Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday, May 3, 2014

This is a century or agave plant in bloom on Long Island.  It is huge and looks like a tree.

Sitting on a makeshift bench on the sand cliffs above the Stocking Island beach, Bill is discussing something like the physics of breaking waves while Olivia’s attention begins to wander.

The Family Islands Regatta is a photographer’s delight.  These are some of the smaller boats locked in close competition.

With huge cotton mainsails and with their crews outboard of the boat at the end of wooden plank pries, three of the C-class boats sail to weather together.

At times the boats sail through the anchored spectator fleet.  Our dinghy was floating off our stern, and Bill pulled it in to let them go by.

Even in dead light air the boats still carry enough canvas to sail along nicely.  This is Running Tide.  She won the first two races of the regatta, but in the third race struck another boat which cost her the third race and the overall trophy.

The racing boats are closely matched in their classes and the completion is fierce.

Wooden boats, cotton sails, no winches, built on the beach; the boats follow the lines of pre-WW II fishing boats. 

Racing over, the crew is ashore partying while their boat waits for the next day’s sail.

This pretty coconut palm lined beach is on the west side of Lee Stocking Island.  We explored the beach and the three trails that went inland from the beach.

One of the three trails goes to the top of Perry’s Peak, the highest spot in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas.

In this picture taken from half way up our mast, we are anchored between Big Galliot and Big Farmers Cays.  The water here is 7 feet deep, crystal clear, and is blue beyond blue.  You can even see the shadow of the dinghy on the white sand below.

Hello from Black Point.  The month of April was a busy one for us.

After the Zangri family left, we spent a couple of days working on broken boat stuff and walking on the Stocking Island beaches.  Some folks from our home marina, Fairfield Harbor in New Bern, invited us to a farewell lunch before they headed back to New Bern.  We also saw Kamouraska who we first met in Bimini and Swell Horizon whose homeport is Kingsport, TN.

After all the socializing we decided we needed a change of scenery.  Bill suggested a trip to Long Island. On the morning of April 1 Bill pulled up our anchor, gave me the signal for anchor up, and I pushed the throttle ahead.  We did not speed up.  I pushed a little further.  Instead of speeding up, the engine made bad sounds – expensive sounds.  We re-anchored the boat and started trouble shooting the problem.  The engine would not speed up even in neutral.  I noticed the exhaust (really a mixture of water and exhaust) was black.  The black soot in the blue crystal clear water behind the boat was startling.  This meant big trouble.  Bill was thinking about how to get back to Florida without an engine.  I was worried about where in the Bahamas we could buy enough ice to keep our food cold.

David, from Swell Horizon, came over in his dinghy.  He and Bill discussed the possible problems with the engine while I searched all our cruising guides for ads from diesel mechanics.  David suggested that the mixing elbow could be plugged.  That is the place that the engine cooling water is added to the exhaust to cool the exhaust and quiet the engine.  Bill liked the idea of a plugged elbow.  It was the only suggested problem he could possibly fix.  Off came the elbow.  Bill spent the rest of the day chipping out the rust, carbon, and salt that plugged the hole through the elbow.  Thankfully, that seemed to solve our problem.  The exhaust simply could not get out of the engine.

The next morning we again pulled up our anchor and headed south.  Unfortunately, the wind direction had shifted, and it was right in our faces.  It was a rough trip to Long Island.  Everything on the boat was covered in salt from the sea spray including us.  We anchored in Thompson Bay in time for a well-deserved sundowner; actually a double.

Several boats we know were also anchored in Thompson Bay.  Dot’s Way (who we met several years ago) came over one evening for a drink, and we chatted several times with Margareta (who used to be based in our marina in New Bern).  We walked over to the Atlantic Ocean side beach finding several nice shells.  Up on one of the dunes was an agave tree beginning to bloom.  These plants are very impressive in bloom.  The plant takes twenty years or more to mature, then it grows a huge stalk, blooms, and dies.

In Salt Pond on Friday night it was Happy Hour at the Long Island Breeze restaurant and bar.  Some of the cruisers got a band together (and practiced beforehand), so we enjoyed live music.  It was a good time.  Saturday was the local Farmer’s Market Day.  We went expecting local produce but found mostly craftspeople.  One woman did have bread for sale.  I bought what she said was banana bread, but it turned out to be chocolate chip raisin bread.  It was yummy none the less.  After a trip to the local grocery store for veggies, we had conch fritters for lunch at the Long Island Breeze.  We entertained a couple from Kentucky who were staying in a local guest house with our cruising tales.  The rest of the day was spent digesting our meal.

Early on Sunday, April 6 we left Long Island and returned to George Town to avoid some expected bad weather.  The return trip to GeorgeTown was a very pleasant downwind sail.  We were anchored at Sand Dollar Beach before suppertime.

The wind was supposed to clock all the way around from the south to the west to the north to the east.  On Monday we moved to a calmer spot on the town side of the harbor just east of the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  We had never anchored there before.  It turned out to be very calm in a west wind and convenient to town.  Bill made a trip to Exuma Market for water, then took the dinghy to Palm Bay Resort for a beer before walking to Darville Lumber to buy parts for our propane system.  In the evening we went to Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant’s to listen to the Rake-N-Scrape band.  It was great.  I even danced a little, but not very well, with a local.  Tuesday night we went to Shirley’s, a local eatery at the Fish Fry Village.  The food was first rate.  After dinner we explored further north in the dinghy and had a drink at the Splash Bar in Palm Bay Resort.  The bar was pretty Americanized with everyone down for a week.  We were the only overly tanned people there.  It was a fun evening.  Wednesday morning the cold front came through, the wind picked up, and shifted to the north.  With no land to the north, our spot became rough, and we moved back to Sand Dollar Beach.

My hair had grown so much it was quite unmanageable.  I let Bill give me a haircut.  It turned out unexpectedly well.  And, we now match in hair length.  Bill has not cut his hair since January!  He has become quite shaggy.

Our friends on the motor vessel Oh My! were anchored at Sand Dollar Beach.  We spent several happy hours with them on both our boat and theirs.  I taught Phyllis how to look for Sand Dollars one day.  We found more than a few.  Oh My! hosted a pot luck supper for several boats one evening.  There were twelve adults and three children on their boat, and there was still room for more.  I now need a big trawler.

One evening Bill and I went to the ARG (Alcohol Research Group) meeting at Hamburger Beach.  The purpose of this group was to observe the effects of alcohol on people eating appetizers on the beach.  The same evening 35 miles away in at the Long Island Breeze they were having their much advertised “Ted’s Birthday Bash”.  You can imagine our surprise to meet Ted at the ARG meeting.  Well, sailing being such a tricky thing with wind, tides, shallow water, and such; Ted did not make it to his birthday bash.  Pictures on the cell phones showed the party was going on quite well without him.  He and three others had an hour long jam session at the ARG meeting.  I am always impressed with folks who meet total strangers on the beach and play music together!

During all this socializing we had to use our dinghy.  The inflatable floor kept getting soft.  On Saturday we pulled the floor out of the dinghy to see if we could find the leak.  We found several where sand spurs stuck in our shoes had poked small holes in the floor.  Bill patched the leaks and put the floor back in the dinghy.  The next morning the floor was soft again.  This time we found a spot where a shell had cut the floor on its bottom.  Monday morning the floor was flat still again.  This time we found a small leak where a seam had come unglued last year.  We re-repaired the seam.  Tuesday morning the dinghy floor was still hard.  Yippee!

With the dinghy now holding air, we moved Irish Eyes over to the town side of the harbor.  We had company coming; Julia, Josh, Isabella, and Olivia.  We were excited, but had groceries to buy, water and fuel to get onboard, laundry to wash, and a boat to clean.   We could no longer just sit around and watch the dinghy leak.  It was time to get to work. 

The Self family arrived before noon on Thursday, April 17.  We met their taxi at Exuma Markets and ferried them and their bags to Irish Eyes.  Isabella and Olivia wanted to go to the beach, so we moved Irish Eyes back to Sand Dollar Beach.  We swam off the beach and from Irish Eyes in the afternoon.  The two year old Olivia needed some time to get used to the salty ocean water, but she was soon as happy in the water as on the boat.
Friday, we walked the trail over to the ocean side beach.  Both Isabella and Olivia liked the surf.  I had fun in the waves even though I got repeatedly knocked off my feet.  We went on a Friday afternoon sand dollar search on the nearby sand flats where we found a few pretty ones.  Isabella had a new snorkel and mask.  Julia helped her swim along and look at the bottom.  Isabella was very impressed with herself.  Unfortunately, the Self kids brought us a Mississippi bug from their day care.  The disease got Josh first, then Bill a few days later, and finally me the next week.

Josh was feeling better on Saturday morning, but Captain Bill was the next victim of the bug.  The rest of us left him on Irish Eyes and took a short dinghy trip to the beach.  The wind had picked up to about 20 knots out of the south.  That meant it was coming straight up the harbor causing waves in our usually calm anchorage.  After a rough and wet dinghy ride back to Irish Eyes, we decided to just play onboard for the rest of the day.

Easter Sunday morning, April 20 was a cloudy, windy day in George Town.  It rained enough for Bill to show how we can catch rainwater on Irish Eyes’ decks.  He caught about 20 gallons even though our tanks were nearly full.  Just after lunch the skies cleared, and it was once again a beautiful Bahamas day.  Julia, Josh, and Isabella went snorkeling on the nearby reef.  Isabella said she saw fish of every color.  Not bad for a five year old!  We all went over to the beach for a swim and a little sand castle building.

Monday was the last beach day for the Self family.  We played on the nearby beach then took one trail over to the sound side and another one back.  Isabella was our trail leader while Bill moved the dinghy to meet us and bring us back to the boat.

Bill’s brother, Haynes, and his wife, Laura, flew into Georgetown on Monday and spent two nights at the Peace and Plenty Hotel.  We all met them for dinner at Eddie’s Edgewater, then enjoyed the Rake-N-Scrape band afterwards.  We all had great food and enjoyed the music and dancing.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to the Self family on Tuesday morning.  Before leaving, Julia, Isabella, Olivia, and I made a quick trip to the straw market and bought small purses for both little girls.  The straw working ladies put the girls’ names on the bags while we waited.

Bill spent the rest of the day getting water and cleaning Irish Eyes while I did the laundry and a little grocery shopping.  We met Haynes and Laura for drinks and a nice dinner at the Peace and Plenty that evening.

Wednesday, April 23 was the beginning of the Family Island Regatta.  The Regatta is four days of sailboat races, music, food, and partying.  The first race was at 9am.  Bill and I went over to the Peace and Plenty in the dinghy.  We watched the start of the first race with Haynes and Laura from the balcony of their room overlooking the start and finish lines.  Bill took their bags to Irish Eyes in the dinghy while I escorted Haynes and Laura to the Exuma Markets dinghy dock.  After settling in on Irish Eyes we moved the boat a bit farther out into the harbor to be nearer the race course.

One of the turning marks for the A class race was very close to our new spot giving us a great view.  The racing boats are modeled after old working Bahamian fishing boats.  The boats are all wooden, have only cotton sails, must be Bahamian owned, and be crewed (mostly) by Bahamians.  The races were a sight to see with impossibly big sails set on small boats barely kept upright by the whole crew perched on wooden pries out over the water.  We had a good time watching.  Bill and I race our 22 foot boat in Tennessee.  Bahamian racing is a whole ‘nother sport.

Haynes and Laura wanted to spend some time in a remote location, and since Irish Eyes is actually a cruising sailboat rather than a free drinks bar, we pulled up the anchor and motored down to Pigeon Cay on Thursday.  We had a lovely day of beach combing, snorkeling, and swimming at the uninhabited island.  The chart had the anchorage labelled as a calm weather day only anchorage, but we decided to spend the night.  The wind shifted a little south, and we spent the night “gently” rocked to sleep.  I, unfortunately, fell victim to the Mississippi bug during the night.

Friday morning we sailed back to George Town.  Bill, Haynes, and Laura went over to the St Francis Hotel for lunch.  It rained a bit and was cloudy.  During the afternoon, the racing fleet came straight through our anchorage.  It gave us a great photo op.  While Haynes and Laura were swimming off Irish Eyes, the spectator fleet came roaring up scaring the swimmers out of the water.  In the evening, Bill took Haynes and Laura across the harbor to the Fish Fry Village for supper and to the Splash Bar for drinks.  I decided to call it an early night and stayed aboard in my bunk.

After a short dinghy trip to Sand Dollar Beach on Saturday morning, we moved once again to the town side of George Town.  There we again had a great view of the racing, but Haynes and Laura had to go home.  After a quick souvenir shopping trip, they caught their cab and were too soon gone.  I just hope they do not get the Mississippi bug.

The afternoon races had lots of problems.  First, there was no wind.  Then, with the B-class boats anchored on the starting line, it rained.  The crews huddled under the sails trying to stay dry.  After the rain the wind changed direction, so the course had to be re-laid, and all the boats had to be re-anchored on a new starting line.  In the B-class race one boat tipped over and sunk.  That forced the race committee to rearrange the course for the following A-class race to avoid the wreck.  In the A-class race the boat that was the points leader in the regatta struck another boat punching a hole in its side.  We had front row seats on Irish Eyes not only for the race but for the antics of the spectator fleet that chased the race fleet around the course.  There was even a twin engine float airplane that took off straight through the fleet, circled, and landed in another spot for a better view!  It was all pretty exciting.

Sunday was our day off.  Bill once again patched the dinghy floor.  Two of his earlier attempts did not work.  I caught up on my knitting and began writing this blog entry.  Monday, Bill ran into town for fuel and water.  We then we sailed out of George Town and to Lee Stocking Island.  It was an easy downwind 25 mile trip.

Lee Stocking Island was a new stop for us.  Ashore was the now closed Caribbean Marine Research Center.  We anchored nearby and attempted to land our dinghy there but found nothing but "No Trespassing" signs.  Farther south on the banks side of the island was a beach with coconut palms and three trails.  During the two days we were there we explored all three trails.  One went to the top of Perry’s Peak, named no doubt for John Perry founder of the research center.  It’s the highest spot in the Exumas at 123 feet.  The other two trails crossed the island to the airport runway and the beaches on the sound (ocean) side of the island.  They both passed through the tropical scrub that covers most of the island and the more northern one ran along an impressive stone wall that once must have once kept in livestock.  If I ever walk them again, I’ll take lots of water.  The island is mostly in its natural state and pretty.  We understand from reading on the web that it is slated to be developed by a New York banker as a "fully sustainable, carbon neutral, five-star sanctuary and wellness retreat".  That will be a shame.

After three nights at Lee Stocking Island, we sailed north in the Exuma Sound to Galliot Cut.  The tide was flowing out the cut (inlet) making it a little rough, but we got through without any problem and anchored nearby in a pretty spot between Big Galliot Cay and Big Farmers Cay.  One of our guidebooks said that a sandbar a mile or so south of us uncovered at low tide and provided excellent shelling.  We hopped in the dinghy and went to take a look.  The guide was right.  Even though a tour boat had gotten there before us, we picked up dozens of sand dollars, lots of smaller shells, and an Atlantic pearl oyster.

Yesterday, we sailed to Black Point, anchored off the settlement, and had supper at the Scorpio Inn.  We have internet here, so I have been using my time to update this blog.

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