03/07/2012, En Route from Conception
This does not do it justice!
03/07/2012, Volley Ball Beach
Here is the salad, in process!
03/07/2012, George Town
March 7, 2012
Sadly, Hoyt and Christy have come and gone. We had a fun and adventure filled week with them aboard, and it was great having a crew member in Hoyt with long term boating skills and common sense.
The week-long visit started with a day here in George Town, on Volley Ball Beach, sampling the wonderful conch salad (a ceviche actually), and walking one of the trails across Stocking Island to the "outside" where we wandered the beach and collected shells, etc. The next day was lovely, with nice winds (12-15 knots) from the south east, so we decided to head to Conception Island for a few days so they could see some of the unspoiled beauty of this area. En route, with two lines out, we hooked two fish, but the lines tangled and one got away. We were able to retrieve the other one and it was a very nice 39" Mahi Mahi, so supper was assured.
Saturday dawned a beautiful day and the only other boat there pulled anchor and sailed south. We swam, snorkeled, walked the beaches, and generally took advantage of a lovely spot. We decided that we wanted to try some different snorkeling grounds the next day, if we remained. Sunday was calm with light winds forecast. Although the winds for Monday were forecast to be higher, they were predicted in the 22-24 knot range and, because we would be returning down wind, we decided to stay for the "sleigh ride" back to GT. So, we snorkeled on the east side of the Island, which was in the lee of gentle winds from the West. While the north anchorage is not good for west winds, because they were light, it was not bad at anchor. After dinner, we dismantled the dinghy and put the engine and other gear safely in storage. As it turned out, we should have put the dinghy on the foredeck, but the captain (stupidly) reasoned that we had sailed with the dinghy in the forecast winds before and so it would be OK.
Monday morning dawned with the wind fairly howling, but still not above the forecast 23 or so. However, once we got outside and underway, the winds and seas quickly built. In a relatively short time, the winds were up to a steady 32-35 (gale force is 35 knots) with higher gusts and the seas built to 10-12 feet. That is when the problems started: the dinghy was pulled fairly close to Gratitude, so it would not surf and be jerked back and forth on the waves. When we went up on one high crest, a gust caught the dinghy at the top of the wave and flipped it. Boats are not meant to be towed upside down and, at the speed we were going (on occasion reaching 10-11 knots) the dinghy broke loose. We briefly - 10 seconds or so - discussed whether to try to return to retrieve it, but it would have been fruitless - not to mention downright dangerous in heavy seas -- to try to retrieve it, flip it over, empty it of water, and rig the bridle to haul it back aboard. So, we consigned the dinghy to the deep - or maybe to some deserving person somewhere who can use a simple skiff, assuming she makes it past the rocky "iron shore" on the outside of the islands. (We were on the East side of Long Island when this occurred, so it may have found its way to a harbor or been beaten to smithereens.)
The next challenge was to get back to George Town. As noted, the winds and seas were high, but Gratitude, under partial jib and with engine running, handled the big conditions with aplomb. Hoyt did most of the driving and seemed to be in his element. Christy noted, however, that she was pleased when he put on his sunglasses and she "could not see the fear in his eyes." He assured her it was not fear, just careful attention to the waves coming from behind to make sure we kept our heading. Then came the entrance to the George Town Harbor -- we decided to take the North, Conch Cut, entrance both because we are more familiar with it and because there are fewer reefs and problem areas with which to contend. It proved to be a good choice. We ran in before the wind (with all sails doused) and prepared for a rolly ride once we turned to port (left) and ran across the waves. The rough ride did not come, however, because we entered at slack tide and because the reef tempered the waves. We proceeded further into the harbor to search for an appropriate anchorage. We checked out the area off Volley Ball Beach (so we could hitch rides from the crowds) but it was too nasty. So, we dropped back to an area between Honeymoon Beach and Hamburger Beach and tucked up behind a hill to be in the lee. The relative calm was most welcome.
During lunch, we recounted our travails and agreed once again we had made the right choice to abandon the dinghy and not try to rescue it. (Good thing, because no one wanted to go back out and look for it!) Although we reported our loss on the Cruiser's Net, so far no one has a spare dinghy to sell and we do not care to pay the price of the one new one here in George Town. One boat has a second one we can borrow for our remaining time here and several boats, including Living Well, Midori, and Amelia Rose - from the boat yard - and Gaia, have offered rides and to buddy boat en route back home to Florida. As a result of the loss of the dinghy and the forecast of strong winds for the next two or three weeks, we have shelved the idea of going home via Eleuthera. We decided we would rather travel with others and in an area with which we are familiar rather than a new venue and without a dinghy to explore. Next time!
Yesterday, we took the water taxi to town (no one was running their dinghies across - it was much too rough) to go shopping, have lunch out, and show Hoyt and Christy the town. We returned to Gratitude for lobster dinner (yes, we have a horrible time with food: steak, lamb chops, fresh Mahi Mahi, lobster, etc. - Lauren makes sure the crew is well fed) and an evening of games aboard. (We have played Parchesi, Farkle, and Bananagrams on alternating nights, when we were not so tired as simply to want to read and go to bed.) A boat anchored nearby evidently dragged and spent the next nearly two hours trying to re-anchor. We are not sure what was the problem, but the gentleman appeared to be all alone on board and, without a dinghy, we could not offer assistance. He finally set the hook about ½ hour after the rest of Gratitude's crew bedded down for the night.
In all, it was a great week with folks we had a good time getting to know better. And, we assured them (Christy especially) that not all weeks are so exciting.
The closing ceremony of the Cruisers' Regatta is this Friday. We plan to attend that and then , with the first good weather window, start our trek back North. We are not sure with whom we will travel, but we are sure it will be in good company.
02/28/2012, George Town, Exuma
Sundown at Regatta
02/28/2012, George Town, Exuma
February 28, 2012
Our last blog discussed Adult Day Care. This one is the sequel: Adult Evening Care. This week is the 32d Annual George Town Cruisers' Regatta. Last year, we sort of watched from afar; this year, we decided to participate more and we are glad we did. The opening night last evening was a great party. As the local representative of the Ministry of Immigration put it, "a good party is a reason to party, party, party!"
The theme this year is Cowboy Hats and Bathing Suits. We have no idea how the committee comes up with the themes, nor were there many bathing suits in evidence last evening, but as you can see, there were a fair many cowboy hats, including one worn by yours truly. (The Straw Market in town is a fun place to shop for straw goods, shell creations - or beautiful, large shells - the ubiquitous T-shirts, baskets, and the like. The vendors are sweet little old Bahamian women who weave the local palm fronds and jump at the chance to sell their wares. A favorite is named Arizona from whom we have bought a number of "tings", including a sun bonnet for Lauren and a cowboy hat for Van.) The opening night was replete with skits, food, dancing, and a grand time. Despite the windy conditions off-shore, we were comfortable on Volley Ball Beach under the trees. A stage was set up along-side Chat 'N Chill restaurant and the attendance must have numbered several hundred folks. Our favorite skit was a display of "Synchronized Swimming" by 6 old guys. This was performed behind a blue tarp that was raised or lowered to represent the water level. We have not laughed so hard in a long time - and it helped to have grown up with such Olympic events on TV.
After the skits and dinner (hamburgers, hot dogs, beans, and the Bahamian staple Peas 'n Rice), Rockin' Ron, from Sea Dancer (who has an incredible selection of CDs with which to regale the Cruisers' Net with music in the morning), was the MC and DJ and played a lot of old favorites (read 50s, 60s, and 70s music) to which the crowd got up and danced on the beach. Several of us agreed that, if this is what a retirement community is like, we would sign up.
As noted above, officials from Immigration were in attendance to assure the assembled boaters that we are appreciated and welcome, and that the officials would do "every-ting to eliminate the hitches and glitches" of gaining entry to the Bahamas. So, while we went to town today to do laundry and reprovision, Van went to Immigration to get our visas extended. (When we cleared in at Nassau, we received a 1 year cruising permit, a 90 day fishing license, and a 60 day visa. We asked the young woman for 90 days, but she insisted she could do no more than 60 days.) Today, Van mistakenly asked to extend our cruising permit, and was instructed to go to Customs at the other end of town for that purpose. At Customs, he was told the cruising permit was fine, we just need to extend our visas and that is done at Immigration. So, a walk back to Immigration produced the information that the person who can extend the visas was out - turns out, he was on Stocking Island meeting with the Regatta Chairs for the purpose of nailing down what he said last night. (While at Immigration, Van asked about the different durations of permit, license, and visa - because others got longer visas in Nassau as we did last year when clearing in at Bimini - and he was told that, in Nassau, a Customs officer does the Immigration duties and lower ranked officials cannot give longer duration visas. While it does not make a lot of sense in the larger scheme, at least it was a logical explanation, and a reason not to enter through Nassau in the future.) End result: tired feet, no extended visa. Early this afternoon, we spoke with the Regatta Chair woman and she said that the Immigration officials were most polite and assuring that they would take up the issue of visa duration with higher authorities. One specific request was that boaters should be allowed to renew their visas 2 weeks before expiration - in contrast to the current 2 day limit - because often we are sailing or stuck by bad weather in a location with no Immigration office at which to present ourselves. That seemed to strike a responsive chord. We shall see how that works in practice, as we have 2 weeks to go before ours expires.
Later this afternoon, we went for a walk on a southern beach. Because one of Van's feet is sore, he stayed on the shore while Lauren followed a path through the underbrush. The hiking paths are wonderful to explore as they take one across the interior of the islands to the ocean side where the beaches and large waves are majestic in these strong winds. Along the way, one gets to see the native curly tail and other varieties of lizards, view the vegetation, and occasionally - like today - hear the birds singing in the trees and brush.
Tomorrow, friends Christy and Hoyt will join us for a week. We are hoping the weather will cooperate for a few days sail to Conception Island and back. If so, we will drop a line or two overboard and see if we can catch some more fish.
02/20/2012, George Town, Exuma
February 20, 2012
Adult Day Care; that's what someone on the Cruiser's Net called the myriad of activities on Volley Ball Beach here in George Town, Stocking Island, Exuma. It's true - there are a lot of things to do, new things to learn, and a lot of people to share the time with here on the beach. There is a sign hanging in the trees that says "Caution: Adults at Play".
But to digress. The last blog recounted problems with the windlass, the extinct shim, and broken bolts. We made new shims (thanks to Moe and Polly and a large piece of Starboard on Motivator) and Sean made new bolts. One would not think that finding stainless steel bolts would be so difficult, but they have proved literally impossible to buy "off the shelf" in the limited time available before Kea, Sean, Ethan, and Hunter were to join us. Sean acquired some galvanized bolts at Home Depot and ground down the heads, inserted slots, and had them ready to bring when they arrived. The first afternoon, we got the windlass installed (that is the motor, gear-case, and shaft) from below-deck, and the next morning, we installed the above deck parts (the chain gypsy, the drum, and windlass hold down). We greased it all up, sealed the bolts (to minimize rust until we can get back to the boat yard and pull it all apart), and pressed the deck buttons - up and down, worked fine. We are back in business, and Van's back will not go out of business.
Although Grandma and Grandpa had visions of sailing to Conception Island (which is too beautiful not to share), it was decided that a long day there and another back just might be too much. Besides, the boys (not to mention the adults) like George Town and the beaches here, especially Volley Ball Beach where there almost always is something going on. So, we stayed put off VB Beach for a bit, then pulled anchor and headed out into the deep water to try our luck at fishing - none! We returned to the harbor and anchored off Monument Beach to be closer to the cocktail hour/bonfire scheduled for that evening, and the next day, returned to anchor off VB Beach, where we remain. Swimming, sunbathing, chatting with fellow cruisers, learning Mexican Dominoes, watching basket-weaving, painting, etc. have kept us occupied. In addition to activities, there is food on the beach - wonderful fresh Conch Salad (made while you watch and as hot - or not - as you want), a pig roast, and the all nourishing grilled cheese sandwich.
Sean tried fishing from the beach, after watching a Bahamian with a hand line having considerable luck. He caught several small fish (we think a Jack of some sort), which he filleted and cooked for the boys. He and Hunter have gone fishing with the dinghy (no luck), and we suspect there may be some more attempts before they depart on Wednesday. The boys seem to be enjoying themselves, especially when Klondike Bars are on the menu, and the adults likewise are pleased to be soaking up the sun and surroundings. So far, no one appears to have soaked up too much, and that always is a worry.
This week, Chris Parker (the weather guru who provides forecasts for cruisers in the Bahamas) is here giving weather lessons, so Grandma and Grandpa are signed up for Weather 101, Weather 102, and GRIB (GRIded Binary) data interpretation. (In addition to listening to Chris every morning at 6:30, we download GRIB files for the larger region and view the data on specialty software to try to understand the patterns and draw our own conclusions. We hope the lessons will help us in that regard.)
Next week, the 32d Cruisers Regatta gets underway and a whole new level of Adult Day Care will commence. We will let you know how the oldsters do.