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….

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