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Little Farmers Cay

sunny 77 °F

Carol and I, well, really me mostly, decided to try to sail out of the anchorage at Black Point settlement as we had seen others do the day before. Predictably, once again, chaos ensued and we added yet another chapter to the seemingly endless and unabridged version of Amazing but True Anchoring Follies. It was pretty windy and the boat did handle differently with the sail up. Regardless, Carol let the anchor chain get behind the bow and then signaled a turn to the left; the anchor was to the right. The chain caught on the fin keel and we were riding beam to the wind, not bow forward. I was pretty sure what the problem was, hauled in the sail, threw on my dive mask and jumped into the water. Problem confirmed. Fortunately, Phil, on Amazing Grace, saw what had happened and brought his dinghy over. With his dinghy he pushed the bow around until the chain freed itself and all was again OK. We could have used the motor to turn the boat to the same result, but this was easier. It's good that neither one of us has a "boating ego."

A day that started with a debacle had a mid-morning delight. When we cleared he anchorage we again put up the sails for a straight 9 nm run to Little Farmers Cay. The apparent wind was 20~25knots and we started with way too much sail and, eventually, brought in the foresail to the 2d reef point. The boat was still a load to handle making at least 6 knots and, sometimes more than 7 knots, consistently heeling about 20 degrees, too much for efficient sailing but fun none the less. This was really the first good sailing with the wind being right to allow us to go directly to a way point.

It took a lot of physical exertion to handle the boat in that much wind. At many points I was using both hands and both feet on the helm. Our boat weighs about 14,000-lb. empty and about 17,000-lb. fully loaded, which it is now. 15~17 knots of wind is probably optimal for sailing; over that the wind wants to overpower the boat and push it around. Scott, from the Ft. Pierce blog entry, whose boat weighs 38,000-lb., said that he needed 25 knots of wind to make the thing get going and 35 knots was good sailing. Maybe an overstatement but it does frame the issue.

The anchoring was easy ... good, deep sand that swallowed the anchor. When I swam out to the anchor I saw a huge starfish each arm being more than 6-in. from tip to the center of the body, probably weighing to 2~3 pounds; swimming back I saw another almost as large. In other places I had seen empty clam-like bivalve shells on the bottom. A starfish explains that. This picture looks like what I saw, except for being half, or less, the size.

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There is a restricted area in the anchorage, an approach/departure area for airplanes to use when landing or taking off. We are not in the restricted area, just, but are no more than 100 yards from it. Carol watched a plane land into the wind and did not feel that there was any issue. I wrote a email to the chart plotter company mentioning that this area did not show up on their screen which seems an oversight. I expected more boats here for the festival; but, maybe it's early days yet or they may all be anchored or moored on the other side of the island. (follow on: when I saw a plane fly overhead, I decided that we were too close so we moved a bit and reanchored; the airport has been busy and even farther south, where we are now, seems dicey)

Tuesday night David and Dana had folks over to their boat, Toucantoo, for BYOB happy hour. Dana actually cooked corn chips from flour and made some salsa ... it was really good. We got to meet some new folks on other boats. Wednesday morning Debbie had a champagne breakfast for the girls, the "girls" in this case being mostly over 60 except for Dana who could probably be a grand daughter to any of the "girls."

On Wednesday afternoon we went we went ashore, literally. We took the dinghy to the beach and then dragged it onto the sand and made the anchor fast into some bushes. More informal evolution: Carol's job when we land is to be first out of the dinghy and into the water while I secure the engine. When we leave I push us off, start the engine and scramble into the boat. It works.

This island is different. All of these islands are austere in their beauty; all the islands, including New Providence Island, Nassau, have been very clean. This island is very trashy with all sorts of detritus along the roads. Not nice. Walked about, had a beer at Ali's Bar; met Ali, a presence here about. In Nassau we had met a couple, Fred and Karen, and Carol and Karen hit it off well, Carol hoping that we would cross paths with them again, which we did here at Little Farmers Cay. They have also fallen into a group of boats with whom they are "travelling." We got back to the boat just before dark.

We have been in warm waters for six weeks or so and the water line in particular and the bottom in general have gotten a little bit green and furry so I decided to clean things up. On go the wet suit, fins, mask and snorkel and over the side I go plastic putty knife and scouring pad in hand. The concept is simple; the work is not. Both tools were useful, the putty knife for really thick stuff and the pad for everything else. The problem not yet solved is how to maintain contact with the boat .... every stroke in the water pushes me away from the boat, Newton's Law about opposite reactions, or something. Anyway, most of the starboard side got done in one session and the whole thing will take several days. The good news was that there are no barnacles yet on the bottom.

This morning I spotted a strange sea creature, rarely seen in this parts: Aquatica Carola Rubia. Her bathing suit, actually more like a track suit, would make those of the early 1900's seem immodest but, given her history with the sun a fair enough solution. This was the first time that she has gone into the water this trip and only the second time ever that I can remember her having done so.

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David swam over and chatted a bit when I was through for the day with the hull cleaning. After a few minutes back on his boat he started this special, Australian regime of Sailboat Calisthenics.

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The anchorage got considerably more crowded on Thursday with at least 15 boats arriving after lunch, this picture having been shot on Wednesday evening; by Wednesday evening the place was getting very busy. I did not try to count the number of boats around the island, never having had a good look at the eastern side. There probably were not 100 boats there but the count would not have been too far off that milestone.

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Since we are in a crowded anchorage and know many of the folks we have been keeping the VHF radio on. Really, really irritating! There is a tremendous amount of hailing going on between boats, probably like the old party lines.

On Friday morning I watched this ship approach for at least 30 minutes and was never able to figure out what the tall while things were in the bow, an inappropriate place for most possibilities such as antennas. When the boat was about 50 yards away it all became clear: C Class racing boats. Since this boat passed us at 0830 the chances of a 0900 start time for the first race looked slim.

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We waited a while for some news over the VHF which called for a 1200 start time, So, Carol and I took the dinghy around the point to watch the race. This is the community center. There was music and food; Carol and I split some sort of grilled fish, maybe snapper, for lunch while we waited and waited for things to get underway.

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These boats arrived sometime on Thursday or very early Friday; they were not the ones on the freighter. I guess that C Class racing is the Bahamian version of NASCAR with boats assigned permanent numbers; a few have sponsors. These three boats were also the very last to the start line.

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Guys were getting the boats ready to go to the starting line.

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At he starting line all the boats get into a row and put out their anchors.

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When the start signal is given up go the anchors and the sails in a mad scramble.

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Each boat carries two PRI boards, each wider than the boat and each with a set of angle irons through which the board slides from side to side. If a boat had five guys, four would be hanging out past the edge of the boat, no restraints or safety lines, trying to counter the wind heeling the boat over. These guys are tough and really good sailors.

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The race finally started at about 1:30 pm and took several hours so we headed back to the town center, fearing that we had missed the 1:00 pm wet t-shirt contest. Not to worry, they were still trying to round up contestants. Carol, having an appropriate level of modesty, demurred even when I suggested that there might be a 65 and older category. In the event, the floors and walkways stayed dry and no ladies got goosebumps or hypothermia, maybe a good thing since the average age of the ladies there was well north of 18. The only picture I was able to take that was politically incorrect and misogynist was this lady at the races. I know that Rhett will be disappointed in me but these folks are on sailboats not Harleys.

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While there I did get to make a courtesy visit to the Farmers Cay Volunteer Fire Department.

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The games continued with a schedule of Hermit Crab Races with betting but only for a dollar. Carol and I did not win having picked slow crabs.
The paddock and the race course.

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Carol and I stayed until dusk, retiring to the boat. Debbie leaving the Ocean Cabin Bar & Grill.

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The day was a very good one and both interesting and a lot of fun. Some outside money did come onto the island, but maybe not enough for a slow year. It was worth doing and doing again

Posted by sailziveli 12:58 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches boating bahamas Comments (0)

Warderick Wells Cay

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

semi-overcast 83 °F

We called the park on Saturday and asked to be put on the waiting list for a mooring ball; the park does not accept reservations. Carol called at 0915 on Sunday to see where we were on the list and they told us to "come on down." So, we did, leaving at about 0930 with a flotilla of other boats that, we guessed, were also going to the park. Actually, none of them were. Boats are like herding cats: if they go the same direction it's an accident and doesn't last very long. (We were subsequently told that getting a mooring ball this quickly never happens. Things are slow in the Bahamas now)

The trip was about 30 nm and took less than six hours but there were a lot of way points to get here. The front portion of the Explorer Chart books have a page with lots of pictures on how to read the water. I never gave this much concern and told Carol, the self professed color queen, to learn the techniques. It didn't take either of us very long to notice that when the sun went behind a cloud reading the water got harder and we really missed the color clarity.

The color issue could not have been more clear than Sunday, when we entered the park. The channel is very narrow but fairly deep; the channel was turquoise surrounded by almost white sand bars. We, actually me, had to turn the boat around to put the bow into the current to approach the mooring ball. Once again I thanked Joe V. for teaching me the trick for turning a sailboat around in very confined spaces. It has saved my bacon on several occasions including this one.

I would have loved to have made a video, shot from our bow, of entering the park; I cannot image prettier imagery. Unfortunately, I was busy driving the boat and Carol was on the bow engaged with reading the water. So, in lieu of that our offer is these panoramas courtesy of my new Nikon camera:

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Quite by accident, Ziveli is almost in the center of the second picture.

After checking in and, Carol electing to join the park, basically make a donation, we hiked across the island to Boo Boo Hill. The etymology of that name is: a ship wrecked on this island and all aboard perished with no bodies ever recovered for burial in sacred ground. Now those uninterred shades wander the island making the boo sound heard best on the hill. A good story! But when we looked at the windward side of the island it's easy to see how a ship could founder and wreck with no survivors. The rest of the story is more problematic.

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Life on the island is tough for plants. They all seem to have developed some similar traits: they can deal with salt in high concentrations; many have thick leaves to reduce moisture loss; they do not grow very tall because with the thin top soil tall things topple in high winds.

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Only the strong survive and, sometimes, not even them, or not for very long.

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I guess that I had always assumed that "tropical islands" would be lush and verdant, and many are. These islands are dry, arid, very few having any naturally occurring fresh water. I have read that in earlier days the islands were more wooded than today, those trees having been harvested for fuel. On the out islands we have seen only a few palms and an occasional rogue Australian pine standing taller than about 15-ft.

One different thing we have noticed here is the average age. Most cruising locales look like AARP conventions; here there have been many boats with younger folks, say 30's~40's, some with their kids. We're too old to feel guilty, but we never took Sean on any island hopping boat trips. We have met several "cruiser kids" and observed many more. What has struck us is that they are the nicest, most polite, most well mannered kids around. They also seem very well adjusted socially, able to interact with people of all ages, young to old. I have thought about this but do not yet have an idea about why this should be.

Here we are in a remote island paradise; we are on a boat not tethered to shore; we cannot make a phone call because BaTelCo has no cell towers within 20 miles. There's no water, fuel or food available. And yet -- there is pretty good internet service, not cheap but something is better than nothing. And, in addition to the ubiquitous book exchange they have about 200, or so, DVD's that they rent for not very much money. So, we rented a DVD for the evening just to try to stay awake past sunset. It probably won't work but it's worth a try. (Post Script: we did watch the video on the computer and played the sound through the FM radio. Big mistake! We used over 10 Ah which shocked me. The computer DVD drive must require a lot of power. No more DVD's unless we are on shore power.)

It's clear to me that some boat owner would have benefited from having my computerized maintenance checklist.

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This skeleton of a sperm whale that perished near by is on the beach close to the office. It was 52-ft. long before its untimely demise from having ingested some plastic. The skeleton, I think, does not do justice to the bulk and mass of the animal from which it came.

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And this is just about one of the coolest boat toys -- ever! If we had the room, which we do not, this would evoke a major case of boat envy. It is just a kayak with outriggers and a sail. The owner is on a large motor yacht, maybe 60-ft. The sad story is that he has probably done more real sailing in the past two days than we have in the past two months. Oh well, the park has a few kayaks that can be used for free; one of those will just have to do.

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We had dinner in the cockpit tonight, and like the several that preceded it, watched another unique and glorious sunset. I was struck that we live in a beautiful place, Spring Creek in Madison County, NC, and we are traveling in a beautiful set of islands. It may be easy to become inured to all of this and to accept the beauty as commonplace, normal, and not to respond with awe to the miraculous sights that our eyes behold. Carol's pretty good at this; I may need to work at it some more. This was our view on Tuesday morning when we had a few minutes of rain. It was worth at least a little bit of awe and wonder; unfortunately the camera did not capture the richness of color in the rainbow. To my comments in an earlier blog about the horizon, we have seen lots of rainbows but not so many where the whole 180 degree arc was visible.

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Ed Sherwood died a year ago this month, an event which jolted me at the time and must continue to engage me at some level since he has been much on my mind recently. It might just be the fact that this is January, the month of his passing; it might be that there is a boat moored 100 yards away that could be Da Vinci's twin; maybe it has to do with him wanting to come to the Bahamas but not having the time to overcome his hurdles and obstacles while Carol and I, facing our own set of hurdles and obstacles have, finally, made the trip. I do not suppose that it is important to know the why of these things and I hope that it is enough to cherish the memory of a man we both liked, enjoyed and miss and to count the blessings and good fortune that has been given to Carol and me in our lives and in each other. On January 27th, we think, we will have been 44 years married.

We took the dinghy down to Rendezvous Beach to check out the ruins of the Davis Plantation. There's not much in the way of information about the place, just a land grant to 1785. There's not much to see, just the ruins of a few stone huts, no Tara-like manses about. It's hard to imagine what they might have planned to harvest other than rocks, a crop that would have done very well.

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Another bird invaded the cockpit of our boat, probably finding crumbs from cereal that I spilled. I think that the specific breed is: yellow breasted cockpit scrounger. Or, maybe, it's a Bananaquit (Coereba Flaveola) but I'm just guessing at this. If nothing else this just goes to show that I need to clean the cockpit. This bird was persistent turning up again and again, seeming untroubled by our presence other than the fact that we interrupted his food search. Several times he flew into the cabin.

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Narrow Water Cay is the western boundary of the cove that holds the mooring field. It is not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but it does a pretty good imitation.

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On our last day here this huge catamaran, maybe four stories high came in and secured itself on a mooring ball. I thought that this would be way too much weight but when I checked with the office the lady said that they could accommodate boats up to 150-ft. long, something that I would not have guessed.

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Tomorrow, Thursday, we will head south toward Staniel Cay. If we go directly there it's only 20 nm.

Posted by sailziveli 13:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches birds boating bahamas tourist_sites Comments (0)

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)

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

sunny 75 °F

This was a strange stay at the Hall of Fame marina. First, on the south side of the dock there were only six boats, occupying less than one third of the slips. It seems like this should be the busy season. Second, we were the only people on a boat at this dock. Usually there are at least a few folks around and about with whom we can schmooze; not here. I had not really noticed until now .... not being great at the weather, I usually talk to folks to see what their thoughts are and compare those to mine. It's all independent action for the weather here. The stay has not been a bad thing, just noticeably different.

When the front passed through Ft. Lauderdale on 12/27 the weather really cooled down, maybe 12 degrees on average. What had been warm enough to make Carol think about turning on the AC during the day (we didn't) became cool enough to make me think about turning the heat on at night (we didn't). But the cold weather clothing that had worked its way to the bottom of the pile after leaving Brunswick was pulled out again; the wool blanket that had been stored was opened up, at least on my side of the bed. For all that, the night time temperatures did not go below 57 degrees, which is at least 50 degrees warmer than at the house. So, no complaints here.

The weather window to head out looked like it would last about 36 hours so we took it. The plan was complicated by the New Year weekend. The Immigration & Customs offices were open on Friday but probably not over the weekend. I'm not sure what we would have done had we arrived later.

So, we left at 1300 for the fuel dock where we took on fuel and then headed down the waterway for the channel. The auto pilot had been acting weird on the way down and the problem was that the nut which holds the helm onto its axle had loosened. An easy fix with a crescent wrench. When we left the fuel dock I noticed that the nut was again loose, so out comes the wrench and we're working on the wheel while trying to steer in traffic. Not a problem, just another form of boat owner multitasking.

When we turned the corner to enter the channel we noticed some tug boats working a big container vessel but is was not apparent, to us anyway, what the vessel was doing. As luck would have it, the ship exited the channel right behind us. Love the new motor; we revved it up and were able to stay ahead, just barely, of the ship which was being followed by another of similar size. The wide channel seemed very small with these guys crawling up our stern.

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I guess that this set the tone for the crossing ... no empty ocean for this trip; it was all huge ships and our little piece of fiberglass. After the sun went down, things got fairly interesting. We were, after all, crossing a major north/south shipping lane in the Florida Straights and then entering another one: the Northwest Channel.

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Our radar has a plotting program that, generally, works OK. But it does goofy stuff some times having a contact heading north one minute and west the next. When the ship is probably within 3 miles it seems to settle down but it can be confusing until it does. And, all boats are required to carry specific navigation lights. But until the get closer it can be impossible to read them which I can do very well. Forget about being able to sort out green from red from white lights. Until the boats are close enough to collide, they all look the same. And cruise ships? It's like Where's Waldo trying to pick out the two or three lights that might appertain to navigation from the hundred others that are lit.

In the early evening there was a large bulk carrier headed for us. And, after some maneuvering, it passed fairly close astern, maybe 0.8 miles ... too close. Anyway, it was dramatically silhouetted against the glowing Florida horizon and the dark shape looked malevolent, like a Darth Vader death boat. Way cool or, maybe, I was just tired.

On that same watch I noticed two parallel light patterns on the water. I was sure that it was too soon to be hallucinating from lack of sleep. So I checked it out ... there was an airplane flying overhead, probably quite low, and the strobe lights on the wing tips were bright enough for their reflection to be seen on the water.

Later, when Carol turned over the watch to me at 0300 she said that there was a cruise liner ahead and that it was probably stopped, presumably waiting for daylight to enter Freeport harbor. I had to decide which way to go around this ship since it was between us and where we wanted to go. For the life of me, with all of their lights on, I could not decide which end of that boat was the pointy one. Choosing one, and having a 50% chance of being right, I moved. When I was later able to get a better look I found I had exercised the 50% wrong option and cut across the bow. Not good, but no danger as it was not moving.

The real fun came about an hour later. I had been tracking a boat for about an hour and it was getting closer and closer. My radar program plotted that we were going to collide. When we were about two miles apart the liner hailed me; the guy must have been ETL, i.e. English as Third Language. It's hard enough understanding any conversation over the VHF let alone with this handicap. My handicap was that my hearing aids were not in. He told me that his radar also plotted a very close CPA (closest point of approach), a code phrase for collision, and he asked me to turn south until we cleared. I was very glad to do this because our radar was not sure of his course and I did not know which direction would get me out of his way. All ended well and it was good to have learned that our boat and the radar reflector we use are visible to others. I had worried about that.

There was a nice sunrise -- aren't they all -- which looked like this in stages.

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We docked at 0830 on Friday, 12/30/11. Carol is nice; I am not. Carol is patient; I am not. Carol can handle bureaucrats with equanimity.; I handle them like Attila the Hun handled losing opponents: off with their heads. So, the sane decision was for Carol to treat with the people in Customs while I secured the boat, which we did. The outcome is that we were not permanently banned from the Bahamas for my ill behavior.

While Carol was doing the Immigration & Customs stuff I saw a wake go by our stern, but with no noise. After the second time I looked to see this small radio controlled boat speeding behind us at very high speeds, maybe 20~30 MPH, and kicking up a large rooster tail. It is, probably, about 18-in. long. This looked like it would be a lot of fun to do for maybe fifteen minutes; after that, not so much. What's cool to consider is relative speed, in this case: how long does it take for a boat to cover its overall length? By this standard, the little blue guy may be the fastest thing on the water.

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Carol picked this marina based on someone's advice, but I am not sure whose that would have been. It will be OK, but we are literally about 50 feet from a tourist shopping arcade complete with live music, the limbo and more bars than I can count. New Years eve may be a challenge.

We cannot use our stateside cell phones ... Verizon kills their customers with out of area charges. So we went to a store to get our unlocked cell phone reactivated by BaTelCo (the Bahamas Telephone Company). Since the place was several miles away we took a cab. It should not have been a surprise, but after Nassau and Bimini it was: if you missed a clue or two, you would have bet serious money that you were somewhere in south Florida. The architecture, the trees and bushes, the stores, everything is the same. The lot sizes and building spacing is very like stateside because this is quite a large island with lots of space, much different than Nassau and Bimini. And why should things not look he same? Freeport is only about 50 miles east of Palm Beach. The only thing that I saw really different? The cars are all american made, having the steering column of the left side of the car. But in deference to HRH Elizabeth II and the British Empire, they drive in the left hand lane.

Carol wants to go out to dinner this evening; she has become very creative in serving up reasons not to cook. Nothing wrong with that; it's just an interesting litany to which to listen. The nominal reason tonight: cracked conch which she likes for food and I like for bait. I, of course, am 100% right about this.

Strange things happen on the boat -- a black hole that claims wallets and boots -- Carol tossing out some of her clothing and stuff from the galley. We have had just about every variety of fly on board, many varieties of birds on board but never, that we can remember, have we had an invasion of Hymenoptera, in this case bees. Very strange! The first one arrived before we even hit the channel. When we docked there were even more. They look about like common honey bees and, while seemingly aggressive, they have not yet stung either of us. Carol, who has a Buddhist like respect for life, offered the well intentioned solution of opening more of the cockpit panels so they could escape. This, like almost all good intentions, produced the opposite outcome of letting more of them in -- lots more. My solution? Kill'em all, which we mostly did with a fly swatter. I cannot imagine what attracted them to our boat, but the attraction was ineluctable but, hopefully, not enduring.

This is, of course, Carol next to bougainvillea, a picture I put in the blog every year in the hope that repetition will help me remember how to spell this french fried word. Hasn't worked yet but there is always hope.

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We have seen lots of bougainvillea on our several trips south. In one garden through which we walked we saw our first frangipani tree in the islands and the first I have seen since my last trip to Singapore close to twenty years ago.

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This is our marina. It is actually something of a dump by stateside standards having the worst, dirtiest bath and shower facilities that we have seen ... anywhere. Our boat is somewhere in that mess which got even more crowded today as a half dozen more boats arrived. Ours is like the red headed step child amid all of these other craft. We are shorter by at least 15-ft. than any other boat here. And, ask us if we care. Not!!!

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We are actually in Lucaya, a city adjacent to but separate from Freeport. Freeport seems to have the business end of things and Lucaya is pretty much tourist oriented with hotels and condos. I am not too sure why people would want to stay here although visiting is great. The only activities seem to be: drinking, eating, fishing, gambling, sunbathing and not being cold. The not being cold part is easy to grasp but there are still 24 hours in a day that must be filled with some activity. Of course, with beaches like this maybe activity in pointless.

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There is an old(?) lighthouse that guards Bell Channel, through which we passed to get to the marina. It has been cleverly incorporated into a hotel building. We did not get to see the inside but we were curious as to whether it was accessible from the hotel's interior.

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We intend to go south when the weather will permit; Thursday, 01/05 looks like the earliest chance. Until then we will be hanging out. The new engine just hit 150 hours so we'll do a day of boat and engine maintenance which will include stuff like --- changing the oil.

Posted by sailziveli 18:43 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beaches boating Comments (0)

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