21/03/2008/11:28 am, Thompson Bay, Long Island
As you may note from the location of this posting, we didn't do what I said we were going to do a couple of postings ago. On the other hand, we kept to our larger game plan - following "wind, weather and inclination".
The wind stayed up longer than was expected, and the swells were high enough on the Sound that heading south into them was not desirable. (Five boats came in through Galliot Cut while we were there - heading north with the wind behind them but that's a different matter from pounding into the waves and wind heading south.)
So the choices were: stay put another day or two until the swells died down, go back to Little Farmers or some point north - because we were tired of staying here, go just a bit further and anchor off Cave Cay (our deeper draft does not allow us to continue down the channel past Cave and Musha Cays), or set an entirely different course to follow the Banks route all the way to Long Island. (Once again, because of our nearly 6 ft draft we didn't have many choices about going back out to the sound from the Banks)
We opted to travel on the Banks to Long Island - bypassing Lee Stocking, and Great Exuma Cays, including Georgetown. We'll pick them up later - on the way back up north or as we do some back and forth travel.
The wind was gentle on the Banks and we were pretty much alone out there. We met one catamaran coming into Galliot as we left about 10am, another as we neared Rocky point at 5pm, and another one came by while we were anchored there. We had our staysail out for most of the way and it boosted us by about half a knot, meaning that we made roughly 5 - 6 kn for most of the trip. It was pretty much like the old days of just making time - plowing our way through the water (except this was a beautiful greenish, milky water about 8 ft deep), with land barely visible on the horizon. Rocky Point - west of Barraterre on Great Exuma Cay - made a fine first night stop. The holding was good in the sand and the moon was almost full. This was one of the few places where we didn't go ashore; we just left the dinghy up and read our books in the evening. At first light on Friday morning we powered up and headed out again - on the magenta lines between Explorer Chartbook waypoints. By the time we reached areas where coral heads might lurk, the sun was high enough to see them, but we needn't have worried. Our course avoided them all.
Once again it was a day of motoring and we were straight into the wind so we didn't have a sail up at all. The plus side was that the wind died to almost nothing until midafternoon so we made pretty good time - a good thing because we needed to cover 60 some nautical miles to Indian Hole at Thompson Bay on Long Island. The alternative was to just drop the anchor along the way - probably at Comer West - overnight and take the channel in the next morning. We passed one little fishing boat, but saw not one single cruising boat over those 60 nm.
Jim and I felt quite pleased with ourselves for going off the beaten track this way. The banks are shallow anyway, and the route we took to get into Thompson Bay from Comer West to Comer Channel to Comer East carried just about our draft at low tide. Because of timing we couldn't avoid, we happened to be there at just about low tide and decided we'd give it a whirl. The worst that could happen was that we'd have to drop an anchor and sit on the sand till the tide came up.
Well - I'm happy to report a successful passage and calm nerves! We covered about 10.5 miles with anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 ft under our keel - mostly in the 0.5 to 0.9 range - that's like - 3 or 4 inches! But no worries because it was just sand.
We dropped our anchor among about 20 others spread out over the northern part of the Bay, turned off the motor and listened to the blissful silence as we watched the sun drop over Indian Hole Point. Those sapodillas are ripening and Denzel was right - they are sweet like honey! The texture is pearlike and the taste - ambrosia. I had a chunk of gorgonzola cheese in the fridge and with some crackers - mmmmagnificent sunset feast to celebrate a long and successful day.
There is wind picking up tonight (Friday) and a good blow forecast for next week, and we will be nicely established in Thompson Bay, Long Island. Yee-haw!
19/03/2008/11:22 am, Big Galliot Cay
The wind kept blowing so we opted not to head out into the 12-foot swells in the Sound, and stayed mostly in one place these last couple of days. On Wednesday we shifted a few hundred meters northeast over to the nook between Big Farmers Cay and Little Galliot Cay in order to escape the stronger wind and bigger waves that arrived as the wind shifted further south.
We've done some odds and sods of boat jobs over the last couple of days. Jim installed the frame around the chimney (from our little baby fireplace) that will prevent our sheets (lines for the foresails) from getting caught in it, and replaced the caulking around one chainplate (place where part of the rigging attaches to the deck) that will end the leak in our nice big locker (cupboard) in the head (bathroom).
I tidied up the chaos that has taken over our salon (living/diningroom), forward cabin (bedroom) and aft cabin (spare room aka garage) of late, washed down the floors and walls to rid them of salt, scoured the fish-frying grease from the galley (3 x 6 ft kitchen) and tackled the stainless on the deck. Our stainless is holding up pretty well but it still needs regular attention to remove the rust spots that crop up.
We took regular runs ashore to walk the small beaches, pick our way across the coral on the east side and swim in the clear water. As we walked around a corner on Big Farmer's Cay late one afternoon, we spotted a herd of goats on the rocks. They were pretty shy and took off into the woods while we were still a long way down the beach. The temperature has dropped to about 24 C at night and when the sun goes behind a cloud and we're in the wind, it even feels chilly. No, no, no...I'm not complaining, honest!
Jeffrey and Nick came by in their fishing boat and asked if we wanted anything from Cave Cay where they were headed for fuel. Perfect timing as that was on our to-do list. Jim tossed them a couple of jerry cans and away they went. By the time they returned, I had a chocolate cake fresh out of the oven so they came onboard and visited. Nick filleted a grouper and left that for us in exchange for the cake, and they roared off to get the rest of their catch on a plane to Nassau.
We have appreciated getting to know these folks. Hallan Rolle (aka Little Jeff - his call sign) took Blair, Mary, Jim and me to Barraterre, and Jeffery (his son) has become our regular fish supplier. He would also be happy to take us (or anyone) out fishing. We have Jeffery's phone number, Little Jeff is easily found on VHF 16, and we would recommend them both.
I wasn't feeling all that well for a day or so - headache, general soreness and swollen lymph glands - the first bit of illness in months and months, and I was happy to take it easy. Jim had the same thing the next day so we figure we picked up a bug of some kind. We are both on the mend now.
18/03/2008/11:18 am, Big Galliot Cay
We changed our minds. The plan was to move around the corner, wait out the wind overnight and maybe another day, then head out the cut and go to Lee Stocking. But the wind wasn't bad at all on Sunday evening so we stayed put on our mooring at Little Farmers. It picked up about 4am on Monday morning, and by that time we decided to go down to Galliot instead of just around to the west side of Little Farmers.
We dinghied to the beach right beside the mooring and walked into town for one last visit and a couple of errands before heading out. I needed a couple of items for the larder and we had not yet visited the "supermarket". To envision this, you must, first of all, get the automatic "supermarket picture" right out of your mind. The room was about 20 by 30 ft with 2 rows of shelving. These shelves were neatly but sparsely occupied by cans and bottles - pineapple and grapefruit juice (no other kinds), the usual canned goods and cleaning supplies. The only produce I saw was onions. In one corner, a big cooler contained a couple of dozen eggs, 4 small containers of yogurt - all lukewarm. A gorgeous little girl played peekaboo from her playpen in one corner and a handsome young boy (Gr. Primary) offered to help me find whatever I needed. We bought onions and a bottle of catsup and asked about limes. The young mother took our $3.00 and told us to go to next door for the limes.
At the next door (same building) I asked through the screen about limes and we were invited to come in. It became clear that the two women offer complementary supplies, because this tiny space (8 x 10 maybe!) held a fridge jammed with produce - a crisper drawer filled with limes and another with tomatoes, shelves of lettuce, cabbage, cheese, milk, eggs. The shelves around the room held rice, peas, tomato paste, etc. (One can ALWAYS buy rice and pigeon peas, tomato paste and onions - the key ingredients in peas 'n rice - and of course fish is ALWAYS available so there is no question of going hungry here.) I also spotted a box of snickers bars so I snapped up a few of those along with my eggs, limes, tomatoes and a head of romaine lettuce. (Those bags of three romaine hearts keep really well.) A note about eggs: I always opened the box to check for broken ones back home - and found them surprisingly often - and I do the same here. There is almost always a cracked egg or two, and often a mix of brown and white in the same carton. Now, instead of putting the box back, I just swap eggs from one carton to another. I should have asked where they come from since there are so many chickens running around the yards - none of them appear to be fertilized eggs, and the yolk colour isn't particularly bright like yard eggs would be so I suspect these haven't just been picked up around the neighbourhood.
On the other hand, those chickens might well end up in the freezer or on the dinner table. At some place now forgotten, we were told that when a household needs a chicken for the pot, someone just goes out and grabs one. We also heard that the big black boar at Big Majors Spot ended up at the dinner after Rollie Gray's funeral. (He was on the beach the first time we visited but was never seen again!)
As we left the stores, exchanging hellos with the schoolboys in their neat uniforms (long pants, sparkling white shirts and blue ties) we noticed our friend Denzel crouched on the beach washing something. He waved us over and we discovered the "somethings" were sapodillas - known around here as dillies. He gave us a few, telling us that in a few days they would be soft and sweet like honey.
Jeffrey Rolle went by on his bike and we told him we'd come by his house for some fish before leaving, but the next stop as we walked up the hill was JR's house. JR Tinker is the local carver of some renown - he has won several competitions for his carving and was just back from the Bahamian Cultural Festival in Georgetown. He had a good show there but still had a few carvings on the shelves in his tiny shop. We bought a peel owl - the little Bahamian burrowing owl and as he carved his initials into the bottom, he told us a bit about his life. He owns a nice little property on the hill with fruit trees all around, has a bunch of children and grandchildren scattered over many islands and even Canada, and although there was no woman currently about the place, he mentioned that he has had quite a number of sweethearts! JR has been carving all his life - on his little stool just by his backdoor, surrounded by trees and birds and the sound of the waves. (I surely do wish I had taken my camera ashore!)
Waving goodbye to JR as he headed back to his couch to recover from the busy week, we walked further up the hill to Jeffrey's house and told him that we had $11.00 left in our pockets and would take whatever fish we could get for that. He disappeared for a bit while we chatted with Nick and came back with a bag of snappers - some Gray and some Lane. I asked them how to prepare boil fish, and got specific instructions on frying the fish - get the oil almost smokin' - then cook onions, potatoes in a little water, adding lemon juice, thyme and the fish.
Once back at the bouncing boat, we pulled up the dinghy, stowed everything that was loose and headed out for Big Galliot Cay.
Because of our draft we couldn't make a straight run for it, so we ran pretty much the four sides of a rectangle - out to deep enough water and then back in again with a view of the boats back at Little Farmers all the time until we tucked in around the southern corner of Big Farmer's Cay. This anchorage was quieter - not as many waves and no other boats - and we set the anchor firmly in about 7 feet of water.
We took a swim from the little beach on the west side of the cay (oddly enough, Big Galliot is much smaller than Little Galliot) and walked along the path across to the east side where we could watch the whitecaps on the Sound. I was disappointed to find that there was practically no wrack on the far side - prime searching grounds for seabeans, but we clambered across the sharp coral ledges to stretch out our legs. Dinner was ...Snapper! Accompanied by rice, bottled beets and coleslaw.