Monday, April 21, 2008

April 19, 2008.

Last night was our second Friday night fish fry here in Governors Harbor. This time I ate more and drank less so I was well behaved and still remember events as they happened. This week there are about ten boats in the harbor and all of those crews were in attendance. The evening was fun, the food was slow but wonderful and a good time was had by all. This weekly Friday Night Fish Fry really makes this town a whole lot of fun.

This morning we were underway at 0900 for a 23 mile day to our chosen anchorage near the bridge known as the Glass Window. We had toured the area when we rented the car back in Rock Sound. It will make a good jumping off point for the run through the area called the Current Cut.

As soon as we had cleared the anchorage we raised the sails and killed the engine. The winds were supposed to be between 5 and 10 knots. We were at the low end of that scale and didn’t surpass 4 knots of boat speed for the first hour. Finally the wind started to build just a bit for us and we averaged four and a half knots for the days run. It was an exceptionally relaxing day as we were beam reaching in very light air. We were in 30 feet of water for the better part of the day so Christy and I took turns lolling about as Rover steered the boat north.

Happy Hour was hosted by Jim and Nancy on Solitaire. There are 4 boats in the anchorage and everyone was invited. We spent the evening swapping stories and laughed for a couple of hours straight.

Tomorrow its on to Current Cut. Current Cut is a narrow gap that splits the north end of the island of Eleuthera. The tidal flow through Current Cut can reach 5 knots. Theres land on one side and a shallow reef on the other side. You really don’t want to try and negotiate Current Cut with the tide flowing against you. Slack tide would be best or at least ebbing as you travel north. Tomorrow high tide is at 1100 hours. We’re eleven miles away so we’ll leave 2 and a half hours early to make sure we arrive just as the high tide starts to ebb. We’ll see how it goes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

April 17, 2008.

Well, it’s been about a week since my last update. We had stopped in Governors Harbor as we work our way up the west coast of Eleuthera. While there, we topped up our water tank and hit the grocery store for veggies and such.

As luck would have it, the weather forecast pretty much went in the crapper. We were due for a front to come through 2 days after we were scheduled to leave here. The only problem was that there really weren’t any good, protected anchorages to weather a front in our list of future destinations. If we stayed here we could just move to a cove a mile away which will give us great protection from the west, north and northeast. So that’s the plan…….

We stayed in Governors Harbor until the last possible moment. Once the wind and waves started coming into the anchorage we weighed anchor and moved into our protected spot in the next cove. White Bluff turned out to offer great protection and we easily rode out the front with winds gusting to 30 knots.

The water, while calm enough, was pretty silted up so snorkeling was pretty much out while we were there. We did spend a couple of very rewarding hours shelling and then Christy decided that she’d like to do some trolling in the dinghy.

I set her up with a couple of different lures and showed her how to interchange them, then she was off trolling along in the hopes of catching dinner. She ended up catching a few small fish that she released before landing a nice sized Nassau Grouper. When she got back to the boat I filleted him and Christy served him for dinner. So even though we were trapped by the weather for a few days it ended up being a good time.

We also had to deal with a first for us. When we anchored we were facing just south of west. The brunt of the front hit us from the northwest through north. So when the boat swung as the wind shifted the anchor chain fouled on a large coral encrusted block of concrete. We purposely let it hang that way until the day before we were to be leaving since it helped to increase the holding power of our anchor. The breeze was still blowing 15 knots when we decided to remedy the situation. I tied a line to the anchor chain just off the bow of the boat and Christy dragged the boat forward with the dinghy to relieve the pressure on the chain as it rounded the concrete. The chain had worked its way down under the corner of the block but with Christy keeping the weight of the boat off the chain I was able to dive down and free the anchor chain.

This morning after the winds had clocked around to a favorable direction we returned to Governors Harbor. There was a feeling of Déjà vu as we refilled the water tank and once again hit the grocery store.

This evening some friends of ours arrived in the anchorage. They weren’t feeling very secure with the set of their anchor so the Missus asked if she could hop in my dinghy with her glass bottomed lookie bucket to check on their anchor. I said sure and we spent the next five minutes with her “butt up” in the dink looking for the anchor. The water was still too stirred up for her to see anything. I was going to say something witty but remembered that they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Once again we’re primed and ready to head north but since tomorrow is Friday and there’s another Fish Fry we might as well stay one more day for that. Funny thing, we went to the Fish Fry last weekend and I really don’t remember much about the night, but there are pictures of me dancing, it looked like I had a really good time. Should be fun!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 12, 2008.

Two days ago we decided to start moving north along the west side of Eleuthera. We were up and underway at 0900 for a 21 mile trip to Governors Harbor.

The first 2 miles we were running dead down wind then for the next 5 miles we were on a broad reach. The wind was pretty much out of the north but we had to clear a large peninsula before we could head north. We had 15 knots of wind with gusts around 20 knots. The wind was directly on our nose but in standing with the new policy on the Veranda we were gonna sail it, period.

Since it was such a short day, we figured what the heck. So we worked our way to windward in a series of tacks. It was an excellent day of sailing although it was a little overcast and actually kind of chilly (low seventies, we’re spoiled, I know). We ended up covering 27 miles to complete our 21 mile day.

We were able to sail just past the harbor entrance so we could tack and run a beam reach right into the anchorage. Once again we started the engine to scout for an appropriate place to drop the hook. It’s good that we did because just as we entered the harbor the mailboat was pulling away from the dock. The Hearts Desire’s and we are the only boats anchored here although we did spot our friends on Long White Cloud anchored in the next bay over.

Yesterday was Friday and we spent most of the day walking around and getting the lay of the land. We found the laundromat, compared prices in the settlements 3 liquor stores and did a little grocery shopping. We also found out that the people here still hold a Fish Fry every Friday evening.

Gary on Packet Inn had told us about the evening that they spent at the Fish Fry 2 years ago. They said if there was still a Fish Fry then we gotta go, so we’re going.

At about 1900 hours we heard the telltale sign of any Bahamanian get together, loud freakin’ music. We could also see a good number of cars parked down near the end of the beach. The Hearts Desires and us hopped in our dinks and headed on over.

The majority of the inhabitants of most of these islands are of African decent. So we were pretty shocked when we walked up to the edge of the gathering and most of the attendees were white. There are only 3 boats here so we had to find someone to ask where the hell they all came from. It turns out there’s a large population of Americans and Canadians that spend there winters here. Riddle solved, let’s eat.

There was fish, conch fritters, chicken and ribs along with the staple sides of the Bahamas, peas and rice with Mac & cheese. Rum drinks were fairly pricey but some beers were reasonable. Kalik, a good Bahamanian beer was $4 a bottle, but Miller which is imported here was 2 for $5, go figure. I haven’t seen Miller in ages, hello old friend, oh look, one for each hand.

We soon realized that most of the white folks got here early to eat and then in an hour or two they started to drift toward home. Conversely, the locals must eat dinner at home (same food why pay for it) and then start showing up for the Fish Fry’s real attraction, drinking and dancing.

The people watching was excellent. The music was great as well. It went all over the place, from reggae to Michael Jackson, there was even a reggae version of the electric slide. The racial harmony that we’ve seen throughout the islands peaked here. People all having a great time together regardless of ancestry. Its really refreshing, the Bahamanians seem to have gotten past the whole white / black thing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April 9, 2008

Yesterday we woke to another beautiful day. Last night 10 of us decided to get together and rent 2 cars and tour the island. We had heard that there was a six passenger vehicle and a compact car available for rent at the gas station near the dinghy dock. So it was decided that 3 of the boats would rent the “big” vehicle and we would rent the compact car for the Hearts Desire’s and ourselves. Then we would all caravan to the northernmost point of the island and do the tourist thing.

When we went over to the gas station we found that the big 6 passenger car was a Chevy Celebrity. When we were renting the cars the woman was explaining the insurance to us. I expressed my concern as to the very limited coverage that was being offered. She explained that that was all that was available but not to worry, if there was a problem, my car insurance back in the states would cover it. I’m nodding in complete agreement while inside I’m thinking about the fact that back in the states I don’t even have a car, much less car insurance. Not to mention the fact I haven’t even driven a car since July of last year and then there’s that whole “wrong side of the road thing”.

So we watch in amusement as our six friends stuffed themselves into their car and we hopped into our roomy 4 door Nissan Sentra. Driving on the left side of the road was a lot easier than I expected it to be. The only tension was when you had to turn onto a side street or into a parking lot. It really felt like it took a whole lot of thought as to where you were supposed to be.

We went north on the Queens Highway (every island with a road has one). We went from town to town as we worked our way north along the coast. We stopped to look at some of the anchorages that we’re considering using in the next few days.

Theres a bridge in an area called The Glass Window. To the west is beautiful protected shallow water while to the east is the Atlantic Ocean. The bridge is about 40 feet above the water. Back in the nineties a rogue wave came through and hit the bridge. The bridge deck was lifted and pushed west about 8 feet.

It sits where the ocean left it. They added some support and moved the road over a bit to the bridges new location. It’s hard to imagine the ocean building to the height of this bridge, its even harder to imagine that this bridge could even be remotely considered as being safe. It’s got to weigh over hundred tons, this thing had to get whacked pretty hard to have it move so far. There’s an average of about one tourist a year that gets swept away while climbing out on the rocks to take pictures during storms. Its always a tourist as in this instance “local knowledge” is more than just an expression.

The 10 of us stopped for lunch at a place called the Seven Seas. They fed us all for 113 dollars. The food was good, the portions were appropriate and most of the people had multiple beers. Straight Coke for me though, don’t want to get too cocky with that whole left side of the road thing.

Once at the north end of the island we were headed for a place called Preachers Cave. In 1649 the first settlers on Eleuthera had a rather inauspicious introduction to the island. They had both of their ships flounder on the reefs guarding the north side of the island. Although only one person died during the ship wreck, they lost all of their provisions. So they were left with no food or shelter but through dumb luck they came ashore near probably the largest cave in all the Bahamas. So with this huge cave providing shelter they were able to establish themselves on the island.

After touring our way south we decided to stop in for dinner at Poppa Georges Pizza and Internet Cafe. There was seating for twelve so the ten of us pushed all the tables in the place together and gave our orders. George charges 15 dollars an hour for internet. That’s pretty high so all of us passed on this “opportunity”. George is a real personable guy so one of the cruisers explained to him that if he advertised free internet with the purchase of 2 pies he’d have to shoo people away. George thought for a moment and replied “What I really could use is a couple of investors”. Boom, that shut everybody up about George and his marketing strategies. Instead of pizza ovens in the kitchen George had 3 stoves like your Mom had at home. He’d fashion up your pie and slip it right into a conventional oven to bake. They were fabulous. There were 5 fairly large pizzas between the 10 of us and very little was carried home.

We got back to the car rental place after they closed so we will go in early tomorrow to settle up. Our road trip was just over 300 kilometers for the day, I’m not sure how far that is in miles but it’s a buttload. I used to love to drive but I gotta say that it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in a while. I haven’t had to concentrate for hours at a time on anything in ages. I was exhausted, stuffed from dinner and ready for bed shortly after getting back to the boat.

Friday, April 11, 2008

April 7, 2008

We arrived in Eleuthera late yesterday after a great sail over from Normans Cay. We had hauled anchor a few minutes before 0800 so we could hit the cut at slack tide or shortly thereafter.

We had to motor dead into the wind for 2 miles before turning east and heading out through the Wax Cay Cut. It was wide and deep and we rode the newly falling tide out at better than 8 knots. The wind as forecast was just ahead of the starboard beam so we had both sails up to better drive us through the cut.

The seas for the first 2 miles after the cut were very confused. Again here we have the condition where a huge shallow area is draining into a body of water thousands of feet deep. The transition from twenty feet of water to over a thousand feet takes place in less than 200 yards. So with the force of the tide ebbing into the breeze it can be a bit uncomfortable.

Once through the first couple of miles, the seas turned into 4 foot rollers passing gently under the boat as we made 6 to 7 knots towards our destination. There was the occasional 8 footer to keep you on your toes. So after a 28 mile trip across, we were able to sail into the entrance at Eleuthera and sail for another 8 miles before starting the engine to maneuver for anchoring.

The anchorage here is very wide and shallow. We do have decent protection from every direction but if something nasty were to come through we might opt to move closer to one of the other shores to reduce the amount of fetch.

So we’ll probably spend 2 days here exploring before we start making short day hops up the western coast of Eleuthera. We’ve got to be very weather wary as there are only a few anchorages available for protection from the west. So anyway, that’s the plan for now, weather permitting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April 5, 2008

So after spending a few days hiking, interneting and swimming around Warderick Wells we bade adieu to the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We were headed north to Highborne Cay along with Hearts Desire and the Packet Inn.

The attraction of Highborne Cay for us is that there is fuel and groceries there. The Packet Inn’s are headed back to the states so after a night in Highborne they’ll be off for Nassau in the morning.

It blew 15 to 20 knots from the southeast as we headed north allowing us all a very nice day of sailing. It’s been really nice starting the engine to leave an anchorage and shutting it off and spending the day under sail. The predominant easterlies here allow for some wonderful sailing pretty much day after day.

We anchored on the west side of the cay and were very protected from the large rollers we had spent the day sailing amongst. We needed gasoline for the dink and some fresh vegetables so we hopped in the dink and made the three quarter of a mile trip into the marina. Was I in for a shock……..

I paid $5.50 a gallon for gasoline which has been about the going price here in the Bahamas. On the other hand the market here was by far the most expensive place we’ve been too. Egg Beaters, which we use for omelet’s cost $3 or $4 in the states, here they were $9.75. We spent $68 on 2 dozen eggs and practically nothing else. This place caters to the sportfishing crowd and I guess when you’re buying hundreds of gallons of fuel at a time you don’t even blink at an $8 bag of chocolate chip cookies. I blinked, hell, I even picked some of the items off the shelf so I could flip them upside down to check if the price tag was upside down. But noooo.

So after one night at Highborne Cay the Packet Inns headed off to Nassau while we and Hearts Desire turned back south for Normans Cay. We had an excellent time sailing south even though we were close hauled.

Eventually Hearts Desire and we are headed for Eleuthera, which is about 26 miles east of Highborne Cay. By heading back south a bit we can create a better angle for us to sail the entire way. The wind is pretty much going to be southeast and by staging at Normans and leaving through the Wax Cay Cut we can set a course of 56 degrees so we should be broad reaching. Yeah, I know, sailboats and plans but we have to try.

So we spent the afternoon of our arrival doing some snorkeling and making a quick stop at the only business on the island, that’s right a pub. McDuff’s was closed because of a generator failure the last time we were here so we wanted to stop in and check it out. There’s a beautiful screened in bar / dining area which is complimented by a huge canopied veranda. The veranda is decorated with overstuffed cushions on large rattan furniture. Its arranged to make small semi private groups with a few dining tables thrown in. The place really has a nice vibe.

This morning we awoke to 20 knots of wind and decided that since we’re here we should dinghy around to the bight of the cay and do some shelling and snorkel a nearby crashed plane. The beaches were spectacular even if the shelling wasn’t. There was one beach that was covered with “rollers”. Rollers are tiny conch shells that just roll ashore during a blow. The immature conchs don’t have the weight or muscle to keep them from being rolled up on the beach where they dry out and die. Christy did find a Milk Conch which had the weirdest blue “eyes”.

On the way back to the boat we stopped and snorkeled one of Carlos Lehders drug planes. This cay was the home of the infamous drug baron’s cocaine empire and the plane is rumored to have been crashed by a pilot who was too involved sampling his cargo, to be able put the plane on the runway. The plane is awash at low tide and as luck would have we arrived at low tide. We’ve snorkeled a half dozen planes here in the Bahamas but this one was impressive. I think it was a DC-3, its huge. The sand has eroded away from under the plane so even though the wing tips are only under 3 feet of water the body of the plane is intact and mostly submerged. The entire plane is pretty much still there with both engines still sporting their 3 bladed propellers. You can swim through the fuselage as it’s completely empty with the frame from the pilots seat being the only thing inside. It had been completely stripped to be able to handle the maximum amount of “cargo”. Now it’s an artificial reef for hundreds of colorful fish.
Hi all,

We've been out of Email contact for more than a week and we were Jonesing for some news from family and friends. Unfortunately with good comes the bad....

We were devastated to learn of the accidental death of our good friend Charlie. I can't begin to describe the feelings of loss and remoteness we have.

Charlie was one of the few people that I could consider a mentor as far as sailing goes. He had been sailing for decades and was only too eager to answer any questions we might have. We spent summer weekends and vacations, sailing along side him and his wife, it was time cherished and well spent. They literally took us under their wings and took us on our first "cruise" up to New York City, it was our first time going out an inlet and out into the ocean!
Charlie's sense of humor was wonderful and we'll miss him and his emails immensely. I can't really begin to express our grief.

Sail fast Charlie.

Love, Christy & Bill

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April 2, 2008

Once in a while I try to make a post of just some random pictures that never quite made it into the Blog.

Having a couple of cold ones with
Mary and Gary from Packet Inn at the Parrots of the Carribean.

The infamous conch removed from his shell.

What do you mean that you don't think we should head out the cut today?

Every sunsets a winner.

Big lobsters are always good fun.

Awaiting the green flash.

Chicken feet.....I'm sorry, what the hell do you do with those things?

Rental toys for "adults?"

Just what I've always dreamed of, a mooring ball so close to shore that I can just step ashore from the boat.

On second thought, not every sunset is beautiful. (Yes, thats a dude)

Dolphins never grow old.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April 1, 2008

So we were sitting here in the north anchorage of Warderick Wells. At just about sunset a small skiff came along side with a fisherman aboard. The guys looking to sell either fish or lobster but we’re not interested as up until now we’ve been able to catch our own. Not to mention the fact that he’s inside the park and probably been poaching.

We try to say no thanks but he won’t take no for an answer. He’s relentless and getting pretty agitated even waving a machete to let us know just how annoyed he is. Finally between my insistence and Tuckers incessant barking the guy heads off towards the next boat, the Packet Inn.

Its getting darker now but we’re sure the Packet Inns have witnessed what’s been going on along side our boat. We can barely see the guy pull up along side them but we can hear him, he’s loud and nasty with them from the minute he gets there. In less than a minute there’s and explosion followed by complete silence. Christy is on the radio hailing them trying to find out what’s going on. Finally Mary answers and says that their fine but could we come over there.

We get in the dink and get over there as quick as possible. The guys skiff is tied to their boat and he’s sprawled on the side of their boat with his machete at his feet. It seems that things were going pretty much like they had at our boat when all of a sudden he leapt up from his skiff onto the side deck of the Packet Inn.

Gary had been on the side deck of the boat and immediately started to back off now that this irrational lunatic with a machete was standing 6 feet away on their side deck. With a deafening roar Mary had put one round from their Mossberg Mariner 12 gauge shot gun into the man. She was protecting her husband and unfortunately the intruder forced her hand.

Now what to do? The guy was obviously dead. We called BASRA several times before getting in touch with the local constable. He’s several cays away and we ask him to come immediately as theres been an incident with a local.

He arrives in about the longest forty minutes ever. He confirms for himself that the guy is dead and then begins to question each of us as to this evenings chain of events. He tells us that the “victim” is a local trouble maker with a long history with the authorities here.

After talking to Christy and I the officer sent us back to our boat. He stayed aboard the Packet Inn for another 30 minutes before leaving with the guys skiff in tow.

2 minutes after he left we were back in our dinghy and on our way over to see what had happened. We were astonished at the story they told. The officer assured Mary that the “victim” had it coming and she had done the right thing. Then he solicited a 500 dollar “processing” fee from them. He asked them not to talk about the nights events as crime against cruisers is taken very seriously as it hurts tourism. He then dumped the guy back into his skiff, tied it to his own boat and towed it off into the night. He assured them that all would be taken care of and as far as he was concerned the case was closed. What are you supposed to say to that? They were as dumbfounded as we were.

Cruisers Dictionary entry:

Gullible- Easily duped. Tending to trust and believe people and therefore be easily tricked or deceived.

I hope that you enjoyed my April Fools Day edition of the Blog. None of this entry is true, Mary’s never killed anyone (as far as I know), we’ve met nobody remotely like the “victim” and all the police officers we’ve encountered here have been nothing short of professional.