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Mid/Late-Winter Update

Because I am a bit bad about sending updates to our log I have decided to rename the sections so that I don't look quite so lax. Welcome to the "Mid/Late-Winter Update". Right on time, eh?

Friday, February 8th, 2002 • Calabash Bay, Long Island

It has been a long and somewhat stationary three weeks since our last update. We had every intention of departing from George Town the week after Nick's return home but one thing led to another, and well...

Several days after Nick left we pulled up our anchor and headed over to town to provision for our next outing. While covering the one-mile from Stocking Island to Regatta Point (the anchorage off of town) our forward gear disengaged when we went over 2200 RPMs. This was a BAD thing. Your valiant cruisers knew they would have to remain in George Town until this problem was solved.

I know it's just the tiniest bit possible that you are SICK TO DEATH of us describing our mechanical failures, but take my word for it, it hurts us more than it hurts you.

After messing around with the shift cables to no avail, the conclusion was reached that the problem was with the clutch plates themselves. Roger went onto the George Town Cruiser's Net, which runs on the VHF every morning, and asked for ideas/suggestions. Boy! What an array of responses. It's amazing how willing to help the cruising community is. We heard from people who were familiar with Hurth transmissions and from people who had rebuilt their transmissions. We even heard from several folks who travel with spare Hurth transmissions who were willing to part with them.

After looking at the various options, and the accessibility of the part in question we decided to try to get ahold of a left-handed propeller. By installing a left-handed propeller we could use our reverse gear (which was fine) as our forward gear and be on our merry, albeit conservative, way.

I will not describe what is involved in getting a left-handed propeller delivered to a boat anchored in George Town, Great Exuma. Suffice it to say that it is much like getting a depth sounder delivered to a town in rural Maine (see logs for "July".)

Our ever-industrious Captain managed to procure a prop-puller from a boat called "Seagull Seeker" and assumed his role as Jacques Cousteau. With scuba gear borrowed from "Eleanor M" he disappeared under the boat. Skip and I sat in attendance in the dinghy, tool bag at the ready. Despite horror stories of "six hours it took me to remove my old propeller", Jacques returned in a matter of minutes with the old prop in hand.

A test drive after the new prop was installed proved successful and we were ready to go!

You may be wondering how we filled our time during this three-week hiatusÉ Let me describe to you our foray into the world of beach volleyball.

There is a portion of the George Town cruising population that lives for beach volleyball. There are at least six courts on Stocking Island and no shortage of people to fill them. Beach volleyball is broken into two kinds of games; "Fun" and "Regulation". As you might guess, fun volleyball is for those who are fairly laid back by nature and regulation is for those who have a clue and like to be yelled at by their fellow players.

After attending a beginner's "clinic", I participated in my first fun volleyball game. I found myself at the "center" position on my nine-man team. Center is a position that, I now know gets a lot of action. In my tenure as center I managed to either miss or send out of bounds every ball which was served my way. The main problem was that the other team's server served every single ball to me. My team was therefore skunked 15-0, with no shifting of positions on either side. I'm sure I don't need to point out what an amazing accomplishment this was on my part. I was swiftly sent to the empty children's court with a coach, for some remedial volleyball training. The sport was never the same for me after that.

Roger, although initially reluctant to try volleyball, finally gave in. Unlike yours truly, he went straight for the Regulation (meaning it has rules) volleyball court. He figured he was big and particularly aggressive so he'd make out ok. All went well for the first few days. Unfortunately, after about a week he began to obsess about his game and the various moves involved. At the beach, waiting to use the phone, and relaxing in the cockpit at night he would practice his "bump". We both decided he was losing control and must cease his pursuit of volleyball greatness.

At about this time we had completed the transmission fix and were more than a little eager to head out. Yaquina, a boat we had first met on our Charleston- Fernandina overnight had arrived in George Town during this period and we decided we would both head down to Long Island and try to get to the Jumentos together.

We left George Town this morning, somewhat after the "Sail Naked to Long Island Regatta" which attracted about eight boats. After three weeks in George Town with 350+ boats we were hoping for a little solitude (we also wanted to avoid getting sunburned on particularly sensitive areas,) so we went solo. There was absolutely no wind and no seas so we were able to further test the propeller fix under benign conditions. We arrived at Calabash Bay, at the north end of Long Island, by early afternoon and spent a blissfully quiet night by ourselves.

Saturday, February 9th, 2002 • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

We had a really nice 20-mile sail down to Thompson's Bay from Calabash today. The wind was East 15-20 and we were in the lee of the island so it was smooth and speedy sailing. Yaquina showed up from George Town in the late afternoon and we hung out with them for the sunset.

Sunday, February 10th, 2002 • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

Jim and Lorraine (the Yaquina folks) and I went to visit "Wendy Ann" this morning. Tom and Wendy, who are in their mid-seventies, come from Canada to rent a cottage here every winter. They used to cruise aboard a boat called "Wendy Ann" but they are pretty much shore-bound at this point. They love to make contact with the cruisers who anchor in the Thompson's Bay/Salt Pond area so they monitor the VHF and check in with new arrivals. Yaquina met them last winter while cruising in the area and have maintained an e-mail correspondence with them.

After a nice visit with Tom and Wendy, Lorraine and I headed to the Oceanside for a little beachcombing. We were in search of the elusive "hamburger bean". A hamburger bean is more like a giant seed (about the size of a hard candy) which floats north from either Africa or South America (disputed amongst clueless cruisers such as ourselves) and washes ashore on the beaches here. They are very pretty once polished and make fine gifts...

Roger, meanwhile, was dismantling the leaking saltwater foot pump in the galley. His efforts were not rewarded and the pump was consigned to the broken stuff department.

Monday, February 11th, 2002 • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

We made the two-mile voyage into Salt Pond ("town") aboard Yaquina today. They had to get fuel so we went along for the ride. I wanted to get my hair cut (hadn't been done since September) and I had the phone number for the local hairdresser, courtesy of Wendy Ann. I went to the gas station to use the phone, explaining my story to the woman behind the counter. "No problem" was the cashier's response, "Marcie is my Sister-in-Law". Apparently everyone on Long Island is related in some form or another.

One hour later I was a new woman. Shampooed (!!) and cut. Upon our return to the fuel dock to meet Yaquina we found Lorraine hanging her morning's outfit out to dry on the rail. It seems she had just finished swimming for an escaping fender.

Tuesday, February 12th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

The rain started at 1:00 a.m. and continued steadily through the morning. Not a common occurrence in these parts. We decided to check out the new local restaurant for lunch. We called "Club Washington" on the VHF radio and they came to pick us up. I had my first cracked conch. It proved to be quite tasty.

The weather forecast for the next few days is not all that promising. We had hoped to get some steady trades from the E-SE to be able to sail down to the Jumento Island chain. Because they are fairly unprotected from the north you want a forecast that is front-free. So far, no luck.

Wednesday, February 13th, Thompson's Bay, Long Island

Today we went on our "Blue Hole" adventure. A blue hole is a deep spot in otherwise shallow water. We boarded the good ship Yaquina (she draws less than Great Notions) and headed south about five miles to an area called Gray's Bight. According to the guidebooks this particular blue hole is about 100 yards long and about half that long with a depth of around 40 feet. Mind you, this is located in an area where the water is generally about three feet deep. We decided this was a must see. After we anchored the mother ship we hopped into the dinghy (known as "Piglet") and headed in the general direction of the hole. Out of nowhere appeared what appeared to be a blue hole (hence the name?). We had found it! Truth be told the most appealing part of the blue hole adventure, for me at least, was the part where we drove over it in the dinghy. To go from three feet of water to deep blue in a second was neat. The part where we actually swam around in it was not so appealing. I kept thinking something big with teeth was going to come surging up from the depths. One blue hole will probably hold me.

The afternoon was passed aboard Yaquina playing Skip-Bo.

Thursday, February 14th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

Today we hitchhiked south from Salt Pond to Guana Cay. We did not time this trip particularly well, ride-wise. Thursday a.m. around eleven is not prime hitching time in greater Salt Pond. Wednesday is mailboat day and would have been a smarter choice. Lots of people come to meet the boat and rides are plentiful. As far as 11:00 a.m. goes, it's just a tough time. Everyone is already a work, etc. Fortune was smiling upon us however, and after only 20 minutes or so a big white pick-up stopped to pick us up. That's all FOUR of us, since we were with the Yaquinas for this outing. We explained where we were going and the couple, who were American retirees, dropped us right at the end of the Guana Cay dirt road.

Once at the ocean, Roger and I snorkeled out to the Cay while Jim and Lorraine beachcombed. Guana was littered with giant conch shells, probably left by conch fishermen. The footing was somewhat treacherous so we didn't make it to the far side of the island. I managed to transport one tiny little conch shell back to the mainland beach, with the aid of my bathing suit bottoms.

Who should drive up as we arrived at the highway end of the Guana Cay road but the retired American couple in their white truck. Yahoo! Timing is everything.

Friday, February 15th, • Bains Bluff, Long Island

By this time we had been in Thompson's Bay for the better part of a week and Roger was starting to get stir crazy. For diversionary purposes he hatched a plan to sail north to a bay near Bains Bluff. The Yaquinas decided to stay put, so we were on our own for our little trip.

The sail was very nice, though somewhat brief (we went only six miles or so.) We anchored near the north end of a big bay. According to the chart we were perhaps off of the settlement of Morris. Once anchored we took the dinghy for a tour of our new surroundings. We encountered a cave on the north shore of the Bay. Neither of us are particularly into caves so we didn't venture in. (I contemplate the various creatures which might live within and Roger is simply afraid he'll get stuck inside.) We continued on our tour and met up with several sea creatures. We followed a little shark for a while, then took up with a ray of some variety. Eventually we pulled the dinghy up onto the beach and went for a walk. The first curious thing we stumbled across was what appeared to be a development-to-be. There was an array of dirt roads leading nowhere, without buildings on them. The development did appear to have power since there were lots of poles. After checking out the development we continued down the beach. Next we came upon what was most definitely an architect-designed house. It was actually several buildings that were stylistically related. One might have been a studio of some sort and all had Quonset style roofs. You don't see many houses like this in the parts of the Bahamas we frequent. Happily nobody was home to ask us to remove ourselves from the beach. After all of this we decided to call it a day.

Saturday, February 16th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

After a leisurely morning we sailed ourselves back to Thompson's Bay and took up where we had left off with our cold front obsession. Still no good news. More Skip-Bo with the Yaquinas.

Sunday, February 17th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

We decided to be productive today. Roger re-bedded a couple of port lights and I made granola. Weather still stinks.

Monday, February 18th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

Today instead of hitching to town like we usually do, we took the dinghy. It's a couple of miles, so with our 3.3 HP engine it's a bit of a haul. We wanted to get some drinking water and motoring seemed to make more sense. It was a scenic, if wet, trip.

One of the boats anchored in Thompson's Bay (there were about 15 of us at this point) invited everyone to a beach party "at the head of the path to the well" to be held later in the afternoon. An elfin elderly gentleman who invited us to use his waterfront pier for our get-together met the group on the beach. It turns out that the man was John McKie. He and his wife retired to Salt Pond after many years of cruising aboard their boat "Sun Seeker". We met lots of interesting folks and ate very well. A boat named Alligator, from Pensacola, FL., arrived with a dip called Flamingo Poop and drinks called "Cranky Babies". They built Alligator themselves over the past several years. She is modeled after some sort of Louisiana fishing boat. After cruising on a sailboat with 7+ draft for a number of years they are tickled with their present 3+ feet of draft.

Tuesday, February 19th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

Today our indecision about whether to keep hanging around here till good weather arrives is turning to a resignation that we're going to have to call it quits and head back north. Spent a good deal of the day playing Skip-Bo with the Yaquinas.

Wednesday, February 20th • Thompson's Bay, Long Island

We've pretty much decided to take off tomorrow for the north end of Long Island. We spent our last day in the area beachcombing. At the get-together Monday night the folks on Mollyhawk said there was a nice ocean beach if we walked north on Queen's Highway and took a right at "pole 108". The beach was quite something. Like many of the ocean beaches, there was an incredible array of stuff washed up and there for the picking. Most of the stuff you encounter is some variation of plastic. Barrels, buckets, bottles and shoes are quite prevalent. Once again our quest was for beans. Between Roger, Lorraine and I we found 10 beans. An impressive haul. Jim found a giant turtle shell. It was most stinky and you couldn't have strung it on a necklace.

Thursday, February 21st • Hog Cay, Long Island

Today we gave up on the Jumentos and headed north up the backside of Long Island. We anchored south of Joe's Sound at Hog Cay. Hog Cay is a private island so you can't go ashore, but it sure is pretty to just look at. Once you're tucked in behind the coral reef that provides a bit of protection from the seas, you find yourself in a little bit of paradise. There is a house on shore, but it doesn't seem to take away from the beauty of the spot. Between the crystal clear water and the lovely beach, it is a great spot. As we watched the sunset with Yaquina I think we were all glad to have made the move.

Friday, February 22nd • Conception Island

Sailed north around the tip of Long Island up to Conception. It was a very breezy 15-mile trip. Conception Island is my favorite place thus far on our trip. This was our second visit and we found it just as beautiful as we did the first time we were here. Shortly after anchoring in West Bay we were visited by dolphins. A mom and baby made a loop through the anchorage, passing quite close by. What a neat thing to watch. In the afternoon Roger and I went for a walk on the beach which we had all to ourselves. A really nice afternoon. Tomorrow we'll part company with Yaquina. They need to get back to George Town to pick up guests. We're thinking of heading north to Cat Island. Milo thinks this is a good idea. I'm going to miss our new friends.

Saturday, February 23rd • New Bight, Cat Island

We said goodbye to Yaquina this morning and headed north. The sail to New Bight on Cat Island was a smoker. The wind was blowing 20+ from the southeast, which allowed us a great broad reach. We made 6-8 knots the whole way. We knew there was a cold front forecast for tonight and we had to make a decision about whether we wanted protection from the SW portion of the front , or from the NW portion. There were conflicting weather reports about whether the front was going to clock or not. We passed a half dozen boats anchored around the corner from Hawk's Nest Point at the south end of the Island. They were opting for SW protection. We decided to head the ten miles into New Bight. We figured that the ten miles from the point to the Bight was shallow water that might help to keep the seas down. As far as the wind direction went we were just taking a chance that the front would clock quickly around to the NW and not linger in the SW (from which we'd have no protection).

Between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. we were thrashed quite thoroughly from the SW. The wind was blowing at about 30 knots, but the boat was riding well and the holding, we knew, was good. At about 2:00 a.m. the wind clocked to NW which gave us an ever so slight respite. The seas went from 4+ feet to 2-4 feet and fewer things went sailing around the cabin. This was Roger's birthday present.

Sunday, February 24th • New Bight, Cat Island (Roger's Birthday)

It turns out that we made the right decision about anchorages last night. In the early hours of the morning the boats which had been anchored at the Point made their way to the Bight, one by one. In listening to their VHF conversations it seems that they had a very bumpy night. When the wind turned NW, large (6'-8') seas started crashing in from the deep water of the Sound. One boat said that it's new 5/8" snubber snapped under the tension. Another boat said that their dinghy had flipped. Several of the boats motored around the Bight all night waiting for light to re-anchor. One single-hander simply put out to deep water and drove around all night.

It reminded us , once again, that weather forecasting is an inexact science at best, and that you just have to hope for some good fortune from time to time.

It was still too rolly and windy to go ashore, so we lounged around most of the day. I made brownies for Roger's birthday. They were a big hit.

Monday, February 25th • New Bight, Cat Island

Today we visited the Hermitage. The Hermitage, built in the 1940's, is a SCALED-DOWN replica of a European Franciscan Monastery. It was built by one Father Jerome as a retirement home. It sits atop the highest hill in the Bahamas (204') and is quite something. One of our guidebooks describes the hillside approach this way; "The steep stone steps climbing past the grim Stations of the Cross indicate that the Father either had tiny feet or was exceptionally adroit." Roger thought that perhaps he should have brought along some sort of protective headgear to prevent concussion once inside the monastery.

Despite being very small, it really meets every need. There is a little chapel as well as a separate kitchen and outhouse. The views are spectacular in every direction. It would be an easy spot to contemplate life.

The funny thing about this "tourist attraction" is that you'd never know anyone else had ever been to see it. A decrepit old sign marks the road to the monastery. The road is dirt, with lots of ruts. On the way up the hill you pass the local's veggie gardens which are definitely Au naturale. There is no entry fee, no guards and no souvenir shop. If only all sightseeing could be so laid back.

After our descent from Mt. Alvernia we went to the Bluebird Restaurant for lunch. It was one of those rare places where you don't have to order your lunch ahead of time. The choices of the day were steamed mutton or fried chicken. We both went with the fried chicken. We relaxed in this nifty spot, looking out at Great Notions which was (finally) bobbing gently.

Our last task of the day was to find some bread. On the street we encountered Edith Williams and her granddaughter, who were out for a walk. Edith related that her parents (both "pre-deceased", God bless them) had assisted Father Jerome in the transport of cement for the building of the Hermitage. She was a wealth of information, including a bread source. After stopping in at Miss King's house for a loaf of Bahamian sandwich bread (white, with a touch of something which might be vanilla) we made our way back to the boat.

Tuesday, February 26th • New Bight, Cat Island

Today we went on a somewhat abbreviated daytrip. The plan was to sail thirteen miles north to the spot on the chart called Stephenson. This section of Cat Island is quite narrow and has a road to the oceanside. We were hoping to do a little beachcombing but it was not to be. The sailing part of the day went quite well. Despite a layer of clouds, the visibility was still reasonable enough to see any hazards. The plan started to fall apart when the engine wouldn't start prior to anchoring. The cause was readily obvious. The starter button had become disconnected. After getting the boat anchored we pulled out the tool kit and spent a leisurely few hours reconnecting the button. We're happy to say it works great now. Unfortunately we no longer had time for a walk and instead sailed back to New Bight.

Wednesday, February 27th • George Town, Great Exuma

Another front was predicted for tonight so we decided not to test our luck in New Bight but to head back to George Town instead. The trip from Cat to George Town is about 55 miles so we rose bright and early and headed SW. The promised pre-frontal SE wind made only a brief appearance before swinging to SW. This put it almost exactly on our nose. Happily it was blowing only about 6 knots along with some gentle rollers so it wasn't a huge hassle. Not a great sail but we got here.

We anchored off of Regatta Point and had a really relaxing evening. The calm before yet another storm.

Thursday, February 28th • George Town, Great Exuma

Did a bunch of chores in town. Became very wet riding around in the dinghy because IT'S BLOWING AGAIN! You kind of have to get used to being wet or you are stuck on the boat. This evening we threw caution to the wind and headed across the harbor to get together with the Yaquinas. Also in attendance were the Norskys and the Abitibis. Abitibi is named after the part of Quebec that Jean Rene and Louise are from. I gather it's pretty far north. I learned a good deal about the making of French bread from Louise. Let's see if I can put it into practice.

We managed to find our boat after the gathering.

To March 2002

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