July 1, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow


June 20, 2013
New Adventures


May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug


May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference


May 6, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy


April 15, 2013
In The Middle


March 29, 2013
On The Hook


March 18, 2013
Tinker Time


February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix


February 15, 2013
Time Travel


February 6, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation


January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending


January 1, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports


December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current


December 1, 2012
New Neighbors


November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?


November 1, 2012
Are We There Yet?


October 15, 2012
CHANGE OF LATITUDE


October 1, 2012
Womens Roundtable


September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem


September 1, 2012
Promises


August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options


August 1, 2012
Go West!


July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination


July 1, 2012
Propane


June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly


June 1, 2012
Everglades Detour


May 15, 2012
Making New Friends


May 1, 2012
Something Old and Something New


April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast


April 1, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler


March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature


March 1, 2012
Last Dance


February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique


February 1, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound


January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World


January 1, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation


December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell


December 1, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds


November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love


November 1, 2011
On the Water Again


October 14, 2011
First Impressions


October 3, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun


September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road


September 1, 2011
Lets Dance!


August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row


August 1, 2011
Summer Without a Boat


July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home


July 1, 2011
One Step Closer


June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


June 1, 2011
Made in the USA


May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice


May 1, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around


April 1, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude


March 15, 2011
Helping Hands


March 1, 2011
THE PERFECT BOAT!


February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options


February 1, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!


January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing


December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing


December 15, 2010
The New Plan!


December 1, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg


November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water


November 1, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile


October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough


October 1, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?


September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool


September 1, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland


August 1, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"


July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time


July 1, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous


June 1, 2010
On the Hard


May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West


May 1, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board


April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance


April 1, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures


March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise


March 1, 2010
Okeechobee Bound


February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters


February 1, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise


January 15, 2010
New Frontiers


January 1, 2010
First Time Experiences


December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port


December 1, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady


November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello


November 13, 2009
A Cult Following


October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time


October 1, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye


September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature


August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote


August 1, 2009
Crab Crazy


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North


June 1, 2009
Northern Migration


May 15, 2009
Priceless


May 1, 2009
Hello Goodbye


April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!


April 1, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy


March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound


March 1, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?


February 15, 2009
Slow Motion


February 1, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View


January 15, 2009
High Anxiety


January 1, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands


December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure


December 1, 2008
All Together Now


November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike


October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River


October 16, 2008
Big City Lights


October 1, 2008
The Adventure Begins


September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop


September 1, 2008
The Space Ship


August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle


August 1, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around


July 1, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop

   

Bahama Bound
By Kismet, Sunday, March 15, 2009

One of the big carrots that have been dangling before us, ever since we left Charlevoix in September, is the chance to cross over the Gulf Stream to the Abaco Islands, and soak up some of the warm, tropical sun while letting the cool island breezes caress our bodies and soothe our minds. We first saw this group of islands as we flew over them while returning from a cruise-ship vacation four years ago. The shallow turquoise water and white sand caught our attention and, as we always do when we see an interesting water destination spot, we fantasized about what it would be like to visit these islands on our own boat. Well we were fortunate enough to make that dream a reality on our first Loop, and even now we’re feeling that excitement all over again as we put our plan into motion and return for a longer stay this time around.

We are docked here at Cooley’s Landing in Fort Lauderdale, waiting for the perfect day to cross the Gulf Stream.

The Abacos are an archipelago within the Bahamas Out Islands, located a short 69 miles from the Port Everglades Inlet, in Fort Lauderdale, to the West End of Grand Bahama Island. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco are on the “mainland” and a string of barrier islands, which include Great Guana Cay, Green Turtle and Elbow Cays, line the Atlantic side. In the middle of these islands is the Sea of Abaco. The water is warm, calm, crystal clear with a sandy shallow bottom, and a well-protected body of water, which makes this area paradise for boaters. The population of these islands is about 13,000 and the capital is Marsh Harbour. The ethnic make up is about half black and half white.

Planning a trip to the Abacos by boat requires a little bit of forethought in timing the crossing to a good weather window. This planning is of utmost importance so that you don’t find yourself in a situation to which you’d rather not be subjected. Provisioning is another concern, and it can take some time to remember all the things you may not want to do without during your stay. It’s much less expensive to provision before you enter the Bahamas, unless it’s rum or fresh fish you need. Communications with the world you left behind can be complicated and requires some thought and commitment to doing without or accepting the added expense required to maintain the level of access you currently enjoy.

Although this part of our trip has always been in the back of our minds, and some rough planning had been sketched out as far as time and places, the real focus began as we neared the end of our stay on Stock Island near Key West. Jim began in earnest to research marinas in the southern part of the islands, looking for which ones had the best deals and the most to offer in terms of facilities, access to town, and availability. Our plan is to take six to eight weeks to meander down the Sea of Abaco, returning to some favorite spots while exploring some places we missed the last time through.

Here is Freedom’s Turn, our buddy boat, passing some huge cruise ships on the turn into the Port Everglades Inlet, which is our path out into the ocean waters.

When we get to Hopetown we want to find a place to stay for a month and take advantage of a lower monthly rate most marinas offer. We figure we’ll use this marina as a base to take some side trips. It’s important to us to be in an area that offers some interest and culture. We’re going off-season, the busy season doesn’t really start until April, so availability is not much of a concern. We enjoy visiting places off-season with less tourist traffic, marinas that are not full, and the weather is milder and more consistently middle of the road in February and March – not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

We decided on a marina on Elbow Cay, just a few miles south of Hopetown, called Sea Spray Marina. We’d visited this marina during our last trip to Hopetown and we knew it would be an excellent location with access to golf-cart trips into town during the day. Marsh Harbour and Lubbers Quarters are only a short dinghy ride away, along with excellent snorkeling and lobster hunting spots nearby. It’s also close to a beautiful beach on the ocean side and has a very nice freshwater pool for cooling off.

Jim is pretty happy that the water and skies are so favorable for our crossing. Leaving before sunrise through the city lights and maze of mega yachts and cruise ships.

Once the process of securing dockage for a month was completed, our thoughts turned to provisioning the boat with the seemingly endless list of wants and needs. It turned out that this was not as easy a task this time mostly because we were in the Keys for the whole month of January. When doing a major provisioning task, our favorite place is a Sam’s Club because of the bulk pricing and familiarity with their goods. While docked in Sarasota back in December, we checked on locations of Sam’s Clubs and discovered that Sarasota would be our last opportunity. So when we were there and had access to a rental car, due to picking our son up from the airport, we visited Sam’s with a list consisting mostly of non-perishables as it was way too early to get much else. So most of our actual work began in the Keys. We had to borrow a car from a friend a couple of times to get to the store as our predominant mode of transportation in January was by bus. In the end we also decided that we actually paid a premium for the groceries we bought as everything is a little more expensive in the Keys.

Arriving safe and sound at the West End and Old Bahama Bay Marina.

Jim and I have vastly differing opinions on what we should stock in the pantry to cover a time period of 6-8 weeks. This is more in my realm, as I’m the provisioner and cook, so Jim hung in there with me as I kept thinking of just a few more things we needed all the way up the keys to Fort Lauderdale. We remember that in the Bahamas food choices were limited, that the meat, mostly frozen, looked odd, and that most items were just plain expensive.  We planned to stock all the paper products we could, including lots of paper plates, because washing dishes uses a lot of water, which you have to pay for in the Bahamas, and we figured we’d save time and money by mostly using paper plates and bowls. We bought all the soap products we would use in this time period, and added a couple cases of bottled water, which we normally don’t consume. We filled the freezer with meat and poultry. The provisioning process took a long time and because we were delayed over a week due to weather, I had to restock as we went along because Jim kept eating what I’d bought.

Communications while in the Bahamas is something to think about. We decided to turn our phones off, pull the batteries out and suspend the service. We’ll only activate them in case of an emergency because of the high expense. We also turned off our Verizon Internet card. Many people use Skype to communicate with family and friends. It’s free for simple video calls and is a great tool if you have Internet available. We just don’t care if we have this technology all the time while in the Bahamas. We sent out an email to family and close friends explaining that we turned our phones off for the duration of our stay in this area and provided them with emergency contact information at places we knew we’d be staying at for any length of time. We’ll still have sporadic Wi-Fi Internet service when it presents itself and that’s fine with us. We’ll work with this situation rather than pay a premium price for the convenience. We’re here to soak up the experience and sometimes you just have to get rid of some excess baggage.

The northern view of the marina from Kismet’s flybridge.

At the same time as the provisioning began, we started to keep an eye on the weather patterns so we’d have a better knowledge about the current situation. We left Stock Island on the second day in February to head up to Marathon for a night. Our plan was to inch our way up the Keys while watching the weather as we traveled. We either speeded up or slowed down depending on how the weather was shaping up.

Well, as you all know, sometimes plan A becomes plan B. Shortly after we made it to Marathon, in unfavorable seas, we had a series of nasty storms followed by a long cold front so we ended up having to stay in Marathon for a whole week before the weather shifted favorably again. When we resumed our move north, up the Keys, we stopped at Tavernier, Key Largo and Boca Chita Island. Once in the mainland waters we headed to Fort Lauderdale, through Biscayne Bay and Miami, where we would sit until the ideal day to cross over to the West End presented itself to us.

Our view south from our flybridge overlooking the marina.

We were looking forward to using Fort Lauderdale as our waiting spot and enjoyed a fun couple of days with our Looper friends Charlie and Linda on Freedom’s Turn; they’re also our “buddy boat” for the crossing. We also met up with some friends from home, Scott and Angie, who just happened to be visiting the area on our Plan B delay day to leave Fort Lauderdale (Plan A was to leave on Thursday but as nighttime approached the winds shifted and it started to look like north winds for Thursday instead of the expected Southeast).

You should never make a crossing with winds from any part of the north quadrant. North winds converging against the northern flowing Gulf Stream create large waves and large waves make boating dangerous. When making a crossing, wait until, at minimum, 24 hours have passed with no north winds and then have winds preferably from the south at 10 knots or less. When going to the Abacos you never want to go during anything with north winds in it. It’s an important rule to remember if you want a pleasant and uneventful cruise.

As I write this, we’re more than half way across the Gulf Stream. We are pleased with ourselves for successfully predicting the right day to cross, as the seas began with rolling waves but not choppy, and smoothed out to a very gentle roll half way across. The water has changed from a dark greenish blue to a deep indigo blue. At 2,300 feet it’s unusually bright, but still a dark-blue color with streaks of turquoise running through.  We also began to see the marine life we so often enjoy, including several schools of tiny flying fish with wings that jump and fly over the water in unison like a flock of busy hummingbirds. We also saw a few dolphins and a couple of Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish.

We’re looking forward to everything about the Abacos. The contrast of the rusty colored starfish against the turquoise water and bright swirly sand, the nurse sharks swimming below our dinghy, stingrays hovering just below the water and the friendly laughter and music of the locals who add their own flavor to the Bahamas spectrum. We feel blessed to be returning to this island oasis that once we discovered from far above and increasingly we feel that our time here was meant to be and as we always love to say… It’s Kismet.

Jim, Charlie and Linda on top of Kismet. We are all celebrating our safe arrival and contemplating the idyllic days to come in the beautiful Abaco Islands.