Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 29, 2008

We’re on a mooring ball in Warderick Wells which is the headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We arrived right at closing time last night so this morning we went up to the office to officially check in.

After that, we spent the better part of the day in the water. There are 2 major spots that we enjoy snorkeling here. The first is about the size of a football field and has a 2 knot current running down it lengthwise. The preferred technique here is pretty much the same as we used in drifting the Cave Cay Cut. Fasten yourself to the dink and just drift along.

The Park is a No Take zone, which means no fishing, no shelling, no conch, no nothing. As a result, the underwater wildlife is spectacular. This particular spot has a couple of small reefs scattered about with fields of underwater plants strewn in between. We saw 3 lobsters walking about in broad daylight. There were groupers, rays and sharks mixed in with colorful reef fish. After repeating the drift several times we retired to the boat for lunch.

After lunch we brought Tom & Deb from Hearts Desire with us to a spot that in the past, has been a great reef to snorkel. Whenever you take someone to a place that’s one of your “favorites” you inwardly hope that it will live up to their expectations. Last time we were here we saw 2 large lobsters and a multitude of fish.

This time it was as if we had walked into the local Lobsterama. They were everywhere, sometimes we were watching 4 at once as they roamed the bottom. We probably saw 10 or more different lobsters while we were on the reef. There were 2 pounders along with several cow sized specimens walking about. The schools of fish were so thick that you literally couldn’t see through them.

When I’m hunting, the fish are usually very leery about me being in the water. There is no hunting here and as a result these fish were practically tame, they were largely unconcerned with our presence. I could float along 15 feet above a school and dive down into their midst and instead of scattering they would just part enough for me to join them and swim in their school.

In the past, grouper have proved to be skittish and look to find a hiding place as soon as they think you’ve seen them. Christy pointed out a 2 foot grouper sitting on the bottom under a sea fan. I swam down fully expecting him to bolt and he just sat there, even as I got to within arms length of him.

There were also hundreds of mature conch roaming the bottom. This reef starts in 4 feet of water and drops off into depths of about 35 feet. The reef is thick with life at every level. So the diversity and overall numbers of fish here proved to be more than any of us could have hoped for.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 26, 2008

We were up and underway at 0800 for a quick 15 mile day to Pipe Creek. Pipe Creek is popular for having 360 degree protection from the elements. Some boats that travel to the Bahamas don’t go any farther than Pipe Creek. Its offers great protection, good spear fishing and is big enough to allow spending a lot of time shelling and exploring.

The approach looks a little iffy so far as depth goes so we decided to skip it on the way south. Now we’re a little more Bahamas savvy and are also traveling with the Packet Inns who’ve been here before so we’re a little more confident in our approach.

We plan to arrive an hour and a half before high tide on a rising tide and are rewarded with plenty of water depth. We can plainly see the location of the deeper water by its deep blue color. We follow our planned route only to come to an apparent dead end. We’ve got the shore to the starboard side and an obvious reef to port. As soon as we were confident that we were past the reef I decided to turn left through some water that looked a foot deep in an effort to get into a pocket of dark blue water that looked suitable for anchoring. We never saw less than 10 feet and were able drop the hook in 8 feet of water and settle back into 15 feet of water.

Immediately to our south is Rat Cay. The shore of Rat Cay is busy with signs denoting the island as being private and the fact that they would appreciate it if you would respect their privacy. The dogs can’t read so there was no guilt and they really seemed to enjoy the pristine beach.

Whoever owns this place has mega bucks. The island had at least 8 huge high dollar homes sprinkled about the island. They’re all unoccupied and closed up with hurricane shutters and are all in the same colors and style. Probably an owners home with guest homes spread all over the island.

Theres an airport, chapel and groundskeepers too. It could be Johnny Depp or the 700 Club, who knows, but somebody’s got some bucks.

This morning when I got up I decided since it was low tide I’d take the dogs over to a spit of sand that only shows itself at low tide. I pulled the dinghy up on the sand and let the dogs run free. The sand bank was criss crossed with little rivulets; some were 3 feet wide and only an inch deep while others were 3 feet wide and a foot deep. The dogs were barreling along and would run through an inch of water and when the got to the next tiny stream would try to run through only to flip ass over head when they assumed this stream was only as deep as the last. They were like a pair of rambunctious children and barely stopped running long enough to take care of business. Molly, who’s been acting her age lately was like a puppy and Tucker, who hates the water, charged through every puddle he could find.

We spent a good bit of time exploring the shorelines of all the other cays. Christy and I did a bit of snorkeling and did manage to harvest another lobster. We were in 15 feet of water and once again Christy spotted the bug nestled in his lair. I dove on him once and came back up and discussed my concerns that he might be a little small. She reminded me that up until now the majority of the lobsters we’ve taken have been freakishly large, so of course this normal sized one looks small. So I returned to the bottom and shot him through the face. Once I had him back at the surface my concerns were validated, he was barely legal, maybe. There’s a size limit on lobsters, they’ve got to have a tail of at least five and a half inches in length. This one barely made six inches, I felt like a baby killer, it was depressing. Christy wasn’t feeling my pain though and had him for lunch. I had baloney sandwiches but at least I felt confident that the baloney had come from a full grown…..whatever, wherever baloney comes from.

After lunch we were underway for Warderick Wells which is in the heart of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. This means that there will be no hunting or gathering until we leave the park. But that’s okay as I’m still feeling a bit like a baby killer.

On our way south we stayed at Warderick Wells but in the Emerald Rock section of the park. It was great in the fact that it offered maximum protection from the cold front that we were hiding from at that time. This time we were able to get into the north anchorage. It also offers great protection but in addition you are surrounded by unbelievable views wherever you look.

We will be here for at least 4 or 5 days as yet once again we are hiding from a front that’s due to roar through in the next few days. So once again things are good, it may get a little breezy but paradise is still paradise.
March 24, 2008

We left Cave Cay and headed for the settlement at Black Point. Black Point is one of my favorite towns in the Bahamas. They have a decent government dock to tie the dinghy too and free fresh water 25 yards from the dock.

It’s a small town but the people really seem motivated to make a living which is not always the case when you travel from place to place here.

I was filling my water jugs from the free spigot when a pair of little girls walked up to me and started their own version of twenty questions.

Her: What are you doing?
Me: Filling my water jugs.
Her: Why?
Me: So I can take the water back out to my boat.
Her: Why?
Me: So we have something to drink.
Her: Why do you need water to drink on the boat?
Me: Because that’s here we live.
Her: You just can’t turn on the sink and get water?
Me: Yes, but first I have to fill the water tank.
Her: Why do you live on a boat?
Me: So we can travel around and see new things………..

For me it seemed to go on forever, when the first little girl exhausted her line of questioning her compadre started again with almost the exact same questions. Little girls always freak me out.

Both of the girls were about 4 years old and about 2 feet tall. You could see in their faces that they were really considering the answers to their questions. The pace of life here is just so different from what we’re used to in the States. A pair of kids, barely bigger than toddlers, walking the street by themselves, talking to a stranger. Just try and visualize that scenario back in the states.

The main reason we stopped at Black Point besides a great laundry mat, free water, the promise of groceries and wifi was for protection from a northerly that’s due to arrive soon. As advertised it got there as promised; boy did it ever.

When a cold front comes through the Bahamas the wind does a very predictable clocking. Its predominately from the east and as the front comes through it moves clockwise, coming from the south then west and then from the north. No matter what you definitely have to protect yourself from the north. With some fronts the wind will blow for 12 hours from the west before turning northwest, then north and finally northeast.

Other times the wind will move through the western quadrant fairly quickly. An hour or three and the west wind is history and before you know it the wind is blowing from the north. From the north it could last for a day or several days, that’s why northerly protection is your main concern.

Unfortunately Black Point is completely exposed from the west. The wind from this front moved through the west in about 8 hours, of course at night. This was plenty of time for the seas surface to be whipped into an angry frenzy. We had big rollers coming right into the west facing V shaped anchorage. Of course it was during the night so sleep was hard to come by for some of the crew. By morning the wind had increased in velocity but had turned so as to come from the north where we had great protection so things were much calmer.
March 23, 2008

We woke to a dead calm anchorage. When the waters surface is so still you really appreciate just how clear this water is. We’re in 12 feet of water and you can tell if a coin is heads or tails, its breathtaking.

We decided to spend the day exploring, a little beachcombing and a little snorkeling. We headed north to Big Farmers Cay and since it was so calm we went out the cut into the ocean. On the ocean side we found a deserted beach so the girls could do a little shelling. After a while of walking the shoreline I was ready to hit the water. There was an excellent small reef just twenty yards off the beach. It was fairly shallow but with a nice vertical wall that was home to a multitude of beautiful fish.

Once we were all back aboard our dinghies we headed back to Cave Cay. Once there, we snorkeled our favorite spot but the fish there have evidently been heavily hunted and were very skittish. After lunch Christy and Deb wanted to get back in the water so I took them out and dropped them off. Then I went a couple of hundred yards away and anchored the dinghy so I could hunt an area that looked promising.

I saw several large fish but never had a really good opportunity for a clean shot. There was one little cave that I passed several times. The last time I approached it I saw a medium sized fish enter the hole. I got down to peak in and was astonished to catch a glimpse of a pair of lobster antennae.

This hole is only a couple of feet from shore in water that’s only about 4 feet deep. I waited above the hole where the occupant couldn’t see me. Sure enough he started to edge ever so slightly closer to the opening. Now I could clearly see the ends of his antennae. I drifted out to get an angle for a shot down into the hole if he appeared large enough to take. That’s when I realized that he was huge, I could see a foot of each antennae and still couldn’t see his body back inside the hole. So I edged my spear closer to the hole and aimed where I thought the 2 antennae came together.

When I fired I was sure I had hit him but it was soon obvious that it wasn’t a mortal blow. He started to fight and I was unable to pull him from his hole. Lobsters have a pair of huge spikes on top of their head. When you try to pull one from his hole they stand up and force their spikes into the ceiling above them, effectively wedging themselves into place, kind of like a lobster push up. He put up such a fight that the crystal clear water was instantly full of suspended sand, I couldn’t see 2 feet. I was afraid to really pull on the spear because once penetrated their shell is fairly brittle and I was afraid that I would rip the spearpoint out and allow him to retreat further into his hole and eventually die.

I decided to be patient and worked him out slowly, it probably took less than 2 minutes but seemed to last forever. Once clear of his hole he wasn’t done fighting. The explosive power in his tail was amazing as he grabbed great tails full of water and exploded backwards as he tried to flee. It was all I could do to pin him to the bottom until I could hoist him into the dink.

Christy and Deb arrived just as the fight was over so we got back in the dinghy and headed back to our boats. Still feeling flushed with the success of taking the unexpected lobster we decided to head out once again and drift through the Cave Cay Cut. Its deep, fast moving and probably holds some interesting fish.

The tide was flowing in so we dinghied out to the ocean side. We donned our gear and with the dinghy tied to my wrist we slipped over the side and into the water. We stick together, usually holding on to each other when we do something like this. It’s also fun to point things out to each other as we race by. We started out at the edge of the channel and with some minimal kicking we were able to drift along the edge of the deep water. We were in about 8 feet of water being swept along at 3 or 4 knots along the drop off to 35 feet. It may not sound like much but being in the water with no boat and making 4 knots is pretty much like flying. There were several deep crevices that were at right angles to the channel so one minute we’re being swept along in 8 feet of water and then as we reached the crevice, the bottom just dropped 30 feet and out from under us. It was exhilarating.

We enjoyed it so much that as soon as we were through the cut we hopped into the dink and headed back out to do it again. On our second trip we decided to let the current take us wherever it wanted. We started out at the edge of the channel but this time the current was in charge and we were soon rocketing right down the middle of the 35 foot deep cut. We saw dozens of Grouper including one that had to be 4 feet long. We then came upon 2 of the biggest Spotted Eagle Rays that we had ever seen. Each one was bigger than the dinghy and on top of that their tails had to be 10 feet long. They were facing the current but allowing themselves to be swept along with us. They were only a dozen feet below us and they each looked like a twin bed with a tail. It was kind of creepy as they kept pace with us and I was relieved when they decided to move off.

The most unusual moment of the day came when we passed directly over an inverted Jeep sitting on the bottom of the cut. There’s not a single road on any of these nearby Cays, so it must have fallen off the mailboat. Drifting the cut was probably the best time I’ve ever had while snorkeling. It was really another special day, oh and there’s lobster for dinner.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 22, 2008

Okay, I’m better now. I realize that my mini rant over Regatta could be construed as negative. It’s just not why we came to the islands and I’m still kind of in shock over how many people view this hyper-organized busy-ness as something desirerable.

So we were up and underway at 0700 and headed north for Cave Cay. We had the anchor up for about 15 minutes when Gary on Packet Inn called and said he was having mechanical problems. So Heart’s Desire and us dropped anchor while the Packet Inn’s did a little troubleshooting. It turned out to be something wrapped around his prop so we were up and under way again at 0900.

The trip out through the Conch Cay Cut was easy and uneventful. We found ourselves in the company of twenty or more sailboats headed north. Most of the other boats were headed to Galliot Cut. It’s a popular cut although I’m not sure why. Then again, all of these cuts can kick your ass with the right combination of wind and tide.

Speaking of having your ass kicked; we decided that we would enter the Banks through the same Cave Cay Cut that had given us a free beating just 2 months ago. We had timed our arrival to hit the cut at slack tide. In the event that we were a little late the tide would be turning to a flood tide so we would be able to ride the tide in with the breeze at our backs. Excellent.

Except that plans on a sailboat rarely workout. We got a push from an unanticipated current and arrived an hour early. So now we had current ripping out and a breeze blowing in. Damn. The Packet Inns and then Hearts Desire went in ahead of us and the transit was mellow but took a while as their boat speed was down to 3 knots for the half mile ride. We had our sails up so we were able to keep some speed as we alternately surfed waves and then sat in the troughs. All in all it went very well.

Once in behind Cave Cay we dropped the hook almost exactly where we had on the way south. After some chores and dinner we both slept like the dead.

Monday, March 24, 2008

March 19, 2008

We’re sitting here in Georgetown with the wind honkin outside. We’ve had about 30 hours of 20 to 28 knots and we have another 18 hours of 15 to 20 knots to look forward to. It’s not all that bad as we’re hanging from a well set anchor and are as close to the beach as anyone. Christy even went shelling with the girls today while I changed the engine oil and did some other small jobs. But this has given me time to reflect…….

Let’s talk about Regatta. The big event during the winter here is the Cruisers Regatta. This year it was about eleven days of madcap fun unless of course, you have a life.

I was under the impression that most of the sailors here were “out and about” to taste what the world has to offer. I was wrong. It seems that a majority of these people are here to force what they have to offer on the rest of the world. Regatta used to be about racing your boat. Now it’s morphed into some type of geriatric Olympics. There’s still a day of racing but there’s also beach golf, softball, volleyball, bocce, bridge, funny hat day, sand sculpture, Texas holdem’, you name it, they got it.

It’s bizarre; everything is organized to the minute. Some of the volleyball teams practice twice a day, there’s commitments and responsibilities. Whatever happened to sitting on the beach and reading a book? There are opening ceremonies and a talent show, it’s a regular circus. The VHF is alive with commercials for the various events, there’s volunteer recruiting, you must, you should, you gotta……gimme a break.

At first there weren’t enough cruisers interested in playing softball this year. You should have heard the chairman of softball cajoling people into playing on the VHF. “We play softball every year and this year there isn’t enough interest, find it in yourselves to uphold this regatta tradition” He was pathetic. Each event has a chairman and I guess the pressure to not drop the ball was evidently weighing heavily upon him.

A great number of people live for these events. They can’t wait to see what’s going on where. On the other hand, we found that’s there’s actually a counterculture to these organized events. It’s called the BAR, Boaters Avoiding Regatta. When we were in Long Island we ran into a good number of members of the BAR. It seems that when Regatta is about to start, they flee for parts less traveled. As boaters are sucked into Georgetown to attend Regatta the out islands become even more deserted and thus more attractive to members of the BAR. We were headed for the Jumentos and had timed it to avoid the madness of Regatta. We just didn’t realize that by doing so we had joined the BAR.

Another interesting facet to Georgetown is the social calendar. There’s been a few dances, live music, alcohol appreciation nights and AHOY (Alcohol Hors d'oeuvres & Other Yummies) gatherings. The ugliness of some of these people came to the surface just the other day though, alcohol may have been involved.

Theres a guy I’d classify as a boat bum that lives here. He’s an average sized guy but he only weighs about 125 pounds. He’s one of the skinniest people I’ve ever seen. He lives on a 24 foot sailboat that obviously hasn’t moved in a long time. He might be a French Canadian, he speaks with a very heavy accent and can be hard to understand, especially for the people that seem to ignore his existence. When we first met him someone else told us that he is a talented artist and lives on less than 2000 dollars a year.

Anyway, it seems that the other night there was a beach party down at Hamburger Beach. As usual everyone brings a bowl or plate of something to share. This guy rows his dinghy, sometimes over a mile and attends all of these events and dutifully brings something with him. Its usually a plate full of nicely laid out leaves, each one decorated with some type of condiment. It literally looks as if they’re leaves with some ketchup or mayo drizzled across them. You couldn’t make me eat them but at least he’s trying.

So it seems that someone had the balls to publicly chastise this guy. They said he brings crap to the parties, he eats too much and nobody wants him there. Sometimes there are a hundred plates of food there. The man is obviously starving and some drunken asshole and his cronies are counting how many munchies this guy is eating. The next day on the radio it turned into a big brew ha ha. Then the Christians started calling each other on the carpet, and then it turned into a who was the more devout Christian thing. After all was said and done it did end up as a positive thing for the skinny guy as most people were appalled by the lack of compassion that a few cretins had displayed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 16, 2008

Okay, let me recap the last few days. On Wednesday we were up and waiting for the mailboat to come in as it was carrying our new outboard. The boat showed up just off the western hook of Thompson Bay at 0900. They had to stand off and wait a few hours for the tide to start to fill in so they could get in to the government dock.

It was neat to see them bring this boat in and start to unload the cargo. After a few large trucks came ashore, I could see several boxes that were marked “Yamaha” in the pile of pallets. I asked the forklift driver if he could drop my box near the edge of the dock so I could just lower my box into the dinghy. No problem, mon.

He brought over a pallet with a half dozen boxes and dropped it where I had asked him to. One box was addressed to us, so I unstacked everything, removed our box from the pallet and put everything back. Then I told one of the stevedores that I had my receipt and asked if I had to sign something before I took the box. He replied “If it’s paid for, then it’s cool”, so I guessed we were cool. The honesty around here just blows me away, they are honest and just expect it from you in return.

Hell, at the gas dock you filled up your boat and the attendant filled out a slip of paper with how much gas and diesel you received. Then he handed it to you and you walked 80 yards up to the gas station, handed them your slip and paid for your fuel. You don’t get a receipt or anything so the attendant has no way of knowing if you paid your bill or not, oh that’s right, of course the bill is paid, this is the land of honesty.

Thursday we have the new outboard and are up and underway for Georgetown, Exuma. The breeze was very light, maybe 5 to 7 knots but from a good direction so we had all sail up and were ghosting along at close to 4 knots. The wind did finally start to build and by the end of the day we were making a solid 5 knots.

We decided to anchor in Kidd Cove which was as close as possible to the town of Georgetown itself. We’d been gone for about a month and our water tank was getting very low, so while we were underway Christy gave the inside of the tank a good scrubbing with some bleach and we pumped the tank completely dry just as we arrived in town. So we’d arrived in Georgetown with no water and it was going to take several trips to shore to jerry jug “home” a hundred and sixty gallons of water. It was just about sundown when we had the last load of water on board. As a result, we decided to stay anchored there for the night.

So we found ourselves with an unexpected front row seat for the first night of the Bahamanian Music Festival. It was Gospel Night and the music was as loud as any I’ve ever heard. It was loud even down inside the boat. They were singing their hearts out until 0130. It was great to hear different acts trying to outshine the group that had just left the stage.

The next morning we crossed Elizabeth Harbor and headed over to Sand Dollar Beach. We’ll be here for a few days as there’s a big blow on its way. During the afternoon we heard our friends on Meermin headed towards our anchorage. It will be great to see them, but we’re sure that their arrival is not a sign of anything good. They were a few days ahead of us and headed north and then back to the states when last we saw them.

We went over to greet them and it turned out that they had a pretty good leak through their dripless shaft seal and a really nasty vibration in their starboard drive train. Over sundowners we formulated a plan to tackle their problems in the morning. By chance, one of the other boaters who dropped in, was in need of an outboard engine, just like the one we’ve now got for sale. Excellent.

The next day I had promised to go snorkeling with Christy, but first Gary from Packet Inn and I ran over to Meermin to see what we could do to help. It turned out that the dripless seals on both shafts were leaking from being improperly adjusted. After just a few minutes that was remedied.

While troubleshooting the vibration problem I found that the shaft coupling bolts were all loose. After tightening them up it was plain to see that the shaft was not running true. With a small vise and a hacksaw blade I was able to fashion a crude indicator. Gary loosened the coupling bolts and was able to tap the shaft into alignment.

While Christy and I went snorkeling, Gary and Art took Meermin out for a test spin. When they returned the news was grim. They said that while the leaks had stopped, the vibration was worse. I couldn’t believe it, that shaft ran so much better after we adjusted it, how could it be worse?

During the night I remembered that Tom from Hearts Desire owned a precision machine shop back in the real world. So, in the morning I gave him a call and soon we were on our way to Meermin with a dial indicator in hand. When we checked the shaft we found that it ran within ten thousands of an inch. Not too shabby for adjusting it by eye with yesterdays crude indicator. It doesn’t explain all this vibration, but while we were at it we used the dial indicator to bring the runout down to nothing.

While we were hand spinning the prop shaft there was a horrible new noise. I couldn’t believe we didn’t hear this noise yesterday. It was a horrible clunking sound and it definitely sounded like it was coming from the transmission. It was funny though, as I used my right hand to spin the prop shaft, my pinky was on the shaft and my thumb was towards the transmission and I “felt” the clunk more in my pinky. There were 4 full grown men standing in this (huge) engine room and we all agreed that the noise was definitely coming from the transmission. My pinky begged to differ though, I had a nagging suspicion that the propeller was loose and clunking on the shaft.

The night before, while Christy was BBQing, our spatula slipped over the side. It was too dark to find then, so since I was going in after the spatula this morning I figured I may as well swim over and check out the props on Meermin.

I found that indeed the starboard prop had come loose, both lock nuts had backed off and everything had stayed on the shaft only because of the cotter pin through the shaft. I was able to reinstall the propeller and get everything squared away. When Art went into the engine room to turn the shaft he came back beaming. The noise was completely gone, it had been the prop after all. I guess the transmission was amplifying the noise as it traveled through the prop shaft. My pinky was right, my pinky rocks.

Since I found a buyer for the Mercury we decided to put the new Yahama on the dinghy. Holy shit, what a difference. The dink is now scary fast. Even though we’re still breaking the new engine in we can get up on plane in the blink of an eye. It’s like riding a skipping stone. Previously the ride to town was a wet 30 minute ride, now we arrive in 6 or 7 minutes and we’re bone dry. Just wait until we can open her up. Woo Hoooo.

So we’ll be here for a few more days, doing boat chores and enjoying the water and the island a bit. The weather is supposed to break on Thursday, giving us an opportunity to get underway on Friday. Although by then the wind will have been in the low twenties for several days straight. We may have to wait another day or two for the ocean to settle a bit before we head out.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

March 11, 2008

Today is Tuesday, so while we were waiting to hear if our new outboard engine made it onto the mailboat, we’ve pretty much got a day to kill. So we decided that we would rent a car and see the island. One of the biggest attractions here is the deepest blue hole in the world about 20 miles south of us. There’s also the promise of a tiki hut with good food and free wifi at Max’s Conch House, supposedly only 5 miles away. Christy is having some serious wifi withdrawl, so we think we have a good plan.

Unfortunately, we woke to an overcast morning with a smattering of rain thrown in. Snorkeling the blue hole with the cloud cover would be kind of anti-climatic so we decided to scrap the car rental idea. Instead we adopted Plan B…..

Long Island is about 72 miles long with about 4000 residents. The Queens Highway runs north and south for the length of the island with a smattering of cross streets. The longest of the cross streets is less than 200 yards long. So it really is a long, albeit very skinny island. We’ve heard rumors of cruisers successfully hitch hiking up and down the island. So, why not us, we’ve got thumbs.

We figured that we could save the car rental money ($75) and hitch hike down to Max’s Conch House, hell its only 5 miles or so. We’ll have some lunch and abuse the hell out of the free wifi. Gary & Mary from Packet Inn decided to go with us, so there was the chance for some group fun. Little did they know…..

We took the dinghies into the dock, tied them up and walked up to the road and started walking south. Within 2 minutes the only woman we know on the island pulled up and offered us a ride. Excellent! She was only going to the edge of town, but it was a start. Oh, and the rainy morning had already disappeared and turned into a gorgeous, hot day.

She dropped us at the south end of Salt Pond, so I guess the 5 miles started about there. We started walking again and the first vehicle down the road dutifully pulled to the side for our 4 extended thumbs. The woman explained that she was only going about half way to our destination but would be happy to give us a lift. Excellent.

The 4 of us hopped into the back of her pickup truck and marveled at our good luck. In Arkansas, riding in the back of a pickup might be part of the wedding ceremony, but in Jersey you just can’t do it. That being said this was my first ride in a pickup bed at speed. Lets talk about the speed. The Queens Highway is best described as a “blacktop lane” with many potholes and washed out sections of road. The posted speed limit is 20 MPH with some sections marked at 15 MPH. Once settled into the pickup’s bed we quickly accelerated through impulse power and into warp speed. We were freakin flyin, literally. Plan B was starting to lose some of its luster. We started out sitting on the beds rail and wheel wells and after about 30 seconds we had all scrunched down to the floor of the bed and were even holding on to each other. Not to worry, they all drive like this here, so while we were hurtling along threatening to tear the fabric of time….did I mention that we were driving on the wrong side of the road? Yes, that is the way it is done here and it makes it just that much more intense.

After a couple of miles she pulled into her driveway and the end of the line for us. We thanked her profusely for her kindness, then quietly thanked God that we survived and started out on foot again. Almost immediately, the very next car stopped to pick us up. This time it was a smartly dressed woman in her Ford Explorer. We all piled inside and had a really interesting conversation about American politics.

She was a wealth of information about the Obama / Hillary duel. The American election is amazingly important to the people here. It is obviously a process that she and other Bahamanians look upon with great interest. It is something that a great many Americans take for granted and here, most people view with great importance. Christy and I realized that during the last election we were in the BVI’s and had talked politics with a great many interested islanders. We take so much for granted.

The Explorer woman dropped us off at Max’s, we wished her well and watched her leave. Then we found out that Max’s was closed; you gotta be kidding me. It turns out that the owner is in Nassau for the day or week or whatever. The woman at the shop next door sold us some sodas and we sat at an outdoor table at Max’s and sorted our options.

We decided to use our thumbs to head another 5 miles south in an effort to get to “Under the Sun Marine” in Mangrove Bush. Gary has been looking to replace his diving mask and they sell that type of stuff there. Under The Sun Marine is also the place Christy and I had bought the outboard from. We had completed the deal over the phone, so we hadn’t actually ever been there.

We stuck out our thumbs and the very next vehicle pulled over. This time it was a tiny pickup truck with 2 guys in front, so once again the 4 of us hopped in the back and held on. The bed of the truck was full of masonry tools so the accommodations weren’t that luxurious, but he drove us right to the front door. So as of now, Plan B has everyone’s approval.

We chatted with the folks at Under the Sun and found out that they did get conformation that our engine did make it onto the mailboat and will definitely be here tomorrow. Excellent.

So now its time to head north, it’s about 1230 and the sun is blistering. We decided to walk to a restaurant and liquor store that we saw from the bed of the last pickup. I thought it might be a mile or less so we should be there fairly quickly. Evidently not, we arrived at the liquor store (we’re almost out of rum) and found that it closed for the day at 1300 hours, about 3 minutes ago. Shit. We decided to forgo lunch at the restaurant although we were all starving and parched, because we couldn’t see it from the road and we were afraid that we might walk a couple of miles and find it closed, so we started walking again.

Gary was the one who had kicked the porthole and ripped off a good sized portion of his pinky toe a week or so ago. Since we would be doing a good bit of walking today he decided to wear sneakers for the occasion. The only problem was that he hasn’t worn shoes in about, forever. So now there were blisters to go with the mutilated toe, throw in some bone spurs and let the misery begin.

Unfortunately, we hit a spell where not a car was to be seen, we walked on and on. Phooey on Moses and his people, I scoff at his Exodus, you call that a walk? That was a stroll, this was a freakin walk. The sun was baking us, Gary was limping and we could see down the road for miles with no cars in sight. Finally after another mile we come upon the library, internet?, who knows, maybe.

Christy walked in and confirmed that, yes, there was dial up internet, and it was indoors, out of the sun. Woo Hoo. We took turns reading our mail, did a little internet banking and started north again with renewed vitality. Fortune smiled upon us and the next pick up down the road pulled over and gave us a lift for close to 2 miles. We hunkered down in the back of his truck and imagined we were itinerant farm workers off to pick bananas for “the man”.

We were on a roll now, after ten steps a small SUV picked us up for another mile or so before he got to his destination which happened to be a liquor store. Hallelujah. We had hit the jackpot as far as hitch hiking goes.

Next we got picked up by a woman and her daughter in their Dodge Neon. The 4 of us stuffed ourselves into the backseat and she took us all the way back to the market, near our dinghies. Her husband and 25 year old son go lobstering for a week at a time leaving her and her 19 year old daughter at home. This island is so safe and has such a feeling of community that even though they’re alone, they don’t think twice about picking up 4 strangers needing a ride. In fact, nobody did. Only 1 vehicle passed us by all day and twice people stopped to show us that their vehicle was packed with stuff and there was just no room for the 4 of us.

So all in all, we received 7 rides, got too much sun, Gary got blisters, I got rum and we all came to appreciate the people that live here on Long Island.
March 9, 2008

We hauled anchor yesterday at around 0700 for the 40 mile trip to Long Island. At low tide there would be a 10 mile section of our route that has some sketchy depths for us.

Low tide was just after 1400 hours. We had 21 miles to travel before we reached the shallow section. The wind was supposed to be between 10 and15 knots allowing us a beam reach, so conservatively figuring 5 knots of boat speed should get us there by 1100. That would mean a falling tide, but still 3 hours before low tide.

As soon as we had the anchor up the sails were raised and the engine switched off. It was like somebody had yelled “go”. We were easily reaching along at 7 knots with the full main and only half the genoa out. We arrived at the beginning of the sketchy section before 1000. So we were an hour ahead of schedule. Excellent.

The first part of the shallow section had us almost dead into the wind for 7 miles. So we had to furl the genoa and motor sail for an hour. Once through that section we turned more north and were able to redeploy the entire genoa and kill the engine again. That left us with a wonderful 2 hour sail to cover the last 12 miles to the anchorage.

The anchorage in Long Island is inside a large hook with excellent protection from every direction but the south through southwest. We had stopped here on our way south so we anchored in almost the same spot we were last time.

We’ve been pretty disappointed in the lack of power that dinghy engine puts out. It moves the dinghy along well enough, but on a lot of occasions the trip in the dinghy is a long, slow wet affair. We don’t have enough power to get the dink up on plane with both of us in it. As a result there have been a lot of places that we might have taken the dinghy too, but haven’t because it’s just not worth it.

Here in Long Island there may be a remedy for that. We can buy a 15 horsepower Yamaha here for just over $1600, hell, our 6 hp Mercury cost us over $1800 back in the states. We should also be able to sell our 6 hp engine once we reach Georgetown, so it’s pretty much a no brainer. So today is Sunday and nothing is open here on Sunday so we’ll find out in the morning if there’s an engine in stock.

Our American flag hangs from a small pulley a third of the way up the backstay. The other day the pulley failed and the whole shebang fell to the deck. This morning it was nice and calm so today was the day to go up and replace it. I hooked my bosuns chair to the backstay and then to the main halyard. At the other end of the halyard I added some line so it would reach the windlass capstan.

So the line ran from the windlass at the bow, up and over the masthead and back down to the stern. Christy wrapped a few turns of the line around the capstan and used the windlass to haul me up the backstay. It worked like a charm, the defective block was replaced and thankfully nobody was maimed. Excellent.

Boat Name of the Day. ‘Quitcherbitchin’. It’s a sailboat anchored near us. It’s not really that funny until you hear them hailing their shore party out in their dinghy which they’ve named ‘Shut Up’. So it goes something like…..Shut up, shut up, Quit yer bitchin, quit yer bitchin. Then they come back with Quit yer bitchin, Shut up. If they’re calling another boat it’s pretty funny too. It goes something like….Veranda, Veranda, Quit yer bitchin. They’ve got young kids onboard so when they do the hailing it’s even funnier.

March 7, 2008

We decided to start heading north this morning. Our next stop was scheduled to be Water Cay. It was only 14 miles so it should have been an easy day. Not.

The wind built overnight to about 20 knots. The wind wasn’t the problem, it was the seas. The Cays here are all in a row with some gaps in between cays exceeding 6 miles wide. On the east side of the cays the water is thousands of feet deep, while to the west the water is generally 20 feet or so. So when the tide comes in you have water that’s a thousand feet deep rushing in and up onto the Bahamas Bank. Then when the tide ebbs it really screams out the gaps and into the ocean.

So we had the tide ebbing and the wind from east south east which gave us what? That’s right class, wind opposing sea, a sea state that resembles a washing machine. A very large washing machine. Oh yeah and throw in giant rollers just for fun and you get a ride that’s “interesting” at best. Oh look, and there are several squall lines moving through, with gusts and rain as well.

I was being lazy and everything considered I decided not to put up the main. It turned out to be a good choice as we were moving along nicely with just half the genoa rolled out. We did have it all out at the beginning but I deemed it necessary to pull some in to better control the boat. So we ended up with half the genoa flying for most of the trip, while still doing 5-6 knots.

We had the anchor down by 1100 and decided to get in the water. We did a little exploring and found a pretty good sized Triggerfish to add to the refrigerator. While setting up on a real nice Grouper the firing band on my spear broke. Crap.

We ran back to the big boat and replaced the band and headed back to the same spot. As soon as we jumped into the water we were face to face with the biggest shark either one of us as ever seen outside of an aquarium. Christy and I use a set of hand signals if either one of us sees something scary in the water. Different signals indicate the level of the danger (IE big shark, big Barracuda, medium Barracuda, fat guy in a thong etc.). We both saw this monster at the same time and turned towards each other at the same moment. Hands started flashing signs faster than Helen Keller telling a joke. So that pretty much ended the hunting gathering for the day.

When we saw the shark we were discussing it as a 10 footer. Then I realized that our dinghy is over nine and a half feet long. This thing was way bigger than out dink. It wasn’t some lazy swimming, Nurse Shark either. I have no idea what type shark it was but even at its large size it darted around actively. He was a predator, he was hunting and we were lucky to see him. It was awe inspiring and really great to see, although getting out of the water was pretty much the highlight of our encounter.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

March 6, 2008

We woke yesterday morning and pulled the boat around to the western side of the cay. The wind was supposed to shift directions and we’d be more protected in the Two Palms anchorage that we enjoyed so much during our last stay here.

Right after we got situated, our friends Packet Inn, Poco Loco and Kokomo all arrived. They anchored here with us in the lee of Flamingo Cay.

In the morning we did some hiking with Mary & Gary from Packet Inn. Later in the day, Lita from Kokomo, joined the 4 of us for a trek to the north anchorage. Mary and Christy did a little snorkeling while Lita, Gary and I walked the beach and did some chatting. Gary kicked one of the

ports on his boat while on deck a few days ago and removed a large chunk of semi important skin so he was trying to give his toe a day off from snorkeling, my toes appreciated the day off as well.

Of course that was yesterday and today is a new day. The first thing we did this morning was to go snorkeling. We took everyone up to the north anchorage as it’s a really pretty spot with good opportunities to spear decent sized fish. Of course, there was also an ulterior motive.

We really wanted to check on the lobster that hid, when I shot his roommate the other day. Mary had ridden over with us in the dinghy and wanted to snorkel a reef in close to the shore. While Christy gave her a ride in to shore I dropped over the side in an attempt to relocate the hole that had yielded the first lobster.

As I made my way towards the hole I spotted a huge Yellow Snapper. I started to stalk him and he made like a Grouper and dove under a ledge to hide. I dove down to see if he was safe or if I had him cornered. When I stuck my head down under the ledge I was shocked to be face to face with a big lobster.

After a quick shot I found myself alone, treading water with a 4 pound lobster on my spear. Luckily, the people from Kokomo came past so I dumped the lobster with them and resumed my quest for the other hole. I found it nearby, but alas it was empty. The lobster I had just killed was probably the one I saw in the hole the other day. So we ended up going back to the big boat with the lobster and 4 Glass Eyed Snappers. The Glass Eyed Snappers are fairly small but are great as a pan fried fish.
March 4, 2008

We’ve decided its time to start heading north. We’ve run out of bread although our friend Bev on Scandia did us a great favor and baked us a loaf. We have no fresh fruit or vegetables and we are running low on gasoline for the dinghy’s outboard engine.

So at 0700 we weighed anchor and were underway. Getting up this morning was no problem as the wind had shifted on us and made the anchorage rather uncomfortable around 0300. I lay in bed until 0500 and then got up and read for an hour waiting for daybreak.

At 0600 I took the dogs to shore, stowed the dinghy and checked the engine room stuff. By 0700 we had the anchor up and were under full sail. The wind was between ten and fifteen knots over the starboard quarter. At this point of sail with the full mainsail up it blankets the genoa so it can be a bit of a pain in the ass. After about 4 miles a sailboat pulled out 400 yards in front of us from Buenavista Cay.

We were moving along at a little better than 5 knots. I was forced to reef the genoa as we were unable to keep the entire sail full with the winds present direction. The boat in front of us was a smaller boat and we were gaining on him until he went wing and wing on us. Wing and wing wasn’t really possible for us, but he had a whisker pole which he used to present as much sail as possible to the wind. The Boat Pole of Speed wasn’t an option as the wind was very gusty and we were dealing with a large rolling following sea. We will have a whisker pole the next time we come to the Bahamas.

Anywho, our course for the day was a thirty couple mile gradual dogleg to the right. Every 5 to 8 miles we had to adjust course 10 degrees or so to starboard. With every adjustment we were able to present just that much more sail to the wind. A couple of tenths of a knot here and there and we were slowly reeling in the smaller boat.

We came abreast of him several times only to have the wind peter out. In light air his smaller boat walked away from us, building his lead once again. Finally, after the course had come far enough to starboard, we were able to put up all sail. We slowly gained on him and watched as he trimmed this and that in an effort to stay ahead of us.

We were right back on his tail when the wind started to build. While he got overpowered, Veranda relished the fresh breeze and started banging along at better than 7 knots for several miles. It did make the day go very quickly even though it took 25 miles to catch the little bastard.

Our destination for the night was Flamingo Cay. We stayed here for several days on our way south and enjoyed it, so we’re going to hit it again. This time we were going to anchor in the north anchorage where Garry’s plane lies. With the wind predicted to be from the south this anchorage should give us the most protection for the few days we’ll be here.

So we dropped the hook around 1300 hours and after lunch we decide to go snorkeling. My toes were killing me so I decide to try wearing socks inside my fins to protect my raw tootsies. My hand was also raw from all the spear fishing. The skin between my thumb and forefinger is gone from the firing band; nothing I can do about that though.

Fives minutes after entering the water I shot at a good sized Hogfish and missed. Not even close. I missed him by so much that he just lazily swam away, laughing. So I reload, stalked him and shot too soon as I was afraid he’d be skittish and flee, so I missed him again. Then he darted away, but decided to hide behind a nearby coral head. So I reloaded, dove to the bottom and made my approach along the bottom from his blind side. I swam up to the coral head just as he slowly swam out from behind it, it was perfect. He was 3 feet away and didn’t see me, I aimed, I fired and I missed again. Then he bolted into a cave and stayed hidden. Shit, shit, shit.

I was at the surface cursing myself when Christy swam up. I told her my tale of woe. She listened to me and said “I just found a hole with 2 fat lobsters inside”. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but it’ll do. I followed her to the spot and sure enough there were 2 big lobsters sitting in this little cave. When I shot the first one, the second lobster bolted deep into the recesses of his lair never to be seen again. When I pulled the speared lobster from his hole we were awed by the size of him. He was bigger than the dogs and weighed in at 5 pounds.

We ended the day with cocktails and conversation over on Meermin. They’ll be leaving tomorrow and headed north for Long Island before going to Georgetown the following day. We’re sorry to see them go but we just heard that our friends on Packet Inn, Poco Loco and Kokomo are all due to arrive here tomorrow morning.

After getting home from the Meermins I still had to take dogs ashore. This is where it got very interesting. There’s a neat phenomenon called phosphorescence. On occasion, phosphorescence will occur behind your boat, in your wake, as you sail at night. It actually appears as a weird glow in the darkness of the water as your boat passes through.

I’ve heard that it has something to do with plankton in the water and static electricity. I dunno, it could all be bullshit that they tell neophyte cruisers to make them look like buffoons. Anyway, I didn’t want to strike the propeller on the bottom so as I got closer to shore I had to raise the prop up a bit. When I turned around and looked at the engine, the water behind the dinghy was alive with sparks shooting from the back of the boat just under the water. They were not vague sparks either, they were bright, vivid pronounced sparks. It kind of looked like Fourth of July sparklers.

So I was thinking “Wow, that was neat” as I landed the dink. Then as the dogs ran off to take care of business there were actually faint sparks flaring up from their feet as they ran across the beach through the dark. It was just getting cooler by the minute.

After waiting for the dogs for a while I decide that I gotta go too. So, when in Rome, and guess what?, that’s right……sparks! My stream of pee was actually making sparks as it hit the beach. It was a new experience for me, and one that I’ll always treasure.

After I took the dogs back to the boat I made Christy get into the dink so I could take her for a ride. She got to see the phosphorescence in the water as well, but it’s just too bad that she didn’t have to pee. So all in all not to shabby a day.
March 3, 2008

We’ve been here a couple of days now. We’ve probably spent 10 hours in the water over the course of two days. Since we’ve been here in Raccoon Cay the hunting/gathering has been pretty respectable. Christy found another lobster today so that brings our take here to two lobsters, a Grouper, a Hogfish and a huge Triggerfish. We‘ve also encountered several conch but decided against taking them as we still have plenty in the freezer.

The only bad part about spending so much time in the water is that my fins have been chafing on my toes. The skin is officially gone, they’re sore as hell, I need a day or 2 off from spearfishing but it’s just so much God damned fun.
March 1, 2008

Yesterday we awoke after a good nights sleep to find that the winds were finally starting to clock around to the east northeast. The only problem was that this enabled the waves to come through a gap between the cays and made the surface rougher than it needed to be. It was not a problem for us on the boat as Veranda rode this small chop without movement.

The problem was the dinghy ride to shore with the dogs. It was across the seas and it was a very spray filled ride. As a result, every time we went to shore both the dogs and I were soaked by the time we returned. Since the wind was supposed to stay in the 20 to 25 knots range for 48 hours we decided to move.

We had spent our first night on the western shore and most of the other boats had already pulled anchor and left the bight for the 2 mile trip out and around to where we were anchored before. The cay is fairly low so the wind protection wouldn’t be that great, but you could get in very close to shore so the water would be flat calm. The only problem for us was that it would now be a ride of a few miles to the nearest “good reef” for snorkeling.

After some chart study we decided to head south to the next cay. The anchorage in Raccoon Cay was only just over 3 miles away. The issue was that we’d have to cross the Raccoon Cay Channel which is deep and exposed us to the ocean as we crossed the channel. Normally it would not be an issue, but the winds had been blowing straight down the channel over 20 knots for 24 hours. It could be “exciting”.

We decided to go for it especially since there were so many boats already anchored in and around our other obvious choice. We hauled anchor and headed south for Raccoon with the Meermin’s. The ride was quick and fairly comfortable, we stayed east of the rhumb line until the seas started to build as we crossed the channel, then we turned west a bit to ride the swells back towards the rhumb line.

The channel leaves you exposed to the ocean for about a mile, so in less than ten minutes we were in the lee of Raccoon Cay. We found only 1 boat already there, with miles of beach to choose from. We chose the anchorage at Spanish Wells as our spot for the night. We were able to get ridiculously close to shore and we had a 60 foot hill in front of us to further block the wind. It was absolutely beautiful, we were tucked up close to shore between to peninsulas in crystal clear water. We did a little hiking having found a trail that cut across the cay to the ocean side. I would guess that it was about a half mile hike up and over the hill to the eastern shore. There are no beaches at all on the eastern shore of most of these cays and Raccoon Cay was no exception. They call the windward shore “the iron shore” as its all rock that’s constantly pounded by the ocean surf.
It’s hard to imagine that this stark inhospitable place, is just the opposite side, of our little chunk of paradise.

We went snorkeling in several different spots until we found some coral heads with a population of decent sized fish. There were several good sized Grouper although they were a bit shy and fled for there lairs at the first sign of being hunted. The Grouper are unusual fish in that instead of just bolting and out swimming their pursuer they dive into a hole and hide like a rabbit. Sometimes the hole is very deep and the fish can turn a corner and be completely hidden from view. Other less fortunate fish hide in spots that are not that protected and this leaves them cornered by their predator. Me.

So, I was fortunate to shoot one decent sized Grouper fairly quickly. After there was some blood in the water the rest of the fish were on high alert. Then we saw a 4 to 5 foot shark in the water so it was time to leave. I decided to swim back towards the boat while Christy swam to the dinghy and started to follow me. By the time she had caught up to me I had stumbled across another much deeper reef. I was stalking a Grouper when he retreated into his hole. As I peered into the hole what should I see; that’s right Mr. Lobster, eureka. One shot and he was added to the menu along with the Grouper.

Friday, March 14, 2008

February 28, 2008

Last night was one of those nights you really can’t wait to forget. As I said before, the winds had stayed out of the southwest and continued to build for the better part of the day. That was all fine and dandy as long as Veranda was facing the wind, she rode up and over the waves that were building before her and provided a fairly comfortable ride.

Just after midnight (it’s always just after midnight) the wind finally came around. It shifted about 90 degrees from the northwest without abating at all. That was much better for us as we were now facing the land and there was no room for wind driven seas to build.

Now for the bad part. Now that we were facing northwest we were riding with our beam to 3 foot choppy rollers. We were rolling 30 degrees to port then 30 degrees to starboard, one wave after another for over 2 ½ hours. Things inside the boat that had never moved, were trying to take flight. It was like trying to play checkers while falling down a flight of stairs. It sucked.

The wind kept clocking through and finally we were facing northeast. This meant that the waves were passing under Veranda from stern to bow. Much better than side to side, but not great, as every now and then a bigger wave would come up and slam Veranda’s transom before she could rise up and over it. Once the wind was opposing the sea it was eventually able to flatten the surface for us.

Finally, we were riding the waves comfortably, facing northeast with protection in front of us. Christy got about 1-2 hours of sleep while I got at least 5 hours last night. The wind speed was supposed too increase throughout the day but stay from this direction so tonight should be good for sleeping, if there’s God.

Last night is over and today has started nicely, lobster omelets. Ummm. After breakfast we went over to the closest beach and did a little hiking. Once again a trail created by cruisers crosses the island to the western shore. We came upon the foundation of an abandoned house on top of a rocky outcrop with a majestic panoramic view of the Bahama Bank. After that it was back to the boat for a nap before this afternoons “event”.

A couple of the guys that are anchored here have been building a pile of wood for a bonfire. It’s made of huge pieces of driftwood stacked up, Tee Pee style. Its about the size of a Volkswagen, if you did something like this in the states you’d spend weeks seeking permits before they shot you down for one reason or another. They’ve also been cleaning the plastic debris that lines every cay’s windward shore. The plastic includes shoes, bottles, pails, milk crates and even plastic garbage cans. It had all been added to the pile and as everyone arrived they all added their burnable garbage from their boats. A little diesel, a flame and whoosh, up it went. It was impressive as hell and made a great backdrop for the happy hour / yak-a-thon. So in conclusion, the beach is cleaner than it was and a real good time was had by all. Fire fun, free lobster fantastic, big wind so-so, side rollers suck. Life is good.
February 27, 2008

When we went to bed the wind was blowing about 15 knots out of the east. For this reason we had decided to anchor along the western side of the cay. When we woke this morning we found that the wind had already swung and was blowing from the southwest. That meant we needed to get out of there and go around and up into the bight on the southern part of the island.

So, I took the dogs to the beach, spoke to the Meermins and in 30 minutes we were up and underway for better protection. Another big reason for our early departure was that we’d heard several boats on the VHF discussing plans to ride out the blow here at Buenavista. There are only so many prime spots, so we didn’t want to arrive last and limit our options.

It’s kind of funny how there are so many options for places to go and be alone in the Jumentos. You kind of get used to not seeing any other boats, that is until a front comes through and everyone has to run for the same few places with shelter.

So we entered the bight and found ourselves as the second boat in the anchorage. True to form, the first guy in, had the best spot so we poked around a bit before deciding on our spot for the storm. The water here is a little shallow for our liking but we went in as close to shore as we dared for better protection from the winds. The anchorage is also sprinkled with random coral heads. We were safely clear of them, but as the anchorage fills, people will be forced to get closer and closer to the coral. We were happily anchored by 0830 and by noon there were 9 boats here with more closing on the horizon.

By 1000 hours Christy and her friend Elly were on the beach shelling/sea beaning while I stayed on the boat to make some sewing repairs. After they were done we had lunch and headed out for some snorkeling.

There is a very large reef system just to the north of our anchorage. We decided to snorkel that today because when the winds switched around to the north it wouldn’t be fit for man or beast out there.

There were the crews from 5 boats out there, all swimming about. Most of the people are out for lobsters or perhaps a large fish. Christy has already displayed a knack for finding conch, well today her gift appeared in another form. Lobster.

We haven’t seen a lobster since we left the protected national sea park at Warderick Wells. Today, things changed, between us we spotted at least 8 lobsters hiding in the reef. I spotted the first one and was so excited that I shot high and missed him completely. I haven’t missed a fish yet and have even been able to hit them in the head as they swam by. Yet, there was this lobster just sitting there broadside and I blew the spear right over his back. Bye bye lobster, he was back deep into his hole, never to be seen again.

Just after I finished telling Christy that I blew it, she came swimming back over to tell me that she had found another opportunity. This time my aim was true and I was on my way back to the dinghy with a lobster on my spear. Woo Hoo!

Then Christy hit the mother load, 3 fat lobsters all in one hole down under a rock ledge. I had to dive down to the bottom, level off and shoot under the shelf. The first shot took another nice sized lobster. I withdrew the lobster from the hole and dumped his body on the bottom instead of swimming him all the way back to the dinghy.

My second shot into the hole was a clean miss and unfortunately I drove the spear tip deep into the coral. So my spear was firmly lodged in the coral, deep under the shelf. Try as I might, I couldn’t pull the spear free. So I had to spin the shaft of the spear and unscrew my tip, leaving it lodged in the coral. That gave me my spear back, but without its tip, and my spare tip was back on the big boat. We were not leaving without the spear.

I was also not “leaving them biting”, so to speak, so I had an idea. The end of my spear is a threaded rod; the spear packs such a punch that I was sure I could blow it through their shell without a tip. The tip I lost had 2 barbs that open and hold your catch. The downside was that once impaled without the barbs they might be able to slip free, retreat and die in their hole.

So back down I went, and shot the tip less spear right through the second lobster. He was not dead, in fact….was fighting like hell, and I was able to pull him from under the ledge. The third lobster scurried far back into his hole and kept me from successfully completing the trifecta. I scooped up the first lobster from the bottom with my spear and took the two of them back to the dinghy.

We saw 3 more lobsters, took two of them without another miss and let one undersized one, live to see tomorrow. The last lobster we took was definitely the mother load for the day, it was huge. So after 2 hours in the water we came home with 5 lobsters. We also had opportunity to shoot a couple of nice yellow snappers, but I passed on them until I could put the new tip on the spear. We also saw a really nice Nassau Grouper and in 2 days, when he’s legal, I think we’ll be back.

Once back at the boat we decided that 5 lobsters were too many for us so we took 2 of them over to Art & Elly on Meermin. Christy went to work cooking the remaining 3 and making them part of a meal to die for. We each ate a 3 pounder and still had the monster 6 pounder left for tomorrow.

When we first got back to the boat we had a mini drama. The wind was supposed to start swinging around to the west by then. Instead, it was holding its direction from the southwest and it was really beginning to build. The wind wasn’t really the problem though, it was the tide. It had gone out, way out and we were ever so lightly bumping the bottom. It was still going to go out another half foot or so.

We had about 75 feet of chain out so Christy started the engine and drove the boat forward while I reeled in 15 feet of chain. I thought it did the trick as we had pulled ourselves into deeper water, just not “deeper” enough. In another half hour we were bumping again. Shit, we were gonna have to pull the anchor and reset it with the wind blowing close to 20 knots. Oh yeah, and there are boats all around.

We only had to move the anchor forward 40 ft and off to port another 60 ft to get us away from the shallows. It went smooth enough and I’m sure all who were watching (everyone in the anchorage) were duly impressed with our technique. We were in deeper water and were able to drop 90 feet of chain out giving us a scope of about 7 to 1, on all chain so things again are lovely.

P.S. Hunter/Gatherer Magazine has just called, I think they want us for a photo shoot.
February 26, 2008

At 0800 Meermin and Veranda pulled anchor and left Flamingo Cay. It was to be a 30 mile trip south to Buenavista Cay. We’d chosen Buenavista Cay as our destination as it should provide the best protection from a northerly front that’s due in 2 days.

That’s the biggest drawback to the Jumentos, there are really very few options for riding out a front. So being close enough to Buenavista made it the logical choice.

We were able to sail for the first 13 miles, then it was 6 miles of motor sailing and we had to finish it up with an 11 mile motor directly into the wind. It wasn’t so bad but the winds were building as the day went on, so it was good to get there when we did.

About ten miles from our destination Meermin called us on the VHF and said that they had hit something, and had a terrible vibration in their starboard engine. Meermin is a Great Harbor N37 trawler with twin engines. We advised him to shut it down and run on one engine until we could drop the hook and dive on the prop later in the day. We had been about 1 mile behind, but were able to quickly catch up now that they were down to one engine.

Once we were a half mile in front of them we slowed down so they could keep up with us. They hailed us to apologize for being so slow….welcome to our world! We decided to anchor along the western shore of the cay for the night and move into the protection of the bight in the morning. The wind was from the east so this would enable them to shut down their engine an hour sooner and get under the boat to inspect for damage.

After diving under the boat, Art found that he had an abandoned fishing net wrapped around his starboard propeller. He was able to untangle it and was back in business as far as the 2 engine thing goes.

The girls spent an hour and a half doing some beachcombing and then it was back to our respective boats to enjoy the evening.
February 25, 2008

Today was one of those special days you dream about when you sail away looking for “The Dream”. There were 6 of us anchored in 2 separate coves on the western shore of Flamingo Cay. This morning 4 of the boats left.

We’re torn between 2 different realities. The first is that it’s nice to have friends around to snorkel, beach comb and have happy hour with. The other reality is that it’s damned nice to have an island to your self. We only had to share the entire island with the Meermin’s.
They were in their cove and we were in one of our own. As much as the seclusion is nice it’s really much better to have a buddy boat within dinghy range.

So we spent the early part of the day hiking to the top of the island to take some panoramic pictures. There's a navigation light on top of the tallest hill on the island and it makes an excellent vantage point. After that we stopped at our boats, changed to swim suits, packed a lunch and hiked overland to the north anchorage.

The trail across the island is a work in progress. We were out in the middle of nowhere, there’s not a home within 60 miles of our anchorage. The trail isn’t maintained in the normal sense of the word. Its just worn through the vegetation by constant use and that use is sparingly at best. There are salt ponds full of tiny red shrimp and miniscule crabs along the way. I don’t think a hundred cruising boats a year come through here and probably half of those don’t take the time to trek across the island.

One of the unexpected things about the Bahamas has been the amount of rouge shoes we have found washed up on the windward shore of every cay we’ve visited.
The previous trailblazers who’ve traversed this island had an excellent sense of humor. There are all these flip flops/shoes/sneakers lying about, so the trail is marked by random shoes that have been placed as a guide. People have had to find shoes along the shore and carry them inland and post them prominently to mark the trail. I’m literally talking hundreds of shoes.

So after walking across the island with the Meermins we spent a few hours snorkeling, basking in the sun, swimming, having lunch and just generally doing nothing. Hell, I built my first sandcastle in probably 25 years.
Before our walk back to the boats we gathered a few shoes and took them inland with us to help do our part in maintaining the “trail”. Daniel Boone would be proud.

As we were heading back to the boat we were visited by the U. S. Coast Guard. We saw a chopper bearing down on us, so we waved and damned if they didn’t circle back and drop down close to the water to say hello. It was kind of random as we’re actually closer to Cuba then we are to the U.S. We had heard that because of the number of U.S. citizens transiting the Bahamas often the U.S. Coast Guard will perform maintenance on navigation lights. Meermin asked on the VHF what was up and the chopper pilot replied “just spending taxpayer dollars” we replied “great day for it” and away they went. It’s kind of comforting that even out here where there is absolutely nothing that the Coast Guard is just a short hop away, even here in the Bahamas.

After that it was back to the boat for us. We were having the Meermins over later so we had to do a little cleaning and preparing. While Christy cleaned the boat I took the trash to shore to burn it.

Burning trash on shore is the preferred method here in the Bahamas. You burn everything that’s not glass or aluminum. Food stuffs go in the water and everything else is burned. I dug a shallow pit below the high water mark and gathered some palm fronds. Add a little fire and garbage and you’re all set.

We learned this technique from an “environmental educator” while we were in Warderick Wells. At first I was taken aback by the thought of burning plastic. The guy looked at me and said “Dude, you used to start your car and drive to work. One day of that did more harm to the atmosphere then burning a weeks worth of plastic”. So evidently we’re doing our part to save the planet. I may apply for a government grant.

So while the garbage was burning I had to have something to do….. The other day when we cleaned all of our conch I had arranged the shells into a giant “V” on the beach. Here on this beach there are hundreds of empty conch shells. So I decided to put them to good use and spell out VERANDA in five foot block letters. The pictures don’t do my hour of work justice.

After that it was a quick swim to cool off and then Art & Elly came over for a few hours as the sun went down. So all in all this has been one of my favorite days underway. Our own private cove in the lee of a picture perfect uninhabited island, oh, and there’s cocktails as the sun sets as well.