Fort Lauderdale to Gun Cay:  Crossing the Gulf Stream. (Barbara Gail)  Saturday, May 25, 2003.

Today we leave Fort Lauderdale—and the familiar shelter of Las Olas bridge, and Max & Carol, who have temporarily adopted us—for our first actual trip, other than up and down the coast of Florida.  We head out at noon today for Gun Cay, at N 25 33.956, W 079 18.093.  The forecast is for winds from the southeast, roughly paralleling the Gulf Stream, which is good for us—meaning less chop and smaller waves than a north wind.  So we say our goodbyes to Carol & Max, pay our marina bill for 13 days on the mooring (a whopping $265.00), and set off down the intra-coastal waterway to head out toward the Gulf Stream.  However, roughly 90 yards from the mooring, our engine quits, leaving us adrift smack in the middle of the channel.  Slightly taken aback, we quickly drop anchor and Keith hauls up the floorboards for the engine, all in relative calm (both seas and spirits).  There are two sailboats and a sport-fishing boat passing under the bridge to follow us.  Four other boats are heading toward us, several of whom begin calling the bridge, saying “Las Olas Bridge, there’s a boat anchored in the middle of the channel…”   (Which the bridge well knows as we are all of a 100 yards from it!).  I am watching out for drift while Keith is bleeding the engine, so I am fielding the hollering…finally get on the radio and announce that we are working on it and will move ASAP.  Fortunately, a police boat arrives and guards us until we can get hold of Sea Tow, which we promptly join, wishing we had done so earlier…

Problem fixed (fuel valves on engine), we head out again.  At six pm, we have filled up our tanks (not without mishaps, like a torrential downpour during fueling, which makes us think twice about water in the fuel; and my splattering my whole body with diesel while filling a ˝ gallon tank for maintenance).  About the latter, Keith says to the helpful attendant, "I'm sure that's not the first time that's happened," whereupon the helpful attendant reveals himself more truthful than tactful when he says, "Actually, it is."  

Finally, after three months of repairs and living in boatyards, we are on our way out to sea.

Our course lies southeast, almost directly into the wind, so we pretty much have to motor.  As darkness falls, we can still see the lights of the cities as we move down and away from the coast.  They grow dimmer and fainter as the night wears on.  I can’t wait to see my first limitless horizon with no land in sight.

After dark, we stand shifts.  I head down for a two-hour nap, during which of course I can’t sleep—my first night at sea!!  Also, the forecast of scattered thunderstorms with two inches of rain per hour seems to be correct.  We are tossing wildly and rain and spray are pounding hard on the hatch over my head, but we seem to be holding our course.  I keep going out to make sure Keith hasn’t gone overboard.  Try to make sure he doesn’t see me (I later confess).

My shift:  Keith reports gusts of 25 knots but slightly calmer now in the lull between storms.  However, the winds begin freshening again even as he heads down to the cabin for his turn to try to sleep (I wonder briefly if he'll be able to sleep either, with a relative novice at the wheel).  Soon the wind is holding steady at 23 knots and gusting to 27.  The boat is rocking like a mad thing, and the spray coming over the bow is drenching me all the way back in the rear cockpit.  Terrifying, but exhilarating.  I take my off my long-sleeved shirt to have something warm and dry to put on later, and stand exposed to the spray.  Gorgeous.

An enormous tanker (at least, I think it’s a tanker) is crossing closely aft of us.  It is lit up like a floating city, an entire civilization at sea, something a la Mad Max.  Keith has described the unbelievable size of the tankers but in my head I have translated them into something like the ferries that run from Cape Cod to Nantucket, as seen from my friend Debbie’s Boston Whaler when we were in college.  There is no comparison.  This ship looks the size of Baltimore.  There is another huge cargo ship up ahead.  It definitely looks like we are on a collision course.  I don’t know enough yet to realize that when you see another boat far out at sea, it always looks like you are on a collision course.  There are two other smaller boats near it, and suddenly other lights, probably deep-sea fishing boats, begin appearing around us as well.  Fortunately the current in the Gulf Stream is pushing us off course, carrying us too far north, which gives me the excuse I need to change course to avoid the melee.  We pass within a quarter mile of the massive cargo ship and its two attendant small boats.  It is utterly awe-inspiring.  The glowing ship behind us is fading, already miles away

A little over 2 hours.  Yawning, I stumble down to wake Keith.  This time, it takes me half an hour to fall asleep, but when Keith comes down for the next changeover I am so sound asleep he has to shake my leg to wake me.  We finally approach Gun Cay around 6 am.  What a wonderful night.

Fishing at Gun Cay / Cat Cay (Bahamas). (Keith) Sunday, May 26, 2003.

We entered the pass between Gun and Cat Cay on a direct easterly heading toward the lighthouse on the tip of Gun. At about 30 yards from shore we turned South and followed the Gun Cay point all the way around until the lighthouse was directly west, keeping no more than 20-30 yards off shore. The southerly half of the pass is ridden with coral heads, which we could see faintly as breakers occasionally exposed a tip. This is a fairly easy pass, although the current is quite strong and we had to continually correct to keep from being swept toward the reefs.

Once the Lighthouse was west of us, the current all but disappeared and we found ourselves in a nice anchorage with numerous sailboats already on the hook. The depth is approximately 15 feet and the water is crystal clear. After the previous night of two hour shifts, we decided to anchor and take a well deserved nap. The sandy bottom made excellent holding, and we were quickly able to set the main anchor. 

Waking up around noon, we viewed our surroundings again as if for the first time, and realized we had finally found our first beautiful tropical setting. The breeze was a nice 10 knots, but blowing southeasterly....the exact direction we wanted to go. This was all we needed to convince us to spend the day in leisure and play. 

There is a rather decrepit dock protruding from the western point of Gun Cay, no doubt the former entrance for what we glimpsed as a small abandoned settlement on the island...five or six buildings with the roofs caved in. We took the dinghy in and tied up to the dock to explore. The buildings are much as described, but we found the lighthouse in better condition and proceeded to climb the four stories of wooden steps to the top for a look. Many of the steps had fallen through and often we were forced to skirt the metal railing for a few feet to regain our trajectory. Hats off to Barb who has an innate fear of falling.

From the top (80 feet above sea level according to the charts) we had an excellent view of the two Cays. Cat Cay is a private resort with a large marina. Gun Cay is deserted of permanent structures, except for the aforementioned deserted buildings. The Northern tip has a large beach area, which seems to be a meeting/partying area for sport fishermen. The were no less than 20 sleek sport fishing boats anchored just of the western shore and the beach was covered with tents, umbrellas, and coolers. Although it looked fun, we were glad that we had picked the deserted side of the island to play. 

Upon returning to the dinghy, I decided to do a bit of snorkeling around the dock....to my surprise and delight, I found that there where hundreds of snapper swimming lazily around the pilings. I shot a large angelfish with our Hawaiian Sling to use as bait (the snapper were too quick) and we rushed back to Solace for our fishing poles. The rest of the day was spent pleasantly as we pulled up 10 nice sized snapper & Barb pulled up her first conch snorkeling...enough to feed us for the next 3 days...and oh-so good on the grill. 

The following morning with southerly winds, we headed across the Bahamian Banks toward Chub Key (about 50 miles) where we would check into customs.

Crossing the Great Bahama Banks. (Keith)  Monday, May 27, 2003.

With a 15 knot Southerly wind and all sails set, we made great time in the morning, averaging over 7 knots. As early afternoon grew nigh we grew aware of seven or eight rather ominous storm clouds arranging themselves at varying degrees and distances around us. In the Caribbean (and Florida), during the summer months, storms often take the shape of what the weatherman calls "isolated thunderstorms". This means that there can be numerous storms in an area, each a separate entity and only five or six miles in diameter. This is what we now confronted. 

Seeing that we where bound to cross through at least a couple of these storms, we quickly put a reef in the main sail, drew in the genoa by 50% and dropped the mizzen. Thirty minutes later we were in six to eight foot waves with the winds gusting to over 30 mph. Although we suffered more than one moment of trepidation, Solace handled wonderfully and actually made great time....punching through the swells at over eight knots with barely a roll. This lasted for four hours and then the sun once again broke through as we approached Chub Key in the late afternoon, well ahead of schedule. 

The one sour note of this crossing became apparent as we entered the narrow channel into the Chub Key marina. Looking back, I realized that we had lost our dinghy's outboard engine which we  had been towing behind us on a tether. This was a rather major setback, since the dinghy acted as our car and was notoriously difficult to row.

The check-in at Chub Key was extremely easy.  The marina is small...about 20 slips, with a fuel dock and scantily stocked grocery store. Everyone is extremely friendly. From the Dockmaster to the Bus Driver, I don't think I saw anyone who wasn't equipped with a perpetual bottle of Budweiser. We where taken by bus to the airport...eh.em...one runway with a sign saying, "Look out for planes," as the bus crosses over it. The single small building contained customs and the reception area. I simply handed over both our passports and $100 and we were checked in and received our cruising permit...good for one year. Barb never even came into the office. No boat inspection...no questions...almost too easy. I've heard nightmare stories of people checking in at Bimini and Nassau, hour-long boat searches and visits by no less than three government agencies. Cheers to Chub!

Sailing From Chub to Nassau. (Barbara Gail)  Tuesday, May 28, 2003.

After making our way back out of the narrow entrance to Chub Cay marina, we spend the night in an anchorage just outside the channel, sheltered by Mamma Rhoda Rock.  Can't help wondering about Mamma Rhoda.  Was she a notorious voodoo woman they felt it wise to propitiate by naming this big reef after, or someone's beloved mother.  There is about seven feet of water here at low tide, just enough to feel comfortable about our almost-six-foot draft.  Keith, knocked out by the flu, falls asleep around four o'clock in the afternoon as I watch the sun set.  I watch sleepily as one sailboat guides another into the anchorage, skirting the outer bank of Chub to avoid the hidden reefs off Mama Rhoda Rock.  The lead boat has a loud hailer, that they are using to shout instructions to the following boat.  It is a beauty, with classic lines and a dark blue hull.  The following boat, Bear Necessities, has a nauseatingly cute teddy bear painted on the hull next to the name.  It also has about 100 gallons of extra diesel in plastic tanks lining its decks from bow almost to stern.  For some reason, this strikes me as an odd contrast.  There's no doubt it's practical, but it makes me even happier about the two 115-gallon diesel tanks hidden invisibly below our berths.

After a wakeful night of coughing on both our parts, we leave early in the morning, heading east-southeast (about 125 degrees) toward Nassau's main entrance, by Paradise Island.  Nassau is a place neither of us has any desire to visit, but apparently there are no outboard engines to be had elsewhere in the Bahamas.  Keith said this would be the case, but naturally I had to ask several people on Chub (namely, Garrett the drinking dockmaster, and Henry, the drinking customs shuttle driver--why do I trust their word more than Keith's?  Not sure).  As we leave Chub, a large catamaran follows us out.  Since we are now on somewhat of a schedule to reach Governor's Harbor in Eleuthera (a two-day sail from Nassau) in time for plane reservations, we put up the sails but keep on the motor as well.  The cat falls quickly behind, as Keith is quick to point out.  "That's where we'd be if we didn't have two hundred gallons of fuel,"  he says, pointing well behind us.  "Poor cat, with its thirty-gallon fuel tank."  We have a sunny and uneventful passage to Nassau's main lighthouse .  We are slightly confused by the markings on the differing charts (we have acquired three, ranging in age from 21 to five years old).  In any event, the real markers match none of them, but it is a simple entrance and we decide to practice dropping two anchors in a sheltered anchorage just inside the harbor.  After two tries, we succeed in catching--one definitely, one probably.  Keith throws on mask and fins and goes down to check.  One is lying gently on the sand and he resets it on a ledge.  This turns out to be quite fortunate for us, because later the tide and current swing 180 degrees and huge swells appear, apparently out of nowhere.  (In the morning, we discover that the anchor we typically rely on--the one with all chain rode as opposed to the other, which has twenty feet of chain followed by rope--dragged almost forty feet overnight.)  Two hours after we anchor, the catamaran we saw that morning arrives.  They look tired and sweaty as they head in to find a shallower anchorage.

Back to "Civilization" in Nassau. (Barbara Gail)  Wednesday-Thursday, May 29-30, 2003.

We paddle the dinghy in for an evening on the town, carefully lock it, and stroll along Bay Street, the main street along the water, into town.  This is an area of beautiful, once-grand but now dilapidated and deserted buildings.  Most are five to ten stories, with grand moldings, statuary, and amazing views over the bay, but they are now empty, with broken windows and limbs missing from the statues.  With little transition, they abruptly give way to a typical tourist area, a Hilton surrounded by small shops and restaurants, with a tourist-centered "native market" along the waterfront.  I'd like to try to find some more local color but we are too hungry to walk any further and pick the least tourist-y-looking restaurant (I know, what are we but reluctant tourists).  After a surprisingly excellent dinner of crisp, light conch fritters (at the aptly named Conch Fritter on Bay Street), we wander back a different way, through smaller side streets.  We see what looks like a fabulous hotel and restaurant called GrayHavens, then The Humidor, a restaurant where women in a side room off the marble entryway are hand-rolling cigars.  

Gradually we find ourselves strolling casually through neighborhoods of run-down shacks with tin roofs and boarded-up windows.  Heartbreakingly underfed dogs roam the streets, and old men and tough young boys sit on street corners.  There are few women; the only two I see are accompanied by men.  Oddly, neither of us is particularly concerned by this until three people in a row have stopped us to warn us to leave before dark.  Two pull their cars over to the side of the road to do so.  We decide to turn back, but not until we have a drink with a local who has befriended us (one of the first to warn us) in a scary tiny one-room bar that is almost filled by a single scarred and gouged pool table.  I would love to shoot a game of pool but feel it would probably not be very bright.  When the bartender takes our order I have to look quickly around to see what other people are drinking because I don't want to order anything they don't have.  All that comes into my head is, "Do you have Bass on tap?" and am unable to think of any other beer.  Fortunately one man is drinking a Budweiser.   This is when I realize that practically no one is drinking anything; they are just gathered here to be together.  Nice.

After a series of foolish adventures, during which we meet several local scoundrels who sell us eight-dollar drinks from a roadside stand, then offer to steal us an outboard, we finally acquire (legitimately) a brand new 15-horsepower Mercury.  While Keith worked wonders with our five-year-old second-hand Evinrude, this one is a treat!  Easy to start once we have acquired the knack, and skims our 10-foot inflatable over the water like a cigarette boat.  

We skip the casinos to spend another restless night here fighting our flu, to leave early in the morning.

Sailing from Nassau to Current Island, off Eleuthera in the Bahamas. (Barbara Gail)  Saturday, June 1, 2003.

We start early (early for us; lately, in our weakened states, this now means around nine am).  Keith has slept fairly well for the first time in a week and is bright and chipper.  Have had a restless night of sweaty bad dreams and can't understand his good cheer.  There is practically no wind, so once again we bless our fuel and head out anyway.  The sun is shining, this should be an easy passage, and as I lie on deck after we have passed the few submerged reefs near our heading, suddenly start to feel better.  Ears stop hurting, body has already stopped its flu-like aching, and voice sounds less like a blender.  Pass through some thunderstorms, wend our way through an area of coral heads, and here we are, easing our way though a narrow passage at the top of Eleuthera.  It is ominously named "Current Cut" and lies past Current Rock, off Current Island.  Yes, the current -- and cross-rip -- are fierce.  Am on the bowsprit, looking for rocks, more coral heads, or reefs, when I feel Keith start fighting the wheel in the cockpit.  Have to skirt the bank off our port side quite closely to avoid some reefs marked on the most reliable chart, and the current is clearly pushing us first to port, then back to starboard.  Have the binoculars glued to a huge patch of seaweed directly ahead, looking like a large rock just under the water, but know we can't afford to change course to avoid it in this tight channel unless it really is an obstacle.  When a wave finally hits it hard, and it begins floating off to the side, can feel my shoulders relax.  We're through.  

We curve to the right around several small barrier-type low islands, and drift gently along the coast.  Soon, we're anchored off a beautiful cove filled with tiny, low-lying islands of coral.  We don snorkel gear and are soon surrounded by tropical fish.  To me, born and bred on the New England coast, the fishes' colors are barely believable.  There are tiny, bright golden fish shaped like the gold-covered chocolate coins children get at Christmas, that swim alone along the bottom, just above the sand.  Try to touch one, but it is too quick and easily escapes.  Schools of hundreds of miniscule silver, spear-shaped fish swim in clouds just below the surface.  Keep trying to swim through them to see what they feel like (ticklish?), but again, they are too quick.  Spot a brilliant royal blue fish, coasting in and out of rocks, and several large flat deep blackish-blue fish with purple manes and tails.  Fan coral is everywhere, like lace, old gold, delicately edged with lavender.  Keith is chasing grouper and other fish we don't recognize with the Hawaiian sling, but never having done much snorkeling, I am too enthralled with this new undersea world to need any other activity.  He comes and shows me how to use the sling, and goes off to put another fish in our net.  As he is struggling to get its fins through the net, I see the biggest fish yet.  It is huge, probably almost four feet long.  It would feed us for days.  Immediately start towards it with the sling.  It easily outswims me, and I reluctantly abandon the chase, filled with disappointment.  I point it out to Keith as it swims away, and he informs me that I have just been chasing my first shark.  Feel it probably a lucky thing that I didn't get off a shot at it, and return the sling.  

Examine shiny black sea urchins, all long black spines, and soft-looking brown things covered with tiny white spikes.  They look fluffy and furry but fairly certain they are not.  Wish I had scuba gloves.  Keith swims over to point out a giant sea turtle, quite rare now due to hunting, and we follow it through the water for five minutes.  It is amazingly graceful underwater, its front flippers looking like wings.  Find myself thinking oddly of an underwater angel (all the more odd since it is a mottled brownish and strange off-round shape, but this is what the grace of its swim brings to mind).  A magical afternoon.

Meanwhile, I have picked up another conch (the first having been a sad disappointment after we tried to grill it) and Keith has speared five fish -- food for days on end!

From Current Island to the shelter of Levy Island, just north of Governor's Harbor on Eleuthera in the Bahamas. (Barbara Gail)  Sunday, June 2, 2003.

We expect a lazy day of easy sailing from Current Island, at the northeast tip of Eleuthera, to Levy Island, just north of Governor's Harbor, a small settlement on central Eleuthera.  As usual, events surprise us.  Motoring out of our anchorage just off the tiny islands inside Current Island, the chart assures us of seven to 12 feet of depth all the way out to the deeper water in the bay.  Am at the helm, watching the depth vary between these two numbers, when it drops from 10 feet to six feet in three seconds and I feel the dreaded soft grating under my feet, familiar from many summers ago, boating with brothers.  Remember it well.  The keel of the boat is gently scraping the soft sand under the shallows.  We quickly reverse, and Keith grabs the wheel.  Slightly annoying when he immediately guides us (pure luck, no doubt) into eight feet of water.  Feel better when it immediately drops to six and a half but am relieved all the same when the depth-sounder is showing a steady eight to 10 feet again.  

We hoist all three sails and cut the engine.  The wind is light, about eight to 10 knots, and we are soon moving at about 5 knots.  Not bad, we decide; we can probably sail all along the coast and still be there tonight.  We change course a bit farther east to follow the shoreline, careful to avoid the sandbar stretching out from the eastern point off Current Cut where we came in.  We're glad we came in that way and saw this sandbar yesterday, because it isn't marked on the charts either, but this potential obstacle is clearly visible--in contrast to the blue of the twelve feet of depth, it's neon-bright, almost a whitish turquoise.  

Almost imperceptibly the wind picks up until we are heeled over quite sharply.  The waves have increased to four to six feet.  Suddenly, water is pouring in over the gunnel, a sight I hate, which invariably sends me scrambling for the higher side, as if my 120 pounds might have any impact on whether this 30-ton boat turns turtle and dumps us.  It's an ingrained habit from childhood  sailing on Beetlecats, Knockabouts, Sunfishes, and I haven't broken it.  I pretend it's practical since it keeps me from being dumped into the water from the precarious perch at the helm--over here I can brace my feet against something so I don't fall over.  In this I am more fortunate than most of our kitchen supplies, which we have carelessly left lying about because the winds were so light we didn't anticipate too much tossing.  I hear things crashing about in the pilothouse, and Keith goes in to straighten them up as I somewhat tensely watch us heel even further over.  As the winds hit a steady 23, we continue to dip under, about every tenth wave.  The autopilot is fighting hard, grinding to keep us on course--audibly grinding, an unnerving noise.  My entire body is tense.  My feet are getting tired of bracing me, too.  I know hardy sailors usually don't take the first reef in their sail until 25 knots but this big, beamy boat needs a lower standard!

Keith finally agrees we'd be better to ease off the wind a bit.  As he turns back after we adjust the sails, his head jerks and he says, "Who's out in a little dinghy in these waves?"  I look up, and he then says, almost casually, "Oh, that's our dinghy."  Once again, our floating rope has slipped its bowline.  We are in the habit of tying a either bowline or full hitch, then adding several half hitches (Keith) or square knots (me), but unless tightly cinched down, even these are not always enough.  We have now spotted it floating away several times at sea and it has drifted away from the dock as well.  

We quickly come about and sail to within about 100 yards of it.  At which point, as always, I say pragmatically, "Let's head right to it."  As usual, Keith, braver or more foolish, responds, "Oh, we're fine."  The winds have dropped to about 16 knots, but the seas are still relatively high--four to six-foot swells, often topped by whitecaps--and we are both well aware of the strong current that has been carrying us off course all day.  Keith says, "Just keep going; I'll catch up with you," and dives overboard to swim the 100 yards.  A little nervous (first time alone in 6-foot seas and 15-knot winds), but not unduly so, I ease the sails out a little to slow the boat down, just in case the dinghy's new motor is stubborn--as it occasionally has been in the few days we've had it--and takes a while to start.  Turn back to see Keith, who swims like a fish, stop, propel himself up in the water to look for the dinghy, and turn over to start doing the backstroke.  Slowly.  He is already clearly tired.  Why this surprises either of us, in 6-foot waves swimming against a strong current, I do not know.  He stops to check his bearings again, turns back to the crawl.  With some dismay, I watch as he swims quite strongly...but remains the same distance from the dinghy.  It has become apparent that the wind is carrying our light inflatable further away while at the same time the current is pushing Keith back.  

Think, pseudo-calmly, "Okay.  Not a problem.  Just come about.  Drop sails and motor?  No, can't drop sails alone in these seas, too slow.  Okay."  Tacking in this boat, we have discovered, can be done single-handedly, but with three sails up, it is not a speedy course of action and it is one we always share.  Yikes.  As I prepare the lines on the mainsail to come about, I see a patch of black water off to port.  Oh, no.  Have just learned to spot coral reefs the day before.  Is this one one?  Looks like it.  If I tack, Solace will head directly over it.  Or onto it.  Visions of self grounded on coral head, while Keith treads water half a mile away and dinghy continues to blow away.  Okay.  No tacking.  Will have to gibe.  Can I jibe this boat by myself in 15 knot winds with the genoa full out?  This is a good question.  I haul the genoa in, fighting the wind every inch of the way.  Once again I prep the mainsail, idiotically prompting myself aloud:  "Loosen the port line.  About six feet.  Okay, now get the starboard line.  Wind picking up, be ready for the sail to snap over hard."  I turn back to the helm to see with a heroic effort Keith has reached the dinghy.  I watch with some tension as he makes two unsuccessful attempts to climb in and the waves flip him off again.  If I tack now, it will be more difficult to bring the dinghy up in these waves if the boat is sailing towards him; he will have to make a circle and our over-powered inflatable is none too steady when turning (or even motoring straight) in waves of four feet or more.  Choose this moment to recall the woman in Key Largo who told me, "Terry would never take the inflatable out in waves over two feet:  it's just not stable.  We never take it more than a mile from shore."  Realize that though we have been within half a mile of shore most of the day we are now about two miles off and the waves are still four to six feet.

Watch as as Keith finally hauls himself over the side.  Dinghy is rocking violently, but he is in.  Decide to leave genoa in so he will not have to race to catch up.  Excellent excuse, glad to think of it.

Unreliable dinghy finally starts and he surfs over the waves, launching off the crest of each, and slamming hard into the next.  Can he he is having trouble staying in the thing (small wonder).  Know perfectly well that he will not have the kill switch on, which would turn off the engine were he to go over the side.  

Wind begins dropping even as he approaches the boat.  Figures.

After several more squalls with winds in the mid-twenties, we lose the sunshine.  The steady six-foot waves abruptly look much more ominous.  They are grey and dark.  This is just like the New England water I've known all my life but I'm already used to the smiling turquoise of the Bahamas.  Keith also remarks the change.  The wind picks up again to continue strong right around into our anchorage, then drops suddenly.  We are lulled into thinking we have more shelter than we do, and head into town to explore.  

Eleuthera, Day One.  (Barbara Gail)

Looking for a restaurant Keith recalls dimly from years ago, we immediately encounter several interesting natives.  Unlike Nassau, almost everyone here seems friendly.  We see a pickup truck with several people in the back.  They stop to talk to the family bathing on the shore, and the family gets in and rides with them.  It seems everyone knows everyone here.  Keith says they probably do.  A tall young man walking with two children directs us to a restaurant called Sunsets.  He tells us it is at least a quarter of a mile away, and seems doubtful of our ability to walk this far.  On the way, we pass several other places for food, and decide he must think our standard is higher than it is.  We continue, because we think Sunsets may be the place Keith remembers from his last trip here.  Walking down a narrow street paralleling the main street, we pass an elderly grizzled black man walking slowly toward us.  He walks like a horseman, bowlegged, with slightly jerky steps.  Do they have horses in the Bahamas?  In his right hand he is carrying a machete and a bucket full of blood.  This seems curious and is slightly unnerving.  However, he seems friendly, though very dignified.  His skin is not really black at all, but more of a dark greyish tan, and he has a short beard like Ahab, a thin grey covering over his whole jaw.  He is wearing loose black pants tucked into black dress socks and soft black slip-on loafers, and some sort of harness over a loose white shirt.  We decide we cannot begin to guess what he has been doing, and continue on.

We pass two young black men going at an intense game of ping pong.  We can tell they are serious because they have built a small lean-to, like a carport, to shelter the table in times of wind and rain.  Keith assures me that these times are not as frequent as I probably think from my visit so far.  

We have a hearty dinner at the Sunset restaurant, overlooking a quiet cove.  The prices are relatively moderate, and the conch fritters are excellent.  Keith also has a steak.  The cut is probably dreadful and it is far more well than his requested medium rare, but it it has been marinated in something utterly delicious.  We stroll back to the boat utterly sated.

Eleuthera, Day 2.  (Barbara Gail)

After another disturbed night during which we discover our anchorage is less protected than the charts  indicated (soon we will cease to rely on the charts, but we are not quite there yet), we rise early.  We decide that though we have checked for drift about eight times in the night, we dragged about 100 feet.  

Start the morning with a New York Times crossword.  My family loves these and I gave a book of them to Keith for Christmas.  On Christmas morning (before present opening) he sees my mother polishing off the Sunday Times crossword in record time and remarks that he can't stand them.  He is a good sport about doing them but I have inherited the book.  Keith says something, not wholly enthusiastically, about maybe hiking across the island.  Tell Keith, "I am looking forward to a day of doing absolutely nothing."  He immediately agrees, looking much more cheerful.  

The day passes with exquisite slowness.  Around noon, Keith cooks us a giant omelet of leftover grilled chicken, slightly aged broccoli, and some of the tons of cheese we brought.  Afterward, I finish the book I am reading while Keith disappears with the computer.  We play several games of dominoes to the muted background noise of the fans and gently lapping waves.  Decide that on a boat it is difficult to balance dominoes on end in spirals to make them fall in sequence, but that with care it can be done.  Prove this several times before we tire of it.  Keith heads up the bow with a book while I paint my nails.  Cannot imagine why I have brought nail polish with me on board a boat far from civilization, but I have.  Actually, I do know why.  Keith's mom suggested it and I felt compelled to buy it.  In fact, it's not polish but D'Oro Nail Hardener with garlic.  Discover when I am done that it actually smells of garlic. 

Lovely, lazy day.  Perfect preparation to be up and doing tomorrow.

Eleuthera, Day 3.  (Keith)

Wake up to a clear blue, cloudless morning neatly framed in teak as viewed from the stateroom berth peering up through our large Bomar hatch. Dragged a bit during the night, but seemingly back in the direction of our original anchorage. I imagine the bottom of our little cove to look like a freshly plowed field, ready for planting, as our CQR nightly creates a fresh furrow. 

Today we explore the other side (eastern side) of the island which, according to our charts, is about a mile and a half east as the crow flies.  With Camelback, snorkeling equipment, and lunch (consisting of leftover omelet, cold chicken, and a hunk of cheese), we beach the dinghy in Balara Bay and walk 100 yards or so to Queens Highway, the main road running the length of Eleuthera north to south. To call it a highway is a bit of an overstatement. Lizards can be heard constantly scuttling through the shrubbery, many that we glimpse a most unusual shade of fluorescent blue or green. 

A brief walk along the highway brings us to the entrance of what appears to be a subdivision. The name is proudly displayed upon a well thought out stone entranceway and a slightly faded sign decries, "Lots for Sale, Oceanfront and Hilltop available...Call BJ" (no last name given). Both the entranceway and the entrance road seem a bit worse for wear and no houses are immediately apparent as we enter. In fact no houses are apparent until we have walked more than a half mile (although the lots are neatly staked out the whole way). We have been walking uphill and now the road turns to follow the top of a ridgeline and we are rewarded with a magnificent view of the east coast about a mile away. Wide pink beaches lapped by crystal clear, turquoise  wavelets. About two hundred yards out from shore a barrier reef runs down the coast in either direction as far as the eye can see. Between this reef and the beach, mushroom coral heads can be seen growing just beneath the surface. 

We now come across five "developed" lots, all next to each other, with dwellings in various states of completion. One just a foundation, another completely blocked in but with no roof...etc. Of the five, only one is completed and occupied.  The skeletons of the others seem to have been sitting for years, with rusted rebar sticking up through the concrete. Bizarre. Oh, but what a view. 

The road soon turns back toward the coast, steadily shedding its asphalt until we are walking on a sand & limestone jeep path. We finally reach the coast, but find ourselves on the top of a limestone bluff with the beach teasingly glittering 60 ft below. Once again...what a view! Although the limestone path, though much less pronounced, continues along the bluff, our road and the "subdivision" now come to an end. The very last lot, situated at the highest point of the bluff, has a house that is about 75% completed. As no one is about, we decide to lunch on its partially completed deck overlooking the ocean. So...in this subdivision...containing well over 500 lots and obviously of some age, we saw only 6 houses of which only one was complete. 

Shortly after we regain the path, it occurs to me that there is absolutely no sound of man. Only the gentle whistle of a breeze through the scrub pine, various creatures scuttling, buzzing, and chirping and the crash of the surf. After a half hour of skirting the bluff, we at last scramble onto the wide beach, hot and ready for a swim. Donning our masks we wade into the cool water and explore the coral heads for several hours. Barb is quickly becoming and expert snorkeler as she dives through the natural caves and arches created by the reefs, chasing fish that dart about sporting the latest in neon fashions. At some point I see her floating perfectly still and staring purposely forward. It takes me a second to notice the silver, muscular, toothy form of a 4 foot Barracuda no more than a meter in front of her. The Barracuda is also holding perfectly still and staring at Barb. They both seem quite fascinated and this goes on for some time. 

We return to lie on shore and gaze blissfully at the sky. The pink sand is delicious, with the consistency of baby powder and more comfortable than any mattress as it gently conforms to every tender curve. Walking on it is like having a foot massage. Clearly the most amazing beach I have yet visited in my 38 years.

In late afternoon, we continue another mile or so along the beach until we spot another rough hewn path road that seems to head back inland. After weaving through a couple of miles of Coconut Palms it does in fact eventually lead back to Queens Highway.

Did I mention that, except for a few cars that passed us as we walked along Queens Highway.....we did not see a single person the whole day!!

That night we play a lively game of dominoes with Russ and Nancy Barnes, from Kingsport, Tennessee, who have rented a house along the Balara Bay Beach for a couple of weeks [rbarnes@holstonbuilders.com].  

[Continued by Barb:  Heated debate ensues as each couple hotly pushes the merits of our preferred brand of dominoes.  As the evening progresses and Nancy continues to circulate her delicious original rum punch, Keith and I realize that what Nancy and Russ have been telling us all night is true.  The version of dominoes we just learned when we found a free set roaming around is much too complex.  No less than four drinks are spilled (amazingly, none by Keith.  Nor does he break any glasses! ;-) and dominoes regularly sail across the cool 12-inch tiles of the living room floor as Nancy and Russ instruct us in domino-shuffling technique.]

Nancy's Bahamian Rum Punch

One part Bacardi rum.   Two parts orange juice.  The remaining fourth is made up of pink lemonade, and, surprisingly, sherry.  Oddly enough this unusual combination is excellent, the first drink as good as the fourth...or fifth.

Eleuthera Day 4.  (Barbara Gail)

This morning Keith says, "Let's take the dinghy over to explore Levy Island."  I immediately agree.  Levy is a small, crescent-shaped island just off Balara Bay, north of Governor's Harbor. The inner edge, which shelters Balara Bay, where we're anchored, appears to be mostly limestone "beaches," roughly flat rocky outcroppings just above sea level.  Keith already explored them by snorkel when we anchored and reported them teeming with fish.  The outer shore, fronting the "Bight" of Eleuthera, we sailed along on the way here.  It's like the wild version of this peaceful cousin:  rocky limestone cliffs carved into fantastic and twisted shapes by the waves coming across, unstopped between here and Andros Island, some 100 miles away to the west (roughly).  There are no houses on Levy, and not even a sign of man:  only bushes and some small pine trees looking somewhat out of place in the tropics. 

Rounding the southeast point, we spot what must be several illegal lobster pots offshore, the markers all roped together, and a nice hazard they are for the unwary boater!  As we curve onto the outer shore we are pleased to spot a large crack leading back under the cliffs into the water.  This looks interesting!  As we approach, we discover it's also surrounded by coral reefs--perfect snorkeling.  We immediately spend ten minutes trying to figure a way to securely anchor the dinghy while we explore.  Finally settle for tying our line around a piece of floating driftwood, which we jam in a crack in the limestone underwater.  Both pretend we think this will hold.  As we pull on our masks, we say at the same time, "We'll just check on it..."  

Snorkeling, we see a small ray, thousands of the tiniest silver fish I have ever seen--hardly longer than eyelashes--several patches of coral combining the exact colors of mustard and ketchup.  

Suddenly bursting out of the water, Keith calls, "Hey, come over and look at this!"  

Swim over and he says, "Okay, dive down and look under that rock."  With a newly learned rotating headstand dive, I head 12 feet down, and can't see a thing but some dim shadows.  Persevere until totally out of breath and resurface.  "What?"  I say, "I can't see anything."

"Oh, too bad,"  Keith answers, clearly disappointed, "There's a shark  right under there, a pretty big one, maybe five feet."  Oh, good.  How did I miss him.

"Wait," says Keith, "Maybe he'll come out if I poke him with the Hawaiian sling."  

Feel this is not necessarily a good plan but Keith is already diving under.  I do want to see the shark...just not necessarily nose to nose and totally out of breath.  Even as I think this I realize if a shark actually gives chase, shortness of breath is probably irrelevant.

The shark refuses to emerge, and I dive again.  This time, through the gloom, I can clearly distinguish a large lighter shape.  It gives a flick of what I suddenly recognize as its tail and this brings it towards me, right to the edge of the rock, where I can see it clearly.  How amazing!!  Scary, but very, very cool.  A glimpse of a totally powerful undersea predator, free in its own habitat, from only several feet away.  

Around a further outcropping in the rocky shore, am delighted to spot a cave leading back into the cliffs.  Call Keith over and we immediately clamber up onto the sharp limestone.  Even as I am climbing out, know there will be trouble getting back in.  The sharp edges have surf breaking hard over them.  It's clear the only way back off will be to jump and hope to avoid the large rocks right below.  The jump is from only a few feet above the water...but then the other rocks are only a few feet below the water, too.  And due to an innate fear of heights, jumping off things is not my strong suit.  Put this out of mind and set off to explore.

The cave is marvelous.  A large, cool and airy cavern carved from the limestone, with several natural chimneys bringing down shafts of bright, hot sunlight from above.  From the cave, we can see the bracken growing around the tops of the shafts.  We both immediately picture living here.  Am trying to climb one of the chimneys when Keith finds a rear opening leading into an entirely separate cave.  From this side shaft, an enormous, white owl flies out from the darkness.  It dips beneath over hang at the mouth of the cave and sails out over the ocean.  Know that the sight of the owl, huge wings beating through the dimly lit cave, then out over the sparkling sea, will stay with me for a long time. 

The rear cave is even better.  Here, it's clear that the cave has been created by water.  This stone is all rounded, like soft folds of fabric, the patterns that ripples leave on sandy beaches.  There is a lower cave off another side opening that we both picture as storage for this cave apartment.  If the Olympic bomber they just caught in the hills of North Carolina had hidden here, he'd be free today.

We climb one of the rock chimneys, up through the cliffs to the top of the island.  The climb is easy, but I know it will be tricky getting back down.  The view from the top of the cliffs, as always here, is stunning.  Pristine turquoise water sparkling in the pure sunlight as far as the eye can see. 

Turn to see Keith standing at the very edge of one of the cliffs.  The toes of one foot are hanging over.  Oh, no.  Without even seeing his face, I know what's on his mind.  He turns and gives me a devilish grin. 

"See you at the bottom," he says, and jumps off.  Run to the edge--well, as fast as possible over the sharp outcroppings of rock.  He surfaces, grinning like an ape.  Can't tell whether he expects me to jump, too.  When he says, "There's 30 feet of water down here--plenty of room," am tempted to try, despite a paralyzing fear of heights.  The climb down, I think, is going to be bad anyway, how much worse can this be? 

"Look how deep it is,"  Keith says, "Watch me dive to the bottom."  He dives headfirst below the water.  As I see him turn to come back up, I can tell that it's actually more like 10-15 feet deep. 

"That's no thirty feet," I say cravenly. 

"Well...just don't dive," Keith responds, somewhat sheepishly.

Oh, okay.  That's enough for me.  I turn tail and head for the climb back down into the cave.  It is slightly tricky only because I can't see where I'm going.  By the time I get to the edge, Keith is already masked and diving off again.  With some trepidation (I am a complete wimp), I manage to jump out over the rocks below, and we swim back to the dinghy, which we discover floating loose.  It seems this boat is determined to escape us and no doubt one day it will.  As I pull the line off the board we tied it to (now drifting freely in the cove), Keith dives down one last time and comes up with a grouper.  Now that we've caught dinner, we're ready to leave.

Eluethera Alone, June 9th (Keith)

It is now Monday. Barb left last Friday, and I have to admit that I'm a bit lonely? Why do I find this strange?... well maybe a little background is in order. 

Barb and I met about a year ago (how is a story unto itself that will be revealed at a later date) and seemed to be an ideal pair...I had a house on the beach, she had a condo in the city....we both liked the city and the beach....we where about an hour + separated...not convenient just to stop by and say hello, god forbid that we would anyway without calling.... even if we were in the area. Around the beginning of December, when we decided to set forth on this adventure, we had known each other for no more than 5 months. 

Neither Barb or I have ever been married. In fact, neither of us had even lived with a member of the opposite sex. No more than three nights a week was my normal rule. Needless to say that I had a few relationships end because of my steadfastness to this rule. 

What this amounts to is that we not only like, but are very used to "personal time", "solo time", "me time"... and alot of it. Any idea how much solitude can be found on a 40 ft sailboat? Also, as you may have picked up in our prior rhetoric, the first couple of months aboard were NO picnic. You would then think that the idea of 2 weeks alone would fill me with joy and elation...and in fact it does. 

However, it has occurred to me that I have never been alone on this boat...

I guess you get used to having someone around...and even though you may often wish that they would disappear for a few hours, you miss them if they are gone too long. I'm still mulling this idea and may I say that it's a bit uncomfortable. 

I have gotten pretty good at spearing grouper around Levy Island. It now takes about an hour to get 2 small to medium sized grouper or yellow snapper. Fresh fish every night for dinner. I float with the tide along the rock wall like a piece of flotsam. The grouper hang out in front of little holes that are located either in the wall or under rocks. The key is to get within sling range (4 feet), without spooking them. As the suspicious little fish watches me slowly float towards his hole, I keep mentally broadcasting "I am just a piece of flotsam, nothing to worry your little fishy head about". Closer I get, the sling drawn taut and truly aimed... and then, just for a millisecond, my concentration fails and the briefest mental image of this succulent little morsel sizzling on the grill passes though my brain and zzziippp! little grouper is back in his hole. I do get a few though.

After cleaning today's catch, I went ahead and threw a hunk of grouper guts on one of the poles on the fishing platform before heading to town in the dingy for some lettuce and mutton steaks (local lamb is only 1.25 lb). When I got back to the boat an hour later I noticed that the pole was bent. By George I got a grouper with my grouper...and with the addition of this impromptu guest I now had enough fish for dinner and no longer needed the mutton...and you thought there was no stress in my day?

While in town I bought a bucket. It is not the best bucket, but it is much better than the steaming pot I had been using since we lost my first bucket (a strong "ready" bucket) in a storm coming across the banks. It is nigh impossible to "swab the decks" with a steaming pot and that is all I have to say about the topic. If one of you readers comes to visit and decides to fill a five gallon paint bucket with bottles of Sam Adams and use that as one of your carry on's.....that would be most appreciated. Bacardi's Rum and Absolut Vodka are about half the price as compared to the states, but Beer is incredibly expensive, even the Bahamian beer (Kalik). Budweiser (still the cheapest even here) is $43 a case. 

While I was cleaning the last grouper, a porpoise popped up beside the boat to check me out. The noise they make when surfacing is exactly the sound you make when clearing a snorkel. He played with my keel for a few minutes, ate the 3 grouper carcasses under the boat, had a good snort and took off...reminded off an Irish  roommate I once had at Clemson.  I named that porpoise  Patrick Gregory McGillicuddy.  A name that represents a kaleidoscope of 3 Irish men I've had the pleasure of calling friends. 

By the way, I was most amused by the responses generated by my last email and posting. I mentioned that I had caught a 20 lb dolphin.....lol....a "dolphin" is a gold/blue/cream colored sport fish with a blunt head and a heck of a tasty carcass....NOT FLIPPER!!  The amount of pain and sympathy poured out by my naive New England friends made it almost difficult to sauté, grill, and consume this object of their empathy. From here forward, all "flipper" type sea mammals shall be called "porpoise" and treated with the utmost respect and welcome.

Eluethera, Governor's Harbour Town, June 12 (Keith)

In 1999, Eluethera was hit hard by Hurricane Floyd. The Club Med, located in Governor's Harbor was damaged so badly that they decided not to reopen. So Governor's Harbor lost its largest employer, taxpayer, and source of tourist dollars. This made what was already a sleepy little town, a real snoozer. It has every amenity though, including a small grocery store with local produce, several churches, A 1-Plex Movie Theater with one show each night at 8:15 (except Thursdays), and the coolest little pink library right on the beach. Built in 1897, the Haynes Library started out as the house of Thomas Haynes, one of the original 100 Eluethera Adventures who came to conquer this island. 

For $20 for the month, you can use their computers to get on the internet. My favorite location is located on the 2nd Floor, looking out through two open french doors onto Cupid Cay, where all the fishing boats are moored.

    .   
Haynes Library                                                            View from Library

Eleuthera -- the Quest for Water, Friday June 13  (Keith)

Was planning on making curried chicken last night, but the 2 breasts in the refrigerator (compliments of Max & Carol), smelled a tad out of peak. 

Woke up this morning and spotted 4 thunder storms at various points on the Horizon. Wind was shifting from south to southeasterly and back. This gave 3 out of the 4 storms a good chance of hitting me, pretty good odds. You see, Barbara Gail, Her Hair, and I use about 45 gallons of water a week (although it will be a bit less now that I have a bucket). By the way, please don't take that as a dig on Barb's hair, which is long and enviably thick. She has offered (threatened) to chop it off anytime I decided that they were using more than their share of water. I think this is an incredibly bad idea and would gladly drink bilge brine rather than see that luxuriant mane cropped. 

Anyway, we carry around 150 gallons of water. Because the water maker is such a drain on the battery banks (it draws about 4 amps), we have only been using it for drinking water...so add another 50 gallons a month. Four weeks of water in the islands is not much, water is expensive and often hard to come by. So while reading Jack London's "Voyage of the Snark", I decided to rig something to catch rainwater and channel it into our tanks. Using a large white table cloth with a small whole cut in the middle, a funnel, a bungee cord, 6 Bahamian quarters, and approximately 6 feet of twine cut into various lengths....I had a plan. The detractor of this plan is that it takes about 20 minutes to put  this contraption together. Three times in the last week have I rushed outside to view a  portion of the horizon dark with menace and  presumably rushing towards my very location. Quick was I to spin my web of water redirection only to see these island menaces slither off to port or starboard.

While we where sailing from Ft Lauderdale to here, we suffered through no less than 18 rainy squalls, yet while we have been anchored in Balara Bay, I have felt no more than 3 or 4 juicy raindrops touch my brow.

Today seemed like a likely day, so I put off heading into the library, and waited for rain. While waiting for rain, I decided to throw some of the ripe chicken on a hook and cast it off the back of the boat. It took no longer than 20 seconds for the bait to sink to the bottom than I got the first hit. Grunts, Yellow Snapper, and small Jacks....I got ten in two hours, ranging from a half to pound each. Then, at 12:17 EST, they stopped biting? I still have a half a breast left and will experiment further tomorrow. Between the three grouper I speared yesterday and today's bounty, I actually put some fish in the freezer for the first time. I'm starting to feel like the "natural man", who is totally self sufficient. I may need to raid the village tonight and snatch a chicken for tomorrow's bait.

Not a drop of rain, although I swear that the Island of Levy, only 700 yards away, got drenched twice. 

June 19th, Eleuthera -- Our Barracuda, & Exploration (Keith)

Heading to the Fishing Platform with a Cup O' Joe has become a morning ritual. I say morning because the fish stop biting at precisely at 12:00 EST each day. You can set your watch to it.

This morning seemed very promising. I still had 16 minnows from cast netting yesterday and had found another chicken breast in the freezer. Fish absolutely love chicken breast. It is a delicacy that causes them to race towards the hook, vying with their brethren, to be the first to swallow it. Still, it seems a little silly to use a perfectly good chicken breast as bait. They like minnows too, just not as much. 

In the first half hour I pulled in two grunts and two grouper. Very nice. The we go, another good hit...and he's hooked! Definitely the biggest  one this morning and feels like a grouper. I see the white flash of its belly as I pull him into within 20 feet of the boat. 

I see the movement of something large a silver out of the corner of my eye and suddenly, with a sharp jerk on the rod, the fish is torn off the hook. Out of the next 4 fish I caught, the Barracuda got two and I got two. He just hung out in the shade next to the fish platform, not 10 feet from me, waiting for my next catch. I tried putting a fishhead on one of the Searods...and then a whole fish. He ignored them. I even jumped in the water try to scare him off. As I approached him, I saw that he was a sleek, silvery 4 ft of solid muscle with fanglike teeth protruding from his lower jaw. I could have sworn he was smiling, or more likely laughing. It was plain to see who would have the advantage if this standoff proceeded to an altercation. I have never heard of a Barracuda attacking a human, I just wasn't 100% sure that this toothy fellow in front of me had heard the same. I

Alas, there is plenty for all.

For the first time in the weeks that I have been here, two other sailboats pulled into Cupid Cay this afternoon while I was at the Library. It didn't take long for the lot of us to come together and head over to the Eluethera Sports Bar (a big name for an extremely small affair with CNN playing on a Television in the corner, barely audible from the Bahamian Reggae) for a beer and some tales. One of the boats is heading toward the Abacos for the race week which starts July 4. Sounds like a blast, with Cruisers coming in from all over the Caribbean to participate. Will speak with Barb and see if our schedule allows, when she gets back on Monday.

We have all decided to rent a car tomorrow and do some exploring. Once again, wish Barb was here. She hasn't spent a lot of time around cruisers and I'm sure she would enjoy this immensely. Cruisers are by their very nature: curious, open minded, adventurous, and gregarious. The spirit and camaraderie shared among those whose goal it is to visit exotic locals  and absorb the culture is refreshing, not to mention a lot of fun.


Breakfast at a fruit stand in Hatchet Bay

The Bat Caves at Hatchet Bay








Broken Glass Bridge:  On the left, the deep blue Atlantic, on the right, the crystal Caribbean.

Where's Waldo - can you spot Barb on her climb? 

Rock Sound, Eleuthera, July 2?, (Barbara Gail) 

Last day on Eleuthera.  We're sad but excited to leave, looking forward to some smooth sailing.  Head out of Governor's Harbour around nine am, we arrive at Powell Point and the Rock Sound marina to fuel up just after one o'clock in the afternoon.  We call the marina, but no one answers.  After several hails, another cruiser (already in the harbor but yet to turn off his radio), gets on the radio to say that the reason no one's answering is that the marina closes at one o'clock every day!  What a great work schedule!  Not so great for us, since we planned to sail straight overnight, but another beautiful spot.  While Keith spears eight more fish -- a freezer full! -- I swim to shore.  There is a deep, gray-blue lagoon protected by a forest of pine trees.  The forest is exactly like Beebe Woods in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, where I grew up.  Very strange to see in the Bahamas!  Beyond the trees, the lagoon has a steep dropoff a foot from the water's edge and -- unlike most of the glowing turquoise water here -- is mysteriously dark.  Am thinking about walking back through the forest for masks and fins when I see several large nurse sharks circling repeatedly, right up to the edge.  In fact, they are almost at my feet, and their fins are protruding above the water, just like in the movies.  Decide not to snorkel.  

Explore the woods and eventually stumble upon a white path curving through the trees.  It is covered with a soft coating from years of falling pine needles.  Follow it for a mile or two to see if it leads around the lagoon.  It does not.  It leads into a large, impassable patch of prickers and briars.  Why this road should start from a beach that can only be reached by boat and end in the middle of a briar patch far from any sight of civilization is a mystery, but not an unusual phenomenon in the Bahamas.  Eventually realize I have told Keith I would relax on the beach while he fished and I have been off exploring the lagoon and forest for some hours.  I run the two miles back to the beach.  The pine needles are soft but supportive underfoot (an excellent outdoor track) and make it abundantly clear that I am no longer in sub-seven-minute mile shape. 

Arrive back on the beach to find Keith has hardly noticed my absence due to an epic struggle with what has to be a 6-pound grouper.  Fish along the shores of the Bahamas, while laughably plentiful to a Northeasterner, tend to err on the small side.  Like, a quarter of a pound (no size restrictions in the Bahamas).  This one took off with Keith's spear and almost made it to safety, but Keith chased it down and finally, weakened by blood loss, it gave in.  

We decide to walk along the beach and are strolling at water's edge when Keith spots a floating milk jug.  This catches our attention because first, there's so little trash in the waters here...and when we come to look at it, it appears to be swimming.  Have waded well into the water to check out this phenomenon when we both spot the dorsal fin off to one side.  Another shark!  My god, they're everywhere.  These are all nurse sharks, which are supposedly not aggressive at all unless you attack them, but still.  Keith, from his last sailing venture, now recognizes the milk bottle as part of a Bahamian shark catching rig, involving two lines and the milk bottle as a floater.  The shark broke free from the boat but not from the line attaching him to the floater.  I say, "I don't think we have enough fish yet.  Shark steak would be a great addition."  I am kidding.  Keith:  "Absolutely -- I'll grab it -- get ready to help me pull him to shore."  Barb: "??!"  The outcome is three out of four hands cut from the fishing line as the shark snaps the line and swims away free.  I feel glad to think that after all his efforts to escape, he did...and even more glad that he didn't turn on us before taking off.  

I do regret the steak.

Check weather one more time, and we set off on the first leg of our 1400-mile venture from Eleuthera to the lower Grenadines.  As we sail along, catching some lovely if inedible fish, we talk about the winds of 5-10 knots and 4-6 foot seas that are predicted for the next three days:  nice, calm sailing weather.

Keith's big fish -- can't eat him (barracuda)...but fun to catch!

...and my big fish...this is the famous bonefish.