Sunday, 30 December 2007

Allen Cay

The Exuma Islands!

Since we left you, Ocean Odyssey and her crew left Nassau on Friday the 21st, and headed down to Allen Cay, about 30 miles south. There we parked off for a few days to celebrate Christmas with the Iguanas! We anchored in a picture perfect spot, with what we thought was our own little beach, only to find out we were sharing it with hundred of tourist-fed reptiles! This particular species can only be found in this area of the Bahamas, and we were checking them out, just as much as they were checking us out!

The 24th had the galley rockin all day making Christmas dinner, after a colorful snorkel over the coral heads just 20 meters from the boat. The next day we partnered up with Captain Shawn and his crew in Rio and sailed down to Norman's Cay were Mads and Shawn went spear diving. Capt. Shawn brought in 4 lobsters and the whole gang braii'd them up for an seafood extravaganza.

On the 27th we headed down to Shroud Cay for more exploring of the nooks and crannies - and were led across the island through a clear canal to beaches and views not to be believed. The currents were so strong and varried that you could float down one, swim over 3 feet and float back up with the other.

Now we are in Warderick Cay, cleaning up Ocean Odyssey and more exploring, getting ready for sailing again in the morning down to Staniel Cay where we will spend New Year's and wait for Alex and Raffi to arrive from Paris.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Destination Capital City

Lighthouse at Nassau Harbour
Nassau harbour with Paradise Island in the background
After being battered for 5 days by the wind, we decided to take our chances and leave for Nassau even though wind direction was not optimal. We crossed the tongue of the ocean (has some of the deepest spots in the world) on moderate seas and good wind speed. By early evening we were docked up in Nassau after following some dubious radio instructions. We plan to stay here for a week or so and then head out to the Exumas where we have a rendezvous with Alex and Raffi in two weeks.

Sand flies and dinner

Double O in full swing Thyra charming the dogs who are after her crispbread
Spending time sewing sails at Fraziers Hog Cay
We left Chub Cay for Fraziers Hog Cay to find an anchorage. We spend a delightful 3 days there before a howling wind of 25 knots kept us prisoner to the boat for 5 days. Before all this wind action, we had had dinner at the beach grilling spare ribs. Well we had dinner and the sand flies (referred to as no-see-ums here) had dinner on us. I think Eva has had a fair share of sand flies, she vows eternal revenge on them. With bad weather and killer bugs, our salvation was the Berry Island Club where we would eat conch and fried chicken to comfort ourselves. The chef was wonderful and he kept outdoing himself everyday catering to a bunch of miserable and wet sailors.
And of course we met Brian, a single handed sailor from North Carolina who sails a 25 feet boat whose dinghy is a big as the boat. He made us a paella of fresh lobster . He was wise enough to leave the anchorage before the winds picked up.

The Crossing

Lunch & dress up

Eva, resident artist

At Marathon we were joined by Eva whom we had convinced to travel from across the country to us in southern Florida. We sailed towards the eastern Keys so we could make an easy jump to the Bahamas. The waves at the beginning of the journey were enormous but we pressed on. We made it to Rodriguez Key by late afternoon , however the alternator quit on us and we had to have a stop over for a couple of days thus missing the sailing window to cross the Gulf Stream. We were stuck there for 5 days before we could cross the Gulf Stream.
On November 27 we crossed the stream into Bahamas to drop anchor on Gun Cay. Much palaver was experienced with the anchor that was not setting due to a rocky bottom. We then gave up and moved to the bank side of the island where we dropped anchor. We stayed for two days, the first day having been spent searching for the anchor. We had decided to move in the morning a bit up to another area with better holding but our anchor did not come up with the chain as we rolled it in. Mads performed a very smooth man overboard manoeuvre and Eva and him were later able to retrieve the anchor.
We continued after two days across the banks to Chub Cay, a journey of 80 nautical miles which we intended to break up in two. We spent the night on the banks after catching a fish for dinner. Chub Cay was spotted by mid afternoon and we checked into a marina so we could go to customs and check into the Bahamas.

The Mad Aussies, US iron law

The law enforcers in the US seem more concerned about having whistles on your life jacket than whether you have caught the wrong fish or that our vessel is seaworthy

On leaving Fort Myers we had an appointment with 3 Australians whom we were supposed to meet in Marathon for dinner. Well the Aussies did not make it. The famous trio have purchased a 72 foot wooden power boat from 1954. The age and the sheer size of the boat have brought countless problems on Paul, Robert and Natalie. After purchasing the boat, they thought they would be able to leave within a few days. They were stuck in Blinky Bills for almost three months and as Paul says, the famous Fort Myers triangle will catch you. “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave”. The Aussie trio have also had countless run-ins with the long arm of law and in the States there is a plethora of those arms. It is very hard to avoid an encounter with the various law enforcement agents. No wonder the US boasts the highest number of prisoners per capita. The fact that these lovely people were not American citizens and cared not for that country shown by their willingness to leave its shores at the next most opportune moment did not seem to deter these law enforcers from boarding their boats and checking them every time they left port. They were even stopped in their dinghy and were told to put it on land. As if the Australians wanted to migrate to the US. Perhaps this antagonism has its roots to the embarrassing episode committed by none other than The Decider who at an OPEC conference thanked the miserable Mr Howard for sending his Austrian troops to Iraq. Maybe the Americans feel so ashamed of their president’s folly that they have to be unjustifiably rude to Australians (not that many of its people would be able to point out Down Under in a map) so as not to lose face.

From Florida to the Bahamas

After catching a crab pod on the Shark River -Marathon leg, Mads was thoroughly exhausted as he had to dive and cut the ropes which had entangled themselves on the propeller. Needless to say after the blasted pod cost us 1 knot in speed and 1,5 hours of sailing time, once on deck we opened it et voila 8 lobsters, not crabs. We released 5 and had 3 lobsters for dinner. It was one of the best dinners I have ever had.
Marathon in the Keys proved to be interesting, a marked difference to Fort Myers. Here were hundreds of sailors coming and going to varied parts of the Gulf and Caribbean.

Sunday, 04 November 2007

Sailing babes

Fika and Thyra taking a well deserved break on deck.

Florida sunset

They have the smiling dolphins that play with the fish as cat do to mice. They have what is reputedly called, the Fort Myers triangle, i.e. you can check out but you can never leave. They have the flattest areas on this side of the world and if GH (global heating, not grievous harm though the result will be exactly that) kicks in, they will also have to evacuate. And they also have sunsets. Better enjoy it before the fish will be the only ones looking at it.

Axioms, Rules of rules, oh Lord

Prevailing customs aside, the southern USA is replete with rules, they risk drowning in their mire of values of accepted versus unbecoming behaviour. The pools seem to be the vain forum for these to be blatantly displayed in all manner and colours if possible. Someone pointed out that the nation is so vast and made up of different ethnic groups that only austere, distilled and perspicous rules can hold its peoples together. In the lift of one of the many coastal hotels, a poster in créche yellow announces "PROFANITY BY ADULTS OR TEENAGERS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE". Go figure Charlie! Perhaps I should ask my five year old daughter to utter profanities on my behalf. I wonder if her curses will be unacceptable.

Virtually all swimming pools have something againt horseplay; an expression I had not heard in such a long time that I was hard pressed to remember its meaning. The seems to be a vehemence towards boisterous play, I wonder what sort of play is acceptable.

And the best must be the one about along the lines of asking your doctor before going into the spa if you are under the influence of drugs or consuming alcohol". Mh, Doc can I have something to stiffen my nerves before I go into that jacuzzi?

Life in the simple lane

Mads & Jørgen

Sometimes life seems to present too many challenges, so it is easier to take the simpler road. I have heard of a fellow who used to have his boat moored in the between the islands of San Carlos and Estero in west Florida and his supposed antics(only to some peoplethough) in trying to achieve simplicity. He used to row his dinghy to his boat and on arriving at the boat would winch it up and perch ít on the deck, sit in it and read his book all day long. So much trouble for a simple activity. Perhaps he liked reading his books in the comfort of his dinghy.

Mads and Jørgen are enjoying the simple things in life too. Perhaps it was too far to climb up the transom stairs to the deck. Maybe the beer tasted better i´n the dinghy.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Ms Green Fingers and Mr Nimble hands

A dedication is due to a couple we met in Florida. They are called Cindy and David Weinstein. These two lovely people once set off many years ago for a prolonged weekend on the Bahamas only to return 17 years later to the US. I take my hat off! They raised their youngest child during these cruising years throughout the Caribbean. Cindy can make anything grow, I have never seen such an impressive nursery in my life ( I s'ppose when you have been living on a boat for 17 years you kind of miss the wonders of mother earth) and Dave can fix anything that has a motor or cables on. Cindy and Dave are now watching cows come home and are taking care of two horses, one of which needs an anti-bronchital treatment in the form of weed. They have recently bought a space in Zolfo Springs where they are hoping to establish a farm and of course they still keep the boat anchored up river. Their house has been in the process of being built for the past two years and we will not mention the incompetent masons, builders and contractors that for some unfathomable reason cannot seem to finish an easy job. I mean how difficult can it be to build a house. Cindy and Dave have had to put up with all the excuses and not to mention the squabbles between the different contractors about who is supposed to fill in the holes and cracks. That is why I think one should really be good friends with a handy man- you always need someone to complete a job some idiot left undone in your house. Oh additionally, a dentist(my south african one survived the Tsunami in Thailand), an advocate (we do not have one in any country), an IT geek (we know a very nice one in Denmark with a cool homepage, google crawfurd), and a financial investor/economist (I know a very beautiful one in South Africa) are some of the people one should add to a list of to-know-people. Dave is the first one-man-do-it-all I know, and Cindy is definitely the first one I know who has a nursery.

Ms Green Fingers and Mr Nimble hands

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Cabbage Key, Manatees

At the water tower that survived Hurricane Charly

A manatee at the harbour

We set anchor outside of Ussepa Island, a private island adorned with dull grey but rather expensive houses. We were not really interested in this island anyway, our eyes were keen on the island across called Cabbage Key. Mind you it is neither part of the famous keys on the tip of Florida nor will you find any cabbages in copius amounts. The word 'key' is apparently an english corruption of 'Cayo' from Spanish. Cabbage Key is also privately owned, it was bought in the 1920's for 2500 dollars! However it is a charming little island with a restaurant and holiday cottages and has resident hole digging tortoises, not quite the Seychelles or Galapagos size but big enough. Not to mention the oddity of tortoises that dig- I have never heard of that phenomenon before.

The bar leaves one salivating, not for its stock but for the 1 dollar bills pasted on the walls and ceilings. The room probably has about 4000 dollars worth of these authentic bills. It is tradition for patrons to leave signed dollar notes to mark their time at the island but how could they tempt a poor soul like me. I was already thinking how to stage a robbery, island style. Afika was quite excited as well and did not understand the reason for abandoning money on walls.

We were very lucky that day- we spotted a large Manatee. It is a large animal that resembles a seal but is much lazier. I did not even know what it was until I came to Florida. They are found all over here and in the Caribbean and in the Indian Ocean though I understand they go by another name there.

First sail, barnacles

We made first sail on Sunday the 9th, leaving the harbour of Punta Gorda for the southern part of Florida. As we were removing the last ropes from the pier, Afika suddenly felt very generous and gave the assistant harbour master, Randy (yes, that is his real name), one of her elaborate colourful drawings. As Mads was commanding the vessel steering her out of the slip, he noticed that she was rather slow on the uptake. After about a minute, as we are turning to face the exit of the harbour, I see a very worried Mads, who loudly exclaims that the engine is not responding as it should be. He revs the engine but no response and Double O is moving but rather sluggishly through the harbour waters. As we exit and head for the markers for the outer channel (one has to keep her wits about in these waters, there is hardly any water under the keel, therefore some hard concentration is required to stay on the channels with sufficient water), Mads suddenly shouts that I have to get ready to put the sails up as we do not have enough speed to steer Double O. In the middle of the channel, there we are unfurling the genoa/headsail and the main! Lo, people must have thought we are really cool. If only they knew that the boat had no power. We made it into the channel though a tortoise would have been faster than us. As soon as we had manouevering room, Mads promptly took the chisel and jumped into the water. His immediate suspicion that the propellers were covered in barnacles (bastard creatures that attach themselves fast on anything on water) was rather accurate. With snorkel and chisel, he started working on removing them- not an easy job without diving gear. After an hour of diving, scraping, going up for breath, he managed to scrub a thick layer of barnacles off. The engine responded accordingly after this cleaning venture of the props. Mads was once more a content captain. We had speed and since there was no wind to speak of, we could make way without dragging a whole colony of shell fish.

After a couple of hours of sailing, as dusk was setting in, we decided to set anchor in Charlotte Bay. The wind picked up at night making us a bit worried that we would drag during the night. To our relief we were still at the same spot at dawn. The journey continued south in the tricky waters of the Intracoastal- somewhat sheltered waters between mainland and the islands from the southern USA all the way up to Maine. Doing the Intracoastal means you don't have to worry about the wind in the Gulf and the Atlantic ocean but it also means you have to use your engine a lot more than your sails as some of the stretches are very narrow not leaving much room for movement. The second anchor was planned for Cabbage Key

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Chilling in the US of A

The land of tennis playing grannies and chlorine infested swimming pools. Bet they did not tell you that is what Florida is about. And I must admit, Mads never explicitly explained how hot it really is. Not only do I have to put up with converting everything to a unit I understand, spending days trying to figure out how much 92 F is in Celsius degrees, I also have to think of gallons, ounces and so on. The children have figured out that the best time is to be had at the swimming pool which is respectfully kept permanentlybelow 105. But the air is heavier than Kinshasa air with all its pollutants. I am told by my worldly husband that Florida's humidity is comparable to Mombasa's.

We cannot even work outside on the deck without shedding 20 litres of bodíly water. But I am definitely not complaining about the heat though, I would rather have that than the cold.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Gitte, the elephant, makes it through customs

Fika and the wannabe ballerina elephant, Gitte.

Thyra bearing the tiara

After celebrating Fika's birthday and saying our farewells to many friends in Copenhagen and other parts of the world, we had one day to pack and do a spring clean of our apartment before finally getting on a suspect airline from Germany to Florida. Needless to mention, we went very late to bed, something I always promise myself to avoid every time we have to pack. Somehow alludes me- the notion of being prepared in good time.
Kristian, Mads' brother drove us and our 120kg luggage to the airport. The plane was stuck on the runway for sometime due to an ineffective tap which meant that coffee could not be served to the chalgrin of the captain who was afraid of dealing with caffeine deprived Scandinavians. I do not blame him, for people in this part of the world are the biggest consumers of coffee and I certainly would not want to come between a Northerner and her/his coffee. This delay was not much welcome by us since we did not have that much time to catch our connection. We were of course late and were puffing through the corridors of the Dusseldorf airport trying to find the check in desk. As it was a charter company, we could not get our boarding passes in CPH. Once at the counter, 15 minutes before departure, they took their sweet time fixing our passes and talking with each other, how they could not fínd a seat for us (Mads who is fluent in German did not let on, he just kept smiling as if nothing at all was wrong). We were referred to as LMC- i.e. Last Minute Change over the radio. It turned out a family had a sick child and after they disembarked, we got their seats. One person's poison is another's meat, I couldn't help thinking that way.
The plane was without doubt full of Germans going to get their annual fix of the sun, from the babe with electric black extensions to the granny who wants to improve her back hand at the numerous tennis courts of Florida.
On arrival at Fort Myers, a small provincial sleepy airport, clearing through customs and immigration proved to be more challenging than taking a 12 hour flight across the Atlantic. The system broke down and more waiting had to be done. But that was not even what surprised me. The immigration officials were wearing guns! And next to the counters a poster for the department featuring a good looking black woman reads "we are the face of the USA". We got through without any glitches. Then the luggage onwards to the customs where we had to declare our 5 bags of rye flour. As they were not sure what rye flour flour was, we had to go through a customs check which feels more thorough than a body check. It turned out we did not have to worry, the main concern was meat products. A German couple next to us were told off for carrying dried Knorr soup which contained meat extracts. The customs did not only put the fear of God into them, they also sternly informed that should they be caught with the same problem next time, they will be duly fined 300 USD for the troubles of bringing soup across the seas. Good for the customs, I mean who in the world brings dried soup on a 10 hour flight! I understand if one brought biltong (South African dried meat) or cheese (if one is European), but soup, honestly!

With all the hullabaloo about dried soups and rye flour, Gitte, the fat transvetite elephant made it into US territory without a blink. Her ballet toutou, bowtie at the left side of the head, her purple shoes and pink tiara did not make anyone at customs bat an eyelid. Afika received Gitte as a birthday gift from Eva at Tivoli (Denmark's own very ancient fairground) and let it be pointed out that it Fika who chose her not Eva. Apparently, children could, at a cute shop at Tivoli, chose an animal of their liking and get it stuffed in front of their very own eyes. How lovely.

Gitte with her owner has safely crossed the lines and now finds her superior self in a marina n western Florida in a small town called Punta Gorda.

Wednesday, 01 August 2007

The nice Americans in Denmark

I was flabbergasted! Could they really be this nice or are they putting on a show for me. One assumes all sorts of thigs about Americans; they are almost mythical creatures. At the embassy, applying for a visa was easy enough after getting through the stone-faced security men. The gentleman at the counter was very pleasant and quickly assured me that since I seem to have the right traits deserving to be awarded a visa, I should not be worried for one will be promptly issued to me. Yupee! God's country, here I come.

Mads says it is not only the Americans in Denmark who are pleasant but generally he found the people 'over there' very aggreable.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

A visit from Alex and Waffi

As it is, we are nowhere close to being ready to go to Florida but that is hardly suprising as we are the 11th hour people. I will not bore you with details of what needs to be done but it is suffice to say, it is so mundane it breaks your heart.

After a wonderful weekend with lots of sunshine and rain (true to a danish summer) Alexandra and Raffi have just left for Paris. We tried to show them the different interesting sites of wonderful Copenhagen and we exhausted their feet on a day long walk around town. Au revoir!

New Blog and new message

Now we have this thing going with another server. Let's see if it works.

There's Mads trying to be a serious skipper inspecting the sails.