21 December, 2008

Checking in

Location: Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Position: N26 45.780 W077 20.086

After spending way too long at Palm Beach, FL waiting for weather we finally got the window we wanted. Wow! Now we just had 2 days to do laundry, last minute shopping, and making sure everything on Rachel was stowed securely. We said goodbye to all our friends who were not yet leaving the US and off we went at 2pm in the company of 2 other boats, Diva and Temptation. The crossing was easy and uneventful we travelled 153 miles in 25.5 hours, the only thing missing was some wind so we could actually sail! Can’t have everything, we know, and we did manage a brief sail down the Sea of Abaco which was great.

Saturday. We arrive at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos and drop our anchor at 3:30 in the afternoon. We are flying our yellow quarantine flag (yellow, for the letter “Q”, don’t ask) from the starboard spreader as required when arriving in any country until you have cleared customs & immigration. We aren’t sure if Customs will be open on a Saturday, so Mark calls a local business on the VHF. The lady there is very helpful. She tells us we can go to the customs house and if the officer is not there we should go to either of the grocery stores in town and they’ll call her for us.

Until you’ve cleared in, only the captain is allowed ashore. So off the 3 captains go in the dinghy with all the paperwork, passports etc. The customs office is closed, so they walk over to the grocery store. The lady there calls the customs officer at her home. The customs lady says she will not be working this afternoon, or Sunday, so just come in on Monday. Oh, and by the way, it’s alright for everyone to go ashore before then. No worries. One reason we love the Bahamas.

Arrangements are made to dinghy in to Pineapples, a water side bar we discovered last year with 2 for 1 rum punches for happy hour, which finishes at 6pm. The 6 of us quickly organize ourselves and make a bee line for the bar. Did we mention that these rum drinks are REALLY strong? Rum is relatively cheap in the Bahamas, but the mixings are very expensive. Thus drinks tend to be strong… very strong. 2nd reason we love the Bahamas. We each have 2 drinks and share an order of grouper fingers and then we’ve had all had it. None of us had got much sleep Friday night during the crossing, so we decide to call it a night and head back to our boats.

Back on the boat. A guy who is anchored next to us, shows up with a big cream pie in his hand and a server. We did not know him from Adam! “Hi, take a piece of pie for each person on board, and enjoy” “Wow, thanks. What’s your name?” “Steve” he says, and off he goes to the next boat. Main reason we like cruising – cruisers are so friendly.

After a great night’s sleep here we sit listening to the roosters crowing on shore. We can see the anchor dug in on the sandy bottom since, for the first time since we left the Bahamas last year, the water is crystal clear. 3rd reason we love the Bahamas. We are waiting for three more sets of friends to arrive this morning; they left the US yesterday morning. We will all spend Christmas here together, we’ll probably also invite the neighbour with the pie, and anyone else who is here, too.

Monday. Rumors are rampant. The customs lady is going to be coming to the marina near where we’re anchored, so we won’t have to make that long dinghy ride in the open in 20 knot winds. A friend at the marina will call us on the VHF and let us know when she arrives. Oops, nope, she’s not coming. We jump in the dinghy and head into town. We’re able to hug the shore so we don’t get too much wind chop and have a relatively dry ride in. As we arrive at the dock, two other guys are getting in their dinghies – she’s not going to be there today – she missed her plane in Nassau and won’t get back until late. All the while more boats arrive from the US. Now, instead of just the three of us who need to clear in, there are more than 20 boats waiting. This could get painful.

Tuesday. She’s definitely supposed to be here today. We go in at 9:00 am. There’s already a crowd at the customs house. Another lady arrives and says the customs lady is due in on the 10:45 ferry. She doesn’t have a key, but if we can break into the customs office, she is authorized to hand out the paperwork. She can’t clear anyone in, however – we’ll have to wait for the customs lady for that. We head back to the boat figuring we’ll 1: avoid prosecution in case someone in authority doesn’t like the idea of Americans and Canadians breaking into a Bahamian customs house, and 2: wait until after the crush to come in so we’ll get processed more quickly. While we’re gone, several captains help her “gain entry” and the paperwork is distributed. We already have ours, obtained from our friend at the marina on Sunday.

We arrive back at the customs house at about 11:30. There’s a line. A long one. The “breaker inners” who waited all this time are just starting to trickle out. The lady who previously wasn’t authorized to process the paperwork is now apparently authorized to do so – she’s the only one there and the customs lady still hasn’t shown up. About the time we get to the front of the line the customs lady shows up. Now there are two of them processing paperwork and the line moves much more quickly. We’re finally checked in and legal and ready to go after only 4 days. No worries, mon!

Merry Christmas

11 December, 2008

Lake Worth

Location: North Palm Beach, FL
Position: N26 50.405 W080 03.212

We’re currently anchored at the north end of Lake Worth, near North Palm Beach, FL. Lake Worth is a long, shallow body of water that runs north and south of the Lake Worth Inlet at Palm Beach. We arrived here in the late afternoon of Friday, December 5 after a nice sail down from Ft. Pierce. We finally had a chance to try out the new windvane self steering and are happy to report that it worked fine. With a few adjustments and modifications to our setup we expect to use it a lot. We’re looking forward to using it when we cross to the Bahamas.

The high point of our visit here so far was the Christmas boat parade last Saturday night. We overheard the Coast Guard on the VHF telling someone it was going from Palm Beach all the way up to Jupiter Inlet! Being about a mile off the route, the best part for us was the fireworks. We’d never seen this before – a fireworks barge led the procession and there was a constant fireworks display taking place for the entire 1.5 hours we could see it. It was really amazing! Easily the longest lasting fireworks display we’ve ever witnessed, and a big hit around the anchorage. About every 5 minutes there was a big ‘grand finale’ type display and we’d think it was over but then it would start back up again. We sat up on the coach roof with a glass of wine and had a wonderful time. It wasn’t even cold!!!

On the down side, we’ve been here for nearly a week and still haven’t found any nice walks. There’s a grocery store a short walk from the dinghy landing and a chandlery about a mile away. Apparently there’s a hardware store about 2.5 miles away but unfortunately, all of these destinations are on busy streets that aren’t very pleasant to walk along. We understand there’s a pretty good bus system and for $3 you can ride all day. If we’re here long enough we’ll check that out, too.

We did discover a very nice state park (John D. MacArthur State Park) with a nature center, lovely walks, and a boardwalk to the beach, but it’s a couple of miles just to get to the entrance, and then another good half mile to actually get into the park. The walk from the dinghy landing to the park is on a very busy road lined with gated communities, guard houses, thick hedges, and chain link fences. No little side roads, no bike paths (except those we could see inside the gated communities) – it’s a long, noisy walk. We’ve heard about another anchorage closer to the inlet that is within a short dinghy ride to another, smaller park. We may move down there for a while after the wind shifts - we do like our walks, after all.

We’re stuck on the boat today while, in cruiser’s parlance, it’s “blowing like stink”. The wind is between 20-30 knots from the south making the anchorage pretty bouncy. The good news is the frontal boundary is scheduled to pass through at around 4:00 this afternoon, clocking around to the west where we have more protection and we expect things to settle down considerably by this evening.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a weather window to cross to the Bahamas anytime soon. After today’s front, it sounds like it’s going to be blowing pretty steadily from the northeast, kicking up pretty high seas in the Gulf Stream. We’ll make the best of our stay here and, if a crossing window doesn’t open within the next week or so, will probably head down to Miami and try from there.

Fair winds,