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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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We've decided - We're not coming back - April Fools...
SE winds from 5- 10 knots, sunny, 83*F.
04/01/2009, From Little Farmer’s Cay (23*57.250 W76*19.013) to Black Point (24*05.904 W76*24.236) Great Guana Cay;

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Anchor set at 1:00pm; miles traveled today 11.9 nm
We had a beautiful morning. I love listening to the birds and as we left the harbor with me at the bow scanning the water, Wayne at the helm taking us out, we didn't run aground (unlike our previous visit here).

We headed north and had a pretty nice sail. Half way here we passed by a loose fishing net float that Wayne wanted to retrieve so we came about to retrieve it and missed it - the winds refilled our sails with a vengeance and I had to rev the engine on and up to head her back to the float but Wayne got it picked up on the second circle, then we continued southward. He was hoping that it was a Japanese float because those are made of glass but it's a local one. Either way, it's a sea treasure bound for the North Country.

We got in and dropped anchor, then decided to check out the town & found an SSCA flag flying outside a small house and chatted with them. It turns out they're originally from Michigan too and are manning the SSCA Crusing Station while Sharon had to take care of some family business on another island (?). We got a map of the area and discovered we were going the wrong way, so turned around to head the right way into town.

While walking, we passed a woman that told us we just went by the oldest living person on the island and that today was her birthday. We went over to talk with her (Eunice). She was really sweet and told us that she loves cruisers. Today was her birthday & she believes that she's 100 but another lady thought she was around 89. She was sitting on a couch in the front yard shucking large bean type pods wearing a plaid jumper over a colorful shirt. As we approached she put on her hat and gave us a smile. We chatted a bit with her and she was sad. Several times she broke down into tears and I held her and hugged her. She has a son that lives in Washington DC that she got to visit once and loved going there. She was delightful and glad to have someone to chat with. I wanted to pick up a small cake or something for her from the grocery store but when we passed by it, it was closed and on the way back I'm ashamed to say that I forgot. It seems like the whole world has forgotten her on her birthday as she sits alone on her birthday in her yard.

After we left her and passed by the grocery store (that was closed), we stopped by the all age school. This one has several teachers and we got permission from Roberta (the Principal) to talk with the Bahama National Trust Teacher, Juanita Munroe, that teaches Environmental Science here. She's funded by donations to the trust and was teaching computers to the 1st-3rd graders (and 1 kindergartener - who made it know) when we came to her classroom. It was really nice to chat with her and discuss how they might possibly integrate the National Parks into the Science curriculum here so that the students will grow up realizing what a treasure they have and how it needs to be nurtured, restored and protected so that future generations will benefit.

They have a wonderful Laundromat here - the cleanest, brightest one I've seen. The news is playing on the TV and it caught our attention. There's mention of the government wanting to force G.M. into some form of protective bankruptcy??? Wow. Every time we hear anything about the economy - it's not good.

We ran into Sapphire in Lorraines Café. They were having a late lunch with another couple & Mike was working on his computer. I was wishing I'd brought mine along but didn't know they had accessible wireless at the restaurants. In another couple days I should be able to access the internet at the Park (I hope). I think that the last place I accessed it was at the Park now that I think of it. Wayne doesn't mind being out of touch. It bothers me more than him. This summer I need to figure out how to set up a server/wifi connection on the boat that's reasonably priced. I hate having to depend on everyone else's access points and there must be something I can do.

We continued on with our walk to a beach/fishing area where I spotted an Osprey sitting on a railing looking in the water for dinner and checking out the dock area at the gulls. I was amazed at how close it let me get. They are really amazing birds and I probably took 20 pictures of it before I remembered that Wayne was waiting for me.

It was another nice sunset and the conch horns sounded the sun down into the water along with all the birds calling to each other as they grouped and nested for the night. The air feels much warmer and humid tonight. The fishermen are coming in on their boat and a dinghy is dropping them all off at different areas around the island. I couldn't see where they had any fish, but there were about 20 fishermen on the boat with their crab traps, nets, etc... They really light up the night in their boat - bright lights with a loud generator.

I cannot believe it's April... It's turning beautiful back home about now. Snow, Rain, spring flowers beginning to pop up and birds singing...

A true little Bahamas village/town
03/31/2009, Little Farmer’s Cay 23*57.250 W76*19.013

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let him sleep in."

After coffee and peanut butter and jelly and pears (yah, yah - I know - some breakfast...) we put the dinghy down and went over to the government dock on Little Farmers to find out whom we pay for the mooring and to explore the island. We tied up and chatted with two men on the dock who told us to check out the grocery store and stop by later at the bar for a free drink for the "sailor". From there we went to the Ocean Club and chatted with Terry Bain (owner of the establishment) and determined that we had his mooring (it was either his or little Jeffs). He's a well-traveled guy and speaks several different languages (even some Chinese). When you walk into the place the first thing you notice is all the flags hanging from the ceiling. Various countries and club pendants hang from the rafters. I should have gotten a picture but didn't think of it. We made ordered conch for dinner at 6pm and then went walking the island. It runs a little over 1-¾ miles one way and ¾ of a mile across so we decided to walk around it and explore.

We found JR's house - a wood carver - and stopped to chat with him and play with his puppy. I bought a little Peal Owl (the live in holes in the ground) carved out of tamarind wood. He's been doing his wood carving for 44 years, bless his soul. So anyone wanting to put in a special order can call him or hail him on Channel 16 and he'll do a special order that you can stop back by on your way back to pick up. He was working on a bonefish when we stopped by to chat.

Further up the road we found the All Grade School and stopped and chatted with the two teachers and the kids. There's a primary teacher and a secondary teacher and they have about 20 kids (8 secondary with 2 seniors). We got to tour the school and I was amazed by how focused the students were. It was impressive. All the students are expected to go to college after graduating. Because they're out islanders, the government pays for their tuition but they must have a C average (A or B is better). I was thinking how sad it is though because after they go off to college, most don't come back. There's no job market here. If you look around, it's older people, kids and fishermen. This island has a population of 55 people and they're descendents of 3 - 5 families. It's sad to think that there's nothing for them here but other than fishing, the main livelihood on this island are the people that come to visit - the cruisers and tourists.

After talking about life on the island here and the students we followed the road around to the airstrip at the other side of the island and stopped at the marina (it has 4 slips for boats) for a cold drink. It's a pretty little marina on the inside - nice bar and restaurant area and from there continued on our loop over a small foot bridge back to a road that led us back to our starting spot at the dock.

We returned to the boat and got some soap/shampoo then went swimming and cleaned up for dinner, then read some and napped. I drifted off to the sound of birds singing. I've missed the sound of birds. They have wild parakeets and parrots here.

"How Sweet It Is to do Nothing All Day Long And After Having Done So, To Rest."

After our rest we dinghied back to the Ocean Club for our beers, conch dinner, and ice cream and to settle up our bill for our moorings. The Ocean Club is a nice establishment and Terry Bain, et al wonderful people to chat with.

It's a wonderful little island that has the 2nd smallest isolated community in the Bahamas and has an unspoiled Bahamian flavor. Enchanting. Once again - like Oriental, N.C. "we like it for what it's not"...

Goodbyes and new horizons
SW winds 5-10 knots, seas 1-3 ft, 80*F.
03/30/2009, Georgetown, Great Exuma/Elizabeth Harbor N23o31.656 W75o45.934 to Little Farmer’s Cay 23*57.250 W76*19.013

Monday, March 30, 2009

The radio chatter started earlier than usual. A lot of those that didn't leave yesterday, are leaving today - going north, south and where ever they are ultimately headed for... Ports called home; New Ports; Old ones. A lot are staying but the harbor is emptying out faster with each good weather window that presents itself. The goodbyes on the radio and watching everyone waving to each other from boat to boat and yelling their farewells into the wind are heartrending. I could hear the tears and the voices choking up and it made me realize how much of a community this really does become. While we came very late into the season, I got a taste of the camaraderie that builds up with time here. It's comforting that a group of wandering souls can find each other and build itself into a far-reaching family where ever they wander. Everyone seems ready to help everyone else out. Broken generator? Hey I know how to fix that, or I have the part you need... Dinghy escaped? Duchess to the rescue! Yoga lessons? Duchess again - 8 am Monday through Friday on Honeymoon Beach. On and on...

It was a beautiful travel day and we joined in the parade of boats leaving the harbor (second shift) after the announcements and weather. I watched the first shift leave at daybreak when everything is between darkness and light. No color, only gray tones but sailing ships going down the channel their moods probably as colorless as the images becoming visible in dawns twilight. We followed the zig zag through the coral heads and sandbars and Wayne put out a fishing line hoping to catch something as we left the cut or entered the one going into Little Farmers Cay. No luck in either one.

I'd like to return to George Town. It's a unique community. It's definitely a unique community. I'd like to be here during the regatta when it's at full capacity just to see what it's like.

It was a pretty uneventful sailing day. We had all the sails up to catch as much wind as possible and motored to maintain 6 knots to get into Little Farmers before the light got to low and we couldn't see the rocks and sandbars. The last time we were here anchoring on the west side of the island we bump, bump, bumped all the way in and the same thing leaving. It wasn't to bad because it was the sand bars, but coming in this time we had to see in order to avoid the many coral heads on the east side of the island. We came through the cut around 4 pm and I took the bow - rock watch while Wayne took the helm. I'd ask every so often what his depth was as the color of the water changed beneath me and we had no problem finding our way to the south east corner of the island where it said you could anchor. We got there and were greeted with mooring balls and decided to pick one up since the winds were light (hey not much stress on the line so we should stay put). It looked like it was attached to a large cement block on the bottom.

I made sloppy joes for dinner and we're enjoying some gin and tonics with ICE! We're now making ice as the freezer is emptying and I'd forgotten how nice gin and tonics are... Ahhh another sundowner... never miss a sundowner. I do miss hearing the conch horns usher in sunset though...

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