Monday, May 2, 2011

The Push to Get Home

We left Great Bridge to make the 7:00 lock opening, and with full knowledge of northerly winds on the Chesapeake we continued, nevertheless, for our trip north to Mill Creek. NOAA had promised the day before that although the winds would be 15-20 from the north, they would drop to less than 10 before noon. Today's forecast said the decrease would occur "late", with seas of 3-4 becoming 1-2 by early afternoon. Although the definition of what is "late" is wide open for interpretation, the scholarly sailor would put two and two together and believe that the decreased seas are a function of wind velocity. I guess we failed that course.

The wind never dropped, and duh, neither did the seas. We passed on our back up plan of cutting into Mobjack Bay when we did some math and considered the ten miles in then ten miles out of Mobjack, the odds of our speed remaining at 4.5 knots, and the possibility that "late" would happen soon. Although the seas were rough, we really weren't uncomfortable but it was another long day as we chugged along, sometimes under 3 knots when a big one wallopped us. Twelve hours after departing we pulled into Jackson Creek at Deltaville.

We slept in, being only a few hours from Mill Creek. Once at the dock to take on fuel we ran into Marilyn and Carl on Discovery, and chewed the fat with them for about an hour before taking off. We sailed for a while, then pulled into Mill Creek anxious to see our new home in progress. We found it well along, complete with framing and a roof. A quick walk around was followed by dinner with our neighbors and long time friends, Vickie and Len, who had completed their construction during our winter holiday.

Life is pretty damned good.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Sad Story of the Girl Without a Dog

We left Coinjock around 7:15 and enjoyed a lazy transit, recalling our adventures here in prior years, our first in particular. That year, on the first day of our ICW voyage, we happened across a surprise hurricane, Noel, I think, and were unable to find dockage. We created an anchorage by the Pungo Ferry Bridge near the Pungo Marina, where we enjoyed our first cruiser pot luck after the hurricane passed, doing nothing more than driving the water out of the anchorage and forcing a delayed departure. Lots of memories and great fun. This is what cruising is all about, Donna!

Today we had an easy day, taking in the birds flying by, a soaring eagle, no it’s an osprey, no, it’s a great blue.
Here comes a barge around the corner, thankfully we were paying attention, and there’s plenty of room. Only two bridges today with little traffic, but the bridge tenders continue to insist that we “bring it on up or you will miss the opening”. I take their picture, and get a thumbs up. I suppose they are not so bad after all. Now that I notice the TV antenna I wonder if that contributes to the often delayed openings, as they finish their soaps.

We get to Great Bridge and go on through and find space for free docking over night, managing to leave enough space with a little juggling for Veranda, who we hope will make the next bridge and get this spot. I need some Tucker Time.

With an invitation for dinner aboard Veranda, I get the opportunity to get a little closer to their pup. Most people know my canine deprivation, the cause of every disorder and bad day I ever have, but the captain will not relent. No dog for Lynn, boo hoo. And why is it that as of late Peter seems to get all the attention from man’s best friend despite the fact that most poochs know me as The Donut Lady.

As hard as I try, Tucker seems to prefer Peter. I rub his tummy. He loves it, then turns to Peter. I give him a carrot, he loves it, then turns to Peter. It's time to leave, he rushs to say goodbye to Peter. I seem to have lost my touch.

We had a lovely evening with Mr. and Mrs. Magnifico, debating the merits of the various samples of decking we dragged over to their boat to ponder. After a considered debate, I'm now leaning towards Silver Oak, which is also's Bill's favorite. Coincidentally, this is the name of my favorite wine, with that choice shared with the Wise One, perhaps our friend Michael, and my girlfriend Bet. So I think we should go with that decking for that reason.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Long Days, Lots of Wind

We reached Cedar Creek after leaving Beaufort, and at about 5:50 in the afternoon gave up looking for suitable water to anchor in. We were here last year, but this time, nothing to cover our draft. So we decided to head, instead, to the South River where we have been numerous times. You can't get close to the shore here but there's loads of room to anchor. It could have blown 50 knots and I would not have noticed. I just wanted to sleep. Or rather, have that Manhattan, then get to sleep.

The next day was a puky, almost about to rain kinda day with winds from the south and right on our tail. We sailed most of the way, and kept dodging squalls (luck here, no skill) and were in contact with our friends on Veranda, who ran out of their luck and ripped a sail. We reached the G23 anchorage at the end of the Pungo River around 1:30, and after deciding we were going to go ahead to the Deep Creek anchorage by G43, about 2+ hours ahead, a lighting streak convinced us we would be better off taking a "short" day. No sooner had we set the anchor than the rain started. Many hours later Veranda pulled in, being one of the few friends we have with a sail boat that actually sail, and we exchanged greetings, and agreed to meet the next day at Broad Creek.

Both Captains were at the bow by 7 am as planned, with the radar showing the rain would limp off our course shortly. Our anchor windlass, the mechanism we use to put muscle behind weighing anchor, decided to not work, so Peter had to haul up 66 pounds of anchor plus 100 feet of chain. About 40 minutes later we broke ground and got on our way. We had some nice sailing in the protected waters of the Alligator Pungo Canal, and then got a call from Veranda to let us know that it was really honking once we reached the wide open Alligator River. Holy Toledo! They weren't kidding.
We worked hard at it until we finally decided we needed to reef the main as the wind had piped up to the upper 20's gusting into the 30's. Once we dropped the sail to pass through the Alligator Swing Bridge, we opted for the jib only, and while easier, the seas were picking up in the Albemarle and it too was work. As much as we wanted to head for comfort at Broad Creek with Veranda, we opted to continue on to Coinjock Marina so that Peter would not be forced once again to haul up Buster by hand. I especially was worried about hand hauling should we get caught dragging in monster winds and waves, as were being experienced and expected.

I have one thing to ask: how many times can the Coast Guard repeat a message about a log in the water? Do they actually think it stays where it is? Have they not heard about current? Three days now and the same damned log is being reported. Puh-leeeze.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vero to Beaufort

Day One: We leave the Vero Beach mooring field, but pull alongside Solitaire which returned from the Bahamas yesterday, and say a quick hello to Nancy and Jim. It’s 11 am, and of course, we manage to time our exit to put us directly in the teeth of the current. While transiting the inlet, a Coast Guard vessel barrels down on us and we suspect we are in for another boarding. Our Tax Dollars at Work slows down, looks us over, then hard throttles past us, waking us like no power boat has ever done. Hopefully a trainee is at the helm. Three hours later we are out of the Ft. Pierce inlet, and we raise sail, bound for Beaufort, North Carolina, about 500 miles away. A US Customs fast-boat does a 360 around us, and must conclude we don’t look like drug runners, and takes off at about 200 MPH.

It’s 2020, or twenty minutes after eight at night, I am on watch, and there’s not a damned thing wrong with the world right now. There’s 9 knots of wind, and we are sailing along in 2-3 foot seas at 5-6 knots, which I will call an average of 5.5, but that might be a generous estimation. The Captain is sleeping, thankfully, as he would probably be making noises about putting the engine on, while I intend to eke out as many of these good kharma moments as possible. The final minutes of civil twilight have passed and the stars are beginning to come out.

There is something so special about night sailing, and while there are times that I work myself into a dither about overnight cruising, I seem, as of late, to have lost my long standing trepidation, and actually look forward to my first watch. Peter is able to sleep through anything, so is not troubled by the remaining sunlight, and I am hoping that the noise of the engine when I turned it off did not break into his REM. There seems to be no one out here but us chickens. I like it like that.

I finished reading Japanland, A Year in Search of Wa. It only took me half a day to find my harmony.

Day Two: We sail until 10 am when the wind mysteriously goes northeast, and turn on the engine mostly to top off the batteries and finish making water. 337 miles to Beaufort. At 1530 Mooch goes to rest again, and we enjoy a beam reach for 15 hours, making in excess of 8 knots while riding the gulf stream. This evening’s excitement is once again due to Our Tax Dollars at Work. At around 2 in the morning I come across a vessel not showing up on AIS, so I presume it is a shrimper. As I get closer, I can see only a red light and a large mass, so it appears the boat is headed west in front of me, while I am heading north.

But then it stops. Now at this point I am pretty damned close to this thing and all I know is that it is big, and I sure wished I knew for sure where it was headed, then I see red and green. Crap. It’s headed directly as me. So I hail “vessel in approximate position of” and get a comeback that “Warship will head 30 degrees to starboard to avoid sailing vessel”. I wait. This mother just gets bigger. I take the bull by the horns and do a hard starboard turn off the wind. We miss each other while each probably thinking the Captain on the other boat is an idiot. I leave the warship in the dust while hoping that the helmsman is getting her ass chewed out.

During the night I finish reading The Gate Crasher, written by the babe who wrote the Shopaholic Series, perfect overnight watch reading.

Day Three: At 0630 the rollers become larger than the wind speed, never ever a good thing, so on goes the motor with the hopes of stopping the slatting sail and the rolling stomachs…180 miles to go to Beaufort. For the last two days we have been thinking that we need to slow down to make the inlet during day light. What were we thinking? The wind goes light and variable, we lose the stream, and our speed drops to low fives. The flying fish are making better time than we are.
A lonely exhausted bird freeloads on First Edition, and stays aboard for two hours.

What wind there is goes south, and is directly behind us and insufficient to fill the sails. So we motor along all day and night, making between 5 and 6 knots. Around nine at night a parade of big cargo ships comes cruising by, most leaving sufficient room between us to avoid hyperventilation. Except for Northern Jasper. When I contact the vessel the second effort results in a comeback, I inform the Captain that we look kinda close with a CPA (closest point of approach) less than a mile, and I inquire if he sees me. After a hesitation that is long enough to let me know the answer, he acknowledges me and says we look OK. He then proceeds to change course, to go right in front of me. I would have thought this trained expert would have chosen to pass my stern. What an idiot. At least he livened up my watch. I have begun to read The Lion by DeMille, another wonderful author for midnight watches.

Day Four: At 0615 I turn the watch over to Peter with 39 miles to make Beaufort. It is sunny, warm, with no change in wind, so we continue to motor along. At about 20 miles out, we discover we can steer First Edition with Peter’s smartphone, provided all we want to do is go in circles. So all that nonsense about electronic devices on airplanes is not poppycock after all.

At 10 miles out while I sit composing this entry I hear Mooch coughing and run to the cockpit, where the Captain sits, smiles charmingly at me, and continues reading McMurtry’s Comanche Moon. I feel compelled to tell him we are running out of fuel. Honest to God, I really need to get fuel gauges for this man. And a hearing aide.

At around 1300 we hit the inlet (with the current!) and head to Beaufort Docks for fuel. From here we will head off to Cedar Creek for a perfect CC Manhattan and steaks on the grill. A great trip. Happy to have had it, and happy it is over.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Back to and Leaving Vero

After a week with Aunt Dar, we returned to Vero to a cantankerous outboard engine, a set of shells soaking overboard now covered with barnacles, shells soaking in bleach water now mostly clean, and shells covered with sesame seeds that turned out to be, uh, maggots. So I guess these were not unoccupied after all. Needless to say, most of these situations resulted in a rather foul smelling First Edition, so we opened all the hatches before taking off for dinner with Blue Bay. Dick and Nancy stayed close to airports this year to be nearby to ailing Mom, and instead of cruising, chose to spend the winter working on the boat while on the hard at Riverside Marina. This is the close equivalent to having a tooth pulled. Without novacaine. It was great recalling memories and sharing new stories, and we look forward to cruising with them again.

The next day we ran around town and topped our evening off with Jay and Di and sushi, which the Captain ate with enthusiasm. This is a new Peter Forgosh, finally catching up with his son in trying the formerly unmentionables as possible food sources. He even ate the smoked eel (but before he knew what it was). Apologies to comrade friend John, but after four years Peter has become adventurous and after all, you did get on an airplane this year.

It is now Friday the 22nd. We will spend Easter looking for eggs on the high seas, and in five minutes will head for the Fort Pierce inlet bound for Beaufort, North Carolina, a 90 hour trip. See ya on the other side.


After a few days of reacquainting ourselves with the United States of America, including dinner with the Howells and the Temples, we continued our support for Enterprise Car Rental and took off for parts unknown to most, Ocklawaha, for a visit with family. Here, you can buy a pig or a Whoopie Pie, which we still have not tried, insuring our return.

We were extremely pleased to find my Aunt in good spirits and in as good a shape as we have found her since we have been cruising, thanks to the care provided by my Aunt Beverly, occasionally assisted by neighbor Debbie, and frequently fed by dear friend Nancy, a Canadian snowbird. While there we visited numerous retail stores, and even took Aunt Dar shopping, totally impossible during our last visit, cooked numerous meals for the freezer, and enjoyed the Yankee games with Dar and Uncle Bob. We also gave ourselves a tour of the local cemetary, looking unsuccessfully for Ma Barker's grave, since the infamous shootout occurred here. We stopped by and saw Aunt Anita and Uncle Bill, both looking ageless and chipper. We are thinking Ocklawaha should be renamed The Robbins Nest with so many relatives so named being residents.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Back to the US

We hosted Celebrian for a farewell dinner at Manjack and sprung the Breyers out of the freezer for homemade apple pie. In exchange for a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, Rob and Christine agreed to give up the location of the super secret milk conch beach, no longer a secret: located directly across from Manjack on the western shore. The following morning we headed there, and sure enough, loads of pretty little conch partially sanded over, with enough empty so as to not be tempted to haul out the spaghetti pot for a shell boil. We had intended the secret beach to be but the first destination on our lazy cruise of the Northern Abacos. With winds predicted to be mostly easterly less than 10 for the next five days, we hoped to take advantage of this benign weather to explore parts unknown, at least to us.

Our private cruise continued with an evening anchorage at Powell Cay, which we found to yield another endless supply of lightly tinted purple milk conch. Also available during our hunt were mucho West Indian Chanks and a gorgeous candidate for a new conch horn. After a night of a good soak in a bleach mixture, we were rewarded with totally excellent treasures to add to our collection.

Further hopes of shell shopping were dashed the next morning when Parker predicted nothing but north east winds following the harmless cold front on the way. So, we did what we always knew we would do but swore we wouldn’t: cut our tour short and decided to head directly to Vero Beach once we hauled anchor.

And here we are.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Green Turtle Club

Mr. Parker continued to insist that squalls with wind to 70 knots and west winds would ruin our day, so we took to a marina, only the second time in four years here in the Bahamas. We got our reservation in early so that we could play around before heading into White Sound at Green Turtle, which we prefer to do on a rising tide one hour before high. Despite our call made well in advance to the Green Turtle Club, we got stuck in a slip without a finger pier or enough water for First Edition around low tide. So, if you come here, specify exactly what you want---I don’t know if that will help, but it won’t hurt.

For the month of April both the Green Turtle Club and the Bluff House offer “dining for dockage”. At the GTC, this means any money you spend on food or booze will be applied to your dockage bill. It’s a good deal, as the food here is quite decent, and the dockage is $1.95/foot.

We splashed Free Bird and had a paddle around White Sound. We continue to be impressed with our inflatable kayak, and the quality of the West Marine product seems good.

We dropped $30 for 3 drinks at happy hour so the offset dollars go pretty quickly. We had a great dinner, I had mahi and Peter had filet mignon and at the end of the night we had wiped out our dockage bill for one day.

There’s a great little gift shop here and I managed to walk away with a glass fishing float and a treasure for Willow’s Christmas stocking. If I were cruising next year I would have been able to add some fashion to my wardrobe as well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Around the Whale to Manjack

Conditions at Marsh Harbor took a turn for the worse when forest fires ran rampant from whatever direction the wind was coming from. Several mornings we awoke to dense fog, but worse than Maine fog or Block Island fog, this fog was smoke fog, choking, eye-tearing, soot depositing all over the boats kinda fog. The day after we took a good soaking from rain showers it got even worse, it was a damp smoke fog. That’s when we decided the Whale must be passable. The Parker predicted swells amounted to nothing more than very slight rollers, and with a calm wind, there were many boats going both directions. The Baker’s Bay golf course is now lining the Bay, with verdant manicured greens and sparkling sand traps. The old cruise ship buoys continue to provide confusing navigational aids, many now rusted off down to the waterline.
We found Rob and Christine loaded down with every imaginable shell collected from the unfrequented western shores across from Green Turtle and Manjack, where they rode out the strong westerlies with great comfort, despite the absence of any anchor signs on the Explorer Charts. Imagine that. We hooked up (sic) at the northern tip of Manjack and quickly took off for the ocean reefs which we were able to snorkel with no difficulty in the calm winds. We searched unsuccessfully for shells (of course, Celebrian had been here for a week) but I added handsomely to my sea urchin collection. Yes, I collect them too.
The next day we headed to Crab Cay, where we unpackaged our inflatable two person kayak, purchased for the bargain basement price of $189 from West Marine thanks to our affiliation with The Wise One. Of course, it needed to be named, first Yellow Bird, quickly changed to Free Bird---although not original, it captures the essence of her purpose: hopefully we will never again be stranded without the ability to get to shore should the outboard give up the ghost.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yeah, It's Almost Time

We have been sitting here in Marsh Harbor for way too long. I don’t like it here. The longer we stay, the more I just want to go home. Enough of the beautiful sunsets foretelling signs of nasty weather.

We had planned on a leisurely exit from the Abacos, lots of time at Manjack, up by the Nunjack Rocks, perhaps a visit to Double Breasted, Allans Pensacola, and Powell. The longer the winds blow from the west, the shorter our time will be for our final hunting for shells and sea glass, and now, being March 31st, the lobster season will be over, so my hunter won’t get a final shot at the Bahamian crayfish. We had been thinking we could get out of here Saturday, but now Parker tells us there will be a big swell from the NW, making the Whale passage potentially hazardous. So, we sit, and we wait.

It’s time to go home anyhow. The framing has started on the house. We have run out of the Crystal Lite that I had collected over five winters at home, when I could purchase this easy to store beverage for $1.99, $2 off its summer price tag. When one of my fellow First Aid Squad members gave me some samples of Gillette’s shaving cartridges, I thought surely it was a life time supply---they’re all gone too. I’m reading Facebook entries from cruising friends back in the States, with envy. I’ve waterlogged my camera, and I’m nearly dry on Benefiber, which has contributed to a season of a clog-free toilet. There’s only one $20 phone card left, and my aunt is worried that the Japan tsunami will repeat and is going to sweep us away. I miss my rheumatologist.

When the boat Va Bene put out a call to the harbor for cleaning cartridges for their watermaker, which turned out to be the same as ours, we volunteered to provide them. It was only after the offer was made that we realized it was our last set. Well, we have lots of big kharma “owe-sies” out there for the prop from Synergy, and the ungrounding from Endorphins. Va Bene gifted a bottle of wine to replace the Opus One we gave Chris and Marsha, this one cleverly labeled if not as well aged.

Can't replace the donated cartridges here, have to go home to get em.

Yeah, it’s almost time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doing it All with Beth

Beth probably preferred to lay out and soak in the rays, but I had fashioned a whirlwind tour of the Abacos during her stay. After a restful night at Matt Lowe’s Cay, we had a half hour sail over to Hopetown to catch the tide.
We joined Linda, Rick, Hannah and Jimmy, the Sojourner crew, for lunch at Harborside, took the obligatory walk up the lighthouse, and then Beth and Peter took a dip in the beautiful waters of the Bahamas.

Around noon the next day we headed to Man O War despite some wrong-way winds. It is such an interesting comparison to see the hard working folk of this settlement after visiting the transplanted party crowd at Hopetown.
We stopped by Lola’s for bread and conch batter and a little chat, then moved First Edition to anchor off Garden Cay for some SW protection and charter party anchoring entertainment.

As we had hoped, wind and seas settled down by the next morning and we headed to Fowl Cay for a good snorkel, spotting turtles and a ray with a remora hitching a ride and a fantastic variety of multicolored fish. Because no visit to the Abacos is complete without a Nipper Juice, we hopped over to Guana for lunch and a demonstration by the highly hormoned college break girls hitting on the well heeled fishermen older than their fathers.

We had a vigorous sail over to Marsh where the next morning we lunched at Curlytails before loading Beth into a taxi to head back home. Every visit from Beth is too short, and to make it worse, usually signals the time to head home ourselves.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marsh Harbor and the Arrival of Beth

From Treasure we headed to the armpit of the Abacos, Marsh Harbor. Although you can find 360 protection here, when a front approaches, a scazillion boats head here, put out insufficient scope because it is so crowded, and deep spots are few. But if you like loud music for bedtime accompaniment, you can usually find it here. There are positives, though, like Maxwells, a US style and only slightly more expensive grocery store, and an airport, into which Beth arrives!!!

The Abacos Net is often broadcast from here, at 0815 on channel 68. Barometer Bob provides a weather report, the local enterprises provide their promises, and there is an open mike session for questions and notices of arrivals and departures. It does go on and on, but it is worth a listen.

Beth arrived on time, accompanied by perfect weather, lots of mail, American flags, a new port fan, and licorice for Dad. We are so excited we cannot breathe, and cannot wait to show her all the sites in the Abacos during her too short visit.

Christine and Rob hosted us for hamburgers on her arrival, at the anchorage at Matt Lowe’s, a pretty spot and pretty decent for the SW winds coming in. We walked the private beach, finding abundant tellins, sea biscuits, and a variety of small shells. No one came to chase us, although signs on shore suggested it could have happened.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Treasure Cay

We decided to sit out the next of the Bahamian blows at Treasure Cay, the home of one of the world’s ten best beaches according to Travel and Leisure Magazine. During this visit we found the powdery sand, previously groomed to high standards, displaying the unusual-for-here high tide line of dead seaweed, improving the odds for a shell or two. But as in the past, nada.

The previously available mooring have mostly been removed, and those remaining are private. We wedged our way in an already overcrowded anchorage and paid our $10 anchoring fee, for which you get internet, laundry, shower, and pool privileges. A deal as far as we are concerned.

The fantastic market was open this Sunday until at least 1:00, although the bakery was closed. Laundry tokens are $4 each for wash and dry, or you can pay $8 a load for drop off service, with only a tip added for avoiding the self service. We took diesel on the way out at the fuel dock, open from 8 til 1, then 2 to 5, for $5.25 a gallon, but all the water you can take on for free, although we had expected to pay $8 as we had been advised. You must move into the marina dock to take on water if that is all that you require.

Social activities were great, having happy hour with Charisma, a Hylas sister boat, with Steven and Denise, and dinner aboard First Edition with Alan and Gerry from Civil Twilight and the Celebrian crew the next evening.

We entered at high and left at mid tide, and saw no less than 7 ½ feet mid tide.

Be prepared to have many neighbors packed in here, but the holding is great.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Guana Cay

For years we have listened to the Abacos Net (channel 68 at 8:15), and during the “invitation” segment, could barely hear some one from Seaside Village Resort on Guana Cay reporting in with their menu. We decided to finally try them for lunch, seeking out new anchorages to explore. The apparently very successful Bakers Bay development, where for only $550 you can play a round of golf, carts, shoes, and clubs provided, has acquired Seaside as shelter for their staff, so no lunch for us.

Chatting with the employees, we garnered permission to cut through their yard to access the beach and found abundant sea glass and flamingo tongues (a shell), and came away with some treasures.

After enjoying a spectacular full moon ushering in Spring in the Bahamas, the following day we hiked through several less than thriving residential developments and had a long walk, enjoying the bonkers collections and brightly painted homes.
Lunch was at Nippers, the home of toxic Nipper Juice, decent island food, and copious flies swarming over your meal until sterno is placed on the table, miraculously chasing them away to cooler climes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back to the Abacos

We have a lot of confidence in our Weather Guy, Chris Parker, who each morning except Sundays transmits a synopsis of the weather and the characteristics of the weather in the Bahamas, by region. For a reasonable fee, we have become Sponsors, which entitles us to ask specific questions about the weather or our routing during his broadcasts, which we listen to on SSB 4045 at 0630. We find Chris to be conservative, and if he says it will blow 25, we can count on low 20’s but rarely 25. So, we generally subtract slight margin.

Well, he must have overdosed on his flu medication when he gave the forecast for the day of our ocean crossing from Eleuthera to Little Harbor in the Abacos. We were expecting 10 knots, dropping to 6, but had upper teens on a beat most of the way. The predicted comfortable 4 foot rollers with a ten second interval were hurling at 6 to 8 feet every 4-5 seconds. So we spent over 9 hours speeding over seven knots, occasionally hitting into the low 8’s, and staying put in the cockpit. We had a cleansing gentle rain as we put down the anchor near Lynyard Cay.

The next day we managed to spend my birthday snorkeling Sandy Cay Sea Park, a wonderful gift that finally became available after three years of trying. Calm seas provided excellent visibility, only to find what once must have been a beautiful reef, but now, had turned brown and lifeless. Colorful fish were not abundant, but six spotted rays drifted elegantly by, providing sufficient exhilaration for the outing.

Celebrian provided a splendid birthday dinner accompanied by an unusual conch bowl fashioned by Robare, the artist. (This work of art may be seen at our future home on Mill Creek, and a purchase can be arranged through the writer.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Chapter Two

After leaving Rock Sound we anchored first at Alabaster Cay, where we found the holding to be very good, despite the chart indications of a poor bottom. We found nothing at all on the beach to add to our several odd collections. Next day, to the Glass Window, as if we hadn’t gotten enough of this on our car ride, but Celebrian and Peter wanted to visit. So, I sat it out at a beach where I came away with an interesting piece of sea glass and that was it. My companions spent what seemed like hours looking at, under, and around the bridge creating the Glass Window, documented previously in this blog.

The next day was our big journey to Current Cut, where we can never seem to get the current predicted with confidence, but always manage to hit it right. It has been our experience that one cannot approach the Cut going west head on but instead must parallel the coast of Current Island on the approach. Even with this route, we often found water shallow enough to start our hearts pounding.

As we were following this tried-and-true route, we saw Endorphins headed right for the cut, and since they draw 6’6”, we expected them to stop suddenly. Celebrian had already breezed on through on “our” track so we stuck with it, and promptly ran hard aground. After several minutes of digging our way deeper into the shallows without any progress, Endorphins called and volunteered to anchor and come back and help us, as their dink carries a 30 HP engine and might provide enough power for the assist. We hated to inconvenience them, but they were quite willing, and we were quite stuck.

On their arrival we tried the easy stuff first, towing from the bow, towing from the stern…not moving an inch. Chris suggested we attach a spare halyard (both our sails being up) to their dinghy, and once this was accomplished, First Edition moved quickly out of her shallow lodging. Very quickly, like a bat out of hell, like a sling shot, like really, really fast. Dumped our benefactors right out of their dinghy, yes we did, designer sunglasses, favorite hats, and submersible but not floatable handheld included.

Of course the helmsman, moi, did not have any idea of that horrible outcome, with my eyes fixed alternatively on the catamaran coming down on us and the depthsounder showing that we were headed to another grounding. The captain started yelling to put it into neutral, he being unaware of the nearby ironshore, the catamaran, the depth, or the currents running toward the scary shore. Lots of F words were exchanged between the crew, as the Good Samaritans drifted swiftly away. Once I became aware, I did note that we were dragging a slightly airborne dinghy from the halyard, as the Captain dispatched our dink to make the rescue and I successfully avoided a collision with the dumb-ass catamaran and the ground below us.

It was a Manhattan evening, shared with Endorphins and Celebrian. As our hand held with its dead battery was identical to the submerged VHF now the property of Neptune and formerly belonging to Endorphins (who smartly carried a spare battery) we passed ours along to the Samaritans, along with a bottle of ’92 Opus One to thank them for their valiant rescue.

So, if you happen to see First Edition aground, please come to our aid. We have learned a lot from this experience, and we just might have another good bottle of vino aboard.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Most of the boats moved to the Northwest corner of the Rock Sound harbor to get protection from the cold front coming through, and we were fortunate to be anchored beside Endorphins, a 48 foot Tayana carrying Chris and Marsha. Endorphins hails from Annapolis and is one gorgeous gal. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a boat owner is getting on a boat bigger than yours, but I did come away with some excellent decorating ideas for First Edition when she begins her refit over the upcoming year. We enjoyed happy hour aboard Endorphins along with Celebrian, and are happy to consider Chris and Marsha new friends.

The next day we headed back to the town anchorage, and while reading the mail (listening to some one else’s conversation on the VHF radio), discovered that 9 people on 2 boats were planning a meal at Rose’s, a native who serves a buffet style typical Bahamian meal. The cool part of Rose’s is the atmosphere, you enter her restaurant which is in an old house, with sand covering the floors, and a hodge podge of junk that has washed up on her beach. She has a million dollar view waterfront property on which I failed yet again to find a Mary’s Bean.

The Mary’s Bean is a very rare seed, slightly oval and bearing a mark that some see as a cross (thus, named after the Virgin Mary). This bean is said to bring safe childbirth to its owner, and fertility as well. I have desperately been seeking this bean to pass on to my daughter in law, but time is running out. After four years, still no Mary’s Bean.

While at Rose’s I planted a number of heart beans which I hoped would have been found by the teenage girls on Sheet Music, which organized the dinner. Instead, their good ole Dad found one, leaving the others to be found by future hunters unless washed off to sea.

Rose serves a good meal and the coldest beer in the Abacos (being stored in her freezer), but for the second time we found the buffet to be a little skimpy. Rose does come out and volunteer to cook some more when the servings run dry, but by that time you are thinking of getting home before sailor’s midnight. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit and Rose needs help to continue to pay the tuition of her daughter studying at the London School of Economics.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Touring Eleuthera

We were the only boat leaving Black Point, perhaps because no one wanted to buck the big current coming against us in Dotham (adverse 2.5 knots at 7 am with a high tide at the Wide Opening around 9:30). Winds were exactly as Parker had predicted, 12 knots from NE, so we managed to eke out a decent sail at least for part of the day. We arrived at Powell Point at 1400 and then faced the 17 knot wind on our nose for the next couple of hours, anchoring across from the dinghy dock at Four Points Restaurant at 1640. Since many boats were anchored here we figured there must be a free internet signal around and sure enough, a connection could be had in the wee hours, enough for a blog update.

We decided to rent a car and while tying up the dinghy George from Majors Taxi and Car Rental approached us with the offer of a car for $60, $15 cheaper than Dingle’s. If you don’t mind a little dirt on the floor, you can reach George at 242-554-6344 for a rental.

We had a nice pizza lunch in Palmetto Point (the settlement by Pineapple Cays where we first met Jay and Di four years ago) and had our next stop in Governor’s Harbor, where we decided to walk the Atlantic beach for treasures. We asked a local where the beach access could be found, and he volunteered his path, which turned out to lead through the old Club Med. This former resort was shell shocked by a hurricane several years ago and apparently taken over by something called French Leave.
Abandoned again, it retains its regal beauty and pink beaches but you will not find a damned thing to take home with you here, other than nice photos.

We decided we were going to drive to Gregorytown to see the Glass Window, a rock formation where the Bight of Eleuthera meets the Atlantic Ocean, with the Queen’s Highway continuing over a bridge over top. Having been told this was 50 minutes from Rock Sound, it seemed like we drove for hours (well, at least well over an hour) to gaze upon the ferocious waters of the Atlantic mating with the Sound. Don’t bother with this, sail past it, and read all about the various souls washed off the bridge during rogue waves and nor’easters in Pavlidis’ On and Off the Beaten Path. Take the time to shell along the beaches of the Sound along the way instead. Eleuthera is the best location we know of to find milk conch, some totally white, some with a strong purple hue and perhaps not milk conch at all.

The next day we continued, this time South, through several impoverished settlements.
We picked up two hitchhikers who wanted to get to a food market to provision, but asked to be dropped at a liquor store instead, perhaps opting for a liquid lunch. Next came Michael, who asked if we could buy him a meal, and sucker that I am, we agreed, and set to driving him to town. During the short drive Michael, stinking to high heavens and carrying an empty bucket and a machete, explained all he wanted was rice, and $5 to buy some oil to make a fire, and God Bless You M’aam. I suggested Michael might want to get that $5 from some one else, and after I ran in and bought the rice and handed it to him, he left without a thanks. I am sure is still looking for that oil money, or has found another generous idiot who actually thinks you make a fire with oil.

We stumbled across the New Port Mouth Lodge and although it looked welcoming, we could find no one to explain its philosophy. They probably spend their time sitting around and putting backward in their pockets.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Short Stop in the Central Exumas

We were one of the few boats that departed Georgetown on Sunday, with most being scaredy cats about the big swells. I was feeling very feline as we were coming through Conch Cut, watching the breakers and counting the time between the rollers coming in, looking more like 6 seconds than 9 to me. Parker at least got the 8 feet right. Except for the one boat calling out “Anybody catching any fish on the Sound?” the VHF was quiet. I wasn’t thinking of fishing. I was thinking of barfing.

A short while later the seas and our stomachs settled a bit so we put out a line. My previously placed order for mahi or yellow fin was repeated. With the exception of numerous well-winded flying fish and a shark that we snagged, First Edition saw no seafood during the voyage.

We ran a great current into Dotham Cut (with Low Tide at the Wide Opening at 1409, we experienced a two + favorable current at around 1445) and we headed for Sampson, where there were 12 boats anchored. The most we had seen previously was maybe six. I went online and bought 24 hours of internet from Exuma Wi Fi, made a few phone calls, and caught up on emails.

The next day we puttered around while I did more internet work, and then refueled at Sampson. While there a woman approached us and told us she had worked our boat while it was in charter in the Virgins, and we chatted a bit about the Jachneys and the size of the hole in the water that First Edition had become since purchase.

We proceeded on to Black Point where Ida at Rockside Laundry greeted us like long lost family, did three loads of laundry, and pondered whether or not we had any “backward” in our pockets.

Before leaving the Exumas, we decided to put together a happy hour with a bunch of people whom we knew, some only sort-a. Nancy and Jim on Solitaire are “old friends” (we met them last year), Robin and Corbett from Cookie Monster are boaters from NJ that for two years we have kept running into but never spent quality time with, and Ginny and Jesse of Wind Dust we had met at a pot luck at Green Turtle last year and became Facebook friends with but hardly knew. It was a good group with lots of yummy nibblies, great laughs and many good friendships in the making. We treated ourselves to one of Nancy’s recently published cookbooks, as we served Bev’s dates stuffed with parmesan and walnuts, a huge hit. Every one is staying put tomorrow, as First Edition heads off to Eleuthera.