Saturday, August 28, 2010

All’s Well in Well House

The blog has been quiet over the last two months because we have been way too stretched.

The Rodriguez family sailed into Southampton, England at 6.30am on June 14th. The two months since we arrived have been a time of stress and change.  Re-entry is a transitional experience, and it is a shake up.

John has set up his yacht brokerage John Rodriguez Yachts. He is specializing in Blue water yachts. Within the first weeks he sold a Hallberg Rassy 46 as well as listing some other ocean capable yachts and has been assured work at the Southampton Boat Show.

We initially stayed at a friends house and then with my mother whom we call Shore support (Sure Support). Just before we arrived home my mother had a hip operation, and just after we returned her cat needed an operation. Two patients in the house, I was glad the boys ran off their energies in Granny’s large garden.

The boys have met new friends from their new school, Salisbury Cathedral School and enjoyed numerous play dates with old pals. I was surprised how emotional I found buying the boys school uniform. It has been time of emotional swings as we adapt to life ashore.

In addition to all this we found and bought a house. The final negotiations for our 17th Century thatched cottage took place as we stood on the deck of the ship delivering Seraphim, our home away from home. Seraphim is now safe in Ocean Village Marina, Southampton.

We intend growing roses around Well House in Downton near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the south of England. We love this enchanting “dollshouse” where we shall take a few years out of the cruising life.

The next update will be full of pictures of our crossing on the Queen Mary II, Seraphims arrival and a few tales on Local Motion.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back in the UK

We are back in the UK after a truly wonderful Trans-Atlantic voyage from New-York aboard the Queen Mary2.

It's been such a whirlwind of things to organise that writing a Blog update has taken a back seat but it's coming soon..

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Amtrak- Florida to New York City

Midnight Train to Georgia.

Technically it was through the Carolinas at midnight but we still hummed the tune waiting for train 98, the Silver Meteor. A thousand miles of  changing landscapes: swamps, woods, forests, rivers, shacks, villages and cities.

Twenty five hours from West Palm Beach along the East Coast to New York City via Orlando, Jessup, Savannah, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Passing over a bridge entering Washington DC we waved at the Potomac and Washington Channel anchorage, and rememberd our sweltering time in the city in July. It was a fascinating trip tracking our previous sailing along the eastern seaboard.

No 8 and No 7, the two roomettes, one for us and one for the boys were worth the $300 each extra. They gave privacy and some time out from the boys. The food included in the ticket, served in the Dinning Car, was surprisingly good.

The train was a great experience, and a great way to ease us off Seraphim.  For eight years, since we married, exploring on our boat has been our focus which expanded to include Jack, and then James. The last three weeks have been a difficult time with high temperatures and emotions. Thankfully the Seawalkers, with whom we travelled extensively last year, arrived in Palm Harbour Marina on the same day. Their help and support was invaluable as we prepared Seraphim and ourselves for the Journey. Whilst President Obama gave a press conference on the increasingly serious situation in the Gulf of Mexico I cleaned out the oily bilge, I felt for the folks in Louisiana.

Saying farewell to Seraphim, even for a few weeks, was a poignant moment. I shed a tear and John had “dust” in his eyes. Our floating home has sailed us through rough and smooth seas, physically and metaphorically. We look forward to seeing her again in Southampton.

Tomorrow we have a day in New York, and on Monday we embark on our voyage to the UK aboard the Queen Mary 2.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Yachts, Trains and Ocean going liners.

The Garden of the Groves in Grand Bahama is a beautiful and tranquil garden with waterfalls, peaceful glades and a labyrinth.

It is a magical place with a super playground and an excellent café run by Julie and Yvonne with chef Stephan, where the boys gave me American Mothering Sunday lunch.

My card was made from fresh flowers.

It is also a good place for reflecting on big decisions.

After chewing, debating and vacillating we have decided to ship, yes ship Seraphim to Southampton and explore homeland horizons. It was a hard decision which we have ground on for months. With hurricane season fast approaching the decision was pushed and shoved. South is out of the question. Chavez‘s Venezuela is no longer safe. Piracy has become a serious problem in the Rea Sea and Indian Ocean which blocks our way home if we go via the Pacific. Even before these dangerous waters we feel the boys are too young for the long hauls of the Pacific.

So, we were faced with heading north and then back south, along the US Eastern seaboard for the third time. This did not appeal. Since Palma in November 2008 we have sailed 4,700 miles and kept watch  for eighteen months, 24/7, over two hyper boys under five. Cruising unexplored home waters will give us a much needed break before completing our circumnavigation when the boys are 9 and 7.

From July 2002 to June 2010 with two years off for babies, we have covered over 24,000 miles in total from the Hamble in the UK, down the western coast of Europe, across the Atlantic, north through the Caribbean and the Bahamas to the Chesapeake in the USA and back to Grenada. We, then the Moonshiners, survived two hurricanes. Sadly Moonshine only made it through one and she was lost in 2004.
In July 05 we set off on Seraphim through the French Canals with eight month old baby Jack. After three years in Spain and another baby, we returned to the Caribbean in November 08 where we voyaged from Martinique to Barbados, up the Caribbean chain to Florida then north to New York City and Long Island Sound, with a 100 mile side trip up the Hudson River, escaping Hurricane Bill, and back south via Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas.

What Next?

It has been an extraordinary, improbable and priceless experience of which we are very proud. The last few weeks have been a time of stress and change but it is a time of new opportunities and new dreams to fulfil.

 Coming to a Marina Near You

Seraphim will be shipped from West Palm Beach to Southampton, where she will be berthed in Ocean Village opposite the berth from which we left on 7th July 05 for France. In July this year we shall start a Home Coming tour of the marinas of the south of England.

Arrive Inspired Not Dog Tired….

And if all this news has not been exciting enough? We’re catching the Amtrak Silver Meteor overnight train from Florida to New York. Followed by two nights in a secret gem, the Wall Street Inn, a new and enchanting hotel near the South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

And then … what next?

Port Out, Starboard Home!
We are Sailing to our home port Southampton in a starboard cabin on the Queen Mary 2.

Photo Credit P&O

We’re bubbling over with excitement. Flying Virgin from Miami to London was the same price as a cabin on the QM2.  No brainer which way to go. We set sail on 7th June from New York and arrive in Southampton 7 days later.

Our last western Atlantic offshore voyage on Seraphim, for now, was from Grand Bahama to the USA. Seraphim slipped through a narrow weather window for a twelve hour crossing of the Gulf Stream back to West Palm Beach.

En route John caught a huge Mahi Mahi, the size of Jack, who was keen to land him and eat him. John and I did not have the heart or stomach to kill such a magnificent creature.

Reeling it in had been a Hemmingway-esque struggle, let alone landing it. Jack and James were deeply disappointed  and “upset” that their “sushi” was released.

The first time we saw America on the horizon in May 03 in Moonshine we were victorious, we had discovered the New World. This time it was a bitter sweet moment full of memories and hopes for the future.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Discover Scuba

A week in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama even at a discount was expensive, and too full of sports fisherman and tourists for us. It had been a fun stop but it was time to head to the Abacos. But first, we had to find somewhere with a cheap laundry. With that intention we headed to Ocean Reef Yacht Club for a stop before the two day trip across the Bahama Banks.

Coming into Ocean Reef was another heart in mouth experience with rock outcrops on both sides. I shouted instructions and full speed aheads from the bow and John steered us through the shallow, narrow, uninviting entrance.

It's small and friendly and it suits us. Two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi, beaches, a laundry, a gym, cheap hire car and resort scuba classes.

Having seen me learn to scuba Jack was keen to learn. John gave him a special lesson.

Other resort activities include bingo of which Jack is a big fan, and, karaoke night - another Jack favourite. But most fun is the cruisers singalong.

I find the astanga yoga classes a real stretch but love them. It’s easy here and with John and I empty of energy, and our boys full of it, that’s important. Two weeks has gone quickly.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lucayan National Park

Today we went to the Lucayan National Park where they claim to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world...  they may be right.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Browns Marina

We are now in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama.


Our attempt to sail south east to Nassau and the Exumas was cancelled because this year's El Nino weather has caused constant, unstable weather.  All set to go, we had eased cautiously out of Bimini Sands and anchored in the South Bimini anchorage. It didn’t look good and it got worse. After ten minutes of rocking and rolling it was anchors up. Even at high tide, it’s a tricky entry up the channel into North Bimini where we returned and tied up on Browns Marina dock.

Phillipa the manager made “her” boys, Shirley Temples. A non-alcoholic drink and all was well. More of Browns later.

The forecast was good for our second attempt to leave Bimini. this time heading north. John had plotted way points on the chart plotter for a night exit as we came through the Channel after our first attempt to leave. When we arrived a month ago there were no channel markers and a large boat was grounded. Now only some of the markers were back, even so it is still tricky in day light let alone at night. Mid afternoon we anchored at Paradise Point, off Bimini Bay in the north of the north island. At 3am with the children asleep we set off. John skippered. I kipped ready to mother watch which started at 6am.

It was a testing 62 miles with testing squally conditions and children.
However, now we are here in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama, somewhere completely different. A change, it’s fun and easy. The marina we had hoped for is closed so we are at the Marketplace Marina where John secured a discount rate.

Thanks to the Our Lucaya Resort five minutes from the boat we have been indulging in five star beaches and swimming pools. A sales company corporate shin dig provided elaborate sand sculptures, a band and pirate party. Although watching from the back the boys were loaded up with treasure.

The Abacos are on our horizon after a huge storm system passes over. For now a little reminisce.

Browns Marina, North Bimini.

Browns Marina is next to the Government dock, both mentioned in Hemmingway’s Islands in the Stream. From the cockpit we watch the loading and unloading of the large ferries and boats, and the local water taxi. It’s quiet now, after the influx during the Easter celebrations.

Ashley Saunders writes books on Bimini. His house near the Government dock-The Dolphin House has a small museum and displays his inventive mosaics.

Boat building has been in his family for generations. His brother Ansil builds the Bimini Bonefisher, an exquisite craft made from various woods including horse flesh wood and mahogany. It is almost too beautiful to launch in sea water.

On Dr Martin Luther King’s first visit to the island he wrote his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. His second visit to the island was at a more sober time. Saunders felt King knew the end was near, and, spoke movingly of his experience with King whom he took to a tranquil place in the mangroves to write his final speech, three days before his death. Whilst out on Saunders boat, fatigued King asked Ansil to talk saying he was tired of talking. Saunders recited a Psalm he had written. We were blown away when Ansil gave an impassioned recital of some of the poem. The air stood still. High energies surrounded him.

Still wowed by Saunders, en route home I met both Phillipa of Brown's Marina and Tammy, the baker at Taste of Heaven. I booked four guava duffs, all time melt in the mouth favourites. Locals call the bakery “Tammy Souse Souse” because of the lunch time souse (pickled) dishes she serves. Walking past the long wall of the Big Game Resort with a sea painting by Bennet Davis on the wall, past Jontras – my grocery, past our first marina the Bimini Blue Water Marina, the Anchorage Hotel and back to Browns, several locals greeted us and chatted.  Bimini was becoming home and more and more difficult to leave.

Who Dat?
In the Second World War pilots flying over the Bahamas amused themselves by radio-ing “Who dat?”, and replying“Who dat sayin’ who dat?”...etc etc. The Bimini Carnival over the Easter Weekend is the “Who Dat Homecoming”.
This reminded me of Fort Lauderdale in February which went Superbowl crazy. Miami was the venue. All America celebrated when the underdogs from New Orleans, whose nick name is the “Who Dat Nation”, won.

April was ebbing and the weather looked good to head north to Grand Bahama. Armed with four guava’ duffs we bid farewell to Tamy in Taste of Heaven, Jontra’s the local grocery, and all those we knew walking down the Kings Highway.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shark Encounter

Bimini’s proximity to the Gulf stream and the Bahama Banks provides a unique habitat for marine wildlife. Sharks thrive here. Grant, who had introduced us to the Bimini Boa, runs the Bimini Sands Recreation and Activities Team with his partner Katie. One of their ventures is a Shark Encounter. Out near a reef on South Bimini, Jack and James, and their parents were enthralled as Grant fed Caribbean Reef sharks and a Black Tip shark from the boat.

In his fascinating commentary Grant described the shark’s feeding and breeding, and how safe it is to swim with them. The previous week when Jim was showing us the baby lemon sharks James wanted to swim with them. This time both boys were safely clipped into Grant’s boat. Still, James wanted to touch the sharks.

There are 450 varieties of shark some of which have been here for 450 million years – The dinosaurs appeared 230 million years ago.

Watch a video of our shark feed below.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South Bimini

“Ain’t no time zone here”, smiled a Bimini local. It’s true. This place is really special and we’re falling more in love every day.

An excursion from North Bimini to South Bimini introduced us to the tranquility and magic of the south island. Eco-tour guide Grant met us at the dock.

He and his girlfriend Katie have established an Activity Centre at the Bimini Sands Resort encouraging eco-explorations and a Nature Trail introducing tourists and locals to wildlife of the island including the Bimini Boa, a rare and beautiful snake.

Later that afternoon, Sean, the manager of the Bimini Biological Station, or, “Sharklab”, explained the work of the centre.

Their research includes tagging lemon sharks and studies of the Bimini shark population by marine academics assisted by a team of volunteers.

The shark pen tour had been at low tide, a few hours before. Our appetite was whetted. We wanted to know more about this island.

The next day Seraphim motored down to South Bimini.

After leaving the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina we learnt of the destruction building the resort had wrought upon the mangroves, essential nurseries for marine life. When the dredgers fail to use “curtains”, silt from the construction clogs up the sea grass beds, home to juvenile fish, shrimp, lobster and conch so important to Bimini fisherman and restaurants. Bahamian politicians with incentives from the developers  allowed the original site to grow almost out of control until pressure from international environmentalists forced a preservation order on East Bimini which means no resort golf course but the survival of indigenous wild life.

Even at high tide with slow rolling three foot waves, the shifting sand bars make the entrance to the Bimini Sands marina on South Bimini, a heart-in-mouth experience.

But once in, it’s great. Fishing off the dock, a swimming pool two minutes from the boat, a stunning beach five minutes away plus the other resort site the Bimini Beach Club and Mackey’s Bar.

It is a marina for cruisers rather than a boat park for weekend hoppers from Miami.  First on the to-do list was laundry, epic laundry.

The scores of nappies loaded in Fort Lauderdale for James were running low. Small’s, the only grocery on South Bimini did not carry them.  The supply boats bringing goods from Fort Lauderdale and Nassau arrive on Thursday. So Friday morning was a good time to cross back to North Bimini on the water taxi for essentials. Brown bread and parmesan rolls ordered from Tammy at Taste of Heaven Bakery, re-victualed and nappied up, we headed back to the ferry/water taxi. I was relieved that new friends Linda and Chrissie golf carted us to and from the dock. It’s a comparatively short walk but in 90 degrees on a dusty road with children it can become a task. Especially after one of my meltdowns when I sob that it’s all too much and want to go home. John ducks and dives through these monthly crises til an hour or so later the sun is shining in paradise, physically and metaphorically.

The mundane was forgotten when Jim the assistant manager of the Shark Lab waded out with us to the pen where young sharks were swimming. Jim fished out a lemon and then a nurse shark describing their characteristics, life style and idiosyncrasies. Touching these creatures was thrill for Jack and James. When John commented that they felt like sandpaper, Jim told that “back in the day”, sailors used their skins to sand the decks.  Jim has worked, voluntarily, at the lab for almost three years since he graduated.

On Saturday, Jim was fishing for bone fish off the beach, on his day off, at the Bimini Beach Club. On the horizon is the wreck of the Sapona, on the edge of the Bahama Banks. She was a concrete vessel used for hooch. Numerous schooners were sunk on the Banks in the hurricane of 1926.

Inside Mackey’s Sand Bar there is sand on the floor and on the wall photographs of Bimini in the 20s – 50s including the harbor full of schooners, proof that the island thrived during Prohibition.

The phrase the Real McCoy comes from those spirited days when Bill McCoy was known for his undiluted liquor. Predictably there are photos of the famous writer and big game fisher with quotes from his work. Being on a Hemingway Island I messed with long sentences linked by “and” with the odd comma but after a few breathless goes, let it go.

It’s a bus or taxi to the Bimni Beach. Tony who sometimes drives a bus for the Bimini Sands, has eight children from four girlfriends. He looks after the children during the day and escapes to the bus in the evening and Sundays.

On our trips into Alice Town we met various taxi drivers. The tram was not as reliable as we had hoped so we spent more than we had hoped on taxis. $20 return.  The best taxi is Milton or Scooper Taxi. Someone smashed one of the other taxi drivers windows.  Our concern over a taxi war turned to amusement when we heard from a South Bimini taxi that our windowless friend  is a “lover”. It was probably the fury of a scorned girlfriend. The taxi driver grinned over the “lover”. “I tell him man you got to slow down, but he don’t do dat”.