May 27, 2010
Little Woody was great and we highly recommend him. He had great stories of the disasters on the reef (good for business) and celebrities that use his service (good for business). And he brought us a carrot cake and 6 johnny cakes that his wife makes (great for business)! The passage was uneventful and I stored the track on my chartplotter. Comparing it to the recommended path on my Navionics chip, it is almost identical with a few deviations during which he moved to make room for big ships bearing down the path.
We pulled up to Valentine’s Marina, a center of social activity, and filled our tanks with wonderful tasting reverse osmosis or R/O water and washed down the boat for $25. Good deal, trust me. Some places charge 50 cents a gallon over here. We anchored right off the marina’s South end and went into town.
Have you heard of Harbour Island? Maybe in a glossy magazine?
Check out this review in the New York Times if you haven’t.
Well, we had dinner at Valentine’s restaurant, which was lovely. We met this young guy, Tony, who is a first mate on one of the many luxury mega yachts here. He’s a great guy. His boss has a golf cart – everyone drives golf carts here, many tricked out, his with flame paint job – that we took to the pink sand beach.
Galit had to fly out the next day to work; she took the water taxi across the harbour to a land taxi to the airport. I’m her solo again and that’s why the blog is getting updated. Besides that, I’ve read 4 novels in 3 days and have hit the town’s nightlife a couple of nights for some late night drinking with Tony and others that I’ve met. Saw Uma Thurman and just as I was thinking I was getting too tan (another story – impossible to avoid sun when you are on a boat for months) I look over my shoulder and see George Hamilton. Yep! I thought I bet he hate being known for that. He looked good.
When Galit gets back, we will reprovision with food and drink and make our way for the Abacos, the Northern most islands in the Bahamas.
May 26, 2010
We had three goals in Spanish Wells. One, get diesel as they have some of the lowest prices in the Bahamas. Check. $180 in diesel for Villainy and gas for Lil Vill. Two, go to a dock so I can use shore power to equalize the batteries. Sound familiar? What we did a month ago in Emerald Bay? Yep, this is a monthly exercise that is necessary to maintain the health of wet acid batteries. Basically, you “overcharge” them to bring sulfates that buildup on the cell walls back into suspension. Spent all day charging them and equalizing them, taking measurements of each cell’s specific gravity with my trusty hydrometer. Check. Three, hire a pilot to take us through the Devil’s Backbone to Harbour Island. The Devil’s backbone is a treacherous pass that requires one to know exactly where to go between large coral reefs and shifting sands. It is dangerous and has claimed many a boat. We hired Little Woody to pilot us through.
May 25, 2010
We weighed anchor early and jumped out on the Bank heading North for Eleuthera. We had about 40NM to cover and was concerned only that the wind was going to oppose us and we would have to motor. In the last few days we’ve hardly used the engine at all as we’ve tacked and tacked sailing wherever we needed to go despite the wind direction to conserve out dwindling and somewhat unknown quantity of remaining diesel. Our fuel gauge never really worked and we are in the process of calibrating the new one I installed; this is the first tank we’ve used since installing it so we don’t know exactly what is empty! Luckily, the wind turned West and after motor sailing the morning we were able to turn off the engine and sail easily at 5-6kts the entire afternoon. We stopped halfway in the middle of the huge expansive Bank between Eleuthera and the Exumas that is only about 6-15’ deep for as far as the eye can see. We were dodging coral heads that look like big black inky stains in the clear blue water because some of them are shallow enough that if you hit them it could break your keel or damage your rudder or propeller. Galit manned the bow to help me navigate through the minefield. When around lunch time we decided to drop anchor, snorkel some of these big coral formations and see what it is we were avoiding. Turns out it is something one should not avoid, at least with a mask, snorkel and fins. Absolutely the most pristine perfect little underwater habitats we’ve seen. Just gorgeous life! The coral formations were diverse and perfect, unblemished we assume by how removed they are from any human visitors. Plus, they would not be a “destination” dive for any commercial company because they were small. But we dove 3-4 large coral heads that broke the day up, filled us with awe, and cooled us off. After a white knuckle 1 hour of sailing in 6’ of water (recall we draw 5’1” so our keel was less than a foot from bottom), we crossed the sand shoals off Findley Cay marking that we were well over half the way and the breeze picked up and our speed increased but not so much it took reefing. We dropped anchor off of Current Island to wait for the tide in the morning so we could safely traverse Current Cut, which is a deep cut that has notoriously fast currents that must be respected, and make our way to Spanish Wells.
May 24, 2010
We returned to one of my favorite anchorages, the island that is the southern most part of Allens Cay. It is basically a U-shaped island with a great beach at the crux of the U just room enough for one boat. Seeing that it was available we sped to the rockstar parking and weighed anchor. We sat back and thought of how green we were when we first anchored here over 2 months ago and how much we had learned about anchoring. With 70’ of chain rode we put Villainy exactly where we wanted her to sit for the night. Galit dove the anchor and continued swimming for conch shells, her new habit. It was hot as the winds had died down a bit and I sacrificed some of our precious ice to make a pitcher of frozen margaritas that cooled us down. We walked around the beach and then went up through a trail where a big mean iguana charged Galit. It had the number 32 painted in white on it’s back like a convict. That night we sat alone watching the moon and stars swallowing a lump that it was our last night in the Exumas.
May 23, 2010
The winds were really kicking up and we needed to keep moving North and decided to go to Normans Cay for a couple of days, again since Chad and not Galit and I visited it on the way down. We were going to anchor in the cut below Normans Cay, but when we sailed by there, there was nobody at all anchored there. Everyone, maybe 6-7 boats, were anchored off Skipjack point off the beach on the West side of the island. Odd, because last time I was here, there were at least 20 boats anchored in the cut. We thought this meant something and decided to go with the majority rule and we went and anchored with the rest of the sheep. We went to the Beach Club and had cocktails and snacks. Galit thought it was the nicest bar that she’d seen in the Exumas. We chatted with locals and learned about some of the difficult issues involved in trying to build a house on the island, with it being so remote. The next day, we thought we would be bold and go anchor in the cut, which turned out to be just fine and to our chagrin lured 6 other boats to join us. The cut provides a very large amount of room for anchoring and everyone was spread out respectfully, but for some reason this catamaran came and anchored no more than 50 feet away from us. Our searing stares did nothing but seem to pit the captain against his one of his guests who seemed to be arguing over being too close. Finally, after Galit nixed my plan to blare Black Sabbath like the US Military did against Noriega, we decided to say something, like come on there’s all this room so why don’t you just move up 100 feet at least? They had turned their radio off apparently because they were not responding to hails. Instead of yelling across the water, which would have worked, we motored over and I asked if they could move so we each could have some more privacy; there was plenty of room. The captain looked nervously and said they were not staying the night and were leaving soon. Later they actually weighed anchor and moved and then let out so much scope that they were even closer than before. Arguing ensued on board, what may have been a charter boat, and again amidst our puzzled stares, they weighed anchor and sailed away. Oh well, Galit and I spent the next day buzzing about in Lil Vill into the pond, to caves, cuts, and snorkel sites, including the downed DC-9.
May 20, 2010
Galit had not been to Shroud Cay and I thought she’d enjoy it despite the bad memories of the storm Chad and I endured there. We had a lovely trip exploring the winding creeks through the mangrove swamps and spent the day on a beach on the Sound side of the island. We had a mile long white sandy beach with gentle waves of blue water all to ourselves. We picnicked, swam, and searched for interesting shells all day. We half dreaded returning to the boat on the other side of the island because there were 4-5 other boats anchored near us, now really addicted to our complete privacy. To our immense pleasure, we discovered that from where Villainy was anchored, we could swim to the only tiny beach (literally 20 yards long) near the anchorage and not be seen or see any of the other boats! How fortunate! That evening and the next day we claimed that beach, where under an umbrella, we lounged and read, ate, drank, and played backgammon, with only Villainy in our view of the sun setting over the crystal blue waters.
May 18, 2010
With two goals we motored only about 5 miles North to anchor off Little Halls Pond Cay. Goal 1. Solitude. Check. Again, we had our own small private beach where we tucked Villainy right up near the beach bookended with rocky outcroppings. We swam out to check out the anchor (make sure it was set well) and ended up looking at some coral and fish along the way in 4’ of water when we spotted a very large sting ray swimming right for us. Those guys are very curious and friendly. We literally petted one in Georgetown as he kept swimming by brushing himself against my feet as if to pet me as well. However, the current one was huge, took us by surprise, and I believe we were feeling extra vulnerable in our nakedness. We swam quickly out of his path, but he kept veering towards us until at last he turned away. Goal 2. Sea Aquarium. We took Lil Vill over to this coral reef on the map labelled “Sea Aquarium Coral Garden.” We were immediately surrounded by so many fish when we dove it that it was hard to see sometimes. The coral were gorgeous and the fish we quite sociable. We saw a few fish that we had not seen before including a trunkfish (video below) and a huge school of enormous jacks. Check. After a long day, we slept well.
May 17, 2010
Onward! Missing the opportunity to dive Rocky Dundas, two caves, on the way down because of bad weather, we came back to check it off our list. Lively day of snorkeling both the caves, which were spectacular and huge, and go and snorkel by the coral gardens once again. As good as the first time!
May 16, 2010
Longing for some alone time, we sailed up to Pipe Creek and squeezed into this tiny little nook right behind Little Pipe Cay. We could see only one boat way far away and a house on a private cay a quarter mile away. We were nicely secluded and enjoyed a long hot day of riding around the creek in Lil Vill, stopping to swim here and there. One highlight was off Joe Cay finding the aquablue creek bracketed by white flour sand beaches all the way in until it came to a sandy bottom pond with the bluest cool water. We went ashore to our own little private beach right off where we anchored and played backgammon and drank wine until the sunset.
May 15, 2010
We moved Villainy over to Big Majors and ended up meeting Franco and Loretta from Otremare, another Beneteau 46. Franco was into spear fishing with a Hawaiian sling, a type of sling shot that propels a long aluminum rod with a point. This is the only legal way to spear fish in the Bahamas – no spearguns, no dive tanks allowed. It sounded exciting and I wanted to try it. I may be the only vegetarian (yes, I don’t even eat fish) that hunts, but I’m complicated. Besides the excitement and irony, I was further motivated by a primal instinct to hunt so I could feed my woman. Franco and I headed out with spears cocked and eyes squinted. Here’s how it goes. You swim around at the surface around coral and grassy areas where fish like to live until you see an ugly fish. Yes, an ugly fish. The beautiful fish, tropicals, are apparently not tasty. However, they are friendly and swim right up to your pointed spear. Franco seeing me eye one that was to my eye not beholden beautiful admonished me with his waving finger that he was not to kill. The problem is the ugly fish, grey and plain, with maybe only a bit of color, must know they taste good because they do not like you to get close to them. They swim much faster than you can so you have to employ a strategy. Although veteran spear fisherman surely know better than I, one thing to do is watch them hide under a rock or little cliff where they may feel safe from your large lumbering body surely unable to fit into where they are. Then you go down slowly pull back like you are drawing on a bow and you release the spear from about 6’ away hoping to pull their body out on the end of your spear. The second strategy is to watch where they are swimming or where the current is taking them and try to anticipate their approach. Then you swim to the bottom at an intercept point and get very still and wait for them. Any movement will cause them to swim far far away from you. Both of these worked for us that day. I struck first spearing a yellowtail snapper that hid underneath a ledge from me. I went down upside down peering my head below the ledge and saw him cowering in the back. My heart was racing. I heard Galit tell Franco and Loretta the night before over wine that he doesn’t even kill flies; he shoes them out the windows. But I must feed my woman! I slowly drew the spear in the sling and fired a wicked fast bullet. I couldn’t see anything as a cloud sediment formed under the ledge, but I knew I had hit it as the spear was twitching violently from the cloud. Although almost out of breath, I lunged deeper to retrieve the shaking spear. Wide-eyed I withdrew the jerking fishkabob and surfaced. Now what? I looked around for Franco and saw his snorkel several dozen yards away unaware of my kill. I looked left and right and behind me wildly as a large barracuda had been following me earlier and sharks might smell the blood. Panicked, I swam Phelpsian toward Franco putting up a wake still holding the twitching fishkabob at arms length refusing to look at it as it felt horrible enough through my hand’s extension. Finally, when I reached Franco and I allowed myself to look at the fish, I pleaded to him it looked much smaller out of the water. He said it always does and something about the mask as a lens. As Galit and I had discussed several times now, the “humane” thing to do is to kill it quickly and the chosen method of humane fishermen is to put a knife blade into its brain. She asked me before I left on my crusade if I thought I could do it. I honestly said that I was not sure. For the test I brought a knife with me, a dull ended sail rigging knife that was not at all appropriate but all I had. I was not even sure it would penetrate the fish’s skull and the thought of having to use the serrades to saw into him is ghastly. I asked Franco if I should try to put a knife into his brain. He said, no, with a furrowed brow and shook his head slowly. It is not necessary. I don’t know if it was the look of horror that was surely on my face or that the fish was too small or what? But I was relieved and swam to the rocky coral bluff to lay the fish until we were done. Franco yelled to make sure he was dead and would not get away. I was in such a state. I swam clumsily over the coral that I am so used to respectfully giving wide berth. Breathing hard and swallowing water. I sat there and looked at the fish on the spear. It was not moving much anymore except from his trying to breathe. I pulled him off my spear and gently laid him on his side. For the first time I saw blood gushing from his side where the spear had gone straight through him. He flapped a few more times requiring that I hold him in my gloved hands until the intimacy of the moment and his life were gone. I am sure his eye was fixed upon me as I imagined what he saw in his last moments: my mask pinched face and bulging eyes, surely more noble than the jaws of a barracuda. He looked larger now as I could feel his meaty body and even see into him through the spear’s hole. I got back in the water and swam over to Franco much much to my surprise ready for more. I had a blood thirst now following my first kill. I could feel it pulsing through my body. My eyes were keen. My breathe could be held for long periods of time deep under the water as I waited still with spear cocked full spread. I saw Franco take a long shot at a fish swimming beneath him that sent his spear through the fish. A brilliant shot! As he went to collect the fishkabob, it got off the spear somehow and swam away and under a coral head. Franco, not giving up, went down again after him. I watched from the surface, listening to my snorkel breathing, as Franco lay still right outside the ledge the fish had escaped under. Then, I saw the fish back out a hole in the large boulder of a coral head opposite of where Franco was steadily readied to pounce. I swam down sneaking up from behind and sent my spear through the fish’s body as he was busy attending to Franco. The fishkabob shook tremendously stirring up a cloud of sand. I swam down to get him and as I was bringing him to the surface, he shimmied off the end of the spear and swam away. With two visible holes in his side streaming two misty lines of blood, he escaped. Franco and I looked at each other astonished and just shook our heads. Nuff respect. That fish won. Although my blood thirst remained, we had scared all the fish away and we called it a day.
Galit, having worked on a fishing boat before, emotionlessly gutted and cleaned the fish. She covered it with butter and lemon and lime juices, wrapped it in foil, head and all, and baked it for a short time. As I watched my woman eat my kill, I felt like a man. But still a bit squeamish and not enough of a man to eat it with her.