Sunday, 30 December 2007

Allen Cay

The Exuma Islands!

Since we left you, Ocean Odyssey and her crew left Nassau on Friday the 21st, and headed down to Allen Cay, about 30 miles south. There we parked off for a few days to celebrate Christmas with the Iguanas! We anchored in a picture perfect spot, with what we thought was our own little beach, only to find out we were sharing it with hundred of tourist-fed reptiles! This particular species can only be found in this area of the Bahamas, and we were checking them out, just as much as they were checking us out!

The 24th had the galley rockin all day making Christmas dinner, after a colorful snorkel over the coral heads just 20 meters from the boat. The next day we partnered up with Captain Shawn and his crew in Rio and sailed down to Norman's Cay were Mads and Shawn went spear diving. Capt. Shawn brought in 4 lobsters and the whole gang braii'd them up for an seafood extravaganza.

On the 27th we headed down to Shroud Cay for more exploring of the nooks and crannies - and were led across the island through a clear canal to beaches and views not to be believed. The currents were so strong and varried that you could float down one, swim over 3 feet and float back up with the other.

Now we are in Warderick Cay, cleaning up Ocean Odyssey and more exploring, getting ready for sailing again in the morning down to Staniel Cay where we will spend New Year's and wait for Alex and Raffi to arrive from Paris.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Destination Capital City

Lighthouse at Nassau Harbour
Nassau harbour with Paradise Island in the background
After being battered for 5 days by the wind, we decided to take our chances and leave for Nassau even though wind direction was not optimal. We crossed the tongue of the ocean (has some of the deepest spots in the world) on moderate seas and good wind speed. By early evening we were docked up in Nassau after following some dubious radio instructions. We plan to stay here for a week or so and then head out to the Exumas where we have a rendezvous with Alex and Raffi in two weeks.

Sand flies and dinner

Double O in full swing Thyra charming the dogs who are after her crispbread
Spending time sewing sails at Fraziers Hog Cay
We left Chub Cay for Fraziers Hog Cay to find an anchorage. We spend a delightful 3 days there before a howling wind of 25 knots kept us prisoner to the boat for 5 days. Before all this wind action, we had had dinner at the beach grilling spare ribs. Well we had dinner and the sand flies (referred to as no-see-ums here) had dinner on us. I think Eva has had a fair share of sand flies, she vows eternal revenge on them. With bad weather and killer bugs, our salvation was the Berry Island Club where we would eat conch and fried chicken to comfort ourselves. The chef was wonderful and he kept outdoing himself everyday catering to a bunch of miserable and wet sailors.
And of course we met Brian, a single handed sailor from North Carolina who sails a 25 feet boat whose dinghy is a big as the boat. He made us a paella of fresh lobster . He was wise enough to leave the anchorage before the winds picked up.

The Crossing

Lunch & dress up

Eva, resident artist

At Marathon we were joined by Eva whom we had convinced to travel from across the country to us in southern Florida. We sailed towards the eastern Keys so we could make an easy jump to the Bahamas. The waves at the beginning of the journey were enormous but we pressed on. We made it to Rodriguez Key by late afternoon , however the alternator quit on us and we had to have a stop over for a couple of days thus missing the sailing window to cross the Gulf Stream. We were stuck there for 5 days before we could cross the Gulf Stream.
On November 27 we crossed the stream into Bahamas to drop anchor on Gun Cay. Much palaver was experienced with the anchor that was not setting due to a rocky bottom. We then gave up and moved to the bank side of the island where we dropped anchor. We stayed for two days, the first day having been spent searching for the anchor. We had decided to move in the morning a bit up to another area with better holding but our anchor did not come up with the chain as we rolled it in. Mads performed a very smooth man overboard manoeuvre and Eva and him were later able to retrieve the anchor.
We continued after two days across the banks to Chub Cay, a journey of 80 nautical miles which we intended to break up in two. We spent the night on the banks after catching a fish for dinner. Chub Cay was spotted by mid afternoon and we checked into a marina so we could go to customs and check into the Bahamas.

The Mad Aussies, US iron law

The law enforcers in the US seem more concerned about having whistles on your life jacket than whether you have caught the wrong fish or that our vessel is seaworthy

On leaving Fort Myers we had an appointment with 3 Australians whom we were supposed to meet in Marathon for dinner. Well the Aussies did not make it. The famous trio have purchased a 72 foot wooden power boat from 1954. The age and the sheer size of the boat have brought countless problems on Paul, Robert and Natalie. After purchasing the boat, they thought they would be able to leave within a few days. They were stuck in Blinky Bills for almost three months and as Paul says, the famous Fort Myers triangle will catch you. “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave”. The Aussie trio have also had countless run-ins with the long arm of law and in the States there is a plethora of those arms. It is very hard to avoid an encounter with the various law enforcement agents. No wonder the US boasts the highest number of prisoners per capita. The fact that these lovely people were not American citizens and cared not for that country shown by their willingness to leave its shores at the next most opportune moment did not seem to deter these law enforcers from boarding their boats and checking them every time they left port. They were even stopped in their dinghy and were told to put it on land. As if the Australians wanted to migrate to the US. Perhaps this antagonism has its roots to the embarrassing episode committed by none other than The Decider who at an OPEC conference thanked the miserable Mr Howard for sending his Austrian troops to Iraq. Maybe the Americans feel so ashamed of their president’s folly that they have to be unjustifiably rude to Australians (not that many of its people would be able to point out Down Under in a map) so as not to lose face.

From Florida to the Bahamas

After catching a crab pod on the Shark River -Marathon leg, Mads was thoroughly exhausted as he had to dive and cut the ropes which had entangled themselves on the propeller. Needless to say after the blasted pod cost us 1 knot in speed and 1,5 hours of sailing time, once on deck we opened it et voila 8 lobsters, not crabs. We released 5 and had 3 lobsters for dinner. It was one of the best dinners I have ever had.
Marathon in the Keys proved to be interesting, a marked difference to Fort Myers. Here were hundreds of sailors coming and going to varied parts of the Gulf and Caribbean.