An “Eleutheran” Easter.

Actually, it’s Tuesday afternoon and we have been out for the day, however, that’s another story.  We have been without Internet for a few days but I when I wrote this pot I would say  ”It’s Sunday afternoon and Easter here on Eluthra.”   Then It would have been safe to say “Well, I guess that means that it’s Easter everywhere but this is where we are too.”

Ok, now that I have cleared all that up and you are clear on when I wrote this…

Actually, we are in a harbor, such as it is, called Rock Sound.  While Rock Sound is large, several miles across, it’s fairly well protected from every direction except from the south and the distance across at that point is about 5 miles.  Yes, the chop can build up with a strong wind but it’s not nearly as bad as if there was no protection.

I can say this with confidence as we are nearing the end of a of a frontal passage as I write this.  The wind clocked from the southeast beginning yesterday, through the south and all the way around to the northwest, where it is now, a wind shift of 180 degrees in less than 24 hours.  We knew that this front was coming and had decided to visit here knowing that the protection would be fairly good.

We left Fernandez Bay for the 70+ mile run to Rock Sound on the island of Eleuthra, before daybreak, very early on Friday morning, at 04:30 actually.  Under the light of a nearly full moon, we pulled anchor and left the harbor.  We had decided to make such a long run as the winds were favorable for sailing nearly the whole way.  To motor for 10-12 hours in unfavorable conditions would have been a drag and would have used a good amount of fuel.  Actually, to do it under power would have taken a lot longer, certainly longer than it took under sail.  Happily, the run was uneventful, with a good breeze behind us, and we made good time, arriving here in Rock Sound about twelve hours later.

Much of the run was in the ocean and with wind running in the teens to twenty knots,  the swells got pretty large and for part of the time, the wind driven waves that were following us from behind combined with some large ocean swells coming down from the North Atlantic.  This made for some confused seas and Brenda wasn’t too comfortable.  However, compared to past runs, Brenda did quite well.  It’s interesting that she seems to be much less sensitive to motion than she was even a few years ago.

Shortly after we left Fernandez Bay we were treated to a beautiful sunrise off to the east.As we are getting into spring here in the Bahamas, many flowers are coming into bloom.  There are very few flowers to pick here in the islands during the winter but as spring approaches, there are many wild flowers.   This bush had a particularly dramatic display. Forgive the clash of colors with my shirt.  I clearly wasn’t thinking of this photo op when I chose this shirt to wear yesterday.We didn’t see many seabirds last winter but there seem to be more this year.   Perhaps it’s the particular islands that we are visiting.  I tossed some moldy bread overboard and it attracted quite a lot of attention from the local avians.The sunset, with the weather associated with the front passing, made for a dramatic sunset in the western sky.   “Bob, this one looks just the same as the last ten you posted”.   Yes, yes, I know, lots of sunset photos in my blog but I like sunset photos.  Besides, as you know, it’s my blog.  So there!We also saw the most amazing clouds off to the east that were reflecting the sunset. I have not seen clouds like this before.  The soft “pillows” in the sky were very dramatic.Early this morning we were treated to a fantastic thunderstorm.  Fortunately, there were wasn’t much lightening as that can be a threat to electronics on a boat.   We know of several boats that have been hit by lightning.  The crew was fine but every piece of electronic equipment was toast.  One couple we met this winter lost every electronic component on their boat and it took him two months of work to replace everything, and it’s still not quite right.  That would not be the way I’d want to spend time aboard in the Bahamas.

Today we decided to visit a Methodist church here on the island.  The wind was piping up pretty well so getting ashore in our Sunday best, a relative term compared with the finery worn by the rest of the congregation, was a bit challenging.    We were rewarded by a wonderful experience at the Rock Sound Methodist Church.  Rev. Gilbert Witcher and Brother Elton Symonette went out of their way, as did many in the congregation, to make us feel at home. We were introduced to the congregation and they even gave us a “prize” for being the very first visitors to arrive for worship, (we were actually afraid to be late) of a bottle of sparkling cider.  We were thrilled. 

Unlike Methodist churches in the states, where services are kept to one hour give or take, here in the Bahamas the starting time is a bit looser and they cram an amazing amount into a two hour service.  It wasn’t over till it was over.

And there was plenty going on.  There was a trumpeter.  A wonderful dance number, lots of music and a lot of AMENs.  Let’s say that the Bahamamian Methodists are a lot noisier than the more conservative suburban types we are used to.  I liked it a lot.  And, there was a booming sound system and even a projector that showed the words of the hymns on the wall above the cross for all to follow.  Sorry, but no bouncing ball to show you when to sing.

Here we are with Brother Elton after the service.   What an enthusiastic preacher he was. AMEN!!!  No, not a great big smile from him here.   I guess he used it all up a moment before.  So much for “ok, one picture is fine”.  And other parishioners mugging for the camera in their Easter finest.A very pretty if simple church.  And perfectly well kept as are all churches here in the Bahamas.

After church we headed back aboard Pandora to prepare a picnic lunch and off to a local park, near a blue hole, a 600’ deep ocean hole right in the middle of town.  What a beautiful spot,  complete with tropical fish, for a picnic with Maureen and Bill of Kalunamoo.  We had a great Easter feast complete with some mahi-mahi that Bill caught off of his boat. We were visited buy a very pretty bird that was hunting for lizards in the tree above us.  He was really quite close, only a few feet away. Some of the locals were swimming in the ocean hole.  It was a very popular spot for families to have an Easter outing.   This spot is much like other swimming holes around the world except that it’s 600’ deep with near vertical walls from the edge to the bottom.   Don’t fall in as it’s hard to get out if you aren’t near one of the ladders.All and all, a very relaxing Easter for me and Brenda.  We miss family but it was nice to be here too.  And, to look out of the church window and see palm trees… Quite a treat.

Since it’s Easter perhaps I’ll close with yet another church, one that we can see from Pandora’s cockpit as it’s located right on the beach, not 50′ from the water at high tide.   Quite a beautiful building.  Quite a beautiful day as well.  Happy Easter and a fine “Eleuthrian” one at that.  


Cat island beauty and a visit to “the clinic”

It’s Thursday afternoon and, hard to imagine, (not really) the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day.  We have been “buddy boating” with our friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo for a while now and here we are anchored off of a beautiful beach and, as an added bonus, the Fernandez Bay Village resort.   This place is beautiful and they even have a palm frond thatched roof on the main dining room.  How tropical.

Last night we had hoped to have dinner ashore as the resort puts on a terrific buffet spread each evening.  Unfortunately, I seem to have picked up some sort of stomach deal that put me down for about 24 hours.  After a particularly tough night, Brenda decided that I needed to visit the island clinic this morning.  So, she called to make an appointment.  The resort ordered a cab and we took the dink ashore.  I have to say that it was the first time I went for a doctor apt via a dink.  I guess there’s a first time for everything.

The clinic was a very small yellow building and the staff was quite efficient.  They were actually closed today but took me anyway.  That was very nice.  They checked me out and declared that I needed to eat more healthy stuff.  No surprise there.  And after and exam and a prescription, filled by them they sent me on my way.  The cost?  $0.  Such is socialized medicine, it would seem.   Welcome to the Bahamas.  Welcome indeed.  Oh yeah, the cab picked us up, took us to the clinic, then to the market and back to the resort, all for $25.  Yep, another good deal.   He even waited at the clinic while I was at the appointment.

Anyway, all seems to be well and I am on the mend.  I mentioned this as we were very disappointed that we had to cancel dinner last night but I think I am feeling well enough now that we can head ashore tonight.

This is such a beautiful spot. We can see the resort from Pandora.  Nice beach, right?  (Forgive me but this is a view from the resort to Pandora, but you can imagine, right?)The view down the beach from the patio looks like it’s a thousand miles from anywhere. In a way, it is.   We sailed 50 miles to get here and along the way the water was over 6,000′ deep.    Just love those umbrellas. The main dining room is thatched with palm fronds.   How “island”. The “tiki” bar is pretty amazing and they run it on the “honor system”.  Just make a note of what you have.  ”On my honor, I’ll have another.”  I suppose it saves on staffing.  Works for me.
There are a few beautiful little islands just out in front of the lodge.  Love the clouds.And Pandora framed by the sky and impossibly blue water.We took a dink ride through a nearby mangrove swamp.  Very beautiful.  Brenda saw a sea turtle yesterday.  Lots of fish, rays and small sharks there.  We got a few shells too. The mangroves are small shrubby plants that grow in shallow water.  Their roots are very strong and can hold even in storms.  They are a great protector of fragile shorelines and a wonderful nursery for fish of all types.   The water is just so clear, like gin and very warm. 
So, now that I have “recovered” we made a reservation for dinner tonight again. I hope that I am up to it.  However, we have to leave in the morning as there is a front coming through and we have to get to a more sheltered spot when the clocking winds arrive.  Here, there’s 50 miles of ocean to the west.  Not a great spot when the wind starts piping up from the west.

So, dinner tonight or never…

Tomorrow we will likely get up early and head to Eluthera, an island about 70 miles north of here.  That’s a long way to go in one day so an early start will be important.   Getting out of Fernandez Bay in the dark should be easy but we want to arrive in Rock Sound Eluthera in daylight.


Father Gerome’s Hermitage and a beach bar.

It’s Wednesday morning and a lovely day at anchor off of Cat Island in the central Bahamas.  Last year, when we visited Cat, we had to leave abruptly when there was a wind shift coming that would make staying anchored uncomfortable, or perhaps dangerous.  Happily, this year we have already been here for three nights and the weather is still good.  Imagine that…

Yesterday, accompanied by our friends Maureen and Bill of Kalunamoo, (I finally figured out how to spell the name of their boat, I think.) we visited Father Gerome’s Hermitage.  The Hermitage, Father Gerome’s retirement home, is perched on the highest peak in the Bahamas, a whopping 202 feet above sea level. Not particularly high but the view from there is still pretty impressive.   Pandora’s out in the distance with a handful of other boats.As I stood up on the peak I found myself wondering what the winter winds would feel like to live in such an exposed stone structure.  But wait, it’s the Bahamas and winter winds are in the 80s.  Oh yeah, nice. 

Anyway, Father Gerome was not a guy who needed a lot of creature comforts.  His bed, if you can call it that, was just a small depression in the floor of one of the main rooms.  Not sure Brenda would go for that.  No wait, she WOULDN’T like it at all.  I’d say that it was quite “hermit like”, actually.

Not only were his living conditions pretty spartan, he wanted to be sure that it was pretty uncomfortable to get to his place.  The path, if you could call it that, was quite steep at the end. The Hermitage looks quite grand from a distance with lovely proportions and architectural details.  Gerome was a gifted amateur architect.  

At first glance you really think it’s a grand structure.  However, here’s Bill standing alongside.  It’s actually more like a large scale model, that you could live in, assuming, of course, that you are an old hermit that loves to be uncomfortable.  Can you say “hair shirt”?The windows, carved into the stone sides, have modest shutters. I couldn’t resist peeking out for a “Kodak moment”.    No wait, Kodak?  Perhaps it was a “digital moment”.   Whatever…Down toward shore there is an area where some farming is going on.  In spite of the dry conditions, bananas are grown in some depressions on the ground.   It’s amazing how much fruit grows on a single stalk. We also took a walk down the road running along shore for a bit of lunch.   These “dining establishments”, no make that bars, are very modest wooden structures right on the beach.  Pretty basic. However, they do quite a solid lunch business.Yet another view of Pandora framed nicely. As a reminder that all wasn’t always so peaceful here in the Bahamas, we saw some cotton plants from the days when the Loyalists, following the American Revolution, brought their slaves here and tried to set up plantations.  Alas, it didn’t work as there just wasn’t enough water here to make a go of it.There are ruins everywhere.  Building abandoned.  And, they are often right next to a more modern structure.  Many churches on the island.  Often many out buildings and more like “compounds” as modest as they are.Some cute little shops but they always seem to be closed.  Brenda liked this building, in particular.  And painted brightly, as is their custom.The wind was kicking up for the afternoon so we got pretty well splashed on our way back to Pandora.  Nothing new there.   However, as sunset approached, things settled down and we were treated to a spectacular sunset.   There’s Kalunamoo framed against a beautiful setting sun.  Pretty dramatic.   If you’re thinking “Bob, if you’ve seen one sunset, you’ve seen them all” than you had to be there. Oh yeah, two nights ago we set an alarm for 03:00 and got up to see the lunar eclipse.  It was amazing.  Brenda stayed up longer and was treated to a number of beautiful meteors streaking across the moon and even a satellite.   Me, I craved sleep and missed much of the fun. It’s not often that you can view such an amazing event from aboard with such a panoramic view.  Pretty special. 

Our plans for the next few days are a bit up in the air but we’ll be speaking with Bill and Maureen later to decide.  Happily, the next few days are looking great with moderate winds and fair skies so we have a number of good options on where to go, or not go.   After a winter spent constantly dodging cold fronts, we are ready for some benign conditions and that’s what we have.  That’s good, very good.

And, if that’s not enough, Rob and Kandice join us in Staniel Cay in about a week and a half.  Perfect.



Cat Island and favorable winds.

It’s Monday morning and we are anchored close to a lovely beach that is several miles long in an area of Cat Island known as New Bight.  The shoreline is very low and has a few simple, if brightly painted homes and businesses.  It is a small settlement and very modest, as is typical of the Bahamas out-islands.

Yesterday Brenda and I came here from Georgetown and made the 50 mile run after taking time to visit friends to say our goodbuys.  It’s going to be months, if not longer till we see some of them again.  Hopefully, some will make it to our three day SSCA gam (event) in Essex in late June.  It will be nice to see them again sooner or later.  Sooner would be better.

One couple that we visited were Mark and Kathy who live aboard Corina, a 41’ Manta brand catamaran.  Yes, those funny boats with two hulls do hold a real appeal.  They have so much room and sail flat.  That certainly beats 25 degrees of heel aboard Pandora.  However, that’s another topic.

Anyway, Mark and Kathy had spent a month in the Jumentos, a spot that we had hoped to visit but never got to this year due to the cold fronts that were coming through so often.  One of the best parts of visiting the Jumentos is walking the beaches to see what has washed up.  “Sea Beans” are a particularly special find there.  Sea beans are the large seeds of tropical plants that wash down rivers in South America  and Africa and are carried by the currents and finally come ashore on islands in the Bahamas.  The areas of the southern Bahamas tend to collect more of these “beans” and as there are so few visitors, there are lots to be found.  We have run into friends who have collected hundreds of these over a season.  Mark takes these beans and polishes them to make necklaces.  And, as an added bonus, he’s willing to part with them.  Mark doesn’t take money for his work, just wine.  And what a nice trade it is.  Brenda really wanted one of these necklaces as she had seen Mark’s work on our friend Anne, of the cat Nati.    Cathy is also very talented, and with sea glass she picks up along the way, makes very pretty earrings.  Happily, Brenda was able to get a very nice “matching” set of earrings and sea bean necklass.  The “bean” is called a “hamburger bean” as it has a light stripe with dark sides.  Very pretty.  Happy Brenda. The downside of all the goodbyes was that we left a couple of hours later than we should have to make the run to Cat.  50 miles is a long run to make in a single day and it turned out that while we were able to get to Cat while it was still light out, the sun was setting as we dropped anchor. 

While we were able to sail much of the way. we were hard on the wind most of the time, and with a few squalls passing us, we had to contend with some major wind shifts that made sailing impossible for part of the run.  All and all, we had a good run but a long day none the less.  Unfortunately, Brenda was feeling a bit seasick as the swells were running pretty high, especially in the beginning, so it wasn’t a great run for her.  And frankly, I don’t particularly like sailing hard on the wind either.

However, as we dropped the anchor close to shore we were treated to a beautiful sunset and, as an added plus, a lovely moon rise.   And a lovely moon rise in the eastern twilight.  I understand that there will be a partial eclipse of the moon tonight.  That will be neat.Today Brenda and I will likely do a bit of beach combing and perhaps exploring in “town”, such as it is. 

Our friends on Kaloonamoo, Bill and Maureen, are joining us here as they are currently underway from Georgetown..

Perhaps we’ll also head up to Father Gerome’s place nearby with them on Tuesday.

Happily, it looks like we will have several days of settled weather here so we will be able to relax and enjoy the solitude here at Cat Island for a bit.  Last year, when we visited, we had to run for cover ahead of a wind shift after only two nights.  Perhaps our luck will hold this year for a longer stay.

Fingers crossed…

Cruising: Boat repair in exotic locales.

It’s Sunday morning and, I can’t believe I am saying this, there’s not enough wind.  Go figure.  After months of TOO MUCH WIND, and constant fronts coming through the Bahamas, we are (fingers crossed) entering a week of moderate easterly trade winds and calm conditions. 

I am afraid to say it but as the weather router is saying the same thing, perhaps I won’t be jinxing it by wishing for the best.

Yesterday was unusual with rain and drizzle for much of the day.  Along with the rain came very light winds, something that I had been waiting for as I had to pull down my genoa (sail) for a minor repair as there was a small rip on the luff tape (if you know what a luff is that’s good, if not, don’t worry).   However I didn’t want to deal with 600 square feet of sail on the foredeck unless the wind was light.  So, after perhaps 6 weeks of waiting, yesterday was the day.  Sail down…As I didn’t bring my heavy duty sewing machine with me on this trip, I had to resort of hand sewing and adhesive sail cloth tape.  It was pretty crowded up forward with the sail down.  Happily, I was able to do much of the work prior to the light rain starting.  As you can imagine, the sail repair tape wouldn’t have stuck well to a wet sail.   Lots of sail to contend with.

I stitched the damaged area as best I could and then applied sail repair tape over the stitching.  After that, more stitching.The finished work.  Not great to look at but it should hold till I get a proper repair done at a sail loft.  I usually take the sails to a loft each winter for washing and repair.  As I am no longer putting the boat into storage in the winter, I didn’t do that last fall.  My mistake as the problem would have shown up and been repaired correctly.   Well, good enough for now.It seems that there are always problems, big and little on a boat and Pandora’s no different.  As I had mentioned the other day, I had to sort through an electrical problem a few days ago.  I was able to track down the problem but still don’t know how it happened.  Here I am working away on a solution.  Q: Did anyone notice that I have become a bit grey?  Hmm… We are still contemplating whether we will leave for Cat Island today or tomorrow. We’ll have to think about it for a few more hours and see how the breezes develop.    It could be a nice easy sail today.  That would be great. 

Our friends Russell and Lynn, aboard Blue Highway, got an early start today and sailed past us as I was sitting in the cockpit having a cup of coffee in my jammies.   Nice people.Off into the sunset, er, sunrise…Perhaps we will be out soon.  If not today, tomorrow.  Happily, no repairs to do today.  No, wait, I might jinx it…  Never mind. 

Better weather on the way. Pandora on the move again, soon.

It’s Saturday morning and I just listened to Chris Parker, the weather router to hear what’s in store for the weather for the next few days.  Yes, there’s yet another cold front coming but it doesn’t look like it will penetrate far into the Bahamas.  That’s good as we would very much like to leave Georgetown and head up to Cat Island, about 50 miles NE from here.  

While the wind angle is not particularly favorable for a run to Cat, it looks like we will have better conditions by Sunday or Monday to Make the run.   Another consideration about going to Cat is to find out how long the winds will continue out of the east as we would like to stay  there for a few days, at least.  The winds have to have an easterly component the entire time we are there as there is NO protection from any sort of clocking winds, such as we have lived with much of the winter.

Now that spring is here, it seems that we are seeing some more moderate conditions.  Let’s hope that it holds.  That’s not to say that all is easy on the east coast of the US as there will be gales off of Cape Hatteras later in the week.  Fortunately, the conditions that are causing those strong winds won’t be a big factor here in the Bahamas.  Hopefully, when it’s time for me to run Pandora back up to CT the weather will cooperate.  Gales aren’t much fun and getting home with a minimum of fuss would be nice.

Last evening Brenda and I were invited over to Cat’s Meow, the 80’ catamaran that I mentioned in my last post.  Don and LaVonne, were great hosts.  They also invited two couples from other boats in the harbor, one from Annapolis and the other from Belgium to join the festivities.

It was a very pleasant evening and listening to heavily accented English spoken by the couple who’s native tongue was French was very interesting.  Brenda and I have been talking about visiting that part of Europe later this year but have been having difficulty finding how we will fit it into our plans.  It would be great fun to visit there in the summer but we really don’t want to be away from our land home during the time of year that the weather is so wonderful.  Alas, such are the trials…

While we were aboard Cat’s Meow, I was offered the opportunity to take a look around the boat and what a boat she is.   To head up onto the bow is like stepping onto a basketball court.  As the boat is 40’ wide.  It’s just massive.

We had cocktails and dinner on the aft deck and the 8 of us were not cramped at all.  I mentioned that they have a Wolf oven on board and to see such a massive stove on a boat is amazing.  I had mentioned that it was 6 burners but it’s actually 8 or perhaps 9.   Huge.

Their master sleeping cabin is quite large, about the same size as our bedroom at home. Bigger actually.  And, they have multiple cabins, several with queen size beds, in the two hulls.   And, all are beautifully decorated with wall hangings.

I can only imagine how much machinery is tucked away behind panels and under the decks to run a yacht of this complexity.   Oh yeah, the mast is so high, at more than 100’, that they are required to put a red 360 light at the top of the mast to warn away low flying planes from bumping into them.

It’s a really big boat, no, make that a really big yacht.  I have heard that the definition of a “yacht” is any boat that is bigger than yours.  Well, I expect that most, would say that Cat’s Meow is a yacht, for sure.   It’s BIG and there’s just so much room and then some more.

When it came time to help clear dinner, I had to ask if the dirty glasses were to go in the galley or in the butler’s pantry.  So much choice…  Cat’s Meow is clearly the largest yacht, and it is clearly a yacht, here in the harbor.   It’s amazing to think of handing such a large “ship” with just two adults.  I asked Don about that and his answer was that they just have to be very careful.  No kidding.

It was a lovely evening and with such an eclectic group of guests, very entertaining.   And, once again, it was fun to have old friends, yet again, enter our lives.   It’s these chance encounters that are such a wonderful part of the cruising lifestyle.

We are looking forward to what I expect will be a good run over to Cat Island.  It will be nice to do a bit of sailing again.  Perhaps we’ll do some fishing along the way.  It would be nice to catch something for dinner.

We’ll likely head the 50 miles to Cat tomorrow.  There’s a very nice resort, Fernandez Bay Resort, where we hope to have dinner.  In case you’re in the mood to have your own island retreat, the resort is currently for sale for $4,900,000. What do you think?  Good deal?  You can always rent a room for about $400 per night.  It would take a LOT of nights at that rate to total up to the purchase price. Hmm…

Last winter we anchored off of the resort and enjoyed a lovely lunch with our friends on Ariel.   Nice place.  There’s Pandora on the right.   Great view.

We’ll also likely visit the Hermitage again, the retirement home of Father Gerome.  When we last visited,  we hiked up the path to where his home was located, the highest point in all of the Bahamas.   My post last year spoke at some length about the history of Father Gerome and his home.  His story is quite entertaining. 

Well, it’s still early and I am hopeful that we’ll be able to go for a walk on the ocean beach later today.   Perhaps with all the wind of the last few days there will be some good shells to pick up.

Oh yeah, yesterday I had a healthy dose of “boat repair in exotic places” when I spent several hours tracking down the cause of an electrical problem that affected one of the pumps on our watermaker and a seemingly unrelated battery monitor.  I won’t bore you with the details except to say that even once I fixed it, I still had no idea how the problem happened at all.  Alas, fixed…

I also took my bent anchor in to town, a 20 minute run, each way, across a very bumpy harbor, to a machine shop to see about having it “unbent”.   After talking to the shop owner I decided to “donate” it for scrap.  Recall that I bent the stock a while back in Staniel Cay.   Nice shot of me “post recovery” earlier in the season.   If you missed that gory details of that debachle, check it out here.Anyway, I had a line on a recently re-galvanized CQR anchor that someone on another boat in the harbor wanted to sell so I bought it.   It took some doing to take off the Fortress anchor that I have been using and replace it with the “new” anchor but I got it done.  I won’t bore you with the details but my back is a bit sore today.

Well, as usual, an eclectic mix of ramblings.  Perhaps it’s time to break for coffee.  Enjoy your day.

Ok, ok, one more photo, taken from on top of my radar arch, a precarios perch.  Now that’s clear water.    And, that’s why the Bahamas are a great place to visit, fronts or not…

Another day in Georgetown, the morning after…

It’s Thursday morning and it’s the “morning after” from yesterday’s front.  Actually, it’s been pretty windy for several days with what Chris Parker, the weather router, calls “pre-frontal” winds.

However, as the “actual” front approached mid-day yesterday, we were anchored off of town, across the harbor, a location that was fairly protected when the pre-frontal winds were blowing from the south.  As the front approached, the wind shifted, within just a few hours, from the south to the southwest, west, northwest and finally north.  All this happened in pretty short order accompanied by winds that gusted into the 30kt range accompanied by squalls.  It wasn’t particularly fun, actually.

As you can imagine, things got a bit bumpy and finally, (sort of) between squalls we decided to move over to the other side of the harbor to find a more sheltered spot.

Pulling up the anchor, in a chop that was pushing 4 feet, was a bit challenging but we got it done with a minimum of problems.  However, once we headed over to the other side of the harbor, anchoring in so much wind proved to be tough.

As you may recall, some time back I damaged my Bruce anchor and had switched to a large Fortress anchor that I have had aboard for use in storm conditions.  I hadn’t really used it much but it took the place of my damaged Bruce.

I have to say that, after several weeks of use, I am not all that impressed with it as a primary anchor.  When it sets, it sets hard and fast but so often I found that in weedy conditions it tended to skip along the bottom gathering up loads of weed and not really setting.  There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to anchor in strong winds when the anchor won’t hold.    In the interest of fairness, I have also had the same problem with my Bruce in the past.

In the “anchor doesn’t set” department, yesterday was one of those days.  We did quite a tour of the harbor, trying to drop the hook a total of five times and in several locations, until we finally found a good spot.  The problem is that much of Georgetown harbor is moderately weedy and in strong winds anchors tend to load up with weed before they can set properly.  This isn’t as much of a problem when the winds are lighter as the anchor can dig through the weeds and into sand when there is less pressure on the anchor.  That was not the case yesterday.  Not at all.

The Fortress is billed as a sort of “last resort” anchor and many boats carry one on board for storm conditions.  With the exception of powerboats that rarely anchor anyway, you almost never see one used on a sailboat as a primary anchor.  After a month of use, I can now see that the anchor has some limitations. The problem is that it’s hinged and when it’s deployed in very fine sand or mud, the hinge sometimes gets gummed up and won’t move properly.   What this means is that it gets stuck, with the flukes in the “up” position, and just skips along the bottom not hooking at all.   When I pulled up the anchor yesterday, I was shocked to see that one of the flukes and the shaft were slightly bent.  Amazing for such a “tough” anchor.  I have been told that there is a lifetime warrantee on Fortress anchors.  I’ll have to test that when I get home in May.

In order to find a replacement for my Bruce, I made an announcement on the radio net here in Georgetown and there’s a guy with a spare CQR anchor that will fit Pandora nicely.  The CQR is an old style design, but pretty good anchor and works well in most conditions. I plan on visiting that boat today or tomorrow to see if we can work something out.

Anyway, yesterday was pretty rough as the front came through, and I hope that we won’t have conditions like that again anytime soon.   Some folks I was talking to this morning said that yesterday’s frontal passage was the roughest they have ever seen in years of Bahamas cruising.

However, today is a new day and what a beautiful one it is.  The wind is still a bit brisk but the sun is out and shining brightly.  And, we are now in a protected location off of a beautiful beach.

Interestingly, when we finally anchored yesterday (Did I mention that we had some difficulty anchoring?) I noticed that our friends on Cat’s Meow were anchored nearby.  We met them last winter in the Bahamas and really enjoyed their company.  Cat’s Meow is a HUGE catamaran, 80’ long.  La Vonne and Don live aboard and travel up and down the east coast.

We’d love to have them visit us in Essex  but their mast is 102’ tall and they can’t fit under the I-95 CT highway bridge which is (only) about 90’ tall.  That’s a very tall mast.  Their boat is so wide, at 45’, that there are only three boatyards on the entire east coast that can haul them out of the water.  I’ll bet it’s tough to shop for the best price when choice is that limited.  Perhaps folks with 80’ boats aren’t that price sensitive.

There is an interesting story behind Cat’s Meow as they purchased the boat at auction from the DEA who had seized the boat from a drug dealer a while back.  I wonder if the Coast Guard has them on a “watch list”.

What a boat.  HUGE, doesn’t begin to describe it.  For a stove they have a 6 burner Wolf oven, the type you might find in a commercial kitchen.  It’s quite a stove.  And, they have a “butler’s pantry” off of their cabin.  Alas, no butler aboard.  “Get your own ice.” Speaking of the Coast Guard, back in February, a sailboat from Canada had gone up on a reef off of Cuba and was in danger.  Some local fishing boats helped get them off and the boat was repaired.  As the hull was steel, the damage was minimal. However, in the process of trying to get help, they had contacted the US Coast Guard who, as you can imagine, declined to help them as they were in Cuban waters.  

So, fast forward a few months, to when they tried to clear customs in Florida and they ran into real difficulty as they had been put on a “list” as someone who had “traded with the enemy” in Cuba.  As a result, their boat was denied entry into the US and were told that they could continue up the coast to their home port in Canada but that they could no longer leave the boat in the US for the summer, as they have done for the last few years.

I know that Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba but thought that it was OK for citizens from countries that do not have a trade embargo with them to visit and then come to the US.  It seems that as they had decided to visit the US directly from Cuba, they were somehow in violation of American law.  Oops…

I don’t know much about the finer points of the law but it seems that they are in a bit of a fix as to get just about anywhere south from Canada requires being able to stop in US waters.  Perhaps if they had cleared into the Bahamas instead of going to the US directly from Cuba they might have been better off. Who knows.  Not a good situation to be in at all.  It would be interesting to hear more.

Brenda and I would love to visit Cuba but have no interest in running afoul of Customs in the US.  Perhaps in time, we’ll have an opportunity.  (That’s to visit Cuba, not to run afoul of US customs, just to be clear.)

Now for a particularly jarring change of topic…. There’s a very “interesting” boat anchored nearby.  Jumbo, and it’s anything but…  If form follows function, I wonder what the function of Jumbo is.    So, if Cat’s Meow is huge than Jumbo isn’t.  Perhaps they should trade names.  Jumbo looks more like a Tylenol capsule than a boat.   I hope Jumbo‘s owners don’t see this post as I wouldn’t want them to be offended.  Jumbo is quite cute, actually.  I wonder where their home port is.  Probably not France, although it would be quite at home on a canal there but perhaps less at home on the open ocean getting there.I have to say that yesterday was the nastiest day we’ve had in our two winters in the Bahamas.  However, today, the morning after, is a new day and what a beautiful day it is.   Here’s  a shot of Pandora off of Monument Beach.   It’s named after the “monument” on top of the hill which shows just to the right of Pandora.  Perhaps we’ll take a walk up there later today.I’ll close with a picture we took last winter when our son’s Rob and Chris, along with Rob’s girlfriend Kandice, visited the monument with us.    Now that was a great day.


Thoughts turning to heading home.

It’s Wednesday morning early and I have the SSB radio on and am waiting for Chris Parker, the weather router to begin his 06:30 broadcast.  Yesterday was pretty windy and quite a chop built up here in Georgetown Harbor.  Georgetown is quite a large harbor and while it is protected from all directions, the distances are quite long as the harbor is one mile wide and ten long.   As a result, when the wind directions change, folks move from one side of the harbor to the other and then back again.  It’s called the “Georgetown Shuffle”.  How quaint.

However, if you have to weather a front, and we have one coming, yet again, Georgetown is a pretty good place to do it.

During the broadcast, Chris Parker had lots to say about the front that’s coming through now, which is a pretty strong one in spite of it being fairly late in the season.  Normally, spring is the time when things settle down here from a weather standpoint.  However, this season continues with one nasty cold front after another penetrating the area on a more or less weekly basis.  Have I mentioned that there have been a LOT of fronts this winter?

As of today Chris noted that he expects that we will have yet ANOTHER front early next week and even ANOTHER the following week.  As Rob and Kandice are going to be with us beginning in about two weeks, I sure hope that things begin to settle down by that time.  As nice as it is to be in the Bahamas in the winter, this front-after-front deal, for months on end, is becomming a bit tiresome.

You may recall that I wrote a few weeks ago about my trials with assembling crew for the run north in May.  Getting folks to commit to heading 1,000 miles aboard is always tough and this year has not been an exception.  When the departure date is far out in the future, it’s easy to get crew to say yes but as the departure date nears, things come up and plans change.

I have been moving boats around with crew since the early 80s and getting crew then was tough then and is still tough now.   However the distances that I move boats now is much further as way back when, a 100 mile run was a long way.

As you can imagine, getting people with busy schedules to commit to be aboard, with weather delays, for as much as two weeks, to make a run from the Bahamas to CT is a big deal.  And, as the date for departure approaches schedules change.  It’s no surprise that it’s easy to say YES in February when winter winds are blowing snow around.  ANYONE would say yes to heading south.  Right?

However, in spite of changes in schedules and family obligations from crew, I was able to arrange for crew this year as well.  SUCCESS!!

Here’s the plan.  (Take notes as there will be a quiz)  Here goes… On May 5th, Brenda flies out of Nassau to Baltimore to visit Rob’s home for a few days prior to heading to CT after that.  The same day Rich, one of my crew, flies to Nassau.  It’s possible that Rob will stick around, following our week with him and Kandice in the Bahamas, and make the run with me and Rich aboard Pandora to Charleston where we will meet up with George.  Rob would then fly home from Charleston with Rich and George continuing on to Essex with me.

Of course, this is all dependent on good weather for leaving Nassau on the 6th as planned.  If we are delayed, and that could easily happen (think cold fronts), Rob will just head out from Nassau with Brenda and Kandice.  In that case, me and Rich will take Pandora to Charleston, as soon as we are able, to meet up with George.  George’s plans don’t put him in Charleston till a week after Rich meets me in Nassau.   Following this so far?  I think I do.

One way or the other, we will make it home and I am very much looking forward to the trip.  It’s just not certain how long it’s going to take.

While Charleston is a bit out of the way to head home, I am excited about a visit as it’s a beautiful city and getting reasonably priced flights from there is easy.

Brenda and I spent a week there on our trip down the ICW in fall of 2012.  How about a few pictures from our visit there?

We’ll likely tie up at the city Marina.  There’s Pandora on the dock.  I expect you are so busy looking at Pandora you missed the bridge.  Beautiful.Lots of huge oak trees.  A bit of a contrast to the Bahamas.  The islands of the Bahamas once had trees of this scale but they were all cut down by early settlers following the American Revolution in an ill fated attempt to grow cotton and other crops as they had in the southern US.Lovely homes everywhere.  And white, the color of choice. And, the Bahamas, with “world class” sunsets, doesn’t have a lock on beautiful ways to end the day.  How about a stately schooner and the setting sun as the day winds down?So, here’s the deal.  Winters in the south and summers in tbe north.  Works for me, fronts and all.  

And, as we continue the “Georgtown Shuffle” my thoughts are indeed turning to spring and our home up north.   Yes, something to look forward to.  Spring is here.

Long island, Bahamas…ROADTRIP!

It’s Sunday around mid-day and we are enjoying a perfect sail back to Georgetown from Long Island.  The wind is behind us and we are cruising along with the water chuckling alongside.  Life is good.

Brenda’s up in the cockpit reading and keeping watch and I am down in the cabin typing away.  It’s a beautiful day.

Here’s the view out of the cockpit.  Puffy clouds, blue sky and perfectly clear water.  Even though we are miles from land it’s less than 20’ deep.  Such is sailing on the Bahamas Banks.On Saturday we rented a car and toured the island with our friends Dick and Anne of Nati.  I have written about them before and we really enjoy spending time with them. 

We stopped in Clarence Town for lunch and had the best grilled fish soft tacos EVER.  And let me tell you that there aren’t a load of places that serve great food to choose from in these parts. 

Long Island has some beautiful old Anglican and Catholic churches that are beautifully kept by their congregations.  This is one that we stopped to visit. The interior was simple and very peaceful.A well known priest here in Long Island was Father Jerome who had a very big impact on the island.  One of his best known churches is in Clarence Town.  What a beautiful spot.  Looks like the top of the right hand tower was struck by lightening.   Perhaps one of parishioners was thinking “impure thoughts”.   Something to think about.  Right?You can climb up into the towers if you have the nerve.  I had enough nerve to climb the narrow and very steep ladders, one after another, to reach the top but not quite enough nerve to do anything once I got to the top.  Once I arrived I was just about frozen and couldn’t take my hands off of the nearly vertical ladder to use my camera.

Oh well, Dick climbed up the other tower and mugged for the camera.  Reminded me of one of the characters from the old TV show Laugh In from the 60s, or was it the 70s?  Hmm…I took this shot of the view from one of the towers last year.  I guess I had more nerve last time.  Go figure.We also visited the deepest “blue hole” in the world, Deans Blue Hole.  In case you are wondering, it’s located in Deans LI.  No surprise there but I did find myself wondering if there was a “mister Deans”.  Blue holes are formed when seawater leaches away the bedrock and creates underwater caves that lead to the ocean.  These “holes” are all over the Bahamas with some being only a few feet across and other 100s of feet across.  Deans has the distinction of being the deepest in the world at 660 feet deep.  Question: If it’s 660′ deep is that at low or high tide? Perhaps they are averaging.  I won’t be checking that fact myself anytime soon.  

And, it’s the site of competition “free diving” where folks hold their breath and swim down, and back up, on a single breath.  Sounds nuts to me.  There’s a plaque nearby that commemorates three swimmers that have lost their lives here.  And, I know that another diver lost his life last fall and wasn’t listed so that’s four at least.  It’s a very dangerous sport. 

While we were there the current champion free diver was practicing. His current record is 100 meters.  That’s over 300 feet deep.   Just the thought freaks me out.  He’s the guy with the cute cap.  Pretty “hunky” guys.  Yes?They swim off of a platform that has a wire suspended that they follow on their way down and back up again.  The wire is reeled down to a chosen depth to guide them so that they know when they have reached their goal.   They also wear wetsuits and carry just enough weight to counteract the buoyancy of the suit. 

Another popular pastime here is to jump off of one of the surrounding cliffs.  Not sure I’d have the guts to do this either.  Here’s a guy that did.  I took some solace in seeing him stand there for quite a while till he took the plunge.Oh yeah, and here’s a shot of one of the “locals” that was peeking out of a hole in the surrounding cliff.  He, I guess it was a he, was sharing his “home” with a little hermit crab.  Brenda opted to pass on trying to pet him.On our way back to Pandora we were going to take a guided cave tour. However, the “proprietor” was out at the airport picking up a friend so there was  nobody to take us.   I expect that he was the “chief cook and bottle washer” too.   No luck there.  

We also tried to visit the Long Island museum, which we have heard is terrific.  Alas, closed.  Of course you’d expect it to be closed on a Saturday afternoon, right?  Not… So, what are a couple of tourists on “tour” for the day to do?

Here’s an idea.  How about a visit to a local bar?  It must be 5pm somewhere.  No wait, it was Saturday afternoon so it’s OK. 

Confident that it was indeed a “good time”, we followed a sign on the side of the road and there it was, “Seaside Village”.  Perfect. Actually, the entire “village” consisted of a dock with a bar perched on the end.  I guess he could call it a village as there was a half finished guest house, no make that 20% finished, along with a goat and chickens.  You heard it, goats and chickens.   Here’s the main attraction.  The bar.Not exactly a resort or much less a village but a lot of fun.  Here’s our crew. When was the last time you were at a bar with a goat?  Probably never, I’ll bet.  Then you have never been to the Bahamas mon.  Chickens?

Here’s Brenda, fiber lover, petting the resident beach bar goat.  A moment later she butted Brenda in the leg.  ”bar fight!”  I guess it’s his/her way of showing love.  What a hoot.Did somebody say goat? Here’s  a few (sheep actually) I spied earlier in the day hanging our at the Clarence Town police station.  Yes, the police station.   That evening, not to let a moment pass unproductively, we headed over to Chez Pierre for dinner.  The owner and chef is Pierre, as you would expect.  I think he’s been running this place for about 15 years and is known for having one of the best dining spots in the Bahamas. 

It’s also perhaps the most remote as it is located several miles off of the beaten path down a badly rutted dirt road.  It’s so far from the road that Pierre has never had power lines run from the main road and uses his own generator that purrs along all day and night.  Pierre also has a few guest rooms. 

It’s a beautiful spot, right on the beach.  However, as the water is so shallow, the closest that we could get with Pandora to shore would be about ¾ of a mile. The view from the dining room is very peaceful. The building is fairly rustic but inside it’s a different story.  Quite unique.We had a terrific time.   I think that the only other folks dining that evening were guests that were staying in the cottages on the property. 

As a funny anecdote, Pierre has a selection of wines to choose from with prices penned on their labels.  When I asked him about a French Chardonnay that I was considering, he grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me over to another guest’s table.  He picked up their bottle of wine from the ice bucket and poured a taste for me. I couldn’t believe it.  He gave me a taste from someone else’s bottle, without asking…

It was good, so I ordered a bottle, and everyone seemed to be amused by the incident.  Just try doing that in New York.  You’d stand a good chance of being shot or at least punched.  ”Hey you, buddy! Skinny guy!  What’s you think you doin, sippin on my Chianti?  I’m gunna punch your lights out.  Get outa hea!”

All and all, a lovely day.  And, we even were able to find our way back to Pandora in the dark, a 1.5 mile ride from the dock where we landed.

No, we still haven’t arrived in Georgetown and are still sailing along merrily.

Today, it is indeed “about the journey” and a lovely journey it is. Alas, as they say “it’s better in the Bahamas”.  Indeed, roadtrip or not.

Back in Thompson Bay, again…

It’s Friday morning and we are back in Thompson Bay Long Island (that’s the southern LI, not the one in the USA and it’s a LOT different).  Yesterday we had a ROUSING sail back to Thompson Bay, hard on the wind from the north end of the island where we had spent Wednesday night with our friends on Nati.

On Thursday morning Dick, from Nati, and I went snorkeling on a very nice reef near where we were anchored prior to heading back here.  I have to say that the reef was one of the nicest I have seen with a great variety of fish and coral.  The water wasn’t terribly clear but with about 30’ of visibility it was quite beautiful.  The prior afternoon we had gone into the mangrove swamp to do a bit of exploring and on our way back to Pandora we ran into a cruiser who had been fishing with a spear on the same reef.

We asked to see what he had caught and were impressed with the very large trigger fish he had speared.  We were also blown away by two beautiful large shells he had collected. I am not sure what type they were but they were beautiful and about a foot long.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to get a photo.  Oh well.  Both Dick and I just had to find one too so that’s why we decided to go for a swim.  Unfortunately, no luck but the views on the reef were terrific.  Actually, the variety of coral, sponges and fish were the best we’ve seen.  Very nice.

Our run back here was a bit too exciting as the apparent wind was gusting into the mid 20s and we were hard on the wind really heeling over.   However, the seas were calm so it wasn’t that bad.  I’d love to have a run that isn’t quite so windy which hasn’t happened in a while.  Have I mentioned that this winter has been particularly windy?  Thought so.   We might get lucky as Sunday, as we will be going down wind and it’s supposed to be lighter then.  I think we will head back to Georgetown to avoid the exposed harbor here when the winds clock ahead of the cold front that is expected early next week.

The Bahamas are primarily arid with the only rain that falls being from squalls, usually associated with a frontal passage, or during tropical storms, hurricanes, in the summer months.  That means that water is in pretty short supply much of the year.  As a result, the islands only have vegetation that can stand extremely dry conditions.

As much of the Bahamas are very shallow (you can be miles from shore and still be in less than 10′, or less, of water) mangroves are fairly common.   Mangroves grow in water that is very shallow and can pop up wherever there is fairly sheltered thin water.  These areas often dry out at low tide and have miles of winding shallow channels running through them.  When we anchored in the northern part of Long Island we were just offshore of a large area of shallows and mangroves.  This shot shows how shallow the water is and just how insignificant Pandora looked anchored off of the lee of a small island with Nati.  Pandora’s on the left. We took our dinks up into the shallows to do a bit of exploring.  Here’s Dick and Anne in their dink.I am always so fascinated with the change in color of the water depending on the depth.  Generally speaking, the darker the water the deeper it is, but not always.  You can be sure that water that is very light in color is very shallow.  The contrast of the blue of the water to the blue of the sky is so dramatic. As we were sailing back south to Thompson Bay I got some great shots of Nati.  Dick and Anne have lived aboard full time for the last 6 years.  While Nati is only 38’ long, she has three times the room of Pandora.  And, as we were sailing along, heeled on our ear, they were sailing flat and even a bit faster than we were.  Doesn’t Dick look relaxed? He was.I have to say that the idea of a catamaran is getting more appealing every day.  However, sailing in Maine with two engines and props in the water, one in each hull, is a bit daunting with all those lobster pots to snag.  It’s worth nothing that while there are loads of cats here in the Bahamas there are very few in New England.   However, it seems that catamarans are becoming more popular every year.  To step aboard one tells the story as they are very comfortable and have so much more room than boats like Pandora.  We’ll see… 

However, right now I have to figure out how to round up crew for the trip north in May.  Unfortunately, while I thought I was all set a month ago, changes in schedules and a bit of lack of clarity on my part mean that I am back to ground zero with no crew.  Oops.

While having a full month till I leave may sound like a long time to recruit crew, it really isn’t as most of the folks I know have made plans already on other boats and can’t join me.  I have sent out more invites and am hopeful that I will be able to fill in for the run north.

Getting things squared away for a long run in the crew department is always challenging and I am particularly stressed out now.  Hopefully, it will all work out.  Brenda says so and she’s not even that optimistic usually.  I am trusting her on this.

Want to go sailing?