We are holed up at Manjack Cay in a quiet bay until the squally, windy weather passes and we can move about more comfortably. Today we dinghied over to Green Turtle Cay to access internet and phone service. We wanted to see New Plymouth anyway after reading about it in our guidebook. Johnny and Wendy on Osprey needed to get some business done too and we made the trip together. Two dinghies are safer than one. It was a sporty ride through a drizzle and choppy swells.
Walking around New Plymouth was such a pleasure! It was very local, not touristy, and quite pretty. The town was settled by Loyalists escaping the American Revolution and features a sculpture garden of bronze busts on columns set on top of a replica of the British flag. Sign text describes their flight from "the rebel victory at Yorktown." Accounts of it from their perspective are an interesting twist on ours.
We wandered the narrow cement streets, past very old, neat little cottages, stepping aside for golf carts - the primary transportation, and inside several businesses where we enjoyed talking to the shopkeepers about their town. Fish burgers for lunch...We also visited the little museum where Alton Lowe's colorful paintings of Bahamian scenes are on display and prints are for sale, and Director 78-year old Ivy Roberts will give a 30-minute tour.
Down tiny Gully Alley we found 79-year old Vertrum Lowe's boat model shop. It was stuffed with gorgeous wooden models of Bahamian craft with snowy sails. Mason jars full of parts and pieces hung from his rafters by their lids. Antique pieces including a clock from rum-running days given to Vert by his uncle and a very old barometer decorate the walls. Two trophies centered in his display case were won by Vert in sailing races in a boat his boatbuilding father Albert Lowe, made for him - and we saw photos of that boat in a race. Turned out the painter is Vert's brother! What a talented family! Vert introduced us to his dachshund Rambly, showed us his 52-year old wedding photos (beautiful wife) and recited two poems for us that he learned in grammar school. One was "the Last Buccaneer."
Here is the other:
Monday when the day is fair,
I wash my dirty clothes.
Tuesday I can iron them,
Although it rains or snows.
On Wednesday, my clothes I mend,
And always like it too.
Thursday I receive my friends,
There's nothing else to do.
Friday is my time to dust,
And set things right.
Saturday I take a walk,
And put all work from sight.
Sunday is the day of rest,
Of all the week, it is the best!
We were completely charmed.
Manjack has wonderful trails and beaches for walking, which we really enjoy. We are here with the "kid boats:" Osprey, Zusammen, Chere, Dharma, Makana and another "kid friendly" boat like us, Cookie Monster.
We traveled up to gorgeous, unpopulated Powell Cay, ahead of what we are calling "the fleet" and began to explore the beach-ringed island. We walked for nearly four hours and circled one-half of the island, then went back to dinghy the flats. We found many conch beds, hundreds of sea biscuits, and more starfish (sea stars) than these two Oregon Coast tide-poolers have seen over our lifetime. What a productive island!
Michael snorkeled to look for conch while Roberta drove the dinghy and spotted for sharks. We found a huge, dense conch bed. Michael kept handing them up until Roberta had nowhere to put her feet and demanded that he stop to sort them into the 6 keepers - based on size and color. For about 10 minutes we had 23 conch in the little dinghy and Roberta had her legs up on the pontoons, because the conch were coming out of their shells and poking one another with their operculum (claw). So our friends are calling him the conchmeister... We have learned conch anatomy, how to get them out of the shell without damaging it, and have eaten cracked conch, conch salad, conch marinara, sauteed conch (with wine, garlic and butter) over rice, and conch in scrambled eggs. YUM!
At Powell, we had a very calm day to go out on the Atlantic-side reefs and snorkel among reef beds that had intricate structure with bridges and broad varieties of huge gorgeous corals. We saw huge parrotfish, grouper, and thousands of other fish.
One evening we all had a big beach bonfire on a sandy spit while watching the sun set in the sound and the full moon rise over the ocean.
We set off to return south to Manjack to try to snorkel what friends thought was an even better reef. Celilo was again ahead of the kid boats who have more people to organize, so we dinghied out to scope out the conditions - which were excellent - so we radioed "the fleet" to get on out there. We had 3 hours of great snorkeling. BUT, then the winds kicked up from the wrong direction for our anchorage, so we headed across to Great Abaco to park on the less windy side of the sound. While traveling two boats caught large mutton snapper and an impromptu beach fish fry was planned. However, when the kids went in to prepare the fire and play, they reported that it was VERY buggy - so we offered to have the 14 adults on our boat if someone else would host the kids. We divided the food and had a great time.
Big thunderstorms were predicted and we needed to get in to a more protected harbor, so we all headed for White Sound at Green Turtle Cay, and treated ourselves to a marina for a lovely dinner, laundry, the first internet in three weeks, and planning our passage back to the States.
It has been a wonderful winter, and we are reluctant to leave... but we need to be above "the hurricane box" before June 1, and our weather advisor predicts a short but pretty good (although brisk - 20-25k wind) window.
We'll see what happens...
KEEPING HISTORY ALIGHT
Today and yesterday were grey days in the Abacos. Our weather guru told us this morning that the entire Bahamas is covered with a thick cloudbank, but that the really nasty stuff (squalls of wind and rain) is to come tonight and tomorrow. So the five boats we have been traveling with are holed up in a sheltered bay at Manjack Cay, just north of Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos. We traveled here after spending one night in Marsh Harbor, just long enough to visit the supermarket and marine store to stock up on provisions and needed boat parts. After months at very unpopulated islands (except for charming Hopetown), even little Marsh Harbor was just too much city for us all. It felt noisy, busy, and industrial. We are happy to be back at anchor with only the sea, beach and mangroves for view.
The night before we left Hopetown we had the wonderful experience of observing the continuation of an age-‐old tradition nearly lost to the world. The scenic, red and white-‐striped Hopetown Lighthouse is one of few kerosene lighthouses in the world. The 127-‐foot lighthouse was built in 1867, but the tanks, burner, turning mechanism and lenses were built in the 1830's and used elsewhere before arriving at Hopetown. One of the light keepers works at the marina where we docked and Roberta arranged for us to attend the lighting of the Hopetown Light with our friends from Osprey. So at dusk, up the circular staircase, past the pressurized kerosene tanks, along the steel tube of hanging weights and into the light room we climbed.
Our new friend Sam McPhee and his cousin Jeffrey Forbes are continuing the family light keeper tradition of their fathers and grandfather. Every night, they light the little flame to pre-‐heat the kerosene and burner before dusk. While they wait 10 minutes for it to warm up, they turn the crank to wind up the light's turning mechanism - a system of gears and weights that takes 5 minutes to wind. The weights drop to turn the gears that rotate the 8000-‐pound apparatus of Fresnel lenses and burner that sits on 1200 pounds of liquid silver and moves with the slightest touch of a finger! This mechanism turns the light for 2 hours before it needs winding up again - much like a grandfather clock.
Once the weights were raised and the burner warmed, Sam lit the lamp that blazed into the pattern of circular and horizontal lenses and 17 miles out into the deepening night sky. From dusk to 1 a.m. Sam returns to wind up the weights. Then Jeffrey takes over until dawn, 365 days per year. Sometimes these broad-‐ shouldered men trade shifts, and once or twice per year they take a week off, during which the other one must work all alone, all night long. Both have day jobs too! Jeff is a chef at a local restaurant, and Sam co-‐manages the Hopetown Marina.
Sam says the lighthouse guestbook reports over one million visitors per year who climb the steps for a bird's eye view of Elbow Island. The candy-‐striped light is a primary tourist draw for Hopetown. The town values their historic light, and Sam
and Jeff are justifiably proud of their heritage of keeping people safe at sea. We felt part of history and very lucky to see first-‐hand this continuing tradition.
ADVENTURES WITH DENTISTRY, and MORE
Sometimes so much happens in just a few days that it is hard to keep up with it. So here is our next installment.
Michael has had a problem tooth for a little while. We dealt with one issue in Bothell, WA, but the very good dentist up there told him there was another problem with a crown. M opted to take it back to our dentist in MD who had installed the crown. However...
...it began to hurt more and more. Finally, he felt he needed to deal with it sooner rather than later. So we found the number of a dentist in Governor's Harbor, Eleuthera, and made a same-day appointment. We were an hour's sail north of there, so we opted to dinghy to a nearby resort and take a taxi.
We collected lists of groceries to gather and bags of garbage to dispose from two boats of friends and crossed the harbor on a grey morning with a 4' swell and 20k wind. Not fun - very jarring and scary including air time. R does not like flying in a dinghy! At the resort, we found "King," a very nice taxi man, who was waiting for a couple of tourists. They did not want to share a ride with a couple of scruffy sailors, so we waited while he went to town and came back. Drove to Governor Harbor and had a couple of hours to spare, so went to Haynes Library (a beautiful 1897 building) and paid for an hour's worth of internet for both of us - which is why you received update #13.
When we completed computer business, we headed for lunch at a little café Michael had wanted to try for several days. Had delicious conch chowder and the densest biscuits ever seen - but they were tasty!
Then we walked to the dental clinic about 30 minutes early (luckily)... to find that the dentist was not there because, "The chair, she don't work, mon. It don't go up and it don't go down." We explained that we had made an appointment just that morning. And were told, "Very sorry, but the receptionist didn't know the chair didn't work." Hmm. What to do. We felt very badly for a Bahamian woman who had an extremely swollen cheek and had driven many miles for nothing.
After mulling over options, we decided to call the dentist's number again just to make sure this was the case, or to see if there was another dentist in another community. But... our phone was out of minutes. Back to the main plaza and into the grocery store to "top off" the phone. But the manager was a little distracted and it took about 20 minutes after paying to get her attention for the phone.
The dentist's receptionist told us, "Oh I am sorry! I should have told you she is seeing clients in her private clinic today." "Where is that?" we asked, and got loose directions. It turned out to be a 10 minute drive south... but by now our taxi driver had disappeared. We turned down the offer of a lift from a tourist with a rental car, in hopes of finding a local who would know where the office was. Back inside the store to ask about a local taxi. Took another 20 minutes for the manager to call and it to arrive. By now we are 15 minutes late for the appointment. A very nice young woman named Precious drove us to the dentist. And we never would have found it ourselves!
The dentist was a wonderful woman (the only dentist on Eleuthera) who had studied at Howard University in DC. So we had a nice chat about that area. She ground down Michael's too-high crown to give some relief and dispensed antibiotics and pain meds. Happy Capt. Mike!
We called King to pick us up and he waited patiently while we grocery shopped in two stores for three boat lists. Then back to the resort where we had a nice celebratory cocktail and free last-minute internet - prelude to a sunny, calm ride back home to Celilo.
All in all the taxi rides cost as much as the dentist visit and drugs! But the total was less than we expected to pay the dentist, and very worth it. And the whole experience was just so Bahamian. People here are very sweet, very casual, wonderfully helpful. They have managed to slow down these two hectic Yankees! It is hard to be thinking about leaving soon.
But we have the Abacos to visit first, and we are underway today while I write this with a rare downwind sail to this evening's anchorage (the interesting Glass Window, Eleuthera - look it up!) to set up for navigating a cut tomorrow. The genny is poled out wing and wing with the main, and we are quietly making 6.5-7.1k. Very nice! Bruce has the wheel and we are "just chillin', mon."
We anchored at the Glass Window and took a dinghy ride over to the bridge of that name. It is quite interesting. It was once a natural bridge on northern Eleuthera, which has long since collapsed. But the man-made bridge that existed in the 90's was hit by a big wave that moved it about 7'. Instead of rebuilding the bridge, the Bahamians just moved the road!
The next day we navigated the fearsome Current Cut, where in strong tides, the current can run 10k. We timed it right and three of us (Osprey, Chere and Celilo) went through one after the other with no incident to anchor on the north side of Current Settlement - a tiny little town. When we walked back to the cut later, it was flowing like a river! We bought conch from a couple of local fishermen on the town dock, and Roberta made cracked conch (fried) for dinner. Delicious!
Next day we were up early and lifted anchor in the dark to head out into the Atlantic and to the Abacos. We all hoped for more wind, but there was just enough to tease us. It was an uncomfortable, 11-hour, roly day of sails up, sails down, genny in, genny poled out. And no fish for anyone. Although... we thought we had a big one and Michael fought it like mad to reel it in. When it got close to the boat, turned out to be a big tangle of polypropylene line! We had a good laugh and got a photo of his catch. At one point along the way we had about 8 dolphins break away from a big pod that was feeding in a rip and swim with us for nearly 20 minutes. What fun! They are so beautiful and playful and quick. We anchored just before sunset after navigating the cut into the Abacos Sound, at Lynyard Cay where our three boats reunited with three other boats full of friends and we had a big beach bonfire.
We were all paying close attention to the weather due to a predicted front, but hoping for a day to snorkel in the nearby national parks. But when we listened to the weather forecast at 6:30 a.m. we knew we needed to pull anchor immediately and head for Hopetown - we needed high tide to get in, and by the evening high it was going to be too spicy. So within about 5 minutes we had the dinghy up and the anchor up and were gingerly feeling our way over very shallow ground. Two hours later, without incident, but over extremely shallow water, Michael made a very tricky tight turn into a marina slip.
What fun we are having in Hopetown! It is a charming little village of old, lovely homes painted pastel colors. Far more "trendy" and touristy than anywhere we have been all season. It is fun to be in a marina and plugged in to electricity to keep the fridge cold without running the engine, to have laundry, internet, a pool and tiki bar, great restaurants, a dock where we can get fresh tuna right off the boat (2 seared tuna dinners - YUM!), and time to just relax. Yesterday 5 boats rented golf carts and we tootled all over the island in a hilarious afternoon. We ended the day with a wonderful gourmet dinner at a sunset restaurant.
Then, last night, all night, the wind blew hard as a front went through. We recorded about 35k, but others out in the mooring field clocked 46. At about 3:30 a.m. we felt a huge shudder go through the boat and leapt out of bed to check lines... all ok. Another shudder... we finally figured out that it was low tide and the wind was also pushing water out of the harbor. We were bumping the bottom - so glad it was soft! The shudders were quite unnerving and we were up about an hour worrying... but all went well.
A woman in the laundry said someone asked her if she was here on vacation or if she was on a boat. We all laughed and she said she is going to have a shirt made: "I'm not on vacation, I'm on a boat!" So, today we calmed our nerves relaxing by the pool and pretending we were on vacation!
FOUR WEEKS OF FUN
March 13-April 11
Late February to mid-March we enjoyed three weeks in Oregon and Washington State visiting with family and then with long-time Forest Service friends when Michael was engaged with the FS training seminar he coordinated for the Washington Institute in Bothell, WA.
After the end of the course, we drove up to Bellingham with Roberta's brother and sister-in-law to check out about 20 properties and stayed in a lovely B&B (Moondance Inn) on the lake. Still love it up there, and perhaps some day when we want a land base again, we'll head there.
Back to the Bahamas
March 13 we headed back to George Town with our friend Bruce Haynes (he went to high school with Michael and then worked with us at ski areas and on Mt Hood NF back in the dark ages). Bruce has now been here for 4 weeks, with 2 to go, and it has really been fun. He comes up with a pun a minute (look out Mark Kaynor!) and is a total goofball. It is nice to have the extra hand too. Yesterday he and Michael scrubbed the rug off the boat's hull. Maybe we'll go faster!
We left George Town almost immediately after stocking up with groceries and headed up to Oven Rock on the west coast of Great Guana Cay (an awesome sail up Exuma Sound!) where we were joined by friends on Osprey, Zusammen and Chere - all "kid boats" who had been together at Williams Bay.
Bushwhacking at Great Guana
At Oven Rock all four families engaged in what became known as "the bloody hike" while we bush-whacked through the brush trying to find a cave described in the guidebook - following cairns seemingly randomly placed in the bush. The directions were totally misleading, and after we had all bloodied our legs with scratches, we gave up and headed for a little bay and beach on the other side of the island. On the way a little trail led off up a hill, which Roberta (stubborn woman!) pursued, and Eureka! discovered the cave. It was amazing - very big with stalactites and stalagmites and a clear pond - in which we all swam.
Next stop was Black Point again, overnight to do laundry, try for internet, and stock up on more groceries. Had to grab one of Miss Pierman's loaves of coconut bread too!
Then on to Big Majors Spot. We enjoyed showing Bruce the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Thunderball Cave, had some good snorkeling, and spent an hour on a "drift dive" through a little cut. A drift dive is when we head out at slack tide with a dinghy on both sides of the cut to watch for boats coming through. One dinghy drops us off on one side, the other picks us up at the other side after we drift through as the current starts - some with dive gear, some with snorkels. It is lots of fun, and when you get there early you can do it several times before the current gets too strong.
At Big Majors we also had a beach bonfire and potluck for Johnny Clarke's birthday. We roasted marshmellows - which, of course, were put between chocolate and graham crackers - YUM!
Next stop was Cambridge Cay in Exuma Land and Sea Park - a new one for us, and an island we have wanted to see for the great snorkeling.
Swimming with Sharks
The south entrance into the park's mooring field at Cambridge is quite knuckle-biting, and one guidebook tells the navigator to head so close to one rock it is called Kiss Rock. (We threw it kisses without smacking it!) But we made it without incident at high tide. And was it ever worth it! We spent several days there and swam at spots called "the plane wreck" (yes there is one), "the aquarium" and at Rocky Dundas Cays where there are two nice caves half in and half out of the water. The wind was up, so the dinghy rides were pretty jarring, but again, worth it! We also headed over to nearby Fowl Cay where there is an area of pretty coral heads, and enjoyed the snorkeling there until one of our number yelled shark, shark!!! And we all made a beeline back to the dinghies. Turned out to be a nasty bull shark who went away and then came back, lurking... so it was up and down, up and down, in and out of dinghies as he came and went.
Another ride up Exuma Sound (and another fishing-not-catching trip) brought us to Warderick Wells again to hide from a passing front, where we spent several days. Roberta volunteered for the park once more, painting propane tanks, and we enjoyed many evenings with Henry and Andrew, park warden and administrator. We found a new (to us) snorkeling spot that we visited many times as it is one of the best we have seen. Beautiful and varied coral garden, huge schools of large fish, all the small colorful fish, monster grouper, lurking barracuda, very funny gargantuan lobsters in full spring frolic, and Roberta spent about 30 minutes just floating and watching a beautiful, but deadly (to reefs and fish) invasive lion fish with all its spines and wings spread patiently waiting for tiny yellow minnows to swim close enough to snatch (they didn't - teasing the lion fish who kept darting and missing). Then, the highlight of all our snorkeling - a gorgeous spotted eagle ray (with at least an 8-foot wingspan) floated by and Roberta swam with it for quite a way. A truly wonderful experience.
One night a huge motor yacht caught a mooring ball next to us - about 30 feet away. The boat had what are known as "sex lights" - blue lights that shine down into the water at night. Annoying to be near, most of us dislike them. However, this night... Roberta couldn't sleep so went up on deck in the warm night air to look at all the brilliant constellations, staying up there long enough for Michael to wonder if she fell off the boat! HA! She was entranced, watching about 7 or 8 large sharks that had been attracted by the blue lights and were swimming repeated laps between the two boats.
We made our boat sign to leave on Boo-Boo Hill (a cruising tradition), and waved goodbye to Warderick until next season.
Predicted wind never showed up so our 45-mile sail across Exuma Sound to Eleuthera on the Thursday before Easter became a long motorboat ride across a glass lake and another fishing-not-catching trip. (Where are all those tuna, mahimahi and wahoo???)
We anchored just off the community of Rock Sound where they were preparing for "Homecoming" a big annual celebration when folks who live off-island come home for Easter. Several friends showed up too - all the boats we have been rolling with, plus Sereno 55 -in from their season in the Leeward Islands, Rita T, Barefootin', and Smiles... Fun to reunite!
There are several "blue holes" near the community - one on land and four in the water. We hiked to see the land hole with surrounding park, a local little league game (very fun!), to have broiled fish and conch burgers at Sammy's, and across the island to the "Nort' Side" (Atlantic side) to hike the beach. On that trip, parched for a cold drink, we walked up to a restaurant recommended by a friend - Rosie's -to find no-one there. But the radio was playing in the kitchen, all the doors were open, and lunch dishes were still on tables. So we thought someone might be right back and waited, and waited, on a nice deck overlooking the ocean, for about an hour, then gave up and started walking down the road back to Rock Sound. Miss Rosie drove by in her van, stopped to ask if we had been to her restaurant and convinced us that if we would go back she would give us all a ride. Two van trips later all of us had cold beer, and Rosie had a huge order for grouper fingers and conch fritters. Best yet. Bruce fell in love with Rosie's big golden lab, Teddy.
We skittered across the bay to anchor on the west side while a cold front went through and enjoyed the very intense light show up north, thankful the lightning was not over us. Back over to the community anchorage, and a rollicking Saturday eve before Easter. It was a major street party. There were food booths selling conch salad, ribs and fish, Sands Beer had a big booth, and the Bahamian Defense Force Pop Band played Bahamian beat for three hours sandwiched between extremely loud recorded Bahamian rap with a deep booming bass. Our friends on Osprey describe the scene as "more spandex than ever seen, stretched to maximum capacity, and all of it shakin'." Midnight fireworks went off early at 11:15, and it was fun all around.
On Monday, once the wind settled into a nice pattern for moving, we moved. It was a close reach north, not the most comfortable ride, but a fun 6-hour sail. We dodged lobster buoys and coral heads to arrive in Alabaster Bay, still on the west side of Eleuthera. After 7 attempts which included hooking a cable, our beloved Rocna anchor (which is a GREAT anchor - always grabbing on first try) finally took hold. John on Zusammen dove his anchor after 4 tries, and said the bottom was like cement with an inch of sand. Michael felt validated when other boats came in and also made several attempts before settling in.
We anchored in front of a pretty little resort called CocodiMama's, where we had good wifi, and better rum punch. Across the island, and through an abandoned naval base which Johnny Clarke's uncle commanded while it was an active listening post during the cold war, is a very long, gorgeous pink sand (yes PINK!) beach, which we enjoyed hiking.
Roberta cleaned inside the cabin and cockpit, while Michael and Bruce scrubbed the hull, which they completed this morning. Bruce came up with green bottom paint all over his back, shoulders and head saying he had been "Smurfed." Our environmental paint does not keep off the growth as well as the toxic copper stuff, so needs the arduous snorkel scrubbing more often.
We listened to more Bahamian Beat Monday night while crowds of local folks celebrated the day after Easter (a holiday here) with beach barbeque, and we all had a potluck Mexican feast on Celilo.
Tuesday April 10, we headed a little south to pretty Governor's Harbour where we walked all around the town with it's gorgeous, late 1800's houses up on the hill overlooking the harbor, walled gardens overflowing with bougainvillea, and beautiful old library dating back to 1897. On Wednesday, we rented a van, loaded it with 3 Celilos, 4 Ospreys and Maya the Panamanian bush hound and toured the island on land. We heard about an organic farm that makes great cinnamon rolls if we get there early enough but unfortunately, only produces them on Tuesdays and Friday's - darn! We also toured the very environmental Eleuthera Institute and which has ongoing research programs and the partner "Island School" - which provides an expensive semester of private school oceanographic study for high school students. We spent the afternoon at the very southern tip of the island where there is an abandoned lighthouse on a rocky point with stunning beaches on both sides. Then met up with the 5 Cheres and ended the day at the Sunset Café on the terrace overlooking Exuma Sound, eating grouper, conch fritters, and conch salad, tipping a few to the brilliant sunset.
So, that's it for now... we hope you are all doing fine, and of course, would love to hear what you have been up to - so please send us your news!
Roberta and Michael
GROCERY SHOPPING BAHAMA STYLE - and MORE
We thought it might be fun to tell you about Bahamian grocery adventures...
In Nassau and in George Town one can find most things - for a price. For example, our friends' son is addicted to goldfish crackers. A $7 box in the US costs $15 in the Bahamas. At Christmas, an $8 pannetone cost $25 here.
Because the islands are rock and sand, and fresh water is scarce or produced through desalination, they do not grow many (any?) fruits and vegetables. Most food is imported. We have found apples from Washington and Pennsylvania, and oranges from Florida and California.
Groceries on most islands arrive with the "mail boat" - which comes maybe once each week or less on a sporadic schedule. And then there is no guarantee that you will find what you want - they may have bananas one week and oranges the next, lettuce one time and cabbage the next - or only canned food. If many cruising families are in town, the fresh groceries disappear rapidly and, we hear, sometimes rather competitively!
Here is how food gathering can typically take most of a day: We just spent the 5F's weekend (First Friday in February Farmer's Festival) at Little Farmer's Island (3/4 mile long and 1/4 mile wide). When we arrived, the grocery only had a few cans of vegetables and fruits, two sacks of flour, some rather old looking potatoes and several rolls of tp. The mail boat was due the next day at "7 or 8 and then we'll be ready by 9 or 10," so at 10 we donned our backpacks and walked from the dinghy dock to the store...
...and found that one pickup truck load had just arrived from the mail boat and a couple of cruisers had helped unload. The store's doors were locked while two Bahamian ladies unpacked boxes while waiting for another truckload. So we sat at the picnic table out front and waited, chatting with two other couples. About 45 minutes later, the pickup arrived, and we helped unload. But rather than sit and wait, while the door was still open, we asked if we could help. Soon, there were 7 or 8 of us stocking the shelves and we got done in 20 minutes, rather than waiting several more hours!
All the same, I was lucky to find a couple of tomatoes, some celery, and 5 apples!
The 5F's was fun... we participated in hermit crab races, went to a musical jam session and watched a cloud of little Bahamian sailboats race right in front of our anchored boat. They are small and very fun to watch, as they have large sails and boards called prys, much like the Chesapeake's log canoes, for the crew to climb out on to keep the boat more level. The race is funny - they start in a line, at anchor between two buoys, with sails down. A gun goes off, and one really big guy pulls anchor as fast as he can while 3-4 others hoist the sail and climb on the prys as the boat begins to move forward and heel over. It all has to be very synchronized, or the crew is in the water and the boat on its side before they get underway. Once they got going, it was very pretty.
The next day we sailed up to Black Point - a short distance - so we could do laundry (after 3 weeks!) and attend Miss Lorraine's Super Bowl Party - which had a fabulous Bahamian buffet. At Black Point Miss Lil has the largest, cleanest laundry in the Bahamas, and Miss Lorraine has a great café - with internet. Her Mom makes awesome coconut bread. Yes, we scored a loaf! We also walked down the Exuma Sound shore with three families with kids for a picnic on some cliffs called White Horses - about 5 miles round trip. We have been enjoying and benefitting from lots of walking in sand and snorkeling.
At Black Point we were anchored near a single-hander in a boat just like ours - so he came over and we chatted about our Tayanas. Then we motored 3 miles up to Bitter Guana Cay, where we anchored overnight. Michael and our friend Johnny took the dinghies up to Staniel Cay to get gasoline (for dinghies and generators) and to check for parts ordered flown in (our refridge compressor and boat parts for Exuma Park), and later we went for a walk and a snorkel on the island - which has VERY large endangered iguanas.
We had a couple of nice lazy days on Bitter Guana... lots of reading. Nice after the noise of Super Bowl for 6 hours... Roberta is very thankful that we don't have a TV or Sirius radio on board!!!
Next we went to Staniel Cay to chase down our missing refrigerator compressor - which was supposed to have shown up a week ago! After three days of camping out in Watermaker's office, our heroine Nettie tracked our box to Bell Island, where a construction company named Osprey from Nassau mistakenly picked up our box which was mailed to svOsprey through Johnny's account with Watermakers. The lost is found, and we finally have it! So we'll get our fridge fixed tomorrow. We are now back at Warderick Wells, where Roberta will make her second T-Top for the park and Michael will scrub Celilo's bottom - projects which require much napping afterwards! HA!
While Michael was at Watermakers Roberta spent 4 hours one morning listening to the generator while we "made water" only to have it all pump overboard as we left Staniel, thanks to a loose hose clamp in a hard to see (and reach!) location in the storage space under the cockpit that we call "the garage." Well, it rinsed out the bilge anyway. Hose fixed, more water converted.
We have about a week and a half left in the Bahamas, and hope to visit Cambridge Cay and Black Point again before we need to be in Georgetown to fly back to Oregon to visit family and drive to Washington where Michael will coordinate a two week session on fuels and fire behavior that is part of a mid-career educational opportunity for fire managers . Then we look forward to returning to the Bahamas and much more exploring of islands we have not yet visited.
We hope the winter is being kind to you... let us know what you are up to! This is our major way of communicating with you all. Internet access has been very random, and when we get it the data time/space is usually quite limited.
And we just want to say, "YAHOO! CONGRATULATIONS!" to our dear friend Julie Kaynor who will soon be sworn in as an American citizen on March 9. The US is lucky to have her!
GEORGE TOWN and BEYOND
Now, you will hear different things about George Town depending on who you talk to. Some people stay there the whole winter - set up shop, attend and present classes, organize events, police the radio frequencies. Some stop, shop and can't wait to get away. Others are somewhere in between. I guess we will classify ourselves with the last group. We enjoyed George Town more than we expected to. The town has a well stocked grocery, laundromat, fun places to get a beer and a meal, and Monday night "rake and scrape" at Eddie's Edgewater with an island spin on old favorite tunes from a band playing a saw and washtub base as well as the regular instruments. We spent time with good friends, some we have known for some time and others we have just met. There were walks on beaches on the Exuma Sound side in calm weather and 25 knots - different every time we walked there; walks on the harbor side always calm, serene and beautiful. And we watched football at the St. Francis Resort or at the more casual Chat and Chill at volleyball beach. We had a nice run in George Town. We will go back.
But George Town is not why we came to the Bahamas.
What we experienced at Isaac Bay (nearly a week ago now) left us with an overused word but one that does describe the feeling - AWESOME. We left George Town early one morning and reversed the zigzag course we followed into Elizabeth Harbor a week before Christmas. Out into Exuma Sound we went and were soon off soundings (water too deep for our depth finder). The Bahamas are like that - all in the same day you can be in water unimaginably deep and then find yourself in about 6 feet or even quite a bit less under the keel. We ducked back from the sound to the Exuma Banks through Galliot Cut. Traversing the cuts can be harrowing; especially when the current and wind are in opposition. That day we had gentle seas, minor current and light winds making our Galliot experience quite easy. Would that it would always be so.
On the banks side of the Exumas we found very light winds and 10 to 20 feet of the most beautiful, turquoise water you would ever want to see. When we dropped the hook, Michael watched it hit the bottom, roll and dig in and was able to pay out the anchor chain at the right speed because he could see it all the time.
We dinghy-ed over to a nice sand beach, explored a grotto, had a nice walk and swim with Johnny and Wendy, Bird and Kaeo. And we and Osprey were the only boats in sight. The sunset was calendar grade and the brilliant stars are beginning to feel like old friends - Orion, Taurus, Pleiades and Cassiopeia. (Time to learn some new ones!) Isaac Bay is probably not at the top of anyone's list of Exuma hideaways but, for us, a place of extraordinary beauty.
This calm, isolated natural beauty and quiet are why we came to the Bahamas.
But after an overnight stop, we were on our way again... this time to an anchorage (Big Majors Spot - fun name for an island!) near Staniel Cay where Michael was right hand man to Johnny as they fixed another boat's electrical charging system, and we ran into a friend met at Oak Harbor last spring - a New Zealander named Gerard on Saltwhistle. Gerard is a talented musician and we spent a lovely evening after dinner on Celilo, listening to his guitar and chatting about music. We were at Big Majors several days, walking on Sand Cay - which has a long sandy spit at low tide, snorkeling off of a nearby reef and in Thunderball Cave (featured in movies Splash and Thunderball), occasionally spotting sharks and eagle rays. The corals and fish are vibrant rainbow colors and we want a book to help us begin to identify them. Bird, at nearly 12, knows all their names.
We have luckily adopted the practice of using two lines to secure our dinghy to the boat when we are anchored... and it is a good thing. One afternoon when Michael was off the boat with Johnny in their dinghy, Roberta went on deck and noticed our main painter was hanging loose in the water. The painter's shackle failed and we would have lost the dinghy to the current had we not had two lines. When he returned, Michael snorkeled in the crystal clear water, to try to find the expensive shackle - no luck. He ventured farther away in the direction of the boat's swing. All of a sudden he turned, hightailed it back to Celilo, and climbed the ladder. When Roberta asked, "Giving up, huh?" He replied, "Well, I saw a shark that was bigger than me and I didn't stick around to identify whether it was friendly or not!"
Our stay at Big Majors included watching the Ravens lose to the Patriots at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Boo!
And so, on to Warderick Wells - HQ for Exuma Land and Sea Park. After a great sail up along the islands on the banks side, we were lucky enough to be assigned a mooring ball in the main north channel, close to the central activity of the park. The channel is VERY narrow and usually has strong current running. When that opposes the wind, it gets interesting. But, we luckily snagged the mooring pennant on the first attempt and settled in for a long stay.
Osprey has been here two or three times and has become friends with Andrew, Park Administrator, and Henry, the law enforcement officer - who has an amazing history including Navy Seal training and spins thrilling, funny stories of his experiences. We wanted to give back to the park that gives us so much enjoyment, so spoke to Andrew about volunteering...
Our assignments included an hour of tearing apart a Haitian refugee boat that was breaking apart on the beach and hauling it to a burn pit, sewing a new roof for a park patrol boat's T-top out of an old sail, and several hours re-stringing a sperm whale skeleton's bones with monofilament (like we knew how to do THAT!).
But the park needs so much more... they need an electrician - or a series of long term volunteers to keep the machinery (generator, pumps, electronics) and patrol boats running... another patrol... a volunteer coordinator and manager... a manager for the unbelievable number of researchers who arrive, expecting service... and most urgently need a wildlife scientist to do a count, eradication plan and operations oversight to rid the island of the booming population of hutia who are rapidly destroying the island's vegetation and creating a serious fire (and probably health) hazard.
We have had wonderful evenings on Henry's deck, enjoying his hospitality and delicious culinary creations, long walks on numerous trails, great snorkeling, and time with friends. The days are full. Then of course, there is the boat, which must be jealous of our turning toward other pursuits... so this morning demanded attention with loud screeching by completely seizing up the refrigerator compressor - which will mean a major repair and most likely ordering a new one to be shipped from the States. Luckily we have the backup, generator-run compressor system in the interim, so shouldn't lose any food. Sigh... B.O.A.T: Bring On Another Thousand.
Whoops - slack tide - time to go snorkeling... gotta run!
We would love to hear what you have been doing... (and hear some of you have been shoveling snow!)
Mike and Roberta