Tuesday, May 15, 2007

On The Move Again, Finally!

NOTE: This post is being made out of Georgetown, Exuma because this is the first time we have had an internet connection. It was actually written about a month ago. Several more posts are ready to go and will follow until we catch up.

Hello friends, family, and even strangers who are following our adventures on FLUKE. We had hoped to post a couple of updates since our Nov. 6, 2006 arrival back in Vero Beach, but we were so busy tending to other activities.

We enjoyed getting together with, or hearing from, all those who have wished us well and wanted more details of our adventures. The whole crew appreciated the diverse company of all of those wonderful Sea Oaks Ocean VII people who have invited us to many of their social functions. We shamefully regret those of you who we should have gotten together with, but never made the rendezvous appointment – we talk about many of you regularly.

The most time was spent getting the land home ready to put on the real estate market. There was so much painting, cleaning, packing and repair work to be done. We finally made it to the market in the middle of January. You can take a wonderful video tour (with no obligation to have to talk to a Realtor!) of our dream home at: http://media.homestore.com/HWC9K349.htm

The market is so poor right now, so send us any interested buyers you can think of. We didn’t expect to be able to sell this winter, and we will close up the house for the summer when we get back and try again in the fall.

We all had medical appointments. Regular boat maintenance and provisioning for the Bahamas was very time-consuming, and expensive!

In March we unexpectedly lost one of our crew members. Dennis, age 12, was taking his regular afternoon nap when he suddenly awoke, let out a little cry and died within 20 seconds. He had just been at the vet for his annual exam 3 weeks earlier and was given a clean bill of health (it must have not been good for more than a month though!). No, his death wasn’t caused by the contaminated pet food; the vet said it was most likely a stroke of unknown origin. We humans, and the other animals, miss him.

Carol and Dennis

So, now that you have had a summary update, here is the latest travel news for those of you who are vicariously cruising aboard with us.

We are headed to an area of the Bahamas called the Jumentos (or Ragged Islands); we have not been this far south before. We will actually be south of the Tropic of Cancer. You will have to have a very detailed map to be able to see this tiny, croissant-shaped chain of islands. They are located south and west of Great Exuma and Long Island and will appear as tiny dots,if they show up at all. The chain is 110 miles long, but has virtually no development, industry, or even tourist trade. All visitors must be totally self-sufficient since there are no services of any kind available. These islands represent what our idea of fun in the out islands is all about: unspoiled nature with gin clear water that has good fishing, snorkeling, and beachcombing. Our time there will be limited by running out of fresh water (we haven’t gotten a watermaker yet) or being chased out by poor weather. Then we will have to head for civilization, most likely Georgetown on Great Exuma. We plan to return to Vero Beach the last week of May.

It’s now mid afternoon of Friday, April 13, 2007. We aren’t superstitious enough to believe today is an unlucky day, and you wouldn’t be either if you could see what we are looking at as I write this entry: sapphire blue water whose surface is just rippled by a slight breeze, fairy tale blue skies with cotton puffs of white clouds, and tiny dots of land in the hazy distance, Andros island, our destination for tonight.

We actually left the home dock at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11. We made a 2 hour run south to Ft. Pierce where we tied up for the night at the dock belonging to Port Petroleum in hopes of being able to fuel up right away when they opened in the morning. Sitting alongside the face dock was Boat 762, a 60’ 1974 Vietnam war era countermeasures mine ship that still maintains her original military gray appearance, but is now in private hands used as a cruising home just like FLUKE. 762 is unique in that her hull is wood while her topsides are the typical gray steel you would expect to see on a military vessel. The hull is wood so that the ship would not be magnetic to detonate the mines laid out in the water before the crew could deactivate them. We always delight in seeing such unusual vessels and hearing their stories.

On Thursday morning we took on 510 gallons of fuel, enough so that we won’t have to get any in the Bahamas at almost twice the cost. Since weather and seas were so favorable, we decided to head out the inlet to open ocean and head south to the port of West Palm Beach, a full day’s travel for us. Staying close to shore would enable us to test out all the modifications and maintenance updates that had been performed and have assistance close at hand if anything failed.

Keeping abreast of the rapidly changing weather conditions throughout the day and hearing that a weather system with potentially gale force winds was supposed to arrive along the Florida coast by the weekend and since things were operating so well on FLUKE, we decided to skip going into WPB and just head south 4 more hours to Deerfield Beach. At that point we would evaluate the decision to head further south to Miami or make an immediate turn to the east and travel all night without stopping until we were well within shallow Bahamian waters and out of the potential treachery of the deeper parts of the ocean when the weather system catches up with us.

So, travel all night is just what we did. It was our first total night crossing of the Gulf Stream. We, and FLUKE, did great. Without a moon to shine a path for us, seas and skies were dark, but thankfully calm. Passage was slow across the Gulf Stream, as little as 5.1 knots, since the strong northerly current was pushing against our slightly southern course line. We passed our first Bahamian mark at 0500, and no one was seasick! We continued on through Northwest Providence channel, during which all previous passages seas were miserable and uncomfortable, but today it felt like we were on a lake.

We’ve been trolling fishing lines behind the boat. We’ve landed a tuna, medium-sized barracuda (no fun to take off the line with all those big teeth snapping at you!), and a decent sized bar jar who was fatally wounded by a big barracuda when I was reeling in the line. This is the first time we have ever trolled from the upper deck, so we are having to get used to working as a team with someone on the upper deck handling the rod and someone in the cockpit to pull in the fish. At least from the upper deck it is easy to see everything going on in the water, so we could watch the dark, sleek barracuda trying to hit the silvery fat jack.

Our latest weather information indicates that the system should reach us late tomorrow afternoon. Our plan is to anchor out tonight at Morgan’s Bluff on the north end of Andros. Then tomorrow we will have a short run down the eastern coastline of Andros to Fresh Creek where we will try to get into a marina for weather safety, clear customs, and hopefully be able to post this to the blog.

Andros in the largest island in the Bahamas (and the third largest in the Caribbean), but not one real popular with the tourist trade as of yet. There are only 8000 inhabitants, mostly concentrated in settlements along the eastern coastline, set behind the world's third longest barrier reef. Andros is popular for diving, and is said to be the bone-fishing capital of the world because of all the brilliant white shallow flats occupying the inland parts of the big island.


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