Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sampson & Saniel Cays 2010

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Sampson Cay / Big Majors Spot / Staniel Cay: 1/3/2010

12/29/2009: Sampson Cay to Big Major Spot – 4.7 nm.
1/1/2010: Big Major Spot to Compass Cay – 11.6nm.

A Sampson Christmas...

Christmas Day was beautiful with light winds and warm temperatures. It was a perfect day to snorkel the reefs in Pipe Creek between Rat and Mice Cays. Mule just flew over the aqua and deeper blue waters around Sampson and threaded her way thru strong currents in the cut between Sampson and Over-Younder Cays. “Over-Younder?” sort of has an “Abbot and Costelo” routine sound about it doesn't it. Where you goin'? Over-Younder... No but where you goin'? I told you, Over-Younder.

We anchored Mule off the end of Mice in pure white sand in about 3' of water, donned our mask and fins, and slid into the clearest water I've ever seen and started a slow swim following the reefs on the West side of Mice. There were fish of all variety – bright yellow damsel, every variety and color of angel fish some the size of dinner plates, gobi, trigger, bright blue tang. And the coral would just take your breath away. The interesting thing was there was lots of new coral epically bits and pieces of perfect brain coral poking up through the white sand bottom.

The mangrove underwater have finger like root that disappear in the pure white sand. Schools of snapper and striped grunt hang out among them hiding from predators. Predators like barracuda that already know where their next meal will come from.

Then we crossed over to the East shore of Rat Cay and swam the edge looking for conch. Floating with the tide over deeper bluer water live with coral and fish. For the second time this year we saw reef squid – big eyes with their tentacles pointing toward us in a conical shape.

Within 30 minutes we had our limit of conch and were preparing Mule for the trip back to Oconee. But Pipe Creek was not through with it's “ magical Christmas gifts” for us. As we squared Mule away after our swim we caught movement in the deeper blue water. It was a pair of spotted eagle rays flying majestically along – almost like a ballet. One was over 10' across, wing tip to wing tip. They took no notice of us and we followed wrapped in awe and our own thoughts. It had been as perfect a day both on and under the water as I've ever experienced.

On the ride back to Oconee I kept trying to think of ways to describe the colors and beauty we had just experienced. All my mind would do was just “stutter.”

Two days later Pipe Creek gave us another kind of experience. It was a predator kind of day. Again we swam the edges of Mice. Around the first bit of coral on the back side I just noticed a lion fish. Lion fish are quite poisonous and are not indigenous to this area and are taking over natural habitat. Even in the Land Sea park snorkelers are encouraged to kill any they see. I quickly warned G so she would not blunder into the beast as I almost had.

The mangroves on this day were sprinkled with barracuda. Barracuda are curious and tend to come over for an up close look. They will usually not bother you but they can be a bit unnerving. As we rounded the end of the Mice about 30' in front of us was an 8 to 10' Big Fuckin' Shark (that's BFS to you). Neither G nor I knew exactly what the BFS was but it was not a nurse, bull, or reef. It had a pointy end and big eyes with a mouth full of teeth and paused and gave us the once over. We stood still. After a look he went South and we swam North. I think he was as lemon but what do I know...

On Christmas Day back at the “ranch” we showered and “dressed” for the Sampson Cay Club's annual Christmas dinner. “Dressed” means: Gigi wore a dress and I wore a shirt other than a T-shirt since it was sort of “dress up” affair. From the pictures you will see we had a great time. Good food. Good friends. Perfect way to end a Christmas Day.

Mustang Sally-Island Times & The Seaplane

It is a couple days after Christmas and we are “on the hook” right outside of Sampson Cay Club &
Marina (Google search the name and you will see where we were). We had asked if we can get a slip for the weekend as another “blow” is coming only to find out they are going to be full-at this moment they were almost empty. Vic & I were sitting in the cockpit reading when the mega yacht parade started.

You have your average, everyday mega yacht in the 100 ' range like Island Times and then you have the larger size like Mustang Sally at 139'. Keep in mind that these yachts bring their “toys” with them-both yachts had 18 foot tenders (Mustang Sally's tender had 4, 300hp engines). Mustang Sally was going to tie up alongside inside the marina which means they would have to go through a small “cut.” Unfortunately since Mustang Sally was 139' long she could not turn around once inside the cut because the channel is too narrow. The captain had to turn her around out in the anchorage and then BACK her in—it was a something to see. You could only watch in awe as he backed this mega yacht through the cut- a cut no wider then 50' add current & wind to make the job more of a challenge. In addition to the t/t Mustang Sally with the “go fast” engines she had an inflatable, jet skis, and a 60' Harkers Island built “sport fish” so the owners could go fishing if they wanted too.

Island Times was at the dock across from where we were anchored and they had been at Sampson Cay for a good bit of December and were really great people. Like all good cruisers as we sat on the stern we had the VHF on listening to what we call “the party line”- people talking on the VHF. The party line is where you find out what is going on in the area. As we listened we heard Island Times speak to a pilot and the pilot's answer was he was landing at that very moment, what we did not know until we looked up was that the pilot was landing a seaplane right in front of us. The seaplane taxied to within 50' of Oconee where the t/t Island Times picked up the owners guests . It took 3 trips to move both guests and the luggage to the boat.

There were many other yachts & mega yachts that came to Samson Cay that day but Mustang Sally and Island Times were the hit of the day. I want to point out that both of these yachts are privately owned. Mustang Sally is owned by the gentleman that owns Quiznos Subs, I do not know who owns Island Times.

“Go to Da Wedder Side Mon”

Staniel Cay does New Year week right with 4 days of festivities. There is the “pirate party” at the yacht club on New Years Eve eve, eve. Then on New Years Eve eve, the events really kick up with an auction of items donated by cruiser with the proceeds going to island charities. There is a local artist brazer. Followed by the C class Bahamian sloop Captain's dinner & cocktail party. Early in the day the C class skippers and their families conch, fish, and lobster. Then they prepare a free dinner for everyone that shows up complete with conch fritters (best I ever had), conch salad, fried grouper and hog fish, and grilled fish and lobster. All to be washed down with gallons of Rum Punch. The evening is finished off with a lottery for cruiser positions on the 4 Bahamian Class C Sloop races on New Year Eve (a pig roast follows the race). All culminating on New Year Day with a cruiser's regatta with Staniel Cay's newly refurbished A-Class Bahamian sloop the Lady Muriel competing against the cruisers. If you are in this area it is an event not to be missed.

I was lucky enough to have my name drawn to race on Slaughter, a C- class Bahamian sloop from Blackpoint (yes I know there is no head sail, but this is the Bahamas).You ain't sailed “tippy” until you sail one of these babies. Ballast is usually lead ingots, rock, or concrete that can be added to or removed entirely dependent on crew weight and wind conditions (our Captain immediately took all ballast out of Slaughter when he saw me). The boats are so over canvased it is not funny. The A class boats like Lady Muriel are 40' in length, carry a 60' mast and a 30' boom. And the A class boats are “stable” compared to the Cs.

Big Daddy, Capt. of Slaughter, just barely made it to the start line in time, anchored and we that were to be his crew jumped aboard ( almost a mistake. The boat almost turned turtle). From my count "Slaughter" had at least 4 broken ribs. Big Daddy gave a perfectly good tiller to the crew boat and shipped a rotten piece of shit that didn't fit, hacked it down with a butcher knife, and re-anchored for the start. The total instructions for the crew from "Big Daddy" was, " Get to da wedder side mon!” Crew sits on a "pry" a 2x6 that slides from side to side so the “moveable ballast”(us crew) can get further out board of the boat...and you got to be quick (me quick? Ha!). The boom is about 6” off the deck when you tack and it requires slithering off the pry, diving into the cockpit, and clamoring up the “wedder” side all in seconds.

The start is from anchor with boats jockeying for "a little advantage" by placing their anchors line over the next boats and pulling like hell when the start is announced.  The start is initiated by one boat hollering, "you reddie Mon?"  Then all hell breaks loose.  Sails go up and anchors are hauled at a frantic pace, accompanied by a long steady stream of obscenities loosed by all crew and skippers. By Gully had thrown her anchor line over ours to give them selves a better start with Big Daddy screaming “You Cheat! You Cheat! I nebber knowed you a cheater, mon!” We started last...of course.

The tiller broke on the first windward leg and Big Daddy steered by holding the rudder between his island sided paw. I did good balancing the boat on the “pry” nimbly sliding in and out with the gust to keep Slaughter balanced and going. Old Vic sure ain't as quick as I used to be and put us in irons twice and was relegated to the cellar because I could not "get to da wedder" side quick enough. The first time the boat almost turned turtle. What a hoot!!! I still got a big “SEG” plastered across my face. Wet from head to toe, put in my place and told not to more, we finished last. I can't remember when I've had so much fun.

I've started something a little new with this Blog entry. I'm going to post with the new photos copies of the charts of the area to give you a better idea the waters we sail.

We are currently in Compass Cay Marina with Tucker Rolle the owner of the best island in the Exumas (well one of the best). The next post will include our visit with Tucker.

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks

Vic & Gigi


Vicki Lane said...

Great posts. you two! Vic, you do a terrific job describing what you see -- not a bit of stuttering there!

Happy New Year and Fair Winds!

noxtoxpox said...

Hummm... Vic on a "racing" boat named Slaughter...I just have to ask: Did you donate any blood to that C-class Bahamian sloop?

Luv ya mon. Have a great time!


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Sherry and JIm said...

Vic ... as usual your photos and commentary on your adventures are thrilling to see and read. Jim and I look forward to your posts like we do the latest Islands or Caribbean Travel magazines. We use a different photo every other day as our desktop background. Have fun for us!!! (Did you here that it snowed 7" in Jax last weekend!!)