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Atlantic City, NJ

sunny 92 °F

They came by boats into the Great Salt Pond; they came by ferries into the Old Harbor. Regardless, they came. Too many people .... an area much, much smaller than the township of Spring Creek had more people standing in line for restaurants and bars than there are in all of Madison County, NC. And it was hot, the warmest for that day on record. The Great Salt Pond was crowded with boats at anchor, not enough room to let out proper scope or to swing safely with the wind and tide. As much as we wanted to see the island, we had waited too long, the island was overrun. The time to have visited was in June like we did with Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

It was good to be quit with that place. At 0513 on Tuesday, there was light enough to see, barely, and we were underway for Atlantic City. The prevailing wind at this latitude at this time of year is from the SW, the exact direction we were headed. Normally this would have made for a long, not very pleasant slog into headwinds and waves. The other reason to leave was a brief window with winds from the N/NNE, not a lot of wind, and it was forecast to deform and diminish overnight. In the event, the wind held for more than 24 hours and provided an extra boost along the way. We motor sailed and made very good time, far better than expected, hitting the channel into Atlantic City before the marina opened at 0800.

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The weather was absolutely perfect, the wind helpful, the skies clear but a little hazy, the seas had a gentle swell, giving the boat a comfortable rolling motion so that we knew we were at sea. So what could spoil such an ideal passage? It's been five years since we have cruised in July or August and some things get forgotten. Block Island's parting gift for the trip was a cast of stowaways: most of the black flies that had been on the island hopped aboard the Ziveli in anticipation of a dinner cruise .... and Carol and I were the dinner. It was an insect version of Tora, Tora, Tora as wave after wave flew into, then attacked us in the cockpit. Kill some, others were waiting around outside to take their places. They weren't huge, except for the part that bites which was very large, indeed, able to cut through t-shirts. The fly swatters were busy but I seem to be losing some hand/eye coordination because I was a lot less than lethal, my SpK (swats per kill) ratio being unacceptably much higher than a perfect 1.0. As the bug body count mounted and so did the mess on the sole of the cockpit. This bodes ill for the four days that we will spend on the ICW, from Norfolk to Morehead City, to avoid Cape Hatteras.

Long Island passed below the horizon about noon. Not too much later we were south of Moriches Inlet, passing close by the location where TWA 800 fell from the sky, in pieces, one day early for the event anniversary on July 17th. It's closing in on twenty years, now, since that tragedy in 1996. It seems more recent than that. Too many disasters have created milestones which mark the passages of our lives.

Carol had remarked that we hadn't seen any porpoises since we arrived in Montauk. A little after lunch we saw our first ones, maybe five or six. For the five years and fifty weeks that we have owned the boat I have been trying to take a picture of any porpoise, any time, anywhere but these guys are way quick and all I have to show for my efforts are many porpoiseless pictures of ripples, splashes and empty water. In the evening a gam/pod/school swept by the boat, at least 50, probably more. A smaller group broke off and buzzed the boat which was way cool. I know it's sentimentally anthropomorphic, but they just seem so exuberant and playful, showing off just because they can. They also seem to define fluidity and grace in the water. Of course, if I were a 6-in. fish lower down the food chain my opinion would probably be different. Patience and perseverance were, finally, rewarded: a photo "trophy" at the end of a long hunt.

Carol saw some sea turtles, which I missed, no pictures. This seems farther north that I would have thought that they ranged.

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That night the sun seemed to sink into the muck and mire of haze and smog over New York. While the EPA may decry the pollution, observers can appreciate the unintended consequences of absorbing all of the light spectrum except for red and orange. There was a half moon overhead when I started my 0300 watch, bright and high in the sky. As the moon passed to the west and got lower in the sky, it went from white, to yellow through red, each shade of color a little less bright than the last as the light passed through more and more of the atmosphere. Finally, it seemed not so much to have set as to have been extinguished, just disappearing from view, the dimming light finally fading to nothingness. It was much more beautiful than I can describe; I understand the science of the event but cannot relate the inherent poetry of what I saw. What we didn't see was the penumbra of light on the horizon that usually marks large cities. I expected to see a large halo of light and that we would just aim for the middle. It's a good thing that the GPS worked.

We waited around the channel entrance for a while for someone from the marina to respond and give us mooring instructions. It's a municipal marina so they took their time. We had been observing a dredge in the channel area for a while; when we started into the channel it seemed to occupy all of the space with dredging stuff spread from side to side. It was pretty easy to decide I didn't know what I should be doing or where I should be going; turned around and headed back out. Tried to hail the dredge on VHF 16 ... no response. Called TowBoat US and they told me to try VHF 13, which worked. Got some instructions and had at it. It's not an overly complicated channel but with dodging stuff it was interesting enough.

The passage was remarkably easy and pleasant, about as big a no-brainer as these things can be: mash an autopilot button once in awhile, adjust sail trim when you get bored. But it was hot and dehydration causes fatigue. Regardless, we were both exhausted when the boat was finally moored. As an act of mercy, the first order of business was to hook up shore power and get the AC going. It was 94o when we arrived and Carol was in the full Nordic Princess mode, melting faster than Greenland's glaciers. No surprise there; she wears SPF one kajillion clothing that has the absorbency and comfort of Saran wrap; she lathers herself in sunscreen that, in a cooking emergency, could substitute for a can of Crisco, then goes into the hot weather and cooks herself like the chinese prepare beggar's chicken.

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The large building with the sloped top is interesting. From the front profile it looks huge; from the side it is only about two rooms wide, rather like a knife's blade, having a broad flat side and a thin, narrow edge. The first time I saw the side view I was unable to associate it with the front side until I saw the white dome on top.

Atlantic City's raison d'etre is simple: separate visitors from their money. This marina is no exception, being one of the most expensive in which we have stayed. Had I been able to guess that we would have made such good time, 6.4 knots vs. my "aggressive" estimate of 5.5 knots, I would have opted to head directly for Cape May which would have been easily doable at that speed. Since we're here, we'll spend a day looking around, if for no other reason than to convince ourselves that we don't want to stay any longer than that. In truth, we were both so worn out the next morning that getting underway would have been out of the question. It will be interesting to see how we hold up because we have four more night passages planned before reaching Brunswick.

From a distance, on the water, the city looked nice enough. When we started through the channel into the city, it got a lot rougher. Not much of the old Atlantic City remains; it has mostly been torn down, paved over and built up. There is not much grace or charm, even less of beauty here, I think, all three sacrificed to make the machine. There are some condos, townhouses and private residences in town. I can no more understand wanting to live here than these residents could understand wanting to live in Spring Creek. That divide is so alien as to be uncrossable.

We both did a little work each day but nothing very strenuous or tiring; it was just too hot and will remain so through the weekend. We are off tomorrow for Cape May, again and plan to stay there for the weekend.

Posted by sailziveli 19:26 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises boats boating tourist_sites Comments (0)

Great Guana Cay

overcast 83 °F

We topped off fuel on Saturday, using 10-gal. The fuel dock was a good hike from our boat so Carol and I schlepped the two jerry cans there and got them filled. The man who filled the cans got a little "incensed" when we started to carry them back; he wanted to do that for us for no good reason other than to be nice! I don't know if there is a genetic trait for being nice but if there is it's deeply rooted in the DNA code of the Bahamians.

We saved topping off the water for Sunday morning before getting underway. There are some mistakes that require a specific sequence of steps that seem too improbable to happen ... ever, but always do. To wit, as I was filling the tanks, and taking longer than I thought it should, Carol called out that the head was flooded and was within 1/2-in. of spilling over the threshold into the main cabin. I had (1) left the shower faucet on/open the evening before and, (2) also left the water switch in the ON position when I checked the tank levels. We were pouring water into the head faster that I was putting it into the tanks. Full tilt stupid and almost an identical repeat of what happened at Dinner Key Marina on our first trip south! There the water was free; this time I estimate that there was $4.00 to $6.00 sloshing around in there. Due to the spill I don't have an accurate gauge on our actual consumption from Nassau to Staniel Cay. However, it must be running at less than 2-gal. per day and is probably closer to 1-gal. per day. Whatever the number may be on that spectrum with 110-gal. on board we are in good shape.

I woke up very early Sunday morning trying to figure out how we were going to get off the dock that morning. Not only was the wind an issue, pushing us onto the dock, a large boat was moored about 5-ft. from our stern. It was pretty wide, at least 15-ft. I knew that there was going to be a period that morning when the wind died and that was the target time to leave. Well, the water issue put paid to that plan; then a rain squall blew through. So we split the difference. While we waited the boat behind us left but the wind had picked up. Carol thinks that It Takes a Village to get anything done; I believe in self reliance. I'm the captain; we did it my way, but not easily and not well and with Carol, not quietly. We finally pushed the boat far enough from the dock be able to use the motor to get positive movement and everything went well after that.

The trip was less than 10 nm and did not take very long. We anchored, no problems; David was swimming in the area and checked our anchor set, said that it was good; I went out later to look for myself to see what "good" looks like so that I can evaluate in the future. Of the 5/6 boats closest to us, we know or have met the folks on five of them. It's a small cruising world.

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This morning we watched several boats get underway for Farmers Cay, including Debbie's boat, S/V Illusions. She, and one other boat, raised her mainsail prior to raising her anchor and sailed out of the anchorage. It looked pretty cool and we will, probably, try it tomorrow when we leave.

After I finished my WSJ and tea, I went below to find that Carol was tearing apart the front cabin, her closet/pantry/whatever, without any bidding from me. She had decided, quite on her own, that she wants to be able to use the shower in the head as a shower rather than as a storage locker, the impetus coming at Staniel Cay where she wanted a shower to wash her hair and, in her words, almost cried when told that they did not have guest showers at the marina. Back (1) to washing her hair in the sink and (2) cleaning, actually rearranging, the head. I like the idea, water usage not withstanding. It has always been rather like walking into a cave with stalactites and stalagmites surrounding me so less stuff in there will be nice.

Having left the dock at Staniel Cay, if not successfully, without any apparent damage to us or the dock, this morning I woke up worrying about wind and weather. While I lay in the cabin and listened to the wind whipping through the shrouds and rigging I guessed 20 knots. When I finally got up and turned on the wind instrument it was 19 knots, not too bad, and not enough wind to present a problem. I look at two weather forecasts that extend to two weeks, a functionally useless time frame since weather forecasts out past 48 hours tend to have a lot of room for change. Both of these forecasts have been predicting a period of heavy winds, 30~35 knots about 10/11 days in the future. As he forecasts update the high winds always stay out there at the 10/11 day window. This got me to thinking that, while they have been wrong about the timing, at some point that situation will happen. So, we now have a nine step plan, in two parts, that we can follow if we are at anchor and the winds get troublesome. Not much original, and a lot of advice from Mike S. on what he has done when the crunch came. It's reassuring to have this plan to follow rather than having to deal with the situation in an ad hoc manner under duress.

We thought that we had finished all of the hard cover books, many left at marinas along the way; this would amount to several thousand pages, one book having gone to 900 pages. Carol found several more that will go to the head of the reading list. We have started saving the books rather than leaving them so the we will have some "currency" to join the library in George Town when we arrive in the next week or so. We thought that we had all three of the Stieg Larsson books; but Carol, having finished the first two, is unable to find the third. But, she still has another wrapped "brick" of books to check. We are two months into the trip and the the supply looks about sufficient to the remaining duration, but it could be a close call. I am sure that we will be swapping out books which mean that running out should be a remote, but disastrous, possibility.

We had a short walkabout on the island. This is the first island on which we have been without any obvious commercial enterprise, usually a marina with attendant businesses. It appears that the only jobs here are small owned businesses, e.g. restaurants and stores, or the government enterprises, e.g. BaTelCo, Water and Sewer, Bahama Electric. It is a pleasant place, even more low key than others we have visited. This looked like a place that sees a lot of action on a Saturday night.

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These flowers took root in the crevices of the rocks, beauty finding a way.

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We have heard and read about a peculiar type of Bahamian racing sailboat called: C class boats. We finally got to see some here. These boats are called catboats, or some variation of that name, with the mast almost all the way forward and they look awesome; they have a sail to waterline/weight ratio that cannot compute ... very tall masts and booms longer than the boats themselves. We saw one in a yard and it was not surprising that they have very full, deep keels for boats their size. We may get to see some race at Farmers Cay.

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Ziveli, at anchor

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Coming back to the boat at noon we thought to get underway for the short trip to Farmers Cay. But the weather turned fairly ugly so that plan is in abeyance until the morning. This a good anchorage with good holding and decent protection from the east winds.

Posted by sailziveli 12:20 Archived in Bahamas Tagged boating bahamas tourist_sites 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)

Highbourne Cay

semi-overcast 77 °F

On Tuesday, after much anxious thought, I decided that our weather options were not working. We are at the extreme fringe of the XMWeather satellite coverage: the wifi antenna needs a fairly tight radius to work; there is Chris Parker SSB reception and sometimes not. So off to BaTelCo go Carol and I to get some sort of cell antenna for the laptop that will allow internet access. No such deal. But they did have 4G phones with a data plan that can also produce a wifi hot spot. Carol has been wanting a smart phone and has a birthday in not so long, her 66th for all who count these things. She is now the proud (and clueless) owner of a really sporty Samsung smart phone that we will use through the Bahamas and then will become hers when we return to the states. The only problem was: slower than slow download speeds when we had be promised 8Mgbs --- we were more than 100 times slower than that. So, rather than leave on Wednesday, as planned, there was another trip to BaTelCo to get an explanation. An arcane setting, one that I could not have known about but that the salesperson should; it's always so comfortable to be able to blame others for our own failings. An easy fix and things work fine. This also gave us a chance to refill an LP canister, not critical but nice to have done. A left handed benefit of this: much lower power consumption with the phone and iPad than with the laptop which won't get nearly as much usage.

In a way of thinking, the trip actually starts now. To date, on this trip, we have always had tethers to the shore: lines to secure us at marinas; electrical cords to power us at the dock. Now, we will start to sweat those not being at hand. Will the anchor drag? Almost certainly, at some point, yes! Will power consumption be an issue? A given with our refrigerator. Will I go nuts worrying about these? You betcha'.

As I was configuring things for the second anchor on the bow, I made a note to reread the section on anchoring in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, a practical reference we keep on board. There were, as expected, well illustrated and described maneuvers for setting two anchors; not a thing on how to recover two anchors. Maybe that's supposed to be common sense but it doesn't seem very common to me.

This got me to remembering our first and only time we tried to set two anchors, that being during our first trip south. It was in Awenda Creek, in SC, an experience I have not yet forgotten and was recounted in some blog entry during Nov/Dec 2008. Since that event we have covered several thousand miles and have accumulated three more (checkered) years of experience. It's hard to connect the dots between then and now. We have learned so much and have so much more confidence, if not in ourselves, then, at least, in our decision making. The simplest lesson seems to be this: Do not knowingly put ourselves in a situation we are not sure we can handle. Those situations will happen often enough without any extra help. But, the simple fact is that however much more we may now know, it's not enough and will never be. We started boating too old and too late in life to be able to develop the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would like to have.

So, when Thursday morning came we were way past ready to leave Nassau. Not, maybe, so ready to see if the nav plan to skip the Yellow Bank and to skirt the White Bank would work. Coral heads v. white sand seemed like an easy choice since the water depths were about the same, minus the height of the coral heads, of course, but it added several miles to the passage. But, Bruce & Dawn had done something similar so we weren't the first to jump off that edge.

We left the marina at 0715. There is an inconvenient shoal that guards marina row and we wanted the maximum water during the falling tide. No problems there, plenty of water if you mind your location. As we were leaving we finally got to see Fort Montagu, apparently undergoing some restoration or renovation. It's tiny, maybe bigger than our garage but probably not as big as our house. It's hard to appreciate the fort as an impregnable redoubt holding pirates and the Spanish at bay for a century or two.

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The non-Explorer Chart nav plan worked out great; we never had less than 13 feet of water and saw no coral heads which, of course, doesn't mean that they were not there. About an hour before we hit the anchorage a modest front blew through -- a band of clouds, one minute of not very much rain, an a wind shift from 270 to 010. We were anchored by 1430, putting out more than 100-ft. of chain, and we were only the fourth boat in the anchorage which seemed fine to us. At about 1630 the action got a little more intense, with about 10 more boats pulling in and doing so in a way that seemed a lot like amateur hour bumper cars... anchoring too close, anchoring in a way that could foul another boats anchor line. I thought about getting on the VHF to say something and finally decided that this is life in the Bahamas: mostly adults and a few figurative teenagers. In every anchorage there has to be a last boat in.

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That evening came some ugly news. The promised high speed internet does NOT work in the out islands; this was a question that I specifically asked. It does work at speed maybe 10% better than dial-up, so a problem but not a deal breaker. I downloaded Android apps for the WSJ and the Economist. The WSJ is a big change; two years ago I was reading, maybe, six square feet of news print, now eight square inches of OLED screen.

On Friday we went to SW Allens Cay, a separate blog entry.

On Saturday we went ashore on Highbourne Cay. It's a smallish island, maybe two miles long. The marina facility and its store are about as nice as any we have seen. We replaced my shredded reef walkers; who would thought to have found those here. We went down to the beach, less idyllic and much angrier with some weather coming through.

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We were concerned about the weather so we headed back to the boat, stopping only to appreciate that the Bahamas are a mindset as well as a place.

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After lunch we decided to reanchor the boat. The wind had shifted almost 180 and that could be bad for anchor holding. After we did this, several other boats made similar adjustments.

In the next day or two we hope to be able to move down to Warderick Wells Cay and get a mooring ball there for a few days. This cay is the center piece of the Exuma Park, more or less the Bahamas equivalent of Yellowstone.

Posted by sailziveli 14:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beach 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)

St. Augustine

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We're staying two nights here, Thursday and Friday, before heading south to Sebastian, FL. The trip into the marina on Thursday was a little too much excitement; 30/40 knot winds in a rain storm with a difficult cross current at the marina entrance. We made it safely in.

My boat handling skills must be improving; I think that I've improved from terrible to merely bad. I've backed into slips, parallel parked the boat and run marina mazes that would have defeated the average lab rat.

We spent the morning sightseeing in St. Augustine. The old fort is truly remarkable, having been built decades before Jamestown or Plymouth Rock. Carol___Ru..he_Fort.jpg. Its preservation is quite good despite 500 years of usage as an active fort and as an historic location. The side bar to the visit was that I bought my Golden Age pass to enter all national parks and sites for free. There aren't many benefits to being old, but the pass, and my first Social Security check this month, are two of them.

I guess that it is a sign of our slipping into the cruiser mentality that given a choice between exotic shopping in old St. Augustine and a trip to West Marine to get stuff to repair a dingy painter and to make a kellett, West Marine came first; then, of course, Walmart for groceries.

I was talking to our neighbor in this marina and some comment I made prompted him to say that in 16 years he had over 35,000 cruising miles. At this point in the trip, along with the visit to the Chesapeake this summer, we have over 1,000 cruising miles; certainly nothing to brag about, but at least the number has a comma.

Posted by sailziveli 12:29 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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