PIKA Southbound III
1967 Alberg 37 MK-I Sloop
(Third Trip South to the Bahamas 2005-2006)
By Lou and Jean Wayne

 

 
PIKA

Sunday, 10/16/05

Weighed anchor from Rochester at 8am loaded to capacity after an emergency trip to the gas station for more air in the back tires (we drove our car from Rochester to Kinsale, VA where PIKA has been docked). 

 

Wed., 10/26/05

Ten days have passed and we are finally underway.  We find it very difficult to part from our dear friends Tom and Kaye in Kinsale, VA who have been so good to us.  They were to have accompanied us this trip but some pesky medical issues are keeping them home.  For most of the last ten days we found two items added to the to-do-list for each one crossed off.  Another distraction has been new friends Geoff and Bunkey who are former Alberg 37 owners but now are sailing a 41 ft. catamaran.  Their boat has shared the dock with PIKA since spring but we have only gotten to know them since the southbound preparations began. They left today also but had an earlier start and make a couple more knots than we do so we may not see them until the Bahamas. 


Party of TWO Leaving Kinsale for Points South

  Eventually the chores required less use of the table saw, drill press, vise, sewing machine, etc. and could be finished up along the way so we have cast off the lines and are underway.  Underway with gusto I might add, 25 kts from the north west, PIKA doing 7+ kts under jib alone.  By 3:30 we have had enough rocking and rolling and drop the hook in Dividing Creek. Cool clear weather is predicted for the next week so we should make good progress.  The clear part makes for fine traveling and the cool reminds us each morning why we are going this direction!  We share the waterway with many other snowbirds like ourselves, as well as our feathered friends.  We had a yellow-rumped warbler join us today for a free boat ride while he rested his wings.  We also saw our first brown pelicans of the trip catching their breakfast.  Thursday we set off at first light for Norfolk.  We actually spent the night anchored in Mill Creek, Hampton.  It's a good secure spot but left us with crossing Hampton Roads with big seas rolling down from the bay. Navy war ships coming and going, tugs with and without barges plus drizzly rain made for several interesting hours.  Eventually we made it into the Dismal Swamp canal and to the visitors center just inside North Carolina.  This morning we awoke to frost on the deck so we were happy to be off toward the south.  Tonight we are at a free dock in Elizabeth City NC and will attend the standard wine and cheese party. This is one town that knows how to treat visiting boaters! Lou and Jean aboard PIKA, Eliz. City NC. 

 

11/17/05

I do hate to irritate our northern friends but we are into the warmth. Last evening (11/8/05) after anchoring, we dinghied to a friends boat for sundowners and when we returned to PIKA, I discovered my shoes missing.  Of course I had left them in their cockpit and they were quickly retrieved, but how often do you go out in your dinghy on 11/8 without your shoes and not notice???  But the warmth does have it's price, the "no-see-ums" are feasting upon my vital fluids. And today Jean rediscovered one of the true irritations of modern life.  While shopping at a Publix supermarket her cart was stolen just before she was ready to check out.  This really p----d her off because she had very carefully selected each item knowing she had to carry it a half mile back to the boat.  (Her captain being busy with the laundry and windlass repair).  Then the silver haired geriatric old lady added insult to injury by strategically placing selected items from that cart in odd places around the store, the French bread on top of the pumpkin pie filling, the deli sliced meat atop the stewed tomatoes, etc.  Needless to say by the time I finally found her on her return she was happy to see a friendly face and have help carrying the second time shopped for items home.  At that point a rum and tonic was very high on her wish list. That I could easily accommodate so upon learning that all the laundry was washed, dried and folded she jumped into creating a grand beef stroganoff for dinner.     Had intended to get underway early but Jean discovered a problem with the Publix receipt and had to return, problem corrected without question and we were off in time to catch the 9:30 bridge. Turned out to be marvelous timing as we had current with us down Port Royal Sound, the slack water at the turn for Hilton Head and very soon the flood tide hurried us onward.  This was great as it allowed us to cross the Savannah River at high tide, thru places we had gotten stuck on our last tri p north.  Today (11/12) was not so successful, we arrived at a  spot known as Hell Gate just before low tide with a catamaran stuck in the channel. Now let's see, he draws 2.5 feet and is aground, no place for our six foot draft.  Down goes the hook and since it's time for Mister Perkins to get fresh oil, I take care of that, then take a shower and have lunch.  By this time the tide has  been rising two hours so off we go, dragging a bit but we are thru.  By three o'clock we have grown weary of this day so we drop the hook in Birthday Creek.  Sunday has similar skinny water but with some fuel- conserving slowness we arrive at trouble spots well into the rising tide and have no trouble, finally getting the anchor down at dusk in "Wally's Leg".  So far with just superb weather we are way ahead of schedule and will spend a few days in and around Fernandina Beach before meeting family in Jacksonville Beach for turkey day.  More to follow.

Lou and Jean enjoying the warmth while scratching our bites, Fernandina Beach FL.    

 

11/29/05 Thanksgiving

Well PIKA made her Turkey day rendezvous with time to spare.  In fact we came to the marina several days early to avoid being anchored in Fernandina Beach during the passage of a strong cold front with 35+ knots of wind from the north which is wide open in that anchorage.  This turned into good fortune in that we were comfortable during the windy stuff (actually gusts near 50 mph) but we had extra time to get shopping and laundry taken care of plus unbeknownst to us the marina had a weekly rate which turned out to be the same as we would have paid for five days.  Anyway Jean and my sister Lucy created, in PIKA's tiny galley, a fine Thanksgiving feast including turkey & dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, and of course pies of pumpkin and pecan. This was all transported to my sister's hotel room where ten of us fattened ourselves nicely.  It was nice to see our family, the whole Jacksonville thing centering around my niece and her two great kids.  But you know you 're getting old when your "grand" niece is a freshman in college.  Oh well no matter we will push on and do what we can while still able to sit up and take nourishment!  We are now in St. Augustine and will hang around for a day or two, the "Sailors Exchange" not being open on Monday.  The other interesting thing is that here in St. Aug. there is a draw bridge in serious need of replacement but since it is on the national register of historical places it can't just be replaced. Sooo the powers that be decided to build another bridge in it's place, dismantle the old bridge, take it off site refurbish it, reassemble it, then tear down the "new" bridge!  Only in America!  Oh well we will be on our way again Wed. morning still hoping for a mid December crossing to the Bahamas.  Oh yes we picked up our new Bahamas courtesy flag today, how do those flag engineers figure out how to make a flag strong enough and at the same time wimpy enough to last for only one visit?  Enough for now, pouring rain with turkey leftovers in the oven.  Lou and  Jean, St. Augustine FL.   

 

12/26/05 Velcro (Vero) Beach

PIKA has been tied to a mooring here in Vero Beach for nearly a week.  That's just the way it works.  You intend to spend a day or two and it just drags on since it is really a friendly place with great "free" public transportation to nearly everywhere one needs to go.  We are rafted to a fellow Alberg37, Sea Cycle, Mark and Debbie from Toronto who are making their first trip south.  They are waiting for some parts and we are waiting for mail so we will try to leave together early next week.  Since we knew that we were staying in the same place for at least a week to provision the boat with supplies, we decided we should give our friends Tom & Kaye from Kinsale Va. a call and see if they wanted to drive down to enjoy the cruising life with us for a few days.  They arrived a day later and we had a wonderful visit for a week.  They knew several other cruisers in the harbor who were also headed south so many a party we attended.  Well the next week came and went as our plans were thwarted by a banking problem.  It seems that the mutual fund company who has faithfully deposited my IRA withdrawals all year into our checking account somehow managed to make December a "goes-outta" instead of a "goes-inta"!  It took 8 days to get it fixed with no one able to explain how it happened or assure us it won't happen again.  Anyway on Dec.18 we broke free of our mooring and the city life to resume our journey south.  Unfortunately we missed several wonderful weather windows for crossing to the Bahamas which some of our friends caught and now it's doubtful we will make it before Christmas.  Even though we will have to wait nearly a week for weather it is much better for the pocket book to be somewhere that is not so convenient for spending money. Such are the troubles of this vagabond life style. Thursday Dec. 22 - made it to N. Lake Worth (West Palm Beach).  Will do a bit more provisioning then wait for smooth seas and a south wind to cross to the Bahamas, perhaps mid next week.  Merry Christmas to each of you.

Lou & Jean     

 

1/4/06 Bahamas At Last

Well with many fits and starts PIKA has finally made it to the Bahamas.  On Dec 28, 2005, we headed east from Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) at 0500 in the am.  The wind was not as predicted (big surprise) being north west rather than south. This made for a lumpy crossing but before noon the south wind kicked in and we made excellent progress toward our destination of Great Sale Cay.  At 1845 I had a commitment to talk to our friend TJ in Kinsale Va. on the Single Sideband radio.  In order to hear better I shut down the engine.  Upon restart we discovered the manifold problem had reappeared.  We turned on the blower which kept the smoke and smell from the cabin and pressed on. The prediction was for south west wind so we skirted the south end of the Great Sale Cay and anchored in the eastern lee about 10:30 pm.  The wind came up really more south than west and we were awakened about 0400 by the lapping waves. When daylight arrived we decided to move in closer to shore and wait out the blow.  By evening the wind had clocked a bit more west and we had a quiet night. Come Friday morning we set sail to the east.  Not wanting to run the engine more than necessary we set the mainsail, hauled anchor and were underway.  Friday turned out to be a beautiful down wind sailing day, many miles dead down, wing on wing with the drifter.  Topping off the day was a really great "green flash" at sun down.  Two more days of very light wind got us to Green Turtle Cay where we will  clear customs today.  Gotta go, more later.  Lou and Jean, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas.  

 

1/10/06 Junkanoo

PIKA is now settled into White Sound, Green Turtle Cay.  We were lucky enough to have cleared customs on Monday January 2, when the Junkanoo festival happens here.  This allowed us to legally join hundreds of others to enjoy the parade and festival.  Junkanoo is a big party with a parade of incredible costumes and deafening drum beat music. All that being said, we had a great time, and today we began our search for a new exhaust manifold for our 38 year old engine.  As it turned out it was too windy/wavy to get to town via dinghy so we decided to make the three mile walk.  We sort of expected to hitch a ride but one golf cart after another passed us.  I surmised they were all power boaters.  Eventually a young Bahamian gal picked us up and rode us to town.  We located Roberts Marine  and George Roberts set straight to work finding us what we need. Sounds promising at this point.  Meanwhile, we are warm & happy and anchored in a safe place with some very nice friends from Toronto.  The next day, the home built catamaran PEACE sailed into the harbor with Ann & Nevil aboard.  Ann  has single handed her previous boat, a Shannon 28 across the ocean from the U.S. to Ireland before meeting Nevil. PEACE is a very interesting boat, a Wharram design catamaran which is made of plywood and lashed together.  They immediately planned a pot luck dinner for 8 because they caught a large mutton snapper and have no refrigeration.  Also invited were Robbie and Jamie who had just gotten engaged, and the Sea Cycle and PIKA crews.  Robbie is a fisherman so he had a lobster to donate to the dinner.  He also gave instructions on how to fillet the fish.  After several rum punches we dinghied home after a wonderful evening with new friends.   Two days and many dollars later our manifold is installed and Captain & Mate are very happy.  On Sunday we motored thru Whale Cay Cut with 3 foot rollers and wind on the nose to Bakers Bay where we anchored for the evening.  The small Island across from the anchorage is known to be one of the best shelling beaches surrounded by coral reefs and turquoise water so Mark & Debbie from Sea Cycle and Jean spent the morning collecting shells while Captain Lou did a little fishing from PIKA.  The shelling was great but it looks like we will be having black bean soup and home made bread for dinner again.  We sailed into Marsh Harbor on Monday in time for a free evening concert by singer, song writer, and cruiser, Eileen Quinn from Toronto.  Eileen writes songs about the cruising life and she is really good.  There was a full house and a splendid concert.  So, we are up and running again and should be heading south after seeing a little more of the Abacos. Love, Jean & Lou, Marsh Harbor, Abacos, Bahamas    

 

1/13/2006  True Manifold Story

This is directed to those of you who are, like me, mechanically miss-inclined.  The first clue of trouble came in North Lake Worth when we were unable to shut down the engine.  A diesel engine must be starved of either fuel or air in order to stop.  In virtually all installations a fuel cut off is provided.  Such is the case on PIKA, in this case being nothing more elaborate than a lawn mower control cable leading from the panel to the injection pump.  But alas I digress. The fact was pulling the stop cable had no effect.  Not a problem, I just went below, opened an access panel and shoved the fuel cutoff closed with a screw driver.  A brief investigation revealed that a clamp on the cable was not doing it's job.  Unfortunately the reason it was not performing as designed was that it hung from one of the studs which holds the exhaust manifold in place.  A quick glance showed the stud to be missing.  A more detailed investigation into the bilge using a strong magnet revealed a nut and 2/3's of a stud.  Yep, for whatever reason the stud had sheared off in the head.  While removing the manifold I discovered a crack in one leg which became a clean break during removal.  Being the day before Christmas Eve I figured there was no fixing anything until next week so I set about trying to remove the broken stud.  Some god of machinists must have been watching over me for I managed to prick punch the stud dead nuts in the center.  Thus began the futile exercise of using easy outs which of course don't work. Eventually I had drilled holes up to nearly the correct diameter for a 5/16 24 tap, of which fortunately I had two.  The once blind hole is now not so blind having been drilled thru into the water jacket in the head. Not to worry a little anti freeze must be as good a tapping fluid as any, right?  Wrong, true to form I broke the tap off in the hole. (I may be the only man alive who could break a piece of tool steel off in a stick of butter)  Just at this moment with the atmosphere blue with rage our friends Mark and Debbie (SEA CYCLE) came by offering help and out of frustration I gave them the manifold and said "get it fixed or replaced"  I then set about trying to extract the broken tap.  An hour+ later having employed drills, pliers, hammers, chisels, and forceps the broken tap was removed and the second tap finished the job.  About this time the shore party returned with the news that they had lined up a welder for the AM who could weld the manifold.  Things are looking up and in the morning Mark and I head off in his rental car north to Jensen Beach.  We found the shop and a few minutes later Jeremy showed up and did a bang up job on the manifold.  We are fat dumb and happy. I took the rest of the day off knowing my Christmas would be spent in the engine compartment.  Reassembly was nowhere near as easy as disassembly but the task is accomplished in a good half day.  A weather window opened and we were headed across the gulf stream in a day or two.  Unfortunately as beautiful as Jeremy’s weld was it failed about three hours short of our chosen anchorage. The blower kept the soot and CO out of the cabin and we anchored in the Bahamas about 2200 that night. Much too windy and rough to move the next day so I applied a "blow out" patch to the fresh crack  The patch consisted of high temp RTV wrapped with silicone tape.  I figured this would at least reduce the soot and smell.  We were blessed with 'sailable' winds for the next two days and with the aid of the dinghy were able to get PIKA anchored in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay.  To our good fortune there is a great shop on Green Turtle Cay, Roberts Marine.  Within minutes of talking to George Roberts, a replacement manifold was headed to the airport in Ft. Lauderdale.  A little delay getting it onto the plane and dealing with customs and it was in my hand by Friday having started on Tuesday.  Not too bad for 'island time'.  Installation of the replacement was not as straight forward as it should have been. There are several pipe fitting openings in the water jacket of this manifold and the one I need for my hot water heater tap was closed with a plug.  The plug required a 3/4" Allen wrench to undo.  Now PIKA carries a pretty fair supply of tools but a 3/4 Allen wrench, I don't think so!  I tried using a nut half in and half out but it was easily rounded off.  Heat from my little butane torch did nothing so I was forced to drill a couple of holes thru the plug and cut out a pie shaped piece with the Dremel tool Santa brought just a few days before.  A little hammer and chisel work and the plug was history. Then it was just a matter of lining up the coolant hoses, bolting on the manifold, replacing the heat exchanger, raw water pump, hoses clamps etc, etc.  An hour's worth of work in the shop equals about eight in the engine compartment.  Now we assume that it was simply age that caused the failure and we are good for another 37 years by which time I shall care not!  Now if only I could use hammers, chisels, drills etc. on that damn piece of shit Dell computer I bought for this trip I would be all set.   ($1400 and it ain't even heavy enough to be a decent boat anchor)  Brings up my theory of cruising, "if you can't fix it, or have a back up,  there's not much point in having it!" Oh well, we press onward, Georgetown in a week or two.  Lou and Jean, Marsh Harbour.

 

1/16/06 Gales

Here's our weather forecast for today:

Friday the 13th, a full moon, a major cold front with gusts up to 40 kts, suppose to begin shortly after midnight lasting for two days, with an exceptionally low tide about 1:30am due to the full moon.  We are anchored in Marsh Harbour in 8' of water at high tide with a tide of 2' and PIKA's keel 6' below the water.  However, the weather gods are with us.  The storm did not come thru at low tide in the middle of the night.  It was 4:30am before we had any winds and the major part of the cold front blew thru at 8am - daylight, yes!  The peak gusts were also well over 40kts.  We recorded 44kts while others reported higher gusts. Winds are predicted to continue thru Sunday 25 - 30.  No dinghy ride into town to do pocketmail today.  We are hunkered down reading our books and will roast a chicken in the oven tonight.  This really is a "cold" front with temps down into the 50's tonight.  Sunday, quite a bit calmer this morning and most of the black clouds have blown away.  We have a small spot of sun with more on the way and the temperatures are in the 60's.  Things are returning to normal in paradise. Being a much calmer day and therefore more conducive to project work, I decided to perform some long overdue maintenance on the head.  There's nothing that can humble a man quite like the rebuilding of a marine toilet!  Ah but the reward, a lovely enhancement in performance.  Lou & Jean, Marsh Harbour

 

2/2/06 Georgetown, Exumas

Just wanted to let you know that we arrived in Georgetown yesterday.  This will be our home for the next couple of months along with about 300 other cruisers.  Let the beach parties begin!  More to come. Lou & Jean, Hamburger Beach Anchorage, Georgetown

 

2/7/06 Stuck in Paradise

That's how we began to refer to Marsh Harbour while the very strong winds went on relentlessly.  Much of the time in an ok direction but given their duration huge seas built up in the Northeast Providence channel.  This is the 50 mile wide stretch of open Atlantic which separates the Abacos from the Exumas and our goal of Georgetown. PIKA and more importantly her crew do not venture into 12 ft seas so stuck in the Abacos we were for nearly a month. Then a short window opened and we fled southward being chased by yet another cold front.  We knew the front was a weak one and the wind would shift to the north pushing us onward. Before dark we were securely anchored in Royal Island well protected on all sides.  This was good since just behind the front a strong high pressure ridge created another four days of very strong winds.  Finally on Sunday 1/29 we once again moved south into more wind than we liked but eventually by late afternoon we reached Highborne Cay.  Good protection from the northeast winds but not good the next morning when they shifted to the south.   A very slow 8 mile motorsail got us to the south anchorage of Norman's Cay.  The cay was once a major drug distribution point and in the center of the harbour lies the remains of a cargo plane which failed on take off, loaded with "merchandise" for the lucrative US market.  All that is past now and what remains is just another picture perfect island surrounded by beautiful turquoise water.  Tuesday was the day we sailors live for, 12kts of wind on a fairly close reach, PIKA heeled about 15 degrees and making 6.3 kts with the auto pilot doing all the work.  A rolly anchorage in Black Point and then we were off at first light for the 50 mile run down Exuma Sound to the Mecca, oh that would be Georgetown.  250 boats here already with at least 50 more in just the next few days.  We made a quick trip into town this am and found it filled with hustle and bustle.  Not much new or different except the free RO (reverse osmosis) water at the dinghy dock.  Previously this water supply was not potable and the only source of "good" water was from the beach bar "Chat and Chill", at 60 cents/gallon!  Our friends from Virginia have been here since Jan. 23 staying as guests on a Lagoon 41 catamaran called "Party of Two".  Yesterday they packed their bags and moved onboard PIKA for another couple of weeks.  We are having a grand time catching up on the news and gossip from the states while preparing for a windy cold front tonight.  Life is good!

Love, Jean & Lou, Masters Harbour Anchorage, Georgetown      

 

3/6/06  Georgetown, Exumas

We have been in this place for just over a month.  You might wonder why we seem to get stuck here.  The reasons are the same as heard aboard the other 400+ boats who are anchored around us.  First and foremost is the weather.  Nearly always warm and mild.  The cold fronts which roar through the northern Bahamas normally glide thru here with a minimum of fuss and fury.  The second reason is, this is a great place to have visitors.  During our stay in Georgetown, we had guests aboard almost 3 weeks.  The third reason is the Cruising Regatta, an annual week long event which even includes a couple of sailboat races. So what keeps us busy all day? Life aboard the cruising boat is not all sand and coconut palms.  Water and fuel in 5 gal. jugs must be "trucked" from town via the dinghy.  Groceries follow the same path although the market seldom has everything needed so another trip to town is called for soon after the next freighter arrives.  In this warm water things grow rapidly on the bottom so that requires regular attention.  The warm temps. and frequent recharging means the batteries need to be watered. Of course there is laundry to be done either ashore ($3 wash, $6 dry) or aboard using that heavily hauled water.  Yes there are also social events to be attended such as the weekly AAS (Alcohol Appreciation Society) meetings, the dessert extravaganza and the frequent Eileen Quinn concerts.  Now we are into regatta week which kicked off with the pet parade, the flip flop decorating contest, the crazy hat contest and the Jimmy Buffet look alike contest.  Saturday was the around Stocking Island race.  The weather was perfect with north west wind which meant a down wind start followed by 4 miles downwind, 7 miles to weather, then a mile or 2 of reaching followed by a 5 mile run to the finish. Something for everyone and a great equalizer.  An Alberg 30 won the class "C" division beating many much larger boats some of which were class "B" and should have been much faster.  Also, "Cloud Splitter", a Saga 43 from Sodus Bay Yacht Club, took line honors and finished 2nd in their class.  Many more events to come this week.  More later.  Lou and Jean, Georgetown, Bahamas.      

 

3/30/06 Escape from Georgetown

Yesterday, 3/14 we forced ourselves to retrieve the anchor and begin the long journey north.  We stayed a month and a half in what many consider paradise.  That is tough to argue as it has everything one needs including unlimited social interaction or near solitude as one might require.  We failed to attend the grand finale of Regatta which is the variety show put on by the cruisers with anyone from any of the boats with any kind of talent.  It was just to windy and lumpy to cross the harbour. We had a bumpy following sea and light wind journey north to Blackpoint but this is one of our favorite spots in all the Bahamas so we are content.  By the time we arrived the wind had died completely but that was fine since we had tired of being jostled around.  After dinner while I was picking up around the cockpit, Jean gave a call for help from her reading room (aka the vee berth).  It seems a very large moth had flown in through the hatch.  Not your ordinary sweater eater, this baby had a wing span of 8 or 10 inches.  We realized it might be a "money moth" which it is said brings good fortune to anyone it lights upon.  It seemed to sense our lack of potential for receipt of good fortune and did not land on either of us.  In spite of serious disappointment we assisted it to freedom none the less. Today was totally calm and we could clearly see every grain of sand ten feet below the surface in our turquoise ocean.  I took the opportunity to check things on PIKA's bottom.  A few red beards of growth here and there but those are easily scrubbed away, so maybe the cheap bottom paint is ok after all.  Friday, St. Patrick’s Day, had a glorious sail in 8-10 knots of breeze and flat turquoise seas to Staniel Cay, the mega-yacht capital of the Bahamas.  This is where the rich and famous fly in to meet their yachts when they have free time.  There is a constant buzz of small plane engines. The spot where we are anchored is called Piggy Beach, the name because of the large semi-wild pigs living on the beach and surrounding brush.

 They really like fresh goodies so it is quite the tourist attraction to dinghy over to feed them. They just about swim out to meet anyone with food. Thursday, cold front coming tomorrow so we must move from Piggy Beach to a more protected anchorage.  Between the Majors is the usual spot but we decide to try an anchorage 1/2 mile away near Fowl Cay.  There is a long way and a short way to get there.  Short way thru a very narrow cut with the wind piping up may be challenging so we hoist the sails and sail 5 miles around the islands and shallow spots to get to our protected anchorage to ride out the front.  Not too bad, the peak wind speed is only 35knts. from the NW, and short lived. Also during daylight hours.  Saturday, calm seas so we decide it is time to move on.  We had a most pleasant sail about 15 miles in a 10 knot. breeze to Emerald Rock, just outside of Warderick Wells, the Land & Sea National Park.  Learned that there was a happy hour on the beach in one hour so we dinghied back to PIKA to rustle up an hors d'oeuvre and get our drinks.  Very pleasant and a nice group of cruisers, some old friends and many new.  Lots of people still going south which feels strange to us since all the folks we have been with these past few months are either gone south to the Caribbean or already north of us.  We really thought we would be able to make some north progress this week but the wind gods seem to be ganging up against us.  So, we may still be in this beautiful spot for most of this week. We have good protection from the north winds and the sun is out so today we will dinghy ashore and see some of the park.  We did do some hiking in the park but alas on Wed. the wind seemed to favor north bound travel so we sailed off toward Highborne Cay.  Mostly sailing off the wind but the last 6 miles saw us double reefed with about half the jib out pounding to weather.  But Highborne we did make.  That means we can dispense with about a weeks worth of trash and get a few more gallons of water.  Wind is supposed to blow harder tomorrow (3/30) so we will hang out and get this sent off along with those other chores.  Hope to be up to the Abacos by early next week.  All's well aboard PIKA.  Lou and Jean, Highborne Cay.       

 

Sunday, April 2 Abacos

Motor-sailed from Royal Island thru the NE Providence Channel to Little Harbour, Abacos today (56 miles).  Spent the whole day looking for whales and fishing for Mahi Mahi.  None! Monday, in Marsh Harbour today will spend a few days provisioning (the quartermaster has proclaimed "we need some new food on this boat") then head north and west. Lou & Jean, Marsh Harbour Abacos.

 

4/ 11/06 Where does the time go?

We anchored in Marsh Harbour Monday afternoon and next morning went ashore to do just a few of the our many on shore chores. No need to be too ambitious since we will be here several days. The short list was, do pocketmail and make a couple other calls, get propane tank filled, pick up a gallon of anti freeze/coolant, check AT&T email and bank statement on line, buy rum and beer and a few groceries. A couple or three hours tops right? We started off very efficiently after getting ashore about 10:00. Jean headed for the phone while I hiked the 1/2 mile to drop off the propane tank. The tank is supposed to be back by 1:00 so this will work out just right. Hike the 1/2 mile back to the phone where Jean is just finishing. On to the NAPA store to get the coolant, easy 1/4 mile walk, in the opposite direction. Oh but this is much more than an auto parts store, much more like a department store so shopping here takes the better part of an hour. Then it's off to the internet cafe and at a base rate of one half hour naturally we are here for all of that and more. By now it's one o'clock, time for the tank to be back from being filled. Upon arrival there, I was most disappointed to see our tank sitting in the same spot, unfilled and the door closed. Oh well no matter, across the street is "Snappas" a good place to eat and refresh (read as drink). After a giant burger (Lou) and equally giant mahi-mahi sandwich (Jean) we stopped back at the propane place only to discover that the supply truck went up island earlier than expected and our tank would not be back until 4:00 or 4:30. So we set off to look into rental cars to do some land based touring. We booked a car for tomorrow and then headed off to the super market and liquor store. Once these essentials were loaded into the dinghy, I made the long trek back to the propane place and was rewarded with a full "PIKA" tank. Back to the dink and home to PIKA  just after 5:00 only - 7 hours to get those  two hours of tasks accomplished. And not only that, the serious grocery shopping and laundry are put off by a day while we drive around seeing parts of Abaco we have never seen before. Oh well we will get it all done and move on eventually. Lou and Jean, Marsh Harbour.

 

4/19/2006 Two Albergs on a Roller Coaster

Pika was anchored at Great Sale Cay for the evening preparing for our gulf stream crossing when we heard two sailboats chatting on the vhf and discussing their location on the other side of Great Sale Cay.  There was a discussion about what type of vessel they were and when "Island Time" mentioned that they were an Alberg 37, we called them to introduce ourselves.  The next morning, we found them anchored behind us and hoped that we would cross the stream together.  We dinghied over to meet Scott and Lynn from Castine , Maine and got the tour of their boat, which is very nice.  She is a MKII built in 1971 and is tiller steered.  From Great Sale Cay to the edge of the Bahama Banks is roughly 52 Miles and from there to Ft Pierce FL about 62 miles.  Our plan was to sail that last part in day light since it involves crossing the gulf stream which is heavy with commercial traffic (read as ships, tugs with barges on very long tows and cruise liners).  So if we left the anchorage at about 7:30pm and make 5.5 knots we will exit the banks about 4:30am giving us just over an hour before first light.  Well the day was warm with just the slightest south breeze, and a forecast of south to south west for the next 24 hours so we decided to sail/drift for the afternoon.  Of course with sisterships sailing side by side a defacto race soon evolved. Fortunately we spent many years racing on Lake Ontario where drifting conditions are very common and the winner is usually the boat whose crew just keeps her moving.  About 5:00pm the wind picked up wonderfully from the south and we found ourselves blasting along at 6.5 kts toward the edge of the banks.  We were going to be way early but the sailing is so fine we can't bring ourselves to slow down so the plan is trashed for "all ahead flank speed".  Crossing off the banks into the Atlantic brought our comeuppance however as the wind promptly shifted to 285 degrees just north of west, our intended direction and built to 25 kts!  Very quickly it was too rough to safely go on deck to reef the  main so we furled the jib and started the engine since the batteries were very low at this point anyway. So through the worst of the night we motor sailed making as much west as possible.  About sun up the wind abated and we shut down the engine and reset the jib.  Not perfect but the gulf stream is making up for our inability to sail north west . By mid morning it's pretty pleasant but still not quite north enough. No matter at 12 miles out the wind dies completely.  We say our goodbyes to Island Time as she is headed south from Ft Pierce to Indiantown where she'll be stored for the summer.  We motor in on a warm Easter afternoon.  Of course this is culture shock at it's peak.  Those of you up north reading this won't think of Easter weekend as being a big boating time but trust me it's not  too early here.  Everything in central Florida that floats and consumes fossil fuel is out here doing that with abandon, many burning more today than Pika has on this entire trip. So eventually we made our way up to Vero Beach with it's relative quiet.  We'll stay here a few days then begin the long trek north, playing the tide against the skinny spots.  If all goes well Pika should be in her southern home of Kinsale VA by end of May or early June.  Stay warm and think spring. Lou and Jean, Vero Beach FL.      

 

5/9/06 The "Long March"    

Meaning no disrespect to Chairman Mao, the long march is what we are about. From Vero Beach to Kinsale is about 775 miles as the crow flies. Unfortunately God and the US Army Corps of Engineers did not consult our black feathered friend while designing the ICW (intracoastal waterway), consequently "the ditch" more closely resembles a plate of spaghetti noodles vs the flight path of a determined raven. So in fact the distance is more like 1030 miles. 

While spending a few days on the mooring ball in Vero Beach rafted with a boat named Pagan Chant with Captain Michael and his two cats Mr. T-Bones and ZaZa aboard, we seemed to be taking on several gallons of water in the dinghy each time we went to shore. The best way to pump out the water seemed to be for Jean to pull the bow up a foot or two onto the dinghy dock while Lou sits in the stern and pumps. 

The process was working quite well until one day when we returned to Pika and found that Lou no longer had his wallet in his back pocket. This was about 5pm, happy hour but we were not all that happy. We searched the harbor for several hours, thinking since the wallet was in a zip lock it may well have remained afloat for some time. We also checked with the marina and bus company as we had just ridden the bus back from town, no luck. Fortunately, we had a library nearby where we could use the internet to watch our credit card accounts for any suspicious charges but after several days we were pretty sure the missing wallet was on the bottom near the dinghy dock. Next day is very breezy so we put the dinghy on deck and start looking for leaks. Not too big a deal so get out the goo and fix the small hole. 

Next day, finally we are off to a good start but true to the captains suspicion the house bank of batteries have reached the end of their useful life. This fact was confirmed when we heard them boiling and hissing at the end of the day, even though they had been watered only that morning. ! We know we can get them replaced at a reasonable cost in St Augustine so even though there is a several day closure of the draw bridge we stay "inside" vs going off shore and skirting the delay. We got the new batteries and were on our way just as the bridge reopened. Now the problem is north east wind to 30 kts. which keeps us inside the ICW. This would not be a problem except for all the shallow spots along the way in Georgia and South Carolina which require half tide or better for our six foot keel. 

After several late starts of 9 am or so we begin to make progress. Tomorrow, 5/4/06, we start at dawn and push northward, nearly 70 miles - a long way but we put lots of skinny water behind us at high or mid tide. Lots of wildlife along this route. All kinds of shorebirds and when we anchored in Wally's Leg in Georgia we had to share the river with two large gators. May 5th we made Charleston where we stopped for fuel then pressed onward. Didn't make much progress as a cold front approached bringing afternoon "T" storms. We anchored early and made use of the down time to change the engine oil.

Next day we set off again at dawn. Made great progress getting far up the Wacacama river. Cloudy threatening rain the next morning but we press on, right past Barefoot Landing which used to be an obligatory stop back when it was free! Now it's $1.25/ft, so we give it a pass. 

After spending the night in Calabash Creek (no we didn't say goodnight to Mrs. Calabash, wherever she might be) we are off early to catch the Sunset Beach bridge at 0800. This is always a trip as this bridge is a pontoon bridge which is "warped" open with winches and cables and takes about 15 minutes which is why it only opens once per hour. This thing belongs in a museum but will stay in service for as long as possible since the citizens of Sunset Beach do not want to make it any easier for lowly riff- raff tourists to get to their little bit of heaven. I should also point out that this is no picnic for them either as the bridge is one lane which means the cars have to wait their turn as well. Can't understand their fear of "development" for as far as we could see, every square centimeter has been taken up with Beach Houses being cheek by jowl with barely enough room for a blade of dune grass between them. 

After getting the bridge we push on as quickly as possible because we will arrive at Lockwood's Folly just before low tide. This area is a constant shoaling problem spot and Pika has left some of her bottom paint here on past occasions. After getting some questionable advice from Tow Boat US we arrive to find a dredge blocking the channel. Can't raise him on the radio so I called the trawler who had just gone thru. He was not encouraging as he reported he had hit bottom three times going thru. Just then the dredge swung out of the way and it was Pika's turn. There was wind and strong current pulling us to the right so I compensated as well as I could but not quite well enough. Pika put a short crease in the sand bar but 18,000 lbs moving at 5 knots has a lot of momentum. We bump over the bar and continue on our way to Wrightsville Beach from where this is begin sent. 

We are taking a day off since it's been 11 straight days of travel and the fresh food running low. We may go offshore tomorrow if the weather is as currently predicted. That will put us in Beaufort NC and within a week of Kinsale. I expect our next note will be from Pika's summer home there. Lou and Jean, Wrightsville Beach NC.

 

               To Be Continued……

 

5/21/06 PIKA Returns to Kinsale

After a rather uneventful trip from Wrightsville Beach, NC, PIKA finally arrived at the Assenmacher dock in  Kinsale, VA ("CAMP TJ") on 21 May, 2006.

 

PIKA Arrives at "Camp TJ" in Kinsale, VA 
(Hampton Hall Branch of the Yeocomico River)

 

Lou and Jean have completed their third trip to the Bahamas and were at the Assenmacher dock in Kinsale , VA until 5 July when they hauled  PIKA at the nearby Krentz’ Marina , where she will remain on the hard until September.  She will be back in the water shortly thereafter and will be present at the Rendezvous in October.  Planned work while out of the water will be a new prop shaft (replacing the old bronze 7/8” shaft with a 1” SS shaft), stuffing box, stern tube and cutless bearing; along with bottom painting.  Lou and Jean are planning on a long (land cruise) trip this summer to Alaska via friend's motor home.  Hopefully, they won't become too attached to "Land Cruising"!

 

They  have provided  a  spreadsheet cost analysis of their cruise to the Bahamas (October, 2005 through May, 2006) for your information.  You will see that it doesn't need to cost a fortune to "Cruise in Style" on an Alberg 37!! (To view the cost analysis, just click on the above link.)