If gentlemen never sail to windward, cruisers must be a collection of louts and scoundrels.
At least parts of our voyage from Gun Key to Grand Bahama Island were downwind, with excess of thirty knots on our quarter and a confused and violent sea breaking on all points with no periodic swell or chop that opened every locker below and tossed their contents to the sole. So maybe my condition is becoming gentled?
Perhaps this new genteel air I'm cultivating with the occasional downwind run combined with intermittent shaving whilst anchored in light swell could account for the friendly, sincere welcome we received ashore. Folk seem genuinely willing to engage in talk and show willingness to help, often without asking.
We came in battered and licked our wounds at Grand Bahama Yacht Club. If you are in the same position, I advise you to ask for specials on rates when checking in; we received our third night free. Also, be careful with your time at the bar. Your tab goes directly to your dock bill and beer can be five dollars for less than a pint. As everywhere around here, gratuities are included, so tip like a Canadian, if at all.
One of the marina staff gave us a lift in the marina's van to downtown Freeport while explaining that he treats "everyone like a millionaire. You never know if they might actually be one." To be fair at times I felt like one here. Yet no one spare-changed us. I never felt uncomfortable in my pseudo-millionairehood.
Here is where we liked to cool our heels during our stay at the marina:
There is a certain sense of pride devoid of arrogance that combines with an engrained sense of propriety - an odd but effective hybrid of old world colonial British Empire married to American economy and sense of progress.
This place is also experiencing the Tragedy of the Dollar, to which the Bahamian economy is so tightly bound. The marinas we see are empty to a degree that cannot be explained by the off-season. We encounter few other travelers. We are a peculiarity in a peculiar place. We seem as millionaires yet travel more frugally than college students who illicitly, miserly ration their student loans on travel abroad.
My favorite activity here, which is actually free of charge, is the ring toss game. It sounds simple; a ring on a string you swing to a hook. Devilishly difficult!
In the spirit of this willingness to tough it to save cash, we are at anchor now near the south entrance to the Grand Lucaya Waterway. The noseeums are particularly unimpressed with our mosquito netting and the common houseflies made it into the cabin before we could get them up. We are relatively isolated now, except for a barge that pulled up yesterday to the seawall not thirty feet from us and proceeded to unload steel junk onto shore with its crane. We have espoused several hypothesis for what the hell they are actually trying to accomplish, but so far "dumping junk" is about all we can conclusively agree.
From here we wait for a wind that will allow us a more gentlemanly sail south toward the Berry Islands, some 55 nautical miles distant.
--posted from near-safety one week later in Bimini--
The internal workings of a washing machine producing a vomitorium for all decent ocean goers at anchorage. Behold! The Columbus Day Regatta at Elliot Key.
This event can be understood better by not attending. Hundreds, nay thousands of would be spectators liquored up to the gills and festooned with scopolamine patches, chanting the age old paean: "Show us your tits!" See how they parade up and down the ICW - and everywhere else - desperate to show rooster tail, or at least wake some hapless rowboat.
We were informed by a helpful vulture that people would indeed die, "They always do."
Early Saturday morning, before the mists and vapors rose out of the super-heated mangrove choked shore at Key Biscayne, motorboats flew through the otherwise placid anchorage, far outnumbering the sailors actually participating in some twisted parody of a sporting event. And it's expected! Like Dolphin's fans packing the stadium and throwing beer cans and bras on the gridiron as harried players pick their way along the litter to the endzone, perpetually shrouded in a fog of misty barf.
The vulture who pointed out the only anchorage for us near Dinner Key, where we had diverse and pressing business chuckled sadly in anticipation of the many calls to tow in disabled motor craft and their hung-over crew.
The VHF is also illuminating. Easy-listening Coast Guard transmissions, sonorous yet somehow wistful - "... a fifty foot Bayliner has sunk... sailboat with mast above the water ... multiple collision... crew in the water... refer to Towboat US... " - the brave lads and lasses ensconced in an USCG air conditioned bunker, following the ups and downs and futility of civilian maritime war.
A close inspection of individual spectators, easily viewed from the bosun's chair while being bludgeoned by the mast, shows a demographic steeple chase. Teenage boys and girls in the flush of youth and outboard horsepower with Someone Else's Boat zipping about, carefree and only possibly distantly aware that running lights exist, the switch for which being just inches from their beer coolers and yet somehow still untouched. Seniors entertaining their descendants' children, no doubt with foreign and exotic sounding names to their aged ears such as "Jayden", "Brit" and "Brianna".
Then, in the midst of it all, inspiration flies! Amidst the motor-surf choked channel that stretches tenuously from Key West to Miami, the ghostly, stately procession of sails proceeds, more of them than an exuberant caffeine-fueled ten year old can count out between choking bucketfuls of wash slamming us over the side.
After it all, we engaged in an ill-advised, abortive sunset dash to a "safer" anchorage, resulting in our dinghy upside down behind us, victim of converging wake, the loose grapnel anchor aboard her a sad casualty. The warm water bath which ensued as I bailed her out back at the anchorage scoured my skin, but my soul still needs a shower.
We are now into our third day of cruising. Madison especially is covered with noseeum bites after an otherwise enjoyable stay in No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. I think I like that place the more I know it. The trick is to get out and anchor somewhere else before sun down during the hot months.
The boat has been a struggle. After a great sail down, I've been frantically fixing and modifying gear and infrastructure.
Sarah thinks it's because we did all this work on Avalon and then simply jumped in her and started off without a gradual shake down. I suspect she is correct.
Electricity seems to be a plague upon us, as with most sailboats. I am trying to work out the kinks as well as I can.
Here is us before departing Ft. Lauderdale.
alt="Us on the Dock in FL" title="Us on the Dock" />
So far we are still, still in Fort Lauderdale. Don't ask me how it happened this way. There are so many things to do on Avalon. We are half on and half off the boat, working every day to get her ready. I hope we can get out of towards the end of July.
Okay. Now I have to think about what needs done next.
Sarah is in bed with a fever. It started out (when I started measuring) at 103.8. It's lower now after drugs, water and a foot rub. I was worried if we went to the hospital emergency room on Xmas eve, we would (as in the words of our neighbor Jay) "Be there with all the strange Xmas Eve accidents... like Xmas trees in the rectum."
It was an enjoyable evening earlier, with some intriguing gifts which we will have to photograph later while in use. Also we received a package from my Mom which contained some jewelry which definitely piqued our curiosity about those distant European shores we hope to visit soon.
I am staying up. I expect that Sarah's fever will further break as the night wears on.