Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Danger of the high seas

Many people have warned us about pirates, and we know the they can be a real problem. However, we've found that the more realistic concern is that we will become pirates. Without the stabilizing forces of work, family, and daily responsibility, we've both begun falling into bad habits. No mayhem yet, but we've only just begun and there is so much further to go.

The Vinnie space

Sometimes you find a place that fits just right.

Great Guana Cay

Leaving the community of Black Point, we headed for a solitary anchorage and went off to explore the beach. Like everywhere else in the Bahamas, the land is limestone; sharp, brittle, and miserable to walk on. Although the experts consistently report it is only limestone, the rock appears to be the product of some horrendous and catastrophic volcanic event.

Goodbye to the garden

It must take, work, faith, and joy to make a garden

The real miracle of the garden of Eden

The garden of Eden was true to its name. The family home and the garden are on solid limestone broken up by small caves and faults. Over many years, Willie and his family gradually composted soil and planted seeds in the depressions. They now grow guava, papaya, mangos, squash, pumpkins, peas, lemon grass, tomatoes, wild apples, tamarind, and many other nutritional or medicinal plants. These banana trees are planted deep in a rocky pit. Instead of reaching up, the family has to bend down to pick the fruit.

What does this look like?

Although some of us saw a porpoise, we could be encouraged to imagine that this piece is a mermaid.

The garden

At first the garden appeared to be only the setting for a collection of driftwood sculptures, mounted on rocks or positioned on the ground. Willie Rolle, creator of the garden came out and gave us a tour of his work and the gardens around his home.


We were surprised to find the Garden of Eden planted on a small residential street in Black Point.

Black Point Harbor

We joined the parade of boats leaving Staniel Cay after the weather cleared and went to the traditional Bahamian community of Black Point. People in the community are known for their skills, the women plait baskets and the men fish. We came into the anchorage to find both the usual cast of cruisers and the local work boats.

The Front

About every week, a cold front passes through the Bahamas bringing with it storm conditions which may include some of the following options, high winds, big waves, thunderstorms, squalls, and dangerous conditions. We spent the last front at Staniel Cay. There are several things to be nervous about as a front approaches. First, nobody wants to be the IOTA (idiot of the anchorage)* and make a fool of themselves in front of a critical audience of cruisers who are more than likely to use your poor showing as educational and entertaining monologues for large social gatherings. Cruisers are also adept at giving play by play critiques on the VHF as you fly across the anchorage, dragging anchor and endangering others. A front brings yet another opportunity to make a reputation so that new acquaintances greet with you with knowing looks and comments about, "Oh, you're THAT AMANTE".
Fronts are tricky since they usually hit hardest during night when you would like to be warm and snuggled up in you bed, letting the unpleasantness roar by. Unfortunately, you need to watch out for your neighbors and their anchors as well as your own. This unwelcome task is called an anchor watch.
Pat Vance( creator of the acronym IOTA) reminds us that we live in a peculiar world. Imagine waking up in the morning to find that while you slept your house had run amok, causing mayhem and destruction in the neighborhood. Our house and the homes of our neighbors, like Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde, have potential for unpredictably bad behavior.

Bell Island

With beaches to wander and trails up the rocky islands to climb, Bell Island was a wonderful stop. We were able to snorkel in the beautiful cave at Rocky Dundas which is complete with skylights and stalactites.

Snorkeling highlights and Bell

After Warderick Wells, we were off to the Sea Aquarium. Tightly clutching bags of corn, we snorkeled in a shallow reef with fish who expected food and lots of it. The corn seemed a more nutritionally sound alternative to their other favorite snack, cheese in a spray bottle. Enthusiastic is too mild a term for their response. The trip a success, we headed into Bell Island for the night.

Wild Life

Warderick Wells is one of the islands where you can find Hutia, a relative of the porcupine and capybara. Once nearly extinct, they have been reestablished on Warderick Wells and are multiplying exponentially. This hutia is exhibiting the behavior pattern seen in small children and rabbits, "If I don't move, they can't see me" and its variant "If I can't see them, they can't see me".

Boo Boo Hill

The need to leave a mark seems to be almost universal. Like Camp Driftwood, there are various spots in the islands that host collections of found objects dedicated by the transitory visitor. We made our pilgrimage to the Wardrick Wells garden, Boo Boo Hill, and installed the Amante memorial.

Warderick Wells

The Land and Sea Park encompasses 176 miles of beautiful islands and the surrounding waters. The parks headquarters is at Warderick Wells, a lovely island with walking trails, ruins of a Loyalist settlement from the 1780's, and places to snorkel on the reefs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Camp Driftwood

The Camp is a collection of wood, shells, and other stuff washed up on the beach and inscribed with the names of passing sailors. Some offerings can be quite creative, others seem to be just what they are, flotsom. Here the Oreneta crew add their contribution, a small pink bear they found on the beach. It appears that he has been enthrowned as king of Camp Driftwood.

Shroud Cay

No lizards, no beer swilling pork. Shroud Cay did not have the tourist attractions and we found a very quiet anchorage and lovely island. It is actually several small islands with mangroves and small streams running between them. We wandered peacefully through the maze with birds and fish.
But wait, that's not Alessia and Francesca, where did those kids come from? The crew from the sailing vessal "Oreneta", Danielle and Natalia, came on the excursion with their mom Chistine. They kindly provided some very helpful lessons in finding seabeans for the altitudinally challenged.

Sailing Away

Allens became crowded with lizard lovers and we left with a good wind. It was wonderful to finally use that pretty sail.

Lizard Allure

The iguanas can be quite handsome, if you like the rugged lizard type.

Allen's Cay

Allen's cay is notorious for its iguanas who scamper out to greet the dingys coming to shore. They are quite bold in their application for handouts and especially enthusiastic about grapes. They only appear aggressive. Several children in our group played on the beach for hours, surrounded by the lizards who occasionally tresspassed on their sand creations, but otherwise coexisted peacefully.

The star of the Ships Channel Cay

No visit to this Cay would be complete without meeting the beer drinking boar, from a distance. He is over 200 hundred pounds and has impressive tusks. People who know him can ask him to lie down with success, but they DO NOT TOUCH HIM, as we observed on our visit.

The Water

The water all around the islands is a luminous blue.

Ship's Channel Cay Trails

We set off to explore the island on trails over the island and along the rocky cliffs.

Ship's Channel Cay

We started down the chain of Exuma Islands. Unlike the low lying islands of the Abacos, Ship Channel Cay has high cliffs and interesting rock formations

Royal Island Ruins

The ruins of the house, out buildings, and enormous walls indicate a former glory. Through this window are the remnants of a lavish bathroom.

Royal Island 2

Royal Island was developed in the 1930's is now abandoned and overgrown.

Royal Island

We arrived at Royal Island the next morning after a beautiflul night sail. With bioluminescence and clear skies, there were stars above and below the boat and we arrived to calm seas and a lovely anchorage in the morning.

Leaving the Abacos

Wonderful people and lovely places, but it was still time to head south for the Exuma's. A large group of sailboats were clustered by the passage out and waiting for morning, so we left just before dark to travel more peacefully. It was Mr. Toad's wild ride through 8 foot breaking waves to the enthusiastic yelling of the crowd on the VHF. This is Twice in a Blue Moon going out with us. We were able to inspect each others hulls as we were both airborn several times.


Far away and long ago, we met Gail and Bob in St. Mike's MD, at an Alberg 30 soup dinner. None of us owned an Alberg 30 at the time but we had all doted on them in the past. We found each other again at Junkanoo, fairly easily since Gail and Maria are about the same definition of tall. One night we learned that at her company Christmas dinner, Gail, wearing a backless (and certainly elegant) gown, astonished the crowd with her rendition of "It had to be you" on a nose flute. Of course, she dedicated it to Bob and we were so touched by this story of high art and true love that she gave us our own nose flutes and encouragement to always play with passion.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Te Amor

We met Jan and Cameron in the Riverside boat yard as we first started working on Amante. They seemed to be from another world with their talk of spear fishing and Jan's long tiny braids. Almost a year later it was a great surprise to be eating dinner on their boat, Ruben sandwiches made of fish that they had speared and other wonderful things. Although they stayed in the Abacos, Cameron's drawing of Amante is framed and hanging in the cabin and Jan's curry ginger squash soup is going to be the winner at any pot luck.