Monday, February 16, 2009

Acklins Island in the Crooked Islands



We had a marvelous 27 hour trip from Sampson to Landrail Point on Acklins Island, part of the Crooked Island chain. We were able to sail the last eight hours on a moderate close reach. Celebrian did not have that luck, trailing a few miles behind us they were unable to point with the large sea swell. I hope they do not regret their decision to join us.
We are now in the Southeast Bahamas, and we have to listen to a different weather segment! The area is warmer and more arid, and more remote. There was a Batelco tower, but we seem to be unable to remember how to connect once out of the “civilized” world. So we hope that Beth had a good showing for Nightline.
There were three other boats in the Landrail anchorage. Rapscallion hailed us as we set anchor, inviting us to dinner as they had overloaded on freshly caught Mahi. We were sorry to have missed the chance to make some new friends, as Celebrian had caught a tuna and had already extended the invite. The anchorage is described in the books as subject to a “constant surge”. We had very minor roll in a 15 knots of east wind.
The following morning we decided to change prior plans to head to Atwood Harbor, and go to Salina Point on the Southeast side of Acklins instead. Here we hoped to see the nesting flamingos to celebrate Valentines Day. We were unable to exchange cards or gifts (nothing having been available), and I guess we are getting old because it was OK. Just being here is a gift enough. But, I missed calling my granddaughter Willow. Not only is there no tower, there are no people here.
There are also no flamingos to be found. This is another lee anchorage, and we were the only boats here. We could not identify any path to lead to the inland fresh water pond where the flamingos might be found. While dinghying in to shore, a dolphin rode along side us to lead us to shore. Very cool, but I was unable to catch him on film. We had another good fish dinner, finished off with lemon pie topped with whipped cream I had acquired in Staniel Cay for the purpose.
Tomorrow we leave the Bahamas, and have a twenty something hour trip to the Turks and Caicos. Shortly after our arrival a strong cold front will come though, and it sounds like we will be there for a week or more.

Heading to the Dominican Republic

After several weeks of sadness following Rob and Christine’s decision to head to the Jumentos and not to the DR with us, our weather guru, Chris Parker, announced a terrific opportunity to head to our destination with uncharacteristic favorable wind and sea conditions. So, Christine called us on the VHF and in Spanish advised they were joining us. After the translation was delivered, we were overjoyed to learn of this change of heart. And to know we will have someone who speaks the language, mon.
As some of you know I do not do well with new things, and this provided the perfect opportunity for me to become a nervous bitch, and I am playing a stellar role annoying my husband. Our planned route keeps changing as the weather changes, adding to my resemblance to a cat on a hot tin roof.
We have just left Black Point and are headed to Sampson to take on fuel and hopefully get an internet signal to make some calls and post these blog updates.
Lord knows when I will be able to post again, as we will be underway for most of the next four days. Or, I may be thrown overboard. With justification.

Black Point Exumas



Black Point
After leaving Little Bay we scooted over to Black Point, one of our favorite Exuma destinations for four primary reasons: the Laundromat, Lorraine’s Café, her Mom’s bread, and hunting on the beaches (not necessarily in that order).
On our first hike I found the most incredible helmet conch, which, fortunately, contained no live critters as Christine the Shell Nazi had joined us on this walk. Rob and Christine had found a helmet a few days ago, but it was inhabited and they let it go. Their good kharma passed on to us. I found a good but less perfect second helmet and gifted it to them. We found very little sea glass, which was Christine’s hunting objective. This was very curious as last year we scored big here. Then, we came upon Barb on Plumpuppet with a big smile on her face and a huge sea glass collection in her hand. That splains it.
On our first night we joined Celebrian at Lorraine’s with the rest of our current crew remaining at Little Bay. We enjoyed reuniting with Lorraine and doing our laundry three doors down while we had dinner. We promised Ida, who owns Rockside Laundry, that we would turn the lights out and lock up when we were done. At Lorraines you make your own drinks and tell her at the end of the evening what you had. It is like a love fest.
The following day we picked up our Coconut and Cinnamon Raisin bread that Mom just removed from the oven (place order with Lorraine). Unfortunately, Lorraine no longer permits Skype calls through her free internet signal, as it overburdens the system. The satellite signal was very intermittent, and frustrating to get a connection. We had a great hike and picnic with the rest of the crew who walked over from Little Bay (about 45 minutes from there into the settlement).
The next day we arranged with Lorraine to have a buffet dinner with our group which now totaled eighteen. We added One Eyed Parrots, Imagine, and Gigi’s Island, all terrific folk to our group table. One Eyed Parrots has to be the best boat name ever, as their last name is Parrot, and get this, both of them have only one eye. No kidding. Gigi owns her own boat which she has agreed to share for one year trial with her new mate, Vic. Gigi’s Island has the coolest boat card, they hand out a CD with all sorts of different music which I cannot wait for daughter Beth to hear; the CD is inscribed with their particulars.
Incidentally, Dr. Beth is filming today with Nightline who apparently is doing a feature on pediatric chiropractic, one of Beth’s specialties. We will let you know when it is to be aired. Alternatively you can see it on Utube.

Little Bay by Black Point

After Little Farmers we had a rip-roaring sail to Black Point, and had intended to anchor off the settlement. Passing by Little Bay Richard on Kalissa hailed us and suggested we go no further and join the Happy Hour on the beach. Sounded like a plan!
We walked the Sound side of the anchorage and found some decent sea glass, a purse bean, and pretty views.
Little Bay is a great anchorage, good holding and protection from ENE winds. Just around the corner from the usual Black Point anchorage.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Faces of Little Farmers

Races continued on the second day of the FFFFF. We understand that several boats dropped out due to hangovers, and one actually sunk overnight!
We had Kaliks at Ocean Cabin and walked to the airport for the viewing of the races. Along the way the gentleman not holding the microphone but appearing in the picture approached us “for a dollar”. This had never happened here, and it actually shook me up a bit. At the award ceremonies pictured, the gent walked into the middle of the presentation and stood there, motionless, as if ready to receive a trophy. He must be a well known local as he was ignored but tolerated.
This fine gentlemen cheered on his team from the beach, decked out in his finest.
But this honored citizen would top even our friend Len in his ability to pull an outfit together!

FFFFF

In 1986 Ocean Cabin, a local pub, started the Farmers Cay First Friday in February Festival, which has become to be widely known as the 5 F’s.
There is anchorage and a mooring field in between Guana and Little Farmers, but the holding is said to be poor, and you do circles on the moorings from the current. So, with ENE winds, we anchored (along with 20 or so other boats) on the west side of Little Farmers for very good protection with only a slight bounce.

On Friday morning at 7:30 Captain Seas pulled in between the anchored boats, blasting Bahamian music and carrying most of the local boats scheduled to race in the island’s regatta.


(This is the same boat that delivers mail and provisions to the islands.) Set for 10:00 am, we overheard a VHF conversation with one of the cruisers who had volunteered to serve as “rail meat”, saying the race would not start until at least noon. (Rail meat consists of folks who hang off the lee side of the heeling boat in order to provide counterweight to avoid a capsize. If they fall overboard, they are left to their own devices in getting to shore. Thus, rail meat.) So, we decided to go ashore to explore.
We came across JR’s Wood Carving, well, JR hailed us and escorted us into his shop. Most of us could not escape without a purchase as a remembrance of the festival. JR is quite a colorful character.
We arrived at Ocean Cabin around 11 and the party was in full swing.
We decided to walk to the “yacht club” where the racing boats were being offloaded to watch the spectacle and have lunch. Over the course of two hours the six of us were served in consecutive waves, never simultaneously, the natives always seeming to be served first. We (eventually)enjoyed the typical Bahamian fare of peas and rice, potato salad, coleslaw, and either fried chicken or snapper. A good deal for $12.
The 10:00 race possibly to commence at noon started around 3:00 as clouds hovered on the horizon. We were all bundled up in fleece and wool hats as the temperature dipped to the low sixties. I know there will be little sympathy for us but it is waaay too cold for the Exumas!



First Edition hosted Celebrian, Blue Bay, Blue Blazer, and Plan Sea (Loretta and Jim from NJ) for happy hour. Ten bodies generated sufficient heat in the cockpit to be comfortable.

Staniel Cay Provisioning

On Thursday we left Cambridge and headed to Big Majors Spot where we hoped to top off the larders. Unfortunately, the mail boat arrived on Wednesday, a day earlier than we had been told, and we heard there were slim pickings at Isles General, the grocery/propane/parts supply facility. Nevertheless, we put every waterproof garment on we could find, and Peter and Christine wore their wet suits, for the dinghy ride over to Staniel Cay.
The rumors were correct, so we were forced to shop at the Blue Store and the Pink Store (so named because these are houses painted in said colors with expensive offerings). These places seem to really take advantage of the cruisers. At the Blue Store, there were some gorgeous looking grapefruit, and when I asked the price (nothing is marked) I was told $3.00 each. When I said I could not afford that, the price dropped to $2.75, and then $2.50. So, here you need to hondle for food and the prices never get reasonable. For $77 we bought 6 oranges, 3 pounds of bananas, 2 peppers, a 3 pack of Andy Boy Romaine, 6 apples, 6 yogurts, a loaf of bread and hot dog rolls. Thankfully The Pigs have kept the US-acquired meat frozen so I am not eating mystery meat. Speaking of Pigs, there were several at the beach, but they came out only in the rain and did not swim this year. It was that kind of weather so you can’t blame them for not wanting to entertain.

Remote and Out of Touch




As you may be able to tell based upon the infrequency of updates, we are sailing to places more remote than last year’s adventure. No cell towers, no internet signal, and no mail boats (thus, no provisioning or mail drop).
Here you can see the rarely sighted red billed oyster catchers which we caught while hiking. Never had this pleasure before!

Cambridge Cay


The quality of the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas is legendary, and deserved. While in these islands on First Edition we have the very useless Navionics Platinum chips on our Raymarine E Series Chartplotters, Celebrian has a Garmin and the Explorer charts, electronically. As a result, we fearlessly our pilot boat Celebrian through the reefs and shallows from Compass to Cambridge Cay, where you must pass so close to a rock it has been labeled “Kiss Rock”—pass so close to it that you almost kiss it. At high tide we saw no less than 7 feet, and although the colors of the water may have been misleading, those ole Explorer charts were not.
For our first day activities we walked one of the beaches and joined the rest of the anchorage for a beach party at happy hour. Cambridge is part of Exuma Park which is a “no take” zone, so imagine how hard it was to step around the numerous sand dollars peaking through the shallows without slipping any in the pants pockets. We enjoyed meeting cruisers new to us, but I especially enjoyed the canine participants: Sailor, Chester, and Ginger.


Note to Susan, I made the “spinach brownies” and everyone agreed they were great but ill-named. Hence forth, this concoction is to be called Spinach Tart-ta (rhymes with hay), because it sounded French and elegant, and we were well into Happy Hour during the re-naming.
We ran here to avoid two consecutive cold fronts, predicted to blow 30 and squalls possibly to 40. Fortunately, this is another great place to hole up, and is one of the few refuges from west winds. Cambridge Cay has amazing snorkeling sites and hiking trails. One, called the Sea Aquarium at O’Brien Cay, deserves its name. When you plop in and see the underwater coral and vast array of fish, you feel as if you are yourself in an aquarium. After this, we took in the sites at a sunken airplane nearby, then went to a beach classified as perfect for the grandchildren (boo hoo). At low tide (shortly after we arrived), the waters recede to create a shallow tidal basin with some minor current, the waters are warmed by the sun, like bathwater.
We then dinked to Honeymoon Beach and snorkeled the Coral Gardens. This beach is very tidal and once again the tiny shells and sand dollars, verboten here, are pretty and plentiful.
We spent two days volunteering out time for beach clean up, it is incredible how much crap washes up on the shore: laundry baskets, broken up sailboats, beer and whiskey bottles, miles and miles of polypro rope used by the commercial fishermen. The captains built a picnic table on Mailbox Beach for future generations of beach partyers.
We met lots of nice folks here: Annie and Dietrich on Calliope, Julie and Mark on Rachel, Betsy and Jim on Smiles, Lisa and Dennis on Lady Galadriel, Connie and Steve on Better Days, Vic and Gigi on Gigi’s Island, and Gary and Kim on Solymar. The “host boat”, Rick and Eliena are wonderful people who do a tremendous job helping people get through the very scary approaches and even to choose an anchorage if that is their pleasure. These guys volunteer for the Park and it is like a full time job.

Rachel's Bubble Bath at Compass and Shroud Cay


On January 26th we reunited with Celebrian, meeting them at Highbourne Cay and then moving on to Shroud Cay the following day. We spent two days at Shroud exploring the mangrove forests, one day by kayak (borrowed from Celebrian), and the next by dinghy. The mangroves are a habitat for marine life, but we saw very little. Last year we saw sharks and lots of rays, but this visit we were visiting closer to high tide.












On the 28th we sailed to Compass Cay to introduce Rob and Christine to Rachel’s Bubble Bath, which we found last year. This is a basin formed by volcanic rock that is very protected and accessible after a long walk from the beach. The waves from the exterior (on Exuma Sound) pound on the outside of the basin but shoot millions of little bubbles through the crevices. Christine and I shrieked like school children as the breakers hit. I wish you all could experience this treasure.

I Ain't Tellin


This was a result of one day’s harvest of tons of tellins on a remote beach somewhere. Go find it.