Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Throwing off the dock lines!

Yes, we've done it at last...thrown off the dock lines, and left our slip at Romora Bay. We've been here much, much longer than originally intended, mostly because I've been recuperating post-golf cart ejection and the resulting skull fracture/concussion/bruised ego. But as far as being stranded on an island goes...Harbour Island is the place to do it!! After three months here, I can attest that this island and the resort Romora Bay is an absolutely delightful place, and the staff first-rate. From the gorgeous landscaped grounds, to the beckoning pool area, and particularly to Sunsets Bar and Grille with its fabulous local live music, it's very hard to say good-bye. (Even to Goldie, their 57-year-old macaw, who has the most hilarious timing with her rather salty sailor swearing!) 

Goldie, at Sunsets. Her vocabulary
has a few too many words that would make a sailor blush!

It's been a memorable, memorable time here, with fun events and special moments etched in our hearts. Having been here as long as we have, we've made firm friends and know we'll always have a fabulous place to return to, over and over again! The one drawback to leaving is that internet access may be somewhat limited while we are traveling through the Exumas. I'll blog when I can, but there may be gaps in the dates! Just to give you all notice, so as not to worry if there aren't recent entries. most cruisers know, good-byes are inevitable, no matter how long or short a stay one has in any given place. Tomorrow's weather is looking lovely, so we'll head out through the Devil's Backbone and run south past Spanish Wells enroute to the Exumas, where we hope to spend most of April. Not sure if we'll tow Tingum, or if I'll use her to guide Ron aboard Equinox through the Backbone; we've gone through there countless times during our stay here and now we know the route well, so a local guide isn't truly necessary at this point. (NOTE: This is not a route to be attempted without a local guide the first time, nor run alone thereafter without first-hand local knowledge!! The Devil's Backbone is the Bahamas' most dangerous reef, and has many wrecks scattered within to prove it.)

Equinox at anchor off Romora Bay

The evening was spent saying good-bye to all the generous folks here at Harbour Island, from Marc and Rodney in the marina office, to CJ and Paige at Sunsets, along with Chris, Alvin, Lestina, Ann, Neeka, Antoine, LT, Scottland, and everyone else....a first-rate staff making sure we were happy whenever we showed up for drinks or dinner, and who took us in when we first arrived here. There's also Kenny, the top security guy at Romora Bay who  ensured our privacy and safety, from walking the grounds and marina each night to helping with dock lines during nasty winter storms. Then there is Ithalia, playing great music on Wednesdays with her nephews, to the Brilanders, to our friends Nishka and David (and good dog Ziggy), and dive instructor extraordinaire Shawne at Valentine's...the list goes on and on and on. We will miss everyone dearly!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back to the Island!

Harbour Island, that is! And it feels pretty darn good to be back! Ron and I spent all day Tuesday, from the early hours to the late afternoon, catching flights and making connections to get back to North Eleuthera Island. We were both bone-tired when we finally got back aboard, and a little bit surprised to find how many more boats were at the marina here. Suddenly, we are looking rather tiny for ourselves compared to the large megayachts on the neighboring T-heads!

While it was a frenetic five days stateside, it was also very heart-warming and satisfying to be with Ally and good friends. As I mentioned in the last post, Friday was a high-speed day with lots of appointments and errands, and we followed up that fast pace with more continued non-stop activity on the weekend. We sorted mail and dealt with bills, phoned folks non-stop and caught up with friends, then Ally, her roomie Eliza and I hit the stores to shop for the listed supplies needed for their upcoming Oldfields May Program trip to Argentina. I also did some gift shopping for island friends and got some necessities for the boat, then relaxed a bit in late afternoon as we watched some of the March Madness tournament games (Go Michigan State!), before finally having a long moment to sit down when we treated our dear neighbors to dinner Saturday night for hosting us at their home. We had some family members along as well, so it was a lovely evening and we appreciated being together! Sunday evening we caught up with more friends for dinner, so it was a social whirlwind from start to finish on the weekend! 

Ally at the podium, ready to speak

Monday was an early morning, as it started off with Ally's Senior Presentation at Oldfields traditional morning meeting, which we loved. She did a great job, in our opinion, as she spoke well. Her focus was about about her life growing up aboard a boat, learning responsibilities such as running the dinghy for dog walks on the beach to trash runs to being the "bilge rat" when she was small. It was very humorous and cute, and she concluded with the statement that FINALLY, she is a 5-YEAR Senior at Oldfields!! (While a high school for most of its history, OS admits a few lucky girls each year as 8th graders, and Ally was one such chosen.) After the presentation, Ron and I spent a bit of time with Ally before we left to do some computer and network hardware shopping -- searching at several stores -- for another friend until the late afternoon when we went to watch Ally's first lacrosse game of the season! GO OS! She and her teammates played hard in a close game, and while they didn't prevail, watching was both wonderful and bittersweet. It was great to see Ally play, but it was also emotionally hard knowing that this will be the only game we get to see this year, since we will be out of the country being aboard Equinox the rest of the spring. Having gone to all her games in the past, it's something that I will dearly miss. There were more than a few tears at the end of the game!

For an apt conclusion to our time here, we attended a lovely Passover seder with our neighbors and members of their extended family. While at a different home than in years past, it was nice to continue the tradition, and we appreciated the hospitality and generosity! It underscored yet again that this is a year of change, as we cruise in far-away waters. Next year in....?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Details, details, details...

We're momentarily stateside for a few days, happily reunited with Ally again and enjoying the hospitality of good friends. While we're here for Ally's Senior Presentation at school, first and foremost, we're also trying to tie up the last few random loose ends here in Maryland. So, we've had a very high-speed day dealing with the reality of different appointments, various errands to the bank, post office, office supply store, dive store and Maryland DMV, not to mention cleaning out the dock box at the marina, and chasing down all the forwarded mail to organize the last few details of necessary paperwork for taxes. UGH! In previous years we were always finished with our taxes by now -- signed, sealed and delivered -- but between my head injury and the mail forwarding situation, we're way behind the power curve. I'm feeling very unorganized, but, we're chasing things down and are getting there! 

Making the visit even more fun is the cold rainy weather. What's with that?? Maryland in the spring is gorgeous, and yes, the forsythia is blooming, the spring peeper frogs are singing in the evening and the cardinals and robins are singing in the morning. Too bad today brought cold weather: 40 degrees and rain was falling. Tonight's low is going to be 25 degrees, thank you very much! Our friends, who suffered through all the insane depths of snow this winter, said that they haven't seen such cold weather like this in weeks. They're  claiming that we're to fault, that we've brought it with us!! Oh, yes, we're clearly the weather scapegoats, as we do bring the weather with us when we travel. Unfortunately, for the past six years or so, it's been bad weather. Prior to that, we'd always had the best, loveliest weather when we traveled, and felt so lucky. It's time the tide returned, don't you think??

In the meantime, we're watching some of the March Madness games, enjoying blazing fast internet (how unusual!) and using our cell phones, which feels decadent beyond belief to be in contact so easily. We're with good friends, and have Ally with us, so it's delightful. Just  never mind the nagging errands still hanging over our heads. There's always tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beautiful weather at last!

Just goes to show you, Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor! Just as we're about to head to the US for a couple of days, the weather has been the best it has been in months. Lovely light winds, wall-to-wall sunshine, with gorgeous turquoise seas that are settling nicely. Finally after brutal winter winds...the reward!

We got out diving yesterday morning with the folks off Karuna, which was a great time; while Greg and Ron have been out diving, I've been on no-dive status until last week. Now that I'm back in the water, it was the perfect time to relax and chill while enjoying it! Greg's other half, Karuna, hadn't done any diving since her certification course in Nassau a month or so ago, so I took her under my wing, and we had a relaxed dive at The Plateau. We stayed in the shallower waters (50' or less) and just reveled in a slow, easy dive, checking out the coral, fish life, flamingo tongues, lionfish, a HUGE channel clinging crab and....barracuda. Karuna did very well, not having any problems with equalizing, and did well with her air use. At depth, she was relaxed in the water and totally jazzed by the sea life. It was a great dive! 

The afternoon had Ron finishing his practical work for his rescue diver training and certification; I did boat chores (as usual) from laundry to bread baking to talking with the Nitrox compressor technician about the slowly falling O2 percentage when we run the Nitrox system. The problem could be a leak somewhere before the filters, so we trouble-shooted that a bit. We'll get it checked out in full in a month or so when we're back in Florida, but in the meantime, we still have the regular air compressor, so that's all good. As's a boat, things will need work. In the meantime, enjoy!

The low pressure compressor system it!

In the evening, we finally got to treat Shawne to dinner. He's such a great guy, we've really had a wonderful time on the island sharing fun times with him. From day one, we've enjoyed his company! Ron and he hit it off due to diving -- he and Ron are so alike in their passion for the ocean reefs. Even on his day off, Shawne would stop by to see if we wanted to go diving -- Ron's kindred spirit! From Shawne's personable demeanor and genuine concern for his dive students at Valentine's to his great instruction during Ron's dive rescue course, we've built a nice camaraderie. We three went out to Rock House for dinner (timed right for sunset) and just had a great time, where delicious entrees abounded. The food is SO good here on Harbour Island!!

Sunset from Rock House
Pose for the camera wait! Try again...again...!

Wednesday ... ah, Wednesday. Glorious sunshine, light winds, perfect for diving. we were flying the next day, time was tight and better to be conservative and have 24-hours before flying. We spent most of the morning answering e-mails, following up with necessary paperwork, and then prepping the boat for our departure. It's going to be hard to leave here, since we've made such good friends having been here for so long!

We had a lovely afternoon...we were treated by the crew of Karuna to lunch at The Blue Bar. It's so utterly, utterly gorgeous here with the different shades of the water: blue, azure, teal, aquamarine, turquoise and cobalt, with sky blue above. Mother Nature at her most beautiful! We enjoyed the luncheon fare: local fish tacos, watermelon salad with mozzarella, and scallops margharita. Of course, the gentleman had the local rum drink of choice. All the food here on island is absolutely delicious!

Ron, with Greg off Karuna

We spent the afternoon doing more preparations for cruising, stowing items and just generally tidying up the boat. While we'll be in the US for a few days, we're looking ahead to our return when the boat needs to be ready for passage, and we tried to get a head start on that. So, we cleaned scuba gear, sorted and stowed it accordingly, washed and scrubbed down the tender, prepped and cleared decks on EquinoxWhen we get the weather window upon our return, we'll be off, heading to the Exumas...but not going to lie, it will be hard to leave here!

Inviting beach cabanas at Romora Bay. The pool 
is behind and above them...

        Equinox at her slip here at Romora Bay. It's been
lovely to be here, and will be hard to leave!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays...

...repeat themselves, apparently! Ally headed back to Baltimore (reluctantly) on Sunday as spring break is now over, and immediately afterwards, the weather has deteriorated. At least a nice day wasn't wasted on us Sunday, as it was also a bit of a recovery day after Ally's send-off Saturday night! We did the usual island party route: Valentine's, then Gusty's, and even a quick stop at Daddy D's before finally getting back to the boat way, way too late. A drink or two, a bit of dancing, lots of conversation: it made for a very fun evening! When  Ron says, "Gusty's is dangerous!", I'm not so convinced, as it's a great time at Gusty's! I think it's the last stop at Daddy D's that seals the deal!

It's always hard to say good-bye to Ally, but we'll be seeing her just next week when we'll be in Maryland for her Senior Presentation at school. After we got her to the ferry dock to get a taxi to the airport, the skies were just overcast and gray. By the time we tried to get out for a dive mid-day Sunday, the winds had picked up and seas were not cooperative, being a tad too rough and choppy for comfort, so we returned to Equinox. There, we did small boat projects and a lot of laundry and cleaning, before rewarding ourselves with a visit to Sunsets to hear The Brilanders play for a bit. We had a quiet night aboard; just didn't have it in us to hit Valentine's to hear The Afro Band, but we could still enjoy their music as it came across the harbor nicely!

Today the weather continued its downward trend, as there was a fair bit of rain as another front moved through, but we were much more productive. Since we keep getting the alarm on the water-maker display, Ron changed out the pre-filters (again!) and tweaked the input pressure yet one more time on the water-maker after a few phone conversations with Dick Murray. For now, we seem to have resolved the issue! Although the number of gallons per hour is lower than it should be and the salinity a tiny bit higher (both due to the lower input pressure) at least it now runs without tripping the sensor that puts the unit into fresh water flush mode/auto store. It will certainly be addressed when we're stateside again, but for the moment, we're making fresh water!

While Ron was busy with the filter change, I finished doing a LOT of intensive cleaning of the heads, cabins and saloon. I also baked a loaf of rye bread, as our friends off Karuna brought me some rye flour upon their return from Nassau, where they picked up a visiting friend. I was delighted with the rye flour since we were out of it aboard, and all I can find on-island is white all-purpose flour. (These are the times, I admit, when I miss the plethora of items found in U.S. grocery stores. Dreams of Wegman's dance in my head!) But, part of the charm of cruising is making do and trying out the local produce, even if the choices are rather limited! 

So... boat cleaning and organization completed for the day, we're gearing up for an impromptu group dinner aboard Equinox with the Karuna crew. Winds are now clocking around to the northwest (of course) so we're not done with the ugly weather yet, unfortunately. Ron's busy helping add a few fenders to Karuna since they're tied up on the outer pier here and are getting pounded by the wind and waves coming across the harbor. I'm off to prep for dinner...let's hope it's a quieter evening than it is currently!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fun in the Sun!

What a great day!! Finally, finally, finally...light winds from the east, calm seas with a northerly swell, blue skies and warm sunshine!! The perfect recipe for family fun on the water! We packed a picnic lunch in the cooler, double-checked the dive gear, and took Tingum out in the bright morning sunshine to run down the coast of Eleuthera for an early dive. Since Ally is flying home tomorrow, she needs a 24-hour surface interval before flying, so we knew we had to dive before 10:30 a.m. Seas were lovely, and we were delighted!

Father and daughter at the helm together

What a day!! Love the sunshine!

We dropped anchor in a large sandy bowl at a dive site that Ron found earlier during our stay, a lovely tongue and groove coral area, which ranged from 40 to 90 feet of water. Visibility was quite good as a bonus, and we happily meandered about the dive site. So much reef life is here: star coral, brain coral, staghorn and elkhorn coral, all sorts of plate and sheet coral, purple sea fans, sea whips, orange rope sponge, split pore sea rods, you name it! The reef was filled with large parrotfish, butterflyfish, small blue damselfish, fairy basslets, coneys, and wrasses, along with the occasional blue tangs flitting about, and ribbons of other schooling fish trailing across the reef tops. Gorgeous, gorgeous dive site! I saw a pair of rather large gray angelfish just before we turned to retrace our way back to the boat.

Ally geared up and ready to go!

Karyn and Ron with tanks on, 
ready to roll in the water

Also during the dive, we saw a couple of really large lobster holes tucked away in the reef. One shallower spot had two huge lobster inside, and another was much deeper, unfortunately at nearly 75' deep, not suitable for snorkeling and spear-fishing. But we did note the shallow spot for a return visit with a spear! After a good 40 minute dive (about all Ally and I could stand in the 72 degree water) we all surfaced and stripped off our dive gear, but Ron couldn't resist. While Ally and I tried to regain some warmth to our extremities, he kept on his wet suit, grabbed his mask and fins and went back in search of the crustacean pair we'd seen in the reef. And, after a short interval, he returned....with a monster of a lobster!! Ron's many conversations with the local fishermen had definitely paid off, as he has found the holes with the big boys inside! Ron had to bring the first one back to the boat, then go after the other lobster, since the the first one was so big.

The tail is a good 10 inches alone!

Ally couldn't believe the size of the lobster!

After the diving and Ron's lobstering, we did a bit of fishing on the way back home, dropping in a couple of lines to see if we couldn't tempt something to bite. As we fished, we discussed the lionfish we'd seen on the reef earlier. There's a big push to fish for them here in the Bahamas, as they are a non-native and invasive species, and are everywhere! They are also fabulously delicious, with a flaky white meat that rivals snapper or grouper! I had a lionfish sandwich at Sip Sip the other day that was unbelievably good, and we have since looked into how to catch and clean them. It's a bit tricky, as the lionfish have venomous dorsal spines and pectoral spines that can deliver a nasty sting, so gloves need to be worn when cleaning them. But, once the spines are removed, cleaning them is straightforward. Now every time I see one on the reef, I want to spear it! 

Karyn, setting out a line

Alas, the only thing we managed to do while fishing was tangle one line with the other, so no fresh fish was on the menu today! (Clearly, we're better at fishing from Equinox!) Not that it was needed, as we broiled up the two lobster tails for dinner tonight...the big one was 10 inches -- yes, I admit to measuring them on the broiling tray -- it dwarfed the other tail, which came in at a mere 8 inches! The smaller one alone fed all three of us....clearly, we will have lobster omelets or lobster salad tomorrow! But first, dishes need to be done, then it's off to Gusty's for dancing in the sand! 

Broiled in the shell to perfection! 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back in the water for Karyn!!

It was an steely gray, low-light day, but happily, winds were light and variable -- for a change! Seas were wonderfully calm, and so diving was on the agenda for Ally, Ron! I've haven't been pushing things, just enjoying the fact that I feel stronger every day and now feel darn near 100%. So, after more than 8 weeks of recuperation and rest, and fully 5 weeks after the neurologist cleared me to "start resuming normal activities" when I started getting out bicycling and walking, my patience was rewarded. I decided it was time to test the waters -- literally!

Ron, Ally and I made an early morning dive down at The Plateau, a gorgeous dive site just south of Harbour Island off the east coast of Eleuthera. I was very conscious about monitoring my ears when equalizing at the start of the descent, but there no problems at all. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, the only bit of discomfort was that the water was still so darn cold!! It was only 72 degrees, definitely a bit colder than usual as this year has been one constant cold front after another here! (Okay, it's all relative, but I'm ready for some warm weather diving folks!!) 

Karyn, ready to dive, enroute to "The Plateau" off the coast of Eleuthera!

Happily, throughout the remainder of the dive, everything proceeded according to plan without any issues or concerns. The only "disappointment" was that the overcast gray skies muted the colors of the reef a bit ... but, I didn't mind in the least! The reef is so healthy here, with such a beautiful array of coral, sea fans, sponges and reef life, that it was wonderful to see. Ron actually dove with his new underwater video camera too, to "document" the occasion and to get some practice with using it. I found a couple of lobster -- including a small spotted lobster -- tucked under ledges, and we saw a southern ray feeding in the sand beside the coral mounds. Ally spotted several flamingo tongues munching away on some sea fans, and we all enjoyed the large schools of yellowtail snapper that were cascading over the reef. It was beautiful, and I appreciated the the chance to see it!
The afternoon was a quiet one, although not without its frustrations, as we are back to having issues with the water-maker -- again! Argh!! Now it will run for an hour or two, then starts alarming, but without any alarm message as to what is going wrong, before going to auto-flush mode. Ron and Dick have been on the phone a few times already working through possible changes to the input pressure settings, but so far, no magic spells have gotten it working again for more than a bit at a time. We may be seeing Dick sooner than anticipated! Oh yes, living the dream: fixing your boat in exotic locations!

Other than that...Ron's been busy doing the pool-, class- and boat-work required for his Rescue Diver certification, and Ally has been enjoying the last few days of her spring break at the beach. I was occupied as well, back in the swing of boat projects and routine chores, from general cleaning to filling tanks. The evening was a quiet one, listening to Ithalia's live music up at Sunsets, then dining aboard Equinox. All in all, it was a great day! It feels exciting to be back in the water again!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dive Day for Ally!

Ally getting her wet suit on, getting ready to go!

We had some blazing sunshine for a change today! There were just a few clouds, but the sun actually had that some of that spring warmth to it. Finally! Since the cold north winds are still out of the west-northwest, we three headed out Monday morning out to the reefs off the lee side of Eleuthera, where Ron and Ally dove "The Arch". Ally hadn't been diving since December when we were at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, so she was both eager to go but also a bit concerned about her ability to equalize her ears, as she's been a bit congested. Thus, she and Ron planned the dive accordingly, discussing options should her ears be an issue. 
Ron and Ally gearing up to dive

Once in the water, all systems were go, and away they went for a beautiful dive. It was Ally's deepest dive to date, going to 110' to view the arch. She and Ron didn't stay long at that depth, of course, as most of the dive was spent at 60'. Nevertheless, she and Ron did a longer safety stop at 15' on the ascent, and both were all smiles as they emerged from the water. As Ally said, it was a "totally cool dive", and happily, she had no issues with her ears at all. 

Ally's all smiles on the ride back from the reef

Post-dive, rather ravenous from being out on the water, we all went to Valentine's for a fabulous lunch on their open deck restaurant. Ron went out aboard the Valentine's dive boat to do more course work with Shawne, acting as crew for a group of divers and snorkelers while Ally and I went "downtown", stopping at the fruit stand, then a pit stop at the Pigly Wigly for a few other essentials. Chores finished, we had a lazy afternoon in the lee on Pink Beach, where Ally napped, I read, then we chatted and walked the shoreline in the sunshine. Relaxing!

Before dinner, we went over to the Blue Bar for a Bahamas Ministry of Tourism-sponsored welcome event, "A Taste of Briland". The Afro Band was there to play, along with a number of different speakers, dancers, and fun competitions amongst the visitors. Despite my trying to look invisible, I found myself with four other women being picked to be a contestant in a game of "musical chairs". (Having seen the men's competition, I knew what was coming!) The musical chairs were actually minus the music - each contestant had to find certain announced items and return to the chairs before one chair was taken away. I was mortified!

False start! 

One competitor down, three to go...

Getting our final instructions on the next "item" to find

Items included a man's shoe, a bit of Bahamian money, a hair-pin, and every time I got back to the chairs, I was stunned to see I was still in the game. Then, the final item was finding the island's head nurse at the Harbour Island Clinic, who was in the audience. (The men had to find the Harbour Island Chief of Police for their final item.) I couldn't believe it. The head nurse, whom I now had to find, also happened to be the very same nurse who was at the hospital clinic the evening when I had my accident!! Remember now, that due to my skull fracture, I have no recollection of that evening save for a few fuzzy moments, so had NO idea what the nurse looked like, even though she was the one who opened the clinic back up and sent someone to get the doctor!

My only remaining competitor had no idea whom to look for, but I ran to Ron, since I knew he would know! I asked him to point out the nurse, which he did: "The woman in green, at that table" I turn, only to realize there are two women in green at the same table! I raced up to the nearest "woman in green", not entirely sure if I had the right woman, but after a moment it was clear she recognized me. After a brief conversation, she admitted she was Nurse Saunders, and accompanied me to the front, where I was announced the winner!! 

As the winner, we received a certificate for dinner for two at Sip Sip or the Blue Bar (both part of the Pink Sands resort), which was a nice treat indeed! reality, the true owner of the certificate was Nurse Saunders, and after we claimed the prize, we gave the certificate to her. Definitely the right thing to do...and, clearly meant to be. Her ready response earlier in the year probably saved my life, in my opinion, so it was the least we could do!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Windy days and weather...

...remains the same. Pretty aggravating, when we want to dive and do things offshore, and the winds just stir things up and prevent us from doing so! Ron spent the morning working on his rescue diver coursework, while Karyn and Ally went across island to the Dunmore Beach Club to breakfast and walk the beach with our visiting friends. Unfortunately, they were leaving today after their short time here, but plans are in the offing for a rendevous in the summer!

As usual, life is full of surprises, so when Karyn went to load up the suitcases to take folks to the ferry dock, we discovered that the right rear tire on the rental cart was flat. Oh, such fun! A phone call was made to notify the rental company for the need for a repair, but time was slipping away as departure time neared! Thus, another cart was borrowed, suitcases crammed aboard, and away we went through town, stopping by Valentine's on the way so that Ron could say good-bye. It's never easy to part with friends, but it helps if life could go according to plan! Good byes were a bit rushed, but once everyone was aboard the water taxi, the borrowed cart was returned, and the rental cart's flat tire repaired. Karyn did a couple runs to and fro on Ron's bicycle to coordinate things, and thankfully, things worked out well with a minimum of fuss.

Pink Beach, looking south.

Ally and Karyn went to the beach for a bit in the afternoon, oddly getting dusted with sand in the swirling winds, even in the lee of the island. Meanwhile, Ron worked with Shawne at Valentine's, doing a good 3 hours of pool work for his Rescue Diver certification, before we all met back at the boat in late afternoon. Ally, Ron and Shawne then went out in Tingum to see what the conditions were for diving off the lee side of Eleuthera. While choppy in the harbor, the slack tidal conditions allowed for access into the caverns along the Eleuthera cliffs, which permitted the guys to make a dive at The Blow Hole, while Ally manned the tender. 

Tingum heading out to the reefs with Ally, Shawne and Ron

Found just north of the Glass Window Bridge, the Blow Hole is a 55-foot dive in a cavern carved out by the rolling swells of the Atlantic, littered with a labyrinth of boulders that have tumbled from the cliffs. Ron said they saw an amazing amount of fish life, from small juveniles of all kinds to large parrotfish and snapper, but also found the beginnings of new coral formations on the rocks and cliff debris. It sounds like a pretty cool dive -- I really was sorry I couldn't accompany them! 

The evening was spent in a fun and festive style: dancing at Sunsets to the Brilanders' Bahamian"rake and scrape" music until 8:00, followed by dinner with Shawne at The Landing (where we were lucky to find a table amidst the throngs of spring break travelers), then meeting up with friends for more dancing at Valentine's until midnight. It was a fun night, but we were all glad to retire at a decent hour. NO additional trips to Gusty's or Daddy D's tonight!! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sad news and good-byes

Well, Equinox crew said a lot of good byes today. Karyn received the sad news that her Uncle Jim had passed away last night. "Papa Jim" was an amazing man, a devoted husband, and dear patriarch to three generations. His passing underscores how difficult it is being apart from family at times like this, and when cruising in far-away places, the loss is felt deeply indeed. He will be greatly missed.

We also said good-bye to Rachel this morning, and good-bye to Dick in the afternoon; both had to return stateside, so off on the water taxis they went, heading to North Eleuthera airport for their respective flights. It was definitely a bit of a challenging travel day, for while it was sunny, it was also quite blustery (to put it politely) all day, with white caps coming across the sound from the west. (Oh yes, once again, we have the winds!) On a positive note though, we missed all the rain that pounded Florida, as the huge weather system moved up the east coast, and remained north of Eleuthera and Harbour Island.

Before Dick had to leave in the afternoon, we took him on a tour around Harbour Island in the daylight. One must: putting in an order for conch salad at Queen Conch! We then headed over to the lee side of the island, cruising over to the Blue Bar, where we each had a cold drink and took in the absolutely gorgeous views of the turquoise Atlantic meeting the pink sands of the beach while discussing everything from boat projects to the relentless effects of the El Nino weather pattern of late. We returned to Bay Street, where we picnicked on the waterfront, enjoying our conch salad along with some fabulous grouper fingers courtesy of HarryO's. From there, it was back to the boat, where we hailed a water taxi for Dick's departure.  

The remainder of the afternoon was a quiet one; Karyn made family phone calls, Ally napped, and Ron did some of the usual boat maintenance projects, from changing out the filters for the Seagull water filtration system to replacing the vent filter in the holding tank. Nothing exciting, but all a part of life aboard.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Water water everywhere!

And fresh water, no less!! Our water-maker is fixed, up and running happily, thanks to Dick Murray of Murray Marine, who arrived to repair the pump on Friday. Even better, Dick had the Clark pump in tow, as he was successful in finding a commercial carrier to bring him  from Florida with the benign pump as cargo! Although, his trip was not entirely without more drama, thanks to Mother Nature! The storms coming across Florida and over the Bahamas were so intense, that the plane kept trying to get around the worst of the weather, only to be re-routed to Freeport!! They landed, and awaited until a good weather window opened up to allow them to get into North Eleuthera airport. (Apparently the storms were so bad, that Fort Lauderdale airport shut down for a while as well.) Meanwhile, back at Harbour Island, while the weather was overcast and windy, the rain only threatened and never made an appearance, so we were baffled as to why Dick hadn't shown up yet! 

Dick Murray of Murray Marine, our water-maker guru!

It was a slow morning otherwise. The girls slept in, and Warren and Christine came over for a bit, discussing possible boat chartering and buddy boat options for a summer vacation, before the younger girls left to do some window-shopping. Ron stayed aboard to wait for Dick's arrival, while Karyn accompanied Christine and Warren to the Dunmore Beach Club for a walk down Pink Beach. The weather held, windy and warm despite threatening skies, but thankfully there wasn't any rain before we headed for lunch at Sip Sip. Warren and Christine were awaiting some friends, also staying at Dunmore Beach Club, who arrived on island in time to join us for lunch, so we had quite a large and jovial crowd! Conch chili, Lobster quesadillas and home made fish cakes ruled the roost yet again, delicious as always! 

Karyn returned to Equinox in the afternoon, and heard of Dick's saga with the weather delays. Talk about a challenge just to get here, goodness!! Once Dick arrived at long last, he and Ron immediately set to work on replacing the blown pump, while Karyn tidied up, getting the boat ready to host an evening cocktail hour aboard with the Dunmore Beach Club group. Again, no rain, despite the impending front moving through, so that helped!! The water-maker repair was a challenge!! As Ron said, nothing should be easy, and it wasn't: we discovered the replacement pump had a bad piston! So, through expertise, ingenuity and necessity, Dick cannibalized the blown unit and used its needed parts to get the new pump working. Dick also discovered that a section of the original unit was improperly assembled, so he rebuilt that as about nothing being easy, this was nearly relentless!! By the time Dick had the unit performing well with pump was in place, pistons properly working, and pressure appropriate, everyone was arriving aboard, and definitely time for  light h'or doeurves and drinks! It was a nice treat indeed.

The box with the infamous Clark pump, finally aboard!

Dinner was a split affair: the Dunmore Beach folks returned there for a dinner reservation while we relaxed with Dick and indulged in a great fresh lobster dinner aboard Equinox. Ron had acquired more lovely tails from the local fisherman, so he and Karyn cooked, the girls cleaned up afterwards, then we all headed to Dunmore Town to show Dick a bit of island hospitality! Dick hadn't ever been to Harbour Island before, so we toured him around the town a bit before stopping at Valentines, hoping to meet up with the other group again. The night being young, we hung out for a bit, then meandered over to Gusty's (oddly quiet, as it wasn't open yet), so went to Daddy D's, which was also very quiet. Apparently it was just too early for night life! We eventually went back to Gusty's, where dancing and music was finally in full swing! We talked, danced, and people-watched, having a great time but found we were too exhausted to stay very late. It was a long, but successful day!

Chillin' In Harbour Island

Doing as instructed!

Even better than new friends, is meeting up again with old friends!! We were eagerly awaiting our Bermudian friends today, who were coming on-island today for a long weekend! It was total chance -- or destiny! -- that they happened to book their trip to  Harbour Island's Dunmore Beach Club when they did, but happily, through e-mail conversations we discovered that our visits would coincide, and that they were coming while we were here.  SO fun!!

Before they arrived though, the four of us went to town, as Ron wanted to get a haircut at "Freddy Da Barber's". While he did that, we girls scouted through town, gathering items for a Welcome/Happy Birthday basket of fruit and champagne to take over to the Dunmore Beach Club, where our friends were staying. We found a pretty woven basket at Neeka's little hand-work booth, where the girls posed in some amazing Bahamian sombreros, before venturing down the road to pick out the fruit. It was a fun morning of shopping and browsing!

Neeka's, where we found a great woven basket

 Looking sharp!

Looking interested!

Lunch was outside on the deck at the little deli near Bristols, where we enjoyed some fabulous sandwiches and wraps. We also had the  company of one of the Briland birds, which was clearly hoping for a hand-out. (Yes, soooo many roosters, so few recipes!) Ally didn't care for the bird to be so interested in our lunches, but at least this one wasn't crowing at the top of its lungs either! 

From there, we stopped at the "C & A Conveince Food Store" where -- at last -- we got a bottle of the much-touted "Love Wine"! Every day Ron would pop his head in the store, and every day the proprietress would shake her head no, the wine wasn't available yet. But today -- success! Her brother had made us a special bottle of the potion, which looks suspiciously like thin milk with spices mixed in. We have no idea what it's actually made of, although guess we probably should have asked!! (We know what its supposed to be good for, though!) We haven't tried it yet, but when we do, we'll let you know how it, um, tastes!! 

Ron and the special bottle of "love wine"

The evening was spent happily reunited with our friends Christine and Warren, and their daughter Alexis. We'd spent several weeks this past summer on anchor in Bermuda near their home, thoroughly enjoying our time with them there, so it was a delight to be together again. After arrival, they came to Romora Bay in the late afternoon/evening, where we danced a bit at Sunsets (to the Brilanders, of course!). We then made our way to the east  side of the island where we savored a private dinner together at the Dunmore Beach Club, where the conversation and wine flowed. Enjoy and appreciate the moment: good friends and good times on island!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boat neighbors and new friends!

It's the best thing about cruising: the people you meet! As proven with our dear friends aboard the Miles Aweigh, (may our paths cross again soon!) we are testament that when you have the courage to go out cruising, you meet the best folks and kindred spirits by chance and serendipity! A case in point: the crew aboard the Lexington, a gorgeous 65' Alaskan berthed in the slip next to us at Romora Bay...just another example of fine folks whom you meet simply because you cruise! Lexington's Owner Jerry and Captain Bill have been the best of pier mates here: fun, personable, and, as is usual, generous with their boat knowledge and stories! So, when they hosted some friends from Portland aboard the Lexington the past few days, the party just got larger and oh-so-fun!! 

Truly, it was delightful....on the same day as we welcomed Ally and Rachel aboard, Jerry and Bill had the company of a group of women friends who were delighted to enjoy vacation time on the water with them. (Of course, Jerry's gourmet food had nothing to do with it, I'm sure!) But, we all enjoyed being here at Harbour Island at the same time, and their cheerful enthusiasm "next door" made us all smile! 

So today, while Ron was off diving at Current Cut with Valentine's Dive Shop, Ally, Rachel and I hit the beach for some blue skies, warmth and fun. So did the ladies off the Lexington, who were ensconced on beach towels just down the shore from us! It was a day of blazing sun, interesting chatter and silly challenges to get in the chilly water. With the cool breeze, after having been in IN the water, being OUT of the water was actually the larger challenge! Ally and Rachel managed to get immersed in the cold ocean water, but did they ever race back for their towels afterwards! Oh, to be young and enjoying the moment! I think appreciated the time spent with the girls more than usual, I suspect, since I've got a precious perspective after my accident. Who knew a silly day at the beach could be so heart-warming?Tired at last of the sand and wind on the beach, we all opted for a comfy chaise lounge at the Romora Bay pool on the return to Equinox!

Pool side at Romora Bay, post beach time!

The evening was a special event in itself as we were lucky enough to have accepted a reservation to dine with the Lexington's fun group at The Rock House this evening. We had gourmet h'or doeureves aboard their boat, getting a tour and admiring their layout and amenities aboard, then proceeded en masse to the Rock House's elegant ambiance. It's a gorgeous place, and we all had a great time together, dining on the western, open-air side of the restaurant with its fabulous views over the harbor. Ron swears it was the best dinner he's had on-island! Which it was: delicious as could be -- but definitely sweetened by the company we were among!! Thanks to the crew and guests of the Lexington for a good time!!

 The group after dinner at The Rock House

The Lexington heading out to Nassau...we'll miss them!