Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

The Boys are back in ‘Breasted!!!!  Welcome John, Johnny, and Tom!  I said it in the last post, Double Breasted and friends just go together.  We sure were happy to see you sail over the horizon!!!  

Actually Keith was so anxious to see his friends he took the dinghy over to Grand Cay with the excuse of taking in the trash and buying a loaf of bread so he could be there as they pulled in to clear customs.  Both boats were given a labored clearing in procedure, something we have not experienced in the Bahamas before.  They had to bring the boats to the dock and were boarded, it took them several hours to clear in.  It took us less than 15 minutes when we cleared the last time and have never been boarded.  The customs lady that boarded the boat told them they were only allowed 1/2 case a beer per person.  Uh Oh. News to us!!  In the end nothing was done about the cases stacked up in the boats and they eventually got their permits.  Time to play!

The weather has cooperated in ways we had forgotten were possible and it has been a couple days of paradise.  Paddle boarding, bone fishing, diving, bonfires, and simply hanging out together.

 

^^They boys came over loaded with exotic provisions like fresh fruit, American beer (as already noted), paper towels, and the rare box of Cheese-it’s!  That is an entire bowl of fresh fruit on the table 🙂

^^ Hey, John, where’d you go?  Thought you were bringing us some cardboard?

^^ Sundowners on Nessa.

^^ I finally speared my first mutton snapper and my biggest fish yet. (Does my goofy grin give away that I was happy?) That fish took every breath I had and one more that I didn’t think I had to bring up.  I got a poor shot on him and he swam off with my spear around the corner of the coral head.  I caught my breath and dove down to grab him and he swam off again into a crevice going so deep my entire spear disappeared into the reef.  It took a while to find him again in a hole on the other side of the head.  I had to reach in a hole and pull him out (I really don’t like reaching into things, too creepy).  I sure was happy to share him at dinner, though.

 

 

Playground

A friend commented that even though we have talked a lot about all the weather we saw the past few months, all the pictures showed sunny calm water.  I flipped through our photos, and sure enough they all look pretty calm.  

So here you go:  the storm clouds building and the eerie calm before the storm in Green Turtle last week. 

^^Then the squall.  

Captured the first rains we saw in months in this pic.  The far boat started dragging his anchor seconds after I took this photo so it was time to put the camera away. That one boat caused a lot of stress to all the others in the harbor.  Even though this squally weather was very expected, the owners anchored in a grassy part of the harbor with little scope and upwind of several boats that had attained moorings in preparation of the winds.  He had been approached earlier and given suggestions of where he could find better holding in the harbor but did not head them.  Instead he got off his boat and went to shore for dinner even though we were expecting winds upward of 30 knots and thunderstorms to 40-60 knots.  He, and the nearby boats, were lucky that when he dragged through the anchorage his boat did not hit another.  We hailed him on VHF to let him know his boat was on the move but by the time he finally was able to dinghy out the anchor grabbed, thankfully before he hit the rocks behind us.  The owner then went and re-anchored in the same exact bad spot with the same amount of insufficient scope played out.  He then started to get in his dinghy to go back to his dinner.  He got hailed on the radio by multiple other unhappy boat owners who firmly asked him to at least stay with his boat!  For good reason too, as they anticipated he was on the move again a little while later.  It is frustrating when you have done what you can to secure your own boat and another boat owner either carelessly/ignorantly/arrogantly/whatever-ly makes it all for not.  Unfortunately we run into this scenario over and over. It is tiresome. It’s also why there are so few pics of the crap-o weather.

After this triple front system moved out of the way, we headed towards Double Breasted to wait for our friends on Nessa, Happy Healer, Anywhere and Raven.  After a long afternoon of shimmying our way into the anchorage on an especially low tide we enjoyed it all to our selves….well, for a little while.  About 7:00pm we see a charter boat heading into the anchorage.  Not good for two reasons: “A”, charter boats approaching always command our attention (and evoke a sense of dread) and “B”, it was way too late in the day to be able to read the water depths and the current was still ripping.  It was not a smart time for any boat to be trying to navigate around what we call “creepy corner”.  Not surprisingly they ran aground.  When they finally got off they came into the anchorage and anchored with only one anchor.  Double Breasted is one of the very few anchorages where two anchors, in a Bahamian moor deployment, are required to keep you centered in the narrow channel during the tide switches.  They were far from us and they did make it through the night without event. The next day, though, they learned why two anchors are strongly suggested.  By then there were five boats in the anchorage and they were two boats away so we were not too concerned with them until we peeked out the hatch before going to bed and found that they had dragged down the channel and were now between us and the boat in front of us.  Fortunately they ran aground before running into us. Keith got in the dinghy to see if  they needed help to get off the beach and reanchored.  They actually asked if he would come on the boat and just re-anchor the boat for them, they didn’t know what to do.  “NO” When they got off the beach and did reanchor they chose a spot that is nearly dry at low water.  Oh well.  Probably safer for both them and us if they are sweetly and securely sitting on the sandbar.  We were relieved to see them move along the next day (after they got them selves ungrounded-for the third time).  People, you stress me out!!

Enough whining.

This is where we are right now and I don’t want to be anywhere but here!  Double Breasted is a breathtakingly gorgeous little gem made up of nothing more of a few craggy rocks and spit of sand and shallow water in the middle of them.  Our closest friends brought us here 16 years ago, it was their special spot. Over the years we have shared a lot of memories with a lot of different friends in this spot.  Being here makes those memories more vivid, for that reason no other island can ever be as special.   Prettier? maybe/maybe not. Better anchorage? Well, yes, there are better anchorages out there.  But more special? No. We are quite happy to hang out here for the next few weeks.

^^The anchorage is in a narrow channel.  One side is rock the other side is sandbar (out of view in the picture as it was high tide)

^^Those rocks look much closer after the sun goes down 😉

^^ My boys, just chilling on the beach

^^ Keith cleaning up a conch for us for dinner.

^^Just a little tiny spit of sand, but so perfectly so.

^^ The entire anchorage looks out to clear shallow water and sandbars that materialize as the tide falls.  Little pockets of warm water pools settle in between the bars.  Natures pretty playground.  Yep, not in a hurry to head back to Florida just yet.  

Oh, not sure if I made our plans known on the blog; here they are…  We are hoping to hang out here with several friends for a while, then head to Florida for a few weeks for a much needed reprovision stop and to install the new water maker (so excited about that), from there it depends on the hurricane season. We may rent a mooring ball in George Town in one of the hurricane holes as a safety net and head back to the Exumas or, we may investigate getting clearances to Cuba or, might stick to the US until fall (not my first choice!).  We aren’t sure yet.  After hurricane season, if not before, we will head back to the Bahamas to see some of the places we didn’t get to see before heading on “down island”.  At least that is the plan for today.  Right now I’m not going to worry about it too much and go for a swim.

 

Double Breasted Bruising

It’s not so easy to post something that so clearly illustrates your own error in choices, but this blog is all about capturing our journey in its entirety, so I will.  Please judge gently as you read.  Thank you.

A quick note and screenshot about Double Breasted Cay to make the following post more readable:

Double Breasted Cay might be one of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever seen and because of the memories that it holds for us it will always be a special place, but the anchorage itself has multiple challenges the entrance is a by-sight only approach as you weave through some shallow rocks and coral heads and is only deep enough for us in higher tides. Once in, you have to anchor with two anchors (Bahamian moor) as the tide rips through the channel and you lay dependent on the current not the wind.  In addition, some places have very shallow sand over marl and make for poor holding so you really have to plan your anchoring set up well.  We don’t even attempt to round “creepy corner” anymore into the inner anchorage (though the holding is good there) because we have seen multiple boats do serious damage by hitting the rocks (like tearing off rudders) the current is crazy ripping through there.  We also don’t care for going into the inner anchorage because once in, you are trapped.  We can only leave at high slack tide and with it being Memorial Day weekend we knew the usually desolate anchorage would be filled with power boats from Florida.  Some of them have some very unique anchoring techniques (see photo)  that make us nervous about having them as our neighbors when the usual Bahama night squalls blow through.

 

Knowing it’s an anchorage that takes some concentration, timing, and work to get settled into, Keith and I made a plan before we even left the States about how we were going to anchor our first night.  We decided to be proactive and anchor out away from the Memorial Day crowds where we could swing on one hook and catch up on some needed sleep before tackling the situation.  We figured we would put up with a little bouncing and when we were not spent from the crossing and the crowds cleared out we would work our way into our usual little spot on the channel side of Sand Cay.  Sounded like a sound plan.

Despite the calm crossing, we were exhausted, neither of us having slept more than three hours in the past 36 hours, and we anchored as planned feeling proud of our conservative choices.  We noted that we had no protection from the wind or fetch with the winds from the SE but that it was quite reasonable and conditions were to remain mild.  No problem.  Just before dusk we started second guessing our choice.  The chop was reverberating off the rocks behind us making it a slappy, sloppy ride.  It was too late to pull up into the anchorage as you need good daylight to see, so instead we upped anchor and headed further from the shore line to minimize the back-chop.  And it worked for a few hours, until the tides switched and the current and wind were against each other and it once again became a slappy, jerky, noisy, and uncomfortable ride. Very uncomfortable. Unsleepabley uncomfortable. The rudder was being jerked and the chop was slapping the swim platform hard.  Ugh, we just wanted sleep!

Frustrated we looked at the chart and reconfirmed what we already knew, there wasn’t any other place we could go at night so I tiredly suggested we just sail for a while, so around 1:30 AM we upped anchor and just sailed.  To nowhere.  Just sailed.  Back and forth between Grand Cay and Double Breasted Cay.  It sounds like a nonsense plan but worked pretty well.  The motion was immediately comfortable and at least this way one of us could sleep at a time.  We randomly sailed until the sun came up. 

At daybreak, out of pure exhaustion, we decided to go ahead into our protected little anchor spot.  Yes, the same spot we knew we were too tired to try the day before.  So now, sixteen hours later and only a few interrupted winks of sleep, we thought this was OK to do.  Being tired makes you dumb.  We knew we needed to wait for a higher tide, we knew we needed to wait for the sun to rise so we could read the water depths.  We even said these things and agreed aloud, but headed on into the anchorage anyway.  The depth sounder reading shallower and shallower. We knew what was going to happen next, and it did.  We ran aground.  Ouch.  It’s not sand here, it’s rock.  All those sailor-worthy words we didn’t use last week, we made up for it.  (at least they weren’t aimed at eachother)

Keith got us off unscathed, just a bit of bruising to the bottom paint.  We tucked our tail, turned around and anchored again in the same outer anchorage.  Discouraged and defeated we even thought about bypassing Double Breasted altogether, our favorite place in the world.  The place we have been dreaming about returning to for years. Our friends were already anchored up quietly in the inner anchorage and we thought we might not even get a chance to see them.  

It was not a good moment.

Anchored again, we took a moment to breath, close our eyes, and grab something to eat.  We waited for the tide to rise. We listened to some encouragement from Tom and Jonathan and took the dinghy in to scope out the route again.  Refreshed, we upped anchor again (thank God for electric windlasses) and without a hiccup made our way into our little channel side spot, effortlessly played out our two anchors, set them and finally breathed a sigh of relief……

………and slept.

A Totally Twisted Time

Keith is home from his boys-trip fishing-trip and back hard at work so I will do my best to capture his vacation the best I can from piecing together the excited, fragmented stories (you know how fishing stories go) and the photos.

First let me address the photos. Out of four days in one of the most beautiful places on earth, he brought back fifteen photos. Fifteen. Not one of him, not one of the pretty water, not one of the beaches, not one of a fish. At first I was disappointed; now I find it amusing so I am posting all fifteen-no editing.

Second, for a little background on the trip. Keith went with JJ and James, two of the guys from behind the Totally Twisted brand. Both sailors who have done plenty of cruising in the Bahamas. The boat is a 31ft Jupiter; an open center-console powerboat with a Diesel engine and out drive. Keith may be a sailor, but there is no denying that part of him is most definitely a power-boater. He is always commenting to me about how fast that “power boat there” could be in the Bahamas and he has always wanted to go fishing on one. If he wrote a “bucket list” this trip would have been on it.

So here is the trip as I have pieced it:

Friday-successfully fished while crossing–dolphin I think. But of course I don’t have photo proof of that ;). They cleared in at Grand Cay (instead of Walkers Cay now) and secured a cute little efficiency that included a dock with water. Which seems much nicer than their plan B which was to sleep on the deck of the boat. I do have photos of the efficiency and dock. After clearing in, they ran out to the reefs and spent some time spearfishing.

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Oh, and those bananas on the counter-I packed those. I’m not big into superstitions, but apparently bananas on boats are bad. I may/may not be to be being blamed for the later events. Sorry!

Saturday -apparently the goal was to be in the water as much as possible, and it sounds like they did a good job of it. (Again, no photo proof, though) Lots of diving off of double breasted, and If you have ever talked to Keith for more than fifteen minutes then you know it is his most favorite place in the world so it was a good day. They caught themselves dinner and had the bar cook it up for them.

At some point in the evening Keith discovered that his wallet was missing. Along with every last cent of cash he had on him. I got a very quick phone call Saturday night asking me to cancel all his cards. He believed that it must have fallen out of his pocket while sitting on the edge of the boat. Bummer!

I’m not sure, maybe this photo was taken in the scramble of looking for the lost wallet? I have no idea what it is of. 20140910-191122.jpg

Sunday-they did some diving off Walkers Cay. Keith has always wanted to dive there, but we never make that far out by dinghy. The guys did good tag-teaming and working together, which is good since the sharks seemed to be very “alert” to the spearfishing.

From the stories, another fun filled day.

From the photos, it must have been so fun that they just forgot to take any pictures!

Keith was surprised and maybe saddened by the changes in quiet little Grand. It is exploding with new big houses and motels. The fishing scene that once was Walkers has taken root in Grand. Maybe it’s a good thing for the locals, but Keith said the effects were easy to see on the reefs in just two years. Almost every coral head had boats with hooka rigs on them all day- just harvesting. Keith took a few photos of Grand so I could see the changes. The people were the same happy people though.
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Monday- was head home and offshore fishing day. Until it wasn’t. About sixty some odd miles ENE from Stuart, forty some odd miles WNW of Walkers Cay, and forty some odd miles N of Freeport, things went wrong. The short story is the out drive was, in the most definitive way, broken. They were well north of the usual boat traffic routes to and from Florida and not far enough east to get the traffic up and down the coast. It really was just about the worst spot to break down. (Just to note, VHF range is about 25-30 miles). An open (and damaged) powerboat, with no ability to even keep the boat pointed into the seas on the far side of the Gulfstream is not really a great position to be in.

It took several hours, but through broken and relayed communications between the Coast Guard, Tow Boat US, and another vessel in the area, a tow was arranged. A seventy-four mile tow. Crazy. I didn’t even know they would tow you that far. Crazier, when Keith asked the tow-boat captain how fast they would be going back he thought the captain was joking when he said 18-20 knots. He wasn’t. At times they were going 22 knots. Of course he got pictures of that!.

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The nice captain of the other boat that had assisted in communications for the guys gave me a call when he made into cell phone range of Florida to let me know Keith and they boys were going to be home a bit late.

Late but safe.

JJ had some type of super platinum, unlimited, ultra deluxe towing coverage and there was no charge for the tow and hopefully the boat repairs will be covered by insurance. With that in mind, Keith had a great time. He even brought back two hogfish filets and a few conch to share with me. 🙂

And by the way, guess what I found amongst all the dirty laundry he brought back? A wallet.

A couple of guys “just living life” and enjoying a “totally twisted” trip.

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Update: Thanks JJ for the additional photos!!

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