Abaco to the Berry Islands

We left the Abacos last Thursday and had a great ride to the Berry Islands. The wind was out of the north and the sea was pretty flat, for having depths of 10,000 feet. The color of the water was an indescribable bluish-purple, and the water temperature was 79 degrees. It was 30 miles from Little Harbour to the bottom of Abaco, and then another 30 miles to the entrance into the area we wanted to visit. We made the ride in just 8 ½ hours, averaging a speed of around 8 knots. As we sailed along the coast, a pod of dolphins joined us and kept us enthralled as they danced in the foam from our boat. (See picture from another member’s log) They traveled faster than we did! This was a very nice ride, and it felt good to be cruising again.

When we got to our chosen anchorage just south of Hoffman Cay, we hopped in the dinghy and headed to Little Caulding, also known to me and Billy as the island of my dreams and savasanas. It was still as beautiful as I remembered it, with its powdery white sand and palm trees. I was very happy to be back. We took a ride around this tiny island and saw a reef shark hanging out in about 2 feet of water. We didn’t see the manta rays that were here last time.

The wind picked up during the night, and we tried to find better shelter. Unfortunately, there isn’t much room for hiding in this area, due to the shallow depth of the water. We had a rocky night’s sleep. In the morning, we went to explore Hoffman Cay and visit the blue hole. I was so grateful that back in 2004, when we first made this trip, we met a crazy Italian landscaper from Long Island who told us about this area. A blue hole is just what it sounds like. You could call it a big pond, but blue holes were formed as the earth was being formed billions of years ago. In certain areas, the water swirled for so long, it acted like a drill and bored out these deep holes. There are several in the Bahamas, both on land and in the ocean, ranging in depths of under 100’ to 4,000’. They are connected to the ocean by underground caves and channels. We used our handheld depth finder and it told us it was 40’ deep, just from the edge where we were standing. We waited to see if the big old grouper that used to reside here would make an appearance, but he didn’t until just as we were leaving. We continued to hike the path down to another pristine beach.

After lunch we relocated the boat closer to Devils Cay, another favorite beach. It was a little tricky landing the dinghy as there is a reef on the edge of the whole beach and we had waves crashing around us. But skipper Billy was able to get us to shore without hurting the boat. Devil’s Cay beach is about a mile long and usually has great sea shells. But the tide was up, so I only found a few. There are two swimming holes that are protected from the big waves by tall reefs, so we had a blast hanging out here, splashing around in the water when we were hot, working on our all over tans, drinking rum punch….ahhh, life in the Bahamas!

So we passed three full days here, exploring, hiking, eating, drinking, swimming, doing yoga and just bumming around. The wind never died down. In fact it blew a steady 25 to 30 knots for at least a day. For four nights we both slept with one eye open. Fortunately, we have a good anchor and a lot of chain, so we never dragged.

On Sunday, we pulled up the anchor and headed to Nassau. Although the wind was from the north, it was a very bumpy ride with seas up to 10’. It was under 40 miles, though, and we got there with plenty of light in the sky. We anchored in front of The Cloisters, and also, rumor reports, Lisa Marie Presley’s house. This is our first time in Nassau. It is a world away from Abaco and the Berrys!

Message in a Bottle

Fear not, everyone! I found Billy. After I had wandered around the very tiny town of Georgetown in the rain for almost four hours, we met just a few feet from where we had parted. I killed time by exploring, making phone calls, using internet, and finally going out to lunch with the last of my money. Billy had relocated the boat to another part of this huge harbor, and totally underestimated the distance from where the new anchorage was to the town. He had his bike, but no dinghy, so therefore no way for me to get back to the boat. We contemplated our (sorry…HIS) dilemma over beers at a bar, and the owner, Raymond Smith, overheard us. He thought our situation was quite comical, and offered to give us and the bike a ride back to where Billy had left the dinghy. Long story even longer….the tide had gone way out, so there was no way for Billy to bring the dinghy close to my pick up spot. In the end, we had to ride the bike together; me sitting on the seat, him pedaling, just like when we were teenagers. We finally made it back to the mothership, and had a very restful night’s sleep in a peaceful and wind protected anchorage. Of course, we were miles away from anything and everybody. I kept wondering why we were here.

The next day I expressed my desires to experience at least a bit of everything this place has to offer. We listen to the cruiser’s net on the VHF every morning, which gives many announcements about what is happening around the harbor.. Georgetown is like summer camp for grownups. There is softball, volleyball, board games played at the beach, yoga-lates on the beach, various group discussions, excursions, beaches and coves to explore, reefs to snorkel or dive, friendly Bahamains to meet. The list is endless. After waiting for so many years to get here, I want to live the experiences that I have heard and read about. Partake. Enjoy. Billy reminded me that he is not really a social guy. WTF??

We heard on the net that there was a group of people having a “ham lunch” with a discussion about ham radios and getting licensed to operate one. This is something I had first considered and began studying for 10 years ago, when we bought Bonnie Christine. Circumstances and situations at that time forced me to set the study books aside. But, having a single side band radio gives a cruiser so many different ways to communicate, get information, weather reports, etc. Ironically, right before I flew down to meet up with Mr. Bill, I picked up my old study books which were in my spare bedroom, and glanced through them. At the time, my thoughts of getting this “technician’s class license” was rekindled. But I did not pack the books, thinking I had plenty of other things to study on the boat.

So I was very interested in going to this lunch on “Hamburger Beach”, a popular meeting spot for cruisers. Billy, the anti social one, agreed to take me there. We have decided that we really need to own a single side band radio; it will be our next major purchase for the boat. But one of us needs to have a license…obviously it won’t be him.

It was a very interesting lunch. We had cheeseburgers cooked over a wood fire, accompanied by Bahamian mac and cheese. Then we sat down with about 50 other people who were all there for the same reason; they wanted to learn about operating a SSB/Ham radio. Two people led the talk, answered questions, and gave us useful information. I ended up purchasing the two books to study, and plan to take the test next Friday, right here in Georgetown, to get my technician’s class license, thereby bringing us one step closer to better communicating from the boat. I study for a couple of hours every day. The rules, etiquette, and general knowledge – I easily understand all that. The electrical knowledge is where I struggle, and Billy is helping me with that. So we will be hanging around this area at least until February 26, when I will take the test.

That being said let me tell you what it is like trying to phone home or email from this area! To use a phone, first you have to have a “Batelco” phone card. Then you have to find a phone that will accept the phone card. Of course, at the Batelco office where you purchase this phone card, there is no phone. You have to walk down the street to the fuel dock or up the street to the local bar and use that one, if it is working. Another option is to go to J and K Computers and use their phone, which is very reasonably priced at fifteen cents a minute. This was a great option for me, and I was able to touch base with two out of three of my kids. And then the Canadians began lining up for their turn. It turns out, this is the only phone that J and K have and everyone wants to use it. I had to give up the phone before calling child #3.

Internet access here is not easy either. Some of the restaurants offer free Wifi if you eat there. But they are few and far between, and you have to be hungry or at least thirsty and have time to hang out. And then, if you or someone else is using Skype, it slows everyone around you down. They get mad at you. You could buy an internet card that will give you access for 24 hours, right on your boat in certain areas. But connections speed is worse than dial up network. Our best discovery for internet access has been to sit outside the local supermarket with other cruisers, using the free wifi there. The owners of the market love the cruisers and are so accommodating. They have built a beautiful dinghy dock with free water, and offer the free Wifi . They know we will keep them in business.

So here I sit under a beach umbrella at a picnic table, with fellow cruisers, headsets pressed to our ears, trying to touch base with loved ones at home, pay bills, check bank accounts. We make small talk; about the weather, the speed of internet connection, where we are from, whether or not there is fuel at the fuel dock. Connection is very slow. Uploading pictures to Facebook takes forever, so I apologize for lack of photos. This is a whole different world from being in my own house with the convenience of fast connection and instant communication. I really miss GOOGLE…no time for that, so no instant answers to life’s peculiar questions! It’s funny…we, and others, come to the Bahamas to “get away from it all”. Yet cutting that communication cord is the hardest thing for all of us.

On the flip side of the coin I tell you this story. Billy and I walked along a very isolated beach in the Berry Islands, over 120 miles north from our current location. Scavenging the beach for treasures, we came across a message in a bottle. Inside was a note, carefully sealed inside an orange balloon along with a $5 bill. The person who sent the bottle included his address and wanted to hear from the finder; the $5 was intended for postage. We have written back to him. So here is another slow and not often reliable method of communication. But, wow, what a magical thing to stumble across a message in a bottle! Not only did we write to the sender (and mailed from Georgetown Post Office) I painted a watercolor map of the area showing him exactly where we found it. We kept the five bucks, aka the “big headed man.” Both Billy and I had fun composing our letter and felt blessed to have been the lucky finders of correspondence sent in such an ancient, time honored method!

As for there being no fuel at the fuel dock? Locals tell us that maybe on Sunday they will have diesel. A fellow cruiser asked us if they specified THIS Sunday, the Sunday of THIS month? We don’t know. What we do know is we love the Bahamas. And we have been stuck in worse places!

Bahamian Marshfield Fair

Saturday we woke up and it was another windy drizzly day. We needed to do laundry, so Billy loaded up two weeks worth of laundry and headed into town while I stayed behind and cleaned the boat. In between cycles, Billy came out to pick me up. At the Laundromat, together we folded our clothes and carefully packed them into the sacks in which we transported them, and then placed them inside a plastic bag for the ride back to the boat. It was spitting rain and we didn’t want the sacks of clean stuff to get wet. We were done with our chores well before noon, and the grey day lay before us. So we headed back into town and went our separate ways for a while. After I made some phone calls to home and wandered around, I saw Billy sitting with a local Bahamian, shooting the breeze. I went to greet them and noticed a small school bus pull up in front of Exuma Market, the most popular spot in town. It was then that I remembered that the Exuma Agribusiness and Horticultural Expo was today, and for $5 we could ride the bus and see what it was all about. I said, “That’s the bus, wanna go?” and he said “sure!”. Onto the bus and off we went. It was a totally spontaneous decision.

The Expo was about 5 miles out of town, and this was the first time we had explored the northerly direction of the island of Great Exuma. There is not a whole lot to see, as it is not a large or densely populated island, but what you see is very interesting. Humble homes line the road, and occasionally a resort or two. Some of these resorts are active and viable, others are half built and abandoned. We see too many of these pipe dream projects in the Bahamas. We passed the “Home Depot” of Great Exuma, also known as Darville Lumber. We noticed all the lumber in the yard was pressure treated. We passed the “Fish Fry”, a place where you can go to buy fresh or cooked native fish. We saw the desalinization plant. For $5 we saw a lot, and then the bus left us off at the Expo.

Immediately we lost each other, and for the next hour and a half I wondered why I don’t have one of those collars that you can send a zap to ….. aw never mind. I had fun. And so did Billy.

The Expo was like the Marshfield Fair without the carnies, midways and bull shit, and small enough to put under a large tent. Yes, there were livestock on display, carefully sheltered in their pens by palm branches. And there was also a judged fruit and veggie competition which awarded certificates for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes. Local Bahamian vendors cooked food such as conch fritters, conch salad, crawfish salad. Locals also brought their own island grown produce to sell. I made conversation with two women, who were so proud of their beautiful peppers, onions, cabbages, and pumpkins which do not look anything like the pumpkins we grow in New England. They told me they had just cut these huge cabbages that morning, and when I looked at them, the vibrant greenness told me these women were not lying; these were as fresh as you could get. I asked for the smallest one they had, and for $2 I got an enormous head, fresher than I had ever seen in any supermarket. With the perfect fresh onions they had to offer, the cooking possibilities began to unfold in my mind. I asked these friendly ladies about their own cooking ideas, and they went into a lively discussion with each other about the many ways to prepare sautéed cabbage, cole slaw; they seemed to forget I was there, asking…

Parked next to their table was a pick up truck loaded down with much of the same produce, but this man had green bananas. I asked him how much for some bananas, and he said “$2 a hand!” But how many in a hand, I asked? With that question, he laid his hand out against the huge stalk of bananas, and where his hand ended he took his machete and cut off a “hand”. A hand is a unit of measurement. It was about 20 bananas. For $2. I was in farmer’s market heaven. My back pack was getting heavy,and I was getting hungry. So I went to have some conch fritters ($2 for 8 of those greasy suckers) and to wash them down I visited the Girl Guides (Girl Scout) table, where they had so many different kinds of blended juices…grapefruit lemonade, kiwi grape juice, orange cranberry and lemon raspberry ice tea…for $1 I had a huge cup of mango apple juice and went inside a building to listen to a seminar while I ate my lunch. Still no sign of Billy.

Wise choice for me, as the woman giving this talk was demonstrating the art of growing “lettuce substitutes”, seed shoots which could be harvested in just 7 days. She had pea shoots, sunflower shoots, buckwheat lettuce. She let us sample these delicious greens, and totally inspired me to try a different method of sprouting greens than my traditional alfapha and broccoli seeds in a mason jar. She took the time after speaking to the crowd of about 30 people to answer a whole bunch of questions I hammered her with, gave me her email address and some websites for suppliers. When I get home, lordy, lordy, sprouting and fresh greens will take on a new meaning for all you healthy conscious eaters!

I skipped the seminar which was all about changing your diet to one that is all raw and plant based and sat with some Bahamians in the shade, reading the handouts I had picked up. And then I saw Billy. In his hand was his own packet of literature. He had been sitting in on a seminar about farming in the Bahamas, and was very feeling very educated and inspired. He contemplated if we should purchase some land and start growing feed grains, get some goats, cows, chickens… I returned to the Girl Guide table and bought two more cups of their wonderful juice blends. Billy took a sip and asked if he could put rum in it. I suggested maybe we had had enough of the Expo and should look for the bus to take us back to the harbor. As we sat waiting on the stone wall, we noticed a beautiful blonde woman, a fellow cruiser we had seen several times in the previous days. She was dressed in a pretty dress, with a nice hat, matching sweater, carrying a 5’ length of sugar cane purchased at the Expo. She was standing on the side of the road hitchhiking. Cars kept passing her by, and Billy mentioned that he had hitchhiked a few days earlier and got a ride from the first car that passed him. We noted this woman was way cuter than Billy, yet many cars passed her without picking her up. Finally, one stopped, she got in and off they went. Two minutes later, I realized, she had been standing on the wrong side of the road…no wonder no one picked her up!

Back in the harbor, we relocated the boat to Volleyball beach. Billy dinghied over to see if the long time and die hard cruisers would let him play. They did, and I was happy to have the time to myself to concentrate on preparing a meal based on this fantastic cabbage I had purchased. I peeled off the outer leaves, saving ones I could use for parboiling, I sliced the beautiful native grown onions, smashed the garlic, sautéed some ground beef….and then the sun came out. Every cloud in the sky went away. The wind died down to a gentle puff. Recognizing that this was the first moment of calm and sunshine I had felt since arriving to Georgetown, I abandoned the cooking project and went into work stoppage mode. I grabbed my Ipod and yoga mat and hit the bow of the boat. There for the next hour I was lost in the most amazing yoga practice under a sky so clear I could see the crescent moon crisp against the blue afternoon sky. I breathed in gratitude, inhaling deeply, exhaling slowly.

Later, after the sun had set we ate delicious stuffed cabbage leafs for dinner, happy that we weren’t laying out money in town for an unhealthy, overpriced meal. Then we played cribbage. Who care’s who won. It was another blessed day in the Bahamas.

Beach Church

In our travels we often will go and sit in on a daily Sunday mass at a catholic church, or stand outside the window of a Methodist or Anglican church and hear what the pastor has to say. It never fails to amaze us at how religious and devoted Bahamians are to their various religions. On our bus ride the previous day, we drove past the Catholic church in Georgetown, noticing how small it was in comparison to the Anglican and Baptist churches, and made a mental note about the time of the Sunday service.

But this Sunday as I listened to the cruiser’s net, they announced that “Beach Church” would be at 9:30 at Volleyball Beach. They mentioned that Beach Church was nondenominational and everyone was welcome. Well, that was invitation enough for me to forgo the Catholic service and find out what Beach Church was all about. Billy opted to stay on the boat and troubleshoot our refrigeration system which is a huge suspect for sucking up our battery power. So, at 9:15, dressed in my Sunday best, (a wrinkled skirt and tank top, no shoes) I hopped into the dinghy and headed for the beach. Many other dinghies were also crossing the huge harbor, headed for the tie up area on Volleyball Beach. As I walked up the beach, I noticed everyone was also dressed in their “Sunday-going-to-church” clothes, and most were also barefoot. I took a picture, and sat down on a bench where a beautifully bound song book was waiting for me.

Georgetown’s Beach Church was formed by cruisers many years ago, and in 2000 it became a real incorporated church. I read their mission statement, and found it totally agreeable with what I believe, or struggle to believe when it comes to religion. And then the service started.

Someone rang a ship’s bell and all chatter stopped. A smiling man stepped to the podium, which was a trash barrel and a piece of plywood covered with a table cloth bearing a cross, obviously made with loving hands. On top of this sat a podium made of driftwood and a real live microphone which was attached to a speaker system. Below the mike, and facing the congregation, was a book shelf with several different bibles and inspirational books. Music playing cruisers stood by; two guitarists, a keyboardist, and a flutist. I found out later that the flutist had sailed with her husband and son through the night to make it to Beach Church. There was a choir made up of about 20 people. In the branches of the huge casuarinas pine tree we all sat under was a young boy. Other children either sat quietly with their parents or played in the sand.

Officiating the mass was a cruiser dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. Bearing a huge smile,he greeted us all and the service began. First was a welcoming song, and then blessings. Newcomers were asked to introduce themselves. It was fun to listen to the rivalry between the Canadians and the Americans, and what side of the “lakes” they are from. Then our pastor made a comparison of a “regular” church to “Beach Church”. He said, “Most churches have a steeple. Here at Beach Church the all casuarinas trees are our steeple. Most churches have stained glass windows. Here at Beach Church, we look and see the many azure colors of the ocean and sky, the greens of the grasses, palms and pines, and the white of the sand, and this is our stained glass window. ..” I was so enthralled with this I forgot what he said much, but he wasn’t the type of person who preached just because he liked to hear himself talk. His words made me feel truly blessed to be sitting on the sand with people I had never met.

There was a lot of singing and the songs were simple and friendly. No one was bothered that I sang along. My heart felt lifted, and I in my mind I considered my voice operatic. Church is the only place I am ever allowed to sing without upsetting anyone. I was glad Billy and my children weren’t there to give me an elbow jab.

The mass continued with more of the beautiful songs from the songbook. The choir director mentioned more than once what fond memories each song brought to him; his grandmother sang this one each day until the day she died or “this was a favorite of mine as a young child at my church”. He didn’t mention with what denomination he was raised.

The cruisers are the ones who formed this church, therefore they take turns sharing the various duties. The biggest duty was to deliver the Sunday Sermon. A woman named Toni happily stepped up to deliver her homily, and I was so touched and inspired by her words I had tears in my eyes. Everyone sat attentive as she spoke; the only sound was the whisper of the palm trees and the huge pines we sat under. Even the children stood rapt, listening.

Another song or two and the mass was over. We were invited to share the thermoses of coffee someone had donated (if you brought your own cup.) Several cruisers had baked cookies and pastries. Everyone crowded around the food table, happy to be together. The young boy in the tree, the “official head counter” told us that there were 131 people in attendance.

I was taught at a very young age that you don’t need a physical building to be a church, to be a church. If the Catholic church in my hometown burned down tomorrow, I would still have a church when the members congregate anywhere they could, held hands and prayed. Yesterday, I found a church, and it made me feel welcome, at peace, and gave me a sense of belonging. There was no roof and no walls, the ceiling was the sky and the floor was sand. I was with a group of people who live on their boats for the same reason I do. We have a lust for wandering and exploration. We love the sound of the wind as it fills our sails during the day, and howls over us as we lay swinging on anchor at night. We love the taste of salt water and the spray of the sea as we move from island from island. We are camping on water.

I struggle with religion, but at Beach Church I felt a sense of God and felt loved and comforted. For the rest of the day I felt very much at peace. Throughout the day, either as we walked on the beach or just sat on the boat, I told Billy a certain bits I remembered about the mass at Beach Church. Every little memory put a smile on my face as I shared it with him. I think he regretted not coming when he saw how happy and at ease I was. We might stick around for next Sunday’s Beach Church gathering.

July 02, 2007 – Scituate, MA

A sighting

May 28, 2007 – Jacksonville, NC

From: Diana S Decker To: ‘Mike Vannata’ Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 10:22 PM Subject: RE: Trip Update

The past few days have been spent at anchor and totally out of touch via cell phone. Again we had an exciting day anchored at Mile Hammock in Camp LeJeune. The Navy was conducting live ammo maneuvers off Onslow Beach and the marines were conducting take-off and landing techniques with their Osprey (STOL craft) and helicopters until 10 PM. The short take-off and landing craft were really awesome to watch. Our trip up the ICW has been great most of the time. Georgia is really getting very shallow. We hit depths of 4.5 feet at low tide. The marina’s gave us a 2 sided sheet of warnings where depths were particularly low. Thank goodness their advice as to which side of the channel to favor was particularly helpful. The area between Isle of Palms and Charleston was also very low. We were really picking our way up the channel. Today we are in Coinjock and back in civilization with cell service and WIFI.

I’ve met some of the most delightful people along the way. We spent the afternoon with some folks who used to live in Fitchburg and are also making their way up the ICW. Please tell Bob Graff that I ran into friends of his from his cruising club in Duxbury. Walter May from Walter May Insurance greeted me as I arrived in Marsh Harbor and who should walk into the cafi where I was having breakfast in Hilton Head but Pat and Rocky Carrabas from Doctors Hill. It’s a real small world when you’re sailing. I’ll be changing crew again in Annapolis on Wednesday.

The weather for the most part has been good. We were held up in St.Simon for 2-3 days as a result of that low associated with Andrea. It was really great!! We rented a car and toured St.Simon and Jekyl Islands. Of course the weather in the Bahamas wasn’t the best. I probably told everyone I was held up in Nassau for 17 days due to weather. It gave everyone at the marina a chance to get to know everyone. I had a great time. One night the guy in the slip two doors down stood up on his finger pier and played the bag pipes for all of us. I had people from New Zealand on both sides of me. They were on their way to Spain for the Americas Cup races. Then their was Phil from Maine in his new Catamaran and the guy from Texas in a 44′ Island Packet across from us. He and his wife were taking 10 years off to sail while they were still young enough to do it. I hate to see the trip come to an end but I am anxious to get back and reunite with everyone in Scituate. I did have a week with my daughter and family in the Isle of Palms. Weather was great and the 3 year old cried her eyes out. She wanted to stay forever. I think I better stop my jabbering. The crew looks like they would like to go to bed.

Sorry this didn’t make it in time for the opening day brunch. I’ll be seeing everyone sometime around June 25 or 26. Say hello to everyone.


April 07, 2007 – Abacos, Bahamas

Abacos, April 7, 2007 – Jay, Kathleen, Jordan and Max, Onding, Paul Kelly, Sydney and Darcy, Barbary and Big Darcy, Satuit Boat Club, Landfall Sailing Club; The weather has taken a turn for the better. It is absolutely gorgeous here. Each morning we wake up to the cruisers net and an announcement that reminds me so much of Robin Williams and Good Morning Vietnam, except he greets us with Good morning Abaco cruisers, this is the cruisers net. All the boats with questions or announcements call on the VHF and are given a number and called upon in order during “open mike”. They give us the weather, news, stock report, gold report and emergency messages from home. If someone is looking for a part for their boat they will usually get a reply from several boaters who either have a spare or they are given information as to the best place to find it in the islands. So far there are 3 boats named Argonauta down here. I also learned that all of us took the name from the book “Gifts from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindburgh. I spoke on the VHF this morning with one of them. People are great. Today we hope to finally do some snorkeling.

A synopsis of the trip so far; Key Largo, Fl to Bimini Bahamas 10 hours: Bimini to Chub Cay 14 hours overnight: Chub Cay to Nassau 5 hours: spent 17 days in Nassau due to bad weather: At times the seas north of Nassau were up to 20″ and BASRA advised everyone to stay in the harbor. We were able to take a day trip to the south side of Roses Island that had a gorgeous anchorage and beach. Tony Volk imported a friend of the female variety from the Cape and had an exceptionally great time. Diana Mets and I made the best of it. We toured forts, historic sites, Pirate museum, went to the beach, The Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island and partook of the local music and food whenever possible. We met boaters from New Zealand on their way to Spain for the Americas Cup races, folks from Maine, Texas, France. The marina was multinational and we were all stuck and waiting anxiously to leave. The day finally came and we all left at once. Conditions weren’t perfect but they were good enough for Argonauta. She did me well!! Next stop was Royal Island just off Eleuthra. We anchored in the all around protected harbor and learned that they were turning it into a MegaYacht Resort. What a big disappointment. Chub Cay has already gone that route and is almost complete. From Royal Island we had a semi rough trip to Little Harbor, Abaco. Fortunate their was 1 boat I refused to pass going through Little Harbor Cut in front of us. He made it fine so we followed.

From here the trip has been a breeze. Pete’s Pub and Gallery was wonderful. The food was to die for and his art, jewelry and Sculptures were wonderful as well as being way out of my price range. Man-of-War cay was our next destination where we enjoyed a local fundraiser for the school. Islanders served up a whole rack of BBQ Ribs, peas and rice, cole slaw, potato salad for $18. We also had the best conch fritters, conch salad and homemade ice cream. The helpings were so big I don’t know how they made any money. It was the best. Next was Marsh Harbor and a change of crew. Tony and Diana headed home and Sally and Kathy came on board. From there we headed north to Green Turtle Cay and the Green Turtle Yacht Club and Resort. Quiet and lovely. We are now at the Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana Cay. So far this is my favorite with lots to see and do. Yesterday we rented a golf cart for 3 hours. What a hoot!!! Today we had plans to go to Hope Town but there is no room in the Harbor so we are going swimming and snorkeling at a beautiful beach below Nippers famous Bar and Grill. Tomorrow we’ll head back to Marsh Harbor and take the ferry to Hope Town for the day. Ellen is arriving on Monday and Sally and Kathy will sadly go home.

It has been great hearing from some of you. Keep the news from home coming. As a side note I ran into Walter May in Marsh Harbor. He greeted me as I pulled into my slip with the question “Are you really from Scituate, MA?”

The ever changing crew of Argonauta

Diana D.

Jun. 12, 2005, Scituate Harbor

Billy spotted 06/12/05 in Scitutuate Harbor

Feb. 10, 2005 – Spanish Wells, Eleuthra, Bahamas

2/10/05 – From Spanish Wells, Eleuthra Islands

This is the story of how much fun we had after we left Marsh Harbor and our exploration of Spanish Wells. It was such a nice ride over, where we both agreed we can call ourselves “blue water cruisers” because the water was so BLUE and DEEP. I think they call it “cerulean blue”, but it is an indescribable sapphire blue, with big rollers that were from 10 to 12 feet, but so huge and gentle it was almost fun when they came. Nuts, huh! But the wind was behind us so Billy dozed most of the way, and I took the time to send a message in a bottle (in 13,000 feet of Atlantic Water Current) and write to my mother. I probably did a few other things to keep me from getting stir crazy and seasick, but I won’t bore you with the details.

We entered through the extremely narrow and dangerous cut into the tip of the Eleuthras. We first tried for the Ridley Head cut, but it was so skinny, we opted for the Bridge Point cut, which was a little wider, but not any deeper. The sun was not over our shoulder and we had to rely on the waypoint on our chart, visual plotting…and wits. Of course, I was a MaJOR wimp and double guessed the captain, who had every right to tell me to shut up, so I hid down below. I just get so nervous going through these cuts. Then he yelled “STELLA” and told me to get up on the bow and watch for coral heads and reefs. He was right; I should have not been such a wimp and I should have taken my position up on the bow. Once I was standing on the bow, holding the headsail and looking out for dark spots, I was Fine. So we made it thru that cut, and into the huge area that is “Bahamian Marked”, i.e. not a lot of aid to navigation. A couple of sticks here and there, and they don’t designate which side to favor. No red right return. Aground we were (not hard aground). Because we had popped the dinghy the day before and it was deflated, we could not hop in and push ourselves off. Fortunately it was just a few minutes before the incoming tide had us floating again, and we were back in deep water and anchored behind an island close to the channel that lead to town. We repaired the dinghy there, as well as flushed out the engine that we sank when we backed down the engine….we really are the Two Stooges of the Sea.

Today, we wanted to explore this teeny tiny town, so we loaded into our newly inflated dinghy 2 bicycles, 1 bag of trash, one very full bag of laundry, one empty jerry can, and a few miscellaneous items. There was so much STUFF in the dinghy that there was no room for me. So I had to sit on top of the two bikes to get to town. I have some bruises, but what is one to do if one needs a ride to town?

First we disposed of the trash…there are barrels at the end of every street and we found out later that trash pick up takes place 3 times a week. Then we went to the only public laundry place, which was one washer and one dryer located behind a tiny grocery store. Unbelievably, both were excellent machines, we did 2 washes and 2 dryers at $2 each. (You never know what you will find for laundry facilities down here. The best places from last year were not working this year because of the hurricanes. So we paid $4 wash/$4 dry per load for really bad machines at the Jib Room. After that, I went on laundry strike, and started wearing my clothes right into the shower to wash them while I showered.) But because we had 2 loads we had to fill the time in between. So, by riding around this 2 mile X 1 mile dot of land, we explored the cemetery ( I have pictures) and tiny shops (complete with handmade straw items where I bought a hat) and eventually worked our way toward the town pier, where a woman popped her head out from behind the seawall and said “you two look like cruisers”. That is how we met Jean.

She had been painting the floor of her kitchen and her feet were sticky so she walked down to the seawall to wash them off. She pointed out her trawler on a mooring, and then said she owned a house “right there”. She and her husband Tom were from Rhode Island, and bought a house here 4 years ago, after pulling into this area for a quick stop and getting holed in for 3 weeks. The house was a termite special, but they found 2 local carpenters who worked with them several weeks each winter for the last 4 years to do renovations. The result shows a labor of love and a true Eleuthrian structure, with a taste of New England! They love to meet cruisers, and invite them to their house every day at 5:00 for cocktails and snacks. Jean made 3 batches of popcorn for us and the 4 other Canadians that came that night. I brought cheese and crackers, and wasabi peanuts which were a huge hit and made for much conversation! We talked (we mostly listened) about the ride “south” and different experiences spent along the way. One of the coolest things about Jean and Tom is that they have set up their own book exchange right in their living room, and they encourage you to bring a book to swap. That in itself draws sailors together, if not just to look at the titles and book shelf. The two books I brought didn’t make it into the house, because the Canooks all wanted to read them, but I was allowed to go in and pick out a few books.

Jean even took me upstairs to show me the work done in this tiny house. In order to take advantage of the winds blowing thru north east south and west windows, they made just 2 bedrooms upstairs, with just a partition in between. They never lost the cottage look, or the total Bahamian/Eleuthrian design of the house.

It was amazing. She kept a fantastic photographic journal of the work while it progressed, which she showed us. Hanging on the wall was a recently painted watercolor of the house, done by one of the previously invited cruisers. She even had a photograph of the original homeowner, who was an Albury (huge name down here). The house was so simple, yet so tasteful and cozy. We could have stayed all night. And I know that we will always come looking for them whenever we are in this area, or in the summertime in the Jamestown area of Rhode Island. Jean and Tom are cruisers best friends in this area. They can help you with anything and are so generous.

The other crazy thing about this tiny settlement is the fact that everybody drives cars. Big cars, fancy cars, all day long. The island is only 2 miles long and a mile wide, and you can’t help but wonder where everyone is going. I guess they all make a fortune as the suppliers of lobster and conch to more than 50% of the Bahamas, and they like to spend the money on their cars. It is busier here than it was in Marsh Harbor. Riding a bike on the skinny roads was almost dangerous.

At lunch we met a really nice young couple from Bogata, Spain, that were living on their boat and had been here for years. They just couldn’t tear themselves away. He is an artist and paints murals on the buildings around town. They are beautiful, and we even got to see him at work painting a real estate building. Bridget, Michael and Amy, their daughter, were so sweet and nice we could have talked to them all day. When they eventually do pick up anchor, they hope to head to New Zealand and live on their boat there.

Everyone in this town was so nice and friendly, I can see why Jean and Tom bought their house here and live here six months out of the year. I wish we could do that.

All of this was an adventure for us, because up until now this has been a pretty uneventful trip. There have been a few stories to tell, but for the most part, I think our adventure has just begun, and we intend to milk it for all it is worth. For the next few weeks, anyway, until Justin Rachael and Liam arrive. Here for a good time, but not a long time. There will be a time within the next few years, when I think we will feel OK to just keep going and going. Right now, there are too many things that we need to go home to. It is nice to be able to come this far, even if it is just for a few months.

So tomorrow, weather depending, we will push a little further south, and get a little closer to the Exumas, and appreciate every minute while we are there, because from what we hear from everyone else, it is Paradise. Sounds good to us.

Feb. 5, 2005 – Abacos, Bahamas

February 5, 2005, Marsh Harbor, Abacos Bahamas – We crossed over on 1/24/05 with light westerlies and 2-4 foot seas. we made it from lake worth to memory rock in 6.5 hours, and then onto great sale cay for an overnight stay by 4 p.m. we got to green turtle cay the following day just before the weather window slammed shut when stong northerlies moved in. green turtle was a great place to be holed in for a few days, and we had plenty of time to drink goombay smash.

we got invited to violet’s birthday party (the woman who owns miss emily’s blue bee bar, and has the secret recipe for goombay smash) and we had a ball. the locals all came and everyone was dancing to the music of the one man band. the food was prepared by violet’s husband, all bahamian style. he also happens to be the chief of police of the island, so it was great making friends with him.

we came thru whale cay cut this morning. LOTS of big rollers, but this was our only chance to move before more unsettled weather arrives. so it was a white knuckle ride for me. we should be in marsh harbor tomorrow, where we will stay to install the water maker.

the weather is cool, and lots of northers, but still better than the 17 degree temps we are hearing about. i will keep you posted.

the weather here has been cool, and we have been busy working on the boat. so we haven’t traveled much, so there arent many stories to tell. we hope to push further south next week, first to Little Harbor, then onto the Eleuthras.

Installing the watermaker – from Marsh Harbor

Doing a large project while living on a boat is a lot harder than when the boat is out of the water, or even dockside. For one thing, there is no place to put anything. For another thing, there is so much stuff on this boat, and so much stuff that is needed for the installation of this watermaker.

The watermaker arrived at our house in a box the size of a small refrigerator, weighing in at 125 pounds. The heart of the machine, the membrane, is about 3 ½ feet long. There are multiple components to this contraption which are spread out in various locations throughout the boat. Because of the size of the membrane, we were limited as to where we could locate this bazooka look alike. I had to be the generous one and give up the shelf on my side of the bed where I have always kept my books. I did this on the condition that a cabinet be built around the bazooka to disguise the thing and give me back some of the storage space I lost.

Once that decision was made, we had to run hoses, tubing and wires. That meant everything in the way of these items had to be moved. So we had to empty out the contents of my bookshelf, my 2 lockers, under the bathroom sink, the bathroom closet, and under the nav station. We are talking a lot of belongings here. All my clothes, books, sewing stuff, sheets and towels, snorkel gear, bottles of bleach, blue stuff, extra toilet paper….alot!!! Our bed was covered with the majority of this stuff, and the rest was scattered around the cockpit.

Next we had to break out the parts for this machine. Bags of hoses, clamps, fittings, etc. Then came the tools. Now the kitchen counters, nav table, dining table, benches were covered. Then Billy got hungry and wanted lunch…

After lunch the drilling began. Now, I get very nervous every time Billy pulls out a drill on the boat. I question him…”where are you going with that? Why do we need a hole?”…etc. Because of the many components and hoses many holes had to be drilled. I was a good apprentice and questioned every one. Even the ones I knew were necessary. After the drilling came the vacuuming, and one of the times Billy was at the helm of the vacuum hose, he sucked up a pair of my underwear! “That’s Great!” I said…”Now I only have four pair left!!” Good Ol’ Capt. Bill!

Our goal for today was to get the wires and hoses run and leave tomorrow’s project for the tying in. So we are working under a time frame as I write. It is 5:00 p.m. Our happy hour started an hour ago (here on the Bonnie Christine) and we want to make it to the Jib Room by 7-7:30 for ribs and chicken. And we won’t be able to go to bed until everything is put back in its’ place. Because we can’t see the bed.

We started this project on Tuesday morning. We have worked for 6 to 7 hours every day. As I write it is Friday afternoon. Every day since Tuesday through now we have completely trashed the boat in a very organized manner, and then managed to get everything back in its place by evening. Cabinets and lockers had to be emptied out every day. We even had to remove floorboards to run some hose. What a huge project this has been. Our goal is to have the system up and running by Sunday afternoon, so we can go watch the Superbowl on Sunday night, and then be ready to move on Monday.

Billy’s skills at figuring out the layout and installation have not ceased to amaze me. The installation manual was pretty vague, so he made things up as he went along, thinking about the next step as he went. I was the helper, finding every tool he “lost”, holding the vacuum cleaner hose while he drilled, snaking wires, and just being here when he needed someone to yell at. I’m very good at that! He is a hell of a pipefitter/(tubefitter) . I can only swear like a pipefitter….

The weather in Marsh Harbor has been rainy today, but otherwise pretty pleasant for the last 3 days. We are expecting a nasty front to move in and bring 35-40 knot winds until Sunday. So we have tied everything down up above and taken some other precautions to ride out the storm. This will be nothing compared to how the islands were hit this summer. Port o Call Marina, where we spent some time last year, is totally wiped out. Harbor View Marina only recently began full operations. They had to build an entire new dock. Marsh Harbor Marina, where the Jib Room is seemed to survive unscathed, but looking at photographs taken during Hurricane Frances and Jeanne, many boats suffered damage. The businesses on the main drag here are still getting back on their feet. Miss Ruthie’s on the corner by the only street light in Abaco is still waiting for her new refrigeration units which had to be replaced. She showed me the high water mark and it was over 4’. She told me everything in the store had to be thrown away. Yet somehow, she was able to have a functioning store just a week after the hurricanes hit. We love going there for her roti and pastries and sandwiches. She also had pretty nice internet services there last year, but had to replace every computer this year, due to the storms.

Speaking of internet….we signed up for a week of Outer Island Internet (OII, wireless so it can work off our laptop) for $40. It is sporadic and frustrating to work with. But it is enough for us to send and receive a few e-mails and do some banking transactions. Until the service here improves or we have Sat-phone, I think it is better just to go to the internet cafes, even if it isn’t as convenient. Also, my verizon wireless phone, which worked fine last year, and worked fine over on Green Turtle, is not working well here in Marsh Harbor, even when I stand next to the Batelco tower.

I will write again after the water is up and running, and hopefully we will be at Little Harbor, drinking a concoction from Pete’s Pub. Mmmm. Can’t wait……