Monday, April 28, 2008

Nassau as a Tourist

On Thursday, April 3rd, we braved the strong winds and choppy waves to make yet another long crossing. This time, we went over "the banks", shallower and less treacherous waters. The sail to Nassau was actually great, and we made good timing. Unfortunately, my mum and dad didn’t get to enjoy it at all, since they were downstairs in bed, feeling seasick. We managed to find a pretty comfortable anchoring spot near the town center, with a beach close by for the dogs. Dad, Darwin, and Kali were in charge of the boat security, while mum, Mark and I went briefly on shore for a first glimpse of Nassau and to find pizza for dinner.

The next day, we dropped my parents at their hotel, just across the water, and met up again for dinner. We figured they could use some land time and rest. On their last day, Mark stayed on board to relax with the dogs and I joined mum and dad to do some walking and sight seeing. We explored a huge area of the city, seeing all the historic buildings, many churches, Fort Frederica, and the busy cruise terminal. In the afternoon, we took a local ferry to Paradise Island, where we continued our adventure on foot. We relaxed at the Cloisters, followed the tiered path in Versailles Gardens, stumbled upon a fancy resort, and walked the hot and busy beach to Atlantis. This place is quite something else! My parents already saw it briefly on a tour of Nassau while they had a long stop-over here, but to me, it all looked massive and impressive. Pools, water slides, beach chairs, ponds with fish, little waterfalls, statues, manicured gardens, and of course the huge hotel, all joined together on the extensive grounds. Part of the hotel was an immense aquarium with all kinds of colourful fish and even a few manta rays! Then, there was the big casino with all its colours and flashing lights in an otherwise dark room where you didn’t even know whether it was day or night. And that was enough for an introduction of Atlantis. I would hopefully come again with Mark, to see the place in depth.

Back at the hotel, we collapsed and let our bodies rest, while we waited for Mark. I hoped he had an enjoyable, quiet day, but nothing was further from the truth. While we were having fun discovering all the sights, Mark was doing some nasty discoveries of his own. Hearing a funny noise somewhere in the boat, he checked one of the bilges and found out it was full of water. Hours later, he found and temporarily fixed the source (a leaking thru-hull in the bathroom). Out of curiosity, he then checked the other bilge, only to discover that this one was almost overflowing! The fridge pump had been leaking profusely and he had to replace it with our older, spare pump. After that, he also found a problem with the steering mechanism, something we would deal with later. And then, it was time to meet us...

Everybody was glad Mark had stayed on the boat and prevented it from sinking right there and then. And so it happened, that four very tired people went out for a delicious and welcome meal in a Thai restaurant, to spend their last evening together. My parents appreciated our hospitality and we enjoyed their visit. We hope they left with some special memories, and nice pictures. Most of all, we are very happy that they got to experience our different and interesting lifestyle, with all the good and the bad, the stress full and the enjoyable moments it comes with…

Nassau as a Tourist (pictures)

Atlantis, on the approach of Nassau harbour.

A normal sight at the cruise docks... Four ships at the time!

The Balcony House in old Nassau.

Government House in Nassau.

The very interesting library building in Nassau. The inside, eight narrow and dark aisles starting from a round, central area, is crammed with books.

Parliament Square in Nassau.

The Cloisters on Paradise Island.

Versailles Gardens on Paradise Island.

Our last dinner with my parents, in a nice, Thai restaurant. Yammie!!!

Introduction to the Exumas

There was one day, March 28th, the heavy winds stopped. That was the day we decided to make the crossing from Eleuthera to the northern islands of the Exumas. Good and bad. We had to motor the whole way, but… nobody got sick in the “flat” seas.

Because of the light winds, we could anchor near the plane wreck in Norman’s Cay. The current was playing tricks with us, but luckily, the wind stayed out of it, that day and night. Our surroundings were just beautiful. The sun lit up the water with all its shades of blue and there were beaches everywhere. In the dinghy, the four of us, circled around what was left of a plane that once belonged to the famous drug dealer and previous owner of the island. We also spent some time on a tiny little island, dominated by one palm tree, and connected to another island at low tide. Mark went conch hunting.

The following afternoon, the wind picked up again, and we were forced to move to the west side of Norman’s Cay. There we hung out for a few days, not doing much. My parents went to the beach every day and did a couple of walks. Mark and I played with the dogs, and focused on boat stuff. One evening we spoiled ourselves with a cocktail and dinner at Mac Duffs, the only establishment on the big island. Other than that, we cooked our own meals, did dishes in the salt water, and took showers by jumping off the cat. My parents did a great job adjusting to the basic boat life and didn’t complain an ounce! They successfully stayed out of our way, managed to live in a small space for days on end, and barely used any water. I bet they were looking forward to life on land, though, after a while.

Our next stop was Allan’s Cay. The current, wind chop, and crowdedness of the anchorage made it a bit uncomfortable over there, but we stayed long enough to see the huge family of iguanas on the beach and the stone “statues” on the top of a hill. The view from there was also very nice.

Nassau was calling, though… My parents’ departure date was coming up and the idea of a hotel room sounded attractive to everybody!

Introduction to the Exumas (pictures)

Mom and Dad trying to find a little bit of shade, and enjoying the smooth ride on the trip from Eleuthera to the Exumas.

The cute, little island on the south side of Norman's Cay.

Nice beach on the inside of Norman's Cay. Irie is in the background.

The plane wreck on the south side of Norman's.

Dad is brushing Kali on one of the quiet days, in the busy anchorage at the west side of Norman's.

Hanging out with the iguanas on Alan's Cays.

Stone statues on one of the islands of Alan's Cays.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eleuthera Explored (part 2, pictures)

Rock Sound: On the beach.

The mama and the papa on Rock Sound beach.

Rock Sound: Socializing with Jamaicans at the Blue Hole.

Cape Eleuthera marina: Siphoning R/O water in our tank.

We each had our job doing the water transport.

Cape Eleuthera marina: Giving the dogs water on one of our walks.

Governor's Harbour: The cute church.

Governor's Harbour: Cupid's Cay.

Governor's Harbour: The interesting looking library.

Tarpum Bay: Ruins of some kind of castle or church.

Tarpum Bay: Buying fish from the locals.

Cape Eleuthera marina: Listening to the weather forecast of heavy winds, and being disappointed. Plans will have to change.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eleuthera Explored (part 2)

March 22nd arrived. And with that, my parents would as well, at 5 pm. It was Easter weekend. Irie was settled all right in Rock Sound Harbour, a place too big to sit out bad weather without moving around for better shelter. We knew that. My parents didn’t have a hotel yet, on this Easter/Homecoming weekend. We knew that, too. We (I) just think we can get away with stuff, that everything always works out and that we will have some good luck. We better got on it, that Saturday morning…

Without getting into too many details, but wanting to share the feel of some stressful events, this is about what happened… The whole morning, Mark and I ran around, investigating all the mentioned and non-mentioned hotels in Rock Sound. We checked the map, followed signs, asked around, stumbled across information, only to find out that of the four accommodation options, one didn’t exist, one only did monthly rentals, one was full, and the last one was a resort, 2 miles away from town (and from the boat). None of the public phones worked and at one point half of the village was trying to find a room for us. A police officer got in touch with a grocery store owner and by early afternoon, we had a nice room booked in a just starting (that day?) and unfinished Bed & Breakfast place, one mile from town. Then, we had to do some grocery shopping for four people for over a week, and try to find a place to store it all. Everything got soaking wet on the dinghy ride back, because of the strong winds. After that, we wanted to move the boat to the southern part of the harbour. It was already 3 pm. We motored all the way there, tried to set the anchor, and failed. We tried again, but at 4 pm, we wisely decided to go back to our previous spot near town, now half an hour away. Oh, and while we tried to anchor in the “new” spot, we forgot all about our dinghy we were towing. Something we only do for short distances and something we are not very used to. So, we forgot to pull it in a little closer. Manoeuvring back and forward during the unsuccessful anchoring process, we ran over the line, which – of course – got stuck around the propeller, which in turn, switched the engine off. While the anchor was dragging, I jumped in the water with a mask and managed to unwrap the line. Luckily, nothing serious seemed to have broken.

Anyway, by the time we were back in our familiar spot, we needed to take the dogs to shore in the pretty choppy water, anticipating we wouldn’t have time later, and in this kind of weather, Mark couldn’t do it by himself. That was done a little after five, and we were just taking a breath, when a plane flew over the boat. Time to go!!!! We jumped back into the dinghy and raced the plane to the airport. The plane won, but by the time my parents appeared in the building, we just got there to greet them! Welcome to the Bahamas! They made it safe and sound after more than 48 hours underway…

The four of us (and the dogs) spent another full day in Rock Sound, exploring the sights (town, the blue hole, and the beach), eating at the fair, and sweating a lot. Since this wasn’t really a great place for us and our visitors to stay for a while, my parents moved in with us and we sailed Irie to Cape Eleuthera Marina.

The idea of staying in a “fancy” marina, psyched everybody. It wouldn’t be cheap, but just being able to take decent showers, use normal restrooms, take a swim in the pool, jump off the boat onto a dock, not worry about the anchor in the heavy winds, stock up with water, do some internet, and walk along the beaches, sounded great. Big was our disappointment, when we checked in. The people weren’t helpful or friendly at all, there was no pool and no wireless internet, showers cost an extra $4 per person for five minutes (forget that!), and brackish water out of the tap cost 45 cents a gallon! We really needed to fill up, though, and after some complaining, we found out the water system was broken and the tap water was undrinkable. We pushed a little more and were finally able to get enough (twelve) “older” five gallon jugs of good water to mostly fill up our water tank. To do that, we had to siphon the water out of the jugs into our tank.

It was very windy, so we got stuck for four days. The water and air were too chilly to swim, but my parents explored the area a bit and acclimatised, to the new country and the boat life. The four of us also rented a car to do a few sights overland. We visited historic Governor’s Harbour, tried to find a few beaches, drove through Tarpum Bay, and did some more grocery shopping. We came to the conclusion that Eleuthera has not much to offer, or we couldn’t find it. We definitely tried hard enough! Next on the agenda were the northern Exuma’s…

(The internet is -once again- not fast and good enough to post the accompanying pictures yet. Keep checking back!)

Irie under Sail

Cindy took these pictures of us and the boat while underway on a very calm day from Current Cut to Glass Window in Eleuthera.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Eleuthera Explored (part 1, pictures)

A shrimp boat leaves Spanish Wells

Harbour Island

On the Pink Sands Beach of Harbour Island

The dogs are making new friends on Harbour Island

Mark makes his first bread!

Cindy's Island at sunset (Meeks Patch)

Graham, Jeanine, Gray, and I on the beach (Meeks Patch)

Our Irie beach bag, right where it belongs!

Gregory Town

Hatchet Bay

Alice Town in Hatchet Bay

View from the bedroom in Hatchet Bay