Friday, December 22, 2017

Arrived Bahamas - Double Breasted Cay

We need to catch up on our last month in the US, however we arrived in the Bahamas in the early hours of 21st December 2017 - exactly a year to the day that we arrived in Barbados (not planned). Since then we have been hanging around near Grand Cay which is really remote and very beautiful. This is part of the Northern Abacos.

This is where we are anchored - top left is Askari - can you spot the shark??
We arrived on the Little Bahamas Bank, after crossing the Gulf Stream, at 4pm on 20th December 2017. We had light to see the depth come up from over 700 metres to less than 10 metres in the space of a mile - this creates some crazy conditions and I honestly thought some of the waves were square. We had about 15 knots of wind from the South West but the sea was so short it really was quite yuck for the last hour. It was about 30 hours sail from St Augustine Florida.

We had some great charts (Explorer) that provide some safe deep routes so we cautiously followed these in across the bank in the dark, sailing really slowly under shortened sail. I slept most of the tricky bits and Andrew brought us into Little Sale Cay where I got up to drop the anchor in 4 metres of water just behind the island - we had our best bright lights on and could see the bottom even in the dark at 2am. The next morning we had a fabulous sail back up to Grand Cay to clear in.

Sailing to Grand Cay
We anchored off near to Grand Cay in a bit of a chop and had a bit of a fun dinghy ride to find Rosie's place where we had heard we could clear in. We found Rosie and had a laugh as I thought he'd be a lady but he quickly invited us to the terrace at his bar and got a friend to call customs for us. The next thing we knew the customs guy pulled up in a golf cart and we went through the paperwork at the bar - that's a first. It's $300 for us to clear into the Bahamas and they only take cash, however we got a cruising permit for 180 days which gives us lots of options. He was a great guy and told us how much he liked watching sailing videos on YouTube..... we asked where we might get a SIM card but rather than direct us we hopped on the back of his Golf Cart for a ride to the store. We couldn't believe Grand Cay, which only has a population of 400 has it's own "BTC shop", however they didn't have any SIM cards in the shop as they were 'at home' but we paid up and the nice lady said she'd get us one and meet us back at Rosie's bar - the whole island evolves around Rosie's it seems....... 

View from Rosie's Bar

First taste of the local beer

We came back and cleaned the boat and had our first swim in the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. The next morning we finished our jobs from the passage and then went to explore and found we were actually in paradise, with our own sand cay to play with just behind the out crop we were anchored behind. I think it will take us alot to encourage us to move on from here - well while the weather stays nice. 

Looking quite pleased with himself - and so he should!
Andrew flew the drone from the sand cay, although it's a bit wonky as the calibration was done on the paddle board which was on a slope..... We had the best day paddling, flying and swimming - we went into one cove and about 8 turtles went flying off, then a huge spotted eagle ray swam by.

Our first drone flight in the Bahamas - click the image

Toys are out to play!


I paddled for miles today- working off all those burgers
Our first sunset in the Bahamas - wow!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Planes, Rockets and Disney time

Sailing Astronaughts? Me, Neil and Ley
We knew as soon as we saw Oasis Boatyard it would be a good spot for us – it was just so neat and tidy. However, the warm reception we got from the other boats in the small marina and the organised professional team at the yard was just wonderful and made our time waiting for parts a breeze. Neil and Ley on Crystal Blues arrived a few days before, so it was great to have some friends around too; we shared some great time watching live music, eating out and made a plan to visit Cape Canaveral with them to see a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Centre. We went out on an art walk along with Richard and Katie on Free Spirit and enjoyed a fun cruisers gathering at Ann OMalley’s. St Augustine is a great place to spend some time

Crews of Askari, Free Sprit & Crystal Blues
Country and Western afternoon at Tradewinds

We took a drive out to explore St Augustine Beach where we found rare Gopher Tortoises, which dig burrows in the sand dunes and then took a hike at Moses Creek. St Augustine is a great place to spend some time

Gopher Tortoise
St Augustine Beach
A total highlight was being invited to visit a fly-in community by our boat neighbours Mike and Val. We had no idea what ‘A Fly In Community’ was when they said that’s where they lived, so we started asked questions and the invited us down. What we didn’t know was that we’d both get to go flying – I made a short video of our day…..

The parts we were waiting for were half in Sweden and the rest were in the UK, where they also had to be assembled. The problem was the weather and then Fedex lost them. We were getting really frustrated so decided to take our mind off it and planned a visit to our besties in Alabama. We had such a fun few days being totally spoilt by Bob and Nancy – with home cooked food, our favourite big comfy suite and long walks with their boys. We also had a wonderful lunch with gorgeous Dee-Dee and Craig. So much fun catching up – so much shared history!

Used to be our second home - still sweet!

We thought this would be the only snow we saw - cotton fields - until it really did snow

Austal Boys

Love these Girls

Many laughs and wines with these two 
Walking the boys

After the snow cleared in Fairhope, AL

Looking relaxed two ex CEOs

Crazy squirrels - look like monkeys
Gulf shore walk
We're staying for Christmas if these parts don't come - AL family
Back from Alabama and after four delays the rocket launch looked set. Neil and Ley had moved down the coast so we planned to pick them up. Then in some crazy, possibly alcohol induced, scheme we decided to go to Disneyland the day before. I think Jon’s text message to Andrew summed it up when we told him and he asked if we were there on purpose! Well I have to say we didn’t really like it and most people didn’t really look happy (in the happiest place on earth) but it was interesting and I am a firm believer in trying anything before you knock it.

Christmas at Disney
It was quite pretty
All accessorised up to queue
All I wanted - to see Mickey Mouse 

The rocket launch day was totally amazing, we left the hotel in Orlando Friday morning and picked up Neil and Ley at 8am by 8.30 we were in line with all the Rocket Geeks (Neil is definitely one) waiting for the gates to open. We were so lucky we did this as only the first entrants got to go on buses out to a special viewing area alongside the Space Center VIPs to watch the launch, with a host and a live stream from SpaceX. This launch was a supply mission to the international space station – this launch was special as it was the first time SpaceX were re-using both the Dragon spacecraft and the first stage of the Falcon 9 Rocket. The timing is set to the minute so the craft can intercept the space station so it takes off on time or not at all. The commentary was great and we all did the count down out loud, then off of it went. It was amazing…. you saw it, then you heard it then you felt it. Then we watched the bright light go up and up until it was out of sight, when we turned to the screens to watch the separation and the first stage was then brought back to earth and landed perfectly – just wow! We spent the rest of the day totally absorbed in everything space; the exhibits were truly first class. We sat through Imax films, went in a space shuttle simulator (that actually burst a blood vessel in my eye), had a personal tour of the capsules that had been in space, amazed at the Atlantis and so much more. It was special to experience this with Neil who is so knowledgeable and a real space cadet.

Excited Rocket Geeks
Inspirational words

See it, hear it, feel it
And it's off - picture courtesy Crystal Blues
Look closely you can see the first stage landing
Saturn V - Neil saw this one take off (now that would be cool)
Atlantis appears - so well done

Burnt Capsules

Driving the Atlantis??
Ready for the simulator

Rocket Park

End of a perfect day - the Rocket Park

 The good news also arrived that day that our parts had arrived and so we confirmed with Oasis our lift for Monday morning. We spent the weekend planning the job and getting really organised as we would be rushing against the tide because Askari is too deep to get in and out at low tide. Andrew wrote down all the steps and tools required and we got everything prepared. He did this all with the support of Oyster - who sourced the parts, detailed the process and provided amazing guidance despite this issue being nothing to do with them. We believe this happened as a result of bad workmanship when we had our cutless bearings changed in Rhode Island - we have now made a pact that we will do all work on Askari.

Monday morning at high tide we pulled out of our slip and John expertly grabbed us with the slings in the current and we were up and out. Jim and Richard helped out cleaning the prop shaft and removing anodes while Andrew set about removing the CV joint and then the thrust bearing, after our shore team and I managed to ease out the shaft. We were so relieved when the thrust bearing came out and it confirmed it was the problem. Then came the hard bit – getting it all back together. After aligning the shaft in place, the bolts all had to be torqued in the right order and 6 times; Andrew and I worked together with every bit of strength we both had for 2 hours, it was intense but we did it and by mid tide we were launched again. A quick ‘sea trial’ in the river proved all was perfect – yay Christmas in the Bahamas was back on the agenda!

After the work - lunch with Jim and Richard - thanks guys! 

The Oasis guys were just brilliant, they accommodated us immediately the parts arrived at the only time we could get in their lift due to our draft and the tide – we can’t thank them enough. They were also totally fair with their charges such that Andrew even went to clarify they hadn’t under charged us.

Leaving St Augustine - the next day