C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

North to Abaco - A 50MN Atlantic Ocean passage.

Yup, 2 days in Spanish Wells and we are headed back out for another offshore day long passage.  

Time for another round of Island geography…

 The google earth screen capture above displays the area in which we have spent the past couple weeks.  The darker blue waters are deep, very deep, thousands of feet deep.  Some of the land masses are labeled above, but I’ll run down the list.  Starting at noon and moving clockwise…

·          Noon - The Abacos.  Little Harbor is the area we came ashore after departing Spanish Wells. 
·         Three – Spanish Wells and our rolly anchorage off Egg Island
·         Four – the long skinny island of Eluthera with Y shaped land mass at the southern end.
·         Five – the northern tip of the Exuma Island Chain
·         Six – New Providence Island and the city of Nassau
·         Seven – Andros Island
·         Nine – The Berry Islands
·         Eleven – Freeport

The deep channel that runs northwestward from Nassau and squeezes between the Berry’s and Abaco before being hemmed in by Freeport  is the Northwest Providence Channel.  The deep water extending southeast below Nassau with Andros to the west is the Tongue of the Ocean.   Off the north and east coasts of Eluthera, Spanish Wells, and the Abacos  lies the North Atlantic Ocean.
 In general the Northwest Passage and the Atlantic Waters have a 1 to 2 knot northwest current that feeds into the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida.

The prevailing winds are from the southeast.  In typical conditions it is difficult to sail from north to south (top to bottom in the image above) or from west to east (left to right in the image above).  Travel in the opposite directions (south to north or east to west) is aided by the prevailing currents and winds.

When we departed Spanish Wells the forecast was for 8 to 13 knot south winds diminishing to 5 to 10 knots and clocking to west in the afternoon.  Scattered showers and a chance of thunder storms.  Clearing Meeks Patch, a mere 1.5NM out of Spanish Wells the first squall appeared off our port bow.  The rains and wind engulfed C’est la Vie as we slipped between Egg  and Little Egg Islands.  Emerging from the first shower, we turned north and entered the Atlantic Ocean.  What I anticipated to be a nice sail on a broad reach turned into another day of motoring around rain squalls.  We set and struck the sails repeatedly in response to fickle winds dictated by the nearest cloud burst.

Anne resting atop the cabin watching rain squalls
Fortunately the seas were relatively calm. Aided by a 1.5 knot current we averaged over 5.5 knots for the entire day.  The only truly threatening storm met us as we drew close to Little Harbor Cut, our chosen entrance to the Abacos.  Lightening stuck the water less than a mile away on several occasions. Fortunately the dangerous winds and blinding rain remained over the land to our south. We transited the cut with no difficulty.  In the fading light we turned north and dropped our anchor off Lynyard Cay.  We are happy to be back in the Abacos!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Trip to Harbor Island at 24 knots

Intrigued by the infamous Devils Backbone route and stories of pink sand beaches we joined forces with Vic & Judy from SV-Luana and took the fast ferry over to Harbor Island / Dunmore Town.  Vic & Judy are returning from a year long trip down through the Caribbean.  Listening to their stories educated and inspired us. 

The ferry runs a daily round trip – Nassau to Spanish Wells to Harbor Island and back.   $46 per passenger purchases a Spanish Wells to Harbor Island round trip ticket.  Our trip over coincided with a high tide and other than a couple quick turns around unseen hazards the Devils Backbone seemed none too intimidating.

In order to make the most of our six hours on Harbor Island we all chipped in on a golf cart.  Vic & Judy had visited Harbor Island previously so he became the driver and she the navigator, although truth be told we all harried Vic with frantic directions & corrections during his time behind the wheel. 

Our first order of business… find the fabled pink sand.  After a couple false starts we finally strolled out onto the beach near the Coral Sands Resort.  I was none too impressed with the “pink” sands.  Perhaps the full pink experience requires a few rum drinks or some rose colored glasses.  Anne will disagree and did scoop up a small bag of the sand as a keepsake.  I’ll say pink tint to remain diplomatic.

Sand Castles on a Harbor Island Beach
 I was draw to a couple sculptors creating sand castles a short distance down the beach.  These were no mere pedestrian sand castle wannabes.

Lizards Storm the Temple

 The crew had been building over the last four or five days.  I enjoyed inspecting detail  of the creations and erosion caused few days exposure.

The detail of the Temple eroded by 24 hours exposure

 We stumbled upon Ma Ruby’s restaurant.  One of a number of island establishments that have historical ties to Jimmy Buffet and claim to be the muse for “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”  Well now it is difficult to pass up the opportunity to partake in a mythical burger.  I’ll just say that Ma Ruby no longer manages the establishment and I prefer my burgers simple.  This burger was more of a meat loaf on a bun with veggies and peppers mixed into the meat – not my style.  Golf cart Hummer conversion for sale out front of Ma Ruby’s a bit more to my liking.

Golf Cart Hummer Conversion - For Sale!
The 16:00 boarding time for the return trip began to loom so we focused on procuring provisions not found in Spanish Wells – beer and local produce.  We easily found both in Dunmore Town.  Well the liquor store was a bit easier to find than the local produce, but we boarded the ferry with beer, gin, and produce in hand.

The low tide, return trip revealed more of the scattered coral heads along the Devil’s Backbone.  Having made this run aboard the ferry, I feel much more confident in navigating the Backbone in C’est la Vie.  My greatest fear would be to meet the 24 knot fast ferry mid transit.

The view from the stern as the ferry runs close to the beach along Devil's Backbone

While on the return leg a squall rolled though.  The gusty winds met the ferry head on and the combined force set Anne back on her heels.

Anne fighting a head wind at 24 knots

Thanks to Vic & Judy for acting as tour guides and sharing their experiences down island.  We will certainly put the knowledge to good use in our travels.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spanish Wells

After pounding across the NW Providence Channel and a night of rolling in swells at Egg Island, we were eager to find a slip in Spanish Wells.  The harbor, including the western entrance consist of narrow dredged channels.  I drifted south while entering the harbor and discovered just how quickly the edges shoaled.  Just a shallow water alarm, no paint loss this time.

The western entrance to Spanish Wells is visible off the bow of FV-Papa J
 We took slip at the Yacht Haven Marina, and Treadwell the dock hand assisted us with lines.  Yacht Haven Marina is undergoing a major renovation.  Initially we were a bit dismayed to find ourselves tied up in a construction zone.  While a bit threadbare all the amenities were available.  Dockage $1.50/foot, Wi-Fi $5/day, water .25/gallon, washer & drier $3/load.  We arrived on a Wednesday.  Most of the shops in town close on Wednesday afternoon for church services.  This included the grocery store. 
Shopping for food rose quickly to the top of our list as it was now nearly 11:00.  Our guide books speak of the cleanliness and pride the locals take in their community.  The trip to the store required a stroll through the town.  The well-kept houses and amazing gardens exceeded our expectations and is a welcome contrast to many other island communities. 

South End of Spanish Wells

The store was reasonably well stocked.  A bit shy on produce.   Plenty of staples.  No not expect to find beer or alcohol.  Spanish Wells is a dry community.

Looking northward down the dredged Spanish Wells Harbor

 Fishing is the primary profession in town.  The docks are busy and the boats are as immaculately maintained as the yards in town.

Squalls rolling though outside and internet available inside C’est la Vie, we spend a good chunk of the afternoon corresponding, catching up, and updating the blog.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Crossing the Northwest Providence Channel

What can I say about our crossing from the Berry’s to Spanish Wells?  If we had known then what we know now…  Why didn’t we just turn back on the first mile?  If we had waited another 24 hours…  Close, close, close hauled motoring under a reefed main we pounded our way 10 hours across the Northwest Providence Channel waiting for the winds to shift more southerly and the seas to subside.   The seas  finally began to diminish was we drew within 20NM of Eluthera , but by then a steady  stream afternoon squalls were popping up on the banks as if they were rolling off an assembly line.  Unsure if reaching Egg Island, our planned anchorage, would require us to cross the squall lines we plodded on.

Afternoon squalls billow benignly in the distance.  
We observed one water spout spin across the horizon and the same storm attempt to generate three more.  Fortunately after 11 hours and 51NM we dropped the hook off Egg Island without crossing the line. 

We need to find a better method of receiving accurate forecasts while traveling in more remote areas.  Anne & I have debated the following options XM Weather, Single Side Band Radio, and Satellite Communications.  Do you all out there have any suggestions or opinions on the best option? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Culprit & Soldier Cay

While preparing to set sail up the inside of Hoffman Cay and complete our trek up the inside of the Berry Islands, we came across the source of the whooshing explosion of air that roused us from dinner a few days ago.  No it was not Rosebud.  No not the fuel can on deck. 

My PFD finally succumb to the humidity and the CO2 cartridge fired off in the cockpit locker. 

We sailed off anchor and make good time northward on a broad reach under the genny.  Rounding the westernmost tip of Hoffman we fell onto a run.  Not wanting to risk a jibe in the narrow channel with the craggy shore of Hoffmans Cay 20 feet off our starboard rail waves breaking on a sand bar just a bit further off our port side, we started the engine.  The remainder of our short hop  to Soldier Cay we motor sailed.

Soldier is crescent shape with a small cut between it and Fish Market Cay to the north.  A calm weather  anchorage can be found in the arc of the crescent.  Unfortunately the surge between the cays kept us rolling during the ebbing tides.

Anne on Soldier Cay with C'est la Vie on anchor in background.
We arrived early in the day and had plenty of time to explore the island and do some snorkeling along shore.

Fish Market Cay and Soldier Cay mark the end of the navigable water along the inside route.  Based on the weather reports we are getting from NOAA out of the West Palm Beach area, I expecting the winds to calm and clock around to a more southerly direction tomorrow.  If this is what we observe in the morning then we plan to cross the Northwest Providence Channel tomorrow and provision in Spanish Wells a day later.  

Morning Glory Muffins

My favorite thing on this boat besides Jeff, is my oven. 

I love to cook. I love to take random things and pile them together heat them up and call it dinner. Best of all I can bake while aboard. I know not everyone loves to cook and some folks even think they can't but really if you can read you can cook. If you are a careful reader you can bake basic things. If you are a technical reader you can bake anything and do everything.

I am not a technical reader, but I still try my hand at bread and other difficult things. I do like to make muffins and scones and once with help I made cupcakes and someday I will learn to make cookies. Baby steps.

Today I made morning glory muffins. I copied the recipe and it is attached. I got it from KingArthurFlour.com surprise surprise. I wish I had taken photos of the process but my hands were messy.

I did take a photo of the dirty dishes! And most importantly the final product. These are great for breakfast or a snack on passages as they are healthy and hardy.

I did substitute some things. I used craisins instead of raisins. One cup of oil and 3/4 cups of yogurt instead of the eggs and orange juice. I also filled the cups full. I usually only do 2/3 of the way full but I couldn't imagine the oven on for another 28 minuets the cabin is hot enough!

The down side of these muffins is either the baking soda did not get really mixed in or there was not enough acid to really react the baking soda. Some of the muffins were a little...basic.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hoffman Cay - day 2

Dawn broke with C’est la Vie pointed into a stiff southeast breeze.  She danced fitfully in the whitecaps and a hint of ocean swell working its way in from the cut at Devil’s Cay.  The sea state in the Northwest Passage must be well developed if we were feeling the swell behind Hoffman’s Cay.

Not a good day to transit the 34NM at 148⁰ across the Northwest Providence Channel that will bring us to the entrance of Nassau Harbor.  I reasoned if we are not going to sail to Nassau today then I might as well read up on it over my morning coffee.  As mentioned previously we primarily use Pavlidis’ Guides to the Bahamas (On and Off the Beaten Path covers the area in which we are currently traveling) in conjunction with the Explorer Chartbook (Near Bahamas covers the area in which we are currently traveling).
The coffee and Nassau review in the salon lead me up the island chain and into a full vicarious exploration of Eleuthera while sprawled in the vee berth which lead to a late morning nap.  I awoke a little before lunch time.  Whew these days at anchor in the tropics can be taxing. 

Feeling amazingly refreshed, I challenged Anne to a game of lunch Scrabble.  I’ll let the reader divine the winner of the game with just a hint from a country song, “some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.”

By early afternoon the sea state in the anchorage calmed as the winds had migrated to a more easterly direction and the tide in the cut was now flooding.   Time to get off the boat for some exercise.

We stored Anne’s paddleboard deflated in the quarter berth for the Gulf Stream crossing and had not re-inflated it since arriving in the Bahamas.  Our first attempt at inflating it on deck went smoothly.  The only misstep was not inflating it to its full 15 psi.

Hoffman’s Cay provided a mixture of ecosystems to explore via paddle board… mangrove creek to sandy beach heads to grass beds off the rocky headlands. 

We were able to observe reef sharks, many types of fish, large rays...

 and a lone starfish off the beach.

Our paddle board exploration of Hoffman’s Cay proved as delightful as the previous day’s terrestrial exploration. 

 We consumed the majority of our afternoon on the boards and returned to C’est la Vie around 16:00.

Of the Berry Island’s we have explored thus far, Hoffman’s Cay has offered the best anchorage with the most opportunities for exploration.