Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

We are spending the holidays in western NY with family.  We will return to NAssau on December 31 to attend Junkanoo and then will return to Bentaña on January 2.

We wish you the happiest of holidays.
May your 2012 be filled with LOVE, JOY, PEACE, EXCELLENT HEALTH, and PROSPERITY.

Judy & Steph

Voyage 2 -1 Days 1 and 2 of our second voyage south

Judy,  October 8, 2011
As I sit here in the cockpit on the midnight to 4 am watch, Otto the autopilot has the helm and I raise my eyes every minute or so to scan 360 degrees since Otto can’t see.  The ¾ moon is about an hour away from setting and it is 0240 (2:40 am).  Having a working autopilot is WONDERFUL and much less tiring than hand steering all the time.  It is a bit chilly and the wind is from the west at about 7 kts.  We are headed south down the NJ coast. 
We are motoring, but will set sail when Steph comes up at 0400. 

The Queen Mary 2 and our Queen Mary too!

Imagine if you will, weeks of preparation, stresses, disappointments, delays and frustrations……and then sailing through NY Harbor with the Queen Mary 2 and with our own little Queen Mary the Sailing Kitty in the cockpit with us!!  As we prepared to depart our anchorage between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty I asked Steph to go below to tell Mary we were going to motor out of the anchorage and then go sailing.  He did and then went forward to hoist the anchor.  I looked to the left, and there was Mary on the bench in the cockpit.  Steph had not brought her up and I didn’t, so all we can figure is that she climbed the companionway ladder and onto the cooler and then onto the bench!!!!!  We were totally flabbergasted, because she has never been able to do that before and now she is weaker during her recovery from cancer.  She is one AMAZING kitty.  J
When we came home from last year’s voyage, we had a lot of land based stresses, so we decided to move out of the house we have rented for 15 years and onto Bentaña to travel wherever the wind takes us.  That decided, we slowly began to divest ourselves of a lifetime of possessions.  It is amazing how much one collects over the years and how many things we think we can’t live without when we get them. 
So, what do you do when you are going to move out of your house and into a much smaller, moving place?
1. get a mail forwarding service
2. changes of address to all of your family, friends, financial institutions, insurance, etc
3. sort all your belongings and decide which to keep and pay storage for indefinitely and which to let go of
4. plan how to dispose of them by selling, donating, giving away, or tossing
5. decide what to take on the boat (and then cut it in half)
6. take stuff to storage
7. have a mega moving sale
8. call for pickup of donated items
9. take loads and loads of stuff out to the curb and put out “Curb Alerts” on Craigslist
10. make and go to doctors’ appointments
… say nothing of getting the boat ready!

Judy, written six weeks later, 11/25/11
We decided to have a Mega Moving Sale which lasted for four days.  In order to get prepared for it we had to go through boxes of stuff we had not seen since we moved to Rockland County 15 years ago.  It was entertaining to go through different periods of our lives and remember folks from the past and experiences that we had, however it was also extremely time consuming and time was definitely in short supply.  We rented a MiBox to store the things we wanted to keep and that would go in the truck that we would rent to go to the storage facility near my parents’ house in Lakeville, NY.  Prices there were about $275 per MONTH less expensive than in Rockland County!
We had only one car, since mine (Judy’s) had a rotted frame and was un-drivable.  Thanks to a couple of wonderful friends at the boat club, I was able to get some financial satisfaction from GM and then I sold it to a former Saturn mechanic who would be able to repair it himself.  Steph and I were both working two jobs at different times, at West Marine and driving the launch at the boat club, so we had to plan our schedules very carefully to make sure we had transportation covered.
Judy,  written December 4, 2011
Wait, this is the boat mattress!  What is it doing in the house??
I want to go to the boat........
For the Mega Moving Sale in September, we ran out of time to get everything out, so things kept coming out in fits and starts, and I am sure some things left that we wanted to keep and LOTS of stuff remained that we decided we no longer needed, since some boxes never saw the light of day!.  Luckily, we had four days of decent weather and a lot of our stuff left to go to new homes.  (Last year we had a lawn sale for one day and had 5 inches of rain…..).  We had lined up a few different non profits that take donations so People to People, Hi Tor Animal Shelter and the Viet Nam Vets were recipients of lots of our leftovers.
New salon cabinet and file drawer
All three of us were anxious to get on the boat, as it was very stressful living in a house that was totally discombobulated for several weeks. Unfortunately, the boat was also discombobulated due to the cabinet remodeling that was being done by Gary Tennenbaum  and the work that was being done in various other parts of the boat by Dave Otterbien.  It would not have been safe to bring Mary aboard with all the dust and debris around.  When we finally did move onto the boat, we heaved a collective sigh of relief and all slept like babies. Mary purred all night long. 

New aft cabin cabinet

Eureka!  We struck oil!!
We had hoped to leave at the end of September, but time ran out.  At the boat club it was, “When are you leaving” and then it turned into, “Are you still here??” so we figured we should leave whether we were ready or not.  ;-) The last morning was spent doing last minute errands and returning the rental car and waiting for a special delivery from West Marine (Thanks, Tom!).  I got back to the boat and reminded Steph that we still needed to change the oil.  Unfortunately, I told him to remove one of the hoses of the oil extractor while it still was full of oil and he got a dirty motor oil shower……which as we know now, was a portent of things to come……
Let's get this show on the road!
Cast off those dock lines!
We departed the dock at Nyack Boat Club at 1330 hrs (1:30 pm) on October 6, 2011, one and a half hours earlier than we had left the previous year!  We were motoring due to very light winds.  All of a sudden the bilge alarm went off and we had a bilge full of water!  Steph was figuring out where it was coming from and discovered that a hose from the hot water heater to the sink had split and the bilge was full of 40 gallons of water (a whole tank of fresh water, and half of what was on board.)  Due to the placement of the hose, yours truly had to replace the hose as I was the only one with hands small enough to get in there.  The slider doors for under the sink had not been on as I was still stowing things and boxes of tools, towels and clothing got wet ….another portent of things to come!
Oh well, another crisis resolved and we continued on our way.  We stopped at Liberty Landing Marina to refill the water tanks and to get fuel, then we anchored out between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty for a bouncy night.  We spent the next day sorting, drying  and stowing things and departed the anchorage at 5 pm, which will bring you to the top of this post!

Ahhh, this is the life!

New Liberty Tower
under construction

Friday, December 23, 2011

Voyage 2 notes for Rally Cantral



Awakened for my watch on day four of our seven day passage to Green Turtle Cay, Captain Judy says, “We had the “dreaded clunk!” [indicating water block] while you slept.”  Back at Caribbean 1500 pre-departure seminars, Rick Palm and Miles Poor had warned us of water siphoning back into the cylinders from following seas. Despite following the advice to run the engine a couple of times a day, this gremlin had struck “Bentaña.”
The good news was that we were given thorough instruction on how to remedy the problem on shore. The bad news was, after a previous ugly encounter I told wife Judy “I’m never going in that engine room again.  It’s a sailboat.” I protested in my best macho voice, “We don’t need no stinkin’ engine“. Well, the Captain prevailed, I followed orders and into the breach I went.
The first injector came out without much fuss, but it took 12 hours of sweat, brute persuasion and more than a few salty words to oust the other three. After sucking over a gallon of water out of the engine, giving it a loving dose of WD-40, blowing sooty water everywhere and bolting everything back in place, we crossed our fingers and started the engine.  After a few turns, and a miasma of fumes and sparks on top of the engine from a high pressure hose leak, our mighty Perkins 4.108 came back to life to a round of applause from a tired and grateful crew. I think no one was more surprised or thrilled than I, an avowed anti-motorhead. I know that cruising and passagemaking test us and then require us to reach beyond our comfort zone and do what has to be done.
 Thanks to “Doc” Miles who talked me through the operation over the single-side-band; scrub nurse Judy who handed me tools and mopped my brow; and Bill and Tim, our stalwart crew who kept “Bentaña” moving on course on a voyage we will all long remember fondly.


Up the Mast at Sea

On S/V Bentaña, we had lots of adventures and misadventures while on our passage to the Bahamas.  Our whisker pole bent double before we left the Chesapeake, we ripped the main and mizzen sails, had a water block in the engine, lost the autopilot, and ran low on fuel to name a few.
I had a nice nap one afternoon and when I awoke, my husband Steph mentioned that a flag halyard had come loose and fouled the blades on our newly installed wind generator.  Since we needed the wind generator to produce energy and save fuel, we heaved to and I, being the smallest aboard and a confirmed mast monkey, went up the mizzen to see if I could clear the halyard.  The seas were relatively calm but it was still “rockin’ and rollin’ “25 feet up. After going up twice assessing the situation and not having 3 arms and hands with which to work on it and hang on at the same time, I decided not to risk fingers or other body parts to clear the line at sea.  Luckily it was a lovely sunny day and the solar panels did their job.


A Letter to HQ

Dear Julie,
     Hope everyone is finally in and safe in the BVI.  We’ve had a few days to decompress and get some clean-up and sail work done at Green Turtle Cay.  Just checking to see if you got the two postings Judy and I submitted Re: Problems at sea, as we’ve not been able to confirm your receipt.
    More importantly, I have not seen a correction of our finish crossing time.  Although we arrived at GTC on the 19th, we had crossed the line over a full day earlier at ~ 0917 GPS time, 11/18/11.  Your Yellow Brick tracker and our Spot Tracker can confirm this.  As the rally wisely selected a finish outside the reef cut, to allow competitors to cross the line at any hour without risking the potentially hazardous channel, we took advantage of it.  We crossed the morning of the 18th, and after assessing the cut, the weather, our compromised vessel (low fuel, injured engine, ssb down) and our personal experience in the “Rule 62” search, we decided the “prudent mariner” would seek shelter in deep water. So we clawed off the lee shore and we hove to, awaiting the next day’s better weather.
     An issue which exacerbated communication was the choice of Channel 77 in the Bahamas.  In the US, 77   is 25 watts, but in the Bahamas it is only one watt. There was no way Johnny could have gotten our finish over our VHF.  We were however in radio contact with “Troubadour” and “Transylvania” who can confirm our proximity to the finish on the 18th.  We had visual contact with “Troubadour” at around the time of our finish, however they had crossed earlier in the night and then reentered during daylight .
     I hope this will clarify our finish.  Judy and I and our crew worked very hard under difficult circumstances to bring Bentaña across the line in a timely and sportsman-like manner. Please correct our finish if you have not already done so.
     All that said; please understand that we had a great time.  We had one of our best and most exciting starts ever.  We had wind and seas which put us in first place for the first three days of the rally and allowed us to keep moving while engine issues made us sail! We all agreed that we had some of the best sailing ever.  Thanks for all your effort. Best wishes to Rick and all the 1500 crew.

Voyage 1 Steph, 11/26/11

Greetings Blog followers:  Oceans of water have coursed under our keel since last I added to our blog. Muddy storm churned brackish water on the Hudson courtesy of Irene; deep sapphire blue of the open ocean and the warm and inviting aqua and coke bottle green of the Bahama Bank. I’d like to tell you how many miles we’ve covered, but it depends on who you ask. Our Raymarine Speedometer log was set on kilometers when we started. It reads the boat speed by way of a little wheel at the keel, and therefore distance through the water. The Garmin chart plotter on the other hand tells the actual distance over the ground traveled as it measures our movements from place to place geometrically. On land, these would be the same, but on the fluid medium of the sea, interesting things happen.
Imagine if you will, riding an escalator, or moving sidewalk like at the airport. If you stand still you will be carried to your destination.  If you walk while riding, you combine your efforts with that of the conveyor, reaching your destination that much quicker.  I’m sure we’ve all tried going the wrong way on one of these people movers. This happens all the time on the water and we try to find favorable rather than adverse currents. Now imagine that the current is moving at a 45° angle to your course. The ship is pointed south, and moving southeast or southwest. Anyway you get the picture.
Besides the speed over ground (SOG) vs. Boatspeed, there is tacking to consider. As a sailboat cannot sail too close to the wind direction, it often has to zig-zag or tack it’s way towards its destination. A hundred mile course from A to B may in fact require sailing two hundred miles (or more.)
Now the modern marvels of technology should be able to give us a good Idea of our travels anyhow, BUT.. I reset the Speedo log to read Nautical Miles after we were under way for some time so my log start is in Km. and my current log is in NM, all in distance through the water. This was to bring it into sync with the chart plotter.  Then the chart plotter had a hiccup and added several thousand NM while we weren’t looking. So we can estimate a straight line course from Nyack NY, to our current location and say we’ve covered ???? miles. 
All this however does not include the part of last year’s voyage never blogged, or the summer in between.  A brief recap to be fleshed out at a later date….
            After Cat Island, we began out trek north with stops at Little San Salvador and several stops on Eleuthera revisiting our new friend Sue.  At Spanish Wells, we met  Deb and Bob.
On the Marsh Harbor net (morning cruisers chat on VHF radio) we found Bob and Judy on board “The Edge” who became our buddy-boat back to the states.
            We crossed from Great Sale Cay, the Bahamas to Fort Pierce, Florida with little wind, motoring through a thirty hour trip across the gulfstream.
            We motored up the Intra Coastal Waterway AKA “the ditch.” Stopping to visit Cousin Laurie near Coca Beach and ate at “Squid Lips” and then heading out to sea at New Smyrna Beach, around Georgia and into Charleston Harbor. A delightful visit to this lovely town (will definitely get a fleshed out chapter.) Tim Harris a Charleston resident, who crewed with us going down, loaned us his house and car while he was away.
            We parted company with The Edge when we reached Albemarle Sound, NC as they went home to the Outer Banks and we continued North with a stop at Herfort, NC to visit the Lavery’s at Snug Harbor, then on the ICW to Hampton where we again enjoyed this historic friendly city.
We buddy-boated to Cape May with Nicky and Franz on Split Decision and spent a day geocaching on loaner bikes. We arrived back at the Nyack Boat Club under full sail (as in the photo at the top of the Blog) on May 6, exactly 7 months after we left.
    The weather was much too cold for our thin blood, and the teaching job we rushed home for Judy to fill was given to someone else. Then the weather got hot and I longed for the salubrious climate we had left in the islands. Judy has described our summer elsewhere, the decision was made to cast off our land lines and move on board Bentaña, so we’re all caught up.

Voyage 1 --The First Friday in February Farmer’s Cay Festival

     Well we’re home, that is we are in Nyack, still on our boat, as Randy, our house sitter moves out in a few days.  We left the Bahamas a month ago, working our way across and up the coast in stages, some inside on the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) and some outside on the ocean as weather dictated or permitted.  We arrived in time to lead the Blue Fleet in the Nyack Boat Club’s (NBC) opening day “SailPast.” But all that can wait, we need to fill you in on the intervening months…
It seems to me that any sailor worth his salt should be thrilled by the sight of traditional hand built boats whether working, racing, or just scudding along over crystal waters under azure skies. Of course racing ups the adrenaline ante, and racing (and winning) on the “ The Grand Master’s” most famous legendary “Tida Wave” inspired us to pursue the Family Island Regatta circuit. Little Farmers Cay is south of Staniel Cay in the Exumas, and on the way further south to George Town, one of the three destinations we anticipated visiting. The term “Family Islands,” has replaced the term Out-Islands, and encompasses the ancestral homes of most Bahamians. While employment needs have driven so many from the smaller islands to the big cities of Nassau and Freeport, their roots, their hearts and their families are often keeping the home fires burning on the small family islands from which they grew.
One guidebook refers to Farmers as the “quintessential Bahamian Cay,” with about fifty five inhabitants on its three and a half mile island, “Surviving on spunk and an independent self reliant populace.” It doesn’t hurt that the proprietors of the two main sponsors of the festival had overseas training which they used to popularize this regatta / homecoming. Mr. Roosevelt Nixon (how’s that for an oxymoron?) runs the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club, and Terry Bain runs Ocean Cabin. They each offer moorings, guest facilities, restaurants and bars. Like most everyone on the small islands, they are related.
While most islands boast an apocryphal account of the original inhabitants and the succeeding generations, in Farmers Cay, every resident can trace their forbears to a single couple and their deed to the island. In Bahamian law any descendant has a right to a piece of the undivided “Family” island. We met Sheena, kin to JR, the island’s award winning wood carver. Sheena was here from Nassau with her husband, for home coming.  They were selecting a spot on which to establish a house site for their annual visits and something for their children. They would apply to the island council and if there was no good objection, they could build and own their birthright. Like at home in the US, rural areas are withering away and here, the government would like to see a rejuvenation and development of the family islands and its subsequent relief of big city overcrowding.
       Like many Cays in the Bahamas, all weather anchorages are rare.  Little Farmers is no different. We planned to stay for a whole week, to witness the transformation of a sleepy island into a full blown festival site and then deflate again back to its normal level. We had done that at Staniel, and found it interesting to watch the crowds and activities grow and subside. The guidebooks listed only about a dozen moorings, and we wanted to avoid moving the boat every few days chased about by the circling winds. We decided that we needed to arrive in time to get a mooring for the duration.
We left Thunderball on Monday January 31st and after another pleasant sail on the bank along the western side of Great Guana Cay we arrived at Little Farmers. First Friday was still four days away, and we had heard other boats radioing in for mooring reservations for the coming week-end. We heard that the yacht club had sold out of moorings, so we radioed Terry Bain.  He said that his moorings were all rented out, but he would be happy to guide us to a secure anchorage.  As we rounded the south side of the island and turned northeast towards the cut separating Great Guana, Big Farmers and Little Farmers, Terry approached us in a 20’ open boat with a canoe shaped bow. He led us to a spot between the ship channel and a shallow bar, in line with several moorings.  We dropped the hook and he told us to visit Ocean Cabin up the hill from Little Harbor.  We were a little leery of the holding in this spot, and seeing the open moorings, we called Mr. Nixon at the Yacht Club. Fortunately he had a vacant mooring and we said we’d be here all week.  He said “no problem” and we found the ball he described.

 Unfortunately we have been without a boathook since Exuma Park, and a boat hook was the very tool we needed in order to snatch the heavy pendent from its briny float and bring it aboard to secure our vessel for the duration.  We circled a nearby red sloop with Canadian flag and asked if we could borrow their boat hook. Marilyn and Vic, Newfies from the Maritimes, sailing on “Whisper” offered one up. The other factor besides wind, which limits finding good anchorages is current or surge. Since we were tucked in between three islands, the wind was unable to build much swell.  On the other hand, we were at the confluence of the Farmers Cut, the Exuma Sound and on the edge of the ship channel in between the islands. This means significant current with a very short slack period (~ ten minutes) between reversing tides.  It was the swift current at Warderick Wells in the Park where I lost our boathook.  You may know that most boat hooks are two or three telescoping aluminum tubes with a nylon twist-lock mechanism. That mechanism was not built to hold an 11 ton boat against a four knot rip. My choice once hooked on to the pendant was to lose the boat hook or my arm.  I chose to keep my arm. We had the same problem here as at the park, but with practice and patience, Judy at the helm was able to keep the boat and mooring in synch while I secured the mooring pendant.  I was grateful to not lose this boathook borrowed from trusting strangers, but it was touch and go.
A note about moorings:
You may have surmised by our desire to have a mooring, that moorings are more reliable or safer than anchoring. Back home, you’d presumably be correct.  Anchors, anchorers and anchorages are all different, and they might not always be suited to the location and or conditions. We cruisers presume that the moorings available for a fee are suited to the location and conditions.  Mooring operators here have no such perception.  When asked about boats broken away from failed moorings, operators will tell you that it the boat owners responsibility to “inspect the mooring.” Others have gone so far as to say, “you know, you should always put down your anchor as well.” Operators contend, when asked “What  happens if my boat breaks away and is damaged?  Do you have insurance?” “Oh no, we are not responsible for your boat, but you are responsible to restore the mooring at your own expense.”
Less than a month before the festival, a boat had broken away from a mooring at Farmers Cay.  Each operator insisted it was the other operator’s mooring that had failed.  It was against this background that we put our faith in Roosevelt Nixon’s newly upgraded moorings.  I did inspect the mooring and found the rope and the shackles to be new, the attachment to the bottom weight however was not so obvious. There’s only so much you can do.  Our insurance is paid and I am happy to report that after a week, our boat was in the same place.
After returning the boat hook to “Whisper,” and putting our vessel in order, we went to Ocean Cabin to tell Terry we had made other arrangements. We dingied from the open “Big Harbour” around a craggy promontory to “Little Harbour” on which the settlement sits. The view here was like the stage set for “South Pacific.” A beach with palm trees, small open boats dragged up on the shore and a dozen brightly painted buildings. A dock with a fish cleaning station was next to the island administrator’s office.  There was a green painted Post Office and “Little Jeff’s Shop,” specializing in fresh fish, fishing guide, and all things piscatorial. “Brenda’s Kitchen” was next to the convenience store which was next to a shed named “Ali’s Bar.” Up the hill was Ocean Cabin, a neat well built masonry structure where we found Terry touching up the paint on his domain.
After finishing the last few daubs of paint we went inside for a cold beer and to introduce ourselves. Terry had spent some years in the hospitality business in Tripoli, and returned home to carry on his family’s guest house and restaurant / bar business.  We found that Terry was erudite and well spoken, although his views of the world differed from ours.  As often on this trip we have engaged knowledgeable Bahamians in deep conversations. These opportunities were some of the highlights of our trip. Terry had adopted Islam while in Libya. His first wife was Jewish, his second Muslim, and Ernestine, his current wife is Christian. I asked if the Koran prohibited the use of alcohol, and he said that the Koran warns that alcohol can lead one astray from Allah, and therefore must be kept under control.  I think he is the only Muslim on the island, but there is also the previously mentioned Ali’s Bar.            
Terry told us of the agenda for the week, and how the cruisers would help organize and run the Women’s Wet T-Shirt Contest; the Men’s Best Buns and Best Legs Contests and the Pari-mutuel Hermit Crab Races.
The next day, Terry supplied free Rum Punch and conch fritters to all the cruisers who attended the organizing meeting.  I helped with the serving of the rum punch. Each person took a cup and filled it with ice. They pumped the tap to fill their glass, and I collected the over-runs to keep from wasting any of the punch. I am happy to report that no rum was wasted, but I was!! After the organizing part, Terry showed a video promoting S.T.E.P., (Save The Exuma Park.) Terry is an outspoken environmentalist decrying private development within the boundaries of the Land and Sea Park we enjoyed so much. He asked the cruisers to voice their concern for the protection of the places which draw cruisers and tourists alike. The meeting was a big success.  Judy and I offered to sponsor and run the first Crab Race, with the “Bentaña Cup” as the trophy. I entered both of the men’s “beauty contests” but took no prizes.  We also happened to win the crab race we sponsored, betting on number one, and the clear plastic tumbler called “The Bentaña Cup” sits proudly in Terry’s bar today, (plus we won nine dollars, but I had to buy Terry a beer from his bar for four.)
Each day the festival drew closer. Ex residents and family members in Nassau, Freeport and other big cities were making their way “home” onboard the “Captain C” mail boat. The boat was not only bringing the folks together and some of the competitor’s boats, but also all the makings of a festival. Case after case of beer, rum and other spirits were unloaded by the pallet.  I asked Terry if he thought there was any chance of “running out,” and he answered with a twinkle and a smile, “I hope so.” This week end was not only the big regatta, but also Super Bowl Sunday, and Roosevelt had ordered a big screen TV for the bar. He was happy to see it loaded safely on the dock.
Roosevelt’s Yacht Club has satellite TV, but I learned that through an agreement between the government and the cable company, all the basic channels (CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC and ZNS(Bahamas))  are broadcast free in remote areas where stringing cable is not cost effective. Judy’s birthday was coming up and I thought I would surprise her by hooking up her TV card on her computer. After hacking around a while, I got it to work, but the dreariness of network programs couldn’t compete with the daily adventure that our lives have become. We made reservations for a lobster dinner to celebrate.
Around the village center, the more enterprising locals were busy building and decorating their pop-up booths with palm fronds and plastic pennants in national “Blue, Black and Yellow.” Judy and I were taking a random walk about, following a sign to JR’s Wood carving shop.  On the way we met Johnny carrying water containers.  We waved Hi, and asked him what he was doing. He was “going to water his plants” he said in his in his gentle smiling toothless patois, “Would you like to see?” Well, seeing was  why we were here, so we followed him off the road, past some wild cotton, up a rough path to what was once a house.  In the yard, there were a number of newly planted bougainvilleas, freshly watered. Johnny, it turns out at 80+ is the oldest member of this family island, and is quite the fashion plate wearing his black “Phat Farm” T, black neatly wrinkled jeans and a Gabbanna and D’someboddy hat.
    On the beach we found a huge white steel sphere which had mysteriously appeared one day and had become a local monument.  Since one of my tasks on earth is to photograph spheres randomly found in the environment, I could kill two birds with one stone and posed Judy and Johnny in front of it and snapped away. We then continued our walkabout to the high point overlooking the village, the Baptist Church, where we met Terry’s sister, the newly ordained minister, in mufti.
     All this was very good, but truly besides the point of coming here.  We came for the Bahamian Native Sloop Regatta, and the excitement was building. On the west side of the island is an air strip, and just off-shore, about one hundred forty assorted cruisers had dropped anchor, trusting in fair winds for the duration. On Friday, the first race was a distance race from White Point to the finish line here, a distance of XXX miles.  The Saturday races were on a triangular course, with the anchor start, and the finish line right in the middle of the anchored cruisers.  This made for some interesting maneuvering and tactics, and gave those anchored a ringside seat.  Judy and I arrived early in our dingy to watch the boats get set up and the crowds gather. A large well built pavilion between the air strip and the beach was being set up to serve beer and home cookin’ to the thousand or so homecomers, festival goers and spectators. The DJ was setting up his speakers and control board for some serious party music. In the center of the structure was a table filled with the glistening golden trophies the sailors had come to vie for.
     The boats were all “C” Class, smaller versions of the boats we had raced in at Staniel Cay.  With a crew of XXX they use the same principles as their big sisters.

Another couple of days in Paradise….
Just an update on where we are currently… On Sunday, April 3, the weather forecast seemed good for a sail from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera to the Abacos, so we stowed everything and set out through the north channel out of Spanish Wells (a wandering passage between shallow waters and coral heads) to arrive in the Atlantic Ocean.  Thank Goodness for the charts and chartplotter! 
We had an absolutely gorgeous sail to the Little Harbour Cut in the Abacos.  The sun was out, the breeze was steady and between 11-17 knots from the east. Ocean swells were 2-5 feet from the north east. We had the genoa, main and storm sails set and cruised along between 6 and 7 knots, sometimes more and almost never less than six.  Steph decided to put out the fishing line.  When we fish, the line is tied off to the boat and we use a bungee tied to the line leaving a slight sag to the line, so that when a fish strikes the lure, you can tell because the line straightens out.   At one point, I glanced over at the line and said, “Honey, we might have a fish….”  Steph began to bring in the line and voila…at the end of the line was a 36 inch Dorado (aka Mahi Mahi)!!  The strange thing was, it was hooked not in its mouth, but through two small holes above its mouth!  (Kind of like a nose, if fish had noses, that is J )  The fish was absolutely gorgeous with an overall golden sheen with blues and greens.
As we were estimating our arrival time at Little Harbour Cut, I discovered that my watch and the time on the chartplotter were one hour different….and the chart plotter said we would arrive around 6:30 pm and my watch said we would arrive about 7:30 pm.   Electronic items sometimes consider the Bahamas to be on Atlantic time instead of Eastern time, but all of the Bahamas are on the same time as the US east coast.  The chart plotter did not go on daylight savings time until we were about an hour out of Little Harbour, Abacos.

Voyage 1--Staniel Cay Area Part 2 -- January 2011

We spent most of the month of January 2011 within about 12 miles of Staniel Cay, moving from anchorage to anchorage with the weather and when we wanted to see new places or introduce friends to a place they had not been to yet.  We met many more wonderful people and reconnected with friends we had previously met.
The days and months are a blur….time goes by so quickly.  It must be because there is so much visual, aural, mental and emotional stimulation!  Also, taking care of the day to day business takes a tremendous amount of time.
After the first of the year, we returned to Black Point for our second visit which was very enjoyable.  We had to change the elbow between the raw water pump and the heat exchanger on the boat, because we had a pin hole leak that sprayed water all over the engine compartment and it turned to steam……  so after that excitement we returned to Between the Majors as another cold front was coming and high winds were expected.  Patty and Gary on Last Tango and Donna and Jerry on Bluejacket were our neighbors and they came over one evening for sundowners.  We had lots of fun and the next day Bluejacket left for the Jumento Cays.  Linda and Wes on Odyssey were anchored north of us near Sampson Cay, so Steph dingyed up to go diving with Wes.  The next day we both went to visit them.  Linda and I stayed on Odyssey and chatted while the guys went searching for lobsters.  They saw and swam with 3 or 4 sharks. They came back empty handed, though Wes had had good luck a couple days before when he went out with folks from another boat. 
There were only two boats left Between the Majors (Bentaña and another ketch) and as we were preparing hoist anchor to make another visit to Black Point to do laundry, Joe and Angela from the other ketch Amarock came over and offered us some lobster.  They had just caught 3 and had no room in the freezer for anything except the tails, so they offered us the legs and the antennae.  (Bahamian lobsters do not have large claws that northern Atlantic lobsters have, but they do have antennae bigger around than Steph’s thumb and have lots of meat.  They are like big crayfish.)  We gladly accepted and chatted for a bit.  They are Americans who have had a charter business in the Bahamas for many years and they were between passengers at the moment.  They catch about 80 % of their protein from the local waters. Angela has published a Bahamian cook book.
The lobsters were actually quite huge, and the legs and antenna were not unlike king crab legs.  I filled a large pot with the parts and some sea water and steamed them till they turned red. Not having lobster tools, we had to break into the succulent legs with channel-lock pliers, one of the handiest tools on the boat. It was a lot of work, but the meat was tasty. After dinner I shelled the two thirds of the parts we couldn’t eat and set them aside for tomorrow’s Lobster Chowder.
Well, the Lobster Chowder was eaten in Black Point and Jean and Art from s/v Samana came to share it with us.  It was delicious!!
On this trip to Black Point we had the ramoras under our boat.  They are supposed to bring good luck and they did!!   We met Mary and Paul and puppy dog Jasmine from Merry Sea. 
We sailed back to Staniel Cay to fuel up and Steph stickered the fuel pump with a West Marine sticker.  We anchored at Big Majors Spot near Merry Sea for the approaching easterly winds. We had a lovely evening aboard Merry Sea splicing the main brace and chatting. Merry Seas was awaiting the arrival of family so they stayed in the Staniel Cay area to pick them up. 
That Sunday, we decided to attend church in Staniel Cay at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.  The owners of Isles Inn and General Store are Berkie and Vivian Rolle.  We did a lot of shopping there and ordered Mary’s kitty litter there.  Berkie is also the minister at Mt. Olivet and Vivian is a Deaconess.  The first day we attended church, Berkie was out of town at the installation of the new minister at Little Farmers Cay (who we met a few weeks later) and the service was led by Vivian and Mother White, an ordained minister, elderly, charismatic mother figure who knows everyone on the island and spoke to many of them in her sermon, spoke in tongues and blessed everyone.  She also said that Staniel Cay was an answer to the town’s prayers, but if some people did not shape up, then the Lord would take away the good things that had happened to the town.
Isles Inn and General Store are located on South Staniel Cay and linked to Staniel Cay by a small bridge over Bonefish Creek.  Staniel Cay is a “family island” (originally Gray Cay) and as such, only progeny of the original land granted families can claim land there.  Since Vivian and Berkie are not originally from Staniel Cay, they had to build their facility on South Staniel.
After the church service which lasted about 2 hours, we wandered towards the yacht club and passed Big Dawg’s bar/restaurant.  We asked if they were serving lunch and we were told we could have Stew Fish and Johnny Cake. We got one order of Stew Fish, vitamalt and a coke and sat down to eat.  A golf cart pulled up out front and asked what was for lunch.  Come to find out, it was Coral, a woman that Steph had mentioned Geocaching to and she said she would be willing to be the caretaker for a Cache on Staniel Cay.  We told her about the cache we had already found there and she and her son went to find it.  They were very excited!  We made arrangements to get together later that day as she was trying to catch her dog who had just killed a wandering chicken and she asked at the restaurant who could use the chicken.  We called her on the VHF radio and drove the dink to their dock.
Coral’s mother Marty, an American, has been in Staniel Cay for several decades.  She is an author and has Serenity House, two octagon buildings set up as a guest house.  Coral, also an American, teaches a geometry class via internet to school kids in the USA.   
After our lovely visit at Serenity House, we dingyed back to the east side of Big Majors Spot and took a walk.  It was amazing to see just about every hole in the limestone filled with individual beer bottles.  We saw a pond with pig tracks around it and then dinked back to the boat.  When we got back, we heard on the radio that a catamaran “See Yawl Later” was going to beach his boat and show “Avatar” on the mainsail.   Having two hulls, a catamaran has the ability to anchor in the shallows at high tide and wait till the tide goes out and left to sit high and dry, and level too. All were welcome to attend.   It has been years since we have been to a drive in and we had never been to a dink in, so off we went with our chairs and blankets and we sat on the beach to watch the movie! I had seen the movie twice, first in 2-D, then in IMAX 3-D, but this was a new wrinkle (in more ways than one.) Each time the wind shifted or shuddered, it sent a wrinkle across the screen, and our heroes on Pandora moved into a literal space warp. BTW the first time I saw Avatar in 2010, I thought it was the only evidence that our culture had moved into the 21st century, of course I’ve never ridden a Segway.
We decided to spend a few days in “Pipe Creek”, an area north of Sampson Cay and Staniel Cay. Our friends on Last Tango, Maribel, Bluejacket, Just Ducky and Anjo spent weeks/months there.  Joe from Just Ducky is the self declared mayor of Pipe Creek and has been there for many weeks each winter for many years with his lovely wife Carol.  When we pulled in, besides Anjo, we were the only non Island Packet sailing vessel in that particular anchorage!  It was really nice to see Becky and Kevin from Maribel again (and to see their dog Danny again for the last time. Danny was elderly and went ashore on Raccoon Cay in the Jumentos and disappeared.  We were so sorry to hear that.) We also got to meet Joe and Carol on Just Ducky and other folks who were in the anchorage. Maribel sponsored a beach party in celebration of their replaced transmission, which had arrived on another cruiser’s boat from the USA.  The party took place at the Pipe Creek Yacht Club (aka PCYC).  Everyone brought food and drinks, we chatted and had a wonderful bonfire. The fire also presented the opportunity to bid our trash good-bye. Cruisers who don’t frequent settlements must manage their own waste. Except for the half dozen major population centers, garbage is usually burned at “da dump.” These pillars of smoke not only can guide you from island to island, but it can also tell you the day of the week, (or if you know the day of the week, they can tell you which island.)
Pipe Creek was our first experience of “Bahamian anchoring” which is using two anchors at the same time approximately 160 degrees apart to keep from swinging too much.  The “surge” or current that goes through Pipe Creek to the east of Thomas Cay can be fierce and it often fights with the wind. One morning we woke up at slack tide and there was no wind.  The water was like glass and we could read the printing on our anchor at the end of the anchor chain in 15 feet of water!
There were lots of things to do here.  We snorkeled, saw a Conch nursery, walked on the beach and hiked to the Atlantic side of Thomas Cay to a lovely beach.  The hike was through a partially dried swamp that had some really soft parts, so we got kind of muddy on our way to the beach and on our way back.  Unfortunately, we forgot the camera that day.  We had a picnic lunch, collected shells and spent some time saying farewell to our friend Helen who had passed away a few days before.
Joe and Angela from Amarok who had given us the lobster parts were anchored in another area of Pipe Creek.  On the beach they taught us how to clean conch and then came over for sundowners. I kept the largest and prettiest shell to make into a conch horn, traditionally used as a fog horn, and a USCG approved sounding device. Nowadays, it is used as a male ritual announcing sundown in the anchorage and inviting a testosterone driven hornblowing contest.  It’s how Horatio got his name.
One afternoon we were sitting on the boat and had a visit from another couple.  They came to tell us that their names were ALSO Steve and Judi and that we had to form a Steve and Judy Club as they knew other sailing couples with the same names!  This Steve and Judi are on Adanaco (O Canada spelled backwards) and we saw them in many other places after that.
Pictures may follow at a later date.