Monday, May 16, 2016

Anchored at Staniel Cay one morning Francois came over from the nearby anchored boat, Kel Bel Vie, in his dinghy to tell us that he had taken pictures of our boat the evening before.  This is one of them.  Nice, huh?

From time to time we have found flying fish on our deck in the morning.  This year we have twice found squid.  This one left a mark on our dodger window four feet above the water before falling to the deck where he left a nice ink stain.  I did not know squid could fly.

The ocean side beaches on Great Guana Cay are rocky cliffs.  The view goes for miles.

In low spots between the cliffs, plastic trash washes ashore.  It is a horrible thing.  Don’t dump things in the sea.

The Bahamas are made of limestone, so of course there are caves.  Bill took this flash picture inside one of them.  The fresh water filled pool is big enough to swim in.  I would not go in.  It was big and dark.  You never know what might be waiting inside.

We are allowed to have up to six conchs on the boat at any one time.  We stumbled into three large ones which Bill cleaned and I cooked.  They are just big, slimy snails.  See the slime dripping from the thing.

This is a a lionfish.  They are pretty, but they are dangerous.  Besides the feather-like spines you see, the fish has needle sharp poisonous spines that can cause a nasty sting.  Bill and Russ Veldman speared eight of the fish, and we ate them for dinner.

Warderick Wells is an island in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  It is illegal to collect shells there, so people have picked them up off the beach and used them as cairns to mark the trails.  I think they are prettier than the usual piles of rocks.

This is the ninth year we have been to the Bahamas.  We put this sign on top of a hill near the park headquarters the first year, and we have carved each year’s date into it every year since.

One coral head we swam around was inhabited by hundreds of French grunts.  This is just part of the school that was passing by below me.  Russ accidentally speared one of these the day we got the lionfish.  We ate that one along with all the lionfish.

I am going to call these four fish ‘angelfish’ because try as I might and looking in my books, I can’t tell if they are French angelfish or gray angelfish.

This spotfin butterflyfish was leading a school of French grunts around and around a coral head.

Purple sea fans just wave back and forth majestically in the current all day, every day.

Sometimes I think the queen angelfish are the prettiest fish on the reef.

I had this beach at the north end of Shroud Cay all to myself.  Mine were the only footprints.

As we were sailing from Ship Channel Cay to Egg Island, an Australian catamaran overtook us.  He was already anchored at Egg Island when we arrived, and he brought us this picture of our boat under sail.

Approaching Abaco the first thing we saw on the horizon were forest fires on the southern end of the island.  The sun shining through the smoke cloud made it look like the sea was on fire as well.

The day after we arrived in Abaco, we took the dinghy to Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour for a cheeseburger and beer.  That is a Bahamas national flag flying outside.

It has been a long time since I have written.  [I am sorry, Dorman, but I have been busy.]  To make up for my tardiness, I added a lot of pictures this time.

Julia, Josh, Isabella, and Olivia arrived at the Staniel Cay airport on April 2.  We were really glad to see them.  They had a delayed flight then security problems, and they almost missed their flight from Nassau to Staniel Cay.  Unfortunately, their bags were still in Nassau.  Julia had her purse with her, and the girls had their backpacks, but none of their checked luggage made it.  After a little shopping for necessities, we all went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a cold drink (or two) and a late lunch.  Suitably recovered, all six of us piled into our little four-man dinghy and headed to Irish Eyes which was anchored in front of the famous Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame.

Early the next morning Bill and Josh went back to the airport to see if the luggage had come on the 8:00 flight from Nassau.  The bags made it; Josh had his short pants, and Isabella and Olivia had their bathing suits. We were all set.

We made a quick run over to Pig Beach at Big Major’s Spot to fed the pigs the leftover pancakes from our breakfast.  I still am amazed at the number of people who pay good money to see the swimming pigs.  There are several motorboat adventure tour companies that bring people 70 miles south from Nassau or 50 miles north from George Town just to feed the pigs.  The pigs swim out to greet boats, and the pigs, like pigs anywhere, eat nearly anything they are offered.

The weather forecast for the time of our guests' stay was not the best – a couple of good days, a too windy or maybe stormy day, then some more good days.  We headed north to Cambridge Cay hoping to get a mooring ball in the protected harbor where the kids could swim and play on the beach during the bad weather.  When we arrived all the balls were full and there were several boats anchored waiting like vultures for someone to leave.  We cruised through the mooring field and anchored off of Bell Island.  The evening was pleasant with a beach walk, a swim, dinner, and an early night.

Not far from Bell Island was a shallow coral area called the Sea Aquarium.  There were tons of different fish and beautiful coral outcroppings making it a great place to snorkel.  Isabella and Olivia each had a new mask and snorkel.  The snorkels were not very well made, and they leaked.  That was okay.  The kids were not going to dive under the water - just floating on the surface, drifting along in the current, and looking at the fish and coral below.  Isabella and I swam off together looking at the fish. Isabella raised her head and said the clown fish and the parrot fish looked like they had on make-up.  She was right.  They did.  Olivia, at age four, simply screamed.  The hundreds of fish swimming around her were frightening, actually terrifying.  All she wanted was to get out of the water and back to the safety of the dinghy.  Later on Irish Eyes, Isabella was looking at fish books identifying the different fish she had seen.  She recognized several in the photos.  Her sister, Olivia, said the fish she saw were straight.  They were silver and had yellow on them.  I found a picture of a yellowtail snapper, and she immediately said, “That’s it.”  Olivia had indeed seen fish.

Unable to get a mooring at Cambridge Cay, our best course of action seemed to be to return to Big Majors Spot where we would have reasonable protection from the strong northeast wind and rain predicted for later in the day.  The wind was supposed to be light and variable or maybe light from the northeast in the morning before picking up in the late afternoon.  We pulled up Irish Eyes’ anchor and headed back south.  The wind fooled the weather forecasters.  Half way to Big Majors Spot the sky darkened, and the wind began blowing about 20 knots from the south.  Not a fun sail.  It was a rough, wet motorsail into the wind with water coming over the deck.  At one point I looked at the knot meter and our speed was 0.9 knots, barely crawling.  Bill and I normally would not travel in conditions like that, but we were.  Isabella, Oliva and Josh were fine.  Julia was a little green, although she improved after a dose of Dramamine. 

It took us about four hours to get to Big Major’s Spot.  Just after we arrived the sky to the north turned very dark, the wind swung to the northeast, and it rained hard.  Isabella and Olivia helped Bill catch ten gallons of rainwater in plastic jugs.  I had not rinsed myself off from our snorkeling adventure, so I sat outside in the rain, but the wind was cool and the rain drops were big enough to hurt.  I finished my shower indoors.

The next morning the sky was a brilliant blue with plenty of sunshine. The Self family and I headed to Pirate Beach at Big Major’s.  Over the years several cruising boats had brought picnic tables, chairs, a grill, decorations, and even corn hole equipment to the small beach.  It was a great spot for just hanging out.  Olivia would later say it was her favorite place.

We took several dinghy trips to other nearby beaches in the next couple of days.  One afternoon we waded on a nearby sandbar looking for sand dollars.  Everyone found at least one. I found a camera.  It was a disposable camera, full of sand.  I hope whoever lost it had another camera with pictures of their trip.

Sadly, the Self family had to go back home on April 7th.  The girls had school and Josh had work.  Their journey did not get off to a good start. There was an especially big crowd at the airport, and it took three plane trips to ferry everyone to Nassau.  As luck would have it, the Selfs ended up on the third plane (which was actually the first plane on its second trip).  That made their connection in Nassau tight, but they make it.  As they were getting on the plane, Olivia told Josh that she wished they were getting off the plane and just beginning their vacation.  Me too, sigh.

Our friends Bill and Phyllis on the motorboat ‘Oh My!’ were also anchored at Big Major’s Spot.  We spent the next couple of days catching up with them first at a beach potluck dinner then later on a dinghy trip looking for sand dollars and shells.  Friends kept us from feeling too lonely.

We stayed at Big Major’s Spot for a while.  Bill made another batch of beer (which was very good), and we weathered a dry cold front.  The cold front meant lots of wind, cloudy skies, and slightly lower temperatures.  It dropped from 77 to 72 degrees which at the time seemed quite cool to us.  On April 12th it was time to move on.  The garbage was full, and we needed a few gallons of water.  We said good-bye to our friends and headed south to Black Point.

In Black Point Bill went ashore, filled two jugs with water from the town’s tap, dropped our garbage in their trash trailer, and put a little money in the donation box on the trailer.  He met the folks from ‘Cookie Monster’ and made arrangements to meet them at Scorpio’s for the Cruiser’s Happy Hour.

There were several boats in the harbor, so the Happy Hour was lots of fun.  Robin from ‘Cookie Monster’ was a retired math teacher.  She had taught at the Black Point All Age School when she was in Black Point before.  The Assistant Principal at the school, Mr. Musgrove, came to Scorpio’s to see Robin and arrange for her to teach again.  Bill had brought a couple of refrigeration books along on this trip planning to donate them to the school in hopes that someone would take up the trade because the nearest refrigeration technicians are in Nassau and George Town.  Bill talked to Mr. Musgrove about donating the books to the school library, and Mr. Musgrove invited Bill to come to the school next morning to talk to the kids in the middle grades, all seven of them. The next morning Bill combed his hair, put on his one pair of long pants, socks, shoes, and a collared shirt, and went to the school.  He almost looked respectable.  He talked briefly to the kids about his career as a chemical engineer and left his books.  Robin sat in the corner of the room and smiled.

After the excitement of Black Point, we needed a little peace and quiet.  Starting in Black Point in the north we began a beach-a-day journey down the ten-mile-long uninhabited southern end of Great Guana Cay.  We explored one limestone cave by dinghy and another by foot.  We walked beaches, collected shells, and relaxed.  While anchored at Isaac Bay, we checked out the nearby coral heads with a glass bottom bucket, picked the one that seemed the best, put on our fins and masks, and went exploring.  We saw beautiful tropical fish and several lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive fish from the Pacific with no predators in the Atlantic.  Someone, somewhere released a pair of lionfish and the fish have flourished in the Bahamas.  Although pretty, they eat the native fish and reproduce rapidly.  Lionfish have 18 venomous needle-like spines that can cause a very painful and serious reaction if a spine pierces the skin.

At the south end of Great Guana Cay we turned back north and returned to Black Point.  I did our laundry, and we had dinner and drinks with our friends Dorothy and Glenn from Dot’s Way before continuing on north to Staniel Cay.

In Staniel Cay Bill and I went grocery shopping.  We found almost everything we needed at the Blue Store and the Pink Pearl Supermarket.  The bread lady was baking that morning, so we stopped at her house and bought a loaf of coconut bread and another of white bread.  With clean linens and food aboard, Irish Eyes was ready for guests.

We met Russ and Gayle at the airport, and the four of us had a late lunch/early dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  I do like their grouper fingers.  As we were leaving we watched the fishermen at the dock cleaning their catch.  Dozens and dozens of sharks were feeding on the guts and bones that were tossed into the water.  A local fellow with one arm was trying to convince some young women to wade into the water and pat the feeding sharks on the head.  He leaned over and scratched their heads with his remaining hand saying they were really just pets.  I would like to know how he lost his arm.

After a nice calm evening and good night’s sleep, we pulled up our anchor and made the obligatory stop at Pig Beach. Russ and Gayle saw the swimming pigs.  Later we sailed to Bitter Guana Cay where there are iguanas on the beach.  Some of the adventure tour boats that bring folks to see the pigs, also stop at the Iguana Beach.  There are signs saying not to feed the things, but the iguanas expect food. They eat fruit.  All we had were raisins.  I am not sure they were big fans of raisins.  While they ate the raisins, they sure looked like they expected better.

From Bitter Guana Cay we sailed down to Jack’s Bay Cove on Guana Cay anchoring there with one other boat.  We explored the western side beach with its lone pine tree, crossed over to the little cove on the eastern side of the cay to inspect the piles of plastic sea trash that accumulate there, took the dinghy into the cave in the rocks to the north, then toured the rocky shore on our way back to the boat.

Our next stop was Galliot Cay.  There we found two keeper conch. Bill cleaned them on the beach along with one we had found earlier.  They would later become conch chowder.  Before leaving the next morning, we took the dinghy to Big Farmers Cay where we walked the beach, checked out a small cave, and waded in a mangrove creek.

Returning to the north we anchored in Isaac Bay where we toured the coral head that Bill and I had scouted earlier.  After taking some underwater photographs, the lionfish hunt began.  Bill and Russ speared eight.  Bill said it was like shooting fish in a barrel; it was so easy. While Bill was cleaning the fish, one of the venomous spines pierced Bill’s hand through the thick rubber gloves he was wearing.  The internet says to place a cloth soaked in hot water on the spot as soon as possible.  He did.  Bill said it felt like a hornet sting.  Russ finished cleaning the fish. I poached them in white wine and lime juice. Lionfish have white, flaky meat without a strong fishy taste.  We enjoyed our fish.

We headed to Black Point for a drink and dinner at Scorpio’s.  Dot’s Way sailed past us on their way back from the Ragged Islands and suggested we all meet at Scorpio’s for supper.  We did just that.  Russ and Gayle enjoyed talking with the other cruisers in the restaurant.

We spent the last night of Russ and Gayle’s Bahamian adventure anchored at Staniel Cay.  Bill took them to the airport in the early morning, and we moved the boat back to Big Majors Spot where it was a little calmer.

The weather forecast was grim once again.  A cold front was coming with its west winds and rain.  It was time to find a more protected spot.  We sailed up to Cambridge Cay with its all round protection, this time far enough in advance to assure that we could get a mooring ball.  While waiting for the bad weather to arrive, we walked the beaches and sand flats.  The pre-frontal rain came at 3am on Thursday May 5th.  It rained about ¼ of an inch, and we caught a little rain.  The real front came through around 8am with lots of rain and 30-35 knot winds.  The rain was great, we filled both of our water tanks and put 25 gal in plastic jugs to boot.

The following day, we left Cambridge Cay and reserved a mooring at Warderick Wells, the Exuma Park Headquarters.  Some say it has the most beautiful water in the world.  On our first trip to the Bahamas we carved our names, the boat name, and the year in a piece of mahogany we found on the beach.  We left it atop Boo Boo Hill with a pile of similar signs left by other cruisers.  Each trip we have carved another year in that sign.  We climbed the hill and without too much looking found our sign.  Bill carved MMXVI into the sign, and we put it back on the hill.

With summer coming, it was time to head north toward the Carolinas, even if ever so slowly.  After two nights tied to our mooring ball, we left Warderick Wells and spent one night at the south end of Hawksbill Cay.  We took advantage of the calm weather to explore the sand flats and rocky cays at the south end of the cay.  It too was a pretty place.

From Hawksbill we sailed up to Shroud Cay anchoring at the north end of the cay where we stayed three days.  Of course we explored the north mangrove creeks making the loop and going all the way through the island to the ocean side beaches in three places.  We went up north to Little Wax Cay and even to the rocks beyond checking out all the beaches as we went by.  We snorkeled on Neptune’s Oasis, a coral garden we had never visited before.  I loved looking at the beautiful water and sand.

Leaving Shroud Cay we motored in light winds to Ship Channel Cay at the north end of the Exumas then the next day sailed and motored to Egg Island in Eleuthera.  From there we again motored in almost no wind across the 50-mile-wide Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos where we are now anchored off Lynyard Cay.  We will rest there for a day or two then spend the next few weeks in the Abacos before moving on.

We will see you in June. 

1 comment:

George Wilson said...

When I grow up I want to be like you! I wish I had told you to look up Kevin and Sandra McIntosh on Green Turtle. I played sax with Kevin and the Gully Roosters when there. He's harbormaster at Other Shore Club and plays his electric keyboard in the Anglican Church on Sundays. Sandra has the best Bahamian mac and cheese recipe ever. BTW, I saw a country music video a couple months ago about Beer is Good People are Crazy, and immediately recognized the signs on the road to Sundowners. I used to fly 961PH into the harbor and taxi to the beach where I could walk to customs to check in. One time the tide overtook the plane while I was sidetracked in town (probably at Miss Bee's Blue Bee Bar) and the Maule floated off so that the wing blocked the road. Some good soul just tied it off for me. I usually beached it at Bluff House on the beach tied to a palm tree. They all seemed to know the plane. After all, it was Bahama blue and yellow with an Abaco flag on the tail.
Such good people on GTC.