Monday, February 21, 2011

Hanging Out with the Texas Navy: Black Point & Little Farmer’s Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

Monday, February 14 – Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome to another beautiful day in paradise! We’ve spent the past week with our friends from Kemah, who have joined up with 3-5 other boats (depending on the day). Given that at least six boats (we’re #7) are from the Kemah, TX, vicinity, the armada has begun calling itself the “Texas Navy” in one popular VHF hail: “Texas Navy, Texas Navy…please switch and answer channel 17 for an important happy hour announcement.” (Should we be concerned that a BASRA boat – the Bahamas version of the Coast Guard – was anchored near the group when we arrived??) Three of the boats are catamarans, and we’ve had the opportunity to spend time on two of them. Talk about luxury! When you can comfortably fit 15-20 people on a boat, there’s rarely a question about where happy hour will be held.

Our trip down from Eleuthera was absolutely gorgeous. As much as we hated to leave Genesis, we were excited to get back to the Exumas (and we know we’ll see Genesis again in Staniel Cay next week). Our original plan was to sail 45 miles to Bell Island, and make the 15-20 mile trip to Black Point the next day. Thanks to some good winds on the beam, we were able to average 7+ knots motor-sailing. Three hours into the trip, we realized that Bell Island was 30 miles away while Black Point was 35 miles away. Because of the curvature of the Exumas chain, we could add an hour to the trip and meet up with our friends a day early. Rest day on Tuesday! We arrived in Black Point around 4pm and dropped the hook near the “navy”. Within minutes we saw a band of familiar dinghies come zooming around the point; Steve, Matt, and Christie stopped by the boat and invited us to a get-together on one of the cats, Guiding Light. We joined the multitude of dinghies later that evening, and got to meet Guiding Light’s owner, Shane, as well as Linda and Rusty on Sea Yawl Later and Ted and Millie on Morning Glory. Adding Storyville, Anchor Management, and Kaleo to the mix, we had a terrific evening as usual!

Tuesday afternoon we decided to try our hand at lobster hunting. After a brief stop at a stalactite-filled cave that Shane knew about, we made our way south to a small cove dotted with coral heads. Hawaiian sling in hand, Rene jumped into the water to hunt for dinner. Shane managed to catch the first lobster, and Steve was soon bringing up a two-foot long grand-daddy. Deana was next, while Rene’s prey continued to elude him. Deana pointed out a cluster of rocks where she had seen something scurrying about, and both Shane and Rene began searching under the coral. Rene readied his spear, and…bingo! Only one problem…the poor little guy was tiny! Rene tried another spot up the coast while the others went back to warm up on their boats; sadly, no lobsters. We all agreed to share our spoils over dinner, and Stacy was nominated as chef. She cooked the lobsters a la Brendal (mojo marinade, sour orange, butter, and hot sauce), Deana brought Bahamian mac and cheese, and Shane brought banana bread for dessert. Steve opened up a precious bottle of Zaya rum for after-dinner sipping, and we all felt thoroughly spoiled after a night of good food and friends. Have we mentioned lately how much we love our life?

After spending Wednesday in town taking advantage of internet at Lorraine’s Café and lunch at DeShaMon’s, we planned to move down to Little Farmers Cay with the rest of the group. Rene raised the dinghy in preparation for our departure, and we waited for the first boat to pull anchor...and waited…and waited. Shame on us for not checking in with anyone; we would’ve quickly found out that we weren’t going anywhere for another day! A few boats had come up with the idea for a full-moon potluck party on the beach, and who were we to pass up the opportunity for a get-together? Better yet, Rusty on Sea Yawl Later had returned from Staniel Cay and offered to play ferry boat. There’s nothing quite like watching a monster catamaran raft up to your boat! Shane got the fenders ready, and Rusty brought SYL alongside Storyville like a pro. The rest of us used Storyville as a dinghy dock and hopped aboard SYL. Once everyone arrived, we tossed the lines and motored to the party at Regatta Point. A crowd of locals and other cruisers had already gathered, and potluck dishes lined the counter. After dinner, Rusty raised a sail and projected Captain Ron onto the canvas; “dockside cinema” was a first for many of us, and everyone loved it.

Friday morning we sailed – yes, motor off and everything! – 10 miles to Little Farmer’s Cay. Pipe and Storyville decided to forgo the difficult and shallow channel into the town anchorage and dropped the hook on the west side of the island; just as we were ready to dinghy over to the others, the heavens opened and a series of squalls passed through the area. The storms lasted until sunset, keeping us all on our boats. We didn’t get to say goodbye to our new friends on the catamarans, who all set sail for Georgetown the following morning. Hopefully we’ll get to see them in GT when we make it down there next month.

Saturday we went ashore to Little Farmer’s Cay and were instantly enchanted by the locals we met. We first saw a man standing in the middle of the harbor, seeming to swirl his arms through the water. We soon realized that he was harvesting conchs, and watched as he used a machete to remove the meat from the shells before cleaning the…uh…less edible parts. After offering up the gorgeous shells to the group, he told us that his wife had tomatoes and green peppers for sale in the nearby green house. Produce! A little boy came out as we approached the steps to take our “order”; we got two peppers and four tomatoes for $3, the best deal we’ve had since arriving in the Bahamas! Our next stop was the local grocery store, where Tasha greeted us as the door and offered fresh papaya and a pomegranate-like fruit from her garden. We gathered a few staples while Tasha wrote out her recipe for Bahamian peas & rice (“peas” being brown pigeon peas, not the familiar sweet green ones). Her secret was using half coconut milk, half water, when making the rice. It gave it a creamier texture than water alone and was delicious.

We followed up our shopping trip with a walk up the hill to Ocean Cabin, where Jim and Nancy from Solitaire were manning the bar. They’ve been coming to Little Farmer’s for years, and were able to share some of the history of the island and its residents. They also offered to lead us to a cave that Shane had told us about, filled with stalactites and stalagmites and a clear pool for swimming. What an incredible experience! We met at Oven Rock after lunch and hiked along the iron shore to the cave opening. Thank goodness someone had told us to bring flashlights, because the cave was pitch black even in the middle of the day. We had to watch our footing along the loose stones as we walked down to the pool, but it was well worth it. The pool was shallow at first, but the bottom dropped out as we rounded the boulders. It led around the back of the cave to a series of smaller under-water tunnels. None of us chanced going through them – we didn’t know whether we’d find breathable air on the other side!

After our refreshing swim in the cave, Jim and Nancy led us to a beach on the Atlantic side where we waded in the surf and looked for shells. We ended the night with a happy hour and star-gazing aboard Storyville, and again marveled at how lucky we are to be doing this. We’ll spend the next couple of days in Little Farmer’s before heading back north to Black Point and Staniel Cay. We’re looking forward to seeing LA and Susan on Genesis again, and can’t wait to welcome Skip and Betsy aboard Pipe on the 26th. We know we’ll have a great time with them, and should have plenty of good stories and pictures for the next blog. Cheers!

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