Friday, February 27, 2015

Cairns, Caves, and a Mermaid

White Point to Rudder Cut Cay, Exumas
February 16 – 22, 2015

After our day of sailing without the engine (see entry below), we visited three spectacular spots. One of our goals on this trip has been to try stopping places we haven’t been to before.

Cairns – We’d never heard anything about the anchorage at White Point on Guana Cay. It looked unremarkable on the charts, but it was a new place to try. The contours on the map yielded no clue of how the gorgeous beach would be. Splendid God-fashioned beauty surrounds us! A breathtaking beach was the first surprise. And the elaborate cairns built by cruisers were charming and unexpected, making this a special stop.
The beach at White Point
Cairns at White Point
Keith's cairn
Caves – Cave Cay Marina, became our hideout from heavy storms. The cay is named for the craggy and rough indents that dot the shore and interior. While the winds howled, we hiked over rough trails to various beaches. We were also invited to gatherings on very luxurious 65-foot and 76-foot ocean trawlers. (The people on these yachts live a much more glamorous life than we do…but we can all go to the same places!) One day “Shark,” the dock master, guided a group of us to the largest inland cavern. It must have been etched out of coral over eons by magnificent seastorms, their waves swirling out long tunnels, carving domed atria, and opening skylights.
A cave on the shore of Cave Cay
Entrance to interior cavern
Domed underground grotto with skylights ahead
Just as thrilling was a profusion of fresh produce available. The owner of the island loves gardening and cultivates rows of irrigated containers and scattered vegetable plots. We were invited to harvest all we could use while we were there. Juicy, red tomatoes fell off the vines into our hands. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, and leeks were ready to be trimmed. A papaya tree grew sideways, ripe fruit in reach. We were running low on produce, and this was a glorious bounty!
Irrigated container gardens - yum!
The Mermaid – While at Cave Cay, we learned about an intriguing stopping place a couple islands south. David Copperfield owns ten cays in this area, including Rudder Cut Cay. He commissioned a stainless steel sculpture, a life-size replica of a Steinway grand piano with a mermaid, and had it installed off the island in fifteen feet of water. How cool is that?! Cruisers with us at Cave Cay had dinghied to the sculpture and said it was disappointing, covered in brown growth. We anchored nearby anyway and snorkeled against the current to see the lady and the piano. The mermaid mesmerized us. She was stunning, magical, a silvery siren under the sea!
A cave fit for a dinghy at Rudder Cut Cay
A view from inside
Not the mermaid!
Isn't she lovely?
We receive these experiences at every stopping place as God’s bounty to us. Every day we travel on a sea of His grace and have so many more reasons to thank Him.
It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the End of our journey, 
He is also at every stopping place.
Elisabeth Elliot

A Little Sailing Story

Guana Cay, Exumas
February 16

It must have been the castle. The turreted house we anchored by enchanted us into thinking we could write our own small tale of conquest.
Castle in Little Bay, Guana Cay
Keith likes a fun challenge, and for a long time he’s aspired to a day of sailing without turning on the engine. That’s a fairly rare occurrence with a boat our size. For one thing, there’s the weight of the anchor and chain—about 200 pounds—to be hauled up manually. Our boat is equipped with a power windlass that we use while anchoring (engine running) to handle that weight, feeding out and hauling in the anchor.

Once on Lake Superior, we tried this, but alas, while sailing toward the next anchorage, the wind died to nothing and forced us to start the engine.

This day, the breezes blew just right. No other boat lay in our way. Keith raised the mainsail and told me he’d take care of everything. While hauling in anchor chain, the wind picked up and he yelled, “Don’t let her sail!” Huh? “Let out some main sheet!” Okay. “Now pull it in!” What? “Keep it luffing!” It was a learning curve for both of us, but fun as we got the hang of it.

Wing and wing with whisker pole
Underway, we were sailing directly downwind and deployed our new whisker pole for only a second time—the first was a definite learning experience! We sailed wing and wing, the genoa (foresail) out to port, the main to starboard. Flat, smooth sailing, that’s what I aspire to!

Checking out the anchor
We tacked back and forth to get into our anchorage at White Point. I normally handle the anchor (with the power windlass) while Keith stays at the helm. This time we talked strategy and switched positions. Keith went forward to manually anchor. I was to steer upwind and let the sail luff as soon as he dropped the anchor. Thinking he was still preparing, unable to see what he was doing, I didn’t realize he’d let the anchor go until 100 feet of chain flew out. Yikes! I quickly steered and released the sheet and we settled back on the anchor with only the sound of the wind. Whew!

Happily ever after
So we conquered the challenge of sailing from anchor to anchor, just one small paragraph in our story. And everyone lived happily that night in the lee of a crescent beach.
The end.
Every person’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.
Hans Christian Andersen

Monday, February 16, 2015

Guests on Board

Eleuthera and the Exumas
February 1 - 14

By guest bloggers Loren and Clairice Garborg, Keith’s parents, February 1-7:
The Bahamas! It’s like homecoming for us. Yes, Nassau has changed since we lived there in the early 70’s--more traffic, more development (several beaches that we had free access to are now lined with private homes and resorts), and The Christian Book Shop has closed—the Internet’s to blame, according to our taxi driver.

The Out Islands, however, seem to enjoy pretty much the same relaxed, laid-back lifestyle. Our contacts with the genuinely warm and welcoming Bahamian people made us feel like old friends, even though we were meeting for the first time.
Loren and Clairice on Harbour Island
Our first week aboard Pelican with Keith and Joanie was spent cruising the length of Eleuthera, a narrow, 110-mile-long island in the eastern Bahamas. It is populated with descendants of the Eleutheran Adventurers, religious refugees who fled from England and Bermuda in the late 1640s seeking religious freedom, and by British Loyalists who fled the Carolinas with their slaves during the Revolutionary War. Full emancipation was granted the slaves in 1834. The Adventurers gave the island its name, which is derived from the Greek word meaning “freedom.” Eleuthera remains well-churched, with predominantly Wesleyan Methodist and Anglican churches.
Anglican church at Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
Wesleyan Methodist Church at Governor's Harbour
How to describe our week? Hmmm.
• Let’s start with water of impossibly beautiful shades of green and blue, and with crystal-like clarity.
Warm breezes. Cool moonlit nights. Cold Kalik (ka-LICK). Hot Junkanoo music. Sweet Goombay Punch. Bright sun. Tropical showers and vivid rainbows.
Storm cloud at Cape Eleuthera
Rainbow in Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
• Fishing (trolling) while underway.
Cero Mackerel, a nice catch
• Savory food—stone crab claws, lobster, hogfish, mahi-mahi, whelk salad, conch fritters, conch chowder, jerk conch, cracked conch and conch salad—all fresh from Bahamian waters. Did we mention that we ate conch?
Conch fritters and Kalik
Colossal stone crab claws
• Comfortable accommodations in the v-berth. One of my favorite brothers showing up at the end of the week.
• Barefoot walks on miles of deserted beaches carpeted with fine sand in many shades of pink and cream. Two of the most beautiful beaches are at the far southern tip of the island of Eleuthera—on the west side, the Exuma Sound and on the east, the Atlantic Ocean. They can both be viewed from the hill where the remains stand of a small lighthouse.
Keith and Joanie at Crescent Bay Beach, Eleuthera
Lighthouse Beach East, Eleuthera

Lighthouse Beach West, Eleuthera (both pictures taken from the same vantage point)
• Finally, the joy of gliding over the waves under sail. It’s always a wonderful moment when the sails are unfurled, when the auxiliary diesel is shut down and gives way to the sounds of the wind and water, when the boat heels over gently as the sails fill. We had some of that kind of sailing, but also an exhilarating ride under full sail across the 5,000-foot-deep Exuma Sound in 20 knots of wind, gusting to 30, and quartering five-foot waves at an average speed of eight knots.
Sailing between Eleuthera and the Exumas
All of this with two of the people we love the most! Thanks, Keith and Joanie, for a wonderful and memorable time. Happy sailing for the rest of the winter!
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever.
Psalm 146:5, 6 NIV

From guest blogger Rolf Garborg, Keith’s uncle, February 7-14:
What a week! I have been looking forward to this week on Keith and Joanie’s boat since early May, 2002. Here’s why. I was a passenger on the inaugural voyage that Keith and Loren made after picking up their Jeanneau sailboat in the Detroit area. The plan was to ride with them back to Bayfield, Wisconsin. The weather was mid 30s and there was a fierce rain storm with gale force winds from the north. When we entered Lake Huron we encountered 8-10 foot swells. I had nothing to do but try to survive. Suffice it to say I fully understand the value and use of the “head” on their boat. After 24 hours of misery I felt like Jonah and was “cast out” of the boat in Alpena, Michigan. I caught a taxi to town and after two bus rides to Detroit and two flights to Minneapolis, I was happy to be back home.

I knew sailing had to be better than that. This week, nearly 13 years later, I discovered just how great it can be.

I arrived at Rock Sound, Eleuthera, and was greeted by Keith and Loren at the airport. After a brief stop for provisions and another to pick up a local who was walking home, we arrived at Pelican and met Joanie and Clairice, and the fun began. Pelican was tied up at Cape Eleuthera Marina. At 9:00 the next morning, we said goodbye to the Internet and sailed for four hours across open seas before arriving at Hawksbill Cay in the Exumas, where we anchored in a protected bay. For the next six days we sailed south through the Exumas, a chain of islands that run for about 100 miles through the middle of the Bahamas. Spectacular!!!

Keith on the beach at Hawksbill Cay
We have walked unspoiled deserted beaches, hiked trails to ruins from 250 years ago, explored “Pirate’s Lair,” where real pirates hung out between raids, saw the skeleton of a 52-foot sperm whale, and even revisited the place where Joanie crushed her thumb last year. That whole story still amazes me.

Rolf and the whale skeleton

We didn’t actually swim with the sharks but watched others do it. We did, however, get in the water at Big Majors Spot with the only “swimming pigs” in the world...that we know of. Now that’s something you don’t see every day! Keith even became “The Pig Whisperer.” No, really, he did. Check out the picture.
Swimming with nurse sharks at Compass Cay

The swimming pigs at Big Majors Spot

The Pig Whisperer
A piglet cannot live by bread alone

When we got to Compass Cay we indulged ourselves with huge, juicy hamburgers before we took a hike to the beach. Along the way there was a sign that said “Planetarium,” and we had to check it out. Here’s a picture of the planetarium. Pretty funny.
"Dave's Planetarium"

Mostly we hung out on the boat, reading, eating, playing games, and of course...sailing. We also dinghied lots of places in the small rubber boat that they tow behind Pelican. A sign inside the dinghy says, “4 people.660 pounds.” Well, we stretched those limits and know that it can handle 5 people and about 800 pounds just fine.
Over the limit
We were near some pretty impressive homes along the way. Johnny Depp has a big place here. Rumor has it that a cruiser stopped and knocked at his door and the next day that cruiser was kicked out of the Bahamas. We didn’t do that. We saw a small private island with three big windmills on it. There is a private home there that houses up to 30 guests and rents out for just $250,000 a day.

Maybe they purposely saved the best till last, but our final day was special. We motored to Staniel Cay the night before and in the morning, with a slack tide, snorkeled into Thunderball Grotto. It is a huge cave with a few holes in the top that let light in. To get in you have to go either at low tide or dive under the coral at high tide. Inside the cave it is magical. It is where part of the James Bond movie, “Thunderball,” was filmed.
Thunderball Grotto

I am so very grateful to Keith and Joanie for this week. What a great experience. Now it is back to Florida to be with my wife, Sweet Mary.