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ADDITIONS TO THE BLOG as of the 23rd June 2015 (NZST): Shamal and her Crew are cruising the east coast of the US * Should you want to contact us you can do so by clicking on the Contact Us tab below. * We recommend that you subscribe to the Blog, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox.

04 August 2015

Florida – U.S.A.

051 Passing through reef entrance, Provo We were on a pole mooring in Turtle Cove Marina, Providenciales – Caicos, which we had gone in bow to, and only just squeezed in. With the help of a Danish yachtsman we were able to back out with only an inch or so to spare. We followed a mono out through Sellar’s Cut – the opening in the reef, and hoist the sails once more.  Another glorious day with winds from the east at 16kts., some whitecaps and a following sea of 1.5mts.  The evenings are cooler with no moon.  Day 2 and we are able to hoist the MPS and give it another airing.  We are able to fly it until just before midnight when the winds strengthen, so down it came as it is only for winds up to 17kts.

055 SHAMAL under MPS on leaving Caicos Each day I put the fishing rod out but all I catch is that golden seaweed.  Day 5 and we have now entered the Santaren Channel which runs along the western side of the Great Bahama Bank.  We have chosen not to cross the Bank this trip, but run further south and keep in the deeper waters of the Old Bahama Channel which then runs into the Santaren Channel. and, we have totally lost the wind.  The seas are so flat and calm.  It is like a mill pond !!! and a very hot day – temperatures are well into the mid 30’s, but a good day to do some jobs.  Alec polishes the stainless steel and I start cleaning. Early afternoon and my line takes off.  It certainly is something fairly big.  As I bring it in we see it is some type of swordfish.  Oh help, this is a bit too big for the freezer.  It would be such a pity to waste it, so we make a decision to let it go, but not before taking photos.  Later we learn from our fishing expert in the UAE, many thanks Graham, that we caught a Short-billed Spearfish.  Also he says they are not common in these waters.

065 A Short-billed Spearfish062 A Painted Yacht On A Painted Ocean Later that evening with still not a breath of wind we stop the boat for a swim.  The water temperature is just perfect.  This is becoming a very slow trip due to the light winds, but off the Florida coast we pick up the Gulf Stream which carries us along at 8kts for a time.  We arrive off West Palm Beach well before daylight and once again do not want to enter in the dark.  Alec sees that it would be no good to hove to as the current would still carry us well past our destination, so we put third reef in the main, full jib out, and turn SHAMAL back around the way we had just come – into the 4kt current.  Our speed through the water is now 5kts, BUT speed over the ground is only 1kt.  Therefore we only did 3nm in the wrong direction.  If we had faced the correct way we would have gone 15nm in the 3hrs, past our destination. All quite technical but it worked really well.

001 Entrance into West Palm Beach, Flordia 014 Homes at entrance to West Palm Beach We pulled into the Riviera Beach Marina, West Palm Beach to do our check in procedures.  We had just completed a 659nm run.  There was an English couple who had also just arrived, so we shared a taxi out to the airport together where we made our visit all legal !!  We discovered this couple were also in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, at the same time as us.  Roy and Madeline Hibberch off “Mithril”.  As I explained in a previous Blog we had obtained our US Cruising Permit in Porto Rico which is valid for one year, and, before we left Europe we had obtained a ten year multi entry visa which is valid for a six month visit at a time.  We were surprised we were not met by Homeland Security, Customs or Quarantine, and that the boat was not searched.  This made for a very pleasant arrival procedure.

008 Holiday Weekend, Peanut Is. West Palm Beach The following day was Memorial Day – a big holiday, so we moved off the pontoon and motored up under one of the many bridges on the Intracoastal Waterways – this one was fixed with a clearance of 65ft. To the top of our mast is 58ft !!!!! then back again to anchor off Peanut Island just inside the entrance to West Palm Beach, and rested. The place was insanely crowed with holiday makers.

017 Bridge opening on ICW, heading north Next day it was time to head north to Stuart – this is where we will have our new sails made.  We decided we would do the trip along the coast to make use of the current, and had motored back out to sea again when we read up that the Stuart entrance is over a bar which is only recommended for “local” use due to the shifting sands.  So we motor back in again and now get our first experience of using the ICW – Intracoastal Waterways. It takes us seven hours to do the 30nm trip.  We had to pass under 1, and through 8 bridges, sometimes waiting 20 or more minutes for them to open to allow you through. Some will open straight away for you, and others only open on the hour or half hour.  The route took us past beautiful waterfront homes, through towns, and through the swamp areas which have been dredged.

The ICW runs from Key West, South Florida all the way to Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk, Virginia. It is approximately 1200 miles of dredged navigable canals running just inland parallel to the coast.  There is a speed restriction in many places to protect the manatees – what we call dugong or sea cows.

At Stuart we leave the ICW and enter another channel which takes us into Manatee Pocket, known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” !! We drop anchor, and from here set out to find our sail loft.  The time has come for the old sails to be finally removed – for good !!  While all this is going on we have a call from our daughter up in Connecticut saying she is bringing the boys down for a two week holiday while the sails are being made.  She will fly into Fort Lauderdale, which means we will return via the waterways to West Palm Beach.  From there we hire a car to pick them up from the airport.  It is well over a year since we have seen our grandchildren, so it is very exciting. 

035 Matthew, Peanut Is. 036 William, Peanut Is. Our first week is spent around Peanut Island where the waters are clean and warm with lovely sandy beaches for the boys to play on.  We find a play ground when a change of scene is needed.  This is where Alec was threatened with a red sticker, his first citation - yes that is right.  We had tied the tender under the big bridge well out of the way, not being able to find any where else to leave it, and, we locked it to a fence. We then took the boys into the play area to use the slides at the park, then off for a walk. On returning we are approached by the CEO of the park who told us we COULD NOT leave the tender where we did.  When Alec asked where we were meant to leave it, the guy said he didn’t know, there was actually nowhere.  Come on, how do all these people come ashore.  He said some come ashore in there tenders because they don’t want to use the marina where you have to pay, but they are not meant to.  The marina was NOT in walking distance from the park and amenities we were using.  We read later that a by-law is trying to be passed in their State Parliament where no-one can anchor within 200 yards from any homes built along the waterways.  Well that would make it impossible to stay the night on most part of the waterways in this area, as they are not even 200 yards wide in some places.Thousands of boats use them – is that not what they are for.

111 Back in the Tender 113 Back in the play area We moved SHAMAL around the Island anchoring in different places.  On the first occasion we up anchor, it won’t budge. Brigitte goes overboard to see what it is stuck on, then Alec goes over as well.  Out comes the Power Snorkel and they both go down again.  The chain is caught around a bow-sprit on an old sunken yacht.  Thank goodness it does not take them long to untangle us.  Our next anchorage on the other side of the island also saw us getting the chain snagged, this time around a rock, but that came unhooked by just driving the boat around it thank goodness. After a week there, we motored south towards Fort Lauderdale and dropped the anchor about half way in a small lake.  Most of the lake was very shallow and the last bridge attendant gave us directions where to park among some other boats. These guys do a great job and are polite and helpful. Later that evening one of the boat owners came out in his tender and told us we it was a big lake and we were too close to his boat.  Rather paranoid, but we moved a little just to appease him.  The next anchorage was where Alec was once again told he had parked the tender in the wrong place – a public wharf !!!!  This was after we had dropped Brigitte and the boys off for their return flight to Connecticut.  It was the water police who told us we were parked in the wrong place, and again were not too sure where we could tie up ??

William's Green Frog !! As we were loading everyone and the luggage into the tender for that last trip ashore, William was trying to tell Poppa that there was a “green frog” .  No one was taking any notice till Brigitte turned and saw a rather large iguana had swam out to the boat and climbed out onto the outboard motor.  I have never seen the Brigitte evacuate the boys and herself from the tender so quickly.

Alec and I returned to West Palm Beach taking the coastal passage, then back into the waterways to reach Stuart.  The sails were ready and fitted, some new lines, main sheet traveller replaced, new track and Carr on the boom for the main outhaul, a new mast anchor light which works on a sensor so it will come on at night and off at dawn when at anchor, etc etc.  We are working through the list of jobs.  All a bit of a rush, but we are ready to keep heading north.

Our next leg to New Smyrna Beach is 132nm which will be another overnighter. We decide as it is the weekend we will follow the other million boats out through the passage to the open sea as they all must have “local” knowledge they way they skim through the waters here. We also have had a call from Brigitte asking if we could leave the boat somewhere safe and fly up to Connecticut to mind the boys while she is off on a trip to Europe with a new job, and Dan is away flying as well.

IMG_2686 We have friends in New Smyrna Beach who offer us the use of their waterways pontoon which was wonderful.  Ed and Aubrey Lunsford.  Our first night is spent at anchor in the waterways, then the following morning we pick Ed up and he navigates us around to his pontoon.  We would have run aground if he had not been onboard.  Aubrey met us with her wheelbarrow.  Aubrey how practical – a fellow sailor understanding the needs of cruisers.  Yes she was there to collect our laundry.  I do have my small washing machine, but we had had the family with us which always creates more than our usual.  Also while we are away we will be able to leave SHAMAL in very safe hands on their dock which is just wonderful.  They also have a Seawind 1160, which at this time is out in the Bahamas.  Even though they have their other catamaran on the pontoon, they make room for SHAMAL. Ed and Aubrey are the most hospitable hosts.  We stay with them while making arrangements to fly north.

So Friday 26th June sees us leaving SHAMAL for a couple of weeks while we head out of Orlando via Washington, and on to Hartford where we will be minding our “ Munchkins”.

Love to you all from

The Admiral and the Commander

01 August 2015

Puerto Rico and onto the Turks & Caicos

We were able to clear out from Sint Maarten the afternoon before leaving for Puerto Rico. This meant we were underway just on day-break.  With sails up we clear the island and change tack to get onto the correct heading.  Oh “B” the mainsheet traveller has jammed up.  This will be interesting.  We need this to move the main sail from the port to starboard tack and back !!!  Something in the workings of it has failed !!  After about five minutes Alec manages to get it to work, but with difficulty. It will need an overhaul very soon.  Another job to add to the tech list which is now growing longer by the day it seems.

001 Trying to Fish !!! We have a lovely sail with eastly winds giving us a good push from the aft quarter.  The seas are between 1-2 mts but this is something SHAMAL handles with ease and it is a comfortable ride.  During the night we pass the British and US Virgin Islands out to our STBD side some 28nm away.  We have an almost full moon which makes for a lovely night passage.  The main and jib are still holding together, but, Alec is still adding a patch here and there to keep them together.  Not long to go now before they will be replaced – just on a 1,000nm till we reach Stuart in Florida where the job will be done !!!!!!  We also have the rod out again fishing, but all we are catching is the golden seaweed.  This is becoming very frustrating.

We are now hearing the US Coast Guard on the radio.  I suppose as Puerto Rico falls under US jurisdiction, they will become a familiar voice on the radio from now on. Puerto Rico sits in the northern Caribbean and came under US possession in 1898.  Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917. The Spanish name means ‘rich port’, that, we are not totally convinced about !!!

006 Sunbay Marina, Fajardo For the last 24nm we lost the wind so dropped the sails and motored in watching out for reefs, rocks and sandbars.  By midday we are all tied up in Sunbay Marina, Fajardo, on the north eastern end of Puerto Rico.  Not a wonderful spot as it is very shallow, even for us, to come in here.  We visit the Marina Office to see what the check in procedures are.  The staff here are lovely.  They make phone calls for us and order a taxi as it is a bit of a hike to the customs office, and they advise us not to walk there, or even take the tender across the bay as the area is a little dubious.  The poor taxi driver waits for over an hour for us as things move rather slowly in this office, but we come out with our U.S.A. Cruising Permit which is valid for one year, and is the main reason for our stop off here in Puerto Rico.  So it was all worth the waiting.  Next we need a chart to get us through the Turks and Caicos Islands which will be our next stop.  Again the office girls phone around for us but alas to no avail.  None can be found in the boat shops in this area..  Oh well we have everything on the chart plotter, but a paper chart would also be most helpful. We will be entering an area of lots of shallows and reefs.  We will stay off shore till daylight in the deeper waters and negotiate our way in in daylight.

002 Fajardo The next day we walk into the local village to find not much there.  It is getting warmer now, summer is well and truly on its way.  We decide to top up our diesel tanks and anchor out where it will be cooler. We will wait for a good weather window for our next leg.  An American woman on the mono we were anchored next to comes over to say she remembers us from Marina di Ragusa – Sicily.  It is Shanna and her husband Doug off “Hobnob”.  Talk about a small world.  As we end up in the bay for a couple of nights, we visit each others boats for drinks and a catch-up, which was great.

Friday 8th May – the winds are eastly at 18-20kts.  Just perfect for our next leg, so by 06.30 we have upped anchor and are on our way.  We have joined a radio network for this next leg which Shanna and Doug also participate in, of yachts returning to the States, where we call in twice a day and give our positions and see how everyone is going.  Some, like us, will be stopping along the way.

003 South Dock Beach 004 Cruise Ship at South Dock This next leg is around 400nm.  The wind is never above 30kts and seas around 2mts.  There are some squalls about hence we sometimes have a reef in the main and jib, and sometimes are sailing under full sails. The seas here are the most spectacular sapphire blue, and with the waves having foaming white breaking tops it is a picture perfect sight.  It is night as we are approaching Grand Turk and Alec says we need to slow  down so as to arrive in the daylight.  We drop the main sail and pull the jib in till we only have a third of it out – we are still doing between 5.5-6kts, and yes we do arrive before daylight, so hold out in the deeper waters till there is enough light to anchor.  We drop anchor in 8mts of the most beautiful clean clear turquoise waters with a white sandy bottom at South Dock.  This place is pristine.

Grand Turk and several smaller cays make up the Turk group which lie east of the Caicos Islands and are separated by a 22nm wide passage.  This passage drops to 4,500 meters deep, and in this area the Atlantic Humpback Whales migrate here during the winter months from the New England coast, as it is their breeding grounds.

014 SHAMAL at anchor off Cockburn Town 015 Tender at Cockburn town jetty The Turks and Caicos were part of the Bahamas up until 1848.  Today they remain part of the United Kingdom having previously been semi-autonomous.  In 2009 Britain  suspended the island’s government and constitution  due to political corruption. 2012 saw new elections and today they are a self-governed colony of the UK.

016 Cockburn Town Once we had completed our check in formalities, which resulted in a couple of hot, tired dusty people wandering around looking somewhat lost, and being picked up by a lovely couple who run a hotel on the island, and being deposited outside the customs “shed”, we returned to SHAMAL and moved her up the island to anchor off Cockburn Town, the capital of the Turks and Caicos.  There is nothing big or sophisticated about this place.  Just two parallel streets running along the beach, the odd bank, a post office and a couple of shops, a church, and some colonial-era houses, give the place a real rustic charm.  Cruise Ships do come into South Dock and one arrived the same time as us, but we missed the crowds thank-goodness. It has become a very popular stop off, and a $60 million Cruise Centre has been built with duty free shopping, a huge swimming pool – can’t see why as the most beautiful beach is right next door, plus snorkel and dive trips etc.

 031 Cockburn Town  020 Cockburn Town The following morning we go shore and set off to find the museum to read up on the history of the Turks, which is said to be the first place in the Caribbean that Christopher Columbus made landfall.  Also it is the place where the astronaut John Glen splashed back to earth in his Mercury Spacecraft.  Just our luck, the museum was closed that day !!! Still we found a supermarket and a place for a coffee with Wifi after walking around taking in the sites.

We decided to cross the Caicos Passage that afternoon again wanting to arrive in daylight into Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos.  We have another lovely sail and drop anchor in 3mts of again clear waters.  This place looks quite dead.  Just the odd fishing boat about and one other yacht anchored in the harbour, without a mast – they must have a story to tell.  Also just to the north of the harbour up on the reef is a mono stuck hard and fast lying on its side.  A very sad site indeed, and quite recently run aground.

002 Seaview Marina General Store 004 Seaview Marina General Store Ashore the next day we are off to find the “Seaview Marina” to see if they have charts.  This is a one stop shop.  It reminded me of a local country store from the 1950’s.  Just delightful.  It sold EVERYTHING. Fuel, gas, oils, lubricants,spare parts, food items from fresh through to frozen and everything in between. Hardware products, fishing gear, cards, books, children's beach toys, and YES, CHARTS.  So we purchased the last chart of what we thought was the Caicos Banks – beautifully wrapped in and sealed in cellophane.  We made the mistake of not opening it. Later when we did open it up it only covered the area around Providencials – the island we were heading for – not the Bank it's self.  

012 Crossing Caicos Bank013 Crossing Caicos Bank We chose to cross the Bank rather than take the longer route around the outside. One of the routes across the bank is called the Pearl Route, and this is the one we chose.  The area is dotted in reefs and rocks. Again it was well marked out on our chart plotter.  It is approximately a 50nm trip with average depths between 1.8 to 3.8 mts.  You need to cross it in good daylight with the sun behind you.  As we started a little later in the morning we decided to spend a night out on the bank which is recommended as a night passage would only be foolhardy. The crossing is quite a unique experience, and the anchorage in just over 3mts of water in the middle of no-where quite surreal. Here we are sitting out with no land in sight.  The wind had picked up to 18kts with small white caps, but it was so warm that before dinner we went for a swim.  By morning it was flat calm again with clouds dotting the skies.  They reflect the stunning aquamarine waters on their undersides.  As we continue on I take my position up front again to help steer Alec around the rocks and coral heads.  Occasionally I am steering us around what turns out to be cloud shadows, but better to be safe than sorry!!!  During the morning we have first one, then two large dolphins join us for over an hour, swimming along with us in the shallow waters.

015 Heavy Rain, Sapodilla Bay, Provo Later the clouds start to build and by the time we drop anchor in Sapodilla Bay on the south side of Providenciales – called Provo for short, a good old thunder storm has built.  We then get 20 minutes of really heavy rain.  The Germans on the boat next to us all hop out with their soap and shampoo to take a fresh water free shower !!

We move SHAMAL from the southern side of the island around to the northern side the following morning, passing through the narrow entrance in the reef at Seller’s Cut, and anchoring just inside.  We take the tender ashore to make arrangements to move the boat into Turtle Cove Marina the following day.  The marina is situated in a natural lagoon and is totally protected from wave and surge action.  The other great thing about the marina is that we will be able to check out from here as the customs and immigration officers come down to the marina.

032 Sunset, Turtle Bay Marina Providenciales, Provo.  About two-thirds of the population of the Turks and Caicos live here. The North Coast is the up-market side of the island with hotels, apartments and private mansions spread along the beautiful shore-line.  Most amenities can be found here on the island, but distance between things can be quite far.  Out came our bikes again and off we set to explore the place. From where the boat is parked it is a seven mile ride to the eastern end of the Island where another marina is situated.  We head on out.  It is hot – around 36 degrees c.  We are peddling along the main, and only, highway, Alec well in front of me, when one of the locals stops beside him and says, “Hey Man, slow down, you left your lady way behind !”. Then a little later a van pulls over and offers to take us to the marina as he is going the same way. Thank goodness !!!!!! We just had to ride all the way back again.

045 Looking sth from Leeward Hwy, Provo We spend four days here making new friends and exploring the area.  There are beautiful beaches, those lovely aquamarine waters, marine parks and historical sites to see.  It was here that we finally got to have our first conch meal.  A large shell fish that is harvested throughout the Caribbean and found on most menus.   We had it lightly grilled and it was delicious. Finally it is time to move on again.  Monday 18th May sees us once more departing another gorgeous Island, hoisting our sails in a perfect 15-17kt breeze, and this time heading directly for Florida.

Till next time we will sign out

Love to you all from

The Admiral and The Commander

15 May 2015

Sint Maarten and St. Martin

035 Simpson Bay Lagoon

On leaving Dominica we do an over night sail up through the Leeward Islands.  We now have to by-pass many of them for this season, but, we will return.  The winds are light and we find we are motor sailing for most of this leg. It has become quite hazy, and it is warm and sunny.  What little breeze we do have is at least cooling.  Dolphins surf our bow waves and seem to enjoy swimming between the hulls. There are plenty of flying fish which get airborne as we approach and take off just above the surface of the water travelling quite long distances. We watch the different sea birds as they skim the surface in search of a meal. Also we still have huge patches of that golden seaweed around which makes fishing impossible.  I catch mounds of the stuff !!!!
003 Airport seen from Simpson BayOn the second afternoon we arrive at the small Island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin. It is no more than about seven miles in length, and width, with a large lagoon dominating the western side.  The Island is owned by both the French and the Dutch, hence both the names. It is possibly the best known holiday destination in the Leeward group. We arrived on the Dutch side of the Island and dropped anchor in Simpson Bay, just outside the lagoon.  You can take your boat into the lagoon where you can anchor, or pull into one of the marinas surrounding it, but we decided to anchor out as the waters are cleaner for swimming.  Also the temperatures are cooler with a lovely breeze blowing through the boat. It turns out to be a great anchorage for an ex-pilot as well, as the airport runs along the far side of the bay.