Archive for the 'Sailing Adventures' Category
In my last post my post I mentioned I had the cytomegalovirus. I have been receiving daily infusions (seven days a week) of foscarnet which is a drug designed to control the virus. If we can get the CMV count down to zero twice then we will discontinue the treatments but monitor the CMV counts. The foscarnet kicks my butt.
Last week two of my good friends paid me a visit. Frank Green, who has taught me more about the craft of writing than anybody. He is truly a master of the Word. He holds a free writer’s workshop in his home every Wednesday night and has for twenty years. Frank has crewed for me on my boat and I have killed him three times but each time he has resurrected. His doctor won’t let him travel with me any more.
The other friend was Jeffrey “Hammerhead” Philips who has also crewed for me. I’ve known Jeffrey for almost 20 years. He is a terrific writer and you can buy his book Murder on Devil Ray Reef by clicking on the book cover to the left of this post. It’s a terrific read and I recommend it.
It is good to have friends who support you when times are tough. They stayed with me while I slept through part of the 3 1/2 hour infusion process and then we made a quick run to the store.
Thank you to all of my friends.
We are now in Hampton, Va, having arrived in a gale about seven yesterday evening. On the way we got smacked around by some muscular waves in the five to six foot range, and got hit with lots of hail and rain so being in the cockpit was not pleasant. Since a rigger inspected our rigging in Pasadena, Maryland and said some of it was coming apart, we didn’t put up any sail. Without sail up to stabilize the boat things were a little rocky. Well, maybe more than just a little. The Chesapeake is shallow so there’s lots of wave action in a gale. I think the rigger was not quite honest, he seemed a little shady, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Anyway, most everything in the boat got rearranged during the voyage. And we found a few leaks.
We left Yorktown where we’d spent two night on a mooring ball because the guy who rented us the mooring ball for $25 a night was not quite sure if we’d be safe there in the gale that was coming, so we left. Hubris, right? Thinking we can take it, the boat can take it, and heck it was only about 50 miles. It was not an easy time. We had a little trouble finding the narrow channels, and sometimes we found less than 9 feet under the keel, but we never touched mud. Liza, it turns out, is a born navigator. It was only as we got toward Norfolk and Hampton that she seemed to get a little frustrated, there are so many channels and markers and so many big ships, it’s like you’re caught in a video game. We found this great little marina here in Hampton on the internet that charges a $62 a night but if you stay for two nights you get another night free, which makes it a bargain. And the folks here are really kind and helpful, they even offered to loan us a car to go to the store. But we took a bus.
-When we got in we discovered that we had no 12 volt. Gads, I couldn’t figure out why. So I called an electrician and for only $65 he looked over our system and pointed out that the four new deep cycle batteries the previous owner had installed were not hooked up to the $650 West Marine battery charger he had installed, nor was it hooked up to the alternator on the engine, so for a month we’ve been using up the charge that must have come from the store. It did seem odd that putting on the charger didn’t seem to do much.
Yorktown was a great place, being the site of the last Revolutionary War Battle The Brits took a beating at sea from the French, and that’s what won it. One problem with Yorktown as a cruising destination. No groceries for sale anywhere. Liza has to have fresh fruit every day or she gets grumpy. But in Yorktown, if you want to eat something, you have to bring it with you or go to a restaurant. The Seven-Eleven is seven miles away. We went to town in our inflatable dingy and got plenty wet in the chop on the way back. Two things we’ve found out so far, we need a bigger dinghy and Liza needs foul weather gear.
More to follow. Next, we head south through the Dismal Swamp with canals and locks and lots of snakes.
All the best,
Sunday, July 31, 2011
The seas had built throughout the night and with nothing but whitecaps on the horizon, it looked like it would be a wet and bouncy ride if we motored home today. From past experience of doing the Technicolor yawn over the side of the boat, I suggested we stay an extra day and see some sights. Everyone agreed.
Kitty and I hitched a ride to the Rand Nature Centre (Bahamian way of spelling “center”) which is one of the 26 parks in the Bahamas. This area was created in 1969 and is a 100 acre pine forest.
Turning off the main two-lane paved road, we bumped down a dusty, single lane, hardpan alley to arrive at the Nature Center. Inside is a great display of the geological history of Grand Bahama Island as well as the settling of the coral island. Kitty and I easily spent an hour gazing at the colorful hand drawn and photographic displays. Plus, the day was hot and the A/C in this block building was very cool.
Stepping outside to follow the five-foot wide grass nature trail, the sun bore through the canopy of tree branches causing us to become dewy. Not walking more than a dozen steps we were overwhelmed with the scents of blooming orchids. The sweetness brought images that we had stepped into some sort of a fairy land.
Once beyond the flowering plants, the smells of the pine trees became stronger. The trees looked like the slash pine in Florida, but they are actually a different species, the Bahamian Pine. The trail is a twenty minute hike unless you linger. We had to take a whiff of every flower, photograph the unusual and pretty, and had lunch overlooking a turtle pond. We stretched our stroll to over two hours.
That created a good thirst. What to do? Head to the nearest Tiki bar. And that’s what we did.
Rum punches and conch fritters were in order. I love conch fritters.
Waiting on our food and drinks, the waitress told me it was BBQ night. Laid out in the black, cylindrical style cookers were some of the meatiest ribs I had ever seen. They looked so good over the simmering coals. I had to have a rack.
We had promised Carol and Walter that we’d be back in time for supper, so I thanked the cook, woofed down the ribs and Kitty and I headed back to the condo.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
To say that I know how to fish would be a lie. Yea, fishermen lie all the time. Maybe I’d fit right in. What I like to do is look at fish swimming among the corals and swaying sea fans. But, to catch them on a hook is a challenge for me. The group wanted to go fishing today. With boat loaded with rods and reels, hooks, lures, cooler stocked with ice sushi sauce, and stuff I have no clue to their purpose, out Silver Point inlet we (Walter, Carol, Kitty, and myself) went to troll along the drop-off between Xanadu and Peterson Cay.
My job was to sit on the hard deck and watch the poles, and when one started to zing, I was to yell out “fish on the line”. Not too hard a job. But I had several scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, coffee for breakfast and the seas being flat and the sun warm, and me needing to tan-up like a Bahamian, I dozed from time to time.
The line did “zing”, “fish on the line” I shouted. Kitty and Carol jumped off their white cushion seat, Walter throttled down the boat and shoved the gears into neutral. The pole bent downward and the line spun from the spool. Kitty started to reel in the fish. It acted like a big one. At least 25 pounds. I cheered her on.
Carol reeled in the other lines. Didn’t want any entanglements while Kitty fought with the monster. She’d pull the pole to her, then relax as she cranked the line in. Several times she repeated this task. The rod straining. I pulled on my gloves and booties, ready to haul this 50 pounder on board.
Kitty’s arms started to tire. Walter stood beside her, ready to assist. I envisioned fish frying in a big black skillet. The line would spin out. Kitty crank it back. Her against the leviathan. This guy had to be as big as our 34foot vessel and weigh just as much.
Five minutes into the fight, Kitty had brought the watery Kraken close to the stern of the boat. With heart pounding, I peeked over the side expecting to see flesh eating teeth or menacing tentacles. Would we be able to get this fish into the boat? To the surface he came.
Not the trophy winner I saw in my mind. A five foot barracuda. We unhooked him and let him return to the reef.
We continued to fish. Five and a half fish we caught. All barracudas. The half fish? A Caribbean reef shark took a bite out of him. So what to do? We wanted fish for dinner.
Off to the fish market.
The Bahamian fishermen fish all night, then the next day or two, they sell their catch at the local roadside market. The market is really an abandoned parking lot with weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt. You walk from vendor to vendor asking about the species of fish they have in their coolers.
We settled on a hog snapper. The fisherman ask how you’d like it, with or without the head, tail too, both sides or just one? Then he grabs his machete and goes to work. After seeing him work that long bladed knife, I wouldn’t want to upset him.
One Bahamian sold land crabs that you could boil. We passed, didn’t have a pot big enough. Plus, that creature looked like he’d fight you sensing his future.
Still we needed something to go with the fish.
Conch, as in conch fritters. I think every meal in the Bahamas should start with conch.
We didn’t catch that big tuna we were hoping for, but the fish dinner that Kitty and Carol cooked that night was one of the best I’d ever had.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Peterson Cay, a place away from the cosmopolitan areas of Grand Bahama Island, a place of white sandy beaches, blue-green water, rock breaking surf, bird rookery, and a place that I’ve always wanted to visit.
As we circled the long sandbar point on M/V Irish Luck, I could smell the BBQ coming from the island. A party boat of snorkelers had arrived before us. We motored our boat into the lee of the island, anchored, and donned our gear. Kitty, Walter, and Carol said we were going to snorkel a bit before having lunch. The smell of BBQ proved to be too strong. I swam straight to the wide, foot-printed beach.
The six-foot Bahamian cook was a friendly man. I eyed the chicken grilling over the charcoals. Oh, did it smell good, which I told the cook and his bare chested assistant. For the compliment, I was reward with a nice piece of chicken. So good. I sat on the sun bathing beach, my feet in the warm blue water, and enjoyed the food and the view, pausing every few bites to lick the deep red, tangy sauce off my fingers.
That’s when I noticed, Walter sure likes a lot of flags on his boat. We had the Stars and Stripes, the yellow Bahamian courtesy flag, which are standard. Plus the two flags for snorkeling, the red and white-striped Diver Down and blue and white Alpha flags. That was all fine. All were waving and flapping in the breeze. Then, there it was, a fifth flag, tied to the pulpit, a deep blue with gold five-pointed stars, Walter’s family flag. It seemed a bit much. But since he owns the boat, he can fly any flag he wants. I debated whether to get more chicken or not.
I was about to go back and get another piece of that really good tasting chicken, when Kitty swam up to me and said “no”. Not only “no”, but I shouldn’t have had the first piece. For some reason she thinks it’s wrong to walk up to a stranger and invite yourself to lunch. I think of it as dining with new friends. The second piece would have to wait until Kitty could no longer see me.
Peterson Cay is two to three acres in size with a wide sandy beach on the lee side and rocks on the ocean side. It lays about two hundred yards from shore, so most people arrive by boat instead of swimming. Canoers and kayakers like to make it as a day trip. The water ranges from knee deep to just over my head on the outside of the reef. The area ocean side and to the west is the reef, east of the island is sandy shallows, and northwest of the island are the grass flats, the area I wanted to explore.
Most snorkelers don’t like grass flats, instead they navigate to the reef. True, that is where most of the fish hide out. The grass flats are usually in calmer water and the life is concentrated into micro sites. Not many hiding places in the grass, unless you’re a pipefish or a seahorse. So any obstruction, like a coral head, or remains of a boat, and life flocks to it. Kitty counted 33 species of fish, plus almost all of the grasses: turtle grass, eel grass, plus shaving brush, arrowhead crabs, anemones, and the pink stripped flamingo tongue snails.
Plus, being in five feet of water, makes it easy to do surface dives and lay on the bottom, watching life. That piece of chicken I had earlier did give me some extra buoyancy. Or it might be all the fine meals Kitty has cooked in the last few years. Whichever it is, I had to curl my legs over my back to keep me on the bottom. Being in the water seems like you have entered some space vortex. The time passes quickly. I just enter the water and the next thing I know, the sun is getting ready to set. That’s life in the ocean.
Saturday – July 23th, 2011
I posted this under “sailing”, which I wasn’t. With engines running it’s called “motoring”, but I have seen a lot of sailors use their little kicker when under way. Sailing or motoring, it’s still boats on the water underway, making way.
Time to spend some days in the Bahamas, I’ve been looking forward to this for three months. Nothing to do but fish, snorkel, sun, and explore the island with my wife Kitty, Walter Burns the owner of the boat, and his business partner, Carol Chesser. No schedules, just relaxation. Thus it came as a shock to me that everyone wanted to get up at 5am and motor across the Gulf Stream from West Palm Beach to West End, Grand Bahama Island. Getting up before sunrise is a sin in my book, especially on vacation.
I didn’t have a choice, get up or be left behind. I rolled out of bed at o-dark-thirty.
The weather man forecasted the seas to be less than two feet. Sounded great. But as we left the Lake Worth inlet, I saw humpbacks on the horizon. No, not whales. Humps, as in large waves. I figured they were just swells and nothing to worry about, having made this crossing several times. But, about four miles east of the inlet, something in the back of my mind reminded me that we had entered the Bermuda Triangle. Some people refer to this area of the ocean as the Devil’s Triangle. Whatever it is called, there have been times I called it just unpleasant.
For the next three and a half hours we rode seas greater than two feet. More likely four to five feet, with a few six’s thrown in for the fun of it. The vessel, Irish Luck, a 34ft Mainship Pilot with twin Yanmar 240 diesel engines handled the seas well. Not what I’d call a rough crossing, but one that kept me from dancing on the back deck. The Gulf Stream doesn’t care what is forecasted, it will be what it wants to be. Plus, the Triangle plays by its own rules also.
I decided it was best to review rule 1 with everyone. During the Crossing, don’t turn off the engines. They may not start back up. Once a diesel is running, it keeps running until there is no more fuel. I love a diesel. Gasoline engines don’t have that reputation.
After hauling the anchor up by hand, we headed to our destination. Rounding the bend at Freeport, several tankers were lined up to either off load crude oil or to load refined oil. A busy place. The freighters may look small on the horizon, but monstrous up close.
We’re now back home in Berkeley missing the grits, hush puppies, and fried dough sundaes.
The photo is the Cape Hatteras light house, the tallest all-brick structure in the world. They once moved it a half a mile over the sand without taking it apart. Wow.
Bye for now,
Jim and Liza
In our endless quest for the perfect dessert I tried deep- fried cheesecake; it’s a big hit at the New Bern I-Hop. Liza refused to even look at it. Oh well, all the more for me.
I know you’d like to try it. First y’all roll a New York cheesecake in tortilla dough, then pop it in a deep-fat fryer for one minute and thirty-eight seconds exactly. The trick, the cook told me, is not to leave it in too long–makes it gooey–or pull it out too quick–leaves the dough uncooked. There’s an art to deep-fat frying.
Mine was perfect. As I savored every morsel, Liza sat across the table mumbling about artery plaque.
You can take the woman out of California, but you can’t take California out of the woman.
Anyway, I know y’all are dyin’ to hear about Croakerfest. The big thing was funnel cake that you make by frying pancake batter in a deep fryer for about one minute and thirty-eight seconds and cover it with powdered sugar. They had booths selling all kinds of things–hot dogs, sausages, pizza with an inch of cheese, fried fat (called hog back)–but funnel cakes were the biggest hit. Liza told them just a dusting of powdered sugar, please. But most folks at Croakerfest liked their funnel cake with sugar about an inch thick. Some put chocolate sauce on it, too. These people know what good eatin’ really is.
They had booths with people passing out political stuff. Everyone, it seems, is against taxes and for guns. Democrats run on the platform “I never vote with the party leadership and I have not voted for a tax hike in this millennium.” The Republicans want to cut all taxes. I said to these young Republicans, “Gee, you got to have some taxes. I mean, who’s gonna pave the roads?” and the next thing I knew I was being chased across the parking lot by a rock-throwing mob screaming I was a Berkeley pinko.
We’re supposed to go back in the water on Tuesday, that’s Tuesday North Carolina time, so we can’t be sure. If we do get in the water, we might actually get in some sailing. The wind is up. The channel–that was supposed to be dredged in April. Got dredged last week so now we can get out into Pamlico Sound.
I spoke to a member of the Free Will Baptist Church. I wanted to know what was the difference between them and other Baptists. “Dang if I know,” he said. But the waitress at the Hog and Claw said the Free Will Baptists believe you got your free will to backslide once you been saved and become unsaved. Regular Baptists believe once you been saved it’s forever, there’s no getting unsaved no matter what you do.
By the way, Pamlico County has lost like 8% of its population in ten years. The young people leave here as soon as they finish school. Locals tell me there’s a good reason they take off–no jobs. Most folks blame the liberals in Raleigh for this: environmental laws, cheap illegal Mexican labor, crackdowns on marijuana growing, making white lightning.
By the way, the pace of life being slower here, it keeps down the artery plaque. Nobody’s had a heart attack here in years, they tell us. Since before the War of Yankee Aggression.
We did get our boat in the water on Tuesday, North Carolina time. That’s Wednesday in the rest of the western hemisphere.
That’s all for now.
Jim and Liza
Liza and I are working on our boat Defiant at Wayfarers Cove Marina in Arapahoe, North Carolina, home of high humidity, temps in the 90’s, and grits. The food is great if you like deep fried. They even fry the pickles. For desert, fried ice cream.
The mosquitoes are huge, we spend our evenings picking them off with an old Colt ’45, or just throwing a rope around them and riding them around the saloon. They got huge lizards and snakes here, you can fry up a mess of ‘em for breakfast if you like. Yummy.
The most interesting thing about this place is they way they recon time. “Ah’ll be over tomorrow bright and early to halp ya with your hull job,” means “see ya in August or September sometime.” There are 3500 people in the county and 4,000 churches–or thereabouts. One on every corner. There are a lot of plain Baptist churches and Free-Will Baptist Churches. Just what a Free-will Baptist church is, we have yet to find out. Best we can come up with is “they have more of the Spirit in them.” The best food in town is at church pot-lucks. The near-by Free Will Baptist Church is having a pot luck tonight. Maybe I’ll find out what free will means.
“Ya-all” means “You All” and technically should be only used when referring to more than one person, but they often will say “Ya-all” when just talking about just you. Like “Y’all have a good-one.”
This week-end at the nearby town of Oriental is the annual Croakerfest. Everyone is all excited. You sill might have time to make if if you fly into New Bern and take a cab forty miles.
We don’t know exactly what the fest is celebrating, but we aim to find out what a croaker is. We also aim to find out what a grit is, too. This is such an educational trip.
That’s all for now. Y’all have a good one.
Jim and Liza
On the Hard in Arapahoe