March 2008

Off We Go!

Tomorrow morning, just before dawn, we will haul anchor and, in company with Doug & Connie on High Stepper, head for Ft Pierce, FL from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, Bahamas.

The wind will be dying and behind us, so it will be a motorboat ride with sloppy seas. But, everything is ready – dinghy on deck, jacklines rigged, meals prepared and hand foods baked. In fact, I baked most of the morning on Thursday, making rolls, bread, muffins and brownies. Then the stovetop got into the act with hard boiled eggs and a big pot of stew cooked and stored for the trip. We certainly will not starve!

It will take us about 33 hours to cover the 230 nautical miles. The moon is still fairly full and should help with our night vision. At least this time we will have another boat to talk to in the wee small hours of the night. In fact, so many boats have been stuck awaiting a weather window that it may seem like the 401 out in the Gulf Stream. Arrival in Ft Pierce should be near 4 pm on Sat. From there, we will motor north to Vero Beach and take a mooring for a few days. Customs will have to be visited first thing. Friends, Fred and Cindy Meyer, arrive in Vero on the 1st and we will stay around to visit with them for a day or two.

Then on northward up the ICW to our marina at Green Cove Springs.

We will send a quick message when we arrive in Florida. Hugs to all,

Heather & Murray

Rock Sound to Spanish Wells

Hello everyone,

We arrived in Rock Sound on Sat, Mar 15th and anchored off of the town. Investigation by dinghy led us to a dock across from Dingle Motors. This small garage is the hub of things for cruisers. They offer info, car rentals, wireless, garbage disposal, laundry drop-off etc etc. Walking around town, we were greeted by Godfrey who asked if we were looking to rent a car. With some negotiations, arrangement were made for a van both Monday and Tuesday.

We visited the grocery and hardware stores and loaded up with supplies. High Stepper was in need of water ( remember their watermaker broke ) and we tried, to no avail, to find good water here. The town water is brackish ( slightly salty ) and everyone in town drinks bottled water.

Mike Medved arrived as scheduled on Sunday morning early and made his way to the dock at Dingle Motors. We hauled anchor and drifter across the harbour to anchor closer to some reefs for diving. After breakfast, they went on their way while I baked a cake. They returned with 4 lobster and one fish! Lobster season is drawing to a close and the lobster are getting goofy. They were out, walking around and sparring with Murray’s spear using their antenna. I am sorry that I missed the sight.

After cooling swims ( it was HOT! ) we sailed back to the town and Doug & Connie came over to join us for dinner. First, we had hot crab dip ( one Mur shot a couple of days ago ) followed by blackened mahi mahi, yellow rice, cabbage salad and pineapple dump cake for dessert. Man,what a feast!

A cold front came through that night and cooled things off as well as increasing the wind. Everyone packed up and we met Godfrey, with the van, at Dingle’s dock. After some discussion, Murray was nominated the driver. Remember ” drive on the LEFT!”. He went to climb into the van and found himself in the passenger seat. The wheel was on the right side. The rest of us piled in and off we went.

We drove north up Eleuthera, which is an island almost 100 miles long and barely 2 miles wide. Small villages clustered around the Queen’s Highway and the speed limit never rose above 45 miles per hour. Just as well because the road was pocked with pot holes and on-coming traffic often wanted the middle. Signs along the way prompted off-road excursions – most memorably to see the Surfer’s Beach. The road was narrow, lined with branches that scratched the side of the van and full of holes big enough to loose a small car. But, we made it and there was one surfer.

The Glass Window was the next point of interest. Originally a natural rock bridge 85 feet above sea level that washed away in 1926, it was replaced by a bridge in 1960. The island is very narrow here and, to the east lies the dark blue waters of the Atlantic while the turquoise waters of the shallows lie to the west. In 1991 a rogue wave picked up the bridge and moved the north end of it 7 feet to the west. Concrete and steel tore like paper. The bridge is still in use but just one lane. Photos will be posted soon. Just yesterday due to a large ocean swell, a wave washed across the road, flipped a woman’s car and pushed it over the bridge. She had scrambled out and was safe. Scarey!

This was our turn-around point and we hurried back to Governor’s Harbour for a delicious hamburger – in fact, the best in the Bahamas – at the Waterside Cafe. The Ocean Hole in Rock Sound was the next highlight. It is a 360 ft diameter hole similar to a blue hole. Researchers are unsure of its depth or whether it connects to the ocean. Fish have been placed in here and are avid for food thrown to them. Mike’s flight left Rock Sound airport just after 5 pm. He had a short but eventful visit. On the way back to the boat, we stopped by the grocery to find that it was already closed. It also closes at 2 pm on Wed! Friday and Monday are holidays here, as in Canada, so shopping times are limited this week.

After one full day of driving about, we opted not to use the van the next day. In fact, we turned it over to other cruisers. Godfrey was informed and he said “just leave the key under the mat when you are done”. No paper work to fill out, just go. It’s the islands, mon.

On Wed High Stepper decided to head back to Cape Eleuthera Marina to buy R/O water and we motored over to Poison Point, in prep for an early morning departure. The smell of diesel fuel prompted a search for a problem and Mur found a broken connection from the fuel pump to a secondary fuel filter. Eventually, Murray drilled out the broken part, drilled and tapped for a nipple fitting and attached a piece of hose to replace the metal tubing. It worked like a champ!

Just before dawn, we hauled anchor and sailed downwind 70 miles in 25 knots of wind. It was a rolly ride but a fast one. By four pm, we had picked up a mooring in Spanish Wells. Unfortunately, there was only one mooring available and High Stepper went into Royal Island for a few days.

Here, we will do laundry, re-stock the frig, and visit friends ashore. After about a week, according to recent weather reports, we should be able to travel to the Berry Islands. From there, we will sail to Ft Pierce. Hopefully within the next two weeks, as High Stepper will be getting low on water again.

So, that is what has been happening here. We hope that all is well with you and spring is on it’s way. Snow may even be melting. Stay warm and write when you can.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

Conception Island

As the tiny island disappeared in our wake, I marvelled at the beauty we had seen during our short visit to this “little bit of paradise”.

Conception is roughly diamond-shaped, approx 3 miles long and wide at the maximums. It is almost completely ringed with dangerous reefs, some extending up to 5 miles from the island. There are two areas to anchor, one on the west side and one on the east side. Even these areas are littered with coral heads and you must keep your eyes open when proceeding. This is not a place to arrive or depart in darkness.

We sailed to Conception Island, from Thompson Bay, Long Island, a distance of approx 40 miles. Another beautiful day under sail. Once anchored, we noticed the roll. The waves wrap around this tiny island as it sits out in the Atlantic, with no protection from the waves except for the surrounding reef. A bumpy night.

In the morning, we hastened to explore. First, a dinghy adventure into the shallow mangrove creeks, in the centre of the island, where the turtles cavort in the warm waters. Wending our way between sandbars, we spotted a few of the sea turtles while another dinghy group, later in the day, saw hundreds! In the sky above us, we saw many tropicbirds, dipping and soaring in groups of 4 or 6. Seldom have we seen more than one tropicbird at a time. They look like a small white tern but have a very long tail plumage, about 6 to 8 inches. Just lovely. Bahamian mockingbirds trilled from the bushes on shore. It was so nice to hear the birds singing in the mornings.

Now it was time to check out a beach, to search for treasures. It seemed as though we were on a slalom course as we threaded our way through the reefs, while fingers of elkhorn coral reached out to snare the dinghy. Whew! We made it. The beach was littered with debris and seaweed, but no beans were found. Seabeans are the seeds from plants that grow in the Amazon rain forest. The pods drop into the waters of the Amazon and the seeds are carried with the currents onto the beaches of the Bahamas and Florida. Some are rare and beautiful. Those we polish and wear as jewelry.

Afternoon found us in the water by those samethey reefs and Doug, from High Stepper, shot himself a nice lobster. We dove several spots before realizing that the tide was very low and the reefs were protruding above the water. How to get out of here? One grounding and one collision with a reef later and we were safely back to the anchorage. Time for a shower and then cocktails with Fran and Mort, aboard Alato, where all of us aboard saw the elusive “green flash” as the sun set into the ocean behind us. Plans were made for diving, beaching and a picnic the next day.

Overnight the wind switched around and was blowing from the south. The boat was lurching, rolling and bounding. Not a good direction for this island. All plans were changed as we decided to use the wind available ( not forecast! )and we hauled anchor to sail on towards Cat Island. One bumpy night was spent there and off we went in the morning, with plans to stop at Little San Salvador.

But, the wind and waves had other ideas. The waves were building from the west and they would roll right into the anchorage there. It was past time for a good nights sleep and this would not give it to us. After discussing our options with High Stepper, we decided to press on and sail to Powell Point, Eleuthera, a total of 70 mles. Here we anchored, just the two boats and the wind died. A wonderful nights sleep! Today we will move on towards Rock Sound, where a friend from our time at Killarney Mountain Lodge, Mike Medved, will join us for two days. A cold front is expected and , once that passes, we will move on towards Spanish Wells.

Future plans? Ten days to 2 weeks around Spanish Wells, then on to the Berry Islands for a day or two. Hopefully, crossing to US near the first of April, to take advantage of the full moon. We will head to Ft Pierce, to retrieve objects left with friends in Vero Beach. Then on to the marina, haul and head north before the end of April. Will the snow be gone by then???

Hugs to all, Heather & Murray

What A Glorious Day!

Hello everyone,

The sun was shining on the azure blue water, glinting off of the bright golden fish and making him appear to be a beautiful turquoise colour. Fighting against the thin, nylon tether pulling him towards the boat, the mahi mahi swam strongly parallel to the boat. Then,… but this is the end of my story. Let me go back a few days.

We departed from Double Breasted Cay and sailed to Hog Cay, a journey of only a few miles as the crow flies but requiring a long detour around Margaret Shoal. Once securely anchored, we prepared for a dinghy excursion. Off to the big city! Or rather, the small village of Duncan Town. A long dredged channel gives access to vessels with less than 4 feet of draft and we zoomed through it on plane. The dinghies were secured at the government dock and we climbed the steep hill into town. Where was everyone? It appeared deserted. The grocery store “Maxine’s” was locked as was the Government office and the Fisherman’s Inn. Barking dogs greeted us, but no people. Finally, someone came and offered to find Miss Maxine, who then opened her store. We bought eggs, butter and a container of ice cream. Rum and raisin! Yumm. Back down the steep hill and out the channel with time for a beach walk. By the time we returned to the boat, my knee was very sore. In the morning, I could hardly walk.

A front was coming and we headed further south to take shelter from the strong northerlies expected. Now we were just 65 miles from Cuba, anchored in Southside Bay, Ragged Island. The wind stayed in the south for too long and the anchorage was quite uncomfortable for 20 hours. We made the best of things and used the power generated by the wind to watch movies or played games and ate popcorn. On the 1st of March, we hauled anchor and sailed/motored northward back to Hog Cay. The days of rest and staying off of my feet had done the job and I was able to go for a long walk across the island to a beach where we found lots of plastic debris and some sea beans buried amongst it.

Beach parties were held back to back, on Sat and Sun nights, with food, singing and dancing each night. By Sunday, there were 15 or more boats there to celebrate with Dave, from Dyad, on his birthday. Most afternoons found us in the water, chasing the elusive lobsters or crawfish.

It was time to move on. So, Monday found us sailing again, northward to Buenavista Cay. More beach walks and diving. Murray was in the water, while I waited out this brief stop at a small head. He dove two or three times and then swam towards the dinghy. A muffled “help me” wafted out of his snorkel, as he passed me his spear. I grasped it with two hands and pulled. A huge, thrashing fish was on the end. And, I dropped it! Mur dove again and passed me the spear. Tis time I was ready for the thrashing and landed the margate on the dinghy floor. He was the biggest thing Murray had ever shot approx 18-20in long. The next day, we explored more of these shallow heads close by. Between Murray and Doug, they bagged three lobster, one of which was very big. A boat with guys from Duncan Town anchored near, cleaning their catch. Murray traded some beer, a small bottle of rum and some magazines for a bunch o lobster! That is the way to fish.

Which brings me to today and the rest of the story. We sailed north again, going outside this time into deep water. Two fishing lines behind each of three vessels. Murray got the first hit and worked very hard against the bull mahi mahi. But, as he reached down to grab the line and “slam dunk” him into the cockpit, the steel leader broke, releasing the fish. And the lure. Darn! But, wasn’t he beautiful to see? Next, High Stepper gets two on at once and manages to land one. Three miles out from the cut, we got another hit that peeled line out from our reel. By the time we released the jib to slow the vessel down, the line was slack. He was gone.

No fish for us. Luckily, High Stepper was nice enough to share and mahi mahi is on the menu tonight. We had sailed 36 miles in 5 1/2 hours anchor up to anchor down. A wonderful day and an average speed of over 6.5 knots.

Tomorrow we will head north again, towards Long Island. It is time to get supplies as the frig is almost empty of everything but water bottles. The freezer, on the other hand, is almost full of fish and lobster. We WILL be back in the Jumentos another year and will plan for a longer stay. Seventeen days is just not near long enough.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

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