Thursday, February 6, 2014

Highs and Lows

We spent the holidays in and around Nassau with several of our kids aboard. It was wonderful to have them with us but it tied us down, too. The weather here in the Bahamas has been less than great, so we stuck close to town and got to know the people and the community.

We got to see Junkanoo both on Boxing Day and on New Years Day. Junkanoo is something else. Nothing like it in our collective experience. Like a river of music and dance and color and symbolism. It is a volunteer competition between spontaneously formed teams like The Valley Boys and Saxons and One True Family. It grew out of slave culture where they only got two days off a year, Boxing Day and New Years Day. So they started celebrating early, ie 01:00! And they still do. It starts now about 02:00 and goes for nearly 18 hrs.
We indulged with a few days in the marina at Atlantis. A real bargain since all aboard the boat get wrist bands for the resort. Their water park is spectacular and their aquarium is the largest outdoor aquarium in the world. The megayacht parade was so cool, like Sophia with her own personal submarine on the boat deck.   If you look really closely at the photo about 1/3 of the width from the right side, you can just see our mast poking up from behind one.  Some of their tenders were almost the size of Cerca Trova and certainly had more electronics.

We toured Nassau and really enjoyed getting to know the city from the inside. There is some fascinating history here that few Americans get to know. For example, the heroes of the Revolutionary times here are the Loyalists who fled the upheaval and brought their entire estates over on ships and started over. We had a wonderful foodie tour from, maybe the highlight of our visit. We attended church, twice, and an ooooold Anglican church near our marina. Sunday service was two and a half hours and an absolutely fascinating to experience the faith and community wisdom of St. Matthews, Nassau.

And of course our passion for cemeteries – what better way to get to see the personal history of a community? We found many Lightbournes and Rolles and other very British names, and an obviously well-loved emancipated slave, Monday Ranger, who would have been about 16 when Queen Victoria freed the slaves.

And then we put all the kids on their respective planes and we took off south – directly into the teeth of an unforecast warm front and black squalls which caught us right on top of the Yellow Banks ie nowhere to turn (only one path through the coral heads) and nowhere to hide (from the screaming winds and slab-sided waves hitting us dead ahead and slamming like cannonfire into our bridgedeck). Sorry, no photos, we were completely loaded dealing with that. More than loaded, traumatized really. Perhaps you recall the lyric from “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” that describes the feeling of “when the waves turns the minutes to hours”? We got through to Highbourne Cay, dumped the anchor at the first place reasonable, and collapsed.

We were pretty shook up by that. And then the cold fronts started coming in. We had serial cold fronts, roughly every 48hrs for three weeks. That meant really strong winds from the north east after they had passed, and often really strong winds from the west. Its the west winds that are the problem here because there are very few places to anchor with any protection from the west. And those few are small (ie not many boats fit in them), have typically marginal holding, (ie your anchor doesn't like to stick and stay stuck) and most have significant tidal current (ie the current switches 180o every 6 hrs and therefore your anchor has to flip over and re-set – see poor holding above).

But finally we have had a break in the weather and we are getting sun, brisk wind from the east (so there are plenty of places to anchor), meeting new friends and nothing has failed in the last week.

We seem to have been through the low-point of our attitude about doing this, at least for now. Some say that cruising is long periods of fun punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Some say that cruising is boat repairs in exotic locations. Friends on Take Two say that cruising is either really high or really low. Others say it's a lifestyle, not a vacation, and that it takes getting used to. So far, we can say they are all correct.

(We are at the moment at Little Farmer's Cay waiting to join in on “5F” First Friday in February at Farmers – a day of insane Class-C racing, lewd and lascivious games, and a food festival too.)