12/01/2011/4:36 pm, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas
Jim flew home to Nova Scotia last Saturday to do a little work and I've been having a chance to be a solo sailor - albeit a stationary one! Jim and I have each found in the past that we quite like having the boat to ourselves for short periods of time. I mentioned to a friend the other night at Happy Hour, that it is probably due in part to there being no "issues". We haven't dragged, and everything seems to be working the way it should. I will certainly be happy to see my sailing partner back on Thursday, but it is nice to know that I can manage on my own.
I walked to White Sound on Sunday and was delighted to discover Karin and Ed (Passages) there. They've been enjoying the benefits of being on the dock at Green Turtle Club. They have an astonishing rate - 60 cents per foot with metered power. Both Passages and Volantis left yesterday for points south.
Several boats came in to Black Sound on Monday. Donn and Sandi (Cypraea) are on the ball next to Madcap, and Sharpie's Dream - a Bayfield 32 with Dianne and Pat is at the Leeward Yacht Club. Minden, a Bayfield 40 was over at White Sound for a night or two. Most of the boats here are Canadian, with a healthy selection of Maritimers. Sea Horse and Long Leap are both from Saint John, NB, Ain't Ms B Haven, Sea Echo and Madcap are all from Halifax, NS. Jan and Tom (Ripple) are Ontario, as are Peter and Dianne (Cloud Nine) and Pat and Dianne (Sharpie's Dream). Catherine and David (Solitaire 1) and Bob and Gratia (Gratia) are Quebec. All those red maple leaves look good.
I've enjoyed some lovely walks on the beach, finding a few bits of sea glass and some small shells, and I've gone swimming at Gilliam Bay a couple of afternoons - the water is cool but still fine for short swims. I've even managed to fit in a little bit of boat work - stripping, sanding and cetoling the handrails on the cabin roof and making a start on some of the topside waxing. The weather has been lovely for the most part, but it has cooled off today as the next norther comes through.
The fuel boat came in this morning so boaters needing gas and diesel will be happy. The Other Shore Club has had gas but no diesel for a few days. Because the power was off in town yesterday for several hours, the generators were humming so they'll need a top up too.
On my walk this morning, I visited the sculpture garden down town to view the honoured men and women who lived in these islands in the past. So many of them are of Loyalist heritage - the same folks who came to Nova Scotia at the time of the American Revolution. Some of the names - Curry and Lowe and Russell are familiar ones back home too. I remember from my first visit that when I went through the museum, I found furniture and dishes just like the ones in my grandmother's house. The novel by Robert Wilder, "Wind from the Carolinas", is a good example of historical fiction about that era. Speaking of reading, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Timothy Findley's "Telling of Lies" that I picked up at the used book store in St Simon's, and I've just finished a laugh out loud book that I had given Jim for Christmas, "The Best Laid Plans" by Terry Fallis, another excellent Canadian read. Today, I dropped in to the excellent little library (open M,W, F 2-4 I think) where I traded some already read paperbacks for some new ones. Our son, Alex, gave us a Kobo reader for Christmas so we never need to fear being without reading material, but it is always nice to have a few books of the paper variety close at hand.
I've also been trying to keep up with the socializing here in the Sound. Pineapples is always fun and a beer or rum punch goes down well while I do a quick update on the computer (free wifi). The difficulty is that it is outdoors and it is a bar after all. It seems easier to spend longer on the computer in a coffee shop. The Leeward Yacht Club is also fun but doesn't seem to have locals as much. Some of the folks are going to Sundowner's tonight but I think I'll wait for Jim to go there.
Tomorrow, I have to rush to finish up all the things I wanted to do while Jim was away - some more waxing - of the boat, not me! Laundry, a visit to Captain Roberts' House - the ecology centre in town, picking up a fresh loaf of oh so good coconut bread.
The picture is of the beach closest to our end of Black Sound - so beautiful!!
05/01/2011/12:17 pm, New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay
Tuesday, Jan 4 was another day of motoring - with a sail up to boost us a little - as we made our way from Great Sale Cay to Green Turtle Cay. We weren't in any hurry - already on Bahama time - and we made our way along past Grand Bahama Island and Centre of the World Rock. I love that name for a chunk of rock that sits all by itself out in the water between Little Abaco Island and Allans-Pennsacola Cay.
We passed by Manjack Cay and could see several masts, but we didn't stop this time. I hope we'll meet up with Greynorth somewhere while we are in this area! Instead, we dropped anchor where we have been several times in the past - just off the government dock at the pretty little town of New Plymouth. Green Turtle Cay is where we checked in on our first trip, back in December 2007 and here we are to do the same thing on our third Bahamas trip. It was almost 6 o'clock before we got settled, so we had a short little happy hour of our own before dining in the cockpit on a stirfry of chicken, broccoli, and peppers and a nice glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. Then it was time to sit back and look at the stars, take in the lights of the town, bask in the warm air and feel so glad to be back here.
This morning (Wed, Jan 5/11) we woke to a clear warm day and the warnings from Chris Parker of heavy winds to come. Accordingly, we dinghied in to see Kevin MacIntosh at the Other Shore Club in Black Sound to arrange a mooring. Yes, yes, I know - we still needed to check in, but first things first! We can get into Black Sound on a high tide and that was around 9 and the Immigration Office didn't open till 9 so the boat came first. Kevin had nothing open, but like all Bahamians, he has friends! We went in on the tide, seeing no less than 7'7" through the channel and tied to a somewhat suspect mooring ball. Once his buddy comes back from fishing, we'll switch to a more secure one. In the meantime, we are in Black Sound where we want to be! Our old friend, David Allin (Solitaire 1) came over to welcome us to the neighbourhood and we saw lots of Canadian flags flying.
Next stop - the Customs and Immigration office where check in went relatively well too. There has been much talk recently about the length of time cruisers have been given before having to check in again - and the latest word was that all offices would be giving 30 days - a serious inconvenience. We asked for 120 days and got 90 - the same as last time we checked in here. That allows us to do some moving around before we have to present ourselves again.
So here we are at Pineapples, the little bar nearest our dinghy dock. The wind is picking up, the waves roll in, and the sun is high overhead. The water is aqua blue and the tables yellow like the colours of the Bahamian flag, and we truly do feel like we are in a home away from home.
03/01/2011/11:31 am, Great Sale Cay
After our fast decision at the coffee shop on Sunday morning to try a crossing that day, we hustled our little bodies through all the preparations and did it, arriving at Great Sale Cay about 4pm on Monday!
Once we made the decision to go, we returned the rental car, picked up our fridge and freezer contents from Nancy and Jim, loaded the dinghy, fueled wand watered up and pumped out and at 12:15, let go the mooring ball that has been Madcap's base for the last 28 days. We headed down the ICW to Fort Pierce in what was supposed to have been light winds. They averaged 15 knots instead and we wondered what we would face outside the inlet. We had an ebb tide that would have swept us out beautifully if not for the waves coming in! Instead, it was a pretty rocky passage out through the inlet with sea water sloshing over the bow, but we persevered, thinking it would probably be better outside - and it was. Unfortunately, it was too rough and the wind too much on our nose for us to hug the coast down toward Lake Worth as we had planned before striking out across the Gulf Stream, so after making about 6 knots in 2 hours, it was decision making time again. Go back to Ft Pierce? Keep slogging south the way we were? Turn out toward the Bahamas and start our crossing from further north? We opted for the latter and it worked well.
We set a waypoint for Little Bahama Banks, and then aimed 25 nautical miles south of that to counteract the current. Doing it this meant that we spent longer in the Gulf Stream than is normally advised, but it was preferable to pitching and slamming down the coast. (We found out later that it was also preferable to going down the inside because of the many pleasure boats roaring by on a sunny Sunday afternoon and the difficulty of timing bridge openings!)
The water stayed fairly sloppy for a few hours - Jim and I both popped motion sickness pills that kept our stomachs level and we stayed above decks for the first few hours to avoid problems. The wind still wasn't at a good angle for sailing and then it eventually died to just a few knots so it wasn't a sailing trip, but it was just fine all things considered. We each got some sleep through the night - taking roughly 3 hour watches - and we saw very little other traffic. We knew there had to be pleasure boats out there because of the weather window, but because they all left from farther south, we didn't see them except for one power boat that passed us in the morning. We altered course to avoid a couple of cargo ships during the night and saw two cruise ships go by in the distance. (The night before, we might have seen our daughter, Mary Beth's, cruise ship, the Norweigan Pearl cross in the other direction, albeit further south - so I'm only imagining that we might have really seen it...) A couple of fishing boats kept us alert as they flew along, and stopped and then flew along again. Along with our radar, the AIS that we installed last year is so handy for night time crossings. Between these two instruments and our own eyes, it is pretty easy to see what is out there.
Dawn brought that fabulous smooth, almost silky turquoise water flowing under the keel as we cruised along over the banks - 16 feet deep instead of over 2000. It also brought coffee and sunshine and the relaxation of knowing we had no more wondering to do about when to cross. It's curious that even when we think we aren't stressing too awfully much about the crossing, there is still a palpable sense of relief once it is behind us.
We were the 13th boat into the anchorage at Great Sale Cay in absolutely flat water. Our mooring buddy - Bonnie Lass - was there already and we had a great reunion with them at happy hour hosted by Linda and Wayne (Isla). Another boat must have come in after that because there were 14 of us when I counted in the morning. It was a true Bahama night - with a sky full of stars, the blessed quiet of no engine, no traffic, no partiers, and the gentlest of rocking as we crawled into bed .... at 7 o'clock!!