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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Preparing for the Return Trip to the States

We spent a single night, June 21, at the Bluff House Marina, Green Turtle Cay.  Dockage at a marina allowed us to complete preparations for our passage back to the States – filling the water tanks, using the internet to check weather forecasts, laundry, showers, etc.  We last visited the Bluff House Marina in fall of 2010 and were impressed by the facilities and the low prices.  The facilities remain clean and in good repair, but the cost has gone up… dockage has gone from $1/foot to $2/foot and they no longer have a “dining for dockage” program.  In the past all the money spent in the restaurants & bars was deducted from the dockage fees.  We took full advantage of this deal on our last visit.

The weather is looking good for us to sail back to the States early next week.  To position ourselves for a jump across the Gulf Stream, we need to head northwest along the Abaco Islands.  Black Sound’s shallow bar necessitated transit  prior to the late morning low tide.   We departed the Bluff House mid-morning with threating squalls to the south and east.
The squalls caught us just off Manjack Cay.

On the helm in the rain.

Limited visibility and lightening were the greatest threats from these cells.  I was on the helm when the first wave of grey, rain swallowed us.  Once wet I remained on the helm while Anne stayed below assisting with navigation and counting off the time between the flash and bang in an effort to gauge the proximity of the lightening.

 We danced in and around squalls through the middle of the day.   By the time we sighted our destination – Allens Pensacola Cay the skies were clearing.  Likely due to the foul weather many vessels occupied the anchorage.  In busy anchorages C’est la Vie’s shallow draft often allows us to sneak inside the outer lines of deep draft vessels.  This played to our advantage today and we were able to find a spot less than 100 meters off the beach.

 The day’s squalls now west of our position provided for a colorful sunset.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Snorkeling off Great Guana Cay, Abacos

We spent June 20th lingering about in Marsh Harbor until midday.  Our lingering about included a few additional hours of terrestrial exploration and a fuel stop at one of the local marinas.  Lunch in hand we sailed out of the harbor on a broad reach.   Pleasant sailing brought us to Baker’s Bay, on the northern end of Great Guana Cay, for the evening. 

Forecasts for light winds and calm seas beckoned us to explore the reefs along ocean side. On low, rising tide we snuck C’est la Vie trough the small rock outcrops and reefs to find a anchorage within a few hundred yards of reefs the lie along the outside of Great Guana Cay.  After diving on the anchor to ensure it’s set, we loaded up Rosebud and began our exploration. 

Anne prepping to snorkel with Rosebud attached to a mooring
The area is a popular dive spot and fortunately someone has placed small boat moorings among the reefs.

More images from snorkeling off Great Guana Cay are available in our photo album.  Here is the link: FL - Bahamas - NC - Summer 2013

Feeling sedated from our morning of snorkeling we returned to Baker’s Bay in the afternoon and spend another night in the same anchorage.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Marsh Harbor - New Friends and Past Acquaintances

Our second morning off Elbow Cay, we awoke to southeast wind in excess of 15 knots.  The breeze discouraged us from launching the paddle boards after breakfast yet we desired a bit more playtime before sailing over to Marsh Harbor to re-provision food, water, and fuel.  We loaded up Rosebud with the snorkeling gear and cast off into the breeze Intent on motoring  to an area where I paddled over a spotted eagle ray the day before.

The engine demons laughed.  The dinghy motor would start full choke and full throttle, but die once placed in gear.  After a couple minutes of false starts,  I angrily gave up on the motor and shipped the oars.  Rosebud has many fine qualities as a dinghy, but rowing is not on her list of attributes.   We gained the lee of Tahiti Beach and worked our way ashore.  Once in the shallows I attempted to have Anne hold the dinghy in place while I tinkered with the engine.  This proved futile.  We walked the dinghy upwind of C’est la Vie and, with the aid of a few corrections from the oars, sailed the bare hull back home.  I tied Rosebud alongside C’est la Vie and attempted to tinker with the engine.  This proved futile due to wakes generated by boat traffic in the area.  Frustrated we gave up, stowed the snorkeling gear, placed the ailing outboard back on the stern rail, and readied C’est la Vie for departure.

Our 2HP Honda Outboard hanging on the stern of C'est la Vie
Sailing off the anchor we fell onto a pleasant broad reach to Matt Lowe Cay.  Rounding Point Set Rock we jibed onto a beam reach towards Marsh Harbor.  The sailing cooled my aggravation with the outboard.  Had I not run out all the bad fuel?  Had the bad fuel damaged the carburetor?  Will I need to find a mechanic in Marsh Harbor?

Hub of the Abacos
Clearing Marsh Harbor’s outer buoys, we started C’est la Vies engine, rounded into the wind, furled the genny, and gaped at the number of vessels at anchor in the Harbor.  Assuming we would need to row Rosebud to and fro from shore, we sought out a spot to anchor near the town dock.  While snaking among the stationary boats, we heard a cry of Hello!  Patty on SV Lutra was waving just off our starboard bow.  Last summer we were hauled out next to Lutra in Beaufort, NC.  It is pleasant to discover familiar faces in foreign places.  We dropped the hook just south of Lutra and within a few hundred yards of the town dock.

Shortly after setting the anchor Patty stopped by to say hello and introduce her father.  He was joining her as crew for her return trip to the States.  She could not recommend a local outboard mechanic, but referred us to her friend Richard on SV-Hello Texas. 

Still convinced the outboard was suffering a bad fuel hangover, I went back to running the engine while it hung off C’est la Vie’s stern.  Within seconds of starting on full choke and full throttle, the motor began to request, via stuttering engine speak, that I lean out the fuel mixture by reducing the choke.  I took this as a good sign.  After a few minutes of running with no choke and at varying RPMs, my confidence grew and we lowered the engine onto Rosebud.  Not willing once again be fooled by the engine demons, I took solo trip around the harbor.  All went well.  I’m guessing it simply took more time to run the bad fuel out of the lines and carburetor than what I anticipated.  

Buoyed by the restored health of the dinghy engine we set off to town in search of food and beverage.  The first store we visited left us wanting for fresh vegetables.  At our next stop, Bristol Distributors, purveyor of beer, wine, liquor we inquired as to a grocery store with a better selection of fresh foods.   The clerk proved less that helpful as she appeared more interesting in her conversation with a prior customer who was now consuming the second of three beers he purchased on site, this is a bit different than ABC or liquor stores in the States.  The woman behind us in line piped up and made the suggestion we head over to Maxwell’s Grocery Store.  She provided directions and we set off.  Moments later a blue Honda Fit, pull alongside us.  The woman providing us directions introduced herself as Wendy and asked if we need a ride to Maxwell’s.  We pile in the car and off we go. 

Maxwell’s Grocery is impressive.  We felt as though we are back in the States as we marveled at the clean, well lit isles loaded with a diverse selection.   Wow.  After a prolonged browse through the produce section,  a search for almonds, and two pounds of sliced lunch meat from the deli counter, Wendy finds us in the frozen foods section.  She offers to wait for us to complete our shopping and give us a ride back to the town dock.  In awe of her generosity we quickly agree to her offer.  On the ride back to the town dock we discover her children attended Camp Carolina and she has visited Brevard,  North Carolina.  In light of our afternoon the world seems small and strewn with people with whom we share common threads.

On the way back out to the boat, we detoured over to Lutra to invite Patty and her father over for sundowner’s aboard C’est la Vie.  She in turned invited us over for dinner as she and SV Hello Texas already had plans.
Winding down a long day, we returned to Lutra a bit later and enjoyed our evening.

Patty – Thanks for the dinner and the opportunity to meet Richard and Nikki traveling on SV Hello Texas a beautiful 38’ Krogen.   Hopefully our travels will bring us together again. 

Wendy – Thanks for your compassion and generosity.    

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Second Day Anchored off Elbow Cay

Enjoying the relaxing anchorage we elected to remain a second night anchored off Elbow Cay.   In the morning we paddled windward past the bustle of Tahiti Beach and on to Cooper Jack’s Cays. 

Paddle Boarding along Cooper Jack's Cays with Tilloo Cut in the Background
In one of the cuts between the cays we discovered a small break.  Anne attempted to surf in a kneeling position and I was able to eke out a 10 second ride.

Anne paddling back in after attempting to surf
After surf practice we returned to C’est la Vie for lunch (a.k.a.  Anne’s midday trouncing of Jeff at Spite & Malice, a popular pastime aboard.)  Licking my wounds from cards, I set about treating our sick 2HP Honda dinghy motor.  The motor would start on full throttle with full choke, but died within seconds of starting.  My best guess… water in the fuel from errantly leaving the tank vent open during the thunderstorm in Little Harbor.  The fuel tank proved easy to remove and drain.  The fluid we drained into a one liter bottle settled into two components. Fuel resting atop approximately one tablespoon of water.  Delighted that my diagnosis appeared to be correct and feeling that the motor was now on the road to recovery, I reassembled the engine.  Unable to easily access the fuel lines and carburetor, I figured that I could run out the remaining foul fuel while the motor hung on the stern of the boat.  This is possible since these small Honda outboards are air cooled.  I coaxed the engine along at full throttle and full choke for a time.  Eventually it began to sputter along at lower rpms.  I declared the demon exorcised from the outboard and set off for another round of surfing the paddle board at the cut unaware that the demons were plotting revenge. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Wonderful Afternoon Sail - Little Harbor to Tahiti Beach

After a cheeseburger lunch at Pete’s Pub, we sailed out of Little Harbor on a lively beam reach.  North up the island chain we continued under a full main and 80% head sail averaging in excess of 6.5 knots.   The waters  grew an crystalline, electric sapphire color as we approached  Sandy Cay on a close reach.

C'est la Vie purring along in crystall blue waters off Sandy Cay, Abaco

 This was the most fun sailing we had done since our trip began in late May. A delighted grin overtook my countenance as C’est la Vie purred along leeward toe rail skimming the blue water.

Anne took to the high side an enjoyed surreal water color as it splayed patterns across the sands 15 feet below.

 Slipping across the shallow sands of Tiloo Bank we fell onto a run.  Rather the expend the energy to lower and stow the main, we rolled up the headsail.  Making the 2NM run under the main definitely made for a slower downwind leg, but hey we are cruising the islands not rounding the buoys. Clearing the shoals and setting a course for Lubbers Quarters placed us back on a close reach.   The genny returned and our speed climbed back over 6 knots.
Passing Tahiti Beach on the southern end of Elbow Cay, we began to look for a spot to anchor.  The Abacos are definitely more populated than the Berry’s and we squeezed in among the mix of watercraft  already settled into the popular spot.

Busy anchorage off Elbow Cay.  This is off our port side. At least as many boats off the starboard.

Here are the numbers…. We covered 12.3NM with an average speed of 5.5 knots (damn that downwind leg under the mainsail) with a max speed of 7.7 knots.  Great day sail.  Now off for an afternoon paddle board excursion to Tahiti Beach.

Little Harbor, Abaco - We love this place!

Has everyone experienced places they cherish yet have mixed feelings about sharing for fear that when we next return it will have lost the magic?  I’ve collected a few spots of this nature.  Little Harbor, Abaco with it’s easy pace and welcoming locals; a protected harbor where sea turtles sunning on the surface are confused with the tired mooring balls.

Ariel View of Little Harbor
 The easy access to surfing at the cut or explorations in Old Robinson Bight.  Pete’s Pub on the beach with sand for the floor, the bow of a ship for the bar, succulent burgers, and friendly mix of locals and transients.  The artist’s studio and adjacent gallery. 

Anne paddle boarding along side the caves in Little Harbor
Waterside caves, trails through the brush, and mangrove creeks ripe for exploration. 

Anne exploring the mangrove pond off Little Harbor
 Residing at the southern end of the Abacos, Little Harbor is no secret to cruisers.  The harbor and nearby Lynyard Cay anchorage are natural areas for staging a passage further down island or a welcome sight for those island hopping northward.  For crews simply exploring the Abacos it does take some effort to reach the end of the road.   Skiffs and high speed power vessels can easily make a day run down the Marsh Harbor area.  I guess what I’m working towards is the realization that Little Harbor is no secret spot to horde away for fear of others spoiling my Eden.  It is already a well-traveled and much beloved spot that manages to play host to many travelers yet retain its allure.

Thanks to the locals Greg, Jeff, Samatha, Cindy, Charlie, Tony who welcomed us and aided in a night of overindulgence. 

Thanks to the transients Willie, Carolyn  Dan, Tyler, et. al. who shared a slice of time with us in Little Harbor.

Take care of the magic we will return.