Friday, September 28, 2007

George Town

Our third day anchored at Georgetown. We have met some great folks at the Chat n' Chill, played with stingrays near the beach, eaten conch salad (raw conch chopped up with tomatoes, green peppers, and hot peppers), and sample many varieties of rum drinks. This has been a good place to catch up on some minor repairs, and pick up provisions. It has also provided some time for quiet reflection and enjoyable conversations. We've had time for some terrific snorkeling, attempted to swim with dolphins, enjoyed conversation with the locals and even managed to squeeze in a friendly night of Texas Holdem' with some of the more permanent cruising crews. Jerry and Richard departed early this morning, we enjoyed their company and hope they have made it back to their families safely.
We just finished another wonderful grilled dinner prepared by Capt. Mark with a terrific sunset as a backdrop. We will probably spend another full day here, pick up two more crew tomorrow, depart on Sunday, and continue the adventure.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Greetings from the Bahamas!

Tuesday September 25, 2007

This update is going to cover two days because we were a little predisposed late yesterday and nobody could work the computer.

On Monday morning we awoke to a batch of eggs Mc Straycat created by Ryan. We set sail at around 9:30am for Staniel Cay. We had great winds and sailed all day on a port tack until around 5:00pm when we dropped the hook in a great little anchorage near the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. After a couple of sundowners, we dingied over to the yacht club for dinner and libation. We had a great time with bartender Carl who went out of his way to keep our spirits up.

This morning Capt'n Mark took us to Tunderball Cave where we snorkeled in a grotto that was featured in the 1964 Sean Connery movie Tunderball. Later in the morning we set sail southeast and have anchored in Childress Bay. Capt'n Mark is cooking chicken and veggies on the grill for us tonight. We should be in Georgetown tomorrow which is a day ahead of schedule but will give us a chance to explore the area a little.

We decided it was time we introduce ourselves so you know who we are:
Captain Mark - Miami/Panama
Bradley Ross - Los Angeles
Ryan Roberts - Hattiesburg MS
Stuart Rudikoff - Chevy Chase Maryland
Richard Sullivan - Blue Springs MO
Jerry Heavilin - Blue Springs MO

Our overall mission is to help get Capt'n Mark and Straycat from Miami to Panama but having way, way; too much fun to call it a mission.

Post log, Capt. Sullivan,

Wind has been mostly favorable after NW Channel light. She is a fickle mistress. Now anchored in Childress Bay, a marine research station, and headed for Georgetown, a place Capt Mark and I met face to face on our separate cats, Straycat and Sweet Melissa. The video tape of the party is available at a CIA office near you, maybe.

The interaction with the crew is too voluminous to record, but is of course, cannot be described. You have to do it to understand. It's a Straycat thing.

Capt Mark and I stayed in Miami for about a year and a half, running from hurricanes, sharing charters, and lies. BUT now he is leaving, and the sad thing is, I am helping him leave; but who knows what tomorrow brings.

Godspeed, Capt Mark,

Capt. Dick


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Day two

Day two of our journey with Captain Mark and the Stray Cat. We sailed all night from Cat Cay to Chub Cay via the Northwest Channel Light. Brad and Stewart had the fist watch, followed by Richard and Jerry then Capt. Mark and Ryan on the gentlemanly 6am shift. Conditions have been more favorable then anticipated, with the wind and waves giving us less problems than anticipated. We arrived at Chub Cay around 0730, and were greeted by shallow emerald water filled with large Starfish and Conch. After setting course for Nassau we gathered around the cockpit for some sailing instruction from the Captain.

We have just departed Nassau, enjoyed a nice meal prepared by Richard and are on our way to Norman's Key in the Exumas.

We should arrive around 11pmanother great day aboard Stray Cat.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Grand Departure!

Family, friends, fellow charter compadres and numerous dock mates showed up to see us off. Mark and Stray Cat have left the dock! So many friends have come to see us off.

Its Friday evening September 21 and Stray Cat has finally met the strict standards set by Capt'n Mark and the journey to San Blas is finally underway.

Our first leg was just to No Name Harbour in Biscayne Bay to anchor for the night but it seemed like such a milestone to the captain and crew. A late anchor and a couple of sundowners and off to bed so we can get an early start across the ditch by sun up (or so).

On Saturday morning we made an early passage to the Bahamas and enjoyed a late afternoon snorkel at Cat Cay. Capt'n Mark seems to know everyone in the Bahamas so he hooked us up with a visit to the Cat Cay's private residential community called Cat Cay Yacht Club which is normally only available to those fine folks who own property there. Thanks to Norman and the rest of the staff for a casual evening of top shelf service and fabulous Conk fritters.

We're now underway for an overnight leg from Cat Cay south through the Grand Banks in the North West Channel with a destination of the North Light.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Staniel Cay,Exumas, the Bahamas

Guest Debra Ross

Ross' 60th birthday cruise on board the Stray Cat. After a beautiful 40 minute plane ride with Robbie Robinson to Staniel Cay from Nassau, we met up with Mark and the Cat at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We just missed the rain by ducking in and ordering a round of rum punch.
The Cat looked beautiful harbored at the end of the dock. Clean, pretty and ready to go - Mark greeted me with a big hug, joined us at the Yacht Club for a rum and then off we went to a cozy harbor "around the corner" where we grilled salmon, drank rum and wine, took a swim in the azure colored water and watched the far away lightening blaze the sky with "God's light show". Ross and I fell asleep in the net, until a light sprinkle woke us up and cajoled us into our cabin.

September 09, 07 - Happy Birthday Ross! Woke up at 7:00 a.m. to make coffee and start preparing breakfast - eggs benedict, and fresh fruit. Then we took the dinghy to Fowl Cay, met the new manager (from England) who told us about the lodgings and the restaurant (which is closed on Sunday). Went back to snorkeled the grotto - famous for being in the 007 movie "Thunderball". Amazing colors of coral, fish aplenty and it is so intriguing to go into the cave- lit from above. We arrived at low tide so we missed out on the 20 seconds of underwater swimming usually required to enter the grotto. It is unbelievable in the grotto - a must see for anyone near these islands!

We headed out to find ice and sunscreen - to Sampson Cay only to discover they close the general store on Sunday at noon. But, Jane and I found the perfect spot for a picnic lunch - a gazebo with beautiful Adirondack chairs, a view of the pristine beach, swaying coconut trees and a lovely breeze to cool us all. There was even a sea gull perfectly perched on a dock piling to complete the scene. We brought lunch to this bucolic spot and relaxed. Afterwards, Ross and I took a stroll along the beautiful path to a sandy beach where we went for a swim in the cool water.

Back on board, we head back to Staniel Cay where we decide to have dinner for Ross' birthday celebration. We anchor offshore, where the breeze is cooler and take a swim in the gorgeous water - until Jane and Mike spot a curious barracuda - swimming over!

The timing if perfect though - because it gives us time to get ready for dinner. What is interesting about dining at Staniel Cay Yacht Club - they have one seating - 7:30p.m. You must tell them what you want for dinner (from the menu) by 5:00 p.m. Cpt. Mark chooses conch, we all take the catch of the day with peas and rice (chik peas and brown rice).

Jane and I decide to dress up - that means we wear skirts and a bit of make up and put on shoes. We have a birthday toast on board and head over in the "kitty litter" for dinner.

Our pilot is at the bar so we buy him a drink - we enjoy pina' coladas and wait for the dinner bell to ring. When it does, we are seated at a great table with a hand painted tablecloth and brought conch chowder - what an amazing taste. Next is salad then main course (snapper cooked beautifully) and dessert is key lime pie. Ross and Mike are served pie with a candle and they sing happy birthday.

Heading back to Stray Cat - we notice the sky - stars are abundant. The Milky Way looks like it was poured right in front of us. All this time we have been looking at the sea and haven't noticed the beauty of the heavens. The sky has been Carolina Blue - last night a bit of red behind white puffy clouds as the sun began to set. ("Red Sky At Night - Sailors Delight")

Ross and I assume our nightly position in the net - and of course are rocked to sleep once again. We make our way back to the cabin and don't wake up until I smell Mike's breakfast being prepared in the galley.

September 10, 07 - Staniel Cay.

Breakfast - Cpt. Mark announces that he needs to make some way toward Miami and would like to head to Nassau and take us with him - we are all for it. We are going to sail on in instead of flying back from Staniel Cay. We couldn't be happier. Jane and I go with Mark to get last minute provisions - more coke, trash bags and souvenir t-shirts. (Hey- there is always shopping on these little islands - and you never know when you will find something quite unique.) The woman behind the counter at the general store is an artist, Joan Mann. I bought one of her prints at the Yacht Club the day before. I tell her and she seems pleased. We visit with the store owner - talk about the weather (an important subject for a sailor) and head back to the Cat to ready for our sail to Nassau.

Once again, a beautiful adventure with Captain Mark. I can't imagine being at sea with anyone but him. He is confident, competent and courteous. Mark is a wealth of knowledge, of humor and exudes gracious hospitality. He is not only our captain, but an offshore member of our family. He has known us since our daughter was 8 (she is now 18)- has met and embraced our friends and their families. We can't imagine not having Mark a part of our lives - at least on an annual basis! Where Mark takes the Stray Cat - we will follow!

Signing off to get some sun,

Debra Engelhardt-Nash
For Ross, Jane Parker and Mike Rhyne.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Easting on the Bahama Banks

Captains notes:

I anchored up near the NW channel light at about 10:00 last night in light air and one foot seas. I really wanted to make Nassau (needed) last night but I was just too tired owing to a late departure from Coconut grove.

I'm in the Tongue of the ocean in 5 to 6 foot seas with the wind out of the east. The wind is too close hauled to make New Providence so I fell off and will go around the western tip of Nassau than across the yellow Banks for the closest landfall in the Exumas, about ninety miles from here.

Looks like I will just make it to Staniel Cay in time for my guest's arrival.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Easting on the Bahama Banks

Captains Notes:

This morning I'm a few miles east of Cat Cay in the Bimini island chain making for Staniel Cay in the Exuma chain. The wind is northeast at 10, the sea is two feet and building. I'm motor sailing on the Jib at 8 kts. I'm monitoring the low located south of Bermuda and north of the Bahamas. It could develop and change course for the middle to north US coast.

Last night the Milky Way was as vivid as I have seen it in a long time and was punctuated by lots of shooting stars and satellites. A sailor's life can be hard but has many rewards.