Monday, February 28, 2011


Black Point, Exumas 24º6.04N | 76º24.12W

Baby mangoes.

Boat in progress.

Ladies room @ Willie's.

Is it still a Prickly Pear when there are no prickles?



Black Point, Exumas 24º6.04N | 76º24.12W

In my imagination, the Garden of Eden is a mythical, magical, mystical place where the fertile ground erupts with bounty to feed the body, greenery to nurture the eyes, dappled shade from overhead, velvety green grass underfoot, everything needed to survive and thrive.

In Black Point, a faded, handpainted sign along the road says 'Garden of Eden,' pointing the way to an even more bedraggled entrance, an entrance to what at first appeared to me to be a bunch of dead sticks.

Garden of Eden entrance.
Then I met the gardener, Willie Rolle, a local celebrity of sorts, well covered in the cruising blogosphere.

"How did you start collecting these 'sculptures'?" I asked.

"Oh, I got the idea from the clouds," he replied in his thick Bahamian brogue, explaining how we all look at clouds and see fanciful things, an elephant to me might be a motorcycle to you.

Willie took us on an enchanted tour of his sculpture garden -- all driftwood found on his own property -- enchanted, because a tall arcing stick under a wave of Willie's hand would reveal itself as a graceful ballerina.

A roaring lion, a playful puppy, a beautiful lady washing her hair. In a rock on the ground, he conjures George Washington, and in the moment Willie's spreading his magic dust, I see ol' George too. And every time one of us sees what Willie sees? He giggles with utter delight.

But now, without Willie by my side, the magic gone, I look back at my photos and see, not lions or ladies, but a bunch of driftwood stuck in stone, black and white and barren.

Willie, what IS it?
Gardener? Sculptor? Artist? Wizard? Madman? I guess that just depends on whose eyes you're looking through.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Black Point, Exumas 24º6.04N | 76º24.12W

Looking west from Regatta Point in Black Point.

After weeks of tooling around on deserted islands and those barely inhabited, we have landed in Black Point rumored to have a population of less than 200, but still the second largest town in the Exumas after Georgetown.

My first experience of this kind gathering of Bahamians came on our first day at anchor. I've been carrying a wifi antenna for our friends Mike and Rebecca on Zero to Cruising since Miami, expecting to catch up with them in the Exumas before they head south, but because of our hapless dawdling that is looking doubtful.

Black Point post office.
"Black Point anchorage. I'm looking for a boat heading for Georgetown that is willing to carry a small package to another boat there. Please hail Cara Mia."

Immediately a Bahamian man hailed and asked me to switch channels.

"Go to the government dock and ask for Officer Kevin Rolle. He is leaving in an hour and will help you out."

The friendly guy who greeted us at the dock turned out to be Officer Rolle himself. He was not only willing to take the antenna but seemed delighted to do so, promising to hand it off to Elvis in BarreTerre who would then take it to Georgetown and hail Mike on the VHF.

Me and Officer Kevin Rolle.
As Mike reports from the other end, Elvis, who is the Elizabeth Harbor Harbormaster, is alive and well in Georgetown -- and so is the Bahamian Kindness Network. Good, good souls here.


Black Point, Exumas 24º6.04N | 76º24.12W

Anchorage at Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay.
Sailing is a humbling occupation offering infinite ways to challenge, confound and embarrass yourself. It's like the first day of school or a new job -- every day -- rife with new opportunities to prove you're an amateur. It is not possible to be bored, because you're waiting to see what will go wrong next.

Today's forecast called for 10-12 knot winds from the northeast, dropping and shifting to southeast mid- to late afternoon. We left Sampson for a short, less than 10-mile, hop to Black Point just before 9 a.m. to take advantage of favorable winds.

Leaving the anchorage we headed southwest-ish looking resplendent flying the main and jib side by side in my favorite point of sail, wing on wing.

As we turned south around Sandy Cay, it was apparent that the wind was already shifting to the southeast, which would be, of course, right in our face on the next turn. We headed out into the Exuma Banks hoping to be able to tack back toward Black Point once we passed Harvey Cay, sailing the whole way.

We never saw the predicted 10-12 knots, rather 15 at first soon picking up to 20+ with squalls on the horizon ahead. Chip was thrilled to find he could get Cara Mia moving at almost 8 knots despite my complaints about weather helm.

This concludes the peaceful portion of the sail.

Next we had a fight about, well, we're not really sure. That's how those married fights go.

Then we decided to reef, using our new, untried reefing rig.

When we turned into the wind, the jib got away from us, flapping like a coop full of scared hens and just as noisy. The jib lines got all twangled, around themselves and in the standing rigging. You don't really notice how much stuff there is overhead on a sailboat until it all starts weaving itself around each other. That took some time to wrestle under control.

Then the new reefing ring kept coming off the new horn that was supposed to hold the now-smaller sail in place. Put it back on. It comes off again. Repeat.

Everything finally started working harmoniously, just as the wind dropped down below 10 knots right outside Black Point harbor.

That's when I noticed the the entire back seam of the jib had ripped out while it was flapping in the wind.

If you look closely, you can see
 the leech line dangling behind the jib.
We pulled in the sails and humbly dropped anchor in Black Point, happy that our boat performs flawlessly even when we don't.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Sampson Cay, Exumas 24º12.5N | 76º28.5W

Pipe Creek Yacht Club shrapnel.

Decor at Pipe Creek Yacht Club.

WILSON, alive and well on Thomas Cay.
Thomas Cay.

Rocky outcropping near Overyonder Cut. Not so impressive?
For scale, that is two people in a dinghy at the tip of the rock on the left.


Sampson Cay, Exumas 24º12.5N | 76º28.5W
Unnavigable cut with tidal rapids running through it.
Our southward progress has resumed, sort of. We have landed back in Sampson Cay with their irresistible $2 Tuesday offering $2 apps and $2.50 beer, not to mention "locals," aka transplants, willing to take our money in dice games. (Actually, thanks to Karen's skills, aka luck, we split two games with them.)

But not before another dinghy adventure to Pipe Creek, a spot on chart I had been ogling with lots of reefs, rock formations and islands, with magical names like "The Mice" and "Rat Cay."

We made the long dinghy pass around Sampson Cay and across OverYonder Cut to find a big lagoon as promised. There was indeed a reef down the middle but the missing element on the chart was the amount of traffic through the lagoon, both in the form of swift current and the roaring human kind via dinghies, small boats and even a few jet skis. We weren't comfortable staying underwater in heavy traffic so we moved on, searching unsuccessfully for lobster but seeing some inexplicably beautiful rock formations jutting up around the cut. I suffered through a day of watching over my Canon 40D on the dinghy to get some good shots, but once again, nature proves herself better suited to the human experience than taming by a lens, at least one in my amateur hands.

Rocks. Really big ones.
Thomas Cay along the eastern edge of Pipe Creek, shares a name with Dale and Karen, so we felt it necessary to explore it thoroughly, finding it entirely uninhabited but for some long-departed conch.

Blackened conch.
And what we were sure was a lost road of Atlantis but later learned is a less mystical yet equally ancient swath of limestone, the blacker the older.

Road to Atlantis or ancient limestone?
We also found more recent signs of human visitation in the form of the Pipe Creek Yacht Club, the first club where we have applied for membership.

Volunteer maintenance at the clubhouse.
Let's hope they have a good reciprocation program.

Dale engaged in high speed snorkeling.
The Thomases claiming their island.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


 Bell Island, Exumas 24º18.141N | 76º33.773W

This trek south has taken a brief intermission to head north again. We, with Jessie Marie, decided to have a look at Bell Island and the surrounding area, ten miles north of Sampson Cay.

With guests on board for the last two weeks and places to be, we had not yet been able to choose travel days that coincided with good sailing weather. Those days are gone now. For the hop to Bell, we chose a day with glorious winds -- 15 knots in the correct direction -- all sails flying.

Beautiful Jessie Marie flying in a favorable Bahamian breeze.
Bell Island is one of many islands along this part of the Exumas that is privately owned, and one of the privately owned variety that doesn't allow "trespassing." It did however provide some good elevation to protect us from a little blow from the north and close proximity to Rocky Dundas, two tiny cays approachable only by dinghy, surrounded by reef and home to two caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations. These cays are within the protected Exuma Park area and not as highly travelled as some of the other reefs and caves (like Thunderball).

Karen and Dale leading the way to Rocky Dundas.
We had to make a long slog in the dinghies, across Conch Cut to reach Rocky Dundas.  It was my first attempt at snorkeling on this trip, since I had been lending out my gear to Casey (happily). I donned the whole chic outfit and jumped in.

The undeniable glamour of snorkel gear.
My first "breath" through the snorkel was pure salt water. I hacked and coughed and finally got back in the dinghy (happily) to watch the others swim in the caves and around the reef. They reported it to be beautiful and verified that with some great photos.

Cave at Rocky Dundas.  Photo by Karen Thomas
Underwater fan near Rocky Dundas.  Photo by Chip
On the return trip, we discovered that our own little cove at the anchorage housed a lively reef free of swell and waves breaking on rocks, my kind of snorkeling spot, where Chip got my snorkel gear cleared and flowing with air rather than seawater.

Gorgeous ray walking his remora in our anchorage.
As if the Bahamian grandeur above the water is not enough, what lies beneath matches and sometimes surpasses it.

Nature's beauty is the ultimate elixir, ironing out jangled nerves and rejuvenating world weary senses. I just want to drink it up, um, the beauty, not the seawater.

Elvis? Oh, no, that's just Dale.
Sundowner and a smile.
How to wile away a stormy day.

Uninterrupted sunset over Exuma Bank.

Friday, February 18, 2011


 Sampson Cay, Exumas 24º12.5N | 76º28.5W

Pipe Creek "Yacht Club," on the far northern end of uninhabited Thomas Cay.
Low tide or high sand?
Always hopeful. Chairs, usually waterside, at low tide.
Sampson Cay, Exumas 24º12.5N | 76º28.5W