16/02/2008/5:45 pm, Black Point Settlement
(Revised from the earlier posting with the same title)
We have developed a great appreciation for clean laundry during this cruising life. Our last wash day (other than swimsuits and the occasional t-shirt rinsed and hung on the rails to dry) was in Marsh Harbour on January 19th. Almost every textile on this boat was either soiled or salty, and the sheer joy of having them all clean and dry is just beyond description. This town knows how to fill a niche. There is a dinghy dock right outside the Laundromat; 12 modern washers and almost as many dryers take tokens - $3.50 each - and they all work. For a small extra fee - I think it is $10 - someone else will do it all for you. The place is spotlessly clean and is open till 8pm. (tokens must be purchased by 5, and it's closed on Sundays). As in many Laundromats, there is a book exchange, and soap and other cleaning supplies may be purchased there. Ida also cuts hair, and Jim plans to spend some time in her chair next week. Every cruiser knows or finds out about Black Point's laundry facilities, and the reputation is well deserved.
Another convenient stop during the washing and drying is Lorraine's Café - two houses down the road. Lorraine not only serves food and beverages, she has an extensive book exchange, and a whole room devoted to computer and internet service. She asks a small fee - minimum $5.00 or $10.00 for a day - and will also do printing and scanning. Along with wifi access, she has several computers there for the use of cruisers. She told me she just opened this room a couple of months ago, and is hoping people will stop in and help her recoup her investment.
To backtrack just a bit, Jim and I dinghied back into Staniel Cay on Friday from our anchorage at Big Majors Spot. It was great fun to spot Joel and Kailin (Achates II) last seen in Green Turtle Cay. They are Nova Scotians who have been having a fabulous year of exploring.
We walked over to Bernadette Chamberlain's cottages and just love the look of them. Our neighbour from back in Ottawa is renting one for a week and we have another one reserved for our family starting Thursday. They face the beach and come complete with comfy chairs on the porches and hammocks slung from gazebos. They are a short stroll from the Pink Pearl store where Flo Smith presides. The boat came in on Friday and we had a wonderful time stocking up on produce and cheese while we got to know her. I know we'll have many more pleasant visits.
Wine is in short supply here and prices are high. We'll need to ration ourselves until the next stocking up place - maybe Georgetown? We checked with the folks at the dock to see about buying some fish, but no luck. We'll keep trying. In the meantime the pork chops looked tasty.
On Saturday morning we took our 2-hour run to Black Point and you already know what we did during daytime hours! In the evening we devoured ribs at Lorraine's with Mike and Kathy (Sapphire). Saturday is BBQ night there and along with her regular menu, Lorraine serves excellent ribs and chicken, with conch fritters to start with and coconut cake to round out the meal.
Sunday morning the four of us hiked out along the beaches on the eastern shore, listening to the waves crashing in, bemoaning the amount of washed up plastic once again, and browsing for pretty shells and seabeans.
We bade farewell to Mike and Kathy as they continue on their southward journey while we headed back to Staniel Cay for a few more days.
14/02/2008/1:09 pm, Big Majors Spot
Happy Valentines Day from Big Majors Spot - home of the swimming pigs. We had a very good 3-hour motor sail down from Warderick Wells this morning. Sandi and Steve (Princess) headed north, and Sapphire and Madcap, in company with many other boats headed south. There is yet another north wind blowing and we picked this anchorage to give us a bit of protection, tucked up on the west side of Big Majors Spot and just south of Fowl Cay. Perhaps there is a bit of protection, but the wind is still blowing and the water is choppy. On the other hand, the water temp is 30 C and the air is 27 C so what's a little wind?!
Jim made a trip to Staniel Cay while I stayed on board to bake a birthday cake. It was probably just as well there was only one person in the dinghy - we have a teeny little 5 hp motor and it does us just fine in flat water, but it goes slowly and "wetly" with two persons aboard in choppy water. He arrived back with frozen pork chops and a pound of hotdogs, a cucumber, some spinach, a couple of oranges and limes and a dozen eggs - and a pound of mediocre coffee. We think the choices will be better after the boat comes in on Monday.
We ran out of water last night and when I went to pull out my emergency jug from the cockpit locker, I discovered the jug had sprung a leak and there was just enough for a pot of morning caffeine. Speaking of caffeine - we ran out of coffee two days ago and have been drinking tea. I made a pot this morning and then realized I had used decaffeinated bags that I had on board for the Strathspey folks so I had to add a couple more bags to the same pot - since I didn't have any more water. It was potent but it did the wake-up job. Dinners the last few nights have been canned beef with peas n' rice, corned beef hash, pasta with stirfried "whatever was left in the produce bag" and a bit of chicken. We haven't come close to starving, but it's been pretty boring!
There must be 30 boats here in this anchorage - people all seem to head for the same spots. Jim dove on the anchor, shoved it down in the sand a little more, and we hope it holds - no room for dragging here. We haven't yet paid a visit to the beach but I've been watching dinghies pull up to be greeted by the pigs. I've seen 4 of them; 2 swim out in search of food while the others are content to wait till folks land. Apparently it is considered OK to feed compost scraps to them and they are very used to being fed and photographed.
We elected to celebrate Jim's birthday (and Valentine's Day) on board with a dinner of BBQ'd pork chops, squash, and spinach salad with a celebratory glass of champagne and chocolate cake for dessert. It was the first time in 25 years that there have been no children at the dinner table to toast their daddio, but the 2 of us had a very nice time looking back over past years and reviewing old memories.
Staniel Cay looks like a fine place to spend some time - the casual yacht club is full of patrons eating, drinking and doing email. Nurse sharks (harmless! harmless!) swim along under the pier, Internet is free and the sun is hot. We deposited one big bag of garbage, bought 25 gallons of water (40 cents per gallon), and ate a good lunch. This afternoon, we'll walk around town, check out the cottage we're renting for the family next week and then move down to Black Point Settlement to do laundry. We'll have lots more to tell you because we'll stay in the area for quite a while.
13/02/2008/1:02 pm, Warderick Wells
I need to temper my assessment of Emerald Rock mooring field. It was just wonderful in the north wind but on Tuesday night the wind was out of the SE and we had probably the very worst night we have ever spent aboard. We rocked and rolled vigorously in the 20-25 knot winds with gusts to 30. (I almost put viciously - but maybe that word should be saved for an even more rocky night sometime!)
We didn't get around to installing lee cloths before we left (strips of cloth along the salon seats that fasten to the seat and to the rails along the ceiling - to keep the sleeper from rolling out when sleeping there in rolling seas) and hadn't missed them till now, when the forward berth was horribly noisy and bouncy. The benches in the salon were somewhat better but I had to jam myself against the back cushion and keep a hand tucked under the seat to make sure I stayed there. We hadn't secured everything before we went to bed because we thought it was just going to be the usual kind of rocking, so when the serious stuff started, books flew off the shelves, dishes on the counter slid into the sink and even those in the cupboards were sliding and banging against the doors. I stuffed towels into every cupboard to lessen the slide, jammed computers and cameras between pillows on the floor and then got horizontal. The cabin is not the best place to be when there is serious boat movement, but our cockpit seats are so narrow that we'd have been knocked off them in a minute if we'd tried to sleep up there. At least neither of us got seasick!
Jim and I were each up to the bow a time or two just to check on the mooring line but it was fine. One thing about being on the mooring - we didn't have that residual anxiety about whether the anchor would hold. The disadvantage was that we didn't have the benefit of a long anchor rode that would have cushioned the movement a bit.
We did some more hiking on Tuesday, dinghying in as far as Butterfly Beach. The water was rough and our fuel supply was getting down so that worked very well from both perspectives. Fortunately, Sandi and Steve are kindred spirits in their love of walking so we've had dome fine times on the trail. We ceremoniously placed a small "Madcap" sign, created from a piece of driftwood, atop the pile at BooBoo Hill. We leaned over the blowholes and were amazed at the power of the wind and spray. I was expecting a low moaning sound and instead found a real snort. It comes in short powerful blasts - enough to blow your hat off and make you step back a pace or two. I could picture a powerful underwater creature snorting and blowing his demands.
A word about footwear on these hikes: I've been wearing my crocs and they have held up amazingly well on the sharp coral. I can move in and out of the water with them and they are as comfortable as always. Those $30.00 shoes are just perfect for cruising. I wear the thongs more often, but the original clog style stays on better when going up and down the hills.
The temperature has been upwards of 27C most days, and water temp has hit 30 on occasion. We've been able to swim off the boat whenever we need a refreshing dip, and our solar shower bag is always nice and warm afterward. Our towels are getting a bit salty and we are rationing water so we can't wash them. We keep a set for drying off after a salty dip and another set for drying after fresh water. They're all lightweight - heavy ones take too long to dry.
A highlight of Tuesday was a birthday celebration for Kathy on Sapphire. Mike made some fabulous smoked salmon pate (smoking the salmon on the BBQ) and a nippy blackbean dip. We toasted her health with champagne and shared some chocolate cake to top it all off. Jim and I then made the short trip back to Madcap before settling down to the nasty night I talked about at the beginning of this post.
On Wednesday, Jim and I in company with Steve and Sandi and Mike made a great long trek - about 3 hours worth across the cay, down along the Sound side and back to the Banks side, going up and down hills till we got back to Butterfly beach where we had left our dinghy. I was reminded of the flow experiences - doing that which is just barely possible. That's the way we felt by the time we got back. Thank goodness we had taken water - some snacks will be in the backpack next time we embark on a long hike. We tramped up and down, stopping to admire the glorious views, challenging our legs with steep ups and downs, and our balance with narrow bits between eroded holes in the ground. It was all very satisfying and made for a good glow of achievement. We watched the curly tailed lizards and the tiny straight tailed ones. We stopped to read signs about the dozen different kinds of vegetation. It may look barren and scrubby here but there are an amazing number of shrubs and grasses and trees that are perfectly suited to this hot, saline environment.
We learned something about beaching dinghies too - we had pulled ours upand set the anchor the way we usually do, but had left the anchor line slack. Unfortunately, that meant that when the tide came in, the dinghy floated out enough to be the recipient of wave after wave of salt water. By the time we got there, it was well and truly swamped. Our dinghy bag with lights, depth sounder, handheld VHF was soaked and the gas tank was afloat. I bailed furiously until Mike and Jim managed to tip the thing over and get the rest of the water out. We were so lucky that the motor started up right away.
Wednesday night was rocky but much more tolerable than the night before. We watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and headed off to bed in good time.