Friday, March 27, 2015

More Pictures Up

Jay was kind enough to let us use his high speed internet.  Myron has been working on orders for our punch list.  I have been looking for a car and posting photos on Picasa.  Check out the new photos on the photo gallery link to the right and look for 03.15.15 Eleuthera Island.

Everybody is so busy around here, we cannot seem to arrange a time to eat some of the fish we caught.  Myron and I can do fine whittled down the inventory by ourselves.  If you recall, we caught two cow mahi's, 33" and 41", and one bull mahi at almost 55".  Here he is:

Hold Fast at anchor in Governor's Harbor after sunset:

Go enjoy!

We are looking for a weather window to return to the states.  We paid for a mooring in eastern harbor at MOW Cay through Wednesday morning, April 1.

Love to all,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Moored at Man-O-War, Abacos

I was up at 2:08 am Wednesday. Knowing the demands of the long day ahead of us, I opted to try to get another 40 minutes of sleep. I am glad Myron set a 3 am alarm, because I fell back asleep and we both slept soundly until that alarm went off. I peeked outside and saw our traveling buddies, Selene, were up and ready with their running lights on. We had prepared the night before, so we were anchor up in under five minutes of waking.

It was not bad negotiating the harbor entrance in the dark. It is lit with a red and green, a rarity around here, plus we now have a powerful handheld light to put some daylight on the rocks. We got the main up outside the harbor and headed for the Egg Island cut. That is one of the best cuts in the Bahamas and probably one of the few I do not mind negotiating in the dark, particularly with the chart plotter, radar and the handheld light. Our last night challenge was the trap floats outside the cut. We came across two.

Initially, there was only 10 knots on our quarter. We had all sails out and the motor on to make our flood tide on the other end of the 50 mile trip. As the wind increased we were able to take out the motor. I could see lightening toward Great Abaco and the stars were blocked out by dark clouds behind us, but throughout our crossing the squalls kept their distance. We had about a five foot swell out of the northeast and seas building with the winds from the southeast. One lure was out, but we only got a few bites. I suspect the fish were too small for the 12 inch lure.

We made it through little Harbor Cut in the Abacos without incident. It was not until we were on the banks and heading for Man-O-War Cay that we got 20 knots or so associated with a large squall going over Marsh Harbor and to the north. Naturally, our speed increased with the increased winds. We had already given Barry an ETA and had to contact him again to tell him our ETA would now be 25 minutes earlier.

Barb and her friend, Barbara, were on Beach Cruiser in the eastern harbor and welcomed us into MOW Cay with the unique sound of the conch horn. Barry led us to a reserved mooring well up the eastern harbor near Charlie's dock. It is good to be back.

We ate, showered, and fell quickly asleep. The downside is that we are awake now and it is midnight. We should get back on a regular schedule within a day or so. As will happen in constant use of Hold Fast, we had some equipment failures. We are now in a mode of preparing punch lists, pricing out replacements and generally considering all the work we need to do in the yard this year. That is just a part of responsible boating and we try not to let it dampen our joy.

Love to all,

{GMST}26°35.32'N|077°00.00'W|3/26/2015|12:00 AM{GEND}

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Staged at Royal Harbor

It was a shorter stay in Hatchet Bay than we expected. We returned on the dates given us by the former principal, but the new principal told us the children were taking exams all week. There was nothing for us to do. Further, there is no children's program at church on Tuesday nights until after Easter.

Still, we had a wonderful time of worship with our friends at St. Stephens Baptist Church and met new cruisers while in the harbor. The harbor was quite packed, twenty or near twenty boats every night. On Monday night, our last night there, we took a late walk in town and chatted with Fergie, Brother David and Mr. Smith until 9 pm. I was thankful for the encounter as it felt like we had closure before we left.

Today's travel was all about repositioning on the other side of Current Cut. We had hoped to stay on the west side of Current Cut, but the winds were still too strong out of the NNW and sending rollers into the anchorage. As a result, we are at Royal Harbor, with sixteen other boats. Our hope is that the weather forecast holds for SE winds and we head across the Northeast Providence Channel back up to the Abacos. Our plan is to leave early, around 3 am, to make it to Man-O-War Cay by or before 4 pm.

Time to get some sleep for a very early rise.

Love to all,

{GMST}25°30.92'N|076°50.55'W|3/24/2015|6:39 PM{GEND}

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hatchet Bay via Alabaster Bay

It was so calm in Governor's Harbor, our friend Brian went around taking pictures of his and our anchors. Neither anchor had much of a bite. We doubled our anchors in tandem. The Fortress was almost all on the surface and the Manson Surpreme had barely dug in and was caught on a rock. When we have good internet, we can put up the video and pictures.

We motored five miles north to Alabaster Bay. The bay has a pleasant looking curved beach with a small resort on the south end. The breeze was light out of the northwest when we arrived. Pilgrim got there first and got their anchor caught between two coral heads, so they were set. We drug around the Manson with no success and then switched out the Manson for the 66 pound Bruce. We drug that around in one area with no joy, then moved to another area and finally got a snag on coral. I kid you not, we were at it for an hour and quite frustrated by end.

To shake it off, we set off for a walk to the ocean side. The Explorer Charts indicated that the beach on the ocean side had pink sand. Well I'll be. It indeed has pink sand mixed in with regular sand and made for quite a sight against the blue and white surf on the mostly sunny day. As we explored the beach, we found the former US Navy Base. A local told us it used to be a missile base and that the US had also built the adjacent airport, now known as Governor's Harbor Airport. The first thing we came upon was a massive water collection site. The area was covered with concrete and there were pump stations in a couple of places. Then we came upon what I guessed was officer housing, then a motor pool facility, then what I guessed was the officer's club as it had nice stone work on one wall and another wall was tiled. I think we also came across a barracks. It was difficult to tell as the roofs had failed on all these buildings and they were in quite a state of disrepair. We got ourselves overheated looking for a small path back to the road. The local described it as a path near the trash pile. I should have asked 'which' trash pile as we saw well over thirty. We finally gave up and took the base road back to the main gate and down to the highway.

When we returned to the shore over two hours later, the winds had picked up out of the northwest and it looked like it might bring squalls from the same direction. Our dinghies were high and dry. It was a group effort to carrying each others' boats back to water. On our way back to Hold Fast we made the decision we did not care to stay in that precarious anchorage when it was a lee shore. We set out for Hatchet Bay about ten miles north.

As we entered Hatchet Bay we were stunned by the number of boats anchored in the north section. Three of us came in at the end of the day, making a total of twenty sailboats in the anchorage. That man is still charging $20/night for the moorings and now has initials on the mooring balls. We anchored near one, which got him ruffled. After church today, we moved over another 20 feet or so, which should resolve it. We were told Ms. Ingraham retired. A meeting on Monday should tell us where we stand in volunteering at the school. The one constant is that everything changes.

Love to all,

{GMST}25°20.82'N|076°29.27'W|3/22/2015|2:00 PM{GEND}

Friday, March 20, 2015

Overnight at Governor's Harbor

That was a nice stay at Rock Sound, even though the wind was almost always out of the south or west, it was rarely over 12 knots. We met with the principal at the primary school on Tuesday and he set us up right away assisting the 4th and 5th grade teachers with math. Our first day of teaching we were going to find a place to get lunch, then the teachers invited us to eat with them as they had done a potluck. BBQ chicken and peas and rice. Fantastic food! I made oatmeal raisin/cranberry/pineapple cookies and brought two dozen to the teacher's lounge the next day. They were gone in less than 10 minutes. I was instructed to bring the recipe. We only taught through Thursday as there was an island-wide sports day for kids. We enjoyed ourselves and got to see the "math light" come on for some of the kids. That is always rewarding.

Our trip to Governor's Harbor today was not attended by much wind. As a result, we motor sailed while topping off the water tanks. It took three tries to get a grab in the horrible holding at this harbor. If the winds were anything but light, we would have moved on, but they have gone 4 knots or less tonight, so we should be just fine.

We got lunch at Pammie's, our favorite restaurant here. By the time we arrived, she was out of ribs and BBQ chicken, but not out of crayfish rice. I had grouper and Myron had conch. Our friend Brian, who does not like conch, said he liked that conch. There you go, a plug for Pammie's. Just before sunset, we ran out of data on our phone, interrupting communications with family. We went ashore to put some money on our account and paused in the dinghy to watch the sunset - another green flash! After we dealt with the phone, we wandered down to the Friday Fish Fry near Cupid's Cay. It was packed. Before we got back to the boat, the DJ had the music cranked up and it appears to be the beginnings of quite a party. No worries, we do not hear much when we are down below.

We have somehow gotten ourselves into a herd. We are hoping most of these boats will move along before we get to Hatchet Bay. Since we will be there for a bit with the school and church, we think we might fool around somewhere between here and there tomorrow. We are interested in checking out an old US Navy Base just north of us on the east side of the island. If the weather works out perfect, maybe it will happen.

Until then, love to all,

{GMST}25°11.76'N|076°14.82'W|3/20/2015|8:28 PM{GEND}

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fish In the Locker - Rock Sound

It was only a quick stay at Norman's Cay, just staging for a fishing trip across the Exuma Sound. We were up well before sunrise, grabbed a new grib and saw that winds are forecast to be light and variable for the next few days. It was tempting to stay around Norman's and do day fishing trips, but we do have a commitment coming up in Hatchet Bay. Plus, light and variable usually means squalls. At any rate, we figured if we were skunked in the few first hours, we might head back. But that was not the case. We caught two mahi mahi within two hours. Both females. One almost 41 inches and the other just over 44 inches. At the risk of appearing greedy, we considered going back to that area before continuing our crossing. We were worried that Pilgrim was not catching anything, their fish locker was an empty as ours. Even though we got hits on the lures, those two catches were on pre-rigged ballyhoo. It seems they are a sure bet for fish - just never know which fish.

Then we changed out the pink and black skirt lure for a tuna plug. We got another good hit on the third ballyhoo, but lost whatever took it. The ballyhoo was too mangled to be inviting, so we were down to lures only, a red and white tuna plug and a black and purple skirt. By now we were sailing a very tight reach with reefed main and jib and doing over six knots. A very nice day by any means.

As we approached Cape Eleuthera, our winds diminished and our speed was under five knots. It was easy enough to set up the water maker, and run the engine to help us be in time to make the incoming tide. I went back to check the tuna plug for trash or grass. While I was reeling it in it saw some action around the lures. I have seen that before. It is as if the fish is running with the lures, maybe contemplating. Then when I pull one in, it seems to trigger a take it or leave it response. We had a big hit on the black and purple, taking quite a bit of line out. After we both spent time working the reel, we pulled aboard a fine specimen of a male mahi mahi. He was just shy of 55 inches. Quite a fighter as well.

We are thrilled to have so much fish on board because we wanted to share with Pilgrim if they came up empty handed. We will find another beneficiary though because when we checked in with them, they had two fish on board. A banner day for both of us! I think it best if I freeze some fish for our Bahamian friends in Hatchet Bay.

It took over an hour to clean up the decks. There is still blood on the side of the boat, but that clean up will have to wait until we have the dinghy in the water, which is not happening today. We are worn out. We got our Hollywood showers (long and hot, since we made water today) and all I have left to do is figure out how I want to cook the fish for dinner. If I can stay awake that long. I doubt I will last much after sunset.

There are a bunch of boats new to this anchorage. We look forward to meeting more new people.

Love to all,

{GMST}24°52.31'N|076°09.91'W|3/15/2015|4:41 PM{GEND}

Saturday, March 14, 2015

South Anchorage - Norman's Cay

It seemed everyone in Black Point decided to do the laundry the same day and time as me. I just assumed I would make a day of it - plus the laundromat is a great place to meet new friends and run into old ones. We did see GG on Salty Turtle, Chris and Craig on Tilt, and met a young couple out on a Hunter 29. I tried to start washing before 10 am, but had to wait for washers to open, then same with driers. I finished just before 2 pm, at which time we could finally have a leisurely lunch with Brian and Jane on Pilgrim, another Whitby42. We also met some folks that left San Francisco 20 years ago, spent 17 years in the Pacific and have been hanging out in the Bahamas for the last two years. They are just as freaked out about the shallow water here as Myron and I used to be. Nothing like the Pacific Coast! They did not have a card, so their names have already escaped me, but their boat name is 'Constance,' and their draft is 6'8".

There was a good deal of boats in the anchorage. It made docking the dinghy a challenge, but we all got along pretty well. Poor Mrs. Adderly. She would get a shipment of goods into her store and the cruisers would just about empty her out the same day.

Today was another fantastic sail. We did not use the engine enough to heat water for a shower; that is why we have the propane water heater. I commented to Myron about how much traffic was out and about - large (75+ foot) motor yachts and many sailboats of all shapes and sizes, going both north and south. Myron reminded me how strong the east and southeast winds have been for the last couple of weeks. People are anxious to get out of their anchorage at last and continue with their journeys.

Upon arrival at this anchorage, I made cream of crab soup from crab meat I found in our freezer. I guess it pays to run out of normal food. The weather is a little hot for soup, but it tastes so good, who cares.

Our hope is that the winds will die down tonight, and stay light out of the south for as long as it takes to go fishing and cross the Exuma Sound to Eleuthera. We are praying for fish since the locker is empty. Last time we ran out, we wanted grouper and ended up with lobster. The Lord provides in different ways.

Love to all,

{GMST}24°35.36'N|076°48.80'W|3/14/2015|4:59 PM{GEND}

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pictures - Finally

We have gone a few months without high speed internet.  Ida's system in Black Point has been improved over the year and we spent hours doing internet work.  I was focused on updating our pictures on Picasa and Myron was researching a boat load of things.  While I could still dedicate a great deal of time in my own research, at least the pictures are up to date.  We added five albums (yes, I was horribly behind!):  Current to Eleuthera, Exumas Going South, Dollar Harbor, Long Island, and Jumentos.

Here are a few teasers to entice you to go take a look.  Click on the link to the right to Hold Fast's photo gallery.

Myron, Camila and Matias reunite at Rock Sound.  We sure miss those kids, and their parents too!

Very large rays swim near our dinghy on west side of Norman's Pond Cay:

We thank God for this wonderful catch of a yellow fin tuna.  It fed us and others for almost three weeks:

The sun sets while we were enjoying the Visitor Appreciation Party at Long Island.  This particular sunset yielded a green flash - the crowd was thrilled!

Students from the All Age School in Duncan Town, Ragged Island.  The principal on the right, Mr. Robert Boodram, is happy to have help and receive any supplies you are willing to donate.  The four kid's in my 7th and 8th grade class had great aspirations for careers, which were: pilot, boat captain, nurse and pediatrician.

Love to all,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Long Stretch to Black Point

After lunch and a nap at Raccoon Cay, rather than go fishing again, we opted to see if we could buy any lobster off of Lady Marie, a Spanish Wells fishing boat that joined us in the anchorage. But they had only just arrived and had not yet gone hunting, so we talked instead. They told us they would have some Monday and we would both be anchored in Buenavista Cay.

It was a quick move over to Buenavista. Reefed jib only and we scooted over there at 7.5 knots. When Lady Marie moved over, George said one of his 'stingrays' came out of the water (he means his stabilizers, they hang into the water off of structures on both sides of the boat to reduce the rolling.) This is why we like a sailboat. George invited us over to pick up some lobster. I brought the guys some banana bread and George traded it for six lobster. I am definitely the one that made out on that deal. Apparently they did it because they were thankful that we help out in the school at Hatchet Bay. I hope we get to see George and his crew again someday.

Today was a great adventure - and it was NOT Shari sailing. We were going to leave at midnight, but woke up at 11 pm, so the anchor was up around 11:30 pm. The winds were probably already in the 20's, gusting higher. The moon was almost full and so bright we could see our shadows in the cockpit. Then of course we had to sing a little Cat Stevens. We knew the first 20 miles would be a bit tough with ESE winds against an ebb tide. As Barb says, suck it up Buttercup, and with a reefed jib alone, we got through the worst of it. The route we took heading north moved us further away from the cuts, and that was a help. Just after 5 am, we had four hours of squalls. Our winds were already 20 to 25 knots, so the squalls pushed that to about 33, unfortunately this occurred when we were most exposed on the banks. The squalls would work the waters into a frenzy, then steal our winds and leave us to wallow (3.5 knots for us is wallowing) in the angry seas until the next squall arrived. We learned. When we lost the wind, we turned on the engine and kept Hold Fast moving at least 6 knots until the next squall arrived. Then the engine went off, we screamed along at almost 8 knots, until the wallowing. What a relief to see a rainbow! After that, it was a blinding bright shiny day. Our plan was to leave in the dark, as we expected the trip to take 18 hours, and complete the last legs in daylight. In our opinion, you need daylight to cross the sand bores, because they are always changing. Further, we blazed a new trail on the last leg, on mostly uncharted banks. It was perfect. All sand with no less than 15 feet (at Nassau high), and not a coral head to be found. Now we can cover that territory at night if need be.

When we turned the corner to enter Black Point anchorage, we found the place completely packed with boats. I was too tired to count, but probably at least 75. Many of the boats we recognize from Georgetown. We anchored behind another Whitby42, 'Pilgrim,' and near 'Tilt.' At least we know somebody!

Time to make dinner, watch a show, and sleep for 14 hours!

Love to all,

{GMST}24°06.02'N|076°24.35'W|3/10/2015|5:13 PM{GEND}

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Starting North - Raccoon Cay

We had a marvelous stay at Hog Cay. We attended Jim's macro photography class - and I won an award, yay! Jim even printed out the picture I took with his camera. I cannot wait until we get decent internet to share pictures - hopefully at Ida's in Black Point.

We went to town and visited with Maxine before we went to school to ask the principal if he wanted help. It is an all age school with twelve students and two teachers, if the principal teaches. He was more than willing to have us help. Myron took the 11th and 12th graders as they needed help in trigonometry. I took two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 11 to 14. I could see that the gal from Cookie Monster had done a great job with geometry, so I focused on business math. We taught before lunch, took a lunch break, and then taught to the end of school. Then we visited with Maxine again. On our way out, a man introduced himself to us as being from the Abacos as crew on the fishing boat 'Leopard.' They came down around Feb 14 and had been stuck down here due to the strong easterly winds. Myron tried to tell him about our route, which their draft would allow, but he did not seem interested. It was fascinating that he grew up as a neighbor and school mate of our friend Jan at Man-O-War. You never know who you will bump into around the islands.

At Hog Cay, we had our first boarding by the Royal Bahamian Defense Force. There were about seven guys in the fast boat, the larger boat was anchored several miles to the west. Three guys came on board. The oldest, who carried an Uzi, did most of the talking and questioning, while one fellow took down all our vessel and personal information, and the third fellow seemed to be in training. They were the nicest group of guys and, while they had to do their official thing, they repeatedly told us that they were glad we come to visit their country. Later on in the day we met them up at the 'yacht club,' a shaded eating and seating area at Hog Cay that the cruisers and Edward (Maxine's husband) have maintained over the years. I brought plantain bread (like banana bread) and they munched some down. They had complained about their previous cook, then said their current cook is better, but when they raved over my plantain bread, I figured they were not getting very good food - and I also told them they could not shanghai me for a chef!

Myron gave a fishing seminar, helped re-rig some lures and taught how to make different fishing knots. We even went through our gaffing process and how we secure the fish on board. The cruisers that attended paid close attention and asked many questions. We showed them pictures of some of the fish we have caught. We reminded them that we often go out of our way to find fish, and also likely places where fish might be found. They were so grateful. We hope everyone is rewarded with catching more and bigger fish!

We met lots of new folks from vessels such as Dyad, C language, Cat Tails, Pay Dirt, Marcana, Charka, and so many more. Elsa and Jaap on Sark had a good time, but they are already back in Long Island. We hope to see them somewhere up-island before they leave for Bermuda. We found conch, but were not successful in catching grouper. Maxine said they were not biting for her either. The tradewinds have been relentless, limiting our dinghy exploring and ability to go to town to teach school, but the protection from these winds is perfect in these anchorages. And the wind direction is also perfect for us to head to our next destination.

Starting north is a difficult reminder that our stay in the Bahamas is coming to an end. Today's trip to Raccoon was easy enough. We tried again from the dinghy for grouper, no joy. Then we found a trail and took a hike to the other side. We took the machete and had to use it a couple of times. I thought there would be sandy beaches on the other side, but it is all seriously rocky shore. Good exercise anyway, but if you take that hike, be careful. The last part is a bit hazardous with deep pits in the limestone right off the trail.

I need to figure out what to make for lunch. We ran out of fish a couple of days ago. No worries, we have plenty of food. Maybe we will snag some grouper this evening.

Love to all,

{GMST}22°21.29'N|075°48.82'W|3/8/2015|3:13 PM{GEND}