May 12, 2010
Since Ty had to fly out in a couple of days, we headed for Staniel Cay, where we knew he could get a flight to Nassau like Chad did. The wind was still kicking a bit, but that made for a great sail up to Staniel Cay. Ty got to take the helm and Villainy blazed along easily at 6-7kts. We anchored near Peter on Transition just in time to dive Thunderball (again!). Every time we see something different. This time we brought frozen peas which are like crack to fish. It was fun to throw a handfull of peas at Ty or Galit and see them engulfed, disappearing in a swirling cloud of desperate fish.
It was also fun seeing the look on Ty’s face as he entered the Thunderdome. Reminded me of my first time.
We also had lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club with Chris and Peter then got Ty ready for his flight the next day. Sorry to see him go, but we will see him again this summer when we sail to Newport for the Jazz festival.
May 09, 2010
With a North Easterly front predicted to come through, we made our way North to find shelter. We sailed back out Rat Cut into the Exuma Sound, sailed slow tight on the light wind North and decided to duck back into the Bank side at Farmer’s Cut. Deep indigo waters of the sound changed to the clear blue tint of a swimming pool as we began sailing up the Banks in 8-12’ of water leisurely. We even dropped a line behind the boat and took turns being dragged through the water to cool ourselves down. Then Galit spied a cave on the map not too far off our course. We went to investigate and were able to anchor in sand about 20 yards off what appeared to be the entrance to the underwater cave. We donned our wetsuits, fins, and snorkels and dove in to explore. Ty had yet to experience diving down under the water to enter a cave. It was beautiful and a fun diversion.
We weighed anchor and sailed into Black Point on Great Guana Cay which should provide some protection from the Nor’easter. We tucked up as close as we could to the wall of rock and land on the Southern shore to give us the most protection. We fired up Lil Vill and went into the small settlement that has about 200 people living there. As we waited for the front to pass, we hiked along the rocky shoreline to some cliffs and watched ships come into Dotham Cut. We hung out at Scorpio’s bar and played pool with some local kids. There was not many customers one afternoon when we were there and they kept playing this rake and scrape song over and over and over again. We speculated that they wanted to please the sailors that want to hear local music. Yea, but not the same song! Luckily Ty plugged in his iPhone and played some old soulful rocksteady, which was a crowd pleaser as men were coming in after work dirty and hot and looking for a Kalik to quench their thirst. The owner was really nice and plugged in the only video game in the place – Moonwalker! It was a 1990 video game created by Michael Jackson. You have to use a joystick to do dance moves that when done right zap attackers. And get this! The objective of the game is to acquire as many children as possible, who are being held by the bad guys. Oh man! After happy hour, Galit was convinced that we had to buy Moonwalker, stow it on the boat, so we could bring it back the USA and sell it for a million dollars on Ebay. She had Ty and I convinced too, but somehow it didn’t happen?
In the meantime, we’d entered into a symbiotic relationship with some ramora fish that hung out under our boat. In exchange for food scraps they cleaned the bottom of Villainy. They have the strangest heads I’ve ever seen. The top of their head looks like a sneaker tread and they have an upside down mouth. Definitely a mistake of nature, but we grew to love them.
Oh yeah, we also watched a Beneteau 46 pull into harbor a few hours after us. With binoculars we saw it said it was from New York and it’s name was Kind of Blue! Whoa! That was the sailboat right next to ours during the commissioning for at least a month. We never met the owner, until now. Chris, as it turns out, bought his boat from the same guy we got ours from, Jim. What a coincidence! Within feet of each other in New York, to within feet of each other in the Exumas!
May 07, 2010
We were hoping for the strong Easterlies to change direction or at least lighten up so we could make our way East to Conception. However, that was not in the cards so we decided to head back North. After a great sail up the Exuma Sound we shot through an inlet and dropped anchor off the Western beach of Rat Cay. Rat Cay is a small uninhabited island covered with impenetrable trees and brush with sandy beaches and craggily rocked shoreline pocked with caves. The one nice thing is that we were completely alone. No people. No boats. No lights. After being surrounded at all times in Georgetown, this was a real treat. The celebration began. We made cocktails, then rowed Lil Vill over to the tiny nearby island Pigeon Cay, that is also uninhabited. We thought, what a great place for a bonfire tonight! After we gathered wood and pine needles for kindling, we made a nice fire pit on the beach. We rowed back, made dinner, and got provisions. It was dark now around 9PM and we saw a strange motor vessel pull up around the corner of Pigeon Cay. Then several other small skiffs were zipping around it in the night and they began unloading (or loading) stuff from a large crane arm. This continued until late into the night and was suspicious because the transaction was behind Pigeon Cay, blocked from the sight of the nearest settlement, Barraterre, just a handful of miles away. The vessel did not look like any fishing vessel we had seen and it did not look like a transport vessel either. It looked like an old double decker ferry. Of course we are speculating at a fast pace that it was drug smuggling, as the Bahamas are notorious for, or even merchandise smuggling to evade the 40% import duty that Bahamians must pay. As the night drew, we decided to proceed with out bonfire plans. Only whispering we silently rowed over in the cover of darkness to evade the eyes of the smugglers who were just around the rocky corner of the beach on Pigeon Cay. We were letting our imaginations run as it intensified what was already exciting. Once we were out of their sight line, we began laughing and beached Lil Vill. The fire lit with ease and became a roar in seconds. Ty made Dark and Stormy cocktails (Ginger beer and spiced rum) that were delicious. I brought a gang of fireworks that we were sure would either incite or scare off the smugglers. We began small with some little rockets and whiz bangs and firecrackers. Then we stepped it up to some big rockets that require launch tubes to stabilize their take off. My favorite, the “Red Neck Rocket” ascends about 200 yards with blazing streak and screaming noise then bursts into a huge spherical multicolored plume. We were running around laughing like little kids. Sometime during the night, the mysterious smugglers had slipped away while we slept.
The next day we geared up to snorkel around the reef off of Rat Cay and explore a cave that we could see with our binoculars. Adventure!
May 05, 2010
Galit was able to get off of her days of work and so her and Ty came together along with goodies from NYC! We hung around Georgetown for a few days to get all provisioned up (beer for the monster) and take care of some minor business. We had fun hiking around, swimming, playing volleyball, and of course drinking and socializing with others. Cinco de Mayo came and we celebrated with spicy margaritas made from Patron tequila that had been infused with a habanero pepper. Plus, a bunch of mexiphiles, like myself, decided to have a beach party over on hamburger beach. Turned out to be a blast. In honor of the liberation of mexico, I shaved my 3 week beard off leaving a nice dirty sanchez mustache. Several people who I had only met that night kept their eye on me, especially if I got near their children.
April 19, 2010
How to begin? Elizabeth Harbor outside Georgetown is the cruising Mecca in the Bahamas that 400-500 boats come each winter to live for several months. There are organized events (eg, parties, potlucks, regattas, volleyball leagues, yoga, etc), good provisions (free water, good groceries, fuel, and marine supplies), and a morning VHF network announcement that everyone tunes into for information about weather, events, general questions to the community (eg, anybody have a load tester? my battery is acting funny).
Luckily we were arriving right before one of the best times of the year to be there – during the Georgetown Family Regatta. Nominally three days of sailboat races, but more generally it is a huge several day party. They construct wooden shacks all along the main dock that serve food and drinks and blast music all day and night. I really liked that it is not cruiser-centric. This is a Bahamian event. Bahamians from all the islands come to watch the races and party. Only Bahamian constructed sailboats crewed by Bahamians are allowed to race. The sailboats were unlike anything I’ve ever seen (check out the pictures below) and had huge sails compared to the size of the boat itself. Plus, they had “pries” – boards that could slide back and forth that were used to hike out on the windward side to balance the boat. Sometimes they would have 6 guys way out on planks of wood 10 feet up in the air! The races were a blast to watch. We motored around in Lil Vill to get close to the action. It was visually stunning – a symphony of angles and triangles moving in unison across blue waters and white clouds.
Socially, Georgetown is over the top. Since this is a destination, you run into a dozen boats that you’d met ever since Chesapeake. Reunions and new unions. We reconnected with Kevin and Elise from Fur Elise; Frank and Debbie from Denali, John and Christina from Gabrielle, Steve and Kirstin from Hook, and Peter from Transition and had some great nights on each other’s boats having dinners and drinks. Galit bought some coconut bread, made french toast ,and had a bunch of them over for breakfast on Villainy. Good times!
Galit just flew out to work and I’m here single-handing Villainy for a week until Ty rejoins the crew on Monday. The night before Galit left once again we had to deal with the weather – 30 kt winds, heavy rain, big waves, and lightening. Then the night after she left I felt so bad because it was one of the magic nights. As the sun was setting, the full moon rose as orange as the sun and three baby dolphins and a large one played in the waters right beside me for 10 minutes.
April 18, 2010
Finally the weather let up and we were able to head South. First stop, Emerald Bay Marina for a little luxury. We pulled into the beautiful and new marina and resort. We got fuel and filled up our tanks with water (35 cents per gallon). We took long hot showers and did laundry. We cleaned the salt off Villainy’s windows and polished her metals. Then, we walked over to the resort’s bar, which had a great view, and had some pizza and drinks. In the morning, we were trying to figure out how we were going to get off the docks. The wind picked up to 15-22 kts making it difficult for us to back up without our bow being pushed around the wrong way. Adding to this is the fact that in reverse we slide to port (prop walk). As we were coming up with plans, two sail boats came into the docks and lost control. One T’d the dock finger when he tried to turn into the slip. One lost control and got pushed 4 slips away from his target slip. Then the sailboat next to us lost control when he tried to back out of the slip and ended up being pushed into some slips across the way. Good thing there were no boats there. Well, it was our turn. We’d waited for the winds to slack but they did not cooperate. Our plan was to have the dock hand hold on to a line to the stern as we backed out. And another guy was going to walk down the slip finger with a line to our bow to keep it from being blown the wrong way. Well, the wind gusted up. The dock hand let go of the stern line way too early and there we went being blown towards two boats docked right next to us. A Texas couple on Spirit Dancer was helping us and had some big fenders out that held us safely off their boat. Galit and I had to grab onto a big anchor sticking off the bow of the other boat and hold us off it until we could get some forward momentum and get out. Not graceful, but no scratches. Our hearts raced all the way to Georgetown, our next destination.
April 15, 2010
With a bad spell of weather predicted to hit the Exumas, we had to decide between just staying where we were in Little Farmers or running before the front further South. We decided to head out to Lee Stocking Island where there would be good protection from the Easterlies that were predicted. We got off the ball and headed out the little cut between massive rocks. The tide was ebbing and the wind was against it as we left. This made for a roller coaster ride out of the cut. Villainy was pitching up and down as we powered through and were thankful for the big 54 HP engine. We began to question our decision to leave, but once out into the sound it was a better. Nonetheless, we had a pretty challenging sail down South – 18-24 kts of wind, huge waves crashing over the bow, and a very active helm. Once we got to Adderley cut, we turned West and surfed big waves right through the rocky cays that bookended the cut. Then all was calm and we motored around the island near the Perry Marine Research Center and dropped anchor near a couple of other boats in a protected little harbor. Deep exhalation and grins. We made another leg without incident in challenging conditions.
Not too much swimming as there are sharks here.
Little did we know, we would be there for six days waiting for the weather to settle. Luckily for us, we made friends with the two other boats – Gabrielle (80’ trawler) and Lanikai (30’ Tartan). We spent our days together hiking around the island, taking the dingy to beaches on other parts of the islands, and touring the research center (they are studying tiny sea worms that live in the sand under the water). We spent our nights hanging out on each others boats, snacking, and drinking. Fun times!
And now presenting the long awaited sequel to Lobotomy:
April 13, 2010
After our trauma of getting into the Cambridge Cay mooring, we decided to go out the other way to the deep Exuma Sound. Hands down, we had the best sail we’ve had. 15-20 kts of wind in deep blue open ocean beam on for 35 miles. Full sail – 7 plus kts effortlessly just a mile off shore. Incredible! We grabbed a mooring after coming into the harbor and relaxed for a couple of days. I did my taxes online and did a bit of blogging now that we finally have internet.
April 12, 2010
In the morning we doubled back and headed North, riding the eastern 15-20 kts of winds, back up to Cambridge Cay, one of the last islands in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We arrived just after low tide and barely got into the mooring field. Ok, we actually bumped bottom in the skinniest part of the channel where there are a ton of coral heads. Post Low End Theory – decompressing after our freak out session – we moored, dropped Lil Vil, donned our wetsuits, and headed out for some snorkeling. We had the best dive so far in the Coral Garden just East of Rocky Dundas. There was about a 1/2 mile coral reef teeming with fish and the most beautiful, large, and colorful coral we’ve seen. Brain coral, smoke stacks, fans, etc. Incredible.
April 11, 2010
The weather. El Nino. Since we’ve been here, even before we left Florida, the weather has been crazy. Front after front. Winds ripping. Rolling white capped waves. Unrelenting. Bad news. Good news is that the winds make for some GREAT sailing. We’ve rarely had to turn on the engine except to get into and out of harbors. I bet our average speed is 6-7 kts and we are not even trying to optimize our speed. So fun!
We jumped on the easterly wind blowing at 18 kts heading south. After we dipped our toes, we were full sail hauling ass at 7.5 kts. The wind turned a bit South and we had to do a big dogleg, but it was so enjoyable that we didn’t care that we could sail directly to Staniel Cay. We rolled in and dropped the hook right off Staniel Cay Yacht Club right in front of the 100-plus foot mega yachts. Took the Lil Vill express to the SCYC. As we pulled up in 5 feet of water to the dock about 20 sharks circled around the docks. Dark dangerous shapes s’ing through the water waiting for the chum from fisherman cleaning their catch of the day. Not as scary as it sounds as they were nurse sharks that could at worst gum your leg until it tickles you to death. We hit the bar, which is legendary in the Bahamas – for the parrot heads out there, it makes Jimmy Buffett’s top 10 bar list for what it’s worth.
The next day, Chad was leaving – taking a puddle jumper to Nassau to connect with his flight back to San Francisco. So we tried to squeeze in some fun. We snorkeled Thunderball cave, which was way beyond expectations and is famous for being the locale of the underwater cave scene in the James Bond Thunderball movie. Lived up to the hype! Huge dome cave with skylight and several entrances and side caves.
We watched Chad’s little plane take off and Galit and I went and dove Thunderball again. Then we went back to the bar, which was polluted by hussies with fake tiddies from a mega-yacht called “Hooter Patrol IV” that were down in the Bahamas for the Hooters Calender. Of course all eyes were on the hooters and they were poured shot after shot. I began to feel inadequate as Galit couldn’t take her eyes off the hooters. However, as the night progressed we began to feel sorry for the hooters as they had to fend off the entitled advances from El Jefe of the Hooter Patrol IV. Oh well, they are in the Bahamas on a mega-yacht. As the saying goes – ass, grass, or cash – nobody rides for free.
The next day we moved just about a mile away and anchored off Big Major Cay among at least 20 other vessels. Good reason too. The anchorage was beautiful. Holding was great. Protection was fantastic. Plus, wild pigs from the beach swam up to our boat to beg for food! No joke. It was amazing.