The Best and Worst Arrival


Feb. 25-March 2: This is all about our arrival into the U.S. from Bimini but to give you the proper perspective, I have to back up a bit. We spent six days in Nassau waiting on a 3 day weather window that would take us to Chub Cay, in the Berry Islands, across the Bahama Bank to Bimini and then on to Ft. Lauderdale. When it looked like we would have at least two days we decided to move on and get to Bimini so that when the wind and seas permitted we would cross the Gulf Stream.

010Now Chub is usually a great stop. Wonderful floating docks, experienced dock hands and a great restaurant. That it is, it is a great stop when they have electricity. An hour after we fueled and docked the power went out. Twice we were assured it would be back on “soon” and the restaurant had a generator so no problem there. Well, apparently the generator went out and the restaurant didn’t open. We ate dinner on board and finally went to bed in the heat because we needed to get up at 3:00 for a 4:00 am departure to get to Bimini in daylight. The power never did come back on.

Departing in the dark is always a tense experience but we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. 001

A chart plotter (a boat GPS) makes it  and we had a long -13 hour- easy crossing under power arriving in Bimini by 4:30 023only to find out the best restaurant in Alice Town was closed. Dinner was the most disappointing one on the entire trip and for those of you who know Ed, this is a serious problem particularly after our experience on Chub.

We intended to stay over in Bimini at least a day to recover our lack of sleep and the long crossing, but the weather forecast in the morning indicated the next day, Wednesday, Feb. 25 would be the only day we could cross for as far as the forecast went which was a week. Still not totally recovered, we were not eager to stay another week so we topped off the fuel and departed for Ft. Lauderdale at 8:00 am.

Our crossing started out even better than the forecast. 022

We did get 5 foot northerly swells in the Gulf Stream but even that subsided once we got closer to Florida but then the seas became confused. In nautical terms, this means the waves come from one direction and the wind from another. Everything gets mixed up and controlling the direction of the boat is a challenge. And we were functioning on two long days on the water and one very short night of sleep (in Chub).

Now understand, Port Everglades, know to all of us as Ft. Lauderdale, is a very active port, cruise ships, freighters, and all sizes of pleasure craft come in here. So the really demanding part started just as we approached the outer marker for the channel into Ft. Lauderdale. A very big container ship was also coming in under the guidance of a pilot 040boat. Add his wake to the already difficult seas and Ed was trying to make the 3:00 opening of the only bridge before the marina.

Needless to say, we didn’t make it so joined all the large sailboats and motor yachts standing off in the harbor waiting a ½ hour for the next opening. This is tense work making sure you don’t run into someone or someone doesn’t run into you. I don’t take the helm under these circumstances, it is all on Ed.

Then we heard over the radio that a 120 foot motor yacht was approaching the bridge under tow. He asked for an emergency opening and the bridge tender said all vessels north bound could follow him through if we “bunched up.” Imagine boats jockeying to get through the bridge-a very tense, tight situation.

Next, our turn into Pier 66 marina. We’ve been here many times, but not since they refurbished the marina and put in new docks. The person directing us to our slip assumed we knew the entrance had changed. We did not and we weren’t the only ones. The sports fishing boat ahead of us, backed up and came as close to hitting us as we have encountered. They have two engines to maneuver with we don’t and only by yelling at them, did we get their attention. Close call.

This marina is filled with very large luxury motor yachts, including Steven Speilberg’s 200029 million dollar yacht Seven Seas. Not a yacht you want to damage. (You can charter it for a mere 1.3 million per week. That includes staff, but not fuel.) It is very difficult to see around these huge yachts and we couldn’t find our slip. We turned around, headed back out to the waterway and radioed the marina for clearer instructions. When after this second attempt, we got to our slip there was a dockhand to help tie up. BUT he didn’t get the stern line and we came very close (at least it seemed that way) to hitting Brian France’s (owner and CEO of NASCAR) 107 foot yacht Finish Line docked beside us.001

I must say kudos to Ed. He handled all these situations with outward calm but later admitted how tense ( I think he’d admit to scared) he was. We were exhausted, more mentally than physically. Just one thing after another. Fortunately we had a great dinner at Grille 66 and lots of red wine. Looking over the docks on the way to dinner, we realized we were the smallest boat in the marina by far as you can see. In fact we were 034the only sailboat. Wonder why they tucked us at the far end of the marina?

One more problem remained. We clear customs and immigration with a phone call since we are registered in the Frequent Boaters program but since our last arrival into the US, Ed has a new passport and the next day we had to go to Customs (a $20.00 taxi ride) to show his passport!

We were happy to sit and recover for a few days in sunny south Florida.

Janet and Ed on Sable

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Pigs Bite


Friday the 13th: Rules for visiting swimming pigs008

Rule 1: Take food. Lots of food, whatever scraps, and leftovers you have. These freckled pigs are hand-fed by lots of boaters and they’re greedy. As soon as they hear a dinghy engine, they’re primed.

Rule 2: 006Let the pigs swim out to you. Preferably in water deep enough so they can stand. They may stick their big ole snouts at you to beg and open their mouths to show off lots of sharp teeth, but they can’t climb into your dinghy or step on your feet. So you have the upper hand and can make a fast get-away if necessary.

Rule 3: Arrive in a group of boats. You will have less attention paid to you and that’s a good thing. Being descended upon by a herd (or whatever a bunch of pigs are called) is definitely intimating, even if most of them are still piglets. Even one sow outweighs most anyone and they don’t move easily.

Rule 4: Get your camera out only once you’ve fed them. Anything in your hand is food according to pig perception and a hungry sow does not discriminate.

We broke all the rules. This wasn’t our first time to go to Big Major to visit the pigs. I mean, how many places can you go and be met by swimming pigs? We had a perfectly fine day to take this on again, so we hauled our dinghy out of the cockpit locker, heaved it onto the dock, inflated it with the foot pump, and slid it back in the water. This part took an hour. Then we proceeded to load it: life jackets, plastic zip-lock bag with camera and cell phone, towel, paddles, motor, spare battery (we have an electric outboard), water bottle and crackers for our consumption.

We were the only dinghy approaching the beach and as soon as a big sow saw us she got up and started for our dinghy. That’s when we realized we had forgotten to bring food for the pigs. Rather than wait for her, we beached the dinghy and I jumped out and pulled it onto the beach. I wanted photos. Then what looked like a big sandpile unfolded into a dozen little and medium sized 006piglets, jogging toward us. The sow got aggressive. Guess she wanted to make sure she got her share before we were so caught up by the cute little piggies that we ignored her. We know these pigs get aggressive, last visit one tried to climb into the dinghy to steal our red gas can thinking it was 017eatable. Our main concern then was having a hoof stab the inflatable and we’d be without transportation back to the marina. Like the baboons in Africa, these pigs are opportunistic.

This time, as I was trying to get the dinghy further onto the beach, this big sow stepped on my bare foot. I now carry a hoof-shaped bruise. Pushing a sow must be like cow-tipping; it usually doesn’t work. This gal weighed a lot more than me. I remembered our cheese crackers and I quickly tore this open and threw them as far onto the beach as I could. It wasn’t enough. She came back with a vengeance and bit my arm. I think she thought the camera I had in my hand was food and she wanted it. Our saving grace was the arrival of two more dinghys. 005The pigs and mamas took off in search of more food, swimming out to meet the boats. I wrapped my bleeding arm with Ed’s handkerchief and all the way 003back to the marina, I was thinking of all the things pigs put in their mouths. My injuries will heal but the scar on my forearm will be a reminder to be armed with a big bag of food scraps and to stay in the dinghy and make them first swim out to us. I mean, after all, what’s as unique as swimming pigs!015

This was only the morning and not the end of the story of Friday the 13th, but that will be a separate post.

Janet and Ed on Sable

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When the Wind Blows


Feb. 7, 2015. Those of you who don’t sail, may think this is a good thing for a sailboat, but it all depends on the direction and strength of the wind as well as the height of the seas. Sometimes it means staying in port longer than you want to. So it was on Great Harbor on the very north end of the Berry Islands.

After one false start, we had a very successful crossing from Grand Bahama Island. Honestly we weren’t looking forward to Great Harbor. 025We had last been there two years ago and the best part was moving on. We were most pleased to find that things have changed. The marina facilities have been upgraded, the staff is competent, helpful and very friendly. The only thing missing to make this a really great stop is a decent restaurant. There is one, of sorts, at the top of a small rise with a pool. But the pool is empty except for some green slime and the deck is littered with dead palm fronds and leaves. Not pretty. For $12.00 you can get a decent hamburger. The first night we did enjoy the Grill and Chill with lots of the other sailors. 005

011So, on day 2 waiting on a change in the weather, we decided to rent a jeep (actually a Geo Tracker) and tour the island. This lovely vehicle was $40.00 including gas. A really good deal if you’re looking for adventure. I agreed only if Ed was willing to drive. The first option looked better but wouldn’t start, the second one had a flat tire, but our little red one ran, sort of.

First the convertible top didn’t latch so the first wind gust blew it back. When this happened, Ed made a hilarious remark. He said, “See if that did any damage.” The driver’s window was permanently down which was a good thing since there was no window crank or door handle on the inside. 002The gear shift was so mushy that it even took Ed awhile to finally find two forward gears and reverse. The emergency brake worked but the headlights and turn signals didn’t work at all. The emergency flashers did which could have been useful if we ventured out after dark; we didn’t.

So, off we went from one end of the island to the other. No difficult even without a map, there really is only one road plus the one that circles the town of Bullocks Harbor. We discovered everything the island had to offer including beautiful beaches.

017We found the Beach Club restaurant on the east shore. It is entirely open air and with the wind howling we didn’t stop to eat. 019Next the airport, but our best discovery was finding a ’74 VW Beetle the same color as our ’67 Stewball.

009Ed stopped so I could take a photo. We met the owners and were invited in to their lovely house on the east shore where we could observe the white caps that were keeping us in Great Harbor for this extra day. All in all just another adventure in Paradise.

The following day we would leave for Chub, one day too early as we discovered. Friends who stayed behind made a wise choice. It was a long, rough ride down the east coast of the Berrys. 009

On to Nassau,

Jan and Ed on Sable

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Go-No Go-Go-No Go


Jan. 29, 2015. 006This doesn’t happen very often but sometimes it’s the only thing to do. The first plan was to cross from Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Great Harbor at the north end of the Berry Islands. For us, this is a 9 hour run at 7 knots. The entrance to Great Harbor is a bit tricky and you need good daylight. So, got up at 5:30, checked www. Windfinder.com, and found the weather-wind and seas to be marginal for this long crossing. Made the decision to wait until Friday and went back to bed for an hour.

Now up again, checked the weather by going outside and changed our minds. But now it was 8:45 and if we left immediately AND nothing slowed us down we could still make it. So we scurried back to the boat and got off. The forecast was 15-20 knots from the NE. This would put the wind behind us and if nothing more, we could motor-sail. However, the wind was 25 knots on the nose (S) and seas 3-4 feet mostly from the SE. Not very comfortable but doable. So we decided to carry on.

After an hour, our speed had dropped to 6.3 knots, wind had increased and so had the seas. There was no way we would make our destination in 9 hours and sun set was 5:57 pm. Ed recalculated and we would not arrive until 6:25, well after sunset.

We turned around, called the marina to make sure they had a slip for us, changed our reservation at Great Harbor and were back in Lucaya by 11:45 002tied up in a slip with only one disaster. We left in such a hurry, not everything was stowed as it should be and a glass coaster few across the cabin, breaking into many pieces on the floor and setees. While underway, I swept the floor but once in port, I vacuumed everything so we do not get glass splinters in our feet from the floor or our bottoms form the seat cushions. We plan to go tomorrow. According to all reports, even the local Bahamians, the winds are to die down and the seas as well. So, we will be up again at 5:30 and plan for a first light departure of 6:45. But that’s sailing.019

Whether you go, or whether you stay depends on the weather.

Ed and Jan on Sable

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Throw Off the Lines


Jan. 17, 2015: I thought I’d share some of my musings as we start on this next adventure.

001First, I take off my rings and cut my fingernails; these hands have a lot of work to do. Nail polish and long nails are not part of it. I’ve realized if you’re compulsive about clean, don’t like wet and must have wrinkle-free clothes, you are not going to enjoy sailing. No matter what, water is part of boating. Decks wet from dew, drips from a hose, or water onboard, you will find your clothes, at least parts of them, damp. It’s life onboard. Hair is styled by the wind047 and “matching clothes” has a new meaning. On a boat, if it’s clean; it matches.

Halifax Harbor 019Throwing off the lines isn’t as quick and easy as it sounds. First there is provisioning (for me). On Sable I have a nice big freezer so we carry steak, lamb chops, hamburger, frozen vegetables and even potatoes. Then of course there is wine. And beer, when the weather gets warmer. Then there is checking the engine, coolant, oil, transmission (for Ed). Then all the navigational instruments and radio. Since we haven’t been out since our trip last year, there is that bit of anxiety. Will we remember everything we need to do to look like experienced sailors? What have we forgotten? Whatever it is, we will go without or buy it along the way. Ready except to check and recheck weather.

Finally on Jan. 18 the sunrise was beautiful and at 7:47 we were away from the dock with no problem and no help. 006

Lines are stowed, electric cord coiled. Weather is cold (for fair weather sailors like us) but wind was behind us and it was comfortable. A short day to Titusville, 47.6 miles. Sun is shining and so are we. A successful send off.043

“Oh, oh, what a beautiful day/Oh, oh, won’t you come out and play/Think of what you might miss/It don’t get better than this.”

More to come.

J&E on Sable

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Traveling with a Plan


Oct. 5, 2014. 006We have been in Paris more than a month now. This is the first blog I’ve written and it’s not about Paris. It’s about traveling to southern Germany and what we have discovered about ourselves and travel.

This may sound like a travel-log, but for us, it was following -or perhaps leading- in the footsteps of the main characters in our novel-in-progress. We know we most enjoy traveling when we have a goal for the travel. Our rally through Africa (May, 2014) was like that and so was this trip. We went with a purpose, to experience several different settings for our story.

We took the train to Munich. Arriving during October Fest, 006which for us was only an inconvenience. We rented a car and proceeded to our first stop, Wernberg, Germany near the Czech border (that’s significant to the book.)

014We picked a castle hotel, Hotel Berg Wernberg which dates from 1280. This castle had been a hotel for only 16 years and before that was privately owned. 015Imagine that. We ate our first 2-Michelin Star meal. Once we had selected our meal, we were presented with our personal menu, signed by the chef. 005Our characters, Sam and Renate, spend a weekend here and we came away with many details to add to our book.

The stop in Wernberg actually was planned for another reason. Much of the novel takes place on the U.S. Army base in 1952 in Grafenwoehr some 15 miles from Wernberg. Ed was stationed here for air observer school in 1957-58, and Sam was in 1952. We wanted to get on the base to refresh Ed’s memory (I’m sure Sam remembers it all). 019No more grass airstrip and enlarged barracks houses Germany military as well as U.S. troops.

Mr. Franz Zeilman, from the office of public affairs was our enthusiastic host. He spent much of the day showing us around the base and making sure we had the opportunity to visit the air field and all the areas we wanted to see. The only disappointment was discovering that there is no longer an 033043 Officer’s Club (which does play a role in our book) . The building is there and it is now the (water) Tower View restaurant.  We made one 056more stop in Vilseck.

Next to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Sam and Renate spend a winter weekend and rode the cog train to the top of the Zugspitze. 032We had been here before and it is unchanged. Still a beautiful Alpine village. We walked the same streets, crossing the Loisach river just 040as Sam and Renate did. It’s hard to imagine that this town looks any different now than it did in 1952.

Last stop was Berchtesgaden and the 013Obersalzberg. We really wished we had planned more time for this stop. Since our story involves people who lived here during Hitler’s conversion of the  Obersalzberg into his second seat of power, this was an important stop. It is hard to imagine this 024beautiful, peaceful area as the headquarters for the most horrific regime in modern times. Yet this is the setting his propaganda machine used to portray him as “a friend of the children, close to the people, and a good neighbor”. (by the way, he took over the land and bought out or drove out the owners of the houses for his own purpose.)

Then back to Munich and a train back to Paris. Our on-the-ground research was done. We saw picturesque villages, spectacular 051mountains and met friendly, helpful people. We learned much that will make changes and additions to our novel. And we learned our travels are more meaningful when we have a specific reason for the trip. Guess we’ll just have to continue to write in exotic settings.

006

Jan and Ed

 

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Africa Safari rally is offically over


August 11, 2014. 004Stewball is back. Complete with lots of African dust and dirt, 025but also the 004

 

 

Cuban cigars Marco gave Ed on the rally. Doesn’t look like customs touched anything. Maybe the dirt served a purpose. Today we  left Daytona Beach, Florida where we had spent a week on our sailboat, mostly sweating and sometimes writing. We  received word last Wednesday that Stewball had finally arrived at the warehouse in Port Wentworth, Georgia.

003He left Cape Town, South Africa a few days after we finished our rally through five countries in the south of Africa. Details are available on earlier blogs from May, 2014.

His journey was much longer than our was. He returned via Singapore, through the Panama canal and then up the East coast of the U.S. to arrive in Georgia. He was gone so long we were really beginning to wonder if he decided he liked the wander-life and would ever return.

He refused to start and had to be pushed out of the container. (More evidence that he didn’t want to come home?) Ed had this problem the day after the rally in Cape Town. He is convinced the automatic choke isn’t working. He did get the car running that day but even for Ed, Stewball wouldn’t start today. One more possibility. He is out of gas. Shippers require not much more than fumes in the tank when you leave the car to be containerized and Stewball was running on fumes when we drove to the warehouse in Cape Town.  That trip was several miles longer than we anticipated and I was seriously worried that we’d end up pushing him to the dock. Tomorrow we will fill the tank and try to tow start him. Should be interesting. It would be embarrassing to have our Beetle guru tell us the only problem was lack of fuel. After all, we just finished 5,000 miles of driving, you’d think we knew something about what it takes to keep a car running.

So this rally is over. It was a difficult re-entry. This was our most memorial one yet. We made some wonderful new friends 021

and reconnected with some old ones. We saw life as we had never seen and animals that we only knew from zoos.

Africa is a special place and it grows on you with all  0632.jpgexotic animals and landscapes.Vdub and trees

 

 

 

We were not the only ones who felt this way. Other ralliests described the void we felt as well.

We left Africa and this event with a special memory that won’t fade. Our 38th anniversary was the day the rally ended and we were presented with a limited-edition print from Botswana that everyone had signed. It now hangs in a special spot our foyer and we pass it each time we come into the house.Africa_anniversary_38

So what next? Paris is on the docket for September and we will meet up with some of our rally friends there. We have begun to look at other rallies-after saying this would be our last one.The Alpine Trial? Cape Horn? New Zealand? All possibilities if only time will stand still. We’d return to Africa for another rally in a flash. It will be repeated  in 2017. Are we crazy (as in too old) to plan that far ahead?

Don’t answer that question.

Next blogs will be from the sidewalks of Paris,

Jan and Ed

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