The meeting to discuss heading south turned out to be much less informative than we’d hoped, but we were happy to swap some route concepts and potential buddy boating opportunities. We learned there’s a reason Georgetown is nicknamed “Chicken Harbor” – it’s often as far south as many seasonal sailors are willing to risk traveling. I attempted a short beach walk during the meeting, only to realize my hamstring was still badly in need of rest. We returned to the boat for lunch, boat chores, and to make a different batch of oatmeal craisin cookies for the afternoon meeting (the first no-bake batch was not something I’d want to bring to a potluck – delicious, but very messy, sticky, and I didn’t make enough… or I did, but ate too much batter in the process). The hours passed quickly and we loaded up the dinghy to head to the A.R.G. Meeting (Alcohol Research Group) with our research materials and the much larger batch of cookies. Our short dinghy ride to Honeymoon Beach was comfortable and we arrived ~20 minutes early for the meeting. We started our research and mingled with new folks as they arrived intermittently. Before we knew it, the massive plywood table was covered in yummy treats to share. Lots of cheeses, dips, and desserts complimented our coconut rum perfectly. Unsurprisingly, A.R.G. turned out to be a potluck, with an unspoken no children, drinkers only rule. Our kind of crowd! As always, we had a wonderful time meeting new friends and mingling with current ones – cruising has a special way of bringing strangers together as automatic friends that somehow feel like family. Our new friends from the bonfire night, Jay and wife, Willow (S/V Aqua Trek) joined us for a sundowners drink or two on Lady Sun Dream after the potluck concluded. Jay is a merchant marine chief mate and Willow is a sea turtle biologist, specializing in rehabilitation – such a neat, knowledgeable couple made for a lovely evening discussing everything from our never-ending generator struggles to our kindred thoughts on ocean conservation.
Tuesday morning brought the excitement of picking up our brand new Yamaha 2-stroke 15hp outboard motor! We headed to town in Rinky, I grocery shopped while Nate had the motor installed (he could have easily done it himself, but the 1 year warranty requires the shop does it.) After a delay from a downpour squall, we started to head back to the boat, loving the comfort and speed of our new motor, but highly disliking the amount of water Rinky seemed to be accumulating. Laying blame to the new motor, weight of the fuel, groceries, and old electric motor, we unloaded and waited for the next squall to pass before intending to head back to town. Why would we cross the bay twice in one day, amidst storms? Well, as luck would have it, a wonderful 2-3 day weather window was forecasted for the following few days… but we needed to have the 10-hour maintenance performed on the new Yamaha by the dealer in order to maintain our warranty. So, run the motor… all of the time! We didn’t want to miss the chance to sail the moss off the hull, so we were going to push to use the motor for as close to 10 hours as sensibly possible. Wary of the ankle-deep water in Rinky, Nate tried to convince me that it would dump out of the valve as soon as we started moving. “Oky doky, let’s get some more rum!” Not even two minutes into the transit, my comfort level was rapidly decreasing. “Honey, maybe we should turn around, we are taking on a lot of water…” Nate replied “Let’s try to get Rinky on a plane to drain faster.” “Okay,” I reluctantly responded. Not a moment later, Nate shifted the tiller to turn us into an oncoming wake and water began aggressively frothing at my legs. I barely finished my concerned “we better turn around” statement before Nate had us aiming for the boat. By the time we got back to the boat, we were calf-deep with the gas can floating aimlessly around the dink. As we disembarked Rinky, Nate chuckled when he realized his foot was in the water… where the bottom of the dinghy used to be. All you can do is make laugh sometime. We knew the inflated pontoons would keep Rinky afloat, but we quickly removed the gas can and engine, fearing for escape, submersion, or damage. With Rinky void of everything except lots of water, we dragged her alongside and lifted her onto the deck. Further investigation revealed the entire port side’s bottom was no longer attached to the pontoon. Bummer! Granted, we couldn’t be that angry, she’d served us well and was almost 8 years old. We could not be mad at Rinky, but we could be sorely disappointed that we were now stranded on the boat, with no transportation other than swimming ashore.
We cleaned, dried, and glued the bottom back on Rinky, with hopes she would float, flood-free, once again. We called Erik, asking for a ride ashore, as we were planning to meet up with a few other couples intending to head south the next morning. He graciously agreed, and we all gathered on the beach to talk sail plans. We chatted with the boats planning to leave in the morning, but were not thrilled with their sail plans. Given our current dinkless situation, we made no promises at the meeting and headed back to the boat to discuss our intentions. We reached a decision surprisingly quickly, as the only boats leaving the next day were going straight for Turks and Caicos – a 2-3 nights journey in potentially 5’ seas across the bow. Normally, we wouldn’t shake a stick at the thought of 2-3 overnights, but we are still actively trying to slow down and not run ourselves ragged.
That fact, coupled with the outboard’s 10-hour maintenance requirement, pushed us to delay our southern journey to the next weather window. Luckily, our friends were kind enough to come to our boat for sundowners, as we were a bit stranded. Erik and Lisa and Eddie (from the Rinky escape night) and his wife, Cara, joined us for the evening. Nate and I discussed options of island hopping “locally” for the next few days, as the weather window was there, but we were wary of our dinghy void.
Squalls roused the harbor from deep sleep and sent many folks into a frenzy: anchors were dragging all over, vessels tangling in each other, empty boats drifting into occupied boats… what a mess! Fortuitously, our oversized anchor (though short of scope at the time) held wonderfully, so we watched helplessly as countless sailors jumped into their dinghies to assist boats in need. Through the stress of squalls, it was still incredibly heartwarming to see strangers coming to each other’s aid in a small crisis. The morning radio net was full of praises of thanks and gratitude to the assistants. Humanity isn’t lost, after all! Nate continued troubleshooting on the generator while I attempted to finalize some outstanding NOAA Corps paperwork and start filing my taxes – how fun. The squalls finally dissipated and we tossed Rinky back in the water with high hopes. She appeared to be working, with only a small water intrusion, so we lowered and mounted the engine from the davit so we could take her for a test drive. Before we could even get the engine attached, Nate’s foot was through the floor, yet again. Having lost almost all hope at that point, we brought her back aboard and started hashing out our options. We knew having a new dinghy shipped to Georgetown would cost us almost 52% on top of the purchase price in taxes, customs, and fees, so in all reality, that was out of the question. I hailed Aqua Trek on the radio, knowing they’d just replaced their old dinghy for a larger one better suited for their scuba gear. Willow informed me that they still had the old dink and would be happy to offer us a good price. Elated with the potential for a midterm solution, we still hadn’t given up on Rinky, so we applied a 2-part PVC adhesive solution given to us by our friend Dan, on S/V Sasanoa. Jay and Willow towed their old dinghy “Little Willy” over to our boat within an hour and we happily purchased it from them. We promised not to change the name, as that seems to be our M.O. with boat names. Feeling exceedingly free with Willy (insert your own Free Willy joke here) we jetted over to town for the previous day’s intended liquor run and test run of Little Willy. Willy rocked and we were elated at our new prospects of day trips and a dink to last us until we could get to USVI or somewhere south that wouldn’t charge us an extra half dink in fees. Once we returned from our successful trip to town and back, Jay and Willow stopped by to see how it went and we happily had them aboard for celebratory drinks and conversation for the evening. By the end of the evening, Nate and I decided to take advantage of the weather window and head north to Staniel Cay (pronounced “Key”) for a day or two to swim with the pigs and visit James Bond’s famous Thunderball Grotto.
Despite the midnight squalls and additional boat frenzy, we awoke early on Valentine’s Day, eager to actually sail after the two weeks at anchor in Georgetown. It was a rainy morning, but we weren’t bothered. We motor sailed all day towards Staniel Cay (~55nm north of Georgetown). We caught a beautiful Mahi that instantly escalated our Valentine’s Day dinner plans from hot dogs to fresh, delicious fish. We entered the channel against the strong current and were happily anchored in the crystal clear waters by 17:00. We popped into town for a quick look around then back to the boat for mahi-mahi and champagne.
We awoke early the next morning, intending to beat the tourist boats to the famous Thunderball Grotto. After a frustrating fight with the new motor trim lever, we went on the short dinghy cruise to the nearby island. We anchored the dink for the first time using our homemade anchor – two 5-pound dumbbells tied in a cross formation. We donned our snorkels and masks and slid into the cool, clear water. The morning sunshine warmed our backs as we kicked over to the grotto entrance. Given we were close to low tide, the entrance only required a shallow dive to clear under the rocks into the cave. Having not seen James Bond’s Thunderball film, I had no idea what to expect. The water was so incredibly transparent, the coral and fish left me awestruck. I was so impressed with the little cave, feeling like I’d found a small slice of heaven… only for Nate to inform me that we weren’t even in the main space, yet! Oh my, what incredible news! We proceeded to take another shallow dive to the next cave that opened up into one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The morning sun’s angle shone bright through the few water exits, illuminating and exaggerating the brilliant turquoise water. Nate laughed that he remembered the “upside down volcano” being much larger as a 5 year old, but regardless of the size disparity, we we continued to revel in the beauty of the sun light through the holes in the rocks above and around us. We swam under and out the opposite side of the island, continuing to bask in the incredible splendor of the coral and dazzling colored fish. We swam back through to the main room and eventually back out to the dinghy, with our souls totally filled the glory Mother Nature granted us.
Quickly realizing it was only 08:30, we were excited to check out Pig beach and continue with our already incredible day. We stopped by the boat for a quick water refresh and a snack then went on a longer dinghy ride around a small island. Pig Beach was as touristy and underwhelming as we’d assumed, so we took some photos, tried not to step in piggy poo, and headed back to Lady Sun Dream.
Taking advantage of the near slack tide, we shifted to the fuel dock to top off our tanks, and then back across the small channel to anchor and have lunch on the boat. We popped back over to town in Little Willy to stock up on English muffins and tortillas for friends in Georgetown and ourselves, as the Georgetown market’s shelves were constantly void of them. Back aboard the boat in the gorgeous sunshine and breeze, we stowed the recently repaired whisker pole and then Nate scrapped Rinky of all her worthy bits while I snorkeled around the boat, cleaning the fuzz off the hull and inspecting thru-hulls. Because we ran the water maker the full day before and intended to run it all the way back to Georgetown, we enjoyed gloriously long showers and prepped drinks. We swung by Sonya and Christian’s boat, German/Croatian friends we’d met in Georgetown and bumped in to the night before, to enjoy some conversation and socializing. After some time aboard, we puttered over to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to take advantage of their 3/$10 deal on Heinekens and snag some conch fritters. Disappointingly, they were out of conch and cold Heineys… womp womp… we pulled up our whiny britches and decided to stay for a warm beer, regardless. The bartender was kind enough to provide cups of ice for us to spin our bottles in, warily, slowly cooling our beers. We settled for a side order of French fries and convinced the barmaid to provide another round of beer in an ice water bucket for significantly faster cooling. We chatted with folks at the bar, finished all but one beer (never fear, we took it with us) and headed back to the boat for a proper dinner and sleep.
We beat the sun up on Saturday morning, setting our course to return to Georgetown. Our motorsail was uneventful for the most part until we were surprised by an interesting radio call. Motor vessel Dream Chaser hailed us and informed us that Lady Sun Dream’s previous owner was aboard. What a small ocean! Nate talked to Pat Griffin, the lovely widow who sold him the boat, for a few minutes and we both sat back in awe with the chance encounter. They were heading to Emerald Bay, just north of Georgetown, to clear customs and head back to the U.S. We anchored in Georgetown and quickly dinked ashore to meet another “south bound” group. Still a little mind-blown with the happenstance with Mrs. Griffin, we popped over to Erik and Lisa’s for sundowners with several other sailors. Midway through the game, we thought we heard our vessel being hailed on the radio. Unsure who would be calling us after dark, we didn’t investigate and continued enjoying drinks and snacks. Feeling a little odd about the radio call, Nate checked his email. As it turns out, he had an email from Pat’s nephew, stating they cleared customs and decided to head down to Georgetown to anchor near us, in hopes to connect. Excitedly, he responded and we grabbed the radio. In continued universal alignment, out of the 280+ boats in the large harbor, they approached and anchored two boats away from Erik and Lisa’s. We politely excused ourselves from sundowners and dinked over to M/V Dream Chaser. We were welcomed with open arms and teary eyes. Pat was over the moon with the encounter. She had read some of our blog and elated to meet us. We spent a few hours aboard, sharing stories and learning where Lady Sun Dream’s name came from: Pat and her late husband, Ken, spent many days and nights on a beautiful megayacht which Ken’s company had chartered to woo clients. Luckily for Pat and Ken, most oil folk in Texas weren’t ecstatic about the boat idea, so they “took one for the team” each time the boat was scheduled for a cruise with no one on it. That vessel’s name was “Sun Dream.” They experienced such fun times and made fond memories aboard, they decided to name their custom Caliber 40 sailboat “Sun Dream.” After many years of sailing “Sun Dream,” they decided to upgrade to a boat more comfortable to sail around the world. Not wanting to change the namesake too much, they called their Caliber 47 “Lady Sun Dream” or as Pat called her, “The Lady.” Even further, the nephew’s boat name of “Dream Chaser” was not a coincidence, either. Pat has chosen to have some aspect of Sun Dream in each of their vessel names. We left them with full hearts and a promise to show them “The Lady” in the morning.
We awoke early on Sunday morning, shifted to a closer anchorage to the center of the activities (Chat and Chill beach bar) and then began an aggressive cleaning of Lady. I love cleaning, so I was pleased for the excuse to overhaul the boat. We scrubbed decks and walls, tidied lines and gear, and stowed excess parts and pieces to have Lady looking better than I’ve ever seen her for Pat’s arrival. She arrived with nephew Phil, and his wife, Chris around noon. Her smile did not fade from the second they approached until she left our sight. They had a lovely visit. It was so neat to hear the parts they custom designed or how excited she was to hear about additional designs and upgrades that Nate has installed over the years. It was incredibly obvious that she and Ken loved this boat, and we are so grateful that we were able to share our love of Lady and our adventures up to this point with her. We all felt so fulfilled and our hearts warmed to almost fire. We said our bittersweet goodbyes, with promises to continue to enjoy Lady, blog about our adventures, and visit if we’re ever near Houston. Such a small ocean, indeed.
We later picked up Ward and dinked across the bay to a little restaurant conglomerate called the Fish Fry – a series of small, brightly painted buildings along the beach. We enjoyed conch fritters (finally!) and two tasty, foo-foo drinks. We popped to town for groceries and gasoline after, only to find we’d wasted an hour by doing so, as everything was closed on Sunday, unbeknownst to us. We finally made it back across the bay and after a brief stop on the boat and Chat and Chill, we joined another group on Erik and Lisa’s boat for Cards Against Humanity. Everyone had a great time with the raunchy humor of the game and each other’s company.
We headed into town Monday morning for provisions and gasoline – luckily, all our necessary stores were open. We relaxed on the boat, working on the blog and reading single side band radio manuals until going to Chat and Chill in the afternoon. We met a few new couples planning to sail south and then we packed up our cooler, picked up Ward, and headed to Flip Flop beach for a bbq and beach party. Lots of fun was had, the intermingling group of 20+ folks kept conversations interesting. Once the dusk bloodsuckers joined the party, we promptly moved a smaller group of us to Eddie and Cara’s boat for continued entertainment for the evening.
I attended water aerobics class after the net this Tuesday morning, hoping to get a little activity in that wouldn’t set me back in my hamstring injury healing. Class was enjoyable, but unfortunately, the dinghy ride there and back by myself caused more harm than good. Maybe I’ll heal someday, but that day is not today. Nate nerded out on the single side band radio, determining how to have emails sent as text messages when we’re out of service and receive weather maps and updates. We watched the small boat regatta races from the boat through intermittent storms: paddle board, kayaks, homemade boats, and blind dinghy rows were quite entertaining. I worked on the blog and rested my leg while Nate continued troubleshooting on the generator. At this point, we believe we’ve isolated that we have a bad temperature switch on our fresh water pump. She’s running well now and hopefully will be for the future! I’ve volunteered to help with the costume contest this afternoon, another of the many events during a two-week regatta celebration. I’ve been assigned to pour the rum punch… one for you, one for me… right? That’s all, folks!
I’ll upload videos from Thunderball Grotto once I can access wifi! We hope you enjoy the photos in the meantime.