Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cruising the Far Bahamas ...

My goodness!  Almost a month has gone by since we've posted anything about our cruise.  We must be having so much fun that the idea of spending time at a keyboard just hasn't been appealing ... perhaps it's guilt that forces the fingers to the keys now.

So where have we been?  At last posting we were in George Town, the Exumas, where we ended up spending a full week.  We were in large part waiting for mail forwarded via UPS, which finally arrived after sitting in Nassau for a full week.  I can safely say, never use UPS in the Bahamas.  Go Fed Ex or DHL, because Big Brown has not gotten its act together in these islands.  Of course, finally it did arrive and we rejoiced, but it was not without great frustration for a week and many wasted trips into the UPS agent.  This is Island Time at its worst, but the only really answer one can give to a problem like this is "no problem, mon."

In George Town we met with friends we'd made in Stuart, FL, who were on a 52 foot ocean-going trawler Peking.  They had us over one night to meet some other cruisers, one couple who had twice circumnavigated, another couple who had just come back from two years in the Caribbean and a third couple, Ken and Leigh Parrot whose boat was named One Eyed Parrot in honor of the fact that Ken and Leigh each only have one eye.  It was a wonderful evening and we really enjoyed everyone.

Over the next several days we moved anchorages a couple of times, having burgers at the Chat and Chill on "volleyball beach" and also at the Hamburger Beach Bar, shopping in George Town for fishing lures, good Kalik beer and always for fresh produce.  We attend the ARGH! meeting, standing for "alcoholic research group" on Hamburger Beach and had a jolly time with more cruisers, among them Pat and Doug on Scalliwag.  The next day, relocated back to Kidd Cove in Elizabeth Harbour, Doug made me a conch horn, which at last I've learned to blow quite nicely at sunset.

On March 19, we departed George Town for Long Island and had a wonderful spinnaker sail to Bains Bluff, where we anchored all be ourselves.  The next day we moved a bit down the coast of Long Island to Miller's Bay, where we spent a couple of days, changed the engine oil, tangled fishing lines in the dinghy motor and lost a lure (well, we've lost a lot of lures), unexpectedly found internet connection, and had an unwelcome adventure.  Sitting in the cockpit reading around 1100 hours, I looked up to see our dinghy floating 100 yards away and ... escaping!   I donned fins and snorkel and dove in after it, finally breathlessly catching it after twenty minutes of swimming ... she floated away almost faster than I could swim.  Naturally the gas tank wasn't in her and I didn't have the key to the motor anyway, so I climbed aboard her, pulled out the oars and started rowing.  Rowing a rubber dinghy, even with a hard bottom, is hard, and I was making little headway against the swells, when I thought of holding the key switch out and at least using whatever fuel was in the motor lines.  That got me about a quarter of a mile toward Alizee, but soon the motor sputtered and died.  Out with the oars again, and no sooner did I have them out but the starboard oar lock popped out of the fitting and went overboard ... gone!  Oh shit!  So, I put on fins and snorkel again, went in the water and started swimming, towing "Bertha" behind me.  Boy, was I tired and making slow progress.

Meantime, Pen is on the boat.  She had the idea of swimming out to me with a couple of long lines tied together.  She put on a life vest forgetting it would self-inflate, then discovered the ladder was not down all the way and had a hell of a time getting back on.  She had the presence of mind to turn on the VHF, thinking I'd call her on the hand held, which was in the dinghy, but I didn't have the presence of mind to remember it was there.  Eventually I got within hailing distance and got her to weigh anchor and maneuver Alizee over to me, and I got on board, we secured "Bertha" and re-anchored.  The whole episode to an hour and a half, and we were both exhausted physically and emotionally.

Next day we went down to Thompson Bay where we spent a couple of nights, did laundry at the Island Breeze, had the best coconut shrimp ever and bought some more fishing lures.  A day or two later we returned to Miller's Bay and went into Chez Pierre's for dinner (I jury rigged an oar lock on "Bertha", just in case ... oh yes, "Bertha" comes from the bumper sticker on her bow that reads "Eat Bertha's Mussels," in reference to the best fresh mussel restaurant in Baltimore, "Bertha's).  The dinner a Chez Pierre's, was fabulous ... scampi, veal Marsala, fresh Gorgonzola salad ... and we were the only boaters in the bay.  The other guests were all from Pierre's cottages.  This is truly a hidden treasure, and Chef Pierre and his wonderful waitress Orame were fabulous.  We had a nice bottle of Bourdeaux and we so incredibly happy not to have the typical Bahamian deep fried fare.

On March 26, we had another wonderful spinnaker sail up to Calabash Bay, where we spent the night before pushing on to Conception Island.  Alas, the spinnaker blew out along the seams just as we entered the bay.  This is a great disappointment, for it has made light air downwind sailing just an incredible treat.  We will buy a new one as soon as we are back stateside.

Fishing has had us baffled this year.  Last year we caught many yellow tail and mutton snappers in the Abacos.  This year we seem to lose lures and fish every time we put the line out.  On our way to Conception Island we hooked and lost a couple of nice fish as well as lost a couple of more lures, and we decided to put back on the 100 lb. line that a fishing shop "expert" said really was too heavy.  Well, so much for his expertise.  Since we put back on the 100 lb. line we haven't lost a fish because of the line breaking.  After leaving Conception Island, we started catching yellow tail snapper ... eight so far, plus a nice small bar jack that was the sweetest eating.  Sushi has become our staple again, and Pen has cooked a couple of wonderful fish fillet dinners using Mark Bitman fish cook book recipes.

Conception Island was pretty, but the mangrove interior and creeks were a bust.  The tide was not high enough to really get in there, and we spent most of our time on the boat at anchor.  On March 29, we arose to weigh anchor for Hawks Peak, Cat Island, and I discovered that the fresh water pump had sprung a pinhole leak in the body of the pump.  We were losing water, but decided the flow wasn't that great and we'd make the sail and then fix it.  Unfortunately, the wind didn't lay down when we finally arrived at our anchorage in New Bight, Cat Island.  I ended up changing the water pump (we had smartly bought a spare before we left), and amazingly I didn't get sea sick, although the rollers in the anchorage were four feet and the boat was hobby-horsing worse that we've ever experienced.  We stayed in New Bight for a couple of days, met some cruisers there who we'd seen in Conception, and we hiked up to the Hermitage atop the highest hill in the Bahamas (206 feet).

The next couple of days we spent by ourselves along the coast of Cat Island, first at a quiet anchorage off Curry Murry Bluffs, some remarkable iron shoreline bluffs.  The next day we went to Arthur's Town, the boyhood home of Sidney Poitier.  ... Well, let's let Penelope tell the story:

We hopped in the dinghy almost immediately to go to town for ice and eggs, hoping a store would be open.  Now such luck.  The store looked like a tiny cabin, shut and locked tight.  With no ice and eggs to carry back we decided to sop at the little tiki bar.  "Cocktails by the Sea" read the sign.  We made immediate acquaintance of Sharon, the bar keeper, a vivacious mother of three whose husband Sidney was out fishing.  She filled us in on a lot of local lore such as the fact that the Bahamas don't map uninhabited cays and islands, Cat Island has an underground water source, Sidney Poitier's daughter Pam lived close by on Cat and there's some controversy as to whether her father has done all he could for his boyhood home.  Her husband Sidney owns the bar, and only returned to operate it in January after his mother-in-law, who has diabetes, was injured when a car ran over her foot and she could not continue running the bar.  So he left Nassau, where Sharon and the kids live.  Sharon loves the "space"!

We met two colorful locals, Nestle and Leroy who tells us his English name is "Cracker."  He was born to a bi-racial couple and is the blackest in skin but evidently demonstrated some white traits early enough to earn the name Cracker.  He was a sweetheart.  Of course it was Friday (Good Friday), so both had been nipping the bottle but were in no way pickled.  As we were having a beer and tequila shots, Sidney and crew arrived with the day's catch and dumped it out atop a flat piece of concrete atop the rocks, which became the local gathering place.  Wat a hustle bustle of scaling, gutting and filleting and what a variety of fish: yellow tail, red snapper, yellow fin grouper, something called Bahamian catfish, and sturgeon (which they called turgeon).  And who knows what else.  It was probably 150 to 200 lbs of fish and, oh my, the scales were flying!  And the people were gathering!

The town chef and his wife showed uyp and finally the chef went home and brought his cleaning tools, a machete-like knife, a scraper and a smaller knife.  Cracker did most of the scaling and Nestle did the gutting and cleaning.  He let me try it and I think I will be able to cut back the head while leaving it attached and scraping out the gills and the entrails.  It was one extraordinary experience that so many cruisers miss by staying on the beaten path.  As they cleaned, they joked with each other and us and seemed happy to answer all my questions and then some.  We learned that most Bahamians don't own boats and don't know how to swim!  Of course, we don't know what "knowing how to swim" might mean, because Nestle didn't seem to think going after lobster in shallow water had anything to do with "swimming."  Sidney said they would share the catch with the community so there would be some darn good eating in Arthur's Town over the Easter weekend.

We went back to the boat for sushi and our own fish dinner (even though we'd been invited to return that night for the fish fry).  And, after sunset, a spotlight from shore seemed beamed right at us on Alizee.  Were our new friends keeping an eye on us?!?  Probably just the light at the basketball court, but it was a nice thought.  The next morning as we left the anchorage, we passed by "Cocktails by the Sea" and hollered and waved goodbyes were shared with Nestle and Cracker, who were out there on the deck.

April 3 was spent sailing over to Little San Salvador Island, and we caught a couple of nice fish along the way.  The next day, just as a cruise ship came in to "Half Moon Bay," the cruise ship day camp spot on Little San Salvador, we left heading for Eleuthera Island.  We had a wonderful sail, caught a couple of more yellow tail, and arrived at the Rock Sound Harbor anchorage in the late afternoon.  And, here we are.  Enjoying every sunset and sunrise, every bite of sushi and loving life to the fullest.  Really, we wish you were here!

Alizee's geotrack

More photos


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home