01/04/2010/4:47 pm, Duncan Town, Ragged Island
We were lucky enough to arrive in South Side Bay, Ragged Island in time to have Linda and Peter (Asylum III) act as our town guides before they left for further travels. Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) were kind enough to take us ashore and we all went to town together. As we passed the dinghy dock in town, we met up with Michael and Carol (Kanaloa) so the 8 of us wandered about together.
Our Explorer Chart book says of Duncan Town, "About the only service of interest to cruising visitors is the BTC office." but it is SO wrong. Even without our guides we'd have loved the place, although their introductions made it easier to find our way around and meet some of the local folks. We took the path from the beach up a little road that led to the runway, crossed it, turned left on the next road leading up the hill and into town - dropping our garbage at the dump on the way.
Over the course of a few hours, we met Myron, who would be able to fix our outboard if we were able to get the bevel gear sent from Nassau. We visited the sweet little bakery to purchase freshly made guava duff and chocolate chip cookies. We then returned to the open air gazebo in the centre of town to plug in our computers and tap into free wifi. Next stop was the Administrative Office to say hello to Charlene who is the person to contact for just about anything - and who also bakes the goodies at Locos Pastries. Jim talked on the phone with Phil, who is our contact for all things outboard motor- related. Phil was working on his boat in the harbour. We stopped at Maxine's grocery store to say hello and buy a big bag of rice and some onions. On the way back up the hill, we turned off at Sheila's Fishing Lounge for a cold drink - and to say hello.
There is a construction boom happening here right now. There has been an infusion of money for widening the runway, improving the streets, building a new dock, and establishing a Bahamian Defense Force base. Big road grading equipment rumbled up the main street and out along the runway. Piles of brush were burning where land had been cleared there. Goats wander freely. Chickens cluck and squawk in almost every yard. Hammocks made from fishing nets hang on many porches. The house colours are bright greens and yellows and blues and the inhabited ones are well maintained and tidy. Fewer than 100 people live here, and those we've met are well spoken, hard working, friendly and helpful. A sense of pride permeates this whole town.
Because the street down to "Locos Pastries" was torn up, we ducked down through driveways and around outbuildings to find the tidy little blue building. Inside, we found Jerard selling the muffins and cookies and guava duff that his mother had made early that morning. We remarked on the pictures hanging on the walls - Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Bob Marley.
Maxine's store has the same look that stores in other islands have in the last couple of days before the mailboat comes in. Cans and dry goods, but precious little produce. Huge pieces of conch meat were drying in rows on lines behind the store, and I remarked that back in Nova Scotia, we can see fish drying too.
Sheila makes bread and cooks meals at the Fishermen's Lounge, but likes to have as much notice as possible, and we told her we'd call her and make plans to come in for lunch some day. She is making Easter dinner for all the construction workers this weekend.
Marilyn and Bruce headed for the school where they had dropped off boxes of books a few days ago (more about that in another posting) but the 9 students had all been dismissed early that day. They are off to Nassau on a school trip over the long weekend.
The gazebo in the centre of town near the Administrative Office is a work of art. It's clean, tidy and brightly painted in the colours of the Bahamian flag - aqua green, yellow and black. Several round tables and chairs take up most of the floor space, and benches are built in around the walls. There is a bar in one corner that may dispense drinks on other occasions. A couple of plugs were available, and the connection is the best one we've seen in weeks and weeks. The big metropolis of Georgetown has nothing to match this! (We have, however, come to find out that just like everywhere else in the Bahamas, it doesn't always work!)
We could look down to the Salt Ponds (still being worked but on a more limited scale than in the island's heyday) on one side of the town. On the other side is the small local harbour. Out ahead was the long dredged small boat channel that leads from the town dock to the larger harbour. When the mailboat comes, it anchors out and all the goods are brought ashore by the local people in their small boats. The only drawback to Duncan Town is the distance one must come to get into it - either a walk of a mile or so from South Side Bay, or a longish dinghy ride from Ragged Island Harbour. That will change with the building of the new dock.
Speaking of the mailboat - when the Captain C arrives on Saturday, we'll be among the anticipatory crowd. Our motor part was not available in Nassau, so we decided to upgrade motors earlier than planned and ordered a new one. I'll tell you that whole story in another posting. Suffice it to say that there are many services and good people here. We have been helped enormously by the folks of Duncan Town.
31/03/2010/3:10 pm, Duncan Town, Ragged Island
We made it to Ragged Island and are anchored in South Side Bay just at the south end. We've met up with Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) and Linda and Peter (Asylum III) - from Shediac NB!!
We caught a ride to shore with Marilyn and Bruce and have been exploring with expert guidance from Linda and Peter. What a great place. More details to come!!
Things are looking up for the outboard. We're not sure yet about the arrival of the part on the mailboat, but there are folks to fix it when it comes.
31/03/2010/3:06 pm, Raccoon Cay
Because Chris Parker warned of a coming front, we thought it prudent to tuck in behind Buenavista rather than anchor along the long western beach. The waves rolling in there would mean we couldn't row our inflatable dinghy ashore even if the anchorage wasn't too uncomfortable. Both the Explorer chart and Steve Pavlidis' book mentioned that the area between the south-eastern shore of Buenavista and Low Water Harbour Cay is good for a front so that's where we headed. Pavlidis recommends going up as far into the narrow as possible, and since we were the first boat in, we did just that, stopping opposite the needle-less causurina tree on the little beach, and tucked right up close between the two cays. The bottom was a mix of rock and sand, and we had to wait till slack tide for Jim to swim over the anchor for a visual check, but when we backed on it we didn't go anywhere.
The current was really strong on both ebb and flow so although we weren't rocking, we didn't feel comfortable going ashore. At least dishes and glasses and everything that wasn't attached or placed on a nonskid surface didn't go sliding around like the night before! We napped during the afternoon, and I worked on a new basket, and we stepped up our alertness level in preparation for the front that was to pass through about 3 am. Dot's Way anchored south of us, and in the evening we saw the masts of Heart's Desire and Always Saturday (the two boats that had been anchored on the western shore) move along the cay, round the corner and anchor out in the wider part of the bay. It was a "good" front in that, although the wind clocked around and we were exposed to the west for a brief period, wind velocity never exceeded 15 - 18 knots, and we were really well snugged in.
It had been so hot and humid that it was difficult to sleep so we were happy that the passing of the front also brought a freshening of the air.
On Tuesday morning, we started out again on our southward journey toward Duncan Town and hopes of a motor- fix, but decided that we wouldn't make Hog Cay at a suitable tide time, so we made the fortunate decision to tuck into the little bay between Raccoon and Nairn Cays. Once again, the wind and waves made the western anchorage of Raccoon undesirable.
This hidey hole brought us two happy encounters. First of all, Bruce (Zingara) was here. We had met him briefly a couple of times before - in the laundry at Black Point in 2008 and at Vero Beach this trip when he gave Jim a lift back from getting his propane tank filled - but hadn't had a chance to spend any time with him. Bruce came by to say hello, heard about out outboard trouble, and in the best of cruiser tradition, said, "I know a thing or two about motors. Let's have a look!" We hoisted it into the cockpit and he and Jim spent the next couple of hours tearing it apart and discovering the problem. Unfortunately, the fix needed new parts, and that's where the next encounter happened. We had just settled back with icy beers in hand when a fast, open speed boat came around the corner. We exchanged greetings with the three fellows on board (from Duncan Town) and said we were headed in that direction. Bruce asked if they knew anyone there who might be able to fix the outboard, and Phil instantly understood the problem, saying that it was a weakness of the Mercury four strokes. He took the part number, said he'd check on availability and could probably get his sister to put it on the mailboat in Nassau and get it here on Saturday! With phone numbers exchanged, we waved farewell.
Bruce, Jim and I dined on a boilfish dinner (hogfish, potatoes, onions cooked together in a broth with limes and garlic.) It was tasty and the juice was good sopped up with home made bread, but I think I still prefer hogfish panfried. I'll use snapper next time I think, and add some other vegetables. Conversation was wide ranging and happy, and Bruce has been encouraging us to take in the Family Island Regatta in Georgetown. We'll see!
Zingara headed off toward Water Cay and Madcap set out for South Side Bay on Ragged Island on Wednesday morning. Off to the next happy encounters! And perhaps - fingers crossed - a repaired outboard motor!