Date: 29 March 2018
Location: Anchored off Matthew Town, Great Inagua, Bahamas LAT 20° 57.406 LON 073° 40.852
Weather: Clear, Mid 80’s, Moderate Wind ENE 15 Knots
Departed Clarence Town on 26 March and motor sailed NE to clear the point of the reef and then fell off to the SSE toward Great Inagua. Engine off at 0930 and my sails went up. We found we could sail on a beam reach faster than we could motor sail. My crew put the lines out looking for “dem fishes”.
During our journey, we were soon joined by a pod of Dolphin! Several jumped out of the water and others surfed the waves next to me playing in my bow wake. We continued along the coast of Long Island for several hours sailing in beautiful deep blue waters and enjoying the day. Further down the shoreline, my keel grew heavy as we passed by the wreck of the DeBora’s Dreamscape that washed ashore in 2006. Using our binoculars, the crew viewed and marveled at the caves and cliffs along the beach created by the relentless wave action.
To lift my spirits, The Captain decided it was time to break out my Spinnaker and see what I could do. It took a while to get me rigged and get all the lines and sheets set up. When they finally got everything ready, they doused the Yankee and Main and let my spinnaker spring free from the sail bag. While deploying, the furling line that is attached to the fiberglass cone used to raise and lower the snuffer seemed to snag on something when the sail was about half way up. This made fully opening and raising the sail a little bit of a challenge but eventually the wind pushed the turtleshell upward to the top of the halyard and she spread out to her full glory. Only problem was the furling line was not secured and now the bitter end of the line was about halfway up the sail and out of reach from the deck. (Note to Captain – tie furling line to deck cleat in the future). Guess we’ll worry about that “later”. We rollicked along in a steady wind (about 15 knots off the beam) but I couldn’t quite make the rhumb line needed and still keep the wind aft of the beam. Our next destination was about 35 degrees to Port from our current track. So after about 3 hours when the wind started picking up and clocking to the East, we came up in the wind to bring my spinnaker in. Now suddenly became the “later”. The crew had to lower the halyard to reach the furling line, get control and get the snuffer pulled down. They got hold of the furling line and started to bring the snuffer down but the snag remained so the Captain decided it was best and safest to put the sail in the water, detach the Tack to dump the wind and pull her aboard by hand. We cleared the twisted line and manually pulled the sock the rest of the way down as we brought the Spinnaker aboard. Once we got her tucked in and stowed away, it was back to my Mainsail and Yankee. I was now nicely making good in a 20 to 25 knot breeze reaching 8.5 to 9 knots VMG towards our destination. It was decided that next time we would wait for a little calmer breeze and an apparent wind angle that is more aft of the beam before letting my spinnaker loose again.
The Sun dropped and an almost Full Moon rose in its place to guide me pretty much the rest of the way. The Moon dipped below the horizon at about 0430 and we lost our light, so we reefed the Main and put out the Staysail for the rest of the passage. A building North swell provided a little roll but not too uncomfortable. Not long after Sunrise, we raised Man-O War Bay and anchored up tight in the NE corner for protection and also we were looking forward to some well-deserved rest.
Once we got my anchor set, Captain Brian took a look in the Chart Book and put in a call to Casper (yep – as in “The Friendly Ghost”) to set up a tour of the National Park and the Flamingo Breeding grounds as well the Morton Salt Plant for the following day. Turns out that rest for the weary crew was not to be had. Casper had friends flying in the following day and would not be available so the tour got moved up to “I’ll meet you on the beach in about an hour”. So a quick shower and off in Sea Tigger they went. Casper had ordered them up some lunch at a local restaurant that doubles as a “school cafeteria”. A big pile of Cracked Conch, french fries and hot sauce raised the crews’ cholesterol level a few points. They said it seemed like lot of energetic kids all in their school uniforms come to the café for lunch during their break. They are probably banished from going home in order to give their mamas a break. Actually, the crew was quite impressed with how well behaved the kids were and how they seemed to interact together quite well.
Casper then took the crew on a tour of the islands notable sites. First up was the Lighthouse on the southern point of the island. Built by the same folks that put up the Lighthouse in Hope Town Harbour. This one was a little taller (crew reported 147 steps to be exact) and originally had the same internal working of gears, counter weights, a kerosene lamp and Fresnel lenses. They described spectacular views from the top overlooking Mother Ocean and the Salts Flats stretching far across the island. To my disappointment, modern technology had taken over and the beauty of a fire burning kerosene lamp had been turned into an LED at the end of a faded orange extension cord. The caretaker’s quarters are now abandoned and sit decaying away. They say it’s practical and cheaper. Maybe that’s true, but there’s just something about the old ways…..
Next, my crew was taken to a small local museum in town near the original shipping port. Most of the salt collected here is used for deicing roads and in water softeners. The process involved is fairly simple and straightforward; seawater is pumped into a huge (34,000 acre) reservoir where the impurities are removed by settling and controlled movement of the brine into shallow flats called crystallizers. Each of the 60 flats cover over 15 acres where the water evaporates – leaving the fresh salt to be harvested. When the new salt levels in the flat build up about 6” deep (on top of the old hard base), road graders are used to form up the salt in hedge rows and a tractor with a conveyor loads it into dump trucks. It’s then taken to the plant and dumped into hoppers to be washed, screened and stockpiled waiting to be transferred via a 1,400 foot conveyor out to freighters that can handle upwards of 6,000 tons. A ship can be loaded in about 7 ½ hours now as compared to when small barges had to be loaded to move the salt out to larger ships in deeper waters. A very labor intensive process that would take 5 or 6 days. There’s just something about the old ways…..
Final stop of the day was the Flamingo Breeding Grounds in the National Preserve. Casper is an “official” Bahamas National Trust Park Warden as was his father and grandfather. Known as “The Fillymingo Men” they are the responsible for the Management of the Preserve and protection of the birds in the Park. A position he is rightly proud of. The trip out to the breeding grounds took them along a series of rough and rocky roads (basically the dikes that formed the reservoir). The dikes separated the Morton Plant property and the government owned wild natural areas around the island. The Dragonflies were as thick as the annual invasion of Lovebugs in Florida during the early spring. My crew said there seemed to be millions of them. Finally, they arrived at the breeding areas but were not able to get as close as hoped. With use of some spotting scopes and binoculars they could view them in their habitat. It was estimated up to 60,000 birds nest in the Park. My crew said they were very majestic, graceful creatures, with pink and black feathers on the trailing edge of their wings. Never got an answer to the mystery of why they often stand on one leg…
After a full day, Casper dropped my tired crew back off at the beach for the short dingy ride out to where I lay waiting. The next morning we motored about 5 miles south along the coast to the new government dock to get our clearance out of the Bahamas from Customs. The harbor was recently upgraded to handle a Bahamas Defense Force Cruiser that happened to be in port when we arrived. There were new finger piers open but the Captain elected to remain just outside and anchor as he was concerned about the turning radius inside the basin. Just as we were getting ready to drop the anchor about 150 feet from shore, Captain Brian noticed a small (30 foot) engineless, Bahama Rigged wooden Scull was making its way along the coast from the South and would be crossing in front of us. We held fast and extended Honors as she gracefully passed by and were in awe as She made a hard gybe to Starboard and into the basin thru its 30 foot opening. She dropped sails, made a hard turn back to Port and came to a rest just inches from the seawall. A masterful job of seamanship, helm control and maneuvering. Captain Brian was duly impressed by the approach to the dock made famous by the legendary Capt Ron.
When my crew hopped in Sea Tigger for the quick ride into the marina, Captain Brian took the opportunity to speak with Her Captain. Turns out Her crew were all Haitians and she regularly comes up to Great Inagua to collect pretty much anything they can get their hands on. Crushed metal tanks, old appliances, broken window frames, scrap lumber, torn tarps – anything that might be of some use down in Haiti. After a few minutes of comradery between the two Mariners the Immigration Officer showed up to check-in and clear the Haitian vessel. This turned out to be great timing as the Officer provided my crew a ride to the Customs office so they could complete their departure clearance paperwork. Conveniently enough, a liquor store is located right between the Customs and Immigration offices. Not sure if this had anything bearing on it but the Customs Officer was in a great mood and clearance was simple and quick. My crews timing was perfect, they cleared Customs, picked up a couple bottles of Rum and walked out the door just as the Immigration Officer was leaving for lunch. They caught a ride back to town and had lunch themselves at Shenia’s. After a fine meal of fish and slaw they walked back to the Harbour.
Out on the dock, Captain Brian headed back over to watch the crew from Haiti as they were loading Her hold for the return trip while The Admiral wandered over to meet Lionel Sole and Elsie Downie on “S/V Ruby Tuesday”. Visiting with Lionel and Elsie was an Australian couple – Guanilla and Tony on “S/V Katriana” who had just finished clearing in to the Bahamas and were anchored next to us outside the Habour. Later in the evening, Guanilla and Tony joined us on Paws for drinks and a light supper as we shared sea tales. They brought “Katriana” from Australia across the Indian Ocean, around Cape of Good Hope and cross the Atlantic to Brazil then up the coast. Very interesting hearing about their adventures and experiences.
After an enjoyable evening, my crew spent a rolly night thanks to a SW swell that kept The Admiral awake most of the night. The Captain, who can sleep thru a Hurricane, claims he didn’t notice. Early the next morning, The Admiral needed her coffee the old fashion way – perked, hot and strong. Capt Robert and The Admiral made a quick dash for a few provisions and then all gathered on S/V Katriana for more coffee and lunch. They spent most of the day sharing more stories, discussing boat issues, sailing gear, points of interest and future plans. My crew came back late afternoon to tidy me up a bit and prep for a morning departure for an estimated two night passage to Jamaica.
Joyce and Brian Clark
S/V Pawsitive Latitude
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