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Monday, April 30, 2007

16 APR thru 30 APR 07: Chub Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas

GPS Position: 25°24’.630N: 77°54’.317W

Today, we stayed in Spanish Wells and toured St. Georges Cay and Russell Island. The weather is very windy and there is still a chance of rain today. We walked down to the main dock area and rented a golf cart and had a great day driving around the islands. It was really neat seeing all of the improvements that have been made in the past twenty years. Spanish Wells is like an oasis in the middle of the Bahamas where just about any modern convenience or item is available.

We then went looking for a guy we’d known when we lived here in the 80’s. We finally found Roy Pinder, who married a girl from Current, down by the docks. Roy went with us and showed us several tracts of land he owned and gave us some insight as to what’s planned for the area in the very near future. Then, he showed us a completely furnished, three-bedroom vacation home he owns and rents. It’s absolutely gorgeous (contact Roy_LindaPinder@hotmail.com for details.) After the land tour, it was back to the boat and making the boat ready to travel. Tomorrow, we’ll have to move the boat back to Current and it will probably be pretty early due to the tides.

Kim and I were up early on the 18th. I went up and paid our marina bill and then we made ready to go. We were off and running by 0800 hrs and caught the tide
perfectly. We were anchored off of North Beach by 1100 hrs and dinghied in to shore and made the short walk into Current. Kim was able to get her hair cut by Janice Symonette while I stayed and helped Perry with some projects. We had burgers on the grill for supper with homemade French fries. and then it was back to the boat after dark.

On the 20th, we got up early and went ashore. Perry loaned us his car and we drove in to the airport and went to Customs and Immigration to get our cruising permit extended. With that accomplished, we went to Three Island Dock and caught a ferry to Harbour Island. We went and saw the wild horses on the beach, Kim bought some “Androsia” material to make a quilt and we had a great lunch of hotdogs from a street vendor.

Back at Perry’s, we had dinner with the Neillys and Craig Weech. We discussed more politics and pre-election news and watched a political rally on TV. Theo, Perry’s son, was at the rally and we saw him on the TV. Following the rally, it was back on the boat and we were on board right at sunset.

The next several days were a blur of going into town each day, spending time with people and attending the various political rallies held by both parties. Bahamian politics if very emotional, but unlike the US, the campaigning only lasts about 30

days and then elections are held and the whole thing is over. But, while it lasts, it's very exciting and fun to listen to the speeches being made. One thig for sure, it makes no difference what country it is, a politician is a politician.

Today,the 24th, was a fun day. We went in around 1000 and talked Perry into going hunting for Sea Beans. We went toSurfers Beach, south of Gregory Town, walking the last 1.5 miles to get there. We then walked up and back down the 2.5 mile long beach, looking for beans and walked the 1.5 miles back to the car. It was really quite tiring, but we found a total of 12 sea beans of two different types and Perry found another seven.

The next day, we went hunting for sea beans again with Perry and Talliah. We think Perry has caught the seabean bug! We went to a beach just north of Governor's Harbour and were able to get all of the way to the beach by car.

We walked up and down the beach for about four hours, which, after yesterday’s walk, was a real challenge. We found 5 more hamburger beans, 10 more sea hearts and half a dozen, as yet, unidentified beans. The real prize was a double Coconut Bean (not to be confused with the coconut that you eat) that still had about 75% of the husk around it. They are very rare.

On the 28th, we let everyone know we'd be leaving in two days. Then, on the 29th, the weather turned perfect. We almost felt that we should leave today instead of waiting until tomorrow. But, we needed to make the rounds, and say good-bye to all of our friends. Back at Perry’s, we had lunch and then made homemade coconut ice cream. The local kids came out of the woodwork to get a taste and Perry didn’t disappoint them. We stayed as late as possible, but eventually had to leave, as we were pulling out for Chub Cay at 0600 tomorrow. Kim cried and the ride back to the boat was sadly quiet.

I got up early and left Kim in bed, because slipping the boat off of the mooring is not a big deal and didn’t require us both being awake. I started the main engine to allow it to warm up, turned on all of the navigation systems and got ready to go. We slipped the mooring at 0630 and started out of the cut. When we reached Grant’s Dock, I spied Perry on the dock waving a PLP flag and blowing his car horn. Kim had gotten out of bed when we started moving, so we both blew our conch horns in answer to Perry’s car horn. It was a pretty emotional departure.

The trip to Chub Cay was completely uneventful. There was a bit of chop after 0900, but mostly a smooth passage. We arrived in Chub Cay around 1530 hrs, took on 53 gallons of diesel and retired to our slip. After a bite to eat, we went out and walked the beaches until almost dark. We found no sea beans, but it was still a fun walk.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

08 APR thru 15 APR 07: Spanish Wells, Bahamas

GPS Position: 24°06'.025N: 76°24'.166W

This morning, Easter Sunday, we got up around 0800 EDST and puttered about the boat. We had breakfast, cleaned up and made ready to join Chip and Kay on Warderick Wells for more exploration. We dinghied in and made fast to the park office dinghy dock. From there, it was off to see the whale skeleton, hike the several trails that cover the island, visit the blowholes and see the pirate well.

After our hike, we dinghied back to the grottos near our anchorage. We all went snorkeling and explored the many sights throughout the many small reefs in the park. There were many fish, conchs and crustaceans that we had not seen since living in the islands in the early 1980’s.

After snorkeling, we went back to our boat, cleaned all of our equipment and settled back to relax for the rest of the day. We fixed Cornish Hens later on that evening, ate Easter dinner and retired for the night.

We left Warderick Wells with BESO about 0900 and made the 3-hour trip to Highborne Cay. Arriving about 1230 hrs, we anchored, lowered the dinghy and went in to the marina to explore the surrounding area.
We spent most of the afternoon exploring the beaches on both the east and west sides of the cay. Then, we went back to the Marina and had a brew (or two) to celebrate Chip’s birthday. From the Marina, it was back to the boat to get cleaned up for dinner and. following dinner, we made a surprise visit to BESO and dropped off cards and a rum cake to further celebrate Chips birthday. After 1 or 2 (or 3 or 4) drinks, we came back to the boat and slept like babies.

We got up, had breakfast, messed around the boat and made ready to move again. We pulled anchor and moved a whopping 1.5 nautical miles to Allan’s Cay, Exuma, anchored and went ashore to see the iguanas. Krikees!!! There are Iguanas everywhere!!! They are of a species that is only found in the Bahamas and these islands are the last refuge of the 1000 or so that live on them. The Iguanas come up to visitors looking for a handout and, in most cases, get it. They are multi-colored and sure of their place as kings of the island.

We spent the balance of the day walking the beaches, exploring the three-island group and marveling at the variety of iguanas that covered the islands. Near sunset, we made our way back to the boat, had dinner and retired for the night.

The next morning, around 0830 hrs, we were hit by a massive storm cell. I clocked sustained winds of 56 Kts and we saw two waterspouts that passed within a half mile of the boat. Several boats broke free from their anchors and struck each other and another sailboat (about a 32 footer) was blown into the rocks, punching a hole in its side and leaving it stranded on the beach of Allan’s Cay. We were lucky, however, and as soon as the storm passed, BESO and us hauled anchor and struck out for Nassau.

We were able to get into the Nassau Yacht Haven, and by 1630 hrs, were safely tucked into our slip. Diner with Chip & Kay rounded out our exciting day and then it was back to the boat for a long, secure night of sleep.

We spent the entire day of the 12th being tourists with Chip & Kay. We went on a bus trip through downtown Nassau, visited every single shop on Bay Street and had lunch at Senor Frog's. As the day ended, it began raining cats and dogs. The return bus ride in the rain was scary, but we arrived safely and made it back to the boat unscathed.

The next day, we said sad goodbyes to BESO and made our way back to Current, Eleuthera. We spent the next two days anchored off of Loretta Lynn’s house on North Beach (25°24’.722N: 076°47’.340W) where the depth and white sand bottom make the perfect anchorage. We then went ashore and spent the rest of the day (and well into the night) visiting with our friends in Current, Eleuthera.

On the 14th, the wind picked up very early in the morning and we could tell it was pretty rough on the other side of the island. I was on the radio at 0800 hrs, listening to Chris Parker’s weather report. Chris says that there is a major storm system advancing on Eleuthera and it will arrive sometime Friday night or Saturday. Well, this is Friday, so, after talking to Kim, we decided to run to Spanish Wells and stay in their sheltered harbour and marina.

We hauled anchor around noon and made our way to Spanish Wells and, after securing the boat, we walked all over St. Georges Island and Spanish Wells. The storm hasn’t hit yet, but it’s hovering to the northeast of us and still advancing; just slower than originally expected.

On the 15th, we dinghied over to to Gene's Bay and met Perry Neilly, who'd driven over to pick us up. Then, it was off to Current for Sunday dinner and good conversation with friends.

Dinner was amazing. There was grouper, conch and crawfish, all done to perfection, served with peas & rice and local vegetables. It made for a great meal and everyone was thoroughly stuffed. After dinner, Kim showed everyone our travel pictures on the computer. In between photos, Perry, Theo and I talked about Bahamian politics and the upcoming election in May. It was a really great evening.

We finally went back to Gene’s Bay around 1800 hrs and dinghied back to the marina. We were back on the boat by 1830 hrs and sound asleep by 2100. The storm, which had held off all day, finally struck around 2130 and there was a short period of 35 Kt wind, followed by torrents of rain that lasted until well past midnight. We were safe and dry, however, so, after the initial surprise, we slept just fine. Tomorrow, we plan to look up some old friends on Spanish Wells and catch up on what they've been doing since our last visit here in 1988. It should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

01 APR thru 07 APR 07: Warderick Wells, Exuma Islands, Bahamas

GPS Position: 25°23'.106N: 76°37'.515W

We moved the boat today to Big Major’s Spot, which is about a 20-minute dinghy ride north of Staniel Cay. We left this morning about 1000 EST and made the 2 hour and 15 minute trip from Black Point. Although Big Major’s Spot is only 6 miles away as the crow flies, one must travel about 17 miles around the shallow grounds to get there. We arrived, and were settled, by 1230 and spent the balance of the day cleaning and polishing the boat. Tomorrow, we’ll go over to Staniel Cay, go exploring and mail some letters to the States.

This morning, we were up, in the dinghy and on our way to Staniel Cay and the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We all tied up to the dinghy dock and wound our way through town to the local post office. There, Kay mailed several post cards and we mailed our letters. We did some shopping and Chip and I found a place where a guy was working on a Bahamian Sloop for the forthcoming regatta and watched him work for about 20 minutes. The it was back to the dinghies and over to Thunderball Grotto to do some snorkeling.

The grotto was pretty neat and looked just like it did in the James Bond movie that is its namesake. From there, we went back to the boat and collected some old food items and headed for the beach and the pigs that live there.

As promised, the pigs all swam out to greet us. The one thing we wern't told, however, is stay in deeper water when feeding the pigs! The photo below was taken just moments before the 200 lb. hog vaulted into the dinghy and damn near sank us as he thrashed around in the dinghy, biting everything (including
Kim's finger) in his quest for food. Needless to say, it was quite exciting!

The 3rd, we moved to the Sampson Cay Club Resort & Marina. We arrived about 1115 and anchored out in the harbor. Kim and I went into the marina and explored a bit and met Chip & Kay at the restaurant for an ice cold beer. We then explored the resort complex and walked the docks, looking at the high dollar mega-yachts that were docked at the club. We all went back to our boats, had dinner and called it an early night.

The next day, after breakfast at the resturant with Chip & Kay, Kim and I went exploring the surrounding waters in the dinghy. During our 8-mile journey, we found that we could have dinghied back to Big Major’s Spot in about and hour. We went about three miles out to a pair of islands called Twin Cays and found a small island with a beautiful beach, that had a long defunct bar and volleyball court built on it.

Next, we motored over to an island called Wild Tamarind Cay, which was covered with tourist type homes, a small airstrip and possibly a road.

Then, we went to an island called Over Yonder Cay and found some of the most beautiful anchorages we’d ever seen. The water was a surrealistic shade of blue and you could watch individual fish swimming on the bottom, 60 feet below. What a great spot!! Then it was back to the bar, then the boat, then dinner and bed.

We left Sampson Cay around 0800 and were on our way to Compass Cay. It was another short run, so by 1100, we were snug as could be in the Compass Cay Marina. The Cay is privately owned by a Bahamian gentleman who is very environmentally conscious and the place is clean as a whistle.

Chip, Kay, Kim and I all went ashore and walked the island from one end to the other. There are rental homes, walking trails, an electrical generation station, a recycling center and all sorts of signs to identify the local flora and fauna. But enough of this exercise! We went back to the boat and discovered we have really good Internet here and we plan to spend the rest of the evening answering e-mails and, maybe, working on the website.

On the 6th, we spent another relaxed day in Compass Cay. The people here are so nice and the place is so clean that it's hard to believe it really exists. We went ashore and had lunch at the dock site restaurant and watched the feeding of the nurse sharks in the harbour. It was really quite impressive to watch how tame the sharks seemed. But, I don't think I'd want to try it.
We departed Compass Cay Marina around 1030 EDST and headed towards Warderick Wells and the Exuma Land Sea Park. The total trip will be 13.83 nautical miles, although the ”as the crow flies” distance is only 8.8 nautical miles.

The Exuma Cays Land Sea park is one of 25 National Parks managed by the Bahamas National Trust. In 1986, the Trust made the entire 176-square mile park a no-take fisheries replenishment area. This means that NOTHING can be removed from the park area unless one wants to spend a long time in a Bahamian prison. Not a pleasant thought on any level!

At the park, we were assigned a mooring and BESO is on the ball right next to us. Once moored, we all went by dinghy to the park office on Warderick Wells Cay. We both registered with the park office, where you pay for your stay up front with either cash, check or credit card.

While ashore, we all toured part of the island where the park office is located. Except for the office complex area, the island is unspoiled and everyone is careful to leave it just as nature made it. We also made the walk up Boo Boo Hill and left an obligatory piece of driftwood, with our boat's name on it, on the stack of so many others who came before us.

With this mission accomplished, it was back to the boat and by 1830 we had kicked back and made ready to watch a little satellite TV and relax for the rest of the evening.