Thursday, January 14, 2010

Still in Green Turtle Cay

January 2 - 14, 2010
Yep, we're still in Green Turtle Cay... And yep, we've been having Wi-Fi problems ever since our last blog post (literally). Rene tried to upload the picture link in our Junkanoo post but his laptop battery died before the upload could be completed. Later that day we turned on the gen and tried again. A few choice words later, it became clear that something was seriously wrong with Rene's laptop. He's done all sorts of troubleshooting, including trying to re-install the Wi-Fi driver. No luck. Ten days later, we still don't know whether it's a hardware or software issue. Either way, we're back to having NO internet access unless we borrow a friend's land-line. We've said it before: Green Turtle is our favorite spot in the Bahamas so far, but it's got seriously bad internet karma! (It can't possibly be us, right?)

Other than that, our big news has been the weather. Most of you have figured out by now that the weather has become an integral part of our lives. Stacy listens to Chris Parker's Bahamas report every morning on the single side band (SSB) radio, and we check three different weather sites online (when we can actually get online). We've been having a terrific time in GTC with friends Babette, Nicki, and Larry, but we're ready to get back across Whale Cay Passage to explore Man-O-War Cay, Hope Town, Little Harbor, etc. Mother Nature, unfortunately, has had other plans for us. The weather turned ugly in the Abacos about a week ago, and it's just beginning to show signs of improvement. Granted, it's been nothing like the weather in the States (what the heck is up with snow in Tampa and Orlando and ice on Clear Lake??). Still, 54 degrees in the Bahamas just isn't normal! We've had a number of days with 20-30 knot winds, and a few rainy days to boot. Every time one front moves through the area, another one shows up before the Whale has a chance to calm down. Rumor has it things are supposed to get better - and stay that way for a few days - sometime around the 18th or 19th. If it really happens, we may be able to get out of here. In the meantime, we're taking advantage of a temporary break in the weather to go on another dive/picnic excursion with Brendal and the Dutchies (or the "Twisted Sisters", as Brendal affectionately calls them).

Check-in at the dive shop is at 8:45am, and we're out at the reef by 10am. We'll do a one-tank dive, followed by a grilled lobster and grouper lunch. The girls have let us in on a great idea - instead of drinking Brendal's killer 151-rum punch, we're bringing a bottle of white wine. It goes much better with the seafood, and we really don't need a repeat performance of the last picnic! Brendal, Jack, and Tasha let us in on some bad news en route to the reef: the water temp is less than 70 degrees thanks to the recent bout of cold weather. Stacy has a 3-mil wetsuit, and Rene's heavier stuff is still in the stern. He's diving with a 3-mil shorty over a half-mil microprene...definitely not thick enough for such cold water. Oh, well...fingers crossed that we don't get hypothermia. :-) Brendal leads our dive this time, spear gun in hand. When we talk about a grilled lobster lunch, we're talking fresh! Visitors to the Bahamas aren't allowed to use SCUBA gear when hunting lobsters, although a Hawaiian sling with snorkel gear is fine. Bahamians can get a special permit to hunt lobster with a spear and SCUBA equipment, which makes finding the little suckers a whole lot easier. Lobster tend to hang out in coral crevasses or under rocks, and it can be difficult spotting them. Brendal manages to get four during our 45-minute dive, and goes in search of more after the rest of us return to the boat. We just can't stay with him - we're all shivering from the cold water, and our fingers and toes are completely numb. It's so bad that Rene gives up taking pictures of an 8-10' bull shark that has been circling under the boat. He comes up with 1300psi of air, which is unheard of for him. Time to get the warmer wetsuits out of the stern!

Lunch is back on the north side of Munjack Cay, where Jack gets the fire going while Brendal and Tasha prepare lunch. Having foregone the rum punch (well, maybe just one to warm ourselves up from the inside), Stacy keeps a close eye on the prep work. Lunch was so good this time that she's really trying to get the recipe to try at home. Without telling too many of Brendal's secrets, we can say that it involves Mojo marinade, lemon juice, sour orange juice, habanero pepper sauce, and some locally-grown herbs and spices. The grouper is topped with veggies and placed in a dutch oven on the fire, and the lobster tails are cut in half and put in another pot to steam in the marinade over the fire. Brendal makes a sour orange-based butter sauce to drizzle over the cooked tails (not to mention over the fresh coconut bread from Sid's grocery). What a feast! We head back home in time to clean up and get to Sundowner's for a happy hour game of pool, followed by a late dinner with Babette, Nicki, and Larry. It's been a great day, even if Rene still has cold bumps on certain body parts!

We'll cut this blog short for now. Nicki has graciously let us use their internet land-line at the house, and we want to post the blog while we have access. We'll add pictures once we get them uploaded and cleaned up.

On a separate note, our thoughts are with all of the earthquake victims in Haiti. We had a few tense moments ourselves on Tuesday night when we heard on the VHF that we were under a tsunami watch due to the quake. Not having internet access, we weren't able to get any details and ended up on Larry and Nicki's doorstep looking for news. The Abacos are too far away to have felt any effects, but Haiti has obviously been devastated.

Love to all,
Stacy & Rene

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Friday, January 1, 2010
Happy New Year's, everyone! We hope you all had a fantastic New Year's Eve, whether you went to bed early or partied til dawn. For us, New Year's Eve ended up being much quieter than expected. We had a terrific dinner with Nicki, Larry, Babette, and the kids at Green Turtle Club. With a big dinner and a couple of glasses in our bellies, we were all yawning soon after 10pm. Not a good sign! The club had a man playing a steel drum in the courtyard, but there was hardly anyone out there and no one was dancing. Brendal had come by to say hello, and hearing music in the distance, we all decided to go across the anchorage to the Bluff House. The ladies joined Brendal in his speedboat and Rene followed in our dinghy. We found a dinghy dock at the Bluff House, but soon realized that the music we heard was from a stereo and there were almost no people at the bar. Hmmm...where to now? We decided to ride into town, meaning a longer ride in the dinghy for Rene. However the ride over was magical with enough moonlight to show the sea bottom which allowed for a number of ray sightings. Pineapples looked dark when we passed, so we headed to Sundowners. It felt like a rave with all of the neon bracelets sported by the partiers, and the five of us probably doubled the average age when we walked in. VERY strange vibe. We stayed to ring in the new year, and headed home soon after. There were two great things to come out of this decision: 1) with a full moon and a low tide, we were just able to get the dinghy off the dock and into deeper water as boats around us began grounding, and 2) we were fresh and ready to go this morning for...JUNKANOO!!!

Junkanoo is a festival that is celebrated throughout the Bahamas on Boxing Day and on New Year's Day. According to Wikipedia, the word "Junkanoo" derived from a African slave master and trader named, "John Canoe" in the 17th century. These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bushes when they had the chance. While in the bushes, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery. Modern Bahamian Junkanoo is a parade: a showcase for Bahamian Goombay music and new Junkanoo costumes. Junkanoo groups "rush" from midnight until shortly after dawn, to the music of cowbells, goat- skin drums and various horns, in costumes made from cardboard covered in tiny shreds of colorful crepe paper.

Although we hear Junkanoo is traditionally held from midnight til dawn, Green Turtle's festival is more family-oriented. The parade is supposed to start sometime after 2pm, although that's Bahamas reality, it'll probably start sometime between 1:30pm and 3pm! We get to New Plymouth an hour before the parade is scheduled to start. The street vendors already have the tents up, and the smells of chicken curry get our mouths watering. You can also get conch salad, conch fritters, fried chicken, hamburgers, and lobster salad, plus Kalik beers and fruity drinks with names like "gullywasher", "tipsy turtle", and "goombay smash". We finally decide to share some conch fritters and jerk pork from Laura's Kitchen, which of course comes with rice & peas, Bahamian mac n cheese, and coleslaw. We're stuffed by the time we're done, and manage to bypass the table full of cakes and pastries. After making a couple of circles through town to say hi to friends, we finally settle on a good vantage point: the town's administrative and post offices are in a pink building with a balcony, set on a slight rise. We can watch the parade come through from the balcony so Rene is able to get some good pictures. The "pace car" (i.e. golf cart) comes through, trailed by a massive float in the shape of a winged man in a white gown. The image is sort of a cross between Jesus, an angel, and a winged Rastafarian. We never quite figure out what it represents - we just enjoy the parade! He's soon followed by a group of kids, ages 2-12; the girls are sporting wings and fairy-like face paint, and the boys have big drums strapped over their shoulders to beat on. They all wear colorful Junkanoo crowns, and they're absolutely adorable. Next up is the king of the parade (we think), a guy wearing a green and white wing-like contraption that goes 10 feet in the air. He and the crowd that follows him rattles the cowbells like crazy, and another troupe beats their massive drums in time. The entire parade is only 1-2 blocks long, but they have the energy to get the spectators moving. How can you stand still with that beat?? As soon as they pass, we make our way around the waterfront to a spot ahead of the parade to watch them a second time. (The parade stops every few feet along its route, so it's not hard to get ahead of them.) This time we're on the sidewalk at street level, up close and personal with the parade. Whether it's us being closer or the bell shakers have gotten louder, the cowbells going by are positively deafening! Our ears ring from the "kalik kalik" sound and our chests pound from the drum beats. It's like being on a carnival ride - let's go again! By now the parade has grown in length thanks to a few tipsy spectators. We make our way past them to the staging area, and find Nicki and Babette dancing to the reggae band. Nicki's daughters decided to march in the parade, and now she's lost them and her husband. Off we go in search of the trio, and almost immediately run into Tracy, Seann, and their friends. They've come down from Spanish Cay to see the parade, and barely make it before the lead float comes by. We get to visit with them for a few minutes and wish each other a happy new year before they head back to the boat. A storm is on its way and they want to make it back before the ride gets any worse. We say goodbye to them and wander down to join the rest of our group. Nicki and Babette have found Larry and the girls, and we realize that the parade is coming around the block one more time before ending at the basketball court. We dance with them for a fourth time and take a shortcut back to the b-ball court to watch them end the parade. As we join Nicki and Babette, they point out a tall, slim, long-haired woman wearing a straw hat. "That's Elle Macpherson under that hat!" Seriously?? Yep, the supermodel and her family have come to Green Turtle to join in the fun. We try not to stare, and the crowd lets them enjoy themselves like any other family on holiday. Junkanoo really does attract everyone to Green Turtle Cay!

The party kicks into high gear as the parade makes its way to the basketball court. Everyone involved has done a marvelous job at making this year's Junkanoo a huge success, and the mayor (minister?) of GTC (dressed as a 500-pound braided ballerina) coerces everyone to make a donation to next year's Junkanoo fund. How can you not? The Gully Roosters take the makeshift stage and get the crowd dancing some more. They really are a great band, but there's no way we could've stayed up on New Year's Eve to see them play at the Rooster's Rest! (They were supposed to get started around 1:30-2:00am. We were fast asleep by then.) Before we know it, it's 5pm. The winds have kicked up and the sky is beginning to darken with rainclouds. Time to go home. There's another front coming through, and we're expecting 30-40kt winds and squalls. Rene wants to get home before dark to put down a second anchor. We head to the dinghy dock and meet Betty, a single-hander cruiser who needs a ride back to White Sound. She's anchored near us, and we're happy to help out another sailor. Unfortunately the waves have already picked up, and there's no way we can get the boat to plane with three people. We all end up drenched on the ride over...welcome to the cruising life!

Back on the boat, we get the second anchor set and change into dry clothes. The smell of the chicken curry in town is still calling us, so Stacy opens a jar of Patak's korma curry sauce for dinner. It's not quite the same, but with some extra veggies and spices, it'll do. Our dinner is soon interrupted by the booming of fireworks. The Green Turtle volunteer fire department was supposed to have a fireworks display in town at 8pm tonight, and they've managed to get a break in the rain long enough to start the show. We weren't about to brave the weather to make a second trip in the dinghy to town, so we're glad we can enjoy the fireworks from the cockpit. Unfortunately this means no "Full Moon Party" at Sundowner's for us tonight, but we're ready for a quiet evening anyway. Not that we're really expecting it to be very quiet with 40-knot winds howling through the rigging... :-)

Anyway, here's to a happy and healthy 2010!

Pictures for this Blog chapter: