Monday, January 30, 2012

In Warderick Wells

Hi everyone.  For a short while we have a little internet (very little as it turns out, so maybe no pictures just yet) and so wanted to say hi.  We are in Warderick Wells, which is the headquarters for the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  The anchorage is a very distinct channel between otherwise very shallow water, so the colors are really stunning.  We'll post pictures as soon as we get more bandwidth. 

We are once again among other people, but there are still no services just yet.  We're getting down to the last of our fresh food - a few carrots, cabbage, cheese, butter, 3 tomatoes, potatoes and garlic - so we have broken out the canned food finally.  The kids have decided that they LOVE canned fruit.  :)  Canned asparagus, not so much.  Personally, I've started to day dream about restaurants in Seattle.  Yesterday, it was the new(ish) french restaurant on lower Queen Anne -- beignets and french coffee, yum!

The wind is forecast to blow hard over the next few days - 20 knots or so - so we are probably going to stay here until it dies down.  We are then headed to Farmers Cay for the 5 F's festival (First Friday in February Festival at Farmers).  We will then start watching the weather to head north.

We were here in Warderick Wells and at the 5 F's Festival 9 years ago for our honeymoon.  I know it shouldn't be surprising, but things have changed here at Warderick Wells and, strangely, it makes me a bit sad.  As one example, last time, you could do volunteer work at the park to offset the cost of the mooring ball.  Back then (with our smaller boat), the ball was $15, and I think we put in 4 hours each of hard labor to offset that fee, including hauling and making concrete by wheelbarrow/hand.  It was really hard work, but it was also fun and we got to meet many of the other cruisers.  This morning, we asked whether we could volunteer this time - our mooring fee is up to $20 (egad!) - but they don't really have the volunteer program in place.  And there's are now t-shirts and souveniers to buy at the park office.  Which makes it all feel a bit more formal and impersonal.

But it's still stunningly beautiful.  We'll take lots of pics and post them down the road somewhere.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In the beautiful Exumas

We are currently anchored on the west side of Shroud Cay (pronounced
"key") in the Exumas Land and Sea Park in the Bahamas. Danny is down
below working to set up a wind generator that we bought in Ft.
Lauderdale and the kids are running all around the boat with Hannah
playing the "mommy" and Rye playing the "puppy." We are slowing
settling into our life on board. We are losing track of the day of
the week and are adjusting to having no cell phones or wifi. [This
post was posted by Susan's sister, who received the post via a high
frequency email account that transmits data at speeds calculated in
baud.] Instead of days of the week, we track our time out here by the
weather (including the 6:30 a.m. forecast we get by radio), where we
want to go next, and tracking our use of resources like water, power
and food. In some ways I feel like we're living a water based version
of homesteading. We wash our clothes by hand (well, with a plunger in
a bucket), generate our own power, and as of yesterday when Danny got
the reverse osmosis water maker working, make our own water.

The list of things we "do" each day is pretty small, although we are
busy most of the day. Tracking the weather, meals, exploring, boat
work, playing and a bit of homeschool now and then keep us quite
busy. We all go to bed around 8 every night and usually sleep until
6:30 or 7. In our free time, we are still trying to work through a
substantial list of boat projects (like installing the wind
generator), but none of the projects are super urgent.

We've met nice people on several boats to date, but haven't really
bonded with many boats yet because it's hard to get on the same travel
schedule. There is one boat we've met up with twice now, Pura Vida
(also a catamaran), and we are both planning to make it to at least
the Dominican Republic, so we may buddy boat with them that far if our
schedules sync.

In some ways, it's hard to see the changes our family is going through
since they are happening subtly, but we seem to be settling in well to
life together and on the boat. The kids seem to be getting along
better each day, and they can keep themselves busy and happy with
their few toys for longer periods of time. And there seem to be much
fewer tantrums and fits and the kids are following directions better
with each passing day (there are MANY new rules that we've had to give
kids so that they will stay safe and not damage the boat or its
systems). It also seems like Hannah's speech is more clear than it
was a month ago, but I'm not sure whether that's really the case or
whether we're just more in tune with her and what she's interested in
each day so we are better able to anticipate the context.

The only real deadline on our horizon is that our good friends, the
Casselmans, are coming to Nassau on February 11th. So we will island
hop in the Exumas until we get closer to that date. I think it's
helpful that we can't really travel farther south for now (given our
deadline to be in Nassau), because it prevents us from trying to have
a "schedule" for heading south. As some of our friends might find
shocking, we are truly slowing down and enjoying these beautiful
islands. [By the way, since I can't post pictures right now, I
encourage you to get on the web to look at pictures of the Exumas and
the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which is where we are right now.]

It's also an interesting time on this trip in the sense that we are
aware of the external changes in our lives -- losing track of the day
of the week, losing the internet and having only rudimentary email,
not having many other kids around (our kids haven't played with other
kids for a month or more now), living in bathing suits or nothing at
all.... Soon this will be the norm and we'll forget that we used to
jump on the web every 5 minutes to look something up.

Today we plan to travel to Hawksbill Cay, which is quite close, where
there are many loyalist ruins (loyalist meaning English loyalists who
fled to the Bahamas from the colonies following the Revolutionary
War). I'll write more about that later, but there are ruins
throughout the the Bahamas, both from a long time ago and more
recently. The ruins - whether recent or much older - are really
powerful to visit. It's been hard for us to put our finger on just
why, but I think the ruins are both a reminder of the transience of
time and illustrate the contrast between how beautiful but rugged this
place is. Although many people can now visit these islands for
"vacation," without modern technology like water makers and solar
panels (and even with those things), this incredibly beautiful place
is one that is harsh and in many ways inhospitable. There is no water
to speak of on the islands (except rainwater caught in cisterns)
basically no soil to support crops.

I'll sign off by saying that Danny just headed to the bow of the boat
in nothing but his sun hat and glasses. Rye accompanied him in
nothing but his life jacket. Good thing there is only one other boat
in the anchorage... :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beautiful Night

Danny is below, asleep with the kids. It's a beautiful night out in the Gulf Stream. Very warm, and there are bioluminescent sparkles in our wake. There's a cruise ship that looks like it will pass right in front of us, and it's amazing to see those ships lit up at night. Just think, there are people in the disco right now having a party while I'm outside standing watch, scanning the horizon every 7 minutes. :)

3rd Time Our Charm?

We are on a mooring ball at Alligator Reef Lighthouse in the Florida Keys, positioned to cross the Gulf Stream tonight. The sun is setting and I'm about to make pasta for dinner. We plan to leave around 10 p.m., with Danny and I trading watches while the kids sleep. We should reach the west edge of the Bahamas in about 10 hours.

We'll post from the Bahamas when we can.

Happy snow day to all our friends in Seattle.

Not quite yet

We left Marathon, FL this morning and poked our heads out into the Gulf Stream toward the Bahamas. The seas are small but really lumpy so it was a pretty uncomfortable ride. Next thing we knew the kids were whining and laying down because they were "tired" (translation: getting seasick). We hadn't considered seasickness meds for them this morning since the seas were so small, but in retrospect that would have been a good idea. (The good, prescription seasickness meds take a few hours to kick in.) So we are right now headed back to the Florida coast.

The window to cross to the Bahamas extends through tonight, so the plan is to stop soon, rest, and then cross tonight. Meanwhile the kids are resting.

No comment on what happened to the blueberries Hannah had for breakfast.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012


That's the sound of us changing plans at 4:30 in the morning. We have a good crossing window, but we don't feel ready to take it since we just got out of the yard/marina yesterday. We haven't been traveling on the boat for nearly 2 weeks, and the boat is so new to us, we want to run it (and the systems) for at least a few days before we undertake this crossing. The delay will also give us a chance to install a new wind generator we bought in Lauderdale.

We're going to head south to the Keys and then probably cross at the next window.

This was a super hard decision because it probably means that we won't get to the Bahamas for at least a week, we will probably have to motor (instead of sail as we would have today), and we will miss having a Kalik in Bimini with our friends Lisa and Craig. For our friends in Seattle, Kalik is the weakest, priciest beer you can imagine. But it tastes amazingly good on a hot day. :)

We think, however, that all is not lost, as it is apparently it's lobster season in the Keys. So we probably won't be miserable there.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Planning to Cross Early Tomorrow

Our passage to Miami today was wonderfully uneventful. And as a fitting farewell to Fort Lauderdale today, we saw Steven Spielberg's yacht Seven Seas. Oh my, Google THAT if you want to see something about the lives of the rich and famous.

The weather looks favorable to cross the Gulf Stream tomorrow, so after a dinner of left-over spaghetti, we're prepping the boat to cross to Bimini in the Bahamas early tomorrow morning. We will probably leave around 4 a.m. Danny installed the jack lines and secured the dinghy to the davit/arch; we checked tides and will shortly be suspending our cell phones indefinitely (which feels strange indeed!); we're also stowing random stuff, checking fluid levels in the engines, and calling relatives.

So if all goes well, we won't post for a bit, since we don't expect to have reliable Internet in the Bahamas. But we'll post when we can.

Underway again!

We had a couple more delays at Lauderdale Marine Center, but we are offshore again heading south to Miami.

There is a weather window to the Bahamas today and tonight so we are considering dropping the hook in Miami this afternoon and making the crossing tonight. We will post as we leave Miami if we do that.

It has been really disruptive psychologically to be at a marina for nearly 2 weeks with nearly all the conveniences of home (laundry, unlimited shore power, a rental car, etc.). And now it is feeling very strange to be moving. We look forward to being back in cruising mode.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A now for a few photos...

Our stay at the Lauderdale Marine Center, captured in pictures.

Coming out of the water last week:

The offending sail drive (wrapped up so that it won't leak oil all over the yard):

Danny's favorite shot - a car underneath our boat:

The kids hanging at the yard:

There we are, sandwiched between a 60' carbon fiber Gun Boat named "Elvis" and Johnny Depp's boat (appropriately incognito - not really, it's covered because it's being painted).  Uh, which one of these does not belong here?!?

Family portrait in the boat yard (yes, in front of Johnny Depp's boat - we have no shame):

Elvis going back in the water.  Note the size of the lift operator to the lift, which has a 300 ton capacity.

Ahh, back in the water early this morning as the moon sets:

The mechanical update is that the props are adjusted well and everything else seems to be working well, so we're probably going to Miami tomorrow. 

Back in the water for now

We've been out for so long it feels strange!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Latest from Ft. Lauderdale

Sorry for all the text and no pictures (I've yet to sit down to download pics from the camera).

We got the new sail drive on January 5th, which was Rye's 4th birthday.  We got it installed that day but then learned that the Travelift was booked all day Friday, so the earliest we could drop back in the water was Monday at 3.  So we ran a bunch of errands and tried to get stuff done over the weekend in preparation for dropping in today.  The kids had an amazing time riding scooters around this GIANT, empty yard on the weekend. 

We splashed today at around 3, but while we were in the water (but still in the slings), we discovered there was an adjustment that needed to be made to the propellers.  So we got pulled BACK OUT and are spending the night "in the slings," as they say.  The props have now been re-adjusted and so we expect everything to go well tomorrow.  I will say that it's super comforting to be here at Lauderdale Marine Center and working with Just Catamarans on this stuff, because everyone REALLY knows what they're doing. 

If we do leave Lauderdale Marine Center tomorrow, we might try to make it to Miami tomorrow (which is really just down the road).  And there might be a weather window Wednesday for the Bahamas.  We'll see.

Oh, and a bit of post script on Danny's scooter accident.  Thanks to everyone who has expressed concern about his head, but we're pretty confident that there was no head injury.  First, I asked Danny about 500 times whether he was absolutely sure he didn't hit his head.  Second, his symptoms are very consistent with the type of vertigo you can get from a sudden stop or fall.  You, too, can check the web, just like I did obsessively all day that day. :)

Pics coming soon, I swear.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The latest in a string of hardships

So, backing up about one week....

We originally hoped to leave West Palm Beach last Wednesday, but when we went out to pull the anchor, Danny decided that one piece on the windlass (the equipment that pulls up the anchor) needed to be fixed. No big deal, just a one day delay in a long weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  The fix took until about noon, so we decided to spend one more day in Palm Beach and run one last errand that afternoon.

So we set off to run that one-last-errand (can you hear the ominous, foreshadowing music yet?), and to knock it off our list more quickly Danny decided to use one of the kid's scooters. In the (literally) last 5 feet of his ride, he hit a hole in the sidewalk and pitched over. Lots of road rash, but that seemed to be the worst of it (no head injury, thank god). Until the next morning, that is, when Danny woke and was so dizzy he was unable to sit up or even walk to the bathroom without the room spinning and feeling like he would vomit. We decided to head to a marina ASAP both because we needed water (we hadn't turned on the water maker yet because we were in the intercoastal) and so that we could get to a hospital, if needed. Danny took some seasickness meds and by noon he was able to walk up to the cockpit and sit down (which is all that's needed to run the engines as long as Susan's doing all the rest).  So we headed south to the Riviera Beach Marina (right at the Lake Worth inlet).

Danny was feeling a lot better by that afternoon when we got to the marina, although he did end up vomiting. We spent a reasonably pleasant night at the marina (Susan made Coq au Vin in the pressure cooker) and the next morning Danny felt MUCH better. So we decided to head out off shore (see previous post).  We headed out the cut and were having a great morning.  Conditions were dreamy.

Then suddenly all noise from the starboard engine dropped. Uh, that is not a good sign. We shut the engine down and speculated that we blew the sail drive seal, which we knew was leaking but could have held for a long time. So we continued under sail and with the port engine running and called our beyond wonderful broker, Phil Berman of the Multihull Company, who referred us to Just Catamarans at Lauderdale Marine Center.  We scheduled an appointment first thing Monday with Johan at Just Catamarans and were hoping to pull the boat (yes, out of the water) then.  We spent New Years weekend at the Las Olas Marina, a block from the beach, which was fun.

The first opening to pull the boat was today at 11 a.m. Although we were hoping for a quick fix, as soon as the boat was out of the water we were stunned to see that the sail drive was cracked - which is a MUCH bigger deal than replacing a seal. It looks like maybe a gear broke loose on the inside of the drive and caused additional damage, so we think we have to replace the entire drive (not just the lower unit).  So we are up on the hard at Lauderdale Marine Center waiting to see how quickly we can get a replacement sail drive. 

We're keeping our chins up -- this is, of course, the kind of set back you expect living on a boat -- we just didn't expect such a costly set back so quickly into the trip. So it's a little easier to list the hardships right now.  If you'll indulge me for just a moment....

1. A killer cold front came through yesterday and the low tonight is expected to be 39.
2. Lauderdale Marine Center is lovely (it's the largest marine center in the US), but not exactly kid friendly.
3. We are bleeding money.
4. The kids can't leave the inside of the boat now because the deck, instead of being just 6' off the water, is now about 15' off the cement.

But, in true Geiger fashion, here's the silver lining list:

1. There are few marinas with Travelifts big enough for our beam (26'). So we're lucky we were headed this way when the sail drive broke.
2. In the yard, we are sandwiched between Johnny Depp's boat and a 60' Gun Boat catamaran named Elvis (this is ultimate Danny's dream boat - I think even the toilet paper is made of carbon fiber).  But unfortunately, the lift operator told us that Johnny doesn't usually come visit his boat while it's in the yard, but I'm keeping a sharp eye out just in case.
3. There are showers, wifi and laundry here.  In fact, the kids and I are currently sitting in the "Captain's Lounge."
4. We will have a new starboard sail drive. And that will help us sell the boat after our trip. 
5. We're healthy and have a great boat that's well stocked and ready to head to the islands (well, just as soon as that sail drive is replaced).

Depending on how long it will take to get the new drive, we may rent a car tomorrow and head to the keys.  But we don't expect to go anywhere for a few days.  There is a window to cross to the Bahamas at the end of the week, so maybe we'll catch that.  If we're lucky. 
I took some great shots of the boat on the list which I'll post as soon as I download the pics from the camera.

But there is one really good piece of news today - Danny got word that he's officially a Captain licensed by the Coast Guard.  (And if you saw him bring the boat to the Lauderdale Marine Center with only one working engine, you would not be surprised in the least!)
Happy New Year all!