Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rough Crossing, Sweet Arrival -- Green Turtle Cay, The Bahamas 12/5

We finally tore ourselves loose from Vero Beach (also called Velcro Beach) on December 1, and headed down to Palm Beach. We had been sharing a mooring buoy (rafted on) with two other boats for seven nights, but luckily all our mooring buddies were affable, considerate cruisers.
We were especially blessed with the company of Ross and Rosemary Newkirk, retired university professors from Waterloo, Ontario. Ross, a PH. D in engineering has the best possible taste in popular literature (he has read all the Patrick O’Brian novels more than once). Ross also showed us his fishing lures and we’ve already caught a couple of fish on a yellow, spotted squid lure. We just troll the lure on heavy line behind the boat.
So, we motored down to the Lake Worth Inlet on Friday and decided to cross Saturday night with another couple (Corrin and John on “Cee J”). While anchored near the ocean inlet, we were treated to the Palm Beach Christmas Boat parade. At 6:30 PM the fireworks began and then the parade. Perhaps 40 boats decorated with many lights and Christmas displays paraded past the inlet and around Peanut Island to the great amusement of spectators on land and water. Most of the boat passengers were dressed as Santa or elves and many boats had Christmas music blaring loudly. Feliz Navidad was the most popular song, but one pontoon boat loaded with women of color dancing to some funky pop music may have been the Kwanza entry (Mma Ramotswe would have called many of the dancers “women of traditional Botswanan build”).
After the fireworks and parade, “Cee J” and Peregrine motored out into the dark Atlantic enroute to The Bahamas. While the conditions were better than they had been for the past two weeks, they were less than ideal. If you have been a faithful reader of this blog, you remember that we were hoping for small seas and south or west breezes. Instead, we settled for a forecast of 2-4 foot seas and 10-15 knots out of the east (and we were motoring east). The 54 miles from Palm Beach to the Little Bahama bank required 11 hours of motoring into the wind, of climbing the waves and plunging into the troughs. No sailor savors such conditions, but Peregrine handled the water well and the passage progressed safely.
What was the good part? Well, there was a nearly full moon, bright and numerous stars (including the shooting kinds), it didn’t rain, and “Cee J” was equipped with radar so we were unlikely to be surprised by freighters or cruise ships if visibility had deteriorated.
After we entered the shallow waters of the Bank, the conditions improved dramatically. We were still motoring into a 15 knot breeze, but we left the 4-5 foot rollers in favor of a 1 1/2 foot chop, the water a lovely aqua blue so clear that the bottom (18-20 feet down) was clearly visible. Our spirits rose higher as we motored to Great Sale Cay (pronounced Great Sale Key) arriving there at 2:30 PM and anchoring in smooth, crystal-clear water. A nineteen-hour trip which the boat handled much better than the skipper.
Annie, with her new mask and fins, was in the water a few seconds after the anchor grabbed hold and we spent the rest of the daylight hours swimming, snorkeling, and exploring this large, uninhabited island. Great Sale Cay, more than three miles in length,is shaped something like a very fashionable Italian boot and served as part of the U.S. missile tracking range during the late 50s and early 60s.
On Monday we left Great Sale Cay shortly after dawn along with most of the 15 boats which had anchored there and traveled 43 miles southeast to New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay.
New Plymouth was founded after the American revolution (1786) by loyalists from New England who wanted to remain under the British crown. So far as we can gather, a dozen families and their slaves settled the island and prospered. Some of the original buildings are still here (steep-roofed so that the snow will slide off - they last had snow flurries in 1963), and the streets are very narrow, used by cars and golf carts all driving on the wrong side of the road.
On Tuesday I cleared local customs and in the afternoon Mary Ann and I toured the village and shopped while Annie and Sam snorkeled on a great beach facing the Atlantic which featured an offshore and inside reef.
We’re finally in The Bahamas; the water is clear and warm, the grouper and cracked conch are fresh, no one is in a hurry, and there is only one radio station (Radio Bahamas) which plays a mix of Christian gospel, Madonna, Wayne Newton, and reggae Christmas carols. We’re not in Ohio anymore.