January 9, 2013
We celebrated the New Year at Staniel Cay with some old friends and new friends. We met Arnie and Susan from Exodus – they are from Houston and Arnie will soon be 80 years old but spend up to six months a year cruising. We visited their boat for drinks and vice versa and we decided to go out in our tender to watch two Bahamian racing boats – Tida Wave and Lady Muriel. These are two of the native boats that participate in an annual Island regatta series and Tida Wave is the reigning champion. On New Year’s Eve, they take on guest crews for a series of races. Crew is mostly to add weight by sitting on long boards that extend over the sides to offset the heel of the boats. It was quite a windy day and we picked up some extra spectators who had family and friends on board Tida Wave but did not want to go out in their small tenders. The first race began and it was exciting as Tida Wave came out strong. Soon she tacked, which was quite exciting to watch as the crew had to quickly change positions. But Lady Muriel’s tack was even more exciting – she went too far over, lost it, buried her mast in the water and capsized, sending her 17 person crew into the water. Fortunately there were no major injuries, though one crew member was briefly pinned underwater as he had been below stowing lines. We were close at hand to observe and assist as the sails, mast and boom had to be removed from the boat – she was not in deep water and was actually still afloat on her side – and the lead weights used as ballast were removed. She was eventually righted, with no major damage, and towed back to her dock. Tida Wave continued to race and was pronounced the Champion for the day.
I participated in the annual “long-drive” contest. There are no golf courses or driving range on the island, but they do have a platform where contestants can hit balls into the sea while judges sort of guess which one went the farthest. I finished second in the women’s division – darn! But there were about a dozen contestants along with bunches of mosquitoes! We celebrated New Year’s Eve with Bill, Rosie, and Peter from Nexus, a Nordhavn 47. The Yacht Club has an annual pig roast and turkey dinner which was quite good (we did count the swimming pigs on the beach the next day to be sure they were all still there). Staniel Yacht Club is quite a busy place during New Year’s and it was a good time.
New Year’s Day brought the annual cruising regatta, where cruising sailboats race along with the Bahamian racers. We went out to observe the start of the race, which in typical Bahamian fashion, was an hour late. Once the race was underway, we headed back to the Yacht Club to buy some fuel for the tender and settle up our bill. That didn’t take long and as we headed back out we were surprised to see that the race appeared to be over already. As we rounded the point to go back to the anchorage, we saw one of the boats from the race, a beautiful catamaran, listing badly to port with people furiously bailing water on the stern. She was headed for the beach but losing the battle. We soon saw why – she had a huge hole in her port hull. We soon learned she had been hit during the race when another boat had not seen her. I won’t provide the details of what happened as they are not important. What is important is the lesson that even a fun event can turn serious and potentially deadly in seconds, as we observed in BOTH of the supposed-to-be-fun racing events. The cat made it to the beach where they were able run it up on the beach, pump out all the water and install a temporary patch over the hole. She was floating again by sundown, but likely sustained some serious damage to engines and other systems, which don’t take kindly to salt water. We hope there is good insurance coverage.
After a final snorkel trip to Thunderball Grotto with Linda and Douglas from Aries Too and their guests it was time to head to Cat Island. We departed early on Jan 2nd and headed out through Dotham Cut, a narrow but deep opening south of Staniel Cay. Then it was 50 miles across Exuma Sound to Cat Island where we anchored at the north end. Along the way we caught a nice tuna, half of which provided a nice dinner with the rest in the freezer. Our first night had us questioning the name of this island. Though we were anchored a good ways from shore, just after sunset we noticed a large moth at our rear door. We weren’t sure if it was a moth or a bat, but soon confirmed the former. But…….. it seems there are indeed bats that reside in the many caves on the island and sure enough, some of them had come to visit. By the time we decided it would be a good idea to deploy the screens for our pilothouse doors, three bats had made their way inside. Sorry to say we were too busy evicting them to get any photos! But since then, the screens have remained firmly in place!
We ventured ashore and met Matt and Sooner who run a small resort, Halverson House, on the island. They invited us to join their guests for dinner at Da Smoke Pot featuring local cuisine and a Rake N Scrape Band. It was quite a fun evening – the band consisted of one drum, one accordion and two saws (which are what is scraped). Taylor even got a turn on the saw.
We found some excellent reefs for snorkeling and spearfishing at the north end of the island. Bradley nabbed a couple more fish, including a large margate (like a snapper), and we also found and caught our first lobster. They made for a very good meal. We did one dive too, as Taylor had just completed his Scuba certification before we left Florida. It was nice, but the large reef where we dived appeared to have damage from hurricanes or other factors (we later learned that in the past fisherman would shoot bleach into the reefs to drive out the lobsters for easier harvesting, killing much of the reef in the process).
We moved a bit south to The Bight and explored the southern part of the island, venturing by tender to Hawk’s Nest Creek Resort where we met owners Jerry and Jane. They provided us a lot of history on the island, which was once dominated by drug traffickers. Hence, the large airstrip and the buildings that now make up the resort. During the presidency of George H. W. Bush, the US worked with the Bahamian government to eliminate much of the drug trafficking in these out islands, restoring them to friendly, welcoming places. We are thankful for that! We also visited The Hermitage, a monument to John Hawes, known as Father Jerome. It sits atop Mt. Alverna which, at 206 feet, is the highest point in the Bahamas!
We’ll head to George Town tomorrow to pick up some guests, then will see where the weather allows us to venture next!