Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Off the Beaten Path

After a busy day of laundry and blogging on Friday, May 1st, we spent a quiet 10th anniversary evening aboard "Life's2Short." The Captain had originally planned to take me to Lorraine's Cafe for dinner that evening, but we decided to wait until the rest of our group arrived on Saturday.

The Admiral works on the blog at Lorraine's Cafe, by far the best Internet service in the least that's been our experience.

One of the Black Point locals cleaning a mess of Mahi-mahi. Notice the boat in the background, there were three guys on that craft and they were fishing out in the Sound in three- to four-foot waves. Gutsy guys!

The Defever 4 ("September Song," "Gypsies in the Palace," "Tide Hiker," and "Rickshaw") arrived from Big Majors Saturday morning about the time we dinghied over to the Government Dock to check out the local craft fair.

Everybody's excited when the supply and mail boat arrives at the dock.

What a great bunch of Bahamian kids!

As we walked around town, we eventually came across everyone in our group as they checked out Black Point for the first time. That evening, the ten of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Lorraine's, complete with anniversary cake! Thanks for joining us, guys!!!

The Captain plays with Lorraine's granddaughter before dinner is served.

The Admiral plays bartender for the gang.

Thanks again for baking the 10th anniversary cake, Lorraine (pictured on the left). What a special treat for a special occasion!

Todd presents some gifts to the local K-9th grade school for their spring graduating class. Roberta (pictured in the center) who is the Principal/English teacher is also Lorraine's sister-in-law.

Todd invited everyone to join us Sunday morning for a trip to what we call Sea Glass beach. "Tide Hiker" and "Rickshaw" decided to go later, so we set off about 9:30 a.m. with Bob & Stephanie ("September Song") and Doug & Tammy ("Gypsies") and spent a couple of hours combing the beach for sea glass.

The beautiful anchorage at Black Point.

That afternoon the same six of us gathered on a nearby beach for happy hour and collected wood for an evening bonfire. Just before sunset all ten of us met on the beach and enjoyed our final evening together as a group in the Exumas, roasting marshmallows over the fire to make s'mores, courtesy of "Tide Hiker." Thanks, Norm & Vicki!

"September Song" and "Gypsies in the Palace" took off Monday morning for Georgetown; "Tide Hiker" and "Rickshaw" went to Little Farmers Cay; and "Life's2Short" just headed south, destination unknown. As we neared Little Farmers, we were hailed on the VHF by Mike & Harriett of "Dual Dreams" who we met more than three years ago through mutual friends (Mike & Mary Hall - "WhatDazeIt?") when we were boat shopping in Florida. Mike & Harriett were sitting at Ocean Cabin on Little Farmers having lunch and heard us talking on the radio to "Tide Hiker" and "Rickshaw." So, we dropped anchor near "Dual Dreams" and dinghied over to Ocean Cabin where we spent the afternoon having a "few" Kaliks and catching up.

Mike & Harriett crossed over to the Exumas around March 10th, spent several weeks in Georgetown and are now working their way back north. While we were at Ocean Cabin, Norm & Vicki ("Tide Hiker") and Rick ("Rickshaw"), who had each taken a mooring at Little Farmers, stopped in to have a drink and meet Terry, the owner of Ocean Cabin. We headed back to our boat a little later and ended up going over to "Dual Dreams" for a while that evening before calling it a night.

Found in the men's room at Ocean Cabin!

"Dual Dreams" (Mike & Harriett) join "Rickshaw," "Tide Hiker" and "Life's2Short" at Ocean Cabin. The owner of Ocean Cabin, Terry, is in the foreground.

Island transportation?

Mike & Harriett aboard "Dual Dreams."

We left Little Farmers Tuesday morning and continued south past Cave and Musha Cays to anchor at Rudder Cut Cay which has a very nice beach with shade from surrounding rock, a really neat cave carved out of the rock and a beautiful nearby reef.

The marina at Cave Cay - very nice, but it didn't appear to be in operation.

Our private happy hour beach on Rudder Cut Cay, one of our favorite anchorages to date!

A very neat cave on Rudder Cut Cay.

Late Wednesday morning we left for Lee Stocking Island, home of the Perry Institute for Marine Science (a.k.a. Caribbean Marine Research Center), to meet up with "Tide Hiker." We made the trip right about low tide and, as a result, encountered some pretty skinny water around the Pimlico Cays, bumping the sandy bottom once. That afternoon we joined Norm & Vicki on the beach for happy hour.

The Tug and Barge Rocks just south of Lee Stocking Island.

We took a guided tour of the research facility late Thursday morning along with six other boaters. Due to lack of funding, there hasn't been much activity at the facility over the past couple of years. They currently have only two full-time staff, down from sixteen to twenty just a few years ago, although they do have groups from various colleges that come over on occasion to do grant-funded research.

Photos of our tour at the Caribbean Marine Research Center.

Our tour guide, Sarah.

The only decompression tank in the Bahamas.

We had Norm & Vicki over for dinner Thursday evening and then they headed back north via the Sound early Friday morning to reconnect with "Rickshaw." Along the way they caught at least one Mahi-mahi that we know of before we lost radio contact. We moved south a few more miles to Square Rock Cay where we did a little exploring and the Captain did some snorkeling before going to a nearby beach for happy hour.

Scenes from the Square Rock Cay area, quite pretty!

Todd went hiking on the east side of Square Rock Cay Saturday morning and then we hauled anchor and moved to Barreterre. This time we went fairly close to high tide, which was good since the water along the island going in to Barreterre was on the skinny side! It is interesting to note that the water around Square Rock Cay, Barreterre and points south takes on a greenish tinge, even though it is still quite clear.

Barreterre is small settlement on Great Exuma Island that appears to gradually be dying out, but the people were very nice. We walked to Rayann's Convenience Store where we bought a loaf of bread and a phone card that works with cell phones. We then went to The Bonefish Lodge where we visited with Mackenzie and had a few Kaliks. (Mackenzie had told us we could use his cell phone to call our mothers on Mother's Day if we would buy a cell phone card from Rayann's.)

Our anchorage at Barreterre.

Saturday afternoon at The Bonefish Lodge.

Other than going to The Bonefish Lodge about 2:00 p.m. on Sunday to make our Mother's Day phone calls, we spent a quiet day reading and relaxing on the boat. We left Barreterre Monday morning and travelled about two hours to Goat Cay and then spent another hour getting anchored! After five attempts, we finally anchored between Lignumvitae Cay and Little Darby Island, with Goat Cay to our southwest.

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's new home being built on Goat Cay. They invited us to dinner but we were not able to join them due to other commitments - right!

We found a beautiful beach with a shade tree on Lignumvitae Cay for happy hour and then scoped out another beach for a possible campfire the next evening. Todd did some snorkeling in a reef just off Little Darby Island Tuesday morning while I kept watch in the dinghy and then we went over to our campfire beach to gather firewood. While we were there a fuel barge came in to offload some fuel at Goat Cay on its way north from Georgetown, an odd sight in such a remote environment!

Photos of the reef on the southeast end of Little Darby Island.

Tuesday afternoon we returned to our shade tree beach for happy hour, came back to the boat for a quick dinner and then buzzed over to campfire beach just before dark where the Captain built a very nice fire and we enjoyed a lovely, if a bit breezy, evening on the beach.

Our happy hour beach on Lignumvitae Cay, very quiet in this area as we only saw four boats in eight days.

Todd went hiking on Lignumvitae Cay Wednesday morning and then did a little more snorkeling before returning to the boat around 11:00 a.m. with a dinghy full of various sizes and shapes of floats that he found while hiking. We later moved back to Rudder Cut Cay and went to our cliff-shaded beach for happy hour.

We stayed on the boat all day Thursday, reading and piddling, and were finally able to talk on the VHF to Mike & Mary aboard "WhatDazeIt?" as they were moving between Black Point and Little Farmers Cay. We told them where we were and to come on down if they wanted, but they seemed to think they would stay somewhere between Black Point and Little Farmers that evening and come to Rudder Cut on Friday, so we were very surprised to see them pull in to the bay about 5:30 while we were on the beach for happy hour!

Friday morning we went over to "WhatDazeIt?" for mimosas and then Todd and Mike & Mary did some snorkeling while I did bucket laundry on the bow of "Life's2Short." In fact, Mike & Mary came to my rescue when I accidentially dropped one of my buckets overboard while dumping out the dirty water!  That afternoon we all went to the beach for happy hour and then over to see the cave at low tide.

Mike & Mary join us back at Rudder Cut Cay.

Checking out the caves on Rudder Cut Cay.

Mike spent a good part of Saturday morning working on his dinghy motor, which refused to start, and Todd went over to lend support. That afternoon, Todd and Mike went to snorkel the nearby reef at slack tide and then we towed Mike & Mary to the beach for happy hour where Mike continued to labor over his outboard. Todd had taken Mary back to the boat earlier, so we towed Mike back to "WhatDazeIt?" and then gave him our dinghy to use to potty the dogs that evening and the next morning.

Sunrise on Rudder Cut Cay featuring "WhatDazeIt?" at anchor.

Views of our anchorage on Rudder Cut Cay.

Another view of our happy hour beach.

We left Rudder Cut late Sunday morning and moved to a mooring ball at Little Farmers Cay where we met up with "In Your Dreams" and "Freyja." Tom had prepared a gallon of his rum punch (a.k.a. Tommyknockers), so we all converged on "In Your Dreams" and spent the next several hours catching up.

Late Monday morning Jack & Susan took us on a hike to a well-hidden grotto in the hillside north of Oven Rock on Great Guana Cay, a very cool place, both literally and figuratively, if you can find it! We then hiked over to a beach on the east side of the island before returning to our boats early that afternoon.

Heading out for our hike to the grotto on Great Guana Cay.

What a beautiful cave, thanks for sharing it with us Susan & Jack!

Most of the beaches on the Sound side of the Exumas are "collector beaches," meaning that they tend to collect trash and treasures that drift in from points east. When you see beaches like this, it makes you wish that man had never invented plastic!

That evening we all met at Ocean Cabin for a wonderful dinner and a most enjoyable evening with good friends. We even sang the Little Farmers theme song after dinner with Ocean Cabin's owners, Terry & Ernestine.

The view east from Ocean Cabin.

Terry & Ernestine's grandson and daughter.

Tom & Jackie, "Life's2Short," Terry, and Susan & Jack - great evening guys!

Singing the Farmer's Cay theme song with Terry & Ernstine.

After a rough, windy night on the mooring ball, we left Little Farmers late Tuesday morning, as did "Freyja," and went to Black Point to do laundry, catch up on e-mail and update the blog. The anchorage at Black Point was very unsettled with constant swells rolling in from the west so we were happy to get off the boat for a few hours.  Then "Freyja" graciously invited us over to their boat for a marvelous dinner featuring fresh grilled grouper - what a treat! - but our visit was cut short by a much-needed rain shower.

Today is Wednesday, May 20th, and we plan to finish our business in Black Point this morning and continue north to Staniel Cay this afternoon. Our anchorage was rather uncomfortable last night - again - so we are ready to find some more settled water and hopefully get a full night's rest for a change.

Our good friend Cathy from St. Petersburg is flying in to Staniel Cay Friday afternoon and will be spending about five days with us aboard "Life's2Short," which will be great fun! She and the Captain have made plans to go deep sea fishing on Saturday, weather permitting, so hopefully we'll have some fresh Mahi-mahi to eat while she's here.

After Cathy leaves we will continue making our way north, with a target of mid-June to begin the long journey back to the States. Since we didn't make it to Andros on the way over, we may very well stop there on the way back. "Freyja" has also indicated an interest in going to Andros and we hope they will join us. We should be able to update the blog again from the Exumas Land & Sea Park on our way north, probably around the end of May/first of June, and that will be our last update from the Exumas unless Andros has Internet access, which is improbable.

We will then work our way across the Bahama Bank and the Gulf Stream, around the tip of Florida to its west coast, across the Gulf of Mexico, along the Gulf coast to Mobile, up the Tenn-Tom and back into the Tennessee River system to Pickwick Lake and, ultimately, to Knoxville, TN by late summer/early fall. And, of course, we are looking forward to catching up with our many good friends along the way!