Tuesday, June 14, 2016

We unexpectedly found pigs on a beach at No Name Cay in the northern Abacos.  Like the pigs at Big Majors Spot in the Exumas, they are a major tourist draw.  Look at the people who have come a couple of miles by boat to look at the pigs and feed them.  Why?

The No Name Cay pigs have their own municipal water supply.  It is decorated with ads from local businesses and a thank you note to the “Pig Whisperer” for his relentless dedication to the pigs.  The sign with a picture of a dog and a pig asks “Why do we love one and eat the other” then goes on to list the adorable traits of pigs.  Yuck.

A near constant stream of people come to feed the pigs.  Someone brought them a case of rather large asparagus which they apparently do not have a taste for.  Oh yea, Bill says we eat pigs because they are made out of food.

Just around the corner from the pig beach is a mangrove lined creek.  It was more interesting and prettier than the pigs.  Bill got us a little too close to the mangrove roots, and I am a little worried.  It would be too easy for a snake to be hiding somewhere in there.

In the early morning fog on the Waccamaw River in South Carolina we passed this daymark.  It is a navigational aid and marks one side of the channel.  An osprey nest all but completely covers the red triangle that is the marker.  It is their nesting season, and there are chicks in the nest.

Hello from Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern, NC.  Irish Eyes is back in her home slip.  It will take us a few days to clean up the boat and pack all our things into the ancient Blazer before the well-traveled crew of Irish Eyes heads home.

When I last wrote we were anchored at Lynyard Cay in the Abacos.  While we were there Bill made his third and last batch of beer using the ingredients we bought in Miami.  In the evening we shared a glass of the second batch with another cruiser who declared it to be good beer, but both of us already knew that.  From Lynyard Cay we moved a bit north to Tahiti Beach with its sand beach and coconut palms for a few days.  We had several thunderstorms which brought some rain, and the first of the rainy season rain brought mosquitos.  They were hardy little buggers that could fly even when the wind was blowing, so bug repellant spray traveled with us when we went to a restaurant to eat or went shopping --- DEET, the perfume of the rainy season in the Bahamas.

When we had entered the Bahamas in Bimini back in March, we had been given a 90 day leave to stay in the Bahamas.  The clock had been ticking, and we needed to visit the immigrations office in Marsh Harbour to get a 30-day extension.  We anchored the boat in the Marsh Harbour harbor and took a cab to the Government Center on the edge of town.  The cab ride was a great improvement on last year’s long walk in the blazing hot sun.  Cool and dry definitely beat hot and sweaty when we filled out the necessary forms and dealt with the officials.  We got our extensions.  Bill could see no reason to waste money on the return taxi trip, so we walked back.

Marsh Harbour with its one stoplight seemed like a metropolis after months in the smaller islands.  Maxwells, the grocery store, was a real supermarket and the near equal to a Florida Publix.  It was a little overwhelming to see all the goods for sale after doing my shopping in a series of one room stores behind the owner’s house.  I explored Marsh Harbour’s numerous gift shops, and we ate in the local restaurants.  One morning we took our huge bag of dirty clothes to the laundromat.  It was Tuesday, and the office in the laundromat was closed.  That meant we had to get our quarters elsewhere.  I went to the small grocery store next to the laundromat.  The young woman I spoke with said not all quarters would work in the machines, only US coins and older Bahamian coins would work.  The woman kindly sorted through the quarters in her cash drawer to find the good ones and asked the other cashiers to do the same.  That was enough to get me started.  I sent Bill to the bank to get more quarters.  The bank tellers were not as accommodating as the store cashiers.  They just gave Bill a roll of quarters in exchange for his ten-dollar bill.  Bill and I had to sort through the quarters to find ones that would work.  Our success rate was less than thirty percent.  Finally, after several more trips to the bank, I had enough good quarters to finish our laundry and a pirate’s treasure of quarters that would not work.  I had forgotten to bring my DEET, and the mosquitoes that were busily hatching in the broken machines behind the laundromat had a feast on my legs.  I moved to the front of the building, so that the bugs would have to fly farther to get me.  It didn’t help much.  Later, and fortunately for us, on our last trip to Maxwells, the cashier saw Bill’s box of quarters and asked if he wanted to exchange them with her.  The answer was yes, and she counted the pile and gave him bills.  Bill and I were afraid we would be giving away Bahamian quarters for Christmas presents.

We listened to the radio weather reports and studied the internet.  Tropical storm Bonnie would go up the United States east coast, there would be a pause in the weather, and then another larger area of bad weather would follow.  That bad weather would last perhaps two weeks in the Bahamas.  While we don’t really think that the weather can be forecast three weeks in advance, it sounded like the “pause” would be a good time to sail for home.  If we went slowly up the northern Abacos and let Bonnie get out of the way, we could be back in the US before the two weeks of nasty weather arrived in the Bahamas.  Yep, it was time to head north.

We left Marsh Harbour and after a short stop at Bakers Bay, went around the ocean side of Whale Cay, and anchored at No Name Cay which is just south of Green Turtle Cay.  As a surprise to us, No Name Cay had pigs.  These lucky pigs had a 1000-gallon water tank, plastic boxes for shelter, and a keeper who wore a pig keeper tee shirt and came every day to feed them split coconuts.  A constant stream of motorboats from the local resorts brought guests to see the pigs.  During daylight there were always at least ten people standing on the beach looking at the pigs and offering them something to eat.  Unlike the Big Majors Spot pigs, the No Name Cay pigs didn’t swim out to greet the people bringing them food, but maybe these pigs were just new at the game and needed to learn that skill.  I am still mystified by the lure of pigs.  Why do rich people want to feed pigs on a beach?  What is the draw?  I much more enjoyed taking a dinghy tour of the mangrove lined creek that flowed through the island.  It was very interesting.  I had never seen such a forest of head high, twisted and tangled, red mangrove roots reaching down into fish filled water before.  If it had not looked so snake-y, I would have stayed longer.

Tired of two days of tourists and pigs, we motored to Green Turtle Cay towing our dinghy behind.  We went ashore to drop off some trash, buy a loaf of bread, stretch our legs, and take a look around.  It was sunny, still, and hot, and we were about the only people moving around.  We stopped at Miss Emily’s famous Blue Bee Bar to get out of the sun, sit down, have a beer, and cool off.  An old business card from our first visit to the Blue Bee Bar in perhaps 1986 was back on the boat.  My guess is that the business has been there much longer than that.

The wind continued to be extremely light.  We motored up the Sea Abaco stopping first at Allans-Pensacola Cay for one night.  The sand fleas there were terrible.  Our attempt at a beach walk was ambushed by the sharp toothed flying beasts.  We put in all the screens before sundown, then we sprayed the screens with insecticide to stop any fleas that could fit through the holes.  I do not like biting bugs.  The next day we motored all day to get to Great Sale Cay.  That would be our last night in the Bahamas.  We anchored off of a small sandy beach, so we could have one last beach walk.  Well, the beach was rocky and not very pretty.  Bill walked around the corner to look at a wrecked sailboat and scared up a big black pig with tusks that been busy rooting in the sand along the shore.  It charged out of the brush sounding like a galloping horse, and gave me a fright.  What is it with pigs?  This one was truly wild.  I have no idea how that black pig got there.  Great Sale Cay is not close to any town.  There is not a thing on the island except trees and shrubs.  Back at the boat, we put the deflated dinghy on the deck, mounted the dinghy’s outboard on the stern rail, and took a last swim in the Bahamas.  Sad.

On Tuesday, May 31 we were underway by 8am headed for Charleston staying east of the Gulf Stream.  There was no wind, so we were motoring.  After a day of motoring, Bill was worried that we would run out of fuel before we got to Charleston.  He altered our course to the west to put us in the Gulf Stream both to give us a little push to the north and to put us closer to the Florida coast in case we needed to stop for fuel.  Fortunately, the wind did pick up at times letting us turn off the engine and sail.  Nothing exciting happened on our three-day trip.  We saw a few ships, dolphins, and birds.  In the evenings there were thunderstorms all around us, but none came over us.  Watching lightning strike the nearby water was impressive.  We were just glad it was nearby, not close.

We entered Charleston Harbor just after 8am on June 3, tied up alongside the Mega Dock at the Charleston City Marina, and were officially cleared into the United States by Customs and Border Protection before noon.  It was hot.  We were probably the only boat without air conditioning on the dock; and the smallest, too.  The motor yacht Fountainhead was our neighbor.  Google “yacht Fountainhead” to see all the details.  Trust me when I say it is bigger than Irish Eyes.  It was flying a Cayman Islands flag which means it is registered there to avoid US taxes.  We fly a US flag.  That Is all I am going to say about that subject.

Our stay in Charleston was short, one night.  The forecasted nasty weather behind us had spawned a tropical storm named Colin.  Ahead of it, thunderstorms were predicted for coastal waters.  We made the decision to go up the ICW towards Georgetown and anchor there for the night.  The greenhead flies followed us in spite of my swatting and killing hundreds.  At McClellanville, the water was 4.5 feet deep.  We pushed poor Irish Eyes’ 5 foot draft through the mud for about a mile. Maybe if everyone paid their taxes, the Corps of Engineers could afford to dredge the waterway.  At sunset we anchored in the Waccamaw River just north of Georgetown.

Tropical Storm Colin was to cross Florida and come straight up the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.  The forecast was for 6 inches of rain and 50 knots of wind.  With that forecast we decided to stay on the ICW.  We stopped early the next day in Thoroughfare Creek off the Waccamaw River so that Bill could go swimming and look at the rudder which was acting funny after our mile of mud.  The fresh water and sandy beach attracted a lot of local motor boaters who spent the afternoon swimming and partying.  It was entertaining to watch.  When it started to thunder everyone left, and we had a peaceful night all by ourselves.

The next two nights were spent in Little River in the marina.  We saw my sister and brother-in-law which as always was fun.  Tropical Storm Colin turned out to be for us a non-event.  It rained a little and the wind blew a little, but it was nothing like the forecast.  The barometer did drop to 1004 mb Monday night, and that was really the only unusual thing.  When we got up Tuesday morning, the bad weather was gone and the sky was clearing.

We left through the Little River Inlet and sailed out into the Atlantic past Sunset Beach, Holden Beach, and Oak Island to the Cape Fear River.  The current and wind were both against us in the river making the trip upstream slow and tiresome.  It was almost sunset when we anchored at Carolina Beach.

Our plan was to motor to Wrightsville Beach, rest there until after supper, then go out through the Masonboro Inlet into the ocean and sail overnight to Beaufort Inlet.  From there we would motor in the ICW to Adams Creek, rest and spend the night there, then sail to New Bern the next day.  That was exactly what we did.

The trip to Beaufort was sixty-six miles long.  It would have been a stretch to sail that far in the daylight.  We chose to leave before sunset and arrive after sunrise to make the passages through both inlets easier even though it meant traveling mostly in the dark.  One year we came through the Beaufort Inlet in the dark at 11:00pm.  It was scary, and I’m not doing that again.

We sailed the entire way from Masonboro Inlet to Beaufort Inlet only turning the engine on to pass through the inlets.  In the dark I was confused for several minutes by different colored lights going on and off behind us, but I eventually realized that they were fireworks just over the horizon at Carolina Beach.  Bill saw some military flares when the Marines at Camp Lejeune lit up Onslow Beach for an hour or so.  There were no other surprises, and it was a nice sail.

When we got to Adams Creek we anchored, ate lunch, took a nap, had supper, and slept like babies through the cool night.

Saturday, June 11 we were up early and on our way to Northwest Creek Marina sailing up the river with all three sails set.  This was the last leg of the journey.  We were tied up in our slip and chatting with our neighbors before lunch – 139 days away from our slip and with just less than 2000 nautical miles under our keel.

The cleanup has begun and the packing will follow shortly.  This was our 9th trip to the Bahamas on Irish Eyes.  Bill and I are still speaking to each other after 4 months in a space 34 feet by 10-1/2 feet.  We had fun together and will probably do it again.

We will be home soon.

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