April 21, 2014
While in the galley preparing dinner at Bennett’s Harbour, I heard a boat, named Dulcinea-Unica on the VHF radio requesting a local weather forecast. When the call was repeated with no response, I got on the radio and said we could provide a forecast in a few minutes as we had good internet connection via a Bahamas Telephone Company data plan. Bradley did a quick check of weather using several of his favorite sites and then called Dulcinea. It turns out they were a sailboat, anchored north of us in Arthur’s Town, but they had lost their engine and had a damaged backstay on their mast, so were not able to move. Fearing they were in for a rough ride the next few days as the wind went to the west, the next morning Bradley and I got into the tender to head the six miles north to Arthur’s Town. The wind was already starting to pick up and change direction and by the time we arrived at Dulcinea, she was looking very uncomfortable – with no protection she was rocking pretty severely.
We got close enough to have a conversation with Georg and Sabine, the German owners. Bradley suggested they move down to Bennett’s Harbour where they could tie up to the large cement dock where the mail boat comes in. They really wanted to move to a more comfortable place but were wary about raising their anchor without an engine – they were not far from the lee shore with the wind blowing them in that direction. Bradley convinced them that we could use our tender to tow them as they raised their anchor and got a headsail out. They could then sail down to Bennett’s Harbor where we could then tow them to the dock. It was a good plan though there were some tense moments. We fashioned a towing bridle to the stern of the tender and Sabine managed to get me a long line, which I tied on as Bradley maintained our position in the building waves. The wind was blowing 25 knots and the waves were getting bigger by the minute. But we got the tow line in place, the anchor raised, Dulcinea pointed in the right direction, and her headsail rolled out. Soon she was happily sailing away from shore. After a bit, she turned south and three hours later we met her at Bennett’s Harbor. Bradley and Gary dropped me at the dock to catch lines, then met Dulcinea and tied the tender to her starboard quarter for a hip-tow onto the dock. Once inside Bennett’s Creek where the dock is located, there was much better protection from the wind and waves and Dulcinea was soon safely secured to the dock.
We joined Georg and Sabine on board and they told us their story. They had been sailing in Haiti, where they rescued a man who had fallen overboard from his boat in heavy waves. Soon after, their engine began getting salt water in the oil and soon was no longer working. After an unsuccessful attempt to get into George Town in the Exumas under sail (which proved too dangerous), they instead headed to Cuba. There they were able to get the engine running again after taking several parts apart, cleaning, and re-assembling. They left Cuba but it wasn’t long until the engine again got seawater into the oil and quit again. In addition, they developed a problem with the backstay, a wire line that supports the mast. They made it to Cat Island, but unfortunately there is no place here to get work done. Oh yeah, their tender also had a hole in one of the tubes and was not usable, so until they got to the dock, they had no way to get ashore.
While in Cuba, they had purchased some Cuban beer, so we all had one as we considered their options. We thought it was fitting that our first Cuban beer should be on a German boat in the Bahamas! They first thing Georg and Sabine asked was for us to send an email to their son and daughter just to let them know they were OK as they did not have internet access. We also agreed to send some emails to try to solicit ideas for their engine problems and to try to find a way for them to get their backstay repaired or replaced. We left Georg and Sabine to rest while we returned to Shear Madness as the winds continued to shift to the west. The next day, Bradley picked them up in the tender and brought them to Shear Madness, where we continued to gather information and they came up with several ideas. As the weather continued to deteriorate, we took them back to Dulcinea and prepared to move ourselves a little further south around Alligator Point where we would have a little more protection. By the time Bradley returned from delivering Georg and Sabine back to their boat, the waves were breaking over the swim platform and getting the tender secured to a tow line was even a challenge. But soon we were underway and just an hour later, secured in a much more comfortable anchorage.
Winds this time of year are rarely out of the west and at Cat Island there is simply no protection if they do come from that direction. So you simply find the best spot you can and ride it out. It was just a day before the winds abated and the waves subsided and we moved a little further south to Fernandez Bay, a beautiful anchorage with a small resort nestled on a beautiful white sand beach. The resort is very cruiser friendly, providing a place to get ashore, an honor bar where you pour your own drinks and keep your own tab, wonderful dinners, a chance to meet guests of the resort, and access to all their amenities. It was a delightful base of operation.
We rented a car for two days to explore the island and to pick up my stepdaughter, April, who was coming for her first visit to Shear Madness and to the Bahamas. Cat Island it 40 miles long, though less than a mile wide in all but the southernmost part. The car allowed us to explore the entire island, which was great fun. On the way to pick up April at Arthur’s Town, I stopped in Bennett’s Harbour to check on Georg and Sabine. They had great news – they had found a backstay on Cat Island that they could adapt for their boat. They also had gotten the engine running again based on some brilliant advice from our good friend Bob Senter. So they were very happy and just waiting for good weather to cross the Atlantic to the Azores.
I collected April at the airport and we returned to Fernandez Bay and Shear Madness. After a wonderful dinner at the resort, we spent a pleasant night and departed in the car the next morning for the Greenwood resort on the southeast corner of Cat Island. Here we enjoyed a beautiful six-mile long beach with NO other people on it. There are some beautiful reefs for snorkeling and April tried it for the very first time. There were not a lot of fish, but Bradley and I did seem some gigantic lobsters. However, lobster season is over, so they were safe! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, including Kalik, the local Bahamian beer, before returning to Shear Madness.
Before returning the car, April, Gary, and I visited the Hermitage, which is atop Mt. Alvernia, at 206 feet the highest point in the Bahamas. We hiked to the top, which really isn’t much of a hike, but does result in some impressive views. The Hermitage, which we had visited last year, is a small home and monastery built by Father Jerome Hawes in 1939. While at Mt. Alvernia, we noticed a Nordhavn and a sailboat anchored at New Bight, just south of our anchorage at Fernandez Bay. We could not raise them on the radio, but decided to head over in the tender to meet them. The Nordhavn was a 57-footer named Orion, and we had “met” owners Gerry and Douglas via emails on the Nordhavn Owners online site. It was great to meet them in person. We also met Karen and John from the neighboring sailboat. These couples had just recently met, and each had a standard poodle, one black and one white. Other than the color, they looked identical and acted like lifelong friends! We had a great visit and hope to cross paths again someday.
April and I went kayaking in Fernandez Creek, a shallow but beautiful creek running near Fernandez Bay. We had a pretty strong current against us, but with our Hobie kayak, which allows you to pedal using bicycle-like pedals in addition to traditional kayak paddles, we made good progress. After a couple hours we stopped for a picnic lunch at an inlet where the creek opens up to the sea. After a rest and some shell collecting for April, we started back , this time with the current helping us.
We saw several turtles who scuttled away very quickly when they saw us. Then we saw something we did not expect – two people waking up the creek, carrying snorkel masks and fins. We stopped to talk and they were trying to find a “blue hole”, a deep hole in the creek where there is an abundance of fish, turtles, and small sharks. I did not know there was a blue hole or where it was, but I had a handheld radio so I called the resort and got directions. We were not far away so we all decided to go together. Our companions were Liz and Matt, visiting from Chicago, and they had been walking up the creek for an hour and a half. It was now truly low tide and the kayak could not even make it any further up the creek, so April stayed with the kayak while I walked another 15 minutes upstream with Liz and Matt until we found the blue hole. We snorkeled for a little while and it was interesting, though not spectacular. Liz and Matt then wanted to know if there was an easier way for them to get back to the resort. I told them we could go out the inlet and around on the outside, in the open sea and they could swim back rather than walk. If they wanted to do that, April and I would also go that way so we could keep an eye on them. We all agreed and I radioed the resort to let them know of our plan and to be sure they were standing by in case of any glitches. The current was still running towards the resort, so they could just drift back, but we didn’t want to take any chances as they did not have flotation devices and the route was along a long rocky wall with little chance to get ashore. But all went well, and Matt and Liz enjoyed the swim back while April and I just drifted along in the kayak keeping an eye on them. Soon we were all back at the resort safe and sound.
Back at Fernandez Bay, Bradley was engaged in another small “rescue”. A sailboat had come and anchored nearby and his tender had gotten loose and was drifting away. Bradley & Gary quickly jumped into our tender, picked up the owner from the sailboat, then they retrieved the runaway tender and brought it back, saving the grateful owner a long swim!
We enjoyed more relaxing and snorkeling at Fernandez Bay and soon it was time for April to depart. Gary was also heading to Nassau for a long weekend with a friend, so we dropped them both at the local airport, bid farewell to Fernandez Bay, and headed down to Old Bight to catch up with our friend Richard on the 105 foot yacht Who Cares, who we had met two years ago in Savannah. We’ve kept in touch and Who Cares usually spends several months every year on a mooring at Cat Island with various guests and the owners coming and going. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner onboard with Richard, several other crew, and the gracious owner, who we truly enjoyed meeting.
We are now sitting at anchor, waiting for yet another westerly wind to bypass us. We had planned to head out to Half Moon Cay (formerly Little San Salvador) to meet some friends of Bradley’s from Australia who are on a cruise ship that is arriving there today. Unfortunately with winds from the west of 20-25 knots, we decided it’s not the day to head over there, so we are sitting here instead. We’ve learned that’s its best not to mess with the weather gods!
There are some updated BOOK REVIEWS, a new SHENANDOAH photo, and a SLIDESHOW of April’s visit. In the last post, I asked for help in identifying the mystery fish. I did not get a conclusive result, but the majority conclusion is that it was a Grunt. The winner of the Shear Madness T-shirt is Brian J. Thanks for those who responded! As for the fish, it was good, but its texture is not like any other fish we’ve had. The meat is white, but not flaky, actually more like alligator. Taste is OK though.