16/03/2010/11:20 am, Lee Stocking Island, Exumas
We finally tore ourselves away from Little Farmer's Cay on Tuesday. We have friends to see in Georgetown so it's time we headed in that direction.
We had hoped to get up to Oven Rock on Great Guana Cay to explore the cave and the beach with Kolibrie and Solitaire but it was not to be. Despite Monday being a lovely day in the harbour, we could see breakers rolling in up north where we'd have to dinghy and none of us really wanted to get into that. Instead, we all did "housekeeping" things.
I got the last few postings up, but I couldn't get pictures to go through because of low bandwidth (or should that be "narrow"?) and didn't have enough time available to answer any e-mails. So - my apologies to all of you! It will be nice if we can get a chunk of time with a strong signal in Georgetown.
Dinner on Monday night was stewfish - made with the grouper Jeffery caught, and with his recipe - well sort of. He told me the basics of how he (or maybe his mother?) makes it and I went from there. Because neither of us used any measurements, it was one of those dishes that I may never get quite the same again - which would be a pity. The general idea is to make a roue of flour and butter, add some fish stock and seasonings, including enough hot pepper to give it a bit of a zing, along with onions and peppers. When that is nice and bubbly, add fish fillets and some potatoes and cook till done (as they used to say in the old recipe books.) Someday, I'll try to get that into clearer recipe form, but those of you who like to invent dishes can have a go at it from Jeffery's directions.
We stopped at Lee Stocking Island on Tuesday night but chickened out of going through the narrow channel to the anchorage in front of the research centre. When the depth was down to inches, we did a quick turn and dropped the hook just between the shoal and the corner of the island. There were three boats out there so perhaps others had reservations about the depth too. When we dinghied in later, the hand held depth sounder showed that we could do it at mid to high tide. We sure wish the Explorer charts were on our Navionics chip in the cockpit chartplotter. It is a lot harder to pick out a route from paper charts, and I have great admiration for the folks who always do it that way. Our chartplotter is great in Canada and the US but it leaves a lot to be desired here. Some brands have the Explorer routes and waypoints on them already. We enter the waypoints but have to figure out the curvy routes ourselves!
Ashore, we signed the required forms relinquishing the Perry Institute for Marine Science from liability if anything happened to us there, and went for a hike down the runway and through the bushes to Coconut Beach. Because we had forgotten to take water and had only our light sandals on our feet, we didn't hike to Perry Peak. We'll save that for another visit. The tours are offered Mon, Wed and Fri, so we'll have to do that another day too. On the walk back we enjoyed meeting Karen and John (Felicity) and were sorry that our paths crossed so briefly.
Once the tide changed and the boat stopped swinging around as it did when the current and wind were opposed, we had a beautiful quiet night. The Bruce anchor dug in really well and reset perfectly when the tide turned.
This picture is sunrise at Lee Stocking Island - so peaceful and beautiful.
14/03/2010/3:13 pm, Little Farmer's Cay
Another fine day! Aiden returned our dinghy with the motor all fixed and stayed for a soda and a visit. This is the first time we've met him, although we've heard others speak very highly of him. Although his primary occupation is fisherman, Aiden is the local government representative on the council that manages the area from Highborne in the North to Bock Cay in the South. There is one rep from here, one from Staniel Cay and three from Black Point, each elected for a three year term. He likes it and says it has opened his eyes to the complexities of getting things accomplished and the importance of working together for the common good of all three communities. We really enjoyed talking with him, and he was very curious about the way we do things in Canada, a fellow Commonwealth country.
As soon as Jim returned Aiden to the dock, we hopped into Solitaire's dinghy and along with Kolibrie headed off south past Hattie Cay to Little Galliot, and then west to where the shoal should be. For the longest time, we wondered if it was imaginary. Then we started to see a line of white and for the next longest time, we wondered if it was in Florida as we grew sloooooowly closer to it until we could see a great long, high, S shaped curve of sandbar. We never knew this existed because we never travel this way (The charts with their magenta lines do not cover a route out here, and we can see why!) We got there about 2 and left around 4 and there was still sand showing.
With the dinghies beached and plastic bags clutched in our hands, we spread out to explore, dig, and collect. (On second thought, it was only the women who carried bags - does that mean we were greedier, more optimistic or, simply more prepared than the men?) We each found some lovely shells - angular tritons, sunrise tellins, milk conchs, sand dollars and small king helmets among them. It was like finding Brigadoon - that mysterious village in musical theatre - except this appears every day, and even though it is a significant shoal from which we could still see Little Farmer's, none of us knew where it was and it can't be seen from the Cay. We heard that David Copperfield, who owns Musha Cay threw a grand party here once, and it is sometimes used for weddings. (I hope the longeveity of the marriage is greater than the place of the ceremony!)
It was altogether a glorious afternoon of sun, sand, water and fresh air, to say nothing of new specimens for our collections.
Happy hour was on board Kolibrie - such fun for us to be on a sister ship - and we enjoyed more delicious appetizers and, along with our dark'n'stormies, a taste of a very smooth Mojito rum (with lime and mint) from Pat and Wayne's cupboard, as we celebrated sundown of another fine day.
13/03/2010/3:10 pm, Little Farmer's Cay
Despite the wind - that blew Winfield Lash and Kolibrie off their moorings on two successive nights - we've been having a good time here. We all have anchors out now, in addition to mooring lines, and are more confident that we'll stay where we should.
Pat (Kolibri), Marge (Winfield Lash) and I went for a "women only" ramble around the island on Friday, shelling, sightseeing, and sharing our experiences of the cruising life. We didn't find too much in the way of beautiful shells, but the looking is always fun, and walking straight down the middle of the runway at the airport was a bit of a lark. We did keep our ears tuned and eyes alert for approaching planes! When we first entertained the idea of going cruising, Eileen Quinn told me that I'd find it important to be able to go off on my own from time to time, and all three of us agreed that it is true. Sometimes we need more space than 36x12 feet allows; sometimes we need to make decisions without consultation; sometimes we want to do something our partners are not interested in; sometimes we are fed up with the company at home and need an alternative!! We walked the whole length of the island, stopping at the Yacht Club at the north end for a cool drink, and at Brenda's kitchen for some bread ($4 per loaf).
Evening found us all, along with Paula and Larry (Lapidus) and Oskar (Eden Rock on Big Farmer's Cay) aboard Solitaire for happy hour. The lovely big cockpit of their Morgan 41 was a full and happy place for a few hours. Oskar showed us on the chart where to look for shells and we made plans to explore. Lapidus related their happy experience of having a cruiser make a special trip here on his way north to deliver a part for their engine. It had been on the mailboat but didn't get dropped off until Lee Stocking so Nike kindly acted as deliveryman. The array of foods was excellent too - artichoke/goat cheese dip, dragon's breath cheese from Nova Scotia, fresh and crunchy nuts, juicy purple grapes, smoky sausage along with assorted crackers and chips, and all washed down with sodas, beer, wine or rum drinks according to what we each had in our little carrying bags. I love the happy hour practice here - bring a drink and some food to share. It makes getting together so easy!
The front moved through here at midmorning on Saturday, bringing a 10 degrees F drop in temperature, a 70 degree swing of the boat and some showers over the course of an hour or so. I spent the morning weaving some of the palm fronds I collected on Big Farmer's Cay, and Jim finished reading Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth".
By afternoon, the sun had appeared and we were ready for a trip to town. Jeffery called across from the beach where he was cleaning fish and we dinghied over to see what he had. For $20 we got a couple of groupers, a grunt (all filleted) and a good sized lobster tail. Jeffery was our fish supplier when we were here last time and it was good to connect with him again, both for his fresh fish and because we enjoy chatting with him. He also went over the directions for making stewfish for me. I can find it in books, but I like the idea of getting the method from the guy who catches 'em!
At the waterfront in town - a tiny little curve in the harbour with a cluster of buildings and some tables for eating, drinking and playing dominoes - we picked up a couple of Kaliks at Ali's smallest bar in the world. It really is tiny - three stools, a bar, a cooler of beer and a wall of rum bottles. It's painted bright yellow and green and the always genial Ali welcomes all comers. We then ordered delicious conch fritters ($2 per order) from his wife, Brenda, at her kitchen around the corner, and sat in the sun to enjoy the breeze from the water, the laughter of school boys hanging out together and the slap of dominoes from a nearby table.
When I wandered by the domino table near the bar, intending to watch for a bit, Nick got up and insisted that I take his seat, with the advice that I could learn more from playing than from watching. These fellows, Ali, Stanley and Ramon (with the r rolled, please!) play a fast-paced, straightforward game. 7 tiles each, first one out wins, winner starts the next game with whatever tile he wants. I laughed and laughed, because I could hardly count as fast as they could, let alone keep track of what tiles were out, plan strategy and keep Stanley from seeing what I was holding. Barry kept warning me and trying to show me how to hold them (and they don't line them up on the table, they hold them in their hands) but I never did accomplish it. They were such good sports for welcoming me into their game.
Solitaire Jim introduced Madcap Jim to Aiden, who agreed to fix our Mercury outboard motor. In "non-mechanic" language, something slipped inside so that the gears didn't shift properly. He took it apart, fixed it and got it idling at a slower speed too.
Dinner on Saturday night was panfried Nassau grouper with boiled potatoes and broccoli salad. Mmmmm. What a fine day!