Sunday, 27 December 2015


We experienced our first Junkanoo last night here on Harbour Island. What a fun time. A Junkanoo is a Bahamian street parade with costumes, dance and music, usually held on Boxing Day. The time and effort that goes in to the making of the outfits and floats must be huge, they were just amazing. Apparently the floats, which are new each year, were made here on the Island.

 Look who else was enjoying the show. Greg Norman.  

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Where have all the sailboats gone?

 As we travelled down the US East Coast this Fall we were preceded and accompanied by hundreds of like minded cruisers all heading to points south in their boats.  Now, many will reach Florida and happily stay there for the winter. But that leaves many many more who will continue on to the Bahamas and beyond.  Where have they all gone?  We are now in the Eleuthera chain of Islands and I can count on one hand the number of cruising sailors we have seen.  Hopefully we shall run into more cruisers as we head south.

A Google Earth map of our route from Miami to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

   When checking in to the Bahamas at Spanish Wells the customs officer actually wanted to see the boat, a first for us. So we tied up at the marina and then ended up staying there for several days. The officer didn't look around the boat at all, just came on board ( dirty shoes and all) filled out the forms, took our money and we were legal.

 Spanish Wells is a small community of about 1500 friendly people. As we walked around we were offered rides many times. The Island is small enough to be easily walked end to end but the roads are busy with locals riding their golf carts.

Spanish Wells harbour. Home to a large fleet of fishing vessels. 

Christmas in the Bahamas.

Spanish Wells 

Google Earth map of our route. Spanish Wells to Dunmore Town

  To reach Dunmore Town, Harbour Island, boats have to pick their way thru the reefs of the Devils Backbone.  The guide books all advise the hiring of a local captain for a safe transit. We took that advice.  At one point the route takes you within three hundred yards of the rocky shore, the waves crashing upon them. Closer than one normally likes to be in a boat with those sea conditions.!

 Dunmore Town is a delightful, busy town, originally the Capital of the Bahamas. A bit more "upscale" than Spanish Wells. A short walk across the Island takes us to the beautiful three mile long pink sand beach, fabulous for walking on especially at low tide.  Again, we have found ourselves mostly staying in a Marina. It is SO easy to be able to walk off the boat and not have to bother with a wet dingy ride. Other advantages to this Marina stay are the use of their fresh water pool and loungers and umbrellas at the beach.Who could resist !!  Oh well, once we leave here we will have to toughen up, back to life on the hook ( anchor) for us.

Main street, Dunmore Town

side street, Dunmore Town

local grocery store

we got a selfie stick!  On the beach.

  It's now Christmas Eve. I have spent the last hour working on this blog while Ian has been watching awfully bad movies!  We are missing both Samantha and Ryan this year. Next year you two. Somewhere hot and sunny!!    We will Skype with family tomorrow and then walk the beach. No turkey dinner but life is pretty good!  

Monday, 7 December 2015

Charleston to Miami

We left Beaufort, NC ( pronounced BO-fert) on Tuesday 10th November. It was a good sail thru the night in bumpy seas until the morning when the wind died and the engines came on. The seas died down quickly and we had a pleasant day motoring on calm seas. That night we were treated to an absolutely spectacular sunset. I was so busy enjoying it that I didn't think to take a picture, duh!!   Oh well.  We had an easy entrance into busy Charleston harbour and quickly got tied up at Charleston City Marina. We had come to Charleston mainly to switch out our mainsail. So that morning Ian and I got our old main down and the next day Jeff ( Antares) came to the boat and helped us get the new one up and properly adjusted. We couldn't have done without him. Many thanks to Jeff !!

Typical marshland scenery along the ICW, South Carolina 

 We spent a couple more days in Charleston, walking around the beautiful downtown, and then we were off heading down the ICW again to Beaufort, SC ( pronounced BU-fert).  We had some tense moments picking up a mooring ball in the downtown mooring field. I managed to get us attached first try but with the opposing wind and current Zooropa was swinging all over the place, with the mooring ball at times disappearing completely underneath us, not a good feeling. We were way too close to the other boats ( monohulls) near by and so decided to drop the ball and go anchor further out in the harbour.  We accomplished this and after ensuring that we were well stuck in we dingyed in and had a pleasant walk around the downtown area.

Beautiful Civil War era homes. Beaufort SC  

Large old trees covered in Spanish Moss. Downtown Beaufort, SC anchorage

   Our next stop was Hilton Head Island.  We spent a few days here at the Skull Creek Marina which was located within the Hilton Head Plantation, a large gated community with multiple golf courses and tennis courts.  We were able to borrow bikes ( no gears or brakes) and go for pleasant rides along the many bike paths.  Hilton Head is a busy Island with many cars but they have managed to keep the buildings well hidden behind the heavily treed landscape.

 We left Hilton Head on Monday 23rd November, heading outside for a two night sail to Fort Pierce, Florida, and hopefully some warmer weather. It was a chilly 4 degrees celsius the morning we left.  We had a rough and squally two night passage and were very glad to arrive at the Fort Pierce inlet at slack tide and have an easy ride in . It felt really good to get tied up at the Fort Pierce City Marina, especially as the winds continued to increase as the day went on. For the next few days we were completely pinned onto the dock.

  No problems though as we were busy visiting with friends from back home.  On Thursday Rebecca and Kent put on a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for fourteen of us, it was a fun evening in their lovely Florida home. Again, no pictures. What were we thinking!

first picture with selfie stick.  Kent and Rebecca with us on Zooropa. 

We had rented a car while at Fort Pierce so were able to get to Walmart, West Marine, Publix etc and stock up on lots of provisions.

 Another over nighter and we had made it to Miami, our last stop before heading over to the Bahamas.

Entering Miami Harbour

 We stayed at the Miamarina at Bayside in Miami. The marina is in need of repair but is ideally situated right downtown and an easy Uber ride ( my first, what a great idea!) to South Beach.  Samantha joined us here for a few days. We had a lovely visit with her as always but unfortunately the weather was rather wet!

Sammy at Muscle Beach, Lummus Park, South Beach. No rain but windy.

  It's now Monday December 7th.  Sammy left this morning and we had considered crossing over to the Bahamas but decided that the weather forecast wasn't ideal.  As of right now, it looks like a Wednesday crossing. We shall see.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Finally on our way South

Finally, we have left Deltaville and begun our trip south. We had a grey and windless day to travel down the Cheasapeake Bay to Norfolk but nonetheless it felt really good to be back out on the water. We anchored out in an anchorage on the Elizabeth River with the cities of Norfolk on one side and Portsmouth on the other.  Ian got the "rabbit ears" antennae out and was able to suck in a ton of TV stations. It was a Sunday night and guess who was playing? The Packers!! One happy Captain that night ( they suffered their first loss of the season though).

 Not so happy Captain the next morning when we couldn't get the anchor up. We would be travelling down the ICW and needed to time bridge openings and Canal lock throughs and had thought we had figured out a good schedule, so much for that. Forty five minutes later, after manoeuvring the boat this way and that way and then yanking sideways on the anchor chain suddenly the anchor was free and we were on our way.  By now we had thrown the schedule out the window. There was a bit of a panic approaching our first bridge ( an unattended railway bridge) when the boat immediately in front of us suddenly did a quick pivot around just as he was about to go under the bridge. He obviously thought that he couldn't fit under but he then backed through slowly and from my angle I could see that he in fact had lots of room so gave him the thumbs up. It always looks like a close call under the bridges from the deck of your own boat.

 Despite our later than planned start we did arrive at the perfect time to lock through at the Great Bridge Lock. Just as we pulled in the drizzle turned to full on heavy rain so we both got soaked as we got safely tied on in the lock. This single lock takes you up only 2 1/2 feet. It is a tidal guard lock which lifts boats up into the nearly 200 mile stretch of non-tidal waterway ahead.

 As we approached our next timed opening bridge we had about 10 minutes to wait so put the boat in neutral and very slowly drifted along. At some point I felt that we needed to centre ourselves more in the channel and gave a small spurt forward only to feel a gentle thud on the starboard side. Oooops! our first grounding of Zooropa. After taking soundings around the boat with the boat hook we realized it was only the starboard hull aground and with both engines in reverse we were able to get
ourselves off, and just in time to make the bridge opening !!

The end of this day on the waterways found us happily tied up to the dock in the small town of Coinjock, NC. Ahhhh. Heat on the boat, long hot showers on land and a delicious roast beef dinner at the local restaurant, does it get any better than that??

 After two more full days of motoring down the ICW, with nights spent out in very peaceful anchorages, we have finally made it to Beaufort, NC. We really like this little town ( we stayed here a few days in June on our way north) the docks are right downtown, there are lots of little shops and good restaurants and when staying here at the marina you get the free use of one of their old clunkers to make the run to the grocery store. We have met several other boats while here ( we are all waiting for the weather to shape up to continue south) so it has been quite social.  Today it is pouring buckets but tomorrow looks like a good day for us to leave. We hope to be heading off shore for what will be a two nighter to Charleston, but this all depends on what is happening with the Tropical Storm Kate, currently over the Bahamas.

  We are all set to go so we shall just wait and see what the weather gods bring us tomorrow. Hopefully the next post is from Charleston.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Stuck in Deltaville, Virginia

So here we are. It's been over three weeks since we left Canada and flew back to the boat and we are still in Deltaville. The boat is still on the hard. We are having some warranty repair work done to the gel coat ( purely cosmetic ) and work is progressing slower than expected( thats putting it mildly).

 Our first weekend here was spent preparing the boat for Hurricane Joaquin, which thankfully changed course. The next weekend we drove up to Annapolis and took in the Sailboat Show. We had a busy day looking at and buying all things boats. That evening we had a nice time meeting and reconnecting with other Antares owners. The following weekend we took ourselves off for a visit to

Virginia Beach. The beach is lovely, the boardwalk expansive to walk along but the town is a little run down. Our weekdays have been spent on the boat putting it all back together and getting cruise ready. About a week ago we decided we'd had enough of hotel living and moved onto the boat, which means climbing up or down a 10 foot ladder to get on/off the boat. Fortunately all the necessary systems of the boat are available to us except for the heat/cool system. Which means I have piled every quilt and blanket we own onto our bed. While the days have been mostly sunny and warm a few of the nights have been decidedly cold. Fingers are crossed for Zooropa to splash this week and then a couple of days after that we should be ready to roll. We are anxious to get moving south to warmer climes. Oh well, this is all a part of the boating lifestyle, we are keeping it in perspective here!!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Our first season comes to an end.

  We departed Stuart, Florida on June 19th and had an uneventful two night sail up to Charleston. Just as in Florida it was extremely hot here, unseasonably so we were told. We did go down to the waterfront and had a slow walk around but the heat got the better of me so it was back to the air conditioned boat for the rest of the afternoon ( we were plugged in at a marina again).

A pleasant way to see the beautiful old homes of Charleston

We had come to Charleston mainly to have our UK main sail looked at, it is to be swapped out with a new one when we pass thru again this Fall.  With this now accomplished we prepared to get " on the road again" and were off the dock bright and early, 5.30am!, the next morning for the next leg of the journey.  There was good wind behind us and also the Gulf stream current helping push us North. For interest/entertainment we heard frequent calls over the VHF radio from US Navy Warships warning boaters of live fire practice and advising that we keep 10NM from any Warship. Will do!!  Later in the day we passed relatively close ( probably within 5NM) to these two Navy vessels which didn't seem to bother them as we were not hailed and asked to change our course.

   It was a very dark night passage that night, clouds covered any stars and the moon. There was lightening all around for a good part of the night too, fortunately not directly over us. When out on the ocean on a sail boat with a tall pointy stick ( the mast), lightening is about the last thing any sailor wants to see!  Anyway, we made it through ok and I was happy to realize that we had completed our last overnight passage for the season. The weather was not looking at all good for an outside run around Cape Hatteras and so we had decided to complete our trip north by going up the ICW which would involve day trips only.

 Our port of call for the next few nights was the lovely little town of Beaufort, North Carolina.

Beaufort waterfront

Zooropa at the dock in Beaufort

Walking on Town Marsh Island, across from Beaufort

   We spent six days motoring up the ICW from Beaufort, NC to Portsmouth, VA. We travelled up rivers and canals, across sounds and thru a lock.

Leaving Beaufort  

Scenery along the way  

 This was the view from our overnight anchorage south of Elizabeth City on the Pasquotank River. Built during WW11, this Naval Blimp Airdock housed blimps that were used to patrol the coastline in search of German U-boats.  The facility is now used by a private manufacturer of blimps and airships. It is HUGE!!

"Down on the Bayou"
 There are two routes between Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, we decided to take the route along the Dismal Swamp Canal. The 22 mile canal was hand dug by slave labour in the early 1790's. The canal became part of the ICW in 1929 and is now maintained by the U.S Army Corp of Engineers.

We spent the night tied up to the Welcome centre dock. Free WiFi!!

The Dismal Swamp Canal

 This is one of two locks we traversed. We were the only boat in both locks, everything went very smoothly.  

 Shortly after passing thru the last lock on the canal there was an obvious change in scenery!  Welcome to Portsmouth, VA.

  A full day of motoring from Portsmouth brought us to Deltaville, the end of the road for us this season.  Since arriving in Florida we have been prepping the boat in anticipation of leaving her on the hard for several months. All clothing/towels/bedding was washed and stored in large ziploc bags. All cupboards and draws in the galley were wiped clean. All food was removed from cupboards and storage areas. The fridge and freezer were emptied and cleaned. Both heads were completely scrubbed down. All wood work was dusted and polished. The list goes on and on and these were only my inside jobs. Ian had an equally long list of outside work.  It has been a lot of work, HOT work once she was hauled out and we no longer had the luxury of air conditioning. Hopefully we did a good job and we won't come back to any nasty surprises.

   And so our first year of cruising has come to an end. We lived on the boat for close to eleven months and travelled roughly 6,000 NM in that time. The countries we visited on the way include Argentina, Brasil, Tobago, Grenada, Grenadine Islands( Union Is.,Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Mustique, Bequia), St.Lucia, Martinique, Les Saintes, Antigua, Barbuda, St.Barths, St.Martin, Anguilla, Culebra, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas ( Mayaguana, Plana Cay, Acklins, Exumas, Nassau, Berry Is.), USA.    There are still A LOT of places that we haven't seen, enough to keep us going for many years yet.

Currencies used during our travels

  We are home now and it has been wonderful reconnecting with family and friends. I am enjoying all the space in our condo, having unlimited running water, taking long showers, not HAVING to check the weather every day, shopping at large well stocked grocery stores, sleeping on a non moving platform, not having to get up for night shifts!! We have a beautiful, comfortable boat but life on board is a little like glorified camping, it feels good to be having this break. Still,  we are both very eager to return to Zooropa and continue the adventure.  

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Florida bound

    After seeing Ryan and Danielle off we were now in "get to Florida" mode. We had plans to get some boat work done while in Florida and, since it was now mid May, we were feeling a tad time pressured. We are new at this and have no idea how long it will take us to get up to the Cheasapeake Bay where we plan to store the boat for the summer months.
  Sooo, with all this in mind, we looked at the charts and decided the best route for us was; Nassau to the Berry Islands, day hops up the Berry's to Great Harbour Cay and then an overnighter from there, across the Gulf stream, to Florida.

A calm day flying the asymmetric spinnaker 

   So,  we spent five days in the Berry Islands  basically having a nice leisurely sail in the morning and then dropping anchor off a deserted beach in the afternoon with a pleasant beach walk and refreshing swim to end the day. Not too bad!!

  The anchor was up by noon on May 26th and we were off on our way to Florida. This was exciting for us, I mean, I know we're not American but it felt like we were finally going home with the boat. Well, at least to the correct continent!
     Why aren't the winds always blowing at the perfect speed and direction?? It seems to me that they're often not quite strong enough ( careful what I wish for !) and we end up with the engines on. So, in an effort to keep to our timed schedule ( for arrival purposes) we motorsailed out of the Bahamas towards the Gulf stream and Florida. It was a pleasant, well lit night with lots of cargo ships around to hold our attention. I had to get Ian up during my shift as we were sandwiched between two large ships, front and back and I was feeling rather uncomfortable with their proximity too us, they come at you fast out here.
   Our boat speed picked up by at least 3 knots as we entered the Gulf stream. This is a fast flowing Atlantic ocean current, originating at the tip of Florida and continuing Northwards up the U.S east coast. No safe, or smart, boater would take on the Gulf stream when the wind was blowing against the current, the resulting waves can apparently be horrendous.  Happily for us we had the wind behind us and were able to enjoy the ride before being "spat out" of the stream just south of our intended arrival location, the Fort Pierce Inlet.
   After five pleasant days at the Fort Pierce City Marina we were off to experience the ICW ( Intracoastal Waterway) on our way to Stuart, Florida where we were scheduled to have some boat maintenance done.  The short section of the ICW that we travelled that day was very scenic, although the person at the helm certainly needs to be giving it their full attention, no reading at the helm seat now! Pucker factor was high as we approached our first fixed bridge! These bridges are 65 feet high and our mast height is 61 feet, plus a short antennae. We obviously made it underneath ok but boy, when you are on the boat and looking up at the bridge and your mast, it looks like there's no way you will fit under.

Here we go.

Best just to close your eyes and cross your fingers.

    After a week at Sunset Bay Marina, Stuart, ( thank goodness for air conditioning and long cool showers) we felt like taking a break and so rented a car and drove up to St Augustine.  We enjoyed walking around the old city for a couple of days and the king sized bed was nice at the hotel, but it felt good to get back "home" to Zooropa. We look forward to visiting again this fall by boat on our way down the ICW.

Feeling patriotic!

Ian at the candy store

Shops in St.Augustine

St.Augustine waterfront

    Unbelievably we have now spent two weeks in Stuart, the days just seem to fly by. At times it seems like one step forward two-steps back ( the canvas repair was incorrectly done, the Furuno chart plotter is now iffy, the up 'til now functioning water maker is no longer functional !) whats that saying, " if it ain't broke don't fix it"?!!

  Well, I was just about to say that we were leaving tomorrow but have now been informed that will not be the case. Both the Furuno and water maker guy's will be back. Oh well, such is the boating life. At least we are hooked up to shore power here and have the air conditioning on, because it is bloody HOT outside, no other word for it.  Hopefully these issues will all get resolved and we will be on our way soon. Our next port of call is Charleston. We will be going outside ( not up the ICW) with the Gulf stream helping to push us north. It should be a two and a half day sail and we are both looking forward to getting out on the ocean again, it's been a while.

Pretty sunset at the marina