16/02/2011/10:00 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We've been sitting in Rock Sound since Saturday and, although we haven't been confined to the boat, the weather has been significantly different from those hot and sunny days last week.
We celebrated Jim's birthday and Valentine's Day by dining on blueberry pancakes in the morning, and dinner at the Nort'side Restaurant in the evening. In between, we dinghied over to the far side of the bay to fish and shell (a couple of Nassau groupers on the line but they are out of season so they went back in /a few small shells).
The last time we ate at the Nort'side, in 2008, the place was packed with cruisers and Rose was run off her feet. This time we were the only customers. It is so sad to see how few people are around, and we felt badly for her. The Nort'side is a charming little place with weathered wooden tables, fishing nets on the ceiling and walls, collections of shells and fish and plants. Rose picked us up by Dingle Motors and we walked the beach for a short time before dinner. Jim found a nice hamburger bean and we listened to the waves roll in but the wind was cool so we soon returned to the warmth of the restaurant. For the grand sum of $12 each, we dined on grouper fingers, cracked conch, peas'n'rice, cole slaw, plantains, and potato salad - excellent value for the money. We enjoyed chatting with Rose about her family in Canada, Australia, other Bahamian islands, and about her life here. When we were leaving, she pressed a bag of fresh tomatoes and a bottle of home made tomato sauce into my hands, and then gave us a tour all around Rock Sound on the way home. We drove by Sammy's Place and the Cocoa Plum - we think she wanted to check out the business at these two other restaurants - and she showed us the homes of a number of Canadians who spend part of the year here.
Liam has been diving and fishing steadily but we haven't been swimming just for the fun of it during the last few days because although the water temperature is still warm, the air is cooler. We dug out the wetsuit that Jim bought in 2007 and has never worn. It is a heavy duty one meant to keep him warm if he needed to get into cold water further north but Liam decided it was just what he needed to allow him to stay in the water much longer here. And he has been making good use of his water time!
Jim, Liam and Jay (China Doll) went off early on Tuesday to fish the ocean holes that are just off the beach here, and although Jay got a good sized snapper, my two fellows came home empty handed from that excursion. Shortly afterward however, as they retrieved our Honda generator from Alton (he had fixed it while we were up in Governor's Harbour), they met up with Scott who said he would show them his favourite spots if they'd just give him a minute to collect his things. "Well, sure!" So they were soon back at the holes that Scott "sort of remembered". It turned out that he hadn't fished here in a number of years, one of the things he wanted to collect was a bottle in a brown paper bag, and the rum he consumed as he fished made it harder and harder for them to understand what he was saying. He did come up with a few lobster tails and several crab claws though. They returned him to the dock, came back "home" for lunch and then we all headed out to the same area again. This time I went shelling on the beach, Jim steered the dinghy, and Liam kept dropping overboard into the water around the coral heads to see what he could see. I guess his vision was good because a short time later, grinning broadly, he waded into the beach with a huge crab on the end of his spear and another one in the bucket!
Jay and Nicole (China Doll) offered to share their snapper and we had the crabs so we all assembled on Madcap for a feast on Tuesday evening. Liam extracted the meat from the crab legs I had steamed earlier in the afternoon, and mixed up a fantastic dip (crab, mayo, green onion, parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lime) that he served as we downed dark'n'stormies in the cockpit. We BBQ'd the snapper that Nicole had marinated, while I steamed the crab claws and melted some butter. Peas'n'rice, cole slaw, and Nicole's delicious green salad rounded out the meal, and chocolate cake finished it off. It was nice for Liam to meet up with these folks his own age who are out here adventuring. (And probably nice for them too since most of the cruisers have a good 20 or 30 years on them!)
Wednesday was Liam's "go home day", and we started it with a memorable breakfast ... a lobster omelet ... mmmmm. By 10 o'clock, we piled into the car rented from Dingle Motors ($75 plus gas) and after dropping off the propane tank at the hardware store and picking up a few more fishing supplies at the Fish and Farm store just past there, we headed north to Governor's Harbour. At the bakery, we bought bread and cinnamon rolls and beef and chicken patties - all so fresh and so good. Next stop was the Bristol liquor store in Cupid's Cay for a couple of bottles for Liam to take home. And that is where the next adventure started!
When we came out, the car wouldn't start. All we heard was "click, click, click, click, click." At that point we still had an hour and a half before Liam had to be at the airport but we had some degree of concern about timing! Jim called Dingle Motors and Mr Cates said he would contact a mechanic in Governor's Harbour to come over. While we waited, Jim and Liam wiggled wires and checked battery connections but nothing worked. Pretty soon a local fellow, Nelson (whom we'd met at Ronnie's Sports bar last week) came by and on hearing that Liam had to get to the airport, he flagged down Carl who was going that way and said he would take Liam. So instead of seeing our boy off at the airport, we had to say a quick goodbye as he climbed into Carl's car and took off. The mechanic still hadn't appeared when another local fellow, Mike, rounded the corner and decided to look after things himself. He wiggled wires and then went off to Ronnie's to find a friend with a battery charger. Before long, this friend was back with charger in hand. He connected the cables, turned on the charger and Varoom - the car started! With thanks all round, and vows not to turn off the car again, Jim and I hastily set off for the airport to see if we could find Liam and say another farewell. As we went along, we got a call from Mr Cates offering to drive up from Rock Sound to take Liam to the airport himself - a kind offer.
As it turned out, we had lots of time for farewells. The flight was delayed from 1:50 to 3:20 so we picked him up in the airport parking lot and were able to hear about his trip out from town. Carl had told us he had to make a stop on the way, and sure enough, they drove to a house, switched cars and picked up another friend, after which they flew low along the road out there - Liam said they must have been doing 120 km! Anyone who has driven these roads will appreciate that the driver must have known the road well because they are narrow and pot-holey! We breathed a sigh of relief that he made it safely, and marvelled again about the trust factor and faith in good outcomes that seems to be part of the fabric of our lives as we travel in these islands. After filling our water cans, and making one last snack stop, we returned him to the airport for a proper farewell in the right place, if not quite at the right time!
The boat seems empty tonight. By now, Liam is nearly home in Ottawa; all these kind Bahamians who continually help us, welcome us and share with us are in their own homes. The wind is howling and we are snuggled up on Madcap with our books. Tomorrow is laundry day again and on Friday we'll be off ... somewhere. Cat Island is the planned destination, but ... we'll see!
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.