Saturday, May 30, 2009


It is better to start off with this windswept picture of the 'Poinciana' in the rain than to tell you about the windswept 'everythingelse' and the rain. But windswept it has been, and rain like it isn't going to end. The good goes hand in hand with the bad and when a squall is on approach with the higher gusts, the lightning and "white-out", you do some serious questioning.......... and then the first huge rain drops hit and the downpour begins and you know that the worst is over and the windspeed begins to drop to under 20 knots and your heart rate starts to slow with the eminent deluge. Despite the wind and rain, after two solid days on board, we venture forth to an island, just to get to 'somewhere else'. Not all days are brilliant, though the trees and flowers everywhere dispute that fact. Double click on the photos and you will see.
Below is "SVEA" at anchor in Baker's Bay near Guana Cay with an approaching squall. Ten minutes later,(picture on the right), the same view out of ARITA's window. Kind of speaks for itself without the 'Rock & Roll' being visible.............. Still, tomorrow or some day real soon the sun will come out again.............. Nothing ever stays the same for very long and being at anchor is the safest of all options. We have been watching yachts departing for the US East Coast, who by now, are in the thick of the same mess with nowhere to go except to keep going. ANCHORING is the lowest common denominator. It is the mother of the "de-powering equation". The lowest number in the opposing forces. Good ground tackle beats insurance and a sorry story. Good anchors, good chain, good holding, means the weather passes you by, instead of taking you with it.

Even in the rain, and in between squalls, we have seen some remarkable things. Take this marina in Black Sound, GREEN TURTLE CAY in the photo above, as an example. Great looking yachts, heaps of money, beautifully spaced on the hard-top, all out of the water, all standing on a hard surface with supports beneath them, and all with high centre of gravities, almost ready to topple in a really strong wind. A near perfect set of DOMINOES................Even the three muskateers would agree..... "ALL FALL ONE AND ONE FALL ALL".

On the right and below is the "before, during and after" photos of the passing of the super-yacht "P2". State-of-the-art technology, in yacht design, materials, elctronics and communications. You have to double click on these pics to see how much money has been spent. Look at the cabin windows in the side of the hull almost at water level. This yacht has a draft of 12 feet deep and the top of the mast is so high, it probably has a different weather system up there. It was on its way back from Antigua in the Caribbean. The crew on this mega-yacht, as shown by the nationality flags on the port halyard, are Australian and South African, even though the vessel is Cayman Islands registered and American owned. They must be good sailors, for it can't be that the Corporation was trying to save money on the hired help.

Here's another Aussie sailor sneaking a sip of a Baker's Bay rum punch during our trip to the development project on Guana Cay. The channels for the deep-keeled yachts, require the use of excavators to scour the hard calcified bottoms. The material is loaded on to flat-bottomed barges and taken out to sea for dumping. The same excavator stays on the barge to do this and does it all backwards.

The Queen meantime, has done some excavation of her own on the sea-bed, including this starfish. A star quality starfish.................and then there is tonight's sunset, caught by our 'star' photographer ( hot out of the camera and worthy of a double-click). You know what they say about "Red sky at night....... sailor's delight"... Let's see if it's true. and then the very last photo is included only because we are sick of squalls, gusting winds and rain and for no other reason.................................. whatsoever.

Friday, May 29, 2009

BOUNCING IN THE 'BEEMER'...............

Some day real soon, someone is going to get a picture of us, screaming, flying, bouncing and riding in our BMW............ The white one, with the 15HP Johnston outboard that does at least 60mph on the "Blue Autobahn". I hold on to the throttle on the one side, while the Queen holds on to her body, and the other side............and after each wild flight-ride, we 'discuss' how to do it more gently.......and during those moments of post-traumatic stress, while the Queen re-adjusts her anatomy, and on occassions her attire, we laugh and realise that a bad and bouncy dinghy ride still beats a super-brilliant day in any office.
You see what I mean, the Queen gently walks to the water's edge, adjusts some straps and we are good to go again................................. the bird shakes his head, turns, and walks away in disgust...............

A quick dip in the water and tranquility is restored........ There are so many glorious little islands and coves to explore, for which the dinghy and a relaible outbourd are absolute essentials. We sometimes travel miles in the dinghy and when we plan to cross sections of open ocean, we carry our portable VHF radio with us, just in case. How do you make the call on channel 16 (emercency channel) that says " we are drifting approx. 2 mile S-SE of No-Name Cay, waving madly, while sitting in a white BMW with the top down,..................and we think we might be out of gas"

On one of our trips we went to look at the developments at Baker's Bay, where the northern end of Guana Cay island is being converted to homesites, a golf course and a five-star marina. The expenditure and infrastructure is immense. One of the big winners is the Abaco island population. The project, despite the economy, is currently employing more than five hundred locals, with full time constructon jobs. A real boost in hard times.................and as for the guy in the fancy hat, well,..... he's a surveyor. Not the "theodolite and walkie-talkie" kind you see on the highways,... no, this guy works with his deluxe powerboat, nudges up to a pylon, hits the GPS connected to his laptop and 'voila' the position has been marked on the map for all eternity, or at least until the next hurricane takes it somewhere else........ and after that they will be able to show with absolute certainty where it used to be.

Staying fit and getting enough exercise is getting to be a real problem. These trips of "more on shore" have created " a little on the middle". We have a plan in place to buy bicycles as soon as we return to Florida. The Queen does her yoga in the morning, just as the Sun is making its presence felt, and she paddles around in her floatie, when there is no longer any doubt that the sun has the upper hand and is winning the game.

We took the 'beemer' to "No-Name" Cay and then across to Pelican Cay, a small rocky outcrop barely above water with palm trees, a cottage and a sandy beach, the kind that movies are made for. Across the brilliant water to the back of Green Turtle Cay for a long walk amongst the Australian pine (Casuarinas) and the sea oats.

Back in Green Turtle, we did a little shopping and then climbed the stairs of a building built in 1870 to look down upon the historical commemorative garden honouring the first loyalist settlers, all in bronze, and full of patriotism for the UNION JACK. You should really double-click on this garden. Even the footpath has recently been painted a brilliant red........... After so much exercise, we definitely need to take things a little easier, collapse the AC tent first, then up with the double hammock (thanks Dana & Chris) and add a couple of 'Sundowners'. So what shall we do tomorrow...............................

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LET IT RISE, LET IT SHINE....................

This beautiful home-made loaf of banana bread has just come out of the oven. This is no small feat. The oven rarely rises over 250 degrees but after reeming out the gas line we got it up to 380 degrees. Baking bread has been high on our list of priorities. Who knew you could bake a loaf of bread in a silicon-type molded flexi called a "loafpan". The wonders of science and silicon valley. There is more to follow. Now back in the really old days, bread must also have been on the minds of many, for the British Colonial Government authorised Capt. William Bligh RN, of "BOUNTY" fame, to sail to Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants for transplanting in the West Indies as a food source for the population. The photos below show the happy transplants now growing in the Abacos. The seed is just beginning to thicken out and will grow to football size. These trees are from that original source, albeit a little delayed by Fletcher Christian and the mutiny boys, but that's another story.......

The sun's back out and so is all the Bouganvillea...... And speaking of history.....

One of the really intersting things found in the ABACOS, are some wild horses that date back to Christopher Columbus's second voyage when some horses were brought over from Spain. These horses have roamed wild in the Abacos since then, but their genetic pedigree are original Barbary bloodlines that are now extremely unique. The herd, once over two hundred strong, is down to a very small number and a dedicated group of people is attempting this worthwhile preservation.

In Marsh Harbor there is a converted cargo container made into a library/bookstore where for "A-buck-a-book" you too, can assist the "horse cause". Cruising yachts over the years have donated the books, and "Mimi" the librarian, yachtswoman, horse preservationist, lobbyist and PR person, does a great job in maintaining the hotbox, because in August, the hottest time of the year, you are in and out of there faster than Anne Hesch. I don't want to be name dropping but even one of the horse's curly mane bears a resemblance to Howard Stern............ but that can't be................Anyway, all librarians have their place reserved in heaven.

Moving much more slowly is this conch critter. The two little eyes are found on the end of the lugubrious stalks. The rest of the foot seals the conch opening when he( or she) is pulled out of the water. The residual sand visible, gets filtered by the conch for its food source .......... try that sometime.... filtering your food through sand....

The vast quantities of rain have thrown the 'Flower Switch'. Whole trees are now bursting into flower like these 'Poinsianas' that are also found in the Florida cays and in Key West. Beautiful orchid-like blooms everywhere, though it is hard to beat this chocolate like swirl in a cup that also comes in strawberry, vanilla and black cherry for sheer artistic splendour, and we don't need to describe the taste, let alone the cooling temperature on a day when it is 85 plus in the shade.

What makes the flowers take the "Winner's Trophy" is that the panorama doesn't cost a penny unlike the ice-cream which costs significantly more than several dollars. Bahamian dollars are on a par with the US dollars and are of various colors, almost as colorful as the scenery. The " George Costanza " wallet is an absolute necessity in the Bahamas, causing you to walk with a limp. Poor people walk up straight.

Friday, May 22, 2009


In the last posting we said that the Abaco islands definitely needed the rain......... Well, thats enough now. More than enough. The weather forecast calls for another five days of winds E-SE 15-20 knots gusting higher in T-storms with rain and squalls. You only need to look out of any of the portholes or windows that "they got it right". Everything is wet, not from leaks or incoming rain, but it is impossible to keep the moisture out that is driven by the powerful winds. You can't see the droplets, but you can swim in it as you get about the cabin. 100% humidity and a temperature of 85 degrees fahrenheit and climbing, not that we are alone in this. On every yacht anchored in the area at Marsh Harbor, there are heads peeking out, all feeling the same thing, and trying to formulate an escape plan. .............
Time to slip on a rain jacket, dinghy to town, buy some lettuce, some tom-toms and a cuquee and a packet of pork chops and do some "RAININ' ENTERTAININ".

Anchored close to us is the yacht "VIRGINIA B", a valiant 40, with Jim, Sandy and Roberta on board all ready to see the islands and stuck in the 'muck' just like us. We have swapped stories and adventures, videos and tools, and now we'll share dinner. Normally the BBQ is clamped to one of the stanchions (the upright poles that carry the life-lines), but with the rain we clamp it to one of the support posts in the cockpit, and under cover and it works beautifully. Awesome chops.
Meantime the girls share stories of their own. Sandy had baked a beautiful loaf of cheese-filled bread, hot out of the oven and delivered by dinghy.

Our conch shells on the after-deck and the sea-biscuit have been thoroughly washed in the rain, as has everything else. In walking through town, we found the remnants of an old house now partially occupied by a rain tree. After this week's rain it should have taken up full residency and grown at least to four feet in diameter.
The front hatch on "ARITA" now has a tent over it, with six inch (150mm) clearance at the deck. Air can flow through the boat, but the rain is kept out.(Well most of it anyway).

The grey skies and rain continue. The crew of "MOANA" also came by, for a visit bringing beautiful hand-crafted presents for the Queen. Their guests, David & Joanne were given the celebratory first drink of 'Ricardo's Mango rum' in a conch shell, sipping it from the fluted foot (spout). This has become our new custom with first visitors. If they come back we know they liked it. If they swallow it too quickly and fall over dead, we are fully set up for a quick buriel at sea. We certainly don't want to lose our reputation over this.

And tonight Claudia and Lino Basilico are joining us for dinner. They are from the Italian yacht " U.D.F.( no, that is not the name of their yacht. The real name is "L'Uomo del Faro III", which is longer than a sleepless night, if you are going to spell that over the VHF radio, like Lima, Uniform, Oscar, Mike.......It means 'Third man in the lighthouse'. Now who would have guessed that one.Maybe they have run out of good boat names in Italy) They were on board ARITA once before, while we dealt with copying navigational charts. Ours to them for the US East Coast, and theirs to ours for the Bays and anchorages of Cuba.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


By now, the whole of the US East coast is being bashed by some serious gale weather and we in the Bahamas are getting our fair share with winds and squalls in the 30 knot range. Not fun, but the rain part is definitely needed in the islands. We have made it ashore in the dinghy, to a delightful little "Cafe-la-Florence", for a club sandwich,a bacon-turkey melt, a drink and some glorious fast speed internet.(Forgot what that was like). Out there in the rain, the yachts are 'rockin & rollin' but we are just "dandy and eatin candy".

Everywhere in the sand dunes we have found bushes of 'sea grapes' growing, but here in Marsh Harbor, we actually found sea grape trees. These trees were laden with unripe clusters and the leaves are the size of a six inch plate. We tracked down a Mrs. Paranell Darville from whom we bought some home made "SEA GRAPE JAM". Normally the birds get the grapes long before people do, but she still had some jars from last year's harvest.

Now here are two Classic yachts for you. "SVEA" on the right and this John Alden designed gaff-ketch " CARIB II" on the left. The white-hulled "CARIB II" was built in 1927, and as its age progressed, it became almost impossible to save it, because the planking had been fastened to the frames using iron fastenings, most of which had corroded away. The current owner then encased the hull in fibreglass, some 3/4" (20mm) thick and put a de-humidifier down below decks, to suck up the moisture from the planks. By the time he had removed more than 300 gallons of water, the yacht floated no lower than it did before, despite the addition of the fibreglass. A great solution worth bearing in mind when my skin starts to fall apart and my bones go rusty.

Boats really are fascinating. We met a delightful couple on a vintage Dutch-built steel yacht " MOANA", designed for shallow waters and with an enviable fridge/freezer, that would make even an urban dweller do a double take. We need to spend more time with Tom & Lorraine Serwatka, to learn the secret of this design since their fridge motor is the same as ours and we barely see the remains of where ice might once have been.
Amongst their many quaint fittings on board, was this signal flag locker. A work of art, now replaced with VHF and "Romeo, romeo, bravo, charlie stuff". Then again by the time you selected the flags and strung them up on your halyard, your signalling party would have left town and sold the boat..................... progress has its price.

Had to go into town to a hardware store to get some fittings, and saw the Queen strolling through the plumbing section. Caught her a few times looking enviously at some impossible hardware for a yacht. (Not exactly hard to figure out what she is thinking, now is it?) Caught her again, in the on-board shower later. This is a hard one to solve except that we manage to go ashore wherever we can, to take endless (and I mean ENDLESS)showers, to wash hair and clean the nooks and crannies. On shore showers are big and we can double-up to save water.