It's hard to believe that we've been home for almost a month already and I must admit, that I'd much rather be cruising. Adjusting to land-life has once again been a difficult transition. Probably the most difficult activity to adapt to is driving...everyone goes soooo fast compared to an average speed of 7 knots on Ladyhawke! Of course, I'm happy connecting with family and friends again, and digging in the dirt to get the home gardens looking good. Even though gardening is my passion, there's another part of me that says, "Who wants to spend the summer in the Chesapeake with little air and lots of humidity in July and August? Let's see what decisions the rest of the summer brings...
Highborne Cay turned out to be a great choice of places to hang out while the front (yes, another one!) passed through. Conditions ranged from a light drizzle to steady rain with constant winds in the mid-20 kt range, gusts to 30. This front with rain made up for all the previous dry months and was welcomed by the locals. Two days later, conditions moderated so we could head to shore for a nice lunch at Xuma before departing for Nassau on May 2. We had visited Highborne on our last trip but have very few memories. Since then, the owners have expanded the marina and added a wonderful bar and restaurant with excellent cuisine. By far the best conch fitters, made with veggies and huge conch chuncks instead of lots of dough. The conch chowder was also wonderful - made with curry and coconut milk...yum!
May 2 brought sunshine, light air and an easy motor sail into Nassau harbor. With an extra day before Peter and Chris' arrival, we spent an afternoon on Paradise Island at Atlantis and explored the two main aquariums. The predator tank was facinating, being able to walk in a tunnel within the tank and look up at sharks swimming overhead with the sky as a background. Definitely worth the trip!
Peter and Chris arrived on May 4, but instead of waiting until May 6 to depart Nassau, we took the good weather window and headed out the next day, May 5. Having the boys on board was wonderful, especially making the watches easier. So nice to have extra hands on board. Ingo and I took the midnight to daybreak watch and what a beautiful night it was! We were treated to the brilliant "supermoon", the full moon when the path of the moon is closest to the earth and therefore, the moon is the brightest of all the full moons. This occurs once a year. However, our luck was not going to hold. The following night was predicted to bring squalls and thunderstorms off the coast of St. Augustine, so we bailed out and headed in to Port Canaveral for the night.
After an uneventful night at the fuel dock and checking into Customs/Immigration the next morning, we dropped the dock lines on May 7 and headed back for the Gulf Stream. As predicted, the winds which started out northerly (not good at all for the Gulf Stream!), shifted to the east...which we thought would be fine. However, no one told the waves to stay in sync with the wind! The washing machine started in the early evening! The wave swells which started out of the north, mixed with the wave swells out of the east from the wind...what an uncomfortable ride! At their worst, the swells were 10-12 feet and coming from random directions. On the positive side, the conditions persisted only about 10 hours, before smoothing to just easterly swells at 2-4 feet the next morning.
At that point, and learning that the conditions were not conducive to round Cape Hatteras, we decided to head directly to Beaufort, NC and then continue up the ICW to Hampton, VA. Beaufort is such a lovely town! Next time we need to plan to stay a day or two to enjoy the area and fine dining along the waterfront. The remainder of the trip was uneventful, but enjoyable. I had forgotten how pleasant the passage on the ICW can be on a warm, sunny day...watching for turtles sunning themselves on logs and bald eagles and ospreys flying by. The first night we anchored in Pungo Creek and enjoyed a quiet evening on board. The second night we made the mandatory stop and tied up at Coinjock Marina, the home of the 32 oz. prime ribs for the carnivorous crew (instead, had fried green tomatoes with shrimp Louis on top and soft shelled crabs...to die for!). By Saturday afternoon, we made it through all the opening bridges and the Great Bridge Lock, in time for the block party in downtown Hampton. (Apparently, downtown Hampton hosts a block party every Saturday night with music, vendors, etc, from April through September.) Sadly, we said goodbye to Peter and Chris on Sunday so they could drive back home, back to reality and work. At least they were able to spend a week on the water and get a relaxing break...we'll take what we can get!
Happy Mother's Day!
Wednesday the 25th we sadly picked up the anchor and headed across the Devil's Backbone back to Spanish Wells and points E-SE. We decided to forego using a pilot ($80) since we had the track on the chart plotter and just had to follow it. Of course, vigilence is still the key to pick out and avoid the coral heads and reefs, but the weather was perfect with the sun high enough and behind us to make the visibility perfect. We passed through Spanish Wells from the opposite direction which provided a wonderful photo op, and then kept motoring to just north of Current Cut (perfect for making water!)where we spent a lovely, relaxed evening watching a clear sunset and enjoying dinner onboard.
The day before we left Harbour Island we were finally able to get off the boat, and head into town for a nice long walk, a little shopping and a stop at the Blu Bungalow for dinner. What a pleasant surprise! A delightfully decorated rooftop patio with a slightly Indian/West Indian flair to the decor and and food. We discovered bhajis which are the ultimate "onion rings" (onions dipped in a lightly curred batter and fried), served with a calypso dipping sauce (mayo, touch of coconut and hot sauce). Wow! Ingo loves his onion rings!
Then, Thursday the 25th, we had an awesome sail from Current Cut, Eleuthera, to Highborne Cay in the Northern Exumas. Averaged about 7.5 knots for 40 miles. Started about 35 minutes before 4 identical 65 ft motoryachts and arrived 10 min after they did at Highborne Cay. They beat us but contacted us on VHF as they were passing us about how awesome Ladyhawke looked and was moving under sail using no fuel, while they burned about 10 gal/hour running in max fuel mileage mode. We were feeling really good about sailing the whole way in great comfort on a beam reach, including dodging a bunch of coral heads along the way. We are getting good at reading the water and using VPR (visual piloting rules).
Highborne Cay Marina has become a much more sophisticated high end marina in the last 12 years. It's stunning but we're out at anchor and just go in for lunch or dinner at the new Xuma restaurant that is superb!
So tonight (April 26) Chris Parker told us to expect a low pressure "Trough" to come up from the South West (Dominican Republic/Cuba/Key West) and hang around for a couple of days....20 - 25 knots of gradient wind, ~35 knots in squalls, and lots of rain in the squalls. We had a great lunch at Xumas before walking all over Highborne Cay and then returned to Ladyhawke. Oh yes, internet is available through the marina so we purchased a 2-day subscription. Apparently, we later learned that it's only for marina guests, but the clerk unknowingly had already set us up so we're lucky in that respect. We are now move into our "hunker down" mode ... reading books, checking off items on the never-ending boat Do List.
The Trough should be gone by Wed, May 2 when we plan to sail to Nassau (about 45 miles), reprovision the boat for the trip home, pick up Pete and Chris who fly in on Friday and then depart to the USA on Sunday, weather permitting. It will probably take us about 7 to 10 days to get back into the Chesapeake Bay.
Yes... Life is better on a boat!
April 23, 2012. What pleasant surprise is Harbour Island! We had expected much more of a touristy, commercialized island, but are glad to see that's not the case. Of course, the homes along the harbor and ocean sides are fabulous, but as soon as you pass the waterfront, the island has much more of a Bahamian feel. It's a nice mix of resorts for a bit of pampering and non-native food (caesar salad with blackened shrimp - yum!), a few little shops, good provisioning and restocking of rum, beautiful pink beaches, along side the real Bahamas and the feel of a Bahamian fishing village. The homes in the old part of town are charming, brightly painted buildings with loads of flowers...gorgeous. Lots of history too. However, the harbor waterfront north of the government dock definitely has the native feel with fishing docks, Bahamian food, etc. It's a great mix.
The best way to get around is to rent a golf cart, which we did, and just tour every street possible. We even went to both ends of the island, off the map, and onto the sand paths. At the north end, we even ran out of sand path and had to walk to the water, but the view was well worth it. At the end of the day, we found the fig tree by the beach where they were preparing for the party to benefit the regatta activities during Junkanoo. Since I (Jeri) couldn't remember trying conch salad, that was top of my list. Not only did we try it, we (the Jeri part of the we) got a lesson in cleaning conch (definitely not Ingo's thing) and making the salad. Fabulous! We also met two pilots from Texas with whom we shared the experience. Very fun!
The last two days we've spent on the boat riding out the front in sustained 20-30 knot winds. Hopefully this evening we'll be able to get off the boat since we have reservations at the Blu Bungalow, a lovely little restaurant in town.
As for the next step, we're not sure. We plan to be in Nassau by May 2 to pick up Peter and Chris for the passage back o the Chesapeake. Until then...life is good!
April 4, 2012. Although the air was very light, we decided to haul up the anchor and head to Rock Sound on Eleuthera. Good sheltered harbor to wait out a front with 20-30 kt winds predicted. Good place to provision...wine is gone, need fresh veggies and they have a wonderful supermarket (really, a supermarket!)
However, on trip over, the AC panel went blank even though the generator was running and producing power. Diagnosing time again...
Rock Sound was a pleasant surprise. The harbor was filled with cruising boats, many of whom we had met along the way. We met up with Dee and Pete from Wind Lass for lunch at Sammie's for the absolute best cracked conch in the Bahamas! In addition, the week before Easter is homecoming for Rock Sound where members of the community who have left the island for various reasons return and party. Good food, music, games, etc. The best was watching the sculling competition, which is a bit different than what we see along Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. Bahamian sculling involves one person in a skiff with an oar in a lot on the stern, and a goal of moving the boat on a race course to a turning point and pack again, maybe a total of 200 feet. It's much more difficult than it looks, no doubt! The winner then moves on to the national competition, so it's a serious competition.
On Easter Sunday, we went to services at St. Luke's Anglican Church for a lovely (but very long) celebration, led by a very animated, personable priest. The best part occurred towards the end of the service when about 100 children, including all of the cruising kids, went up front to the sanctuary and sang. Their reward...Easter candy bags! Very enjoyable seeing all those kids together.
After church we decided to walk to the Atlantic side of the island to walk the beach and see if Rosie might be open for lunch. Everyone kept telling us that we needed to go to Rosie's. Along the way, a car stopped us and the driver said, "Get in." Lo and behold, it was Rosie! She gave us a lift, led us into the restaurant, fixed us a drink and went to change her clothes from her Easter finery before preparing lunch for us. What a lovely woman! The amusing part was looking at her table of shells, driftwood, beach glass, etc that friends have left her and finding a large piece of driftwood signed by Joe and Carole on Just Ducky, whom we've known for years from the Bay. It's a small world!
Alabaster Bay just north of Governor's Harbor is a stunning by with a long pristine white sand beach. What a lovely spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset dinner at Cocodimama's, a beachside restaurant at the small Italian resort. We enjoyed the area so much that we stayed two days, before heading northward to the Glass Window. When the megayacht, Ohana pulled into the anchorage, unloaded the jet skis and canopy on the beach, and set up the inflatable slide from the upper level of the yacht, we knew it was time to depart!
The Glass Window was quite interesting...a very narrow part of the island where waves have broken through so you can see the Atlantic Ocean from the western banks side of the island. In the 1990's a rogue wave came through, so powerful that it actually moved the manmade bridge about 7 feet and required the bridge to be rebuilt to access the southern part of the island. We anchored just south of the bridge in about 10 feet of water so clear that you could see every ripple of sand on the bottom. Beautiful!
The next day we motored through Current Cut, a narrow cut in the island where the current can be quite strong, and then on to Spanish Wells. The entrance into Spanish Wells was a bit dicey, to say the least. Apparently, a stake marking the entrance and shallow water was missing. As we made our approach, two boat were coming out, a wide catamaran and a monohull. The monohull realized that they were approaching the shallow water in time to avoid it but not in time to allow us room to miss it. As a result, we were hard aground. Not even a minute passed when several small power boaters came to our rescue to attempt to pull us off. After many tries, using the bow thrusters and Ingo working the boat back and forth, we were finally free. However, the most disconcerting part was the pilot boat for the megayacht Ohana (same one from Alabaster Bay) who kept yelling for us to get out of the way. Like we really wanted to be aground on the edge of the channel? Arrogant Ohana just kept on coming and ended up about a boat length from our stern when we finally got off the reef. Not very comfortable or professional on their part!
April 12, 2012. Arrived in Spanish Wells to ride out another front coming through over the weekend after a lovely, meandering trip from Rock Sound to Governor's Harbor, then on to Alabaster Bay, the "glass window" and into Spanish Wells. Since the generator was still acting up, Spanish Wells was the best place to have Ingo's diagnosis confirmed and receive a new main circuit breaker from the States. Luckily, it was covered under warranty and the Westerbeke supplier could ship it by FedEx overnight. Unfortunately, it shipped to the Bahamas! The part arrived in Nassau overnight, but missed the ferry to Spanish Wells in Friday morning, the ferry was chartered for a charity event on Sat. so no delivery, no ferry on Sun., FedEx missed the ferry departure early Mon morning, and again on Tues. because they thought the part was being held for pick-up in Nassau. Finally, they got it straight, got the part on the ferry and it arrived on Wed, was installed by Mr. Charlie Pinder and all was well. It's the Bahamas, mon! In addition, Mr. Pinder helped Ingo remount the rudder control for the autopilot which was loose and not communicating with the rudder properly.
So, what do you do for a week in Spanish Wells? First, it's a dry town populated by charming, warm, hard-working people...glad we provisioned with another case of wine and some coconut rum in Governor's Harbour. It almost doesn't feel Bahamian, certainly not like the Exumas. The town was populated mostly by anti- slavery Loyalists in the 17th century so the population is primarily white with a unique accent, sort of British. There are several main families, but about 70% of the people are Pinders. As explained to me by a local, if you live in Spanish Wells, chances are that you either were a Pinder, are a Pinder or will be a Pinder!
Staying at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven was perfect. We met Dennis and Bettye from Miss Bettye who are friends of Barefootin' and enroute to the wedding in the Abacos. Then, Terry and Carol from Australia on Common Sense arrived, so we had several lovely happy hours with some very interesting conversations and lots of laughter. Also, bumped into Steve and Amanda from Diana in town. Steve finally got his conch horn!
Walking around town was the best...beautiful pink sand beaches on the west end of the island, lovely little shops (bought Androsia-like fabric), extremely friendly people, great shell shop for gifts, and visited the quilting shed where several local women have their quilt frame and quilt all day long. Unfortunately, I missed visiting the museum, but it's always good to leave something for the next time.
April 19, 2012. Left Spanish Wells for Harbour Island, and, as highly recommended by the locals, we have a pilot on board who is driving the boat across the Devil's Backbone which is an area on the north side is Spanish Wells that is littered with reefs and coral heads.
March 24, 2012. Fabulous sail to Conception, following Onward. Odysseus organized a beach party, joined by 4 Italian men in Speedos on their way to Nassau on a Halberg Rassey. Very fun. Too bad the weather was changing with heavy westerlies. West Bay, open to the ocean on the west, is a bad place to be so we only had one night in this undisturbed paradise. Pristine beaches, tropicbirds, sea turtles...just lovely. Conception is a no-take land and sea park protected by the Bahamas Trust. Next time we'll stay longer. However, before we left, Joe took us on a dinghy tour through the selene, a low lying area with mangroves and lots of fish, rays, turtles, etc. Too bad there wasn't enough time to snorkel...next time! It was a bit dicey getting through the rocky entrance...definitely need to do it on a rising tide close to high.
March 25 - 31, 2012. Had another fabulous 40 mile sail from Conception to Cat Island. Ingo evaluated our diesel consumption and it's way down. Dinghy gas is another story since that's our "car" to get around. Gas is $6.93/gal...ugh!
Anchored in Old Bight to ride out the S to SW to W, and then moved to New Bight for the N to NE to E change. New Bight is the location of Father Jerome's hermitage on the highest point in the Bahamas, 206 ft. He built numerous churches throughout the islands, before building the Hermitage by himself where he retired and died in the early 1950s. On the climb up the hill, he build the 12 stations of the cross...all very beautiful and inspiring. Gorgeous views of the Atlantic and Exuma Sound. Preceding the visit, we stopped at the Bluebird Restaurant for a lunch of typical island cooking and a few cold Kaliks. Spicy chicken, peas and rice, cole slaw and potato salad. I swear everything had hot sauce in it!
High winds...haircut day and boat chores. Dinner on Ladyhawke with Joe.
Friends of Joe's, Laureen and Miles, on Ariel, an Aerodyne 47, arrived and rented a car for a tour of the island. Lunch at Fernandez Bay Resort, a "safari ride" to an Atlantic beach, and a rare find...the elusive hamburger bean on the beach. A successful day! Dinner onboard Onward with Ariel.
Spent another night at Old Bight to do some Working Words work and redo the anchor rode so the chain doesn't bunch up when hauling it in. Ariel and Onward made the trek north to Fernandez Bay...6 miles, with Ladyhawke following the next day. Lovely area, another selene for exploring, bit of snorkeling, found a beautiful sea biscuit and tulip snail. Sadly, the tulip snail had an inhabitant so back in the water it went. Lobster and filet with fresh asparagus and ice cream for dessert at the resort that evening with Onward and Ariel.
April 1, 2012. Sadly, said goodbye to Joe, Miles and Laureen at dinner the night before (change of plans...no potluck.) Lovely hostess and chef, Kathy, (helicopter pilot in previous life who fell in love with Fernandez Bay and Cat Island and decided to stay) at the Island Hoppinn. So glad we could experience her heavenly lobster bisque and delightful 9 year old daughter, Alyssa. She reminded us of Sarah at her age. Very polite and industrious. She makes jewelry, so, of course I had to buy some. She also did an acrobatic demonstration and showed us the Junkanoo costume she made, along with shell sculptures. Great evening and a "restaurant" not to be missed in Fernandez Bay.
Today, sailing to Little San Salvador which is now called Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Hope we miss the cruise ships!
April 2-3, 2012. Well,that was wishful thinking! Each day a honkin' big cruise ship arrived in the early morning, herded the "cattle" onto ferries to the shore so the passengers could grab a day of fun on the sun on shore, herded them back and the ships were gone by late afternoon. What an operation! Thousands of people on the little island...horseback riding, parasailing (by 7:30 am!), snorkeling, jet skiing...and then suddenly gone. It was a sight to behold! We were anchored in the northwest corner of the bay, fortunately out of the way.