Sunday, August 31, 2014

Say What? Birdbrained Caption Contest.

humor, cruising destinations

What are these seagulls saying or thinking?

Write a caption, win a prize.

The prize?  Ummmm.  Bragging rights?

To get you started, here's what some of my Facebook friends had to say.

  • "Isn't this great guys! What a view!" -- Nancy Stillwell Yoes
  • What are you all looking at? -- Liz Hawkins
  • There's always one in a crowd, -- Ann Gates
  • Bird Flu. He needs "tweetment" -- Walt Drechsler
  • If a bird tweets at the ocean, how many followers will he get? -- Laura Manning
  • Psst dude you're looking the wrong way. Miley is over there.-- Jeff Stong
  • Papa ohh mau mau, papa ohh mau mau... papa ohh mau mau, papa ohh mau mau --Oh, I'm sorry, haven't you heard? I was under the impression everyone had heard. The word... b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word! b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word!. b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word! -- Matt Clark 

  • My  caption?  "I am not worthy, oh Great Big Bird Poobah."  My friend's are much better!

By the way, does anyone know what these birds are?  Dunno the answer myself, but they kind of look like they sport a short mohawk.  They also seemed to behave this way (there was a clear "lead bird") when I saw them.  A pecking order? Or?  Theories welcome!

  • cruising destinations
    Location Location
  • Recent retrospective from a kayaking jaunt April 10, 2014, Rum Cay, BAHAMAS (N23.38 W74.50). We’re temporarily landbound in Jacksonville, FL.  We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific, where this Galley Wench is looking forward to a healed broken wrist and more kayaking trips.  4 more weeks 'til the doc says it's ok to hop on a bicycle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flatfoot Heaven, BAHAMAS

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
These craggy gates mark the entrance to
the trail up Mt. Alvernia aka Como Hill
to Hermitage monastery.
Attracted as always to eyrie perches, visiting Bahamas Cat Island’s Hermitage monastery was a must-do.  After all, it’s sited on the highest point in all the Bahamas.  This time, Wayne was more than willing to scale it with me… all the way to its tip-top whopping 206 foot elevation.  Only the heat made the short hike a sweaty one.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Como Hill's as high as it gets -
the Bahamas are flatfoot heaven.
The Bahamas is a veritable flatfoot heaven.

After last year’s cruising, climbing volcanic peaks, Wayne, who’s far less enamored with inclines, was pretty happy with the "rigors" of Bahamas "high altitude" hikes.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
One of several quaint, colorful
tiles at Hermitage monastery.
Can you improve on this translation?
“If so, by my Lord, praised the role
of the moon is from the stars.”
More intriguing than the viewpoint is the almost Lilliputian scale the great architect and beloved Father Jerome, née John Cyril Hawes built as his final resting place.  Wayne needed to duck to get through the passages of what appeared to be a far larger building from a distance. Though beautiful, the monastery is also humble, an apt spot for the Reverend Monsignor, a tall man who wandered the world to build churches, lead congregations and even work as a laborer and a railway teamster to ponder modest thoughts before entering eternity.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
Location Location
Recent retrospective from April 17, 2014, New Bight, Cat Island, BAHAMAS (N24.17.234 W775.25.145). We’re temporarily landbound in Jacksonville, FL.  We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific, where this Galley Wench will do her best to once again wheedle Wayne into scaling steeper volcanic peaks, to enjoy the view up top.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
For scale… Wayne is
sitting down, yet the base
roofline is not many feet
above his head.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Great view of Hermitage monastery as seen on our descent.
Readers - Some Questions
  • Do you like churches?
  • What are your favorites? 
  • What makes a church or other place of worship intrigue you? 
  • Would you like more blog posts of the other churches we've visited, such as the prettier of the two Father Jerome built on Long Island?

Friday, August 22, 2014

So Sad (But Kinda Funny)

calamities, galley wench tales
My cast; which comes off
next week -- at long last!
If we were on the hook, this would not have happened (click here for Bucket List Crash Ouch for more on "this").

However, like the migratory snowbird flocks of many species (homo sapiens included), we headed North for hurricane season.

galley wench tales, jacksonville
Ironically, this sailboat is on
the steering wheel of our
temporary land-based transportmobile.
Laying over in Jacksonville Florida in the hopes of rebuilding our cruising kitty and planning for some boat TLC, Wayne took an aviation mechanic job and I set out to spend his earnings by once again landing work at West Marine to exploit their killer employee discount.  There was this dilemma about how the two of us would share 1 car, for potentially overlapping shifts in opposite parts of town.  I decided a scooter would fill the gap nicely -- until I crashed it on my first day commuting in to West Marine, breaking my 2 dominant hand wrist bones in the process.

Next week, after  8 weeks, my cast finally comes off.  Fortunately, I was able to avoid surgery -- at least that's what the doc said after looking at my last x-rays.

My first questions will be
  • How long until I can winch a sail? (November would be the earliest I'd need to for cruising)
  • Is it okay to ride my bicycle (just been walking when the car hasn't been available since breaking my wrist)?
  • Can I return to swimming?

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
My poor, forlorn local transportation vehicle;
flat tires and a frame overtaken by nature.
Given a 26-mile round trip West Marine commute crossing a steep bridge and several busy intersections I decided to put my scooter up for sale and rely on walking my bicycle for close-in travel, and restrict my available work hours to avoid both Wayne and I needing our car for commuting at the same time.  The scooter, by the way, is in excellent shape, as I so beautifully broke its slow impact with my wrist.

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
Closer view:  vines overtaking my bike.
For local errands, if not walking my plan is to resume riding my bicycle.  I picked it up at a thrift shop for $35, then dumped too much money into it for new tubes, basket, horn, lights.  When I went out to look at it, wistfully, the flat tires didn't surprise me, but the degree of strangulation by vines sure did! So sad!  Wish me luck for green light to resume cycling post haste, and a relatively painless revisit to the local bicycle shop.  Most of all, wish me luck in negotiating the horrific bill for my uninsured EMT visit!  An "Awww poor baby!" is also always appreciated.

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
The best "thumbs up" I can give and take a photo
to demonstrate how happy I am to be able to make enchiladas again. 
Meanwhile, in the last two weeks my right hand's recovered enough to resume cooking many of our favorites.... I can now (slowly) open cans, chop vegetables and even fill and roll up tortillas for homemade enchiladas.  I can now write with either hand and eat with reasonable proficiency with my left hand, though not always in a fashion fit for company (never my strong point, anyway) and found some interesting ways to open up bottles and zip-locked bags.  Bertie I owe a huge thanks to for getting me set up with an inexpensive but durable waterproof cast cover, which made showering myself do-able -- pretty important living in a land of high humidity with a heat index of 100+ on a regular basis.  I am looking forward to being to finally wash my own hair again!

Next blog post, back to some Bahamas adventures!

cruising transitions
Journey temporarily "on the hard" in
Green Cove Springs, awaiting TLC
and to resume sailing.
Location Location
August 22, 2014, temporarily land bound in Jacksonville, FL, USA.  Journey’s on the hard in Green Cove Springs (N29.58.9 W81.38.8) until hurricane season ends in November.  Then we do some boat maintenance and improvement and set sail for the South Pacific, through the Panama Canal.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lambi Lessons Go Full Circle

fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
These mature conch shells were at a Hog Cay trailhead.  Note
how the shell lip wraps away from the spiral core?  This is
the sign of a matured, harvestable conch.
Is there any food more quintessentially Bahamian than the conch (also known as the lambi)?  Cracked conch.  Conch fritters.  Conch salad.  Conch souse.  Conch curry…. Not only is it the most served food for tourists and locals alike in Nassau’s bustling Potter’s Cay stands, about 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, most of it purchased by U.S. importers.  While my initial experiences with this gastropod were initially underwhelming…

This Stuff Sucks!

eventually I was won over. 

Hey… This Can Be Good!

And decided to get smarter about these delicacies, first…
Learning (By the Book)

conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne bagging mature conch.
Any immature ones we returned
to the reproduction pool.
Then I complained about my inability to find them, but was frustrated by my attempts to extract and clean them, until….

The Personal Touch
Galley Wench Tales: Local Character, Rum Cay - click for prior blog post

To truly learn something, it take
fishing, beach combing cruising life
Wayne knocking the conch... punching a hole in the shell
is in the right spot is the first step
s repetitive hands-on experience.  As when it comes to using a hammer with precision, to his dismay, Wayne became the designated conch knocker, though he’s...

Getting the Hang of It (as you can see!)

conch cleaning hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne slides a knife in the hole to release
the conch's hold to its shell.
fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
Wayne then uses pliers to pull the conch from its shell.

Uhhh How Much Just to Buy It Done?
Wayne felt compelled to ask.  Competency does not alleviate a certain sense of horror in murdering these beautiful, slow moving defenseless creatures, even if they are delicious.  Not to mention the mess, for suburbia raised squeamish sorts like us.  Though I noticed with concern, when I went to buy them, they seemed to be smaller than legal size.

Finally… Are These Critters the Next Carrier Pigeon?
conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Everything ready for harvest, except the poor little lambis.
"In the 1800s, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), named after the French word passager for “passing by,” was the most abundant bird in the world. It accounted for more than a quarter of all birds in North America, with an estimated population of 3 billion to 5 billion. The species traveled in enormous flocks, as wide as a mile and many miles long, and could strip an area of nuts within days. When the last passenger pigeon died in 1914,"-- AAAS, the non-profit science society, and its international journal, Science.

The minimum density required for successful mating is 50 adult conch per hectare Community Conch research confirmed that in every commercial fishing ground surveyed over the past five years there are less than 10 conchs per hectare - a density which cannot sustain reproduction.

Conch has been legally exported from the Bahamas since 1992; most of it’s purchased by US importers. About 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, which only increases fishing pressure on our dwindling conch stocks.

There’s talk of limiting the conch season.  It’s becoming increasingly clear something needs to change for conch to avoid extinction. I don’t want to see those little lambis loved to death, though if we see a healthy population, we might harvest a few mature ones, if Wayne's willing to do the knocking.  I do the rest of the prep and cooking, making conch salad for me, conch chowder for Wayne.

Location, Location

This is a retrospective from our last cruising season, photos are from the Ragged Islands, Hog Cay, BAHAMAS  (N22.14.920 W75.45.106).  We are currently working over hurricane season in Jacksonville FL; this time with our boat “on the hard” in Green Cove Springs, until just before we leave in November, bound for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal.  There’s still lots of retrospectives coming up (including one last - short - conch blog post), plus how we’ll plan for long ocean passages. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dolphin House Revisted

hiking cruising destinations cruising activities
Dolphin House's facade bursts with creative energy, the perfect prelude 
of the visual storyboards inside.
In 1600 miles of sailing from St. Lucia to Fort Lauderdale Florida, there were only two places that tempted me for an overnight stay off the boat.  One was an ecolodge on Saba (click here for that).  The other?  Bimini's Dolphin House.

In fact, we chose to return to the Bahamas via Bimini to revisit Dolphin House and chat again with its extraordinary creator, Ashley Saunders.  We cut our tour short the prior year when we got struck by a deluge of rain so bad, we saw a restaurant crew jack-hammering holes in the sidewalk in from of their restaurant for drainage.

Turns out, we missed the boat -- or -- in this case -- a night off the boat.  Dolphin House no longer hosts guests overnight.  Touring the museum and gift shop is still free (though donations are appreciated).

hiking cruising destinations cruising activities bahama history
Vintage dress made from a flour sack in Dolphin
House Museum.  Normally, they were plain, not
embroidered like this one.
"I had to decide if I was in the guest cottage business or if I wanted to share Dolphin House with visitors.  Overnight guests complained they felt 'invaded' when visitors came to see Dolphin House.  I decided it was more important to continue to share Dolphin House."

With clear blue skies and no impending storm, I got to peruse the museum that wasn't part of the house. It's a shrine to Hemmingway, and other various and sundry bits of history.

Out of deference to Ashley's time, this time I skipped revisiting inside Dolphin House (click here for tons of photos from last year's Dolphin House visit and if you go to Bimini ... Do. Not. Miss. It.).  But I still wanted to see how his rooftop map evolved.  It was just in the idea phase last May, a map.
hiking cruising destinations cruising activities
Rooftop map in process (or... done?) at Dolphin House. Bimini.
Got Any Spare Blue Tiles?
"I'm running out of blue tile," Ashley explained, a bit remorsefully.  "It's hard when what I'm making is from found materials." Seems for now if not beyond, the rooftop is a spare, simply geographically relevant placement of key places in the world.  ThreeSheetsNW, you'll be happy to see Seattle made the short list -- and that was before the Seahawks swept the Superbowl.  If you can spare some blue tile bits, Ashley could put them to good use!

hiking cruising destinations cruising activities bimini art
Inside Dolphin House last year.  Ashley tells stories about the
colorful collages, while Phil and Gunnel are agog, taking it in.
Location, Location
This is a retrospective from our last cruising season, when we entered the Bahamas via a 125 nm overnight sail from Marathon FL  to Bimini, BAHAMAS.  We stayed at Blue Water Marina (N25.43.456 W79.17.887).  We are currently working over hurricane season in Jacksonville FL; this time with our boat “on the hard” in Green Cove Springs, until just before we leave in November, bound for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal.  There’s still lots of retrospectives coming up, plus how we’ll plan for long ocean passages. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lighthouses: Wreckers of Wracking, Saviors of Sailors

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Wayne enters Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
If there’s only one image to show of picturesque, well-heeled Hope Town in Abacos, BAHAMAS it’s tough to beat their iconic, sprightly candy-cane colored Elbow Reef Lighthouse.  Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the lighthouse’s history is even more colorful that its appearance.

In their heyday, would you believe lighthouses decimated the largest business at the time in the BAHAMAS?

Hannah Solo and Neal Aberle’s Lighthouse article, with quotations of their interview with David Gale of the Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society (click here to access their Lighthouse article) tells the tale….

Avarice on the High Seas in the 1800s
“Merchant sail flourished between 1820 and 1880 and the Bahama Islands lay spread-out along its way. Many Abaconians made a good living from salvaging (then known as 'wracking') the unfortunate ships that ended their sailing days on the dangerous shoals of this low archipelago of reefs, rocks, cays and white beaches. Navigation aids were no friends of the 'wrackers.'”

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Walking to Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Hope Town. Abacos, BAHAMAS.
"The Bahamian wracking fleet stood ready to help, with almost 300 vessels licensed to cruise the reefs in search of luckless ships to salvage, employing half of the able-bodied men in the country and accounting for about half of this British colony's revenue. The records for 1860 show an amazing average of one wreck per month at Abaco alone.’

"Wracking was a lucrative business. The system required that the salvaged cargo, considered to be imported goods, be shipped to Nassau for auction with the government taking 15%, the agents 15% and 40 to 60% going back to the wrackers. The ship owners received the 10 - 30% that was left, which doesn't' seem like much, but had it not been for the wrackers and the system they would have received nothing.”

While operating well within the law and even amply supporting the treasury, Wrackers strike me as legally sanctioned pirates.

The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate.Bern Williams (wiki’s Pirate proverbs)

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Steepening stairs at Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
“[Despite that] England decided in 1863 to build a lighthouse at Hope Town to warn ships away from the extensive Elbow Reef, thus the original and correct name for the lighthouse is the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. Today many people erroneously refer to the light as the Hope Town Lighthouse, but it was built to send sailors away from Hope Town, not to guide them in.  An inspector from the Imperial Lighthouse Service remarked that it was the right place to build a lighthouse for he could see six wrecks on the reef. “

Locals Protest the Lighthouse
“However, local hostility overflowed for this was right where the wrecking was best ­-- at Hope Town's front door.”

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Classic chambered nautilus effect gazing up at
Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouseJapanese proverb

"In order to build the Elbow Reef Lightstation, the Imperial Lighthouse Service, Trinity House, London, brought in some outside help but also employed many Hope Towners to unload supplies, quarry the limestone rock for building foundations and cisterns, to mix the cement and carry out the myriads of other chores can are a part of a construction job of such magnitude. The locals were glad for the jobs but at the same time they wished that they were not building a lighthouse. There were reports by the supervisors that some locals sank a supply barge one night and also withheld fresh water from the workers.”

Despite the protests, the lighthouse was completed in 1864.

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Best view in the Abacos from Elbow Reef Lighthouse. 
Let There Be Light
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Anne Lamott

The original lens cast a fixed, unflashing beam (according to Visit Hopetown’s website – click here for that).

In 1936 when the Gun Cay lighthouse (south of Bimini) was decommissioned, its iron lantern room with its dome, petroleum burner equipment, turning mechanism, and the rotating Fresnel lenticular panels were installed in the Elbow Reef Lighthouse.  The new beacon provided easier identification by ships in the Hopetown area, visible as far as 15 nautical miles at sea.

cruising destinations, hiking, cruising activities
Inside and outside views collide
at Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Like the BAHAMAS Great Inagua Lighthouse (click here for my post on that), these lighthouses are the three remaining hand-wound kerosene–burning lighthouses in the world (according to David Gale -- click here for his Hopetown Lighthouse History post); the third is on BAHAMAS San Salvador, which we wanted to visit, but the prevailing winds made other plans for us. 

cruising destinations, hiking
Elbow Reef Lighthouse mechanism
“Every two hours the keeper on duty has to wind, to the top of the tower, seven hundred pounds of weight by means of a hand winch. The descending weights, through a series of bronze gears, rotate the four-ton apparatus once around every 15 seconds -- and very smoothly, at that,” explains Gale.

Today, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse is still sending out light, rated at 325,000 candlepower.

cruising destinations, hiking
The balcony netting up high
at Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Heckuva View! Best in the Abacos
History aside, it’s well worth climbing the increasingly steep set of 100+ stairs to enjoy the best viewpoint in the Abacos.  Even non-gearheads like me are captivated by the sheer beauty of the eFresnel lenses and attendant mechanisms. 

The lighthouse is open daily, and free.  If you’d like to help support the cost of preserving this treasure, donations are accepted at the lighthouse or you can click here to contact the Bahamas Lighthouse Preservation Society.

pearson 365 ketch sailboat
Our sailboat, anchored
below Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Location, Location

We are currently working over hurricane season in Jacksonville FL; this time with our boat “on the hard” in Green Cove Springs, until just before we leave in November, bound for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal.  There’s still lots of retrospectives coming up, plus how we’ll plan for long ocean passages.