01/20/2007, The Fish Fry
There's an area of Great Exuma with a number of small food and drink shacks known as Fish Fry Village. The Edelweiss crew has been doing a great job of seeing all of the sights in the area and invited us to join them at the Fish Fry for lunch. We set out across the harbor for the fist time on Little Star around noon, following Lowell and Jane in their Zodiac. It was just Hideko and I so we got up on a plane pretty easily but out little 8HP could not come close to keeping up with the 15HP Zodiac. Lowell waited for us on the other side of the harbor and we made out best guess as to which beach the shacks were on.
We ended up one cove north where the Peace and Plenty Beach Club and Coconut Cove Inns are located. They directed us back to the beach with the two rusting barges just to the south. We ran the dinghys up on the sand and took a walk though the shacks. As it turns out most don't get going until about 3PM and only a few are open during the week. The man who gave us directions recommended we try Aces. After discovering that they were the only place open I could see why he would make such a recommendation. We all order the grouper, fried. It was great. With our mercury and bad cholesterol levels all peaked we headed into town to catch up on some business over the Internet.
The Peace and Plenty hotel on the Northeast of town has a dock in the harbor just down from the Fish Fry so we tied up there and tried out their Internet. They charged $5 for a half of an hour and have a Wifi hub in the manager's office that works right around the lobby. If too many stations are on line you can't get on so instead of using Hideko's laptop I used the desktop PC they have available. The sale of our home back in California is imminent so I had to make a call as well. There are payphones out side of the Peach and Plenty Hotel and across the street at the Peace and Plenty boutique (although one was out of order). Two out of three is a good ratio here. Few of the phones in the Bahamas take cash so you either need a prepaid card or some way of making a collect call (which BTC seems to leave curiously dysfunctional in most places). After trying several approaches at a collect call I gave up and bought a BTC pre paid card. After catching up with my real estate broker it appears I will have to fly back to Los Angeles to wrap things up.
01/19/2007, Fowel Cay
There's a lot of confusion regarding where you can and can't fish in the Great Exuma area. Explorer charts from 2003 show a very large park covering all waters south of Volleyball Beach from the Great Exuma shore out to 50 meters. This would make the outside reefs around the southern cuts and the Fowl Cay area all off limits. These spots are where most of the cruisers go to spear fish. After about a week of trying to get the real skinny I have come to believe that you may not spear fish anywhere in the Elizabeth Harbor. A larger park was planned but various private interests on Stocking island seem to have gotten in the way of the park being finalized. Thus spear fishing outside of the harbor is acceptable. Nassau grouper are out of season until March everywhere.
John aboard Freebird, a Lagoon 42, stopped by last night to invite me to go hunting Lobster with Steve from Shanty and George from another boat off of Volleyball beach. Alex joined us and we headed out at about 8AM. We tried some shallower spots around the outlying rocks past Fowl Cay but no luck. Alex found a medium lobster at the second spot we tried but the rest of us were skunked as John put it. Alex had to head back so John and I tried some rocky spots North of Elizabeth island and again nothing but the skunk.
We headed back in through the cut between Elizibeth and Stocking islands. It was half tide and the cut was breaking so it was pretty interesting coming back in. John is an expert dinghy pilot so it was an easy shot back to the boats. I had originally though that Freebird was an older Privilege due to the general shape and Battyline window covers. It was the first older Lagoon (pre the vertical windows) I had seen up close. It is a nice boat and looks a bit stronger than the newer models.
01/18/2007, Volleyball Beach
Today we hit Volleyball Beach for the first time. This place is the center of all cruiser activity in the area. There are all sorts of cruiser organized activities taking place and truly something for everyone. A lot of folks come out everyday for Dominoes, Bridge, Volleyball (ranging from highly competitive to jungle ball), or just to hang out on the beach and relax. There's a little bar and grill called Chat & Chill right on the beach and while it is a bit expensive, it has a great beach vibe and is in a perfect location to keep all of the cruisers properly lubricated.
Hideko and I went to a Bridge Training session hosted by Stewart, the British skipper of Union Jack who we met at the Atlantis Marina. He is obviously a bridge expert and did a great job herding the chickens. We all learned a lot and then played a few hands. We teamed up with the crew of Shaza, Bob and Sharon, for our practice runs.
Bob was responsible for the tour of the Stromatolites the prior day that we missed. Stromatolites are bacteria and this flavor actually forms reefs of a special kind. They typically exist in extreme conditions (for instance very hot) in the modern world and it was quite a surprise when they were discovered a few years back in the Exumas. They are not known to be found anywhere else outside of extreme environments. Bob gave us a nice overview of the tour he provided but we were even more bummed out that we missed it afterwards. There are so many amazing things to see in the world. The more you learn about things the more amazing they are.
After a quick run to the boat to let Roq play on the beach we headed to the Saint Francis for the evening Texas Hold 'Em tournament. It was a lot of fun and there were at least 30 folks playing. Hideko and I both played and made it about half way.
As we got set to head home under the moonless night sky with millions of stars above, we realized that we had no flashlight. Major cruiser sin, that. It was no problem for me to find the way back to the boat but the other dinghy captains blasting around at 10 knots can't see you. It had been such a busy day, and so bright and sunny that we just didn't think about a light. We need to make a good waterproof light a standard part of the dinghy gear.
01/17/2007, Elizibeth Harbor
We spent a bit of the day today swimming and playing on the beach with the Eyran crew. Roq had not been in the water since Hideko dunked him at No Name harbor, so I was thinking it was about time to get him back in the swing. It would also cool him down a lot. So Roq and I took our first long swim together.
Rather than taking him to the beach in the dink, I lifted him into the water at the big boat, with his PFD on of course. At first it was me towing him but then he started to get the idea and began paddling. It was a lot of fun. It cooled him off nicely and gave him some good low impact exercise for his recovering leg.
Being a good swimmer is not just a fun thing on a boat, it is a safety issue. It was nice to know that if Roq fell into the water at the big boat, he now will have some idea of how to exit the water. He's a decent swimmer but I think his PFD is an important addition at his age. The flotation it provides is ok but I wish more of it was lower in the vest. His body ends up underwater but his head is up high enough to keep his airway and eyes and ears clear. Practical Sailor just reviewed Dog PFDs this last issue (ours wasn't in the test) so perhaps I'll have to keep an eye out for an upgrade.
Roq wrapped up the day with a shampoo and shower on the transom. No matter how much hair you get off of him the quantity he sheds in the boat never declines. It is amazing.
01/16/2007, Swingin' on a Star Lounge
After the great dinner that Ellen cooked up last night we wanted to reciprocate so we invited the French Canadian Eyran crew over for Texas Chili, not something you run across in Montreal often. I made my specialty desert, Strawberry Crepes, which perhaps you do run across every day in Montreal. We had a relaxing morning cleaning up the boat and reading. Hideko baked her best French Baguettes yet during the afternoon while Alex and I went Lobster hunting. We didn't have much luck but Alex did get one medium Lobster (he always brings back something!).
Both crews got together on Swingin' on a Star just after sunset and enjoyed a great stick to your ribs meal and a nice bottle of wine. The adults talked outside while enjoying the stars and the kids watched Disney movies in the Saloon. It was a great day in Paradise.
01/15/2007, Stocking Island
It rained a bit last night which was nice. Hard to keep the foredeck clean without a good rain every once in a while. We have a deck wash down pump and hose but it is salt water. I wouldn't have it any other way but it does leave a salt residue unless we get a little rain now and then.
We had a lazy day today and spent most of the morning cleaning up and getting a shore run organized to take care of some business by phone and Internet. I can pickup the Harbor Wifi net from here but you need and ID and they never answer the radio (their home page says hail us on 69). I think I'm really starting to unwind as this sort of thing would have really frustrated me before. "How can they advertise, call us on 69, and never monitor 69? Who's running this business and how do they stay in business?!" I find myself just saying, "well ok", these days.
We met David and Tni from Rosario a brand new Beneteau 423. We had heard them on the Chris Parker weather net at 6:30 in the morning from time to time. They were anchored next to us and were leaving today so we spent a bit of time together sharing plans and talking tech. David and I are both geeks and we are both heading down to the Caribbean over the next few months. We exchanged MMSI numbers and did some position exchanges over the VHF and SSB for fun (no one else has this stuff set up!).
We also stopped by the Saint Francis resort to grab lunch and say hi to George and Gillian. They both are very harried this time of year as their shop is smack in the middle of the action. Their waitress didn't show up to work today and George indicated that this was not uncommon in the Bahamas. The Saint Francis has a sports bar and restaurant with several nice beach bungalows (the Bahamas has a hotel incentive allowing anyone with at least 5 rooms to get an otherwise difficult to acquire liquor license easily). Greg, their son, is very sharp and working on building up their wifi business. They, of course, also sell the Saint Francis 50 yachts and often have a new demo boat on the docks along with some used 44s for sale.
We capped off the day with dinner on Eyran with Alex and Ellen. It was a fun evening and we stayed up later than we normally do by far, talking and drinking coffee. Alex has the French Press wired. We do not. The French Press is the tool for coffee when you're not on AC or Genset because you just boil water (Propane only) and go, no high current coffee maker needed. Unfortunately, Hideko and I have been making a range of mud to water, so it was nice to get some formal instruction. Our coffee the next morning was perfect.
01/14/2007, Monument Beach
Many trails have been added to Stocking Island over the last two years or so. You can hike up to just about any peak and back and forth to the ocean and the harbor easily. We're only about 200 feet off of the beach so it is easy to take Roq ashore and explore. Hideko and I hiked up to the monument and marveled at how wild the surf was on the Exuma Sound side of the island. You could see the anchorage on one side with a nice 10 to 15 knot breeze and no chop and the ocean on the other with a pounding beach break and 20 knot winds.
Some of the paths on the island are not well traveled and it is easy to lose you way if you don't keep you eye out for the next red marker. After a bit of off roading we finally came out near the Peace and Plenty outpost on the North end of Monument beach. It is a nice little burger shack. Hideko and I wanted to grab lunch but neither of us brought any money. You so rarely need cash when you're hiking and swimming around islands out here.
We're going to enjoy the company here a while and get some projects done. We generally like more out of the way places with smaller crowds but the cruisers here are really wonderful folks. A boat had its anchor line part last night and began to drift down the harbor toward a bank of rocks. A group of cruisers got control of the boat and anchored her safely out of the channel. This is a very strong community.