Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Going Through the Abacos

This past week has been a difficult one dealing with the untimely death of our friend.  I do want to give a big public thank-you to Jenn and Andrew who manage Exuma Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells.  They could not have been more helpful, from the calls they made to Judy and Tom, managers on Bell Island that got us the boat, helicopter and sea plane to send Pat and Tom to Nassau and to bring Tom back to his boat at Warderick Wells, to helping us communicate with Tom and all the support they gave.  We also want to thank the anonymous owner of Bell Island for the use of all his transportation.
Everyone could not have been more supportive. 

Before we left Warderick Wells while waiting for Tom to return from Nassau, I told Al that we had to go for a hike.  I was afraid if I did not do it right a way, I might be scared to hike again.  As they say, if you fall off a horse, get right back on again, and that is what I wanted to do.  I got this picture which shows you just how beautiful the area is, but also shows the iron rock that we hike many times along the waters edge.  I am glad we went because it is beautiful.
Warderick Wells  view from a peak.

Al and I helped Tom get his boat to Marsh Harbor this week where his son has now flown in to help him get his boat across to Florida so they can then get to Pat’s memorial service on April 6th.  Unfortunately, the weather isn’t cooperating very well, but we hope to cross possibly this weekend.  We decided to join them in the crossing because we feel the fun has gone out of cruising the Bahamas for this winter.  Time will heal but it has been hard to get back to normalcy for both of us.

On our trip from Rock Sound to Royal Island this week, we got a call on the VHF from Island Spirit with Radeen and Hayden, who are from our marina in Maryland. They were traveling the same way a little ahead of us.  It was a very gentle sailing day and they asked if we would like fresh baked bread.  Just the half an hour earlier I had commented to Al that we were getting low on bread.  They made the bread under sail and after we went through Current Cut
Do you see why they call it Current Cut?

they were anchored on the shore just east of the cut. 
Hayden and Radeen bakery delivery. 
They pulled up in their dinghy to our boat while under sail bringing us not only the fresh baked bread, but double chocolate brownies with cherries and walnuts.  And even four slices of warm bread to eat along the way.  YUM! 
What delicious goodies and even the recipe!

 It was just the comfort food we needed and what service!  We could not thank them enough.

The boat got a good washing this day.

We have been sitting in Marsh Harbor for three days now after stopping in Rock Sound, Royal Island and Little Harbor this past week.  One day we had winds 28-30 knots  and gully washing rains and never left the boat.    

Yesterday we did get out to walk, and found the other side of the island where there is a resort and marina called Abaco Beach Resort and Harbour Marina. 
Abaco Beach Resort

It is a nice resort but did not seem very crowded for being Easter Week and Spring Break.  The marina is huge but not many boats were there.  I guess it is the sign of the economic conditions in the US and other countries.  
Fairly empty marina.

After hearing the weather reports today, we are going to move out through a cut called The Whale and probably to Turtle Cay tomorrow if the conditions permit.  Then on to Great Sail Cay and cross over to Ft. Pierce this weekend.  So you will not be hearing from us for awhile until after recuperating from the crossing and getting back to the American way of life.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tragedy Strikes in Paradise

The group reading about the Pirates Lair

 We did sail with Sun Cat the few miles to Capture Beach and picked up mooring balls as planned.  We decided to hike the trails here which we had never done before.  Right off the beach where we landed there was this marvelous swing seat someone had made from netting, rope and a perfect tree limb. 

Pat enjoying the swing.
 We each had to take a photo opt there.  Following the trail we came to a neat area called the Pirates Lair.  It is a spot that pirates used to hide from people.  It even had a natural well.

Onward we trekked through some very rough terrain following the trails.  We had all commented how the rocks were very precarious and that we had to be careful.  We made it to a few beaches where Pat and I are always looking for treasures but knowing this Land and Sea Park is a no take zone, we were just window shopping!  The four of us debated whether to go back the same trail which we felt was very difficult or walk along the rocks near the beach.  It was low tide so we decided it seemed flatter along the coast and off we went.  It did not seem any worse than the trail but suddenly I heard Pat scream and I turned quickly to see her fall full force with her body onto the rocks in about a 2 ft. deep hole.  She did not have any time to even put her arms out to break the fall. She had hit her trunk of her body and head very hard. We all came quickly to her aid, but she was badly hurt.  We sent Al to get the dinghy and our VHF radio.  (We should have had it with us and we will never hike without it now.)  By the time he got back which was about 15 min. later, Pat was going unconscious.  We called for medical help through the Park Office and asking any boaters for assistance.  One gentleman on Proud Mary came with an AED machine and first aid kit.  I had started CPR when we could not get a pulse.  The AED machine said, do not shock.  We thought it meant she had a heart beat, but we learned it meant there was no heart beat so that there is no reason to shock.  It only gets an arrhythmic heart beat back to regular beats.  Finally the park people came with a stretcher and they transported her over to Bell Island by boat where they had a private helicopter take her and Tom to Nassau.  (We were lucky that there is construction on Bell Island so they have a medic and the helicopter.  The Park Managers made a few quick calls and were able to secure it or it would have taken a lot longer.)

However, all our efforts were in vain because our dear friend did not make it.  This person who was so full of life and friendly to everyone was taken by this tragic accident.  The only solace is that she was in a beautiful place doing the things she liked doing when she went with the Lord.  And I try to remember this quote:
He whom we love
and lose
is no longer
Where he was before.
He is now
wherever we are.
                                - St. John Chrysostom

Pat touched so many people in her life.  Al and I nicknamed her “The Firecracker” because she had so much energy and was the friendliest person we have ever met.  Ask any cruiser who ever came across her.  She told me just recently “Life is too short to be negative.  Enjoy life and be thankful for all you have.”  I will take that to heart and know she will always be with me wherever I am.
Pat looking for shells, one of her favorite things to do.

Pat Thorpe

Pat  and Tom during happier times.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Life After George Town

We left George Town on March 12th with some rough going out of Elizabeth Harbor and some big swells but only for a short time. The rest of the sail was an “Al” sail rather than an “Arleen” sail so it was a bit uncomfortable. However, not so uncomfortable that Al could not put his rod in the water. When the first fish hit we had to take in the genny to slow down and readied the cockpit for the land. He finally landed a 35” Mahi! Then he filleted it and I got it into the refrigerator while he cleaned up the blood and gore. 
Al's First Landed Mahi

Al's Second Catch of the Day
 About two hours later he had another hit, another Mahi but this one a female the same size as the first which he also landed. Now we definitely had enough fish for a while! We shared some fish with our buddy boat Suncat once we got to Black Point where we anchored. We went into town to Scorpio’s where the cruisers gathered for Happy Hour and listened to the sailing and fishing stories.

Laundry was our duty for the next morning at Rockside Laundry which is one of the nicest laundries in the Bahamas with a small shop and she will cut hair as well! A front was to come in from the north so we moved to the other side where we had spent Christmas in Little Bay. Pat and I went beach combing and found some sea glass and a few nice shells. We hit it at low tide which is the best time. Then Pat and Tom came over for what else, but a mahi dinner. Afterwards Pat explained the Bahamian way of playing dominoes and guess who won. Me, but unfortunately we did not play for money like the Bahamians!

Regatta Park
What a view!
The next morning we visited with First Edition with whom we spent a lot of time with in December. It was nice catching up with them on what they had been doing. After defrosting the freezer and lunch, Al and I decided to walk into town to get some exercise. We entered at the west end of Black Point so I showed Al Regatta Park where there are some nice views.

The Jail at Black Point
 I had been there on our last trip but he must not have taken the walk so missed this. After looking out into the harbor with the white caps and boats rocking we were glad we had moved to Little Bay. He also got to see the police station, jail and the government clinic.

When we finally got back, we figured we had walked 6 miles so we did get exercise to work off the calories from Pat’s nachos concoction that we had at happy hour which ended up being our dinner.

The next day we sailed up to Staniel Cay anchoring off the Thunderball Grotto. That is the famous underwater cave that was seen in the James Bond movie of the same name.

Al  feeding the fish.
A type of snapper
We snorkeled the cave later in the afternoon when it was low tide and fairly slack water. It was great seeing all the fish especially when Al fed them bread crumbs. The Sergeant Majors just really swarmed him.

 Outside around the cave we saw some interesting fish and plant life as well. It definitely was worth snorkeling in this area. It was one of the best snorkeling we have done. Later that day we went over to Staniel Cay Yacht club to discuss our plans and to have a drink.
The view to Rachel's Bubble Bath

We decided to move up to the north end of Compass Cay to go to Rachel’s Bubble Bath. You go to shore and walk up through an area of sand and water until you get to a pool surrounded by rock. There is an area which is worn down and the waves from the sound side crash over and make bubbles that you can swim in.
Rachel's Bubble Bath 

Since the temps were just barely seventy, we chose to just enjoy the site without the swim. It would have been even better if it had been high tide. However, it was a fun time with Pat and I always looking for shells or sea life along the way. These sea urchins are under water with stones stuck to them. I had never seen that before.
Sea Urchins
That evening we had a wonderful stuffed pork loin dinner with roasted vegetables and orzo over on Sun Cat. Ending the night with teaching them a game called Uno Rummy UP with the “newbies” winning. For some reason that doesn’t seem fair.
We plan to go to the southern end of Warderick Wells Island and pick up a mooring off of Capture Beach which is protected by Hog Cay tomorrow.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Winding down a Windy Week of Regatta

The second week of regatta wasn’t quite as busy as the first, because we just did not get to as many activities because the winds were blowing fairly strong.  We have had many more fronts come through this year than on our last trip.  However, we were expecting that because people told us that two years ago was the best weather they had had in George Town in 15 years.  We have actually had some cool temps for the Bahamas.  I know you people up north won’t feel sorry for us, but we actually pulled out socks and fleece vests at times this past week.  The nights were in the sixties which made for great sleeping but late afternoons and early mornings were sock weather.  Socks?  What are socks?  I hope we can put them away for a while!
Not very pretty when the front comes in.

A front came through just as the last boat reached the finish line of the around the island race with a gust up to 30 knots.  Al was not on any boat for the race but we did listen to the well done commentary.  Then the winds blew 25 – 32 knots for several hours, once again making us cancel a “sundowners” happy hour. That darn wind!

The next day we did the scavenger hunt with Suncat and Living Well.  After running around in our dinghies for three hours trying to find such things as feathered boa, a bouquet of purple flowers, the first phrase of the Bahamian national anthem, a picture of the base of the monument and 28 other things we did not even place.  We tried and it was fun trying.  It was hard competing with 42 other dinghies.

Later we visited with our friends on Escapaid to have "sundowners" and to say our goodbyes.  They were leaving the next day to head back to Florida.

Other people's basketry.
Some lovely jewelry.
Several days we just laid low on the boat because the wind was up so much.  Midweek I participated in the Art Show, displaying my crafts.  I had my rugs, baskets and jewelry.  I probably explained my rugs more than anything.  It was neat to see other people’s talents.  Jewelry and baskets were displayed the most.   
Explaining and demonstrating rug hooking to interested people at the Regatta Art Show.
Later that afternoon  I had wanted to go back and see the small boat races but due to the strong winds, we did not get back to see them.  They were a lot of fun to watch last time.

Tourest Tree
The next day while Al zoomed across the wavy harbor to locate a part needed for the engine, he dropped me off on Stocking Island so I could walk the nature trail and go over and look for shells on the beach.  We had not done the Nature Trail which had many of the trees and plant life labeled.  One interesting tree had red peeling bark and they called it the Tourest Tree because of the red pealing skin!
How appropriate!  We see the tourist get sunburn a lot!

The termite mound was as tall as me!
 I also came across the largest termite mound I have seen on the island.  I placed my navy blue knapsack on the ground near it to give you an idea of how large it is!  You can see wood structures would not last very long around here!     

Ted whom we enjoyed in Hog Cay and now George Town
That night was the closing ceremony and dance at Chat ‘n Chill on Volleyball Beach.  Several Bahamian dignitaries were on hand to welcome us and thank the cruisers for their contributions to their economy.  There were some great musicians, some cruisers, some Bahamians, who entertained us during dinner.  Then “Rockin’ Ron and Cool Karen” played the tunes for dancing the night away.  The usual good time was had by us and many friends. 
Crazy "Rocking Ron" our DJ
Tom & Pat from Suncat enjoying the dance.

Marilyn and Carl from Discovery

Another beautiful view on Stocking Island
Knowing we are leaving soon, Al and I once again hiked the Intrepid Trail and now that I have my small camera, I got some great shots of the views. And just as we came out of the one path we came across this bird which was an unusual sight around here.  (All you birders can let me know what it is.) 

Unusual siting in Bahamas.

Thanks for a job well done.
Food seems to be part of all gatherings!
That night we went into Queen’s Dock to have a gathering to honor Skip and Cheryl on Eleanor M.  They donate so much time to do a variety of jobs such as maintaining the buoys in the harbor, trimming the trails, organizing Beach Church and Ladies Bible Study.  They are selling their boat and moving in a different direction next year.  They will be sorely missed as the poster given to them indicates.

Another night we had Curt and Cathy from Five and Dime, and Prue and Bert from Exuberant down to play Mexican train dominoes. It is a big game among cruisers. The ladies once again took the most wins. 

Daylight savings time came and so we just took it easy on Sunday after Al got gasoline and water while I was in church.  We are hoping to leave Tuesday if the weather co-operates.  They were talking about 9 foot swells in Atlantic waters from the big storm in the northeast.  We are hoping they are going to settle down fast so we can leave to start our slow trek back through the Abacos. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Rigors of Regatta- It’s Like Work!

Regatta theme is "Cruisers Gone Wild!"

Registration for the many two weeks of events.
We won !
Monday of Regatta started with yoga on the beach, then helped with selling regatta wares while registration and sign-ups for the various activities took place.  Al was in charge of signing up for the few activities we were participating in, along with our other team mates for an activity or two. They also had drawings every so often and we won a one night stay at a marina in Fort Pierce, FL!

Helen steering the big catamaran.
After lunch we went on the catamaran Dejavu to the end
 of Elizabeth Harbor to Fowl Cay to snorkel.  There was quite a lot of vegetation on the coral beds such as fans and such, as well a nice variety of fish.  Unfortunately, I had not received my new underwater camera yet so did not get any pictures.  I would have loved to gotten the schools of Sergeant Majors we swam through.  

And the band played on!
Tuesday morning Al had conch horn practice for the opening night show which was in the evening.  The theme this year is “Cruisers Gone Wild.”  There were various short skits, a fiddler, singers, and guitarists.  And then there was the conch horn band and conch blowing contest.  Al would have won if it weren’t for some twenty-something guy who blew it for 40.6 seconds to Al’s 33 seconds.  Oh well, we can hope there aren’t any young guys next time.  Met up with many friends on the beach who came back for regatta and danced the night away.  It was a great opening night.

One day I tried “water walk” in the afternoon.  What that is, is walking in about 1 ½ ft. of water off the beach for a long way.  It is a great work out for the legs.  Unfortunately, too many other activities have come up and I haven’t had a chance to do it again.

Enjoying the Poker Run at Palm Bay
After yoga in the morning, we participated with about 45 other dinghies in the Poker Run.  That consisted of going to five different spots in the harbor, all restaurants/bars to pick a card from the deck before enjoying a drink or appetizer for a nominal fee or free at each place.  Then you rendezvous on volleyball beach to hand in your cards and the winners are the 3 best poker hands.  We had one pair, so no win for us.  Someone had a flush which was top prize.  It was fun meeting fellow cruisers at each spot and chatting awhile.  But it was a fairly windy day, so my back suffered a little from crossing the harbor twice in the bumpy waves.  Ibuprofen was taken that night!

We decided to take a break from regatta and rent a car with Prue and Bert on Exuberant to explore Great and Little Exuma.  We headed north to show them what is up there even though we had been there before, because they had not.   
This is the bed in the old man's cave.

  We showed them  the statue of Pompey,  the jail and cave that we had seen a few weeks before on our bus tour.  We did see three tombs from the 1800’s near Moss Town called the Hermitage which had not been on the tour.
Hermitage tombs.

 Then we headed south of George Town where we had never been before. 
The well-known Santana's Beach Grill
 We went down to Williams Town to have lunch at Santana’s, a great Bahamian style beach bar with excellent food.  The rave reviews on the internet were right on. 
Enjoying a drink and lunch at Santana's

Mom at Mom's Bakery
 Next door was Mom’s Bakery.  She is famous on the island for her baked goods for years.  We actually met Mom and had to buy some goodies from her. 

Afterwards we went to the very end of the island that just ends in a tiny dock area.  
The Salt Marker

On the way north we stopped at the Salt Marker which was to guide the ships into the area so that salt from the salt ponds could be loaded and taken to Europe when a war was on and they could not get salt over there due to an embargo.  Unfortunately, once the war was over, basically so was the use of the salt ponds in the Bahamas.  On one side of the road were the salt ponds which had a brownish red color and foam from them blew across the road looking like snow.  On the other side of the road were the beautiful views of the sound.  
There were a few cotton plants nearby.
We saw the ruins of a plantation which had grown cotton and a huge tomb that looked like a big bed which could have been the one that theWilder's book Wind from the Carolinas was based on.  It is a great book to understand the Bahamian history and people and I recommend it. 
Strange tomb! What better final resting place than a bed!
Then a little further north we went to the beautiful Tropic of Cancer beach where the Tropic of Cancer passes through and where we heard that parts of the Johnny Depp movie Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. 

We headed back to George Town and completed the day buying some groceries and hauling some water to Blue Heaven.  Then at night we had the great experience of seeing the space station go right over the George Town area and harbor around 7PM at night.  It was amazing how fast it went and was quite a site to see!

The team for Coconut Challenge

Friday was the big day for our favorite regatta activity, the Coconut Challenge.  Al was on a team of four.  Tom from Suncat, and Steve and Maryann from Living Well made up the team. 
 The first part of the challenge is the committee dumps 1000 coconuts into a cove called the Fruit Bowl.  The contestants are in a dinghy with no propulsion except flippers and they must gather as many coconuts as they can.  It is over when all the coconuts have been collected.  Our guys did not do too badly with 69 coconuts but the largest amount collected by a team was 129! 
Look at the style for collecting!
69 coconuts collected!

The next event was where the team stands behind a line and tossed all at the same time, two coconuts over the volleyball net into a target area to earn various points.  Our guys and gal, whom we named “Three Roosters and a Chick”, did quite well. 

Look at the great form on the Coconut Toss
The results of the toss.

Then the last event was two people with helmets on their heads, who were Al and Tom, and a garbage bag between them stood at one end.  
Maryann was a great tosser!

 The other two on the team at the other end had a supply of coconuts. Steve handed the coconuts to Maryann who stood backwards and tossed them to Al and Tom to catch in the bag for a time of 30 seconds.  Maryann who was a physical education teacher was phenomenal, aiming almost right for the bag!  They got 16 coconuts in.
How did they do overall?  They were tied for first place, so had to do a target throw again and ended up in second place. 
Proud Al

 We were very pleased and so were all the winners!  The guys just had to pose with their flags!
!st, 2nd & 3rd place Coconut
Challenge Winners

So you can see, it is hard work having all this fun at regatta!  More to come later…..

Do we have fun or what?