Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bill took this picture while swimming at Cambridge Cay. This goes on for acres underwater.

 Julia in a panic threw the food we had brought for the pigs in the dinghy. She jumped out. They jumped in.

Bill hand carved this driftwood sign commemorating our trips to the Exumas.

Isabella liked playing in the sand almost as much as eating it.

This is the view from the window at the Rockside Laundry in Black Point. The boat is Irish Eyes. You could almost enjoy washing your clothes here.

Hey. We are enjoying life in the Bahamas.

After Easter we left Black Point headed north. We sailed to Pipe Cay, a small uninhabited island. A long abandoned US Navy DECCA navigation station was there, but the island was mostly was sand and beautiful water. We stayed one afternoon and night. I walked the beaches while Bill explored a little of the interior of the island. He found two plastic Adirondack chairs. We put them in the shade of a tree, sat and enjoyed the view. We thought we looked like a Fidelity retirement advertisement.

We left Pipe Cay and went to Compass Cay. The channel going there was shallow and winding. When we were looking for a place to anchor, a large ray jumped out of the water and flew by six feet in the air right in front of Irish Eyes. It just flew through the air instead of swimming in the water. It was a magnificent sight. We spent a pleasant afternoon and night anchored off Compass Cay. There was a marina there which did not sell fuel but did sell us a bag of lettuce for our salads. They also charged $8 per person to land a dinghy and walk on their beach. We decided to give the walking a pass, but we did enjoy our salads.

We left Compass Cay through the Conch Cay Cut going out into the deep Exuma Sound sailing north to Cambridge Cay, one of the islands inside the boundaries of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We picked up a park provided mooring ball for a $15 a night and spent two days exploring Cambridge Cay and its beaches. It was lovely. The only bad part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park is that you can’t fish or shell within its boundaries. Of course, it was there that we saw the largest fish and prettiest shells! Bill found a yellow, net covered, two foot diameter fish float, wrote Irish Eyes, New Bern, NC on it and tied it in a tree to mark the beginning of a trail to the beach on the other side of the island. I was happy to have the float off the boat. Although a nice float, it was too big to fit in any of our lockers.

The weather forecast was not very pleasant sounding, we still needed fuel, and our water tanks were half empty. A cold front was forecast to come through with winds around 25-30 knots. We decided to leave Cambridge Cay and find ourselves a place to anchor off Sampson Cay with its friendly marina. We had a nice sail out into Exuma Sound, back through Conch Cay Cut, through the narrow gap between two rocks, past the Rocky Dundas and out onto the banks side of the islands. I had the chance to spy on Little Hall’s Pond Cay which is owned by Johnny Depp. All looked well there. Hopefully, if he was on his island, he was having as much fun as Bill and I were having sailing past.

Sampson Cay is a resort with a very nice marina, several houses to rent, and a restaurant. They sell fuel, water, and some groceries, and they have a coin laundry. Over the next few days we bought some groceries, filled the boat’s fuel and water tanks, washed clothes, and walked around the island. It was nice to have clean sheets and clothes. Bill mistakenly filled our three diesel jugs with gasoline but caught his mistake before putting any in our fuel tank. He gave the gas in two of the jugs away, and we will use the other 5 gallons in our dinghy outboard before we leave the Bahamas. We spent almost a week in Sampson Cay enjoying the surroundings and waiting out the windy weather.

We left Sampson Cay on April 16 for Staniel Cay. (A long trip - all of about 3 miles max.) We anchored across from the town beach and took our dinghy over to Isles General Store to replenish our fresh food. Isles General Store sells a limited selection of food, hardware, and souvenirs. A tiny Manhattan grocery looks like WalMart in comparison. But, as Bill said, I had to make more grocery shopping decisions in their 40 square feet than in a 40,000 square foot US supermarket. As luck would have it the mail boat had been there that morning so the selection wasn’t too bad. We got lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and some frozen orange juice; luxuries all.

Julia, Josh and Isabella were due at the Staniel Cay airport on the 2:45pm Flamingo Air flight from Nassau. Julia said that when they boarded the plane in Nassau the pilot was adding two quarts of oil to the port engine of the little nine passenger Cessna 402 – not a good sign. The plane delivered Domino’s Pizza and Kentucky Fried Chicken to Little Farmer’s Cay and to Black Point Settlement before landing at Staniel making it almost an hour late. Bill and I sat waiting in the Staniel Cay Airport terminal (an open air gazebo with wooden benches around the sides) worried because it was quite windy but enjoying the whole scene. The Self family arrived a little worse for the wear but ready to go.

We moved Irish Eyes from Staniel Cay to Big Major’s Spot, a trip of about a mile. Big Major’s was the place with the pigs on the beach I wrote about last time. We had our dinner on board, rigged the lee cloth on our single bunk to make a crib for Isabella and had a good night’s sleep. The next morning Bill took Julia, Josh and Isabella over to see the pigs. With a two year old on board who does not clean her plate, we had plenty of food scraps for the pigs. These pigs were aggressive, and when they swam over to meet the dinghy and started to crawl in, Julia panicked, screamed, and threw the food scraps (still in their plastic bag) straight up into the air. They landed inside the bow of dinghy. The pigs got in the dinghy and devoured the food, bag and all. Julia jumped over the side and escaped. Why any of us let Julia be in charge of the pig food remains a mystery.

Leaving the now well fed pigs behind, we sailed north to Emerald Rock, another of the mooring fields in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. There were several beaches around the moorings. Bill took us in the dinghy to the first one. Julia, Josh, Isabella, and I walked the beach and then took a trail to the next beach where Bill was to meet us in the dinghy. It looked like an easy walk, just over the rock outcropping to the next beach, and it would have been if we had taken the right trail. The trail we took went inland instead through the palm forest and over bare coral rock. I am never comfortable hiking over sharp rocks in my bathing suit and flip flops much less with my son-in-law carrying my two year old granddaughter. One slip and blood would be spilled. We saw lots of lizards and a couple of hutias. Hutias look like a cross between a rabbit and a rat. They are not really attractive creatures but are the only land mammal native to the Bahamas. Bill then managed to talk us into hiking to the next beach. Once again it was a walk over jagged rocks only this time up a hill and back down again. We were on top of the hill when we saw Bill landing the dinghy on another beach three more hills away. I nearly fainted. It would have been dark by the time we got to that beach. Bill was just looking around while we walked. He got back to the right beach just after we arrived. The beaches were lovely and Isabella had fun getting sandy.

The night at Emerald Rock was rather uncomfortable. The wind brought waves that made the boat rock and roll. We asked for and got a mooring at the Park Headquarter, Warderick Wells. It was more protected from the wind and waves. We spent two nights on that mooring. We explored the nearby beaches showing Isabella all sorts of sea creatures. The five of us went to the top of BooBoo Hill. On the top of the hill was a pile of signs from boaters. Leaving your memento was supposed to bring safe passages to the vessel and crew. Bill found a piece of driftwood and carved our names and the date on it using a church key can opener and putty knife as tools. It was a nice sign. We left it on the pile.

Tuesday morning we sailed back to Staniel Cay for the Self family to return to the U.S. on Wednesday. Julia and Josh snorkeled in the Thunderball Grotto while Isabella and I played on Irish Eyes. All of us went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for dinner. Isabella had her first conch fritter. She said it was good, and it was.

Bill and I sadly watched the Flamingo Air plane leave with Julia, Josh, and Isabella on board. Just like the old days in the U.S., they didn’t have to have to be the airport hours ahead of departure. There was no security check, and no baggage check. They just gave their tickets and luggage to the pilot, got on the plane, and left. We were a little worried though when the pilot had to try five or six times to get the port engine to start.

It was really quiet and maybe a little lonely back on board Irish Eyes. Bill and I sailed down to Black Point to do our laundry, dispose of our garbage, and top off our water tanks. We were the only boat anchored in the Black Point Harbor. It was the Family Islands Regatta in Georgetown so lots of boats were there, and with spring here, some boaters had already left for US. We did our laundry and went to Loraine’s Caf√© for lunch. We met a very nice couple from Cape Cod who were renting a house on Staniel Cay. It was a fun talking with them.

The weather forecast for Monday, April 26 was for a cold front to pass through bringing west winds. Bill and I decided to anchor Irish Eyes in the well protected area between Big Major’s Spot and Little Major’s Spot. Well, Monday afternoon we had a major squall come through the area. The wind gusted up to 43 knots, it rained, and we had thunder and lightning. Thankfully, we did not drag our anchor. It rained steadily until about 9pm. We went to bed only to have the wind pipe up again about 3am. It was a sleepless night. This was the same front that caused the tornados and storms across the south last the weekend.

Yesterday was a picture perfect day with blue sky, lots of sun, gentle breezes, and the always present beautiful sand and water. We did our beach walking, both morning and evening. Today we pick up our friend Richard Barr at the Staniel Cay airport. He will be with us for a week. It should be a fun time

I looked at the Kingsport weather forecast for today.  Sorry you are going to have frost.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Glad to hear of the further adventures of Irish Eyes and her varying crew members. You have certainly been having interesting times and I love the pictures.
I missed the frost as I was in Oak Park IL at my niece's. Much as I love seeing them all, a week of Ben and Jonah (4 and 7 yrs old) is about all I can handle. Bev was there two weeks longer than I and she slept 5 hours when we got home yesterday. Simply exhausted, I guess.
I trust you will return in June sometime.