Monday, February 27, 2017

Ocean Reef marina 27 February 2017

We are slowly, so as not to be working too hard, preparing “Submit” today for the trip west from here to either Ft. Pierce Inlet or all the way to the mouth of the St. Johns River.  We are heading back to Florida to put her into a boatyard and begin projects.  We have a couple we must do and many we could do.  Many of the “could do” projects are personalizing things aboard to fit the way we do things.  Some are cosmetic.

"Submit" in relaxation mode

The list of possible projects has started us thinking about future plans. Do we continue with our winter sabbaticals aboard “Submit”?  If so, where?  Doing what?  Are we nearing or have we reached the end of our time with her and should sell her and move on to other bucket list things?  If we sell her, should she be sold “as is”, ready to go as we know her to be, or do we do projects to increase her resale value?  Will any project done add at least as much value as the cost and effort of doing the project?  And, if we did part with her, what would we do next?

Our time here has been interesting.  Cruisers come here for a few days and leave, or not.  One fellow said they came last year for 4 days and ended up staying a month.  Others have said similar things.  One boat has been here for 10 years, tied to the dock.  The owners come here for several months each year.  It is their winter home.  Cost of living is low and the weather is better than in the northern US or Canada.  A free shuttle bus is available to take folks to the local super market at least twice a week.  There are activities and gatherings available if you wish to participate. (Our friends from SV Whisper” won the best dressed prize at the Academy awards party last night).  Almost anything you could want is available or can be acquired fairly quickly at what we’ve seen as reasonable prices.  Several airlines service the area regularly form the US, Canada and Nassau.  Family and friends can easily visit.

There is still a lot of devastation visible from Hurricane Matthew.  Blown down trees and partially destroyed roofs are everywhere.  Repairs and upgrades are ongoing.

It is nice to be able to go to the fresh water swimming pools on a hot afternoon.  Great beaches are not far away by foot, dinghy, cab or bus.  Most all locals and cruisers are friendly.  Over all, this is a pretty nice place to pass through or to stay long term.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Berries and Ocean Reef 22 feb 2017

We spent three days at anchor in a well protected spot in the Berry’s as the wind howled around us from several different directions. When it finally settled down we headed to shore to walk to the blue hole. There was no trail as described. The rocky beach, which was supposed to be an alternative, was more than we cared to negotiate, so we hauled anchor and worked our way further north. We dropped anchor on the east side of Great Harbor and loaded the empty Gerry cans into the dinghy. The Shell station was on the other side of the island, about 2 or 2 ½ miles. We asked one woman if we were going in the right direction. She replied in the affirmative and then said that she would be right back and give us a ride. Before she had time to return, three men in a pickup truck gave us a ride to the station and back to our dinghy. That job certainly was easy.  

Back on Submit and fueled up we again pulled anchor and continued North. This time we were headed for Ocean Reef Yacht Club on Grand  Bahama Island on the southern most part of the Abacos.  We slogged slowly under light winds and a starry sky. We were passed by several cruise ships and freighters, so we were hardly ever alone. All of that activity makes the two hours on watch go by quickly.  The only real excitement was the barracuda which Reggie hooked. I’m so glad that he didn’t also hook the fish that was taking bites out of his barracuda as he was reeling it in. We have had better fishing success this year, but still no fish to eat.

Vic and Marilyn on Whisper, whom we met last year in Bimini, welcomed us to the elderly cruisers retirement center. We are now experiencing what it would be like to be a snowbird of the cruising world. There are two pools with hot tubs, a tennis court, bocce ball a couple times a week, bingo three times a week, Monday Madness dinners, Karaoke, and movies on Thursday nights. A bus takes us to the grocery store on Saturday and Monday. There is shuttle bus to the Market Place most days.

Our plan on arrival was to check in, say Hi to Vic and Marilyn and go to sleep. Instead, we loaded into our dinghy and headed to Two Dollar Bar for lunch since we hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch, which was fine by me. I could sleep later. We were able to meet many of our cruising snowbirders there. What a raucous time! It was the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten.

When we retuned, it was time to catch the bus to the grocery store. Our supplies were pretty low. I was falling asleep on my feet after the long night and big meal. Reggie went to the store.

Other than the activities here and socializing with everyone, we have taken the shuttle to the Market Place and then walked back here by way of the beach. The Market Place consists of small touristy shops. The women went into at least five jewelry stores. I noticed some boutiques and restaurants and Reggie and Vic found a liquor store.

Today is stormy, so I’m mostly reading. Reggie is measuring the mast to see if we would be able to get under a bridge to go to a marina that sounds like the place we would most prefer to take Submit this year. Yesterday he installed our new rigid boom vang. As long as he is happy, I’m happy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Update 14 Feb 2017

Update 14 February 2017

After Little Farmers Cay, we went to Black Point.  One of the attractions is the best coin operated Laundromat in the central Exumas.  How many time have any of you chosen to head to a specific town just to do laundry?

We arrived on Superbowl Sunday and the town was jumping so we decided to just stay on the boat.  On Monday, we went to town to scout it out.  The laundry was waiting lines long with cruisers preparing to depart.  We did some provisioning and a little hiking to see the sights.   Several places along the streets, under trees, sat folks in the shade weaving grass hats, bowls and baskets.  At the market, the nice lady gave us a dilly from their sapodilla tree which we hope will ripen before it spoils.  After a nice lunch we headed back to the boat. 

Tuesday became laundry day.  Many of the cruisers had moved on so there were no waiting lines.  We also had a great breakfast at Lorraine’s Restaurant as our early lunch.  A little more provisioning and a visit with sailing friends from SV “Riannon” and back to the boat.  Some of the provisions I was hoping to get were about 40% higher than in Little Farmers Cay which was a big surprise.

A highlight was catching a fish! …. Almost.  There were a couple long fish cruising in the shade under our boat.  I dropped in a line with a piece of fish attached to the hook.  One of the fish about 3 feet long took the bait and hooked himself.  I brought him in with the hand spool.  We weren’t sure about the type of fish.  When snorkeling, they looked a little like a type of shark to me, so I wanted to make sure before bringing it aboard.  When I raised its head out of the water for a look, it threw the hook out and escaped.  Barbara believes it was an amber jack.  I think it was a snook.  Whichever, none of them would touch the bait again.

So much for Black Point.  We liked the little town.  The people were friendly and the town was pretty clean.  Bahamian islands and towns have tons of refuse around, mostly plastic.  It washes up on the beaches and gets thrown  into the bushes by the locals.  Most cruisers try hard not to add to the mess and some of us even pick up some of the trash and put it into any available trash barrel, if there is one.

On to Staniel Cay. 

Staniel Cay is more up scale.  It looks a little like Hope Town with the many colored rentals.  The Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a focal point for cruisers, offering some slips and fuel and bar and restaurant, etc., and the perpetual collection of sharks near the fish cleaning station!

  Nearby is Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame.

We topped up with fuel, moved way from the dock, anchored and dinghied back to town for a shopping spree.  We found a few items at Pink market and a few more at Blue market, but no bread or eggs.  However, the coconut cake and zucchini bread were treats.  So is the local cheese.

After moving for more protection from a northerly blow, we spent two nights on the boat at anchor.  Because of weather timing, we decided to move farther north and skip additional time in the Staniel Cay area.  However, we were not going to find provisions again for perhaps many days, so, back to town.  Fresh bread and zucchini bread was available at Blue, as well as some frozen chicken hind quarters but still no eggs.  Barbara had been wanting chicken, in part to have skin for fishing.  A long walk to Isles General Market provided eggs and some fresh produce.

Back to the boat and off we go to Cambridge Cay, which is in the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  We spent two nights on a mooring ball (can you pick out "Submit"?)

and part of a day hiking Cambridge Cay.

You never know what type of wild animal you'll find in the park!

Early Monday morning the 13th found us dropping the mooring ball and heading out for an overnight passage to White Cay/Devils Cay/Fowl Cay anchorage area of the Berries.  We were under way for about 27 hours, but had to motor the whole way due to adverse northerly breezes.  Night fall found us out of deep water onto the shallow bank for 25 miles.  There were no routes for us to follow in this area and warnings from the navigation system about using caution, shallow reefs and coral heads, and only traveling with good daylight visibility.  Does an almost full moon count?

Besides the moon, there were lots of stars and the lights of Nassau to the west of us.  “Liberty Princess” cruised by in the night, lit up like Las Vegas.  “Disney Dream” cruised past at daylight.  Today, Valentines Day, finds us anchor down at 25’36.8 N, 77’43.963 W.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

little farmers regatta

Farmers First Friday in February Festival

I was looking forward to the festival. There was supposed to be games and contests. I wasn’t interested in the wet  t-shirt contest but men’s best buns and men’s best legs sounded fun (please note: this portion is written by Barbara!). The crab races should have been exciting. However, we never saw any contests anywhere, just heard very loud recorded music interspersed with a few announcements, so the festival itself was not much to our liking.

We wanted to watch the regatta, but the rain deterred us. We did get to see the final race. It was announced to start at 3pm but didn’t start until 3 Bahama time, meaning around 5.  All the boats line up at anchor, sails down.  At the start they haul anchor, hoist sail and go.  They are called “C Class” down here.  I’m told the boat is 17ft long, full keel, with chunks of loose ballast inside, a very tall mast set far forward in the boat and a boom almost twice as long as the boat.  The sail is huge for a boat that size.  There are boards which extend far out over the water on the windward side.  Crew crawls or slides out on the board to counteract the force of the sail which is trying to tip the boat over.  In puffy air, the crew must move very quickly in or out depending on which way the boat is tipping.  When the boat tacks, the crew must move back into the boat, stay out of the way, duck under the very low boom, and move the board across so it sticks out the other side.  Oft times when the boat heels over, the end of the boom and some of the sail end up in the water.  Some cruisers were invited to crew on a few of the boats.  I spoke to one who said he was glad he did it, would never do it again, and was still hoping his  back would get better 4 days later.

The course was windward, leeward, windward, leeward, reach to the finish through the anchored cruising boats in front of Ty’s bar and restaurant.  Ty’s was overrun with folks both Bahamian and cruiser.  In a previous race, one of the race boats caught its sail on the bow of an anchored cruising boat and created a little mayhem.

One race boat capsized and sank at the first leeward rounding.  That created an additional hazard for the rest. One boat was skippered by a non-smoking, non-drinking pastor who reportedly could out cuss a sailor in tight quarters.

Sailboat racing is a big deal here.  Probably over half the race boats were shipped in on one of the mail boats which had been chartered for the regatta.  Craning them off of and back onto the big boat was an interesting process.

little farmers church service

Baptists Church Service

The first thing I noticed was the unusual interior. The walls were decorated with sheer fabric swags of pink, green and gold. It made me think of a circus or a Bedouin tent. There was a set of drums in front as well as a few rows of chairs. The choir took some of them, the minister had one, the woman who told us what would be next had one, the guy in charge of taped music had one. I’m not sure why the other people were up there.

All of the music was recorded and played at top volume. We all sang along and several people had tambourines.  The only time the drums were used was during one song when the pastor banged on them  a few times. She also had some shiny pompoms that she shook and waved around for one song.

We were never sure when we were supposed to stand up and sit down. I decided that it didn’t matter as some people stood sometimes and others at other times. We just picked one man and did what he did.

After the sermon, the minister asked everyone that was going to be selling something at the festival to come forward to be anointed with oil. She asked that the food that they would be preparing would not make any one sick or fat. We were also anointed and she asked for our safe travels. It was quite an experience.
Little Farmers Cay, a Summary

We spent a week in Little Farmers Cay and since some of our experiences there deserve a longer, more in depth description, I’ll do separate posts for them. Pick and chose, as you wish.

We arrive on Saturday afternoon and dropped anchor not far from the government dock. There are a few other boats anchored. We plan to stay for Farmers First Friday in February Festival as we have never attended a Bahamian Festival.

Sunday morning we attended St. Mary’s Baptist Church.  I’ve never attended a Baptist service before and it was quite an experience.  Short impression- LOUD and exuberant.  (Further discussion in another post.) I’m curious if this is a typical Baptist service or if Bahamians spice it up.

After the rather extended service, we wanted to eat lunch. There was a food stand on the dock, so we headed there. Unfortunately, a boat with several tourists had just arrived and ordered conch salads. Conch salads are made one at a time. The conchs were piled on the dock. He grabbed one, pounded a hole in the pointy end and cut the animal out and cleaned it. He threw that in the water to feed the turtles and manta rays that have learned to hang out there for their meals. The tourists were encouraged to jump in the water and feed the turtles with parts of conch trimmings hung on a string. 

As we were sitting at a table waiting for him to finish with the tourist boat, we were joined by Carlo. He is very friendly. He asks if we are Christians and claims that we are on the same page. Every local that come on the dock was his cousin, uncle or brother. He found out that we were waiting to eat and insisted that he cook for us, ‘for free’.  “Come break bread with my family.” His children were going to be joining him. It took us awhile to figure out that he was drunk and becoming more so. Finally, he asked if we were ready to go. We walked to his house and he told us to wait a minute. Soon he returned and we went back the way we came. Turns out we were headed to the bar. We met more relatives on the way. At the bar Carlo bought a pint and sat down with it. “Then I will cook and you will meet my family.” Reggie saved us by saying that he wasn’t feeling well and we would have to take a rain check.   

One day we took in the three books we had finished to Ocean Cabin’s book exchange. It is a two for one exchange and one of our books was “rejected as not fitting on the shelf”, so we should have been entitled to one book, even though he kept the rejected book. Then he told us to go ahead and get two books. After we chose two he asked me if I liked “Harry Potter”. I told him I hadn’t read any. He handed me a hard copy, “Here take this one also.” Turns out it was a one for one. The “Harry Potter” book was too tall to fit the shelves and actually a script of a play.

We were able to purchase four snapper from a guy that was cleaning his catch. They were boney but tasty. Need to figure out how to catch them.

On Thursday boats started arriving. By that night the sky was lit up with anchor lights. I was awakened around eleven o’clock pm by a loud engine sound. When I got up to check it out, I was surprised to see the two story mail boat anchored about 100 yards from us. The crane on the front was unloading pallets onto a barge. The barge then had to go to the government dock across the harbor and unload by hand. It then returned for another load. We asked one of the locals who had been up most of the night unloading supplies why the mail boat didn’t tie up at the dock. “We’ve been asking that for two years. If you find out, please let me know.”

Brief impression of the Festival—a party with lots of drinking.  The Regatta was the best part.  More about that in another post.