S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Burning Spot

So we left Delilah to drag anchor without us, and we wandered into Nassau looking for some eats. We were outside the main touist area, looking for a place recommended in our guidebook. A man stepped up and said, "You look like you're searching for something and can't find it." I, being suspicious, said, "Ahhhh, no. Just wandering." Jill, being naive, said, "We're looking for a restaurant called Crocodiles. Is it still around?"

I was, naturally, prepared for a hard sell of one kind or another. The guy said, "No, it's not around anymore. If you want some good sit-down food, you can go there," pointing a few stores down to a place with smoked glass windows where one has to be buzzed in. "It's like a Bahamian Denny's. But if you want a real local thing," he pointed to a row of colorfully-painted, open shacks down near the river, under the bridge that leads to Atlantis, a monstrosity of a hotel, "go right down there. They serve conch, fish, etc." We thanked him, and then he got in his car and left. So I was wrong, and he was just a nice guy, trying to help.

The shacks were a marvel. We stopped first at The Burning Spot for some conch salad. The conch was pulled from its shell still alive, and it was chopped with fresh vegetables and citrus and turned into a ceviche right there by a wizened old man with a wickedly sharp knife who didn't even look down as he sliced. Delicious. Meanwhile, the locals were wandering around with bottles of beer, wine, rum, and what have you, getting lit and swearing like sailors. There was a heated game of dominos at one table, the violent BOOM of dominos punctuating their conversation. Laughing, yelling, swearing, full of raw energy. Sweet. Then, as we were ponderng what to get next, another guy sitting at a table spotted us and steered us to the window of his favorite joint. We ordered a fish dinner. The fish was served whole, eyes and all, and was amazing. We think it was grouper. The dinner included sides of plantains, coleslaw, and rice. I ate up the entire experience.

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Junkanoo, Baby!

N 25 degrees 04.715 minutes
W 077 degrees 19.795 minutes
Nassau Harbor, Bahamas

We set sail from North Bimini yesterday at 9 AM, and spent the day sailing--and mostly motoring--across the Great Bahama Bank. This vast and shallow table of land varies in depth from about 12 feet to about 20 feet, and the water is clear enough that you can see the the grass, rocks, and sand ridges on the bottom perfectly. After dark fell, the wind dropped completely, and the surface of the water was like a sheet of glass, except on the crest of our small wake, where the phytoplankton lit up like a string of Christmas lights.

At midnight, after some polite discussion regarding the best way to navigate it, we passed by the Northwest Channel Shoals and into the Tongue of the Ocean (not a name I made up), where the bottom goes from tens of feet to thousands of feet within a short time. We passed over an area that approaches 8000 feet. The water was calm there as well, but we can't claim that we could see the bottom.

We had no wind, or wind on the nose, for most of this passage, so it was motoring time again.

Bimini was absolutely terrific, and we would have stayed longer except we had a good weather forecast for an overnight sail, and because of Junkanoo (your homework is to research). More than half the people on the seaplane flight from Miami to Bimini, which we mentioned in an earlier blog, were islanders. Bimini is just a few miles long, and all the islanders know one another... So Junkanoo on Bimini this year will not be the usual festive time, and there were to be seven funeral services instead. It didn't seem like the best time to be hanging around this small community.

Junkanoo in Nassau, however...

We were here three years ago for New Years. The Junkanoo parades started at 4AM on the 1st, and we had a flight later that day, plus a hefty cab fare back to the hotel if we missed the bus, so we didn't see much. This year we will.

Anchoring in Nassau is quite an experience. We started with our best bower (45 lb CQR) and dragged, then added a 12 lb mushroom as a kellet and dragged, then put our 40 lb Bruce in series with the CQR. Dean dove down and tried to help them set. Jill dove in and confirmed that they weren't. The bottom here is an inch of sand covering rock. Because the water is so clear, we can see perfectly that the anchor is lying on its side. In order to hold you, an anchor is supposed to dig into the bottom and wedge itself there. Instead what's holding us now is all that weight from the anchor and chain. But we weigh three tons.

Add to all this that the tide changes direction four times a day, turning the boat 180 degrees and unsetting whatever tiny amount of sand our anchor managed to fetch up on...if it ever did. The only good news is that all the other boats in this area are also barely clinging to this barren surface, so everybody drags together. We're crossing our fingers and toes here as the tide changes...

Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


As my father would say, "We've arrived, and to prove it, we're here."

This morning we woke up at 2:30, pulled up the anchor 3:30,left the territorial waters of the U.S.A. in our wake around mid-morning, and tied up at a marina in North Bimini at 2:00.

Crossing the gulf stream was fine. There was a small swell left over from the previous days' northerly winds (see earlier post for an explanation), and we had to motor because today's wind was on our nose, but otherwise we were comfortable.

The water in the gulf stream was a deep blue--almost royal blue. We saw numerous flying fish, which would pop out of the water and skim across the surface of the waves for 40 feet or so before diving back into the ocean. From a distance they looked like little silver birds.

In spite of our growing familiarity with running aground and finding ways off again, sailing into Bimini was scary. The deep blue ocean water turns clear and green rather suddenly toward the shore, and the water here is so clear that you can see the bottom perfectly when it is ten feet deep. After we tied up, I looked in the water beside our boat and could see clearly dozens of angelfish and other colorful fish that had come to feed off the stuff that's been growing on our hull (someday we'll dive down and scrub that off).

Bimini is tiny, and you can walk the whole island. Many people get around on golf carts. After Captain Dean cleared us and Delilah with customs we took a walk...and said hello to Johnny Damon, who was driving a golf cart. His hair is short, and he is clean shaven, but he does have funky sideburns. I had mixed feelings about the whole meeting until Dean reminded me that it's really the Red Sox management's fault for letting him go.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

going foreign

The distance from our slip in Boston Harbor to Provincetwn was about 50 nautical miles. The distance to the Cape Cod Canal was a little less than 50, and to various parts of Penobscot Bay in Maine was well over a hundred.

From Miami Beach to the Biminis (get out your atlases; they are islands in the western Bahamas) is 42.5 miles. The trip should take us roughly 10 hours in warm weather, so it's not nearly as challenging as any number of legs we've sailed so far this fall, yet we've been preparing for it and worrying about it as if we were crossing the Atlantic.

There are thins to consider. We are crossing open ocean, through which the northward-flowing gulf stream travels at about 3 knots in the middle. We will be sailing almost due east at about 5 knots. Do you feel like your back in math class solving a word problem?

The bottom line is, if we fail to take it into account, the gulf stream will push us north of our target, and we will hit the wrong island in the Bahamas--or we'll miss the Bahamas entirely, and our next stop will be Europe.

Then there's the wind. If a wind from the north blows against the gulf stream for a day or two, big waves develop. Delilah can handle them, but our stomachs can't. We tested this theory during the (attempted) delivery of Delilah from Fort Lauderdale to Boston back in 2001, and we both spent the whole trip with our heads over the side.

NOAA is predicting light winds from south for tomorrow (Wednesday), so everything looks good for a crossing. This is it! After today, we'll have no more cell phone service, but if we find a payphone in Bimini, we'll let you know how it goes.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Still more pictures

Here's Jill rowing around

We stayed right next to River street in Savannah.

Dean's world-famous peanut-butter jar anchor light.

More Pictures

Here's some of the groceries we stowed before we left Boston.

Some of the boats behind us in the ICW

We are rafted up with a 49 foot Hinckley. Nice.


Here's some random photos we haven't had time to upload.

Lee BerthHere's Dean in the lee berth. It keeps us from falling on the floor

Duck IslandAnd a Duck Island sunset (Long Island Sound)

Beaufort PorchJill on the porch in Beaufort.

Christmas in Miami

N 25 degrees 47.3 minutes
W 080 degrees 09.4 minutes

Yesterday Dean and I caught a ride back up to Fort Lauderdale with our friend Steve, who has sailed to Florida from Boston also. We all needed to pay a second visit to Sailorman, which is, hands down, the best marine store ever. Needless to say, the prices are dirt cheap--good enough that we broke down and bought a new spare jib halyard, a new staysail halyard, and a new staysail sheet (lots of rope) to replace some really frayed stuff that we should have thrown out ages ago. So I guess that's our Christmas present to each other this year, with two quarts of transmission fluid thrown in as stocking stuffers.

Today we finally sailed over to Miami, and we are anchored near south beach. We took the dinghy up a narrow canal and locked it up near the local grocery store, where some earlier, more organized cruisers had installed a cable for that purpose. From there we could walk to South Beach. We had a beautiful day, and I have to say that I could really get used to waltzing straight into the ocean without spending ten minutes letting my extremities cramp and then turn numb until I can stand the cold long enough to duck under. I don't think I have to tell anyone how great it is to be swimming in the ocean on Christmas Eve.

There are enough people who make this trip every year on their boats that a sort of travelling community develops on the Intracoastal Waterway and at popular anchorages. One guy, Skipper Bob, has done quite a bit of cruising and has published a few guides for the ICW, the Bahamas, and elsewhere. The guides, which are on plain paper with few graphics and just a spiral binding like what you'd get at Kinko's, are half the price of professionally-published guides and are twice as good. They have very little advertising, are updated every year, and they really understand what a boater needs to know about resources in an area (free places to anchor; places to tie up a dinghy onshore; how to get to grocery stores, libraries, and chandleries; who has cheap fuel; and so on). Everybody we've met owns one and has memorized it.

As a result, one eventually runs into a bunch of other cruisers at all the best stops. Miami is an especially big gathering point, as everybody waits for the right weather to cross to the Bahamas. And because it is now Christmas, people are staying put for now, so there are really quite a few boats in town.

We just found out from a few other boaters that the Miami Yacht Club organizes a potluck dinner (what my southern friends would call a covered dish party) on Christmas day. Guests are expected to bring a dish and something to drink. I am looking forward to meeting people and pumping them for information about what we can expect for the crossing.

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Miami Christmas

We're at a cruisers potluck at the Miami Yacht Club. Meeting many interesting cruisers.

Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Miami Blues

So. We've skipped Miami for the time being and are moored in Key Biscayne. We were headed for Miami on Tuesday, but on Monday there was a terrible seaplane accident--we think it must have made the news in Boston--that closed Government Cut (the entrance to Miami from the ocean) while they continued the salvage operation, and we contined south. We decided to stay at a marina because the moorings were cheap, we both desperately needed showers, and we thought we could fill up our water tank, have our holding tank pumped, talk to some other humans, etc. Unfortunately, at least one of the hurricanes this year wiped out the marina's amenities and ripped up the restaurant. It's pretty depressing. So, no showers, no pumping, etc.

Once we hit St. Lucie, we started seeing evidence of hurricane damage, and it got still more obvious as we've headed south. What is amazing to us is that no effort at repairs seems to be underway, including in private himes where people's screen houses have collapsed, or places where one would guess that the owner would at least clear away debris. Dean guesses that people are waiting for insurance estimates.

The marina at which we are staying is close enough to Miami for us catch the bus to South Beach. But, of course, it's cloudy and cold today. We have consoled ourselves with hot chocolate and an eclair at a French bakery while we wait for our first roll of film to develop.

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Fish for David

Three things became clear to me during Sunday's telephone call to Della and Ron's house during the Mannion family Christmas party. First, Wally and Derek were going to be in big trouble with their wives. Second, the best place to have an intelligible conversation during these parties is in the bathroom. I apologize to those of you who had to cross your legs and wait. And third, David Mannion was nver going to speak to us again if we didn't start fishing, pronto!

To humor him, and in spite of the fact that you need a license to fish in Florida, Dean threw out a handline while we made the trip south from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.

My father has, of course, outfitted us with countless lures and hooks and weights, and he also offered us rods and reels. But we chose yesterday a very simple setup that we could tie off and leave while we tended the boat.

Within five minutes we had our first bite, and within twenty minutes we had a fish. It was beautiful, and though it was only 16 inches or so, it put up quite a fight. Neither of us had any idea what kind of fish it was, though later study in our fish book suggests it was probably a mackeral. In any case, we sent it home again and put the line away.

Are we forgiven yet, David?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005


What I am about to say will come as little shock to most of you: we are budget cruisers. We are shoestring budget cruisers.

Now, most of you who know my frugal ways and who have patiently listened and pretended to be sympathetic while I wailed away about how TERRIBLE it would be if we didn't have enough extra money this fall to quit our jobs and sail away to paradise to loaf around for a year, minimum, (boo hoo, right? You feel my pain?) will also probably remember that lovely Delilah was not the most high-tech of boats.

But really, I had thought we had all the standard stuff aboard, on a boat that most people in the cruising magazines consider perfectly suited for crossing oceans. Then we hit Florida, and we slowed our pace, and we started spending a day or two in anchorages, where we started meeting people and comparing notes and seeing the insides of other people's boats.

They are tricked out! Watermakers (which make salt water potable), electronic charts linked up to autopilots (which steer the boat for you), full-size freezers (ours is a 2-cup capacity), separate ice makers, and so on. Their cockpits were fully enclosed, their spotless hulls glistened in the sunlight, and their satellite phones meant no worries about communicating from abroad. And to us, they gave copious advice about what to buy first the next time we had several thousand spare dollars on hand. I heard a lot of "they've come way down in price lately." So has space flight.

Now would be a good time to mention that, after three trips up the mast, we have finally determined that our anchor light is not working due to corrosion somewhere between the battery in the engine room and the top of the mast. A repair sounds complicated and expensive, so Dean has concocted, using a clean peanut butter jar, a spare white light bulb, and a 12-volt plug scavenged from an old appliance, our new anchor light. It casts a festive light in the cockpit at night, and it was free, leaving us more money for groceries this week.

Fifteen years ago, Pam and I spent a whole semester hitchhiking around Ireland. Our living and travelling conditions were appalling, but I was twenty years old then, and there seemed to be a lot of other students getting by in just the same manner. It all seemed perfectly normal at the time.

Dean has a collection of books and sailing magazines that he has read at least twice, and at least a couple of aricles assured us that what we had saved would do nicely for 18 months if we fell into the middle category of "moderate cruisers," meaning, I thought, that there would be cruisers getting by on less. Where are those people?

Once, on my honeymoon, I dallied with luxury hotels. I enjoued every minute I spent in the Ritz Carlton, thought nothing of the expense when we extended our stay, and would be content forever to have some minion tag along to press the elevator button every time I entered the lobby. But until the will of some long lost relative surfaces, leaving millions of after-tax dollars to me or Dean, it seems that I'm destined to be a backpacker and a hosteller of sorts. And I've dragged Dean along with me. We'll drink (boxed wine by oil lamp) to that.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Change in plans

We're now in Vero Beach, FL. We're sharing a mooring ball with two other boats (only $10 per night!), one of which charters out of Gloucester. We've met up with quite a few New Englanders lately. Yesterday we were passed by a boat named "Boston Accent." There is no escaping.

We were going to go offshore today to Ft. Lauderdale, but we're going to meet friends from our old marina there, and they won't be down here (yes, we are finally starting to feel like we are here) until Sat. It's expensive there, and you cannot anchor if a mooring is available (and you are obliged to pay for moorings). It's warm and sunny here in Vero Beach, so we are going to take our time, catching up on errands today and following the ICW tomorrow instead.

Since we posted last week, we have not been onshore. At night we have been anchored in the Herb River, GA then sailed overnight offshore to Jacksonville, anchoring on the Tolamado river (for two nights), then near Daytona Beach, then again. We haven't been ashore for a week. Surprisingly, we're not that stir-crazy and we still enjoy each other's company.

The wildlife has been stunning. We see dozens of porpoises (we have been told by the family biologist that they are NOT dolphins) every day, some within feet of our boat. We've also seen a bald eagle, four roseate spoonbills, a few banded kingfishers, american oystercatchers, ospreys, herons, egrets, and thousands of pelicans, which plunge into the water head first at top speed. But we have yet to see a manatee.

We've also seen more than a dozen sunken and/or abandoned boats, presumably victims of past hurricanes. Creepy--and dangerous if you are outside the channel.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tina and Ian's House

This is Tina and Ian's yard...

Seriously, we saw this from the ICW. It was next to a house with an enormous flamingo and one with a huge metal mermaid. It made the time on the ICW go by very quickly.

Jill up mast again

Jill up mast
Jill went up to determine why our anchor light wasn't working. When she got up there, she found it was. The next day, it stopped working again. Nice.

Dean's handiwork

Turks Head
Dean put a Turks Head knot on the wheel. It's useful to know when the wheel is amidships, eh?

What we're running from...

Ice on porthole
This was from last winter. It's on the inside of our boat.

Update from Savannah

We couldn't resist the hype tonight, and at the last minute we decided to go out and see the Christmas parade. Our expectations were suitably low, so we were surprised by how much we enjoyed it.

Part of the parade included a school of about a hundred baton twirlers, one of whom was really good. The rest...well. But they were funny, especially the little kids just out of diapers who didn't appear to be skilled enough to be entrusted with batons yet. They just wore their sparkly outfits and held hands while they sashayed past. We were near the end of the route, so a number of moms--who were not in sparkly outfits--had joined the parade to carry their twirlers to the end.

There were also a number of Miss whatevers, sitting in thin dresses and waving from their perches on the trunks of convertibles. Two of the Christmas Beauties were six or younger, yet they still had that wave down pat. I guess that's what got them where they are today.

But the best part of the whole parade was the distribution of free paper towels. You know, some parade floats throw candy, some throw beads. In Savannah, they throw Mardi Gras brand paper towels. We got three rolls (though we gave one away to another boater who was not fortunate enough to have attended the parade). Here I was, complaining the whole way down the southern coast that I did NOT want to have to smell their paper mills anymore, never knowing what bounty (pun intended) awaited us in Savannah.

Another highlight of the parade came toward the end. A trolley full of people was rolling by, and the people inside pointed to us excitedly and waved and said, "Hey, it's the sailors! Merry Christmas, sailors!" Dean and I sort of waved back halfheartedly, then we looked at one another and wondered, "How do they know?" For a moment, I felt like a minor celebrity, until I chanced to look behind us. Walking right by were two REAL sailors in Navy uniform. So I guess this blog just doesn't seem to have caught on in the South yet. We'll give it some time.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Georgia in December

We realize we made no mention of our stop in Charlston, SC. For this we are deeply sorry. Charleston was great, and if we hadn't been eager to take advantage of the NW wind before it turned south again, we would have stayed a few days.

City Marina in Charlston is absolutely gorgeous--the best-run marina we've ever been to. The current was a little nasty, but they put us on the outside and two dockhands helped us to dock.
In the morning we had a complimentary paper delivered to the boat, and they even had a free shuttle, though we chose to walk into town. We had a great time walking around the shopping district, and we were able to buy four sail slides at the sail loft at the marina (we need twelve more for our new storm sail track, though I hope we never use it). The only bad part is that we weren't able to get a pumpout. They weaseled out of that one, just like most marinas.

We went out with the tide yesterday (December 2) and had a few good hours of sailing on our overnight to Savannah. Savannah is actually about 15 miles upriver from the ocean, but we decidedd to take the detour after so many people recommended that we stop here.

We are docked for cheap at the town dock, right on River Street, and it seems that we've picked a good weekend to visit. They are having a parade and a band and crafts (or is it krafts?) all over town in celebration of Christmas--not "the holidays," Christmas. If the number of stations on the radio playing religious programming or
Christmas music is any indication, we are deep in the bible belt. Hallelujah. Now all we need is a little fire and brimstone to warm this place up a bit. It was in the thirties last night, and it's only partly sunny today. I thought I'd be sipping rum swizzles by now, not coffee.

However, we have just found a pizza place right in the thick of things with free wireless access. Dean may never leave Savannah.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another record bites the dust!

29 November. This just in...

Dean Foulis has broken his newly-acquired record for shallowest sailing. Today, Dean sailed his 5 foot 8 inch draft boat in just 3.4 feet of water! Asked why he attempted this record, Mr. Foulis said, "It just felt right."

Seriously, we were sailing near Alligator Bay today about a half mile behind another sailboat that had both main and jib up (we had just a double-reefed genoa out and were motoring). We noticed that they were sailing outside of the channel a bit, and then they suddenly stopped. They heeled over until they were resting on their side, totally stopped and stuck. We caught up to them pretty quickly, so by the time we figured out that they were aground--way outside the channel--we guessed that we couldn't do much for them except to call Boat US Towing.

Alligator Bay has cans on only one side, and during the excitement of watching the grounded boat, I drifted just a little to the right. I slowed suddenly, and saw my depth was 3.4 feet. If we weren't heeled over quite a bit by the genoa, we'd have been stuck as well. As it was, we managed to sail our way back into the channel.

Later, while anchoring, Jill grounded in 3.3 feet, her own personal best, but was going so slowly in anticipation of the event, she was able to back out of the mud. This is becoming a bad habit. At least we're not in New England, where running aground usually involves rocks and causes hull damage.

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