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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Exumas I: 1 Feb - 11 March 2014

Some of you may have been wondering why we haven’t published a blog entry for over a month. The answer is simple … my computer is broken. I don’t mean there is a little software glitch or that the screen isn’t as bright as it should be. I mean the darn keyboard is screwed up. It refuses, for example, to print a “c;” instead, when you press the “c” key, it prints “xc;” Instead of printing an “s” it prints “sd;” an “e” becomes  an “e<return>” … I could go on, but you get the idea. So, my advice is never, never, never buy an HP computer. Yes, it is still under warranty and if we were in the States, I am sure they would respond immediately. But we are in the Bahamas which makes things inordinately complicated. It would (literally) take weeks to get a new one back and, warranty notwithstanding, I would have to pay a small fortune in FEDEX charges … and we do not want to stay in Nassau for weeks.
I know. Some of you are thinking “so why didn’t you use Ann’s computer?” Well, in the first place it is PINK. I mean former infantrymen do not use pink computers! In the second place, it is the principle, man. I have not been without a computer since I bought my first Commodore 64 in 1982. The fact that Hewlett Packard made me break that string is a bit upsetting.  (I am sorry, have I already said, “Never, never, never buy an HP computer.”)

Okay, now that I have vented, I guess I should explain, in general terms, what we have been doing for the past month, then I’ll cover some of the more interesting adventures in more detail.
After leaving Eleuthera we headed for Warderick Wells, part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park (about which, more later). The day we crossed the sea that separates Eleuthera from the Exumas – Exuma Sound – the weather was wonderful. The sun was out, there was just enough of a breeze to keep us cool, the ocean swell couldn’t have been over three feet, the period between the swells was at least ten seconds and there was little or no chop on top of the swells. In short, it was a great day to be a boater.

The Exuma Land and Sea Park.
“Created in 1958 this 176 square mile park was the first of its kind in the world and is famous for its pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment. It is the first marine fishery reserve established in the Caribbean.”  AND it is really cool. Warderick Wells is the Park’s headquarters and, as you might remember, we briefly visited last year. While we returned to some of the same island locations we had already seen, we also went to two new places.

The first new place was the ruins of a loyalist plantation. For those of you who don’t know, after the American Revolution many loyalist planters found they could not live in the new United States – they didn’t like the government and, quite frankly, the government didn’t like them. So, with grants of Bahamian land from the King of England, many of these Loyalists headed to some of the islands to re-establish their plantations. We have visited a number of these supposed “plantations” and the absence of any kind of topsoil has long made us wonder how the heck those planters thought they were going to establish plantations. We have since learned that many of the islands were timber-rich in the old days. But about 100 years ago, companies started “harvesting” Bahamian lumber by clear-cutting the islands. As a consequence, between the regular trade winds and periodic hurricanes, with nothing to hold it in place, the topsoil has been blown away. Now, many of the islands are semi-arid – and certainly couldn’t support a plantation. Nevertheless, we did get to see the ruins of the house, the kitchen and, we think, the slave quarters. It sure was a different day and time.
The second location we visited this year for the first time was the southern mooring area, called Hog Cay, for the island across the narrow straits. We were the only boat there and the scenery was magnificent. In addition, we also went snorkeling for the first time this year – though next time we need to keep a little better track of the currents flowing though the mooring field and where they are going!

When we left Warderick Wells we had intended to drop our hook in one of the many anchorages indicated in the Explorer Chart Book that we use. We passed a few of them deliberately – they didn’t look like anchorages to us. We dropped our anchor twice in areas that were marked as anchorages, but when we settled down, we decided that we were not comfortable in these locations. On we went. We were getting a bit concerned. It wasn’t getting late, but we had no idea where we were going to spend the night. At about that time we heard Salty Turtle come up on the radio.  We had met the captain and first mate of the Turtle (Gigi and Vic) several times in the past and they told us they were going to stay at Big Majors Spot. After a quick check of the charts, we decided that would be a good place for us to stay, too.

Big Major Spot, Little Farmer’s Cay and Georgetown
Big Major Spot is a very popular anchorage and there must have been 50 boats there. We only stayed one day, however, because our dinghy had sprung an air leak. We knew what we were supposed to do, so we covered the leaky pontoon with soapy water and looked for bubbles – which would indicate from where the air was leaking. We spread soapy water and checked the pontoon three or four times and saw nothing. We probably spent an hour or more until we decided that we needed some help. So we headed to Staniel Cay Yacht Club (the only marina in the area), took a slip for the night and asked for someone who could help us. A guy who captained charter boats out of Nassau volunteered, so we took him up to Traveling Soul. I swear, it was no more than three or four minutes before he found our leak. And when he pointed it out to us, it was obvious. How did we miss it?!?!?! He also knew how to repair it – and fixing a leak is about a 24 hour process when time for “curing” the glue is included. Ok, follow me here. We came in the Friday before the Super Bowl and were going to have to stay until Sunday morning anyway – wouldn’t you go ahead and spend one more day to watch what-we-were-hoping-would-be -one-of-the-best-football-games-of-the-year-that-turned-out-to-be-one-of-the-worst-Super-Bowls-ever? Well, we did. B-O-R-I-N-G.

After the not-so-Super Bowl, a bunch of people headed down to Little Farmer’s Cay for the 5-F (First Friday in February Farmer’s Festival). Although we followed the crowd and went to the Festival, I will say that it wasn’t one of the most enjoyable times we have had, except for one thing. We met Ken and Barbara on their boat Barbara. We’ll write more about them later, but after 5F, it was on to Georgetown.

Now Georgetown is supposed to be a Cruiser’s Mecca.  And maybe it is. For some people. Not for us. Some folks go straight to Georgetown and spend the entire winter there. The must love it.

First the good things:
·         There is an excellent grocery store.
·         There are several nice beaches.
·         And there is a beach bar named the Chat and Chill.
·         I’m sorry, that’s about it.
On the negative side:
·         There are about 250 boats many of whose captains seem to want to anchor very close (in my mind a bit too close) to all their friends.
·         High School cliquishness has nothing on the cliquishness among boaters at Georgetown.  
·         EVERYTHING is organized. Volleyball, softball, conch-blowing, etc. There just isn’t a lot of just cool things to do, like hiking, snorkeling and swimming.
·         Although there is a nice grocery store, there aren’t many other stores. The town is only about 1000 people.

One night we were there, the weatherman predicted pretty heavy winds from the west. Most of the anchorages (ours included) offer reasonable protection from the east, but not much from the west. So we checked our anchor and decided that it was in solid so all we did was to let out a little more chain to ensure we would not drag. A little later in the evening a small French sailboat came and dropped its anchor about 200 feet from us. That in itself wasn’t so bad. But I want you to imagine an anchorage of about 50 boats. Imagine further that the wind is coming from the east. What you should be seeing in your mind’s eye is that all the boats are a couple of hundred feet apart and all facing in the same direction. Now imagine what happens when the wind changes 90 degrees. If all the boats have the same amount of anchor line (rode) out, they will all swing with the wind and should stay approximately the same distance apart. If, however, some small French sailboat whose captain doesn’t know what he is doing only puts out about ¼ of the rode he should have, then the rather large boat off his starboard beam is likely to swing into him – or to come very close. In fact, we came so close and I was so concerned that we might hit him that I turned on our engines for about a half-hour (in case we had to move quickly) and Ann showed our spotlight into his windows. Eventually, a very sleepy, very stupid Frenchman came out and let out a few more feet of rode.  He never, of course, apologized or even acknowledged our existence.

Earlier I mentioned Ken and Barbara aboard Barbara. Ken is another one of those very handy boaters, so he studied our generator (with which we are still having problems). He tried a few fixes that helped a little, then gave me a solenoid to take the place of the one we had jury-rigged in Marsh Harbor. Thanks, Ken!! Even more importantly, Ken is a big time fisherman. He gave me line and lures so I could try my own hand at fishing when we went into deep water. (Ken, I tried everything but haven’t caught anything – yet. Don’t worry, I am going to keep trying until we feast on Mahi-Mahi.) Anyway, Ken and Barbara kept us sane through our Georgetown interlude.
After Georgetown, back we went to Emerald Rock. There we found a fresh water leak. For those of you who read this blog frequently, you will know  that this has happened before – and that we are usually very good at repairing them. This time, though, the leak was between two compartments and was very difficult to get to. At this point, our generator was still acting up and our fresh water system was no longer functioning – and our provisions were running low. It was time to head to Nassau.

Nassau to the Exumas and Back Again

Of course we arrived in Nassau on Friday, which meant we could not get anyone new to look at our generator until Monday. Meanwhile, I went out, found the hose we needed for our fresh water system and, rather than repair the leak, we ran a new hose from the fresh water pump to the second water filter – the forty feet of hose that we had repaired at least five times in the past year. It took a while and we had to contort our bodies a number of interesting ways – and sixty year old bodies don’t contort as easily as some thirty year old bodies do – but we did it. It has now been two weeks and we are leak-free (knock on wood). As far as the generator is concerned, I am not sure our repairman fixed it, but it is working better than it did before. At least that is a step in the right direction.

Finally, we were ready to head south again – then three things happened. The first was our fault. For the past month we had enjoyed such good weather that I forgot to check the wind direction before choosing an anchorage (or in this case, a mooring field). The field was well-protected from the east and from the north. Unfortunately, the wind and waves were from the south and west. Although I would have to check our log closely, I think this was probably the worst night we have spent on the boat – ever. For one of us (moi) it was – quite literally – nauseating.

After recovering the next day we found that something else had happened; our watermaker had stopped working. So … back to Nassau. On the way back, though, a third thing happened: we hit some nasty weather. It didn’t start out badly, but the further north we went the more those three foot waves on our starboard beam gave way to five foot waves on our starboard beam. One of them was particularly nasty. Ann was on her way up the stairs just as we hit one of those waves. It threw her forward into the lamp and end table. The result? A broken lamp and a whopper of a bruise on Ann’s leg.

Anyway, here we are back in Nassau with our generator seemingly running well, our water maker fixed, our dinghy repaired and our fresh water system working like a top. Our friends Dave and Joan Wolf arrive tomorrow and, after that (and a day to let the “big blow” pass, we’ll be on our way south again, back into the exotic Exumas.
ANN’S NOTES:  Michael had told you the highlights of our adventure so far. It is my job to add a few comments and some more details from my point of view to the events.

I am beginning to understand how remote some of these islands really are. Once you leave the bigger cities like Nassau, and the few marinas that are in the area, you get the sense that you are really on your own. Our fellow boaters  that we meet all know what I am talking about. I do need to plan ahead in almost everything we do and need on the boat. I am thankful  that I am a well organized person and can plan ahead pretty well.

I love being able to visit and explore all these beautiful islands from the comfort of our floating home. I am sure I have not been on an island that I would want to live on full time. The Bahaman people are wonderful, but the ones that live on the out islands really do live in a third world environment.

We have met so many wonderful people and have revisited friend we have made on past trips here and on the ICW. That is what makes cruising fun….
The weather so far has been rather nice, you may think I am crazy but I do miss the four seasons and that does include snow. Our son sent video clip of our grandchildren sledding down the hill next to their home and I loved to hear how much fun they were having and wanted so much to be part of that day.

I will have to tell you that when the waves and the boat went in one direction and I went in another…it scared the he** out of me. The sound of the lamp breaking and me not being able to stop it from happening was not a good day for me.  It will take a little longer for the bruise to heal but I as long as I do Reiki on the bruise, put Arnica on the area and work my reflexology magic, I should be up and running soon. The lesson learned with this fall is…nature and power of wind, water , waves and currents will always win over a human being no matter how careful that person is.

Wild Life Report:
  • Flying fish
  • Sea Rays
  • Nurse Sharks
  • Star Fish
  • Yellow tail snapper
  • Turtles
  • Small reef fish
  • Dolphin
  • Hutias…Michael will tell you about them…his love of rodents will shine when he explains what they are…
Thanks for reading…

This blog was typed on my Dell computer with a beautiful PINK cover … my computer still works… Just saying …

Traveling Soul…OUT