Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We're on Island Time

We greeted the New Year at Fresh Creek, Andros Island, with a mix of cruisers and private contractors from the nearby AUTEC Naval Base.  A fellow from the Base made a point to meet us when he heard we were from Traverse City.  He had been at the Coast Guard Station there and still owns a house out in Long Lake Township.  And his good friend, Marsha, bought our Eleventh Street house sixteen years ago!  Small world...

While Annie flew to visit her parents in Ohio (via a plane from Andros to Ft. Lauderdale, a another plane and a new airline to Charlotte, N.C., another plane to Columbus, then a rental car to Loudonville, with an unscheduled overnight stop due to icy roads) Dietrich solo sailed from Andros to Allen's Cay (pronounced Key) where he enjoyed the iguanas and beautiful waters in strong currents.  He sailed to Nassau, anchored in a bumpy working harbor next to huge container ships, to meet Annie.  He had a fine adventure on his own,  Annie had a great visit with her parents, and no planes were missed.  

Nassau was our home for nine days, due to an engine issue.  The repairs were good, but expensive.  We enjoyed the city, finding that it wasn't nearly as wicked as we had been led to believe...people were friendly and helpful.   We wiggled our way south, stopping at several Cays, finally coming to a halt in the Exuma Park, at the headquarters in Warderick Wells.  

If it weren't for the occasional need to find fresh water and food, we could stay here for months. Its stunning...snorkeling and swimming in these glowing, baby blue waters is a thrill and we're still discovering new hiking trails.  There are moorings within the park, so we feel more comfortable when BIG BLOWS (the local term) come through.   We will do some volunteer work while we're here, a common activity for cruisers in the park.  Unlike U.S. parks, where volunteers must fill out stacks of paperwork, wear uniforms, and commit to schedules, we'll just show up at 9:00 any morning, get a work assignment to match our skills and off we'll go.
It doesn't fit with our culture, but it does reflect the Island culture.  If it gets done, yea.   If it doesn't get done, maybe it will happen tomorrow.  

Bahamas Pix

Canons and a grounded freighter on Andros Island.  Both are moonlit shoots.  Ken and Dietrich caught a fish on the way across the Gulf Stream.  This site of a DC3 crash was great for snorkeling and, finally, pretty water over ruffled sand.

Pix from Florida and Bimini

Ken Richmond joined us for a week.  We had a wonderful day of walking through the Art Deco neighborhoods of South Miami Beach.  That's Ken in the fancy shirt.  Paul and Laurie Welser met us near Key Biscayne the night before we crossed to the Bahamas.  Paul was even on deck to see us off at 6:00 the next morning.  Dietrich, our resident seamster, hoists our homemade quarantine flag as we enter Bahamian waters.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy New Year! Our Traverse City mail arrived last week and it was wonderful to find all those holiday cards, notes, and letters. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to catch up with your news!

The stay in South Miami Beach was top notch. At that point, Ken Richmond joined us for a week. We toured the art deco neighborhoods and ate Cuban cuisine, enjoyed the range of languages everywhere. On December 20th, we sailed from south Key Biscayne (where Laurie and Paul Welser, Traverse City friends, rose in the wee hours to see us off) to the Bahamian island of Bimini. Crossing the Gulf Stream was like crossing a ribbon of glowing indigo. Ken and Dietrich claimed to see flying fish in all directions, but Annie missed them all!

The water around Bimini presented in shades of translucent blues to crystal clear over white sand. We cringed as we sailed over what appeared to be depths of two or three feet, actually ten to fifteen feet...we saw sting rays and lemon sharks, black and yellow clown fish, orange starfish, black, spikey anemone. Daily life on Bimini is not pristine. Damage from multiple hurricanes is evident everywhere, the economic strain shows in boarded up storefronts dotting every village street. The holidays brought traditions, however, that sustained spirits! We happened upon the Junior Junkanoo, a loud, rhythmic parade, complete with huge, homemade drums, old car horns, and anything else that a boy of nine to nineteen could play. Everyone on the street grinned, eyes twinkled and, only a few hours after arrival, we were hooked on Bimini.

Snorkeling is deservedly popular there. We began by just leaning over the dinghy (an inflatable), masks pressed to the water's surface. Ken's enthusiasm sent him rolling unexpectedly over the side! The combination of salty water and surprise helped him pop back into the dinghy, all in what seemed like a split second. Eventually, he and Dietrich snorkeled with abandon, over purple coral fans, through rock formations, a new world of color and texture. Annie didn't have all the gear at that point...Ken left his mask and snorkel for her use, snappy yellow fins came later. As has always been true, we met generous, friendly local people and fellow cruisers who were eager for conversation over snacks in cockpits. We had a farewell party for Ken, attended by a crew of ten, from Florida, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Canada.
Dietrich took him to the South Bimini airport via a wet, wild dinghy ride. He was a wonderful complaints about his place on the starboard settee...a good sport. He knows he will be welcomed back!

Christmas Eve was spent with cruising friends. We were awakened at 6:00 a.m. by lively parade noises. We left the boat in a rush, ran into town just in time to watch the end of the traditional Bimini Christmas Eve celebration. It had begun in various churches with lengthy midnight services, followed by hours of social gatherings in the church parlors. Finally, each church sent representatives into town for the community band and parade, some dressed for church, others dressed head to toe in glittery doo-dads. As the parade moved back to neighborhoods, we found one restaurant open for breakfast, where we sat with the waitress and her friend, everyone tired from a night of fun.

We sailed across the Bahama Banks on the 29th, anchored out there, no land in sight, no birds, no sounds other than occasional leaping of water against the boat. We were in twenty feet of water that was even more clear (if that's possible) than we found around Bimini. Dietrich caught a 12 - 15 pound Amberjack as we sailed. It was pink and white, mild in taste, white meat. We sauteed some the first night, shared the rest ( a lot!) with other cruisers in a spicy chowder.

We thought we had posted new photos more than a week ago, but they were not here when we checked this morning. Ah, the vagaries of blogs! We'll try again, ASAP. In the meantime, we have a wee engine issue to address. Stay warm, friends, take time to play outside.