April 24 started out with an early departure.  We got off the dock at Spanish by 07h00, retracing the route taken by the ferry the day before.  It promised to be a pretty day.  The sun was blazing low on the horizon as we motored slowly out through the creek, and between the coral heads to the ocean.  The low sun made it a little unnerving running through the coral, as it was blinding, and its’ low angle made the water black, and unreadable.  We breathed a sigh of relief as the fathometer started reading ever-increasing depths.  Fishing was on the docket, as crossing the New Providence Channel meant lots of deep water.  I had rigged the last of our frozen Ballyhoo (Little fish, about 10”-12” long that the big guys like to munch) the night before, so baited up and got the lines in by 08h30.  We got our first hit at 09h00.  As the line was running off the reel and Suz was coming back to the cockpit, another fish hit the second reel.  Twenty minutes later, we had 2 Mahi, a 47” and a 44” in the cooler.  Within a half hour, the third Mahi was in the cooler, this one a smallish 42 incher.  The Admiral said “No mas!”, but we dragged some artificial lures, anyway.  I guess the fishing gods knew that we had had enough fun for one day, so for the next 6 hours, we rolled along over 1’-3’ seas, enjoying the passage to Great Abaco island, fishless.  Sirius XM radio was playing a Prince tribute, so the tunes kept coming, bringing back some poignant memories for both of us (we’re both Prince fans, and have had some great times while listening to his music). By late afternoon, we were tied to the dock at the familiar Schooner Bay Marina (this is where we started our trip to the Abacos in 2015).  One of my enduring memories of this place was being nearly devoured by the No-see-ums.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The “flying teeth” were out in full force while I stood at the cleaning table filleting fish.  The task was made simpler (if not longer) by my new-found pal, Jack, an 11-year old on the other boat docked here.  He was the fisherman in his family, and he was gonna catch a Mahi, so he would need to learn how to filet one.  He brought his trusty new filet knife to the table with him, so our first task was to learn how to sharpen a knife.  As we went about our task, and impromptu anatomy lesson, he regaled me with the family secrets (as 11-year olds are want to do).  The least damaging went like this: “We didn’t have a very good day yesterday, my Mom especially”.  “Oh, really?”  (Note the open-ended question here) “Yeah, I was casting off the back of the boat, and my hook got caught next to the dinghy.  The dinghy is inflatable, so I was terrified (his word) that I might put a hole in it.  I pulled the line back, and got the hook stuck in me.  These fisher guys were on the next boat, and they came over and tied a string to a hook, told Mom to hold the line tight, and jerked it out.  Well, I guess Mom didn’t hold the line tight enough, ‘cause the hook flew through the air, and landed in her, even deeper.  Then, they did it to her.”  By the way, this story was corroborated earlier in the day, as 2 fishing boats were chatting on the VHF radio.  Well, we got the job done.  Jack got to try out his new filet knife, and my “Really big, really sharp” one, and took a couple pounds of Mahi filets home for his efforts.  (this after he cut the eyes out of the fish, killed about 50 black flies, squirted the washdown hose, sharpened his knife, and chased a few birds-you get the picture).  Mom, Sarah, took half of the fish up to the lodge, where it was cooked for her family’s dinner.  A fun day. I think I’m gonna be a better Grandfather than I was a Father.  Went to bed with a big smile on my face.

What a day.  We were off the dock at Schooner Bay at 0800.  By 0900, as I was putting the second line out, we got a hit on the first one and boated our first Mahi, a 44 incher.  He gave us quite a fight.  I rebaited, and we were trailing 2 Ballyhoo with green/yellow silicone skirts.  Within 15 minutes, as I was cleaning up the blood from the Mahi, one of the reels started.  Click……. Click…. Click, Click, Click………Cliiiiiiiiiiick.  Started real slow, then that reel was screaming out line.  “Fish On!”  I really didn’t need to tell Suzanne, she had already slowed the Girl, flipped on Otto, and was headed back to the cockpit.  The fish jumped, maybe 150 yards out, but I didn’t get a good look at it, because I was focused closer to the boat, but out of the corner of my eye, it sure didn’t look like a Mahi.  Maybe a Wahoo, but it didn’t FEEL like a Wahoo (not enough brute strength).  Suz asked if I wanted the other line reeled in, but I said “no”, ‘cause where there’s one, there may be another.  Twenty minutes later, as we got the fish closer, and got a glimpse before he headed straight for the bottom, we could see that he was some sort of Billfish.  Panic set in.  We had to let him go, but really didn’t know how to go about it.  Suz remembered a fishing captain telling her that you just grabbed them by the bill, removed the hook, and turned him loose.  Yeah, sure.  Anyway, we reeled him up from the depths, and brought him alongside.  Raising him out of the water by the single strand steel leader proved a challenge, as he wasn’t done yet.  Between the two of us, we got him up enough for me to grab his bill, while he resisted frantically.  We snapped a couple of pictures after we untangled him from the second line which I had unwisely had Suz leave in the water, dehooked him, and sent him back to fight another day.  He was only about a 40-pound Sailfish (or maybe my adrenaline was really kicked in), and we wondered what we would do if we hooked a really big Marlin.  Guess that’s another question to ask the next time we meet professionals at a dock.  We put the wide angle lens on one of the camera bodies just in case we had another opportunity.  I’ll be darned.  A half hour later, the same tentative nibble on the bait, then all H, E, double hockey sticks, broke loose.  This time, as the reel was screamin’ out line, I focused on the waaaay out.  Another one.  Suz played him for 15 or 20 minutes, then began the give and take to get him to the boat.  Meanwhile, I reeled in the other line.  After a bit, the ratio of give to take tilted in her favor, and he was alongside.  Another Sailfish!  This one was pretty bloodied, and we were concerned that he might not do so well, but after we shook the hook out, he wallowed for a few seconds, and was off to the races.  The next few hours, we trailed a couple of artificial lures while I went up top and started cleaning the boat.  I was standing on the roof of the pilothouse with a hose in my hand, when Suz laid on the horn, throttled down, and screamed “Fish on”!  By the time I got down to the cockpit, she was on the reel, and nearly 500 yards of line was out.  A second later she said “I think we lost him”.  Boy, did it take a long time to get all that line in.  Done for the day, entered North Bar Cut and headed up Tiloo Cay, where we would anchor for the night.  At anchor, we finished cleaning the Girl, and I filetted the Mahi, while Suz made fresh bread.  She’s calling me for dinner (fresh Mahi), so I gotta go.

-Later

PS Still no net for pics.

Helooo,

I promised a few words about The Island School.  Here goes.  The Island school was founded around 20 years ago, on land donated by the DeVos family (see Amway Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan).  Its’ mission is to teach kids to be good stewards of the environment, and good citizens in general.  Curriculum subjects include earth sciences, marine biology, renewable energy, and etc.  The facility generates all their needed power (via wind, solar & biodiesel) and place excess into the Bahamas electric grid. The school has 2 terms of 100 days each, with 50 High School students (mostly sophomores and juniors) living in.  These students are mostly from the States.  Tuition is $30K/ term.   The 70-odd staffs talents run the gamut from teaching to the operation of the schools hydroponic farm, solar and wind generating system, carpentry shop, and daycare center.  In addition to the live-in students, the School hosts camps and field trips for local kids, these being nearly free of charge.  Immediately adjacent to the School, is the Ocean Institute, where current research includes the restoration of the conch population in the Bahamas, as well as the problems that have been created by the introduction of the invasive Lionfish into these waters.  The school pays local fisherman for their Lionfish and subsequently serves them for dinner. After our 2-hour tour, we had barely scratched the surface-check out their website. www.islandschool.org

April 21rst, and it was time to say “goodbye” to Davis Harbour.  What a great little marina-Friendly people, good shelter from all winds, and FAST internet.  Since we had visited Rock Sound and Government Harbours on our road trip, Hatchet Bay would be our stop today.  We had a pleasant, albeit wavy and windy trip under partly cloudy skies.  Along the way, we were entertained by a pod of around 10 Dolphins, one of which was a small youngster.  The Girl got a nice saltwater bath, and was pretty crusty by the time we got to the opening of the harbor.  The harbor is entered through a 90’ wide channel cut through a rocky cliff, which was a bit of a challenge with the 24 knot crosswind/sea.  Once inside, the water was quite calm, but still quite windy.  We had a heck of a time getting tied to the very poorly maintained mooring ball.  After a few tries, we finally got a line on, which promptly wound itself into knots.  Recalling our friend, Ann’s travails with a recalcitrant mooring over a year ago, in which she very nearly lost her leg, requiring medevac, multiple surgeries, and months of rehab, I cut the line loose and left it on the ball.  As we motored to the other end of the bay to drop our anchor, we got a call from another boater on the VHF, asking if we needed help.  He motored over to the ball, and after nearly 15 minutes, managed to get our hopelessly knotted line free.  We returned, and got hooked up, then started sharing stories.  It seems that he saw our hailing port, Charlevoix, MI, and had lived there while he ran a sailmaking shop.  He had a home on Oyster Bay.  We have several friends there, so we had mutual acquaintances.  Now, here’s the crazy part.  Suzanne told him that 20 or so years ago, before we built our present house, we had looked to buy a house on Oyster that had a blue metal roof.  He says “That was my house!” Next, Suz says “Is your last name Gleason?”  I thought he was going to drop dead-I don’t know how she remembers this stuff, we only looked at the house once.    We took down the tender to run in to shore, explore, and pay for the mooring.  The motor ran sluggishly for a few minutes, then died, reeking of gasoline.  After hauling “White Star” back up, and pulling the engine cowling, we found that the gas was coming out of a weep hole in the fuel pump reservoir.  What?  Pulled the pump, emptied the fuel, and took apart the pressure regulator-bad “O” ring.  Into the trusty thousand ring kit.  New “O” ring, and we were good to go.  To shore, for a quick explore and pay the rent on the mooring.  Nobody home at the Front Porch Restaurant (mooring owner), so we stuck a twenty under the welcome mat, and called it good.  Nothing special in Alicetown and Hatchet Bay, except for the arrival of the ferry, which brought the whole town out to the dock.  We headed back to the Girl.  The Gleasons joined us that evening for sips, and we shared chats about mutual friends, and the lake in general.

We delayed our departure until 08h30, so that we would hit Current Cut, on the north end of Eleuthera at slack tide on our trip to Spanish Wells.  It was cloudy and overcast, but the wind and seas were on our stern, so it was a comfortable passage.  The current was still running at 4 knots as we went through the cut, and we thought about breaking out the water skis as the Girl shot through at a blistering 10.2 knots.  The marina at Spanish Wells Yacht Haven was in the final stages of renovation.  The docks were brand new, the swimming pool had just been completed, and some little bungalows were getting their finishing touches.  Translation-we won’t be able to afford this place next year.  We walked the length of Spanish Wells Island(St Georges Cay), and were surprised by the level of cleanliness in general, and the tidy appearance of the houses in particular.  Spanish Wells was first colonized in the early 1630’s by the Eleutherian Adventurers (see Puritans seeking religious freedom).  In fact, the word Eleuthera has its’ roots in the Greek word for “freedom.” Spanish Wells is also the home of the Bahamas fishing fleet. SW provides the majority of the Bahamian lobster for the Bahamas.  Back at home, the brand-new tiki bar at the marina was rockin’ that night, but we just chilled on the boat.  We had a big day planned for the 23rd, taking the ferry over to Harbour Island, the first seat of government in the Bahamas colony, and exploring for the day. The island aka Briland(for the many Briland roosters that wander) was shaped by Loyalist Governor of Virginia, the honorable John Murray(1786-1797). He fled to the Bahamas after being awarded the title of Lord Dunmore, Governor of the Bahamas.

Gotta tell you a quick story, ‘cause it’s still bugging me.  We went into the 8’x8’ ferry office to buy our tickets, and there was an old guy sitting there, apparently just hangin’ around.  As we talked to the nice lady about the ferry, he heard that we were Americans, and wanted to start preaching politics.  He informed us that he was British, but had lived in the Bahamas for sixty years.  Well……he informed us that most of the English really didn’t care for Americans, and thought that we should butt out of their internal affairs (the U.K. is currently thinking about leaving the E.U.).  I’m a tolerant guy, so I let him go on, but when he finally hit a nerve, and our tickets had been purchased, I told him that our experience with the French and English was just the opposite.  Most of the folks in his generation that had any common sense were extremely grateful to the U.S. for bailing their asses out of two World Wars, and that if it hadn’t been for us, he would be speaking German now.  (Door nearly breaks off its’ hinges as Tucks exit stage left).  When we returned that evening, I apologized to the ferry lady for slamming her door.  She said, “Let me tell you something.  He came to the Bahamas in 1942, married a Bahamian woman, and has been here ever since”.  Hmmmmh, can you say “draft dodger”?

Our excursion to Harbour Island was a delight.  As the ferry threaded its’ way through “The Devil’s Backbone”, amongst the numerous shallow coral heads, we plotted the course on the IPad, so we could duplicate it when we left for Great Abaco.  We walked the streets of town, checking out the old buildings, then headed to the pink sand beach, where we bar-hopped for snacks and sips.  Back to Spanish, we hot-footed it up to Food Fair so that we could provision some fresh produce before they closed at 17h00.  Returning to the boat, we found that Gary and his wife Charlene were our new neighbors.  They were having some electrical problems, so I gave him a hand.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get him fixed, but did get the problem diagnosed so that he could order the necessary parts.  Well……Suzanne busted the mold for my Birthday dinner this year.  No spaghetti and meatballs.  She surprised me with a favorite that we hadn’t had since our last trip to Italy-Vitello D’ Tonnato.  OMG!  The diet really took a hit as we washed down the creamy goodness and pasta with green peas with a great bottle of white.  Every now and then, I forget how lucky I am that she still puts up with me after nearly 38 years.

Okay,  see ya’

 

Crappy internet, so I'll add pics later

Hey!

Boy, do I have a sore butt!  I know, T.M.I.  We hopped on our bikes today after a hiatus of, maybe 3 months.  We thought Lighthouse Beach at the south end of Eleuthera, was about 8 miles away.  Well…….  When we hit 8 miles, we were still in the interior of the island.  Another mile got us to the beginning of the 3.2 mile, brutal, rocky, rutted, washed-out road (?) out to the light.  Boy, was it worth it! (Check out the pics).  We shared our peanut butter sandwich, fruit, and nuts on the deserted beach which is purported to be one of the most beautiful in the world.  We walked a couple of miles on the sugar-fine beach, helping ourselves to the bounty of sand dollars that had washed up during the previous week of heavy winds.  Returning home, we paid the rent at the marina office, polished some stainless steel, and planned our trip up the coast of Eleuthera and to the Abacos.  Our plan is to start tomorrow (the 21rst) morning.

So…let’s back up.  After the kids left, we headed back to Emerald Bay Marina to get the laundry done and clean up the rest of the boat.  A one-day stay was all it took, and we were off to Cat Island again, this time to Arthur’s Town, boyhood home of the actor Sidney Poitier.  We were off the dock at 06h52, and were anchor down at Arthur’s Town eleven hours later.  The trip across the Sound was gorgeous-sunny, 1’ seas, 10 knot winds, 80 degrees.  We laid on the roof of the pilothouse while Otto drove.  Freezers were full, so no lines wet.  At Cat, we were the only boat anchored in the bay.  Thought it’d be a quiet night-not so much.  Julia’s restaurant had a little tiki hut by the beach, and the locals were ROCKIN’!  The music was great, and they were done by 23h00, so it saved us having to pick out tunes on the boat.  We dropped the tender in the morning to go ashore.  It took awhile to find a spot to land, as the shore was pretty rocky, and there were no docks.  Finally, we found a little sandy beach about a half mile south of town.  It wasn’t ideal, but we put out a stern anchor and tied the bow to a tree on shore, holding the boat off.  Arthur’s was a sleepy little village.  I’m guessin’ not more than 50 people living there.  We stopped at Cocktails by the Sea, and had a Coke under the palapa while we talked to Grammy.  She was about 80-ish, and had lived in A Town her whole life.  At one time, it had been booming.  Had a big pier where the “mail boat” came in, bringing supplies for the rest of the coast.  A big storm took out the dock, it was rebuilt elsewhere, and the town slowly spiraled down.  Now, she says, only old people live there.  No jobs, the kids move away to find work.  (sounds a lot like Newfoundland).  She also gave us her take on the current government, and the local gossip.  Suz and I didn’t verify this, but she told us that Bahamians couldn’t vote unless they had a passport or a birth certificate.  The only place to get these official documents is in Nassau.  Most people here are so poor that they never get off the island.  Soooo…..  Most can’t vote.  Interesting.  We moved on, and visited with Emily Rolle, who had a small shack on the edge of town where she sold straw goods that she had made.  I spotted a couple of recycled liquor bottles with a red liquid in them, and asked her what it was.  “21 Gun Salute”.  “Okay, so what’s that?”  “You know, when de man geds a bit oweder, he jus’ get’s a bit tired, you know?  He jus’ needs a bit o’ peppin’ up.  Dis be makin’ him feel a bit frisky again, so makin’ wife happy”.  “So, are you saying that it puts a little lead in his pencil?”  Big smile.  “Yeah, dat’s it!”  So the conversation goes on, and we discover that Emily’s Mom taught her how to make this stuff, and she got quite a name for herself.  A guy on Great Exuma who made “Salute” got together with her, and they combined recipes.  Same for another guy who hailed from New Providence.  Her potion is now the culmination of many years’ experience times three.  Some doctor in Great Britain tested it, and says it works better than Viagra.  Emily asked if we wanted some.  The Admiral told her in no uncertain terms that the boat was too small already.  We bought some baskets.  We figured that we had exhausted A Town, so at 14h46 we were up anchor, and on our way to Half Moon Cay, formerly known as Little Salvador.  Holland America Cruise Lines bought the island, and renamed it Half Moon.  There was some chatter on the internet about whether or not private vessels were allowed to anchor there, with a story of a sailboat being chased out.  Suz called “Veda L”, another Krogen, that we had passed several days earlier for the scoop.  They were based out of Eleuthera, so we figured that they’d know.  They said “no problem”.  “We just call on the VHF and ask permission.  Never had a problem”.  We arrived, we called, we got no answer, so we were anchor down by 17h50.  The anchorage was a little surgey, but with the flopper stopper down, we had a comfortable night.  At 09h30, the “Carnival Glory” came around the point, and dropped anchor about a half mile away, ready to disgorge her thousands of passengers for a day of sun and fun on the island.  By 09h52, we were on our way, lines wet.

Between Half Moon and Eleuthera, there is an underwater ridge that is from 10-15 fathoms deep.  On the Atlantic side, and on the Exuma Sound side of the ridge, the depths drop to hundreds of fathoms. This is where the big fish like to hunt.  This shallow ridge also causes the waves to pile up as they roll in from the Atlantic.  The forecast was for 2’-4’ seas, but when we got to the Bridge Ridge, they were a tad bigger.  Suz was driving, and as I walked up to the pilothouse after tending the lines, she exclaimed “Oh, shit!”  She was looking over her right shoulder towards the ridge.  A wave was rolling toward us that I couldn’t see over.  In fact, I was looking at the junction of the middle and upper third of the wave from where I stood, nearly 13 feet above the water.  All we could do was hang on, as it rolled under our starboard beam.  It was a real “cupboard cleaner”.  Dishes flew out of the cabinets, the countertop was cleared, fruit was rolling around the floor, and the furniture was stacked against the port wall.  I went below to get things in order, and no sooner than I got back to the pilothouse, one of the reels was screamin’ out line.  “Dammit!  What do you want me to do?"  I figured that if we headed downsea, I wouldn’t get thrown out of the cockpit if we encountered another biggerthanaverage wave.  Well, that Wahoo jumped once, threw the hook, and was on his merry way.  I rebaited, got the line back in.  Meanwhile, Suzanne had adopted the strategy of tacking back and forth, so the waves weren’t on the beam.  Never saw another wave that big, most were in the 6’-8’ range, with a few 10 footers thrown in.  We got two more bites, but were only able to boat a smallish (32”) Mahi.  As we were pulling in the lines a few miles south of the Davis Harbor entrance, we passed by a Bahamas Defense Force cutter.  She was at anchor over a bank, in about 60’ of water.  “What the……." Suz grabbed the binocs to check them out.  They were bottom fishing!  Three guys were leaning over the rail, handlining.  As we watched, one of them hauled in a good-sized Red Snapper, threw him in the cooler.  Well, I guess they gotta eat too.

Davis Harbour reminded us of “Old Florida” and the marina at Great Harbour, in the Berry Islands.  It was pretty cozy, and we immediately felt right at home.  First day, the 18th, was occupied with chores.  The Girl needed a good scrubbin’ after her salt water bath.  The internet here is lightning fast compared to the past month or so, so I was able to finally get some pictures up.  The next day, we rented a car from Mr. Theophilus Morley, who brought the car to the harbor.  As I drove him back to his home, he told me about his kids and grandkids.  I was losing count, so I asked him how many kids he had.  “21, and 49 grandchildren”.  “No way”.  “Well, I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke, but when I was a young man, I had a lot of girlfriends”.  I guess so.  Suz and I drove up the island, visiting The Island School, Rock Sound, Governor’s Harbor, the blue hole, and various sights along the way, returning to the Girl around dinnertime.

This is getting’ kinda long-winded, so I’ll tell you about The Island School later.

-Next Time

Hello Strangers,

It’s been a loooong time since we’ve had decent internet, so I’ll try to cram some pictures up into the ether, and get caught up on the last few weeks. It’s the 18th of April, and the kids have come and gone.

Jeremy, Jodi and Mikaela arrived right on time, as Suz and I waited for their taxi at “Red Boone”  in Georgetown. We all had the $10 Burger and a Beer special with a couple of ala carte brewskies.  After that, the obligatory stroll through the few gift shops and knick knack shacks there.  The weather window was open, so the next morning, we ran the ten hours up to Cambridge Cay and grabbed a mooring.  Unfortunately, little Miss M had a case of the Mal de Mer, but was a trooper all the way.  The next day, Jody and Mikaela had their first snorkel lesson from Yours Truly before we set out to explore the grotto at Rocky Dundas.  There, we swam through the narrow passageway (exposed only at low tide) into the large cave with a hole in the roof, the sun pouring through and illuminating the interior.  Next, we dinghied to Compass cay, where we hiked to “Rachel’s Bubble”, a frothy tidal pool there.  Back to the girl for lunch, then the 2 mile dinghy ride to “The Aquarium” for a little reef snorkel.  On the way home, we checked out the sunken plane off the coast of Pasture Cay, then beached the tender in search of iguanas-none were found.  Next day took us to Staniel Cay, where we saw the swimming pigs, then dinghied to “Thunderball Grotto”, so named because some scenes from a James Bond movie were filmed there.  The current was fierce, but our new snorkelers kicked its’ butt.  One group of touristas was leaving as we arrived, and we had the place to ourselves for a half hour before the next group of revelers arrived-sweet.  On the half hour ride back to “Alizann”, the winds came up, and the blue/black skies opened.  As our friend Andy would describe it, “A real turd floater.” All we could do is laugh, as we drove into the 30 knot winds, sunglasses on, to keep the driving rain from tenderizing our eyeballs.  The plan was to shower and return to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks, but squall after squall nixed that program.  We had a spirited night of cards instead.  Ohhhhh……weather.  We had planned on a stop at Rudder and Lee Stocking Cays on our way back to Georgetown for their plane, but increasing seas and winds dictated a change in plans.  The Admiral and I did NOT want the vacation to end on a seasick note, so we opted for a run to Emerald Bay Marina before the weather, where we could all spend a day poolside, with cocktails from the tiki hut.  It turned out to be a great call, we missed some sights, but we made up for it by snagging 2 Mahi, a Wahoo, and a ‘cuda.  The girls, avid freshwater fishers, were ecstatic, even though a shark hit one of our Mahi’s taking off the tail while reeling in.  It did, however, make it a lot easier to bring in.  The pool day was perfect.  For $50/head we were allowed to use the facilities at Grand Isle Resort, and enjoyed the day, with lunch and cocktails around the pool.

April 7th was turnaround day.  We all got up early.  Availed ourselves of the free laundry facilities at Emerald Bay for towels, sheets, etc., and cleaned the Girl inside and out.  Having rented a car for the day, we dropped J,J,&M off at the airport, and picked Ali and Ben up, as they had flown in on the same plane that was carrying the rest of our gang out-how convenient.  Same program.  Into Georgetown for beer, burgers, and the tourist thing, then back to the boat by way of “Prime Meats”, a specialty butcher shop.  Besides gorgeous cuts of meat, the butcher there makes a chicken salad that I’ve been lusting after since our stop there a couple of weeks previously.  The weather permitting, we had decided to run the “Boatguest Circuit” again, so we headed back to Cambridge Cay, then work our way back to Georgetown.  There, we hiked the Cay, and got Ben (another first time snorkeler) hooked.  Struck out on iguanas again, but hey, it’s all in the process.  Next, it was Staniel Cay, where we DID get to have docktails at the yacht Club after hiking the south end.  We departed Staniel on the 11th, headed for Farmer’s Cay for the evening.  Along the way, we anchored off Black Point on Great Guana Cay in order to stop at “Lorraine’s Mom’s” house to see if she had any fresh bread for us.  Jackpot!  Raisin Cinnamon Coconut, and just plain old coconut loaves were warm out of the oven.  We made our way down to Farmer’s Cay by late afternoon, anticipating a good day of fishing on our way to Georgetown the following day, as we had been skunked on our way to Cambridge.  We weren’t disappointed.  We boated 3 Mahi, and lost the biggest one (which Ben had fought for over 30 minutes) due to my inability to get him gaffed when he came alongside the boat.  He straightened out the hook (literally), and swam off.  I’m pretty sure I heard him laughing over my curses.  Our videographer discovered the challenges of filming with rolling seas, and left her breakfast on the deck.  BUT….she did get some good footage of her hubby reelin’ in the lunkers.  Once at anchor outside Georgetown, I found out how handy it is to have a Chef as a son-in-law.  Together, we had those fishies butchered in no time, sharing a few techniques along the way.  A spirited game of cards ended their last night with us.  (By the way, the Wells family kicked the Tuck family’s butts for the week).  Seems to be a pattern here.  Maybe we’ll play dominoes next visit.

April 12th.  The taxi doors weren’t even closed, and I was feeling pretty empty.  We were so lucky to have our kids with us, but I wanted more.  Strange, how when they’re growing up, you take it for granted that they’ll always be there as you chase the almighty dollar.  Then, they’re gone, and you wonder where all that time went.

I’ll do the 13th-18th later.

-Just Me and Ma for awhile.

n

March 22nd.  Another cloudy day was forecast, and around 10h00, we were off to shore to pick up our bread.  Bad news, Darlene had run out of propane, and was an hour or so behind. No worries, we walked over to “Hidden Treasure”, where Denise was just opening, and put in our order for dinner.  Lobster for Suz, and Grilled Mahi for me.  Later, Darlene fed us some Bahamian pea soup while we waited for our bread.  That evening, we were the only guests at “Hidden Treasure”.  Denise, the owner, sat with us and told us that she had just moved back to Cat Island from Nassau, where she had worked as a banker for the past 19 years.  She and her husband own a home there, and in fact, he is still there, working as a chef in a very upscale resort.  He has to work for a few more years, but she was tired of the traffic, sirens, congestion, and “pop, pop, pop” (I assume gunfire) at night in Nassau.  They’ll have a long-distance relationship until he is able to retire.  In the meantime, she’s growing a business on her childhood home of Cat.

Wednesday morning and the overcast was thinning giving the promise of a sunny day.  Perfect.  We planned on walking to the Hermitage atop Mt. Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas, snappin’ along the way.  So, here’s the scoop on Father Jerome.  Born in England in1876, John Cecil Hawes trained as an architect, and later became an Anglican priest.  After the hurricane of 1908, he was sent by the Bishop to the Bahamas, where he became known as Father Jerome, to rebuild damaged churches.  The seven churches that he rebuilt on Long Island all bear his unique stamp, with thick stone walls and barrel vaulted roofs.  After Long Island, he settled on Deadman’s Cay, where he ministered to the locals.  He then took a “sabbatical” (my words), and acted as a wagon driver, monk, horse breeder, and missionary, before converting to Catholicism and becoming a Catholic priest.  Upon returning to the Bahamas, he built many catholic churches, as well as the St. Augustine monastery in Nassau.  Nearing retirement, he arrived in New Bight, on Cat Island where he built his last church, Holy Redeemer.  There, he also selected a site atop a rocky outcropping on the crest of Comer Hill(the highest spot in the Bahamas at 206 feet), as the spot for his retirement home, known as the Hermitage.  There, he lived in isolation until his death in 1956.  We had a good hike up to the top, and snapped quite a few along the way.  The place had been deserted since the late 50’s, but was still in remarkably good condition.  Unlike many places we have visited around the world, there was no graffiti or evidence of vandalism.  We were able to walk through the residence and chapel, which commanded a360-degree view of the island and surrounding sea-very cool.  We were the only people there, and with the wind whistling around the structure, it wasn’t difficult to put yourself back in time and imagine life here.  On the way down, we descended a very steep, rocky trail connecting sculptures depicting the stations of the cross.  Pretty apropos for the week before Easter.  The road leading back to the beach was bordered by fields that had obviously been under cultivation at one time, as they were bordered by rock walls.  The fields were now overrun with low scrub, and a few scattered papaya trees.  We ventured off, and picked a few papayas, and found some cabbages, tomatoes, and goat peppers, all growing wild.  With some effort, we found a few ripe veggies that weren’t rotten and stashed them in our backpacks. 

Back at the dinghy, we were dismayed to find it high and dry on the beach.  In spite of our having anchored it with the wind blowing it away from the beach, the current had brought it back to the sand (on a falling tide!).  #$!@%!!.  The transponder for the depth sounder had snapped off, breaking the wire, and making it useless.  There was no way that we were moving the little boat (at 750#), so I got a lesson in Conch cleaning from Kotti, who worked at Hidden Treasure, and had a beer.  Later, with some additional help, we got the tender wet again.

Thursday, the 24th, we took a 9 hour ride over 2’-4’ seas under an overcast sky.  No fishies, the dry spell continued.  We passed through Rudder Cut, and turned north to drop anchor in the lee of Rudder Cay, a private island marked with “No Trespassing” signs wherever you might think of going ashore.  We stayed here until the 26th, and got some good pictures inside a grotto looking back at the Girl.  We also visited a stainless steel sculpture of a mermaid sitting at a grand piano, commissioned by David Copperfield, and anchored to the sea floor in the neighboring bay.  What?  Go figure!  (Our trusty little waterproof camera got flooded a couple of months ago, but Jeremy is bringing a new one on the 1st, so if we go back, I’ll snap a couple).

Saturday, the 26th, we headed for Lee Stocking Island, where we planned to stay for a few days.  Again, no fish caught-this was getting old.  We dropped anchor just off a Caribbean Marine Research station, abandoned in 2011.  We explored there for a few days, both on land and sea.  The station reminded me a little bit of the abandoned outports in Newfoundland.  Looked like everyone stopped working and just left.  The station was quite extensive, spread out over the entire north end of the island, and we walked through each and every building there.  One afternoon, while sitting on the back porch reading, Suz spotted a couple of locals in a skiff paddling to shore around a half mile away.  Long story short, they had run out of gas.  After we brought them some gas, the motor wouldn’t start.  We ended up towing them a couple of miles to Children’s Cay.  They promised to take us lobstering the next morning as a gesture of thanks, but never showed up.  Undeterred, we searched out some coral heads on our own, and Suz actually spotted a crawfish (spiny lobster).  He was tucked back into a hole, with no chance for a shot, but we eventually teased him out onto his “porch”.  One shot.  Right between the eyes, and we had our first bug.  Happy Birthday, Suzanne.

It was almost kinda creepy.  I woke up last night with the feeling that something was wrong.  As the mists of sleep cleared from my brain, I realized that it was quiet.  The wind had completely died.  Our forecast looked good, and I thought “Tomorrow’s gonna be a good travel day”.  By 05h45 the wind was back, and the dinghy was thumpin’ against the side of the Girl, torn between following the tidal current or the wind.  I got up and retied her, then watched the stars slowly blink out as nautical twilight gave way to dawn.  By 08h11 the dinghy was stowed, the anchor up, and we were underway under sunny skies and an 11 knot breeze.  As we exited the cut, we found the seas running at about 2’-4’ on a 7 second interval.  As soon as we cleared the 30 meter contour, the lines were wet.  By 09h32, the drought was over.  Fish on!  It felt like a biggie, and it was.  That 42”, 16# Mahi took 200-300 yards of line off the reel before I could even think of gaining some ground on him.  Before we finally had him next to the boat, he had jumped a half dozen times, sunlight reflecting off his blue green hide, violently trying to shake the hook.  He still wasn’t done, fighting furiously when he saw the boat, and before Suz could get him gaffed, we had visions of losing him like the one a couple of weeks previously.  “I can’t get ‘im, I can’t get ‘im………Got him!”  Suz hauled up the gaff, and dropped our prize to the cockpit sole, where he promptly shook the hook in about 3 flops.  Lines back in the water, and within 15 minutes somebody had stripped our other Ballyhoo off the hooks.  I had only rigged 2, so we trailed artificial lures the rest of the way to Conch Cut near Georgetown, and got nuthin’.  By the time we had the anchor down at Stocking Cay, across from Georgetown at 13h11 (exactly 5 hours after we had left), the laundry was done, and our battery bank was fully charged.  We got the dude filleted, and some boatchores done, but mostly enjoyed the breezy sunny day.

Bigtime pre-visitor boatchores tomorrow.  Jeremy, Jody and Mikaela arrive on the 1st.

-Later

G’day

Well…….Conception Island was a well-worth-it stop.  While we shared the anchorage with 6 other boats on Friday, we were all by our lonesome all day on Saturday.  The island is completely uninhabited, save for the flocks of birds that live here, and we enjoyed a real sense of isolation.  On Saturday morning, we took the dinghy to the south end of the bay, and anchored in 12’ of water, over sand and right next to a coral reef.  We snorkeled the reef, trying to hone our lobster and fish-finding skills.  This island is part of the Land and Sea Park, so it is a “no-take” area.  I figured that since this was the case, we’d find tons of lobster.  Nope.  I’m thinkin’ that we really need to get with a pro so we can learn the ropes, ‘cause I’m sure that there are plenty of bugs in these hidey holes.  I was just starting to feel a little chilly when I caught some movement out of the corner of my left eye.  Suz was on my right, so it got my attention.  I turned my head to see a 6’ Reef Shark swimming toward us.  He stopped, and swam a couple of tight circles about 15 feet from us.  Then, he swam past us at a distance of about 10 feet, and looped back before swimming toward shore over the coral.  Now Suz and I have swum around sharks plenty, most of the time with SCUBA, and they usually pay you no attention, nor are we bothered by their presence.  This guy just didn’t feel right.  We decided that it was time to get out of the water, and we literally swam the 50 yards to the dinghy back-to-back.  We saw no more of our pal.  After a late breakfast on “Alizann”, we headed to shore, and anchored “White Star” 10’ off the beach.  We crossed over to the windward side of the island, and were treated to a mile long, coarse sand beach.  We walked it in total solitude, with the sun high overhead, marveling at the myriad colors of the ocean over the sand and offshore reefs.  Back on our, the leeward side of the island, the sand was finer, and a lighter color.  We walked the shore of our bay from north to south.  The late afternoon was spent reading on deck.  Towards sunset, a sailboat arrived and anchored about a quarter mile away.  Our tender was already stowed on the boat deck, so we didn’t go over to say “Hi”.

By Sunday morning, the swells that had started to roll into the anchorage the day before were becoming quite pronounced.  No matter, we were up early for an 07h00 departure to Cat Island.  We fished for 4 ½ hours before one of the reels started screaming out.  We hooked up, and had a good fight for about 30 seconds, then, not much.  I could still feel a fish on, and I knew this was bad news.  Barracudas hit hard, and go fast, but have no endurance.  They’re totally passive until you get them out of the water to unhook ‘em, then they’re all muscle and teeth.  Yep, Barracuda.  What a pain in the butt.  And………in 1500’ of water.  He musta been lost or something.  After I dehooked him, he was back to the races, and I was ready to call it a day.  The Bight at Cat Island was just around the point, and shallow water was a half hour away.  The seas were predicted to be running out of the East, making the West-facing Bight a perfect anchorage.  Instead, the 3’ waves were coming out of the Southwest, rolling into the Bight, which ran several miles from north to South.  We quickly scrapped Plan A, which was to anchor in New Bight, and motored over the shallow sand to the beach which ran along the southern edge of the Bight.  There, we found that it was still windy, but 100 yards off shore, the swell was negligible.  We spent a quiet afternoon on the boat, the day made almost perfect by spaghetti and meatballs.  The wind died nearly completely, and we had a totally calm night.  Just before dawn, the waves started lapping, and we heard the wind generators start to wind up.  All of a sudden, the motion detector (burglar) alarm went off.  I went to the salon to check things out.  Nobody around, but the flag on the stern was drooping down, and, I believe, set off the alarm (note to self).  Well…..within 10 minutes (literally), the wind was blowing 22, clocking from West to Northwest.  This usually indicates the beginning of a frontal passage here, and a Cold Front had been moving through the Southeast states the day before.  The black clouds to the Northwest, and the light horizon below them told us the Front was here.  We could expect the wind to go to east within 12-18 hours.  We got the anchor up, and headed North to New Bight.  By the time that we arrived an hour later, the wind had subsided to 5 out of the Northnorthwest, so we tucked in tight to the beach and had some breakfast.

Time to explore.  We dropped the dink and headed to shore.  Ha!  No place to tie up.  Just a long beach and no docks.  I beach the dinghy and drop off the Admiral, then anchor just outside the break, and wade in.  I miscalculated the depth by about 6”.  Man, I hate starting a walk with a wet crotch!  I know, T.M.I.  First stop is the police station/post office/island administrator/driver’s license/BaTelco building.  We get the lowdown from a very pleasant officer, and find that the post office has an open internet network.  Yay! I might be able to shoot some of these blogs up.  We walk the shore road up to the North, and spy a bunch of gaily colored shacks on the beach.  None are more than 150 square feet in size.  The signs on them indicate that they’re bars and restaurants.  Most are closed.  It is a full party during Island Regatta week in August. We stop at “Hidden Treasure”, which is open, and is reported by the Cruisers Net to have great seafood.  After checking with the kitchen, we agree to go in for grub before we leave the island, depending on the weather.  Further down the road, we wander into an open door and meet Darlene, the local “bread lady”.  She’s gonna bake us loaves of coconut, cinnamon, and wheat bread that we can pick up in the morning.  A half mile down, we visit Holy Redeemer, the last Catholic church designed and built by Father Jerome before his death (more on F. J. later).  Gilbert’s Grocery (and rent-a-car) is our turning point about a mile-and-a-half down the road.  The mail boat (supplies) comes in on Thursday, but not this Thursday, so we grab a couple of $4 Mangoes, lettuce, eggs, red pepper, and celery-$40.  Yeow!  Suzanne reminds me that this Thursday is Holy Thursday, and that most business (in our experience) will be conducted on restricted hours, or not at all, during Holy Week here in the islands.  The Front arrived before we got home, but it actually felt kinda good walking in the pouring rain, just as my shorts were beginning to dry out. 

17h00.  Time for an iced coffee with rum.

-Later

Wednesday morning didn’t come quick enough.  I was excited about getting some lobsters, and had a lot of stuff to do before we could go. Low tide was at around 10h00.  That meant that our bikes, which had been idle for a while, needed to be unpacked, chains and derailleurs lubed, tires aired up, and luggage racks re-installed, then dropped to the dinghy for their ½ mile ride to the dock.  Snorkel gear needed to be unstowed, and packed in to carryable packages.  Peanut butter toast, and we were on our way by 08h30.  Due to the early low tide, we decided to head to the spot that was only a mile or so from the boat.  Since “everyone” knew about this spot, we figured that we’d maybe only get a bug or two.  After we got the bikes loaded with gear, Suz decided that mine looked like a vehicle out of “Mad Max”, with our spears sticking out over the front tire.  The road out to the beach was a challenge.  The island is comprised of rock, and any unpaved roads (and this is most of them) are surfaced with large sharp rocks, and are deeply rutted, with washed out sand in any depressions.  We had a nice swim, but that was about it.  Figured that the place was “lobstered out”.  We stashed our bikes behind Tyrone’s house, and hotfooted it back to the Girl, as the Georgetown gang had organized a beach cleanup outing for 13h00. 15 or 20 of us made a nice dent in cleaning up a 2-mile stretch of beach on the windward side.  Through our stay this year in the Exumas, we had become very familiar with items from the ill-fated “El Faro”, the freighter that went down with all hands during Hurricane Joaquin in October.  Among other flotsam, we picked up numerous syringes, jars of mayonnaise, yogurt, Axe bodywash, plastic tubes of M&M’s, and roll-on deodorant.  Many of the aerosol cans were nearly decomposed by rust, and there was virtually no glass-just PLASTIC!  It certainly makes you think twice about buying products packaged in this stuff.  There must be a better way.  Back to the boat for a quick wash up, and to shore for the “Closing Ceremonies” at Sou’ Side bar and Grill.  Busy day, so it was an early night for me and the Boss.

Thursday, St. Paddy’s day and we’re on a bug hunt again.  This time, we’re off to David’s secret spot on the windward side of the island opposite McCann settlement.  It’s about a 5 kilometer ride, but since it’s only 0900, the temperature is conducive.  On the way down, we can hear the feral goats in the underbrush next to the road, the kid’s plaintive cries sound so human, it’s eerie.  Once off the main road (and I use this term loosely), we’re confronted with a washed-out two track littered with 3” in diameter, sharp rocks and eroded gashes up to a foot deep which climbs up, angles down to a brackish pond, then climbs back up as it meanders the ¾ of a mile to end on a cliff overlooking the coral reef below.  After taking a few moments to admire the view, we unload the bikes and stash them in the undergrowth.  Next, we’ve got a half mile hike over the razor-sharp coral rocks out to the beach.  This stuff is mucho serious.  One fall, and you’re gonna end up with a cut to the bone.  We’re not really visualizing ourselves being treated for an injury in a third world country, so the going is slow.  Once down to the beach, we’re treated to a mile of desolate sand, and blue, light blue, sorta blue, green, aqua water.  (I think that the Bahamians must have as many words for the water color here as the Inuit have for snow.  The variations never fail to take your breath away).  Not a soul in sight, and no sounds indicating the presence of other humans.  Full of anticipation, we pull on our diveskins, snorkels, and fins and embark on our small game hunt on to the uncharted reef.  Two hours later, as the tide starts coming back in, we’re thinking that we pretty much suck at this lobstering thing.  There were tons of good “hidey holes” among the coral heads and rocks strewn around the bottom, but did we see a single lobster?  Nein!  The best we could do was a 4’ barracuda that followed us the whole time that we were in the water. On the way home, we stopped at the Hillside Market, as the “Mail Boat” had come in the day before, and fresh vegetables would be on the shelf.  Only problem was that when we got to the checkout, Suz didn’t have any money, and she thought that I should have some.  By the time we brought the bikes back to the boat by dinghy, and I returned to the store to pay for our stuff, she had the Girl ready to go.  The rest of the Georgetown crew had pretty much departed while we were gone.  We took the ride up to Calabash Bay on the northwest end of Long Island laying atop the pilothouse roof, catching some rays, with the autopilot remote in hand.  The anchorage there was reported to be affected by a fair bit of ocean swell, but in settled weather like we were finally experiencing, we figured that it’d be fine for an overnight.  Well……...It was pretty rolly.  We didn’t bother to take the dinghy down, and opted for sundowners on the back porch, as we planned a morning departure for Conception Island.  We were so excited about having scored fresh fruit and veggies, that we took full advantage.  Suz whipped up some slushies on this, the 50th anniversary of their invention. (‘cept hers were made with papaya, banana, coconut cream, rum, ice, and of course, soy milk and protein powder to keep things healthy).  We love our Vitamix.  For dinner, it was salad topped with, you guessed it, grilled Mahi.

We were out of the anchorage by 09h00.  Since we would be crossing deep water on our way to Conception, the rods were out, and the hooks baited.  We’d been doing so well fishing, that we figured that all it took was to wet a line.  In spite of the Admiral doing the fish dance and chanting her soon to be patented fish call, we came up with a giant goose egg for our 2 ½ hour efforts.  We’re now entering through the reef to the anchorage on the northwest end of the island.  The Bight is ringed by a shallow, rocky coral reef to the north, and a mile of pure, sandy beach to the east, and rocks to the south.  There are only 6 other boats here, and it looks like a great place to hang for a few days.

-Later

Friday, the 11th.  We’re waiting for A.J., the water taxi driver, to come and pick Andy& Jodie up for their trip to the airport.  I hate these times, the long farewells.  Typical to “island time”, he doesn’t arrive at the boat until 30 minutes past the agreed time.  Andy is fit to be tied.  In his mind, he’s already on his way home.  After A.J.  finally arrives and picks A&J up, we should be busy cleaning the boat, but are in a catatonic state, so we spend the rest of the afternoon just chillin’.  A few of the boats in the anchorage are planning a trip to Long Island on Monday, with some excursions after arrival, so we want in.  We call “Five and Dime” to get in, and are told that all of the spots for the activities there are filled.  No room at the Inn.   A half hour later, we’re called on the VHF, and are told that there’s an opening, as one of the boats hasn’t paid their dues.  Quicker than a fly on you-know-what, we’re over to “Five & Dime” with a hundred and five rockets to pay our dues.  We’re in. 

On Saturday, we spend the day makin’ water and doing laundry, as well as cleaning the Girl, post guests.  The office is reconfigured from a guest stateroom back, and our trusty little ship is returned to normal.  At 05h30, A.J. picks us up for our soiree into town for the “Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival”.  Live music, Bahamian food and drink are on the schedule.  The music is good, the food is great, and the night goes quickly.  Before we know it, we’re home.

On Sunday, the 13th, the winds had subsided to around 13 knots or so.  The seas were predicted to be running 1’-3’, so we saddled up to head over to Long Island.  I wasn’t in much of a hurry, as I had taken a quick look at the chart and figured it was about 18NM to our anchorage.  Suz looked at me kinda funny when she asked, and I told her that I wanted to leave around 12h00 or so.  We got the dinghy up and secured, and got under way at around 11h30.  We hadn’t plotted a course.  I figured that we’d do it once underway, as it would be a short hop.  NOT!  Thirty-eight miles?  I don’t know what I was smokin’ when I thought it was only 18, but we were lucky that we had switched to Daylight Savings Time, or we wouldn’t have made it before dark.  We made Thompson Bay at Long Island just before dusk, and dropped the hook in around 10’ of water at the northern end of the bay.  No time to explore as it was getting dark, so we left “White Star” on the boat deck and settled in with the 4 other boats scattered in the bay.  Today, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees, 25 minutes North latitude), the farthest south that “Alizann” has been.

Monday.  Race day.  We expected the sailors from Georgetown to start arriving just after noon.  We dropped the dink, and headed to the newly rebuilt dinghy dock for some shore recon.  We stopped at the “Sou’ Side Bar & Grill”, which would be the focal point of the upcoming shoreside activities.  There, we met Tyrone and his wife Vanessa, the owners of the 400 square foot (Maybe.  This included the 2 porches) establishment.  It was empty, save for a guy sitting outside under the shade of a Sea Grape tree.  We sidled over, and introduced ourselves to Alton, locally known as “Big Al”, as there were 2 other men by the name Alton on the Island.  We trolled for some local knowledge, including good snorkel spots, the location of the market, if there was a place to “top off” our cell phone, where we could drop off our well-traveled packages of post-hurricane relief supplies, and etc.  (Later, we would find out that he, and his partner, Sue, were former Georgetown liveaboards who had recently sold their boat and were now living on the island.  They were also the local organizers of the soon-to-arrive Georgetown to Long Island rally.)  We checked out the local scene, which didn’t take long, topped off our data plan on the IPad, found that the “mail boat”, which brought fresh produce to the market, would arrive in 2 days, and headed back to Sou’ Side for lunch and a brew.  The Hogfish was tasty.  Right about then, the first boats of the rally were appearing on the horizon-no sails (no wind).  We beat a hasty retreat back to the Girl, as we had decided that our late evening choice for anchoring was too far from the lone dinghy dock.  We re-anchored a half mile or so from the dock in 6’ of water, and watched as the 30 or so boats in the rally streamed in, motoring all the way.  In the evening, we all convened at Sou’ Side for a potluck of shared heavy hors doeuvres, supplied by our fellow cruisers, and 2/$5 Sand’s beer, supplied by the bar.  Team “Alizann” was smoked in the Conch races.  We didn’t even make it out of the first round.  I’m pretty sure that there were some professionals in the mix.

Tuesday was a big day.  The big yellow schoolbus from St Peters Anglican parish school was at the dock and loaded by 08h30 for our grand tour of the south end.  David, our driver (and Harbormaster for the commercial harbor, and lumberyard owner, and former grocery store owner, and jack of all trades), gave us a running commentary on the history of the island as we headed “up south”.  Like Canadians in the Maritimes, South is referred to as “up”, and North, “down”.  For our tour, I had the best seat in the house.  Since the bus was full, I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket next to David.  We all witnessed firsthand the devastation that “Joaquin” had visited on the people here that were hanging on by their fingernails, even before the storm.  We hit a Blue Hole, where a couple of us climbed and dove off a 50’ cliff into the 630 foot deep water below.  (The Admiral and I did it twice, with 4 other folks taking a shot each).  Next, it was off to “Rowdy Boys” for lunch and sips.  After our bus tour, the crew headed back to their respective boats to “get pretty” for the night’s trip to the cave at Stella Maris for dinner and sips.  Suz and I stayed behind.  David had promised to show us his “secret spot” for bagging lobster (known locally as crawfish).  We took the bus up to his house, where we transferred to his wife’s car for our expedition to the windward side of the island.  There, he showed us the “spot”.  At 18h00, and we were all back on the busses for our trip down north for the nights’ festivities.  On the way, we stopped at a roadside bar for a few roadies ($3 beers, as negotiated by Big Al).  Dinner was literally in a cave.  We sat on the rocks, and supped on grilled Mahi, chicken, peas and rice, cole slaw, and, what?  Hot dogs.  David got us back to the dock safely, and we motored home.

-Later

Hey, Mon.  You Okay?

Nighttime at Emerald Bay Marina.  Tomorrow evening, Andy and Jody come in, and it’s Sayonara to bloggin’ for a week while we play with our old cruisin’ pals.

We ended up staying at Cambridge until Saturday the 27th.  Friday was windy but sunny, and we ended up spending the day on the Girl doing boatchores.  Suz worked on income tax jazz-what a laff, we got no income, while I spent the day in the bilges tightening up hose clamps everywhere I could find them.  We had Lynn and Larry over for blackened Mahi, Beet rosti, and Acorn squash with cranberries.  Lynn supplied the Key Lime pie.  Their stint as hosts for the anchorage was ending on the 29th, and they were thinkin’ thoughts of starting to head back north for the summer season of, can I say   it? -work.  He captains a tour boat in Tobermory, Ontario, and she serves as Mate.  Although we wanted to stay, it was time to move on, and as Saturday morning dawned bright, warm, and almost windless, we dropped the mooring and headed to Staniel Cay, only 12 miles away.  Along the way, we spotted the motoryacht “Rushmore” holding station on the Bank, waiting to enter the marina at Compass cay.  She belongs to some “friends friends” from East Lansing, and we had been instructed to look for them while in the Exumas.  Well, we hailed them on the VHF several times to no avail (they must not have had their radio on).  Oh well.  We anchored off Big Majors Spot Cay (no typo) by noon, and dinghied in to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  We did a recon walk, hitting a couple of markets for future reprovs, and checked out Staniel Cay international airport.  The bar at SCYC called us, and we sat on the porch in rocking chairs, and watched a small part of the world go by.  We figured we’d eat as long as we were there, so had an unremarkable late lunch, (early dinner) there.  Blindsided by a severe case of “dumb#ss”, we returned to the tender landing only to find our seven hundred pound dinghy sitting high and dry on the beach at low tide.  By the time that we had the boat floating again, we had run out of daylight, so the following morning we ran over to the beach where the famous “swimming pigs” resided, checked them out (and got rid of some garbage), then went back into the channel by the Yacht Club to check out “Thunderball Grotto” (so named for the James Bond movie sequence shot there).  We didn’t get into the water, but it didn’t look nearly as cool as the grottos back at Rocky Dundas.By 1026, we had the anchor up, and were headed to Black Point, on Great Guana Cay.  Since we had been delayed at Cambridge by unfavorable wind direction, we opted for a quick “drive by” to check things out prior to our guests arriving.  We arrived at the anchorage outside black Point by 1200, and got the hook down in 26 knot winds under sunny skies.  We checked out Lorraine’s Bakery and Restaurant, and had lunch, while availing ourselves of her very good Internet connection.  On our way back to the Girl, we ran into Bob & Peggy (Knot 2 Fast), who had been here for a couple of days since leaving Warderick Wells.  When we got back to “Alizann”, there was another Krogen, “Morse Code III” anchored next to us.  We had been told a month earlier by some other Krogen pals that the folks on “MC” wanted to get in touch with us, as they wanted to head to the Panama Canal with us next year.  After the hook was up at 1445, The Admiral called them on the VHF, and had a nice chat.  Hopefully, we’ll see them again this season.  By 1635, we were anchor down (for the last time) on the lee side of Little Farmer’s Cay.  Our plan was to head out into the Exuma Sound (Atlantic Ocean) through Little Farmer’s Cut in the morning, as the water on the Bank (and out of the wind) was pretty shallow from here south to Great Exuma (and Georgetown, where we were picking Andy and Jody up).  Our charts told us that there would be a fair amount of current exiting Little Farmer’s Cut.  On the ebb tide in the morning, with the wind out of the northeast, (opposing the outgoing tide), the conditions would be just right for a “rage” in the narrow cut.  The good news was that we figured that slack current would be just an hour or so after daybreak, so if we got off by first light, we’d be at the Cut at just about the right time (I keep sayin’, “better to be lucky than good”).  Once out, we hoped that the seas would be calm enough to fish in the deep bluewater on our way to Lee Stocking Cay, where we’d spend the night before heading to Emerald Bay on Great Exuma.

Well……we were anchor up at Little Farmer’s just after daybreak, and out of the Cut with no problem. Seas were 2-4’ on 5 second intervals, but on our port quarter, so not too bad.  No sooner did I get a line wet than we reeled in a 12 kilo, 40” Wahoo (that’d be 26 ½ pounds, folks).  Next came a 30” Mahi.  We got another Mahi that absolutely dwarfed the thirty incher up to the side of the boat, but couldn’t get a gaff in him before he straightened out the hook and swam away.  Dude, this was our kinda fishin’!  We lost 7 Ballyhoo baits on hits that spun the reels out, but didn’t hook up well.  We also lost one of my favorite cedar plugs that I had skirted with a yellow and Chartreuse silicone squid to something BIG.  This guy hooked up, and was zzzzzzzzzzzingin’ the reel out bigtime.  He was close to spooling out 400 yards of eighty-pound test Spectra line, when I had to dial up the drag to keep him from emptying the reel.  The 5-foot rod was bent to nearly 90 degrees.  I couldn’t even get it out of the rod holder for fear of losing the whole shootin’ match.  All of sudden-nuthin’.  I reeled in a couple hundred yards of line with nothing to show but the bitter end.  I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t break this line by hand, and this dude just laughed at it.  Needless to say, we skipped right past Lee Stocking and kept ripping them up.  We ended the day with the Wahoo, the Mahi, and a couple of small Tunas.  The Admiral made me stop fishing, ‘cause she said the freezers were full already.  This was all in about 5 hours time.  We arrived at Emerald Bay Marina at 1428, and tied up in the “cheap seats”-no water, no electricity.  At $.40/ gal, we can make water cheaper (at today’s fuel prices, around $.10/gal.).  We’ve also found that at marinas with metered electricity, the usage billed to us on their meters seems awfully high (in fact, when we do the math, their consumption figures far exceed what the Girl could possibly use when all of her systems are go, go, go).  This offseason, we’re installing a kilowatt meter (lotsa $$$, but we think that the return will be worth it).  We spent the rest of the afternoon fileting and vacuum bagging fish (I’m REALLY slow at this stuff).  We ditched the ice, and some nonessential stuff, so there was room in the freezers.  At 1730, I was all set to go up to the clubhouse for the marina-sponsored “Happier Hour” (‘cause your already happy) featuring food and drinks, but the Admiral insisted that I take a shower.  I thought that the odor of fish blood ‘n guts was kinda manly, but she didn’t see it that way.  Well………we almost missed out on the goodies.  The marina here is dominated by a gang of Quebecois sailors, and let’s just say that they put piranhas to shame.  Two stacked plates at a time is the norm for a trip to the sparse buffet.  Later, Suz would hear stories about their behavior at the Superbowl party that weren’t pretty.  Oh well, we had food back at the boat.

Tuesday morning, I washed and started waxing our trusty little ship, while Suz did laundry at the FREE laundry room (replete with state-of the-art washers and dryers).  In the afternoon, we rented a car and headed into Georgetown to reprovision our fresh veggies and fruit.  I’m just sayin’, but picture a guy that drives 4 or 5 times a year getting into a car with a right-hand steering wheel and driving on the left side of the road.  A couple of Xanax would have served Suzanne well.  Okay, back to the matter at hand.  The supply boat leaves Nassau on Monday, arriving here at night, and stuff is on the shelves by Tuesday afternoon.  By Wednesday, it’s slim pickin’s until the following week.  Sooo……. Ya gotta get there.  We learned last year that you just CANNOT look at prices here.  If you need/want it, get it.  No matter that things are 2 1/2 to 4 times the price of the same item in the States.  Next, a trip to BaTelCo.  Suz had re-upped the data on our Ipad and phone, only to have them quit working altogether.  The nice lady there got things sorted out, and us up and running again (until next time).  Satellite phones are on the list for next year.  On the way home, we stopped at the butcher shop to pick up some lamb chops, as A & J love ‘em.

This morning, we did some more waxing and cleaning rust off of our stainless steel stanchions (a never-ending job) and office work after another trip to Georgetown.  (Yeah, we had to go back-yesterday we got to the post office to mail some stuff home, only to find a handwritten note on the door, informing all that “Until further notice, the post office would be closing at 1:00 P.M. daily”.)  That’s island life.  After turning in the rental, we walked over to a nearby resort, Grand Isle, and treated ourselves to lunch by their pool.  Having taken many vacations like that in our former life, we marveled at how much our lives had changed.  The wind has died, and the flying teeth are now out in full force.  We had been surprised by the lack of no see ‘ums this year-guess it’s because it’s been so windy.  I’ll take the wind over these voracious little buggers anytime.  A & J will be here tomorrow, so I’ll probably talk at ya in a week.  In the meantime, we think we’ll head back north and revisit some cool spots with our old playmates.

-Later

Good Morning.

It’s the beginning of day 4 at Cambridge Cay.  We’ll be hanging here until tomorrow (Friday), when the wind moves from its’ current west component.  It’s been interesting for the last couple of days, listening to the VHF radio, as cruisers scramble to find spots to anchor/moor in the west wind, as there are very few of these locations in the Bahamas.  Warderick Wells went from about 30% to fully occupied with 20 on the waiting list.  Our anchorage, Cambridge, went from 4 boats to 17, with half a dozen anchored up north of us.  After checking to the weather a few days ago, we opted to stay put.  It’s not like we’re stuck, however.  We might stay for a week even in settled weather, it’s so pretty here.

The day before yesterday, a 120 footer, “Carte Blanche” came in, she’s moored about a half mile south of us.  They have all the toys-jetskis, a 27’ center console, and a 16’ bonefishing skiff, as well as a couple of R.I.B. tenders.  Yesterday, they were dwarfed when the 160’, “Mustang Sally” crept in.  Both are charters-I wonder what the nickel is on one of these for a week of fun in the sun.  I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

So let’s back up.  Tuesday was another absolutely gorgeous day.  The seas were favorable, so we dinghied over to Rocky Dundas, and the grottos at low tide.  It was a fun snork.  The waves washed in and out of the caves, so it was kinda surgey, and once in, it was like a wash machine on the “heavy soil” setting.  Inside, it was shallow enough to stand and check out the stalactites hanging from the roof, as the hole overhead admitted shafts of sunlight.  There were two such caves with some pretty nice corals and fish to visit on the swim between.  We’ll be back with our guests.  Next, we motored over to Compass Cay, where we anchored on a sand spit and hiked overland to “Rachel’s Bubble”.  This is a large pool separated from the sea by a low dam of dead coral, bordered on both sides by high outcroppings.  When big waves hit the ocean side of this dam, the water comes frothing and jetting over the top and into the pool.  Standing in the pool, you get the bubbles, and once in a while, the top of a really big wave.  The water color is a milky blue due to all of the bubbles, and has a strange odor, much like the bubbles coming out of an ozonator in a hot tub.  We giggled there for 45 minutes.  Back home, it was Cuban coffee and hammock time.  We had an early dinner, then went over to Lynn and Larry’s with Ken and Grace for our first foray into the complex world of “Mexican Train Dominoes”.  Well, it wasn’t exactly complex, we learned quickly, but I still managed to get my butt handed to me by the more experienced players (and Suzanne).  After fun ‘n games, we peered into the water off of “Seaquel’s” stern, where the underwater lights had been on since sundown.  There, we spotted a 4’ barracuda swimming amongst the schooling Mullet.  An ominous shadow was visible from time to time, swimming just out of the lights’ halo.  Then it wasn’t in the shadows.  An 8’ (Bull Shark?) swam right through the light and under the boat.  For the next 10 minutes or so, we all watched in fascination as he crisscrossed through the light.  Time to go home, we all got into the tender very carefully.

Wednesday morning, Ken and Grace left for their sail up to Eleuthera, while we headed up to Pasture Cay to do some beach cleanup with Lynn & Larry.   Three hours, and 4 huge trash bags later, the protected iguana sanctuary looked molto bene.  There, we saw what must have been the father of all iguanas, only to be surpassed 20 minutes later by one who must have been the grandfather.  Mission accomplished, we headed back to The Girl for lunch, with plans to do a drift dive out on the coral heads southwest of the anchorage in the afternoon.  When we got out to the reef, it was slack tide, so there was no current.  We found a sand patch, and tossed the hook over the side.  Until the rising current made the snorkin’ too tough, we were treated to the sights that go hand in hand with a healthy coral reef.  Too bad we were still in the boundaries of the park (a no-take zone), as we saw many, many potential Grouper sandwiches swimming along, begging to be speared.  We then pulled up anchor and let the tender drift, holding on to lines trailing from its’ stern, viewing the scenery rolling beneath us.  On the way home, we diverted to an Elkhorn coral garden, where, among other things, we spotted a Nurse Shark under a rocky overhang.  Nearing the boats, Lynn, Larry and Suzanne just had to get wet one more time, and went over the side near a little coral islet.  Their reward came in the shape of a small Hawksbill Turtle swimming lazily along the weed line.  That kinda brings us full circle back to the morning of the 25th.  Still hoping for enough “bars” to shoot this into space.

-Later

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Captain's Log

We were off the hook at Tyrell by 07h50, and had an uneventful passage to Grenada over 2’-4’ seas, with 21 knot winds on the beam.  The hydraulic oil cooling pump continued to give us problems, and the hydraulic system overheated a couple of times, necessitating trips to the engine room to break air locks.  The Xantrex charger/inverter also continued to shut down due to overheats, so we used the second unit, a Magnum without incident-another project.  By 13h30 we were at Port Louis Marina, in St. George Harbor, Grenada.  New experience.  We did a Mediterranean mooring there.  That is, we backed over a mooring ball around 70 feet from the seawall, attaching a line as we went by, and backed the Girl up to the seawall.  We secured the stern to the wall, and ran another line (making two) from the bow to the mooring ball, suspending Alizann between the wall and the ball.  We’ve done the Med-moor thing before, using our own anchor off the bow, but grabbing the ball, then backing in between two other boats with barely enough room for our fenders between was a big deal.  We get by with a little help from our friends.

The next ten days was a blur, lotsa boatchores.  We pulled the balky inverter out and took it apart.  It’s cooled by 3 computer fans, and 2 were completely defunct.  The third had funky bearings.  How hard could that be to fix?  From past experience, I know that nothing’s ever that easy, so we bought a new battery charger/inverter, did some modifications to mount it, some rewiring and carpentry work to place the new remote control panel, and called it good.  I figured that we’d buy some fans back in the States, repair the eight year old unit when we returned in the Fall, and keep it as a spare.  (All boats need three inverter/chargers, Right?).  Both of the motors received new oil and filters.  The transmission got a fluid change, then we flushed out the John Deere, the generator, and dinghy outboard engines with Saltaway and bedded them down for the Summer.  Washed, buffed and polished the Girl to help her resist the scorching Summer sun, and cleaned her interior, doing a final wipe-down with a dilute vinegar solution to help resist mold during the upcoming layup.  We covered the insides of hatches with aluminum foil to keep out the sun, unplugged all appliances to protect them from lightning damage, and set the air conditioners on “Dehumidify”.  All mooring lines were doubled, and chafe protection was placed to ready Alizann for potential high winds during hurricane season.  In between the scut work, we met with a welder and a canvas maker, whose projects would include modifying the solar panel rack to accommodate our new panels, and fabricating a sunshade for the boat deck.  While we were gone, the Girl would need attending to, so we met with Mark Sutton, owner of Island Dreams, whose company would check in on Alizann while we were Stateside.  Brett Fairhead’s guys would come by and clean her bottom monthly, keeping her free of barnacles while sitting in the warm, nutrient-rich water of the harbor.  Getting the Girl ready for Hurricane Season entailed removing anything from the decks that was loose, or could potentially get loose in high winds.  We had our bicycles and kayaks stored on land, out of harm’s way, and removed everything else that wasn’t fastened down.  The weekend before we left, Tropical Storm Brett roared through, causing cancellation of flights to Trinidad.  The high winds gave us a chance to see how the Girl would do in her mooring configuration, and we were pleased.

It wasn’t all work and no play for the crew of Alizann, though.  Ed and Cheryl on Slowdown were five boats down from us, and we also made some new friends in the marina.  Our immediate neighbors, Paul and Sue, aboard their 65’ Fleming motoryacht “Suzanna Aqui” were familiar faces that we had met in Gorda Sound in the BVI.  We had several enjoyable dinners both out and in (You know by now that the Admiral loves to cook for friends), but seriously we never got farther than a mile or so from the boat.  We figured that we’d do our island exploration after our return in the Fall.  Only too soon, it was time to leave Grenada and our new and old pals to return to the States.  Hector, our driver, picked us up in a light drizzle at noon on the ………., took us to the airport, where we boarded a plane for Miami.

-Later

 

 

Good Evening

The passage to the Tobago Cays wasn’t exactly taxing.  It was windy (what’s new), but it was only a two-hour trip. The Tobagos are five small islands, four of which are encircled by a very shallow reef to the east (the prevailing wind side), creating a nicely protected anchorage.  The fifth, to the east was the island that the beach bonfire scene from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” was filmed, Petit Tabac.  We rounded into the anchorage, which is a national park, and dropped the hook onto a sandy bottom in fifteen feet of water.  We passed on using a mooring, as it was rumored that they were poorly maintained, resulting in a boat breaking loose several months earlier, with significant consequences.  The” boat boys” were in fine form here.  Several in their pangas approached the Girl within the first half hour of our arrival.  “Need bread?, Need fish?, Need water?, Want a Tee shirt?, Have any garbage?”  These entrepreneurs come over from Union Island, several miles to the south to try to scratch out a living.  The further south that we have travelled, the more ubiquitous they have become.  The vast majority are very polite, but once in awhile, you encounter persistence that borders on aggressive.  These guys are working, doing the best that they can in a part of the world where opportunity is very limited (huge understatement), so we try to patronize them whenever possible.  Cruisers that we have met along the way have raved about the Tobago Cays.  We were underwhelmed.  We could see it being a beautiful spot in the Summer, when the wind was non-existent, and no other boats were cruising.  In twenty-something knot sustained winds, under overcast skies-not so much.  We went out in the dink to do some snorkeling, but couldn’t really find a spot that was appealing, so we didn’t.  BTW, don’t remember if I mentioned this, but we met a French-Canadian (Quebecois) couple in Bequia that were cruising on their 40-something foot sailboat with their seven (yes, count’em folks, seven) kids, the eldest being twelve.  Their youngest was one, and they’ve been cruising for 2 years.  No.  We didn’t ask.  Anyway, we were anchored right in front of them here in T.C.  We reconnected with them, and were able to unload a gallon or so of boxed milk, and some other stuff that we didn’t think would survive the Summer on the boat.  After two days, we decided that it was time to push on to Union Island.  We had the choice of two potential anchorages.  One, Clifton Harbour, was off the main town on Union Island, with the potential of being very windy.  The other, Chatham Bay, would be sheltered and very quiet, with little or no population.  No brainer, right?  Wrong.  Just off the bay at Clifton, tucked in behind the reef was the home of JT Procenter Kitesurf.  Suz and I had been thinking about learning to kiteboard for the past few years.  Only problem was that everyone that we saw doing it was a tad bit younger than us.  Well, we decided to go on in and ask the pros if they thought that two sixty-somethings were trainable, so it was off to Clifton Harbour.

Another short hop brought us into Clifton Harbour.  As has become the custom, we were met by a boat boy, wanting to take us to a mooring ball.  “No thank-you.” Then, the litany of questions of do you need this or that?  We brought the Girl up into shallow water just east of the moorings, and just west of the kiteboarding center.  Facing into the wind, the bow settee was a perfect grandstand seat for the numerous boarders already riding in the shallow bay.  We didn’t waste any time in getting to shore to ask about lessons.  “No problem.  If you’re fit, it doesn’t matter how old you are, we had a seventy-year-old on a board last month.”  So….We signed up for an “Introductory Lesson”  Long story short, after a couple of lessons, we can both get up on a board and ride in a straight line (more or less).  Even with bruised ribs and some coral rashes, we were both all smiles, ready to return in the Fall for Act 2.  Besides the boarding, we found Clifton to be a place worth returning to.  The produce stalls in the town square were well-stocked every day, and Yummy’s Bakery makes the best Roti in town, as well as fresh baguettes.  The folks were very friendly, and it is rumored that there are some nice restaurants as well.

After 4 days in Clifton, we cleared out of S.V.G.(Saint Vincent & The Grenadines), and pointed our bow to the islands of Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique.  The former is part of S.V.G., the latter, Grenada.  Petit St. Vincent is a privately-owned island with a very exclusive resort, it’s only structures.  Petit Martinique, a mile or two distant, has a population of less than 500 people.  We anchored between the two, inside a protecting reef, close to a beautiful sandy beach on PSV.  Even though it’s a private island, guests from boats are welcome to use the restaurant and the beach bar, “Goaties.”  We did our best to go ashore, but the seas refused to cooperate.  The dinghy dock was treacherous in the wind and swell.  After 15 minutes of trying to tie the tender so that it wouldn’t get bashed on the dock, we gave up (a stern anchor wouldn’t hold on the scrabbly bottom).  We weren’t cleared into Grenada, and there is no office in Petit Martinique, but official presence is very sparse here in this no-man’s land between the two countries.  Which brings me to a story:  Petit Martinique has been known as a smugglers’ den for the past century or so.  Rum running was a main revenue source.  Rum running in these islands where there is a distillery on every corner, you say?  Ahhh, this is different.  Barrels of 80% rum alcohol, bound for blending elsewhere were intercepted, bottled, and sold as “strong rum”.  I’ll say, 160 proof!  Now, strong rum is the unofficial drink of SVG.  It’s also one of the reasons that you need to be careful about your consumption of rum punch, which I once considered a “foo-foo” drink.  I’ve seen more than one unsuspecting American feeling no pain after a couple of these.  At some time in the mid twentieth century, a new governor was elected in Grenada after running on a platform which included bringing the smugglers of P.M. to heel.  After he was elected, he embarked to Petit Martinique on a publicity junket as a show of force.  As his boat approached the dock, he could see that the pier and harbor were lined with people.  They were all wearing black!  At that point, he asked one of the ship’s crew what was going on, and was told “They’re dressed for your funeral.”  Apparently, he never went to shore, headed back to Grenada, and didn’t fulfill at least one of his campaign promises.  We headed the dinghy over to Petit Martinique, where the docking was much easier, and strolled much of the perimeter of the island.  There isn’t much going on there, but the people are nice, and the island is pretty.  We picked up some cheap booze (Hmmmh.  Yeah, we bought some), and spent a rolly night on the hook.  By the way, my rum punch smoothies, courtesy of our Vitamix blender have never been better.

It didn’t look like the weather was going to change for the next few days, so the next morning it was time to continue south, aiming towards Carriacou, which is part of the nation of Grenada.  We had heard stories from other cruisers, and on the internet, that the Customs and Immigration officers in Carriacou were a little less than enthusiastic about their jobs.  We didn’t find them to be rude and abusive as others had reported, but Suzanne did wait patiently for a good bit for the officer to terminate a personal call on his cellphone.  By the time that Suz and I had left the office, the four of us had shared a few laughs.  We think that a lot of the enmity between officials and boaters arises from preconceived notions on both sides.  Suzanne is good at “breaking the ice” with a little plain old civility.  Here in the islands, it’s considered bad manners to “get right down to business” without exchanging a few pleasantries first.  At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that we’re guests in another country, and that these officials are not our employees.  Being pleasant also moves you to the front of the line, and gets you on your way quicker.  End of rant. 

We saw Ed (SlowDown) on our way to Customs, so we joined him and Cheryl for sips that evening.  They were on their way to Grenada the following day, and we talked about all of the things that we had to do to get our boats ready for Summer.  By the time that we returned to the Girl, we had decided to head to Grenada as well.  We’ll explore Carriacou next Fall.  Spending a week or so in Alizann’s Summer home would allow us to get to know the marina staff, and our neighbors before jetting back to the States, and leaving the Girl all alone.

Sooo……In the morning, we were off to Port Louis Marina, on Grenada.

-Later

Good Morning!

It wasn’t exactly a long ride from Bequia to Mustique.  We were on the mooring ball by 11h15.  Then we were off.  The Harbormaster wanted the phat Girl on a stouter mooring.  Okay, we can always use the practice.  So, you probably know that Mustique is a private island.  The unwashed masses are allowed to visit at certain times of year when the well-heeled are not present.  Boaters are allowed three days, and must take a mooring.  (The mooring fees are quite reasonable, though-$200 Eastern Caribbean for 3 nights).  Well, we didn’t see any celebrities, but we sure saw a lot of the island.  We hiked over 20 miles in 2 days, circumnavigating the coast, and crisscrossing the hilly interior.  The windward side of the island featured a rugged coastline, with dramatic views from cliffs down into small pocket bays and isolated beaches.  There aren’t a lot of them, but the homes that we saw (from a distance) were spectacular.  The going prices, once affordable at a million $ or so, are now easily ten times that much.  We didn’t spend a lot of time house hunting.

Being the off-season, the island was pretty quiet.  The first afternoon, as we were doing a quick recon of “town,” we stopped at The View, a restaurant perched on a cliff high over the harbor.  Well named, the open air dining room has a panoramic view of the harbor and surrounding sea.  Suz and I were the only guests until we were joined by Alastair and Fiona, fellow boaters on the s/v Busco Viento II.  British citizens, but living in California for the past couple decades, they cruise for several months a year.  They were bar-hopping by dinghy, and reported that they had just missed Bryan Adams (Canadian rocker) at their previous stop, The Cotton House Plantation bar.  Lisa, the owner of The View was chattin’ us up, and by the time that we left, we had reserved the prime table for dinner (Barbeque Night) the following evening.  The barbequed pork, beef, and chicken was delicious (or was it because we had hiked all day?)  The half-inch of rain that drenched the four of us in 10 minutes on the way to dinner didn’t dampen our spirits.  We just wrung out our clothes (literally), and carried on.  Another evening, over sips on our boat, they were intrigued by our flopperstoppers.  They took our extra one home, and were so impressed by it’s performance that they ended up taking it off our hands.

Three days went by in a flash.  We had heard of a new multimillion dollar marina that was being built on Canouan, so we decided to check it out.  The facility, Glossy Bay Marina, is to have a retail center, hotel, restaurants, and private residences in addition to the marina, which is equipped to handle megayachts.  The marina had just opened the previous month, and we were the only boat in the whole place.  The place is going to be gorgeous.  The man-made harbor is surrounded by a granite-capped seawall with nicely rounded edges.  Stainless steel power pedestals with both 50 and 60Hz electric service, as well as reverse-osmosis water are evenly spaced between substantial mooring cleats.  The marina is set up for Med-mooring, that is, stern-to, but they allowed us to side-tie as it wasn’t exactly crowded.  Acres of new plant material have been placed, and a gang of nurserymen were planting more by the day.  Excavators and bulldozers were moving dirt and placing topsoil out on the point opposite the Girl, while crane operators and construction workers hung steel and poured concrete for the retail center and hotel on the other side of the lagoon.  It’s very clear that no expense is being spared in the creation of this project.  Yanik, the dock dude insisted that we have a golf cart at our disposal, so he parked one right next to our boat.  It was a good thing, too, as the beach club, pool, and restaurant (Shenanigan’s) on the point between the marina and the ocean was about a half mile (by land) around the lagoon.  We played the first afternoon.  After a late lunch, prepared by the chef (not cook) at the restaurant, we lounged on the couches under the shade of the pergola near the bar.  Suz napped while I availed myself of the WiFi, continuing to put our website back together.  (You may have noticed that the site was a shambles for a few days, with most of the content gone.  We don’t have any idea how it happened, but I was literally sick when I discovered the mess that appeared where our website once was.  After exchanging a few frantic emails with Bill, our website designer, he worked through the weekend to get us back up and running.  We’ll have better backup systems in place from here on out-lesson learned.)

The following day was all work.  In anticipation of leaving the Girl for the summer, we have a lot of deep cleaning to do.  Mold and mildew are big problems during the hot, humid Caribbean summers, so the cleaner the boat, the better.  We emptied the lazarette.  Wow, is there a lot of stuff in there!  We cleaned every square inch with soapy water, then wiped down with a vinegar solution to kill any mold spores.  We laid out over a thousand feet of line on the seawall to bake in the sun.  After taking an inventory of the stuff, it was re-pack time.  We took a quick break, then Suz was into the front machinery space to give it the same treatment, while I headed to the engine room to fiddle with the hydraulic oil cooler again.  (Scottie suggested that I take all of the hoses off and check to make sure that none had delaminated and collapsed inside).  Well, the hoses all looked good, but I did find a fingernail-sized bit of tree bark in the hose between the thru-hull and the sea strainer.  I doubt that this was the problem, but we’ll see-fingers crossed.  I also re-routed one of the hoses for a more favorable angle out of the raw water pump.  By the time I was done, Suz was just finishing up.  We’ll do the remaining two bilge spaces when we “pickle” the watermaker, and prep the engine and generator for storage.  It doesn’t sound like much, but by the time we were done, we were whipped.  Showers, sips, spaghetti and meatballs (Yeah, Baby!), and about 10 minutes of reading in bed, and we were out for the count.  That is……….....until The Admiral jars me awake in the wee hours shouting “Someone’s on deck!”  Whoa, I didn’t even know what planet I was on, let alone what was happening.  However,…we had rehearsed this scenario many times, and the training kicked in.  Suzanne hit the panic switch that I had installed next to the bed.  All the deck lights popped on.  I had the “Bear spray” in one hand, and the axe handle in the other as I woke up on the run to the pilothouse.  Didn’t see anyone in the cockpit or side companionway, nobody visible on the bow.  Once outside, I saw no one up on the boat deck.  (If there had been someone there, I’m not sure what would have scared them more, my weapons or the sight of me in my birthday suit.)  In the end, we’re not sure if someone was outside, or if Suz, in a sensitized half-sleep (she had been awakened by a carful of partiers leaving the bar earlier) had heard one of the fenders rubbing against the hull.

We’ll head down to the Tobago Cays on this, the last day of May.  With the very un-Caribbean-like speed with which the construction is progressing, it’ll be interesting to see what this place looks like when we pass back through here in six months.

-Later

Allright?

19th of May, off the ball at the Pitons in St. Lucia by 05h00.  Of course, the drizzle started just as we were bringing in the flopperstopper birds, and quit when we were ten minutes out. The lines went in the water at first light, and we trolled along with 20 knots of wind on the port beam in 2’-4’ seas.  I had rigged up a couple of frozen Ballyhoo, but they didn’t feel “right.”  The first time that I reeled them in to check for weeds, they were just a head and a hook, with a defleshed spine trailing (Musta thawed out somewhere along the way-oh well).  Threw out some lazy man’s bait (lures) and kept on truckin’.  With the luck that we’ve had fishing this year, I didn’t expect to catch anything anyway.  As we motored along, with the oil cooler overheating every forty minutes or so, the lures kept picking up clumps of Sargasso weed.  Reel in, clean lure, let out-repeat often.  At 09h57 we had a big clump of weed on one of the lines and the reel was slowly paying out.  As I was reeling in, and I could see the lure around 50’ behind the boat two big fins appeared just behind it.  Then, it was off to the races!!  That line started screaming off the reel.  I increased to full drag (I can barely pull line off the reel at this setting), and the line was going out so fast, that I swear the reel was smoking.  Three hundred yards (that’s three football fields, folks) later, he started coming back to the boat, and I was reeling as fast as I could. Then, he decided that perpendicular to our course was a good idea, and he “tailwalked” across the surface.  He was a huge Marlin!!  He snapped 80# Spectra line like it was kite twine, and the excitement was over.  He had my lucky lure and I didn’t even have a picture to show for it-only a tall tale about “the one that got away.”

As we passed the lee side of St. Vincent, we rued the fact that it was not a safe place for cruisers to hang out.  There were several nice little anchorages, and many potential snorkeling spots.  Geographically speaking, the island is gorgeous.  The reality is, that several cruisers have been attacked and brutally murdered here in the past decade.  Senseless ultraviolence.  As we neared Bequia (Beck-way), the rain came down in sheets, washing off lotsa salt.  We dropped the hook off Princess Margaret beach, and went in to Port Elizabeth to clear SVG (Saint Vincent, Grenadines) Customs.  From there, we proceeded to fall in love with Bequia.  Suzanne found Donnaka, the local hiking guide, online, and we met with him the next morning to map out a few hikes around the island.  Born in Ireland, but having spent most of his life working in the European equivalent of the Peace Corps, he has lived all over the world.  We decided on 3 hikes, one by ourselves, and two with Donnaka as our guide.  Over the next three days, we covered nearly twenty miles, most in the bush.  We visited most of the bays/beaches on the windward side of the island, and summited Mt. Peggy, the highest peak on Bequia.  Along the way, Donnaka gave us a running history lesson of the island and its people.  We learned that Bequia is still allowed to hunt whales, and that 2 families on the island still do.  The International Whaling Commission allows Bequians to harvest up to 4 whales per year, using only traditional methods.  That is, boats no longer than 7 meters, hand-thrown harpoons, meat is not allowed to be exported off the island, etc.  Some years, no whales are taken, this year-only one.  One of the families has announced that as of this year, they will no longer be involved in the hunt.  I’m guessin’ that it’s just a matter of time before there is no whale hunt on Bequia.  Between our hikes, we enjoyed the village and its people.  Model boatbuilding is a traditional craft here, so we hit several workshops, and were amazed at the fine craftsmanship.  Getting around on Bequia is a story unto itself.  Mass transit entepreneurs abound.  Careening up and down the just barely two lane streets, brightly-colored 8 passenger minivans blaring a Soca beat from their oversized sound systems get you formheretothere.  Just stand on the side of the road, wave your hand, hop aboard, and you’re in for an adventure.  One of our rides stood out from the rest.  First, let me lay out the scene:  the buses always have one driver plus what I would call a “shotgunner”, who rides at the sliding door, collecting fares, operating the door and managing the seating.  Well, this bus stops, the door opens, and the inside sure looks full to me.  No problem.  No one blinks an eye.  Suz and I wedge in, and we’re off.  But wait!  There’s more!  We stop THREE more times to pick people up.  Jump seats are dropped, then homemade cushions are placed in the cracks.  By the time that we departed the circus clown-car there were 20 souls on board.  Quite a pungent, ear-splitting experience.  Oh, I almost forgot.  The driver’s staying cool by drinking a beer, driving with the other hand.  (“Tell me again how your parents died?”)  It’s hard to paint an adequate picture.  Bequia is like what I would imagine the “old Caribbean” was like-unspoiled by tourism or development.  Happy people with a laid-back lifestyle.  We swam on deserted beaches, bought fresh local produce from a “Mom and Pop” stand, ordered Roti in an alleyway off Front Street, and enjoyed homemade fruit juices from a small shop, hidden away on a back street.  Could’ve stayed for a long time, but Mustique was calling, and the weather looked favorable for a stay in the marginal anchorage there, so on the 26th, we were off.

-Later

Well, the flopperstoppers got a rigorous test in the Bight off Roseau.  After a night of 3’ swell on the beam (no exaggeration), we pulled them aboard at 04h15.  The new “bird” did very well.  Our older (and undersized one) came up waaayyy too easily.  The rings holding the lines to the wings had separated, allowing the bird to hang at a ninety degree angle.  No Bueno, but fixable.  By 04h25 we were underway on the 12 hour passage to Le Marin, on Martinique, where we have tentatively planned to dock for a couple of months over the Christmas holiday.  The passage was pretty snotty, but we had expected it.  All of the cupboard doors had been Velcro-tied closed, and everything that could take flight was stowed away.  What we didn’t expect was for the hydraulic oil cooler to take a hike, causing us to overheat the hydraulic system.  Every hour or so, I was in the engine room, bleeding the raw water pump and sea strainer, coaxing it back to life.  Of course the lines were in, and we continued our streak of nobitesnofish.   With the anchor down in the bay outside Le Marin, we headed to shore to clear Customs and begin our reconnaissance mission.  We had no sooner tied the dink up than Bobbie and Craig (Mona Kai) appeared on the dock.  They had just arrived, and were leaving their boat here while they flew home for Craig’s family reunion in Illinois.  By the time we got done yakkin’, we barely made it to clear in before the office closed.  Next day, I opened up the raw water pump for the oil cooler, and inspected the impeller and cam.  They looked Okay, but I replaced them anyhows.  Later, we scoped out the rental car offices, located the boulangerie (always a must for baguettes on French islands), noted the inventories of the marine stores and visited the grocery store to check the produce.  We decided that this was the place for our long stay over the holiday, so made our reservation at the marina office.  Our day wasn’t allworkandnoplay.  We ended our recon with a fashionably late lunch at “Zanzibar”, a Paulette and John recommendation.  After a two hour lunch and a bottleawine, we were all about a dinghy tour of the harbor, and the little hurricane holes around its’ periphery.  Looking forward to our next visit, we had the hook up by 07h00, headed for Rodney Bay on St. Lucia.    Lines in the water, our drought ended.  The big gold reel was spinning off line so fast that it was almost smoking.  I increased the drag to the stops, and it continued to run.  After 400 yards were off, I was beginning to wonder if that bad boy was going to strip the reel.  All of a sudden, the rod snapped back, and the line went limp.  Dunno what it was, but it was big and powerful.  At least he left me my lure.  As we neared the island, we rejoiced in the fact that the oil cooler had performed flawlessly in the heavy seas.  We were docked at the IGY marina in Rodney Bay by noon.  Of course, the skies broke open right as we neared the dock, just in time to give us a good shower.  The marina there has a dock with U.S. shorepower pedestals, making it possible for us to do laundry and run the air conditioning.  Having a sackful of dirty clothes, and a very salty boat interior in need of a thorough cleaning, the washer and air conditioning would be handy.  After clearing Customs and checking in, we walked the docks in search of the sailing vessel, “Slow Dance” Ed and Cheryl, her owners, are friends of John and Paulette’s and expected our arrival.  They were both knee-deep in boatchores, so we agreed to meet for sips at the dockside Tiki bar later that evening.  Even though the oil cooler had not failed on this leg, it still hadn’t been fixed, so I didn’t delude myself-it needed attention.  But…….the engine room was too hot to fuss with the oil cooler, so we rolled up our sleeves, filled the sink with Murphy’s soapy water, fired up the air conditioning, started the washer and got down to it.  Four hours later, the Girl was standing tall again, and Suz and I had clean clothes back in our drawers.  Definitely time for sips.  Besides being fun folks, Ed and Cheryl shared a wealth of information, having cruised this part of the Caribbean off and on for over a decade.  On Monday, we made use of some of the tips that they shared with us.  That is; AFTER I spent a couple of hours in the engine room, taking apart the oil cooler, removing its’ hoses, backflushing it, and basically not finding anything wrong with it.  GRRRRR!  We found the ATM, hit the grocery store (which was pretty nice), and checked out the dive shop that Ed had told us about (John and Paulette got their SCUBA certification there and had raved about it).  Walking into Dive St. Lucia’s shop was like stepping into another country.  It was easily the nicest dive shop that we’d ever been in.  Besides the beautiful showroom, their educational facilities are top-notch.  They have a swimming pool with a 14’ deep end, replete with a wheelchair hoist for accommodating handicapped students.  Their classrooms are well-lit, and air-conditioned, with up to date audiovisual equipment.  They have 2 custom-built dive boats which look like new.  Before we left, we had signed up for a class to get our enriched gas (Nitrox) certification, and 2 dives the following day.  Before heading back to the boat, I stopped at the chandlery to pick up some European electrical parts so that I could fabricate an adapter for the Girl’s visit to Martinique next Christmas.

The class was a breeze, Suzanne and I were the only students.  By 09h00, we had aced our tests and loaded our gear on the boat.  The dive site was a 40 minute ride.  It was a joy to have someone else drive and we used our time to meet 2 other cruising couples with whom we’d be diving today.  The first dive was along a fringe of coral surrounding a small bay.  The reef was very healthy, so we were pleasantly surprised.  When we surfaced, lunch had been served.  Lunch.  Not snacks.  Really?  Roasted chicken, peas and rice, fried plantain, green salad.  What a treat!  The afternoon dive was on a small wrecked freighter which had been intentionally sunk for use as a dive site.  Back on the surface, fresh fruit for the ride home.  We had so much fun that we wanted to go the next day, but were told that there were no openings.  Our new cruiser buddies, Bob, Suzanne, Kevin and Ellen wanted in, too, so when we returned to the shop and whined a bit, Marcel (the owner) called a couple of employees to see if they could come in the following day.  Voila!  We were a go.  Bob and Suzanne asked us to join them for dinner, but we had already planned to eat at a local steakhouse with Ed and Cheryl.  They ended up being at the table next to us at the same place.

Today, Wednesday the 15th, we dove Superman’s Flight, a dive site just below the Pitons (Gros and Petit).  The dive was spectacular.  We saw beautiful sponges, corals, invertebrates, fish and crustaceans of all types.  Lunch was great again, the afternoon dive in the same bay, was very nice too.  We’ll leave the marina tomorrow and grab a mooring ball below the Pitons for the night.  There really isn’t much of a weather window, it’s just going to be a little less crappy on Friday than it will be for the following week.  Our plan is to cross to Bequia (in the Grenadines), travelling in the lee of St. Vincent.  We don’t plan on stopping in St. Vincent (beautiful island, but lots of crime against boaters), but if the seas are untenable, we’ve heard of a marina on the south end of St. V that has good security where we can duck in.

The internet is miserable here, so I’ll put this up

-Later 

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