Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb. 15-20 We had a nice quiet week and just enjoyed being down here in the warmer climate. Several fronts of course went through but we were tucked in at our regular spot between the islands. Some friends, that captain and crew on a bigger trawler, arrived and we were able to catch up briefly before the boat owners came. There was also the usual search for food at the various stores and snorkeling expeditions.

Feb. 21 Our next set of guests, Joe and Kathy, arrived in the afternoon and we were very ready for them. The laughs started as they got off the plane and met us in the “baggage claim area”. Our friend, Steve, was leaving to go back to Florida so he invited us all for a drink at Staniel Cay Y.C. Doug joined the group and we had a jolly farewell. Then we all loaded back into the dinghy and took our guests to the boat for cocktails on the aft deck looking at the sunset followed by a welcome duck a l’orange dinner.

Feb. 22 We moved up the chain of islands a short way and anchored behind Bell island to be protected from the wind that was coming that night and next day. We played Mexican Train dominos before and after dinner and laughed.

Feb. 23 Even though in was gray and windy, we had come to snorkel so snorkeling we went. We were in Exuma Land & Sea Park territory which is great for snorkeling as all the fishes are protected. There is a semi circle island that has a nice coral garden in the middle that is protected from any current and there is current all around. After enjoying all the fish, we moved over to an old plane wreck and saw a big nurse shark, turtle, and 4ft across ray hiding partially in the sand. Back on the boat for hot showers and homemade cream of tomato soup (with cognac in it). Later the weather cleared and we took another exploratory dinghy ride and enjoyed the sunset. The guests learned our Biriba card game and we started a tournament- boys vs. girls.

Feb. 24-25 Because another front was coming, we moved back down to our anchorage to get a good parking space. Well, it sure came through and blew for about 24 hours but we were cozy on the boat. Kathy and I worked on a big jigsaw puzzle and the boys read. Later, we played cards and had dinner and a movie.

Feb. 26 The sun was out! and the wind was gone! Off to Thunderball Grotto for snorkeling and then to my new reef nearby for another snorkel. After a hot shower and lunch, John took Kathy and I to the shell beach for one last attempt at finding some good shells. Cards, dinner, and a movie rounded out a beautiful day in paradise.

Feb. 27 Boo Hoo, it was time for Joe and Kathy to leave. They treated us to a last lunch at Staniel Cay Y.C. only this time we all had Mahi Mahi sandwiches and a side salad because we had decided to “be good” after all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners on the boat. We saw them to their golf cart that would take them to the airport and bid them a fond farewell. Back on the boat, we raised the dinghy and its engine to the top deck in preparation for our trip back north. Over the next few days, we will work our way up to Freeport/ Lucaya to the marina there. I will fly to NYC to be with my mom in Greenwich, CT and John and captain Peter Murphy will take Windermere back there to meet up with me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Feb. 13 The three guys came back to finish the domino tournament but I beat them all! The wind was still blowing so we never got off the boat but had lots of laughs during the game.

Feb. 14 Valentines Day. John spent the morning getting the rest of the water/fluid mix out of the middle bilge and cleaning up the floors. I was his surgical assistant bringing him tools and towels, etc. After lunch, our friend, Steve came over and the two men went into the forward bilge (yes it is big enough for two men to fit comfortably) to look for the hydraulic fluid leak. John had figured out that it had probably come from the forward/uphill part of the bilge and he was right. They found the leak in a metal pipe and were able to tape it with special tape. I had to start the engine and stop the engine and run for various tools, etc. and play surgical assistant again. They were able to trace the pipe to the port side windlass. This mystery had been going on for quite a time so it was wonderful to have it solved. We are using the starboard windlass these days because we like the Bruce anchor that is on that side better. When we get home, the pipe will be replaced. So another holiday was spent in a different fashion than usual- so goes the boating life.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feb. 2-6 I spent the week in the marina passing the time exploring the island, snorkeling for shells, and doing genealogy on the internet. Because of the big tides, the boat was aground and listing twice a day but the ground was soft and it got better as the week went on and the tided lessened due to the waning moon. I made friends with a couple on a trawler on the dock a few parking spots behind me and they were kind enough to have me for dinner one night. This was their first trip to the Bahamas and they had never snorkeled before. I showed them a cove we liked and then snorkeled with them showing them different things underwater which I love to do. I also took the wife snorkeling in the shallow water of Sampson Cay to look for shells and we were quite successful. Right before John got home, a sailboat came to the dock right behind our spot. The two crew were Italian which you don’t see alot around here. I talked to them a bit and they spoke English with wonderful thick accents. When John returned, we had them to dinner and they taught us how to play Baracco, which is similar to Biriba. It was a fun evening made better with Luciano Pavarotti singing in the background which we all loved. The wind was expected to pipe up over the weekend so we stayed safe and sound in the marina.

Feb. 7 The moment of truth had come to extricate ourselves from the marina. Of course the 20 knot winds were still blowing us on the dock, but John maneuvered us, pulsing the Z-drive and leaning on bow truster, straight sideways off the dock and then performed a perfect 180 degree half pirouette and, with a flourish of Windermere’s tutu, then left the marina. I was his eyes, running all over the deck to see if we were lined up right or going to hit anything. There was quite an audience watching and we almost got cheers. Once through the cut and out of the marina and in open water, John decided to deal with the dinghy which was still tied to our stern hip. John told me to take the helm and keep the boat in place while he retied the dinghy off the stern. We were only going around the corner back to the Big Majors anchorage but we still had three foot seas and rocked and rolled a bit but the dinghy rode well even with the big engine on it. We had no trouble anchoring in a good spot that partially blocked the wind and seas for the night (the next day was supposed to be calm). After we anchored, we looked “next door” and saw a boat name we recognized from our last trip a few years ago. After looking up his “boat card” we hailed him on the VHF radio and said “hi” and he invited us to join him and another couple from the sailboat on our other side for cocktails. As this couple were looking to move to a trawler we invited them over to see ours the next day.

Feb. 8 It was calm as planned, which was a welcome relief. We showed the couple the boat, had lunch, and then took our dinghy out to Sandy Cay for some snorkeling and shelling. It was a beautiful little spot about a mile off the Big Major’s beach, and, we had it all to ourselves! It really IS better in the Bahamas!

Feb. 9 John had gotten the latest weather report and learned more wind was coming. We decided to move while we had enough depth of tide to get by the shallows near Staniel Cay. Our destination was between the Majors again. This time we anchored even further up the cut in some nice sand. We learned via e-mail that our guests from Maine weren’t going to make it. Their flights had been canceled due to a big snow storm. This was very depressing as we had been planning this visit, for my upcoming 60th birthday celebration, with them since last summer! It was still calm, so at least we were able to go swimming in the afternoon.

Feb. 10 It was windy all day but we were tucked into a good spot. Our friend Steve and his guest Allen on ‘Black Swan’ invited us for cocktails on their boat. Doug from ‘Water Torture’ came too and we all had lots of laughs.

Feb. 11 The mail boat had come in so it was time for grocery hunting. We were also waiting for a new snubber to be sent from the States to Staniel Cay Y.C. The snubber hadn’t arrived but we were able to hunt down some needed fresh things. In the afternoon, we went by dinghy up to Sampson to round out the collection. You never know what you are going to find at any of these stores but you always find something.

Feb. 12 My birthday! We had invited the three guys from ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Water Torture’ for my birthday dinner. I decided to bake a chocolate cake in Windermere’s hi-tech GE Avantium oven that’s so complicated to work that I don’t use it much. The baking did not go well and the cake looked wavy and not evenly cooked - but maybe still edible. While this was going on, John went into one of the bilges to look for something he had stored there and noticed some oil had stained a few of the cardboard boxes that held our box wines. As he pulled out ALL of these boxes, I washed the plastic bags of wine and laid them on the counters. There were also Mona Vie juice boxes but they weren’t not as badly damaged. About an hour later, we had all of the wine bags clean and back in some empty drawers in the bunk room. Now, he started pumping the “oil” (which turned out to be hydraulic fluid that he had been looking for for a long time) into 5 gallon buckets buckets. We filled 4 buckets with the fluid (mostly water). The fluid had been floating on the water. Where this oil and water actually came from is still a mystery to be solved. Lunch with an old friend at Staniel Cay Y.C. was already planned (so “finding” the source of the oil and water leaks would have to wait for another day). We took the four huge bags of oily cardboard and garbage and the four filled 5 gallon buckets of oily water in with us. After a nice lunch, our friend loaned us her golf cart and we went, fully loaded, to the dump. How many people get to go to the dump on their 60th. birthday! Then it was back to the boat to get ready for my party. The guys came with their appetites and I fed them a Cuban “ropa vieja” dinner. Then we taught them Mexican Train dominos which they loved. We had lots of laughs and cake and ice cream. I cut the good parts of the cake into squares, frosted them and added ice cream, which is a treat down here. “If life deals you lemons, make lemonade”. All in all, we made pretty good lemonade that day!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jan. 23 The wind was blowing from a good direction to explore the Exuma Sound side of the islands so we loaded up the dinghy with our snorkel gear, etc. and headed out the cut to explore the back side of Staniel Cay. There were extensive reefs off the beach so we anchored the dinghy Boone them and snorkeled around for a while. There was alot of old coral and sea fans and some fish but it was a bit disappointing. We then continued down the island to the lower cut and came in to a narrow dredged creek that parallels the airport runway. This is the new building area on the island and there are several new houses with small docks now finished with more in the works. We had seen a large steel trawler at a dock in this area from the other side of the airport and had wanted to check her out. She was sitting at her dock waiting for her owners to come down for a visit. Next, we worked our way back around the southern end of the island and up the Bank side towards the yacht club area. As we were going along, the outboard suddenly lost power. Not a good thing! Thank heavens it didn’t happen on the outside of the island. We were able to proceed slowly so we went over to a friend whom we knew about outboards. He looked at the motor and took the prop off, and low and behold, the rubber lining inside the prop was worn. He suggested we go over to the general store and order another one. Meanwhile, he lent us his extra prop till the new one arrived on the mail boat. We then went to town and got groceries and did e-mails. Later, our hero, came for dinner. He is the Towboat U.S. man in Block Island, RI and had lots of funny stories to tell. He also has gone to Antarctica to help count penguins many times and told us about those adventures.

Jan. 24 The night was rocky and rolly because the swell from the Sound was working its way up between the Majors and into our little haven. We tolerated it till high tide in the mid afternoon and then decided to move yet again. We went back out through the “gauntlet” towards Sampson Cay but this time it was high tide and the depths weren’t as scary. We then went to the Big Majors anchorage and anchored for the night.

Jan. 25 It was sunny but still windy and John was able to get the weather forecast for the next few days so we decide to move just a bit within the anchorage to be in a better position for the next bout of wind.

Jan. 26 Spent the morning cleaning to get ready for the arrival of our next set of guests, Joan & Peter Ross from Mystic. They had never been on any of our boats so this was a special occasion. They were also going to be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary during their stay. In the afternoon, John went to pick them up at the airport. They arrived only a little worse for the wear with our trusty garbage bags over their duffles. Peter had never seen the boat so John gave him a quick tour. He thought the boat was totally awesome! We let them settle in and then had a welcome to Windermere dinner of duck a l’orange.

Jan. 27 It was still windy but in the late morning we were able to take them to the Fowl Cay cut to snorkel and then to the nearby beach. I had planned to swim with them there while John was the safety boat but the current was too strong. John let the stern painter out behind the boat and we grabbed hold and were towed. Peter was at the end of the line and said afterward that he felt like shark bait! We all enjoyed sitting on the beach in the sun out of the wind looking out at the turquoise water and the boats in the anchorage. That night, we taught them Biriba and the tournament (boy vs girls) started.

Jan. 28 Happy Anniversary day! The morning expedition was to Thunderball grotto and they loved it. Joan and I swam through the island and out the other side and back around the outside. Just as we came around the final corner, a 5ft across spotted eagle ray swam under me! Wow! For the anniversary dinner, we all went into Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a delicious dinner and lemon cake that had been specially ordered for the occasion.

Our dinghy ride back to the boat was lit by an almost full moon.

Jan. 29 Finally, we were going to take them for a ride on Windermere down to Black Point. It is only about 10 miles and we let Peter steer for part of the time to get a feel for the boat. Once there, we anchored, went in to the dock, walked around and had pizza at Deshmon’s restaurant. The Rosses enjoyed seeing another town and meeting some of the people. Next, we moved back north a bit and went into the Bitter Guana Cay anchorage to swim and feed the large iguanas there. They liked our apple peels and red grapes and came right up to us to get them. Finally, we took the boat back to Big Majors for the night. Biriba, dinner, and a movie were the evening’s line up.

Jan. 30 The expedition for the day was showing them Sampson Cay Marina and resort. We took the dinghy there and they walked around a bit and really liked the layout. I told Joan to bring her credit card because there was shopping and she was glad she did. They both got sun proof fabric shirts with the Sampson Cay logo on them that looked very chic. Back at the boat, Joan and I had a final swim together. That night, we had our friend Victor for cocktails and then finished our Biriba tournament, had dinner and watched a movie.

Jan. 31 Departure day had come so there was much packing and striping of beds, etc. On our way to lunch, we swung by pig beach and threw them some food scraps. You have to be quick because they swim right out to the dinghy and are hungry! Next, we took them between the Majors islands as the wind was less going that way. We were treated to a final lunch at the yacht club and took a cab to the airport to see them off. When we got back to the boat, we moved her up to just off Sampson Cay Marina. John had to fly to NYC for some more tests related to his prostate cancer so he was leaving Windermere and me in the marina for safety.

Feb. 1 We were able to bring Windermere into the marina without a hitch on a very high tide and tie her up for the next few days. He returns on Feb. 5.....