FIRST LIGHT

Vessel Name: FIRST LIGHT
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg-Rassy 352
Hailing Port: Port Ludlow, Washington
Crew: Harv, Jen & various friends
16 February 2015 | Riviera Beach Municipal Marina
10 February 2015 | Chub Cay Marina
07 February 2015 | 23 52.7N: 76 14.5W
03 February 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina
30 January 2015 | Back at Emerald Bay Marina
27 January 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina
22 January 2015 | San Salvador, Bahamas
21 January 2015 | San Salvador, Bahamas
16 January 2015 | Marsh Harbor Marina
14 January 2015 | Marsh Harbor Marina
10 January 2015 | Marsh Harbor Marina
06 January 2015 | Treasure Cay
02 January 2015 | Marsh Harbor Marina
30 December 2014 | Marsh Harbor Marina
27 December 2014 | Manjack Cay
24 December 2014 | Green Turtle Cay
22 December 2014 | Marsh Harbor Marina
19 December 2014 | Treasure Cay
17 December 2014 | 26 58.2N77 59.1W
14 December 2014 | Hinckley Boat Yard, Stuart Florida
Recent Blog Posts
16 February 2015 | Riviera Beach Municipal Marina

Close

We departed Chub Cay as the winds began to moderate and headed to the cut between Cat and Gun Cays in the Biminis. This necessitated transiting the Great Bahama Bank, which is a misnomer as it is mostly barely 2 meters deep, but the aqua color is truly amazing and the seas there so slight it gives one [...]

10 February 2015 | Chub Cay Marina

Finally

Though our little hurricane hole was lovely, and the winds still in the 20's we opted to slip out and cross the bank at high water to make for parts north. After zig-zagging across some shallows we popped the jib and were finally able to SAIL ... and with Hydie steering!! It was a gorgeous beam reach [...]

07 February 2015 | 23 52.7N: 76 14.5W

Companionship

(sent via ssb) With 275 miles to go we are slowly making our way north along the ruggedly disjointed Exuma chain of cays. First stop, Lee Stocking whose anchorage held an odd assortment of boats. We picked a spot and dropped our hook thinking everyone would swing together, but the currents are as wacky [...]

03 February 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina

Northward

Lee Stocking Cay, the once-upon-a-time research island, has slipped further into oblivion – it doesn’t take nature long to reclaim her own. The houses are empty or boarded up… save the one Rob and Lauren set up with couches, empty beer bottle and book “Lone Survivor”. The lab is bare of cabinetry; [...]

30 January 2015 | Back at Emerald Bay Marina

Rough Bits

The Trade Winds, those consistent northeasterly winds that have over the centuries shaped the mariner's existence in The Bahamas have failed. Settlements, harbors and marinas here are all geared for those consistent winds. This, when the winds get weird, makes finding a 'safe harbor' problematic. What [...]

27 January 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina

One in Every Bar

The past few days have seen bouncy seas, fluky winds and a lot of re-thinking of routes. The trip from San Salvador to Conception, one of the Bahamian National Parks, started with calm seas and light winds, but we put up the main anyway - for good measure - and motored along westerly. By mid-day the [...]

Close

16 February 2015 | Riviera Beach Municipal Marina
jen / breezy with scattered clouds
We departed Chub Cay as the winds began to moderate and headed to the cut between Cat and Gun Cays in the Biminis. This necessitated transiting the Great Bahama Bank, which is a misnomer as it is mostly barely 2 meters deep, but the aqua color is truly amazing and the seas there so slight it gives one time to monitor the fathometer closely. We motor sailed to make miles, managed not to find the bottom and anchored well after dark in what was supposed to be the lee of Cat Island. Around midnight the wind went easterly, which NO one had predicted, not the GFS, not the NAM, not Chris Parker … sigh. Still, that “inferior” anchor of ours held nicely and we were able to get a few hours sleep amid the noise and bounces.

At first light we were up and off, careening thru the cut between Cat and Gun. It is a wild little bit of the water – narrow, reef-lined and with a very strong current. After a close encounter with “GOOD WATER IS TO PORT!!” we slipped thru the notch, into the deep blue of the Atlantic and set a course for Ft. Lauderdale – south of where we wanted to be, but it gave us a better angle on the wind and waves.

Initially the northerly swells, coming down from the storms in the Northeast, were only about 2 meters high. Long and consistent with a nice 10 second period, First Light slipped nicely up their faces and down into their troughs with little effort. By midday the swells were 3 meters; an unending series of huge hillocks off our starboard bow. It was like hiking in the canyons, up and over steep inclines, down into ravines and up again … only deep blue instead of rust red. The wind was a pleasant 10 kts from the Nor’Northwest, just enough to keep our reefed main filled and the boat stable. As we loped along, within a matter of a minute, the wind piped up to 26 kts right out of the north… damn! Wind-driven waves leapt up on each swell, now 4 meters high, driving spray across the bow and over the dodger, and still our little boat strode on at nearly 8 kts, unperturbed. Not so the cat who carefully, unhappily slipped down from the seat and settled on the cockpit sole between Harv’s feet. This went on for a good hour and then, just as quickly as it had come up, as we crossed the western wall of the Gulf Stream, the swell diminished to less than a meter and the wind mellowed back to 10 kts northerly.

Ft. Lauderdale was a zoo! Huge mega-yachts honking at the huge mega-yachts in front of them to get out of their way; little fish boats and dingies zipping hither and thither; yachties like ourselves just trying to thread our way past the dog show of Great Danes and Chihuahuas and get into our slip. When we were finally all-fast, toasting another successful passage, the wind and waves and wild cuts melted into oblivion. If not finally home we were close! (Hallie and Lily clued us into the fact that this was not only the beginning of a long weekend, it would be capped by Mardi Gras – no wonder everyone was nuts!)

The next day was an internet/phone frenzy of trucker schedules, boat yard blessings, flights, hotels (there are only 8 pet-friendly hotels in all of West Palm Beach, and not all of them accept cats!), car rentals, pick-ups and deliveries, boat wash-downs, not to mention wonderful long conversations with family; by the close of day we were close to insanity. But there was one more long haul.

Rather than experience “the holiday” there, and not wanting to bounce on the bounding blue, we opted to make the haul to West Palm Beach up the narrow moss-green-velvet thread that is the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW) – which is basically a long ditch. We would have to traverse 20 bridges in the process, some whose openings are timed nicely, others you have to dawdle along or crank up the warp speed to make. It was a fascinating ride, not the least of which due to the residences that line the shore, cheek to jowl in an unending queue. Some are enormous condo-creations that rise to immense heights, some are palatial multi-story-arched-windowed affairs with fountains, fire pits, fabulous statuary and always the ubiquitous mega-yacht tied up in front; some are modest but tastefully appointed low slung ranches with wide eaves and colorful-cushioned chaises set in convivial groupings; and a few are weather-beaten bungalows whose patios are strewn with fading plastic furniture. It gives the imagination something to work on … while counting down the bridges.

And finally, we are snuggly tied up at the not-nearly complete New Riviera Beach Municipal Marina Complex. Alas for us all, The Tiki Bar, that icon of dockside dining, has closed. Only piles of dirt remain where once one could schlep up in filthy boat-work clothes and rub shoulders with aristocratic-looking couples while everyone happily sucked down tasty beverages, noshed on fabulous fish or conch and shared sea-stories; the quintessential boating experience now sadly lost to ‘progress’. It was depressing to find it gone. The dock man says everyone feels the same. But we trudge on… for the next week we’ll be removing everything topside; Single Sideband, sails, boom, lines, radar, dodger, damned-dingy-motor, extra anchor, everything must be stowed below. In the lulls we make friends with neighbors, mostly those heading east, waiting for a window and many anxious for knowledge. (The pic is of a tiny turtle, rescued from the dredge-spoils who is bound for a care facility until his eye heals.) We haul the boat out a week from today, have the mast lowered and standing rigging coiled and marked. The trucker arrives on Wednesday the 25th. We see friends for a day or so and then we will close this adventure by flying home on Saturday the 28th. Thanks to all who followed our crazy travels and thanks to all who commented on the blogs or sent emails. Staying close makes the faraway places all the more sweet.

Finally

10 February 2015 | Chub Cay Marina
jen / WINDY & COLD!
Though our little hurricane hole was lovely, and the winds still in the 20's we opted to slip out and cross the bank at high water to make for parts north. After zig-zagging across some shallows we popped the jib and were finally able to SAIL ... and with Hydie steering!! It was a gorgeous beam reach under sunny skies with just the genoa billowing out against the aqua and blue - that's livin! As the afternoon slipped away, the winds that were predicted to diminish remained strong. We anchored in the lee of the (reputedly) "most beautiful" cay in the Exumas, Hawksbill, and spent a quiet night. In the morning, anticipating snorkeling among the fishes and hiking the quiet beaches, we rose to find the wind STILL blowing "like stink" as they say here. What to do ... what ... to ... do?? Friends who've visited Europe say you reach a point where you think, "AFC ... Another F_ _ _ ing Cathedral". It could be we've reached a similar overload, or maybe the barn instinct has kicked in. Either way, we were headed north again.

We spent a night at the aptly named Highbourne Cay where we and a small Nordic Tug were surrounded by fabulous "Gin Palaces", huge ultra-mega-yachts populated with tanned Adonis-men whose grins show off their dental work to great effect and 'colored and coiffed' women bedecked in gold and high heel sandals daintily tiptoe off their McMansion-boats to sip frosty drinks in the shady bar. Bristol, showing the regal side of her personality, decided she liked it there ... liked it quite a bit in fact ... enough to stay. Had it not been for the keen eye of our Nordic-Tug-neighbor, who spotted her on the hillside noshing on the verge a few hours later, we might have returned cat-less. Alas, her cover blown, Ms. B was locked in the dungeon for the rest of the day. As for us, Highbourne is not a favorite. They charge extra for everything; absolutely nothing comes with your slip, not even much in the way of hospitality.

Not a problem. The next morning we rose at the ungodly hour of 0325 and before 0400 we were away. The winds were non-existent all day long, across the bank watching the sea fans below us wave in the current, past New Providence (Nassau) with its pall of stinky smoke from garbage fires and over the indigo-deep "Tongue of the Ocean" where the Navy Subs play. Just after 3pm we were leading a whole parade of sailboats into Chub Cay Marina - everyone desperate for a refuge from the predicted westerly blow whose beginnings were just raising cats-paws on the water as dusk settled. We congregated in the bar for some of Charlie's fabulous beverages and lively conversation about weather, where we'd been, where we were going: Sandra and Ronald, a fun couple from New York; Canadian Wayne aboard the "Emma A" (He laughed when I asked him if he had meant to name it that ... eh?), and Aussies Paul and Tina aboard a gorgeous Wauquiez Saloon Pilothouse 40, waiting to head to Ft. Lauderdale as well.

Today it's blowing upwards of 30kts but we are snug and secure. At breakfast I noted Sunday's special was Bahamian Fish Stew, so when the waiter (Charlie again) asked what I'd like, I said, "Sunday's special... but it's Tuesday." He laughed and we got to talking. I told him it had been recommended but I'd not seen it on a menu thru all our travels here. He explained that it's an easy dish, "They make it on Sunday 'cause it's quick." "If it's so quick," I asked, "Can they make me some today?" He laughed again and lo and behold, I finally got to taste it - it's delicious! (I have the recipe!!) Later, strolling the grounds to the grand infinity pool we looked west into the teeth of this bad-boy-blow and sighed... west is just the direction we need to go.

There is predicted to be a slight hiatus; from mid-day Wednesday to mid-day Thursday the winds will be northerly and diminishing to 10-15 kts. This isn't great traveling news. North winds (which blow south) against the Gulf Stream (which travels north) can get quite rough - but the next break (maybe ... possibly) is sometime late next week. Sigh... not much of a choice. It will mean a very, very long bouncy 128 miles / 22 hours but I've a supply of Stugeron and caffeinated mints - better living thru chemistry! (I wonder if Ms. B would appreciate some :^) And when we're finally secured in Lauderdale we'll have a burger house within walking distance, and real cell phones, and we'll be nearly home! Then the real work will begin: De-rigging First Light, stowing all her sails, the radar, dodger, dingy, mast and finding a trucker to bring her home 'cause we've decided we're finally finished with The Bahamas.

Companionship

07 February 2015 | 23 52.7N: 76 14.5W
jen&harv/diminishing winds, scattered clouds
(sent via ssb) With 275 miles to go we are slowly making our way north along the ruggedly disjointed Exuma chain of cays. First stop, Lee Stocking whose anchorage held an odd assortment of boats. We picked a spot and dropped our hook thinking everyone would swing together, but the currents are as wacky as the island. Soon we and our nearest neighbor were perpendicular to the prevailing wind and boats. When Annie and Tom (for so they were) returned Harv hailed them to come aboard for a drink. They are a delightful pair of aging "Foxfire" devotees on a 38' Caborico. We wiled away an hour or so, before they headed out to say hello to a newcomer they knew, Crazy Lady. The next morning, seeing us briefly get our outboard going before returning under oars, they yelled over, "Turn on your radio!" Soon we were dingying ashore with them to meet their boat-buddies, a loveable set of scavengers that included Crazy Lady's Ann, Joyce and Rick on the aptly named Outrageous (-ly funny) and a fascinating German couple on Bellatrix who had sailed rivers in Africa and South America. It was odd to have them so overtly taking things, but I couldn't in good conscience say anything. I'd taken what I needed.

On our way back Annie invited us all for evening noshes to celebrate catching her first-ever fish. Tom offered some carb cleaner, as a last resort, and so commenced our fourth dismantling of the damned outboard. This time Harv noted two slotted bronze ports that, upon closer inspection, yielded screws with even tinier athwartship ports into which I inserted a single strand of clean wire and then placed them in the cleaner for a bit. When all was buttoned up it came happily to life. I've decided we need to keep this engine. I know it in the biblical sense, that's got to have some value.

It was a companionable evening, all of us tucked into Annie and Tom's cockpit, passing dishes, raising glasses. We stayed until after dark, but with another big blow expected we could not stay for a second party scheduled for the next night. In the morning we motor-sailed up to the "hurricane hole" pond on Rudder Cut Cay. Perhaps fearful of the narrow entrance or the prominent "NO TRESSPASSING" sign, most people pass by this tiny protected pocket bay, but the controlling depth is 2 meters and the bay large enough for a couple of boats with good holding. Once in, it opens to a near perfect circle; at the south end there is evidence that this was once a loved place. A small house with half a roof sits tucked amid the scrub. Metal pipes of various heights mark a channel to its "drive way". A well cleared road beacons with a sweeping rise that crests the hillock just behind the house. There are huge cacti, and pretty swaths of beach. To the north, the hillocks lower to give a brief glimpse of crashing spray accompanied by the roar of surf. There are several, more wary considerations: A large navy tender lies disheveled well up the northern shore; several enormous chunks of foam are hidden under the greenery like forgotten Christmas presents; a semi-submerged barge, rusted to near oblivion, hides in the southeast corner; and two huge white bollards can be seen at strategic locations just above the high tide line? one wonders what tales they could tell.

By mid-afternoon we had a companion - another 37' Caborico. What are the odds?! As we motored around trying to gain faith in our outboard the owner of Second Wind invited us aboard for a cold beer. Dave is a happy, courteous, talkative single-hander (for the time being) who had been here many times, "and you're the first boat I've seen inside!" He is bronzed and slight with a massive leg injury from a competitive skiing accident, its recovering from its 6th operation and he is grateful to still have it after a staph infection in the bone. When he heard our intention to walk the road to see the other shore his head tilted and he asked cautiously, "Have you seen the dog yet?" He pointed out a very large, rather well-fed Shepard mix standing quietly on the shore, observing us? walks have been postponed, possibly indefinitely.

The next morning Dave suggested he take us over to the "sunken piano". It is a grand piano and mermaid sculpture commissioned by magician David Copperfield and placed in an obscure location just northwest of Rudder Cut; Dave had its position saved on GPS. It was amazing, surrounded by swath of pale sand with yellow tangs and colorful wrasses meandering in and out - very serene and beautiful. As the wind picked up we headed back to First Light, and after we'd climbed out we noticed his dingy prop had picked up an old, weed-covered 1" line. "Damn," he sighed, "it's that floating line." It seems some former island-owner had installed a mooring in the very center of the bay and this was it. As he freed it from his prop all I could think was THANK heavens we hadn't snagged it when we'd maneuvered for anchoring ? it was directly astern of us, nearly touching Hydie's rudder! I decided - as a Good Samaritan gesture - to sacrifice a small fender to mark it.

Since then the wind has absolutely howled out of the north ? and we have stayed put. We had Dave to dinner to break the tedium, but being stuck in this bay - with all its secrets - has been a godsend! Even with the wicked winds the boat has hardly any motion, only a slight yawing on our anchor. The cat, however, has had motion aplenty. She races from bow to stern, then back again, up to the boom, down on the dodger, back up to the bow where she'll stand ominously on the portlight and glare at the dog. Yes, he's still here. There are other houses on this cay, and an airstrip, but he's found us worthy of unflagging consideration. Usually he sits placidly; he will rise now and then to a downward-facing-dog yoga move, then look our way and wag his tail? then he'll sit and watch again. Perhaps he'd like to befriend Ms. B ? I'm not sure the feeling of companionship is reciprocated.

Northward

03 February 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina
jen / sunny, damp, light airs
Lee Stocking Cay, the once-upon-a-time research island, has slipped further into oblivion – it doesn’t take nature long to reclaim her own. The houses are empty or boarded up… save the one Rob and Lauren set up with couches, empty beer bottle and book “Lone Survivor”. The lab is bare of cabinetry; chemicals are haphazardly piled in the middle of the room. Scavengers have scrounged nearly every inch of copper wire yet they missed the mile or so of massive coaxial cable just lying on the ground worth over a dollar a foot. We did assist in the destruction. We ‘borrowed’ a bare aluminum window-shade tube to use as an oar handle, one of ours having broken on the way in (more on the dingy later). But we saved a small Helmut Conch that was trapped in a high tidepool. Does that make us even?

After a morning of walking beaches, Rob and I explored the defunct breeding pool whose floor is a mass of tiny hallow snails while Laruen snorkeled the bay hunting more gift-worthy shells. With lousy winds predicted for the next day we departed in the late afternoon, slipping back to Emerald over calm seas with the wind on our quarter. No matter Rob’s assurances, Lauren refused to believe that this sea-state had been the norm on our previous trips.

Emerald was, as always, lovely. We whiled away the windy hours playing pool in the clubhouse, dining at the neighboring Grand Isle and retrieving Ms. Bristol from her jaunts ashore. Rob and Lauren walked into the Sandals Resort without a problem. The place was deserted, but the gift shop well stocked. The next morning, with their treasures stowed carefully and their bags ready, we toasted their safe return one last time and bid them goodbye.

Emerald’s Super Bowl party salved our spirits as we connected with next-door boaters Dave and Toni on Celestial Melody. We’d helped them lower a blown-out foresail the night before, then loaned them Carol Hasse’s “Sail Repair” manual, needles and waxed thread. They have been hilarious company ever since. Yesterday we rented a car together (at $30 each a fabulous bargain!) to re-provision in George Town and see a bit of the island. Dave drove well, though he kept activating the wipers when he wanted the turn signal. We stopped at every grocery and liquor store we passed – Smitty’s was our favorite - the cashier there gave me the recipe for Bahamian Peas and Rice! (a combination of rice, crushed tomatoes, red beans, thyme, salt and pepper to taste and something called “Browning” that I’ve never seen before … I purchased a bottle!) We ventured into ‘Top II Bottom’ – George Town’s version of Walmart, only closet sized. Dave was after sail needles and thread, we needed Hypalon glue … but not at $50 a tube! Dave mentioned that he had new glue aboard; I said we could part with some real sail needles and thread, and so a bargain was struck; I love it when a plan comes together!

To cap off our adventure we decided to drive north for lunch in Rolletown (pronounced Roll Town) but everything there was closed on Monday. The attendant at Emerald suggested BarreTarra, another quarter hour beyond saying there were two restaurants, one at the top of the hill and another at the beach that would certainly be open. Off we went, turned at “The Y” (which is more of an X), over two bridges and there we were… in a speck of a town that appeared deserted. We paused where the main road ended, then took a right and were nearly hit by a car with their wipers going, which made us all laugh. The road died at a lonesome limestone cliff. We turned around and soon were spotted by Phillip who, in a thick Bahamian accent, directed us toward “a great place to eat … at the top of the hill.” We knew we’d gone wrong when the pavement abruptly ended and we were looking down at a mass of mangrove-speckled bog-land that makes up the western side of Exuma. Re-tracing our steps again we found Phillip, laughing and gesturing us to a side street where in fact there was a restaurant … only it was closed. Undeterred he hailed the proprietor who said it was her day off but she would be happy to cook us cracked conch. Fatigued and famished, we gleefully accepted and ordered cold beers to sustain us while we waited. It was wonderfully tasty and appreciated. We bought a beer for Phillip in thanks and returned to Emerald and a rather disgruntled Ms. B who’d been locked away all day.

Today dawned curiously foggy, much like our path forward. And while the sun burned off the mists in short order we are still at sixes-and-sevens. Along the lines of ‘it’s never just one pile that hits the fan’, our dingy’s oar tie-downs had to be replaced, the inflatable floor’s tie-down-tabs are a design flaw as they’ve caused a seam to fail. (A flaccid floor isn’t just a pain to try to stand on, being wobbly when you get in and out is a safety issue. Hopefully Dave’s glue has done the trick, but the jury’s still out.) Then there’s the broken oar (probably not caused by Rob and Lauren’s placid row into Lee Stocking, but more likely our excellent adventure in George Town) and while we’ve fixed it, rowing can be problematic, especially if the wind/current turn against you on your way home. And of course the damned outboard which we’re still trying to solve. As Harv sipped his coffee this morning he sighed, “What’s the message Jen? What is the universe trying to tell us?”

There are already boats moving up and down the coast, repositioning before the next blow. And we are off as well, north for sure, but where? … and oh, there is SO much north to go!

(the net is slow so photo posting is a challenge, however Rob's photos might be able to be viewed on FB at
https://www.facebook.com/#/media/set/?set=a.10100373853816189.1073741837.43802907&type=1

Rough Bits

30 January 2015 | Back at Emerald Bay Marina
jen / sunny with building northerlies
The Trade Winds, those consistent northeasterly winds that have over the centuries shaped the mariner's existence in The Bahamas have failed. Settlements, harbors and marinas here are all geared for those consistent winds. This, when the winds get weird, makes finding a 'safe harbor' problematic. What has replaced the Trades are cold, gusty westerly - northwesterly winds upwards of 20 kts. Every now and again there will be a day reprieve, maybe two, but then the weird winds return with a vengeance. This pattern is predicted to be predominant for quite a while.

And so, the final week of Lauren and Rob's visit found us hunkered down at Emerald Bay Marina. This is not a bad place, it's palatial by small-boat standards, but it's a MARINA. You're tied up, surrounded by other boats and no matter the amenities that gets old quickly. Lauren spent our imprisonment snorkeling off the Sandals Resort where she found a lovely small Helmut Conch, but it was still inhabited so she returned it to the reef. Rob, Harv and I have tried in vain to fix the outboard. We think it's a wacky thermostat or oil pressure sensor gone bad ... Winslow is meditating on it. (Thanks Winslow!) And so we've salved our sorrows in the delightful Pallappa Bar next door. They're known for their pizzas ... ours ran to $100 - with beverages.

Eventually the winds did slip back to a semblance of normal and, after a last Pallappa breakfast courtesy of Lauren (thanks Lauren!) we decided to chance a run to Lee Stocking Cay - only 2 hours north. We knew it would be rough, but it's only 2 hours away. We could handle anything for 2 hours. The cat, sensing the situation, hunkered down in her favorite primo spot in the lee on the down-hill side of the cockpit and out we went.

Emerald Bay is lovely, but the entrance is abysmal. The chart shows you over the reef and/or land when you're in the (thankfully) buoyed channel; great that they put in the buoys but it still makes one question the veracity of the REST of the charted reef. Still we made it out, bouncing into various watery holes then climbing up steep mountains of water. The wind was on our beam ... but so were the seas, and the nearness to the land was making them pile up considerably.

Rob took the helm, grinning from ear-to-ear saying, "I love this!" Lauren was less pleased. Thirty minutes into the run she asked for some Stugeron - the British version of my favorite sea sickness medication Marezine which is no longer available. It's a great med mostly because you can take it AFTER you feel sick, and it'll work in about half an hour... it's amazing stuff! Sure enough, as the pill took effect she began to come back to life, making single word comments at first, then asking questions: Was it this rough on the trip up Baja? More so. Did you ever feel, even for just one second, that you weren't going to make it? No, never.

To help her see the light at the end of the tunnel I pointed out the "prominent house" and "monument" that mark the entrance to Adderly Cut, just off our bow. As soon as you enter the rather straight-forward cut the seas diminish to inches, versus meters. The joy - for us all - was palpable. We skirted around the northern end of the island and picked up our favorite buoy just off the dilapidated dock. As the island's deserted now, Harv had me back down on the mooring mightily, but it held. No sooner was the engine shut down than Lauren's sing-song voice was calling out from below, "Dark and Stormies for all? And cheese and crackers?" A resounding "YES!" was heard from all hands.

Sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the lovely afternoon and the freedom and quiet that is Lee Stocking, we fell to discussing the day. Harv chimed in that none of us like the rough bits, but you deal with them as best you can because they get you to wonderful places like this.

The whole discussion made me think of my brother who has just won his battle with cancer - not the war maybe, but a major battle (that is enough for now). He and his lovely wife have gone thru some hellish stuff and are moving on with their lives, making big decisions and looking forward to enjoying the wonderful world around them. And it occurred to me that sailing ... marriage ... life ... is like that. You can't stay imprisoned in a safe marina forever, you've got to choose to make the leap even though you know it'll be difficult. Then it's all about getting thru the rough bits so you can enjoy the wonderful stuff in between.

One in Every Bar

27 January 2015 | Emerald Bay Marina
jen / windy, dry and cold
The past few days have seen bouncy seas, fluky winds and a lot of re-thinking of routes. The trip from San Salvador to Conception, one of the Bahamian National Parks, started with calm seas and light winds, but we put up the main anyway - for good measure - and motored along westerly. By mid-day the seas had risen to a point where we were bounding along smartly with still not enough wind to sail. Our plan had been to anchor east of Conception to check out the nesting colony at Booby Island and snorkel the reefs which are purported to be fantastic, but unexpectedly the wind backed easterly, so we came around the southern end of the island and up the western side into clear turquoise waters and anchored between a catamaran and a very grand mega-yacht / "research vessel" named Rosa.

Rosa had an amazing array of gadgets and a garage to put them in! There was the standard inflatable RIB (rigid inflatable boat), a grander fast-fish-boat with canopy and massive outboards, but what stole the show was an ATV-boat, much like a tiny version of Seattle's Duck Mobiles. Its wheels, stowed horizontally when afloat, flipped down when it reached the sand... and along the rather long stretch of beach it would zoom, back and forth; it was really quite remarkable! The people aboard did not look like researchers but rather like grandparents. We thought, briefly, of striking up a conversation, asking them for a bucket of ice (Lauren had wrenched her knee at Club Med, one of those "last run of the day" adventures) but they were away ... researching we presumed.

In the morning, as the wind freshened and clocked around to the west we took our little dink ashore to check out the lonely beaches, splash in the pristine waters and take some pictures. Before long though, it was clear snorkeling was out of the question. Sitting on the beach, watching First Light pitch vigorously up and down in the rising wind and waves we decided to alter our plans yet again and we were soon off to Georgetown, Exumas. It seemed the right decision (who wants to pitch all day at anchor?), but 2 hours into our 7 hour trip with the wind in our teeth, the seas rising and shortening it became clear we were in for a bumpy ride. We took hour-long shifts at the helm and, in between, munched crackers and tried to stay put. Ms. B was inconsolable with her head tucked into the corner. It was well after dark by the time we arrived at the Georgetown anchorage area in the southeastern part of Elizabeth Harbor looking at a Milky Way of anchor lights, over 200 in all. Rather than dodge dingies filled with tipsy boaters returning to dark boats we found a 2.1 meter spot on the western edge of the bay and turned on our deck lights for safety sake. Then we slipped into well-deserved dark and stormies and tucked into fresh baked cornbread, smoky links and salad.

We transferred to the actually anchorage the next morning with the goals of 1) showers, 2) laundry and 3) birthday dinner at wonderful beach bar, Chat 'n' Chew, for Lauren's 27th! But before we could get started our boat neighbor, Bill (alone aboard Charisma), came over with a smile to ask if we'd been to Georgetown before. He then proceeded to berate us for anchoring in grass and for having an inferior anchor which he as certain would fail in the predicted westerly blow that was due in overnight. When Harv assured him we had faith in our ground tackle and had set our anchor properly Bill's voice began to rise until it crescendo-ed with him yelling that it was "his profession" and he could suggest "numerous books" if we cared to "enlighten" ourselves. He ended his rant by advising us that he drank dark rum saying, "You better have some ready when you crash into me at 2am!" ... and away he sped. Boats, it would seem, are not always properly named.

About 0930 Monday morning, Rob, Lauren and I decided to take the dingy into Georgetown for groceries, fishing gear and souvenirs. Winds weren't predicted to rise until noon and the outboard purred sweetly the entire mile over to town. Our 1000 return trip, as the rain spat down and the wind piped up, was less pleasant. With three quarters of a mile to go to First Light the outboard just abruptly stopped - no warning, no sign of problem, she just 'no work'. I took to the oars while Rob tried to cajole it into happiness without success. For about ten minutes I flailed against the rising wind and waves; it was slow going. Finally a sailboat passed us ... and then turned around! Its sweet-hearted captain, Thomas, hailing us to climb aboard as he joked in his thick accent, "We thought it was an odd morning exercise, rowing in the rain." He and his wife were on the last leg of their year afloat, soon to return to Germany and jobs. We laughed and chatted all the way back to First Light then left them with our boat card and an open invitation to sail with us in Washington State. I do hope to see them again some day.

Groceries secured we left Bill to his own devices and headed north toward Emerald Bay Marina. The wind was supposed to be building westerly which would give us a fine beam reach up, but it was on our nose again so we bounced along in steep, quick swells the two hours to Emerald, which is now owned by the neighboring Sandals Resort. It is still as gorgeous and friendly as ever with floating docks (yea!!), a beautifully appointed cruiser's lounge, free laundry and wonderful hot showers. The dock attendant informed us that there would be complimentary hors d'oeuvres and rum punch in the bar at 5:30. "Don't be late!" he cautioned with a smile.

We weren't! Conch fritters, sandwiches, chicken wings, fruits, cheeses ... the spread was impressive and the company entertaining. We fell in with fellow PNW-ers Ann and Dan from Vancouver BC, who were visiting friends Karen and Ken on a 57' Nordhaven - Harv's dream boat! Curiously enough, parked next to Ken and Karen, and not for the first time it seemed, was none other than Rosa! Ken had gotten to know her crew and told us the rest of the story: The research angle was a tax scheme; they don't really study anything. The owners - those grandparent-looking folks - had come down specifically to go to Conception and would not be dissuaded by the rough weather. Against the advice of their Captain they had all the toys launched and, sure enough, the re-stowing of some of the boats was ... problematic and caused some significant damage.

It takes all kinds I suppose, and all in all, boaters are generally a friendly lot - there are those with fabulous boats and those with modest ones, most generally believe that we're all out here to enjoy the view and in our experience that's true - most are wonderful, helpful people ... as for the others, we're gratefully there's only one in every bar.

(Photo of our Rescuers by Lauren - Thanks Lauren!)
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