Octopus On Board!
02/13/2012, Long Island, Bahamas
This season Maxwell has really hit his fishing stride. Not just fishing behind the boat while we are traveling but spearfishing too. Of course we are always on the lookout for spiny lobsters but as we learn more about the creatures on the reef, our options grow. The other day we were swimming the amazing and large reef off of the northern tip of Long Island together when we surfaced at the same time to Maxwell bellowing "OCTOPUS, OCTOPUS!" I looked down and there was a black cloud of ink just below my flippers. Once it cleared I saw the grayish blob still clinging to a nearby rock. It took Maxwell a few dives just to pull him loose.
Later when we were back at the boat, having speared a lobster as well, we were a bit perplexed as what to do with the thing. Maxwell's job is catching and cleaning and mine is cooking. I read about the octopus in a few of my books learning that they are actually in the mollusk family, have 3-D vision and memory but no real interesting recipes. There were the basic steps of how to tenderize and precook it--so that is what I did until I could figure out something appetizing.
The next morning after it was cleaned, cooked and chopped into segments it hit me...Octopus Pizza! I sliced the meat into thin rounds and sauteed it with shallots, garlic and lots of butter. I made my crust and smeared the buttery octopus mixture over the unbaked crust, topped that with big chunks of buffalo mozzarella and parmesan. After a spell in the over we dined on the most amazing seafood pizza I have ever eaten! Actually the taste was similar to that of scallops.
It was a lot of work, prepping and cooking, but a delicious step out of our normal food box.
An Emerald In The Rough
02/12/2012, The Marina at Emerald Bay, Exumasb
There is a myth that I must dispel! Many, many cruisers seem to think that the Marina at Emerald Bay is a dangerous place to go. Rumors have spread like wildfire from the tongues of those who have not even attempted an approach of the entrance! Yes, it can be a little rough in the right/wrong conditions but still manageable. We entered the channel on Superbowl Sunday in a strong easterly wind with moderate seas and passed into the harbour with ease. You have to be alert and quick on the helm but what prudent Skipper wouldn't be in such conditions?
Now once inside...it is beautiful and high class. You are met in your slip by a friendly dock hand happy to catch lines, tie you up and orient you with all of the FREE services! There are many freebies that come with the $1/ft slip and perhaps the most enjoyed is the free laundry. The showers are hotel-like, the captain's lounge is like Ernest Hemmingway's living room and the wi-fi is strong.
There is surge that causes your boat to jump about in the slip and we couldn't seem to get Anastasia's lines tight enough to keep her still. But thanks to s/v Interlude we learned how to stop this pesky problem. We simply ran a spring line from our primary winch out of the aft hawsepipe to a cleat on the dock and winched it in very tight, thus eliminating any movement. After this adjustment our time there was ideal.
So, go there! And keep this gem in business. If you hear any nasty talk tell them that they are sadly mistaken.
When I first posted this I did not state that the $1/ft rate is a special, non-utility rate available to everyone. Water & electricity (which we do not need) are extra. Also, there is a 40' minimum and a %10 gratuity (which you will be happy to pay). For our 35' boat we paid $44/night and stayed two nights. For us it was a delightful treat that we are sure to indulge in the next time we pass by.
A Birthday To Remember
01/26/2012, Exumas, Bahamas
Each day is special here in Paradise but it is extra special to have something to celebrate while in Paradise. On Tuesday of last week we marked the passing of another year for Maxwell with all day festivities! First thing after birthday breakfast and coffee we slipped our mooring lines at Warderick Wells and set out for a fun day of perfect sailing. With our best buds on Cynergy (formerly Glass Slipper) right behind us we coasted along in pretty perfect conditions. (All because it was a birthday-day mind you! I placed the order weeks in advance for ideal weather.)
We set our sights for the afternoon to end up anchoring behind Belle Island, a privately owned island. Not usually a problem, just observe their privacy. No issue for us because we had plans of our own for evening merriment aboard Cynergy. We both anchored and marveled at the beauty of this well-groomed estate and talked about our awesome sail that we had just enjoyed. Not long after we were organizing ourselves for lunch we saw a small skiff pull up to our friends. They chatted a while before turning toward us for another chat. What we found out was that the owner happened to be on the island for lunch (of course she doesn't live there, just drops in on her 8 million dollar helicopter) and she does not like to look at boats while dining. The nice gentleman on the skiff knows that by law he cannot make us move, as the water is public domain. So to entice us he offers expensive wine. AND, since he hears that it is Maxwell's birthday from our buds he offers us two bottles for a total of three between the two boats! Heck yeah we will move! So we did.
Not sure if we learned our lesson as we planted our anchors behind another private island. This one we know is owned by Johnny Depp. But as the time passed no one was bothered by our presence. So dinner commenced aboard Cynergy with escargot as the first course and pork ribs for the main course. By the time dessert came around nobody had any room! We laughed into the night toasting our Birthday Boy!
This Is How We Do It!
Anyone who has ever dropped an anchor more than once will usually be happy to share their method on how it should be done. Since we fall into that category, here goes:
Upon choosing the spot, which is usually a nice sandy area, we circle what will be the swinging radius checking for depth all around. After that we head up into the wind and into our imaginary circle and drop, slowly paying out chain so that it lies nicely along the bottom in a line rather than in a heap. Depending on depth, we determine how much chain to ultimately lay but usually set the anchor (by backing down) while at 60'.
Our chosen snubber system is super simple. We have been doing it the same way for two seasons now and have found it works the best of anything else that we have tried. (We found this method in Cost Concious Crusing by Lin & Larry Pardey.) We have a block mounted at the tip of our bowsprit that the snubber line leads through. From there the line attaches to the chain with a rolling hitch. The other end of the line is fastened to our samson post where we can adjust it's length. The theory behind this method is that the weight of the chain is at the forward-most place of the boat therefore reducing pitching caused by chop through the anchorage. Also this keeps the snubber off of the bobstay with no chafe points.
01/14/2012, Warderick Wells, Bahamas
One of the many extra goodies that came with our purchase of Anastasia was her original hard dinghy. She is a lovely little rowing dinghy with a lapstrake hull to match that of her mother ship. Also like Anastasia she has wooden trim around the edge just above her rub rail.
We chose to leave Cougar behind for the first two seasons because we were not quite sure that we'd have a need for her. We have always had an inflatable, which are essential in the Bahamas for fishing and exploring. And who needs two dinghies? Well apparently we are now among those who do.
Over the summer Maxwell decided to shine his attention on this little forgotten dinghy. The thoughts of rowing around an anchorage romanced him into action. He spent much time repairing her wooden trim from years of neglect. She got all the necessary coats of Cetol and a blue Sunbrella cover over the rubber rub rail to match Anastasia's canvas. We invested in bottom paint anticipating plenty of time in ICW waters, which indeed came in handy. While in Annapolis we purchased a nice set of long oars that make rowing a dream.
Cougar's place on board is inverted, resting on top of the house, just behind the mast. Because she was made for Anastasia from the start she fits like a glove.
We have used Cougar exclusively until reaching the Bahamas this season. It was not until the Berry Islands that we finally pulled our Avon inflatable out from under the table and into action. Each has their purpose but I must confess that I prefer rowing around in Cougar to bouncing at high speeds in the inflatable.
I must say how we arrived at the name Cougar. We toyed around with all kinds of sweet little names like Lemon Drop, Banana and Sugar Snap but none of those seemed quite right. Finally we settled on Cougar. Now I don't want to offend anyone but you are probably right in your assumption. She was old, used and really showing her age but we shined her up, gave her some gloss and bam! You have a Cougar! It stuck.
A Step Across The Stream
01/07/2012, Nassau, Bahamas
Two days after Christmas we decided it was time to say goodbye to Florida and hello to the Bahamas. We departed mid-morning from Biscayne Bay into bouncy seas and winds just forward of the beam. We wanted to make a daytime crossing because we planned to fish and waited until 10:30 for the winds to clock from the southeast. After a few hours at-it the winds did indeed clock and we were beam reaching into glorious weather with high hopes for our favorite cruising grounds. Just then it happened! Our fishing rod went off with a tuna on the other end. Thus setting the tone for the entire passage. We arrived just north of the Bimini islands at dusk and pushed on through the night across the Great Bahama Banks reaching the Northwest Providence Channel Light at dawn. Our nighttime excitement topped off with a non-event frontal passage. We sailed the entire way only adjusting the sails and wind vane as the wind changed directions.
The trip totaled a fast 26 hours ending in Frazers Hog Cay, Berry Islands. The next day we jumped over to Chub Cay to clear customs receiving a 6-month visa. We had heard that some other cruisers have had trouble this season with only getting 90 days. Not sure what the problem is, we asked for 6 and 6 is what we got.
Let me back up and say that we LOVE the Berry Islands and would still be there if we did not run out of gasoline for our dinghy. We anchored in Little Harbour for 4 or 5 days. The fishing is incredible, the beaches are remote and beautiful and we cannot figure out why more people are not there. I guess everyone is so geared up for the Exumas that they pass this lovely chain by without a thought. Not us. We will definitely hit them again on the way back up.
For now, we are anchored in Nassau Harbour. This was something that we were a little leary about but has proven to be no big deal at all. We are in the small anchorage just north of Nassau Harbour Club. There is a free dinghy dock across the narrow harbour where we can safely leave our dinghy with no issues. Even free internet there. On the topic of internet...our Nanostation (wi-fi antenna) decided not to join us for this leg of the journey. Early on the morning we left Florida it jumped overboard in the water and died instantly. So, from here on out we are back to the old way of internet hunting ashore. No big deal, it just means that we can't email in our underwear anymore.
From here we will move southeast down the Exuma chain and beyond. Our fishing total so far: 1 tuna, 1 mahi, 2 lobster, 2 grouper and 4 conch.