Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back of Beyond

Believe it or not, there are still places on the planet where the 21st century has no hold.  No TV.  No radio.  No internet. 

For the past week, Steadfast has languished/relished her stay, in the Pond at Normans Cay.  Up with the sun and to bed by 8 pm, we have had a quiet and restful time out.

The Pond, as opposed to the Cut, where Carlo’s downed airplane still sits from 1979, is the quintessential hurricane hole.  Protected from the raging currents and storms on the Bank or the Sound, this is the perfect hideaway from the demands of Social Media.  We came in, and will leave on a high tide.  With a 4.5 foot draft, Steadfast is just able to make it in the narrow channel and into the haven of the Pond.

Winds have been high and the seas have been turbulent this week, but we are safe and at peace inside.

Our Boating Buddies have been here for more than a month.  Gail adopted one specific beach of the dozens on Normans Cay Sound-side.  She has cleaned up six piles of trash washed ashore to the high water mark--mostly plastic.  One aspect of the 21st century has definitely invaded here.

On our last morning, the wind had died down to 5 knots.  Calm, clear and delightful!  The sea called our names and Gail and I headed out to fish at the 8 am change of tide.

Behold, the conquering heroes return!

After a mere 45 minutes and one quart of gasoline, we had boated two huge bull Dolphin Fish. Here's a hint:  follow the Frigate Birds when you see them.

I cleaned my catch on my knees, on the swim platform of Steadfast.

Deno cleaned Gail's for her, off the tail of his skiff.

We have been happily entertained here, taking turns hosting suppers, or having beach BBQ’s.

Gail shared her kayaks with me.  We paddled to the low tide flats to explore. 

Bentley, the big red dog, comes for the ride.   The sun sparkles on the water.

Baby conch. 

When he thought I was gone and no longer a threat, he poked out his eyes and began searching for food.

A plover, or an Oyster Eater, with a long bill and big feet, was fishing too.

I love this shot with three sets of foot prints:  the bird, a conch and mine.

I have no idea what makes these little mountains of sand with the extruded tubules of hard-packed sand.

Long time readers will remember my hilarious episode with the Picnic Time Sun Shade.  It seems neither Captain B nor I have grown any more “adult” with the passage of time.  After tying it down on the front deck for the past four days, it is now an exploded yellow guest in our forward cabin.  We can NOT get it back in its bag.  We are waiting for internet access to once more be coached by YouTube videos on how to wrestle the monster back into submission.

Well folks, that’s the news to date.  We hope you are surviving winter in the neighbourhoods back home.  Think of us in the sun and feel warm.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Working Hard to Make a Living

I met Mario when he came aboard to wash our boat two weeks ago.

We pulled into Atlantis after a rough crossing from Spanish Wells, saltier than a Soda cracker, encrusted top to bottom, a total mess.  In his quiet and unassuming way, he went to work.  For three hours, Mario rinsed, soaped, scrubbed, dried and polished until Steadfast gleamed as new in the Bahamian sunshine.

For the past three days, I've watched him on several other boats, always hard at work.  His attention to detail puts me to shame, when it's my turn for boat washing duty.  I chatted him up.

Born and bred in Nassau, he finished high school here and went to work for himself.  No partners.  No bosses.  A solo man.  41 years old and single, he lives with, and cares for his 107 year old grandmother.  A non-drinker, vegetarian, clean-living, hard-working man, he has an enviable reputation.

Nathan said -He's the best, Mon!  Been a long time in the game.  Knows a lot of people, Mon.  Does a good job.

When I told Mario what Nathan had said...
-Whoa!  Nathan, Mon, he's big competition.  He's good too.

Evidently, there are 6 regular guys, who turn up every day to vie for the work available when new boats come into the marina.  There are others, who come around once in a while, but the 6 regulars are always in friendly competition.  They back off when they know one or the other usually works a specific boat.

-How much work do you usually get, I asked him?

-From September til now, nothing much at all.  Now we're in high season and I'm getting 3 to 4 boats a day.  That'll last till about August.  I don't push it now, like I used to.  I have 3 vans I rent out and I occasionally get over to Fort Lauderdale.  I buy cars, import them here and sell them.  My dream is to make a decent living without all this physical labour.  My back is know.

He told me about the 160 foot charter boat that comes into the Nassau harbour every couple of months. A "regular" boat will take 3 to 5 hours to clean, top to bottom.  This big one would arrive around 4 in the afternoon.  Mario would begin working it at 4:30 and not stop, all night, all the next day, until 3 the next afternoon.  Non-stop work.  Pushing it.  Three days later, after an outing, the same boat would be back and it would begin all over again.

-I go to work every day.  There are no holidays.  A day off is a day I get no work.  Like I said, I don't do that no more.  Too much.

I asked if he was working to live, or living to work.  He laughed.  He said he and his buddies had just been discussing that very question.  Captain B had asked him to do our stainless and chrome.  A big job.  If he'd asked me, I'd have given it about 2 hours tops.  A slap-dash job.  Mario declined the work, saying it was just too much.  It would be an all day job the way he'd do it.

Captain B recommends him highly, gives rave reviews.  Mario is a hard worker, requiring no supervision.  He is of excellent character and high moral standing.  His work is without fault.  Next time you pull into Atlantis and need your boat washed, ask for Mario.  He's the best!

Saturday, February 15, 2014



So excited!  You have a two week sailing charter in the Bahamas starting this afternoon.  Your taxi drops you off from the airport, at the marina office.  A solemn young man drives you to your slip, never saying a single word.  He shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders and turns away as you gasp and slap your forehead.  Is this a joke?

This is what we saw as we pulled in yesterday...

The charter guests are due today, along with the insurance adjuster and another boat.  They say this is not a total write-off, repairable, but there will definitely be consequences...for somebody.

I spoke with the helmsman who ran into the fixed bridge over Potters Cay.  She says she is lucky to be alive.  When the mast went down and the jib flew off the bow, she was crushed against the steering wheel on the fly bridge of the 45 foot Lagoon Cat.

-So how exactly did it happen that you ran into the bridge?

-Well the mast caught....

-How tall is your mast?

-I have no idea. ( a telling statement)  It's not listed anywhere in the boat documentation....  Google it?  There are three different styles and who knows which one they used?  Nobody answers on the radio when you hail the bridge and there were no signs anywhere about water levels.

Yes, accidents happen.  I'm trying really, really hard here not to be judgemental, but who takes a  honking great mast under bridges without checking first if it'll fit?  hmmm....

On another note,  how was your Valentines Day?  We got in too late to make it to Cafe Martinique, our first choice for dinner.  We had a most enjoyable feast at Virgil's BBQ.  The service was excellent, the wine was good and the food was delicious.  A good time was had by all.

                                                        My happy Valentine, yesterday.
                                                                Not so happy today.
                                                  Something about being over-served.  :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

This 'n That

We've been spoiled with two full weeks of wonderful weather.  Our guests sure appreciated that.  There will be a change this week, and boats are jockeying for position to keep out of the fray.  Captain B is studying his weather charts and making plans.  We will probably head into Highbourne Cay for the worst of it.

Nelson is less than impressed with his "soft-focus" portrait.  I am playing with my new point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix camera that can do way more than my Canon SLR.  I still have to figure out how to make multiple exposures, and then we're away to the races!

My sister and her husband fell completely in love with the Bahamas, particularly the Exumas.  They spent every chance they got in the water.  Our one fishing excursion was disappointing in that we only hooked into a Barracuda.  Although the locals eat them, we always let them go.  We don't want to risk getting affected with ciguaterra--a debilitating neurotoxin endemic in reef fish.

Our sister left and our son arrived on the same day.  Talk about "hot-bunking" it.  We managed to get the sheets and towels laundered and dry in time.  As we were working on making ready, SonnyBoy got to pilot the small island hopper airplane from Nassau to Staniel Cay.  How is it I never get to do fun stuff like that?????

Today we took the dingy 8.5 miles to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for lunch.  Yummy grouper fingers!

Some locals were cleaning their catch on the beach....
and selling to the tourists/cruisers.
The Bahamian Spiny Lobster.  Delicious and hard to get.

We see that TEAM CANADA is leading in the Olympic medals.  Way to go, Canada!

Blessings on those at home awaiting the birth of Grandchildren, to those digging out yet again from another blanket of snow, and to our friends who still love us and don't hold it against us for leaving them to it.  Stay tuned for more Caribbean adventures onboard Steadfast.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Homesteading At Sea

Short of having my own chickens and pigs on board, I am scavenging, growing, making and catching our dinners.  I make bread.  I sprout greens.  I grow a deplorable tray of scraggly lettuce and herbs.  And now...I have mastered the art of Greek Yogurt!  Tada!!!!

I had thought it was a very complicated new way of making yogurt.  As I googled and studied, I decided to just make regular yogurt and add one more step.  The milk and culture sit for 6 to 8 hours in the wide-mouth thermoses.

Once the milk has solidified to the point that it moves as one mass when I tilt the thermos to check, it's ready to be strained thru cheese cloth.  It goes in the fridge for 2 - 4 hours, or usually in my case, overnight.

Once it has strained, it becomes the consistency of Ricotta Cheese.

 What is left behind is the whey.  In my reading, I saw that some people (REAL homesteaders) use the whey in cooking, or even to drink.  Gag.....

The up side of all this is thick, delicious, supper wonderful yogurt.

The down side is the seeming waste.  I use twice the milk to make one container of Greek yogurt as I would for the regular yogurt.

What are we making for supper tonight?  We are doing the Compass Cay happy hour snacks as the sun goes down and then if we are still peckish, probably a frozen pizza to fill the gap.  Did I mention the deep freezer on the fly bridge.  Every good homesteader has one, especially at sea  :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Steadfast At Sea

Lorna asked for a post about cruising/sea crossings/sailing. it is.

At supper, Captain B makes his announcement:
-We're off the dock tomorrow and under way by 9:30 sharp!

Note to those who sail, not motor:  your Captain will announce a departure time before dawn, as you will cruise at 6 knots.  We make 15-18kt. at 2500 RPMs and arrive faster and earlier than you would.  There is an upside to your slower pace--you can fish all the way there, whereas, Steadfast has to slow down to troll for pelagics.

If we happen to be at a dock for this announcement, not at anchor, or at a mooring, this signals time to raise and secure the dingy on the aft deck house.  The Admiral (Nelson, our dog) will need an early morning pee, which would shift the dingy routine until after a run ashore.  Note to prospective cruisers:  dogs complicate life aboard.  The debate continues regarding the pros and cons.

There will be no lollygagging over breakfast next day.  Eat, wash up, walk the dog, stow the boat.  It's automatic now, after 13 years, but in the early days, we learned the hard way to check, and double-check with guests aboard, that all hatches and port holes are closed AND locked down.  The forward shower door is lashed with bungies to the door handle of the room.  This is peculiar to Steadfast, after having to re-attach the hinges TWICE following rough crossings.  (Some of us take a little longer to catch on.)  Cutting boards, tea kettle, floral arrangements and water jug get stowed in the galley sink--something else we learned through experience.  The lamp and salon fans are laid on cushioned seats so they don't go flying across the room while we are at sea.  Soap, shampoo bottles, laptop computers--anything and everything not bolted down, needs to be secured before we cast off.  We have a sad story about a glass Aladdin Lamp....

Usually, the evening before we leave, or else before breakfast, Captain B lays in a course. 13 years ago, we did all our navigation the old fashioned way, on paper charts with rulers and sharp pencils, using electronics as back ups.  These days, we are extremely familiar with the areas we frequent and our Navtech, Sea Maps, Chart Plotter and Auto Pilot make life very easy.  Both Captain and Crew (me) have graduated Power Squadron Basic Navigation courses.  Captain B has a certificate in VHF radio as well as diesel engine maintenance.  We subscribe to Chris Parker, NOAA, PassageMaker Weather and WindFinder.  All our ducks are DEFINITELY in a row before we decide to move.  Just because it is a beautiful, sunny day in paradise doesn't mean we'll have smooth sailing for any crossing.  Wind direction, and strength, wave height and frequency, distance and time all factor into the equation.

Everybody's tolerance for sea motion is different.  I am the one with the reversible stomach.  Nelson and I both agree, we build tolerance as the season progresses, but....  We've had three rough crossings thus far this year.  I resort to antiemetics so as not to vomit for the hours at sea.  Poor Captain B!  I take drugs and go to sleep, leaving him to go it solo, with Nelson for company.  That's what he gets for having a cast-iron stomach.

This year in the Exumas, Sampson Cay has gone totally private.  Okay, Mr. MoneyBags, buy yourself an island!  BUT...cruisers are now facing the consequences: no fuel depot, no groceries, no showers, no restaurant (read: no 2 for 1 pizzas on Thursdays.)  Again, this is an example of another factor to plan around.  The first year Steadfast came this way, there were no grocery stores between Nassau and Staniel Cay and then none until we reached Georgetown.  I use the term "grocery store" loosely.  There has always been the Pink Store, the Blue Store and Isle's General in Staniel.  The big boat from Nassau provisions them weekly, or biweekly.  On those days, Cruisers stand in a "bread line", hoping to score a head of fresh lettuce and a ripe tomato!  Steadfast's larder has seeds to sprout for greens, flour and yeast to make bread, et cetera.  You get the idea.

For the past two days, Steadfast has been at a slip in Highbourne Cay Marina, a heavenly oasis in the Exuma Chain.  The robin's egg blue ski butts against the aqua-coloured sea. The sun is beating down and we are somnolent in the shade.  Nelson is digging to China on the beach.  Cruising is blissful repose, on the good days.
iguanas in Allen's Cay

Other posts will extoll the virtues of Captain B, who works hard daily to keep us safely afloat.  Stay tuned to learn how he has become a master of electronic systems, vacuum toilets, water maker systems, air conditioning units, and on, and on, and on.  The learning curve has been steep and arduous.