Valentine Beach Bash

Rode Trip first visited the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands during April of 2013. For two, glorious weeks we hopped from cay to cay up and down the 90 miles of island chain; there were no other cruisers.  It has remained one of our favorite areas.  Since last year’s visit every time we’ve met someone else who has visited this area of the Bahamas they have asked, “Were you there for the Valentine’s Day party?”  When we would reply, “No,” they would exclaim, “Oh, you must go down for the party!”

There are a handful of seasonal cruisers who travel to Hog Cay, near the southern end of the chain just north of Ragged Island.  From December through April this crowd calls Hog Cay their home base.  Throughout their many years of visiting, the cruisers and the residents of Duncan Town have built relationships that extend beyond “tourists and locals.”  This year from the moment we’d arrived at Raccoon Cay, our experience of the Ragged Islands was vastly different due to the number of boats who were also cruising these waters.  We’d seen two motor cats at Raccoon Cay; they cleared out the day of our arrival and the following day two sailboats had arrived in addition to our neighbors in the next cove.  Traffic!  (Last April we’d seen 3 other boats – total!)  All this hustle and bustle to arrive at the annual Valentine’s Day party…

Along our route to Hog Cay we’d heard updates on the VHF, “To all boats in the Hog Cay area, turn to channel 18 for information regarding the Valentine’s Day party.”  Sheesh!  Had we arrived at a mini-Georgetown!?  What happened to our secluded “outer islands!?”  But people were gathering for a purpose and the updates were informative, infrequent, and brief.  (A veteran cruiser of Hog Cay was asked when he was going to start a VHF radio net and his response was, “When a net begins, we are leaving for good.”)  The party would occur on Saturday to enable the school children to attend.  All food and some drink would be provided by Maxine at $15/person.  The party would start sometime around noon.  The cruisers would hold an auction to benefit the Duncan Town school.

There were 30 sailboats and motor boats in the Hog Cay harbour on the day of the party.  Duncan Town residents rolled onto the beach in their center consoles and unloaded tables, chairs, buffet dishes, coolers, DJ equipment, and speakers.  The scene was set and people were ready to party!

IMG_8057 IMG_8059Maxine provided a feast!  Everything we ate was delicious; mutton curry, spare ribs, roast turkey, fried fish, peas and rice, crab and rice, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw…the usual Bahamian fare.

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After lunch the auction began.  It is astounding to me the junk that cruisers pull from their boats, and then trade with one another!  You never know what you will find.

The junk pile, uh I mean auction table continued to grow...

The junk pile, uh I mean auction table continued to grow…

Brian and I contributed a large fender to the pile; we’d fished it out of the water weeks earlier near Stocking Island and I had no place for it.  It was in fantastic condition complete with a cover.  There was a second fender of the same size in the mix and the pair sold for $180!  We came away with a pressure cooker, a new snorkel mask for Brian, and a very fashionable pair of $1 Gucci sunglasses for me from my thoughtful hubby.

Auctioneer, Steve (s/v Fine Lion) worked his magic.  ..."come on, folks, it's for the children...!"

Auctioneer, Steve (s/v Fine Lion) worked his magic. …”come on folks, it’s for the children…!”

Brian wins the bid for the pressure cooker at $30!  PHEW!

Brian wins the bid for the pressure cooker at $30! PHEW!

The auction hauled just over $2,000!  All of those proceeds were donated to the Duncan Town school.  The party continued with music rockin’ the entire beachfront.  We schmoozed all day making new friends.

(From L to R) Jimmy, Brian, and Fred listen intently to Edward's history lesson.

Jimmy (s/v Destiny), Brian, and Fred (m/v North Star) listen intently to Edward’s history lesson.

(From L to R) Karen, Bess, and I looking fabulous per usual!
Karen (s/v Carisa), Bess (s/v Destiny), and I all looking fabulous per usual!

 

Maxine and Ted (s/v Mekhaya) show us how to move on the dance floor!

Maxine and Ted (s/v Mekhaya) show us how to move on the dance floor!

Bess and Bill (s/v Alibi II) and I take to the beach for some dancing.

Bess and Bill (s/v Alibi II) and I take to the beach for some dancing.

With a few pit-stops to and from the boat, and of course refilling our backpack with refreshment, we lasted long into the early morning hours on the beach.  A bonfire crackled, acoustic guitars strummed, and I passed around a bag of marshmallows for roasting.  It was a splendid Valentine’s Day.  Don’t worry, we didn’t forget our loved ones back east…

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Raccoon Cay

We departed Salt Pond, Long Island at 10:00am on a Saturday morning; our galley shelves overflowed with fresh produce from that morning’s Farmers’ Market and our hearts were filled with well wishes from Penny, John, Cathie, and Gary. We set the main, hauled the anchor, and caught an easygoing easterly breeze bound for the Ragged Islands. During the daylight hours we would sail the Comer Channel and then at the top of the Jumentos Cays we would exit the banks and sail overnight through the deeper, ocean water. Below on the screen shot of our chart you can see our route. Waypoints 0029, 0030, 0031, and 0032 directed us through the Comer Channel to our exit point between Stony Cay and Arturo Cay at the top of the Jumentos Cays. Waypoint 0027 marked our entrance onto the banks in the Ragged Islands.

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We sailed on a tack through the night, not our most comfortable sail. But the sky was clear, stars were shining, and there was not another ship in sight. Since the first night is always the most difficult to stay awake, and we were only sailing overnight, we changed shift every two hours. Just before sunrise we were making good time and decided to continue sailing all the way to the southern end of the Raggeds where we could round Little Ragged Island and arrive at Hog Cay. But a shift in the wind later that morning reverted us back to our original plan. We entered the banks through Johnson Cut on the southern end of Raccoon Cay. At 10:00am on a Sunday we dropped the anchor at Raccoon Cay, 24 hours from the start of our trip, and settled in for a few hours of sleep.

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Rested and fed, we began our exploration of Raccoon Cay. We kayaked north of our anchorage at House Bay in search of a blue hole and on the way stopped to chat with our only neighbor (in the next cove) s/v First Look. Bob and Vicki shared some great info about Raccoon Cay and sent us in the direction of the trail to the blue hole. Once ashore we followed the shoes…

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…along a narrow path…

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…all the way (not more than 200 feet) to the blue hole. Or should we say, greenish-brownish hole. No diving into that!
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I prefer the view across the banks.
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Our next stop brought us to an old foundation and cistern. We didn’t pause there long. Although we enjoyed the singing of several songbirds near the fresh water cistern, we did not enjoy the abundance of no-see-ums and mosquitoes. We set out once again in the kayaks and returned to our anchorage at House Bay where we found a trailhead at the north end of the cove. The trail brought us to a salt pond.
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We followed Bob’s directions and continued around the salt pond to reunite with the trail. It led us over the top of Raccoon Cay to the ocean side. We’d arrived a bit too early in the season for snacking on the not yet ripened sea grapes, but the view at the end was pretty as ever!
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Mind the sharp objects in the bush!
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Brian did plenty of spear fishing during our time at Raccoon Cay. I even got into the water with him to observe. For the very first time I watched Brian spear a fish! The victim was a bar jack. I heard the spear pierce the fish then watched the fish scurry away with a spear in it’s side as Brian swam to retrieve fish and spear. It was exhilarating! I remembered hunting once with my brother and feeling a bit grim as a squirrel fell from the tree (my brother has fantastic aim); apparently I am less fond of fish because my only reaction toward this hunt was, “Mmmmm, supper!” And of course, “Wow, that husband of mine is a mighty hunter!” I might ease my way into spear fishing…but don’t hold your breath. On the menu at Raccoon Cay were also lionfish and grey snapper. Even though the fishing was plentiful, Brian couldn’t resist casting his rod off the side of the boat. Too much is never enough! He caught a record, biggest fish yet on the lightweight rod, a yellow jack. I had to help with that one too, but since we already had supper the jack was released.
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We ended our visit to Raccoon Cay with a campfire on the beach beneath a nearly full moon. There was not another person in sight that evening. We gazed into the mesmerizing flames with rum drinks in hand and Jimmy Buffet tunes playing from the iPad. Welcome to the outer islands of the Bahamas!