Friday, February 8, 2019

Feather Canyons Everywhere: A Menace to Mariners

Bows and flows of angel hair. Ice cream castles in the air. Yes, clouds can be beautiful. Dreamy. Such as this hint of whimsy over Stocking Island, on a January day in the Bahamas, and a slightly more serious gathering as we sailed onward.
Farther north, a feathery whiff of white accompanied my stroll along the beach at Staniel Cay.
Of course, clouds can double, or triple, the pleasure of sunsets over the water. We saw plenty of those in the Exuma islands.
When clouds begin to gather, and multiply, we naturally take notice. It's a biological instinct, I guess. We squint at the sky, judging their thickness, wondering if we should have brought an umbrella.

By the time they fill the sky, we begin wishing for a raincoat. They might look like a convention of woolly sheep to the uninitiated. To a boater, however, a sky full of clouds can be a warning. When those clouds darken, it's time to batten down the hatches, secure items on deck, and consider furling sails or even heading for an anchorage.
A front is the most menacing of all: in this case, a solid bank of advancing dark clouds over Staniel Cay, accompanied by sustained strong winds.

Fortunately, we had heard the weather report earlier in the day on our VHF radio. Our sailing vessel, Sea Horse, was already tucked into a protected cove between Thunderball Grotto and Big Majors Island. We returned from a shore excursion via dinghy and had just boarded the mother ship when the clouds let loose with a torrent of rain.

That whole night, we tossed and rolled in our bunks. Not for the faint of stomach!

The next morning dawned bright and blue. But not cloudless. We stayed put in our safe haven, because the morning wind blew cold. And we knew the night's weather was only a preview--a mini-squall preceding the real deal, a serious blow expected the following day.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Bottom of the Bahamas

We finally made it to George Town, Exuma, Bahamas. 
Five years ago, Pope and I sailed out of Nassau on Echo II, bound for the fabled southern playground of Canadian and US sailors. An orgy of cocktails and camaraderie, volleyball, softball, yoga, music, picnics, and social excesses beckoned.

Within an hour we were back in Nassau, begging for a mechanic. And there we stayed, charter members of the Broken Down Club, at Harbour Marina and later Rubis' fuel dock. 
The whole sorry tale of engine evisceration and electrical eccentricity was recounted in this blog, for those who are new to my tales of woe on the high seas.

In our second attempt, we headed south on Echo II--only to turn around at Savannah, Georgia, foiled by the detritus of Hurricane Matthew. And more than a little ICW fatigue. 

2019. A new strategy: American Airlines and Sea Horse, our friend Mike's boat. Mike did the ICW, the Gulf Stream, the Tongue of the Ocean. We flew in for the vacation. Hopped off the plane onto the boat.
Technically, George Town, spread across Grand Exuma and Stocking Islands, is not at the bottom of the Bahamas. But it was our southernmost target in 2014. Here we were, finally, in 2019.
It was not as exciting as what I expected from the glowing tales of cruisers five years ago. There were drinks, beaches, fellow sailors, volleyball. There was no yoga. I checked out a guitar/ukelele lesson on the beach, but there were no extra instruments, and I hadn't brought mine. 
For exercise I swam to shore from the anchorage. Spotted three sea turtles and a sting ray. 
Pope treated me to a lovely night in a beach resort, with plush terry bathrobes and a balcony over the turquoise water.
The rest of the time, we slept, ate, peed, read books, and sailed on Mike's boat. It was not Echo II. It was only partially our cruise. But we finally accomplished a longstanding goal: we made it to the sailors' playground at George Town.