Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Berry's

Leaving Norman's, we headed to Nassau with Sundays Child and Arcturus to drop Verne off, reprovision, buy some fishing gear, fuel, water, do laundry, take a shower and move on. Nassau is a big port and not our ideal location for hanging out.

Arriving at 2:30 pm - we accomplished all tasks by 7 pm and then Ted helped Baxter rig a Cuban yoyo for fishing the next day. After that, we crashed hard.  It was weird sleeping tied to the dock versus a rolly anchorage but we managed. We headed out of the slip the next morning crossing the Tongue of the Ocean and made way for Frazier's Hog Cay in the Berry Islands. We heard there were beautiful endless beaches for the dogs to run.

About 30 miles into the trip (only 7 miles left to go), Baxter started to say he couldn't believe we hadn't caught any fish. All of a sudden, we got a strike. Ted and Maggie came on the radio when they noticed we slowed down and said they hoped it was because we had a fish. When we didn't respond (I was reeling in the second line while Baxter was working the first and Kala doesnt have thumbs so we couldnt tell them what was going on) they knew it was going to be good. Baxter brought in a beautiful 3 1/2 ft mahi!! Ted and Maggie decided to follow the contour lines and stay out for a little bit to see if they could get a bite. That they did! Ted said he got a bite from the biggest mahi he'd ever seen and it broke the line and got off but they still had one more out. Pretty soon they got another bite and reeled in a huge mahi. Arcturus didnt have the same luck but it was no problem because we had plenty of food for all of us!

When we got to the anchorage, there were no beautiful beaches as we had heard but the dogs were still thrilled to see each other with lots of kisses and running and coconut playing. Kala chased sandpipers from one end of the beach to the other and out into the surf and back to the beach. She was exhausted!

Later that night, Maggie and Ted hosted everyone aboard Sundays Child (including Kala). It was our last night hanging out with them as Baxter and I were leaving the next day headed back to the states. His computer had died earlier in the month making it difficult to work from the boat (we were getting by with the iPad but it was not good enough to be a permanent solution) so we had to get to an Apple store for repairs.

Maggie and Ted made the best grilled mahi we've ever had, along with some strong painkillers (a concoction of rum, and coconut milk topped with nutmeg.) From what I remember, we all laughed so hard and I made a pitiful attempt to fry plantains that were not yet ripe.  Probably should have waited not only for the plantains to age a bit but also maybe for when I was in a better state of mind to play with oil, propane, and fire.

The next day was one of the saddest we've had!  We said our goodbyes to Ted, Maggie, Chessie, Bill and Dan and set our route 150 miles back to Dinner Key in Key Biscayne, Florida.  Baxter went to the bow and I was at the helm and we were about to pull anchor when the only other boat in the anchorage (who had arrived about an hour before) dinghied over to us.  As he got closer, we recognized our friend Ken Keyworth who we knew from Northwest Creek Marina in New Bern.  He had left North Carolina in June and had been in Panama until recently.  Of all the anchorages between Florida, the Bahamas, and the Western Caribbean, what are the chances we would anchor right next to each other on the exact same day (neither of us had ever been to Fraziers Hog Cay)?  Apparently, the chances were pretty good.  We caught up with Ken and wished him well as he was heading south.

As we sailed past the beach club at Frazier's Hog Cay, we bid a final farewell to Sunday's Child and Arcturus and even Kala sat on deck letting everyone know they would be missed.

Arcturus - Pacific Seacraft 27
What a catch!!

Seeing Ken was a surprise.
Final farewell to our friends Ted, Maggie, Chessie, Dan and Bill.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Exploring Normans

After the wind calmed a bit, we all decided to explore Normans Cay in the dinghies. Chessie and Kala made the most of every minute - chasing each other, shredding coconuts, digging for China, running, kangaroo hopping and swimming next to the dinghies. When the dogs were in the dinghies, Chessie in one dinghy and Kala in the other, Kala was showing off. She would stand on the edge of the dinghy bow and try to get Chessies attention. There were a couple times we had to hold her back from just jumping in and swimming to the other boat.

After returning from the dinghy trip, Ted and Maggie suggested we move to another anchorage. The current and wind were again battling it out causing weird unpredictable swinging and they were getting pushed into the exposed plane wreck. We moved over to the west side of the island and were able to anchor pretty close to the beach. There is a shack on the island that is a bar...but the guy who runs it may or may not be open depending on his mood, how much you'll spend and how many people will be showing up. Since this was our last hoorah in the Exumas, Baxter, Ted, Maggie and I thought we would give it a shot. Of course, they were closed. We went back to Stella Blue and opened the boat bar and celebrated with one of the most amazing sunsets ever!!

As a side note, when we decided to move anchorages, we radioed Dan and Bill on Arcturus but they had fallen asleep with the VHF off. As we were creating new drinks on the wet side of the island, we thought of all the anonymous VHF calls we could make on Arcturus' behalf. Of course, being the serious sailors we are, we held off and continued to finish off the rum we had left. When Arcturus finally returned our calls, we made no mention of our devious plans but talked about pulling up the hook the next morning and heading to Nassau where Verne would catch a ferry to Ft Lauderdale.

Exploring Norman's

Endless beaches

Kala was here

Kala chasing Chessie (Yes, we were moving while she did this)

Maggie, Bill, Dan, Ted

Caves full of conch shells

Dinghy Driver

Happiness Self Portrait

Life doesn't get much better

One big playground

Amazing day

Goodbye Exumas!  We'll Be Back.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bahamas Birthday

Sunday was Baxter's birthday and mother nature decided to present him with a nice windy cold front - ugh. It's funny how our perspectives had changed. When we took the dogs to shore we were all in foul weather gear with our warmest Patagonia capilene underneath since we were freezing. When we found out it was actually still 70 degrees we were a bit stunned but just blamed it on the chilly wind.

Needless to say, we stayed on the boat most of the day but everyone needs cake on their birthday, even those who live on a boat. My only issue was a cake pan, but Maggie saved the day - yetI needed something just a bit bigger so I used her pan in combo with my brownie pan. Now I had a rectangle and square that didn't match. I cut and pasted (I.e frosted) as best I could and the cake turned out looking like a melting lava lump...or as Baxter so sweetly put it - a lobster habitat (in honor of our fortunate finds in Pipe Creek.) Sundays Child and Arcturus all came over after dinner and we had fun dissecting the cake and celebrating.

Exumas Birthday!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back to Normans

We woke up after the lobsterfest in Pipe Creek at 4:30 a.m to a weird west wind that was fighting the north-south current. We flipped the instruments on and our depth alarm started to beep. We had swung closer to the beach but still in over 5 ft of water and low tide was at 4 a.m. so the water should be getting higher. We went back down below only to check again 30 minutes later and find that we had swung further and now only had 4'4". With a 4'2" draft, that won't do. We pulled up the hook and moved closer to Sundays Child who appeared to be in the same position. Ted woke up, turned on his gauges and he was in 2'4". He and Maggie were so calm and simply proceeded to pull the boat off with the dinghy. Arcturus also had the same bad luck but unfortunately he was over coral and could hear the keel slamming on every wave. We all agreed we wanted to go somewhere else. We sailed out the cut into the Exuma Sound and headed to Normans Cay. Arcturus had an adventurous day as they were towing their porta-boat and it proceeded to get swamped. Dan and Bill were able to work it out but had lost hundreds of dollars in gear that had been left in the boat including snorkels, masks, shoes, and their outboard gas tank.

We sailed into Normans Cay without having any luck with the fishing lines. Since provisions were slim for all three boats - that wouldn't do. Baxter and I had seen a conch herd in the shallows the last time we were here so Ted, Maggie, Chessie, Verne, Baxter and I set off to try our luck and scored big! I should mention that Kala and Chessie were not just standing by while we hunted - they were kangaroo hopping and chasing each other through two feet of water, running hard and fast. By time we were ready to go - neither one had a single bit of energy left.

Baxter, Verne and Ted headed to the beach to clean conch while Maggie and I chopped and diced for conch salad. Dinner was a feast with Cracked Conch sandwiches, conch salad, conch tacos - enough for seven people!

Sunday's Child at Norman's 
Not just some pretty shells - that's dinner

Playing with coconuts

Pipe Creek

There are three beaches off Big Majors - Pig Beach (see previous post and pics), Umbrella Beach (that's just what I call it), and Dog beach (again my own nomenclature.) We took Kala and Chessie to Dog Beach one last time before leaving and they were running and playing while Ted, Maggie, Verne , Baxter and I just talked and laughed. Maggie and I kept seeing white flashes out of the corner of our eyes but chalked it up to birds. All of a sudden Maggie's yells "PIG" and we all hit the dinghies running with dogs first. These are wild pigs with big teeth that swim. I know one dog who had already been bit a couple weeks before and I didn't want that to happen to Chessie and Kala. We went back to the boat and made way for Pipe Creek.

The Bahamas are generally pretty shallow - some places more than others. Our boat's keel is only 4'2" so we can go places some would not be able to get in. We had heard about how great Pipe Creek was and with Ted and Baxter on the hunt we thought our chances of finding lobster might be better somewhere less traveled. It worked!! At an undisclosed location (in case we want to go back), the five of us along with Dan and Bill on Arcturus speared eight of the biggest lobsters I have ever seen. We had a lobster cleaning party on the beach and then met on Stella Blue for dinner. We ate lobster for days in every way possible. It was lobster tail, lobster salad, lobster pasta and much much more!

Maggie and the girls
Sea plane landing in Pipe Creek
On the hunt...

Anchoring the dinghy

The find

Kala sharing her bed with Chessie


She's a sucker for sunrises

More than enough for all of us

You have to clean 'em if you want to eat 'em

Maggie is good at this!

Staniel Snorkeling

We arrived in Staniel Cay Wednesday and anchored off Big Majors. There are very few islands in the Exumas that have everything you need to provision at one place and since Black Point has laundry and water but not fuel and only limited groceries (groceries come in once a week on the mailboat and they are usually gone within a day) we had more chores in Staniel to get done before Verne flew in. Getting a few groceries and gas would usually take about 20 min but in the Bahamas things happen slowly. Which is why you love it right? Three and a half hours after we started, we were stocked up.

By then, we headed to the airport in the dinghy to pick Verne up. You can essentially dinghy across the street and there is no building- just a runway that people are usually walking down. We got back to the boat and remembered a great drift snorkel Van on Gratitude told us about. We called Ted and Maggie to see if they wanted to join us. Ted was up for it so we dinghied to Fowl Cay where the current was swiftly moving through at probably six or seven knots. The colors of the reef were amazing even in the late afternoon without the light of the sun. There were groupers and Queen Angels, parrot fish and tons of sand dollars. We put ourselves closer to the current and swishhh - it was like a roller coaster ride. It took about 15 seconds to move 100 yards. There were burbles and eddies and standing waves. It was incredible!!

The next day we headed straight for the grocery store to fill our propane (again only done one day a week and that's if you ask real sweet.) She said leave the tank and maybe she would have it filled by 3:30. Later in the day we took Verne to Thunderball Grotto for the experience (see previous post.) Ted and Maggie showed us some great reefs around the grotto that we missed the first time and tunnels and caves that are like nooks and crannies. It started getting a bit crowded so we headed back to the grocery store and the lady said Maggie's propane was ready but mine wouldn't be until 6. She liked Maggie! Since the grocery store is about a 2 mile dinghy ride we went over to the yacht club for some Kaliks and fries. Don't you know when we showed back up at 5:40 to pick up the propane - the doors were locked and no one around. We paced and knocked on a couple local houses where we got a shout back that she will be there in a minute. At about 6:15 and covered head to toe in NoSeeUm bites, we had a full tank of propane.

Waiting for propane

Let the spear fishing begin

After leaving Little Farmers, we headed to Black Point for a day so we could do laundry, get water, and check emails. It would probably be the last time until Nassau or even Marathon. We spent the day filling jerry jugs with water (you take a jug to a community spigot that has water produced through reverse osmosis - i.e. salt removal - and then you lug that back to your boat to fill the tanks.) Back at the boat, Baxter was filling the tanks when Gabe on S/V Rodeo came by and asked Baxter if he'd like to go spear fishing. Well of course!! Baxter, Gabe, Monika and I set out in the dinghies and they were able to spear 8 lion fish on a brain coral in about 7 feet of water. It wasn't until Monika noticed the huge sharks lurking that we decided to move on. Yes, I was the first one back to the dinghies and I am not ashamed to admit it.

As we were heading back to the boat, Lauren and Van on Gratitude pulled into the anchorage and we invited them over for drinks. They were headed south and we were going north so it would probably be the last times our paths would cross.

The next day we were pulling up the anchor to move up to Staniel Cay so we could pick up Verne the next day when Ted on Sundays Child pulls up next to us and said he & Maggie and Chessie are going to be in Black Point doing laundry and chores throughout the day. Baxter told Ted about the lionfish from the previous day and we put the anchor back down, decided to stay and they were off to find lionfish, lobster, or something else to spear. Meanwhile, Maggie and I took Chessie and Kala to the mile long beach that shows up at low tide and the girls were in heaven. They ran, played, swam and wore themselves out! It was perfect.

That night Ted and Maggie came over to the boat and we broke out the all time classic movie Captain Ron and we talked about future plans to sail to Saint Potato (if you haven't seen the movie - there is your motivation to watch it.)
Exuma Sound and its rocky coast
Trilobytes in the cliffs
Best Friends
The long beach at low tide
Lion fish on the end of Baxter's spear

Another lion fish

The lion fish hiding place

Someone came to see what the fuss was about

Follow your nose

The daily rub down to get the sand off

Heeeees baaaack

While we were in Georgetown, Baxter received a text from our friend Verne (who had previously visited before we crossed but only made it to Marathon due to nasty northerlies.) Verne said he couldn't stop thinking about the Bahamas - this from someone who lives in Hilo, Hawaii. We suggested he come on back. He booked a flight the next day.

Verne flew into Staniel Cay and planned to fly out of Nassau a week later.

We asked Verne if he wanted to write his own blog and with that he contributes the following haiku...

So what would it be like.....?
to sail palm studded islands ... in a transparent sea ?
to gaze at blue water ... along brown sugar sand ?
to drift-dive fast currents ... through rainbow splashed coral ?
to swim through cave grottos ... amongst tropical fish ?
to share high-fives and smiles ... for fresh lobster and conch ?
It would be like exploring ... the Northern Exumas
with Baxter and Molly ... on a Stella Blue day.
Eating lobster

On the boat 

In the dinghy

On the beach