We arrived back in Florida on Tuesday and are currently enjoying all of the things we missed this winter–shopping, long showers, TV and, of course, my Blackberry! 

We enjoyed our stay at Orchid Bay marina in Great Guana Cay (Abacos.)  The strong winds stayed around the rest of the week after Bill and Jen left.  At least we could get off the boat and walk the beach, have lunch at Grabber’s and barbeque at night.  On our last night there all of the cruisers gathered for cocktails and a cookout.  We met so many nice people there and several boats were preparing to head back to Florida as we were.  Lady of Lorien will stay in the Bahamas for several more weeks as they have to limit their time in the US.

Sunset in Orchid Bay
The gang at Nipper's (Bill's photo)
Cruiser's cookout

We left Orchid Bay marina on Saturday (4/16)  to take advantage of the first calm weather opportunity to head north through Whale Cay.  The passage is short going out into the ocean and around Whale Cay but it can be treacherous.  With the winds dying down we had rolling but not breaking waves.  After the Whale we had a smooth sail up to Manjack Cay.  As we dropped our sails and started heading towards the anchorage another sailboat came up from behind us and cut us off.   Skip actually had to turn all the way around to get out of this guy’s way.  I couldn’t believe it!! I was up on deck getting the anchor ready as he came across our bow.  He just scowled at me as I yelled at him.  The boat was from Montreal–I wonder what his problem was!

We anchored off Manjack Cay along with several other boats looking to cross over to Florida.  It was disappointing to find out that the owners of Manjack Cay no longer offer free wifi service and there’s  no other signal available.  We were hoping to get more weather information before heading out to Great Sale Cay where there’s no communication at all except for SSB and our XM weather.  We went ashore at Manjack with Bailey and hiked across the island to the beach side.  The trails were very well cleared and it was a healthy hike through the woods.  Strange but it reminded me a lot of the trails near Skyline drive in Virginia–the smell of cedars and the trees overhead.

Early Sunday morning we left Manjack for the trip to Great Sale Cay.  Several other boats also left but our friends on Bonnie Lass decided to wait until later in the week.  The weather reports were not very consistent.  We just decided to hang in Great Sale until we get a crossing opportunity.  Funny but as we were heading north another sailboat cut us off–coming right across our bow and then acting put out because they had fishing lines out and were afraid that we would cut them.  Later we heard them talking to another boat on the radio and found out that they were also french Canadian.  What’s with them???  (For those of you that aren’t boaters, an overtaking boat does not have the right of way.  If either of these boats actually needed to pass us they should have gone behind us or crossed at a safe distance.)

As we approached Great Sale Cay we could see storm clouds ahead.  Our XM weather showed a large mass of rain coming our way from Florida.  Sure enough, we got some pretty heavy rain at night.  The weather report on Monday sounded okay so we decided to leave just before sunset and head straight for Ft. Pierce, Florida.  Three other boats: Fiscal Stray, Slow Dancing and Mojo also decided to leave but they would head further north once they got into the ocean.  Sailing into the sunset with a crescent moon overhead was magical.  We sailed for about 5 hours before the wind died out and we had to start the engine.  The overnight trip was easy and uneventful as we took turns napping and taking watch. 

Storm approaches Great Sale
Sunset on Bahama Banks
Moon over sails

Around midnight we heard Mojo talking to a sailboat named Raven that had transmission problems and was trying to sail close enough to the Florida coast to call for a towboat.  They had a long way to go and the wind was not cooperating.  Since the 3 other boats were heading further north I agreed to take some phone information from the crew of Raven and call their wives when we got to Ft. Pierce.  I did make that call but I wonder how they made out.  Valerie on Bonnie Lass told me later that she heard alerts put out for Raven from the Bahamian Search and Rescue.  I hope they made it safely back to Florida…

I was napping down below in the early morning hours when we left the shallow waters of the Bahama banks and entered the ocean.  The waves picked up and once we were in the gulf stream they were a good 4-6 feet.   We had the main sail out with a preventer and were motoring but the seas were hitting us from behind and the wind wasn’t strong enough to keep us steady.  In other words, it was pitching and rolling and I was miserable!  At least it was daytime.  We had similar conditions on our night crossing to the Bahamas and I was sick the entire time!  We were in the gulf stream around 5-6 hours as it pushed us north at a fast pace.  We picked up a good 2 knots from the current.  I was lying down below when it suddenly quieted down–we were finally out of the gulf stream and could see the buildings on the coast of Florida!  I quickly got out our cell phones and was excited to get a signal.  I called my mother and left a message–woohoo, we’re back!!

After 18 hours of traveling we entered the inlet at Ft. Pierce and turned north to head the additional 10 miles to Vero Beach.  There’s only one drawbridge and, wouldn’t you know it, they were having mechanical problems!  The bridge was stuck open on just one side.  The bridge tender said that he was going to close the bridge as soon as he could get it operational.  As we approached, he still couldn’t get it closed so he let us through.  Whew!

We picked up a mooring at Vero Beach and I couldn’t wait to go ashore to dry land, take a long shower and eat a good meal.   I didn’t get sick on the trip but didn’t feel up to eating anything.  I had even made fresh cranberry orange scones but couldn’t eat them!  After showering we dinghied over to the Riverside restaurant for a cold beer and American food!  After that, we crashed!

I felt like a new person on Wednesday after a good night’s sleep.  We made arrangements to get a rental car and took Bailey ashore for a run at the dog park.  They have a nice dog park right next to the marina and Bailey really needed a good run after being stuck on the boat for 3 days.

Looking around the marina we saw 2 boats we knew.  True Loev (another Sabre38) was there but planning to leave on Wednesday so we didn’t get to visit with Norman and Nancy.  Kanau was also there but Larry and Suzi had already left to await the arrival of their first grandchild.

Once we picked up the rental car we went on an eating and shopping spree!  It felt so strange to be out among so many people and so much noise.  Everyone looks so clean and well-groomed and they’re all in such a hurry.  It will take me a while to get used to being back.  I went crazy in Publix–so many food choices!!

When Skip went to pump up the dinghy and found that one of the valves was broken.  What timing!  At least it didn’t break in the Bahamas.  We could keep the dinghy inflated by leaving the foot pump attached but that wasn’t a good solution so he started researching new valves on the Internet.  He ended up ordering parts and had them shipped overnight.  He now orders 2 of everything that breaks figuring that it will probably happen again.  Dinghy repair parts are high on our list of items to have on board for our next trip.  I was expecting a shipment of medicine to our friends in Port St. Lucie but it didn’t arrive (and that was after making 3 calls from the Bahamas to schedule it!)   Thursday night we met Jim and Binnie and Jim O’Neal for dinner in Ft. Pierce (Sue was busy and we missed seeing her!)   We enjoyed catching up with them over a mountain of Italian food.  We had enough left over for another meal and then some! 

We returned the car on Friday and settled in to repair the dinghy.  The dinghy parts arrived at the marina and so did my medicine.  Skip and I managed to install the new air valve in the dinghy after much research and a phone call to Airworks in Annapolis who were most helpful.  There was definitely a trick to doing it and we couldn’t find any helpful information on the internet.  Later in the afternoon we went ashore for showers and found that Valerie and Graham (Bonnie Lass) had arrived.  They invited us to their friend’s Wayne and Linda’s boat, Isis, where we also met Rene and Francine from Jolie Julie and enjoyed a pizza dinner.  I had a big bag of potato chips ready for Valerie as she had told me that she really craved them in the Bahamas.

Dropping the mooring line early Saturday morning we were first in line at the fuel dock for diesel, water and a pumpout.  We motored along the waterway up to Cocoa with a strong breeze behind us.  The radio chatter here is a lot different from in the Bahamas–just as annoying but in a different way.  Here it’s lots of calls for ‘radio checks’ (people wanting a response to see if their radio is working.)  We also listened to a drama as some guys in a small fishing boat called the Coast Guard for help.  They were 10 miles offshore and taking on water.  It took about 45 minutes for help to arrive, including a helicopter and tow boat.  Someone later told us that it turned out they weren’t really sinking.  They were fiddling with their outboard and had all of the weight in the back of the boat when they took a wave which filled the boat and knocked out their electronics.  Lucky for them it sounded a lot scarier than it really was.

We arrived at the Cocoa Village marina and headed straight for the Dog and Bone pub for a beer!  It’s a funky English pub where everyone brings their dogs.  Bailey settled under our feet at the bar while we enjoyed a cold one.  After that, we spotted the ice cream shop and indulged some more.  I know at some point I will need to eat more responsibly!  Later in the evening we did laundry ($1 for wash/dry—awesome!)

Today is Sunday and we spent most of the morning cleaning the boat.  It’s the first real scrub down since we left in December.  I rinsed everything that got covered with salt all season.  We went out for sushi tonight and are currently waiting for a storm to move over us.  Thankfully, the bad stuff seems to be going further north.  Tomorrow we head for Daytona!