Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Mary's and Fernandina...

From Jekyll Island we continued south passed the submarine station. For the first time ever, there was actually a submarine in port. The home port of the sub remains a mystery as neither the Captain nor I recognized the courtesy flag it flew; it was not a US ship.

Turning up the St. Mary's river, we made a stop in St. Mary's Georgia. Here we enjoyed all the Halloween decorations that were out with the Captain particularly taking an interest in a pirate in search of ice cream. We did a bit of shopping and stepped into our favorite used bookstore to mull around a bit and signed the wall of the boater's room.

The next stop was Fernandina Beach and - yes - Florida! Here we had a very important purchase to make at the Advance Auto Parts store. One of the engine start batteries failed and we'd been motoring along with only one engine, unable to start the other. The team at Advance was great. We bought two batteries - one replacement and one spare. They delivered them to us right to the dock. Thanks so much!!!

With the chores out of the way, we enjoyed some window shopping around town. The Bulldogs and Gators were playing - quite the rivalry - and all around town people were dressed in colors supporting either their Georgia or Florida team. The Captain decided to get into the action also, and did a photo opp with the team's mascots.

So we made it to Florida. A bit of a push, but it certainly felt great to be in the Florida sun.

The Admiral

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jekyll Island...

Those of you who have followed our blog for a while will recall that during our stay at Jekyll last year lots was happening. The old gas station had been torn down and a new gas station/convenience store was under construction. The old strip mall housing the grocery store and gift shops had been demolished and the merchants set up in temporary trailers. Lastly, we were one of the last people to see the old convention center as it was scheduled to be destroyed the day we were there.

Well, I am happy to report that lots has been happening and it is all good - make that great!! First (and most important in the Captain's eyes) is that the new convenience store / gas station opened for business in February 2011. But know that this was not just any ordinary gas/convenience store as it housed.....wait for it.... a Dairy Queen. Yes, a Dairy Queen. So you can imagine where our first stop was on our arrival at Jekyll. Afterall who can pass up a blizzard treat. We were going to earn it, after all, with our pedaling about the island.

But there is more! The grocery and shops were still housed in their temporary location, but the convention center....holy cow! We were surprised at the sight and in speaking with a couple of the construction workers it sounds as if the new center will be completed around February 2012. Pretty quick work if you ask me.

No new news on the future strip mall which will again house the grocery and gift shops, but we have no doubt it will come along quickly as the convention center is completed.

As for the ambiance of the island. I know many of the residents, us also, were concerned that with the new construction the island would lose much of its charm. I am happy to report that as of yet that does not appear to be the case. The two lane road with surrounding trees that serves as access to the island remains intact and all over the construction area greenery has been fenced off in an effort to preserve it.

It really is looking great and we can't wait for our next stop at Jekyll to see what more good things have come from the renovation.

The Admiral

Thursday, November 3, 2011


We left Beaufort, NC during twilight, exited the inlet and set the sails. During the mid-morning hours we were greeted by a pod of 15+ dolphins who surfed around the boat. They stayed and played for about an hour and we applauded their performance. The more we applauded the more, it appeared, that they wanted to show off for us. Before we knew it they were leaping straight out of the water doing flips. It was really quite something.

Our journey continued into mid-day then into evening. We continued to move along well passing south of Charleston by the next morning. Then again about mid-morning on our second day another large pod of dolphins discovered us and performed to our delight.

This is our fourth year enjoying the travels south and while we have had groups of 2-3 dolphins swim with us previously, we have never experienced the large pods and the fun and games that they provided.

By mid-morning the third day we were in southern Georgia. No dolphins today, but land ho. We had reached our destination and we were both ready for some shore leave. We'd been aboard since Virginia and we were both anxious to step on terra firma. But first, a good nights rest.

The Admiral

Saturday, October 29, 2011


We were up early full well knowing that the winds would be picking up on the Albemarle today. We wanted to get across before things got too choppy. It was our third southbound trip across the Albemarle. The crossing on the previous two trips had been quite memorable as both times we blew out the spinnaker sail. Not today. Today we stuck with the main and jib and safely made it across with no issues. It would be a big travel day for us covering over 65 miles. This was good as the strong southerly winds came in each of the next two days and brought us to a near standstill. Once the bad weather was past, we continued the journey reaching Beaufort, NC.

A look of the weather forecast told us northerly winds were expected for the next several days. Here, in Beaufort, we would take our journey into the Atlantic waters and make a beeline for the more distant south.

The Admiral

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Which Way to Go???

We awoke the next morning with a big decision....which route should we take? The options: (1) the very familiar Dismal Swamp route or (2) the faster but never tried (by us) Virginia Cut route. In the end weather and our taste buds would make us choose the Dismal Swamp route. The weather because we anticipated the swamp would offer us more protection from the southerly winds and our taste buds because we knew exactly where to find soft shell crab and blizzards in Elizabeth City.

So through the lock we went and off towards North Carolina. We had hopes of seeing Lockmaster Robert at the Deep Creek lock and we did. However he wasn't working the lock. Instead he was doing a dismal swamp tour in his pontoon boat. It was a great day for a swamp tour. The colors were in the early stage of their fall change - not yet brillant but certainly not green.

By early afternoon, we crossed the border into North Carolina and reached the South Mills lock at the end of the 22 mile swamp. From there we continued the trek finally reaching the Elizabeth City bridge. It was here that we would quickly realize that our grand visions of seafood and ice cream would not be realized. Unfortunately the city docks at Elizabeth City were all full - no room at the inn!

What to do?! While we would have loved to have stayed, the forecast called for the weather to worsen over the next several days and we decided it would not be prudent to remain in Elizabeth City at anchor. Instead we opted to begin the journey south on the Pasquotank river. We motorsailed a few more miles before a falling sun forced us to drop the hook near shore.

Tomorrow would be another day.

The Admiral

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another Season!

Can it be that time of year again??? Where has the time flown? The summer was fun and busy, busy, busy - so much so it was a bit of a blur. Nonetheless, we are back and ready for season four aboard the 'Breezer.'

Every season has had its surprises. One evening over cocktails, before our departure, I remarked to friends Brian and Yvonne from Options III that we knew there would be surprises - we just didn't know what - hence the surprise. Well the first surprise would make itself known within 5 minutes of leaving the dock. No right steerage. We floated along, scratching our heads, brainstorming what the issue could be when the Captain headed down into the engine compartments to gather intelligence. The issue was quickly identified and resolved. A sewage vent hose had come unclamped from the engine room ceiling and was lying on the rudder mechanism. This limited the turning radius of the rudder. Once moved and put back in its place, the rudders turned freely. Thank heavens! But then two minutes later we discovered the VHF radio remote handset at the helm was not working and the handheld VHF radio was not working properly. So much for a smooth start...

So off we went. Down the Chesapeake and into, what is usually a very busy, Hampton Roads. Today, however, the place was virtually deserted. Sure there were some recreational boats mulling about, but no Navy ships were on the move nor a single freighter enroute. Very unusual. We continued passed the Navy pier and towards downtown Norfolk. Here we saw a first for us. The Carnival Glory was in port at its downtown pier and just behind it sat the battleship the USS Wisconsin, a part of the Norfolk Maritime Museum. From land, this probably didn't look unusual in the least, but from our seaside vantage point, the enormity of the cruise ship over the US warship was evident - and those old warships aren't exactly tiny in their own right. It was quite a sight.

Still onward we went serpentining the river until we passed under the Gillmerton Bridge. Once passed the bridge we opted to tie up to the free dock at the Chesapeake Boat Yard for the evening. Here we found another interesting site. A military post had been set up on the boat yard property. It looked like a small invasion was planned - 4-6 large tents, trucks and plenty of what I can only assume were ammunition boxes were visible. At the dock sat 4 camouflage speed boats with multiple machine guns and rocket launchers mounted on deck. It appeared the Dismal Swamp was well protected and any pirates didn't stand a chance! Aaargh!

The Admiral

Friday, May 20, 2011

One Big Hop...

Over 900 miles of the ICW awaited us. Ugh. I know that sounds terrible, but it is true. The Captain and I have grown weary of the ICW. I know many of you aspire to travel it one day and when that opportunity occurs seize it and go, but for us after several trips up and down it is merely a highway.

Fortunately there are alternatives and one of those is to bypass the ICW and hop to Atlantic waters. We opted for just that and departed Fort Pierce bound for Beaufort, NC. It would be our most ambitious offshore sail ever but we were motivated by the knowledge that we'd be traveling the with the gulf stream.

So off we went. Day 1 met us with light breezes - too light actually. Yet we traveled along. By nightfall the first day, the winds began to pick up and pick up and pick up. Shortly after sunset we found ourselves reefing the main in an effort to slow ourselves down. Sure we love to travel fast but sometimes on a boat there is a sense of too fast and we had found it. I can only equate it to that out of control feeling you get riding a bike down a really steep hill when you realize you are at the mercy of the bike and the road ahead. Despite the reef in the main, we continued to move and quickly put a first and then a second reef in the jib. Even with all the reefing we were cruising along at 9-10 knots in near darkness - just a sliver of moon above.

We welcomed sunrise on day 2. While all that we could see was ocean, it was still wonderful to see our surroundings. By this time we were well within powerful force of the gulf stream. We anticipated 2-3 knots of favorable current to assist our travels and were surprised that we were pushed an additional 4-5 knots as the current pushed northward. We maintained the reefs in the sails, but the wind and water pushed us 11+ knots throughout the morning making quick work of our journey. Unfortunately the wind and the stream would not last. By the afternoon the wind began to subside and the current began to move eastward of our position. We slowed down considerable - actually it felt like we'd stopped - especially given the speeds we'd been traveling earlier in the day. We opted to turn over the port engine to do some motorsailing and were surprised that the engine purred but provided no propulsion - BIG UGH! What could be wrong?!

We brainstormed what could be wrong and the only thing we could come up with was that we'd lost a propeller. We eventually slowed down the boat so the Captain could stick his head overboard with a mask and snorkel. Yep - no propeller. Well thank heaven for twin engines. Nonetheless, we felt vulnerable with a single engine and were anxious to get into shore. We were making excellent progress and would reach Beaufort at about sunrise.

At nightfall, I'd told the Captain I expected it to be a quiet evening with little commercial traffic. Afterall, we were between two channels sailing a course that should be north of the shipping lanes. I can't believe how wrong I could have been. In the late night darkness we heard a broadcast over the VHF. A Navy warship was in the area and would be conducting firing practice. Based on the ships coordinates we were well out harms way - but close enough to hear the booms that resonated from the guns. As the evening to continued to unfold, we continued to hear the firing practice but also began to see lights skirting at high speeds across the water. It was nothing short of weird. We decided to hail the Navy warship to see if our courses were converging. We shared coordinates and confirmed that we were well away from eachother. Then the radio operator on the warship said something that REALLY got our attention, "perhaps it is one of the other ships in our entourage." Dave and I looked at each other - other ships??? We turned on the radar and we shocked to see that we were essentially surrounded by 10-15 vessels most traveling the waters in darkness. So much for a quiet evening of sailing!

Just as expected, the lights of the Beaufort channel began to emerge. We would reach the channel at sunrise and what luck we'd also catch the tidal change and get a push upstream. By the time we reached Beaufort, our adrenaline had kicked in. We intended to stop and sleep, but neither of us could. Instead we continued to move and would put 50 more miles behind us before dropping the hook for the day.

Two hundred miles to go....just two hundred. We continued to worry about having lost the propeller. Why was it lost? Could we lose the other? Then what would we do? This anxiety pushed us ahead. Our only shore stop would be Elizabeth City where we'd arrive just in time for their first Farmers Market of the season - a sure sign of spring! The market was great. We stocked with some much needed fruits and veggies, picked up a homemade peach cobbler and even found some fresh cheese. Yum. We'd also find old friends. Steve and Jean on Suncat would travel the rest of the way with us.

Despite our rush, we had fun. We stopped at the NC Visitor Center one evening. We saw Robert, Lockmaster at the Deep Creek lock, and was able to deliver the conch shells we'd collected for him in the Bahamas. Eventually we made it to the marina. Mark and Alice on Greylag were there to welcome us. Jim, Kathy and four legged Murphy from Charm arrived shortly thereafter with champagne to celebrate our arrival.

The sailing season was ended. All that remained was the haul and tear down. What a marvelous season it had been. We really couldn't have asked for more. Yet we would be blessed one more time this journey. On haulout, we discovered why the prop fell off. The locking nut had broken off - a mechanical failure. Dave called the manufacturer and they graciously agreed to replace the propeller. How wonderful!

So this will be our last post for the season. We hope you drop back in this fall to join us for another season on Tropical Breeze. In the meantime, have a wonderful spring and an even better summer.

The Admiral

Photo: Elizabeth City Farmers Market

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Crossing...

Our crossing from the Bahamas to Florida would be a three day event. First, we departed Green Turtle and sailed to Allan's Pensacola (23 miles).

On day two we sailed another 32 miles to reach Great Sale Cay. This then positioned us for the third and biggest day - 117 miles back to Fort Pierce, Florida.

All along the Bahama banks we continued to fish. I lost track of how many barracuda we caught and tossed back - at least 10. The fishing was looking like lots of work and no yield until both lines started humming and Dave and I struggled to bring in two fish that were - most definitely - not barracuda. Unfortunately, one smart fellow would get away, but we managed to haul in his twin a real nice 24 inch mutton snapper. Dave and I have been really pleased with the fish we've been able to catch while in the Bahamas, but let me tell you this mutton snapper is the BEST!!!! Despite its 24 inch length, it yields almost as much as a 42 inch mahi and it tastes - oh my!! You can definitely bet we will be fine tuning the tackle box to catch more mutton snapper next year!

Oh yes, but the main event wasn't the fish, it was the last 117 mile leg into Florida. Chris, on Romany, and Dave could not have planned it any better. We crossed the last 50 mile stretch of the banks by nightfall and entered Atlantic waters. The weather was great, the timing excellent as we crossed the stream and found ourselves at the Fort Pierce entrance at sunrise.

What an incredible journey it has been. Can you believe that we traveled over 1100 miles in our 12 weeks in the Bahamas. Hard to imagine there is that much territory to cover and even harder to imagine that there is plenty we haven't yet seen. Well there is always next year.

But wait, don't think it is over just yet, because there is lots of mileage left to cover. Our final destination is the Chesapeake.

The Admiral

Green Turtle Cay...

At Green Turtle Cay we celebrated Easter and attended services at their beautiful new church St. Peters (Photo 1). Afterwards, we joined friends on Romany and Iolar for lunch at Pineapples Grill.

It would be our last opportunity to visit with Walt and Lynn on Iolar as we would be heading north with Romany and postioning ourselves for the big crossing back into Florida. It is amazing how quickly the time has gone. We've been in the Bahamas for 12 weeks, but it certainly seems much less than that.

But before we go, we must take a walking tour of Green Turtle. We did this on Easter Monday - a Bahamian holiday - so town was quiet. Despite the quiet, the Sculture Garden was open and we were able to view the bronze sculptures of some of the most prominent citizens of the Bahamas (Photo 4). We also passed the old jail. Certainly not a place I'd want to spend time in during the hot Bahamian summer (Photo 3).

The Admiral

Guana Cay...

From Marsh Harbor it was off to Guana Cay. Such a taxing day having to travel 5 miles to the next big stop. That is one of the amazing differences between the Abacos and the other island chains in the Bahamas. The Abacos are much more compact with lots of interesting things to do in a small area. Whereas the other Bahamain island chains are more widespread.

Nonetheless, lunch at Guana met with tough choices. Do we lunch at the well known oceanside beach bar Nippers or the popular beachside bar Grabbers. Hmmmmm. Tough choices, but we eventually chose Grabbers as it offered a bit more shade and views of Tropical Breeze in a distance.

Lunch was great and the day was still young so the Captain and I decided to navigate the Whale passage and head up to Green Turtle for the evening.

The Admiral

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marsh Harbor...

In Marsh Harbor we had SO much to celebrate!

We met up with friends from West Wind and Finn MacCool who we hadn't seen since we left Florida. They had spent their seasons in the Abacos and it was great to get together once again. Eric and I shaked some booty on the dance floor as did Eric's grandson Ben (Photo 2).

We also celebrated Lynn, from Iolar's, birthday (Photo 3) - more reason to boogie!

As if spending time with friends wasn't enough, the weather remained great and a group of us went over to snorkel Mermaid Reef. What a great spot! Lots of fish, beautiful water and accessible from the beach. The parrotfish were amazing. They were in all sorts of colors - purples, greens, yellows and my favorite - blues (Photo 5).

But perhaps the biggest celebration was from the Captain. Our arrival in Marsh Harbor included access to the largest supermarket we'd seen since leaving the US. While there the Captain found ice cream on sale and not just a 2 quart tub it was a 1 gallon tub!! The price $10.99. I know this sounds high, but after cruising the islands for 3 months where the going price for 2 quarts of ice cream is $9-$11, this tub of Breyers was both a treat and a bargain.

More to come.

The Admiral

Sunday, April 24, 2011


At Man-O-War we were greeted by our friend Vince on Fin Macool. Vince, like several of our friends, had spent the winter season in the Abacos using Man-O-War as a base. As always, it is great to see good friends.

In town, we bummed around and rediscovered the Albury Sail Shop. The Captain and I had been here once before - about 15 years ago. Back then we purchased several canvas bags which have served as our toiletry bags ever since. The shop is still going strong and has expanded its selection from what we remember.

Next stop - Marsh Harbor.

The Admiral

Friday, April 22, 2011


We left the Eleuthera's and traveled 50+ miles north to the Abacos. Our first stop Hopetown.

Many of you may recognize Hopetown from its distinctive candy striped lighthouse. Here we would be meeting someone new, Jean, the Aunt of a friend of ours. We didn't know what to expect when meeting her, but we were delighted to find an experienced sailor with whom we could trade stories and thoroughly enjoy spending time with. Jean introduced us to Captain Jacks where we played Jacks (local bingo), enjoyed cocktails and just had a wonderful time with Jean and her friends Betty and Ann.

We enjoyed strolling the streets of the small community and climbing the 101 steps to the lighthouse where we were able to get some extraordinary views of the harbor.

We had a wonderful time. Thank you Jean for your wonderful hospitality. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

The Admiral

PS. Yes, I have gotten another haircut. This time....even shorter than the last.

Photo 1: Jean and the Admiral

Photo 2: Hopetown Lighthouse

Photo 3: Harbor view from the lighthouse

Photo 4: The Captain and the Admiral with Tropical Breeze in the background

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Drama...

Our journey to Spanish Wells started well enough. We left Governors Harbor on a light wind day anticipating we'd be able to sail 4 knots to Current Island. The wind continued to fill in nicely and by mid-day we found ourselves doing 6.5 -7 knots. Despite a reef in the jib to slow ourselves down, we arrived at Current Cut early and dropped the anchor for a while awaiting a tidal change as the force of water through the Cut can be quite brisk if you catch it at the wrong time. Our journey through the Cut was fine and we dropped the hook for the evening behind Meeks Patch in plenty of time to enjoy a splendid sunset.

The next morning we hoisted the anchor and headed for Spanish Wells. The community is the major fishing town in the Bahamas exporting about 75% of the fish exported in the Bahamas from this small town. We anticipated that we would pick up a mooring ball early and have the bulk of the day to play ashore. We would be wrong.

As we left our anchorage, a large ferry boat was coming in. Moving slower than the ferry he entered the channel first stirring up the sand below. We followed, with poor visibility, and neglected to see the rock ledge that jutted into the channel. With the tide being almost low Tropical Breeze's 4 foot + draft was not sufficient to clear the rock ledge and the starboard hull went aground. We tried to get off - a mistake we would regret later - but no, we were stuck in the channel until the tide came up blocking large boat traffic into the channel for a time.

So instead of a full day ashore exploring we spent 3 hours lounging around aboard warning channel traffic of our presence as they approached. Fishermen would stop by occassionally to see if they could help, but unfortunately all we could do was wait for the tide. At one point a man in a small skiff approached us saying we had to move because the supply freighter was approaching. Fortunately we were able to hail the approaching freighter on the radio and he detoured to the eastern channel entrance avoiding us in the western channel.

The tide rose high enough and by about 1pm we were away from the rock ledge and headed to our mooring assignment. The Captain snorkeled around the boat to assess the damage. We were fortunate that the rudder, saildrive and prop were undamaged. Unfortunately, the back corner of the keel was not so lucky and is now about 3 inches shorter than it once had been. (This damage was not done by hitting the rock but instead by us as we tried to maneuver away from the rock.) Yet that is one of the functions of a keel, to protect the more vital steering and propulsion systems behind them. The damage does not impede our travels it just creates a new project for the Captain once Tropical Breeze is hauled out for the season. Nonetheless, ugh.

We finally made it ashore and found that the fishing industry created an affluence to the community we had not seen elsewhere in the Bahamas. The cemetery was beautiful with its array of floral wreaths covering many of the gravesites. The transportation was unique also. This is the first community we've seen branch out of the typical use of cars and trucks into bicycles, motor scooters and golf carts. Some other interesting things - no bars or liquor stores in Spanish Wells.

The Admiral

Governors Harbor...

Another beautiful day in the Bahamas. En route from Rock Sound to Governors Harbor we managed to hook a yellowtail snapper. He was small (16 inches) but sufficient enough to be dinner.

All was going along great when the Captain noticed that the port bilge pump light was on. Water - uh oh. The Captain started madly checking the bilges from the stern forward and finally found that we had water running in the bilge under our bunk. The water was fresh water not salt. At first he thought the port side water tank had ruptured. On further inspection he realized that the hose on the water pump had come loose and that all the water from both the port and starboard water tanks had just gone into the bilge. While this sounds devastating, the reality is that the problem was not bad at all. The Captain reattached the hose and we turned on the watermaker to again begin refilling the tanks. The biggest mess is that the space underneath our bunk is our dry goods pantry. Fortunately, we keep all our paper products in Ziploc big bags which kept everything dry except the bag itself. A bit of clean up and we were back in action.

The Admiral