Saturday, June 23, 2007

Happy Anniversary - How time Flies!

30 years ago, June 25, 1977 we said, "I do". We can hardly believe it! But it is true, we are still married. 6 months on Fine Line has not resulted in murder or divorce.

To celebrate the occasion we went to dinner at the Abaco Inn. It is one of the more beautiful restaurants in the area on Elbow Cay. Great food!

A little relaxing around the pool ended a perfect evening.

We are anxiously awaiting Dana scheduled to arrive on 6/26. Our daughters tend to be somewhat critical of our appearance so the next photos you see of us may be with more stylish haircuts!! or Not!


Captain and Crew on Fine Line

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On Vacation......While On Vacation

We decided to take a vacation, a little trip if you will. Sure you may say we are already on vacation but for us it has become our everyday life. No complaining from us but we wanted to see some of the "out islands" that lie to the north of the main hub of The Abacos.

Our first stop was Manjack Island. We have been here before for beach cleanup but stopped again for the night. We forgot how many mosquitoes and no-see-ums live here. Scratch, scratch, scratch. We woke up the next morning to a relentless white capped chop and the boat was rocking back and forth. We pulled anchor and left as quick as possible.

Next stop was Allans-Pensacola Cay. This used to be two Cays but a hurricane combined them with sand/debris and it is now one land mass. The US used to have a missile tracking station here and there are a few relics left from that era. Otherwise this is a spot where die-hard spear fishermen hang out. That precludes us of course, but we stayed here for 4 days because Anne got the flu. So much for the beginning of the vacation. The weather went bad and we had hot, overcast, rainy days. Not much fun. We were entertained by a few other boats particularly a blue tug type boat called "Tug This". Big party at night with lots of dancing, hooting and hollering and ???? We watched from our trampoline, kind of like voyeurs.

The bad weather and the flu finally departed and we left for beautiful Moraine Cay. We had some great snorkeling here but the anchorage was not conducive to an overnight stay. We decided to head further north and later regretted this decision.

Good sun light is vitally important to navigation in this part of the world. There are many hazards to avoid including sand bars, rocks and reefs. The best time to travel is midday when the sun is high overhead and hazards can easily be seen. We had set our sights on Carters Cay which offers a very good anchorage, but it is a difficult approach. There are two narrow channels used to approach the anchorage and by the time we reached the area the light we needed was gone. We had to rely on our charts and GPS. Unfortunately, these waters are not always surveyed frequently and electronic navigation cannot be relied upon exclusively. Despite the conditions the Captain made a slow approach but continued to find Fine Line in shallow waters requiring multiple u-turns and many @#$%$#@@#$$ words. At this time we received local help from two boaters already anchored. They had observed our dilemma from their bridgedeck and decided to come out and give us some advice. They piloted us into the anchorage and we dropped the hook in a very accommodating bottom. Then we were greeted by a large splash. We looked directly off our port beam just in time to see a large Spotted Eagle Ray break the surface and soar 3-4 feet off the water. Wow, what a show. Things were improving rapidly.

We spent a few days at Carters Cay. This Cay was also used by the US as a missile tracking station. There are many building in various states of decay on the island: Shop, barracks, sewer lines, electrical wiring and lots of trash. It is sort of sad to see this large blemish on an otherwise beautiful, uninhabited island. The saddest thing, however, was the abandoned dog. It is not uncommon for locals to take stray dogs to uninhabited islands and leave them. If a boater approaches the shore the dogs run down to the beach and bark, cry, jump around in the most pitiful way. It is absolutely heartbreaking. There is no Humane Society here and stray dogs are everywhere. Doggie birth control is desperately needed.

A few days at Carters Cay was well worth it for the beautiful Rays we saw. We did some trolling but caught only non-edible fish. Just the same, our fishing technique has improved. We catch alot of Barracuda that we don't eat because there is a possibility of getting fish poisoning (Ciguatera). The locals tell us to eat them if they are small. So far we have not tried them.

Next we headed further north to Double Breasted Cay (who names these islands??) We have heard from many that this Cay is one of the most beautiful Cays in the island chain. The problem again is navigation. It is very difficult to get into the beautiful anchorage but the captain on Fine Line loves a challenge. Before heading to anchorage we decided to do a little provisioning at Grand Cay, next door neighbor to Double Breasted. Grand Cay is inhabited by approximately 200 people who make a living fishing. The locals are very friendly but the island is trashy. We found our supplies, had a great hamburger at Dunlops House (literally someones house with two tables for patrons). Dunlops had air conditioning and we lingered as long as was socially acceptable. Back on board Fine Line we headed for the anchorages at Double Breasted Cay.

In addition to the previously named hazards, tidal changes also plays havoc with boaters in this area. We found the narrow anchorages and the strong tidal flows to be overwhelming. One of the boaters we met is a frequent visitor to this area and has solved the tide flow issue by securing his small sailboat with four anchors. We were not ready for this type of mooring, mainly because we do not carry four anchors aboard Fine Line. We therefore opted to anchor in a larger, less protected area outside the anchorage. All night long we bounced and did a 360 around our anchor, not good for sleeping.

We got a dinner invitation from the small, well anchored sail boat. Terry, Julie and Marilyn have vacationed in this spot for many years. They live in Stuart Florida the rest of the year where Terry is a Paramedic/firefighter.....small world. Julie is 17 years old and Marilyn in 15. These two girls come with dad and live a nomad existence for 3-4 weeks. Their passion is spear fishing, a skill they have perfected over the years. The girls free dive 25 feet + to locate, spear and bring up dinner. Wow, diving down 4-6 feet for the crew of Fine Line is a lung buster. This particular evening we were served freshly caught Hogfish. Hogfish is a firm, very white fish. Absolutely delicious. Along with Hogfish we had mashed potatoes and green beans. What a meal. We were entertained with stories of their adventures including the two times they were struck by lightning! After dinner the entertainment started. The girls got a fishing pole and tied on a very large hook. A large piece of left over Hogfish was used as bait. Over the side went the line and within 3 minutes they had hooked a 4 foot Reef Shark. We were being circled by multiple sharks, including the one on the line on this very small 30 foot sailboat. The Fine Line crew was ready to retreat to the safety of their own boat but the girls were having the time of their lives. We put on a brave front and for the next 45 minutes it was a tug-of-war with the shark trashing and banging against the boat and the girls reeling in their catch. Unfortunately the shark tangled itself up in the boat's prop and the line was cut. Off went the shark with a large hook in its mouth and the girls knew they had some prop clean up to do when the sharks disappeared. We were out of our league with this family. We bid our farewells, jumped in our dinghy and hurried back to the safe sanctuary of Fine Line.

The next day we found a beautiful anchorage about 5 miles from the sharks. We anchored and went for a swim. Later some locals entertained us with their small powerboat races. We had a nice dinner and sat outside for a nice star filled evening. Soon, however, lightning began in the western sky. It was still calm with many stars so we headed off to bed. About two AM we were awakened to loud thunder, rain and wind. We turned on the radar and to our disbelief a large squall was headed directly for us. We packed away all loose items in the cockpit and prepared for the storm. Sure enough it hit us with a bang and the strong winds knocked our anchor loose. We found ourselves in the dark drifting backwards towards the only rock in the anchorage. The sky was lit intermittently by flashes of lightening as if it was daylight. During these brief moments of light we saw other boats scrambling to get their anchors reset. Our anchor will usually reset fairly quick and so it did as we were approximately 15o feet from the rock. It is a drill we have been through before but it leaves you shaken. Sleep eluded us for the rest of the night and as daybreak came we lifted anchor and decided that vacationing while you are on vacation is dangerous.

On our trip back south we had great winds and with both jib and main sail up we had 8+ knots for about 3-4 hours. We forgot all our troubles and realized why we were on board Fine Line. The sail was exhilarating. We pulled into Powell Cay and dropped our anchor for the night.. The next day was spent beach combing and swimming.

Back in the main islands brings us some of the luxuries we missed especially staying in touch with family and friends. Skype calls via internet for .02/minute! What a deal.