Friday, March 24, 2017

Meet The Parents

We had a great nine days with my mom and dad aboard Windbird, with decent (albeit a bit coldish) weather and cooperative winds and spectacular sailing. We made it to Georgetown on Tuesday morning, put Windbird on a mooring, and then both my parents and I flew out yesterday afternoon. They were heading back to Minneapolis, while I came to Atlanta for an eye appointment and FAA physical today and a 4-day work trip (JFK, LAX) starting tomorrow. Meanwhile Dawn and Piper are staying on the boat for what may be the last good blow of the season.

Boy, it's been ten days since I've posted. I'll try to summarize:
  • Mar 15, Mom & Dad flew in from Nassau on a Flamingo Air Be-99. It was the middle of a norther, making for an extremely slow and extremely wet 1.5mi dinghy ride back to the boat. I should know by now that wet/rough conditions = MAX 2 people & bags in the dinghy at one time. Later I took them around Big Major's to feed the pigs and then over to Thunderball Grotto to snorkel and feed the fish. Their new snorkel equipment wasn't working great - not impressed with the one-piece over-the-face mask-snorkel combos. We met up with Lani, Greenstone, and Saber Tooth in the Big Majors anchorage. 
  • Mar 16, a nice 19nm sail up to Warderick Wells (close-reaching and then beating in N-NNE winds). Got a ball at the very end of the north mooring field. Visited park headquarters, took my parents snorkeling at the Ranger's Garden site. Was just after slack water and the current came up a lot quicker than expected, and I ended up dragging my mom back to the dinghy and then going to rescue my dad who was clinging to another mooring buoy for dear life. This was only 20 minutes after low tide. 
  • Mar 17, wind was howling from NE. Took the dinghy around Warderick Wells to the Hog Cay anchorage where we snorkeled and explored Pirate's Lair and Hog Cay. Later we hiked up Boo Boo Hill. It got pretty chilly in the afternoon so we scratched our planned afternoon snorkel expedition.
  • Mar 18, wind was still up above 15 kts so we did a nice broadish reach to Conch Cut via the banks, then beat up to Cambridge Cay, total 13nm. It was just approaching high tide so we took the Kiss Rock entry and never saw less than 8.5 feet. We loaded up the dinghy and took mom and dad to the Sea Aquarium, which they absolutely loved. On the way back we explored the Pasture Cay/Bell Cay area a bit, and then went hiking on Cambridge after we got back. The wind was still a bit too high to make the trip out to the Rocky Dundas, which was a bit disappointing as I didn't make it out there on either visit. Maybe next time. 
  • Mar 19, sailed 22nm from Cambridge Cay down to Black Point via Exuma Sound. The wind was NNW 10-14 kts so we set our spinnaker pole for the first time and gybed back and forth between a broad reach and wing-on-wing, which worked pretty great. We made good time on a really pleasant sail. The wind was just far enough west that the Black Point anchorage was pretty rolly/choppy, but not untenable. We really enjoyed the cute little settlement; it has a lot to offer cruisers and I can see why people stay there a while. 
  • Mar 20, sailed 12nm to Little Farmers Cay via the banks on a beam reach in NE 15 kts. We went a little further to take the deeper-draft route in and never saw less than 9 feet on a midtide; we initially went around to between Little Farmers and Great Guana Cays and found it a bit too rough for our liking. Besides, the moorings appeared to be in sorry shape and the bottom looked fairly rocky and scoured, so I decided to backtrack to anchor on the SW side of the island (which everyone else had done). There were several boats we know in the anchorage so we spent some time visiting Crimson Katherine, Brown Eye Girl, and Aura before heading into the quaint little town. We had dinner reservations at Ocean Cabin, which was a pretty fantastic meal; the owner, Terry Bain, is also an interesting and funny guy. Before we went to bed we put the dinghy on the foredeck and prepped the boat for an early departure.
  • Mar 21st, we were awake at 2am, anchor up at 2:30, and bashing our way out of Farmer's Cut by 3am. The wind was down to NE at 12 kts and the early departure was in order to go at slack high water to avoid a wind-vs-current was still pretty gnarly in the cut, a lot worse than I expected. Here's the really bad part: Dawn had been on the foredeck with the spotlight to assist in our somewhat intricate route around the south end of Farmer's (we had a track from the previous day) and I called her back to the cockpit just a little too late and she didn't hear me. In the next ten seconds it went from slight swell to bashing into near-breakers, and she was stuck on the foredeck clinging for dear life to the rolled-up Yankee. Bad, bad, bad. At least she had the good sense to not try to come back during that. In my sleepy pre-sail preparation I neglected to run jacklines, which we normally consider mandatory at night. It was a really stupid oversight that could've turned disastrous if we'd buried the bow in a breaker. The rest of the night passage went really well (other than my Mom getting seasick); my dad in particular really enjoyed it, and I'm glad we did it. But looking back, I think our previous success in timing cuts to avoid rough conditions had made me a bit complacent. 
We arrived at Coral Cay Cut just after 10am, having passed by a good 15 outbound boats including a sister Tayana 42 (Green Ghost) that hailed us on the VHF to tell us we looked good. We sailed all the way through Elizabeth Harbour to the anchorage at volleyball beach. We took the first free mooring ball we saw, but subsequent inspection showed it was completely inadequate for anything other than completely calm conditions (which we had Tuesday night). We took the dinghy over to Georgetown, walked around, and checked out the services on offer. It was smaller than I expected, albeit the largest town I'd been in for nearly a month. Right next to the dinghy bridge I was delighted to see Texas Two Step, former buddy-boaters with my friends Lance and Andy on S/V Yolo. I had actually met Leslie in Ft. Pierce during my boat-shopping roadtrip with Lance in May, but this was my first time meeting Dave. He's a commercial helicopter pilot (specializing in long-line heavy lift) and we hit it off pretty well.

Wednesday morning I dove on a number of nearby moorings and found a couple of suitable ones; we moved Windbird right away. Dave and Leslie moved T2S to a nearby mooring later in the morning since they were flying out Thursday, then Dave took me spearfishing outside of Elizabeth Cay. It was a little rough out in the sound but I really enjoyed it. Dave is pretty good at it and I was mostly watching - the few opportunities I had to take a shot, I was too slow and moving a bit too much in the surge. I did quite a bit of hunting through the various holes and crags of the reefs, though. My free-diving abilities, while nothing to write home about, have drastically improved in the last six weeks - I can get down to about 30 feet and stay there for 30-40 seconds. None of the reefs we checked were particularly bountiful but Dave managed to snag two lobster, a red snapper, and a decent-sized Porgee. After I got back my Dad and I took a run across to Georgetown to fill jerry cans with water and gasoline, and then we met Dave and Leslie and several other cruisers at Chat N Chill. I ordered Conch Salad from the nearby good. Dawn liked it too. My parents tried it and my mom liked it but was a bit too weirded out by the conch preparation, while my dad didn't care for the texture. Back at Windbird, I cleaned, filleted, and grilled the fish, which we subsequently brought over to T2S. Leslie showed Dawn how to make Cracked Lobster (or conch) and we had a really nice feast. We'd originally been planning to go out to dinner for my parents' last night but they agreed this was much better. It was really nice of Dave and Leslie to take the four of us under their wing, based on little more than a few mutual friends and a shared appreciation for sailing and the sea. Thus far I've found this kind of mentality to be much more the rule than the exception out here.

I think we're a bit after the peak for cruisers in Georgetown but there are still a ton of boats spread over several anchorages and holes (the recent cruiser's regatta had ~400 boats). There is a VHF net at 8am every morning; on Wednesday we called in during the "New Arrivals" segment, and the next day I advertised that Dawn was looking for hiking partners in my absence. Almost immediately after the net Endangered Species called us up and said they had buddy boated with Mark & Judy in the Pacific during their respective circumnavigations, and Judy had emailed them saying to be on the lookout for us! Shortly thereafter there was a knock on the hull and Gwen from Tackless Too introduced herself...another friend of Mark & Judy alerted by email! In her case she's also alone on their boat for a few days (plus pooch) and was also looking for a hiking partner. Perfect! I'm pretty confident that Dawn will be well taken care of in my absence.

My eye appointment just got cancelled (sick doctor, ugh) and there's a chance I'm going to have to extend my stay in Atlanta by a day. I certainly hope not. As things stand now, I'll be flying back to Georgetown on Tuesday morning, Dawn and I will hang out locally and work on the boat until April 4th, then our friends Brad & Amber fly in. Depending on weather we hope to go to Long Island and/or Cat Island for a few weeks (Brad & Amber will fly back to Nassau from there). We'll be back in Georgetown for my birthday on April 17th, Judy will fly in the 18th, and then we'll start working our way north. I'm thinking a fourth visit to the Land & Sea Park is in order, then crossing to Eleuthera and out via the Abacos is going to be our plan. We'll replace canvas and expand our solar this summer while cruising the Chesapeake, then hit the Bahamas again next Nov/Dec on our way south (east!) to the Caribbean. I've really enjoyed these last six weeks and Dawn has too; I think the cruising life is suiting us just fine.

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