Final Summary

     We have now been home for nearly a week and are still talking about our epic trip to the islands.  There were several firsts for us on this trip.  First and foremost we took TO Escape to another country; we’ve planned a trip to the Bahamas for several years and finally made it.  For one reason or another we were not able to make them.  Maybe it was a good thing because those trips would have been much shorter and not nearly as many ports would have been visited.  They say things happen for a reason.

     Another first on this trip was it was the most consecutive days that we had stayed on the boat at 24 nights in a row.  Believe it or not nobody was hurt and it went by like it was only a week.  We have previously only been on the boat for about 9 consecutive nights and that now only seems like a few days compared to this trip.  It will be hard to top this one but we’re willing to give it a try should we get the opportunity.

     This trip had us stopping at the most number of ports, 14, during a single trip.  Our previous was 7 when we circumnavigated the Florida peninsula during a cruise with the yacht club and 3 other boats.  We wished we would have made a few other stops along the way but maybe that will be for our next trip.

     There were several firsts when it came to the water we traveled over.  We navigated a total distance of over 750 miles of water during a single trip.  We are not sure of our previous total exactly but it did not come close to this distance.  We also navigated the deepest water at over 13,000 feet, and probably the shallowest at 4 feet.  Well the shallowest could be debated if you include the time TO Escape was grounded; that was less than 39 inches, closer to 24 inches.  As we stated, the water is not remotely close to that deep off of the eastern coast of Florida or in the Keys where we normally travel.  The 115 miles straight may have beat our previous longest by about 5 miles however we are not sure if it is actually the longest we traveled.  We had a stretch where we traveled from Miami to Stuart and that is about 110 miles.  And now that we think about it we did travel from Stuart to near Marathon over the course of two days without stopping when we first bought TO Escape and brought her to her new home.  That would have been a good 200 miles so maybe that is the longest though we did make some pit stops along the way if that makes a difference.

     The water in the Bahamas is as clear as Bacardi rum and just as warm.  During our short travels to the outer islands the bottom can be seen almost all the time.  The clearest water was probably in Bimini.  It was certainly the prettiest of colors where the water went from a greenish turquoise blue to a bluer aqua blue before it dropped off to a deep ocean blue.  We tried to take a picture of it but nothing can duplicate the beauty of the brilliant colors seen with the human eye.

     The water we traveled was filled with life just about everywhere we went.  We started with many variety of reef fish, barracuda, rays and bull sharks in Bimini, saw dolphin, Mahi, Tuna and baitfish during our travels and ended with a pilot whale in the middle of the ocean on our way back to the US.  We’ve always wanted to see a whale in the wild and we finally did.  The one fish that eluded us was the Marlin; it would have been nice to see one on the end of our line but it wasn’t to be on this trip.

     On land the usual suspects can be found like iguanas, lizards, Key West roosters and of course mosquitoes.   Bimini once again took the lead with the mosquitoes as we had hundreds of bites on our first night there.  We quickly learned our lesson and did not leave the boat without spraying on a healthy dose of Deet to deter them from eating us.

     The marinas that we stayed at were all nice with some being nicer than others. Chub Cay was by far the nicest place we stayed and it was by far the priciest placed we stayed so I guess you get what you pay for as they say.  All of the docks were good and nothing to really complain about except for the lack of power at some of our stops.  It still amazes us how often the islands have power interruptions.  If it’s wasn’t a lack of power it was a lack of provisions like when we had to wait for fuel.  We were at another marina that sold fuel but were out for over a week with no delivery date in sight.  It must be tough not having to have everything that you need at anytime that you need it like we are so accustomed to having here in the states.  Another thing to get used to is the business hours of operation.  Most places close during lunch time, close at 5p and are closed on Sundays; does anyone remember when it was like that here.  We appreciate the accessibility now.  Restaurant hours are another thing to get used to.  They are not open all day like they are here in the states.  Breakfast places close at 11a, lunch places are from 11a to 2p and dinner places don’t open until 5p at the earliest.  So don’t get hungry at 3p and expect to go out and get a bite to eat because you won’t find anything open in the islands.

     Our journey was one filled with many memories that we will be able to relive and talk about for many years to come.  The places that we visited most people will never get a chance to visit in their lifetime unless they island hop like we did.  The islanders that we met and talked to on our travels had said that we visited more islands than they have visited and they live there.  The people in the islands were extremely friendly and that was a welcoming sight for us coming from an area that always seems to be on the go and doesn’t have the time to be friendly to a visitor.

     There are so many things that we know that we missed and we are already planning to return should we ever get the chance.  We enjoyed the people and the places we visited.  The food that we had and tried was all good as were the new dinks that we tried.  This was a dream of ours to do on our boat and we are excited to be able to say that we have been able to check it off of our list.

     This will be our last post and we hope that you have enjoyed our journey as much as we have.  We have enjoyed sharing our memories with you and we look forward to the next adventure that we may be able to share.  Thank you for following our blog, reading our posts and commenting to us!  We wish everyone safe travels on their adventures!

Marathon Home

     Wednesday July 19: We rose before the sun came up to get an early start out on the water; our final leg of our travels.  We are heading to our last port of call, the Marathon Yacht Club located in Marathon the heart of the Keys.

     We have been on these waters so many times over the past 14 years and yet we still enjoy being on them.  There is so much to see and every time is different, it never gets boring for us to be out on the water.  We get excited when we see turtles sticking their heads above the water as if they are looking to see what is going on.  As we get closer to them they scurry off and paddle their way to safer depths.  We saw flying fish breach the water and fly for many yards just inches above the waterline before disappearing into a small wave.  And ballyhoo fishtail there way across the top of the water looking like they are running across the water.  We did hook up on some tuna in Islamorada but didn’t get much of anything else on our journey home.

     There is not much of a skyline to view as you travel the waters of the Keys because there are no tall buildings in the keys.  There are height restrictions throughout the Keys and buildings are not much bigger than 3 stories.  One of the larger buildings is Bonefish tower in Marathon.  It is something that you long to see as you know you are within distance of home; at least for those of us in Marathon.

     We stopped at Caloosa Cove Marina to take on a few gallons of fuel.  We would have made it but we didn’t want to be sniffing fumes to get back and then leave her with empty tanks.  We have been to this marina and fuel dock before as we made the stop once when we planned a trip here during our tenure as Fleet Captain and Fun Fleet Skipper.  The approach to the marina is vey close to land in between some shallow water.  It’s the first time during our trip that we kicked up the sand on the bottom and we only draw 39 inches.  Anyway after a quick pit stop we stepped it up and made our way further south.

     We arrived to the dock around 2p with members ready with our lines and welcoming us back.  It’s good to be back home and with people you know.  Once we settled into our slip we gave TO Escape a quick rinse before relaxing for the rest of the day.  The next two days will be spent giving TO Escape a thorough cleaning from top to bottom and inside and out.  She has treated us well on our journey and it is time for her treat.

     The excitement is over and we will now reflect on our memories.  We will make one more post summarizing our journey, stay tuned!

Coconut Grove

     Tuesday July 18: Another morning and another travel day.  Today we are traveling to the Coral Reef Yacht Club located on the north end of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove.  The sun has broken the horizon and we are excited about getting back out on the water.

     The wind and waves have subsided and a coastline view from the ocean is what we are after today so we are out the Port Everglades Inlet and into the blue waters of the Florida Straights.  The view from the water gives a different perspective of the city skylines.  First of all they look bigger from the water than they do from land and secondly there is a lot more of it that can be seen.

     Our travel was an uneventful one however it was relaxing as we slowly made our way south.  We did get hooked up on some tuna though our line snapped just as we were about to gaff it and bring it to the back of the boat.  Anyway hearing that sound from the reel as fish are peeling of line is one of the most exciting sounds ever.  The excitement of the moment is enough to keep you going.

     We finally reached Government Cut Inlet after passing it up to go through a different area which upon further investigation we found that we were not going to be able to pass under the bridge due to the height restriction.  We made the short backtrack to the main channel and worked our way through the container ships and tugs that were docked and traveling the large channel known as Government Cut.

     We made our way to the ICW and the northern end of Biscayne Bay.  A short distance from there is a privately marked channel that takes you to the yacht club.  During our approach the channel and surrounding area was filled with kids in small sailboats learning to sail; there must have been 15 or more of them what a sight it was.  The dockmaster hailed us on the radio and instructed us on the exact location of the club and where we would be docking.  Once there we hooked up the utilities and checked in with the office.

     We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon relaxing before getting ready for an early dinner at the club.  The club was nice and inviting and the staff very friendly though not one member introduced themselves to us or welcomed us to their club.  We don’t understand why this happens but it does more often than it should.  Anyway we looked over the menu and where told about some new items that were added.  One of them was char-grilled octopus it was something that had to be tried.  There was no disappointment with this choice; it was delicious!

     We made our way back to the boat and got the internet TV to work so we spent the evening watching some shows that we haven’t been able to see in weeks.  Once it was late we called it a night as we plan to leave the dock early to make the 110 mile journey back to our home port of Marathon.  We can’t wait to get home!

     Stay tuned for our next post!

Lauderdale Lazy

     Monday July 17: After a night that produced a torrential thunderstorm it was the start of another sunny morning with very little travel in front of us; only 15 miles south on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).  Our next port of call is the Lauderdale Yacht Club located just north of the Port Everglades Inlet in Ft Lauderdale.  This inlet is the one used by the large cruise ships departing for the Caribbean.

     We did not leave the dock until nearly 11a this morning as we just didn’t feel like getting out right away.  Our journey was a lazy one straight down the protected waters of the ICW.  We have made this journey many times before but haven’t been here since we purchased TO Escape and brought her down to the Keys back in 2012.  Many changes to the area have taken place over the years; many new homes and many more still going up now.  We were even able to view our condo from the water which we have not done since we moved.

     After all of our sightseeing we finally arrived to the club before 2p.  Yes our journey was longer than normal for the short distance but traveling the ICW means going slower in no wake zones near other marinas and fuel docks and waiting for a bridge opening should you require one; we needed three of them.  The approach to the club is well marked, unlike those in the Bahamas.  The dockmaster was there to greet us and help us tie up and get our power connected.  We are docked on a long face dock similar to where we just came from however these are not floating docks.

     The club is not open this day so we enjoyed a cooked meal on the boat however we were able to enjoy the pool and had access to the showers and the ice machine.  We spent a lazy afternoon doing a lot of nothing and we don’t think we would have had it any other way.  We retired to the stateroom and enjoyed a movie before finally calling it a day.  Tomorrow’s journey is 30 miles further south to Miami.

     Stay tuned for our next post!

Homeward Bound

     Sunday July 16: We rose early but the sun beat us out on this morning.  Many of the boats were already heading out and once again fighting for a place at the fuel dock.  We are very thankful that we were patient enough to wait when we arrived to get our fuel.  Today we are heading back to the US and our next port of call is the Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club in Boca Raton.  The marina has been razed and rebuilt and we look forward to seeing the new renovations.  We have been here many times though never by boat so it will be a first for us.

     The winds were rather calm and the seas had a light chop to them and this combination made for an enjoyable trip across the blue waters of the ocean or more specifically the Florida Straits.  About two hours into our journey we noticed a large ominous looking thunderstorm off of our port side.  We were unable to tell the direction it was moving or how big it was due to the fact that we already had no cell service but one thing was for sure, it was severe.  We could see the lightning bolts light up the already sunlit sky causing us concern.  We took the next hour to throttle up and try to get out in front of the storm.  Our plan worked as the storm was now astern and appeared to be breaking up.  We are thankful we have the type of vessel that can get us out of harms way when we need to.

     A few hours later we started to see the buildings of West Palm Beach and felt a sigh of relief as we knew were weren’t going to succumb to the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.  We believe most of our journey was traveled in this mysterious region known to cause ships and aircraft to disappear or cause magnetic interference with navigational equipment.  Oddly enough, we did during the earlier part of our travels have trouble with our GPS compass.  We are not saying this is the reason but it does make us question the cause since all is working well.

     We arrived at the Boca Inlet around 2:30p and into Lake Boca.  The lake was full of boats enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon on the sandbar.  The famous pink building of the Boca Resort stood before us as we waited for the bridge tender to open the bridge to allow us southern access to the ICW which leads us to the Boca YC approach.

     We made our way through the familiar waterway of the Hillsboro canal as we continued to our next port of call.  We have navigated this area many times as it leads to our home that we had in Boca for the past 14 years.  We called the dockhand for our slip location and waited for him to help us dock as we positioned TO Escape along the new floating docks of the club.  The new buildings and docks look great and we are finally able to enjoy the club by boat.

     We decided to hit the fuel dock before settling in as the facility is closed the next day and we would like to take advantage of the club price for fuel instead of the commercial price at the public fuel dock.

     After making our way back to our dock we connected our power and water and gave TO Escape a real good cleaning before doing the same to ourselves prior to heading to the club for dinner.  The staff at the club are friendly than we remember, maybe it has something to do with their new surroundings.  The food was good as tonight was a cookout and buffet and there were many things to choose from.  There was a lot of activity at the club considering it was a summer Sunday evening.  MYC canceled their Sunday brunch due to no reservations so it is refreshing to see the club being used.

     My mother and uncle joined us after dinner and we had a great time talking about our journey with them on TO Escape.  It was late as our guests left and shortly thereafter we called it another day and retired to our stateroom glad to be back in the states where there is no need to worry about the electric, water, internet or cell services!  We are so fortunate to live in the country where we do!

     Stayed tuned for our next post!

West End

     Friday July 14: We rose before the sun again this morning to take advantage of the most amount of daylight while out on the water for our long 115 mile journey to Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour located in West End on Grand Bahama Island.  West End is the oldest and westernmost settlement on the island of Grand Bahama and is currently the capital of Grand Bahama.  It is one of the most populated areas in the Bahamas and is only an hour away from the city of Freeport where the cruise ships come to port and the main resorts and casinos are located.

     Our first task for the day after we launched from the dock and headed out the channel was to test our transmission temperature problem.  We started out up on plane as soon as we left the channel and ran hard for 30 minutes across the Sea of Abaco.  As all of the fluid temperatures rose to normal operating conditions, the alarm remained silent.  We stayed at our slower speed for a little while before running hard again for another 30 minutes without hearing the alarm.  We believe that we have finally put our temperature problems behind us once and for all; nothing but smooth waters ahead of us from here on out.

     The sights of the outer islands was worth the trip.  It amazed us how rock formations just appeared out of the water with not much of anything around them.  The water depth here is fairly shallow at an average of about 15 feet.  The navigation through these waters is straight forward and easy.  The wind was at our backs and the seas had just a moderate chop to them so the ride was nearly perfect even if it was long.

     Our journey to Indian Cay Channel took us almost 7 hours and just an hour away from our destination.  This part was the most difficult to navigate as it was very shallow in parts, only 4 feet at low tide, and there are no navigation markers like we are accustomed to seeing in the US.  The hurricanes have taken out almost all navigational aides in the Bahamian waters over the years and they have never been replaced.

     We made our way through the channel and into the blue water of the ocean only to turn back into another channel which was the entrance to the resort marina basin.  This is a nicely protected area and rather large but we soon found out why as this place gets very crowded.  We needed fuel and were waiting for a spot at the fuel dock; unfortunately so were three others in front of us.

     After waiting for our spot for fuel and fueling up, we checked in and received our dock assignment.  We then proceeded a very short distance across the basin from the fuel dock to dock TO Escape in her slip.  There was a dockhand there to help us with our lines and we docked without any issues, connected our power and proceeded to rinse down TO Escape.

     It was a long day and we needed to relax a bit to unwind from the long journey.  We had our customary drink prior to dinner as we cleaned up and headed to the main restaurant at the resort.  We did have to wait to be seated as we did not have a reservation and the place was packed.  Our dinners were good although they were all out of conch and one of us was craving a conch salad.

     We walked the docks after our dinner and noticed that all but three of the slips were filled.  This was one of the busiest places we have been at on our trip other than at Atlantis.  We are glad we were able to get our reservation when we did and we extended it a day because we didn’t want to get up early the next day and travel again.

     The night was late and it had been a long day for us so once back on the boat we decided to call it a day without the need for a movie.  We will explore the island tomorrow and rent a scooter if one is available.

     Saturday July 15: It was refreshing not to have to get up early to travel on this day.  We were able to lounge this morning as we continued to relax and watch all of the other boats leaving the marina and fighting to get fuel.  By 10a the marina only had a dozen or so boats left in their slips.  We wonder how many will be back tonight and if the marina will be filled once again.

     After talking to the family we made ourselves a good breakfast to start the day off right and then made our way to the main office to see about renting the scooter.  We decided to be adventurous and rent one and make the long drive to Freeport.

     The road leading to Freeport was void of just about everything.  Every once in a while we would pass a building or a house that had been damaged by Hurricane Mathew; the category 4 hurricane that went through the Bahamas in September of last year.  The small towns we came across were very poor and out in the middle of nowhere.  We wondered what if any services they had.

     As luck would have it we ran into a downpour on our way.  We stopped at a closed gas station to take cover and met an extremely nice and friendly family that must have been doing the same.  They helped us with directions and whished us safe travels as they welcomed us to their town and country.  We have found the Bahamian people to be extremely friendly everywhere in the islands.

     After driving around and making our way through the streets, we finally made it to town and did some shopping at the Lucaya Marketplace.  This area is where all of the resorts are as well as being close to the port where the cruise ships dock; we actually were able to see the top of one of them in port.  A few hours of milling around shopping and taking in the sights and we had to get started on the long journey back to West End.

     Once we made our way back and returned the scooter to the office we headed to the boat to relax a bit and get out of the heat.  Shortly thereafter we made our way to the beach and pool area which was just outside of our dock and steps away from the sandy beach.  The sand here is not like it is in the Abacos; crushed shells here and not as powdery soft.

     We eventually made our way to the restaurant as we were hungry and wanted to try their pizza that we saw on the menu the day before.  Unfortunately they don’t do take out and we didn’t feel like eating there so we convinced them to provide the pizza on a large plate so we could take it back to the boat.  They were very reluctant however they accepted our promise to return their plate and after nearly two hours our pizza was ready.  We did enjoy it but were not sure if it was actually that good or if we were just too hungry to notice.  Anyway we returned the plate and called it a night shortly thereafter.

     Tomorrow is the day we will be crossing the ocean and heading back to the US.  The weather window looks great for a crossing and we should have a smooth ride across as we start our way back home to Marathon.  Our next port of call will be Boca Raton.

     Stay tuned for our next post!

Green Turtle Cay

     Tuesday July 11: We rose early to get a jump on the short journey, nearly 25 miles, to the Bluff House Resort & Marina located on one of the barrier islands off the mainland of Great Abaco Island called Green Turtle Cay.  Green Turtle is a small island at 3 miles long by 1/2 mile wide and is aptly named after the abundant green turtles that once inhabited the surrounding area.  Green Turtle is known for it’s beautiful beaches and thus is a stopover-point for travelers island hopping the Abacos.

     Our little more than 2 hour ride over to the island was nice as we navigated our way around the rocks and took in the surrounding sights of some of the uninhabited smaller islands.  There is an ominous looking rock that stands alone out of the water the boaters want to stay away from.  What it doesn’t tell you is the area past it is very shallow and unnavigable to boats with any size to them.  The rock is known as Don’t Rock; as is don’t go here or else you will be sorry.

     The entrance channel to the marina location is narrow and surrounded by extremely shallow waters as many of them seem to be here in the Bahamas.  We hailed the marina to get our slip assignment and after receiving it they changed it on us to a nicer one next to the office along a long face dock.  Our entry was flawless and tying up was just as easy; we are getting this docking thing down finally.  Another quick rinse to TO Escape and it’s up to the office to get checked-in.  A side note, the power was not working when we docked; something we are getting used to.

     We once again used the early arrival to check in with the real world.  After some down time on the boat we decided to rent a golf cart and explore the island.  We headed out about 5 miles south to the largest settlement on the island called New Plymouth.  New Plymouth was founded in the 18th century and is littered with unique Bahamian-styled older homes.  The settlement a post office, a bank, four grocery stores, a government office, several restaurants and bars and a few churches.  It is a charming town with the friendliest and welcoming people.

     We found our way to a restaurant called the Wrecking Tree to have a late lunch and early dinner.  The name comes from the fact that the tree on the property was the place where the wreckers would meet to sell off there salvages back in the day.  The food was good as we talked to two couples that we saw at our last port of call.  They were from FL as well and we had a great conversation with them.

 

     We made our way back to the marina and did something we haven’t done in weeks… watched TV.  The marina has cable!  One would never realize how excited it we were to have access to six channels, two of them being ESPN and HBO.  As you might have guessed there was no DVD this night as we entertained ourselves with our six cable channels.

     Wednesday July 12: Our second day on the island started slow as we have the rest of the week off from our commitments.  We made breakfast before taking the golf cart back out to explore the island.  We stopped at a small grocery store and bought some homemade ice cream then sat outside on our cart watching the world go by.  The local people here are very friendly and everyone greets you as hey go by.

     It was a very lazy day as we didn’t do much of anything but relax and enjoy ourselves.  We ended up having a great dinner at one of the marina restaurants and retired early to rest up for our long journey to our next port of call.  We are looking forward to tomorrow.

     Thursday July 13: We had set the alarm to wake us before the sun rose above the horizon.  Today is our long journey to West End.  We had the perfect start and left the dock minutes before we had planned.  The wind was behind us and this meant that the waves were at our stern and this made for an enjoyable ride.  We were only running for about 15 minutes when that damn transmission alarm went off again.  We tried to run at a slower pace but maintain a speed that would still get us to our destination before it got too late; unfortunately that wasn’t possible so we had to turn around.  TO Escape is telling us something is wrong and we have to listen.

     We ended up limping back to the marina on one engine; we were able to start the one we shut down prior to docking without any further alarm to allow us to dock.   Once we tied up it was time to figure out what was going on.  We ended up calling the technical helpline of the transmission manufacturer for some help.  After going through a couple things we determined we had a cooling problem; dah no kidding.  After following the transmission lines we noticed that we have a small heat exchanger right after the raw water pump before the main heat exchanger.  We started tearing things apart to see if we had flow through this exchanger.  We ran water from the garden hose in reverse through the exchanger hose and noticed something black come out of the hose.  Remember that impeller we replaced, well we found the missing fins.  The havoc that a little broken rubber can cause!

     By the time we fixed the issue which we found 3 of the 4 broken fins lodged in the heat exchanger, it was too late for us to make it to our next port of call.  We called the next marina to change our reservation and ended up staying on Green Turtle for a third night.  Certainly not a bad place to have to spend another day at.  We had lunch at the beach bar and just relaxed doing nothing for the rest of the day.  We grilled some steaks back at the boat for dinner and enjoyed those six cable channels for the rest of the evening.  We called it an early night so we can try again early in the morning to make it to our next destination.  We believe we have our problem solved for good and only tomorrow will tell for sure.

IMG_4262[1]

Stay tuned for our next post!