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Madcap Sailing
Easter in the Tropics
25/03/2008/10:26 am, Thompson Bay, Long Island

Easter Sunday dawned beautifully clear. Jim and I opted to spend it outdoors rather than inside a church, which is where we could be found in other years. There are several churches along the main road through this area and we met friends who were off to the Anglican one. As we strolled by at about 11:10 (service scheduled to start at 11) we saw clergy persons getting their gowns on and going in the door, and it appeared to be at least 1 hours later before anyone came out. The sign outside listed 5 services each Sunday, and there were lots of cars in the yard so it must be well attended.

For us - the walk was time well spent. We listened to birds singing, watched butterflies dance past us, tried to get close to a really pretty and well armoured goat who matched us pace for pace from his position behind a thicket. We marveled (as we never tire of doing) at the milky green colour of the water and the sky blue above it. We smelled the earthy scent of the land after a rain shower, and noticed the huge variety of trees and shrubs.

We pondered the history of this island where agriculture is a main industry. Unlike the last places we've been, there are quite a number of white Bahamians here. My theory is that since Long Island was more fertile, the Loyalists stayed longer and have descendents here, while on the less hospitable islands, the white folks gave up early and departed for other climes, leaving slaves behind to find ways of surviving. It is the descendents of those slaves who populate the islands. We'll visit the Long Island Museum one day this week to see what the real story is.

Club Thompson Bay was closed up tight so it will be on the visiting list for another day. It seems to have been an institution in the area and all the books say it is famous for Bahamian cooking. A sign at the corner of the Indian Hole Point Road pointed the way to the Parrots of the Caribbean Bar and Grill, and we headed in that direction next. Friends had mentioned it to us, but it isn't in the guidebooks yet. It too, was locked up but looks definitely worth another visit. It's one of those really pretty establishments - with brightly coloured cottages, thatched roof bar and porches made for lounging upon, so we lounged for a bit before walking back to the beach where our dinghy waited.

We happily used up precious daytime minutes on our cell phone to call my Dad and the kids. It is on traditional family occasions that we notice how strange it is to be here in sun and sand while they are still in the thick of winter cold and snow. Aw gee - we really feel for them! Whenever I remember the bone chilling cold of Ottawa dog walks, I thank my lucky stars for this opportunity to curl my toes into warm sand and watch the freckles popping up on my arms. We are truly in the Tropics now. The line of latitude - Tropic of Cancer - runs through the community of Simms just north of us. When we go up there in the car we'll rent later in the week, I hope we'll find a sign somewhere.

We lunched on a yummy chicken salad. A left-over lemon/garlic grilled chicken breast joined romaine lettuce, feta cheese, sweet-sweet sapodilly chunks, and red and green peppers drizzled with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Sooo tasty.

In the evening we, along with Joe and Mary Ellen (Dallycally) and Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) joined Pat and Tony on Sara for an Easter Happy Hour. As is usual, we lingered long past dinner time, and made a meal out of the delicious fare offered. Marilyn got up early in the morning and baked scrumptious anisette/almond biscotti that Bruce delivered personally to each boat; other goodies on the table were devilled eggs, hotdog bites in BBQ sauce, cheese, crackers, lemon-herb dip, feta cheese/crispbread fingers. Oh - boaters eat well!

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Sauntering Around Salt Pond
22/03/2008/11:40 am, Thompson Bay, Long Island

Just as we were preparing to go ashore to see what was what in the area, a couple of dinghies pulled up at Reflection, next door. We'd been looking only at each other for several days at this point and were feeling like some broader social interaction so we headed in that direction too! There we met Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection), Tony and Pat (Sara), Mary Ellen and Joe (Dallycally?) and joined them for a few hours of exploration.

We dinghied to a fishing dock, tied up, hoisted ourselves up over the edge of the dock and started walking. First stop - Hillside Groceries - an incredibly wellstocked store - more like what we found in Marsh Harbour. Then Fox gifts - with all sorts of "department store" items - toys, linens, cosmetics, gift items and a room full of a good assortment of tools.

We turned off the main road onto the loop and stopped by Atlantic fish store where we found lobster tails for $16. a pound and a variety of kinds of snapper. Nobody was buying on this "look and see" trip because we had walking on our minds but we know where to find the place now. A long dirt track took us out to a Sound side beach - glorious colours of reef and water. On a calm day, there would be good snorkeling here but we opted to go looking for shells and seabeans. No finds to our disappointment.

Back on the main road, we stopped by the Island Breeze Resort - newly opened and serving lunch. A pretty little pool had a number of children splashing around in it, the BBQ chef was cooking up hamburgers, and the barman was handing out cold beer. My conch salad was delicious but Jim's hamburger was pretty average. The conversation was lively though and we had a good time with these new cruising friends.

We stopped at the grocery store for a few supplies, struck up a conversation with another couple at the cash register, and had just started out on the road back to the dinghy dock, when that same very kind couple stopped and offered us a lift. Life is good. How did we allow ourselves get so far away from such friendliness and helpfulness?

Back at the boat, it was a quiet evening with books and grilled chicken, yams, salad for dinner.

More following when I get my battery recharged... Easter was lovely here and we'll stay in the area for several days.

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Course Changes
Beth - hot, windy
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!

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