged our pickup at Riding Rock Marina at 0900 and we were off. There's only one road around the island, with offshoots to several small settlements and sites, so getting lost wasn't an issue. This is a large island which is also known (per the Explorer Chartbooks) as the "Land of Lakes" and it takes a while to get around. We stopped at the Gerace Research Center in Graham's Harbour, where Dr Troy kindly let us in the library and explained some of the research going on at the center. They only had one group on campus, but have up to 200 university researchers in residence when things get busy in May. Continuing along, we visited the Dixon Hill Lighthouse. Constructed in 1887 in England, it was shipped over and welded together here on island. It is one of only two lighthouses in the Bahamas (the other being in Hopetown) to run on kerosene, and seeing the original pressure vessels and machinery is always a joy. Also of note is that the personnel manning the lighthouse take 4 hour nightly watches, just like the old days. Somehow, we drove right past the ruins of Watling's Castle so our next stop was the Columbus Monument in Long Bay (also charted as Fernandez Bay), which is right next to the Mexican Olympic Flame Monument. This, folks, is where it all took place way back on October 12, 1492 so, presumably, we were stepping about where the Man himself stood to give thanks to the Lord for his safe arrival. Lots of history here. A few days ago, we had previously met Deacon Gregory Taylor, who explained that the museum in CT had been destroyed in the last couple of hurricanes, so, unfortunately, there isn't much other historical artifact available to review at this time. By 1:00, we were all ready for lunch and stopped at the Paradis restaurant for a delicious home-cooked meal. We got dropped off back at the marina about 2:30, and all four of us felt our mini-tour was a great way to see the island.

3-31 Cockburn Town, San Salvador

Pos: N24deg02.80min/
W074deg32.02min. Well, we're chasing Columbus' shadow now...To regress a bit...we had the crews of Blue Sun (Kalle & Doris) and Champagne Moments (Daniel & Jody) over for happy hour yesterday and had a wonderful time. The conch horns were out and I even managed to blow a few sounds that weren't all that embarrassing. This morning, we left at 0730 and motor-sailed around the south east end of the island so we could lay our course of 030T to San Salvador. Early on, the wind was 18-20 SE, but settled down to about 15-16 E-SE and we had a delightful sail here. The fishing line was out and we caught our first fish. Unfortunately, it was a 2' barracuda, so I cut him up for bait and the cedar plug went back in the water; no luck. Getting back to Columbus and history, San Salvador is known as Christopher's first landfall. The Lucayan name of the island is "Guianahani" which means "sweet and gentle." There are several commemorative sites on the island and we'll go exploring tomorrow. We anchored in 17' sand in turquoise colored water in front of Cockburn (pronounced "Koburn") Town.

3-29 Port Nelson, Rum Cay

Pos: N23deg38.80min/ W074deg51.06min. We started early this morning. Indeed, a few hours too early, as the predicted E wind didn't fill in for hours, and by that time, the best we could lay was the extreme northwest end of Rum Cay. We ended up motor-sailing the last few miles to the anchorage as it was directly into the wind and I just didn't feel like tacking for another few hours to get here. We anchored in 13.5' of sand; it's a bit rolly but the beaches are beautiful and tomorrow we'll go exploring. All's well aboard.

3-20 Cave tour, Long Island

While walking the beach at Sandy Point on Strachan Cay, we met Leonard Cartwright, the caretaker of the sole house on the island. He told us he gave tours of the Hamilton Caves which, conveniently, were on his property and owned by himself (a 6th generation Long Islander) and his cousin. This morning he picked us up at the marina, brought flashlights for everyone, and led us to an incredibly complex and extensive cave system. Stalagtites and stalagmites were everywhere, and we marveled at the salt as well as fresh water underground pools. He told us many anecdotal stories, as well as indicated that the local population took shelter in the caves during hurricane weather conditions. Five species of bats inhabit the caves, the smallest being about 2 inches in length. Several university groups have done research studies of the cave system, including the University of Florida (go Gators!). The cave tour took about 1 1/2 hours and afterwards, Leonard stopped by the local grocery store so we could stock up on a few fresh items, then stopped at the blue hole, another local tourist attraction nearby. It was an enjoyable morning and we recommend contacting Leonard at 242-472-1796 (cell) or 242-337-0236 (home). Cave entry fee $10pp; transportation and guide service $30. Btw, wouldn't try to walk the caves yourself without a guide; it's much too easy to get lost.

3-19 Strachan Cay, Clarence Town, Long Island

Pos: N23deg06.22min /W074deg56.93min. We left Man of War Bay in NE winds 20-25 and it was a wet ride across the Crooked Island Passage to Castle Island, which is at the south end of Acklins Island. Leaving the island to starboard, we went through the Mira Por Vos Passage where things got a bit ugly for a bit. The waves were square and stopped us dead in our tracks. From 6-7 knots to zero with a huge bash; all the while one of us was trying to get some sleep below...right. Also, the current is moving SW, so we ended up 20 degrees south of our rhumbline off Castle Island. However, as we shouldered through those seas and slowly increased the distance away from Acklins, the current wrapped around and began to go NW, lifting our heading and actually tracking us 10 degrees NE of our layline to Long Island. Now, that was a very good thing indeed. We didn't have to adjust the autopilot until 8 miles outside Clarence Town, when the wind came too much from the north to allow us to continue our 330T heading, so the engine went on and we motor-sailed the rest of the way in. Piloting skills have to be top notch here as the rollers going over the adjacent reefs are impressive. We found the C-Map 93 charts and the Navionics in agreement, and, of course, we rely on the Explorer Chartbooks as our primary source of reference. The anchor went down in 8.5' sand 24 hours after departure. Average speed 6.42 knots; distance sailed 154 nm; sails: 2nd reef in the main, staysail, 1/2-2/3 yankee. All's well aboard.

3-11 Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island, Bahamas

Pos: N20deg57.17min/ W073deg40.83min. Passage stats: from Boqueron, Puerto Rico to Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island, Bahamas was 422 nm and took us 69 hours; average speed (anchor up to anchor down, including about 4 hours of motoring) was 6.12 knots. The Mona Passage was, as we expected, boisterous; we departed in 25-30 knots of wind and experienced gusts in the low 30's. However, the north coast of the Dominican Republic was calmer as we headed west, and this last 24 hours or so was picture perfect; a steady 15 knots from the ENE with little to no seas. We're anchored at 0445 under a bright moon in 14' water just in front of town, and will go in to check in with Officaldom in a few hours. We also need to buy a Batelco SIM for our phone, so we'll go exploring as well. All's well aboard.
Pic: 'The Basin' where our dinghy is tied to a Haitian sailboat. The island has been ravaged by hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew the last two summers, but the welcome and friendliness of the people cannot be surpassed. Batelco was closed until Monday, but there's free wifi at the library 24/7. Morton Salt is the big industry here; the second largest saline operation in North America. Ships go to Man o War harbor just north of us to load. We hear the flamingo colony is worth a visit.

3-5 Puerto Real

We went aboard Akun along with Joe, Candy and Yvette, and motored north about 5 miles to Puerto Real so Isra and Cora could fill up Akun with water. The entrance there now has green and red entry channel buoys, which were not on the CM 93 or Navionics charts Isra had. No matter, entry is straight-forward but very shallow. I doubt our 6' draft would get in without pushing thru mud. We pulled into the marina dock, tied up, and immediately went to find cold beer. Are you seeing a trend here? (Got to say, Sue and I stuck with ginger ale the entire day). Unlike some fuel docks, there was no rush. About an hour later, we filled up the tanks and jerry jugs; about 1000 liters of fresh water. Cost?...Sit down cruisers...$5. That is CHEAP! Many places we've been charge a whole lot more for FW. We then motored back to Boqueron, arriving in a heavy rain shower, but that passed in about 30 minutes and we dinghied back to town to meet up for dinner. We had met Jodi and Daniel of sv Champagne Moment, and the 4 of us met up with the 5 others to eat at The Copy, a hamburger place just across from the food stalls. The burgers were gigantic. I took one look, asked for a take-away box, and Sue and I split hers. Highly recommend this place if you're in a burger mood. After dinner, we enjoyed a great band at the Bohemian, and salsa danced although, I've got to say, the locals looked a lot better than we did. I think we'll be classified as "amateurs" a while longer.
Pic: Yvette's turn at Akun's helm.

3-3 Best laundry day ever

Well, whodathunk? A Norwegian single-hander flagged us down to ask about any laundromat in town nearby. We didn't know of any, but were discussing it with a few other folks at the head of the dinghy dock and organized a trip. Our new friends Joe and Candy, from Houston, Texas, drove their rental jeep, taking Cora and Isra (sv Akun) and Yvette, a local here, drove the Norwegian, Lars (sv Pomona) and us to the laundromat in Cabo Rojo. Prior, we had stopped and met Yvette's parents and 17 year old cockatoo, enjoying their lovely hospitality as well as the talking and singing of the cockatoo. After, we went to the nearby laundromat, where the immediate choice was doing it ourselves or letting the laundromat owner gal do it at $1/lb. She carried the day, and we left en masse and I spotted a bakery across the street. In we went for a late morning snack. After that, we went to a local bar, where we salsa danced to great music from an old juke box, played pool, ate yet more local food, and yes, had a bit to imbibe. We learned all about the local PR liquor shots here; don't think I've seen that much beer consumed in ages (not by the author, of course. He had to have a steady hand to film all the goings on. That's believable, right?). This went on until 6:30 pm, when we finally left to pick up our laundry (the laundromat closed at 7 pm) and return to Boqueron. We put ours in the dinghy and were ready to continue our adventures in paradise. The street scene here picks up Thursday thru Sunday, with live bands playing in many of the local bar/restaurants and dancing in the streets. Joe introduced us to bacalaitos, which are flat codfish fritters: salted codfish in flour and spices, then deep fried. A cardiologist's nightmare, but oh, so good. They're about 15"-16" diameter, and we were fine sharing one, but where one is good enough, two must be better? A bit much at that point, as we then turned around and went into the BBQ place for a chicken dinner. When that was done, we had our choice of bars and music and I've got to say, the Admiral has improved her salsa dancing quite a bit.... See what can happen when you've got a bit of laundry to do? We all agreed this was "the best damn laundry day ever!"

3-1 Update

We're still in Boqueron and it appears that our departure will be delayed for a few days. The issue is weather. There's a strong cold front that should reach the northern Bahamas today and travel E-ESE. If we left tomorrow across the Mona passage for the approximate 415 nm run to Great Inagua Island, that front would greet us on arrival with 35-40 knot winds and high seas. No thank you; we'll wait a bit. At this time of year, fronts are a cyclical occurrence, some stronger than others. For passage planning, the trick is to try to time departure and arrival to avoid the peak wind conditions and allow enough time to anchor some place that affords protection from the prevailing wind direction, especially in the low lying islands like the Bahamas. The challenge is that those fronts often don't behave the way the forecast predicts them to, hence a margin of safety is also called for. Since we have internet (slow but, hey...), we pull our weather forecasts from a variety of sources, including SSB and VHF as well. One day at a time...patience. The good news is that it's been raining every day and our water tanks are full; the rain catchment system works beautifully. Sue's been cooking up a storm, and we also are walking around quite a bit. This is a weekend town. Most places are closed Monday through Thursday so it's quiet at night as everyone prepares for another long party weekend.
Pic: anchorage as seen from shoreline

2-24 Boqueron

Pos: N18deg01.31min / W067deg10.57min. We had a lovely sail in S-SE winds 10-15 knots and anchored in 12' just off the beach. It's been a while since we've had a nice sail without the motor on, and we'll stage here for our run across the Mona passage to the Bahamas. From east to west, we've really enjoyed this south coast of PR, and highly recommend it to anyone considering coming this way. There are dozens of places to explore; busy towns or isolated anchorages, and lots of hidey holes should the weather change. It'd be easy to spend a lot of time here.
Movie: entering Boqueron anchorage

2-23 Isla Maygueyes, La Parguera

Pos: N17deg58.23min/ W067deg03.00min. Well, winds aren't forecast to return for a few more days, so we burnt more diesel and motored to La Parguera, a small community named after a type of snapper. Colorful houses line the mangroves, and there are many small cays and reefs just offshore. We anchored in 14' after going down the 2.5 nm channel between cays to approach the town. Of note, the #4 red channel markers on our Navionics chart had been mis-charted; it was correctly shown on the CM-93 charts. Read the water; it's amazingly crystal clear coming in. There is no public dinghy dock in town so we tied up to a pole found in the mangroves near a small public boat launch area we were told the locals used and threw a stern anchor out. The first few blocks off the water had many bars, restaurants and shops, including the M & M supermarket which did have a nice, but very limited, selection of goods. We eventually found our way to the Puerto Parguera Cafe Restaurant for a late afternoon snack.
Pic: The mangrove shoreline is built up with houses and business over the water.

2-20 Cayos de Cana Gorda (Guilligan's Island), Guanica

Pos: N17deg56.78min/ W066deg52.49min. Last night was rolly. Nothing we couldn't endure, but the weather forecast for later today and tonight is for W-NW winds and possible squalls, which would put us on a lee shore. Not a good thing. In looking things over yesterday, we couldn't quite figure out where to land the dinghy to walk to the lighthouse; with the ferry at the dock and lots of people at the beach, landing at same sandy beach was out. So...with the weather forecast as an excuse to get away from the rolling, we upped anchor and motored (again, no wind) here to Gilligan's Island. It's calm, beautiful, has no roll, and is, we think, well protected from the expected weather change. I donned my wet suit and scraped a few dozen tiny barnacles from the hull; I'm sure our hull speed will increase substantially....

2-19 Update

We've enjoyed our stay here in Salinas. We've walked to the Selectos market and downtown, stopping at the Banco Popular ATM. Bam, instant cash, unlike many of the places we've been this last year (Trinidad). We've met some lovely folks; Bruce and Connie of sv Ventanas, and ate a BBQ dinner at the Snack Bar at the marina with them Fri night. After, we had a drink at Sal Pa'Dentro, and Anna hung the flag we had given her in a great spot in front of the bar. If you see a pink flamingo flag with drinks about to be served, look a wee bit harder and you'll see "Infini," and our names on the flag. We were told our anchor chain would be quite fouled and that we would be chipping growth off it after 4 days. Not so; we pulled our chain to stage a bit further away from the main anchorage and it was all good. The manatees around here are awesome, and very inquisitive. My guess is that they're used to being fed. This morning, we motored (no wind) to Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island), and plan to walk to the lighthouse tomorrow.

2-14 Valentine's Day in Salinas

Well, no rest for the weary. We did a bit (actually, a good bit...) of varnishing this morning and took a dip after. For dinner, we walked a few minutes from the marina to La Barkita where we enjoyed a lovely dinner. It's a local place that serves traditional PR food. Sue ordered conch mojo style and I ordered mofongo stuffed with seafood. Mofongo is a highly regarded national food dish here. It's made by mashing green plantains and mixing a bunch of ingredients; in my dish, it was stuffed with conch, octopus, mussel, shrimp, fish and a lobster tail. Yumm. To top things off, Sue was presented a long stem red rose. I tried to convince her that I had arranged it, but let's just say she stopped laughing long enough to not choke on her beer.

2-11 Salinas

Pos: N17deg57.34min/ W066deg17.50min. As it was only about 5 miles distant, we motored to Salinas, staying behind the mangrove cays and not even putting out the headsail. We entered the channel and found the water depth about 9 feet to the inner lagoon. There is a Yacht Club here, as well as many sail and power boats, but lots of space to anchor in depths of 9'-10'. In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the Sal Pa Dentro bar and met Ana, the owner and SSCA host here. (For those readers who met him, unfortunately, her husband, Jean, passed away in Dec 2016). The bartender, Jesse, as well as Ana were quite congenial and helped get us orientated as to what's around. We'll go exploring tomorrow.

2-10 Cayos Caribea, Bahia de Jobos, Puerto Rico

Pos: N17deg55.45min/ W066deg13.16min. In view of last night's lack of sleep, we departed at 0530. Yes, it was dark, but one of the reasons we picked Chiva Bay in the first place was that entry and egress, even in the dark, is easy as it's a wide open bay with no obstructing reef to avoid. We motorsailed in light winds to this mangrove surrounded area, and entered one of the wide passes that afford easy entry. Dolphins surfaced to greet us and we anchored in 10' of water behind the cay. There's a huge power plant nearby, and an equally as large concrete plant that we passed just around the corner; reminders that paradise has it's price. We slept as if the boat was hauled. The moon was full (see our FB picture taken 2-11), the colors of the sky were beautiful and, not withstanding the power plant, the surrounding scenery and distant hills and mountains appeared amazing.

2-9 Chiva Bay, Vieques

Pos: N18deg06.63min/ W065deg23.18min. We had a single reef in the main and about 1/2-3/4 jib flying almost dead downwind in 15-20, gusts to 28 knots of wind and reached this anchorage in good time. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, what looks inviting on the chart is not so on arrival. I'd guess it's because of this time of year, but the SE-ESE swells wrapped around the small island that we thought would offer some protection (but didn't), and we rolled horribly to the cross swell, all night. It was a bit late to go further west towards Sun Bay, and we also considered that that area had two reports of dinghy and motor thefts these last few months as reported in the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, so we sucked it up and made the best of it. Ugly stuff.
Pic: Ah...Sue baked some banana and blueberry (yes fresh!) muffins for the freezer. Love them with our morning coffee.

2-6 Culebra

Pos: N18deg18.32min/ W065deg17.90min. We departed Brewers Bay, St Thomas for the 22 nm run to Culebra at 0730 hours. Weather forecast was for E-ESE wind 13-16 knots, and that's exactly what we got. Our speed was 5.5-6.5 knots, and we found ourselves at our GPS waypoint south of Grampus Banks in good time. As we entered the channel, I commented that there were a lot more boats at anchor than I had envisioned. Upon entry at Culebra, Customs must be notified, as St Thomas is a duty free port, and Culebra isn't. My call to Puerto Rico Customs was timely and efficient, and I received another call from Culebra Customs shortly thereafter. To ease entry requirements, as well as forego an in-person interview (still an option of the Customs Officials, though), a US Customs Decal is necessary, as is participation in the SVRS (Small Vessel Reporting System) Program. Have your Passport number handy, answer a few questions, and voila, you're entered into the system. The afternoon winds have increased to the high teens, making launching the dinghy a bit more of an adventure, so we may wait until the very early morning hours for a bit of calm before doing so and going exploring. Btw, for those following our position reports, without reliable internet we've been unable to post our positions, so have caught up a bit from here, but dates and locations have been "massaged" as Telnet only allows a three day window for reporting current positions; uh, we may have missed that by about a month...
Pic: Culebra and Vieques were used by the military for war maneuvers in the past. Flamenco Beach has a few rusty tanks the locals have painted.

2-1 Francis Bay

We've been on the move. But, while anchored in Charlotte Amalie, we did a laundry at the Washboard Laundromat. It's a few blocks from the dinghy dock at Yacht Haven Grand, and is reputedly the least expensive laundromat in the Eastern Caribbean. Wash and dry (self-serve) for a small load cost less than $5.00. One morning, we dinghied over to the dock area near the USCG jetty and walked to a lovely bakery (name forgotten), for delicious sweets. It's a bit of a run, but we also dinghied to St Thomas Propane, located in Krum Bay, where a fill for one of our 20 pound tanks cost $23.00. On the way back, we stopped at Crown Bay Marina to go to the chandlery there, as well as topped off several jerry jugs with diesel ($3.17/gallon) and gasoline. For those needing it, friends of ours filled their FW tanks there at $.16/gallon. We had a nice get together at the Tap and Still with Bill and Tracy of sv Zephyr. Charlotte Amalie got pretty crowded with cruise ships; 3 at the dock and 1 in the bay; it was time to leave. We motored to Christmas Cove, coincidentally seeing our friend Richard (Sea Level) leaving as we approached. After two nights there, we motor sailed to here, and are awaiting better weather before heading back to St Thomas. Hokan and Anna of sv Unicorn stopped by to chat and we've visited with Reality Check (Ken and Lori), Allegro (Lee and Sharon), Gosi (Tom and Barbara) and today will be seeing Phil and Norma (Minnie B) for happy hour aboard. A lovely spot, this.

1-19 St Thomas

We've finally been able to move! After 15 days, the winds have abated (actually, they're almost light and variable) so we slipped our buoy lines and have motored over to Charlotte Amalie, Long Bay in St Thomas. 'Big City?' time. There, we'll do a laundry, and I have some engine work I want to do. We'll also do a bit of exploring; more to come.

1-18 Great art and Seeing an old friend

This morning we joined Ken and Lori for the short walk to Drunk Bay. The rocky beach art/sculptures/totems/cairns, are made with rocks, shells and sea flotsam. Very interesting and creative; the windward side of the island beautiful.
We had been trying to get together with a friend of ours since we got to St John. Between the weather and Doug's work schedule, that didn't happen until today. As Doug mentioned in his FB picture,we had met many years ago in French Polynesia, then didn't see each other until South Africa years later. Typical cruiser's life. It was great to catch up. Doug's home port for the last 17 years has been St John, with extended periods away during his solo circumnavigation. Lunch was a cheeseburger at Skinny Legs, and we swapped stories over a few beers. It was great seeing Doug, who is now, I might add, a dirt dweller. His former boat, Fellow Traveler, has sold, and Doug is now rehabbing a small house he bought on island.

1-17 Ram Head and Coral Bay

The hike of Ram Head Trail was a great morning workout. The views were great and give a good perspective of the windward side toward the BVI's. The cactus are interesting and plentiful. For our afternoon fun we joined Ken & Lori and took the bus from Salt Pond Bay to Coral Bay. There, we enjoyed a very nice lunch at the Aqua Bistro, then returned by bus back. It's great to see some more of the St John area; not overcrowded and built up.

1-12 Island tour

It was time to do a bit of provisioning as we've been here in Great Lameshur Bay for over a week. There's been a trough nearby, and winds and sea conditions have been far from optimal for moving around. Our neighbors, Ken & Lori of sv Reality Check, suggested a ferry ride to St Thomas, followed by a lot of local bus rides to stop, pick up stuff, and see the sights. We picked them up by dinghy at 0830 and Lori had arranged a taxi to pick us up here at Great Lameshur and take us to the ferry dock in Cruz Bay. The ride over to St Thomas only takes a few minutes, and Ken was a great tour guide as we went from one end of St. Thomas to another. After a lunch stop for Mexican food at Gringo's, we continued our bus ride/tour, finally ending up on the 5:00 ferry back to St John. We walked to the Starfish Market for provisions, and took a taxi back to here, arriving back aboard at 1930 hours. It was a long day, but a wonderful way to experience St Thomas and St John, with special thanks to Ken & Lori for being such great company!