22/02/2011/1:04 pm, Georgetown, Exumas
We arrived in Georgetown Exumas yesterday after another fabulous sail across from Cat Island. The pic was taken at a bonfire on the beach last night - you might be able to pick out Axel (Azaya) and Pat and Wayne (Kolibrie)! We'll be here a week so I'll update later!
20/02/2011/12:59 pm, New Bight, Cat Island
While Jim picked up money and groceries on Thursday, I trundled my little cart filled with sheets and towels up the road to Willa May's laundry in Rock Sound, Eleuthera. No water problems this time so within 2 hours I had everything clean. Once again, we had a good time chatting as I waited. It is easy to guess that Willa May is a former teacher - her establishment is orderly and spotless. The little grocery section is well stocked with the staples that people need to pick up regularly (milk, rice, beans, oils, canned meats, soups, cleaning supplies), on the shelf behind the cash desk is a stack of scribblers and jars of pencils all ready for action, and jars of penny candy line the counter.
Bob and Martha (D.H.Crow) joined us for happy hour on Thursday evening, and we had a great time getting to know some new friends. We had seen the boat a few times and were pleased to meet these Canadians who are making their first visit here.
At 0615 on Friday, we were on our way out of Rock Sound, headed for either Little San Salvador or Cat Island. It was one of those days of Plan A, Plan B, back to Plan A. We weren't sure that the wind would allow us to go to Little San Salvador so we left early enough to get to Cat Island in one day. We sailed down along the "whale's tail" that forms the southern part of Eleuthera with the main and the Yankee in winds of 15 - 17 knots and decided that perhaps we'd be better served by switching to the smaller stay sail before we cleared the land mass and took the wind and swells full on. Good idea! With winds consistently 18-20 and gusts to 22 and 6 ft seas, we still had a terrific sail but safer with a more reasonable amount of sail area.
As we got closer to Little San Salvador, we decided that we didn't really want to go another 40 miles to Cat Island with the seas the way they were, so we started tacking our way over closer and pulled into the beautiful Halfmoon Bay just as the Holland America "Eurodam" pulled out. We had explored the beach and facilities on our last trip (boaters are allowed on shore after the cruise ships leave) and we weren't staying over so we just left the dinghy up and had a quiet evening aboard.
Unfortunately the quiet didn't last through the night. An ocean swell moved in and we rocked and rolled all night. We have an irritating creeeeaaaakkkk in the wall between the head and the main cabin by the mast just opposite the nav station. We never hear it except when we are really rolling. And oh boy, did we hear it that night! We rolled back and forth in our berth and listened to every single noise our boat can make. Not much sleep!
We cleared out of there at 6:15 to continue on to Cat Island. It was a gorgeous morning - the moon was still casting a silvery path across the water in the west as the east began to glow all gold and rosy. Two minutes later, the sun was up, the moon was just a shadow and the day was started. We have discovered that we like that "just before dawn" departure time. We get the anchor up, the main sail up and then as I take us on our way, Jim goes down below to listen to Chris Parker's 6:30 broadcast on the SSB. By the time the Cruiser's net comes on at 8:30 we already have a couple of hours under our keel.
It was another great sailing day. We've used very little diesel this year and have been able to sail almost all our passages from one cay to another. We pulled into New Bight, Cat Island just after 2 pm and anchored near Blue Pearl; by evening, there were 6 boats here. After a short visit with Blue Pearl, we hiked up to the top of Mount Como - the highest peak in the Bahamas - all of 206 feet! It is the site of Father Jerome's Hermitage, and the view from there is stunning. It is a quaint collection of stone turrets and arches and little corners and passages to wander through. But the best part for me is the opportunity to look down over this beautiful land and sea where courageous and determined people who landed here under all sorts of difficult circumstances earn their livings and raise their families. These rocks and waves sure have tales to tell. The messages of mourning and weeping along the stairs don't really do anything for me, so I rejoiced about love and joy and faith and hope as we climbed. Thankfully, there was no one there who might be offended by the overlaying of my own theology on that of Father Jerome.
In the evening, we joined Glenn and Pam (Blue Pearl) ashore as we looked for food and music. We ended up at one of the colourful little stands along the beach. A backgammon game was in progress at one of the tables out front, and the women cheerfully heated up some chicken and pork chops along with mac'n'cheese and peas'n'rice. It wasn't quite the fresh fish we had hoped to find, but the ambiance was good - especially when the two servers picked up saw, screwdriver, goatskin drum and began to accompany a gentleman on the accordion. They played some traditional rake'n'scrape and even a couple little waltzes. The most amusing thing was listening to "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" rake'n'scrape style!!
Thanks to Ed and Karin (Passages) we had a remarkable day on Sunday. They had told me about a trail that goes across to the ocean side, so we filled our packs with lunch and water, put on our sturdy walking sandals and set off. It is about a 10 minute walk south from the beach and then 50 minutes at a good pace across the island. Once there, we found a gorgeous beach, and more of them around the headlands in each direction. While there were old footprints and one set of recent ones, we were the only folks there all day until the owner of those prints showed up late in the day on his way back from a bottle gathering walk. We picked up lovely pieces of sea glass, a pretty cowrie shell, half a dozen sea hearts and a hamburger bean. We played in the waves, we sat and watched the water, we took pictures of the wrecked vessel on the reef. And then at the end of the day, we hiked back home again - feeling well exercised and filled to the brim with fresh air and sunshine. This was one of those days when we pinch ourselves and say, "Are we really living this life??"
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!