Yes, folks, we are finally in the Bahamas. Sorry, but we actually got here over three weeks ago. I was disinclined to write the last blog because there was so little to report…this time I have been disinclined because there has been so much going on! I am going to try to get you up to date but there is a lot to catch up on…so, I split this into three sections…read as much or as little as you like. Pictures to follow as soon as I find the time and the Internet bandwidth for that.
PART 1: WE ARE HERE!!
After I last left off we were indeed successful in crossing just as we had planned. We left for West Palm Beach Florida on Monday morning (18 January) and arrived there mid afternoon. We found a place to drop our anchor and got a little fitful sleep before our very early departure. Luckily we were able to get underway quickly because West Palm did not strike me as somewhere you would want to stay for very long.
Anyway, we awoke at 3:30 AM and pulled anchor at 3:45 AM. We headed out the inlet along with Makani and Chris Deke, two boats traveling with us. We crossed the Gulf Stream for home along with Chris Deke on the last trip and they just happened to be going over at the same time as us this year. At first it seemed reasonably calm, but it quickly became pretty rough when we got into more open seas. The worst part was that the waves, probably a good 4 to 6 feet, were hitting us on the beam (the side), which is what causes rocking back and forth and (for some) a queasy tummy. We contemplated turning around, but decided to stick it out when we changed to a more southerly heading to settle things down. That worked and I am so glad we persevered because by about noon the seas calmed down significantly and the remainder of the trip was very comfortable. MUCH better than the last time we crossed here. We maintained radio contact with our traveling companions and others who radioed us once we were underway and they realized there was someone ahead who could report on the conditions. It is definitely comforting to know there is someone out there as you cross over the depths of the Gulf Stream, which I think will always feel strange to know there are thousands of feet underneath the boat.
The absolute best part of crossing is when you finally reach the Little Bahama Bank and get your first glimpse of the clear turquoise water…it really is spectacular and definitely something that needs to be experienced to truly appreciate how beautiful it is. Once we arrived the water was unbelievably calm…absolutely flat. As the sun set there was a lovely pink cast to the sky and water, which caused a reflection on the water that looked like mercury flowing as we glided through…stunning. We reached our destination of Great Sale Cay at 7:00 PM and dropped the anchor. We hit the sack not long after and slept like logs in the perfectly calm night.
The next morning we set off for Manjack. We had not stopped there before and discovered it is a great, very secluded place. There were several other boats there and a single dwelling on the island. We did a little beach combing and exploring and then settled down for another lovely Bahamian evening. We will definitely make another stop there on our return trip. The next day brought a brief stop at Green Turtle Cay to check in and then around the Whale. This time both the gulf stream crossing and the whale crossing were uneventful…I guess we are getting good at this!
Actually, I probably shouldn’t say it was entirely uneventful. Just before we left Green Turtle, I suggested that Lynn check the engine coolant as we had a clogged filter the day before. When Lynn tightened the bolt on the top of the filter…it broke! AAAHHHH…this resulted in water rushing in through the open through hull. I looked into the engine compartment to see my boat start to sink before my eyes. OK, I exaggerate, because the trusty bilge pump did kick on and my really trusty Captain remained calm, cool and collected as always. While trying to keep his finger in the proverbial dyke, he quickly closed the through hull. He then proceeded to fix the broken bolt by sawing off the end and drilling a new hole. Lynn never ceases to amaze me as he manages to fix just about everything that goes wrong on Coyote. It’s like traveling with MacGyver! I made up my mind to never complain when I do the navigating, planning and cooking (my primary tasks) because he does the more important job of making sure our boat stays afloat. So, after this heart stopping incident (another exaggeration), we were underway for a very easy Whale Cay crossing and arrival at our ultimate destination at Treasure Cay. Here we met up with our friends Rick and Linda on Sojourner who treated us to happy hour on their boat in honor of our arrival. It is so great how you can just pick up where you leave off two years ago.
So, now that we are here we have easily settled in to the lifestyle. This entails long walks on the beach, searching for sea glass, sitting in the Tipsy Turtle or some other establishment to use the Internet and Skype home, joining the other cruisers for the cruisers pot luck at Grabbers, relaxing on the boat, swimming (just a bit cause the water is really cold), and just generally having a lovely time. Best of all, we have reconnected with lots of our friends from last time and we have already made some new ones.
PART 2: JOAN, STEVE, CHRISTINE AND MARK ARE HERE!
And speaking of reconnecting, an amazing thing happened at Treasure Cay. With the help of Facebook, I bumped into Joan Williams, one of my best buddies in high school, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years! Unbelievable! I mean, what are the chances that she would be there on vacation at the same time as we happened to be anchored there. But she was, with her husband, Steve, and their friends, Mark and Christine. We ended up hanging out with them for about a week and had a wonderful time…lots of laughs and some mini adventures.
One of the more notable misadventures was an inland trip to see a Blue Hole. Since Joan and gang were staying in a dirt dwelling, they had the unusual (for cruisers) luxury of having a vehicle. So, off we went in search of a Blue Hole. This is an unusual formation that occurred during the ice age when openings formed in the coral heads that reach down to the ocean floor. They are several hundred feet deep and connect to the ocean at the bottom, some with tunnels extending out laterally. They are filled with sea water from the bottom and rain water from the top. On the surface they are round holes with a very dark blue color to the water, hence the name. There are numerous Blue Holes in the Bahamas, but they can be very hard to find, I think partly because the Bahamians like to maintain their exact location a bit of a secret. Anyway, we went in search of a Blue Hole one afternoon equipped with cryptic directions from one of the dive shops. First we turned on the road part way between Treasure Cay and the airport. Of course it has no name because few do in the Abacos. We then bumped along the rutted dirt road looking for the faded arrow where we were supposed to turn again. After several teeth-jarring miles we were starting to despair, having seen no more roads and only numerous derelict cars, which are scattered all over the place by the way, some actually left in the middle of the road. We finally spotted three people walking in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. We stopped to inquire about the location of the Blue Hole and they all pointed ahead in unison. One girl mentioned that we should look for the green car and turn there. Off we went again keeping a keen eye for the green car…when we saw the first one it was a false alarm because there was still no road in sight. Yes, there were two abandoned green cars. Just as we were starting to think we needed to abort the mission (well, I was thinking of that, the guys were definitely determined), we finally spotted the said green car and there was indeed a road off to the left. There was also a faded arrow painted many years ago onto the telephone pole, but we would never have noticed it since there was really just a ghost of an arrow remaining. We soon came upon the blue hole shortly after turning.
How cool…definitely worth the drive. It was literally a perfectly round hole in the ground about 80-100 feet in diameter. The water was crystal clear and the sides perfectly vertical and covered with stalagtites and stalagmites. Steve and Mark are extreme divers and couldn’t get their gear on fast enough. Equipped with their tanks, knives and a single light they bravely dove into the deep blue with only the guidance of a rope left there for those daring (or crazy) enough to explore the depths. It is actually quite dangerous as divers can easily get disoriented and not know which way to swim. Christine and I opted to take a dip, which was not so adventurous but cool nonetheless. The boys eventually surfaced and declared it to be one of their stranger diving experiences. According to their description, it was completely dark and cold until they reached a thermo cline at about 60 feet, where the temperature increased to 90 degrees Celcius! They then passed through a cloudy, orange-colored zone that smelled of sulfur and finally reached the salt water at 90 feet. At this point they opted to stop the dive because it was too dark and they felt it unsafe to continue with only one light. There is absolutely NO WAY I would have attempted this dive…but they were pretty psyched. Lynn and I have since watched a an incredibly interesting Nova special on TV about the Bahamian Blue Holes. Of most interest to us was the fact that the sulfur-smelling zone they passed through is actually hydrogen sulfide, which is very hazardous as it permeates the skin and can cause brain damage if exposed too long. I hope the boys didn’t linger there…I wonder if they have been acting strangely lately?
The remainder of the week was filled with fun, including a sleep over on Coyote. It was such a wonderfully serendipitous (a word I love but rarely get to use) meeting. After they left we felt lonely, but look forward to seeing them all again some day.
PART 3: JAMI AND STEVE ARE HERE!!
When we left Treasure Cay we headed over to Hope Town, one of our favorite spots. There we spent much of our time walking the beach, going to morning yoga and eating conch burgers (well, one of us did all three of these activities, I’ll let you guess who). On the beach we met Luisa and Jay on Airborne. While having drinks with them at Captain Jacks later I happened to mention that I wanted to start a sketching journal. It happens that Luisa is a wonderful artist who loves to sketch her travels. She kindly offered to teach me what she knows, which turned out to be a lot since she is a very accomplished artist. We went to their boat for coffee the next morning and Luisa showed me her sketch books and paintings. She gave me lots of valuable pointers and I have been enjoying capturing our adventures ever since. I am not much of an artist, but I don’t really think that matters.
We also anxiously awaited the arrival of Lynn’s daughter, Jami, and her husband, Steve. They were due to arrive on 11 February but were delayed several days because of the extreme snow in Baltimore (where they have had 83 inches this year and fifty from two blizzards within two weeks). They made it on Saturday and although it is chilly here they seem very happy to be in their bathing suits and flip flops. We are only in our third day but have already had a ton of fun, including a fabulous sail from Marsh Harbour to Guana Cay in 25 knot wind and hitting 8 knots. It’s hard to do on our boat, but we came very close to burying the rail! Unfortunately we lost our anchor snubber overboard…the first of a few mishaps but I won’t get into all of that. At Guana we attended the traditional Sunday afternoon pig roast at Nippers where we hung out with a bunch of our cruising friends and imbibed in the famous Nipper rum punch. The next day we went to Treasure Cay and walked the beach in what turned out to be fabulous beach weather.
Jami and Steve are excellent boat guests as they are very easy to please. I have never seen two people travel so light with only a small backpack each. We have enjoyed some excellent meals on shore and on the boat. I made lobster one night that was delicious, if I do say so myself. They have even eaten my homemade bread, which I thought might be better used as a mooring ball! We have taken to calling it mooring bread. We definitely agree that the bread and cinnamon roles from Florence’s bakery at Treasure Cay are much tastier than my baking concoctions…I better stick to lobster.
There will be lots more to tell about their visit, but I will save that for next blog as it hasn’t happened yet…tomorrow, Hope Town!