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Madcap Sailing
Light and Shadow
24/04/2008/8:39 am, Tilloo Cay

Since my last update - posted while sitting on the steps of the Administrative building next to the School in Spanish Wells, we've visited 3 more anchorages.

We motored over to Meeks Patch Saturday afternoon and spent 2 nights in that tranquil little bay - once again, all by ourselves. A small coral head nearby invited us to do a little snorkeling and Jim chased a grouper around with his spear. I found some interesting small shells on the beach and we did a little cleaning, swimming and reading.

As we sat in comfort on our boat in the beautiful sunlight, we listened to a much darker story unfolding on the VHF. A fixed wing US Coast Guard aircraft was calling for assistance in locating persons in the water in NW Providence Channel - not all that many miles from us. A group of Haitians were in the water - the calm and concerned voice kept mentioning persons in the water, and it wasn't until much later that we heard him say there were 3 survivors, 20 dead and 2 still missing. It was interesting that he never did refer to picking up bodies - it was always persons in the water. A small thing perhaps but it sounded so much more respectful. We still don't quite know all the rights of the story but we heard from another cruiser that one boat had sunk and a passing fisherman had tried to rescue them, only to have his own boat swamped by the panicking people.

It felt dreadful to know that while we sat there in comfort and sunshine, these people - and there are many more - have been living such an unbearable life in Haiti that they ventured out across the sea in an unsafe boat, only to die on their way to what they hoped would be a better life. The men we talked to on a Bahamas patrol boat said their prime target is human trafficking and this is what it is about. It was one reminder that wherever there is light, shadow is not far away. We listened in vain for updates on the radio news the next day. Eventually Jim found a report from Fox News and a fellow cruiser found a paper that covered the disaster. Such events need our attention. Listening to a rescue live on the radio sure focused my attention.

Monday was travel day despite the lack of wind and we motored almost 60 miles north to the Abacos - entering Little Harbour Cut just as the wind whipped up to 20 knots. It was such a localized gust that it didn't alter much in terms of swell or rough water in the cut - just increased the wind chop a bit. We were amazed to see 17 boats scattered along Lynyard Cay - last time there were just 4 or 5 - all of them unfamiliar. It has been a long time since we entered an anchorage and didn't see someone we knew. It must be a combination of people moving south, and those who left Georgetown before we got there. Having said that though, it is quite easy for boats to be always a day or two ahead or behind or on a slightly different route through here.

We moved the boat to a day anchorage just off Tom Curry Point to enable us to make a short dinghy ride to Little Harbour. Before sitting down to lunch at Pete's Pub, we visited the gallery and foundry to see the magnificent pieces of lost wax bronze sculpture that have been created by the Johnson family. I had visited the gallery on our trip down and it was really helpful to see the production process too. Randolph was a master of facial expression.

Solitaire came through the cut just as we were heading back to a more secure anchorage for the night so we were pleased to have Nancy and Jim join us for happy hour in our cockpit followed by an early night for all of us.

We had so wanted to spend Wednesday exploring the Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park - snorkeling the reefs at Sandy Cay and walking the beaches, but just as it was on our way south, the wind was too high and we couldn't stop there. Quite a swell was coming in through the cut and the water was too choppy to swim. We tried to anchor near the south end of Tilloo by a beach but the anchor wouldn't hold and there was still an uncomfortable roll so we gave up that idea too. We cruised up the side of Tilloo to the northern tip and anchored in the protected little curve just south of Taverners Cay where we had spent a night last January.

This has been a comfortable stop and we'll head on into Marsh Harbour on Thursday. That will be a day of errand running. The water we picked up in Spanish Wells tastes horrid even when it has been through the Seagull purifier so we'll get drinking water and use that for washing. We hope our ship's clock is ready and we'll do a little grocery shopping as well. Jim has had no luck fishing despite having a line out most of the time as we travel. The "honest to goodness fresh from the field" tomatoes and green peppers I bought by the bagful in Rock Sound are just about gone, and I'm ready for a new supply of pineapple too.

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Where the Banks Meet the Atlantic
Beth - wincing at moving up the latitudes
19/04/2008/2:21 pm, The Glass Window, Eleuthera

In our policy of lingering as long as possible, we chose to hug the shore and pull in at the Glass Window while Interlude, Werplayin and Rachel E headed for Current Cut. It was interesting that we first thought "Oh - maybe we should push on with them and position ourselves for a crossing to the Abacos," despite not having seen the northern end of Eleuthera as we'd planned. It is very easy to get caught up in a group movement. I even reported on Cruiseheimers that Madcap was enroute from Alabaster Bay to Current Cut. As we started out, however, we came to our senses and veered off, and we were so glad we did. Jim commented, "What could we have been thinking?" while we strolled along the sand in this reprieve from towns and activity and the push northward.

This was a beautiful anchorage with excellent holding and Madcap was the only boat there. We usually like to balance periods of group activity with a day or two of solitary travel or anchorage so this was perfect. It was a beautiful bay - several dinghy-friendly beaches, a view of water foaming and crashing under the bridge from the Atlantic, wide expanse of soft green water reaching out to the western horizon and the roar of the Atlantic waves reaching our ears.

The "Glass Window" is a narrow ridge that joins the northern and southern ends of Eleuthera and divides the dark blue Atlantic Ocean on one side from the soft turquoise of the Bahama Banks on the other. Over time, the waves have eaten away at the natural ridge and now a man-made bridge spans the opening. It is one lane wide and crosses an opening through which the water foams and crashes onto the Banks. A few years ago, the bridge was shifted a few feet sideways in a storm and it looked pretty precarious even in its repaired state.

The views were simply stunning. We'd have hated to miss this. Shelling was interesting on the little beaches around the bay and although the water seemed a bit cooler (28C) it still felt delicious as we went in for a swim. The evenings have been cool this week and dinner was in the cabin - sweet and sour meatballs with pineapple and green peppers over rice and a nibble of chocolate for dessert.

We headed out at 7:45 to catch a favourable current at Current Cut - aptly named. Figuring that time was a bit of a trick. We knew that the water ebbs to the Ocean and flows onto the Banks so that narrowed it somewhat. The next consideration was to arrive at or near slack tide, and that's where there can be some confusion. One book said the tides there are 1 to 1 ½ hours after Nassau, another book said 2- 2 ½ hours later. High in Nassau was at 7:58 so we figured that if we got there sometime between 9:30 and 10 we would catch slack tide or the beginning of the ebbing current or at worst, the end of the rising tide when it wouldn't be very strong ...and it worked. We caught the ebb tide. Once again we were the fortunate beneficiaries of good planning and good luck. The planning worked for the time, and Mother Nature was in charge of the wind which was behind us - meaning that both current and wind were going in the same direction - and that makes for smooth water. Our speed picked up to 7.7 knots as we made the elbow turn - a very comfortable passage.

As we left the anchorage on Saturday morning, we kept turning to see the "window" behind us, and it was visible for miles - looking absolutely like a window through the rock. The land formations were just beautiful and we highly recommend it as a place to spend some time.

By noon, we were anchored outside the harbour at Spanish Wells and Jim has been making regular dinghy runs back and forth to the tap outside Pinder's Grocery to fill our water tank. I went walking around to find some steps to sit on where I could link up with wifi - and found it beside the school. We will probably stay in the area till Monday (at least) and then make our trip across NW Providence Channel to the Abacos.

We are definitely feeling nostalgic today; this is the first revisiting of a place on our way back north. We are up to 25 degrees of latitude again. With each passing landmark we say, "Oh, that's the last time we'll see this water... or that beach ... or this coral reef" and we moan and wail until one of us says, "until the next time!!" and we cheer up again because we surely will be back.

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Socializing on the Nort' Shore
Beth - sunny, windy
16/04/2008/2:16 pm, Rock Sound, Eleuthera

Cruisers have to be the most social lot of people I've ever run across.

After a day of errands and a little of this and a little of that as days in port so often seem to be, a great gang of us trooped over to the Nort' Side Beach Restaurant. Rose is the woman in charge - of cooking, hostessing, serving, chauffering, and that night was assisted by her son Ashley. Some of our friends had been there last week and had a wonderful time so Solitaire decided to go again with Madcap. As it tends to do in cruising circles, the group grew and grew until there were 25 of us. Because the restaurant is on the other shore, about a 10-minute drive from the main anchorage, Rose offers free valet service from Dingle's garage and most of us piled into her car and van there.

It was another one of those fabulous evenings of beach walking, socializing, and good Bahamian home cooking. I don't know how these women can produce such feasts for huge crowds of people in small kitchens all by themselves. We had a choice of chicken, grouper or conch, served with peas n' rice, macaroni, potato salad, coleslaw - mostly ordered ahead of time, but because the group had kept growing all day, she asked for a last minute show of hands for each entrée and then set to work.

A visit to the beach yielded sea hearts, hamburger beans, and some interesting shells for some of us, and an appetite whetting walk for others as we listened to the gentle roar of that wonderful surf rolling in, felt warm sand under our feet and gazed at palm trees leaning out over the hills. Back at the restaurant we met new friends and reconnected with old ones, playing the ever-present game of swinging a ring to catch on the hook on a post. It shows up in many places and some of the folks are pretty good at hooking it.

I'm sure we ate every scrap of food in her kitchen, and I know we drank all the beer and wine until it was time to pile back into the van for multiple trips back to our dinghies. Those dinghy rides "home" after dark remain one of my favourite things about this life - it seems so absolutely exotic to ride across the water and through the darkness as we each pick out our own twinkling anchor light and call out our goodnights.

Thursday started with one more round of errands in town - fuel, groceries, ice, laundry pickup - Janet picks up laundry from Dingle's, washes, dries it and returns it within 24 hours all for $6.00 per load (washed and dried - I've paid more to do it myself!). Then we were ready to follow in the wake of all the boats that had already pulled out. Many of them headed for Governor's Harbour while we opted to go to Alabaster Bay. Werplayin and Interlude were already there and Rachel E pulled in shortly after us. Deb and Paul (Werplayin) were entertaining, and the 8 of us had a fabulous evening enjoying their hospitality. Tom (Interlude) was kind enough to act as chauffeur so we didn't even have to put the dinghy down. We peered through his looky bucket to see that our anchor was pretty much lying on the sand but with 90 feet of chain out and no wind we didn't budge at all.

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