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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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Happy Birthday James From George Town
03/19/2009, Little Farmer Cay to Great Exuma Island

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Well, we made it to George Town after a later start than we intended. We started to leave at 9am and didn't leave the harbor until after 11:00am. We kept playing bump-um with a sandbar until we got around it and then slowly felt our way out of the harbor. One of the local fishermen and his lady were having a great fishing morning. I yelled over to them "hello" and he waved and told us to "come back soon". I said "we may never leave at this rate", and he said "that's okay too" and he gave us some sage advice - "stay in the darker water - Avoid the light patches". Lessons are repeated until learned... We heeded his advice and managed to get to the cut (which was really kicking up) and throttled up for control and managed to spit out of the cut and into Exuma Sound. We were finally on our way!

Wayne put out our Cuban Yo-Yo, this time with a pink hula lure, but no luck. Not even a nibble. What do we have to do to catch a mahi? The winds were supposed to be out of the NE but they were out of the SE - on our nose the entire way. Needless to say, we had to motor, but that should have been expected since everyone seems to be out of diesel and gasoline until the 26th. We'd heard everyone calling around to the different Cays and marinas in search of fuel but none of the islands around here have any. Even the Marinas and the park were discussing it trying to figure out what to do. Rumor has it the Fuel boat will depart from Nassau for the outer islands on March 27th so who knows when it will get here in the outer islands.

As we approached Great Exuma we got a few sprinkles and watched the clouds continue to build in front and all around us. It was beautiful to watch the showers in the distance and the chatter on the radio indicated that a lot of people were using the opportunity to catch the rainwater to fill their water tanks. Unfortunately our decks are so salty we'd need a full downpour first to scrub the salt off before loading our water tanks. A beautiful rainbow streaked across the sky, and the closer we got to Elizabeth Harbor, the brighter it got. I wondered if George Town is supposed to be the "Pot of Gold" at the end of the rainbow. It is theoretically the "Mecca" of Cruisers that come down to the Bahamas and spend the season. I hear that they are a tightly knit group that has all kinds of activities going on "in season" for the cruisers (Volleyball, basket weaving classes and conch horn lessons as well as card tournaments and boat races).

According to the chartbook, you should only try entering Elizabeth harbor during good light and weather conditions. Some of the things that the chartbook said and the Exuma Guide had me quite worried - from breakers washing across the entrance to rocks and shoals in and near the channel. Needless to say, we were coming in under cloudy conditions (semi-hazy due to rain), low light (around 5:30-6pm) and I could see large breakers surging and breaking over the reefs and rocks. I truly started shaking as we took her off the autohelm and I took my place at the helm. The Exuma Guide had talked about all the fools that decided to set in Waypoints to guide them in to the harbor and ended up crashing and destroying their boats on the rocks, and said DO NOT follow waypoints. I only had waypoints to guide me in since I couldn't read the water in the lighting conditions that we had coming into the harbor. We couldn't do a straight run into the Harbor because of our draft and I had followed various waypoints to the deeper water to guide us in. I noticed that it had taken the shape of a lightening bolt and hoped that that wasn't a bad omen.

Our path stayed deep enough. We had to give it a bit of gas in a few spots to counteract the breakers trying to push us sideways, and we got into the calmer waters of Elizabeth harbor. We're now anchored under the monument. There are still a lot of boats here, which amazes me with the flood of boats we saw the last few days heading north. We passed a small freighter port to port that had been trying to hail us to determine our intentions in the channel (I didn't know it was us he was hailing) then tucked in out of the channel in an open spot next to a boat throwing some kind of party. It had all it's flags out and they were having a pretty good time. A boat two down from us and on the other side was having quite an argument "I do everything around here and f*$% you..." Whoa!!! She sounded pissed at him. Wayne got the party chatter side and I got the swearing, ticked off first mate side of the boat. Needless to say, he didn't want to switch sides with me, so I went below and made some clam (shoulda been conch) chowder for dinner. We had a late dinner in the cockpit after a spectacular sunset with the requisite conch horns putting it to bed behind the hills.

After playing bump, bump, bump all morning with the sandbars, then the adrenaline rush of trying to get us into Elizabeth Harbor during huge swells and poor visual conditions - I suddenly feel quite tired after filling my stomach. Time to call it a day. The pot at the end of the rainbow? We are snug as a bug at anchor in George Town. Safe and secure for the night and you can't ask for more than that...

Traveling Day
Winds ENE to E 5-15 knots
03/18/2009, Warderick Wells (N24o23.651 x W76o37.963) to Little Farmers Cay (N23o57.238 x W76o19.644) 35 miles today;

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Well today was a travel day. We started out sailing pretty well then had to change course into the wind so had to motor sail the rest of the day. I really liked Warderick Wells and was kind of sad to leave but at the same time, there's always one more island, one more town over the horizon and I'll never be able to say I made it to the Tropic of Cancer in our little boat if we keep sitting here. I should probably clarify that we've crossed the Tropic of Cancer several times, and crossed the equator, as well as the International Date Line so it's not really that big of a deal. But this time I'd like to be able to do those things in our little boat. So this meeting of the Tropics and the Abens in their own little boat is kind of goal I've set for this trip. It's not much further down the road (so to speak). Today we crossed the North 23rd degree latitude mark so are steadily zooming in on the "Tropic".

I saw an osprey flying close to the water carrying a long silvery fish toward Harvey Cay. He went a long distance to cart that fish back to shore. I'm sure he'll enjoy it. Right after that I was watching the clouds build and go by while Wayne had the helm and noticed a GREEN cloud. I thought I was seeing things and brought it to Wayne's attention. Sure enough, he agreed it was a turquoise green cloud floating in front of larger cumulus clouds. We then noticed some of those cumulus clouds had green/turquoise bottoms! I have never seen a green cloud before and was awestruck (except for one chlorine one in Detroit that Mark made and then he was so worked up nobody could understand what he was saying). I must have taken 20 pictures and hope that one comes out. They were so pretty - and these you didn't need to run from. Wayne says they were just hung over from St. Patrick's Day LOL.

About 4:30 we ran aground into a sandbar and we managed to finally get anchored behind Little Farmer Cay around 5:30pm in 7 ft of water. I made some potato salad earlier for dinner tonight and then made some salmon and asparagus to go with it. We're sitting here watching the sun set now and the breeze is getting cooler as I sit in the cockpit writing this. There's a red starfish under the boat. The clouds look magnificent but I'm getting a chill. The only sound is some crazy rooster and the wind generator spinning around as the wind picks up. Time to call it a day as our cockpit light just came on. Time to read...

St Patti's Day
03/17/2009, Warderick Wells, Exumas

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There was barely a breeze last night. It seemed strange not to have a breeze coming through the hatches making my hair dance across my face tickling me awake at some time during the night. I got up and flicked on the radio to catch the weather from Highborne at 7:30 over coffee, then started reading Margaritaville. I noticed our electrical panel was reading 12.13, another indicator of no wind last night. Wayne kicked on the engine when he got up after I brought it to his attention. Then our daily weather from Exuma Park and the announcements of who is leaving, who wants to come in, and the list for tomorrow's boats that want to come in. It's become a strangely satisfying morning ritual.

I thought I'd come below and start breakfast and turn on the computer. While turning on the computer, a little bananaquit landed on my computer to say good morning. I didn't bother him. From my computer he flitted to the coffee pot, then the basket, the hammock, the V-berth, back to the table to look at me mournfully as if to say, "what, not even crumbs?" I had to laugh, then finally shoed him back out of the boat. Time to dig into the frig for some eggs. No green eggs or green ham for St. Patti's day though, eggs and sausage... Good morning world.

I read some and rummaged through the storage under the port side seats to dig out the remaining 7-2 liter bottles of coke for Wayne and to find my salsa and cheese dips. I've been craving salsa and chips for the last week for some reason. After that we dinghied over to the beach and walked to the park headquarters to settle up so we can take off tomorrow morning. Dave was sitting on the large wrap around porch with his computer (charging it up and trying to connect to Skyppe) and there were new people shuffling around inside the office looking at all the shirts, shells and artifacts. Judy gave me a smile as she was manning the radio, giving directions for the boats coming into the various moorings. How she can remember each turn by heart always amazes me. I told her we were going to check out tomorrow and figured we'd better settle up and also wanted to join the Bahamas Trust. She told me about the next island down and said to be sure to stop by the aquarium - I'd love it and asked if we'd be stopping by on the way back. Yes of course - I'd stay the 10 years that Wayne had joked about on our first day here if I could. She smiled and nodded in agreement. I also purchased a coffee mug. I forgot to bring sugar to leave for the banaquits so I'll have to remember to leave it on the return trip. Once we return to the boat the dinghy will be hoisted up for tomorrows trip.

We took the dinghy to Barefoot beach where I snorkeled a while, then we swam and loafed on the beach and took a saltwater bath, before returning to the boat. It's really very good for the soul to be able to find so many little beaches where you can pull up to and wander by yourself without another soul intruding on your quiet moments. There's something about the clear, aqua water that swirls around the white sand beaches that's very rejuvenating to the soul. Some of the water is so clear, you'd think it's only inches deep, but when you climb out of the dinghy it's almost up to your head.

Back at the boat, Wayne noticed a large school of fish right under us. Now I gotta ya that those fish were really pretty. Silvery with split tails the color of lemons. Theirs eyes were huge - like doe eyes and they had oval, rounded heads with an overall tear drop shape. It looked like you could reach down into the water and touch them. I know the water beneath the boat was 13 ft deep but you'd swear it was just right there. We have a book of all the fish of Florida, but couldn't find these at all. There were about 10 of them about 18 inches long. Really wonderful to watch them looking at us while we looked at them. They even came closer to the surface to look at us.

While making pork chops and sitting up top reading, we noticed that several dinghies were up on shore and several more were joining them. There must have been an announcement about a St. Patti's happy hour on the beach that we missed while we were out, because most people were in various shades of green. Unfortunately we'd already put the dinghy to bed and neither wanted to hassle with it so we just watched the festivities from the cockpit, Wayne hoisting his beer to them, me hoisting my diet Coke.

There were 4 young girls walking the low tide zone, collecting small conchs out of the water and piling them up in the water. "Is this one alive?" "I think this one is dead" We watched them scouring the tidal zone, taking count of how many each had found. I wanted so very badly to jump into the water and share some of what I knew with them about tidal zones, the algal mats they were walking on, etc... It reminded us both of many years ago when we had 4 little girls on the beach in St. Johns. We listened to these 4 chatting and were transported back. There are some days you wish could last forever. But those days get lost so fast doing what you need to in order to make a living. Those days in St John's I'll always treasure. I wish we could have had more of them. It saddens me to think that those days escaped, and were perhaps, not really appreciated. That was a time when we really didn't have a pot to piss in but we scrimped and went into debt and tried to make memories for the girls as best as we could. Even though faded, the memories are still with me, still with Wayne, nudged back to the forefront watching these 4 young ladies playing in the surf/tidal zone at sunset, collecting their treasures.

The conch horns are blowing now and I've got pictures of this golden sunset to take, so enough for tonight.

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