Wednesday, May 20, 2009

De "Gigi's Island" She Done Reach: 5/21/2009

De “Gigi’s Island” She Done Reach: 5/21/2009

5/13-14/2009: Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas to Cape Canaveral, FL, USA - 214nm.

5/15-16/2009: Cape Canaveral, FL to Cumberland Island, GA - 167nm.

5/17/2009: Cumberland Island, GA to Amelia Island, FL - 10nm.

Passage to St. Mary’s... NOT!: 5/13-14/2009

The “Island” was anchored in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay. The morning broke bright and clear with an ESE wind at about 15ks with plans to take the Mule over to New Plymouth and spend a pleasant day exploring one of my favorite towns in the Bahamas. Then we listened to Chris Parker, the weather guru. It looked like we had a good window to make the passage to St. Mary’s, Ga, but not if we waited until the next day. New Plymouth would have to wait ‘till next year.

We had a pleasant sail down the banks and were off Great Sail Cay by supper time (fixed one of G’s favorite meals - chicken in a wine with mustard sauce over rice). Gigi had the 9 to midnight watch and I retired to get a few winks. There were thunder heads all around but the Island seemed be living a charmed life for the moment and none were coming our way. At change of watch we were about an hour from leaving the Banks and Gigi took my place in the bunk. Just as we were leaving the Matanilla Shoal (edge of banks) the moon erupted from the sea between two huge thunder heads. It was like watching a volcano with a deep orange and red moon spat out the top of the clouds.

We hit the Gulf Stream at 3:00 AM and things went from sugar to shit. The seas were supposed to be 3 to 5 from the South but were very confused and instead of the predicted 3 to 5 they were 5 to 8 footers. Eight foot seas are “doable” in relative comfort but the “confused” made it miserable. The boat would handle it but it’s inhabitants were being thrown all over the place - sort of like a punch drunk prize fighter taking round house punches, a-left-then-a-right, a-left-then-a-right. Not fun and hard on old bodies and gear. We hoped when we altered course to St. Marys it would be better. It was worse... much worse. We chucked our plans for St. Marys and altered course for Cape Canaveral, 70 miles to the NW.

By sunup we were approaching the Eastern edge of the Gulf Stream the seas had organized themselves into a nice SE swell. We eased into Canaveral planning tie up at a marina, clear US Customs, and crash. The cruising community is small and we were met at the dock by John Stevenson, a single handler we met in Marsh Harbor of “Sarah” fame. We were too late to clear in so we just crashed and met John for supper later. He told us that Customs when he cleared in confiscated all his vegetables and meats even his prepackaged meats that had been shipped into the Bahamas from the States. Since Customs did not know we were there and we still had good weather...why tempt fate? We left the next morning for St. Mary, GA, keeping company with John in “Sarah.”

Cumberland Island, GA & Amelia Island Yacht Harbor: 5/15-16/2009

The Island and Sarah headed off shore Saturday morning sailing for the entrance of the St.Mary’s river and Fernandian Beach, FL., about 150 miles North. The trip was as good as it gets - gentle southerly breezes and following seas. By 10:00 AM on Saturday we were off Fernandina. Since US Customs does not work on the weekend we decided to anchor behind Cumberland Island, enjoy the sights on Cumberland, and move down to Fernandina late in the day on Sunday.

John joined us for supper. Then we all crashed early to catch up on some sleep. I’ve said it many times Cumberland Island is one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth. Where else can you have live oak canopied lanes, wild turkey, Spanish horses, salt marshes, and an 18 mile beach almost to yourself. The Park Rangers and guides make the island history and lore come alive. Our Ranger had been living and working on the island for close to 30 years and still gets excited helping to tell it’s story. I love Cumberland.

Back on the boat we hauled anchor and headed for Fernandian just ahead of weather...again. We ended up at Amelia Island Yacht Harbor about 3 miles South of Fernandina just ahead of a front. Amelia Island Yacht Harbor is very protected but maneuvering is also very tight. Good Old Vic, broke one of his major boating rules, “Never put yourself in a position where you have to use seamanship.” I made a wrong turn down between two piers. With cross current and cross wind the Island had to be turned around (she does not back) and motored back out of what I just got us into. Gigi’s Island is about 45' in length with bow pulpit and dingy davits and the fairway between the piers was about 47' - had no time to be figure it out just time to rely on instinct. I backed and filled the Island turning her in her own length, ricocheted off a piling, and just managed not to hit a single boat...but I did put a scratch in Gigi’s gelcoat from a U bolt on that damn piling. It was one of the best pieces of boat handling I’ve every done even if I did hit something. Luck counts.

De “Gigi’s Island” She Done Reach: 5/18/2009

After we docked Gigi called Customs and arranged for them to come clear us in Monday morning.

Over the winter, I read the biography of Mr. Evans W. Cottman, “Out-Island Doctor.” He taught high school chemistry in Indiana for 30 years and then moved to the Bahamas in the 1950s. Note I called him “Mr.” not “Dr.” The Bahamas had such a lack of doctors at the time they would licence almost any person with a scientific back ground to be a “practicing” doctor. When Mr. Cottman landed at True Blue, on Crooked Island he was the first “doctor” the island had ever seen. The local constable literally took him door to door, knocked on the door, saluted, gathered the people within, and announced, “De doctuh he done reach!” Translation, “The doctor had arrived.”

At 11:30 on Monday the 18th of May, “de Island she done reach.” We cleared US Customs and were back in the US of A.

We are currently hold up at Amelia Island waiting for the weather to clear. It has been blowing a bloody gale and raining sideways for the last 3 days. These conditions are expected to continue unabated until late Thursday. We have had 9.6" of rain over the last 24 hours and that does not include Monday or Sunday. As I write the boat is heeled over 15 degrees in the slip from the wind and it sounds like someone is throwing buckets of water at the boat...I think I’m growin’ webbed feet.

We hope to get out of here on Sunday (after the seas have calmed down) and head back off shore for Southport, NC, about a 270 nm to the North...if we don’t get blown away or drown first.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John's Bahamian Pub Crawl 2/12/2009

The Pub Crawl of John Grossenbacher: 5/12/2009

5/3/2009: Marsh Harbor to Great Guana Cay - 9 nm.

5/4/2009: Great Guana to Man-A-War / Elbow Cay, Hope Town - 17 nm.

5/7/2009: Hope Town to Lynyard Cay - 26 nm.

5/8/2009: Lynyard Cay to Marsh Harbor - 24 nm.

5/11/2009: Marsh Harbor to Green Turtle Cay - 23 nm.

5/2 to 11/2009

Let’s see where was I... .

Oh yes, John Grossenbacker’s visit. We arranged to have the taxi drop John at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbor - figured we might as well start John’s crawl out right. The Jib Room, on Saturday night has “Steak Night”with Desmond doing the fire limbo and Jason with Rake & Scrape music. Marvin, the chef at the Jib Room, cooks one of the best steaks to be found - a 1 pound New York strip cooked exactly to your taste, mmmm good.

Sunday we sailed over to Great Guana Cay and had a “nip” at Nipper Bar over looking the Atlantic and then settled into Grabbers on the beach in Fisher’s Bay for lunch and a laid back evening. There was one young Bahamian boy doing “archfull” flips into the pool. John figured he was practicing for the Olympic Bahamian Diving Team and commenced to act as “judge” for the practice session. When John would give him high a score he would beam and flash him a big white “toothfull” smile.

On Monday we beat our way over to Man-a-War Cay and after anchoring took Mule in for lunch at the “Dock and Dine.” Man-a-War is a working man’s island. Here you can get sail and canvas work done. Man-a-War is the home of the great Bahamian boat building traditions that go back for centuries. The Aubry’s still build quality boats here but have moved on to fiberglass. However, if you want wood it is still available, as witnessed by the photo of the raw knees and ribs soaking in the harbor waiting their day to become part of a some sound wooden boat.

Man-a-War is unique among the islands in that it was founded by Methodist. It is still very religious and is a “dry” island. The only other island I know of that is similar is Spanish Wells. The island is clean, neat, full of flowers, and friendly industrious people. Everywhere you look there is a quite lane with colorful houses painted an array of bright, heart lifting, pastels.

While in Man-a-War we were lucky enough to meet Sammy Aubry. Sammy, like most island men is a boat builder, in his 64 years of life he has built 18 boats. His favorite is the “Thrice Mine” - an 18', outboard powered, runabout. Why the name? Sammy will be happy to tell you the story. As he says in his old English brogue, “Caus Ioo owned her three times.”

Sammy built the boat as a young man in the 70s. While it was still sitting in the yard a man from the States strolled in, saw the boat, walked twice around her, got out his check book and she no longer was Sammy’s. Ten years later Sammy heard the boat was for sale and he brought her back (are you keeping count? That’s two). Well Sammy kept her on a mooring in the harbor off his dock. One night during a storm the “Thrice Mine” decided to go “walkabout” and when Sammy got down to the harbor the next morning all that was left was a frayed mooring pennant floating in the water and no boat. A week later Sammy got a call from the Bahamian Defense Force in Nassau. And guess what, they had picked up the Thrice Mine, off New Providence island almost 100 open sea miles south of Man-a-War Cay. Sammy brought her home and re-christened her the “Thrice Mine.”

After lunch and a good walkabout on Man-a-War we hauled anchor and rode the rising tide into Hope Town on Elbow Cay about 10 miles South of Man-a-War. We need to play the tides going into Hope Town. At dead low there is only about 5 foot of water and Gigi’s Island draws 5.5 feet.

We spent 3 days in Hope Town giving John the “full” tour. As you know from a previous post, Hope Town is one of Gigi and my favorite spots, with its flowers, majestic light house, good food, and secure mooring field. We took John on a Mule ride to Lubbers Quarters and Cracker Ps for lunch and for a walk on Tahiti Beach. Then poked our nose into what G and I call “Turtle Creek” the home of those salty Winner Malone sailing dingys you saw in the last post and...turtles flying around Mule’s bow. Then ended the day with a swim and a snorkel around the point with the bronze sculpture of the little girl doing a cartwheel.

While snorkeling, John and G met a nurse shark. I was swimming back to get Mule to pick them up at the time and missed the experience. By the time Mule arrived John “loud” as how he was ready to get in the boat. Despite the shark John loves Hope Town as much as we do.

On Thursday we slipped our mooring in Hope Town Harbor with the intent of sailing south to Little Harbor and Pete’s Pub. On the sail down we were hailed by some new friends we had met in Hope Town, Rob and Laura Stevenson on Arita - a 50' wooden boat built in New Zealand from a single cowery tree. Rob is from Sidney ( a true Aussy, mate) and Laura is “the Queen of Florida” (or so Rob says). They were nice enough to take the photos of Gigi’s Island under sail. It’s not very often a photographer gets a photo of his (well G’s ) boat under sail. It was very nice for a change.

When we got to Little Harbor there was the surge from hell that made it impossible to put the engine on Mule (The Island can only get in Little Harbor at high tide). We sailed back and anchored in the lee of Lynyard Cay. Rob and Laura anchored near by and brought the photos of the Island over. After a bit of a gam we talked them into joining us for drinks and a movie ...and they brought the movie.

I don’t think I’ve explained how we handle movie nights aboard the Island. Gigi’s computer is set up on the companion-way hatch facing aft, and external speakers attached. That makes room for 4 to 6 folk to see the movie in relative comfort.

We had a great sail back to Marsh Harbor on Friday. The Island and her crew ended John’s “crawl” with an evening at Mangos with Brown Tip and good old “rake & scrape.” John exited the “conch crawl” for the “rat race” back in the States on Saturday. John you are great crew and we miss you.

We made the passage around Whale Cay to Green Turtle on Monday and are currently anchored off New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay. Today is the ending of one journey (our winter voyage of the Bahamas) and is the beginning of another (our journey home to North Carolina). It is a sad and happy day. With a little luck and good weather, we will make the crossing back to the US late this week or early next week. Our plan is to ride the Gulf Stream as far North as weather will allow and then clear customs in either Canaveral, Fernandina Beach, or Charleston.

Faiwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

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