Saturday, July 23, 2011

A wonderful week!

Whew!! Time has just flown by this past week!! We've been so busy enjoying our time in the Abacos, that I've been somewhat neglectful of the blog. (My apologies!) We did so much that I'm not sure I can do justice to all our small adventures and many activities, but I'll try! To briefly recap the highlights of the past week:

Tuesday morning the men went offshore fishing in Tingum while the women moved Equinox to a new anchorage. (Gotta love capable women!) Muriel learned how to operate the windlass and was introduced to the safety steps and basic routine we go through to weigh anchor, then Karyn piloted the boat from Marsh Harbour to the north end of Great Guana Cay. We ladies had the anchor down and were enjoying lunch on the flybridge in the new anchorage by the time the guys came back, unfortunately sans dinner, being bested once again by the fish. Nary a nibble on the calm seas, but better luck next time! For an afternoon of fun, we took Tingum around to the Atlantic side of Great Guana, snorkeled on the reefs off the northern shores and explored a bit of the beach behind Baker’s Bay. After a great day in the sunshine, a quiet dinner aboard followed.
Roles were reversed on Wednesday, when Muriel and I took Tingum for a cruise along Great Guana Cay, before running north through the "Don’t Rock Passage" to Green Turtle Cay. Due to the time of the tides and Equinox's deep draft, Ron and Paul brought Equinox around Whale Cay out to the Atlantic, then back in to the Sea of Abaco through Whale Cay Cut with no issue. Seas were easy; gentle swells with a 9’ duration, so conditions through the cut were just fine. We anchored off New Plymouth, and went to Pineapple’s for grilled fresh snapper burgers, a couple rum punches and seabreezes, and reveled in the sunshine as we ate near the shore. We happily brought home some tubs of freshly made conch salad, one hot and spicy, one mild, for that evening’s appetizer. Yum!
View of New Plymouth from Pineapple's on Green Turtle Cay
The blazing heat of the afternoon forced us all into the water to cool off – and rather than dive or snorkel, with the Sea of Abaco being incredibly calm, we opted to waterski! We pulled out the old HO slalom ski, rigged Tingum for skiing, and away we went: Karyn, Paul, Muriel and Ron, in that order! It was a delight! Tingum is a great ski platform; it's so much more powerful than Eclipse, which is what we used to ski behind! We all popped up on the ski almost immediately and grinned our way across the water on each of our runs. SO fun! 
Muriel taking a turn on the ski
Paul, all smiles after skiing
We eventually made our way to Fiddle Cay, where we relaxed in the shallows of the sandbar, letting the current pull us through the cool waters before heading back to Equinox. Ron decided to ski part of the way back, and did a great shallow water start before working on a few hard cuts across the wake. At the height of one such turn, the ski broke, with the boot coming clean off the ski! Ron went flying in a riotous tumble and landed in a hard plummet, surfacing with a bloody bruise on his right calf and a sore back. Definitely not how we wanted to end the ski session, but we were thankful that Ron wasn’t hurt worse. It was a pretty spectacular spill, though! 
After returning to Equinox to shower and refresh before dinner, we had a surprise – one most welcome and delightful – when a shout marked the arrival of a boat alongside Equinox. Standing on the bow was Brendal, of Brendal's Dive Center! (For those who don't know, Brendal is the long-time owner of the well-known dive operation on Green Turtle Cay, and his gregarious nature endears him to all. Check out their website: It was so nice to come out on the aft deck and discover Brendal waving and grinning happily, shouting hellos and welcome backs as his mate pulled the boat alongside. They were returning to Green Turtle with a group of divers after a great day of diving and picnicking on the beach when Brendal spied Equinox and insisted on a detour to say hello. We are so glad he did! After confirming we all would be coming into the Green Turtle Club to hear the Gully Roosters that evening, he promised to see us there. How nice to be welcomed back, time and again! The people of the Abacos are so warm and genuine; their hospitality is legendary. And, really, it only underscores why we love to cruise: getting to know the locals and becoming friends with the people of the islands.  (To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, who wants to swim in a roped-off sea?)
Later that night, we did indeed go hear the Gully Roosters and do a bit of dancing, although Ron wasn’t up for much of the latter since his back was bothering him quite a bit. We were happy to see Brendal once more; we had time to catch up, dance, and laugh. Muriel enjoyed doing the "Electric Slide" with him -- great fun! Finally, after a few more dances and a lot more music, we headed ambled back to the boat. En route, at the GTC fuel dock, was a huge fuel barge called the Tropic Sun. The size of it in such a tiny harbor was totally unexpected; just imagining how it got into White Sound was mind-boggling, considering the fairly shallow controlling depths and sharp turn at the channel entrance!

The remainder of the week Equinox was on the move. We meandered back towards the States: from Green Turtle Cay we stopped at Allans-Pensacola Cay on Thursday, then stopped in Wells Bay off Grand Cay on Friday for part of the day. By late afternoon, we were underway yet again, starting our crossing back across the Gulf Stream to the St. Lucie Inlet. We had to get back in time for Paul and Muriel to return north, and since we had a lovely weather window, we opted to do a night crossing off the Little Bahama Bank. Our reasons for doing so were twofold: we not only wanted to arrive in daylight since we were towing Tingum, but also because the inlet is shoaling quite a bit just inside the jetties, and Equinox needs a high tide to get through it safely. Due to the time of high tide at the inlet, we had to arrive in the early morning for the most water. Plan, plan and plan again....there are so many variables to take into account when cruising!

The night crossing passed quietly, with a shooting star or two under clear skies to brighten the night, and an occasional squall in the distance to add to the light show. Beautiful! We each did a short watch 2-hour watch and by day break, we were approaching the St. Lucie Inlet. Being Saturday, fishing boats small and large were charging out of the Inlet in great numbers (at one point, I counted eight boats all exiting the inlet, as I peered through the binoculars) so we had to be rather careful with timing our entry! Thankfully, our entrance through the jetties was uneventful, but the water under the hull did get very thin indeed once inside. (I hate it when the depth sounder reads "- - -" because the water is too shallow to get a good reading! Let's just say it's not a good feeling!) But again as always, all's well that ends well, and Equinox is now back in Jensen Beach, safe in her home slip. Another "bon voyage", literally!

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