Photo: Starboard side in main saloon: SSB radio and a row of baskets to hold small items. Turn them one way and the baskets are free to lift while at anchor or marina. Turn them the other way and the substantial Velcro holds them securely while underway.
[Photo: utilizing the space under the saloon berth for heavy provisions]
Today and tomorrow may be our last opportunity to use the Internet for a while, so the next post could be a week or more; same with email.
We appreciate all the comments posted here. It turns out that posting to the blog and reading comments is a much more straight forward task than sending and replying to individual emails because the Comcast website we need for email is designed for fast Internet connections and takes forever to load on the connections we are getting here. It's all about glitz, not function...sheesh!]
Day 22: Wed 2 Apr 08 continued
Back at the marina, I checked the weather using the Internet connection. It was appearing to me that the promised "good weather" was going to be denied us for an additional day or two. Our cruising companions may not agree with my assessment, but it reminded me of the sign at the Nav-a-gator restaurant back home: "Free beer tomorrow." There had already been several times when we decided against leaving because of the forecast and then noted the day's weather didn't seem that bad at all. So, I discussed with my crew and we decided to try for tomorrow to cross the bank toward the famous Northwest Channel.
I was able to sit down with Bob and then later with Ann, our port and starboard dock mates, to review the charts of the Exumas and get their impressions and recommendations for both navigation and things to do. Their assistance was very much appreciated and no doubt will help us enjoy this cruise all the more.
John and I later joined Bob in his gorgeous Hans Christian 45 trawler pilot house to review the Internet weather and get his "take" on our next moves. When John and I reviewed the evening's forecast still later, he made his decision to await the good weather window that surely must be coming - eventually.
Day 23: Thu 3 Apr 08
Crossing the bank is an interesting endeavor for several reasons. The bank across the route from Bimini varies in depth from 10 to 27 feet, approximately. Had the seas been calm, we could have seen the detail on the bottom as we moved across the surface. It was not calm.
Also, because we were bucking seas and winds directly on our nose, as they say, our speed over the sea bottom was to average less than five kts. That meant that after 13 hours of travel, we were still nowhere near an island to anchor near. It would not be unheard of to trust one's GPS and travel at night, but with a crew of two (no, Clyde doesn't count) and this being our first time here, we did not elect to try that.
So, our day unfolded as such: We awoke at 0600 and I went ashore for another weather check. This time I formed the impression that the wind speeds and wave heights forecasts kept varying everyday. Nothing looked too bad, so we solidified our decision to go. I enlisted the assistance of several more experienced cruisers to develop a good plan to get the boat safely off the dock. Once the windward dock lines were cast off, the boat would rapidly move downwind toward our neighbor Bob's trawler. With good planning and able assistance with the dock lines, I was able to get Diva Di safely underway without any drama that seemed to accompany every arrival and departure that we observed.
We had to travel south and west then north around the island to reach the northern tip, where we could turn east. During those 80 minutes we could actually sail for 40 minutes, which was nice. The remainder of our day's passage would be motor only because as we work our way east and south that is the direction the wind is blowing from. Let's hope it works to our favor when it is time to go home.
Not far from Bimini's northern tip, we were hailed by John and Marilyn on the VHF to check on us before we got out of range. We reported that the seas were moderate and not that bad at all. Later, things would deteriorate to fairly uncomfortable and definitely not fun, but certainly not unsafe. For me, the worst part was having to drone on with the engine for 12 over hours. Next, was the fact that the newly-installed ports apparently needed more adjustment than I had done because with the boarding waves they all leaked enough to cause some clothing and lines to get wet. The large hatches also leaked enough (a new phenomenon) to wet the forward berth. All this caused Diane great anguish, of course, but she focused on the task at hand - getting there safely.
I kept evaluating our progress and realized that we would not get to a relatively protected (with "protected" being quite an exaggeration) position before dark. With there being nothing to hit along our path, I chose to travel one hour past sunset and get as close as possible to the Northwest Shoal, where we set the anchor and had an interesting night. It was the first time anchoring in the middle of nowhere with not a speck of land in sight. Also, the swell from the deep Tongue of the Ocean not too many miles away was causing the bow to pitch up and down considerably. While standing on the foredeck, my ankles were awash with water each time a large wave rolled in.
We had been told that the shallow bank would not allow large waves to form and that proved true. However, even 4 foot high waves coming in the spacing they did was enough to cause considerable pitching motion. We were also told that the shoals (from about 2 to 7 feet deep across a large area) would keep the swell down to a minimum. It sure didn't feel like a minimum to us as the bow pitched up and down throughout the night. I'm not suggesting the advice was incorrect, but perhaps our expectations were.
The anchor set immediately and held well all night as evidenced by the GPS track I viewed the next morning. Normally, one would check bearings to two different prominent points on a nearby shoreline. Did I mention there was no land in sight?
I did check that all was secure a few times, and the worst that I discovered was chafing beginning on the anchor rode where it exited the cleat. It was not an uncomfortable time once in bed, but everything prior to that was difficult and dangerous if outside the cockpit. The bow would surge up and the stern would sink. Our open-style transom would let a few gallows of water in and then slosh it forward when the bow pitched back down. The first time it happened was startling, but I must admit our cockpit sole was very clean the next morning.
Immediately after setting the anchor, I went below to turn on the SSB radio for my nightly check-in with my Islamorada friend, John. We had poor voice clarity, but he got the message that we were safely anchored with our current position and expected next destination. I had alerted John and Marilyn to try to listen in and hear our progress. I hope to find out soon if they did.
By this time it was extremely dark so we tried to sit in the cockpit with Clyde in his harness and leash and view the blazing stars. Under most settled weather circumstances, we would be laying back on the foredeck in comfort, be here we were in our inflatable life jackets tethered to the boat.
Day 24: Fri 4 Apr 08
Diane must have had bad dreams about our situation all night because she made remarks to the effect that if the seas were this rough in supposedly protected water, what would they be like in the Tongue of the Ocean? I took her concerns into consideration, but after listening to the 0630 SSB weather report, I decided it should be OK. If we motored 2 hours to the deep ocean water and discovered the conditions were more than we wanted to tackle, we could always come back.
The early ride was pretty good, even with the wind somewhat over 16 kts. Even the ocean water (over two thousand feet deep) was not too rough. The waves may have been 4-6 feet high, but they were nicely spaced and did not cause too much bad motion for the boat - at least in the beginning. Diane had remarked how amazed she was that the conditions seemed much more comfortable than the previous day. Not too long thereafter, we took a large wave more broadside than usual and the boat rolled over forty-five degrees. Nothing was unsafe, but Diane started to slide off the windward cockpit seat onto the sole, clutching Clyde's carrier.
I resolved to do a better job of warning the crew for large waves and on we went. It was a beautiful day, as they all have been. The color of the deep water was amazing and the light hues as you approached land were striking. Also, amazing was the fact that you could be in water over 1000 feet deep just one-half mile from land. Flying fish were active; they leap out of the water and fly sometimes a hundred feet or more just a few inches above the water before they plunge in again. It is a sight to watch!
By noon we were inside the narrow channel to the east side of Frazer's Hog Cay. To our east was a huge expanse of land and water, neither deviating more than a few feet plus or minus sea level. That would block any waves before they could reach our soon-to-be anchored boat.
Less than a half-hour later we had a set the anchor in a nice spot just northeast of the Berry Island Club (B.I.C. to those "in the know"). We each set about our separate and cooperative tasks to make the boat livable after our problems of the previous day. By 1430, we had done enough. The dinghy was in the water, but it could wait until tomorrow to secure the engine and get ashore.
A celebratory beverage and some light reading were followed by a nice and well-deserved nap by both of us. I prepared a pizza for dinner, but burned the bottom on one side (which I ate). It still tasted good.
I spent some time catching up on this Diva Di-ary and transcribing my crude underway log entries into the deck log. I used to try to take the deck log into the cockpit and make my navigation and weather notes directly into it, but I found that the rough seas and spray often threatened to ruin the book. Now, I make the entries on scratch paper and copy them later.
At 2100, I was able to speak to John on the SSB for just a minute before we lost contact. He acknowledged a good copy on our position report and plans for the next several days and that was the most important thing. I am disappointed we have not been able to chat for a few minutes, but hope he knows I appreciate him keeping track of our position and progress.
Clyde and I spent a little time on deck gazing at the brilliant stars. It was nice to do so in comfort. Shortly thereafter, sleep beckoned and a restful night it was.
Day 25: Sat 5 Apr 08
With us in a safe and comfortable anchorage and no plans to move today, I did not get up in time to catch the entire early SSB weather report. What I did hear sounded like more of the same windy weather for the next few days. If I heard correctly, that confirmed my earlier assessment that good weather was "just around the next corner", except that you keep turning one corner only to find another.
I asked Diane if she was glad, in retrospect, that we endured what we did to be here at this time, rather than still "stuck" in Bimini and she said yes. We have always been the types to assess risk and then accept some level of it to keep moving forward. That was how we wound up living on the water in Florida with a boat, despite the fact that the prudent choice would have been to stay in Pennsylvania and keep working at better-paying jobs. That decision did lead to quite a drop in our disposable income, but so far we have made it work and I don't regret it.
We got the engine on the dinghy this morning and readied ourselves to go ashore to check out the Berry Island Club. We, but especially Diane, got fairly soaked from the chop on the short ride over. Midway across she mentioned that she was NOT coming ashore for dinner and getting soaked again in the process.
Getting off the dinghy at the ladder was difficult with the chop bouncing the dinghy around. We finally got ashore near 1040 and spied a large pile of freshly-deposited queen conch shells at the base of the pier. The walk up to the nicely-maintained building was attractive and the greeter of the day, Joe (as we later learned), came up to us immediately. We said good morning, and Joe reciprocated by sniffing my crotch. Did I mention that Joe was a dog?
A knock at the door was answered by a young man who said they were open for both lunch and dinner today, lunch starting around noon. We could have a menu and place our orders in advance. The catch of the day was grouper, so Diane selected a grouper sandwich with salad, while I chose the grilled grouper platter with plantains and rice and peas. It was suggested we order an appetizer, so the conch fritters got the nod.
Diane and I then settled into the nice wooden chairs under the tree canopy and read our books. Well, that is not quite accurate. I had to dinghy my wet butt back to the boat because I forgot my wallet. Diane preferred not to get wet, again - a notion that will play prominently later.
After a delightful time relaxing and reading in the sun/shade and cooling breeze, we were summoned for our lunch by Anna Bella. She is a white Bahamian with a Sicilian mother. Diane ordered a Kalik beer, and I wanted to try a rum specialty. Anna runs a restaurant on Nassau and is here in the middle of nowhere for a few weeks of R & R with her fiancée. Her stories over lunch were quite interesting.
This cruise is not all about food, but I have to comment that the food was outstanding. The fish was so fresh and perfectly cooked; the accompanying salads and vegetables were terrific. My rum drink was quite potent and the part left in the shaker was not to be wasted, so it was offered at no extra charge (equivalent to 2/3 of a full drink). Same with the vegetables (plantain, onions, peppers, carrots); there was a bit left in the pan, and we were the only lunch patrons today.
The conch fritters must have been the highlight, though, because of how delicious, large, and fluffy they were - the best I have eaten so far. We were served a dozen of the monsters for $7 - that and a salad each would have sufficed. We brought back to the boat half of what we were served. The total came to $34 and we left a generous tip.
Just to spend money on a meal ashore is not what we're after. This had the mix that we like: fantastic food at a good price; a nice, quaint atmosphere; and a local who loved to talk about her life and the world.
We were allowed to take any conch shell from the pile, so we did. It bears the two holes that are characteristic of shells with the animal consumed. To make a conch horn, we will need to find a live shell and remove the animal (for consumption) without cutting open the shell in the process.
The tide had run out a few feet while we were gone, so the re-entry to the dinghy from the ladder was not easy. Diane waited until I got the engine started and then started her climb down. She needed to commit to the last step and get the painter (line holding the dinghy) aboard. Alas, a wave here and a jostle there and now she was in the water holding onto the ladder and the painter. I pulled the dinghy back to her with the engine off and hauled her aboard. Should I mention she was now "really" soaked?
This is one aspect of the cruising life that can be vexing at times. Fortunately, she is in the cockpit reading after a short shower and all is well as I type this. Both of us had naps and then read a bit. The wind is really blowing; I measured it at 18-22 kts with my hand-held anemometer.
I have not found a weather source on the SSB that transmits except in the morning. I must look harder, for it would be nice to plan for tomorrow without having to wait until tomorrow. With the wind still blowing this hard today, the ocean we need to cross (even if only 40 miles) will likely have larger waves than we would prefer to endure. At least we are not stuck in a marina.
The evening passed quietly with both of us finishing our novels, then I started re-reading a primer on star gazing and eagerly awaited the clear night sky to reveal itself. I was not disappointed. It's a funny thing about a sky brilliant with stars; the constellations you are used to seeing so prominently are often diluted by the many hundreds of starts that are not normally visible. Now matter how much I do this, I still cannot understand how the early gazers saw the shapes in the groupings to give them the names they did. I guess you had to be a really lonely shepherd.
Day 26: Sun 6 Apr 08
Awake at 0630 after a pleasant night's sleep, I turned on the SSB radio for the weather only to realize it was not broadcast on Sundays. I consulted my abbreviated list of other weather sources and tried to pick one up late with little success. I can see why some sailors opt for satellite subscription weather. Something I will research more later.
Measuring the wind on deck at 0730, readings peaking over 20 kts made the decision to stay here another day. Conditions may not have been any worse than anything we saw coming over here, but we're not in quite as much hurry to leave here as we were Bimini.
Unlike all the days prior, this morning is shaping up to be pretty cloudy. It will be interesting to see how well the solar panels do topping off the batteries in these conditions. It would also be very nice to get a brief shower to wash the boat off. If my friend, snoozer, is reading this, he will be pleased to know we have been using his suggestion to take about half a gallon of fresh water in a bucket and use a sponge to wipe the salt off all the spots you normally touch as you move about the boat, plus the plastic windscreen panels. It works well and is worth using the precious fresh water because keeping salt off your hands and clothing is important.
This morning was one for some chores. I moved the horseshoe life ring to a different spot to gain clearance at the port stern cleat. I also fixed the anchor windlass (which helps hoist the chain or rope) by reinstalling a critical part that had worked loose. It is plastic with a metal clip; without it the chain will come up but the nylon rope part will not. I discovered that the hole the piece pivots inside was clogged with debris, so I drilled it out and the re-installation seemed to go well. Now, we are living the real cruising life - working on your boat in exotic places.
After reading up on the Nassau area (our next planned stop), we heard the rumbling of thunder to our west. We brought anything we didn't want to get wet below and hoped the rain would come and finish washing the salt off the boat. It finally arrived and in sparse amounts, but it did the job. It also forced us to close all the hatches and ports, so it got warm and humid inside for an hour or so. This is where the better boats have dorades - special scoop vents that allow wind to blow through without letting any water in. Most boats sold today do not have them.
When the gentle rain stopped, we poked our heads up to find the wind was almost nil and the water was the calmest we have seen since we left home almost a month ago. On a lark, we decided to try out the "looky bucket" I made. A looky bucket is any old bucket with a clear bottom. I took a round plastic pail, cut out the bottom except for a small lip, and glued in a disc of clear Plexiglas. When you place the bottom under the water's surface, you are no longer looking through the rippled surface and everything in your field of view becomes clear. We are currently anchored in 17 feet of water and with the bucket we can see the bottom like it was 1 foot away. By way of example, if I dropped a quarter I could see whether it was heads or tails.
We took our bucket and got into the dinghy, then headed for the flats area just adjacent our anchorage. Once in 4 to 7 feet of water, we drifted with the current while Diane peered through the bucket and I just looked down over the side. There were magnificent starfish, and one smallish conch, but not much else besides sand and grass. We did see another boat come into the area and pick up a mooring ball controlled by the Berry Island Club.
On the way back to the boat we tried to follow the anchor chain from the bow to the anchor to see how well it was set. We know it is set well because we did not move at all during the strong winds and tidal currents we experienced over the past day and a half. When we finally found it, it did not appear well buried, but then it is a big anchor for this boat and it might take a lot more force to really dig it in well. All that matters is that it holds you when you need it to.
Upon return to the boat (Diane was driving and doing well), Clyde was meowing to greet us. It's not unlike being home where he knows the sounds of our cars (or motorcycle) coming down the street. The wind has returned in short order but not very strong. I surely hope we can move on tomorrow, and we wonder about the status of John and Marilyn.
Diane made a fabulous dinner of sautéed canned lump crab with Caribbean rice and yellow squash. Too bad none of the seafood meals have come from my efforts yet.
We played some games and read the cruising guides and studied the charts for a while, then it was time to try a contact with John on the SSB. We got to talk briefly as the clarity of our signals was, once again, not very good. At least he acknowledged our position and plan. We will look forward to Nassau where we can make a few short (and expensive) phone calls to family.
Day 27: Mon 7 Apr 08
I awoke just before the 0630 weather net run by Chris Parker and was not surprised to hear that there is squall activity nearby. I tried to listen to the weather every day and never heard or saw any evidence of the great weather window John and Marilyn were waiting for in Bimini. Hopefully, the are doing well wherever they are. We are also looking to hear at sometime from Dennis and Karen, who started this cruise with us and were looking to get over to the Bahamas sometime this month.
The plan for today was to take our time getting the boat ready for the passage to Nassau and watch the sky. It took about an hour to do all the topside prep, while Diane readied below. Shortly thereafter, the rains came, then the wind which did not top 30 kts so far. Immediately after the rain slowed, the wind did too and shifted direction to the north. This was our clue.
We weighed anchor and headed out the channel to the open ocean, where the depths drop from 40 feet to 2000 feet within a half mile. I was very pleased to see the seas were almost calm (less than 3 feet and usually only 2). A few hours into our passage, the wind veered to the south enough that we could put out a sail and go faster with less engine boost (therefore less fuel burn). It continued to improve to where the last two hours we just sailed without using the engine at all - as it should be!
Before we got very far along our route, we heard Marilyn hailing our boat on the VHF radio, which meant they were pretty close to us. It turns out they decided they had had enough waiting at Bimini and crossed the banks a few nights after we left. They were now just one cay to the west of where we had left. Their plan was to go to Nassau tomorrow, but not likely to stay in the city harbor, but rather to pick an anchorage and keep moving to the Exumas. Their time slot for this cruise is considerably less than ours, so I understand their urgency.
We arrived at the Nassau Harbor entrance near 1440 and requested permission to enter. It was quite strange motoring past all the big freighters and huge cruise ships in the harbor. We had to pass under two bridges linking Paradise Island and before long we were at our marina of choice - Nassau Harbor Club.
The docking went well except we had to change the dock lines from one side to the other in a hurry. It was good to be someplace where we could attend to a number of needs. Funny though - almost the entire time we have been on this cruise, the wind has been stronger than usual or desired. Now that we are in a crowded marina, the wind is light and we are roasting.
I checked in and a quick look around showed the place is undergoing major renovations. That will be good for future visitors, but their services are greatly curtailed for our stay. Diane and I started the laundry and took showers. I later walked to the nearest service station to buy a bag of ice cubes - normally something they would have right at the marina.
We have already met a number of fellow cruisers here. One couple, Ross and Bonnie know a restaurateur from our home town very well. Diane wisely planned to reheat the incredibly good crab and rice from last night along with a fresh salad. Tomorrow we will dine ashore - most likely lunch - and go to the aquarium at the famed Atlantis hotel on Paradise Island.
A few hours before typing this, I had a techno-scare in that the laptop screen went haywire. I strongly suspect excessive moisture, so I was very glad to see it functioning when I fired it up after sunset. I understand the Starbucks coffee shop across the street had free Internet (presumably if you buy and greatly-overpriced coffee), so I will try that in the am.
After Diane went to an early bed, I contacted John from Islamorada on the SSB, but again the clarity was so poor that we lost contact after just a few words. I then went up to the cockpit to allow Clyde some time to roam the decks in his new temporary location. In the next slip are two Canadian guys sharing a grand adventure on the one guy's sailboat. The visitor was in their cockpit and we chatted for quite a while. Then his sailor friend appeared and we talked a bit more.
There was essentially no breeze in the early evening, so I plugged in the fan and slept in the main saloon. Needing a fan was something new after all the excessive winds we have had. This marina is lit up very much at night, probably a deterrent to crime. We noted they had a full-time security guard, as well. It is an unfortunate necessity in Nassau, unlike most of the other areas in the Bahamas.
[photo: Joe's shack for seafood on the go.]
Day 21: Tue 1 Apr 08
I had plans to write an April Fools joke about some disaster striking us, but decided taken out of context it might worry some of our relatives back home.
Another cruising day today: we did very little. I took two of the four five=gallon diesel jugs and siphoned them into our main tank, then took the empties over to the fuel pump to be filled. I am certainly getting stronger as I age. I could never have carried $50 worth of fuel all by myself 30 years ago.
After 20 minutes of exertion, it was time to pull out the cruising guides and read about what lay ahead. It wasn't too long before I got the idea that I should do some other constructive tasks. The idea suddenly came to me when Diane started asking whether I was just going to relax all day. Married men get these ideas frequently, it seems.
I took the laptop up to the office area to sit in the shade, check email, and post to this blog. Then we walked to the beach again where we had it all to ourselves and the water was fabulous. Diane read continuously, but after 10 minutes I was hot and needed to take another plunge.
Back at the boat, our neighbor asked if I had seen the beautiful woman on the beach he had mentioned earlier. When I said no (except for my wife, of course), he asked me what day it was. I said Tuesday. He asked further, "what day of the month?" I said, "April first," then he just smiled an walked inside his boat. He sure played a good one on me.
I later checked the weather forecasts on the Internet to compare them with those issued on the SSB radio by Chris Parker, the new weather guru for the Atlantic region. They generally agreed, but the fact is that to await a near=perfect weather window could keep us here for more than a week. It looks like tomorrow and early Thursday might be our best chance for a little while.
The thing is we will need to anchor on the banks. These are the shallow water plateaus that the Bahamian cays (pronounced "keys") sit atop. The ocean water rises extremely steeply from thousands of feet to just 20 feet or so to the banks. It is quite a phenomenon. Anyway, with the speed of a sailboat (even if we have to motor the whole way), we just cannot reach a real anchorage in one day's travel and you really don't want to be doing much at night without specific knowledge.
The banks can, we are told, be a perfectly safe and comfortable place to anchor in settled weather. Given that we might have somewhat more than settled weather, we have to assess whether the degree of discomfort we might face is worth it to make some progress forward. From what it appears, today would have been a decent day to depart, more=so than tomorrow. So, all I need to do is invent a time machine tonight and we're set.
Diane and Marilyn are both making pizzas tonight, which we'll eat aboard Diva Di. The plan is for John to come over to our boat at 0700 to call up on our SSB to talk with Chris Parker for a personalized weather forecast, thanks to the subscription they purchased in advance of this cruise. Then we'll make a decision.
Day 22: Wed 2 Apr 08
A decision was made; we stay at least another night. It is entirely possible we will look back and say that conditions were fine for another two long days of passage making. However, we elected not to take a chance on heavy seas and wait another few days for the expected break in the winds to occur. The difficult part is that from where we sit, the weather looks fine for the trip. Our Canadian neighbor, Bob, counseled us that he thought it would be fine and he is likely right, but here we are.
The resignation to be here another few days led us to some other decisions. We had the mind=set that this was a brief stopover, so the securely=lashed dinghy stayed lashed. There was no water exploration except for dipping into the beautiful ocean=side beach. Today, that changed.
We launched the dinghy and ran the attached 4 HP engine to be sure it started OK. Carburetors gum up quickly, and we are not sure how much to trust the StaBil fuel conditioner. Then I motored over to John's boat and shifted my engine over to one side of the transom. We then lowered and attached his so that we could test his and run the carburetor dry of fuel. He was pleased to see it started on the first pull. For a brief time, I may have had the only 10 foot dinghy with dual outboard engines!
Back at Diva Di, John helped me get the 4 HP engine off and put the 9.9 HP engine on. I might as well call it 10 HP. The whole 9.9 HP rating came about because some locations placed restrictions on engines 10 HP and up. The 9.9 started and ran great, so Diane and I planned a late morning checking out the snorkeling.
In the meantime, I decided that with a swim platform available for easy entry to the boat, I put the regulator and hose over the side and did some bottom work. The sacrificial zinc anode on the propeller shaft needed to be replaced and the bottom has a mild build=up of slime. I was also able to wash the sides of the hull. After taking off the 24 pounds of lead weight I used to keep myself underwater while breathing SCUBA air, I felt like a cork bobbing on the surface cleaning the above=water parts.
That task done, Diane and I took off in the dinghy. The marine life we could see was very unremarkable compared to other places, but what shortened our excursion was that the current was running so strongly that it was just about all I could do with fins on to keep from getting swept down=current. It was something to do, but I can wait for the exquisite snorkeling in the Exumas.
Arriving back at the marina, John and Marilyn were just getting ready to walk up to the Big Game Marina for lunch, so we joined them. I must say it was a treat; the ambience and photos on the walls were very interesting, and the food and prices were great. Diane and I split a delicious bowl of red conch chowder and a platter of cracked conch and French fries. Unlike the tiny pieces we had at the Bimini Bay resort, these conch pieces were huge and lightly=breaded. It was delicious and plenty for both of us. The bill with one Kalik beer each was less than the Bimini Bay meal, for twice the food and more than twice as good.
We walked back and stopped at the Dolphin House atop the hill. This home has a most unique exterior with all the tile mosaics and white=painted stucco reliefs, the largest and most prominent of which is a dolphin (porpoise). The observatory on the roof has a wonderful view of both the bank and ocean side of Bimini, but we were not able to see that for ourselves as the owner was not home for us to take the tour.
The previous photo was at the infinity pool at the Bimini Bay resort. The blue of the pool and the vanishing edge fade right into the blues hues of the ocean water. Very pretty.
Day 20: Mon 31 Mar 08
The wind blew pretty hard all night, but we were protected by a 100 foot long motor yacht tied to the fuel dock upwind of us. There are still some noises that I hear in the night when the seas kick up a bit. I never heard them before, but I am starting to think it is the sound of waves smacking the hull from the side in a way they would not do at anchor.
Today might be the first day we settled into the "cruising life." It is proving to be, in the words of my friend Dennis, a very cerebral experience: I have a list of things I should be doing and I did a lot of thinking that maybe I'll start something one of these days . It was almost 1000 before I moseyed up to take a shower and shave. Then I brought the laptop PC back up to check email and post this blog. We decided to go to the pool and read, so a quick early lunch of leftovers was in order. Before we had gotten lunch fully together, John and Marilyn asked if we wanted to take the tram up to Bimini Bay and have lunch.
The tram ride covered the same road we had hiked the day before, except we took the tram an extra mile to the resort. It was interesting witnessing the exchanges between the very outgoing and friendly tram driver and all the locals on the way up. The tram's speed seemed to top out near 20 miles per hour, so there was a very unhurried pace to it all.
Bimini Bay turns out to be an incredible expanse of expensive boat slips, homes, townhouses, fancy restaurants and pool, with the wonderful beach, of course. The Bahamas has a long history of large, expensive projects being started and then being left to ruin in short order. I don't know why, and I hope this project truly benefits Bimini and its residents.
The prices were what you might expect from a resort of this caliber, but we ordered conservatively and enjoyed the view just the same. They shuttle people around in oversized golf carts as everything is quite spread out. Here more than anywhere on the island, all the employees went out of their way to be very friendly and helpful.
By the time we got back, a short nap was in order. Diane wound up going for a golf cart ride with the ten year old boy on the boat across the pier from us. It was a harrowing experience until she insisted that she do the driving. At least she remembered to drive on the left side of the road.
We skipped dinner due to the filling and somewhat late lunch. John and Marilyn invited us over at 1830 for a rum tasting and game night. We brought some games and they shared their purchase of the day: several flavors of rum (clear coconut, dark coconut, and pineapple), plus canned pineapple juice. There is a reason the fruity drinks have their reputation; you can have lots of alcohol and not realize it due to the sweetness of the fruit.
No one had too much, but it became a silly evening of story telling and trying half-heartedly to play the game. Their Halberg-Rassy 34 sloop is a gorgeous boat. Our main saloon and galley might have twice the volume of theirs, but their boat has lots more dedicated stowage space, which is as it should be for a cruising boat.
Another night of blissful sleep followed, dreaming of the time we can move forward with our cruise plans.
** posted to blog 1 Apr 1200 **
I can upload one photo per post, so here is one to give you an idea what the marina looks like.