April 26, 2014

A Beautiful Groove

When I take a deep breath of salty air,
I realize there's nothing I cannot bear.

When I'm out awalkin' high on a hill,
My feet do the talking, and I dream at will.

I let go all my worries, I have nothing to prove,
What once was a rut, is now a beautiful groove.


NOTE:  I returned to the states on April 25 for family medical issues.  I left Glory Days resting on a mooring ball in Hopetown, Abacos.  Here are some postings that I've been a bit behind on reporting… Still others to follow.

April 17, 2014.  

This day ended with an unexpected surprise and a touch of danger after a day of great sailing.

Light Southeasterly winds as I departed Black Point this morn made for a leisurely pace... My destination was Shroud Cay, the northernmost boundary for Exuma Land and Sea Park… Winds would soon increase.

 FYI…. When you are sailing a boat straight downwind, as I was on this day, it often requires the use of a spinnaker pole to hold the headsail (Genoa) out in front of the boat... It's basically a rigid spar that attaches one end on to the front side of the mast and the other end on the clew of the headsail....the purpose of the pole is to secure the headsail in a fixed place and to stop the sail from flapping in light winds … Me no want flapping head sail… This allows this captain to have more peace and harmony while drifting down the lee side of the Exuma Sound. 

Then there's the mainsail which is splayed out on the opposing side of the boat….In this case the port side. See photo below...

 Going straight downwind with a sail expanded on each side of the bow can be a little flukey if the mainsail catches wind on the wrong side causing the boom to suddenly go flying across the boat without warning .... not good… heads beware if this occurs...you don't want to get clobbered… 

That is why I have started to employ the use of a "preventer" line... this line is tied to the base of the boom and onto the opposing deck cleat amidships, and it secures and "prevents" the boom from suddenly getting loose and flying across the boat... Neat idea, but it has its own issues that can occur as you will soon hear. It's a tricky thing, that boom.

"I'm being followed by a main shadow"

This leisurely sail soon picked up and became quite a frisky one as the wind shifted a bit from the east which provided a much better angle to scoot me across the water... It is such a pleasure to cover great distances soley by harnessing the wind... Plus the fuel tank remains full and less hours are put on the engine… 

It's a win win when wind wins… :)
The Fine Print…. Always heed messages like this when seen on the chart… It is a warning, and means exactly what it says, and you'd be wise to time your entrance into one of the narrow cuts from the sea according to slack tide times or light winds… in other words, "They be dragons here."

Next, along this route I had urge to deviate and dart into Cambridge Cay, because I had heard it was so beautiful there.... I was not disappointed, as I snared a mooring ball and had a two hour lunch break

The water color at Cambridge was phenomenal as these photos below will attest... Mesmerizing it was...
It was laundry day for this cruising couple… things dry fast in a sunny breeze like this.
This water looks edible.
I came across this sweet little island as I was leaving the south side of Norman's Cay… It reminded me of the classic stereotypical "shipwreck island" that I've seen depicted in various comic strips all my life… not a bad place to be marooned I suppose… there was even a chair someone placed under the palm tree!
 Barracudas seem to have a way of "lurking" as seen below…
I continued on making excellent speed of 6-7 knots north to Shroud Cay... It was a 50 mile day, and I was so wishing for a shoulder and neck massage by the end of the day… That didn't happen.

The wind was still high at 15-20 knots, and I was worn down from a full day on the sun... But in order to relax for the evening, there was still that business of clearing the point, dodging the reefs, and getting the sails down as the sun was beginning to set... So "in I go" to the back side of Shroud Cay after dropping the mainsail… should be a piece of cake, right?

I planned to drop the hook on the lee side on Shroud Cay… But even on the lee side, the wind was still whipping pretty good. After dropping the mainsail, I was balancing myself on top of the deck while wrapping the mainsail around the boom… I was literally hanging on as the boat rolled to and fro with the wind… 

Then, unbeknownst to me the little metal shackle that secures the boom to the deck had broken loose somehow... Not good. And at the very moment I was stretched out over the boom tieing down the mainsail, the boom suddenly swings out over the boat with me holding on!   This was not a good place to be... There I was swinging out over the water while hugging the boom!

  ... This all happened in a matter of seconds, and thankfully, I was able to reach down with my bare foot and grab the lifeline of the boat to pull me back onto the deck and secure everything... A close call. Whew. Sails wrapped, anchor down, deep breath, and a rush of adrenalin finally subsides.

The next morning at Shroud Cay, I motored the dink up a lovely little creek that connects the bay side with the open sea.  I motored against a strong current for about a mile, and I was soon rewarded with a view of this great little spot.
This was a lovely little trip in the dinghy up a mangrove creek early in the morning, April 18, 2014.

Mangroves like these lined the entire passage way from the bay side to the sea… an interested study in plant adaptation.
Believe it or not, there are actually private individuals who own ships like this… mega yachts.  I spotted this one miles and miles away and thought it was a battle ship…
The trip back north continues…. solo sailing along this stretch has been so ideal… It becomes a way of life after a while… Days start out with a nice cup of coffee at sunrise and end with a night view of the galaxies above...sun up, sun down, sun down, sun up, sun down

It occurred to me that I haven't been inside a house, slept in a bed,  seen a tv, been in a car, or hardly worn much clothes now for over four months… I don't miss any of those things, so coming back home could be a challenge in adaptation… there could be worse things to face I suppose.

The next stretch of sailing will soon take me north to Highborn Cay, one of my old stomping grounds, and on to Spanish Wells in a few days… I'm slowly making my way back… so much to see … so much to feel… so much to be thankful for.

What a beautiful groove 
What a beautiful groove 
What a beautiful groove 
What a beautiful groove 

April 16, 2014

All Points Are North Now...

"We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere… "     Tim McGraw

It was not easy to leave Georgetown….

It is what many sailors  call a "velcro anchorage", because it is very hard to pull away from

yes, It was tempting to stay another week for the 57th annual Family Regatta, a week of festivities centered around the racing of small wooden sailboats owned and sailed by local Bahamians who converge here each year... It sounds like a great week, but my time has come to start me long trek back toward Georgia...

After filling my water tanks, and final groceries, I buddy boated along the sailing vessel, Rachel, with friends Mark and Julie... They were actually a mile ahead of me the whole way, but it nice to be in radio contact with someone “out there” when you are a single hander like me.

It turned out to only be a 44 mile sail north with a following tail wind the whole way... I used the whisker pole to keep my genoa sail stretched out to port while the main sail was filled to starboard in downwind configuration known as wing and wing... It was a leisure day for the most part.

heres a pic of a catamaran on my stern with his spinnaker sail up just before he passed me... Cats are known to be fast, level, and comfortable... and rather pricy.

My route plan to enter Little Farmer cut at slack tide proved to be wise, as I flew through the narrow channel making a cool 6 knots... Then I found my self on the “inside” of the island as I made my way to this great anchorage just 8 miles shy of Black Point... Along the way, I passed a Hunter 50 footer who appeared to be anchored right smack dab in the center of the narrow channel.... But then it struck me... he was not anchored, he was aground... there was not much I could offer, so I just gave a friendly wave as I passed his stern less than a 100’ feet away.... been there, done that... thank God for shallow drafts like mine. 

It's one thing to run aground at low tide because you can always wait it out and get yourself free once the tide rises.. But if you run aground at high tide like this guy was... Well you're pretty much screwed... He could still be there for all I know

These shadow images of the main sail made me think of the Cat Stephen song, Moonshadow... but I changed it to “I’m being followed by a MAIN shadow”

Although the anchorages at Georgetown were nice with all the friendly neighbors around, it was good to be back in my favorite type of anchorage... all alone in a remote spot with perfect surrounds. 8 miles south of Black Point all alone in a purrfect display of sun, moon, and water...

I dropped the hook at 5 pm at a little protected area called Issac Bay... ahh.... peace, tranquility, and a light breeze out of the south... the journey north has begun.... How bout some dinner now?

I sailed a meager 8 miles north to return to my beloved Black Point Settlement Here I will do what all sailors like to know is in order. full water tanks, empty garbage, cleaned laundry, cleaned cabin sole, empty holding tanks, and a full cooler of provisions yepper.

Tomorrow I will chop off about 45 miles to Shroud Cay, the last island in the Exuma National Park I could probably make more miles in a day, but why work so hard?  

Here I am getting my final gerry cans full of R.O. Water (reverse osmosis). i'm ready for the next leg bring it ON!

My plans are to head north back to Exuma Park, over to Eluthra, across to the chain of Abacos Islands and then cross the gulf stream and land at Ft. Pierce, Florida One could linger in the Abacos I am told, so we'll see how it all unfolds… I just love a good mystery.
This is the public water source... What a welcome site it is...
Everybody fills up their Gerry cans here and lugs them back to the dink, then across the harbor, then up on the boat deck, then into the boats water tanks, then out of the facet into my kettle for coffee or whatever you choose... black point is one of the few communities that offers both free water and trash receiving.... Since their whole village economy relies on transient cruisers, it's little things like this that keeps us coming back, eating in their caf├ęs, buying groceries, buying fresh baked bread from Lorraine's grandmother, and making friends with little guys like Keshan below

Bye Bye Mr. Joe… Will you ever come back…?

Welcome to Georgetown

"There's always a way if you're fearless today.
But don't go in half cocked.
When you pull the trigger to the float the river,
You leave behind the rocks.

And if you hesitate, that's alright
Cause it happens everyday.
But I'm here to tell ya,
I'm a believer that there's always a way."

My final leg to Georgetown was an epic trip in many ways 

Altho the distance was only 22 miles, it required new skills and levels of perseverance I had not known before... I sort of impressed myself by successfully navigating my way from Rudder Cay, and threading the needle of the narrow cut of Rat Cay, rocky outcrops on both sides,  that led me out to the open sea 

I chose the tide times wisely and avoided any incoming swells that could thwart my passage through the narrow cut... I was giddy as I made my way between two narrow bluffs and got out to the blue water of the open sea to head south... but that was only the beginning of what would turn out to be a rather grueling day... the wind was on my nose again, and I could not point her in the southerly direction straight to Georgetown, my destination.  So I had to tack out into the open ocean for about 3 miles into some 4-5’ seas... splish, splash, spray was everywhere... but I powered on ahead into the braze with a combination of sail and engine power... finally, I was out far enough and pointed her south 

Coated in salt spray, she was now on a strong heel over to the starboard side for the next 18 miles... in sailor terms this leg was what we call a “slog”.... which means leaning, leaning, leaning while all the while catching rather large waves and unpredictable swells on the opposing port side of the boat... again, she was tight hauled, but tight enough to make the rest of the leg without having to tack to the outside again

the auto pilot wiring has shorted out again (loose connection) and so it all hand steering in this high pitch assault on the cobalt blue water... that means there was no time to leave the helm... at one point I carefully planned my dash down to the galley for a few seconds to grab an inviting granola bar I had left there There are no photos from the section because my hands were glued to the wheel and there was not time to dash below or even consider focusing on a still shot 

After about 5 hours of this leaning, banging, pounding tack, I eventually found my way entering Elizabeth Harbor at the entry point known as Conch Cay... Suddenly, she relaxed in the lee of some small islands and the water returned to the brilliant turquoise allure I have come to love... ahhh.... relax, you made it… here we are … worth it.

In this magical place known as Georgetown, there must of been at least 200 sailboats all anchored on the lee side of Stocking Island I am told in the peak season, over 500 boats anchor here. It was here that I would meet up with my old buddy, David of sailing vessel Swell Horizon... If you recall, David was my dock neighbor in Fernandina, and my buddy boater from when we crossed the Gulf Stream together to enter the Bahamas on February 25.   

Sure enough, there he was anchored just where he said he was at Sand Dollar beach.... I waved and shouted hello as I passed his boat and was relieved to drop my hook in the ever welcome embrace of the sandy bottom....  Georgetown, I had arrived... This would be my southernmost target before my return trip whenever that might be… Heres some pics of David and Cindy and a cool hike we took up to the "monument" high atop a hill overlooking all the anchorages…

The hike up to the monument is well worth the effort. 

 David overlooking the scene… he's quite the hiker…. keeping up was a  challenge!

the anchorages in Elizabeth harbor are unlimited…. Georgetown is this huge community of sailor cruisers from all over the world… meeting folks is easy as pie.

This is David and Cindy returning to Swell Horizon… a gorgeous Spencer 42 ketch rig...

Georgetown is a city of cruisers... mostly sailors... It is a long harbor called Elizabeth Harbor.... Stocking Island is to the east and the town of Gtown is about 1-2 miles across the harbor... in the height of the season (Jan.-Mar.) it is not uncommon to see about 500 vessels all anchored neatly and swaying the breeze the the 2 mile strip on the west side of Stocking Island... What you have here is a little city of sailors... all connected by the water, the sun, and the VHF radio 

It’s easy to make new friends... little inflatable boats, dinghys, are always scooting all over here and there... to a buddy’s boat, to a snorkel hole, to a beach, to a hiking trail, to a yoga class, to anywhere your heart desires... and it’s cool to stop and say hello to most any vessels path you come across... conversations begin, friendships are made, and discoveries are exposed... most any cruiser will tell you its not the boat, the water, the places, but the PEOPLE you meet along the way that sticks most in your mind, and more importantly in your heart.

My Brother Mike Comes to Visit!

Mike arrived in Georgetown on April 7… We had a great time, altho he came in a period when the winds were very high, making it difficult to fish or snorkel very much… His visit was truncated by a couple days, but still we had a good 5 days… Plans to sail south to Long Island were scratched due to the time factor… here we are hiking around and fooling around in all kinds of stuff.
 Mike ponders the situation… 

High atop Monument Hill

Its all good...

After a few weeks here, your sorta take the water color for granted… God, it's gorgeous… I could just sit and stare a it for hours… and hours… and days… and weeks… well, you get the idea...

Nice hiking trails on Stocking Island...

Believe it or not, this is a live termite colony… 

This guy wanted to propose, but he wasn't sure… 

thirty one million five hundred thousand and thirty six seconds in a year…
each of them a miracle.... Suddenly here
Tears of joy tear and gratitude linger on your face
 evidence and living proof, 
that there is always .....a way.

Play the cards that you were dealt or maybe trade in a few,
Its all a gamble that we must take when it comes to being true
to all of the passions and all of the dreams that so often slip away,
I'm here to tell ya, that I'm a believer
There's always a way...

 Local islander Cordell Williams gives a history lecture about the islands each Sunday at 1:30… humorous and informing… but I got sleepy and slipped out for a cold conch salad ...
 these people were feeding these huge stingrays right out of their hand… see the ray in the shallow water there.
 Conch salad made right on the beach front… chop chop chop… quite yummy… these boys could sure work a knife...

 Everybody comes in their dink to this place called the Chat and Chill… the local hang out.. boats anchored just a few yard off the shore… cold beer please

this works for me...

Makin music with Ted and Mark at the boater pot luck was fun

These 3 French ladies, Vanessa, Chloe and Suzanne came to my morning yoga class that I offered on the beach in Georgetown… It didn't take them long to figure out that I was not a real yoga teacher… still we all had a good time stretching, bending, and sharing postures from downward dog to cobra, and my personal favorite, the childs pose…  the class lasted 2 days before I headed south… other ladies attending making me on the only guy…  I had to deal with it.

Gloria and Maurice also have a boat named Glory Days, a gorgeous catamaran with tons of space… They had me over for drinks and then again for conch fritters at sunset another day… they own homes and boats in St. Augustine and Newfoundland and other places it seems… I think they must have more money than God but you'd never know it… they were sweet as could be… … Maurice and I enjoyed a great snorkeling day on the reef too.

I love these islands… I shall return
I've been at this 4 four months now and feel more giddy than the day I began… thank you God.