Apr 29, 2009

Fire in the boat!!

We’re on our way out of the Bahamas. We can count our time left in days. Very few days. I’ve been almost numb to it. Maybe sleep walking would be an appropriate description. I suppose it is one of those things you would rather just not think about.

Apr 28, 2009

Sailing to Hope Town and Guana Cay

The lighthouse at Hope Town.
We only stayed a day or two in Hope Town. Just long enough to climb to the top of the light house. While in Hope Town we met a cool girl named Ashley. She is a little quirky, but very genuine and nice. If you’ve ever read Harry Potter you can imagine Ashley as Luna Lovegood. I mean that as a compliment. Luna is awesome, and so is Ashley.

We struck up a friendship right away. She is one of the very few people we have met who in the Bahamas who is even remotely close to our own age. We made plans for all of us to sail to Guana Cay for the pig roast at a bar called “Nippers”.

Nippers is everything you would expect from a cliché 80’s movie with a setting in the Caribbean. A big outside deck bar with about 3 different levels. The tallest level being a big gazebo where the really sleazy guys can go to get a look down the shirts of the girls walking below.

Everything is painted pastel colors. There are two pools on different levels that are connected by a flight waterfall stairs. There are brightly colored umbrellas everywhere that were made out of the same plastic material used to make pom poms for high school cheerleaders. Women walk around in high hipped neon bikinis, again straight out of the 80’s. All the men are shirtless, as well as brainless, but they have big muscles so that must count for something.
Men out numbered women by 10 to 1... I must admit I felt like a rock star walking in with two women! I was behind the girls as we came up the boardwalk and I watched all the heads turn. The guys don’t even try to hide it, and I even hear one them yell to a friend and point!

We dance, and have a good time. Then left for another bar where the party quickly died and everyone left. I felt lucky to have made it through the night with out getting attacked by a drunken buffoon on a testosterone high.

The sun went down incredibly fast, and before I knew it the sky was black. We went back to Lee or Ashley’s boat and played guitars and sang songs until late in the night.



Lee teaching LeeAnn how to preform reconstructive surgery on our main sail.

Apr 18, 2009

Sailing to Eleuthera, Alice Town, Hatchet Bay Caves

We left the Exumas and sailed to Rock Sound in Eleuthera. Stayed one night and then left for Alice Town to catch up with Lee.

The sail to Alice Town was really rough. Very large, very steep waves. Too big for the autopilot so I steered by hand the whole way. I was really impressed with how we handled the conditions. Being in waves this large in 2007 would have terrified us. We’ve come a long way.

We entrance to Alice Town/Hatchet Bay is really narrow, and very tall. As we approached the waypoint for the entrance, I couldn’t see any gap in the rock cliff. We had strong winds and large following seas, and I started to get really nervous. Closer and closer, but no gap.

I started thinking about back up plans. Where else we could go. Then finally I saw a gap. The waves rocked us far over from side to side. We felt nervous that the mast was going to hit the rock cliff. But really it wasn’t as close as it looked.

Once through the cut, the weather was completely different. We were protected from both the wind and the waves behind the high rock cliff. It was a beautiful day.

We rafted up to Lee, met his friend/crew who had flown in to help sail his boat. Then we set about cleaning up our boat. A lot of things had fallen during out bumpy ride from Rock Sound. We told Lee and Trey how rough it was outside. They found it hard to believe. It was so calm in the anchorage.

Lee told us about some caves he wanted to visit. Sounded cool. We didn’t really know where they were. Eleuthera is really narrow, so we really only had to options when in comes to directions to travel in.

We walked and walked, and then came to this two track with a broken down sign. We walked down the two track and then found a hole in the ground, with some steps carved out of the rock. There was nothing really official about it.

These caves were totally awesome. Like nothing we’d ever seen before. The caves have at least two exits with over a mile of twisting passages that span at least three levels. The lowest level is full of water, deep mud, pits, fragile formations, and low passages which barely clear the surface of the water which rises and falls with the tides.

There is no way I would get in that water. Who know what kind of creepy sea monster is lurking down there. In fact, the water is home to several tiny sea creatures which are found nowhere else on earth. Including the ostracods Danielopolina bahamensis and Deeveya jillae, the copepods Speleoithona eleutherensis, and Troglocyclops janstocki. There were also hundreds of bats.

We took our time walking through the cave. Taking pictures. Carefully exploring little offshoots. And then we came to the other entrance where we climbed out and walked back home. 


Apr 6, 2009

Sailing to the Jumentos

The Jumentos - Almost completely uninhabited, there is only one little settlement which is located less than 100 miles from Cuba. These islands are considered remote even by Bahamian standards and few cruisers visit the Jumentos chain. The spear fishing and lobstering are pretty amazing, the primary drawback is that the Jumentos are shark breeding grounds. 

Beach fire with our buddies from Miakoda and Side by Side

Trigger fish for dinner!!

White cliffs on Water Cay:
My monster Nassau Grouper:
To get to the Jumentos, we first had to make it through Hog Cay Cut. The tricky part about that is the cut only carries 0.9 meters (a bit less than 3 feet) at low tide. Our boat needs a little over 5 feet to float. The tides here usually fluctuate about 2.5 feet. So we had ½ a foot of wiggle room, assuming we didn’t find any rocks or mounds of sand that measured over .5 feet.

We arrived at the cut about 20 minutes before high tide. The weather was perfect. Sunny, and hardly any wind. There were hundreds of coral fans and fish in the cut. We also saw a school of about 6 stingrays. I watched the numbers on the depth sounder drop and drop and drop until they finally bottomed out at 5.4 feet. That was as low as it got, and we made it through with no issues.

From Hog Cay we had a great sail down to Water Cay. Mental rolling waves, just the right amount of wind, warm sun, one of those days that most people would generally consider “perfect.”

Water cay is very long and narrow. Most of the island is made up of shear white cliffs. All very beautiful. We had a few sharks (the Jumentos are also know for the large number of sharks that come to breed in the shallow water) and barracudas swimming around the boats waiting for us to throw in some food.

The next morning we got up early to get the best of the last day of lobster season. We got skunked, only found 1! We settled for fresh fish and one lobster tail that day. As luck would have it, we later found all sorts of monster lobsters at the Cays further south that we traveled to… but it didn’t bother us too much that we couldn’t spear them. Our friends from Side by Side had been in the Jumentos for a while and had gathered up enough lobsters to share.

In general, the Jumentos were amazing. Beautiful untouched reefs, secluded beaches (wink wink), unbelievably clear water, tons of fish to be had for dinner…. I could go on and on. Despite all of this, we found it very hard to get comfortable.

Things were perfect. Too perfect. It was like that book “The Beach” (later made into a bad movie, read the book) where the island starts out as a paradise and ends up as a nightmare. LeeAnn and I both felt this way, but we told ourselves: “that’s childish and silly, let’s just relax, what could go wrong?”

We spent the next few days traveling south, and enjoying ourselves. We settled into a nice little routine. I would get up in the morning around 8:30 and read for a while. Around 11:00 AM we would go diving for dinner. Come back around 4:00 and clean our catch. Dinner around was 5:00 or 6:00. Everyone would eat together. And that’s how it was pretty much everyday. The girls had their own routine. Swimming an exploring the islands. Combing the beach for shells. That kind of stuff.

One of the things we disliked about the Jumentos was the lack of protected anchorages. There just aren’t any. Fortunately the weather patterns in the Bahamas are fairly predictable and we knew the wind would continue coming out of the East until a cold front passed though. Cold fronts bring several days of strong winds from the north. We definitely didn’t want to get caught in the Jumentos during a cold front.

Ocean swells constantly rolled through. Typically hitting us broadside making the boat extremely rocky and uncomfortable at anchor.

Then there was the lack of fresh water. Both of the catamarans we were traveling with had water makers and said they would give us water to drink, but it just didn’t feel good being dependent on someone like that.

I also had a slight concern about the potential danger of being in such a remote area. We were in “yachts” and we would be extremely easy targets. We saw some local conch fishermen once, and we would sometimes see high speed boats during the day. It was clear they weren’t cruisers. It was not clear if these boats were from Duncan Town, a very small settlement at the very end of the Jumentos Chain, or if they were boats coming from the next island to the south: Cuba.

We probably had nothing to worry about. But I still thought twice about turning on our anchor light at night.

One night I had a vivid nightmare about a freak storm coming out of no where and washing our boat up on the rocks. I normally don’t have dreams. I certainly don’t believe they foretell the future or anything, but the next morning LeeAnn and I decided to head north.

We got a lazy start and only made it about 20 miles up the Jumentos chain before we stopped for the night. There was hardly any wind, and I was really excited for a good nights rest. I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
We got up early the next day and made it to Hog Cay Cut. It was a very good feeling when we made it through the cut. I felt like a kid who had just gotten away with something. I breathed a sigh of relief.

An island to ourselves: