Thursday, March 19, 2009

Galliot Cay and Pipe Creek

We left Georgetown on a breezy Saturday morning leaving a fleet of hundreds of sailing vessels behind who had moored up for the season. The following week, the total number of boats in the harbor will balloon in preparation of the Georgetown regatta. My best guess is that there will be over 500 boats in the bay; based on all the traffic we saw heading there on our way up the Exuma chain.

Our sail started out a little spirited with six-foot seas on the nose while we beat our way out of the bay. Once outside, we veered north and made our way to Galliot Cut. As the day progressed, the sea state improved to the point Phil could throw out a line. Just as we were approaching the cut, he caught a large female mahi mahi on one of the lures he designed and built. How awesome is that? We invited friends from two other boats over for a sushi dinner aboard the Adamo.

The anchorage we were in behind Galliot Cay had a small beach tucked into the rocky coast. Erosion has carved the rocks into an overhang that spans the entire bank-side coastline of the small island. The north point looks like a giant stone iguana at low tide. At high tide, the rolling waves slap the bottom of the rocky ledge producing a soft sloshing sound that does wonders for nighttime sleeping.

On day two of our stay at Galliot, we had a cookout on the small beach.

Earlier in the day, Phillip took Susan for a dinghy ride to check out the waters around the cay. While they were motoring around she got a vibe and told Phil to check for lobster right under the boat. He put his mask on and took a look. Sure enough there was a large lobster. He plopped in and brought it back to the surface. “Here you go Mama!”

In the morning, the wind began to clock around. We knew it was time to move to a more protected anchorage.

We motored back out of the cut and sailed 20 miles north to Pipe Creek. On our way we hooked up with a good-sized bull mahi mahi. Phil saw the fish coming and darting from bait to bait. There was a lot of excitement in his voice as he said: “we are about to get a hit!” The rod bent down and the reel began zinging. “Fish on!”

When we reached Pipe Creek, the tidal currents were quite strong, so we dropped two anchors off the bow to form a Bahamian mooring. The first anchor is dropped in front of the boat, while the second is dropped behind the boat with a slack rode leading to the bow. As the current shifts between ebb and flood, the boat stays in the same spot regardless of which way the current is flowing since the front and rear anchors take turns holding the boat in place.

Phil and I explored the creeks and cays from the dinghy. Sue stayed on the boat to run a load of laundry. After our exploration, we returned back to the Adamo to prepare fresh mahi for dinner.

The front began pushing through that evening; the next few days were overcast and very windy. Phil spent much of his time working on home school. I did minor repairs and maintenance on the boat. Susan cooked and read.

As we were working our way up the Exuma chain of islands, our thoughts began shifting towards home. We were only two days worth of sailing from being back in the United States. Much had changed there. Much had changed with us too. One and a half years at sea calling on foreign countries and cultures changes you. It’s a journey not only of discovery of places and other people and cultures, but also of yourself.

We mingled with some of the wealthiest people on earth with their 200-foot mega yachts in the chic French islands of St. Martin and St. Barth, as well as some of the poorest people on earth living in straw and wooden huts on the Manamo river in Venezuela. We met cruisers who had circumnavigated the world. We had dinner with other adventures that had lived in all corners of the earth; global vagabonds who managed to make a living regardless of where they ended up. We met honest people and we met conmen. We spent time with welcoming people who would go out of their way to help us. We met people who where fascinated by what we were doing; living on a boat and sailing from country to country. We met people who were too busy to be interested in what we were doing.

Perhaps the most profound change for me was the realization that the things we American’s take for granted as normal are viewed as unusual or even bizarre by other cultures. I had spent all of my life living in first world countries in Europe and America. People work hard to live in large houses and drive what in third world countries would be considered fancy cars. We fill our homes with lots of stuff. When we have too many things, we put them into storage, a concept that is almost incomprehensible in some countries. Stress is high. Everyone is trying to get ahead. In contrast, the Warreo Indians had no real possessions and were perhaps the happiest people we met. Yet, that is changing with Venezuelan president Chavez handing out Yamaha engines to them. Now they will have to get money to buy fuel and parts to keep the engines running. They’ve never been in need of anything they could not produce themselves. That life style will be lost forever.

We live a privileged lifestyle in the US. But there is a price. We are always on the go. Time is the most precious resource and most people just don’t have time to fully enjoy all the things they accomplish. I would not advocate changing your lifestyle other than taking time to enjoy what you have accomplished and spending time with the ones you love.

On Easter Sunday April 11th, 2004 at the age of 37, I had a stroke that was caused by an undetected birth defect in my heart. I was mentally paralyzed and was unable to speak, read, or write. Over time, I was able to make a full recovery, but it was an eye opener. No one lives forever and you don’t know when your time will be up. You have to live your dreams while you can. Mine was sailing and I’m thankful that Susan and the boys indulged me and that our families supported our decision. Words simply can’t describe my gratitude. Many, many thanks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Long Island

One of the things we wanted to do while in Long Island was to go to the grocery store and to the fishing shop. The stores are about 5 miles from the marina. It’s too far to walk. Catching a ride is easy if you just walk down the main road, but with a load of grocery bags on the trip home, we thought it would be better to rent a car. We only need one for a short time. We inquired at the marina about renting a car for a half day, but they would only rent a car out for a full day.

Next I went down to a bar/resort called Rowdy Boys. They agreed to rent us a small Jeep-like car for a half day, though I never really settled on the price. The owner simply said she would work with me. I figured any discount is better than none. I picked up the crew at the boat and brought them back to Rowdy Boys to pick up the car. Some one had just finished washing the car and the engine was running. “There you go.” No one asked for a license or credit card. There was no contract.

We drove up the road to the stores and purchased our provisions. We stopped on the way back to top off the gas. Then it was back to Rowdy Boys to return the car. I gave the keys back to the owner. She looked at me and said: “how much should I charge you?” While I was thinking, she said: “how about $30”. I thought great. The daily rate is $80.
“That should cover the gas,” she added. I told her we had topped the car off. She then looked at me and said: “well, we are all square then. Have a nice day.” We rented the car for the price of the gas! That was our experience with people all over Long Island. They are just super friendly and kind.

The following day, we sailed 40 miles to the north tip of Long Island. We finally had wind that we could sail in, 20 knots on the beam. Phil had the fishing rods out again. He had a double hookup with two mahi mahi. One got way, but he landed the smaller of two, still a nice catch.

We anchored up in Joe’s sound. The entrance to the sound is through a curved, jagged rocky edged cut. At high tide you have about six inches of water under the boat and about three feet of clearance on either side. It’s a nerve wracking. There’s no margin for error. But, the pay off is that once inside, you have a smooth anchorage with an amazing view.

While in Joe’s sound we met some fellow cruisers, Karin and Klaus, from Hilton Head, who were originally from Germany. They were co-owner’s of Daytona Beach Boat Works as well. What a small world.

The following morning we moved to George Town to meet-up with our friends on S/V Footloose. They were surprised to see us, particularly since I said I would never set foot in George Town again. It’s just not a friendly place and is crowded with hundreds of cruising yachts that anchor up here for the winter. It’s like a huge, floating trailer park. Our plan is to get some propane and head up the Exuma chain as soon as possible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clarence Town

Our arrival at the docks in Clarence Town at the Flying Fish Marina went smooth as butter. A slight westerly wind helped us steer the Adamo through an S turn past the breakwater and around the fuel dock into our slip. Maneuvering a 48’ foot, 55,000 lbs boat with only one engine and no bow thruster can become problematic in tight spaces if the wind is blowing the wrong way. Once at the dock Susan started doing laundry right away. I think she must have washed everything on aboard that was made of fabric, including clothes, sheets, comforters, rugs, rags, and bath and kitchen towels. The washer/dryer was running nonstop for two days. Shore power is a wonderful thing.

We thought we were only going to spend one day at the dock, but the 25 knot winds from the cold front that passed through on our first night in the marina, kept us there for two days. Even the larger twin-engine powerboats with bow thrusters were pinned to the dock.

Here’s the Captain and his new friend “Happy” chilling on the dock.

We were able to get an Internet connection, so we checked on our emails. Susan’s mom had copied me on an article about Allen Stanford and his $8 billion investment fraud. Stanford was the company I interviewed with in Antigua in November 2008. The facilities there were phenomenal and the show they put on was impressive. But while I was interviewing with the president of the bank, things were already in motion by the SEC. I commented to the recruiter after my interview that the president seemed a little distracted and was just going through the motions. I now suspect that while I was talking about my resume, he was thinking about how things were beginning to crumble around him. The pressure on him had to have been intense, but when you’re in that situation, you have to keep up the front. What a nightmare.

In retrospect, things are clear that something must have been wrong there. They used to fly clients in on the Stanford jet to Antigua. In the corporate hanger, a custom’s official would clear the client into the country where a limousine would then bring them past the new Stanford cricket stadium right in the middle of the airport grounds. The various Stanford subsidiaries had architectural masterpieces built among manicured grounds reminiscent of Boca Raton. There the clients would be wined and dined at the pool overlooking the cricket field in Stanford’s posh private club. Stanford International Bank was offering CD’s earning more than 10% per year. It was just too good to be true. Once the bank got the clients’ assets, the money would go into the “black box” that only Allen Stanford, his college roommate and the chief investment officer (who had no financial background experience) had access too. Incredible! Now investors cannot redeem their CD’s and the Bank has been placed in receivership. No one really knows how much money is left. The whereabouts of Stanford and his cronies is not known at this time.

After being on the dock for 2 days we moved to the anchorage and are waiting on the waves to subside. It is surprising how calm the anchorage is with the raging seas just beyond the reef.

Phil and I spent the day repairing the bottom of the dinghy on the beach. The hoisting hardware had ripping through the fiberglass, which caused a problem getting it up on the davits. Phil found some hammocks under palm trees and split a coconut while we waited for the fiberglass to setup. Later in the day, we brought Susan back to our find and hung out with fresh fruit rum drinks Phillip had fixed for us.

Unfortunately, one of the hammocks ripped and I went crashing to the ground with my short-lived rum drink landing all over me. Phil and Susan thought it was a riot. I was a little perturbed. Luckily, Phil had packed a cooler with refills and ice. What a good boy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moving On - Plana Cays and Long Island

On February 12th the weather calmed and we left Abraham’s Bay in Mayaguana, our home for the past month. The island had been a surprise for us. We had not planned to stay more than a few days, but the friendliness of the people made us feel so welcome that we just couldn’t break away. The strong sense of camaraderie among the cruisers just made the whole experience even more fun. The fishing and lobstering was second to none.

As we headed west out of the 5-mile long bay, the morning sun was shining brightly behind us, illuminating the waters as we navigated through the scattered coral heads. When we entered the open ocean, a light easterly wind was not sufficient to push us through the seas that still showed signs of weeks of stormy weather. The churned waves would crest and push the Adamo forward faster than the wind was blowing. The sails would luff until we hit the trough of the wave. Then with a jarring bang, the sails would fill with air and push the boat forward again. We were forced to motor sail for most of our trip to Plana Cays.

When we reached the Cays, the beauty of the beaches was fantastic. We anchored in 25 feet of water in crystal clear water dotted with large coral heads on snow-white sand. It was breath taking. Our friends on Footloose joined us for a sunset cookout on the island.

In the morning Footloose headed for George Town to pick up friends of theirs. We had the island to ourselves. Phil and I hit the water early looking for lobster, but were surprised that there were none there. We had grown so accustomed to finding them easily in Abraham’s Bay that we were a little stunned to come up empty handed. The beauty of the dive however, made up for the lack of lobster though. Swimming 20 feet down and looking around was like being in an aquarium. Tall coral heads jutted up from the sandy bottom in water that was clear as looking through air.

.....Large Nassau Grouper under the Adamo (out of season, bummer)

After the dive, Susan and I went beach combing and came upon a blowhole in the rocky jetty on the south point of the island. I was fascinated by it because we had seen some on the north side of the island earlier that day that were spewing water and spray 30 feet up into the air. With the wind out of the northeast and at low tide, this hole was dry. I hopped in and managed to get a photo of what they look like on the inside. Very cool!

Back on the Adamo, we pulled down a weather report. Another front was due to hit in a few days. Plana is not a good place to be when the weather turns because the anchorage is fully exposed. In the morning we left just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, and motored 20 miles to Acklin Island. The wind had dropped to 5 knots and the seas had calmed finally stilled to three-foot waves.

We had read in the guidebook that Lovely Bay was a good spot to anchor. When we arrived, the entrance was difficult to find in the lighting. The sun was low in the sky and looking south all we could see was the sun refracting from the ripples in the water. Corral heads were packed tightly in the shallow bay. We found a sandy spot and dropped anchor. After an early lunch, we decided to abort the rolly, exposed bay and keep moving. The front was due to hit in two days and there is no safe anchorage in twin islands of Acklin and Crooked Island. We motored 38 miles west along the coast to Pits Town, Crooked Island. We were now a day’s sail from safe harborage in Clarence Town, Long Island. In Pits Town we took the dinghy to shore and went to a deserted beach bar for a sunset beer. It was the third day in a row that we got to see the “green flash” as the last rays of the sun set over the ocean.

Before sunrise the next morning, I checked the weather. The front had slowed down and was not scheduled to hit us until the late afternoon of the following day. We pulled anchor and headed for South Point on Long Island. We had heard that it was really pretty there. I knew that once we made it up to Clarence Town, we would not turn back south, so I pointed the boat due west for the 27-mile crossing. Phil put the rods out. Life was good. That is until . . . the first mate woke up. As you know she’s not a morning person. A change to the planned destination without discussion with her was not good. She had been looking forward to a night in a marina and being able to do unlimited laundry while on shore power. But I also knew that a navigation plan meeting is not an AMA (Approved Morning Activity), particularly before sunrise. The wrath didn’t last long. South Point had too much interesting activity for that.

Phil had been trolling for days without catching anything. He lamented that he must have forgotten how to fish! That idea came to an end when a mile off of Long Island he landed a huge Spanish mackerel. We where a little concerned that it might have ciguatera due to its size so we asked local fisherman. They gave us the okay and we fixed fresh sushi for lunch.

On the west side of Long Island, we anchored on a white sandy bank.

A flock of pink flamingos was standing in ankle deep water, while sharks and large stingrays roamed the shallows.

Phil and I took the dinghy to the local grocery store. When we inquired about buying rum, the owner called her brother Ernest, who came to pick us up in his car and bring him back to his bar. I had a beer while we spoke with him and the other patrons. When we were ready to leave, we bought to two small flasks of rum and set out on our way back to the dinghy. Ernest offered us a ride, but we wanted to walk. Phil has seen some fruit trees along the road and want to collect some. As we walked the grocery bags full of soft drinks got heavier and heavier. We began to regret having turned down Ernest’s offer, but we also knew from our month-long visit last year that it would not be long before someone offered us a ride. The first pickup truck that passed, stopped, backup and offered us a lift. Things hadn’t changed on Long Island. What a place.

At dusk, the soft light after sunset reflected off of the calm bay, while the sandy bottom, etched by the current, was still illuminated and visible through the clear water. Incredible.

Over the course of the evening, the wind died. At 5:00am we pulled anchor and headed for Clarence Town. The ocean was flat as we motored 25 miles, a thousand yards off shore. Phil had the rods out again. Two Spanish mackerel and a hit and run from a blue marlin and we arrived to safety to Clarence Town. It was the calm before the storm.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mayaguana - Fishing Update

9 Spanish Mackerel
3 Black Jack
1 Yellow Tail Snapper
14 Barracuda

All caught in under 3 hours of trolling on the South Shore of Mayaguana aboard S/V FootLoose!

Tom filleted some of the fish while the rest were released, Doris was at the helm, Phillip reeled them in, I gaffed them. It was unbelievable. We never went more than 3 minutes without a fish or two on the line.

We may get a break in the weather on Thursday. If so, we'll be moving on to Acklins and Crooked Island.


Adamo Crew

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome back to the Bahamas!

Wow, its good to be back. On Saturday Jan 17th we made it to Abraham’s Bay in Mayaguana. The shallow five-mile long bay requires good lighting to navigate through it and with a rainstorm approaching, we dropped anchor for the night just inside the entrance of the bay. The next morning we motored in to check-in with Custom’s and Immigration. To our surprise, there was another sailing yacht in the anchorage. We made sure not to anchor on top of them. By the time we had set anchor and reopened all the hatches, a dinghy was approaching from the other boat. It was Tom inviting us for cocktails with his wife Doris that evening aboard Footloose. They had not seen another boat for over two weeks. For us, an invitation like that had not happened in a very long time. Cruisers in the Bahamas definitely have a different mindset than down in the Caribbean.

The town’s people are also super friendly. They stop to offer you rides if you are walking down the street. The administrator, Mr. Roberts, is very welcoming to his island. Our check-in process went smoothly with warm smiles from the locals. We even got invited to watch the Obama swearing in ceremony on TV several days later. Like the Bahamians say: ”It’s better in the Bahamas.”

After two days in our anchorage, three more boats entered the bay. One of them was a German boat from Arnis, a small fishing town along the German coast of the North Sea. I dinghied over to say “Guten Tag!” Peter and Petra invited me aboard their pristine steel hulled ketch. They had planned to head to the Turks and Caicos the next day, but changed their minds and decided to go diving with us instead. After a very successful day of spearing lobster, we were invited over for dinner aboard Meridian’s aft deck. Phil had speared a monster lobster in only six feet of water, the biggest of the trip. Check out these pics of Meridian's and Adamo's joint catch.

Peter and Phil worked on figuring out how to cook the thing because it wouldn’t fit into any pots. It was simply too large. They finally lopped all the legs and antennae off and managed to cram it into a pot while they pushed the lid down on it.

That one lobster feed the five of us. Phillip, for the first time ever, simply could not eat another bite. It’s too bad they could not stay longer; we really had a great time with Peter and Petra. A day later all the boats but Footloose had left the bay heading for the Turks and Caicos.

Tom and Doris invited us to have a guided tour of the island with them for Phil’s birthday. Our driver “Skully” showed us the island’s three settlements and one small tourist hotel. We also toured a cold war era US air force missile tracking station that had been abandoned since the 1980’s.

On the north end of the island the beginnings of a timeshare development has virtually been put on hold. One worker was finishing the concrete for the swimming pool on the only completed building. The remaining construction sites consisted of half erected walls and freestanding pillars with rusty rebar detruding from the tops of them.

For the past several days the crews from Footloose and the Adamo have been taking turns preparing gourmet meals from our bountiful lobstering and chonching expeditions.

After an early dinner we return to our respective boats and watch DVD movies that we have exchanged with each other. What a treat to see new movies!

We have no definitive plans for leaving Mayaguana at this point. The plan for now is to hang out and enjoy the fishing and the people. We'll also be completing Phillip’s home school for the month.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Passing through the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos

When we left Puerto Rico we thought we would sail through to Great Inagua in the Bahamas. But, because of the lack of wind, we had to have the motor running the entire time. Poor Bessie had been running for 36 hours without a break! We decided to pull in at Ocean World Marina, which we had heard is very nice, to dock up for the night to get some sleep. We also now needed to top up on fuel since we still had a long way to go to the Bahamas. I didn’t want to find us in a situation down the road where we were low on fuel later and not be able to run the generator to charge the batteries and keep the fridge cold. Finding fuel in the Bahamas can be a challenge. Furthermore, it was time for a fuel filter change for Bessie after her marathon run from Puerto Rico.

The marina was very well organized; even the Dominican Republic customs, immigration, drug enforcement, agricultural and navy officials were very efficient and had us cleared into the country quickly. This time there were no “gifts” solicited by the officials, as was the case in Luperon. I spoke with the dock master, James, about this and he said it took some doing, but they had finally gotten a system down to make the process efficient. Despite the D.R.’s burdensome regulations, it was the smoothest checking we have experienced in any country in the Caribbean. We didn’t have to fill in any forms. The officials did it all. My job as captain was to simply sign the documents. Awesome. This was a far cry from our experience in Luperon.

What was eerie though was the lack of other boaters. The place was deserted but for a few local boats on the far end of the marina. There were three transient yachts including us. We walked around the place thinking: “is anyone home?”

In the last blog entry, Phillip wrote about swimming with the dolphins. What a great experience! While we were in the marine park, a uniformed gentleman approached us and said there is a “20 minute” promotion going on at the hotel next door and he would like to invite us for the best Pina Colada we will ever have in our life. He pleaded with us to do it so he could get $10 and he could feed his family. We didn’t have anything else planned and accepted the invitation. A golf cart ride through the large and beautiful complex of immaculately landscaped yards and stunning villas led us to one of the many swimming pools in the compound. The oversized pool was impressive with its curved form and a sunbathing island in the middle. It was surrounded not by lounge chairs, rather solid, dark, wooden king-sized beds with bleached-white outdoor mattresses and pillows.

We were ushered up to the office to be introduced to our salesman. The salesman toured us around and showered us with small gifts, drinks and sushi. Everything in the place was first class. The 6 bedroom villas were exquisite. A gloved butler gave out cold hand-towels as we entered the expansive foyer.

This was a vacation club that was over the top. A fleet of helicopters picks guests up at the airport and delivers them to their villas when they arrive. No Charge. Weekly inclusive poolside buffets and dancing parties keep the guests entertained. Golf, tennis, water sports, king-sized beds on the beach, it was all there, and you can rent the villas for less than $900 per week. Some villas are oceanfront and rent for the same price and all come with a personal chef a golf cart and free limo transportation. There’s no limit to how many weeks you can book, not only for yourself, but for you friends as well. You can book multiple villas at the same time in different locations. We were told that several people have started businesses renting out the villas for $3000 per week and earning the profit on the difference. All you have to do in join.

Well, Sue and I were dying to know HOW MUCH? Our salesman would not disclose that. It had to come from his boss. We got the usual closing questions from our salesman: is there anything that would stop you from joining other than the money today? Bla Bla Bla. Then came the boss. $65,000 to join for 43 years. 50% down. Bank loans can be arranged on the down payment. The remainder can be financed with the company or by credit cards. He even showed us how you could use one credit card to pay off another so that you never have to pay interest. Red Flag #1.

My mind was racing while running the numbers in my head. How can they afford all of this with the low rental cost of under $900 per week? We asked for a copy of the sales contract to have our attorney take a look at it. “Sorry,” came the reply “we can’t do that. He will have to come here to see it.” Red Flag #2. Then more talking. “This is not a timeshare it’s a vacation club. You don’t have maintenance costs and yearly fees etc…You can’t do this in the USA because they require a deed.” It’s illegal in the US. Red Flag #3. More pressure: “You can look at the contract but we need to do business today.” Red Flag #4 and we were out of there.

Our conclusion: When you have a program that gives inordinately large benefits to the members that cannot be supported by the ongoing revenue stream i.e. $900 per week for a villa, and requires recruitment of new members’ to keep it solvent, its called a pyramid scheme (A la Bernie Madoff . . . no matter how impressive it looks). If the thing goes belly up your $65k is gone.

We enjoyed the drinks and the sushi, and it was a great experience for Phillip to learn that: if it sounds too good to be true . . . it is. We marveled at the people who would cough up $65k after a two hour wining and dining tour without doing proper due diligence. Maybe there are enough people out there to keep the thing running, but I wouldn’t count on it, especially in this economic environment.

Back aboard the Adamo we planned our next leg. We were going to leave at 9:00 a.m. for the fuel dock to take on diesel and clear out of the country, then sail directly to Great Inagua. The next morning it was pouring cats and dogs. So we had to wait on refueling because the fuel cap is located on the deck. If you were to open it up in the rain, all the water on deck would drain into the diesel tank. So we waited. The clouds cleared a little and we began the process of moving the boat from the slip to the fuel dock. Just as we cast off the lines it began to rain as hard as I have ever witnessed. Sue was on the foredeck in a windbreaker. I was comfortably sitting at the helm under the bimini top. She was wet. I was dry. She was pissed. I was OK. She had dried her hair with the hair dryer that morning. My hair was still dry. She smiled at me through the rain. I smiled back. She smiled some more. I knew I would never live it down. She looked like a wet cat. I REALLY wasn’t going to live it down.

Sue’s a good sport. A little eating of crow and three 3 days later she was fine. (Just kidding)

At 1:00 p.m. we were topped up with fuel and ready to go. The problem was, now we would not be able to make it to Great Inagua before sunset the following day. Our new plan was to sail west along the coast 25 miles to an anchorage at Punta Isabella. We had anchored there last year and knew it had good holding and was calm. Leaving the marina was very rough directly into the 25knot wind and huge waves that crashed over the bow. The Adamo labored out of the harbor at 4.5 mph and was pounding into the very tight 6-foot waves. Once out of the channel, we turned west and were riding with the waves. Things settled down immediately and we had a good sail to Punta Isabella.

We anchored up and fixed dinner. Just after dinner, a rowboat with three men aboard approached. They were the local commandantes. Pistols tucked in their pants’ waistbands, they asked for our “despachio” in Spanish. Only one of them could speak a little English. Then they informed us that we could not stay there. We explained that we were heading to the Bahamas but that it is a 24hour crossing. Arriving at night is not an option because of the coral reefs. We would leave in the morning.

“You must leave now,” came the reply. Sue was in the cabin and not having fully recovered from her fueling experience, began speaking loudly to them through the galley window. “You will be putting us in danger” she kept repeating. “Do you want to sink our boat? Do you want us to die?” It was a back and forth “you must leave now.” “No, we’ll leave in the morning.” After 20 minutes of discussion, we got permission to leave at 5:00 a.m.

After the local “NOT welcome committee” left, we checked the weather for our crossing. Just the day before the forecast was light variable winds. Now the forecast had changed to 22 to 28 knots of wind, 7-foot seas with a period of 6 seconds and 90% cloud cover. We had one really bad crossing in these waters last year from the Turks and Caicos and we weren’t about to repeat that one again. Our options were continue to head West down the coast to Monte Christo, another place where cruisers are not welcome, or beat east 12 miles to Luperon, the cesspool. Sue didn’t want another run-in with the commandantes and was pushing for Luperon. The thought of heading back to the stagnant bay full of fecal runoff put me into a mild state of depression. I could envision the small stray barnacles on Adamo’s hull and propeller multiplying like gremlins and feasting on the poopy water growing to the abnormal size of a fist. Our fresh water supply would dwindle down because you certainly cannot wash your dishes or shower with salt water there. I would rather take my chances with the commandantes in Monte Christo.

We went to bed to sleep on it. I checked the weather in the morning and the bad weather had been pushed back 12 hours. Sue said let’s go for it. I agreed. After a quick breakfast, we pulled anchor in the dark. Phil was at the helm, Sue and I on the foredeck. We were in 19 feet of water and bump. We ran onto something solid, either an uncharted rock or a wreck. Fortunately Phil was going very slowly and managed to immediately stop the boat and back off the structure. Susan had more pleasant things to say about the commandantes for making us leave in the dark. Now she was even more determined to leave this country and its ass-backwards cruising regulations!

We finally departed at first light. The wind and current were in our favor as we motor sailed at just under 10 mph in 4 to 5 foot seas all day. We altered our destination and headed for the Turks and Caicos so that we would arrive in daylight and avoid another nighttime crossing and the potentially bad weather forecast for that night. After a fine crossing we anchored up behind Big Sand Cay in time to watch the sun set. It was a good day.

Sand Cay was a rolly anchorage, but it beat being out at sea in stormy weather. No one complained. We sailed across the Turks Island Passage onto the vast Caicos Bank. With lightly overcast skies, navigating the bank was difficult. The depth on the bank is 14 to 18 feet with coral heads randomly sprinkled throughout. The navigation charts tell you “passage must be carried out by thorough eyeball navigation”.

We sailed across the lower bank and then back into deep water. At the edge of the bank the sea floor drops off from 18 feet to over 2000 feet. There is a distinct line in the water where the color goes from a light aqua blue on the bank to a deep dark blue you usually only see in open ocean sailing. A strange characteristic of the bank is that the aqua blue that goes on for as far as the eye can see reflects off of the bottom of the clouds. Instead of the usual grayness under a cloud, it turns to a light baby blue hue. Susan commented that if you were to paint it as you saw it, the picture would look fake.

During all this time Susan read three novels and was becoming restless. We have not been anchored next to any cruisers since Puerto Rico. It’s a little strange being the only ones out here, though we did see two boats heading to Provo so we do know there is other intelligent life out there. On Jan 17th we sailed 60 miles to Mayaguana, Bahamas (still no other boats). Our crossing started as forecast with 15 to 18 knots of wind. Then we crossed a squall line and the wind increased to 25knots and never let up. With the wind out of the northeast we were beating into it again. An eight-hour spirited sail and we were there. Phil read a book the first half of the trip then slept the remainder of the way. He didn’t even wakeup when I yelled “Fish On”. A four-foot Wahoo had hit the line he set at the beginning of the trip. Unfortunately, it jumped and flipped in the air shaking the hook free. And yes, you read correctly, Phil is reading a book for pleasure. Not just a kid’s book either, but a 500-page mystery novel Susan turned him on to. He’ll sit and read for hours. Sue and I just look at each other in amazement. He also learned how to write cohesive essays during our year and a half at sea. I am so proud of him and thumb my nose at the doctor who four years earlier said he would never be able to read and write properly because of his Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome disability.

During the Mayaguana crossing Susan spent her time lying in the aft cabin holding on as we heeled and hobby horsed over the tight waves. She’s getting tired of the overnighters and all day crossings. Since Christmas we have logged over 800 miles. Only 650 more miles until we hit US territorial waters. Now that we have reached the Bahamas though, we’ll slow the pace down and enjoy the islands’ pristine waters and anchorages on our way home. It’s funny, on the way down to the Caribbean; you blow past some of the best and easiest cruising areas in expectation of great things ahead. It’s not until after you have done the Caribbean that you realize that some of the finest cruising grounds are right in your backyard. Granted you don’t have the history and culture that you find in the Windward and Leeward Islands, but you do have easy day sailing, often on the lee side of an island in crystal clear water with protected anchorages and great fishing and diving. It’s two totally different kinds of cruising.