Arcon_Logo.JPG (86476 bytes)Bahamas 2001 Trip Log

 

Vessel and Crew

Vessel: "Arcon" – 40 Foot, 1974 POST, Sports-Fisherman

                                                               Trip_Map3.gif (15573 bytes)

Crew:

 Tommy Lingan (Captain)

  Fred Phelps

   Paul Ray

   Mike McKinney

   Kim O’Haver (Chronicler)

Additional Trip Photos (Additional Trip Photos - New Photos added 7/04)

Planned Trip: A 3-4 week round-trip cruise from Tampa, Florida to the northern and central Bahamas including visits to Bimini, Grand Bahama, the Abacos, Nassau and, time permitting, Eleuthera.

Getting Ready

Friday April 20, 2001 Tampa, Florida

The boat has been in dry-dock at Imperial Yacht Center here in Tampa for a little over a week now in preparation for our April 30th departure. These preparations include preparing and painting the hull; both above and below water line… the superstructure and deck having previously been painted. Considering P1010028s.JPG (93522 bytes)the age of the boat, the long trip ahead, and the fact there has been some minor seepage of water into the bilge, it is decided to pull and inspect areas around most of the "below water" hull fittings. This procedure reveals several areas of minor rot that are the probable cause of this seepage and repairs are in progress. Sanding and prepping were essentially completed yesterday and above water paint goes on today. Below water bottom paint will follow in the next few days once the hull repairs have been finished. Other activities to be completed before departure include installation of outriggers, deck freezer and a bow roller for the new CQR type anchor purchased for the trip. It will be tight, but consensus is that we can still make our scheduled departure a week from this coming Monday.

Wednesday April 25, 2001 Tampa, Florida

Painting above the waterline is complete and electrical service for the deck freezer installed. Below water hull repairs are essentially complete and today hull fittings go back on. We probably spent more time on the sides than we should have, but, being an old wooden hull, it needs the extra attention. It will look sharp when complete. New Aluminum trim is here and still needs to be attached but will probably be one of the last things we do. P4260055sa.JPG (43083 bytes)The CQR anchor roller also remains to be installed. We learned yesterday that the freezer we had purchased, and had planned on attaching to the deck using the screw holes provided for its feet, doesn’t have feet (or holes)… it has a solid bottom with no easy access to its inside. We will have to come up with a alternate attachment strategy. Not a real problem, but it doesn’t help our timeline any. If all goes well today, tomorrow should be Bottom-Paint Day. Then back into the water for final "touchup" and cleanup. We can then stock the boat with provisions and our personal "stuff" and still get away from Tampa on the 30th as planned.

The Trip

Thursday May 3, 2001 Tampa, Florida

We leave the dock at Imperial Yacht Center at 1120. As you can see, we were somewhat delayed as the "final-touches" took longer than expected. Skies are overcast and winds light to moderate as we pull away from the fuel dock. We have done it… Several days late, but here we are starting the "big" trip.

Halfway out of Tampa Bay, the navigational electronics (both of the depth gages and the auto-pilot) start shutting off then back on again. This continues for 30 minutes or so before they completely stop working. The fact that several systems are being affected indicates a power or power distribution problem. An hour into the troubleshooting this problem, the starboard engine shuts down. Attempts to restart get no response from the starter. By this time we are south of Egmont Key, well outside the mouth of Tampa Bay, and this incident gets everyone’s attention. Power distribution is still our number one suspect. It takes another hour to isolate the problem… a loose connection on a common ground terminal… or at least, we think that is what it is. After running an extra wire from the negative battery terminal up to this point on the flying bridge, everything starts working again. It even continues working after the extra wire is removed… Terminal nut is re-tightened and everything seems to be working. We will have to keep our eye on this. Following this exercise, we have an uneventful cruise till we near Stump Pass. We plan on cutting in close to shore here to wave hello to Bernie, the Arcon’s owner, who was spending a few days at his beach house on Palm Island. Tommy has called him on the cell phone and he is waiting on the beach to wave and wish us well. As luck would have it, as we near shore, we run right into a "nest" of crab traps and manage to get one of their mooring lines tangled in the starboard prop. Mike to the rescue. Overboard, with knife in hand, and within minutes, we are on our way again. Mike informs us, between chattering teeth, that the water is still too chilly for swimming. By this time it is late afternoon and multiple rainsqualls are on the horizon in every direction. Our plan is to try and get as far south, on our first day out, as the mouth of the Caloosahachee River, near Fort Myers, before anchoring for the night. Our concern is making the first lock east of Fort Myers by Noon tomorrow in order to catch its only daily opening. However, turning into Boca Grande pass, one of these squalls coming from the NE catches us full force. By this time we are in the narrows of the pass and it is late twilight. We encounter heavy seas with waves breaking completely over the flying bridge. One of the mooring lines on the dingy works loose and we almost loose it to the squal. We are lucky as one of the mooring lines still holds keeping it hanging precariously over the rail but still attached. Going out onto the front deck to secure the dingy in these 10-foot seas is really not an option. Boca Grande Pass can become very nasty, very fast. With these strong winds, we decide to try and seek shelter in Pelican bay just inside the pass and behind Cayo Costa. It is dark, blustery and rough, but we successfully find our way into the anchorage. We will stay here tonight and get an early start in the morning. The weather is just too nasty to continue and it has been a long day… in fact, its been a long week. We have all put in many extra hours getting the boat ready for this trip and a good nights sleep will be appreciated by all.

 

Friday May 4, 2001 Cayo Costa

The gale force winds subsided during the night. Still partly overcast, we prepare to pull anchor at about 0630. For this trip, we have purchased a buoy type anchor puller and Tommy decides we should give it a try here even though it is a shallow anchorage and probably not the best test. The exercise is aborted when one of the boat’s rope cleats snap in two during the retrieval… We decide we need to understand a little better how this anchor puller works before trying to use it again. The anchor is raided by hand and we are once again on our way. Today is to be a trip through the Okeechobee Waterway to Stewart on the east coast of Florida where we would gunk out overnight in preparation for our trip across the Gulf Stream to Freeport, Grand Bahamas tomorrow. P5040083s.JPG (104325 bytes)As we travel up the Caloosahachee River, we pick up a family of Porpoise that want to play in our wake. For at least half an hour, they cavort over the big waves putting on quite a show… sometimes 2 or 3 out of the water at one time. When we finally make it to Ft. Myers, a planned fuel stop, the marina attendant informs us that a notice to mariners had been issued yesterday stating that the navigable water depth in Lake Okeechobee has been lowered from a safe (for us) 4.5 feet to 3.5 feet. This will be a problem as the Arcon draws 3.5 feet of water and, any seas at all, could put us in contact with the bottom. Not good as the bottom of Lake Okeechobee is hard lime rock. His advice is not to proceed as other boats of similar size have been having problems and are being forced to turn back. This development changes all our plans. After mulling it over for a while, we decide not to attempt the crossing, but instead, to head for Naples and then on to the Keys taking the shallow water route around Cape Sable. However, once we return to the Gulf and start south, we can see P5040087s.JPG (52584 bytes)large thunderheads and black rain-clouds stretching from Naples south... and the wind is freshening. Another change in plans… this time we will head farther west to the Dry Tortugas. The Weather in that direction looks a lot more inviting and the winds would be from behind, pushing us. We do pass through a small squall line, but there is no rain and once through, the skies are as blue as are the waters through which we are traveling. We have moderate, following seas for our crossing to the Dry Tortugas but no more rain.

 

Saturday May 5, 2001 The Dry Tortugas

We arrived in the Dry Tortugas around 2030 Friday night to a crowded anchorage between Garden Key (Fort Jefferson) and Bird Island. Most of the boats were sailboats and their mast lights suggested tall buildings giving one the impression of entering a city here at the southern terminus of our country. I am sure we didn’t make any friends as we motored in disturbing this sleeping city. It had been a long run from Ft. Myers and we were beat. P5050129s.JPG (63185 bytes)After a quick sandwich, we were ready to turn in and call it a day.

With the sun comes the realization that we are going to get no relief from the wind this day. There is still a stiff blow out of the NE and the VHF weather station (which we can only get intermittently) is preaching "Small Craft Advisories" for the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas. As we are continuing to have electrical problems we will use the day to "shoot" the system. The newly installed battery charger system does not appear to be working properly. During our crossing from Ft. Myers, we noticed that the volt meters monitoring our electrical system indicated a slow discharge condition. Tommy and Mike don their work clothes and climb into the engine room while the rest of us try to stay out of the way. Several hours of looking and head scratching does not resolve the issue. Do we or do we not have a problem? Time will tell. It is looking now as though we are not getting much if any charging on the batteries.

Since we are here in the Tortugas, we might as well do some sightseeing. P5050137s.JPG (36836 bytes)The Dingy is launched and several trips made to Ft. Jefferson which is crowded for such a remote place. The tent area is completely full and tour boats and seaplanes are coming and going all day. After our tour of Ft. Jefferson, Mike and Paul decide to try a little fishing from the Dingy. Pickings are slim but as they were return to the boat, Paul hooks and lands a nice Blue Runner. As Paul releases this fish (holding it under and pulling it through the water to revive it), a large barracuda, basking under our hull, dashes out and engulfs the fish just missing Paul’s hand. I think it may be sometime before Paul tries to revive a fish again in these waters.

As the sun sets and as we are enjoying a dinner of spaghetti and salad, we are visited by the park ranger. He has been visiting all the boats that had come in today or during the night and informs us that the community had complained to him about our generator running all night and that quiet hours in the park (no generator) started at 2200 each evening. He also informs us that the Arcon’s older style of waste dumping is no longer permitted in the park. We are invited to leave early the next morning and not to return until this system is upgraded to acceptable standards.

 

Sunday May 6 2001 Key West

After a leisurely breakfast, we depart the Tortugas around 0800. The winds are still high but we decide to attempt the run to Key West anyway. It is a very rough, and long crossing. Going past Rebecca Shoals P5060144s.JPG (86713 bytes)we have seas in excess of 8 feet and, worse than that, their frequency (distance between waves) is very short. There is a lot of crashing and heaving. Keeping one’s seat is the order of the day. Arriving in Key West, we proceed directly to the fuel dock as we knew we are running on fumes. It is a long way from Fort Myers to Key West by way of the Tortugas. After refueling, our charging problem is confirmed. The main batteries are too low to restart the engines. We are forced to jumper to the generator battery in order to start the engines. Shortly, we settle into a slip at the A & B Marina for the night and notice that as soon as we hook onto land power, our battery charger starts working properly. Switching back to the internal generator indicats that our charger is still working. We really do need to get a handle on this problem but that will wait for tomorrow. After a good "sit down" dinner at the Turtle Kraals Restaurant, we call it a day.

Monday is spent troubleshooting the battery charging system, cleaning the boat and doing laundry. We find that as long as we are plugged into shore power, the battery charger works fine either on shore or internal generator power. Several minutes after un-plugging from shore power though, all charging ceases not to work again until shore power is reattached whereupon everything once again works. In other words, even though our internal power generator is driving all of our other AC appliances (stove, air conditioners, freezer, etc.) the new battery charger will work on it only if we are plugged into shore power even though that power is not being utilized. Several phone calls to the installer in Tampa fail to resolve the issue. It appears as though he had never tested the new system with the shore power cables disconnected. At days end, we still have no resolution. Tuesday morning, we receive authorization from the installer in Tampa to swap-out the charger for a new unit from West Marine in Key West, which we do. However, the West Marine salesman informs us that there have been problems with this particular charger not working with some older model generators. We do the switch anyway but our problems continue. A decision is made to purchase a regular "plug-in" battery charger and to get on with the trip. The final resolution of this problem will have to await our return to Tampa. We depart Key West around 1500 hours and head for Marathon. Once again, it is rough and slow-going. We arrive at Marathon late dusk. Due to the heavy wind and a crowded condition at the anchorage we succeed in catching another boats anchor line creating a minor incident. It was well after dark before we are secure and ready for dinner (grilled chicken and a Greek salad).

 

Wednesday May 9, 2001 Marathon

It rained several times during the night and the heavy winds continue. Forecast is still calling for 15-20 knot winds for the next several days. We get a midmorning start planning on working our way north along the east coast waiting for an opportunity to cross to the Bahamas. It is still slow going. By late afternoon, we have crossed from the ocean to the bay side of the Keys at Channel Number 5, near Fiesta Key, and find ourselves in quiet, but shallow, waters. As it is a low tide and the going slow, we decide on an early anchorage pulling into a nice spot behind Tavernier on Plantation Key. It is a pleasant evening… the nicest we have had so far on the trip. We have grilled hamburgers and yellow rice for supper.

 

Thursday May 10, 2001 Plantation Key / Caesar’s Creek

This morning the seas are down… at least on the Bay side. We have a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and then decide to backtrack to Islamorada for fuel and possibly to exit back into the Atlantic and test the seas. At the fuel dock, we learn that fishermen are getting good catches of tuna near "The Hump" about 10 miles offshore. Thinking this will be a good test of what the seas are actually like near or in the stream, we decide to spend the day doing a little fishing. We have been on this adventure for a full week now and no real fishing has been attempted. Seas are still rough, but not as bad as those we had experienced crossing from the Dry Tortugas. Two trolling lines are set out as we travel toward "The Hump". About 4 miles from our destination, Fred yells "Fish On" or something to that effect. Several minutes later, we have our first fish onboard… a nice, eating sized, Dolphin Fish (also known as Mahi-Mahi or Dorado). At "The Hump", we boat 3 more dolphins before calling it a day and head back inshore to continue on our way on the Florida Bay side of the Keys. At dusk, we pull into Caesar’s Creek near the south end of Key Biscayne. If the weather holds (winds under 20 knots) we will attempt a crossing to Bimini early tomorrow morning. For dinner, we have grilled dolphin served with baked beans and coleslaw. Life is good.

 

Friday May 11, 2001 Caesar’s Creek to Bimini Bahamas

Before the sun was up, we are pulling anchor and heading out Caesar’s Creek for the Atlantic. Overnight, the wind has lessened to some degree but is still 10-15 knots out of the NE. Bimini is some 56 miles away and we will be heading generally into the wind the whole trip. Forecast is for 5-7 feet seas … (higher in the Stream). This should be a piece of cake compared to what we have already encountered off Rebecca Shoals. Our slow crossing (required by the high winds) will be ideal for trolling though we will be unable to keep any fish until clearing customs in the Bahamas… (seems they consider any fish onboard boat entering their waters to have been caught there and impose stiff fines on those not possessing a current Bahamian Fishing License). Anyway, we will release anything we catch today. About an hour out of Caesar’s Creek, zzzzzzzng goes one of the reels. "Fish on", someone yells. By this time we are well into the Gulf Stream and are encountering heavy seas. Paul is driving and Tommy, taking a break, grabs P5110174s.JPG (67171 bytes)the singing rod & reel, and sets the hook. The beautiful blue slash of a fish leeps out of the water, dancing across our wake. One… two… three times this gorgeous Mahi-Mahi races for the sky. It is a good fight. By this time, all hands, with exception of Paul (driving), are in the cockpit trying to help land the fish or take pictures. Several minutes pass and Mike hauls the large (30 + pound) fish into the boat. It is this fishes lucky day. Soon it is unhooked and returned to the sea to continue the fight another day. All of a sudden, a very loud foghorn interrupts our P5110176s.JPG (74701 bytes)celebration. While our attention has been on landing this fish, a large ship (freighter) has closed to within a few thousand yards of the Arcon and is now bearing down upon us at high speed. It appears to be aimed directly at us. This ship has literally come from nowhere. At the time the fish was first P5110178sa.JPG (45696 bytes)hooked, it had been a dot on the horizon… nothing to be concerned with. Now, here it is, almost upon us. Turning the Arcon around to put the wind at out backs and giving it full throttle, we made a hasty retreat. No harm done, but we could have done without this final punctuation to our first big catch. This incident is the highlight of our crossing. Several hours later we cruise into Bimini tying up for the night at the Bimini Big Game Fishing Club Marina. Strong currents and heavy winds add a little spice to the docking. As we had yet to clear customs, we must continue flying the yellow quarantine flag and all but the captain will have to remain aboard until clearance is granted. This procedure takes about an hour and, as it is still early afternoon, the crew disembarks for a little sightseeing of Alice Town… the only settlement on Bimini. We elect to dine aboard tonight finishing off leftover spaghetti.

 

Saturday May 12, 2001 - Bimini to Freeport, Grand Bahama

During the night, P5110182s.JPG (101049 bytes)the wind has dropped. It is a beautiful morning. We leave the dock around 0800 and as we pull out, Fred walks onto the dock waving frantically at us. It seems that, in the excitement of casting off, we did not notice he was not onboard. He has been settling our dock bill and almost gets left behind. We will have to do a better job of head count before sailing in the future. Today we will travel to Freeport taking it slow in order to troll on the way. As the seas are light, we also decide to give our new outriggers their first real test. Until now, we have not used them as we felt we needed a little experience using them in calm waters before deploying them in rough seas. The plan is to travel north from Bimini, hugging the Grand Bahama Bank, to the Great Isaac Light in hopes of finding some fish. Four lines are rigged. Two on the outriggers and 2 flat lines directly off the stern. We have no action until we near Great Isaac Light where we spot a large flock of feeding birds… the first real feeding action we have seen on the trip so far. As we approach, the water beneath them explodes. Streaks of silver… big fish, thousands of them are ripping the water apart. One second the water is calm the next at least an acre is frothy white. Zzzzzzzzng… zzzzzzzzng… two fish are on. Mike and Fred are at the rods. These are different. No jumping fish these. Long, fast runs and deep diving. Ten minutes or more pass and both fish are still on and neither Mike nor Fred is having much luck bringing either of their fish to boat. Suddenly, Fred’s line goes limp. His fish is off… it has spit out the hook. Mike is still at it but not making much headway. Long runs while Mike follows the fish from one side of the boat to the other. At last, …deep, one can see a silver shape. Not long , blue and slender like a dolphin, but something shorter and fatter. A few more minutes and we have our first tuna of the trip onboard. It is a nice Skipjack Tuna. The birds are still feeding and the fish still tearing up the water around us. In short order, all lines are back in the water and almost at once another "Fish-On" rings out… and then another. For over an hour, we have great, exciting fishing. When it is finally over, we have boated 2 more dolphins to go with the tuna and have hooked and lost several other fish. All are nice fish and one of the dolphins is a bull. Two small barracuda have also been caught and released. By this time, it is after noon and, although the fishing is good around Great Isaac Light, it is decided that we should continue our crossing to Freeport at a higher speed before it gets too late. We want to arrive there before dark. The outriggers are retracted and we add a little more speed and head north towards Grand Bahama.

It is late afternoon when we finally arrived at Port Lucaya Marina near Freeport. P5140201s.JPG (101405 bytes)Cleaning the fish attracts quite a crowd. This marina is close to several resorts catering to "fly-in" vacationers and our dock faces one of the main assembly areas for sightseers. At night, there would be a band playing and this assembly area would become a giant outdoors dance floor. But for now, these sightseeing tourists are asking such questions as; "did you really catch those fish?" "What kind of fish is that?"… "Can I take a picture of the fish?" Later, after we clean up, Tommy, Mike and I take a taxi to the International Bazaar, some 4 miles from the marina, while Fred and Paul stay behind to sample the local entertainment and food. The cab fare is expensive. Including the expected tip, it is $10 each way for the three of us. We find out later that there is a local bus that runs till 2000 that charges only $1 per person but that fact was not mentioned by the dock security guard when we asked what the best way was to get to the Bazaar. My guess is that he is getting a cut from the taxi drivers. The Bazaar, a large duty free market, is OK but somehow it doesn’t really capture our interest this night. Perhaps it is because it has been another long day and we are hungry and tired. Fred and Paul have probably made the better choice by staying at the boat dock. Anyway, we select a restaurant catering to locals that Tommy remembers from a previous trip. I order cracked conch, conch fritters, peas & rice, and a salad for my dinner. Both the conch entries and the peas & rice are excellent, but the salad is a miss… Chunk lettuce with unripe tomatoes and "out-of-the-bottle" French dressing on the side. As we were to find out, peas & rice are almost always served with Bahamian dishes out here and I for one really enjoy them. A recipe for this and other Bahamian dishes can be found here.  There is also a casino at the Bazaar and after dinner we decide to try our luck for a while. I had several coins in my pocket and donated them to a slot machine. Mike did the same but actually makes several dollars on his investment. After a while, Mike and I have had enough excitement and decide to return to the boat. Tommy will stay a bit longer which turns out to be profitable for him. He returns to the boat a little richer than when he left. When Mike and I get back, the band in the plaza at our dock is in full swing. The plaza is also very crowded with people. Local dancing seems to follow a variation of the "Line Dance" set to island and rock-n-roll… not country-western music. Everyone seems to be having a great time. It will be late before we finally get some sleep.

 

Sunday May 13, 2001 – Freeport Grand Bahama

During the night, the wind has all but stopped. It will be a warm and beautiful day. However, this will also be a "down day" as the boat is in need of a major housecleaning and we are all but out of clean clothes to wear. It will be mid afternoon before these mundane tasks are complete. As soon as we restock some of our groceries we will be ready for the out-islands. There is a problem here though. It is Sunday and grocery stores here are closed on Sunday. There is a Winn-Dixie about 3 miles from the marina, but it won’t open until 0700 Tomorrow morning. Fred, Paul and Tommy head back to the International Bazaar for more excitement while Mike and I remain onboard. By dinner time, everyone is back to the boat. All but Fred decide to once again sample a local restaurant and once again we select an establishment that seeme to be serving the locals. Mike and I order jerked chicken. We asked for the "hot" jerk sauce and what we get is HOT. Tommy orders curried conch and it too was very hot. Before he finishes his meal, he has a good case of the hiccups… a sure sign of a "good hot sauce". He is forced to order an extra Kalik (Bahamian beer) to help put out the fire. Paul has cracked conch and claims it is not hot at all, but good. All are served with island style peas & rice and coleslaw. By the time we return to the boat, the band is once again in full swing. I decide to read awhile and turn in early while others enjoy the festivities a little longer.

The next morning, P5140220s.JPG (60526 bytes)we are up early and take the bus to Winn-Dixie for our supplies. By 1000 we are onboard, fueled and back out to sea. The plan is to transit the island through the Grand Lucayan Waterway exiting on the north side of Grand Bahama and cross the Little Bahama Bank to the vicinity of Walker Cay. The Grand Lucian Waterway is interesting. It was dug in the early 70’s as part of a large real estate development that has since gone bust. Shortly after entering the waterway from the south end, there is a multi-story building probably intended as a condominium or hotel but never finished. There are other unfinished houses along the canal too. Only a very few actually look like they have ever been lived in. The few that are occupied have been well maintained. Perhaps the area will prosper again one day, but that time has not yet come. All along this canal are stack after stack of empty conch shells testimony to the abundance of this sea creature in these waters. The exit at the north end is shallow and the tide appears to be low as we approach. Tommy inches the boat out past the final markers with our shallow water alarm singing its protest. There are several boats standing off the last marker and I suspect they were waiting to see if we made it without running aground. It is a tense exit, but the boat makes it to deeper water without touching bottom. In fact, we don’t ever stir up any mud. The wind is light and we have a comfortable run across the bank. As we close on Walker Cay, we decide to change our course and head for Double Breasted Cay a short distance away in hopes of finding P5150235s.JPG (84678 bytes)a quiet anchorage for the night. It is late afternoon when Tommy throttles back and we inch our way into the quiet waters on the SE side of this deserted Cay. There are several other boats here already so we decide to enter one of the sloughs in search of a more private spot. As we round the point and head into the slough we also are heading directly into the sun… not the best light to be entering unknown waters. However, following directions shown on one of our charts, we continue for several hundred yards past 2 other anchored sailboats before finding a shallow rock with our props. "Crunch"… not a good sound. We had all been looking and not one of us sees this big rock right in the middle of the slough. The angle of the sun makes it difficult to see, but we should have known better then to come into these close waters without better visibility. As it turns out, there is 6 feet of water here in this slough, but it is on either side of the rock, which just happens to be in the very center. Steering the boat away from the rock, we anchor to survey the damage. It is also late and since we are already in there, we might as well stay for the night. Our survey reveals both props to have been damaged. Mike and Tommy hammer away at the bent blades for close to an hour, but it was going to be impossible to completely straighten them with the tools we had onboard. The largest hammer we have is a carpenter’s claw hammer. We can only hope they will not vibrate too much when we continue our trip in the morning. Otherwise, it is a beautiful anchorage. This is what we have come to the Bahamas for and some exploration is warranted. Before dark, we launch the dingy and Tommy and Paul take off to try their luck with some light tackle fishing while others snorkel the area looking for conch. I see no conch, but do find large numbers of small snapper and other reef fish. It is a beautiful spot. It is dark before Tommy and Paul returned with the dink. They had caught one small yellowtail snapper, which they release, but nothing else. We have London broil, green beans and baked potatoes for dinner. The meat is served with Siu’s (Tommy’s wife) oriental hot sauce (soy, jalapeno peppers and sesame oil). We all went to bed full and a little concerned about the props and what tomorrow will bring.

 

Tuesday May 15, 2001 – Double Breasted Cay

During the night, the wind switches. We awake to find ourselves still in a safe anchorage, but swinging in a different direction than we had been before going to bed last night. The wind has swung from the NE to E during the night and has picked up some speed. The plan is to get an fairly early start and, if there is little or no vibration from the props, to head for the reef exit off Walkers Cay and do some deep water fishing on the ocean side. Before leaving though, Mike and Tommy take the dink fishing one more time. As the sun comes up, the shallow rock we had hit yesterday becomes very obvious. With the sun behind us, it is clearly visible as a hazard. This has been a good lesson on why not to navigate unknown waters with the sun low and in your direction of travel. This rock, which is clearly visible now, had been essentially invisible to five pairs of eyes the previous evening. The returning fishermen have no keepers, but did catch and released several small fish plus one hound fish… a large, oversized needlefish good for a fight but not for eating.

We pull anchor and inch back out of the slough. As we reach deeper water, Tommy increases speed and sure enough, we have some serious vibrations. We will need to change out the props replacing them with an extra set we have brought for just such an occurrence. P5150237s.JPG (80231 bytes)Near the outside anchorage we had seen yesterday, there is a shallow, sandy area. We will anchor here and attempt the fix the problem. Most of the day is spent trying to remove the port prop. The retainer nuts are easy enough to remove, but, without a wheel puller, no amount of effort with the hammer will loosen the wheel from the shaft. Even a jerry-rigged wheel puller, made from 2 long lag-bolts and pieces of hardwood timber, fails to produce results. About 4 o’clock, we call Walkers Cay and made arrangements to have the props replaced there the next day. While Mike and Tommy are doing the hard work, I decide to take the opportunity and cook a pot of collard green soup for supper. It was a mixed hit with the crew. I guess liking collard green soup is an acquired thing.

 

Thursday May 17, 2001 – Walker’s Cay – Grand Cay

It is a slow ride to Walker’s Cay. Anything above about 6 knots produces unacceptable vibrations. It is near noon before we arrive at Walkers Cay. Entering this harbor for the first time is, in itself, an adventure. Many of the channel markers were ripped out by Hurricane Floyd and have not yet been replaced and most of those that remain no longer have any indication as to which side of the channel they mark. All the water to both sides of these markers look VERY shallow and our shallow water alarm is constantly singing its protest. However,P5160266s.JPG (71308 bytes) Tommy makes the right choices and entry is made with no bottom contact.

Walkers Cay is truly a beautiful place. It is strictly a resort as there are few if any permanent residences. Most all that work here commute from nearby Grand Cay. The island consists of a small, well-protected marina/harbor, with a hotel, a few rental cottages, restaurant, small grocery store for the boaters and a small airstrip. It also has a Customs Office and is a point of entry to the Bahamas. We are here between events so the marina is only half full of boats. However, remains from the recently held Bertram/Hetaeras Big Fish "Shoot-Out" are in evidence as there is still a large tent standing on the hotel lawn. From what I hear, it is impossible to get into this marina much of the year. There are regularly scheduled flights from Freeport and Ft. Lauderdale so one does not need a boat to enjoy Walkers Cay. Don’t come expecting a lot of tourist activities, but expect a beautiful, easy-going environment where they do have everything necessary for relaxing, diving and fishing.

Around 0100, the diver that is to replace the props arrives… wet suit and all. He will remove and replace the them right here at the dock. While this is being done, I take a walking tour of the island. As mentioned earlier, it is small. It does, however, have good elevation and walking inland one is offered magnificent vistas of the Bahamian shoals and remarkable blue waters in whichever direction one looks. At one point, as I watch, a seaplane approaches, lands and lumbers up a ramp and out of the water to exchange passengers only to shortly return, like a fat goose, ambling back down the ramp, into the P5160262s.JPG (109505 bytes)water, taxi out of the marina, point itself into the wind and once again return to the sky. About 2 hours later, the prop-job is complete… or so we think. By this time, it is almost 1600 and we think we might still be able to get in several hours of deep-water fishing before finding anchorage for the night. As Tommy applies power to the Arcon to move us out of our slip… "CRUNCH". We have backed hard into the concrete dock. The diver has put the props on in reverse… It is going to be another one of those days. By the time this oversight is corrected, it is really too late to go offshore for fishing, but it has been 2 days since we have had a line in the water so off we go anyway. We don’t go far. Just a little NE of Walkers Cay where we troll for about an hour with no hookups. Returning back through the pass at Walkers Cay, we head for the anchorage at Grand Cay just a few miles south. We follow a well-marked entrance into this quiet harbor and drop the anchor as the sun sets. It looked like it will be a very quiet evening and each of us hopped to get a good night sleep for a change. The plan is to leave early the next morning for a full days fishing offshore as we work our way south down the Out-Islands of the Abacos.

Thursday May 18, 2001 Grand Cay – Fox Town

All are up early and Fred fixes a large batch of pancakes for breakfast. Here we are in the vicinity of one of the hottest deep-water fishing holes in the world (Walkers Cay) and we all have high hopes for "big" fish today. We backtrack through the Walkers Cay cut and reach blue water early. Several faster boats pass us as we head for the fishing grounds outside the reefs north of Walkers Cay. They made for a beautiful sight viewed against the multi-shades of blues of these shallow waters inside the reef. The winds are near calm and it promises to be a beautiful day. Now all we need to have some fish find our lures. Outriggers are lowered and 4 rods set out with a varied selection of trolling lures. Scanning sea and sky, we are unable to see any feeding activity. No birds and no bait fish. Soon it is apparent… fish are not going to jump onto our hooks this day. We wait and watch the lines.

Several hours of trolling follows without a single strike. Everything is perfect except the fish seem to have taken a holiday. We finally turn the boat south and continue trolling down outside the Abaco reefs. Sometime after noon, we decide to shut down the engines near a large area of floating grass and try our luck casting to it as we drift along. This too proves ineffective. If the fish aren’t on the top, perhaps they are on the bottom. Rigging with heaver jigs, we try this with some luck. Several small Red Hinds in the 1-pound size are boated and Tommy, putting on a bit of cut bait we had saved from a previous catch, catches one nice Triger Fish. While these fish are beautiful and fun to catch, they aren’t what we are looking for. We probably could have caught more and larger fish if we had all switched to bait, but by this time, we are getting tired and it is still a good distance to our planned anchorage near Fox Town and the sun is getting low in the sky. Lines are pulled in and, putting on a little more speed, we head south again.

Not far from where we would make the cut through Moraine Cay Channel, near Umbrella and Allens-Pensacola Cay, and into the Fox Town anchorage, we spot a large flock of feeding birds. As we approach, one could see the feeding fish… most probably tuna… slashing beneath them. Speed is reduced and trolling lines deployed… "Hook-up", someone yelled. Maybe this day won’t be a waste after all. Mike has the fish on for several minutes before it leaps into the air throwing the hook. It is a tuna. An hour is spent trying to keep up with these fish, but they are moving much too fast to the north. After a long stretch of no additional strikes, we boat the tackle once again and continue to the anchorage. As we round the rocks at the north end of Hawksbill Cay and into our anchorage offP5170303s.JPG (43545 bytes) Fox Town, the waters has become calm as the water in a swimming pool. There is no wind at all this evening. Only one other boat is in the anchorage as we set the hook. It is still an hour before sundown and the crystal clear water inviting. A good swim will suffice for a shower and allow us to conserve our fresh water. The Arcon had a 60-gallon water tank and we had brought several jugs of additional water, but with 5 people on board, that doesn’t last long and water is expensive out here in the Bahamas. We filled up at Walkers Cay to the tune of 30 cents/gal. For supper, we have yellow rice and chicken. The sunset, on these calm waters, is particularly beautiful this evening.

 

Saturday 19 May 2001 Fox Town – Green Turtle Cay – Great Guana Cay

We have a leisurely breakfast of pancakes before heading back for another day of trolling. The seas are calm and Tommy finds the drop-off and trolls us south, zigzagging across the ledge. The drop-off (ledge) here plunges almost instantly from about 350 feet to something much deeper than either of our depth sounder on board can register… something well over 1,000 feet deep. Fast, slow, change lures everything but go deep… still no fish. Not even any signs of fish… several lone birds flying to every point on the compass and none of them feeding. We also see very few other boats and most we do see are either sail or motor trawler… not fishermen.

Early afternoon, as we near Manjock Cay and the Manjack Channel that will take us to Green Turtle Cay where we plan to spend the night, we decide to try some more bottom fishing. Putting a piece of leftover ham on his hook, Mike catches a small Red Hind which we then cutup for bait. Strikes are fast and continuous and we catch a nice mess of Red Hinds and a few yellowtail snapper. I decide to stick with jigging artificials in hopes of catching something bigger and eventually do land a 5-6 pound Scamp. Tiring of bottom fishing, we continue on our way trolling at a slow speed toward Manjack Channel. As we enter the channel, a large family of dolphin (the mammal) comes leaping toward the boat. They stay with us for several miles and, before it was over, we have 15 or 20 swimming at the bow. While this is going on, P5190350s.JPG (62469 bytes)I am sitting on the stern watching the 4 trolling lines when I see either a large King Fish or Wahoo jump clear of the water right at one of the lures… missing it. That is the only trolling action we will see today. We still do not seem to have the right technique or tackle for fishing this area. Not a major problem as we are passing though some of the most beautiful waters any of us has ever seen and the weather is perfect.

It is late afternoon when we enter Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay and tie up at the Black Sound Marina… a small marina with the most reasonable dockage we have encountered so far on the trip at $0.75/foot plus electricity and water (metered). Showers are also available at $3.00 each and Washing/Drying machines at $12/load. We pass on both of the latter luxuries. The town of New Plymouth is a short walk from the marina. We have dinner that evening at Laura’s Café. The menu includes Grouper, Conch, Shrimp (all lightly breaded and fried) and P5190344sa.JPG (81299 bytes)BBQ Pork Ribs. We sampled them all and found each to be excellent. Prices range from $16-$18 per dinner which included coleslaw, peas & rice and potato salad. It is a good meal and, while several of the crew decide to see a little more of the town, Mike and I make our way back to the boat and call it a day. It is a very warm night and we use the air conditioners for the first time on this trip. The next morning, we once again visit New Plymouth for some sightseeing and picture taking. We also want to visit the local hardware/fishing tackle store and food market. Prices for everything is high. I pick up 2 new fishing lures (cedar plugs) which have been recommended as "the thing" to catch tuna with in the area. I also buy 2 loafs of local Bahamian bread (coconut and raisin) to try as I have heard nothing but good things about the breads baked here in the Bahamas. These loafs are still warm from the bakery and prove to be very tasty served with butter. Mike takes this opportunity to get the haircut he missed before leaving Tampa.

Early afternoon we leave the dock for a leisurely cruise to our next stop… Great Guana Cay. We will be running inside the reef for this trip so no fishing is planned for the day. I have seen photographs of the waters around reefs the world over, but not one of these even comes close to capturing the actual colors we are seeing in these waters between Green Turtle and Great Guana Cays. Breathtaking! The brilliant blues and greens have to be seen to be believed. We are also entering a more populated area of Abaco and many more boats are seen inside the reef than we had been seeing during our travels on the outside. We dock at Orchid Bay Marina P5200421sa.JPG (72695 bytes)early afternoon and decide to head to the beach for a swim. Tommy, Mike and Paul go ahead and Fred and I follow. However, we make a wrong turn and end up taking a walking tour of the interior of Great Guana Cay. Some 5 miles later, we finally find our way back to the boat having still not seen the beach which would have to await another day. The other crewmembers almost get to the beach but are unable to make it past Nippers, the local watering hole. No one will reach the beach today.

For supper, I fry up some of the Scamp and Red Hind we caught yesterday. It is served with yellow rice and enjoyed by all. We will miss the "Pig Roast" at Nippers tomorrow, as we have to leave before 0900 because all slips at this marina had been reserved.

 

Sunday May 20, 2001 – Great Guana Cay

We leave the dock around 0900 with the intention of spending the morning fishing offshore then returning to anchor off Man-o-War Cay for some snorkeling. We have still not found our first keeper sized conch. P5200403s.JPG (87486 bytes)Fishing again proves uneventful. We fish up and down the Atlantic off Great Guana Cay till early afternoon when we pull in the outriggers and head for Man-o-War Cay. In route, a thunder storm builds over our destination. If we continue, we will run right into it. A change of plans and we head back to Orchid Bay Marina. A call on the radio verifies that they have had a last minute cancellation and now have a spot for us. Instead of snorkeling off Man-o-War Cay, we will walk to the Atlantic side of Great Guana Cay and give it a try and maybe catch the "Pig Roast" at Nippers later. This time we don’t get lost… we follow the crowd. Nippers is perched upon a sand dune and has a grand view of the Atlantic Ocean. It is crowded. It appears this "Pig Roast" thing is a big local event and people come from all the surrounding cays to partake.

The view from Nippers is spectacular. Absolutely gorgeous, crystal clear waters in every possible color of blue. There is light surf today and, as we have brought our masks & snorkels and come dressed to swim, we decide to take a closer look. A very short distance, perhaps 20 yards from shore, there are what, from a distance, look like patches of grass but what turn out to be rock ledges and shallow reefs. We observe a wide variety of marine life from Octopus to trigger fish and thoroughly enjoy our swim. The large crowd at Nippers dissuades us from trying to get dinner here though. It is a real madhouse and getting service could be a real challenge. P5200436s.JPG (71746 bytes)Returning to the boat, Tommy, Mike and Paul take a right turn and end up at a local restaurant and have a Bahamian Buffet. Fred and I miss the turn and have boiled hot dogs on board for supper.

Several local fishermen have indicated that one of the reasons we may not be catching fish is the time of day we have been fishing. According to them, this time of the year most fish are caught either early in the morning or late evening. Our fishing, so far, has been from mid morning to mid afternoon. So… tomorrow, we decide we will get an early start and see if that will improve our luck.

Monday morning, we pull out of the marina around 0700. We follow our route of yesterday and have lures in the water before the sun is high enough to see the colors in the water. Not long and we have our first strike. It is a big fish, but we never get to see what it is. It spits the hook. All morning we continue trolling north chasing sporadic flocks of birds… even occasionally seeing fish strike beneath them... but to no avail. It is late morning before we finally catch a nice tuna and it is to be our last strike of the day.

Mid day, we pull our lines and head for anchorage off Elbow Cay, near Hope Town. We will do some snorkeling and dink around a bit before dark. Getting there is a bit hairy. Following a course suggested in one of our guidebooks, we find ourselves in very shallow water that doesn’t show on the charts… Where we are expecting 6-7 feet of water, we have found less than 4 feet. Since our draft is 3.5 feet, it gets our attention. P5210461s.JPG (50625 bytes)All is well in the end as we enter deeper water at the anchorage without once touching the bottom. It is to be a beautiful anchorage… In this case, we had used the wrong guidebook. One of the others we have tells of 3 ˝ feet of water in the area and recommends a alternate route to this anchorage. The anchorage is just off Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay and in front of a 3-story beach house once owned (we are told by one of our books) by Burl Ives. There are 2 motor-trawlers of our size sharing the anchorage and a listing, grounded sailboat. We discover later that we have entered the anchorage at a low tide and after a few hours, things get much better. The sailboat is upright again and moves out of the anchorage before dark.

Since it is going to be a quiet night, I take the opportunity to start a pot of pinto beans using the leftover ham bone for seasoning. Mike cleans and steaks the tuna which we would later charbroil and have with the beans and coleslaw for supper. The dink is lowered and Tommy and Paul take a trip over to Tilloo Cut to check out this narrow pass to the Atlantic and its surrounding beaches. They would also do a little fishing. P5210460s.JPG (54058 bytes)

While they are gone, a giant stingray that had come after the cleaning scraps from the tuna visits us. It is big enough to completely devour the large tuna head. Mike also takes a swim and brings up several shells and a large starfish for Fred’s collection. The returning fishermen bring tales of beautiful beaches and of spotting several bone fish, but no additional fish for the freezer. Both Tuna and Beans are outstanding. Even the coleslaw, which I have been requested to make like the pineapple coleslaw we had at New Plymouth, is not shabby. All in all, it has been a great day. We have not run aground nor hit a dock and we have caught fish. Could anyone ask for more?

 

Tuesday 22 May, 2001 Elbow Cay - Nassau

Our original plan for today was to leave Elbow Cay early and cruise/fish over to Spanish Wells on Eleuthera Cay. However, after studying the charts, which show a difficult entry into Spanish Wells harbor, Tommy decides to run directly into Nassau instead. Nassau will be a longer run, but it will be an easier night entry than will Spanish Wells.

We awake to a freshening wind so we suspect it will be a rough crossing and we have nearly 100 miles to go. We exit Tilloo Cut, between Elbow and Tilloo Cays, into the Atlantic around 0800. Not only do we need to get an early start because of the distance, but we want to catch the high tide which occurs at about this time. P5220462s.JPG (77905 bytes)Passage out of the narrow Tilloo Cut is rough but not dangerous. However, I don’t think I would like to attempt this pass with either a high wind or strong tide. It looks as though it could be a problem under any but near ideal conditions. Once we are well offshore and heading south, two trolling lines are put out. There will be no outriggers today due to the increasing wind and expected rough seas. Not 30 minutes into our trip… "Fish-On" someone sings out. Fred has the rod and, from the looks of its bend, it will be a nice fish. This is probably one of, if not the largest fish Fred will catch on this trip. It is several minutes before the fish is identified as a good sized Dolphin. Mike coaches Fred throughout the battle showing him the proper "pump & reel" technique used to bring big fish to the boat. Some 10 minutes pass before Mike sinks the gaff into a large P5220474s.JPG (65797 bytes)P5220479s.JPG (76972 bytes)25+ pound Dolphin. It is a great catch. This will set the tone for today’s fishing. Throughout the day, "Fish-On" is heard again and again. Many of the strikes we miss, but before the day is over, we have a total of 6 Dolphin, ranging from 20 to 40+ pounds on board. Had we not a destination in mind and a desire to reach it before too late, we could certainly have many more fish on board.  We leave several schools of feeding birds and fish before they are fished out.

Later in the afternoon, as we get closer to Nassau, "Fish-On" rings out for a final time this day. It is on Mike’s rod and it is a big one. Several runs and a deep dive ends in a final longer run during which the fish seemed to give up the fight. Mike reels frantically and we are all watching the water to see what is going on. Has he lost the fish? No… well, not exactly. After much reeling, Mike pulls up the head of a large tuna. It seems a shark decided it wanted the rest of it more than we do. We estimate that the tuna would have weighed around 100 pounds had its body still been attached. Even so, Mike is able to cut two 5-pound steaks off the head part the shark P5220481sa.JPG (110197 bytes)left him. Too bad… this would have been the catch of the trip. As it is, this day has been one we will all remember. Each crewmember caught at least one fish.

It is dark as we enter Nassau Harbor. Looking through our Bahamas Cruising Guide, we choose the Hurricane Hole Marina and call to reserve a slip. Once docked, we discovered their published docking fee of $1.50/foot has been increased to $2.50/foot when new owners took over several months earlier. We also found out that they have showers, but they had closed at 2000 and it is 2030 when we dock… It also turns out to be located on Paradise Island across the harbor from Nassau and a long walk over the bridge for supplies. We also discover we didn’t have the right connectors on our power cables to attach to their 50 amp service. We have 30 amp connectors. Not a good marina choice for us, but it would have to do for the night as other marinas are already closed. There is a poolside bar next to our dock that we are told makes a great hamburger sandwich so maybe the evening wasn’t a complete disaster… Early next morning, we would try and locate a more reasonably priced marina on the Nassau side. In the mean time, it was a hot, humid night in Nassau and here we were at an expensive dock having to use our own, noisy, power generator to run the air conditioner so that we can stay cool through the night. We were expecting a quiet night on shore power. On well…

 

Wednesday May 23, 2001 – Nassau

It is early when we settle our bill and move across the harbor to Nassau Yacht Haven. A much better deal. Not only is it on the Nassau side, but also dockage is only $1.00/ft compared to the $2.50/ft at Hurricane Hole. It is mid morning by the time we complete the move and it is already hot and humid. It will be another air conditioning day but this time we are able to plug into shore power. We also need to do laundry and make a trip to the local supermarket (another Winn-Dixie) to tweak our supplies. Otherwise, P5240492s.JPG (55729 bytes)the day is one of R & R. Fred and Paul take a bus trip around Nassau and Tommy returns to the casino for another bout with lady luck. For supper, we have fried chicken, buttered egg noodles and leftover ham and beans. As an experiment, I try using the fish breading on the fried chicken. It turns out excellent. It is late evening when we finally turn in.

Early next morning we awake to rain. During the night we had seen distant lightning but this seems to be only rain. We check the VHF radio and are able to get a marine forecast. There is a trough breaking up over southern Florida and a cold front approaching that is expected to stall over central Florida. 10-15 Knot winds are forecast for the central Bahamas. We decide to wait awhile to see what this weather is going to do. By late morning, it has cleared enough locally that we decide to leave for Chub Cay in the Berry Islands... a distance of some 40 miles. Just as we clear the west entry to Nassau Harbor and point the boat toward Chub Cay a dark weather cell materializes on the horizon in that direction. We have gone no more than 5 miles before it is obvious that to continue will put us in the middle of the worst of it. Decision time… P5250540s.JPG (47374 bytes)Tommy reverses course and as we head generally back in the direction of Nassau and New Providence, one could see the rain already hitting the islands west end. The cell is moving fast from SW to NE and a decision made to try and slide around its backside and continue our journey on to Chub Cay. It turns out to be a good choice as the cell whips on past us and we don’t even get any rain out of this one.

Continuing on our course, about an hour out of Nassau, "Fish-On" is heard again.  Mike is first to the rod, but it is Tommy’s turn to fight the fish. We know almost at once that this is a big one. It jumps several times reveling itself to be the largest Dolphin we have seen so far on this trip. Many minutes pass and several more jumps before Tommy has the fish to the boat. This fish will go well over 50 pounds and is a beautiful bull. As these things go, and as the P5240525s.JPG (80912 bytes)fish is brought to gaff, it spits the hook… right at the stern of the boat. In fact, the freed lure shoots up into the flying bridge narrowly missing Paul at the wheel. This fish would live to fight another day. All we get is the fun of the fight and some good pictures for our archives. The next fish is Paul’s. A nice 30 pound Dolphin that does make it to our fish-box. While we are landing this one, another weather cell approaches. Tommy decides to have us pull our lines and trys to outrun it with no success. However, it turns out to contain only rain...  no wind or lightning and the seas remain calm to moderate, as they have been all day. As the rain slows, lines are once again deployed. Before we arrived at Chub Cay, we have several more fish on and Fred boats another nice dolphin.

It is mid-afternoon when we dock at Chub Cay Club Marina. There are several other fishing boats here and all have caught fish today. Two boats report catching and releasing sailfish and several Wahoo have also been taken. We hear from a fisherman that one of the boats had an incident while boating a Wahoo. It seems the fish, while trashing about in the boat, had slashed one of the fishermen’s arms wide open… A helicopter evacuation had to be called in from Florida to fly him back to the States for treatment. It appears that one needs to be careful when handling these big fish. This fish was said to be over 100 pounds and I can only imagine what a 100 pound King Fish, related to the Wahoo, would be like to handle. Both these fish have big, razor sharp teeth.

We have grilled dolphin, tomato-basil-garlic pasta and mixed vegetables for supper. P5240527s.JPG (76187 bytes)The evening is spent enjoying the music and revelry with the boat crew next door. These people are visiting Chub Cay from their home waters of the British Virgin Islands to fish the Bahamas. It seems the grass is always greener in someone else’s pasture. I would have thought the Virgin Islands would have had the better fishing.

 

Friday May 25, 2001 – Chub Cay

We have a leisurely breakfast of cold cereal and contemplate the weather. There is a moderate breeze blowing and it is completely overcast with rain cells imbedded throughout the area. Perhaps these cells will be "rain-only" as yesterday and contain no winds or electricity. We really need to travel today if we are to get back to Tampa by Monday, which is Paul’s deadline. We have perhaps 10 miles of deep water to travel before entering the shallow waters of the Bahamas Bank. Our route will take us some 60 miles over this bank to Gun Cay cut between Gun Cay and Cat Cay at which point we will re-enter the deep water of the Straights of Florida and will cruise on into Bimini for the night. With exception of an occasional rain shower, the trip is uneventful. We toll until entering the bank but do not get any strikes. The winds remained low and there is an abundance of boat traffic going in both directions to and from the Berry Islands. We arrive at Bimini before dark and dock at the Bimini Blue Water Marina. P5260558s.JPG (57939 bytes)This being Friday of a holiday weekend, there is a crowd of boats in Bimini. In fact, we get the last slip at the Bimini Blue Water Marina. Many boats intending to get dockage that night have to anchor out. We have supper at the marina restaurant, which is located on the ocean side of Bimini with a good view of the water. Those of us that go (Fred and Mike snacked onboard) have the "Fisherman’s" platter, which includes lobster, cracked conch, grouper and shrimp. Mine is served with island style peas & rice and I also get a side order of conch fritters. The others have baked potato and conch chowder. A small salad bar is also available but we pass on the desert. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and view, but the food is nothing special. After dinner, Tommy and Paul decide to check out the entertainment at The Complete Angler Hotel (one of Ernest Hemingway’s old hangouts) and I return to the Arcon to find a general dock party in progress. It is still drizzling, but this does not seem to spoil the enthusiasm of these holiday vacationers. Tommy and Paul return shortly and after a short time we all turn in. Weather permitting, we will cross the stream tomorrow for Miami or another destination farther south.

 

Saturday May 26, 2001 – Bimini – Islamorada

The weather report is for unsettled weather with winds increasing and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. We get an early start and decide to run fast in an attempt to cross the stream before the bad weather settles in. As it turns out, the seas are in the wrong direction for a comfortable crossing to Miami. We will have a longer run but a more comfortable one if we head farther south instead. A new course is set for Islamorada and, as we travel farther south, the weather improves. No rain today and by the time we cross into Florida Bay at Snake Creek, it was almost calm. We will spend this night at the same qunk hole we used on our out-bound trip… behind Tavernier. We had charbroiled chicken, buttered noodles and stewed tomatoes for supper. Everyone retires early, as it has been a long day of running.

 

Sunday May 27, 2001 – Tavernier

We get an early start. Fred makes pancakes while we head for fuel at Plantation Marina. It’s low tide and slow going. The plan is to take the inside route from Marathon rounding Cape Sable and then to make a final destination choice… either Naples or Boca Grande. Seas are calm but it is going to be a cloudy day. We spot many schools of bait fish and try trolling some of them with no success. There will be no additional fish this day. At decision time, we decide to head for Boca Grande. However, we later change that destination to Naples as a large storm front develops between Boca Grande and us. We enter Gordon Pass at Naples as it starts to rain. We have missed the main storm but there is some lightning. We anchor just inside the Pass in a small bayou adjoining a plush residential area. The light rain continued for an hour or two but stops before sundown. We have London Broil, Yellow Rice and Baked Beans for supper.

 

Monday May 28, 2001 – Naples – Tampa

We get an early start as we hope to arrive back home in Tampa before dark. Before heading north, we go into the Naples City Docks to top off the fuel tank. This takes a little longer than expected because a sailboat, returning from the Dry Tortugas, has pulled in just ahead of us and appears to be filling every empty container on board. They have taken the middle of the dock so we are forced to standoff for perhaps 30 minutes waiting for them to depart. It is here too that Tommy finally makes contact with and clears us through US Customs. We had been unable to reach them before now and were still flying the yellow quarantine flag. It seems we had been using an old telephone number that had been disconnected. It is almost 0900 before we finally pull away from the docks and return to the Gulf. This final leg of our journey is pretty much uneventful. The seas are nearly calm and we see lots of schooling bait (sardines) everywhere, but not many striking fish. We do slow down and capture some of the bait and try trolling with it through several of the larger pods of bait and Mike does catch one Bonita, but the fish are just not hungry. It is a cloudy day and there are large thunderheads over land for the entire trip, but none of this weather crosses into the Gulf so we have smooth sailing all the way into Tampa. We arrive back at Imperial Yacht Center at 1930. It has been a great trip but a long one. Each of us will surly enjoy sleeping in our own bed at home this night.

Kim O'Haver
Home Page: http://www.pipeline.com/~kohaver

 

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The Crew: (left to right) Tommy, Kim, Mike, Paul and Fred

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(Revised - 7/9/2004)