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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 Jackie!
03/10/2009, Allen’s Cay (24o44.954N, 76o50.262W) to Norman’s Cay (24o36.090N, 76o49.505W)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Up anchor 10:45am; Down anchor 3:00pm 6.5 ft of water 14.3 miles traveled.

Jackie's Birthday. Happy Birthday! A sunrise picture of where we are this morning for your birthday. It's been a while since we've shared a sunrise. I hope yours was as pretty as ours. I know it's not as warm there but hopefully you're sharing this one with us vicariously and I hope you have a wonderful day.

After hoisting the dinghy and stashing stuff we had a leisurely breakfast then dishes and we said adios to Allen's/Leaf Cays and headed for Normans Cay. After getting out past the coral heads and setting a 180o course south we turned off the engine and sailed until we had to turn into the wind at Norman's Stake. It was high anxiety time (will I ever get used to coming into unknown anchorages?) for me threading through the 6 ft water and coral heads but we didn't have any problems - just zig zagged a bit. This time Wayne took the bow and watched for the rock spots and I had the helm.

As we were anchoring a dinghy approached us - I recognized those two!!! Marie and Chris from Spirit was our welcoming committee again LOL. I love running into those guys! They've been here a couple days now and are with 3 other boats from KY that know the area and are heading out tomorrow - but hopefully we'll run into them at George Town. We plan on staying here tonight and tomorrow and then heading for the park, but it sounds like they've already been to the park. They both look delightfully browned. She's got some conch that they doused with alcohol in hopes of preserving the shells as well as having the meat. If it works, I'll have to try it but I think that the muscle will still stay attached (not sure, I'll have to wait and find out).

Right after that Aeolus dinghied over LOL what a small world! They'd been over to Spanish Wells for 5 days and they'd followed us in here. They'll be going over to MacDuff's (the Beach Club) later for happy hour but we're heading over at 5 for a couple of burgers (it's 4:30 now). I'd heard on the radio that they had pretty good burgers and I can't remember the last time I had one. Sea Witch just pulled in and is anchoring. Later...

Okay - McDuff's. It's a pretty cool looking place. Lotsa ambiance and if I were to put up a place ie restaurant/bar with rental cottages - it would probably be very similar to MacDuffs aka the Norman Beach Club. The people are very friendly and funny. The prices and service though...so, so, to be expected in the Bahamas I guess. To get to MacDuffs you land on the island on a steep sandy/sandstone beach on the west side (that's where we're anchored). There are two colorful cottages - multicolored but dominantly a yellow and a green one - visible from the water and MacDuffs behind the cottages. There are little wooden signs on stakes pounded into the ground that lead you to a path to go to the Restaurant or airstrip or the beach. MacDuffs is a colorful cottage place that has a screened inner sanctum where the bar/restaurant is and a covered porch area if you want to sit out. The restroom is a cornered off section back outside and down the stairs that's like an open air platform with a hatch work privacy fence on 3 sides that has an actual working toilet and sink with a hanging mirror. As you go through the brush to get to it, there's a sign that is clipped to a branch that says occupied on one side, and vacant on the other. You flip it to occupied when you're in it so people don't come around the corner and walk in on you. It's kind of what you'd expect to see on Gilligan's Island (what the professor would build). Practical but homey...

We sat on the porch part outside where there were quite a few dogs from Chihuahua to Labrador. The blond lab adopted Wayne to play fetch with her and she'd catch the stick right out of the air (Wayne couldn't throw it far - we were in a bar/restaurant platform area after all). We sat nursing our beers waiting for our burgers for an hour before we discovered that they'd never put the order in, so had another beer and waited some more. We saw Aeolus come in to the bar, then Spirit with their three other buddy boats came in to talk strategy for the next mornings trip to Little Pigeon or Belle Isl. (it turned out to be Belle Isl.). A half hour later we got our burgers, Wayne's with fries. The fries were perfect. The hamburger looked good until you opened the bun, then it was only half the size of the bun and overcooked. It was served with good condiments though so I enjoyed it anyway. I figured in my semi sober state after 2 beers - it's a $14 burger - it must be good, so it was - at the time. Reflecting back on it - I wouldn't do it again. $6 beers and a $14 burger sounds outrageous to me now. The place was definitely worth a visit though. It has wifi like at the Berry Island Club so purchase a beer and use the wifi I guess. I didn't, because I didn't bring my laptop. Looking at the menu, they seem to have very nice fare - lots of conch and fish dishes but I'd had my heart set on a burger .

We dinghied back at sunset and I'd missed a beautiful sunset and moonrise picture while returning to the boat. One setting and one rising. Unfortunately it was too splashy to pull my camera out during the dinghy ride. I'd gotten one pic of the sun as it was starting to set before getting into the dinghy but the sunset and moonrise was done by the time we got back.

A 6 conch day!
03/09/2009, SW Allens (Lone Palm island)

Monday, March 9, 2009

A 6 conch day. I plotted in a course over to Norman Cay for today. Wayne wants to see the old plane wreck there from the drug lord. We were going to head to Norman Cay today but decided to hang out here instead. We went snorkeling over at Allens Cay on the little beach where the car is starting to make a nice reef environment. I recognized many of the damsels, butterfly fish, etc. and there is coral starting to form on some of the car parts. We then headed to the unnamed islands and visited the sand bars where we're anchored, then proceeded over to SW Allens Cay (Lone Palm Island) and looked for conch along the tidal flats. I couldn't believe how many juvenile conchs there were there! Some were pretty good size but had no pronounced lip so we didn't take them and kept looking. We ended up with 7 "takable" conch but let the smallest one go. Wayne went back to the boat to get our hammer, screwdriver, knife and bucket (next time I need to remember my rock hammer for this job). This time instead of pounding the conch meat on the boat (and getting it all over) we decided to clean and smash (or bruise) the meat on the beach. It took longer this time and the first one we put the hole in the wrong spot. We counted out instead of in on the spirals and had holes all over the poor conch's shell so we couldn't get to him the normal way. Wayne ended up almost taking the entire tip of the shell off to get him out. After that we got the knack of it. I took the meat over to the rocks on the beach to start tenderizing it with my mallet while Wayne continued to skin the other ones, and the iguanas kept coming over trying to take my conch, hammer and board! I must have looked like a crazy woman swinging my mallet around and waving my arms trying to get them to back off. It's a whole lot of work for a little bit of muscle and the day was about over once we finished but we had a nice cracked conch dinner. It was weird because when we left this morning there were two boats in our anchorage - us and Sea Witch (a 30 ft Baba - Rich & Dave). When we returned boats surrounded us. Literally. 2 French speaking boats were on our side and behind us and a boat from NY in front of us. The one French boat we could have probably put a board across and used as a plank (okay not that close but you get the point). We started rolling and turning and he started getting nervous looking at us, but hey - he's the one that parked it so close to us... Anyhow I foresee a restless night wondering if we're going to slam into each other.

Wow - I am sunburned! I didn't think we'd be out all day and now I'm starting to sting like nettles.

Daylight Savings starts today
03/08/2009, Allen’s Cay Anchorage, A very nice weather day.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wayne put on the swim ladder today. I finished reading some more trash pulp - Vampire Junction. My brain is going to turn to mush. Then after lunch we went over to Leaf Cay (Iguana Island) to burn some trash in the fire pit and I found a conch the correct size for the taking (it had a pronounced lip on it) while wading in the water. I decided to keep wading to see if I could find another one but wasn't having much luck. A Bahamian boat anchored near by and asked if I'd like to buy some conch or lobster. He said his boat name was Secret One, David and Queenie. He wanted $25 for 4 conch or $20 for 2 lobsters and was adamant in letting me know it was almost the end of lobster season. He said he could bring them back tomorrow. After conferring with Wayne we decided it was to much.

While on the beach we met a couple couples from Michigan. They're anchored over at Highborne Cay - Boat named Tiger Sea. They're heading south also but for the Virgin's. We commiserated about St. John's - wish we were heading there too - maybe next year. After chatting with them we headed over to the other side of the island to scout for conch but no luck. So from there we went over to Allen's Cay to get some pictures of the Cairn there. We met a family from Maine there - Laurel, and her two boys Allister (5 yrs) and Dakota (8 yrs) were on the beach and her husband Charles was fishing with his Hawiian Sling for Grouper. I chatted with her & the boys while Wayne waded in the water looking for conch. I'd mentioned we were looking for conch and one of the boys said he saw ours in my bucket - would I like to see his? Yes of course. They had 4 on the beach and he said that he had another one that he put back because all they needed were 4. Would I like it? Well, yes if you guys don't want it. "We only keep what we will eat and there are 4 already. Impressive. So the older one Dakota put the one he'd put back into my bucket with the one I'd caught. Laurel explained how you clean them so after we got back to the boat and got a screwdriver, hammer and knife I wanted to go back over and have her show me how. She could instruct me on the one that Dakota gave us and I could mimic her actions on the one I found. So we dinghied back over to Allens and she said it's her husband that does that, she cooks them. He was just coming out from snorkeling so I asked him if he'd show me how. Yes of course. What a sport. Afterwards I felt like he got waylaid by me - I guess he did. But he said I could help him out by giving him the weather when I got back (which I did). He led me step by step on Dakota's and I mimicked him on mine. There's one part that's clear and looks like a worm that's supposed to act as an aphrodisiac from the stomach of the conch. You're supposed to slurp it down. Charles showed me it and proceeded to swallow it down. Then said I should try it. I told Wayne I'll try it if you do. Uh uhhhh... Then Allister said go ahead & try it. I asked him, have you ever tried it? Nope. I said - I will if you will. You take a bite then I will. He wasn't to sure about that, but after I said, oh oh, if he does, I'll have to too he took a bite. Sooooooo.... Yes of course I had to - I'd told a 5 year old I would so I did. Then after Allister tried it and I did, you know Wayne had to LOL. Diana you'd be proud of me!!! I didn't think I could do it but I did! Found one, killed it, ate part raw, cleaned, prepared it, cooked it! Laurel told me that before cooking it I had to pound it to almost a paste.

Wow - I got my first conch today, killed it, cleaned it, prepared it, cooked it and then.... The defining moment - would it live up to Hilda's??? I made the salad, we had homemade bread that I'd already made the day before (the seawater bread), mixed up a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, garlic, a titch of sugar, dredged it through the egg and mixture, then into the olive oil and onto the plates. Wayne tasted it first and said - just as good as Hilda's. I was ecstatic and tried it too. Marvelous. The only problem was, I wanted more... A sure sign of success. Well actually there were two problems. The other one was that in smashing or bruising it in the cockpit, I had bits of conch meat flying all over (including me). Messy business. I'll have to remember to try and prepare it before bringing it to the boat from now one.


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