29 March, 2016
March 22nd. Another cloudy day was forecast, and around 10h00, we were off to shore to pick up our bread. Bad news, Darlene had run out of propane, and was an hour or so behind. No worries, we walked over to “Hidden Treasure”, where Denise was just opening, and put in our order for dinner. Lobster for Suz, and Grilled Mahi for me. Later, Darlene fed us some Bahamian pea soup while we waited for our bread. That evening, we were the only guests at “Hidden Treasure”. Denise, the owner, sat with us and told us that she had just moved back to Cat Island from Nassau, where she had worked as a banker for the past 19 years. She and her husband own a home there, and in fact, he is still there, working as a chef in a very upscale resort. He has to work for a few more years, but she was tired of the traffic, sirens, congestion, and “pop, pop, pop” (I assume gunfire) at night in Nassau. They’ll have a long-distance relationship until he is able to retire. In the meantime, she’s growing a business on her childhood home of Cat.
Wednesday morning and the overcast was thinning giving the promise of a sunny day. Perfect. We planned on walking to the Hermitage atop Mt. Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas, snappin’ along the way. So, here’s the scoop on Father Jerome. Born in England in1876, John Cecil Hawes trained as an architect, and later became an Anglican priest. After the hurricane of 1908, he was sent by the Bishop to the Bahamas, where he became known as Father Jerome, to rebuild damaged churches. The seven churches that he rebuilt on Long Island all bear his unique stamp, with thick stone walls and barrel vaulted roofs. After Long Island, he settled on Deadman’s Cay, where he ministered to the locals. He then took a “sabbatical” (my words), and acted as a wagon driver, monk, horse breeder, and missionary, before converting to Catholicism and becoming a Catholic priest. Upon returning to the Bahamas, he built many catholic churches, as well as the St. Augustine monastery in Nassau. Nearing retirement, he arrived in New Bight, on Cat Island where he built his last church, Holy Redeemer. There, he also selected a site atop a rocky outcropping on the crest of Comer Hill(the highest spot in the Bahamas at 206 feet), as the spot for his retirement home, known as the Hermitage. There, he lived in isolation until his death in 1956. We had a good hike up to the top, and snapped quite a few along the way. The place had been deserted since the late 50’s, but was still in remarkably good condition. Unlike many places we have visited around the world, there was no graffiti or evidence of vandalism. We were able to walk through the residence and chapel, which commanded a360-degree view of the island and surrounding sea-very cool. We were the only people there, and with the wind whistling around the structure, it wasn’t difficult to put yourself back in time and imagine life here. On the way down, we descended a very steep, rocky trail connecting sculptures depicting the stations of the cross. Pretty apropos for the week before Easter. The road leading back to the beach was bordered by fields that had obviously been under cultivation at one time, as they were bordered by rock walls. The fields were now overrun with low scrub, and a few scattered papaya trees. We ventured off, and picked a few papayas, and found some cabbages, tomatoes, and goat peppers, all growing wild. With some effort, we found a few ripe veggies that weren’t rotten and stashed them in our backpacks.
Back at the dinghy, we were dismayed to find it high and dry on the beach. In spite of our having anchored it with the wind blowing it away from the beach, the current had brought it back to the sand (on a falling tide!). #$!@%!!. The transponder for the depth sounder had snapped off, breaking the wire, and making it useless. There was no way that we were moving the little boat (at 750#), so I got a lesson in Conch cleaning from Kotti, who worked at Hidden Treasure, and had a beer. Later, with some additional help, we got the tender wet again.
Thursday, the 24th, we took a 9 hour ride over 2’-4’ seas under an overcast sky. No fishies, the dry spell continued. We passed through Rudder Cut, and turned north to drop anchor in the lee of Rudder Cay, a private island marked with “No Trespassing” signs wherever you might think of going ashore. We stayed here until the 26th, and got some good pictures inside a grotto looking back at the Girl. We also visited a stainless steel sculpture of a mermaid sitting at a grand piano, commissioned by David Copperfield, and anchored to the sea floor in the neighboring bay. What? Go figure! (Our trusty little waterproof camera got flooded a couple of months ago, but Jeremy is bringing a new one on the 1st, so if we go back, I’ll snap a couple).
Saturday, the 26th, we headed for Lee Stocking Island, where we planned to stay for a few days. Again, no fish caught-this was getting old. We dropped anchor just off a Caribbean Marine Research station, abandoned in 2011. We explored there for a few days, both on land and sea. The station reminded me a little bit of the abandoned outports in Newfoundland. Looked like everyone stopped working and just left. The station was quite extensive, spread out over the entire north end of the island, and we walked through each and every building there. One afternoon, while sitting on the back porch reading, Suz spotted a couple of locals in a skiff paddling to shore around a half mile away. Long story short, they had run out of gas. After we brought them some gas, the motor wouldn’t start. We ended up towing them a couple of miles to Children’s Cay. They promised to take us lobstering the next morning as a gesture of thanks, but never showed up. Undeterred, we searched out some coral heads on our own, and Suz actually spotted a crawfish (spiny lobster). He was tucked back into a hole, with no chance for a shot, but we eventually teased him out onto his “porch”. One shot. Right between the eyes, and we had our first bug. Happy Birthday, Suzanne.
It was almost kinda creepy. I woke up last night with the feeling that something was wrong. As the mists of sleep cleared from my brain, I realized that it was quiet. The wind had completely died. Our forecast looked good, and I thought “Tomorrow’s gonna be a good travel day”. By 05h45 the wind was back, and the dinghy was thumpin’ against the side of the Girl, torn between following the tidal current or the wind. I got up and retied her, then watched the stars slowly blink out as nautical twilight gave way to dawn. By 08h11 the dinghy was stowed, the anchor up, and we were underway under sunny skies and an 11 knot breeze. As we exited the cut, we found the seas running at about 2’-4’ on a 7 second interval. As soon as we cleared the 30 meter contour, the lines were wet. By 09h32, the drought was over. Fish on! It felt like a biggie, and it was. That 42”, 16# Mahi took 200-300 yards of line off the reel before I could even think of gaining some ground on him. Before we finally had him next to the boat, he had jumped a half dozen times, sunlight reflecting off his blue green hide, violently trying to shake the hook. He still wasn’t done, fighting furiously when he saw the boat, and before Suz could get him gaffed, we had visions of losing him like the one a couple of weeks previously. “I can’t get ‘im, I can’t get ‘im………Got him!” Suz hauled up the gaff, and dropped our prize to the cockpit sole, where he promptly shook the hook in about 3 flops. Lines back in the water, and within 15 minutes somebody had stripped our other Ballyhoo off the hooks. I had only rigged 2, so we trailed artificial lures the rest of the way to Conch Cut near Georgetown, and got nuthin’. By the time we had the anchor down at Stocking Cay, across from Georgetown at 13h11 (exactly 5 hours after we had left), the laundry was done, and our battery bank was fully charged. We got the dude filleted, and some boatchores done, but mostly enjoyed the breezy sunny day.
Bigtime pre-visitor boatchores tomorrow. Jeremy, Jody and Mikaela arrive on the 1st.