Sunday, June 30, 2013

Junkanoo In Georgetown

  Living on the boat is like living anywhere else, but doing the mundane things like laundry, taking out the garbage, and grocery shopping, presents challenges and sometimes we find unexpected pleasures.
  For instance, the other day we took a bag of laundry across Elizabeth Harbour in the dinghy to the Exuma Yacht Club where we thought they had laundry facilities, but found out from Clavon, the harbormaster, that they do not. But he directed us to the local laundromat just down the road, so we walked the short distance to it.
  The laundromat is not in the best part of town, but upon walking in, we met Lee and another attendant there who gave us the skinny on getting our laundry done. Lee explained which machines to use, and how much it cost. No payment is made until you are done with washing and drying, so tokens are not required.
  Other patrons were coming and going, the place seemed more like a community center. We would have probably been entertained just sitting in there and watching people, but it was open air, and hot, so we went for a walk to see what was around that part of town, leaving our belongings in the safety of Lee with confidence. She said, "No problem".
  We found a nice Canadian Bank just down the street in a newer type strip mall which had a manicured lawn and nice shade trees surrounding the small paved parking lot in front. There were some insurance companies and a lawyer's office there too. The BTC office is in a nice building next door. A little further down the road is "Eddie's Edgewater Restaurant", which overlooks small Lake Victoria (not scenic by any means) and we found another small grocery store too, where we bought a couple of things.
  We wound up spending most of the morning doing two loads of laundry, with the dinghy ride each way and all. We also stopped by the dinghy dock behind Exuma Markets to fill up our two four gallon jerry jugs with water. The water maker has been running mostly non-stop during the day, so those eight gallons help out.
  Elizabeth Harbor is big, and we are anchored across on the other side of the town, and with the wind being up like it has been, our dinghy rides have been wet ones. We have learned to ride down the coast of Stocking Island in the protection of the land, and then point the dinghy at an angle towards Georgetown and run with the wind and waves to minimize the rough ride. But one thing that cannot be avoided is the entry/exit from Lake Victoria, and when the wind is from the east, which it normally is, we cannot escape getting wet when we exit the lake.
  We went to Peace and Plenty on Thursday evening, where they hold a barbecue each week. Peace and Plenty is the oldest hotel in the Exumas, and it is showing it's age some, but anyone who is anyone that comes to Georgetown can most likely be seen at the Peace and Plenty.
  We got a seat at the outside bar and immediately met "Doc", the 71 year old bartender, who has worked there since he was in his twenties. I told him that I was gonna keep an eye on him, and he told me the same.
  We then saw Bill and Jensie, the couple we met at the Chat n Chill earlier in the week. We got the feeling that Jensie may have been admonished by her boyfriend Bill for being so forward with us on the day we met. I really don't blame him. How would she know that we are axe murderers?
  We also had the extreme pleasure of meeting a fella named "Jim". He was sitting next to us, and we could see that he knew his way around the Peace and Plenty. He was tight with Doc, we could tell, and some other patrons gathered around seemed to know him too.
  Jim got around to asking which boat we were on, and when he learned that we were on a Sea Ray, our conversation took off. Jim has a 54 foot Sea Ray express cruiser that he brings down on a regular basis, but currently the boat was at his house in Stewart, Florida.
  I could tell that Jim was "Navy" and he confirmed that when I asked him. He revealed to us that he was 78 years old and had joined the Navy in 1953, two years before I was born. He was also one of the first Navy Seals, an accomplishment for which I started referring to him as "sir".
  We had a fine time talking to him and learning some more ins and outs about Georgetown, and points east of the Exumas.
  Rosie and I each had cheeseburgers for dinner. For $10 each, the burgers were gigantic, piled high with lettuce and tomatoes, and thick slices of Bahamian cheddar cheese topped each one. The plate also came with a pile of cole slaw and a thick slice of macaroni and cheese. Outside of peas and rice, macaroni and cheese is a staple here in The Bahamas. It's served casserole style. Cheese is in abundance here, and so are noodles. This is not your Kraft macaroni and cheese.
  When we got done eating, we were stuffed, and Rosie only ate half of her burger. We packed up the rest of the burger and said goodbye to a few of the people we have been meeting this week who showed up for the barbecue. The Thursday night shindig at the Peace and Plenty was one of the best values we've found. I didn't even mention the two for $5 Sands beers.
  We went to the bank on Friday and ran into Sarah, the manager of Exuma Beach Resort. We told her that we would probably pop into Latitudes on Friday night, but she said to come another night because there was going to be a Junkanoo in the town square on Friday night and we shouldn't miss it. We could always come to Latitudes, she said.
  Back on the boat we just rested up during the afternoon. I've been battling an ear infection, so have been staying out of the water, so an afternoon of reading on the couch was a good way to rest up for Junkanoo. But then the rain came.
  Boy, did it rain! As it got later, we decided to scratch the night out and have dinner on the boat. Of course, by the time we finished dinner, the sky cleared up. Never fails. But by this time, we were in no mood to venture out. We popped a movie in the DVD player. Nothing like gaining some introspective insights on our fellow human beings by watching "Natural Born Killers" with Woody Harrelson.
  After the rain Friday night, the winds died down and the harbor was table top smooth on Saturday morning. After a scrumptious breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, washed down with three cups of coffee, we grabbed Holly and went for an extended dinghy ride.
   Zipping along in early morning over the clear water was exhilarating. We found a local boatyard if we were ever in need of a haul out, and we also scoped out a couple of hurricane holes. This whole area is full of little nooks and crannies to tuck into if we had to.
  Our last stop was to be a quick one at the Exuma Market, to get water and walk next door to get a couple cases of Kalik, which they had in cans, a rare commodity, and for only $40 per case.
  As we were filling up our jerry jugs, a fella motored in with his dinghy and asked me where the Customs Office was. As I was giving him directions, his Yamaha outboard quit and he couldn't get it started. Kim, as we soon learned, had just arrived from the BVI on his 40 foot Nordhavn trawler and had to check in with the authorities. He rowed the short distance to the dinghy dock and tied up. I left Rosie and Holly to watch the boat while I walked over to the liquor store, and I made a mental note to make sure Kim got his motor started before we left to return to Swing Set.
  Kim and I both returned about the same time and I was amazed at how quick he was able to check in, but Kim said that he couldn't check in at the Customs Office, he had to travel to the airport to do it. That's kind of a pain, but it was Saturday. To make matters worse, the Yamaha wouldn't start.
  Kim yanked on the pull starter (without cussing, a major marvel as far as I'm concerned) without success. I had offered to tow him back to his boat where he had some resources to address the motor, or at least take his bigger boat into the yacht club while he went to the airport.
  We towed Kim back out to Kidd's Cove and met his traveling companions, Brian and Ky. While there, I suggested that the motor may have been flooded, and by opening the throttle all the way, but not pumping it, the motor may start. Brian did the honors, and sure enough the motor started. But it didn't stay running for long.
  There were options, but Kim had a policeman waiting to take him to the airport, and Customs wanted all three men present to check in, so I suggested towing him back to Lake Victoria to leave the dinghy at Minn's, a boat repair and rental facility there.
  So back we went to Lake Victoria. I told them to call us on the VHF if they needed anything later, and they invited us to cocktails on their boat at 5 P.M. We made no promises, but Kim wanted to repay us for the towing job, and I admitted a desire to check out his boat, having always been a fan of trawlers like the Nordhavn 40. We did give a "maybe". No repayment was needed. It's that karma thing.
  The winds shifted around on us on Saturday afternoon and started blowing in from the south, which put us on the windward side of the harbor. Swells were rolling in to the point of being uncomfortable, so I decided to move over to a spot just out from Peace and Plenty of the South side of Elizabeth Harbour. We found a calm anchorage and no sooner did we get settled in, we got a call on the radio from Kim.
  They were able to get the Yamaha fixed up in short order at Minn's while they were at the airport. Kim said the motor just needed to have the carburetor cleaned out.
  He asked what our plans were and I told him about Junkanoo that was still going on for the whole weekend. He suggested cocktails on his boat Tropical Explorer at 5, and then we could all take our dinghies over to the Junkanoo after. Sounded like a plan.
  We had a good time during an hour or so on Tropical Explorer. Ky (not sure of the spelling, sounds like "tie") is a very fit 95 years old, and an accomplished sailor. Outside of the Navy Seal, Jim, these fellas were the most interesting guys we've met so far on our travels.
  We finally went over to the Junkanoo where the residents of Georgetown were beginning their Independence Day celebration. The Bahamas are having their 40th anniversary of independence from England.
  Kim and his travel companions were on a schedule and had plans for an early morning departure, so they left Rosie and I to fend for ourselves when they returned to Kim's boat. We stayed to watch the festivities.
  There was a small paraded of sorts,  which was comprised of the smallest little kids pounding on drums made from 30 gallon oil barrels that were nearly bigger than them, and they were accompanied by some others keeping the beat with home made cowbells. I have to admit that it was pretty entertaining.
  We stayed long enough for the bands to start, after several rousing speeches about the future of The Bahamas. There was beer and food, and the later it got, the more people showed up. The police were in full force, but no one checked bags or belongings, and there was no "gate" anyone had to enter to attend the event.
  We left at a reasonable hour, but the music kept on into the night. We could hear it from the boat anchored just a short distance away. The Bahamians party LATE.
  We had quite a lightening show last night, but no rain came. The sky was overcast this morning and the winds shifted again. Before breakfast, we pulled up anchor and moved back over to our spot just off of Hamburger Beach.
  I could see Tropical Explorer making way out of the harbor, so I called Kim on the VHF and we told each other goodbye and wished them all a safe trip back to Fort Lauderdale where Kim lives.
  We're not sure of our plans for the week. I've plotted a course to Long Island and I'd like to at least run down the 80 or so miles of the west coast of that island just east of here, but we have some more things to do here in Georgetown, we think, and there is some questionable weather coming in on Wednesday and Thursday. We might stay here in the comfort of Elizabeth Harbour for a few more days.
  We need to call A&B Marina in Key West on Monday, to see about getting a slip there this fall after our Bahamas adventure. We intend on staying in Key West for a month or two, but it all hinges on getting a slip in Key West Bight. It's a popular time of the year in Key West at the end of October, and the beginning of November, but commuting in from a marina or anchorage on Stock Island is not something we want to do, or intend to do.
  Like everything else, we shall see.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Georgetown, Or Chicken Harbor

  Our anchorage just off of Lee Stocking Island, as spectacular as it was, was beginning to lose appeal as our desire for human interaction increased. A somewhat favorable weather window presented an opportunity for us to head to Georgetown on Monday, the 24th of June.
  I would have preferred less wind coming from the east, but the forecast was for even more wind later in the week, so we took a chance. We chose the early morning on an ebbing tide, not what one would normally do, exiting the various cuts out to Exuma Sound, but the cut we were going to use was protected from the easterly winds, so the opposing wind/tide rage was not to be expected.
  We poked our way along on the bank side of the Exumas until we found Rat Cay Cut, running Swing Set just feet from some reefs and islands dotting our course. The transit through the cut was non-eventful, as advertised, but when we got out on the Sound, we knew we were in for a  rough ride for the next two and a half hours.
  Our route headed southeast, but a decent wind was blowing from the East. Our heading was putting the waves nearly on our beam, never a good ride. Positioning them to approach us on a quarter beam would put us on a longer course away from our destination, so my frugal nature made for more discomfort, but it was as economical as we could make it.
  Not much conversation takes place when conditions are like what we had. Rosie holds Holly, more because Holly wants to be held, not necessarily to keep her from being pitched overboard, and she holds on too. I concentrate on turning into the more formidable swells, but then turn back to keep us on the best course possible. If you ever saw a dog on a surfboard, this is what I look like, feet splayed apart at the helm for stability, and a death grip on the wheel. Trips to "the bathroom" off the stern are precarious to say the least.
  Not any too soon, Conch Cut came into view. We turned west and surfed in, a piece of cake, and entered Elizabeth Harbor with Stocking Island (not to be confused with Lee Stocking Island) was on our port and Great Exuma Island was on our starboard, as we sniffed our way into Georgetown proper, and into our intended destination of the Exuma Yacht Club, where we expected to get fuel.
  When we got closer, I called the yacht club on the VHF and was directed to the fuel dock, which we found after backtracking around to the other side of Kidd's Cove. The fuel dock was open to the east, and a stiff wind was blowing on our stern as we motored into the fuel dock, but I spun Swing Set around in a tight space and put her into the dock on the port side with her bow into the wind. Rosie tied her off without a hitch, and soon we were getting help from a very nice man by the name of Clavon, who dragged the fuel hose over and started the pumps. Fuel was more reasonable than we expected at $5.83 per gallon, and the ten day trip down from Staniel Cay only took 59 gallons.
  Even though our water maker was making water for us, we topped off our tank with 40 gallons of RO water for 40 cents a gallon, more for insurance than anything.
  Clavon offered to let us go to the grocery, or the liquor store, but we wanted to get to our anchorage. We would go shopping in the dinghy, next day.
  After fueling up, we picked a spot across the harbor just off Hamburger Beach, and within the shadow of Monument Hill, in between an express cruiser we have been regularly running into, a sailboat we've seen somewhere before, and two very large yachts. We were out of waves rolling in from the Southeast end of the harbor, but we still had plenty of wind coming over Stocking Island to keep our wind generators working.
  We needed to recuperate for a while after our run down, but by late afternoon, I dropped the dinghy and we went exploring.
  We checked out two hurricane holes on Stocking Island, very snug looking spots with wind and wave protection from all fronts, and we also found the Chat and Chill, one of the most popular beach bars in the area. They have a huge sand beach and two sand volleyball courts, and of course an almost outside bar and casual restaurant. A conch bar is right on the beach which serves up fresh cerviche seven days a week.
  We sat out on a picnic table under a palm tree with Holly and nursed a couple very cold Kaliks. Within minutes we were joined by a young woman named Jensie. Her daughter and her boyfriend had made their regular trip down in their Citation Jet from Birmingham, Alabama. We eventually met the whole family and Jensie bought us another round of beers, and was soon offering to trade time on our boat for air time in the Citation. Much to her boyfriend Bill's relief, we politely declined the offer, probably insuring the future of a budding friendship, as opposed to squashing it. The whole concept of traveling in the boat with a young child and another couple presents more complications than I'd care to contemplate, and there is no where we need to go in a jet, at least nowhere they would want to go.
  We promised to meet up with them later in the week, and they made their departure. Jensie did a decent job of staggering to their rented dinghy, maintaining at least for now, her dignity and social standing. We both think Jensie can be a lot of fun.
  On Tuesday morning we took the dinghy over to Georgetown and passed under the low bridge into Lake Victoria, more of a pond that sits in the middle of Georgetown. We shopped at the Exuma Market because they provide a nifty dinghy dock for the many boaters that spend their winters here, and they also have a nice water station for boaters to fill up jerry jugs with free water, just as a courtesy.
  The wind, as expected, picked up, and we were against it for the long dinghy ride back across the harbor to the boat. We got drenched, but the groceries stayed dry somehow.
  The sun came out and we decided to take another trip across the harbor and find the local NAPA affiliate here in the Bahamas, A.I.D. I parked the dinghy at a resort near where I thought the store was, and we walked up to the bar at the Exuma Beach Resort and asked if we were close to the autoparts store. A young girl there, Sarah, who manages the resort, offered to drive us as she needed to make a run out anyway. We got to know Sarah on the way to NAPA, and we also found out what kind of specials the bar had during the week. We made some purchases at NAPA and Sarah drove us back to the resort, and before getting in the dinghy, we promised to return for dinner, or at least some beers and appetizers.
  Tuesday evening was extremely pleasant, and we were lured back to the Exuma Beach Resort by the attraction of two for $5 Sands beers. We returned to the resort with Holly and got two prime seats at their outdoor bar and restaurant called Latitudes.
  Sarah was very happy to see us again. We met a local fella who knew his way around these islands very well, having lived aboard his sailboat for the last 15 years. "Reg" was super nice to us, and a very good conversationalist, so the time passed quickly.
  They also had fine WiFi at the resort and I was able to call my dad using Magicjack, so the call was free and we didn't use the bandwidth on our data system. I had a nice chat with my dad. He was concerned that I had described myself as being fat in my last blog. He didn't understand that I was using what is called, "self-depreciating humor". Anyone can see by our recently posted pictures that I am just as trim as ever. Right? Right?
  The restaurant was pretty full in no time. They had some live music playing, (one guy on an electric organ) and our new friends Bill and Jensie came in with a group of friends for dinner. We were reminded to meet them on Thursday night, and we promised to be there no matter what. It was just after dark when we finally made our way back again across the harbor to Swing Set.
  On Wednesday morning I had to make a trip back to the Exuma Beach Resort because the nice fella at NAPA, or A.I.D., sold me a 5/8" bolt instead of the desired 3/4" bolt. Not really a big deal until you consider that I was charged $5.20 for a two inch long bolt that I would never use.
  This time, because I knew the way, I walked to the NAPA and we did a switch for the proper bolt, and I was soon back to the boat.
  We spent Wednesday afternoon hovered around the phone. Not only did we expect a return call from an insurance company we'd been playing phone tag with, our financial advisor wanted to set up a call with us, and there was some logistical issues to contend with. That was OK with us, because rain was threatening and Rosie and I were both reading a good book. Just hanging out on the hook is a good thing to do at times.
  An added consideration is that I'm battling an ear infection, gotten from extended snorkeling while attempting to spear some snapper back off of Rudder Cay. The fish have gotten their revenge. I don't want to talk about it. Swimming and snorkeling will be out of the question until my ear gets better. Now I know how Holly feels.
  Yesterday we finally got our calls into our insurance company and our financial advisor. We managed to stay insured and we also were able to stop the hemorrhaging from a bond fund we had bought with proceeds from the sale of our condo, not yet eight months ago. I hate insurance companies, and I hate investing even more. Both things are necessary evils, like flossing and using earache drops. Not quite, but I'm rushing to get this blog done.
  There was supposed to be a beach party at Hamburger Beach at 5 o'clock last night. We took Holly and some beers over to the beach, no appetizers this time. At 5 o'clock when no one else showed up, we left and took a dinghy ride. We met up with some other cruisers over on another beach that meet every day at 4 P.M.
  We met some more nice folks, one couple anchored in their catamaran just over from us. John and Joanne have been coming here from Jacksonville, Florida for years. They have lived on their boat for the last 13 years. There is hope for us.
  Today Rosie gathered up the laundry and we took it to town to the local laundromat. She washed two loads and dried them for only 13 bucks. Not a bad deal. There was a couple of very nice attendants there, so we didn't have to sit and guard our stuff. While laundry was going, we walked around and got to know the town a bit more.
  It takes time to get to know a new area, and that's all we seem to be doing, but the process gets easier with each new place, because in the end, they are all a lot alike.
  Georgetown is in a pretty place, but except for some of the resorts, it's still a run down town, where if it were back in the U.S., a person would be afraid to walk the streets. But the people are mostly very, very friendly and happy to deal with us. There are a lot of similarities here to a city like, say, East St. Louis, only with friendly people.
  We're still waaaaay over on our data transfer for the month, but it's only money. As frugal as we try to be, we don't plan on taking any of it with us. If our financial advisor knows his stuff, and so far he has, we'll at least have some left later on as we get down this road of life.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rudder Cay and Lee Stocking Island

  We left Farmer's Cay and choose an inside route past Musha Cay, an island housing a resort owned by the magician David Cooperfield. The whole island is private, and was the prettiest we have seen so far. Each home we saw was spectacular, and the beaches and palm trees are straight out of a postcard. We were only puzzled as to why there were so many elephants roaming the island.
  I provide no pictures because we are at an end of our data transfer limit for this month. These blogs are gonna cost us big time in overcharges.
  The inside route was a skinny one, and we were on a falling tide. The pucker factor sets in when we hit five feet or less, and we got down to 4.8 a couple of times. But the bottom was sand which reduced the anxiety level and soon we were at our next stop, a nice anchorage off of a private island called Rudder Cay.
  The beach was nearly as beautiful as the ones on Musha Cay, but there were signs posted for everyone to KEEP OUT. There were dogs roaming the beaches and cameras were mounted at strategic locations too. We were anchored in six feet of crystal clear water just out from a cave of sorts. We spent two nights there and both did some snorkeling.
  Outside of the snorkeling at The Grotto in Staniel Cay, the snorkeling at Rudder Cay was the best so far. I saw a lobster hiding under a big rock just inside the cave, and I swear it was the largest I had ever seen. The tentacles had to be nearly two feet long. I went back to see it about four times. I wanted it bad.
  But it's not lobster season. Any of you reading this already know that my scruples don't extend into whether it is lobster season or not, usually, but I have already noted the presence of several cameras. The locals may risk fines for lobster fishing out of season, but I'm not going to, at least if there may be witnesses.
  Rosie made a call to AT&T to find out why our MiFi device said we had only used 50 megabytes of data transfer when they told us we had used 750 megabytes as of a few days ago. Rosie was informed that the device reporting our usage "was not timely", and by the way, we were now at 799 megabytes. We have a limit of 800 megabytes on our AT&T International data plan. We'll automatically get another 150 megabytes for an additional $30 when we go over. We are over.
  I tried to use the iPad to post a blog yesterday, but I cannot see more than the first page of the post if I go over a page. I typed by rear end off yesterday only to lose more than half my blog when I hit some button or another when I was editing.
  You are not missing much by not seeing pictures. Imagine sky blue water, pristine beaches and a fat guy with long hair posing in a twenty year old shirt. Oh, and Rosie in a bikini. OK, now stop.
  To move any further towards the southern Exumas now required us to travel "outside", or on the Sound side of the Exumas. Rudder Cay Cut is rough when the wind is from the east and the tide is going the opposite way going out, so we waited until a rising tide before hauling anchor and heading out.
  The cut was ripping with current, but smooth, a piece of cake. I wish I could say the same for the eight mile run outside to Adderly Cut. It was a bell ringer.
  I pointed the bow of Swing Set into the cut to enter it on the incoming tide. The cut is narrow and lined with reef. I powered up and surfed in at 25 miles per hour so we could steer. In no time at all, we were in the harbor and heading around the tip of Lee Stocking Island.
  We passed the abandoned research center on the island, which is also the home of the highest elevation in the Exuma chain, Perry's Peak. I found the anchorage I was looking for and the whole rough ride from Rudder's Cay was worth it. We are in six feet of clear water over a pure white sand bottom. Two beaches line the small cove we are in, and a small bluff splits the two. This part of the island is not private, so we can hike and explore by land if we want, but the first thing we did was go snorkeling again. Twice in one day, a record.
  Rosie and I saw rays, lion fish, snapper, and a small barracuda too. The snapper are big enough to eat, but we didn't see that many. I'd almost rather leave them to look at, at least until I get hungry.
  We might stay here a few days. The wind will be up for the next week, but we might take a chance on an outside run to Georgetown on Tuesday. It's a three hour run outside, not getting around it, not even with our shallow draft.
  We have good Internet service here from a tower in Rolleville, so we can get our weather reports and email. The next blog will be short so I can post it from the iPad. If you don't hear from us via this blog, we'll still issue "OK reports" from our SPOT device.
  For now, we are just "living in the Bahamas". Nothing spectacular. Life in Georgetown will get more interesting, but we'll most likely have to do without privacy and solitude, but we get plenty of that.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Black Point Settlement and Farmer's Cay

  Last Sunday we had been anchored "around the corner" from Black Point Settlement and even though the anchorage was pretty, we were getting swells rolling in from the south. We couldn't get in close enough to the beach to offer us any protection from the land jutting out to our south, so we decided to head out.
  I was at the helm and Rosie was at the bow, ready to retrieve our "floaty" from the anchor line when I pulled it up. I noticed a new email and checked it, not knowing it we'd have service where we were going at White Point, a few miles south.
  The email was from Katie, of Jessie and Katie, the two young girls on the sailboat. Katie's dog, Reggie had gotten an ear infection, and Katie wondered if we had any medicine left that we had been giving Holly. I answered her that we did, but perhaps not enough for a  complete course to cure Reggie, but we would stick around if they were coming down to Black Point.
  I told Rosie the story, and we pulled up anchor and headed back to anchor just off the government dock at Black Point Settlement. There was ample wave protection at that anchorage, but we still didn't like the scenery.
  Once we got back to the settlement and got our anchor secure, we decided to take the dinghy in to see what was available in the town. A couple of restaurants were advertised in the guides we had, plus a grocery store, a BaTelCo office, a clinic, and a bar. All the essentials.
  First we saw the grocery store. Two women were sitting out under a tree out front. One invited us in and we looked around. They had eggs and lettuce, plus some butter which we needed. They had no bread, but the woman told us that we could get bread at Lorraines, a restaurant "just down the way". I told her we'd be back for groceries on our way back from Lorraines.
  After a short walk, we found Lorraine's, a restaurant that was touted in the guidebooks. We walked past a young girl sitting under a tree in front with a little baby. She didn't say a word although Rosie said hello to her. The door to the restaurant was locked, and it was noon. Hoping to not bother the young girl too much, we asked her if the restaurant was open for business. She told us to knock on the door of the house just behind the restaurant.
  I stepped on the little porch and was trying to decide which of the two doors I was going to knock on when I figured I would just give a "Hello".
  Door number two opened and a woman stepped out, wiping the sleep from her eyes, and asking me what time it was. "It's noon", I said. "Is the restaurant open for business?"
  "Yes. The time must have gotten away with me," she said.
  "I was told you sell bread here."
  "My mother makes it. We have some inside. Come on in."
  I let Rosie do the honors. She went in to buy a fresh loaf of bread, again for six bucks, and I followed the woman (who turned out to be Lorraine) to the front door of her restaurant where she unlocked the door and told me to have a seat.
  "Are you sure you want to open just for us?" I said.
  "No problem. I have to open anyway", is the response I got, plus "Help yourself to a beer if you want it, it's in the cooler".
  I knew the beer wasn't on the house, but it was Budweiser, and very cold. Rosie had, by that time, come in, so I grabbed two Buds as a start to our lunch. The beers were from February, a mere four months ago. This is factory fresh here in the islands.
  The menus were taped to the walls. We both checked them out, and I saw what I wanted, a cheeseburger. Rosie decided on a chicken sandwich. Each came with a side of our choice and we picked onion rings. "I think I have some of those", Lorraine said.
  While Lorraine was cooking our lunch in the kitchen, five more folks came in, a couple with three children. Business was picking up. No sooner than they sat down, but two more guys came in off a sailboat. When Lorraine came out of the kitchen, she was nearly floored. Nine people for lunch may have been overload.
  Rosie and I ate our mediocre sandwiches, and ate our previously frozen onion rings, and managed to drink two Buds a piece. Our bill with a tip came to $45 bucks. Lorraine was nice, and she was very appreciative of the tip, and we figured we got our money's worth and was happy to be a customer in what is obviously a dried up town.
  Back to the grocery store. The two women were back out front under the tree. We went in and got what we needed. We peeked inside a big chest type freezer and all we saw was a thin layer of goods at the bottom of the freezer covered with a layer of permafrost.
  "Do you have and bacon?" I asked.
  "I don't know", the woman said, and she started scraping ice away and digging packages of frozen meat and other things from the bottom of the freezer. She had no idea what she had in there. The chicken she was pulling out looked as though it had been in there for a decade. The meat was so freezer burned it looked transluscent, more like chicken popsicles than anything.
  I saw a red package near the bottom that in my vast experience as a bacon eater looked to be a package of Oscar Meyer bacon. It wasn't Oscar Meyer, but perhaps a distant cousin, but it was bacon. Five dollars for a 12 oz. package, said so on the lid of the freezer, in writing that was written so long ago, the felt tip pen it was written with dried up years ago, I'm sure.
  We were thinking that instead of spending the day sitting out under a tree, the proprietor would think about managing her inventory. Maybe run a sale on stuff in the freezer that was ten years old or more.
  We paid the fare for our groceries and headed back to the boat, certain that we wouldn't be spending any more time in Black Point Settlement if we could help it.
  The two girls didn't show up and we really weren't surprised. Aftert learning that we didn't have enough ear infection medicine to fully treat Katie's dog Reggie, they probably went to the clinic in Staniel Cay to get some medicine. Just as well. We didn't really want to give Holly's medicine away. What if she got another ear infection? 
  We spent the night and got tossed around still with the swells coming in from the south, even though the wind was from the east. I saw what looked to be a better spot about six miles away at White Point. I don't name these places.
  A sailboat was anchored right where I would have put Swing Set when we got to White Point. I stayed a respectful distance away, but we didn't have the protection of the tiny spit of land to our south that I wanted. Swing Set was tossing around like a filly about to enter a pen at the stud farm.
  We spent a restless night at anchor, and much of the next day too. Late in the day the sailboat hauled up anchor and headed out. He wasn't even around the point and we moved over to his spot. It only takes a few feet to make the difference in a rolly anchorage or not, and the move paid off. We stayed one more night, but the next day I started planning a route to Little Farmer's Cay, only eight miles away. Our Internet service was very spotty and we had some business to attend to, plus I was overdue for a blog post.
  Little Farmers had a BaTelCo tower, and also had a couple of restaurants and a bar, plus a grocery, but little else. But what else is there?
  Our intended anchorage was shallow, at least the approach to it looked that way on the charts. There were mooring balls available, advertised at $10, but I saw no need to use one if we could get in where we wanted to be, but we had to wait until a rising tide to approach Little Farmer's.
  The BTC tower looming over the small town on Little Farmer's Cay was a welcome sight, but the closer we got, the worse our signal was, according to the signal strength on the iPad at the helm.
  We passed our recent sailboat neighbor on the way into the harbor. He was anchored at Oven Rock, and it looked to be a good spot. He appeared to be out of the rolling of the swells, but we still didn't have a good signal from BTC, so we kept going.
  I wound up picking a spot between two mooring balls spaced a good distance apart. The current was helacious, as the cut out to Exuma Sound was right around the corner from where we were. But our anchor was deep into the sand bottom and I had confidence in the holding.
  At issue was some documents that we needed to get to one of our insurance companies back in the U.S.A. Mailing anything from The Bahamas is out of the question. Just forget about it. We were considering finding a traveler to take a letter back with them to mail once they got to U.S. soil, but then I had a better idea.
  I called a very good friend of ous in Florida and asked her if she would print our documents if we sent them via email, and then pop them in the mail for us. Debi agreed and we went to work sending her the documents.
  The cell tower on Farmer's Cay must broadcast some sort of signal for the use of the town only. We were practically under the shadow of the tower and were still not getting 3G, 4G, or any kind of G, just Edge. It took nearly two hours to send six pages of documents. Plus we used up all of our data transfer on our MiFi device.
  To celebrate this major accomplishment, Rosie and I took the dinghy in to have dinner at the Farmer's Cay Yacht Club, which is basically a concrete block building with a dock out front that had room for one our two boats.
  We walked into what was a run down building cut up into several rooms, some with hardly any furniture of any kind. We met Roosevelt, the owner, and asked him if we could get something to eat, as it was going on 6 o'clock.
  Roosevelt pondered this for a while. His wife was the cook and she doesn't like to serve dinners until later in the evening, say, 8 o'clock or so, but he would "go see".
  Roosevelt came back with good news. His wife would make us dinner in about a half an hour. We said that this would pose no problem for us and we asked if he had any beer. The guidebooks said that, "LaBleu," the restaurant in which we were seated at Farmer's Cay Yacht Club, had the coldest beer on the island.   
  Roosevelt was out of all but Bud Light, so we ordered two. Rosie was over at a table looking over a book exchange table (Take one, leave two) when Roosevelt came back and set two luke warm beers in front of me.
  "You may as well bring two glasses of ice, Roosevelt. I like my beer a little colder than this."             
  "The cooler is broke and the beer isn't cold", is what Roosevelt now decides to tell me.
Not only that, but when the ice starts melting, it starts adding an awful taste to my Bud Light, which in the first place would be fighting for any taste test awards as it was packaged last December. I assume in 2012.
  While we waited for our dinners, Rosie ordered another Bud Light, I opted for Bacardi on the rocks. Roosevelt came out and sat with us for a bit. He mentioned that it was "high season" and normally cruisers take a mooring ball out front. Two of the best ones were his, he said. I took in the comment about "high season", it being hurricane season, plus not another soul was around. Just to see what he would say, I asked him how much it was to stay on a mooring. He told me that the cost was $30.
  I gave Roosevelt the look. Without saying a word. Roosevelt then changed the price to $20 per night. Still twice as much as I would have paid, if I was going to take a ball at all.
  I told Roosevelt that I'd rather spend $20 on warm beer than pay for a mooring ball that we didn't need. He mumbled something about "The Port Authority" not wanted anyone to harm the coral by using anchors. As if.
  "I'm in the sand" I told him.
  Roosevelt decided to go "check on things in the office". Rosie saw him in there playing solitaire on his computer. Maybe he should have been cleaning the bathrooms or something.
  It was at this point that I told Rosie to not let me see the bill when it came. I didn't want my night ruined any more than it was. I was elated to have been able to solve our insurance document dilemma, and just wanted a nice dinner. But it was not to be.
  Rosie ordered Grouper with peas and rice and I ordered fried chicken with fries. Each dinner eventually came out, served by Roosevelt himself.
  When he left the table, I grabbed the salt shaker for my fries and no salt would come out. I knocked the shaker a bit and turned it over and the top came off and the full salt shaker emptied out in a mound over my fries, looking like the snow capped dome of Mt. Everest.
  I was at least happy that my small salad largely remained salt free, and my chicken breast also was unscathed. My fries got the salt shook off one by one. Rosie could hardly contain herself, and I admitted that it was pretty funny, but you should have seen the look on Roosevelt's face when he made a quick return to our table.
  His jaw dropped open when he looked at my plate. He obviously thought that this was something that I made a regular habit of doing, but he was speechless.
  "The lid to the salt shaker came off", was all I said. I'm sure most folks would have wanted another order of fries, or even a whole dinner, but even I considered Roosevelt less than scrupulous, I didn't have the heart to cut into his already slim profit margin.
  Back on the boat, we spent a calmer night, but the current was whipping through the anchorage. I was barely asleep when I decided that we'd pull out of there in the morning.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Great Guana Cay

  As much as we liked the activity around Big Majors Spot, the fact that some people found the anchorage to be appealing to them for water skiing and wake boarding made us begin to consider moving on.
  On Friday, Rosie finally went snorkeling. We took the dinghy over to The Grotto and tied to the mooring there just outside of the easiest cave entrance for access. Rosie was impressed with all the fish that she saw and only bumped her head once, and we went on a rising tide, not the best time to go.
  Although we had been to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for dinner, what we really wanted to do was go one last time and have beers and appetizers at the bar, so after our snorkeling trip and a brief nap, we got cleaned up, left Holly in charge of the boat, and headed over to the Yacht Club at around 5 P.M.
  The highlight of our evening was when the two girls we met traveling on their 27 foot sailboat came in and joined us at the bar. I had gotten my facts wrong last time when I said they were traveling with Nick and his girlfriend, Hillary, but in fact, Nick and Hillary have their own boat, and so do Katie and Jessie.
  Katie and Jessie came through our home port on the Mississippi, staying at Grafton Harbor and Harbor Point Yacht Clubs. They were really impressed with Grafton Harbor.
  We traded stories about some of the same places we had all been to, and were surprised to find that they both worked for four months at The Cottage, a favorite bar of ours in Fort Meyers Beach, where they built up their finances to continue their trip.
  You can find out all about Katie and Jessie on their website:
I also have a link to their site on this blog's home page.
  We had a good time talking to some other folks too, but by the time 8 P.M. rolled around, we were ready to go back to the boat, and of course, to Holly.
  I had been keeping tabs on the diesel fuel supply at Staniel Cay. They were getting low, and their price was reasonable at $5.35 per gallon, so I wanted to fill up before we continued on down the Exuma Island chain. I called them on the VHF and was told that they were out of gasoline, but they had some diesel. I told them we were on the way.
  We filled up with diesel, and also bought water for 50 cents per gallon, which came to $30. Our water maker was working, but some windless day were coming up, and running the generator just to make water is not cost effective. There was some modification that I wanted to make to the plumbing on the watermaker, so having a full tank on hand in case I ran into problems seemed like a good thing to do.
  We left the fuel dock and cruised by Tara, and Sweet Louise, the sailboats owned by Nick and Hillary, and Katie and Jessie. We let them know we were heading out. They said that they might see us on down the line and we don't doubt it. We've run into them at four different anchorages without planning it.
  There was no wind on Saturday, so we made a slow run down to Black Point Settlement, only eight or nine miles from Staniel Cay. We dropped the hook in a popular spot over there and I was able to make my modifications to the plumbing on the watermaker. We were getting air in the inlet of the filter housing because I had installed the bracket incorrectly when I put the unit in, so I wanted to correct it and make it right. In the sun, my tools became too hot to even pick up, and I had to jerry rig a hose coupling, but in no time I was able to complete my task and Rosie made us lunch.
  Just as we were setting down to eat, two local boys had paddled their beat up surf boards quite a long distance out to Swing Set. I wasn't going to say anything when they were just fooling around close to the boat, but when one of them grabbed onto the side of the dinghy, I went out to meet them.
  They were only two young boys of ten years old or so, and just wanted to relieve their boredom, but after answering a few of their questions, I told them that I had things to do. They asked my name, and I gave it to them and asked for theirs in return, and then "Gerard" and "George" paddled away and didn't bother us again.
  We hung out for a while, but we really didn't like the view. We were just off the government docks at Black Point, and there were plenty of apparently abandoned homes overlooking our anchorage too. We decided to pick up the anchor and head around the point to a private anchorage not too far away.
  In "Little Bay" we found solitude and beauty. Sky blue water and a pristine beach were all to ourselves. We took the dinghy to the beach after I did some snorkeling at some nearby short cliffs. Back on the boat we put on the stereo and took occasional dips in the water, as it was hot.
  We had a good dinner last night and we did some waxing this morning.
  I also called my dad for Father's Day and was able to get him for a short phone conversation. He didn't know it at the time, but I got choked up at one point and couldn't find the words. He probably thought I was still talking and just attributed the silence for a bad connection. We are glad we are living this life, but it does not come without a cost.
  Speaking of cost; we got our last bill from AT&T and our International data plan was exceeded and the bill was nearly $300 more than normal. Rosie called AT&T and asked them why, on our Domestic plan, we get notified if we are about to exceed our data transfer limit, but we don't get one when we do the same on our International plan.
  She was told that it "just was not an option", but they had pity on us dumb souls and gave us a credit for the overcharge. Then we were informed that since our last new service period that began five days ago, we were nearly at our limit of data transfer already.
  This is why this post is being published from our iPad, and there is no pictures. I figured out how to set up our bluetooth keyboard on the iPad so I can use a regular keyboard, but even though I'm able to load our pictures from the iPhone onto the iPad, there is no feature to post pictures on this blog from a file I can access on this iPad. But I'm working on it.
  I work at keeping our friends and family aware of where we are, but it amazes me how the thought process is of some folks. For example: People who are going on vacation to Florida, or to anywhere near the ocean, think that because we are traveling in the ocean that wherever they are traveling to must be close to where we are.
  The equation would look something like this:
  A=Mike and Rosie are in the ocean.
  B=We are going to be near the ocean.
  A+B=Then we must be going to be near Mike and Rosie.
  Anyone wanting to consider running into us anywhere in the near future, or anytime for that matter, consider this: We publish where we are most of the time via this blog, or on Facebook check ins. Facebook maps supply a map, otherwise Google Maps will show you where we are too. Calculate how far your intended destination will be away from where we are. (You do that, don't give the chore to me. My plate is full.) Then realize that it costs us at least $3 per mile to move this boat in any direction, and that is a low figure. Then take into account that we might not be able to go anywhere at a certain time due to weather, and they you will see that making plans to meet us anywhere out here is problematic.
  But don't get us wrong, we're glad people still want to meet us. I just want folks to understand that there is more to it.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Swimming With The Pigs

  We didn't waste any time arranging to have our new credit cards sent to Staniel Cay Yacht Club via Watermakers Air from St. Brendans Isle, our mail forwarding service. The staff at Staniel Cay was very helpful, even though we aren't staying at the marina, but are on the hook just off of Big Majors Spot, an island just across from Staniel Cay.
  We also showed up with two small trash bags, and as we were pulling up on the very nice dinghy landing at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, we ran into one of the crew on a sailboat that we keep bumping into. "Nick" has been traveling with his girlfriend and two other girls on their sailboat from Michigan. They have been waving at each stop, and we briefly talked to one of the girls back in Wardrick Wells, but this was the first time we actually had a conversation. He gave us some tips about the lay of the land, one of them about the place to put our trash bags for no charge. I told him that I'd probably pay anyway, and he said, "Probably better...makes for good karma". That is something I totally agreed with.
 The next morning we went back to Staniel Cay to check out the town, what there is of it. There are three small grocery stores, one of them that has a small selection of marine supplies. A gallon of marine diesel was $35. Good thing we don't need any right now.
  We found the BTC office and went in to talk to a nice woman there who said for us to come back the next day after 1 P.M. and she would gladly load up another months worth of data transfer on the iPad. We're glad we popped in to ask, we would have shown up at the time the store opens at 9 A.M. , but she wasn't going to be there.
  The three grocery stores had no bread, and we were told by each of them that no bread could be had, but I asked about the sign on the road nearby that advertised "bread". We were told that those folks were only taking orders for the next day, having none left for today. I have learned to never trust what I hear, but to find out for myself.
  We knocked on a wooden door on a seemingly private home that had a small sign on it, barely legible, about having bread there. We were told by someone inside that we should "come on in", but the door had no handle or knob. I grabbed a hold of the edge of the door and pulled it open, and the smell just about knocked us over.
  I should say aroma, because the door opened on a very small kitchen where on girl was kneading dough at a small table, another woman was pulling big fresh loaves of white bread from a small homestyle oven, and another young man was standing by waiting for orders.
  "I was told that we could order some bread for tomorrow", I said.
  "You can have fresh bread right now, if you want it", the woman said who was piling the hot loaves on a nearby counter.
  "Even better."
  The girl kneading the dough was now rolling it out, but never said a word as the young man took our twelve dollars for two loaves of the freshest, best tasting bread you'll ever find, and placed them in a plastic bag after wrapping them in paper towels.
  "When you get these back to your boat, you put them out to cool", we were warned by the older woman.
  With a promise to follow orders to the same, we walked back to the dinghy after stopping to make dinner reservations for that evening at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We then hurried back to Swing Set to make sandwiches for lunch. Delicious.
  The skies were overcast, so after lunch some book reading and an eventual nap was in order. Then we gathered a few items and headed out in the dinghy for more exploring.
  We circled Big Major and arrived at "The Grotto", a small cay just off from Staniel Cay where there is a popular snorkeling spot because one can snorkel under the water to a cave. The caves has holes in the roof, so there is lots of light, and there is plenty of fish and coral to see. A scene from the movie "Thunderball" was filmed there about 50 years ago. I was impressed. Rosie didn't bring her mask and fins with her, but we're going back as soon as we can, perhaps on a nicer day.
  Some folks from a large yacht anchored near us had arrived in a very nice dinghy and they were leaving as we were. The dinghy wasn't running right, and they were apparently from Spain, or South America, but I let them know that we could tow them back if they couldn't get their dinghy running. They were appreciative, and we watched as the driver fiddled with the jet driven dinghy.
  After watching them a minute, I told them that I thought they had something stuck in the pump. Sure enough, the driver put the dinghy in reverse and expelled some fratis or other from the jet pump, and away they went after giving us a thumbs up, and plenty of smiles.

  Everyone has heard of "Swimming with the fishes", but at Big Majors Spot, you can swim with the pigs. Even though another dinghy with some folks were already on the beach, two of these monsters made a bee line towards the dinghy. They will try to climb in if you let them, but our dinghy only has a capacity of a few hundred pounds. These porkers probably weigh 500 pounds each.
  The two couples in the other dinghy were feeding the pigs and otherwise having a close encounter with them. One guy asked me if I wanted to feed one, and I said that other than at the end of a fork, this was as close as I had ever been to a pig, and I didn't see a need to feed one. They'll eat fingers too.

  The two couples were off a megayacht anchored just off the beach like everyone else. One of the girls could have been a model. She looked like Kate Hudson, only with more curves. I would have loved to take a picture for our blog readers back home who appreciate such things, but I think taking pictures of pretty girls that you don't know is creepy. The picture of the blond pig above will have to do.

  Here's a picture of a pretty girl. It's hard to get her to look at the camera when I'm taking a picture, usually she wants to look over at Rosie. I will pay for this.
  Back to the boat and we cranked up the stereo and popped a beer. A fella we had waved to one his way into the anchorage dinghied over to say hello. "Big Dan" and his wife have been cruising this area every summer for the last eight years in their 53 foot DeFever, staying late in hurricane season, into September and October. His plan is always the same as ours is intended to be; just watch the weather and move out of the way of any approaching storms. It has worked for him. Traveling back to the security of Demopolis, Alabama is not practical for us.
  There is one seating for dinner at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, and it's at 7:30. We arrived at the marina about an hour early and I motored over to a spot where Rosie could climb up to the dock without getting her new shoes wet when I pulled up to the beach later. A guy was standing on the end of a pier and as we approached, he warned me that "a big boat was coming in" and we were not to get in the way.
  There was room there for about a 20 foot boat, so I said, "The boat can't be too big, that's an awful short slip".
  "It's a thirty-nine foot Pursuit", we were told.
  Rosie was nice enough to explain that she was only getting dropped off and that we were taking our dinghy to the beach. Rosie was spreading around more karma. I didn't feel the need to at this particular point.
  I secured the dinghy and then found Rosie talking to Nick and the three girls from the sailboat, all dressed up to spend the evening at the SCYC. Nick and I discussed a problem he was having with a motor mount on their sailboat and he had found that getting a replacement part was almost impossible. I suggested making a repair by fabricating something, but he said he had a drill, but no material. I said I had some spare aluminum angle material of an appropriate thickness, plus some spare nuts and bolts, and that we both thought a repair could be made. I promised to come by the next day to take a look at the cracked motor mount on the small diesel engine on the sailboat, as we were going in to BTC anyway. Did I mention that the three pretty young girls traveling with Nick make a habit of lounging around on the sailboat with hardly any clothes on? I do what I can to help. Rosie is coming too, if you need to know.

  Rosie might say that this is the closest she's been to a pig that wasn't holding a fork, but it is what it is. We got a seat at the bar and waited for dinner to be served.
  We soon found out that we didn't have to get a reservation for the fancy dining room, we could have eaten in the bar off of the lunch menu, something that better suits our budgets and our demeanor's, but Rosie said that it didn't hurt to eat at a dining table occasionally.
  As 7:30 neared, the bar began to fill up and a line formed of all the other diners that had made reservations. Every table was to be filled and no walk ins could be accommodated for dinner. We may have changed our minds and ate at the bar anyway, but we had to order what we wanted when we made the reservation that morning, and we weren't going to stiff the restaurant.
  Four of the folks in the dinghy earlier that didn't want to run made a special point to come up to us at the bar and thank us in broken English for our concern when their dinghy didn't want to run. We thought that was nice. Even people in megayachts like to spread karma around.
  When the line dwindled down, we took our seats and were soon digging in to a pork chop dinner for Rosie, and what was described as a "slab of ribs" for me. If four ribs is a slab, then I'm Porky Pig, and for $28 per dinner, even with a half cup of soup, a small salad, the entrees were overpriced. Funny how I paid four dollars a piece for the beers and didn't blink an eye. Please note that we ordered the pork before making friends with the beach pigs.
  It was way after dark when we made the two mile or so run in the dinghy back to the boat. There was still some light way off in the distance providing some guidance, and the seas were calm. The dinghy zipped us "home" in no time and after pouting just a little bit, Holly was beside herself with glee to see us back with her.
  It's raining this morning as I write this blog. I was interrupted by Rosie to come in for breakfast. I had two slices of that great Bahamian bread with peanut butter and jelly on it. It was good, and had better be for fifty cents per bite. I figured it out.
  Our letter is due to arrive this afternoon on the Watermaker's Air flight from Fort Lauderdale. We'll go see our new sailboat friends and also stop at the BaTelCo office. If the weather co-operates, we'll both go snorkeling in The Grotto this afternoon when the tide is slack and the current has subsided. It's dangerous in the cave when there is too much current.
  Tha-tha-tha-that's all folks!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Allen's Cay To Staniel Cay

  We had a nice stay anchored between Allen's Cay and Leaf Cay. The water was calm and crystal clear, but we had no wind and it got hot! The upside was that laying on a raft behind the boat was like laying in a backyard pool but without the backyard.
  We visited the iguanas on the beach, but Rosie and Holly both stayed in the dinghy. We watched other visitors approaching the iguanas with food (which you are not supposed to do) only to see them scamper away as the quick iguanas would run toward them to get the snacks.
  We took several long dinghy rides in search of the folks that our friend in South Carolina wanted us to look up. Luckily we didn't find them because our friend Abby didn't actually know the people, she had just seen a TV show about them. Johnny Depp has an island further on down the Exuma chain of islands. No, we won't be popping in to say hello.

  When we passed through Highbourne Cay on our emergency trip to Nassau, I mentioned the sharks there. We took a dinghy ride over to Highbourne to get some fuel and I took this picture of the sharks at the fish cleaning station. I told Rosie to get a good hold on Holly as they were literally bumping up against the bottom of the dinghy.
  As we were leaving the harbor, a familiar boat was pulling in and upon closer inspection, we saw that it was some folks we had met in South Bimini on their Egg Harbor, "Honey Bunny". We said a quick hello to them as they were just arriving and had guests with them. We wouldn't see them again further on down the Exuma chain this time as Highbourne was as far as they were going.
  We left the next morning from our nifty anchorage at Allen's Cay and said goodbye to the convenient BaTelCo tower at Highbourne Cay. I didn't realize that the spotty Internet service that we were to encounter for the next several days was not going to allow publishing this blog. We were able to get enough service to get our all important Windfinder forecasts, and an occasional email, but blogging was out of the question.
  Also, our phone minutes were all but used up with our dealings with the credit card company, so I even had to hold off on my weekly calls to my dad. We were still issuing our "OK reports" on our SPOT device, so my brother could still relay to our dad that we were OK if he had the inclination to do so.
  Our next stop was Norman's Cay where we thought we would be able to visit a casual beach front bar and restaurant there, but it was closed. We took a lengthy dinghy ride and found some folks traveling together on two separate sailboats that we had waved to in Allen's Cay. They had anchored over in a bay on the other side of the island from us, just yards away from a plane wreck, left over from the drug running heyday that Norman's Cay is known for.
  Our anchorage at Norman's Cay left us exposed to some expected southerly winds that were predicted, so we pulled anchor after one night and headed to Shroud Cay where a spit of land would give us some protection and perhaps a calm night for sleeping.
  When we arrived at Shroud Cay, there was two boats already anchored near the spot we wanted to take, but it was early, and they apparently had plans on leaving anyway. Soon we had the anchorage, and the beautiful beach, to ourselves.

  In this photo we are heading up a creek that leads to the other side of the island. We had tried to transit this creek when we first got here at Shroud Cay, but it was low tide and we soon ran out of water. This time we went late in the day at high tide and were not disappointed.

  This is the entrance to the creek taken from Exuma Sound on the other side of the island. A boat was pulled up there on a small beach where a young couple were swimming, enjoying the solitude.
  We ducked back into the creek and went exploring until we ultimately found ourselves lost. Instead of making a right when I was supposed to, I made a left. I noticed things didn't look the same and a big sand bar we had passed our way up the creek was absent on our way down. I still knew where the sun was, so being absolutely lost wasn't a concern, but being lost in a mangrove swamp is not something to be taken lightly. We did have our VHF radio just in case, and two icy cold Bud Lights in the cooler to last us for the night if we had to, but soon I saw a cut leading out to the Exuma Bank where Swing Set was anchored. It just happened to be about three miles away from where we had initially entered the creek.
  A couple more boats pulled into the anchorage we were in, and one boat in particular gained my attention as they were anchored a bit further south than we were, and were enjoying a calmer anchorage. I had remarked to Rosie,"that guy over there picked a good spot", because he was closer to the leeward side of that spit of land I mentioned earlier, making his choice a smarter one because we were getting tossed around some.
  It was time to move on when morning came. We decided to just tow the dinghy as our stops were intended to be a only a few miles apart, and in protected water, so towing at slow speeds was easier that putting the dinghy up on the davits, as easy as that is.
  So we made a slow way over to Hawksbill Cay and grabbed a mooring ball there. We were able to attach to the ball without too much difficulty, but Rosie hadn't had much practice at her mooring ball proficiency, so it was not without issue that we got settled in.
  Unfortunately, the wind and wave protection was not what I had expected, so after being tossed around for an hour or so, we cast off our lines and headed out, not knowing where we were going to drop the hook, but our route was rife with little nooks and crannies, so I wasn't worried about not finding a suitable spot for the night.
  Another thing was that the mooring ball we were on was not free, and it was designed for a 150' vessel. Payment is expected to be made in a drop box on the beach, not a procedure that I had much faith in.
  The mooring balls we were to encounter are part of the 175 square mile Exuma Land and Sea Park, a nature reserve run by a Bahamian non-profit organization. Within the boundaries of the park, no dead or living creatures are to be taken from the land or the sea.
  The creatures were safe by me. I had been trolling my fishing rig since we left Allen's Cay, and to repeat a phrase I heard from a card playing friend many years ago, "I couldn't catch a Chinese whore with a seabag full of rice". I'm not sure at this point if I should apologize to our Asian friends, or to any Chinese whores reading this blog, but the fact remains that I'm not catching any fish.
  We were snaking our way through the many cays on our cruise and I tried a spot or two, but didn't like the feel of them. Off in the distance I could see the boat that had anchored in the same bay as us off of Shroud Cay. They were anchored off the beach of Cistern Cay. I studied the chart and although the entrance to the anchorage was narrow and a bit shallow, we made our way there and anchored at a respectful distance from the other vessel, which was a strange looking cross between a houseboat and a runabout. It looked larger than it was, and the owners were on the beach, so I couldn't use the reference of human sizes aboard the boat to tell how big it was.
  It was late when we finally got settled in. We had a nice dinner and spent a peaceful night without much rocking, but when daylight came, the swells rolled in and we began to toss around. We didn't waste any time pulling up anchor and we sounded our horn as a goodbye to our anchor mates, not knowing anything about them or where they were headed.
  We were going to bypass Wardrick Wells Cay because it's a tourist destination, but the forecast was predicting strong winds for the upcoming weekend, and the harbor at Wardrick Wells has mooring balls at $20 per day. Typically there is a waiting list for these moorings, but we called on the VHF when the park opened and was quickly assigned a mooring.

  This picture of the Northern Mooring field for Wardrick Wells was taken from the park office when I went to pay. Swing Set is the tiny speck of boat just right of center. The light colored areas is sand and is very shallow, and the current runs through here at a quick pace. I mention this to set the stage for my following comments.
  We passed some other boats that we've been seeing at the other anchorages. Although we hadn't spoken to many of the other folks, we exchanged waves and hellos as we weaved our way through the narrow channel leading to our mooring ball. As is my custom, I approached our ball into both the wind and the current, allowing me to nose up to the ball with the greatest of ease. Rosie was positioned on the bow with the boat hook, and she adeptly snatched up the harness with one try. Things were looking good.
  Once Rosie got the harness in hand, I kept the boat in position so she could slip one end of of a mooring line through the eye of the mooring harness, the other end being previously fastened to the starboard bow cleat. Once the line was slipped through the eye of the harness, we were home free because then it's just a matter of dropping the whole works into the water and pulling the free end to tie off to the same starboard cleat. This is simple unless your boat mate drops the whole works onto the top of the anchor where the now pile of spaghetti will foul.
  Rosie was making an attempt to free the line from the anchor and was able to do so, then she began to pull the free end of our line through the eye of the mooring harness, still pretty good so far. Then something strange happened.
  Rosie was pulling the line correctly through the harness eye, but I don't know if a bug flew by and distracted her, or a small bubble shifted in her brain, but for some unknown reason, Rosie began to pull the line the opposite way through the harness eye, and before I got a chance to stop her, the line was pulled completely through the harness and we were now unattached to the mooring ball harness. Rosie then says, "It came loose".
  What I said then cannot be repeated because our blog gets published on some public sites, but imagine that it was worse than saying anything about Chinese whores.
  I could only take a deep breath and go through the motions again to get one side of our lines attached to the mooring harness. I didn't have the foggiest hope that we could manage to repeat the entire performance to attach a line to the port side cleat. Instead of using the smarter method of Caterpillar horsepower to do the trick, we had to resort to the dumb but proven method of human muscle, and a good supply of pain relievers later on that night.
  So we got hooked and not long after, our anchor neighbors in the odd looking boat came by to hook up to the mooring behind us. Their performance made us look like seasoned sea fairing types by comparison.
  The captain backed toward the mooring ball with the wind and current on his bow. I knew this would be interesting to see. His mate was able to grab the ball with a hook and get a line on it, but then things got really interesting. Now the ball was on their beam and the wind and current was pushing against the side of their boat. The captain left the helm to help tug on the line, (never leave the helm when docking our anchoring) and then the dog on board got anxious to help when the line got tangled around the engine of their dinghy. The dog jumped into the dinghy and ran towards the stern where it tried to jump into the water. I say tried because the front half of the dog was in the water and it's hind end was still in the dinghy, which looked more like a canoe than anything. A foldable boat is what it was, but the point is that the dinghy was unstable and the dog had all it could do to keep its muzzle out of the drink.
  Meanwhile the first mate had handed off the other end of the line she had slipped miraculously through the harness eye, but the captain was torn between saving the dog or tying off the line. Thankfully the dog won out and the line was handed back to the mate and the captain now jumped into the water to rescue the dog. The mate was left on the side of the boat with a line in each hand, looking more like a teamster handling an unruly hitch of Clydsdales, before the captain returned to the deck and was able to get a line on the bow where the boat was turned toward the mooring ball and finally secured on both forward cleats. At this point the captain looked over at me with both hands raised high in the air, and exclaimed "We DID IT!"
  I gave them a much deserved thumbs up.
  Rosie and I decided to go for a little exploring in the dinghy, but first we went over to our new harbor neighbors. First I asked if they had ever hitched to a mooring ball before and the captain, Doug, said that no, it was the first time ever.
  Then I really got a look at the boat. It was an older trailerable 30 footer or so with an OMC outdrive that Doug had trailered to Florida from Arizona. He had absolutely no experience in running a boat except for the last two weeks and he was "learning while doing", in fact, not twenty minutes after launching the boat in Key Biscayne, the steering cable broke.
  I then admitted to him that when I first saw them anchoring in a much better spot than we were back near Shroud Cay, that I remarked to Rosie that I thought he knew something we didn't. I then told Doug that I still thought he might know something that I didn't, but it wasn't the things I thought they were. We both laughed at that.
  After meeting the mate, Denise, we talked a bit more about travel plans. They admitted to being out of water and planned on staying in the shelter of the harbor for the same reason we were, and were heading to Staniel Cay on Monday. We offered any assistance that we might be able to provide and said we'd probably see them on down the line.

  The tide was going out, leaving sand bars exposed on our bow and on our stern. Some other boaters had taken their dinghies over to play on the sand, so we took ours too, in order to meet some folks and let Holly play. Sand that had been covered with water won't have sand fleas on it, or much else to cause concern, but we did see some small sharks winnowing around in the shallows. We kept a sharp eye on Holly. She succeeded in not only getting her eyes full of sand, she later got another ear infection. We think Holly's beach combing days are over.
  When we checked in, Jen, the park attendant told us about a happy hour being held that evening on the beach. "Bring what you drink and an hors d'oeuvre to share". Maybe some of the nearby yachts carry supplies for fancy snacks and hors d'oeuvres, but a bag of chips does not hors d'oeuvres make, plus what would go with a sandwich at lunchtime if we run out of Doritos?
  Later I got creative and made some hors d'oeuvres with some Triscuits, ravioli, and cheddar cheese, sprinkled with parsley to make it fancy. We packed a cooler and our beach chairs and dinghied over to the beach. I set the plate on one of the picnic tables as we were the first ones there, but the lizards were taking too much interest in the vittles, so I put the tray back in the big cooler in the dinghy that I use as a seat, and we waited for the other guests to show up.
  About an hour later, nearly at dark, another couple finally came up to the beach. This was to be our happy hour party. It was not without benefit, however, as we learned that the other couple had been traveling in their Grand Banks for quite some time, but were heading back to the U.S.A. after visiting all points south including the Dominican Republic.
  I liked the fuel and water capacities on his boat, and he liked the fact that we had a water maker on our boat, plus the fact that we could go faster than his 7 M.P.H. if we had too. But he also had stabilizers. Each boat had its advantages. They were from Cape Coral like our friends Gary and Judy. They also like the area but visit the Bahamas quite often.
  It got darker and the mosquitoes really came out. We were offered some spray but decided to get back to the boat where our buddy Holly was waiting. We played cards and ate our fancy hors d'oeuvres for dinner. It was the tough luck of the others that they didn't show up.
  On Sunday we had plans to do some snorkeling, an activity that everyone seems to want to do, but I can't figure out when they do it. Where we were anchored, the wind was too stiff, or the current was too strong for swimming. We decided to wait for slack tide when the currents would subside. Right about the time we were going to get our gear together, Rosie spotted a shark swimming around the boat. End of story. She wasn't going anywhere near the water.
  "You can go if you want to", she tells me. I surveyed the increase of the wind and decided to hold off on the lone snorkeling. This is my story and I'm sticking to it.
  We decided to take a hike instead.

  The tallest point on Wardrick Wells Cay is Boo Boo Hill, a short hike from the mooring field. Our boat can be seen near the middle of the harbor at low tide. Looks more like a huge beach from where we were.

  This cairn comprised of driftwood decorated with the names of boats and crew members that have hiked to the summit of Boo Boo Hill is the only thing that humans are allowed to leave on Wardrick Wells Cay. We left a small sign with our names and the name of Swing Set too. A RiverBills sticker was used for a photo op and then taken back down with us.
  The view is spectacular, not so much for the visual appeal, but for me it was a realization of how far we have come, and how far we are from our friends and family. To be honest about it, the experience left me a little sad.
  On Monday morning we headed out. We put the dinghy on the davit because our route was going to take us through some open water on the Exuma Bank, with the wind it was sure to be a bumpy ride.

  By mid-morning we were anchored securely near Compass Cay in the clearest water we've seen yet. In eight to ten feet of water you could count the grains of sand on the bottom. At one point I saw a pretty green fish swimming toward the boat before I realized it was nothing but the stern of the boat drifting over a Heineken bottle.
  We did some much needed waxing on the boat after doing a short rinse and wipe with our own water onboard. Afterward we went for a dinghy ride to check out the nearby Compass Cay Marina, a place designed for people with more money than sense. Compass Cay Marina charges folks ten dollars per head just to step foot on the property, and I'm here to tell you that it's not that special. The docks are old and sandwiched into a little harbor that really isn't a harbor at all, but an offshoot of a channel where the current runs swift four times per day. We did see some sharks in there, and little kids were swimming unconcerned nearby. I need to get some of their nerve.
  We went back to our very affordable anchorage, meaning FREE, and had a great dinner of grilled chicken, macaroni, and spinach. Then we sat in the cockpit and watched the sun go down before retiring.
  One thing we have been surprised at during this voyage is the amount of current that we have to deal with. The Abaco Cays are large, and spaced far enough apart where there is plenty of space for the water to reach the ocean from the Sea of Abaco, for the most part.
  Now, Eleuthera is one big island. The water goes up and down, but hardly no current because the exchange from one side of the island doesn't go through cuts.
  Here in the Exumas, lots and lots of little cays are separated by big and little cuts both, and the waters in the Banks and the Sound do battle with each other moving from one side to the other, and the current going through the cuts is downright treacherous. Taking a dip off the stern better be done with caution or an unwary swimmer may find themselves drifting quickly away from the boat. The area we were about to transit was no exception.
  We left this morning to head for Staniel Cay. Another consideration for traveling through these islands, is the fact that one needs to be able to read the water, and this means sunlight overhead. I'm used to reading water based on the ripples it makes as the current takes the water around the bends and shallows. Reading the bottom by actually seeing it, on the Mississippi anyway, is a lesson in futility.
  So we need to see the bottom which means waiting until after 10 A.M. But when the high tide, the best time to travel shallow areas like this, happens at 10:30, one has to compromise.
  We left at 8 A.M. so we could be on a rising tide to travel what is known as "The Pipes", a narrow, twisty, and shallow route where VPR, or Visual Piloting Rules apply. Meaning, don't trust the chart, trust your eyes. Always a good practice in any water.

  Within a couple of hours we were anchored along with several other vessels off of Big Major Spot, near Staniel Cay where the feral pigs swim out to your dinghy looking for a handout.
  They like frozen peas and carrots we're told. So what? We do too. There's more of a chance of us eating one of these pigs than of us feeding one of them. Where is Steve Huebner when you need him? (Steve is a friend from up north who knows his way around slaughtering a hog.)
  Just kidding pig lovers. We'll avoid the pigs for the most part. They not only bite, but Holly would be a snack for one of the 500 pound pigs. Apparently they swim like fish and will try to climb into the dinghy with you. Stay away from us you soggy pork rinds!
  We have adequate Internet service here. We have some business to attend to in Staniel Cay. We need to get our credit cards sent to us here, for one thing. Another thing is to get rid of two big bags of trash. Really the only items in the trash is empty beer cans and potty pads for Holly. I'd like to see an archeologist's take on that sometime in the future.
  There is also three grocery stores in Staniel Cay that we'll visit. There is fuel here too, but we'll probably wait until we get to Georgetown, in the southern Exumas. The fuel is cheaper there at the Marina at Emerald Bay and they don't have a surcharge when you use a card to purchase fuel.
  Meanwhile, as I write this, the megayachts are filing in. This anchorage is one of the busiest in the Exumas. It's supposed to be the place to meet everyone, and if we want solitude, this isn't the place to find it.
  If I post any pictures in the coming days of us eating big ole racks of spare ribs, let's just keep it a secret between us, OK?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Last Night In Nassau Before Making North Exuma Islands

  On Friday morning our work was done. We would have liked to leave Nassau and head for the Exumas, but the wind was still up and it rained, and it rained. Not only that, with the exception of our first night in Nassau with Rick and MP, and the following day at Paradise Beach, our time in Nassau was not all that enjoyable, and we wanted to turn the tide in that regard.

  This is the view we had from our cockpit for the week, and this isn't even low tide. The little structure houses trash cans and most of the time they were over flowing and bags of trash were piled around them.
  The harbor on the New Providence side, or the Nassau side, was littered with sunken vessels. Lots and lots of them, with seemingly no intention by anyone to get them removed. The marinas on this side are mostly not sheltered from passing vessels transiting the harbor and boats get rolled and pitched, even behind the government pier where we were. Add to the mix was the continuous rain we were having and you can see why we were anxious to get underway. But like I said, we had plans to have some fun on Friday night.
  On Friday afternoon we donned our rain gear and walked to the shopping area where Rosie found a pair of shoes at a very low price and I bought three pairs of shorts to wear when a ratty swimming suit wouldn't do. Rosie said that they were a good price, but I wouldn't know. I can't remember the last time I bought pants.
  We waited for the rain to subside after getting cleaned up to go to the Atlantis Casino. Finally we put our rain gear on and walked to the security office where we were to find a taxi and the staffer there said we could leave our rain gear in the office until we came back, so we were able to get into the taxi without being dripping wet.

  We didn't waste any time finding a nice bar in a busy area of the hotel where we could have some beers and watch the people. Long pants are required in the fancier restaurants at Atlantis, but I don't know who was going to visit them because most all the men were wearing cutoffs and raggedy t-shirts. I not only had a button down shirt on, I had shoes on that tied for the first time in a year, although they were still boat shoes.
  A quick six pack at this bar was a heady $50, so we went in search of a reasonably priced restaurant where I could be served looking like the bum that I am. We were surprised at how many children there were around, plus the fact that they were allowed throughout the casino. I can only assume that they were not allowed to gamble, but I'm not certain.
  We passed up a couple of restaurants where the posted menus advertised lots of entrees for $50 to $150 and settled on a more casual place where the aquarium surrounds the dining tables. The menu was reasonable and I picked a 16 oz. ribeye for $34 and Rosie had a monster rack of ribs for $30. Our table was right next to the aquarium and we were in awe of the variety of sea life that they had packed in the huge tank that surrounded the whole restaurant. A giant sting ray continuously patrolled his domain that had to be six feet across. It was at that point that we both decided to never enter the ocean again.
  After our dinner we took a taxi back to Yacht Haven as we had no intention of leaving any of our hard earned money at the Atlantic Casino. Some folks on a big yacht near us were having a party and they waved and said hello. At another time we would have probably joined them, but we were done drinking and were full of dinner. We only had sights on seeing Holly and going to bed. A big time Friday night for us.
  On Saturday morning we had plans to take the doctor we had met, John Neely, and his girlfriend Glennis, to breakfast at his uncle's place, Nassau Stadium. We stopped by the marina office on our walk to the restaurant and told them to prepare our bill so it would be ready when we returned. The weather was breaking and we were gonna git.
  Breakfast was enjoyable for the company we had, but I had a traditional Bahamian breakfast of stewed fish, johnny cake and grits. Let's just say that I eyed Rosie's breakfast of scrambled eggs and thick slices of fried bologna, or "sausage" as it's called here in The Bahamas, having lustful designs on her food until she offered me a bite. Our server was apparently overwhelmed at having to wait on four people at one time and we could tell that John was not entirely pleased with the service. He is in by no means a demanding person, be I think we all wanted our breakfast experience to be special, and he more than any of us was disappointed. It was still special though.
   It turned out that Glennis used to work with my cousins' second husband who she met at the Paradise Island Hotel and Casino before it was torn down and rebuilt as The Atlantis. They lived on New Providence for a time. We hadn't seen him since our last visit in the mid 1980's and they got divorced shortly afterwards. It wasn't our fault.
  We said goodbye to John and Glennis and paid our bill at Yacht Haven. We stopped by to say goodbye to Rick and MP and promised to stop in and see them if we passed through Nassau on our way back to the United States. Not sure if they viewed this as a promise or a threat.
  There is an Explorer Chart website that lists current dockage and fuel prices throughout the Bahamas, and it's updated monthly. Hurricane Hole Marina was advertised at having diesel for $5.10 per gallon. I asked around to see if their fuel was "good" and I got good reports so we went across the harbor and found Hurricane Hole between the two tall bridges that cross over to Paradise Island. Not only was it true that they didn't charge extra for using a credit card, but the fuel price had dropped to $4.88 per gallon. We only took on 54.7 gallons, what we used to cruise on plane from Highbourne Cay on the previous Friday afternoon, about 1.5 gallons per mile at 25 m.p.h. This is why we generally travel at 8-9 miles per hour.

  Maybe we had a rough week with all the repairs, and the crappy weather, but the owners of this boat that we passed on our way out of Nassau Harbor had even a worse week. This boat sank on Thursday and the only reason that I think it won't still be there if we come back through here in a few weeks or months, is that it sunk on the ritzy side of the harbor just off the banks of Paradise Island.
  The sky was overcast for our passage over to Allen's Cay in The Exumas, but winds were light and our ride was as pleasant as it could be. I trolled a lure behind the boat at a leisurely 8 miles per hour, but it may have been too fast. If I got a bite I didn't know it, but my line and lure were intact when we entered the Allen's Cay anchorage 34 miles later.

  The sun poked out a bit when we dropped our anchor between Allen's Cay and Leaf Cay. We weren't really where we wanted to anchor but I didn't want to "snuggle in" between other vessels and raise their ire. We found a pure sand bottom in seven feet of gin clear water. I could see the anchor clearly from the boat deck but swam down on it just for the fun.
  I started writing this post yesterday while Rosie roasted our big fat chicken and we both sipped on fresh banana daiquiri's, but the Internet connection was not very good and pictures wouldn't load up.
  Our chicken was joined by red beans and rice and asparagus, not many meals we could have had at any restaurant at Atlantis could have beaten this one. We watched the sun set and both fell asleep reading our books before 9 o'clock.
  The wind blew swells in during the night and it was a little rolly, so after breakfast we noticed that a catamaran had left that was anchored nearer to the beach, so we pulled up anchor and moved over to more sheltered water.

  Look how the dinghy appears to be floating in mid air behind the boat in the crystal clear water! The beach we are anchored off of is famous for having huge iguanas on it. In fact I had used the binoculars to survey the beach this morning and I at first thought I was seeing big raccoons parading around, but realized it was the iguanas. They are reputed to be biters too. We know iguanas can swim, so Holly will be staying safely in the dinghy when we go over there this afternoon. I'm not so sure that Rosie won't be staying in the dinghy too.
  We'll also go see if we can find some folks over on Leaf Cay #1. Our friends from South Carolina, Tom and Abby know these folks who bought the island a while ago for a mere eight million dollars. No one buys an island for eight million dollars to welcome visitors who just drop in unannounced, so we hope Kim and Peter aren't mad if we drop in on them later. (We've been practicing saying, "Hi, we're friends of Tom and Abby. What's for lunch?"
  Rain is in the forecast for all week, but we don't care. We're glad to be away from the squalor of Nassau and the $100 per night it cost us to stay at Yacht Haven. I bet I have a story or two to tell next time. Maybe I'll even have some stories that I can't tell. Even better.