Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mid Gulf Stream

Captain note:

I'm back in the water sailing for Nassau, the seas are running 5-6 foot off the port bow, winds are twenty knots from the east the COG is 135 deg to make the way point at Great Isaac Bahamas which bears 105 deg. The boat speed is 7.5 knots. Given the sea state I'm doing fine.
Boat yards represent a financial hemorrhage; I spent $9,000.00 in a few days back there. I haven't been in the states for five months; it took a little getting use to all the hustle now I'm mid Gulf Stream with wind, sails and self, I feel at home, a chance to catch my breath.

Captain Mike and Chef/Mate Sandy helped me a lot, fed me real class food and drove me all over West Palm. Captain Doug stopped by for lunch, bet he regrets that since I needed to pick-up a raw water pump in Ft Lauderdale at rush hour; thanks again to all of you for the friendship and hospitality.

I started this passage at 05:00 and will sail till about 24:00 hours, I'll drop the hook on the banks for some sleep than on to Nassau for a charter on Sunday.


mid Gulf Stream

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Thursday, March, 29, 2007, 14:23 UTC
Mid Gulf stream

Guests John and Nattacha:
I am writing this log for anyone fortunate enough to come across your
Web site who's considering a sailing adventure aboard Stray Cat.
I have two words... "BOOK IT!!!"

My wife Nattacha and I spent a week of our honeymoon with Captain Mark
aboard Stray Cat in the Exumas from 3/8 to 3/15.
It was by far the greatest vacation we have ever taken and the most
enjoyable and memorable experience we've ever had.

Let me tell you a little bit about Captain Mark. First off, the guy has more
experience than probably any charter boat captain
around. He has his Captain's License in both the U.S. and the Bahamas. He's
been sailing the Caribbean for 20 years or so.
He does the majority of the work on the boat himself. If there were any
mechanical or rigging issues on the boat to be addressed, he can fix it himself. He is a by-the-book guy who knows how to keep things in order (the guy was an Air Force, air crew for God's sake). Medical issues?
The guy helped run a hospital in Phoenix. I write about Mark like I've know him for years, but the fact of the matter is, if you're going to put your life in the hands of someone you've never met and sail around the ocean, the most important thing is
the Captain's ability to be a Captain... and Captain Mark passes this test with flying colors.
Second, he ain't a bad guy! Mark put us at ease immediately. He made us feel
right at home on Stray Cat. The best thing about Mark is that once he sizes
you up and decides that you are trustworthy, mature, and considerate, he'll
let you do just about anything that you want to do. Wanna check out that little town in the
harbor? Take the dinghy! (11' Inflatable w/rigid hull and 15hp outboard) Want
to fish? Drop a line! Wanna snorkel? Here's your mask! Wanna do nothing?
Fine! Want to check out that island over there? If the winds permit... Mark
says "Let's go!". I guess what I'm trying to get at is, Captain Mark is
cool. If you're cool, you will have the most unbelievable vacation of your

Third most important, how's the boat? Well, it's damn near perfect! Stray
Cat is 45' long and 25' wide. It is stable even in rough seas. There's a
large cockpit with a large table for eating/drinking. There are trampolines
in the bow between the hulls, a perfect place to nap while the boat is
sailing along with the water rushing beneath you. The interior salon is
huge. There is one master stateroom in the starboard (right) bow (front)
with a private head (toilet & shower). Mark has the other one on the port
bow (left) side. There are two large staterooms in the stern with two heads
right outside and a fifth stateroom foreword. Four couples can easily sleep on this boat.

How is the boat outfitted? Well, being from a family that owns a few
marinas, and since I was a marine engine mechanic back in the day, I know
what's what. And the fact is, Captain Mark has everything you could possibly
want on a boat. He has a water maker, which is huge. Fresh water all the
time. Powerful generator, icemaker, fridge, stove, microwave/convection
oven, XM Radio, DVD player, Digital Satellite TV (only in Captain Mark's
room, which is probably a good thing), awesome stereo, Iridium Satellite
phone, Autopilot, and the most advanced chart-plotting/GPS/radar system I
have ever seen. So yeah, he's got the works.

Now that you know how big of a fan I am of Captain Mark and his boat Stray
Cat, let me tell you a bit about our trip. We flew into Staniel Cay in the
Exumas and stayed at a private home owned by Barry
Tendler. Awesome brand new 2bed/2bath house with a golf cart for getting
around. We meet up with Captain Mark at
and away we went! We sailed to Sampson Cay and
provisioned the boat. Then we began our adventure as we sailed south down
the chain of the Exuma Islands and made about 10 stops! We stopped by
Farmer's Cay which was beautiful. Then we zipped all the way down to
Great Exuma and hung out in Georgetown. While we were there we took the
dinghy over to Stocking Island where we hung out at Chat N' Chill Awesome! Next we sailed to the Four Seasons at
Emerald Bay on Great Exuma and docked at the marina. It was fun to
experience such a beautiful resort but there were too many people (aka
Zombies) that were tapping away on Blackberry's and talking on cell phones.
So we spent the night and split! Finally it was Black Point, another tiny
little town in Great Exuma. I'm probably forgetting some stuff but it was
all incredible. Captain Mark always knew exactly where to go, what harbors
provided good shelter, where there was great fishing, snorkeling, etc. He
was a great guide! We ate when we wanted, where we wanted (on the boat or on
shore) and what we wanted (freshly caught fish or what we brought with us).
We ended our trip at Sampson Cay which was a full service mega yacht marina
and stayed there for three days before we reluctantly had to head back to
"dreary old Manhattan..."

So, I know this is a long message, but I just wanted to do Captain Mark and
Stray Cat justice. If you are in the market for a special vacation, away
from the ordinary, this is it! Get out of the realm of cookie cutter
prepackaged hotels and get out on the open water and see the world the way
YOU want. In our opinion... Captain Mark and Stray Cat are the best means to
that end!

Best Wishes and Regards,

Johnny and Nattacha Calabrese


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Monday, March 19, 2007

Great Bahama Banks

Captains Notes:

I'm making passage from Staniel Cay to West Palm Beach to have the boat hauled for an out of the water insurance inspection. It's easy for the insurance company to say "haul the boat and have it surveyed"; to me that's loss of: charter revenue, the time and expense of a three day sail, six hundred for a haul-block-splash and six hundred for the surveyor plus the sail back to Nassau to meet my next charter guest. Insurance companies rule!

The sailing has been close to perfect, that is to say the wind from a good direction at 15 to 20 kts giving me a SOG of 9 to 11 kts.

My last two charters were up for real sailing adventure and we did sail a bunch, again with the right winds. While my Austrian guest were aboard there were two events that were very exciting for me. The first was to see a whale breeching near Rum Cay which was breathe taking and shortly thereafter we hit 14.2 knots. I have seen Dolphins in heavy weather that surf the waves than go airborne tumbling as they reenter the water, seems like play to me. The whales we saw were doing their version of Dolphin play in 10 foot waves; what a sight.

The most recent charter was with John and his new Bride Natasha, it was a honeymoon cruise. We met-up at Staniel Cay and had a spectacular sail down the chain on the Atlantic side. John and Natasha really enjoyed Chat N Chill at Stocking Island, George Town. There were a couple of hundred boats there for the Regatta and major party, the honeymooners participated in the party as a Stray Cat "crew duty" and represented us well. We than sailed off shore about fifteen miles to the Four Seasons at Emerald Bay, not my cup of tea but something to see. We again had a great sail back to Staniel. John will be making a delayed log entry about their trip so I will say no more.

I'm now 10 miles from the light at Great Isaac I will than have another 75 miles to sail so it will be a long day.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Little Farmers Cay, the Bahamas

Day nr 6: Short visit of George Town - left towards Flamingo Bay about 7 miles in the north. No more wind when motoring along the Great Exuma coast - it was pretty hot! "Fish on!" - "Fish gone!" The fishing line was not strong enough for that big fish. Max is angry about loosing one of his 15 $ hooks When we arrived at Flamingo Bay it was too shallow to anchor there so we decided to go on until Rolleville at the northern end of Great Exuma. This was a very perfect place - wonderful for swimming - nobody else there. For dinner we had delicious grilled Mahi-Mahi. We highly recommend Captain Mark's potatoes & onions! The evening was like a dream: Tropically warm, light wind, the full moon would rise brighter than the evening before Mark "I've got the CD of that concert - put it into the stereo and after half an hour we all sang the banana boat song. Suddenly I looked to the moon and "this cannot happen within one day!", I said. From full moon to 20 %? No! This is an eclipse! Yeah! Witnessing an eclipse in a tropical full-moon-night is a very rare and special experience! Amazing! We emptied a whole bottle of Mount Gay Rum with Coca Cola sitting outside until midnight again What a night!

Day nr 7: Again no wind - we were motoring up to Williams Cay where we found a wonderful bay with a white sands beach, the sea around us looking like a big swimming pool. The 6 ft deep water was so clear! Because of no wind we had the impression that the big catamaran flew above the green ground Manuela likes conditions like that. Max and I took the opportunity for a little walk on a little trail across the hill to the other eastern side of the island.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Long Island, the Bahamas

Day nr 5: Super winds from the south - sailed over to Georgetown. There we met numerous yachts anchoring in the bay in front of the harbour, which came over for a regatta starting next week. Johnny's trip ended here - he took a flight back to Eleuthera - should meet a friend at his house there tomorrow. We enjoyed a little swim before sunset - better: before moonrise: Tonight we had full moon! It was a very clear night - we were sitting outside chatting and drinking until midnight

Day nr 6: Short visit of George Town - left towards Flamingo Bay about 7 miles in the north. No more wind when motoring along the Great Exuma coast - it was pretty hot! "Fish on!" - "Fish gone!" The fishing line was not strong enough for that big fish. Max is angry about loosing one of his 15 $ hooks

Long Island, the Bahamas

Hello everybody - this is the crew from Austria/Europe: Max, Johnny, Manuela and Richie (I am writing the log - excuse my "Austrian" English).

We entered "Stray Cat" in Staniel Cay / Exumas on February, 26th and we will leave it in Staniel Cay again on March, 7th. Today its march, 1st - the 4th day on board - and we already experienced a lot: First of all - coming over from wintertime in Austria where everything is grey, wet and cold (this year we've got little snow) - it was a very good idea to start the trip in Staniel Cay. It is really a very beautiful marina, giving us all those great first impressions of "entering paradise": We flew there from Nassau over the green waters of the northern part of the Exumas with a small piper-plane of Flamingo Air. The first person who welcomed us at the airstrip of Staniel Cay was "Susanna" (she is from Switzerland and sooooo pretty ;-)). Entering the marina we have immediately seen the huuuuuge "Stray Cat" catamaran, where aptain Mark was already waiting for us.

Finding in the internet we did not know what expected us - but Mark's eyes were bluer and warmer than the sea and he had the charisma of a "real captain". In the green, clear water beside the boat a big stingray and also 5 or 6 nurse-sharks welcomed us.

Yeah! Let's have a cool Kalik (very good Bahamian beer) at the bar and talk about our plans: If winds are ok we like to go down to Long Island, passing Cat Island, Conception Island, Rum Cay, then cross over to George Town/Great Exuma and then go back up to Staniel Cay along the numerous little islands of the southern Exumas. All right - let's do that - but we stay in Staniel Cay one night.

In the late afternoon we snorkeled over to Tunderball Cave - a cave close to the marina with so many fish we have never seen before. Actually I do not know the names of those fish - but there were all colors you can imagine. And for the fish it seemed to be very interesting having their first contact with Austrians.

Next morning - 2nd day - we left Staniel Cay crossing the Exuma Sound towards Cat Island - a wonderful trip under sails with favorable southerly winds. And it happened immediately when we entered the deep waters of the Sound: "fish on"! Max (fishing-passionate!), had a big fish on the hook! And "fish on" again: Another one on the 2nd line! Imagine the stress on board! Working hard, he and captain Mark tried to bring them in - two beautiful Mahi-Mahis - one went off close to the boat but the other one's destiny was to land on "stray cat's grill". While his filets were prepared there was still another hook in the water. Johnny remarked "hey guys - there's something strange going on with that line". "Fish on" - Max screamed enthusiastically. Another Mahi-Mahi was caught! We had a delicious dinner, anchoring close to the Hawks Nest marina. Max called an Australian (note: not Austrian) friend who was very happy to show us his house, some parts of the island and helped us to find a good store for food & beverage in the morning of the next day.

In the afternoon of day nr 3 we left Hawks Nest - next stop should be Conception Island. But the extreme humidity of the last two days turned into a sudden local thunderstorm with winds more than 45 knots from the left. The waves became about 2 - 3 meters high and therefore we decided to take the same direction like the wind and the waves going directly to Long Island. In that moment we saw something spectacular: A about 4-5 meters long Orca whale (!) used the waves as a playground and jumped out the rough sea 4 times close to our boat! I tried hard but I could not catch one of his jumps by my camera. In the evening we arrived in Long Island, anchoring offshore the Stella Maris marina. There we took some diesel in the morning of the next day and there I started to write the log entries

Day nr 4: Had great lunch at Stella Maris resort (marina, airport and hotel / resort owned and managed by Germans). Good service in the marina; they shuttled us to the resort by taxi for free (is included if you have lunch there). Left marina in the afternoon to anchor outside (no mosquitoes!).