Thursday, May 21, 2015

Making Friends and Helping Others

 

Blackpoint Settlement as seen from the Laundromat

 

Something we often hear about in our travels is how friendly and helpful the sailing community is. And it's true.

Back when we were in Warderick Wells, a couple we met in Marathon and crossed with over to the Bahamas, experienced a problem that left them without an engine. They really wanted to get south to Blackpoint Settlement (where there were more services available) which wasn't all that far away but, in order to get there they would need to be towed off their mooring and out of the Exuma Park. So, Hans and three other captains volunteered for duty and the next morning during an outgoing tide, Operation Dinghy Tow was a success. The biggest thing I regret about this trip (and I will kick myself forever) is that I chose the most inopportune moment to go below and wash my face. I came above deck with my iPhone in hand all ready to video this particular adventure and realized with dismay that they'd already passed (within feet) of the Knotty Cat and were way out to the red and green channel markers and also out of camera range. A total of four dinghies, two on each side, had lashed onto the engine-less boat and after a breath taking moment when one of the mooring lines got stuck, they were on their way. Once past the markers I could see the dinghies falling off as the crippled boat unfurled its jib and was on its way.

Maybe it's a good thing I didn't see what was taking place because Hans arrived back to our boat with the dinghy ankle deep with water. Being lashed to the big boat meant that the waves of water that slapped up between it and our dinghy ended up in, well... our dinghy.


Our friends sailed into and achored at Blackpoint and later in the week during the big blow, where we saw 46 knot winds in Staniel Cay; they saw 70 knots of sustained winds. While stuck in Blackpoint, the captain, with a portable generator donated by another one of our 'crossing friends' worked on his engine issue while his wife volunteered at the local school. In Blackpoint (the Staniel Cay landing strip is closed) he had parts flown in, we had a new wind generator flown in (a drama unto itself and a future post), and we just heard another one of our friends needs to get a new raw water pump flown in.

Also, back when we were in Warderick Wells, a call went out on the VHF for anyone with veterinarian experience and we all tuned in. A yorkie (the most fearsome creature Wilbur has ever encountered) had exhibited some unusual tummy troubles to the point of throwing up bile. The VHF crackled with excitement as we all jumped in. A fellow cruiser (who had just had his wife flown back to the states due to a severe kidney infection and was awaiting a weather-window to sail his boat back to the states to join her) zipped about the mooring field collecting donations, with ours being canned pumpkin. But alas, the little shit yorkie turned up its nose to everything donated (except for some coconut yogurt) and while it ate some boiled chicken, it spit out the rice that had been cooked with it.

When we later departed the mooring field and passed the boat with the yorkie in distress, I was not surprised for one moment when the little stinker (looking suspiciously healthy) erupted from below deck, ran to the bow, and nearly turned inside out barking at Wilbur. I've no doubt it then went into acute distress and another emergency run of the mooring field in search of more tasty treats ensued.

We were in Warderick Wells for barely a week but it surely seems like most of the help meted out during this trip occurred there. And Wilbur, too, did his best to be a good canine citizen.

The day we entered Warderick I was amazed when we slid past a boat that had a dog that was approximately the same size as Wilbur. I was even more amazed when I realized it looked like a pit bull. This dog was playing a polite game of fetch off a dinghy lashed behind its boat and Wilbur was quite vocal upon witnessing this wonderful event.

Ryder, with what is now Wilbur's toy.


At the shelter, Ryder's breed was vaguely referred to as a lab/boxer mix but his family, as well as anyone with two bad eyes, can see that Ryder is definitely a pit bull (heavy on the pit) mix. After a couple of days we finally arranged for Wilbur and Ryder to meet at the beach. I'd warned Ryder's people that Wilbur is maybe just a little greedy when it comes to toys. No problem they assured me, Ryder is a generous soul. Hans and I let Wilbur tow us ashore in our dinghy where he skidded to a stop beside an astonished Ryder, stood stock still while Ryder sniffed his nether regions, and then leaped like a mountain goat up onto some very unforgiving coral. Dare I mention Wilbur did all of this in his pink polka dot life jacket? As per Wilbur's usual behavior, he insisted on first marking his territory before socializing and then promptly set forth to terrorize Ryder and his people. Ryder had brought a tantalizingly bright red, squeaky football to this play date and was happily chomping it in his jaws when Wilbur, sensing trouble, came to the rescue, snatched the football away, and immediately performed an emergency sqeakerectomy right there on the beach. In a further effort to be a hero, Wilbur clung to the now silent but possibly still dangerous football and ran away every time Ryder approached to ask if he couldn't please have his toy back.

Long story short, Wilbur now has a non-squeaking red football on board, and surprisingly Ryder's people are still in touch with us.


Wilbur tries to keep the squeaker-less football from hurting us.


In a spirit of continued generosity, Wilbur donated his very well used potty patch to Ryder who apparently has potty issues and prefers to 'go' ashore. We've been informed that so far even though the patch stinks of Wilbur, Ryder has shown no desire to mark it for himself.

 

Friends.

 

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Blackpoint Settlement, Bahamas. My new hometown.

 

If I couldn't claim Mayberry, North Carolina, as my home town, then Blackpoint Settlement in the Exumas would be my next choice, and the parallels are numerous.

Right at the end of the dock is this sign.

 

Mayberry always boasted of being a 'friendly town', and Blackpoint is certainly that. We were stuck in Staniel Cay for a few days due to weather (gee, what's new?) and we'd heard that Blackpoint (a mere 10 miles south) was a cruiser's dream. Why this was, we didn't know, but since that was our next scheduled stop we decided to see for ourselves what everyone was talking about.


It's hard to describe how clear the water is

When we sailed into and anchored in the crystal clear swimming pool of Blackpoint Settlement we were both surprised. The water was so clear we felt like we were suspended in mid-air. As soon as we could, we lowered the dinghy motor onto the dinghy and went ashore. Almost all of the cruisers we'd leap frogged with along this journey south were here and it was like a family reunion. Here in Blackpoint you can dispose of your garbage right behind the government dinghy dock (there's a box for you to leave a donation) R/O water? You can fill your jugs just up the street. Wi-Fi? Free at all the local eateries. There's also free Wi-Fi at Rockside Laundromat and I don't think there's a laundromat in the world that can compete with the view from this one. We weren't in Blackpoint but a few minutes than we'd already signed up for an evening buffet at Lorraine's with a bunch of other cruisers. If you give Lorraine enough notice and can promise at least a 10 person attendance (I believe we ended up with over 20 people) for $20.00 each she'll put on a buffet. Since it appears some of us will be parting ways soon, we're planning a farewell buffet in a day or so.


Lorraines Café


Filling our jugs with R/O water


Lorraine's is one of the local hangouts for cruisers and citizens alike. It's also where you can leave a donation for all the free services that are offered here and you just can't beat that. And like Mayberry it's very relaxed. You won't find anyone playing checkers in front of the courthouse but you will find everyone using their iPhones at Lorraine's or Scorpio's. The first afternoon we walked in with all our electronic stuff in order to reconnect with the real world (which appears to be in a very sorry state) and sat down at a table. Our cruising friends were already there and gave us the lowdown. If no one's around, go get your own drink (beer, soda, or water) out of the cooler from behind the counter and keep track for when it's time to settle up. If you want something to eat let one of Lorraine's daughters or nieces know and they'll take your order. If internet's the only thing you want, fine, help yourself. Considering the whole way down the Exumas where even if we can find it, and have paid $15.00 per day per device for pretty bad internet, this is a dream.

Lorraine's motto is, "I want everyone to feel at home here." And we do.

Lorraine's Mother (she has a name but told us everyone simply calls her Lorraine's Mother) preaches at the church on Sunday and bakes bread in her home everyday. Place your order the day before and and while you wait in her kitchen the next morning she'll wrap it up for you. I've found Bahamian bread to be sweeter than I like (how picky can I get?) but she'll also make French bread if you ask and that's what we used for our cheese sandwiches at lunch, with our left over pressure cooker lasagna at dinner, and for French Toast the next day.


One of our friends is a teacher and she ended up volunteering at the school here for two weeks. The other day they were holding a lunch time hot dog and hamburger fundraiser so the kids can go to Disney World this summer. We got there too late but one of the ladies said, "No problem," and tossed a couple of hot dogs in some hot water for about ten seconds, stuck them in a bun, and then to Hans' horror started slapping every condiment under the sun on them. If you think I'm picky about bread, Hans is even pickier about his hot dogs. Luckily, I like a loaded dog and Hans was able to stop her in time and enjoyed his plain. The kids had been amazed when our friend told them she lived on a boat so after I finished my lunch she invited me to talk to them about how we also live on a boat. This was a small group of first and second graders but what really amazed them was the fact we have a dog on board. One little guy piped up with, "I hate dogs!" which earned him a stern look from Teacher. We've found for the most part that people here fear dogs (of any size) and when I showed the kids a picture of Wilbur on my iPad, another little boy suspiciously asked, "Is that a pit bowl?" (that's how he pronounced it). But when I showed them a video of Wilbur towing us ashore in our dinghy and then a picture of him wearing a baby bonnet, they couldn't get enough. I found myself cornered by a group of energetic kids and everytime the video ended a little finger would dart out and jab the start button again. Wilbur has never swam to shore so many times in his life.

I think I can I think I can

Wilbur, the little pit bull that could


The school


I'm very grateful for the beach that's just a short dinghy ride away, and so as not to torment the citizenry of Blackpoint with our pit bull, we take Wilbur there in hopes of emptying and wearing him out. This way we can then go to town by ourselves without Junior, and be assured of returning to a boat that hasn't been used as an indoor potty patch. Depending on low or high tide it can be an interesting jaunt. At high tide we can dinghy ashore with Wilbur happily towing us the last hundred yards. At low tide we have to anchor way out and walk 'the flats' those last hundred yards and of course Wilbur rejoices in rolling in the heavy cement-like sand that remains. We much prefer high tide, especially in the evening, when we can enjoy happy hour with our friends on Wilbur's Beach (its new official name).


I really hate to leave this place, even after being boarded by the Bahamian Defence Force (their spelling) yesterday during breakfast while I was still in my pajamas. They were just as friendly as Andy and Barney (although I'm pretty sure they have more than one bullet in their guns) and were just doing their job. Wilbur was anxious to dispense some smelly pitty kisses but one of the officers was afraid allergic to dogs and we had to shut Wilbur down below. The other officer, a fellow pit bull owner, was elected to do the below deck inspection and Wilbur finally got some well deserved behind the ear scratches.


Barney and Andy

 

The police station

 

 

Leaving here is gonna be tough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Happy Crew

 

Flashback, March 2007:


We flew to the BVI's with two other couples in order to charter a boat for a week. The other couples were friends of Hans' and I'd only met them once during a 'planning' meeting. The day we were to arrive at the charter boat, Hans and I missed a puddle jumper flight and we ended up spending the night in Puerto Rico instead. This cut out a full day on the boat and since this was a much deserved vacation for both of us (I was holding down two jobs at the time), the stress level was beginning to mount. But we finally got there and after a very quick briefing, we were off.

I don't know where the break down in communication occurred but somewhere along the line I'd been given the impression that coffee (my life's blood at that time) would be hot and ready on board early the next morning. So upon arising, I took my time getting a shower, washing my hair, and applying makeup (an obvious charterer!). But, alas, I found the galley lacking not only crew, but coffee. "No problem," I said. I found a large aluminum percolator and immediately set to work. I'd filled its huge basket with coffee, poured nearly a gallon of bottled water into its reservoir, and only then did I discover that the glass percolating bulb was missing and was nowhere to be found. That's just about the time my brain told me if it didn't get a caffeine infusion pretty soon there might be a problem. Poor Hans stepped in and tried to help. His engineering brain so wanted to solve this unsolvable problem and then the wife who'd promised early morning coffee came tripping aboard holding a single steaming cup of carry-out. While I zeroed in on exactly where she'd come upon such goodness, Hans was still scratching his head and trying to come up with some kind of McGyver-like fix. I then told him where ready-made coffee could be had and would he please go get me some (I honestly can't remember why I didn't make this trek myself). His answer was to continue to try to re-engineer the percolator and that's when I came unglued and screamed (yes, I admit, I screamed) "Just go get me a cup of f*cking coffee!"

He did, and luckily we later found a jar of instant coffee on board and I did my best to behave for the rest of the trip. Except for the morning Hans took a huge gulp from my orange juice and loudly exclaimed in amazement for everyone to hear, "There's vodka in this!"

That was the first and last time we sailed with those people.



May, 2015:


Crazy weather, a severe lack of internet service, and a pit bull who in addition to adopting a nation of ticks and (if we dare go ashore without him) thinks our guest berth is potty central, has made this particular trip to the Bahamas a bit more challenging than expected. I had just finished mentioning this to Hans when I realized I was missing a vital piece to my AeroPress Coffee Maker. Well, that was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

I love my AeroPress. All it requires is hot water, a paper filter, and any grind coffee you choose. What I especially like is that clean up is a breeze. Gone are the days of using way too much water to clean our French Press (I know I can use sea water for the initial rinse but maybe I don't feel like it). Every morning I fire up our propane stove, heat water in my ancient percolator which takes very little time and its then poured into the AeroPress and voila, Coffee! Except for yesterday morning when I realized my little hockey-puck-size sieve which houses the tiny paper filter had gone missing. I don't know why but I just knew it had to have ended up in the previous day's garbage which was happily fermenting in the Blackpoint Settlement dumpster.

I'm pretty sure the charter cruise of 2007 resonated deeply in Hans' psyche and in fear of reliving it, he set out to make things right.

After a breakfast with French Press coffee and a trip to the beach in order to exhaust and empty the dog (whom we then left on the boat), we headed ashore. While I hooked up to the internet Hans headed over to the dumpster (I was kind enough to provide rubber gloves). A good while later I was sitting on a broken plastic lawn chair at a lopsided table when Hans finally showed up where he then gallantly placed my missing AeroPress piece on the table.


Hans the Hero


 

Yes, it was indeed a Happy Mother's Day for both of us.

 

 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Staniel Cay and more weather.

 

Starting to build

 

 

"This is the worst weather we've experienced here in the Bahamas since November, thirty years ago." This was the announcement made on our daily VHF weather report the other day which is broadcast from Staniel Cay at 8:30 AM every day. We can believe it.

 

When we left the states for this cruise we thought we were being very proactive, what with having solar panels (the sun always shines in the Bahamas!), a wind generator (there's always a breeze in the Bahamas!), and a Honda 2000 gas generator (won't be needed in the Bahamas!), an item I'd heavily campaigned for, and I'm very happy I won that battle. I can't count how many sunless and windless days we've experienced in the last month and now that we no longer have a working wind generator I'm kicking myself that I didn't make Hans buy an additional gas can in order to keep our Honda running.

Hmmm, no wind generator? Well, let me explain.

The wind generator now lassoed down so it can't move



We really considered ourselves lucky to have been in Warderwick Wells for a week during the threat of storm # ? (I don't know, I've lost count). Anyway, it's an extremely well protected horse shoe shaped mooring field with no anchoring allowed. All week long we would hear the plaintive cries of cruisers (and one woman really did cry) hailing Exuma Park, begging for a mooring in order to get somewhere safe. But, limited space didn't allow for that and I kept telling Hans that I didn't care if he thought a week was far too long to spend in any one place! Why the hell would we want to leave a safe harbor only to search out another. We stayed put.


And then the weather cleared and we all left Warderick Wells in a mass exodus. It was quickly filled with a new group of cruisers desirous of finding a hidey-hole because, guess what? Another storm was brewing.

Our next stop was Staniel Cay which is protected from everything but west winds but we weren't worried because nothing was predicted to blow in from the west. Until it did.

Staniel Cay is one of the main reasons we came to the Exumas and I'm almost embarrassed to admit it's because it was on my bucket list (I try not to over expect from life). Otherwise known as piggy beach, this is where pigs literally swim to your dinghy looking for food. I've seen countless videos of this adorable phenomenon and just couldn't wait to see it for myself. On our first day in Staniel we did get to the beach but we were disappointed to be met by only two very fat, surly, sows, and no babies. The sows had ugly upturned snouts complete with dangerous looking, crooked yellow teeth, and they grunted in an alarming manner upon approaching us. I'd soon had enough of that scary business and then we were off to snorkel at Thunderball Grotto which was not on my bucket list but should have been. This is where the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed. Not being a James Bond fan I haven't seen it but of course now that I've been privy to the fantastic snorkeling to be had there, I'll be sure to watch it sometime in the future. I'm claustrophobic at heart and snorkeling in a cave is not something I would normally do, but since there were probably a dozen or more of us hanging out together I didn't want to be a killjoy.

It was fabulous. We anchored our dinghies in about 2 feet of water and snorkeled into the cave which doesn't really seem 'cave like' because sunlight filters through huge overhead holes. Schools of brightly colored fish darted around us and with the tide beginning to come in (you can only snorkel here at slack tide) if you swam to the far side of the cave and let the current carry you back it felt like you were flying over a fish bowl. I was all about getting there again the next day but of course another weather system moved in.


A couple of days later we made plans along with our cruising friends to go ashore in the evening to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a Cinco de Mayo party. But in the meantime we decided we'd snorkel at low tide (late afternoon) and maybe visit piggy beach again. It was an overcast morning and we were playing backgammon when I commented that the music we were listening to sounded kind of ominous. Hans checked our radio and announced it was called 'Nightmare' and for some reason it was set on repeat and not shuffle. Ha Ha we said, and gee we hoped this wasn't some kind of omen.

We were in the home stretch of one of our backgammon games and I was clearly ahead and getting ready to gloat when the wind kicked up. In a very short amount of time things really did get ominous when it started pouring rain and the winds began gusting. Hans asked how the solar panels were doing and just as I said they looked okay a gust of wind hit and the panels looked like twin magic carpets whipping about the deck on their tethers. Crap! Why the hell hadn't we put them away since the wind generator was doing such a good job. I went to go up front to retrieve them and was shocked to feel stinging rain and the wind was blowing so hard it took my breath away. Together we rolled up the panels and crab walked back to the cockpit. I stayed in the cockpit and monitored the wind speed which was gathering force and watched with alarm as the compass showed us heading more and more due west. The seas started to build and the wind was holding steady in the 30's when our wind generator started screaming and let out a horrific sound like a fog horn, and then it died. It kept spinning but was no longer generating.

By now we had the engines running, the wind was hovering near 40 knots, the waves were about 4-5 feet, and as I sat shaking in the cockpit I watched as other boats hobby horsed over and over with their bows diving nose first and then rearing up and straining at their anchors. The wind picked up even more and whipped at the very tops of the waves creating a haze like effect that ripped past us. I could hear people in another anchorage on the radio frantically calling out to each other as they were dragging and when someone (no doubt a teacher's pet in earlier years) told them they were using a hailing channel and needed to move, the resulting answer was, "F*ck you!" Sometimes the wind would ebb to the mid 30's but then my heart would slam when it would pick back up and when I saw it climb into the 40's and then hit 46 knots I didn't know what to think.

In all, I think we ran our engines for about an hour and the storm itself lasted about three hours. When the wind finally started dying down and I was seeing 25 or so knots, it seemed like heaven. We radioed our friends on shore and let them know their boats were still there and I told Hans no way were we going in for the Cinco de Mayo party. Slowly the weather cleared up and we finally dried out. By 5:00 it was dead calm and we actually went ashore for the party and it was still calm when we all came back at eight.


The next day we woke up, got a game of backgammon going, and the radio started playing the Nightmare music again.

We got off lucky though, the winds only blew 25 that afternoon.


Piece of cake!

 

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Stuck in Warderick Wells

 

 

I mentioned in my last post that, when we were in Highbourne Cay Marina, it rained for the first time in a month. No rain during April and May is the norm here for this time of year but since we've arrived in the Bahamas that wonderful trend has gone by the wayside. The day before we finally departed Warderwick Wells, Hans had to put on his foul weather gear in order to go ashore and pay for our mooring ball.


Before all this unexpected rain we left Highbourne Cay and sailed (finally! even if we only moved at about 3 knots we were sailing) to Norman's Cay where we anchored and Hans snorkeled around a plane wreck. I gave it my best shot but there's just something totally creepy about things being under water that shouldn't be there. Once over the side of the dinghy I only had to take one peek at that wreck to know this was not happening for me. Getting back into the dinghy created a special challenge and Hans had to hoist me from behind where I ended up flopping around the floor like a landed fish. So while I sat in the dinghy and sizzled in the sun, Hans then snorkeled around and through the wreckage, and would gleefully call out, "I just went through the fuselage! You should see it!" "Wow, the wings are still attached! You should see them!" "A whole school of fish is swimming with me! You should see them!" Needless to say there was no joyous response from me and as the tide was starting to turn it was time for Hans to get back in the dinghy, and he couldn't. I ended up creating a foot hold by tying a loose line from the stern to the bow. By placing a foot on the line (which was now just under the water) Hans was able to boost himself out of the water and it was his turn to flounder around the floor. A ladder would be nice but we like to do things the hard way.


The next day we anchored at Hawksbill Cay which is rumored to be one of the prettiest islands in the Exumas and apparently rife with attractions including things like ruins, and a cave. I'd like to be able to corroborate this, but being the lazy people we are, we didn't feel like going through the whole nearly hour long 'preparing the dinghy and motor for launch' procedure and spent the day reading and drinking in the cockpit.

Which brings us to Exuma Park in Warderick Wells. We sailed (I think we were moving at around 2 knots by then but we were sailing!) into the north field with the intention of; A) buying a days worth of internet ($15.00) in order to get weather info, and; B) there's a snorkeling area there that Hans wanted to explore. Two days max, we said, and we'll be on our way.

One week later we were still there. I kid you not. Poseidon and Mother Nature got together this spring and they've been having a blast vexing the Bahamian waters. Each and every day has brought a new forecast of 'weather' due to hit, and this particular mooring field, protected from every direction, was the place to be.

We arrived on a Saturday which happens to coincide with the once weekly held scheduled cocktail hour on the beach. But don't think that schedule kept the twenty or so of us cruising boats, stuck here for all the other days, from holding our own get together every single other night. And what a perfect place to be stuck. We were all a very short dinghy ride away from shore and everyone enjoyed snorkeling in Ranger's Garden (even me, but that's because I didn't see the reef shark darting about here and there) and leaving driftwood mementos with our boat's names at BooBoo Hill.


Our driftwood offering on BooBoo Hill


Our two day plan stretched to a week when we heard forecasts of 50-60 knot winds due to hit and since Warderwick Wells is so heavily protected we stayed. Thankfully, the winds didn't reach that level but we did get gusts of 30 knots. Finally, the day after all of us cruisers were stuck on our boats (thus cancelling our Happy Hour on the beach) due to stormy weather, we all dropped our mooring lines and headed south.


And into even more weather.

 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Highbourne Cay Marina

 

I don't think I've ever devoted a post to one particular marina but now I am.


We knew when we decided to explore the Exumas on this trip to the Bahamas that we'd need to re-fuel after crossing the banks, and Highbourne Cay Marina was loosely on that list. There are plenty of marinas in Nassau that we could have utilized but for some reason we didn't. And, after motoring for three nasty hours from Allen's Cay to the anchorage right outside of Highbourne Cay, and finding the anchorage to be less than stellar in SW winds, Hans made an expensive phone call (the only way to confirm a slip and save his marriage) to the Marina, and they told us to "c'mon in".


How do you describe Shangri-La? I'd say it's a place that allows a motley crew with a pit bull (and how embarrassing is it that the dog hovers around a 10 on the cleanliness scale and I'm nowhere near that?) on a small sailboat to take a slip right along side of mega yachts. And I mean mega yachts that have a full crew to take care of everything from cooking to cleaning to docking (I now realize I'm vastly underpaid).

When you come around the corner into the marina you find yourself in a smaller than expected channel with room for really only one boat at a time. A boat that was coming out hailed us on the radio and told us to go ahead and proceed first so we did and went directly to the fuel dock. Stevie tied us to the dock and filled the Knotty Cat up (40 gallons! We have a 55 gallon tank). If he took notice of my torn and not very clean shorts (I call them my working clothes), crazy hair, and the sweat running down my face and arms, he managed to keep it to himself. After fueling up we moved to our slip which was a bit of a challenge. A sporty fishing boat came in and took the slip next to us and the captain had the same issue that we did in that the floating dock directly across from us made backing in very interesting. I went up to our bow and actually ended up sitting down and fending his boat off our starboard side with my feet. After all that I was quite happy to take a shower in the very nice bath house.


We ended up staying in Highbourne Marina for two days, because over the years we've found that staying at a marina for one day just isn't enough.


Highbourne Marina boasts a beautiful private beach that Wilbur thoroughly enjoyed (on a long length of rope) although he had a huge issue with the nurse shark that showed up very close to shore. Let's just say it's easy for the little man to strain on his leash and act like a bad ass when his mama has him firmly held in check. I find it very strange that a dog who's afraid of cats and chihuahuas thought he could take on a shark.

They have courtesy bikes available that you can use to get around the island and visit any number of trails and beaches on the ocean side.


We made reservations for dinner at the bar of their open air restaurant on our first night there. And since we had such a good time and may never pass this way again, we made reservations for the second night as well. Lavardo (I apologize if my spelling is wrong), the bartender is the absolute best. He's friendly, quick, intuitive; everything and more that a bartender should be. He even remembered a returning couple who'd been there back in January. The bar wasn't quite as busy on our second visit and we had a chance to talk to him. Lavardo, who's in his twenties, is from Nassau and was fortunate to attend some college in the states. But in the Bahamas the unemployment rate is 15% so when he came home he was without a job for a year and half. Although there's a lot of competition he managed to get this job as a bartender and he loves it. The company he works for treats their people well and he couldn't say enough nice things about them (you don't hear that very often). And I guess I should add that the chef knows his stuff too!


We woke up on our second morning to a huge cloud burst (the first rain in over a month here) and I ended up scrubbing the cockpit and filling our Coleman cooler two times. I used the first batch of water to do a load of laundry with my trusty bucket and plunger. Once again I can't imagine what this must have looked like to those around us. I had buckets and bowls scattered about and when they were close to overflowing I'd dump them into the cooler which was balanced on the coaming in order to catch the virtual waterfall that was rolling off the bimini. I managed to wash six shirts, three pair of shorts, and some underwear. Water here is .50/gallon so this was a big bonus for me. All but the underwear (I'm not completely uncouth) were hung out to dry in the cockpit. If I sound cheap you would have loved the woman who upon being told that internet is $15.00/day asked if she could get just an hours worth (the answer is no). BTW, she was on a huge yacht complete with uniformed crew.

 

Deluxe washing machine

 

The rain left as quickly as it arrived, Wilbur got to visit the beach once more where the shark returned to taunt him, we rode bikes, had our final dinner at the bar, and all of a sudden it was time to leave.


This really was a pricey stay for us but we plan on anchoring or picking up mooring balls as much as possible for the rest of this trip.


But we always say that.

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Couple of Loose Screws

 

And, no, I don't mean Hans and me. If I'd been referring to us I would have used the phrase 'a couple of screws loose', which everyone knows pretty much describes us.


But, before I explain the title of this post, let me back-track a bit.


After a 12 hour crossing from Florida we arrived in the Bahamas a week ago Saturday. We then stayed in a marina in Bimini for three days (2 more than we'd planned but it felt so good to just plain sit and enjoy the fact that we were finally there), before departing for the Exumas. For us this meant we had to cross over the 'banks'; about an 80 mile passage. The banks are basically flooded land with depths averaging around 10 feet or so. "No problem", we said, "all we have to do is drop the hook on the banks for the night and then continue on the next morning." Of course it wasn't quite that easy as we've discovered that even though the water isn't deep, if you aren't protected by a shoal or a land mass, you'll get bounced around by the tide and current. We did luck out though and anchored with another couple we met in Bimini, first near Cat Cay on day one, and then just before the Northwest Channel on day two. Luckily, both nights were very comfortable.

From there we had a decision to make. Our friends, who are trying to cover as much ground water as possible opted to take on the entire Northwest Passage (another full day) which ends up in Nassau, while Hans and I opted to head to Frasier's Hog Cay, just a half day away instead.

At Frasier's Hog Cay we ended up anchoring next to a different set of friends from Bimini (we met them in Marathon and they, too, made the crossing with us from Florida. Even though our cruising guides boasted that Frasier's Hog had a marina and restaurant; they didn't so we spent a quiet night on the hook. This is pretty much the norm here in the Bahamas, some businesses make a go of it and some don't.

The next day it was our turn to take on the Northwest Passage and even though we'd read tons of warnings about it (it's thousands of feet deep and I pointedly told Hans I did not want updates as to our depth), we, along with our friends from Frasier's, found ourselves safely anchored at Rose Island in Nassau a few hours later. We ended up staying another night while our friends moved on.

Getting out of there the next day was very interesting though and with the wind rushing against the tide we hobby horsed through the churning seas around Porgie's Rocks and headed on to Allen's Cay,which to us, is the first real island in the Exumas.

 

Which brings me back to 'loose screws'.


I'm not kidding when I say we've pounded through more seas during this past week than we have during the entire time we've owned the Knotty Cat. And I mean hours upon hours. We thought once we got here we would be able to primarily use our sails, yet every stinking trip we've made since we've been here has seen us pounding staight into the wind. Just imagine taking off on an extended road trip and then finding yourself hitting a pothole about every 5 seconds and you'll then see what we've been putting up with for over a week now. One-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM! Twelve hour bouts of this crap might piss me off but imagine what the Knotty Cat thinks. A few days ago we heard a loud ping somewhere in the vicinity of the base of the mast and we just knew something had fallen from above and bounced overboard. And then it happened again. And when it happened for a third time we were pretty worried. The last time, however, we actually found a loose screw lying atop the boat and I immediately recognized it as a one of the screws that holds our radar mount in place (up near the spreaders). Now that I knew what to look for I was alarmed to note that while there were 5 screws visible on the starboard side of the mount, there was only one screw remaining on the port side and it was sticking out which meant it was ready to let loose at any time. Of course I discovered this while we were smashing and bouncing our way toward Allen's Cay. Once we arrived in the incredibly full anchorage at Allen's, Hans hoisted me up the mast lickety-split where I managed to get a total of three screws (all we could find out of the mish mash of hardware we keep on board) into the port side, I then covered them in 5200.

The water was crystal clear and even though I'm afraid of heights I forgot this fear as from atop my perch I watched a fat shark make its way slowly through the anchorage. I also noted that it seemed to be particularly fond of the boat right beside us. No surprise there, as it turns out the people on that boat were divers and they cleaned their catch there every evening. Needless to say that put the kabosh on any swimming off our boat.

We left Allen's Cay two days later only to find ourselves smashing and rolling once again as we headed toward Highbourne Cay. After dropping the hook off of a rocky shore in twelve feet of water and finding ourselves hobby horsing to such a degree we couldn't stand up without hanging on, we gave up and went into Highbourne Marina. We had already planned on coming here for fuel and water so in the end it all worked out. We took on 40 gallons of diesel along with 35 gallons in Bimini so you can see we really are motoring all the time.


I honestly can't even imagine how many other things have been jarred loose during this absolutely smashing trip but I'm sure we'll find out.


Still no pictures. They're all on my iPhone. Don't ask.