The wonderful thing about sailing with a buddy boat or fleet is the opportunity to get to know people really well. We left Georgetown with Bel Canto (Sandy and David), Solmate (Karen and Steve) and Valinor (Tim and Dorothea). We didn’t know Tim and Dorothea until we got to to Lee Stocking Island, a gorgeous anchorage that used to be home to a Caribbean Marine Research Center, now deserted. As you might guess from his boat’s name, Tim is a Tolkien fan, so we had a great conversation about science fiction (he’s an old school fan) and books in general.
At least once each day we spotted enormous sharks, about 8 feet long, that we hoped were nurse sharks. We also swam a lot. The water was so clear–you could easily see the bottom in 30 feet–that we felt comfortable splashing around.
We snorkeled in huge yellow forests of Elkorn coral and caught lobster off pristine white sand beaches. We gathered sea-fans that had washed ashore. We gathered for drinks and dinner in each other’s cockpits—Valinor, a Manta catamaran, had by far the nicest one, although Solmate, a 40-something Hunter, is pretty swanky, too.
Solmate and Valinor left after one night, but we stayed with Bel Canto and had a deliciously lazy day doing as little as possible. Finally we had the hot weather and slow breezes we have been waiting for! I paddled around the anchorage and saw seven Southern Stingrays measuring at least five feet across. Then we headed off too a beach from a postcard and “wallowed” in the water, drinking cold cans of La Croix and munching tuna wraps. We made a bunch of silly videos that I can’t show you here, unfortunately. It takes hours and hours to upload even the shortest clips to Youtube, so I’ll have to add them all back in after I get back to a “normal” internet connection.
On our last night at Lee Stocking, the moon rose a like an enormous upside down fan.
I am writing this on our last full day in Georgetown.The winds are still quite strong but should settle down this evening. As soon as Ryan finishes the third and final coat of varnish on the toe-rail, we’ll go for a hike up Monument Hill, which overlooks Elizabeth Harbor to the West and Exuma Sound to the East. The weather here is as Melville describes the Quito spring,
which at sea, almost perpetually reigns on the threshold of the eternal August of the Tropic.The warmly cool, clear, ringing perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up—flaked up, with rose water snow. Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Yesterday was very much like today.Ryan varnished while I took a hike on the island with my friend Sandy, from Bel Canto, cutting palm fronds. I took my basket-making supplies and wove at the tables in the shade, where a number of other women were doing the same.The woman who taught us all how to get started, Sharon, was there, and she looked at my work and said it was good.I’m learning and my first basket looks a lot different from the ones Sharon makes.It is strangely meditative to weave and very nice to do it with other women.The tables are right next to the vollyball courts, where some of weaver’s partners were playing.I enjoyed looking up now and then to see Ryan laughing and having fun, for a change.He’s been working on the boat an awful lot.
In the evening we sat in the cockpit and drank wine while watching the suns yolk slip behind the hills, basking in the delicious ocean breeze.We talked about how glad we were to be freed from the endless chatter of the internet, the make-sensational non-news with which the media pickles the brain.How liberating is feels to live closer to the rythyms of the sunrise and sunset, the movement of the water and the winds.
When Sandy and I walked along a ridge overlooking the Sound yesterday, I observed that I have almost started to take the scenery for granted, it has been so constant.Viredescent waves crashing on bone-white sand and glistening black rocks, surf eddying into ochre tide-pools, the sea like liquid jade rushing over the coral reefs offshore, molten emerald, crystalline turquoise, aquamarine farther out, above the sky the palest violet.
The days roll by like a slow, glorious pageant, a stately procession of opulently bejeweled kings and queens trailing diaphanous silks.It is an enormous pleasure, immense, a magnificent banquet of color and nature and warmth and sunlight, clear water and cooling breezes.
Here are two good reasons for keeping an inflatable paddle board on the deck of your sailboat if you are a cruiser.
Paddle boards help you repair your boat when you are out to sea. We ran into a sea spider, a tangled mass of nylon line that wrapped itself around our propeller. We were motoring from Wardrick Wells to Staniel Cay, admittedly in fairly shallow water (about 20 feet) and relatively calm seas. Still, diving on your prop in the middle when you’re out to sea is not the easiest thing to do, especially when your dinghy is tied up to the davits and you can’t put down the sea ladder. It was easy to get into the water, but not so easy to get back on the boat, even with a boarding ladder on the side. Solution: put the paddle board in the water, just below the boarding ladder. This provided a platform for the tools Ryan needed (a line cutter and a heavy duty wrench) to clear the propeller, and also an easy step back on board.
Paddle boards help you tie up to mooring balls. I dropped our boat hook overboard while trying to pick up a mooring ball that did not have the usual float for the line that you pull on board and fasten around your cleats. Instead of pulling on that line, I hooked the line attached to the heavy cement block on the bottom, the weight of which dragged the boat hook out of my hands. Twenty-knot winds and waves quickly carried the boat hook into shallow waters that we couldn’t possibly navigate without running aground. As Ryan laconically observed while we watched it drifting further and further away from us, “a boat hook is a fairly important piece of boat equipment.” Yes, indeed, and there it was, way over there. What to do? Paddle board to the rescue! I threw the board into the water (after making sure that the painter was attached to the boat of course), got aboard, and paddled after the hook. After retrieving it, I muscled my way, upwind and up currant, of course, to the mooring ball, pulled the line out of the water (it was simply drifting!! with no float!!) and held on valiantly, standing tall on my board, like Alvid the Norwegian Pirate queen, while Ryan maneuvered the boat over to my side. Even had I not dropped the hook overboard, we would have had to put the board in the water. Sure, we could have dropped the dinghy, but then we would have had to anchor first, which is sort of stupid when you’re trying to tie up to a mooring ball. The paddle board was much easier, simpler, and faster. Efficient!
I can’t remember if I posted these photos of Man of War in the Abacos yet or not. We’ve been away from the internet for so long (three weeks) and I only have a few minutes, too few to go back through to find out if I’ve shown you these yet or not. But here they are.
We sailed with Seahorse to another island nearby.On its windward side, the Atlantic roars over an underwater reef and surges in great round swells, rolling boats side to side as they head through the strong current.Here we are protected from that rollicking bay.We found lovely calm, clear water on its leeward side.
We sang Happy Birthday to Lily, who turned 10 today. Ten is an excellent age for a girl. She is not yet self-conscious of the pressure on her to be a sexual being and thus inhabits her body and mind without pretense or anxiety.
On the island the Fowler girls met a dog, a black and white lab mix, female, very friendly. We heard her barking during the night and saw a light or two. They assumed someone was taking care of her. I didn’t think anyone was there, as I hadn’t seen any boats and there were no footprints on the beach.
We spent the rest of the day on the water. It seems we are becoming more and more like those floating villages in the South Seas, where people spend their entire lives without touching solid ground.“Land” is the cockpit, the foredeck, the galley, the salon, the tiny patch of teak floor in the v-berth, in the head.These are the areas where we do our eating, our walking, our yoga, our lunching, our lounging, our reading, our writing, our preening, our teeth-brushing.We create parties on rafted paddleboats and dinghies.
The water at this anchorage is swimming-pool blue and green, clear, and full of colorful fish.Some of them, like the silvery, Bluerunner Jacks, swim freely in the open, but most of them stick close to the little boulders of coral, which spread out into flatter, lacy mounds with hidey-holes.We saw small, pale, spotted Groupers lurking under the larger coral hills, magenta Squirrel fish and pink Blackbar Soldier fish sheltering in nest-like sandy hollows, tiny blue Wrasses, blue-yellow Damselfish, and larger black-and-yellow striped Sergeant Majors nibbling around the brain coral.Two or three green and blue Queen Triggerfish with clownlike blue frown lines swam sideways and peered up me with star-burst eyes.A three-feet wide, brown, Southern Sting ray hovered over the sands and then winged away.Clouds of thin Yellowtail Snappers raced around and through the coral, while tiny, blue-white Fairy Basslets and baby-pink, -yellow, and -blue Cardinalfish hid in the grasses and poked their heads under the conch shells.
We were diving for conch and other edible treasures, so I tied the painter of my paddleboard to my wrist and followed the Fowler sisters out towards the northern tip of the island, where the current flows strongly and the conch like to grow.Lauren, who was swimming without flippers, met a four-foot Barracuda, who swam right up into her face to take a better look.They are very curious fish, and not really dangerous when unprovoked, but sight of them sets off some ancient alarm in the reptilian brain that rings, “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!”She panicked and kicked at it.Fortunately, she did not meet its teeth and it swam away peaceably.
Back on our boats, Ryan and Travis tackled the shells in the cockpits, gloating and shouting to one another enthusiastically as they got better and better and the art of conch cleaning. Men.I chopped up pearl onion, garlic, celery and red cabbage for the salad.We didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, but I did find a box of tomato soup that had a few lumps that did the trick.To this mess I added the conch, of course, which Ryan helpfully diced, hot pepper sauce and lime juice.We had lovely curried beans and rice leftovers.Ryan insisted we add pork to the mix, andI made him do the frying since I was already sweating and wanted to get out of the galley. We still have one more bag of frozen pork, which was organically raised and humanely slaughtered near Oriental, North Carolina.The pork is very tasty, but it did nothing for the beans and rice, which ended up very bland.Mary made a rum cake for Lily’s birthday.I drank too much red wine, which always gives me a headache.The girls turned in at around 9, signalling that it was time for us to go home, too.We dinghied back under a brilliant, starry sky.Ryan stayed up for a rum nightcap.I collapsed gratefully into bed, delightfully exhausted.
Towards the evening, a funny old man who was quite drunk motored up in a small boat. “I hope you’re enjoying it,” he said, approaching us where we sat at the table.We had just finished lunch.He said he spent 50 or more nights a year there, and that it was his special spot.He said he knew the owner but that the owner did not know him, and claimed to have built the tables and to have furnished the picnic table we found there.He also brought a couch with him.Ryan helped him to bring it to shore.He said he had a friend, whom we saw in a rowboat just offshore, who was “too shy” to talk to people.They seemed to be waiting for us to leave, so we did.We ate dinner separately.
I am feeling a little bit better.I made a poster about Tethys and other ancient Greek goddesses of the sea for Lily, who is a fierce mermaid warrior and a free-speaker.I like her very much.
We stayed another night at Tahiti beach because Travis and Mary and the girls liked it there.We were surrounded by noisy, light-polluting charter catarmarans.I hated it.
December 28, 2015
We sailed, with Seahorse, south to Lynnyard Cay, where we found our first very nice, remote anchorage in clear, swimming-pool blue waters.On the sail here the car that holds the mainsail to the boom flew off the end, not for the first time, and the part that keeps it on the boom broke off.Ryan repaired it.
On the way here, we caught a fish: a Horse-Eyed Jack.I made tacos with it.Very lovely.We made water today.
Lynnyard Cay is a long, thin island with some pleasant anchorages and a only a few houses.We anchored off a small beach that had a white picnic table and some plywood tables nailed into trees, also a broken-down platform with a ratty mattress on it, exposed to the rain.We followed a trail from this beach to the ocean side and spent hours walking there.I found a lot of small sea-sponges that had washed ashore, and made two leis to adorn our dodger.I also found an interesting salmon-colored, round float with the words, “Rosendahl, Bergen, Norway,” imprinted on it.
I am feeling a little bit better, but still a bit sick to my stomach and weak.