Friday, August 28, 2015

New Video: Episode #10 Sailing the Caribbean - Guadeloupe: The Tale of Two Waterfalls

Here it is, Episode #10 has finally been uploaded.  And this episode took forever for a few different reasons.  First of all, it was edited primarily in Adobe Premiere Pro that took me awhile to figure out how to use - quite a few hours were spent watching tutorials on how to do the simplest tasks, and it was time consuming to say the least.  The second thing that added to the delay was that I wanted to create an official "intro" that I could use at the beginning of all the rest of my videos from now on - and getting that just right along with picking the right song took an extremely long time.  

And although this episode isn't very lengthy, be sure and watch until the end for some of the best sailing footage that I've ever included in any of my videos and also for some great bonus footage that wraps up this episode.  But also, this was Brandon's first attempt at narrating a video - and for the first time, I think he did awesome and hopefully it won't be his last. Thanks for being patient and hopefully everybody enjoys this installment.

Friday, August 7, 2015

10 Things I learned from Sailing the Thorny Path

When we set sail from Key West on December 30, 2014 we had no idea what we were doing and had only sailed a total of 3 times equaling about 4 hours of sailing time total.  We didn't even know where we would end up because we had no idea if our untested boat would even get us there - so we just kept going....all the way down to Trinidad.  



And now, after 17 countries and 2,100 nautical miles, I can safely say that it continues to be an adventure of a lifetime and what we learned from it has only been experienced by a small group of sailors - and even a smaller group if you consider we sailed the entire Thorny Path in our first season.

So I thought I'd pass on a few tid-bits of information that I observed along the way - things that can be useful information or just an odd observation.  So here goes my top 10 things we learned on our first season sailing the Thorny Path.

1.  Even salty sailors worry a lot.  Throughout the trip, we would occasionally meet other sailors - and got to be good friends with a select few - and it always surprised us to find out that some of them worry about weather and passages just as much or more than we did.  Some of them wouldn't do any passage without the company of another boat.  We actually did all of our night passages alone - we left when I thought the weather looked good - even the big one - Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, a 47 hour passage over the course of two days that we were completely alone.  Would it have been nice to have another boat within radio shot?  Of course, but I was never in the habit of finding a buddy boat - we were loners just about the entire time and only hooked up with other sailors on a couple of day passages because they were our friends and just happened to be going the same way on the same day.  We were confident in our boat and our equipment and my ability to determine when the weather looked good enough to leave.  We were either good at picking a weather window or we just had dumb luck - probably a little of each as we never had any problems or disasters on any of our passages, day or night.  

2. Some put a little too much stock in weather guru Chris Parker.  Now I don't have any particular problem with Chris Parker and I also think that any information is good information when it comes to making and planning for a passage.  But the total amount of times I actually listened to his broadcasts were exactly zero.  I'm not sure that I even picked him up on our SSB because I just didn't wake up that early.  What I don't understand is that GRIB files are rampant out here and if you have sailed any amount of time at all, it was easy to tell by a quick glance if it was a good time to set sail or not - I really didn't need someone else telling me when to go - it was obvious.  Trust in your boat and trust in the knowledge you've built up as the miles continue to pass under you and use all the information you obtain to make an informed decision for yourself.  But I would advise against depending on him too much but rather take in all your resources and make your own decision. But there is an exception:  if I were going to make a massive offshore passage that included more than 3 or 4 days at sea, I would definitely hire him to help me decide when to leave, but not for anything under that.  





3. Sailing east against the trades really sucks.  Its called the Thorny Path for a reason.  And really, I should be saying motor-sailing east because that is what you do most of the time.  I recently had an idiot that left a comment on my YouTube channel that told me we must not be "real sailors" because we didn't seem to enjoy the trip, just the destination - "for real sailors, its the trip, not the destination" he said.  And for anybody to come at us with this stupid and over-used saying - its obvious that person does not live on a sailboat.  For all the sailors and cruisers we met along the way, none said they were having a blast as we pounded to the east day after day.  And for the sailors that do love sailing - those people go out on the weekend and sail around the bay and do it for "the love of sailing."  Those people don't travel the thorny path or live on a sailboat.  But don't get me wrong, when we have sailed at 8 knots with a sweet 22 knot wind and 4 foot seas...its really the greatest feeling, and something that has to be experienced for yourself.  But that is not what the thorny path is all about - its about surviving it and has little to do with enjoying it. 

4. People have a tenancy to overstate the size of the seas.   Not that I've ran into too many sailors along the way that did this, but I read a lot from other sailors that seem to do this quite a bit.  We've seen our fair share of rough weather - although we haven't crossed the Atlantic or the Pacific (which I hear can get pretty hairy) we have sailed through a lot of different types of conditions.  And the first thing I can tell you is that there is good reason a lot of cruisers stop at George Town, Bahamas - because by the time you make the crossing to the DR, you might just find out what a 3 meter wave really looks like.  And if you were lucky enough to make it to Saint Martin unscathed, you will most definitely find out on your way south to Grenada at some time or another.  We've heard time and time again that the seas "were not properly predicted - they are always bigger." I saw video evidence of what another sailor called "12 foot seas" where the nose of the boat wasn't even getting covered with the oncoming sea and I have to wonder if they really know what they're in for when the actually see a 12 foot wave.  A two meter swell at 7 seconds is still a big wave...bigger than you can imagine.  In fact, I bet that when you see one you'll swear it was better than 10 feet - but it wasn't...what you witnessed was a 6 foot wave.  Believe me, when you see a wave bigger than 3 meters, you will know it - it will throw your boat for a loop.  Just refer to the cute little video I posted of a decent sized wave hitting us on our beam - that one, we think, was somewhere around 9 feet or so and it took our 23 foot beam catamaran for a ride. 

5.  Sailing at night is not as bad as you would think.  Well, I kinda went back and forth on this one....I almost titled it "Sailing at night is pretty scary" but when I reflected on our night passages, I realized that it was never as bad as I was expecting.  As the night crossing approached, I was always a little nervous about it.  But after we'd get out there and hoist the sails, we'd watch the sun set and our eyes would quickly adjust.  And if the moon was shining, we could see just about everything - but on the flip side, if the moon wasn't shining it can make the experience quite a bit more intense.  But in the morning, after we had made it through just fine, I always ended up saying, "that wasn't that bad."  Although tame seas, a good moon, and mild winds really help to make a great overnight passage - so picking a good weather window is really important to a safe and enjoyable overnighter.

6.  Sailing really isn't that hard after all.  Sailing may seem like driving a car to some of the more experienced sailors but to the non-sailor the thought can be overwhelming.  I get questions all the time about how much experience we had before we set sail and I get the impression its folks just like us that are wanting to leave the rat-race and sail off into the sunset but have never even stepped on a sailboat before.  But rest assured, anybody can do it.  If you are diligent enough to research the dream of sailing, you have all the tools needed to learn how to do it...and even learn how to do it on the fly.

7.  Grenada is surprisingly awesome.  Who would have thought?  You hear about Grenada all the time, but never as a vacation destination.  Its always where you go to be safe from hurricanes.  Everybody talks about St. Lucia and the BVI's but Grenada is never mentioned in the same breath.  But we had the best time there and had a great time hiking, touring and snorkeling and would recommend it as a place to consider for your next vacation.

8.  Monohulls do just as much motoring as Catamarans.  There's a big misconception that cats are the only ones motoring to their destinations but this theory doesn't come from the land of reality.  We've had a lot of conversations with many monohull sailors from George Town to Grenada and compared notes with a lot of them - and the reports disprove this myth.  In fact, some owners even motor-sailed on days that we were able to just sail.  I don't understand it - wind is wind and it actually takes less wind to move a lighter boat so I'm just not sure where this misconception ever came about - but believe me, don't buy a monohull just because you think you'll be able to sail when cats are motoring - it just doesn't happen.

9.  You don't need near as many clothes and shoes as you would think (this one is for the women only).  We tried to tell my wife every time she was packing her suitcases for another trip to the boat, that she didn't need that much stuff - but she didn't listen. And then when we got to Trinidad, she gathered up all the stuff she didn't need to take back to the states - she needed two gigantic checked bags just to carry it and I'm still not sure she got it all.  When they tell you all you need is a few bathing suits, a couple of shirts, and one pair of flip-flops - it really is the truth.  

10.  I really, really love solar and wind power. We have 1024 watts of solar power on Catchin' Rays and a 400 watt wind generator and together they produce enough energy to power all our refrigeration, navigation, and entertainment equipment with ease.  We'd go weeks on end without ever having to run anything else to recharge our batteries.  In fact, we'd go so long without running our generator that it would loose its prime and we'd have to burp the air out of its fuel line.  Living off the sun and wind slowly turns into an addiction - I dream of more solar, more wind, and more battery storage and I can now easily understand the people on land that live "off the grid" and it is definitely something I will take with me when we leave sailing completely - whether it will be filling up the roof of our future motorhome or if it will be  integrated into our home - it will be part of our life in some form or another.  

So there you go...a few things I learned on our Thorny Path adventure.  Maybe next season I'll post something on what we learned from sailing west from Trinidad....but that will be for next season.

Check out our latest video from our first season "Sailing the Caribbean"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Video: #9 Sailing the Caribbean - St. Martin to Montserrat

Breaking news: Catchin' Rays just released Episode #9 from their award winning first season of “Cruising the Caribbean”.  As the 2015 hurricane season quickly approaches, the crew finally begins to work their way south towards safer sailing grounds.  Be the first to watch this incredible installment that critics are calling “the best episode in the series.” 

On this episode, we begin at Maho Beach, St. Martin as we watch the jets take off right in fron of us; Aaron takes the drone up for a couple of test flights, and we take care of a real crappy problem aboard Catchin' Rays.  But then we set sail southward to gorgeous Saba on an epic day of sailing where we find a mooring on the upper west side of the island.  We continue working our way down to St. Kitts and then Montserrat where we take a tour of a city devastated by a volcanic eruption from 1997.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Video: #8 Sailing the Caribbean: US Virgin Islands to St. Martin

Here it is....the video that you've all been waiting for.  One month in the making.  Over 30 hours spent in the editing room.  With a cast and crew of at least 5 people.  With a budget well over a hundred dollars.  Spanning over 90 nautical miles.  I present Episode #8.

On this episode, we explore the USVI's before moving on to the BVI's where we snorkel the Indians, visit Willy T's, swim the Caves, and scuba dive the RMS Rhone.  But before we make the overnight crossing to St. Martin, we stop back by St. Thomas and pick up our newest crew member Aaron.  Video shot between May 3rd and June 4th. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Video: #7 Sailing the Caribbean: Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Island's

Here it is....the most anticipated video on YouTube...its got the critics going wild - Siskle and Ebert give it two thumbs way up and the Dallas Times Herald say its a must see. 

On this episode, we cruise along the south coast of Puerto Rico and eventually land at Palmas Del Mar Marina.  We then spend a few days on Vieques, then Culebra before crossing over to the USVI's and St. Thomas - just in time for the end of the 2015 Virgin Island's Carnival and the fireworks show that was launched from a barge only 850 feet off our bow.  

Check it out for yourself and see what everybody's been talking about.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Video: Episode #6 the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico

The long awaited, much anticipated, critically acclaimed Episode #6 has finally uploaded.  It took over 10 hours sitting here at anchor in Cane Garden Bay, BVI as it uploaded all throughout the night.

On this episode, we ride the cable car up the mountain to see Christ Redentor; we hike through the jungles of Rio Damajagua to see and to trek through the 27 waterfalls, and then make the 47 hour passage to Puerto Rico. This footage was taken between March 22, 2015 and April 7, 2015. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Extreme Track Plus - Your New Way to Track Us!

Well its about time...I've really been lazy about posting to my blog and so I figured its about time.  We've been extremely busy with sailing, adventures, and boat projects.  But the boat projects that we accomplished in Palmas Del Mar Marina have made huge improvements aboard Catchin' Rays. We got new bad-ass Bushnell binoculars, a voltage regulator for our Nexgen generator (it was acting up), two hand held Cobra VHF's, and a mighty MidNite Classic MPPT solar controller - in fact, its so awesome, I might even blog about it next - it has completely taken our solar array to new levels making at times, a whopping 64 amps per hour during the day off of 840 watts - but that's for another day.  



But what I am wanting to talk about today is the other goody we got in our care package - our new IridiumGo satellite phone/wifi hotspot.  It allows us to use our current cell phones to make calls all over the world.  But not only that, it also allows us to text all month without limits.  But wait, that's not all, it also enables us to download GRIB files anywhere in the world - its how we see the weather, and more specifically, the wind for up to 14 days of forecast.  We download the files to our laptop or smart phone and now we don't have to worry about being close to land in order to get cell phone reception....and getting the wind forecast is something that is a must when traveling the world by sailboat.  



But the reason I'm blogging about it today, is because the IridiumGo also comes with a feature that allows anybody in the world to be able to track us.  We set it up to send the coordinates about every 10 minutes when we're traveling, and about every 4 hours while we're anchored or docked.  I've added this feature to the toolbar at the top of my webpage under the heading titled "Where in the World Are We - Click Here" and although I am still tweaking the link, you'll be able to track us anywhere we go.  If you'd like to adjust the dates seen, click the arrow in the upper left corner here:



To bring out a menu tab, and put in whatever date that you want to see, but I have defaulted it to the day when we first installed the IridiumGO into our boat.  Also, you can click the Map Tab in the upper right corner to overlay a Satellite image if you want to see that instead of a map.



So now, you'll be able to find us anywhere we are and I can stop worrying about if we change our minds mid-sail and decide to go to another island....we'll also be able to send text messages along the way anyway, so its was perfect for what we needed in order to be able to cross big oceans whenever that time arrives.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Video: Episode #5 Sailing the Caribbean - Georgetown to the Dominican Republic

On this episode, we finally leave Georgetown after chilling out for a month and waiting on parts.  And along the way, we catch five mahi-mahi, each one bigger than the last.  At Clarence Town, we make the short ride over to Dean's Blue Hole and snorkel above the 663 foot sink hole.  We also jump off the 40' high cliffs that rise directly above the abyss.  We island hop across Crooked Island and anchor at Plana Cays en route to Mayaguana where we take a quick nap before pulling anchor at 2 am with our sights set on Turks & Caicos.  We then motor across the banks as we get set for our long and dark over-nighter to the Dominican Republic.  

The footage in this episode was taken between March 7th and March 22, 2015.  Check out our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/kevtamus and also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/svcatchinrays  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Cost to Cruise for 3 Months - the data is in!

We just finished documenting our numbers for the month of March and thought we share all the amounts since we set sail from Key West just over 3 months ago.  The format for March has changed just a bit since I've passed this task on to my wife...and obviously she changed how the totals are presented, so watch for category totals as you go down the list.  We also updated the January total because I forgot to add in the entry fee into the Bahamas the first time I posted our costs...so that total has been adjusted.  February was a cheap month because it was spent almost entirely at anchor in Georgetown waiting on parts.  And remember, all these numbers are for a family of 4 on a 42' catamaran...and some of the entertainment costs included my mother-in-law...so at times, there were 5 admission fees and at the 27 Waterfalls, 2 guides were being tipped.  We also stayed at a marina more in March than we have since we left so it ended up costing more than I would have liked it to.  But when everything was calculated, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.


January 2015
Diesel $54.00
Gas $13.00
Groceries $265.00
Diesel $228.00
Gas $23.00
Weech's Dockage (2 days) $100.00
Bimini World Marina (1 day) $55.00
Nassau Habour Club $203.00
Port Starter $200.00
Rent-a-car $112.00
Zincs (4 sets) $150.00
Entertainment/ Dinning $119.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Book (we forgot to buy Bahamas) $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Bahama Sim Card for cell phone $20.00
Cell Phone - Carribean $210.00
Pre-paid minuets $180.00
Internet Access $75.00
Containers $11.00
Medicne $13.00
Exuma Yacht Club (1 day) $93.00
Groceries $48.00
Dinning $21.00
Diesel $91.00
Totals
Diesel $378.00
Groceries $313.00
Gas $36.00
Dockage $451.00
Maintenance $462.00
Entertainment/Dinning $140.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Books $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Communication $485.00
Containers $11.00
Medicine $13.00
Entry fee to cruise and fish the Bahamas $320.00
January Total $3,061.00
February 2015
Replacement feeder pump for watermaker $44.18
Sirius XM weather and radio $55.00
Jabsco replacement head kit $59.99
Bahamian Wifi (1 month) $107.50
Shipping costs to Raymarine - amenometer $83.61
Shipping costs to Georgetown - misc items $96.70
Hardware - tv cable $19.35
Groceries - Exuma Markets $18.16
Groceries - Exuma Markets $32.13
Groceries - Exuma Markets $49.63
Pump out and garbage disposal $24.00
Dining $22.00
Diesel  $226.57
Gas $15.02
Water - 70 gallons $30.10
Groceries - Exuma Markets $141.05
Laundry $31.00
Dining $56.00
Exuma Market $14.56
BTC - Cell phone minuets  $80.00
DoeBoi Shipping - GPS and Jabsco repair  $77.66
Dining $23.00
Itemized February Total $1,307.21
Totals
Diesel $226.57
Groceries $255.53
Gas $15.02
Water $30.10
Maintenance Items and Shipping to Bahamas (mostly spares) $382.49
Entertainment - Internet Wifi and Sirius XM $162.50
Laundry $31.00
Communication - cell minuets $80.00
Dining Out $100.00
Dockage $0.00
Pump out and Garbage Disposal $24.00
February Total  $1,307.21
March 2015
Communication Turks and Caicos Cell phone sim card and minuets $65.00
Communication DR cell  $25.00
TOTAL COMMUNICATION  $90.00
Deisel at Clarence Town @ $4.69 per/gallon + tax $49.20
Deisel at South Side Marina @ $5.90 per gallon+ tax $287.85
Deisel Puerto Real Marina @ $2.85 per gallon + tax  $117.00
TOTAL DEISEL $454.05
Dinning  $41.75
Dinning  $46.43
Dinning Mcdonalds puerto real $18.00
TOTAL DINNING  $106.18
Entertainment 27 Falls tip $60.00
Entertainment 27 Falls tip entry $46.00
Entertainment Gondala entry $50.00
Entertainment Gondala tip $20.00
Entertainment Sirius XM Weather and Radio $55.00
TOTAL ENTERTAINMENT $231.00
Exit fee Despacho - DR $20.00
Entry fee Puerto Real customs $27.50
Entry into DR x 4 people  $127.00
Entry Turks and Caicos Flags (bought shitty one then good one) $25.00
Entry/Exit into Turks and Caicos $100.00
TOTAL ENTRY FEES $299.50
Gas $28.00
Gas @ South Side Marina 2.5 gallons @ $6.00 $16.05
Gas at Clarence Town @ $4.48 per/gallon + tax $13.70
TOTAL GAS $57.75
Groceries $30.00
Groceries $13.57
Groceries $18.90
Groceries $64.50
Groceries $18.65
Groceries $2.37
Groceries $27.82
Groceries $17.12
Groceries $223.01
Groceries $153.90
Groceries $1.70
Groceries $10.00
Groceries Clarence Town Sea Wind Groceries $118.49
Groceries Puerto plata map, pepsi $12.00
TOTAL GROCERIES $712.03
Internet - Bahamian WiMax $37.50
Internet - South Side Marina $7.49
TOTAL INTERNET $44.99
Maintenance Propellor - 15hp Mercury $60.00
Maintenance Shipping and Duty tax - import parts $87.00
TOTAL MAINTENANCE $147.00
Marina Dockage at South Side Marina @$75 per night + tax $160.50
Marina Electricity @ South Side Marina 77 hrs @ .84 cents gallon + tax $69.21
Marina fee Water @ South Side Marina @ .15 cents gallon + tax $23.59
Marina Ocean World Marina $356.63
Marina Ocean World Marina $245.00
TOTAL MARINA $854.93
Pharmacy $18.00
TOTAL PHARMACY $18.00
Transportation Car $99.95
Transportation Taxi $20.00
Transportation Taxi $20.00
Transportation Taxi turks $20.00
TOTAL TRANSPORTATION $159.95
March TOTAL  $3,175.38


Check out our latest episode below to see what the crew's been up to.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Video: Episode #4 - Exploring the Bahamas - Stocking Island

On this episode, we set out for a couple of days of exploration. First we take the trail to the windward beach and head south until it ends and the labyrinth of trails begin - where beautiful views can be had atop gorgeous rock cliffs.  But we also spent a day on a hike to the Salt Monument by the northern part of the island.  And in between we accomplish a little work on the boat and watch the 2015 Georgetown Regatta from our own front seats. Video footage taken from February 25 and March 5, 2015.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dean's Blue Hole - Long Island, Bahamas

Road Trip!  We finally decided to break down and spend a little money on a rent-a-car so we could make the short trip up the highway to Dean's Blue Hole.  I figured that since we were within 4 miles of it, and its the deepest salt water hole in the world, maybe it would be worth it.  Also, I heard that there was a cliff that you can jump off if you only had the balls to do so.  Plus, while we had the car, we'll go ahead and head up to the Sea Wind Grocery Store to do a little provisioning.  




All went as planned, and by 10:30 am we were pulling damn near right up on the beach to the Blue Hole - nobody was there and you can see our rent-a-car in the background on some of the pictures.  The free-diving platform was affixed and we heard the influx of participants and spectators will start funneling in closer to the end of this month as competition starts April 1.



But looking off into a 663 foot hole is a little weird.  Not that we haven't been diving before - hell, we've dove a wall in Cozumel that dropped off to over 1000 feet.  But for some reason, a hole is just different.  And after we got a little used to it, the boys started jumping off the cliff, and suckered me into it also - although I did take the one a little down from the top.










Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We Outdid Ourselves!

I know I just posted the great day of cruising we just had en-route to Calabash Bay at the north end of Long Island...but on the way down to Clarence Town two days ago we outdid ourselves.  Although it was a little rough going at times - waves sometimes up over the 6-7 foot range hitting us from the port bow direction, and we had trouble keeping the wind more than 40 degrees on our nose - we were able to land this (to us) massive Mahi-mahi.  But the big challenge in actually getting her on board was the fact that we were at full sails when she hooked, and we had at least one motor running (can't remember if starboard was on or not.)  



Justin was first to the pole and quickly realized that tightening the drag would result in a snapped line (we used to think 40 lb. test was plenty).....it was singing! He could feel and hear the line stretching.  So she kept taking it....and taking it until we started to get concerned that she'd take the whole spool.  We also realized that if we had any chance of getting the fish in the cockpit, we had to slow down, so Brandon and I pulled in the jib and I turned into the wind enough that we were able to putter along at about 1.5 knots. 

She went to the opposite side of the boat as a last resort
Brandon trying to sneak the gaff in

Success!


As Justin continued to reel her in, she would tease us by jumping out of the water in an attempt to shake loose the lure.  Then when she got close to the boat, she made a last ditch attempt by going to the opposite side and half way up and around the starboard hull - Brandon had to go to the steps and pull the line aft so she wouldn't tangle in the prop and rudder.  



But the last move was to actually gaff her as she was much too heavy for the line and pole to remove her from the ocean - and so far, its something we haven't been successful at doing.  But after a couple of tries, Brandon was able to gently hook the gill and hoist her up onto the boat - a great team effort in all.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bagged 3 Mahi-Mahi en-route to Long Island

Today we decided to head over to the north end of Long Island in preparation for island hopping further south.  The problem is that starting this Tuesday wind from the east will be up over 25 knots for about a week, so wherever we are is where we'll be for awhile.  So its hard making the decision to leave Georgetown when we know wind like this will be hitting us soon.  When you're in Georgetown, you get comfortable - it has everything you need: American television (all four major stations!!), grocery stores, internet, and safety in numbers.  And after waiting for our anemometer (wind instrument) to come back from Raymarine for over a month now, fear begins to creep in because beyond Georgetown, you are kind of on your own.  Do we leave? Or do we stay?  

But today, I made the decision to go ahead and set sail for Calabash Bay on Long Island - the wind was minimal and the waves were non-existant as the waters west of Long Island are still protected from the Atlantic Ocean - seemed like a good idea to peak out and get a little salty.  And sails like this can be very productive - you get to dump your tanks and we make water the whole way replenishing our diminished supply as we're not comfortable making water in Elizabeth Harbor.  We also let out both fishing poles - a couple of Penn's we picked up at a Key West pawn shop.  And when you travel in 2000 feet of water you might just snag a Mahi or two.  

TWO fish ON!!!
We're perfecting the "Swing-to-the-Cockpit" maneuver 
And that's what happened - we hadn't had them out but about an hour when the first monster Mahi hit.  And unfortunately for us, once again, the big one got away - we have not seemed to master the art of getting these bad boys into the safety of the cockpit before they shake that lure right out of their mouth.  Major bummer!  We devise another plan and put both poles back out again.  Lucky for us, there are more Mahi in these waters and within about another hour, we got another hit - a baby, but still a nice one.  We can at least look forward to a nice Mahi dinner - we've been redeemed a little.  


Gorgeous!


Happy Times!

But the real excitement came after about another hour, the small Penn reel got a hit and Justin ran to it to pull it in and Brandon ran to the other reel to bring it in so Justin wouldn't get tangled in it.  But as soon as Brandon started to reel, his lure was also hit - now we had TWO FISH ON!!!  For some reason, both fish went to port and Brandon found himself making his way around the solar rack with a big Mahi on (he knew what it was because it kept jumping out of the water.)  Lucky for us, we were able to finally get big Mahi inside the cockpit before they both shook their lures and we have finally been redeemed from the two big ones that got away!


The baby that we caught after the big one got away


Monday, February 23, 2015

Behind the Scenes - What we haven't told You

For all the awesome scenes of beautiful water and gorgeous sunsets, its seems that there are an equal, if not more, number of maintenance problems that we haven't put in our videos or posted on this blog.  Most of the time the reason I don't film "tragedy" (like when our generator stopped working, that to us is pretty bad)  is because I don't like filming the destruction of any kind - it kinda reminds me of when our youngest son was born....he had so many things wrong with him, the doctor was actually concerned for his life and kept him in the NICU for the first 48 hours of his life with all these wires hanging off him and what-not.  When they took his baby picture, I wanted all the lines covered up with his blankets and we didn't take any pictures of us or him while he was in the NICU - I told them I didn't want to remember this kind of stuff.   

So it goes when tragedy hits on Catchin' Rays - my first reaction is not to grab the GoPro...its to try and figure out how we are going to fix whatever has just shit the pan and how to keep cruising when we don't have a working generator, or a working water maker, or a starboard engine, and even a port engine (yes, so far we've had to fix each one of these important parts to our boat.)  But being able to fix these problems is absolutely imperative if you yourself are planning on doing something similar to us.  And around here, it starts with my son Justin - from there he and I brainstorm the problem and discuss the best way to fix it - and sometimes we don't agree, but we always work pretty well together.  Brandon is also there to offer whatever assistance is needed and a lot of the time, does a lot of the physical work, but his specialty is really the hunter/gatherer and has proven deadly accurate with a Hawaiian sling.  But as far as the maintenance and catastrophic failures go, its me and Justin.

The first big disaster that hit and that was mentioned in my first sailing video (but never filmed) was the fuel leak on the starboard engine.  Up until we left Key West, we had only ran the engines about 2 hours at a time.  The overnighter to Key Largo was the first time the engines had ran to anywhere close to 14 hours straight.  So we wanted to shut them down, check the oil levels, and for any leaks.  And the starboard engine did have a small fuel leak that Justin promptly began to repair.  It wasn't until afterwards, and during restart, that the replacement "China" starter decided to completely break off at the bell crank.  That's when we pulled into Key Largo and had to wait for about 5 or 6 days on a replacement.  

The next "issue" that reared its ugly head was when we were turning on the generator (to meet our massive energy demands) and it started right up, but after about 10 seconds, decided it didn't want to run anymore.  It had never died on us before and has been a pretty rock-solid performer any time we've called on it for its services.   We tried again with the exact same results...and a little panic begins to creep in.  At this point, Justin starts doing all his troubleshooting techniques that involves volt meters, tools, and deep thoughts.  In the end, he thinks it had something to do with how it was getting its fuel supply and/or trash in the line but we're not really sure - all we know is that its been working like a charm ever since. 

After that (and since we've been here in Georgetown) our wind instrument just stopped working as I mentioned in one of my other posts.  Brand new unit just took a shit.  The problem is that we ran the lines and installed the unit as the mast laid next to the boat on saw horses - not sticking sixty-something feet in the air.  So it was time for Justin to strap on the Bosun's chair and go investigate the very top of the mast....not to be taken lightly.  The only problem with this kind of problem is that if a display or a masthead go to shit, there's not much you can do to fix it.  So off to Raymarine it went for troubleshooting and/or repair.


This all brings me to our latest disaster that nearly halted all cruising for the Rays as we know it (not really, but it could've really screwed things up for the foreseeable future.)  Yesterday, we decided to head out to open ocean since the wind and weather decided to be a little favorable for such a task.  The idea was that we needed to dump our tanks (the pump out boat is broken, no shit! ha ha) and we were full.  We also needed to make water - we don't really like making water in the harbor since the pump out boat is BROKEN!! and not everybody finds it necessary to leave the harbor to dump their tanks.  And finally, we always like to take advantage anytime we can charge our batteries (have I mentioned we use a lot of power?)   So it seemed like a good day of getting stuff done.  And it was....although 6 foot waves coming right at you are...well...6 foot waves...and they were coming quick - big time hobby-horsing.  More so than we've seen so far on our whole trip here. 

And the boat and us handled it well - we made a little water, charged up the batteries...all was good...right up until after we entered the harbor from the open ocean.  I saw the rpm gauge on the port engine starting to fluctuate all over the place - so I ran to the side to make sure it still had water dumping overboard (meaning it was still getting plenty of seawater for cooling purposes)...and then the dreaded BEEEEEEEEEP!!! from the engine dying and the alarm sounding.  The worst sound you can hear when you're motoring.  Well that really sucks.  Justin tried to get it started again without luck.  The third time, it started but ran like shit.  Then he could get it to idle but not rev.  Then it did get a little better....he could put it in gear and it sounded pretty good.  Ok! problem averted....only to have it die about 5 minuets later.  Shit!  Ok....its gotta be fuel - we'll change the fuel filter.  Justin wasn't convinced - he had just changed all the filters about 100 hours ago, besides our engines actually have two filters on them and we can switch between each one just in case one does get clogged - and he had already tried the other filter with the same results.  What are the chances both filters go bad at the exact same time especially since they've both been replaced recently.  

So this morning, we decided  to replace the filter anyway just so we could eliminate that as a possible problem.  It also couldn't be water in the fuel because we haven't gotten any fuel recently and have not had a problem to date.  But we'll change the filter anyway.  Then we pulled anchor and set out for the harbor to run up the engines to see how it does.  But after 10 minuets of running at 3000 rpm, it died again.  Well, now that really sucks.  Where do we look now?  We both agreed that we have to check the fuel line...it has to be a fuel issue - it acted just like it was starving for fuel - but what kind of problem lets the engine run perfectly for 10 minutes and then dies?  So Justin went to the engine room to investigate the fuel lines.  And to our surprise, he couldn't get fuel to free-flow to the filter once the line was removed.  After finding a way to put suction on the line, quite a bit of trash poured out of the line - we found our smoking gun.  After clearing the line and putting everything back together, I'm happy to report that our port engine hasn't run better.  All the huge waves that we went through on the way to dump the tanks (and with the fuel getting a little lower) it must have stirred up some of the trash in the fuel tank and fed it down the line - which all makes sense.  

All part of the ups and downs of cruising - one minute we're trying to figure out where we're going to park the boat to fix it, or who to fly in to troubleshoot the problem, or where we'd have to go to find a replacement engine....and the next minute you're looking at the weather predictions in preparation for heading further south.  


These are the kinds of ups and downs that can wear on the easily frazzled. So if you're going to enter the cruising lifestyle, you'd better be prepared to put on your big-girl panties.  

(Notice there aren't any pictures that accompany this post...that's because they don't exist.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Video: Episode #3 Sailing the Bahamas - Norman's Cay to Georgetown

Check out the next episode in our video series.  On this installment, we hang out at Norman's Cay for a few days before moving on to Staniel Cay where we chill out while waiting out the wind.  We then head down to Lee Stocking where we find a message in a bottle and our first lobster.  We then make the short sail down to Georgetown to hunker down and settle in.  So far, Georgetown also includes a shopping trip to Top-to-bottom and a little excitement when two boats in the harbor drag anchor during a squall.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What's going on in Georgetown, Bahamas?

Well, I guess there's a lot going on here with the 2015 Regatta just a couple of days away and the official boat count in the harbor is a whopping 353 boats.  But with us, not much is happening.  We removed and shipped out the Raymarine anemometer (I know, it's only been really used for only about 2 months) but as of today, it hadn't even been delivered because of the snow storm in Boston.....so, we wait.  And hey, its not a bad place to hunker down for a month or so...it could be worse.  


Can you find Catchin' Rays?
Most days I get up in time for "the Net" - and anybody that's ever been here knows what that is - its the morning VHF traffic having to do with everything in the area....businesses, emergencies, buy/sell/trade, new arrivals, and people leaving.  While that's going on, I'm usually checking my YouTube channel for any comments or questions, I check my email, and my blog.  Then I start editing the next video in our adventure series. 

But most people here go to shore for one activity or another - yoga, volleyball, meet and greets, or just getting a drink at Chat-n-Chill.  But nobody's ever accused us as being too social...so we skip most of those things.  Although I did talk Brandon into going ashore the other day to compete in the "Bocci-Ball" tournament that they were having in preparation of the real tournament that's going on during Regatta.  And although we've never played before, we wiped out the 23 other teams on our way to victory....and the prize was 2 decent bottles of wine from the cellars of some boat here in the harbor.  Even though we don't drink, much less drink wine, I wanted to win and we were very proud to bring those two bottles of wine back to the boat.  But the rest of the day is just time wastes ...sometimes we watch tv for most of the day; other times we hop in the dinghy and make a grocery run; sometimes we go to volleyball beach and just walk around - not a bad way to spend early retirement. 

But there might be a couple of things about Georgetown some of you may want to know, just in case you might be planning your own trip here:

1. There is actually American channels broadcast over the air here that you can receive if you have a decent powered antenna on your mast.  Its pumped in from Miami, Florida and you get all four major channels - ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC plus two local channels.  What's funny is that the whole time we were in Key West, there were exactly ZERO major networks broadcast over the air...and only two shitty local channels - but here in Georgetown, we get all four major channels from the United States....I just don't understand that.

2. There is a pump out boat that comes by and will empty your tanks for a fee - ours runs $20 for our 25 gallon tank.  But beware, he has a screw off his port side and will come in at your boat at an angle - and even though we had plenty of fenders out, he got us right between two of them.  He will also try and get a free beer from you during the waste removal.  He'll also take your trash bags for $2 apiece. 

3. The local Exuma Market grocery store provides free water at the dinghy dock for cruisers, and so far, its the only place we've seen that provides free water.

4.  No matter how close to shore you think you've gotten and that there's no possible way anybody could get between you and the shore, somebody will inevitably squeeze in there.  And then next to you and then on the other side of you.....its crazy to think how close they'll drop anchor around you.  So if you think you're in a good place for the next front that comes through....soon enough you'll have lots of company if you don't already.  

5.  There's multiple internet antennas around in the area - there's at least 6 internet signals to tap into with most being some sort of pay by the use kind.  The free signal comes from the Exuma Yacht Club but you pretty much have to be at the restaurant to pick it up - even when we use our wifi hotspot.  

Well, that's just about it for me for now....Jimmy Kimmel is about to come on.


Just in case you hadn't spotted us.
Photos generously supplied by s/v Bueller
check out their blog at www.nolandinsight.com



Monday, February 9, 2015

How Much does it cost to Cruise for 1 month? Here's the answer

The biggest question when it comes to cruising is - how much does it cost?  And now that we've been actually cruising for over a month, we know the answer to that question - at least for the first month anyway.  

So the break-down does include everything that we spent in the month of January that includes a Caribbean cell phone, entry fee into the country, electronic charts for just about the whole half of this world (we aren't sure where we're going yet), and also the maintenance costs associated with the starter and rent-a-car.  It does not include the costs associated with the initial provisioning of the boat - all the groceries and the fuel we bought in Key West before we left and to be honest, we spent well over $1000 in groceries alone, maybe close to $1500.  And we've been eating pretty well by our standards over the past month and a half, and we still have enough food to last another 1 1/2 months.  All we've been doing is buying more cereal, bread, vegetables, etc.   But I estimate that we have probably eaten about $400-600 worth of groceries so far and now that we're in the Bahamas, it will be even more to replace our supplies - but that will probably not show up until March sometime.

So, here is the list and break-down of the cost to cruise:

Janruary 2015

The first list is mostly an itemized list of the separate charges.  The second list is the totals.


Diesel $54.00
Gas $13.00
Groceries $265.00
Diesel $228.00
Gas $23.00
Weech's Dockage (2 days) $100.00
Bimini World Marina (1 day) $55.00
Nassau Habour Club $203.00
Port Starter $200.00
Rent-a-car $112.00
Zincs (4 sets) $150.00
Entertainment/ Dinning $119.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Book (we forgot to buy Bahamas) $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Bahama Sim Card for cell phone $20.00
Cell Phone - Carribean $210.00
Pre-paid minuets $180.00
Internet Access $75.00
Containers $11.00
Medicne $13.00
Exuma Yacht Club (1 day) $93.00
Groceries $48.00
Dinning $21.00
Diesel $91.00
Totals
Diesel $378.00
Groceries $313.00
Gas $36.00
Dockage $451.00
Maintenance $462.00
Entertainment/Dinning $140.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Books $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Communication $485.00
Containers $11.00
Medicine $13.00
Total $2,741.00

So there you have it - the cost to cruise the month of January 2015 as done by the Ray family aboard Catchin' Rays - your list may differ. 

Check out our latest sailing episode.