Thursday, April 13, 2017

From Jen: Acklins Island

Let me tell you about Acklins Island. Only 550 people live here. It is desolate. My mother looked at a photo and called it “bleak”. The landscape where we are right now, the Bight of the Acklins is different from anywhere else we have been. It is bleak if you consider the rough, tan-sand beaches in comparison to the startlingly white coral sands of Long Island and the Exumas.

Gas station ruined by hurricane
Government Clinic on the newly paved Queen's Highway.

The "road" from the ruined government jetty to Regatta Point.
Allegro looking quite solitary. 

But the landscape, the seemingly barren and dull landscape doesn't do justice to Acklins Island.
Acklins Island is about the 500 people who live here.

We are lucky enough to have stumbled upon Acklins Island during the Regatta. The Acklins Regatta used to be in August, but this year they have moved it to Easter weekend. That means, the population has swelled to around 1000 to include sailors, musicians, and the folks here for “homecoming”. All the folks who grew up here return to Acklins Island to celebrate Regatta.
Using cranes to raise and lower Bahamian Sloops for the regatta.  The sloops arrived here on the Lady Rosalind II.  The water is rough, so they put them back on the boat after giving them some time for a shakedown cruise.  According to Curtis, it will cost $86,000 to stage this regatta.  For an island of 550 people...incredible. 
Traditional Rake n Scrape band

Consider a block party with about 100 people, food for sale, a beer tent (that also serves hard liquor) some sailboats messing around in the harbor and a band. We are outsiders here, and everyone know it. But folks who met us up at the northern end of this island group remember us and say hello. People who have never seen us before introduce themselves and wish us goodnight with a hug. It's a rough place to make a go.  It's not Connecticut.

Monday, December 26, 2016

From Jen: A long stay in West Palm Beach

Preparing for self-sufficiency for six months takes some time, and we took a lot of time preparing.  In a sense, we have been preparing since we purchased Allegro in June.  Lots of repairs and replacements, learning of systems, and purchasing thousands of dollars of food and equipment has been happening for the last 6 months.  But the weeks we spent in West Palm Beach were some of the busiest we've had. 

West Palm Beach at night during Christmas time.  This is Flagler Park and the Christmas tree made of sand.

The best part of completing our provisioning in West Palm Beach was spending time with my family for Thanksgiving.  They were incredibly supportive.  My mom and dad loaned us their car, and my mother-in-law loaned us HER car for a couple of days, too.  This allowed us to shop and load up on a couple thousand dollars worth of canned and dried goods.  My mother also gave us a place to hang out, shower, do laundry, eat good food, etc, etc, etc.  My sister and her family also spent time with us, keeping us well fed and entertained.  We got to see my nephew play lacrosse, which was a real treat!

Thanksgiving at Mom's house.
 The end result of all of this shopping was a huge amount of food on board.  We can hold more than one might think.  Daniel's and Zachary's bunks have large storage bins underneath that are currently filled with, among other things, 200 lbs of flour, 48 cans of green beans, 10 large jars of peanut butter, and 50 lbs of pasta. 

It's tough to tell from this photo, but the pile of food is about 3 feet deep and it extends in all four directions from the opening that is visible here.  Our boat had a definite forward tilt after loading provisions.  It balanced out somewhat after filling the diesel tanks the day before we left.

 West Palm Beach really is a nice community.  There is a lot there for cruisers.  It's free to land at the city dock, there is a safe anchorage, and there is plenty to do.  Palm Beach is on the opposite side of the Intra Coastal Waterway offering even more options.  As beautiful as Florida can be, we got pretty restless after awhile, and we had to pull up anchor and head south. 

Allegro at anchor in front of the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.

Friday, December 23, 2016

From Conrad: Dolphins on the way to Miami

This large pod of dolphins came to visit us on the passage between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. They played on our bow for almost 15 minutes!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

From Conrad: Berry Islands Reef and Blue Hole

Here is a taste of the reefs around Hoffman's Cay in the Berry islands. Featured wildlife includes a stingray, conch, and a small lobster, who was eaten with mac and cheese.

Hoffman's Cay had a blue hole a 5 minute hike in from the beach. The water is salty and very deep, dropping off very quickly from the cliffs above. It is about a 20 foot jump from the cliffs, and an exit through a small cave.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From Conrad: Various Video Clips

Over the course of the trip, I've taken quite a bit of video with our GoPro camera. Here are some highlights-

Here we passed the Logan International Airport landing strip on the way into Boston. We broke sailing etiquette and left our masthead light on, for obvious reasons.

This bird hitched a ride with us on the way into Atlantic City, New Jersey. Even after we scared him out of the cabin, he rested on the lines or in the cockpit for about thirty minutes.

Our first Chesapeake crab was not happy to be in this bucket.  We didn't catch enough for a full meal that night, so he got to go free.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

From Zach: Crabbing in the Chesapeake

Being stuck at Dennis Point Marina is boring. It sounds great on paper, free wifi, right next to a resteraunt and bar, and biking distance from a grocery store. The only problems are the free wifi is incredibly slow and only on certain hours of the day, the grocery store is a two hour round trip with lots of shoulders, the showers are cold most of the time and there seems to be no schedule for when they are hot. The resteraunt is nice, but they only have Redskins and Ravens games on TV. However the Chesapeake is the Chesapeake and crawling in the bottom of the Chesapeake, are crabs.

To catch crabs commercial fishermen use baited pots that crabs can get into, but can't get out of. This is very simaler to lobster fishing. They put these pots in the water marked with a flag. Unfortunately we have neither a pot or a license so we tie a chicken neck to a string and the other side of the string to a dock. Every few minutes we pull up our strings and if we feel a crab we have one person hold a net under it and let the crab fall into our net. It is a lot less effective than using crab pots but we get enough for a nice appetizer before dinner.

Eating a crab is harder than you would think. Breaking the claws and shell off is a pain and there's not a lot of meat. When you buy crab meat at a store they usually have machines do mostly of the work. Cracking them is a little like cracking a lobster, there's a lot of little tricks about twisting off claws and legs. The difference is lobsters have a lot more meat than crabs. It's worth it though because the tiny bit of meat you get is delicious.

Crabbing without pots is nearly impossible for getting enough for dinner. My dad insists when he was a kid he could pull up twenty or thirty crabs in a few hours. Our problem may be that we are in an area that has commercial crabbers catching everything there is to catch. It also may be that in the past 30 years the Chesapeake Bay has become over crabbed. Either way we are not catching as many as he has.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From Jen: Revisiting Port Jefferson

Long ago we owned a smaller sailboat, a 27 foot Jeanneau, also named "Allegro".  The boys were little, the boat was little, and we kept our destinations simple.  Our favorite spot: Port Jefferson, NY.  To be more specific, we liked to anchor off of the beach on the starboard side as you enter the Port Jefferson harbor.

It was a great place to go with little boys.  There were crabs and other critters to find, there were rocks to collect and rocks for skipping.  We were alone on weekdays.  We could get there in a manageable sail with plenty of light for anchoring and exploring.  We watched birds. We discovered baby horseshoe crabs, newly hatched, heading into the water.  We felt like a little group of survivalists on our own little island.

Just before we sold the first Allegro, we took a final trip there.  It was chilly at night in the early fall.  But we knew it was our last trip.  I snapped a photo that turned out to be one of my favorites of my boys.

Every time I look at this photo, it brings back a huge flood of memories of that first sailboat: the cozy closeness of the saloon, the seasickness in lousy weather, the warmth of the sand, the salty, stickiness of our skin, the impossibly perfectly round stones we collected and eventually used to decorate garden patches, the bittersweet sale of our beautiful boat.

The stones are just as round and perfect as I remembered.  I collected a few, because I couldn't stop myself.  Rich complained about the weight.

We had the anchorage to ourselves, and we were free to explore the areas we said goodbye to years ago.

The boys placated me by allowing me to recreate my favorite photo.  The light wasn't quite right in the setting sun, and the wind was going to be awful the next morning, so trying later wasn't an option.  But here is our effort with much bigger boys.

Allegro 2016 in Port Jefferson

A view of Allegro from the beach
The harbor entrance is so narrow, and the ferry seems so close!