Saturday, April 18, 2015

Off to Long Island. No, Not Long Giland.

We left Georgetown with our Halyard still in time-out, not sure it can be trusted yet, so we motor sailed with the headsail (it still has our trust) into the out islands of the Bahamas. We went past the south end of the Exuma chain, and past Hog Cay and Sandy Key. Things are definitely getting more remote as we head farther south, as we only saw two houses on Hog Cay, and Sandy Cay is mostly a giant sandbar. We sailed over miles of sandbars, the water changing depth from fifteen feet to ten feet. We went past white cliffs of limestone and coral, waves crashing against them, trying to return them to the sea. There were sea turtles and sea birds of every imagined kind, making some very strange sounds too. The water is so clear and aqua blue that is really cannot be described. We turned southeast and tacked across the last 15 miles into Long Island and dropped anchor in a beautiful anchorage called Salt Pond. It is on the west side of Long Island Bahamas. Now don't get all crazy here, we didn't somehow transport ourselves to New York. That is Long Giland. This is Long Island Bahamas, a one hundred mile long island that is only about 4 miles wide, and has a grand total of 2400 people. That means that you could put every single person on Long Island into a high school football stadium in most towns in the United States. The island is a geological wonder, having high vistas, cliffs and caves, the deepest blue hole in the world, flamingos and salt flats, unspoiled beaches and the most welcoming people you could ever imagine. This is what we have come to the Bahamas to experience, and finally our hard work has paid off, we are here at last.
The water is so clear and in places remarkably shallow, that it is like sailing the boat in a giant swimming pool. We might not be able to transport ourselves to New York, but Joyce has learned the ancient art of levitation from an old Indian Guru we met. Here she has the dingy floating a full five feet off the water! SIM-SIM-SARABIM!!! And bingo, up it goes!
The boat really needs a wash down, after weeks of travel and not a drop of rain, the poor girl has taken to protecting herself from the sun by coating herself in salt. The ocean spray has coated everything with salt, and it is really slippery. We have taken advantage of this salt, we eat our morning eggs outside, and just dip the suckers on the boat for a second. Yum.
Now that we are here, the first order of business is to call up our old friends Steve and his wife Cathy. We have known them for years, they moved to Long Island about 4 years ago, returning Cathy to her childhood home island. They have a cool house on top of a hill, where you can see the Atlantic ocean to the east, and the Carribean to the West. Cathy and her sisters grew up here, before life took most of them away for a while. But life is a wheel, round and true... and sometimes it makes it full circle, finding yourself back at the start to see what the next turn will bring. Steve and Cathy are back on Long Island, smart enough to see how the wheel turned back toward their real home. Cathy's mother is still here after all these years, a gracious woman always smiling, always welcoming a big hug. Cathy has one sister still on the Island, Jeannette, and her husband Neil. And another sister that we know in Florida is coming home soon, Lisa and her husband David are finishing a new home very soon. So we are on Long Island, and we got people! It good to have people, and we got 'em. Ever come here, let me know. We fix ya' up good, mon. Steve fixed us up good with a ride, his Jeep was ready to roll, and we took him up on that one. Thanks a lot, now we are free to roam around the island. Yesterday, we all decided to go to a little island called Guana Cay by the locals. It is not the official Guana Cay located in the Exumas, just a rugged little island about 10 acres or so in size, that can be accessed by canoe. So with a dog and some snacks, we paddled out the island to check it out. It is on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, and it is a rocky island that is probably sixty feet tall at the top. It is surrounded by gin clear water, waves crashing on it's ocean side, and a gentle sandy beach on the other side.
Our friends, Steve and Cathy

Friday, April 17, 2015

Off to Georgetown Exumas, and a Really Dumb Thing

We left Big Majors and the attack pigs, and moved to Georgetown in the Exumas. We had considered doing this in two days, but in the end, decided to just do the 55 miles or so in a single day trip. This meant an early start, and a late finish. The entire run was southeast, into a southeast breeze. So we motored a good bit, and tried to keep our speed up with the headsail as best we could. We got to Georgetown and got anchored up right before dark. The halyard, or rope, that raises the mainsail will clang against the mast unless it is moved to a different spot, and we do this at the end of a sail so that we and everyone else around, doesn't have to listen to the clanging and clunking. So, I moved it, and fastened it to the boom just like I have done many times before. The last step in this process is to pull the halyard tight and put a little tension on it. Halyards thrive on tension, unlike people who avoid it. Anyway, when I pulled the halyard tight, it didn't get tight at all. Hmmm. I pulled a little more, knowing how halyards like to live their lives all tense and all. That is when it happened. I heard a strange noise, just for a few seconds, a sound that I had not heard before. Kind of a whipping noise, and then the sound of something falling onto the deck at the mast base. I ran to see what had happened, and then it hit me. The halyard was not fastened to the boom, even though I just fastened it. Weird. The sound that I heard was the sound of the halyard going up to the top of the mast, and then the excess rope falling into a pile on the deck. The halyard normally goes up the inside of the mast, to the very top. It then goes over a wheel called a sheeve I think, and then it comes back down the mast, on the outside this time, all the way to the bottom. To raise the mainsail, this halyard is then connected to the sail with a shackle and the sail can be pulled up the mast. By pulling the halyard, I had just sent the halyard and it's shackle to the top of the mast, and the extra rope had fallen down the inside of the mast, and spilled out onto the deck. Shit. We were so tired, we called it a day, and the next morning, my worse fears were confirmed.
To fix this mess, will require someone to go up the mast, and grab the shackle and halyard, and pull them as the come back down. Not too tough, just go up there and right back down. I'm not doing it, no way. Joyce doesn't want to either. We considered sending Guincha up, but figured we might get turned in to the SPCA or something. Oh well, we gotta find someone to help. As it turns out, there is what they call a Radio Net her, every morning at 0800 on the VHF radio. The purpose is to get the latest news concerning the area, let people ask for things they need, sell stuff, etc. I asked for someone to climb the mast and help with a quick problem. Silence. No one said a thing. OK, be that way, something will work out, it always does. We anchored in a cool spot, near a monument on the top of a hill. There was a great stretch of beach here, and Guincha loved it too.
There are miles of white sandy beach here, and stands of Australian Pine trees that grow down close to the water. The wind makes a captivating sound as it blows through these trees, and the needles are round and not sharp at all. It makes for a really picturesque scene, with the white sand, the trees and the aqua blue clear water that the Bahamas are blessed with.
There is even a bar here, because that is what every desserted beach needs. In typical Bahamas colors too.
This place looks to have closed up a while back, too bad... they allow dogs in here too. We went across the harbor to town and got soaking wet. The harbor here is open to the sea at one end, the end that the prevailing winds come from. This means that there are some pretty good choppy waves in the harbor, and to get across it means there is going to be water everywhere. OK, so a little water. No biggie. In town we saw only a few people, it was Sunday and the place was pretty much closed down. We saw a couple of sailors, and we were directed to the Peace and Plenty Resort for a quick lunch. It was a great place, right on the harbor, and the food was reasonable and good. We split a conch hamburger, and it was great. As it turns out, a young couple was next to us, the only other people in the place really, and they were on a boat near us that we had seen. They were on a boat called Seawolf, and we laughed because our boat was once named Seawolf! Dominic and Sarah are sailing with their dog, and hence the name. Dominic said he heard me on the radio net, and couldn't get a response in on the radio. He volunteered to go up the mast, and help with the halyard-gone-bad problem. Awesome! He seemed really smart too, until that moment, and of course his mental stability was quickly called into question. The next afternoon, up he went, and down came the halyard. It is in time out right now, for running away like that. We sat and visited, talking of sailing plans and dreams. It turns out that Dominic is only slightly nuts, getting a thrill from climbing masts is not normal behavior. He and his wife are sailing the carribean and have a youtube channel. Search SV Seawolf and they should come up. Thanks again Seawolf, and good sailing to you both!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Highborne Cay and the Big Majors

We left Nassau and sailed Southeast to a cool spot in the Bahamas called Highborne Cay, where we anchored on the lee side of the island.
It was a good day of motorsailing pretty much into the normal Bahama breeze, which typically comes from the same direction we were going. Go figure.

The first thing we do is check the anchor, a quick snorkel showed it was buried in sand, the perfect situation. So, down came the dingy, and we hit the beach so that Guincha could do her thing and also harrass any local wildlife. Nice beach, very tranquil and pretty.

The next order of business, was to dingy around the corner and check out the marina and restaurant. We pulled up to the dock, and found ourselves surrounded by huge yachts, and we found well groomed paths through the manicured grounds. The marina office was closed, but the dockhand was still there, waiting for a hundred foot yacht to come in and tie up, and he helped us out by getting us some ice. Cool!

There is a restaurant there, Xuma, that is supposed to be good, and there was some traffic heading that way. There were evening dresses and blue blazers. There were collagen injected lips, and eyebrows that were way too close to the hairline. They all loved Guincha though, but nobody actually wanted to touch her! That is when we realized that Highborne Cay is for those that were born higher up the income scale than us. That is how it got it's name. A nice place, bring your plastic surgeon and join in the fun.

The next day, we were up early, and headed out toward Staniel Cay. It was a nice sail, and we made good time. We decided to anchor just North of Staniel Cay, and hit the beach. When we got there, we saw another boat feeding the pigs. THE PIGS? We knew that there were a few places that there were pigs that lived, and visited with the boaters when they came to the beach. We were suprised to see them, as we just picked an anchorage, and it was the one with the pigs on it! The power boat that was already at the beach, was busy feeding them, and spraying them with fresh water.

While the pigs were nice to people, there was a big spotted sow that hated Guincha. It had some babies, that were much bigger than Guincha, but no matter, she charged Guincha and tried to nip her on the rear. I say on the rear, because Guincha saw her coming and took off fast. It's good to be quick, when a four hundred pound pig charges you. Eat sand sow, not fast enough!

The next day, we went over to Staniel Cay. It is a pretty nice spot, a marina, liquor store and groceries too. We don't need any groceries, we are still sinking from all the stuff we brought. We had a ride around the harbor, there is a popular spot here to snorkel called Thunderball Grotto, they filmed a scene in the old James Bond movie Thunderball here. The tide was wrong though, at low slack tide, you swim underwater for about twenty feet into a grotto, and open roof cave. We will hit this spot again on the way back. Grabbed a case of beer at the store, 64 bucks. And we grabbed a cold one at the Staniel Cay Marina, two beers for ten bucks.