OUR NEW CRUISING SEASON BEGINS
This season promises to be quite different than last. We are traveling with three other boats and we are going back to the Bahamas to explore islands not visited our first year out. This will be quite a change from our "on our own" trip to Cuba. We are looking forward to the change and especially our traveling companions, who are all good friends. Three of the boats, La Coquette, First Look and ourselves are all Wayfarers Cove boats. Then there is Its About Time, close friends since our first year of cruising.
Casting off from our berth at Minnesott
Bill and Cindy from "Johesa" wave goodbye. They are staying the winter to build their dream-house nearby.
Bill and Cindy on the fuel dock at Minnesott - farewell for a while!
Well, after all the work is done, the boat storage areas are filled and the weather is getting darn cold, it is time to break away. We left Minnesott with "First Look" heading for Beaufort, NC where we were planning to join with "Its About Time". Sally and Conrad were in Beaufort getting a new mainsail installed and waiting for us and a weather window. As it turned out, First Look developed bilge pump problems and started to take on water so they returned to Minnesott where Don got them repaired in no time at all. We moved on to Beaufort to link up with "Its About Time" and catch our weather window to Florida (3 nights and 3 days). "First Look" would follow when their repairs were complete and we would link up in Vero Beach, FL. La Coquette experienced some delays and frustration on the waterway so they took advantage of the weather window and hooked up with us in Fernandina Beach, FL. We ended up spending 3 days there waiting out a cold front so that we could catch another weather window to Ft. Pierce, Florida (2 nights and a day). Now we were an armada of three boats, Pioneer, Its About Time and La Coquette. Once into Ft. Pierce, we took the waterway up to Vero Beach.
Conrad (the master Mr. Fix-It) fixes Scout's motor at Vero Beach
The other two couples on the boats in our armada rented cars and spent the American Thanksgiving with family in the area. We spent it at Vero and the next day, Judy flew back to Canada for a week to visit her mum. Ron was left to mind boats and a cat!
The girls (Sally, Shirley and Judy) head off for a day of shopping in Vero Beach
The bird of choice in Florida poses for the camera
Cruisers' Thanksgiving potluck at Vero Beach
More Thanksgiving dinner at Vero
On the Road (WATER!!) Again - 2007-2008!
Once everyone was back in Vero Beach, around the end of November, we began actively searching for a weather window to head down the Florida Coast and hopefully make a left near Ft. Lauderdale to cross over the Gulf Stream to Bimini. After resting there a few days, the plan was to head across Great Bahama Bank and through Tongue of the Ocean to Nassau. After that we would be head down the Exumas chain of cays. A cruiser's plans are always set in Jell-o, however, and such was our case. We had to make a few modifications to our departure and a larger one to our destination. Because of the real possibility of getting stuck in Bimini, we decided to head for Nassau. Pioneer was waiting in Ft, Pierce for a last minute generator repair and that could throw a wrench into our plans. We had been having problems with our Honda generator and finally found a dealer that could fix it. The problem was flaky, however, and difficult to spot. Luckily, the generator acted up while it was in the shop and the problem was pinpointed. Unfortunately we had to wait for a part to arrive and be installed. In short, we left Vero in a three boat armada, picked up "First Look" at Ft. Pierce and three of the boats headed out from there. We ended up leaving Ft. Pierce in darkness after the other three as we were waiting for delivery of the generator to a dock near where we were anchored. It's such an adventure heading out after dark when all the lights from the buoys blend in with the city lights! Luckily we had done this route before in the dark so we managed the task easily.
Ron feeds Pioneer with diesel fuel during the trip from Ft. Pierce to Nassau
The trip down the coast was mostly motor sailing but at low revs so we saved on fuel. At Boca Raton, (just before Ft. Lauderdale) we took the advice of our weatherman, Chris Parker, and headed across the Gulf Stream to Great Isaac Rock to take the Hen and Chickens waypoint onto the banks. At this point, the wind kicked up and we had an enjoyable sail across the Bank.
Our timing was good as we arrived at Northwest Channel and entered the Tongue of the Ocean at first light. We reached Nassau by three in the afternoon, 44 hours after leaving Ft. Pierce. Our arrival was just in time. The skies were black behind and around us. We managed to get into Nassau at slack tide and get fuelled up before the rain and winds hit.
La Coquette sails down Tongue of the Ocean
Nassau now became our port to check into the country. It was a little more complicated than checking in at Bimini two years ago, but still manageable.
We planned to stay only 2 days in Nassau and then head off to the Exumas. On our second night in Nassau we were just about ready to fall asleep when it sounded like bombs were going off. Then we realized it was fireworks and they were taking place from a barge in the middle of the channel just off our beam. We have never seen such a show and we were almost right under the blasts as they filled the sky. Thank goodness there was a good breeze blowing the remnants away from us! The show seemed to be for a private party on Paradise Island right across from us - some well-off person having a great birthday bash we assumed. The next morning, two boats in our armada of four remained behind in Nassau while First Look and Pioneer headed off to Shroud Cay and then Warderick Wells. Our four boat armada should be back together again soon.
Warderick Wells part of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. It is a protected area so no fishing or polluting is allowed. Several times we have gone ashore to explore various hiking trails, Boo Boo Hill and the quite vigorous blow holes. Judy took her turn standing over the holes to see what the effect would be; she got quite a surprise!
Judy gets a big surprise by the force of the blow hole!
Vicki and Bob relax at Warderick with Pioneer and First Look in the background
Bob, Judy and Ron at Boo Boo Hill
Hiking the trails at Warderick Wells
Judy relaxes and cleans off her "Crocs" after landing Scout on "Powerful Beach"
As each cruising season is planned, new innovations are thought of and sometimes tried. The absolute worst part of washing clothes is not doing it in a pail of soapy water with a toilet plunger (that part works quite well); it is the wringing of the clothes by hand that is the big problem!
Judy's laundry area has now moved onto the back deck where her newly-installed wringer is the envy of many boaters.
So, this year Judy made a purchase of a wringer. Not a new-fangled one, but an old one just like the one she gave to her daughter, Kelly, to use up at their cottage. That one was a family heirloom from Aunt Lillian and Uncle Don. This new one we just happened to spot in an antique store in Lethbridge and the rollers were in great shape. This project turned out "the best"! The wringer does a fantastic job. The mounting is somewhat primitive, but who cares, it WORKS!
View from the office at Warderick Wells
Vicki and Judy clown around on The Causeway at Warderick Wells
Rays at play under The Causeway
The mysterious pyramids of Warderick Wells!
The weather that we were all taking shelter from was quite something to experience. At its worst, sustained winds of 30 to 35 knots with higher gusts. The high winds were caused by tropical storm Olga that passed south of Cuba and into the North- West Caribbean. She has not dissipated yet but hopefully will soon. Right now we are experiencing the squalls of a substantial cold front that should pass through by Sunday night. Hopefully the winds will move around to the north east on Monday and allow safe and comfortable passage for Its About Time and La Coquette to catch up with us.
The tradition each year you visit Warderick Wells is to create/add to a sign you have made (new guidelines say driftwood signs only allowed!). Because our old sign from two years ago was a shell with our boat name on it, it was removed from the pile with several other "illegal" ones when the new rules were instituted. So... we had to make a new one.
Ron carves up a storm for our contribution to Boo Boo Hill
The Artist poses with his art!
Ron got out his dad's old woodworking chisels and set about creating a sign for placement on Boo Boo Hill. We used an old piece of driftwood that we found on one of our island hikes. It was a piece of a hull from an old Haitian boat. It looks great and is eco-friendly! First Look found an old home-made paddle on the beach and they used that to make their sign.
Bob and Vicki on First Look deposit their sign on Boo Boo Hill
We pose with our sign up on Boo Boo Hill
After Warderick Wells it was one night in Black Point Settlement to do laundry and pick up Lorraine's mum's coconut bread. Her bread has the greatest reputation and it makes absolutely superb French toast! On the docks as we were leaving Black Point, the local fishermen had brought in turtle, lobster and conch for Christmas dinner. What a treat, but unfortunately for us, not for sale. Then we were off to Galliot Cut to await a weather window to George Town.
Lorraine's Mum with flour on her shirt from baking our bread at Black Point Settlement!
Local fishermen clean their catch at Black Point
Cleaning a turtle at Black Point Settlement
The weather was not as cooperative as we would have wished and so we had to spend two nights at Galliot. The second night we had a party on the beach and asked the weather gods to be kind. That night they were not and we ended up in the cockpit, engine running, bouncing around in the current, watching the other boats and trying not to get too close to any of them. The next morning after the squalls went through we managed to charge through the cut out into the deep water. The trip to George Town was tight on the wind and somewhat choppy but we made it in good time and by 3:00 p.m. we were comfortably at anchor.
George Town, Bahamas
On first arriving at Georgetown, we anchored Pioneer and First Look at Monument Beach, an anchorage that we were familiar with. It didn't take long to remember the heavy commercial traffic and the wakes that they caused. In searching for a new place to set the hook, we decided to re-anchor initially off Kidd's Cove near town so that our water and fuel runs by dinghy would be shorter. We were also able to take our foresail in to get some minor work done by the same fellow who repaired it two years ago. That worked out very well. He did a superb job and had the sail ready for us that same afternoon. Considering that it was Christmas Eve, we were most impressed.
Gesner folds up our sail after sewing up some seams
Gesner at his house/shop
On returning to Pioneer, we pulled up the anchor once again and headed for Sand Dollar Beach, where several boats that we knew were anchored. First Look moved over to this new anchorage earlier in the day so it was like home when we arrived and picked out our spot.
That night, Christmas Eve, we took a long dinghy ride over to Hamburger Beach to attend a church service and a social/desserts afterwards. It was a well-thought-out service with Christmas carols and Christmas scripture readings by various boaters. The social afterwards was fun, as usual, and a good opportunity to meet new boaters.
On Christmas Day we attended a pot-luck/turkey dinner on Volleyball Beach. There were 140 cruisers present and the food just barely stretched to feed the throngs.
Bill and Sue (Nice 'N' Easy) get into the Christmas dinner spirit
Bob (First Look), Dave (Magic) and Ron pose in their Christmas attire
Several cruisers with big ovens on board had cooked turkeys and hams and the rest was supplied by those attending. After dinner, the musically talented cruisers stepped up to the beach mic and played their instruments and sang. The audience got into the act as well with slow and line dancing between the picnic tables. Once again, a great opportunity to get to know new cruisers.
Colin (Mandalay) sings and plays up a storm after Christmas dinner
Doug (About Time) and fluteman also join the musical festivities
The keyboard man, Herb (Utopia), takes his turn....
Bob and Vicki take time out to enjoy the music
Ron, Bob and the girls try a little "free style"
Ron swaps Cuba stories with Nigel Calder, author of the cruising guide that we used for our Cuba trip last winter
Christmas dinner antics
Sunset on Volleyball Beach, Christmas Day
The night was short on Christmas Day because of the George Town Junkanoo that started at about 3:00 a.m. on Boxing Day. Most boaters managed to get a few hours sleep before we all dinghyed off in the dead of night across the harbour to George Town. Thank goodness it was a calm trip! The costumes and the energy of Junkanoo is truly amazing. Each costume is a work of art and the floats are even better. It sure made the Whoop-Up Days parade in Lethbridge look amateur! In fact, the Calgary Stampede could take a lesson from this little island town. At 7:30 am approximately, Junkanoo ended. We stopped off for coffee and homemade cookies with Gail and Bob on Star in the inner harbour before we zipped across the large expanse back to Pioneer.
A Glimpse of Junkanoo, George Town, Bahamas
Which face is real?
Big yawn - late night!
How many legs does this man-float have?
Peace and Plenty float
If you look hard you can just make out a face in the middle
Can you believe it - this is a one man costume!
Young girls perform African dances
What me bored?
Get these darn wings off me, please, mom?
So far, at our new anchorage, we have hiked across the island to the ocean side to beach-comb, finding shells and sea beans. We have also managed to patch up Scout (our dinghy). She had a slow leak that needed to be topped up daily. She should be fine now. We have changed out our water filters, as well. The water purifier especially needed changing.
We have heard from It's About Time and La Coquette. They should be joining us as soon as a weather window permits. Meanwhile we spend our time reading, doing yoga on the beach, visiting other boats, having bonfires on Sand Dollar beach, cutting hair, hiking, playing dominoes, doing pedicures, etc. On New Year's Eve we will head off to St. Francis (a restaurant/inn near Volleyball Beach) where we will dance and drink in the New Year.
Ron takes time out to give Judy a pedicure....
Judy, Donna (Magic) and Patricia (Nauti-Nauti) chat around the bonfire on Sand Dollar Beach
We have joined a beach yoga class which we try to attend regularly, except when we have small emergencies that arise (like hooking our anchor chain around a big rusted barrel with jagged edges). We solved the anchor chain problem but missed the yoga class! One day, just before yoga started, we encountered a native reptile trying to get inside the volleyball posts on the beach. One cruiser gently pulled him off and delivered him to nearby vegetation.
Mr. Monty Python joins a volleyball match
While on volleyball beach we also took a picture of another pair of local natives, grooming each other. When you are a cruiser, you must be very resourceful. Either keep your hair very long or very short....in-between is difficult to live with!
Bill gives Sue her regular hair cut - nice salon, Bill!
Each day when the water in the harbour is tolerable, we head into town for various errands. Since our visit last year, a new "monument" has arrived near the entrance to Lake Victoria. We wondered whether it was left there because no one could afford to remove it or just as a warning to boaters that this can happen to anyone. It was probably a victim of the last hurricane that went through this summer.
A new "monument" to the power of Mother Nature
We have spent several hours in the local computer shop at George Town. The signal is usually very good and strong/fast enough to publish these updates to our website. Hardly could you tell this from the outside appearance, or the inside, for that matter. However, the couple that run the place are great and very helpful. The cost to us is $5.00 for the day. Not bad compared to many others.
Ron outside the local computer shop
Judy and Donna work away in the computer shop
New Year's Eve was spent with many other cruisers at St. Francis Resort and Marina. The cruisers supplied the hors d'oeuvres while the marina supplied music, a dance floor and a bar. After we rang in the new year, the music started to get really good. We knew we had appropriately entered the new year when the speakers blared out with Ron's favourite song - YMCA.
Vicki and Bob (First Look) and Allan (Nauti-Nauti) get into the New Year's spirit
Some of our Canadian cruising friends doing a "dirty circle"
Back at Sand Dollar Beach over the next few days we rested and recuperated from the New Years activities. The price of real estate went up when we were joined by some Mega yachts, two of which combined at this camera angle to make an interesting hybrid.
Mega hybrid yacht joins us at Sand Dollar
Magic pulls up her anchor as she prepares for a trip to Long Island and beyond
Judy returns from scouting out the set of the anchor
David from the cat "Da Mojo" takes a spin on his surf kite around the anchorage
During our stay in George Town, we took advantage of the several events/classes that were offered. There was yoga on Volleyball Beach three times a week, instructed by Colleen from "Mandalay". Her classes were excellent and covered many different branches of yoga.
Beach yoga early in the morning
Colleen from Mandalay teaches her yoga crew
Bob from Star and his Total Immersion swimmers
A wonderful opportunity to improve our swimming style came about when Bob from "Star" offered to teach a 4 day session (2 hours each day) in Total Immersion swimming. There were 14 of us in class every day and we all improved our swimming technique tremendously.
However, our time at George Town was limited. As soon as the anchorages began to crowd with boats, we decided to leave. It was time to explore places we had not been, such as the Jumentos and Long Island. By chance, the Jumentos came first - the tides and the weather were perfect for crossing the Comer Channel (a narrow channel about 12 miles long and only 6 feet deep at low tide). To get to the Jumentos, we had to cross the Comer.
Adventures in the Jumentos
Our trip to the Jumentos has, so far, been the highlight of the winter. The Jumentos Cays, also known as the Ragged Islands, are a series of small islands curving south and west of George Town. The most southerly island is a mere 60 miles from the south-east corner of Cuba. These islands are mostly uninhabited but extremely beautiful with long sandy beaches on their west coasts and a mixture of coral and sandy beaches on the Atlantic (east) coast.
Coral and stray fishing net on the Atlantic side of Raccoon Cay, Jumentos
Beachcombing on the ocean side of Raccoon Cay
More beachcombing on Raccoon Cay - now where is my contact??
Parts of this island chain are open and exposed to ocean swells from the east. Several of the anchorages have an uncomfortable surge, especially when the winds get over 20 kt. We learned where to anchor by trial and error so by the time we left, our anchorages had become quite a bit more comfortable. Our days were spent having wonderful sails between the islands, beachcombing on the east coast beaches (a beachcomber's paradise), snorkeling and spear fishing on the coral heads and gathering around the beach bonfire on many an evening.
Our beachcombing crew at Raccoon, including Patricia and Allan (Nauti-Nauti), Bonnie and Roger (Kokomo), Vicki and Bob (First Look) and Judy
Our beachcombing adventures deserve a paragraph all on their own. Every cay that we stopped at had a pathway across the island to the Atlantic side. This ocean-facing side collected all kinds of garbage, sea beans and treasures.
Bob with the first of his hardhat collection - size extra giant
Beach treasures washed in from the Atlantic
Each of us had our own specialty that we collected. Judy searched for rarer sea beans and plastic sea beads. Bob (First Look) was on constant vigil for hard hats ( and there were several). Vicki (First Look) was captivated by sea glass. Meanwhile Ron collected infants shoes/sandals and toys. At bonfires in the evening we would describe some of our treasures for "Show and Tell". The lucky person who guessed right would claim the item and either keep it or set it on the fire ring to slowly melt. In short, a great time was had by all.
The girls enjoy happy hour before the bonfire on Raccoon Cay
Getting ready to light the bonfire at Hog Cay
Beachcombers at rest on Buena Vista Cay - the rag-tag three boats are joined by Dave and Kathi from Dyad
Cactus on the hike
The hikes across the various islands varied from 1/8 mile to almost 3/4 mile. The going was rough at times over coral and through thick underbrush; however, the paths were cleaned back fairly well by previous cruisers and helped along by us.
Roger, Judy and Vicki mark the trailhead
The fishing with pole spears appealed to the men whereas the women liked the beachcombing better. When we went out for fish or lobster we used the term "bugging", meaning "going after bugs (crawfish)".
Ron fillets a glass-eyed snapper
The lobsters here are actually very, very large crawfish because they have no pincers. The only really meaty part is the tail and they are delicious!
Ron prepares to catch "bugs"
Close-up of glass-eyed snapper
Allan displays his catch at Buena Vista Cay
Bob cleans his catch at Raccoon Cay
The girls prepare a lobster feast on Nauti-Nauti
At the time we were in this island chain, there were perhaps ten other cruising boats. It took all of three weeks to meet them all because of the many islands where they could anchor. We spent many a happy hour with Allan and Patricia from Nauti-Nauti and Bob and Vicki from First Look, two boats that we made the trip with. After the first week we started to encounter more boats and expanded many of our happy hours on the beach to include Bonnie and Roger on Kokomo, Rita and Will from Magic, David and Mary on Mon Ami, Stephen and Penny on Rainbow's End, Don on Next Exit, Dave and Kathi on Dyad, John and Jo Anne on Free Bird and Jerry and Donna on BlueJacket. Our final bonfire at Buena Vista Cay included the fishing vessel "Destiny" with her crew of ten out of Long Island. This was the best of all bonfires! Destiny provided the lobster tails and snapper and cooked them in coals on the beach. The other nine boats provided a potluck of dishes to compliment the fish - what a feast! John from Free Bird and Dave on Dyad provided the music for some songs after dinner. It was such a busy night for us, we delayed our trip back up to Water Cay for a day!
Albert, from the fishing vessel Destiny, takes charge of cooking snapper and lobster in a pit of coals on the beach
Nauti-Nauti with their Queen Conch shell
We took Pioneer as far down into the Jumentos as Hog Cay. From there we took our dinghy into Duncan Town on Ragged Island. Duncan Town is a very small fishing community which has few amenities to offer with the exception of Maxine's grocery store, a post office and a police station. However, the people are extremely friendly and helpful and Maxine sells ice cream!!!
First Look, Nauti-Nauti and Pioneer arrive at Duncan Town
Our time in the Jumentos was limited by our stock of fuel, specifically gasoline for our generator and outboard. So, after three weeks of great fun and exploring, we headed back to Water Cay to wait for an opportunity to cross over to Thompson Bay, Long Island. At Water Cay we met up with Sally and Conrad from Its About Time. They were just beginning their trip down the Jumentos chain and planned to stay for at least three weeks. After a few days in Water Cay we crossed the Comer Channel once again heading for Thompson Bay, Long Island, where we have planned to spend a week exploring the island.
Judy and Sally on the white cliffs of Water Cay
Conrad scouts out a huge ray as it buries itself in the sand
Cave on the Atlantic side of Water Cay
Long Island, Bahamas
Since we had run out of gas for the dinghy and generator and were getting low on water and some supplies, we had to say goodbye to the Jumentos. It was probably a good thing as a week of bad weather was descending. We arrived in Long Island the day after thirty cruising boats completed their first George Town to Long Island Race. The normally deserted harbour of Thompson Bay was very crowded! We did, however, get a chance to meet old friends and new ones. The racing boats let us crash their happy hour party on four catamarans rafted together in the Bay. It was a great time as usual!
4-Cat party in Thompson Bay
We have enjoyed meals out at "Parrots of the Caribbean" and Tryphena's Thompson Bay Inn. Tryphena's was the most amazing meal we have had in The Bahamas and elsewhere. It was family style platters of shrimp, grouper fingers, plantain, rice, Cole slaw, potato salad, stone crab, lobster, conch and turkey breast cooked Bahamian style. Unbelievable!
Andrew (Samaria II) and Ron pose for a shot with Tryphena
Tryphena's place on Long Island
Parrots served delicious conch fritters for lunch and you could do your laundry while you ate!
Ron at a fishing wharf in Thompson Bay
Judy climbing up the tall wharf from Scout
We had planned to take a road trip today to explore the entire island, however, the weather did not cooperate so we have delayed our trip for two days. Today we sit at anchor and wait out the 20-25 kt. sustained wind and 30 kt. gusts. Yesterday it was the same but the added concern was repeated squalls that dumped lots of rain on us!
Ron wanders the main street of Salt Pond, Long Island
Ron checks out our boat's cousin on the side of a cottage at Parrots
On the few days before the squalls hit, we did manage to take some walks on the island in Salt Pond and then across to one of the garbage littered beaches on the Atlantic side.
Judy finds telephone pole 108 and the path to the Atlantic side beaches
Atlantic beach view from the trail across the island
Judy combs thru the garbage to find treasures for her grandchildren
Ron checks out a natural well which some cruisers use to fill their tanks
There appear to be many foreigners with homes on Long Island - these are quite outstanding. Generally, the island appears to be very rich compared to the Exumas chain of islands. The island has more sights to see, such as the deepest accessible blue hole is the world.
Blue Hole on Long Island
More Blue Hole
Old Catholic church - Long Island
In order to see the island better, we rented a car with Andrew and Denise from Samariah. In or travels by land we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the Inn in Stella Maris, which is north of our anchorage on Long Island.
Judy and Ron at Stella Maris Resort
Bob and Vicki (First Look) relax during Happy Hour on Nauti Nauti
After touring Long Island our threesome (Pioneer, First Look and Nauti Nauti) headed off to Conception Island. Conception is a small and very beautiful island that is in the process of becoming a Bahamian conservation park. It is a great fair weather anchorage and while we were there the seas were relatively calm, reducing the rolling effect of the normal surge that affects the anchorage. Weather changes and good sailing opportunities took us away from Conception after only two days of relaxation - destination Cat Island, another new island (to us) in the eastern Bahamas. Our threesome enjoyed a vigorous sail, with water spouts on the horizon and a rain/wind squall to keep up our speed. Our first anchorage was at Old Bight which gave us a fair amount of protection from the prevailing winds and frequent squalls. The next day our threesome became separated as we went on to New Bight and our traveling companions stayed to "hunt" lobster and fish. At New Bight, there is a very old hermitage up in the hills behind the town. It was a good half hour walk there and a vigorous climb up to the hermitage. The scenery was well worth it!
Cat Island and the Abacos
After touring Long Island our threesome (Pioneer, First Look and Nauti-Nauti) headed off to Conception Island, a small and very beautiful island that is in the process of becoming a Bahamian conservation park. It is a great fair-weather anchorage and while we were there the seas were relatively calm, reducing the rolling effect of the normal surge that affects the anchorage. Weather changes and good sailing opportunities took us away from Conception after only two days of relaxation - destination Cat Island, another new island (to us) in the eastern Bahamas. Our threesome became a foursome as we were joined by Valerie and True from s/v Margaret. We had met them in Georgetown and passed them in the Jumentos (they were leaving, we were arriving). It was great to finally get a chance to spend some quality time with them. We all enjoyed a vigorous sail, with water spouts on the horizon and a rain/wind squall to keep up our speed. Our first anchorage was at Old Bight which gave us a fair amount of protection from the prevailing winds and frequent squalls. The next day our foursome became separated as Pioneer sailed northward to New Bight while our traveling companions stayed to "hunt" lobster and fish. At New Bight, there is a very old Hermitage up in the hills behind the town. It was a good half hour walk then a vigorous climb up to the Hermitage. The scenery was well worth it!
Steps up to The Hermitage on Cat Island
The path begins here
Judy explores the portals of The Hermitage - they sure were short monks!
A room with a view
A closer view - notice the "monk" at the window?
Intricate stonework is found throughout The Hermitage
After our tiring day climbing up to the Hermitage and dodging several squalls that came through as we headed back down to New Bight, we treated ourselves to lunch at the Bluebird Restaurant, a cute waterfront location within sight of Pioneer at anchor. It was delicious meal and the hostesses/cooks were very tourist-friendly, far surpassing some of our George Town experiences.
Ron is fascinated by the quaint ambiance of the Bluebird!
We did some shopping in New Bight. The stores are few but all we needed was some groceries and fresh-baked bread. We found the greatest bakery here which supplied us with as much bread as we could handle for all of the boats!
Judy and Ezra - the owner of the local grocery store/gas bar
The local gendarme was also very helpful and generous. He arranged for us to get some bottled water, at no cost to us. We thanked him with a loaf of homemade bread from the bakery! The barter system seems to work well on these islands! That evening, we were joined by the rest of our boat foursome who had had a great and successful hunt. That evening we all went back to The Bluebird for dinner. Little did we realize that it would be the last time we would spend quality time (at least for this cruising season) with our friends that we had traveled with for most of the winter.
Valerie and True, s/v Margaret, at The Bluebird
Patricia (Nauti-Nauti) (alias the shoe champion) shows off her shoe-purse after dinner
A little blurry, but here we all are at The Bluebird
Our cooks and Allen and Pat (Nauti-Nauti) pose behind the bar
The next morning, it was time for us to move on up to Orange Creek at the top of Cat Island while our cruising friends did the tour of The Hermitage and New Bight. We planned to meet up with them at Orange Creek but the weather caused us to take a careful look at opportunities to get to Eleuthera. A weather window came upon us the very next day so off we sailed. Our only contact with our friends, to say goodbye, was via the SSB radio. It was a sad and tearful goodbye. Our trip to Eleuthera began at 03:00 in the morning with an arrival at about 17:00 at Alabaster Bay - a great place to set the hook.
No breeze at 03:00 just a little moonlight and our trusty diesel
From Alabaster Bay, the very next morning, we set out for Royal Island hopefully to meet up with cruising friends Debbie and Carl, s/v Diva. We timed our passage to hit Current Cut at slack tide (1.5 hours after Nassau) and we were right on the money.
It was a vigorous sail to Royal Island!
We also were able to call Carl and Debbie on our VHF radio and let them know that we were on our way. When we arrived in the anchorage, there they were! What a wonderful evening we had! We hadn't seen them for over a year. It was just like old times - you never forget your cruising friends!!
Carl and Debbie, our official greeters to Royal Island - party time!
Diva at Royal Island
We were lucky with our weather windows and managed to get to the Abacos the very next day. The New Providence Channel can be quite unpleasant in bad seas, so we took the first opportunity that came along. Once in the Abacos, we made our way to Marsh Harbour. There we planned to take a short break before we went through the Whale Cut on our homeward bound leg. There were several storms with high winds that plagued the Abacos while we were at Marsh Harbour. Our planned layover of a few days extended to 6 days before we were able to navigate the Whale Cut.
Storms over Marsh Harbour - time to close the hatches!
While waiting for a weather break at Marsh Harbour we connected , once again, with another Diva - this one, a Hunter 376 manned by Benoit and Margaret, Canadians from Kingston, Ontario. We had met them previously in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon, just before we headed over to Cuba. We enjoyed our visit with them very much. We were also able to spend time with another couple, Gary and Joyce aboard the cat Pangaea. We had met them while anchored in Thompson Bay Long Island.
Gary and Joyce aboard Pangaea, a Manta 40
As soon as the Whale Cut clamed down, we took off with Pangaea for Green Turtle Cay, where we hoped to stay for a few days. Once again, the weather dictated our departure and suddenly we were headed home!
Sailing into the setting sun on the Great Bahama Bank
Time to Catch the Weather Window!
The next day at 11:00 we left Green Turtle, said goodbye to Pangaea and began our trip back to the United States. Our planned destination was Brunswick, Georgia, but remember, a sailor's plans are always set in jello!
Another great sunset on our trip back to the United States
Once we left the Great Bahama Bank and headed out into the Gulf Stream, the easterly winds that were forecasted became NNE winds. That was not good for our trip in the stream, as it meant wind against current and the result was similar to being in a washing machine. We made the decision to head out of the stream early and make a more coastal type run to Brunswick. On consulting with Chris Parker, our weather guru, we changed plans once again and headed for Charleston SC. The weather window had just increased by almost 24 hours.
Judy in her "foulies", on watch, night #2, of our trip to Charleston
Sunset #2 on the long haul to Charleston
Sixty hours after leaving Green Turtle, we arrived at Ashley Marina in Charleston, where we checked back into the United States. It was a good thing that we were in the marina because that night tornadoes touched down in the area and the winds picked up tremendously. The trip had been a real "temperature shock " for us compared to the Bahamas. There were times that it was just impossible to get warm!
Judy raises the quarantine flag on a cold stormy day in Charleston
The first day in Charleston we headed to our favourite restaurant, Wild Winds, near the historic Charleston Market. We thought that we might leave for Beaufort, NC in the late afternoon but Chris advised us to head out earlier, as a bad storm was brewing just north of Hatteras, NC. We needed to make it back to Minnesott before the weather turned ugly either on the ocean or in the Neuse River. However, before we left we just had to visit our second favourite restaurant, Jack's Diner - great breakfast, at cruiser friendly prices!
The trip to Beaufort was our coldest passage yet. Judy had on four layers of clothes and was still "blue" at the helm during night watches. The wind was supposed to come at us from the ENE but instead was almost due north making the trip very close hauled, a mere 20 degrees off the wind. We were lucky in that it finally hit NE which allowed us to at least get 40 degrees off the wind.
Judy catches some shut-eye while at the helm - tsk, tsk!
At the end of the first day out of Charleston, we picked up a stow-away on our aft deck. It was a large gray dove that was very cold and tired! The storm must have blown him out over the water and his ride on Pioneer probably saved his life.
Our stow away finds shelter aboard Pioneer
We spent two nights on the water arriving at Beaufort Inlet just before dawn. It was the first time we had entered the inlet in the dark. It was a challenge until we were able to rely with confidence on our chartplotter and our visuals. By the time we reached the Morehead turning basin the sky had brightened and we could see well enough to head up the waterway. About one hour into the waterway, the dove flew off. It was a pleasure to save a life, but the dove sure made a mess of the deck! After 3 hours on the waterway and the Neuse River, we arrived at Minnesott. There was no wind but it was pouring rain! We popped into a slip beside s/v Johesa. Cindy and Bill had moved into our slip when we left Minnesott in November. They had been building a house near the marina during the winter and were almost ready to move in.
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