05/03/2011/2:54 pm, Thompson Bay, Long Island
This is a long one! Pic comes later!
We had a flat calm trip across from Georgetown to Thompson Bay on Wednesday. It was a shame to use fuel, but still a pleasant passage - we took turns on the foredeck relaxing in the sun, had solar showers and arrived clean!
The wind picked up just as we rounded Indian Hole Point (Jim lost a big fish off his line - boo hoo) and we pulled in to find somewhere around 25 boats here - some new to us and some familiar ... I was going to say, "faces" but perhaps "sterns" would be more accurate!
We rented a car from Alton Fox (so close - we just dinghy to the dock near his garage, walk up the road 100 yards or so and there we are) and drove up to Stella Maris to pick up Mary Jean (Jim's sister) on Thursday. She is feeling climate (and culture) shock I think but she is a trooper and has leapt right into it! Life is different here - warmer, wetter, windier. We moved right into explorer mode as soon as we left the airport, walking down to the Atlantic beach at Stella Maris to view the breakers rolling in, and the lovely little tide fed pool that offers guests a protected salt water swimming area - even when the surf is too strong to be on the beach.
Next stop was the gorgeous Cape Santa Maria resort on the other side of Long Island. We heard that it is rated as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and it could very likely be true. It is a stunning crescent of white sand, and as we stood with our backs to the charming villas, we looked out over the clear, many shades of aqua waters of the bay. As we strolled the beach, we met Claire and Doug, newly arrived guests, out for their first toe-dip in the water. Mary Jean had enjoyed conversation with them on the flight over from Nassau and we all continued it there. What a fine introduction to the "small, small world" we inhabit here.
It was time then to head back down island, but instead of stopping in Thompson Bay to return to the boat, we just had to take MJ down to Max's Conch bar in Deadman's Cay. We were a hungry crowd when we got there so we tucked into big bowls of conch salad, grouper fingers, plantain, crab'n'rice, Kaliks and cider. A piece of heaven! We have been eating VERY well lately as you'll see as you read on :-) Max's is special - it's a thatched hut - open air with T-shirts, license plates, photos on the walls and in albums on the counters. We sit on stools, (well, they have tables but why would anyone sit there when we can be at the counter watching Max do his "chopchop" thing?) watch the chef at work with knife and bowl, keep an eye on the other patrons, share the jokes, check e-mail on the free wifi, and admire the beauties from the sea - shells, coral, flotsam and jetsom. My exchange with Max went like this, (me)"This conch salad is perfect!" (Max)"Absolutely perfect?" (me)"Yes, absolutely perfect!" (Max)" The best word would be Awesome!" (me)"Then Awesome it is!"
With tummies full and feeling sated with fresh air and sunshine, we headed "home". I had taken garbage bags to cover Mary Jean's luggage so it didn't get wet on the windy ride back, but we got a few splashes ourselves. Mike and Cathy (Sapphire) came over for Happy Hour - a reunion happy hour because we haven't seen them since a brief connection last year - and oh it was so good to connect again - to talk books and anchorages and fishing and getting "knocked down". It was when Mike talked about removing his eyebrows that Mary Jean burst out, "This is such a weird conversation!" Amid gales of laughter he explained that eyebrows are the strips of wood that run along the edges of the cabin roof on our Bayfields, and that knockdowns are not common.
Dinner was a light but healthy chicken and broccoli stir fry, and despite curling up with our books for a short time after dinner, all three of us were in our berths with lights out by 9.
Friday started off with Chris Parker's weather broadcast on SSB at 6:30 - and we are very glad to have Chris back on line in person - followed by Cruisehimers, and a call to Jerry (Poco Loco) to get added to the list of cruisers going to Tryphena's for dinner that night. By 9 we were back on the road again - headed south.
First stop was the Blue Hole in Dean's. For some strange reason we didn't get here when we explored Long Island in 2008, and we were excited to see it, and hoping to meet up with some divers as our friends on Star of the Sea did a week or so ago. No such luck with the divers, and the water was too rough for us to swim and snorkel around the edges, but it was still an awesome sight. To think that just a few feet offshore as we waded along at low tide, the sandy bottom drops off to 633 feet! The colour is distinctive too - a big circle of dark blue water sitting in a sea of aqua green. A couple of divers were on the platform in the middle of it, but they left without much conversation about the diving. We've heard that experienced free divers can stay down for 5 minutes at a time! How is that possible? After wandering the beach for a bit, we tucked ourselves back into the car and pointed south again.
This time, we went all the way to the end of the road - where the STOP sign and the "Gordons" community sign are side-by-side, and the road just simply ends. We took the lane to the right over to the beach where we took a short stroll under the accumulating dark clouds, started our picnic lunch and then ran for the shelter of the car as the drops started to fall. Because the sky stayed dark, we abandoned this beach and drove north to Ford's - another gorgeous beach on the western side. The clouds had moved on so we spent a couple of hours swimming and shelling - just the three of us in this beautiful place. Next stop was the Atlantic beach at Morrisville - and oh what a breathtaking place! We drove to the end of the gravelly lane, stopped the car just before the rise of sandy and scrubby dune, and walked over the top to oooh and aaah at the roaring and white-capped sea breaking over the rocks and reefs off shore. A wrecked and rusty boat was canted on its side to the left; the huge seas breaking over grey rocks to the right showed just how it might have gotten there.
Three or four people played in the water further down the beach but we didn't feel quite like getting in there. Instead, we strolled along, letting the wind air-dry our bathing suits and hair, looking for sea glass and sea beans. (no glass but a couple of hamburger beans and a really nice heart)
Well and truly windblown, we journeyed on again. A sign at the museum told us we had arrived too late (it closes at 4 M-F) and we needed to be at Happy Hour/dinner by 6 so we came on home. We had debated just taking the car but it was getting colder and we needed jackets - and after all, part of the fun of going there is the walk through the woods so we lugged our things back out to the boat, changed our clothes (because of course we got wet) and headed back to the beach (with jackets zipped up and garbage bags over our knees). We pulled our dinghy up to join the others along the shoreline, followed the path, and joined the crowd at Club Thompson Bay.
Tryphena's place is a must do and has long been a Long Island institution. We were here with a crowd three years ago, and it was fun, but this visit was even better. Folks from a dozen boats mingled in the large room - that was considerably spruced up from before. Rum punches, kaliks, or sodas were in every hand; laughter and stories came from every corner. By 7 o'clock, Tryphena herself appeared by the fully loaded buffet table to "explain" and suggest that if the gentlemen were gentlemen, they would let the women go first - a nice idea since those men all looked huuuuungry! After hearing what was on each platter, we heaped our plates (leaving some morsels for the fellows) with snapper and conch and crawfish (spiny lobster tails), all lightly battered and fried, squares of mac'n'cheese, cole slaw, potato salad, peas'n'rice, plantains, curried chicken, meaty spareribs. What a feast - Bahamian food at its finest - heavy on the protein -yes; greasy - no, and all for $18. per person. We ate with Bill and Bette (Sea Mist) and Jan and Karl (White Pepper) and enjoyed the conversation as much as the food.
As we walked down the road and through the woods by the light of our flashlights, as we climbed into the dinghies and pointed them out into the sea, trying to pick out which anchor light was ours and dodging waves and boats, I thought again how much I love this lifestyle - and how much fun it was to be introducing Mary Jean to it.
Saturday has been another sociable day. Mike popped over for a visit after breakfast and we pored over charts for good fishing spots. We dinghied over to Sea Mist for another cup of coffee and a tour of their lovely Allied Princess 36. It is the same length as Madcap but is a ketch and has a slightly different interior layout. We always love seeing other boats. Then it was time to come ashore for lunch at Island Breeze and some wifi time. Amid more conversations we enjoyed yummy grouper fingers with home made french fries, tuna salad, tuna sandwiches and more plantains. This was top quality food again!
I exchanged a bag of books (and traded a few more with Kathy and Mike). We connected again with Angie and Clark (Seabattical I) whom we had met in the anchorage for just a few minutes last year and chatted back and forth amongst the tables of people balancing food and computers. I have finally gotten us up to date on the blog I think, and we will shortly head off to the beach for a party!
I'm so sorry that I forgot to bring my camera and cable to upload pics - they will have to come later. It has been windy windy windy - but it is supposed to calm down soon. Tomorrow, we'll move to the north part of Long Island and off we go to Conception Island on Monday for a new adventure.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!