Thursday, February 21, 2008

Things We Have Learned

1. We are not very good at fishing. Sorry Ben (our sport fishin’ neighbor on E dock who kindly loaned us rod and tackle), Lynn has tried a number of times, but to no avail. We are probably not equipped with the right bait, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fish out there. We think we need to be out on the ocean side of the islands perhaps?

2. We have a really good anchor. Someone said to us here (Mike I think) that there are three things you don’t talk about in a social setting…religion, politics and anchors. Everyone has a different opinion about the best set up, but we have been very happy with ours (90-pound Delta plow with 300 feet of 5/8th inch chain rode). Although this may not seem to be the most exciting thing about cruising…it is definitely one of the most critical. So, although it can be a common problem, especially given the high winds this time of year, we have yet to drag on our anchor despite swinging 360 degrees with the wind direction. Something that makes me very happy.

3. Canadians rule here. I think there are more Canadian cruisers than Americans. In a strange way I feel more at home here than at home!

4. Unique Bahamian stuff…like how to make a conch horn and the tradition of blowing it just as the sun sets, preparing and eating conch, the best places to find sea treasures and snorkel, kicking back and relaxing under the sun or stars.

5. How to find our way around the Abacos. We can now confidently read the charts, visually judge the water depth, follow the weather and determine the best sheltered anchorage, drop an anchor that will hold, get provisioned, find lovely anchorages, explore the cays, find the happy hours…

6. More and more about our boat. How to run the engine (including jump starting) and generator, water systems, heads, sailing, etc, etc, etc.

7. Radio etiquette. It’s actually very interesting to discover how much you can learn about people as they talk over the VHF. You learn about their personalities, who they are hanging out with, what problems they may be having with the boats and on and on. It’s pretty funny, a little like Payton Place. We have discovered that people will switch channels to listen to your conversations (OK, I confess I have done this myself). You learn to minimize your air time and use secret codes to transmit which channel to go to for a discussion…like, “Meet me at the dock” really means “Switch to channel 05”.

8. You don’t plan too far ahead, cause plans always change. We get up in the morning and listen to the “Cruisers Net”, which is a combination of local weather, news, sports, and general cruiser information (including the daily specials at area restaurants!) broadcast over the VHF by a combination of local residents and cruisers. They are minor celebrities. If you sit on deck in the morning you can hear their voices reverberating around the harbour as everyone checks in to find out what’s going on. From there you determine whether it’s a good idea to stick with the plan or alter your destination…flexibility is the key.

9. How lucky we are…we are incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity and wouldn’t change a moment of the journey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

With Names Like Great Guana, Tilloo and Bight of Old Robinson, How Could We Not Have Fun?!

Hello again…Lynn and I are still here, happily nestled in our boat. So, what have we been doing lately, you wonder…pretty much the same stuff, amazing how you can never tire of white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and quaint islands. When I last left off we were in Treasure Cay…since then we have been moving about checking out new anchorages. We had two weeks of perfect traveling weather so took a tour around.

We first headed out to Great Guana Cay. And guess what…WE SAILED! It was fantastic. At last we had the right amount of wind in the right direction. With the engine finally off, both sails up, and the main reefed slightly, we hit 8.3 knots…incredible…our maximum hull speed is 8.6 knots. Who cares if stuff was flying around a little, it was exhilarating. We spent a few nights anchored along with Ment-To-Be in Fishers Bay and Bakers Bay, doing more snorkeling and beach combing on Spoil Bank Cay (aka Shell Island) and attending another potluck at Grabbers.

Then south to Man-o-War Cay, where they mainly build small boats (Albury Brothers boats) so there is lots of marine atmosphere and history. It is also an incredibly well-groomed town. Everything was so neat and clean…even the grocery store was immaculate with all the items so carefully lined up on the shelves. We wandered around town for the day. I purchased some really pretty canvas handmade on Andros Island to sew things when I get home (who wants to take a bet on whether that will ever actually happen?) Some people don’t like this Cay, maybe because they don’t sell alcohol anywhere, which seems to be somewhat of a priority around here…but, that didn’t matter to us.

Next stop was Marsh Harbour, where we hung out for a few days. This is the working town, so it is busier and not as picturesque. But it is a good place to get provisions, including, you guessed it, fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls (something I just, both happily and unfortunately, discovered). They also have some nice shops and a few fun pubs…our latest favorite is Snappas, where we watched the Super Bowl. Here we met up with Harriett and Mike. We had met previously at the Grabbers potluck, but solidified the friendship in Marsh Harbour and have been kicking around with them off and on since then. They have a 42-foot Presence trawler called Dual Dreams. Imagine…blow boaters hanging out with smoke pots…go figure!

We then moved on to Tilloo Cay, which was a nice secluded anchorage…we were hanging out there all alone for two nights. We spent our time combing Tahiti Beach and doing a bit of snorkeling. Not the best selection of fish, but finding three big sea biscuits made it worthwhile.

On to Lynyard Cay, perhaps my favorite anchorage yet…although it’s impossible to choose. It was so peaceful there, with only a couple of boats anchored well off in the distance. Lynn and I agreed that our first night there was the best yet in the Bahamas. We spent the afternoon exploring and lazing about on shore…which turned out to be a nude beach! Then we settled in for the evening and had a lovely dinner under a blanket of stars. It was idyllic, exactly what I pictured before we ever got here. The next day was great too, because we met more new friends…Kathy and Ken on a 42-foot Marine Trader called Coconut (we must be attracted to trawler types). They have the cutest little 4-pound miniature fox terrier named Big Eddie. They also make lovely sea glass jewelry and I have been “shopping” on their boat several times. They are veteran Abaco cruisers and have shown us a few things, like how to find sea glass and cook Conch. Yes, friends, Lynn ate his first conch and loved it…having at least three helpings. Of course it was caught by Ken that day and cooked perfectly…easily the best I have had yet. We also tried out our new Airline SNUBA system. This is an air line that allows you to dive with breathing air supplied by compressor from the surface. It worked fine, but so far we’ve only used it to clean the bottom of the boat.

We then reluctantly made our way back to Marsh Harbour for shelter from the biggest Norther yet (apparently the highest gust was about 49 knots). We stayed there about three days and caught up on chores, like laundry and work work. I actually had to do my performance review…ask me how much I cared about that! We were pleased to meet up with Bill and Mary again after going our own ways for a while. One of the highlights was learning how to make a conch horn…kind of a grown up arts and crafts activity. We had a fun happy hour at Snappas one night with a big gang of cruisers. A bunch of them were meeting to discuss their pending venture south to the Exumas…it sounded exciting. They had already tried to make the passage two times but had been thwarted by the weather. We heard the next day that eight boats had successfully left for their southern destination. Lynn and I have decided to wait until next time for that adventure.

We are now back in Fishers Bay at Great Guana, where we spent a lovely Valentine’s Day and anxiously await the Bocci Ball tournament and the Daytona 500 at Grabbers tomorrow. We again had a fabulous sail here from Marsh Harbour…20 knot wind, which is perfect in my books…just enough to get good speed, but not enough to make me start feeling nervous. It is a bit overcast and windy today so we are catching up on inside boat chores, like replacing the head…it can’t all be fun and games I guess. Lynn is also passing the time with his new addiction to his electronic Black Jack game…right now he is up $13,500…but regularly curses the machine and says the game is fixed.
So, in the last three weeks we have been to the southern point of the Abacos and are now as far north as possible before having to cross The Whale. On the way we have seen exciting wildlife, found unique beach treasures, explored lovely anchorages, had perfect sails, made new friends, and fallen more in love.