Saturday, January 24, 2009

Normans Cay

With the wind and seas settled down, on January 22nd we all left the anchorage, with everyone except First Edition headed South. Instead, we headed for Normans Cay, the former home of Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder, and last year, our site for the Super Bowl, the New York Giants the champions. Here we plan to wait for Rob and Christine on Celebrian, who have been stuck in the Abacos waiting for a computer part.
I just finished a great book about Normans and the whole drug thing titled Turning of the Tides. It is a good read even if you don’t know the Cay (John, get it, you will enjoy it if you can find it, and no, I don’t know the author’s name.)

The plane pictured here is not the only one that crashed while overloaded with cocaine, but it is the only one remaining that you can snorkel around.
We managed to find a way to the Sound-side beach where there were more conchs than we have ever seen.

We met up with Judy and Irwin and Will and Sue (the latter on Blue Moon) and enjoyed a good hike and conversation. Everyone reminded each other to look up every once and a while as the scenery was spectacular, breathtaking.

That evening we joined Richard and Carol from Kalissa at McDuffs, which is trying to call itself the Norman Cay Beach Club. This is a great place, very cozy, with better than average Bahamian food (some of it is actually not fried). We had several Kaliks (the local brew) and met Ken and Barb on Plumpuppet (you are challenged to describe how this name arose), Mark, a single handler with a passion for Norman’s history, Mike and Judy on Sea Sharp (yes, one a former music teacher), and Kathy and Darius on Breeze Hunter.

Letter from the Queen

Our Commodore announced this morning that he had received a letter from Queen Elizabeth, advising that due to the long established residency of the British on and near Hog Cay, the yacht club was henceforth to be known as the Royal Hog Cay Yacht Club; all members unanimously approved this amendment. (Ranger Headquarters has even started to refer to us as the HCYC, as have some other boats moored in the North Anchorage.)
The RHCYC took a several hour walk around Warderick Wells over volcanic rock, hauling what seemed like several tons of plastic flotsam off the shores. As we are all departing tomorrow, with First Edition headed North while the others head to Staniel Cay, we hosted another game night serving sippies, cake and coffee. The women got their revenge in a roaring game of Apples to Apples. Following this, Kathy taught us a new card game, Pig.
To play Pig, a deck of cards consisting of four of a kind for each person is assembled. (Since there were 8 of us, we played with 32 cards of aces through eight.) Seven “grabable” items like clothespins are placed in the center of the table. Four cards are dealt to each player. The dealer is the judge, and on his/her command, one card is passed left. The judge continues to announce “pass” until one player has four of a kind, when he grabs one of the clothespins. Everyone else grabs a clothespin, leaving one player empty handed (as in musical chairs). That player has earned a “P”. A new judge (clockwise) restarts the process. When any player has “earned” P, I and G, he is eliminated from the game and one four of a kind set of cards is taken away. No one may talk to the PIG, who of course tries to involve everyone in conversation. Anyone who does talk to the PIG becomes a PIG and is eliminated. Game continues until everyone but one is eliminated. This game is absolutely hysterical.

Where Were You on Inauguration Day?

Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. The Bahamas, Warderick Wells. The chatter on the VHF was all about where you could see the 44th President of the United States, our first black President, Barack Obama inaugurated. We could almost not have been further from civilization on this day, and how we envied that one boat that had satellite TV and was putting together a small party for the viewing.
Blue Bay to the rescue! With their Sirius radio, Nancy pulled together a pot luck lunch and the Yacht Club members gathered in the cockpit for the broadcast. Many of us (not all Americans) had tears in our eyes. After, we all spoke about the promise of Obama, and how the world’s citizens are all invigorated by this opportunity. Good luck Mr. President, our prayers are with you.

Hog Cay Activities

We all went snorkeling in the South Anchorage and it was pretty amazing. We all thought the stomatolites, I think the earliest known form on life on our planet, were unimpressive, but the coral and fishies were incredible. This is such a good hideaway.
We tried hiking but poisonwood is abundant on the trails, which seem to be short and go no where. We climbed the east side of the anchorage and found seven year apples ripening. There are several theories on how this fruit got its name but the one I like best professes that if you take a bite out of one of the apples, you won’t take another one for seven years.
After a delightful pot luck dinner aboard Blue Bay we headed over to Briar Patch for a Hog Cay YC Pictionary competition. Briar Patch is an owner-built McIntosh Cutter, absolutely gorgeous, owned by Dean and Kathy. The men womped us, running way ahead very early, the ladies nearly catching up, with guys recovering for the win. A great night with our new friends.

South Anchorage at Warderick Wells

We had a harrowing trip to the South Anchorage by Hog Cay from the North Anchorage, about an hour and a half voyage. The winds were in the upper teens and the waters had churned up. This was our first visit to this anchorage, so we were unfamiliar with the approach and knew only that we had to keep the “prominent rock” to starboard. For a long time we could not see the entrance, but keeping on, it eventually became obvious, with a cairn (pile of stones) at the entrance to port and the mooring field coming into view shortly thereafter. On entering, the winds were sheltered and the seas were flat with pastel blue waters. A great choice.

We hiked around to see what was there and found a former pirate lair (or so claimed). Trees not native to the Bahamas were abundant, said to be owing to the pirates dropping seeds from their sleeping bags and clothing.

That evening we had happy hour ashore with Blue Blazer, Blue Bay, and Briar Patch, all of the boats in the mooring field, and it was agreed to form the Hog Cay Yacht Club, whose activities should last for the next several days as the west winds blow near 30 knots.


While waiting to move to the South Anchorage at Warderick Wells where we expect good protection from the approaching westerlies, the air became very still and humid with dark clouds overhead. I noticed that the water was churning violently off of the bow. Then, a waterspout formed very dramatically. It seemed to travel in the same direction as the clouds were, and lasted perhaps for 10 minutes. It certainly got everyone’s attention. The blue in the picture is our furling gear on our headsail, and will give you an idea how close the spout was to First Edition.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hiking to Boo Boo Hill

We packed a lunch and picked Nancy up in the dink while Dick relaxed and recuperated from a cold spreading through the cruising community. We met up with Maj-Lis and Don from Blue Blazer on Butterfly Beach and had a several hour hike up to Boo Boo Hill. Along the way, I found this gorgeous piece of coral that closely resembles a Willow tree, and of course, begged to be featured on Boo-Boo with the other cruiser mementos. Thinking of you, dear granddaughter.

At night we attended the usual Saturday evening happy hour at Warderick and met a lot of nice folks. The usual bonfire was skipped as the winds are still whipping. Tomorrow we plan to head off to the South anchorage, where we have never been, as we are told the West protection is great here. West winds to 30 knots are forecast in the next couple of days. There are six moorings there, but two are out of commission. It looks as if Blue Bay, Blue Blazer, and Briar Patch will accompany First Edition in this voyage.

To get to the South Anchorage we have to exit Warderick Cut and enter a rather narrow anchorage. More thrills and chills.

We will be out of internet range for several days, so please use your imagination to picture us snorkelling and partying.
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The Nigel Calder Apron


With cloudy skies and lots of breeze we decided to volunteer at Warderick Wells for the day. In exchange for six hours of your time (in our case, 12 hours since we both worked), you are given a free mooring for one night. It has been a very long time since either one of America's Top Lawyers or his wife worked for a buck and a quarter per.

But, we were happy to give something back to this wonderful refuge. Nancy will probably be able to repair anything that breaks on Blue Bay now, since she wore Nigel Calder's apron all day long. She and I gave two teak benchs acid washes and bleach treatments, then sorted sundry screws, washers, nails and odd parts contributed by another vessel in one big bucket. Peter and Dick reattached a rubrail on one of the Park's runabouts.

A good days work with the reward of a wonderful location.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Warderick Wells North Anchorage

On Thursday someone must have discovered that we were good people after all, and we were able to move to the North Anchorage at Warderick Wells. It took us about an hour and a half of slow motoring while we amped up the batteries to get to our mooring. This relocation may have been an error, as with north winds the Emerald Rock field is very protected, while the North anchorage is slightly exposed and we bounced around a lot with the current.
You meet some very interesting critters in the Park.

We did manage to get a decent hike in on Causeway Trail. This trail is well marked with plaques identifying the flora of the area, so get a little smarter as you get your workout.

It should be noted that while all you folks up North are chilling out, we have begun to repay the weather Gods for such excellent luck for the first three weeks here; it is howling! For the next several days it will blow, it will rain, and it will be basically ugly. Well, it is not snow. And it is not freezing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When Things Go Right

We just finished a Skype call with my Auntie. She sounds terrific even though the Giants have blown it. This year she is surrounded by friends who have taken such good care of her that I think she is managing without me, and I am not sad about this. Her neighbors and friends Jamie and Debbie are more like family, well, good family if you know what I mean. Nancy and Bill down the road a piece feed her and make her leave the house. So, this year, I spend my free time feeling good and enjoying the sights, but not worrying. Well, not so much. Thank you dear friends. You are making such a difference in so many lives.

Emerald Rock at Warderick, and Conch Horn Lessons

We left Rock Sound on January 14th, bound for Warderick Wells (where all good people go when they die). Unfortunately, we must not have been good enough, as we were unable to get a mooring in the North Anchorage, the preferred part of heaven.
We were lucky enough to get to the next best place, Emerald Rock, located on the wrong side of the tracks on the Cay, but still in good territory.

Underway we were hailed by our new/old friends Maj-Lis and Don on Blue Blazer, whom we had met in the Dismal Swamp. They dinked over when we moored and Peter provided conch horn lessons. We are soooo happy to have caught up with them.

Rock Sound, Eleuthera

We spent three nights at Rock Sound, missing our friends on Celebrian and Ketch N Dreams, with whom we had shared Eleuthera last year. We had good company, though, with Blue Bay and Pearl. We provisioned and bought internet ($8 a day at Dingles), and found out that the tiki hut where we landed our dink last year had opened as a restaurant, catering to cruise ship tourists who are ferried in. (Four Points.) Here Cocoa is featured demonstrating a Junkanoo costume, and although one of the tourist women who appeared to have one too many Goombay Smashes on the ferry ride over enjoyed dancing with him, I really think he entertained for my granddaughter. Lisa reports that Willow has become a You Tube Junkanoo fan. Lisa, she wants to see the real thing with Grammie.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tarpum Bay at Eleuthera

Another glorious sailing day as we said a temporary good-bye to Pearl and Blue Bay, who are headed to Rock Sound. We decided to visit Tarpum Bay, where new government moorings were said to be available, and art galleries located. Neither were found. Holding is supposed to be poor here, but we found good sand in six feet of water well off of the shore to the right of the submerged rocks at high tide. So basically the guide books are all wrong.
Long walk was taken around this run-down community, where everyone we passed greeted us warmly. By the time we made it to the top of the hill (where the car rental/pizza shop/bakery/internet “café” is located) word had travelled that there was a boat in the harbor. Apparently passers by are few and far between.
We had a late lunch at Barbie’s, where we waited 45 minutes for the best fish sandwich I have ever had.
Grocery stores were well stocked with refrigerated goods and some frozen meats, but little in the way of fresh produce. It appeared that conch and/or fish was being sold on the docks.

Balara Bay by Governors Harbor

From Current Island we had a glorious sail over to Balara Bay next to Governors Harbor, complete with a dolphin escort. There is good holding here in sand despite what the charts say. From this anchorage it is a five minute dink ride to Governors if you plane.
We headed directly for the bakery of course and Peter bought his morning treats while for the second year in a row I picked up an internet signal outside of the front door. I made my Happy Birthday call to my aunt, Skype is great; two cents a minute!
The industrious island boys convinced us to donate towards their school’s fundraising contest, proceeds of which will go towards a new laminator and projector. A worthy cause for some nice young chaps.

Current Cut and Current Island

On January 8th we left Spanish Wells two hours before low tide. It was a real nail-biter crossing over the Meak Patch; fortunately Blue Bay, with its Explorer electronic charts led the way. After hours and hours of debate and negotiation, we had concluded that slack current at Current Cut occurs 1 and ½ hours after High Tide or Low Tide at Nassau. (After the high tide, the ebbing current sets west. Really.) So, the timing of slack required our untimely departure.
We arrived at Current Cut right on schedule, and found negligible adverse current on entering and a slight favorable on exiting the Cut (go figure). In any event, it was a non-event, as hoped. Once you are through the Cut, ignore your charts and make a hard turn to starboard, tracking the Southern coast until you find deep water. It was very skinny when we arrived, and we saw slightly over six feet under us.
We anchored behind Current Island. The shelling was fabulous, got a great big Queen or King Conch (need Celebrian for confirmation), several milk conchs, many sand dollars, and gorgeous sea urchins. Nancy and Dick on Blue Bay had their first snorkel of the year and reported great fish but chilly water. At sunset I sounded the conch horn quite admirably, as the Captain, in the shower, yelled up his dismay at using his instrument.
We celebrated Nancy’s birthday aboard First Edition with a pot luck lobster dinner, complete with a homemade birthday cake which I baked and Peter frosted. It was a great day and evening.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spanish Wells

On Jan 5 we arrived at Spanish Wells, a hard working mostly white community of lobstermen. (I don’t these citizens would have voted for Obama.) There is no anchorage here, there are 8 moorings (3 for very shallow draft boats it would appear), and we were lucky to find vacancies. These may be reserved in advance. Everything on Spanish Wells is priced very reasonably, and it is a thriving settlement. Homes are painted in pastels and are surrounded with well tended gardens.

Near the waterfront is a great seafood store where we bought stone crabs ($10/lb), lobster tails ($15/lb) and grouper ($7). At the golf cart rental store there are neat and inexpensive gifts (wait till you see Willow). Both groceries were out of milk and veggies as we had just missed the mail boat which brings in supplies. Walking the island takes all day, but you are rewarded with lovely architecture and a beautiful beach. Peter had a ball at the Ponderosa Shell Shop picking out his conch horn, which by tradition is sounded at sunset.
On the opposite side of the harbor there are many stores and a few restaurants. At the Islander Shop Nancy on Blue Bay replenished her wardrobe and I helped the local economy as well. We had several meals at The Gap and lunch at Eagles Landing, where I had a “plain Duke”, something that is supposed to be beef and tastes like BBQ but is sort of the consistency of Taylor Ham. There is no booze served or sold in all of Spanish Wells.
That did not stop us from having cocktails with former cruisers Gene and Tom of Amadon Light, six months residents here. Every time a new cruiser comes to Spanish Wells Tom runs you down and invites you to tip a few on their porch. They are a wealth of information and good company, also providing the world’s very best book exchange. Here we met Ann and Greg on Rainbeau.
We shared happy hour with Diane and Pete on Pearl, hailing from New York. It is so good to hook up with folks who have NY accents and understand Curb Your Enthusiasm, which thanks to daughter Beth we are seeing for the first time. Love it Beth although your Dad usually has no idea what is going on. Diane is hysterical and I hope we see more of them in our travels.
I got a great haircut at Classy Cuts for $20, and also got my fill of the local gossip. We had an intermittent internet signal in the mooring field, but too weak to upload pictures or sustain a conversation on Skype. Internet in town was $10 an hour!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lynyard Cay to Royal Island

Near the very South of the Abacos the surroundings change entirely from the bustle of the big city (sic) to nothing but forests and uninhabited islands. We left ahead of Blue Bay and motor sailed down to Lynyard, passing over shallows and nearby reefs. There seem to be an incredible number of possible anchorages, and we will have to come back here to explore.

Blue Bay pulled in just at sunset as the conch horns sounded taps. The next day we had, as Dick put it, a "spirited sail" to Royal Island Harbor, with winds around 20 knots and 4 to 6 foot seas, with some eight foot rogues thrown in. This trip took about ten hours; we usually leave at night to avoid any chance of falling behind schedule and having to approach at night. To get here you must sail open ocean for hours, then pass through two unlit islands and enter a channel that according to our Navionics charts indicate there are nothing but rocks in the inlet. Fortunately the charts are wrong, as Royal has great holding and is a lovely spot. UNfortunately, construction is on going where a luxury resort is to be constructed. This was in progress a year ago and the same trucks and backloaders are evident and kicking up a lot of dust, but there is no evidence that anything has been constructed!

New Years Day and Wifi Antenna

On the first day of the year we exited Hopetown and had a great sail back to Marsh, where we hooked up again with Rob and Christine for our New Year's Dinner and to commemorate the one year anniversary of our meeting. As usual, we had a great time with these great friends. However...

Christine has been very frustrated in trying to get a new wifi antenna, which is an absolutely necessity while cruising. With the antenna, we are able to connect from anchorage to shoreside signals being supplied by the likes of you guys. All we do on First Edition is attach the antenna into the USB port and haul it up the stays. Our antenna was intended for RV use, and it works great. Christine bought some kind of fancy thing that does not want to work with Vista. So, finding a suitable replacement in the Bahamas has been very difficult. She has managed to find an expert and a source, who says that his supplies will be coming in "some time next week". For Chrissy's sake we hope this is not next week, Bahamas time.

But, we have decided to move on and connect with Celebrian down the road a piece. To make matters worse for Christine, we plan to leave with Blue Bay, friends of theirs that they introduced to us. Total abandonment.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Years 2009

We waited too long to make a reservation at one of the preferred restaurants here at Hopetown (what bad economy?) but arranged with Nancy and Dick on Blue Bay to party at Cap N Jacks before the fireworks and Junkanoo. Well, I did not make the fireworks although they were visible from the boat. Peter enjoyed them along with the remainder of his Johnny Blue and a half of a cigar!

Happy New Year. I miss you all, and wish you all good things in 2009.

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