Rainy Day in Paradise

At 6:30am it looked as though there was potential for yet another sunny, hot day at Flamingo Cay; and then from my SSB receiver on channel 4045 I heard Chris Parker announce “southeastern Bahamas, Acklins, Jumentos, squalls on the radar through today…” I remained optimistic but Chris Parker’s weather forecast doesn’t usually disappoint. At approximately 9:30am as Brian and I were getting ready to meet Serendipity for an on shore excursion, we spotted the first squall over the windward side of Flamingo Cay. What do you do when life deals you squalls? You capture freshwater!! As the first raindrops started falling Brian had jury-rigged our rain catching system, Model #1. Within the first five minutes of the rainfall, Brian had tweaked the system and Model #2 was up and working. I added several of our largest pots and bowls. The squall passed quickly and we were soon headed ashore with hatches closed and rain catcher Model #2 ready and waiting.

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We came ashore on Serendipity’s beach and did a bit of beach combing. We found a brown salt pond nestled behind the brush. Our goal was to reach the top of the hill where there was a light tower. Brian and I had spotted a cairn from our anchorage, maybe that marked the trail for the light tower? We soon decided that the obvious way toward Rode Trip’s beach was to walk around the rocky point, there were no obvious trails here that led toward the light tower.

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Lizard! These little buggers are everywhere and they are not skittish. In fact, I think this one enjoyed the attention of our zoom lens.

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One brief rain shower passed over us while we made our way around the point.

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The weather didn’t keep the wildlife or the cruisers from enjoying our day. Here is a Bahamian Mockingbird.

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Here is an American Oystercatcher.

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Having rounded the point we looked back…uh oh, company…in which cove will they anchor?

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Matt found the trail and we walked up and up the 19-meter incline toward the light tower. Mission accomplished, and what a view!

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We took turns seeing the sights from the top of the light tower. Serendipity noticed their new neighbor, the sailboat we’d seen approaching was anchored in their snug cove.

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Looking out toward the ocean we watched as the next squall came rolling over the water. Dark clouds and rain were headed our way. We descended the trail and made our way back toward the dinghy. Just as we rounded the rocky point, nearing the beach, the skies opened and the winds whipped across the island. Within minutes we were completely drenched. Everyone was smiling and we didn’t rush our return to Serendipity. A fresh water rinse – glorious!

Brian and I dinghied back to Rode Trip through the squall and were delighted that our rain catching system Model #2 was working. Our aluminum pot was completely full! Bet you’d like to know where that huge pot gets stowed…I’m thrilled we finally put it to use!

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This squall lasted much longer than the first and while the rain was pouring down I scampered inside to fetch soap and towels. Our secluded location had just been equipped with a shower – hooray it’s bath time! Ahhhh…fully lathered and rinsed without stepping foot into any saltwater. Best rainy day EVER!

I scampered inside once more to dry and to gather more water containers. Whatever rain water I could manage to stow could be used for our solar shower and for dishwashing. We filled the solar shower and two containers just before the rain stopped. I had big plans for our fresh catch and that aluminum pot. Laundry! I dug out several articles of clothing, kitchen towels, and one set of sheets and got to work for the remainder of the afternoon spent washing. It was magnificent!

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the Blue Hole at Hoffman Cay

We’re now on the eastern side of the Berry Islands after a beautiful sailing day to get here. Brian expertly navigated the coral laden inlet to get us behind White Cay, between Hoffman Cay and Devil’s Cay. When we arrived, we learned all too quickly how to scout out shallow water…by running aground. We had to use the dinghy and the anchor to get us off the sand. But afterwards we were anchored in 12-feet of water with plenty of swing room. An uninviting wind forecast meant we’d likely be here for several days.

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On Monday we set out to find the Blue Hole on a tip our friends at Great Harbor Cay gave us. We took the dinghy to Hoffman Cay where we found a small white sand beach and could spot a trail leading into the brush.

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We paused to watch a fish before hitting the trail. He didn’t seem bothered at all to have an audience. “Fishing here should be easy,” Brian hoped out loud.

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The trail led us directly to the Blue Hole; a nearly perfect circular, very deep pool of water. What we thought would be an all day expedition, hiking the trail, took a mere five minutes. So we sat for a while observing the pool and then scurried to the bottom to investigate the cavern.

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Fortunately, the trail continued onward beyond the Blue Hole. Off we go to see what we find!

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It brought us to another small and equally beautiful white sand beach. (In another whopping five minutes. We were starting to hope there were enough small islands around to keep us busy for the next few days.)

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We did stay at the beach for quite a while watching the fish. There were tiny minnows lining the shoreline and every few minutes a school of fish would come swarming in to eat them. Amidst this activity were two small schools of hound fish that would leap into the air now and then to gobble a minnow. On the beach near the tree line was a fire ring and some beach chairs that were in need of repair. We added a bonfire to our future agenda.

After exploring Hoffman Cay we headed back to the boat still with half the day to spare. These 6:30am mornings really make the day last! (We wake each morning to listen to Chris Parker’s weather forecast on our SSB receiver, channel 4045.) No sandy feet aboard! I’ll remember to rinse my feet from the dinghy next time.

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Welcome to the Berry Islands, Bahamas! January 24, 2013

Ahhhh, well rested on Thursday morning we awoke to sunshine and cool breezes. We’d made it! Brian got our day started by listening to the weather on our Single Sideband (SSB) receiver. This will become our new morning routine as forecaster, Chris Parker, provides wind reports each morning at 6:30am. Boy, that’s early! What about this so-called “island time?”

Our goal for the day was to safely get ourselves to the Great Harbor Cay Marina and clear customs. After breakfast, Brian called the dockmaster on the VHF. “We’d like to come into the harbor for fuel and customs,” he stated. “Fuel is on the right as you come in, marina is around the corner take the first empty slip,” was the reply. Ok, that sounds simple. Again using the charts and depth sounder we kept to the channel. As the guidebook forewarned there were missing navigational markers, but our chart seemed to be dead-on. We were quickly getting acclimated to the clear view of the bottom through the water. We entered the harbor through a rock wall lined channel and peeking around the corner we spotted the fuel dock. Hmm, how exactly do we dock? There was a long, high dock extending out between several pilings. It seemed logical to just tie up along the end of the dock, so that is what we did. The gentleman helping us informed us that people usually pull into the slips, now visible on either side of that long dock. “This is ok,” he reassured us. We must have made an entertaining morning for him! The fuel dock is also the fuel station for cars, it is open daily until 12:00pm.

After fueling, we made our way into the harbor and found the Great Harbor Cay Marina. Two gentlemen were waiting at the slip to assist us. While docking, I got a quick lesson on how to rig a spring line (Brian usually does this but of course he cannot drive and rig lines simultaneously). Settled at the dock, the dockmaster provided customs paperwork and I got down to business completing multiple copies with our information. I think I now have our documentation number memorized as well as our gross tonnage (8), net tonnage (7), length (32), width (11), and engine horsepower (55). Once completed we waited for customs to arrive. They came and reviewed our paperwork and took our fee of $300 (still being debated whether boats 35ft and under are $150 or $300). All clear!

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Next we found internet access at the marina office and sent off messages to our parents letting them know we were docked, cleared, and A-OK. We returned the iPad to the boat before we set out exploring and were treated to three manatees swimming by. They were so strange! Their tails reminded me of a beaver tail and they barely moved as they floated by. I was able to capture them just in the knick of time.

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Brian and I set out walking in search of the Beach Club with only spoken directions from one of the marina staff, James. It was great to stretch our legs after another four days on the boat. It was warm, but not too hot, and we took in our new scenery. Along the way a car stopped and a very friendly woman, Andrea, offered us a ride with her to the Flats. “Great, thanks!” We hopped into the car and got acquainted with Andrea. She and her family have been wintering at the Bahamas since the 80’s; this year she is here with her parents and her siblings and nieces and nephews come and go as they are able. They have a condo that is exactly across from our boat’s slip at the marina. We arrived at the Flats, a beautiful stretch of sandbar at low tide. We walked in the warm water and searched the beach for sea shells and sand dollars. Andrea was a pro at finding sand dollars.

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Afterward, Andrea drove us to the Beach Club and then into town to show us where the grocery store, liquor store, and hardware store are. She drove us back to the marina and we welcomed her aboard Rode Trip. What a great start to our Berry Island explorations!