Thursday, January 28, 2010
Long Island is a wonderful destination in the Far Bahamas, with the best provisioning available after Nassau. The island has two extremely well stocked grocery stores where you can find anything you want, including edible beef otherwise unavailable in the islands that we frequent. Anchoring at Thompson Bay puts you in walking distance. A good walk away is a terrific haircut at Marcies Beauty Spot, which unfortunately was closed on Sunday and Monday while we were here.
The thing to do at Long Island is rent a car at Fox Auto, which should run about $75 for a 24 hour rental. If you pick the car up around midday, one day you can head North to visit the Columbus monument and Stella Maris Resort, and the next day you can head South to Clarencetown, visiting the various shops, beaches and Dean’s Blue Hole along the way. A blue hole is a very deep cut to the hundreds of feet in the otherwise shallow waters where diving and snorkeling can be done. Last year, the free dive world competition was held here; free diving is deep diving without a scuba tank. You can check out good quality straw work at Ina Major’s, but if you want a great purse with tightly woven fiber, get it at Sandpipers at Georgetown.
There are numerous abandoned and active churches to be explored, local restaurants to be sampled (we enjoyed Coco’s which had great Grouper fingers), but missed Max’s Conch Bar which has internet and great food according to our tour guide, Far Niente.
After touring we said goodbye to everyone as we planned our departure back to Georgetown the following morning. It was hard to take leave from these guys who are heading to the Jumentos next where the fishing is great, the life is extra lazy, and the drinking is a full time occupation.
We travelled to Thompson Bay on Long Island with Savage Son and met up with Kathy and Mike on Sapphire and Jay and Diana on Far Niente, the mutual friends who had tried to connect us with Bob and Bev at Nassau after we had already made their acquaintance. We met Jay and Di first in Eleuthera but spent our first quality time together at Aqua, the top notch restaurant at Beaufort, NC where we discovered our shared love of wine, Silver Oak in particular.
We dined at Long Island Breeze which we had visited last year and the year before during the week of its opening. It is a great place, the owners Jackie and Michael are terrific, the restaurant is a beauty, and the food is top notch. Joining us were Tom and Sandy from Anania.
Peter and I dined on lobster fettucine and I already want more.
The Breeze has a new dinghy dock and encourages the cruisers to land there to do their provisioning nearby. Internet is available, as is laundry, a pool and a small gift collection.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Georgetown is the cruiser’s social mecca of the Bahamas. Referred to as “The Community”, a group of cruisers returns each year to put down their anchors in November and leave them, untouched, until sometime in April following the Cruiser’s Regatta. There are daily activities organized by this gang, including seminars, yoga, basket weaving, nightly pot lucks, daily volleyball (two courts, one the “fun” court, the other unnamed for the highly competitive), it goes on and on. It starts with a net (like a party line VHF call) on Ch 72 at 8 am. Occasionally, The Community will remind a boater to follow their long list of rules, and often, in the course of a five minute period, the same bunch will exchange VHF calls as if they have not spoken with the other for seasons.
Nevertheless, one almost HAS to stop by and bow to the organizers each year. The nice thing about Georgetown is that you will very likely run into people you have met before. We caught up with Blue Bay, fellow members of the Royal Hog Cay Yacht Club, who were enjoying a visit from their sons. We shared Happy Hour with Steve and Ruth on Clear Day, a 46 Hylas we met in Black Point two years ago. And, we visited once again with Charisma, a 44 Hylas who has new owners, Stephen and Denise from the UK---we helped them plan to spend a few sheckles towards improvements on Charisma. We had last seen Charisma in 2005 at Oyster Bay, New York, when Gordon and Jo Steadman were the owners.
There are several anchorages at Georgetown, most on the eastern shore of Stocking Island (Monument, Volleyball, and Sand Dollar Beaches), where the social activities are centered. Across the harbor is the Kidd Cove hangout, where one usually parks to get into Georgetown proper to provision and do laundry, both of which we undertook during this visit. A close look at the dryer will reveal the flames emitting from the not-so-modern but dependable equipment.
A stop at Georgetown is not complete without dropping in on the Sandpiper, a lovely gift shop where I purchased a darling pair of earrings, only to drop them on the tile floor while showing them off at Peace and Plenty during libations. Shattered.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
After years of fishing had yielded only two small edible bar fish, Peter became the King of the Ocean on January 20, 2010, by snagging a two foot yellow fin tuna. OK, now it is on the hook and what do we do with it?
After spraying it with loads of vodka, it finally passed into fish heaven. Fortunately Doctor Bob was sailing alongside and talked us through the surgery of bleeding and gutting the catch. With the help of the Joy of Cooking, we determined how to cut it into steaks, Peter beaming throughout the process.
Then, having shared the black fin caught by Mike on Savage Son a few days prior, we contributed most of our steaks to a shared dinner, after marinating them in teriyaki, lime, and ginger. Yummy.
Except the King of the Ocean ate very little, announcing what I already knew, “I don’t like fish”.
More for us!
With strong west winds in the forecast, we headed to Hog Cay at Exuma Park along with Savage Son. This is a little used anchorage located in the South part of Warderick Wells. To access it, you must enter Exuma Sound, and the guide books describe the entrance as intricate. It really is not, using a reliable chartplotter, but it is better taken with calm seas. As we were leading Savage Son into this spot, the seas were a bit sloppy, and they probably thought we were nuts. Until we made the turn into the basin, and it became clear we had topped the Blue Lagoon.
There is one problem with the South Anchorage, it is very remote; there is no internet availability and no cell reception. So, when we heard an emergency call over the high frequency single side band during our daily weather briefing, informing Bob that his 7 month pregnant daughter was rushed to the hospital, our options were limited. We packed a lunch and bottles of water and accompanied them for a two hour, one-way hike over limestone to the North Anchorage, where Clear Day, which had volunteered their sat phone for Bob’s use during the weather net, was moored. Continuing the coincidental small world of cruisers, we had met Clear Day (a Hylas) two years ago at Lorraine’s.
It was a long walk, but mission accomplished when Bob rented the Park’s phone to make his call, since no satellite was not overhead upon our arrival. Pleased to report that daughter is fine, baby in jeopardy but hanging in there.
We dreaded the two hour walk back. Without the anxiety accompanying the trip in, the hike seemed to go faster, despite diversions to visit the wildlife and sit out a rain squall passing through. Once again, a two hour trip.
We dined aboard First Edition that evening, and those that could drink to excess did, finishing off three bottles of wine and ¾ of a bottle of single malt. Bob played Pod Master going through my music, which diversity he found hysterical. Peter provided conch trumpet lessons, with Bev proving to be a real horn blower.
As usual, a night out at Lorraine’s Café resulted in great laughs and memories for our golden years, which, I suppose, have already started. We met up again with Bob and Bev from Savage Son, along with their friend Michael, and were fortunate to share a table with Damien and Mark from Barnacle. To the crowd’s delight, Bob volunteered a rendition of Happy Birthday for a happy sailor celebrating his 70th, with the selection to be chosen by the diners from Bob’s repertoire: Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, or “Normal” (although I cannot imagine Bob doing anything normal).
Bob delivered one helluva Marilyn, several of us wet our pants, and Bob became the most photographed object in all of the Bahamas this evening. Not wanting to miss anything, we all insisted on his take on “They say it’s your Birthday”, and I can assure all that Ringo, Paul, John, and George have nothing over a performing and jumping up-and-down Bob, who perhaps precipitated the Haitian earthquake.
Next day we allowed Savage Son to whoop our butts sailing to Big Majors, but only after they set their third sail.
Monday, January 11, 2010
We enjoyed our first long hike of the winter, tackling the route to Exuma Sound. Hiking here is all about limestone and critters, watching out for the curlytails, snakes, and poisonwood, Bahama's very own poison ivy-like flora that is abundant over most of the islands. Wading through the shallows may uncover crabs hiding in the mangroves. While hiking, we take a garbage bag and fill it with junk that has washed ashore; we leave the bags above the highwater mark, and the Rangers retrieve them during their rounds.
We enoyed a good Happy Hour, meeting the folks on Sunrise, Makai, Sunspot Baby, Adamant 1, Seafox 10, Seafox 10, and Wayward Wind.
We are now hunkered down with winds settled down from the high 20's gusting over 30.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
As a Bahamas National Trust supporter, First Edition (along with other members) jumps to the top of the waiting list for a mooring at Exuma Park. And with a strong cold front approaching, that is the place to be.
The Park has several mooring fields, Shroud, Hawksbill, and Cambridge are "self-serve", if there is a mooring, you pick it up and a Ranger comes around and collects your fee (for our boat, $20 a night). Near Park Headquarters at Warderick Wells, you can reserve a mooring, and tune into Channel 09 at 9am to see where you stand (sometimes you can get same day availability). When a storm is approaching, we always try to hook up a few days before to assure we are assigned a mooring and to enjoy the hiking at the park during the calm. Which mooring field you choose should depend on the wind direction and the type of protection you are looking for. In the favored North Anchorage, and from Emerald Rock, you can pick up the park's internet for $10 a day. A pot luck is held on Saturday nights, weather permitting, at the North Anchorage.
We were successful in snagging a mooring in the North Anchorage, and Savage Son (not a member then) ended at Emerald Rock, not a bad jumping off spot for their next day trip South. We met up at Park HQ, introduced Bev to the Bananaquits, and took a short hike up to BooBoo Hill.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Our next door neightbors here, Savage Son, joined us for a quick tour of Nassau. It turns out Bob and Bev are close friends of sailing friends of ours, and after having happy hour with us the night before, they received an email from Jay and Diana on Far Niente, telling them to look us up! And here we were, parked right next to them, already fast friends. It is such a small world, even if they are all from Texas.
Bev helped me find a Junkanoo artifact, a turtle that had participated in this year's pageant at Nassau. When Peter saw me, and The Turtle, he had a conniption, regardless of the fact that said Turtle is slated for Little Miss Willow. It did not dawn on me at time of purchase that said Turtle is big, and First Edition is, well, small, at least when it comes to Turtle storage. So, hanging out with Bev can be trouble.
Savage Son and First Edition said goodbye to Star Shot, and we headed to the Exumas. We arrived to find that the winds had not died down, and were roaring in the high teens from the Northwest, making for a very uncomfortable anchorage off of Normans Cay. Thankfully it was only one night of discomfort. Penny and George had the better idea of staying put.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
We followed Star Shot out of Bimini without any drama and had a decent over night crossing to Nassau. Around 5 am the rain started, but subsided during our entry into Nassau. Before you enter the harbor, you must call Nassau Harbor Control for permission to enter. We took a slip at Nassau Harbour Club and it is decent but has a lot of roll from passing vessels. $2 a foot includes water, and electricity is available and billed based on usage. Across the street is a very good grocery store, liquor store, and Starbucks, where I now sit with my cappucino and free wi-fi. Today we plan to tour Nassau and will head to Normans tomorrow.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
This was our fourth Junkanoo experience in the Bahamas, and in many ways, the best. Our first was at Nassau, when we took a day ashore from a cruise ship, and ran into Donna and Alan! Here, the Junkanoo bordered on professional, but by the time we arrived, the participants had partied hardy and things were a bit sloppy. The second, at Green Turtle was terrific and the paraders were well practiced, everyone in town was in the parade. Last year, we slept through Junkanoo at Hope Town, where we understand it was a showing of drunken ruffians. But here, at Bimini, there was a family feel to the event, the participants were diverse and talented, in a small town sort of way. Some images follow:
My personal favorite Junkanooer:
Friday, January 1, 2010
On December 30th we picked up our anchor from the Miami Yacht Club, said goodbye to our cruise ships neighbors, and headed to the Keys. We journeyed to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, just in time to find our friends on Blue Blazer taking the last anchoring spot. We anchored off the entrance with a favorable wind direction but rocked and rolled as the numerous fishing boats passed without a courteous slowdown.
The next morning, New Year's Eve, we headed out the Biscayne Channel around 9am for what we hoped would be a sailing trip to Bimini across the Gulfstream. While the waves were maybe 2-4', it was a sloppy ride with Southeast winds, never turning South as forecast. We pulled into Bimini around 4:30 in the afternoon, seeing incredibly scant water in the channel (we saw 5'4" and technically should have been aground). We had difficulty finding the marina, which was slow to answer our VHF call, but once in, found a very helpful dockmaster in JR.
We retired early, celebrating the second anniversary of missing the New Year's Eve fireworks, and declared ourselves officially old.
Happy 2010 to all.