Friday, March 11, 2016

This was sunrise in the Gulf Stream as we were passing between Key Biscayne and Bimini on our first day traveling to Normans Cay.  It’s not usually like this, but that morning it was dead flat, and we were motoring along.  Later in the day we got some wind, but never enough to sail.

Sunrise the second day was on the Great Bahama Bank.  We were still motoring.  When we came off the banks and entered the Northwest Channel, the wind picked up some.  But, it was still from dead ahead, so we continued to motor.  By the time we got to Normans Cay in the Exumas the following morning, we had burned about 25 gallons of diesel.

The runway at Normans Cay has been widened, extended, and fenced.  Mountains of sand and rock have been moved.  Now all the earthmoving equipment is standing silent in what is in some places a moonscape, but they have planted several little gardens like this along the runway.

Bill was overjoyed to find this beer can.  It was in the limestone rock on the west beach at Normans Cay.  The limestone sand on the beaches in the Bahamas consolidates to rock rapidly, maybe more rapidly than anywhere else in the word.  Neil Sealey in his book “Bahamian Landscapes” talks about fossilized Coke bottles, well here is a fossilized beer can.

Sandra Little made this unique embroidered shell collection bag for me.  I’ve already put it to good use.  The shell on top of the bag is a yellow Atlantic cowrie.  One of my books says it is rare.

We made it to the Exumas!  Irish Eyes is anchored in the shelter of Norman’s Cay.  It has been windy for the past few days.  The temperature is in the seventies, and the sun is shining.  In the morning with the temperature at seventy-one, we both feel chilly and put on sweatshirts.  Just a few weeks ago we would have thought seventy-one was a heat wave.

Bill and I spent ten days in Miami Beach.  We first anchored near the Julia Tuttle Causeway, but the wind went west, and we moved into Sunset Lake.

The people-watching in Miami Beach was great.  The area around Arthur Godfrey Boulevard is a Jewish neighborhood with synagogues, Hebrew signs, yarmulkes, and prayer shawls.  We went into a small grocery store, and everyone was wearing black.  I had on a bright green shirt and sandals.  I felt more than a bit gaudy.  When we left the store and walked about a block, we saw a young woman walking her dog.  She had on very short shorts and had a tattoo on her bum that peeked suggestively out of her shorts.  I guess my green shirt was not so bad.  It is fun to watch people.

With no more need for our long underwear, down jackets, or wooly caps, we stuffed all the winter clothes and our two electric heaters into two duffel bags and shipped them to the Self family in Gaffney, SC for them to keep until we return.  We won’t need any of that stuff again this year.  I also sent our granddaughter Scarlett a wool blanket that I finished knitting on the trip south.  The boat now seems so much roomier.  Bill says we now have room for beer.

Bill was reading a book about a young couple’s sailing trip around the world.  [No, I do not plan to do that.]  The couple discovered that they could make beer onboard their boat saving both money and room.  Bill decided we could do it, too.  We carry a 5lb cylinder of CO2 (the “fizz-a-nater” as our granddaughter Isabella named it) and a box of Diet Coke syrup for making our own Diet Coke.  It was Bill’s low cost, over engineered, DIY Soda Stream machine.  He figured if we fermented the beer, we could carbonate it with the CO2 in empty 1-liter tonic water bottles.  After all he said,”Everyone knows a 12oz can is too small.” Google found Bill a homebrew store across the bay in Miami, so off we went looking for a bus to take us there.

Bill said the bus to Miami ran every 20 minutes, but we waited an hour for one to come.  When we got on, it was absolutely packed.  Both of us squeezed in and grabbed a pole to hang onto.  The bus was so full that the driver was not stopping at all the stops.  She just waved and drove past the waiting people.  She only stopped when someone wanted to get off.  When the doors opened, more folks would push onto the already crowded bus.  At one stop a large young man got on and loudly pushed his way toward the back of the bus.  He was really loud and really pushed.  A few feet behind us, he found a spot to stand.  He then started profanely berating a teenage boy with orange hair.  The next things we heard were a pair of thumps as the man hit the teenager twice in the side of the head, then screams as the man threw the boy off the stopped bus.  Of course the bus went no further, and the police were called.  Bill and I got off the bus and listened to some of the other passengers describing what had happened.  We talked to our bus driver who was waiting for the transport security people to come and get the security camera tape.  She said we were lucky no one had a gun or knife.  Someone else said it happens all too often.  It was getting late in the afternoon, we had had enough excitement for the day, and I was ready to go back to Irish Eyes.  A bus going in the other direction came by, we abandoned our travel plans, and got on.  Back at the boat it was double rum rations all round.

Bill still wanted his home brew kit.  We made another attempt the next morning.  This time we were more successful.  We did get off the Miami bound bus miles too early, but we caught another bus without a problem.  The fellow in the homebrew store sold Bill pretty much everything he was looking for.  I asked the homebrew guy about a good place for lunch.  He recommended a tiny four table Thai place two doors down.  The food was great; green curry beef with eggplant over rice. On the way back to the boat, we stopped at the Target to buy a few items for me and for Bill the short sleeve shirts he forgot to pack.  If you come to visit and have one of Bill’s homebrewed beers, you need to remember, I risked my life for that beer!

The weather forecast had a good window for crossing the Gulf Stream.  We went into full shopping mode.  Bill got all the bits and pieces of hardware he needed.  He filled our water and fuel jugs.  I spent several hours in the Publix Supermarket buying food.  We were all ready to go by noon on Tuesday, March 1.  The anchor came up in Sunset Lake, and we motored to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne to anchor for the night. That got us close to the Florida Channel which, unlike Government Cut in Miami with it cruise ships, commercial traffic, and speedboats, is a much calmer departure point for the Bahamas.

Bill’s alarm went off at 3am Wednesday morning.  We were up, fed, and underway before 4am.  There was not a whisper of wind, so we motored all the way to Bimini.  We saw lots of Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish, several dolphins, and a few ships.  Kiminni, the dockmaster at Weech’s Dock, helped us tie up and gave Bill the forms to fill out for Customs and Immigration.  Bill changed into a clean new shirt and went off with our passports and the boat’s papers to clear us into the Bahamas.  Since only the vessel’s master is allowed off the boat before clearing into the country, I just watched the fish swimming in the perfectly clear water and rested.  Bill was back in less than an hour.  We bought a case of Bahamian rum, untied our lines, bid farewell to our friend Kiminni, and were motoring east again by 3pm.

The weather was very calm, so we motored until dark.  We moved about a mile off the channel and anchored on the Great Bahama Bank.  At 3am when the moon came up and we could again see, we pulled up the anchor and continued on towards Norman’s Cay.  We motored all day and night Thursday arriving at Norman’s at 9am on Friday – 54 hours after leaving Key Biscayne.  It was time for a nap.

When we first arrived at Normans Cay the wind was forecast to swing to the northwest, so we anchored in the cut between Normans Cay and Wax Cay near the wrecked airplane.  After a couple of days, the wind swung from northwest back to east and strengthened making the cut with its currents uncomfortable.  We moved to the west side of Normans and have been there since.  It has been fairly calm here even as the wind has blown 20 to 25 knots with occasional spells up to 30.  We have rested, taken a swim, read, knitted, and worked on boat projects.  We have walked the nearby beaches several times, and of course I have found a few shells.  This year I really do plan to be more discerning in what shells I keep, but I think I say that every year, so I wouldn’t count on it.

The wind is supposed to calm down over the weekend, and then we will move on.  I have things to knit and read, and Bill has a list of projects, so we will not be bored.

Stay well, be safe.

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