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

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