Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bedlam...Bahamian Style: 4/17/3013

April 7, 2013 to April 18, 2013: Black Point to Georgetown, Exuma
4/08/2013 Pipe Creek to Staniel Cay / Black Point Settlement 16 nm
4/09/2013 Black Point to Little Farmers (Western Bay) 11 nm
4/11/2013 Western Bay to Black Point 11 nm
4/15/2013 Black Point to Georgetown 54 nm

Total Miles to Date: 1493 nm

Little Farmer's All Age School
The trickiest part of any voyage or cruise may turn out to be the short leg between any harbor entrance and dock, both on the way in and the way out.” Carleton Mitchell

In certain places, at certain hours, gazing at the sea is dangerous. It is what looking at a woman sometimes is.” Victor Hugo

Kevin Rolle:

The first year Gigi and cruised the Exumas was 5 years ago..can't be that long ago, but it was. We were knee deep in 4 weeks worth of laundry. The guide books said the only place really to do laundry in the upper Exumas was Ida's Rockside Laundry in Black Point Settlement.

We anchored in the bay off Black Point and headed for the dingy dock with a boat full to running over with dirty clothes. Lugging three bags of laundry and sundries we headed down the dock and up to the street. Gigi and I each had a bag in our outboard hands plus the huge LL Bean bag strung between with Gigi on one handle and me on the other.

We had just reached the street when the Black Point Police car (ain't but one) pulled up beside us and stopped. Gigi looked at me and I looked at her with that question of a look that says, “What have we done..and we just got here too?” look on our collective faces. The Officer rolled down the window, peered out with his big Bahamian smile and said, “You folks look like you need a ride to Ida's. Hop in.” And that is how we met Kevin Rolle and he has been a friend ever since. We fell in love with the Black Point community at that instant and have been hooked on its friendly helpful people ever since.

Friday, two weeks ago, we were at anchor in Pipe Creek when Kevin came by in the police boat out for a day of fun with his sons. We waved. Kevin flashed us one of his big Bahamian smiles, waved back, and headed off toward Compass Cay. We didn't know it at the time, but that was the last we would see of our friend Kevin on this earth. Kevin was to die saturday night of a pulmonary aneurism. He was flown to Nassau but did not survive. Kevin was just 46 years old. He left behind a wife and family and three communities in shock (Black Point Settlement, his brother's in arm in the Bahamian Police Force, and us Cruisers). He will be buried with full military honors in Nassau this Friday as is only fitting.

Kevin was more that just a policeman and preacher. He was the heart of his community. He was the best ambassador Black Point could have chosen. And he was our friend...and in truth, a friend to countless other as well.

Bedlam..Bahamian Style:

Black Point Settlement is home of some of the best “C-Class” Bahamian Sloops ever built like “Smashie” and “Seahorse” built by Van Fergersion and his son Bo. In the off season or when they are built or repaired they sit high on a sloping, iron rock, bank in back of the All Age School known as “da yard.” Every since I have been coming to Black Point Settlement I've wondered just how in the hell do they get a fixed keel, one ton boat from the iron rock to water with no mechanical help or conveyance without destroying it. I have always admired and been amazed by the Bahamian approach to projects like this. This year I found out how it was done and actually got to help launch “Seahorse” (something I can now check off my “bucket list).

First, timing. “Tings” don't happen at an appointed time here. They just happen when “day” happen. People start showing up as if the time was set by some internal Bahamian clock – Seahorse's launch was no exception. I knew that much at least so I watched from the Turtle until people started to show and then jumped in the dink and headed for shore. No one was in charge or gave orders. Men just assemble on both sides of Seahorse grabbed “holt” and then bedlam broke out.

Everyone shouting at the top of their lungs, everyone in charge, and everyone with conflicting orders. “Pulleft! Pullrite! Slidtinga! Pickdastarn! Fardroll! Ramovedabord! Straitendatinga! Diswaymon! Disway! Slakline! Slakline!” It was a den of shouting, pulling, tugging, and all in opposing directions, plywood being slid under the keel, water pipe rollers between the keel and plywood, and slowly the boat pushed, shoved, pulled and rolled its self to the water with toes that should have been smashed and arms that should have been crushed left undone. All to a den of shouting that the multi-languages of Bedlam could not have held a candle too (imagine all those words plus many more shouted at the same time in a staggering rhythm and you will have it about right). Then she was a float, all was quiet, and the Bahamians left as if someone had punched their time clock, leaving Bo, Van, and I standing on the iron rock watching “Seahorse” rock to the gentle swell of her new home patiently awaiting her mast and lead.

For the record, I am still in awe (as in shock and awe and as in true respect for ) how Bahamians approach projects like moving Seahorse. All I can say is it is still a mystery to me just how the job was done and why no one was hurt, but it did happen and no one was… and I got to be part of whatever did.
One “ting certain Mon” was pure Bahamian...Pure Bahamian.

(I apologize for the photos. I screwed up and left the camera's autofocus set on manual..thus the blurry images)

Hand Line Fishin':

After a week of waiting for a window to head down to Georgetown and the 60th Family Island Regatta on Monday the15th one finally opened. It wasn't the best window in the world but it was the best we were going to get for at least another week with winds in the 10-15 knot range on the nose and 1 to 3 foot seas. So we were off out Dothom Cut at first light.We had heard that mahi were everywhere and we should get a boat load on the way down and we were anxious to try our luck.

We had hand lines in the water within the hour. Our friends had told us to fish with rigged ballyhoo with a pink skirt on it's nose, about 120' behind the boat and run about 7k. We zigzagged our way south running on and off soundings with no luck. It was Gigi's watch (of course, she is the fisher lady) and she had just fixed her lunch (again of course) and the Turtle was in about 100' of water when the fish hit .

We have no boat rod or reel (we will next year) - we use hand lines. Our technique is to let the fish drag behind the boat a bit before we pull him in to take the fight out of him and pray a shark doesn't get him before we do. We keep a bucket handy to dump the extra line in as it comes aboard. Gigi hauled and I dumped the line in the bucket, we swung him aboard and dumped him in the scuppers. The Turtle Crew had caught a 10 to15 pound Cero Mackerel (about a 4 to 5 meal fish). Cero is similar in flavor and texture to a King Mackerel. Within 30 minutes he was cleaned and in the frig ready for supper.

That evening at anchor in Georgetown off Kid Cove, we marinated a couple of pieces in zesty italian dressing, grilled him, and had him for supper with a little wild rice. Mmmm Gooood!

Our friend, Jim off “No Regrets,” says we should be off soundings for mahi. On the trip North we will try that...but Cero ain't bad by a long stretch and we still have 3 meals left in the freezer.


That Time of Year..

It is that time of year again... the time when all us cruisers feel a “stirring.” Like the great flocks of migrating water fowl just before the spring thaw something awakens in our very marrow and swings our compass Northward. A bit of restlessness descends on the anchorages and clouds our collective thoughts. Our senses are heightened to every color and sound. Every swim in that gin clear water is absorbed and savored to the fullest. Every sunset takes on a special heightened must see priority and the pastels of the dieing sun somehow are exaggerated. We visit our friends in the settlements with emotional hugs and smiles of “until next year” at every meeting. “Goodbys” take on a bit more permanence and heart felt poignance as friends depart - friends that we will not see again until the fall... and some never ever again in this life. All cruisers know that goodbys are part of the lifestyle but they still go straight to the heart (we have known people that quit cruising because they could no longer take the goodbys). 

cow fish

The words “fair winds,” “safe travels,” and “until next year” fill the air waves on the VHF as boat after boat hauls its anchor and heads North. North to the States. North to Canada. North to Europe. North to England. North to Home. North to Family and Friends. North to the “unreal world” we all left behind.

And Salty Turtle will follow in their wake North as soon as Family Island Regatta is over...but not yet..not, just yet.

Fairwinds & Rum Drinks,

Vic C.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great Exuma Gas Wars: 2013/04/07

March 3rd to April 7, 2013: Pipe Creek to Little Farmers (Upper Exuma)

3/08/2013 Pipe Ck to Black Point/Bitter Guana/Big Major Spot 27nm
3/10/2013 Big Major Spot to Black Point 6 nm
3/13/2013 Black Point to Sampson Cay 10 nm
3/17/2013 Sampson Cay to Little Farmers Cay (Oven Rock) 21 nm
3/18/2013 Oven Rock to Black Point 9 nm
3/19/2013 Black Point to Alan's Cay 53 nm
3/20/2013 Alan's Cay to Nassau Harbor Club 33 nm
3/22/2013 Nassau Harbor Club to Pipe Creek 73 nm
3/31/2013 Pipe Ck to Big Major Spot 6 nm
4/03/2013 Big Major Spot to Pipe Ck 7 nm

Total Miles to Date: 1406 nm

The Journey is the Reward.” Taoist Proverb

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might as well stay home.” James Mitchener

Mike and Maril Doster's Visit:
The weather was awful and expected to deteriorate even further. We were tucked into Pipe Creek all safe and secure but Mike and Maril were arriving on the Watermaker Air's 3:00 PM flight and... god our dingy is so small when it comes to facing a 5 mile ride one way in 3' chop on the Banks or (god forbid) the sound. Jim Treadwell, our friend off “No Regrets,” volunteered to go down in his 17' inflatable. Man that would have been a miserable trip in our dink. He saved 3 wet butts.
Once the front passed the weather cleared and Mike and Maril could not have had better weather week. The week went by in a blur as they usually do when friends are together. We went snorkeling down at what we call “Mushroom Reef” near Compass Cay Cut and, to our surprise and delight, Maril took to snorkeling like a duck to water. G and I took them over to Tucker's Compass Cay Marina where you can swim with his pet sharks (for some reason both Mike and Maril demurred). Tucker also servers up one of the best (and most expensive) hamburgers in the Bahamas. After lunch we walked his beautiful beaches.


Speaking of beaches, I think one of the most beautiful in the world is on Twin Cays about a mile off Sampson Cay on the Banks between Sampson and Pipe Creek. It is known to us as “Magic and Missy Beach.” Buck and Vicki Dawkins and Jim and Barb Thompson named it after their pups Magic and Missy that loved to run the beach and swim the shallow lagoon. The beach is a crescent shaped and with pink / white sand with a texture so pure and fine it feels like standing a feather bed for the feet. The beach is ringed by clear aquamarine waters with deep water accents of navy blue. This beach truly is “Magic.” 


We finished the week with a whirl wind tour of Black Point Settlement, Bitter Guana Cay (home of an iguana research project) and finished with the swimming pigs on Big Major Spot and lunch (not BBQ) at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Let me tell ya seeing Maril face to face with iguana was worth the price of admission. Next time we hope to get them down to Little Farmers for some of Earnestine's famous chicken souse.
Bitter Guana Chalk Cliffs

Breadboy The Gas Can Savior:

Not long after Mike and Maril Watermakered their way home the outboard on the dink became hard to start. I suspected water in the it turned out water was the symptom not the cause. I pulled the pickup line to the gas tank and the whole fitting came off in my hand. This was not a problem it was a disaster. Our dingy is our life line. It is everything. No dink. Can't get ashore. Can't get groceries. Can't go snorkeling. Can't go fishing. Can't visit friends. We were in a “fix” as they say in the South.

We were anchored off Black Point doing laundry at the time of the disaster. I gave Breadboy, a friend of ours, a call on the VHF and asked if he knew where we could find a new or used gas tank. Without blinking Breadboy said, “I think I got one Vic. It got some fuel in it but you can pore dat out.” An hour later he returned to Salty Turtle with an old tank half filled with ancient fuel...and would take nothing for the tank. Breadboy was quickly elevated in our eyes from “friend” to “savior.” After dumping the fuel, rinsing the tank (twice with very expensive gas), and running the piss out of the outboard for a while we were back in business...almost but that's another story.


You don't make friends down here or anywhere for that matter for what they can do for you. You make them because you like them and respect them. But when the chips are down friends do what friends do your butt when they can. Bahamian friends are no exception.

The best thing that came of this whole experience is the knowledge that we really do have a friend have a friend here and his name is Breadboy.

The Great Exuma Gasoline Wars:

It all started about a month ago when the fuel barge that brings fuel to Staniel Cay in the Exumas broke down and had to be hauled for repairs in Nassau. It could not have come at a worse time. Starting about the first of March colleges in the US have spring break. That means that all the Mega Yachts loaded down with kids complete with gas guzzelin' sportfish boats in tow head for the Exumas, anchor off Staniel and Sampson Cays, belch Seados and other gas powered toys, and descend on the fuel docks at Staniel and Sampson to suck up fuel and gas.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club ran dry almost instantly. That meant the only source of fuel and gas between Highborne Cay and Gerogetown ( a span of close to 80 miles) was Sampson Cay Club. Mike, the manager of Sampson, immediately announced no more gas or fuel except for folks tied to his dock or locals in need until further notice. He had no choice, otherwise the 5 Mega Yachts anchored off Sampson would suck him dry in a matter of days. Sampson gets its fuel from a different source than Staniel but he is lucky if “da barge reach” every couple of weeks..and even then it is nothing better than a “Bahamian guess” when it actually will. By-the-way, if a Bahamian says tomorrow he means he ain't got a clue – could be tomorrow, could be next month, “when it show up it reach.”

About 3 weeks ago it started to get real serious and took a nasty turn. Salty Turtle was under power headed back from Black Point to Sampson to tuck up next to Sampson for the next cold front when the VFH crackled to life. A Bahamian (who we will call Sam) that rents boats was calling Sampson to see if he could get some gas for his boats. Fly, the dockmaster on duty, told him they were still not selling gas. Sam snapped back, “You gotta' do something Mon!”and he said it with a tone I had not heard before - this was serious. Fly responded with, “Nuttin' I can do Mon.” You could tell Fly was a bit irritated but under control. A heated discussion erupted on channel 16 VHF in front of God and everyone who was listening..and in the Bahamas that is everybody. Gigi and I looked at one another wide eyed in astonishment. In our 6 years here we have never seen “tings gets dis” serious.

A few days later I was over at Sampson and the fuel crisis was reaching a real critical stage. Mike was almost out of fuel for his generators (if he ran out that meant no electricity and the Mega Yachts at his dock that suck up electricity at almost as an unbelievable rate as they do diesel fuel under way). Mike was down to serious rationing for gas as well. He was selling only absolutely necessary amount to locals that depend on gas for their livelihood. The situation was getting desperate and tempers were getting short.

After listening to Mike's tales of woe Gigi and I eased back out to the Turtle to listen to the Wolf Pack woop Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. About an hour after we left Sampson full scale warfare broke out. Boatboy (name changed to protect the righteous) who also rents boats was there to get gas when Sam storms up to the dock and demands Fly sell him gas. Sam has a habit of being a bit slow to pay according to stories we have heard. Mike immediately injects himself into the situation. Asked Sam to come into the office where a heated discussion boils over into a shouting match. Mike finally calms Sam down and agrees to sell him gas.

Sam heads back outside and announces to the world that Mike said to, “sell him gas.” It would have been fine if he had left it at that but no. Sam decided it was time to insult Boatboy and add to his coup for the day. Well, those of us who know Boatboy, know he ain't no little guy and is not a person you would want to piss off. Boatboy told Sam he needed to get his gas and shut up. Well Sam could not leave Boatboy alone and got right back in his face. Boatboy told Sam “You better not do dat again!” He did and Boatboy exploded and Sam hit the dirt. It took 5 grown men to pull him off Sam or so I'm told. Mike told me later that Boatboy called that night and apologized even though he didn't start the fracas.

The war finally ended in another 2 Bahamian weeks ('bout a month Mon) when both Staniel and Sampson started getting gas and fuel again on some sort of a regular schedule. I don't know whether this was the end of the war or just a lull in the battle but for now peace has returned to the Exumas and there exist a somewhat shaky truce to say the least. 



purple sea fan
This has been our best year snorkeling by a long shot for a couple of reasons. First, Jim Treadwell took us under his wing and shared his reefs as far North as Jeep Reef off Little Wax Cay and as far South as BAS Reef (Big Ass Shark) off Little Major Spot. Second, with a little confidence under our belt, we found new sites on our own such as Osprey Reef near Compass Cay Cut and No Fishing Reef off Big Sampson Cay. We have seen new growth of Stag and Elk Horn Coral (very encouraging), large stands of Purple Sea Fan Coral undulating with the current, some of the largest Angle Fish I've ever seen (some as big as large platters) and two huge Barracuda (longer than me and bigger around than my leg) and even a live Tulip Mollusk close to 18” long boogieing along on in single foot fashion off Rat Cay at over 6 feet a minute...yes, I timed the bugger.

Tulip Molusk

Every place we find seems better than the last. Neither Gigi nor I tire of just getting in the water and going walkabout and seeing what we can see. 


Want to know where these reefs are? We'll show ya. Let's go swimming. Yea Mon!

To Come:

We have spent the last 2 months basking in the warmth of waters and friends in the upper Exumas. This has become our home as much as Matthews Point Marina in North Carolina is our home, but it is time for a change. Monday we head down to Little Farmers to take the photos for the All Age School there then back to Black Point for laundry, haircut, and pizza and then we will catch the next weather window to Georgetown. There Gigi's cousin Tom will join us for Family Island Regatta (60th anniversary this year) and help us bring Salty Turtle back to the States in early May..or late May..or whenever she reach.

Black Point Sands

Fairwinds and Rum Drinks,


PS – We also made a fast trip to Nassau to get a crown put back on one of my teeth...but that's another story. Thank you Clay and Rita-Kay!!!!!!!