Saturday, April 19, 2014

Eleuthera and Abacos

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.
Cambridge Cay
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.
Tough sail to Governors Harbor
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.

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.

Governors Harbor Library

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
One item I wished we had, is a glass bottom see-through bucket to check our anchor set, without having to snorkel on it. Back in Rock Harbor at the hardware store I had bought a small sheet of Plexi-glass to make my own. That is my afternoon project. After the adhesive somewhat cured, I had to give it a try. Just in time too. I found our anchor chain had pulled under and old cement block, remains of some long lost mooring. If I had pulled up the anchor the normal way it would of jammed under the block. Forewarned, I drove the boat to the right in the morning to pull the chain out from under the block before trying to pull in the anchor chain. Next morning back to Buccaneers for breakfast. Stopped by the bakery, the tourism office and went to a real ice cream shop, very good.
Thursday we had a nice sail to Spanish Wells. Sailed all the way, the last leg under full sail, near maximum hull speed.
On a run to Spanish Wells

Harbor Spanish Wells
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 guys/gals.

Bill and Dan
The next day we all go for a walk around Spanish Wells. Walking down the beach Linda and I strike up a conversation with two Canadian women on vacation. They have rented a house on the beach. We all catch up and have fun talking with them. Sandi & Isabella are from Quebec and multilingual. They show us their beach house and insist that we take the golf cart and take a tour of the island (it is less than two miles long). We bring the cart back after an hour or so and head back to the boats.

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 (4/5/14) Hang out on the boat. Linda consolidates and eliminates two containers from the aft cabin, almost enough room back there now, for one guest. I get water and fuel and get ready to leave early the next day for a long passage to Abaco.

Saturday evening dining spot
That evening we have dinner on the front porch of a local fishing boat captain. He and his wife put on dinners every Saturday night serving on their front porch and lawn overlooking the harbor. Normally they have multiple seatings, but today was a local fair, which cut down on their business. We ordered our dinners in the morning and scheduled our seating time. We all got something different and it all was very good. The chef is part owner of a fishing (lobstering) boat and is the boats cook. They are out for weeks at a time and he says he has very little crew turnover from year to year. Now, we know why.
Manana at Spanish Wells
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
Sunday we leave at 6:50 AM for the Abaco's to get a jump on the 6:55AM sunrise. Once we cleared the reefs north of Spanish Wells and Eleuthera we had one long leg to the Sea of Abaco. Hot Chocolate and Gertie left about half an hour later. Their mission for the day was fishing in the open deep waters between Eleuthera and Abaco. Near perfect winds from the east and moderate swells made for a great sail. Lots of radio chatter about fish almost caught, but in the end Gertie and Hot Chocolate both catch a Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin fish). Being the non-fisherman/woman I offer to cook dinner tonight after Dan cleans them. We anchor at Lynyard Cay and everyone comes over to Manana for dinner and a game of dominoes.
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 street
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
The next morning is rather stormy. We all dinghy to the west side of the harbor to climb up the iconic red and white ringed Hope Town light house for a fabulous view of the harbor and beyond. The British built the lighthouse in the 1860's over the objections of the descendants of the British South Carolina loyalists who moved there in the 1700's. They vandalized the construction for years before it was finally completed. Reason being, salvaging shipwrecks supplemented their livelihoods from fishing and shipbuilding. They intentionally misled ships on to the reefs. What a bunch of schmucks !

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
 Friday morning we leave for Man-O-War Cay. Man-O-War Cay is another interesting island settled by British Loyalist from America who developed a ship building industry. Today they make small fiberglass boats and do boat repairs at a couple small shipyards. A small island, too small for cars, they only use golf carts to get around on narrow concrete streets. Even the local building supply company delivers to homes via their forklift truck. Beautiful, well landscaped homes, but not as colorful as those in Hope Town. Conservative islanders do not allow alcohol to be sold on the island. Almost as many churches per residents as Bimini. There are about 300 families on the island and another 130 or so vacation homes on the north end of the island away from the main town. We have lunch at the “Dock and Dine” over the Harbor. There are two very well stocked grocery stores on this island with a good variety of actually fresh vegetables.

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.
Bay left, Atlantic right at Man-O-War Cay
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.

Fowl Cay
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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

George Town and heading North

Raven being pulled of the sand
Later Saturday (3/8/14) we dinghy north to Monument Beach to go for a hike on Stocking Island to see the Monument and walk on the Atlantic side of the island. We stop by to see how “Raven” the Vagabond, 48 is doing. It is just after high tide and a large power boat has a tow rope attached to Raven and is attempting to pull Raven off the sand. Raven has sails up to heal it over to get the keel off the bottom. In about ten minutes they pull Raven free and she starts to sail south to the only marina in the Exumas with a travel lift capable of hauling it out of the water. All looks well as she slowly sails south. We tie up to the dinghy dock and go for our hike.

Climb up to the Monument

 From the top on Monument hill we get a fabulous view of the George Town Harbor and the Atlantic side of the island. 

View of anchorage off Stocking Island
We hike along the nearly deserted Atlantic beach, very different from the busy harbor side of the island.
Atlantic Beach
Happy Campers
Sunday morning is Chris Parker's (Cruisers weatherman on the shortwave radio) day off so I sleep in. Later in the day we stop by Sturdy Logic and pick up Mike. He takes us to a reef area that he remembered had fairly good snorkeling. We see some interesting fish, I try to chase a Ray to get pictures.

Later that day on the VHF we hear very sad news. When the marina went to pick up Raven on their travel lift one of the cables broke and dropped Raven, it is now a total loss. The owner is having a get together Monday at the “Peace and Plenty” Hotel, essentially a Boat Wake.

Monday morning our friends, Dan and Dawn, on Gertie left with about 70 other boats on a Regatta to Long Island. We later pull anchor to head out to the Atlantic for a holding tank pump out Regatta of one. There is a harbor pump out boat, but it has not been very reliable. It is suppose to run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We have yet to see it or raise it on the radio on the appropriate days. So naturally as we pull up the anchor the pump out boat comes into the anchorage. I decide to stick with a sure thing and head out for a cruise, since we have experienced many unreliable pump out boats over the last couple months.
Dinghy dock on "Lake Victoria" at George Town

In the afternoon we head into town to again visit BTC. The data that I had added to my plan has mysteriously disappeared over the last two days. I finally figure out it was Bill Gate's fault. I had tethered our Windows 8 PC to the internet via the cell phone to work on a couple things. I later find out that Windows 8 decided to automatically download an update without informing me or asking permission. When tethered to a cell phone hot spot Windows 8 thinks its a WIFI connection, and in that mode the default is not to ask for permission to download updates. Changed that quickly, to no updates without asking. Later I also find out our other devices are also talking behind my back, via Blue Tooth, and helping themselves to the cell phone hot spot. The bastards, you just can't trust your computers. I make sure Blue Tooth is off when I do not need it.

Rake and Scrape at Eddie's Edgewater
That night we go to Eddies Edge Water for Thursday night “Rake and Scrape” and to meet up with Mike. I found out I was clueless to what “Rake and Scrape” is. I though it was Bahamian Bar-B-Que with some music. It turns out it has nothing to do with food, it is all about the music. One of the instruments is an old fashion large hand saw that was raked and scraped with some other tool. Another unique instrument is a big inverted galvanized wash tub with a single bow string in the center. Anyways we are about the only ones there for dinner, the place is empty. Some of the band members start to show up one at a time. Once they get playing, an hour and half later, the place is packed. Lots of dancing to some very good music with a great beat. A bunch of local characters are having fun dancing with the Cruisers. Later when talking with Bill from “Hot Chocolate” who was at Eddies “Rake and Scrape” about two years ago, he ID's a number of the locals who are apparently Thursday night fixtures. “Hey, was the Micheal Jackson wannabe there”, as he goes down the list, of the, as we now know are Thursday night regulars.

The next day I work on the electronics on the wind gauge and install it back on the mast head. Seems to be working fine and I tighten the connector one more time before I head down the mast. One more check when I get down and I find it is not working, obviously a connector issue up on top.  Strangely, a couple days later it starts working.

In the afternoon we head to the “Boat Wake”, curious to hear the details of the whole story. We find out that on the original grounding the boat took on a couple feet of water that submerged the engine, rendering the engine inoperable. The rescuers had brought pumps and generators to keep it a float. The boat may already had been totaled before the final nail in the coffin (being dropped). Anyways BoatUS had an agent flown down to make good on their insurance claim. Since many of us insure through BoatUS, it was good to hear their quick resolution.

Dinner Host, Mike

Later we went over to “Sturdy Logic”, Mike had invited us to dinner. Pigged out on an excellent dinner of pasta and hot sausage, to quote Linda “Delicious”. Later when talking to Mike about “Raven”, he recounted his story of being hit by lightning just before the start of his current voyage over a year ago. BoatUS delayed payment for a month or two, delaying repairs and his departure from New York until late fall.
Wednesday I make our 3rd oil change for this trip. Change fuel and oil filters. Spend the evening playing Dominoes on “Hot Chocolate”, Bill and Sandy with “Gertie” Dan and Dawn.

Pretty good blow on Thursday, so we stay on the boat. Even with the waves it is fairly comfortable, not a lot of current in the harbor, so the bow is facing the wind and waves, not always a common occurrence. Current in a blow can make being at anchor very uncomfortable when the waves roll the boat from broad sides because the boat is not facing into the wind.

Next day is a little less windy and we head into town for lunch and to pick up some parts. On the way back heading into the wind we get soaked, but it is warm and in the low 80's, so we laugh all the way back like a couple drunken sailors.

Saturday (3/15/14) we hike back over to the Atlantic side of Stocking Island to walk along the beach to watch the considerable surf and observe a few blow holes.
Walk along the Atlantic side

 Meet Dan and Dawn at Volley Ball Beach to hear a lecture on Cat Island. That evening we all head to dinner on “Hot Chocolate”. We bring desert, Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate brownies. Bill is very happy, his boat is named “Hot Chocolate”, for a good reason, and it's nothing to do with sailing.

A couple weeks ago when we were first at Staniel Cay I had noticed some moisture in our Nikon Waterproof camera and quickly got it out of the water. After a couple days in our rice bag all was well, excess moisture was absorbed by the rice. After that I check the camera seal for hairs and dirt each time I closed it before taking it in the water. Then a couple weeks later I get complacent and toss the camera in my swim trunks before going snorkeling. Later I pull it out under water to find it will not even turn on. Once back on the sailboat I open the camera and find water in the bottom of the camera. Well, that's not good. I assume the camera is dead for good this time. I decide to washout the bottom 1/3 of the camera with fresh water. I let it air dry and put it back in the rice bag for a couple days. I assumed the camera is permanently dead this time, but nothing ventured nothing gained. We are now down to our old Cannon SureShot, which has a waterproof case. Our other non-waterproof Nikon Camera has software issues and has stopped functioning. The function I like the most with the Nikon's is the built in GPS. The pictures are tagged with GPS coordinates, and compass direction. Great to have the camera tell me where we took the photo, later when were can't remember.

Anyways, I put the Nikon Waterproof camera back together a few days later and voila ! It works just fine. The magic rice saves me again. Of course now I am very leery of taking it below the water surface. Even though the old Cannon camera does video it does not do High Definition video like the two Nikons.

Sunday morning we head into George Town to have breakfast at Peace and Plenty on the water, should of done this sooner. Great breakfast, fabulous view.

Peace and Plenty

Lousy WIFI though, so we walk by Eddies Edge water which is closed and find they are kind enough to leave on their WIFI, even though the are closed. Respectable download speeds for the Bahamas.

Monday morning we start our long trek north, back home, leaving with Gertie. We pull anchors and head north for Rudder Cut Cay.
View from the Cave

 A fairly isolated spot after two weeks at the busy George Town harbor. One of our goals was to snorkel on the “Mermaid and Piano” a full size piece of stainless steel art in about 15 feet of water in a small cove on Rudder Cut Cay. The sight is unmarked and the only information I have is the Latitude and Longitude coordinates. The next morning we find it, but the current is too swift to linger. Have to kick full speed to stay over it for a few seconds, too much current to dive on it. So much for my picture opportunity playing the stainless steel piano with the Mermaid.

With the fast current I think she was playing "Flight of the Bumblebee", or I sure felt that way kicking furiously trying to stay in place to get this picture.

The “Mermaid and Piano” was supposedly commissioned by David Copperfield the Magician who owns the island north of Rudder Cut, Musha Cay, which can be rented by the week. Something like $25,000 per day. From the best I can tell, he actually owns Rudder Cut also, which has been bought and sold a couple times in the last 20 years. They use the runway of Rudder Cut to get guests to Musha Cay. Rudder Cut is pretty much deserted. A few video cameras and no trespassing signs are scattered around. There is a dog who is occasionally seen running around, many people assume he is a guard dog. I think he is abandoned and seeks out people, but will not let them get real close, but seems to appreciate sailors giving him food. He does look to be in good shape.
Floating Island at Cave Cut Cay
Wednesday we all head north to Great Guana Cay a couple miles north of Little Farmers Cay. The goal is to hike to a cave on the island in the afternoon. The cave is very interesting, fortunately with a very large opening, since I forgot my flashlight. There is water in the cave which has some fairly extensive cave diving.
Fresh water pond in bottom of cave
Dawn and Linda at the entrance of cave
The next day on the way to Black Point, we stop by Jack's Cove for some snorkeling and shelling on a nice crescent beach on the west side of Guana Cay. The previous day we hiked to a similar beach on the east side (Atlantic) after we left the cave and found it extensively littered with plastic objects. Jack's cove was relatively clean of plastic garbage on the leeward side. As we got into Black Point, Chrisy and Roger, Sanderling, hailed us from the laundry on shore. We had not seem then since Titusville, Florida where they left their boat in mid-December to spend two months up north enjoying the snow and cold. That night we all got together for Happy Hour at Scorpios with Skip and Rita, “Kamouraska”, who we last saw at Vero Beach.

Scorpio's Happy Hour seated, Linda,Chrisy, Roger, Dan, Cathy, Kim and Dawn

 Reunion of our Chesapeake fleet, Roger & Chrisy (Sanderli), Dan & Dawn (Gertie) and Manana

Ida (owner) giving Roger a haircut at the Laundromat

 They had headed back north for a month or so for the birth of their first grandchild. Also with us at happy hour was, Kim and Cathy “Quiescence” from Toronto, who we all last saw in St Augustine. A fun reunion. Just as we were all getting ready to leave someone comes into Scorpios and says any one with a dinghy on the government dock better come and move it because the mail boat is coming in. Did not expect the mail boat to arrive after dark. There are a lot more dinghies on the dock since we came in and people are scrambling to move the dinghies before the mail boat uses them as fenders.

The next day we (or should I say Linda) got the laundry done early. The crowds from a month ago were gone, only half the number of boats are in the harbor. We meet up for lunch at Desmones. That night Quiescence and Gertie come over for ice cream I just picked up at the local store. Unfortunately, Bahamians are not really into ice cream. I think it is there only for unsuspecting cruisers like me. Their “freezers” must be only 30 degrees. 10 minutes later we are eating soft serve, even though I have an insulated cooler bag. I am bringing my temperature IR gauge to check the temperature of the ice cream before I buy, next time I get the urge.

The next day we do a short sail to Staniel Cay and anchor back near the Thunderball Grotto.
We hear an ad on channel 16 for ice cream at the store near the airport. I guess the Bahamians have a broad definition of “working channel” on the VHF. Dawn on Gertie hears the same announcement, so again we are on an ice cream quest. First we head into town for our first objective, a local festival for lunch. Linda and I share a steamed pork lunch, with Bahamian Mac and Cheese, potatoe salad, etc, excellent. Then we head out on our mission to get ice cream at the Isles General Store. We get there and a sign on the screen doors says closed until 3:00 PM. It turns out they are working at the Festival. Just as well, I had forgotten the temperature ice cream gauge on the boat. That night we get together on Sanderling with their son Eric and Janet, who had flown into Staniel Cay that morning for a week in the Exumas. Dan and Dawn we there also. Linda took her Texas Cavier (black bean, etc) appetizer and it was a hit, thanks to Joanne Payea for the recipe she gave us in Florida,

Sunday (3/23/14) morning we listen the Staniel Cay Cruisers net, which we were unaware of the first time through. When they get to the “Treasures from the Bilge”, items for trade or barter, one woman comes on and offers up her 8 year old son. No takers, but we all get a good chuckle. We left mid-morning after Gertie, followed by Sanderling, for Cambridge Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Hiked to the south side of Cambridge with Gertie in the afternoon for some snorkeling at an area called the “Coral Garden”. Left our dinks in a cove on the north side which had a number of turtles and rays. Could not get close to any of them. Returning to our dinghies on the beach we ran into the Sanderling crew coming back from “Rocky Dundas” further south. That night we all got together on Gertie for dominoes and dessert. Linda and I made a dessert called Chocolate Truffle. First time we made it on a boat. Since we didn't have a lot of excess space in our refrigerator it was made for immediate consumption and before the expiration date arrived on the Cool Whip we bought in George Town to make this dessert.

Monday, we all head north about two miles to snorkel at the “Sea Aquarium”.

Sea Aquarium

Dawn, Chrisy & Linda

Popular place with lots of fish and people. Stayed there until just before hypothermia set in. Sanderling motored to the “Sea Aquarium” and continued north to Wardewick Wells in the afternoon. Gertie and us slowly dinghied back to our sailboats for lunch.

 Later in the afternoon we dinghied two miles south to “Rocky Dundas”. Were surprised to find two really neat caves and some very good snorkeling. The park service has three dinghy moorings near the caves. We also had our own personal greeter, hanging out around our dinghies, a 3-1/2 foot Barracuda. He was just lurking around checking us out.
Cave Number One
Stag-horn Corral

Linda in Cave Number Two
After everyone else was back in the dinghies I had a drive by, by a good size shark cruising through the area. He barely paid attention to me as he cruised through the area. Had Linda seen him I don't think she would of needed the ladder to get back in the dinghy (she left her flippers on getting up on the ladder which wasn't easy – protecting her toes).

Great ! Everyone one is out of the water, but me when the shark patrol comes by. I don't like my odds.
View from the heights of Cambridge Island

This is a Hamburger bean for obvious reasons, that was found on the beach. It is a seed from a tree in Africa that has travel across the ocean.

Flying cell phone

Cambridge Cay had very marginal cell coverage. Getting tired of striking the "Statue of Liberty" pose to get a connection, I ran our cell phone the flag halyard and connected to it via bluetooth (good for about 30 feet) to our other electronic gadgets down in the boat.

Coming down the east coast, we kept looking for good travel mugs, but could not find any that we liked. Well, we did find one, McDonald’s Styrofoam coffee cups. They keep the coffee warm for a long time with out being too clunky and the price is right. We started saving up cups and lids in Florida to get us through the Bahamas. We can go quite a few weeks before they turn into dribble cups and we have to retire one and move on to the next one. We frequented quite a few McDonald’s for coffee and WIFI.