1-20 January 2016 Cruising Again...First Stop - Rock Sound, Eleuthera

After a long wait, we finally got the right weather to cross from Lake Worth to the Bahamas. We were well prepared and provisioned, even had the time to get a new hefty anchor chain -- 150 feet of G4 7/16" chain. By waiting we had an uneventful crossing, went through the Fleeming (Fleming?) Channel at night (no issues) and puttered into Rock Sound on Sunday 3 January.

Wednesday night, 6 January, a derecho came right through Eleuthera. A derecho is a straight line storm with incredibly strong winds. We clocked winds of 46 knots (around 70 mph) which was about what we had when we sat out Hurricane Arthur in 2014. Unfortunately, this was a LOT worse. (Other people in Bahamas saw between 70 and 100 knots!!!) We were in a bigger body of water this time with a long fetch creating HUGE waves over the bow. The bouncing of the boat in the water was fierce. We broke our chain snubber (the line and hook that hold the anchor chain, taking tension from the chain and windlass -- see photo of recovered end of snubber), so the chain played out. By the time we got organized to replace the snubber, all the chain had broken free of the boat and we lost the chain and anchor.

Of course it is nighttime, so we have a hard time seeing, but we had to start roaming the anchorage to stay in deep water (much of the water in this sound is too shallow for us). John prepared our secondary anchor -- he had to tie it onto the anchor line in the sheets of rain and spray coming at him. He almost lost his glasses overboard, so put them in the cockpit and finished the job without seeing clearly! Patti was driving the boat, trying to keep it from going up on the rocks while the huge winds and waves pushed us every which way.

In one of his passes through the cockpit, John said our dinghy (which was tied to the back of the boat) was upside down. Which meant that the engine was submerged and everything stored in the bow locker was now gone. We had kept the dinghy down, because we thought there would be too much windage if we had it up on the davits. With the predicted winds being 20-30 knots, with +5 knots in squalls, we thought it would be better to let the dinghy ride behind the boat in the water. Well, maybe we were wrong about that. So now we are roaming the anchorage with an upside down dinghy.

After about an hour we were able to deploy the secondary anchor and stop the boat. But, there was no way to get into the water (in the dark and stormy) and right the dinghy. So we had to leave it till morning.

Next morning, Thursday, winds were still about 20, but we were able to move to a better spot and re-anchor. A couple of cruisers came by in their dinghys and helped us by taking our turtled dinghy and flipping it over for us on the beach. Now we were able to get our motor off the dinghy and start the process of trying to save it by cleaning out the salt water. The water was still rough, so we were not able to search for the chain and anchor, but we anchored fairly close to where it should be. (We had GPS location info from the chartplotter.)

Friday, we found the chain and anchor. One of the guys gave us a grapple hook that John trailed over the dinghy while Patti rowed in the location where we thought it should be. After about a half hour, eureka!, we found it. We tied a fender to the chain as a float and were just trying to figure out how to get it back onto the boat when the cavalry arrived. Another cruiser spent about 2 hours helping us get the chain to the boat. Once we found the end, we were able to get it over the bow roller and use the windlass to crank it all back onto the boat. We pulled up the 'lost' anchor, then pulled up the secondary anchor, and re-anchored with the primary.

We spent the next week working on the dinghy motor, rinsed it with fresh water, replaced the oil (twice), replaced the gear grease, replaced the spark plugs and shot water out of the spark plug holes, removed the carburetor, rinsed, cleaned, and dried every nook and cranny (probably took the carb apart about 6 times...), and got it working. Then we had another cold front, put the motor on Anhinga's rail, and waited out the storm. A couple of days later, remounted the motor on the dinghy, and guess what. It wasn't working. Then the ultimate insult. As we were putting it back on the rail to work on it, all the seals and gaskets must have let go and oil sprang from everywhere! We looked at each other and knew it was the end.

We called Trevor Pinder of Pinder's Marine in Deep Creek, Eleuthera, and asked him to get us a new Yamaha. He said if we told him we wanted it, and could come up with the cash (not easy in Eleuthera, but that's another story) he would get it on the mailboat that day and it would be on our dinghy the next morning! Trevor came through for us. We took possession of the new Yamaha 15 hp 2-stroke on 19 January.

So ends our tale of woe. But we can't finish the story without giving thanks to the ladies at the Wild Orchids restaurant, especially Colleen, Crystal, and Shavell, who lived through this with us on a daily basis -- letting us use their phones, and smiling when we needed it. And of course the other cruisers who gave us their brawn, their equipment, and moral support -- thank you Lucky One, Runaway, Barefootin', Sophia, and Re Metau. We didn't feel so lost with you around.

Rock Sound west: 24d51.732'N 76d11.140'W
Rock Sound east: 24d51.849'N 76d09.818'W
Rock Sound during derecho: 24d51.291'N 76d09.759'W
Rock Sound east again: 24d52.055'N 76d09.899'W
(there were 2 more reanchorings in Rock Sound...but this is enough!)

November - December 2015... Return to South Florida

Our first stop after returning from Israel was Delray Beach, where we helped Renee and Irv get ready for their transoceanic cruise. Once they were off we spent many hours getting Anhinga back in shape after being 'stored' in the slip in Stuart, FL, and provisioning for winter cruising. We split our time between Delray and Stuart, finally moving Anhinga to West Palm Beach in early December.

In the back of our minds we knew one day we would have to break down and buy a new anchor chain, but were hopeful that we could get one more year out of what we had. Well, when we put out the chain to anchor in WPB, we noticed way too much rust and upon closer examination, saw the links were actually thinning. Knowing that our travels would take us too far away to buy chain at a reasonable price, we did the right thing. Now we have a gorgeous chain with very solid links and have no problem sleeping at night.

The only problem waiting for the chain delivery was that it made us miss the last decent weather window for crossing to the Bahamas. Well, there are worse places to wait than WPB! We are in a great location and can take advantage of all 'the Palm Beaches' have to offer. One wonderful new thing this year is the CANVAS Outdoor Exhibition of murals. We have enjoyed the murals in years past, and this year there was a concerted effort to get renown artists from around the world to paint West Palm Beach. So, we walked around with the camera one day to record them, as well as some unofficial art we saw along the way. Enjoy!

September 16 - October 21, 2015... Israel

A June email from cousin Doron in Tel Aviv announcing his impending marriage to Or decided our itinerary for the fall. We would put Anhinga in a marina and take the opportunity to go to Israel, attend the wedding, see family, and tour the country. Lots of arrangements to make, but we did it. A slip for Anhinga at the Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart, FL, flights from Miami to Tel Aviv, and several Airbnb reservations and we were set to go. John took literally thousands of photos in Israel. It was hard to pick a select few to illustrate the blog and recapture the 5 weeks there, but here goes. We divided the trip into 4 parts: 1) Tel Aviv and family, 2) Jerusalem, 3) the southern deserts, and 4) the north from the Golan to the Mediterranean.

Tel Aviv and Family

Patti's family in Israel began with European refugees -- her grandfather's nephew (or mother's cousin) and the family that grew to the now four generations established in and around Tel Aviv. It made sense to start the visit there, reconnecting with family. Yona and Shmulik and Avi and Maggie took us on initial visits in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Rishon LeZion, giving us our land legs back. We walked everywhere, learned the bus system, Patti reminiscing about previous visits and how much things have changed, John learning very basic Hebrew. And of course we indulged in the very best felafel and hummus. Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city (skyscrapers and everything) right next to the sea, and the original buildings and neighborhoods from the early 20th century are being gentrified everywhere.

The highlight was Doron and Or's wedding


We spent almost a week in Jerusalem and still felt that we only scraped the surface. How do you absorb thousands of years of history in a week? We started with the free Saturday morning walking tours offered by the city. Three hours with a knowledgable guide help set the stage. The first one we took focused on the Via Dolorosa in the Old City, the second to the Mount of Olives, just outside. In between we walked through every sector of the Old City, outside the Old City up Jaffa Road to the Machaneh Yehudah market, the Nachlaot neighborhood (where we stayed), to the Israel Museum, and via the light rail to the Yad Vashem memorial museum. The photos here are not even a tenth of those we have -- Jerusalem is a very photogenic subject. See the Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa mosque, the Lion Gate, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, church of the Flagellation, Mary Magdalene church, Church of All Nations, and the Western Wall.

Outside the Old City -- Jaffa Road, the market, the Israel Museum including the Shrine of the Book, and a couple of photos from outside Yad Vashem -- the Holocaust Memorial and Museum. The train car is an actual transport car from Europe. Perhaps one of the most difficult and emotional memorials is the Valley of the Communities. Carved into rock and set in a maze-like formation are the names of 10,000 cities and towns from which Jews were taken and Jewish life exterminated. Krzemieniec (Kremenitz) is the town Patti's grandfather left before WWII.

The Southern Deserts

We rented a car for a couple of weeks to cover the country outside the cities. For a country the size of New Jersey, there is an incredible diversity to the landscape. The south is mostly desert -- the Negev and the Arava. While the cities are crowded, the south (which begins just an hour south of Tel Aviv) is very empty. Every once in a while we would see date groves and vineyards that are 'making the desert bloom'.

We started our explorations near Sde Boker, staying in Midreshet Ben Gurion. Buying a National Parks Green Card in Ein Avdat, we proceeded to visit over a dozen parks and archeological sites over the next two weeks. At Ein Avdat we visited the graves of the first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben Gurion and his wife, and hiked the Wadi Zin, with the ibex that found the water here.

This part of the desert was on the 'Spice Route' of the ancient Nabateans, as they traveled from the east through Petra, Jordan to these parts, and on to the Mediterranean. Avdat was one of their towns.

Maktesh Ramon is a huge crater in the Negev. Though we planned to hike through several sections here, Patti's bad cold limited our ramblings. So, we took some short walks -- one to the ammonite fossil wall where you can see lots of these old sea creatures.

Our next stop was in Paran, a small farming community in the Arava. We stayed in a shipping container that had been outfitted as a small apartment. (Yes, it was air conditioned.) Our hosts couldn't be nicer, showing us their pepper farm, inviting us to join the family for dinner, and helping us fix a tire (during the holidays when just about everything is closed.) With Paran as our base we traveled further south to Timna, another desert park with beautiful rock formations and ancient copper mines. The colors here were completely different from those of the more northern deserts.

Our last stop in the south was Masada, near the Dead Sea -- the desert palace of King Herod and the location of the last stand of the Jews who fought for freedom from the Romans. The dramatic story of Roman siege and the heroism of the last inhabitants is told very well in the new museum at the base of the mountain. We did go at dawn to walk up the snake path to the palace -- but it rained that morning (in the desert!!) so we did not get to see the sunrise. It is hard to believe what people accomplished building this place 2,000 years ago, and we cannot believe that it is all still here for us to see now.

The North -- from the Golan and the Galilee to the Mediterranean.

In less than a day we drove from Masada to Rosh Pina in the Galilee, which became our base for exploring the north. We took full advantage of all the natural and historical sites here, starting with the Hula Valley (where we looked for the bird migration -- but must have been too early), continuing into the Banias near Mount Hermon, where we saw waterfalls and rushing streams -- quite a contrast to our week in the desert.

We drove on to Nimrod Fortress, a beautifully preserved mountaintop citadel, built by the Arabs during the crusader era. Again, we are amazed at what continues to be standing there.

Driving through this region, we are constantly reminded of the recent wars of 1967 and 1973. There are signs warning of mines, and flags indicating war memorials. We took one day and drove in the Golan to Mount Bental, where we walked through the bunkers. UN observers were there the day we visited. A welcome spot on the mountain was Coffee Annan (a tribute to Kofi Annan) where we could stop and warm up.

Archeological sites are everywhere in Israel, and some of the best are in the north. Among our favorites are Bet Shean, a Roman town south of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and Zippori, west of Nazareth. Both of these sites are still being excavated. Bet Shean has an amphitheater, two main roads lined with columns (a cardo), baths, and mosaics. We climbed the hill to get the best view.

Zippori is full of surprises. The highlights here are definitely the mosaics -- from a synagogue, houses, baths and other public areas. We were floored by how intact these were, even though people have known of their existence for hundreds of years -- they weren't destroyed or looted.

Caesarea is another of King Herod's masterworks. Unfortunately, much of this ancient city's archeological remains are being squeezed out by the new restaurants and shops added to the site. These is still lots to see, the amphitheater, the palace remains, mosaics, and the aqueduct, but it is less of a 'find' and more of a tourist attraction.

Akko is an Arab city on the Mediterranean. Everyone has been here -- Romans, Crusaders, Arabs. We lingered here one day eating at a cafe on the water -- happy to smell the sea again. The highlight was definitely the visit to the mosque -- what an incredibly beautiful building. St. John's church was also visible from many angles -- stark white against the blue sky.

After our return to Tel Aviv, we spent some nice lazy days walking in the city again. Our last tourist outing was to Haifa, the mountain city on the sea. With cousin Brenda, we raced up the hill to visit the Baha'i Temple, which was going to close at noon! We soon found out we were in good enough physical shape to do that -- but just. Let's just say that sitting later on the train back to Tel Aviv was welcome.

Five weeks in Israel. A whirlwind. But unforgettable!