Thursday, February 19, 2009

This is the Bahamas

This is what I was expecting.

Another adventure into the out islands this last week was really incredible, this is what I was expecting when I came down here, and it is awesome that it is finally happening. When Grandad made it clear that he wasn’t moving from Georgetown I was pretty bummed and thought I would be stuck here for the duration, but Mark and I have found plenty of opportunities to get out and explore the Bahamas and it is great. Rio Dulce, friends of Brian’s that have been traveling with us for a while, invited us to go along with them to Conception island one morning, and at a couple hours notice we were ready to go and out of there. So we headed out on Rio Dulce in the morning and got into Conception island that evening, traveling with two other sailboats Priority and Zola. Priority is a couple with two kids and they are an awesome family, the parents were a lot of fun to hang out with and the kids were really cool. Zola was a newlywed couple, just married in Vero Beach Florida, and they are out cruising for their honeymoon, a wonderful young couple and also a lot of fun. Rio Dulce is a family of 5 who have been cruising their entire lives, the boat is a 47 foot Catana catamaran and it is beautiful, we were really privileged to be able to sail on her. It seems everyone I meet out here I would be content sitting down for hours and talking about their lives, there is always something interesting, and these families were no exception, though I guess that’s what you get when you are meeting people who are cruising the Caribbean. On the sail to Conception we were cruising along with Zola and Priority probably half a mile off our beam and we kept hearing them on the radio talking about all the fish they keep catching on their trolling lines, we were trolling lines, but not getting as much as a bite. Dick, who owns Rio Dulce, was just flipping out every time they came on the radio, it was pretty hilarious, and no matter how many lines we put out, we got nothin. So we got to Conception fishless, but with friends who caught loads of mahi and tuna, so we invited them over and they brought over the freshly caught and prepared fish and damn was it delicious. In the morning we all went diving on the reefs around the island, the staghorn corals were absolutely beautiful and the immensity of the reefs was really impressive. After a while fishing on the reefs we got a couple grouper, lobster (a huuge one from Zola), snapper, margate. The island also has mangrove creeks winding through it that we explored a bit, the creeks are a breeding ground for lots of sea life and we saw some sea turtles flitting around, nurse sharks, and various other fishies. There is nothing like eating lunch, and being hungry because you were diving all morning fishing for the fish that you are eating. It’s a good way to live. Priority introduced us to the “slingshot” that afternoon, which is a crazy contraption, born of the mind of Dwane on Zola, which uses a dinghy and a halyard to send you launching through the air at high speeds, I think only a picture will do to describe it. Diving the next day was even more fruitful, Zola again caught the biggest lobster any of us had ever seen, I wont even do Dwayne the injustice of reproducing his daring feat of underwater lobster wrangling here, it was incredible though, and he and his wife Kim got 4 more lobster that day, it was enough to feed the two of them for a month I think.
Priority had a brilliant plan of drifting the mangrove creeks and we all set out, along with another boat, Wild Wind, and us 4 dinghys went way up into the creek, tied together and waited for the tide to go out, and drifted down the creeks with the current back to the entrance. We must have been quite a sight, Priority had a big umbrella up on their dinghy and we were just lounging along, every one layin around. A helicopter flew over and then circled back to get a closer view, buzzing us at 30 feet, it was sweet. Sitting there drifting along in great company through the mangrove creeks of Conception Island in the Bahamas, it cant get any better right? Then Dick hands me a Yeungling. I almost cried.
We set off for Georgetown the next morning, and in a quick mid trip decision decided to change our route to go to Long Island with Priority and Zola. On the way we stopped at a nice reef to do a little diving and we got enough fish to feed us for a couple days, I got my biggest jack yet. On the way we were trolling again, and we caught two barracuda, which was pretty awesome, but they are not edible, so it was less awesome. They eat all the little coral eating fish which get ciguatera from eating coral so they also have ciguatera, no barracuda meat for us. After making it to Thompson Bay for the night, the first thing I did was go into the Long Island Breeze resort and use Dick’s skype to call Kari and try to justify not talking to her for 2 weeks including Valentines day and our 1 year anniversary… so back me up here, the Bahamian Valentines day is a week after the American… right guys? So, later Mark and I took the other boats on a little cave tour in the caves we explored when we were on the island before and it was incredible all over again. The next day was an awesome adventure, Mark and I hitchhiked down the Dean’s Blue Hole after hearing from many people that we had to see it. After a few minutes walking down the road we get picked up by a big ol’ white Escalade and find ourselves in the company of three 50somethings, two guys and a girl, who when I asked them what they do there, they said they do what Michael Phelps does, swim and… well that other thing he is famous for doing these days, which they obviously did a lot of. And a little down the road, we stop in at a little dive shop and picked up William. William as it turns out, holds the record for free diving, a record which he set last year, in Dean’s blue hole, the very place to which we were en route. I chatted with William on the way, he trains free diving every day, with multiple sponsorships that is how he makes a living, and does spear fishing in his free time, or I guess probably both at the same time really. Once a year he attempts the record dive, he set it two years ago and broke his own record last year with a dive of 285 feet. Inconceivable. So they took us to the blue hole, got out and chatted a bit with us, and then left Mark and I to explore it. The hole is surrounded by cliffs, with parts you can jump off of that are something like 40 feet high. We sat around and marveled at the hole, 50ish feet in diameter and plummeting down into darkness to 600 feet deep. Both Mark and I then took the 40 foot plunge off the cliff into the hole, hopefully you see those pictures. We hitchhiked back, making a stop at Max’s Conch Bar, which had the best conch salad on the island and the best drink I had ever had- coconut water and gin. Man it was good. The next ride was Cecelia, we stopped for some homemade banana bread, and she took us back.
On our way back into Georgetown we ran up the spinnaker sail on Rio Dulce, a brightly colored giant of a sail, and show boated our way through the harbor and back to hamburger beach. I got back just in time to do my poker clinic at 3, the family was all over joyed to see us back, and now it is back to the good ol’ life in Georgetown. It is also worth mentioning a bit of excitement that occurred a couple days ago. I was planning on buying Kari tickets to come down to see me over spring break as a valentines gift, and when I tell her this on Monday… she tells me she already bought tickets and was going to surprise me, holy crap is that girl awesome, I gotta say I am a bit disappointed I ruined the surprise though. So now I have that to look forward to, Brian has volunteered as the chairman of Kids Day in the upcoming cruising regatta, so Mark and I will no doubt play a large part in that, so that will be interesting, and the cold fronts have finally decided to stop blasting us with 20 knot winds and chilling us to the bone with 65 degree weather every day, so we will be able to do some good diving over the next few days, so things are looking good around here in Georgetown, now lets see what happening, in your neck of the woods.

out and about

Those of you who have been checking on my spot know by now that I had a bit of a foray into the world outside of Georgetown a few days ago. I got on the morning cruisers net and asked if any of the boats that are participating in the upcoming race from Georgetown to Long Island would like crew. Fred on Casa MarĂ© took us on, he is a single hander, probably in his mid 60s, and he took on both me and Mark for the trip. He was on an Irwin 35, which turned out to be a pretty nice boat, the build quality wasn’t great, but it was laid out nicely and sailed great. We made the 37 mile course in 5 hours and 42 minutes on the way there and 4 hours 51 minutes coming back, averaging a respective 6.5 and 7.3 knots, so it was pretty quick sailing, winds were around 20 knots and with a following sea on the way home, seems like we were cruising at hull speed the whole way. The hull speed of the boat is the max speed at which it can travel efficiently, above it the bow wave is too big or something like that and it takes much more energy to get more speed, the equation for monohulls is something like the square root of the boats length at waterline times 1.7, which turns out to be 9.3, so I guess we weren’t doing quite hull speed, but we were doin a steady 8 knots for a while, which is cookin for a 35 footer. Out of the around 35 boats in the race we got 13th, better than I was expecting, and once we got there, they had all kinds of activities lined up for us and the other racers. Thursday night we had a dinner at Club Thompson Bay, and the owner, Trifina, cooked up one heck of a meal. Grouper, conch fritters, potato salad, cole-slaw, rice n peas, wings, ribs, mac n cheese, all washed down with some Kalik. We stuffed ourselves to the gills and the three of us waddled back to the dinghy and made our way back to Casa Mare. The next day we went with friends of Fred’s to explore the cave we kept hearing about on the island. It turns out that there is a huge cave in a lady’s backyard just down the beach from where we were anchored. We walked down her driveway and she gave us permission to go check out the cave, so we walked down to the little beach in her backyard and spotted a little sign that said Cave next to a path going into the woods. A couple hundred feet down the path and it took you into a huge room with sun pouring in through holes in the top and roots from trees reaching down the 15 foot drop to find the ground, it was pretty spectacular. Continuing on, as the light became thinner and thinner, the sound of bats became more and more dense. The ceiling never got lower than 12 feet in the middle of the cave, and there were caverns going off to the left and right everywhere as we walked. One tunnel going off to the side of our original path really shocked me with its size, the beam of our flashlights was just swallowed by its depth. We spent an hour or so that day and all day the next day exploring the cave and taking pictures, hopefully I get the pictures up, it is difficult to get good pictures in a zero light environment, we sat the camera down and walked around lighting up the cave with our flashlights while the shutter was open. There were some crazy crabs we found too, bodies about the size of your hand, and bright blue and red… for whatever reason, you couldn’t see the color without a flashlight. After cave exploring we went to the local grocery store and bought pints of ice cream and sat on the deck at Long Island Breeze next to the pool overlooking the bay, it dosnt get much better than that. Ok, so then Friday night, after gorging ourselves Thursday night, the cruisers had a potluck dinner at the Long Island Breeze, and we again stuffed ourselves silly on all the casseroles and pasta and various goodness and desserts we could get our hands on. Fred got an award that night for hospitality in picking up two hitchhikers (me and Mark), which was a pink neck warmer someone brought as a gift, and he wore it as a hat for the rest of the night. Stylin.
Saturday on Long Island, Mark and I decided to go on a bit of an adventure. We hitchhiked the 50 miles or so to the bottom of the island, just happening to get our last ride from the guy who lived at the very last house on the road. We walked on from where the road ended, rounded the tip of the island, which was lined with huge white cliffs and stretched of untouched beaches. There was lots of flotsam, wrecked boats, seaweed, shells. It was insane the amount of shoes that are washed up on the beach there, where do all those shoes come from? Hundreds, literally hundreds of shoes every ¼ mile. A big thing to do on the island is to find sea beans, which are seeds from plants in Africa that float all the way across the ocean and wind up on the beaches here. There is one bean that looks like a mini hamburger, so our goal for the day was to find as many of those as we could, I found 7 all day I think. We walked the shore all the way across the island, scaling cliffs and navigating thick brush and jagged iron rock, both in the light and dark. We walked somewhere between 15 and 700 miles, and after our 9 am start, we finally got back to the road around 8 pm. The kid that picked us up was only going 10 miles or so down the road, but he said that he decided to just take us the whole way, going probably an hour and a half out of his way to take us back to the Breeze, and that is no surprise down here, you see that kind of stuff happen all the time, after we got back, we were sitting by the road because the Breeze was closed, trying to figure out how to get ahold of Fred, when a car stopped cause we were just sitting there, brought us to his house down the road, called Fred on his VHF, and dropped us off at a dock for Fred to dinghy over and get us. They are a different breed down here, the rest of the world could use a little Bahamizing.
When we got back to Georgetown, Grandmother and Grandad were in great spirits, Brian had been serving on them hand and foot, they hadn’t even gotten into our dinghy the entire time we were gone, Brian did it al for them. So, Grandads blood pressure is at a record low, but we are back now so it is starting to rise. They could hardly contain their… excitement… that we were back. So we are back in Georgetown now, the internet hast been working on Stocking for the past few days, but hopefully I will get this up soon, I am also mailing a few things out, some of the cool shells I found, a lucky few might get some hamburger beans, maybe a dead baby shark. Anybody want a conch horn? I have made a few, everyone plays their horn at sundown in the harbor, it is pretty cool, they can also be a great way to wake up roommates/siblings, but ya, just say the word and I will ship you a conch horn. Oh, and also, I have been trying to find someone who has a spare laptop they would be willing to sell me down here with no luck, does anyone have or know someone who has a laptop sitting around they would be willing to sell? That would be great, let me know if you know anything. That’s all for now folks, have a wonnnnderful day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Long Island

Dang, so I am at the Long Island Breeze, where I posted my last post from, and in between then and now Mark and I took an awesome trip down the Island and back. We met the world record holder for freediving, he took us to Deans Blue hole, a 600 foot deep blue hole where he set the world record last year. We went there with another diver Charlie, a guy Tim and his wife Rebecca (I am typing this as much to remember the names for myself as anything) and he brought us to the hole, taked with us there and a bit on the way, and then afterwards we randomly ran into them at Max's conch bar, delicious conch salad. Best drink ever: coconut water and gin. Dosnt sound very good I know, but it is, trust me. Uh, so we got a ride with this awesome old lady who has been camping on Long islands for the winter every year for 15 years, she lives in northern Canada, Got some awesome home made banana bread, man that was a great day. Again, I will be back with a bigger update later, I hope you are all well.


I have been out and about a lot the past few weeks, lots of the time spent in the middle of nowhere, and the time i spent in Georgetown they didnt have functioning internet, so I have been a little out of touch. I am in Long Island right now after spending a few days in Conception, I was so far from anywhere I even missed Valentines day... oops. I will be back in the big city soon, I will fill in the blanks a bit more then.