Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

We were standing in the parking lot of the Poop Deck Restaurant and the Nassau Yacht Haven talking to the folks from the sailboats Troubadour and Endaxi when a taxi pulled up with Brad.  He had done the ‘red-eye’ from Vancouver, through Toronto to Nassau.  A sight for sore eyes! We were anchored near Paradise Island just off the Cloisters – a 14thCentury French monastery, imported to the US by Randolph Hearst and then to the Bahamas  by Sir Huntington Hartford.  We had suffered through wind and wake in our previous spot and worried about dragging our anchor (attached to the air conditioner on the bottom) and then over coffee at about 10AM our scenery started to change as the Blue Pearl started to drift.  We had to fuel up for our trip with Brad so we pulled in the anchor, left the hardware on the bottom and headed to the fuel dock.  Our new setting off the Cloisters was beautiful and our anchor was buried in sand. We had groceries and, most importantly, conch salad from Potter’s Cay so we headed out to the Blue Pearl with our new crewmember.  We spent a great evening catching up with Brad, installing the hardware he brought to make our alternator work and enjoying boat drinks and cracked conch a la Pam. The next day we sailed and then motor sailed to Norman’s Cay, arriving at about 3 pm.  We anchored near the partly submerged plane and then took a dinghy ride to show Brad around, took the obligatory photo in front of the “Welcome to Norman Island” sign and then retired to the boat for wasabi encrusted tuna with rice. The next morning, one of our acquaintances from Indiantown came by in his dinghy on a hunt for fish and lobster.   Nice to meet up with Ian and Elaine from “Stormy Weather” again!  We set out to find our own lobster and fish.  Intrepid hunters Brad and Glen searched faithfully for a couple of hours without any success while Pam followed in the dinghy.  In the meantime, Ian had pulled 4 ‘bugs’ from the caves and crevices. We followed them into Norman’s Pond, where they had anchored.  Ian showed us where the nurse sharks hang out (none home, thankfully!) and where the eagle rays swim – so Brad went swimming with the eagle rays and a barracuda.  Finally, we were successful in our hunting and gathering – we found 14 mature conch and we headed back home to extract them from their shells.  We visited at Stormy Weather as we left the Pond.  Ian must have felt sorry for us because gave us 3 lobsters! We headed over to Mac Duff’s for awesome burgers and by 6:30 we were back on the boat… exhausted.  Glen and Brad’s heads were nodding like bobble heads and not providing Pam much company.  By 8:30 it was all over – everyone sound asleep.
Our haul
Lots of conch

Out you come!
Expert conch cleaner
In the water in Norman's Pond

Ian's catch

Lobster Boy

On Thursday we woke to a rocky anchorage – the wind had shifted to the northwest and the rollers made it uncomfortable. We took the outside route to Warderick Wells, averaging 6.5 knots in a great breeze. Brad made a daring rescue of the mooring ball as we charged into the harbour with crazy wind and currents. Conch salad, a Kalik and we were set to go to register with Darcy in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park office.
View from Boo Boo Hill
We are spending Christmas Eve here eating and drinking – like everyone else does on Christmas Eve. We will travel on Christmas day to Staniel’s Cay to show Brad new territory. We are hoping there is a Junkanoo and other holiday activities.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!
Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holy Mackerel

It was awfully nice at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club in Freeport but after two weeks it was finally time to go.  We had been to the tourist place at Lucaya and had local Bahamian food and Greek food at Zorba’s.  We went over to the posh Our Lucaya Hotel and wandered around the place and took our Christmas picture in the lobby.  Pam bet the family fortune at the casino and had to be stopped before she got us into serious trouble.  We explored the canals by dingy where the gorgeous homes are built and checked out the Dolphin Encounter location where you can swim with the dolphins.  Pam had a haircut in the Lucayan Marketplace – better than last year’s cut in Nassau – short, but at least both sides are the same.  We met and visited with lots of boaters.  It was interesting to meet some new people and hear their stories.

Cleaning a Triggerfish we bought from the lobster guy.

Gangsta Losbsta

Sharing Kaliks with Bumpy

So, after a particularly cold couple of days, (down to 9 Celsius) we left early (0630) Wednesday.   As we readied the boat to leave, we watched the International Space Station travel overhead.  We motored out the Bell Channel at sunrise and headed for Great Stirrup Cay.  The crossing was uneventful – except we learned that our alternator regulator doesn’t work and an engine part designed to keep us from sinking was dripping water all over the engine.  Unfortunately, the dolphin pod we encountered on this 56 mile crossing last year was not available so we had to be content with watching the flying fish as they skipped over the water, trying to get away from us.

We had a quiet night at Great Stirrup – the stars were unbelievable and the moon was so bright that you could see the bottom in 12 feet of water (3.69 meters).

In the morning we gathered our curled up anchor chain – not sure we needed an anchor that night, it was so calm – and headed out at 0700 for Nassau, another 50 miles.

Anchor chain lying on the bottom

Pam has figured out how to use some hooks from last year along with “hoochie” skirts to make lures – rather than buy them at $12 a pop and lose them to a barracuda.  WELL, do they ever work!  We caught an 5 pound Yellowfin Tuna just before we anchored at Great Stirrup and then the next morning we landed a 3 or 4 pound Mackerel, an Amber Jack (could have been an evil Cravelle Jack so he didn’t come aboard - a local fisherman told us you could eat them but you'll get the 'shittins') and a Barracuda (also unwelcome on the Blue Pearl.)  We’ll have to start throwing out steaks to make room for all the fish.  We had better luck in 18 hours than we had in 4 months last year.

Seared Tuna in ginger and sesame!!!
We motored the entire way to Nassau.  There was very little wind and what there was came right on our nose.  After the initial flurry of fish-catching, the trip was uneventful.  The Atlantis Resort in Nassau appeared on the horizon 16 miles away!  We listened on the radio as a multitude of boats requested permission to enter the harbour.  There is a good crossing “weather window” right now so loads of boats are coming into Nassau from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and points north.  After receiving our 'go ahead' from Nassau Harbour Control we motored past two huge cruise ships, under the two bridges, past Potters Cay and the marina we stayed in last year.  We found a perfect spot to anchor (rather than pay $100 per night at a marina) and got yelled at by someone who thought we were too close to his marina.  So we moved east 100 feet and now we are tucked in.  Rum punches and Holy Mackerel for dinner.  We noticed in the morning that our anchor chain is securely wrapped around an old air-conditioner on the bottom.  We've been told that the Nassau harbour is filled with such treasures.

Brad arrives on Monday and we will leave for the Exumas on Tuesday.  All the best for the holiday season to you all and a Happy Birthday to Jackson on the 23rd.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Relaxing in Freeport

We had a good crossing from Lake Worth to West End, Bahamas.  Woohoo!  High fives all around!  We thought we would take Al and Maria to the Abacos so we decided we would head to Memory Rock and over.  Then we changed our minds and decided to head south to Lucaya.  We were headed for Lucaya when we had second thoughts about the Abacos so we decided to hedge our bets and came to West End (in the middle) so we could do either.

Sunrise over the Gulf Stream
We set alarms for 3 a.m. but we were all awake before that in anticipation of our Gulf Stream crossing.  Al made 2 pots of coffee, Glen loaded the weather on the computer while Maria and Pam puttered to ready the boat.  We raised the anchor and raised the main sail in the dark and motored out of the Lake Worth Inlet.  We motor sailed most of the 54 miles to the Bahamas.  We wanted to charge the batteries and thought we could sail easier once the sun came up.  The wind was fairly light and the seas were rolly.  Beautiful stars and a bright quarter moon gave us some light.

We saw very few boats – a few out fishing and the occasional freighter but there was very little traffic.  We had radio contact with three other boats making the crossing.  We chatted with them and listened in on their conversations.  One boat was crossing for the 42nd time so we thought we might learn a few things from them.  The sun rose out of the clouds and we could see the changing blue colours of the Gulf Stream. We saw dolphins, flying fish but no Portuguese Man 'o Wars this year.  Towards the end of the trip, when the wind was coming out of the west it was slightly uncomfortable coming off the quarter with sloppy seas.  Luckily no one had to go below to prepare food as Maria had made a batch of delicious sandwiches the night before.   We arrived at 1:30 pm and within one hour the wind was coming from the north and was howling.  So, the forecasts were dead on.  We were glad to be in the shelter of a little harbour and tied to a dock.

Hard at work!

Boaters had been reporting immigration difficulties, especially for Canadians but we had absolutely no problem checking in.  No 1 or 3 month restrictions like some people are reporting.  No problem getting a 6 month permit.  Turns out we didn’t need to have made the run to Miami in a rental car to get a travel visa for the Bahamas but at least we had all the bases covered.

We tied up at the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End and took a walk along a beautiful sandy beach near the marina.  It was windy and the seas looked pretty rough.

Windy West End, Grand Bahamas

Al bought take-out conch salad for us at the marina restaurant ($$$) and we retired back to the boat for salad appetizer and steaks for dinner.  Champagne and an early night to bed!

Up the Bell Channel to the Grand Bahama Yacht Club
On Thursday, we brought the boat around from West End to Lucaya on the south of the island - about a 20 mile trip.  We had a fabulous sail, mostly around 7 knots, and Captain Chaos managed to get the boat to the dock with no major damage!

We are slightly embarrassed to admit that we are going to indulge ourselves.  We have about 2 weeks before we want to be in Nassau to pick up Brad.  With our Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club membership we get a smokin’ deal at a posh resort here in Freeport – only about $200 to tie up with all the amenities for a week.  It will be great to have a week to visit with good friends who live here in Freeport, putter on the boat and read a few books.
Up the mast...

Docked at Grand Bahama Yacht Club

... to retrieve a broken radar reflector

Maria and Al left early Saturday morning on a flight to Nassau.  They fly from Nassau to Toronto in the afternoon.  It was great to be able to share the Bahamas and our sailing adventures with them.  Now Al is looking to buy a sailboat down here.  Sorry, Maria!

Our plan is to stay here til Thursday and then, weather permitting, sail to the Berry Islands.