Norman Cay, Exumas

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The Exumas are an archipelago of three hundred and sixty five islands and cays.  It is a popular cruising ground because of its famous, many hued, turquoise waters, a humongous land and sea park packed with marine life, anchorages to get lost from civilization on and several islands on which to fuel and provision that are packed with fellow cruisers whooping it up.  Reaching and exploring the Exumas is cashing in our golden ticket.  We crossed the Exuma Sound on a calm and bright day with the seas a color of a mermaid’s tail.

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Our friends from Joy suggested we wait out the weather in Norman Cay as it has protection from many angles and the winds were changing and changing again.  They said the anchorage could hold probably seven boats, maybe more.  We were the eighth to show up.   Captain Eyeballsfallingout almost crashed into a boat as he first went past someone undeniably feminine who must have put her bikini in the hot water cycle and then on the next boat, his dream come true, a golden goddess from his boyhood fantasies laying on her foredeck in nothing at all.  It was a slowww trip to find our spot.  We set B.P. and settled in between the two.  I think I’m going to like the Exumas, said Captain Wherearethebinoculars.

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The currents had a strong and forceful personality, but the winds were still tame and the weather warm.  We waited on Echoes to see how she sat and until the ladies went below deck and then we went gunkholing to see the beautiful waters and beaches.

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There was a plane wreck visible in the shallows.  Apparently enterprising individuals purposefully crashed a plane filled with drugs into the shallows.  Waiting boats quickly came in to unload the drugs and rescue the pilot who parachuted into a large pile of money.

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The moonrise that evening far out did the sunset.  It was a marvelous night for a moondance.

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During the night the winds began to howl and the waves began rocking.  Echoes swung in patterns I had yet to experience.  The next morning we were awakened by a, Hello?  We had one hundred feet of anchor chain out and when we went to bed we were facing the opposite direction almost two hundred feet away.  We had spun very close to shrunken bikini boat and, for reasons due to a schizophrenic current and angry wind, we hadn’t spun in the same way.  I love the politeness of what bikini’s man said to Captain AndIhaven’tevenhadmycoffeeyet, Are you comfortable with how close we are?  If he only knew.  The boats shortly found a similar drag angle but we re anchored in a location where we had plenty of swing room but not quite the view.  There we bounced for three days listening to the cold north wind blow and feeling the boat swing with the current and rock in the white caps.

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We got off the Echoes one time in three days when we bucked our sloppy, wet way in Tip Sea to shore where McDuff’s came and picked us up in a Jeep and brought us to their restaurant.  It took mere minutes before the bartender started referring to me as Your Highness because I felt like the princess I am with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc and cloth napkins sitting on a stable chair.  Lunch was superb.  They closed for a break before the dinner set otherwise I would have never left.

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Back at the boat we rocked and swung some more.  I must compliment the lovely B.P. for holding on as well as she did.  The last night I counted seventeen boats packed in the anchorage to tuck in and away from the crashing seas.  Very few sailors ventured off their boats into the white caps with their dinghies during these cold, unsettled days.  There were no naked beauties on fore decks.  We read, napped, fixed things and caught up on blogs.

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Captain Allergictosilence cannot be quiet for more than five minutes at a time.  Perhaps there was brain damage from an accident he had as a child after a bad bike landing while playing Evel Knievel.  I’m writing now, I announce.  But he cannot, even if his life depended on it, keep his thoughts to himself.  He is not looking for comment or conversation as 97% of the time I completely ignore him.  I may on occasion look up with a complete neutral expression and then look back down to what I am doing.  For instance, …I did some calculations and a new jib sheet will be a thirtieth fractional quotient of our retirement savings so if I project my numbers on today’s donut market average and multiply it by the planet Pluto which actually is not a planet we can make up for the purchase in two and eight sixths of a year with interest.  I make brief eye contact and go back to writing.  Sometimes I play a game just so I don’t burst out in foul language at the constant interruption.  The game is, how long until the next random comment?  Two minutes later …The pork we had last night was a little disappointing.  I think I over grilled it.  I do not even look in his direction at this.   Four minutes, oooh, a new record for the day…I am going to fix the broken strap on my fin with a homemade bungee cord.  Excellent, I think.  That will probably gain me five minutes of silence.  …Man, I’ve got to pee.  Nope, I was wrong.  Two minutes later….Ah, much better!  I now know why novelists go to out of the way and deserted locations all alone to write.

 

Cape Eleuthera

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We provisioned to the max in Rock Sound and headed to Cape Eluethera Marina for diesel and water before crossing over to the Exumas.  The marina was beautiful and Captain ByGeorgeIthinkhe’sgotit scooted into the fuel dock and backed into the marina slip like he’s been doing it all his life.  We spent two nights there.  The first night our friends from Windsent and Everafter were our neighbors and Joy took a spot next to us after they left.

We had unpleasant jobs to do.  Captain Betterhimthanme converted our front head to a sea water flush rather than continuing to use our precious fresh water, which I am told far too often that I flush far too often.  We argue about head use above all things.  I had the pleasure of discovering the recently bought chicken thighs leaked blood and eeeww all down the densely packed food and all over the fridge and its innards.  I got to take apart the fridge, including the insulation, to clean it out and defrost it.  I cleaned the boat, did laundry and since we had wifi, we did bills and taxes and annoying practical things that take ten times, no, twenty times longer than they do at home.  I read an email; I hope you are relaxed and pampered on your vacation.   They don’t read the blog.  I relayed the message to my cabana boy with doo doo on his hands.

We were walking down the dock when I noticed a man approaching us with a Leo’s t-shirt that could only be from our hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota.  In fact, his son is the town mayor and his wife is a well known local real estate agent.  It is a small world.

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I noticed a group gathered at the end of the dock and a lot of activity in the water.  It is not unusual for fisherman to clean their catch and toss the guts to the waiting fish.  I wandered down to have a look.  In fact, they were young marine biologists trying to catch and tag bull sharks.  The nurse sharks were getting in the way so they were trying to separate the sharks by way of fish scraps.  The idea was to hook a bull shark with a huge piece of fish attached to a huge hook and a long line with a buoy on the end.  The shark takes off once hooked and a chase boat follows it by way of the buoy and then they tag it on the side of the boat once it has worn itself out.

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They didn’t catch a bull shark but it was sure fun to watch them try.  I learned that nurse sharks and bull sharks look a lot alike.  The way to tell the difference is that nurse sharks have two dorsal fins and bull sharks have a V at the end of their tails.

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We had a sundowner on the beautiful boat Joy with her people, Diana and John.  We gained lots of information about our next destination as we were leaving the following day for the Exumas.  There was a big Northerly blow coming that was to last three or four days.  They helped us choose a place in the Exumas to wait out the wind.

 

 

Rock Sound Harbour

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We moved further south along Eluethera and sailed as pretty as a digitally enhanced picture to Rock Sound harbor.  We left Governor’s Harbour at the same time as our friends on Joy and Cerulean.  All three boats are Catalinas, theirs being our bright, modern, big sister, dream boats.  All of us had full sails out.  They gained a lead on us and faded gently into the horizon.  We threw out a line.  Captain Slipperylure caught a Mackerel but lost him as he tried to land him in the boat.  Remember our dear friend Dick who sailed around the world for ten years and is working towards beating a world record in swimming when he turns ninety?  He follows our blog and sends us emails with extremely helpful information.  He told us the best way to land fish while sailing is, first of all, use a thick leader and then let the fish wear itself out for five or more minutes before trying to get him in the boat.  Then, get this, poor some cheap booze on his head or in his gills as you bring him into the boat.  This knocks him out, kills him and then he doesn’t flop blood, guts, sharp teeth and scales all over you, your cockpit and your bimini cover.  Genius!  Captain Growingimpatient said, Surely it is time for another fish to bite.  Not a minute later he had a strike and using Dick’s advice landed a second and larger Mackerel, Big Mac.  He threw him in our sink until we reached Rock Sound Harbour.

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We were using a technique called visual navigation as we headed through some shallow and reefy water into the harbor.   A person stands on the bow and directs the helmsman away from possibly grounding sandy shoals or hull damaging reefs.  I was helming and Captain Sharpeye was on the bow.  We have a vocabulary of hand signals we use while anchoring or navigating as we cannot hear each other and it is not prudent to be running back and forth to talk.  The one up forward simply points in the direction they want the helmsman to steer and then they give a sign that it is clear and ok to go back on course.  We cleared several hazards with no problem.  Then Captain Brilliant spots something and shoots his hand pointing sharply to port.  I turn the boat as quickly as possible and he keeps pointing and pointing.  I turned over ninety degrees as did my insides.  He continued to point as he moved back to communicate with me.  Did you see that butterfly way out here?! he asked.  I replied with something along the lines of, What in darnation, you silly billy!  as I spun us back on course.  I didn’t even get to see the butterfly.  He laughed out an apology.  What a role reversal!  Maybe we are rubbing off on each other.  Captain Goeschasingbutterflies will soon be naming his favorite underwear, Comfy Ken, Athletic Al…it’s your day Fun Frank!  And I will start fixing unbroken things and doing math equations for the simple elegance of it.  …Naw.

As we have been leap frogging our way down the Eleuthera coast we have ran into the same boats and their people.  Everyone is moving with the weather and looking for similar anchorages that are suitable for the conditions.  Sometimes you get familiar with a boat by way of VHF as you ask each other for information or you just happen to be anchored near them or run into them here and there.  Familiarity starts to build and next thing you know you are having sundowners (sunset cocktail hour) with them on the boats.  It is really fun and let me tell you, sailors are awesome human beings.  Rock Sound was a celebration of many of these new favorite people.

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We walked to a strange large source of water in the center of town called the ocean hole.  No one knows what or where the source is that leads the ocean to this hole in the middle of the land.  Many locals jump off the cliffs here and feed the large quantity of fish.  Some will not go in the water because they do not know where the water comes from and are afraid of dark, mythical creatures lurking at the bottom or of being sucked through its mystery never to return.

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It was here that we met Lawrence and Sue from England.  It was Sue’s birthday and a perfect excuse to stop at a pub for a beer.  You are used to my wandering stories by now so let me switch gears on you.  Our boat, Echoes, was named after a Pink Floyd song that we listened to as a family whenever we sailed….laying on the deck, looking up at the stars.  It is a long song about the ocean, whales and about being a decent human.  It is an obscure song off of a somewhat obscure album.  Captain Itsonlyfunnytohim always says when asked our boat name, Echoes, like the Pink Floyd song.  To John’s great pleasure, it bugs me.  I say, John, that nice Bahamian woman over half your age has no idea who Pink Floyd is and the chance of her knowing the song Echoes is one in ten billion.  Pink Floyd fans don’t know that song.  Just say Echoes!   So, of course, he says it every single time and smirks at me sideways while he says it.  Okay, we’re back in the pub now.  So Birthday Sue said, What is the name of your boat?  And Captain Nevertiresofteasing said, Echoes, like the Pink Floyd song.  And Lawrence said,  Right, the last song on the album Meddle.  Wow!  This was a first.  After we sung the lengthy praises of Pink Floyd they, not me, they brought up Neil Young.  Say.  No.  More.  We had dinner plans with our Catalina friends on Joy and Cerulean.  Our new friends from Pentesilea joined us, too.

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Dinner was a fun and delicious.  Captain Inhiscups repeated practically word for word, with the help of Christopher from Cerulean, all of the lines from Monty Python’s Holy Grail and then The Life of Brian.  Cerulean’s Robin pre ordered us an apple pie and it tasted like childhood.  I didn’t realize until the next day I wasn’t charged for it.  Generosity is rampant.  Robin has written a cruising guide on the Bahamas which she gives away for free.  I pour over it every time we head to a new destination.  I picked her brain on the Exumas and other sailorly mysteries.  Joy’s Diana and John gladly accepted a dinghy ride from the others rather than returning to Joy in Tip Sea with tipsy.

 

Governor’s Harbour  

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My faith in humanity has been restored by the magnificent people of Eleuthera.  It is the friendliest and most genuine place I have ever been.  It has been said that the people of my home state of Minnesota are “Minnesota nice” but whoever said that has not traveled its freeways or dealt with a Minnesotan in any capacity in which they can remain anonymous.  They can be kraken in dolphin clothing.  The people of Eleuthera ooze dolphinness.  People on the street wish you a glorious day and often stop to chat.  Locals and tourists hitchhike everywhere and the locals are happy to stop and pick you up and want nothing but a thank you for their kindness.  They told us, Don’t worry, there are no weirdos here.  You can hitch a ride anywhere.

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We ran into some new friends at the anchorage who told us about the Friday night fish fry in town that evening.  The profits are donated to the local school, to elderly in need, or towards an ambulance ride fund.  Every Friday locals and cruisers attend this festive and social fish fry complete with their famous Rumbumbas.  There was great food cooked in big vats and large grills.  Music was blaring in the street with an MC directing a limbo contest with flexible, swaying people of all ages and nationalities waiting in a line over a half a block long for their next backbend.  We made some new friends and chatted with the locals. It was a memorable night.

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The following day we had a yummy lunch at Buccaneer’s.  I had homemade tuna salad made from locally caught tuna surrounded by bright red tomato slices sitting on top of crisp greens.  Captain Ineedaburgerwiththisbeer had an enormous bacon cheeseburger.

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Our friend’s from the sailboat Joy told us about a large botanical preserve a couple of miles away.  We asked our waiter about it and if it was in walking distance.  No mun, he said, you will be walking for miles in the park.  He then went up to previous customers and asked them to give us a lift to the park.  Absolutely!  Hop in!  and so we did.

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The Levy Preserve is twenty five acres of beautiful Bahamian wilderness with narrow canopied paths weaving through it.  There are well maintained and labeled botanical gardens of native plants organized by medicinal purposes, industrial purposes, poisonous, etc.  There was a lookout tower to climb with a three hundred and sixty degree view of tree tops and aqua water.  There was an old cistern that they converted into a freshwater pond complete with turtles who begged for bread scraps.  We walked for miles and miles.  It was soul reaching and I grew new roots into the celebrated land.

Behold, I am the anchor lion trainer!  I still have a healthy fear of B.P.,  which is prudent for all anchor lion tamers to have,  but I can yank her back into submission by my mighty arm.  I shall now call her Bitch Pussycat!  We have heard plenty of stories from fellow sailors of lifting electric cables, rocks and a myriad of odd things as they retrieve their anchors so I keep a careful eye on B.P. as she and her chain come up.  I noticed something dark and unusual on the chain as I retrieved B.P. to move on from Governor’s Harbour.  Slowly, as it came into focus, it became clear it was a navy shirt wrapped around the chain.  I unwrapped the shirt to find it was a new, long sleeve rash guard with the map of Eleuthera on it.  It is just my size.  B.P.cat, now properly brought into submission, has given me a gift from the sea.

 

 

Alabaster Bay

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The winds were to blow a stink for several days, the highest we have encountered.  Fortunately, we were in the lee of Eleuthera, in the protection of the land, but we needed to find an extra safe anchorage and hunker down for a while.  We picked our destination some fifteen miles away and took off hoping to sail instead of motor.  The wind on our nose and bucking seas just belly laughed at us.  In fact, it was so raucous that we shortened our destination two times, or at least tried to.  It reminds me of my favorite quote from a book I am reading aloud to Captain Bedtimestorytime.  “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

We decided to tuck into the safe harbor of Hatchet Bay but the entrance to the bay was a narrow and rocky seventy feet.   There was a freighter anchored out in front of it waiting for calmer seas.  The cruising guide strongly suggests you do not enter this cut in unsettled seas.  These seas weren’t just unsettled, they were downright disturbed.  But Captain Ilaughinthefaceofdangerhahaha said, Ah, we can make that.  So we circled it once to check it out.  A large kraken popped up and grinned at me.  We tried our first attempt.  Echoes spun on bouncing seas and couldn’t get her footing.  We circled again.  The kraken laughed and pointed his tentacled arms to the crashing waves, the jagged coral walls in the cut and the shoals you needed to avoid on the other side.  We made a second attempt.  The closer we got the less control we had.  The kraken licked his lips and made multiple fist pumps.  We abandoned that attempt and circled again.  We tried a third time from another angle.  Echoes’ stern skidded starboard with the cursing current.  The kraken howled with laughter.  I heard his belly rumble and saw the blood shot veins in his eyes.  We abandoned that attempt a lot later than I would have liked.  Captain Holyshit circled and asked me my take.  Get me the hell out of here, I replied ashen.  After a tiring day, we ended up in a safe and beautiful anchorage called Alabaster Bay.

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We spent three nights in Alabaster Bay letting the winds and waves tire themselves out.  There were miles of desolate beach to get lost on.  My feet touched land after a long four days on the water and I walked until I had blisters.  I had not been feeling well as there was a fencing tournament going on in my gut.  I’m not sure if all the excitement had caught up to me, if it was dysentery or if I accidently swallowed a tiny kraken who was trying to punch his way out.  I longed for the toilets on Chub Cay and my big, stable bed at home.  But it was good to be in one place for a while and rest.

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US Navy Experimental Facility    Someone shoot that thing!

We took a walk to the Atlantic side of the island where there were the ruins of an abandoned naval base used in the cold war.  It was a bazaar site to take in.  We got semi lost exploring the labyrinth of roads and dilapidated buildings.

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The base was built in 1950 as a Sound Surveillance System

We snorkeled, swam, fished and slept.  Captian Catchingonandcatchingfish caught a Nassau grouper for a nice reprieve from yicky icky processed meat and canned veggies (which we will do without and never buy again.)  The grouper puked out newly eaten crab and Captain Recycle used them as bait.

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After dinner we typically sit in the cockpit, listen to music and watch the stars.  One particular Alabaster night Captain Ginhead was in rare form.  He was playing Bob Marley’s “Jammin” but instead of singing “We’re Jammin” he sang instead, “I’m German,” complete with a German accent.  Captain Lederhosen is indeed very German as his mother’s maiden name is Neustedter and our last name is Braatz.  He was dancing around like you might picture an SS officer trying to imitate a Rastafarian.  He swung his bald head as if he had dreadlocks and moved his arms like he was a robot.  “I’m German.  I’m German.”  He staccato squatted up to me and bent down real close.  “And I hope you like Germans’, too,” he sang with the same mischievous smile that sunk me almost thirty three years ago.

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To Mutton Fish Point, Eleuthera

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We left the Berry Islands after a day’s delay due a misbehaving autopilot.  In the end it was a matter of pressing two buttons at once to reset the computer.  This came hours after Captain Swearsalot took the motherboard apart, rewired many connections and tickled parts at both the receiving and sending ends.  The autopilot is like cruise control on steroids.  Auto is very good friend who allows me to sit in my princess seat and look for dolphin rather than stand at the helm paying attention to fussy coordinates with a large wheel going back and forth in my hand.  Auto is also important as he steers for us as we put up sails or in times when four hands are needed, like making cocktails (kidding).  Also, I am cheery to report that crab pots are mostly nonexistent in the Bahamas so they are no longer getting between Auto and I.

The following day was an eight to nine hour motor sailing day to the southern tip of the Abacos.  One could spend years exploring all these beautiful Bahaman Islands and it was hard to skip the Abacos.  However, we did so because we chartered a boat and sailed the Abacos with our sons about ten years ago.  On that trip we dove and snorkeled with enormous eagle rays, accidentally hooked our anchor on a truck someone had dumped into the sea and our youngest was bitten by a stray dog.  That resulted in him being held down by two nurses (he would appreciate that more now at his current age of twenty) and shot with fifteen needles of rabies prevention.  Our favorite family story of the Abacos is from Man of War Island.  The boys wanted ice cream and asked the waitress what flavors they had.  Oh, we got any flavor you can imagine.  We got chocolate berry hot dog, pineapple black olive, coconut pot roast, anything you can imagine.   We got almost fifty flavors.  Great! said the oldest, I’ll have vanilla.  Sorry, she replied, We ain’t got no vanilla.  The Braatz family laughed uncontrollably and she just frowned and walked away.

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B.P. at work

We anchored in seclusion at the southern tip of the Abacos after a long day of bouncing off of waves.   Someone must have had sand in his crevices the whole time as he was categorically cantankerous.  I briefly contemplated shoving Captain Thatpartoftheanatomywhereexcrementexits into the sea while he was going winky tinky off the transom and moving along on my own.  Instead, I dove headfirst into a novel and read through sunset, nonexistent dinner and until I could barely keep my eyes open for the last page.  I emerged from that book a better human being for it.

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The following day had tidy bowl blue skies and sparkling seas.  We were escorted off the Abacos by a pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphin playing in our wake.  Captain Learningfromlocals trolled a line and caught a Cero Mackerel.  Mack was twenty four inches, fun to catch and sad to kill.  It was another eight to nine hour motor sail to the northern part of Eleuthera.

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Eleuthera was settled in the mid 1600’s by a group of English and French in pursuit of religious freedom.  They sunk their ships on the reefs that surround the island and settled there.  There is a cave with a large rock pulpit in it where they lived.  We anchored by Current Cut and marinated Mack in soy sauce, Saracha, lime juice and ginger.  Captain Grillmaster did his thing.  (He invented a tube that attaches under the grates of his grill that smoke wood pellets for extra flavor.  He ordered twenty pounds of pellets.  We have no room for clothes but we have wood pellets to last ten years.)  We thanked and then ate Mack with white rice, a tomato salad and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  It was my favorite meal yet.

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Current Cut has a very strong current that runs through a somewhat narrow opening with touchy tides ebbing and flowing.  The current alone can run to an excess of ten knots.  Echoes can reach a wee over seven knots with our fifty five horse Yan Mar.  We needed to time our passage at slack tide or we would be at the mercy of the current who could take away our steerage and power and toss us where she may.  Large Kraken feed in Current Cut and there are skeletons of boats along her craggy shores to prove it.  The tide tables are noted in a variety of islands and Eleuthera generally follows Nassau’s tides with a delay of one to two hours.  This was vague but the best we had.  The following morning we watched several boats leave for the cut and Captain Verythorough contacted them via VHF to ask what the current was like, what speed they reached with what type engine, etc.  We ended up passing after the sailboat Defiance gave us a details and warnings.  He said the cut was not much of a problem but the washing machine seas, shallow reefs and mighty winds following it would give us a ride for our money.  He was most accurate.  We passed with success and dumped out into crashing seas.  They settled after a couple of miles into merely irritating punishing seas.  The winds were pissed off and blowing again.  Five buck board hours later we tucked into Mutton Fish Point by ourselves to spend the night.

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It had been three days since we had been off of Echoes.  This does not bother Captain Couldspendmylifeatsea but it makes me itchy.  We deployed our dinghy to go gunkholing.  (What do you think of the name Tip Sea as she is rather tipsy…and sometimes so are her passengers?)  The beaches were private so we couldn’t go on land but at least I was on a different boat with beautiful cliffs and caves to explore and a beer in hand.

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Great Harbor Cay Marina

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We had been on the hook for eleven nights.  I cut us extremely short in my earlier post about water usage.  We pulled into the marina on the twelfth day with over an eighth of our water left.  As Captain Hardlymodest says, You learn to really not care if another sailor decides to watch you wash your ass crack.  We soap up and bathe in the sea water and use a transom shower head to rinse off with fresh water.  Clean is clean.

Our sail over from Soldier Cay was glorious.  We trolled a line with Captain Supersticious’ favorite daisy chain.  He had a nice size Wahoo on the line that he wrestled with for ten minutes but the fish got away.  He gave us a good jumping show before he got off the hook.  It is hard to catch a fish trolling on a sailboat under full sail because it is difficult to slow down and maneuver the boat conducive to landing a big fish.  Also, you have to deploy the swim ladder to attempt to get the fish on board.  Not too much later, we lost the end of the daisy chain, hook and all, on another hit.

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We sailed around the most northern point of the Berry Islands and past a cruise ship.  Echoes really enjoyed herself as the wind hit her on a beam reach and she seemed to fly along.  We reviewed the charts and cruising guides regarding our entrance to the marina and directions to fuel dock.  The guide said the fuel dock was one of the more difficult to land.  The Kraken stirred.  A large tentacle popped out of the water with its middle suction cup waving at me.

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We squeaked through a beautiful, narrow, coral cut channel to enter a safe and calm harbor.  The fuel dock was merely a few pilings and short dock surrounded by jagged coral and shallow shoals.  We skulled around a few times studying it and Captain Threadtheneedlelikeaman eased her right in.  Kraken be damned.  Next we zig zagged further into our marina and slip.  Like.  A.  Boss.  We were tied up and Echoes was as calm and serene as I am after two glasses of wine.  No more roly poly after eleven nights of it.  Internet!  Cell coverage!  Laundry!  Restaurants!  LONG, HOT, PRIVATE SHOWERS!

The very friendly Great Harbor Cay Marina service went above and beyond.  The dock master, Steve, gave us a lift to a recommended local flavor restaurant.  The owner and chef was at a wooden stand on the beach taking his frustrations out on some conch.  He said he wouldn’t be in the kitchen for another hour.  So Steve drove us all around the island on  back roads giving us the history of Great Harbor.  He showed us an old, falling apart stone hotel that the rat pack frequented and many movie stars used to visit.  We spent the evening with Steve at the Until Then restaurant feasting on conch and lobster.  The after picture is what Captain Fullofit could not finish.  We had diced lobster and scrambled eggs the following day at the chef’s suggestion.

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We did laundry and two weeks worth of bills, business and email correspondence.  I soaked up our boys and loved ones’ voices on Valentine’s calls.  We ventured down the dock to watch the fisherman come in with their catch.  It was glorious.  They spend about three or four hours fishing, spear fishing and collecting traps and then another four hours cleaning the fish with the help of several other men.  Captain Doinghisresearchthingaboutcatchingfish spent a lot of time picking the exceedingly friendly fishermen’s’ brains.

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We bought a gallon ziplock bag stuffed full of trigger fish for $25.00.  It was delicious.  The following morning the fisherman stopped by our boat to ask Captain Thejokeswerenotoldtothem if he wanted to join them on their morning catch.  We were busy preparing to leave but Captain Shouldhave regretted his choice.

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Trigger fish or Turbot as the locals call it

Today we scoured the boat inside and out and massively provisioned (the wine bank is full) for another long stretch of wet wilderness.  We plan to go to Eleuthera, via a night on the southern tip of the Abacos, to spend about a week cruising south on Eleuthera and then over to the Exumas, our ultimate destination.

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It will most likely be a long silence (you’re welcome) and then a bombardment of blogs again.  Thank you for your enthusiasm, comments, likes, texts and emails.  I read, enjoy and appreciate every one.  Feel free to ask me questions and I will answer the best I can or at least make something up.  Until then, I wish you fair winds and following seas.

 

 

 

 

Soldier Cay

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See the Stingray in the foreground?

You would have to stay in a marina and go out once in a blue moon for a day sail to avoid small craft advisories.  Surely you are as tired of hearing about high seas and too much wind as I am of feeling it. We left Whale Cay to work our way north on the Berry Islands.  We set a portion of our jib sail out and made over five knots.  It was wwwindy and the seas were eight to ten feet.   Echoes barreled through with sea spray in a permanent mist.  There are not many choices of anchorages that are safe in these kinds of conditions so we researched charts, guides and weather to choose accordingly.  We sailed about twelve miles to Soldier’s Cay.  We settled in after setting and resetting two anchors repeatedly.  Anchors tend to slip and not hold if they land on seagrass or if you happen to be a person pretending to be a sailor having a hard time wrestling with the cursed B. P.  Finally, all set, the roly polys were tolerable.   However, I did lose one of my two glass wine glasses set out to dry overnight.

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There were a couple of other boats in this picturesque anchorage.  We deployed our dinghy and went ashore.  We hiked along the coral shores of the Northwest Providence channel watching the waves crash and break.  We swam at the beach on the west side and relaxed in the warm sun.  The princess was at peace.  Captain Thoughtful looked at me and my content dreamy smile and said, Let’s stay another day and take the day off.  We did not, and had not, had cell service in days so we couldn’t do emails, calls or bills.  No sailing, no anchoring, no business, we were just going to relax.

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Our day off started at 2:00 am when Echoes began suddenly rolling and spinning.  Danny, our second, danforth anchor could take it no more and gave up.  John pulled him on board and we went back to bed rocking and rolling.  No, not in the fun way.  The following morning we worked for a couple of hours at trying to deploy Bruce, another type of second anchor called a bruce (aren’t I clever?), off of our beam to try and hold Echoes nose to the waves.  We were somewhat successful.  We grabbed our fishing pole and snorkeling gear and went to the beach for the rest of the day.

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John fished and I snorkeled.  Some fishy rascals kept biting his lures off.   I snorkeled out to see if I could get a glimpse of the suspects but had no luck.  I enjoyed following a stingray though.  John decided to try some stinky old fish on a bobber after losing another lure.  Captain Needsmoretodo does not like bobber fishing.  I love it.  So we switched.  Another sailor on the beach commented, Kinda like watching water boil, huh?  By now you know that I am a world class daydreamer and this type of fishing is just my style.  I was standing in thigh deep, incredibly clear water watching my bobber and little fish ignore it.  I stood there contentedly for nearly an hour when who comes sniffing around not even fifteen feet in front of me?  Two sharks!   I screamed like a little girl and went running for land as they chased my stinky fish bait that was following me.  They looked like Reef Shark and were about six feet long.  They were a little over half the size of the Bull sharks on Bimini but menacing nonetheless.  I don’t want to catch a shark.  First of all, it was not the pole for it but more than that, do you remember my story of the black magic that comes with killing a shark?  However, I have never heard of being cursed for toying with them.  I commenced to tease them (from shore) with my bait.  It was fun.  But, maybe I was wrong.  Later I was checking out some canvas that had washed up on the rocks above me.  I picked up a corner of it and a crab lunged at me, slid down my body, on to my shoe and then jumped into the water.  I didn’t have my glasses on because I was snorkeling.  I thought it was a huge spider or a very small kraken.  It scared the shit out of me.  I will not tease another shark.

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Between Whale and Bird Cays

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We pulled up anchor to move on from a roly poly two nights at Chub Cay.  The seas were choppy, the winds were blasting and it wasn’t a very pleasant ride to our next anchorage between Bird Cay and Whale Cay.  We were feeling a bit beat up.  There is only room for one keeled boat at this anchorage and we were lucky to get it.  However, it turned out to be a very roly poly anchorage.   I was above my limit on rolling.  My green light was coming on and green does not mean go.  We deployed the dinghy and went gunkholing to get off the boat.  A cay (pronounced key) is a very small island.  Besides the 700 islands in the Bahamas there are 2400 cays.  We pulled up to an expansive sandy beach, a deserted cay and spent the afternoon exploring.  There were stingrays in the shallows, lizards darting, crabs dancing and shells to knock your knickers off.  And if your knickers were knocked off no one would know!  This cay was amazing.  This cay is exactly what we have been planning and hoping for.

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See the crab and his bubbled eyes?

As soon as we returned to our roly poly boat I started to feel green again.  The boat was rocking and rolling so much that the dishes and provisions in the cupboards were banging around noisily.  You couldn’t leave a glass of water on the table.  I wouldn’t have dared set a wine glass down, not that I usually do.   It was going to be a long night.  Captain Therehasgottobeaway had an idea.  I unsnubbed Bitch Pussy and let out another twenty feet.  John maneuvered Echoes so that she would take the brunt of the waves on the bow instead of the beam.  He dropped a second anchor off the stern to position her.  Then, I pulled back the twenty feet of chain and resnubbed her.  Echoes sat bow to the waves (instead of beam to) and made life much, much more comfortable.  Captain Myhero came through again.

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That night we sat watching the infinite stars and our depth meter go down, down, down with low tide.  It started to come back up after a reading of 0.4 below keel.  We waited for a bump that happily never came.

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We stayed another day and night to let more of the wind blow through and because it was most excellent to be in such pristine beauty completely alone, or so we thought.  We took the dinghy out for a fishing trip.  We spotted a stark naked, Robinson Crusoe type of long haired man wading through the shallows.  We drifted for a moment to see if he needed help but he paid no mind and we went on our way.  I would imagine living primitively off of an island is not a bad option for those who don’t mind mosquito bites on their hoohas.  We fished the other side of the anchorage and John caught a Blue Runner.  He asked a charter captain once if Blue Runner’s were good eating.  The captain said, I’ve never been hungry enough to find out.  We threw him back.

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American Oystercatchers

 

 

 

Chub Cay

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I am “applying myself” by re engaging with and trying to master our anchor, B.P. Please read Florida Coast 2017, February 20, 2017 blog post titled “Back to Long Boat Key” if you are not easily offended and want to know what B.P. stands for. I am re engaging on my own free will as I have set my intention on being a fully capable and competent sailor. I have a vision of myself pulling up to dock Echoes during wind and current hellfire, helming with my toes, while pouring myself a glass of Veuve to the applause of many a handsome dock handlers. You have to dream big and you have to start somewhere, so I am starting with B.P. Suffice it to say, I hate this temperamental anchor with completely opposite but equal passion that I have for wine. You have to get very up close and personal with her scary, rusty, potentially dangerous, naughty parts to get her up or down. She has a habit of jumping her track and running like a banshee desperately trying to return to Kraken country where she belongs. Captain Reallyitsnothing says you have to just grab her running chain and yank her back into submission and return her to the chain gypsy. You also have to lean in the chain locker and move her chain continuously so it does not pile up or she will run again. I do this while mumbling her full given name which I won’t repeat. My arms and back are aching. I am making progress but have a long way to go.

I dropped B.P. in Chub Cay’s anchorage after a long day crossing the banks. We decided to explore Chub the following day. We are at the end of our American proteins, which means we were left with sausage of many yuckified varieties, canned chicken and vacuum sealed, processed ham. There are highs and there are lows.

We read in the cruising guide that there was coin laundry on Chub Key. Our clothes needed some extensive refreshment. We deployed our still nameless dinghy. I told Captain Can’tyouhoistthedinghyFASTER! that we better name that hard, heavy, wobbly boat soon or she will send up with a name like the anchor. We have many names we like but one hasn’t stuck yet: Rub a Dub Dub, Chum Bucket, Dinghy McDingface, No One’s Ark, Fat Bottom Girl, and The Dog House are contenders. Our unbeloved dinghy, Sea Alice, has a new home. He served us well but he was a sensitive, soft bottom, rubber raft in which you had to sit on his pontoons wherever you went. A wave would come and soak your booty leaving you with what sailors call swamp ass, a sea water soaked bum that doesn’t dry well. You end up going to dinner or walking around town looking like you’ve wet yourself. In fact, many a sailor do wet themselves and I don’t like being thought of as one of them.

Captain Researchlikeyourlifedependsonit did his thing. I kid you not; the man does serious research whenever he makes an important purchase. For instance, he created a spreadsheet to cross compare contending heavy cotton shirts he frequently wears in northern climes. The spreadsheet had thread count, price, review ratings, and God knows what else on it. (Shirts from Fleet Farm won and he bought four of them.) Want another example? Oh good, cause I’ve got lots. He ordered 20 motorcycle seats, $2000.00 worth, delivered to our home in the middle of winter when he decided he wanted a new one. He put all twenty on his bike and sat on them, in the heated garage, for hours and hours. It took over a month to pick one. I would go to the garage when I couldn’t find him and there he would be sitting and shifting around on his motorcycle with a beer in hand. He returned the other nineteen. The man does his homework. You learn to say, I’ll have what he’s having. No, he doesn’t read the blog. We started it together years ago but it didn’t go well. You cannot call a Halyard -that ropey thing, he’d say. He begged off so as not to be associated with my poor grammar and technically weak ramblings. It’s so much more fun and therapeutic this way.

So, after extensive research, we have a new, used, Polymer, dinghy. Much to my chagrin, we have the same engine that gave us all kinds of hell last year. Captain Smartass said to me, An old five horse engine is like an old wife. You get to know her. You know what is most likely to break down on her and how to fix it quickly before it creates further havoc. If you get a new one you’ve inevitably got new problems and will have to start all over spending hours of frustration learning her breaking points. It was hard to argue with that.

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Where in the world was I going? Oh yes, in the dinghy, with laundry, headed in to Chub Key. We go through a channel and emerge into Posh-dome. The marina was over 95% empty (It’s off season; no one comes in this weather) and the yachts were amazing. There were a few mega yachts and mostly huge, sleek fishing boats. The marina is also a brand new resort. It is gorgeous.

We stood in the lobby blinking like half wits. They tried not to snicker when we asked if there was coin laundry. They did say that housekeeping would be happy to do our laundry for $20.00 since it was quite slow. I enthusiastically threw it at them considering coin laundry was running me about $12.00 for these two loads. Next, I smiled dreamily in anticipation all the way to the ladies room. The bathroom was sparkling, pristine and the toilets were humongous. I momentarily thought about adding some of the lavender scented hand soap to the enormous toilet bowl and taking a bath. But I didn’t want to get kicked out before I got my laundry back. Instead I took a long strand of the soft toilet paper that they folded nicely to a triangle tip and did an interpretive dance around the huge stall with the toilet paper waving behind me. It gets better. Then I went to the bar where a soothing balm to my wind whipped eyes, tall and handsome Tito, chilled my wine glass first with ice, dumped that (what a waste!) and poured me a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. I don’t care that it cost almost as much as my laundry. I did switch to beer for lunch.

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The cruising guide warns that this is a private resort and is not for the likes of you sailors. But it appeared sailboats are their biggest customers in off season. Sailors are notoriously cheap but this was the only place to get off the boat and find something to eat. Also, the gratuity was added in for us. We watched our motley brothers come into the lobby and stand there dumbfounded and blinking just like we did. It was comical later that evening to see this upscale restaurant filled with mostly grubby sailors and their dirty backpacks among well coiffed yachtees. We ended the night at the bar chatting with Canadian fishing yacht brokers. Our charming bartender, Brian, told us about living on this quiet, small island with about a hundred and fifty other Bahamians. I asked about the dating pool and he said, As for the ladies, I frequently take the ferry to my hometown of Nassau. The ladies are well seasoned here. He made us a large shot called a shark bite that was not only good for your know when to say when gauge but also tasty. We were gaining so much information from our new friends on where to anchor and not to anchor that we decided to have another drink and pick their brains. Unfortunately, the next day neither of us could remember the specific details.

Prior to dinner, we were visited by some local fisherman and bought about a pound and a half of Nassau grouper for $15.00. They filleted it for us on the spot.

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