Thursday, May 16, 2013

Green Turtle

Annapolis with an A

We by-passed several interesting stops in order to get to safe harbor in White Sound of Green Turtle Cay.  It was a good decision.  Once we were anchored safely that is.  Many other boats had the same idea, so the steering was tricky.  Mike and I are non-traditional anchorers with him as anchor dropper and me at the helm.  This is rooted in his basic distrust of my steering abilities which I have done little to dispel.  Soooo, crowded anchorage, we find a spot, the anchor is dropped but I am very aware of the catamaran that had been far behind us, now in front and backing up.  I’m telling Mike this through our “Marriage Saver” headsets.  He says they were behind us, don’t worry.

 Until he looks up as the anchor sets.  And then all hell broke loose from my captain.  With the predominant word beginning with “A” sprinkled liberally. 

The catamaran was a charter boat out of Annapolis.  In hindsight, it was culturally appropriate for them to be such “A . . .s”.  When I saw the home port on their transom I had flashbacks to Maryland mall parking lots at Christmas time.  He was just being the aggressive “A . . . le“ that we are familiar with in MD. 

Add to that, this was a charter boat.  It is not his only home with his hand-picked valuables aboard, this is a rental.  No one treats a rental the way they do their own property. Needless to say, I prevailed upon the captain to take the helm as he withdrew the anchor.  The four or so crew members on the catamaran were not pleased with being called “A . . . s”.  However, they were bigger and faster, and younger as Mike pointed out, so they got the spot.  It took us three more attempts circling the Sound to get a secure anchorage.  Neighboring boats and the harbormaster at Green Turtle Cay gave us guidance in the process.  The catamaran crew was rinsing out their coolers while we set anchor.

The next day we saw the name of the boat which gave me a chuckle.  Celebration of Life of   A name gracing many a Christian community.  I took comfort in the “first shall be last and the last shall be first.”  And was not sad to see they had left after two days. 

Green Turtle Cay

New Plymouth is a settlement started by disgruntled colonists who did not believe in independence from Britain.  Tea party to the tea party:).  They uprooted and came to the Bahamas to start anew.  The Bahamian government remains parliamentary even though independent from Britain now.  New Plymouth remains a mix of English, European and some West African.  Perhaps it’s the European influence that makes it a bit less friendly than Bimini.  More like we Americans are used to.  Not a need to acknowledge one another in the street.  More reserved.

 However, I’m on my best behavior from Bimini.  No one passes without a wave or a Good Morning.  Mike laughs that I don’t even watch to see if others wave back.  That’s not the point I tell him, I’ve done my part, how and if they respond matters not.  Carrying some of Bimini with me.   

The town is happily colorful as you approach with pink and teal and green and yellow houses.  The houses are the two story colonials we are used to in the northeast, in keeping with the ancestral roots.  I have taken many photos of roosters and hens.  Unfortunately I am finding it difficult to eat chicken locally . . . they seem recognizable, puny and inexpensive compared to the other meat choices .  And there’s the crowing . . . eating one of his main squeezes . . . yikes. So I will stick with the conch and the hamburger. 

The library is amazing in that it is an original building with an old time brick oven.  It was the kitchen for the Cay’s original administrator assigned from Britain. There is a book exchange in classic cruiser style, one for one.  They have internet at a “reasonable” price though Mike and I have decided that Pineapple’s drink options with free internet are more reasonable.  And there’s a spring-fed pool free for use.  Pineapples is located on a peninsula, with five buildings, one being the beach bar and pool, and several as rentals.  It is being sold for nine million. . . . I would not want to sit through a hurricane anywhere here however. 

 I cannot tell you how excited we were to get internet after six days.  It was embarrassing.  My rationale is this:  if I lived in a Cay with 449 other people, no one I knew or loved had ever left the Cay, I would not need the internet either.  However, that is not how my life has shaken out.  So I use the internet and greatly miss talking on the phone to my family--for today.

We have yet to kayak the salt ponds to the side of our sound, once done we will move on to either Manjack Cay or Guana.  One uninhabited natural territory, the latter---party central. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Journey of Perspectives

Finally writing about the passage from FL to Bahamas . . .  The one with the Gulf Stream that you only want to approach in just right winds and sea.  The one I was must fearful of.  But I decided to work on my problem with projection.  Rather than project worst-case scenario, why not stay in the moment.  The captain had picked the window judiciously.  The first night at Rodriguez had been lumpy at with Mike on anchor watch for the night, not trusting the electronics.  The seas had lessened to 2-4 foot, the wind was 10-15, and hell---we just needed to do it!

So at 4:00 am off we go.  The stars were incredible.  Bigger fuller soup bowl than I ever saw as I stood on that beautiful hill in Lineboro as a teenager.  In awe.  In these lower realms there appears to be signs of the Milky Way---nice!  Not a ship to be seen, with only 2 or so hours before sunlight. All was well.  Yet I was worried.  Our autopilot had broken, we had a fix in place but were not sure if it would last.  And then the Coast Guard’s message was finally clear enough to hear on its second hour’s transmission:  An “overloaded raft” was sighted.  Any vessels seeing this were to take coordinates and notify the Coast Guard immediately.
Now I realize my conservative associates will go off on a separate tangent at this point.  But I ask that all consider---which is more fearful---a journey across the Gulf stream without an autopilot or a journey across the Gulf stream with too many people in a raft illegally?  Thank God I was not likely to see them---my liberal associates understand.
Here I am, a whining fearful middle class woman worried because she may actually have to steer her own boat when there were a raft full of desperate people leaving a communist regime.  Have I ever wanted something so much that I was willing to take such a physically dangerous risk?
Next we turned on George, the autopilot, and gave a cheer when he worked!  Not only did this amazingly simple plastic 20 year old mechanism work, but worked throughout the 12 hour trip.  So the fear of steering my own ship, diminished even further.
As I sit complacently balancing with each swell of wave, watching the radar screen, scanning the horizon---a big black fly lands on my radar screen. I instantly think Live and let live.  And as I watch the fly meticulously use his front antennae to wipe saltwater from his eyes, I realize just how much bigger his journey is than mine.  A fly in 15 knots of wind over 3 foot swells of 2,000+ feet of the North Atlantic ocean.  So my butt hurts from balancing and rolling.  I’m sitting on a 41 foot Morgan who has reliably performed in situations since 1981.  This fly probably has a one month lifespan with how many hours over the ocean?
Then unbeknownst to us we began hosting songbirds.  One would fly in, hang onto a safety line, then venture onto the aft or foredeck, taking a breather, exploring, eating a gnat or two.  Sometimes there were three or four.  Some sleeping in the shelter of lines, or even the bucket.  All varieties, Butter Butts, Goldfinch, Black-capped Chicadee, Tohee, to name a few . . . not necessarily flying together, perhaps separated from their flock.  With a brain the size of a piece of rice and a lifespan of . . . These birds were heading way, way further than I was.  It was an honor to give them a short respite on their way.
Our passage to the Bahamas was blissfully uneventful.  We wore sweatshirts until 3, the one off watch covered in an afghan because it was in the 60’s.
The seas were beautiful!  And the perspective much wider than when we first crept out of the Key at 4:00 am.
Sunrise while we jumped the reef

Wearing a Butter Butt hat!

A most welcome sign

Our first sunset in Bimini, Bahamas