Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This is St. Joseph's Anglican Church in Thompson Bay. Our boat is anchored in the distance. We came over in the dinghy and attended Sunday services.

We chased this turtle in our dinghy in the shallow creek inside Conception Island. The creek was just full of turtles enjoying the sun warmed shallow water.

This is elkhorn coral on the reef north of Conception Island. The coral heads rise up 25 feet from the white sand bottom almost to the low tide water surface. There are fish everywhere.

This is the Hermitage on Cat Island built by Fr. Jerome in the 1930s. The buildings are just big enough for one person; sort of like a playhouse. It is very impressive both for its architecture and location.

We hooked four dolphin fish, but all eventually got away. If only we could have gotten even one in the boat...

You ought to see the teeth in this baracuda's mouth. Bill got him first.

Hello. Bill and I are headed back to the US. We are currently anchored at West End, Grand Bahama Island near the Old Bahama Bay Resort. The resort did not have an empty slip for us, but that is okay. It is probably quieter (and certainly cheaper) here.

After waiting a week after the George Town regatta for favorable weather, we were finally able to leave and sail south on May 2. Before we weighed anchor we went to the Peace and Plenty Beach Club a for their Happy Hour and Supper, made our last trip into town for food, fuel and water, had the crews from Dot’s Way and Euphoria over for a farewell beer, and walked Sand Dollar Beach one last time. The wind was right, so we sailed south to Long Island which is south of the tropic of cancer and thus well and truly in the tropics. At Long Island we anchored in Thompson Bay off the settlement of Salt Pond. On shore just off our bow, was the pretty St. Joseph’s Anglican Church. The next morning, Sunday, we decided we would go to church. Bill took the dinghy to shore early and walked to the church to check the time of Sunday services. The sign said “Services Weekly”. I decided to knit in the cockpit to keep an eye on the church parking lot. When the acolytes arrived, we left for church making it in time for the 11am service.

The church service was a laid back Anglican service but with lots of incense and bells. Everyone knew the hymns but us, including the singing of the Lord’s Prayer to a Caribbean tune. Bill and I stood up and introduced ourselves to the twenty or so others in attendance. The priest has four churches where he holds services each Sunday. One of the churches is on another island. The times of the services rotate beginning at 7am. The people on Long Island are a mixture of African and Spanish heritages. The Hispanic women were beautiful. Everybody in church was more dressed up than I was. I wore my one dress, a knit polo dress. Bill fit in with his khakis and short sleeve dress shirt. It was interesting to try and wear decent shoes and long pants when we had to land the dinghy on the beach and wade ashore.

That afternoon we walked through the settlement where all the businesses were closed then continued down a lane across the island to the ocean side beach. One of the men who had been in church was there with three boys. The kids were having a blast swimming in the surf. Bill and I enjoyed talking to the man about his experiences working in Alberta in the winter and watching the boys play. The poor guy had to get the boys out of the water when it was time to go home. I’m glad I didn’t have to be the meanie.

Monday was a beautiful day with great wind. We sailed north along the island’s shore with all three of Irish Eye’s sails flying and anchored in Calabash Bay near Cape Santa Maria. There is a monument to Christopher Columbus on top of a nearby hill. Legend has it that Columbus’s Santa Maria was lost on the reef off the coast here. (There are lots of legends about the great explorer’s exploits on Long Island and the nearby cays.)

The wind was not as favorable Tuesday morning, so we motor sailed north to Conception Island. Conception was uninhabited and a Bahamas Trust land park. There were lots of tropic birds with their outrageously long tail feathers on the island. We walked the beaches. One on the south was a very nice shelling beach. The north side beach was pretty much a junk beach - lots of shoes, plastic bottles, rope, and floating junk of all sorts. There was a small sandstone cliff where a rope was tied so you could drag yourself to the top where there was a really nice view across the offshore coral reefs.

Conception Island had an interior mangrove lined creek which was home to sea turtles. The creek was very shallow. Even dinghies couldn’t get into the creek at anything but high tide. A boat we met in Georgetown, Loafer’s Glory, was anchored at Conception too. We took our slow dinghy and they took their fast one around to Conch Creek. Loafer’s Glory got there first – of course. We saw lots of turtles and followed one around until I was afraid the poor thing was going to have a heart attack. Those little guys can really fly when they swim.

There are several coral heads on the ocean side of the island with all kinds of fish. Bill and I made two snorkeling trips in the dinghy. The water where we were anchored was so clear I could see the sand dollars on the bottom six feet under Irish Eyes’ keel. A nurse shark and several trunk fish swam around the boat. We had the people from two other boats over for drinks; Chris a single hander from Virginia and Paul and Deb from Canada. Paul and Deb were our hosts the next evening.

Saturday May 9 found us motor sailing to the settlement of New Bight on Cat Island. Along the way we hooked four dolphin fish or mahi mahi. We struggled with all four fish but didn’t manage to land a single one! One straightened the hook, one broke the hook, one shook the hook off, and one dove under the boat and breaking both the line and a guide on the rod. We did manage to get two of them alongside before they escaped, but with a gaff that is only two feet long we just couldn’t get them on board. I did get some pictures. But, I am not at all sure where we would have put all the fish if we have landed one (sour grapes).

The main attraction at New Bight were ruins. We visited the Armbrister Great House site first. At one time Cat Island had plantations where loyalist settlers from the US tried to raise cotton. I am quite sure the lack of soil was a big surprise. The highest hill in the Bahamas, Comer Hill at 206 feet, is the site of the Hermitage. This is the self-built monastery of Father Jerome Hawkes a student of architecture, an Anglican, and later a Roman Catholic priest. He was pretty much a hermit at the end of his life, and he built it to resemble hermitages he had visited in Britain and Europe. I was afraid we might get altitude sickness up there (ha ha) after being at sea level for so long.

When we left New Bight I managed to catch one of the lines to the dinghy in the propeller. After I went swimming and untangled the mess on the prop, we motored to Pigeon Cay for a nice evening beach stroll. I found a few more shells.

Monday May 11 we sailed to Little San Salvador. We went inside the little harbor and anchored in flat water which was beautifully clear. Little San Salvador was purchased by Holland America Cruise Lines and renamed Half Moon Cay. They built a fake Bahamian village, trails and tram tracks through the bush, and a netted and buoyed swimming area (so you don’t swim with fish I guess) all to provide their passengers with a day at the beach. Yachtsmen were not welcome on shore. We knew that, but our guidebook said that if a ship isn’t there anchoring is fine. We were anchored snugly with about eight other boats by 3pm. All seemed well, and gin and tonic time was approaching. About 5:30 we were all told we had to move to the northwest corner of the harbor as a cruise ship was due in early the next morning. The northwest corner is exposed to the ocean swell and was a pretty miserable place to spend the night. My complaint was the instructions to move came too late to make the 42 mile journey to Eleuthera.

We got up early on Tuesday to sail to Eleuthera, and saw the cruise ship coming towards Little San Salvador. It seemed a shame for those people to come all the way to the Bahamas and only see a newly made “Disney-fied” island instead of the real thing. We’ve had a much better trip.

Our fishing did not improve. We did hook and land a large fish, but it turned out to be a Great Barracuda! It had lots of teeth. Bill and I each had our task. I job was to slow the boat, clear the cockpit of things we don’t want wet, and get my squeeze bottle of vodka to give the old fish a good welcoming drink on his arrival. Bill reeled the fish in and gaffed the poor thing. I gave him a drink and Bill cut his spine. It went like clockwork; all for a barracuda which we just threw back into the sea after taking its picture. Why could we have not done it for one of the dolphin fish? Our sail was downwind to Tarpum Bay. We had a peaceful night off the colorful town and left just after sunrise for the long days sail to Royal Island. It was another downwind trip. To get to Royal Island you have to go through Current Cut, a narrow cut through the land with menacing rocks on both sides. The current was very strong and we blasted through with the current going in the same direction as we were. It was sort of like being flushed in a toilet.

We left Royal Island early - again. Our next sail was across the 14,000 ft deep Northwest Providence Channel to Sandy Point on Great Abaco Island. It was another beautiful downwind trip. Since we were headed north and the weather was in our favor, we were on the move. Our fuel tank was full but we didn’t have anything in our jugs on deck as back up and we had used half of our fresh water in the two weeks since leaving George Town. Sandy Point seemed like a good place to top off the tanks and buy some groceries. Sandy Point looks like most of the settlements we have seen, some houses looked better than others, but all the people were friendly. Everyone spoke, smiled, waved, and tooted their horns as they drove by. Everybody looks well fed and well dressed. I am sure the economy with its reliance on tourism is not that great. Bill and I got a few groceries, water, and fuel before we up anchored and headed off on our overnight passage to West End.

The wind was behind us all the way. We sailed with only the genoa moving it from one side to the other as the wind shifted directions and furling it a little at a time as the wind speed increased during the night. Even with only a quarter of it showing our speed was still between 4 and 5 knots. The waves were kind of scary at times and there was lots of ship traffic, but we made it. I got the opportunity to cook on the stove with it swinging back and forth on its gimbals and with the pot clamped to the burner. We put up the lee cloth on the starboard settee and took turns napping during the night. We were past Freeport when the sun came up and were anchored off West End by 9 in the morning. The autopilot was the most appreciated crewman on the boat.

Our intention is to leave here around mid morning tomorrow (Sunday) and head for Port Canaveral, Florida. That will be another overnight sail. All our children and grandchildren are to meet us next Saturday in Cocoa Beach. Bill and I both are looking forward to seeing all the kids and having them on board Irish Eyes. Oh yes, not everybody is sleeping on the boat!

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I figured it was time to head home, especially since that isn't exactly a quick flight!
You certainly have had a good trip. Your sails sound a little like our trips to Tuscany. There are all the favorite places to go and there are always a few new spots to check out.
We'll be glad to have you back.