U-Turn

It is official, we’ve made a U-turn.  While just days ago we were on a path floating down the string of Caribbean Islands and planning to spend the Hurricane season in Grenada before working our way across the South and Central American coast towards the jeweled and remote islands of the San Blas (Panama) from which we would slowly work our way back to the start, today we have our bow pointed West.

What happened in the past few weeks to totally derail decades worth of planning and dreaming?!?  I don’t know for sure.  Maybe it started when we left the Dominican Republic and knew we hadn’t even begun to see all it had to offer.  We were only in one harbor after all.  Or, on that logic, maybe it started when we sailed right past Rum and Conception in the Bahamas- they were both on my wanna-go-there list.  It’s like we built up so much momentum then crashed and burned.  Really, it probably started with the comparison of what we had read and seen about the San Blas islands in our preparation phase (years and years ago) to what we heard from people who have been there recently. Seems we did our research once and didn’t revisit it again. To shorten it down to a sentence or two: It is no longer a place that is only reached by the rare cruising boat, it is a place now easily reachable by plane, charter boat, cruise ship excursion tours and probably even jet skis too. We are listening to reports of overcrowded anchorages with fees to anchor and even come ashore.  This is a far cry from what we are in search of.  Not all the islands have been corrupted by the taste of tourism, but it seems many have.  Some cruisers loved the San Blas, some hated it, some people said it is now a lost destination- the window to truly experience it unmolested has already closed.  However, everyone does seem to be in agreement that if what you are looking for is free diving, spearfishing,  clear water, unlimited white beautiful beaches, and the freedom to travel among them we won’t find any better than the Ragged and Jumento Islands of the Bahamas. In all of our time in the Bahamas we never made it there. Normally we take it all in and just go see for our selves but all of a sudden 1600 miles (plus the return trip) seemed like a really, really long way to sail for a destination that we now had some doubts about how much we would like. From this doubt it snowballed and we’ve been a lost, spinning mess since.  If time (money) were not the limiting factor we would still just go and see for our selves then come back and hit the parts of the Bahamas we missed and/or loved again.  We don’t have that many seasons left.  It is an either or situation. Decisions had to be made, priorities sorted.

Once San Blas was in question the entire Eastern Caribbean quickly came under review.  Did we want to still go to Grenada for the summer?  The Eastern Caribbean was never our interest, they were just islands along our path we hoped to enjoy on our way to our primary destination.  We’ve been in the USVI for almost three weeks now for weather, and while we know we can’t compare these charter clogged islands to the entire chain, we think we have seen enough to make a decision. Though the process has been a doozey!! We’ve flip-flopped on an almost hourly basis for days now!  I even made a color-coded spreadsheet with our possible routes to help sort out all our options.  It just added to the mess.  Anyone who has come in contact with us as we were working out this whole morphing-of-a-dream thing has probably felt our sting. Sorry. We never forgot that we are in a the most privileged  of positions, but, still, transitions can be exhausting.

We finally were able to work it through to this:  With our remaining cruising seasons, was it more important WHERE and how FAR we went (and completing what we set out to do)-or-HOW we experienced these remaining seasons.  Until now the where and the how meshed.  We were someplace we thought was terrific and doing all the things we love. So Simple.  We don’t feel that way now.  Where do I begin without sounding sour and bratty? I suppose I can’t, but we are not enjoying the crowded harbors, we don’t like being told we have to use a mooring ball, and we really don’t like having to pay $26.00 a night to use it.  We don’t like the hunt to find the exclusions to these rules. The beaches are beautiful, sure, but are littered with bars, and beach-floaty rental shacks, and, the kicker for me, they come with roped-off swimming areas that I am supposed to stay in.  I, apparently, do not like being told where I can swim! Throw on top that you have to pay just to access many of the beaches and we are done.  Done, done. What all of that boils down to is that we feel we are someplace we could just as easily visit and experience just as wholly by plane and we are worried it will likely be the same for the majority of the way down the islands.  The freedoms we have by traveling on our own little boat are all gone here.  Are our concerns for the remaining islands valid? I think so. Would we see beautiful things, have amazing experiences, and meet wonderful people if we kept going?  Absolutely. Will we regret not venturing on? That is the real question. We hope not. We won’t have this opportunity again.

Instead of continuing on we have chosen to spend our precious remaining seasons living a life that cannot be reached by plane.  We are going back to where we eat from the water more meals than not, have the freedom to chose where to drop the anchor and make home for the night- perhaps a beautiful beach with not another soul in sight, and live a more self-sufficient and free life in a part of the world that is still unblemished by crowds (before it is).  Where we want to do that happens to be in the direction we just came from. The current plan (it has been unwavering for a whole 30 hours- a record for the past few weeks) is to finish waiting on some mail here in St. Thomas, then slowly work our way back through Puerto Rico seeing what we missed on our speedy sail East, revisit Dominican Republic, and then head back to our beloved Bahamas. We won’t miss the Raggeds this time! Plans for Cuba are actively being researched to help satisfy the “see new places” desire. Yesterday we committed and made arrangement for hurricane storage if needed on Stocking Island. It is not the plan of world-travelers or of adventurous sailors.  It is just our little happy-happy plan.

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^^ Despite our overall feelings, our introduction to St. Thomas could not have been sweeter.  A few miles out we hailed our friends on Smitty– we haven’t seen them since sailing with them in the Bahamas about a year ago and were excited to see them again.  We didn’t really expect an answer on the radio, they were not expecting us for a few more weeks, but we got one!  Before we even made it all the way in the harbor they had a mooring ball arranged for us and a plan to get us in the water immediately!  Best. Welcome. Ever.  They gave us the tours and the lowdown’s on where to get stuff like groceries and laundry, and more, it has been fun catching back up.

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^^We moved out of the mooring field and into Brewers Bay anchorage to give ourselves some more room and hang on our own equipment for the days and days of weather we got.  We knew it was coming, that is why we had been traveling so fast.

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^^ We participated in a community clean-up day with the crew on Blabber. The ladies liked Keith’s dreadlock painting skills!!!

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^^ We sailed over to St. John to get away from the city for a night.  It was pretty.  We enjoyed seeing the mountains green and not covered with square buildings. We tied the boat off to the required mooring, secured the dinghy off to the designated dinghy area and swam in the buoyed swim zone.  Everything was nice. The experience did little to sway us from turning around.

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^^While at St. Johns we went in search of a beach that Kai was allowed on.  The main one was off limits and the one behind us was to rocky to land on so we went to the next little one we saw.  It was perfect and no one was around. Kai ran from one end to the other over and over.  When we got back to the boat we realized that that cute little beach had been in the BVI’s. Ooopppps!!  We were not allowed there and Kai REALLY wasn’t allowed there.  (So, technically the farthest East we got was the BVI’s!)

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^^ Our favorite little spot on St. Thomas ended up being Brewers Bay. (The previous three photos) It sets under the pretty little University of the Virgin Islands Campus.  The University has opened the beach to the public for free and many locals come and enjoy it daily.  Two food trucks park up on the road.  The other side of the anchorage is the airport runway so it provided us entertainment to watch the little planes landing and taking off when we were getting gusts in the 30’s and 40’s!  It is filled with sea turtles, so that is nice too.

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^^We took a walk on Megan’s Bay Beach just because it was listed as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.  Of course we went after 5pm because we just don’t pay to walk on a beach.  It was pretty, and long.  We left feeling very lucky….we could list a bunch of beaches that we enjoyed more.  I think our judging criteria was just different.

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^^ Lost in thought….

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Luperon- A Little More

We couldn’t wait to see more of the town of Luperon the next morning so we set off in search of breakfast.  It was actually harder to find than we expected.  It was hard to tell what many of the shops have to offer and we don’t have enough skills to ask a lot of questions.  We finally came across a tiny shop with little tiny tables in it and we asked if they served breakfast. The gentleman waved us in and from there we have no idea what he said or what we ordered.  His wife brought us out two ham and cheese tostadas-and they were perfect.  He helped us work out our Spanish for the items and gave us tastes of his fresh squeezed juices.  It was so good and he was so nice we ended up going  back there the next day too.  By then we were able to place our order using complete sentences.  Woohoo! Two tostadas and two fresh juices is less than $2.50 so why not.  Plus, the owner is so patient and we had fun sharing our Spanish/English book to have a basic conversation.  He liked looking up words in it too.  I think we will become regulars.

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Even though we had just eaten breakfast the smell of the pork and chicken being cooked over a fire drew us to these street vendors.  They gave us samples and Keith bought a 100 pesos worth of pork.  It comes in a plastic bag and no napkin.  (I’ve already learned to go no where without hand sanitizer!)

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^^ This lucky pup got some pork too.

We were standing on some corner, with our still greasy hands, Spanish book, and a piece of paper with notes when a motorcycle stopped and asked if we were finding everything alright.  Might we have looked too obvious? We started talking to him and it was a fellow cruiser anchored two boats away from ours.  He came here seven years ago and fell in love with the place and never left.  He was pointing out where everything was and what to see when he said to just jump on and he would give us a tour- it would be easier.  So we did.  I know, you probably think we are crazy or stupid, but it really felt fine to do. (And, spoiler, it absolutely was) He gave us a tour of the town then drove us out to the beach where there is a cute little beach bar.  We pull up to find Ingrid and Ben (Blabber) had already found the beach bar!

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^^Photo credit to Ingrid (thanks!)

 

We stayed and shared a beer with Bruce (the guy driving us around) and absorbed as much info as we could. He also gave Keith the details on where and how to buy a motorcycle here if we are going to stay for any period of time. Oh boy.  While we were there Hedda, Walewijn, and Quiryijn (Antares) wandered up.  Funny, with no planning we all found the same place!  After our beer we hopped back on the bike with Bruce to finish our tour and went next to the marina.  We met some more cruisers and Bruce’s wife and hung out for a while.  Bruce was staying for lunch and we were still full from our pork so we decided to walk back to town.  Half way up the hill we started second guessing our choice, these hills are steep.  Just then the boat boy, Handy Andy, drove up on his motorcycle and offered to call us a motoconcho but before he could he flagged down a friend of his in a yellow jeep and we had a ride back to town.  It turned out it was another cruiser who also owned land here, we had even met him before in the Abacos!

 

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^^We finished up the day on our boat with Blabber and Antares eating Mahi tacos from the fish we got on our sail here.

 

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^^ I love how the “slips” are made using branches stuck in a line.

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^^We did a little exploring with all the boats we sailed in with one day.  At any one time we would have one conversation going on in English, Dutch, French and Spanish.  I have come home mentally exhausted every night!  Even with out trying our brains are working overtime trying to pick out the familiar and put context to the unfamiliar.  More Advil please!  Really, it is SO much fun.

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We introduced Blabber and Antares to our new breakfast spot, the owner, whose name I still don’t quite have, was sharing a fruit that he juices. None of us had seen or tasted it before.  He calls it Jauga.  It is very sweet and makes a nice juice.

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^^ Vendors like this are common.  We see them selling everything from bananas to shoes.  We haven’t been approached by any of them wanting us to buy something.

Hey, Let’s Try This Again

Since we bailed out of the Bahamas to avoid Matthew we haven’t had good weather to get back over to the islands. Finally an itty-bitty one popped up but it was much shorter than we would have liked, the window was preceded by days of nasty weather with 20-25+ knots of wind and closed with a strong cold front bringing harsh 20-25+ knots of north winds on the backside.  We need 24 hours of sailing time and a cushion in the beginning to let the seas settle and a cushion in the back to allow for any pre-frontal squalls or mechanical delays.  This one we weren’t sure met all the requirements, but we hoped.  Strong north winds and Gulf Stream don’t mix. Period. We thought we would be cautious and use the earliest part of the window possible to cross decreasing any chances of getting caught by the bad weather if something were to go wrong-especially since it looked like we would be motoring into the wind at least for the first 12 hours. 

We staged at Lake Worth, got things all battened down and checked over.  In the afternoon the winds finally started to decrease and we pulled up anchor at 5:30pm to use the slack tide to go out the inlet.  We knew the seas were going to still be churned up, but also that they would only get better as the night went on so as long as they were doable we’d go. We got out the inlet and things weren’t too bad at all.  I’m bad at guesstimating wave height maybe 3 foot rollers, but still steep and confused.  It wasn’t comfortable but we were okay with it.  We also knew the Gulf Stream would pick it up a notch which we weren’t looking forward to. Once we got at the very edge, Oh my God, it was like a switch had been flipped. There was a distinct and dramatic change to the seas to say the least.  Again, not good at guesstimating but I think 5- 6 foot is a safe guess, but it was more how close together they were that caused the issue. That, and when they doubled up. It was steep and even more confused. Total washer machine. We had expected them to be more on the bow but many were hitting us directly on the beam (side).  Our boat was getting rocked rail to rail and since we couldn’t get the sail up with the wind on the nose we had no buffer to the motion.  The door to the oven slammed open tossing a pan and my pizza stone out (oddly the left over lasagna from dinner remained in the oven), the contents behind the cabinet doors crashed and tumbled around (thank goodness only one latch let loose), and the tub of items we had under the dodger went airborne and toppled down the companionway to join along with the pizza stone and pans sliding back and forth across the floor.  I was pretty sure my big clam shell was going to get tossed- that was going to do some damage. It was noisy and uncomfortable. Something was going to get broken. To be clear, this wasn’t  a dangerous situation at all it was just an unhappy one. It took effort to just hang on and stay in place.  Keith tried changing course to find a better angle, but nothing made much of a difference.  We decided we were “not having fun”.  We are not what you would call salty sailors especially when it’s not necessary to be! It wasn’t worth it. We turned around and headed back to port and contemplated trying again in a few hours.  The sunset was pretty though and since we were out of the stream and going with the waves we enjoyed it.  We weren’t sure how much the seas would settle or how close that put us up against the cold front on the other side of the window, but for us this crossing just wasn’t happening right now.  We tried to go too soon for sure. 

^^Didn’t snap a pic of the ugly seas, but did get the sunset on our way back in when it got calm again!

 On the way back in we got hit with a downpour, we had to open the enclosure windows to see out because they fogged up and the reflection from all the city lights made it impossible to see.  We got soaked.  Puttering in in the dark, we found that a catamaran had taken the spot we had been anchored in and were hoping to come back to so we had to, still in the rain, search for a new spot amongst the other boats. We settled into our new spot, stripped off our waterlogged clothes, cleaned up the items that had gone flying, and took another look at the weather.  There looked like there was enough time to wait a few hours and try again.  There was almost no wind so maybe it would be all better.  I still tied the oven door shut and pulled the big shell down, just in case it wasn’t.

A few hours later the alarm went off, we climbed out into the cockpit to have coffee, stare at the city lights, and get ready. Then we heard the wind- that had been dead for the last few hours-pick up.  And then pick up some more.  Huh.  Maybe a short squall?  An hour later we were still waiting for the wind to settle down. The whole time we were going back and forth of whether to go or not.  We wanted to go SO bad but didn’t need to shake ourselves or our boat up either for no reason- we don’t have a schedule, but…. we really, really didn’t want to miss what turned out to be a good crossing.  Ugh, decisions.  I think they can be the hardest part of this whole cruising thing. Around this time we pretty much decided that this weather window just might not happen. I know this because we had in fact already climbed back into bed around 1:00 am. There wasn’t another window in the foreseeable future- so that sucked. About this time our friend Craig who had left out about an hour before and called back to give us a report.  The first few miles were rough, but not as rough as they had been a few hours ago.  Also, once away from the land’s effect the winds had settled AND, big bonus here, he was able to get a sail up and was sailing- not motoring into the wind. He said things were pretty comfortable out there. Knowing we were going to hate not taking a doable crossing in the morning we slipped back into our wet safety harnesses and headed back out. We can always turn around. We have no qualms about changing our mind.

It was calmer, not calm, but calmer than it had been.  When we got to about the same point where we turned around the first time we still were not committed completely.  That section of water was rough. Craig had said he was now seeing 18-20knots out of the north.  Did I mention north and Gulf Stream are bad?  We weren’t feeling it; we weren’t having fun. In fact we had decided to turn around but just hadn’t actually turned the boat around yet.  At least this time with the sail up the motion was much easier and we were making better time.  The seas got less confused right about the time we got the message that the wind was letting up ahead of us.  We stuck it out.  In a few hours the choppy, jerky motion turned to more of a rhythmic swoosh-swoosh one. We were still sailing. By sunrise it was beautiful.  By lunch time we were on the bank and it was flat and gorgeous.  We kept saying how upset we would have been to have missed this crossing, so happy we did it. We pulled into Great Sale Cay about an hour after sunset, with the last sliver of purple sky fading.

^^ By sunrise all was well.

^^ Tanker being towed by a tugboat.  Glad we came across this duo during the daylight-even with AIS. We altered course to go behind them.

Now we are having fun.

Oh, and we beat the cold front with plenty of time to spare! We could have left in the morning and probably had smooth sailing from the start.  Oh well, we tried to error on the side of caution.  Add it to the experience bucket.  Always learning.

I looked back at snapshot I took of the Gulf Stream currents I had grabbed before the crossing. See where the two arrows are pointing towards each other?  That’s about where it went from okay to not-okay.  I wish I had noticed it earlier, it would have been easier to push through to the other side knowing the entire stream wasn’t going to be that messed up!

 

We Have A Rat on the Boat!!!

 We have a rat aboard the boat. This is very, very bad!

Yesterday Keith was rinsing off the deck and noted that there were some droppings that didn’t look like they came from Kai or from a bird at the base of the mast, but we were on our way to go diving and we payed no more attention-maybe it was just dirt. This morning we woke up to finding that there was definitely a rat onboard the boat, no doubt about it. He had eaten the cockpit teak in eight different places.  Eight!  He left plenty of droppings all over the place as well.  sH!#!!!

Our first place to look was in the mainsail since that is were we first saw his markings.  Keith hoisted up the sail.  On the very last tug of the halyard the rat (definitely not a mouse) fell out right over his head and landed on his foot!  I barely saw this because I was too busy staring at the hole he had eaten through the middle of our sail.  Bastard!  I have never cursed so much at something so small.  Really, why did it have to pick the middle of the sail to eat a hole in?!? Aargh! Kai saw the rat immediately and chased it up the deck and tried to corner it on the bow but it ended up running back under his legs and down right down the anchor locker hole. 

Normally the anchor locker would have been a great place to trap him as it is closed off from the inside of the boat with a hatch, but of course we had the hatch open for ventilating.  Great timing. We closed it as fast as we could and stuffed the opening shut with rags hoping he was still inside the locker and NOT INSIDE the boat somewhere.  We made a game plan; Keith went to town for rat traps and I went to town systematically tearing our boat apart looking for a rat from bow to stern.  When Keith got back we decided to empty out the anchor locker, hopefully we would find him, though we weren’t sure what to do if we did find him, besides being reassured that he was not inside.  We emptied everything out including all 300 feet of chain.  No rat.  sH!#!!!

I continued my tearing apart the boat/cleaning spree for the rest of the day thinking at some point I would run into him.  Every locker, bilge, and floorboard was checked.  All the bedding and mattresses were completely removed and inspected, Kai’s toy bucket emptied, and the engine room searched.  Everywhere we could stick a flashlight we peeked in.  Nothing.  We haven’t got a clue as to where to stick our two traps, so we are hoping that our random spots will do the trick and we wake up to a dead rat in the morning and not a half eaten boat.  This could get real expensive real fast.  Besides there is the whole icky-goosebumps-chills factor.

 

UPDATE:

We brought Kai down below when we were ready for bed and he started going crazy wanting to get up on the v-berth bed.  He has never once wanted up there.  Out of curiosity I lifted him up.  He started sniffing all around the anchor locker hatch. Ok, so he smells that at one point it was in there.  Then he got really, really focused on a spot above a shelf almost at the ceiling and could not be distracted from it.  He kept sniffing and pawing, then turning around a looking at us.  Over and over in the same spot.  Keith and I weren’t to sure what to think.  He was, after all, bred to be a ratter on boats –maybe we should pay attention.  We took everything back out of the v-berth for the second time and removed the ceiling panels trying very hard to avoid anymore falling rats.  Kai was unwavering in his attention so just in case he was correct, I shut the sliding door which is broken and doesn’t slide at all, effectively locking us all into one tiny space together.  Very slow-ly we unscrewed the  side panel and very slow-ly we inched it down. IT’S THERE! IT’S THERE! THERE IT IS! RIGHT THERE! OH MY GOD! All three of us saw it.  Mayhem in the V-berth.  Good job, Kai.  Good job. You were right, there is a rat there.

We quickly slipped the panel back in place and could just see his feet and icky black tail through the crack.  Now what?  I took Kai out and gathered some “tools” while Keith held him trapped behind the panel with the flashlight beam on him. We have fiberglassed in bulkheads so there was no place it could go. My assortment of rat-removal tools consisted of towels, pillowcases, a wastebasket, a spear tip (Keith’s weapon of choice), a conch hammer (my weapon of choice), and some more lights. But we still didn’t have a plan.  The panel couldn’t be removed all the way and as soon as we moved it he would have too many escape routes.  We stared at it for a really long time, like a half an hour.  Finally Keith decided to try to spear it through the crack.  He didn’t get a good shot, the rat was at a wierd angle and now it had moved down behind the panel and we couldn’t see it anymore. Now what?  After a lot of poking and peeking with a mechanics mirror and not finding it we got the nerve up to just pull down the panel-spears and hammers ready…..No Rat. sH!#!!  Where did it go?  Finally we found a little hole, probably once used to run wires through at the very top, it led back to the anchor locker. Which of course was no longer sealed and now the damn rat could be anywhere outside. Like back in the sails.

In case he was just hiding in the anchor locker, we set one of the traps inside.  It snapped when Keith set it down and he whacked the back of his hand very badly on the underside of the locker into some rough fiberglass.  It’s pretty ugly and he is bummed it will keep him out of the water for a few days. When he finds this rat it is going to die an ugly death.  We also shoved towels around the anchor locker hole to keep him in if he was still there.  Then, just to be safe, armed with brooms and spears we raised the mainsail again.  If any of our neighbors were still awake at this ungodly dark hour I am sure we gave them quite a show.  No rat found, but we set the second trap out at the base of the mast.  Hopefully, in the morning we will have one trapped rat!  For its sake I hope it is already dead when we find it.

 

UPDATE:

We got very little sleep, we both kept thinking we heard it or felt it. At 5:00 I KNEW I heard it in the cockpit.  Armed with a flashlight, I confirmed it.  He wasn’t in the anchor locker anymore.  No going back to bed!  In the morning we found that he had set off the trap in the anchor locker but it obviously missed him, he had also eaten his way out of the locker.  Towels don’t make good rat stoppers.  I hate this thing now.  Up went the sails again and out went everything in the anchor locker again.  No rat.  Like Groundhog Day, Keith went to town to buy more traps and some poison and I went to town tearing the boat apart looking for this damn effing rat.  Again.  We are now armed with 2 rat snap traps, four rat sticky traps and a big block of rat poison that sounds awfully nasty.  It is marked “not for individual sale” and I am pretty sure this stuff is industrial strength and not something we could buy in the US.  I don’t like having it around Kai, but this thing has to go!  Everything is being deployed tonight.

 

UPDATE:

IT IS DEAD! VERY VERY DEAD!

Here is how it went down:  I was in the galley making bread when I thought I saw a tail, but I have been seeing “tails” for 48 hours now.  Nevertheless I leaned back to peek. I screamed, I don’t know what I was screaming, I just kept screaming and screaming, and climbing up the companionway locker.  Keith was “what?” “WHAT?” The bastard was on the floor next to the salon table and now hiding in the corner. I’m not sure if or when I stopped screaming but we quickly shut all the doors and made barricades around the table.  We reassembled the array of weapons and tried to work out a plan.  He was going to stab it to hold it place with the spear and I was going to slam a trash can over him.  It went bad.  We did get him into the trash can but couldn’t get a lid on it because we had the broom in the can as well from trying to knock him back down, we couldn’t get the broom out because it was too tall and hitting the ceiling and we had to tip it over to get it out.  The rat leaped out.  We leaped onto the cushions.  I wasn’t  the only one screaming at this point.  It got up onto the window ledge and I was trying to pin it with the broom.  It wasn’t working.  He got in the curtains, in the bookcase, in the shell basket, back onto the cushions, onto the floor and through our now completely demolished barricades.  At some point in all of this the spear was thrown, Keith cut his face (not from the spear), and all remaining composure was lost. We watched it run up the hall and under of fridge. sH!#!!! Start over. New barricades were set up and we tore out everything in the pantry locker that sits on top of the frige.  We took out the bottom shelf and Keith could peer down the top of the refrigerator and see him hiding.  If he got up into the pantry he could get up into the headliner (roof).  Keith kept knocking him down with the mag light and trying to scare it back out the bottom.  His feet were in the escape route so he was “spidermanned” up the sides of the hall to keep his feet off the ground so it wouldn’t run up his legs. He finally scared it out and down the the hall towards me.  More screaming. It ran into the trash and this time I shoved a huge pillow over the top.  We both held it tight and carried up the stairs. I was on the underneath side and was still screaming.  Keith flung it over the side of the boat. We watched it swim away…..for a minute.  Keith wasn’t letting it off that easy, not after hurting his hand and keeping him from diving.  He got into the dinghy, circled the rat and began beating it with a deck brush.  That sucker was NOT going to swim up our anchor chain again. He kept beating it.  Violently.  It looked ugly, full-on over the head swings.  It disappeared under the water but surfaced again, still swimming.  The beating continued until he saw it sink with it guts coming out of it.  If the inhumanity of it bothers you, you can think of it as we saved another boat in the anchorage the past 48 hours we just experienced.  

OMG. I am so happy it is DEAD.  Keith is making us rum drinks tonight and we are going to look for our happy cruising groove again.  We are also giving our little Kai all the love and treats his belly can handle because he, unlike me, kept it together and watched quietly as the chaos unfolded without barking. What?  We can’t believe it either. He is a good boy, and a good ratter.  He has earned his keep 🙂

So where did the rat come from? We don’t know for sure.  The anchorage we are in now is made up of three islands: Manjack, Crab, and…….Rat.  We are closest to Rat Cay and I think it may have earned its name honestly.  Keith first said we were too far from shore for it to swim out, but after watching it swim tonight he thinks it’s possible.  Other ideas include it getting on in Geen Turtle when we were anchored very close to shore and it’s been onboard for at least a week.  I think this is unlikely, he made himself very well known.  Another thought was that he got on the dinghy and hitched a ride back when we tied it up at the public dock at Green Turtle (which has a dumpster on it). I don’t know, I’m just glad he is gone.  Please, someone tell me that this is a rare thing and the chances of getting another rat while at anchor are zilch. Please.

 

 

Green Turtle

I think I had envisioned us staying at Double Breasted for longer, but we got weather reports indicating that a tropical LO might be developing right over our heads bringing winds from possibly any, or all, directions upwards of fourty to fifty knots.  Being anchored just a few yards off rocks on one side and a few yards off a sandbar on the other side didn’t seem like the ideal spot so we booked it on out and sailed to Manjack Cay and then onto Green Turtle Cay and tucked up into White Sound for some all-around protection.

The forecast stalled and then fell apart and we ended up with nothing but some squalls and a lot of rain.  We were thrilled with the rain. The deck got scrubbed, the towels got rinsed, the water tanks got filled overfilled, every bucket we owned got set out, we rinsed ourselves, we rinsed the dog.  We may have rinsed him a little too much.  Cruising changes how you view rain 🙂

Green Turtle Cay is an adorable quiet settlement filled with rental cottages, cute shops, and delishious smelling bakeries.  So colorful and pretty in a pink and turquise with a white picket fence kind of way.  It was even prettier when I found that I could get wifi in the anchorage, (which is how I finally got the last several posts up).  It disappeared intermittently when the boat swung and I lost it completely after the weather moved through, but it made me quite a happy camper for a short while!  I hate to admit how much I have missed it.

Besides walking around the town and peeking into every shop and chasing a weak wifi signal from bow to stern, we had a good few days of meeting new friends and old.  We had a wonderful evening meeting three new cruising couples and sharing drinks and appetizers all while laughing maybe a bit too hard at a boat trying unsuccessfully to pick up their mooring ball.  Then we ran into our long time friend and old finger-pier neighbor Darryl and Debbie as they were anchoring.  A terrific surprise. We invited them over for conch and hogfish after the rains subsided and they invited us over for a yumm-o breakfast the next morning.  I love that breakfast with friends-on a weekday-is so natural now.  

Our friends, new and old, all headed south after the threat of any weather dissipated.  We headed north just a few minutes back to Manjack Cay.  We weren’t done diving just quite yet and Manjack has been a favorite of ours.  Within ten minutes on our first dive, we had our limit of conch and a hogfish in the bucket. Guess what is for dinner?  Actually, the next day Keith switched it up a speared a Margate for dinner, we liked it too.  Variety is supposed to be good for you. We haven’t even made it out to the reefs yet, that was all in the cuts between the cays they have some pretty neat snorkeling. I got most excited about seeing the tentical of an octopus in a hole and a moray eel.

Back on our first night at anchor at Manjack, when we were on our way to Green Turtle, we were so relieved that for the first time since Florida we were not going to be anchoring in a crazy current.  No water rushing along the hull all night, no tide changes, just a quiet peacefull night that we could sleep all the way through. You do know where this is going right?  

Around 1:30: BUMP.  Keith and I flew out of bed, down the “hall”, and up the companionway expecting to see that we hit or were hit by something.  Nothing.  Keith yelled at me to turn on the depth sounder, maybe we were hitting the bottom.  BUMP.  I ran back down the companionway, which is a six step ladder by the way, and flipped on the breaker, just as Keith was telling me to hurry-up and come here!  Back up the companionway (ladder) to see what was attacking our boat.  Two dolphins.  We could see them perfectly with our stern light and the full moon and we could see every blade of grass and urchin on the sand below us.  There were two of them, one bigger than the other, and for about ten minutes they kept swimming under the stern of out boat.  They would take several breathes, swim under and blow lots and lots of bubbles.  Sometimes they bumped the boat.  We both got dolphin spit on us.  We could hear their clicks and squeaks and if we had wanted to we could have easily touched them from the swim platform.  At the time we didn’t want to, we were still trying to figure out why it seemed they wanted to attack our boat.  Finally Keith saw the smaller one swim out from under the boat with a fish in his mouth.  Then they left.  That was a lot of work for one fish!  Keith said it wasn’t even that big.  

So last night was our first night back here in the same anchorage since we went to Green Turtle and we were awoken last night by a big burst of bubbles under our bed.  Keith woke up and said “they’re back”, I grabbed my camera and ran up the companionway but they didn’t hang around.  I have my camera ready just in case they come back tonight.  I like my sleep, but it was a too-cool moment..

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.