26/03/2010/2:52 pm, Water Cay, Jumentos
Here we are in a brand new place and ready for brand new adventures. Within minutes of arriving, we felt thrilled because it just feels different here.
One of these times though, we will pass through the Comer Channel at something more than low water because it is nerve wracking to see 6 inches under our keel for miles. Stephen Pavlidis' book says the channel carries 7 ft at MLW (mean low water) although some have seen 5 ft. We are here to tell you it carried about 6ft, 6 inches on March 25/10 (with a couple bits of 6'2"). We didn't bounce or have to plow through anything, and if we had gotten stuck, we'd just have waited for the tide to rise. It's an afternoon high tide right now, and we didn't want to make it a two day trip so off we went in the morning. Although we motor sailed until we got to the Comer West waypoint, once we pointed south to Driers, it was sail only. A dolphin came along to check us out, and swam back and forth under the bow for a bit, but he was not the playful fellow of a couple of days ago, and he had no stunts to display. I did get pics this time though!
We pulled into the anchorage at the north end of Water Cay around 1630 - with time to check the anchor, pay a short visit to the beach and break out a bottle of champagne in honour of reaching these islands that we have wanted to visit since our 2007/08 trip. There were 2 fishing boats here when we came in and another 3 arrived in the early evening. These guys work hard; they were still cleaning fish at 10pm and were off in their little skiffs again by 8 am on Friday. The "mother ships" - not very large ones - stayed here in the bay. We wondered if maybe someone would come by with fish for sale but although there were friendly waves, no one ventured over. We ate a variation of what we have come to call "Richard's Dinner": sausage, onions, peppers, potatoes and carrots all panfried together. (Thanks Carole!)
After a restful night, we decided to set off to explore further down Water Cay. We stopped at a couple of beaches, found some pretty little sunrise tellins, and had a lovely swim. That's the good news. The bad news is that the reason we pulled into the second little beach was because our dinghy motor started making a really loud racket. Oops. Not a good sound. It had a knock in it the last few days and Jim went through some troubleshooting exercises but on this outing, it suddenly got worse.
So, in true Bissell form, we went swimming while we thought about what to do! Jim had a tube of lubricant and the operation manual in the dinghy so we popped the motor off, propped it up on a rock and with me reading the instructions and finding the right holes (his reading glasses were not part of the beach gear) Jim squirted lubricant in, screwed the screws back in and put the motor back on the dinghy. With great expectations, we started off but not only was the noise still there, but we had no forward propulsion. Fortunately we did have a good strong man and a set of oars.
Also fortunately we hadn't gone terribly far and 40 minutes later we were back on the boat. Some of the fishermen were back in the bay so we rowed over to see if any of them had ideas of someone or somewhere we could contact for mechanical help, and also to get dinner.
They suggested we ask the fellow on another boat when they returned, and sold us some grouper and a couple of crawfish tails. (Interestingly, the terms "Crawfish" and "lobster" seem to get used interchangeably. These guys call them crawfish.)
Dorothy and Glen (Dot's Way) came into the harbour and we enjoyed getting to know them at happy hour on Madcap before Jim and I dined on crawfish, rice and salad under the stars.
23/03/2010/12:08 pm, Thompson Bay, Long island
What a lovely feeling it is to sail along in these clear blue/green waters. We never tire of it and always appreciate it. On the sail from Georgetown, we were joined for a bit by a couple of dolphins. (No pictures because we were too engrossed in watching them play.) What delightful animals they are. These two darted back and forth under the bowsprit like so many we've seen, but one of them was particularly playful. When "his" buddy tired of us and swam back to the coral head where they had been fishing, this handsome 7 - 8 foot fellow stayed with us, turning to look up at us several times and then once doing a 360 roll and speeding away. What a show! While we whistled and cheered, we could imagine him saying, "Yes! I showed them what I could do!" He soon returned, swimming along beside us, first to port and then to starboard. He must have been pleased with his earlier performance because he came in under the bowsprit and tried another roll. This one wasn't quite so successful because mid-roll, his tail struck the "dolphin striker" - the wire that runs from the bowsprit down to the bottom of the bow, and with a splash, he twisted sideways and zoomed away. Did it give him a scare? Was he embarrassed? Whatever it was, he headed back to his fishing grounds and we didn't see him again. We have always marveled at how these elegant creatures can time their moves so well that they are never caught by the bow as they play just in front of the moving boat. I guess they occasionally miss!
Jim compared our sailing vs engine time between this trip and the last one, and confirmed that we have done far more sailing this trip. Between Fernandina Beach FL and Thompson Bay, Long Island (arriving here March 21, 2008) he logged 222.9 engine hours. The trip over the same distance this time (and almost the same arrival date, March 23, 2010) he logged 141.1 engine hours. We have timed our travel according to the right winds sometimes, and have relied on the wind generator to keep our batteries topped up instead of motoring just to charge them. Today's trip was at 4 knots for part of the time, but with the longer days it doesn't matter!
There were 15 boats in the harbour when we arrived at about 1700 hours and we stopped at the outer edge of the cluster at the NE corner of Thompson Bay and settled down to enjoy the quiet evening. Soon after the dinghy from our neighbour, Seabbatical I, arrived back from town, Angie came over, calling, "Hello, Ottawa!" She's from Ottawa, full of enthusiasm and stories of her cruising experiences and the 6 weeks she and Clark have just enjoyed in the Jumentos. It was great to meet her and we were sorry they are moving on to Georgetown in the morning.
Wednesday will be a day for laundry, internet catch-up, groceries, water and fuel top-ups, and preparations for heading off to the Jumentos on Thursday. We haven't been there before, we're ready for a new adventure, and the weather looks favourable. So although we like Long Island and the little town of Salt Pond, we'll make this a short stay.
Sailing, sailing, over the ocean blue....
22/03/2010/12:05 pm, Georgetown, Exumas
For all my hopes of some regular internet connection over the time we've been in Georgetown, I have had less than usual. Other than one day when we sat in J & K Productions for several hours and I posted "Back in Georgetown", that has been it for internet. (J&K is a cute spot by the way - a small, low, green building with a doorway that almost everybody has to duck to get through. A long counter with some plastic chairs and a couple of power bars lines one wall. The middle of the store holds a large copy machine and printer, and the far wall is lined with shelves of convenience store-type groceries. The freezer at one end was being regularly raided for popsicles and the telephone on the desk at the other end was "rented" several times by patrons wishing to make both local and international calls.) We have a Bahamian cell phone but we use our minutes sparingly.
We haven't had any wifi from the boat, and all service was down in town for a couple of days. When we went to St Francis on Sunday it took so long to pull up Hotmail that I didn't even try to send anything. Very frustrating for a place the size of Georgetown.
The wind stayed up enough to make crossing the harbour a wet experience, so we remained on the Stocking Island side for the last couple of days in Georgetown. A brisk walk on the beach felt good one afternoon, and on Sunday we enjoyed a "chat" with "KB" Bowe at Chat'n'Chill (the bar/restaurant at Volleyball Beach) while we downed Kaliks (the "chill") and burgers. That chat was a sample of the remarkable conversations we've had with local folks in so many places. KB studied at University of Chicago - where he probably honed the natural abilities that make him so articulate, well-informed and interested in wide ranging conversations with visitors. His son, now an orthopedic surgeon in Nassau got his MD at Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax, NS after a first degree at McGill in Montreal, and his daughter attends Dal now - studying science. Dalhousie is about a 20 minute walk from our house! KB says most of the Bahamians who go abroad to study - and a great many do - return home to work. Because Canada is part of the Commonwealth, it is an attractive place to study. As in many of the conversations with Bahamians and Americans, US Health Care Reform was on his mind and he (like us) was both pleased that the vote was in favour of it and hopeful that it can be implemented in a way that is truly helpful and not divisive. Those of us who enjoy universal medical coverage have some difficulty understanding opposition to it, but that's a conversation for another day!
Our final evening "out" in Georgetown was aboard Sapphire where we enjoyed Bahamian style Mac'n'Cheese (firm, spicy and cut in squares) along with a tray of goodies supplied by Greg and Jo (Sympatico) and cornbread from the Madcap galley.
Off to Long Island in the morning - and with any luck, a decent connection to the rest of the world!