Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wind, wind and more wind!

Enough with the wind already!! Really!! While we got slammed by the front when it rolled through last night, with winds gusting to 40 kts., others had it worse. Right after the winds peaked, there was all sorts of yelling and scrambling out on the pier, as the sportfish docked across the way was getting pounded against the pier -- its crew hadn't secured the boat well at all, with only a single line out on the opposite side. (You would think that watching the rest of us on the pier add extra lines would have been a BIG hint, Once again, the marina staff came to the rescue, to add more lines and keep the boat away from the pier.

We rode out the cold front well in our slip, facing bow in to the winds as we were, so we had a quiet night. In the morning, Ron got a call from Shawne (the divemaster at Valentine's) who, on his day off, wanted to go diving with Ron! They decided that they'd watch what the winds were doing and if they slacked off in the afternoon, they'd go south to Ron's dive site. Karyn opted not to go out on the tender, again, as she had no desire to ride the pounding surf in the boat with her head still recovering. She stayed aboard Equinox doing yet more boat tasks: this time replacing a snap on the small flybridge canvas cover. (The piece itself might be small, but patching and re-covering the torn hole with new canvas, then replacing the darn snap was a pain in the ass. Broke sewing machine needles, hand-held needles and stabbed myself with said needles relentlessly. I should have gone diving!!) As it turned out, the seas outside the harbor were so rough that Ron and Shawne eventually gave up and returned without even trying to grab a mooring line or drop the anchor. Karyn was surprised when they called in on the VHF so early to report their return!

The evening proved to be more fun, as Sunsets was hosting The Brilanders (a Sunday evening favorite!) once again...we love going up there for cocktails, a bit of dinner and dancing! It's amazing how crowded it is there now; when we first arrived in January, it was us...and the staff. Now, the busy season is starting!! Families with small children, couples on vacation, sportfish boats and their crew, plus spring break families and college kids...all are starting to arrive en masse!! The dance floor was crowded tonight for a change! A fun time for all, in the midst of winds and chilly weather!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some things don't change...

...when we're talking about the wind. However, while it was a busy day for Ron, it was a quiet day for Karyn. Ron started his search for more Yahama fuel/water separator filters today, so that if Tingum's engines have any more fuel issues in the future, we'll have extra spares on hand. Usually when we have spares of something, we never need them, but not in this case! (Seeing how we can't even track down a decent hose, it's always good to have that needed spare part on hand, if you can find it!) Ron made a few inquiries without success on-island, so decided that we'd have to go over to the Marine Store in Spanish Wells, since that is where the nearest best chandlery is located. 

But, after his fruitless day yesterday in the "saga of the green hoses", Ron opted to go diving instead! Ron took Greg out in Tingum to dive down at a site called "The Plateau", while I stayed back aboard Equinox. (I just didn't have it in me to go out on the reef, pounding our way in the tender, especially if it was going to be rough; my head wasn't up to it, to be honest.) It was reassuring to know there's a good mooring at the site, so there were no worries about anchoring. The guys headed out late morning, and I spent the time aboard Equinox doing odd boat projects: responding to an e-mail request for a short sidebar to  our Yachting Magazine interview/article on cruising, installing a new door latch in Ally's shower, adding an extra line on the piling to our northwest, and doing a lot more dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning, among other things. It was nice to putter around, remembering to take things slow for a change, since the moments of dizziness occur when I'm going full-blast and moving too fast. Who knew a skull fracture could be such a pain? :)

The guys heading out to dive aboard Tingum

In going through our e-mail correspondence, we got some news that our friends aboard the Miles Aweigh are en-route to the Abacos, aiming to spend a week or thereabouts in Marsh Harbor. (We were trying to coordinate our various float plans so that we all could be together, but due to my recuperation, we're not making any passages for the moment, unfortunately. Boo!) So, we're just waiting to hear how their passage went; with this nasty cold front coming through, we want to be sure they make landfall safely.

It's been a crazy winter, with the incessant, relentless cold fronts moving through -- I'm really tired of hearing "Gale conditions expected" every time I check the National Weather Service forecast!! In spite of the increasing cloudiness and winds, Ron and Greg did a bit of fishing on the way back after diving, then headed over to Spanish Wells before the winds picked up too much. They did fine running the Devil's Backbone, and managed to track down some of the fuel/water separator filters too! No saga there, thankfully!

Now, after dinner, we're battened down as best we can; the wind is currently only 20 knots, but already whistling in the rigging of the sailboats here at the marina. (And guess what?? Now that we've moved slips to better handle winds from the northwest, the wind is now out of the southwest, so we're again more broadside to the wind and waves! Mother Nature is chuckling, indeed.) Unfortunately, every time I check the radar, it's looking pretty nasty to our west with the front is bearing down on Eleuthera. Sure hope it's milder than forecast for us...we're at 25°30'N 076°39'W...but, not looking too optimistic! This from NOAA:

 430 PM EST SAT FEB 27 2010


We'll get through it, not to worry. We're happy to be snug in our slip...just hoping the Miles Aweigh has made it to port and safe!

Moving Day!

Of a sort! We didn't exactly move far, as we only moved to a different slip here at Romora Bay. Our previous slip, although closer in and quite convenient, was exposed almost stern-to to the worst of the winter winds, so, with the upcoming gale warnings for the weekend and next week, we opted to move to a slip farther out in the marina where our bow is facing more northwesterly. We're already sitting more quietly than we were before, but once again, we've put out extra lines and spider-webbed ourselves in the slip so that we'll be secure if the winds do pick up significantly. 

New view from the pilothouse after changing slips

Ron went back to the hardware store again in search of hoses....and came back with what they had, a "light-duty" green hose. We figured we could use our white one for the dock water, and use the green one for washing down the boat, but as soon as Ron hooked up the hose to the boat water spigot, the hose swelled and burst!! It's not like the boat has some awesome pressure behind it...we've found that dock water pressure is usually greater than the boat. So...once again, Ron biked back to the store and replaced the defective hose, this time getting two. soon as the new replacement hose was hooked up, it burst its fitting!! Ron was fit to be tied in frustration!! He finally rearranged all the hoses, hooking up the third green one to the dock water, where it seems to be working all right, and returned our boat hoses to their original positions. Just one of those days where even the simplest of things aren't easy!  :) 

The new replacement hose, moments after hook-up.

Then, because all work and no play makes Ron absolutely crazy, we went out diving in our tender, Tingum, along with a couple from Canada, Greg and Karuna, who are aboard another boat here at Romora Bay. Ron took Greg to a dive sight called "The Arch", an enjoyable 100' dive and quite pretty (according to Ron) while Karuna -- recently certified and with only one shallow dive to her credit -- opted to stay aboard with Karyn. It was a relaxing afternoon, and the day was a pretty one. We're glad to have gotten out and enjoyed it! The men were happy with the dive, having seen a southern ray down in the depths, and Ron pointed out some flamingo tongue mollusks to Greg, who hadn't seen them before. Ron noted that visibility was less than fabulous, though, but was what he expected after the rough weather that had just moved through.

Of course, boating wouldn't be boating if something didn't go a bit awry...and with the way the day had gone with the saga of the green hoses, we should have expected nothing less!! We had a "check engine" alarm on Tingum's starboard engine go off on the way to the reef,  and while the engine appeared to be running well, with all the initial checks (oil, raw water cooling) being normal, it turned out that we'd gotten some bad fuel the other day. Apparently it's a common occurrence in the islands, as there was water in the fuel/water separator. Thankfully, there wasn't much water in the filters, but enough to make the alarm sound. Ron double-checked with the service guys in Florida, and they confirmed it right away and how to deal with it...nice to have them as a resource, since the boat is new to us!  So...after we came back in from the reef, Ron and Greg tackled the job of changing out the filters. The engine gauges that came with Tingum are too rudimentary to give us much information, so that is yet one more thing to add to the punch list for when we return to Florida, upgrading to better quality gauges for more detailed monitoring! Oh, yes, it's a boat...! 

The afternoon was spent refilling tanks, and prepping dinner as we'd invited Greg and Karuna over for a simple meal of Spaghetti Bolonese, salad and garlic bread. I attempted to make a couple loaves using internet-recipes with Bisquick (since time didn't allow for regular yeast-bread to rise, get punched down, and rise again), but...I only ended up with a couple of brick-like dough creations that were inedible!! (Not that I was surprised; I don't normally use Bisquick except for making pancakes!) So, making do yet again, I toasted a few slices of my wheat bread, and brushed on butter and garlic, before a topping of grated parmesan done under the broiler. Greg and Karuna brought over a lovely Caesar salad, and after a tour of the boat (neither had been aboard a trawler before) dinner ensued and the wine flowed! Aaah, a relaxing evening after a long day....finally, something going right!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So what else is new?

Clearly, not much!! Like the rest of Florida and the Bahamas, we're really getting tired of these cold fronts moving through every few days. Last night was again a rough one: we had sustained 35 kt winds out of the northwest, gusting near 40 kts, along with a very high tide, so the boat was pitching, rocking and rolling every which way in the slip. Thankfully, we'd already added extra lines after the first cold front we'd endured here, so we were spider-webbed in the slip quite carefully.

0430 am NOAA weather forecast for Thursday: 
gale warning and more ugly weather ahead

Nevertheless...with the winds, sleep wasn't exactly in the equation, so we were up in the night checking lines, checking clearance between the boat and the dock and pilings, watching the wind indicator rise. Around 4:00 a.m., we found ourselves in the pilot house in the midst of the heavy winds, watching while some sailors tried to add extra lines to their catamaran in one of the outer slips. Turns out the marina security guy, Kenny, had urged the boat owners earlier in the day to put out extra lines, but clearly, they hadn't heeded his advice. (Note: it pays to listen to local knowledge!)

At 4 a.m. it did NOT look like the sailors were having fun, wrapping themselves along the boom and the mast as they fought against the wind, making their way around their boat to secure more lines. We knew the marina personnel were out in force, checking on things and able to assist, which was good. Especially so, since we were only helpless bystanders ourselves, as we couldn't possibly get off our own boat in the wild conditions, being blown away from the pier as we were! Crazy winter winds and a wild night. 

This morning was no different...and no rest for the weary either, as the water-maker was due for a set of filter changes. We went down into the forward machinery space to start working, only to find one of the composite cylinders on the Clark pump was cracked and spewing water everywhere. (When it rains, it pours...literally!) Unfortunately, the water-maker is a very vital piece of equipment to have when in the islands and a necessity on anchor. Even in a marina, water in the Bahamas is rather expensive, at $0.25/gallon -- ouch! Of course, now we need to replace that hose more than ever, since we'll be relying on dock water for a while, I suspect. Ron spent a good bit of time on the phone with the water-maker folks, who, thankfully, are doing their best to get it fixed and rectify the situation. Good customer service is priceless, let me tell you! 

So, we spent a good part of the day working: changed out the water-maker filters, washed  the various spin-on filter cylinder containers, washed and rinsed down the forward machinery space, and organized some of our storage spaces. Later, when the weather eased a bit, Ron fired up the engines and bowthruster to move the boat into the wind and waves while I wrestled with the starboard lines to tighten them up and bring us within "gangplank distance" of the finger pier. Not as easy as it sounds, as the lines were tight on the horns of the hawsepipes from the high winds...but, I'm getting stronger every day, so I handled it. (Grateful for that, indeed!) 

More 2'-3' waves coming across the harbor from the northwest

Ron then biked back to Chacara Hardware with the hope that the "Florida supply boat" made it into port yesterday so the hoses would be in stock. But, as is common in the islands, Ron found it was "soon come" regarding the hoses, since the ship came in -- without the hoses aboard. Oh well...we're making do with the one we have left, and hope it hangs in there until reinforcements actually arrive.

Now, though, it's late afternoon and the wind is starting to abate a tiny bit. I'm sorting through the mail package that arrived, while Ron is heading down the road to The Island Spa for a well-deserved massage. It's been a long day already and we're not even done yet. And...just how many ways can I write about the wind?? It's getting repetitive and tedious! Not exactly the most exciting fodder for the blog, but today was an example of "real life as it happens" aboard. Some days are bliss, others busy, and others...battling weather. But, happily: never boring!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Reprieve Today

..from the gray and rainy day today that was in the forecast. On the bright side, at least it's still somewhat calm, although higher winds are supposed to blow through late tonight from our favorite (ahem!) direction, the northwest. Once again, we'll get slapped around in the slip most likely...! Why is it the nasty winds come in the middle of the night??

Today was gray and gloomy, kind of all the way around. I'd not slept well, to be honest, feeling a bit worn and a tad dizzy at times yesterday evening, perhaps from the long day on the water, so I wasn't up early. Ron, of course, was the early bird, and had spent the morning pulling out all his assorted underwater camera gear. When I came into the galley for my coffee, he was in the salon working with the underwater housing assemblies, getting the different cameras installed, checking the strobe light arms,  and .... nothing was working out. (Ron traditionally does not have the best of luck when it comes to getting his cameras and underwater housings to work without a lot of hassle, for it never fails there is some missing or broken piece that needs replacement.) Since this particular video camera, housing and lights are new, Ron's had a day of frustration: piecing everything all together, checking with the instruction manual (as a last resort, mind you -- he'd prefer not to read the instructions), hitting snags and setbacks, such as  discovering the special rechargeable batteries for the underwater lights won't recharge. He's not a happy camper at the moment!! But, the more he plays with the new video camera, the more features he's discovering and getting comfortable with, and the more excited he is about using it! It will be a nice addition to our scuba dives!

We did get out on the bikes, briefly, in the late morning before the rain started. We went to the post office (after finally finding it!) -- located upstairs in the pink Harbour Island Administration Complex building, on the aptly named Gaol Street -- to send out some mail. We also stopped at the hardware store in hopes of finding a hose to replace the one that broke its fitting; a new shipment of hoses were to come in on the "Florida supply ship". Unfortunately, the Florida supply ship was late, and hadn't arrived yet, hose. We also looked at some fishing tackle and other items of interest before heading down the road to the liquor store to restock on the vital fluids (vodka and wine). From there, it was to the Pigly Wigly for the perishables: fresh veggies and dairy products. We don't buy a lot at one time, since we need to use what we have before it goes bad, thus have to restock the vegetables when we can. On the other hand, we've doing some "freezer diving", to effectively use our provisioned items (meats, in particular) for dinners, plus I've been baking bread aboard. It's always a treat to have fresh bread for picnic sandwiches when we're out on the boat!

Ron made another delicious dinner this evening before we battened down the tender and Equinox in preparation for the storm that is threatening later tonight. I can hear the thunder rumbling in the distance, and see the lightning that's flashing occasionally, although the rain and the wind have yet to start. Judging from the radar, we're likely to get quite a storm, which I'm not exactly looking forward to, in all honesty. But...Mother Nature can't be controlled, so we'll just rock and roll with the waves and the wind, whenever the storm arrives! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Day on the Water!

We got a reprieve today, thinking it was going to be more of the same gray rainy weather, but instead, we awoke to a warm, gorgeous day with light winds. What a treat!! We fueled the tender and headed southeast along the coast of Eleuthera, where we fished (or, attempted to fish --- clearly they were laughing at us as we caught nothing)  and trolled several hours away. We simply enjoyed the serenity of being out on the water...I for one, was mesmerized by the innumerable amazing shades of blue sea meeting blue sky with only the barest wisps of clouds on the horizon. It was gorgeous!! 

We went a good ten miles down along the Eleuthera coast, until mid-afternoon when we stopped fishing for a bit, to go in closer along the shoreline to find some potential lobstering spots along the reefs inshore. We used the glass bottom bucket to check out a few likely places, and then, finding a good sandy spot to drop anchor near some prospective reefs, Ron donned his scuba gear and went out to check out the dive site. He was on a reconnaissance mission, hoping that there might be ledges or holes that would be lucrative later in snorkeling and spearing lobster. Usually, if Ron doesn't find lobster right away, he wants to immediately look elsewhere, but today....his bubble trail went far and wide. I couldn't tell if he was finding lobster, finding none, or just meandering around. Forty minutes later, when he finally surfaced, he was raving about the beauty of the dive site! He'd actually not seen any lobster, but was so enjoying the prolific reef and vibrant sea life, he simply spent his time luxuriating in the dive. As Ron said, he's done a lot of diving all over the world, and this was one of the most amazing dive sites he's seen. 

We put the lines in the water once again on the way back to Harbour Island, but ... true to form, we didn't land a thing, despite having two of our lures taken. Oh well!! We tried! Ron and I will be going out some time soon with one of the locals, known for his fishing prowess, in order to learn a bit more about fishing from the center console. Clearly, we need it!! 

Ron happily heading back after a great dive!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays...

...are one and the same today. Oh well...guess we're paying the price for our past two days of gloriously few clouds and calm winds. Still...we're ready for a steady dose of sunshine, not the meager rationing of warmth that we've been getting lately. Nevertheless, gray is quite okay... after all, we're in port, we're safe, and the rain will pass! Sunshine and warm weather will be coming, just like spring! 

Today we hunkered down, listened to the rain on the flybridge and upper deck, and accomplished a lot of things both small and large, from major laundry loads to phone calls to thank-you notes to odds-and-ends of correspondence to my testing new bread recipes to Ron's Gourmet Grouper dinner. While taken at face value, each task didn't seem all that satisfying or important, but in sum, it felt great to get so much accomplished!! 

The base veggies for the roasted grouper with asparagus as a bonus

We spent some time today working on coordinating Ally's and our spring schedules (her graduation is coming in June!), discussing possible cruising itineraries, researching airline routes and prices, refining the list of needed and desired boat upgrades and repairs, and trying to tie up assorted loose ends. Exhausting in its minutia! As a reward for all our hard work? Ron's delicious preparation of fresh Bahamian grouper and vegetables! 

Fresh Bahamian grouper buried under caramelized onions in a red wine reduction sauce,
four-cheese mac and cheese, and roasted asparagus! A rainy day feast, and superb!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More dives, more lobster!

It was another gorgeous day today, with a tad more wind than yesterday, but far more blue skies than clouds, so we were delighted. Ron went out diving again this morning with Valentine's, and I stayed aboard Equinox, getting some cleaning and laundry done while we had a great local guy cleaning the bottom of the hull. The fellow was very thorough; the hull was pretty nasty, as we've never stayed in port for this long before! The guy was down a good 3 hours -- with the water darn cold now after the past month of this chilly weather! (When I'm diving, I'm only good for about an hour before I get too cold to enjoy it any really don't know how this guy did it!) In any event, after my small tasks aboard, I treated myself a bit, and went up to Romora Bay's gorgeous pool and read in the sunshine. They have all these comfy lounge chairs along the pool, with a fabulous view of the harbor, so I couldn't resist! It was hard to bypass the shaded cabanas, but....I wanted the sun! I usually don't sit out in the sun, as we get more than enough reflected sunshine being aboard and on the water, but I was feeling a bit decadent today and enjoyed it.

Ron was excited about his dives; even more so since he'd spotted a big lobster while on the second dive. After seeing the huge lobsters the local fishermen brought in yesterday, that whet his appetite to haul in one himself, as it's been a while since we've been successful lobstering. But every dive is enjoyable, and he always sees more of the reef every time he's in the water, since he's so comfortable in the water and thus conservative with his air supply. 

After the dive boat returned, the two of us took a quick bike ride to the nearest open convenient store to get some onions and a few perishables to bolster our veggie supply. While we were there, posted on a refrigerator on the store's front porch was a sign advertising "Fresh Coconut Water & Love Wine". Now, coconut water is used in a traditional Bahamian drink made with gin called "Gully Wash", which we've heard of...but I have to admit, we were mystified by "Love Wine". We had no idea what Love Wine was or of course, we had to ask! Apparently it's quite the beverage, as it "energizes" you and "fortifies the blood" -- clearly, we have to try some! While the store was out of it at the moment, the gentleman told us that more would be available on Tuesday. Hmmmmm...can't wait!

After we returned to the boat and stowed away our few items (onions, limes, other veggies), we packed a picnic lunch and headed out aboard Tingum. We indulged in a sunny, leisurely lunch while drifting about in Bottom Harbor, before going out to the reefs. It was a tad rough going out the southern cut, but we made our way out and south to the dive site and to the mooring buoy. While I made sure our line looped through to the mooring was secure, getting tugged as it was in the swells, Ron swam down to check out the site and see if Mr. Lobster was still here. And, yes, he was! Ron was shot with the pole spear, and dinner was ours!! 

Our view of Bottom Harbor during our picnic lunch 

The size of the lobster tails compared to Ron's arm....
the Briland lobster are HUGE!

After a fun day of diving, boating and lobstering, we returned to Equinox for an early dinner. Being Sunday, The Brilanders, a fabulous local band, were playing at Romora Bay's Sunsets Bar and Grille from 6-8 p.m. so we wanted to be there! It's a great sunset scene, perfect for enjoying a cocktail and indulging in some dancing! For us, we enjoy the additional treat of chatting with CJ, Paige and the other staff, who are always so cheerful while smoothly handling all the folks at the bar and at the tables. Things are picking up here on Briland and it's fun to see that the busy spring season is starting! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A lovely day on the water!

It was different ... somehow. The morning was ... unusual. The song birds were chirping loudly, the sun was shining, the boat was ... still. Wow! What a change, as the harbor was calm! Truly, it a gorgeous day today, at long last, with light winds and lots of sunshine, and we were SO grateful! It was actually rather interesting how loud the song birds were, and we so reveled in hearing them, it was delightful. Ron was up early, as always, but today he was geared up, ready and waiting to get picked up by Valentine's Dive shop for a morning of diving. Then, just when we were lamenting how late the dive boat seemed to be, Shawne, the dive master from Valentine's came by on his bicycle, with the news that the others scheduled on the dive boat were no-shows. Thus, the dive boat wasn't going out. BUMMER! 

After a flurry of discussion, Shawne headed back to return to work at the dive shop, despite our pleas to have him join us. (We were NOT about to waste such a beautiful day, and wanted to head out ourselves.) Shawne was bummed, wanting to dive, so we agreed to wait until he called us if anything changed -- perhaps he could join us, depending on the situation at the dive shop. SO, Ron and I got our tender ready: he prepped his dive stuff, I made sandwiches for a picnic lunch aboard, then grabbed my dry bag, stowed my books, journal and camera, still being on "do-not-dive" status. Just as we were wondering when Shawne would call, happily, he showed up! He was free until noon so was able to dive, and off we went! Nothing like a private dive charter aboard our own boat with a local dive guide!!

Shawne and Ron, enroute to the dive site

We went to a dive site called the Plateau, just south of the Glass Bridge on Eleuthera. It was a treat to have Shawne along...he's personable and just fun to be around. As we came out of the Harbour Island cut, I immediately noticed that the megayacht Pelorus was already came and went in just a day, oddly enough. (Too big a fish for these waters, apparently!) Anyway, I just turned my attention to the water and enjoyed the sights along the coast as we went, commenting on this one large "resort" on the cliffs of eastern Eleuthera, only to have Shawne tell us that the dwelling was actually a home owned by Tom Jones, the British singer! It looks like a castle from the water, let me tell you --- again, you just never know who will pop up here, apparently!

Post dive, Ron came up raving about the dive site, which was a delight. Shawne kept telling him it was a great site, and he was right! Not that I wasn't conflicted, having resigned myself to being aboard. I didn't mind being the boat babe and anchor wench (so to speak!), but I am really looking forward to being able to dive again once I get clearance to do so!! The waters here off Harbour Island are so clear, and the reef profile so pretty, that it was hard to watch the bubbles going down. Still, wonderful to have the boys get a dive in, on such a gorgeous day!

Afterwards, we dropped Shawne off at the dock in time for him to return to work, and...decided it was too pretty a day to let it go. We grabbed the fishing rods and headed out to try our luck. Now, you must know that we are total neophytes when it comes to fishing...we definitely need to learn a lot about it!  But, we figured it was such a beautiful day, we wouldn't let it go to waste. Ron and I shared our picnic lunch under way as we went out the Devil's Backbone, and then proceeded offshore to put out our fishing lines. We followed the contour lines, with the simple goal to fish the drop-offs as we went. We basically just enjoyed the day, the water, the sunshine, etching our way east around the corner of Harbour Island....nothing wrong with that! 

We were going to fish all the way south, but...Ron got the jones to dive again, he did! We stopped back at "The Arch" and he jumped in. I manned the boat, enjoyed more sunshine, and read more of my book while keeping an eye on his bubbles....all good! Upon return to the marina, we found that some local fishermen had come in with a nice catch of grouper and some IMMENSE lobster, so Ron procured a bit of each to bolster our supplies. (Not that the supplies are dwindling at all, mind you..!) So?? Who wants to come and enjoy the spoils??

Friday, February 19, 2010

Diving and big boats

The winds have died down at long last, hurrah!! Even a few days respite is welcome, let me tell you, so we were out to take advantage of it! Ron and I enjoyed the day, from a leisurely bicycle ride around town in the morning to running out to the reefs in the tender in the afternoon. While it was overcast, the winds were next to nothing, and the temperatures warmer. Hooray!

We set out to find the post office this morning; we'd not seen it in our travels around town yet, to our surprise. And, we didn't really find it today, either! Although, we thought perhaps we passed the right building....but saw no signs. (We later got confirmation from one of the local Royal Bahamaian Police that it was indeed the right building, but the Post Office is on the upper floor.) Tomorrow we may find it! In any event, we had a lovely ride, and I enjoyed stopping and photographing the names of the various cottages and houses around town. Shades of Bermuda, where the names of the houses there are posted out front in a variety of interesting and charming ways. (And, required to be included on any official mail or correspondence in Bermuda as well.) Since Bermuda and Eleuthera have ties going back to Eleuthera's founding I found it nice to see the continuity that homes here also have names.  There are so many I want to photograph, but I did find "The Royall Lime", "Blue Ruin", "The Doll House", "The Lemon Tree", and "RoseBud" (which I always thought was a sled...!) :) Well, I'm always learning something new!

After lunch, Ron and I took Tingum out to to the reef off the eastern side of Harbour Island and found one of the pretty dive sites here called "Arch". As I'm not cleared to dive yet, and still on the recuperation list, I was the anchor wench and boat babe while Ron was diving. Ron enjoyed himself, as current wasn't an issue initially and visibility wasn't bad, although with the thick overcast, it wasn't as bright at depth that it potentially could have been. He had a moment of adrenaline with a nurse shark that  got a bit frisky for itself...Ron first saw the shark sedately sleeping under a ledge as he passed by, but later, when he was coming back towards the boat, the same nurse shark was zipping about, active and sort of agitated. It actually swam towards Ron, coming within a yard or so, before veering away sharply. (For a split second, Ron thought he was going to have to punch it to defend himself, but thankfully, no.) All in all, a fun dive, though! The coral is pretty and vibrant, the reef profile enjoyable.

Ron getting ready to come aboard after diving

As Ron was diving, between watching his bubbles, I was watching this huge megayacht that was on anchor to the north of us alongside Pink Beach. It was far enough away that I couldn't make out the name, so when Ron was done diving, we took our boat and checked out the yacht, finding out it was Pelorus, and was just huge, with lots of smaller shadow boats and whatnot -- complete with helicopter on the bow! Pretty impressive, to be sure!! We found out later that it's owned by a Russian multi-billionaire, and the boat has a crew of 40 or so. Hmmmm...pretty sure we were under surveillance as we circled that boat, what do you think??  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Even Ron is cold!

Mark this moment in history, as even Ron was complaining of the cold this evening! (This from the man who loves AC and open windows, no matter how low the temperatures drop.) His comment on the cold amazed me, let me tell you! Nevertheless, temperatures are on the chilly side, just as they've been for a good part of the southern continental US recently. We've always known that the northern Bahamas just aren't far enough south for us to be reliably warm, with the winter cold fronts that come sweeping through every few days, but this year it just feels colder than usual. (Where is global warming when you need it??) In any event, the cold northwest winds continued unabated, ramping up to 20 knots, gusting to 25 knots, and generally making things a tad uncomfortable.

It's kind of unfortunate, but the island geography here is such that the entire harbor is exposed to the north and west, so whether you are in a slip or not, the winter winds are no fun since they so often come from those directions. Last night we got bounced around in the slip as if we were underway with the waves slapping, slamming and splashing against the starboard hull. With such a long fetch across from northern Eleuthera, along with the inter-island ferries that run so frequently, there's chop, wakes and whitecaps that come full force across the wide harbor. It was annoying enough that I finally moved to Ally's cabin (located amidships) since I'm finding my head is still a tad sensitive to the more pronounced rocking and pitching of the boat when in the forward cabin. So....not exactly a comfortable night. 

During the mid-day hours, Ron and I escaped across island again, biking over to one of the beach access trails, and thoroughly enjoying the lee of Pink Beach. We read on the beach, tucked in out of the wind amongst the sand dunes along the hillside facing the Atlantic. There, the sun felt fabulous, so we read, hung out and just relaxed, watching the many couples and families that walked along the water's edge. Oddly, there seemed to be many, many more folks on the beach today; whether they all just arrived or not, it seemed noticeably more busy on the beach, especially when there were so few souls out yesterday, when it was much less windy. It wasn't just the beaches either, because Sip Sip, where we had lunch, was packed with patrons -- perhaps the busy season is starting? All good for the island economy, though! 

Our quiet spot on Pink Beach, out of the wind

The late afternoon and evening were spent aboard and were quietly mellow, although we did have some unexpected visitors drop by the boat after dinner: Ron's dive buddy from the other day, his wife (a former instructor at Oldfields, believe it or not!) and their adorable toddler daughter. I hadn't met them before, not having been on the dive trip the other day, so it was lovely to get acquainted, chat, and trade island stories -- just a fun impromptu visit that enlivened our evening!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quiet days....

...with the high winds, occasional rain squalls and cool weather, we haven't been doing very exciting things the past couple of days. Yesterday was an inside day while waiting for the rain to stop and the skies to clear, so accomplished mundane but necessary evils like bills, budgeting, and correspondence. We did get out for a sedate bike ride around town in the late afternoon, with a stop at some place new: the Blue Bar at Pink Sands Resort. We've been trying to find all the different little lunch and restaurant spots around the island, just to enjoy the views and sample their cuisine. It's been fun! Tuesday afternoon was just a quick stop for a beverage while enjoying the amazing water views of Pink Beach, before we returned to the boat for a mellow evening of yet more Winter Olympics. I didn't nap today (a first!) so I faded out a bit by late in the evening. 

View from our table on the Blue Bar deck

Wednesday was far more vigorous; Ron was up and out biking early, a good 40-minute jaunt as he wanted to get in a bit more exercise. On his return, he mentioned that the big commercial ferry had arrived in port, so suggested we head back to town to the market before lunch to re-stock our supply of fresh veggies. In the islands, it's pretty much "first-come, first-serve" as to what is available in the market, so it's always best to get there earlier than later on the days the supply ship comes in! Other times it can be pretty slim pickings as to what veggies are available -- not to mention the shabby shape they're in, if they are the last few things available. 

So, after I had coffee and breakfast, we biked to the Pigly Wigly where we lucked out, as the new shipment of produce was still being put out on the shelves. We found fresh broccoli, potatoes, cucumber, asparagus (decidely a luxury item here, ouch - $$!), red & green peppers, spinach, and canteloupe, plus we picked up some salt, cheddar cheese, taco shells, bottled water as well as several other items. While that doesn't sound like a lot, keep in mind we weren't just loading it into a car -- we had to bike back with it all! This time Ron handled it solo, with everything in his backpack, and we returned to the boat where I quickly stowed it away in the frig and pantry. 

Ron with our basket of goods at the Pigly Wigly

Despite the cool winds, by late morning it was only partly cloudy and more sunny again, so we biked up to the beach access trail at the top of Alice Street, then hiked down and walked along Pink Beach for a good hour. With the prevailing winds out of the northwest, Pink Beach was in the lee and quite glorious in the sunshine! We walked quite a ways north, then doubled back and stopped for lunch (Lobster Quesadillas and a Cobb Salad Spinach Wrap) at Blue Bar, since we hadn't eaten there the other day. Between the view and the food, it was delectable! We finished our walk back down the beach, back to the bikes, and back to the boat, again enjoying the sunshine. 

At the beach access trail atop Alice Street, about to start our walk

A gorgeous expanse of beach, on our way north

Stairs from Blue Bar leading to the beach

Karyn checking out the ocean

Heading back up the hill to Alice Street

In the afternoon, boat domestic duties prevailed: Karyn baked some rye bread, and Ron worked on some cruise planning for the next week. We're hoping to get out of the marina for a few days, and poke about the northern island of Eleuthera for a bit before returning here to Romora Bay when Ally and her friend Rachel will be joining us here on Harbour Island for spring break. In the meantime, if the winds settle down, perhaps tomorrow we'll get out in the tender and Ron can scope out some more dive sites. There's always an adventure on the horizon! 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Good weather with scuba dives...

...for Ron, that is!! But yes, it was finally sunny and calm today, hooray! Ron went out diving with Valentine's Dive Center this morning as planned, biking over to the dive shop with all his gear. I know he was really looking forward to it, and upon his return, said it was great to dive again. It's been a while on the dive front, since the weather has not exactly been conducive, with it being so windy and rough! As it turned out, Ron and his dive buddy had the boat to themselves, so it was like a private charter, and the dives were worth it. The reefs here are healthy and vibrant, so Ron enjoyed himself immensely. The highlight of the day? Seeing a huge manta ray, just outside the south cut, gracefully swimming along.

Naturally, Ron was destined to see something fabulous, as I'm still on "no-dive status" after my skull fracture. ARGH! But...I'm focusing on the advantages to patience, namely, the goal that I will dive again, some day! So, I enjoyed my bit of solitude during the morning, sitting on the back deck in the sunshine, catching up on some correspondence and necessary phone calls, finalizing Ally's spring break travel plans, doing laundry and tidying up the boat a bit. Nothing earth-shattering, and rather relaxing, actually! 

After Ron returned, the rest of the day was low-key. He rinsed his scuba gear and we relaxed on the boat, watching other boats come and go, generally just enjoying everything, and nothing, in particular. We ate aboard this evening, just a modest dinner and tucked in on the couch afterwards, watching more of the Winter Olympics. I'm kind of embarrassed, but I find it difficult not to shudder at the speeds the downhill skiers are going -- being somewhat fresh from my accident, I can barely watch! With age comes wisdom...perhaps? Kind of hard to believe we used to skydive, now isn't it?? :) Just enjoy the moment, where ever you are! 

Valentine's Day, Island Style!

Pink and pearly conch shells on display in Dunmore Town

We awoke to a bit less wind and a bit more sunshine today...hooray! We indulged in a leisurely morning, with Captain/Chef Ron spoiling me yet again with an unbelievably delicious lobster-veggie omelet as part of our "Valentine's Day champagne brunch". We chatted on the docks with some of the other cruisers afterwards, all sharing stories of the wicked winds we suffered the other night: tales of bowlines snapping, seat cushions blown away, descriptions of forays out in the rain and high winds to wrestle on additional lines for safe-keeping, etc. While it was a hard night for all, it seems like we had it relatively easy, compared to some of the boats that received a pounding out on the more exposed piers! You never can tell!
The fishermen's pier, near low tide, as we cycled into town

We took a relaxed bicycle ride into town, heading into town with the faint hope that the Piggly Wiggly might be open on Sunday, as we needed a few pantry items: eggs, lemons, limes, and potatoes. Brilanders seem to be devout church-going folk, so it was no surprise that most stores were closed, with the exception of a very few. We did find a fruit & vegetable stand on Bay Street that had the majority of things we needed, so we purchased those and stocked up on some fruit as well, before venturing to yet another store to find the eggs. 

Empty street on a quiet Sunday

Ron at the Big Red Convenience #2 fruit & produce stand

A sampling of their wares

A sign on a nearby straw market stand 

We meandered along on the back streets, eventually returning to Romora Bay, where we spent the remainder of the mellow afternoon. We spent some time rinsing off the boat -- it desperately needed a good bath after the salty rime that totally encrusted the rails and brightwork during the last few days. We also spoke with Ally a few times via Skype, who was en-route back to Maryland at long last. It's a good thing she's finally able to fly back, as yet another snow storm is predicted to bear down on the eastern seaboard tomorrow night. What crazy weather!!

The remainder of the evening was quiet; we spent some time at Sunsets, listening and dancing to the fun reggae and "rake & scrape" of the Brilanders, as well as chatting with some of the folks that were here this weekend for a wedding on Pink Beach. We eventually walked over to Acquapazza, a gorgeous Italian/Mediterranean restaurant "down-island" for a late dinne, That too was great fun, as by chance, we met up with a captain from a boat at Valentine's whom we'd met on the ferry ride back to Equinox a few days earlier. We ended up trading all sorts of stories of boating, diving, lobstering and travel, and generally enjoyed ourselves. It shouldn't surprise me when we run into folks we know here, since the island is so small, but it always catches me off guard a little. Always fun! And, as they say, "it's better in the Bahamas"! We have to agree -- it was a great Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

High Winds, Yet Again...

I don’t know what is happening with the weather this year!! It certainly has been quite a winter: from the incredible amounts of snow in the northeast, record low and freezing temperatures in the south, to the lack of snow in Vancouver during the current Winter Olympics, it’s been crazy. And, true to form, the cold fronts and accompanying winds have cranked back up in the Bahamas now that we’re back aboard the boat. ("Why is that, Captain Ron...?") I’d like to think that the two are not related, but it sure is starting to feel like that where ever we are, the bad weather follows!! But, considering how most folks on the east coast must feel about the snow and freezing temperatures, I know I shouldn't complain!! What's a bit of wind, after all??

However, last night we endured another nasty blow as a storm front moved through with gale force winds of 35-40 knots sustained, that blasted us from the south, west and then the northwest. We initially were somewhat sheltered in our slip, being on the north side of the marina office as we are, so the howling winds out of the south weren't slamming us too badly. But, once the winds clocked to the west, we were getting hit square on the beam with 3’ waves, so we were rocking and rolling most of the night. Not exactly a comfortable night for me, with the pitching and rolling, but then again, Mother Nature was not to be ignored! 

It was mid-day Saturday before we got off the boat (being blown away from our finger pier as we were) but as the sun poked holes in the clouds, we decided to take a bike ride into town. We found ourselves enjoying a bit of lunch down town along the shoreline, on the sunny front porch of the Harbor Lounge. The fish in the islands is so fresh, whether its grouper, snapper, hogfish or something else, it's hard to resist, as all is delicious whether found in fish tacos or fish sandwiches.  
Ron walking up the stairs to the Harbour Lounge Porch

Ron and I enjoyed a pair of grilled grouper sandwiches while watching all the portside activity. It seemed to us that many more tourists are in town, as folks were out and about this holiday weekend with Valentine’s Day tomorrow and President’s Day Monday. In fact, I was amazed at the traffic, and couldn’t believe the number of scooters and golf carts zipping about. (And, I admit cringing, watching all the little kids perched in the back seats of so many of the carts flying along the streets at fairly high speeds....all accidents waiting to happen, in my humble perspective!!) But, there was a lovely hum to the air with all the activity and we enjoyed it. 

We stopped by Valentine's Dive shop, where we were greeted by Shawn, one of their dive-masters. He had heard we were back on-island, and was happy to see both of us doing well. Ron arranged to go out diving with them in the coming days, weather permitting, which Ron is greatly desiring. Then, after biking back to the boat, it was a leisurely late afternoon of baking bread, napping, and watching some of the skiing and skating events in the Winter Olympics. Dinner was  courtesy of chef Ron, who's really been enjoying cooking quite a bit lately. Thus, I was the lucky recipient of a gourmet dinner of steamed asparagus, cous-cous and a perfectly done filet mignon with a red wine reduction sauce that was out of this world! Hmmmm.....come to think of it, perhaps windy days aren't so bad, after all!