Friday, January 11th
Thompson's Bay, Long Island
Hello all. We're finally underway
again. After a little more than a month in George Town we were exceedingly
ready to be moving.
Time spent in George Town is busy and productive but it's not actually cruising. Roger was able to make it home to Massachusetts to
spend Christmas with his Mom, while Milo and I held the fort in the warmer climes. Christmas Day was spent eating potluck on Volleyball Beach with
160 cruisers, their family members and friends. Windborne's crew of Cousin Kevin, Myriam, young Kevin and Daphne were in attendance as was the entire
Soucy clan (Kevin's sister/my cousin Jennifer and her family) so I wasn't lacking for company. At my table were among others, Christine & Peter from Mytyfyne, PS 40 hull #50 and Dave & Nancy from Tribute. Dave & Nancy are Pacific Seacraft brokers and they commissioned Shango (Kiva) for her first owner. It's a small world. Nigel Calder made a dessert stop at the "PS" table. As a former owner and consultant he related his thoughts on the company's troubles over the last few years as well as his newest boat project. After eating I tried my (lousy) hand at beach volleyball with the Jordan/Soucy clan. A fine time was had by all.
On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) Bahamians celebrate Junkanoo. The story I have is that in the days of slavery slaves had one day off per year. Naturally they wanted to maximize their celebrations by starting early. The parades start shortly after two in the morning and involve floats, drums, cowbells, whistles and lots of dancing.
Skip, Cherylle and I headed into town (one mile across the harbor in a speeding dinghy) at 3:15 a.m. to join in the celebration. We were
not alone. Lots of locals and cruisers filled the streets between passes of the competing parade contestants. Giant homemade drums stayed warm
by large bonfires, while teams representing Don's rent-a-car, Musical Youth and the Peace & Plenty Inn, among others, strapped on their giant feather and bead-
laden costumes. The johnny cake vendor did a brisk business in the park with her hot coffee being in particular demand. After much frivolity, as the sun started to rise,
we headed back across the harbor to the quiet of our boats.
Roger returned in time to catch the Patriots/Giants game at Chat n' Chills, witnessing the successful completion of the Patriots undefeated regular season.
We celebrated New Years Eve at St. Francis, a restaurant on Stocking Island. "Bring an appetizer to share, shoes optional". It was the first time in several years that we were actually awake to see the new year in. Our knees complained of excessive dancing for several days afterward.
That pretty well catches you up on our last month. For the last week or so we waited for a weather window to head further south. The trade winds, which come out of the east,
had been blowing at a fairly good clip for a while so it wasn't until today that we were able to make our way out of George Town. We had wind right on the nose but there wasn't much of it
so we decided to get while the getting was good.
We arrived in Thompson's Bay, Long Island by 3:30 and headed ashore for a walk. This naturally led us to the Thompson Bay Inn to check on the possibility of catching the Saturday night Patriots game. The odds are 50/50 right now. Somebody's cousin is going to try to reprogram the satellite and if he is successful Tryphena, the bar owner, will take the TV out of the closet. Hmmm... It's not really that important a game anyway. Tryphena said she was serving dinner to the cruisers anchored in the Bay that night and would we like to join in? That led us to an evening with our old friends on Lady Galadriel and new friends on Angel, Mon Ami & Live Wire II.
It's good to be moving again.
Friday, January 18th
Port Nelson, Rum Cay
Today finds us at Rum Cay waiting for a weather window to get to the Island of Mayaguana, in the southeast Bahamas. Perhaps Sunday morning will find us on the move again. Over the last week we have made a reasonable amount of headway considering the football schedule and the trade winds.
Saturday afternoon we went for a walk at the ocean beach just northeast of Thompson's Bay. You walk past the Thompson Bay Inn, past an abandoned house and a house with goats and sheep then you hang a right at telephone pole #108 and follow the path for fifteen minutes till you arrive at the beach. Simple. My bean karma wasn't so hot, with only 4 beans, but Roger was particularly successful with a 2008 record count of ten beans in one day. Way to go Roger!
After an afternoon of beachcombing and a picnic we headed back to the Thompson Bay Inn to see if Amelia's cousin had had any success reprogramming the satellite TV. No joy. Things were looking bleak for the 8:00 p.m. game. We thought we'd walk to the little beach bar at the west end of the Bay to see if they had a TV. On our way out the dirt road a young guy in a souped up Subaru pulled over to see if we needed a ride. After explaining our dilemma Dwight offered to pick us up that evening, take us ten miles south to the Midway Inn which was the only local venue which would show the game, then pick us up afterwards. What planet were we on? The planet Nice apparently. Dwight arrived promptly at 7:30 at the end of the dirt road by the Bay and careened south with us cowering in our seats. Anything to get to the game. The "Inn" was more than willing to show the game on one of their two TV's. Of course on the other TV they would be having Karaoke. A respectable number of locals filed in throughout the evening to sing, play darts and pool, eat dinner and watch the game. When I say watch the game I mean that literally. The karaoke was so loud that you couldn't actually hear the play by play of the announcers but we were ok with that. We also had to be careful not to get poked in the side of the head with pool cues from the table which was two feet away. Truth be told the only other football fan in the place was a young guy with significant intellectual limitations. He had placed a bet on the game and was hoping that the combined final score would add up to fifty-one. Sadly he had a bit of trouble with addition so we kept him apprised of point totals throughout the game. Happily for us the Patriots won and even more happily the final combined score was fifty-one!! White Subaru Dwight showed up promptly at 11:15 and sped us back to our dirt road. A fine evening all in all.
Sunday morning found us heading out of Thompson's Bay towards the north end of Long Island. We took the opportunity in the calm weather to recommission our autopilot which had lost it's memory on the way to George Town in December. After driving in circles and pushing autopilot buttons for a half hour once we reached the general area of our destination, we pecked our way past the reef in front of Hog Cay and anchored in the beautiful clear water. What I find most striking about this anchorage is the sound of the birds. Despite there being a home (perhaps rarely frequented) on this private island the bird population seems to be quite large. There is an occupied osprey's nest high on a pole overlooking the anchorage, as well as a variety of gulls which sit on the barrier reef. I can't tell from the songs what other kinds of birds are around but it's great to hear them.
On Monday morning we headed for our favorite Bahamian anchorage, West Bay at Conception Island. On our way we encountered a catamaran named Windance III. We checked with them to see if they were having any better luck at their fishing than we were at ours. Negative. We arrived at Conception under a good bit of cloud cover in the early afternoon. Roger stood up on the cabin top scouting for coral while I made our slow approach. It was as beautiful as we remembered it. Despite the overcast conditions the white sand beach was beautiful and pristine. The water is a spectacular shade of blue and just amazingly clear. You can identify the kinds of fish swimming under your boat without even getting in the water. We took a walk on the beach and had a chat with a couple on one of the four boats in the anchorage. Dave and Anita on Dotori are from Florida and are slowly poking their way around the Bahamas like us. They may or may not head any further south.
Unfortunately Tuesday morning's weather forecast suggested that this was the only day for heading any further south till the middle of next week. It broke our hearts but we pulled up the anchor and left before we were able to enjoy more than a few hours of this beautiful island. We pointed the bow southeast into the non-existent wind and made for Rum Cay. A mere thirteen miles later we were at the western tip of Rum, rounding the corner for the five mile trek to the anchorage. Naturally the weather picked this time to degenerate. The clouds which had been hanging around decided to open up and I spent a very damp trip to the anchorage out on deck watching for coral heads. Happily by the time we reached the anchorage the rain had stopped and we were able to find a sandy spot to drop the hook. There was only one other sailboat at anchor at Rum. It was a single hander whom we recognized from George Town on a boat called Free Spirit. The boat count eventually rose to three boats as Wind Dance III arrived an hour or so after us, having made the same decision to abandon Conception for the promise of a possible weather window. In the afternoon we checked out the Sumner Point Marina by dinghy and made a quick stop at their bar. Quite a swell spot.
Wednesday was a washout so we spent all day puttering on the boat. On the positive side we were able to fill our water tanks with all the rainfall. Late in the afternoon we joined Christina & Werner on Windance III for sundowners. The Windance crew is Austrian but have been living in South Africa for the last 30 years. We enjoyed a great evening aboard their Privilege 44, a French-built catamaran. We are both headed in the same direction till Luperon in the D.R., when they will continue south and we will turn around.
Thursday was a work day. We had decided to do a seal job on the watermaker which had not been producing to capacity. The task took way longer than anticipated and we don't think it made much of a difference. We're not sure we want to invest a whole lot more time and money into the setup since we've discussed replacing it for one with higher capacity. That won't happen in the near future so we continue to mess with the current watermaker. Jon on Chancy, another single-hander, joined the slowly growing group of boats in the anchorage waiting for weather for shot further south.
Monday, January 21st
Port Nelson, Rum Cay
For a variety of reasons we find ourselves still at Rum Cay this morning. Yesterday's weather window was reasonable, if a bit short, and could have been a go. We hemmed and hawed and went out in the dinghy to see if the seas had diminished sufficiently to head out. Sort of, maybe. In the end we decided to wait for a slightly longer window expected midweek.
In the meantime we've really been enjoying ourselves here at Rum Cay. The locals are very friendly and the Island is beautiful. On Friday Roger went over to Windance III and talked batteries and power generation with Werner all morning. It was decided that we would meet for dinner that evening at one of the restaurants ashore. In the afternoon Roger and I went to town for a walk. The town is very appealing with tidy little homes, many landscaped with local flora. We stopped at Kaye's Last Chance Grocery where we found some lettuce and tomatoes to add to our meager vegetable stores. From there we made our way to Kaye's Restaurant & Bar where we made reservations for dinner. The menu is a surprise so all you have to do is show up at 7:00 p.m., sit down and eat. After making our reservations we headed outside to the almond tree in front of the Restaurant where we chatted with several of the locals. Roger especially enjoyed his conversation with a fellow who is a huge Boston Celtics Basketball fan. The two of them talked about the old days of Larry Bird & Co., becoming a bit misty-eyed at the memories.
Dinner was an affair to remember. The four of us arrived at the appointed hour and the table was set and ready. We were joined for dinner by Maria from Boca, whom we had met several days before at the Marina. She and her husband have just finished building a house on the Island and she is here working on the "punch-list". Dolores, Kaye's mother, was our chef and server. Within minutes of our arrival the plates began arriving and we began eating. Our meal consisted of biscuits, peas & rice, a whole baked fish in a sauce, a baked scalloped potato dish with tomato sauce, sautéed plantains and a salad. Dolores makes all of her own spices and uses the salt from the formerly profitable local salt pond. Everything was just wonderful and we managed to eat almost all of it. After solving all of the world's problems we waddled off to our dinghy's and beds.
Saturday was our Island tour day. Along with Windance III we rented a knobby-tired golf cart and headed off into the countryside. The Island is 30 square miles but you would be hard pressed to access anywhere near that amount, certainly not in a golf cart. The roads are few and far between. According to the Christina the Island's interior is like the South African bush. They explained that while here we watch out for the wild cows, in South Africa you would keep your eyes peeled for lions. We encountered neither during out trip but we did see some amazing sights.
Our first stop was at Maria's new oceanfront house. It was quite spectacular and is going onto our list of possible vacation destinations. From there we were directed towards the road to the Salt Pond by George from the Marina. Not surprisingly we managed to make a wrong turn and wound up missing the salt pond and having to push the golf cart through some gnarly terrain. We were rewarded for our efforts by a spectacular view of the Ocean from the southeast corner of the Island as well as a distant vista of the pond. At this point not wanting to become any more lost, we turned around. Moments later and much to our surprise we were confronted with a truck heading outbound while we were headed inbound. We pulled our little cart into the shrubbery and signaled for our fellow traveler to pass. Naturally on this small and friendly Island the driver stopped and introduced himself. His name was Ron and he and his wife hail from Rhode Island and have a cottage overlooking the cliffs of the eastern end of the Island. He invited us to visit but we explained that we had to continue our exploration before the sun began to sink in the sky. At this point we found our way back to the main road and pointed our knobby tires toward the north end of the Island. The road dead-ends at Port Boyd. Port Boyd is neither a port nor a town as far as I can see. What it is however is a lovely white sand beach protected by an off lying coral reef. We selected this spot for our picnic lunch. Amazingly we were not poisoned by our lunch despite the fact that we had hauled it around un-refrigerated all morning in the blazing sun. I had attempted to keep ours cold with a round of frozen salami but that was not as successful as I had hoped. After lunch I managed to find one hamburger bean for the Windancers. They were unfamiliar with the sport of bean hunting so I felt compelled to enlighten them. They undoubtedly pitched the small treasure overboard as soon as my head was turned but my duty was done. After a Port Boyd swim we headed back south to the Marina to return the cart. Unfortunately, as we completed the long (20 minute) journey back to our destination Werner realized that his shoes sat without him up at Port Boyd. The guys refueled and turned around while Christina and I lazed about in the shade awaiting their return. It was a wonderful day in a special place.
As I mentioned before most of Sunday was spent in a quandary about whether to stay or go. Once we decided to stay it didn't take us long to wind up at the Marina bar in front of the Patriots game. Three young guys on a boat called Audax from Portland, Maine were there as well to watch the first half of the game before taking advantage of the window. They will be glad to discover that the Patriots won.
Monday, January 28th
Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana
We were finally able to sail away from Rum Cay on Friday
the 25th with a freshening northeast breeze. We could have left on
Thursday but it would have been a motoring trip so we opted to wait one more
day. This wait also allowed us to have dinner with the recently arrived
crew of Windborne.
The passage to Mayaguana proved to be a rollicking sail just as forecast. Unfortunately the broad reach we had hoped for didn't materialize, as the wind clocked a bit more towards the east than we had hoped. This left us sailing between sixty and eighty degrees off the wind. It's a fine point of sail so we couldn't complain that it wasn't perfect. The seas built as predicted and we charged along in 6-8 footers. To put a slight damper on our party the wave period was a bit shorter than ideal making for a bouncy night. The moon turned up at about 9:30 in the evening and escorted us on our way. During the night we passed Samana Cay and the Plana Cays but saw neither. We had been in touch with Jon on Chancy via the VHF but lost track of him at about midnight as he headed off towards the Windward Passage and eventually Jamaica. Windance III was slightly behind us and we checked in with them on a regular basis. Roger was absolutely giddy all night. Despite the gusty wind and short wave period the boat handled beautifully. Just before dawn we passed the lights of the Betsy Bay Settlement on the northwest coast of Mayaguana. We had slowed the boat down to just over four knots so that we would arrive at our temporary anchorage on the southwest coast of the Island in daylight. At just about seven a.m. we dropped the hook in Start Bay. We would shower and nap and be ready to enter Abraham's Bay in the good afternoon light. We have three separate charts of Abraham's Bay and each one gives you a different impression of the Bay. I was hoping that the uncluttered Wavey Line chart was the most representative because the Explorer chart made the entrance look rife with coral and a bit unnerving. Happily the entrance proved to be quite straightforward and by two in the afternoon we found ourselves anchored with six other sailboats off of the government dock at the Abraham's Bay Settlement of Mayaguana.
We headed into town in the late afternoon to stretch our legs and get the lay of the land. We hadn't unlashed our dinghy from the deck yet so we caught a ride with Werner & Christina. The dinghy "channel" is quite interesting. You know that when a dinghy channel needs to be marked with stakes to keep you from going aground it's really shallow. Despite it being low tide we managed to make our way in to the dock, "tie up" (read: wedge an anchor in the concrete wall of the dock to keep the boat from floating away) and meander our way to town. We were directed to the local watering hole, aptly named "Thunderstorm." The music was so loud all we could do was smile at one another. We were able to withstand the onslaught for only one beer before we had to move on. We then found our way to Reggie's for a dinner of cracked conch. We encountered Reggie in the back room of his establishment, talking on the phone. When asked if we could get some dinner he said of course. He set to work pounding our dinner while we transported the (only) table outside to dine by sunset. Reggie turned up before too long bearing dinner and bug spray. A lovely evening was had by all. (Note: the dinghy channel is substantially more interesting in the dark.)
Sunday was a spectacular Bahamian day. The skies were an amazing blue and the wind had dropped to a mere breath. Monday's forecast was for a cold front so we knew we had to make the most of the day. We took the dinghy and our snorkel gear out to the reef which fringes the entire five mile length of the Bay. The visibility was terrific and the coral and the fish were beautiful. After several hours we returned to the boat and relaxed in the sun. Later in the afternoon Werner & Christina turned up with a dinghy full of conch and an evening of feasting was proclaimed. Roger and Werner did most of the really dirty work, cleaning the conch out on one of Windance's stern platforms. Christina built a terrific conch salad and we pounded the remaining conch for steaming with vegetables. It was a great Bahamian meal. All that was missing was the peas & rice.
Monday was supposed to be car tour day but a front came through overnight and the wind persisted in the a.m. so we called Reggie and postponed till Tuesday. We did manage to get into town for a leg stretch in the afternoon. After our walk we sat at the gazebo at the four way intersection and watched the world go by for a bit. We were joined after a fashion by a young man named Kenny who hails from Nassau. His mother is from Abraham's Bay and he comes here often. Next year he plans to retire from his career as a DJ and settle on Mayaguana to farm. We chatted about a variety of things including the DJ business, Junkanoo, island regattas and sports. As we left we told him we'd stop by Cousins by the Bay in George Town during the Family Island Regatta to listen to him do his DJ thing. He said we might find the clientele a bit rowdy and the music would definitely be louder than at Thunderstorm. Perhaps we'll just stick our heads in and wave.
Tuesday dawned bright and early and looked good for an Island tour. That is until we listened to the weather forecast. Today was going to be a good day to stage at Mayaguana's Southeast Point for a passage to Provo in the Turks & Caicos. What to do?? After some hemming and hawing we decided to skip the car tour and head out. Windance III was going to spend another day so we said our goodbyes and started prepping for our trip.
Thursday, January 31st
Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos
During our preparations Tuesday morning we were hailed by cousin Kevin on Windborne. They were just completing an overnight from Rum Cay and planned to anchor five miles away at the west end of Abraham's Bay. They too were thinking of a possible departure that night for Provo. By noon we were ready to head out the eastern cut of Abraham's Bay to sail the ten miles southeast to the tip of Mayaguana. We wanted to anchor there in a coral-free spot for a midnight departure for Provo. Provo is only a forty mile trip from Mayaguana and ideally you want to arrive in the early morning before the trade winds pick up on your nose. Before dinner we took a walk on the beautiful sand beach of Southeast Point. We came upon five hamburger beans, a sea biscuit and two West Indian Flamingos (our first such sighting.) We were joined at Southeast Point by a catamaran named Independence which was also headed for Provo. By one a.m. we were on our way. The night was a bit cloudy but the last quarter moon shone through, lighting the surface of the water. The seas were nicely spaced and the ride was very comfortable. The breeze was a bit tight on our port bow forcing us to motor-sail but we made very good time. During the night we talked via VHF to both Independence and Windborne who were underway and moving well. We decided to take the longer route, around the southern tip of West Caicos, into our destination of Sapodilla Bay. We thought the wind might be at a better angle than in the more northerly Sandbore Channel and certainly the morning light was at a better angle. In the end we don't think it was a necessary move but we did get to see the east side of West Caicos. There were eight boats at anchor when we arrived in Sapodilla Bay, four of whom we recognized from earlier stops. We inflated the dinghy and Roger made his way to Customs to check in. It was goodbye to the Bahamas and hello to the Turks & Caicos.