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Still in Nassau

and that is not a problem

semi-overcast 72 °F

Having looked at the weather forecasts, several days of 20~25 knot winds we elected to stay here. Well, we're still waiting for the high winds; today we cannot even ruffle the flag. But the weather forecast will be right eventually, maybe even in my lifetime. The newest crisis de jour: no diesel fuel. We tried to refuel in Great Harbour; they were dry. Chubb probably had some but Nassau seemed like a sure thing. Well, not so sure as it turns out; both adjacent fuel docks are dry. Our needs are small, only 20 gallons, but we're not leaving until we have that fuel on board.

So, Carol elected herself as tour guide and we have been doing some touristy things, the first of which seemed to require that we walk to the other end of the island; well, at least the other end of the harbour, which happens to be where the cruise ships are. There were five ships moored that day and there was a lot of foot traffic in the area. The instructive lesson for the day was: don't hike cross country for miles and miles in flip flops; it's hard on the feet.

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We accomplished the most important task of the day: selecting my souvenir t-shirt for Nassau. Carol's goal was to locate and purchase a beach umbrella, although I don't know why she thought we find such an arcane item let alone carry it on the boat. In lieu of that she purchased yet another hat, to go with her growing collection, this one with the virtue of a diameter almost as large as that of a beach umbrella. She must have a secret hiding place for this cache since I rarely see them except on her red head.

Both in Freeport and here there have been "straw markets," an aggregation of small booths where vendors, almost exclusively women, sell various shirts, hats and other tourist type tschotskes. We didn't give the "straw market" name much thought until we visited the Historical Society. In there was a display showing the various weaving patterns that local folks used to make straw goods, e.g. hats, baskets, etc. Today there did not seems to be much, if any, in the way of locally produced straw goods, but it is easy to imagine the evolution of the concept going back a century or two.

The Historical Society was, overall, a disappointment for a place, and a British place at that, that has such a long and remarkable history. It looked more like a thrift store than a museum. But, there were a few gems. We learned that before cruise ships that the harbour was different: the west end was closed, or impassable, due to coral heads, and the main entrance was at the east end, guarded by a fort, of course. This lighthouse was added sometime at the west end when that area was cleared.

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The Nassau economy, like most other places, appears to have suffered in the past couple of years. At the east end of the harbour, where the private boat marinas are, and also there are the two bridges to Paradise Island, things seem generally OK. The far west end where the passengers from the cruise ships shop also seems mostly OK. In between, not so much ... lots of empty store fronts and buildings. Carol thought that many of the women at the straw market seemed "desperate" so maybe things are not so good below the surface.

The Bahamas have been independent of Britain since 1964 but the residual imprint of almost 400 years of British presence is still visible. This statue is of Victoria, Regent and Imperatrix. Despite that history with the British Empire, you have to like a country that ignored that past and devised a Great Seal, on all paper currency, which has a flamingo and a fish. No lions rampant, eagles, one or two headed, griffins or such, no bellicosity explicit or implied. You can almost imagine that someone had a sense of humor. The fish is easy and obvious; the flamingos are on Great Inagua island. They have been producing/drying salt on the island for a long time and in the salt flats there exists a particular type of brine shrimp that West Indian flamingos like to eat. There is a national sanctuary on the island for those birds, and others, and we would love to go there. But the island is the southernmost in the chain and is off the eastern tip of Cuba, requiring several days of cruising for our boat to get there. So, it's probably not gonna' happen.

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Today was Paradise Island day and knowing about the traffic we decided to go early in the afternoon. We went to the Atlantis Hotel & Casino intending to visit the water park. The arrival at the hotel is pretty cool.

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The water park thing did not work out ... only for paying guests which we were not. Carol, even in her full throated Nordic Princess mode could not talk her way in, a rarity. So we went down to the village arcade which last trip had we had so enjoyed. Today, it seemed like just another bunch of stores. So, over to the Bahama Craft Center, just across the street. This was better, there being some actual hand made basketry, purses and hats and ladies that could talk about the materials, techniques and patterns. There was also some hand carving like we had seen some men doing down at the straw market. Sadly for those ladies, the casino seemed a bigger draw than their hand made efforts.

On the map was a note for "the Cloister," we having no idea what that was about. Off we hiked, me, this time, in more sensible shoes and socks. What a great surprise it was, the remains of a 14th century French Monastery that was imported, stone by stone, to the United States by the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s; 40 years later the Cloisters were bought by Huntington Hartford and installed at the top of a hill on Paradise Island overlooking Nassau Harbour.

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Across the street was a long mall with flowers, statuary and pools. The whole thing was rather stunning when looked at from afar. It was such an unexpected oasis in such a sea of commercial activity and real estate development.

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The diesel crisis got resolved. The two fuel docks at adjacent marinas were out. This marina does not have a fuel dock, but it does have diesel fuel, no gasoline, for boats that are moored there. So, we are ready to go when we get ready to go.

The marina had been mostly empty but on Thursday and Friday with the inclement weather on offer, it really filled up, almost all sailboats except for a 100-ft. motor vessel. It seemed a bit like small world week. First, the couple on our starboard side kept their boat in New Bern. Then, while I was walking down the street a man stopped me and commented on my Whittaker Point t-shirt, since he had been keeping his boat there. Turns out we had met in Oriental four years ago and we had left that marina probably a day or two before he arrived. We spent some time together doing beer & football over weekend. On Saturday, after the game I met another couple from New Bern who are aboard a 30-ft. Nonsuch. Knowing only one other person who has such a boat I asked if they knew him. They allowed that they had never met Joe but had corresponded with him on a boat owners bulletin board.

Monday was pretty lazy also. The one task I accomplished was to rig a second anchor. It's really a goofy system, but it will mostly work. I figure that the crisis for which we are prepared is not so likely to happen. It seems improbable that in several months of anchoring that we will never need a second anchor out. It's good to be prepared.

We had planned to leave tomorrow, Tuesday, but on the advice of several experienced sailors have moved that back to Wednesday. Between New Providence Island (Nassau) and Highbourne Cay, our next stop, there is a bank with lots of coral heads, some with not so much water on top. It's better to make this passage with very sunny, clear skies so that the coral is easily visible against the bottom.

Posted by sailziveli 17:32 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

A Little Bit More of Great Harbour Cay

sunny 68 °F

A lot of restaurants on the island have gone under, no longer open for business. Carol and I had dinner here, the Rock Hill Restaurant. It looks better in the picture than it does on the ground; the food was mediocre and too expensive. The setting was great, almost like a Graham Greene novel.

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Our last evening on the island we saw the moon rising in the east and reflected on the water while the sun was setting over the hill in the west.

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Posted by sailziveli 19:40 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boating bahamas Comments (0)

Great Harbour Cay

sunny 75 °F

Wednesday was not a great day for either of us. Carol, the CFO for the trip, tried to use her Wells Fargo card and discovered that her card did not work; mine did. All the others did and this is not a problem, only an inconvenience. Regardless, Carol got uptight. For me, it was the calculation of time, rate and distance; would we be able to get to the harbor with enough light to navigate a tricky channel. Plus there was the Berry Island Curse, our version of the Bermuda Triangle. In our two trips to the Berry Islands we have hosed the motor, fried the electrical system and tried to sink the boat with leaking transducers. We're not superstitious, but there is a definite trend line here. The old habits die hard and intensity is a useful trait at the proper times. If it's difficult to get an old dog to learn new tricks, it's impossible to get an old dog to unlearn old tricks.

Ken, a dock neighbor went fishing today and gave us some wahoo fillets which Carol decided to keep for another night. When the going gets tough, the tough go out to dinner, at least on this boat. We had a nice early bird special, basically a kid's meal with a glass of wine. It was tasty and just the right amount. After dinner we walked over to the water which I wanted to see since we were leaving the next day. Despite the weather reports indicating fairly heavy seas, the water was almost glassy -- no surf on the beach. We could only hope that it will also be that way for the trip.

Our verdict on Freeport/Lucaya? Two thumbs down, an interesting place to have visited once; not sufficiently compelling to visit twice unless the port is part of a transit plan.

It was cool on Thursday morning, 47F, when the alarm went off at 0430. Carol dug out the warm clothing, for me a fleece vest. When I looked at the vest in the light it was covered with Wile E's red and buff dog hair. It was good to remember the old pooch; he would rather be on the mountain in Spring Creek, but he's a dog and he does not get a vote. His picture, just because I like my pooch.

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I was not going to check the engine oil level, having done so when we changed it on Monday. But Carol was being helpful, hint, hint, to help me remember to do this, So, I figured, why not! It might help me establish the pattern. Imagine my surprise when the oil was well over filled; I knew that I planned to run the engine hard and too much oil would have been a seriously bad idea. So, out comes the pump to draw off the oil level at least to the maximum level. This helped pass the time while we waited.

We had hoped to get underway soon after 0500 but we were defeated by the dew point; all of the strata-glass windows were covered with moisture, inside and out, and as fast as we wiped them off, the dew reappeared. Functionally blind is not a great way to transit a difficult channel. At 0600 we said screw it and left the dock; about 10 minutes later we were in the channel, it being silhouetted against the very faint first light of dawn, and we made our way to the open water. We had thought that we would be the first boat out that morning but were, in fact, the second, a catamaran having left, maybe, 15 minutes earlier. There was another sloop about 5 minutes behind us.

The numbers were tough, at least in old think: cover 57.2 nm in nine hours hitting the Bullocks Harbour waypoint by 1600. That meant going slightly over six knots. In the event, we hit the waypoint at 1530, despite having given away some time to take in the sails. It was a good thing to have picked up some time, because I do not think that we could have successfully entered this harbor in fading daylight. This island is quite different from any others that we have seen. It has the aspect of being an atoll, a hollow center surrounded by a ring of land. In this case, the channel through the ring of land was not visible from a distance. We might not have found it except that a couple of power boats sped by us and went through the channel. The trick is/was head straight for a cliff, maybe 20~25-ft. high and, just before you crash into it, make a turn to the left of more that 90 degrees, dodging shoals and shallow water, entering a man made channel cut through the rock cliffs. It was harder than it sounds. But it proved, once again, that the Explorer charts are to be trusted. The way point the for channel entrance was spot on.

The passage itself was very pleasant. Warm and sunny with cotton-ball, fair weather cumulus clouds. The forecast was for seas in the area of 6-ft. The fact was seas more like 6-in., flat but not glassy. There was a trailing wind that provided a little more speed on the trip. A very nice boat day.

This was our first day trip, a hard day being better than a hard day and a hard night. Making this transit would have been impossible with the old engine, maintaining more than six knots being a hallucinogenic dream. We even passed and stayed ahead of the catamaran that left before we did, the only other times this happened was when the catamarans were anchored.

At day's end, after a cold drink and a hot meal, Carol was snoozing on the settee by 7:30 PM and I was nodding at the nav station. What a pitiful pair we are.

On the way in we passed Great Stirrup Cay, along with Little Stirrup Cay. The larger island is owned or leased by cruise ship companies. The large vessels anchor on the north side of the island ferry their passengers to the island for, we assume, for and drink, swimming and snorkeling and other fun bits. When we passed their were two ships anchored which must have meant an awful lot of people on the island. There is an anchorage between the two islands and cruising lore has it that, if handled politely, the folks don't mind an extra guest or two.

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We have not seen too many of these islands but this one is different from any others on which we have been: high ground. The harbour here is surrounded by a hillside that probably goes 30~50 above sea level. We were told that this is the best hurricane hole in the Bahamas, quite believable. The scale is that the condos are 3.5 stories tall with the roof making them about 4.0 stories.

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There are about 40 of these condos built around the cove. Last night there may have been 5 that had lights on. I found one offered for sale at $385,000 for 1,900 sq. ft. Needless to say Carol and I are not making any deposits or down payments.

We had a walk about on Friday, deciding to visit the town of Bullocks Harbour. Going to town a nice young mas gave us a ride most of the way. The town is small but, with our other visits there seems to be a pattern. It's not quite like the Eloi and the Morlocks but: the black population seems to live in the old, established town in a relatively dense format, probably having a century or so of continuous residence; the towns seem to be built around what is or was the harbor. The white population seems to occupy all the land that is not part of the town. It's not good or bad, but it seems to be consistent.

The other noticeable thing was that there was a lot of incomplete construction. Sometimes it was just a foundation; other times walls were up; and on a few, the roofs were in place. At some point the music died and has not played since. There is no hint that these will ever be finished. On the whole, Bullocks Harbour seemed much more prosperous than Bimini. We were told that many of the residents work for the cruise lines on Great Stirrup Cay which would put good money into the community. Carol at the causeway between the two islands, although causeway is a rather grandiose word for some landfill, culvert and two lanes of black top.

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On Saturday the walk about was to the beach, which Carol had already scouted out in the morning. It is magnificent. On the local brochure they call it a sugar beach, a pretty fair description. It is almost white; it is almost as fine as confectioners sugar. As for the water, there are not enough words to describe the shadings as the depth changes, as the bottom changes and as the sun changes. The camera is wholly inadequate.

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Carol, of course, always finds the shade.

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On the way back we notices swarms of these butterflies on these succulent plants. There were some very small flowers which must have been the attraction. My best guess is that these are Fiery Skippers, or not.

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We will leave tomorrow and wend our way to Nassau, a trip that will take a night and two easy days of about 35 nm or so. We had planned to stay at the Berry Island Club mooring field as we have done before. It seems that they are closed for renovations so we will probably anchor off Chubb Cay for the night before heading to Nassau.

Posted by sailziveli 15:04 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches beach boating bahamas Comments (0)

Freeport, the Bahamas, #2

overcast 59 °F

With all of the stuff going on, we had been so busy enjoying the trip that we neglected to reflect on the fact that we actually made it to the Bahamas without mishap, almost getting run over by large ships not withstanding. And, we did it several months earlier than on our other trips. Of course, we have not yet gone to the Berry Islands where our other two trips foundered with (old) engine problems. So, our next stop will be the acid test.

On New Years eve I had my first illegal smoke. Not the ganja of the islands but a real Cuban cigar, illegal in the states but we are not in the states, after all. It was really good, although I could not taste much difference from Dominican cigars which are, presumably, pretty much the same. It was a Romeo y Julieta, from Havana, desde 1875. While I was enjoying this treat Carol opted for an island drink, a Bahama Mama, which seemed appropriate to her, she being in the Bahamas and also being a mother. About two sips did it for her -- she did not finish it. It might have tasted better if there had been the obligatory little paper umbrella. No such luck. Probably a good thing too since we both had already had a gin and tonic on the boat and I could not have carried her back to the boat were she to have finished it; she being too big, me being too puny.

At 9PM the party started. There were probably several hundred people on the mall, which is all of 50-ft. from the end of the pier at which we are moored.

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There was a five person musical group, two of whom were female singers. I was a little surprised perfectly fitting the profile of an old, clueless white guy. With the pervasiveness of American popular culture I would have guessed that Rap music would have a high profile here. Absolutely not the case. Reggae and Rastafarian rule. There is not a single t-shirt shop that does not have a Bob Marley offering. The music on offer was very eclectic, but done well. We stayed for a while and then retired to the boat. Sleep was problematic since the fireworks started at midnight, en punto. They only lasted 10 minutes but it was a very loud and very bright 10 minutes. Then the boats started with their horns. By 12:30AM the party was over.

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We had a quiet Sunday, no work, and on Monday started working, but not as planned. We went from being people on a boat to boat owners with responsibilities. The toilet stopped working early on, 0600 ..... big problem! Five hours later, smelling about the same as the project on which I was working, and after a complete rebuild, the toilet was re-installed and functioning. What a mess it was. The marine toilet is a complicated piece of engineering, entailing about 10 times as many parts as the porcelain pots at home. I would not work on the dock for fear of losing small parts through the spaces in the planks; so, we did it all in the cockpit. It was a good time to be at a marina and to have a hose handy. I discovered a toilet part that probably will not last very long. Hooray for the satellite phone and Boat Owners Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. They will have a couple of those parts waiting for us when we get to Nassau.

We thought these flowers were hibiscus; they are not but are pretty just the same.

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About half of the boats in the marina headed for home on 01/01 and 01/02. The boat next to us, a charter I think, intended to do the same but was forced to return to port after developing engine trouble. The captain says that he will have to wait for a rebuild kit of some kind to arrive from Italy. Makes our issues seem kind of small.

On Monday night a front blew through and we are living with the attendant weather; 35 knot winds, 14-ft. seas and very cool temperatures, middle 50's or less. The heater definitely came back on for this. It was so windy there were even white caps in the protected area where we are moored. The winds should die down on Wednesday and the seas, maybe on Thursday but surely on Friday. The temperature is not too bad, but the wind really makes them bite. It was strange to see the shopping area and bars bereft of people.

We had to go to downtown today to get the computer fixed after I screwed it up. We assumed that there would be a old, central downtown located in some proximity to the port with buildings dating to HRH someone or another. Well, there is not. This is almost like Tokyo, smaller, of course, by several orders of magnitude: an amorphous place with no particular geographical focus. We never even considered renting a car. We would have a survival interval measured in nanoseconds from driving on the other side of the road. The thing that we forget .... crossing the street. We always look the wrong way and then, maybe, remember. Fortunately, the speed limits are very low and, seemingly, obeyed.

Freeport/Lucaya seems to be fairly expensive. Part of that may be due to pricing for tourists, of which there are many. When my computer was being restored I looked at their prices for laptops; I would estimate that a similar product at Best Buy would have been at least $300 less than here. I have wondered many times if there prices for out landers and prices for local folks. Probably not. We had taken taxis a couple of times to the tune of $15~$20 each way. Then a nice man offered us a ride and while doing so told us that the buses are $1. We now like the bus, a great value.

Things are kind of gray and ugly here .... not a peak tourist day. We'll be busy today doing chores necessary prior to getting underway tomorrow, we hope. The trip to Great Harbour Cay is about 60 nm, or so, pretty much of a stretch for us to complete in one day. We have about 10.5 hours of daylight and another hour of good dawn/dusk twilight. It's doable but we will have to leave very early, probably before first light and try to exit a narrow, rock lined channel to the open water. The good news is that we'll have a following wind and should be able to motor sail. More good news: we called the marina this morning ... no one there but a boater picked up and we talked. He said that the last 4 nm to the harbor are over sand and that you can anchor anywhere. Good to know, if he's right. The seas will be higher than we want, but, still, not bad: in the 4~5-ft. range settling down later in the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:55 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas Comments (1)

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