Jumentos, Bahamas to Ft. Pierce, FL March 22 to April 7, 2006

Click on the above thumbnail for a map of points visited during this time period.

Heading north and back to the USA...

But for brief intervals, we have been away from wi-fi connections, and so this entry will cover a lot of territory.

On our way out, we spent a night at Water Cay, at the north end of the Jumentos.   Made it all the way back to George Town the next day, arriving just in time to reprovision before the stores closed.  Heard radio chat about a band playing in town, but we were too tired and not in the mood for partying after being in the out islands.

Early the next morning we were again on the move.  Stopped at Blackpoint, on Great Guana Cay, where we made reservations to have dinner at Lorraines.   All meals are served at 7 pm, and we went ashore at about 4:30, so we had plenty of time to walk the settlement and see the sights.  Outside of many, perhaps most, of the dwellings, ladies (and a few men) were busily weaving fronds into long long strips that were six or eight inches wide.  We stopped and visited with one elderly couple, and learned that the strips were sold by the fathom to basket, bowl, and hat makers in Nassau.  Continuing on our walk, we came upon the "Garden of Eden", whose name we had heard, but about which we knew little.  Just as we were about to begin taking pictures, there appeared Willie Rolle, the property owner and creator, who offered to give us a guided tour in exchange for a donation of whatever magnitude we found appropriate.  And so he did, explaining as we went from piece to piece of contorted fragments of wood, stone and shell, what he thought each shape resembled.  He also had an incredible variety of plants growing, not in a fertile flat garden, but rather with each plant in a separate hollow in the pitted stone that was his yard. We were privileged to get tastes from many of the trees, bushes, and vegetables.  Later, as we enjoyed a drink in the local bar, where we were the only non-locals (read: whites) Willie came in and sat next to us.  What does a local drink?  Well, many of the folks were sipping the Bahamian beer "Kalik", but Willie ordered a half-pint of coconut rum, from which he poured his own drinks into a glass of ice provided by the proprietor.   Conversation revealed that Lorraine also served beer, and was open before the appointed meal time, so we finished our drinks and bid our farewells and joined other cruisers at Lorraines.   We expected Lorraine to be as old, full figured, and, um, "weathered", as the staff had been in all of the other restaurants, but she turned out to be an energetic young woman who runs the place by herself, doing all of the cooking and waiting.   So who does the bar keeping then?  The customers!   Wanna beer?   Help yourself, and just keep a running tab on a sheet of paper from the pads provided on the bar.  When everyone is through eating, the customers just queue up at the bar and identify their bar tab (usually labeled by boat name :-) ) and report the nature of the meals.  Using a handy calculator, Lorraine soon has a "bill" to present verbally.  The food?  Delicious!  Barb enjoyed fish, and I had ribs that were to die for.

With a front due to arrive, with the characteristic shift in winds that clock from the southeast around through southwest to west to north and then eventually back to east and then southeast, it was necessary the next morning to seek a more protected anchorage.  And so we continued northward to a by-now-favorite protected anchorage between Big and Little Majors Spot, just north of Staniel Cay.  Unfortunately, we are not the only cruisers that appreciate the exceptional protection;  the anchorage was quite crowded by the time we arrived.  Like a dog looking for the most comfortable position on a rug, we circled the area, weaving through the many vessels.   Found the perfect spot at the north end, with just enough room.  The sailboat to our starboard had anchored only moments before us, and was soon out with his dinghy and lookie bucket, checking his anchor.   While he was at it, he prudently checked the anchor of the 72' motor yacht that was at his stern.   And then came over and checked ours.   He reported that we were well set, but that the motor yacht was not, and that when he had so reported to the yacht, he had learned that they only had 45' of scope and a Danforth anchor!  The yacht was the northern most vessel, at a spot where the anchorage narrowed considerably, and so they had no intention of increasing their scope, since that would put them in danger of swinging into the rocky shore when the wind changed directions.  What the sailor did not tell the yacht captain, but perhaps should have, was a two-part bit of bad news.  1.  45' was totally inadequate for the projected winds and the size of the yacht  2.  Danforth anchors hold very well, so long as the pull is in the direction of the original set.   They are notorious for not resetting if the direction of the pull changes, as it surely would when the wind clocked and/or the tide changed direction.  If the yacht were to drag, it could well come crashing into us or the sailboat.  It took only about 15 minutes for the dog named "Tusen Takk II" to get up and move to another, not so comfortable but much less crowded and safer rug.

The clocking took place quite quickly -- by the next morning the winds were already out of the northeast.   Big smiles on the face of the Admiral.  The anchorage at Sampson has marvelous protection from any wind with "east" in its name.  And if one is lucky enough to be able to grab a spot right in front of the marina, the free wi-fi reaches all the way out to the boat!  A very early departure insured that we were "lucky", and Barb used the wi-fi and Skype to make arrangements to have the boat hauled and the bottom painted at Ft. Lauderdale in late April.  We stayed for several days.  I got a few short runs in -- the road is only 1/2 mile long!   Back and forth got so boring!  We took the dinghy back down to Big Majors Spot to visit Piggy Beach, where we were finally lucky enough to see the "wild" pigs that live on the uninhabited cay.  We learned that there had very recently been a plane wreck.  at Sampson.  Seems a plane on floats was in the process of taking off, going through the very spot in which we were anchored, when a sailboat departing the marina popped out of the cut and appeared right in front of the plane.   The plane missed the sailboat, but hit the bushes at the top of the hill immediately beyond it.  The impact caused the plane to spin about rather than tumble, and so it simply slid down the back side of the hill, remaining upright.  The pilot walked away without any injuries.  Bet he needed new underwear, though.   There were many very large yachts in the marina.   One day when Barb went ashore to try to buy some lobster, she overheard one of the large vessels ordering eleven.  They didn't ask the price.   Barb did.  Twenty-five dollars for a single lobster.   Since we had earlier paid $25 for twelve lobsters at Bimini, she declined.

On 3/29 we moved on up to the Exuma Land and Sea Park moorings at Warderick Cay.  As we approached and were getting our mooring assignment via VHF, we were asked to delay, since a sailboat had run aground near the entrance and was blocking the narrow channel of the anchorage.  At the request of the distressed skipper, the staff of the Park were assisting by attempting to use a dinghy to pull/push the vessel off.  They got him moved over enough that we could slide by, and we proceeded to our assigned mooring ball.   We immediately lowered our dinghy and went up to the headquarters to sign in.   Looked out the window and there was the sailboat, now right in front of the HQ, stuck again!  The tide was really ripping, but coming in, so the prudent thing to do would have been to kedge off with an anchor and wait to be lifted off by the rising water.   But nope.  The skipper had again requested assistance in being pulled off.  All the bystanders up at the HQ winced.  After several abortive efforts that turned the boat this way and then that, broadside to the current, the skipper finally gave up and waited.   We were back on board when the staff dinghy came on down the channel, its skipper waving his hands vigorously to show the sailor the deep water of the channel.  The vessel took the buoy next to us. The next morning the sailor did a quick dive to check for damage, and discovered that his rudder had broken off and disappeared! 

Judy runs the office and does the VHF at HQ.  Very competent.  Joy to work with.  She provided a recommendation for a dive site, and so we took the dinghy down to Hall's Pond Cay where I dove Jeep Reef.  Barb, nervous about the strong currents in the area, stayed on board so she could come get me if I were swept away from the dinghy.  I, nervous about the currents, stayed close to the dinghy and was not swept away. 

Faithful readers will remember that Warderick is the host of Boo Boo Hill, where cruisers leave signs with their boat names.  This time we were prepared; our sign can be seen in the pictures below. 

We also spent a day as volunteers at the Park.  We drew garbage burning and sign painting duties.  Cf. pics.  British couple Phillip and Katherine, owners of a new 48' North Sea Krogen called Jabberwock, were also at the Park, and also volunteered.  The next day we went on an extended hike over the paths of Warderick.  My sandals gave up the ghost, and I had to use my handkerchief to do an emergency repair.

Shroud Cay was our next stop.  We had missed it on the way down, and were anxious to explore the extensive mangrove-lined creeks in the interior.   Trouble was, the tides were wrong when we arrived, so we cut our dinghy exploration short, had lunch beside an interesting open well located in the middle of a small, saucer-shaped cay, and then returned to T.T. II, where we traded the dinghy for kayaks.

Short cruise up to Highbourne Cay the next day, where we visited the hoity-toity marina (filled with mega-yachts) while waiting for slack tide so we could dive Highbourne Cay Reef.  We both dove this one (and once again stayed close to the dinghy.)  After the dive we continued north, there being nothing at Highbourne to keep us.  Spent the night anchored off of Allen's Cay, famous for its iguana population and one of only a few Bahamian Cays that still have the so-ugly-they-are-cute creatures.

We had no interest in returning to Nassau, and so the next day (4/4) we crossed the banks a little to the north over to Douglas Channel, where we broke out into the NE Providence Channel and had a clear deepwater passage to Little Harbour, in the Berry Islands.   I caught a tuna in the deep water.   Barb had given me a sushi kit, and so we had fresh -- exceptionally fresh -- sushi that night.  The rice balls fell apart in the first batch, but I had it down by the second.  Miso soup, salad, Nigiri-sushi, wasabi, soy sauce, and sake.  Yummy!   Blush.   What have we done to deserve this?

Went exploring by kayak the next morning.   No one home at the (very) small settlement, not counting dogs, ducks, and chickens.   Did some shelling, and found a few things to add to the collection growing as a consequence of Barb's latest passion.   Left shortly before noon to cruise up the east side of the Berrys.   Shallow water reaches out surprisingly far on the that side, and I had to go way out in order to get to deep water in order to troll for fish.  (Trolling in shallow water almost always results in nothing but Baracudda.)   But it paid off:  caught a Cero -- a member of the mackerel family.   Blush.  What have we done to deserve this? 

Since the winds were at that point out of the northwest, our destination was the anchorage off of the Beach Club, just across from the airport at Bullock's Harbour on Great Harbour Cay.  Took our kayaks in and I ran while Barb beachcombed.  Then enjoyed some drinks at the Beach Club, where we were the only "tourists".   The other customers constituted a congenial subset of the substantial number of folks from the States that have retired to the island.   Learned that an Art Show was scheduled for the coming weekend, and returned to the boat expecting to stay for that.   Alas, a check of the weather forecast and a discussion with our weather guru Chris revealed that foul weather was also due over the weekend, and worse, unstable conditions into much of next week.   We needed to be back to Stuart by April 14, and so we decided not to gamble on a later window.   And so we left the Bahamas "early", taking advantage of a gorgeous weather window.   The next morning (4/5) we cruised up to the tip of the Berrys to stage until the appropriate time to leave, given the time of day we wanted to arrive back in the good old USA.   There are two cruise ship "camps" at the top of the Berrys -- one on Great Stirrup and one on Little Stirrup.   We passed a huge Norwegian cruise ship off of Great Stirrup, and staged between the two Stirrups.   Departed shortly after 1pm, and cruised through the rest of the day and through the night and into the next morning, arriving at Ft. Pierce shortly before noon on 4/7.   The seas were table-top flat almost all of the way --kicking up only a little (2' ?) as we approached the inlet.  And while still in Bahamian waters I caught four mahi-mahi before it got dark.  After getting settled into a slip at the Harbortown Marina -- no anchoring off permitted by Immigration -- we made the phone call to Immigration to report our arrival and give our location (Marina and slip number) and Immigration Number (secured before leaving the USA  for a $25 fee), in exchange for a many-many-many-digit-long "clearance number" , and then a quick taxi ride to the nearby International Airport for a mandatory visit to the "Homeland Security" office where the officer barely glanced at our passports and quickly confirmed that our clearance number had indeed appeared in his computer.  What a farce.  As if we couldn't have ditched any terrorist passengers before catching the taxi.   But the government got their $25 fee and we got stuck with the $40 taxi fare.

And so we are back in the States, feeling somewhat nostalgic about leaving the Bahamas.   What is so great about the Bahamas?   Well, during the three months we were there, we experienced virtually no insects, low humidity, comfortable temperatures, gin clear waters, an atmosphere so unpolluted that the stars were bright all the way down to the horizon, beautiful sights, fantastic diving and snorkeling, great  fishing and spearfishing, and the pleasure of meeting many interesting and friendly people -- both cruisers and locals.   We will go back!  We are anxious to not only revisit some of our favorite places, but also to continue our travels further down into the Caribbean.   Speaking of which, we have mentioned before having read An Embarrassment of Mangoes, the story of a Toronto couple who took two years off from their high-pressure jobs in the publishing field in order to sail to the Caribbean.  Great book.  Guess who was in the the Harbortown Marina?  Yup, Ann Vanderhoof and her husband are back on the boat headed once again to the Caribbean.   Ann has a contract for another book, which promises to contain more accounts of her encounters with interesting people and new friends, as well as more of her fabulous recipes.   Barb got her copy of Mangoes  autographed, and didn't even feel embarrassed about acting like a groupy!   :-)

Sign in Black Point village

Garden of Eden, Black Point

Chuck w/ Willie, owner and creator of Garden of Eden

Willie explaining one of his creations

"Parrot"

"Woman washing hair"

Sunset at Black Point

Plane among anchored boats at Sampson

Wrecked plane at Sampson

Another angle

And another

Hill behind TT II was initial impact point of plane

Another view of impact point

Piggy Beach on Big Majors Spot

The pigs

Chuck installing our boat sign on Boo Boo Hill-Warderick Wells

Mission accomplished

Trash detail at Warderick Wells - we volunteered our services one day and this was one of our assignments

We burned all the garbage that would burn on a small island near Warderick

Barb saved the cable reel for a table

Chuck used his artistic talents to paint a new sign for the Exuma Land and Sea Park and Barb painted the footprints

Having lunch after hiking all over the island on some very rough trails

Barb trying to muster courage to walk on path next to a very deep hole

She made it!

Palm leaf

Watch out for poisonwood trees as they are much worse than poison ivy and oak! If you scratch the infected area, you will end up in a hospital.

Ruins from plantation settled by British Loyalists after Revolutionary War

Wall built around plantation to keep in the livestock

All that's left of the house

The rough terrain was too much for Chuck's old sandals - the straps broke so he used his handkerchief to keep one on

Lunch at Shroud Cay natural well

The well - we did not drink out of it but supposedly it is safe and is a place the natives on other islands used to come to get fresh water

Kayaking at Shroud Cay - tide was too low to get in the creeks with our dinghy

Barb exploring a side creek

Anchorage at Shroud Cay

Iguanas on Allens Cay (found only on a couple of the islands in the Exumas)

More iguanas

Shelling in the Berrys near Little Harbour

Starfish laying in a few inches of water

Tuna Chuck caught and later served as sushi for dinner

Cruise ship at Great Stirrup Cay

Empty resort on Little Stirrup Cay awaiting a cruise ship

Ann Vanderhoof, author of "An Embarrassment of Mangoes", signing Barb's copy of her book.