Diary Of A Mad Galley Wench - Part 4
June 16 to 30, 1992
by Terri Robbins
(This is the continuation of Ms. Robbins' 6 Month diary. Parts 1, 2, and 3 were published in our 1995 issues)
June 16, 1992
In my last correspondence I believe we were planning an excursion through the caves of "Little Harbour". The caves and formations around them are composed of limestone rock, which, in reality, looks like lava. Very sharp and porous. We took two dinghies to the cliff-sides, and after puttering around a bit, found a suitable place to tie the dinghies up and climb on shore. We had to wear good shoes here because the terrain would most certainly have torn our feet up.
Finding the first cave, we entered. There were, of course, signs of previous visitors. This particular cave did not go too deep, but would have made excellent shelter from a storm if the need were to arise. In the center of this cave we found a "hole" in the roof, which extended upward quite a ways. Kim (from "Blue Whale") is the most adventurous one, and climbed out of the cave and began scaling the cliffs to reach the top. He had brought a rope and flashlight, and, after reaching the top, listened for our calls, found the "hole's" beginning, and dropped an end of the rope down from the surface into the cave. He secured the rope on his end, and climbed back down the cliffs to join us. In the meantime we had the chance to do a bit of exploring, and found a large pile of bones. They looked to be small animal's bones, and apparently something had been feeding on them. Well, after Kim returned to the group, next thing we knew he was climbing the rope up the "hole"! As I mentioned earlier, these caves were made of limestone, and I would have been afraid of cutting and scraping myself, but no, not Kim, he's part monkey. I am convinced of that, because he just scampered up that rope in no time and was soon peering down at us from above!
Moving on to the next cave, which was a bit deeper and darker, we again discovered the crude stone "fireplace" that old man Johnson and his family used when they lived there years ago. That must have been a hard life for them. There would have been virtually no human inhabitants at that time. I suppose the closest people would have been in "Cherokee", and for him to bring his wife and two young children here to live just seems unimaginable to me! It worked out well for them apparently because, as I mentioned, the Johnson Foundry is still up and running today here in "Little Harbour", and his sons have build "Johnsons Gallery" in "Marsh Harbour" which houses some exquisite works of art, along with pictures of pieces they have done for the Vatican. Very impressive, to say the least.
Early this morning I again saw old man Johnson being wheeled onto the wooded path by the foundry, where his young blonde nurse parked him by a tree and began doing Tai Chi. Mr. Johnson was fast asleep in his chair. (As a matter of fact, every time I see Mr. Johnson he's fast asleep in his chair!) A small naked blonde child played in the nurses shadows (who I assume was her son). There was the slightest breeze, and the only sounds I could hear aside from the distant surf traveling over the sand dunes were the palm fronds rustling and the occasional splash of a sea turtle submerging after surfacing to check things out. It was very picturesque. Typical early morning splendor in the Abacos! My "special" time!
We had packed picnic lunches, and decided to putter around the point and explore the "blue holes" once again. This time we found a new one, and it was so deep and dark it intimidated me just the slightest. The fish all seemed bigger, and the water seemed ominous. I just didn't get a comfortable feeling swimming very close to the center, and kept well near the edge. Kim (of course) was diving way down deep into the hole. So deep, in fact, that we would lose sight of him! He had brought his spear gun and was seeking "dinner". He was able to spear several nice-sized snappers (I love snapper) which he later shared. We had decided to head out today. Where, we didn't know. North, at least. I again felt our time here was coming to an end, and was getting anxious to start our back-track home, hoping to take it easier this time and do some deserted island exploring en-route.
Returning to our boats, waiting for the "Dragon's paws" to disappear under the sea, we prepared to depart this lovely harbor. Knowing it would be our last visit here THIS trip I had my Cap'n dinghy me to shore so I, too, could carve "Patience - Dave and Terri, 1992" on the old weathered bow of the salvaged wooden wreck fondly known to us as "Pete's Pub".
Kim and Kay (of "Blue Whale"), drawing only 4 feet, left ahead of us and took soundings to see if any of our "fleet" could leave. Within the hour the "paws" disappeared and we were able to follow - soon to catch up with "Blue Whale" and we each took pictures of one another.
Decided to return to good ole' "Marsh Harbour" (steak night, again, sounded mighty tasty!). We ended up all heading to the "Jib Room" around sundown for cocktails, and there were so many of us (24 all-total) that we pushed as many tables as possible together and had a "family-sit-down-style" dinner. Many of us were making "leavey" noises, and Cap'n Dave and I had pretty much decided, if weather permitted, to start heading north with the sunrise. Kim and Kay (from "Blue Whale") had been on this journey since September 1991 (from ARKANSAS, of all places) and planned to make a year of it; Terry (from "Lady of the Lake") was a die-hard "boat gigolo" and had no immediate plans of returning to the States; Al & Karen (from Thursday's Child) wanted to hang around with Kim and Kay (they were from Canada), Allan (from Seeker II) liked diving for those lobsters too much to leave just yet; and Don (new addition to our "fleet" from "Sea Wolf") had just gotten there. HOWEVER, having nothing better to do they all decided to sail along with us as far as "Manjack Cay". So, realizing we would not be leaving "alone" I wasn't so reluctant to leave our new family, and was actually looking forward to the departure. So, it was decided, we head out in the morning!
June 18, 1992
Another day in Paradise! Imagine that!!! Awoke this morning with the dawn, and, as usual, had my morning coffee in the cockpit with Bart (our Macaw) and watched the sun rise. My heart is heavy with both sadness and anticipation. Today is the day we are heading "home". Knowing it would be my last morning to cherish this "special time" I got my guitar out and serenaded the seagulls. I felt like I was the only one on earth until a sole fisherman puttered by hoping for a good days catch, and I could hear Buffet's "Son of a Son of a Sailor" faintly playing on his radio. He rode by ever so slowly, barely making a wake on the slick, calm water. Almost brought tears to my eyes (actually, it did). Soon I heard a dinghy motor approaching from behind. It was the captain from "Diacole" wishing us good luck on our journey. I saw Terry from "Lady of the Lake" pop his head out of the companionway and motioned for me to turn on our VHF, and upon doing so (switching to Channel 69, which has become our "party line") he invited us to his "place" for banana pancakes and cinnamon coffee. We accepted, and took our charts with us and began planning the long journey home. Terry was to sail with us this morning, but, being the "boat gigolo" that he is, had met a pretty blonde crew member off an absolutely gorgeous 65 foot Hinkley who was in search of a "ride home" and Terry, of course, obliged her. She was abandoning ship to join him sailing (he didn't tell her, however, that he had no immediate plans to return to the States,,,,,,) so he would be leaving "Marsh Harbour" to join us in "Green Turtle" a bit later than planned. We understood, and after finishing the delicious pancakes, made our way back to "Patience" to "make ready". Making our last voyage to "town" for supplies, having radioed ahead to order some of Albury's Bakery delicious mouthwatering homemade Bahamian Bread, and, of course, stopping by the "Tiki Hut" to say goodbye to good ole' Carmen (remember Carmen???), we dinghied over to see Kim and Kay from "Blue Whale", then "Sea Wolf" to get our departure times straight.
I hadn't mentioned this to Cap'n Dave, or anyone else for that matter, but I was absolutely TERRIFIED to have to go through "Whale Cay Passage" again. If you remember the first time we made the passage (through a small "window") I was almost thrown off the bow while trying to secure an anchor (I know, I know - I should have had my lifeline on. But, you can bet your booty I'll have it out and ready THIS TIME!) We have also since that time sailed to the "New Spoil Banks" off of "Baker's Bay" and actually seen the "rage" from the spoil banks. Quite frightening, and I was indeed dreading making this passage again. Being nearly thrown off the bow and hunkered down, all the while Cap'n Dave yelling that I couldn't stay there for ever, as I replied "OH YES I CAN!!" I now began to wonder if that is why we stayed so long in the lower Abacos - BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID OF THAT DAMNED PASSAGE!!!*!@+& Then... there was the Gulf Stream Crossing (remember that our 10-hour journey turned into 21-hour NIGHTMARE while searching for "Memory Rock" which turned out to be a pole stuck in a rock AND THE LIGHT WAS BURNT OUT!!!!) (I'll never forget that damned rock!@%$ either!)
ANYWAY,,,,getting my fears in check I put on my most comfortable sailing garb, prepared a few sandwiches for the "ride", got my charts and instruments out, binos ready, then got on the VHF to announce to our "fleet" that it was sailing time! Hoisting our anchors, we all went, one-by-one, to Conch Inn Marina (skipping the "Conched Out's" "Conch Crawl" this time (I hate conch!) to fill up with gas, water and ice, then sailed out of "Marsh Harbour", "Patience" leading as the rest followed suit. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Full-by sail all the way. As soon as we left the "Marsh Harbour" channel, all feelings of sadness and fear left and I was ready for this new chapter in our already lengthy journey.
I donned my cap, and took my typical stance on the stern of the boat (makes me feel naughty) and waved farewell to the ones we were leaving behind. With the wind at my back and the sun on my face I was ready to conquer the world! I was too preoccupied at this point to be afraid of anything. Since it was still relatively early in the day and the water was calm, I made my way towards the bow so I could get the last glimpse of the now well known to me bottom terrain, again feeling the warm sea spray splash my feet and the gentle rise and fall of "Patience" under sail. Ain't life Grand!!! It's days like this I just feel like "Queen Kong" or something. It's an indescribable feeling.
Rounding "Fish Cays" we heard "Blue Whale" hailing us on the VHF. They didn't particularly care for "Whale Cay Passage" either, and since they only drew four feet, they were going to cut over to "Treasure Cay" and approach "Green Turtle" from behind "Don't Rock" which is behind "Whale Cay Passage". Very protected. Oh, how I envied the fact they could make this decision, but, having already swallowed my fears and feeling invincible (I think this is a natural defensive action in lieu of having an emotional breakdown!!!) I almost looked forward to the challenge of the "Whale". Very few vessels are able to sail behind that cay because it is fairly shallow, so Kim and Kay (from "Blue Whale") virtually had that portion of the Sea of Abaco to themselves. It wasn't long before I heard Kim again hail us on the VHF to inform us they were SAILING NAKED!
Approaching "Whale Cay Passage" we saw a motor yacht and a sailing vessel making the jump through, so I hailed them on the VHF and asked what the conditions were like. They seemed to be making good headway, and responded saying there was a rough chop, but, for the most part, everything was relatively fair. Since my one and only experience with "Whale Cay Passage" was, in my opinion, quite rough (although I have read of much, much rougher!) I had nothing to compare "relative" to. So, we ventured on hoping for the best. Well,,,,to my surprise, when we entered the passage it was virtually no different than sailing in the Great Sea of Abaco. Quite calm and rather pleasant. The difference was like night and day from our previous passage. It's amazing how temperamental the ocean can be. I guess ole' Neptune was in good spirits, because we sailed right past "Whale Cay", and it was like sailing in a bathtub! I was able to take over the tiller and maneuver "Patience" like I knew what I was doin'!(I think that would make a good bumper sticker,,,"I survived Whale Cay!")
Arriving in Green Turtle we anchored out in "Black Sound" near the "Other Shore Club" (remember Alan?). (This is also the sound where our old sailing buddies Jeff and Liz (from "Sea Lure") went badly aground on the coral and rocks at the entrance to this channel, leaving them swinging wildly on their side with the current, soon to be uprighted and anchored waaaaaayyyy in the back of the sound to "lick their wounds") The holding here is pretty poor, so after throwing out only one hook decided to wait for Kim and Kay from "Blue Whale" to arrive (clothed I'm sure) (well, actually, I'm not sure!) to help us set them.
This was the first inhabited settlement we experienced, so memories here were running amuck! (Remember Bert's Bar, the rickety old wooden-shuttered tavern with pool tables and chickens running all around, where ole' "Neville" greeted the ladies by putting his arm around them and squeezing their breast???) Couldn't wait to get back there! (?) This guy, in all seriousness, was a tiny little white-haired man about 120 (+/-) years old, about 4 1/2 feet tall, and looked sort of like Mr. Magoo without the glasses. Always walked around with a big grin on his face (probably from meeting so many of the ladies!!).
As we entered the harbor we saw several folks we had not seen in a while. The Abacos sailing regatta was to start any day, and was based here on "Green Turtle Cay", so a lot of boaters who had left for home were held up here for the festivities, and, from what I am told, they are pretty wild, and non-stop. Lots of "rummies" running around (I hate rum!!), so I decided I had better get my Cap'n on the windward trail home before we got caught up in it or we'd never see "home"!.
One vessel you may remember me mentioning before, "Harambee" was anchored there, and we anchored near them. They were in their cockpit cleaning up their dive gear, and invited us over for some conch chowder (and, you know how I feel about conch!!!). Being out on only one anchor we respectfully declined and waited for some of our "fleet" to arrive. Being safe at harbor, I head for the "Kaliks!". (We stocked up with several cases before we left "Marsh Harbour")
It wasn't long before I spotted "Blue Whale" rounding the channel entrance into "Black Sound", with Kay standing on the bow reading the water (remembering my tales of "Sea Lure"??). They anchored near us and, as usual, immediately jumped in the water and swam over to "Patience". Kim (not only is he part monkey, but I'm also convinced he has gills!!) dove down and re-set our anchor, and Cap'n Dave dinghied the second anchor out and set it. By this time "Harambee" noticed they were dragging anchor, so Kim swam over and help them set theirs as well. In the meantime Kay swam back to "Blue Whale" and got her scraper, swam back over the "Patience" and enthusiastically began cleaning her bottom! All the while I sat in the cockpit drinking my "Kalik" (s). Kim and Kay were indeed in their element, however, and loving every minute of it!
After all anchors were set and "Patience" had a clean bottom, they climbed on board and joined me in a "Kalik". We decided to have happy hour and dinner on "Patience" this evening. While we were finishing our "Kaliks" we saw Terry from "Lady of the Lake" pull into the harbor with a very attractive blonde bimbette sunbathing on his bow. It may sound odd, but this is the first "sunbather" I had seen on this whole journey! As I have said before, all of the beaches we have encountered thus far were totally deserted, and most of the "boat people" just didn't do that. Never even came to mind, really. We all get so much "incidental" sun, and stay so tan anyway that baking in the sun sounds sort of stupid. ANYWAY, you could tell Cap'n Terry was proudly showing off his "catch" as he casually circled around the harbor looking for a place to anchor. It wasn't long before they dinghied over to "Patience", and decided to join us for dinner - HOWEVER, she (the bimbette) was a microbionic vegetarian (???) and could eat nothing that was ever, ever alive (i.e., no milk, cheese, butter,,,because the cow was once living, etc., etc., - and the list just keeps gettin' longer the more I think about it) that she declined. Kim and Kay wanted conch (I won't even SAY it!) so they hopped in their dinghy and went searching for some. Cap'n Dave went along with them, and returned with some of the most beautiful and big conch I had seen on this whole trip! I went to market and bought myself a nice piece of grouper, marinated it in lemon and herbs, and grilled it on our grill along with some shrimp wrapped in bacon. Absolutely delicious! It will never cease to amaze me how good everything (except conch) tastes on a boat!!! Kay took her conch back to "Blue Whale", cleaned it, pounded it into steaks, and even made some batter for fritters. The fritters, I have to admit, were quite good!
After sunset and several "Kaliks" later we decided to call it a night. We would probably hang around in "Green Turtle" awhile and enjoy the scenery. The beaches here are spectacular! They are the pinkest that I had seen thus far (other than "Great Guana Cay"), and they just went on and on forever. Tomorrow promises to be another grand day, and we have plans to dinghy over to the beach side and go exploring. I love to do this almost as much as I love my "special time", and am looking forward to it. Maybe I'll find another "note in a bottle"!
It's nice to be "going somewhere" again!
June 19, 1992
It's beginning to get a little warm down here! Not uncomfortably so, but enough to call my attention to it. Last evening was fairly cool and breezy. A thunder boomer was trying to make it's way to us, but stalled just enough to cool things off quite a bit. Cap'n Dave and I decided to dinghy to shore this evening and stroll through the lanes of "Green Turtle" before the Hibiscus closed up for the evening. We docked at the "Other Shore Club" dinghy dock and wandered over to "The Wrecking Tree" and bought some ice cream, but saw good ole' "Neville", and, before he could recognize me, I coaxed Dave to take me back to "Patience" before the rain came (and the "greetings" began!).
Today had been a good day. Dave and I dinghied over to the beach side and must have walked for hours along the pink sand. No treasures to be found here, just beautiful, beautiful beaches for as far as I could see. There was a nearby cay visible called "NoName Cay" which we had planned to sail to for the day with "Thursdays Child II" and "Blue Whale", but weather didn't look so hot, and you know how I feel about going "ANYWAY", so we just laid low and took it easy. We had decided instead to all pull anchor and head over to "White Sound", which is less protected and offers more breeze. So, Cap'n Dave pulled anchor and I took "Patience" over to "White Sound", through that tricky entrance channel to "Black Sound", and was quite proud of myself. Kim and Kay took "Blue Whale" over with us, and Kay also piloted. It was funny, tho, because as soon as we got anchored it wasn't 5 minutes before I heard a "splash". It was Kay swimming over to "Patience". Apparently she and Kim and had a little "disagreement", and on a boat this can be a fairly claustrophobic experience! So, she was having none of it and jumped ship! We decided to take her mind off things so Cap'n Dave and I dinghied to shore with Kay to do some exploring and snorkeling on Cocoa Bay, which is a beautiful resort here in "White Sound". There was not a handful of vessels here, so we pretty much had the whole resort to ourselves. The reef was pretty close in, so the waves were pretty choppy, but snorkeling was beautiful. We later went to the pool at the resort, which quite obviously hadn't been used in some time, so I went and found the tool room, grabbed a net, and began cleaning the pool. Not long afterwards Terry from "Lady of the Lake" strolled up and joined us for lunch and "Kaliks". Apparently he was having women trouble with his newfound "bimbette" and was trying to figure out ways to be rid of her. This didn't take him long, because after we returned to "Patience" I saw that she had dinghied herself over to a nearby ketch and looked as though she was planning on staying awhile.
Kay swam back to "Blue Whale" and evidently she and Kim made up because we didn't see them back on deck for the remainder of the day. Cap'n Dave and I broke open a new case of "Kaliks" and made merry! It rained that night, and while everyone was huddled snug in their cabins, we danced naked in the moonlight on deck. There's nothing more refreshing than a fresh rain shower!
The next day we decided to pull anchor and head to the "Green Turtle" harbor, where there was at least 100 boats anchored out awaiting the sailing regatta. We had heard "Thursday's Child II" had anchored there, and even though it was quite a dinghy ride to shore, it was a good last provisioning stop before the big jump home. So, we left with "Blue Whale", and en-route out the entrance of "White Sound" we saw Terry (from "Lady of the Lake") zoom by in a power boat with three women! He smiled and waved... "Gigolo strikes again!!" We have since learned that after the regatta ended Terry was pretending to be a photographer and was taking revealing pictures of scantly clad women on the decks of some of the sailboats. However,,,,, he had no film in his camera! I'd heard about guys like this, but never actually knew one!
We dinghied to shore for a last time for supplies, and decided to scoot out with the dawn for "Manjack Cay". Terry radioed us saying he would soon follow, but we, naturally, weren't holding our breath. "Blue Whale" and "Thursday's Child II" did come with us, however, and upon reaching the harbor noticed our old buddies that we had initially wanted to make the jump to "Memory Rock" (*&%$@) with, "Mouvin' On", anchored there. They were out spear fishing and dinghied over and gave us some excellent freshly speared mackerel. Dave proceeded to clean the fish, throwing the excess overboard, and before long we noticed a nice 6 foot or so barracuda had taken up residence under "Patience"! (Probably remembered me from skin diving with Ken under that mushroom-shaped reef!) I mean, this guy was BIG, and didn't take his eyes off us for a moment! Needless to say, this certainly put a damper on any of our diving excursions! This was an absolutely gorgeous cay, however, and we did some "gunk holeing" with our dinghy through the many "fingers" of the cove and out to the sea where you could see the reef breaking nearby. Couldn't take "Patience" there, tho. Too shallow and rough, and was too far to dinghy in an inflatable safely with the rough surf, so we just explored the numerous channels and inlets. Very interesting. Much different that the rest of the Abacos. It was almost like Florida, with lots of brush and mangroves. Could almost get lost if it had been much bigger.
Wasn't long before "Harambee" and a trawler, "True Grit", some friends from "Marsh Harbour" pulled in. It amazes me how hard it is to "get away from it all" once you establish yourself here. I can't remember when the last time was we visited a cay and didn't know anyone! It was a pleasant surprise to see folks we knew on this UNINHABITED ISLAND,,,,,, but I was ready for some much needed solitude, so we pulled anchor next morning and headed north to "Powell Cay". Well, best move we had made thus far on this journey home. This cay is absolutely GORGEOUS! And, we were the ONLY VESSEL IN THE HARBOR. I was, again, in heaven. I was anxious to explore this island. Sort of felt like Christopher Columbus, because it was heavily wooded, and had HUGE dunes to climb to get to the sea-side, and a big drop-off down to the beach. On the harbor side of the cay there was the remains of a wreck of an old wooden boat. I wrote on it's bow "Dave & Terri/SV Patience, 6/92" in hopes that someone we had met in our extensive travels would recognize us on their way home, and perhaps have a moment of nostalgia as I had had in "Little Harbour" upon seeing "Jim and Sandy/Ocarina - 6/92" written on the bow of old man Johnson's wrecked boat now so fondly known to us as "Pete's Pub".
Cap'n Dave has developed this thing about shoes. He doesn't like to wear them. In fact, his hair has gotten quite shaggy, and beard quite long, and with "Bart" on his shoulder all he'd need is a patch over his eye to look like "Black Beard"! ANYWAY, I wanted to explore the island, and we had to use a hatchet to get through the thicket. Dave, the dummy, hadn't worn any shoes, and they were an absolute necessity to explore this uninhabited island. It was a virtual JUNGLE. So, he found two old left-footed flip-flops that had washed ashore, but they were almost totally disintegrated - to the point he had to tie them to his feet with palm fronds! And one was HUGE! He looked absolutely ridiculous! I was laughing so hard I could barely see my way through the thicket for the tears of laughter! We chopped and climbed and maneuvered ourselves until we reached the top of the "dune" (quite high hill, actually), stopping only occasionally for Cap'n Dave to tie his "fronds", and was amazed at the beautiful, uninhabited (of course!) beach we found below. Absolutely gorgeous! The reef practically surrounded this side of the island, and the surf broke over it so delicately. We could see a cay far off in the horizon, and we reckoned it to be "Spanish Cay", which Terry (the "gigolo") had said had an old abandoned residence there with a cistern which was a fun place to camp out for the night and explore.
On the way back down I found the biggest hermit crab I had ever seen in my life! This thing could "reach out and touch someone" - virtually! I took him back to "Patience" and named him "Herman". I was totally afraid of this animal, but became quite fond of him throughout the trip. He actually ate out of my hand!
We're making good time on this journey home, and will head out tomorrow for "Great Sail Cay". I think we will by-pass "Spanish Cay" simply because I am getting anxious to be "home".
June 21, 1992
Had one of the nicest sails thus far of the whole journey today. Nice broad reach, Sea of Abaco is calm, and the sky is a beautiful blue! This is what I call SAILING! We were having such a fine sail that we, indeed, decided to skip "Spanish Cay" and head on to "Great Sail Cay". Besides, we had fond memories of that protected anchorage. Along the way we did see one shark. This was my first shark sighting of the whole trip. I never saw the 8 foot one in "Hope Town". This fella followed us only for a short while, because it wasn't long before many porpoises took his place. They were magnificent, jumping alongside "Patience" and playing in our bow wake. It's almost a religious experience when you make eye contact with them. It's a very "bonding" feeling. Not wanting to get too metaphysical, but it was almost like a "oneness", if you know what I mean.
Quite a ways into our journey, having lost sight of land completely for the first time since coming here, we picked up a "buddy". A seagull had perched himself on top of our gas grill off the stern, and was apparently catching a free ride. I'm supposing he was too tired to do much else, because he stayed with us for hours, and even let Cap'n Dave rub his tummy! Amazing to have a wild animal respond to you in such a way. I fed him a few crackers (which had indeed lost their crunch!) and he appeared completely content to just sail along with us for a bit. I donned my bathing suit and grabbed a book and sat in the cockpit catching the last rays of the journey. This would be the first time in months that I had actually intentionally sat in the sun other than laying in the hammock while reading a good novel. It became quite warm, and Cap'n Dave saw a rain storm off in the distance. Well, this time, instead of heading away from it, we sailed towards it! We again took off our clothes, lathered up nicely... and it QUIT RAINING! Having had this experience more than once we again had the foresight to stop up the scuppers and catch several gallons of fresh rainwater to rinse with. I think I mentioned that we had lost our sun shower while making the "North Bar Channel" passage, but hadn't needed it because there were showers everywhere we went (free ones at the "Tiki Hut", but at the "Jib Room" you had to share). So, this rain shower was again refreshing and left us feeling squeaky clean.
I spied "Little Sail Cay" off to port and knew "Great Sail Cay" was just beyond. Looks like we might make it before sunset, and I am anxious. Will continue this tomorrow.
June 22, 1992
Homeward bound. I'm getting mighty, mighty anxious to see the good ole' USA again. This has been an absolutely wonderful journey, but, there's no place like "HOME"!
It wasn't long before we rounded "Little Sail Cay", and we could see "Great Sail Cay" looming in the horizon. The weather was looking a bit ominous, and I was hoping we could settle in for the evening before any storms developed. I went below and dried off the "binos" to have a peek at our first "landfall" after making the "big jump" across the Gulf Stream past "Memory Rock" (@#*!&) (I HATE THAT DAMNED ROCK!)
I could see a rather large ketch trying to make it's way around the western side of the cay, and, knowing the area and having studied my charts religiously for the past several years, I knew this was very shallow, and, by the size of the vessel, knew he had to draw at least 5 feet, if not more. So, I got on the VHF and tried to hail the captain, and received no response. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a bit of diplomacy to advise a captain he may be in error, and I knew by his position that I did not have time to plan this strategy. I was hoping that perhaps I was the one in error, when, while still trying to hail him on the radio, I saw him go BADLY aground. Looking at the charts again I realized how bad a predicament he was in. Why he hadn't gone aground earlier I don't know, but according to the charts he was in 2-3 foot water! I tried and tried to contact them, with no luck, and finally we rounded the southwest tip of the "horseshoe-shaped" cay and began paying more attention to keeping "Patience" from going aground and soon forgot about the other vessel. Upon entering the harbor there were 5 or 6 other vessels anchored there. I got all excited, half expecting to see someone we "knew", but, much to my surprise, we didn't know a single vessel there! The first time this has happened since we first made our Gulf Stream crossing! I was mixed with relief along with a bit of disappointment. I missed our comrades!
It wasn't long after lowering our hooks that we finally heard the grounded vessel call for help. Apparently they had tried to get off by themselves, but knowing the waters they were in I knew this to be fruitless. It was nearing sunset, and several folks dinghied around the cay to try and pull them off, but that, too, was a fruitless effort. There was absolutely no way that any of the vessels in the harbor could have gotten anywhere close enough to be of help, so,,,,, what to do? What to do?? Being so accustomed to helping and being helped by our neighbors it was a very frustrating feeling. The poor vessel was listing severely, and having to spend the night on a sailboat at a 45o angle can't be a very pleasant experience! The captain seemed to take things in stride, however. He mentioned that he had just come across the Gulf Stream with his family of 4, and would simply hunker down and wait for the tide to come in (though I still had my doubts this would be the answer). I've learned one thing on this totally unpredictable journey, though, and that is never, never to have a negative attitude. Always make the best of any given situation. And apparently that's exactly what this captain was doing. I admired him for it.
After a light dinner of fresh fruit I had managed to pick up before we left "Green Turtle Cay", we settled in the cockpit with Bart, a bottle of wine and a guitar and watched the sunset. It never disappoints us, and is the perfect ending for a wonderfully long day of sailing. Today was indeed one of the best sailing days we have had in the last few months. The rain clouds had blown over, and all is right with the world.
Sitting there all the memories from the onset of our journey came flooding back. The horrifying Gulf Stream crossing; "MEMORY ROCK" (#@!!@#$) (I won't even say it!); the gale that blew out of nowhere, taking with it our American Flag; FINDING our flag on the shores of "Great Sail Cay"; reuniting with my old high school buddy Jeff; my first experience with sunrise (my "special time") while sitting in the cockpit with Bart; my first sights of the Sea of Abaco while hoisted up the bosons chair; porpoises playing in the bow; my first taste of Bahama-caught fish in the galley on "Sea Lure"; "Allen's Pensacola Cay"; "Green Turtle Cay"; "Sea Lure going badly aground; "Neville" from "Bert's Bar"; "Whale Cay Passage"; our first night in "Marsh Harbour" and coming down on old Bill in "Sarawak's" cockpit",,,,,,, think I'll stop there!
Next morning we awoke again at sunrise only to find it was just as spectacular as I remembered. The only flaw in the horizon, however, was the sight of the now-severely tilted mast of the grounded vessel. Since there was indeed nothing we could do to help them, I didn't even bother trying to contact them. We did, however, monitor their situation continuously.
After our morning coffee we decided to hoist the anchors and be on our way. Most of the vessels which were anchored here the night before had already made their exit. It wasn't long before we followed suit.
Next stop is "Mangrove Cay". This to be the last stop before "West End" (yes, we are by-passing "MEMORY ROCK"((*&()&)). En route to "Mangrove Cay" numerous motor yachts passed us coming and going. How different it must be to be able to leave Florida and make it to "Marsh Harbour" before nightfall! And visa-versa! Takes the romance out of it, but a motor boat sure begins to sound good when you've been away from home for months, hot, tired, and salty! Hmmmmmm. (?)
June 22, 1992
Today's sail wasn't as exciting as yesterday's. I don't know if it's the anticipation of "going home", or the fact that all those motor boats were going to get there before we were. We spend most of the day sailing around obvious thunder squalls. Sailing naked in the rain has lost some of it's appeal, and I was just anxious to GET THERE! Didn't matter where!
Other than watching those damned motor boats pass us all day, leaving us in their wake, not much exciting happened, and I finally spied "Mangrove Cay" in the horizon. This is a totally unprotected anchorage. It's just a small mangrove island stuck out in the middle of the ocean. That's it, other than the wreck of an old airplane, probably used for smuggling back in the 70s and 80s (and probably en-route to "MEMORY ROCK"!). We anchored near the plane, and had planned to dinghy out to it before dinner, but I think my adventurous enthusiasm was waning because I simply wasn't up to it. We gathered in the cockpit with a glamorous meal of Dinty Moore beef stew (you can REALLY tell my enthusiasm was waning!!!) (but at least it wasn't SPAM!!!). After dinner we sat in the cockpit and watched a few water spouts, glide across the water with more interest than concern.
Soon a rather large motor yacht anchored close to us (a little too close for my comfort, because I noticed they only set out one anchor, and this ALWAYS makes me nervous). It looked like a "party barge", because immediately after setting their hook they turned every light in the vessel on, cranked up the music, scantily-clad women who wore (but shouldn't have - not a pretty sight!) bikinis lounged on the deck, and the "men" staggered about the boat, drinks in hand, laughing belligerently (probably at the women in the bikinis!). This putting a damper on our peaceful sunset we went below to play a quiet game of chess.
Turning on the VHF we again heard the poor captain of the grounded vessel calling the Coast Guard. Due to their position, there was no vessel in the vicinity that could help them, and they were going to have to wait 3 more days for a barge to come rescue them! Can you imagine! Being stuck aground in unknown waters with your family of 4, in a boat which sits at a 45 degree angle for 3 days? My heart went out to them, but the captain, as before, took things in stride, and commented that they were on a sailboat, which meant they had nothing more than TIME. Also, knowing the genuine hospitality of boaters, I'm sure others were monitoring their situation as closely as we had been, and, if they were still at "Great Sail Cay", I'm certain they probably dinghied supplies to them, or perhaps even dinghied them over to spend the night in comfort! This settled my concerns a bit.
After beating my captain in a few games of chess I noticed how things had quieted down outside. Assuming the "party" had ended, I poked my head out the companionway only to see the motor yacht was quite a bit further away from us than it had been before. I was sure we had not heard their motor crank up, and had the sinking feeling they were dragging anchor out into a shipping channel! You know, after seeing two captains in two days make such obvious-to-me mistakes, I began to doubt my instincts, and decided that the boat had probably moved to give us (or themselves!) some privacy. After all, it was a BIG ocean, and they didn't have to anchor RIGHT NEXT TO US (especially if they weren't even going to invite us to the party!!!). So, I ducked back down below and popped in a good tape.
Being the boater I have now become, I couldn't sit easy and not check on the other vessel, so, after about 15 minutes I again popped my head out of the companionway, only to find the vessel was much, much further away than before. This time I KNEW something was amiss, and tried hailing them on the VHF. Again... no response. Either they didn't have their radio on, or they were partying so hard they couldn't hear it. At any rate, I was convinced at that point that they were dragging, and quickly! Sleep had alluded Cap'n Dave and me by this time, so we settled in the cockpit and watched the boat get smaller and smaller, until it was only a few dots of light on the horizon. All the while constantly trying to hail them on the radio. We, of course, gave up the watch and called it a night. That evening a BAD gale blew. We weren't around a knotmeter, but I would guess the winds were around 45 to 50 knots, and we were, once again, like a Junebug on a string. We had had such a pleasant past few months that I had forgotten how nervous this makes me, and I was unable to sleep. It wasn't long after the gale began to blow that I heard our old "neighbors" motoring back, and anchoring to our starboard. But, this time I noted they put out TWO ANCHORS!
We should make it to "West End" tomorrow, and that will be our last stop in the Bahamas until we reach the good ole' USofA. We hadn't been on an inhabited island since "White Sound" near "Green Turtle Cay", so I was again anxious to be in civilization again. I tried very hard not to think about the Gulf Stream crossing. This had to have been the most terrifying experience of my whole life, and to think about it almost made me ill. So I buried those feelings deep inside and refused to even think about it, and absolutely would not talk about it. Hadn't really been able to speak of it since it happened. I guess I was trying to pretend that it didn't! However, after "West End" I know I will have to face it, and I think somewhere in my subconscious I already have. It's a courage I am just going to have to take for granted, because, virtually, I have no other choice! (besides... there's no airport at "West End"!).
June 25, 1992
It was a good day's sail to "West End". It was a bit windy and cloudy, close-reach sail with a lot of tacking going on to dodge the thunderstorms. Approaching the settlement was a bit tricky, though. The markers were numerous, confusing, and at times it was quite shallow. We assumed because of the abundance of markers this meant the channel was rather narrow, and, from reading the charts, you definitely do not want to stray from it! However, thanks to the excellent navigational skills of my cap'n we made it successfully.
The traffic was pretty heavy, but we were able to maneuver into a slip at "Jack Tar Marina". There we were able to shower, change, and decided to walk to "town". There was a strange aura about this place. The marina was very run-down, and had a chain-length fence surrounding it. Next to the marina was a huge closed and boarded up resort which was once a gambling casino. Apparently it "fed" the town, because the rest of the "town" was, for the most part, closed and boarded up as well. The abandoned resort showed evidence of recent fire and vandalism. The "town" was miles from the marina (unbeknownst to us as we set out on foot for it) and there weren't any signs of life as we know it to be seen anywhere! Sort of eerie! There were homes dotting the roadside, all boarded up and vandalized as well. Upon approaching one abandoned home we saw an old native couple piling bananas into the trunk of their dilapidated old car which they had "harvested" from behind the house. They must have known our plight and offered us a ride to "town", which we gladly accepted. I'm glad we did, because we didn't see another soul on the road! Since this is a stop where many boaters stop to initially clear customs from the US (to avoid "MEMORY ROCK" (@#*&+# I'm sure!) I had envisioned a bustling settlement with lots of boaters and friendly natives. Well,,,,, I was wrong. The town was as boarded up and vandalized as the casino. We had explained to our driver that we were looking for a restaurant, and he was at a loss for suggestions. After hitting "main street", we saw the "Harbor Hotel". The only signs of life thus far. It was like being in a ghost town from one of those old westerns. The only thing missing was the tumbleweed!
ANYWAY, (there's that famous last word!) our spirits brightened a bit and we decided they MUST have a restaurant, and had our driver drop us off there. Upon entering the hotel we found it practically deserted. After a bit of yelling someone finally came out to assist us, and show us to the restaurant. Well, I was ready for an ice cold "Kalik", so we anxiously followed our guide. She seated us near the bar, and, after adjusting to the dimness, realized we were the ONLY patrons! There was a view of the pool, which was dry, overgrown, and cracked, and the lawn furniture surrounding it was broken and scattered. The few locals we had encountered thus far offered little in the way of conversation, and I was indeed feeling nervous about this whole situation. I still don't understand what keeps the few folks here alive!
A lone barmaid approached us from somewhere in the back and we immediately ordered an ice cold "Kalik". One thing this "hotel" had going for it, though. It was air-conditioned almost to the point of discomfort (I wondered how they paid the bill!), and the beers were ICE COLD! Next thing I know someone enters from outside. A very tall, thin Bahamian man, Philip, and walked right over and sat down with us as though he had known us forever. Being so accustomed to the friendliness of the Bahamian people, and glad that someone here at least wanted to talk to us, we offered to buy him a beer, which he immediately accepted (he drank Budweiser because he said it was as much a delicacy to him as "Kaliks" were to us). He continued to chatter endlessly with us, telling us of his past life (didn't say much about his present-day activities!) and being overly friendly. He kept asking if there was anything he could do for us during our stay, and, quite frankly, there wasn't. We soon deduced, though, that he was just trying to make a little extra money somehow. These poor folks had to be absolutely destitute! So, after about the fifth offer to help us, Cap'n Dave said, "Well, we'd like to take a case of "Kaliks" home to share with our friends, and had counted on there being a store open. If you could help us out here we'd appreciate it." Well, this guy immediately rose from the table, left the hotel, and promised to make a few connections and see what he could do. (This was beginning to feel like some clandestine activity!!!). We half expected him not to return, but after about 15 minutes he showed up. He had gone to the owner of the local liquor store's home and gotten him to open up his store for us. So, Cap'n Dave left with this man and I stayed behind not particularly wanting to involve myself in this. After they were gone about a half an hour I began to imagine all sorts of sordid predicaments, and was getting quite worried.
Well, after about 45 minutes Dave showed up with a wild tale! Dave says when they arrived at the liquor store there were five or six men standing out front awaiting them. Dave only had a $100 bill, and they all clambered to make change so Dave could buy this case of "Kalik". Right when Dave was about to make the purchase the police showed up and TRIED TO ARREST DAVE! It happened to be Sunday, but being on the boat we really don't keep that good a track of the days, and, also unbeknownst to us, it was illegal to sell beer on Sundays here. Dave couldn't help but feel this was some sort of set-up, and did some quick thinking, not realizing that he was indeed doing anything wrong! He told the police that he was a transient on a sailboat docked at the "Jack Tar Marina", and, not having a vehicle, was simply making arrangements to have a case of "Kalik" delivered to "Patience" before our departure the following day. Dave said you could see the obvious frustration come over the policeman's face, and, after a bit of coercion, let Dave go.
After my Dave told me this story I realized what a predicament we both would have been in. Me, stranded in a deserted, dilapidated hotel... ,ALONE, and my Cap'n sitting in a jail somewhere, with a fine which was most likely too large for me to pay without having to cash a check (I was sure they didn't take VISA!), and, of course, I didn't even SEE a bank. Fortunately (again) none of the above came to pass, and we boogied on back to "Patience" as fast as our little feet would carry us. No harm had been done, but somewhere there was a lesson to be learned here.
After arriving safely at the marina Cap'n Dave phoned home to inform friends and family of our upcoming Gulf Stream crossing (*&$#) so they would know about when to expect to hear from us again once we reached the States. Another couple from a vessel named "FriendShip" headed for Beaufort, North Carolina overheard our conversation, and asked if they could sail with us. We, of course, agreed, and, after cleaning up "Patience" a bit preparing for the long voyage home, we called it a night.
It was HOT, and the MOSQUITOES WERE OUT, and there were BUGS ON THE DOCK, so, after a fitful night's sleep we awoke before the dawn to make ready to "blow this place"! I tried to clear customs, but ever since we had arrived there was NOBODY IN THE OFFICE! After trying 4 or 5 times, I finally had to put our clearance papers on a desk inside with a note attached and hope for the best. We certainly weren't going to wait around this place. We had a rather uneasy feeling about the prior day's events, with folks knowing where "Patience" was and that we were alone on a sailboat. Not that anything would have happened, but I think it's understandable that we were anxious to leave the situation.
After finally giving up on Customs altogether I moseyed down the dock to see if "Friendship" was making ready for our departure. After another 4 or 5 trips down the dock, batting mosquitoes and no-see-ums all the way, and noticing the crew of "Friendship" were still asleep below with the air-conditioner going so they could not hear me hail them, we untied "Patience", gassed and iced up, and left.
Welp, the time had come. I finally had to face the fact we were indeed going to make that dreaded Gulf Stream crossing. That is another story altogether, so I will close for now.
June 27, 1992
Pulling out of West End was a piece of cake. It looked a bit stormy, but not enough so to keep us back, so we went ANYWAY.
Upon leaving West End in our wake we heard "Friendship" trying to hail us on the VHF. We apologized for leaving without them, but they were nowhere ready enough for us to hang around. They said they were leaving straight away, but "Patience" is so light and fast on the water that we knew pretty much for sure that we would never see them. We had a nice close reach sail, and the weather turned out to be spectacular!
It was obvious as we neared our approach to the Bahama bank. This is where the ocean goes from 24-34 feet to 5,000 feet! It was rather strange looking. Almost as if we were approaching white water. Memories of the Gulf Stream crossing came flooding back to mind, and as we got closer to this "disturbed" water I found myself gripping the rub rail until my fingers and knuckles were absolutely white! I could not take my eyes of the water, and was frozen to my seat. We got closer, and closer, to the point I could actually HEAR the water's turmoil. I knew then how Christopher Columbus's crew must have felt as they feared they were sailing off the end of the world!!! I can't explain the feeling of dread which overcame me the moment before we entered this deep water. I found myself holding my breath, in fact! Much to my surprise, we just "slipped" into the current with a "swooshing" sound, and the water became the most incredible color of blue I had ever seen! Absolutely piercing!!! It was as if you could see down until there was NO LIGHT ANYMORE!! Perfect indigo blue! All my fears and anxieties left me immediately and I was suddenly transfixed to this glorious sight! Almost hypnotized, in fact. It was a very surrealistic experience! I could see through my mind's eye all the creatures of the sea, large and small, in their habitat, and suddenly gained an incredibly profound respect for them, and realized how insignificant I actually was in this strange new world.
After passing the initial transition from shallow to deep, the water was almost like glass. Nice slow swells passed beneath "Patience". I could still see "deeper" than I ever thought possible, and the wind kept us sailing steady at about 5 knots. We did encounter one small squall, and Cap'n Dave donned his safety harness (learning!!!) and took down the jib. The squall was short-lived, and it wasn't long before we were sailing right along again. Beautiful day, wonderful breeze. This Gulf Stream crossing was just about as drastically different as "Whale Cay Passage" had been for us. It was absolutely mesmerizing! The day's sail passed by quickly, and it was smooth enough that I was able to put on a pot of stew for dinner.
About 2300 I took over the helm so my captain could get some much needed sleep. It was an absolutely gorgeous evening. The sound of gentle waves splashing off the bow was the only sound to be heard. This, along with the gentle rise and fall of "Patience" under sail, was absolutely hypnotizing! The only lights to be seen were stars dotting the sky.
Standing in the cockpit breathing the fresh sea air, autopilot hooked up, cool night's wind blowing through my hair, staring out at the stars and moonlight refracting off the sea,,,,,,,,. I can't put into words my feelings at that moment. I felt very close to something. Didn't even want to distract my concentration on the whole scenario to try to figure out what. I felt extremely privileged, as if I was being shown a deep secret long kept from me. ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD!!!
Sailing along I would go below long enough to chart our course, only to go back on watch to look for obstacles. It started to cloud up a bit, and rather than wake Cap'n Dave unnecessarily I decided to just go with the flow as long as I could. The breeze picked up and I let the main out to keep us from heeling so drastically (so my stew would stay intact!) and noticed the stars had all but disappeared! As soon as I saw the last one become shrouded by the clouds, a totally new sensation overcame me. It felt as if I was sailing into a void. It wasn't long before I was unable to distinguish the sky from the sea, and my orientation was totally displaced! I didn't care for this feeling at all, and knew from my charting that we were not too awfully far from the United States, so I pulled the TV on deck and was able to pick up David Letterman! Boy, this was a change of pace! I desperately needed some distraction, however, to keep me from staring out into that void. I wanted to keep my wits about me, but it DID spoil the ambiance!
About an hour later I spotted lights to port. I looked through the binos and found it impossible to distinguish whether this vessel (I was sure at this point that it was indeed a vessel) was on a collision course or not. And, after being in that apparent "void" for so long I found it almost impossible to gauge size and distance. I must have watched this vessel for an hour before I realized we were indeed on a collision course with this ship, obviously a freighter, but had plenty of time to alter my course accordingly. Other than this, however, my night's watch was rather uneventful. Just before dawn, as the horizon finally became distinguishable, I spied this "stick"-looking object far off to starboard (no,,, it wasn't "MEMORY ROCK"!!!) and it kept changing size and shape, and I could not tell whether it was actually moving or perhaps refracting onto the water (hence the change in shape). I was totally clueless! I watched this object for about two hours before I finally became concerned. It had been far enough away that I simply watched it with interest (since it was the ONLY thing to look at!!!), but all of a sudden it seemed to be growing larger - FAST! You have to understand, that I had had absolutely nothing (other than that freight ship) to gauge distance or direction by other than using my GPS, and was slightly disoriented as to whether I was coming up on this object FAST, or whether this object was coming up on me... FAST. OR BOTH!!! With Cap'n Dave having had about 8 hours sleep (probably more like 5) I didn't hesitate to call him on deck. Just about the time he cleared the companionway this object grew closer and taller, and, all of a sudden, this Trident Nuclear Submarine emerged within about 200 yards off of "Patience" bow!!!!! AND ON A COLLISION COURSE! Totally freaked out by this situation, Dave immediately got on the VHF and tried to hail the "vessel". After many, many tries, and no response, we, of course, backed off our course completely and let it pass in front. As it passed, still emerging as she went, she created this ENORMOUS wake, and following it was a tremendous assortment of sea turtles, gulls, porpoises, etc. All of a sudden the sub's hatch popped open and about a dozen seemingly little men in orange suits came on deck and went about their business. Not once did they ever acknowledge our presence! Boy, so much for vessel under sail having the right away! (we weren't even going to attempt to pull that one!!!).
After all that excitement I had lost track of our positioning, and went below to chart our course. I could tell we were nearing Port Canaveral, and could even see the Cape's shuttle launchers dot the skyline with the binos. So, once again I was getting anxious to get my feet on dry land again. Some of the first of our "fleet" we had met in "Marsh Harbour" (from the vessel "Orion") lived in Cocoa Beach and we were going to try to contact them. So, letting Cap'n Dave take over the tiller I scurried to cook us some breakfast, brew some fresh coffee, and prepare for landfall.
And this is another story altogether!
June 28, 1992
Beautiful sunrise! This is a good day! We ended up following in the sub's wake into Port Canaveral channel entrance. The submarine basin was to starboard, and we kept straight on because according to the waterway guide there were ample marinas up the channel. I was ready for a nice warm shower (with UNITED STATES-TYPE WATER PRESSURE!!!), and then a nice long nap. We found an easily accessible marina, pulled up to the fuel dock and disembarked. Setting foot on the dock the full realization came to me that our "journey" was nearing an end. My first step on U.S. soil since February. A sudden wave of sadness overcame me as I realized that there would be no more little deserted islands to sail to with our "fleet", and that, in all possibility, I would never see our "family of fair and foul weather friends" again! I call it my "Post Bahama Blues". Probably mostly attributed to fatigue, but I felt saddened all the same. My usual quick gait down the docks had turned to a slow "sauntering" as we made our way to a nearby telephone booth to call family to let them know we had made the crossing unscathed. As I was fishing through my coin purse trying to find a U.S. quarter for Dave to make the phone call when suddenly I heard a dinghy in the distance. This being the first dinghy we had heard initially since leaving "Green Turtle Cay/Manjack Cay" I instinctively turned around, and, low and behold, it was Dave and Peggy from "To Boldly Go", a companion vessel in "Marsh Harbour". You may remember me mentioning them from when Jim and Lisa (the "Boinkers") went back to "Patience" to get a guitar and ended up staying on her for a LLLOOONNNGGG time. ANYWAY,,, I was SO EXCITED! Here it is, our first human encounter in the United States AND IT'S FRIENDS FROM THE BAHAMAS! My spirits immediately took an about-face and I was running down the docks waving my arms at them. At first they didn't know who I was - just some crazy lady running down the docks waving her arms, but it wasn't long before they recognized me and pulled up next to "Patience" to tie off. While all this was going on Dave was still on the telephone, calling family and our friends from "Orion" in Cocoa, and he was clueless to the new development. I couldn't wait to tell him. Dave and Peggy ended up being anchored at the same alcove we had planned to anchor in, and we made plans to meet for "happy hour" (memories!!!) on "To Boldly Go" after Cap'n Dave and I got some much needed rest. Dave was unable to get up with our friends from "Orion" (Fred and Barbara) and simply left a message on their machine.
Returning to "Patience" we followed Dave and Peggy's instruction and anchored near them. We were the only vessels in the alcove, which was extremely deep (about 34 feet!), so it took up most the scope on our anchors. This looked like it used to be some sort of quarry, but was close enough to the ICW and marinas to make it wonderfully convenient!
It was a beautiful, warm, typical Florida day, and I sat in the cockpit with Bart (our macaw) and drank a Budweiser (no more Kalik's until our NEXT journey!). It tasted odd, and it was noticeable that two of these Budweisers didn't nearly put me in the same frame of mind as ONE KALIK! I dozed off, as did Cap'n Dave, and were awoken about an hour later to the sound of the VHF spouting, "Patience, Patience - Orion"! I jumped off the deck and realized we had left the radio on by mistake, and this was Fred and Barbara from "Orion" calling us from the marina we had gassed up at! I quickly responded, switched channels, and made plans to meet them for dinner after "happy hour" on "To Boldly Go"! I was so excited! This was INDEED a GOOD DAY!
As the afternoon wore on ANOTHER vessel, "Curnon", who we had seen pull in as we were leaving "Powell Cay" (remember the beautiful deserted island where we found the HUGE hermit crab, "Herman", while we stopped only long enough to "tie Dave's fronds"???). This was manned by a young solo sailor, Peter, and soon after he dropped anchor ANOTHER sailboat we had seen in "Marsh Harbour" named "Kamma-D" pulled in as well. Did we ever really leave the Abacos???? I was having de'jevu!
June 29, 1992
We left Port Canaveral about 0850 with "To Boldly Go". They headed out first, but before long they were a spot in our wake. We had an absolutely beautiful sail. Several storms loomed off in the horizon, but all either dissipated before we got to them or headed out to sea. Things were going our way this day. Peaceful and fairly uneventful. Cap'n Dave manned the helm while I slept most of the day in order to take night watch. I prefer the night.
Keeping constant contact with "To Boldly Go" on our "party line" we headed north for Fernandina Beach. The evening offered a beautiful sunset, moonrise, and the city lights along the coast line were spectacular! All lighthouses fully lit and shining.
Cap'n Dave woke me at about 0200 to take over the helm. He was fast asleep before I knew it. He'd put in a LONG day! I had gotten plenty of rest and was anxious to get behind the helm. While sailing gracefully along, right before sunrise, I hit something with a BIG THUD in 55 feet of water! While you're sailing at twilight, nothing to distract you except occasional horizon checks and course plotting, a sound like this can scare the wits out of you! Your first reaction is that you've gone aground. But, soon realizing this was not the case I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Had I hit a buoy? A smaller vessel? A log? Were we taking on water? Holding my breath for what seemed like eternity no other strange sounds were emitted from the hull, so I relaxed (a bit!). I checked the bilge and saw no excessive water. My only conclusion is that it was indeed a log. I have heard the dangers of hitting floatsum in the Gulf Stream, and had pretty much eliminated the probability of it being a buoy (since I kept a constant vidual on my course), and saw no other vessels, large or small. All ended up being fine.
I lost complete sight of "To Boldly Go". I had kept continuous watch of their running lights and could tell by their color what tack they were on. The time came, however, when all I could see was their mast light. For the longest time it was a tiny spec in the horizon, but now they were nowhere in sight. I had developed this feeling of comfort knowing she was back there nearby, and manning the helm alone in the dark made me wish for their companionship again. We would break the monotony from time-to-time by chatting via VHF. But now they were apparently so far back that our radio couldn't reach them. I would occasionally hear them trying to hail us, but they obviously couldn't hear our response.
Dawn brought forth a beautiful sunrise, and I spent most of the morning maneuvering around shrimp boats headed out early for their day's bounty! This soon was replaced, however, with constant dodging of squalls throughout the day mixed with sun-showers. More rainbows! One we seemed to sail right under the arch! Is this our luck day?
We lost most of our wind towards midday, and had to motor the remainder of the leg. "To Boldly Go" soon caught up with us (their motor is bigger and faster) and passed us by! We finally arrived at Fernandina Inlet around 1800 very tired, hungry, and ready for a good shower and beer - in that order!
I want to note here, however, that Fernandina inlet is quite tricky! The jetties stick far, far out, and you MUST ROUND THE SEA BUOYS to enter this channel. "Ocarina" went aground on these jetties in route to the Abacos. They were certain they were in the center of the channel, but hit bottom ANYWAY and ended up beaching her (a 51' Morgan!) after she had already taken on 3 feet of water in the hull! As she was sinking a local skiff pulled up along side them with manual pump in hand, climbed on board with a pipe clinched between his teeth a said "Ain't life full of surprises?" as he climbed down the companionway and started pumping! After enough water was pumped out to "beach" her, he invited Jim and Sandy (from "Ocarina") back to his home, fed them, loaned them his car when needed, and helped them the THREE MONTHS IT TOOK TO REPAIR THEIR VESSEL! Apparently this wasn't the first, nor the last, time he had come to the aid of a vessel in distress in Fernandina inlet!
ANYWAY, knowing this story, and luck having been with us the duration of this adventure (except while racing "Sea Lure" from "Matt Lowes Cay" back to "Marsh Harbour" where we went aground while rounding the jetties at the channel marker for the entrance to the harbor for ALL THE WORLD TO SEE) we took this inlet seriously! The sea had gotten quite rough and choppy, and there was an extremely strong current coming in and out of that inlet. Sailing far past the sea buoys to make our turn into the inlet we were met by some pretty severe following seas. I dislike following seas almost more than "Memory Rock" (but not quite!!!(!#@*). I always fear being "pooped". But this was the most drastic following sea we had encountered in all our sails. With rock jetties on both sides of us we just did the best we could to keep "Patience" on a steady course. We had seen "To Boldly Go", which is a much bigger vessel with more displacement, have about the same problem. This putting our nerves very much on edge we were indeed ready for that shower and cold beer!
After entering the anchorage we spied "To Boldly Go" had already set their anchors and were lowering their dinghy! It's not too often we're "beat", but this was no race, and Cap'n Dave and I took our time setting our anchors, donning our "street" cloths, and dinghying to shore.
This is where I met my dive instructor last March for my final open water scuba instruction, so we had spent about a week here before on "Patience" and knew the town well. I love this place! It's very quaint, brick roads, horse and buggy rides, old liberty bell-style courthouse, lots and lots of beautiful vessels. There is also a big gambling ship here which has dinner cruises. But, the best attraction of all is the "Palace Saloon" which is a huge old, original saloon, supposedly the oldest in Florida, which has one of those big old wooden-carved bars and the wall-length mirror behind it, old, old cash register, good food, and COLD BEER. (I think you know how I feel about beer!).
After showering and a quick "happy hour" at the "Palace", we returned to "Patience" and Dave and Peggy (from "To Boldly Go") hailed us on the VHF and invited us for a dinner of fresh caught tuna (or rather the 5 pounds left after a barracuda got a hold of it). We eagerly accepted and I made a fresh potato salad for "offering". While still on "Patience" we saw "Kamma-D" pull into the anchorage, along with "Cur-Non" (both acquaintances from the Abacos!). They dinghied over to say hello, and we were informed that "Kamma-D" was from Southport, North Carolina, a truly charming old mariner's village on the Cape Fear River known for it's prior "pirate" escapades! Small, small world. Wish we had gotten more acquainted with them in "Marsh Harbour", I could have introduced them to "Harry" (remember Harry??? who fell "up" the stairs and felt not pain (then) and sprained his ankle???). Anyway, we all decided to head north together tomorrow, and the "FLEET" WAS BACK IN BUSINESS!! Oh what a WONDERFUL LIFE! I can't begin to tell you what a new spark of adventure this lit in my soul!
We headed over to "To Boldly Go" armed with guitars, conch horns, potato salad and wine and had an absolutely scrumptious feast of fresh grilled tuna, garden salad, my potato salad, fresh baked banana bread and wine. Why, oh why does everything taste so good on a boat?????!!
We ate, drank and played music in the cockpit all evening singing folk and old sea ballads. This was a very memorable night!
June 30, 1992
This morning we awoke before dawn to the sounds of boat motors all around us, all leaving for a fishing tournament being held here today. They were all ZOOMING by, some honking, making a hell of a wake. I grudgingly stuck my head out of the hatch only to learn, with much embarrassment, that we had DRUG ANCHOR SEVERAL HUNDRED FEET AND WERE CASUALLY DRIFTING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHANNEL, just as pretty as you please! There was a whole convoy of boats streaking past us, and I'm sure we looked silly as we clambered on deck, raised the anchors and re-set them out of harms way. Trying to hide our obvious humiliation we went below and went back to sleep (maybe they would all be gone and forget us by the time we arose again!) (???).
Awoke to another gorgeous day and, full of pent up energy, decided to give "Patience" a good cleaning, so I sent Cap'n Dave to town for some supplies to give me "breathing" room. As I was in the cockpit hoisting bucket after of bucket of salt water on board for cleaning purposes I looked up and saw another sailing vessel "Thirsty Whale" enter the anchorage which was from "Great Guana Cay". Boy, talk about "old home week"!
Being a beautiful day we all decided to go sailing, so "Patience", "To Boldly Go", "Kamma-D" and "Curnon" all pulled anchor and headed north. There was virtually no wind to speak of, so we all motored mostly and dodged thunderstorms (saw numerous rainbows!). We corresponded from time-to-time with the others in our "convoy", but otherwise it was a pretty calm day. We jealously listened as "Kamma-D" and "Cur-Non" caught fish after fish after fish. My Cap'n was waiting for the "BIG ONE" (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,). "To Boldly Go" caught a huge barracuda!
We had initially decided to head for St. Simons Island, Georgia, but arrived there by noon and decided to push on for Hilton Head or Charleston. We have good friends in Charleston. So, we sailed off the coast all night.
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(c)1995 - Terri Robbins
21st Century Adventures - August 1995