Monthly Archives: March 2014

Waiting for the next big blow a “bubble bath” and SHARKS!

It’s Tuesday afternoon and a beautiful day here in the Bahamas.   Brenda and I met up with our good friends Loreen and Miles aboard Ariel yesterday and did some catching up over dinner.  We have been connecting with them for several years now and have seen them at Block Island, in Maine, at our home in CT and here in the Bahamas.  They live aboard most of the year and travel between Maine and the Bahamas.

Their boat Ariel is larger and a lot more lux than Pandora.  I have to say that I do lust after their boat and it’s the only other sailboat that I have seen that I’d give up Pandora for.   Too bad they are worth so much more than Pandora.  Ariel is an Aerodyne 47 of which only four have been made.  A great looking performance ocean sailing boat.  I can always wish.

Today we headed out at low tide to do some shelling and had fun finding some really nice shells.  At low tide there are a number of sand flats to explore in the area and there are often a large number of great shells to pick up.  I have to say that shelling is a pastime that I find endlessly interesting.  Happily, Brenda enjoys it too so it’s a great thing for us to do together.  Walking along a beach for hours is just so relaxing.

Yesterday Brenda and I visited a spot on the north end of Compass Cay called the “bubble bath”.   This is a very unique place where the ocean rollers run into a small cove and slosh up over some rocks so that the foam pours over into a small pool on the other side of the rocks.  The “bubbles” are created by the wave action and to watch the “foam” pour over the rocks every few seconds is really a sight.

We didn’t realize that we could swim there so weren’t prepared with our swimsuits. When we head back there in April with Rob and Kandice, we’ll be sure to bring suits along.  I’d say that this really qualifies as a sort of “natural wonder” here in the Bahamas.

Compass Cay is a private island and you have to either take a slip at the small marina on the island or pay a “landing fee” of $10 per person to go ashore.  I can’t say that I am crazy about the idea of a fee to tie up my dink and go ashore.  However, the island is very nice and $20 is a small price to pay to enjoy a walk on a beautiful beach for the day.

One of the highlights of the island is the large family of “tame” nurse sharks that hang around the docks.  As the fisherman clean their catch, the sharks show up from all around for handouts.  Nurse sharks are quite harmless and don’t have sharp teeth like other sharks.  They actually encourage you to jump in and swim with the sharks.  Not sure I have the nerve to do that.  The largest of the sharks were about 8′ long.  That’s a lot of shark.

It was hard to believe how many showed up all of a sudden when snacks were being handed out.  Perhaps I’ll swim with them when Rob visits in April. Hmm…

I wish that I could include more photos but this post had to be sent to Christopher via the SSB radio so he can publish it for me.  Unfortunately, we still don’t have the iPad so we are very limited in our ability to connect with e-mail and work with our blogs.  Soon, hopefully soon, we should be back in business with all this.   The new iPad we ordered should be here later in the week.

As I have mentioned in other posts, every week or so a cold front comes through the area and with it bring very strong winds from an unfavorable direction.  As the front gets closer everyone finds a place to “hide” from the winds.  And, as there are so few spots in the Exumas that offer protection from the west, the anchorages that are not exposed to the west fill up.  Just yesterday Brenda and I were anchored here in Compass Cay all alone and now that a front is on it’s way and due to arrive tomorrow, the place is filling up.  There are now 4 of us and others will surely arrive soon.

The winds are supposed to pick up tomorrow, Wednesday and won’t settle down again until some time on Friday afternoon.  That’s pretty good timing as I expect that our packages being flown in from the US will be delivered to Staniel Cay, which isn’t far away from here, by that point.

After that we hope to catch the next weather window to make the run south to Georgetown, our next major destination.  Our provisions are getting a bit sparse and there aren’t really any good stores here in the Exumas.  Georgetown is the next best spot to shop outside of Nassau.

After a month out with no real provisions available things are getting a bit sparse in the food department.  Good thing we have a freezer aboard that’s full of meat.   However, some fresh veggies would sure be nice.

Remember, Nature is still in charge! And now, a bit of technical difficulty

It’s Sunday morning and we are anchored in a snug little harbor near Compass Cay, one of our favorite spots in the Exumas.   The last few days have been a bit “different” as we have been struggling with a number of issues that have made things somewhat challenging.

As has been the case for much of this winter, here in the Bahamas, the strong cold fronts that have been lashing the US East Coast, have been causing havoc with the weather here in the Exumas as well.   When I say “havoc”, it’s fair to say that it’s a relative term compared with “real” winter weather such as those in New England have been enduring.

However, here on a small boat in the Bahamas, wind is king and the “king” has been throwing his weight around plenty this season.  The problem is that when a cold front comes down off of the south east US coast, the normal easterly trade winds are disrupted as the front passes through the area.  When this happens, the prevailing winds give way to winds that clock toward the southwest, west, northwest and then settle into a north wind following the passage of the front.

What this means is that just about everyone in the Bahamas must run for cover as most anchorages are only protected from winds with an easterly component.    So, a few days ago, Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, was forecasting strong westerly winds that would persist for at least a day, perhaps longer.  Nearly everyone listens to him so when he says “run for cover” that’s exactly what they do.

We did too, and Pandora had to find a spot with good protection from the west.  We chose Cambridge Cay as our “safe harbor”.  This anchorage, and it’s a pretty big one, is on the southern end of the Exumas Land and Sea Park, one of the environmentally protected areas of the Bahamas.   When we got here on Wednesday there were plenty of boats and by the time the west winds kicked in, and kicking they were, there were more than 30 boats sitting it out.

The strong winds really filled in on Friday morning and peaked with gusts near 30kts for much of the day.  Believe me, that’s a lot of wind.  Just a bit less than “gale” conditions, actually.  Overnight things finally calmed down and shifted to the north where they are expected to remain for the next day or so.   It was very good that we were in sheltered waters as the surf was pounding in any west facing anchorage and it would have been very uncomfortable, or worse, to be on an exposed shore.

I can’t say that it was pleasant hearing the wind roaring for two days but at least the anchorage was fairly calm.  We had been invited to have dinner aboard a friend’s boat at the other end of the harbor, perhaps ľ of a mile away, but we opted to stay aboard Pandora as getting over to our friend’s boat would have meant getting splashed plenty on the run over.  And, to get soaked on our way home after a few glasses of wine didn’t seem like a particularly good way to end the day.

Last winter we had a similar situation when we visited friends when the wind was blowing very hard and by the time we got back to Pandora following dinner, Brenda and I both had to strip in the cockpit and jump into the shower to get rid of all the salt.  We were drenched.

We decided we didn’t want a repeat performance so Brenda and I opted to stay aboard.  We did and enjoyed some of Brenda’s fresh baked peasant bread, cheese and wine.  Actually, a bit too much wine but I won’t get into that right now.

Speaking of technical problems (how’s that for a segue?), we have been using Brenda’s iPad as a key navigation device here in the Bahamas as the charts that are in my dedicated helm plotter doesn’t show enough detail for the Bahamas.  Our solution is to use the iPad loaded with a suite of charts and navigation software in addition to the paper chart books that we keep handy as well.

In any event, the iPad died unexpectedly a few days ago which freaked us out.   Unlike in the US, there are no buoys or other aids to navigation so knowing where you are at any given time can be a bit challenging, especially when you are surrounded by many low lying islands that all look the same.  Yes, we can get around with paper charts and careful plotting but it’s a lot easier more comfortable with the iPad open as a reference.    I always feel better if I am sure I am where I think I am.

On top of being a key source of navigation information, we also use the iPad for e-mail access.   So, here we were with no way to fix the iPad and now way to connect to the Internet.   Fortunately, our friend Joe on Onward, who we have known for a number of years, came to the rescue and offered for me to use his e-mail to order a new iPad.   Simple enough, right?

Yes and no… Unfortunately, the signal strength in this area is pretty weak so getting online was a challenge.  After messing around with for a bit, I was able to order a new iPad and arrange to have it shipped to Ft Lauderdale to an airfreight company.  From there (for a fee) the would fly it in to Staniel Cay.

Sounds simple, if not inexpensive.  Right?   Not so fast Bob.  Inadvertently,  I ordered the WRONG model and it would not work for navigation or e-mail aboard Pandora.  No problem, just cancel the order.   Not so easy…  I wasn’t able to cancel the order as I lost the signal at the “critical moment” and the “wrong” package shipped in spite of my best efforts.  Bummer.

Well, that was Thursday.   On Friday Joe let me visit again and order the correct item, this time from the Apple Store, and now that package too, is winging it’s way to Florida.  Somehow I have to be sure that the folks in FL are able to identify which is the “wrong” iPad and send it back.  Let’s hope that they get it right or I will be the owner of two new iPads, one right and one WRONG.  Yikes!

So, later next week we will have a new iPad flown into Staniel Cay and we should be back in business.   I won’t even talk about what sort of import duties I will have to pay on this.  If items are defined as “ship’s stores” or “equipment”, there isn’t duty to be paid but I am fearful that customs will define the iPad differently and charge me 40% of the value to bring it in.  And that’s on top of the cost of flying it in from Ft Lauderdale.   It’s going to be expensive, that’s for sure.  However, I have been told that computers are imported “duty free”.  Let’s hope that they are right.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that the last few days, here in paradise, haven’t felt so “paradisal”.   However, after a rum punch, things always seem better.

Yesterday, after moving here to Compass Cay, Brenda and I did a bit of beach combing as the tide went out.  This area is particularly shallow so much of it is dry at low tide.  As a result, the shelling is really terrific.  We had a wonderful time walking all over the flats picking up shells.   We got a particularly colorful haul.

It’s interesting how different the shells are depending on what are of the Bahamas you are collecting in.  The haul was particularly colorful.

Along the way we spied a really big ray.  This fish, which looks like a giant black round rubber disk, was over 5′ wide.  I also saw a very pretty little shark, about 3′ long that swam right by me, only a few feet away.

The sandbars are such a lovely contrast to the deeper blue water.  Very pretty in the afternoon light.

Each day I listen to a group “Cruiseheimers” on the SSB radio for news on what’s going on and where folks are on their boats.  This “net” operates each day at 08:30 in the morning.  Interestingly, “Cruiseheimers” has this name as it’s designed to help cruisers who forget which day of the week it is after months aboard, keep their bearings.  Actually, if it weren’t for this group, we would not have known that today was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  The idea is that folks who live onboard end up contracting a case of “cruiseheimers”.   Get it?

One nice thing about this group is that it gets many boats on a single channel at the same time each day so you can find out where your fiends are.  Today our friends, Maureen and Bill on Kaluna Moo, who are currently in Puerto Rico, about 700 miles away, asked to talk to us.  We switched to a different channel and had a nice chat.  We hope to connect with them in April as they make their way north from their time in the Caribbean.   Maureen really took Brenda under her wing last winter as we muddled through our first winter in the Bahamas.  It will be fun to see them again.

Today it’s a beautiful day here in Compass Cay.  Our plans are for us to head to the Compass Cay Marina, that’s on a private island.  For a fee, $10 per person, we will be able to have the run of the island.  I understand that it’s very pretty.  Should be fun.
Lastly, this post is low on pictures as I had to send it via SSB radio, as our web access is zip (recall no iPad?).  I sent this to our son Christopher who did the post for us.   Thanks Chris.

Hair cutting in paradise! An Ida “do” for me in Black Point Exumas.

It’s funny how fixated you become when you NEED something.   Well, I decided a month ago that I really NEEDED a haircut.  However, I decided early on that I wasn’t going to have my hair cut just anywhere.   I was waiting to connect with Ida.

Ida?  Who’s that?  Well, I am talking about Ida, Ida of Black Point.  She’d do it. Yes, I know that I am sounding like someone who’s trying to get a date in one of those “fancy-schmancy” (is schmancy a word?) sort of Hollywood Blvd shops where you pay $1,000 for a haircut.  Perhaps with one of those hairstylists that did Bill Clinton’s hair aboard Airforce One.

NO, NO, NO, that’s not it at all.  I am talking about getting my hair done by Ida. THAT’s Blackpoint Ida, the one that everyone who’s anyone goes to in the Exumas.  You know the one, right?  Ida!!!

But Ida is so much more.  She also has the BEST laundromat in the Bahamas, at least according to many who cruise these parts.  And believe me there are some pretty nasty places to “clean” your clothes in the Bahamas.  Ida’s spot is good even when compared to the best.

So, what exactly does Ida do here on Black Point.  Yes, she cuts hair at her shop, which is on a rise overlooking the water.  But Ida is so much more.

Ida is many things to many people.  Let me count the ways.   Yes, Ida cuts hair but she also has a very clean laundromat, serves baked goods and fried conch fritters.  She also has cold drinks as well as key necessities such as outboard engine spark plugs and motor oil.  She even has, and don’t miss this one, PVC plastic pipe fittings.  Go figure.  Ida has EVERYTHING!

Anyway, back to the hair-cutting.  For $10, $15 for women, Ida will cut your hair while you gaze out at the most amazing view you will ever have from a chair while having your hair “done”.  And, the hair cuttings just blow away.  How cool is that?

Me, I had my “experience” yesterday and feel so much better for it.  I have to say that I was beginning to feel like I had a family of small mammals camped on my head, and they were restless.  My hair was WAY overdue.

And, it gets better.  While you get your hair “done” there are even sharks cruising back and forth right out in front of you.  And, I mean the real kind, not the Upper-East-Side sort of sharks you might fear in one of those “tony” salons in NYC.  You know, the women who inhabit the high priced salons that cruise back and forth just waiting to take a bite out of you if your “do” isn’t done just right. No, I mean REAL sharks.

Although perhaps not as scary as the NYC types, they can bite just the same.   This shot of a ray, while not a shark per-se, will give you an idea of what I am talking about.  This baby was over 4′ wide.  An impressive fish.  While Ida was cutting my hair yesterday my laundry was getting done too.  However, I was only doing the “Brenda approved” portion as I was banned years ago from doing the “important” items due to my tendency to dump whites and darks into the same washer.  Yes, yes, I know it’s just not done but I can’t help myself.  It’s just so EASY…

Well, today we are back again for two more loads and Brenda’s in charge this time.   The one I did yesterday was only the sheets and towels, a mix that Brenda felt was “Bob proof”.  The more delicate items and my “better” clothing needs female oversight, according to Brenda.  Oh well, there are worse things for me to be banned from.  Banned from laundry?  YES!!! Works for me.

So, what about the haircut?   Just to prove just what an amazing experience having your hair cut by Ida really is, here’s a shot of a nice lady getting the “Ida treatment” this morning. Here’s what you see if you’re the one getting the cut.

Yes, indeed, it’s a nice spot and as if that’s not enough, you can even use Ida’s free WIFI and that’s a “HOT ITEM” believe me, in the Bahamas.  Wherever there’s free WIFI there are cruisers.  And, when you add great haircuts, conch fritters, laundry, sparkplugs, PVC pipe fittings… Well, you get the picture.

Thanks Ida.

Oops, the laundry needs folding.  I’d better sign off.  Besides, it’s nearly 1:00 and time for lunch.  Conch fritters anyone?  Hmm….

There are even better Iguanas in Bitter Guana. Many actually.

It’s Sunday evening and we are anchored off of an amazingly picturesque island Bitter Guana.  Set directly between two very popular spots, Staniel Cay and Black Point Settlement, this spot features a population of endangered Bahamas Iguanas, not unlike those at Allen Cay, in the northern Exumas.   While the location is only a few miles from these very popular spots, most boats avoid stopping here and just head from Staniel the five miles south to Black Point,  the typical stomping grounds of most cruisers.  

Today we decided to stop here as we were looking forward to some time alone and that’s exactly what we got.  While, just a few miles away in Staniel Cay, there are dozens of boats, here we are totally alone.   It’s very peaceful.  As an added bonus, now that we have discovered it, is that this will be a great spot to bring our son Rob and his girlfriend Kandice when they visit us in the spring.  This spot will be a keeper for sure. This afternoon, a 4’ long stingray took a nap in the shadow of Pandora.   The water is so clear I could easily see the big black shape of the ray.  Really neat.

There is a beautiful beach that was totally empty, with the exception of an enthusiastic community of iguanas.  As an added bonus, there were white limestone cliffs to block the strong wind from the east.  Quite an amazing view from the cockpit.   It’s hard to beat this sort of view.  As an added bonus, this view of “white” comes with a temperature in the 80s instead of 8 degrees like home.   Good to know.In the afternoon I want ashore and stood at the bottom of the white cliffs.  The temperature had to be over 100 degrees as the sun was just baking into the white cliffs and they were acting like a solar oven.  It was amazing how different the temperature was just a few hundred feet away near the water where it was more like 80.  Talk about “microclimates”.I understand that this particular species of iguana is among the most endangered of any lizard in the world.  While they used to be abundant on many islands here, they now number in the hundreds or perhaps dozens.   That’s it.  Not very widespread.   I have been told that the population is doing pretty well and growing, I understand.

This guy was very happy to see me.   Brenda wasn’t so sure she wanted to walk on the beach as the iguanas followed us along as we walked, looking for a handout.   She was very brave and walked anyway.I climbed up to the top of the white cliffs and took a shot of Pandora all alone.  Pretty dramatic.Speaking of dramatic, how about this amazing sunset to cap off the day?  There are plenty of these here in the Bahamas.  We even saw a green flash, again.  Last year we saw only one;  here something like 4 so far. What a perfect end to the day.Oh yea, the shelling is great in the Bahamas.  Yesterday Brenda and I went out near Staniel Cay and had a ball picking up shells.  Here’s our haul from only a few hours of searching.  Tomorrow we will head to Black Point Settlement, a few miles south of here.  We need to do laundry and what is arguably the best laundry in the Bahamas is there.  And, the lady who runs it also cuts hair and I really need a haircut, believe me as it’s been several months.  We also need food as the larder is getting a bit bare.