Monstrous Mega Yachts

March 27, 2016

We have spent now two nights at Shroud Cay with six other sailboats and an equal number of mega- or monster-yachts. The latter seem to be everywhere these days.  We keep the VHF on 72 so we can talk to our friends on Bel Canto and Valinor.  The monster-yachts also use the same channel, so we hear the “chauffers” and other servants conferring with one another about the small families to whom they cater, and are continually surprised at the extravagance and wealth that some people display.  The servants set up tents, tables, tablecloths, silver trays filled with canapes, sandwiches, fruit, cheese, smoked fish, caviar, numerous bottles of wine chilling in shiny, elegant buckets, linen napkins, comfortable chairs set well in the shade, neat lines of swim fins, masks, towels, motorized devices for snorkeling, for jumping out of the water, huge, floating trampolines with slides, jetskis, paddleboards, so that everything that can be imagined to delight the family is ready when they are ferried to the scene in smooth-riding 500 horsepower tenders.  At Hawksbill Cay, where there is a lovely long beach, there were at least three such families sitting in splendor.   

On the way from Staniel Cay, where monster-yachts abound, to Hawksbill, a 200-foot, white hulled monster-yacht roared through a fleet of sailing vessels so fast that the 60-foot rooster-tail they created nearly swamped our friends on a 40-foot catarmaran.   Our friends, along with a number of other sailing captains, hailed them on the radio to complain and begged him to slow down, as the monster-yacht was still plowing through a dozen much smaller, sailing vessels.  The monster-yacht’s response was, “F*ck Sailboats.” 

I don’t know if that captain expressed the prevailing attitude towards sailing vessels or not, since most of the servants on the monster-yachts we have encountered during our travels through the Exuma Land and Sea Park have been perfectly polite.  I have heard that in parts of Florida the monster-yacht owners have managed to pass a law preventing sailboats from anchoring in waters near them, as they allegedly spoil the view.

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Ryan and Sandy at Shroud Cay

Rocky Dundas

March 19, 2015

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Fowl Cay to the left and Rocky Dundas to the right, seen from Compass Cay

We are still in the beautiful anchorage at Fowl Cay.  The horseshoe opens up to the north, where  two enormous rocks called Rocky Dundas hide deep caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  Cathedrals to nature’s splendor.  Fabulous elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata)  at the mouth of one cave.  

The water is clear and aquamarine…you must get tired of hearing about it.  I wonder at it and think how to describe it to convey the extreme pleasure of looking at it, of being in Yesterday was sweaty hot, even while sailing, the kind of heat that robs you of all energy and leaves you languid and parched.  So just after we anchored here, I jumped into the water.  The shock of the salt surprised me, as it does every time.  Extreme salt that stings your eyeballs and clears out your sinuses and wrings through you like a healing tonic. 

One of the reasons the water is so clear is that the salt kills most of the bacteria.  There is very little algae, no bloom of brown gray green organisms, only sharks and sting rays.  Coral seems to start out as small clumps of anemones and branches out into red candelabras and mustard-colored clumps that you dare not touch.  The sand waves in little hillocks, blown by the currant.  The needle sharp rocks are gray on the top, ochre underneath, where the waves runs in waterfalls back down into the sea.  There is a narrow pale beach here and a small airplane that crashed in the sand a few feet from the waterline.  Beside it is a grave marked with conch shells and a stone that reads, “Dilo, the island dog.” 

I am in heaven because I am here and I am reading Little Women, which I have read many times but not for many years.  What a warm and joyous imagination Louisa May Alcott had.  I love living again among Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, and Marmee.  And Hannah.  No one ever talks about Hannah, the servant who lives with them and who is not described except through her speech.  Is she African-American?  And their father is away serving as chaplain in a war which is never indicated but which must be the Civil War.  It is an interesting counterpoint to Moby Dick, which I am still dutifully recounting. 

It is interesting to think about race, especially here in this nation in populated and governed primarily by the descendants of slaves. 

I would love to have a conversation with two people: a Black Bahamian who has lived in the United States, and a Black American who has lived in the Bahamas.  I would actually not have any pre-considered questions other than, “what is is like to live there as opposed to where you grew up?”  “What are the pros and cons of each society?”  This interests me because the ancestors of both groups came unwillingly from Africa, and also because my own ancestors held slaves in North Carolina, from whence many of the Bahamian slaveowners and their slaves came.  In fact, it would be fun to study the traffic between the two places.  No doubt someone has already done this. I can’t really speculate about how Black Bahamians or Black Americans think about their history, but I can ask. 

What I can talk about is how I, a White descendant of slaveowners in North Carolina during the 18th century, respond to Bahamian society.  What I notice, briefly, is a great friendliness and confidence among the people here, but not a great deal of intermingling between Blacks and Whites.  There is commerce, yes, and great warmth.  But I can’t help but wonder how the Bahamians respond to the subtle racism of the all-White cruising crowd, who must seem incredibly affluent to the locals, who are poor in materials as well as education.

Women Who Won’t Drive the Dinghy

The number of women who either cannot or will not drive a dinghy in our times astonishes me, especially when you consider that 99.9 % of cruising boats have two crew members: a man and a woman.    It’s a simple safety issue.  If he falls over or gets sick and you can’t drive….

Perhaps this should not astonish me, given the astonishing difficulty that so many Americans seem to have in electing a woman for President. 

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Who is at the helm?

Dived or Dove?

It has come to my attention that some of my friends who sail and snorkel might be wondering whether or not to say “dived” or “dove.”   If you dive on your anchor or mooring ball, as we do often, and are actually confused, you have good reason!  The usage is somewhat murky, as the waters around anchors and mooring balls tend to be (unless you are in the Exumas, of course).  So, what’s correct?

The most correct usage is dive, dived, dived.  I will dive on the anchor. I did dive on the anchor.  I dived on the anchor.  I have dived on the anchor.

The reason you might be confused is that, in the United States and Canada, the usage of “dove” has become more acceptable.  So, for example, it is also correct, in speech more than in writing, to say, “I dove on the anchor.”  That is perfectly okay.

It is not correct to say, “I did dove” or “I have dove”.  That sounds wrong to me, obviously wrong.  But I frequently hear people ask, “have you dove on the anchor?”  This only makes sense if you are so accustomed to the colloquial usage of the word “dove” to indicate the simple past tense, as in “I dove down to the bottom.”  That latter phrase is fine, but it is not correct to say, “I have dove,” or to ask someone if she or he has already “dove” down to the bottom.

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Black Point.  Great town.  Mostly Black, too.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddle Board To the Rescue!!!!

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The beach where I dropped the boat hook and retrieved it with the paddle board. 

Here are two good reasons for keeping an inflatable paddle board on the deck of your sailboat if you are a cruiser.

  1.  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.

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    The sea spider that fouled our prop.  
  2. 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!

Continue reading “Paddle Board To the Rescue!!!!”

Sophia Says: Do yoga between two seas

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.

 

Rock Sound Rocks.

We scoffed when our Cruising Guide said that Rock Sound was going to be Eluthera’s Staniel Cay, because we thought the former town was so sleepy. But I tell you, Rock Sound is way nicer than Staniel Cay, and a lot more affordable. If you are in the area, and you are a cruiser, you don’t want to miss it.

“Mirth, admit me of thy crew”   John Milton.

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Three graces: Sue, Francie, and Holly at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant, Rock Sound, Eluthera

We scoffed when our Cruising Guide said that Rock Sound was going to be Eluthera’s Staniel Cay, because we thought the former town was so sleepy.  But I tell you, Rock Sound is way nicer than Staniel Cay, and a lot more affordable.  If you are in the area, and you are a cruiser, you don’t want to miss it.

The extremely friendly locals walk right up to you in the market, or in the lane, to welcome you to their town.   There is a very cool Blue hole, a natural inland salt lake fed by underground tunnels and underwater caves.  There are hundreds or thousands of fish in there.  And you can swim with them.  IMG_5215

Be sure to visit Sammy’s restaurant for outstanding conch fritters, fish, souse, and ribs, and talk to Sammy’s daughter Janet, who loves to talk politics.  She claimed that “all Bahamians” stand in horror of Trump.  We assured her that we felt the same way and are convinced that he could never be elected.  She loved it when we said that we believe that President Obama is the best president we have ever had, and the first one to make us feel proud to be Americans.

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Jan and Rosie at Sammy’s

We were here with five boats, and ten delightful people who feel like friends.  We passaged from Abaco to Eluthera with Bobby and Francie on Barefootin’, and got to know their friends Holly and Rob on Hampshire Rose at Royal Island.  At Rock Sound we also met Irene and Phil on the wonderfully named Plan B as well as Sue and Steve on Peregrine.  All these folks and we walked across the island to Rosie’s Northside restaurant for excellent, traditional Bahamian fare and a gorgeous view of the ocean.

Sue, Francie, and Holly at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant

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Rosie’s dog relaxing on the raked sand in the bar at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant on Rock Sound
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Rosie and Alice preparing a meal for us at Rosie’s Restaurant
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Rosie’s Northside Restaurant, which overlooks the ocean on Eluthera
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Irene and Phil.  Phil’s shirt reads, “My I Aint Gonna Do Nothin’ All day T-Shirt”
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Steve and Sue
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Bobby and Francie at Wild Orchids in Rock Sound