A few days ago in Saint Augustine, Florida, we went and saw a castle called Castillo de San Marcos. It was built in 1695 to protect St. Augustine which is actually the oldest city in the United States. It is a castle that has four corners and a courtyard in the middle. The four corners are filled with earth so they can support the weight of the cannons on top. The fort had a shot furnace. It’s like an oven that heats up cannon balls until they turn red. Then they shoot them at ships to burn them up.
They had a moat around the castle that they put water in when they were under land attack. When it was not filled with water, they put domestic animals in it. This is a video of the fort’s defenses.
The castle was made of coquina stone. Coquina stone is made of tiny sea shells smushed together.
Fort Matanzas was built in 1742 by the Spaniards to guard the southern approach to St. Augustine, Florida. Fort Mantanzas was made entirely out of seashells. This rock is called coquina. This rock held for over 300 years including three days of cannon fire. But over time it eventually started to collapse. It was in ruins for a little under 400 years. Then finally a survey was done on the ruins and the government decided to spend $5,000 to stabilize the fort. When World War I started the funding ceased. In 1924 another fund was made. This included tearing down and rebuilding most of the fort. Today Fort Matanzas is a national park for people to visit.
Truansea made back to the United States before the start of hurricane season. Now where are we headed??? We had originally thought we would sail the Florida Keys and sell the boat in Fort Lauderdale at the end of the summer, but so many cruisers we met said, “You have to do the intracoastal waterway”. We were given tips and ‘must see’ places from many cruisers. They also said it is a good place to sell the boat, so the Truansea crew plans on heading north to the Chesapeake where we will end the sailing part of our journey and sell her. After that, we will pick up our vehicle from Fort Lauderdale and camp our way across the country again, back to Idaho.
It is a strange feeling being back in the US, zipping down the highway in a car with all the conveniences of America at our fingertips. It is also strange to talk on the cell phone again. Grocery stores are wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. All of the strip malls make me dizzy looking at them. So many stores. So much advertising. Everything is big and there is so much of it. It felt good to retreat back to Truansea after our first car trip going to check in at customs at the airport in Ft. Pierce.
During our stay at Harbor Town Marina in Ft. Pierce, we saw a number of boats that we had sailed with in the Bahamas. One of them was a catamaran, Glory Days I, which was on the hard at Harbor View Marina. The last time we saw this boat, we were anchored at Big Majors and they beached themselves in front of us, to avoid sinking, after having a hole punched in their hull during a regatta there. A salvage company was working at pumping the water out and temporarily patching the hull. As you can see from the photo, they appear to be close to getting up and running again.
Glory Days I beached at Big Majors with a hole in their hull.
Glory Days I beached at Big Majors, Bahamas.
Glory Days I, repairs almost complete.
While we were waiting for our new fresh water pump to come in, we took a trip to Fort Lauderdale to visit friends and get a few items out of our car, which is in storage.
When I called one of our friends, Ross and Astrid, in Fort Lauderdale, to see if they would be home that weekend, Ross was going to be home but he was staying at their boat working on projects for the weekend. He invited us to stay on their boat, Commotion, with him. He surely heard the disappointment in my voice when I said, “Sure, we’d love to stay on the boat with you and help with some projects”. I was secretly hoping to stay at a real house, with a real bathroom, and a real kitchen. Of course, we had a great time with him as always. Their boat is very comfortable and we helped him with a couple of boat projects while visiting.
Cole helping with a wiring project on Commotion, a friend’s boat in Fort Lauderdale.
Logan in a lazarette on Commotion. Anyone shorter than 5 feet is a plus for this job.
We all took a break on Commotion Saturday evening to go over to a mutual friend’s house, Lee & Tina’s for dinner. Lee has been working on his boat, In Sync, over the winter and making great progress. The appetizers, dinner and evening were fantastic. Thank you so much Lee and Tina!
We swung by the docks at Riviera, Fort Lauderdale, where we lived a couple of months preparing for the Bahamas. Most of the people were not around that afternoon but we walked the docks and caught up with a few of our old friends there.
We look forward to catching up with all of our Fort Lauderdale friends again at the end of the summer when we return to pick up our car. It was a great place to prepare for our journey. Everyone was instrumental in making the adventure happen for us. Thank you all.
We learned that there was going to be a rocket launch at Canaveral in a couple of days so we bought tickets and took a day to visit the Kennedy Space Center. We had a full day there and staked out a good spot to watch the rocket launch at 5:398pm. Launches often get cancelled due to the weather conditions not being right but we were in luck and saw an Atlas rocket launch. It was definitely the highlight of the day.
Just plain cool displays at the space center.
When we returned to Harbor Town Marina, we were able to spend time with a number of Bahamas boat friends. We were redoing our floors a few pieces at a time at the shelter where people picnic and work on boat projects. Bill on Providence and Steve on Slow Flight were working on a few projects of their own. Mark also put in the new water pump and installed cockpit speakers while we were there.
Friends Bill on left (Providence), Cole, Logan, Christine & Steve on right (Slow Flight),
We were planning on working our way north with them but they wrapped up their boat projects before we did and set sail, giving us daily progress reports and tips on where to anchor and things to see and do along the way.
Another boat, Take Two, was having a number of projects done as well and planned on staying a month. Lambaroo and Chinook were there for a few days as well and we had a get together at the end of the restaurant dock one evening. The kids had fun trying to catch tarpon and hanging out.
Take Two was the only boat still there in our immediate circle by the time we left. As usual, it was hard to say good-bye. I don’t know if you ever get used to saying good-bye in the cruising community.
Tom, on Lucent, returned from the Bahamas a few weeks before we did. He has a dock at his house and had invited us to come dock, stay with him and help with any unfinished boat projects. It was a half-day trip up to Satellite Beach and started out as a sunny, beautiful day. About 1-½ hours before we got to his place, it started to rain, or should I say pour. It poured buckets for an hour. Tom came in his dinghy to guide us the last hour through the canals to his house. He was soaking wet with a big smile on his face when we reached Truansea. We tied his dinghy to the stern of Truansea and he rode with us back to his place. There was so much rain Mark had to get in the dinghy to bail the water out. It was a warm day and a warm rain but the guys without their rain suits started to get chilled so I made hot cocoa for everyone. The joys of having your kitchen in your vehicle!
Parallel parking Truansea at Tom’s dock required a bit of a maneuvering. Tom got in his dinghy and passed a line to the boys on the bow of our boat on starboard while Mark was in our dinghy pushing on the port stern. I put Truansea in reverse briefly a couple of times and we slid right into the spot. Never underestimate the power of a dinghy!
Truansea docked in front of Lucent.
A few weeks ago Tom had also offered his address to receive any packages, parts, mail, etc. for us. One of the parts we ordered was a stator for the wind generator. After we arrived at Tom’s house and opened packages, Tom went into action on the wind generator and Mark removed the remaining floorboards to be refinished. Over the next few days Mark also changed the oil, and replaced a weak settee bench. The wind generator has proven to be a challenge and is going to require another call to the manufacturer to figure it out.
Mark also helped Tom fix his sticky, sliding patio door. This is the second sliding door Mark has helped to fix on this trip, apparently there is no shortage of stuck sliding doors in Florida.
Mark and Tom working on Tom’s sliding patio door.
It is prime boat selling time and we are putting Truansea up for sale now in hopes that by the time we get to the Chesapeake, there will be new owners to take her. Part of selling the boat is taking boat pictures so we also cleared out rooms on the boat one at a time and took photos to put in the listing. During this process, we all found things we had been looking for. Amazing how items can be misplaced in 37 feet. Boat washing is a regular occurrence, but we also washed our boat again at Tom’s house to take external pictures for the listing.
Did Mark do a great job on refinishing the floors or what?
Tom’s house was a fantastic place to get ‘recharged’. Having use of a dock, garage, pool, house kitchen, house washing machine, house bathroom, etc. was just plain enjoyable. We shared some fantastic meals with Tom, mainly making things in the oven that we could not make in our boat omnia oven over the last 8 months. Tom gave us full use of his car as well, which is incredibly helpful.
What kind of a person keeps their motorcycle in their foyer? Someone as cool as Tom does!
Our mail from Idaho arrived on May 22nd and the only thing I wasn’t expecting was Florida boat registration paperwork. Both the sailboat and dinghy were due on the 23rd – the next day! Strange, I thought, why the 23rd. That’s not when we bought either of the boats. What is so special about May 23rd? It finally dawned on me. It is Mark’s birthday. Yes, this month it really is his birthday. Last month you readers may remember we thought it was May but it was only April. Tom took me to the local registration office so I could get the boat stickers and we swung in to pick up a key lime pie as a birthday cake of sorts. It seemed the appropriate birthday cake here in Florida.
The next day, on Mark’s birthday, we said farewell to Tom and headed north again. As are most cruisers, Tom is so helpful, attentive to our questions and just plain fun to be around. He only met us a couple months ago but opened up his home to us. It was hard to say goodbye.
Tom, thank you so much for your hospitality and all the projects you helped with on Truansea. You helped to make the next phase of our journey possible.
As we cruised north that day, there were security warnings on the VHF radio. When there is a shuttle launching at Canaveral, they close certain waterways to traffic. It was just last Wednesday that we watched an Atlas rocket launch. As the day progressed, the winds increased and there was storm activity so they scrubbed the launch.
The next evening we anchored off of Fort Matanzas and were on the deck of Truansea fishing and Logan said, “Look at the rocket!”. It was the rocket launch that had been scrubbed the night before. We had a fantastic view of it. We were lucky to have been able to see two rocket launches passing through the area. The fort was a good historical introduction to St. Augustine which we are headed to next.
Rock contral after launch. To the right is Fort Matanzas constructed in 1740. You can barely see the rocket at the top of the picture. It was an amazing scene to see the how far we’ve gone in the span of only 273 years.
We departed from Foxtown on Thursday after topping off on fuel and headed to Great Sale Cay. Had we known we were going to be towed the last 40 miles of our crossing, I could have passed on adding those last 5 gallons to our fuel reserves, but who knew we were about to experience an engine failure that would leave us stranded in the Gulf Stream.
Storm clouds billowing up behind us in the distance.
The winds were light leaving Foxtown so we motored until we were north of Great Sale, then turned south and were able to raise our sails until we reached the anchorage on the south side of the island. No sooner had we dropped our anchor than we were hailed by our friends on s/v Makana. They were continuing straight through to Ft. Pierce. Taking the opportunity to sail with another boat, we raised our anchor and headed east.
On the way across the bank Logan put out a fishing rod. I was quite certain all we would catch on the bank would be barracuda but when something struck our bait and started spooling out the line, we quickly realized we had something much bigger than another barracuda. Christine put the boat in neutral while I reeled in a 2 1/2 foot long Mutton Snapper. Christine put the boat back in gear and I lit the grill!
We watched the sun set on yet another beautiful day in the Bahamas after finishing our fresh fish dinner. Nearly off the Little Bahama Bank, we thought life couldn’t get any better. Little did we know the day was about to take a turn for the worse!
Cole watching the sun set.
Sailing towards another sunset.
Christine and the boys were sleeping when the engine temperature alarm sounded at 11:30 that night waking everyone to the unpleasant reality that our engine had overheated. Christine pulled the kill switch on the engine after being abruptly woken up and took the helm while I went below to look at the engine.
The engine compartment was awash in coolant. We hailed Makana on the radio and they waited while I searched for the source of the leak. It didn’t take long to realize the bearings on the fresh water pump had let go. After replacing the lift pump and the raw water pump last month, the freshwater pump decided to go as well. We wouldn’t be motoring back to Florida.
Coolant sprayed throughout the engine compartment.
Luckily the wind had picked up somewhat in the night and we were able to raise the jib for what appeared to be a long downwind run back to the states. We weren’t moving quickly, but we were sailing and we had a buddy boat with us as we entered the early morning hours of Friday the 10th. Lightening had been flashing off in the distance but now seemed to be gaining on us as we crawled our way closer to the coast. We had bought towing insurance from Towboat US before leaving for the Bahamas and though we were too far out of range to hail them on the VHF or call them on our cell phone, luckily, we also had an Inmarsat satellite phone on board. Their web site is www.explorersatellite.com. That phone was the ace up our sleeve.
Christine using the Sat phone earlier calling friends to tell them we were crossing to Florida.
We pointed its antenna skyward and dialed Towboat US to arrange for a tow back to Ft. Pierce. We were told our policy only covered the first $50 of the tow and we would have to pay the balance. Minutes ticked by the 1 hour balance on our sat phone as we sorted out the error with Towboat US. After finding the error, they assured us the tow would be covered. We had called them shortly after 12:30am and were no closer to getting a tow 2 hours later. We were still too far out and would have to get closer before they would send out a boat and needed time to assemble the crew.
A few squalls came upon us with thunder, lightening, clocking wind and sheets of rain. It was disorienting when they hit and took great effort to keep sailing on our bearing.
At about the same time, Makana, who had been at our side this whole time started having problems with their chart plotter. They were reasonably concerned with their own safety, but my heart sank when they said they needed to leave us and make it across the gulf stream as quickly as they could. They would still be in radio contact for a time and might actually have been able to relay messages for us as they neared the coast, but our situation was discouraging as their lights grew dimmer in the distance.
Then the wind left us too.
Unsure about the arrival of our tow and now without even the wind to move us, we drifted into the gulf stream. Christine had 6 AIS targets at one point on our chartplotter and she could only visually see the lights of 1 boat. If we were to lose our last VHF (our other 2 VHFs failed earlier in the evening), we would have no way to hail an approaching ship and no way to maneuver. Rick on Makana suggested using our dinghy as a means of propulsion until our tow arrived and we concluded we had little choice but to start the process of putting the dinghy in the water. We dropped our sails and started the process of hoisting our dinghy over the side. I put on my harness and tether as we began the awkward task of lowering the dinghy into the swells and attaching the outboard.
Lashing the dingy to the side of Truansea gave us power to maneuver after the wind died.
Before we left the Bahamas, I had a discussion about designing boats with a boat builder. He explained how the process of building a boat follows what is called a design spiral where each decision you make about the design of a boat brings you closer to the outcome of your final product. I realized that our crossing was also starting to spiral and I didn’t like the direction that it was heading. I asked Christine to call the Coast Guard and give them our position. Makana had moved out of VHF range from us and was therefore not able to relay. While we were not in imminent danger and the Coast Guard could not come to our aid, they did begin relaying our position to Towboat US. It was also a relief to know they would maintain contact with us every half hour until our tow arrived. We continued the process of lashing the dinghy to the side of the boat and were able to move ahead at close to 3 knots until the wind lightly filled in again.
The hours ticked by as we moved ever so slowly toward the coast and at last we could see the first light of day in the east. We inched our way across the gulf stream trying not to drift to far from our rum line.
We heard the hails from the Towboat US captain as he zeroed in on our position. Shortly after 8:00am, I slipped the tow line around our bow cleat. We were so glad for the assistance I didn’t ask where the crew was that he had been waiting to assemble. Six more hours passed as we were towed the last long miles to Ft. Pierce.
We were visited by a blackpole warbler on the way to Florida.
Low on fuel, the captain of our towing vessel passed us off to another boat for the final escort into the marina. It was with a sigh of relief that we stepped off our boat at Harbor View Marina hours after leaving Foxtown.
We cleared customs but not before I had placed the order for a new water pump!
On my last Abacos post, I left off with us arriving in Hope Town on Elbow Cay. We ended up staying there close to a week. It was simply a charming town.
Walking the streets of Hope Town.
There were a few other boat families here that we spent some time with. One is a family aboard s/v Take Two with 5 kids and a cat that has been living aboard for 5 years now. They are an extremely organized, efficient family and just plain fun to hang around with. Their blog site is taketwosailing.com if you want to check it out.
Boat friends from s/v Take Two.
A couple of friends from Take Two came over for boat school one day to build a radio.
Another family we have spent time with at previous anchorages is s/v Makana. They have logged a lot of miles and are a wealth of knowledge.
Boys swinging with their friend on s/v Makana.
We enjoyed some fabulous meals together, had fun swinging on the halyards and swimming in the pools. You can learn more about them at makanatours.com.
Hope Town has a fantastic museum which we really enjoyed.
Cole and Logan in the back. Mark, Christine and Bill (s/v Providence) in the front. We all rented a gulf cart one day and explored Elbow Cay.
Four of us leaving Hope Town together. Providence is in the lead, followed by Moonshadow, Slow Flight and us.
After Hope town, we sailed over to Marsh Harbor to re-provision. It was definitely a big city. Logan put it best when he said, “Good thing we stopped here to start acclimating us to what it is going to be like going back to the states.” We were in awe of all the food and the big grocery store.
Mermaid Reef on the north side of Marsh Harbor was fantastic. We were swarmed by a variety of fish and thoroughly enjoyed the long reef that we could swim out to easily from shore.
There was a big variety of fish on Mermaid Reef.
I never tire of watching the fish.
After Marsh Harbor we continued on to Man-O-War. Cruisers say that every island is different and it is so true. This island really states how different they can be. You’d have to see it and the people for yourself to understand it! We anchored north of town near a beautiful beach with good snorkeling and good fishing. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of fresh seafood.
Logan with a starfish.
Logan running on a path at Man-O-War.
This cracked us up. Any ideas on why someone would number their steps to their house?
Providence hooked a cable with his anchor. Mark is in the dinghy freeing it.
Next we moved on to Guana Cay for a day then to Treasure Cay.
Treasure Cay’s beautiful beach.
Finally, we sailed to Green Turtle Cay which required going through Whale Cay Channel. The Whale, as it is called locally, can be difficult. We picked a calm day and had long, slow swells.
On Green Turtle Cay, in the town of New Plymouth, we enjoyed the Captain Rolland Roberts House, an educational historic house. The poster below gives a history of how many of the other homes had been moved off the island. I found it amazing that they disassembled and moved a number of houses all the way from Green Turtle Cay to Florida back in 1846. I can’t imaging anyone doing that now days, let along back then. The house is full of really good educational exhibits and a medicinal herb garden out back.
On the left hand side of this display are 3 conch egg sacks. To the left of the sacks is a baby conch. Continuing down the row shows their growth.
I have not seen a horse in 7 months until I saw this one on Green Turtle Cay. He is obviously quite old and roams the island freely. No one that I have talked to yet knows the story of the horse.
We were lucky to be at Green Turtle Cay when their Heritage Roots Festival was going on. The following is a video of the Royal Bahamas Police Marching Band.
They had fun activities. One was the universally fun tug of war. Logan and Cole were pulling with all their might.
Another cruiser we met at the festival that was stung by a lion fish.
The weather should be settling down for us to move on to Manjack Cay Tuesday to do some snorkeling and island exploring.
There are some incredible pets on board cruising boats. When we were in Hope Town, Abacos, we met a cruiser with a very remarkable dog.
A picture is worth a thousand words… The following clip is 1 minute long but worth watching. At the very end of the video, Sasha, dives down 8 feet and brings up a conch shell. Sasha’s owner told us she has dove down as far a 15 feet to bring up a shell.
A waterspout is basically a tornado over the water. Waterspouts usually occur in tropical areas. Two nights ago was a stormy night at Green Turtle Cay, Abacos (26°45’7.1″N 77°19’4.2″W), and that’s when we saw one. You could see lots of stuff flying around in it and we could see the waterspout spinning. Suddenly the temperature dropped about 15 degrees.
The waterspout started getting closer and looked like it was coming over the land toward us. Our boat neighbor Dave and his crew, Dennis, was with us at the time. Dave said, “Let’s get in my boat. Now.” We moved on to his boat which was heavier and more stable.
Dave is on the left and Dennis is seated next to him. This picture was taken inside their boat.
Dennis told us that his boat had once been pinned down at a 90 degree angle by a waterspout and was held there for 20 minutes. Dave and Dennis told us they have seen 10-15 waterspouts each during their years sailing, but this was the closest one they have seen.
Waterspout we saw off the back of our boat on Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas.
After a while the waterspout dissipated and we went back to our boat. It was very exciting to see a water spout up close.
This is a post on all of the fish we have caught in deep ocean on fishing lines off of our sailboat. We troll for fish at 5 knots or more. The first fish we caught was a tuna. We caught the tuna in rough seas and he was a strong fighter. He was 2′ 7″. He was called a little tunny but he wasn’t little.
The second fish we caught was a mahi mahi. We were just sailing and one jumped beside us and a few seconds later our lines had a hit. One got away but we got the other one. He was about 3 feet.
People in the Bahamas have always been saying that we are sure to catch a barracuda and sure enough, we caught one. He was 1 1/2 feet long. You can only catch them in shallow water.
For the last fish we tried using ballyhoo for bait.
Ballyhoo we used as bait.
When you use them, you put a little skirt over their nose so we tried it and we had no luck at all so we pulled up the line. Then we got in shallow water and mom put out the line because she wanted to catch a barracuda. When we put out the line, the rod bent so we slowed down the boat and pulled in the line. It was a cero mackerel. He was 2 1/2 feet.