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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Long Island and the Bahamas

After letting Dave and Joan off in George Town, we stayed in the area for a few days so we could rest, recuperate and re-provision. Now George Town is a busy place. There are usually about 300 boats at anchor in the Harbor and a “Cruiser’s Net” every morning (on VHF channel 68) to tell resident cruisers what is going on and where. Since we were there during the preparation and run-up to the Annual Cruiser’s Regatta, there was more activity and radio traffic than usual – a lot more. Now, Ann and I think Regattas are fine, but when they are stretched out over a week and there are only one or two regatta events per day (in none of which we are participating), the constant radio traffic can get a little tiring. So, since we really had nothing to do with the regatta, we decided that we would leave George Town the day it started and move on to Long Island!!

This year, one of our goals was to go further east and further south than we had gone before (kind of like the personnel of the Starship Enterprise: we wanted “to go where no Brown had gone before.”) When we reached Long Island we had succeeded. We were beyond the Tropic of Cancer; we were in unexplored regions! Long Island held three adventures for us. Let’s just call them … the Good … the Bad … and the Ugly.

The Good

This sign marks the Tropic of Cancer
We arrived in Thompson’s Bay, Long Island on 27 Feb. Thompson’s Bay is a pretty good anchorage; it has excellent protection from the east and north, some protection from the south and a even reasonable amount of protection from the west. True, you would have to move around a little if the wind got overly rambunctious, but while we were there, it generally behaved itself. Thompson Bay is a popular anchorage. When we arrived there were about fifteen other boats already there – many, like us, were refugees from the regatta. Fifteen boats may seem like a lot, but the Bay is very big and could hold many times that number, plus we had just left George Town with 300 boats at anchor. To be in an anchorage with only 15 boats was like a dream.

Thomson Bay abuts the settlement of Salt Pond, which is almost exactly half way down the island. That’s important because the southern half, everything below Salt Pond, was devastated by last year’s Hurricane Joaquin. Many of the cruisers in Thompson’s Bay are frequent and long time visitors to Long Island and, while we were there, had one or more projects on-going to assist in the island’s recovery. I will say – even though I probably shouldn’t – that the cruisers seemed to be doing more for the island’s infrastructure than the local residents were. Jus’ sayin’.

Long Island is … well … long. It is about 80 miles long and 4 miles wide at its widest point. It is about 230 sq mi. in area and it is located 165 miles southeast of Nassau. The Tropic of Cancer runs through the northern quarter of the island. Its original inhabitants, the Lucayan Indians, called it “Yuma.” Most historians and archaeologists believe that Columbus visited the island on his first voyage (1492) after stopping at San Salvador and Rum Cay. It was then that he rechristened the island “Fernandina” after King Ferdinand. After the Spanish rounded up all the Lucayans and took them to Hispaniola and Cuba to serve as slaves, there was no large settlement of anyone until the arrival of the Loyalists during and after the American Revolution.

The original Loyalists were mainly from New England and New Jersey arrived on Long Island after fleeing the American Revolution. These families started the first farms, raising primarily cattle and sheep. By the 1790s, settlers began to arrive from the Carolinas and proceeded to set up cotton plantations. The plantations flourished for only a few years and, by the time of the abolition of slavery in the Bahamas in 1834, most had collapsed and been abandoned. There are many ruins from this era today, none of which have been taken care of, and the majority are overgrown by bush.

Friends had suggested that the best way to see the island was to rent a car for two days. On day one, they suggested, we go south and on day two, north -- that way we would be able to see most of the island in the most efficient way possible. We rented a car and headed south. There were three highlights to the trip south.

Sixteenth century Spanish mission
located on the side of the road.
The first was a 16th century Spanish mission. Now, in the States, if there were a 16th century church there would be signs pointing to it off the highway, signs explaining what you were seeing and either the local Catholic Church or a volunteer association would raise money for the site. In the Bahamas, by contrast, you have to keep your eyes open as you drive down the highway, otherwise you would miss what looks like a derelict building just off the only highway on the island. I have no doubt that a serious archeological effort could lead to some interesting results, but I am not sure one has ever been attempted and there are few signs that anyone is seriously interested. The second highlight on our trip south was “Dean’s Blue Hole.” Dean’s is a 600 feet deep hole in the island that is filled with sea water. It is about twice as deep as most other blue holes in the Bahamas and elsewhere. Dean’s is famous as the location of several free-diving world records and was the host of the 2009 free-diving championships. It is really kind of cool! The third highlight was the Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town. It was modern, had a really good bar and grill attached, and looked to be a first class marina

This is Dean's Blue Hole. At the swimming platform,
it goes 600 feet straight down.
After Clarence Town, however, it did not look as if there was going to be much to see further south. So, while we drove another thirty or so miles, we eventually turned around and headed north. Although our goal was to see the Columbus monument at the northern tip of the island (about which, more later) we only went as far as the Tomb and grave marker of Louisa Morris, the daughter of John Morris, plantation owner and slave holder in the late 19th Century. The grave marker had apparently been stolen in 1999, but since then had been returned to the Bahamas. The Bahamian government built a nice little monument to the Morris’, though it is way back in the bush!

By this time we were kind of getting tired of driving and headed back to Salt Pond to turn the car back in.

The Bad

You may recall that we had been having trouble with our watermaker for several weeks. After I replaced the membrane at Staniel Cay, it worked fine. While Dave and Joan were visiting it worked okay initially, but after a week or so, it started misbehaving again; it would run for about an hour, then turn off. We could still produce water, it was just a slower process. As time went on, though, the length of time between failures constantly decreased. By the time we got to Thompson Bay, it was only running for about ten minutes before the alarm went off and we had to turn it off. Hmmmm. This was not good.

We decided we would go to the nearest marina, Stella Maris Marina in northern Long Island. There, I would take apart the watermaker to see if I could fix it. (I wasn’t overly hopeful, but I had replaced the membrane – and maybe, just maybe, I hadn’t replaced all the fittings correctly. If that were the case, I might, indeed, be able to repair it). Even if we couldn’t get it fixed, we figured, we could fill up with water at the marina and then decide what to do.

Spot pointing out an error I was making in
Watermaker repair
Stella Maris was a marina in name only. I reviewed it in Active Captain (kind of like a “Trip Advisor” for the cruising crowd) and wasn’t very kind. All of that aside, our immediate problem was that I could not fix the watermaker AND they did not have reverse osmosis water – they used cistern water. We are very particular about what goes into our water tanks and salty-tasting cistern water wasn’t going in.   

When I was in the Army there were times when we would get a couple of quarts of water per day – and it was for drinking only. You could use it for teeth-brushing or shaving if you had to, but that came out of your drinking stock. We didn’t shower and didn’t wash our clothes. We ate out of cans and licked our plastic spoons clean. We seldom cooked anything with water and certainly didn’t have ice for happy hour. In short, I know how little water a person really needs. We also know that there are some purist sailors who guard their water almost as jealously as infantrymen. They bathe and wash dishes in salt water and use fresh water for cooking only when necessary. Given all this, I know that it is absolutely true that if you put your mind to it, are willing to stink to high heaven, to taste salt in everything, to eat out of cans and never to wash your clothes, that you can save enormous amounts of water. However, I am now just a little older than I was in my twenties and am used to a certain style of living, e.g. occasional showers, plenty of drinking water, well-cooked meals, clean dishes and, oh yea, ice for my 5 PM cocktails.

Still, Ann and I are pretty good at rationing water and can easily live – and live well – with twenty gallons per day and even less of we had to. However, at Stella Maris we had only about 75 gallons in our tanks (our tanks can carry about 200). Moreover, there are very few marinas in the outer islands of the Bahamas. So, while we could certainly explore the rest of the islands we wanted to see, we would be constantly tethered to some very specific marinas – those that had good water. So, we decided that our broken watermaker was a sign that we should turn back – so we did.

From Stella Maris we headed north to Cape Santa Maria (which has a beautiful resort and beach, by the way), then back to Emerald Bay Marina to get some water and to wait for a weather window so we could go north and start the trip back to the good old USA. After Emerald bay, we stopped at White Point, Black Point, Norman Cay and Highbourne. It was on this trip, from Emerald Bay to White  Point that we caught a Black Fin Tuna! It was only about 14-15 inches long (about two meals)  and was relatively easy to clean. I will say, however, that we are still struggling with a  good recipe for black fin. Anyway, we stopped at White Point and most of the other islands to wait for weather so we could make the next leg of the journey, but we stopped at Highbourne because of the restaurant. It is as good as I remembered!

A blackfin tuna.
After Highbourne, it was on to Nassau. We only stayed a couple of days and only went downtown once. We have “been there and done that” several times in the past and didn’t think we needed to visit again. After Nassau, on the way to Chub Cay, I’ll be damned if we did not catch yet another mahi-mahi. We were much better at filleting the fish this time and were in an anchorage where we could throw the waste overboard.  In case you are counting this is mahi number two and fish number three. After a night at Chub, we were off to Bimini. Usually when we go to Bimini, we head to Brown’s marina -- for obvious reasons – then on to Fort Lauderdale. This time we decided that we wanted to go from Bimini to Palm Beach, which is a little over 100 miles. Even though we would have the Gulf Stream with us, we fissured we might want to leave before dawn. The channel into and out of Bimini can be a little complicated – especially at night – so we decided to anchor just off the northeastern tip of the island so we could get a good jump on the following day.

We have, of course, run the boat in the dark many times in the past. Nevertheless, it constantly amazes me how different night boating is from day boating. The night before we took off, I had examined the sea closely and there was nothing surprising; everything was on the charts and on the radar. Shortly after we left, however, at about 0400, I was sure I saw some lights about a mile out. What were they coming from? Was there a marker I had overlooked? Even worse, could there have been a shallow area close to our proposed route? I turned the boat to make sure we would not come close to whatever was out there and proceeded very cautiously. In the event, there were lights out there, but there were not a mile out, they were about five miles out; they were not buoys or markers, they were from another boat. Oh well, it was a little nerve-wracking, but not at all dangerous.
Mahi Number Two!
We then hit the open ocean and eventually the Gulf Stream. The stream propelled us 2 ½ to 3 knots faster than we would otherwise had gone. We arrived at Old Port Cove Marina at 1430, had a beer to celebrate the end of this Bahamian Adventure and our return to the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Then, we started planning the trip northward on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Ugly

Actually, there was no ugly … it just sounds so much better than saying there was good and bad J