01/03/2011/12:42 pm, Georgetown, Exumas
Whew! What a whirlwind! Even if we don't take an active part in the scheduled goings on at Volleyball Beach, there are so many people to meet, jobs to take care of and simply so many "opportunities" here, that we have few chances to sit back and relax.
That "sit back and relax" idea is out of the question for more than one reason right now. The wind has been up and we have been pitching and dipping for the last few days and nights. Dry dinghy rides are out of the question; freshly laundered clothes get salt encrusted on the first trip away from home; the anchor chain rattles and wires inside the mast twing and twang during the nights.
Jim used some more choice words and brute strength to pry up the floor boards so we could have a closer look at the holding tank and determine the source of the odour. It was only about half full so over flow was not the problem - thank goodness!! I unloaded the stern locker and crawled down in there to unfasten the vent tube and blow through it to dislodge any nasty bits that might be blocking the air flow. It cleared, but the smell continues. I guess we'll dump a lot more deodorizer in there, pump out and see what happens next.
Jim replaced the alternator belt on the engine - again - in case that was the cause of the smoky smell as we turned the engine on when we came in here last week. Sure enough, this one had started to fray. Getting those things on at the right tension seems to be a tricky business. Too tight and they fray; too loose and they don't work efficiently so we don't produce enough energy. Speaking of energy production - the wind generator is working away these days. I turned on the Honda generator only twice while Jim was away, and it hasn't been on at all in the last 4 days!
I report all this just in case any of you might be thinking we are sitting here with brains and muscles withering away from lack of use while you deal with cold and snow! We do have a few of our own issues to deal with. Our switches don't work unless we create or harvest the power ourselves. We don't have TV and if we want to watch a movie on the computer, we need to make sure we have enough power. Our phones don't ring and computers don't work if there are any glitches with the Bahamas Telephone Company - and glitches are regular occurrences. Our sewage system lies right under our living room floor and we lug our water in 5 gallon cans. Whether or not our home stays where we put it depends on a chain, and anchor and a rope. We wear our clothes until they are stiff with salt and/or ... and then we load up bags and tote them off to the laundromat.
I know - I know - this is still better than cold and snow and the working life!! I just feel the need to temper the image of an idyllic life a teensy bit. ;-)
Besides the demands of boat chores, we are managing to fill our days to the brim. We attended beach church for the first time on Sunday. It was a pleasant gathering of about 40 - 50 people, a well written and delivered message about sharing and acceptance, a few prayers and some hymns (that needed a serious boost in tempo and some inclusive language). There were coffee and goodies afterward just like church back home, and well wishes and greetings and plans made for later in the day.
Jim attended Chris Parker's session on Sunday afternoon while I started weaving a basket with fronds I collected at Sand Dollar beach. In the evening, we joined Ken and Connie (Oz) Chris and Peaches (Star of the Sea) and Sally and Guido (?) for Trivia night at St Francis. We split up into 4 teams with a person from each boat on each team - so we'd be better able to share the winnings. Alas, although the team with Jim, Connie, Peaches and Guido did better than we did, no one came home with winnings. It was a lot of fun though, and it reminded me of good times playing trivia in the past. We must resurrect that activity!
Monday was education time. We got together with Diane and Ted (Boatel I) in the morning to share information on Cat Island and Eleuthera - and to see their gorgeous trawler. It is a huge 4 stateroom boat with beautiful finishing top to bottom, full sized fridge and stove, and what looks like an honest to goodness basement in it - complete with laundry area, work bench and tools (and of course since it is a boat after all - a large open engine room). They operate a Boat B&B in Toronto in the summers, and the boat is also for sale as they plan to move on to other activities.
In the afternoon, we headed to Volleyball Beach to listen to Chris Parker again. This time he highlighted some common mistakes/learning experiences that cruisers commonly fall into. Among them were the often stated ones of trying to move according to a fixed schedule, and expecting weather to be exactly as forecast. I just love Chris' attitude. He emphasized that sailing should be planned for the comfort level of ALL on board, and encouraged discussion around that before and during passages. Is it marginally acceptable? What happens if the wind is stronger or from a slightly different direction? Do you have bail out destinations in case it is just not comfortable or safe to continue to the planned one? He also pushed us to take responsibility for our own vessels and our own forecasting based on local conditions - what we see outside our own boats. While we might like to be told exactly what will happen and when, that is simply not possible. There were smiles all round as we recalled folks who call him wanting to know exactly how far they can go in one direction before turning to another, or the exact timing of squalls, or asking about sea conditions over distances so short they can almost see for themselves. We each need to be responsible for our own vessels, relying on his and other forecasts, on what we learn ourselves about weather trends and patterns, and on what we see and feel.
It was picture time after that as we gathered for a Seven Seas Cruising Association photo, and then we were off to an information session for the folks going to Cuba this year. Despite the fact that Duncan (Talisa) had sent an email and made an announcement on the net that this gathering was for folks travelling to Cuba THIS YEAR, two American men still had to show up to tell us of their travels there almost TEN years ago! They took over the conversation during the introductions and would have continued to monopolize it as they "informed us" were it not for the efforts of Duncan and others to bring the conversation back around to the group gathered for a particular purpose. It was a pertinent reminder of the importance of letting folks know we have information if needed and then offering advice only when requested - not when we just want to expound.
We joined a whole crowd of cruisers on board Boatel in the evening - Dorena and George (Delicio), Marge and Ed (Margaret Lee), and Charm and Ron ('Bout Time) for a lively happy hour and then bounced back home to tumble into bed.
We had planned to leave for Long Island today, but will wait for the seas to calm down tomorrow. Off to the laundry and water taps today!
26/02/2011/12:38 pm, Georgetown, Exumas
This week has flown by and although the wind has picked up in the last couple of days, it's sunny, hot and "friendly".
I haven't been back over to town until tonight when I went to pick up Jim, but I have been busy! The evenings have been social and gustatory experiences. Barb and Bill (Suncast) from Toronto invited me for dinner on Thursday and we feasted on BBQ'd steak and potatoes with salad topped with bright red, juicy tomatoes from one of the little produce stands in town. The next night, I was out again - this time joining Mary Lou and Bob (Cygnus) for a creamy and tasty chicken/broccoli dish accompanied by salad with Mary Lou's special caesar dressing. I laugh when I get home each night because folks always want me to call on VHF to let them know I'm safely back. It's like being 15 again! I'm glad the runs have been short the last couple of nights because the waves are higher and in a situation like that I run the risk of bouncing right out if I get up on plane with just me in the dinghy. Instead of roaring along, I plowed along, in and out of the waves.
My daytime hours have been filled with work and education. I cleaned the interior of the boat from top to bottom and bow to stern - getting rid of accumulated dust and paper, and reorganizing drawers and lockers. Then I tried to tackle a job with a higher "yuck factor". We have a stronger than usual "odour" in the cabin after the head is pumped and I tried to get the floor boards up to have a look. Some of the screws did not want to come up, so after much grumbling and a few choice words with no results, I left it for Jim to take care of when he comes back. My inspection by flashlight wherever I could get a peek didn't reveal anything bad so maybe it just needs a really good pumping out.
On earlier walks this year, we've found some nice pieces of sea glass and I took some pretty bits over to Mary Lou on Thursday. By the time I arrived there yesterday, she had transformed them into lovely pendants and earrings. Her work is distinctive and beautiful. Rather than wrapping the glass with wire, she attaches little charms or else just uses a simple silver bail and I really like the look of my beautiful new jewellery. If you'd like to see her work, find her on Cygnus (currently at Sand Dollar Beach) or contact her at email@example.com.
Connie (Oz), Peach and Chris (Star of the Sea) and I along with 50 other folks jammed into a room at the St Francis resort this afternoon to hear Chris Parker in person. He is the weather guru to whom we all listen eagerly 6 mornings a week at 6:30 on the Single Side Band radio. It was a real treat to hear his weather philosophy, and to get a better handle on understanding the forecasting process. He is a weather forecaster, not a meteorologist, although he has studied meteorology, and most of what he has learned has been from flying gliders and sailing. I loved his statement, "I would rather give you information that means you won't be surprised by what you get, than be "right". He said the goal of most forecasters is to be "right", but he would rather be overly cautious than right on the nail. I hadn't realized just how much of the process is watching trends and making educated guesses. No wonder we are sometimes faced with wind that is not just what we expected. One good nugget of information concerned wind along coast lines. He told us that wind tends to parallel coasts so if we are expecting a NW wind and we are going N up the coast of Florida this spring, we will probably get a N wind instead - right on the nose. That situation is exactly what we have found on many occasions when we've been cruising along a coastline.
On Saturday afternoon, I took a walk up over the hill at Sand Dollar beach. The view was spectacular out over the ocean and sparkling over the harbour too. It was perfectly lovely to relax on the bench at the top, chatting with Valt and Sandi (Amber Isle) before continuing along the ridge and back down to the sandy beach. The report today was that there are 184 boats here. I was astounded to hear that there are 52 in Thompson Bay, Long Island; we haven't seen more than 20 there in other years. Now I know why we didn't see as many boats up north - those who are still able to cruise this year are spending their time further south.
By 5 o'clock it was time to head to town to pick up "Captain Madcap". He arrived in a roundabout way from Ottawa, ON with a smile on his face and Cuba charts under his arm. He also seemed to bring a dark cloud with him and we took shelter under an overhang and chatted with Ralph - another Nova Scotian. We were lucky enough to make it across the harbour without getting wet and before long, that big black cloud moved clear away. An omen for the next few days, I hope!
24/02/2011/9:00 am, Georgetown, Exumas
There are more boats here than we've seen before, and at night the mast head anchor lights look for all the world like those of a city. I heard a rumour that there are more than 320 of us in Elizabeth harbour - that open area of water between Stocking Island and the mainland. It is a huge area so boats aren't crowded unless they want to be. As one cruises north to south, we pass by Monument Beach and Hamburger beach, then tiny Honeymoon Beach, and then the centre of action - Volleyball Beach. Tucked in behind that are the "Holes" - #1,2,3. Further down is Sand Dollar Beach where we stopped, and over on the other side is the flock of boats off Kidd Cove just outside the entrance to town, and south of that is Red Shanks - another tucked away little area.
We picked the Sand Dollar area because we wanted lots of space around Madcap for when the wind picks up later today and, being south of the town, we aren't in any risk of sticking out in the channel where the freighters come in. We don't get wifi on the boat, so it means a trip across the harbour to town or up to Volleyball beach to connect. Because it is a long trip across an open stretch of water, we have almost always gotten wet here, but things are better so far this year! Our new 9.5 ft AB dinghy with its higher sides, our faster Yamaha 15 hp outboard, and the calm wind in the last few days have meant very pleasurable crossings. While we used to take 20 minutes to do this crossing, we can fly across in 10 now. (A note about dinghies and motors here: We are so very happy with our new and improved models. We went for cheaper before and made do OK, but it is SO much more pleasant with the combination we have now that I would never advise anyone buying them to skimp on these two items.)
We pulled in right next to Kolibrie and were immediately invited to join them and others at a potluck on the beach. It was fun to see Bill and Barb (Suncast) and Diane and Ted (Boatel I) and to meet Axel and Mary Claire (Azaya) and Marsha and Chris (Endorphins) along with our Bayfield 36 pals, Pat and Wayne (Kolibrie).
We did more visiting on Tuesday, mingled with water jug filling at the dinghy dock and internet at Pet's Place - a new and convenient little cafe in town. On our way in, we passed a boat with a big Nova Scotia flag flying so of course we had to stop by and meet Peter Henneberry from Eastern Passage. He had amazing tales to tell of his trip down here and was also able to give us first hand information about Cuba. He has been there already this year so as we chatted, I wrote down everything he said! There must be a dozen Nova Scotia boats here - it's really fun to see them and meet them. Interestingly, it seems to be the Quebeckers and the Nova Scotians (Madcap among them) who fly our provincial flags along with the red maple leaf.
Mary Lou and Bob (Cygnus) are just a bit behind us. We haven't seen these old friends from MD since our brief visit to Georgetown last year and were delighted to join them and their friends Judy and John (Luna Sea) and Sandra and Chuck (Eliora) for Happy Hour. Sapphire left early in the morning, so although I had a quick chat with Mike, we'll have to wait till later to see them.
Jim had an early morning flight out of here on Wednesday and was able to share a taxi with guests of Boatel I, so we all assembled by the market at 6 am to see them off. During the rest of the day, I picked up water, checked out the grocery store, and ordered new Cuba charts from Bluewater Books in Fort Lauderdale. Apparently there are brand new ones for the North coast (NV charts) and since Jim has to overnight in Washington, they will send them there, saving us some shipping costs. A number of boats in the area are planning March trips to Cuba from Ragged Island and it is exciting to connect with them and make some plans - still etched into soft sand of course!
Chris Parker (the weather guy) arrives here on Saturday and will be giving weather seminars all week, so I joined the hoards of other boaters in registration line at St. Francis conference centre. I plan to attend Basic Weather on Saturday, and I've signed Jim up for the one on web weather and grib files when he returns. (Hope he thinks it's a good choice!!) We'll be here for the first few days of regatta this year so we'll take in a few other events too.
Last night was Happy Hour at Hamburger Beach and after debating whether I'd go or not, I decided to head on up there and I'm glad I did! The food was fine and the conversations many. I met up with the crews of Oz and Star of the Sea, Cygnus and Luna Sea, and met Ann and Joe (Short Walk) and Jane and Gary (Dream Catcher). Just after dark, Connie helped me push the dinghy off the beach and Ken insisted that I call to report a safe arrival home. Mary Lou and Bob offered an escort if I needed one. I have to tell you, it was so thrilling to captain my own little dinghy through the anchored boats and then plane down the harbour outside the city of lights and under the stars. While I love cruising with my great partner, Jim, his trips back to Canada this year have allowed me to experience the thrill of doing things on my own and being solely responsible for Madcap. It is wonderfully reassuring to know that I have good friends nearby who offer company and support whenever I want it, and so far, there have been no challenges, so I am one contented cruiser.
Now ... off to start another day. I have jobs to do, places to go and people to see!!