The Cruising Community

Yesterday was quite an eventful day. The wind and current were opposing when we awoke and the boats were ahead on their anchors. Some of the boats had to haul anchor and re-set further away as the vessels came close enough to pass coffee cups across.

The wind died out completely before lunch and a dive expedition was arranged. Many dinghies were zooming around, checking out the reefs and looking for fish. We saw some beautiful reefs but no fish for the freezer. The balance of the afternoon was spent relaxing and reading.

About 4:00 pm, Murray noticed that the sky had become very dark and threatening. Quickly we took down our big shade awning, just in case the wind blew hard. It was a good thing that we did. Not 10 minutes later, the wind came up from the north west and blew 25 plus knots. Our boat and Kotcha seemed a little closer than we would like for this much wind. Both boats worked at putting out a second anchor, which pulled us apart more. Checking vessels around us, we notice one dragging through the anchorage. That was The Office. They hauled anchor and re-located between the Majors. Another vessel, Windsong, seemed to be sideways to the wind and had water splashing against their side. A radio call confirmed our fears – they were aground. And the tide was still falling. Dinghies from 3 boats converged on Windsong and helped set another anchor to prevent them going further aground. Now, all they could do was wait for higher tide. Their engine had overheated as the water pickup was not in the water, so they had no means of propulsion. The rain had started to fall and the night was very dark by the time the tide had risen enough to maybe get them free. Murray, Mort from Meteor, Pete from The Office,and Jay from Kotcha all headed over to help. By hauling in on the anchors and re-setting them with dinghies as needed, they managed to pull Windsong off of the sandbar and into deeper water.

It was eleven pm by the time that job was done. Soaked to the skin and chilled but exuberant, the guys returned to their own boats and checked in with each other to ensure safe arrival in the dark night.

The cruising community is a wondrous thing. Strangers work together to help each other out here, with mechanical problems or, as last night, weather-created problems. It is so much the way life used to be in “the old days”, I think. As Pete said last night ” It is like a bank into which you make deposits, to be utilized someday in the future when you have a problem”. And we all have a problem eventually.

Today, the wind continues to blow and the rain continues to fall. Not too much to do but write e-mails, read books, bake muffins and chat on the radio. That is life aboard.

Hugs to all, Murray & Heather

A Fishy Tale

Hi everyone,

The last letter found us just arriving in Staniel. We spent some time there, enjoyed the beaches and the Thunderball Grotto and then headed to Black Point for a day or two. Black Point offers free water and garbage disposal. That sure attracts a few cruisers.

The radio was alive with announcements about the Five F’s – First Friday in February in Farmers Festival. So, we hauled anchor and slid down to check out the fuss. Not being enamored with crowds, we anchored a few miles north of the cay near Oven Rock on Thursday. The C class Bahamian boat races got underway before noon the next day and we had a great spot to watch them. As they approached, we followed them with the dinghy, taking a few photos. The finish was a close one, but the boat Termite, sailed by the juniors from Staniel, won the race. Ashore, things were heating up with the Men’s Best Legs contest underway. There we met up with Jill & Don from Next Exit and shared a few tasties while catching up on our doings. Their boat was anchored right off the finish line and we were in prime position to watch the next race, with Termite finishing second.

In the morning on Saturday, we hauled anchor and turned our bow south and away from the crowds. I couldn’t believe that Murray was going to miss the Wet T-shirt Contest, but he wanted to hunt for lobster. The anchor dropped into the sand at Cave Cay and we were in the dinghy shortly afterwards. Out near the cut, we found a deep trench with ledges and shallows around it. Jay, from Katcha, rolled into the water and said ” you have got to see this”. It didn’t take us long to follow. It was awesome. The trench was 40 feet deep or more and lined with all types of corals. A squadron of seven spotted eagle rays passed in front of us 3 or 4 times. What a sight that was! Their wingspan was 6 to 8 feet and they appeared to fly through the clear blue water. Murray and Marcie, from Kotcha, saw a huge Jew Fish or Grouper Giganticus weighing at least 50 lbs. There wasn’t anything edible on the reef, at least that we could get to, but it sure was one of the best snorkels that we have ever had.

From there, we headed to another cut and more serious hunting. Jay found a ledge with 3 lobster hiding under it. Murray and Jay each got one before the last went off to hide. By now, the current had started to flow and we didn’t have much more time to waste. A quick dive on another likely area and it was time to get out of the current before we got into trouble. We spent the afternoon playing dice and chatting under the shade on Windswept IV. Just at sunset, Murray took a rod and went out to the cut in the dinghy. Not more than a few minutes went by, and he arrived back with a horse-eyed jack. Time to clean fish and cook lobster for dinner. Yummm.

In the morning, we hauled anchor early and headed out the cut with both fishing rods deployed as soon as the main sail was up. About an hour out, zzzing went one rod, with the other one following suit just seconds later. Two dolphins! We could see their golden skin flashing in the sun. Which rod to go to?? Fist furl the jib, then grab a rod. Damn, that one got loose. Off to the second rod. Haul this one in carefully, and get it past the trailing dinghy. Wow, its aboard and a beaut. About 30 inches long weighing 6 lbs. So, reset both rods and continue to enjoy this wonderful sail. The decision was made to continue past Dotham cut and into Big Rock Cut at Staniel. I am glad we did that, because the rod went zzing again and Murray pulled in a 4 lb cero mackerel just 3 miles from the cut. He reset the rod and not a minute went by before it sang its song again. This time it was another dolphin, about 36 inches and weighing 7 lbs.

With a cockpit full of fish, we entered the cut and headed to our favourite spot near Fowl Cay. The anchor was set before 11:30 and we headed to the beach to clean fish. Of course, we took a couple of pictures first.

As the sun set, we sat in the cockpit with our drinks in hand raising a toast to the wonderful day that had just been enjoyed. The dolphin was cooked ‘blackened’ with a spice recipe given to me by our friend Gary. It was awesome.

Now another day has dawned, a few boat jobs await us and then, we are heading out with friends by dinghy, to hunt for some more lobster. My sprout farm is growing well and I baked two loaves of whole wheat bread yesterday. What more could a person want for. Life is good.

Hugs to all,

Murray & Heather

Sailing South

On January 25th, we hauled anchor and departed Lucaya with an expected good weather window to make the passage to Nassau. But, it was not to be. The wind built all day and the boat felt as though it was inside a washing machine. We approached Great Stirrup just before dark and decided to anchor for the night. It was full dark by the time we entered the harbour but with the aid of radar and computer charts, we managed to enter and anchor. My knees were aknocking until we got the hook down safely. The wind was coming straight into the anchorage and the boat leapt and bobbed all night long as the wind howled. We did manage to get a little sleep and arose at dawn the next morning to continue our journey.

It was a lumpy exit to the Northwest Providence Channel but, once we had settled into the course for Nassau, we were able to sail the whole way. Murray dropped the fishing line off the stern and hooked his first fish of the year. It was an Amberjack and about 5 pounds. He cleaned it while we were underway and froze the pieces.

The autopilot has been doing great things for us and has worked without a hiccup. It does draw a fair amount of power so may cause some problems if we sail in less wind. Hasn’t been a problem yet as the wind has been howling and the wind generator is putting the power back into the batteries at the same time as the autopilot takes it out. In fact, we also run the watermaker at the same time.

We anchored in Nassau on the 26th, just before sunset. Early in the morning, we loaded all the laundry into the dinghy and went in search of a laundromat. The first one had no power, so we went on for 5 blocks further. Thank goodness for the cart! Laundry started, I walked on to the grocery and picked up a couple of items. By the time we got back to the boat, we had our exercise for the day. Each evening we listened to Herb, the weather guy, and planned to leave in the morning. And, each morning the expected shift and calming of the winds did not come.

After another disappointing morning weather report, I made plans with friends to tour the Bacardi plant. Through word-of-mouth and boredom, the news spread throughout the cruisers. It ended up being 52 people! I stepped into the street, flagged down a bus and arranged for 2 buses to pick us up and deliver us to the plant. It was a good afternoon and enjoyed by all that attended. Some, of course, got into the sampling more than others.

Finally we got our wind shift and we departed Nassau on Jan 30th, heading to Norman’s Cay for overnight and on to Staniel the next day. The wind was so good that we arrived in Staniel at 1:30 pm. Thirty-five miles in less than 6 hours. Since Lucaya, we have sailed to all our destinations. No usage of fuel ( in fact only 20 gallons since West Palm ) and it is really hard to wipe that grin off of Murray’s face.

Stormy Night, from Killarney with the East family aboard, was anchored at Big Major and we had a huge reunion. Beaches and snorkeling were high on the list of things to do.

On Feb 1st, we dressed up and headed ashore to attend the funeral of Kenneth Rolle. He was a marina and motel owner, organizer of the New Year’s Regatta and a lovely man. The funeral lasted 2 1/2 hours, with speeches from the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, other dignitaries, local church leaders and family. The church was full and the overflow was in a tent outside. The wake went on most of the afternoon, but we did not attend.

So, we are back in our old stomping grounds. It sure feels good to finally get into the water and see fish again. The water is still a bit cool at 75 degrees, but sure is warmer than the US or Canada.

Hope all is well up north. Stay warm and healthy. Hugs,

Murray & Heather