S/V Delilah

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

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mae Mae Over And Out

25 May 2007
Marsh Harbour, Abacos

So Jill's parents came down to the Abacos to visit us. They rented a house for the week, and then rented a golf cart so we could zip around the island. Jill loved the cart, and turned the island into her very own Le Mans whenever she got behind the wheel. We went to the beach (although it was very windy), the museum, etc. We ate well. The best part, however, was that the place they rented came with a VHF radio. It was to my distinct pleasure to hear Jill's mother saying "Deliah. Delilah. Mae-Mae" on VHF 16. After the conversation was over, I nearly died when she came out with "Mae-Mae over and out."

We are waiting on weather to begin our 4 day offshore passage to N.C.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Best for Last?

Friday, May 18
Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abacos
N 26 degrees, 32.404 minutes
W 076 degrees, 57.973 minutes

Okay, so we dragged our feet a little through the Exumas. With sub-tropical storm Andrea and other nasty weather on the U.S. coast causing, for us, day after day of light wind and calm seas, it just seemed like a good idea to get our fill of snorkeling and beachcombing in while we could. Mom and Dad's impending visit was weeks away.

Until it wasn't. On Saturday we still had plans to relax a little longer. Then we heard the weather forecast. Chris Parker, weather guru, was starting to sound grim. Well, we thought, we don't have far to go.
Except it was really about 130 miles from point a to point b. And there was a front coming through, and then maybe this low would form, so we grudgingly set off for Royal Island, skipping one last day of snorkeling but giving ourselves what we thought was a little bit of a time cushion to get to the Abacos for their arrival.

If Chris Parker worked Sundays, we might have heard the bad news earlier and foregone a peaceful night at anchor for a sleepless night of motoring in calm conditions. But he didn't forecast, and we missed the local marina's forecast over the VHF because we were reeling in a fish while under sail. We stopped at Royal, grilled our fish, and slept, blissfully unaware of the week ahead.

By Monday morning, it was still sunny and calm outside, but things were looking much, much grimmer for the foreseeable future. In five days my parents would arrive on an island 80 miles to the north, and here we were, safely anchored next to an uninhabited island (save for rabid, biting insects) with no means of communicating with the outside world. They wouldn't panic when we didn't show up, would they?

We listened to Chris's Monday morning broadcast, and he gave us a shred of hope that if we left RIGHT NOW and were especially lucky, we could make it to Great Abaco before dark (assuming we made 5 knots) and before things got really ugly. I mean, 20 knots of wind and 6-foot seas aren't really ugly, are they? The "trades" serve that up daily in the eastern Caribbean. We've had worse.

We got underway immediately, stowing our junk, washing dishes, and prepping sails as we motored north in light wind and flat seas.

The good news about wind and seas that build slowly is that you almost don't notice the point where they go from mild to...let's call it challenging. And then maybe uncomfortable. We ticked down the miles and the hours to go, reefing down to a double reefed main and the staysail, leaving the engine on full throttle to keep our speed up in sloppy chop and a possible countercurrent.

By the time we were a few miles away from the Abacos, the wind was cranking at maybe 30 knots (that's a guess--could have gone either way by 5 knots), and the chop was up to perhaps 6 feet. To get into the protected sound along the eastern coast of great Abaco we needed to find our way over a shallowish bar through a cut in a reef. On the charts it looked chancy. We were tired. We chose a more open and southerly anchorage, figuring the waves would go down in a day or two, and we could make those last 5 miles of open water into the hairy entrance at our leisure.

On Tuesday Chris Parker was all doom and gloom, so we waited until Wednesday. On Wednesday Chris had even more bad news, hinting about another possible low, and threatening that the miserable weather and heavy, frequent squalls in the Abacos would curse us through the weekend. THROUGH THE WEEKEND? We would miss my parents' entire visit because of 5 miles of Atlantic Ocean. Pathetic. But worse, we were in a fairly exposed anchorage if a low came through, and it was looking like a distinct possibility that we would be clobbered.

Counter to Chris's dire predictions, the wind died for a few hours on Wednesday. We waited, prepped the boat, tied everything down all over again, brought out the foul weather gear, and watched the waves pounding dramatically against and over the headland beside us. We convinced ourselves that the waves weren't so bad. Maybe they were going down. At noon we had a simple lunch. Then we bit the bullet.

At least the swell wasn't breaking along the exit to our anchorage. But it was big. From the helm I watched our bow point up, up, up at the sky, then down, straight down, at the trough between two waves. It was too late to worry about not having enough water under the keel in those troughs. Inside a minute we were in 10 feet, 12 feet, 15 feet, and then blissfully deeper water.

The waves were bigger than Monday's, but still manageable. I mean, we HAVE actually been sailing quite bit lately. We must have learned something about seamanship. Still, Dean noticed my white knuckles on the wheel, and he offered to take over. I occupied my time staring at every cloud and color change in the gray-on-gray sky. Did that contain 40 knots of wind? Would that one create steep, breaking seas?

Dean got us to the entrance. We watched the waves rolling and tumbling across the reef to starboard, and crashing 20 feet in the air against the rocky spit of land to port. It was near slack tide, so we didn't have current to worry about, and the entrance itself was almost a fifth of a mile wide. Plenty, right? On paper, certainly. On Wednesday, from my vantage point, it was distressingly narrow and certainly shallow. Waves coming up from deeper water ouside the channel were bulging higher and higher until some of them broke into angry foam. Gulp.

Our chart gave us waypoints to follow, and we lined ourselves up. We had the waves almost dead astern. Dean kept his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the compass, while I followed our course on the GPS, reading out our position. "Two feet left of course, five feet left of course, WHOAH thirty feet left of course." We'd been swept sideways by a wave. That was new. Good thing it wasn't a super big wave. Dean recovered quickly, and quickly learned how to angle the waves to keep us close to our course while our 12-ton boat surfed like a toy. We were in! And inside the reef it was eerily calm. Now all we had to do was motor another 15 miles in protected water wand avoid running aground in the shallow patches. Piece of cake!

Finally, we are here, anchored below the lovely and often-photographed Hope Town Lighthouse, fortifying ourselves for a day full of errands with extra strong Irish tea. Mom and Dad arrive in 8 hours, and the weather is perfect.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Too Many Mahi?

Sunday, May 13
Royal Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas

One of the best things about visiting the Exumas in May is the warmer water. The snorkeling at Thunderball Cave and The Aquarium remains the best we have ever seen, and the water here is so clear I could see starfish and blades of seagrass on the bottom as we sailed along in 25 feet of water.

And yes, by the way, I did go back to Thunderball Cave to get another look at that nurse shark. He was still there, and he was even bigger than I had remembered.

What else have we been up to, besides gazing at the perfect water? More pot luck dinners, more birthday parties, more hikes along empty beaches and on deserted islands, more cocktails on the beach, and more fresh fish than the two of us can eat. Our freezer is stuffed full. Fortunately, we have ben traveling in the company of Carapan and Indra, so we share.

I also finally got a chance to dive on the downed plane that sits in the anchorage at Norman's Island (which Carlos Lederer used as a base of operations back in the 1980s). All the stash is long gone, as are the seats, if there were any. But the plane is still mostly intact and is full of fish and the beginnings of coral growth. I was surprised by the plane's wingspan, and by how roomy it was inside. The only other plane I had snorkeled on was a one-seater, and it looked like a toy next to this.

But we have torn ourselves away from the Exumas, and made a long run today up to Royal Island, on our way to meet Mom and Dad in the Abacos. We hope to get there a few days early to begin prepping the boat for our trip back to the U.S. and to scout out the best beaches.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lobstah Hotel

We went snorkeling today (the wind died down) and saw the most fantastic sight: a lobster hotel. Imagine a reef, roughly shaped like a ball, and INFESTED with HUGE lobsters. Every time we dove, we saw more of them, sometimes four or five at a time. Given that we'd only seen a handful of lobster in all the snorkeling we've done, this is big news. My mouth is watering.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Warderick Wells Again

Hangin' in WW again. You all remember that it's part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which means that there are abundant fishies 'cause nobody is allowed to catch them. Beautiful snorkeling, which we haven't yet gotten to because, as they say, "It's blowin' like stink out." While we are not exposed to the hurricane-force winds off the coast of the U.S., we've got some nice wind down here and we do see some of the seas that are being kicked up way to the west of us. So, we'll hunker down here for a day or two before we press onward.

See everybody soon!

Friday, May 04, 2007


Allright, Dad, here's a picture of our latest mahi-mahi. It took about an hour to clean the fish and then the cockpit. Blood and gore everywhere! We got two huge fillets out of this guy.


Our dinghy is our car. Here you can see a full parking lot, and an empty one.

Me, Darryl Hannah, 007, and a Shark

Friday, May 4
Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
N 24 degrees, 10.702 minutes
W 076 degrees, 26.733 minutes

By the time we left Georgetown on Tuesday, the four-mile long harbor was down to fewer than a hundred cruising boats, and I was beginning to actually enjoy it! We loved what little we saw of the Bahamian regatta, and I only wish now that we had arrived in Georgetown a few days earlier, to get the provisioning out of the way and leave us more time to watch the boats race.

But we got it all done, at least, and attended a few final potlucks on Hamburger Beach with Crossroads, who will stay another week in Georgetown with their guests and then will head to the west coast of Florida via Key West. Crossroads is also heading home, though their home state is landlocked, so the boat will stop in St. Petersburg and will go up for sale in June. We will miss Michele and Glenn, but we are already looking forward to their first visit in November, where we will plan, in earnest, a CHARTERED cruise of the Mediterranean.

Indra is still with us as we sail up the Exumas chain. We have stopped in Staniel Cay for a few days, and we are enjoying the area much more this time around, as the water is significantly warmer, and we are anchored right next to the town and Thunderball Cave, rather than two damp miles away by dinghy, off a beach that's overrun by feral pigs. We will probably stay here through May 5 in order to attend the Staniel Cay Yacht Club's Cinco de Mayo celebration. Jamie has confessed that Cinco de Mayo is her FAVORITE holiday and Mexican food her favorite cuisine. How could we possibly not stay?!

We wrote about Thunderball Cave when we snorkeled there last year. The cave, which is indeed featured in the film of the same name, as well as in "Splash," is inside a small rock island. You can snorkel inside and watch the light play on the water through various holes in the rock above and below. The effect is beautiful, and the fish and coral are plentiful inside the cave. The only catch is that the current whips through the area at quite a clip, so it's best to go at low, slack tide, when the openings to the cave are easy to find and you do not have to worry about being swept through. That means that during the ideal time, the place is PACKED with idiots in swim fins and snorkels, ruining the mood.

Since we are anchored only a hundred yards from the cave itself, I decided to head over there this morning at high, slack tide. I had the place to myself, and because the tide here is only a couple of feet, I was able to dive down and swim through the main entrance to the cave with no problems. Inside it was even more eerie, with blue light shining through the water at the entrances, and sunlight streaming down through the holes in the ceiling. I took my time exploring each corner of the cave, counting the fish I was seeing and following all the entrances and exits.

I had swum into a darker corner of the cave, to a small hole I had not noticed before, when a dark shape materialized on the floor just a few feet away. There, hanging out on the bottom with its back to me, was a nurse shark, 3 or 4 feet long.

Now, nurse sharks, of all the sharks, are some of the most docile creatures. They have small mouths and big, swishy tails, and they really don't have any interest in humans at all. We see them a lot from the boat or out in the open in coral. This shark was clearly just waiting for me to go away.

One part of my brain calmly registered these facts, and I spent a good one hundredth of a second observing the shark as I would any other fish before the other part screamed, "RUN! And don't bleed! They love blood! Oh, where is the exit? Which exit? Oh my God, I have my back to a shark! What if he grabs a fin? I'll kick him. Can he smell fear? Am I sweating in the water? Does my finning make me sound like a fish in distress? Are my endorphins kicking in? Must be, because I am outside the cave BUT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ISLAND." And so on.

As far as I can tell, the shark never budged. We'll see if he's still there when we go back this afternoon at low, slack tide.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Puerto Rico Memories

These are from Puerto Rico. We hired a taxi driver, shown drinking his Coco Frio (cold coconut) in the background. That's Forbes and Jamie from Indra in the portrait.