Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, February 14, 1013

A lot of cruising has been done on Lucky since the update you received on January 31.

Lucky stayed in Lake Oleta at Baker’s Haulover another couple of days. Our friend Shirley Marshall, our angel ashore who lives in Fort Lauderdale in the winter, had received Richard’s forgotten puffers and delivered them to us. She stayed overnight and took Sue and me shopping. This is part of the bonus of a friend with a car. In the morning there was a ticket on it. We advised her to ignore it, and hope there have been no consequences.

The next day, Sunday, we motored to No Name Harbor. The dock was packed with the usual crowd of partiers playing Spanish music loudly, but the harbour had lots of space for anchoring boats. Lynda and Jim on Morning Star came in and rafted to us.  It was so good to see them. We shared supper, caught up on each other’s news and made plans for crossing the Gulf Stream.

The water was as flat as glass all night. Monday morning Chris Parker, the weather guy, said it would be ESE 5-7 knots on Tuesday, with seas of 1-2 feet. Our window.

We had trouble sleeping Monday night and were up at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. At 5:30 we left the harbour and headed out into the black ocean, Morning Star right behind us. The chart plotter light blinded Richard and I was nervous and couldn’t figure out how to dim the light. I had to put a towel over it and then tell Richard which way to go to miss the day markers and stay in the deep water. A lot of yelling. It’s been five years since we headed into the bumpy ocean in the dark and we were both edgy.

As it got lighter we calmed down and got sails up. We motor-sailed all the way across to Bimini. It was not the worst or the best crossing, but when we got into that stunning turquoise blue-green water off Bimini, we were thrilled to be there again.

Both of our boats were waved into Brown’s, the first dock we saw, and we thought it was Weech’s, to whom we had just spoken on the radio and where we had always stayed in previous years. Later we heard the staff at Weech’s shouting furiously at the guys at Browns’, whom they said had stolen their customers. But we were happy. Browns’ is a beautiful restoration of some old docks that used to be at the entrance and is a reasonably priced. Weech’s is run-down. We were told that a French-Canadian woman was responsible for the restoration of Browns’. We strolled over to Customs and Immigration, and enjoyed Alice Town’s village ambiance, where everyone greeted us with a polite “Good Afternoon”.

Jim and Lynda took us out for dinner – a repayment for a painting I had sent them in Canada and a copy of Book II – at the Big Game Club, which has a great restaurant. The conch salad was delicious. Then we toddled back to our boats and fell into bed.

We had internet there, but there were too many touristy things to do and I didn’t have time to do an update. We rented a golf cart the next day and drove the length of the island, through Bailey Town and Porgy Town and north into the Bimini Bay project which was started before Vonny and I were there thirteen years ago. The natural landscape has been obliterated by the landfill resulting from the dredging of a channel into it and a marina for very large (up to 100’ plus) powerboats. We were told the slips were mostly occupied by Cubans. Driving among the many new mostly empty houses, we blew a tire. The property manager, a pleasant and helpful Bahamian who lived on south Bimini, got one of his drivers to take us to the Aqua Grille, a very nice restaurant with an infinity swimming pool. This is a pool that, when you sit in a lounge chair and look out across it, appears to join the ocean. But no one was in the pool, although a sweet Bahamian woman with a big smile sat at a table with rolled white bath towels to pass out to anyone who needed them. The showers were elegant. The restaurant was almost empty. Eventually the golf cart returned, with a replacement tire. The blow-out was really a bonus.

Lynda and I took a tour of Dolphin House, where most of the surfaces are mosaics made from bits and pieces of broken tiles, glass, license plates, and so on. It sounds tacky, but it was quite elegant.

We had planned to stay and be tourists for another day, but when we listened to the weather in the morning, off we went, to take advantage of two good days to get to Chub Cay. We went south and turned left of the lighthouse on Gun Cay to go between Gun and Cat Cays and onto the banks. The wind was light, the water was smooth, and Richard had set the autopilot, so there was no need to tend the wheel. I spent much of the day just staring at the sand below us, looking at little ferny corals, sponges, sea cucumbers, the odd conch and little clumps of grass, as we floated over it, rich blues above and below. My watch had stopped, there was no internet, and the bra became optional.  As the sun went down, both boats dropped an anchor. There was no land in sight and no horizon visible in the darkness – just the millions of brilliant stars.

At 3:30 a.m., we woke up on a very bouncy boat. The waves were 3 to 5 feet high and the wind was behind us. We had to wave a bright light at Morning Star for a few minutes to get their attention. At 8:30 a.m., we were past the NW channel light, or at least where the chart plotter said it should be. All evidence of an actual light was missing.

Then we were in the Tongue of the Ocean. The waves got to three, four and five feet and the depth-sounder just flashed a bar, because it could no longer sound the bottom. The water turned from the light sandy turquoise that it had been to a deep indigo blue, almost black. We put up the jib and sailed to the anchorage at Frazer’s Hog, the cay just past Chub that is joined to it.

Later, after anchoring up at the north end, the two crews swam in the cool water and showered sans swim suits, the best way. Lynda and Jim came for supper and brought all of the makings for tacos. We assured Jim and Lynda that we would stay put the next day.

But the wind moved around to the NE and our anchorage became too open. We sailed back the 4 or 5 miles to Chub Cay and anchored in the little bay just off the beach, in front of a fancy-looking resort.

The four of us explored in our dinghy, and walked on a deserted beach near an abandoned house on a cay next to Chub Cay. A couple of live-aboard boats, abandoned perhaps, were anchored in the channel. On the way back we bought conch, already cleaned, from some Bahamian fishermen for a feast of crached conch and conch salad that night.

On Sunday, February 10, the wind was still blowing from the east, so we ignored all of the No Trespassing and Resort/Marina Guest Only signs and went ashore. We saw no people living in the new subdivision between the anchorage and the marina entrance. The fancy resort with its infinity pool and ersatz tiki bar was not occupied. Not only that, it was unfinished, with big skids of marble tile waiting to go onto the floors, and tall pillars leaning against the walls and lying around on the floors. Rain had come through an unfinished spot in the roof, damaging the interior. Outside, lounge chairs with cushions (all tied down) were arranged around the pool, which was clean and blue and waiting for guests to dive in. But the blue mosaic tiles were falling off the infinity side of the pool. The tiki bar was fitted out with colourful light that had big fans. Most of the fans blades were broken or missing, likely taken by a hurricane and the lights were broken. Nice high white bar stools surrounded it, but no guests sat on them or swam in the pool or strolled on the beautiful white beach.

We dinghied inside the marina to fill our diesel jugs and found a dozen or so workers among some shade trees on their break. The marina had fine docks with electrical and water hook-ups, which could take boats of 150 feet, but most were empty. The workers explained that the marina/resort/townhouse complex had gone bankrupt. Some docks were owned by very wealthy boat-owners who rarely used them, and the bank kept workers there to maintain the property, sell gas and rent docks, and provide security. There used to be a little village but it had been mostly subsumed by the developers, and the workers all came from other islands to stay a month and then go hom,e on their time off.

Jim noticed that the men had the Mason insignia on their hats. He is a mason, so they exchanged lodge numbers and are now all brothers. Some are planning to go visit the fishing camp that Jim and Lynda manage in Vermillion Bay, Ontario. After that encounter, we pretty well had the run of the island. There is a restaurant, and we went there for lunch. We called our families on Skype and read and answered email at the restaurant’s outside tables.

Sunday night there was a surge, and we rocked so violently that Richard laid crossways on the v-berth and I lay on the saloon floor on a settee cushion. No sleep was had. At first light we got up, reanchored closer to shore and made a surge harness out of a rope. It was like magic. We faced into the surge and the boat was calm and comfortable.

Monday I painted our Chub Cay anchorage from the Tiki hut and Jeff, the young man whose job was to maintain the pool, watched. It was nice to have the company and I didn’t feel that I was keeping him from any urgent work. On Tuesday we went in and did laundry. The workers seemed happy to have us there to visit with them. Kisha, the clerk in the grocery store and Jeff’s wife, said that the company that went bankrupt had instructed the workers not to fraternize with the guests, but the bank didn’t seem to care about that policy. The workers we met there were the nicest part of Chub Cay.

Wednesday, Feb. 13, we got up early to head for Nassau. But the wind was almost on the nose, and the waves were five to seven feet. Lynda and Jim got a few sweeping into their cockpit. As we passed the Frazer’s Hog anchorage entrance we decided to turn in and leave the trip to Nassau for another day.

A good decision. The next day the wind was slightly lighter and a couple degrees more off of the nose. The waves were noticeably smaller. We had an invigorating sail, well heeled over.

Well, one little glitch. The macerator pump malfunctioned and refused to pump out the head before we left the anchorage. As we pitched and yawed and heeled over, the fluid in the holding tank drained back into the toilet bowl. Until the tank was empty, it was my job to bail it into a small bucket, carry it very carefully back to the cockpit and toss it over the low side, avoiding blowback. I didn’t spill a drop.

The Valentine’s dinner to which Richard treated me that night was well-earned, I thought. The name of the old second-floor Nassau land-mark restaurant to which Jim and Richard took Lynda and me? The Poop Deck.

More to come. Sharon and Richard, on Lucky.

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