Friday, July 03, 2009


Highbourne Cay and Norman's Cay
June 12 – 14, 2009

We had the anchor up to leave Little San Salvador by 0615 and had a tuna in the boat by 0730. We were allowing extra time to take a more circuitous route so that we could fish drop offs in hopes of getting more trolling action. We boated a huge dolphin only to have it break the hook off the line and flop back out the transom gate. It had taken me a long time to get the fish to the boat and then we made it over that difficult hump of getting it inside the boat, only to have it take one look at Eddie and jump back out again. I had to hold back tears out of frustration and trying to hold my temper. At least the seas remained calm for the long crossing across Exuma Sound.

With the weather forecasting winds with a more southerly component we decided to anchor for the night at Highbourne Cay, in North Cove, where we had anchored before; we knew how to get in and out of there safely and the fishing is usually good in that area.

After one night at Highbourne we decided to head south to Norman's Cay. This would give us a chance to troll a lot of cuts between cays and when we anchored off of Norman's we would still be just outside the boundary of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We wanted to be able to try spearfishing the area, and no fishing of any kind is allowed in the Park so staying at Norman's was the best plan.

We boated a dolphin by 0800. We had two huge jacks on at the same time, and it gave the FLUKE fishing team some practice in handling 2 lines at the same time. The seas were calm enough for Wayne to put the boat on autopilot and go down into the cockpit and pull in the fish when Eddie and I got them up to the boat. It was amazing how well things went for us during that operation: both fish in the boat, minimal yelling, and no injuries. Eddie got right to it, cleaning the dolphin while we were underway.

We set the hook down in the sandy area toward the southern end on the western side of Norman's. A little out island airstrip occupies most of the land nearby so we watched the small planes landing and taking off. You can park your plane and walk across the runway and have lunch or dinner at a popular Exuma hangout known as The Beach Club (formerly McDuff's).

We decided to go to The Beach Club for lunch to get conch burgers; a treat, being the only meal we will eat out at a restaurant. Plus, we don't collect and clean conch for ourselves, so the conch burgers are always our choice. We also wanted to use their WiFi. We landed the dinghy on the beach, walked through the underbrush, across a small patch of the runway (yes, we looked both ways to make sure we wouldn't get hit by an airplane!), and rinsed our sandy feet in the water tub outside the door to the restaurant.

We all sat at the bar. The atmosphere is truly out island, with lots of charm. However, TBC doesn't sit right on the beach. There are a couple of cottages, I presume they are a home/rental property between the bar and the beach. So, even though it is slightly elevated off the ground (if it wasn't, it would be at sea level), it is surrounded by enough vegetation so there is no view of anything and it gets very little air movement. They had fans going, but the humidity was at its saturation point, so it still felt really sticky.

I struck up a conversation with the Bahamian sitting next to me. He told me he was a pilot and had just flown in from Great Exuma (they call it the mainland) with the customs officer who was supposed to clear a shipment of building materials that had just arrived at the dock on an inter-island freighter. I told him we had seen both the freighter at the dock and then some building materials being transported on a truck down the runway (multipurpose pavement) and also a structure under construction close to where we were anchored. He smiled and said “There be lotsa buildin goin on, but don't know if there be any finishin”. We have always noticed how slowly, in some cases even abandonment, building projects take.

Finally our expensive lunch arrived: per person-conchburger $15, fries $3, and a warm can of soda served with a glass of ice, $2. The food was very good, but trying to get a refill on the ice and any condiments took way too long, especially to justify the high cost of the meal. To make matters worse, the WiFi was inoperable from a lightning strike a couple of days earlier. Our spirits were lifted when 2 couples, cruising friends from years past, walked in unexpectedly. We spent the next couple of hours catching up with them, exchanging information about anchorages, boat maintenance, and future plans.
Beach combing and snorkeling the many nearby cuts, reefs, and coral heads rounds out the time here.

Having a deadline to meet, we needed to get to Nassau by June 15 so that we could drop Eddie off to catch a morning flight out on June 16. He was headed to Old Lyme, CT to attend his 50th class reunion. He had been looking forward to this all year.

June 15, 2009

Try saying Athol Island fast 3 times in a row! We are anchored here because it is right outside the main harbor in Nassau and we hope we will be able to get in and drop Eddie off at a dock so he can catch a cab to get to the airport for his flight. Other than that, this isn't a great place to anchor as the deep water channel to get to where you can drop the hook is very narrow and winding. We came in on good light and could see the shallows well, so we didn't have any problems. However, the cruise and ferry boats use the channel for a short cut, causing a lot of wakes. Since we pulled up in the late afternoon their business is almost over for the day, and then it will be quieter. The great news is that it looks like we shook that voodoo hex that was plaguing our computer as Wayne managed to tap into someone's WiFi connection (we are close to the opulent megamansions on the east end of Paradise Island) so we can post and receive email.

Search, But No Seizure

Shortly after we were settled we heard voices approaching from our stern. I looked out back and saw Royal Bahamas Defence (they use the English spelling) Force boat P114 pulling up to the swim platform. They asked to see the captain of the vessel and said they were going to board and search the boat as a matter of “routine procedure”.

We had to present all our boat papers, our passports, and the customs and immigration papers we had received when we cleared 5 weeks earlier in Bimini. They asked where we had been, why we were anchored at Athol, and where we planned to go next. They were afraid of Ursa. Even though she wasn't making a fuss, those beady eyes, pointed snout, and curious personality packed into that compact 15# black body was just too intimidating to suit their tastes, and so they told us to tie up the dog.

One man handled all the paperwork while the other one began the search of the boat. He looked in the cabinets (of which we have so many), drawers, under seat cushions, in the refrigerator, and under the mattresses. It takes 2 people to move the master queen mattress so that the compartment underneath can be accessed, but he wanted to see what was under it, which wasn't much since it is too difficult to get to. He was very polite and didn't mess things up in the drawers, just picked up things, feeling for who knows what he was really looking for. We even had to lift up the hatch in the main salon so that he could look down into the engine compartment. His eyes got as wide as black saucers when he saw Visitor sitting next to the bed just staring at him. He gasped and said “Is dat cat part pantha? You be feedin him too much food!” I said he was definitely on porcine side (he is bigger than the dog), but he was friendly and the g-man could pet him if he wanted. He had the cat in the same category as the dog and didn't want anything to do with that “panther”, other than to tell his partner about it.

Well, we passed the search; they didn't find any of what they were looking for. We had to sign a paper saying that they were polite and courteous and didn't cause us any obvious grief. Although their P114 scow managed to slam into our swim platform one time really hard; hey, what's one more chip out of the fiberglass, anyway?! We were their last “project” for the day, so they were headed back to port, in the main harbor. Oh, on a good note, they told us where to drop off Eddie.

Bon Voyage

So, the next morning, with a slack tide of good luck, we dropped Eddie off at the tee dock of Nassau Yacht Haven. Things were so calm, and Wayne did such a fine job of pulling up alongside of the dock, I only grabbed a piling with the boat hook, and Eddie stepped up onto the dock. I must admit I was sad seeing him walk down the dock pulling his suitcase behind him, but I knew he would have a great time and the rest of the crew of FLUKE would do fine handling the boat ourselves.

Right after we dropped Eddie off it began to rain quite hard for the next hour. We were able to fill the water tanks all the way to full again, so laundry would be on the agenda for later in the day. Trolling only yielded 2 barracuda and a spanish mackerel, all released back.

For the night, we anchored just north of Current Cut, on the west side of the island in nice sand with good holding. Current Cut is just a small opening located between the southern tip of Eleuthera and Current Island. The current is as swift as 5 knots at times, so underpowered vessels need to exercise caution in trying to get through it when the tide is really flowing. Even though we were anchored north of the cut, the current flowing along the shoreline was still strong enough at times to hold FLUKE against the direction of the wind.

Fortunately we had a calm night and we got an early start the next day for the big trip across the open ocean to get to the Abacos. Our plan was to pick Eddie up again on June 22 at the ferry landing where he was supposed to be flying in to the Treasure Cay airport. We needed to have several days of travel to get that far.

Seas were calm, the weather was good, but the fishing was lousy. We didn't get anything! Plus, it never ceases to amaze me how we can be in the middle of nowhere and one big tanker can appear in the far distance that just so happens to be on an intersecting course with us. We have to carefully monitor its progress to figure out how to adjust our speed so that we don't get run over by the ocean giant. This one that passed us was riding so high above the water line, obvious empty, probably on the way to the fuel refinery at Freeport.

We passed through the cut at Little Harbor, in the southern part of the Abacos, in the midst of a thunderstorm. We had to wait quite a while to get the hook down on the west side of Lynyard Cay. Little did we know that that was only the first of many storms that we would be facing during our stay in the Abacos.

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