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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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Spring is here and brings with it Lyric!
03/20/2009, Georgetown

Friday, March 20, 2009
The first day of spring and a very happy birthday to Grand Baby Lyric!

We listened to the Cruiser's Net at 8am and all the announcements and weather. What a cool way to find out about what's going on in this little gypsy harbor. They give the weather and what's going on for the day in the various places. Then they have any community businesses announce or advertise, then who's leaving, who's new, and a type of want ads of who needs what or who has what, ending with a question/answer session.

After that we lowered the dinghy, collected our garbage and went over to Georgetown. It seemed a long ride across the harbor. Wayne says it's about a mile and a half to two miles and it seemed quite a stretch. We hauled our garbage with us and found the garbage bin then walked around trying to find the post office, grocery store, etc...

We met some people on the dinghy dock getting water and I asked about the post office, where to get copies, etc... I think the boat name was Moonlight Serenade (Sheila) and they said they were returning to the states Monday if we had mail we needed taken back. We may take them up on the offer. We went to the tourist office to find out about where to make copies but they were all in a meeting so we decided to head to the Post Office to see if they had access to a computer printer or knew where we could get print outs. After trying to give me directions, they discovered we were new to the island and after 20 questions we figured out where to go (J&K Productions). Back past the straw market (I have to return there too) and past the tourist office and up the road past Mother's Breads and the Hot Dog Stand that sells Conch Fritters.

We found the place and were able to get our printouts ($.25 each). I noticed the internet pricing was $2/minute there (cough cough) so internet access may have to wait until I can find a cheaper source.

We chatted with a guy from Sail Magazine wanting to put together a book about the Intercoastal Water Way (Chris?). We both recognized him from somewhere; Wayne later decided it was probably from a picture in the magazine. He was busy chatting up an older Bahamian Woman, kidding her about trying to steal Steven from his wife (in the book "An embarrassment of Mangos") and I kind of jumped into the conversation. I couldn't believe that this was that woman. She had her grand daughter there, and her daughter was the Bread Lady - Mother. While we were having hot dogs and conch fritters under the mango tree at the hotdog stand next to moms bread truck (yes I bought some and it's good bread - not as good as Bimini Bread but close) a couple we met at Warderick Wells (Pete & Camilla) - families hailing back to West Point came by and sat with us and had hot dogs (I got the last of the conch fritters).After chatting with them for a while we went over to the market and I bought some fresh vegis and fruit then we dinghied back to the boat. We got a little salted on the way back to the boat. The fetch was against us but the water spray felt good.

I had discovered that some coke bottles had leaked all over the icebox and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning it out before putting my new stuff in. In the process, I discovered that I had some produce that was loving the cool damp moisture in the bottom and was growing all kind of lovely things for me to clean up, so out came the bleach and I now have a clean frig.

Moms bread, Smithfield smoked pork, apple sauce and oranges were the dinner items in the cockpit tonight. It was a mighty fine meal and another beautiful sunset greeted by the conch horns. There was a meet and greet over at a beach but we just decided to hang out here and do nothing. It felt good. We looked at the charts to see where we should go to formally meet the Tropic of Cancer and have lunch. I believe we have pin pointed a spot. Now we just need to sit through the weather that's supposed to be heading our way this weekend.

It's dark in the cockpit as I write this. I just looked around and all of the anchor lights in the harbor look like little twinkling stars only closer than the heavens. The anchor lights are white lights at the top of the mast that you turn on when you're at anchor at night. That way any passing ships are aware that you're there. Here with all the boats so close together, there are hundreds of little lights in the sky when you look up. It also looks like little fireflies dancing around the harbor. The wind is picking up and we're swinging about on our anchor.

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...

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