Still Afloat!

Where do I start??? We were lost for awhile, but we’re found again!
This sailing thing is taken some getting use to! We left our cozy bay just below Fajardo in Puerto Rico and sailed up the east coast, hucked it and sailed along the north coast of Puerto Rico, skipped over the treacherous Mona Passage, bee bopped along the north coast of the Dominican Republic, as we neared Haiti we decided we needed a break! This straight sailing is for the birds, by then it had dawned our fourth day at sail. Only a few weeks ago I fretted over our first over night sail, now I’m feeling like an old salt….very crusty indeed! During the day, nothing but water and water and water. Oh and these guys….

Dolphins! Lots of dolphins!

They visit us every morning on the open water, play in front of the bow, just down right showin off! The nights exchange blue water for black skies and the occasional light. Then the guessing game begins – ‘what’s the light?’ another sailor, a mean gargantuan freighter, maybe a big city light cruise boat? Hmmmm? These mystery lights only come near on my watch, when Joe is sawing logs down below. ‘Psst, psst, hey you better get up here!’ He pops up in the companion way, stretching, yawning, ‘holy shit, where’d that guy come from?’ ‘He’s chasing us, that’s why I woke ya!’ ‘Well….as long as your up, I think I’ll go take a nap!’ Boy, that worked out!
Back to our adventure….my butt is sore from sitting, my legs ache from not moving more than six steps in any direction, I have bruises on each hip from being jostled, I don’t smell pretty (quick rinses in the cockpit probably don’t leave me smelling like flowers), and I’m getting cranky! By now our weather report is old… why you ask? No wifi on the high seas because we’re cheap! We spent big moola on an SSB, the husband pleaded his case a couple of months ago ‘we need it to get weather when we are out in the open water’, we spent the money, he spent the time installing it, and it doesn’t work! Said husband thinks it’s a connection??? Let’s head north to the Turks and Caicos, beautiful water, sandy beaches, I’m in! Not 30 minutes into our route change, the seas got big, the wind got bigger, and our comfort level quickly deteriorated. ‘Hmmmm, let me give the SSB another whack’, after a very garbled weather forecast ‘it ain’t looking good babe’. Not the response I was looking for! Turns out we’re on the edge of a storm. We’re not making any headway, the boat is groaning and grunting, bucking and jumping. ‘What are my options?’ ‘The way I see it….none!’ Not a position a gal likes the be in! ‘With these conditions the Turks and Caicos are out, turning around to Dominican Republic and tucking into Luperon is out, Haiti is a no no, Cuba is not recommended, how do ya feel about the Bahamas?’ ‘Well, the Bahamas are nice!’….I suppose!
So, day turned to night our conditions worsened, we changed our heading, new destination – Great Inagua. The night is funny….in some ways it’s easier – you can’t see the conditions, whatcha don’t see can’t hurt ya? This evening it scared the beegesus out of us – the swell behind us was so big it would break on starboard aft and pitch us sideways….not a good feeling in the dark. We’re both seasoned boaters, but apparently not seasoned enough! I got the ‘go bags’ ready! How many ‘go bags’ should one have, I pondered? I stopped at four, rating them highest importance as in ‘don’t jump overboard without it’ to ‘if I have time grab it’. Napping down below was not an option, instead we donned life jackets and strapped in our safety lines. Needles to say it was a looooooong nite! We timed our arrival to hit the southern edge of Great Inagua as our fifth day began, thankful for the lighthouse.

Now, all we had to do was round the corner without letting the big swell behind us roll us over! ‘Life jackets off, I see land!’ Whew! We dropped anchor at Matthew Town, checked the watch – 98 hours of sailing, jumped in the Super Dinghy to Clear In. The Bahamas require a visiting permit to enjoy their pristine waters….a whopping $300! ‘At this point I don’t care, pay the lady honey!’ A couple of forms to be filled out, 300 big ones, a new stamp in my passport, let’s go shopping! The guide book states ‘Great Inagua is the last provisioning point before heading south – groceries, restaurants, fuel, hotel, etc.’. We walked town, six minutes later we scratched our heads ‘this cannot be right, we musta missed it!’ Nope we didn’t miss it, that was town. The Company Store is the grocery market – canned food, condiments, cleaning supplies. Hmmmm??? Produce consisted of some scary potatoes and shriveled onions….okay. The dairy case held some eggs, cream cheese and cheddar cheese…..okay. Frozen freezers had meatballs (weird), mystery frozen meat in different colors and sizes (if you could peak through the freezer burn), bags of frozen okra and Chinese stir fry…..alrighty. I think I’m good! We found a bar that serves food, ordered a cold one, turns out we couldn’t get food, back to the boat we went. Never found the gas station, no access to transport fuel if we did find fuel because the government dock, where one is supposed to tie up, was scary with exposed rebar and taken by a boatload of Haitians waiting for weather.

Next stop – Man of War Bay, on the north east corner the island to tuck in and wait out the weather. Ahhhhh, our own little deserted island!

A day or two, and then island hop the Bahamas we go! Two days quickly became three, three days doubled to six, we’re gonna run out of food and beer! Joe bicycled back to town, maybe the market got a new shipment??? I stayed back with the boat making sure nothing went wrong with our moorage. Speaking of moorage….how does one stay safe in bad weather, shallow water, and coral heads everywhere? One huge ass Bruce anchor with 120 feet of chain, another equally huge ass Bruce with 50 feet of chain combined with 120 feet of rope, and 600 feet of line tied ashore to a concrete pier, all of this for anchoring in 12 feet of water….we were going nowhere! Joe is old fashioned ‘if you’ve got it, you should use it’! This kept us busy, busy is good, we had to route out that tackle away from any unsuspecting coral. Back to Joe’s excursion – Eighteen round trip miles on a foldable bike later (and one very sore rump)….I pick him up in the Super Dinghy. ‘Well, how’d ya do?’ ‘Not good babe!’ Turns out, not good babe translates into – a dozen eggs, shelf milk (6 month lifespan, desperate for coffee), and lifesaving Cheetos.
As the days wore on, we completed more boat projects – it was a bad connection on the SSB, she works great and has bad news every morning – no break in the storm. We snorkeled and snorkeled, set off for land and hiked every corner we could, we found we’re just not good sit arounders! The snorkeling was great – fish, coral, stingrays, sea turtle and a lobster! We’re still scared of the reef fish and their ciguatera poisoning, who wants to be stranded on a deserted island and need medical attention? And I mean stranded, because I’m not riding nine miles on a foldable bike to look for a doctor that may or may not be there. So no catching, just a lot of looking!
Then one day a little aluminum boat gets dragged down the beach pushed into the water, one guy driving, two guys in wetsuits manned with spears. Yes, we got the binoculars out and watched. After about an hour and what looked like a few things tossed into the boat, they headed back to the beach to load up. ‘I think you should go barter!’ ‘Huh’, the husband grunts? We have a brand new bottle of Patron and an unopened bottle of Sky, but no mixers, see if they’ll trade, maybe they have lobster! Everyday we had been hunting for lobster and in all our looking we only found one and he out smarted us. ‘Okay!’ Off goes the husband in the Super Dinghy, barring bottles of booze. I’m spying with the binoculars, totally feeling like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop on a stakeout! Joe comes back successful! The vodka was a no go, turns out it’s better to barter with tequila! One bottle of Patron Silver nets a four pound grouper! We have dinner! The fisherman (okay spearman) had four grouper, one conch (which they wouldn’t part with), and no lobster. Not too bad, not too bad! Grouper is on the ‘potentially poisonous’ fish list, but somehow it seems safer if a local speared it instead of us!
Chris Parker, our SSB weatherman, becomes our bestie. We listen to his report every morning, it looks as if we’ll get a break in the weather come Sunday! Yea! Sunday will be day nine on our ‘private island’.
Our bay is four miles wide, the sea is too big for the Super Dinghy to adventure so she makes here and go trips ferrying us back and forth to shore, 600 feet away. Some days we swim to shore and feel real adventurous doing so, however it’s still winter, the wind is howling, it’s cold! Most days it’s warmer in the water than outside of it! The beautiful sandy beach on shore calls to….what are you to do? Beach picnics, happy hour on sand – thank you Kathy for our Initials Inc Beach Blanket, the perfect beach accessory!

We love our foldable bicycles, they help feel like we’re conquering the world! On one such day, we set off on an exploration of great magnitude….Morton’s Salt is harvested here! Yep, the same guys you’re thinking of – blue cardboard cylinder with the girl and her umbrella; their factory is stationed on the other side of our bay.

What an operation, it’s how this island survives. How does it work? There are huge fields, miles and miles, they flood them with salt water, an excavator scrapes the salt into piles as it dries, conveyors come and pick up the salt, salt is then taken to the factory where it is washed and sorted by size, then loaded onto huge barges and is shipped to the US! Pretty cool! At this point, we’re seriously considering applying for a job….what if we never get to leave our little island?
Turns out the bad weather isn’t ready to depart, therefore neither are we. Sunday is a now a no go. Chris is giving us a window on Monday, as a maybe. ‘I’ll take it, I’m all deserted island out!’ We are also rationing peanut butter and beer! How many cans of tuna can a sane person eat?
Monday dawns (day 10), we hop out of bed, tune into Chris and decide to go for it! We had hoped for this the evening before – Super Dinghy was stowed on her davits, Tireless Tohatsu was fastened on deck, all ground tackle was pulled except old faithful with her 120 feet of chain, in the cabin everything was snug as a bug in a rug….we were outta here! An hour later we had tucked our tails and ran back to safety, we scared the shit out of ourselves, the sea was enormous. Maybe we should get a job at the salt factory???
The good news….Monday was a slim window of opportunity, Wednesday was the sure thing. I’m all about a sure thing….so, Wednesday it is!
Now to keep ourselves entertained! We saved some inedible pieces of the grouper for bait. Let’s go fishing! ‘Babe, we’ve got something!’ Then the coolest thing EVER happened….we caught a shark!

A nurse shark….but still a freakin shark!

She was five foot in length, not super happy, but not man eating. We could never eat five feet of shark, after apologizing to her we cut her loose and away she swam. Now let me remind you – I grew up fishing for trout in a river, spearing catfish and small mouth bass in a lake….a shark was outta this world!
The next evening we managed to bring in a jack, he was cut loose too, since he’s mentioned as a contender on our ‘poisonous fish list’.
Okay….so this fishing isn’t too bad – we can catch, we’re just too scared to keep! Let’s go back to the shark….we’ve been snorkeling these waters everyday, for days, never once have we seen a shark….I wonder if she has friends?!?!
It feels like Groundhog Day….Wednesday dawns and we repeat our ritual. Chris says go for it….we’re a glutton for punishment, so we go for it! Out of our safe cove into the unprotected waters….still hairy, but Joe says we can handle it ‘it’ll put hair on your chest!’ Why is it, men always think that’s a good thing???
A lot of rocking and rolling, the swell is on our starboard side, we aim for the troughs. Nothing but blue….blue water as far as the eye can see.

Thirty-seven nautical miles is our first point of concern, Hogsty Reef – over 200 boats are sunk in a graveyard around this reef, we definitely don’t wanna join them! Thirty-five nautical miles later is our next obstacle, Mira Por Vos Cays translated ‘look out for yourself’ – a swift cut with a knot current, rock heads, reefs, banks, and cays, which we will arrive at in the dark. No sweat! We keep cruising – past Acklins Island, Crooked Island, a pod of whales (yep, whales!), hello Long Island….hey we’re ahead of schedule! Hmmmm….it’s daylight, maybe we should swing into Clarence Town – pirate some wifi and send out some ‘we’re still a float’ emails, grab some lunch, take a swim, see another mug besides each other’s….okay!
Back on the water! Our detour was a great idea! Dropped the hook, made some lunch, successful email launch, and a snorkel which netted 2 conch and a bunch of entertainment watching my ‘Conch Killer’ try to extract the slimy guys.

Fifteen more hours of sailing and hello Georgetown….we can’t wait!

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