The men fixed the generator! Jay discovered a blockage in the intake hose internal to the generator that Nate hadn’t yet found and sure enough, that was the kicker. We are so relieved to have a reliable generator, again. What a long battle and thorn in Nate’s side that has been these past few months. The rest of the morning brought intermittent clouds, convincing our acclimated bodies that it would be too cold for a snorkel. Nate and I decided to go ashore for a walk and hopefully find some more coconuts along the way. We hopped in Lil’ Willy and puttered up to the beach. Shepard’s hook in hand, we went for the closest, biggest palm tree we could see. The tree sat just a little off the beach in front of an abandoned house. We saw a small cluster of coconuts and were quite excited. Just as Nate started to yank some down with the hook, he fixed his eyes on the jackpot: a massive cluster of huge coconuts, hiding right behind the palm leaf he was touching. He spent the next few minutes yanking them down in excitement. We pulled ten beauties down and were grateful the dinghy was so close. We gathered the coconuts (two at a time due to their size) and rolled them down the small dunes to the dinghy.
Once the dink was loaded, we were satisfied with our harvesting efforts and went for a nice beach walk. We stopped by Aqua Trek and Music to gift each buddy boat a massive coconut, then returned to our boat with the remaining bounty, eager to consume the contents. I drilled into two coconuts, harvesting the water into a large bowl, and then funneled the delicious juice into smaller containers for the fridge. Nate and I spent some time cutting 15’ of excess chain from our main anchor chain to rig the stern anchor. The swell was increasingly less comfortable, so we sweat through the process and deployed the stern anchor. By that time, the large cloud band shifted north and the sun shone brightly, heating up our secluded, gorgeous anchorage. Pleased with the increased air temperature, I donned a swimsuit, goggles, and snorkel and jumped in to the crystal clear water. I battled the small swell and wind waves over to Music to visit with Cara and Eddie for a little bit, giving Nate some time to breath without me. The visit didn’t last long, as we decided it was a good time to exchange movies and shows, using our power to keep devices alive. I swam back to the boat in probably a third of the strokes used to depart, with the swell propelling me home. Just before I reached the swim ladder, I was greeted by a large eagle ray, gracefully flapping along the seafloor, just eight feet under me. I panicked a little (I don’t know why I do that, they are docile creatures) and quickly swam to the other side of the boat. Finally recognizing my silliness, I admired the ray for a moment before ascending the swim ladder on to the perceived safety of the boat. After a quick shower, our friends descended upon us, laptops and hard drives in hand. The ladies quickly set up shop in the living room, covering the table with cords and electronics, while the men regaled themselves with discussion of their earlier generator success and talked more “boat stuff” in the cockpit. Several large data transfers completed and we all agreed we should make another bonfire on the beach. The men crowded into one dinghy and headed ashore to start the firewood hunt while I hurriedly packed a cooler with hot dogs, drinks, ice, hummus, and carrots. Cara stayed back to finish another data transfer while Willow and I took Lil’ Willy to the beach to join the already blazing bonfire party. We all had another excellent evening together, loving the fire, breeze, food, and company.
The aforementioned swell continued to build and despite the stern anchor, we slept horribly. The winds shifted and made all our adjustments of the stern anchor worthless. Nate and I both checked the weather first thing in the morning and decided we had a small weather window for an overnight run to Great Inagua. We consulted with our buddy boats and everyone agreed that an overnight of motoring into the wind was better than staying at anchor, getting our butt’s kicked by the rollers. We experienced “one of those” mornings, where nothing seemed to be going our way. As we were pulling the stern anchor in, Nate lost grip on the chain and was left holding the line as the chain and anchor returned to the bottom of the ocean. Dang it. Nate grabbed his snorkel and mask and prepared for a search and recovery of the stern anchor. We rigged up a few lines and a fender to assist him with the weight of the line and chain and he hopped in. After several minutes of circling in the churned up water, he finally found the anchor. He attached the chain to the line and we were able to haul the anchor in using one of the wenches. We set the anchor on the deck and turned our attention to Lil’ Willy. We attached the outboard motor to the hauling arm and just as I pulled tension and Nate loosened the bolts, a massive roller sent Lil’ Willy vertical, shoving Nate head over feet into the water, bumping his head on the way in. Simultaneously, the outboard motor came free from Lil’ Willy, slammed into the side of the boat, and partially submerged into the rolling wave. It all happened so fast, my main concern was Nate’s safety, but I quickly shifted my attention to the motor. I hauled up on the line as soon as my brain registered what was going on, keeping the majority of the outboard out of the water. Nate surfaced, unscathed, and was instantly questioning if the motor submerged. I relayed that I did the best I could to haul it out, but the bump into the hull dislodged the protective cover and there was certainly water in the back end of the engine. Nate climbed up to the safety of the boat and assisted me in securing the outboard on the fantail. We fully removed the cover and gave the end of the motor a freshwater rinse. We haven’t used it since, but will definitely have our fingers crossed when we try to fire it up. Oi. What a mess of a morning. Frustrated and sore, we weighed anchor around 10:30 for our overnight trip back down to Matthew Town, Great Inagua. We motorsailed all day and most of the night, the swell bearable and we were able to read and nap throughout the day. As seems standard, we caught and released another barracuda. Jaded the next time the reel spun, we were exceedingly pleased that the hooked held a blackfin tuna! Nate filleted and we saved it to share with the crew. After a tasty meatball dinner, Nate went to sleep while I finished up “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The book was excellent and kept me awake until almost midnight. Nate slept well for a few hours and then swapped spots and I hit the hay. Sometime before dawn, the winds shifted enough that we were able to have some relief from the engine noise and power under sail only. The quiet of the sail made for a lovely morning and serene sunrise as we approached Matthew Town. We arrived around 08:30 and after a loop around the outside of the jetties, determined there were three available slips in the small marina, yay! We docked and then assisted our buddy boats in doing the same. Happy as clams to be on a dock, our motley crew paraded down the road to the coveted liquor store to replenish our stocks. The weather was so hot and beautiful and we were all so pleased to be ashore without dinks, we each cracked open a cold Kalik for the walk back to the boats. We unloaded the liquid provisions, prepared “roadies,” and headed south along the road opposite to the Morton’s General Store for actual sustenance. Halfway back from the store, the small BBQ shack was open for business. Pleased to have caught her at the right time, we ordered ribs with a side of plantains and baked macaroni. I took the groceries back to the boat then met Nate at the shack while our meal was cooking. We returned to the boat, relished in every morsel of food, and decided to digest differently. Nate attempted a nap while I joined Willow, Jay, and Cara for a snorkel nearby. Everyone cleaned up and came over to our boat for sushi and sundowners. We made several tuna rolls and were pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out, despite their ugly appearance. Everyone went to sleep early, hoping to catch some missed ZZZs from the previous night’s travel.
Saturday morning brought more sunshine and a lovely breeze. We took advantage of the weather and walked down to the lighthouse, again. The other two couples were just as impressed as we were the first time we visited, and we were just as happy to see it for the second time. After the four mile round trip walk, the sun was blazing hot. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch because we couldn’t fathom eating anything warm and our options were limited. I went for a quick dip in the water while Nate completed some paperwork. The evening cooled slightly and Nate assisted Eddie with some wiring of his autopilot. Unfortunately, the system was fried. Oh bother. Jay and Willow’s cat, Pongo, attempted to leap from a solar panel to the dock right before Jay could reach him. Splash! Went Pongo. Splash! Went Jay to rescue him. Both Pongo and Jay were recovered. Pongo was unscathed, but sadly, Jay’s arm functioned as a climbing post during the frantic rescue. The good news is no sharks – their biggest concern, attacked either. After much frustration from Eddie’s autopilot bummer and the exhaustion of Pongo’s escape, I hosted the girls for drinks while the men brooded over the autopilot and plotted ways to mitigate the results.
Sunday morning brought a new dawn and better spirits. Our crew joined additional sailboats, Sarabi and Tiger Bay, to discuss various forecasting models and approaching weather windows. Nate and I had an early lunch and our smaller crew set out on a coconut hunting excursion (aka, a walk around the town with a drill, shepherd’s hook, and jugs to fill). We managed to find enough coconuts to fill a large carafe and had a hilarious time doing so. “How many adults does it take to harvest one coconut?” – our running joke. We brought our spoils back to the docks and delighted in mixture of the coconut water with various alcohols. Cara and Eddie purchased several lobster tails off a local fisherman the previous evening and were kind enough to make a large stew for us to share. We all brought drinks and sides and had an excellent evening of delicious food and friendship. Good news: although I had my EpiPen at the ready, I’m apparently not allergic to wild-caught spiny lobster! I was very happy to be able to enjoy the delicious meal without any sort of reaction. I guess the allergist’s test results were wrong. We popped over to S/V Sarabi to spend a little time chatting with Miranda and Owen before heading to bed.
We all awoke enthusiastically early Monday morning, stoked for our flamingo tour. Armed with cameras, binoculars, and mimosas, we piled into our guide’s Ford Explorer. Casper was an excellent tour guide and very much made the morning even more enjoyable than we’d hoped. We spent a few hours observing the largest flamboyance of flamingos in the Western Hemisphere, elated with their bright pink colors.
Upon return to the marina, we had lunch and I went snorkeling, again, while Nate worked to stop the leaking rudder packing under our bed. Eddie and I spent the better part of 10 minutes under water attempting poorly to stone an immature lionfish to death. We managed to stun it once, but did not succeed it murdering the ecosystem’s most threatening pestilence. The day was so blazing hot and the wind so light, we broke down and turned on our air conditioning. Naturally, this brought the party over and we made burgers for the crew and spent another fun evening with our friends.
This morning presented a breeze, so we were able to open the boat back up and sit in the cockpit without melting. I worked on writing this while Nate met with others to discuss our looming weather window. We made plans to depart late tonight for the Dominican Republic, hoping to have a nice sail for the 130nm to the border with Haiti.