22 February, 2009

Volunteering again

Location: Cambridge Cay, Exumas
Position: N24 18.206 W076 32.436

After our 2 chaotic days doing laundry and shopping we happily set off the next morning northward making for Cambridge Cay in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Along the way we dropped the hook for a short stop behind a small rocky cay for lunch and a snorkel on some reefs, then continued on.

If you recall, we volunteered here last year as mooring hosts and had a great time. Same wonderful experience again. Some of our duties are: greet new boats that come in; make sure they understand basic park rules and regulations; provide information about nearby snorkeling sites and trails; collect the mooring fees; make sure people tie off to the moorings correctly; and generally be helpful and give help when requested or necessary.

Optional duties include hosting informal happy hour get-togethers and organizing work parties for beach and trail cleanup and maintenance. During our week we happily accomplished all of the above. Apart from feeling like we are giving back to the park, helping a good cause etc. we love coming here because it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends.

Our first day on duty was Valentines Day, coincidentally the same day we started here last year! In keeping with last years ‘tradition’, we organized a sunset happy hour with Valentines chocolate. Last year there were only three boats in the anchorage, so we had it on Rachel. This year there were many more, so we invited them to meet us and tie off at an empty mooring to share the sunset, deserts, and camaraderie. After dark we lit a candle and spent a bit more time sipping wine and chatting with our new friends. During the week we managed to fit in two more happy hours on the beach with up to 30 cruisers attending each.

You may also remember that last year we managed to find and reestablish an old trail to another beach. We spent several days this week clearing out last year’s growth, further marking the trail with conch shells, rock cairns, and other natural materials, and posting painted driftwood “Poisonwood” signs to help guests recognize and avoid a few patches of this shrub that gives a nasty poison ivy like rash.

Our relief arrives this afternoon and tomorrow we’re off to Sampson Cay for internet access and to hide from more wind and squalls for a couple of days.

Tired but happy,

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

12 February, 2009

Laundry and Legumes

Location: Staniel Cay, Exumas
Position: N24 10.263 W076 26.994

Laundry and shopping are so simple when you are land based! You throw the washing into the machine and forget about it. At the grocery you pop in, pick up anything you need or fancy, drive home, and finish up the washing. We remember those days.

Here on Rachel in the Bahamas it’s not quite that easy. We do not have a washing machine on the boat so we are always on the lookout for a launderette. It’s a common discussion amongst cruisers when arriving at a new location. You need to get the scoop on laundry, groceries, trash disposal, and of course the best happy hour deal at the local watering holes.

We already know that Black Point has the best launderette in the Exumas, possibly the only one, since in most places you pay a woman to wash your clothes. We spend a day sailing down to Black Point for this very purpose. On arrival we are taken aback, there are 74 boats in this normally fairly quiet spot! We know what that means. The launderette will be packed tomorrow! We decide to avoid the early morning crush by arriving later in the morning.

We saunter into the launderette at 11am, and are met by total chaos. There are about 12 washers and 12 dryers, normally this is plenty. All the washers are in use, all the dryers are in use and there are huge piles of wet clothes waiting for the dryers. Everyone is frazzled but trying to stay happy. Hmm, Julie decides to stay. We won’t go into all the painful details but Mark brings her lunch and a beer at 1pm, for a picnic (!!!!) and we don’t get out of there until 3pm.

The next day is mailboat day, translation: fresh fruits and veggies. Staniel Cay has 3 small groceries, Isles General Store, ‘the pink store’ and ‘the blue store’. It is about 10 miles by water from Black Point and with all these cruising boats around we know we’ll have to get there as soon as the boat starts unloading.

We raise anchor at 7am, arrive at Staniel by 9am and drop the anchor right off the town. We quickly jump into the dinghy and head for our favourite store. When we make out a shopping list it’s more of a suggestion, really, because you never know what will actually be in stock. In many stores the shopkeeper does not even have a cash register - just a piece of paper on which he or she writes everything down and adds up long hand. More often than not there are no prices posted so you never really know how much things will cost until you check out. The prices here are very erratic (generally pretty high) and often don’t make a lot of sense, but you only have 2 choices: buy or don’t buy !!

Sheesh! The dinghy dock already has about 10 dinghies tied up. We push our way through to the steps and Julie leaps out, climbs to the dock, and hurries into the shop while Mark ties off the dinghy. Darn, already a whole bunch of people in here and a line for the check out. We quickly go to the veggies and grab some of what they have knowing we can go through and decide what we really want in a few minutes after we get in line. No time to think, just grab before it’s all gone. We leave with 3 bags full of goodies: broccoli, zucchini, lettuce, cucumber, bell peppers and a great find – plain yogurt (oooh).

By the time we leave the store about an hour later, there are hardly any veggies left and no more will arrive for another week.

Back aboard we revel in our bounty. Julie makes one of our favorites – oven roasted mixed vegetables with chili-garlic paste. Hot, spicy and delicious!

Winding down,

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

05 February, 2009

Boy are we behind

Location: Big Major Spot, Exumas
Position: N24 11.349 W076 27.611

Sorry. We were waiting for something weird and wonderful to happen so we could Khroniclize it. We’re still waiting, so in the meantime you’ll just have to be content with a travelogue. It’s not that we haven’t been having a good time; we just haven’t been really motivated to write anything new or whacky for a while. (Hoo boy – we can feel the shoe getting ready to drop with that statement).
Now let’s see…. we last left you at the Glass Window in Eleuthera. Jeez, that was over two weeks ago…
We worked our way down the beautiful island of Eleuthera, spending a lovely day at Alabaster Bay (N25 15.602 W076 19.263). We walked across the island - about a mile - to the Atlantic side and ‘the Pink Beach’. We decided calling it pink was definitely pushing it a bit – you know how "creative" those marketing types can be. If you looked at the sand really closely you could see little specs of pink, we assume from the coral. However, the sand (while only just barely pink and only if you cocked your head just so – did we mention that already?) was very soft underfoot and we enjoyed a nice long walk along the "calling it pink is really generous" beach.
Our next stop was Rock Sound near the south end of the island (N24 51.835 W076 09.756). We were here last year, it being one of only a few good harbours on Eleuthera with good protection from west winds. Rock Sound is shaped sort of like a big upside down "G". We sat out a cold front here, doing the "Rock Sound Samba", moving from the south to the east, over to the west and then back to the east again to avoid the worst of the winds. We enjoyed the town as much as our previous visit and attended the Friday night fish fry with the locals on the beach.
One day six of us hitch-hiked up to Tarpum Bay to see a local dog show. Most of the entrants were the local Bahamian dogs called "potcakes", crossbred dogs with a great personality. Our first pick in the children’s division (picked by us before competition started, we might add) took Best In Show. The highlight of the day was that we got rides both ways from police cars!
After another front we crossed east over Exuma Sound to the Exumas. This was our favourite chain of islands last year and we are really glad to be back. We have been here for 10 days and have enjoyed seeing some new islands along with several of our favorite stops from last year.
Two of our new favorites (we’re hoping to spend more time at both of them this year) are Shroud Cay and Hawksbill Cay. We spent our first two days at Shroud Cay. We took a couple of long walks along the trails and beaches and dinghied up a creek through the mangroves all the way to the ocean side of the island.
This was followed by a night at Hawksbill Cay, arguably one of the prettiest cays in the Bahamas. We’re sure we’ll be telling you more about Hawksbill and Shroud as we’re definitely going back to both of these beautiful places for longer stays!
With front after front after front rolling through, we’ve had plenty of northerly wind since we arrived in the Bahamas, making it a little cooler than usual. Combined with the higher winds and unpleasant sea conditions, this means we haven’t got to swim and snorkel as much as we’d like. The good part, however, is that we’ve got in a lot more sailing than last year. That being said, we’ve also been spending a lot of time at anchor on the boat waiting out blustery winds. We’re still having a really lovely time, hanging out with old friends, making new ones, walking, and when we’ve been stuck on the boat, reading and catching up on the never quite done list of boat jobs.
Playing catch up,