Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sailing to Georgetown

The settlement of Blackpoint, the largest in the central Exumas, was small, but the people were really nice. The laundromat, whose description in all of the cruising guides had driven us here was not a disappointment. It was just like any laundromat state side, about twenty machines maybe more. Marie was in laundry heaven...at least I'd like to think so.
Regatta Point at Blackpoint.
Most of the towns or settlements that we visit are not laid out as we are used to seeing back in the states, with a town center. Instead, there is merely a stretch road that is more densely developed. The common denominators are a government dock with a shed, a single road that follows the shoreline (always called "Queens Highway"), and randomly placed 1 or 2 story buildings that are either residences, stores, or restaurants, the only distinction between the three being a sign.
Mirador at anchor at Blackpoint.

We were aware of some gusty winds approaching from the north so I anchored a 7 foot draft in 6 feet of water. The bottom was so soft that my keel actually digs a little nest on the bottom, and the boat doesn't move much. Now, I can only do this when there are no large waves in the forecast. The bay is well protected from anything but a west wind. On "Thanksgiving" we were not able to leave the boat, it was so rough. On days like that I keep myself busy monitoring our position, and the anchors as we swing around with the wind, ever vigilant, there is always something that keeps me on edge.
I have come to the conclusion that our anchor line is too small, although it's correctly sized according to the charts that get published. Everything works great in fair weather, but when the wind and the waves pick up, and they're both working together, lifting the boat and lunging it back, over and over, it's only a matter of time before the line just parts. Now I have found a substantial difference between the generic rope and brand name stuff like "New England". All of the failures that we have had were with the generic line, and it does feel softer to the touch, not as dense as the brand name material of the same diameter, but being that all of the lines are of the same size, I'm just not comfortable knowing there is very little margin of safety left...I'm going one size up, and sleeping a little better.
Okay, back to our story. So, on the third day the wind died down, we went over to Loraine's restaurant and celebrated a belated "Thanksgiving". We had a very non-traditional thanksgiving dinner, "cracked conch". Let me explain something about what "going to a restaurant" entails out here in paradise. We all walk over to the house with the restaurant sign outside, and open the door, stick our head in and call out, "hello hello", and wait. If no response, we walk around the outside of the building looking for someone who looks the part of a restaurant owner. Oh, they're usually close by, in Lorraine's case she was in the backyard sitting with her grandchild. "Are you open?", this question is really meant to see if she is in the disposition to cook for us. If the response is "yes", we all walk back together to pick a table. The menus are always simply printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, one sheet. Judging from the prices and the items on the menu, I think that there must be an "Exumas restaurant convention", where they draw up a menu and set the prices, they all agree to follow this with as little deviation as possible. At Lorraine's, she had me going over to the bar to help myself on the "honor system". Our meal was good, if a bit simple.
It was time to move on to our next destination. The next morning, as we were heading out, the cruising couple we had met at Staniel Cay warned us of bad weather approaching from the west. Find a safe place to be in 2 days they advised. Well heck, our weather reports didn't indicate that?? What are they talking about? What if they're right? I remember some of the older weather reports stating this, but that all changed. Marie and I went back and forth a little, and concluded "better to be safe and just heed the warning". Our cage is still rattled from a couple of weeks ago. We decided to visit "Little Farmer Cay" as it was well protected and a short days sail from where we were.
Eva with Jr., a wood carver on Little Farmer Cay.

Little Farmer Cay is celebrated in all of the cruising guides as a traditional Bahamian village, very friendly with a population of 55 souls. It was a challenge to get to Little Farmer from the Exuma banks, all of the ways in are very shallow. We left a little stripe in the sand with our keel as we approached. These friendly souls on Little Farmer Cay have placed mooring balls in just about any place that you can anchor a boat. I found a marginally suitable spot (maybe not) and dropped my anchor, in between mooring balls.
Sunset at Little Farmer Cay.

With a little daylight left we took the dinghy to the town dock to look for a place to eat. As we walked about the small settlement, we came across the reverend, it was a she, and she led us to the church. It turns out they were fund raising and had a buffet going. We finally had turkey, ham, mac and cheese, rice and peas, a proper Thanksgiving dinner. All in the friendliest atmosphere one could ever wish for. From there we walked over to Ocean Cabin, a local bar and restaurant. As usual, we were the only customers there, and all we really wanted was internet access, but courtesy dictated that we order something, and the only thing we could think of was beer. The owner is an excellent conversationist / philosopher, and so we philosophized. Why is it that whenever I mention to someone that I'm Cuban, they want to talk about Castro? This happens so much that I knew it was coming. I am conditioned to that question "where are you from?" like Pavlov's dogs. Terry, Ocean Cabin's owner, was no different in this regard, once he knew that I was Cuban he wanted to talk about Castro. Terry was however a great diplomat about it, very balanced in his comments. He stopped midway and asked "we can talk about this, can't we?". I dare say he is the unofficial ambassador of Little Farmer Cay. If a visit to Little Farmer Cay does not include a stop at Ocean Cabin, well then you missed the boat, pardon the pun. Oh there are better locations on the island, but Terry is the glue that makes Little Farmer.
We putted around the island the next day, meeting people. We went back to the boat for lunch and the local fisherman " Aden" came by and asked if I was tied to the mooring closest to me. I responded that I was not. He then said "that mooring belongs to Farmer Cay Yacht Club. Have a nice day". Well that left me thinking...I don't want to be a bad guest. I guess I should go over to the yacht club and offer to take the mooring being as I'm too close to it for any other boat to use it, although I am the only boat out here. So, I got in my dink and went over to the yacht club. The owner was there, alone, painting the building. I mentioned that I was the boat boat close to his mooring. I mentioned that I was willing to take the mooring, and before I finished he asked "you gonna pay for 3 days?". Well, I guess he had me were he wanted, I said "okay I'll pay for 3 days." This guy was so ready to argue that he just couldn't let it go at that. He had to chastise me for another 15 minutes, to the point where I was on the brink of putting a stop to it. I went back to the boat and picked up Marie and the kids. If I'm going to pay for 3 days I'm going to use the club and its internet. As I made my way back to the club I thought to myself "if that guy says one more word about the mooring??? he's not going to like me. This time for a good reason. But, I guess that he had gotten all his anger out, and was in a better disposition by the time we had returned.
At the club, we all connected to the internet and ordered drinks. I mentioned to the owner that I had ordered some conch from Aden, the local fisherman. He said he needed to pick up some fish and lobster from him, and would be glad to pick up the conch for me, I could pay him later. Nice guy right? So, off this guy goes to fetch his order and mine. Island Girl, a charter boat that we had met at Staniel Cay pulled in to the club dock, a pleasant surprise. It was nice to have company, especially acquaintances. Captain Mark is an ex-patriot that now lives on the island of Eluthera. It wasn't long before the owner returned to the club. He regretfully informed me that Aden had not filled my order for conch, maybe tomorrow, but that he could accommodate us for dinner. Do you have any conch? "Oh yeah, fresh..." Okay we'll stay for dinner. Am I a cynic or do you get a funny feeling about this too?
Early the next morning, at slack tide, we released the mooring, and made our way out of the cut between islands into Exuma Sound. We were off to George Town, 36 miles south. It was so mild that we had to motor-sail. It's either feast or famine. We managed to make 4 knots most of the time. The kids were just loving it. As we approached Great Exuma Cay, Marie ferreted the cruising guides. With about 8 miles left to go, Marie suggests "Why don't we pull into this marina?", as she pointed to her guide book. I played it off like it didn't matter to me, what ever she wanted was fine, but that wasn't true. It is nice to mix things up, keeping a balance between adventure and comfort. Emerald Bay Marina, we'll give them call, and ask if they have room and what their rates are. The call came back positive, so I turned the boat toward shore. There was a large yacht gaining on us from behind, that I had been watching for a while now. To my surprise it was Dreamer, the yacht that we had met over at Highbourne Cay, and they were also pulling into Emerald Bay Marina. What a pleasant surprise for the kids, they loved the crew on Dreamer. I enjoyed letting them know.
Our intent was to stay a couple of days at Emerald Bay Marina, then mosey on over to George Town and inquire about a mooring that would be safe while we went home for Christmas. The marina was really nice though, free laundry, free showers, brand new floating docks, free coffee, and a luxurious clubhouse with a huge TV, and pool table. Can I say enough? Going over their rate sheet, Marie noticed an offer for a 30 day minimum stay that would be comparable to the cost of a mooring, he-he don't knock the small print. Well this is not rocket science. The marina would be more secure than any mooring, done deal. We would stay at the Emerald Bay Marina through the holidays.
Eva and Hadrian playing at "Poor Betty" beach.


Eva and Hadrian at the dock with the clubhouse in the background.

Lunch at Big D's.

A Christmas party at George Town.

That little dot on top of the mast is Marie.

Here's a closer look at my boatswain.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Highbourne to Warderick Wells to Staniel Cay


The passage from Highbourne to Warderick Wells went nice. It was a beautiful sunny day, the wind was mild, every breath felt like a blessing. Warderick Wells is headquarters to the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. The entrance to the park is located in between two islands, and you should arrive at a slack tide. We got there as the tide was coming in because I just can’t get it right, this means a 3+ knot current working against us. We had to hug the shoreline in order to make any progress. It was agony to rev the engine up and only move at about 1 knot. It just feels wrong, like something’s gotta give. It’s hard to convey the anxiety of hearing the engine revving away, but not much happening in the way of forward progress. This portion of the leg lasted about an hour. We can call it “the longest mile”. As we reached the parks mooring field we were told to pick up mooring ball 6. Now picking up a mooring ball is something that we had not done before as a crew. There was some current to make things a little harder, like more Indians for Custer. The mooring field is in a natural
Looking down on the moorings at Warderick Well from Boo Boo hill. Mirador is the boat in the middle.
channel about 40 feet wide and it runs for about a half mile, but not in a straight line. Oh no, it curves like a hairpin, throw in some more indians. On our first pass Marie managed to hook the mooring but she just couldn't hang on so we lost one boat hook. I had to turn the boat around inside the 40 foot channel. Everyone was amazed at the turning radius of the boat, myself included. Now, on the second pass, as soon as I heard that they had the mooring I ran forward and grabbed it. With the boat fast to a mooring, the stage was now set for a few nice days at the park. It was starting to get dark by the time we were ready to visit the rangers’ office to check in, and yeah, we missed them. Oh well, we’ll check in tomorrow. On our way back to the boat we stop at our neighbors’ boat to say hello, when we noticed sharks following just behind the dinghy. I mean 2 feet behind the dinghy, man, they were tailgating me. I’m sorry but I don’t buy into the “they’re like pets” thing just because people have been feeding them. It’s like the bears at Yellowstone; I've heard stories of parents wiping peanut butter on a kids arm so the bear can lick it off. No sir, the animals are going to have to work a little harder than that for a taste of Diaz blood.

 
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
This is a sperm whale skeleton on display at the park.
One of the beaches at the park.
Low tide at the mooring field, not much water left for Mirador.
Our visit to the park was spent hiking around the hills and woods. The east coast of the island is rocky cliffs that constantly get struck by huge waves. The splashes are spectacular as the water has no place to go, but up. The views from on top of the hills are post card perfect.
Here we are watching the blow holes in the rocks along the east coast.
Atop the haunted Boo Boo hill, look down towards the mooring field.
This a view of the rocky east coast of Warderick Wells.
The mooring field at the park.
After 3 days of hiking we were ready to move on to the next port-of-call. I’d heard of swimming pigs at Staniel Cay. I’m sure the kids would love that, so off we went. The guide book made Staniel Cay sound busy with development, phrases like “by the time this guide gets printed the third marina should be completed”. As we approached, we called “Thunderball Club Marina over and over on the radio, no answer.
Sunset at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.


Eva posing in front of the clubhouse.
We pulled into Staniel and picked up a mooring ball, we had gotten a little better at this. Still I ran forward as soon as I heard they had the mooring, and grabbed on to it. We could see the Thunderball Club house from the water. It had the name spelled out on the roof with asphalt shingles. When we went to check in at the club house we didn’t see any new docks. We did find a dangerously dilapidated old dock with no one in sight. There were missing and broken boards all over. We went up a flight of steps carved into the steep cliff to get to the club house, and walked around the building. It was all boarded up. Who do we pay for the mooring? Just as we were climbing back into the dinghy, we heard a voice, back up the steps we went. Turns out this guy had come over to do some work. When we asked about the mooring he whipped out his phone and called Solomon, the owner of the moorings. Solomon got there in a few minutes and requests 20 dollars a night for the mooring. Marie asked if they were sturdy, and Solomon said “thems sleep-tight-moorings”. In an effort to look somewhat official, Solomon pulled out some folded paper from his back pocket. It could have been some advertisement flyer, folded twice over to fit his pocket. He pulled out a pen, and asked “What is the name of the vessel?” “What is the length of the vessel?” I was impressed by the record keeping. I can’t imagine where this was to be filed. We spent 2 nights on those moorings, and it blew hard, they held fine, but we did not sleep tight.
Hadrian went paddle-boarding with his new friends. They paddle so far out of sight and we had to go recover them in a boat.
The third day there it was still blowing hard, so we threw in the towel, and took a slip at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the only marina there. The cruisers I met thus far take a peculiar pride in not paying for services, and they don’t seem to weight in the efforts or equipment damage they incur or go through in order not to pay for any said services. For example, a couple came by our boat while we were at the mooring ball, and inquired about the cost of the ball. I informed them of the cost, and assumed they would pick one up themselves as it was blow hard. Not the case, he simply said “why would I pay twenty bucks when can anchor here for free?” Well, they spend the night dragging around on their anchors and dinghying around the anchorage trying to reset them…at 3 am. They probably spent as much money on fuel as they had saved. Not us, we like our butts to be powdered if possible.
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club was the hub of activity for the island. It is a modest operation by our standards back home, but for the islands…hoo-hoo. The club house consisted of a one story structure that had obviously grown over time by miss-matching additions that made the roof a puzzle. Up front, the bar took up the whole first room, as well it needed to in order to accommodate the crowd.
The beach at Big Majors.
The pig that stole lunch.
As it turns out swimming pigs were at Big Majors Island, just to the north of Staniel Cay. We packed our leftovers in a plastic bag and headed to Big Majors. As we neared the beach we could see two big pigs on shore, and they saw us too. As we approached the pigs would follow. I got about 20 feet from shore and turned the boat to study the rock laden beach. One of the pigs jumped in to follow us, but quickly realized we were too fast for him, so he turned back. I spotted a clean area on the beach where we could land. As soon as we were beached the pigs came to us. They were big, I mean 300 pounds big. What were we thinking? These pigs didn’t beg, they took. The first pig came over and started to climb onto our dinghy, he put his front hoofs in. Have you ever seen the head on a 300 pound pig? Well, we were about 2 feet away from the business end of this animal, and it was going to wreck the boat. I saw the situation was out of my hands, so I grabbed the bag of food and just threw it, plastic bags and all, the pigs followed. I sometimes feel I keep the Lord busier than I should with my stupidity, but hey, he’s been cool about it. Well, after having our thirst for swimming pigs quenched, we headed back to the yacht club for food and drinks.
See the company I keep, these are my neighbors, ha-ha.
With bad weather approaching the docks were full. One of the larger yachts had 5 kids on board. This was fortunate for us as Hadrian and Eva really needed to play with other kids. They were in temporary heaven on the big ship. They had television, a hot tub, and an assortment of toys. We joined our new friends on a snorkeling trip to Thunderball cave, or the Grotto, as some guides refer to it. I was not expecting much more than a small cave, but man was I wrong, it was huge, with several chambers. The ceiling in the main chamber was about twenty feet high, and it had a hole that allowed daylight in. The water inside the cave was about 10 to 15 feet deep, and full of fish, some nice groupers, but no fishing allowed here. Our friends had brought along a few cans of Cheeze-whiz that had the fish going crazy. In all there were 4 magnificent chambers. The cave was ablaze with light, colors and life.
The weather was turning for the better. We met a lot of nice people at the yacht club, but it was time to move on. For our next destination we chose Blackpoint because of all the hype that heard about its’ Laundromat, “The best in all the Exumas”. Since I don’t do laundry and I don’t wanna have to start doing laundry, I like to spoil Marie with these little treats.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

the Northern Exumas


I met Capt. Red at Nassau Harbor Marina, and told him of our trip and our next planned stop. The Captain runs a diving charter operation based out of Nassau, and he travels to the Exumas on a weekly schedule. He offered some tips on crossing the “Yellow Bank”, a moderately shallow body of water, about 20 feet deep, that lies between Nassau and the Exumas. If there is anything that I have learned through all this is to listen, and it’s only been 30 days. The Yellow Bank is littered with coral heads that are just under the waters’ surface. The prudent mariner will cross it only with plenty of daylight. The captain gave me the waypoints that he uses to cross the bank, and told me if these are followed you will have no problem. It was the captain that insisted that my first stop be Allen’s Cay to see the iguanas, he was sincerely excited about the trip and the kid’s adventures.

The crossing of the Yellow Bank went well, just a little rough, not too bad. Eva's mood is directly proportionate to the height of the waves. It seems that the higher the wave the shorter her temper.
Arriving at Allen's Cay in the Exumas.

We anchored about 50 feet away from Allen’s Cay in 20 feet of water. We inflated the dinghy and went to see the iguanas. The waters around these islands are just spectacular, as clear as a pool. As soon as we beached the dinghy the iguanas started popping out of everywhere.
The iguanas at Allen's Cays.
Hadrian and Eva Snorkeling around at Allen's Cay
We spent the next day exploring all the little islands. At one point we decided to take the dinghy to a reef and snorkel. Hadrian and I took our pole spears in hopes of catching dinner. The reef was just beautiful, and to my surprise there were grouper everywhere. I just had to choose which one I would invite to dinner. With a handsome fellow selected, I started towards him. He ran a little bit, but would stop and hide behind these ridiculously small rocks. He was really counting on my having bad vision, I almost felt bad for the guy. I took a deep breath, and dove towards him. He covered his head in the rock so I took a butt shot. I got him just behind the head, but he was able to lodge himself under the rock. I had to come up for air. I let the spear go, and came up. Just then a 6 foot black tip shark came aggressively at us. He bumped Eva and Marie, making it clear he was claiming the area before zeroing in on my fish. He was moving fast and menacing so we decided he was right, it was his fish. Eva was really upset. We had to calm her down and tell her to move towards the boat in an orderly manner, not splashing like a wounded fish. Hadrian took the other extreme and stayed behind just looking at the shark. I had to call him over. We all scrambled back on the dinghy and headed back to the boat to get our shark repellent. A state-of-the-art electronic apparatus that was advertised to emit a pulse that sharks could not stand. Now what they failed to mention was that the electronic pulse would be as hard on me as the intended shark. I have concluded that this shark repellent is merely a repackaged electronic patch muscle massager, the kind that physical therapists use. When I got back to the site to recover my spear, the shark was still circling. I strapped on the shark repellent, turned it on and my butt cheeks began trembling. It took me a minute to figure out what was happening. The shark figured it out a little quicker and was outta there. Keeping things in perspective I do prefer butt spasms to a shark bite.

All was well in paradise, but the next morning, about 5 am, Marie wakes me and asks that I take a look outside. Marie does not relax at anchor, she just does not trust the whole concept of throwing a big chunk of metal over the side with a line tied to it to hold the boat in place. Now, I’m not a morning person, nothing brilliant ever comes from me in the early hours of the day. Yeah, you can keep your worm, never did have a taste for them. I reluctantly got up and looked outside. “It’s fine!” I shouted and went back to bed. A few minutes later Marie wakes me again. “Please, please, take another look,” she begged. “I just looked!” “Oh please take another look,” she insisted. Having shook off some of the cob webs I went out to the cockpit for another look. To my horror we were moving fast and about 20 feet from a jagged wall of rocks that was ready to make match sticks out of the Mirador. After a millisecond that lasted longer than I could hold my breath, I sprang for the engine. I turned the key only to hear the starter solenoid rattle because we had used up the battery running the fans all night. “Change batteries, change batteries!” I shouted to Marie. As she did, the motor came to life. I put the beast into gear and backed away from the jagged wall with only 5 feet to spare. As we moved it dawned on me that we did not drag our anchor, we simply did not have an anchor! I motored the boat a half mile north to where we had been anchored. I dropped my second anchor and began trying to understand what had just transpired, digesting how close we had come to losing everything. Hadrian and I dove on the lost anchor and recovered it. Upon closer examination we realized that the edges of our anchor roller were razor sharp, and actually cutting our rope.

The next morning we awoke happily, ready to pick up anchor and head to Wardrick Wells, the national park. The wind was blowing hard so we had to use the engine to take the weight off the anchors while we attempted to recover them. Marie and Hadrian just didn’t have strength to lift anchors. So, in one of my moments of early morning brilliance, I left the engine in gear and ran up to assist them. I only succeeded in getting the anchor rope caught in the propeller. A column of black smoke came from the engine room as we fell back on the second anchor. Darn we lost an anchor, again! Well now we would have to dive and recover the lost anchor and clear the propeller. It was prudent that we had had a second anchor down or we would have been in big trouble, without an anchor or engine. Only one anchor left, I decided to place some chafing gear over the line before we went any further. I had salvaged some discarded fire hose that I could slip over the rope to protect it. Armed with a 3 foot piece of old fire hose, I knelt down at front of the boat and prepared to try to slip the section of hose onto the remaining anchor rope. I waited for the anchor line to get a little slack, and I made my move. I quickly removed the line from the cleat and slipped the waiting hose on before the pull from the waves came again. As the hose slipped into place, I got the line back on the cleat just as the next wave came, it pulled back hard on the line. I could see it stretch to its limits, water misted out, and then pop! The chafing sleeve went one way and the anchor line went the other. I sat there for a second, in total disbelief, no anchor, no engine, and rocks all around us! I ran back to the cockpit screaming a Marie, “We have to open the sails”! We managed to hastily open the genoa, and began to make for clear water. With a little newly found time to think, Marie and I went over our position. What do we do now? As I studied the charts I realized that we had to clear a reef that was still between us and safety, but the wind was not in our favor. Although the maneuver was doable we as a crew were too green and rattled to insist on continuing when there was yet another, less heroic option. We had bought some time, for now, so I went up, set up another anchor, and dropped it. This was my third, and last anchor. I had little confidence left in my anchor rope, I had no choice, but to trust it one more time, just a little longer. I called Highbourne Cay Marina and explained our situation, minus the drama, and requested a tow, and a slip at their marina. They came back on the radio, “we can be there to help you in 20 minutes.” As happy as I was to have hope so far from away from anywhere, I think that held my breath for the next 20 minutes. My saviors were very timely, bout 20 minutes as promised. However, once we had the tow line hooked up they sped off with me in tow. We were going over 7 knots, a speed I had yet to achieve under my own propulsion. You would think that they came to get me during the intermission of a football game, and wanted to get back before it started again!
The docks at Highbourne Cay Marina.
Sharks feeding around the fish cleaning station at Highbourne Cay.
Highbourne Cay Marina was really nice, the lap of luxury. They had a little grocery store, a restaurant and bar. Bicycles were available for free, and we made good use of them. Yeah things had changed for the better…for now. We made friends with the crew of a mega yacht that was there along with us. After hearing about all our recent hardship, they were so nice as to offer to take me to recover my anchors, and we did. I had quite a mental imprint of where the anchors had been lost so we found them almost immediately.
The yacht "Dreamer"
 Now remember that we had lost the anchors in 20 feet of water, and they weight 45 pounds each plus they have 75 feet of chain attached. Add to all these numbers the fact that I just turned 51, and you can put a measure on the challenge that lay before me. I was able to dive and recover the first anchor, but the sequel was just too much for me. As I dove on the second anchor, I was down about half way, when I realize this might just be a one way trip. I came back to the surface. My friend Russ, was worried about me as I huffed and puffed. It must really look worse than it is because he is not the first to show concern. Let me state that my lack of grace or aesthetics, if you will, does not reflect how I feel. In any case Russ replaced me in the water and was able to recover the second anchor. The joint effort really took the bite off of the situation for my family and myself. Thank you Russ.
This poor fellow has been waiting for the bus for a while now.
The crew of Mirador adding to the memorabilia at Highbourne Cay Marina.

If you are ever at Highbourne Cay, look for our sign.

This is a good picture of 2 lobsters and a not so good picture of me...I swear I'm not that big!

10 days in Nassau


10 days in Nassau

We had a great night’s sleep at anchor in Nassau harbor, but we found ourselves drifting a bit in the morning. The holding in Nassau harbor isn’t very good and we had heard this from a couple we had met at the Columbus day Regatta. They had spent a mostly horrible week in high winds at Nassau harbor. They told stories of barges breaking loose and sweeping through the harbor leaving some cruisers boatless. “Nothing you could do, it’s just luck-of-the-draw” they said. Now, I say "mostly horrible" because somehow they managed to conceive a child in-between all the action, but as a testament to the true gravity of the situation the child was named “Summer Storm”. A great story, I'm not making this up, and just to side track things a little, look up Summer Storm on You-tube. She happens to be a great singer.
Eva and Hadrian as we entered Atlantis marina.
As we had promised he kids, the very next morning we hailed Atlantis Marina on the radio and requested a slip. Entry to the water park was included in the cost of the marina. The kids were in heaven…at least for now.

The water park at Atlantis is world class, as good or better as any in Orlando “sans the lines”. We all ran from ride to ride, no waiting. I liked the “Lazy River” the best, you just sit in an inner tube, and let the current take you around the entire park.

The aquarium at Atlantis is just mesmerizing. It is about the size of a Walmart and viewed through an extensive maze of glass tunnels about 10 feet in diameter. The collection of specimens is amazing, mostly Caribbean sea life. You've got huge sharks and grouper, schools of 20 pound jacks, yellowtails, chubs…you name it!
Joaquin, Eva and Hadrian viewing the aquarium.
The aquarium at Atlantis.

Marie got Eva and Hadrian to pose for a picture before hitting the park.

 
Sometimes I think that these two really believe that they are royalty.

Atlantis Marina was really sweet, but while the rest of the Bahamas runs on island time, these guys didn’t get the memo. Their bills do come in a “New York minute”, and they were high. Yeah it was time to face reality and move to a cheaper marina while I did my monthly run to Honduras for a day. It actually takes me 2 days due to travel time. However, I managed to program in an overnight stay in Miami to catch-up on some shopping, so I would be away for 3 days. Ours friends Bill and Connie back home had recommended Nassau Harbor Marina just past the 2 big bridges that connect Atlantis to New Providence, at about half the price, it fit the bill. Nassau harbor was easy on us. We had water and power, and across the street we had a strip mall with movie rentals, Dairy Queen, Domino’s Pizza, and a grocery store. The next few days saw us exploring sights like the old forts that once defended Nassau from pirates. I was surprised at how small the forts were.
Fort Fincastle.
Fort Montague.
A carved marble plaque on Fort Montague.
We visited gardens, and a pirate museum, it was a well needed break for us. The days just drifted by, in an uneventful way that makes it hard to recollect or write about.
If Eva could only do this at will??
There was not too much clearance to spare as we passed under the bridges to Paradise Island.
It is time to leave the comforts of civilization and sail south to ports unknown

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nassau or Bust

Nassau or bust....quite literally
I thought a northeast wind would be an advantage crossing the gulfstream, guess again. Five to ten knots of wind working together with the gulfstream to drive us to the north was quite an unexpected challenge. I tried following my GPS at first, but I couldn't figure out how to coordinate what my eyes were telling me with what the GPS was saying. When I headed 100 degrees by the compass my "course over ground", on the GPS, was 30 degrees??? I tried to bring my "course over ground" to 90 degrees and my compass read 160 degrees??? I looked up at the land and I was definitely facing south? My GPS is broken I told Marie. Wait a minute that doesn't make sense? By the way I was moving at 1.2 knots! Yeah this was to be a record crossing. I think a piece of driftwood passed us...it was going in the right direction. After a confusing 2 hours it dawned on me that all my instruments were right and what I was experiencing was simply not enough wind conspiring together with the gulfstream to drive me crazy! After studying my predicament I concluded to set the most beneficial course, note I didn't say set a course where I wanted to go, but the most beneficial course. This new course gave me some speed and an acceptable course a bit further north than I would have liked. I figured that after I got passed the gulfstream, no drought too far to the north, I would then head south and reestablished my original plan.

Great Isaac Lighthouse
 
We went passed Great Issac Light at about noon, not in the program, on our way over the Bahama Bank towards the Northern Channel. The wind picked up quite a bit and now we were healed over hard, making good speed towards the Tongue of the ocean. Then Marie stepped out at about 2 am and said "that's way too fast, slow it down". Well I had been up for over 30 hours by now so I asked her to take the wheel while I took in the Genoa and she took the wheel so that I could get some sleep.
When I woke up the sun was up and took the wheel and continued pass the northern channel towards Nassau. Marie and I were both tired from a harder than average crossing. Marie noticed an island to our north and asked me what it was. "That's Chub Cay", I said, "wanna go there for some rest?" She agreed so I turned the wheel and we were at Chub Cay in a couple of hours.


Eva caught a starfish


Enjoying a sunset off of Chun Cay


The marina at Chub Cay. Quite a place to have all to yourself.


The club pool.


The ocean makes a great backdrop for the pool at Chub Cay


The cabana bar, half of the seats are in the water.



One of the unfinished homes at Chub Cay

 
The anchorage at Chub Cay was not so good, It was really exposed to anything but an east wind. We found out from a  local fisherman that it was going to get rough, a cold front was going to come through. I dropped 2 anchors and monitored the GPS for any dragging at regular intervals through out the night. It blew briskly, but the anchors didn't budge. The same old fisherman came by again and said it was going to blow harder tonight. I needed more wind like Custer needed more Indians. Well that was more energy and confidence than I had to spare. I called the Chub Cay Marina and asked if that had  had room for a 41 foot sailboat. Happily they said yes, and so we headed in for a good nights sleep.
Boy was it weired to find that we were the only boat in the marina. It was such a beautiful place, world class, but no one around? It felt like the after mass of a zombie invasion.
In all truth, what it was is sad. It was sad to see someone's dreams shattered so close to fruition, a sight too familiar these days. It was clear that this project, like so many others fell to a weak economy, but hay that's why I'm sailing today.
The staff at the marina could not be nicer. They offer to open the restaurant for us if we want to have dinner. I didn't take the offer. The kids had a beautiful "infinity edge" pool all to themselves.


A quaint street at Chub Cay Village

I received an email from my employer asking me to fly to Honduras in 5 days. I would need to get to Nassau to catch a flight out, but the weather was even worse. There was a small craft advisory in effect, but we decided to go anyway. It's only bout 35 miles from Chub to Nassau, how bad could it be? Well...let me try to explain this brilliant idea of mine. The winds were from the northeast, the current was from the southwest, I needed to head southeast. We were sandwiched between the current and the waves. I'd like to know who measures the waves for the weather report, this person is very conservative in his work! we pounded and then pounded some more. Slowly every item on the boat made its way out of its place and on to the floor. It was a mass exodus. The iron Genny has behaved like a champ although we have a bit of a scare about halfway though this crossing. For no apparent reason the rpm's would drop about 200 revolutions and then go back up after a minute or so. I thought for sure that I had a fuel issue. Oh great, I thought, what a nice place to do a filter change. In my usual form, I decided to try and get by until I had no choice or until I reached a marina, surrounded by nice calm water. After about 5 of these rpm episodes Marie comes out of the boat and tells me that her coffee maker had fallen over and was turning itself on and off  with each wave, pulling so much power from the alternator that it would drop the engines rpms. That was it, that the cause of our motor problems. Score one for procrastination.
We have a "Capehorn" self-steering wind vane that I recently installed on the Mirador. On I have to be honest with you, even as this contraption came together I hadn't a clear idea of how it was going to work. This is not a common thing for me to say. I just assembled it as instructed and let my doubts ride with a "we'll see". Well, I'd like to report that the Capehorn wind vane is amazing! I set wind the wind vane just as we cleared the channel out of Chub Cay, according to a beeline course on my GPS, straight to Nassau. Now this wind vane has steered us all the way to Nassau as if it were somehow linked to our GPS. I think it would have steered us into Nassau Harbor if I had the nerve allow it. Why are these not on the back of more boats?
We would be getting into Nassau late at night. I didn't want to pay Atlantis marina rates for an overnight stay so we decided we'd anchor in the harbor and take a slip at marina the next morning.
Not enough can be said for the feeling of pulling into a harbor after passage.