14/02/2010/12:14 pm, Fresh Creek, Andros, Bahamas
February 14 is special in our family for 2 reasons - not only is it the day of hearts and flowers and chocolate and loving thoughts, it is JD Bissell's birthday! My Dad was the first caller of the day, followed by communication with my sister, Jim's sister and our 3 children, as well as emails from friends. When we are so far away from them all, it is special to be able to talk with them once in a while.
During the day, we dinghied up the creek to see what was there - a few pretty and well kept homes, and what looked like some good fishing holes in the shallows along the banks. It's a wide creek that must go for miles. No good spot for a picnic in the area we travelled so we turned around and went up along the coast a bit. We passed a couple of really grand places out there, and pulled the dinghy up on the rocky shoals at Calabash Creek to have our picnic. Because we weren't really comfortable leaving it there while we walked up the beach, we hopped back in and motored out to one of the cays just off shore. There was a pretty little beach there and we hoped there would be good snorkeling along the rocky shoreline but it was not our day to find fish or shells. The bottom was grass and although we went swimming, we hurriedly towelled off and got back into warm clothes - the air was just plain chilly.
In the evening, Cathy and Ann came to call. Scott (from Port Stanley ON) had been by earlier in the day and told us they had a Halifax friend staying with them so we were glad to meet both Ann and Cathy aka "Miss Halifax" who turned out to have grown up in Rockingham - within a mile or so from where we lived during our first sojourn in Halifax back in the 80's. Ann told us her family has been coming to Fresh Creek for many years and filled us in a bit on the history. Apparently there was once a large British community here - including a house on the corner of the harbour entrance - Cokeley House that was owned by the British Commonwealth and was thought to be a possible residence for the Royals if Germany had invaded England. The lovely but empty yacht club building hosted some fine parties and there was an upscale and positive atmosphere about the place.
Now - it seems to be a place of failed dreams although there are rumours that perhaps a new buyer will make some changes. Was it the Chickcharnees? These little Androsian leprechauns are rumoured to live in the forests where they bend the tops of pine tress together for their homes. They hang upside down from their three toed feet, glare with their piercing red eyes and cause trouble for anyone who disrespects them.
The AUTEC (Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Centre) base down the way is still a major employer, although apparently not as large a one as it was once. It must be a perfect spot for underwater research since just about a half mile off shore, the Tongue of the Ocean sweeps in with depths of up to 6000 feet. I love that phrase "Tongue of the Ocean" and that is just what it is - like the gouge a tongue makes in soft ice cream.
The world's third longest barrier reef lies off shore; Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas with the largest reservoir of fresh water and is home to many critically endangered species; hawksbill, Green and Loggerhead Turtles, Flamingoes and the Andros Rock Iguana. We found information from the Nature Conservancy and the Bahamas National Trust that promotes and educates.
Off to the Exumas in the morning - although we leave feeling that there is much to explore here another time.
13/02/2010/7:00 pm, Fresh Creek, Andros, Bahamas
The wind didn't start to blow till around 9pm and then it was a gradual pick up until all of a sudden at around 10, it was as if someone opened the skies and allowed rain and wind to come blasting out at us. We saw gusts up to 40 and they may well have been higher before we got the wind indicator turned on to check. It lasted maybe half an hour and then this pre frontal trough was pretty much over. The front passed through sometime after that but it was an anticlimax! The rain stopped; the wind quieted to 20 knots and all that was left was wildly thrashing waves crashing up against the pilings of the docks - and us of course. It dislodged the fender that we had jammed between us and a piling so we have some new "rubs" on the rub rails, but that was it.
In contrast, we heard from friends who saw 70 knot gusts during the night, and another whose boat broke free from a mooring and they experienced hours of 50 knots winds. On the Cruiseheimers network we heard folks saying, "We're still here!" as if it was a relief. I think the folks north of us were much harder hit.
On Saturday morning, the wind was still blowing from NNW 15-20 but we don't notice it all that much in the harbour. A look out at the reef shows waves crashing and lots of whitecaps - enough that those folks who usually spend their days on the reef stayed home! We took a lovely long walk on the beach that stretches south from the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour, trying to soak up whatever rays of sunshine we could get. It was 66F this morning, and didn't really warm up much all day.
This afternoon, we wandered over to the village, bought some eggs and butter from the Andros grocery store, and chatted with Diane who turned out to have studied nursing at Ryerson in Toronto. She's back here because she just couldn't stand the cold! Yesterday, the vegetable truck came to the waterfront and all the boaters as well as locals lined up for his fresh produce. Because I was already well supplied, I bought only limes and plantains, but he had tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, cabbages too - such a luxury here. Donna came by with more bread - we bought cinnamon raisin this time, but my favourite is coconut. The problem is that coconut bread and butter put pounds on faster than anything I know - and eating a half a loaf at one sitting only makes it worse!
We visited Mary in her little basket weaving shop and bought a bread basket for $8. I confess, I bought it mostly to study the weave, since it its the kind I started doing when we were here in the Bahamas last time. I picked some fronds on Frazer's Hog Cay but I'm not sure I got the right kind since they seem to break easily and make a soft basket. Mary says she sits and weaves all day, everyday. In other places, we have seen groups of women weaving and plaiting and chatting together, and she seemed pretty much alone. I don't know if that's typical for her or not. That is one thing we've noticed about the Bahamas - no one ever seems alone. Men, women and children work and play in groups and we often hear wild peals of laughter and teasing ring out.
I hope the water has calmed by morning because we want to dinghy out to the reef to snorkel and explore. Our neighbours found a magnificent triton shell. Wouldn't that be a lovely Valentine?
12/02/2010/11:00 pm, Fresh Creek, Andros, Bahamas
Once again, we managed to sail most of our journey down the coast to Fresh Creek. The wind was behind us so it required some tacking, but we were in no rush - wanting to time our arrival here at mid tide or higher so we could get over the bar at the entrance.
We had read reports from other cruisers about going aground here, as well as stories in the guidebooks of mailboats coming to grief so we were a little worried. In the end, we had no difficulty although we kept a sharp lookout for reefs and shoals and channels. It is a bit unnerving to come along and see the waves crashing on the world famous reef, pick out which marker is which among the AUTEC posts and line up on mid channel to hit the deepest route over the bar.
Once in the harbour, we called the Lighthouse Yacht Club and Marina but when there was no answer, Jan and Dave (Arctic Cat) radioed back to say, "Just pull in against the dock and we'll take your lines!" Jim made a couple of narrow circles (the water is lots deep near the docks but it shallows out quickly on the north side) while I readied our lines. He then pulled us neatly up along side, we got lines attached to the pilings and hopped off. One guidebook had warned of fierce currents and difficulty getting docked. We found that, while strong, the current didn't present any problem, particularly as we motored into both wind and tide to tie up. We do agree that anchoring in the harbour would be foolhardy. The ferry comes in and turns right where one might be tempted to drop anchor, and besides, there is reported to be very poor holding. It might be possible outside the harbour entrance if the seas were very calm, but it didn't look that way to us.
We have yet another front coming through so we decided to bite the bullet and tie up until Monday. There is a good wifi connection here, and on Feb 14th it is important for us to reach and be reached by our family!
The marina building is lovely - airy and pretty. The docks (although not floating) are in good condition. The charge is $1.30 per foot per day with water, power and cable available at an extra cost. (We aren't using them.) Donna made us feel welcome.
We took a walk to the tourist office down the road and around the corner, and got a warm greeting from Shanise who told us that Donna - at the marina - makes and sells bread, gave us a map of the area and told us where the good eating places are. From there, we took a stroll around the town of Fresh Creek, picking up some frozen chicken wings for about $4 at Gaitors Store, spotting Hank's Place - reportedly great food, and generally taking in the area. This is not a beautiful place, but it is, like almost everyplace we've been, friendly. If we don't wave or call out a greeting first, we are sure to be responding to one in short order.
We had lunch at Kristina's cafe on Friday - delicious stew fish (snapper - with onions and a spicy sauce) and then took a walk to the Androsia factory and outlet store. There was no one around to show us anything and the shop door was locked with a sign in the door to come over to the factory. I wandered around a bit. asked the women working there if I could take pictures of the wax plates and the rinsing and dying process and received an OK. Eventually a lady came along and opened up the shop for us, but she wasn't very conversational so I didn't really find out anything about the operations. I may have to go back! We bought some placemats and a length of fabric. The colours are so vibrant and the fabric so soft that I'd love to have yards and yards of it in a rainbow of colours. It is hard to believe it all starts as plain white voile.
The AUTEC (Atlantic Undersea Testing and Evaluating Center) base just a bit further down the coast is a big American presence, and we've seen a bus with US Navy marked on it rattling along the road.
Many of our neighbours on the docks seem to be regular visitors, or else have been here for months. Bill and Anne Marie (Shunda) came for a couple of nights and have been here over a week. Now doesn't that sound familiar? The folks on the big fishing boat next to us are divers and brought back the most beautiful triton shell today. It has made me itch to go out snorkeling, but having spent today writing, and with the waves whipped up by tonight's wind, I think we will have to wait till Sunday.
I think I am finally up to date so if you have just picked up this entry, scroll back, and back, and back to see the last 5 or 6 new ones ... all the way back to a final Frazer's Hog Cay posting ... if you want to of course!