Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New website setting sail November 16, 2011

The new website is up and running, and just like anything new, there will be some bugs in the system that need to be worked out.

Ask anyone who's ever bought a "new" boat... it takes a while to fix all the "new boat problems" and end up with a boat that you can actually count on. Same goes for the website, but please bear with us while we work out the wrinkles. Of course, we'll be trying hard to make you wonder where all the problems are, but only time will tell.

The new site allows for a whole host of new functionalities, including a Member's Area for former guests, future guests and friends of StrayCat.

From the date of this post forward, new Ship's Log entries can be found on this website at this link - CLICK HERE

This blog will serve as the Ship's Log Archives, but will also continue to receive the newest and most current posts.

Hope you enjoy the ride,

Capt. Mark

Friday, October 21, 2011

Exuma Adventure Sail

What a fantastic Adventure!!

We met Capt Mark in Nassau, Bahamas after a nice flight and a kind local that whisked us through the airport to our cab. We arrived on a holiday and many stores were closed, but as usual Capt Mark had told us this would be the case and we were fully prepared.

We grabbed a few things from the convenience store and headed out to Rose Island. What a beautiful place. The calm ocean rocked us to sleep with peaceful breezes blowing through the hatches.

We all slept like babies, including our 2 year old Bella!

We woke up to a gorgeous sun rise and a cruiser, Wes off of a neighboring catamaran, who graciously took us over to the beach with his cool Bahamian poodle named Bailey. We did some shelling and looking around as Bailey fished and crabbed.

After some breakfast we motored down to Allen's Cay for some iguana feeding and some beach combing. What a paradise! The water was crystal clear and there was only 1 other boat in the anchorage. That was the Barbara Ann who later fell onto some hard times.

Highborne Cay was next for some snorkeling and provisioning. The marina is beautiful and Bella loved the nurse sharks. The snorkeling on the reef there was fantastic! We saw everything from a large barracuda, to sunfish, angelfish, lion fish etc... It was spectacular!! The marina store is very nice and has most anything you need, for a fee.

The weather was forecast to deteriorate and come morning it had already started. Capt Mark used his spidey sense and told us that we better high tail it back to either Rose Island or Nassau. We had a wild ride back of adventure sailing with South Winds on the aft quarter, Stray Cat handled it like a dream! The waves were still crashing too hard at Rose Island so we continued on to Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. We did some grocery shopping, got a Starbucks and then spent a dark and stormy night there and decided to move on up to Paradise Island at the Atlantis Marina. What an awesome decision!!

We spent 2 days playing, sunning, gambling, shopping and enjoying the 5 star amenities. The Aquarium was state of the art! The water slides were amazing!! We highly recommend this activity especially at the end of your trip, it seems like the ultimate pampering!

We had the most enjoyable time and cannot wait for our return. Capt Mark is most gracious and has the BEST stories. He is an incredible Captain and person and the sailing adventure is truly something you have to experience!

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Monday, October 03, 2011


October 1, 2011
Arrived in Nassau. Met Capt. Mark at Poop Deck. Went to bar across the street for a drink then to the grocery store for the week's food. Evening was spent loading and getting acquainted with Stray Cat. Set sail to Rose Island and started to relax. We had a beautiful sunset and a thunderstorm through the night.

October 2, 2011
Pulled anchor and set sail for 5 hour cruise in mirror like waters to Allen's Cay. We saw iguana on the beach then snorkeled reefs and spotted several sting rays. After that we sailed to Highbourne Cay and picked up supplies. Last we sailed to Norman's Cay and anchored for the night. We went for a sunset swim and then grilled kabobs. We are enjoying the company, relaxing and enjoying the stars.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

Delay posting

August 2011 -

Back in Italy from 3 weeks now, we keep thinking back to our wonderful week with Cpt. Mark sailing the Northern Exumas Cays.
It took just few minutes with this man and we immediately knew he's the one ! Skillful, discreet, patient with our little ‘troop’ and extremely nice.
Stray Cat is a comfortable and well equipped 45 foot catamaran, which accommodates up to 8 guests. We were a party of 5 friends, including me, my husband Stefano, Randy from North Carolina and another Italian couple, Elena and Alessandro. was not missing at all.
We first spent about one hour shopping food and beverage in Nassau for the week, and then...ready to weigh anchor !
There is plenty to sail in the Caribbean, but the location we chose is amazing for sea lovers: Exumas Cays are an uncontaminated corner of the Bahamas islands. Forget luxury resorts and ordinary tourists places, think to a myriad of almost deserted little islands (the Cays) scattered in this unbelievable Caribbean pool blue, miles and miles of transparent water which call you jumping in every minute !
If you like the naturalistic part of a trip, the delicate smell of the sea, the thousand shades of blue, if you like to be in the middle of nowhere just with your friends, fins, snorkel and your camera, that's a place to be at least one time in your life.
Spots we liked the most: Allan Cay, where a group of iguanas and seagull's are a natural frame of a pinkish sandy beach;
Staniel Cay, were we did a wonderful snorkeling at Thunder ball Grotto, a cave where the light gets in from a hole in the top of dramatic walls, with an incredible number of tropical fishes such as parrots, angels, yellowtail snappers, butterfly fishes and so; Pig Island was an experience: imagine a group of wild pigs swimming and trying to climb in your dinghy expecting you'll feed them !!
Though the marinas were we stopped by for fuel, ice and some more food, such as Highbourne Cay and Sampson Cay were very nice, and we loved snorkeling at Northern Rose Island in our way back.
Last day we had to come back to Nassau few hours earlier than forecasted, since after 6 sunny days weather was promising anything but good. This has been an occasion to have a nice walk downtown and to stop at the local handcraft coloured market in the main street. For whoever is around, take the time to get an ice-cream at Ice Cream's simply delicious.
Special thanks to our Captain Mark, for welcoming us in his boat and guiding us through these beautiful islands.
We all appreciated your company and we hope to spend another vacation together aboard soon !!

A presto,
Elisabetta & Stefano

PS Just few days after our return back to Italy we heard about hurricane Irene hitting Bahamas. Well, for the little we have known Mark, we had no doubts about his capability to face difficulties, but nature can be very rough...and we were relieved to know that Stray Cat and its captain were safe !

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Sunday, August 28, 2011


I'll start by saying that Stray Cat and I withstood Hurricane Irene unscathed. I have received more then 130 emails from well wishers, family and friends, thank you all for your good wishes and prayers.
The month started with Tropical storm Emily for which I had to delay the boarding of a wonderful group from France and ended with me asking my guests/friends Ryan and Jen to leave early so I could prepare for hurricane Irene.
Talk about stress, I begin watching as tropical waves leave the African cost marching westward across the Atlantic. Will these waves develop, what of their track and intensity two weeks out, will the Bermuda high deteriorate changing the track, what about the low coming down from the main land, will it redirect the storm. Will high wind sheer hamper development or dry air masses slow development, a lot to keep in mind for two and a half weeks before most people know there is a threat out there.
Sailors/cruisers who know me know I will run in a safe direction to avoid a threat but sometimes it's not possible as was the case with Irene. Things don't always workout the way they might. The mountains of Puerto Rico and D.R. could have diminished or redirected Irene resulting in little or no threat, not this time. Four days out there's a predicted low coming from the mainland, if the timing of it's arrival is just right it will push Irene east and miss Nassau completely, in fact it did move the storm about 60 miles east of Nassau which is probably why Stray Cat was not damaged. Without that jog to the east, Nassau would have been on the dirty side of the eye wall of a cat three hurricane.
When it was clear that there was no safe direction to run/sail away to, I moved Stray Cat to Rose Island where there is an island within the island all surrounded by wind breaking pine.
Getting the boat ready involves removing sails and anything else that represents windage or will just blow away. Shutting off propane, closing sea cocks and the like, dragging the dink up to the woods and taking pictures for the insurance company, two days labor in hot still air; the quite before the storm.
A Bahamian friend took me and others in the eleven miles to Nassau. I got a cab and checked into the Sheraton.
What a relief to find Stray Cat sitting pretty, undamaged at the dock albeit, covered with pine needles and beach sand now two days to put her back together.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Exuma cruise

Richardson (Sylvia, Jessie, Alex)-Robert (Brigitte, Christian, Rachel, Joachim) family
Saturday 6 August
Thanks to Emily have become "Remants of Emily" on the Thursday evening, our decision not to postpone the cruise paid off. At 10 am on Saturday, we met Captain Mark at the Yacht Haven Marina. Stray Cat is a beautiful catamaran with 5 cabins. Jessie, I and Alex are in one wing, Brigitte Chris and Mark are in the other wing, Rachel and Joachim are in an outside cabin accessed from the deck.
After a large shopping expedition followed by an unusual stop in a sex shop that also sold alcohol (no details but really curious!!), we left the Marina around 1 pm. The sky was grey but the wind so good and so we decided to try to get to the Exhumas that night (a long treck of 40 miles).The sea was formed and after an hour or so, the waves were quite close by so the boat was bumping along quite uncomfortably, and Mark decided that it would be too long a ride against the waves for a first day. So we turned round and went to a private island "Rose island" where there is a very narrow entrance man made in the cliff and a very peaceful shelter in the middle. We moored at a pontoon next to a Canadian cat (Friends of Mark). The skies cleared up and we have nice swim and rest. Peaceful evening. We made spaghetti bolognaise for the team.
Sunday 7th
Woke up early because it was really hot during the night. We left around 8.30-9 am. The wind was south-southwest and turning as a sinusoidal throughout. We had a lovely sail averaging around 6-7 knots. We had to tack constantly and so after 30 miles, we put the engine on and motorsailed for the last 12 miles. We got to Allen Cay around 4 pm. Beautiful turquoise waters. Mark took us in the dinghy towards a reef for snorkling. It was very beautiful, lots of colored fish and corals. We then went towards a beach full of Iguananas. Gold sand, birds and lots of ignuanas of different sizes. Joachim who has a natural talent for reptiles started taming them, following the alligator demonstration that we saw in the Everglades. We knicknamed him "Jiguan". Alex got bitten on his finger trying to feed the iguanas leaves as they are blind and want to eat anything that moves .. We also saw a fisherman's boat sorting out lots of conchs. They sold us some fresh lobster ! This beautiful day ended with a culinary feast orchestrated by chef Mark on the outside barbecues: lobster, chicken and corn on the cob. Beautiful evening under the stars.
Monday 8th
Boat woke up quite late. It was decided to have a snorkelling day. After taking pictures of the iguanas, we motored to Highborne Cay, a private island where there is the possibility to buy ice and refuel which we did. We were expecting to see sharks on the way but they did not turn up au rendez vous. Went round the island to snorkel in a beautiful reef. Joachim came back in a haste after being pursued by a large barracuda. Mark explained that they are territorial but that they don't attack and that you should ignore them. Beautiful reef with lots of different corals, and many different kinds of colored fish and a few rays. Like a forest under sea. In the afternoon we motored to the other side of the island to anchor for the night. Happy evening under the stars. During the night, some lightening and wind got up for a while, but no rain.
Tuesday 9th.
Some of us swam in the morning and then we took to go to Norman's Cay. We had a lovely sail with light winds (averaging 5-6 knots). We also put out fishing lines but did not catch anything but weeds ... We anchored around 3 in a beautiful bay called whale tail. The reef was quite sandy and beaten up by the storm so it was less colourful than the day before. After the snorkelling and swimming, we then went to Norman Cay cut, a beautiful bay with a paradise "one coconut tree island" in the distance, which we fell in love with. In the evening we set off in the dinghy to the key, to go to Mc Duff's restaurant. Mc Duff's restaurant was fun, we ate conch fritters, and fish, and drank rum cocktails. The veranda in front of the restaurant was very much out of a book on the Caraibians, wicker chairs, low tables, a beautiful view and lots of mosquitos! The toilets were secluded in nature, quite unique. We hurried back to the boat as lightning and black clouds were amassing over our heads. The air was fresh and the breeze was strong. In the end the storm passed over.
Wednesday 10th
Set off in the morning towards Exhumas landsea park, a national park on a small group of islands, about 12 miles south of Norman's Cay. No wind, so we had to motor all the way. As we approached, we started to discover a symphony of colors, from light green to emerald green and blue. Truly amazing. We tied up to a buoy and got ready to swim when .... Mark called out -- look at the shark! We saw a shadow and all thought he was joking. As soon as we set foot on the ladder, we clearly saw a nurse shark swimming around, not too far from the surface, with little grey fish attached to his back. What a sight. After a while some of us started to get ready to snorkel, as this shark is not dangerous. There was an old wreck beneath our boat, which "housed" many species of fish. Top and king of the castle was a big "bar", with a lovely yellow tail, which swam around quite close to the surface, surveying his kingdom. Lower down were families of fish of all colors. Brigitte was the last to come back enjoying the observation of the various fish around the shipwreck but still keeping an eye on the amazing nurse shark who was laying still on the bottom water bed with his four personal parasite cleaners hooked on him. Marks told us they are called remuras. Later on as Jessie was going in the water with Alex, a massive barracuda swam by which scared them!
Towards the evening, we went in the dinghy and onto the pontoon where the wardens of the park have a little exhibition. On the beach are the bones of a big whale! Quite impressive. Little breeze in the evening, so the night was quite hot.
Thursday 11th
This is our last day and we started early (around 8 am) to make our way back towards Nassau. The few days went very quickly. We first motored to Highborne Cay to get some fuel for the dinghy, some ice and some cold drinks. We were hoping to get some wind in the afternoon and to sail back to Rose island, but the weather was overcast, heavy, and the wind did not get up. Around 4 we arrived at Rose island and anchored round the back of the island near a large reef. Everybody was very happy to be able to swim and snorkel after such a long day on the motor. The view behind Rose island is spectacular, with the world famous island of Gilligan's Island (10 coconut trees) in the background. The reef was spectacular by its width, interesting relief around its edge, some many different corals, sponges, forest like branches and fans, and colourful fish swimming gently around. Xian, Alex and Joachim dived for conch shells and managed to retrieve some beautiful ones quite deep. Lovely sunset and twilight. Tomorrow we will go to Nassau marina in the morning.

We had a wonderful week, discovered a beautiful undersea world, enjoyed the sailing and the company and got a taste of the very special atmosphere of the Exhumas. We are very grateful to captain Mark for sharing this with us.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Knoop/Bruns, Party of 4

So, here we are our last night abroad the Stray Cat, anchored just off Rose Island. Hard to believe a week has gone by already, but what a great week it's been! The Exuma Islands and water are BEAUTIFUL. It's almost like being in a dream. The water is unlike anything I've ever seen. The stars are night are incredible. Stars forever in every direction. It's all amazing! And, Captain Mark is the perfect guide to see this amazing place. Simply, Captain Mark = AWESOME. :)

We started our trip in Nassau where we met Capt Mark, loaded our luggage and gear on the Stray Cat, and then off to get our food provisions for the week. Then we were off! First stop, and anchor spot for the night was Rose Island. The snorkeling and swimming were fantastic!

Day 2 was a long journey across the Yellow Banks to the north end of the Exumas. That long journey was well worth the wait as we came into Allen's Cay which was unbelievable! Water so blue and clear! Then we loaded into the dingy and headed to Leaf Cay for some awesome snorkeling. Tons of beautiful fish and coral. We also saw a Winter Skate (stingray family). We anchored at Allen's Cay for the night. GREAT star gazing that night!

Day 3 we continued south, stopping at the Highpointe Marina for fuel, water and food. Pretty cool to see nurse sharks in the marina as we came in. Gorgeous beach w/powder soft sand. The Stray Cat needed some minor repairs so the captain anchored us on a beautiful reef so we could do some more snorkeling. Again, it was great so we didn't mind the delay. Then we headed to Norman's Cay where we anchored for the night, and went ashore for dinner at McDuff's. Very good food and a neat island atmosphere. Good drinks. Interesting restroom facilities, too.

Day 4 we reached Stanial Cay, our last stop before heading back to Nassau. Capt Mark took us to see the swimming pigs before anchoring the Stray Cat. Then we headed to shore for dinner at the Stanial Cay Yacht Club. Happy Anniversary to the Bruns! Neat place, good drinks and good food. The cracked conch and peas and rice were delicious.

Day 5 we got some last needed food/supplies in Stanial Cay, and then we headed out for the start of the journey back to Nassau. The captain took us through some islands (don't remember the name) as we left Stanial Cay that were just stunning. Gorgeous water, and quite a few beautiful homes! We anchored that night at Little Pigeon Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Beautiful place! Didn't know places like this really existed outside movies and magazines!

Day 6 was the long journey leaving the Exumas to come back to Nassau. More great snorkeling today. It really doesn't get any better than this. Wish it didn't have to end. It's been a great trip!

Hands down, this has been one of the best vacations ever. Capt Mark - You are the best! Thank you so much for the great time in the Bahamas! We hope to sail with you again very soon!

And now you know everything. ;)

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Monday, June 06, 2011

June 6, 2011

Our party, Manny, Angela, Juan Carlos, Josefa, Nathan, Jacques and Ariana arrived Nassau yesterday around 2PM and at the marina by 3:45. Life is good-we are finally on vacation! Captain Mark met us at the entrance to Nassau Yacht Haven and we were introduced to Stray Cat. After a trip to the market for provisions we had a safety talk and were on our way. Nathan, Jacques, and Ariana helped launch and Captain Mark let me steer Stray Cat over to Rose Island. I had a fantastic aha moment-it was a understanding of how to read the water-what a difference it made! Stray Cat steers like a race car, it took a while to get the feel but once I did, wow!

The kids spent the trip up front enjoying life and probably wondering why mom was driving like a drunk for a while. I saw some heads pop up and look back so I can only imagine what was being said. After setting anchor we had cocktails. The kids played Scrabble while Juan Carlos and I cooked dinner. After dinner the kids got Nathan's high powered laser out and began to point out stars with it, and the boat next to us decided to shine a high powered flashlight at them.
Ariana (much better writer than mom):
After everything had cooled down a bit, almost everyone had gone to the bow of the boat to look for shooting stars and sattelites. Jacques was really good at pointing out satelites, and we also saw a few shooting stars. Contemplating the wonders of space really tired us out, and soon enough everyone was in bed, looking back happily at our satisfying first day sailing.
Today we are all looking to the tropical storm and wishing it away. It looks ominous on the sattelite photo so we are going to sail to Allen's Cay and Highthorne Cay and see what the "experts" say tonight. Everyone wish us luck that we can continue our journey to the Exumas. It has been my dream to take the kids there. To me the Exumas are one of the most beautiful places on this planet. It is almost surrealistic the color of the water and how the clouds can reflect that same color. We are about to sail and we are all looking forward to a wonderful day ahead!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More notes from France

Honestly is somebody is hesitating for such a trip be confident/
> you have less risk to cross the ocean with mark and straycat than to
> cross the main street of MIAMI
> Mark is a good captain ready to please to his guess!
> Stray cat is not only a boat take care : she understand a lot of
> thing but believe me she is a really good boat
> I am use to sail but I have really enjoy my 8 days with those two
> fellows!!
> Ready to start again: a travel from France is worth while

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Notes from France

I just completed an eight day charter in the Exuma Islands with eight wonderful guests from France who sent this message for the ship's log

Cher Capitaine Mark,

De retour en France à Lyon et à Nantes, nous tenons à vous remercier pour l'excellent périple que nous venons de faire aux Bahamas.
En premier lieu, les 8 membres de l'équipage n'ont pas été malades…!!!
Les paysages étaient superbes et nous ont fait découvrir les Iguanes et les sites coralliens de toute beauté.
Nous avons aussi croisé les requins « gentils » (Nurse Shark) et les grandes raies.
Les difficultés d'approvisionnement ne nous ont pas empêchées de faire honneur aux apéritifs copieux et aux plats français pour lesquels le Capitaine n'hésitait pas à s'associer de grand cœur.
Nous lui adressons nos félicitations pour son professionnalisme et l'excellente ambiance qu'il a su créer.
Il lui reste quelques progrès à faire en langue française…!!!
Bien amicalement.

Marie-Pierre BEAUCHAMPS, Maryse BOUCHACOURT, Andréa et Jean-Pierre CRESSY, Annick et Jean-Marc FABREGOULE, Annie et Michel

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