Cambridge cay, waiting for weather
Tuesday (3/25/14) morning we woke up to rain. Later in the morning the rain stops, but the day continues to be windy and overcast. Too rough for snorkeling outside our protected harbor. We washed the boat screens and was amazed how dirty they had gotten. Once they dried, I sprayed them with a product I picked up in Vero Beach called “Sho Fly” that is supposed to prevent “no-see'ums” from going through the screens for up to 6 weeks. No-see'ums seem to like Linda best. I guess they bite me, but I am too dense to feel them or too grubby to notice. On Linda they leave small painful welts.
In the afternoon we go for a hike on Cambridge Cay. We are planning to sail northeast to Eleuthera, but the wind is coming from that direction, over 20 knots, making for pretty rough seas on the nose. Since it is a fairly long passage we decide to wait for better weather.
|Cambridge Cay Atlantic side|
Wednesday, weather still sucks. Even though it is 77 degrees 15-20 knot winds can make it rather cool if you are in the wind long enough. We work on boat projects and hang out on the boat most the day. Dan and Dawn come over for movie night. We watched the “Garden of Good and Evil” which I picked up after we toured Savanna back in November, thinking some day we would have an opportune time to watch it. Fun seeing the locations we saw live.
Thursday, this day sucks even more. A very large Trawler comes into the mooring field and is having trouble hooking the mooring lines because their bow is very high off the water. Dan heads over in his dinghy to help hand up the mooring lines to them and I assist. I swing behind the trawler and notice the home port on the stern is Shelburne, Vermont. This boat is huge, not quite a mega-yacht, but a little larger and it would need a paid crew. If this boat was ever on Lake Champlain I would of remembered it. Besides the bridge on the trawler is too high to fit under any bridges over the Champlain Canal. After chatting with them, I find that the couple that owns the boat bought it at and motored it from Fort Lauderdale and this is a maiden voyage, with another couple who are their guests.
I get a chuckle from every boat we see with a home port like, Golden CO, Bloomfield CO, Denver CO, etc. on the stern. I think home ports on the stern of a boat should be were the boat normally resides, not the owner. When I do get the chance I always ask the owners when was the last time the boat was in Bloomfield, Colorado, etc.?
Friday morning listening to Chris Parker (the weather guy on the short wave radio) we find the weather is going to suck even more, forecast 35-40 knot gusts and large swells. Going a little stir-crazy we hike over to the ocean side of Cambridge with soda and snacks and hang out for the afternoon. Fun looking for and watching blow holes shoot small geysers up through the porous limestone rock. The waves are quite impressive, glad we are not out there.
The Saturday forecast looks like we will have a one day moderation before thunderstorms move in, in the evening. Winds are shifting to the southeast, for a good sail. Otherwise we will have to wait another 3 days for settled conditions.
Eleuthera, Rock Harbor
Saturday morning our window is still looking good, swells bigger than I would care for, but will moderate as we get closer to Eleuthera, we leave at 9:00 AM and Gertie follows. We leave the north cut to the open water and we are doing almost 9 knots. I think we are going to make great time getting to Rock Sound, Eleuthera, before it dawns on me that we are getting flushed out the cut on an ebbing tide. A little further and we settle down to about 6 knots, still respectable, but closer to the planned crossing speed. Once we get within range of a cell tower I email Sandy on Hot Chocolate that we are heading into Rock Harbor in a couple hours. They had sailed up a few days ago from Cat Island.
We go ashore to check out the large grocery store, larger than the one at George Town, before they close and buy a number of items. Sunday nothing is open in most of the Bahamas. I note that they have lots of ice cream in an open cooler usually used for frozen meat. It is all soft. I am coming to the conclusion that stores have ice cream for us North Americans and much of the local population of African descent are lactose intolerant and have no interest in ice cream. That's my theory, anyways, for all the “soft serve” ice cream in warm coolers.
We went out to dinner at Sammy's, a nice local Bahamian restaurant, with more locals than sailors. Rock Sound has a nice local feel to it, very friendly people, people of European descent in the minority. Can't walk very far without someone offering you a ride in the car. Very friendly people. Unfortunately the water front docks are in sad shape from recent hurricanes. Rock Sounds is a little rundown. It's heyday was back in the 1950's when three wealthy tycoons wintered in South Eleuthera and brought an economic boom.
“Arthur Vining Davis entertained such guests as Aristotle Onassis, Yul Brynner and Arnold Palmer at his Rock Sound Club home. As president of Pan American Airlines, Juan Trippe transformed the island into a place where the rich and famous of North America and Europe came to play. The third entrepreneur Austin Levy, developed the Hatch Bay Dairy Plantation”. The plantation is long gone, but the silos are still there. I guess he didn't know the natives were lactose intolerant.
Sunday is Chris Parker's day off from forecasting, so I sleep in. Later we meet Gertie and Hot Chocolate at Sammy's for breakfast. After we walk over to “Ocean Hole Park”, a blue hole about a quarter mile in land from the ocean. It is a salt water “pond”, 600 feet deep. It looks like an old quarry, that they stopped pumping the water out of. Lots of saltwater fish that have found their way in through caves to the ocean or the locals tossed their parents in. It is a popular swimming hole for local kids and tourists. A few years ago some local joker tossed in a live shark for a prank. The local police confined him to the Park until he removed the shark.
|Ocean Hole Park|
We were resting in the shade of the pavilion next to the hole when a bus load of very white, white guys pulls up. Not your usual vacationers. Turns out they are a church group from some where in the southern US, here for a week to do construction work on the church that they sponsor. I guess all the women folk have to stay home, I don't think they are the “Young Gay Men Christian Organization”. Anyways, a nice friendly group. It would be nice if they would come down and work on infrastructure important to the local economy, like docks and not a place to gather for a weekly book review.
One of the reasons for the run down look of the town is the large number of vacant homes, many vacant for 10, 20 or 30 years and beyond repair. The owners of the sites have moved on years ago to Nassau or elsewhere. Without property taxes they have little motivation to sell or desire to come back. I assume the properties are hard to sell. It would greatly improve the town to either remove them or fix them up as rental properties. Some of them could make very nice vacation rental properties.
Monday is laundry day, Linda, Dawn and I head to the local laundromat. I leave them there and head off to do my chores, get more water and install a new fuel gauge. Later, I go back with the folding cart to take back the clean clothes and find them about a block from the laundromat struggling to carry their loads. I put ours and some of Dawns on our cart and then we head to Sammy's for lunch. Did I tell you we really liked Sammy's, but you probably figured that out by now. I wonder if we should of gotten the “meal plan” ? We stop by “Destiny”, an Endeavour 40 from Cape Cod. Bess, who Linda met at the Laundromat had some stuff called Rust Off. We have been getting rust marks on some of our clothes that we have been hanging on our life lines and our usually magic cleaner, Oxy-Clean has not been very effective. This is not a problem on Lake Champlain, but Stainless Steel is not quite so stainless on saltwater. Later, Linda is very happy to find “Rust Off” works great.
|Ladies in waiting at Governors Harbor|
Tuesday (April 1st) we leave by 7:00 AM and head north to Governors Harbor, with Gertie and Hot Chocolate. We are anchored by 10:30 AM and we head in for lunch at the Buccaneer Club.
Nice outdoor deck and we take a table under a large tree, as we are the only ones there. They have chicken on the menu and they also have them live, walking around the deck. Maybe it is like a fine seafood restaurant where you pick your lobster out of the tank. Here you just chase down your chicken. After our late lunch we walk up hill to the middle of the island, which is only about a mile wide at this point. We walked through town and checked out some of the stores.
The island of Eleuthera is about 120 miles long and generally not much more than a mile or two wide. At one place, called the “Glass Window” it is just 30 feet wide and there is a bridge crossing over it. During one particular storm the bridge actually got moved about 5 feet to the west. I think it is just a single lane bridge, now.
|Buccaneer Club, breakfast|
Thursday we had a nice sail to Spanish Wells. Sailed all the way, the last leg under full sail, near maximum hull speed.
We went for a walk in the evening to find a
place for dinner. We struck out this time and found a place that
truly sucked. Spanish Wells is settled by Europeans and one thing we
learned tonight, don't get traditional Bahamian food made by white
|On a run to Spanish Wells|
|Harbor Spanish Wells|
|Bill and Dan|
|Happy Hour with Jean and Tom Goldson|
Later that afternoon we go to the cottage, winter home of Jean and Tom, ex-cruisers that Bill had met a few years ago last time he sailed through Spanish Wells. We have a fun afternoon chatting with them before we head to the “Boatyard”, a new restaurant in Spanish Wells.
|Sunset at the Shipyard|
There are not many restaurants on Spanish Wells, and none in the league of this one. We had very good dinners and meet up with a whole bunch of other cruisers we have seen in recent weeks.
|Shipyard parking lot|
|One car ferry to Eleuthera, run by an Amish gentleman|
|Saturday evening dining spot|
Spanish Wells owes it's wealth to Red Lobster. If you get a lobster tail at Red Lobster (not sure why a New England-er would) it probably came through Spanish Wells. They have seafood processing plants and do all the packaging here. Right now they are in the off season so most of the boats are in port getting ready for the next season. The way they catch lobsters or crayfish, as they correctly call them, is they make habitats using corrugated metal sheets, kind of like dog houses that the lobsters can crawl under for protection. They build these on the boats and place them in the off season and come back to them during lobstering season, with the help of their GPS's. Prior to GPS they had to gather lobsters one at a time, spear fishing. While we were there many of the fishing boats were loading up the raw materials to build these habitats out on the Banks. They go quite some distance and may be out for months at a time from September to March. Bahamian law allows any Bahamian to take lobsters from these habitats, in season, if they can find them.
With the development of GPS and Red Lobster they have become a rather wealthy community. They even have their own reality TV show, “Bahama Lobster Pirates” on the sportsmen channel. They have to contend with a lot of off season non-Bahamian poachers stealing from their habitats that they place on the bottom. Not, to mention the legal Bahamian “poachers” during the regular season.
As we leave from our dinner we met Sandi & Isabella driving by in their golf cart coming back from dinner at the “Shipyard”. They pull over and get out and we had another laugh fill gathering with them.
|Sandy, Happy Fisherwoman|
|Mahi Mahi dinner on Manana|
Tuesday morning (4/8/14) we leave early for Hope Town. Hoping to get a mooring. Bad weather is forecasted for the next few days and the harbor will be full. A couple other boats, anchored near us, are heading to Hope Town also. Dan quietly comes over early in the dinghy and says we should beat the rest of them out of here, not wanting to tip them off on the public broadcasting system, the VHF.
We wind up leaving about the same time. One boat, a Catalina 47, immediately runs aground on the one shallow spot in the anchorage, they will be there for a couple hours until the rising tide lifts them off. Good, one down. Gertie is in the lead. There are two boats between us and Gertie. Hot Chocolate gets a late start taking up the rear. We have pretty good wind so we motor sail. The boats in front of us all take the deeper water route around Lubbers Sand Spit into Hope Town I decided to take the shallower route and save about 4 miles. The lowest point on the chart is 4.6 at low water. We are at mid-tide, so should be no problem as longer as I pay attention to our route. Anyways we beat them all into Hope Town. We grab one of the few remaining moorings and then scout out another for Gertie. Once Gertie gets in we put one of our dinghies on a third for Hot Chocolate. The other couple boats come in and take the last of the moorings further up the creek in the harbor. Hot Chocolate is happy when they arrive.
Hope Town is very picturesque, kind of like a small Cape Cod town with palm trees. Very colorful pastel cottages, with gingerbread eaves, well landscaped with picketed fences through out the town. It's a short walk over to the Atlantic side from the harbor side. Narrow concrete roads more like wide sidewalks for golf carts and bikes. The small harbor holds about 70 boats, moorings only. There are a couple marinas with dockage. At the Harbor Inn we run into “Spindrift” who we last shared a dock with back near Moorehead City. We have only heard them on the VHF further south on the ICW. They have been on the dock here for a month. They had rented storage space to clean out their boat to have guests stay with them, interesting idea. Certainly a nice place to park for a month. Only downside is a lot of growth on the bottom of their boat, which Bob is planning on removing before they leave and start their trip back to Massachusetts. They have also met our fellow Vermonters, on “Luna” who are halfway back to Vermont, by now. Hot Chocolate, Gertie and us, dinghy over to Captain Jacks on the water for lunch.
|Dan,Linda,Dawn,Nile,Sandy & Bill|
|View from Lighthouse|
Linda and I rent bikes for 24 hours and bike to the south end of the island one afternoon and stop at Happy Hour at Sip-Sip for $2.50 Heinekens. The next morning we bike to the northern end, a much shorter ride with Dan on his folding bike. That afternoon we go to a pot-luck with a number of boats that we have been traveling with off and on, Country Dancer, Alice Mae, Milla-Vision (Quebec City, further trip home than us), Gertie, Hot Chocolate and Manana.
|Hope Town Harbor|
In the afternoon we walk through town to the Atlantic side. We stop by the town ball field to watch kids playing softball. Not quite enough kids for nine players on each team and an adult is doing the pitching. With only 300 homes they have a limited pool of youthful players so the ages range from 8 to 16. The girls are bigger than most the boys. Since the field is right on the ocean, a left field fly ball maybe heading into the ocean.
|Now these are Banker's Hours|
Saturday, Linda and I walk to the north end of the island. At one section, the island is only a road width wide, where you can see the rough Atlantic and the calm Bay side in one glance. The road goes over an ancient coral bed with a little cement for the road surface. I assume this road becomes impassable during storms or at least becomes a salt water car wash. We meet back a Dock n' Dine for lunch with everyone and then we walk over to Island Treats, a real ice cream parlor, for dessert.
Sunday everything is closed, except the churches and the fuel dock until 1 PM. So I fully fuel up the boat and fill the water tanks schlepping containers back and forth in the dinghy. Quiet day, we dinghy around part of the island in the afternoon and have Gertie and Hot Chocolate over for popcorn and a movie after dinner.
Monday we head north about 5 miles to Fowl Cay, a preserve with lots of reefs that have excellent snorkeling and diving. A little more wind than we need, so we are are rocking pretty good at the exposed anchorage behind Fowl Cay. Gertie decides to join us and Hot Chocolate heads north to Green Turtle Cay. We pick up Dan and Dawn and dinghy over to Fowl Cay and land on the small beach. After the normal shell searching we get back into the dinghy and motor around to the east side of Fowl Cay where the reefs are.
The dinghy mooring that we saw from Fowl Cay, that was empty now has a large open rental boat on it. Normally, it is easy to share a mooring with multiple boats when snorkeling. Unfortunately the clown who rented it with his family has tied the mooring line to the stern of the boat. Let me correct that, he has put the loop on the mooring line over the cleat on the rear. I am not sure he is capable of actually tying a line. Anyways this open power boat with a very low transom, for the outboard, is facing stern into the wind and waves, and is taking water over the transom into the boat. We do share the mooring with him, but it is awkward. I assume being a rental boat, it has lots of internal floatation to save the owners investment from neophyte boat renters. I am visualizing this thing sinking and pulling our dinghy down with it and our outboard sticking up in the air like a duck feeding off the bottom. Unfortunately the water is quite stirred up and visibility is not very good. We try one more site further out, but visibility is similar. Lots of fish and interest reefs, on a settled day I could stay here until I reached hypothermia.
After a late lunch back on the boat we sail up to Great Guana and grab moorings. We walked over to the Atlantic side to “the world famous Nippers Bar and Grill” beach bar and the privilege of buying a $6.00 beer. We are not impressed. We head back and have dinner on the boat after stopping by Grabbers Bar and Grill on the Bay side, much nicer place to chill than Nippers, but still $6.00 beers.
Tuesday (4/15/14) we are out early on our way to Green Turtle Cay. Half way there, we have to go through the “Whale”. Whale Cay passage forces non-shoal draft boats out on the ocean when traveling north or south in the mid-Abacos. Unfavorable weather here and the “Rage” makes it impassable. High seas, northeasters and distant Atlantic storms create large swells that create dangerous conditions as the water piles up on the shallow shoals. Most of the charter companies will not allow deep draft sailboats to pass through here. Catamarans can pass on the shallow bayside, so we only see Moorings sail and power cats here at Green Turtle Cay. For us, today, the conditions are rather benign and passing through the Whale is a non-event. We are anchored in White Harbor at Green Turtle by 11:00 AM. We dinghy to the south end of Green Turtle Cay to the town of New Plymouth another picturesque town with golf cart wide concrete streets, with pastel homes and stores. Lots of small restaurants and bars, ah! so many interesting eateries and so little time.
|New Plymouth, local ferry|
We are planning on staying in the harbor for a few days because of squalls and thunderstorms forecast over the next few days. Those damn Lows coming off the US. Don't they know winter is over! Stop sending that crap over here. Time for spring and the easterly trade winds. Since we have been down here we have been getting a new Low weekly. The wind starts from the east clocks south, then west then north. When it moves on, the winds are back out of the east for a day or two, before the cycle starts again.
This evening a chartered Moorings power Catamaran comes into the harbor and “anchors” right in front of us. Obviously they are clueless about anchoring. Lowering the anchor with 10 feet of chain in 10 feet of water is not going to work too well. If they were by themselves it would be only their problem, but in this anchorage with potential squalls in the forecast the problem is everyones. They can drag and damage our ride home, their ride is safe at the airport. Boats of knowledgeable sailors frequently drag in this harbor under squall conditions because of the poor holding characteristics of this harbor bottom. They winch up the anchor and motor around trying to figure out what to do as it is getting dark. I ride over in the dinghy and point out an empty mooring that is available for $20 a night which is getting harder to see in the dimming light. Damn, they are French Canadians (“not that there is anything wrong with that”) who do not speak English very well. The woman on the bow says they want to anchor and don't want to pay $20 for the mooring. $3000 weekly charter, plus airfare and they are concerned about $20 f**king dollars for a good nights sleep! I go talk with a couple neighboring boats, and then head back to the power cat after they still have not made any progress in anchoring and it is now getting dark. They must of discussed the situation amongst themselves and now agree the mooring is a good idea, when I go back to them to insist they need to take the mooring. I tell them I will motor over and hand the mooring lines up to them when they approach the mooring. At the same time I get re-enforcements, Bill and Dan motor over. Bill yells up to them that “they have to take the mooring because they are endangering everyone else in the anchorage”. We finally get them safely situated. We have to tell them how to cleat off the mooring lines. Arg ! Charter boat qualifications, at the Moorings, is apparently only a VISA card in good standing. Fortunately the potential squalls do not materialize.
Wednesday Linda and Dawn head into Green Turtle Marina to do laundry and they later go shelling along the beach. Dan and I follow them, but wind up at another beach. As I step on the beach, the first thing I spy is a “Sea Bean”. What is a “Sea Bean”. “Sea Beans” and “Hamburgers” are seeds from trees on the west coast of Africa and elsewhere that have floated across the Atlantic. A “Sea Bean” is a flat round or heart shaped seed about two inches in diameter. They are impervious to salt water, even after years floating in the ocean. I thought someone was pulling my leg, but Google confirmed it.
That evening we all go to Green Turtle Cay Club for dinner, very good dinner. They have a band playing after dinner which we get to enjoy back on our boats.
In the morning we head to Plymouth for breakfast and a hike to some beaches on the southern side of the island. Before we leave we do some food shopping. I buy two pounds of frozen conch. Back at the anchorage a Mooring sailing Catamaran is circling around trying to figure out how to anchor. I dinghy over and inform them about the moorings available for rent. They like the idea and again I grab the mooring lines and hand them up to them. They are from California. We all get another comfortable nights sleep.