Monday, June 11, 2012

Eating Our Way Through the Bahamas

May 29 – June 1, 2012 

It seems like there are two things that have been consistent on this voyage:  poor weather and regularly scheduled meals.  It is kind of funny how when the seas are so bad and we aren't able to eat while underway we get really traumatized and can't wait to get the hook down securely so we can eat.  I think Wayne feels cheated when conditions have forced having to skip a meal in its entirety because it is almost already time for the next feeding period.

After we left Rock Sound we had a 9 hour cruise over to the north end of Cat Island.  Seas were uncomfortably bumpy with overcast skies and intermittent rain all day long. Visitor threw up.  How many times have I said that so far?  However we still managed to do some trolling and caught 2 Spanish mackerel, 1 tuna, and 1 barracuda.  We released all of them.  At least reeling in the fish affords a break from the monotony and frustration of the unpleasant seas and weather.

We passed closely by Little San Salvador, what the cruise lines call, Half Moon Cay.  Carnival Cruise Lines ship Ecstasy was anchored for the day to give their guests a “true” out island experience.   

Cat Island is oriented north to south much like Eleuthera with a limited number of places to comfortably anchor on the west side of the island if winds have any easterly elements to them, and no place to anchor on the east side of the island, open to the Atlantic Ocean.  We chose to set the hook down south of Bennetts Harbour close to Alligator Point where we hoped to be able to do some exploring with the dinghy and snorkeling.

The perfect set
The perfect set

There was great holding in a pure sand bottom, but the swell coming around the point made for a little roll.  The water was so clear that when the wind died and FLUKE drifted over her anchor it was easily seen 12' down.  Notice the v-shaped flukes barely sticking up out of the sand and the shank of the anchor trailing over to the left side.  That is how we always want our anchor to look to give us the most secure holding.

We awoke to a sunny sky on May 30, but by 10:00 a.m. light rain started up again.  So much for doing any exploring.  I ended up cutting Wayne's hair and polishing the stainless ceiling fixtures and table base in the salon.

Hair today, gone tomorrow
Hair today, gone tomorrow

I was going to ask you to guess what this is a picture of, but I am giving you an easy hint by the title.  Notice how glassy the water's surface is.  It just couldn't stay that way for very long.

I felt like we wasted the whole day waiting for good weather that never came.  We were able to eat 3, regularly scheduled, fully portioned meals though.  I guess you could call it comfort food!

After 2 nights at Bennetts Harbour, and another cloudy morning, we ate breakfast and then  pulled up the anchor and headed for New Bight, 4 hours south closer to the southeastern end of Cat Island, which is only about 45 miles long.  I trolled in barracuda waters, shallow water only about 20 – 30' deep, and much to the displeasure of my crew mates, caught 3 barracuda.  The biggest one was fatally slashed by something very large when we were hauling it in, and will not be biting another lure.

Slasher victim
Slasher victim

I keep telling the guys that if we don't have a line in the water, there is no chance of catching anything at all.  It is getting to be prime mutton snapper time, and I keep hoping we will get lucky and hook into one of the them.  Of course I am sympathetic towards Eddie who is the one that most always removes the barracuda from the hook.

They all have a lot of teeth
They all have a lot of teeth

You can see those razor sharp teeth.  People have been known to have serious bites from barracuda that have shaken the hook at the boat and lashed out at an arm or leg.  Most of the time they are pretty tired and weakened when we get them to the boat, but we still shouldn't be taking any chances.  Eddie would be squealing if I had to stitch a bite wound up with supplies from my sewing kit and infection in a deep wound could be serious.  It is not easy to find medical help where we are these days.

Since it was only a 4 hour run from Bennetts Harbour to New Bight we knew that we would be able to find a place to anchor and have the hook set by lunch time.  Wrong again.

Wayne was down below preparing lunch while Eddie and I had anchor duty.  Eddie motioned to me to turn on the windlass so that he could let out the chain to lower the anchor.  This is one of those times that I wish I had a video so that you can see how he lets me know to turn on the windlass.  Number 1, he is standing up on the bow like Joe Cool Yachtsman and he just points to the windlass and nods his head.  He thinks that we look most professional when all the maneuvers are executed as quietly and inconspicuously as possible, like WE never have anything go wrong.  Number 2, he gives me the look like I am just a boat bimbo for not already having the windlass on before he has to ask for it since we have done this a thousand times before.  Number 3, I tell him that it is already on, and then he doesn't believe me and tells me to check to make sure, but this time he is getting a little agitated because we are about to miss our anchor spot.  Then I realize that I have turned it on, but the indicator light isn't on, and apparently the light is not the only problem since the windlass doesn't have any power either, so Eddie can't let out the chain and drop the anchor.  By then we have missed our spot and are exchanging various words, bringing Captain Wayne to the pilothouse to see what all the commotion is about. 

I am instructed just to drive around the harbor in deep enough water while the guys decide what needs to be done.  Since it is already lunch time, the first priority is to eat and then investigate what is wrong with the windlass.  The FLUKESTERS always think more clearly on full stomachs.

The guys decide to lower the anchor by hand.  We have an 88# Delta anchor and the chain itself is very heavy.  So, they have to pull a bunch of the chain out of the locker and lay it on the foredeck so that it can be fed out over the anchor roller on the bow while the anchor is being lowered to the bottom.  Remember this part for a few paragraphs later on.  Once it is on the bottom they can just feed directly out of the chain locker, pulling it by hand.  We do manage to securely set the anchor and then eat lunch.

Once lunch was out of the way, it was time to try to diagnose what was wrong with the windlass switch.  This is when I would put in a picture of Wayne underneath the helm area trying to get to the switch, and you would only see the bottom part of his legs.  In fact, I could use the same photo that I posted in the Lake Worth blog when we thought the ignition switch failed.

Putting the meter to the switch indicated that the switch wasn't working, and the indicator light is also connected to it, so it also wasn't working.  Wayne removed the switch, and he and Eddie pushed it on and pulled it off many times.  They talked about just wiring the windlass directly in the on position all the time as a last resort.  That would mean we would have to be real careful not to step on the windlass switch on the foredeck or the chain would come rolling out when we didn't want it to.  After man-handling the switch and testing it, Wayne decided to put it back in and give it another chance.  It worked!  Of course we don't know how long it will last, so it is on the list to be replaced before we begin another adventure.

It was too late to launch the dinghy and go to shore.  I happened to walk out on the bridge and glanced over at the foredeck.  It was covered in DRIED mud and rust from when the guys had pulled out the chain.  While everything was still wet, they had never bothered to even rinse off the foredeck, because all they could think about was EATING.  Now that it was dry, I had to go get a brush and use a lot of elbow grease to try to get most of it off.  I was not a happy crewmate at that point.  I did a lot of yelling doing the job.  When I finished, I hopped in the water and spent two hours cleaning the algae off the bootstripe and waterline.

Mt. Alvernia
Mt. Alvernia

The next morning the sun was out, but the wind had kicked up quite a bit.  Our plan was to go ashore and see if we could find the clinic so we could have Eddie's ear looked at and then climb Mt. Alvernia.  Mt. Alvernia is the highest peak in the Bahamas, 206'.  The structure that you can see right on top is Father Jerome's Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, a.k.a. The Hermitage.  He built that unique structure by hand using rocks from the area.  It is worth going out of your way to visit the place; the view is as amazing as the structure.  We were here in June 2009, and I have a lot more info about our ascent to the top and other Cat Island adventures in the blog archives for that time period.

When we arrived at the dinghy dock, the onshore wind was so strong, we could hardly get out of the dinghy.  Trying to tie it off was a real challenge, and there was no where else to land.  Wayne decided he would stay with the dinghy while Eddie and I tried to take care of the other business.  Climbing up Mt. Alvernia wasn't going to happen.  We were so disappointed.

The Administrative Headquarters building is across the street from the dinghy dock, and houses the police station.  We figured it would be a good place to start our search for clinic information.  The friendly lady officer went out of her way by phoning every place she thought the traveling nurse might be located.  Finally, she left her number on the nurse's answering machine and suggested we check back later to see if the nurse responded.  I had to drag Eddie out of the building because he and the lady cop had started watching some stupid game show on TV, and they were busy laughing at the contestants.  Like we were on Cat Island to watch TV!  At least she wasn't serving donuts too!

Our next stop was the grocery store, about 1.5 miles away, right along the one road that goes through this end of the island.  Hurricane Irene had done a lot of damage to this island in September 2011, and there was evidence of a lot of abandoned buildings and very little reconstruction.

Eddie and the natives
Eddie and the natives

Eddie always takes advantages of opportunities to stop when we have these food treks to take care of.  He was fascinated by this one dimensional native band.  We also ran into a family of a mother and her 3 kids who were outside of their home.  I asked if the grocery store was close, and the mother said she would send her young son (Lionel, about 9) with us to show us exactly where it was.  I said we could probably find it on our own (how can you miss anything when there is only one road?!), but she gave him some money and he scampered along with us. 

When we got to the store, Eddie ended up telling Lionel to pick out some candy for himself and his two sisters.  I was waiting outside with Ursa and saw Lionel come running out the door with a little bag and go skipping full speed toward home.  I guess he figured we could find the way back OK.  I felt extremely lucky to find a wonderful head of iceberg lettuce for $2.25.  Nice, fresh-looking produce is not easy to come by in the remote areas, and you pay a premium. I looked in the liquor store next door hoping to buy Crack again, but they didn't have any.

Soon after we started walking back towards the dinghy landing area, a woman driving a church van pulled over and asked if we wanted a ride.  Since it was getting close to lunch, we had been gone a long time, and Ursa was hot and beat, I said yes, and we all piled in.  I told her we needed to go to the police station to find out if the nurse had called back.  She said it might be hard to find the nurse since it was a holiday weekend, and the nurse was probably on the north end of the island where the Rake and Scrape festival activities would be occurring. 

When we arrived back at the police station, the lady cop told us the nurse hadn't called back.  We told her we appreciated all her efforts and that we would probably be leaving the area later that day after we got a new weather report.  We found Wayne at the dinghy dock watching water get blown into the dinghy and lamenting that it was already past lunchtime and why had it taken so long to find the store?  We all piled in and had a wet ride back to FLUKE.

After lunch, we moved 10 miles farther out the bight to better position ourselves to make the big crossing over to Long Island the following day.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:04 AM

    'Eddie and the natives' - loved the creative 2d mural - and the way Eddie 'blends in' :-)

    Good stuff!