Sunday, July 21, 2013

Little Ragged

The morning of July 14th we motored through the channel waving goodbye to Duncan Town. We anchored just a couple of miles away at Hog Cay. On the beach sits a couple of wooden structures of make shift shelters.

One is made of large round posts with a palm frown roof. The other uses bamboo and other items for posts and only part of the roof is covered. A couple of fire pits are present, crates used as tables and at the entrance is a sign that reads Hog Cay Yacht Club. Hanging around the edges of the structure are homemade signs people have left to mark there once presence at Hog Cay. We, meaning Jimi, made our sign, which now hangs there joining the others. Made from a large nut (name unknown), he cut the bottom off (so it resembles a bell – sani’bel’) and decorated the outside with colored markers.  A sunset set and two palm trees overhang the word “Sanibel” with “Jimi & Lorie July 2013” written beneath. The backside is colored black except for a half moon peering out.

A well established trail led us to the other side of the island for our day hike. The beach was like many others with debris washed up on shore. Jimi found a figure carved  from wood approximately four inches tall. It appear to be a carving of a man with a long face holding a lamb.
My first thought was Jesus. He let me have it and it now resides on the shelf next to my berth. There is an engraving on the bottom, clearly homemade, but it’s too hard to make out. A funny story regarding my new found friend – Jiimi was working one afternoon cleaning out the bilge (a dirty job). He would come through the cabin covered in oil and diesel fuel. No matter what he did or how hard he tried, he made a mess. As he was walking from the forward berth to the engine room grumbling choice words I refuse to type here, he looked over at me. I was sitting in the saloon holding my wooden figure feeling helpless and bad for Jimi. I calming held my Jesus up in his direction and said “Jesus loves you”. Even as angry as he was at the time, he could not resist, and while he tried to hide it from me, I saw the smile string across his face.

Our fishermen friends, who we refer to as Skinny and Louie, arrived one afternoon trying to gift us a grouper the size of a Labrador. After conveying there was no possible way the two of us could consume this beast, he reluctantly settled on gifting us a smaller grouper about ten pounds. These groupers can grow to the size of a small car. After cleaning and filleting the fish we breaded it in flour and fried it in our cast iron frying pan. Delish!
Another fisherman came by later that day and sold  us five conch at one dollar each. We’re not used to having so much meat on board. We grilled the conch and ate some with plantains. The rest we cut in to small pieces and mixed with spicy rice.

After our fill at Hog Cay, we sailed to Wilson Point. We set out to explore Little Ragged Island just south of it’s bigger brother,  Ragged. Walking along the beach, Jimi came across a small package. It was pretty clear to him what it was, but not to me; known as a square grouper, aka marijuana. Packed tightly and wrapped in several layers of cellophane  and packaging tape, it must have been thrown overboard by worried drug runners. This area was common for drug trafficking in the 80’s, but not so common now. We were shocked and also wished it had been a bundle of cash, also sometimes found. The next day we donated it to a good  home.

We spent a few hours on shore at Percy’s place enjoying random conversation and photographing the two ship wrecks on his beach.

We are now prepared to sail away:  the main sail is reefed, the dinghy is stowed on deck and everything is put in its place. We may be off the grid for a while (no SPOT or emails), but not to worry, all is well. We will be sure to make contact as soon as we are able. Talk to you in a couple of months.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Duncan Town of the Jumentos

Dear Friends and Family,

This last week was tossed with plenty of adventure; throw a few twists and turns in for taste, and we have ourselves a full week to blog about.

The Jumentos – what we’ve been able to see so far – have been absolutely, without a doubt, the most beautiful of the Bahamas. I’ll write more on the Jumentos, as we are able to explore and fully take in the beauty. Without any issues, we made it through the cut at Hog Cay (near Georgetown) at 7am the following morning. We then sailed twenty five nautical miles to Water Cay where we shared the anchorage with a commercial fishing vessel for a couple of nights. Three of the fisherman, who were very friendly, came over to say hello. Jimi was interested in talking to them, but  the high winds and Bahamian dialect made it difficult for communicating. Knowing that we would be leaving soon, we opted not to remove the dinghy from the deck.  It’s such a struggle in high winds. One would think it would get easier with time and practice. Jimi and I only feel it’s getting harder. With thr problem at hand he’s trying to work out a better system. Jimi spotted quite  a lot of conch and sea life just by diving the anchor. This sparked our taste for adventure and dinner.

After a couple of days, we made our way to the beautiful Flamingo Cay – unfortunately no flamingos are living there. We launched the dinghy right away, ready for morning exploration. Jim ventured out in the morning and came back with four conch. With our instruction book by our side and gift of a rock hammer (from our friend, Randy) in hand, we successfully harvested our first conchs – even if number one was a bit mangled. 

Our day was full to the fullest. We were real excited to explore a cave. Not ‘just a cave’, but a cave we could motor the dinghy in from the ocean. And yes, it was as exciting as it sounds. Full of rocks and conch shells we had to anchor the dinghy in the middle of the cave and wade to the small landing where we took pictures. We climbed through a hole out the back side of the cave to explore, but didn’t find anything that really interested us. Like our previous cave adventure, this grotto had an opening in the top to let light in along with a few stalactites. 

We snorkeled the reefs. I did not take my camera, but thought we would go again and I could then capture some photos. The reef was the most abundant we’ve seen yet. We watched a nursery of twenty plus snapper fish closely guarded by two adults, who had their fins full. We followed several fish reminding us of Dory (remember Dory in Finding Nemo). We believe we have correctly identified them as Queen Trigger fish. They are cool because their fins are on the top and bottom of their bodies instead of each side. Lots of colorful corals. The entire area was so full of life, all swimming around us. Next we ventured out to hike the island in search of ruins, a well, and a cave. We found the other side of the island by accident and stumbled upon a small airplane wreck. We’ve seen a lot of ship wrecks, but up to this point, no airplanes – interesting. 

The brush and terrain was rough, but we finally found the ruins, where we had a nice long conversation with a large curly tailed lizard. He was very interested in us and enjoyed our encounter as much as we enjoyed his. We walked off to find the cave and well, but ended up turning around back to the ruins. Seeing the large curly tailed lizard again, we met what appeared to be his whee little toddler, possibly a teen and wife. 

The toddler and Jimi were within inches of each other during their entire conversation. It was pretty cool, but soon we had to head back to Sanibel to recover from the day’s events. We fried up our freshly caught conch, plantains, and cooked rice for dinner. It was good, but the cold conch leftovers the next day were better.

Beings we were in such a remote area we’ve  been unable to get weather from any of our sources. However, luckily early Monday morning Jimi received a fragment of information on Tropical Storm Chantel. As we understood it, she was headed directly towards us and we had about three days to find safe cover. Our choices were to go back to Georgetown or chance going south to Duncan Town. We opted for Duncan Town. We spent the next two days making our way anchoring each night.

We arrived at Ragged Island just outside of Duncan Town on the 9th, hopped in the dinghy and headed for town. The depth of the channel access to town was questionable. We took our own equipment (a hand held GPS and an old fashioned string with a weight) to check the depth of various locations marking the latitude and longitude coordinates, the time of day and the depth. Then Jimi could compare the charted depths of the same times and areas and then factor in high tide. Very clever, if you ask me, but I’m a bit bias. We talked to some fishermen in the channel and again on shore about bringing Sanibel up the channel and they felt it would be no problem during high tide. Since we were in town, we decided to walk around a bit. We came across a heard of wild goats who occupy the island. Within minutes we were herded to a covered area where a barbeque was in progress. The locals were celebrating their Independence day, which is officially on the 10th of July. 

We were given our choice of pop or juice, a hot dog and a hamburger and there was no refusing anything. It’s really a good thing we hadn’t eaten yet. We talked to a few people – everyone was so nice. Talking with a well dressed and mannered man for a while, he finally asked our names. Jimi answered and then just as the gentlemen gave us his name, Percy…….you would have thought I met a rock star. “Percy, oh my gosh…it’s Percy” I couldn’t believe it and was ecstatic. Who is Percy, you ask?  Percy is a man who lives on the island, but the reason I was so excited is because several fellow cruisers I’ve talked to on cruising forums told me to tell Percy hello when we arrived here. In addition, our guide book from the 90’s mentions Percy in detail. In my eyes, I had just met a star. Percy became our ‘go to’ guy.

The following morning about 7am we decided to head down the channel to take cover in the anchorage. On the way, we lost the channel and got stuck….not once….not twice….but three times. I’m so proud of Jimi. He handled it well – no excessive cursing. Forward and reverse…turn the wheel this way and that….forward and reverse….turn the wheel this way and that……forward and reverse until we were free. Rest of the trip I stood on the bow to make sure we stayed in the channel and directed Jimi. Once we made it and anchored we noticed an audience all around the town watching. Duncan Town sits up on a hill and looks out over the entire area all the way out to Salt Cay where we were originally anchored. Jimi went to shore to check with the guys about our anchor spot. He met and talked to Kennedy who told us they were all watching and ready to jump in their fishing boats to free us from the sand. That is so cool – really people this caring and amazing exist? Their generosity is genuine and comes naturally to them; they don’t know anything different. The rest of our time in Duncan Town people commented and talked to us about the situation – one man said “I  was watching you and I knew you could do it” Another man said “We will keep an eye on you during the storm.” How sweet. I should mention that at one time Duncan Town populated 500 hundred people. The town mined salt from the sea and sold it to Cuba and Haiti. For political reasons that doesn’t happen anymore and the population is now about 50.

That afternoon we walked the town taking pictures until once again we were herded to the covered area for a pile of food: chicken, rice, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, cake, and cheesecake. 

We had to take a doggie bag; there was so much food. That evening we again joined the festivities with dancing, fireworks and ice cream. What an honor to be brought in to celebrate the Bahamas’ 40th Independence Day anniversary. We are blessed.

We befriended a Cuban man who fled Cuba nearly twenty years ago and has since made his life here as a Bahamian with a nice home, wife and children. He invited us into his home where he showed us a beautiful piece of art his daughter painted. 

Louie’s story of life in Cuba and the terms of how he got to the Bahamas would do any book justice. He has quite an amazing story.

In the harbor, during low tide Sanibel no longer floats. Her keel rests gently on the soft mud – a first for us and a bit eerie for the Captain. Well Tropical Storm Chantel broke up south of Haiti and Cuba, but there were still some remnants in the area of high winds and precipitation, which we felt the full force of Thursday night. Our anchor held strong during the thirty mile per hour winds, but as the wind surprised us and came out of the west hitting us directly on our starboard side and our keel being planted in the mud we fell sideways (really just a lean) and felt  each gust doing so. Some lightning and thunder made their presence known and we sat still inside hoping we wouldn’t get any closer to the mangroves already only a few feet away. Jimi had to reposition the dinghy a few times to keep it from getting caught between us and the mangroves. All in all it wasn’t a bad evening. Sanibel was grateful for a fresh water bath.

Once again, blown away by generosity. When we went to shore on Thursday we ran in to Percy who scooped us up in his little Toyota Tacoma diesel pick up truck and gave us a first-hand tour on the entire island from one end where a new dock for the mail boat is under construction to the other end of the island where he lives. His homestead is an amazing place in itself. He salvaged a DC3 airplane wreck and built his restaurant underneath it. 

The restaurant is closed for the time being, as he and his family have been living in it since their home on the beach burned to the ground. He is rebuilding his house, which should be complete in a few months. He gifted us with a mango and a bag of salt from his salt mines. On his beach sits a Haitian boat wreck that once carried 115 Haitians from Haiti to the Bahamas. 

Unfortunately those immigrates were returned back to Haiti by the Bahamian Government, but the wreck remains and Percy is planning eventually to make a bar out of it. After our tour we stopped by Louie’s house to invite him and his wife over to Sanibel. Finally we made our way to the grocery store to order some bread and purchase a few other supplies.

Since we missed most of the Jumentos, we’ve decided to head back North to explore some of the areas we blew past. Then we plan on coming back to this area where we will anchor on Wilson Point, which is where Percy lives. His property has a lot photo opportunities and we would like to visit with Percy Wilson more.

Tomorrow we will brave the channel at high tide again to make our destination of Hog Cay just to the north.

Love everyone,

Lorie & Jimi

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Goodbye Georgetown

Dear Friends and Family,

I promised more on Georgetown and here it is. Jimi and Eric spent several hours with their machetes collecting firewood for our barbeque. Randy saw their efforts from his boat and came over to join the collection process. No one else showed up for the barbeque, as we suspected might and that’s ok. We had a fabulous barbeque, potluck and bonfire with wonderful friends Randy, Eric, Sandrine, Rudy and Jill. We filled our bellies and hovered around a large beach bon fire while stretched out on lawn chairs.

We all did our own thing the following day. Jimi and I first hiked to a monument at the top of a hill, name Monument Hill, and then spent some time at the beach on the east side of the island. Retrieving his Hawaiian sling from Sanibel, Jimi snorkeled trying to spear a fish for dinner, while I collected miniature sea shells.

With Eric and Sandrine planning the leave the next day, we all joined them on their catamaran for the dreaded goodbye. It was bittersweet – bitter because we do not want to part and sweet because it’s exciting to move on. We wish them the best and know we will see them again someday.

We’ve had a couple of still, hot, muggy nights in the cabin making it hard to sleep. Jimi likes to sleep in the cockpit in these conditions, which is what he did one recent night. When he woke up the next morning, laying on a nearby cockpit cushion with big eyes staring at him was a squid about ten inches in length. How the heck it got on the boat we have not a clue. Surely it could not have jumped out of the water landing in the cockpit. That would be about a fifteen foot leap. But who knows; it was dead and now resides in our refrigerator to be used as fish bait.

We spent the next few days walking around town, buying yet more groceries, filling our water tanks and taking pictures. Here is a picture of a lady making a basket out of palm fronds at the Straw Market; her name is Sherry.

Jimi helped Randy fix his auto pilot, which has been broke for several months now. Nearly a must item for a single handed cruiser. We never thought we’d see the day when Randy was giddy – but we saw it. He was so happy and grateful. He spent the next two evenings visiting with us on Sanibel and then we had to say our goodbyes to him too, as we were preparing to depart Georgetown. However, we are certain we will meet up with Randy again. It’s inevitable being that we’ve bumped into him every other place we’ve landed.

We didn't go far today; only fifteen miles dead in to the wind. Motoring the entire afternoon brought an unpleasant passage. We are now in Hog Cut Cay for the night. At high tide (6:30 am) we'll be able to get through Hog Cut and begin our journey down through the Jumentos.

We’ll spend the next few weeks in secluded Bahamian islands we are told are the most beautiful. The fishing and conch is supposed to be beyond plentiful, which will be our only source of meat for meals. Jimi can practice his spear fishing skills.

That’s all I’ve got right now. We wanted to make a clean break when we left Georgetown…..I’ll write again when I am able.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Happy Independence Day to you!

Love everyone,

Lorie & Jimi