March 2007

Wind and More Wind

Remember the last note, about winds from the north-east? Well, it has continued to blow, from that direction, for all of this time.

We did manage to get northward, to Spanish Wells. It was several days of sailing close to the wind, into 15 plus knots. I couldn’t get the grin off of Murray’s face. Meanwhile, our house is heeled over 20 degrees and, surprisingly enough, everything stays put! Except a few pillows which, of course, land on the floor. But no damage to eggs or veggies stored in baskets in the aft cabin. Miracles do happen.

So, we sailed to Norman’s Cay where we stayed a few days. Murray dove with Bob, from Veruna, and his son, Kevin and added two lobster, a grouper and trigger fish to the larder. A cocktail party was held on One Palm Island. From there we sailed to Ship Channel Cay for an overnight stay. In the morning, we passed through the shallow and reefy Middle Ground, with Murray on the bow for an hour, pointing the direction to steer around the shallow reef/heads. We passed through Fleeming Channel and on to Spanish Wells.

The laundry in Spanish Wells is unique. In a lean-to behind a store, there is one washer and one dryer. There is nowhere to sit down, other than on the edge of the porch for the store. But, the clothes come out clean and fresh smelling. What more can I ask for? And, it costs $4/load, wash and dry. Cheaper than most places we have been.

The grocery here is community owned and well-stocked. They will even give you a ride back to the marina. But, as we needed the exercise, we brought our cart and packed everything in it. Just a block from the store, a golf cart stopped and insisted that we ride with them. Fellow Canadians, they had seen us come into the channel yesterday. They spend the winter in Spanish Wells, escaping the cold of Quebec.

We spent four nights at the moorings in town and then moved outside to anchor. Wayne, the pilot “Little Woody” and his wife Phyllis invited us to a shore-side dinner at a local restaurant on Monday and showered us with gifts of carrot cake and guava jam. They also took us on a tour of this prosperous island. It was great to have a chance to spend time with them as we had missed this island last winter.

Now we are at anchor at Meek’s Patch, just a mile or two from town. We are the only boat here. That is nice. The moorings were inexpensive and convenient to town but the boats were very close together. Someone sneezes on the next boat and you say “God Bless”. That is way to close.

This wind is supposed to continue to blow, right through the weekend. But, Mon and Tues may give us a chance to head directly to the US. From here, it is 270 miles to Port Canaveral. That is a bit long, but we may go for it as time is marching on without a respite from this wind. We have two bail-out points along the way, West Palm Beach or Ft Pierce, if the weather turns against us.

If we head out, we will let y’all know. Take care. Hugs to all, Heather & Murray

Winds and Beach Parties

Well, for the last week or more we have been trying/planning to head to the north. Can you guess from which direction the wind has been blowing? Yes, from the north! That whole time. Prevailing winds are from the east and southeast which make it very easy to go to the north usually. But not right now or for the next three more days either. Eventually it will have to switch around and we will make a dash. As time passes, planned ports of call get deleted from the itinerary but there is always another year. Maybe.

So we are stuck here with beautiful blue skies, warm water and enough wind to charge the batteries. How can we complain?

A couple of days ago, I decided to organize a beach party. It is the easiest thing to do. Just make a couple of announcements on the radio, citing time and place. Then, people show up, with their own drinks and snacks to share with everyone. How easy is that! And it was great fun. Everyone was getting tired of the wind blowing and looking for any excuse to get off their boats ( 40 – 50 people showed up ). We met old friends and made some new ones, exchanging boat cards to bolster slipping memory cells.

Recently we went ashore on Fowl Cay, a private island that is an exclusive resort. Libby Brown, the woman who owns it along with her husband Stuart, has written a book about her life and the challenges/choices she faced. The last part of the book is about the difficulties of building and operating a resort in the Bahamas and is very revealing. Both Murray and I had read “Making Waves”, having borrowed it from friends. We enjoyed it so much that we wanted to purchase our own copy. Libby met us at the dock, showed us around the cay and through their home. The island/resort has been recently sold to Sandals Resorts and we all hope that they don’t over-develop this bit of paradise. If any of you are interested in her book, Jeremy has put a link on the website.

So, now the water tanks are full of water made with wind power, the frig is full of fresh veggies from the mail boat on Wed, and the freezer is full of fish and lobster. ( Most of the fish and all of the lobster, Murray shoots with a spear . Occasionally, he does get fish by hook and line.) Freshly washed clothes are drying in the breeze and we ate homemade whole wheat bread for breakfast. ( In fact, I cobbled up the recipe myself, as one recipe made too much and the other, not quite enough. It was great when it rose nicely and tasted good.) But, the tide will soon be perfect for another dive and there are grouper dying to come north with us. With the new freezer ( Engel), we are hopefully bringing north enough fish to share with our friends and family.

We did go for a snorkel this morning on a couple of small reefs. There was nothing there to eat but lots of lovely fish to watch. There were many bright neon blue chromis swimming above the reef, flashing in the sunlight. The striped sargeant majors vied for space with the queen angels. The queen angelfish is especially lovely, with kissy lips, a golden yellow tail, blue and yellow scales and her whole body is outlined in neon blue. The French angels are not so pretty, being black, with yellow highlights. Then the small butterfly fish flit by, with their Zorro masks and yellow tails and fins. Lots of blue and yellow grunts in different sizes flow past in their schools. Juvenile groupers of different types gave us hope for next year’s hunting. All in all, a lovely morning in the water.

Our plans? Well, we may head north tomorrow, if the wind co-operates. Then on to Eleuthera for a stop in Spanish Wells to visit friends and get more provisions. The Berry Islands will be our last stop before Florida. Hopefully, we will be at the marina by early April as I have a huge sewing project and want to get started this spring. Early May will find us in Ontario.

Hugs to all and we will be seeing you soon. Murray & Heather

March 1st

That date means two different things to us. First, we get to open another envelope of money. We budget $500 per month for the duration of our stay in the islands and sort it into envelopes to keep us on track. Most of the time, we don’t spend the month’s allotment as there isn’t much to spend it on. But, “payday” is always a good day.

Secondly, grouper season is now open. For the months of Dec, Jan & Feb, Nassau grouper are off-limits. For the last few months we have seen many Nassau grouper. They seem to know that they are safe as well, tantalizing us with perfect positions for a good shot. They don’t hide but just sit there watching us, while we watch them. Murray jokes that he has put a “tag” on several to reserve them for W4 ( Windswept IV ). Now that it is legal to take them, we won’t find one around. But we will have fun trying.

Yesterday, Murray dove with a group of friends and came back with the most lobsters. He got two lovely ones and we ate them for dinner last night. The lobster found here is different from the ones in New England. These are the spiny lobsters and have no claws. They do have very long antenna which often stick out of their hidey-holes. That is how we find them. And they deserve the name “spiny” as the antenna and the sides of the lobster are covered with picky spines. Some people have said that we should catch them with a mop. You thrust the mop into the hole and the lobster gets tangled up in it. It would work except… have you ever tried to dive with a mop? It is very difficult. Mur tried it. The spear works better.

We have traveled northward somewhat and are anchored in Big Major Spot, near Staniel Cay. There was nothing left of our veggies, even the last onion was in use. And, I was out of reading material. Horrors! So, yesterday we took the dinghy to town, visited the library for new books and stocked up on lots of veggies at Isles General Store. We even splurged for a small container of ice cream and ate it there under the gazebo before it melted. It was a race to the bottom, with two spoons dipping. Rum and raisin, mmm.

Plans for the future? Well, we want to be back in the US by the end of this month or so. I have a big job ahead of me, making new canvas for the boat. This spring, I hope to get the bimini done and then work on the dodger in the fall. I have the list of all the zippers, thread, snaps, etc etc that I will need for the project and will make the order in time for it to be shipped to our marina ahead of our arrival.

Other than that? Well, enjoy the balance of our time here. Dive, walk, visit, etc. It is a tough life.

Hopefully, all is well with you and yours. Stay warm and the spring should be along soon.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

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