Cat Island

On Saturday March 15th we left George Town and had an incredible sail to Cat Island.  Winds were on the beam blowing 12 to 18 knots.  At one point we were making 8.9 knots over the ground.  Due to the wind direction we decided to anchor off Old Bight, a few miles south of New Bight where we anchored last year.  In that location, there would be less wind and wave action.

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The mega yacht “air”.  A 265’8″ Feadship with two 32′ tenders, a 102″ pop-up outdoor TV, and an 8 meter swimming pool.  You and your 13 best friends could charter her for a mere $1,166,115.00 per WEEK!

Ginnie thinks our next boat should be a power boat, this one looks good and it comes with a helicopter!  Do you think they would trade even?

The next morning we rented a car with Lee from Alesto 2 and Cordell Thompson, a Bahamian historian from Exuma,  who was sailing with Lee.  Renting a car to tour the island by ourselves would have been OK but being given a tour by Lee and Cordell was amazing.  Lee has spent a great deal of time on Cat Island and Cordell’s knowledge of the Bahamian island history was fascinating.

One stop we made was to visit Nick Cripps a friend of Cordell who is developing a subdivision on a hill top at the north end of the island.  Nick is completely off the grid for power.  He has solar panels that provide all the electrical needs for the two homes he has built.  Water is provided by wells and by roof collection and stored in large cisterns.  The remaining lots are for sale but must meet association standards.

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Cordell and Nick, what a view.  360 degrees.

Further north, at the end of a very long road/driveway, we visited Pamela Portier, a friend of Lee and Cordell.  Pamela is Sidney Portier’s daughter.  Both Nick and Pamela have incredible views from their hill top homes.  If you know who Sidney Portier is then consider yourself old.  When we told Sarah, Ginnie’s daughter, we visited Sidney Portier’s daughter she had no clue who he was.  With age comes a vast amount of knowledge, but we still need Sarah to fix our phones and computer.

At Old Bight we beached our dinghies at a new resort being built by Mr. Rolle. He has named it Rollezzz Resort because it is a great place to sleep.  The buildings are well designed and built and the interiors are first class.  A little more site work, landscaping and the installation of a wi-fi system and the doors will open for business.  Mr. Rolle,  like all Cat Islanders we met,  was very friendly and helpful.  When we asked if we could land the dinghies on his beach he not only said “Of course” but then proceeded to give us a tour of the resort.  Needing more palm fronds for baskets, he told us where to find the silver top palms and even told us where his wife’s favorite shelling spot was.

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Building a covered patio.

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Roderick “Rasta Man” the rock sculpture artist.

The next morning we travelled by car to the south end of the island stopping at Port Howe and Devils Point.  Cordell pointed out that the vegetation at this end of the island was much more lush and dense.  It was obvious that there is more rain here than in any other part of the island.

On Wednesday afternoon, we moved the boat up to New Bight.  We learned that Pompey Johnson and his group “Bo-Hog & Da-Rooters” would be performing Rake & Scrape music at one of the beach conch shacks.  It is said that Rake & Scrape music started here on Cat Island.  The instruments are a concertina, a goat skin goombay drum and a carpenters saw. 

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Pompey Johnson (middle) and  Bo-Hog & Da-Rooters.

To watch a video of Bo-Hog & Da-Rooters copy and paste the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aVlYM7825E

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Before the music Ginnie was learning to play Double 6 Mexican Train dominoes.

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Any excuse for a party.

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Can anyone spot the ring leader of this party?

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Crystal, the happiest waitress in the Bahamas.

Pompey has performed in Paris, on the Today Show with Kathy Lee & Hoda, and at the Apollo Theater.

While there we ran into Roderick “Rasta Man” Smith who we had met earlier working with Mr. Rolle at his new resort.  We learned that he was an artist that creates sculptures from brain coral.  Rasta Man was the manager at the now closed marina in Rum Cay.  While there he learned the art from a master sculpture.  Rasta’s company is Rasta Soup, you can email him at rastasoup@hotmail.com.

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Rasta Man and his art.

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Our candle holders.

We also met Mark Knowles, a multi champion sailor and boat builder from Long Island. He was in Cat Island working a construction job building a sea wall along the roads adjacent to the beaches.  Mark builds and very successfully races Bahamian A, B and C class sailboats.

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Mark with Rasta Man getting into the act.

Even in the Bahamas a little rain must fall

When we returned to George Town from Conception Island we anchored near Lake Victoria to be better protected from the predicted west winds and squalls.  Good choice!  A particularly strong squall came through, fast moving and nasty.  The photos below were taken 5 minutes apart.  About 20 minutes later there were blue skies and some sunshine.

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The next day we moved the boat across Elizabeth Harbor to the Volley Ball Beach anchorage. 

Conception Island

Conception Island is said to be a paradise within a paradise.  It is part of the Bahamas National Trust and is a sanctuary for tropical birds and green turtles.  There are no safe all weather anchorages and it is not a good place to be with the passage of a cold front.  With that in mind, we had a two day window to leave Long Island, visit Conception, and return to George Town before the passage of the next cold front.

Firecracker, Camelot and Sol Mate  (Steve and Karen, a Rhode Island couple) had a nice sail to West Bay in Conception.  We were able to explore the creek and lagoon at the south east side of the island.  This creek had numerous birds, live conch and green turtles.

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Steve & Karen on Sol Mate

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Keith & Rose on Camelot, BTW Camelot’s dinghy is CameLittle

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Adventuring up into the creek and lagoon.

Trying to take a photo of a green turtle here is a challenge, they may be slow on land, but are like rocket ships in the water. 

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Not a great shot, the turtles were skittish and fast.

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A sand bar at low tide that is a perfect breeding ground for conch.

Our plan to visit Conception was perfect, a great sail there and an even better sail back to George Town.  We were able to sail from Conception all the way through the cut to our anchorage in George Town.

Tropic of Cancer

When we arrived in Thompson Bay in Long Island, we anchored at 23 deg. 21.5′ N.  We were officially in the tropics having crossed the Tropic of Cancer.  OK, barely in the tropics,  but there non the less.

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Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are located at 23.5 degrees North and 23.5 degrees South of the Equator.  This area of Planet Earth (between those two lines) is known as the “Tropics,” and is colored with a lighter blue color on the globe. This area experiences no dramatic change in season because the sun is consistently high in the sky throughout the year.

Dean’s Blue Hole

There are many blue holes in Long Island and the Bahamas.  But none more famous than Dean’s Blue Hole located in a bay west of Clarence Town at the south end of Long Island.  Deans is the deepest blue hole in the world with an underwater entrance.  It plunges 202 meters, 663 feet to the bottom.

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In prehistoric times, when sea levels were much lower, rainwater eroded extensive cave systems through the soft limestone base of The Bahamas. Diving enthusiasts can be thankful that when sea levels rose, these caves flooded, complete with their spectacular displays of stalagmites and stalactites. Where their massive ceilings collapsed, Blue Holes were created.

Deans Blue Hole

Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest Blue Hole in the world, and the second largest underwater chamber. It is enclosed on 3 sides by a natural rock amphitheatre, and on the fourth side by a turquoise lagoon and powder white beach. Swell and wind don’t reach inside the Hole, and visibility is usually between 10 – 30 meters (30 – 100 feet). At the surface the Blue Hole is 25 x 35m (80 x 120 feet), but opens out after 20m (60 feet) into a cavern with a diameter of at least 100m (330 feet).

 

2014 Long Island Cruisers Rally and a First Place Win for Firecracker

Each year after the George Town Regatta a rally/race to Long Island is planned.  This year the rally was scheduled for March 4th, 5th or 6th, but due to heavy winds we didn’t leave George Town until Saturday the 8th.  Sixty one boats signed up for the rally to Long Island. 

Ginnie and I had never raced Firecracker before; we didn’t even know what our handicap rating was.  All boats have to be rated, for this race the PHRF system was used and our rating was 81.  Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) is a handicapping system used for yacht racing in North America.  It allows dissimilar classes of sailboats to be raced against each other. The aim is to cancel out the inherent advantages and disadvantages of each class of boats, so that results reflect crew skill rather than equipment superiority.

Boats in class A, our class, had ratings from 72 to 105.  As an example, another Saga 43 in our class, Camelot, had a rating of 87 because of her shallow draft keel.  This meant that for every mile in the race we had to give Camelot  6 seconds.  In a 20 mile race that means we had to beat Camelot by at least 2 minutes.  Sorry Keith but we finished ahead of Camelot by 3 minutes 19 seconds.  We beat the rest of the boats in our class by an even wider margin.  Our first race and we won!!  Only one other boat, Double Trouble, a 58’ Catana catamaran sailed the course faster than us.  All the catamarans raced in their own class.

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On our way out to the start of the race.

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During the race, photo taken by Bill on Providence.

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Photo by Cheryl on Double Trouble, racing on auto pilot, how decadent.

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Double Trouble, the only other boat to beat us on actual race time.

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Firecracker approaching the finish line, rail down and flying!

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Crossing the finish line, yah-hoo!

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Just after the finish.

There was a pot luck with appetizers at the Long Island Breeze restaurant on Saturday night after the race.  Sunday we walked over to the east side of the island with the crews from Barefoot’n and Dark Star to find shells for Ginnie’s baskets.   On Monday there was a tour of the island.  We started at Thompson Bay and went north to Cape Santa Maria and the Columbus Monument, then south to Clarence Town and back to Thompson Bay with just enough time to get back to the boat to clean up and be ready for the dinner and awards ceremony at the “Breeze”.

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The dinghy dock at Long Island Breeze, 42 dinghies and more on the beach.

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There was this great outcropping of coral on the ocean side, check out the hole in the coral.

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Cindy from Dark Star took this photo of us near the hole in the coral.

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The Bahamas are truly spectacular.

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This little guy was alive and well living on a coral outcropping.

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It’s amazing to be walking on a large outcropping of coral and see a small plant with a flower growing in a tiny crevice of the coral.

Originally named “Yuma” by Arawak Indians, the island was renamed “Fernandina” by Christopher Columbus in 1492. However, Long Island earned its current name because a seafarer felt it took too long to sail past the island. After all, it is 80 miles long, but no more than four miles wide at its broadest point. Long Island has two very different coastlines—the dramatic cliffs and caves of the east coast that front the crashing Atlantic waves, and the sandy edged lee side which slopes calmly into the Bahamas Bank.  

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The Christopher Columbus Monument at the North end of Long Island.

Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church is found in Clarence Town, Long Island.  It is one of the many buildings constructed by Father Jerome Hawes.  Last year we visited The Hermitage on Cat Island built by him as his home.

Catholic Church Clarence Town

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Inside Sts. Peter and Paul Church.

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Lee from Alesto 2 up in the right tower of the church. We were in the left tower.

Father Jerome, a trained architect, was also an Anglican priest before converting to Catholicism.  He first came to Long Island in 1908 as an Anglican priest and built St. Paul’s Anglican Church.  He left Long Island in 1910, converted to Catholicism and did not return to the Bahamas until 1939. 

Upon Father Jerome’s return, he designed and constructed a number of buildings in the Bahamas – Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church being one of them.  The church sits atop a hill in Clarence Town and its twin spires can be seen for miles around. 

Ginnie and the Basket Factory

Who would have thought Ginnie would retire and be making baskets in the Bahamas.  It seems there are so many now that the boat should be renamed “The Basket Factory”.   We are fortunate that there are silver palms growing all over the islands.  The fronds from the silver palm are preferred for basket weaving.  We look for the fronds that are about to open at the top center of the plant, remove the frond and a new basket is ready to be woven. 

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Ginnie splits the individual leafs with two sewing needles set in a wine bottle cork to get the proper width for weaving.  These pieces are called the needle and are used to wrap the thinner pieces that are bundled into the fray. 

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ARG – the Alcohol Research Group

Every now and then there is a meeting of the Alcohol Research Group.  This is a very dedicated group of cruisers that meet on the beach for research into the consumption of alcohol.  Everyone brings the alcohol of their choice and the research begins.  If someone happens to run out of product to research with there are always those willing to share.  To help in the research everyone also brings a pot luck appetizer.   This helps in the absorption of the research product and allows for safe dinghy rides back to the boats.  

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Bill from S/V Providence and Ginnie.

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Rose from Camelot (another Saga 43).