12/23/2011 Coconut Grove to Pumpkin Key / Key Largo 31 nm
12/26/2011 Pumpkin Key to Key Biscayne 24 nm
12/27/2011 Moved to Dinner Key Mooring Field –
12/29-30/2011 Dinner Key to Nassau, Bahamas 180 nm
1/4/2012 Nassau Harbor Club Marina to Rose Island 7 nm
1/5/2012 Rose Island to Norman's Cay 39 nm
1/6/2012 Norman's Cay to Sampson Cay 34 nm
Total Miles to Date: 1161 nm
Upside down Christmas...Again:
The weather for crossing to the Bahamas just was not cooperating. The windows were too short for our liking or the winds too strong and the seas too big. We were in wait mode. To get away from the crazy boaters in Biscayne Bay, the crews of “Skat” and “Oconee” decided to sail down to Pumpkin Cay near Key Largo for a nice quite Christmas dinner aboard Oconee. I was to cook a turkey breast and a Vicki Skemp's flan, and Gigi (as inconceivable as that may sound) cooked a cranberry crunch, and Barb aboard Skat was to do the rest. It happened but not quite the way we had planed...but then improvise is what us boaters do best.
I don't know why but for some reason I seem destined to be upside down fixin' something on Christmas day. Last year it was Gigi's windlass and I spent 4 days upside down in the anchor locker replacing her windlass. This year, just as we were getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve the fresh water pump went belly up and the galley sink drain started leaking (at least leaking bad enough I could no longer ignore it). I had replacements for both aboard. That was the good news. The bad news was the replacement sink drain was in the second lever of storage all the way in the V-berth locker and the replacement pump was in the quarter berth in the aft locker....and for those of you that don't know my quarter berth it is not a berth at all it is (you guessed it) storage so all that shit had to come out as well.
So on Christmas morning the bedding and everything is out of the V-berth and into the main salon. Everything out of the quarter berth is in the main salon. Everything under the galley sink is out from under it and on top of the galley. The door is off the storage area under the galley sink where the access to the pump and drain are and the companion way stairs are off the engine (needed so I have enough room to get under the sink). The whole boat looks like someone dumped everything everywhere and shook it (and the someone was me). The turkey is in the oven and Old Vic is upside down under the galley sink, feet on top of the engine, butt in the galley, playing with plumbing and cussing (one has to have the vocabulary right or nothing gets done). And... Gigi is sitting in the corner in the only place with nothing on it trying to be as in conspicuous as possible so as to not be included in my discussions with the plumbing. Two hours later we had water again, the sink was no longer leaking, and the turkey was done but the boat was still a shambles. Jim and Barb came to the rescue and hosted Christmas Dinner aboard “Skat” and all was right with the world...again.
Aboard boats things work out and Christmas was what it should be: friends, good food, and running water.
On the 29th of December our chance finally came to get across the Gulf Stream to Nassau. We had waited almost 3 weeks for this opportunity. The predictions were for light North West winds and seas in the 2 to 3 foot range. We cleared Florida Channel and were at sea by 9:30 AM. Usually you do not want to go anywhere near the Stream with any wind out of the North but the seas were predicted to be small so we took the chance. As it turned out it was a good chance and a good crossing. They were wrong about the seas in the Gulf Stream, however. We saw some 10 footers in the middle of the stream but their period was about 10 seconds apart and “Oconee” and “Skat” slid gently over them like little rubber duckies on a pond. The feeling is sort of like riding an elevator up and down every 10 seconds.
We reached the Little Bahama Banks at dusk and experienced our first “green flash” at sea and one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen – absolute clear horizon with deep navy blue sky blending to black set with the magenta / orange glow of the dieing sun. As the sun faded out and the last thin line of rose color blended into black and the sky came alive with stars. The brilliant planet Venus first followed by a sky dusted so full of all magnitude of stars it looked like Van Gogh had painted them. Then the disk of our universe, The Milky Way, appeared so dense with stars it is almost solid – it takes the breath away just thinking about it now. How could anyone look at a sky like that and believe we are alone in the universe? My friends you have not seen stars until you have seen them at sea without the lights of land to mask your view. A sky like that make one feel so small, infinitesimally small.
An hour or so after we hit the banks, I was below cooking supper and Gigi on watch when she called. “Vic. We have slowed down, the engine is over heating, and there is a vibration can you come up?” Immediately you start going thru the list of possibilities. Water pump going bad or clogged sea strainer? No. That would explain the over heat but not the vibration or the slow speed. Could be the shaft zinc is trying come off. Nope. That would explain the vibration but not the slow speed or the over heat. We must have pickup something on the prop. I stopped the engine hoping what ever it was would fall off. It didn't. Now all I could see was me having to go in the water to clear the prop on an inky dark night in the middle of the Banks. Shit! One more thing to try – reverse engine and see if that will kick off what is there. Three tries and with a bang shudder Oconee rid herself of what was down there. Whew!!
The rest of the trip was just a great ride on calm seas with Gigi and I doing watch and watch (3 hours on 3 hours off). By 2:30 in the afternoon Nassau Harbor Control had given Oconee permission to enter the harbor and at 3:20 we were tied up at Nassau Harbor Club and Marina with our yellow quarantine flag flying waiting Customs and Immigration to clear in country. Our friends; Clark, Dudley, and Peter; had helped us tie up and welcomed us with open arms (literally) with hugs all around. Customs showed up 4ish. We ask for a for a 180 day clearance. They gave us 90. By 4:30 the quarantine flag was doused and the courtesy flag in her proper place on the starboard spreader flag halyard - “We in Da Bahama's Mon.”
Junkanoo New Years Day...sort of:
Junkanoo is a true Bahamian “ting.” Junkanoo is really a huge parade and party sort of like New Orleans Mardi Gras, the 60's Grambling University Marching Band, and a Holly Roller Camp Meeting rolled into one. It is celebrated at different dates and times on different islands and cays. Nassau holds the king of all Junkanoos and is held on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) from sunset until midnight and on New Years Day from Midnight until about 10:00 in the morning...unless it falls on a Sunday and then they sort of “freelance” the date. Like I always say, “Dis Da Bahamas Mon.” Sometimes no one knows when but somehow the Bahamian's do and then it just ..is.
No one really knows what “Junkanoo” means or why it exists but the most logical answer I've heard (and therefore probably not right) is Junkanoo is a corruption of a famous African slave named "John Canoe.” These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bush when they had the chance. While in the bush, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found, sponges and old newspaper. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery. According to legend, John Canoe fought for the rights of his people to have some time for themselves and this may explain why it is celebrated late at night. The old masters gave them time off when their “time” was not needed by them.
Parades in Nassau are judged in various categories; A Category, the B Category, Individual costume, and fun groups. The A category groups in the Nassau Junkanoo include, The Valley Boys, The Music Makers, Roots, Saxons, One Family and The Prodigal Sons. In the B category groups include One Love Soldiers, Clico Colours, Fancy Dancers, Fox Hill Congos, and Conquerors for Christ. Fun groups include The Pigs, Sting and Barabbas, The Tribe, and many many more. These groups work on their costumes, floats and music all year just for Junkanoo.
G and I took a taxi downtown at 4:00 AM and elected to stand on the street with the Bahamians rather than sit in the bleachers. Man what fun!! You are there with men, women, and children all cheering on their favorites – the place vibrates and sways with music, color and rhythm all of which never stop. When groups like the Valley Boys or the Saxons get within ear shot a wave of energy sweeps up and down the street and just plain envelops you. The Valley Boys, maybe 200 strong, with man-pulled floats, dancers, outrageous colorful costumes, and a huge band is perhaps our favorite. As they approach you hear mixed in the horns, African goat skin drum rhythms, the cry from the Boys go up, “We Are?” And the crowd's response, “Vallee,Valee,Valee” wash over you and draw you in. G and I were no exception and we added our “Vallees” to the drum beat symphony.
My camera seemed to attract the best. Don't miss the photos. They don't do Junkanoo justice without the music or the magic of the crowd but go take a look anyway. I've never experienced anything like Junkanoo. Would I do this again? You bet.
We made Sampson Cay on the 6th and were greeted by 9 days of light winds, 80 degree weather, and warm water. I really meant to write when I got here but the Bahamas just would not let me. We have fished, snorkeled, read, visited, and enjoyed sunsets and sunrises that only the Bahamas can give. There just has not been time for writing – Dis Da Bahamas Mon.
Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,
Vic & Gigi