Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Here I sit in Georgetown, at the bottom of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. It has been quite a journey through the islands getting here, every stop we have made in the Bahamas has been an amazing experience. It is nice to be settled down in one place for a while though. It is especially great that we get to see the people who are coming in for the holiday season to enjoy the beautiful Bahamian weather. My Aunt, Uncle and 3 cousins are here now, my Mom Dad and brother are coming in on Christmas eve, and Kariiiiiii is coming on the 29th! Woo!
After a beautiful gulf stream crossing and our stay at the Barry Islands Club, we began our journey through the islands to make our way to Georgetown. The Barry Islands Club was a perfect way to start the journey, it was just a little house where two guys lived and ran the joint, and ran it quite well, it was a nice little place. Our first day there we had to check in at the airport, we are illegal aliens, not allowed to touch the shore until we check in. Grandad wasn’t feeling well on the day we checked in, so I had to go to shore and act as “master” of the boat and do the loads fo paperwork for everyone aboard. We were walking to the airport when we were offered a ride by a dude passing in a golf cart. Myself and 4 other guys from the various boats we had met climbed into the golf cart, and on the way, as I sat in the back bed of the cart screaming down a dirt road, kicking up dust on our way to a ¾ mile stretch of concrete they call an airport… I knew this trip was going to be even more awesome than I imagined.
After waiting out the weather on a mooring ball at the club, a mooring ball is basically a permanent anchor with a line attached to a float that you just grab and hook onto instead of putting down your own anchor, in true Bahamian fashion, the mooring balls at the Barry Islands club were attached to trucks, cranes, and huge diesel generators that had been blown into the bay by a hurricane 30 years ago, so they were plenty secure to hold us through some wind. Well after waiting out some nasty weather, which they call a norther, which is just when we get a little taste of the crappy weather you all are experiencing up north, we headed out to Nassau. Coming into Nassau we were greeted by the towering behemoths that are the cruise liners in Nassau harbor. Getting through the harbor was quite an experience, dodging jet skis on one side and huge freighters on the other, it was a bustle of activity. We chose to go on past Nassau to Rose Island. This was my first experience navigating shallow coral head infested waters. With Mark on watch for patches of coral, and Gottalife leading the way, we made it to the anchorage without any trouble, though Gottalife did kind of slam into a nice chunk of coral on the way in. I actually went back to the spot and dove down to inspect the keel sized slice taken out of the coral, it was pretty impressive. As we sat in the anchorage by the island we saw quite a few tourist boats come in, we imagine they were showing the tourists the remote uninhabited islands, which my brother and I were roaming. We were the uncivilized natives that day I think. After exploring the islands we made our way into the city and got ourselves a new 15 hp Yamaha for the dinghy, which is awesome.
We made the crossing from Nassau to the Exumas, stopping into Shroud Cay, the first big island in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This place is very well protected and is held with a sense of pride for many Bahamians. It was absolutely beautiful. There were mangrove rivers lacing the island, we took the dinghy down through the creeks, enjoying the landscapes along the way, saw a couple rays and loads of fish, and we came out on the opposite shore at an unbelievably beautiful beach. We hung around the beach, having a lot of fun in the wicked current that whipped out of the inlet to the creek, lounging on the finest whitest sand you can imagine, and climbing the surrounding rock cliffs to dive into the water or go to the top to see the breathtaking view.
Making our way to Warderick Wells, the main headquarters for the park, we took a mooring and we had talked to a park ranger about doing some volunteer work for the park. Lion fish are a recent invasive species to the Bahamas and they are doing whatever they can to keep them out of the park. We talked to the ranger about going out on a lion hunting safari, and he was definitely into it, regrettably that didn’t end up happening though, but I did spear one earlier today. Warderick Wells was a continuation of the beauty that we had experienced in Shroud Cay. There were blow holes that the waves crashing on the rock cliffs caused a jet of air to come screaming up through the hole and sent the waves shooting 50 feet up over the cliff. I of course climbed down to get right down in the turmoil, the sheer force of those waves was just astounding. Spotting the island were natural fresh water wells that were supposedly used by pirates when they needed a spot to hide out for a while. I climbed down in one of the holes and tasted the water. It was salty. I’m skeptical about this whole pirate business. We saw sharks, rays, the sunrise over the cliffs, pirate hide aways, crashing waves… it was an amazing place.
I feel like a broken record… but the next place we went… was amazing. Thunderball cave in Staniel Cay. It is the site of a famous scene in a Bond movie, I have never seen it, but apparently it is a big deal. We were wading around the outside of what is seemingly just a rocky island, and you go underwater and see holes in the side of the rocks. Diving down through the hole brings you up into a vast cavern with a 10 foot hole at the top streaming light down onto the water, giving it a glowing blue color. Silhouetted in the light are hundreds of fish, circling the cave, which is protected from fishing, without a care in the world about how close you get to them. The wildlife around the cave was the most impressive yet, and seeing it all in the hollow island was just spectacular. Mark decided that he would survey the top of the island, eventually finding the hole that opens into the caverns underneath. We all went into the cave and cheered him on, and he leaped down into the water, a 30 foot drop. It was pretty awesome.
After Thunderball we made our final sail down to Georgetown, it was a gorgeous day and a great sail. A group of dolphin joined us after a while, and 8 or so played with Mark and I on the bow for a good 45 minutes, they were skimming right on the top of the water, almost touching the bow of the ship, turning and twisting, and at times they would swim sideways and just look up at you for a while, you can just see how intelligent they are. I have a thing about touching… animals? I guess? And I was determined to touch one of the dolphins, I reached down over the bow and they were so close that I brushed one of their dorsal fins. It was pretty awesome. I don’t know why I do that, but I always get the urge to touch an animal that I probably shouldn’t, a stingray earlier today, that dolphin, I tried to get that barracuda, lizards, crabs, fish, urchins… I am going to end up hurting myself, hah.
So, now I am in Georgetown hanging out with the Kilanskis, and we are having a great time. Hopefully I will find a place I can get on here and update more often, and sorry for this lengthy post, there was a lot to cover. There is tons to do around here, volleyball every day on volleyball beach, hamburgers and beer on hamburger beach, a poker game with the old sailor men every Monday, Georgetown a short dinghy trip away… I think I am going to like it here.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
We met a crazy couple that sold everything they own and set out on a boating adventure from South Dakota on our way to Ft. Lauderdale. The day was full of excitement, with a 35 knot gusting wind and sttrong currents on your bow all day with 20 drawbridges to go through, that calls for a lonnnnng day. We got through it without getting into any bad situations... until we were docking. Going off the waterway onto the New River was a nice jaunt through luxurious neighborhoods, that turned into gigantic condos in the downtown area where we docked. The river was about 100 feet wide, with multi million dollar yachts lining the sides, a lack of communication left me sitting in the middle of the channel, in a quarter mile section with closed drawbridges on either end, a tide that was going out at a few knots, and a 30 knot gusting wind coming the same direction as the current. And I had to turn the 39 foot boat around in this narrow channel lined with yachts, I get it turned around, gettin close enough to the edge for Mark to push off the side to get our bow turned around. We are going with the current now, movin along, and I realize, this is going to be impossible. I see our spot, in between INXS, a 106 foot behemoth of a boat which I just found out is probably the boat that the producer that tried to sell Paris Hilton's voice sold when he realized she is a waste of life, well, in between that and another huge yacht, and i come barrelling in with the current and the wind whipping me along, stick my nose in, bring the stern around, it comes whipping around towards INXS, I am gunning the throttle, epic failure seems imminent, all 6 tons of the boat comes crashing towards the dock, and... nothing... I got it in position, under control, and she rested, two feet from the dock, didnt even rub a rail... woo! A video can be found here. It was essentially just like that, haha.
So here we remain, docked in the midst of multiple high rise buildings, in a channel s aturated with wealth, there is literally a Rolls Royce parked a few yards from our boat, next to a line of a whole bunch of other luxury cars, people walking their little yap dogs down the dock all day, with the occasional 120 foot yacht being towed through the channel next to us. It is pretty awesome. We went grocery shopping, that is always quite an experience, filling two shopping carts so high you can barely see over them, and then getting that back to the boat. We had lunch at the grocery store, and as we sat there, this guy came sprinting past us, a bag in each hand, and right behind him was the cop that was standing at the door. All the people that were standing on the corner started shouting GET 'IM GET 'IM, and all went OOOOOO when he did, it was awesome. I was trying to decide whether I would trip the guy if I saw it coming, I think that I would. What could he have been stealing anyway? saffron? Anyway, no pictures for now, I will get some more up before we leave the states, which is looking to be Saturday at the earliest, so after that I will be basically out of contact until May, so if you wanna talk to me, do it before then! Also, more people should give me their address so I can send something from the Bahamas. send it to BRawlings@gmail.com if you want something cool from the Bahamas.