31 May 2007

Pounding, stomping and getting wet

May 31, 2007

After listening to the National Weather Service’s 0530 forecast, we weighed anchor at 0615 and headed southeast to the Bight of Acklins. The sail was very close hauled (the wind was blowing from the northeast and we wanted to sail in an east-southeast direction, very close to the direction of the wind. This kind of sailing means that Whisper heels over rather dramatically and pounds into the waves. Not too much fun!) Spray was coming over the top of the cockpit, and while we were rather uncomfortable, we both felt safe and secure. We made landfall just before dark in a rather rolly anchorage, but it was great to stop and we both fell asleep promptly.

30 May 2007

vamos a la Republica Dominicana!

May 30, 2007

We finally got our weather window and left George Town at sunrise along with fellow boats, Merengue and Aurora. Our plan was to head south towards the southern tip of Long Island and then to the Southwestern tip of Acklins Island and from there go northeast to Mayaguana and then Providenciales (Provo), in the Turks & Caicos. We had a great sail to Hog Cay cut south of George Town and were able to proceed through the cut with no problem. Merengue and Aurora were close behind, however they had trouble keeping pace and pointing as close to the wind as Whisper was able. Eventually, they turned around and headed for Northern Long Island where they would take the more conventional route to Rum Cay, then Mayaguana and eventually Provo. We ran into a little snafu when the UV protective edge on our jib snagged the radar reflector and tore. We had to anchor early and spent the afternoon repairing the sail.

29 May 2007

Hasta la vista George Town

May 29, 2007

Here we go again. Barring surprises, we'll head out of George Town tomorrow morning (Wednesday, May 30) for the first leg of our sail to the Dominican Republic. We'll take a slightly unconventional route, that takes advantage of the wind direction. We'll be heading south east, to the southern tip of Long Island, then continue south east to the tip of Acklins Island where we'll hang a left and go northeast towards Plana Cays and Mayaguana. From there, we'll slog to the east to the Turks and Caicos Islands and finally south to the Dominican Republic. We'll most likely be out of touch for the next two weeks.

26 May 2007

Doughnuts and coffee

May 26, 2007

Above, Whisper's crew enjoys some home made doughnuts. A great success!

In the last posting, we said that we were weighing anchor and sailing to Long Island, en route to the Dominican Republic. Well, we’re still at anchor in George Town, waiting out some high winds and large seas. The weather forecast has remained the same for the past few days and looks the same going into next week – high winds, 20-25 knots out of the ENE combined with large seas, ranging from 6-10 feet. Definitely not the time to be venturing south. Kristen is currently reading “Into the Light” by Dave and Jaja Martin, two small-boat sailors who explore the world with their three kids on a 33-foot boat. Each chapter starts with a quote, two are particularly fitting to our current situation:

“Boredom and impatience can infect cruising sailors – tempting them to go to sea in foul conditions.”

Which, reminds us:

“Nothing compares to being in port – safe and sound – during a storm.”

So, for the time being, we’re sitting tight in George Town, passing time by hiking around Stocking Island, reading, watching movies, baking, dreaming of future destinations and practicing our heavy weather sailing. All the other boats are doing likewise, so we’ve been hanging out with friends and are all trying to fend off cabin fever together.

Above, waves crashing on Stocking Island in George Town.

22 May 2007

Adios amigo.

May 22, 2007

Catching up over some beers in the cockpit (and avoiding the rain!)

This morning at 6AM we said goodbye to Matt as he got in the taxi to start his journey back to Maine after spending a week with us here in George Town. We spent the week dodging raindrops, and although the daily thunderstorms and squalls constrained us to Elizabeth Harbour in George Town, we found plenty of activities to occupy our time.

The sky switched from this to sunny in a matter of hours all week.

We spent a lot of time at the beach on Stocking Island: swimming, walking, hiking around on the trails, getting pummeled by the waves, drinking cold beers, watching a guy kite-surf and so on.

Taking advantage of a sunny spot in the day to hang out at the beach.

Hanging out on the beach. Kristen forgot her hat so took the opportunity to impersonate Lawrence of Arabia.

We spent one day on a pub-crawl of Great Exuma Island, hitchhiking our way north and stopping off for lunch at a small restaurant and stopping off at bars along the way when it started downpouring. In Rolleville, we met the owner of the D class sailboat “Fugitive” which he’ll be taking to the Long Island Regatta in a few days. They were so happy in Rolleville that some tourists (us) came to their town, that he gave us a ride halfway back to George Town and then some “Fugitive” hats for souvenirs. The next car dropped us at “Three Sistas” bar where a Bahamian who knew how to say “thank you” in Swedish taught us how to play dominoes!

Congrats Matt! He got the ring on the hook at Peace & Plenty!

As soon as the skies cleared one afternoon, we hoisted anchor and had a beautiful sail to the Red Shank’s anchorage. On Sunday we waved our fists at the sky and sailed Whisper out of the cut to sail over some deep water (3000 feet). No one wanted to go swimming! The rain clouds made us change our course back to George Town where we spent the afternoon at the pig roast at the Chat-n-Chill restaurant.

We ended the week’s festivities last night engaged in a loud, raucous and heated debate with some Bahamians at Tino’s Bar just north of town. We originally went to watch the Red Sox/Yankees game, but stayed for a discussion that wandered from the 2008 election to Iraq to weather to war and finally to religion. The three of us were out of our league at that point!

Two sailors braving the waters of Elizabeth Harbour.

It was great to have Matt on board Whisper and to share our experiences with a friend. Tomorrow we’re going to start heading south to the Dominican Republic, making stops along the way at Long Island, Conception, Mayaguana and the Turks and Caicos. We’ll be without internet again for a while, perhaps not until we get to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks.

13 May 2007

Happy Mother's Day

May 13, 2007

We're in George Town, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Matt Doyle who is due to hop off the ferry on Tuesday morning. We haven't been doing too much...snorkeling, swimming, boat projects, etc. The weather has gotten really hot and humid and we've been getting squalls every night from some unsettled weather south of here. The squalls usually come through around 2AM so we both wake up and sit in the cockpit until the high wind gusts and thunder and lightning have passed. It would be too much to ask for the squalls to come at 2PM! The only positive benefit is the gorgeous sunsets every night.

After Matt leaves, we'll start heading south to Luperon, Dominican Republic where we'll spend hurricane season safely tucked in the mangroves. Luperon is a renowned hurricane hole since the harbor sits at the base of two large mountains and is lined with mangroves. More importantly, it is on the north coast of the DR which has two very large mountain ranges running east to west blocking the worst of the hurricanes and tropical storms.

08 May 2007

projects in George Town

May 8, 2007

We're back in George Town after a great week spent in Long Island.
Matt Doyle is due to arrive on the 15th so we're doing some odd jobs on the boat in the meantime.

The past couple days we went snorkeling on the reefs around the area and saw an amazing amount of fish and healthy coral. Yes, even lobster and tons of Nassau grouper, all waving and smiling at us in their protected habitat (Elizabeth Harbour is a protected marine environment, no fishing or spearing). grrr...

04 May 2007

Drive-through fishing

May 4, 2007

On Friday we caught a couple rides south to Deadman’s Cay to Max’s Conch Bar for some of his famous conch salad. It lived up to its reputation and his roadside, tiki bar provided great atmosphere. The talk is all about politics these days after FNM beat out the incumbent party, PLP in Wednesday’s election. 75% of Long Islanders are FNM members so the island is still celebrating, and probably will be for the next month or so!

On the way home we got a ride with Roger, a local fisherman and also a crew member of Running Tide, Long Island’s entry in the Family Island Regatta. After talking about fishing and sailing, he invited us out on an afternoon fishing trip with his son Christopher. He picked us up at the dock at 4:00PM and we drove to the Northeast side of the island where he keeps his 17 foot fishing boat in a protected harbor. He also owns a much larger commercial vessel which he takes as far south as Cuba in search for lobster and grouper.

Let it be known that the crew of Whisper has been trying long and hard, with nearly identical techniques, to catch some fish. Heck, we’d settle for just one mahi mahi. Even a small one, we’re not picky. We’ve been fishing every chance that we’ve gotten while offshore, and even in the waters of the ICW in Florida. Nothing. Just one little bite that ruined a lure on the way to Nassau. Needless to say, we’re a little fed up and have been beginning to doubt that there are fish in the ocean.

Well. Now we’re even more frustrated. It had not been thirty seconds after Roger threw in his two lures, that we caught our first mahi of the day. Thirty seconds after that, our second mahi bit the other lure. We trolled around for another hour, but the seas were getting rough, and we already had two large fish, so we headed home to a wonderful dinner.

Roger gave us an entire mahi, even though we only wanted a small filet, so we invited Joe and Jeannie over from the boat Madrigal and had sushi appetizers followed by wonderful pan fried fish. Like all the people we’ve met on Long Island, Roger was friendly, proud of his Island, a real family-man and generous. We’ll be back for the Long Island regatta in a couple weeks so we’ll see him there.

P.S.: Kit kat got her fair share of fresh fish both raw and cooked. She ate so much fish last night that for the first time in her life, she has slept through breakfast. It’s already 9:00AM and she has not yowled yet.

The fishermen with their catch.

03 May 2007

North to South on Long Island

May 3, 2007

Renee and Michael on Jacumba rented a car to explore Long Island and invited us along. We gladly accepted and had a wonderful day going to places otherwise inaccessible by boat. Queen’s Highway is the main road that runs the length of Long Island from North to South so we headed south toward Clarence Town. There are numerous grocery stores, convenience stores, a couple bars, and lots of “everything” stores with kids toys, furniture, household goods, stationary, garden supplies, etc. etc. There are also many churches along Queen’s Highway ranging from Anglican (Church of England) to Baptist to Catholic and others in between.

Our first stop was Dean’s Blue Hole at Turtle Cove. Blue holes are basically large underwater caves, some only 20 feet deep, and others, like Dean’s, 600 feet (200 meters) deep! We are told that Dean’s Hole is the deepest and largest such structure in the world. Also, the world record for free diving was broken here just a couple weeks ago when a guy dove about 200 feet into Dean’s Hole. The area was pristine with no development, no trash, a white sand beach and a view of the ocean. The only other people there were a couple boys fishing with their mom.

Kristen swimming across the blue hole. The bottom is 600 feet below...what's down there?

Swimming in Dean’s Hole is a little scary at first since the sea floor drops off from knee high, to thigh high to 600 feet in the matter of 2 steps. The entire hole is ringed with coral reefs that contained a large variety of fish. Dean’s Hole is spectacular and one of the most amazing things we’ve seen in the Bahamas and in nature.

After a couple hours there, we jumped in the car and drove down to Clarence Town where we had lunch at the Flying Fish Marina. On the way back we stopped at a couple of the stores and bought a few things, including a Monopoly set. Competition is high on Whisper these days and shouts of aggravation and glee can be heard throughout the harbour.

An old Anglican church in Clarence Town.

Kit kat supervising the Monopoly game.

02 May 2007

Election Day, The Bahamas

May 2, 2007

Today is general elections in the Bahamas. Almost every out-islander that we’ve met is voting for the FNM Party, which is the reform party and more of a “people’s party” than the one currently in power, the PLP. However since the majority of the population lives in Nassau, it is hard to tell who will prevail. The polls close tonight at 6PM and results will start coming in around 7PM. Parties are planned and, knowing the Bahamians, there will probably be a party win or lose.

Yesterday we explored some blue holes that are in the harbor where we are anchored. On the chart, blue holes are deep pockets of water in the middle of shallow water. After snorkeling around two of them, we discovered that they are more like large, underwater caves. It was a little spooky…we saw a couple of large sting rays, and a large Nassau Grouper which might be our dinner one night soon.

In the late afternoon, we all hiked over to the beach and went for a swim, enjoyed the scenery, and Kristen found another hamburger bean to add to the collection.

hamburger beans (seed pods that float from Africa and end up on beaches in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Walking to the beach

01 May 2007

Miller's Bay

May 1, 2007

Miller’s Bay, Long Island

Happy Birthday Rod! (Kristen's dad)