Wednesday, 25 December 2013



Another year has passed us by, this Christmas we are in Lynyard Cay, on the south east sliver of the Abacos Chain of the Bahamas.

Plans are to have a beach barbie with our friends on Australian yacht Koza, we are the only two yachts here, we have our own deserted island, sometimes life doesn’t get any better.  We just need the weather to co-operate but there is a cold front forecast so maybe it will be a traditional Roast Christmas lunch onboard instead.PC220238

We have been reflecting on all the amazing places we have been over the last 9 1/2 years cruising – as a recap here is where we have spent our last 9 Christmases.

2004 – Sydney, Australia: 2005 – Cairns, Australia:  2006 – Nai Harn Bay, Phuket, Thailand: 2007 – Surin Islands, Thailand: 2008 – Marmaris, Turkey:  2009 – Malta (we flew home to NZ):  2010 – Cartagena, Spain:  2011 – Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands:  2012 – Utila, Bay Islands of Honduras and now 2013 – Lynyard Cay, Abaco Islands of Bahamas.

Wherever You Are This Christmas Stay Happy, Healthy and Safe

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Charm of Charleston …. December 2013

30 Nov – 05 Dec 2013:  Charleston , South Carolina – 32 46N 79 57W

PC030144Moving Along the Carolinas

We left Beaufort, North Carolina on the slack tide (we have got wise during our time in the USA), poled out the headsail and staysail and headed off downwind for our overnight passage southwest.  It really didn’t feel right having the sun dipping on our bow at dusk, we did really want to be heading southeast to the Bahamas, not  west southwest to Charleston. 

But the weather windows to leave south from Beaufort just weren’t appearing – so Charleston, South Carolina it was.  The passage was uneventful, the winds eased right off early afternoon on day two, we rolled away the sails and motored the last few hours so we would arrive with favourable tide and in daylight.  We made our way up the river and dropped anchor next to Koza and Cristata with a few minutes daylight to spare.


PC030128Exploring the Residential Quarters

We only spent a few nights in this charming spot, but had time to wander all the backstreets and appreciate the extensive variety of architecture in this compact historical city.  There are block after block of beautiful old homes of nearly every design imaginable, most in immaculate condition.  The streets are heavily lined with trees - palms and deciduous planted side by side, all looking like this is where they belong.  What really struck us here was the diversity of architecture, vegetation and climate, such a blend working together to create quite a unique city.

PC030126 PC030134 PC030125

We were lucky enough to time our visit to view the excellent variation of festive dress


Final Farewell to “The Land of Stuff”PC030156

Light southerly winds were settling in for a few days and although winds ”on the nose” were by no means an ideal forecast to leave in they would be in sync with the Gulf Stream and it was likely to be the best we might get for sometime.  We would have been happy to use them to make our way further south to Florida but our 6 month tourist visas were close to expiring so our only choice was to leave the country.

PC030145We did yet another run to West Marine and the excellent Harris Teeter Supermarket by bus, the first time ever we have both been asked if we were “seniors”, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry!!  Fridges and lockers were now groaning at the seams, extra provisions were stowed in all manner of spots, fuel and water tanks were topped up yet again - Balvenie was full to overflowing and this time we were finally leaving “the land of stuff”. 

We lifted anchor on a warm sunny morning, took the tide out of the river, raised the full main and rolled out the headsail.  

Heading South Until the Butter Melts

Monday, 16 December 2013

Heading Around Cape Hatteras ….. November 2013

14 – 30 Nov 2013:  Deltaville to Beaufort – 34 42N   76 39W

PB270112Still Chilly in the Chesapeake

We spent a couple  of nights in the protected anchorage of Fishing Bay, Deltaville waiting for favourable weather to continue our migration south.  We had company in the anchorage with Jim and Karin off Auckland yacht Victoria and on the hard in the yard ashore were Jim and Carola off Brisbane yacht Koza, it was great to have some antipodeans around to socialize with. 

We left with light winds and flat seas, Chesapeake Bay looked very different to the one we had been tossed about in just a few days earlier, it was even up to 5c, almost warm!  We headed south to the bottom of the Chesapeake and pulled in to the extremely shallow and tiny anchorage at the town of Hampton, Virginia

P9170035There is not much at Hampton but it was our staging point to do the overnighter around Cape Hatteras so we sat again and waited for weather.  We entertained ourselves by catching the local buses, non affluent areas in the USA have much better bus services than the affluent ones, … well Hampton has plenty of buses!!  We found a West Marine and a Walmart, topping up yet again on all those essential items, especially more gas canisters for the heater. 

Back Out Into the North Atlantic

Finally the day came to depart for the overnighter around infamous Cape Hatteras, (one of the most densely populated areas of shipwrecks in the world!) and down to North Carolina.  We left our calm anchorage at 7.30am and poked our nose out into Chesapeake Bay,  by 8.30am we had put the 3rd reef in the mainsail and reefed the genoa – this was going to be quite some ride.  PB260109 The  20 miles across the bottom of the bay was the worst as we were hard on the wind and there was a serious amount of salt water coming over the bow.  As we exited the Chesapeake we were joined by several others who had appeared from various other anchorages, one of them our new Australian friends on Koza, we had all been waiting for the window to head south and this was the best we could hope for in the foreseeable future. 

For the leg down to Hatteras we had the wind over 20 knots, with gusts into the high 20’s, all in front of the beam with a beam on swell, not so pleasant.  Once we rounded the Cape in the middle of the night conditions were more favourable as we then had the wind aft of the beam, and by the time the sun rose the wind had started to ease.  We sailed in light winds as long as we could, then when it died out completely we motored the final few hours to Beaufort, North Carolina.  PB280117

It was a night arrival but we had entered here last time in the dark and had our previous track in and out, we also had the current with us this time but what we didn’t count on was an extremely dense bank of fog that engulfed us as we were dropping our sails in the entry channel.  Visibility dropped to about 20 metres – all the lights just went out!!!  Even with our previous track and electronic charts we were not happy entering into the dogleg channel in such poor visibility so we pulled over and anchored off the beach.  After an hour or so the fog cleared as quickly as it had set in, we lifted anchor and we moved into sheltered waters at last – Hatteras done! 


Celebrations  and more Celebrations

Our very good friends Annie and Liam had just returned to their catamaran Gone With the Wind and they were staying in an apartment while they worked on GWTW, readying her for another cruising season.  We had last seen them in Italy and it was one mammoth reunion.  With Jim and Carola off Koza the 6 of us had a big celebration as another year had slipped by for skipper, his birthday present from me was a marina berth for a couple of nights to sit out forecast squalls of up to 65 knots, but for his birthday he only got 44 knots and torrential rain – what a present! PB280120

We slipped in Thanksgiving with Annie and Liam, turkey with all the trimmings – we did well and had another excellent night.  Then it was time to farewell them, hopefully it will not be as long before we see them again.  We just weren’t looking like getting a weather window to go direct to the Bahamas from Beaufort so we took the opportunity with favourable conditions and did an overnighter along the coast to Charleston, South Carolina.

Nothing Could Be Finer, Than To Be In Carolina

Sunday, 17 November 2013

All Go in Annapolis & Whiz Round Washington ….. Nov 2013

05 – 13 November 2013: Annapolis to Deltaville – 37 32N  76 20W

PB020038_thumbTime for a Mini Refit 

We used this unplanned stopover in Annapolis to update some of Balvenies ageing systems.   The refrigeration was a major - the compressor had recently started making banging noises, the copper piping which houses the gas was corroding; as with everything onboard Balvenie it was getting old (including us!).

Our friends on Cristata had recently installed a Dometic self contained unit that ran on 12, 24, 110 or 240volts and they were very happy with it so we looked at the options and decided we could make one fit into our existing area.  We ordered it from West Marine and skipper started tearing the old system out – condenser, compressor, piping, wiring – out it all came, what  mess!   A week later our new unit arrived so we borrowed Mike & Marguerites pickup and collected it. IMG_0365

Weighing about 15kilos it was big and bulky and getting it from the pickup down to the dock, into the dinghy, out of the dinghy onto the boat and inside was no mean feat.  Can you imagine our dismay when we plugged it in, turned it on and nothing happened!!  It would run on the emergency power setting but not on the regular controls. 

After several phone calls to Dometic and West Marine it was decided they would need to replace it.  The new one came super fast express and arrived the following day so it was back via dinghy, dock and pickup, this time we were smart enough to unpack the new unit in store and plug it in to check it was working.PB020039 

Our new fridge has been christened Frieda and she is taking up quite a lot of real estate on our saloon floor for now, but she will live there until we get to Trinidad later in the season when we will have the necessary cabinetry work done to fit her into the galley.   So far we are very happy with her performance, however when the air temperature inside the boat is colder than the temperature she is set at she doesn’t have to work very hard!!!

Whirlwind Tour of Washington

Sunday was clear, crisp and sunny, a perfect day for sightseeing.  Mike and Marguerite had offered the pickup (we were using it more than them!) and suggested we drove to the outskirts of Washington and catch the train downtown, an easy and quick way to access the city.

PB100057 PB100058

We have both been to Washington before, albeit over 20 years ago, so this was really just a refresher and we had a great day out.  It was Veterans Memorial Weekend so all the War Memorials had reunions and commemorative services underway, it was an interesting time to visit.

PB100060 PB100064

We ticked off the hotspots: peered through the bars at the White House, walked along Constitution Avenue, joined the Mall and climbed the stairs to see Abraham Lincolns statue, walked back along Reflection Pool, past the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument (currently shrouded in scaffolding following earthquake damage in 2011), detoured for coffee, lunch and museums then skirted Capitol Hill.

PB100061PB100062  PB100067

Washington is overflowing with museums and many of them are free.  Of course there is only so much you can see in one day so we did a quick fly through past the Dinosaur exhibits at the National Museum of Natural History, then crossed the road to the National Air and Space Museum where we spent an informative and enjoyable couple of hours watching liftoffs and landings, stepping into space and going where no man has ever been before.

 PB100070 PB100071PB100069

Mark gazing into space whilst dreaming of being an astronaut

We stopped at the highly recommended cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian for an excellent bowl of Buffalo Chilli before venturing upstairs to view several of the exhibits in this interesting museum. Then we headed for Capitol Hill late in the day, the sun was dipping and the cold wind was whipping up the fallen leaves, it was a very autumnal scene.  Before darkness fell we headed for the Metro and wound our weary way home, it had been an excellent day out.

Where does this goPB100081

Back To Work

Mark continued upgrading some of the aging systems onboard Balvenie whilst I supervised.  When floorboards are up and lockers are emptied to gain access it is virtually impossible to do anything else onboard but keep out of the way!  Of course when its warm you can make yourself scarce outside but when cold, well you just make do. 007 Wineglass Bay

During this time very good ex cruising friends Lynn and Larry Lewis were passing through Annapolis and came to visit us.  Had I started this blog when we left New Zealand Lynn and Larry would have featured on many postings as we spent time with them in Fiji and Vanuatu and then cruised from Brisbane down to Tasmania and back with them during summer 2005. 

We learnt so much from them regarding our systems onboard and the maintenance of them, it was invaluable.   Lynn and Larry sold their yacht Zephyr in Brisbane and have lived back in Louisville, Kentucky since.   We spent a great day with them, they hadn’t changed at all and it was super to catch up after so many years.

PB060044Olive Re-joins the Workforce

We collected our Injector Pump from J & G Parks, it looked brand new and came with a fully comprehensive list of what had been replaced and refurbished.  They had done an extremely professional job and we were very hopeful we might now see an end to our engine woes.

We had booked Dick from Vosbury Marine to come and install it all.  With 40 years experience working on Volvos he instilled confidence in us immediately.  If anyone was going to get Olive back going again, he would – and he did.  She sparked into life and sounded better than she had for a long time.  It looked like we might just leave Saltworks Creek before it froze over after all!! 

And Now We Wait For The Weather

So now it was time to fill the fridge to capacity and jam as many supplies as possible into the lockers, we might just get to the Caribbean this season after all.  We had missed the departure of the Salty Dawgs Rally,  which in hindsight was a very good thing as the boats that left on the scheduled date encountered atrocious conditions and many suffered damage.  We were pleased to still be up our creek.


So we filled our final days doing last minute provisioning, well you just never know when you will see a supermarket, liquor store, chandlery, Dollar Store or Walmart again.  Things had got so easy for us in Annapolis, Mike and Marguerite had been just wonderful hosts and their generosity in loaning us both their pickup and car had been outstanding.  We knew our way around like locals,  and zoomed around collecting all manner of items deemed necessary for the oncoming cruising season.PB130092PB130090

Heading South at Speed

With final farewells said and easing northerlies forecast we left our sheltered creek, headed down the Severn River and into Chesapeake Bay.  When we reached the bay we had winds gusting 35kts and the temperature was –1c, this didn’t seem like such a good idea but we had to get south. Under staysail only we flew off down the bay averaging 7kts and anchored just on dark (now 5.15pm) at the mouth of the Potomac River

Next morning the winds had increased (not in the forecast!!) and it was even colder. With 11 layers of clothes on I could hardly bend, skipper only had 7 layers on so was a little more mobile!  Conditions eased throughout the day and we pulled into the sheltered anchorage at Fishing Harbour, Deltaville late afternoon.  There was just one other hardy soul at anchor, and wouldn’t you know it – they were kiwis too!  It was Victoria with Karin and Jim onboard who we had met very briefly in Newport, time to catch up again.


Autumn Has Been Magic but How Much Colder Can We Take??

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Up an Annapolis Creek Without A Paddle ….. Nov 2013

25 Oct – 04 Nov:  Saltworks Creek, Annapolis – 39 00N  76 31W

PB100053So Much For Plans

After our unplanned stop for the night at Pooles Island to shelter from the strong winds we had a reasonably comfortable trip the 30 miles down to Annapolis.  We were stopping for the night to visit cruising friends Mike and Marguerite who we have known since the Mediterranean.  They finished their circumnavigation on Ithaca last year and have settled back into their beautiful riverfront home after 15 years away, Ithaca is moored on their dock in front of their house - perfect.

Mike was there to help us at the dock when we stopped to fuel up at the Town Marina and we arranged to meet later at their house for dinner and a catch up before taking advantage of the favourable winds and moving further south the following day.  

PB020036Olive our Volvo engine had different plans.  We motored away from the fuel dock and headed up the Severn River then turned in to Saltworks Creek where we were planning to tie to a mooring ball for the night.  As we entered the creek the engine died and there was a mad panic to try and steer towards the buoy, pick it up by its shackle (no line attached), attach our line to it and then secure it to the boat whilst not being able to stop or reverse, there could be no second chance!

Lets just say is was not one of our better manoeuvres and any onlookers would have wondered just what we were doing when we finally attached the buoy to the stern of the boat before slowly repositioning it back where it should be on the bow. 

Fixing Olive – Again!IMG_0361

Having a broken engine is really a low point in a cruisers life.  We were in a safe spot tied to a hurricane mooring, we had friends nearby to support us, but we had reached a real low.  We had just done our haul out, we thought everything was in top form and were ready to carry on south, join the Salty Dawgs Rally and head into another season exploring the warm waters and interesting islands of the Caribbean with fellow cruising boats.   

We had had the turbo rebuilt in Florida in May and at the same time had the injectors cleaned, the turbo had been the cause of our last engine failure but it was still spinning now –PA270021 this time it was something else.  Of course it was Friday afternoon so nothing would happen till at least Monday. 

We had a wonderful evening ashore with our friends, a trouble shared is a trouble halved the saying goes, and it is surely true.  They offered us the use of their house and car and just having them nearby made us feel much better.

Skipper donned his mechanics cap on Saturday and checked everything he could, but Olive was not co-operating, we were here to stay. 

Sunday was declared a day of rest and we borrowed M&M’s pickup truck and headed into Annapolis for the day to do some sightseeing.PA270018  The downtown tourist area is centred around the harbour, as with many of the places we visit.  In Annapolis a huge part of this area is dominated by the USA Naval Academy, the largest in the USA.  The streets were full of Naval Personnel out for a Sunday afternoon stroll all looking very dapper in their uniforms.

The Diagnosis Begins

On our morning SSB Radio Cruisers Net we chatted about our situation and Canadian friends Janine and Terry on Cristata were nearby in another creek and offered to come and help. We have known them since we all crossed the Indian Ocean in 2007, wintered in Turkey with them and have kept in touch via emails and our Cruisers Nets since.  They have been cruising for over 20 years and have amassed a huge amount of knowledge, skills and tools - they came to help us.  

PB020037Over the following days, many hours were spent on Olive - valve settings were readjusted, compression was checked and was good in all 4 cylinders, all electrical and fuel feeds rechecked, injectors were removed and tips inspected and the diagnosis was that it had to be the injectors and injector pump. 

Terry explained we could have new tips put on our existing injectors, something we had never been offered by the “experts” and he also recommended having the injector pump reconditioned along with the governor which is inside the pump. 

We were at a point of considering the possibility of replacing the entire engine which would be a mammoth time consuming and very expensive task.PA270019   But the thought was that with good compression, rings and valves our engine still had good bones and so we decided to give it one last chance.  We contacted Vosbury Marine, the local Volvo dealer who recommended J & G Parks for reconditioning the injectors and pump.  We borrowed the pickup again and drove it to them for the rebuild, saving time and money where-ever we could.

Terry and Janine had been such a help but it was a waiting game now, so they continued south – in search of warmer weather.   With overnight temperatures nudging freezing and some days not much warmer, we were very glad we had bought our little portable gas heater in Maine, it was doing a great job of making life on the water just bearable.


The Leaves Changed Daily – Autumn was Turning to Winter