End of a Season

After a couple of relaxing days in Governors’ Harbour, we set out for Spanish Wells.  We left early, to make sure that we made it to the Current Cut at the right time to get through safely.  We pulled in to the fuel dock at the Power Plant in Russell Island to fill up the diesel tanks, before dropping anchor, right next to our friend, Holt, on Agandau!  Over dinner and drinks that evening, we discussed where we planned on going next.  It turned out that we were all looking forward to visiting Harbour Island, so we agreed to hire a pilot to guide us both through the Devil’s Backbone – an area of reefs which can be treacherous, but cuts down the journey to Harbour Island.

On Saturday morning, Captain Clayton joined us on board Sol Purpose and steered us through the Devils Backbone, closely followed by Holt on Agandau.  It was a little nerve-wracking watching the beach get closer and closer, as we avoided areas of reef, and we were glad we had hired the pilot.  He also gave us tips about getting through without him when we left for the Abacos.  And to cap it all, Captain Clayton’s wife bakes bread, and he brought a loaf for each boat!

Once we were through the Devils Backbone, the pilot jumped into his boat, which we were towing, and headed back to Spanish Wells, while we continued on to Harbour Island, and dropped anchor.  We then went ashore, to have lunch.  Holt had injured his foot quite badly a few days earlier and was having a little trouble walking, so we were delighted when a local guy, Derek, gave us a ride to the fish fry area on his golf cart.  We had a nice, but pricey, lunch, before heading back to the boats.

The next day, Moray and I headed back to shore to visit the main attraction of Harbour Island – the pink beach.  The beach is made up of sand and crushed coral, which in certain lights can make the beach appear pink.  I think we might have been there a little early in the day for the full effect, but it was certainly a very pretty beach.  There were people surfing and kayaking, more like a beach in the Mediterranean or Florida than any beaches we had experienced in the Bahamas until now.  We took a nice stroll along the beach and then back to the boat.

The next morning, Sol Purpose and Agandau set off together to head back through the Devils Backbone and then north to the Abacos.  When we made the original passage with the pilot, we had recorded our track, so we were able to use that as a guide, as well as just looking out for coral heads.

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our route back out through the Devils Backbone.  Coral, coral everywhere and lots of ways to sink

Once we were both through, we set sails and motor-sailed to Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.  We had a pleasant night at anchor, and first thing in the morning, Agandau set off for Marsh Harbour.  We stayed for a few hours longer so that Moray could fish, before we too headed to Marsh Harbour to find a safe place to ride out the latest weather front.  We were just getting settled, when Sofira pulled into a marina in Marsh Harbour!  We headed over to Snappas bar and grill, and got caught up over a few beers.  We had just got back to Sol Purpose when the heavens opened!  The rain continued all night and the next morning, so I took the opportunity to make some bread.  Once the rain stopped, we headed ashore to explore.  Moray finally managed to find a pair of fins to replace the ones he had lost in Georgetown, so that we would now be able to go snorkeling and diving together (up till now he had been using mine when he went fishing).  That evening, we met up with Bob and Clare, and Dale (Bob’s brother) who had flown in for a two week vacation.  We went to the Jib Room for BBQ and Limbo night!  And yes, after a few drinks we were persuaded to limbo.  We were terrible, but it was fun.  The professional there was unbelievable – the limbo stick couldn’t have been more than a foot off the ground when he went under it!

The next day was taken up with laundry, grocery shopping, baking and cleaning the boat.  Clare flew out to Boston, for her daughter’s bridal shower, and shortly after, Sofira headed off to Great Guana Cay.  We had decided to stay for a couple more days, which turned out to be a good thing, because the next day, we heard a knock and there was Skip from Prodigal.  The last time we had seen him was in Boot Key, in January 2017!  We joined him for drinks on his friends’ boat and it turned out that we had met them in Wayfarers Cove the previous summer, when Sol Purpose was out of the water!  Small world!

The next morning we left Marsh Harbour, heading out towards the Man O’War cut.  We wanted to take a look at the conditions at Fowl Cay, where there is great diving.  If it wasn’t suitable for diving, we thought we might just continue out to go fishing, but the conditions were not good at all at the Cut.  We decided to just head straight to HopeTown and stay there for the night.  We dropped anchor and took the dinghy into the town.  We swam in the pool, and Moray got to take a shower.  I wasn’t so lucky, as the ladies’ showers were locked, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  We went to the Lighthouse, and while I waited at the bottom, Moray went up and got a great view of the town and anchorage.  The lighthouse is the last man-operated, kerosene-fueled, lighthouse and has been preserved by the locals, who bought it in order to prevent it being turned into an automated lighthouse.

The next morning we headed over to Mermaid Reef, and spent a couple of hours snorkeling – my first time since hurting my ankle in February!  We had a great time, watching a huge variety of fish, and just floating around the reef, before heading back to Marsh Harbour to ride out – yes, you’ve guessed it – another weather front!  Everyone had had the same idea, and the anchorage was pretty full.  We spent quite a while looking for a good spot, during which time I managed to run aground 😦 but eventually we found a nice safe spot and got settled in.  The front passed through pretty quickly, and the next morning we headed over to Great Guana Cay, dropping anchor in Fishers Bay.  Over the course of the afternoon a few more boats arrived, but it was a quiet anchorage.

We spent the next morning exploring the area, in particular, checking out the local dive stores to see whether we could rent tanks or get refills there.  We were desperate to get some diving in, and it looked as though the conditions would be perfect the next couple of days.  Dive Abacos could do both, so we arranged to go back just before close of business, to rent two tanks which we could use the next day.  That decided, we headed to the beach and took a nice walk before dropping into Nippers for a beer.  There was a group of people there already, and as soon as I spoke to Moray, one of the women – Anne – said “are you from Bristol?” !  So to all of you who say I have an American accent – you are wrong!!!!  Anyhow, it turns out that she is originally from Knowle Park, not far from Novers Hill where I grew up!  Once again, it’s a small world.

Later that afternoon, we picked up the dive tanks, before heading to Grabbers for dinner, before an early night to prepare for diving the next day!  Very excited, we left bright and early the next morning, and headed out through the Whale Cut, turning right towards the reefs to drop anchor.  We got all the gear in the dinghy and headed to the reef.  We dropped into the water for our first dive of the year!  We spent 75 minutes just cruising along the reef, which although not a pretty reef, had really interesting structures and lots of life.  We went back to Sol Purpose for lunch, and then Moray went fishing, as we were not in a nature preserve.  He didn’t catch anything, but I think he had a good time snorkeling and checking out potential future dive sites.  We headed back to Fishers Bay, where Moray returned the tanks and picked up two more.

The next morning, we went in the other direction and went to Fowl Cay Reserve to dive.  There are several mooring balls for small boats and dinghies, in order to protect the coral, so we picked one and dropped down to the reef.  We spent a leisurely 90 minutes cruising around the reef, which like yesterday, was interesting more for its structure than colour, but was teeming with life.  I was particularly pleased to spot a peacock flounder hiding in the sand.  I was getting cold, so we surfaced, only to find that it was raining!  Not a problem when you are under the water anyway!  We spent our surface interval having some lunch and warming up, before selecting another mooring ball and heading back to the reef.  This time, we were accompanied for the whole dive by several grunts, who just stayed with us, even when the reef sharks also decided to join us.  In total we saw 4 sharks on this dive, all of whom checked us out and continued on their way.  While I am well aware just how dangerous they can be, I can’t help but be in awe of these beautiful creatures, and every time I get to swim with one I feel very privileged.

After two great dives, we headed back to Fishers Bay to return the store tanks and get ours refilled, in case we would be able to get another dive in the next day.  We knew that wouldn’t be the case pretty soon after looking at the weather forecast, so we decided to just spend the next day chilling out on the boat.  By this time, Agandau was also in Fishers Bay, so we spent some time with Holt too.  He decided to go up to Nippers to check out the Sunday BBQ, which is infamous.  We decided against going, but we enjoyed watching all the boats full of tourists being brought over from Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour to participate in the festivities.

Our next stop was Treasure Cay.  When we arrived, we dropped anchor, closely followed by Holt.  Just then, another boat hailed us to let us know that he was about to leave.  Holt was going to be staying for a few days, so as soon as the mooring ball was free, Holt tied off to it.  We all went to shore to take a look around, and to have drinks and food.  We saw Chuck and Sabrina, who we had last seen in Georgetown, so chatted with them for a while.  It was also bingo night, so we played a few cards, and Holt won a bottle of wine!

Also in Treasure Cay we saw Kevin and Caroline on Redtail and Charlie and Michelle on Rascal.  We got to catch up with both of them, bringing our 2017/2018 sailing season full circle, as we had been with them in Wayfarers Cove at the beginning of the season, and were ending our season with them in Treasure Cay.  Yes, this was to be the last day of our Bahamas adventure, as we saw that the weather was forecast to be variable, with few windows of opportunity to get back to the United States, especially as we were hoping to cross back to North Carolina in one trip, rather than cross to Florida and then work our way up the East Coast.  So on Wednesday, April 25th, we left Treasure Cay and headed out the Whale Cut.  From there, we headed north to Morehead City.  We sailed some of the way, and motor sailed the rest, and for the most part, had reasonable conditions, if a little lumpy.  We saw one nasty squall, but we had been tracking it on radar, and had dropped the sails before the squall hit us.  So then it was just a case of riding it out and waiting for it to pass.  It wasn’t too long, and from then on, we had a great trip home, arriving in Morehead City at mid-morning, on Saturday April 28th.  We had covered the 487 miles in just 73 hours which gave us an average speed of 6.7 knots which was great for Sol Purpose.  We also got a chance to sail with double head sails when the apparent wind dropped below 8 knots.  With the Code 0 and full genoa out on opposite sides of the boat we were able to sail very close the the apparent wind speed.

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code 0 out to port and genoa to starboard

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5.3 knots of apparent wind, 6.5 knots SOG and 4.5 knots of water speed… good times!

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to clear in through Customs and Immigration in Morehead City at the weekend, so we spent a couple of days on board.  However, we were in a marina, with TV and internet, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship!  Bright and early on Monday, Customs and Immigration officers came to the boat, checked through our freezer and fridge, checked our passports and gave us the OK.  We dropped the yellow quarantine flag, and left Morehead City.  We spent a pleasant day motoring along the ICW and the Neuse River, before arriving in New Bern Grand Marina just before 4pm.

We have a had a great winter season in the Bahamas, visiting familiar places, discovering new sights, catching up with old friends and making new ones.  Now we are in New Bern, which we consider our home from home, where we will spend the next few weeks working on the boat, and preparing for our trip to Thailand.  The next installment of this blog should be very different, so watch this space!


George Town and Beyond

The combination of weather and the Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta saw us spending a month in Georgetown.

The days up to the start of the Regatta had a bit of a routine.  Moray played volleyball in the afternoons, while I relaxed on board, sat on the beach, or swam.    One such day, we were sitting on board, when we spotted some dolphins.  They appeared to be waiting around rather than just passing through, so Moray got into the water with the GoPro, while I recorded the encounter from the deck.  It was so cool!

Another morning, I went to a bread-making class given by Dana, on board s/v Corsair.  She has been perfecting her bread recipe for many years and was kind enough to share it with us.  I have since made the bread several times and it hasn’t failed yet!

The Regatta started on March 1st, with the traditional opening event of the Poker Run.  Having learned our lesson last year, Al & Sue (along with Al’s daughter Tara) took their own dinghy and we took ours.  That way, we managed to arrive at each of the bars relatively dry!  We didn’t win the Poker Run, that was won with a hand of 4 twos, but had a great time!

The next day started as usual, listening to the Cruisers’ Net, to see who had arrived, who was departing and who needed help.  The cruising community is a great one for helping fellow cruisers in need, and we like to participate in that.  Most of the time, I have to be honest, it is Moray’s skills that are required – such as hoisting our friend Ron up the mast of Compromise to fix a stuck sail, or helping someone with a broken outboard.  Once the net was over, we headed to shore for the next event of the Regatta – the Coconut Challenge.  Along with Al & Sue, we won this challenge in 2017, so felt the need to try to defend our title.  It wasn’t to be, but we had a lot of fun!  The weather was lovely, so Al & Moray set out to go spearfishing, closely followed by Mike from Intrepid and Mennow from Eyra in Mike’s dinghy.  About 4pm, Mike returned, happy to have caught a grouper.  There was no sign of Al & Moray, so I started calling them on the VHF radio.  I got no response, but at that point I thought that maybe they were out of range.  When it got to 5pm, I was starting to worry, and started calling people to see if they had seen them.  At 5:30pm, with only 45 minutes to go until sunset, I picked up the radio to put out a general call to the harbour that we had two missing boaters, when I heard shouting.  A catamaran, called Bikini, had pulled up next to Sol Purpose and, towing our dinghy.  Moray and Al came aboard and the catamaran took off.  The dinghy was full of bloody water, which came from all the cuts and scrapes over Al and Moray’s arms, legs and feet.  I called Sue to come over, and started trying to clean up their cuts.  Here is Moray’s account of what had happened:

“Went out spear fishing a few days ago and had a bad return trip home in the dinghy. Myself and Al were returning from an unsuccessful trip when I misjudged both the route back on the North side of Fowl Cay and the wave action. We were caught on top of a large swell which lifted the outboard out of the water. The dinghy turned side on
to the waves and the next swell broke over us and flipped the dinghy over.
We were ejected onto a shallow reef that was just below the surface. Al was carried away from the dinghy and managed to grab hold of the fuel tank. I was caught under the dinghy and hit by either the outboard motor or dinghy transom which knocked my chin onto the coral and I bit through the edge of my tongue.
Luckily for me I had scuba boots on and was able to stand up on the coral to right the dinghy while Al was washed across the coral with only a shorty wetsuit to protect him.
Everything in the dinghy fell out when it overturned.  The exception was the oars which were strapped to the inside. Luckily, when the anchor fell out, it dug in and held the dinghy off the shore. I had to pull myself forwards on the anchor rode to get to the anchor to unset it. Timing was everything as the waves were constantly breaking. I reset the anchor about 10 feet further towards a deeper section of water repeatedly until the dinghy was off the coral. Al met me there with the fuel tank.
The engine had been under water for about a minute and was therefore full of sea water so we had to break out the oars and paddled for 45 minutes until we were able to hail a passing catamaran. Nancy and John on Bikini towed our dinghy while they tended to our cuts and scrapes. I will be forever in their debt as we still had 3 miles to cover before we would have got back to our boat.”



Once Sue had taken Al back to Stout Wench, we took stock of what had been lost from the dinghy – an IPad, the VHF radio (which is why I couldn’t raise them), two pairs of fins, two pole spears, two lifejackets, two masks, and one broken dinghy outboard engine.  Those things could all be replaced.  The fact that the two men were alive, if a bit battered and bruised, was the best thing.  It’s a stark reminder of how quickly the sea can turn on you, if you aren’t completely vigilant.

Anyway, remember that wonderful cruising community I mentioned? When Moray put out a very subdued message the next morning, thanking Bikini for rescuing them, and asking if anyone had spare fishing gear, fins etc. that we could buy, we had a constant stream of calls and visitors, checking that everyone was really OK.  Bill from Spiraserpula, Holt from Agandau, Mike from Intrepid and Mennow from Eyra spent the morning working on the outboard engine.  Various people had spare equipment we could buy at very reasonable prices – Fred and RuthAnn from Shooting Star provided a VHF radio while John from Sam the Skull and Mennow from Eyra had fishing and snorkeling gear.  Everyone came together to help and we are very grateful.

Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts, the outboard motor finally gave up the ghost five days later, so we resigned ourselves to buying a replacement.  While we were searching for one, that great community gave us rides so that we could continue to join in all the fun of the Regatta, rather than just sit on Sol Purpose and watch from afar.  We particularly enjoyed the two days of racing on Spiraserpula, both the In-Harbour and Round the Island races.  Thanks to Gayle and Bill, and Bruce and Kaye, for a great couple of days!



Once we determined that no one had an outboard motor for sale that would fit our needs, we went over to Georgetown to see about buying a new one.  Moray borrowed a small outboard from Darryl and Yulia on 3 Pearls.  It was just enough to get him from the Georgetown anchorage into town, so he went in and visited a couple of stores that he thought might have what we were looking for.  Unfortunately, they did not, but one mentioned that they had a customer that morning who had bought a motor as an upgrade and that he might be looking to sell his previous one.  We got in touch with Wright on Raven, and long story short, bought a basically brand new engine from him.  It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, but given the circumstances, it was perfect!  We were now mobile again!

By now the Regatta was over, and a weather window was approaching when we would be able to continue our trip through the Bahamas.  Moray braved his memories and went back to the scene of his near demise, to see if he could find anything.  Unbelievably, he came back with one of the life jackets and his pole spear!  He found the weight belt too, but was unable to retrieve it due to the strong surge.

It was time to move on, so early on Thursday morning, we set out with Bill on Providence and Al & Sue on Stout Wench for Long Island.  The conditions looked perfect, but when we went through the cut at the south end of Elizabeth Harbour, the waves were brutal, so all three boats decided to head back and stay for a few more days.  So back to more volleyball, swimming, relaxing until Sunday, when Stout Wench and Sol Purpose set off again for Long Island.  This time, the conditions were perfect, and we had a pleasant crossing, arriving in good time at Thompson Bay.

On Monday morning, we all four went ashore, and rented a car for the day.  First of all, we headed north to visit the Columbus Monument.  Various islands lay claim to being the first place that Columbus landed in the Bahamas, and this point on Long Island is one of them.



Next we took a drive to Stella Maris, to take a look at the cave.  When we were here previously, the nearby Stella Maris resort used the cave as a restaurant experience with a weekly cave dinner.  Inside the cave were stone seats and tables, a bar, a buffet, a bonfire and a live band.  It was, therefore, quite sad, and even a little creepy to walk around this now abandoned venue.  The remains of the bonfire was even still there.

From there, we continued south and stopped off at Max’s Conch Bar and Grill for lunch.  As recommended by various posters on Trip Adviser, we tried the fresh conch salad.  Max himself makes it to order right there at the bar.  We were not disappointed with that, nor with the coconut shrimp!

Next stop was Dean’s Blue Hole for a swim.  The hole drops down to over 600 feet, and as well as being the deepest blue hole in the world, is the home of one of the world free-diving championships.  Moray had brought along a dive computer and swam as far down as he was able – to about 53 feet.  It shows just how impressive the professional free divers are, that they can get to the bottom!  The record for the type of dive Moray attempted is 406ft.  The record for no limit free diving (with a sled and balloon) is 702ft!!!!

After dropping off the car, we had one quick drink at the Souside Bar, before heading back to our boats, to get ready for the next part of our journey.  Sue and Al were going to be heading up to Cat Island, while we wanted to take a quick detour to Rum Cay.  We went there last year, but only to the north end of the island, so we wanted to see what the south end was like.  We sailed to Calabash Bay at the north end of Long Island that day and the next day, left early, and had a great day of sailing, arriving at Rum Cay around 4pm.

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flying the Code 0 on the way to Calabash Bay.  Our stop on the way to Rum Cay

There were a few other boats there, all preparing to ride out a northerly blow.  The next morning, Moray went out to see if there was any fishing and came back with an big lobster!  Great job!

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In the afternoon, we went ashore to explore a little.  The island has been very badly hit by hurricanes over the past few years, and the population has dropped from 200+ to around 40.  The marina has been destroyed, with one sunken boat still there as a sad reminder of the storms.

We walked back along the road towards the government dock, which is currently being rebuilt and looks as though it will be a very sturdy structure – I have never seen so much rebar!  We stopped off at Kaye’s Sand Bar for a beer.  This is another bar that has managed to survive despite the storms, and now houses a small restaurant and grocery store.  We had read that in the past people had enjoyed the goat curry served there, and we were looking forward to trying it.  Unfortunately it was not on the menu, but Moray told the owner that he had heard how good it was, so she agreed to make it the next night!  We rounded up a couple of other boaters – Tom and Linda from Toucan – to join us!

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Kay’s Sand Bar

The next morning, Tom and Moray went out to find more lobster, but this time were unsuccessful.  We relaxed for the rest of the day, before heading over to try the goat curry.  A few other people had arrived in the harbour too, so luckily there was enough for eight!  The curry was delicious, and went very well with the $3 beers and $5 jack and cokes!

A recurring theme this season has been the cold fronts passing through the Bahamas, bringing unfavorable winds and sea conditions, and another one was approaching.  While Port Nelson was a great place, we wanted to move on before the next front came through, so we started out just before sunrise towards Cat Island.  We were hoping to get to New Bight by sunset.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  We dropped the hydro-generator in the water and that, along with the solar panels, enabled us to run the watermaker so that the water tank was full when we arrived.  All this while under sail alone!  At times at 8.5 knots!  Fantastic!  To preserve as much power as possible, we manually steered until we reached Hawkes Nest Point, at the southwestern tip of Cat Island.  At that point we were no longer able to sail, so we turned on the motor and headed towards New Bight.  As we approached, we were hailed by Bob and Clare on Sofira!  Finally we had caught up with each other for the first time since leaving New Bern!  As we anchored, we had a welcoming committee of Bob and Clare in their dinghy, and Stout Wench on the radio!  We had thought that they might have already left, but now it seemed there would be a party!  As soon as we were settled, we all headed over to the Fish Fry, where we were made a beeline for AnnieBo’s bar.  We were amazed, and delighted, when Annie obviously remembered us from last year (actually, is that a good thing or not???).  We had a few drinks there, as well as some delicious crab soup from a shack across the street.  It turned out that there was a birthday party in the sailing club that night, and we were invited!   We had a blast, and eventually headed home just after midnight.  I understand that the party went on until after 2am, when the police ordered the music turned off!

Stout Wench left very early the next morning, heading for Eleuthera before the next cold front could hit.  Just before lunchtime, we joined Bob and Clare for a walk, before they too had to head north.  We decided to spend one more night, as we hoped to get some groceries the next day before moving just 6 miles north to Fernandez Bay, where we hoped to find a little more shelter from the coming winds.  So on Monday morning, we took a stroll up to the grocery store and managed to get pretty much everything we needed.  The only disappointment was that the bakery was closed.  We had bought delicious hot cross buns there the year before, but this time it wasn’t to be.  We motored the short distance to Fernandez Bay and tucked into the Bay as close to the shore as we dared.  Shortly after our arrival, the winds started to pick up, so we took advantage of the wind generator to watch a couple of episodes of Lewis, one of my favourite British detective shows.  Now that we have watched all the episodes we had, we decided to try a new British TV Series, called Black Mirror.  It’s very interesting and thought-provoking, but also a very disturbing look at what technology is doing to us as human beings.

Ah well, it didn’t stop either of us getting a great night’s sleep, and Moray woke up raring to go fishing!  He had a good time, but didn’t find any lobster, unfortunately.  I spent the time working on a sweater hat I am sure I will need in New Bern this winter!  We also enjoyed a Happy Hour on Bright Ayes, a 47′ Caliber.  Wayne & Betty were great hosts and it was interesting to see the larger version of our boat.

We next moved up the coast to Orange Creek, as they have a grocery store and laundromat.  The anchorage was very rolly and uncomfortable, so we stayed long enough to get the groceries and do the laundry, before heading back down the coast to Bennetts Harbour.  It was much more settled there, so we dropped the dinghy in the water and Moray sped to shore to get to the bakery before it closed.  He managed to place an order for Hot Cross Buns for the following morning.  My hero!  After a pleasant night’s sleep, we went ashore to take a walk around the settlement.  We wanted to check out the few restaurants and see if one would be serving dinner that night, given that it was Good Friday.  Our first choice would have been Yardie’s, where Odette serves up wonderful conch salad, we were told.  Unfortunately, she had gone home for the Easter Holiday, so Yardie’s was closed.  Next we tried Sammy T’s, but weren’t sure about it.  Finally, we took a look at the restaurant in Pompey Rocks resort.  It looked nice, and had a reasonable menu, but no one was about.  So we took a card and decided to call later.  When we were leaving the restaurant, we met Tony and Penny.  They have been visiting the island for short trips over the past 8 years, but this year decided to rent a cottage in the resort and stay for a year.  They seem to have really become part of the community, helping out with various festivals and businesses, as required.  What a great way to spend a year!  This nomadic life we are leading is amazing, but there is much to be said for becoming part of the community in these wonderful islands, too.

We headed back to Sol Purpose, stopping off at Andrew’s bakery (aka, the kitchen in Andrew’s house!) to pick up the Hot Cross Buns.  They were absolutely delicious, and I wish Andrew all the best with the future venture – the Bed & Breakfast right next to the government dock.  If the buns were anything to go by, the breakfasts are going to be delicious.

Moray placed a call to Chef AJ at Pompey Rocks, and made a reservation for dinner, before heading out to spearfish.  He stopped off at Jennabird and told them that the restaurant would be open, if they would like to join us.  So we all headed over to shore just before sunset to have sundowners before dinner.  We had a great evening with Harry and Alicia, eating conch fritters, lobster fettuccine and fried grouper.  Great food at good prices – I would recommend it!

First thing the next morning, we set off for Eleuthera.  We decided to bypass Little San Salvador this time and make straight for the Blue Hole near Rock Sound.  As we were approaching, we heard that there was a festival going on – the Rock Sound Homecoming, with three days of live music, food and drink vendors and fun.  We changed course and dropped anchor in Rock Sound.  Immediately, we could hear the music!  After settling in, we went to shore to join in the festivities.  Almost immediately, we ran into Kevin and Caroline, on Redtail.  We hadn’t seen them since the day we arrived in St. Augustine, so it was great to hear their adventures.  Unfortunately, this included Kevin rupturing his Achilles tendon, playing Pickleball, so their activities have been a little curtailed.  They still seem to be having a wonderful time, which is what matters.  We also met with the crews of Zingaro and Freya, and all had a great time, eating, listening to the very loud music and dancing.  The festival was amazing – in particular, the biker club who had come in from Nassau on the supply boat.  I’m not sure I can adequately describe the sight of a biker club, all in full leathers, line dancing in the street…..  so I will let the video speak for itself!

We didn’t stay until the bitter end, but I can assure you the music kept going until 3am….

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sunset at Rock Point

After a lazy day, and loud night with the music again going until the wee hours, we decided to pick up anchor and head over to the Blue Hole, so that Moray could snorkel and fish.  We were the only boat there, and although the fishing wasn’t good, it was nice and peaceful after the fun atmosphere, but noisiness of the past couple of days.

Our next stop was to be Governors Harbour, and the forecast was for a good sailing day.  We decided that we needed to start practicing sailing off the anchor, and being the only boat in a wide open area, this seemed like a good place to try it for the first time.  We set the mainsail, and, using the windlass, pulled up the anchor.  I turned toward our heading and away we went – it was an amazing sense of achievement!  Next, we have to do it in a crowded anchorage, but baby steps!  We had a glorious morning of sailing and arrived at Governors Harbour.  The holding there is not the best, and even with our fabulous Mantus, it took three attempts to set the anchor, but eventually we were safely anchored and could relax.  We watched two other boats come in and struggle to get set, but all was well.  We will be here for a few days, while the next weather front comes through, before heading towards Spanish Wells and the Devils Backbone.

Through the Exumas

After a couple of nights rolling in West Bay, we grabbed an opportunity to move across to Highbourne Cay.  We were very fortunate in that we saw several squalls to the right and left of us but we had a great run straight through the middle, all under sail.

We dropped anchor just north of the entrance to the marina, just as the rain started.  We spent a comfortable couple of days here, and Moray managed to get some spearfishing in.  He brought back an amberjack which we had for dinner, but what he really wanted to get was a lobster!

The forecast was for the wind to clock round once again, so we decided to relocate to Lobster Cay.  After pulling up the anchor, we took a quick detour to Allen’s Cay to see the famous iguanas.  Last year, we had gone straight to Highbourne Cay and then south, so we had missed them.  The Cay itself was very pretty, and in different weather would have been a lovely place to spend a couple of days.  However, just as we got there, the rain started, and the iguanas took cover!  Ah well, we got a video so it’s all good!

Next we headed down to anchor at Lobster Cay.  Once Sol Purpose was secure, Moray headed off to do some spearfishing.  Lobster Cay lived up to its name, and a happy Moray came back with his first lobster of the season.  I had already started preparing dinner, so we put it in the freezer for another day.

We had planned to stay at Lobster Cay for a couple of days, before continuing south, but for the first time in a long time, we had desperate need for an internet connection.  We usually manage fine without one, but we had a Skype chat set up which we couldn’t miss, so after a safe but not too comfortable night, we headed back to Highbourne Cay and had our very important Skype call.

Now that everything is settled, I am able to put this in the blog!  We are well aware of how lucky we are to be able to live this life, so we had planned on doing volunteer work while on our travels.  It hasn’t been as easy as we thought to find the type of placement that we would both be happy doing, in a place we both want to visit, and without breaking our budget (who knew that “volunteering” could cost so much!).  After a lot of research, we found what we thought fit the bill perfectly, and applied – hence the “interview” on Skype.  Everything went well, so this summer, we will be helping out at Lanta Animal Welfare Center, in Koh Lanta, Thailand!  The center rescues, treats and finds homes for the stray dogs and cats on the island.  We will have a couple of weeks traveling around the country and then will be in Koh Lanta for almost three months.  We have rented a little apartment to stay in near the center.  I am so excited – both for the opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time (for me) and for the chance to spend some time with cats, as I am so missing having mine around.

OK, that will all be covered in a future blog entry, so let’s get back to the Bahamas!  When we woke up, the weather was perfect for a day of sailing with the Code 0, so we headed out for Normans Cay.  As soon as we unfurled the sail and switched off the engine, there was a knocking noise.  Moray investigated and figured out that it was the propeller.  It appeared that the cutlass bearing strut was a little loose, so rather than risk damage to the prop, we had to switch the motor back on and furl the Code 0.  Our lovely sailing window was a bust, but we motor sailed with the genoa, and arrived in good time at Normans Cay.  Instead of the anchorage we had used last year, we settled in near the beach on the West side of the island.  The water was quite shallow and perfectly clear, so as Moray dropped the mantus anchor, he was happy to see it disappear in a puff of sand!  There was no need to dive the anchor to check that it would hold, but as we were not too far off the beach, I jumped in and swam to shore and back.  Moray went snorkeling, tightened the cutlass bearing strut and saw a couple of eels, but not much else.

The next morning, we took the dinghy to the beach and walked around to the other side.  We wanted to see whether any progress had been made on the marina that was under construction when we were there before.  Basically, the answer is no!  There are now entrances cut through, but these are closed off as there is no infrastructure in the marina for the boats.  There is a new dock to tie off to, for large boats, which I assume stop to eat and drink at MacDuffs.  We had planned to revisit MacDuffs, as it was the first place we had had a Kalik in 2017, but after hearing that they have put the price up to $10 per beer, we decided to give it a miss!

After having another swim to the shore and back in the crystal clear water, we headed out towards Shroud Cay.  We planned to use the same anchorage as last year, in close to the entrance to the mangroves.  Unfortunately, we didn’t read the tide tables correctly, and were dangerously close to running aground, so we dropped the anchor where we were, and settled in for the night.  The next morning, as soon as the tide started to rise, we moved in to where we wanted to be and re-anchored.  That done, we had a leisurely breakfast, while we waited until it was almost high tide.  That is the only time it is possible to get the dinghy across a sandbar, into the mangroves, and then through to Camp Driftwood.  We had a fun half hour or so, playing in the cut, being swept into the beach, then running round and doing it all over again!  Once the tide turned, we jumped in the dinghy and took a gentle trip through the mangroves.  It was beautiful, but we only saw one turtle, which was a little disappointing.   We love this anchorage, because most people seem to stay at the other end of the island, on or near the mooring balls.  We could see their masts, but we were the only boat in our anchorage, and it almost feels like your own private island!

As soon as the tide was high enough the next morning, we made our way down to Warderick Wells.  We anchored and dinghied over to the park office, to make a reservation for a mooring ball for the following evening.  Then we went over to one of the snorkel sites and spent an hour or so with an eagle ray and a lemon shark, as well as all the usual suspects.  Spectacular!  We took a look at a couple of other sites, but there wasn’t much there, so we headed back to Sol Purpose.  Our boat was the only one on our side of the anchorage, so once again, we had peace and quiet for watching the sunset.

Next morning, we pulled up anchor bright and early to make it out through the cut to get to the south mooring filed at Hog Cay.  Once there, we radioed the park office to let her know which mooring ball we had picked up.  There appeared to have been some confusion the previous day when we made the reservation, as the ranger thought we had meant we wanted to be at Emerald Rock mooring field.  She told us that the Hog Cay mooring balls were no longer maintained, so she suggested that we dive the mooring just to be sure.  There is no anchoring allowed there because of potential damage to the rare stromatalite formations, so that would not be an option for us if the mooring didn’t hold.  Moray jumped in and took a look, and confirmed that everything looked fine, especially as the winds were not going to be strong that night.  Once secured, we headed over to Hog Cay to hike.  We beached the dinghy, found a spot with a lovely view out over the Sound, and ate a picnic lunch.  Then we donned our hiking boots and set off along the ironshore to walk the full length of the island.  First of all, we headed up to the northernmost tip, where there is a cairn.  In true Scottish tradition, Moray added a stone to the cairn!  We then headed along the trail towards the south.  The views were fantastic, and we even found a blow hole, which sounded just like an old man snoring (actually it was kind of creepy!).

We made it all the way to the southernmost tip of the island, before heading back.  Hog Cay is not very big, but the combination of the heat and the ironshore made it feel like quite a trek.

Back at Sol Purpose, we both jumped in for a swim to cool off.  Moray’s pet spotted eagle ray seemed to have followed us round from yesterday’s snorkel site, so he grabbed the GoPro and took a video.

Once again, we had the privilege of being the only people in the mooring field.  While we love being around people, the feeling of being the only people to experience a particularly wonderful sunset or sunrise is amazing!

The next morning saw us heading back to O’Brien’s Cay and the Sea Aquarium, which we had enjoyed so much the previous year.

From there, Moray snorkeled the sunken plane which would make a good dive site at slack tide due to the 2 deep channels that feed the area.  Quite good fish life because of this.

We snorkeled for an hour or so, then headed back to Sol Purpose.  Our run of bad luck was apparently not over – as Moray was pulling up to Sol Purpose, the bolt which allows our outboard motor to tilt, snapped.  So now we are without wind power, and possibly a means of getting to shore 😦  We pulled the dinghy and motor back out of the water and secured them, before pulling up anchor and heading to Pipe Cay, which is where we planned to ride out the next weather front.  We arrived just before sunset, and were surprised to see so few boats in such a protected anchorage.  During our trip, we heard several people calling the Exumas Land and Sea Park, so we assume that they filled up the moorings, rather than anchor.  Moray started work on seeing if he could fix the outboard.  Over the course of the three days that we were waiting out the weather front, he managed to unseize/drill out the rusted bolt and remove it.  He found a replacement part on eBay and ordered that, so that we could pick that up in George Town, along with the replacement wind generator parts.  He made a temporary fix, using 2 shorter bolts.  It’s not perfect, but it should work until we get the new part, if we are careful.

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Both ends of the sheared bolt seized in the outboard tilting mechanism

After three days of fixing motors, reading and generally relaxing, we grabbed a break in the weather and headed carefully through the shallows down to Staniel Cay.  We saw lots of boats anchored at Big Majors, but very few at Thunderball Grotto, which we prefer because it is so much closer to access shopping etc.  Especially with a dodgy outboard motor!  At last we were able to get rid of some bags of trash – the flies were beginning to arrive, which is never good!  We were excited at the thought of being able to grocery shop for the first time in over a month, which was our plan for the next day.  Not so fast!  As we got ready for bed, the toilet decided it no longer wanted to flush.  Not an acceptable situation in a house, but in a 40 foot boat with a not-so-reliable dinghy motor, definitely not acceptable!  So first thing the next morning, instead of our grocery run, Moray had to take the toilet and sanitation hose run apart, literally… so gross 😛  The blockage was found and cleared – that’s all the details needed!  Then, of course, showers!  You will be glad to know that we have no pictures of that 🙂

Finally, we went to shore and dropped off a month’s worth of laundry, including the “curry comforter” before heading to the grocery store.  While we have plenty of canned and frozen food, it was so nice to have fresh vegetables, milk and eggs!

That evening, we headed to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, to have a couple of beers and some conch/grouper appetizers.  We chatted with Mike and Sarah, and their guest Amy, from Intrepid.  We then all headed to Intrepid to play Mexican Train before we headed home.

The next day, we noticed another boat arrive, searching for a good spot to anchor.  The tide was on its way out, and pretty soon we realized that the new arrival was on the bottom.  Mike and Moray went over in their dinghies to try to help out, but the boat wouldn’t budge.  As the boat was beginning to heel more and more, the crew, along with Mike and Moray, decided to go snorkeling until the tide lifted her enough to move.  It worked out perfectly – they were all happy to snorkel, I got to sunbathe on the boat, and the “little red boat” was eventually moved somewhere deeper.

Our next stop was to be Little Farmers Cay for the 5F’s weekend.   We decided to drop the hydro-generator in the water, before pulling the dinghy into the davits.  With that running, and the solar panels, we were able to run the watermaker en route, even though we were sailing!  I also thought it would be a good day to practice manual steering under sail, so that we wouldn’t need the autopilot.  I had a few blips, but for the most part, I kept us going in the right direction!  There weren’t as many boats as we had been expecting, so we had our pick of anchoring spots.  That night we went to Ty’s for dinner.  There we met Greg and Jodi, from Moon Pie.  They are first year cruisers and seem to be having a wonderful time.  They are taking their time and checking out all the secluded spots that we love too!

Now that we were out of the Land and Sea Park, Moray wanted to do some fishing, but the current was too strong.  We watched the cruiser’s race, while other boats arrived and anchored, among them Intrepid and “little red boat”, which we soon learned is actually called Quintessence!  Around 4pm, we headed over to the yacht club for the cruisers’ welcome party.  We met up again with Bill & Gayle and Mike and Sarah, and were introduced to Ben and Kristine from Quintessence.  It was a fun evening, but ended on a slightly sour note for me.  Flip flops and walking on gravel in the dark don’t make for a good outcome.  I turned my ankle badly so we had to make our way slowly back to the dinghy.  We hadn’t made a good job of beaching the dinghy, so poor Moray had to swim out to get it!  Ah well, we eventually made it home safely.

I woke the next morning to a bruised, swollen, painful ankle, so sat with it up on a pile of cushions while we watched the set up for the racing.  Then we headed out in the dinghy and rafted up alongside Intrepid and Quintessence’s dinghies to watch the races.

The next day, the gang (Mike, Ben and Moray) went spearfishing and came back with a lionfish (for Mike) and a lobster (for Ben).  I had just put some fresh biscuits in the oven when Ben called and invited everyone over to share the lobster and some fish he had caught previously.  He grilled up the fish, and the other two boats provided salads and biscuits.  It was delicious – we are definitely living the life!

The regatta finished on Saturday, but we stuck around on Sunday, because Ty’s Bar & Grill throws a great Superbowl party, which of course we attended!

The partying over, it was now time to get down to some serious sailing/fishing!  We headed down to Musha Cay, followed closely by Intrepid, Quintessence and Catsaway.  We dropped anchor in Musha Cay, right in front of the beach.  The water was so clear and calm, I dropped in for a swim, to try to relieve my sore ankle a little, before we all dinghied round to the next island, where Sarah and I sat on the beach, while the others went snorkeling/spearfishing.  Moray had a battle of wills with a lobster, but the lobster won, I’m afraid.

By this time, Moray was getting a little frustrated at his lack of success with spearfishing this year.  He decided to get up just before dawn, and head back round to the little island to try his hand again.  After an hour or so, he came back with a good sized lobster, and a lionfish, which he took over to Mike.  [Morays Notes:  I had got in the water just before the sun came up and swam with 4 spotted eagle rays, 2 reef sharks, 2 turtles and a nurse shark.  It was fantastic :)].  They all then decided to go fishing so he went out with them again.  I wasn’t there, so this is all third-hand, but my understanding is that he got two more lobster and then went back in, a little way away from the others.  They were alerted by him yelling “I need a boat over here, now!”  They rushed over to him and he lifted the pole spear, which was bending like a fishing rod, out of the water with a huge hogfish on it.  The reason for the urgency, apart from the fact that it was heavy and he didn’t want to lose it, was the fact that a curious shark was slowly making its way towards him!  Fish and hunter both made it into the boat safely, and an absolutely beaming Moray presented me with the 10lb fish!

The next morning, the other boats decided to head to Rudder Cut Cay, to snorkel the Mermaid statue.  We decided to give that a miss and instead took a quick run down to Lee Stocking Island.  We had missed this spot last year, so we wanted to get there this time.  There were already quite a few boats there, but we found a spot and got settled.  Moray went to look for good snorkeling spots, but found the current to be too strong.  Lee Stocking Island used to be the home of the Perry Institute for Marine Science, but it abruptly closed down a few years ago and the island is now deserted.  There is some talk that it has been purchased and will be developed into an eco-resort, but we didn’t see much evidence of that as yet!  I strapped up my ankle in walking boots – what a great look in hot weather! – and we took a walk round the island.  It is like a ghost town, with the buildings all still there but completely empty.  There are pools for the fish research, and pens for animals, but all abandoned.  We walked along a couple of beautiful beaches, and then down the runway, before heading back to the boat.

There was now yet another weather front approaching.  There were a couple more places we wanted to see, but the winds would make these uncomfortable at the very least, so we decided to head straight to Georgetown.  We could be safe there, get some provisions and maybe even pick up the spare parts we had ordered.  We picked up the anchor and started heading towards the cut, but realized that our timing wasn’t great and that it was a bad time to try to go through.  So we went back, dropped anchor for a couple of hours and waited for the tide to turn, before making another attempt.  This time it was fine, and we had a great sail down to Georgetown.  We dropped anchor just in front of Chat ‘n Chill, next to – would you believe it – Intrepid and Quintessence!

Georgetown is summer camp for adults!  Every morning there is yoga and aquarobics, every afternoon there is volleyball, and there are always people around to chat to or to help when needed.  Of course, our spare parts haven’t yet arrived so while we are here we will be spending our days chilling, Moray playing volleyball, me chatting with other people on the beach.  My ankle is still bothering me, so it’s also a good opportunity to just nurse it, so that later in the trip, I will be able to dive.  One thing we do a lot of in Georgetown is socialize.  With all the lobster Moray had caught while fishing with the other guys, I made Thai lobster curry for dinner for Intrepid, Quintessence and Duchess.  We managed to get 8 people around our table!  It was a fun evening, and thanks to Mike, Sarah, Ben, Kristine, Joyce and Matt for not only helping to catch the lobster but for enjoying it with us.

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from left to right, Sarah, Mike, Kristine, Ben, Me, Moray, Matt and Joyce

After several phone calls and emails with DHL, our wind generator parts arrived in Georgetown.  It was also the day that the propane guy was in town.  So we moved Sol Purpose across the harbour to town, and Moray headed in to get, propane, gas/petrol for the dinghy and the wind generator parts.  He managed to get the petrol and the parts, but unfortunately, it appears that the o-ring in our propane tank had worn through, making it impossible to fill.  Ah well, that’s why we have two!

We took Sol Purpose back over to Chat ‘n Chill and were able to tuck into a little spot, much closer to the beach.  That was great as it made for a much smoother night.  Another reason for a much better night was that Moray fitted the replacement parts and now we could use the wind to charge the batteries.  Yay!

We had missed a few islands on the way down to Georgetown, so we decided to head back north for a few days.  After a spirited sail, we dropped anchor at Black Cay, near the north end of Great Exuma.  This is an uninhabited island, with a couple of beautiful beaches, crystal clear turquoise water and very few other boats!  After the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, it was nice to chill out for a few days.  Moray settled into his routine of heading out at slack tide to spearfish, while I read.  We also took advantage of the lack of dinghies heading back and forth to swim, which was wonderful.

Moray was not having much luck getting fish or lobster, and felt that he was failing in his role as hunter-gatherer!  So he decided to try to get a coconut instead.  As you can see from the video, it’s just as well that there are grocery stores in Georgetown!!!

On Saturday, we took the dinghy to White Cay, to visit the swimming pigs that live there.  They are very tame, as they are fed by all the visitors, but that meant they are quite happy to search around inside your dinghy for food!  Moray managed to get some great pictures of the piglets though.

From there, we headed across to Exuma Point on Great Exuma.  Every Saturday, they have an all-you-can-eat buffet, with cracked conch, grouper fingers, chicken wings, ribs etc. etc.  They even have their own version of Mack (for our Waterford friends).

The weather forecast once again gave us a little cause for concern, so we headed back to Georgetown and managed to tuck close in to Chat ‘n Chill again.  Moray got back into the routine of afternoon volleyball, and I relaxed on board or on the beach.

We went to trivia night at St Francis (our first time there) and along with Bruce & Kay from Laura Belle, won second place – bottle of wine per boat.

The winds started to pick up yesterday, and we had some fun and games in the harbour.  One catamaran had been moved a couple of days earlier from anchor to a mooring ball, as the owners had flown home for a short visit.  Around midday, we heard a call go out for assistance.  The mooring ball had snapped from it’s base and the catamaran had taken off on its own.  Moray jumped in the dinghy and headed towards it, as we were very close.  He and about 11 others first of all had to get on to the cat to disentangle it from another boat, which it was now dragging along for the ride.  Then they had to figure out the anchor locker etc and get the anchor down and secure.  As they had to do all this manually, it took a couple of attempts, but eventually, everything was secured.  Quite a lot of excitement, but it shows once again, what a great community this is.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, and the situation could have been dangerous, but they worked together and kept all people and boats safe.  Well done, guys!

This morning we braved the choppy waters to head over to Georgetown, so that Moray could go to the softball practice, and I could get off the boat for a little while.  I even got to go to a grocery store!  The supply boat arrived this morning, so we were a bit early for the fresh vegetables, but we got everything else we wanted.

The winds are once again not co-operating with our plans, so we are just taking it one day at a time right now.  I’m not sure when we will be moving so I will sign off for now and say, watch this space!

Southward Bound Again

So at last the day had come! On Saturday, December 16th, we wrapped up in thermal clothing, waved goodbye to Bob and Clare, and departed New Bern. We had done our last grocery shop and had just about enough beer 🙂

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We were very lucky in our choice of departure date, because the tides and currents were with us all the way to Morehead City, and we saw speeds up to 8 knots! That gave us plenty of daylight to get out through the Beaufort Inlet before starting our offshore passage. The seas were calm, and we had a peaceful, uneventful trip, motoring all the way but at least making progress South.

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hard to believe this was 30 miles offshore in the Atlantic

We were once again joined by a pod of dolphins for part of the trip…

Our timing was perfect and on the morning of Tuesday, December 19th, we arrived at St Augustine, Florida with a high tide and just as the bridge was opening. Perfect! We tied off to a mooring ball, checked in and headed straight for a well earned hot shower! Then we made the trek across the bridge to a dive store to get our scuba tanks inspected and filled, ready for the Bahamas. We wrapped up the day with a walk around the city, dinner and drinks in a couple of the many bars!

St. Augustine proved to be the perfect place to spend Christmas. There is a very active boating community in St. Augustine and there were plenty of events scheduled. We went to the Wednesday night gathering at Ann O’Malleys, where there was pizza, cheap beer and a White Elephant Christmas gift exchange, which was a lot of fun!

While we were in St. Augustine, we tried to visit as many of the sights as possible. We walked down to, the Fort (Castillo de San Marcos), the Fountain of Youth and the Old Town, which were all very interesting but a bit Disney-esque.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Visitor Center, which is more like a museum telling the story of the city. It’s well worth a visit. Another day, we visited the Flagler College and took a tour. The college was originally a hotel called the Ponce de Leon Hotel, built by Henry Flagler, the railway tycoon, in 1888 to house his wealthy friends when they spent the season in Florida. He charged by the season and it cost $4,000 for the winter season whether you stayed the whole time or a weekend. The windows and chandeliers are all by Tiffany and are stunning. The building is now a hall of residence for freshman college students – wow! Liverpool University was great but had nothing on that!

At the boaters’ happy hour, the night before, we met several great people, in particular, Charles and Rachel, who, via FB, had been helpful when Moray was asking for suggestions on places to spend Christmas. During our conversation, we discovered a mutual love of sushi, so on Thursday night, they very kindly picked us up and drove us to a fantastic sushi restaurant called Corner Sushi. We had a great meal and even better conversation, before they drove us back to the marina.

On Christmas Eve, Charles texted us and invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner! It was wonderful! We met Rachel’s family which was great, before eating fresh made seafood chowder (by Charles) and bread (by Rachel). It was so lovely to be included in a family Christmas and reminds us once again that there are amazingly kind people in this world.

We had a quiet Christmas Day on board. It was a lovely, relaxed day. We made calls to our families, opened presents all day, played cards and even had turkey, roast potatoes and brussel sprouts! Yes, it is possible to cook a Christmas Dinner in a tiny boat galley!

On Boxing Day it was time to leave. First of all, at peak travel season, the marina limits transient boats to a seven day stay, and second, the weather was perfect for the next leg of the journey south. Moray made one last run into the city to pick up packages from the Post Office, before we released the mooring ball and headed back through the St. Augustine Inlet, before turning south toward Fort Lauderdale. The weather was great so we got to sail, most of the way. The evening of the second day saw a few storms, so we motored the rest of the way, arriving at the Port Everglades Inlet at daybreak. Once under the bridge, we pulled into the Fort Lauderdale fuel dock to refuel. Another sailboat pulled around us and tried to dock in front of us, managing to hit us in the process. Luckily no damage was done to Sol Purpose, but an apology was not offered, which left a nasty taste. Anyway, once refueled, we headed a little farther north into Lake Sylvia. We had spent a night in this anchorage on last year’s trip down, along with Charlie and Bob. We got there to find that there was plenty of room, so we anchored and settled in to wait for a weather window to cross over to the Bahamas. The anchorage is surrounded by high end houses which make for a nice backdrop at night.

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Gas lighting in one of the waterside house gardens

Last year, we had only stayed for one day, so we hadn’t gone ashore. This time, we put the dinghy in the water, crossed over the ICW (now that can be a scary trip in Fort Lauderdale!) and went to the Southport Raw Bar. They have a dinghy dock, which costs $10 per day. However, if you spend $10 in the restaurant/bar, the fee is waived so thats what we did. After appetizers and beers, I went grocery shopping, while Moray walked to West Marine to try to get some engine oil. He didn’t succeed in that, but the grocery shopping was successful!

We had hoped to get over to the Bahamas by New Year, so that we could experience Junkanoo, but the weather showed no signs of co-operating. So we did a little research and found that downtown Fort Lauderdale was having a New Year’s Eve celebration, with free live music, street bars and food vendors, and at midnight, an anchor drop. It was about an hour’s walk, but that’s fine. So we dinghied over to the Southport Raw Bar, had the obligatory $10-worth of beer and snacks, before setting out towards town. The walk wasn’t bad at all, and once we arrived, we were very impressed. The downtown area had been closed to traffic and there was a stage with live music at each end. The music was great, and there were plenty of eateries and bars, although we had taken a cooler full of beer with us! We had a fantastic evening there, culminating with the anchor drop, which was fun. The evening wasn’t over, though, as the bands played for another hour, so we stayed until they stopped and then started the walk back. Funny, it seemed much further…. Anyway, we got back to the dinghy, across the ICW and home to Sol Purpose safe and sound, around 3am! Not bad for two old fogies, huh!

The festivities over, now it was just a waiting game. The weather has been crazy all over the world this winter, and Florida and the Bahamas are not exceptions. A couple of times we got ready to leave, only to find the morning of departure that the forecast had changed completely, so the trip was aborted. It did give us an opportunity to take the longest city bus ride ever, to get to a movie theater to see The Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman. I’d highly recommend the movie, but possibly not the 2 hour each way journey! We went out for another night and met Liz and Mary Ann. They were later met by Mary Ann’s husband who gave us great advise on restaurants and so we had one more night of Sushi before we left the US 🙂

Finally, on Tuesday, January 10th, we decided that the forecast was not perfect, but good enough, so we headed out. When we actually pulled up the anchor, it was pouring with rain, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking we were mad! However, as soon as we got out through the Port Everglades channel, the weather cleared up, and we had a great day, even though we were motoring. We seemed to pass between all the squalls, and arrived in Great Harbour Cay, the Berry Islands, almost exactly 24 hours after we set out. The marina allows boats to pull into a slip, free of charge, in order to complete the customs and immigration procedures. They drove Moray to the airport to get all of that taken care of, while I had to wait on board. Although he had to wait a little while, because a couple of planes arrived while he was there, it was all painless, and he was soon back on board, with stamped passports, a fishing permit and cruising permit for 6 months. We left the marina and headed back outside the harbour to anchor.

We had planned to spend some time in the Berry Islands, as we had heard how beautiful they are. Unfortunately, the crazy weather patterns continued, meaning that there would be north winds. Unless you go to a marina (which we neither want to do, nor can really afford), there is nowhere that offers much protection in those conditions. So after spending a couple of nights anchored outside the marina on the west side of the island, we took a short trip round the top of the island, to an anchorage on the east side. The plan was spend a day or two there, then start heading down the chain, tucking in wherever we could, all while keeping an eye on the weather.

Now there is a belief that you can get away with breaking one or even two rules, but break three and disaster will happen. So what three did we break, I hear you ask! Well first of all, don’t be lulled by the conditions where you are – the seas were flat calm in our anchorage, but as we were to discover, not on the other side of the island. Second, ALWAYS stow EVERYTHING – don’t get complacent and think, it’s so calm nothing will fall. And third, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, bring glass on board. We had made it round the top of the island, almost to the anchorage. The waves had been higher than we anticipated, but we could see that they were much better in the anchorage. Unfortunately, as we turned to head in, we were caught broadsides by a big wave. There was a loud crash as everything on the port side of the boat made a break for the starboard side. Most things were OK, but we had a couple of jars of curry sauce in a cupboard that wasn’t locked…. Oh the mess! I have no idea how the red curry sauce could get so far, in so many different directions! It was all over the floor, the doors, in the bathroom, but worst of all – the bed. Just to complete the meal, a bag of rice fell out of the cupboard, opened up and spilled all over the bed, mixing with shards of glass from the jar. We should have taken pictures, but just take our word for it – it was a disgusting mess. The only saving grace was that it was a Balti sauce, and not my favourite, korma!

Mess all cleared up, we decided to go to the Beach Club ashore and get a drink, followed by dinner at the Friday night Grill and Chill at the marina. We looked up exactly where the Beach Club was, only to discover that it closes at 4pm – and it was 3:45pm. Could this day get any worse? Well, we took the dinghy to the beach, along with our trash, and started the 2 mile walk to the marina. About halfway, as we turned on to the marina road, the heavens opened. Luckily, a great couple, Shakira and Herbie, stopped and gave us a ride, trash and all, down to the marina. They were going to be coming to the Grill and Chill later, and said they would give us a ride back to the beach. We got out at the marina, dropped off the trash, and went to found out about the Grill and Chill. What a day – because of the rain, they weren’t going to hold it that day. When we asked where the nearest bar was, we discovered it was in Bullocks Harbor, about another mile away. With the rain pouring down and not showing any sign of stopping, we decided to just make our soggy way back to the Beach Bar, down to the dinghy and back to Sol Purpose. As we approached the Beach Bar, we could see that there were lights on and people there. It turns out that part of the week, they only serve breakfast and lunch, but at the weekends they also serve dinner 🙂 Yay! We tucked into grilled pork chops (me) and blackened hog snapper (Moray), accompanied by the first Kaliks of the trip. It turned out to be a great day after all!

After the early morning ritual of listening to Chris Parker, reading our other weather forecasting websites and looking around, we decided that the best course of action was to reluctantly say goodbye to the Berry Islands and head straight down to West Bay, on New Providence. We had a great trip, making a tankful of water as the motor was running, and enjoying the sunshine. Moray threw out a line and about 2 miles outside the anchorage, he finally got a bite. It must have been a big fish, because not only did it get off the line, it took half the lure with it. Ah well. We came into the anchorage, dropped the anchor and backed down on it for a while. We remember only too well the incident with Debbie, Sue and Stout Wench last year, and dragging is not an option! The wind picked up shortly after sunset, which although it made for a rolly night, provided us with enough electricity to watch the rest of the first season of This is Us. (We are so far behind in our viewing!)

So, while it hasn’t been the season we envisioned so far, we had a wonderful Christmas, with new friends, a great New Year’s Eve, and are sitting in the Bahamas, with adult beverages, watching TV. Life is good.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Back across the pond

We spent the last couple of weeks in the UK relaxing and preparing for our return to Sol Purpose.  We got most of our UK Christmas gifts bought, wrapped and mailed off (so organised!), and I made a few more Christmas items for the upcoming craft fair.  We contacted the marina to see where things stood with the repairs and booked in for the remaining work that needed to be done (more of that later).

One thing we had planned to do in Bristol was try one of the many Escape Rooms that have sprung up recently.  The one we selected was Puzzlair.  We chose the Secret Agent Room, which as you can guess is a James Bond themed room.  There were a lot more puzzles to solve and some were a lot more devious than the ones we had experienced in the New Bern Escape Room.  Added to that, this time it was just the two of us, rather than 6 people.  We needed to get a few clues, but we made it out within the hour!  Next time we go, we want to get a group together and try to break out of the prison van (take a look at the website!).

The next week we went to the Concorde exhibit at the Bristol Aerospace Museum.  Concorde was designed and built between France and the UK and the last concorde to fly is on display here.  It was great to walk through the plane and learn details about the ridiculous design and build costs that were incurred.  That was only eclipsed by the amazing details of the planes engineering and performance.

We also had a great night catching up with Sue & Dave Harding and Debbie Haynes.  I worked with Sue and Debbie many years ago, before I left for the USA.  It was a great trip down memory lane!  See you next time I’m back!

We rounded off the 4 month trip just as we started it, with an evening at Avery’s, tasting wine and watching a classic movie – this time, a Cary Grant classic, Arsenic and Old Lace.  Cary Grant, then known as Archibald Leach, was born in Bristol and is one of the city’s favorite sons.

On Tuesday, October 31st, at the totally unacceptable hour of 4am, we headed to Bristol Airport to start the mammoth trip back to Sol Purpose.  Flight 1 was to Brussels, then Flight 2 to Newark.  That was all fairly uneventful and we arrived in New Jersey at around 2:30pm.  We picked up a rental car and headed for North Carolina.  Moray was a trooper and drove the first 6 hours, so that I could grab some sleep.  Then I took over for the last part of the journey.  Given that it was halloween, we looked out for ghosties and beasties all the way back, but all we saw were several deer, just as we approached Wayfarers Cove Marina.  We pulled into the marina at around 1am, climbed up a ladder into the boat, and crashed in the rear quarter berth for a few hours sleep.

Jet lagged, but needing to get on, we realised the holiday was over!  Before Sol Purpose could be put back into the water, the propshaft drip seal needed to be replaced.  We had started on this task before we left, but had been unable to complete it.  The boatyard guys had worked on removing the old seal while we were away, but we needed to replace the seal ourselves.  After a couple of hours of Moray working from inside the tiny engine room space, while I stood outside under the boat, we got it done.

While Moray was working on various little tasks, I moved some things around so that I could unpack and put our bags back into the storage below our bed.  That meant I had enough room to move other items to the rear quarter berth, and make up our bed.

One of the problems of being on  boat that is out of the water is that there .is no a/c which makes cooking on board almost unbearable.  Added to that, the fact that we had not yet replaced the water tank, so we had no water for cooking, and couldn’t drain water out into the boatyard, meant that meals would be sandwiches or takeout.  Wayfarers Cove Marina, while very pretty and with an excellent boatyard, is literally miles from anywhere, making takeout totally impractical.  Luckily, Gail and Bill on Spireserpula, who we had met in the Bahamas, were also out of the water in the boatyard, and had found some restaurants.  We thankfully joined them for dinner and enjoyed catching up with their adventures over the summer.  Then we headed back to the marina and up to the boaters’ lounge to watch game 7 of the World Series.  Woohoo!  Finally!  The Astros did it!!!!!  Very tired, but elated, we headed back to the boat and spent the first night in our own bed in over 4 months!

The only thing left to do before putting Sol Purpose back where she belongs was to finish the bottom paint job.  The boatyard had done most of this just before we came back, but the last part – painting the patches where the stands had been – is done once the boat is back in the sling.  The original plan was to do this on Thursday, but the boatyard is a very busy one, and when we realised that they weren’t going to get to us that day, we did the only thing we could – we got in the car and drove to New Bern to go to Duelling Pianos at Circa 1810, with Bob and Claire!

The revised plan was to get back in the water on Friday, but unfortunately, the boat lift broke that morning.  By the time the repair was done, it was too late to get the painting done and dried, so we resigned ourselves to waiting until Monday.  This was very frustrating as we had planned to spend the weekend installing the new tanks and getting the subfloor replaced, once back in the water.

On Saturday morning, we noticed that there was a gantry not being used in the boatyard.  We put it up against the side of the boat and figured that we should be able to lift the tanks up to the two platforms and then into the boat.  I was not too keen on this, but we pressed on and managed to get the new diesel tank on board and into place relatively simply.  Inspired by that, we moved on to the water tank and got it into place.  That meant that Moray was able to plumb everything in, while I drove to Oriental to fill the jerry cans with diesel.  I made one run, and we emptied the cans into the new tank, with fingers crossed that nothing leaked.  Everything was great, so I headed back and refilled all the jerry cans.  While I was away, Moray closed up the inspection hatch on the fuel tank, which we had left open during the first fill so we could see that everything was working properly.  We started to pour the next can in, when suddenly Moray yelled for cloths etc.  Diesel was not going into the tank, but down the side of the boat.  After a few minutes of panic, he figured that the only difference was that the inspection hatch was now closed, so the problem must be the tank vent.  He reopened the hatch and the problem was resolved.  On further investigation, he discovered that the tank vent had become clogged by a mud dauber, a wasp that builds its nest using mud.  It had got into the thru hull vent during the summer and done its thing!  Once that was cleared out, the problem was completely resolved.

Next, Moray reconnected the water tank and water maker, before working on the final fitting of the plywood subfloor.  It took a few lifts in and out, with a little sanding each time, but eventually it fit perfectly.  This made walking around the boat so much easier!

Monday came, and I headed off to the boaters’ lounge to watch TV and knit, as I would not be able to be on board when they lifted the boat.  At around 3:30pm, the paint was dry and the time had come!  Slowly, Sol Purpose was lowered into the water, the motor started and we made our way round to a slip.  We were finally back in the water!

The only task left to be done while in Wayfarers Cove was to replace the teak and holly veneer.  As this needed to be matched up to the veneer in the forward cabin and galley, we hired a professional, Rick Vogt.  He was great and gave us lots of advice for refinishing the existing veneer, which we planned to do ourselves.  He was held up by the weather to begin with as it rained for a couple of days, making it impossible for him to bring the veneer to the boat.  Once it stopped, though, he got the veneer measured, cut and into the boat as quickly as possible.  I have to say, it looked amazing, which showed just how bad the rest was!

During the work with Rick we got a message from Ron and Karen, two friends who stayed on the same dock as us in Kemah.  They left to go cruising three years ago and were heading back down the ICW towards Florida in their Benetau, Polite Compromise.  They found out where we were and turned up at Wayfarers the next day.  We went out for dinner that night and went to Duelling Pianos the following night with Bob and Clare.


Moray, Bob, Ron, Debs, Clare and Karen.  Texas cruising chapter

That Saturday we took our rental car and drove to Washington (NC) to meet Al, a cruiser friend we had met last winter in the Bahamas.  He was on the hard in New Bern working on his boat, Stout Wench, before heading South to the Bahamas again.

On Wednesday, with our fingers crossed, I helped Moray cast off and leave the slip, to single-hand the boat to New Bern.  Once he left, I drove to the airport at New Bern and turned in the car.  Claire picked me up and took me back to New Bern Grand Marina, where we waited for Moray to arrive.  His journey up was thankfully uneventful.  He switched between the two tanks with no issue, so that was great!  Having the increased fuel capacity of the boat, from 60 gallons to 140 gallons, is going to make our future cruising plans so much easier.  If you are interested in the full details of the tank project see the following blogs…

Sol Purpose has no Sole (part one)

Putting the Sole back into Sol Purpose (part 2)

Thursday morning, Moray headed up to the boaters’ lounge to do some last minute study for his FCC Technicians exam.  I started work on removing the varnish from the teak and holly veneer in the forward cabin and the hatch covers.  After a few hours, I cleaned everything up and prepared for Moray’s birthday celebration.  Bob and Claire came over for a light meal and a cocktail.  Then we headed to the Bear Town Escape Room where we escaped from Poe’s Study.  That was a lot of fun, and we got out with 14 minutes to spare.  From there, we went for a meal and then for a few drinks at Prohibition, our favourite bar in New Bern.  It was a great evening, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself.

It was back to reality the next day, with Moray spending one last day studying and doing practice exams, while I removed more varnish, this time from the galley floor.  On Saturday morning, Moray headed off to Morehead City to sit his exam, which I am very happy to announce, he passed!  He is now able to broadcast on the SSB, another big step needed for our trans-Atlantic crossing.

By the end of the day, the floors were clear of the old varnish, and had been treated to remove as many of the water stains as possible.  They would have to sit for a couple of days to dry out properly, before we would be able to start on the re-varnishing. We were trying to figure out how to do this, while living on the boat, as we wouldn’t be able to walk on the floors for several hours each day.  Moray contacted Tom and Joy, and they kindly agreed to let us stay on their boat, Belle Ile, which is in the same marina, up for sale.  This was an absolute godsend, and we can’t thank them enough for their generosity.

Over the next week, we sanded and applied a coat of varnish each day, before heading over to Belle Ile each night to sleep.  As cooking wasn’t an option, we made the most of a number of the eateries in town, apart from Thanksgiving.  Beth, from Happy Girl, organized a Thanksgiving Dinner for the marina, and about 30 people attended.  Bob and Clare joined us for the dinner and then a few hardy souls braved the chilly weather to sit around a fire pit, drinking beers and getting to know each other’s sailing past.  It was a lot of fun!

The enforced exile from the boat gave us a good excuse to walk up into town and look at the Christmas decorations, especially the Santa’s grotto, with falling snow!  It was magical!

Once the 8 coats of varnish were applied and dried, we were able to empty out the storage unit and put our home back together.  There’s nothing like sitting on your own sofa, watching TV!  That done, we set to finishing off a few tasks, such as repairing some broken zippers on the enclosure, and replacing the rusted out clips on the dinghy straps.  Moray cleaned up the dinghy and attached some patches to protect the sides from chafing on the davits, while I made a cover to protect the gas can from the elements.

All this time, we were watching the weather and were excited to be getting ready to leave around December 7th, the same time as last year.  Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and as the leaving date approached, the weather window disappeared.  Oh the joys of sailing – never make plans!  Resigned to the fact that our departure would be delayed, we put together some alternative routes and started looking forward to those.  But now, it has been raining for the last few days, and we have both had colds, so we’ve had an enforced stay inside the boat.  It’s actually been nice – watching TV (both of us) and knitting (just me!).  Oh, and of course, watching our friends’ posts about the snow in Houston!

Our current hope is to star tour southward trip in two days – fingers crossed!

Putting the Sole back into Sol Purpose (part 2)

If you remember, the first part of the project ended with the fittings being bought for the new tanks including a fuel supply and return selector switch.  The idea was that we could draw fuel from either tank and return excess fuel to either tank as well.

Our first few days back from the UK were spent doing odd jobs to get the boat back in the water.  Unfortunately, as the travel lift was out of operation for 3 days when we were due to get put back in the water, we had to install both the new tanks while on the hard.  This meant Debbie and I used a gantry to lift the tanks the 9 feet from the ground over the lifelines and down into the boat 😦

The tanks were a tight fit through the companionway and a perfect fit into the existing spaces vacated by the old tanks.  First in was the diesel tank.  We placed a strap under the tank before we dropped it in so that we could still remove it if required during the installation phase

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I had already plumbed in the 2 three-way valves for the pick-up and return lines for the fuel tanks.  I placed these under the inspection hatch for the original fuel tank and simply tied into the pick-up and return lines from the old tank.  This simplified the plumbing and still had all fuel going through the existing filtration system.

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pick-up valve is on the left.  Return valve is on the right.

This plumbing was then attached to the new tank.  The diesel vent was tied into the existing vent in the engine room roof to ensure that there could be no crossover of fuel between tanks in a seaway.  Several years ago I removed a 15 gallon holding tank from under the starboard settee as we plumbed the aft head directly overboard.  I used the old deck fitting for the new diesel tank fill.

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Next was the water tank.  As it was a straight swap with regards to fittings so there was less to do there.

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Once both tanks were in, I sprayed insulation foam around each corner to hold the tanks firmly in place.  Then it was time to replace the struts that ran over the tanks to add support to the floor.  These were made from Douglas fir as it’s a wood with good rigidity.  The trim to support the new subfloor around its edges was then epoxied and screwed in place.

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struts and trim epoxied and screwed in place

I measured the position of the fittings in the new tanks, fore and aft, and marked those locations on the starboard settee front so that once the new subfloor was laid down I could mark those positions on the top of the floor for the inspection hatches.  As I was using the original inspection hatches for the new sole, the position of the hatches athwartships was restricted by the teak and holly pattern that would be on the new sole and the existing hatches.  As the new sole would tie in with the teak and holly of the old sole, I stretched a thread from the teak and holly pattern in the galley to the forward cabin.  I then used this taut thread to mark the old hatches position athwartships so that the pattern would align.  This had to be done as the inspection hatch holes would be cut in the new subfloor before the ¼” teak and holly ply was epoxied down to the subfloor.

With these holes cut I then cut, epoxied and screwed in trim to support the hatches.


After the subfloor was epoxied and screwed down I enlisted the skills of Rick Vogt of Vogt Yachts to install the teak and holly ply on top of the subfloor.  He used a 1” strip of teak athwartships at either end of the new floor so that any minute inconsistencies between the new and old floor would not stick out.  He also ran the new teak and holly ply under the edge of the port settee so that it would be easier to get a clean edge.  He therefore had to shave ¼” off the height of all the vertical settee pieces that had been removed to facilitate the floor removal.

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Once the teak and holly ply was epoxied in place he routed out the inspection hatch holes and the small holes for the plates that accept the table legs.

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He then replaced the vertical sections of the settee.  During the deconstruction of the port settee I managed to tear some of the teak laminate of the front of one of the pieces.  Rick epoxied a new piece of teak laminate to the old board.

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As the new subfloor was visible under the port settee, I floated it with epoxy to remove any joins and screw holes.  I then sanded and applied 2 coats of EZ Bilge to the complete floor of the inside of the settee.

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epoxy used to float the new subfloor

I moved the boat back to New Bern and on the way there I swapped the three-way fuel valves back and forth several times to ensure that fuel supply was maintained.  No problems arose.  Debbie and I then spent the next 9 days sanding, cleaning, filling bung holes and varnishing the complete sole, 8 coats!

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all sanded down and ready for varnish

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eight coats later…

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It is good to have the boat back in a condition where we can move around freely and another major project is completed.  As the old fuel tank had no pitting I feel secure in the knowledge that the new aluminum tank will outlast the boat.  As the new water tank is polypropylene, there should be no issues with longevity there either.



Three weeks, three countries

Before we start this blog I just wanted to show the path we have taken for the last 2 months in Scotland…


After a lazy weekend, on Monday, Katie, Moray and I headed to Blairgowrie, near Perth.   Jane & David, along with four of their friends, had rented a couple of cottages just outside the town, and had a week of golfing and fly fishing planned.  We arrived mid-afternoon, and looked around until the others arrived back from a day’s fishing, with Jane being the star of the day!

The next day, we all headed out to the river, for another day of fishing.  I have never been salmon fishing in my life, and confess that I had never really understood the attraction.  I’m a convert!  The river was so peaceful, and it was really relaxing.  I even managed to catch a couple of twigs!  Katie caught a fish but unfortunately it got off the hook when she and Moray were trying to get it into the net.


Katie, fish hunting!

While the others remained at the river, Moray, Katie and I drove to Guildtown, where Katie used to live.  We had a nice pub lunch, followed by a trip down memory lane, before heading back to Blairgowrie to cook a traditional Scottish meal of mince, mealie jimmies (white puddings), and tatties (potatoes) for the group.

The next day was a bit dismal so Katie and I decided to spend the day watching TV and knitting, while the others went back to the river.  Moray didn’t catch anything, but David came back with a nice salmon.  That evening we all went out to a fantastic fish restaurant, called Little’s, for a great dinner.  Thank you Jane, David, Johnny, Nessa, Martin and Liz for letting us crash your holiday and being such gracious hosts.

After driving back to Turriff, I spent the next few days knitting more items for the upcoming craft fair, while Moray finished off some tasks that Katie needed doing, as well as helping out with the pointing work at Sunrise.  We also accompanied Katie to her bowling club, her scrabble club and her knitting club!

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the fruits of Debbie’s labors

On Friday, Ken came over to spend a couple of nights, as he had been working so hard on his new kitchen the whole time we had been in Scotland.  Just like his brother, he can’t sit still for long, so on Saturday, they both headed over to Sunrise to carry on the pointing work with the Angus and Robert.  Then on Sunday, everyone headed to Aberdeen for the official kitchen unveiling.  It was a lovely afternoon, and a nice end to our two month stay in Scotland.

On Monday morning, we started our southward journey.  Our first stop was Stirling.  First of all, we took a look around the Church of the Holy Rude, where the kings of Scotland were crowned.  The church is beautiful and there is plenty of information available to the public, in many languages.  Now that is not uncommon at tourist sites, but I have to say, I have never seen an information sheet in Doric before!  That is the dialect of the Northeast Scots.

Next we climbed the hill to Stirling Castle and spent a couple of hours there.  There is a lot to see, from the old kitchens, the king’s and queen’s chambers (where we learned all about the official animal of Scotland – the unicorn), to the Royal Dining Room.  We also saw the carefully reproduced ceiling panels – absolutely stunning.

We left Stirling Castle and took a quick detour to the William Wallace Memorial, before heading south, back into England, to spend the night at Tebay motorway service station.

The next morning, we drove to Bowness, on Lake Windermere in the Lake District.  We bought a “Walker’s Tour” ticket , and hopped on to a boat.  This took us a little way up the lake to Ambleside, where we stopped for a drink, before taking the next boat across the lake to Wray Castle.  We didn’t look around the Castle, but stopped outside to eat our packed lunch, before starting our 4 mile walk along the side of the lake.  It was absolutely stunning scenery, and I couldn’t help thinking about Swallows and Amazons which was set in the Lake District!  We arrived at the ferry port just in time to take a boat back to our starting point.

From there, we drove down the M6 towards Liverpool, stopping to spend the night at a motorway service station.  This wasn’t anywhere near as nice as Tebay, but had showers and was a safe place to spend the night.

After a noisy night, on Wednesday morning we drove to Liverpool.  I went to University in Liverpool and so this was quite a day for me.  I loved getting to show Moray the wonderful sights that I remembered, as well as enjoying all the changes (for the better, in most cases) that have happened since I left.  We parked up at the Albert Dock and walked from there into town.  From there, we headed up to the Anglican cathedral .  The cathedral is indescribably beautiful, so I will let the pictures tell the story.

Next, we walked along Hope Street to Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral  This building could not be more different but is equally beautiful.  Just across the street, is the University of Liverpool campus.  It has changed since I was there, but we took a wander through the Guild of Students (the Student Union building in my day!).  The cheap bars have all gone, replaced with coffee shops, and the main hall where I saw Yazoo is now a coffee lounge.  Next, we walked back to Abercromby Square and took a nose around the School of Classics, where I spent three years of my life!  Not too much has changed there.  Having made myself feel really old, we next walked back down the hill towards China Town, for a quick bite to eat, before walking past Lime Street Station, back to Albert Dock.

We took a look at the Liver Building with the famous Liver Birds…

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Next, we spent an hour or so looking around the Slavery Museum.  This was really interesting and I wish we had more time there.  Our day was almost done, so we headed back to the car and started the next part of trip, but with one final detour via Carnatic Halls, where I lived in student residences for two years.  Nothing much had changed and it brought back lots of good memories.  We had originally planned to stay in a motorway service station that night, but we hadn’t slept well the night before and decided to see if there were any campsites available.  We found the Erw Glas Campsite in Colwyn Bay and booked a place for the night.  This was a great decision!  The campsite had great showers and facilities, the host was very friendly and it was very quiet!  Having paid up and settled in, we went to a nearby restaurant, called Tal Y Cafn, which our host recommended.  Unfortunately, our first choice of food was unavailable, but we had a lovely evening.  And after getting back to the campsite, we had a great night’s sleep in the peaceful surroundings.

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Debs showing off our sleeping arrangements (note all windows have blackout shades)

After a lazy start to the day, (and great showers!), we headed to the seaside town of Llandudno.  We had a good breakfast and took a walk along the pier, before heading to the island of Anglesey.  This was going to be a quick trip to visit a little town called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch!  That’s right – that really is the name of the town and is the longest town name in the world!

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The town name means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

Having taken a few photos, we headed back over the bridge and drove to Caernarfon.   This is a walled town with a wonderful castle, built by King Edward I as a fortress.

We spent several hours looking around the castle and the town, before setting off towards Brecon, where we planned to find another campsite to spend the night in.  We had driven or about 15 minutes when Moray said “uh-oh”.  That never bodes well!  I asked what was wrong and he said that the battery had just died and we needed to stop.  We were literally just arriving at a service station, so we pulled in, just as the car died.  The service station checked the battery and confirmed that the problem was our alternator.  That was bad news in itself, but worse was the fact that they were short staffed and wouldn’t be able to fix it that day.  They suggested another service place, got our battery charged enough to get there and pointed us in the right direction!  We made it to B&K Williams and went it to tell them our sob story.  They were absolutely amazing.  They sent us off on foot into Caernarfon (Only 15 minutes on foot) while they obtained the part we needed and fitted it – all in under four hours.  We can’t praise and thank this company enough!  We got back on the road, but decided not to tempt fate and headed straight back to Clevedon!

The next few days were mainly taken up with knitting for the upcoming sale, but first, we attended the “Last Night of the Proms”, Clevedon-style!  It was a lot of fun, and we thoroughly enjoyed joining in the very loud rendition of Land of Hope & Glory!

On Saturday morning, we loaded up our sale items and headed to the Clevedon Community Centre for the sale.  The weather wasn’t very nice, which was unfortunate, as neither I nor my nephew, Will, made many sales.  Ah well, there is a craft fair at the beginning of November, which Mum is going to, so she will put my items on her stall – watch this space!

On Sunday, Mum and Will headed off to a car boot sale, so we spent the morning watching Outlander.  We had heard so much about this show, and having just spent two months travelling around Scotland, we thought that maybe it was about time!  We got part way through the first season, so we still have quite a way to go!

Monday was a treat day for Moray – we drove over to Cardiff to the IMAX theatre to see Bladerunner 2049.  All I will say is that Moray thoroughly enjoyed it!!!  And that I get to pick the next film…. [Moray’s Note:  It was freakin’ AWESOME]

We are now entering the last two weeks of our trip, and still have people to see and places to go.  Thank you so much to my Mum, who has given us use of her car as – yay! – we sold ours this morning for the same price that we bought it for!  It was the perfect solution for our travels around England, Scotland and Wales as we would do the same thing again if we decide to spend an extended period exploring another country.