Friday, January 28, 2011

January 27, 2011.

It took us several days and with the help of friends we’ve found ourselves getting back into the swing of things. First we did a little hiking with our friends Roland & Leta on the eastern side of Hog Cay. Then we had to do a little hiding from a front that was due to come through.

Fortunately the weather this year is nothing like the brutal weather we endured here last year. We hid between Hog Cay and Ragged Island when a front was due to come through and we found ourselves hiding from what turned out to be 3 knots outta the west. Cool beans.

Since we were between the cays with excellent access to the ocean we decided to head out and do our first hunting since Molly’s passing. We were spurned on by the fact that we actually had to take something out of the freezer last night for dinner. The area we’re in is pretty heavily hunted by the locals and is one of the best spots for grabbing a lobster if you’re in the Hog Cay anchorage so we weren’t expecting much. Somehow we ended up snagging 7 bugs in a very short time.

The next morning we motored the 1 mile back to Hog Cay’s main anchorage to hide from some brutal easterlies. Hog Cay provided excellent protection as the wind hovered between 20 and 30 knots outta the northeast for 2 straight days. In the comfortable lee of Hog Cay it was still a very easy dinghy ride in to shore to hike, socialize and play some Bocce.

When the wind finally dropped to light and variable we raised the sails and headed the 10 miles north to Raccoon Cay. Once here we reconnected with several friends to do a little hunting. We heard a few boats that were recently departed and heading north saying that the surrounding waters were “hunted out” but we were hoping for the best.

We arrived in time to drop the hook and have some lunch before heading out in the dink. After lunch we met some new people and reconnected with some friends and headed out. The group boated 13 lobsters and various fish with us grabbing 8 lobster and a Hog fish. Not too shabby for waters that are “hunted out”.

During the evenings cocktail hour plans were made for today. Our friend Di, who we’ve traveled with for years, is NOT a water person. Surprisingly, we’ve met several people over the course of the years that just don’t have any desire to get in the water and she was one of “those” people. The water everywhere in the Jumentos is pristine and Raccoon Cay is just the place to get Di in the water. Peer pressure can be a bitch.

In the morning it was sunny and 82 degrees with 2 knots of breeze. Several of us dinghied in to the beach and Christy and Bev provided instruction and support as Di made her way into the water. The water here is crystal clear and shallow. Di donned her mask and snorkel and gingerly slipped into the water. After 50 yards of moving parallel to the beach she was ready to add swim fins to the outfit. The 3 girls ended up swimming hundreds of yards over the course of an hour.

They concluded Di’s inaugural swim with a trip out to swim around one of my favorite reefs. It’s only 30 yards offshore and in 3 feet of water. The reef is about 10 feet in diameter and only a foot tall but its still one of my favorite spots in the Bahamas. Everything is miniature. The coral and structure is all tiny. The reef is covered with hundreds of brilliant yellow, orange, blue and purple fish all less than 2 inches long. The badass Nassau Grouper that is king of the reef is only about 4 inches long. This silly little reef really is one of my favorite places and I can’t explain how happy it made me that Di got to experience it first hand.

The girls snorkeled the morning away and it was soon time to head home for lunch. After lunch everyone headed out to try their luck at hunting once again. We had ourselves another run of luck and came home with 7 lobsters and another Hogfish. 15 lobster and a pair of Hogfish in 2 days….not too shabby considering that these waters are “hunted out”. We did give the majority of the lobster away as we’ve got plenty. Life is getting better in the village….
January 22, 2011.

If you’ve been following along then you have read that our 15 year old Miniature Schnauzer Molly recently passed away. I thought we should expound on the circumstances of Molly’s passing. Hopefully, it might help someone else.

The first thing I have to say is the situation we found ourselves in was entirely of our own making. We should have thought far enough ahead to make sure that we were prepared for the worst, since we were taking an elderly dog to the edge of nowhere. Although she was old, she was never sick a day in her life and was very healthy and active. It gave us a false sense of security.

We woke on Tuesday and found that Molly wasn’t herself. She was alert but her body was unable to respond to her desires. She could barely stand and was unable to walk without staggering and tumbling over. It was as if she had lost her sense of balance and her head was cocked to the side in an unnatural position. We figured she had suffered some type of stroke so we spent the morning babying her and making her as comfortable as possible. By noon she had rebounded and was able to walk although a little stiffly. We had high hopes for a recovery, until just after dark.

I carried her to the bow to take care of her business and she fell down several times on her way back to the cockpit. Within an hour she was unable to sit up without suddenly falling over. We gave her a Benadryl which initially relaxed her. We spent the night in the cockpit taking turns holding and comforting her and crying. By dawn we knew that she was not going to recover. Her body no longer worked, but her mind was still there, she was frantic. We would have to put her down. But how?

We heard through the grapevine that there was a sailing vessel that might still have some medication for an elderly cat that had since passed away. They were about 10 miles away at Hog Cay so we started up the engine and headed that way. We successfully contacted them on the VHF and when apprised of our situation they said that we were welcome to the meds and they’d search the fridge to see if they still had them.

It would have been too good to be true but unfortunately after emptying the fridge (no easy task on a cruising boat) the meds were no where to be found. By now several other boats were aware of our predicament. One woman was able to contact a retired veterinarian who lives on his sailboat via her SSB radio. We were looking for suggestions as to how we could humanely overdose our small dog with prescription drugs to ease her passing. His basic thoughts were that dogs and people were so different that we probably wouldn’t gain anything by trying to use human prescription medications to try and do the job. There might even be an adverse reaction that might make matters worse and bring pain, rather than relieve it.

There’s a nurse that lives on Ragged Island and Christy thought to call her for advice. We thought that since the people there owned dogs maybe she had the appropriate meds around for euthanizing animals. She was unable to help but supplied us with the telephone number for the veterinarian in Georgetown. He suggested we bring Molly in but after explaining that we were 3 to 4 days away by sailboat…in good weather….time was not on our side, so he was no help.

There is a small plane that flies from Georgetown to Ragged Island once a week. Unfortunately, it was that day, and we had missed the flight. But if we called and hired a cab to come pick up the meds the vet would send them down on the following week’s flight. At this point Molly was not eating or drinking on her own so a week’s wait wasn’t a viable option.

At the same time another friend was on her cell phone calling back to the states looking for advice for us from a veterinarian friend of hers. With knowledge of what we had available to us he suggested that we use Percocet to help her “go to sleep”. His advice was for 1 Percocet for every five pounds of dog. Molly only weighed in at about 12 pounds.

So through a veil of tears Christy crushed 3 Percocets and mixed the powder into a small bowl of water. She poured our hope for humane euthanization into an epoxy syringe. At 1330 hours on Wednesday we bade tearful goodbyes and fed this mixture to Molly.

In 15 minute her breathing grew rapid and gasping. She was literally taking 40 breathes a minute. At about the 45 minute mark her vital signs were returning to normal and we knew that she was going to survive. Christy quickly made another mixture with 2 more Percocets which we gave her.

We spent the next several hours watching Molly’s body battle the drugs. Her breathing was shallow and slow at times followed by intervals of hyper quick short gasps for breath. There were several times that we thought she’d expelled her last breath and we watched for 10, 15, 20 seconds before there would be a mighty heave of her chest as she grabbed in another lungful of life sustaining air.

Usually when a pet is in distress you pray for their recovery. We found ourselves in the unenviable position of asking that this breath be her last. Please, do not let her chest rise again. It’s her time, her body is gone, please let her heart stop. Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to cover it. We had basically doubled the dosage but after 8 hours of fighting it was obvious she was going to beat it. She did not want to go.

We spent a second night in the cockpit holding her and comforting her as she slept fitfully. It was bad enough that she was going to die, we couldn’t let her wait alone.

By Thursday morning we were both emotionally and physically exhausted. One of our cruising friends is a doctor and he had been keeping tabs on our situation. We explained how close she seemed to passing so many times only to grab that one extra gulp of air that kept her going. He did point out that there hadn’t been any adverse reaction to the Percocet so we should stay the course, up the dosage and try again.

At 0930 on Thursday morning we gave her a liquid mixture of 8 Percocets plus a muscle relaxer. But just like the day before, after the initial shock hit her, it looked like she might be able to once again fight the narcotics off.

Her eyes were open but unseeing. She seemed to be unconscious but her body fought on. She kept trying to sit up but couldn’t. She would occasionally lift her head to try to look around. She was whimpering, crying and then moaning. Every single breath was a fight and yet she fought on. It was obvious that she was pain. We were all suffering helplessly. Finally, in the early afternoon the fight was gone and mercifully, Molly slipped away from us. She died in my arms.

We took her body to shore and into the interior of Hog Cay. We left the popular walking trails and climbed a very steep ridge off the beaten path. The footing was treacherous but just before the ridgeline we found the spot we were looking for.

Molly was interred on a shelf with a commanding view of the sunrise over the cobalt blue waters to the east and an equally impressive view of the sunsets over the light blue waters of the banks.

What we learned from this:

We were completely unprepared for an event such as this. I don’t even know if there is a kit for euthanizing your pet at home but we should have looked into it. Duncan Town is the only settlement for a hundred miles and the doctor only comes to town once a month, pets here aren’t even considered. We weren’t prepared to be on our own in this situation. Molly suffered unnecessarily and it broke our hearts.

Dogs are extremely intuitive. Tucker spent the 3 days mostly lying in his bed facing the bulkhead with his back to us. At times he lay beside Molly with his head pitifully between his paws. And during extreme moments he sat out on the Mother-in-Law seat under the broiling sun wishing he was anywhere but here. He misses his sister.

I can’t say enough about the support we received from our fellow cruisers. There were offers of medication, phone calls made on our behalf, information gathered on the SSB, suggestions, guidance and support. Anything that anyone within radio range had that they thought would help, they were ready to give.

During our time of Molly’s distress several people came over but we waved them away as we were just too emotional. It was just too personal a situation and we never knew which breath was to be her last. One couple came by, dropped something on the sidedeck and just kept going. It was homemade pizza and a box of Kleenex. We’d been crying for days and every time I see that box of tissues my eyes well up again…..

Friday, January 21, 2011


Born February 26, 1996 Died January 20, 2011

Faithful companion for 15 years. Accomplished dancer. Part time singer. Senior ships dog and dolphin spotter. Loved the water. Hated fireworks. Adored dolphins. Despised thunder. Lived for the dinghy ride. Thought that the goats at Hog Cay were her personal Pamplona. She was the bull. Daredevil. Fell off the boat only once. Destroyer of unattended plastic bags. Big sister. Enjoyed being mistaken for the younger one. To dignified to chase a damn ball. Didn’t need thumbs. Comfortable with her weight. Bit Bill for sport. Sunbather. Always alert. The silent sentinel. She was the best girl. Weighed 12 pounds. Half of it was heart. Enjoyed this life. Our sweetheart. A fighter at the end….

Interred high on a ridge now known as Molly’s Overlook. She can see the sunrise, the sunset and she can run with the goats to her hearts content. Adored by most, mourned by many and missed terribly on the Veranda….

January 14, 2011.

I just realized that my brother Mike and our dog Tucker share the same birthday. Different litters, years apart but Happy Birthday to you both.

There have been a few days of feisty easterlies blowing. Here behind Hog Cay we have excellent protection from about NNE down to SSE. We can get close enough to the cay to allow only a tiny wind chop and virtually no roll. Several of the boats in the Jumentos are hiding here with us. About a dozen boats in all with one notable exception….

Early yesterday morning we heard the captain of Jubilee announcing that he had a bit of a problem. They had decided to stay up in Double Breasted Cay during this spat of 20 to 25 knot northeast breeze. On their third night something went terribly wrong. Their anchor broke free during the night and as they slept they dragged over a quarter of a mile and ended up in the shallows along Big Pigeon Cay.

The captain deployed 2 anchors in an effort to keep his boat from being swept even further towards the rocky shoreline. He was looking for a little help from Dyad. Dyad is a HUGE aluminum powercat that spends a good portion of the winter in these parts. The thing looks like a giant grey sinister vessel of some type of military group. The tide was due to be high at 1600 hours and Dyad agreed to make the 2 hour trip to Double Breasted Cay to help in time for the high tide.

The captain of Jubilee sounded as if he had things under control as he was peppered with questions from several boats in the area. A little later while he was busy trying to save his boat his wife got on the radio and her voice told a different story. She was composed but there was a little angst in her voice. She said they were heeled over at a 45 degree angle towards the iron shore. She said that she could reach out and actually touch the iron shore from her cockpit as the boat sat there firmly on the bottom at low tide. I figured that as the tide came in things were going to get worse for them so I decided that I had to try and help.

We were due south with the wind honking out of the northeast. By dinghy it was about a 4 mile blast. As I loaded our big Fortress FX-37 anchor and a 200 foot anchor rode into the dinghy Mike from Sapphire and Klaus from Lucky Touch hailed Jubilee and told them that they were on their way to help. They were anchored up at Raccoon Cay and were faced with the prospect of a 2 mile dinghy ride south through unprotected, very rough water. I put my wetsuit on and headed north with Steve from Fine Lion close behind me.

As I got close enough to actually see the situation I almost cried. The boat was within 6 inches of the unforgiving iron shore. She was laying on her port side with the masts both looming over the cay and a nasty wind driven chop pounding at her starboard side trying to drive her to certain destruction. Ten minutes against that shoreline was sure to reduce Jubilee to a shipwreck.

Jubilee only draws 3 feet and when I arrived at dead low tide I could see the entire propeller and at least half of the rudder as she lay on her side. I tossed the bitter end of my anchor rode to the guys up on the bow and then took my Fortress FX-37 out as far as I could about 20 degrees off the starboard bow.

After anchoring my dink in the lee of the cay I approached Jubilee and saw just how close they were to disaster. Jubilee had come to rest in a perfect right angle area of the shoreline. Two thirds of the entire port side of the vessel was within a foot of the ironshore with some protrusions being less than 6 inches away. The first thing I did was to move along the length of the boat with a hammer and pound the iron shore to break off chunks in an effort to get us a little extra wiggle room.

After that we went about securing the boat as best we could so she wouldn’t slide either aft or to port as the tide came back. The anchor off the bow was run back to the port side winch. The anchor off the starboard bow was run to the windlass while the remaining anchor went straight into the starboard side winch. All three rodes were piano wire tight and a spring line was tied to the iron shore in an effort to keep the swim platform and rudder from being destroyed as the elements conspired to drive Jubilee backwards.

As the tide slowly started to fill, the biggest challenge made itself apparent. The full keel was firmly on the bottom but as the water started to slowly rise the entire boat would lift just a wee bit and smash back down on the side of the hull as each wave passed. At first it was just an annoying “bumping” but as each minute passed the bumping became a pounding.

Mike had a brilliant idea and went in search of some lumber. He came back with a 3” x 6” piece of wood that was 6 feet long. I was able to wedge it under the port side transom and up onto the iron shore. As the boat lifted I could shove it under and instead of the boat free falling back onto the bottom as the wave passed the wood flexed and cushioned the boats decent.

As the tide slowly rose I had to add more and more pieces of wood that the guys had gathered. I spent more than an hour juggling pieces of wood that tried to float away every time the swirling waters surged in and out from under the boat. Fortunately, by the time that the large plank broke, the water under the hull was deep enough that the hull wasn’t pounding on the bottom with each swell. All the while the other guys had been patiently working the windlass and winches in an effort to keep the anchor rodes tight as the boat started to stand back up.

Unfortunately, as the water rose the boat started to get a bit livelier and it became apparent that we had to flop the boat onto her starboard side to get her away from the iron shore. We were also hoping that once she was on her starboard side we would be able to winch her to deeper water while dragging her keel across the bottom. We accomplished this by using 2 of the remaining boards. We wedged the upper ends under the port side rub rail and as the boat swayed away from us we would work the low end of the board across the rough shorelines surface. While the winches were kept tight we inched the boat upright as the tide rose steadily higher. Finally when she was about 15 degrees port of upright we managed to flop her away from the iron shore. It was a huge step forward for us. Now we had close to 8 feet between the port side and the rocky shoreline. We were still only 8 inches away at the stern but it was the best we could hope for. As if on cue, Dyad appeared around the corner…….

Klaus had brought 300 foot of 1” towline with them so Mike and Steve tied it to a bridle on the bow and started to tow it in the dinghy out towards Dyad where she sat out in deeper water. I went out to Dyad and took a 1” inch line from them and dragged it in to meet Mike & Steve. Once we tied the lines together Dyad went to work.

Back on board we tightened anchor lines as Dyad dialed up the power in an effort to pull Jubilee to safety. After 4 minutes of tugging the towline parted. It had chaffed through where it came through Dyads hawse hole. As we rerigged the towline to try again the water was approaching high tide. It was now or never.

As Dyad again took up the slack in the line we all started to crank down on the anchor rodes. Suddenly Jubilee spun on her keel about 30 degrees to starboard. While her bow swung away from the shore her stern swept instantly in towards shore. The eight feet of space we had earned by flopping the boat was now reduced to a few measly inches. The port stern quarter was so close to the rocks that it made me sick to look at the tiny gap. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t hit the rocks but miraculously we hadn’t.

We resumed cranking with renewed vigor and WHOA, Jubilee lurched forward about 8 feet before grinding to a halt again. Two minutes later the bottom finally released its grip and we floated free. It quickly turned into a Chinese fire drill as everyone released their anchor rodes and threw the bitter ends overboard as Dyad towed us to deeper water.

Once Jubilee was running we dropped the towline and headed back across the bay to anchor. After the hook was dropped and set we headed out in the dinks to retrieve the spring line and the 3 anchors we had left behind. Then it was a long dinghy ride home followed by a huge plate of lobster lasagna.

If not for the timely appearance of Dyad I don’t think that we would have gotten Jubilee out of her predicament. I was tired and mentally exhausted, I can’t begin to imagine the range of feelings that Dave & Pam of Jubilee went through…..

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 13, 2011.

82°, pleasant easterlies, a couple of cocktail hours on the beach, dinner and laughter on Kokomo and terrific fishing. What more could you ask for…..
January 10, 2011.

After spending a couple of glorious days anchored in the cleavage of Double Breasted Cay we decided to head south to Hog Cay.

We rode a 6 knot north breeze and covered the 11 miles in just under 3 hours. It was ridiculously slow but we arrived at the cut between Hog Cay and Ragged Island just before high tide. We slipped through the sketchy opening and anchored as close as we dared to Ragged Island. With so little breeze it was a perfect day to head in to Duncan Town to do a little interneting.

Thirty minutes after dropping the hook we were out of the dink and climbing the hill into town. The first thing we noticed is that the dirt streets have been regraded and the first steps toward paving the roads had been undertaken. Several of the streets have already been covered in black, sticky oil. It’s a real mess and hopefully the rest of the paving process will be completed soon.

Our first order of business was to order some groceries from Maxine’s grocery store. Maxine has very little of anything on the shelves but she will order whatever you want from her daughter in Nassau. Her daughter does all the buying and then sends it down island on the mailboat. If you have your order in by Sunday then your food hopefully will arrive on the mailboat on Thursday. We’ll see. Nothing says fresh salad like week old Romaine.

We stopped in at the hilltop gazebo to borrow some of the government buildings Wifi but since it was Saturday the offices were closed and the Wifi was off. After a short walk we found nobody at the Fishermans Lodge so no Wifi there either. Our last hope was the school but then again its Saturday…..

Fortunately the school teacher, the ONLY schoolteacher on the island, lives adjacent to the school. When we walked up we found Robert in the classroom and after some small talk he offered us the use of the internet. He said that its always on 24/ 7 so feel free to drop in anytime and sign on.

So we sat on the sidewalk and signed on. Ten minutes later he was headed home and he stopped and opened up one of the classrooms so we could go inside and sit at a table. He told us to take as long as we wanted and don’t bother to lock up, he’ll take care of it later. These people are the best……

On Sunday we moved up behind Hog Cay where we finally caught up with our friends Roland & Leta on Kokomo. On Monday morning the wind was cranking so we decided to hunt some of the limited promising spots along the west side of the cay.

Evidently we’re here early enough that nobody else has had the chance to hunt here. We weren’t gone for an hour and we were headed back to the boat with 4 lobster and an 11 freaking pound Mutton Snapper. I finally got that perfect head shot and he was dead before he even went into the dinghy. Thank God too, because with 4 lobster already in the bucket there wasn’t enough room in there for anything but his face.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January 5, 2011.

Happy Birthday Christopher.

After seven days of being alone and enjoying total radio silence we heard our name broadcast on the airwaves. Our first thought was “Shhh, we can hide” but we decided we were ready to see some of our people. We answered and were happy to hear that Fine Lion, Sapphire and Night Hawk had spent the night an hour north of us at Buena Vista Cay. We’ve spent a bit of time with the Sapphires and the Fine Lions and enjoy their company. We’d only met the Night Hawks on the “Night of the Tattered Sweatshirt” so we were looking forward to spending some time to get to know them.

We were all headed to Double Breasted Cay later that day so we had to find some clothes. The trip for us was only about 3 miles and we were the first ones in so we headed out to do a little beach combing. As we returned from a successful day of beach combing we watched the others pulling into the anchorage and dropping their hooks. A fourth boat came in as well, Sam the Skull.

A few years ago Sam the Skull was Boat Name of the Day when we saw it in Georgetown. But this was our first meeting with John & Barbara who live aboard Sam the Skull. They’re from Glasgow, Scotland and with their accents they could just recite the alphabet and make it sound interesting. During the course of cocktails on the beach it came out that John hasn’t had any luck with the whole lobstering thing and they catch most of their bounty of the sea by trolling a lure from the dink out in the cuts.

The next day everyone headed out in a different direction to try their luck. Christy and I ended up taking 5 lobsters in an hour and a half and as I swam one final ledge I came across every spear fisherman’s dream, the lobster hole. There were 10 lobsters in the hole and in 3 minutes we had 5 of them in the dink. We could have grabbed them all but we’re already eating lobster omelets in the morning, lobster tacos for lunch and last night it was Lobster Alfredo for dinner. Our freezer was full but I knew the Sam the Skulls weren’t going to be catching any on their fishing pole so we headed home planning to give away the excess.

John was pretty psyched to get the gift of a few bugs and he told us he had made plans to head out the next day with Barry from Night Hawk to try and hone his hunting skills.

Today dawned sunny with just a touch of breeze. The Fine Lions headed out together to do some hunting. Barry, John and Mike went out to see if they could bring John up to speed on the spear fishing thing while Christy and I planned to just stay at home.

That lasted about 3 minutes before I just couldn’t stand it anymore. “Aw come on Honey, all the other guys are out hunting, can we go too, please?”. She wanted to go beachcombing but I begged her. After promising to only take large lobster we were soon headed out.

A 150 foot long rock that just barely pokes it head above the surface was our destination. The underwater wall was about 12 or 15 feet deep with a row of coral growing along the foot of the wall. After a couple of quick reconnoitering dives I found a nice five and a half pounder. As I ascended after spearing him I looked at the wall and realized that it teeming with bugs in every nook and cranny. I swam along and grabbed another 3 good sized lobster before climbing back into the dink. Even though our larder is full it took everything I had to leave, with at least another 10 bugs in plain sight.

Just before we got back to the boat we ran into Barry, John and Mike and told them about the bugs we had just left. They had 5 bugs between them including John’s first kill. I talked them into cleaning up what we had left behind. I dropped Christy at the boat and led the 3 of them back to the wall where they were able to grab 6 of the bugs before they retreated to the safety of their lairs.

I think Barry limited out; Mike grabbed a couple including a solid 5 pounder and John took his first 2 lobster ever. It’s been a great day in the village…..

An Infidel Gets to Paradise

January 3, 2011.

Add another day to the solitude score. The wind is down below 15 knots so we decided to head around to the east side of the cay to do a little spear fishing.

There are an abundance of coral heads to choose from and we quickly had 5 lobsters and another Hogfish in the dink. A new favorite hunting tool that we added this off season is a small submersible flashlight. Some of the recesses that the bugs hide in are so deep that you can’t see if anyone’s home. The flashlight removes all doubt. The lobsters don’t like the sudden light and quickly move out of the beam so it’s a two handed process. I have the spear cocked and ready, I aim into the darkness and then shine the light and I’m ready to shoot.

I’ve even used the light to prompt a bug to move out of his superior protection into a more vulnerable spot by sticking my arm in a hole that I had no shot in and turning on the light. The lobster on both occasions moved away from the light but into a spot where I was able to take a shot.

After some lobster salad wraps for lunch,
Christy did a little snorkel shelling while I ran the dogs and burned some garbage at the cays fire pit.

Tonite we will be having LOBSTER for dinner.
January 2, 2011.

I don’t usually name my blog posts but I’ve decided to make an exception on this one. I’ll call this one “An Infidel gets to Paradise”.

This very well may be the longest stretch of solitude that I can remember in all the years we’ve been coming to the Bahamas. Actually, in my life. When was the last time you and your spouse were completely alone for 5 days? There’s no AM, no FM, no VHF, no other voice let alone another person; it’s been total solitude and it has been grand.

We left the Black Point settlement on Tuesday and 5 days later we haven’t heard a single call on the radio. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of the occupants of the catamaran that we passed on the way in here on Thursday. We can’t see the spot where they were anchored so for all we know they might not even be here anymore. It’s been absolute bliss.

All good things come to an end though. I know it sounds selfish but we were both so disappointed when in mid-morning on Sunday a sail appeared on the horizon. Soon there was a second and then a third white triangle in the distance. We both sat out on the Mother-in-Law seat and tried to will them away. Either they have REALLY good binoculars and saw us sitting there naked and were repulsed or our mental powers are amazing because one by one they all continued on by. Yeah Baby. They might have gone on to Hog Cay or Cuba for all we know but the one thing I do know is that they ain’t here.

We were still so sore from yesterday’s walk that we decided to do a little snorkeling for shells. We found a bunch of neat shells and sand dollars but Christy found a spectacular Angular Triton in mint condition. After that we ran out to a couple of coral heads near the boat and took a lobster for dinner.

My spear repair is holding up but I’ve had the threaded rod bend under the force of a flapping Hogfish. I’m already planning modifications…..
January 1, 2011.

Christy was inspired by yesterdays beaning success so right after breakfast we were off again in search of sea beans. We dinghied around to the southern most point of the cay that we could without exposing ourselves to the solid 25 knot breeze blowing outta the east.

We anchored the dinghy just off the beach as the tide was falling and headed into the interior of the cay. After a very short walk we were on the first of three beaches that Christy had planned for us to explore.

After the first beach yielded NOTHING we had to start what would come to be a ridiculous walk of over a mile and a half across iron shore to get to the second beach.

Iron shore can be a HUGE pain in the ass, especially on a long walk. Its razor sharp, and incredibly random terrain. You have to constantly stare down at the placement of each step you take. Then you have to keep one eye out ahead planning and scouting your course so you don’t walk your way into a dead end. Sometimes its tiny sharp points while other times it smallish boulders strewn before you. To add to the excitement factor once in a while one of the large rocks will teeter or rock under your tread. A walking stick is a huge advantage.

Today while negotiating a particularly hazardous stretch I had an epiphany of sorts. It was fifty yards long by seven feet wide. On the right side was a one story fall to the raging rock strewn shoreline, on the other side was an impregnable wall of scrub. The bonus was that the land canted down to the water at a forty five degree angle. I would slowly move step by step heavily relying on my walking stick. It struck me funny that now-a-days you have to wear your seat belt in a car even though you’ve been driving for years. You have to wear a bicycle helmet even though we survived childhood without one but here we are depending on a piece of shit bamboo staff that we found on the beach to keep us from bouncing down the iron shore and off into the water.

We arrived home safely to the boat after 3 miles of tedious hiking. We’re both sore as hell, everything aches and after all that Christy only found one Hamburger Bean.
December 31, 2010.

Happy New Year everyone.

We slept in and when Christy and I awoke we found ourselves anchored alone in the lee of our favorite cay in the Bahamas. That was nice because that’s where we went to bed. After breakfast we took the dinghy in to shore near the beginning of a trail that meanders across the cay for a mile to the windward side beaches.

The forecasted heavy winds arrived and the ocean was whipped into a frenzy in the 25 knots of breeze. Our goal for the morning was to find a few sea beans. As per usual the windward beach was loaded with the flotsam and jetsam of society. Its amazing how much of civilizations crap

washes up on these cays. There are literally thousands of shoes among other things. If we collected them we could easily open a shoe store for one legged women.

Among all the beached sea grass and junk is the object of Christy's desire, the sea bean. When I move along looking for Hamburger Beans I carry a 5 foot walking stick and I poke at this and that. Mostly I’m amused by what garbage I find on the beach and every now and then, viola, a hamburger bean. Today I found a 3 legged crawling baby, a Mister Potato Head and a leather bound softball in perfect condition. Not water logged, not roughed up, how, I dunno.

When Christy moves along she’s a little more aggressive as she works through the piles of crapola. As she works her stick she reminds me of Gordie Howe digging hard at a loose puck in the corner. As a result she usually puts me to shame in the bean collecting. Today’s take was 35 Hamburgers and a pair of Mary’s Beans, not one but TWO. Not bad for our first day out beaning. Some people have never even seen a Mary’s bean, they are rare. That would be a good season for most people so she’s happy.

After lunch we decided to try our hand at a little hunting.
Since the wind was blowing so hard we had to be satisfied with hunting the random scattered coral heads along the west side of the cay. In 2 hours we boated 4 lobsters from 1 ½ to 4 pounds and a pair of Hogfish. I also got to dispatch the 3 Lionfish that we came across. We only touched on a handful of the coral heads before we decided that we had enough.

There are virgin beaches for tomorrow along with dozens of additional coral heads. Today was the best day in recent memory; I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
December 30, 2010.

The forecast this morning was for 13 to 18 knots outta the east, building to 20 later this afternoon. So at about 0700 I turned on the anemometer and was disappointed to see that even in our protected little anchorage the wind was already hovering around 20 knots. I wanted to wait a while for a more favorable tide but I decided the best choice was to get going immediately.

I put a double reef in the main and after sailing off the anchor we let out about half the genoa. Once we had everything trimmed it was evident that we still had too much sail up so we reduced the genoa even further. We had been barreling along at over 8 knots in the smooth waters in the lee of the cay. We were still slicing along at a solid 6 knots with the wind just ahead of the port beam.

It was to be a 35 mile day but there was a bit of timing involved. With 20 knots coming in from the east and the tide ebbing from the west the potential for an ass kicking was huge. I shouldn’t even say “potential”; you are going to get your ass kicked. I wanted to leave a little later but didn’t want to risk the forecasted increase in the wind. It was already 20, so what’s it gonna be in the afternoon?

Picture the Bahama bank as your dining room table. Take a full bucket of water and dump it right in the center of the table. That’s the way the tide ebbs off the banks. It just rushes outward and off the edges. Our route would have us paralleling the edge of the bank. The water to our starboard averages 20 feet deep while to port we have water several thousand feet deep. It’s a very strong current and when the wind is opposing the current, conditions can be unbelievably rough.

We covered the first 6 miles too quickly and as we came through the narrow gap at Man O War Cay it wasn’t looking good for our hero’s. Holy shit, rough? Confused 8 to 10 footers. Shit. At one point we had our bow buried in a trough and our asses pointed up towards Saturn. Whenever Uranus aligns with Saturn it’s bound to be a rough day; I think the Fifth Dimension mentioned something about that. Anyway, we literally had our asses kicked for the 3 mile jump to Jamaica Spit. The chart in this area has fine purple print that’s reads “CAUTION: Rough when wind opposes current”. ALWAYS BELIEVE THE PURPLE PRINT!

Before leaving we considered staying in Flamingo for the next several days but opted against it. Flamingo is a really nice “settled” weather anchorage, but can get very rolly and ugly with any big winds. Then we debated pulling into Jamaica Spit to hide. We’ve hidden there before but several nights there just might drive you batty. The tide was due to change in less than an hour and for the next 8 miles we’d have a series of tiny cays, rocks, reefs and shallow spots between us and the sea. So we continued onward. But oh look, the wind was building…..

We reduced the headsail yet again, eased the main and still barreled through choppy 4 footers at better than 6 knots. Despite the 25 knots of breeze as the tide went slack you could literally see the water calming. By the time we got to Seal Cay and the truly unprotected 8 mile stretch beyond it, the worst was behind us. Hallelujah.

Once into the lee of Nurse Cay, then Buena Vista and finally Raccoon Cay the waters were dead calm and made for a nice finish to a taxing day. We arrived at Raccoon Cay to find that the only boat we’ve seen in 3 days was anchored at the north end of the cay. We like the south end so it worked out well. They’re over 2 miles away and because of the contour of the cay we can’t even see them. So it looks like we’ll have the place virtually to ourselves for the better part of a week. Priceless.
December 29, 2010.

We sat in the protected waters of Pipe Creek for several nights including the Christmas holiday. The storm front passed so it was time to get going again. And I had a plan….

We had to wait for a rising tide to leave Pipe Creek. Once clear of the shallows we unfurled the genoa for a downwind run to the settlement at Black Point. It’s only about 11 miles so in less than 2 hours we picked a spot and dropped the hook.

Exactly 4 minutes after that, the dink was down and we were on our way in to do laundry. This was the first step in my master plan. Christy also ran down to the grocery store while I dropped off several bags of trash. Armed with fresh vegetables and clean clothes we headed back to the Veranda to eat dinner and take a nap.

We’d decided to head for the Jumentos. The usual course from this area would involve a 40ish mile jump to Georgetown. Then as soon as you can tear yourself free of GTown it’s a 6 hour day out to Long Island. The course to Long Island is basically Southeast so then you would have to wait for a weather window that would let you run Southwest to the Jumentos. So, if the stars line up just right you can make it from the middle Exumas to the northern Jumentos in 3 days but you better plan on it taking 10 days or more. Unless you have a master plan.

Our plan was to leave at 2200 hours on Tuesday and do an overnighter down the west side of great Exuma to Flamingo Cay in the northern Jumentos. We chose 2200 hours because we could knock out the part of the trip that I was comfortable with in the dark. Then as dawn broke we would be in an area that is reported to be a little shallower and strewn with random coral heads. This would allow us to do a little “visual piloting”. We have done the “back route” before, but did it in the daylight and took 2 days.

As it turned out the entire route was plenty deep and coral heads were not an issue. We had to motor for 4 of the 18 hour trip but otherwise had a pretty relaxing sail. We were the only boat at Flamingo Cay and we’ll be heading down to Raccoon Cay tomorrow as there will be more to do there when trapped during the huge easterlies that are forecast to kick in later this week.