Sunday, May 31, 2009
We slowly motored through the channel at Spanish Wells. It's deep in the middle (10-14ft) but is pretty narrow. As we got close to the channel leading into the main bay, we saw the fast ferry coming in. Fortunately, we had enough time to slow down, hover to the extreme side of the channel (the right side of the boat was in about 4ft of water while the keel was in 7ft) and let him pass. We then cautiously worked our way out into the shallow water just outside of Spanish Wells. It's not a place we would want to be during low tide, but it was mid tide so we never saw less than 7.5ft (we need 6ft). We followed along the south side of Spanish Wells until we got to slightly deeper water (8ft-9ft), and then turned to our waypoint south.
All during this time, we were watching the weather on our system. The red and yellow areas got larger and smaller, but overall the storm itself got bigger. The number of lightning strikes shown around Andros, about 150nm west of here, grew significantly. Then the storm was over Nassau. Then the storm was passing Nassau and heading right for us. "Ummmm... yeah, this storm is different," Kristen and I said to each other.
We continued on for a bit farther and watched the cloud line to the west of us as it drew closer. The wind had been blowing about 3-5kts, but it started increasing to over 10kts. Then, the temperature dropped. I don't mean a little drop - I mean we were shivering we were so cold. I quick grabbed the wheel, yelled to Kristen that we were aborting our trip to Nassau, pulled a 180 and headed for Royal Island.
At this point the wind was at 20kts, and it was continuing to build. The water was starting to froth, covered with whitecaps as far as our eyes could see. The waves started building - two feet, three feet, four feet. They weren't huge, but the time between each one was so short that we'd have four under us at any point. Kristen was watching the sky to the west and told me that the lightning was constant, big streaks across the sky and also hitting the water. The thunder started building. Then we saw the line of rain - a large wall of gray - rapidly approaching us.
At the point I turned we were about 5 miles from Royal Island. With the waves hitting us on our nose we were only making 4kts of forward speed. When we first turned, we were hopeful that we would reach Royal Island before the storm hit, but as we watched the rain and lightning close in on us we knew we wouldn't make it.
I had told Kristen earlier - if things get bad, don't panic - we need to work through it. If the storm becomes one of the nasty squalls that was predicted - 50kts+ of wind - we'd turn our stern to it and run with it until it passed. Well, as I watched the wind build to over 30kts (over 37mph), and I felt the temperature continue to drop, I realized that it was going to be a bad one. Unfortunately, our location placed us in a shallow region of water - to the east was Meeks Island with coral heads, to the west was a reef, also dotted with rocks and coral heads.
The rain hit us hard and visibility dropped to 15-20ft. I couldn't see the forward sail from the cockpit. The wind peaked at 41kts - about 50mph. We didn't have any sails up, yet we were heeling over at 15 degrees. Because of our location, I couldn't turn our back to the waves, so we our side was to them and they kept slamming against us. Then the real lightning started. Flash bang, flash bang, flash bang - lightning and thunder at the same time. At one point the lightning hit so close that our GPS turned itself off. I thought it had been hit, but we turned the power off and back on and it restarted. After earlier telling Kristen not to panic, I'm the one who yelled out an expletive when it happened. My adrenaline levels were through the roof! I must have jumped ten feet into the air.
At this point, I idled the engine and watched our GPS carefully. I couldn't see anything around me, but our handheld GPS (Garmin Oregon) has excellent charts on it, and I had been tracking our path from Spanish Wells, so I knew as long as I stayed near that path we'd be OK. We didn't want to head to Royal Island in the storm since the entrance was narrow and tricky. "We're going for it as soon as we have ANY sort of break," I yelled to Kristen over the noise of the wind. The wind continued to blow between 30mph and 40mph. The only way Kristen and I could hear each other was to yell. Buckets of rain sloshed around out feet and the lightning continued to hit.
It seemed like we were in the storm for an hour, but after what was probably only 20 minutes the wind died down to 25kts (about 32mph or so). The wind was still whistling, the waves were still big, but I asked Kristen - "What do you think about heading for Royal Island right now???!!!". She yelled back - "Let's go for it!". In anticipation of the storm, I had already plotted out waypoints on our GPS to bring us there, so I hit the buttons and it gave us our course. It was very difficult to maintain our heading with very little visibility, but after 15 minutes we could just make out the coastline of Royal Island.
As we approached, the waves and wind started to moderate. Visibility increased, and we were able to make out the entrance. It was a narrow channel between two large rocks, but we headed for it and made it through. The sea bed here is grass - difficult for anchors to penetrate - so we ended up having to lay our anchor down twice before it would set, but here we are, safe and sound, and with a new sea story to tell.
Tomorrow, WEATHER DEPENDENT, we head for Nassau.
Once the engine was started, an hour after our planned departure time, we looked at the weather. There's a huge storm moving in from the Florida coast and moving fast. At this point we're hanging tight until 9:30 or 10:00 so we can follow its progress and see if it will turn before reaching Nassau, like most of the other storms have, or if it will track right across our path. So - if you see SPOT updates, you'll know we have left. If you don't, we're staying put for another day or two.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Our original plan was to head to Royal Island, just south of Spanish Wells, tomorrow afternoon, and then run to Nassau on Sunday. With the wind and squall forecast right now, we're going to hire a pilot again tomorrow so we can leave Harbor Island early. At low tide, which it will be tomorrow morning, there are some pretty shallow spots we have to watch out for, and I'd rather be safe than sorry. If it was high tide, I'd definitely traverse Devil's Backbone with just our GPS and our track from coming across the other day. I spoke to Woody, the same pilot we used the other day, and mentioned my concern about the water level. His response was "You just leave that up to me."
Anyway, we're going to leave here tomorrow morning, hopefully ahead of the major squalls, and tie up at Spanish Wells for the night. Then, if the squalls go away on Sunday, which they may or may not, we'll do a long day's run direct to Nassau. Unfortunately, the wind is supposed to be right on our nose on Sunday, but it's supposed to be fairly light so hopefully it won't be too uncomfortable. Otherwise, we'll go to Nassau on Monday when the weather is definitely supposed to be clear (yeah right).
As always, follow along on the SPOT by clicking on the link to the right.
Before we left for the Bahamas I was unsure as to what to use for electronic navigation. Now I know, and I figured I'd share it with y'all. Keep in mind that this information strictly pertains to the following areas: Bimini, The Banks, Northwest Passage, Nassau, Exumas, Georgetown area, Cat Island, Little San Salvador, and Southern and Northern Eleuthera. I can't comment on areas such as the Abacos, Grand Bahama, Andros or the outer outer islands, but based on my cursory examinations of these areas and comparison between the solutions we have on board, I would tend to think this information is relevant for all the areas of the Bahamas.
On board Pelican we have three different kinds of charts - our Raymarine C-Series chartplotter with Navionics Gold charts (latest version as of 12/08 - supposed to be the most updated version), our Garmin Oregon handheld GPS with Bluechart G2 built in charts, and on our laptop we have Rosepoint Navigator Coastal Exlorer 2009 with Navionics S-63 charts of the Bahamas from Chartworld (these ain't cheap!). We also have the paper based Explorer Chartbooks, which are considered the gold standard for the Bahamas.
Which chart is the best? Without a doubt, the Garmin charts blow away the Navionics charts - no question. Explorer licensed their charts to Garmin and C-Map and they have been integrated into the C-Map and Garmin charts.
I have found that depths on the Navionics charts are often inaccurate, and large areas are just unsurveyed. I was hopeful since when I spoke to Navionics at the Miami Boat Show they told me that their charts of the Bahamas were recently updated - that they did their own surveys of the Bahamas and have updated large portions. I can definitely say that some portions of the Bahamas are better than others (Bimini and Nassau for example), but crossing the banks, the Yellow Banks, the Exumas, Georgetown, Cat Island, and now Eleuthera are either missing a lot of information or have inaccurate information.
For example, right now we're right off of Harbor Island. On our way here we had to navigate the "Devil's Backbone". This is an area on the northern tip of Eleuthera that has densely packed coral heads, rocks and a very slim channel. In several places you have about 75 feet of width to navigate through in order to get through the reefs. Other places you have to run 20 feet off the beach. It is considered one of the most treachourous places in the Bahamas to navigate in order to reach a populated area. The recommended method of navigation through this area is to hire a pilot to bring you through. We did this (about $80 for one boat or $60 each for two boats) but I kept my Garmin in the cockpit for the run. I also had my Raymarine chartplotter on.
Most of the coral heads and reefs were not marked on the Raymarine chartplotter (Navionics charts). In a number of places the depth on the chartplotter would show 10 feet and we'd only have 7 feet under us - at high tide. This is just dangerous. The charts on my laptop were the same - just inacurrate.
The Garmin, however, was spot on - showing all the dangerous coral heads and the correct depths. I turned on the "track" mode on the Garmin so I could review our path later, and there's no question in my mind - we could have made it through the area using the Garmin (and visual navigation). Depths were correct as were the locations of the coral heads.
So what are my thoughts? I'm happy we bought the Navionics charts for our laptop. Even though the depths aren't always correct, I can do all my planning and "what-if" scenarios on the laptop and then transfer them to the chartplotter. I can then use the Garmin (and the paper charts) for close in navigation. The Navionics charts are accurate with regards to coastlines, cuts, etc. so they can be used for broad navigation.
If I was to pick a single solution to use and we were only looking to navigate the US and the Bahamas, I would definitely pick either Garmin or a C-Map solution (Furuno, Northstar, Simrad, Si-Tex, Standard Horizon and a few others). If you are looking to go around the world, I've heard (but can't confirm) that the Garmin charts are not as good or are unavailable, so I'd go with a C-Map solution or a Navionics solution. Navionics is better than C-Map in certain areas of the world, and C-Map is better than Navionics in other areas. If you already have a Raymarine system or other Navionics system on board, look at supplementing this with a handheld Garmin unit.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
We went to the ocean side beach with Asolare (John, Ann and their son Colby). The walk wasn’t too far, but it was difficult carrying all of our snorkeling gear. The reefs were a way out from the beach, so it took a bit of time to swim out there. I got freaked out, because on the way to the reefs it’s nothing but blue water and rippled sand below, but you know at some point a rock formation will loom in front of you. I got the feeling that if I wasn’t careful, I would swim right into it. Visibility was nowhere near what it was in the Exumas. When we finally arrived, the sight took my breath away.
Ahead of us was a 20 foot high coral formation. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before. The biggest coral up to now were the 7 foot high mounds in the Warderick Wells Land and Sea Park. This was just amazing. The sad part was that most of it was dead. Occasionally we saw some purple fans, or some green formations, but other than that it was browns and grays. What it lacked in color, it made up in sheer size and form. There were passages with coral close on each side of you, and openings on top that opened up to larger bowl type areas. There were tunnels to swim through. After scraping my leg on barnacles a while back, I opted to skip the tunnels. Colby swam through one though, and it looked pretty cool! Kudos to Colby for being so brave!
After snorkeling for an hour or so, we were quite exhausted and headed back to shore. I swore that the next day we would force Chris to come. We didn’t have to force him though, he was quite eager once he heard how great it was. We had an equally fun time today. We went with Taua (Peter, Monica and their daughter Claudia). Peter actually found and caught a turtle today! He held onto it and showed everyone before releasing it back to the coral. It was about a foot wide, and quite amazing to see up close. We also saw two large barracuda as well. Casey’s favorite were these tiny, ½ inch long black fish with the brightest blue spots on them. The spots were so bright they looked almost neon. They were hiding in a coral formation, and you had to float above it and look down to see the fish. It’s just amazing the variety of fish that are out there!
Now we’re all totally exhausted once again. Kaitlin even went right to sleep tonight! It’s not even 10PM, and I’m the only one still up! Not for long.
The stand was right on the beach where old wooden rowboats were tied up, fishing boats were tied to piers, and all sorts of slime and jellyfish were out due to low tide. Behind the shack, at the waters edge was a pen where they kept the conch alive until it was time to make another salad. To order, you placed your name on a pad of yellow paper sitting on the counter, and wrote what you wanted next to it. They were quite busy and told us it would be about ½ and hour before our salads would be ready. I had found a nice conch shell earlier, so Kaitlin and I went wandering on the beach to find a string to carry it with. We found one pretty quick, but I couldn’t figure out a way to tie it onto the shell. Then…jackpot we found a bunch more conch shells under a dock. I was now up to 5 of them total. I need at least seven to make conch horns for all of my nieces and nephews.
We wandered back to “Queen Conch”, the conch salad shack, and I was eyeing up the huge pile of discarded shells next to the pen. Chris had been chatting with the lady making the salads, and she was quite friendly. I told her that I needed some shells for my relatives, and asked if I could grab two from the pile. I hated to ask, because right next door, they were selling the cleaned shells, and I’m sure they didn’t like people just grabbing free ones. But the Queen Conch lady said no problem, and my conch horn supply was now complete!
While at the conch stand, we met Eric and Jenny from Atlanta. They were an extremely nice couple who were on vacation for a week. They spent the past three rainy days at Paradise Island (where Atlantis is), and the final three days here. When we met them they were on their first day of Harbor Island. We must have chatted with them for an hour or so. They were fascinated by our cruising, and we just love to tell our story. They even chatted with the kids for a while, and the kids had a great time talking about cruising from their perspective. Another man was listening, and he started asking questions as well. He said he always wanted to cruise, but his wife was not into it. He didn’t seem sad at this fact, but knowing what we’ve experienced, I felt bad that he or anyone for that matter has missed out.
After the conch salad, we went back to the boat for a bit. I cleaned up the conchs I had found, and soaked a couple in a bucket to wash again later. After a while, the rest of the crew came back to their boats. They had gone to the beach for the afternoon. We all decided on a laid back dinner of pizza at a local place with everyone. We haven’t had pizza in quite a while, and by US standards, this was probably not that great, but it was wonderful to us!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I did a little extra island exploring this morning during my run. I started out heading for the ocean side beach. Then I ran along the beach for a while. There were already workers out removing the seaweed that had washed up on shore. Most of the Oceanside beach is lined with houses and resorts. There are none of the huge, modern resorts though. All of the buildings look like large brightly painted houses. It’s very quaint. I watched the sand dunes for a while to spot a way back out to the road, and finally after a mile or so, I spotted a way off the beach. I was spat out onto a road, and had no idea where I was. Feeling like running a bit more, I took off to the left. Bad decision. This was further away from the marina where I parked the dinghy.
I knew I had to get to the other side of the island, so I started taking roads that went in that direction. This is when I learned that there are no dead end signs anywhere! I must have taken 5 or 6 very long roads, only to have each one end up at someone’s house, or a marina, or just with no way out. Well, no time like the present to bump up my mileage! I stopped a woman in a golf cart and asked her how to get to Valentines marina. I knew I was in trouble when she pointed me down the mile long dead end road I just came from. She asked me if I had been on Dunmore road, and I told her it was my first time on the island, and I had no idea what roads I had been on. She then said that it was her first time on the island too! It’s the lost leading the lost. Politely I told her that I would ask the guy pulling up behind us.
The next guy was black, and looked local. Maybe a bit too local. He knew exactly where Valentines was, but spoke more French than English. He got so animated, that he jumped out of his golf cart and motioned with his hands. He pointed to the ocean side of the island and kept saying, “Bank, bank!” (sounded like honk but with a B) He wanted me to go down the main road and do something, but I just couldn’t figure it out. “Do you want me to go and turn left at the bank?” I asked. “No, no. Bank! Do you understand?” he replied. I thanked him, and he asked if I spoke French, in French. I told him, “No, but I think I should learn! All I can say is Merci!” This he found amusing, and said Merci back at me.
I continued on in the direction he pointed and eventually started seeing more shops and businesses. After making a couple of turns I was reunited with Valentines and my dinghy! Yay! Oh, and I did actually pass by a bank, so maybe that is what he was trying to say.
For breakfast I’m still working on the mangoes given to us by Jackson. We met Jackson at a local lunch stand, and after talking to him about local fruits, Chris mentioned that I loved mangoes, so the next day he brought over a huge bag of them! He said there are actually a lot of different kinds of mangoes. He brought us his favorite which he said are a bit stringier, but much sweeter.
I still had a few mangoes from Governors harbor, which were smaller than Jackson’s mangoes. So this morning I had a taste test. I found both types stringy, but Jackson’s were definitely much sweeter. Either way, when you’re done eating them, you’re picking strings out of your teeth for the next hour!
As soon as the kids are done with school, we’ll all go into town and explore. While running, I found a conch salad shack with a TON of conch shells out back. I’ll make conch horns for my nieces and nephews yet!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This morning Little Woodytold us to be ready to cast off the dock at 9:15. Little Woody is the pilot who would be taking AlyCat and us through The Devil’s Backbone. This is the deep path of water that stretches from Spanish Wells to Harbor Island. It is loaded with twists and turns and many patches of coral. People have told us that you can navigate it yourself, but only on a calm sunny day. With all of these storms and clouds, we decided to play it safe.
We started out of Spanish Wells, following a line of markers that looked like telephone poles. Well, this isn’t too difficult, I thought. Little Woody was on AlyCat, in front of us, and we were following. All of a sudden he made a sharp left right in between two poles. Then I immediately knew we had made the right decision. The next turn was right around a point over a very light green section of water. Yup, definitely the right decision. From then on we wound our way between shore anywhere from 20-50 feet off our starboard side and reefs with waves crashing over them on our port side. We had sun for most of the 2 hour trip, but at times the clouds moved in and I couldn’t read the water at all. We passed over and around tons of coral, and I can’t wait to dinghy back there and check it all out!
Little Woody brought us right to our anchorage and we paid him and thanked him for the Johnny Cakes that his wife made. When he met us in Spanish Wells, he gave us Johnny Cakes (delicious bread shaped like an English muffin, but tastes like a biscuit) and said we could eat them for breakfast during the ride. We dropped the anchor, and discovered that our internet access was minimal. That means it’s time to motor around and search for internet! Yay! This is where I get ready to drop the anchor, Chris drives around, and Casey watches the computer for a good internet signal. When Casey sees the signal, Chris stops the boat, and I drop anchor. This time we only had to drop anchor twice! I am more than willing to do this, though, because a good internet signal means we can skype, and I can call my parents.
Once anchored, the kids did some school until everyone was ready to go ashore. While we were below, it started to rain. Then…it REALLY started to rain. Usually heavy rain only lasts a couple of minutes, so we waited. But this wasn’t stopping, and the thunder and lightning started as well. I wasn’t sure how much water we had in our tanks, so I suggested we try opening them up and letting the rain water flow in. We’ve heard of people doing this before, but we’ve never had a long hard rain to try it out. It had been raining hard for a couple of minutes, so our decks were clean and the water running down the sides was clean as well. I put on my working bathing suit (the one with the worn out bottom) and rushed upstairs to dam the water before the rain stopped. Our water intake is about ½ inch above the area where the water runs down the edge of the boat. This works out well because I could dam the water with a towel and the water would pool and rise up that ½ inch while the dirt stayed at the bottom. The beautiful, clean, pure, great tasting, and absolutely free rain water then just poured into our tanks. The starboard tank filled first, and I had little hope for the port tank as the rain started to slow.
I was drenched, so I sat in the cockpit and watched the pattern of the rain. You can see the heavier rain dance around the water in random patches. At one point I could see a small patch of heavy rain to my right and one at the bow while right around us it was light. The rain was so heavy, it would hit and pearls of water would splash up around it. When you went out from the cover of the dodger, the drops stung your skin.
But despite it all, we became giddy with excitement. I first got excited at the prospect of filling our tanks with free water. Anything free makes me happy! We did eventually fill our tanks. Casey was at the sink and all of a sudden the water overflow (a spout that flows into the sink) started to spew a steady stream. The rain just kept coming! So much fresh water! Casey came up top in his bathing suit and ran around the deck. Then we found a spot where water was just pouring off the dodger and you could sit under the steady stream. We each sat under it, tilted our heads back and took long drinks. We just couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer joy of all this fresh water. We took it for granted at home. Casey said he couldn’t believe that he took a 12 minute shower every other day when we were at home. This was the longest shower he’s had in many, many months. By now, even Chris had emerged in his swim trunks and was enjoying the rain.
Then we glanced at the dinghy and saw….BATH TIME! Oh boy! I asked Kaitlin (who was below the whole time because she didn’t want to get wet) to grab my shower bag. Casey and I jumped into the dinghy and washed and conditioned our hair. Each of us took turns writhing around on our backs in the fresh water, now about 4 inches deep on the bottom of the dinghy. Then we made like monkeys and splashed our chests with water, which turned into a splash each other fight. It felt like the first snowfall at home, when everyone comes out and makes snowmen and has a snowball fight. We looked over at Taua and noticed Caroline and Claudia playing in their dinghy as well.
Eventually the rain subsided, and we dried off and enjoyed some down time. Kaitlin is now over playing with Caroline on Taua, and Colby from Asolare is here playing with Casey. Tonight is a pot luck on AlyCat. I guess we’ll have to go to shore tomorrow! It’s good to be clean!
Monday, May 25, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Kristen here [And Chris] – Today is Friday 5/22/09. Yesterday morning the plan was to head from Alabaster Bay to Spanish Wells. We woke up at 6:30 to listen to Chris Parker’s weather report. He said the winds would be 10-20 knots with the chance for a few squalls with 30-40 knot winds. Hmmm…that didn’t sound too good to me. We looked outside at the weather and there was a large front to the west of us. The wind was blowing from the east.
Chris said the decision was up to me. He would be fine if we stayed or if we left. Everyone else in the anchorage was planning on leaving that morning as well. That is when I realized that it’s very difficult to make these decisions. There was an impending storm, but the winds were pushing it away from us. We would most likely be fine, but it was going to be close. I was quite sick of Alabaster Bay and wanted to move on. If we did get hit with the high winds, it would be scary and uncomfortable, but we could handle it. I said we should go.
[Added by Chris... I agree with Kristen - I was sick of Alabaster Bay at this point. Basically, it was a half moon bay with an Italian restaurant on the south end and nice beaches. There was no Internet available on the boats. I enjoy having Internet available so I can pass the time when the squalls are running through. We REALLY enjoyed Governor's Harbor, and this goes back to my comment a few weeks ago - we prefer exploring towns and meeting people over secluded anchorages. By the way - the restaurant was very good, but too expensive to eat at more than once or twice. With regards to the weather, I tend to err on the "Let's go for it side" while Kristen tends to be more cautious. We balance each other well, and I always want to make sure Kristen is comfortable with the conditions we'll be going in. This day was marginal, so I figured I'd leave it up to her.]
We pulled up anchor and headed out towards the menacing grey skies. Now you have to realize that our visibility is hundreds of miles. When we see a storm it could be a hundred miles away and not any sort of a threat, but it is still scary when you see the lightning streak clearly across the sky. We pulled up our Sirius satellite weather and watched the progress of the storm as we sailed to Spanish Wells. I was glued to the display the whole time. Our satellite weather shows the progress of the storm and its intensity in 10 -15 minute increments. It will show a rotating display of the storm at 9:00, 9:10, 9:20, and so on. So for 5 hours I watched this storm slowly progress perpendicular to us. It would build and come closer and then dissipate and move away. It would curve around in front of us and I would watch the time until the next increment came up to see if it moved out of our path.
[Added by Chris... Yeah - Kristen was glued to the screen. Every 5 or 10 minutes there would be an update of the weather picture, and Kristen would yell out - "There's an update!" Kristen and I would crowd around the screen to see what the storms were doing. The swath they cut through the Bahamas was fairly narrow, but a little finger kept ballooning out as the storm gathered up moisture, and it was this balloon that was right in our path. The Sirius system also shows lightning activity, and we could see a highly concentrated area of lightning coming up behind us about 30nm-40nm away. The system will also only show heavier areas of precipitation, so we kept getting hit by rain that wasn't displayed. I'm guessing that if they showed all of the rain on the display it would just be way too much to download via satellite.]
We were positive that the storm would cross our path as we were passing through Current Cut. This is a narrow section between Eleuthera and Current Island. I’m not sure why, but we always seem to get hit with bad weather at the most inappropriate times. Sure enough about ½ hour out from the cut, it started raining. The wind remained stable, so there were no worries. We decided to sail up to and through the cut. We had watched the three boats in front of us go through with no problem. We had absolutely no visual navigation (ability to read the color of the water, only possible when the sun is shining), but the guide book said to stay 50-150 meters off shore and then make the turn for the cut. I stood on the bow and did the best I could to see the depth. With the wind and rain, though, I could barely see the bottom right next to the boat.
[Added by Chris… There were actually two different ways to approach Current Cut. Current Cut was well named - during its peak flow the current will run at over 5kts through it. Since we max out at about 7kts, it would be dangerous for us to be IN the current for long. I spoke with some people on Spanish Wells yesterday that told me that they would see boats spun around from the current, out of control. There is a straight in approach to the cut, and there is an approach that would take you a mile south and have you follow the shoreline closely. This second approach was the recommended approach, and I'm guessing it was recommended since the straight in approach would have you in the heavy current for much longer. One of the boats we were with took the straight in approach, and the other two took the approach from the south. One of the boats - Taua - that took the south approach was about to call us on the radio to suggest we go the other way due to the fact that you had to approach the rocks so closely and the wind was somewhat heavy, but then noticed that we were within a half mile of them so they decided not to call us.]
We approached Current Island and started sailing about 100 meters off of the shore line. Now normally, when there is sun, a channel will appear deep blue among various other light green and brown shallow areas. It is very easy to spot. But today all I could see was brown water. We were sailing blind. The approach was clearly marked on the charts, so we followed the directions and continued sailing along shore. At approximately 500 feet from the turn for the cut, Chris started yelling that his depth was decreasing rapidly. “Where should I go?” He yelled to me. Ok, now I have a matter of seconds to figure out where to head the boat. I couldn’t read the water at all, and the jagged rocks of shore were to my left, so I told Chris to go right. Maybe we were too close to shore. If I made an error, I wanted to be far away from the rocks. Well, I made an error, and Chris called out the depth as we grounded the boat. We ended up sitting in 4-5 feet of water. Our boat draws just under six feet.
[Added by Chris... Yep... we grounded. We were doing great. We had reached our waypoint just south of the cut, turned right and were in the process of trimming our sails for our new course. It was at some point during the sail trimming that I glanced down at the depth sounder and saw that we were in six feet of water. I yelled to Kristen that the water was way too shallow and started trying to adjust our course to port and starboard, looking for more water, while Kristen tried to assess the situation. Because we had our sails up, we were heeled over by about 10 degrees, reducing our draft (how deep our boat goes under the water) to about 5'3" - 5'8" - it's impossible to know. We grounded in about 5.1-5.2 feet, and the first thing we did was drop our sails so we would stop moving forward. The unfortunate side effect of dropping your sails when grounded is that you spring upright, and boom - we were now drawing almost 6 feet again, and sitting in about 5 feet of water. We were REALLY grounded.]
So there we were, stuck, with no idea where to go even if we could get free. Luckily it was dead low tide, so we could just wait, but there were a few reasons why this wasn’t a good idea. First was the current in the cut. It was flowing out at the moment, but when it turned it would push us into the rocks. Second was the weather. There was another storm approaching with lots of lightning. Lightning is bad when you live under a big metal rod! So we had to get the boat unstuck and find a path to wherever the channel was. I knew what this meant we had to do. We had to put the motor on the dinghy and go depth sounding. Putting the motor on the dinghy in rain and waves is always exciting. The motor on the hoist is bobbing up and down and the dinghy is bobbing up and down and somehow you have to match the mounts up and not drop the motor in the ocean. We managed it, and Casey and I were off to depth sound.
We sounded directly around the boat and found no deep water. Then we sounded from the boat to a fixed point on shore. As we approached the rocky shore the depth dropped to 12 feet. Well, that answered that question. We were too far away from shore! I think the guide meant 50-150 feet instead of yards! The path from the boat to the channel was 6 feet deep at its shallowest. Well, that is once you got 4 feet forward.
By now the other boats we were traveling with had anchored on the other side of the cut, launched their dinghys and were there to help us. It was just amazing. There was no question. They just turned around, stopped and came to help. I explained to everyone what the plan was and the path we had to take. Then Chris thought about coral. Two of the dinghys were going to pull on the halyards to tip the boat and free it while I pushed on the bow to move the boat. Then we would plow through the grass until we hit deeper water. If we hit coral, it would put a serious dent in the boat. This stuff is as hard as rocks! So I donned my snorkel mask and stuck my head in the water while Casey dinghyed along the path we had sounded out. Ok, no coral. We commenced with the tugging and pushing with no avail. We were really stuck in hard!
[Added by Chris... When we first grounded we tried flooring the boat forward and backward. All we succeeded in doing was digging a deeper hole. Watching the dirt and grass stirred up from the bottom was not fun. When we first grounded we announced on the radio to our group what was going on. John from Asolare wanted to know if we needed help. From my perspective, we were at dead low tide. The tide should go up by at least 2 feet. My feeling was that we should throw out two anchors to hold our position, wait for the tide to rise and then just motor out of our predicament. The wind wasn't too high (maybe around 20kts), we weren't THAT close to the rocks and we knew that the water was going to rise. I told the other boats that we weren't in immediate need of help and that we were going to take a little time to assess the situation. Kristen, however, wanted to be off NOW. It took us about 30-45 minutes to sound out the bottom, and by that time all of the other boats we were with had anchored anyway, dropped their dinghies into the water and were motoring on their way to help us. The second best way to unground yourself (the first being to wait for high tide) is to reduce the depth your boat needs. Kristen mentions using halyards to tip the boat over. Just to explain, halyards are lines that you use to hoist your sails to the top of the mast, so they go all the way to the tippy top of your mast. If you pass the lower end of the halyard to a boat off to your side, and they pull on it, they will lean your boat over as they pull. Theoretically, you then motor forward or backwards to get into deeper water.]
Now we look up and see a Bahamian boat approaching with a BIG engine. Here we go! They took a halyard and got right down to business. I think they’ve done this before. Chris and Kaitlin are on the boat and the rest of us are circling the boat in our dinghys while the Bahamians put 125HP to work. They said they would pull us free and then lead us through the cut. Chris manned the wheel while the Bahamians tugged the halyard and canted the boat a good 70 degrees. It was an amazing, terrifying sight! Chris said the rail was well in the water. I yelled at him to turn the boat and go, and he replied that he had no control because the rudder was half out of the water. So Casey and I drove the dinghy to the side of the boat opposite the Bahamians. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I could plainly see the entire length of our keel about one foot below the water’s surface. Half of the bottom of our boat was above the water, incredible! I looked up and saw Kaitlin standing on the side of the boat about 20 feet above us. We had to be free now, it was just a matter of pushing the boat in the right direction. I put the dinghy to the nose of the boat and pushed. Slowly it turned, and then all of a sudden the boat went upright and was on its way. I gunned the dinghy in reverse to get out of the way and went back around to help detach the halyard from the Bahamian boat. They had it back on our boat already, so we were on our way. We were guided through the cut and safe on the other side. I drove up to the boat and tied the dinghy on and hopped aboard.
[Added by Chris... Through his radio calls, I believe, John from Asolare had been able to contact this Bahamian crew that happened to be near their boat on Current Island. They jumped in and headed over to help. At one point I was thinking I should give Kristen the camera to take pictures of the operation. I mentioned that to her yesterday and she said she would have killed me if I had suggested it! When they took that halyard, we sure did heel over! I was really concerned that stuff would be crashing all over the place down below (like my computer) and asked Kaitlin if she could go check. There was NO way she was budging from her spot clinging to the upper rail! I was almost standing on the side of the seats. In retrospect, I realize that we couldn't have been heeled over TOO radically or the prop would have been out of the water, but 50-60 degrees was probably fairly accurate. Our engine is water cooled, and the water exhaust is on the side of the boat that was heeled over. As we went farther over, the water was frothing and bubbling all around where our exhaust sits.. more on that later.]
PHEW! That was quite an adventure. Now we had to assess the damages. There was an an anchorage nearby so we were going to head for that to dive on the keel and look for dents or holes. Oh, but wait, wasn’t there another storm heading for us? Oh yea, look at that - there is grey nastiness behind us. I almost cried when Chris said we have to put the dinghy motor back on the boat. I’m still shaking, and now I have to get in the dinghy and deal with the motor again! Every fiber of my being said no, but it had to be done. If we got caught in wind and waves, the dinghy would be too heavy with the motor on it and would get damaged.
[Added by Chris... Yeah - I looked at the storm on the Sirius system and it showed lots of lightning and dark green patches (meaning heavy rain). Usually there is a good amount of wind associated with squalls like this, and I was afraid that the dinghy - hugely stern heavy with the engine still on - would be unstable. I told Kristen that I'd like to pull the engine off and she just looked at me with this incredulous look and said "No!" I basically insisted, and she shook off her emotional exhaustion and we made it happen. She's an amazing woman! Kristen mentioned assessing the damage... as I mentioned earlier, our exhaust was underwater and pumping hard when we were heeled over. When we finally made it through the cut, under power, I noticed a larger amount than usual of white smoke coming out of the exhaust. There are two big things that cause white smoke. First is water in your fuel. Second is a blown head gasket. With the exhaust underwater and pumping hard for so long, I was concerned about back pressure into the system and water getting into the wrong engine parts. On the way to Spanish Wells after the cut, our engine temperature was OK and the RPM's were OK, so I'm hoping we just shook up our tanks when we were heeled over and it's just some water in the fuel.]
Ok, now the motor is on the rail, and we’re on our way to the anchorage. Luckily the storm dissipated, and we made it without incident. I jumped in and checked things out. The keel and propeller were fine. Now for the bottom of the keel, I really don’t know what it looked like before, but I’m sure this wasn’t it. There was no more bottom paint. Most of it was white, and the front was down to the brown fiberglass. Normally this would be a problem, but we’ve been planning on repainting our bottom quite soon. Alison from AlyCat said we should get a discount now because they would have less sanding to do to get the old paint off! The good news was that there were no dings, holes or dents of any kind. So, all in all we came out unscathed.
[Added by Chris... After further discussion with Kristen, she thinks she saw the actual fiberglass weave on the bottom portion of the keel. That's not good and could be a significant repair. We'll find out when we haul.]
We pulled up the anchor and headed into Spanish Wells. We were still quite shaky, and visual navigation was still impossible. But hay, we had great charts right? Hmmm….this is sounding familiar. The channel into Spanish Wells was marked by two i-beams. We motored in and then the channel split. We took the left fork and were supposed to keep left to follow the shoreline. I saw a white marker and told Chris to keep it to his left. Oops, did I say keep it to your left? I meant to say keep left of the marker! As I noticed he wasn’t turning I yelled back to keep left. Then, as he told me later, someone radioed him and told him to turn now or he was going to ground the boat. Oh no, not again. He quickly turned and I apologized profusely. That could have been bad!
[Added by Chris... Yeah, two groundings in one day. That would have been a treat :)]
Amazingly we made it into our slip with no incident at all. This was one of those ground kissing moments. We made it! We got settled in, and settled our nerves a bit. Then we all went to explore town and grab some dinner.
Spanish Wells is quite different from other Bahamian settlements. First of all, the population is about 80% white. The houses and their yards are all well kept. The flowers and trees around here are breathtaking. People seem to care about how things look. Today we will be exploring a bit more.
[Added by Chris... Other than the racial makeup, there are two other big things I've notice about this island that sets it apart from the others. First, there are a lot of 18-30 year old's here. They aren't missing the latest generation of family. A lot of the other islands we've visited have few younger people as they all leave to go to Nassau to find work or go to school and then they don't come back. Here on Spanish Wells, they all come back. There's work here, which leads me into the second thing that sets this area apart. There's money. This is a working settlement, and the people are making money. The primary source of income is fishing - they are the largest supplier of lobster tails to Red Lobster and are the largest lobster fishers in all of the Bahamas. The same goes for Conch - they provide more conch than any other region of the Bahamas. As a result, the houses are all very well kept with lush fruit gardens. The cars are new. The streets are paved. There are numerous stores to spend money at.
A few other observations. The Spanish Wells native's accents are very unique. The accent is almost Lousiana Creole in sound, somewhere between British, Bahamian and American, but very unique. The town is "dry", as in they don't sell alcohol, even beer, in any of the markets or restaurants. This is due to the fact that the founders of Methodism landed here for a few months on their way to the New World and created a large Methodist influence. Methodists are not allowed to consume alcohol. You can go to an island right over a 50 foot bridge, though, and buy all the alcohol you want.
Lastly, I spoke to a few people from Spanish Wells, and apparently there aren't that many different families here. As a result, marriage between third or fourth cousins is not uncommon.
It's a real neat, and real different, type of community.]
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We're trying to figure out our schedule moving forward. We'd like to get our bottom painted before we leave the Bahamas, and we need to catch some more conch and snorkel a bit more. We're thinking we can get our bottom done in Spanish Wells, just north of where we are. If so, we'll probably skip the Abacos this season and then head back to the US after our bottom is painted. If they can't do the work in Spanish Wells, we'll probably go to the Abacos to get the work done. Supposedly there's a weather window towards the end of next week that will allow us
to sail back to the US. Regardless, we're spending one more day here in Alabaster Bay before we hop north. The seas are still a bit high so there's no reason to leave right away. We'll let you know more as we figure it out.
Governors Harbor was one of my favorite places so far on this trip. And, no, it wasn’t because of the awesome ice cream! When we were all around Rock Sound Harbor, everyone was debating where to go. Governors Harbor is said to have poor holding, so we weren’t so sure about it. After being there for three days, I can say that the holding was just fine. Our original anchor attempt dragged, but once we found some sand, we were fine.
Governors was just like a Bahamian version of a quaint New England town. There were many old and beautiful houses, and still intact. One of the people we met said the Sloop John B, from the song was built behind a house he pointed out to us. Hoist up your John B sails, see how the main sail sets…
The day after we arrived there was going to be a kids fair to support a local school. This turned out to be quite the interesting event. It took place outside next to the baseball field. There were about five permanent booths set up there. For the event they had a barbeque with chicken, pork chops and fried fish which we saw them catching in the bay. There was a bake sale, a ticket booth, a peg board game and a ring toss. When I asked at the ticket booth for a ticket for the ring toss they had no idea what I was talking about. Instead of ring toss, they called the game Hooplah. There was also a bouncy castle for the kids. Mark treated the kids to a ride in the bouncy castle, and I bought everyone a ring to toss in the Hooplah game. I won two lipsticks and a cup, and Parker won a cup too. Kaitlin used her own money to play the peg board game and she won some sort of plastic toy. Later on that day she gave it to a local girl who didn’t have any prizes.
The booth that was last in line housed a DJ. Next to his booth were 6 huge speakers blaring music. Each speaker was at least 3 feet high and 2 feet wide! When you walked in front of them, you could feel the vibrations in your chest. This seems to be the norm in the Bahamas. At the Family Island Regatta in Georgetown, they had the same speaker setup. Bahamians like the loud music!
In the evening there was a fashion show and Junkanoo band. We were all debating what the fashion show would be. It was either going to be adults in tight pants, or children in tight pants. We’ve noticed that children tend to “shake it” a bit more here than in the states. At the Family Island Regatta there were many children wiggling their hips in the marching band and during the stage performances. So, sure enough the show started with the music blaring and 8 year olds started strutting their stuff across the stage (actually the stage was the trailer end of a tractor trailer). Even the boys were involved. All of the “models” were moving and strutting in ways children eight and younger really shouldn’t move. It was kind of uncomfortable to watch. To the locals all of this was completely normal and acceptable and even encouraged.
After the fashion show was a junkanoo band. I don’t think the band got started until at least 9PM at night. I commented to Angie that at home, all of this would be taking place during the day. The band was half drums and half horn instruments. In front stood three boys and the leader dressed in homemade colorful feather adorned outfits. The leader blew a whistle to keep time and the rest of the band just seemed to be jamming the whole time. They started out with one song, but it never stopped. It changed and morphed into different tunes, but there were never any pauses. They all walked and danced around the area in a loosely assembled group while they played for about an hour. The audience watched from afar at first, but as the band moved everyone surrounded and moved with them.
Governors Harbor also had the best bakery ever!!!! You could get fresh bread (white or wheat), cinnamon rolls, donuts, cheese danishes, coconut danishes, empanadas, brownies, and scones. We all had some of everything except the brownies and scones. I just can’t remember the last time I had a cinnamon roll or donut! Ok, we made donuts for Easter, but they weren’t like these for sure!
We also visited the library which was a beautiful, old, white and blue building facing the harbor. As you enter the building, it smelled like a musty old library. The thick concrete walls were all white on the inside as well. There was a large section for the kids with many books and activities. I headed for the newspaper. There was a Eleuthera newspaper which told about a recent resort shutdown that cost the island 500 jobs. This is a major problem in the islands. Developers come and start a resort, the islanders get excited for jobs, they rape the land, and then abandon the project for lack of funds or interest. We have seen so many abandoned or half finished resorts on these islands. They are an eyesore and an environmental disaster.
We walked on the abandoned club med property on Eleuthera which is slowly being returned to nature. It was abandoned after being destroyed by a hurricane. The insurance money was used for other club med properties. The buildings were destroyed, but the concrete slabs they were built on still remained. There were coconut trees placed around paths that were beginning to crack. Concrete walls still stood, and we even found a water spigot that still worked. Apparently someone else found it too and was using it to bathe because there was a bar of soap and some shampoo nearby. I can’t decide what is worse, having thousands of people descend on a small island, using its few resources, or an abandoned eyesore. Either way, I hope the Bahamian government gets smart fast before their beautiful islands are gone.
On Saturday we had a grand sendoff for Side by Side. They were leaving at 3:30 Sunday morning for Florida. We have been with them since Warderick Wells and have enjoyed every minute. They are just wonderful people, and I learned so much from them. Mark taught me where to find conch and how to clean them, how to make awesome chicken and fish nuggets, and where to look for good beach trash. Angie taught me that it’s ok to wear a bikini, or nothing at all! They also showed us that you don’t have to hover over your children while they do school. Sometimes it’s good to leave them on their own. Parker and Sabrina were great friends for Casey and Kaitlin. They showed us shaker beans, conch horns, hamburger beans and sea hearts. We will miss them so much and will secretly hope they don’t go across the Atlantic and stay on the East coast.
For the sendoff party, we started out at a tapas restaurant. Lets see, there was Side by Side, Asolare, Aly Cat, Miakoda, Taua, and us. We left the kids on Aly Cat. A gentleman we met earlier in the day offered to give us a ride at 6:30. He only had room for five, so when the time came, Chris volunteered to go with the other four women, and I volunteered to walk there with the men. The sacrifices we make!
The women were off, and the men and I started walking. Then Marc from Side by Side promptly sat down on a wall on the side of the road. “He’ll come back to pick us up”, Marc said. I was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to be back, so I suggested we start walking and meet our possible ride. The men wouldn’t listen, as usual, so I announced that I was on my way and to pick me up if they got a ride. Asolare had shown me earlier that day, that hitchhiking was prevalent in the islands. So I stuck my thumb out and had a ride within the first five minutes of walking. I was at the restaurant in six minutes, and I met a very nice local man who grew up on Exuma island. I thanked him for the ride and told him we have enjoyed his island. Apparently, I found out later, my ride went back into town and told the men that I was dropped off at the restaurant safely, but he didn’t offer them a ride. Ha ha…serves them right. When I got to the restaurant the women said we should do something to help the men, but I said that walking was their punishment for not listening to me. As it turned out they eventually got a ride as well. I must say there was just a little gloating on my part when they arrived about 20 minutes after me!
We all had a great time at the tapas restaurant. The food and the company were amazing. After dinner we went to a place called the Buckaneer. There was a live band and we danced until the wee hours of the morning. A few of us took some time earlier to go back to our boats and put our respective kids to bed, and then returned to the festivities. I think we got back to our boats around 1AM or so. I fell into bed, and Chris went over to Side by Side to transfer pictures. I believe they were up until 2:30AM. Poor Angie probably didn’t even sleep that night! They did make it out at 3:30 or 4:00 that morning and were on their way back to the states. *sniff* *sniff*
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Well, we decided to stay in Alabaster Bay for now. I'm not happy about that since there's no WiFi here and no town to walk around in, but when Miakoda left yesterday to head for the Exumas they called back to tell us to stay put - they were getting bashed by waves and wind once they left the protection of the bay. So - we decided to stay. Kristen and the kids went swimming and hiking, and I sat around the boat moping about being bored. I think I'm just really tired and stressed.
We woke up for the 6:30am Chris Parker weather forecast yesterday. For those of you that know me, you probably also know that 6:30am is usually not in my vocabulary. I was up until 2:30am, so I got slightly under 4 hours of sleep. Then Chris said that he was still unsure as to the weather patterns, so the morning was spent speculating what would happen. The wind stayed pretty light for most of the day with only a few strong periods, and the highest wind we saw was about 28mph or so. This morning we were up for the 6:30am forecast again, and Chris THINKS the nasty weather will pass mostly west and north of us, but he's still not completely confident - apparently the two low pressure systems aren't strongly defined so it's hard to tell. So... another two days of waiting for this system to pass, and hoping that we don't see 50kt (60mph or so) winds in the major rain squalls at any point. The sand here makes for pretty good holding as long as the wind doesn't swing around to the west, and there's a low probability of that.
So the long and short of it is - we're fine, I'm a bit bored and so far so good.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
An update on weather... Side by Side has left us, and at 3:30am they left Governor's Harbour to head to Fort Lauderdale, about 220nm away. They want to beat out the system, cross the Gulf Stream, and get cracking on boat repairs to prep for an Atlantic crossing in a few weeks. We will sorely miss them!
The rest of the kid boats here (Aly Cat, Miakoda, Taua, and Asolare) are going to Alabaster, and then we'll figure out where we can still head to hole up for the upcoming storms. If we have Internet, we'll update you when we know. Otherwise, follow our SPOT tracking (link to the right) and see where we decided!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Yesterday and Today Chris Parker, weather guru extraordinaire, has said that there may be some strong weather coming our direction. He hasn't been too sure as to what is going to happen, as low pressure systems are difficult to nail down. Today he sent out an afternoon update - "Waters of 81F-82F are sufficiently-warm to support Tropical LO. Atmospheric support is questionable. Worst weather (highest winds & squalls & seas) should occur in N&E quadrants of LO, and possibly extending well-East of LO. Vessels throughout GOMEX & FL & W Bahamas should monitor situation closely."
Always fun to hear the words "Tropical Low", as these represent high winds (30-60kts), clocking around (i.e. starting from one direction and then moving around to different directions) and commensurate seas. A tropical low is a the lead up to a hurricane, but the chances of something like that happening in May are slim - very very very very slim. Regardless, strong winds, big seas and heavy rains coming get cruisers into a big tizzy, and all the talk this afternoon has been about the upcoming weather. Where do we all go?
Well, we can't stay here as there will probably be a western component to the wind (i.e. northwest, west or southwest wind) and this harbor is completely open to the west. You don't want to just turn tail and hide right away. Low pressure system boundaries are very difficult to predict, so you could hide and either have nothing happen or pick a spot where you are more likely to get hit.
Tonight was spent checking out weather sites - passageweather.com, sailflow.com, GRIB files from the National Weather Service and various other weather sources. What I've come to find is that we're right on the boundary. It appears as if most of the big stuff will pass north of us, closer to Abaco, and we're probably going to get smacked around by 20-30kt winds. Maybe.
Alley Cat and Tawa, two of the kid boats we've been travelling with, are currently in Rock Sound and are planning to pull into Alabaster Bay, just northwest of us, tomorrow. They actually rented a car today and mid-morning we heard a call on the radio from them - "Pelican, Pelican, Alley Cat." We looked into the harbour and couldn't see them, so we asked where they were. "On the road by the dinghy landing", they replied. They had driven up here, and we ended up all having lunch together. Anyway, I digress.
Side by Side is trying to get back to the US by May 21st as they want to cross the great Atlantic by the end of June (they need to be across by then), and since it takes 30 days and they have a ton of stuff to do, they are considering heading back to the US ASAP, as in the next couple of days, in order to beat out this storm system. The rest of us (Miakoda, Alley Cat, Tawa and Asolare [a new kid boat we've hooked up with]) will have to pick a spot to wait out the storms. After looking at the charts, we think we might make the 41nm run to Spanish Wells on Sunday and then head through the Devil's Backbone (a nasty section of water littered with coral and rocks on the northern end of Eleuthera) to Harbour Island. At least there we'd have Internet and stuff to do if the storm ends up not being so bad. Harbour Island provides a lot of protection from almost every direction.
Anyway, if you see us skedaddle to the north, that's us trying to hide out someplace and waiting for this storm to pass. It's not a big deal - just some wind - but better safe than sorry. Talk to y'all soon!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It's funny, we used to look forward to staying in marinas. Being securely tied to a dock with power and water does have its advantages, but it doesn't rank as high as it used to. Last night we were pinned against a west wall by an easterly wind. It took all of my might to push the boat off the wall to place bumpers. Then during the night the bumpers popped out and we had to get up, push the boat away from the wall and reposition them. This happened about three times during the night. One of the reasons we stayed there was to have a night without rocking, and what did we get? A night bumping against a wall. I think we'll stick to the anchoring!
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is that I've slowly been getting sick. It started about 4 days ago with a bit of a sore throat at night and when I woke up. I felt fine during the day, so I chose to ignore it. When we got to Little San Salvador I realized that it wasn't going away. I probably should have taken it easy, but there was no way I was going to miss out on all of the cruise ship fun. Then the morning we went to leave Little San Salvador it came to full blow. My throat was so swollen that when I strained to lift the anchor, I had trouble breathing. Now let me just say that I don't handle being sick well. I pride myself on being a strong person, and anything that weakens me is extremely frustrating. So when I couldn't get the anchor pin in place I just broke down crying. My balance was off, so I was scared to handle putting the sails up withe the boat rocking. I was completely useless and frustrated. Eventually Chris told me to go below because he needed to concentrate to get the boat sailing. I was completely insulted to be treated that way. I'm not a child! But he was right. I was trying to do stuff that I shouldn't and was creating more of a danger that helping.
During our sail I started to feel a bit better, but I was completely freaked out about needing medical attention. What if this was strep throat? It felt like it was spreading to my ears. How am I going to get to a doctor? Angie from Side by Side offered up Mark's services, but I didn't want to impose. By the evening I was feeling somewhat better, but the anticipation of the next morning was killing me. What if it was worse? I don't want to stop moving and lose our friends.
So, I called my sister in law who is a doctor and asked her advice. She said most sore throats do not require antibiotics. Even strep throat will be ok if you just let it run its course. I was kind of sad to hear that because I wanted a quick fix. I wanted the satisfaction that came along with taking a medication and knowing it would work in a fixed amount of time. But I completely value her opinion and took her advice. I did nothing. This morning I woke up and felt much better. By mid morning I was back at 90%. Thanks Aunt Anneke!
It is kind of scary when you get sick or hurt. Out here there are clinics on some of the islands, but not all of them. If something happens, you have to deal with it yourself. I am so used to running to a doctor at the first sign of any problem. I was never a hypochondriac, I just hate being weakened so I tried to avoid it as much as possible. Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I can't complain though. Alley from MiaCota split her chin open on a slide when we were at Little San Salvador. She was so brave! As we all walked back to our dingys at the end of the day, she was sitting on the beach crying. She said to me, "I'm not crying because my chin hurts, I'm crying because I can't go swimming for a week". Apparently she was informed that you can't swim after getting stitches. She went back to Side by Side where Mark stitched her chin closed. He did a wonderfull job and we're lucky to have him traveling with us!
This morning we had to make a decision on where to go. Side by Side was leaving Rock Sound to go to Governors Harbor, still in Eleuthera. All of the other boats were going to stay in Rock Sound. Asilare, a new boat was going to meet Side by Side in Governors Harbor and they have an 11 year old boy on board. The wind was supposed to be blowing about 15 - 20 knots and could go a bit higher. We considered staying at the marina, there was an educational center there to explore, but we didn't want to lose our friends.
We decided to leave and see what the seas were like. If the going was ok, we would go further north to stick with Side by Side. If it was too rough, we could stop at the nearby Rock Sound and stay with friends there. Seeing as the winds were still pushing us against the wall, we asked a powerboat to pull our bow out for us. It worked out fairly well. We tied our new anchor snubber to the bow and midship cleats and he pulled both points at the same time. As he tugged, our rear started to move toward the wall, but I was able to push it off and jump onto the boat just in time. He was our savior for the morning. We never would have been able to get off that wall without his help.
Once outside the marina, the wind was quite heavy, but the seas were pretty light. Chris wanted to put up a double reefed main and a single reefed jenny. I suggested two double reefs and then see how that worked. He thankfully defers to my decisions now, and we did the two double reefs. Thank goodness we did! Even with the reefs, the boat hit 7.5 knots of speed! It wasn't uncomfortable at all though, so we decided to head to Governors harbor. The guidebook said there was a lot to do there, and seeing as it's going to be very windy for a few days, we want to be somewhere with mucho entertainment.
OMG!!!! I almost forgot to talk about the Mahi!!!!!!!!!! Ok, where to start? I believe I mentioned how jealous I was of Side by Side and their 8 Mahi Mahi. Here I couldn't catch anything and they catch 8 of the best fish around. So on the way to Eluthera, on the day I was feeling quite yucky, we didn't put out any lines. I just wasn't up to it. Then one of the boats ahead of us announces that they have just pulled a huge bull Mahi Mahi on board. That it, I mustered up enough energy to throw our hand line overboard. Chris let out the pole line. I sat in the cockpit half asleep with the handline in my palm. If anything struck I was going to feel it. Usually we just let the line go and tug it once in a while to see if it feels heavier. Not this time. I wanted to catch those fish! It wasn't long before I felt a big tug. I tugged back to set the hook and didn't feel anything. Then the tug came again and I had him! I immediately sprang to life and started pulling the line in. The fish was swimming all over the place, and then....it jumped. There it was, green, blue and yellow. There's no mistaking what was on the end of my line. This was it...the moment I had been waiting for. My first Mahi Mahi.
Now it's 20 feet behind our boat. It's swimming back and forth. It goes under the dinghy and I take the line behind the railing to the other side of the boat. Then it swims back under the dinghy and I run back to the original side of the boat. Now the line is terribly tangled in our railing. Finally I get it to the side of the boat, gaff it and pull it on board. It's huge!! I'm almost crying. We've just landed a 3 1/2 foot Mahi Mahi. I get out my professional fish cleaning station (a cooler top found while beach combing) and get right to work. This thing is flopping all over the place and I'm wrestling with it and my fillet knife. As I'm slicing the head and fillets off, the body continues to try to throw itself back overboard. Even after the head has been thrown back to the fishes, I can still feel muscles twitch.
Then as I'm cutting, Chris is trying to pull our lines in. Our hand line has become tangled in the pole line. While Chris is trying to untangle them he gets a hit on the hand line. "Honey!" he yells. There is Mahi #2 jumping just 30 feet behind the boat. "Should we keep it?" he asks. "You betcha!" I yelled back. By now my first fish is fully dead, so I leave it to help with the second. It was another biggie! We pulled it up to the side of the boat, and just as I was to gaff it, it jumped off the hook. Oh well, no great loss. I still have the first one.
I went back to my first fish and finished up the cleaning process. Kaitlin was fascinated by the fish guts. She wanted to see the heart, so I showed her what I think was the heart. It was quite a bit larger than I thought it would be. I showed her a couple other parts, and we'll call that science for the day! Who needs to disect a worm, my kids can disect a fish!
The Mahi Mahi is truely a beautiful fish and I was honored to have finally caught one. I put the meat in the freezer and will not let it go to waste.
Ok, now back to current info. The sail to Governors Harbor was a great experience. the winds were high, and the waves started to grow as well. We had to be on our toes. Many of our sails lately have been very relaxing, so this was a good day for sharpening our skills. Pelican held up quite well, as did her passengers. We didn't bother running any fishing lines today because of the heavy winds. It would have been dangerous to deal with fishing and heavy winds at the same time.
We arrived at Governors Harbor later this afternoon, and pulled up next to our friends to drop anchor. Guidebooks said the holding was poor in this area, and they were right. Our first attempt didn't hold. Our second attempt held, but we realized that we were too close to a neighboring boat. The third attempt held, but when we went below we found that we were too far away from shore to get internet. Onto anchor attempt number four. I drove the boat around while Chris checked for internet from below. When we found our spot, we dropped the anchor for the fourth time. Luckily we held. Phew!
Everyone else had been here for a while (they're all on catamarans and sail a bit faster than we do), so they were heading into town. Our kids went with them while Chris and I stayed on the boat. I invited everyone over for a Mahi Mahi dinner. We had plenty to go around! Mia Cota volunteered to have the kids on their boat and the adults could eat on Pelican. So while everyone was in town, I cleaned our boat, made chocolate cake, salad and fish. We had an excellent evening.
Tomorrow there is supposed to be a kids fair fundraiser thing in town, so I can't wait to check that out. Oh yeah, and also ICE CREAM and waffle cones!!!!!!!!! YUM!!!
What a day! Today we pretended to be cruise ship passengers. At 9AM we reported to the horse area with all of the girls. The boys wanted nothing to do with riding horses. Casey said it was a “girl thing”. I won’t go into detail about the conversation that followed those words, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
Anyway, the girls got to ride horses around a pen for a little bit while all of us took loads of pictures. It was really nice of the workers to let us do that. We talked to the boss of the horse area and he told us that most of the workers are polo players from Jamaica. Apparently polo is quite a big sport there. As we were leaving Ally from Ally Cat said that all of the women should report back at 2:00 to go riding. I was so excited and could then admit that I was more than a bit jealous of my daughter!
After the girls went riding, Angie from Side by Side and I went hiking around the island. We found some trails that led to “ruins”. The ruins were just like every other abandoned house we’ve seen all over these islands. We saw a dried up inland lake which looked cracked and dry as a bone. I went to step on it and sank three inches into mud. Apparently it only looked dry! We also found the stingray pen and the jet ski rental area. By now the passengers had started to come to the island, and we wanted to see if they carried anything that would separate them out as coming from the cruise ship. Most cruise ship passengers that I’ve seen wear identification on a lanyard around their neck. We weren’t sure if they would here because the only people on the island (other than us) were from the ship. Much to our pleasure we learned that there were no lanyards. There was no way to tell us from them.
We headed down the beach, now starting to crowd with people, back to our boats. When we got back to the horse area, everyone was sitting under a tree waiting for us. We reported what we found, and all headed off as a group to explore. First on the list was the stingray pen. I didn’t see it, but apparently some of our group got to swim and hang out in the water with the stingrays! I had gone back to get water for everyone. That was when I discovered lunch. There was a huge area with a buffet lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, FRESH fruit, GREEN salad, jerk chicken, and tons of other varied salads. When I met everyone back at the stingrays, I shared the good news.
We all headed along the paved asphalt path to lunch. It was more food than any of us had seen in quite a while. What did we all go for first? Fresh fruit….mmmmmm. No brown spots, dents, or mush. This was fresh and crispy pears, grapes, bananas, oranges, melon, and pineapple. After a pear, banana, and some grapes I was a bit full, so I went to look for a few from the group that had split off.
I found the rest swimming in the roped off section of the ocean. Ha ha…roped off, it’s just too funny. Apparently there was netting around the swim area under the buoys to keep the nasties out. Like any ocean creature was going to come remotely near that horde of people!
After telling everyone else about lunch, we all headed off for food. I was a bit hungrier by then and joined Casey in the lunch line. Casey was just beside himself with all the food. He heaped up his plate high. I got some of the fresh salads. On the way back to the table Casey said, “I feel really bad now”. “Why?” I asked. “I took way too much food” he replied. He all of a sudden realized that he would never be able to eat all the food he took, and felt insanely guilty at the waste. Then he started to see the waste all around him. Piles of food were being scraped off plates into bins. He was quite upset. He ate what he could and then the rest of us finished what he couldn’t.
After lunch we headed back to the horse area for our ride. We watched the ship passengers mount the horses and ride them through the water for a ways and then ride them back through the water. The guy Ally had talked to recognized us and told us to sit and wait. We didn’t want to cause any trouble, so we just sat tight until we were called. He called Ally over and we all watched her go for a ride through the water. I just hoped that he knew we all wanted to go! When Ally was done, he told us all to just sit tight and wait. When our time came, he told us what was going to happen. Apparently the last group of the day got to go on a whole trail ride! I couldn’t believe it! All of the adult women and Brian from MiaCota got to mount the horses and go for a 20 minute trail ride. When that was done, we took a short break and then mounted horses for the water ride. It was quite interesting riding horses through breaking surf. There was no saddle in the water, only a pad without stirrups. You had to hold on to a handle on the pad and the reigns for dear life each time a wave hit. The horses actually trotted through the water, so it was rushing pretty fast over your legs. What an experience!
When we were done we saw the rest of the men and all of the kids walking down the beach towards us. It was time to go back to our boats. While on the horses, we noticed that our dingys had been completely swamped by the waves. Lou from Ally Cat and I headed out to start bailing. Each dinghy was filled to the top with water, and all of their contents were spewed onto the beach. We all bailed and eventually freed each dinghy.
We had talked to the horse handlers earlier and asked about what kind of thank you gifts the guys would like. Each and every one of them would not offer any suggestions. They simply said, “Whatever you would like”. It made it seem even more as if they were just being nice to us, and not expecting any returns. They were happy yesterday about the Tequila, so we gathered up another bottle of tequila, a bottle of rum, and some cigarettes for the guys. Chris and I dingied in and saw the workers waiting on the beach for our goodies. We thanked them once again for their generosity, and gave them our gifts. They were quite happy and told us to be safe in our journeys.
It’s interesting. The workers were all very friendly. They were like every other Bahamian we have met. Not that they were from the Bahamas, but they were just as nice. They could have told us to go back to our boats and the activities were only for passengers, but they were happy to let us partake in the activities. They did however make it known that some appreciation was expected in return. The original guys Ally met yesterday said they would wait on the beach for her tequila before the kids could play on the trampoline. When I was done riding later today, the head of the crew said someone would meet me on the beach at 4:30. We had made it clear that we wanted to give the guys something, and they didn’t hide the fact that they wanted our goodies. At home we are taught to give without expecting a return. Here it seems like bartering is more often the way things happen. We bartered what we had to offer for what they had to offer, and all parties benefitted. By the end of the day, we all had so much fun that we were willing to give them half our liquor closet!
Tomorrow we be heading north to Eleuthera.
Let me think, last time I wrote, we were still in New Bight on Cat Island. The gentleman I met who played Rake and Scrape was named Beauhog. We went that night to listen to Beauhog and his band. It was very impromptu and quite a unique experience. Beauhog sang and played a concertina while someone else played a goatskin drum that was heated over a fire before playing. I’m not sure, but something about heating the goatskin gives the drum a better sound. Another person played the saw by scraping its teeth. When we arrived Beauhog gave me a hug and thanked me for coming. He called me his cousin. Later I found out that everyone is his cousin. “Hay cuz!” he would yell. It took me a while before I realized it was me he was calling.
While Beauhog was playing we chatted with Evan, Alan, and the Newlyweds. They all came from a resort in Fernandez Bay, which is a bit north of New Bight. Evan works at the resort, Alan is a pilot who was staying at the resort, and the newlyweds were also staying at the resort. We had a wonderful time learning everyone’s story. Evan used to come to the resort with his parents and eventually ended up working there. He was a wonderful host and just a super nice person. Alan was a pilot who had just flown a client in for a local bill fishing tournament. The newlyweds were, well….newlyweds.
Angie from Side by Side turned on her usual charm and got to know everyone also. Apparently she got to know Alan a bit as well, and later she told us that he invited everyone to come take a look at the jet he flies. So, the next day we had the grand tour of a $25 million dollar jet! It was incredible! All of the kids from the anchorage and most of the adults got to sit where fame and fortune have sat before. The plane is owned by a company, but when it isn’t on company time, it is chartered. Alan said he has flown Ozzy Ozborne, and several other famous people! It costs $5,000 per flight hour to charter. It flies at about 46,000 feet where most commercial jets fly at 32,000 feet. Alan let all of the kids and adults sit in the cockpit right where he sits. What an experience!
The next day Alan used the resort truck to visit the Hermitage. The Hermitage is atop the highest point in the Bahamas. It is a monastery, now empty, that was built and lived in by one man. Alan agreed to share this adventure with all of us as well. So, about 12 of us piled in front and in the bed of the truck. Oh but it wasn’t all take and no give. The night before this all of us gave Alan and his co-pilot, JT, a tour of our boats. We shared happy hour and appetizers and some more conversation with them as well. After Alan finally had to leave the island to fly his client home, he told us to watch for him around 5:00 and he would buzz the anchorage. So 5:00 rolled around and we all were standing on our cabin tops. No plane. Everyone gave up after a bit. Then at 5:40 we hear the roar of a jet engine. Everyone again runs topside. We can see the jet rise into the air. It’s all white with what looks like a mouth painted on the underside of the nose. From our vantage it looks like a shark cutting through the air. The jet roars away from us heading south. A couple of minutes pass and we start to give up on the idea of Alan buzzing us. I got the binoculars out and can see his wings tilt towards us. I immediately yell to everyone, “He’s turning, he’s turning, he’s coming back!” By this time he had completed his turn and was heading up the coast of Cat Island directly for us. You couldn’t hear him and you could barely make out the silver nose of the jet with binoculars. Nobody could see him! “He’ll be here in a matter of seconds” I yelled urgently. As it came closer everyone could make him out. Then all of a sudden the jet roared overhead and just sucked the wind out of your lungs. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as he went by. It felt like we were standing at the end of a runway as a plane was taking off. Just amazing! Thanks Alan and JT.
Let me think, what else happened on Cat Island. We moved from New Bight to Fernandez Bay after meeting Evan at the Rake and Scrape. The guide books talk about a bad relationship between Fernandez Bay Resort and Cruisers. Apparently there has been some bad blood, something about cruisers anchoring in the bay, right in front of the resort and dumping garbage that floated onto the resort beach. But Evan was very nice and told us to stop by. The resort was beautiful. There were a bunch of cottages and a restaurant. It was actually one of the nicest resorts I have seen so far in the Bahamas. I liked it because it wasn’t so set apart from the culture of the island. The guests were at the Rake and Scrape, they went on eco-tours of the island and were swimming and snorkeling in the same bay as the cruisers. Most resorts isolate their guests from the outside world, but this one didn’t.
After talking with one of the managers, I could see why she didn’t like cruisers. She didn’t go into too much detail saying, “You just wouldn’t believe the things I have seen”. One thing she did mention is an incident with their honor bar system. At the resort, you write your name on a pad, make your drink, and keep track of what you’ve taken on your piece of paper in the pad. At the end of the day you then settle up with your dinner bill. Well, apparently some cruisers came in one day, drank half of the alcohol and wrote down four beers on their tab. It’s a shame that a few have to ruin it for the rest. We reassured the manager that we weren’t like that and tried to make up for past violations.
Basically we’ve been enjoying our time with all of the kid boats we’ve been traveling with. Let me see if I can remember everyone. There is Taua with one girl on board, MiaCota with twin girls, Alley Cat with one girl, Side by Side with a girl and a boy, and us. That’s a lot of kids!
Today we all moved to Little San Salvador. It is a smaller island northeast of Cat Island. Little San Salvador is privately owned by a cruise ship company. The company has loaded the island with entertainment for its passengers. The guide book said that if you are nice, the people will let cruisers use the facilities if a ship isn’t currently in port. When we arrived, Alley Cat and MiaCota had already been ashore, been given the grand tour, and received permission for the kids to use the water trampolines. The ship was due to arrive the next morning at 7:30 AM.
So, as soon as we put down our anchor all of the kids, two of the moms and I went to shore to use the trampolines. There were three huge floating trampolines. There were also a bunch of foam creatures to play on and around. There was a floating alligator, crab, dolphin, and log raft. All along the beach there were water bikes, hobicats, sunfish sailboats, cabanas, piles of lounge chairs by the hundreds, a bar, a large private cabana area with a whirlpool and its own private bar, and a small water play area for the kids. When we were dingying over there, Sabrina from Side by Side said, “This doesn’t look like the Bahamas, it looks like Florida” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.
The kids did have a blast and were good and tired by the end of the day. Ally from Ally Cat told us that she had talked to some of the workers, and we were to report to the beach at 9AM with the kids for horseback riding!! Wholly cow! Errr….horse! Apparently a bottle of tequila goes a long way.