Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wow, it is hard to believe that 2010 is upon us. Seems like we just celebrated Y2K and realized that none of the horrible things they predicted happened. I remember back on that night, when we were still in Marathon in the Florida Keys, we sent a flaming coconut down a wire, just as it struck midnight. Our version of Times Square. Then as the coconut hit the ground, we hit the main circuit breaker at our friend's house where the party was, and all the lights went out, making everyone think that the Y2K fiasco was a reality.

Tonight will be a little different but perhaps a bit grander since after the party we are going to, there will be fireworks over Hope Town Harbour.

Whatever you find to do, I hope you have fun celebrating the end of 2009 and welcome 2010. Dave and I both wish everyone a healthy and prosperous new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Champlain Bridge

I know this has nothing to do with the Bahamas, but yesterday, the Champlain Bridge between New York and Vermont was imploded. This bridge was built in 1929 and had very little, if any, maintenance. Each time we would travel across it from Crown Point (just north of our Ticonderoga summer home) to Vermont, we would wonder if it would hold up, or if we should wear our life vests. We saw what the bridge looked like from underneath it, while boating, and commented on how it could still be safely in service. This past summer they deemed it unsafe and closed it, but not before making traffic one lane only. This was actually worse, since the traffic would back up at the one way light, and instead of the weight being spread out, it was compacted. Tractor trailer trucks travel this way all the time, adding extra weight on the bridge. They are working on putting another ferry into service until the bridge can be rebuilt, but this affects so many people and businesses on both sides of Lake Champlain. Below is an Associated Press news article and a picture of the implosion.

"CROWN POINT, N.Y. (AP) — Controlled explosions have brought down the Lake Champlain Bridge between New York and Vermont.

Snow fell and a small group of onlookers watched as the 2,184-foot-long span between Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison, Vt., was dropped into the water and ice at the narrow south end of the lake Monday morning.

There was a sharp concussion followed by billowing smoke as steel and concrete fell.

The 80-year-old bridge was closed Oct. 16 when engineers deemed it wasn’t safe because of severe erosion to its concrete piers.

Idaho-based Advanced Explosives Demolition handled the detonation, using 800 pounds of explosives packed into more than 500 charges.

Debris will be removed by the spring, when construction is scheduled to begin on a new span expected to open in the summer of 2011."

Conch Shells

Although we don’t eat the meat inside this mollusk like most people do, Dave likes finding discarded conch shells and making them into horns. In fact he is known as the Conch Man. When they are small they don’t have a big outer lip, called a bell, and are called ‘rollers’ since they tend to roll around in the surf. When mature, the shells have large bells, which are gorgeous and shiny pink inside.

Every year we have conch horn blowing contests and there are certificates given for longest blowing, best sounding, and best looking. Our favorite horn is actually a horse conch, which has a deep rich sound. For the contest we couldn’t resist dressing it up as a Harbor Rat.

I think we’ll have to add “best costumed conch” to the list of prize-winning categories this year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Water Wonderland

The Bahamas are known for the clarity of the water and the coral reefs. It truly is amazing. Dave is in the water as much as possible, although I only go in when the water temperature is above 74 degrees. Here are some pictures that help show why we enjoy coming here and spending time on and in the water.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"If The Phone Doesn't Ring.... know it's me!"

The world of communication certainly has changed over the last couple of decades. When we first started cruising in the Bahamas on our 28 ft. sailboat in 1987, there was no way to stay in touch with family once we left the United States. Perhaps there were public phones, but they were terribly expensive to use. Seven years ago, when we returned to cruising the Abacos, we could go to any of the resorts and $10 would give us 15 minutes of their computer time to check and send emails to family and friends back home. At this time we also learned about the Abaco Cruisers’ Net, which is a program on our marine VHF radio every morning that gives us weather updates, community announcements, ‘invitations’ (aka commercials) for local businesses, and you can inquire about any information you need. They also had, and still have a local internet company that provides an emergency email address that family can write to if they need to contact cruisers, and Pattie Toler who started and still runs the Cruisers’ Net, receives these emails and contacts you if an emergency email arrives. Of course now, most of us have our laptop computers, and we can obtain our own internet connections and keep in touch with the outside world through wifi, right here in the harbors. What a difference this has made! The connections can be frustrating at times, and the service is sometimes very slow depending how many people are using it, not to mention it will disappear when the power goes out. Sending pictures or large files in and out is tricky if not impossible to do. Still, it is our lifeline to the ‘real world.’

However there are still times when I would like to actually talk to my family. Cell phones are obviously what everyone has now days, but we cannot use our U.S. phones here in the Bahamas, and would have to purchase another one here. They do have a phone company called Batelco, with offices on each island. In the past few years I have purchased phone cards (50 cents/min.), which I could use at one of 3 public phones here in Hope Town. Several days ago I went in and bought a card, intending to call my mother on Christmas. Christmas Day I roamed the empty streets, heading to the ferry dock where the main phone booth is located, and went to call, and found no phone receiver. Option one deleted, so Dave and I walked on to Vernon’s Grocery Store where another phone booth is. I picked up that phone to find that the ear part was taped up with electrical tape, and so gross from heat, that it was sticky and almost liquid. Option two was out also. Option three is the Batelco office itself, where I know you can use the phones inside, but they were closed and won’t reopen until after the Boxing Day holiday. They used to have a phone outside, but since they made renovations last year, they haven’t replaced it, and the phone line hangs down, swinging in the breeze. On the other out islands, things aren’t much better. In Treasure Cay, they have several phone booths, but not too many phones that work. Gee, I wonder why.....

I also wonder if there are any coat hangers left in the rooms at the resort where we found this phone booth!

Thank goodness we have wifi though, and it is amazing it works as well as it does. Without it, communication wouldn’t be much more advanced than when we first started cruising in the 80’s. The Jimmy Buffett song really does apply, "If the phone doesn't ring, it's me."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Today was Boxing Day. Actually this year, being that it falls on Saturday, the official day will be celebrated on Monday, and most businesses will be closed. A Google search turned up these origins of this holiday. "In olden days, merchants would give their servants gifts of food and fruit, packed in boxes, on Boxing Day. In feudal times, the lord of the manor would give boxes of tools, cloth, grains and other essentials to the serfs who live on his land, on Boxing Day. In olden days, servants reporting for work after Christmas would carry a box and their employers would put in coins, as end-of-year gifts, into the boxes."

Traditionally, the Hope Town Sailing Club holds a cruising boat race on this, the day after Christmas. New Horizon was the committee boat, and there were four of us from the race committee, plus the club photographer on the boat. The weather threatened to be stormy, but the t-storms didn't materialize and we had light winds and a really nice day out on the clear waters of the Sea of Abaco. The awards were given out at the weekly club's Saturday night 'stand up' cocktail party this evening (as opposed to a 'sit down' aka dinner party). We are getting quite a collection of the club's drinking glasses that they give away as awards and a thank you to the race committee boat. I will hopefully be able to post some pictures when they become available in the next few days, so check back soon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

In the past few days the settlement population has really increased. Many charter boats are arriving on the moorings in the harbor and land based tourists are roaming the streets. We have been told that all the rental houses on the island have been booked for the week. This is good news for the local struggling economy. The houses, businesses, and lighthouse are all lit up and decorated, the settlement is bustling, and the church chimes are playing carols. This is Christmas in Hope Town. Dave and I will be going to a friend’s house for a potluck dinner, along with about a dozen other sailing club members. Even though it’s certainly not the same as being with family, we are a pretty close knit group. We are so lucky and blessed to be able to enjoy the gift of the lifestyle that we have, and never take it for granted. We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Power Plants

Once again the power has gone off in Hope Town. The power in the out islands comes from the main island of Abaco, through huge 18,000 volt cables run underwater to all the other islands. Keep in mind that this isn’t like running cables out in the deep ocean, since the Sea of Abaco is only about 7-12 feet deep, and they just lay these cables on the bottom. The water is so clear, that you can see them crisscrossing their way across the sea bottom when it is calm out. This gets a bit tricky when it is rough and boats are anchoring near shore. Some of these cables go right to people’s houses, along with their phone lines, so you can imagine how many cables are out there. Every year there are incidents when people snag the cables with their anchors and they have to leave their anchor there, call the Bahamas Electric Company (BEC), and they eventually send a boat out to free your anchor. However, sometimes the power and/or phone lines get cut, and then they have to splice in a cable, or put down new ones (there are so many out there and you don’t know which ones are live, which could make it a shocking experience to say the least!), so the island loses power and/or phone. Here is a picture of some of the cables, which is a bit scary considering we were in 4 ft. of water when I took the picture.

It’s not just the boaters that cause the power to go out, since the power is very unreliable in the islands, especially since there is so much development going on now, and this puts a huge stress on the system. When we first got to the Abacos this fall, there was a small fire at the BEC station, and that caused total outages for a day, and then roaming outages for a week while they tried to repair the damage. A new larger power plant is under construction on Abaco, but it is very controversial since they want to use Bunker C Oil to run the gigantic generators. This could be very harmful to this pristine environment, since it is a ‘dirty’ fuel. Last we had heard they may change to diesel, but then it will cost way more to run, and naturally the increase in cost will be passed on to the residents. Even now the power costs about 50 cents per kwh, compared to about 10 cents back home.

As I sit here on New Horizon, listening to the generators humming on shore (almost all homes and businesses have them because the power goes out so often), I think about how reliable our power on board is. Our electrical power comes from eight golf cart batteries that runs through an inverter that changes the 12-volt power to household AC current. Although we have lights, stereo, TV, water pumps, bilge pumps, and electric toilets on board, our main power consumer is the refrigerator. Unfortunately, it uses so much power that it exceeds what solar panels or a wind generator could provide. In order to recharge the batteries, we have to run our 10.5 kw generator about 3-4 hours per day. The generator is run by a 4 cylinder, 25hp Kuboda diesel engine. It uses about ½ gallon of fuel per hour and we have a 600 gallon total capacity in 4 different tanks, and diesel fuel currently costs about $4.10/gallon. We usually split the battery charging time up so that we can make hot water in the morning, sometimes also doing laundry in our washing machine, and then watch TV or DVDs at night while recharging. At this time we also fill our water tanks (200 gallon total capacity in two different tanks) using the reverse osmosis watermaker. This process still amazes me how we can take salt water, run it through a strainer then a 30 micron filter, on to a 5 micron filter, then it is put through two membranes at 800psi of pressure that squeezes the salt water out, leaving us with the pure fresh water that goes into our tanks at the rate of 14-15 gallons per hour. We certainly have lots of systems to keep in good working order, but that’s what allows us to have all the comforts of home. This is life off the grid.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Going Dinghy

When we are landlubbers, we have our cars and trucks to get around town in. Here on the water, the boaters all have their dinghies. Some are inflatable, like the one I borrowed from Spirit. I liked using it, because the engine was small and I could pull start it, plus it bounced off my swim platform if I didn't stop in time. However, you have to be really careful around docks with nails or barnacles so they don't put holes in it.

Our dinghy is called a Logic Riot and looks like an inflatable, but it is actually made out of plastic and indestructible. An added bonus is if you get a gouge or big scratch in it, you can actually heat it with a torch and smooth it out.

We also carry a fiberglass dinghy called a Hunter Liberty and it can be rowed or sailed.

Of course we can't leave out our two person kayak that can be rigged for one person also.

Then Dave also has his windsurfer.

As members of the Hope Town Sailing Club we have access to their Sunfish fleet and Dave is now Captain of that fleet.

Previously Dave has even had the opportunity to sail and race the locally made wooden sailboats called Abaco Dinghies.

Now that today marks the winter solstice, we are looking forward to the days getting longer, so that we can use all our little boats that serve double duty as not only a way to get around and get to shore, but also to go out and get some exercise and have fun in.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Harbor

I found this aerial view of Hope Town Harbour that I wanted to share with you. It's too hard to tell if we are in this picture, but right now New Horizon sits smack dab in the middle of the main harbor. Now you can see why we like it here during the winter, since it is so protected that even when the wind makes us rock and blows us around, the waves can't get very big. All the boats are attached to large concrete mooring blocks with chains and two mooring lines, which works better here than using your own anchor. This way when the wind blows from all different directions, we don't have to worry about our anchor pulling out and the boat dragging. No matter where we moor or anchor, Dave immediately dives into the water and checks to make sure we are as secure as we can be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ship Shape Again

Now that the captain is back, he has been fixing all the little issues that have cropped up on the boat while he was away. Of course the first thing accomplished was getting the electric start on the dinghy working again. Being the good mechanic and diagnostician that he is, he had it repaired in half an hour. Then it was on to things like changing the oil in the generator, fixing the snaps on the sundeck enclosure that blew apart in the storms, replacing the watermaker filter, topping off the batteries with distilled water, and installing a solar panel to help recharge the batteries. Jill, one of our cruising friends, when talking about Dave, summed it up best, "If we ever need to torture Dave, all we would have to do is tie his hands behind his back and place several broken items in his sight."

Here on New Horizon, we are fortunate to have satellite TV. This year we had to replace the receiver, as it didn't even turn on or off. Under normal circumstances changing receivers is a simple procedure, requiring a phone call to Direct TV to change serial numbers and reset. There in lies the problem, making that phone call. What we do, when we have any TV issues is email our friend Rick, on Florida's west coast, and he calls DTV and explains our problems and if we are lucky, suddenly we will have a picture. If not, emails, go back and forth and Rick interprets this to them. He is also instrumental in taking care of any other boating issues and questions that need to be dealt with Stateside. Thanks Mr. Manager!

Our next project is trying to repair the decks on the boat. They have formed cracks over the years and the rain water is starting to seep in. Last night we had more cold front squalls and I chased around after the leaks with my towels. We had so much rain that it filled our dinghy up with water past the floor boards, and the inflatable that I had borrowed while Dave was away, was almost completely filled up with water about 4" from going over the stern. Thankfully we have a portable electric bilge pump to make short work of the draining of the water. It sure was nice having help this time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Star Shows

Last night, for the first time, I went to the Children’s Christmas Play. This is a yearly tradition here in Hope Town and each year the play is different. This year’s was titled “Finding the Christmas Star.” It was really cute and there is quite a bit of local talent, especially singers. I never knew there were so many kids of all ages here on Elbow Cay. The little pre-school toddlers were especially adorable and seemed to know all the words to the songs. It was fun watching them, and even some of the older children, trying to find their parents and sneak waves to them, and then try to hide it, as if to say, “oh, I was just scratching my neck,” or something similar. The tickets are all free, but reserved, and they take donations at the end, for different children’s charities. They normally do the show for two nights, but they are always ‘sold out’, so this year they expanded it to three nights, and still all the tickets were taken.

Speaking of stars, we have been having meteor showers for the past several nights. They were predicting over 140 of them per hour at the peak. Naturally I didn’t see quite that many, but did see one or two of them every couple of minutes as I sat on deck watching the sky. Another great show of a different kind.

Today's The Day!

After spending two weeks in the cold and snowy Northeast, today is the day that Dave returns to New Horizon here in Hope Town. For the past couple of days, the weather has been gorgeous, warm, and calm. Naturally that all changed at dawn, and the wind is rising and expected to reach gale strength for two days. At least the Captain will be on board, but he will need to get his sea legs quickly. This is the longest we have been away from each other in our 31+ years of marriage, not to mention the fact that our only form of communication has been emailing. We have so much news to catch up on, and Dave says he took 200 pictures of the moving adventure and snowstorms. Hopefully he left the cold weather up north.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We'll Leave The Light On For You

Hope Town is famous for its beaches, history, protected harbor, brightly colored cottages, but mostly for its red and white striped lighthouse. It was built in 1863, is 120 feet tall, and there are 101 steps to the top. It is actually still run on kerosene and at dusk you can see the lighthouse keepers lighting it. Every night they have to keep the light burning, going up and down all those steps with their containers of kerosene.

Each Christmas holiday season, it is a tradition for the Hope Town Sailing Club members, who live on their boats in the harbor (we are officially known as the Harbour Rats)to decorate the lighthouse. This is quite a feat and takes several hours. There is a crew at the bottom that has to check all the lights to make sure that they work and tie two strands of them together. Then the crew at the top lowers down a weighted line that the long strands of lights are attached to, and hauls the line back up to the top, attaching them to the railing while the bottom crew secures them to posts in the ground. This is done 12 different times, around the lighthouse, finishing with lights around the top railing. At night it looks fantastic and when the wind blows, the lights sway and indicate the wind direction. With the storms we have been having it is amazing that they are still working and secured. What a sight it would be if one got loose and was whipping around. As we await our other Harbour Rats to arrive we always wish them fair winds and remind them that "we'll leave the light on for you!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Survivor Hope Town, Bahamas

It was a long stormy night, but I survived last night's blow and wasn't 'voted off'. I think I may even have won the rewards challenge. Maybe Dave is waiting behind the scenes, ready to spend the day with me in my 'camp'. I think it's more like my reward is that the sun came out at noon today and the wind not only eased, it stopped completely. Perhaps in the end my craved reward will be a good night's sleep. In a few more days it will be nice to say, "Dave, please check out those sounds," or "Quick, close the ports, it's raining," and then roll over and bury my head in my pillow. Ah yes, then I will have won the immunity challenge also.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


When we first named our boat, my sister found a very appropriate poem that I have taken excerpts from, then framed it so it greets everyone when they enter our winter home. It is written by someone named Trixie Love:

Softly I hear your
Heart speak,
In the silence of
The night...

For you have fulfilled
My every dream.
Into a new horizon
It would be an honor
To journey through with you....

Tonight the heart has a really bad murmur. In fact when I looked up the exact definition of a murmur, it fit tonight's weather conditions perfectly. "A heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound heard during a heartbeat. Murmurs range from very faint to very loud. They sometimes sound like a whooshing or swishing noise." Just replace the blood with wind, and lots of it! Naturally, none of this was predicted and although it was a bit windy all day today, it was predicted to ease. Not so say the wind and rain gods! The wind is howling at gale force, or as our British friends say, "It's blowing a hoolie!" New Horizon is straining on her mooring lines, but at least I know I am secure with brand new shackles and hardware that attaches the mooring lines to the chain and cement block that I am hooked up to. I am more concerned about making sure my two dinghies(one of which is a borrowed one, since the day after Dave left, doesn't it figure that my outboard motor wouldn't start)stay tied to the side of the boat and don't go 'walkabout' in the mangroves, or sink in the rain squalls. The boat is really rocking and rolling, and I know why they say, "One hand for the ship!" I'm actually glad it is dark for once, so I can't see how wildly the boats, mine included, are swinging around. I can even hear the chairs up in my flybridge skidding across the floor. Of course I can't be too concerned, since I am sitting here in my easy chair, writing this blog. Tomorrow will be an interesting day when I get back to solid ground though. I probably won't be able to walk straight. It will be hard to distinguish between the landlubbers who spent Saturday night at the bars, and the sailors who experienced all this wind. I guess you could say we're all in the same boat!

The Beginning

Wow, I can't believe I have started a blog. There are so many cruisers that use this as a way to keep their family and friends updated on what is going on in their lives. I chose the header "Into a New Horizon", not just because New Horizon is the name of our boat, but also because of what is happening in our lives right now, both here in the Bahamas and back home in upstate New York.

Right now I am by myself, swinging around on our mooring in Hope Town Harbour in the Abacos of the northern Bahamas. Dave has flown back north to Glenville to move from the house that we built ourselves and lived in for 31 years, over to the house that he grew up in next to our motorcycle shop. I would have gone to help, but between the the bad case of tendonitis in my knee (which I developed this summer while working on the Pashley Rd. house, which we call 'the ranch'), and the snow, cold and wood burning smoke up there, I opted to stay on board and be captain of my ship, instead of just admiral. I am also in charge of taking care of our friends' boat and run their generator to recharge their batteries that run their refrigerator. I'm sure I will elaborate on things like this in future postings.

While Dave has been in Glenville, he has had to deal with lots of snow, wind, and cold. One morning he couldn't even get out the door. Now though, everything is moved, but a bed, so he can still sleep in our house. Here in the Bahamas, it has been the 'bizarro' opposite of what he has had to deal with, with record heat and humidity. Needless to say, I am not complaining!

We have been truly blessed to have wonderful friends, neighbors, and family, both here and in Glenville, that have helped us immensely with moving, snow removal, meals, camaraderie, and helping me alone on the boat. What a support team we have and we cannot thank them enough. Even my mother in Florida has been instrumental this winter by taking care of our mail and bills.

This blog will be a work in progress, since I have never done this before, but so far, at least the posting is easy. I'll try not to bore you too much though.