Monday, January 28, 2008

Last Post?

With great regret this may be the last post on this blog--at least for quite a while.

Jan has reinjured her back. The pain is unbearable at times. Also she can not reliably assist with the boat handling. In Georgetown I made a trip into town to the local clinic. There Dr. Malchi gave her some steroids which helped. The pain pills alone were not working.

There is no other choice except to return to Corpus Christi for medical or surgical help. We leave Georgetown on Tuesday, 1-29-08. The White Pepper is tied up at Exuma Docking Service in tenueous circumstances, but again these are hard choices.

Thanks all of you for following the site. With God's help Jan and I will be able to return to the Bahamas soon.

Summit Day--Georgetown, Bahamas

Jan 24th, 2008 dawned calm and beautiful--just like most other days in the Bahamas, but on this day White Pepper was preparing to travel to Georgetown which was the culmination of 6 months and untolled money and effort. We had made an easy 18 n. mi. motor from Farmer's Cay to Lee Stocking Island on the 23rd. The Garmin 545 chart plotter failed just off the cut. Fortunately, I had programmed the Garmin 48 as back up and it brought us into the anchorage as the sun was setting.

The 24th stayed calm with a light southerly flow ahead of another norther. We arrived at Conch Cut at 2 pm-slack water. Using the Maptech way points we negotiated the dog legged entrance into the area called Elizabeth Harbor without a hitch. The harbor is more of a roadstead. There is Stocking Island and Elizabeth Island running 5 n.mi from the NW to the SE. Two n. mi. to the west is Great Exuma Island. Georgetown is on the SW coast of Great Exuma Island about 5 n.mi from Conch Cut.Finally we were at the anchorage. There were at least 150 yachts anchored all along the lee of Stocking Island. (note confusion with Lee Stocking Island 21 n. miles to the north).There was plenty of room. We were able to find a comfortable spot off Rocky Point and had the anchor down at 3:30 pm. Strangely we both felt very tired. It was more of an emotional tiredness than physical. We decided not to wrestle with the dingy, but rather take a nap, wake up for sundowners, have a light dinner, and go to bed early. It's been a long trip.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Little Farmer's Cay

Tuesday 1-22-08 White Pepper lifted anchor at 10:30 am for Little Farmer's Cay. Jan was quite interested as she had been here 20 years before with Harvey Branscome on his Bristol 40 Josephine. She had met and befriended the owner of the Ocean Cabin's Restaurant, Mr. Terry Bains. He remembered her immediately and gave us a warm welcome as did his delightful 10 year old daughter Khadijah. We had grouper at the restaurant. Bob Madry's picture is on the wall.

We were actually able to sail today. We had a delightful close reach of 17 n. mi. with reefed genoa. We anchored in only 6 feet of water behind the airstrip. That is some skinny water.

Weather is everything in the Bahamas. There should be a very calm period late Wed. and all of Thursday before the next front on Fri. am. We will use that window to make the jump to Georgetown by way of the Exuma Sound.

Big Blow at Big Majors

White Pepper spent 5 days anchored at Big Majors Spot which is a marvelous anchorage 3 miles from Staniel's Cay. We replenished and rested, but mostly we were waiting for the passage of a big front. Eventually, it came over the horizon on Sunday at sunset. It stretched across the NW sky, black and ominous as it blotted out the sunset. The winds were only gusting to 30+; however, we spent an anxious night. This was our first anchorage with the new anchoring system. The Rocna held perfectly. It was on short scope of only 90 feet of chain in 12 feet of water. I was going to put out more, but by the time the front hit, the force on the chain was so great I did not dare mess with it. As a snubber I used a chain hook that Phillip bought as Home Depot in Marathon along with the left overs from the quarter stay--worked great.

We had to spend all of Monday on the boat as the wind was gusting too high to use the dingy. By Tuesday am we were able to leave--headed south.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stanial's Cay

We have been hung up here waiting for the passage of a hugh cold front. This is the system that has driven the temperature so low for the Green Bay-NY game. Stanial's is great but we have done everything we want to do and done every boat chore.

After the frontal passage we will go to Little Farmer's Cay for water, laundry, and dinner. Hopefully we can then get on to Georgetown before the next front ruins the window. The problem is not just the N. wind that the front brings, but the strong southerly flow that precedes the front. That stops voyage south just at quickly.

Stanial's Cay Yacht Club is great. Gas and diesel are $5./gal., water is 40 cents per gallon, garbage drop off is $5 per large bag, but the Kalik beer is only $4. Dinner is over the top but we did have a good lunch Sunday 1-21-08. One point--the burgee from the Susan E. II (Bob and Sue Madry) still hang high over the dining area. The burgee is dated 2004.

We are anchored off Big Majors Cay and dinghy back and forth to Staniels Cay. One of the beaches on Big Majors is called Piggy Beach and there are four pigs that hang out on the beach and greet you when you come ashore.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Exumas National Park, Warderwick Wells

Wardewick Wells is the headquarters of the Exumas National Park. The park is the world's first land AND sea conservatory and is the pride of the Bahamas. We were lucky enough to get a mooring ball "inside" which is one of the most amazing places on earth. There is every shade of light blue within sight and it changes every day. Manta rays, sharks, and barracuda are in abundance. We did not snorkel as it was cold and the current runs hard. We did hike a good bit and dingy about. The island cay is crisscrossed with nature trails. This is esp. good since most of the Bahamas is private and hiking a problem except on roads.

I was pressed into service for one day. I repaired lacerated fingers caused by an anchoring accident. The patient was a wonderful lady, and I am hoping for a good result. I did use every bit of suture material available at the park. All of the medical kit is donated from passing yachts. Any donations to the park of medical supplies would be appreciated.

We left on a weather before the wind turned into the SE. If we did not want to get to Georgetown, we could have stayed a month.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Norman's Cay

Allan's Cay became instantly crowded with 22 new boats on Wed. We left for Norman's Cay on Thursday in a moderate NE breeze. We were actually able to sail the entire 20 n. mi. We chose an anchorage in the SW corner of Norman's and found a tranquil spot in 9 feet of water in good sand. Friday we walked all around the southern end of the island with magnificent scenery. We explored the ruins of a development and checked out the airstrip. Norman's was the scene of Carlos Leahder's cocaine smuggling for the Medellin cartel in the 1970's. As much as 80% of America's cocaine supply passed thru that little airstrip at one time. We had lunch at MacDuff's the only resturant on the island--good, but expensive.

After lunch we had a swim/bath. I used a sponge that we found on the beach--very "au naturale".

Monday, January 14, 2008

Allan's Cay

Phillip left in a taxi Mon. am at 7:30 1-7-08. We will miss him. We showered and settled up at Nassau Yacht Haven. The 10:30 am departure was not too bad but we were bucking a stiff current and it was not until noon that we cleared the eastern entrance of Nassau harbor.

The guide books are full of warnings about coral heads in the Yellow Banks. The old timers here scoff at these danger. but I chose a detour. We had a lovely sail south then turned southeast after the waypoint. Now it was a 18 n. mi. beat into a stiff wind and chop. The main problem with voyaging in the winter is the early sunset. By 5 pm were running out of daylight. Finally we cleared into Allan's Cay and threw the anchor down at the first patch of sand. Five minutes later it was pitch black.
The wind was whistling and strong current running. The rocks were only 150 feet away. I spent a cold anxious night on anchor watch. The dawn revealed a stunning scene of blue and green water running between the cays. Still it took all day for our nerves to calm down. There was just so much new stuff all at once--using the new anchors and chain rodes, launching the dingy off the foredeck, getting the outboard off the stern and onto the dingy, etc.

About Wed. we were ready to explore. The Allan's cay group is unique in being the only location for the Allan's cay iguanas. Every guide book advises against feeding the iguanas. Everyone does and the iguanas expect to be fed. They were mad at us! Soon a tour showed up with 30 tourists and 2 large bags of grapes. A great time was had by all.

Later we went to SW Allan's Cay which was less than 1/2 mile away. We had the entire island to ourselves. The iguanas were less aggressive. The water beautiful and shallow. It was magical.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Epiphany in Nassau

Our layover in Nassau until Phillip's airplane departure on Monday 1-7-08 allowed us to visit at St. Matthew's Anglican Church on the Feast of Epiphany Sunday 1-6-08. St. Matthew's was dedicated on 7-08-1802 and is the oldest church structure in the Bahamas. It is high church with beautiful stained glass windows, candles everywhere, white washed walls, and a church yard chuck full of old, interesting grave stones. Many date from the early 19th century and speak of interesting lives and often infant mortality.

Church started at 10:30 am and went on until 1 pm. We were never bored. There were processions with incense, a baptism, the ancient prayers of the old Anglican service with 3 readings and the psalms. In the middle was a vigorous sermon by Rev. Don Haynes that any Pentecostal minister would have admired. Anniversaries and birthdays were blessed. We sang every hymn in the Epiphany section and then finished up with a rollicking version of "This Little Light of Mine." The peace section carried on for 10 minutes. The ambassador from Great Britain was introduced. The communion prayers would have taxed a Cardinal. However, wild horses could not have kept us from the altar rail. We all expressed a sincere thanks to have survived the passages and to be worshipping in a ancient and honorable place.

There was a wonderful sense of modernity that gave me hope for the future of Anglicanism and Episcopalians such as me. The original builders and leaders of this church must have been as white faced as me and as English as Phillip. But here were Black priests carrying on vigorously and without the exhausted, homophilic, feel-good prosperity agenda that characterizes American and English religious/political life. All in all we had a great day.

There was a thank you celebration and send off for Phillip at the Poop Deck restaurant here in Yacht Haven Marina where we have been for the last week. He leaves tomorrow and will be sorely missed. I know that Jan and I could never have come this far without his help. We may not have even survived the Gulf crossing without his steady hand. However, we will carry on to Allen's Cay tomorrow somehow.

This will probably be the last post until a Wi-Fi connection can be re-established in the Exumas.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fourth anniversary at Nassau Yacht Haven

Our fourth wedding anniversary was Jan. 2, 2008. I did not anticipate spending it tied up to a dock in Nassau, Bahamas, but nothing could be more appropriate. We have had a wonderful four years and are planning on a fantastic future.

But for now the north wind is whistling over head at 25-30 knots. Glimpses of the ocean show a wild sea state. It's getting quite chilly. We are very happy to be tied up at Nassau Yacht Haven even if the charge is $2./foot/day plus $10 for water and electricity each. The front blew in at 4:30 am 1-2-08 and has deepened and strengthened daily. This is a really big one and is no time to be travelling.

We have done all of the chores we can on the boat and are just killing time until the front blows itself out hopefully by Sun. 1-6-08. We have walked around downtown Nassau. Everything there is geared towards the arrival and departure of the cruise ships. I am so grateful that neither of us has any lust for all of the materialistic junk for sale there--David Yurman, Gucci, etc. I did want to see the Grey Cliff Hotel and restaurant on the recommendation of my friend, Dr. Jack Henry. Indeed, it has the colossal seedy decadence that has given it iconic status in the travel world. It was built by a successful buccaneer in 1740 and has been repeatedly reinvented ever since. The Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson spent their WWII exile there. Now it is a 5 star hotel and restaurant. Jan pointed out that we could not meet the dress code or afford the price. The water menu started with a cheapo $9 spritzer from Italy. We took the bus back to Yacht Haven. It cost $1 each payable when you get off. Jan, Phillip, and I had a delightful anniversary dinner at a small club with a local jazz band. They played 50's jazz straight up. It was so sincere as to be quaint and very heartwarming.

On Thursday Phillip and I hiked over to Paradise Island over the bridge to see the famous Atlantis Hotel. It could have been like going to another planet. My impression is of a 3.5 stars Las Vegas but with a dynamite aquarium. The Atlantis receives down marks for not getting the casino noise just right--the ding-ling-ling-ling noise of the slot machines. I do not think I will ever book a room there.

For now we are just hanging out in the cabin, reading and doing Internet stuff. We have to wait for Phillip's flight out Monday. By then the wind should have calmed down enough to allow Jan and I to try for Allen's Cay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kent Ullberg at Chub Cay

Apparently things have changed at Chub Cay. Old timers report that it was a funky place that cruisers enjoyed. The anchorage is small but well protected.

However, big money has taken over. All of the old shacks have been leveled and new and expensive homes are being developed resort style. The marina is all solidly bulk headed and has many high quality floating docks. It is well marked and buoyed which is unusual in the Bahamas. Inside most of the boats are sports fisherman or large motor yachts. There were only two other sail boats and one left. The dockage was $2.80/foot/day which is high but well justified by the service and amenities. There is world class beach bar and pool that perfectly faces the sun set.

The chief symbol of all of this wealth has to be the Kent Ullberg sculpture, the Marlin, that graces the entrance to the club. Mr. Ullberg is well known and widely respected in Corpus Christi as well as around the world. His monumental sculptures are unmistakably beautiful. There were several smaller sculptures inside that served as trophies.

The services were wonderful. I cleared customs quickly with the assistance of staff member, Scott. He proofread my forms and drove me to and from the small airport. Dinner at the club was reasonable and delicious.

We wanted to stay, but an ominous and uncommonly strong cold front was predicted. If we were caught in Chub Cay by the norther we would have to stay 4-5 days and Phillip would miss his flight. After our experience in the Gulf with the last norther, we could not face being caught out again. Also I had to get some more fuel filters. After discussion we set out for Nassau on 12-31-07. It was another all day motor straight upwind, but the sea state was mild. It was actually a nice day. We were able to get the last slip available at Nassau Yacht Haven. As the sun went down on 2007 all on board were very pleased to be tied up safely.

As an added bonus we were treated to a spectacular fireworks display by the Atlantis Hotel at midnight. No crew member was resolute enought to stay up for the equally spectacular parade downtown. It started at 1 am, maybe 2, and in a pouring rain. Maybe next year.