Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Voyage of the Peregrine -- The Saga Continues -- May 9, 2007

I know it’s been a long time since out last blog entry, but I feel compelled to finish up and share, at least, the highlights of the last half of our cruise. I will, therefore post the remaining blog entries over the next couple of weeks; I hope you'll enjoy them.

When our laptop computer quit for good, we received quite a few calls and e-mails, “Did you sink?”; “Are your dead? “, and, most often, “Did Father Waja ever come back?”
I am now prepared to answer those and other questions our readers may have. The answers are: No, no, and yes, Fr. Waja did return to his pastoral duties in the Abacos, but more about that later.
Our voyage entered phase two (or maybe three) when Sarah arrived February 5th. After a couple of days in Marsh Harbour, we began sharing our favorite Bahamian places with Sarah. Sarah’s first taste of the real Bahamas was on a perfect day (80 degrees, light breezes, clear skies) on Treasure Cay beach. I lack the powers to describe the lovliness on the south end of the 3.5 mile crescent beach: white-pinkish sand, fish darting about in the gin-clear water, small islands dotting the surface east toward the ocean. It was about as good as it could get. Sarah waded far out into the shallow, warm waters.
Of course, it wasn’t all fair weather. We were anchored in White sound on Green Turtle Cay one morning (6:15 AM) when the winds and rain cut loose. The wind was howling (perhaps 60 knots) and heeling us far over on our port side when I struggled out of bed to assess the situation. As I worked my way through the main cabin, Sarah asked quietly, “Dad, are we in a tornado?” Well, we weren’t, but it was a serious storm which caused damage both on land and the water. Our anchor held firm, but another sloop about our size (Ke Le out of Marblehead, Ohio) broke loose in the wind and plowed into a large catamaran (Seven @ Sea containing a married couple and their five kids), so both boats had to re-anchor in the wind rain and, now, nickel to quarter-sized hail. A vessel nine miles north of us on Powell Cay told me that the 150-miles-per-hour winds had ripped off his bimini and otherwise damaged his boat. He insisted that a tornado had hit Powell Cay.
And so it went. Periods of balmy, delicious weather broken up by two or three days of windy, cooler conditions. And we were anticipating and especially an strong northerly front as we entered Hopetown harbor the last weekend before Lent

Hopetown was very crowded during this stormy period, so we rented a dock, but I was anxious to switch to a less expensive mooring, so I motored over to ask Rudy Malone if he had any moorings available.
Rudy is a hard-working, lean, 60 year old whose nose has a lot of character, in fact, it has nothing to fear. His moorings were full but suggested I should call (on the VHF radio) a mooring owner who answers to, “Alley Hoop.”
“Alley Hoop or Alley Oop,” I asked.
“Alley Hoop! Like the song.” And then he began singing in a high, thin voice, “Alley Hoop Hoop, Hoop, Hoop Hoop; Alley Hoop Hoop, Hoop, Hoop Hoop.”
“I see, Alley Hoop. Thanks, Rudy.
Although our relationship never progressed beyond Rudy giving me dockage or ice or water and me giving him money, I will miss Rudy.

The next day we dinghied to mass in strong, cool winds. Hopetown is well-protected from weather, but northerly winds were blowing over 40 knots as the four of us set out in our 8-foot dinghy to cross the harbor. We usually exited our dinghy at public docks, but due to the chop, we knew it would be difficult to climb from the boat to the dock, so instead we ran the dinghy onto a beach just a few yards from the spot Wyannie Malone first landed at Hopetown in 1783.
And waiting to minister to us was Father Waja (Roger) who seemed rested and upbeat about tending to the flock.
Due to the bad weather, Mass was held in the public library rather than outside under a tree. The building was full, and I sat next to a large, black 16-year-old Bahamian boy named David who suffers from autism and other possible ailments. Smiling and with downcast eyes, David spoke softly throughout the Mass. He typically picked up on some phrase from the liturgy or the homily and repeated it. Fr. Roger said, “the eyes of God”; David murmured, “the eyes of God”. It continued, “Lamb of God”, “Love is patient”, “those most in need of thy mercy”. Later, he took my hand and wished me “the peace of God”. I wished him the same.

Two days later (February 22) the weather had improved and we encountered the sailboat Mysterious Ways for the second time. The Nicholsons (Scott, Joanna, Charlotte (age 10) and Allister (age 8) sailed Mysterious Ways, a 37’ Hunter, down from their home in St. Andrews, New Brunswick located in the Bay of Fundy. Scott was used to deep water and shocking tidal swings; St. Andrews typically experiences a 24’ drop in water level from high tide to low tide. Much different from Lake Erie where the tidal swing is roughly, zero.
Scott wanted to enter the local yacht club race on Tuesday and recruited me to crew with him. Well, the conditions were perfect, the boat was fast, the crew was agile, we got off to a fast start and, two hours later, crossed the finish line second to last. We were passed by everything: catamarans, trimarans, catboats, ketches, but Charlotte made us all little award ribbons which read, “Second to Last” and most of the crew went off to the post-race celebration.
That afternoon, while I stayed on the boat and worked on the head (toilet) flushing mechanism, Sarah, Annie and Mary Ann enjoyed the Hopetown beach, one of the most beautiful we encountered, and searched for sea glass.
That evening we all attended a concert at the Hopetown Lodge given by a group of retired members of the Cornell University glee club, The Sherwoods. They were not professional singers, just retired physicians, professors, and businessmen who love to sing. The sun setting into the Atlantic at their backs, they performed old folk songs, show tunes and told old jokes between numbers. Some of the jokes turned on the humorous concept that elderly ladies are rarely choosey where available men are concerned.
The concert was a benefit for Every Child Counts, a self-supporting school for disabled children in Marsh Harbor. David, and his twin brother attend this school. We enjoyed the concert, made as big a donation as our budget could manage and finished the evening back on the boat with Annie’s fresh-baked cookies and a quick game of euchre.
Not all of our days were as full as this (there were days with no toilet repairs), but it is representative. We spent the days exploring the islands as time and the weather allowed. We spent more time in Marsh Harbour than we wanted to, but also enjoyed days off Elbow Cay, in Treasure Cay, Great Guana Cay, Man-o-War Cay, and other beautiful spots. We anchored out in the open when possible, but often ducked into a harbor for protection from the weather. Residents of Frostbite Falls, Minnesota would find my complaits about weather trivial and indeed we could usually sail on the Little Bahamas Bank and the daily temperature range was almost always between the upper and lower 70’s, a high of 78, a low of 73 was typical.
More soon