Sunday, January 29, 2017

He Who Shall Not Be Named: Green Turtle 20-26 Jan 2017

I had a minor tooth infection that antibiotics and anti inflammatories, a euphemism for pain killers, was keeping at bay, but wouldn’t cure,  A solid blow was coming in that required secure holding, our water pump screamed empty, it had been 17 days since I had last done laundry or bought groceries and please don’t get me going on a solid, hot water, running down your back shower. So, we decided to head to Green Turtle Cay. 

In the few days prior to heading to Green Turtle, Marc kept his needle nose pliers handy and continuously made, what he thought were funny jokes about pulling out my tooth. I personally don’t think he was joking but, rather sadisticaly hiding behind his laugh and those dam pliers. We found a dentist in Marsh Harbour and the earliest I could be seen was three long days away. Marc wanted to sail, but not feeling well, I honestly wanted the comfort of land so we pulled into Green Turtle Club & Marina.  The dentist was only about a 40 mile sail, eight hours.  By land, a ferry ride to Treasure Cay $21 round trip one person, $85 taxi, one way to Marsh Harbour. I had a stiff drink of gin and went to bed to wait out my appointment and count my pennies, who knew what a dentist was going to cost. That night the tooth fell out! I kid you not, the tooth fell out, the pain was gone, I was is a shinny marina, no pain, water, groceries, bars, what to do? What to do?  

Feeling better I stripped the beds, stripped the boat and stripped off Marc’s dirty blue T, I headed to the laundry. Four loads of laundry washed and dried $36.56, at this I was shocked, but Marc later reminded me that a Goombay Smash from the originator Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar was $7.50 US and a round of six Tipsy Turtles $78 US. I just heard the inhale of shocked cruisers across the Caribbean at that crazy word round, but… when six solid cruisers start playing our new favorite game of “he who must not be named” during a blow, fun just happens.  Now if my son is reading this and he’s probably not, he thinks I just made a Harry Potter reference, Im not. Weather is a constant conversation, Chris Parkers weather broadcast is most cruisers morning coffee companion, followed by daily greetings of “did you listen to Chris this morning?” Conversations through out the day often include “ Chris says the wind is 15 NNW tomorrow” and in the evening “off to bed, I have to get up to listen to Chris”. We decided to create a Chris free zone, no saying his name in any
content, do not dare to utter or mention CP’S name. Kirsten of the S/V Night Music  was really good at this game, she could be in the middle of what Im sure was an important conversation wink, wink and hear someone else mention that name clear across the table and … I know, I have just mentioned his name five times, it was unavoidable. 

Please don’t think this is how we spent a week, just a blip between snorkeling a fantastic ocean reef, exploring the town of New Plymouth, hiking to the cross and enjoying the pool.  Not every story is about blue water and hot sun, and no Daniel, of course your mom didn’t play any silly drinking games.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Loved Allen's Pensacola

There are so many different kinds of cruisers, we met friends the first year we were out, who run from marina to marina, exploring the Caribbean and when they need a break hop onto a cruise ship or relax in a resort. We have friends who yearly quickly slip along to George Town, enjoying the commaradiery that a ton of cruisers share. We have friends who have never touched George Town, like a plague, ferreting out the most remote anchorages they can find. Cruisers who have circumnavigated the world, one spot cruisers, pokey cruisers, zippy cruisers, part time cruisers and full time cruisers. We have friends that sail, motor sail, never raise a sail. Some have yachts, some boats, some haven't  got two nickels to rub together, but all, have a sense of adventure. I’m not sure where we fit in, probably a little of each, sans the circumnavigating, our hearts maybe there, but DevOcean just isn’t the right fit.  Panama maybe…

This week though, I really felt like I fit into a mold. I like Allen Pensacola, ok who am I kidding, I love Allen Pensacola Cay. What is there you ask, nothing and everything. Is it the place that makes the people stop or the people that stop, that make the place?
Allen Pensacola Cay is about three miles long, is located in the Northern Abacos and runs northwest to southeast. On the Ocean side there are long lovely beaches with soft sand that feels like corn starch tucked between out croppings. The bank side is scattered with numerous small secluded beaches. The cay is basically divided by mangroves. When the tide is low you can explore for hours. When the tide is high and the winds are blowing from the NE the power of the ocean is amazing. I know this is a popular spot, the evidence, left behind, by people here tells me that, but today, right now with just a handful of boats in the anchorage it feels like its all ours. 

We had been here a few nights when we were poking around at dusk and bumped into a couple that make Allen Cay pretty much their home away from home, except for two months a year. They talked with such excitement about the paths they and others had cut across the local cays, the hours and hours they had spent exploring, fishing the reefs, taking pictures with their drone, friends they made. Excitedly Betty Sue offered to teach me how to clean conk, Bill said he would take us exploring. 

Bill took us out poking around on the reef, within no time we had to stop fishing as we had more than enough lobster for dinner for our boat, theirs and another. And I know he did’t show me his sweet spot wink, wink. Bill, who I now affectionately refer to as the iron lung took us conk diving. Really, he snorkeled, we watched. Bill easily slips 20+ feet and swims along the bottom gathering conk, poking in the reefs, surfacing and passing his haul to his wife. Did I tell you he was 66? I think I could have followed him in the water for hours, except I watched my first black tipped shark swim by and I was done. Marc say’s how big was it? I don’t frigin know, it was just too big for me. 

It was the first calm night we have had in a while so after a fantastic dinner Marc and I sat on our bow enjoying the many stars, we stuck a light over board to see what was around and saw baby sting rays, a small squid and crabs squiring. 

The next day, the most calm beautiful day in weeks, the three boats that seem to belong in the anchorage were gone, parked out in the main channel, far away from the cay, odd. Odd until dusk fell and a million pesky, devilishly hunting no seeums attacked. Our screens couldn’t even keep them at bay. 

So now what to do? I’m in heaven, I found a mentor. Seriously, I want to be the pesky kid and follow these guys everywhere.  But my love, my sailor, says its going to be a great sail tomorrow to Green Turtle Cay, the waters low and another blow is coming. He says I can always come back.  

Conk cleaning 1O1, Betty Sue made it look easy, when she cut that muscle the conk slid out, me not so much. That poor conch didn’t have a chance. I ended up bashing and bashing covered in conk slime. Yuck, but it sure tastes good. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hinde And Seek With The Wind

We arrived in the Abacos Bahamas 28 Dec 2016 and we have been having a rousing game of hide and seek with the wind ever since. Our problem is, the wind is much more skilled at this game than we are. He closes his mouth, counts to 100, us hiders have to get to home refuge before the wind finds us, he always finds us.  Even though its someone else’s turn to be the seeker, oh lets say sun or heat… the wind has become a bully and insists on being seeker in every round.  

3 Jan 2017 We hide from a NNE wind in Great Sale Cay, but no faster did we tuck in when the wind decided to turn to the south and we fled to…

4 Jan 2017 Little Great Sale Really there was nothing there other than a big beautiful rock to keep us hidden and it did a great job…for a night, then the sneaky wind decided to turn NNE again 

5 Jan 2017 On the advice of another player we decided to try hiding at Double Breasted, but even on a high tide, calm wind we couldn’t slip in, so we decided to do some exploring with the dingy, and have a snorkel. The SSW wind started to build so we quickly ran back to Great Sale Cay before the high winds caught us.  

5 Jan 2017 Great Sale Cay The wind is intent on keeping us all hiding and we must all be getting better at this silly game because we are all back in this awesome hide, amateur move by wind as he seems to have forgotten to look here again so we play Mexican Train Dominoes, explore, and get new hair cuts. Really the coverage was great, the company was awesome, but as with every new player we got antsy we thought the wind wavered a little so we ran to… 

11 Jan 2017 Fox Town Harbor hiding from an east wind. I liked Fox Town, really there is nothing here except two small grocery stores, and a restaurant with the best cracked conk, cold beer and wifi. Problem is the wind is a little ticked and is picking up, its just not protected enough here so we ran to…

13 Jan 2017 Allen Cay, to hide from the east wind. It is definitely the most interesting stop yet. You can walk across to the ocean side and explore the beautiful beach, poke around rock shelfs for lobster, practice splicing lines, bake bread…but I think I hear the wind counting, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi…come out, come out, wherever you are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Old Bahamas Bay Abaco's Bahamas

So much has happened since I last wrote, we woke up Christmas morning, watched an amazing sunrise, checked the wind and decided it would be a perfect sail along the Florida Coast to Ponce de Leon, and it was. That night we enjoyed a restful sleep at anchor, and that day we traveled the intracoastal waterway to Cocoa Beach. When we awoke the next morning, we checked the weather, then listened to our weather guru, the opportunity for a crossing to the Bahamas was imminent so we were off and we never looked back. The trick was for us to get as far south in Florida as possible so that we could sail safely to West End Bahamas before the following night fall. We headed to Fort Pearce, slipped out into the Atlantic, sailed the coast to St Lucie River Inlet Florida, at 01:00 am we changed course for West End Grand Bahamas. At 16:00 On the advice of Cloud Nine, we slipped into Old Bahama Bay resort cleared customs, enjoyed docking for a dollar a foot, met old and new friends, and had a fantastic New Years. 

Staying in the resort was cheaper because the facilities were not 100 percent in the wake of hurricane Matthew. Not having dockside electricity and hot water in the shower house was not a major inconvenience, water was free and abundant, usually a scarce commodity in the Bahamas, the docks perfect, the resort beautiful. 

The Cement Post Were The Footings, Used After the Last Hurricane.  The 10' to 12' Surge Moved The House 30' to 40' Feet

I had so many reservations about returning after the hurricane, thinking of going back to Mexico but as beau told me “No, no, no we need tourism, we need to rebuild, take pictures, visit, drink some rum.  

The Front Was Totally Ripped Off The Bakery 

So, though we enjoyed the comfort of the resort, it was sad to see the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Grand Bahama Island, and specifically the West End, was hit particularly hard as the storm passed directly over the region.  The local community suffered complete destruction and countless homes were lost due to the high winds and extensive flooding.  Thankfully, there were no deaths reported. An extensive clean-up is underway and the relief efforts are expected to take many months.

The Mind Does Many Things At Two Am When The Winds Blowing

The mind does many things at two am when the winds blowing and a stormy, unpredictable night blankets the boat. The night sounds keep creeping in, a hinge of a door not closed tight, keeps squeaking a reminder, the wind is humming through the lashing on a fuel can, a bottle of wine is tapping the side of another, the one I earlier forgot to put away properly, monotonous sounds that at home would drive you crazy, sounds here that can comfort or do the same. I can hear the winds howling through the rigging, a light tap as the wiring moves in the mast. The boat swings 350 degrees, 010 degrees and tugs on the anchor just enough to keep you aware that at the end of that chain the anchor is your savior. The boat is constantly moving. In the dark, It always seems more ominous to me, even though the winds are beating at the same steady 22 to 30 knots and gusting high 30’s that they were at four O clock this afternoon. I wish I could describe the sound, the feeling, how fascinated I am and at the same time so respectfully fearful. 

So what is there to do at two am when you can’t sleep, but listen to the wind, keep vigil and think, and  thinking that can be a dangerous thing. I listened to the news with terror the other morning as a gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale airport. My heart would always be sad, I would always have lifted a little prayer, but this was worse, one of my dearest friends was vacationing in Florida and I wasn’t sure where she was. Was she on her way home?  Where was she was flying out of? It made me think of how big this world is and yet how small. Having limited communication in a world, where in most cases you can be connected 24/7 can be a difficult norm. In a blow, in the night, even more so. 

I was thinking if we weren’t so connected, so global, so transient,  I wouldn’t know Sue from small town New Liskeard Northern Ontario. Right now I would know Mrs. Brown up island, dat way, with da three mangy kids. You know the one by the settlement, her oldest Billy likes to laugh and laugh, silly boy, ya know but just being near him makes you want to laugh right along and that husband hers, the lazy no good he likes the rum, it’s a miracle they got any thing to eat ya know tisk, tisk, tisk. But I don’t know Mrs Brown, I just hope to.  I know Sue, my friend 2312 Kms, just a crows flight away and am thankful for a 01:30 text durning a Northerly blow to tell me all is well and  she’s sending hugs.