2007/03/31

2007.03.29












Four days since we last updated our blog and quite a lot has happened….!

We left Marsh Harbour on schedule on the 25th for Fisher’s Bay on Great Guana Cay
arriving there a couple of hours later. Since there was a nice breeze we had hoped to sail under genoa alone but when we endeavoured to unfurl it we found that the furler was stuck and wouldn’t budge. So we motored and we had something to occupy some of our time once moored or anchored.

Luckily we moored ‘cos when we tried to lower the anchor we found that the “down” button would not work, the “up” worked but not the down. We were clearly getting power to the windlass but somewhere on the “down” side there was a short.

The next day Heinz and I worked on the furler and on the windlass but came to no startling conclusion so what to do…..? We would definitely require our genoa for the trip back to the States and we also will need to anchor at several places on the way. After much discussion I ‘phoned the Dockmaster at the marina where we had been staying in Marsh Harbour and asked, since they were the headquarters of the Moorings fleet of charter boats , whether they had someone more knowledgeable than us . Sure they had, come on back and we’ll fix it!! So we left “L’Equipe” for the first time for many weeks and motored back to where we had left just a few hours before.

Tony, the dockmaster, had it all arranged and in short order O’Brian was aboard looking at our problems and promising to be back aboard at 09.30 hrs the next day. Imagine our surprise therefore (remembering island time !!) when he arrived at 08.30 hrs the next morning and in short order had our windlass working once again having traced the fault to a bad connection. Next the furler, which he diagnosed as the foil having dropped and catching on the drum. After some fiddling we found the appropriate screws slid the foil back up and screwed them up tight et voila a perfectly rotating drum!!!

When asked how much we owed him he replied ….” Would twenty five dollars be O K?”
We said sure, and gave him a fifty, considering it money well spent and something else to add to my learning experience of this boat and her systems. My next purchase is going to be a really good professional voltmeter since the two that we have aboard are really a bit mickey mouse.

We couldn’t be in Marsh Harbour without Catherine going to Maxwells for some final provisioning and I popped into the marine chandlery and hardware store for a couple of items and then it was off, under sail at last, back to Great Guana and Fisher’s Bay, where we found a mooring alongside “L’Equipe”.

Heinz and Jacqueline were not aboard but we had a suspicion that we knew where they were, so into the dinghy and off to Nippers…… a very funky bar on the beach and guess what, there they were, nursing frozen rum punches. We joined them and had a couple ourselves before returning along the beach back to the dinghy dock and our boat.
“L’Equipe” provided supper that evening, and at the risk of repeating ourselves, it was yet another gourmet meal, a lobster and shrimp salad, followed by a banana chocolate cake with whipped cream and of course topped off with our usual Babancourt rum digestif.

This morning I talked on the shortwave radio with weather guru Chris Parker who told us that the Whale Cay passage should be passable this afternoon but would not be until Sunday if we hung around, so we departed Great Guana at about 10.30 hrs and motor sailed through the Loggerhead Channel, around Whale Cay and into the passage. The Atlantic was in kindly mood as predicted and although we rolled and pitched a bit we came through very easily. Once through the motor was stopped and we sailed for
a couple of hours to the town of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. You will know this from our southbound visit when we fell in love with this town.

Since we were at low tide we anchored and Heinz went into Black Sound and managed to reserve the two moorings that we had had the previous time that we were here. After a couple of hours at anchor we braved the shallow channel and picked up our moorings with no further fuss. So here we are once again and it is rum punch time so enough of this blether ….. we shall likely be here a couple of days before moving on further northwards, the weather forecast for next week is pretty good.

Binow.

2007/03/25

2007.03.25

I feel I must blog today as we are casting off tomorrow on our slow journey home and I am not sure when we will have wifi again…..

L’Equipe has already moved to an anchorage in Marsh Harbour and we are being spoiled brats by staying on the dock with all the fresh water and power available to us….I have splurged and done so much cleaning and washing (you did not think I meant shopping, did you!!!) since we are here that my name should be Florence!

A couple of days ago we rented a car for the day and went down to Little Harbour, lower down on Great Abaco Island , to which we had really wanted to take our boats but could not due to very shoal water….





There is a foundry studio that was started by a very talented artist by the name Peter Johnson… they do marvelous work and we were interested in the whole process and thought we would have lunch at “Pete’s Pub”…






Well the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment, they are still producing some great works but the whole place was in such an absolute mess that it was amazing that they could produce anything…it totally upset H’s sense of decorum and order and we had to hold back J as she wanted to vacuum or at least sweep the place!!!!



As to the pub we gave it a miss for the same reasons… we would have loved to buy a little souvenir but the turtle I fell in love with was $2,500.00 and that was one of the less expensive pieces…. This piece
the nine stages of life was USD 120,000 but was brilliant.

























Not This turtle ...this one was probably closer to 10K...






We did not do much else except do a very little provisioning for fresh goods only as we still do not know how we are going to finish all the stores on the boat….maybe I will open a floating depanneur!!!!

More food talk (sorry C.!!!) but I must say I was quite pleased with myself last evening as Soli’s galley produced a very good bouillabaisse (with Wahoo, Mahi Mahi caught by the guys and shrimps) which we enjoyed with some of my best bread yet, a sour dough with walnuts which actually came out with a lovely crunchy crust …so the fish stores in the freezer are going down!!!!!

We are off tomorrow back to island hopping and will to a great extent retrace our steps… we may stop at some islands we missed on the way down and try to visit all our favourites again…then it will be “the crossing” of the Gulf stream again… not sure yet where we will cross ...to West Palm Beach or Fort Pierce… nor where Soli will spend the summer… it is a bit in the air at the moment waiting on some insurance issues as to where we can leave her during hurricane season…


Cannot seem to be able to upload pics... please come back later I might get luckier!!!
Got lucky or patient... a couple of dolphins playing or feeding in the bay kept me entertained as the pics were downloading!!!!

2007/03/24

007.03.22

We are in Conch Resort & Marina, in Marsh Harbour and the boat across from us is having a wild party…. Fortunately the music is of my vintage (they are playing “Stop in the name of love” at the moment!) and not rap or hip hop !!!! Hopefully they will pipe down by the time we are ready for bed.


I was reading our past blogs and it seems that all we do is eat and drink… well, sustenance of body and soul is an important part of the cruising life…. It feels like we are always preparing meals, baking bread, taking and adjusting provisions inventory or doing dishes… right now one major project is to find ways to prepare all the fish that D & H caught ….some is still sitting in our freezers…. I wish I could send some to Merate ….so far we have had it pan fried, cooked in papillotes on the barbie, in a wonderful casserole with spinach and potatoes and of course bouillabaisse….. We will gladly accept recipes !!!! Pic of J's pork tenderloin with mushroom gravy and veggies !!!!!

We do a lot of other things… really… we walk a lot, preferably on the beach, do maintenance on the boat, some of us are forever varnishing…. Boats can be very high maintenance mistresses….cleaning a 40 foot boat can be as much work as our condo…sand everywhere …we do not have that problem at “Le Fort”…. D works on line with the office or on the phone or Skype (when it works…”Hello, hello… can you hear me???”)
We explore the islands, meet many people, chat and exchange info…We met a very nice guy a couple of days ago, a Montrealer, retired Air Canada Captain. Since he had just put his wife on a plane for home, we had him on board both boats for a little home cooking. He had met Jem’s crew in Westend about a month ago…small world!

Our last day on Elbow Cay was indeed very special …I had a wish list and threatened not to leave Hope Town until it was completed…it included a ride on a Donnie ferry which we had done couple of days prior…. What a marvelous experience… D & I are people watchers and the mix of kids, returning from school, in all their great uniforms…. tourists coming to or leaving this magical island, housewives with stacks of provisions from the “Big Island”… my eyes were taking numerous pictures that I did not dare take with my camera.

The other thing was to go snorkeling to the reef on Hope Town beautiful beach… I got to do that too!!! The water was great and although it did not look like it from shore the bottom dropped rapidly when we got to the reef….I had to be careful to remember which way I went through the reef so I could find the same channel back out to the beach, as the coral was just at water level and I could not have swam over them… they can be quite sharp and the waves would push you against them…at first I went out without my flippers but came back to get them, as I thought speed would give me better control in maneuvering my way around… the fish that populate the reef are wonderful… beautiful colours and shapes …. I haven’t snorkeled for a long time….I think Maui was the last time and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I must say I kept looking behind me to make sure the shark we had seen exploring the reef a couple of days ago was not back….

I will leave you by sharing a few more pics of Hope town....










2007/03/22

2007.03.19

Well…… it has happened, we have left Hope Town and are now once again tied up at the Conch Inn Marina, Marsh Harbour. Looks like we might be here for the balance of the week since the weather forecast is not great but we still have lots of places to visit on the way north, some new and some that we have decided need another visit.

Sunday the 18th, our last full day in Hope Town, was a great day, with many new experiences.
After a lazy breakfast we took our car for a car wash and boy did it need it as did “L’Equipe’s:” as well. We scrubbed and scraped a couple of months’ worth of growth of the bottom on a sandy beach adjacent to the dinghy dock.
Once done we could swear that the dinghy went better than ever!!! Another cruiser was also there doing his as well. You need a good scrubbing brush, lots of Vim or equivalent, a scraper to get at all the barnacles and lots and lots of elbow grease, it took us about two hours by which time we were ready for lunch and a beer!!





After lunch we hit the beach and Catherine and Heinz donned their snorkeling gear and took off for the reefs about 50 yards off the beach. Jacqueline and I stayed behind deciding that the water was really not warm enough to swim – it might have been warm enough in the water, but it was pretty cool when you came out. They had a good time and saw a variety of fish although nothing too big. (D means no shark as we had seen one cruising the reef in that very spot a few days prior... only a sand shark.. they only hunt at night !!!)









Following the lazing on the beach (our first!!!) it was time for, what else but rum punches except that our waitress made a mistake with the first round of drinks and gave us all something called a Goombay Smash……. not sure what’s in it but it is reasonably potent!








A second rum punch and we were off and flying back to the boat.















We were sad to be walking through this delightful town for the last time, but we shall return.

Back on the boat it was time to get dressed for a concert at the local Methodist Church but before we did we met our Bahamian host, Truman Major, to pay him for our mooring. What a nice and honest man he is – an absolute jewel of a man.


Our mooring cost USD 15.00 per day, we had been on his mooring for 18 days so we calculated that we owed him USD 270 and had decided to give him USD 300, the extra thirty dollars being a contribution to Every Child Counts, an Abaconian initiative to assist special needs kids. Truman is a leader in this initiative since both his adopted boys have very special needs. His response when we pressed the money into his hand was ….”oh no, the mooring fee for a month is USD 220 flat rate so you don’t need to pay me USD 270, just pay me the month’s fee.” Needless to say we did not, and he said that he would give the extra USD 80 from each of us to ECC.

During our conversation with Truman, we also reserved two moorings for next December
for a longer period and are planning to bring both boats back to Hope Town for the winter of 2007/2008. We will use these moorings as a base to explore the southern Abacos, and maybe further afield, having agreed that Truman will rent them out to other passing yachts when we are not using them.

Whilst on the subject of honesty, we have found that the people of these islands are amazingly honest and certainly do not take advantage of us tourists. Picture this, if you will, we go to a restaurant for lunch and when paying the bill do not notice that the tip is included, so add a tip. When checking the Visa account through the internet there is an amount that doesn’t correspond to any of the invoices kept, until it is realized that the amount is the original amount less the tip added….!! This actually happened to Jacqueline and Heinz …… now where in North America would that happen ..???? We all know that the full amount would be charged and the extra pocketed with a grin or a remark about the dumb rich tourist!! Only in the Bahamas!

When we were taking our leave of Truman in Hope Town we also took the opportunity to lighten our load of foodstuff, mainly canned goods etc, that Catherine and Jacqueline determined that they would never use on the voyage home. It was gratefully received and will, we are sure, be put to very good use. Amazing, now even with full water tanks and a full diesel tank I was noticing on my way back from the shower, this evening , that “Solitaire 1” is now showing some bottom paint all the way around, we are getting lighter by the day !!!

Back to Sunday……..after saying good bye to Truman we went into town again to St James Methodist Church for the concert. Luckily we were in good time and got seats, for by the time that the concert started it was standing room only with the doors flung wide open and people in the street in front as well. We were treated to great organ playing, to the church choir singing, the youth group playing guitars and drums, and a couple of locals playing wonderful banjo and guitar bluegrass music They ended with Dueling Banjoes from the film Deliverance which is a great favourite of both Catherine and I. All in all, a great one and half hours of good music and singing – most enjoyable.

Our evening finished off with dinner at the Harbour View Restaurant – a nice steak and bottle of wine and so to back to or trusty dinghy and bed.

Thus morning it was back to reality, 06.30 hrs listening to Chris Parker’s weather forecast, not pretty listening for the balance of this week, followed by a rapid run to the garbage dump – Hope Town is Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 08.30 and 09.30 hrs , a quick cup of tea and by 08.15 we drop the mooring and are making our way through the channel on the top of the tide, to ensure that we don’t have a nasty surprise with the keel meeting the ground . An uneventful crossing of only six or eight miles and here we are back in Marsh Harbour.

Once we were tied up, and plugged into shore power, Catherine decided to defrost the freezer, a big job since it hadn’t been done since Florida. At the same time she took inventory of all the goodies that still remain tucked away in it. She and Jacqueline are going to start pooling resources as we go further north so that our outstanding dining experiences will continue throughout. I worked on deck, filling water tanks pumping up the dinghy and ensuring that we were tied up properly with allowances for the tide etc.

A tiring day, but now we are both showered and clean. We have had supper and it will not be long I suspect before we are both asleep and in bed. So….. a very bonsoir to all.

2007/03/17







2007.03.14

It is now two weeks since we arrived in the delightful town of Hope Town on Elbow Cay. Since then we have been on a mooring in the harbour, running the engine for an hour or so each day to recharge our batteries etc. We have been out to sea once in order to flush the holding tank and alongside a marina afterwards to replenish our fresh water tanks.

Each day has been sunny and warm and we have walked many miles on the beach and had excellent lunches at the various restaurants on the island..



It seems that our schedule is very similar most days – on the days that we have a lunch ashore we have a small, light supper and on the days that we do not have lunch then we have a wonderful supper made by either Jacqueline or Catherine .
Last night it was Jacqueline’s turn and she prepared a wonderful bouillabaisse (????) with different sorts of fish (caught by Heinz and I) shrimp and many vegetables – truly delicious.

As Catherine has remarked in her last blog we have started to discuss our return to reality, although I have to say with no great desire, however needs must and we all have various things to attend to in the summer, not least of which is seeing my daughter married. I cannot miss that !!

We will likely leave this harbour at the end of the week or maybe early next week for a couple of days in Marsh Harbour before moving back through some of the places that we have already visited but would like to see again, interspersed with some new harbours and anchorages. Full details of our northward trek will appear as the story unfolds.

We are undecided as to where we shall leave the boat in the USA but it will probably be further south than previously thought since I believe that we have pretty much decided that we shall return here for, at least, part of next winter. Unlike previous years “Solitaire1” will be laid up over the summer ashore in a yard, and re launched in the fall for another winter of cruising. The only difference being that we would like to visit our families in England over Christmas perhaps next year.

As you can likely tell from the burbling that I have been posting there is not much of note or interest to blog about, our life has settled down to a very peaceful existence and although we live on a boat in the middle of a harbour and our Zodiac dinghy is our car, our life is really very normal .
Bi for now.

2007/03/10

2007.03.10



This morning I went to have a look at our blog and blew up pix from the last 2 postings and realized with horror that the resolution is terrible when they are enlarged....

Now the reason for this is very simple... I have a new 5 MG camera and the pix take SO long to download on the site that I sometime get timed out with our slow wifi connection....

Trying to solve this problem I made copies for the blog which I saved with less definition and downloading is now a zip but the quality on enlargements horrible....



a) does anyone actually enlarge the pix?

b) can any guru tell me how to solve the problem.... the only thing I can think of is to find a happy medium ..adjust the resolution to a lower level but not as low as I have done..

HELP!!!



D's favourite breakfast..... thin crepes which he drowns in Tate & Lyle's Golden syrup... at least it's not Branston picke!!!! We seem to find all these goodies on the islands... the British influence is still here!

2007/03/09


2007.03.09

This month is just flying by…already the ninth and the “B” word is starting to come up more and more often in conversation…
Yes , it looks like Hope Town will be the turning BACK point ….we did save the best for last , or the best of what we have visited on this trip …. there are a few places we skipped on the way down that we might have a chance to see on the way back and of course return to some of the ones we loved.

We are sitting on the boat after a very delicious supper ashore… hard to believe that this is the FIRST time we actually dinghied over to shore to have dinner in a restaurant in over two months!
Suzanne told Jacqueline that yesterday was “Women’s day”… (what D calls another Hallmark day)… so the guys took us out to dinner and I think they enjoyed it as well especially since there were no dishes to do!!!

One of the restaurants on shore is having a “Seventies music/dance evening” so we are being serenaded to music from “Grease” and to think I just saw John Travolta in West End!!! It reminds me of CJ’s Sweet Sixteen!!!!


A couple of days ago , after I made bread, we took a walk (about 3 miles and then the same back…we need the work out!!) to the other harbour on this island…… White Sound, where the Sea Spray resort is located.
We had originally thought this might be a good place to drop our hook for a while and have Danielle and Robert join us for a vacation…. This did not happen unfortunately but I must say it looked better on the internet than in reality…. This often happens….
The resort is very nice but the beach is not as beautiful as the one here and the whole place is completely isolated...miles away from anything whereas Hope Town is a lively community full of charm and things to do and see.
So hopefully we get to do it right next year… this was a scouting expedition!

On the way back we met 2 little school girls sitting on a golf cart waiting for one’s mother to pick them up …they were cousins and absolutely delightful… bright, friendly, polite and beautiful …. The people on these islands have by and large won our hearts… They are remarkably honest…the other day, Heinz had not noticed that the service was included on the bill so he added a tip…. When the bill came through Visa the tip had been deducted and only the original amount charged …. Only in the Bahamas I think…

We had a rather dull and windy day today and it rained also… rain is wonderful … FREE fresh water …..we need to make the best of it ...so D put on a jacket and went to scrub the deck which needed it badly… it seems a bit of nonsense to wash the boat with salt water and we certainly cannot afford to use fresh water from our tanks… we have been here a little over a week and are down to our last tank, so we have made arrangements with Rudy (local marina) to go and fill up with water tomorrow…. We will tie up our dinghy to the mooring buoy in order to save it until we return.

The weather has cleared up and we dinghied back to our boat under a beautiful canopy of stars (good thing since L’Equipe’s crew had forgotten the flash light again!... "ah...which one of these dark things is our boat?") ….. the moon has not risen yet, we are so much more in touch with nature as it truly affect us so much. For instance with the new moon come the big tides…. I never knew that but it certainly made it difficult to get on or off the boat at a dock… then last week we had a full moon and the very next evening as we got back from the light house …no moon…. how come ….we did not even have one rum punch….and then a little sliver appeared and grew and grew right back to a big beautiful full moon… we had just had a lunar eclipse and did not know about it!

The music sounds so great… like old times... I wish we had gone over to shake our sandals!

2007/03/06

2007.03.06

I haven't blogged for a few days as we have not moved from Hope Town, Elbow Cay for 5 days now...we are very comfortable here in very good company ....




David counted some 50 boats in the harbour when we went up the light house a couple of days ago....can you spot Soli?
















Amazing what a good zoom will do....












2007.03.06.

It is five days since we put pen to paper and we have spent the last five days sitting on a mooring in the centre of Hope Town Harbour and what a pleasant five days it has been too.

As Catherine reported in our last episode we anchored outside the harbour awaiting the tide, ‘cos the channel into the harbour is a bit “iffy” for our drafts, but once you are in the
harbour there is no problem at all.



We successfully found the two mooring balls that we had reserved with Truman Major – our Bahamian fishing expert and local entrepreneur and relaxed !!!





The first two days of our stay were filled with celebration as Hope Town was celebrating the anniversary of its founding by the loyalist settlers, of whom we have spoken in the past.














These celebrations also coincided with the opening of their museum (which we have yet to tour) -



Many things to see, from a Bahamian craft fair, to Bahamian cuisine, to maypole dancing, beautiful knees contest, etc etc.














At times it is quite a job to find a parking spot for our car…..(dinghy) as the snap shows.

Dominating Hope Town harbour is the lighthouse, officially with a 15 nm range but you can see it at 20 nm. This is one of only three lighthouses which are still worked as they were in 1932 when they were built, the other two are in Inagua and San Salvador, Bahamas.


We were fortunate in that we managed to arrive 10 minutes before the official closing time and were allowed to stay to watch the lantern being lit and the experience was well worth while ! Anthony, the son of the previous lighthouse keeper, proved a mine of information and showed us how everything worked.


First the kerosene has to be pressurized so that it will feed up into light – 80 pumps about like an old fashioned water well pump. Next the preheat flame must be lit and finally, after about ten minutes of preheat, the actual lantern flame is lit. The wicks are made locally. The lenses, made by Monsieur Fresnel, revolve on castors, in mercury, entirely operated by a series of weights which hang down the length of the lighthouse, part of the keeper’s job is to wind the weights up every two hours throughout the night so that the lenses which give the light its characteristic 5 flashes every fifteen seconds . Anthony worked until midnight after which his relief took over. The whole thing is very simple but marvelous engineering made by Chance & Co. of Birmingham, England, however its age does pose a problem, as it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find spare parts for anything that may need replacing. Anthony also told us that there was some discussion as to whether the light should be made automatic, however that may not happen as it is a great tourist attraction. To read more on this light go into the link that Catherine posted last and look for the link to the lighthouse. All in all a very enjoyable and intensely interesting evening.

Our other big event to date was this morning, when Truman Major arrived at 08.00 hrs to take us deep sea fishing. Heinz, Catherine and I departed with much excitement, Jacqueline preferring to remain behind. Five big rods trailing from the boat, two using outriggers, and it wasn’t long before there was the cry from Trusman of “fish on the line” and Heinz was in the chair pulling in our first Wahoo, estimated at about 25 lbs. My turn came soon after and we landed in very short order another two 15/18 lb Wahoos – delicious eating.
I also had a fifteen or twenty minute battle with a very large fish, for every four foot of line that I managed to reel in he took out about three so progress was decidedly slow ( and very tiring on the arms and shoulders I might add ), However it was not to be for all of a sudden there was a jerk and then nothing – it became the fish that got away !!

Our final catch of the day went to Heinz who managed to snare a beautiful 20 lb MahiMahi or Dolphin – beautiful colours and quite a fighter but it was landed. All too soon it was time to return to the harbour where Truman showed off his expertise at cleaning and filleting the fish at the same time giving his family of pet snappers an excellent lunch. So now our respective freezers are loaded with Wahoo and MahiMahi steaks so no need to ask what we shall be eating for some time to come. Luckily we all like fish and have even just had the first two fried for lunch – amazing to think that three hours ago this fish was wild in the Atlantic…….. you cannot get much fresher than that!!

We probably will spend at least the rest of the week here. We have good wifi and the town is quite delightful. The beaches are gorgeous with nary a soul on them and the water is quite warm and getting warmer every day although none of us has swum yet. Yesterday walking along the beach we saw a fairly large ray gliding by and also what was probably either a sand shark or a nurse shark quite close to the beach .

I think that I have gone on long enough so will hand over to the chief.