Thursday, March 29, 2007

Winds decrease in George Town

The relentless wind keeps everyone here pinned down. People get tired of being here, or have commitments to meet friends or family somewhere else and need to leave, and therefore attempt to leave. But when they hit the 8 to 10 foot seas, they return.
It’s like the Eagles song: “Welcome to Hotel George Town. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Our friends Walter and Connie on the trawler Summer of 42 tried to leave because of relatives arriving in Staniel Cay tomorrow. They decided to turn back because it was too rough. The engine died and Walter choked on his sandwich at the same time. After Connie revived him with water, he fell down the stairs, knocking the fire extinguisher off the wall and spraying him in the face. He managed to set the anchor and work on the engine. He was low on fuel (only 200 gallons left out of 500) and figured that the pick-up had sucked air and killed the engine as they surfed down a wave. After bleeding the lines the engine ran and they headed back into Elizabeth Harbor.

Another fellow on the sailing vessel Seabird attempted to leave a few days ago. When asked by someone in the harbor how things were going, he replied “It’s really not too bad out here.” A woman then came on the radio and asked for a report from his wife. We thought that was pretty funny until they also returned to the harbor.

We just finished a 5 day series of squalls which increase the prevailing winds of 20 to 25 kts up to 30 to 50kts. That weather is now over, and we have nice sunny weather with steady 20kt winds. The winds are supposed to decrease to 15kts in 2 days so there will probably be a mass exodus.

The first day of the strong squalls brought a cell over us at 11pm which brought 50kt sustained winds for 30 minutes. It was intense. We had both anchors down and didn’t move at all, except for sailing back and forth pretty hard on the anchors. Boats on both sides of us dragged and we watched numerous boats get smaller as they drifted away. Long term visitors to George Town said that it was the worst they had ever seen here (during this time of year). There were no boats upwind of our position so we only needed to monitor our position relative to other boats downwind. It was amazing that no boats collided during the storm even with boats running under power dragging their anchors, half out of control. There were close calls to be sure, and people are still retelling their stories of that night.

So how are we doing you may ask. Our attitudes have changed considerably. Now when the winds are only 20kts, we say, “Hey it’s nice out, lets head to town”. Before, we would have been nervous to leave the boat. We’re now on one of those little dinghys heading a mile across the bay in rough water to go to town (as we’re about to in an hour after lunch). I reported earlier how we moved Stardust to Kidd Cove to go shopping last week. Now we like the way our Delta anchor is totally buried, and want to leave it that way. (It will probably take a crane to get it out when we leave). And we’re used to long wet dinghy rides. And we stand up in the dinghy holding onto ropes like everyone else to stay dry. During the storm Kathy was very calm (she’s always been rock solid when I’ve been hurt or sick, or a hurricane was bearing down on the gliderport, and other similar nasty situations- it’s the little things which make her nervous) and Rachel took care of Whitefoot in her cabin.

But these are the most recent highlights. Usually school is in session, I’m doing minor preventative maintenance (like changing the transmission oil yesterday), or we’re on volleyball beach with 100 other cruisers, Rachel is playing with her new friends, or visiting on other boats. It’s easy for me to get caught up in reporting about the wild things that happen but the reality is that things are usually pretty sedate. Yesterday found Kathy and I sitting under a palm tree talking with our new friend Linda (with serious cruising experience) about places she has been and what multi-day passages are like. Kathy said how much she’s been enjoying the trip and doesn’t want it to end. I asked her to repeat that. We all related how it’s the little things that get to you, not the big stuff.

Linda and her two boys Chris (11) and Nick (8) are alone on Second Wave, a beautiful motorsailor, since her husband had to fly home because of a family emergency. They are anchored two boats behind us (I can use a term like behind due to the steady east winds- we’ve probably only swung 30 degrees in a week). The boat right behind us is Wild Child with David, Michele, and kids Caroline (11) and Sabrina (5, and a true wild child- a very wonderful little girl). Both boats are from Toronto and the kids are all fast friends. Rachel hosted a movie night here the other night, and we’ll be having both families over for dinner tonight.

There are awesome trails on Stocking Island and we’ve been putting in some mileage on them. Whitefoot and I hiked about 5 miles this morning. We hiked with Jim, Pat, Walter and Connie two days ago. Walter and Connie still looked a little shell-shocked from their ill-fated attempt to leave. Twice weekly poker games take place in a nice establishment on Stocking Island. I went last night and joined about 25 other players and had a great time. You pay $5 for $500 worth of chips and the last person in the game gets all the money. I wasn’t the winner. I sat at a table with Tom on Out of Bounds , a cat registered with their hometown of Angel Fire, New Mexico, the neighboring town to Taos! He’s an ex-ski instructor from Vail, so we’ll get together to swap some ski tales.

Rachel needs the computer for school while Kathy and I go to town, so this will be posted tomorrow, perhaps (our years in New Mexico prepared us well for the maňana land of the Bahamas). When you read about tonight or tomorrow, just change it to past tense.

We’re not planning to leave here anytime soon, so hop on a jet and meet us down here! Just send an e-mail to confirm, and we’ll leave the light on for you. (Think I’m kidding? Try me!). The next potential meeting place with jet service is Marsh Harbor, Abacos.

OK, it’s Wednesday now, the winds have decreased as forecast, and folks are preparing to leave tomorrow and it will probably be a mass exodus. Should be fun watching the action in the morning and listening to the radio reports of conditions “outside”. We swam on the outside today with Wild Child and Second Wave and we all got tumbled in the waves pretty hard. I think everyone is jumping the gun leaving tomorrow. It’s bound to settle down much more next week. We’re lucky not to be on any time table.

I met Bob and Sharon on We Beastie this morning. They are from Taos, and have an earthship in Lama. They took sailing lessons in Tampa and then bought a boat. A woman from Taos was in the same course a week before Bob and Sharon. Maybe the famous “Taos Hum” which only a few special individuals in Taos can hear is really the sound of the wind in the rigging. We Beastie is leaving tomorrow and will follow the same route as us, so we hope to meet again.

Wild Child is also leaving tomorrow, and Rachel is sad to say goodbye already to her friend Caroline. It’s amazing how close they became in only a week. I think the cruising kids come to realize how precious friends are due to the tenuous nature of the cruising lifestyle as it relates to meeting friends “on the road”. Wild Child is a Catalina 42 skippered by David, a fireman/paramedic from Toronto on leave from his job. He needs to be home by May and can’t find anyone to help him get it home, so the family will probably have to stay on board all the way to Canada. They would rather get off in Hilton Head and drive home, while David and crew take the boat up the Atlantic to Canada. So if there is anyone reading this who may be interested in making the trip with David, send me a note. He’s a great guy with lots of experience sailing so it would be a good trip to share with him. No experience required.

When we leave George Town, our plan is to head for Cat Island, Eleuthra, and then the Abacos. That will take two months. Then we’ll head up the east coast of the US, possibly arriving in Hilton Head from the Bahamas, and continuing where we left off last fall. That is the current rough plan anyway, subject to change, of course.

I’ll be making the mile trip to town tomorrow in the dinghy and hope to post this at that time. The computer gets wrapped in a garbage bag, placed in my pack, which is placed in another garbage bag and then stored in the cooler which is the dinghy seat. So far so good with keeping it dry. The winds are down and the harbor is much smoother tonight so it might even be a pleasant dinghy ride for a change. Bed time, goodnight all!

This morning, the winds were down to 12kts and about 70 boats departed. It was quite a sight! We Beastie had to return due to engine overheating problems. The dinghy ride the mile across Elizabeth Harbor was very smooth, and I have a good internet connection on shore, so here goes the latest blog. I also managed to make Skype calls to sister Laura and Mom and Dad, and will try one to Jean and see how her cataract surgery went.


Anonymous Dennis said...

It's finally good to see the Captain again. Is it just me or is there a little more grey in the beard?
Good to hear the upcoming route, I did not know how much further south you were going. And June 1 is getting closer all the time.
So Hopetown is a real possibility now? Good.
I haven't told you in awhile...
"Fair winds and following seas.."
Maybe I should have mentioned it a few weeks ago!!

11:49 AM  
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