13/02/2011/9:23 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
After spending Friday morning in Governor's Harbour picking up another load of water (from the tap at the fish fry stand), saying our goodbyes to Theresa and Andrew, and doing a little shopping for T-shirts and groceries, Liam, Jim and I set sail for Pineapple Cays.
A short motor sail later, we dropped anchor just southeast of East Bluff. It would be a fine anchorage in another wind but was not ideal this time because there wasn't enough protection from the SE wind and swells, and we were positioned stern to the shore - never a confidence inducing situation. However, we were dug in and we had places to go so we didn't worry about it. We got into bathing suits, loaded up the snorkel gear, spear, bucket and shelling bags and set off to explore Sheep Cay. After circling the cay, we beached the dinghy in the tiny horseshoe shaped beach on the eastern side and went snorkelling from there. The grassy bottom must be prime feeding grounds for baby fish because there were literally thousands of inch long fish swarming all around. Snorkelling through them was fascinating - I couldn't feel them on my skin, yet my whole field of vision was filled with their wiggly bodies, flashing all silvery in the late afternoon sun. We saw a large school of juvenile needle fish along with some mature ones, as well as a barracuda or two. Jim and Liam spotted a yellow ray - a new one for us. There were also some yellow tailed fish, and a very quick and elusive Nassau grouper. Gee, those fish can slide under rocks and into holes in short order. The Nassau Grouper is out of season right now so we couldn't have gotten it anyway, but it didn't seem to know it was not in danger. Liam grazed one of the yellow ones but it wiggled off his spear and darted away. Shucks!
I found one pretty, and very smelly, little conch shell, but we mostly just enjoyed swimming around and looking. After returning to Madcap, we decided to move over to the area of deep water between Sheep Cay and the mainland to get out of the worst of the swells. It worked and although the space is somewhat narrow, we were well dug in. Even though we circled around as the wind shifted through the night, we never moved far from where we had stopped.
We were on the go again by 8:30 on Saturday morning headed for Rock Sound. With the main and the yankee up, we enjoyed a lovely sail on a broad reach until we reached Sound point and then roared close hauled across Rock Sound to the anchorage off the town. This time we are one of 9 boats in the harbour - a change from two weeks ago. Another change is that we are considerably further out from shore.
Although we had been anchored in closer for a whole week, we found that we were bouncing off the bottom in the same place this time. There might be two reasons for this: the wind has been blowing steadily and may be pushing the water down this big bay, and because last time the winds were light and the sea flat, we didn't experience the troughs and crests that bounced us up and down this time. We also discovered that our depth sounder must have gotten accidentally reset so it wasn't offset to the correct depth. It generally shows the water below our keel, but it was adding about 5 feet to that. We must have been blissfully sitting in about 6 inches of calm water at low tide all that week!
We did the re-anchoring thing again, digging in well with a whole foot and a half to spare, and then headed ashore. A visit to the hardware store netted us a couple of new fishing lures, the grocery store supplied Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, and we bought some new movies at George's Arts and Crafts across the road from the wonderfully named "In Da Hole" store by the dinghy dock. Then we zoomed back to the boat for dinner ...
... and finally I get to the title of this posting ... because .... drum roll here .... we had successful fishermen on board today!
As we came along the coast, Liam had the fishing rod out. Much to his annoyance, he had one that got away because we didn't have the net handy enough. Out went the line again, and a short time later we heard the zinging that signaled something had grabbed the lure. We all gasped delightedly as he pulled in a beautiful mutton snapper (at least that's what we think it was as we looked it up in the fish book!) Jim had his yoyo line running off the other side of the boat and shortly after that, he pulled in a cero - a member of the mackerel family. What excitement there was on this boat! We haven't been good fishermen up to this point and it was an unbelievable treat to dine on fish we caught ourselves. The snapper was just delicious. The cero was good but bony and not quite as tasty. The guys cleaned and filleted them and I baked them with a squeeze of lime juice and some grinds of fresh pepper. We topped off the evening with one of our new movies - "Salt" - a spy thriller - very good too.
Today (Sunday) was overcast and cool. We spent the morning on board and then went ashore to visit the boiling hole, the ocean hole and on a fruitless search for a payphone that had all its working parts. Back on board, we pulled out the Scrabble game and for the second time this trip we both lost to Liam. He is a master at seeing patterns and finding ways to use those double and triple word squares. As I write this, he and his dad are into some very competitive cribbage play, and from the sounds I hear from the cockpit, Jim is redeeming himself!
10/02/2011/10:21 am, Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
We have been packing in the fun from dawn to dark in the last few days! Actually, the folks on shore start before dawn with the cock-a-doodle-doo's of the roosters that call Cupid's Cay home - and I don't quite think they call that part fun.
I'm afraid laughter more than sympathy was our first response as Donna relayed the tales of one memorable night. She and Chris were awoken by the barks and howls of a dog fight and then a goat baaaing, followed by some noisy excitement as the dogs chased the goat. I think there might have been a cat or two, and as dawn approached, the scrabbling of a crab as it clawed its way up the window screen added another layer of sound. Of course as all that died down, the ever present roosters started their announcements.
We had a delightful evening with Theresa and Andrew Burrows and their daughter Gem on Tuesday. These folks invited all five of us over for dinner and an evening of at-home Bahamian hospitality. Theresa cooked up some fresh and delicious conch fritters that we devoured as fast as she lifted them from the pot, and then laid out platters of fall-off-the-bone tender chicken, peas'n'rice, fresh green salad, and zesty and tender conch salad. I had taken along a pan of spicy gingerbread, and Chris and Donna provided beverages. It was a perfectly wonderful evening of good food, good friends and a conversation filled with questions and discoveries about both Bahamas and Canada. We have many things in common as members of the British Commonwealth, and of course many differences as countries with different temperatures, economies and geography. It seemed especially sweet that Gem's older sister, Elizabeth, attended Acadia University in Nova Scotia (also my school!), and Theresa has been there to visit!
Theresa's photography is stunning, (www.theresaburrowsphotography.com) and she is involved with Elizabeth in publishing both the local newspaper, the Eleutheran, and a beautiful glossy magazine, the Eleutheras. If you'd like to rent her sweet little house on Cupid's Cay, check out www.vacationseleuthera.com/suncresthouse/html.
Chris arranged for a 2-day rental of a van that would carry the five of us and all our gear, so on Wednesday morning we headed north for a day of exploring, using the book "The Elusive beaches of Eleuthera" as our guide. First stop was the Glass Window where a narrow bridge is all that separates the Calm turquoise waters of the Sound from the deep blue Atlantic. Once upon a time, this was a natural bridge. It was washed away in a hurricane and replaced by a concrete bridge. When we were here in 2008, that bridge had gaps and cracks and certainly didn't inspire any confidence. This year it is in fine shape - solid and firm - no gaps - and new wooden guard rails. It is still an impressive spot to visit.
Just south of the Glass Window, we made our fist beach stop at the Twin Sister's Beach, on the Sound side. We laughed as we looked for the Cow and Bull Boulders on the Atlantic side of the highway and then the parking spot " just north of a telephone pole". We had wonderful swims in the clear calm water but found few shells and few fish as we snorkled. In fact, at all the beaches we visited, we had to content ourselves with small shells and a few fish. After checking out the restaurant at Hidden Bay Beach (not open) we stopped at the Laughing Lizard Cafe for creative and tasty paninis and wraps. Next stop was Smuggler's Beach on the Atlantic side where we beachcombed but didn't swim since the undertow was much too strong, and then we were off to the Sound side again at Rainbow Beach. We found some fish here and a ray, but practically no shells - no surprise since this beach is right off a paved road and parking lot in an area of houses - pretty easy to get to!
On Thusday, we pointed south first and despite several tries to find Ten Bay Beach, we kept driving down rocky, overgrown tracks that ended at coral cliffs. We gave up and went to Tarpum Bay where we drove in the lane by Ingraham's Beach Inn. Despite being well kept and in prime location, there was not a soul around. We swam and walked here for an hour or so and then moved up to another beach access road that supposedly led to a more northern part of the same two mile long beach where there would be more shells and opportunities for snorkelling. We must not have been far enough north because it was much the same as the last stop. It was a good place for a picnic though and we munched on goodies from the Governor's Harbour Bakery. As we drove north again, we spied a road we had missed the first time and finally found Ten Bay Beach! It was lovely and we swam and played, but weren't able to find any sand dollars.
From there, we drove straight back to Twin Cove Beach just north of Governor's harbour and absolutely loved the place. It's a beautiful Atlantic side beach, with the two coves separated by a spit of land. Jim and Liam went snorkelling out along the point and made their best finds of the two days. I found some bits and pieces of sea glass, Chris found some small shells and Donna perfected her snorkelling skills. We were a happy bunch!
This was our final evening together so we cleaned ourselves up and drove to the Buccaneer Club for dinner. I think I'd recommend it more for lunch than dinner - but we enjoyed our food and had a good finale to our week with Donna and Chris. Liam will stay on with us for another few days, and we'll move on from Governor's Harbour to do some more exploring.
08/02/2011/5:25 pm, Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
Today I offer you a good news story tinged with some embarrassment.
Liam is here! He was scheduled to arrive at Governor's Harbour Airport at 1:20, and since Alabaster Bay is right beside the airport, we decided that Donna, Chris, Jim and I would sail up there (just over 5 miles), drop the anchor, walk up the road and meet him. And that we did ... sort of.
It was a beautiful day for a sail, and although we weren't making very good time, we were enjoying the sun and breeze and sound of the water. Donna spent the trip up on the foredeck where all those things are at their very best, and to top off the experience, we had the pleasure of a dolphin's company as we pulled into the bay and looked for a good anchoring spot.
Liam had texted his father that the plane was a bit late leaving, and although we saw one fly overhead just as we were pulling in to Alabaster Bay - too early to be his, we hadn't seen another one after that. We had been chatting the day before with a group of women who told us that if there aren't a lot of people going to a particular airport, the airline will sometimes drop everybody off at another one and then deliver them by cab to their final destination.
With that thought in mind, Donna, Chris and I ducked through the short stretch of underbrush and started up the road to the airport. (Captain Jim stayed with the boat because it was rolly and we hadn't been there long enough to be sure we'd stay put). I was worried that he wouldn't arrive there. Donna was convinced he would. Pretty soon a van came toward us, slowed and the driver said, "Are you looking for the young man for the boat?" My heart sank as we all nodded and exclaimed, "Yes!" "Well, you just look straight ahead and you'll see him coming over that rise."
Sure enough, not 2 minutes later we spotted the poor young man with his pack on his back trudging along the dusty road, head down and sweat pouring off his brow. After hugs all round, and profuse apologies from me, we soon got him back to the boat, and with a beer in hand, shoes and socks and long sleeved shirt doffed, he was soon into the mood of sunshine and family and welcome. We were all together and happy, but I could not believe that for the second time in as many Bahamian visits, we had failed to meet his flight. I guess we'll have some amends to make!!
We sailed back to Governor's Harbour, and had a much harder time anchoring. We were prime entertainment for the other 3 boats as we tried FOUR times to get settled. The wind was supposed to shift as a mild front passed so we thought we'd move closer to the wharf. Dragged. We moved farther out. Dragged. Moved closer to where we had been before but not as close to shore so that if we swung, we wouldn't go aground. Dug in but the guy on the next boat came out waving his arms that we were too close to him. Moved again. Finally moved further along the shoal area, out of everybody's way and tried it one last time. Dug in. As it turned out, the wind shifted with the passing of the front today (Tuesday) but it was still so minimal that we were fine. Once settled, we went to the Sunset Restaurant for a delicious dinner.
Tuesday was a beach day as we spent the afternoon on French Leave Beach. We took a picnic lunch and thoroughly enjoyed walking, swimming, relaxing. The waves weren't as rolly as the last time so it wasn't quite as much fun to play in, but the water was still crystal clear and warm. We found it much more crowded though - there must have been a dozen people scattered over the long crescent of beautiful pinkish sand. :-)
Tonight we are all invited to the home of Chris and Donna's landlady, Theresa Burrows for a Bahamian family dinner. How about that for hospitality?
And by the way, Superbowl Sunday at Ronnie's sports bar was a blast! A tiny little bar with a mix of enthusiastic locals and tourists. We left at half time because we needed food with our beer. We'll definitely go there again though - these are good people on Cupid's Cay!