"Erica" was designed and built by Eric Gray over 7yrs and launched in Sandspit, NZ Nov 2001. We departed for Tonga in July 2006 after completion in Tauranga.
From there she has sailed to Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, PNG,Indonesia,Malaysia,Thailand,Sumatra,Chagos,Cargados shoals, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Sth Africa, Namibia, St Helena, Fernando De Noronha(Brazil),Ile Du Salut(French Guiana)Tobago and Trinidad and currently in the Caribbean islands
sadly said goodbye to the Bahamas on the 16th of March and
crossed the Gulf stream to Florida. We arrived 10hrs ahead of our
predicted time getting to Port Canaveral at 0200hrs. There were no
ships transitting the Port at that time so we cautiously made our way
into the harbour. There are no places to anchor so we tied up to a
fuel dock outside a marina..
We waited until daybreak with the
intention of booking a berth for a day for customs clearance and
using the marina laundry facilities and filling with water...Before
we had a chance to go up to the office a very pleasant and welcoming
marina worker greeted us asking us to see the Dockmaster.
paying $106USD she told us we had to leave by 1300hrs that day, then
decided we could stay until 1500hrs. The opening bridge closes at
certain times for Cape Canaveral Space employees to pass over so we
had to engineer this in as well.
questioned why we had to leave so early and she said had we
prearranged a berth it would have been different and she said. “I
know all about sailboats!” Being tired and in a new country it was
some time later that we realised that she thought we were trying to
get away with berthing and not paying!
should have been an exciting and relaxed entry to the States became a
frantic and anxious time trying to clear customs, arrange a cruising
permit, get laundry done, the boat filled with water and internet and
got back from a long walk to customs and Immigration and after
discussing why we had got the cold shoulder Cathy decided to go and
have a chat with her. Unfortunately she had gone for the day but more
fortunately a very nice chap taking over for the day gave us
permission to stay until the next day. ( Usually if you book a day it
is all day and a night)
next morning we untied from the Fuel jetty area and Eric called the
Bridge operator to ask permission to pass. The control room has
limited sideways vision so he said “I can't see you. Where are
you?” Eric radioed back that we were coming from the Cape Marina.
Well........All hell broke loose!......
Dockmaster radioed the bridge operator and asked him not to allow us
through as we hadn't paid our bill and said she had called the
Sheriff!! Eric called her back and she unprofessionally continued
talking on CH 16. When he had the opportunity to reply he suggested
she go to a working channel...Well everyone within a 20nm radius who
was listening in would have rapidly switched channels to hear the
unfolding of the drama! Eric explained that we had been given
permission to stay overnight and that we felt we had been unfairly
treated and that we would not be returning. She then gave us
permission to continue on but that we would not be welcome back
there...Eric replying that we would not want to and we would tell our
cruising associates about the incident!
then contacted the bridge operator and as we passed by he had a great
big grin on his face and gave us the “Thumbs up”
passing through the opening bridge we entered the lock which lifted
us up to the level of the Banana river and then we continued to the
Indian river, part of the Intra coastal waterway.
stopped at Titusville and spent a few days there, visiting the
Kennedy Space centre and watching from the anchorage the launching of
the Delta IV rocket carrying an airforce GPS satellite into space on
the 25th of March...
an awesome experience!! A dream Eric had had since he was a boy was
Cathy under the Space shuttle booster rockets and fuel tank at the Kennedy Space Centre,
On the 11th
of February after 2 days of gales we departed Mayaguana Island in the Southern
Bahamas. (A fellow cruisers yacht "SV Wild Blue"on anchor)
at Castle Island under motor with incredible visibility. We could clearly see
the bottom at 18m! We spent a couple of
days here where we explored the abandoned lighthouse and keepers houses and
contrast we sailed in 2-3m of baby powder blue water in the protection of the
Bight of Acklins. It was an amazing experience to watch the bottom as we glided
across the mirror calm water with a gentle breeze just filling the sails
stop was Little harbour at Long Island where we waited as a frontal system
moved over. The blow holes in the porous rocky
terrain, beachcombing and
catching squid amused us
town was a good place for some provisions at the Government market and a quaint
Island there were dozens of “Blue Holes” in both the land and shallow lagoons.
These soak holes are perfectly round and quite large and are filled with sea
water to sea level.
A sail up
the coast on the Atlantic side took us to Calabash bay where we checked out a
great little lagoon by dinghy. The entrance was shallow and narrow but we
estimated that we could get “Erica” inside. We spent a week here where we
beached on the white sandy bottom and gave the bottom a clean off and the hull
We had a
quick stop in Georgetown, Great Exuma Island for reprovisioning of food and
water. There were still around 300 of the 450 boats here left over from a big
regatta. It was not our scene so we continued on up through the many beautiful
Short passages and gorgeous anchorages to be
Rat Cay will
always be remembered as this is where my good canon camera went for a swim
never to work again! So the GoPro and Eric’s little Fuji will have to suffice.
spot, Staniel Cay and James Bond’s movie setting at Thunderball Grotto were a
real highlight where we enjoyed the swimming pigs, nurse sharks up close and
swimming in the cave.
We spent hours snorkelling in the crystal clean clear water
Then on to
Shroud Cay where a kayak from the western to eastern shores took us through
mangrove estuaries to the most beautiful private beaches we have seen
On the way
back the tide had flooded the waterways and we got lost. The sun was going down
and we feared we would have to spend the night in the kayak with the night
insects! Luckily using the direction of the sinking sun and some commonsense we
got back to “Erica” just on night fall.
On our way
north to Great Bahama island we stopped overnight at Nassau but didn’t go
ashore. On passage at night to Freeport and Lucayan we were surrounded by
cruise ships and tankers. We counted 10 in our visual range at one time . Having AIS is just wonderful to prevent
for a couple of days at Lucayan in a sheltered waterway/ canal and left for
Port Canaveral, Florida on the night of the 16th of March.
We left the British Virgin islands on
the 6th of January, arriving on the 12th, covering 570nm.
The following movie is of the passage
We arrived at night then proceeded to
Abraham bay in daylight. Just after we had got through the tricky
reef entrance our gearbox failed but we were far enough in to anchor
safely. Eric proceeded to get the gearbox off the motor which was a
tedious and difficult task. Lifting the whole motor out was not an
option with the boat rolling in the seas and swell. We needed the
motor to be operational for charging our batteries and to keep our
freezer full of food frozen, so we sent a message ashore with another
yachtsman to inform the administrator (There are no
customs/immigration officers on Mayaguana Island) that we couldn't
clear in immediately.
Then a frontal system came through and
the wind was up so we didn't want to leave the boat unattended. Once
the gearbox problem was diagnosed the next task was to clear in and
use the internet to order parts. ( A new gear shaft and dampening
drive plate which were worn )
We spent a lot of time in the
communications office over the next few days emailing suppliers in NZ
The local folk were extremely helpful
and friendly putting us in contact with a mechanic who was here from
Nassau working on the roading, The gearbox was taken apart on the back of a ute
A very nice man organised the parts to be put on the
flight to Mayaguana Island when they arrived in Nassau from the USA. Local folk also gave us rides from the dinghy dock and in ferrying water from the
Eric was able to do some electrical
work on a boat in return.
While we waited for the parts we
explored a wrecked yacht on the foreshore and after getting
permission we managed to salvage a furling system.
Time was spent snorkelling the reef and
fishing, but we both came down with a sickness.( Lethargy, heavy legs
and fullness in the head and sinuses) Not typical of Ciguatera
poisoning but it made us a bit wary of eating the volume of fish and
lobster we had been eating, even though we had only eaten small fish
and safe species. We called in at the nurses clinic to see if there
was a virus going round with these symptoms but not so.
We had a great time beachcombing and
enjoying the birdlife.
We hired a motorbike for a
day and toured the island visiting Pirates well and Betsy bay
settlements and the northern lagoon
An interesting site was the old Nasa Thor missile radar tracking towers overlooking the runway
Water collection was tedious. Usually
we get enough rain water from a deck filling system but there had
been no rain of significance since we arrived and our water maker
failed so it was a long dinghy ride ashore followed by a km walk
along a road being ripped up for water reticulation. A community well
of rain water was available where we required a dipping bucket to
reach down. Then it was a long walk with the jerry can on a wheelie
back to the dinghy then to the boat. Usually by this time the wind
had got up and our clothing was soaked in salt water!
In 8 yrs we had needed to use our water
maker once and when we needed it most it failed!!
(But often we got a lift by a friendly
local or the community police)
Evenings were spent
enjoying the sunsets at the end of full days and making new friends.
When the parts arrived by Bahama Air,
the gearbox was put back together and after some initial problems it
was reunited with the motor...
After 4 weeks at Mayaguana Island we
were underway again
We met in 1971 and it was Eric's dream to build his own yacht and sail the world. This became a joint dream but it was not until 1994 that we were able to start building. "Erica" was launched in 2001 after 7yrs building her. It then took us 5 yrs to prepare her and ourselves before leaving NZ to see the world