Surprising Encounter

Hello all in the great white north,

A few mornings ago, we made a radio call to a boat that had returned to Hog Cay from Cuba, desiring to get some information from him. Shortly thereafter, we received a radio call from a boat whose name we didn’t recognize. Switching to another channel, Murray said “this is Windswept IV, go ahead”. The call came back ” Is this the Rands?”. Murray looked at the microphone in surprise and answered in the affirmative. The response from the other vessel was ” this is Jeff Witzak. I believe you know my father.”

Before long, Jeff and Ava were sitting in our cockpit, along with their 8 month old son Keagan. Jeff works for the Canadian Coast Guard and, when Keagan was born, took parental leave. They used the time to travel to Florida, found and bought a 30 foot boat, did some repairs and started cruising the Keys. From Key West, they headed west to the Dry Tortugas and then on to Havana, Cuba. For the next six weeks, they traveled eastward along the north coast of Cuba ( that is against prevailing wind direction and the most difficult way to go ). In that 6 week period, they spent only $700, including entry fees, cruising permit, fuel, food and marina fees. Oh, also including rum!

Murray had worked with Jeff’s father, Stan, at Clark Equipment and we had visited back and forth when all of the children were young. But, not having seen Jeff in the last 30 years, we would never have recognized him. He says that us and our adventures are the reason they are out here cruising. Wow! That blew us away.

So, today Murray is taking Jeff to snorkel for conch while I go over the Exuma charts with Ava. And maybe get a chance to cuddle Keagan for a bit, to keep from missing my grandkids quite so much.

The beach parties continue, almost daily. The sky is clear blue and the air temps in the high 70’s. I must admit that I am not spending as much time in the water as I would like, due to the sharks in the neighbourhood. But we can dinghy to a beach and paddle around in the shallow water when it gets too hot.

A few boats in a nearby anchorage are holding the “Beach Junk Wars” tomorrow. With only scissors, a knife and saw from their boat, they must create a useful object using only beach debris. We may dinghy over to view the results of their days work.

The wind forecast seems to be favourable to cross to Puerto Vita, Cuba, near the middle of next week. We will keep you informed.

Until then, stay safe and healthy. Write when you have a moment in your busy lives.

Heather & Murray

Hog Cay Entertainment

Hello everyone,

We moved down to Hog Cay on Feb 7th and joined a large fleet of cruising vessels. Shortly after our arrival, Kevin on Mirabelle announced that their dog, Danny, had gone missing on Raccoon Cay. They had tried to search the island for him but that is difficult to do and the dog was deaf. After 48 hours, he asked for volunteers to help with the search. Murray and Doug, from High Stepper, went by dingy while many others sailed back around Margaret Shoal to anchor at Raccoon. The searchers, about 25 volunteers, spread out and crawled on the goat trails through the bush. It was hot and exhausting work in terrible conditions. Some tracks made by the dog were found but, otherwise, they had no success. Murray and Doug returned, scratched and sore from the ordeal. Kevin and Becky have placed water and dog food out but the food is not touched, except by the land crabs. After two weeks, they have finally given up and headed back towards Long Island or Exuma. During the search, a cruiser was injured as she fell onto her face on the razor rock. She was unconscious for about 30 minutes after which her husband helped her back to the beach. With two ER doctors and an orthopedic surgeon as part of the search party, she received excellent care and had 5 or 6 stitches in her face, along the laugh line. Her eye and jaw turned black and blue and she was very sore for most of a week.

The “Captain C” mail boat arrived early one morning and we delivered our empty propane tank to the ship, for re-fill in Nassau. They only charge $10 for this service, whereas in Staniel Cay it costs us $22 for a re-fill! Later, we took the dingys into town for fresh vegetables and a chance to have lunch at Silver Tail Lodge. Here at Hog Cay, there seems to always some event happening ashore. Either cocktails, a bonfire/singsong, beach walks on the many trails, garbage burning or bocce ball ( they built a court! ). Or we have drinks with another boat, either their cockpit or ours. It has been very hard on my snack supplies and the cupboard is almost empty already, before the end of February.

Miss Maxine had been hard at work, organizing her Valentine’s Day party at Hog Cay for this year. She had gotten permission to close the school so that all of the children ( 11 in total ) could attend. She cooked two turkeys, ham, huge containers of peas and rice, curried mutton, macaroni and cheese and potato salad. The cruisers brought salads and desserts to add to the groaning tables. For the first time, there was donated beer and soft drinks and these disappeared very quickly. The wind howled out in the anchorage but the beach seemed a sheltered spot and quite warm in the sun. Several awnings were strung in the trees to create some shade. A large number of the local folk came out from Duncan Town to join in on the festivities. One of the cruisers collapsed on the beach but, with the local nurse there and a doctor on a cruising boat, he received super care and was a case of dehydration. They did take him in to the clinic to monitor the situation but returned him just at sundown, as the party was breaking up. For the party, even more cruising boats showed up making a total of 36 vessels anchored here.

Luckily the weather has co-operated and no clocking fronts have occurred. The wind goes south or south-east and then backs up to the north or north-east and blows like stink. The wind generator flies around and we make power. In fact, for the last four days, the wind gen has run the boat and filled our water tanks.

Yesterday, I made biscuits for breakfast, baked bread and then made a dozen English muffins afterwards. Today, we invited friends over for Rand Mcmuffins with back bacon, cheese and a poached egg on homemade English muffins. Yummm! Tonight there is another party on shore, a cookout where we supply the meat we wish to grill and a side dish to share. The social swirl is un-believable.

High Stepper will head on north soon while we start to watch for a window to head further south. Next Exit has agreed to join us on the Cuban adventure and that time is drawing near. Somehow I must add to the larder as we cannot expect to find supplies in Cuba or rather, do not know what supplies we might find in Cuba. Tomorrow we will try to get to town for fresh vegetables, if the wind doesn’t blow too strong.

That is life aboard, sun, wind and blue skies with barefoot parties on sand beaches. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Hugs to all up north and we will see you soon – less than two months now!

Murray and Heather

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin

Hello everyone,

I write this from the Jumento Cays and, as everyone who cruises them knows, the anchorages tend to be rolly. The boat bounces front to back, which is fine , but when it starts the sideways roll and everything clacks and clatters, no one gets much sleep. But, I am a way ahead of myself here.

With a cold front expected, we led Messenger through the narrow gap between Fowl Cay and Big Major Spot, around the sandbar and into OZ. This time we managed to lead them, without taking them aground! Everyone got their anchors secure before the strong winds expected or, rather, forecast. The high winds didn’t materialize so it was time to visit Staniel Cay. To go into the the village for supplies, we loaded the two kids in our dinghy while Scott and Lisa followed in theirs. I am not sure how they will manage once their older son, Reg, joins them in early Feb, as their dinghy is too small already for four. Especially if there is any wind or waves. After an extensive re-stocking, we bid them adieu and headed to Black Point to do laundry. It must have been the hottest day in a week! The sweat poured off of me but our clothes were finally clean. Now, once the weather was right, we were set to head down to the Jumento Cays. In the late afternoon, we sailed around the point into Little Bay and dropped anchor. Friends had caught a yellow fin tuna and invited us to share. Another great evening followed.

During the night, the wind backed to the northwest and the roll and bounce started. Most of the day found us just staying quietly on a settee reading, as moving around was tricky. By 3 pm, Murray was getting antsy and suggested that we brave the winds and waves and head into The Sandcastle to say goodbye to Doug and Jean. When we arrived, Jean was in a baking frenzy and I helped her finish her English Muffins while she made hamburger buns and hot dog rolls. They kindly invited us to stay for dinner and called Peg and Frank from O’Brien’s Landing to join us. A lovely time was had by all and Jean sent us off into the night with a bag of greens from her garden.

Early the next morning, Jan 29th, we headed towards the Jumentos, anchoring at Coakley the first night and then on to Buenavista Cay. As Murray was tidying up lines etc, shortly after we dropped the hook, he heard a gunshot. It came from a fishing vessel nearby, Lady Marie. He called to apologize for scaring us but he had just caught and shot a 8 foot blacktip shark. In the morning, he invited us over and gave us some lobster and conch and a dozen eggs to welcome us back. George is quite a character and very friendly to cruisers. Along with his son, Ivanhoe, and another crew member, he spends several weeks at a time fishing this area. The cleaning of the fish and conch attracts sharks, so we won’t do much diving until we are away from him. To thank them for the gifts, I made a batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins which Murray delivered while they were still warm. Luckily I made a double batch, so Mur wasn’t too deprived.

High Stepper sailed into the anchorage the next day, having been in George Town, then Long Island and then Water Cay. It was a great reunion and you would think that it had been months instead of weeks. Together we sailed down to Doublebreasted Cay so that we could be there for Klaus’s ( on Lucky Touch ) birthday. He was 72 this year and doing very well after his hip replacement in Oct/Nov. That night, our boats rolled and rolled again and we tossed from side to side in our berth, trying to get some sleep. Shortly after sunrise, we hauled anchor and moved on, to Racoon Cay, further north but with better protection from the east and southeast wind and wave action.

Yesterday, the four of us ( Doug and Connie, Murray and I ) went on a hike ashore. And what a hike it was! Up and down hills, skirting large holes in the rocks, across a salt pond ( dry mostly ), through scrub trees, past huge cactus and finally we arrived at the opposite shore. The ocean side. But there was no beach, just a steep, rocky cove with some debris tossed onto the razor rocks. Murray managed to find a few sea beans amongst the trash to add to his collection.

Today is bread making for me while Murray is off, catching fish for the larder. The generator and watermaker are humming away, adding to the stores of water and power. Soon we will move just a little to protect us from another rolly night, expected when the wind shifts again. Later in the week, we will sail down to Hog Cay for closer access to the village of Duncan Town and Miss Maxine’s grocery store.

But the sun has shone and the days have been very warm, with us jumping in to cool off frequently. How can we really complain? Life is MOSTLY good!

But we miss you all and think of you often. Write when you have time.

Heather & Murray