Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Return to the States

Last view of the Bahamas for the season 
     The 30 hour trip from Allen's Pensacola Key in the Abacos to Fort Pierce, Florida was a long, arduous trip across the Gulf Stream. The wind was up and down and at times variable from unfavorable directions, Simple Life's engine was running a good part of the time. I'm not certain why but, after motoring for a few hours the sound and constant drone seems amplified and inescapable. It's my least favorite part of traveling. Sailing is so much more mind mellowing.

    Vero Beach was our destination for a few days for rest and reprovisioning. I was looking forward to grocery shopping at a fully stocked American supermarket and shopping at TJMAXX for some "prizes" for myself. Vero has always been a good stop in that the city moorings are reasonably priced, there's free public transportation pickups on marina grounds along with numerous restaurants and amenities for boaters throughout the city.

     With any luck this spring our intentions are to travel north reaching New England by early June. This season we've planned quite a few upgrades for Simple Life. Constant living aboard, sun and normal wear and tear have taken their toll and she needs "a few days at a spa." Some big ticket items such as a new mainsail and a water maker are considerations. The later not really a necessity for next season. One must have addition is an anchor wash down pump for all those muddy anchorages in Chesapeake Bay and along the Carolina anchorages. Canvas repair has also been added to the lengthening list. Joe has been keeping his own list of engine related maintenance that I have no interest in discussing. For these reasons our trip north to New England will more than likely be less about touring and more of a delivery. Hopefully, fast tracking back to Rhode Island by making more offshore sails will enable us to skip a good part of the tedious travel along the ICW. Of course we have numerous friends with whom we plan to visit along the way who will undoubtedly make our journey north interesting and rewarding. When traveling we try as much as possible to enjoy the journey and not think too much about the destination.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fishing Fast Track to Abacos, Bahamas

Sailing Simple Life
photo by Dianne Malherb
     With spring well underway, the mass exodus begins in the Exuma and Out Island chain in the Bahamas. Everyday, boats leave the Islands heading north toward their summer destinations. A large number cross the Gulf Stream to Florida hauling their vessels for the summer in northern Florida or Georgia. Some who live aboard full time make a break from the Bahamas through the Abacos hoping for a fast ride north in the Gulf Stream, ducking into port if weather turns against them. Others choose the more leisurely route after arrival back in the States along the inland waterways of the ICW. Whatever option boaters choose all have one goal in mind. Winter has ended, it's warming up north and hurricane season soon will follow. For us it's time to head to the Out Island of Eleuthera before crossing the Northeast Providence Channel to the more populated Abaco Islands heading to points north across the Gulf Stream to the States.

Joe & Michele with Simple Life anchored
photo by Dianne Malherb
Michele, Joe and Pete having a beach chat
Photo by Dianne Malherb

     Simple Life was holed up for a week in Rock Sound, Eleuthera waiting for cold fronts to pass. Predictions called for high winds and squalls. We got the winds, luckily, no squalls. We spent time with friends, taking long walks to the north side of the island and took the opportunity to provision for our upcoming trip to the Abacos. Our next stop was Hatchet Bay in northern Eleuthera. We hadn't been to Eleuthera in a number of years and it hadn't changed much at all. The islanders were friendly and seemed genuinely welcoming toward boaters. The settlements are interspersed with some tidy homes and some derelict and abandoned ones. Although, outwardly there's a aspect of decay and disrepair on Eleuthera, the Bahamian residents in these settlements remain proud of their island home.
Shadows and Ruins of a Home
by Michele Boulay

    Sail On, Fish On

Spear fishing on Long Island
Big crab speared at Long Island

     A favorable weather forecast made it possible for us to sail from Royal Island, Eleuthera to Hopetown in the Abacos. Joe had been spear fishing with some success in the shallow waters of the Out Islands. Now he would finally have an opportunity to troll across the deep abyss for "the big one" while sailing offshore where depths no longer register on the depth sounder. He rigged a frozen ballyhoo with high hopes for a Mahi. Within minutes the line pealed out. It was too easy to reel in and in spite of still hoping to see the flash of green and blue Mahi, we knew it was a barracuda. I was at the helm while Joe reluctantly reeled the fish toward the boat. It had cannibalized the entire ballyhoo and fortunately shook itself off. This called for a lure change since there was no more bait. I noticed some birds and splashing off to port. "Joe there's tuna off to port! Hurry up. Get that line in the water!" This time he was using a cedar plug. The line barely dropped off behind the boat when the tuna was on.

Joe's tuna after a hard fought battle
      Simple Life was under sail and I steered her the best I could according to Joe's commands. "Speed up a little. OK now slow down, go to port. Head more to starboard. Keep heading to starboard...#%£¥" If I'd kept going the boat would have tacked. By this time Joe could see the fish. He wanted the gaff. I handed it off. The fish was on and out of the water but, still on the side when it was gaffed, boarded and quickly subdued. Blood was everywhere, on the jib sheet, the deck, sprinkling Joe's shoes and running down the side of the boat. It resembled a bloody murder scene. Joe had his tuna and it was a good size at 30 inches. He was a happy man.
Just another sunset in the Bahamas...with sushi


Seared fresh tuna

The Recipe for Delicious Fresh Tuna

     Dip tuna "tenderloin" in soy sauce, sprinkle with wasabi powder, roll "tenderloin" in sesame seeds. Heat sesame oil in pan and sear tuna on all sides for one minute (tuna should be red in center) slice "tenderloin" and serve with rice, delicious!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cat Island Rake & Scrape, Bahamas

Rake & Scrape performed by Bo Hog and the Rooters
at New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas
     I will begin this blog by defining Rake & Scrape for those who are unfamiliar with this genre of music. It falls into the category of world music. Specifically, folk music of the Bahamas. Traditional Rake & Scrape music was acoustic and performed with a saw scraped with a screwdriver, a button accordion or concertina and a cowhide or goatskin drum stretched over a steel barrel. It may also incorporate any other folk instruments such as a broomstick and washtub standup bass. It's hypnotic, rhythmic beats originated in the Turks and Caicos Islands where the music is known as Rip Saw and from where large numbers of Cat Islanders migrated in the early part of the 20th century.
Crystal on saw and Pompey on button accordion

    We'd left our anchorage at Simms, Long Island early morning with a long day of sailing ahead to Fernandez Bay, Cat Island. At 4:00 PM while planning to sail past New Bight, Cat Island Jim from Salty Paws spotted us on the horizon and hailed us on the VHF radio informing us of an impromptu concert scheduled that evening on the beach by world renowned Rake & Scrape artist Bo Hog and the Rooters. "Rake & Scrape! Where?" "At the small shacks on the beach at New Bight!" With a fast change of plans we contacted our friends Pete and Diane from Pearl with whom we were traveling and all were in agreement. It sounded like a spontaneous event not to be missed. One quick tack to starboard and we were inshore and anchored at New Bight in time for the start of the concert at 5:30 PM.

Crystal, Pompey and Cedell band members of
Bo Hog and the Rooters
     The shoreline at New Bight has a few colorful restaurant shacks that line the beach serving traditional Bahamian fare...peas and rice, mac & cheese, fried chicken, coleslaw, conch fritters and fried snapper or grouper and Kaliks the beer of the Bahamas. When our waitress Crystal, who was also a band member asked what I would like for dinner, I said while pointing toward the next table, " I'll have whatever she's having, it looks good!" The response..."We are out of peas and rice, grouper, and snapper. But, you can have mac & cheese, coleslaw and fried chicken!" The response, "Sounds wonderful!" And it was. No one complains in the Bahamas. We simply respond, "It's the Bahamas."
Pompey playing the button accordion

Nearly a private concert for cruising sailors
     The concert was a hit. Pompey, "Bo Hog" Johnson and the Rooters were the real deal. It turned out to be nearly a private concert for cruisers who happened to be anchored at New Bight! This solidified our reasons for living aboard and cruising from place to place. We never know what the next day has to offer and we're rarely disappointed.
Check out the link for a music sample.


The baptismal font

Ruins of an Anglican Church, New Bight, Cat Island

   Before departure to Bennett's Harbor the next day I was able to wander about the plethora of ruins on Cat Island. We discovered an abandoned Anglican Church not far from the waterfront.
     I ventured inside in spite of Joe's protests. "It's dangerous. There's broken beer bottles and rusty nails on boards everywhere. The roof might give way." Finally, with resolve, " careful." I love ruins. I imagine the building at one time filled with life on a Sunday morning.

The pastor preaching from the pulpit. Women dressed in their Sunday best fanning themselves. Bored children wriggling in the pews gazing out windows hoping for a glance at the sea. I wonder about its demise. Why was it abandoned? Perhaps a hurricane tore the roof off. I photograph its remains.
Ruins of Anglican Church, New Bight, Cat Island

Minerva Rolle of Bennett's Harbor, Cat Island
photo by Joe Boulay
     Bennett's Harbor, Cat Island was on the itinerary the following day. Pete and Diane had stopped there before and hoped to introduce us to Minerva Rolle, a Bahamian woman whom they'd met ashore a couple of years ago. Two years ago at the age of 90 Minerva was cutting away brush in her yard with a machete. This season while walking by Minerva's cottage Diane called out to her. We listened all hoping she was still among the living...Minerva was sitting on her covered porch in company of her cat enjoying the warm morning. Words cannot describe this woman's presence but, I will try. She sat as though expecting a visitor. Dressed neatly with a scarf, straw hat, pearl necklace and earrings. A proud, strong Bahamian woman of 92 years who raised ten children. We had a nice chat with her and she told us how as a child she played marbles with actor Sir Sidney Portier who was raised nearby in Arthur's Town, Cat Island. I asked if she would allow us to take a photo and she was delighted. She didn't fuss with her appearance. She was as she is...a dignified Bahamian woman.