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2003 Bahamas Trip

Day 1 — Wednesday, January 22, 2003

31 degrees 56 minutes North/81 degrees 17 minutes West

The Ford Plantation


Arrived here from Birmingham Monday evening with Daniel and his college roomate, Rob McAdams. We enjoyed a fried chicken dinner Monday night at Laurie’s house prepared by the incomparable Lillian and then spent yesterday morning provisioning Suladan for the journey. We bought engine oil and coolant, fishing tackle, and three grocery carts full of food from the Wall-Mart Supercenter.


Our plan is to depart today on the high tide at around 10 a.m.to get down the Ogeechee River and a couple of hours South on the Intracoastal Waterway where we plan to anchor out and then head south on Thursday. The weather forecast is dismal. A cold front is moving through today bringing rain followed by high winds and severe cold for the next couple of days. The marine forecast for Thursday is “North winds 20 knots becoming Northwest early in the afternoon and increasing to 30 knots. Seas 5 to 6 feet…building to 7 to 8 feet. A slight chance of showers in the morning.”


With 30 knot winds and 8 foot seas Thursday, we have no intention of leaving the comfort of the waterway so we will make slow progress inside for a couple of days until the wind subsides and lets us out into the ocean. We need about four long days to get to South Florida and then a good weather day to cross over to the Bahamas.


Our destination is the Exuma Islands south of Nassau where the air and waters are warm for a little snorkling, scuba diving and fishing.


We’ll try to keep up this little journal every couple of days. Drop us a note if you wish.


The Boys



Day 3 — Friday morning, January 24, 2003

30 degrees 18 minutes North/81 degrees 25 minutes West

Travelling South on the Intracoastal Waterway near Jacksonville, Florida

Distance Traveled: 147 nautical miles


Yesterday the weather cleared as the cold front has passed. The wind picked up as predicted from the Northwest and the temperature fell throughout the day. We continued south on the waterway. For family members, we passed some very familiar areas — Altamaha Sound, St. Simons Island, Jekyl Island, Cabin Bluff, Cumberland Island, and finally, Amelia Island, home of the famous cat Amelia. We stopped for a small amount of fuel and lunch at Jekyl Island.


We had planned on anchoring out another night but the cold wind convinced us to seek shelter at the Amelia Island Yacht Basin on the south end of the island. We borrowed the marina’s courtesy car and enjoyed a great dinner at the “Down Under” Restaurant which is under a bridge on the waterway.


The temperature when we woke this morning was a pleasant 15 degrees. The wind is still howling so we continue in the waterway instead of the ocean. Progress is slow and tedious with bridges, no-wake zones, shallow areas, etc. We are all getting a little frustrated at the cold weather and the inability to get south more quickly. While we’ll be happy with slow progress in the Bahamas, cruising in 20 degree weather is not our ultimate objective.


Daniel and Rob are quickly mastering the boat’s operation. They are handling the engine room check each morning and we are all driving the boat in 2-hour shifts.


We’ll probably not write again for a couple of days since this part of the trip is really pretty boring. I hope to get back to you soon with some adventures.


The Boys



Day 4 — Saturday Afternoon, January 25, 2003

29 degrees 05 minutes north/80 degrees 39 minutes west

12 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida

Distance traveled: 232 nautical miles


We only made about 50 miles yesterday because the weather restricted us to the waterway and progress was very slow. We stopped for the night at St. Augustine and had dinner at Peerce’s Restaurant at the Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor. Dinner was excellent except we fled hastily afterwards since it was Karaoke Night.


This morning was again below freezing but the wind had died down. We plan on travelling overnight to arrive at Palm Beach by morning. We slept in and delayed our departure until 10 a.m. so as not to arrive at Palm Beach before dawn.


Seas are 2 to 3 feet and very comfortable. Fishing lines are out. All is right with the world. The water temperature has warmed up from 48 to 60 over the last three days. Only about 25 degrees more to go before we can swim.


We’ll spen Sunday night in Palm Beach and watch the Super Bowl. If seas are calm Monday, which looks doubtful, we’ll cross over to the Bahamas. Otherwise, we’ll proceed further south while we wait for good weather to cross the Gulfstream.



Day 5 — Sunday Morning, January 26, 2003

26 degrees 45 minutes north/80 degrees 03 minutes west

West Palm Beach, Florida

Distance traveled: 382 nautical miles


Arrived safely in Palm Beach after an all night run. Super Bowl tonight. Layover day tomorrow.



Day 7 — Tuesday Morning, January 28, 2003

26 degrees 35 minutes north/80 degrees 02 minutes west

1/2 mile off the coast of Delray Beach, Florida

Distance traveled: 397 nautical miles


We had a relaxing layover yesterday in Palm Beach. We watched the Super Bowl Sunday night, relaxed all day yesterday, and had a great dinner in a new area called City Place in West Palm Beach last night. I returned to the boat after dinner while the boys hit a few bars. They told me they were in search of a chef or “galley wench” for the boat. This morning, I found a slip of paper with the name “Nicole, your Chef Boy R Dee” and a phone number. I don’t know much more about this story but we departed Palm Beach this morning without Nicole on board. This is just as well because Daniel reports that she is a young lady of questionable moral values.


The weather continues to plague us. Another front passed through yesterday and winds are from the northeast at about 15 to 20 knots. However, we are sick of the Intracoastal Waterway so we are braving 4 to 6 foot seas today for about 5 hours to get down to Miami. Things look decent tomorrow to cross over to Bimini. It will probably be a little rough but another damn front is due in Thursday night or Friday so we’ll probably try to get across while we can


I continue to receive valuable feedback to these emails from some of my so-called friends. One told me it was fun to hear about us freezing our butts off but to please stop reporting when we are in the tropical islands. Another questioned my signing these notes “The Boys”, pointing out that I am an old geezer. We will begin signing as “The Men” when we accomplish our mission of reaching the islands. In the interim, we have made a slight change to reflect our transitory state


The Boyz



Day 9 — Thursday Morning, January 30, 2003

25 degrees 44 minutes north/79 degrees 18 bminutes west

Bimini Big Game Club, Bimini, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 502 nautical miles


Spent a quiet night Tuesday at the Miami Beach Marina and headed out yesterday morning in questionable weather to cross the Gulf Stream. Winds were from the east-northeast at 15 knots with seas about 5 feet. The normal rule is to wait for more southerly winds since a wind from the north running into the north-running stream makes the waves stand up and be quite uncomfortable. However, it looked like our next window to cross would not be untilo the weekend so we forged ahead.


The seas turned out to be only slightly uncomfortable and only for a few hours. We arrived at Bimini around mid-afternoon, went through the customs/immigration paperwork two-step, and celebrated with a beer at the Compleat Angler, one of Earnest Hemingway’s old haunts and home of the original ring-toss game later imported to Inland Lake by Susan Butterworth, whose father once had a house here.


Bimini is a hopelessly run-down but charming place. It has a history of rum-running, drug smuggling and lost weekends only 50 miles from Miami. A presidential candidate got into trouble here a few years back when he was photographed with a woman on a boat called “Risky Business”. A t-shirt for sale locally says: “What happens in Bimini stays in Bimini”. But things are very quiet here in January. Most of the restaurants are not even open and the “End of the World Bar” with its famous panty collection only had one drunk in it yesterday afternoon.


Daniel and Rob plan to go out scuba diving on a local dive boat today. Tomorrow, we’ll head out across the Great Bahama Bank, a giant area only about 10 feet deep at its deepest. Our next stop should be Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. More to come.


The Men



Day 11 – Saturday morning, February 1, 2003

25 degrees 25 minutes north/77 degrees 50 minutes west

Berry Island Club, Frazier’s Hog Cay, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 589 nautical miles


You would think the Chub Cay Club would be located on Chub Cay. But here in the parallel universe of the Bahamas, it is actually on Frazier’s Hog Cay. We are tied up on the eastern side of the island at the opposite end from the Chub Cay Club.


The Berry Island Club is a single house with two guest rooms upstairs and a bar and restaurant down. The owners are two brothers from Louisiana, David and Donald Loupe along with Donald’s wife. David currently has a girlfriend here named Ruth who is helping out. The restaurant is only open for dinner if you call by lunchtime and order when you call. They specialize in Cajun food. Donald and his wife are quiet and simple, but David is sort of a combination of Cheech and Chong. The great entertainment here is simply sitting at the bar listening to David’s stories.


We crossed the Great Bahama Bank yesterday and had an uneventful trip except that Rob decided to let Daniel give him a haircut enroute using my beard trimmer. It went fairly well until a wave made Rob lean into Daniel creating a bald area just above his right ear. He looks like he has just joined the marines, at least on that side.


The weather is fantastic…about 70 degrees, clear and sunny. Water temperature is up to 74.


Daniel and Rob are bone fishing this afternoon. We plan to move on to Nassau tomorrow.


The Men



Day 13 – Monday morning, February 3, 2003

24 degrees 58 minutes north/77 degrees 14 minutes west

10 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 636 nautical miles


Moving from the Berry Island Club yesterday to Atlantis in Nassau was sort of like wandering in the desert and coming upon Las Vegas. Atlantis is an $800 million resort/marina/casino complex that pretty-much dwarfs anything I’ve ever seen. We spent yesterday afternoon in the giant water park, ate a great dinner in one of the 36 restaurants on site, and played in the casino for awhile last night


The fishing luck has been dismal the entire trip. We’ve been trolling since Florida and haven’t had a single strike yet. Additionally, one of our reels was broken. So this morning early I headed into Nassau to buy a replacement reel, an assortment of lures, and some frozen ballyhoo. We are certain today will be our lucky day. We are in fairly shallow water for the 20-mile trip down to the Northern Exumas but we are assured by all of the experts at the tackle shop that there are plenty of fish out there.


Our first stop in the Exumas tonight will be Allan’s Cay, a beautiful anchorage in an uninhabited area. The island is famous for its huge iguana population. There’s not much else there but it should be a pretty place to hang out, snorkel, fish, and recover from Atlantis. We plan to cook fresh fish for dinner as soon as we catch something.


In view of the warm weather, my beard came off this morning. My face now matches the side of Rob’s head.


The Men



Day 14 – Tuesday afternoon, February 4, 2003

24 degrees 13 minutes north/76 degrees 48 minutes west

Norman’s Cay, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 663 miles


Travelling with Daniel and Rob is an exhilarating experience. Their enthusiasm for everything is contagious. We got into Allan’s Cay yesterday around 3:30 and they immediately jumped in the water and snorkled all over the cove where we were anchored. A fairly large Barracuda followed them around, making them somewhat nervous, but they had a blast.We grilled chicken for dinner, smoked cigars, and tried to watch Thunderball in preparation for visiting the grotto where part of it was filmed. By 10 p.m. we had given up and crashed. Daniel and Rob seem to be moving to my sleep schedule now.


Today we moved about 10 miles south to Norman’s Cay, famous base of a drug lord in the 70’s and 80’s. The boys took the dinghy out into the flats to snorkel and bonefish. They failed to realize the tide was going out so the dinghy is now high and dry on the sand. They swam back to the boat for awhile and are now back in the dinghy waiting for the tide to come back up. They swam back to it with two beers in each of their pockets so they’ll be OK for awhile.


I mentioned yesterday our bad fishing luck. Shortly after that email, we got our first catch: a small barracuda. We threw him back, but today, Rob hauled in a beautiful yellowfin tuna which we estimate at about 10 pounds. We filleted it on the back deck and the two giant fillets will be on the grill in about an hour.


The weather is fabulous…mid 70’s and clear today. The water temperature is just over 75. We’ve been bathing off the back deck each afternoon.


Thanks for all the replies we’ve been getting. Flippen’s one-worders are great and Bill Barclift’s sarcasm is like a breath of stale air.


Laura Lee is flying down to meet us in Georgetown this Saturday, and my frien Julian MacQueen is considering flying his Wigeon seaplane down so he can land on the water and tie up to our stern for a day or two. Tomorrow we plan to travel about 30 nmiles south to Staniel Cay and then we’ll travel on to Georgetown by the weekend. This is really hard work, but someone’s got to do it.


The Men



Day 17 – Friday, February 7, 2003

23 degrees 52 minutes north/76 degrees 6 minutes west

Exuma Sound, 23 miles northwest of Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 782 nautical miles


I’ve been negligent in not updating this log, but the pace has been so frantic and the work so hard, we’ve barely had the time. Tuesday afternoon, we arrived at Staniel Cay and snorkled in Thunderball Cave. We decided to tie up for two nights at Staniel Cay “Yacht Club” rather than anchor out since we needed to change the oil in both engines and generators, which is a lot easier to do if you’re not having to run a generator at the same time.


Tuesday evening was spent at the yacht club bar which also has a pool table. I won’t go into detail but a local named Angel renamed Rob “Johnny Boy” and Daniel became “The Lion”. A couple of interesting guys were there whom we called Baldy and Combover. They had “girlfriends” with them whom we think were probably hired for the trip. Two more young ladies of questionable moral character. At any rate, we made it out of there without a fight although Rob…Johnny Boy, was warned to “keep your hands off my girlfriend”.


Oil changed and everything running well, we are enroute to Georgetown. The Lion and Johnny Boy hope to scuba dive tomorrow and Laura Lee plans to meet us at 5:30 tomorrow afternoon at the Peace and Plenty Hotel. Julian MacQueen called today and he’s going to attempt to fly his Wigeon down tomorrow if weather and everything else cooperate. He’ll also be at the Peace and Plenty if he makes it.


The Men



Day 20 – Monday, February 10, 2003

23 degrees 39 minutes north/75 degrees 20 minutes west

Calabash Bay, Cape Santa Maria, Long Island, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 862 nautical miles


It is hard to summarize the strange events of of the last few days. We arrived Georgetown Friday afternoon, anchored out, and had dinner at the Two Turtles Inn. Saturday morning, Daniel and Rob went scuba diving with a guide. That afternoon, they rented equipment and went out for another dive on their own.


Saturday evening, as we sat at the poolside bar of the Peace and Plenty Hotel, Julian (Doodlebug) MacQueen buzzed the harbor at about 50 feet in his Widgeon, a 1943 model flying boat.He then flew on to the airport and appeared at the hotel about an hour later. Meanwhile, Laura Lee, who had spent 7 hours flying down commercial, also arrived at the hotel. We had been setting up both of these visits for several weeks by email but it was still amazing to see it all come together.


Sunday Doodlebug, Laura Lee, Daniel and Rob went to the airport and went for a flight in the Widgeon. Meanwhile, Doodlebug’s nephew, Johnny Rocket (really) and I moved the boat over to Volleyball Beach in the harbor. A short time later, the widgeon landed beside us creating quite a stir. We tied it up to the back of the boat and all went ashore to the Chat & Chill for lunch, where we heard about the dog that would follow its owner “to the Gates of Hell, if I wanted to go to the Gates of Hell.” The widgeon remained tied to the back of the boat overnight while sightseers wandered by in their dinghies to see what was going on. There is nothing like a 60-year-old flying boat to get attention at Volleyball Beach.


This morning, the Widgeon took off headed back to Florida while we hauled anchor and traveled 25 miles to Long Island. We anchored off one of the most beautiful beaches in the world which we had visited several years ago in our previous boat. Bonefishing is on tap for tomorrow.

Your humble correspondent was injured today and is typing with one hand. After hauling in a good-sized barracuda, I was attempting to let the dinghy line back out when it caught a fish hook and ripped it across my hand. I don’t believe stitches will be required but I am going to a clinic on Long Island tomorrow to have it looked at. It is a little painful and quite irritating.


I’m glad to have Laura Lee on board. I’ve missed her. She’ll be with us until next Tuesday when she flies home from Nassau. Daniel, Rob and I will take another four days or so to get the boat back to Ft. Lauderdale and then we’ll be home. They planned to be here for three weeks but they now refuse to get off until I do since they both must go home to look for real jobs now that college is over.


We’ll be seeing several islands over the next few days that all claim to be the sight of Columbus’s first landing. Here, Cape Santa Maria is named for one of his ships and there is a monument at Columbus Point on the east side of the island. We also hope to see San Salvador, Conception and Cat islands. I’ll report back when my typing hand is in better shape.


Three Men and a Lady



Day 23 – Thursday, February 13, 2003

24 degrees 09 minutes north/75 degrees 31 minutes west

Hawk’s Nest Marina, Cat Island, Bahamas

Distance Traveled: 897 nautical miles


An incredible laziness has overtaken us, a kind of island disease that takes away the spirit of adventure and forces us into hammocks under palm trees. We seem to have come to the conclusion that each of these little islands is a paradise and there is not much reason to leave one and visit the next.


We spent Monday and Tuesday nights anchored off Cape Santa Maria at the north end of Long Island. We had sent word ahead to our old friend Presley Pinder and he and his wife, Ora Mae, joined us for dinner Monday night. Tuesday, Presley took Daniel, Rob and Laura Lee out fishing. They got to watch him dive for conch and spear some fish. Later, they tried bonefishing but, as usual with Presley, they had little luck.


Meanwhile, I rented a car and drove to the town medical clinic where I got a tetanus shot, antibiotics, a cleaning and dressing of my wound, all for $40. I decided I might come to the Bahamas for all of my medical care in the future. The hand did not require stitches and is healing nicely, although it is still a little painful and tender. I have tried to milk the injury for all it is worth but the crew stopped giving me special attention after the first day, and I am now treated with the usual disrespect.


Yesterday, we traveled north to Cat Island where there is a small marina and resort. It is nice to tie up after anchoring out for five nights. This allows us to take out the garbage andstraighten things up a bit while also plugging into shore power and giving our generators a rest. We got up this morning with every intention of traveling on but the beach and pool and hammocks called out to us so we are staying here another day. After all this vigorous activity, we all need a break.


Three Men and a Lady



Day 25 – Saturday, February 15, 2003

24 degrees 43 minutes north/76 degrees 49 minutes west

Highbourne Cay, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 984 miles


Cat Island turned out to be a pleasant stop. The Hawk’s Nest Marina looks like a bombed out area of Afghanistan, but a quarter mile up the road, the clubhouse/restaurant is nicely llandscaped and has a pool and a beautiful beach behind it. The airstrip and marina on property would make an ideal spot for drug smugglers, which is exactly what the facility was used for up until eight years ago. Now, under new ownership, they are trying to make a nice little resort out of it.


Thursday afternoon, we rented a car for four hours and drove toward the middle of the island where we visited The Hermitage, a miniature monastery on top of a 200 foot high mountain near the center of the island. John Howe (1876-1956) was an Englishman who studied architecture and later theology and was ordained in the Church of England. He first came to the Bahamas in 1908 and traveled the islands building and repairing churches. He later converted to Catholicism and became a priest known as Father Jerome. He returned to the Bahamas in 1939 and went to this site, the highest in the Bahamas, to build the Hermitage. It is a beautiful sight with an incredible view.


Yesterday, Friday, we moved up to Little San Salvador and anchored off a beautiful beach. The only problem is that the island is owned by Holland American Cruise Lines and when we arrived there were two gigantic ships and several thousand passengers on the beach. The cruise lines use this as a day stop to offer passengers a completely contrived day ashore where they have constructed a fake village complete woith straw market, a church, etc. Late afternoon the ships left and we had the beach to ourselves. It was quite beautiful but the wind was high, making our anchorage rolly.


We got up this morning and crossed back over Exuma Sound to Highbourne Cay, close to where we started our exploration of the Exumas. Tomorrow or Monday, we’ll move back to Nassau where Laura Lee flies home and we begin to wind down the trip. Rob, Daniel, and I plan to get the boat back to Florida next week and we’ll all head for home. We should cross the 1,000 nautical mile mark tomorrow, about the same distance it is from Boulder to Birmingham.


We’ll let you know when we come to a stop and, of course, we’ll report any further adventures. Otherwise, we’ll sign off for now.

Three Men and a Lady



Day 28 – Tuesday, February 18, 2003

25 degrees 05 minutes north/77 degrees 19 minutes west

Nassau, Bahamas

Distance traveled: 1028 nautical miles


After attending a barbecue Saturday night at Highbourne Cay, we moved Sunday back to Allan’s Cay, our first stop in the Exumas on the way down. Laura Lee, Daniel and Rob went bonefishing while I did some unpleasant repairs to the boat sewage system (ahh, the elegant yachting lifestyle).


That afternoon, I drove the little boat while the boys went lobster hunting with snorkels and their new spears and Hawaiian Slings. And they got one…a gigantic Bahama lobster. We came back to the boat and had one of those spiritual moments eating fresh lobster tail on the flybridge while watching the full moon rise. They hunted again Monday morning with no luck.


Monday afternoon, we returned to Nassau for Laura Lee to catch her flight home this afternoon. But we can’t get rid of her. She went to the Nassau airport this afternoon to find that her flight was cancelled. It was on USAir through Charlotte and the bad weather up there has screwed up the whole system with airplanes stranded everywhere. So, as I was hanging around the deck this afternoon, she reappeared. The next USAir flight she could get is Friday so she’ll go with us back to Ft. Lauderdale over the next few days and get home from there.


Tomorrow early we plan to head out for Bimini or Cat Cay with hopes that we can get to Ft. Lauderdale Thursday afternoon. We’ll keep you posted.


Three Men and still a Lady.



Day 30 – Thursday, February 20, 2003

26 degrees 07 minutes north/80 degrees 07 minutes west

Bahia Mar Marina, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Distance traveled: 1202 nautical miles


Home again! The cellphones work, the satellite TV works. We are experiencing culture shock.


Yesterday we left Nassau early and traveled almost 12 hours to Cat Cay at the western edge of the Bahamas and just south of Bimini. This route across the Great Bahama Bank was not as deep as our previous one and the tide was low late in the afternoon, so it was slow going dodging shallow places. We only ran aground once and got off fairly quickly. Cat Cay is a private club which accepts transient boats it its marina so we stopped there for the night and a very good dinner. It’s a beautiful place. We asked how to join and you need to be sponsored by a member. The membership list is private. So I guess we won’t join for now.


This morning, we pulled around on the west side of Gun Cay, just to the north, and the boys gave lobster hunting with spears one last try. They came up with two so we boiled them up for lunch during the five-hour trip across to Florida.


As we approached Ft. Lauderdale, we were hailed by a Coast Guard cutter. They asked us to slow down while they conducted a “boarding”. This was my fifth time to be boarded by the Coast Guard. I guess we just look suspicious. Rob almost panicked into throwing away his Cuban cigars but I told him just to put them away. The Coast Guard didn’t look for them (whew!).


So we’re safely home. I’ve enjoyed sending out this little chronicle and I hope I haven’t bored anyone too much. Thanks for tuning in. Daniel and Rob have been great traveling companions and outstanding crew members. It’s been a pleasure.


Everyone heads home Saturday. I’ll stay over until Monday to get the boat into a boatyard for some maintenance and then head back to reality myself. Tune in next time.


The Captain and Crew of the Suladan

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