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Ella’s First Post (transcribed by Brad)

Cannons looking into the harbor

I sailed all through the night from the Turks and Caicos to the Dominican Republic.  It was a bit rough; the boat was rocking back and forth.  The sails were up and it was windy.  I got sick for the first time, dad said I was seasick, and I threw up all over my feet.  It was disgusting.  I cuddled with my daddy and that made it better.  Twenty-Eight hours later I saw land and yelled, “land ho.”  We anchored.

            We rented a car and my dad drove on the sidewalk and went honk, honk, HONK, honk, honk, HOOONNNKKK!  The other drivers

Landing the dinghy at Rio San Juan

kept honking like my dad.  I went to go see a fort, but it was closed.  A nice security man let us in so we could tour the fort.  It was cool to see.  There were cannons and a treasure chest.  I have never seen such a big treasure chest before.  They must have had lots of gold, but we couldn’t see inside it.  The pirates must still have the key.

            We then anchored in Rio San Juan, which is a little fishing village.  We took our packrafts and paddled down the river and came upon a flat land.  Daddy made a fence disappear and we walked to small store.  We bought Oreos and drinks.  I practiced my Spanish.  To say hello, I said “hola.”  Then, “me llamo Ella.”  Afterwards we walked back to the boats and accidentally stepped in the cow pies (that’s a fancy name for poop.) 

Picnic on the river

We came upon a rock and had lunch there.  As we paddled down the river we met a man who was catching crabs; he had a bunch of them.  You need to be careful of crabs because they can pinch you.

            I walked around the town with my family.  There were a lot of people.  Some were playing baseball or just hanging out.  For Christmas they had plastic bottles cut up for decorations.  They had little houses with lots of clothes drying.  We met a man who was making rocking chairs and he showed us his house too.  On the back of his house he had a door that opened so he could look out to sea.  We

Buying a stalk of bananas for $1.75US

bought an ice cream from a walking salesman and then my dad bought a huge bunch of bananas.  It was the whole stalk.  We walked to the end of town and then had to walk across a river.  Then we took our dinghy back to Rivers2Seas.

            Tomorrow, we are going to look for Humpback whales.  The whales are here to have their babies.  I know how you speak Humpback whale.  To speak Humpback whale you go “howu ahhh.”


Turks and Caicos

Leaving Georgetown we headed East following a book by Bruce Van Sant, Passages South – The Thornless Path to Windward.  Traversing East through the islands is difficult since most of the

Looking for coral heads on the way in

wind comes out of the east.  He has a series of rules to follow creating windows of opportunity to make the passage.  We now simply say things like “Bruce says” and it is so.  We had originally planned on sailing for four days and missing this difficult Thorny Path.  We had difficulty finding crew who could join us for the journey and for our first long passage we really wanted the help.  We take turns at the helm; plotting positions, adjusting sails and looking for other boats occupy our time.  Following a schedule of two hours on and two off makes for a difficult night of sleep.  So we follow Bruce’s Rules and make short hops down the Thornless Path.  The progress is certainly slow.

From Georgetown we sailed to Conception Island, which has some of the finest diving and

Our other World

snorkeling around.  Ella and I saw a Spotted Eagle ray four-feet below us that’s body was longer than her and the tail was twice as long.  Hundreds of fish swirl around keeping us company.  Lindsey saw a Grouper that easily weighed a hundred pounds.  Chase likes to swim only in the light water (shallow).  He knows that in the dark water (deep), sharks lurk looking for a tasty little guy to eat.

Ella diving off Rivers2Seas

Sailing on to Rum Cay we had a quick stopover.  Taking the dinghy over to the island for dinner, we found out that reservations were needed several hours in advance.  The reservations are needed so they can catch dinner.  The bar/restaurant seemed nice with its sand floor and pool table in the middle.  The cigarette smoke kept the mosquitoes at bay, but Ella refuses to breath if someone is smoking.  We left for home.  Sadly the lock holding us to the dock jammed and couldn’t be opened.  A friendly man, Marco, took us all back to Rivers2Seas and then returned me with a pair of our bolt cutters.  The boat was free instantly.  Realized that we needed a better lock certainly, but a better cable as well.  Marco was one of 50 single men on the island; they also have 15 married couples and four single ladies.  Rough odds for the men!

Our first night sail brought us to Mayaguana.  Twenty-four hours of motorsailing took us 140

Morning Glassy Calm

nautical miles to our last Bahamian island.  Lindsey and the kids had never sailed at night, which is a wholly different experience.  Waves come and rock the boat that can’t be seen, winds change direction, noises are accentuated and the mind worries.  The plus side is that the stars can be spectacular.  When the bioluminescence swarms the boat if feels as though we are floating through space.

The kids starlights

The kids were jealous of our stars outside and made a couple starry light shows in the salon where they were sleeping.  The waves were chaotic and bounced each of them every few seconds into the air.  Surprisingly, each slept wonderfully.  Lindsey and I each had about an hour and a half of sleep during the crossing.

Abraham’s Bay in Mayaguana is a huge bay that had eight boats in it; all at least a half mile from

Mayaguana home - note the extension cord

each other.  We took a family snorkel to a little reef, but jellyfish drove us back.  New Years Eve was spent marveling at the vastness of the Milky Way.  The next day we wandered into town to find some lunch.  Everything was closed so we played at the town park.  A man, Fernando, was talking to us and then ran off to get the bar owner to open.  We had a couple of Kalik beers while watching the Miami Dolphins play the NY Jets in a New Year’s Day football game.  Having not watched TV in over two months, the whole experience was surreal.  Chase and Ella played dominoes while we chatted with locals and watched football.  When the owner had some food delivered we asked where he got the takeout.  Keep in mind this is a town of 200 people.  It was from his sister across the street.  Knowing food was not going to be an option we paid our bill and headed down the street.  One of the bar patrons stopped on his bicycle to say we left too early, “his momma was making us food.”  Immediately, we headed back to the bar.  Four heaping plates of fresh turkey topped with cranberry sauce, potato salad, real macaroni and cheese and corn filled out bellies.  All payment was refused.

Earil Cartwright

The next day Chase and I went on a search for wild paddles as Lindsey taught Ella her schooling.  After a few miles walking and several inquiries, we were led to Earil Cartwright whose advanced age didn’t prevent him from furiously trying to dislodge a blade from his rusted out lawnmower.  We chatted about Mayaguana, bone fishing and other white folks he had met.  He brought out a 12-foot pink bladed oar he made 20 years ago from hand tools.   We walked back with the oar over my shoulder.

Taking a sail following the islands lee shore we staged at Southeast Point for the run to the Turks and Caicos.  At 1am, we up anchored and motored over a glassy sea to arrive 45nm later at 9am.  The electric windlass broke necessitating the anchor and chain to be set by hand.  The anchor weighs 45lbs and the chain a whole lot more.  Until we can get the motor rewound in the Dominican Republic I will be the windless.

A boat with all its many systems is prone to breakage in this harsh salty environment.  I used to

Worthwhile moments

think I was adept at fixing most anything.  That was before I became a sailor.  As chief maintenance man of the transportation department, sanitation department, electrical company, water company, gas company, and communications department, I feel as though I should have sent Christmas cards to all these folks back home who did jobs bringing us these things so effortlessly.  In the last week I have had to rewire the propane solenoid, fix a cooling leak in the diesel engine, manufacture a part for the dinghy outboard transmission and take apart the anchor windlass.  It seems unending.  I am reminded of years ago as Kent and I “canoed” across Nebraska.  We pulled that red canoe 600 miles down the Platte across sand; we didn’t canoe much.  Those were difficult times and the frustration was immense.  I feel that frustration now and hope that it gets better.  The sailing when we do goes great, but the fixing of everything does not.

Good days!

For now we have been given clearance to be in the Turks and Caicos (or as Chase calls this country, Turkeys and Naicos) for seven days.  The winds look favorable so we should be in the Dominican Republic soon.

Florida to Georgetown, Bahamas

Florida to Georgetown, Bahamas
The crossing from Miami to the Bahamas was a good one. Traversing the Gulf Stream which is called the largest river in the world is a challenge. A fun challenge. We buddy boated across with a Canadian boat, Bikini. We would end up spending the next 6 weeks with them having a ball. The Bahamas have amazing turquoise water, numerous rainbows and fluffy white beaches. As we sailed the 200 miles we would stop at different bays to anchor for the night.
Each anchorage has different qualities. On Allens Cay the endangered Exuma Iguana reigns. We could feed them grapes from short sticks. Staniel Cay has some wild pigs that like to swim out to boats for a free hand out. We anchored outside an island owned by David Copperfield. We kept waiting for him to make us disappear, which luckily didn’t happen.
     Our friends have some fun toys aboard like water skis and SCUBA gear. I did three dives with John and had a blast each time. The underwater world is a glorious place to see. An octopus, which I consider my spirit animal, was my favorite. The snorkeling is fantastic.  Lobster hunting has proven to be exhilarating and tasty afterwards. Ella went snorkeling into a cave that was featured in a 007 film. Our little girl impresses us daily.
I am learning to be a fisherman too. Trolling is definitely my speed – throw the hook in and then come back when a fish is on. Chase has only caught one fish, which was exciting. I was less excited when I realized it was a two-foot shark!
Georgetown, Bahamas is a bit of a cruising mecca. At present there campfires on the beachare 100 boats here and soon that will increase to 400. We play volleyball often, snorkel or use the SUP boards. Sadly there isn’t much culture here with Bahamians. The other cruisers are the culture. They are fun to share tales and dreams with.  The organization is intense.  Cruisers net @ 8am, Yoga @ 8:45, Volleyball @ 2pm, happy hours at different beaches @ 5pm.  As one cruiser put it ‘if I wanted this much organization, I’d be working 9 to 5.”  While we do enjoy the place, it seems as though we have moved to a more athletic retirement home.  Prettier than Gateway Terrace in Florida, but a old folks home just the same.  Great people and we shall miss them.

        Chase and Ella are both doing great.  They play make believe daily after school, build sand castles or go exploring with us.  Chase now insists on being called ‘Turtle.”  Apparently, Gram called him this before and he likes the name.  Even in death, Gram has the ability to enrich our taking Ella to school – not uphill both ways at least    lives and make us smile.

Christmas was a fun event with the best tree ever.  At least Charlie Brown would think so.  The kids made ornaments from shells and sea fans then adorned the top with a starfish.  Certainly my favorite tree ever.  Lindsey’s mom, Kay, made the trip down for a week so we had fun showing her the islands.  We rented a car a cruised the coast.  The few restaurants we found were closed but I did find a nice place with one table inside.  Conch Snack, Chicken wings and hamburgers were all fantastic.  We think it may have been a brothel, but at 1pm luckily nothing was happening.
The winds have been howling keeping us here. Tomorrow the winds should abate and we will make a run for the Turks and Caicos. As excited as we are to continue our journey, it is difficult to leave our new friends that we have bonded so well with.

Sailing Florida to Bahamas

We have been having a wonderful time in the Bahamas.  Our new friends aboard Bikini have helped us immeasurably as we buddy boated from Fort Lauderdale to Georgetown, Bahamas.