Buddy Boats Blowing Bubbles

As anyone can imagine, handing out free drinks is always a fun activity. Talk about the easiest volunteering gig ever! Nate was able to help me behind the handmade bar affixed between two trees and we happily served well over 120 cups of rum punch on ice… and we only had a few ourselves! In exactly 18 minutes, the full cooler was void of libations and we were done with our work for the day. We took the time to mingle with friends, check out all the creative “under the sea” themed costumes folks put together, then worry and cheer as Ward decided to climb up into a tree with a bunch of children and launch from the rope swing into the crowd – what a hoot! In desperate need of a relaxing evening, we headed back to the boat after about an hour and settled in for a healthy dinner and an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. We went to bed early, although neither of us slept well, our bodies were grateful for a sober night’s sleep.

I was up well before the sun on Wednesday morning, having difficulty sleeping from some stress with outstanding career paperwork, a large and unexpected dentist bill, and plans to have the deck on my rental property worked on in the next month. Instead of tossing and turning, I decided I’d better do something about my stress. I spent the beautiful, cool morning working on my taxes and organizing other items to help facilitate an easier transition for when I receive my separation paperwork to file for insurance and other needs. After a few hours of that, Nate was up and we spent the morning relaxing on the boat. I made progress into another good book and Nate continued to nerd out on the single side band radio. Our friend Eddie was sent over to visit by his wife, Cara (whom he was driving nuts with need for social interaction while she was trying to work on their youtube videos) and we visited with him, discussing plans to leave on Friday morning to start heading south. The afternoon progressed and once Eddie left, we popped over to Ward’s boat “next door” to have cocktails with a few friends. One friend, Chuck, invited us over for dinner and we graciously accepted the offer. We popped back to our boat for drink refills then to Chuck’s boat (also “next door”). We enjoyed fun conversation with Chuck and Ward, and then we all headed to the Wednesday night dance party at Chat and Chill. We had a great time, enjoying more slow dances than normal, given our injuries, and hopping around on my good leg for the faster songs. We called it an early night and no sooner had we stepped back on the boat that the DJ stopped spinning and bagpipe splendor filled the air. Rats! I absolutely LOVE bagpipes. We appreciated what we could hear from the boat and hit the hay.

We awoke excitedly on Thursday morning, being the 3rd and 4th alternates for the big bocce ball tournament on the beach. Waiting patiently for 30 minutes for all the players to be formally accounted for or proven absent, we were thrilled when we both made the cut! Assigned random partners, we each suffered first round losses in the single-elimination tournament, but had a great time playing.

Nate in the bocce tournament

A friend with a Caliber yacht similar to ours popped over for a long tour after bocce. The men bounced ideas off each other regarding specific Caliber auxiliary designs and parts and I baked a loaf of bread. Eddie stopped by after lunch and we finalized plans to depart the following morning. We headed over to town for the 10 hour Yamaha outboard maintenance and a few grocery items. The dink ride back to the boat was a very wet one, so we quickly rinsed off, changed clothes, packed a cooler, then headed to Honeymoon Beach for another A.R.G. meeting.

A neighbor’s sailboat at dusk.

The showing was overwhelming! Not only did a jazz quartet serenade the group throughout the party, but over 65 dinghies were present on the beach – most of which brought at least two people. The party was excellent and we were grateful to get to say goodbye to most of our friends in Georgetown. We joined Steve and his wife, Lori, on their boat “Cactus” for another round of drinks and camaraderie after the dusk bloodsuckers crashed the beach party. Cara and Eddie joined, too, and the six of us enjoyed an evening full of laughter and friendship.

Friday morning brought beautiful sunshine and a frenzy of regatta participants preparing for the morning’s “around the island” race. We readied the boat for our journey and weighed anchor around 08:30. Dodging in and out of the anxious racers, we finally departed the crowded harbor, southbound for a quick hop to Long Island. Our 37 nautical mile “quick hop” turned out to take 50% longer than expected, as the wind, waves, and current slowed both our boat and Eddie and Cara’s to a painstakingly slow 3-4 knots. We caught and released yet another barracuda, much more of an annoying than noteworthy. As we approached the large anchorage, we discovered our backup depth sounder was no longer operable. Excellent… flying blind! Luckily, the bottom was sandy, so our biggest concern was the tide, not running aground. We finally dropped the hook in Thompson’s Bay, Long Island around 17:00 in what appeared to be around 8ft of water. Music dropped their hook nearby, confirming the general depth for us. Utilizing eavesdropped radio intel, we quickly readied our dinghies and headed ashore to try to catch the last bit of the rumored happy hour at Sou’ Side Bar and Grill. After a decently long dink ride and creative boarding of the dinghy dock (which was much better suited for taller vessels), we started our few block trek up to the bar. Pleased to arrive with 15 minutes remaining in happy hour, we ordered drinks and appetizers and were even more pleased to find that Jay and Willow were there! We all caught up about our last few days of adventures (they left Georgetown when we left for Staniel Cay) and enjoyed a few more drinks. The dusk bloodsuckers chased us out of the bar and we gladly hosted the four others for late sundowners. Excited that our plans aligned for the next few destinations, Jay and Willow agreed to join our buddy boating team. The more the merrier!

Excited to check out the local farmer’s market, we awoke early on Saturday morning and got ourselves moving. Someday I’ll learn not to get my hopes up about a farmers market on islands that practically have infertile soil. We did purchase a delicious, dense loaf of banana bread and headed up the road to the hardware store with our fingers crossed. Sadly, they did not carry handheld depth sounders. We did find a great new ballyhoo lure and a hand reel to substitute for our broken rod holder… the second one this trip… thanks for the quality product, West Marine. We headed back up the road, past the farmer’s market and the Sou’ Side Bar, to the liquor and grocery stores. Always in price-comparison mode, we popped into the liquor store to see how their stickers competed with previous locations. Alas, we’d stumbled upon yet another liquor store that doesn’t post prices, you have to take the bottle to the counter and ask the clerk to scan it. A bit annoying, if you’re trying to price match for potential stocking up. I also mentally noted how incredible narrow the walking space was between the shelves and stacked boxes in the middle of the tiny store. Amidst our discussions of the selections, I heard a resounding shatter and splash. I spun around to see Nate standing particularly still, unsure of what occurred at his feet. It so happened that the inappropriately narrow aisle was not adequate for Nate AND the backpack he was wearing. We were now the embarrassed owners of a bottle of Bacardi we would never get the chance to enjoy. We approached the counter timidly and apologetically, fearing the name-brand rum would cost us $40-50. We were slightly relieved when the clerk rang it up as $17. Phew – that could have been significantly worse. Bummed, embarrassed, and a little frustrated at the liquor store’s set up (and also higher prices, we did price check our favorite coconut rum) we trudged next door to the grocery store, backpack cautiously in hand. We successfully stocked up, unsure of when our next grocery run would be, and headed back to the boat. At the dinghy dock, we bumped in to Katie and Cody from S/V Zoe – a couple we’d met in Georgetown. After a bit of chatting and catching up, they headed to the market and we dinked back to Lady Sun Dream.

Cara and Eddie were in desperate need of laundry and we desired internet, so we both weighed anchor and moved our boats across the choppy bay to re-anchor close to Tiny’s Restaurant, which had not only laundry facilities, but decent internet, $4 beers, and the closest thing we’ve had to pizza in two months. After a few hours at the cute little bar, Cara and Eddie had clean laundry and Nate and I were satisfied with our phone updates, video uploads, etc. We fought the wind back to the boat and shifted the boats back to the more protected side of the bay for the night. The four of us went ashore again, following Jay and Willow’s recommendation to see a local cave. After a few wrong turns and a radio call for repeated directions, we found it! The cave was much warmer and drier than any cave I’ve been in, but it made for easy exploring in flip flops. We wandered around for a little bit, taking photos and trying not to disturb the few bats present. The parts of the cave we explored were   beautiful and I was grateful for the time underground, even it if was short and involved no crawling. We headed back to our own boats for the evening. After showers and dinner, Katie and Cody came over for late sundowners and we had a lovely evening visit. They were headed north the next day, we were headed south, and so we said our new farewell – “until next time!” and headed to bed.

We purposefully rose before the sun on Sunday, knowing we had a long journey ahead. Underway by 06:20, the trio of boats were headed out of Thompson’s Bay. Not 10 minutes later, we received a fairly frantic radio call from Cara, exclaiming they had engine problems and were dropping the hook right where they were. We flipped the boat around and she further explained that their alternator belt had snapped. Alas, they had no spare. Fortunately for them, we had not one, but several spares! Nate quickly grabbed one and I prepared our fenders to come alongside of Music for the handoff. Deciding a toss may be smarter, I tied a spare line to the belt and readied myself for the delivery. This was all made slightly more stressful by the 15 knots of wind. My first toss bounced off their toe rail and into the water. I quickly pulled it back in with the line and tossed again. I had one more good shot before we’d have to make another loop around them. Nailed it! Cara had the belt in hand and we maneuvered to the lee side of their vessel. Eddie performed a quick installation, the belt was tight, but it would work. With only a slight delay, we were back on track, slowly catching Jay and Willow (they left earlier than us because their boat does not go as fast). We hoisted the spinnaker and enjoyed a smooth sail for the first 2-3 hours of the trip. Once we turned to pass through Comer’s Channel, the rest of the day was motorsailing, with the wind only slightly off our bow. We caught and released four more barracudas throughout the day. Such a let down after the excitement of hearing the reel spin. As we neared our anchorage, we heard a conspicuous snap; sadly realizing the noise came from our hand line, now severed with the lure and hook lost. We decided to reel the other line in before anchoring, only to discover the end of the line contained no lure or hook. Rats! That was our brand new ballyhoo lure. What a bummer. The bigger bummer came when we approached as close to shore as possible (using our rudimentary lead line to determine the depth) and the swell was continuing to roll the boat. We anchored just before sunset and cooked dinner while waiting for the others in the armada to arrive and give their opinions of what to do. We either needed to continue on through the night or deal with the massive rollers, tossing our boats around like bobbing corks. Our buddy boats decided they’d rather stay the night in the rollers, so Nate rifled through the storage area under the guest bed to dig out our stern anchor. After a painful assembly process, we were ready to deploy it. It took several iterations of different combinations of rudder, engine, and bow thruster to finally force the boat to face the swell. We deployed the stern anchor and although it was holding the boat where we wanted it to, the line was making a horrendously loud noise just above our bed whenever it was tensioned. Nate set out to mitigate the obnoxious sound, but unfortunately, the stern anchor came loose in the process. At that point, I’d given up and was ready to deal with the rolling all night, rather than the intermittent scream of the line through on the cleat. Nate, being Nate, was not giving up so easily. He repositioned the vessel and redeployed the stern anchor while I attempted to sleep. He successfully managed to alleviate the noise and rolls enough to be bearable for attempting rest.

Although we both slept poorly, we were up before the sun again and set sail for a better anchorage along Crooked Island. The winds and swell were strongly in front of us all day, making our 40nm journey take much longer than it should. We were pleased to finally arrive at a gorgeous stretch of white sandy beach, anchored near shore with very little rolling. Happy to be in such a beautiful location midday, Nate and I jumped in for a swim to shore. The water was exceptionally clear, revealing mesmerizing sand waves and sand dollars. I found a few dead and bleached sand dollars and carefully swam along, hoping to keep them. We’d hoped to harvest some coconuts ashore, but quickly discovered we’d need shoes to even attempt to get to the palm trees. After a nice swim back to the boat, our buddy boats had arrived and were anchoring nearby. We washed off the salt water, had an early dinner, then picked up Jay and Willow on Little Willy (their old, our new, dink) and puttered over to Eddie and Cara’s for sundowners. As always, we enjoyed an evening of good fun and conversation and headed back to our boats. The short dink ride was extraordinarily stunning: Stars above and stars below. Our extended stay in Georgetown almost made me forget how incredibly beautiful the night sky is. The Milky Way extended gracefully from horizon to horizon, an illuminating band you can easily mistake for haze. The water below was illuminated with movement. As our dinghy calmly cruised back to the boat, the bioluminescence awoke. The astonishing magnificence of glowing marine life forms is intoxicating. I let my hand graze in the sea, catching the underwater fireflies in my wake. How amazing it feels to touch Mother Nature’s little wonders, filling us with the joy and significance of our existence. Like a child chasing lightning bugs, I hurried to use the restroom in hopes of a brilliant seawater flush once aboard. Sadly, none of the tiny fairies showed themselves, so I crept back to bed with excitement for a midnight bathroom break. Amazing how something so tiny as bioluminescent sea creatures and particles can make me look forward to a mid-sleep awakening to relieve myself. Touché, Mother Nature, touché. The mid-sleep flush did not disappoint, for the record.

After a night of much needed rest, I went for another swim while Nate received weather reports from the single side band. He then assisted Eddie with a battery issue (sometimes the power button does the trick…) and then headed to town with Eddie and Jay to help them fill their jerry cans with diesel. I worked on the blog and tried to do a little workout (leg is still healing). The guys returned and we joined Music for a coconut-hunting excursion. We carefully blazed a trail towards one of the many hurricane-damaged, abandoned houses to find our way to the road. After a little snooping in windows, we deduced the house had been nearly finished in construction, but it appeared the owners did not even attempt to salvage the house after Joaquin’s damage. We met the neighbor, Lynn, who gave us directions to the area where we may be able to find some coconuts. We bopped on down the road, making up stories for the houses we saw and the airport’s purpose. Once we approached “Jackie’s house” (as Lynn directed us) we found several palm trees, yay! Our excitement faded when we realized we had no real way of getting 15ft off the ground to reach the coconuts. We hummed and hawed and eventually found a tree that was bent towards the ground enough for a potential climb. Nate volunteered for the task, as he was the only one with shorts long enough to protect his legs. He carefully scooted his way up the tree and painstakingly hacked away with the machete, felling four coconuts. Eddie created a sort of hook and pulled an additional big one down. Recognizing the other coconuts were too far out of reach, we continued wandering around, in hopes to find some on the ground, or the papaya trees a local had told the guys about. With no luck, we still enjoyed the walk, checking out a few more devastated houses before heading back to the dinghy. Along the walk, I found an awesome conch shell, which I plan to turn in to a conch horn to blow at sunset! After a short dinghy ride back to the boats, we rallied Jay and Willow and we all set out to snorkel and (attempt to) spearfish lobster on the nearby reef. We anchored the boats just outside the reef and all jumped in to explore. The reef was quite alive and impressive. (I’ll post videos when I can!) We swam around for probably an hour, diving down to search for lobsters, see the fish hiding under the mushroom rocks, and chasing away barracudas. I luckily missed the barracuda encounter, thankfully, as I would have been back in the dinghy like a bat out of hell. I’m still such a scaredy cat! Nate and Eddie attempted to spear a lobster, but were unsuccessful – the shells are super tough to penetrate. Once we were all satisfyingly tired and saltwater logged, we headed back to our boats to shower and prep drinks and coolers for our beach bonfire. Shortly after five, we headed ashore to gather firewood and get the party started. I patiently waited for my little kindling log cabin to catch, and once it did, we were ablaze and the party was on! The six of us had another great evening of conversations, story-telling, and joking. We grilled hot dogs for dinner and drooled as we munched down freshly fried plantains Jay made to share. Eventually, the sun dropped below the horizon, the golden hour faded, and the stars twinkled into view. Mesmerized by the Milky Way, once more, we craned our necks from horizon to horizon to engross our senses in the gorgeously illuminated night sky.

After an early night, we had a busy morning when the generator stopped working, again. So much for that perceived fix. Excited to have an activity, Jay came over to assist Nate in troubleshooting… Eddie followed shortly after. Men will be men. I tried to stay out of the way and scheme to plan our day; hopefully a trip to the abandoned Bird Lighthouse and another afternoon of snorkeling. The weather forecast has us pinned here for the better part of a week; we are all in good spirits and are grateful to have company. There is no real “town” on this island, so our options are limited. Let’s hope someone spears a big fish or we’re going to get really sick of hot dogs for dinner!

2 thoughts on “Buddy Boats Blowing Bubbles”

  1. Love the stories and wish we were there to share them with you… Exactly what we want to do when the time is right…

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