Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Week in Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells is a delightful island about 45 miles NE of Nassau.  We have been resting peacefully on a mooring across the harbour from the main docks for several days now and plan on being here for another few.  There's a blow coming and this is a great spot to sit it out.

Enlarge this one to see Captain B getting his R&R in his easy chair on the back deck.

This is a thriving community. 

 I just love with the colourful little cottages here.  We met Jean and Tom who bought a 110 year old diamond in the rough and made a total jewel out of it.  When they took possession, it had no electricity, water or plumbing.  It was an open shell.  Today it boasts several individual rooms, a wide, welcoming veranda and a huge book exchange service.

Gail from "Gadabout" and I went fishing.  The Devil's Back Bone is right outside the harbour and the incoming waves were crashing over the reef in a somewhat intimidating way.  Gail has a long history as tour-boat captain and dive operator, so I tend to trust her judgement on this sort of thing.  She stayed calm and collected, guiding us thru the coral heads out to open water. That's when I donned my lifejacket and began holding on tightly to whatever hand hold was available.  The rollers were enormous, seen from the open skiff we were in--at least 6 feet tall! 

-Are you nervous, Rosemary?
-I'm good, I choked out.

As breakfast threatened to make a second appearance, we headed towards home port.  We cut loose the barracuda we caught, staying away from the razor-sharp teeth.

On the way home we were lucky to bring in a Spanish Mackerel--AKA: dinner!

  Tomorrow we will attend church by joining our congregation back home on live-stream.  The wonders of technology keep us connected no matter where we roam.

As we all bed down under tonight's full moon, may the Lord bless you and keep you and turn His eyes upon you and give you peace.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smuggling Body Parts

The old gentleman shuffled from his front door to the weathered picnic table across the road, over looking the beach.  I’d seen him there three or four days in a row—always wearing a peaked cap over his grizzled hair, a tattered cotton shirt and a pair of faded gabardine pants.  He’d sit for 30 minutes or more, gazing out to sea while Nelson and I played fetch just below his perch.

Today I approached him.  He was friendly and encouraged conversation, as older folks do when they have no one to talk with regularly.  It wasn't long before the derelict boat on the rocks not far down the beach was our topic.

-Do you know that story?

-Yes, Mam’, I surely do, he answered.

He began the tale of an organization in the Dominican Republic known for smuggling human organs for transplant.  I was startled, to say the least.  I shook my head.  The beer crates lining the shore and the notorious reputation of this “drinking island” seemed to suggest another tact this story should take.  Maybe my eyes got wider.  Maybe my face showed incredulity.  He soldiered on with his story.

-Seems t’ings got too hot in DR and two Russians made a run for Miami.  Russian nationals escaping severe legal consequences in the DR flee to Miami.  My eyes widened again.  The story continued. 

The “legals” State-side were ready and waiting, he told me.  It was a short visit to the USA for the two Russians.  They snatched the 24 foot Bayliner, adding Grand Theft Marine to their rap sheet and made a dash across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.  As Hurricane Sandy lashed up 30 foot waves, Boris and Demetriy thanked God when they crashed ashore and hadn’t pich-poled or broached into the 3000 foot watery grave they’d just crossed.  Now it was the legalities of Bahamian Customs and Immigration they had to deal with.  Out of the frying pan, into the fire. 

Bimini is a tiny island.  Any new face, especially one matched with a thick Slavic accent and a ship wreck, immediately gets the red flag.  The two con men were on the hot seat in the offices of C & I.  Sticky questions with no answers were piling up around them.  Their throats pulsed with each pounding beat of their hearts.  They needed to get outta there!  The typical deluge of paper work Bahamian bureaucracy demands was swamping them.  They were goners for sure.  When the agent stepped out of the office to get a breath of fresh air, untained by the rank body odor of the two polluting his office, it was the opportunity they had been praying for.  They dove out the office window and vanished into thin air. 

Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire, the customs officer concluded.  This devious behavior demanded backup re-enforcements from Freeport.  Sea planes, helicopters, BASRA cutters and speed boats, all bristling with high-powered ordinance, swept over and around Bimini faster than you can sing one chorus of the Macarena.

-Dey were holed up on de north end of de island for more ‘n two days.  Of course dere’s no place to go and de whole place be surrounded.

Was he telling me the whole island of Bimini was surrounded by a SWAT Team?  His milky eyes slid over my face to check if I was getting all this. 

-Oh my!  Surrounded???

-Yes, Mam’, totally surrounded, de whole island.  It got to where dey had no food an’ was hungry.  Dat’s when we got ‘em—dey came out looking for food.

-So, what about the boat?

-Well, t’was stolen of course.  De engines is ruined, but everyt’ing else be long gone.  Oh yes.  He smiled at me, several teeth either crooked, blackened or missing altogether.  What else you wanna know?

Captain B laughed out loud when I related the tale.  I didn’t find anyone to corroborate the facts, but several others offered versions of smugglers, pirates, people from away.  I offer this story for entertainment value and nothing more.  Perhaps on a return visit to Alice Town, if the sea hasn’t claimed the wreck, I will have an opportunity to investigate further  I’ll let you know.  Until then, it’s fun to speculate, fantasize and wonder.   They say truth is stranger than fiction.  Perhaps in this case, the adage holds true.

On another front, we sailed for two glorious days out of Bimini, first to Chubb Cay and then on to Royal Island.  Look who came to play while we were deploying the anchor.... 

How is life going ashore these days?  Are you all freezing to death and holding your breath til spring?  I'd love to hear from you.  I'm hoping these photos and happy tales of the sunny south will bless your souls and keep you smiling until next time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Crashed On The Rocks!

The Good:
Almost any Bahamian beach is a good thing.  (Enlarge for details.)

This is Radio Beach in Alice Town in Bimini, the closest Bahamian Island to the USA--only 50 miles as the crow flies.  This is a little drinking island with a big fishing problem.  Guys wake up to drink beer for breakfast and they don't stop drinking until they fall down drunk at night.

The Bad:
Looks like a recycling initiative has been put in place since our last visit.  There are over 5000 empty beer bottles packed up on the side of the road here at Radio Beach.

The Ugly:

Looks to me like these two stories have some common denominator.  What do you think?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

YouTube Saved Me Again

Don’t take that thing, he told me, raising his eyebrows and inclining his head towards my new Picnic Time Sun Shade.

Why not?

It’s going to be hard to fold back up.  You’ll need Adult Supervision to make it work.

Puffing out my chest and stetching to my fullest height, I blurted out, Last time I looked, I was an Adult!  There’ll be no problem.

Famous last words, as Mum used to say.

The Bimini beach in Alice Town is a typical Bahamian treasure trove for beach glass enthusiasts, a free-run paradise for Nelson and an endless stretch of white sand--a peaceful place to settle with a good book.  Unzipping the circular bag that held my new toy, I pulled out the coiled sunshade.  The shock cord and yellow-coloured light nylon construction make it portable and perfect for staking out a private oasis of shade from the tropical sunshine.

It EXPLODED open with a loud snap and deafening whoosh. 

Right!  The thing has a mind of its own. 

Ironically, it wasn’t until I began reversing the process at the end of my beach visit that I saw the bold-lettered CAUTION sign stitched into the inside of the bag.  This thing is a menace.  Inside the carry bag, along with the heretofore unseen cords and stakes for tethering the aerodynamic tent, I found a sheet of diagrams for re-coiling the contraption.  Up until this point in my adventure, I have to say, I truly loved my new sunshade and the respite from the burning sun it afforded me. 

Twenty minutes later, count them, twenty minutes of struggling and reminding myself of my “Adultness”, I had changed my mind.  

The sheet of diagrams was by then sopping wet, obliterated with clinging sand and tearing apart as I tried to smooth it out to get an inkling of how to muscle this thing into submission.  The sunshade had beaten me.  Her sunny yellow face beamed at me in happy, victorious glee.

Ha ha!  I win, she gloated.

Thankfully there were no cameras to record my humiliating return to Steadfast and Captain B’s I told you so.  What a sight I made, carrying a spring-loaded kite four times my size, 2 pillows, my book, a bag of collected sea glass, my wrap, hat and shoes encrusted with sand and a feisty Nelson dancing on the end of his leash, pulling towards home.

Back at the boat, Captain B tried valiantly to overcome the shade.  He gave it the old college try but was no more successful at adulthood than I had been.  There was one last hope, before we let the whole thing blow away to sea—YouTube.

We watched the video, tried our best, watched again, tried again, for a total of six or seven times before the yellow beast was finally wrestled into a coil small enough to fit back into its bag.

She’s biding her time.  She knows I’ll risk my pride and reputation by taking her out again soon.  

Not today though. 

If you take that thing, I’m not going, the Captain stated.  Maybe I’ll have to wait a week or so until the dust settles.

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Better in the Bahamas

Our flag was literally in tatters, faded and not making a good statement.  I had forgotten to buy a new one and bring it from home.  Well, at the Stuart boat show last weekend, I got this one, bigger and better than any I could have purchased at Canadian Tire.  Woody says, Patriotism is cheaper in the States!

I was rudely awakened at 5:30 am, when the Captain turned on the lights, fired up his Ipad and began checking his various weather and sea-state channels.  
YES!  Today is the day, he whooped.
We were finally getting out of Florida and heading to the islands of the Caribbean Sea.

The Pelicans said goodbye to us this morning as we pulled away from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida docks.  The home of super mansions and mega yachts always makes me feel a little "less than", even though I have a great sense of self-esteme and am completely content with my lot in life.  Crew on the mega yacht three slips over told us he would give his right arm to have our boat for his own.  Everything is relative, right?

The Gulf Stream runs up the Atlantic coast of Florida, running 4 - 6 knots, either giving us a boost  on our way, or slowing us down, depending on which direction we are headed.  Today, wind, waves, and Stream effects gave us a challenge.  Seas were 3 -5 feet, banging and bumping us along for four and a half hours.  We caught up to and passed our buddy boat about one hour out.  He was having a very difficult time of it.  He gave up and headed back after three hours of slogging into the slop.

  Nelson and I hunkered down on the day bed and held on tight.  Being the one with the reversible stomach, I took 50 mg. of Gravol and went to sleep for two hours.  When I woke up, Captain was singing out, Land Ho!

As we worked our way down the channel between South and North Bimini, dodging sand bars and shallow water, a pod of rays took turns throwing themselves into the air, jumping completely out of the water, making huge splashes and noise.  Yes, we're back.

We are now ensconced in a nice slip at the Bimini Big Game Club for the next 3 - 5 days.  It is very quiet here, the whole place almost deserted.  We are feeling the need for some R&R pool side/on the beach, after the hoopla of provisioning and boat prep.  Even boating life can have its challenges and lead to being tired out.  Like I said, everything is relative.

The sun is sinking, a golden globe, into the sea.  The wine is poured and the BBQ is getting hot. Welcome to the Bahamas, Mon.  I am so happy to be here.   

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Provisioning 101

It has begun.  It usually never ends, but at least we are making headway in the storing-up-for-later department.  Now’s our chance to stock up and find a place for all the basic foods, meds, supplies and WINE we will not be able to get in the islands for the next three months.  Our freezers are now replete with red meat.  Innumerable bottles/cases of wine have been squirreled away in every nook and cranny, even in the underwear drawers. Last year, we ran out—horrors!!!  There is no fear of THAT happening again.

Steadfast had been scoured and scrubbed, polished and shined and was gleaming a warm welcome when we boarded her after our three day drive south. Ah…home away from home.  During the last 9 months, our baby was at the mercy of THE YARD, hereafter referred to as “They lost my salon carpet!”  She was stripped bare, inside and out, getting refits and maintenance.  After 12 years, some essentials were definitely ready for attention, like the injectors on the engines (read: mega big job).

Buz is currently working on the tank tenders (gages that monitor fuel and water levels).  Looks like he will have to run 5 new hoses the entire length of the boat.  Can you hear him screaming from where you are?  On Thursday he will receive the new membrane for the water maker that he has deemed necessary, after consultation with the Spectra rep who arrived late last evening to deliver filters.  These are issues that must be addressed this side of the Gulf Stream and must be done before we leave, in order to survive on the other side.  Ah well…at least we are not shoveling snow while these things keep us in the marina.

The weather is windy and unsettled with lots of rain.  There will be no setting sail (even though we are a motor vessel) in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, I have tickets to see/hear the Canadian Brass Ensemble on Wednesday evening at the Lyric Theater.   Yeah!!  Imagine coming to America to appreciate this Canadian National Treasure.   Nelson is making friends and enjoying the boardwalk and parks nearby.   Life is good on board Steadfast.  As you shovel and slog ashore, remember us in our salty life and say a prayer for safety and peace (no cabin fever or ague of any kind).  We'll chat again soon and I will tell you all about the theatre.  Right now, we off to our first "sundowners" of the season.  Yes, it begins.  :)