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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Governor's Harbor to Staniel Cay

Before I completely leave the subject of Governor’s Harbor, I have a bit of ‘fessing up to do. It was hot, I mean very, very hot. Moreover, we had made the mistake of not putting up the sun shield on our front windshields. Since we were facing southwest, the sun was heating up our “pilothouse” every afternoon. In fact, it was well over 90 degrees inside the pilothouse during part of the time we were there. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t quite that hot in the salon, but it was still very, very warm.  At 1700 we usually start up the generator to recharge the batteries, to provide electricity for cooking, etc. Well, on the second day we were in Governor’s Harbor, the heat got to me. I made a command decision and TURNED ON THE FLIPPIN’ AIR CONDITIONER!!! Within minutes, the room was tolerable and within 15 minutes or so, it was actually getting cool. Ann, the woman who abhors the heat had nothing to do with it. (She made me say that!) There. I have admitted that I was the one who wanted the air conditioner!

After Governor’s Harbor, we were off to Rock Sound. Rock Sound is near the southern tip of Eleuthera. It is a body of water about two miles wide by four miles long with an opening about a mile wide in there are channels from one side to the other. Now, the good part about Rock Sound from a boater’s point of view is that if weather comes from the north, you can anchor near the northern end; if from the south, you can anchor near the southern end, etc. So, in my view, it is not just an anchorage, it is set of anchorages. When we arrived, we had heard that the weather was coming from the northeast, so we decided to anchor near the northeast end. The other good thing about Rock Sound is that it can hold a lot of boats. When we arrived and headed for the northeast corner, we found that we were not the only people who can read weather forecasts. There were seventeen other boats there – but we all had lots of room. It was a great anchorage.

The weather was also decent while we were at Rock Sound. Yes, it was overcast and yes, it did rain once or twice. But it was cool – and after our experience with the heat in Governor’s Harbor, we were certainly ready for a little chill. We walked around the settlement, visited some nice gift shops and a grocery store, that while not on par with Marsh Harbor in the Abacos, was  very well-stocked.

Ann's back and the Ocean Hole at Rock Sound.
Now, Rock Sound doesn’t have thousands of tourist attractions, but one that it does have is called the “Ocean Hole.” The Hole is about ½ mile from the Sound and is basically a hole in the island that is filled with sea water – and it is 600 feet deep! Yes, you read that correctly. I’ll bet you are wondering how, if the Sound is only 6-10 feet deep for most of its width and length, can the Hole be 600 feet deep. That would be a good question, except that the connection between the ocean and the Hole is not through the Sound, it is to the other side of the island – the Atlantic Ocean!! It is basically a cave like Carlsbad and others in the States, it is just that this one is underwater. There were all sorts of ocean fish in the Hole and it was fun seeing them up close and personally without having to snorkel.

After the Ocean Hole we stopped by a little restaurant/bar for conch and beer and while there met three couples, vacationing together, who had flown in from the States (actually, one of them flew in from Scotland), as well as the crew from Sophia. We turned a short conch-and-beer stop into an hour-and-a-half gabfest and had a great time.

Our plan all along had been to go to the Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina before jumping across the Sound to the Exumas. We had stayed at the marina before, but were surprised to see that they actually had built up more of the resort (including a swimming pool) and that they had some guests staying there. The last time we were there, no one was staying in the resort and only one other boat was at the marina. While we were at Cape Eleuthera, it was very windy and it continued to rain on and off – but at least it wasn’t hot.

Without much else to do, Ann and I decided that we would rent a car (at $90 per day) and tour parts of the island that we couldn’t see from the sea. We rented from Friendly Bob’s Car Rental, which is not to be confused with Big Daddy’s Car Rental – which is apparently the competition.  Although we already knew it, we realized once again how poor of a country the Bahamas is. Moreover, it is very sparsely populated.  Eleuthera, the island we were exploring, is 110 miles or so long, and although it can be as narrow as one mile, it is probably an average of 2-3 miles wide. And there are only about 10,000 people – most living on the northern part of the island. Of those who live in the south, the vast majority live in “settlements”. These settlements, for the most part, consisted of only twenty or so houses, a couple of churches and maybe a general store that sells everything from groceries to hardware to clothing. So, while our drive was informative and interesting, it was not particularly entertaining.

We left Cape Eleuthera to cross the Exuma Sound on the perfect day. The weather was beautiful and the seas were calm. Initially, Spot wasn’t sure what we humans were up to, so she hid in her regular hidey-hole behind the sofa. But when she saw the journey was going to be a smooth one, her highness actually came out and actually associated with us, her staff.

As we came in from the Sound, we went through the cut that takes us to Cambridge Cay. We knew that the weather for the next day or two was not supposed to be especially nice, so we wanted to hide in the Cambridge Mooring Field. It is run by the Exuma Land and Sea Park (about which, more later). When we got there, there was only one mooring ball left and it was built to handle a 125’ boat. Now the rules of the Park state that, if you are a regular-sized boat, you should take the mooring balls that are designed for regular-sized boats and should leave the moorings intended for BIG boats to them. However, if there are no regular mooring balls available, then you can take those intended for BIG boats. There were no other mooring s available, so Traveling Soul took a mooring space intended for a 125’ boat.

Sunset at Cambridge Cay.
For those who don’t know, let me spend just a minute explaining how a mooring system works. A mooring ball floats on the surface and is connected to a large, heavy anchor permanently attached to the seabed. A length of line called a pennant – usually with a loop at the end – is attached to the mooring ball. You attach your boat to the pennant and are thereby connected to the big, heavy anchor. There are three keys to a good mooring: the size of the anchor, the strength of the line connecting the anchor to the mooring ball and the strength of the pendant itself. If any of these are too weak, you can have a catastrophe. Well, the Park built a good system and maintains the moorings very well. Moreover, since our mooring was built to handle a 125’ boat, I can assure you that those evenings we were connected to the Park’s mooring, we slept very well.

After enjoying the view from the upper deck at Cambridge, walking across the island itself and exploring a couple of pristine beaches, we set off for Staniel Cay. It is here that the story gets interesting.
The Watermaker Episode

When we left Spanish Wells, our watermaker  was working perfectly. Yes, she is old; yes, she is finicky; no, she doesn’t produce much water, but she is ours and she worked. I think we were at Governors Harbor when she finally gave up the ghost. Everything ran like it was supposed to, but the system just would not produce water. I knew what was wrong and I knew what I needed to fix it.

Not the best picture in the world, but the assembly
with the membrane is the long, skinny tube.
Those of you who want to know watermakers  work should go find someone with a chemistry degree because it is very science-y and very complicated. For the rest of us, let’s just pretend that it is a system that forces seawater, under great pressure (700-800 psi, in my case), through a semi-permeable membrane that basically “squeezes” the salt and other impurities out, dumps them overboard and produces good, safe water. The membrane can be finicky, however, and can dry out easily. When that happens, you have to buy a new one and replace it.  That is what happened to us. We needed a new membrane. Now, I suspect you are asking the same question I was. How in the name of Heaven was I going to get a fairly hi-tech semi-permeable membrane in the out islands of the Bahamas. Hmmm.

Well, among useless pieces of knowledge I keep stored in my noggin, is the fact that Staniel Cay is the Bahamian HQ of a company called, oddly enough, Watermakers. And that company makes and services – you guessed it – watermakers! But wait there’s more. The same company owns – are you ready for this – their own airline. Yes, you can fly from Fort Lauderdale to Staniel Cay aboard Watermakers Air. More importantly, they have a service that will pick up parts in the States and deliver them to Staniel Cay. Even more importantly, they will help you troubleshoot your watermaker and figure out specifically what size and what kind of membrane you need and then they will ship it to Staniel Cay – for a fee of course. Fee, shmee, I was saving on the cost of water and/or of a repairman coming to Staniel to work on my system. A perfect set-up, right?? Read on.

Well, we made reservations at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club Marina so we could pick up the membrane and put it in. In fact, we reserved a slip for two nights – Thursday and Friday – just in case the process took longer than we thought. We left Cambridge, went to Big Major Spot (an island near Staniel) for a couple of days – and then began a series of events that, my friends, is nearly unbelievable.

The first thing that happened concerned the weather. We knew there was a front coming in, but we only learned two days before our reservations started that Staniel Cay would  not honor reservations if there were Westerly winds over 20 knots – and on Friday, westerly winds over 20 knots were predicted. (You have to realize that in the Bahamas, the prevailing winds are from the east, and while they can get up to 20-25 knots, the islands are generally located so that you can easily find protection from the winds – the marina at Staniel Cay is so protected. But when there are westerlies, especially if they are above about 25 knots, it gets downright nasty). We thought about our dilemma and decided to go ahead and stay at Staniel on Thursday, then pick up the part and put it in on the same day. On Friday morning we would have to find a protected anchorage – and we would have to do so with about a hundred other boats that are in the area.

Well, we spent time on Wednesday cruising around looking for places to hide from the winds. We found three that we thought might fit the bill. However, we weren’t sure how many boats would have chosen the same three spots by the time we were ready to anchor on Friday morning and how much competition there might be for the spots. We thought about just skipping the stop at Staniel altogether, but we needed our membrane. Hmmmm. ‘Twas a conundrum.

Our solution was to develop a plan. It seems that is my solution for just about everything. We would stay Thursday at the marina as planned. Then, early Friday morning, we would leave and would search each of our three potential anchorages to see if there was still room for us. If there was, we would, of course, drop the hook there. If all three places were full, though, we would proceed to Bell Island, where I knew there would be space (because it is a big anchorage). I am going to leave here until next week when I discuss the “Big Blow,” – or as we call it “BlowmageddoN” – because I have to first explain what happened with the watermaker.  

All I had to do was take the pressure vessel assembly off the bulkhead (wall), unfasten the bolts with an Allen wrench, take off the end caps, remove the old membrane, put in the new one – with some O-rings – then reverse the process to make everything work again. Simple, right? OMG, not quite. First, the watermaker, of course, is located on the forward bulkhead of the generator room – the headroom for which is a rollicking 4 feet. Second, the generator room is full of lots of stuff, so if you think it is easy to get to the watermaker, you would be most incorrect. In fact, it is inches away from a permanently-mounted fire extinguisher. My point is that nothing is simple while working on any boat, but particularly our boat, in the generator room on the forward bulkhead.

First, I took the fire extinguisher off the wall so I could get to the watermaker. I then took the electronics for the watermaker off the wall so I could get to the pressure vessel assembly, then I unscrewed the bolts holding the end caps in place. Now, all I had to do was take the end caps off, right? Nope, they wouldn’t budge. I twisted, I turned, I pushed and I pulled. Nope, they still wouldn’t budge. I was getting frustrated and I was getting pissed. With all the strength I could muster, I braced the electronic unit (to which one of the end caps was connected) against the bulkhead and twisted as hard as I could. I felt movement. I tried again and finally, finally it twisted off. Success! I pulled out the old membrane and prepared to put the new one in. I tried like hell to get the other end cap off, but it wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, I came up with the solution – I didn’t need to take the other end cap off. All I needed to do is slide the new membrane in. Again, nothing is as easy as it sounds. 

Ann had found a video on-line telling us how to put in the membrane. Unfortunately, the instructions suggested we use a particular kind of water soluble lubricant that we did not have – and NOT to use a petroleum-based lubricant. The membrane simply would not go in without some kind of lubrication. Hmmm. What to do. Well, we went with the only water-based lubricant we could find on board, KY Jelly. Actually, the kind of KY we had was enhanced with vitamin E, so we figured that it would be a healthy watermaker. With the KY and a little twisting and turning, the membrane slid in. A little hammer work to make sure it was seated. Then I only had to reverse the installation process. Voila! We now have a working watermaker that produces water. YEEESSSSSS!!
Next week, we’ll finish the tale of BlowmageddoN.

ANN’s NOTES:  Wow… I have a lot of ground to cover… according to my mini-journal I need to go back to 01/07/16…so here we go

Thursday 01/07/16: We are still in Spanish Wells, beautiful weather. Walked to the grocery store , we were out of paper towels and of course I could not just buy paper towels, I had a few more items that I just had to have. I still have not learned the items in your cart lesson. Anyway, a very nice local lady in her golf cart (that is how most people get around on the island) asked if I would like a ride  back to the marina…I had a very large package of paper towels plus the above mentioned ‘other’ items. I was very thankful and had a short conversation with her. She was born and raised on the island and would never think of living anywhere else. We went out to lunch at the Shipwreck restaurant, such a wonderful view. Both our boat neighbors departed today, we have the dock to ourselves.

Friday 01/08/16:  Annie’s Bight/ Gregory Town Eleuthera. Beautiful little cove during the day, turns into a washing machine on spin cycle at night, thank heaven it has a sandy bottom to hold Bertha, plus the bounce back noise off the island from the waves was loud. Michael got the kayak down (another activity that has more than one or two steps). Watermaker acting up, first signs of trouble. Burgers on the grill

Saturday 01/09/16:  Arrived Governor’s Harbor Eleuthera.  Bumpy ride over Exuma  sound. Very hot and humid day. Dinghy over to town, dinghy shore yucky and dirty, water yucky and dirty, not my favorite place. Looked around in the grocery store, $6.50 for a small jar of baby dill pickles (I think I will wait and restock somewhere  else)   I was happy to return back to my clean boat, I need a shower after walking in that water to anchor the dinghy to shore. Good news free WiFi from Ronnie’s, whoever he is, thank you.

Sunday 01/10/16 :  Very warm day, harbor very choppy  and we have lunch reservation at  the French Leave  Restaurant and Marina. * note* in order to get to the restaurant we need to get into the dinghy and motor over, please also note, the harbor very choppy comment. I do not like trying to get into a dinghy that is bouncing around, the problem is actually many safety problems I have about getting into a bouncing dinghy. The dinghy is going one way with the chop on the water, Traveling Soul is going another way, the  water is trying to make it impossible  to get off the boat and into the dinghy. But there was the food incentive pulling us into the dinghy and to the restaurant (I could make this a lot longer, I may have a few issues to work out) Let me just say, the lobster pizza was amazing and we made it back to the boat. Michael took out ALL the fun I was going to have, that HE TURNED ON THE A/C!!!! I was the hardy pioneer women that day…just saying.

Monday 01/11/16:  Arrived Rock Sound Harbor. Rain squalls off and on most of the day. Nice anchorage, lots of boats. Started calling for replacement part for the watermaker, this may take some time, better to start early and ”get’er done” as the cable guy would say.

Tuesday 01/12/16: Dinghy to the Wild Orchid bar and grill to use their dinghy dock, it looked safer than most in the area. Walked around town, saw the Ocean Hole, stopped at a cute gift store, all handmade items from locals .Went to the grocery store for fresh items, Michael was with me so the items in the cart and his reminders helped. Went to the bar and grill for a quick snack and meet some nice people on vacation and another couple in the harbor on their boat Sophia. It was a really fun day.

Wednesday 01/13/16: Arrive Cape Eleuthera Marina.  Bought fuel and then went to our assigned slip. Easy cruise over, Good WiFi, Nice relaxed day

Thursday 01/14/16:  Car for the day, bought a not-really-very-good $10 map from the marina, at least we could read the print. Went looking for the lighthouse, could not find the light house…hum that is strange, one can usually see a lighthouse from a long distance and we were on the coast line and on the beach. * note* a few days later  in the book I was reading about Eleuthera, it said the lighthouse was not maintained ,was abandoned and no longer standing, well that explains why we could not find it. Roads are in terrible shape, the settlements are few and far apart and rather depressing. Found an old abandoned church, at one time probably the center of a settlement but as people on these islands often do, they just leave and that is that. We found a lot of small liquor stores, I think that is one way to handle poverty and yet you see the children in their clean and pressed school uniforms playing in the government run school, such a contrast. Went to the grocery store only this time we had a car so I could go wild and put anything I wanted in the cart and Michael was with me. (It is nice to have a car) Found out our friends Dave and Joan are coming to visit!!!

Friday 01/15/16:  This is my “get ready to leave day.” We are still at the marina and they have some amenities that most marinas in the Bahamas do not have, for example a laundry room. So … in my head I had it all planned out. The pantry is restocked, the fridge is full from yesterday’s shopping spree so now is the day to tackle the laundry. Right??? NO!!!  There are only two washers and two dryers, only about three other sail boats in the marina and they were all doing laundry yesterday, so I figure, a couple of hours and done.  I load up the car to bring it back to the office for Friendly Bob to pick up and drop off the laundry. I get to the laundry room only to find two local women, in a small hatch back full of dirty clothes, unloading it. Yup…you guessed it, the locals can use the laundry room. They each had about five loads each and I could tell it was going to be a very long day for me if I stayed. I was not a happy boater at that moment. I went back to the boat to tell Michael that I wanted to do the laundry on the boat. Now the marina charges for both water and electric, water is .35 per gallon and electric is .50 per kilowatt hour. He helped me bring the laundry back to the boat  and  even in my math challenged mind I knew having clean cloths was going to be pricey.* note..it  was*  Then to add insult ,to injury, we  had to top off our water tanks, since our watermaker was officially not working.

Saturday 01/16/16: Beautiful day to cruise( in clean clothes) Me and my eagle eyes spotted the last mooring ball  in Cambridge Cay. The mooring hosts (I will explain what they are in a moment) were in their dinghy and handed me the pendant so I could put our lines through and be connected to the mooring ball. Anyway , the Bahamian  Park system has a volunteer program  that  you can sign up for, that allows you to stay on a mooring ball at a discounted rate. Their part  is  to help people as needed, such as handing  new  incoming boats the pendants and collecting the mooring ball fee. Nice to know we are tucked in when the bad weather front comes in tomorrow.

Sunday 01/17/16:  Glad we are on a mooring ball, it is very windy out, a few squalls have come through bringing more wind and rain. Did lots of reading and cat petting. I have not mentioned Spot in a while, she really has become a true cruising feline. She is such great company and she keeps us amused and entertained every day, she is a joy to have around.

Monday 01/18/16:  Beautiful day in Cambridge Cay, it is our beach day. Wind not too bad, got the dinghy down and back up (an important part to remember) to go exploring. Walked a few beaches and just enjoyed the many colors of the water in these parts. It is so very hard to even explain how beautiful the water is, it takes all your senses to appreciate it.

Tuesday 01/19/16: Michael did a great job getting us out of Cambridge Cay. Unlike the Chesapeake Bay, there really are no tidal charts to refer to, so you need to know how much water there is below you at all times and not depend on knowing when the tide is up or down. To depart Cambridge Cay is like a maze, we lightly touched bottom once, not a problem. Arrived at Big Majors Spot/Pig Beach. Found a good place to anchor. Still windy out, watched some old movies on DVD to pass the time. Lots of radio chatter about the bad westerly wind that was due in a few days.

Wednesday 01/20/16:  Started to formulate a plan in case we could not stay at the marina. We took what I would call a joy ride (not really so joyful) to find a place. Now you need to remember (again nothing is easy on a boat) that there are many steps to putting down and anchor and bringing one up. So just to say that we went for a joy ride really did take some time and all the steps that go with it, times two, we had to anchor  back again at pretty much the same place we had left. The joy ride led to a good plan all and all, and gave us an idea where we could go and not have to scramble looking for an anchorage like so many people had to do. Bahamian tourist board filming on Pig Beach, our boat may be in the back ground. Look it up on Google, these pigs are well feed and big. A new batch of piglets were on the beach also, the male pigs must be happy.

Thursday 10/21/16: Arrive at Staniel Cay Yacht Club(and “sort of a marina”) The new membrane arrived on the 9:30 flight, we pulled into our slip at 11 am and that is all I saw of the island. I was the “go get” girl in this project. I am very proud of Michael for sticking with this project, it would have been much easier to just say “to hell with this” and get someone else to do it. The space is very tight to work in and not a normal position to work in. It was an all day project, but we do have a working water maker that hums along and makes safe drinking water at 7 gallons per hour. I will be really good and not say anything about the KY jelly and sliding in.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Friday, January 15, 2016

Spanish Wells to Governor's Harbor

Getting from Spanish Wells to our next destinations on the West Coast of Eleuthera takes a bit of doing. There are two ways of getting there. One is to go through Fleming Cut. The other, about fifteen miles shorter, is through Current Cut. As an article in BOATUS magazine put it,

Current is the name of the Bahamian settlement, and Current Cut is the turbulent channel in front of it — its famous namesake, actually — where the tide ebbs and floods like a freight train in and out of the Bight of Eleuthera. This can be a treacherous place for those who arrive or leave by boat. At the height of the flow, the current can rush as fast as 10 knots in a channel barely 100 yards wide. As you pass through, there's no room for error as the water churns.
Of course, there would be no childish “Fleming Cut” for us; we had to go through Current Cut. I know, I know, you all think we are intrepid adventurers who take on life-threatening challenges simply because they are there; that we scoff at danger; that fear is afraid of us. Well, not exactly. As is often the case, if you do a little homework, you know how to beat the odds. There is always a little current running through the cut. But if you can avoid the spring tides (which have nothing to do with the springtime, and everything to do with whether the sun and moon are directly in line with the earth and their gravitational pulls reinforce each other) and you can determine when slack tides will be (about two hours after the well-published tides in Nassau), you will be able to defy death and make it into the Bight of Eleuthera. In the event, the water ranged from 12 - 40 feet deep and the current was about 1.5 MPH against us. And oh by the way … we had 1100 horsepower in our engines if we had needed them.

Eleuthera is an interesting island. It is about 110 miles long and at places less than a mile wide. It became the first English settlement in the Bahamas when the Company of Eleutheran Adventurers (Eleuthera meaning “freedom” in Greek) set sail from Bermuda, in 1648, searching for a place where they could practice their Puritan faith. These Pilgrims were smarter than their New England brethren who were freezing their butts off in and around Plymouth, MA at about the same time. Although the Adventurers eventually established a couple of settlements, the most important of which was as Governor’s Harbor – the capital of the Bahamas for a time – for over 350 years, Eleuthera has struggled economically.

Sunrise in Paradise
The initial Pilgrims tried to grow crops on Eleuthera, but, while the island’s soil was not as bad as that in some parts of the Bahamas, it wasn’t good enough to support an economy. Then the inhabitants turned towards the sea and what is called “wrecking” (where inhabitants go out and take the cargo off wrecked ships). That proved lucrative until navigation improved and lighthouses were built. Later, Eleuthera served as the new location of many Loyalist plantations after the Revolutionary War – all of which failed. Later still, it became a major pineapple producer – until the US put a tariff on Bahamian pineapples. It has also served as host to US Navy and US Air Force facilities during the Cold War – both of which are now closed down. More recently, efforts were made in the 1970s and 1980s to convert parts of the island into hoity-toity housing developments and large, expensive resorts – which also seem to have failed. In short, Eleuthera is somewhat like the rest of the Bahamas. It is a magnificent island that is unable to support the economic development of even a small population. But it is a hell of a cruising destination!

The last time we were in Eleuthera we visited the Glass Window and wrote extensively about it in our January 2014 Blog. This year we skipped over it and decided to anchor for the evening in Annie’s Bight, about ½ mile north of Gregory Town. In years past it had possibly been used as the headquarters of a real-life pirate. According to Eleuthera: the Island Called Freedom, George Thompson of Gregory Town tells a story:

My mother’s great-grand-father used to live with a man whom everyone called Mr. Saunders. That wasn’t his real name, which was foreign, and nobody could say it, so they just called him Mr. Saunders. He had been sailing from Abacos Cays when his ship was chased by Blackbeard or Bluebeard or one of them boys, and he was comin’ down the coast at nightfall when he found the entrance to the Cove and managed to slip in, thinking that it might be a good hiding place. The pirates’ ship went by and missed him, so he escaped them and when morning came he looked around and decided he would settle there.
The story goes on that Mr. Saunders formed his own little pirate company using the Cove as a base. According to the teller of the tale, George Thompson, thieves from Nassau came years later and relieved Saunders’ heirs of their pirate booty. Anyway, that’s the story.

Back to the cove. This place looked like a magnificent anchorage. Not only could we hide from the pirates, but it was in kind of a “U-Shape,” open only to the south, which we figured would provide protection from the winds and currents coming from the north, east and west. It had a sandy bottom, so we figured the anchor would hold well, and it was over ten feet deep as close as 200 feet from shore. It had everything we were looking for. In fact, I kayaked the cove and took several pictures, but none of them quite captured the magnificence of the anchorage. Then came the night.

In case you didn't believe I was in my kayak. Hah!
That is Traveling Soul in the background.
Remember when I said the cove was only open to winds and current from the south? Well, that night the wind shifted and winds and current came from the south. I mean it was like a washing machine in there. I woke up at about 0100 from the booming crash of the waves on the shore and the rolling of the and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went up into the salon. There was just as much roll up there, but a whole lot less noise – as our stateroom is connected t the swim platform. Moreover, when I was in the salon, it was much easier to check the chartplotter and make sure our anchor wasn’t dragging. I knew Bertha (the name of our anchor) was set pretty well, but I also knew that any anchor can drag just about any time. Besides, I am a worry-wart. Ann? She slept away and only awoke when I came to make sure she was still asleep.

Needless to say we left the following day and headed to Governor’s Harbor, the former capital of Eleuthera and of the Bahamas. Our goal was to get out of the Washing Machine and get to a location just a little more comfortable. I will say that in these southerly winds no place in Eleuthera is very comfortable, but Governors Harbor was good enough.  We had spent three days here two years ago so we really weren’t that interested in touring the area. Now people say that Governor’s Harbor does not have good holding for your anchor. Ok, but then I remember that Governor’s Harbor as been holding ships at anchor since about 1650. And during parts of the eighteenth century when Eleuthera was exporting pineapples, there were 40 or more ships at a time. If you look around, you don’t see too many of them broken to pieces up on the rocks. So, while I will agree that it does not have the best holding in the world, if you are careful, you can anchor here.

It was in Governor's Harbor that we discovered that our watermaker has given up the ghost. You may remember that we had the watermaker "repaired" before we left Florida. At the time I was pretty sure we needed a new membrane (the piece that kind of "filters" the salt out of the water). The repairman, however, didn't think so. Since they cost about $500, I was more than happy to take the expert's suggestion. Obviously he -- and therefore I -- were wrong. So, I called the States and found someone who will order the part from California, fly it into the Bahamas, handle the customs and get the part to me in Staniel Cay -- I hope. I am pretty sure there will be more to follow on the watermaker.

What had really captured our interest in Governor’s Harbor was a restaurant that was closed the last time we were in town, but had since re-opened its door – The French Leave. We had heard that, while pricey, it was excellent. In keeping with our new culinary habits, we thought we would try it for lunch rather than dinner because, frankly, lunch is typically less expensive.
Nyeh, Lobster roll

We ordered a lobster roll and lobster pizza. The lobster roll was okay; we have had better. (As most of you know, Ann is a connoisseur of lobster rolls.) But the pizza – wow! Now that was something. We finished the lobster roll at lunch, but only half of the pizza. So when I tell you that the bill (we also had one cocktail each) was $87.13 (FOR LUNCH!) at least I can say we got two meals out of it. Oh Well, we have now dined at the famous French Leave Restaurant and Resort.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Marsh Harbor to Spanish Wells

Click, click, click Whirrr!!! Yep, just like Jaws. That is what my reel sounded like when that enormous Mahi-mahi took my line. Click, click, click Whirrr! I know, I know you want me to get on with the story. I’ll tell you it was a very exciting few minutes. However, since I have been convinced to write this blog in a chronological fashion, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so, if you want to know what happened, you are just going to have to keep reading.

We stayed a total of 13 days in Marsh Harbor. We celebrated Christmas, met some new and interesting people, had some scrumptious lunches at the Jib Room, searched some of the gift shops and generally had a great time, but at the end of 13 days, it was time to move on. So, with favorable weather on the horizon, we re-provisioned as usual with one exception. We bought ten pounds of lobster – a total of 33 nice-sized tails that will give at least 17 meals. We’ll add that to any that I manage to catch (I hope) and eat them over the next several months. We already had three tails in a magnificent quiche that Ann made for New Years Eve. And we had the leftovers a few days later.

The trip from Marsh to Little Harbor was only twenty-five miles and, though there were a few bumps along the way, overall the seas weren’t too bad. We had to time our arrival at Little Harbor right, as the entrance at low tide is barely four feet deep.  We arrived at noon, which was high tide, moved right in and grabbed one of the five or six open mooring balls. We lowered the dinghy, went ashore to Pete’s Pub (the only eatery or drinkery in the area) and shared one of their delicious coconut cracked conchs and a couple of Kaliks. Mmmmm  good. The next day we ran the dinghy over to “The Bight of Old Robinson.” (C’mon. Even the most cynical of you have to agree that that is a cool name.) We could not find the Blue Holes that are supposed to be there, but we did see sea turtles – a lot of sea turtles. These weren’t the 500 pound kind, but are about 12 inches in diameter and, when they want to, can swim like the wind! I am guessing we saw somewhere around 15-20.

Although we had planned to go to Pete’s for New Years Eve, the more we thought about it the less attractive it sounded. In the event, we stayed on the boat, had lobster quiche and champagne, watched Smiley’s People (a John Le Carre spy story) and went to bed well before midnight.

Traveling Soul approaching Lynyard Cay
Crossing from Little Harbor, Abacos to Royal Island near Eleuthera is a non-trivial event. We had to cross the Northeast Providence Channel, a sixty mile trip in waters that vary from ten to three thousand feet deep – the vast majority of it nearer the latter than the former.  Our first problem was getting out of Little Harbor. You may recall the entrance at low tide is about four feet. On 2 Jan, the day we wanted to leave, the tide was going to be low most of the morning and, if we waited until the tide was right, we wouldn’t be able to leave until 1100 or so. But that was too late to start our trek across the ocean. The answer was of course simple. We left at noon on 1 Jan and went to the island across from Little Harbor, Lynyard Cay, and anchored there. Lynyard was really a pretty island with a couple of nice beaches and good holding for the anchor. It was a long island, which was good, as there were about ten other boats with the same idea. While at Lynyard, we met Cynthia and Gerry aboard Panacea, a new-to-them 42’ trawler, on which they were also going to the Exumas.

The day before we left Lynyard, I got both of my rods ready and attached the lures. One lure was a simple cedar plug (that they tell me works very well) and the other was a lure that Ken Hyman, from the Trawler Barbara, had given me two years ago. (A much-belated “thanks,” Ken!) We waited until 0715 on 2 January and then weighed anchor for our second ocean crossing of this Bahamas trip.

The Blitz Torte for my birthday. Mmmmmmmmmm!
Initially, the seas were a bit more than had been forecast and it was not particularly comfortable. Ann and I had been through much worse – about two years ago we suffered one of the worst ocean crossings we ever had in this same body of water – but Spot definitely did not think this was fun. We lost track of her for about fifteen minutes and Ann decided to go looking for her. She had hunkered down between the sofa and the wall (bulkhead for you nautical types) and was just waiting for the trip to be over. She likes it there, I suppose, because she is wedged in tight enough that she cannot roll either way. Once the seas calmed down a little we lured her out with one of her treats, but after eating it, she immediately headed back to her little port in the storm.

About two-thirds of the way across, I heard it. Actually, Ann heard it first: Click, click, click Whirrrr!!! Something had taken my line and was moving away from the boat at top speed. I immediately started towards the back deck. Ooops, I had forgotten to slow the boat as I had promised Ann I would. I rushed back to the helm to put the boat at idle speed, then I sprinted back to the stern. I picked up the rod and the line was zipping off the reel. I had a fish, my first on the boat!!! I told Ann to put the boat in neutral, the only way to slow down below idle speed. Hmmm, on the TV shows the line eventually stops tearing off the reel and the host starts bring in the fish. Whirrr the reel went, the line was still coming off very, very, fast. I decided to adjust the drag. (The drag is kind of like the brakes on the reel; it should slow down the rate at which the fish pulls out line.) Now, for those of you who care, I have a star drag on my reel. I don’t particularly like it because you can’t tell how much drag you have and how much more drag you are adding when you turn the star. So, to be honest, I didn’t know how much I was increasing the drag, but the line was still whipping out. I was running out of options. I tried to reel in the fish; the line still was whizzing out so my reel-cranking was doing no good. At that moment I look up, and about 200 yards abaft our port beam I see it. My fish jumped!

Now I am not talking about a little hop out of the water. I am talking about a full-fledged twisty-turney jump – just like the ones you see on TV. Moreover, this wasn’t a little mahi-mahi to which we would have to add some rice to make it a meal. It was a monster! Seriously, although I was pretty sure it was a mahi, when it jumped, it was big enough that I spent an instant looking for the bill, to make sure I didn’t have a billfish on the line. Wow!! If I had to guess, I would say around four feet long. Then suddenly, just as the fish fell back into the water, I felt it. Nothing, Nada, Zilch, Zip. There was no more line ripping off the reel, no more whiz, no more nothing. C’mon baby, c’mon! I reeled in as fast as I could for a couple of seconds hoping against hope that he was still on the line, but had turned towards the boat. Maybe, maybe, I hoped. A few seconds later, I knew. I had lost him.

At first I figured that when he had jumped, he had dislodged the hook and lure and had simply gotten away. But when I reeled the line in I noticed that not all of the line I started with was there, AND the lure was missing. As I studied the end of the line, I realized that it had been broken. I had 30 pound test line on the reel and that fish had snapped it. Maybe it was defective line. Maybe it had developed a knot. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Although I will do some more research and hope that some of you serious fishermen can offer some advice, I will always wonder what happened to this, my first mahi-mahi.   Oh well.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We traveled through a couple of small squalls, but for the most part the seas were reasonably calm. We spotted Royal Island and I brought in my fishing lines, made the turn around Egg Island and entered Royal Island Harbor. Gerry and Cynthia aboard Panacea had anchored near us, so we asked them over to the boat for cocktails. We discussed the weather forecast for the next several days and decided where we were going to go and what we were going to do for protection against the cold front and accompanying wind and rain that were supposed to hit over the next day or two. We decided that we would go ahead and get a slip in the Spanish Wells Yacht Haven. In the event, Gerry and Cynthia decided they would do the same.

Royal Island has a natural harbor that we thought would give us reasonably good protection from the increasing northerly winds. It wasn’t bad, I guess, but we could hear the waves pounding on the swim platform all night long, so we were kind of relieved when morning came and we could cruise the hour or so to it takes to get to Spanish Wells. We hadn’t originally wanted to go to Spanish Wells, not because we don’t like the town, but because we had been here before. In the spring of 2013 we were on a mooring ball in Spanish Wells. Our davit broke and we couldn’t get our dinghy down so we moved to a marina. We thought it would be easy to get a repairman until we realized that it was the Thursday before Easter. In Spanish Wells, nobody works on the Thursday afternoon before Easter, or on Good Friday, or on Saturday, or on Easter itself, or on Easter Monday, of course. So, we sat in Spanish Wells for almost a week – with very little to do – before we could get out of there.

Ann worked on this while we were
"bored" at Spanish Wells
In the event, it almost turned out the same way this year, but for different reasons. On Sunday evening, the day we arrived a squall went through carrying rain and winds of 30+MPH and we were glad we were in the marina, but we had seen nothing yet. Although Monday and Tuesday were not all that bad, Tuesday night the winds picked up and continued all Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. Moreover, all day Wednesday it rained and rained and rained. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a little rain because it cleans the salt off the boat, but when it rains ALL DAY it gets kind of boring – even if we are in paradise. When it wasn’t raining on Monday and Tuesday, we strolled the town, went to the grocery store and checked out some of the gift shops and variety stores.

On Friday morning, we finally left Spanish Wells.

ANN’s NOTES: I sure am glad I am keeping a notebook with my notes, I can now fill in the daily activities for you…so here goes…

Thurs 12/24/15 :  Marsh Harbor Abaco ,Windy, humid and warm, not my idea of nice weather. Did the laundry. I know I am spoiled; I have my own washer and dryer on board, no lugging dirty clothes anywhere, just sorting in the hallway for me. Jib Room had a pre-Christmas get together for the people at the marina, that was fun. I got a box of lobster tails as a Christmas present, guess I will have to share this gift. Called our families in the states, it was good to hear their voices.

Friday 12/25/15:  Nice relaxed day. Had Christmas dinner at the Jib Room with other marina people.  I made Mac and Cheese as a side dish; it was a hit. Nice assortment of food and the company was excellent. Talked with Lisa and Trent (daughter and grandson) Trent is learning to drive, why..I remember when he was just a baby..I will not finish all the stories I could tell you.

Sat 12/26/15:  Boxing Day in the Bahamas, if you want to learn some interesting trivia, look up Boxing Day on Google. The tradition goes way back into history. Lunch at the Jib Room, yes.. I had yet another BLT and onion rings. I could eat one every day, they are that good.

Sun 12/27/15:  The Captain on Traveling Soul sent down the dreaded orders of the day…OIL CHANGING DAY. I knew it was coming when we were still in FL, and we loading the engine room with twenty, one gallon jugs of motor oil.  We need to take care of “our girls, the twin diesel sisters”, they good care of us so I guess we need to return the favor every 150 or so engine hours. Michael and I are a lot better at doing this job than we used to be. The first time we had John Cairne showing us how to do it. We have it down to a science but it is still a messy, sweaty, yucky job. We have also dedicated a set of clothes to just oil changing.

Mon 12/28/15: Recovering from oil changing day. Did more laundry, also related to oil changing day.

The views from the restaurant at Spanish Wells.
Tues 12/29/15: Very busy day. Dinghy ride over to Marsh Harbor, walk to Maxwell’s grocery store. Did some major grocery shopping,* please note* Took a taxi back to the marina. Now, you may think that grocery shopping is easy, like on land, but not so much when you live on a boat. Let me explain to you what is involved. (1) Get lots of rest and eat a good breakfast. You will need both. (2) Find transportation to the grocery store, sometimes by foot, rental car, a ride from strangers, taxi or dinghy.  (3) Remember how you are getting said groceries back to the boat, be very aware of what goes into your cart, please refer to last blog entry for more details.( 4) Shop and think  ahead ,two week time frame ( 5) Pay for grocery.( 6) Take transportation, going and coming back are not always the same mode of transportation.( 7) Unload grocery from whatever way you got back, into a dock cart.( 8) Unload groceries from dock cart, up and into the boat (NO….we are not finished yet…) ( 9) Move grocery from door way of salon, down the steps to the galley. (10) Unpack, sort, store, groceries ..that is actually three steps, but I bundled them, to save time and space. There is actually a few more steps involved with the fresh vegetables and freezing the meat, but I think you probable get that grocery shopping can be all day event.

Went to a quick drink with Peter and Laurie on Navigator, we were joined by other boaters.

Wed 12/30/15: Arrive Little Harbor. Bumpy  ride. Spot not a happy kitten. Lunch at Pete’s Pub.  A lot of turtles in the mooring field. Burgers  on  the grill.

Thursday 12/31/15 :  Cancelled reservations at Pete’s Pub, had lobster quiche instead, champagne and DVD’s, that is how we spent  New Years  Eve. ( lobster count down from 33 to 30). Dinghy ride, turtle watching, fun time.

****** Happy 2016!!!!**************

Friday 01/01/16:  Anchor out at Lynyard Cay. Took Spot to the beach for the first time, she wanted nothing to do with the water and/or waves. The dinghy became her best friend, she was much happier just riding in the dinghy. Meet Gerry and Cynthia on board Panacea and their dog Olive, again Spot was happy to be in her dinghy looking up at Olive on her boat. Grilled ribs out on the grill.

Sat 01/02/16:  Up early, long day traveling. Crossed the Northeast Providence Channel / Atlantic Ocean. Spot again not a happy feline, found a new place to stay, behind the wall and sofa. Anchored out  at  Royal Island. Gerry and Cynthia dinghied  over for drinks. Rocky evening.

Sun 01/03/16:  Arrive Spanish Wells Yacht Haven Marina. Mixed reviews on this marina, they did have electricity on the dock but no water hook up or good WiFi. The marina is building six cottages and a swimming pool, so there was construction and the noise that goes along with the building of buildings. Gerry and Cynthia were docked next to us. Got very crafty today, made a sea shell garland for my candle. Put the Christmas decorations away. Meet Roger and Christine on Oceanus from Cambridge, MD.

Mon 01/04/16:  Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband, I will not put any dates or age, just say, he is the same age as I am. Before I made his birthday cake, we had to walk into town to buy some baking powder, to make the cake. Now, I have an excellent galley, I have all I need to bake a cake, and I love to cook and bake. The problem is much like grocery shopping, it involved many steps. Anyway..the Blitz Torte was made, surf and turf was the menu . It was a good day.

Tue   01/05/16:  Keep Left…Keep Left.. drove  a golf cart to the grocery store with Cynthia and Christine. Can you guess which side of the road they drive on in Spanish Wells? Had Gerry, Cynthia, Roger and Christine over for coffee and cake. The Blitz Torte is now gone, it was a fun evening. Spot was her very friendly feline self and the company enjoyed her. Walked to the Shipwreck restaurant only to find it closed..grrrr.

Wed 01/05/06:  Really crummy weather, wind gusting 30 + MPH (glad we are in a marina) Spot very inactive, sort of worried about her, hope she does not need kitty Prozac. The galley smells like my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up, made lamb chops with rosemary and garlic and white navy beans. That, plus a nice slice of Bahamian bread and Irish butter and we can call that dinner.

So ..ladies and gentlemen, this is my mini cruising journal for this addition of the blog.

Have a Blessed and Happy 2016

Traveling Soul…OUT