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