Monthly Archives: March 2007

SAILING ADVENTURES 2007 (part 4)

GOOD BYE CAT ISLAND….it was awesome. THANK YOU for wonderful memories!!!!

One week since we left home and we are underway again.

Seas are 15 kts at 060 degrees east northeast, smooth sailing out of the harbor. Eileen and I moved to the bow with our books for over an hour as we passed the south end of Cat Island. It was wonderful! Eileen said,” This is what sailing is truly like.” The warm breeze was gentle on our faces and the main sail flapped happily near by. I could not concentrate on my book; the view took my breath away; the boat moving up and down with blue, rolling, lapping waves: a rhythm that could have put me to sleep. I thought there were seagulls diving into the water disappearing and when they did not re-surface, I realized they were flying fish. Over 20 of them flew over the port side. The guys had put out a line….we dreamed of the promised Mau Mau.

Soon we passed the end of the island out into open water. The waves began to swell and we had to hold on. Within minutes, a small splash came up over the deck, so we decided to move to the cockpit. Just as I knelt down on the cushion inside the cockpit, a huge wave came up the side of the boat, barely missed soaking me. I sat on deck for as long as I could but it was too much activity again, so I made my way below and fell into my berth. I read and then snoozed, eager to pass the next 4 hours quickly!

I am not sure how much later, but all of a sudden there was a lot of action on deck. I had my instructions to get topside quickly, throw the helm cushion down to the saloon below, and move the rugs out of the way so we would have room to bring the fish aboard without getting everything bloody and ruined. As I made my way topside I heard, “It got away!” Whatever they had hooked was so big it took Ed’s pole and all. John said the line went “zip” for a quick second, then they saw his fishing pole fly past them 30 ft. high and 125 ft. out into the water!!!!!! It was quickest $1000 Ed has ever spent. Both guys were very, very sad. They speculated it was  a 200 lb. yellow fin tuna- that was what they were fishing for in the 6000 ft. water. WOW! I wasn’t sure if I wanted that in the boat with me anyway!

Afterward, we found the weather god had lied again. Our winds were now out of the east 045 degrees at 20 kts. That meant it was “on our nose.” Ed had to start the engine and motor the rest of the day. In addition, the autopilot had quit working so the boat had to be steered. The sails were out full, engine on, but we were not moving ahead fast at all. What was to be a 4-hour trip would now be at least 5-6 hours and the engine running the whole time was like being on a small plane for 5 hours….very annoying!

Even with the rough seas, I maneuvered around much better. I had gotten better with the 15 pumps it took to flush the head while holding on. Eileen and I even made sandwiches for lunch this trip. Things were not flying all around the cabin like last trip! But-OH we were still rocking and rolling! I must have gotten my sea legs finally.

Arriving at Conception Island around four o’clock in West Bay, where we dropped anchor, was a calm, sky blue cove and we were the only boat we could see in any direction. Just a quarter of a mile away stretched a beautiful, long, white sandy beach.

As a nice touch to staying on our own stunning private, secluded island, when we anchored Eileen heard a motor running and realized we were out of fresh water. We had enough for drinking but we would be boiling salt water for dishes and NO BATHING in fresh water……ugh! It would add to the “tropical paradise” of it all and yet another new experience for us!! Survivor and LOST- here we come!

We celebrated sunset with appetizers and relaxed on deck. John was especially tired from helping Ed with the steering. Watching waves, gauges, winds and keeping yourself stationary can be very tiring. I was thankful to be anchored once again. Dinner was pork tenderloin, broccoli, and pasta with garlic…mmmm….

I heard Botany Bay on the VHF radio- Barb Zimmer from Stella Maris, Long Island- and called her. She was incredibly happy to hear from us and surprised to learn where we were. She said everyone was dreadfully worried about us and she would pass the word that we were OK for now!

Thurs.- we woke early to a delightfully warm, tranquil day and we were ready for it. Ed made buckwheat banana pancakes and we were on the beach by 10 am.

Don’t let anyone tell you that sailing is all cocktails and relaxing. Ed had to unhook the dingy from the back of the boat, hold onto to the side of the boat to get forward in it, unhook the dingy motor, swing it around, and place it in the dingy, check on the bilge and other gauges- all before we left for the beach! Sail boaters also have to go ashore in the dingy anytime they need anything, getting everything back in the dingy, bringing provisions back to the boat, get them aboard, and place them into the proper compartments, so they can find them when needed. THEN when something is needed you almost have to stand on your head, holding a cushion, or board with your body somehow, to reach in as far as you can without falling into the compartment!

As John, Eileen and I waited for Ed to finish all his checks we sat topside relaxing. Suddenly, John yelled, “Dolphin.” We watched a dolphin just 15 ft. out from the stern (back of the boat) jump and show off for over 5 minutes. It was fantastic!!

Ed dropped John, Eileen, Muffy (their dog), and I off at the beach while he went fishing. We walked the entire beach, almost a mile one way, looking for shells. The shells were different than we find on Long Island so I picked them up but nothing too astounding UNTIL on my way back…..I was walking in the waves, enjoying the aqua blue waters, blue skies and gentle breeze, my mind clear of any thoughts. I turned for a second towards the shore and just above the tide line, saw a West Indian Murex- perfect!! Eileen was about to dump me into the sea for all my great shells this trip!

Afterward, we snorkeled over a few small reefs. I take pleasure in the smaller, shallower reefs more now, being closer to all below me, seeing every detail, yet, there are not as many huge fish. We did enjoy watching 3 giant parrotfish, a yellowtail damsel, blue chromos, and many smaller ones. The water was clear, tide low, and the sun strong. John and Eileen watched a 5 ft. stingray gently flap his wings beneath them. John mentioned it was overwhelming to be so close to one, able to look into his eyes and various features.

We went back to the boat for a sandwich and Ed cleaned the 3 small fish he caught.  He had a big grouper but before he could get it into the boat, a barracuda came and ate it in half so he threw the head back to him. Eileen said a barracuda chased her out of the water just as Ed came to pick us up, probably the same one checking to see if she had anything to munch!

After lunch, John and I were in the dingy cleaning and I saw something large swimming under us. A 4 ft. nurse shark was enjoying the fish guts Ed had thrown out after cleaning. Eileen noticed a huge triggerfish close. Ed shouted to John to drop the line to try to catch it! The nurse shark instantly grabbed the bait and slowly meandered away with it. They are not aggressive sharks and it barely pulled at the line. John finally got him up, with Ed’s help, took the hook out of his mouth, and set him free. The triggerfish kept swimming around and around the dingy. He was a good-sized one but never even nibbled at the bait! We grew tired of playing with him and were ready to go up the creek for conch.

Conception Island is a protected island and there are no buildings or inhabitants, like a park, 3 miles long and 2 miles wide at the widest point, it is has a triangle shape. The beach we were on that morning we were able to walk across to the north side beach within a minute. Wildlife was abundant and the most unusual was a bird with a long tail that appears to be a seagull at first. Long Tail Tropicbirds flew over the boat showing off their splendid tails.

We were on our way to an area south, a mile from the boat out in deep water, to an inlet, into a creek. It was an incredibly narrow opening over reefs, rocks, and rolling waves….extremely tricky. Deep blue water of the open sea quickly changed to a light green, shallow, sandy bottom creek. There were massive amounts of conched out conch shells strewn all over the beach, old black ones, and many recent pink and orange ones.

John, Eileen, and I snorkeled down smaller creeks and quickly found 11 conchs. The water was murky at first and I freaked out, but as soon as the sun reappeared, I relaxed and enjoyed all the fish and gorgeous green water, which rapidly became shallower as we moved up stream. Small Jacks were everywhere. They are a silver fish and in the clear water, I could not see them right away, then, there they were in my face. It spooked me being so close, but I got used to them and enjoyed swimming with them. I hauled the conch Eileen found back to the boat. This was not an easy task, hands full of 3 conchs, trying to swim against the current in low tide. On the way back up the creek, I found many large clamshells that will be fun for John to paint.

Moving up to an open area, we watched many turtles swim. Neither John nor I realized that turtles swim fast under water, having never been that close to them before. Stopping at a dead end, Ed dropped anchor and Eileen said, “Follow me.”  She is an adventurous woman, having Ed drop her and Muffy off somewhere; she would discover areas like this! We ended up at a beach on the outside of the creek over looking the deep blue water. We had seen this beach from the dingy as we came into the creek and it was amazing to be so far up the creek and come out to the same beach. We could not have gotten to this beach any other way, as there were too many rocks and reefs around it.  It was a beautiful beach with many huge rocky areas, smooth, white sand and had many of the conched out conch shells. We found many tiny olives that we had never seen before. I will place them in one of my clear bottles I collected from the beach on Long Island. While we were walking the beach, Ed had caught nice size snapper.

It was almost 5, tide was getting high enough for us to get out of the cut safely, out into deep water and back to the mother boat. On the way out of the creek, we watched 2-4 ft. stingrays meandering thru the water; we had a grand look at them close up in the shallow water!

The ride back was dreadfully choppy going against the wind. We were out in extremely deep water that appeared black. But we did not get as wet as 2 days before with Passe Port III!!

Ed cleaned the conch and fish, while Eileen and I cut up apples, green peppers, celery, and onions for conch salad. She made coleslaw and got batter ready for Ed to fry the conch and fish. We had worked hard for our dinner and were ready to enjoy!

Having not enough fresh water for showers, we wiped down with dry wash cloths. Another adventure, I had never gone to bed without at least a rinse off with fresh water!

Dinner was scrumptious; ¾ full moon, sparkling on the motionless water…a superb evening.

Friday….We sailed back to Long Island after 10 glorious days. John was at the helm, the autopilot was still not working so Ed said he could steer all day. Winds were “dead down”, behind us, and the sails flapped allot, barely catching the wind, so we motored, but able to do 7 kts. Seas were exceptionally calm and I was able to sit topside all the way to Bains Bluff, even though we were rocking side to side, instead of up and down, which was another new experience for me, a gentle rock that dipped the side of the boat into the water, one side to the other.

The fishing pole was out for the promised Mau Mau but alas, we caught only another barracuda and something that got away. There seemed to be a pattern here, I told Ed!

When the reel would “zip”, everything would fly around the cockpit, cushions being thrown below, engine throttled down, knife out….no fish, but it made for an interesting afternoon!

We sailed past Columbus Point, Cape Santa Maria Beach, Hog Cay and I enjoyed watching the coast of Long Island sail by. In the distance, we at last saw the “pink house.” Our white roof shines quite a ways off. John and I adore seeing our home from that view.

Motionless Fairhaven….here we come!!!!

SAILING ADVENTURES 2007 (part 3)

Less populated than Long Island, Cat Island has approximately 1500 people and is less than 60 miles long and only 3-5 miles wide, with settlements smaller and further apart.  We were all quite content after our very inexpensive lunch- only $8 each- and were excited to see more of this beautiful island.

Our first stop was Fernandez Bay, a private, tropically decorated, quaint inn on a beautiful large cove. All the walkways and buildings were built with the island rock, each guest room had its own private patio looking out to the beach, yet hidden with a smartly designed stick fence painted white that you could not see thru. There were hammocks on the beach hanging in the shade, tiki huts with chairs, kayaks and plenty of water toys to keep kids busy and safe in the shallow cove. The dining area was a large tiki hut with a real thatched roof. It had an honor system bar that was also a tiki hut.

A local Bahamian woman sat plating baskets, explaining to guests how she made them, displaying her work for sale. There were game tables for playing cards and a library with comfy chairs. Offered was free high-speed internet and Passe Port III brought their laptop in hopes of finding a place to connect. They had a program called “skype” that you could make a phone call anywhere in the world for 2.5 cents a minute. All it needed was high-speed. After they checked their mail and called family, I called our daughter in law, Connie. Hers was the only number that I could remember off the top of my head!  The connection was as if I was standing next to her….amazing!!!

Driving north, we saw the “Kaboom car wash” which had a large OPEN sign. It had very dilapidated buildings and nowhere could we see any sign of car wash machinery.  However, there was a large satellite on the roof. Important, I guess!

Arthur Town is the capital and known for their police station, an 8’x8’ building built on the main road.  There was a newer Anglican Church and a few other buildings, but not much else! It is also the birthplace of Sidney Poitier.

The north end of the island stops with a dirt road leading to Orange Creek Inn but we did not venture there because we wanted to see the south end of the island and it was almost 5 pm.

Pigeon Cay Inn was another private, quaint inn on a beautiful cove. Also built with island rocks, it had much of the same design as Fernandez Bay but appeared to be older. The wide, white sandy beach stretched for a few miles and because of the cove, clear, calm green water lapped gently at our feet. A young couple with two small boys owned it for 13 years.

The drive south appeared on the map as though it would take over an hour. The road meandered inland and then out, to the leeward side of the island toward a very deserted area that led to the marina- Hawks Nest. It had an inn, restaurant, and private airstrip. A 100 ft. yacht had been there for over a month. At $2.50 a foot a day, that is quite a bill! It was almost sun set and we were ready for a pleasant, relaxing dinner.

A young woman with a southern accent, asking if we had reservations, greeted us. Looking around, we could see we were the only ones there, so it seemed to be a silly question.  Reservations made by 2 pm; however, they could accommodate; she let us know.

She thought for a moment, probably realizing that there were no other choices for us at that time of the evening on Cat Island. Holding up a finger, as if to say, “Hang on one sec.” She went into the kitchen and returned saying,” I can do hamburgers and fries.”

We walked around the built in pool, out to the tiki huts by the water to catch the sunset. The breeze off the water was chilling so we decided to sit inside to eat. I had visions of a moonlit dinner by the water but the dining room, brightly painted with interesting artwork, surrounded the entire room; we took it all in while waiting for our dinner. The bar area had a 62” wide screen TV that took away the wonderful tropical atmosphere.

Everyone agreed the hamburgers were juicy and done to perfection, hitting the spot. We, once again, were full and content. The guys went to pay the bill and came back with wide eyes. I know that look in John’s eyes….panic of “OH MY GOSH”…. The wonderful hamburgers were $20 each and drinks were $6 and $10……for 6 the total meal was $170…… plus tip……YIKES!!!

On the long, dark drive back to the boats I heard- “Those were some dry burgers” “We had to wait way too long” “My GOSH, lunch was only a total of $48 plus 12 beers, for only $36, with leftovers on our plates”.

Oh, it was an interesting ride!

Getting into the dingy, someone mentioned we left so early that morning we forgot to put on anchor lights nor did we have any flashlights. It was pitch-black out; the cloud covered the half moon. Waves splashed into the dingy. No foul weather jackets or coats and we were getting soaked. I thought it was cool at the restaurant. NOW, I was cold AND wet! It was very scary to know we could be out for a long time looking for boats. You literally could not see much farther than your hand in front of your face. Distortions on the water in darkness cause everything to appear different. .It was a relief to get into our berth that night. We slept like babies!

Tuesday – after getting the car back and a few more provisions, we headed out in the dingy with Passe Port III to the furthest point of the beach we could see. It was about 2 miles up on the beach but across the choppy waters, it seemed a lot further. Winds were 20-25 kts. The sun was starting to peak thru morning clouds. It was a pretty beach with lots of “turkey wing shells”- brown and white with bent ridges. Not too pretty but we do not see them on Long Island so I picked up the big ones. We walked around 2 points and were able to get out of the wind. I found a 6” yellow or gold conch, soft looking, and a clean one. John snorkeled and said it was great so we moved the dingy and snorkeled for a while. There were small coral heads in only 4-5 ft. of water, and with the bright sun, it was very clear. We saw many blue heads, big black and white angelfish, huge yellow tail damsel, and lots of squirrelfish and snapper. In addition, 3 large jolt fish, just wondering around. We were still looking for conch but found none, so Eileen and Joann floated behind the dungy with a rope and kept looking. All they saw were 100’s and 100’s of sand dollars so John jumped back in the water and dove for some. He has gotten a lot of practice on his diving and doing very well. He also brought up a huge red starfish for us to see but we did not keep him!

It was after 3 when we headed to the boats. We were into the winds all the way back and it was choppier than that morning! The spray was coming in the dingy so bad I had to pump since I was the one in the back! Water was dripping down our hair and faces. Our beach towels were soaked and all we could do was laugh! We were so cold when we got back; Ed made Bahamian soup- with beans, ham, veggies and pumpkin…mmmm….

Joann and Danielle came over for sunset and dinner. They brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate new friends and a wonderful time together. It was a sad farewell with many promises to keep in touch. Tomorrow they would be heading northwest to Little San Salvador Island. Eileen says it is an island the cruise ships go to- all touristy!!! YUCK….we were heading out to Conception Island- a protected island with NOONE on it!!!!

SAILING ADVENTURES 2007 (part 2)

Blue skies, gentle rolling waves, and excellent sailing winds, greeted us as we passed Cape Santa Maria Beach. The inn and cottages looked more like dots on the beach however. Just ahead, lay wide-open seas. We would be crossing the “banks” where the sea would plunge to 2000 ft. However, the charts showed over 6000 ft. further out. WOW! I began to feel wild, free, and adventurous. I could imagine how Columbus felt leaving port and disappearing in the horizon.

We sailed past Columbus Point at the very north end of Long Island, Bahamas. John nor I had not ever seen the island from this point of view before and could not be sure where we were since we were a lot further out from land than I had anticipated. I guess I had a notion that we would sail up next to it! Naturally, with all the reefs near that point, that would be impossible, as I remembered snorkeling out into the ocean there numerous times.

The morning forecast was for 7-9 ft. seas with 9 second swells. Winds were to be 060 degrees due east at 20-25 kts. Great for sailing….but as we entered deep water it seemed to exceptionally  rough to me. We bounced a lot, it was tough to sit up, and almost impossible to walk so I stationed myself in the corner of the cockpit and hung on!

The boat would rise on a wave and I could see far out onto the horizon. Then it would dip and all I could see was water around the entire edge of the boat. It appeared the next wave would swallow us. Captain Ed seemed to think this was not bad at all.

Suddenly, Ed says,”OH NO!!”. A squall-what I would call a storm. I could look out starboard (right side of the boat) and take pleasure in blue skies although to the port side (left) were dark blue, intimidating clouds. We thankfully caught the tail of that storm but got allot of the winds from it before it passed.  We rode up and down on the swells and banged down full power into an empty wave. Captain Ed smiling, called out, “No problem,mon!!”. I tried to laugh but began to worry. Was this a good idea? Were we all going to be lost at sea?

We rode out over 10 of these squalls (storms) all day long. There was plenty of wind in each and most had considerable amounts of rain. When the sun was out, I could handle the waves but with each passing storm, I grew more worried. Ed would order Eileen and John to crank in the jib or tighten the main sail and I had no idea what this meant.  He then shouted to close the companionway (the stairs to go below). “Just in case a large wave comes over the boat it will not swamp us or the saloon below,” Eileen explained. She gave us the “man over board lecture” and showed us where the life jackets were. She was not smiling.

Around 1 p.m., I went below to try to relax some; my knuckles were white and tired from hanging on so tight. On deck, I could not relax at all because there was too much activity going on.  As I made my way slowly below, it looked as if there had been a tornado. Pots and pans had fallen out of the oven, the navigation station lost everything onto the floor, drawers were hanging open, one cupboard had unfastened, and papers were all over.

I put a book in front of my face and tried to forget where I was and what was happening around me.  I remember when I was young, reading for four hours one way to visit my grandparents in Pa. Those were the days before highways and it was a two-lane country road all the way and my dad drove 70 miles an hour passing on the hills and curves- or so it seemed to me at the time. I would be so frightened that reading a book was all I could do. In addition, there were four of us in the back seat. Not permitted was talking or fighting. Something my sister, and two brothers and I did allot! Reading became my safe haven!

By 2 p.m., I finally made my way to the “head”- bathroom. It was a struggle to walk, hanging on along the way for dear life and then to sit. Ok- I will not even go into how impossible it was to pull up my pants……I know, I know….TMI… =+)

I was so nervous I fell into my berth and tried to sleep to pass the time.  Yet, the thunderous creaking of the boat hitting the waves over the bow, washing over my porthole and hatch, and the pulling of the sails in or being let out, kept my imagination going with all the movies I had seen about being lost at sea.

All of a sudden there was a loud cry of “OH NO” again…..there was a large ship in the distance but with the waves and swells Ed had a hard time making out which way it was headed or to be able to tell if it was coming towards us. The radar was almost useless because of the deep swells, rain, and winds. He was relying on his vision, but in the poring rain and cloudy horizons; it was close to impossible to make out what was what. After half an hour and much discussion, Ed decided that it was a large barge with a tugboat and we would miss it.

THANK YOU LORD!!

Later John explained that it was a dreadfully large ship maybe four miles away. Ships that large do not turn on a dime!

I was just beginning to fall asleep when I heard “OH NO”….again….it was a BIG cruise ship on our port side only two miles away. There was much discussion about this and I guess it looked awfully over powering. The consensus was that he changed his course and went around us because we did not come near one another.

By 4 o’clock, we were on the edge of Cat Island…YEAH! At last, I got the nerve to go topside although we were still rocking, rolling, and bouncing dreadfully. I looked out and couldn’t believe what I saw……after 5 1/2 hours of rough seas I barely made out land ahead  nor any trees in the distance. I had envisioned seeing a beautiful QUIET harbor!!

Nevertheless, now the lay of Cat Island harbor was more north and  the winds were out of the north so we were “on the nose”-winds coming right at us and even though we were sailing at 5 kts we were only gaining 2-3 kts with the current and winds. It would be yet another 3 hours to go 10 miles into our safe haven……YIKES!!

For my sanity, I returned to my berth once again. Most people cannot be below nor read while traveling like this because they get very seasick but it was my only means of keeping my mind off what I had no control over and thankfully I had not felt the least bit sick.

The waves were still crashing over the front of the bow, banging up and down tremendously, yet I feel asleep. What seemed like seconds later, I awoke to allot of activity topside. Ed had started the engine. Both guys had on safety harnesses and the helm cushion was thrown below. I could not even begin to imagine what was happening and thought for sure we were going down. I had a knot in the pit of my stomach the size of a football. I was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, terrified.

The guys had put a line out again to try to catch a fish and they were just being prepared with all the bad winds. It would not be easy to reel a fish in with the rocking, rolling and bouncing but THEY WANTED A FISH!!! I was somewhat relieved but mad too that they had created all that fuss!

Oh- by the way- NO fish!!!!!!…….

We finally reached NEW BIGHT, Cat Island around 7 pm. As we watched the sun set, we dropped anchor. We were still bouncing and rocking but we were safe and I could see land- FINALLY!!!!!!! It was allot like Thompson Bay, Long Island, a wide curve of a harbor with land on 3 sides but at least 10x’s bigger. They said it was ten miles from point to point by way of the crow but at least 30 miles if you walked it.

I began to look around and reflect on my day, to figure out how to relate what I had experienced. All I can say it was like being on an airplane for 9 hours in very bad turbulence and the “no seat belt” light stays on the whole time (but there are no seat belts!).  And, just when you can’t hold it any longer, you go the bathroom and that is when the pilot announces that if you have left your seats get back in them NOW!  ALL day long I wanted to yell “ STOP, pull over and let me off”…

Eileen made a great dinner of steak, broccoli, sweet potatoes and lots of WINE flowed…the first food any of us had had since our quick bowl of granola at 8 am- 12 hours before!! We all slept til after 7 am the next morning.

Sunday- moving very slowly, we enjoyed coffee on the deck, reading til almost 10. Eileen made a tasty omelet of onion, tomato, sweet potato, and cheese….mmmmmm……

We met up with Passe Port III on the beach by 11:30 to start our climb up the road and a steep hill to Mount Alveria, Fr. Jerome’s Hermitage which he built at age 62 and lived in until he died in 1950 at age 80+ yrs. It is the highest summit in all of the Bahamas- 260 ft. Stone steps led past the Stations of the Cross to the chapel that had a small stone alter and one kneeler, (no padding) barely large enough for one person. There was a bell tower, his personal quarters of only a small wooden bed, a cookhouse, a well, and his grave. It had an outdoor shower and two fireplaces-to keep warm not for cooking- and the windows were situated perfectly to catch the cross breeze. I cannot imagine how he carried all the rocks up that huge hill and made the cement in those days. It all mesmerized John-my builder. A path to the northwest thru the bush, led to a cave where he lived while building the hermitage. It was large enough for John to stand up in and it had two large rooms with an alter…bats and all!!

The view from the hermitage was breathtaking, overlooking both sides of the island, out onto the blue waters and rolling waves. Its peacefulness restored me.

We made our way back to the beach and had a wonderful lunch of brie cheese, fruit, veggies, and wine. The warm, azure blue water, lapping waves, and sunny skies relaxed us as we laughed about our sail the day before. The guys mentioned something about 12 ft. waves but that was all I wanted to know.

During lunch, a white truck pulled up beside our roadside picnic. An older Bahamian man got out and approached us introducing himself as the Rev Carrol Johnson. He welcomed us to Cat Island, explaining he was a local preacher at the Baptist church and a teacher.He was selling vegetables out of the back of his pick up, asking if we would be interested in some. Quite the entrepreneur, we thought! We said of course and he said he would return around 5. It was already 3 so we decided to walk the beach and meet him later.

The beach was on the leeward side of the island so shells were not too plentiful. We enjoyed a wonderfully shallow beach as we strolled along looking at the cassarina trees and palms. They were at least 40 ft. high and gave a wonderful tropical effect to the beach along with the little multi-colored shacks.

Suddenly, we noticed a commotion further down the beach. A couple of Bahamians on a small fishing boat had come ashore. They had been fishing in the deep-water just out from our sailboats.  As we approached them, we found they had speared a 8 ft. tiger shark!!!!!! The shark had come into the harbor and they speared him from their boat. He quickly took off but returned, slamming into their boat so they speared him again and again, finally pulling him into their boat with the spears. I cannot imagine how they got him into the boat and he did not bite them or tear them to pieces! HE WAS HUGE- 2 pallets long. The children took turns sitting on the shark, getting their pictures taken. I touched his skin- it was razor sharp like very sharp sandpaper.

The men were extremely proud of their catch and showed us the shark’s teeth. Although he was bleeding a lot, he would once in awhile jerk and move, scaring everyone!

We walked as far up the beach as we could, enjoying the sun, water and time together. The Rev. Johnson came around 5 as promised and we bought our fill for the week.

We got back to the boat and Eileen fixed lamb chops on the grill, cauliflower, rice, and plenty of wine for all! We were all ready for bed and had a great- NON rocking night of sleep!!

Monday- we had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and applesauce and headed out with Passe Port III to rent a car for the day and see ALL of Cat Island together. We dingied into shore and anchored at the primary school, walking over a mile to the convenience store that also rented cars.

I can now understand why sail boaters walk the islands……not only do they sit a lot while sailing but as we walked along the little road I began to notice many flowers, old ruins, goats, cats and dogs and local people that I would have drove right by in a car, not being aware of them.

We had a 6 passenger diesel Mitabushi Jeep for the day. FUN! We headed north. The road was narrower than on Long Island. Many more curves. Most of the road is right on the beach- a lot like Deals Beach area.

We were looking for a road to go to the north side- the shelling beach- we hoped. We had to stop a few times to ask and most Bahamians looked at us with curiosity, “why are those crazy tourists going there?” we would soon find out they were right! We drove for over 15 minutes, down a narrow, bushy, bumpy road that led to a beautiful beach. We were very excited….Eileen, Joann, John and I could smell SHELLS!!!! We walked on a very windy beach with little or no trash and NO shells. HOWEVER, John and I found over 100 buoys. I only took a lime green one ( YES- Cathie and Gary, I got my lime green one finally!), because I doubt Ed would have let me take them all onto the boat!

I saw 2 small dead trunk fish and John found 2 interesting bottles. We walked for over 2 hours and by the time we regrouped we realized we were hungry….it was almost 2!! On Long Island, if you do not get to a lunch spot by 1, you usually do not get much in the way of good food and we sort of knew it would be the same here. But we found a cute place on another beach- Paradise Club- a purple painted building and she said she had some rice and peas and fish left….and cold beer for all!!!! We were ready!!! The service was pretty quick considering how starved we were!!!

During lunch we plotted out the rest of our day…… another wonderful adventure lay ahead us…..but this time on land so I was more at ease!!!!

STAY TUNED……..

SAILING ADVENTURES 2007 (part 1)

Wed. March 21, 2007…arrived on Tropical Impulse with Ed and Eileen around 11:30 am. Winds were E 25 kts and seas had a chop but for sailing, they said it was perfect. We sailed out of our bay to the north end of Long Island to Hog Cay, traveling at about 6-7 kts. Hog Cay is a private island owned by a Bahamian lawyer, Peter Graham, who did our legal work on our land 10+ yrs ago. It has a private airstrip his big house and down the beach and around the corner are 3 guests homes. One is a 2 story and the others are hidden in the bush back off the beach. The cay is a couple of miles long but narrow, with a white sandy beach, protected by reefs on three sides.

Finding the anchorage inside the reef area was tricky because it was going to low tide and there were two sand bars to watch for. The winds were still strong and we headed into them trying to anchor. Ed had Passe Port III go in ahead of us because they draw less of water than us. Joann and Danielle, (pronounced like the girls name), are from Montreal on a 40 ft. ketch. It is their first year cruising but Eileen says,” They have done their homework,” meaning they know what they are doing but they are still learning they say.

When we set sail, Ed put out a line to catch a barracuda for bait to use later on in the trip. And catch a barracuda we did!! Eileen had just served us sandwiches for lunch and “zip” went the line. John jumped up and struggled with the line to reel him in. Barracuda give quite a fight. The reward was a 3 ft., 20 lb silver mean looking fish! Ed threw him into the dingy, which was behind us.

As soon as the anchor was set Ed filleted the barracuda, we all put on our swimsuits, jumped into the dingy and headed for the beautiful beach in front of us. Joann and Danielle joined us. We girls walked the beach looking for shells then we snorkeled and found lots and lots of sand dollars. The tide was just coming in but the water was only 2 ft. deep so we did not have to dive at all. The little cay protected us while we swam. The breeze was still strong but we were warmed by the sun enough to finally go in. The guys headed for the rocks to catch dinner.

My first boat shower was a rock and roll experience, trying to use as little water as possible while holding on to the sink and then wiping everything up after wards because you are in the bathroom spraying everywhere. Joann and Danielle came for dinner, which was created by captain Ed, canned clams, chopped with garlic, lime, olive oil, over al dente penne pasta…and you got it….the guys came back empty from fishing!!

A few rain showers came and after dinner as we were saying good night to Joann and Danielle, we watched lightening off to the northeast of us.  John and I fell into our berths and was rocked to sleep and slept all night long. The next morning Ed heard on the weather that a very bad storm had passed just 3 miles north if us off the tip of Long Island and extended all the way to Georgetown, Exuma. It was a wide band with 60 kt winds!! It was very bad but we had nothing! The winds blew hard all night but finally died around 6 am. The rolling of the boat has subsided a lot. We sat topside drinking our coffer, enjoying the sunrise!

THURSDAY- Out from the boat on the rocks, whistling ducks begin to call to one another. The birds nest here and the caretaker of the cay feeds them. It is a protected area for them. They are a small gray and white duck like bird with an orange and red bill and a high-pitched squawk that sounds like they are whistling. We watched about 30 of them flap around the rocks.

We had a leisurely breakfast of over easy eggs, home fries, papaya, and juice prepared by Captain Ed. The winds were only 15 kts out of the east, the sun was bright with clear blue skies so we picked up Passe Port III in the dingy with our snorkeling gear and headed for the reefs. Inside the cut of Joe’s Sound there are walls and small reefs for great snorkeling. Joann and Eileen are great divers and we were all hungry for crawfish and conch! We saw 3 12” Nassau Grouper, nice size mutton, and yellow tail snapper but the girls did not want to mess with fish. They are too fast for them. There were yellow and black angelfish the size of my two hands together and 12” yellow tail damsel fish that was purple and yellow…BEAUTIFUL! I also saw the prettiest neon little purple, yellow, and blue fish. I have never seen that one before. There all sizes of sergeant majors- yellow and silver with black stripes. Baby ones too!

Eileen chased a 2 ft. or bigger trunkfish into a hole so I did not get a good look at it. They have an odd shape- sort of triangle but more rectangle with a wide snout. It was gray with swirly black markings.

We pulled up anchor and went around the reef to the outside of the cut. Tide was going out but the current was not too strong. These were huge reefs up against the rocks. We could float just above the coral without getting thrown into them. I soon began to relax and enjoy the purple peacock like coral- some 5 ft. tall- below me. There were also a few huge orange brain coral, fan coral and yellow corals. I stayed quiet long enough that the fish began to come out from the rocks. I was rewarded with small schools of HUGE Blue Tang, some snapper, Margate, and another HUGE angel fish bigger than my 2 hands that stared me in the eye and he had a blue upper lip!! His skin had bubble like black and white pattern. Then GIANT parrotfish appeared. I was only arms length away and one floated just below me while I took in all his colors- blue, green, yellow, red, and purple. There were Stop Light Parrotfish too- black, red and white- 18” long. I discovered a Flamingo Tongue, which is a small shell we find on the beach. However, this one was alive and attached to a fan coral. It was pinkish orange spotted and white with a lip or edge around the middle.

Interesting to see and I pointed it out to Eileen. There were also plenty of the usual damsel, blue heads, squirrelfish-reddish with big black eyes and purple and yellow fish.

We then dinged around to the “wall.”  It is at the south edge of the Cape Santa Maria beach, a deep wall of rocks that display fabulous colors of coral growing on the wall that instead of being below you, you are face to face to. Therefore, I got a close look at many. Eileen discovered another huge trunkfish in a crevice and pointed it out to me. She and Joann were diligently looking for conch and lobster but alas, none were seen. Ed then took them out further to a deeper reef and pulled them with the dingy but it was all grass.

We came back for a quick tuna sandwich and before anyone could get comfortable, we headed for the beach. The girls walked while the guys went fishing again.  We walked the “flats”,- the sandbars created inside the cut by the low tide. We could almost walk forever they were big! I found a 6” tulip shell and a 12” horse conch. It had a dead crab in it and there were footprints all around the shell. Someone did not want to be bothered with that stinky thing! BUT I DID!!  Eileen said I won the prize for the beach finds that day!! She was jealous.

BUT Ed got dinner- YEAH!! The guys said the rest got away- they were too big- right!! It was a 16” jolt head porgy- a silvery, iridescent fish. Ed created steamed porgy with butter, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and white wine over rice with broccoli….mmmmmm…..

The winds died a bit so our sleep was a gentler rock and we slept with the hatch open above our berth. As I woke during the night I could look up and watch the stars and saw 3 shooting ones!! The winds began to pick up during the night and we had distant lightening but it never developed into anything by us. Once again, we found out in the morning there were squalls at the Cape area just north of us. We were just 2 miles south of all these storms and blessed to only watch from them!! Most of the morning we spent waiting for the squalls to pass all around us. Ed got itchy to get out and fish, so we took a chance that the storms would stay to the north. We loaded our stuff once again into the dingy and just as we reached the beach the heavens opened up on us and it poured!! Ed said we had tarps to put over us but we nixed that idea and he took us back to the boat. We watched the rest of the morning as he fished out at a reef – in the rain!! He is a true angler!

Friday- I woke at 5 to the wonderful smell of coffee. Ed was up listening to the news on a headset so I got up and enjoyed my coffee in the cockpit gazing at the stars. The Milky Way was so vivid. I checked it all out with their binoculars-they were very good ones- they got for a steal at $500!!

Their 50 ft. sailboat was built to be a charter boat with separate quarters in the bow for the crew. They have converted that into a workshop and storage for Ed. There are 3 staterooms, each with a private bathroom. The main saloon (pronounced salon) Living room – with a table/couch area 8×16 and a navigation station with 2 captains chairs that is the TV area also. The galley is U shaped 6X4. Teak wood is throughout- EXQUSITE!!

OH- Ed says it has a 13 ft. keel…..being the landlubber I am I do not know too much of what that means nor a lot about boats. The sounds during the night are scary and loud. Wind blows all the riggings to give the impression of a storm. Squeaks, slaps of the water, door latches catching with each roll and anything not stabilized clanks or bangs….errie…..

It was a cool, rainy day so for lunch we had Bahamian soup- a mix of beans, ham, pumpkin, cabbage, onion and carrots….mmmmm.

It finally cleared up around 3 so we headed for the beach…again…doesn’t this get old? John, Eileen and I took a very long walk to the flats. John found a huge horse conch like the one I found the day before but twice as big. It was occupied so we left him- after much discussion!

We got back to the boat late- almost 6 – tool showers and the wind had really picked up. We were having dinner on Passe Port III and I was worried how I was going to get onto the boat. It is not an easy task to get in and out of the dingy in the waves and winds! Nevertheless, I made it and it was an lovely boat- a 2004 elegant ship even though it was only 40 ft. The bow was all main stateroom with a round queen bed and private bath with a separate shower enclosure. The saloon area seated 6 comfortably at the dining table with a huge couch across the table and a nav station. The galley was long and U shaped with a bottom stand up fridge. Most sailboats have a counter fridge that you have to almost stand on your head to get things out of!. Joann’s opened like a real fridge and Eileen OHH’D and AHH’D a lot. The guest quarters were big with a separate bath.

Joann had set a lovely table with candles and all. Even though we were rocking and rolling in all the waves, they stayed put! Dinner was salad with tomato, artichokes, roasted red pepper, baby corn and feta cheese. Dinner was couscous, broccoli and roast pork and lots of very good French wine all around! She presented Brie cheese, and fruit for desert. SO FRENCH!!

Sat. morning- we got up and listened to Chris Parker- the sailboat weather GOD. This was the day. If we did not cross over today we would not make it for many days!! John and I had visions of Cat Island and very much wanted to be there! So we began preparations – everything below had to be “stowed”- put away. The dingy had to have the motor removed and clamped to the bow and then strapped to the back of the boat behind the helm. It took over an hour to do this and it is no easy task but Ed says it is not a big deal. The sail covers  were removed. We finally pulled up anchor at 10:30- right on schedule by the captain’s orders. We got out of the anchorage and pointed towards the winds to raise the sails. The winds seemed fierce at this point but it was mostly the noise of the sails flapping till they caught enough wind to fill up. Passe Port III was not far behind us. We were finally off….for the wild blue yonder….