Friday, March 25th

My last post was from Rock Sound Eleuthera on the Friday the 18th.  We really enjoyed our visit while there.  The guidebook we have for the Bahamas really made Eleuthera sound not all that inviting, but if asked I would tell anyone to make sure to spend some time enjoying this area.

Before Sailing to the Bahamas, I often heard people talk of the Abacos, Eleuthera, and the Exumas.  It all sounded the same to me.  After all, it was all the Bahamian islands, what difference could there be?   Now that I have been to all these regions, I can tell you there is a huge difference between them.   North Abaco was a wonderful place, and where we spent the most time.  Easy sailing between great little towns, and a very small town kinda feel;  touristy, but in a good sort way.  Eleuthera is totally different.  Not at all centered around the tourist, you get a feel of the real Bahamas there.  The people we met there were absolutely the friendliest.   The Exumas is beautiful, but only in a “don’t touch” sort of way.  Most of the Cays are private, and there is an exclusiveness that pervades the place.  The people of the Bahamas have had their Exuman land stolen from them by their own government and sold to the rich.    One day I hope to see the people of the Bahamas force the repatriation of their land back to the rightful owners, the people of the Bahamas.

On Saturday morning we left early because we had a fair amount of sailing to do.  To get to the next area of the Bahamas, we needed to leave Eleuthera and sail to the Exumas.  To do that we needed to round the southern cape of Eleuthera, and enter into the deep water of the Exuma Sound.  We were unable to easily get water and fuel in Rock Sound so we planned to stop at the Eleuthera Marina on the cape for water and gas.     We arrived at the marina around 11:00 and were fueled up and back out into the ocean in an hour.   The Eleuthera Marina is one of those places in the Bahamas that was not a favorite.  It is beautiful in a McDonalds sanitized sort of way, but not Bahamian in any way at all.    You can stay there if you can afford the $2.50 a foot for your boat, not including electric or water.  There is no “Bahamas” there because it has all been washed away to make it more comfortable for the very few that can afford to visit.    Nice place to get gas, just like a new service station on a highway, but no place to visit.

We were feeling good.  It was just noon and we had another 40+ NM to go but the weather was good, the sails were filled with air, and we were leaving one area of the Bahamas to visit one we had not seen yet.  It’s times like these when the stuff really hits the fan.  I had just set our autopilot for a course to Allan’s Cay and gone below.  I had asked Carol to keep watch.  At some point Carol disengaged the autopilot to trim the sails, and then she started to call me.  We had all sail up and were moving over 6KTS and Carol could only steer the boat in one direction.  We had gone from A-OK to pending disaster.  I took the helm from Carol and started to realize the autopilot had broken and was jamming the wheel.  For a few minutes we were scrambling.  I knew that we could get in real trouble if we could not steer, but the boat was doing fine and we managed to disassemble the device and regain control before anything bad happened.  For a few minutes I started to think about going back to the Eleuthera marina, but not wanting to give the rest of my fortune to the McDonalds of the marina world, we decided to keep going.  Now an autopilot is a wonderful thing, but it is not absolutely necessary, at least for our trip.  It just meant that now someone HAD to be steering the boat.    We reached Allan’s about five hours later with little fanfare.

Allan’s Cay was something very new for us.  Until now, we had always picked anchorages for their tranquility.  Now in the Exumas we were faced with many anchorages with strong current during the tidal flow.  We no longer could anchor in quiet waters, but now had to anchor in what amounted to fast moving rivers.  Did I mention that the “river” changes direction every 6 hours.    Well, we anchored in Allan’s, and then we set an additional anchor using our dinghy set at 180 from the first.  When the river changed direction, the boat just shifted around and all was well.  We stayed in Allan’s for a few days with our friends Dogonit.  The last full day there a large cat came into the anchorage and anchored between Dogonit and us.  We noticed they only dropped one anchor but we hoped for the best.  That evening, Carol and I were retiring quite late after reading late in bed and Carol said “I hear an engine starting.”  I knew that at this hour the only reason to start your motor would be for life and death reasons.  We climbed out of our hull to see the big cat desperately trying to put down a good hook.  At one point they appeared to hit Dogonit (they did catch their chain).  Finally they got their hook up and started to look for a better spot.  I got on the radio and was able to point out an ideal place, to which they motored and then anchored successfully.

After a few days at Allan’s, we left Monday the 21st to head to Normans Cay.  The sail was much easier than pulling up both anchors at Allan’s.  Norman’s is notable due to it being a major cocaine trafficking site in the 70’s.   There are dozens of abandoned crumbling buildings and even a crashed airplane there to explore.  We also got to meet the people on the “big cat” too.  Steve, Holly, and their two kids, Reese and Gwen, on Independencia. Dogonit was there too, and we enjoyed a few days of eating and drinking together until late into the evenings.  My fondest experiences I have had here have come from just hanging out with the cruisers we have met.  That night I sat on the bow of the big cat and was awed by the entire picture.  A dozen or so people of all ages enjoying the food and drink in a stunningly beautiful and safe place.  Nobody had a care other than to just relax and socialize.

We left Norman’s on Thursday around 11:00.  I had gotten better at the “Bahamian” style of anchoring (two opposing hooks) but was not looking forward to the trip.  It appeared that we would once again slog to win-ward and with the 15+ kts of wind I was a bit worried.  Once out in the sound we put up all sail and found we could sail a course to Warderick Wells.  We sailed for much of the afternoon very close to the wind making an easy 5 or 6 knots, and even hitting 7 or more during the gusts.  It was a wonderful sail and not the slog I expected.  Entering Warderick was a bit stressful due to the tidal changes.  We entered at full tide and had the engine roaring just to make it into the anchorage.  You get a bit nervous when there are boat thrashing coral heads all around you with very fast moving water, and your’re near the limits of your boats power range.  After a few tense moments, we were inside and Carol grabbed the mooring ball like the champ that she is.

Warderick Wells is a magic place.  The Bahaman government has made this area and the Cay’s surrounding it a national animal and marine sanctuary.    We have yet to explore it much but what we have seen is amazing.  Last night I noticed huge fish swimming in the stream just under our boat.  While I was looking I saw a 5 foot shark swim right under me a few feet away and then start stalking the fish.  Later we saw florescent green glowing jelly fish floating by, there were hundreds over an hour or so.

Today everyone is starting very slowly.  It is hot here, as it has been for weeks.  We’ll explore the park today and take some pictures.  We have not had Interent access for some time, but we do now so I’ll be able to catch up a bit.   Pictures to come soon!

Thanks to all of you who post questions, or comments.  We really love to hear from all of you even if it takes us a few days or more to reply.  We are really enjoying ourselves here, but our friends in Sandpoint are always on our minds.  We wish you were here with us.  I’d offer you a cool one and some shade if we could!

Chris Curtis

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On the way to Rock Sound

Here is a short video clip with customary poor iPhone audio.

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Rock Sound, and a day to relax!

Hello All.  We are near the southern end of Eleuthera in a place called Rock Sound.  Rock Sound is a large natural harbor that is well protected from most directions.  We plan to spend a day here to fuel up, and get water.   Last night we gorged on Mackerel caught by Walt during the days sailing.   We decided to just relax today as the next jump is a big one.  Assuming the weather holds (10 to 20 knots from the ENE) we will leave here Saturday and head for the Exumas approximately 50 NM away.    I think we’ll have a real interent connection later today, if so, I’ll try to post some pictures or videos.

Chris

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Hatchet Bay and back on land!

I had just sent a friend Stacy an update, and then decided to include this, my first post included her bits.

We just landed in a small settlement called Hatchet Bay. It is in the next island group called Eluethera. VERY different from North Abaco. This is an out of the way location (yes, we had to slog through headwinds all day yesterday!!), and it is not touristy at all.

We had been sailing all day for the last two days i a group of three other boats (Laurie and Anthony on “Dog Gonnit”, Lynn and Walt on Ilyir(?), and us). Getting into this harbor was exciting in it’s own right. You motor up to what appears to be a rock ledge, and then when your only a few hundred feet from it you seen this tiny cut through the rocks. We held our breath as we went through.

The last few places had no internet and we stayed on the boats. Here in Hatchet bay there are services for locals. Last night we all went out to “Pamela’s place” No sign, just a door. Very simple inside, reminded me of growing up in Africa. Small TV in the corner, the menu had just two dinners, baked chicken or pork chops. With dinner you got water, veggies, rice, and cake. There were eight of us in all, and with drinks for the adults, and juice for the kids the bill came to $63. Afterwords we were saying that it was probably the best meal we had in the Bahamas.

Right now I’m out side of a small cement building that houses a “laundry-mat” and a eatery listening to gospel music cranked from a a small getto blaster. We have a ton of laundry going, and placed an order for rice and crab meat an hour ago. NOTHING happens quickly here. I have no doubt that laundry will take the rest of the day. I’m not sure how long we’ll be here, but Exumas is out next destination. It’s another open sea crossing so we’ll need to wait for a weather window and be smart about it.

Have a warm and sunny day!

Chris

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Underwater photos at Mermaid Reef

Hello All.  In early December we were living in Titusville Florida and I ordered a cheap underwater digital camera for a family Christmas present.  Due to my own error, the camera never arrived in time for us to actually use it.  Yesterday we finally received it.

We had just arrived back in Marsh Harbor (to pickup the mail) and on arrival we found two sets of friends in the anchorage (Gracia with Bob and Gracie, and Patrick on Thistle Dew).   We invited them to go snorkeling with us and the entire group, with three dinghys headed over to the Jib Room for a hike to Mermaid Reef.

The weather was not exactly ideal for snorkeling, the winds were 20 plus, with bouncy seas.   Winds were causing the waves to be a bit more than was comfortable.  This also caused the water to be a bit could with sediment.    All of us could only manage about half an hour in the water before we were all exhausted from fighting the water.    I still managed to get a few shots.  I do expect to get better pictures in the future.  The water needs to be clear, and you need lots of sun to get nice underwater shots.

Two notable items in the side-show.  For the first time I saw tiny norwall looking horned fish.  You can see a few OK shots of this little guys, about 1 foot long.  When your swimming with them,  its quite amazing.  They swim all around you and only get freaked if you try to touch them.    It is amazing to have them literally swarming around you.

Secondly, I really wanted to get a shot of Kelly underwater.  I tried, but she kept swimming toward me.  Before I could explain to her that she needed to be at least 6 feet away, our time had run out.  We’ll be looking for more opportunities to use the camera in the near future.

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Words spoken, never more true than today!

Hello All.   I have a friend in the USVI.  Well, acquaintance possibly, I’m not sure what to call him. We have spoken a number of times in the last few years, and our headspace is very similar.   He writes a boating blog, and muses on other words of wisdom (and folly). Sunday he posted something as clear, and honest as I have read in a long time.  I find it telling to get this type of information not from the “news” but from some high school grad living on a boat in some lagoon.  Please take a moment to read what he has to say and reflect.

My peace be with you!

http://boatbits.blogspot.com/2011/03/no-boat-content-deal-with-it.html

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Pictures of the kids

Here are some pictures of the kids having fun.

In Manjack, the kids got to sail on a trimaran (a wind rider)

Shane plays with Salyn (from Salyn Grema) and Caribe (from Pincoya)

Shane helps Chris pull the anchor up

Kelly is smiling; school must be over for the day!

Shane cracks us up in a Marsh Harbour store!!!!

Shane and his buddy; we laughed so hard. We told the store owner to never get rid of this mannequin!

Kelly writes and enjoys the sunshine in the front of the boat

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