2009-2010 Caribbean / Bahamas Trip
Thursday April 15th, Thompson's Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
What follows is the (as yet incomplete) tale of the "Bushek Tour 2010" ( aka: "The Cruise of the Plague Ship").
Jim & Lorraine Bushek, our gracious wedding witnesses and able cruising pals arrived as scheduled in Puerto Plata on Wednesday the 31st of March. They were fetched from the airport by Nino, the most cheerful taxi driver on the north coast of the Dominican Republic and delivered to us in Luperon. After excessive amounts of beer and a terrific dinner at Shaggy's we made our way out to the boat. A respectably small heap of luggage (most of it supplies for us) made its way below to be stashed for our three week adventure: "Georgetown or Bust" (or perhaps more correctly: "Georgetown by the 19th or we'll miss our flight") was our mantra.
The first order of business was to provision. Nino arrived bright and early the next morning to cart us to Puerto Plata to do our shopping. I should mention here that it was raining. It was raining in a very dramatic way. We had not seen a drop of rain for WEEKS and now it was raining iguanas. Our first stop was at the veggie market. Vendors lined the sidewalks as far as the eye could see. On any other day this stop would have been spectacular in a good way. This day it was definitely spectacular but in a wrath of God sort of way. We stepped through rivers of rain in the gutters, dodged heaping wet piles of brown rooty things, citrus swirled around our feet and loose cherries squished between our toes. All the while Nino walked with us. Despite the rain the smile never left his face and he cheerfully translated the vendors comments and the prices to us while dripping as copiously as his charges. Armed with enough produce to feed an army we made our way to the grocery store. The supermarket, Jose Louis', was significantly drier than the veggie market but the AC was turned down to near arctic temperatures. We hauled two carts from aisle to aisle and managed to complete our shopping without freezing to death. Nino awaited us in the parking lot and sped us off to the waterfront for a look at the City's historic Spanish Fort. Half way back to Luperon we stopped for lunch at a local eatery. Heaps of conch salad, fried chicken, rice and beans arrived at our table, perking us up after our whirlwind morning. After one more stop, to buy a ball of fresh local cheese, we made our way back to Luperon and the Harbor where we had to wash and stow this massive pile of goodies. We were ready for our impending departure.
Early the next morning we wended our way out of Luperon with our sights set on Lantern Head, Great Inagua, Bahamas. We had a great beam reach of 15-20 knots for the whole twenty-four hour trip. Our newly arrived crew suffered no ill effects from their sailing immersion but sadly there were two pieces of equipment which did not survive; a battcar and the speedo. Thanks to our friend Chace on Windaway we had a spare for the speedo but the battcar presented a bit more of a problem. More about that later.
Lantern Head Harbor, on the Southeast tip of Great Inagua was as pretty as we remembered. We survived the reef entrance once again and dropped the hook in seven feet of water in the beautiful calm inside. After a celebratory beer we hoisted the dinghy over the side and Jim & Lorraine made their way to shore for their first vacation beach walk. Lorraine began her habitual search for hamburger beans with a respectable score of seventeen. On Easter Sunday the majority of the crew made their way to the far end of the Harbor in search of conch and other treasure. After briefly loosing Lorraine the three foragers returned to the boat with their haul. Lorraine with twenty-nine hamburger beans and the guys with four conch.
On Monday we picked our way out of Lantern Head and made the down-wind run to Matthew Town. Upon arrival Roger, Jim & Lorraine headed into town to check in. I, meanwhile remained aboard, felled by an intestinal disturbance. A second day in town, with access to the internet, allowed Roger to order a replacement battcar for delivery to Long Island for pick-up later in the trip. The next day we would head up the west coast of Great Inagua to Man O' War Bay. Or not. As we pulled the anchor Thursday morning we discovered that we had managed, for the first time ever, to get ourselves fouled on a coral head. Roger dove repeatedly in the twenty foot depths to try to untangle us to no avail. It was off to visit the very helpful man at the Customs Office. Without pause the Customs fellow suggested hailing Captain Fawkes, the Supervisor of Marine Works at the Morton Salt Plant. The next morning bright and early the Captain's brother Terry and his helper, Preston arrived with diving gear. After not too many trips to the bottom Terry had us unwound and on our way. Thanks guys! Thanks also to Captain Fawkes, who can be reached on VHF 16 and 6 if you find yourselves in this same predicament while visiting the lovely Island of Great Inagua.
After a night anchored in the (coral-free) south anchorage of Man O' War Bay we were graced with the one weather day (in the prevailing conditions) that would allow us to make the trip northeast to Little Inagua. Wind under fifteen knots! Ok, it wasn't exactly perfect since it was on the nose, but doable nonetheless. After an eight hour voyage into somewhat unappealing seas we arrived at one of our favorite Bahamian destinations. If you want a beautiful, uninhabited island all to yourself, Little Inagua is it. I make no ironclad guarantees about your being the only boat there but your odds are VERY good. The morning after our arrival we packed a lunch and headed ashore for a day of exploring and beachcombing. The spectacular windward beach presented us, once again, with its treasures. Fish floats, mismatched shoes, fluorescent light bulbs and deodorant dispensers. A veritable library of trash. Then of course there were the beans. The hamburger bean count for the day reached an impressive 96! After lunch we made our way back to the clean, leeward side of the Island for a swim. A fine day in paradise.
Sunday morning had us hauling the dinghy back onboard for yet another overnight. The weather forecast for the foreseeable future was for 20-25 out of the northeast. All the possible permutations of getting to Georgetown under these circumstances were debated. In the end, for reasons of timing and wind angle, we decided that we should head straight to Rum Cay, one hundred and eighty (or so) miles away. The crew, despite suffering from a variety of ailments, girded their loins and set out into the wild blue. And wild and blue it was. A beam reach with twenty-five knots of wind sped us on our way. The aforementioned battcar problem had been solved by double-reefing the main so that the broken car was below the reef line. This wasn't proving to be a problem with the wind speed on offer. For the first time in five months we felt the urge to deploy the starboard side plastic curtains which we usually save for cold New England jaunts. The spray was flying. Overnight we threaded the passage west of the Plana Cays and East of Acklins Island, hitting neither. By noon the next day we had Rum Cay in our sights. Shortly before landfall the company fisher folk secured a Mahi-Mahi for our dinner. The hook was down by three p.m. All hands relaxed.
After more discussion that evening the decision was made to keep the dinghy on deck and continue on our way in the morning. Rum Cay is great but for the new, improved forecast of 25 gusting 30 we were opting for the smooth sailing behind Long Island. We had one day left of 20-25 knots to get there. Sorry Rum. On Tuesday the 13th we headed out for the thirty mile trip around the northern tip of Long Island. It was a beautiful day of sailing. The first leg was almost downwind so out went the whisker pole. Meanwhile, all eyes tracked several squally looking clouds that were lurking. Leg two was a beam reach, swiftly followed by leg three which was a broad reach. All of these were with wind of 25 knots. The squalls that had lurked during the mid-day disappeared once we anchored behind Hog Cay, another favorite spot.
On Wednesday we continued on down the back of Long Island. Happily the 25-32 knot wind was an offshore wind so there were no seas. We were at anchor in Thompson's Bay by one p.m.
Here we sit, one day later. The crew has mostly recovered from their maladies. The wind is still howling but we are armed with a forecast that suggests that we're going to be able to get our friends to their date with a plane in Georgetown. Luperon seems long ago and far away.
Saturday, April 24th, Georgetown, Great Exuma
After a motorsail from Thompson's Bay we arrived in Georgetown Sunday afternoon the18th. This left us with the luxury of a spare day before our guests had to wing their way home. Jim & Lorraine's Tuesday a.m. flight was to depart at an alarmingly early hour so they had booked a room at the Peace & Plenty for Monday night. We all enjoyed the bounties of Room 19. After several dips in the pool, showers were had by all. Lorraine trimmed my bangs in front of the bathroom's giant mirror returning me to the height of glamour. After a wonderful dinner in the P&P dining room we bid our shipmates farewell and dinghied back to the boat. After three weeks and 400+ miles we still managed to part friends.
Once the laundry was done and we caught up on some provisioning we were ready to launch into the Family Island Regatta Race Week festivities. The Family Island Regatta is a gathering of Bahamian racing sailboats. The three classes, A, B & C race daily for four days. The boats are amazing. They have deck-sweeping booms and huge sail area. To keep from flipping in the wind there are two 2x6 planks which slide back and forth across the deck, on which a half dozen Bahamians hike out. This week the wind has been fairly light but I gather that during a blowy race many crew end up in the water. As far as I can tell from having anchored our dinghy at the windward mark, there is no way to be disqualified from a Bahamian sailboat race. Collisions are taken in stride. You can tack in front of another boat as it rounds a mark. You can get your sheets fouled in the mark and, once unfouled, continue on your way. After one race we watched the Bahamian defense force tow a sunken competitor back into the anchorage...underwater at about five knots with a crewman hanging onto the badly listing mast. There were boats shipped in from the Abacos, Andros, New Providence, Ragged, Acklins, Mayaguana, Eleuthera, Long Island and the Exumas. After the days racing the party moves into Regatta Park where dozens of shacks have been erected to sell Bahamian food and a wide array of intoxicants. Roger was particularly taken with Guava Duff, a unique Bahamian dessert. Family Island Regatta is a wonderful time to be in Georgetown. The locals have taken back their Island and are having a ball.
We had a surprise hail on Tuesday afternoon from a passing dinghy. It was none other than the Counselors from "Camp Burley" otherwise know as Bev & Larry from Chandelle. We spent a week tied up to their dock in Burley Creek in Annapolis last Fall and had not seen them since. We assumed they were well on their way home but no, they were just across the harbor. After a great dinner aboard Chandelle we said our goodbyes. They were heading north the next day..
Slowly and painfully we tracked our two wayward fedex packages. One was accidentally sent to Hamilton, Bermuda instead of Hamilton, Long Island. That one was rerouted and arrived with the crew of Running Tide when they arrived from Long Island for the races. The other, we are promised, will arrive at Exuma Markets today. We shall see. The battcar has now been replaced, as has the mixing elbow. As soon as the new wind generator brushes turn up and are installed we'll be ready to begin our trip north... But not before a trip to Stocking Island for a conch burger and a Kalik.
2009-2010 Trip Logs