Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, March 14, 2014

This year we have discovered and explored many weird, isolated and beautiful places here in George Town Harbour. is the most relaxing winter we have spent together. We haven’t even been out of the harbour.
We have had a few glitches, of course. I have been using Batelco Internet, and it is painfully slow. I’m still not sure if the problem is the T-Mobile device I’m using as a hotspot or Batelco’s lack of bandwidth for this service. And each data card expires 30 days after activation and a new one must be activated through a smart phone after it expires, not in advance. I have to go back to town to get it done, as the phone I have is just an ordinary cell phone. To fix all this I would have to buy another more expensive hotspot device or phone, and pay much more per month. Fortunately the local restaurants all offer free wi-fi, so whenever I get the chance I go to town. This is why getting and answering your email is a slow process. Oh well, I told myself I didn’t come to the Bahamas to fart away all my time and money on the Internet, and let it go. In the long run, that’s the most relaxing approach. The only thing I regret is not yet being able to see the pictures of my newest grand-nephew, Enders, born in Germany.

Another major glitch is the burning out of the 12-volt converter in the fridge. Our fridge is a conversion kit that makes the icebox into a fridge, and switches automatically from 12 volt to 110, depending on which power source is running. But now it only runs on 110 so we use the inverter when there is sun or the motor or generator is running, and the fridge is just residually cool the rest of the time. Not too bad. We just have to be careful what we buy, and use things before they go bad. The warranty was still in effect when this happened and Norcold promises us they will cover fixing it when we get back to the States in a year or so, as none of the technicians here are acceptable to them. Oh well, it’s another thing we didn’t have at all in “the earlier years” as Richard puts it.

On the other hand, we rejoice in all the free fresh water we can get here, although it keeps getting heavier to lift onto the boat for our aging muscles. In “the earlier years” we had to pay fifty cents a gallon for water, and carry it to the dinghy. We just heard someone on the radio saying they had to take the bumpy trip through high winds today to get to town because they have run out of ice. A different life style than ours.

Speaking of aging, we find we do less and sleep more. We take a water bottle to all those cocktail parties on the beach now, and can’t begin to remember the people and boat names we are introduced to there. We really did let loose at the first rock and roll party at the Chat and Chill. Vonny and Ray were visiting then and, boy, do they like to party! And they were not drinking water. Jim and Lynda from Morningstar travel with us, and they, being younger, also have more party and alcohol stamina than we do. But that’s okay too. We sit and listen and watch all those young folks that are here now, or stay on the boat in peace, watching the stars come out and the anchor lights come on and we are content.

We have walked on many trails new to us. Through Bernie, on Countess Cosel, we met Helge, the German woman who owns much of Elizabeth Island and used to own Crab Cay with her husband, now deceased. She is a rich source of local history and we love visiting her. When we were visiting her large coconut plantation (she’s not allowed to sell the coconuts, so they are gathered and burned), she showed us a small building full of large obsolete generators. She leaned against the counter and Richard asked, “Is that snake real?”

She was a little startled, but explained that it was a Bahamian boa constrictor. It seemed to be sleeping. It was maybe five feet long and black with a squiggly yellow-green line all over its body. Helge said these snakes keep the rat population down and are known to inhabit Stock Island, Elizabeth Island and Crab Cay. Too bad they weren’t at Masters Harbour Boat Yard when our boats were there.

Bernie loves to fish and a week or so later, Jim, Lynda, Uli, Richard and I were invited to Bernie’s trawler, Countess Cosel, for a spaghetti with lobster supper. He was anchored in Red Shanks with us, but closer to the shore of Crab Cay. The food was delicious and we listened to his wonderful music until late (9 p.m.). His cat Lisl was antsy. When we got up to go, I stepped outside onto the side deck. Something silky slid over and around my ankle in the dark. I said, “There is a snake sliding over my foot!” Bernie said, “It’s just a rope.” My sweet boyfriend said, “You’ve had too much to drink.”  Then a large black coil with a yellow-green squiggly line on it looped into the saloon, where everyone else was standing. Bernie snatched it up and tossed it into the water. In a flash the snake had swum to shore. Nobody said anything else about my drinking.

Lynda and I have managed to make it to quite a few yoga classes on Volleyball Beach, given by Susan, a professional yoga teacher who volunteers. She is a fine teacher and her classes always make me feel better. But often wind or distance put us out of reach by dinghy.

Visitors have come twice this year, because we are in one area, accessible to an airport. Vonny and Ray, my sister and brother-in-law stayed for three weeks. Uli, an old friend of Richard’s, stayed for a week or so. They all liked to snorkel and explore by dinghy. We watched movies together and visited, and they got to know Jim and Lynda, our buddies on Morningstar. We went out to restaurants more often. And both Vonny and Uli are great cooks. It was a pleasure to let them take over the gallery and cook old ingredients with fresh ideas, when my cooking was getting bland and predictable. Vonny made plantains flambé twice. As she mounted the stairs into the cockpit, the pan covered in foot-high flames, I noticed Richard looking in terror towards the two outboard tank of gas he stores under the seat at the back of the cockpit. But we weren’t blown into the sea by an explosion, and the plantains tasted great.

Vonny helped me stretch canvas on all the frames I brought from the north, and they are now almost all covered with paintings that I displayed in the art show on volleyball beach – paintings from the cockpit of spots in the anchorages where we have been. None have “found new homes” yet, but many copies of my book have. The restrictions in power usage have made it difficult to make much progress on Book III.

There are many water sports here. Sailboat racing is one. The regatta has just come and gone, and so has the rally to Long Island. There was lots of participation in both from the over 300 boats that were here (it’s down to about 150 now), but we were not among the competitors. We did take part in some of the social events. We just don’t have the wherewithal to tie down or stow all our loose stuff and engage in the frenetic activity of racing.

Another watersport that I love (now that my phobia is at rest) is snorkelling, and we have done that more than any other year we’ve been together. We snorkelled with Vonny and Ray, Jim and Lynda, Uli and by ourselves when the water was calm and the tide was not too strong. The reefs seem to be coming back a bit from a die-off a few years ago so there are more fish and more colour in the reefs. And Richard knows all the best spots. Two nights ago and yesterday at lunch we dined on tasty fish and lobster caught by Jim and Richard, and prepared on Morningstar, which has the best fish cooks.

Every time the wind pipes up, a boat drags or swings into another boat, usually in the Volleyball Beach area, where they squeeze together like sardines to get in on all of the social activities. I like to turn on the radio and listen to the action.
A sad story was that of Raven, who ended up on a reef coming into the harbour late one afternoon. The crew got her into the harbour, despite a hole in the hull, with help from cruisers who brought pumps. She made it to an inside sand shoal and the next day cruisers helped her off so she could be hauled out at Masters Harbour. Something went wrong during the haulout, and Raven suffered even more damage. She may not sail again.

Running aground happens a lot in these shallow waters and usually no harm is done. Marlene was a single-handed sailor who had been given my book for Valentine’s Day last year and written to tell me she enjoyed it and was inspired to sail alone when the giver of the Valentine didn’t work out. One day Lynda and I were in the laundromat near our anchorage in Red Shanks, when I read an update from Marlene. She had sailed from Everglades City, on the west coast of Florida, to the Bahamas, and had just anchored her trimaran Spray in Red Shanks. We visited her on our way back and invited her for supper, and she decided to move closer to us. The tide was going out and she touched the ground, with a rocky shore close at hand and the wind pushing her towards it. On the radio, she said she didn’t need help and would just wait for the tide to rise. But the wind and outgoing tide were pushing her closer to shore with each lap of the waves. With a little nudging from me, a former single-handed woman sailor myself, Richard, Jim and Gabe from Sea Wolf jumped in dinghies and went to her rescue before she landed on the rocks. Marlene moved Spray closer to us and came for supper.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Two days ago she set sail from Red Shanks, trailed by the trimaran Triad, who was a little slower getting his anchor up. She was heading for Long Island and into the unknown and new adventures. Marlene, if you are reading this, please email and tell me how you are doing. I think about you often.

Everyone else, let me know where you are, how you are doing and if you would like off of the update list. I will answer you eventually, but it may be when we get home mid-April.

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