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Ch 17 - Southern Bahamas

February 1, 1998 - Long Island, Bahamas
"Clarence Town's anchorage is beautiful - clean beaches with palm trees and mangroves,  and not a soul around us, except Mike in the distance.  The water's gorgeous, different shades of blue (as always) and so clear.  We dropped anchor and took a bath right away (after checking the anchors  were holding, and for Jaws).  Cap says I can snorkel in the lagoon without worrying."
This tiny enclave became one of my favorite stops during our cruise, despite events. The 2010 Census claimed a mere 86 residents; but in 1998 it was approximately 60, according to one local.

Photo note:  I have been erroneously placing these two churches in other locations (George Town and elsewhere); but thankfully I kept journals and am re-discovering the truth: 
"We took a stroll around Clarence Town.  Stupid me forgot my camera; probably didn't think there would be anything worthwhile but au contraire - two beautiful churches designed by the same priest, before and after converting." 
From Wikipedia:  "There are two churches in Clarence Town, both designed by John Hawes, of similar appearance with their twin towers. One is Anglican/Episcopal, named St. Paul's Anglican Church (top, right). The other is Roman Catholic, named St. Peter and Paul" (bottom, designed after Hawes converted to Catholicism).
I was surprised to see two large churches where hardly anybody lived, but there were more people around than we'd first thought.

"There's a general store, several homes and businesses, and one phone booth in the center of town: the crossroads to the dock and north/south.  People friendly as always.  We had lunch in the only restaurant/liquor store in town that we could find.  Good lunch, but now we're broke (won't do that again), so we have to get to a bank eventually.
"Last evening we walked Czar along the beach and picked up some shells to maybe make some jewelry.  I think I'm going to enjoy these less-frequented stopovers.  Stop and smell the roses."
February 3rd
"Still in Clarence Town (bad weather) and we've been joined by 2 other boats: Mistral, a catamaran, and Explorer, a stick.  Last night Dragonfly's anchor broke loose and dragged half-way out the cut before Cap called him at 6:30.  Mike had been sleeping; said he couldn't do anything by himself and would wait until morning; so Cap and the new boaters dinghied over to help.  Took them a good hour to sort it out while Mike watched.  He was lucky he didn't hit the reefs, but as it was he hooked on the rocks.
"What a great storm we had today!  Caught lots of rainwater with the canvas, enough to fill the tank. Early on, the lightening was deafening, the wind howled and the rain obliterated the other boats.  It felt like hail on the skin. I hung out all our salt-water-damp clothes to rinse them, so we'll have (pretty) clean clothes again.  The boat leaked a bit in the salon and a bunch in the head, but considering the force of the storm, we didn't do too badly. Cap's taken to running around nude but not me.  I'm worried about the neighbors.  Maybe that will change."
Photo note: the aerial view below shows Clarence Town in later years and more built up than during our experience, but it's included to show the layout of the anchorage and help paint a better picture. We were anchored on the far side of the anchorage, which was prettier and fairly protected on three sides but liable to get hammered, we learned, if the winds came from the fourth. Plus, as I recall there was a loud noise like a huge generator continuously coming from shore.

February 6th - Friday
"Yesterday I told Cap I wasn't sure I could put Wednesday's events into words but I'll try.  Mistral and Explorer moved to the other side of the anchorage, closer to town for better protection, but we stayed put. As we were checking our anchors we saw Dragonfly coming right at us, then all over the place, with Mike mimicking Horatio Hornblower, at the helm, steering wildly."
"Where the hell is Mike going?"

"Maybe he needs help," I replied, imagining he might at least need morale support if he dashed onto the rocks, which looked imminent.  Dragonfly finally became stuck on a sand bar and Cap dinghied over.
"Cap called - nothing they could do, or me; but then Mistral and Explorer broke in and offered to help."
(Note:  we called, or hailed, one another on our VHF radios, which anyone could monitor.)

Dragonfly was too large for any of us to pull off, so they called the island, got word to the Lady Edna (an old fishing boat) and a crew was dispatched out to help.  Mike, who had been silent throughout the radio chatter, called Mistral:
"Mike said Cap almost lost his dinghy and took off; and he was practically screaming with hysteria that Dragonfly was close to the rocks and in need of help. I looked around but didn't see Cap between the 2 boats - finally found him drifting out to sea."
There wasn't a thing I could do but watch through the binoculars as Cap, almost on the reefs, paddled desperately with one oar, bailing and trying to start the dinghy motor all at once.  When he finally made it back on board he was livid and swore we weren't taking another step with Mike; no great loss except for Mike's SSB, but it wasn't transmitting well and needed to be tweaked anyway.  I tried to make sense of Cap's telling:
"Mike was trying to pull up the wrong anchor rode (but no anchor was attached), and then he just continued to steer uselessly while stuck on the sandbar.  Their two dinghies, tied to the side of Dragonfly, were getting hit with waves and ours caught under Mike's.  The water was level inside and out by the time Cap noticed, and he called for Mike's help while jumping in to save our dinghy.  Mike kept steering uselessly and finally threw Cap a bucket, then untied the dinghy rope and threw it off before Cap could bail or get the engine started," leading to drifting towards the reefs.
"So the cavalry came and rescued Mike - no charge - but he did lose an anchor, worth $500, he said. He didn't want to move closer to town, so he's tied to a permanent mooring and alone over there, now that we've moved closer ourselves.
"Cap and I loved the pace and the simplistic nature of the place.  The bakery gal gave us a ride to a bank and was filling us in on island life, and she said she thought Long Island was the most peaceful in the Bahamas.  Most people build homes as they have money, so there are many in stages of construction.  People prefer not to take loans from the bank so most own their homes.  No wonder they're so relaxed.
"Started walking back to C-town - picked up by Malcolm, who even stopped at the pharmacy for Cap to get some aspirin.  Malcolm owns some real estate, a restaurant, and sells sheep and pigs.  He explained that people do several things (the school teacher has a farm) so all their eggs aren't in one basket."
Walking between rides, we stopped to admire an enormous thatched roof covering a rickety plank floor with a few tables and chairs.  There was an old Coca Cola cooler in the corner and a sign to Leave  money in the jar.  Inside the cooler was an assortment of sodas and six bottles of beer.

"Go ahead; take what you what," Skeeter said, appearing out of thin air.  An elderly man with mostly-white hair, he walked with a pronounced limp, for his wrapped foot was twice normal size. We left some paper in the jar and joined him at a table.  It was easy to strike up a conversation under such a beautifully crafted covering, and Skeeter lamented the fact that he'd have to eventually replace it with shingles, since the men who knew thatching were too old to climb up and the young ones didn't want to learn.  It's the same everywhere, and I'm still kicking myself for not bringing my camera.

February 9
"After Mike's disasters, Paul and Rick felt so strongly about Mike not continuing alone that Paul confronted Mike outright.  He needs a crew.  Mike, of course, immediately suggested a 22 year old gal. 
"Even though he's a danger to not only himself but anyone around him, I feel badly that his dream of Venezuela and Costa Rica has been shot full of holes.  He's decided to head back to George Town."
Mike wasn't willing to pay for a crew, and ultimately tagged along after Mistral and Explorer, who were heading north.  Cap and I were thrilled.
"I'm looking forward to heading out alone; kind of scary, but I trust Cap with driving and navigation (I'm just paranoid of the weather). It's like we're ending Part One (like this notebook) - having spent the first part adjusting to life aboard, its hardships, appreciating it's joys; and many other issues resolved (for the most part).  We're pretty much broke and committed.  Definitely no turning back.  We'll be going to smaller and smaller places - not many phones, let alone pool tables (although Cap found one this afternoon). Mistral said Tomboy was trying to hail Dragonfly this morning, without luck.  Tom's probably frantic."  
February 11 - West Plana Cay
"Herb the weatherman said heading north or south would be OK, so off we went, 3am Tuesday morning. The other boats were waiting another day before heading for Conception, including Mike. I'm a little disappointed not to hear, "...the rest of the story...", but Cap thinks it will be the latest George Town gossip and we'll hear of it eventually."
We did.  Mike made it as far as George Town but wrecked Dragonfly on a reef as he entered one of the cuts.  He remained on board for more than a day; found in a daze when some boaters climbed on board to check on anyone aboard.  Mike abandoned Dragonfly, which was promptly stripped; and I always imagined him hooking up with the Vegetable Lady after all.
"So off we went - had a good exit from C'town; anchors came up OK and there was a full moon.  Sea pretty calm.  It picked up as the day went along and we planned on stopping at Attwood Harbor, but Cap didn't like the entrance to Attwood and it was bad for the winds we had, so we continued another 2-1/2 hours to Plana Cay."
We were trying to follow the way-points from Passages South into a recommended anchorage at Plana Cay but couldn't spot the entrance. It was getting dark; I was at the bow, Cap on the flybridge, both on the lookout for shallow spots.
"Next thing we knew we hit coral and suddenly we were surrounded.  It was truly terrifying.  There was no way we could find the entrance (if there was one), so Cap slowly backed out of that mess and dropped our one, heavy anchor.  In the channel.  We rocked and rolled like Calabash, and all night we thought it was morning 'cause it was so light.  It would have been fun to explore, but by 1st real light Cap suggested, "Let's get the f___ out of here," and that was fine with me.  It was a long day's ride (15 hours) and a long night.
"When Cap pulled the anchor up it looked like a corkscrew.  Bent the handle and bent the shaft.  I found it hard to imagine the strength of the coral not to break under the weight of the boat and wind.
"Today was bad, too.  What we thought would be 2-3 hours to Mayaguana was in actuality a 6 hour trip.  We saw no-body and no-thing for most of the day.  We rolled and rolled, side to side, and as we were playing, I went to the store, one, then two, powerboats went whizzing by us.  The 2nd one, Shazam, called and asked the usual.  They were heading for Provo - would bet there by 4:30."
It was incredible to think how quickly those powerboats, the kind we'd looked at but discounted back in Oregon, would be in the Turks and Caicos by nightfall when it would still take us days.  At last we arrived in Mayaguana, first anchoring overnight in rolly Start Bay, then Abrahams Bay.

February 14 - Mayaguana
"After putting my foot in mouth last night, giving Cap a hard time about remembering (or not) certain 'dates,' I woke up to a beautiful mother of pearl ankle bracelet in the microwave.  With a note.  Egg on face, big time!"
Cap and I dragged our twisted storm anchor through dirt roads in search of Captain Brown, the local all-around fix-it guy.  Town consisted of a couple shops, a school, church and, of course, Cap found the 'club' with pool table.
"Cap played pool while I played "21" with Pappy and a little girl. We bought cigarettes from Captain Brown's sister across the street.  There's more people here than you see;  just can't figure out where they all live.
"About to pull up anchor and head for SE Point, ready to jump off for T-n-C tomorrow. The water's gorgeous - just gets better and better.  I went in with snorkel gear yesterday, alone, to try and clean the bottom.  The water was rough and Cap suggested I wait (didn't have to tell me twice) but I was proud that I got in.  It gets easier.
"Well, end of this book.  Let's see what happens next, as we leave the Bahamas for new countries!"

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To read from Chapter 1:  A Rough Start






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