04/09/2011, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
Bud is out fishing in the dinghy. Fuzzy and I stayed on the boat, as there is no shade in the dinghy. I was going to brave the sun this time, but Bud was concerned that the sun would prove too much for the dog and I and that we would cut his fishing short. So here I am.
I changed the bed and did a little bit of hand wash, to tide us over until the next laundry, and thought I'd maybe take the time to reflect on cruising life so far, as Bob requested.
When I tried to pin down how this feels, the first thing that I realized it that it still feels tentative. We have only been out here 6 months, and we are only in the Bahamas. We don't feel like experienced cruisers at all. Georgetown is called "chicken harbor" because a lot of boaters get there and don't go further. We went out to Conception, and then down to Long Island, but both are just day cruises from Georgetown. And our plan now is to go back to the US for hurricane season. We have some family issues and some boat issues we need to resolve, and I don't think we'll feel like we're really on our way until we leave the second time.
The good thing about cruising as a retirement lifestyle is that it is engaging. You have to do a reasonable amount of work and planning to get the basic things you need - food, water, power; so you really can't just slip into automatic and let the days slide by. It's been fun meeting other people out here. It's sometimes frustrating to meet some people you really like, but then your journeys take you different ways. We've never sailed with anyone, even coming down here the folks we had talked to left earlier than we did, so we didn't know any of the boats we could see. I think we are more isolated because of Fuzzy. It's still hard to leave him alone, so we don't go out to the places where the cruisers gather in the evenings. (Saves a lot of money, though.) I would really like to have friends and family come and visit and sail with us. Hopefully that will happen sometime.
The sailing itself has been really nice. We love the wind, water, sky and the way this boat moves given any kind of chance at all. We're still trying to find a rhythm that works, between sailing and being at anchor. You can't sail every day, the preparations and the sail are too tiring. But you don't want to spend a week between sails unless something really special is happening. Three or four days at an anchorage seems about right.
I don't really have any other type of retirement to compare this to, I retired a year before we left but spent the majority of my time in preparation. And Bud was still working, so we weren't living a retirement lifestyle. Bud's last day of work was October 6, last fall and we left on October 13. So this is all we've done.
Anyway, Bud came back from fishing with no fish. He decided to try again at the end of the day, and this time, since the sun wouldn't be as intense, Fuzzy and I went along. We packed Fuzzy's supper and headed out. I took this photo of all of us in the dinghy fishing one of the deep holes (about 20 feet) in the harbor where snapper are supposed to hang out. You can readily see three things. Our dinghy is small, there are no fish in the boat, and there's not any action with the fishing lines. We stayed out a couple of hours and it was peaceful. I don't think peaceful is what Bud was after, but, oh well...
04/08/2011, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
Most of the places we've gone have been pretty small islands, or islands with limited settlements and so far we have only explored by dinghy and by foot. All the guidebooks said you really should explore Long Island by car, so we sprang for a rental today and did the official tourist thing.
First we drove down to Clarence Town, the only harbor town on the Atlantic side. On the way down we stopped at the ruin of an old Spanish Church, thought to be from the 1600's. We had lunch in Clarence Town at the Flying Fish Marina and checked out the harbor, in case we ever come down that way. It doesn't look too bad to get in to, but there isn't a lot of room for very secure anchoring. There's supposed to be another harbor that's more secure further south, but no settlement and no supplies there. That one also has a shallow bar at the entrance, so you're not supposed to try it with large Atlantic swells.
After lunch we went back up to Dean's Blue Hole. This is the deepest blue hole in the world, 663 feet deep. It's situated right on the edge of a little cove. There is a beach and then suddenly, a hole. The photo is from about 40 feet above the hole. For the next 10 days they are holding free diving championships there. We found the road back to the hole, which was only partially paved. When we got back there, there was one other car, a small tent with a few lawn chairs and a table under it, the blue hole with a raft and a PVC pipe square to mark the dive area. Bud went snorkeling while I stayed with Fuzzy. He snorkeled way out to the entrance to the cove and then back along the edge and into the blue hole. There were no fish anywhere but along a shelf he thought was about 35 feet deep on the edge of the hole. The water there was cold, Bud thought about 15 degrees colder than the area around it. I decided that was too cold for me, so I didn't go in. I did talk to a young woman who came while I was waiting. She was a judge for the event. She explained that they were doing championships for only three of the five types of free diving: diving with weights and fins, diving with weights, and diving by pulling yourself down a line with your hands. We saw some folks come with the fins they use. It's a single, huge fin with places for both feet in the one fin. T looks like a mermaid tail. She said in that category people would get about 400 feet down on a single breath! Today while we were there they were only practicing, but it was interesting.
We made one more stop on our way back. We drove down a little side road back to the Atlantic side again where the chart said there were white cliffs. It was beautiful there. I've put more pictures of what we saw in the gallery.
Now we're back at Long Island Breeze and we're going to have dinner here. We ordered before we left on our tour because they like to know how much to prepare. They're having a meeting (along with a happy hour) upstairs here to talk about bringing scheduled flights to Long Island. I think representatives from a small airline are here. They would rather not serve us during the meeting, so I'm taking the time to write and post the blog.
04/07/2011, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
We went in to the settlement of Salt Pond today. That is the biggest area of development along Thompson Bay and that is where the government dock is, which means it's where the mail boat comes on this side of the island. Long Island is 80 miles long (and only about 4 miles wide), and I think there are only two government docks and one government basin; here and Clarence Town, which is just a bit south of this and on the eastern side of the island, have docks. Simms, north of here and on the western side of the island has a "Government Basin". I assume the mail boat comes there and anchors and they use small boats to offload goods.
Salt Pond doesn't have a lot. It does have a very nice resort with a restaurant and WiFi, so I'm not even going to try the Sailmail postings while we're here. Bud also went into Harding's Supply and Grocery Store and tried (again) to get a large funnel to replace ours that has a tiny crack. No funnel. He did find non-stainless hose clamps to use in an emergency (no stainless available) and batteries. The last two times we've anchored we had no communicators. I thought the salt water was already getting to them, turns out to be the batteries. We also decided not to keep our batteries in the freezer. Since the temperature in the freezer goes up and down a lot we found the batteries we'd stored there got wet and had started to rust. We also got new batteries for our dive light, so now we have an underwater light that works.
After the shopping we went back to the Long Island Breeze and had a drink and conch fritters (nice dip here) and used the Internet. Like most places down here there was an area of outdoor seating where we could take Fuzzy. Bud took this picture off the deck near where we sat looking out over the government dock and some of the local fishing boats. A cruiser who's been here before told us that the biggest fishing fleet in the Bahamas used to anchor here, but there are few boats left. This may be because they are out fishing, or it may be because the fishing industry has hit hard times with high fuel prices and the economic downturn. The Bahamas really feels any downturn in the US because tourism is the number one industry.
The whole of Salt Pond is about a mile dinghy ride from where we are. I took a picture of the bay when we took Fuzzy ashore. It shows Earendil and way off in the distance, too far to really see, is where we went today. Anyway, Bud and I plan to stay another couple of days and actually do the tourist thing and rent a car and view the island. More in future posts.
04/06/2011, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
The Tropic of Cancer circles the globe at about 23 degrees, 26.28 minutes. Today we sailed a bit south and more east to Long Island, and along the way we crossed into the tropics. Yeah! Of course, the time to be in the tropics is January and February, but hey, we'll take what we can get. At least we made it.
We lifted anchor in Elizabeth Harbour, Georgetown at just about 9 AM. We put the main up and motor-sailed out the south entrance. It's a long way out, about 5 miles with 5 separate way points to guide you between the reefs. There are actually 3 channel markers going out this way. We didn't have any trouble, but I did spend most of the time on the bow looking for reefs, coral heads or shallow water. I could see the reefs to either side of us, but there was plenty of room between.
When we got out of the harbor and turned for the first part of our course we put up the jib, but there wasn't enough wind to sail. The jib was giving us about another 0.3 knots, so we left it up. For a while we were using main, jib, staysail and engine. We tried a couple of times to shut the engine down, but each time our speed dropped below 5 knots, and since we needed to get anchored and get Fuzzy ashore by early evening, we put the engine back on.
It was a pretty nice sail for a motor sail. We noticed that the undersides of the cumulus clouds were blue-green from the reflection of the water. I'll put a picture of one of the clouds in the gallery. Then we started to see dolphins. About three different pods came along side and swam at the bow for a few minutes before taking off. I got several pictures, and I'll post the best of them when I get internet again. It shows one of them just under the water looking down from where I was on the bow. You can see the bow pulpit and the anchor (the mighty Rocna) above the dolphin.
Finally, the predicted increase in wind came through, only about 6 miles from the anchorage. We were making about six and a half knots with main and jib, no engine. The wind changed direction by about 30 degrees, and then kept going back and forth for a bit, so I was busy trimming sails. Too bad it waited so long, the whole trip was 34.5 nm; we could have used the wind sooner.
This is a big bay and there are only 12 boats in this part of it, so there was no problem anchoring. Bud came as close to the shore as he dared, so we wouldn't have to go so far with the dinghy to take Fuzzy ashore. The whole bay is less than 10 feet deep, so it was a bit nerve wracking to come this far in. We're in about 7 feet of water and it's low tide now, so we should be good. We got here about 3:30, so we tidied the boat and launched the dinghy (and engine) and then we waited a bit and fed Fuzzy so we could check the anchor when we took him ashore. Bud had already backed down on it with the engine and it was holding. It's fine. I took a picture of the dinghy on the beach and I'll put that in the gallery, too. There were goat prints on the beach and we can hear chickens. I hope we get to see the goats.
04/05/2011, Back at Monument Beach, Elizabeth Harbour
Things were getting desperate for me on board. I was down to my last unread book. We are planning to head out tomorrow to Long Island and I didn't see anything in either guide book about a book exchange there. I needed to get to town. The wind was supposed to be down today, so about 9:30 we loaded up and headed across the harbor to Georgetown. It still seemed rough, so the computer went in the computer bag, and then in the zippered and rubber lined Earendil bag, and then in a black garbage bag with a twist tie. We also took one 5 gallon water jug and three one gallon water jugs, to top off our water. My 6 books to trade at the library (they do lending and trading) were in the Earendil bag. Fuzzy rode in the frontpack. Fuzzy and I stayed dry in the bow, but Bud got splashed pretty badly where he sits.
I'll post a picture of the library when I get a chance. It's open from 10 'til noon, 6 days a week. It seems to be run mostly by and for the cruisers. It cost me $3 for a year's dues and I got to trade in the 6 books I've read for 6 new ones. I'm down a few books because I gave another boater 3 books and she was going to bring me three the next day, but then we missed them and haven't seen them since. Also, at one place on Little Farmer's, they wanted two books to give you one. I had three books to trade, so only took two. That makes me down 4 books from where I started. That may prove to be critical. (I also have a couple of books that were given as
gifts that I won't trade.) Anyway, I also went on-line and got the blog posted and tried to make some phone calls. The phone kept disconnecting, so that was pretty frustrating.
It was still windy on the way back and Bud had trouble again getting the dinghy to plane with the computer, books, a few more groceries and 8 gallons of water. I was way up on the bow with Fuzzy. Again I stayed pretty dry until right at the end. I moved part way back so Bud could slow the dinghy, but then when I thought everything was fine, bud slowed some more and we did the water over the bow thing again, and I got soaked. Happily the computer and books stayed dry inside their layers.
I'll keep trying to post these via Sailmail, you'll see them once I'm successful!
04/04/2011, Back in Georgetown, Monument Beach
I've been having trouble getting connected to Sailmail. It could be bad radio propagation, it could be that my modem was set too low, and it could be that our batteries
weren't charged enough. We've been trying not to run the generator, but the wind has not been that strong, and although the batteries have been OK, they haven't
been totally charged. So today we ran the generator for about two and a half hours and got them completely charge. Of course by then it was noon and that's the
worst time of day to transmit because of atmospheric interference from energy from the sun. So I'm going to try again this evening, hopefully all three entries will go.
We're waiting on a weather window to go to Long Island. There is a front coming through tomorrow night. In the States it brought 60 and 70 knot winds, in the
northern Bahamas the winds might gust to 40 to 50 knots. Here, there may be no squalls at all, but we may get some, so it's best to stay in a harbor that has protection
from all directions. If the front passes by Wednesday morning we'll probably leave then.
Meanwhile, we took another hike up to the monument today. Bud tried to get a picture of how steep the one section of trail is. I'll add the picture he took of me
carrying Fuzzy in the front pack. You can kind of get the idea from that. The weather has been perfect again the last couple of days. Hot in the sun, but cool in the
shade and the wind blows hard enough to keep you from getting uncomfortable. Plus the water is finally getting warm.
Since we were just hanging out today Bud took the time to cook a beef roast he bought. It was only about $5 a pound, which didn't seem too bad. He made a pot
roast, cooking it slowly on the stove for three hours. It came out really good, and because of the breeze, didn't even overheat the boat. We just finished eating and
the sun is going down, so I'm going to wrap this up and hope I can finally connect and post these.
I never got them posted. I came to Georgetown, got on the Internet and copied the entries from my Sailmail entries and emailed them to myself so I could get them from the Windows side of my computer to the Mac side. Argg!