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, 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.