The North and South of It – Vero to PA, NY, and CT and Back Again

Back to our return from the Bahamas and the next phase of our travels.  I have some catching up to do on this blog.

We left Fort Pierce on Sunday, March 6th, heading north on the ICW to Vero Beach. Ahhh, the ICW……  What can I say?? This is not the beautiful clear blue water of the  Bahamas. We admit we have been spoiled and we miss the Bahamian blues.  Sooooo much.

Stunned by the dark icky water entering the ICW from a river to the west. We had heard that water from Lake Okeechobee was released in the past month, but weren't sure if this was part of it. Yuck.

Stunned by the swath of dark icky water entering the ICW from the Belcher Canal just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet. We had heard that water from Lake Okeechobee was released due to a high level after excessive rains,  but I’m not sure if the release extended its dark sludgy water into tributaries and other waters.  Yuck.

First bridge test – yes or no?? A very close yes……….

Just north of Fort Pierce, we face our first bridge test – yes or no?? A very close yes……….

Compass heading of 000 degrees. Is that "due north" or is 360 degrees? Are they same position? I have never wondered about it until I saw 000 on the autopilot compass.

Compass heading of 000 degrees. Is that “due north” or is 360 degrees? Are they the same position? I have never wondered about it until I saw 000 on the autopilot compass.

Vero Beach is one of the best places for a cruiser to stop and regroup. As many of us know, some cruisers stop here, regroup, and get stuck, hence the nickname “Velcro Beach.” Some are held fast for just the winter, and some return forever.  We know of boats that have waited so long for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream, that they just never left, especially this year; it was a tough one for crossings. The cruisers who return to Vero and put roots down into the dirt are called “CLODS” = Cruisers Living On Dirt.  They have formed their own informal club, meeting for breakfast once each week and hosting a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for cruisers.  On this visit I learned that Vero has another name in addition to “Velcro Beach” –  “Zero Beach”. Evidently because there is nothing to do for younger people. I guess it all depends on your perspective. Some folks love it, some don’t. Same as every book, movie, or restaurant review that I’ve ever read. Although Vero Beach is a favorite stop for us, we won’t ever become velcro’d. Not this girl. After 30 years in CT, I’m a New Englander.

We made it to Vero Beach . Time to do boat chores, laundry, inventory provisions and restock for the northward journey.

We made it to Vero Beach . Time to do boat chores, laundry, inventory provisions and restock for the northward journey.

Why is the Vero Beach City Marina such a popular place for cruisers to stop on their way south and on the way north?

  • Inexpensive moorings (They get less expensive per night the longer you stay – part of the velcro?)
  • Only a few blocks from the beach (Even better is a short dinghy ride to tiny spot to tie our dinghy and walk across the street to the park and beach access.)
  • The GoLine bus transportation – FREE (Every cruiser loves and needs transportation  for provisioning and shopping, and free is the best!)
  • Easy car rental (usually easy until this time)
  • Free internet (Better than the Bahamas, but not quite up to land life’s speed, even with the wirie booster.)
  • Decent laundry and showers (Another cruising must have.)
  • Enough places to explore during a visit, with ice cream and restaurants.
  • Lots of other boaters to meet.

During our Gulf Stream crossing, we made a bet with each other. “Will there be any boats that we know at Vero when we arrive?” Al said no and I said yes. Those were very arbitrary calls, because neither of us felt strongly one way or the other – we were just bored at that point of the crossing. Upon arrival in Vero Beach, it appeared that Al won the bet. I’m a good loser, but the next day, I became the winner. While waiting in line for the GoLine bus, my eyes looked up and recognized Joan and Whit, another Shennecossett Yacht Club couple!! They had reached Vero on their Irwin, Sweet Liberty, in January, but the weather kept them velcro’d to Vero. That’s ok, there are many far worse places to be stuck.

Whit Joan, and Gracie dinghy over for a happy hour on Kindred Spirit. Lots of catching up to do!

Whit Joan, and Gracie dinghy over for a happy hour on Kindred Spirit. Lots of catching up to do!

Lots of crew teams practice right there in the river, passing the by our moorings.

Crew teams practice right there in the river, passing by our moorings.

Al spied this little boat, not part of the crew teams. Just styrofoam and some "P100" paper

Al spied this little boat, not part of the crew teams. Just styrofoam and some “P100” paper

Al had not had a haircut in 4 months. Check this off the to-do list. His reward - ice cream at Kiln's, something else he did not have enough of for 4 months.

Al had not had a haircut in 4 months. Check this off the to-do list. His reward – ice cream at Kilwin’s, something else he did not have enough of for 4 months.

Playing at Humiston Park in Vero Beach -- Who says you can’t be a swinger at Vero Beach?

Playing at Humiston Park in Vero Beach — Who says you can’t be a swinger at Vero Beach?

The most important thing we have done while in Vero is to leave. Leave the boat and fly home for a visit to see family. It was a 4-states in 8 days whirlwind trip. I just knew I couldn’t wait 6-8 more weeks to see our family. We flew into Philadelphia (on Frontier – never again. That would be a story for a different type of blog.) Rented a car to visit my parents and sisters. From there we drove to Queens, NY to spend the day with Ryan, Kerri and Caleb. Headed north to Connecticut to our house to wade through 4 months of accumulated mail, my oncology check-up, and a professional hair cut for me. Visited Adam & Steph in Avon, and then drove back to Pennsylvania to see my parents and visit with Alicia, Shawn, Aaron and Ella. After our return from the north, we rented a car and drove across Florida to visit with Al’s mother.

Below are just a few memories of our time with family and friends during the 8 days. I didn’t even take my camera and have only a few photos from my iPhone –Too busy talking and hugging.

Caleb is really likes wearing sunglasses (an unusual 22 month old!) and liked the new ones we brought. He loves reading books, too.

Forest Hills, NY – Caleb  really likes wearing sunglasses (an unusual 22 month old!) and liked the new ones we brought. Papa reads a books to him.

Out to a restaurant in NYC, looking like a New York artist or writer. And then looking just like a toddler who does not want o say goodby.

Out to a restaurant in NYC, looking like a New York artist or writer. And then looking just like a toddler who does not want to say goodby, with Daddy and Mommy.

Connecticut - Our wonderful neighbors, Marge and Jim cooked dinner for us and even had an early birthday celebration for Al.

Connecticut – Our wonderful neighbors, Marge and Jim, cooked dinner for us and even had an early birthday celebration for Al.

Land life! What are you going to do?? I drove AL's truck to my hair appointment only to have it refuse to start afterwards. Something to do with the ignition (245,000 miles on the old thing). Al couldn't get it started and AAA couldn't get it started, so I didn't feel incompetent. ;-) That's the tow truck bringing it back to the house. It will have to wait until we return in May.

Land life! What are you going to do?? I drove Al’s truck to my hair appointment only to have it refuse to start afterwards. Something to do with the ignition (245,000 miles). Al couldn’t get it started and AAA couldn’t get it started, so I didn’t feel incompetent. 😉 That’s the tow truck picking it up and bringing it back to the house. It will have to wait until we return in May.

Between appointments, we had lunch at Cafe 56 in Middletown with Mary Jo and Dean. So nice that they came up there to spend time with us during our short visit. Thanks!!

Between appointments, we had lunch at Cafe 56 in Middletown with Mary Jo and Dean. So nice that they came up there to spend time with us during our short visit. Thanks!!

Off to visit Adam and Steph. We toured their new "hometown" of Avon and Collinsville, spending a little time at a beautiful reservoir. Can you see how cold we were????? What you can't see is that Steph and Adam are expecting a little girl in June! Yeah -another grandchild!

Off to visit Adam and Steph. We toured their new “hometown” of Avon and Collinsville, spending a little time at a beautiful reservoir. Can you see how cold we were????? What you can’t see is that Steph and Adam are expecting a little girl in June! Yeah -another grandchild!

Back to Pennsylvania to visit my parents again. Fortunately, Alicia, Shawn, Aaron and Ella were able to drive up from Delaware to spend the afternoon with us. Check out those two little swimmers - Love their swim caps! Aaron and Papa conferring over a drawing at the dinner table. Alicia and Ella at the dining room table.

Back to Pennsylvania to visit my parents again. Fortunately, Alicia, Shawn, Aaron and Ella were able to drive up from Delaware to spend the afternoon with us.
Check out those two little swimmers – Love their swim caps! They are both fish in the water.
Aaron and Papa conferring over a drawing at the dinner table.  Alicia and Ella at the dining room table.

We left very early on Monday morning to get to the Phila airport intake for our flight. That's Al scraping ice off the windshield of the rental car. Brrrrrr

We left very early on Monday morning to get to the Phila airport in time for our flight. That’s Al scraping ice off the windshield of the rental car. Brrrrrr

After covering the miles by plane, by rental car, by shuttle bus, and finally an Uber ride, we arrived back at Vero Beach City Marina.While we were away, Cutting Class crossed back from the Bahamas and joined us on our mooring here.

together again

Kindred Spirit and Cutting Class, together again. We are missing san cles for our usual triple raft of Shennecossett Yacht Club boats  in Vero.

Whit and Joan left on Sweet Liberty - one less SYC boat here. :-(

Whit and Joan left on Sweet Liberty – one less SYC boat here. 🙁

The remainder of our time in Vero was a blitz of provisioning and chores in preparation for the trek northward. Trips to Home Depot, Walmart, West Marine, and Publix were made easier with a rental car. Systems were checked, levels of water and fuel inspected, and lots of laundry was washed, dried and folded and provisions wee tucked away. Instead of cleaning salt off of the fiberglass we discovered that we were wiping up pollen dust.

Our final day in Vero Beach was both Easter Sunday and Al’s birthday. Although the sky was mostly overcast, it was warm and humid enough to venture one more time to the beach, by dinghy. It wasn’t the nicest day, but it wasn’t the worst either. Dan and I both went for a swim in the water.

  • Temperature = very nice, didn’t even flinch.
  • Clarity = sand swirling in the surf and nothing like the Bahamas. Not even close.
  • Waves = a little too rough for me, waves came from different directions with a strong undertow.
  • Conclusion = Worth doing for 20 minutes! Especially since it will be the last swim for awhile, for me. (Not Dan!)
A day of "firsts" - Easter Day on the Beach and AL spent his birthday on the beach. Thanks for the photos, Marcia (I forgot my camera!)

A day of “firsts” – Easter Day on the Beach and AL spent his birthday on the beach. Thanks for the photos, Marcia (I forgot my camera!)

We were very happy to celebrate the double specialness of the day with Marcia and Dan on Cutting Class. The birthday dinner was expanded to include both of them, Dan recently had another birthday and Marcia’s is coming up shortly.

Rib-eye steaks on the grill, with asparagus, potato salad and a green salad. AL blew out his candle on the four sample pieces of calorie-laden delights.

Birthday Bonanza Dinner! Rib-eye steaks on the grill, with asparagus, potato salad and a green salad. Al blew out his candle on the four sample pieces of calorie-laden delights.

Twenty-two days in Vero for Kindred Spirit, but Al and I are only here for 12 of them. It’s time to begin the journey homeward, and we are very ready to move on again. This will be a first for us – traveling north by boat. Remember that in 2013-2014, we left our Morgan 43 sailboat in Stuart, FL where she acquired new owners. I made sure that didn’t happen again – this boat is going home with us!

Mango & Marley

The title is intriguing isn’t it? This post is not about Bob Marley. It’s not about mangos, although I love them. This blog post is about construction on a little island in the Bahamas, namely, here in Hope Town on Elbow Cay. Al had the opportunity to use his construction skills, something he loves to do and is really, really good at. It was even more fascinating to him because down here in the islands, construction can sometimes be a little unusual compared to the U.S. I decided that this definitely deserved a blog post.

During our 2013-2014 trip to the Abacos, we met a couple from Maine (and Nova Scotia) who spend the winters in the Bahamas – John & Carol. As a creative and dynamic team, they sometimes flip houses, and do an excellent job of it. Last year they found a piece of land in Hope Town that suited them just right, on the outer harbor, for a house of their own. After completing the piles of paperwork necessary to begin construction, the work began.

John and Carol proudly show off their official building permit. Off they go to post it on the lane that leads to their property.

January 7th, 2016 — John and Carol proudly show off their official building permit. Off they go to post it on the lane that leads to their property.

Their cottage will be named (all cottages have names, just like boats) Mango & Marley. The idea for the name came from the Kenny Chesney song, “Guitars & Tiki Bars.” Mango & Marley conjures images of that island life, doesn’t it?

When I’ve had it up to here
I go down there
To guitars, tiki bars and a whole lotta love
Mangoes and Marley, you know, fit me like a glove
Sixth gear with nowhere to steer, when enough is enough
It’s guitars, tiki bars and a whole lotta love

John and Carol are a great team, but sometimes it is nice, and necessary, to have a crew on hand. Al, as a retired builder, was thrilled to hang out and help John, especially during this rather cool Bahamian winter.

After clearing the lot themselves, the septic tank was delivered. This became quite an unusual  event and I took a lot of photos.

The tank arrived on the supply boat, the same boat that brings all of our necessary stuff over to Elbow Cay from the bigger islands and the U.S. It is the noisiest boat ever, but we still welcome the sound in the hopes that fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy products will soon be on the shelves. This time it brought John and Carol’s septic tank.

The septic tank arrives on the supply boat. Who knew it would be such a pretty yellow?

The septic tank arrives on the supply boat. Who knew it would be such a pretty yellow?

The crane lifts it off the boat and onto the dock, but that is as far as it goes.

The crane lifts the tank off of the boat and onto the dock, but that is as far as it goes.

Now it is up to John and crew to get it from there to the lot. It has to go by water because the “roads” are too narrow and no one has a truck. What a sight this was!

Prepping the tank for its voyage required ropes and tape. The ropes around it are for holding. Plugging the open end by taping over it so that no water will enter and sink it.

Prepping the tank for its voyage required ropes and tape. The ropes around it are for holding. The open end was plugged by taping over it so that no water will enter and sink it.

Ready for the water! Launch! See the splash?

Ready to launch into the water!  See the splash? It IS floating!!

With a dinghy on each side of the tank, it wass guided out of the Hope Town harbor, and out to the outer harbor to John and Carol's lot.

With a dinghy on each side of the tank, it was guided out of the Hope Town harbor,  to the outer harbor and then to John and Carol’s lot. Al and Marty in one dink, John and Carol in the other.

Arrival in front of the building lot.

Arrival in front of the building lot, but still floating in the water.

From sea to land. I wonder how many septic tanks have had an adventure like this?

From sea to land, it gets rolled up onto the sandy shore.  I wonder how many septic tanks have had an adventure like this?

The septic tank now in its location until a hole is ready. TaDa! With a little help from your friends......

The septic tank now in its temporary location until a hole is ready. TaDa! With a little help from your friends……

We always checked on the progress of Mango & Marley whenever we left the harbor to go out and play. Al didn’t work all the time, after all he is retired.

Carol waves to us as we buzz by while John continues working on his electrical wall. Island cottages have these cinder block and concrete outdoor walls on which to mount the electrical service.

Carol waves to us as we buzz by while John continues working on his “electrical wall.” Island cottages have these cinder block and concrete outdoor walls on which to mount the electrical service.

Notice that old upside down boat on the right in the photo above? Every builder on an island needs a “work boat.”

John acquired an old whaler to use as his work boat. After some nifty fiberglass work and some other repairs, the whaler was put to use as a commuter boat and a hauling boat.

John acquired this old whaler to use as his work boat. After some nifty fiberglass work and some other repairs, the whaler was put to use as a commuter boat and a hauling boat.

Sometimes help from friends isn’t enough and you need the big guys with big toys.

There was only one way to get this digger to the lot. Wait until low tide and drive it from the nearest “normal” road (the word normal is relative) onto the beach, on the beach until you reach John and Carol’s lot.

There was only one way to get this digger to the lot. Wait until low tide and drive it from the nearest “normal” road (the word normal is relative) on to the beach, and then drive it over the sandy shoreline until you reach John and Carol’s lot.

John with attitude – I took this photo and don’t remember what was happening at that moment. John certainly looks like he has some attitude going on – too many watchers and not enough workers?

John with attitude – I took this photo and don’t remember what was happening at that moment. John certainly looks like he has some attitude going on – too many watchers and not enough workers? Or is it that the digger was delivered but the driver was  on island time and didn’t join his equipment? Or was this the time the driver had to leave it until a hydraulic hose could be fixed??

The porosity of the soil presents interesting challenges, especially for septic tanks.

Al chatting with John (in septic tank hole). The digger dug the two holes for the septic tank,

Al chatting with John (in the septic tank hole). The digger dug the two holes for the septic tank. The tank will go into the one John is standing in.  The other hole is the leaching field, filled with rocks and then a hand-poured concrete cover will top it off.         ~~ Notice that John is standing in water in the top photo — At high tide the water flows through the sandstone earth and into the hole so John can only work in there during lower tides. Hard to believe, but he would be waist deep in water at high tide!

The cisterns arrived  next. These are the tanks to hold fresh water. Water is precious in the islands. Surrounded by all of that beautiful clear blue salt water does not mean that there is enough fresh water for washing and drinking. Our options on a boat are to have a watermaker (expensive) or to buy RO (fresh water made from the ocean water through the process of reverse osmosis) or have a collection system like Al created. On land, most cottages have cisterns that are used to collect the rainwater from the roofs or to hold purchased water. Since the soil is rocky and porous, John will position his water tanks under the first floor at ground level. The first floor of living space is really one floor above the ground level.

The three cisterns arrived (tanks to hold the water).

The three cisterns arrived. The same delivery and floatation system was used as for the septic tank. (I missed this flotilla event – must have been off at the school or lighthouse, or laundry duties.)

John even built a storage shed. It's a must-have on a building site. Palm Pilot (John and Carol’s catamaran) can’t store all of the building tools and supplies.

John even built a storage shed. It’s a must-have on a building site. Palm Pilot (John and Carol’s catamaran) can’t store all of the building tools and supplies.

By the first week in February it was time to position the timbers that will support the four corners of the cottage. Sam sketched out an idea to raise these 8×8 pressure-treated 20-foot long timbers without power equipment.

John built Sam’s tripod/pulley system to haul the timbers upright so that they could be dropped into the hole, standing vertically. Very similar to the mast hoist system at our yacht club in Connecticut.

John built Sam’s tripod/block & tackle system to haul the 8″x8″x20′ pressure-treated timbers upright so that they could be dropped into the hole, standing vertically. Very similar to the mast hoist system at our yacht club in Connecticut.

Hoisting up the first corner.

Al is right in there, loving every minute. First corner is already upright. Sam is in the background (green shirt), John (white t-shir)t, and I don’t know the others’ names.

Checking how straight it is with a line of sight. Is it straight?? Carol leaning in, John standing. Al with Sam behind him.

Checking how straight it is with a line of sight. Is it straight?? Carol leaning in, John standing. Al with Sam behind him.

How many sailors does it take to hoist a post? By my count, there were 7 plus John.

How many sailors does it take to hoist a post? By my count, there were 7 plus John.

John and Al and three corners, braced with diagonals to hold them, temporarily.

John and Al and three corners, braced with diagonals to hold them straight, temporarily.

Looking good. The cottage has four corners now.

Looking good. The cottage has four corners now (one is hidden behind).

And there was enough of a floor to stand upon - Joe, Al, Carol, John. Joe and Al were the most consistent crew that John had for most of January and February.

And then there was enough of a floor to stand upon – Joe, Al, Carol, John. Joe and Al were the most consistent crew that John had for most of January and February. (There’s my favorite lighthouse in the background.)

Feb 18th - Carpenters dinner on our boat, but John cooked. This was a really good deal for me. I invited Carol and John to our boat for dinner, but he wanted to make Caribbean lobster chowder. OMG – soo delicious! We also invited Joe and Paula as part of John’s “core” building crew. Paula baked corn bread in a cast iron frying pan that complimented the chowder perfectly.

Feb 18th – Carpenters’ dinner on our boat, but John cooked. This was a really good deal for me. I invited Carol and John to our boat for dinner, but he wanted to make his Caribbean lobster chowder. OMG – soo delicious! We also invited Joe and Paula as part of John’s “core” building crew. Paula baked corn bread in a cast iron frying pan that complimented the chowder perfectly.

By February 22nd, it was time for Carol to head back to Maine to her candle business, Salty Beach Studio — “100% eco-friendly soy candles hand-poured in Maine.” The flavor combinations are inspiring and blend the Caribbean soul with the spirit of Maine.

23Salty Beach Studio

Carol’s candle company, Salty Beach Studio.                                                                                         Upper left, clockwise– Tropics Collection, Holiday Collection, Starfish Collection, Beach Collection

Before Carol left, there was an impromptu happy hour, the very first one at Mango and Marley, held on the newly built first floor, overlooking the harbor. Hot lobster dip with rum and beer. We were honored to be invited and glad we were available.

Me, Carol, and John The make-shift serving table Dave and Jill from Jilly-Q

Me, Carol, and John.
The make-shift serving table holding the hot lobster dip. Look at the view!
Dave and Jill from Jilly-Q.

The view…. Oh the view! John and Carol will be able to see the Elbow Reef Lighthouse (the “candy-striped lighthouse”) from their cottage.

The view…. Oh the view! John and Carol will be able to see the Elbow Reef Lighthouse (the “candy-striped lighthouse”) from their cottage.  Wouldn’t you just love to live here?? Or even visit?

Feb 27th – Progress is visible from the water.

Feb 27th – Progress is visible from the water. John gives us a wave as we pass by.

Feb 29th - Even more progress! There is a wall.

Feb 29th – Even more progress! There is a wall.

Sam and John admiring the progress.

Sam and John admiring the progress contemplating the next step. 

The larger walls required more assistance. Would that be  “Many hands make light work” ?

Ready, set, on the count of three...... LIFT! Anthony, John, Dan, and Al

Ready, set, on the count of three…… LIFT!
Anthony, John, Dan, and Al

lift the wall

Up and up it goes. The guys are really “doing the heavy lifting.” Sam, John, Al and Dan this time around.

That’s as much as Al was able to contribute to the construction of Mango & Marley. He was loving every minute of it, but it was time for us to leave the Abacos. 🙁  Through the wonders of technology and digital cameras, friends have sent photos of the progress during the past three weeks.

March 8-10th

March 8-10th – John seems to be working all alone now.

 John up on the floor of what will become the second story. Yes, that is pretty high up there.

John up on the floor of what will become the second story. Yes, that is pretty high up there.

You can see Mano & Marley forth top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. It seems fitting that Carol and John will be able to see the lighthouse and the lighthouse has a view of them.

You can see Mango & Marley from top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. It seems fitting that Carol and John will be able to see the lighthouse and the lighthouse has a view of them.

Plywood appears onto studded walls and a porch.

The walls are taking shape with plywood over the studs, and the deck of a porch appears.

36Mar26 looking out from 1st flr

The porch will have a wonderful view of the harbor for watching all of the comings and goings.

It will probably take another year or two to finish the cottage. John returns to Maine before the hot Bahamian summer begins. We look forward to seeing the cottage become their Bahama “home.”

Drifting Along ….. Drift Seeds and Sea Beans

This is not about us drifting along; it is about “drift seeds.” We never found a single one on our first visit to the Abacos, but Al’s discovery of one sea bean at Green Turtle Cay within the first two days of our arrival, changed our fortunes. Finding a sea bean is a sign of good luck, a good omen. Little did we realize how this first find would become a new beachcombing obsession for us, adding to the sea glass, shells and conchs, and driftwood that we acquire along the way. It sure is nice to have a larger “hold” in the boat for storing our treasures.

2purple fan and seaheart

Purple fan and sea heart. The first sea bean, a sea heart, next to a purple fan coral, both found at Green Turtle Cay.

Our cruising friends showed us their sea bean finds on our first trip, but our eyes never seemed to notice any. This year, that first sea bean had us hooked and quickly trained our novice eyes, as well as hooking our curiosity (mine, for sure.) I learned that “sea beans” is a generic common name for these gems, and “drift seeds” is a more global and inclusive term. “Drift” is a very apropos name. Most of these seeds and beans are from vines and trees that grow along the tropical shores and rainforests all over the world.

Looking at this graphic of the ocean currents impresses one with just how far the seeds and beans drift.

Looking at this graphic of the ocean currents impresses one with just how far the seeds and beans drift.

 

They fall into waterways and drift through inlets and bays, reaching the sea where they travel with the ocean currents until washing up upon a beach somewhere, even thousands of miles from their “homeport.”

The buoyant beans and seeds are held afloat by internal air pockets and are protected by their hard outer shells. World travelers!

 

The wrack line is the line of debris left on the beach by high tide.  Seaweed, kelp, assorted natural debris that floated in on the tide, as well as man’s debris in the form of plastic bits and other trash.

Wrack lines

Some days there would be almost no wrack line, other days there would be a wide heavy wrack, but usually the wrack line was somewhere in-between.

Until we started searching, both on the beach and on the internet, I had no idea how many people were obsessed with sea beans. A quick google search unearthed (unbeached?) lots of information and websites dedicated to drift seeds/sea beans. If you get hooked like we did, you can check the links below, or even attend a sea bean symposium (last one was October 2015 in Cocoa Beach, FL) or read the triennial newsletter, “The Drifting Seed.”

This blog post of mine is about the sea beans we found this winter in the Abacos.

One in my hand, in its natural, newly found on the beach, condition.

This sea heart, in my hand, in its natural condition, newly found on the beach.

The sea heart (Entada gigas), native to Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America, and Africa. Sea hearts originate in huge, hanging bean pods, up to six feet long. They are impervious to salt water, even after years of drifting in the ocean waters. Sailors carried sea hearts as good luck charms to protect them from sickness and to ward off the evil eye. It is said that a sea heart (also known as fava de Colom) inspired Christopher Columbus to set out in search of lands to the west.

Supposedly, sea hearts are second to brown hamburgers as the most common of all beach-found sea-beans. We did not find this to be true. We found more sea hearts than any other kind of sea bean or drift seed.

Eight of our sea hearts lined up,

Eight of our sea hearts lined up, natural on the left to polished ones on the right.

Polishing sea hearts is quite a task with several steps and lots of time.

I started with 180 grit sandpaper, followed by 400 and 600 grit. There were times when the skin on my thumb felt as though it were getting polished as well.

I started with 180 grit sandpaper, followed by 400 and 600 grit. There were times when the skin on my thumb felt as though it were getting polished as well.

When I tired of working on a bean, Al took over. He wore gloves when using the sandpaper, but then soon turned to his power sander. He then gave some of the beans quite a shine with finishing compound and the buffing machine.

When I tired of working on a bean, Al took over. He wore gloves when using the sandpaper, but then soon turned to his power sander. He then gave some of the beans quite a shine with finishing compound and the buffing machine.

Two of the beans with a high sheen after Al finished polishing.

Two of the beans with a high sheen after Al finished polishing.

Hamburger beans, said to be the most common of all beach found sea beans, are sometimes considered to be “true sea beans.” Our experience says otherwise – finding a hamburger bean was unusual. We were thrilled to find a brown one and then a red one.

There are hundreds of varieties in varying shades of brown, red, and brindle growing in tropical regions around the globe. Nowadays they are carried for good luck and protection against the “evil eye.”

hamburgers and a sea purse

On the right – Our two hamburgers, one red and one brown. On the left, my finger holds a sea purse from rolling.

Brown Hamburger, Mucuna sloanei , the most common of all beach-found sea-beans are more ball-shaped than other species which are flat in comparison. Tropical Africa, South America, Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean.

Red Hamburgers Mucuna urens are found less often than brown hamburgers. They are flatter and have more color variations from light beige to deep red.

Sea purseDioclea reflexa Coveted by collectors, sea purses are one of the rarest and most colorful of all sea beans found on any beach. Distinct color variations range from butterscotch to solid black. Originally from Asia, these beans have drifted to islands in the Caribbean and Central and South America, reproducing there. The circular hilum along the edge of these resembles a zipper, giving it the name “sea purse.” They have thick, protective shells which, enable them to survive for years at sea in the salt water. 

We found one brown nickernut. I'm surprised I even noticed it in the wrack.

We found one brown nickernut (Caesalpinia globulorium). I’m surprised I even noticed it in the wrack.

Nickernuts or nickar nuts are used as marbles (Dutch word knicker for clay marbles) in the strategy games of African mancala or Caribbean’s  “Island Waurie.”

 The same day I found the brown nickarnut, I also picked up a funny looking bean or seed. With the help of “The Little Book of Sea Beans and Other Beach Treasures“,  I identified it as a Starnut palm (Astrocaryum spp.)  The Rainforest Garden Blog stated,  “Some, like the starnut palm, are ridiculously tropical and exotic.” Very cool. I was excited to add this to our tiny collection of sea beans.

Two views of my little starnut palm

Two views of my little starnut palm – The starnut palm has the most interesting shape resembling a black tear drop.There is a pattern of lines down the seed and 3 tiny holes in the bulbous base.

Sea coconut (Manicaria saccifera), is also known as “golf ball” because it is the size and shape of a round golf ball.  It is not a real coconut, but it is a palm tree.The sea coconut is a tall, unusual palm with leaves nearly 30 feet long. It grows in the Amazon basin, on the island of Trinidad, and on the Caribbean coasts of Central and northern South America spottily. We found quite a few sea coconuts, but the outer skin would soon crack and crumble. They don’t look very attractive, and yet there are photos of how pretty they look after polishing. We aren’t sure how they can be polished with that crackling outer shell.

We kept five of the sea coconuts we found, but are not sure just what we will do with them yet.

We kept five of the sea coconuts we found, but are not sure just what we will do with them yet.

 The mahogany or madeira tree is native to southern Florida, Florida Keys, Cuba, Bahamas, Hispaniola, Jamaica. I first noticed strange wooden-looking pods scattered about on the grounds of the Lighthouse Gift Shop when I worked there. They were very interesting looking so I gathered a few up. I had the opportunity to show it to a local person who informed me it was from the madeira tree also known as the mahogany tree.

Madiera pods

The grayish brown wooden conical fruit splits like an umbrella causing brown winged seeds to fall to the ground. The seeds disperse leaving the interestingly shaped inner part still on the stem.

Royal Poinciana is a species of flowering plant, noted for its fern-like leaves and flamboyant display of red flowers. When we found these pods along the side of the road on Treasure Cay, the plant was not in its “flamboyant” phase. The pods were dried and woody on the ground or hanging limply from the tree.

Royal Poinc collage

Al is holding the long pod that contains the small seeds, shown on the right. Lower left is a look at the pods hanging in the tree.

On our last day on Elbow Cay, Sam gave a necklace he made.

On our last day on Elbow Cay, Sam gave me a necklace that he made from nickarnuts and royal poinciana seeds. The nickarnut in the center is a gray one, also known as a “sea pearl.” I wore this necklace during every nautical mile of our crossing days to keep us safe. It worked!

A new collection ( or a new obsession?) A plate full of sea beans!

A new collection ( or a new obsession?) A plate full of sea beans!