Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Days 133 to 138--Marsh Harbour

Days 133 to 138- Taking Care of Things in Marsh Harbour

Tuesday, April 14th to Sunday, April 19th, 2009
After all that partying in Great Guana, we sailed over to March Harbour to pick up our mail from the states and get some work done. The weather surprised us with two nights of thunder storms— lots of rain and lightening. This was the first time in five months of sailing the Bahamas, we have had rain storms! We were anchored safely in Marsh Harbour and the fresh rain water provided a welcome wash down for our salt encrusted boat.
We got our mail from home on Wednesday and it included the Home Land Security/Customs decal we needed to facilitate re-entering the US. Also, there were a few old bills that will have to be settled when we get home and newsletters from church, etc. and some Christmas Cards, Birthday Cards and Valentines—Thanks everyone! And, a special thanks goes to Mom/Jean for sorting and sending mail as well as negotiating with the hospital billing department for us!
Marsh Harbour provided what we needed to get a number of things done. John repaired our refrigerator and was able to replace the fan with a new one from an electronics shop here. Penny found the little foam brushes she needed to re-varnish the teak rail around the deck. Additionally, there were lots of provisions in the local grocery, lots of free internet at Curly Tails Bar & Grill, and—most important of all—hot showers in air-conditioned bathrooms! Ah—so civilized!
The only exciting story we have from our stay in Marsh Harbour happened Thursday evening as we treated ourselves to dinner at Snappa’s Bar and Grill. We had just finished eating and were waiting for the guys down the bar from us to pay so we could settle up our bill too. The bar’s VHF had been squawking about something, but we didn’t pay much attention. Suddenly, John realized that someone out in the harbour was calling all the bars around the harbour trying to find the people for s/v Always Saturday and anyone anchored near it. Yikes!! Always Saturday was dragging anchor with no one on board and s/v Caribbean Soul was anchored nearby. The guys paying their bill ahead of us were the crew of Always Saturday! We all paid up, jumped in our dinghies, and sped off to rescue our boats—just like they do in the movies! Our boat was not in the way of Always Saturday but a neighbor boat was right in its path. They had tried to pull up their anchor and get out of the way, but their anchor snagged on something and wouldn’t come up. When we arrived, this boat—s/v Conch Clipper— had put out its bumpers and was going to try to fend off Always Saturday as best they could. Fortunately, the missing crew showed up in time to motor Always Saturday out of the way and re-set the anchor. The crisis was not over for Conch Clipper with the fouled anchor. A number of captains in dinghies were offering Conch Clipper lots of complex advice; however, it seemed to Capt. John that the solution was pretty straight forward— somebody needed to dive down and untangle the anchor. Remembering how Michael on s/v Chusan had helped us, John pulled on his snorkel and fins to help these folks. It took a couple of dives and some help from above water to get Conch Clipper’s anchor free. A heavy chain of unknown origin had snagged it. Good job John! And, we got to meet some more nice folks—Ron and Sonja Hensel aboard Conch Clipper.
Sorry no pictures. We will get that camera going again. Also, we eagerly await Finley’s visit (April 27) and we wish Karen a successful run in the Boston Marathon Monday (April 20) and dissertation defense on Wednesday (April 22).
Our friend Ken Herman is constantly in our thoughts and prayers, as are Mary Jon, Gladys and Jennifer too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Days 130 to132- Easter Fun on Great Guana Cay

Days 130 to 132- Easter on Great Guana Cay

Saturday, April 11th through Monday, April 13th, 2009
We were happy to be back in the Abacos. It was like returning home to the big, shallow “swimming pool” of the Sea of Abacos. It really didn’t matter where we sailed next in the Abacos just as long as we were in Marsh Harbour by April 27th to get son Finley from the airport. Also, we had mail forwarded from home (thanks Mom!) that needed to be picked up from the Marsh Harbour Post Office. From our restful anchorage at Tilloo Cay, the winds were blowing us toward the north and west. Marsh Harbour was up that way, but this was Easter weekend and the Post Office would be closed until Tuesday and Finley’s arrival was two weeks away. Both Treasure Cay and Great Guana Cay were an easy sail from Tilloo Cay. We visited Treasure Cay in January on our way south, but Great Guana was last visited by us ten years ago. So, off we headed to Great Guana for a big Easter weekend!

Our fresh water supply was running low again, so we stopped briefly at Boat Harbour to fill our almost empty tanks with 65 gallons of water—yay! We also topped off our diesel tanks, but it was hardly necessary—only 6 gallons. Those good ol’ sails were doing their job and we rarely turn on the engine. After about 6 hours of sailing and stopping to load our tanks, we arrived at the mooring field in Settlement Harbour, Great Guana Cay, Abacos. There were only a couple of moorings left and they were in the shallow part of the harbour. We thought briefly of trying to anchor in Settlement Harbour, but there didn’t seem to be much room and it was probably poor holding for anchors. Capt. John called Dive Guana who owns the moorings asking if we could take one and would it accommodate a 37 ft. sailboat with a 4.5 foot draft. The Dive Shop replied that we were welcome to any of the available moorings—all would work fine for us. So we motored over to the available shallow mooring slowly—watching the depth gauge drop from 6 feet to 5 feet to 4 feet. We were still floating as John climbed out of the cockpit to walk up to the bow, but before he could grab the mooring tackle with the boat hook, we were aground. OOPS! Revving the engine and grumbling did no good—we were stuck for at least a few hours as the tide was coming in and would float us off. Michael Franks on nearby sailing vessel (s/v) Chusan jumped in his dinghy and motored over to help. John and Michael decided the thing to do was to have Michael dinghy our anchor out into the deeper water so as we began to float again, we would have control of our boat. It worked perfectly—thanks Mike! We were concerned that someone would come and tie up to the mooring before we floated off so John motored our dinghy over, tied the dinghy to the mooring, and swam back to our boat while we waited. That worked too! Later we got to spend some time with Michael and his wife Barbara—such nice folks.
Great Guana Cay is the major party island of the Abacos and they were definitely geared up for Easter. The famous Nippers Bar and Grill sponsored an Easter Egg Hunt for all ages. Young children hunted for eggs on the beach and older kids/adults snorkeled for eggs in the waters of the reef. The eggs contained coupons for all sorts of prizes and cash money. Nippers had a giant Easter Bunny, their famous pig roast and tropical drinks, two fresh water swimming pools, and about 400 people! It was packed!

Please know that you don’t just come ashore from your boat in the harbour and walk right into Nippers—oh, no, it’s definitely not that simple. Once you get ashore, you have to hike or thumb a ride on a golf cart through the jungle and up a sandy knoll to the ocean beach side of Great Guana (only about 200 yards). Here are some pictures of the hike into Nippers: John with the colorful front-end loader sign (an arrow on the front points towards Nippers), some poisonwood trees along the way, and Penny in front of Nippers’ colorful entrance.

As the mob of people queued up for the egg hunts, we ordered up a huge lunch of roasted pig and all the trimmings. Then when the egg hunts started down on the beach, the fresh water pools emptied out—perfect for us to lounge by the pool and do a little swimming. Here are pictures of Nippers’ Easter Bunny, the deck overlooking the beach (before egg hunters charged out there), and the lower swimming pool without tons of kids!
When the mobs of people returned to Nippers’ pool and deck after the Easter Egg Hunt, we decided it was time to hike back through the jungle and explore Great Guana’s other party spot—Grabbers! Grabbers was fun too! They are on Fishers’ Bay—the banks side of the island. A “rake and scrape” band featuring Brown Tip was providing full volume entertainment at one end of the pool. A “rake and scrape” band, as we’ve learned, is a Bahamian ting (thing) where talented locals make music with saws and wash boards and such. How does one play a saw, you might ask. Well, they scrape a filleting knife along the edge of a regular old saw as they bend the saw back and forth. It’s hard to believe this would make good music, but it does—or maybe it was the tropical drinks! Below are the pictures of us enjoying Grabbers.

On our way back to our Caribbean Soul, we snapped this picture of another Caribbean Sohl. Well, more horse power, but a lot less charm!

Days 128 and 129- Passage to Abacos

Days 128 & 129—Passage from Eleuthera to Abacos

Thursday, April 9th and Friday, April 10th, 2009
Our passage from Eleuthera to the Abacos was a two-day trip. Day one was an easy sail along the Eleutheran Banks north to Current Cut. The only challenges predicted for this day were navigating the two cuts—Hatchet Bay Pond Cut and Current Cut. As it turned out, neither cut was a problem—smoothing sailing through both! Pictured below are views of the Hatchet Bay Pond Cut. Hopefully, you can get a feel for how tight that little cut is!

We have no pictures of Current Cut, but there wasn’t much to see above the water. The tricky parts in Current Cut are the rocks and tidal surge below the water. We timed our passage for slack tide when the surge would be at a minimum, but we had to be careful to steer around the rocks that lined the channel (most of which you cannot see from the surface). As it turned out, Capt. John zoomed through the Cut with no problem! We anchored up north of Current Cut for an early night to get lots of sleep.
Pictured here is one of those shots we have to explain. It is Eleuthera’s Glass Window from a distance. It’s a very narrow part of Eleuthera that used to have a natural bridge. A hurricane took out the natural bridge so a man-made bridge now spans the gap. With our binoculars we could see the ocean through the gap under the bridge. We doubt that you can see very much in the picture, although you can try enlarging it if you want. Anyway, here’s the Glass Window, Eleuthera.

Our second day was an ocean passage through the Northeast Providence Channel to the Abacos—about a 60 nautical mile trip. We timed out trip to hit favorable winds so we could sail the whole way across the Channel in daylight hours. This plan necessitated an early start so we could make it into the Abaco Banks (Sea of Abaco) by dark. Our start began with coffee and cereal at 4 AM! We were sailing north toward Little Egg and Egg Islands by 4:30 AM. The winds were great and the Channel was rolly with 4 to 5 foot waves. Six or seven other sailboats were also heading across the Channel at the same time. It was a brisk and exciting sail across the deep blue water of the Channel. We averaged 6 knots sailing for 10 hours—a full day of sailing. Our friends aboard the catamaran Rum Tum Tiger rolled out their spinnaker. Here are a couple pictures of Rum Tum.

By 4:30 PM, Caribbean Soul was sailing into the Sea of Abaco through the Little Harbour Cut—no problems, mon. We sailed north to a sheltered anchorage at Tilloo Cay, Abacos. Lots of good sleep and rest there!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Days 126 and 127- Hatchet Bay

Days 126 and 127- Happy Days in Hatchet Bay

Tuesday, April 7 to Wednesday, April 8, 2009
What a nice place and what nice people—Alice Town, Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera! We didn’t mention in yesterday’s blog of the crab pot debacle that we also got to see all of the NCAA men’s basketball championship final game Monday night. Yay UNC!

Da Spott in Alice Town was where we spent the evening watching Carolina maintain that huge point spread against Michigan State to become the national champs. While there were some Bahamians at Da Spott who watched the game with us, most of the locals watched wrestling on the other TV. In the pictures below, you can see Da Spott in the daylight. Also, in the pictures are Robert, the wonderful bartender; Carl & Reva chatting with local landowner Bob about caves and Penny eves dropping; and Penny with Da Spott’s TV.

Another interesting place in Alice Town was Waters Edge Internet Café. In the pictures below you can see the Café’s owner, Double Dee, and her pet rooster named Roody. Roody was having a bad day—challenging every male person who entered the Café to a fight! To keep the customers from being assaulted by Roody, Dee either had to hold him or cage him. Apparently, Roody roams free on better days. In the picture of Carl, Reva, and Penny on the porch, you can see where Carl, Reva and Dee sat watching our “daring” crab pot disentanglement the previous day.

Here are some other shots of Alice Town. They include the Methodist Church, an interesting blue house, pretty yellow flowers, a little shack with laundry in the yard up on a cliff, a typical Alice Town street down to the Bay, John at the intersection of Main and Cambridge Streets, and two pictures of the lovely lavender laundry. The laundry, by-the-way, was very nice but had no hot water and only two driers with heat. It seems that the propane had not been delivered, so no hot water and only the two electric driers would actually dry.

While we waited at the laundry, we got to see the school kids file by on their way to fly home-made kites. In Alice Town the kids are as friendly as the adults—most of them spoke and waved as they passed by us. Here are the pictures.

Finally, here are pictures of Hatchet Bay Pond. You can see Caribbean Soul and Three Belles moored up near each other. Three Belles is such a beautiful boat, we had to snap and share these pictures. In a couple of pictures you can see the very narrow cut that connects Hatchet Bay Pond inside with Eleuthera Banks outside.

On Thursday, April 9th, we will head out from this protected little harbour pond through the narrow cut and sail north to Current Cut.

Day 125- Day We Caught a Crab Pot

Day 125- The Day Caribbean Soul Caught the Crab Pot

Monday, April 6, 2009
Once again, the weather caused us to leave one anchorage and head for another with better wind protection. Our friends from Beaufort aboard Three Belles—Carl and Reva—had left Governors Harbour a couple of days ago returning to their “home” mooring in Hatchet Bay Pond farther north on Eleuthera Island. We lingered in Governors Harbour as long as we could, then headed out to the safe harbour of Hatchet Bay Pond and the settlement of Alice Town.
There was a brisk wind and a mild chop on the Eleuthera Banks—just right for a very enjoyable and short sail up to Hatchet Bay. Then the crab pot thing happened!
Yikes! We had never seen crab pots set out in deep water, but there they were in 30 feet of water strung from Governors Harbour to Hatchet Bay. Both of us watched for and dodged around the pots as each one had at least 30 feet of line that could get foaled around our propeller. Somehow, we must have missed one (Penny as probably steering) because as we approached Hatchet Bay, John noticed a long crab pot line trailing behind our boat. We were sailing and had not started the engine, so we weren’t in big trouble yet. However, the line had to come off the propeller before we could start the engine to go through the narrow, rocky cut into Hatchet Bay Pond.
Well, we should have made a movie what happened next! Capt. John said, “Turn’er into the wind and sail into the shallow water near the beach so we can drop anchor.” This seemed like a major challenge to Penny who had never anchored under sail (remember that we could not turn on the engine). Capt. John, however, crawled out onto the bow and dropped the anchor 20 feet of water—no problem. Then—and this is what we need the movie of—John put on his snorkel gear and leapt overboard! Yikes! Just like those old Sea Hunt TV shows—Mike Nelson to the rescue! The waves were steep 4-footers and Caribbean Soul was jumping up and down tugging at her anchor. Our Sea Hunt hero—John—dove down under this leaping boat and grabbed the crab pot line. Luckily, he didn’t have to cut it—it just pulled right off! You really had to see this to feel the drama of it all.
Our friends, Carl and Reva, were watching this strangeness from shore. Without the aid of binoculars, they weren’t sure what we were doing, but they were sure that we were in some kind of trouble. Carl tried to radio us several time, but we were so busy we did not hear the radio calls.
Once the line was removed, John climbed back on board; we started the engine and struggled to get the anchor up. After that, it was an easy 10 minute motor through the narrow cut into the protected waters of Hatchet Bay Pond.
Sorry, there are no pictures in this blog entry, but the next entry will be filled with lots of pictures of Hatchet Bay Pond and Alice Town Settlement.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Days 121-- Govenors Harbour, Eleuthera

Days 121-124 Delightful Days in Governors Harbour, Eleuthera
Friday, April 3 to Sunday, April 5, 2009

What a wonderful settlement Governors Harbour is to visit. The big pink public library with great wireless internet connection was located right in front of our boat. Here are pictures of Haynes Library and views of the beach, the bay, and the boat from the beach in front of the library.

Governors Harbour also had ATMs (two of them), grocery stores, restaurants, orchid gardens, free town water, and a movie theatre! We accessed all of these things except the theatre: the movie showing this month didn’t look too good, so we decided not to use the free movie tickets we got from the Buccaneer Bar & Restaurant. The Buccaneer, however, was a fun place that we visited often. They had good food, cheap drinks at happy hour, and a nice owner—Lisa from Canada. Carl & Reva of Three Belles told us about it and we met them there several times. On Friday before the Saturday UNC semi-final game against Villanova, Lisa assured us that the Buccaneer would be glad to run the basketball game on the bar TV for us. Great! We were so happy to know that we’d get to see the game with no problems! Well, sometimes we forget where we are—these are the Far Bahamas and unpredictable things happen.
Saturday evening after dark we dinghied ashore carefully as it is hard to see the sand bars without the sun shining through the water. The town was all lit up with street lights and a softball field near the library was well lighted too. Happily we hiked up the hill to the Buccaneer and got good seats at the end of the bar right in front of the TV. There was a live band assembling on the patio so we knew it might be difficult to hear the game, but that’s not too much of a hardship—right? There we were—so happy—so confident—so ready to see Roy’s Boys whup up on Villanova and WHAM! the power goes off! Actually, it surged a couple of times and then it just died. It wasn’t just the Buccaneer that lost power, it was the whole island. Everything was pitch dark and we seemed to be the only people who had a flashlight. Lisa borrowed our flashlight and found some candles to set around. One of the band members started playing a sad little tune on a harmonica, so we sat around in the flickering candle light waiting for the electricity (and the game!). After about a half hour, Lisa borrowed our flashlight again to get things going in the kitchen. We ordered some delicious ribs and Bahamian macaroni and potato salad. The beers stayed cool and so did we—except that the no-see-ums began to nibble on our ankles. Then—miracle of miracles—the power came on and UNC was returning to the court after half time. The band on the patio cranked up and all was well in our world. The no-see-ums were still biting but we could see Carolina winning so all was well. That is, all was well until the last 8 minutes of the game when the island lost power again. That was enough for us—we took our little flashlight and fled the bugs back to our boat in the harbour where we listened to ESPN on the XM radio to hear that Carolina won. What a night. Here are pictures of the Buccaneer in the daylight.

In addition to our times at the Buccaneer, we did lots of other work and play. Here are John and Carl working at hauling fresh water out to our boats. Although the water was free, it was a chore to get it out to the boats. Carl and John hooked three garden hoses up together to stretch from the town spigot in front of the library across the road and the beach to the water jugs in the dinghy. Then the guys hauled them out to the boats and loaded our tanks. At one point, we even over filled one of our tanks. No problem with that—a nice fresh water wash down in the cabin of the boat. It all runs down into the bilge and gets pumped out.

After the water chore, Carl & Reva invited us over for some wine and a boat tour. Oh my—what a beautiful wooden boat! These pictures are not nearly as good as seeing it with your own eyes, but here they are. Reva and Carl do all the work themselves (the cat does little or nothing). Such a beautiful boat!

On Sunday morning, Mary (from catamaran Rum Tum Tiger) and Penny attended St. Patrick’s Anglican Church. It was Palm Sunday and there was no shortage of palms. The 2 ½ hour service included a processional through town with our hymn books and palm fronds. We sang and marched as the choir master shouted out the pages of each new hymn. This might be a new Palm Sunday event, as the people in town looked at us strangely and some of the congregation seemed to think the march was odd. St. Patrick’s has a young, energetic priest who has lots of new ideas and is working hard to engage the community—especially the young people. It made for a long service, but walking through town waving palms and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” was a memorable way to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Also memorable, was the Friday night community Fish Fry. The locals do this each Friday night and all the visitors in town come to feast and dance in the streets. It was a fun time for all of us. John took lots of pictures, but the darkness made that a challenge. Below are three pictures of us folks milling around and eating fried fish and chicken. Also included (especially for all our seafood lovers—Mom & Sue Kreuser) are four pictures of Ninja, the local conch salad chef, demonstrating the art of slicing and dicing conch. Enjoy—we certainly did!

The final picture of our fun stay in Governors Harbour is of John and the beach boys! People here are very friendly!