Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dave and Joan's Excellent Vacation


On March 22 we pulled into Harborview Marina in Marsh Harbor. Actually the Bahamians spell it “Harbour” because they were a British colony. But Mr. Gates continually corrects my spelling whenever I write it the British/Bahamian way, so for me, it is now “Marsh Harbor.” Anyway, our friends Dave and Joan Wolf arrived the next day. We had planned a couple of boat trips, one each to Treasure Cay and Hope Town, one car trip the length of Great Abaco Island, and a ferry trip to Nippers on Great Guana. We planned on spending the rest of our time relaxing in or around the marina.

Dave and Joan arrived on Friday, and on Saturday we were on our way to Treasure Cay. I wrote about Treasure Cay in our last entry when Ann and I went there on our own, so I won’t tell you how beautiful the beach there is. I’ll just say it is 3 ½ miles of the most magnificent, powdery sand that you have ever seen and that, more often than not, the beach is practically empty. I will say the weather for our cruise to Treasure was nearly perfect. Moreover, we immediately found a mooring ball in a very good location. The location is important to us because our boat is bigger than most, and the pennants at Treasure (the lines connecting the boat to the mooring balls) are at least 20 feet long. That means that just sitting on the mooring ball we take up 72’. If you double that (in case the wind changes) it means we have to have 144’ diameter to swing. Anyway, after hooking up to the ball, we went ashore to check out a few of the little stores in the neighborhood. We thought about going swimming in the pool, but you know how it is; sometimes when you have spent a stressful morning cruising in near ideal conditions, have hooked a mooring ball without any wind, and have engaged in some “Retail Therapy,” it is time to take a nap.



Now, not everyone knows how to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Dave and Joan aren’t yet retired and haven’t learned the art. Me? I have been retired for six years now and have mastered the afternoon nap. I know, some of you look down on us nappers, but look at our brethren. To name a few,

  • Leonardo da Vinci took multiple naps a day and slept less at night.
  • Napoleon was not shy about taking naps. He indulged daily.
  • Albert Einstein napped each day—on top of getting ten hours of sleep each night.
  • Thomas Edison was embarrassed about his napping habit, but practiced his ritual daily.
  • Gene Autry routinely took naps in his dressing room between performances.
  • John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day!
  • John D. Rockefeller napped every afternoon in his office.
  • Winston Churchill’s believed a nap helped him get twice as much done each day.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to break his day up into “two shifts.”
  • Ronald Reagan famously took naps as well.

 

If you love someone ... let him nap.
There are several different methods of nap taking. The first is what I call the power nap aka the key nap. You lay down, preferably on a sofa with keys in your hand and your hand dangling over the edge. When you fall seriously asleep the keys will fall out of your hand, hit the floor and waking you up. That means nap time is over and it is time to get going again. I sometimes take power naps when we are cruising and I can barely keep my eyes open. I ask Ann to take over for a few minutes so I can take a power nap. You would be surprised how effective it can be in giving you an extra energy boost. Second, of course, there is the regular afternoon nap.  My afternoon nap typically comes just after I have had lunch with a beer. The afternoon nap is generally a bit longer than the power nap, and I prefer to take mine on the sofa. You see there is activity in and around the salon such that I cannot get into REM sleep; I can doze just deeply enough to re-energize myself. Finally, there is the serious nap. For that, I head to the bedroom or stateroom, get under the covers and get into REM sleep. Doctors will tell you that 90 minutes is a REM cycle and encourage you to sleep at least that long. I don’t do that very often, but once in a while there is nothing better. Remember my new motto: If you love them, let them nap. Anyhow, that is enough about napping.

Dave and Joan at Treasure Cay
The following day, of course, we went to Treasure Beach and found a couple of empty cabanas. We proceeded to read, get a little sun, then we would move our chairs into the shade so our skin could recover, then read in the shade, go back in the sun and repeat – until lunchtime. (Remember when we used to go “sunbathing”? Although we might have used a little suntan oil, no one knew what “sunscreen” was, and anyone spending too much time in the shade was a pale wimp. How in Heaven’s name did we survive?) At lunchtime we went to Coco’s (about 50 yards away) and ordered lunch. Dave and Joan have visited us before in the Bahamas and every time Joan has eaten conch of any kind she has become ill. Now I am not one who thinks every time you get sick it is because of something you ate. That said, Joan is not permitted to have cracked conch. Since she doesn’t like it that much, this prohibition works very well. That said, at Coco’s I always order cracked conch and a beer. Then, back to the cabana. Read in the shade, get a little sun, then repeat.

You can only have so many perfect beach days, so the following morning we were on our way back from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbor. After a restful day at Marsh, we metaphorically set sail for Hope Town. (Actually, since we do not have sails, I guess we “set our engines” towards Hope Town. There are three ways a cruiser can stay at Hope Town. Most people take a mooring ball. There are about 50+ moorings inside the harbor that only cost $20 per day. They are a really good deal.  We have picked up a mooring before, but remember what I said about how much space our particular mooring needs? Very few places at Hope Town have that much space, so we have to come up with an Alternative. If we couldn’t take a mooring in the harbor, we could have anchored outside the harbor and, as long as the winds are from the east, we would have been fairly well protected. Or, you can rent a slip at the Hope Town Inn and Marina, which is what we did. This time, though, I wish we hadn’t.


Over the radio, the dockmaster told me that our slip wasn’t ready so we would be moving into a “temporary” slip. Now I’m not big on temporary slips because it is difficult to dock a big boat with any kind of wind, but I figured I could discuss that with the dockmaster later. Then he told me I would be backing into a slip intended for a 30’ boat. I reminded him that we were 52 feet in length and that we had a great deal of windage that obeyed the laws of the wind, not necessarily the instructions from the helm and that it was very windy outside. He pretended not to have heard me. Well, I lined up to back in and just as we were nearing the slip, the wind caught the stern and moved us very close to the boat next door. Needless to say, I gave her some power and we got out of there. The dockmaster suggested I might feel better going in bow first. Really? Like I hadn’t suggested that five minutes earlier? Oh well, we lined up and moved into the slip. However, remember that stern that liked to follow the laws of nature not necessarily orders from the helm? My stern was now sticking over 25 feet into the channel, receiving instructions from the wind to move further and further from the finger pier.  Now had this been a decent-sized slip, we would have tied the stern to a piling and that would have been that – but Nooooo, this slip was short and lacked a piling where we could tie the stern. It was a mess and the dockmaster did not cover himself in glory (neither did I for that matter). Eventually, we got one of the aft cleats tied to the finger pier. It was tied very awkwardly, but it lasted for the next three days. After tying up, I was ready to get out and explore the town..


Mike and Ann at Hope Town
Like many other settlements in the group of islands known as the Abacos, Hope Town was founded by Loyalists from the American Revolution. Many of the settlers had been loyal subjects in Carolinas, some in New York and New England, and from East Florida, after East Florida was turned over to Spain in the Peace of Paris (1783). The initial settlements in the Bahamas were at Carleton (near the current Treasure Cay) and Marsh Harbor.  By 1785, there were over 1,000 refugees in Great Abaco who were distributed in five or six settlements.  In that same year, the settlement at Hope Town was founded, in part, by a widow from South Carolina named Wyannie Malone.  Wyannie, along with her children, started a dynasty in Hope Town that spread the Malone name throughout the Bahamas, over to Florida, and outwards from there.

As you tour the town, you can find evidence of the old way of doing things.  Walking through the settlement, you may discover an old stone oven for baking in the yard, or a wooden boat under construction.  In another yard, you may spot a boat of the same design many years older, rotting away!  All over town, you will find scattered reminders of the wrecking days, when the citizens repurposed the cargo of ships that had foundered near shore – sometimes they foundered with help from the locals. Near the fire station, the “cholera cemetery” provides a grim reminder of how harsh life was in these out islands. In the 1850’s nearly a hundred souls were buried there, when the population of the town was under 500. 

After a little exploring, the first day we were there, we had lunch at Cap’n Jack’s Bar and Grill. Having been here before, we knew that the Cap’n made homemade potato chips that were absolutely wonderful. My plan was to go to Cap’n Jacks and just have potato chips and beer – the lunch of champions!! Then I saw conch chowder on the menu. Now I have had conch chowder in the past – exactly once, five years ago. It was so spicy that I couldn’t eat it and I have never particularly wanted to repeat that experience. Still, after I read Cap’n Jack’s description of his conch chowder I decided that I just had to give it a try. Well, I needn’t have worried. This conch chowder was GREAT!! I now have a new lunch favorite: homemade potato chips, a cup of conch chowder and a Kalik beer. Ahhhhh! It was the perfect Bahamian meal. The following day we had intended to have lunch at a place that is about 2 miles away but we couldn’t find a golf cart for rent. So what did we do? We went back to Cap’n Jacks! And what did I have? Potato chips, conch chowder and a Kalik. It looked so good that Ann ordered the same and we both had a perfect meal.

So, how do we top Hope Town? Ann and I have both wanted to explore the length and depth of the island of Great Abaco for years. You may remember that earlier in our travels, we have rented a car to explore some of the out islands like Cat, Long and Eleuthera, so we decided to get a car and head south as far as we could.  

Great Abaco is almost 90 miles long, but on average it is less than 4 miles wide. It was once logged for its pine trees, and many of the old logging trails, we have heard, lead to secluded beaches along the coast. Having seen some of those logging trails, though, I would suggest that for many of them you would need four-wheel drive. The island is supposedly home to wild horses, cows, and boars, and the endangered Abaco parrots, none of which we saw. (Actually, Joan think she may have seen a pair of parrots, winging their way across the road.)

What we did see – and what I thought was particularly striking – was pine trees, miles and miles of pine trees. Yellow pines to be exact. As you go further south, there is a bed of palms under the pines, but that’s about it. Pines and palms all the way south. Okay, that’s not quite true. There are several half (or less) built “developments” on the way – like there are in many of the out islands we have visited – the majority of which are near the water, trying, no doubt, to attract second home buyers. We drove into one (for which we got in “trouble” from the guard) where we saw several roads laid in rectangular patterns, a brand new poorly thought-out marina with zero boats in it, some very nice landscaping and about four houses. It was really kind of sad to see so much money tied up in what will doubtless be a failed development.

There were also two settlements (towns), one at the southern tip of the island, called Sandy Point, and one about half-way down called Cherokee. Both were remarkably clean, had relatively few “second homes” and only a few tourist amenities. We drove through them but, unfortunately, didn’t have time to explore them in any detail. Maybe next time. We did have time to stop at Pete’s Pub and Gallery at Little Harbor. We have been there before by boat and I can assure you that boat is the way to go. The road to Pete’s was, shall we say, a little challenging. Kind of like the roads I used to take to my favorite fishing spots in the Rocky Mountains. Anyway, we admired the quaintness of Little Harbor, took a look at the gallery (where the prices are WAY out of my range) and had a quick lunch at the Pub.

Our last destination was Great Guana and the “world famous” Nipper’s Beach Bar and Grill. We spent most of the day at Nipper’s, using their pool, going down to the ocean, having lunch and yes, maybe one or two Kaliks. Usually, there is a lot of tourists at Nipper’s, but  because this was the day after the restaurant’ big Easter Bash there were very few tourist and/or boaters (who may have all been home nursing hangovers). Instead, most of the other diners (lunchers?) were locals. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun.

The pool at Nippers taken from deck 2 ... or is it 3?
Other than the fact we went on Easter Monday, the other interesting aspect of our trip is that we went on a local ferry. We have seen them all around for several years, but had actually never been on one of the “Donnie Boats.” They are called Donnie boats because their names are all Donnie plus a Roman numeral, e.g. Donnie X, XI and XII.) It took about 30 minutes for us to get from Marsh harbor to Great Guana and costs us $30 per person round trip. If you us the shuttle frequently there are special rates. A ten-trip passbook, for example, is $113.

After a few more days relaxing in Marsh Harbor, Dave and Joan left. Back to Virginia, where, if I am not mistaken, it was snowing. We’ll be seeing them again this summer and wish them safe travels until then.

Ann’s Notes: I think Michael covered the visit and everything we did while Dave and Joan came to visit. We all had a good time, meet all the docking challenges and lived to tell about them. We also ate very well that week on the boat.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Friday, March 30, 2018

Abacos I

Before moving on to discuss the first part of our adventures in the Abacos, I should expand just a little bit on our last blog entry. You may recall that we discussed Cat Island extensively, then we said something like “then we went north to Eleuthera, the end.” There was a little more to it than that, but we were already at 5 pages and I didn’t want to write the modern equivalent of War and Peace. So let me give you a few paragraphs on our trip north from Cat.

After leaving Hawk’s Nest Marina we headed north, up the 48-mile length of Cat Island. We stayed close to the enormous drop off into the Exuma Sound bank. In some places the ocean floor drops from a depth of 20 feet to over three thousand feet in barely ½ mile – which is, on average nearly a 60 degree slope. We did that, of course, so I could fish the drop-off. And guess what … I caught something … a flippin’ barracuda. It was about three feet long and looked about as vicious as you can imagine. But most people don’t eat barracuda (when was the last time you saw barracuda on the menu of your favorite restaurant?), so we threw it back and continued our trip north without another bite.
Some of the infrastructure
ashore at Little San Salvador

Everything went well until we got to Little San Salvador. Now, the only relationship between San Salvador (the island where Columbus first landed) and Little San Salvador is that the latter is … well … littler. Little San Salvador is owned by Holland America, a cruise ship company. They lease it to other cruising companies including Carnival, the biggest in the world. Between them, these companies have re-created the island to serve as a Caribbean destination for their customers. There are beautiful beaches, some great water toys, excellent food (from what we have heard), horses to ride, zip lines to zip, and just about everything else a cruise ship customer would want. Those of us on little boats, though, can only anchor in the harbor and watch the merriment from afar. (Actually, several people have told us that on those days when no cruise ships are scheduled that we could call and ask for permission to go ashore, though, even then, we could not use the facilities.) On the day we were there. Carnival Elation was anchored until it departed at 3PM, so we couldn’t have gone ashore even if we wanted to. That is not what I was going to talk about, however. You know when you are at a beach and the surf comes in and makes those really cool waves into which you can dive or by which you can get knocked down? Well, on Little San Salvador, the swell that makes those waves goes right though the harbor where we were anchored and it makes our little boat go uppity-up-up and downdity-down-down, then uppity-up-up and downdity-down-down, then … I think you get the picture. All night long. Not a lot of fun. Not a lot of sleep either!

We got to our next stop, Eleuthera’s Rock Sound, a little after midday. There were some northerly and northwesterly winds coming in and Rock Sound is a great place to be in anticipation of a blow from almost any direction. The wind came through as predicted and we, along with maybe 20 other boats, weathered the storm. We had considered staying in Rock Sound for a few days as we always enjoy the settlement, the fine grocery store and a trip to Rosie’s Restaurant on other side of the island. However, as we read the various weather forecasts, it looked like we would have good weather for a day or two, then bad weather for a week at least, then “who knows?” (Meteorologists generally don’t even try to forecast more than a week ahead.) Our friends Dave and Joan were flying into Marsh Harbor on 23 March, and we didn’t want to be forced to cross big swaths of ocean in poor weather, so we decided that we would skip some days on Rock Sound and continue our trip north to Royal Island.

Not much happened on the way to Royal. We timed our journey through Current Cut almost perfectly, got to the Island late in the afternoon and ended up anchoring next to Vicki and Art on Don Quixote. Actually, we didn’t know we were next to them until the next day when they hailed us on the radio. We had met them at West End a couple of months prior and hadn’t seen them since. We promised to link up with them in person on the far side of the Channel.

Now, we have crossed the Northeast Providence Channel three or four times. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. The Channel lulls you into thinking it is going to be a good day, then gradually increases the size of the waves and the pitch and roll of your boat until whoa! Those suckers are at least 5-7 feet high Moreover, they were on our beam– which means they came at us from the side – and unlike the waves from several days ago, the period on these boat-rockers was probably 5 seconds. To say that they rocked the boat is a gross understatement. The first time we traversed the Channel we drove from up on the flybridge. Because of the moment arm, when the boat rolls from side-to-side, you move much further than you do when you drive from down below. I remember wondering, during a few of those waves, whether the boat was going to capsize. Well, that didn’t happen, of course, and we learned one valuable lesson: when the waves are going to be significant and on the beam, drive from down below. It may not make any difference to the boat, but those waves are far less scary from below! The only saving grace was that we knew it wouldn’t last forever. We counted down the minutes until we made it through the cut leading us to Great Abaco Island. We arrived there late in the day and peacefully spent the night at Lynyard Cay.

The Abacos

We had planned on staying at Little Harbor for a few days, but when we arrived, all the mooring balls were taken. Little Harbor is the home of Pete’s Pub and Gallery. The pub is definitely “old Bahamas” in its simplicity and the characters it attracts.  It also houses the only sculpture foundry in the Bahamas. Actually, the story of the pub and the foundry is long and very interesting, but we are not going to write about it here. Anyway, since we couldn’t get into Little Harbor, we called ahead for a slip at Harborview Marina, then made the four hour cruise to Marsh Harbor.




When we got to Marsh we pulled into our slip in Harborview. We would have preferred to have stayed at the Marsh Harbor Marina, aka the Jib Room, but once again they didn’t have room for us. We have stayed at Harborview before and it is a “nice enough” marina. It is much closer to groceries, shopping and restaurants than the Jib Room, and it has a nice pool, laundry and restrooms. The main problem with Harborview is that it is right in the middle of the boating action and the boating action in Marsh Harbor has increased markedly in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, it has always been busy, but there just seems to be more traffic. It could be the time of the year – we usually come a little earlier in the season – or it could be because there appear to be more charter services than ever before; Moorings has always been here, but now there is also Dream Yacht Charters, Sunsail and others.

Now, I generally don’t have any problems with charterers, after all, Ann and I chartered boats for a number of times in the British Virgin Islands before we bought Traveling Soul. The problems I do have are with charter companies that demand that charterers return their boats in weather when no one should be out. One of the reasons we had gone to the marina is that we had heard that Wednesday was going to be windy. It was. As we sat in our slip, we watched the anemometer as it measured winds from the north and northwest into the 40 knot range (well over gale force).

In that wind there was a very big catamaran (at least 50 feet) that was trying to get into the dock behind us. Well, he picked up an angle and was trying to get into the a hundred feet or so behind us when the wind caught him and started pushing him towards us and our neighbor. This got my attention. It suddenly became more than a game of watching people try to dock; it was a rather serious matter of calculating how much damage he could do to our boat. Luckily, both we and our neighbor had been assigned a slip that was bigger than our relative boats; they were both around sixty or sixty-five feet. The wind took the catamaran perpendicular to our boats and he got caught on the outermost pilings of our slips, his bow was on our neighbors piling and his stern on ours. Our neighbor immediately called for him to tie off on the two pilings and wait for help, which is exactly what he did. Now as I said we generally have no problems with charterers – and we do not know how much experience the captain had – but his crew had trouble just tying the boat off to a piling. They just kind of wrapped the line around the piling and didn’t know how to secure the end of the line to a cleat. Seriously, it looked like there was no excuse for the charter company to have let these guys have a boat, let alone to have forced them try to tie up on a day like that. If it hadn’t been for those outer pilings, the charter company would have been looking at several boat units worth of damage to the three boats involved and we, of course, would have had our entire season ruined. From now on, we are steering clear of charterers.

We checked with Dave and Joan and they were still planning on arriving on the 23rd, which was about ten days away, so we had some time to kill. We checked the schedule of things to do in the Abacos and found that – Oh My God – we were in time for the Barefoot Man Concert!! Now most of you don’t know who the Barefoot Man is. He is kind of the Bahamas answer to Jimmy Buffet – except the Barefoot Man’s songs can be … how do I say this … naughty dirty nasty … (how about) a little raunchy. Although I refuse to give you the names of specific songs (this is a family blog after all), I will give you the name of a few of his CD’s: “Dirty Foot (The smutty Side of Barefoot Man)”, “Time Flies When You’re Havin’ Rum” and the ever favorite, “Thong Gone Wrong.” Now like all raunchy boat singers the Barefoot Man has groupies some of whom fly in for his once-a-year concert at Nippers, the “world famous” bar and grill. (It is world famous by fiat; they said they were world famous and therefore they must be.)


Some of the masses at the Barefoot Man Concert
We went to the concert and got re-acquainted with Mike and Mari aboard their boat, Mari Mi. Mike, it turns out, is a 1973 graduate of the Naval Academy. I know, right? Actually, I have been meeting more and more of those people who, I have discovered, are quite nice 364 days of the year. On that 365th day, though, I find them to be not even moderately tolerable. They actually cheer for Navy. Yuck. However, Mike introduced us to their friends, Glenn and Eddie, both of whom are retired FBI agents back in the day.  Also, Glenn had served in the Army as an MP so between him and me, we outnumbered that Navy person.

After our visit to Great Guana (the island on which Nippers is located), to Nippers and to the local grocery store (Ann, I am coming to believe, is developing a grocery store fetish) we went back to Marsh Harbor where we had another mini mechanical adventure. Our bank of starboard batteries failed.
Our starboard bank of batteries. I know them
so well by now, I have given them names:
Moe, Larry and Curly

In the States when your car battery fails, you buy a new one for $150 or so and have a mechanic put it in your car. On a boat in the Bahamas when a bank of batteries fails, you spend $250+ for each of the three batteries in the bank and follow the procedure Ann describes below. Remember too that you have to array the batteries in series and make sure they are connected, not only the engine, but to also to several ancillary devices. It is a long and involved process.


Treasure Cay is not really a Cay at all. It is a peninsula of Great Abaco that houses one of the few large developments that has succeeded in the Bahamas. It has a hotel, apartments, condos, houses and mansions, all of which are available for rent. They also have restaurants, a nice liquor store, a bakery, a couple of gift shops, a few bicycle and cart rental places and – need I say it? – a nice grocery store. All of that, however, that is ancillary to the beach. Treasure Cay has what is probably the most magnificent beach we have ever seen. It was rated by Travel Channel as one of the top ten beaches in the world, by Caribbean Travel and Life as the best Beach in the Caribbean and by the authors of the Traveling Soul Blog as one of the most beautiful beaches they have ever seen. It is 3.5 miles of soft, almost powdery white sand. The water is knee deep out a good 50 meters and because it is shallow, much warmer than the contiguous waters. And the best part is that in the six years we have come to the Bahamas, we have never seen more than 50-100 people on the whole beach. Some are cooling off in the water, some are walking the beach, but most are just enjoying the sun on a beach chair. In short, we love Treasure Cay.
 
One view of the beach at Treasure Cay.
This particular view is intended to make all of you
 who still live in snow country, jealous
Treasure cay has a marina, a mooring field and a small anchorage. We generally stay in the mooring field as it is less expensive than the marina with fairly good mooring connections. As we were dinghying in to the beach, I happened to see a boat with an “N” and a star on a blue field. Some of you know what that means. It means the Naval Academy. I told you I had met more swabbies on this trip than on any other. Anyway, it turns out that we had met the owners – Glenn and Debbie aboard their boat Calliope – at the Rendezvous we attended last October. At the time we did not know about the Navy thing. It is kind of interesting that, while he spent a career in the Navy on submarines, SHE is the Academy graduate, class of 1981. Anyway, again, on 364 days of the year we love spending time with them – but not on the 365th.

We had planned on spending three days at Treasure, but because a front was coming in we decided to spend another couple of days on our mooring ball – as did many other cruisers. The worst of the weather was supposed to come in Tuesday night and continue into Wednesday. It is amazing to me how many folks waited until the last minute to try and find shelter. All the balls were filled by early Tuesday but we had boats coming in Tuesday evening thinking that they would find a mooring ball. Then people started anchoring around the mooring field. That was okay until they started anchoring inside the field. Now that is a boating no-no. Moored boats swing on the mooring ball differently than anchored boats; there is a great opportunity to bump into one another.

One boat from Dream Yacht Charters toured the mooring field looking for a ball. Since he couldn’t find one he figured he would anchor. The problem was that this guy had no clue on how to anchor. As he continued to try, he kept drifting closer to us. Now, he was never close enough to cause a problem, but if dropped his anchor where he was drifting, he would be very close. So, with my cool sunglasses and Traveling Soul cap, I sat out on the foredeck looking as intimidating as I could without actually looking unwelcoming. I wasn’t the only one. There were several of our fellow cruisers out watching the show. Eventually, he gave up anchoring in that location and moved somewhere else. Good Riddance!

When the wind finally let up, we came back to Harbor View Marina to await our friends Dave and Joan Wolf. What did we do whole waiting? You guessed it. We went to the grocery store.

Ann’s Notes: Since I did not add anything to the last blog I thought I should at least put in my two cents worth, as my dad would say when I was a child. Not that it really mattered what I said but it made me fell better.

In this part of the blog I am going to explain why almost everything you do on a boat takes two people. I am amazed that single handlers can actually get any repairs done all by themselves.

So…one morning we woke up to start our engines … Port engine came to life, no problem. Starboard engine not so much. Michael went below, switched the batteries to parallel and she turned right up. Ok … we got her started this time, but what about tomorrow? Now we have to figure out why the engine did not start. By now, all of our reader are experts on the types of batteries we have on board from our previous blogs entries.  Before we went out and bought three new batteries and spend almost a boat unit, we needed to make sure that the batteries were really dead.

Here are the steps in order…

(1)    Lift hatch were the batteries are

(2)    Take a picture of all the cables. All three batteries are connected to one switch Taking the picture is very important..believe me

(3)    Get the funnel, Open the caps of the batteries to check, then fill with distilled water as needed. That takes about an hour because you are working around the heavy gage connecting cables.

(4)     Wait an hour for the batteries to recharge

(5)    Cross fingers that all the batteries needed was distilled water.

(6)    No such luck, we need three new Starboard side starting batteries

(7)    Call the local Napa store and find out if they have the three batteries we need

(8)    Disconnect all the cables and get the batteries off the boat

(9)    Get a dock cart to move the batteries once off the boat

(10) Move the batteries out of the battery box, down the hallway, up the first set of stairs, then another set of stairs. Put them on deck, then take them off the boat and put them into the waiting dock cart. Now each batteries weight about 55 pounds. I did my fair share of power lifting that day.

(11) Call a taxi to take us and the old batteries to the Napa

(12)Load the batteries into the taxi

(13)Drive to the Napa store, take out the old batteries

(14)Purchase the new batteries

(15)Load the new batteries into the taxi

(16)Unload the new batteries, out of the taxi , into the dock cart

(17)Ok…see what is coming next?  Yup…everything we did to get the old batteries off the boat, we now need to do again , only this time we need to install the new ones.

That my dear readers was a full days work and believe me, it took two people to get it all done.

The good news is we did it ourselves and the Starboard engine now starts went we turn the key.

Thanks for following us.

Traveling Soul…OUT

 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cat Island and More


“Ann, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” As I looked off our starboard bow, I could not see the horizon – a wave about fifteen feet high and about 200 meters distant was moving away from us. As I looked abaft our starboard beam there was another fifteen foot wave, this one heading for us. We were in the trough formed by two fifteen footers as they gently lifted us up and softly set us back down. It was like this for about an hour. Up, up, up and up … then down, down, down and down. When we were at the top of the wave, aft and to starboard we could see rows upon rows of waves heading for us; if we looked forward and to port there was wave after wave receding from us. It wasn’t really scary as much as it was awe-inspiring. There was really nothing of which to be afraid and there was certainly nothing either of us could do even if we were. We could just imagine the power of each of those waves, and imagine the power of the storm that produced them sending them hundreds of miles towards us. We felt like a little cork bobbing up and down in a big pond.

That was the story of our crossing between Little San Salvador and Cat Island. Yes, we knew what to expect – in a way. We had read the forecast that the remnants of Winter Storm Riley were going to produce some big waves with a long period in between, but we had never been in seas like that. We are usually more concerned with the chop on the waves rather than the waves themselves. Everything we read and everyone to whom we talked told us not to worry. And though they tried to describe the feeling of a little boat in a big ocean, they couldn’t quite convey the feeling. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but it is one of those events in life that you don’t understand until you have been there. By the way, Spot wasn’t impressed.

Again, I am far ahead of myself. The crossing from Cat to Eleuthera  came several days into this particular adventure, so let me catch you up.

Black Point

You may recall that we left you when we were at Big Major Spot near Staniel Cay. We wanted to move on and the next sensible anchorage in the chain was Black Point. There are four reasons cruisers go to Black Point. First, it is protected from the east. True, Big Major Spot (our previous anchorage) probably provides a little better protection under most wind conditions, but Big Major does not have the second reason people stop at Black Point: Mama’s delicious, home-made bread. If I can digress a minute, almost every country has its own cuisine. Italy. France. Portugal. Spain. Mexico. England; okay, maybe not England, but you get my drift. The Bahamas has only two claims to fame in its cuisine – conch (pronounced konk) and bread.  And Mama is the consummate bread maker. You can order your bread over the radio, of course, but the best way is to go to Mama’s house, open the door, go into the kitchen and tell her what you want. If she is not there, just wait until she returns.

The third reason people go to Black Point is the laundry. Ida (last name unknown) has turned her launderette into a serious money making operation. She has at least 12 washers and an equal number of driers – and on any given day, most of them are busy most of the time. What do you do while you are waiting? Ida can cut your hair, you can use her wi-fi or you can avail yourself of the book exchange or her little store. Ida has it all.

The fourth reason people go to Black Point is the restaurants. Right now, there are three of them that cruiser’s frequent (there will, I hear, soon be a fourth, but it is further out of town and may not make it as well as the big three). These restaurants aren’t fine dining. This is, after all, the Bahamas , but the food is pretty good – and did I mention that they have their own happy hours? I mention Happy Hour because it was at Scorpio’s Happy Hour on Friday evening that we had arranged to meet our friends Vic and Gigi, owners of the boat Salty Turtle. We saw them last in Black Point about a year ago and picked up our conversation exactly where it left off. I am thinking we’ll probably see them about a year from now and I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t in Black Point at Scorpio’s Happy Hour.

We only stayed in Black Point a couple of days (how long does it take to do laundry, eat lunch, go to happy hour and order a couple of loaves of Mama’s bread?). On Monday morning we decide that the weather had broken sufficiently that we could make it to George Town, so off we went. That was a mistake. Here I am going to turn over the narration to our security officer and Chief Spokes-cat, Spot.

Spot’s Narrative: You know, I just don’t understand humans. Here we are in a beautiful anchorage. The boat rolls gently side-to-side, the breeze ripples the waters, I can watch fish gliding under the boat and observe the birds as they soar above – and not least, of course, the humans leave the boat periodically so I can get some rest from being petted all the time.  This, you have to understand is like paradise to a cat; it is idyllic. Then THEY decide that we have to go somewhere else.

Now I don’t mind an occasional boat ride. Traipsing down the ICW where the waves are a few inches to maybe a foot (on bad days) is my idea if a nice boat outing. But these guys take me out into the North freakin’ Atlantic Ocean. And they pick days when those tsunami’s – as we call them in Catland – are breaking over the bow of the boat getting salt over everything and shaking me to hell and back. Do I get upset? You better believe it! Do I run and hide? You darn tootin’. 
Spot in her "other" favorite hiding place.
In a pillow fort on the sofa.

Do I sit on my blanket on the helm chair between members of my staff? Of course I do. Who else is going to get this dad gum boat back to a nice calm anchorage if they both fall out the door? Would I push them out? Of course not … well, probably not … well, not as long as they don’t take us back into the freakin’ ocean!

As you can see, Spot is – shall we say – not a fan of ocean raveling. At any rate, after we left Black Point, it didn’t take long for us to figure out that the waves were not only too much for Spot, they were too much for us as well, so we headed in the next Cut, back to the relative safety and comfort of the Exuma Banks. As soon as we entered Little Farmer’s Cut, the waves decreased, we weren’t shaking as much, Spot was meowing again and all was right with the world.

While at Farmer’s I noticed that my batteries weren’t behaving exactly as I thought they should, so we decided to head for Emerald Bay Marina, put a max charge on them, let Spot rest for a night and catch our breaths. (I don’t know of anything is wrong with the batteries. I am going to wait a couple of days until we get out of our current marina and check them again. Don’t worry, I’ll keep everyone posted.)

On the way to Emerald Bay I heard the now familiar whir. (Note, there is no capital “W,” no exclamation mark, and only one “r” in this whir. I tell you that so you don’t get your expectations raised.) The one good thing about this bite was that I actually SAW the fish take the lure. We were trolling, I needed a break from the helm so I stepped back to watch the lure in the water. Bam, he took it. I wish I could say he jumped several feet into the air as he gulped the lure down, but I just got a glimpse of color as he took it. It was kind of anticlimactic. Anyway, about thirty to forty seconds later, I felt the line go slack. My leader had broken. (For non-fisherpeople, the leader is a line that connects the lure to the fishing line itself. It usually is much stronger that the monofilament line from the reel. This leader was 100# test. Go figure.) Now, I readily admit that I am not a great fisherman, and I lose my share of fish due to a combination of inexperience and ineptitude. It is when the dad gum manufacturers let me down that I get really upset. Ok, for any of you doubters, I kept the broken leader and I am prepared to show it to anyone. Hmm, I just had a thought. I wonder if I could return it to West Marine for a refund. I’m gonna find out.

Ok, one more fish story. While “fighting” the Mahi, I saw in the distance a school of black fin tuna jumping out of the water and having a great time. Well, we turned the boat around and ran through the school hoping one of them was hungry. Nothing. Then we ran through the school one more time and do you know what? We hooked one. We lost him too. When we got him up to the transom, Ann and I were not very coordinated on lifting him up because we hadn’t been able to practice very much this year, and he got away. I know. I am 0 -3 this year and only have a few more chances to catch anything. Luckily, our neighbor in Cat Island was a serious fisherman. He not only gave me some pointers, but also gave me a couple of lures – one for wahoo and one for tuna. We’ll see!

In George Town, we finally linked up with our good friends, Russ and Lori. They had been in George Town for a month and caught us up on the local goings-on. As you probably know, the anchorage at George Town is kind of “Cruiser Central” in the Bahamas. Everybody comes down to re-provision, meet friends and participate in the regatta. This year’s count of ~250 boats, however, was far less that the 300 or so that were at anchor this time last year. We are not big fans of George Town, but we do like meeting our friends and we did need to re-provision. Our initial intention was to stay for a week or so,  but the more we looked at the weather – and the time available – we decided that, if we really wanted to get to Cat Island, we were going to have to cut our time in George Town short and get moving.

While we were there, though, we had a good time. Russ and Lori took us on a dinghy tour, showing us the area where they, in their shallow draft catamaran, generally anchor when bad weather comes.  We also tried to go to lunch. Yes, I said “tried.” Some of you know, and others may have even been, to “Chat and Chill,” the local hangout. Everyone goes to Chat and Chill. The four of us went for a little lunch after the dinghy tour. Ann and I ordered a beer each and were going to split an order of French Fries. The way it works at Chat and Chill is that you place your order, get your beer and wait for them to tell you when your food is ready. I know. You’re thinking, “well, that’s not so unusual, that’s the way it works at our local MacDonalds.” I’m sorry, but fast food the Chat and Chill ain’t. It is not unusual to wait a half-hour or forty-five minutes for even a small order. But at the end of an hour, Ann went to check on our order. Don’t worry, they said, it is coming. Ok, we thought, that’s the Bahamas; we were having a good time with Russ and Lori regardless. Thirty minutes later, however, she checked again. Oh! They forgot to tell us the fryer was down. The fryer was down. How did they think they were going to cook French fries? We learned once again that there is the American way, the Bahamian way and somewhere down at the line is the Chat and Chill way.

  Cat Island

Father Jerome's Hermitage
Our main new adventure this year was to visit Cat Island. It is an island about 3 miles wide and 48 miles long in the eastern central Bahamas. It was named after Arthur Catt, a pirate who is identified as an “associate” of Blackbeard. Apparently, he visited the island frequently and hid his booty there. In fact, the island’s major town is named Arthur’s Town after, you guessed it, Captain Catt. I have tried to look up Catt on line and can’t find our very much about him. Maybe he was more successful than his more famous, but headless, friend, Blackbeard.
The beach at Hawk's Nest Marina. Hey, someone
has to do it!

For nearly four centuries, Cat was called “San Salvador,” because most people thought that it was the island where Columbus first landed and because Columbus called the island where he landed San Salvador. However, after what I imagine was a number of academic conferences, a lot of research and – at least one elderly islander believes – an exchange of money, “Cat” was changed to Cat and the former Watling’s Island was changed to San Salvador. All of this happened in 1926. Few serious scholars today think that Cat was the spot of the First Landing; by the same token, few serious scholars before the twentieth century thought that Cat WASN’T the site of the First Landing.


We stayed at the Hawk’s Nest Marina near the southern tip of the island. The marina itself is somewhat rustic, with older, but fully functional fixed docks. Nevertheless, it has all the services cruisers need and more. There is an excellent (and cheap) laundry, very clean showers and restrooms, a nice beach and a wonderful captain’s lounge with pool, ping pong table and darts. About ¼ mile away (reachable by one of the resort’s free bicycles) is the rest of the resort with another beach, a good restaurant, a nice pool and an “honor bar.” The marina is really designed for serious sports fishermen, who spend most of their time fishing for billfish. Our neighbors at the marina were Joanne and John aboard their sports fisher boat, Argo. John gave me several fishing tips and even a couple of lures for tuna and wahoo. No, I have not caught anything with them yet.
The view from atop Mt. Alvernia.
Damn that Cell Tower!

While there, we rented a car and drove almost the entire length of the island, so we can attest that only about 2/3 of it is reachable by paved road – and some of that isn’t paved very well. There are “pot craters” along the entire length of the road, especially in the south where we are.  Driving on Cat is a unique driving experience. Anyway, we visited several sites while in the car. First and foremost we visited The Hermitage on Mt. Alvernia. Mt. Alvernia, at 206 feet, is the highest spot in the Bahamas and from there you can see for miles and miles and miles. Those of us who cannot walk very well (moi) were able to make it up the hill because you have to “lean into it’” as my Dad used to tell me. And I can walk leaning forward very well; it is just the upright walking that causes a problem. Anyway, the view from the mount is stunning and if it weren’t for the BTC cell tower in the middle of the view just might be the prettiest spot in the Bahamas.

What is special about Mt. Alvernia is that Monsignor John Hawes, known to Cat Islanders and Bahamians in general as Father Jerome, built The Hermitage on its peak in 1939. Father Jerome was well now as a skilled architect and sculptor and was responsible for designing and building cathedrals and convents throughout the Bahamas. Using local stone he built The Hermitage, a small medieval-looking monastery, where he could get away from the world.
The Blue Hole Near Orange Creek. We were on the
lookout for the Monster that Devours Horses.

We also visited what seems to be called, “the Big Blue Hole near Orange Creek.” This particular blue hole is said, by locals, to house a monster that devours horses. According to one website, “This folklore still scares local fisherman from venturing too far in this freshwater lake.” (Actually, the lake isn’t fresh, it is kind of brackish.) There are a number of other superstitions around Cat Island. There is another blue hole, for example, in the southern part of the island that supposedly houses a Mermaid. And then there are the locals who still practice a type of voodoo know as Obeah. It came with the first African slaves that worked the island in the nineteenth century. Voodoo charms are still used to protect orchards from thieves and can be seen atop homes to ward off evil spirits. Moreover, the island is speckled with ruins of slaves’ quarters. Apparently, it is smart to keep the spirits of your ancient relatives around you – for luck.
One of the many ruins of slave quarters.

On our trip to the blue hole near Orange Creek we also visited a cave. I walked in the entrance and saw that it went back at least a hundred feet. I couldn’t see much more because I wasn’t smart enough to bring a flashlight with me. Oh well. And finally, we visited the “Fish Fry.” I am not sure what the name means or where it came from, but there were maybe a dozen shacks that served various forms of Bahamian and American food. We went to one and split an order of cracked conch – which was too tough – and a Kalik beer, which was delicious.

We also hung around the resort a little and schmoozed with other guests. We wanted to stay longer and to anchor at New Bight for a while, but we took a look at the weather and decided that we would, instead, head for Rock Sound in Eleuthera. We had been there before and really liked it. Once we got to Rock Sound, however, we saw a weather window that would allow us to cross the Northeast Providence Channel in a couple of days. If we missed this window, it could be over a week before we saw another. Since we have friends coming to Marsh Harbor in the Abacos, we decided we would move out of Rock Sound and up to Royal Island and take the opportunity to get to Marsh. So after waiting out the wind in Rock Sound, we headed north to spend a night at Royal Island in anticipation of leaving the next day.

 





Sunday, February 25, 2018

Northern Exumas


I am going to take a minute away from our chronicles to tell you about an odd (interesting?) happening. I have reported on this before, but it has been a while. A friend of mine notified me that I had lost another friend’s e-mail address. He jokingly attributed it to the Russians – as we both frequently do; we are among those, you see, who remember the “old days.” Well, Jeff may have been joking, but it caused me to take a look at the statistics that we keep on who is reading my blog. This is just for the month of February. See anything interesting? So, if there are any misspellings or other errors of fact in the blog entry for this month, it is probably because the Russians are trying to plant false news about the Bahamas. Who knows, maybe the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Canadians are plotting something. I’m just sayin’.

United States
460
Russia
126
Bahamas
32
Canada
26
Ireland
10
Portugal
4
France
3
United Kingdom
2
Ukraine
2
Australia
1

 After our visit to Palm Cay marina we headed south to the Exumas. The Exuma Chain has 365 islands and cays, but only about 7000 people. Only a few of those islands and cays are suitable for human occupation, so most are uninhabited. Provisions and services, as you might expect, are few and far between, so, before we left Nassau we made one last run to the grocery store to bulk up on food and other necessary provisions (like rum). Water is especially difficult to find and if you can find it you are going to pay through the nose ($0.50 per gallon or more), so we make our own water with our rather old, but still functional, reverse osmosis watermaker.

Ann and I both love the Exumas. The problem is that other people are finding it too. When we started coming here six years ago there were far fewer people and a lot less boats. We are sitting here on one of the islands, for example, where a few years ago there would have been three or four boats with us; today, I counted fifteen. It is still better than sitting at home in Maryland watching the snow fall, or coming into Nassau on a cruise ship with over a thousand of our best friends.

At any rate, the first island at which we usually stop in the Exumas is Highbourne Cay. The night we arrived we had lobster tales that Ann had bought a week or two ago at Great Harbor to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our arrival in the Exumas. I love, love, love lobster and the meal was scrumptious.

One of the many views from the restaurant. It looks like
this for 180 degrees.
As you might expect from a name like “Highbourne” the folks on the Cay are kind of snooty. At the Highbourne Cay Marina, for example, you will, at any one time, find at least four or five 100+ foot yachts and their crews. So, I know you are asking why we stop there. Well, there is this restaurant (isn’t there always?). It is called Xuma, and it has both delicious food, and a view to die for. The night we went, I asked for and received lightly blackened Mahi and Ann had, what they called “Shrimp and Grits,” which was really more like seafood and grits. We both loved our meals. Now, we have eaten there before and it is one of those places where you marvel at the view, enjoy your cocktails, savor your meal and then close your eyes and sign the check. The two of us dropped about two bills (c’mon, it’s only 1/5 of a boat unit). We can’t and don’t do it too often but, hey, we intrepid explorers have to eat too!

I know, I know. Here I told you how few provisions there were in the Exumas and how we were metaphorically going to live off the land; then I told you about an extraordinary dining experience. Well, Highbourne is actually the last outpost of civilization for quite a distance and while they have a great restaurant, you couldn’t survive off the food they have in their little “7-11 type” convenience store. After two days there we were off to Norman’s Cay.

Norman’s has an interesting recent history. If you remember – or have heard of – the drug lord Carlos Lehder of the Medellin Cartel, then you have heard of Norman’s Cay. He owned most of the island and treated it as his personal fiefdom. He lived there, transshipped drugs there, kept a ton or so of cocaine as his emergency stash, paid off the police and generally treated the island as his own. Eventually, the combined forces of the DEA, the US Coast Guard and the Bahamian Defense Force kicked Lehder off the island and took it back. You can still see his shot-up house, and the remains of the “Hotel” where he kept his guests. Nowadays they are expanding and rebuilding the airport and rebuilding a small resort to help the island recover.


Monique, the lunch waitress and bartender at Mc Duff's,
 showing off her bar.
Part of the recovery includes building a small beach bar called “McDuff’s.”We had heard a lot of bad stories (high prices, bad service, etc.), but decided t give it a try anyway. First, we had to find it. It is off the beach and back in the woods. You can’t see it from the beach, so you just have to kind of wander along the cinder paths. Wander we did until found off a small path just off the beach that led right to the restaurant (wish we had known about the path before we started wandering!). When we got there we loved it. It has a definite out-islands kitschy feel to it. With both a darkened inside bar area (and a good supply of various kinds of rum) and a screened-in outside salon it looks like one of the ex-pat bars you see in the movies. We only had a couple of beers and some (very crispy and very good) French fries and it cost us $26 – no one can call this a cheap kitschy restaurant.

Afterwards, we took the dinghy around most of the perimeter of Norman’s. We saw the south side anchorage where they are rebuilding the marina. The anchorage, itself, we decided, was way too rolly for our tastes in east winds – though it might be great with winds from the north or west – so we decided to stay where we were. There is a sunken plane in the anchorage that some folks snorkel, and there are some interesting houses on Wax Cay just to the south. We had visited before Norman’s before, of course, but things are changing – not very rapidly, mind you – nothing changes rapidly in the Bahamas – but changing nonetheless.

For those of you who are interested in our boating procedures, I should mention that we have made a change in the way we travel between islands. In years past, we have lowered our dinghy every time we arrived at a new place; we then raised it when we were ready to leave. When we were young 60 year old whipper-snappers it wasn’t THAT hard. Now that we are … let’s just say 60+ … it is getting more and more difficult. As a result, we have decided to use a side-tow technique when we are moving between islands that are close together. A side-tow is exactly what it sounds like. We place a fender on the dinghy’s side, tie the bow of the dinghy to one of our forward cleats and the stern to one of our aft cleats. Why on the side rather than off the stern like many people do? With two 550 horsepower motors, we make quite a disturbance in the water. Since almost all the dinghy’s weight is in its stern, when we tow it behind the boat, I am always afraid that it will flip and we will be out a chunk of money (to say nothing of the dink). There is very little disturbance on the side of the boat and I feel a lot more comfortable towing it there.

At any rate, we towed the dinghy from Norman’s to one of our favorite Exuma islands, Shroud Cay. Shroud is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The Park, established in 1958, is one of 25 National Parks and Protected Areas managed by the Bahamas National Trust. Unique in the world, the Trust is the only non-profit, non-governmental agency mandated with management of a nationwide system of parks and protected areas. In 1986, The Trust established Exuma Park as a complete NO TAKE ZONE and marine protected area, the first in the wider Caribbean. Ok, some of that is extracted from one of the many pamphlets we have on the park, but you get the idea.

We arrived at Shroud and dropped our anchor at about midday on 16 Feb. In the past we have taken a mooring ball, instead of anchoring, but with two rate increases in the past few years mooring balls are getting way too expensive. Moreover, we got there at the wrong time of day. The entrance (and exit) to the best sights at Shroud are very shallow. When the tide is ebbing, it is very difficult to get in or out. We learned that lesson a few years ago when we journeyed into the river during ebb tide. By the time we got back, the water was barely a few inches deep and we almost got stuck there for the night; it was only the vast muscle power of a couple of intrepid explorers that lifted the dinghy enough to get past the shallows. We weren’t going to do that again. This time we decided to wait until the tide was coming in.
The view from Camp Driftwood, high above Shroud Cay.

Shroud is about 4 miles x 2 miles and is kind of a mini-archipelago. Although they are actually connections between the Exuma Bank and Exuma Sound (the shallow side and the ocean deep side), thin veins of water seem as if they are rivers cutting deep into and through the mangroves. The “rivers” are about ten feet deep (except for the mouth – see below) and in the gin-clear Bahamian waters, you can see rays, turtles, fish and various kinds of birds. On our trip this time, we saw several kinds of fish, a number of birds that we had not seen before, a good-sized turtle swimming in the water and a ray. When it is hot – and it wasn’t hot when we went through this time – you kind of feel like Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in African Queen. “Mr. Allnut,” I expected to hear, “don’t you think it is a bit hot today?” Ok, Ok, maybe not, but the trip down the “river” is spectacular. Then when you reach the Sound (ocean) side, you are welcomed with a beautiful beach. About 100 feet above the beach is Camp Driftwood, where, according to various stories, DEA agents observed Norman’s Cay and captured the tail numbers of the Medellin Cartel airplanes taking off from and landing at Norman’s Cay.

At any rate we finished exploring Shroud on the 17th. Now we had a dilemma. We had planned on moving down to one of two spots in the Land and Sea Park and spending a couple of nights there. One, at Cambridge Cay we had visited before and enjoyed. The other, Pirate’s Lair, we had only visited once several years ago and thought it might be fun to go back. The problem was that the wind was due to pick up significantly in the next couple of days. We needed to determine not what we wanted to do over the next 24 or 48 hours, but where we wanted to spend the next week or so. While the Park locations would have been great for a little while, we were not sure we wanted to send a week there. So, we opted for Big Major Spot.

We have stayed in Big Major Spot before. You might remember it as the home of the Bahamas’ famous  swimming pigs. For us, it is primarily a big anchorage with solid protection from the east, and some from the south, with sand that holds your anchor in place almost regardless of the wind speed. The reason we chose Big Major Spot is that is costs nothing – the Parks mooring balls cost us over $50 per night (I know, right?) – plus we have some good friends, Bill and Regina, aboard their boat Meant2B. In addition, there are maybe 50 boats here and we thought we might be able to meet other people.

We arrived at Big Major Spot and the first thing we tried to do was go to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (SCYC). Like McDuff’s this is kind of like a classic ex-pats bar. The difference is that SCYC is (almost) the real thing. I say “almost” because it used to be the real thing, but in recent years has become busy, very busy with boaters, yachties and tourists of all stripes; I don’t think there is an ex-pat anywhere in the neighborhood. The place really has quite a history. In fact, the famous Grotto from the James Bond movie, Thunderball is located near the Yacht Club AND they actually have pictures of the Thunderball film crew in the bar. I don’t know why “Bond, James Bond,” himself isn’t pictured. He must have been putting on his tuxedo.

The increasingly famous swimming pigs at Big Major.
You will notice that in the first sentence I said we TRIED to visit the yacht club. Well, the wind made the chop so bad that the trip was untenable, so we dropped in to see our friends Bill and Regina, who, this year had their daughter’s best friend’s son (I think I have that right) Matt with them. We have known Bill, Regina and Matt since we first met them in Nassau several years ago and have kept track of them ever since. They had us over for a drink that, with Bill’s great Greek cooking, turned into dinner. Other than that, we made a dinghy tour of the anchorage and some of the areas nearby that are out of the wind, learned the meaning of the term cerulean and why it is important in the Bahamas specifically and the Caribbean more generally, and we waited.

Well, that just about catches you up. We are now sitting about 10 miles south of Big Major at Black Point, but we will tell you about our time here in the next entry.

Ann’s Notes: I really do not have much to add to the blog. It has been windy and the water in the protected anchorages has been good holding.  Trying to venture out of the protected waters means you get very wet in the dinghy. Most of you know that I am not a fan of salt water and I am much happier when it is not on me.  Fresh water pools are my preference … thank you very much. Just to be clear, I like walking on the beach and I look forward to rinsing the sand off my feet when I get back. Just saying.

Spot has been enjoying her free time on the bow of Traveling Soul while we are at anchor. She follows the sun during the day, like a small sunflower, always wanting to be in the sun, silly little feline that she is.

Official Guard Cat Spot, patrolling the kayak,
 looking for prey.
It was so good to visit Bill and Regina and Matt once again. They were out of country for two years, Bill took a job in Egypt. They kept their boat in Titusville FL while they were gone. Meant2B is up and cruising again, and receiving visitors. They have more friends and family visit than most cruisers I know. If they would stop being so nice … just kidding.

I have been busy with a few cross stitch projects, reading and a few new recipes. We finished watching the full TV series of Burn Notice and are now watching Northern Exposure, it case you were wondering what we are watching after dinner.

That is about all for now.

Traveling Soul…OUT