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March 26, 2003

I return to the US and Sue boatsits

March 5th to 24th
Sue was the boat babysitter during my trip back to the US for the Fresh Creek annual stockholders meeting and board of directors meeting. The boat was in the Exuma Docking Services marina that is by far the worst marina we have run into on our entire trip! The docks are in terrible shape to the point of being very dangerous, the shore power doesn’t work at many of the slips and the staff is not very friendly and helpful. Other than these few complaints, I recommend it highly!!!! The owners obviously don’t care and since they are the only game in town, can get away with it. In spite of all that, Sue made out OK during her 5 days alone. She took a tour of the island run by native Christine Rolle and she enjoyed it very much. Sue also did a great job of cleaning up the boat and catching up on the laundry. My trip went on schedule both ways and I got everything done I wanted to do which is unusual for a short trip like this one. Had nice visits with stepmother Ruth, Sue’s son Ethan and his fiancee Caroline.
I hand carried a replacement high capacity alternator for the engine with me and the Bahamian customs people were very nice and let me carry it in without any duty as “replacement parts” even though I did not have a copy of my cruising permit with me. This is a very friendly and helpful country and I don’t hesitate to recommend coming here to visit or on vacation. We filled our water tanks with marina (town) water (yuk!), topped up the diesel and gas and moved out to anchor off of Volleyball Beach with the fleet of cruising boats.
Since then we have been to two concerts by Eileen Quinn who plays guitar and sings her own songs about the cruising life. Most are very clever and funny and a few are more serious. All are right on the mark and are based on the funny and not so funny aspects of living on a boat and cruising. You can visit her web site and hear parts of her music at www.eileenquinn.com. She has published three CD’s that can also be purchased on the site and has another on the way this summer. Well worth visiting her site and listening. I plan to have Chris add a sample of her music to our site and to list it on the references section. We have also done some routine maintenance - another coat of Cetol on the teak, a new coat of white on the hard windshield frame, and polishing the green cabin sides. Omega now looks much better. We continue to meet other cruisers and recently met Kitty and Scott Kuhner who have circumnavigated TWICE - the first time on a 30-foot boat with their two young boys! They are now on Tamure a 40 foot Valiant cutter. They are obviously very competent and self-reliant people and very helpful and friendly.
Scott is a Ham and loaded a Ham test CD onto my computer for me so I could study for the test that was administered here in Georgetown on March 14th. I studied for one day and took both the entry-level Technician test and the General and passed both! I now have to take the 5 words per minute Morse code test sometime during the next year to get the full General Class license. One of the hams administering the tests had a CD with practice code on it so I am all set and now need to “find the time” to practice. My dad would be proud of me since he got his ham license as a teenager way back in the early 1920’s and for many years held First Class Radio Teletype and Radiotelephone licenses and routinely sent and copied Morse code at more than 35 words per minute! His death last December still hurts and I miss him.
Like all older boats, Omega continues to have maintenance problems. The latest is the engine heat exchanger (a very critical and expensive part) that has started to leak from corrosion. I ordered a new one and it is “on the way” via FedEx but that still takes 3 to 5 business days. The fresh water pressure tank has also started to corrode through and leak so a new one was ordered today from West Marine - also by FedEx. The new Balmor high capacity alternator is installed and does a great job charging the batteries but needs an external 3 step regulator that I did not buy with it so it is also on order from West Marine along with the needed wiring harness and adjustment bracket. So it goes in the never-ending process of boat maintenance and upkeep.
We want to go to Conception Island (east of here about 30 miles) before my sister Milbrey and her husband Walt arrive on the 27th for a four-day visit. The weather has been unsettled with a series of fronts each bringing rain and high winds. After one, there was a beautiful big double rainbow touching the water at both ends. One particularly violent one in the night that caused us to drag our anchor and we had to start the engine and jog in place until it passed. We want to go to Conception Island (30 miles east of here) but the anchorages on Conception are not good in wind from the west and northwest so we are watching the weather forecasts closely and hoping for a window of good weather for this trip once the boat parts arrive and are installed. In the mean time, I installed the new heat exchanger and water pressure tank. We also had time to find some snorkeling spots around Georgetown and just relax. This afternoon there is a St. Patrick’s Day sing along at Volleyball Beach this afternoon and Omega now looks very Irish with her Irish green trim, sail cover, Bimini top etc. I guess the former owner had some Irish blood given the color scheme he selected.
We left for Conception Island on March 20th with a perfect Southwest wind and 6 hours and 33 miles later were anchored on the northwest side of the Island along with a handful of other boats.
We spent Friday and Saturday there and each day more boats arrived so that by Saturday night there were 34 boats. There are exceptionally beautiful beaches there and lots of great snorkeling spots within an easy dinghy ride. At one spot we saw a big lobster but I didn’t attempt to catch it. By Sunday, the wind was forecasted to swing around to the west and then north on Monday so we joined the exodus Sunday and returned to Georgetown with favorable winds.
My computer stopped working a few days ago (actually ran but wouldn’t go past them security unlocking step on start up) but this morning another boater Sandy on “The Heart of Texas” was very helpful and I’m now back in business. We will spend the next two days provisioning and doing boat chores to be ready for the visit from my sister Milbrey and her husband Walt on Thursday. I’m starting to think about the route for the return trip to the US and a visit from friend Robert Boone the end of April. We are at the point in the season where boats are either heading south to get below the hurricane belt or north so every day there are a few less boats here.

Posted by Dick at 03:53 PM

March 18, 2003

We're still in Georgetown

Another short but very oerdue entry. I went back to the US for the Fresh Creek annual stockholders and Board of Directors meetings and came back to G'town 3/9. Sue did a great job of "boatsitting" and had no problems in my absence. We wre still here doing chores and just relaxing waiting for the right weather so we can go to Conception Island - about 30 miles east of here. I also had to replace the engine heat exchanger. It came FedEx today and is now installed and working OK. Will do a more complete log with new potos soon.

Posted by Dick at 03:21 PM

March 06, 2003

A Long Overdue Entry!

February 9th to 18th, 2003
I have once again been negligent in my duties and have not made any entries in the log for a few days. We are SO busy being retired that it’s hard to find the time!!! We stayed at the Nassau Harbor Club marina until Wednesday the 12th getting the refrigerator/freezer checked out and working and the bent propeller straightened. Both were done successfully in exchange for a few worthless US dollars! On the 12th we topped up with fuel, water and ice and headed out to Allan’s Cay at the top end of the Exumas. We were able to sail all the way on a beautiful picture postcard Bahamian day and were anchored behind Allan’s Cay by mid afternoon along with 12-15 other boats. The main feature of Allan’s Cay is the Iguanas (large lizards of prehistoric origin not found anywhere else on earth) that populate the Cay. They have been well trained by visiting boaters and come down to the beach for food handouts whenever people come ashore. We took some cut up cabbage for them. I have photos for the web site. As usual, we ran into other boaters we have met along the way and were invited by Christine and Peter Keen to White Winds for “cocktails” and a nice conversation. We hung around the next day to explore the area by dinghy and goof off. Our next port of call was Highbourne Cay where we anchored off the western side of the Cay just off of a beautiful sand beach. We got out our snorkel gear for the first time and explored the shallow reef offshore. It was our first look (on this trip) of tropical reef fish and coral. The water is crystal clear but there was a strong current running so we were careful and stay close to the dinghy. We also went ashore to walk the beach. On Valentine’s Day we went into the Highbourne Cay marina and got water (38 gallons at $.50 per gallon) diesel ($2.30 per gallon) and ice ($5 a small bag) and left a bag of trash ($5 to dispose of a bag!). We decided to be bold and went out the cut to the east and into the Exuma Sound for the next leg of the trip. Only a few miles but it was blowing 20-25 kn with choppy seas so it was a boisterous 2 hour sail (close hauled) to the cut into Norman’s Cay. Like many entrances to a harbor, it looks (and is) narrow and hard to find from offshore but once in it was fine. The tide and wind were with us so we didn’t run into what is called a “rage” – very nasty wave conditions caused by tide and wind being from opposite directions. Back in the 70’s the Colombian drug dealer Carlos Leder had his operation on Norman’s Cay. He was eventually put out of business and there is one of his airplanes in shallow water by the Cay where it crashed after missing the runway and the run down remains of his buildings ashore. Norman’s is now a quiet place and friendly to visiting cruisers. We went ashore to walk the beach and look at the remains, climb up to the working cistern where you can get fresh water free if you want to haul it down. Today we will move south into the Exumas Land and Sea Park – a wildlife conservation area centered on Warderick Wells Cay. It is suppose to be one of the nicest areas of the Exumas. Sue and I are both getting nice tans but we really have to be careful. An hour in the sun at midday could give you a bad burn without SP15 or higher sun block. Life is really rough you say?
February 16th to 18th
We understand that the Northeast US has really gotten a huge snowfall and high winds. Here in the Exumas it was another day in paradise with sunshine, trade winds and beautiful turquoise water. Eat your hearts out! We are now at Wardrick Wells, the headquarters of the Exumas Land and Sea Park. We have become members ($50) for which you get 2 free days on a mooring at the park. There are no open moorings now but we are on the waiting list and have priority because we are now members. We have also ordered fresh baked cinnamon buns for pick up tomorrow morning at the Park HQ. The Park has just started offering Internet access for $5 for ˝ hour so I will try to get on line tomorrow AM to pick up email, update the log and upload some photos if possible. There are a number of other boaters here that we have met along the way and it is always good to see newfound friends again as part of the cruising experience. On Monday night we had three large yellow tail jacks under the boat (yum!) but you can’t fish anywhere in the park so we just watched them eat food scraps we tossed in the water! There are so many great places to visit just here in the Exumas that I get down thinking that we don’t have time to see them all on our way to Georgetown for my flight back to NJ on March 5th. I know it is a terrible problem to have and you are all crying! This AM we were assigned mooring #12 which is just up from the Park HQ and we are doing wash in the plastic manual washing machine! It is calm with high humidity so we wont be doing a lot of running around today. I have been wishing for a day with little wind but now that it is here, I’m not sure it is such a good thing. The nice trade winds help keep us cool!
If you have tried to call and left voice mail, forget it! I can place calls and receive them when my cell phone picks up a signal but I cannot retrieve voice mail so you will just have to keep trying until we answer.

February 19th to 21st, 2003
The southeast wind has returned and it is very pleasant again. We picked up our fresh baked cinnamon rolls this AM at the Park HQ (a nice treat!) and tried to access the Internet to retrieve email and update the web site. I was able to connect to AOL Anywhere but couldn’t open the emails I have received. I was able to access my Fidelity account and PowerOptions.com OK so it is a strange problem. We took a walk to Boobie Hill to see all the signs left by boaters over the years. It is fun and amusing. We also did some snorkeling and talked to other boaters in the mooring area. We were invited to Ranger Rays house for dinner and had an interesting evening and learned more about the Park and the Trust that supports it. Thursday checked out of the Park and motored to O’Brien Cay and the undersea aquarium. This is a beautiful snorkeling area full of fish and beautiful coral and is easy swimming. We were the only boat at this site and spent a quiet night anchored. Friday the 21st we motored to Compass Cay marina and took a slip for the night to charge batteries and top up water tanks. This is a small friendly marina with many repeat customers some of whom come back every year and stay for weeks or months at a time. They have an informal cocktail hour every day starting about 4:30 and it is a great place to meet and swap cruising stories and get advice. Today we check out and are planning to back and snorkel the “Rocky Dundas” grottos and go ashore to a beach and an area called the “bubble bath” when the tide flows into this pool formed by the rocks.

February 22 to 25th
The “bubble bath” was a great photo op and we have photos for the web page. Another very scenic place and we had it all to ourselves on a beautiful day. It is like a large natural salt-water swimming pool with a wave machine built in! After lunch we moved Omega to a safer anchorage at Fowl Cay with two other sailboats. We took the dinghy to Rocky Dundas about a quarter mile away. It is an underwater cave or grotto formed by the erosion of the stone by the waves. There were schools of a variety of small tropical fish – all expecting to be fed. They are not afraid of humans and come right up to your facemask. The entrance to the grotto has a small space above the water so you don’t have to dive underwater to enter. Once inside you are in a large domed “room” with stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and several holes in the top that lets in light. It is a striking and beautiful place. I would guess that there are a lot of these caves around the Bahamas and many that have yet to be discovered. On Sunday we pulled the anchor and headed out into the Exumas Sound south to Staniel Cay. It was a great day for sailing with a nice 12-14 kn breeze from the SW so we were close hauled all the way doing about 6 kn over the ground. We got to Staniel by late morning and took a mooring at Club Thunderball that is just a few hundred feet from the entrance to the James Bond Thunderball movie grotto. We took leftover popcorn in a baggie to feed the fish. This time we had company with 5m other people at the site with us. The current through the grotto was fairly strong and by the time we left it was about all we could do to swim out against the current. There were a lot of fish waiting to be fed and the popcorn disappeared as fast as we took it out of the baggie! I now want to see the movie again and see how it showed up on the silver screen compared with real life. We went ashore for the Happy Hour at Club Thunderball and enjoyed the free conch fritters with the cocktails. We also stayed for dinner with Dick having local grouper and Sue having a chicken sandwich. The food was good and the prices were reasonable. This was our first time eating out since we left Florida and it was a nice change from shipboard fare. Today we went to shore in the dinghy to try to access the Internet at the local BATELCO office – no joy but did have success at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. They charge $.50 per minute for high-speed access using their computer. I updated the web site photos but not the ship’s log. We also went to the local store to fill a propane tank (about double the US cost) and buy bread, limes, and some cookies (English Digestives) for Sue. As with all the islands, everything moves slowly but we are not in a hurry it is OK. The Bahamians have all been friendly and helpful wherever we have been. On Tuesday we went around to the back (west) side of Big Majors Cay and anchored along with about 15-20 other boats in calm water with a lot less current. We went ashore to a nice sandy beach that has part of the wreck of an old Bahamian sailing sloop. As we were walking along the beach what should appear but a large wild pig (female) with a smaller presumably baby! The came trotting towards us and we retreated quickly to our dinghy with the two pigs grunting and following (chasing?) us! They followed us out into the water looking for food hand outs or to warn us off their turf. The presence of these pigs is apparently well known to all the old hands who have been here before and we provided the afternoon entertainment. Naturally we had to go back to the boat and get the camera to take pig pictures for the web page.

February 26th to March 4th
The 26th turned out to be one of those rare Bahamian days with literally no wind so we were motoring over a clear glass surface and could see every detail on the bottom 20 to 30 feet down. We left Big Majors and went to Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay. According to our cruising guides, this is an excellent example of an “out island” non-touristy settlement. It boasts the regional school, three grocery stores, two restaurants, a bar and the ubiquitous BATELCO telephone tower. We went ashore and ordered fresh baked bread from Lorrane’s mother (excellent!) and I bought fresh caught fish – a Triggerfish and a Spotted Grouper – both for $7. We also treated ourselves to ice cream. While we were there the ‘mail boat” came to town on its routine call. It is a small (about 100 feet long) coastal freighter named “MV Captain C” from Nassau. It delivers and picks up mail and carries just about everything else the locals need – food, furniture, lumber and other building supplies. Apparently people place orders with the ship that are filled in Nassau and come in cardboard boxes with their names on them to be paid for at the dock and the next order placed. It is quite an interesting operation to see the crowd on the dock by the ship picking up their orders. It is something of a social occasion that happens about every five days or so. We also saw the Captain C at our next stop Lee Stocking doing the same thing. We saw one car at Black Point – a new top of the line Toyota Camrey with deep tinted windows, fancy wheels, and “gold” plated trim. The owner (a large Bahamian) was sitting in it at the dock with the engine running, the windows rolled up, stereo on to the (only) local AM station, and the air conditioning on full blast. Mind you, this island has one road that is about six blocks long and no gas station so all gas has to be brought in by boat and is very expensive. Obviously a status symbol! We also saw a lot of people weaving palm fronds into continuous rolls about 4 inches wide. They sell these in Nassau to the straw marked vendors who make them into baskets, etc to sell to the cruise boat tourists, etc. The standard of living is obviously low but the actual needs of people are also low unless they want all the material things they see on TV. As always they were all friendly and pleasant. Lorraine’s Cafe offered Internet access including her computer for $6 per hour (a real bargain) so I was able to get and send email, access my investment accounts, and add some new photos to the web page. The overall impression of Black Point is a settlement that has some economic vitality and is thriving reasonably well. Our next stop was at Farmer’s Cay that is similar but obviously not doing as well. A cute little (maybe 10 feet by 15 feet) bright green building called Corinne’s is one of the two local grocery stores. I have a photo of Sue and Corinne in front of the store for the web site. Corinne told me how to make Bahamian rice and peas using locally grown and canned “Pigeon” peas. She had 10 children (8 living) and all seemed to be successful career people in a variety of white collar jobs – most in other parts of the Bahamas. From Farmers Cay we went to Lee Stocking Island and stayed two nights. On the way, I trolled and actually caught three fish – all Barracudas about 21/2 to 3 feet long. They put up some fight and it was fun. They really seem to like the silver spoon lure with yellow feathers I was using. A grim reminder not to wear flashy jewelry when snorkeling! All were very carefully released back to the water since I have no desire to eat Barracuda. Lee Stocking is nothing special but it was a good place to get caught up before the final push to Georgetown. The trip to Georgetown was 21 miles in the Exuma Sound with a 15 kn wind on the nose – a bit bumpy but otherwise uneventful. We entered the harbor just after lunch. There are reportedly 500 boats anchored here and it looks like it. They have just finished a race week with the local Bahamian skiffs competing so it is a big social occasion with lots of partying! We too the first open spot and then took the dinghy through the fleet and decided to move to another spot closer to town that was less crowded. When the sun set and all the boats turned on their anchor lights, it looked like Miami Beach from the water!

Posted by Dick at 12:23 AM