These were the three horses which decided to roll in the sand and surf.
We bought a bit more than needed because it was all so good. We have never tasted a better pineapple!
The fast ferry makes the rounds to Nassau via Harbour Island. It was a pretty nice half hour each way.
The guide book says this cut is 90 feet wide. There is no way it is over 70 at the waterline.
[Photo: What a lazy crew I've got! ;=)
Day 56: Tue 06 May 08
Lat: N 24.8° Lon: W 076.1°
While I toiled, Diane kept watch at the dock. Near 1430, she saw a fishing boat (tiny thing, really) coming into the harbor. Before long, there were cars approaching and people walking up. Diane made the executive decision that we would check it out and be prepared to barter for beer or pay cash. We took along a case of 18 cans of Budweiser beer and $70 dollars in small bills.
At the dock, we just hung out quietly for a few minutes, and then asked a gentleman who we should contact to buy fish. The contact was young man no older than 20; we asked what kind of fish he had caught today he said snapper and grouper. I then asked how much grouper fillet we could get for $35. He pulled up a medium and two smaller fish (which looked large enough to me) and I said OK. They took a while to prepare them because they had been out all day and their families had brought them a dinner to eat upon their return. We said it was fine to wait while they ate, but they seem to really take their time, so we politely asked 20 minutes later and they started cleaning the fish.
You don't really want to think about how dirty the wooden bench is where they clean the fish. I'm sure there is all manner of "stuff" on that table, but nobody seems to die from it. Anyway, we handed the gent $40 for the fillets (which seemed to be over 5 pounds) and Diane asked it he cared to trade any other seafood for the case of beer. He asked the value of the beer and we used a low number for what one might pay on the island. He seemed happy and gave us more seafood equivalent by his reckoning to the value of the beer. The beer had cost much less in the USA, but in the end, he got a good deal and so did we.
We immediately motored the dinghy to Antic to divide the fish and seafood, as they had indicated an interest in sharing. We settled up as Andree repackaged the fish and we agreed to cook the seafood aboard their boat later. While we were preparing to depart close to 1620, another dinghy pulled up with a cruising couple who Tick and Andree had met earlier. The couple, Andree, and Diane stayed aboard Antic, while Tick and I dinghied separately ashore to check email one last time.
It turned out to be a hectic, although fun and interesting evening. Between about 1700 and 1820, we separately got our Internet stuff done, prepared our side dishes, washed up, and got dressed for dinner. The pre-sunset time was unexpectedly comfortable with a light breeze and enough cirrus clouds to take the edge off the sun's rays. The seafood course and the side dishes were all excellent and as if that was not enough, we thoroughly enjoyed Tick's cookie brownie specialty with espresso chip ice cream. We had not had many desserts at all since starting our cruise, but it was the best we could imagine.
After arriving back at Diva Di near 2130, Clyde was very happy to spend time up on deck and needed to be physically brought below when it was past time for bed.
Day 57: Wed 07 May 08
Lat: N 24.8° Lon: W 076.1°
It was another very peaceful night for both of us; the shore side noise did not begin in earnest until about 0600. We had discussed with Antic that we did not need to depart very early, so I set about getting everything ready and then read our Abacos cruising guide for a while. By 0730 I finally got antsy to get underway, so I hailed Antic, only to find out they were weighing anchor and leaving themselves.
We had the anchor up with the mainsail and spinnaker drawing in no time. We were pleased to find the wind strength and direction was sufficient to give us an average of about 4.4 kts, so we just enjoyed the smooth ride. Nearly four hours later, the wind strength diminished enough to necessitate using the engine in order to keep up our progress and I doused the spinnaker. Fortunately, the wind came back enough within the hour to sail with the main and Genoa while making about kts. Over the whole nine hour passage, we only had to use the engine a total of two hours at low power - not too bad.
The entrance to Hatchet Bay was cut by man through the rock low cliffs to allow entrance into a large bay which is completely protected from all sides except for the 90 ft wide cut. The interior of the bay is very ugly, to be blunt, with many dilapidated structures, but there are free mooring balls in shallow water which appear to be in good shape. All but a few of the 10 balls were occupied, but Antic and Diva Di each got a mooring.
Diane was understandably not interested in any shore side excursions, but Antic hailed to say they were going ashore for a brief walk, so I accompanied them to stretch my legs and deposit a bag of trash. There was nothing very nice to view, to be frank, but the people were friendly.
Back on board Diva Di, Diane had portioned some of the grouper for tonight's meal. I had volunteered to be the "chef du soir", so I set about making a lemon, wine, butter, and caper sauce, while the rice simmered. After the sauce was ready, I simmered the fish in it until all was ready. We both agreed it was superb.
Tomorrow, we need to time our passage through Current Cut at near or slightly past high tide, so while we may leave early out of habit, we may need to bide time until about 1300 to traverse the cut.
Day 58: Thu 08 May 08
Lat: N 24.8° Lon: W 076.1°
It was a peaceful night except for the local fishing boat that had its engine running from dinner time until past bedtime. We had planned with Antic that we need not be at Current Cut much before noon, but we were too eager to move on so we dropped the mooring just before 0800 and motored out of the cut in the cliff to the open water. We were both surprised how much wave action there was just outside the cut, but apparently the wind was blowing harder throughout the night than we could feel or hear from our protected anchorage.
After a half hour of very uncomfortable rolling and pitching, it settled down to a somewhat more tolerable sea state. The wind was mostly from dead astern, so we needed to alter course a bit to make the headsail catch the wind properly. This lengthened our time to Current Cut, but that was not an issue as we did not want to transit the cut until after noon due to the tidal current.
As each hour passed, things got smoother and we passed the time reading. We had to decide whether to take the "preferred" course through a marginally deeper channel but much more out of the way, or the straight shot which the chart showed to carry a bit less water. Being it was high tide, we elected to try the straight shot and were pleased to find it had no less than 10 feet of depth. The waves were very manageable and we had a favorable current helping us along.
Once we were through the cut, we had great protection from the larger waves and we had a fabulous sail up to Spanish Wells. By the time we got close, our course took us into the wind, so we beat our way up to the harbor entrance, dropped sail, and motored in. It was a neat and very different look than any other Bahamian port. The boats were mostly commercial fishing vessels which looked in good shape, as did the many buildings lining the wharf.
Antic was about an hour or more behind us, but we apprised them of the depths and sea state in the cut and harbor approach. They took the mooring ball behind us in the only mooring field, which is small in both number and size. With our boat aligned with the narrow dredged area, we have about 30 feet on both sides to dry land. If we swing perpendicularly, we will be aground. I'm not sure who thought this was a good mooring field design.
Close to 1700, all four of us went ashore to find the operator of the moorings to arrange payment. It turns out this delightful couple, Tom and Jean (originally from Rhode Island), are helping out the mooring operator when he is absent. They gave up cruising a few years ago and now live in a small, but very attractive cottage just off the wharf. They were speaking with another cruising couple moored near us on a beautiful Baba 30 and before long we were all inside their home and then on their large porch. Jean put out some crackers and cheese and offered drinks, but I went back to the boat to bring some assorted rums so as not to impose too much on their hospitality. We all had a great time learning about Spanish Wells history, their current fishing-based economy (quite good, by the way), and details about how they catch lobster.
While they were very generous with their time and knowledge, it must be true that visitors like us give them a welcome diversion from their daily routine. They mentioned that in their seven years living here, they are treated well, but still very much as outsiders.
It was just after sunset when we said thanks and left to our boats. Diane was ready for bed and skipped dinner. I made a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, read for a while, and went to bed soon after.
Day 59: Fri 09 May 08
Lat: N 25.3° Lon: W 076.7°
It was a very restful night except for a few mosquitoes which found their way into the boat. Antic picked us up a little before 0900 to go ashore for the fast ferry to Harbour Island. The whole day was a neat experience and different than anything we had done on our cruise so far.
The ferry is a catamaran with jet drives; fast, smooth, and maneuverable. Our route traversed what is called the "Devil's backbone," a 10 nm passage between boat-wrecking reefs. Along the way, we passed Sirius, the Baba 30 cutter which had just left our mooring field. They had hired a pilot, a cautious decision, to ensure they could avoid all the dangers.
The ferry arrived at the dock on Harbour Island where the throngs poured off the ship. We were pressed hard by several vendors to rent a golf cart for the day. We had not considered doing so, and normally wouldn't, so there were a few minutes of heavy pressure and indecision until the vendor lowered the price to $45 and we said OK. We all decided soon thereafter that it was a good decision, especially with two couples to split the cost.
Armed with a crude map, we drove down almost every major road and quite a few minor roads. There were many pretty homes, restaurant/bars, and a few shops here and there. Fortunately, most of the shops that Diane would have liked to visit were closed for reasons unknown. We stopped at a great little stand selling fruits and vegetables. The pineapples are expensive, but incredibly good.
We made our way to a public beach access point, parked the golf cart, and strolled quite a ways to the "pink beach." When dry, it looks pretty but not especially pink. When wet, there are many small granules of pink color that give the sand a definite pink hue. As we strolled along the surf line, we passed a number of expensive resorts with a few guests enjoying the beach. Before long we reached our destination, the Coral Sands resort.
Lunch there was what you might expect: great atmosphere and view of the ocean, high prices, good food, and small portions. We all agreed that it felt very civilized. After lunch, we all sat in oversized and very comfortable stuffed chairs their lounge area. That was probably the first time in two months we had sat in a very comfortable seat.
Strolling back along the beach, a man was leading three small horses on ropes, with two following on their own. While we watched, the three decided to drop to the sand at the surf line and roll, getting thoroughly wet as the small waves rolled in. That man would have a lot of grooming to do later, I'm sure.
The post-lunch ride took us on a public road from which all the roads that branch off are private, leading in many cases to what looked like large, expensive estates. The road got as narrow as a golf cart and was quite hilly and rough for most of it. The residents living there might be rich, but they surely drive filthy cars around with all the dirt we passed through.
Before long it was near 1400, and we had driven around about as much as we could, so we parked the cart and the other three walked a bit more while I sat in the shade of the Harbour Lounge sipping a cool beverage. By 1530, we had returned the cart to the dock only one minute away and walked right to the front of the yet-to-form line for boarding the ferry. This way, we were able to get four seats in the coveted topside section facing the land, and had a great view going back.
As we dinghied towards our boats, we saw Tom and Jean on the wharf and alerted them that we would be accepting their invitation for happy hour as soon as we could clean up and prepare some food. It was almost 1720 when we arrived with a pizza and our beverages. I think they were surprised and grateful for the treat (they sure relished it) and after a while Jean said she wanted to use up some marinated beef kabobs and vegetables. Since they already had half a meal with our pizza, the other half would be the grilled treat. Everything was good.
After it became dark, we all went back to our boats. We spent time in the cockpit with Clyde, who surprised us greatly by jumping into the dinghy which happened to be up against the transom at the time. He walked around a little while, then jumped up to sit on the side tube. With the dead calm we had, the dinghy was stable and not moving around, but we don't want him to get too brave about jumping into the dinghy or sitting on top where he could fall overboard too easily. We had to do a lot of coaxing to get him out.
Day 50: Sat 10 May 08
Lat: N 24.° Lon: W 076.°
This morning's SSB weather forecast makes it seem that tomorrow will be the day for the crossing to the Abacos. I did some navigational planning in the early morning while Clyde enjoyed the pre=dawn. As the sky lightened, there were a few noisy gulls flying close to our boat and he watched them with rapt attention. I was surprised to hear voices close aboard at 0700 and popped my head up the hatch to see two men in a small fishing boat hanging off our port side rails in order to cast a net for catching the many bait fish that come in here.
At 0930, we dinghied ashore and met Antic at the museum which Jean had opened up for us. She gave a great oral recounting of much of the history and then allowed us to wander about the small, quaint, and interesting building. Over an hour later, we went our separate ways. I was not feeling well all of a sudden, but I suspected it was dehydration from the high temperatures and humidity, with not much breeze inside the museum. After buying some bottled water and getting in the shade with a breeze, I felt somewhat better, but not enough to walk around the town.
We went back to the boat for me to hydrate more and fortunately, I felt much better in an hour. So, we're about to go back into town, this time with the laptop computer and a bag of laundry.
[Photo: Small beach on O'Briens Cay]
Day 55: Mon 05 May 08
Lat: N 24.8° Lon: W 076.1°
The wind certainly got light overnight as expected. There was enough to keep comfortably cool, but the water was almost mirror calm by dawn. I had a very restful night, but Diane was bothered by the dogs barking and roosters crowing.
Since it will be unlikely we will take any salt water spray on the boat for the next week, I used several quarts of water to sponge off the plastic windscreens and all the stainless steel that I could comfortably reach. I have friends with water making machinery aboard and long hoses who can give their boats a fresh water rinse, but that's a luxury we do not have.
Our main goals for this morning were to deposit three bags of trash, connect to the Internet, replenish our stores of gin and rum, get a few fresh grocery items, and poll some locals to see if the island is worth exploring by rented car or guide.
The dinghy dock closest to us is right across the main highway (actually the only road on the island and just wide enough for two cars) from Dingle Motors. They owners are white Bahamians whose family goes back many generations. They survive, and sometimes thrive, by diversity. They currently: sell, rent, and repair cars; provide Wi-Fi Internet for a fee; sell gas, diesel, ice, ice cream, lumber, auto and boat parts, and convenience items; provide DHL shipping services, free trash disposal for cruisers, provide laundry service, and maybe more. It is very small, but they manage it all quite well, it appears.
Mrs. D was very helpful with suggestions. Diane strolled up the highway to check out the stores while I connected to the Internet for almost an hour catching up on the bills, blog, email, etc. When Diane returned, we boarded the dinghy to return the laptop to Diva Di, and then motored up the very calm water to the only other boat remaining today. The solitary sailor was friendly and offered some advice, confirming what Mrs. D had said. We left him and tied up to another dinghy dock near an apparently recently abandoned waterfront restaurant and bar.
From there, it was less than a quarter mile to the main market and a great NAPA store where I got more spark plugs for the dinghy engine. The market was very impressive compared to everything so far in the Bahamas except for Nassau. Diane does not yet share my opinion, but I see a big difference in the cleanliness here. Yes, there is trash, but it is nothing like so many other inhabited places. There seems to be some pride that keeps people from spoiling their public and private properties with litter.
The liquor store was closed, despite the hours of operation posted on the door. It had just turned noon, so likely the operator was taking a lunch break. We'll just come back later and get another walk in. Diane stayed in practice by starting the dinghy engine with no coaching from me, and steered us back to Diva Di. She did a great job!
About mid-afternoon, a dinghy approached with a solitary guy with a heavy Australian accent. He was the skipper of the fifty ft Beneteau sailboat that was anchored close to a mile away from shore. His charts were pretty outdated, and not the Explorer Charts (which are the ONLY ones to have here), so his information was scaring him and his wife.
I invited him aboard and offered him a drink while we looked at our charts. After almost an hour of visiting, I offered to let him have our chart book to take back to his boat so his wife, the navigator, could update the more critical info. Their boat has a draft of nearly six ft, so they need to exercise a bit more caution than we do in shallow water.
Shortly thereafter, Antic arrived in Rock Sound and anchored. We had informed them via radio that we had made dinner plans ashore so they came over for cocktails about 1800 and we dinghied ashore by 1840 to walk to Sammy's Place. We were the only diners there, and found that the night's selections were somewhat limited. The fresh catch was dolphin (mahi-mahi) so we all ordered that, plus Diane and I shared a bowl of conch chowder.
The portions were very generous, but the only method of cooking you could get for the fish was battered and deep fried. It was very tasty, but we all would have preferred grilled. The chowder was very good, if a bit heavy with a taste of clove. We were looking forward to a meal ashore after 12 days since the last one, and it was good, but somehow not what we were hoping for.
Back at Diva Di, Clyde seemed to really enjoy his time topside. He seems to prefer calm nights when we are close to shore and he has lights and smells to keep his attention. Sitting in the middle of near complete darkness in a remote anchorage doesn't thrill him like it does me.
Day 56: Tue 06 May 08
Lat: N 24.8° Lon: W 076.1°
Well, Diane had very little good rest last night. It seems there is a barge being loaded with a crane not far from us and they started about 0300. The barking of dogs and crowing of roosters near 0500 added to the din. I was able to tune most of it out and slept fine. We may decide to move to another anchorage farther up island later today, or just move a mile offshore (still in less than 8 ft of depth) to be farther from the noise tomorrow. In any case, we plan to leave Rock Sound no later than tomorrow morning.
Diane is not thrilled with Rock Sound due to the noise, clarity of the water in the anchorage is far below anything else we have seen in the Bahamas, quite a bit of smoke from the burning of trash in the dumps, and the rather inhospitable dinghy docks here. There have been some positives, in my opinion: good markets and stores, friendly people, and a protected anchorage. I guess we would collectively say it is not a tourist or cruiser destination for a reason, and we would not likely see a need to come back on some future cruise.
Just before we headed ashore to deposit trash, check the Internet, and get water in our portable jugs, our Australian mate came over to return our chart. He was most thankful for the opportunity and we gave him our boat card to stay in touch.
Once ashore, we found that we could connect to their Wi-Fi network just fine, but could not get onto the Internet. When I asked Mrs. D if they were connected at that moment, she said they had been on the Internet earlier with no problem. That didn't quite answer my question, but I decided to just try later.
At that time, Tick and Andree arrived in their dinghy and we strolled over to the Ocean Hole past many interesting homes. I don't really mean interesting in the sense that they were unique or a "must=see," just offering different styles and colors to comment upon as we walked.
The Ocean Hole was well over 100 yards in diameter and supposedly quite deep (bottomless is the rumor, but that's certainly not true). The water was a green color which did not look all that appealing, although there were many fish congregating around the stone steps = apparently expecting to be fed. We passed many signs for local restaurants, but decided against another meal ashore here.
We did get the idea to purchase freshly=caught fish and share a meal aboard tonight. When we inquired at Dingle's about that, it was noted that we would need to watch the dock right across from our anchored boat towards min=afternoon. If the boat came back with fish, we could attempt to buy some then. We were quoted prices that were pretty expensive, which surprised us a bit. In the end, we finally decided to eat up some meat both of us had started defrosting, and save the fish meal for Spanish Wells, home of Eleuthera's famous commercial fishing fleet.
After some lunch aboard, I set out to wash the deck and apply special wax on the non=skid portion which makes up most of the deck.
[Note: It is 1700 and I am heading ashore to post this. We may not get ashore again with the laptop, so this may be the past blog post until we get to Spanish Wells later this week.]