Friday, 28 March 2014

A Dramatic Ending

Wow - that was a dramatic way to end our trip! After struggling to reinstate our data plan on Tuesday night so we could check the weather, we determined that Wednesday morning was the time to head back. The wind was right, the weather was decent, and Thursday was predicted to be much more turbulent. Besides, we had run out of food, drinking and wash water and propane - so it was definitely time to go.

We left at 8:00 a.m. in what looked to be a heavyish wind from the Northeast ("small craft warning" on our weather data). What they didn't tell us is that, once we crossed Adderley Cut into the open water, we would be surfing on 15-foot waves (no kidding), in 25-30 knot winds - whew!! Fortunately the wind and waves were mostly behind us, or on the beam, so it turned out to be a lovely, exciting 4-hour sail, right up to the dock in George Town.

The rest of the day was spent in washing the salt off the boat, filling with water and provisioning. Now we're happily at anchor in our favourite spot at Monument Beach, off Stocking Island, anticipating help from a fellow cruiser who has offered to climb our mast to deal with the few remaining issues up top (anchor light, etc.). So it looks like we'll leave with pretty much everything working - awaiting our next visit. We had a pasta dinner last night with our new friends on Anju - Christine and Phil, who helped us fix the solar panels, and that was our "good-bye to the Bahamas for this year" party :(. Now back to closing up the boat - the good news is, we'll see some of you very soon! So long for now ...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Hanging out in Nowhereville

Hi, Everyone – I’m composing today (Tuesday), but won’t be able to post until we have an internet connection – likely late tomorrow.

We are now anchored at gorgeous, remote Norman’s Pond Cay – with nothing in sight but lots of turquoise water and several other gorgeous, remote cays, harboring a few boats. Most of those boats skedaddled early this morning, because they’re likely heading North on a South wind today. But the wind is due to shift North tomorrow, which will be good for us to sail Southward to Elizabeth Harbor to close up Sea Change.

Meanwhile, here we are, in Nowhereville – actually a short 4-hour sail from civilization - but the only company we have here are shy pink iguanas that peep out from behind the bushes on the Cay. Yesterday, at Children’s Bay Cay, I was inspired by the lovely beach near-by to make the watercolour/collage included below. Then we dinghied out to a fairly good snorkeling spot, and then out to the cut, where it was rumored there were spotted eagle rays. We didn’t see them – but experienced an interestingly confused current – totally flat in some spots and flowing heavily in different directions in others.  And a huge starfish lay quietly on the sandy bottom.

In the afternoon, we motored North a bit to our current location, where Jeff suction-cupped himself to the side of the boat and in full snorkel gear, scrubbed the bottom free of vegetation (though not much had accumulated – good bottom paint!). I had finished waxing the topside, which is supposed to suppress rust, and then cleaned the whole inside with vinegar, which is supposed to suppress mold - so we’re in pretty good shape. The day finished with yet another incredible sunset (and this time, I swear I saw the fabled “green flash”!).

Today it’s cloudy, for the first time since we arrived in early March (and I just heard a thunder clap) – can’t complain about that weather. We started the day wondering whether or not we should leave, as the wind had picked up and we were literally dancing on the waves. But it quickly shifted from South to West SW – and now we’re in the lea of the Cay, and calm again. So instead of leaving, we made chocolate brownies, and we’ll probably spend the day doing boat maintenance, and getting ready to pack up.

So here we are, winding down yet another fine month in the Bahamas – this could become a habit!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Off at last!

Well, we're finally on our way to points North, having sorted out all of the boat's issues yesterday - everything except the anchor light are working fine now - hallelujah!

We may lose our internet connection for a few days, so don't be surprised if you don't see a new post - we'll be back in Elizabeth Harbour by Wednesday night to begin the closing up process after that :(. But the good news is, we'll see some of you very soon! back later ....

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Oh What a Day!

The last two days have been restful and calm - exploring lovely Elizabeth Harbour in places we hadn't yet seen. Gorgeous snorkelling just a dinghy ride away from the boat, a strenuous climb uphill to the "monument" at Monument Beach with our new friend Christine (pic 1), and down to the spectacular turquoise raging atlantic ocean and its pink sand beach. Then off to the Exuma Yacht club for the usual provisioning, etc.

All seemed well as we headed back to the beach for one night, and then planning today to sail up north, finally. But the best-laid plans ...

I hear a strange noise, I say ... moments later, the engine is pouring steam into the cabin and engine coolant is all over the galley floor. My captain flies into action - "drop the anchor" - quick! We turned off the engine, let it cool, and then discovered a completely shredded fan belt. Not so bad ... but the coolant had exploded in the lazarette (for non-sailors, read storage locker) - full of stuff, now covered in pink stickiness. THAT was bad! So, two hours later, we had a new fan belt on the engine, the lazarette cleaned out completely (it needed it, anyway), coolant washed off of everything, and all of it stored again. Meanwhile, Jeff took the opportunity to change the oil in the engine - so it was a busy evening! Our gins and coconut water were more welcome than usual as the sun set and the conchs began to be sounded.

Today we're waiting for a fellow cruiser who offered to take a look at the batteries and solar panels, just to make sure everything is OK. Then we're going to try again to leave for points north ... we'll see.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mission Aborted

We finally decided to head North this morning, in search of good snorkeling grounds. As we weighed anchor and headed gingerly out of the harbor with very little water under the keel, I pointed out a looming dark cloud on the horizon. “Do you think that will amount to anything?” I asked my captain. He hoped not … so off we went – directly into a major rainstorm.

This isn’t fun, we agreed – let’s turn back. So back we went – and anchored in the same harbor at Monument Beach that we had just left, a little too close to a boat named “Anju”. But it was pouring, we were soaked, and we decided it would be OK.

Once the rain stopped, we had a lovely walk and swim at the beach off the harbor, and had just arrived back to the boat when Anju’s owners, Philip and Christine, dinghied over. They were wondering if we would have trouble retrieving our anchor, which, with the wind shift, was now directly under their boat. Having decided that none of us would worry about it, since no one was leaving yet, we invited them aboard for a drink. They turned out to be a wonderful couple, and extremely experienced sailors who had been living on their boat full-time since 1997.

When we mentioned our problems with the solar panels (still not working), Philip immediately jumped into action, and before long he and Jeff were working together deep in the bowels of the aft end of the boat, while Christine and I traded sailing stories. The guys decided the problem was a blown fuse, and Philip took the manual back to his boat to try and figure out just what had caused the problem. He’d be back tomorrow to help us sort it out, he promised.

So, our mission to find snorkeling may have been aborted – but what good fortune to have returned to meet these two new friends, and probably solve the solar panel problem to boot! As the great old song says … “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need” (oh yeah).

Postscript: This post was written last night. Philip came to the boat today as promised, and after much attention by both him and Jeff, the solar panels are finally working - YAY!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Sensory Feast

How’s this for a sensory fantasy ….

Having just gone for a swim off the back of the boat in the cool, clear turquoise sea, we sat sipping our gins and coconut water when a mournful sound penetrated the perfect silence. Then another, and another – all different timbres, but somehow similar. It took a few minutes to realize that people on different boats were blowing conch shells to accompany a blazing red sunset! (see 3rd pic). As we watched the sun disappear behind glowing masts all around us, the gentle rocking of the waves and the velvety breeze on our skin were the background for a scrumptious dinner we made of Pad Thai with lobster tails.

Four of our five senses were being suffused with the most unimaginable beauty – while the fifth was assaulted with what Jeff calls “Eau de North Woods” – aromatic Muskol to discourage the ever-present $#@*% no-see-ums – the Caribbean’s dirty little secret, that haunt us every warm evening at sunset.

Ah well – I guess it can’t all be perfect – but it sure comes damn near! The pics below (except the first one, at Exuma Yacht Club last night) were taken at Monument Beach, around the harbor from Stocking Island, where we’re anchored for the night while we plan the next leg of our cruise. Life is tough …

Monday, 17 March 2014

Good-bye to Long Island for now ...

Last evening we tried one more time to get to the Long Island Breeze Resort for dinner before leaving the Island this morning – but it was not to be. This time the dinghy worked perfectly, and we arrived at 6:45 p.m., only to discover that the dining room is not open on Sunday nights L. However, we met a lovely young couple and their two small sons, who were having a great time climbing palm trees on the beach. We had a good chat – then we all dinghied back to our respective boats for the night, and for us, a dinner of scrambled eggs – our fall-back meal.

This morning both boats left at the same time for George Town, Exumas, so we followed them all the way in, through a line squall and mostly a great 5 hour down-wind sail. Jeff continued with his “home improvements” (this time making a towel rack for the head), and I continued waxing the boat. All in all a wonderful visit to Long Island – we’ll definitely go back there again.

So now we’re anchored in the marine “trailer park” off George Town, and tomorrow we head to points North – particularly the Exuma Cays Land and Sea park for some great snorkelling!

Long Island Beauty

Yesterday we sailed from Stella Maris Marina South on Long Island to one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen so far in the Bahamas. Salt Pond in Thompson Bay lies about a 3 hour sail down the Island – which we did in 22 knots of wind with a jib sail so reefed it looked like a handkerchief – and still we made an average of 5 knots!

It was an exciting sail which covered the boat in salt spray and landed us in this gorgeous, still cove just in front of the Long Island Breeze Resort. Three failed attempts to get there for dinner in our dinghy last night resulted in us giving up and cooking aboard L. It seems the fuel line to the dinghy motor was kaput … so we hitched a ride onto the shore with a fellow boater’s dinghy this morning, and bought a new piece of line from the near-by marina – problem solved! Can’t be without the dinghy – it’s the family car. Then we rented an actual car and did a tour of this lovely Island. 

The pictures below tell the story – so I won’t do it in detail. The Island is full of gorgeous churches, spectacular beaches, and Dean’s Blue Hole –  a very deep hole in the ocean where we took the pictures of the divers. The hole opens up to a vast deep underwater cavern – the site of free-diving world championships, and the largest yet discovered blue hole in the world! I’ve never seen water so brilliantly colored – it was almost unreal.

A beer with conch fritters and fried plantain (Island health food J), and an amazing full moon over the water completed a wonderful day – tomorrow we relax on the boat before heading back to the Exumas on Monday. This feels like a vacation!