Thursday, January 27, 2011

We spent several days at South Side Bay, aptly named as it is found on the southern most island, Little Ragged. After several beach walks, I collected about 30 heart beans and 10 hamburgers, half a bag full of tellins, and some additions to the Spirit Tree we will create at our new home in Virginia. The Bahamians are a pious folk, it seems most go to some sort of church and public places are usually closed on Sundays. But it does seem some of the African practices remain, such as Obeah, kinda like a voodoo observance. Outside many homes you will find various objects, usually fishing floats of glass, plastic or styrofoam hung from a tree to please or protect from the spirit world. Our friends on Celebrian started one at their home in Canada, and for the last years I have admired their “bonker” collection, as they refer to it. So, much to the Captain’s chagrin, we have started our own this year, filling the space previously allocated to Willow’s Gracie, the very large Junkanoo turtle that travelled with us all winter in 2010.

Anchored at South Side, you can reach Duncan Town, the only town in the Jumentos, where you can find an internet signal at the All Ages School, which opens its lunch room to the cruisers in exchange for a hoped-for donation. You can also find Maxine’s, where you can purchase yellow broccoli, some good looking grapefruit, or, you might want to place an order by Sunday for mailboat delivery on Wednesday. A pepper, two tomatoes, and three grapefruit summed up to $11.50, and a bag of grapes was $7.50.

The best part of Duncan Town is the “wild” life to be found. Goats are everywhere, and perhaps constitute the occasional dinner, as might the pigs. We were surprised to see peacocks, but not quite as taken back as this goat who thought he would make a new friend. We saw one car, and one truck, this driven by Marvin who gave us a ride two times. Marvin is the son of Percy, the owner of the now shut-down restaurant with a DC-3 mounted on its roof.

The big social event for us here at South Side was the dinghy drift, arranged for one of those warm, calm nights with a full moon. We met the folks on Sam the Skull and Nighthawk, and reconnected with Fine Lion and Sapphire, as well as The Group. Di’s Brownies, Karen’s date bites, and Far Niente’s port were passed. Without being under the influence, I demonstrated the fine art of walking from one dink to another, and upon my return trip, lost my footing and took an unplanned for dip, taking my captain along. I was happy to have provided the evening’s entertainment, as I struggled to regain entry to the dinghy in my little sun dress. Thankfully I wore matching underpants.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Raccoon Cay and The Passing of Molly

After leaving Flamingo we thought we would head to Buena Vista and catch up with The Group the next day. But on our way we got a call from Far Niente, inviting us to a lobster fest. Unusual since Jay doesn’t hunt. How wrong we were! It seems Jay was walking along the shore and Judy spotted a rather large crustacean roaming the coast. Jay, always on the ready with his trail-blazing machete, whacked the critter to its end. Perhaps it was always destined to become Lobster Risotto. So, not wanting to miss out on the fun we headed to Raccoon Cay.

Dinner ashore was fantastic, bordering on Chez Pierre quality. Di’s Risotto was matched up with Bev’s coleslaw, Greg and Judy’s Cold Corn Casserole, and Karen’s and my Greek Salad. A real treat was seeing Veranda, joining us with lobster chunks served with butter from several of the 40 lobster they have caught so far this year.

We awoke the next morning with two sets of bad news, a cold front approaching with westerly component winds, and Molly, one of Veranda’s doggies, having suffered an apparent stroke. There are few places to hide from westerlies, and no vets in the Jumentos (no human docs either unless they are on boats) so we hauled our butts to the South Side anchorage on Little Ragged, and sat most of the day listening to poor Christy reaching out for any one with veterinary supplies to ease Molly’s way. The next day Christy announced Molly’s passing and told us how they had buried her on a hillside with beautiful vistas where Molly used to chase the goats. By the end of her call, we were all teary eyes and although I have not known Christy a long time, I just wanted to be there and hold her. We never forget our animals, and I am hopeful that Molly is racing around with my guys Bay and Gundy, and Enzo from The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor, buy it now or come borrow it from me after Celebrian has finished it. It is a tribute to Molly and all of our animals that have passed before us.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flamingo Cay

Ahh….the Jumentos. We have had this 55 mile island chain on our Bucket List for two years now, and have finally made it. It is everything we had heard, and perhaps a little more. We left Thompson Bay on Long Island at 6:15 in order to take the Comer Channel on a rising tide. We never saw less than 7 feet, arriving at the first western anchorage on Flamingo, Two Palms at 1500. Our unofficial “guidebook” provided by John and Sandy on Moonstruck advised this anchorage would hold 4 boats, and we managed to be the last of seven to arrive, laying down almost too close for comfort on top of Savage Son and alongside Synergy, but with their blessing. It was shortly thereafter that our Manny, our lobster-bearing fisherman provided us with dinner (see prior post).

The next day all but one of the other boats took off, and we decided to stay to walk the island and retrieve some tellins that Di on Far Niente told us awaited us ashore. We collected a small bucket full, a good harvest, and proceeded to enjoy a hardy walk over to the Oceanside by locating a path to the left of the Two Palms. We found a very pretty beach with hardly a thing on it, with the exception of a sunken seaplane with its various parts scattered along the shoreline. After lunch we dinghied over to the next anchorage South of us, found the path which we shared with several blue tailed lizard and curlytails, and walked up to the tower for great views of the surrounding area.

Scratching Each Others' Backs

There is an understanding among cruisers that if something goes wrong, everyone will pitch in, and like BP, make things right. We need each other. We each have our own strengths and talents, and if some one needs what you have, you are duty bound, no, make that eager, to lend a hand.

So when Karen on Synergy was telling us that she is a dud at making bread, Bev from Savage Son invited her over one morning for a lesson and some chewing of the fat. Bev had recently finished hemming a denim romper I purchased as a bargain and eventually figured out why. (In the eighth grade another girlfriend completed my sewing assignment, a lilac colored bandstand skirt with a double row of buttons—I never quite got the hang of the whole sewing machine thing.)

Over Christmas we were in Pipe Creek when our anchor rode wrapped around our keel during a frontal passage, and Bill on Veranda (several years our junior) volunteered to dive in and untangle the rats’ nest during the twilight hour. Peter, being a strong swimmer, carried out the underwater mission himself, but man, what an offer. In Long Island when we discovered our outboard prop had a failed bushing (thanks to some locals who diagnosed the problem but had no way to fix it), our call out resulted in Synergy advising us they had a spare, identical to the one we needed. This was big. It’s one thing to volunteer expertise; it’s another to give up a $100 spare that you can’t replace yourself for any amount of money without a significant delay while waiting for the mailboat to arrive with the slight possibility that the part actually made in on board. Greg from My Destiny straightened us out when I could not make an internet connection, and I heard him talking to Chris on Synergy when his computer went rogue.

Upon our arrival at Flamingo Cay in the Jumento’s, where there is NOTHING but beautiful beaches, loads of fish, and some very limited provisioning about two days from here, we heard a fisherman calling out desperately for a pack of cigarettes. When no one answered, and he repeated his plea, I let him know that all of the boats anchored in the cove were non smokers, but that Wanderer, anchored at Water Cay (a few hours away) might be a candidate. Shortly thereafter, he motored up to First Edition bearing a “thank you anyway” offering: eight lobster tails! In exchange, we offered up a six pack of beer and a few DVD’s, which Manny returned in the morning.

We decided to share our lobster bounty with Synergy as a thank you for their generosity in providing a prop, and Karen then offered to make us dinner, a delectable lobster al fredo.
This is a grand life we live. And our backs never itch.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Long Island Breeze

The Long Island Breeze Resort at Salt Pond on Thompson Bay was opened by Mike and Jackie four years ago, just in time for our first visit to the island. The Breeze has a feel like crisp, clean cotton on a summer’s night, with pastel colors and artwork, swaying palms, and an outdoor bar and swimming pool. Another destination where unfried food can be obtained, the meals are splendid, bountiful, and reasonable. You can actually get a diet soda here as well. Currently, the Breeze is open for dinner Thursday through Sunday, closed on Mondays, and lunches Tuesday through Sunday. Try the Philly Cheese Steak with homemade French fries, or a hamburger so big that I could not finish it. You can also get sexy meals like fettucine with crawfish, or flat iron steak. It’s all good.

Mike conducts a net around 8:30 on VHF channel 18, providing news, weather, events, an open mike session, and funny tidbits. The Breeze also has very functional washers and driers at $4 for each, a large swap library and showers available. Oh, and of course, internet, fax at $2 a page, and a phone available for calls home for 50 cents a minute. Cottage rooms are available for $75/night. The Breeze hosts frequent potlucks, providing a great atmosphere along with their conch fritters.

Our first year here Mike regaled us with stories of what it was like to build in the Bahamas, and break into this closed community, reminiscent of Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival. We hoped their grand plans would become reality, and each year have continued to watch their business taking baby steps towards their goal. The Breeze is a cruiser’s dream, and we encourage everyone to support these nice people. Once there, you will likely be back every day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chez Pierre's on Long Island in the Bahamas

You don’t go to the Bahamas to find fine dining. Everything is fried. And you rarely can find fish on the menu---go figure. But you can get all the nice, greasy ribs you want, and usually, deep fried chicken wings. The meal is rounded out with mounds of carbs: peas and rice, mac and cheese, potato salad.

Oh wait! Visit Long Island, where you can enjoy a really terrific Italian meal cooked by a rather colorful Frenchman, at Chez Pierre. There is a prominent sign for the restaurant on the Queens Highway heading North from Thompson Bay, but there are many twists and turns on the side road leading in---good luck finding it. But the Veal Limone (you must pronounce this lee-mo-NAY when you place your order) is, to borrow a phrase, to die for. Cut your veal with your fork and sop up the delectable sauce (perhaps a hint of cognac?) with the fresh bread. But precede this with the Baked Olives and Caesar Salad. And bring your wallet. You can even get a cappuccino with their homemade ice cream, unless they don’t have it when you are there.

Combine this meal with a cocktail prepared by yourself at their bar, or a bottle or five of their mediocre but drinkable wine, add several of your pals who all cram into a small SUV conveniently available for the evening and you will have rip-roaring time. Especially on the ride home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thompson Bay, Long Island

We travelled with Savage Son on one of those perfect days to Salt Pond at Thompson Bay, where we reconnected with Far Niente and My Destiny. We spend a lot of time here at the LI Breeze which offers great food and better yet, the only internet signal around. Unfortunately we have to dinghy in to use it but beggars cannot be choosers.

There are over 20 boats here this trip, which is the most on any of our visits here. Fortunately for us, Traphina, the owner of Club Thompson Bay, hosted a buffet soon after our arrival, and it seemed that every boater in the harbor attended.
It has been a rough couple of years for the Bahamians with the US economy situation as fewer boaters are coming to the Bahamas, and even fewer are dining out. And Club Thompson Bay, which used to be THE place here, has been usurped by the Breeze, with their up scale dining and that internet signal.
Traphina pulled out all the stops, delivering lobster, grouper, and chicken (although all served up fried as is the custom in the Bahamas), potato salad, peas and rice, cole slaw, fritters, and ribs. These dinner get togethers are always a great time to meet new people and share a couple of Kaliks. The ride home in the dark is usually interesting.

We have finalized our choice of builder, negotiated and agreed on the contract, and set up payment arrangements, all while sitting here at the Long Island Breeze. Willow is so excited to hear that Grammie and Aye-Aye will be close by.

I think I am too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Art of Negotiation

As already recorded, we spent New Year’s Eve at Georgetown, and here it is seven days later and we are still here. We have passed the time waiting for a good window to get to Long Island by hiking up Monument Beach, dining at St. Francis and Peace and Plenty, shelling (not terrific here), but mostly, finalizing the last pre-construction phase of our new home: selecting a builder.

We received the bids by e-mail, fortunately at a time when we had a good strong signal. Sorting through the detail was somewhat like translating the Rosetta Stone, each had their own way to deliver the same conclusion, the incredibly large amount of money these guys want to build our little cottage by the sea. We get the feeling that our snowbound builders find it hard to negotiate with two vagabonds sitting in 80 degree weather and sunshine, living the life of Riley.

Although negotiating is something we have both done all of our careers, I have conceded this responsibility to Peter, one of America’s Top Lawyers, as with this designation on his resume he clearly is better at it than I am. Negotiating is difficult when you are not face-to-face. In fact, here in the Bahamas, where the cell phone cost is about $1 a minute to the States, it is difficult telephonically as well, as the costs mount up quickly and the reception is spotty. Using Skype is frowned upon (too many folks using the same internet signal) and not reliable anyhow, unless you are good at filling in every other word you can hear with what you think the other person is saying. Not advised during the negotiating process.

That’s where J&K comes in. This high-tech company serving the cruising community provides the latest mode of communication: a regular telephone that you can some how pay only 15 cents a minute for. J&K clearly reinvests their profits in capital improvements.
Guard service is provided by a local potcake tied to a fence on a short tether. (A potcake is a “wild” mongrel that you find all over the Bahamas, but they are mostly just timid and hungry, except for this gal who takes her job seriously.) Anyhow, J&K provides a great service to the Georgetown community and you should look them up if you get to Georgetown.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Eve

It started out quiet enough. A game of Mexican train with the rules an amalgamation of recollections from prior games, which changed with each round. One shared bottle of champagne, oh, and a little Baileys in our coffee with the banana cream pie. But then, Bob became DJ, using the latest hits on my Ipod to get the party moving and Peter opened the bar.

My husband is a dancing fool and one helluva bar man. We made it past sailor's midnight---no one left until after 2 am. And just like the last time Bob played DJ, we awoke with memories of having a good time, laryngitis, and large heads.

The Island Packet behind us definitely felt left out.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Lucky Blind Squirrel

We left out of Black Point for Georgetown with Savage Son and My Destiny at 0630, having said our goodbyes to Veranda the prior evening. Once out of Dotham Cut (pronounced Dot-ham, for those not quite in the know), we all set out our lines, hoping for fresh fish for dinner. We travelled about a few yards before Bev yelled out: “Fish on Savage Son”; it turned out to be a small blue fish. Less than a half hour later, another blue, larger this time, was taken by them.

We, of course, had our lines out, but never expected to get anything. We are determined, but not stupid. We fish. We don’t catch. We know this.

Greg reported that Judy had just lost the largest fish she had ever hooked. Wow, what fishing cohorts we have.

Then, a hit on First Edition! You know you have a hit when a clothespin that you have attached to the life line and the thingie you dangle in the water with a lure on it pops off. Usually you are in the midst of some sailing maneuver, or like today, heeled over in 17 knots on a beat, with almonds roasting in the oven. Peter ran, stumbling, to the aft deck and I saw him reeling in the line, very effortlessly, so I imagined we had a false clothespin pop. Well, we did, but the sucker who triggered the excitement took off our brand new $15 lure and left no trace of himself behind.

Minutes later, Savage Son announces mahi aboard. I am convinced they will find our lure once they open his mouth. He is a whopper, 40 inches!

Then, another hit on First Edition! This time, the line isn’t so easy to pull in, the almonds are falling off the pan in the oven because of our significant heel, no one is at the helm, and of course, there is no towel, bucket, gaff, alcohol killing goop, cutting board, filet knives, or common sense readily available. I start to hyperventilate worrying that we will lose our catch, or I will lose Peter, or my almonds will burn; then I see the fish breaking the water showing off its yellow, green, and blue markings. We have mahi! We have mahi!

After sustaining life threatening injuries (see picture)
I attempt to assist in the retrieval of all of this missing items necessary to haul in and deal with Mr. Fish. Of course, most are located underneath other things in various drawers and lockers. We really don’t know what you are supposed to do with the gaff, we try snagging Mr. Fish, and are successful, but insufficiently to haul what we now realize is Very Big Mr. Fish aboard, 39 ½”. So with brute force, we muscle the fella on board, throw the towel over him (Peter thinks this will kill him), and I insist upon the alcohol killing goop because I, personally, would rather go this way than be suffocated with an old towel. Mr. Very Big Fish gives up the ghost, with a smile on his face.

We consult with Savage Son and My Destiny on what to do now with Very Big Mr. Fish , and attempt to follow intricate step-by-step instructions given by a surgeon who has done this all of his life and who obviously doesn’t understand he is talking to a bankruptcy lawyer who doesn’t even eat fish.

So, it has been a good start to this year’s fishing season. Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut.