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Sunday, 3/1/09                                                                                Day 393

We had a very good but busy day today.  We left for Beach Church at 8:30, before the net was even over.  Gotta Life and Hullabaloo were on Volleyball Beach by 8:45, like planned, and we got "Amazing Grace" down well.  Because we were so good, Mr. Bill had us play our instruments through the whole song, even with the choir!  Though we had not practiced it before, Brie was able to play the keyboard right along with us.  This was Mr. Bill's last Sunday, so we sang/played a nice variety of music, including his favorite - "Eternal Father".  Dad videotaped it too.

Right after fellowship hour and a quick run back to the boat, we met everyone on the beach for the science project.  The only people who didn't show were Declan, Dakota and Erin, and they left straightaway to the North Cut area.  The coconut float test I designed got set up, and I even did and extra test on one to show people that it worked.  Unfortunately, the one I tested was the only one that worked.  Two of the others sunk straight off and Priority's group didn't even take one.  In the end, because of minimal flow/different tests/too much windage on tests, we officially call the flow tests completely invalid.  The other two tests (secchi disk and sediment settler) worked very well.

At around 1:00,  the four groups set off to do the testing.  Each group tested four sites in their designated area.  My group - Brady, Sam, Dana, David and I - had Gaviota Bay.  We went to Hole 0 (Turtle Lagoon), Hole 1 (Volleyball Beach's back bay), Hole 2/3 (at the big tunnel), and the entrance to Gaviota Bay.  Our best readings (secchi disk) were at the tunnel where visibility was 14m.

At around 2:00, the four groups came back to Volleyball beach to share results and finish the sediment settler test.  We took observations of the sediment, including color, gooey level, and smell.  Then we put one spoonful of each into an old Kalik (beer) bottle and filled the bottles with clear saltwater from the shore of Volleyball Beach.  We shook them up and let them settle for 10 minutes, taking observations every 5 minutes and re-arranging bottles according to water clarity.  I don't know all the final results, but I do know that Turtle Lagoon/Hole 0 was the worst and that the Great Exuma side of the North Cut was the best.  Kathryn is putting data/result CD's together to give to each of us.  We had soooo much fun doing this project.  If you ever read this - THANKS KATHRYN!!

We left the beach at about 4:00, bumming a ride from Hullabaloo.  Dad and Dave (Hullabaloo) went hunting at around 1:30 in Justice and were gone all afternoon.  Ms. Lisa took us all to Trivial Pursuit at 5:00 and we hoped our Dads would return.  They did come back just about the time that Trivial Pursuit was starting.  They got two grouper, a red hind, and a tiger grouper.  Because Nassau grouper season legally opens today, there was lots of hunting going on.  Priority, Gotta Life (Mr. Brian), Rio Dulce, and Sandpiper all went out at 8:00 this morning and got two Nassaus and a lobster.

In Trivial Pursuit, the Liberty and Hullabaloo adults made the team Liberbaloo.  I was with Sam, Geneva and Annie (age 12, a new girl from Bird on Wire).  Josh was with Erin, Colton, Kristen (Annie's younger Sister), and Brie.  There was also another kid's team of some other girls.  We won with 24 wrong.  We actually beat an adult team who had -24.  Liberbaloo had -23.  That is the end of the good day of March 1st, 2009, Day 393 of our trip.



Monday, 3/2/09
                                                                                Day 394

I spent today in 3 places - Liberty, Volleyball Beach, and (mostly) town.  Mom and I took the water taxi with 20 other people in high winds/seas to go see a cruiser celebrity.  He was giving a day-long seminar.  Who is this guy??  Chris Parker!  Chris Parker is the legendary ex-cruiser and weather forecaster.  He is the cruisers main weather depot, and broadcasts on SSB, e-mail, and telephone, for a fee.  He is very nice and will give you passage planning advice, special information about specific areas, etc.  We subscribe to his services.  He comes down to George Town every year for Regatta and gives a weather seminar.  There is also a lunch with the proceeds going to the Family Island Regatta.  Mom and I stayed all day.  I took lots of notes for Part I - Weather 101.  At the end of the seminar, there was a Q&A session, and he signed his books.  We bought a book and he signed it to s/v Liberty.  After lunch, we went to Part II - Why Weather Forecasts Go Wrong.  He did not defend NOAA (whose forecasts are notoriously very wrong), but gave reasons why their mistakes happen.  They were good reasons, but he did say that they are not trying to give specific forecasts for pleasure boaters and their needs.  Chris takes all of that into account in his forecasts.  He is very accurate.  He also showed us all about the programs that he (and we) can use for his forecasts.  We took pictures of Chris Parker for Josh who couldn't come, but wanted to see our somewhat legendary weatherman.  I met him and asked him some questions, and he is a very nice guy.  We also got our Visas renewed and ran to Exuma market while we were in town.

When Mom and I got back from the seminars, it was 3:30 and beach time.  Dad picked us up shortly after we got dropped off by Elvis.

At 5:00, we met More Cowbell and Shining Time over at Hullabaloo for hors de'vours.  Mom and Dad know Shining Time through email connections.  Dad and Josh cooked all day and made some good stuff, including mini pizzas, grilled breadsticks, and a special kid's rumless punch.  We talked with Hullabaloo and Shining Time about going to the Jumentos on Wednesday.  The NE winds will be good.  More Cowbell was a guide, having been there before.

After happy hour on Hullabaloo, More Cowbell came to Liberty for dinner and cards.  Sam, Josh and I played Legos and watched Beverly Hillbillies.  They left at around 10:00.  We're all tired - Josh has already fallen asleep.  Good night.



Tuesday, 3/3/09
                                                                                Day 395

Today, our (hopefully) last day in George Town, started with an unfortunate change of plans.  We were planning to leave for the Ragged Islands (Jumentos) tomorrow, but after looking at weather, we saw that the winds would be much too strong to do anything down south.  Our change of plans is to go to the Exumas for two weeks or so, starting with a long run (55nm) to Staniel Cay tomorrow.  The weather was really good to go to Long Island, and Hullabaloo and Shining Time took off for there today, but we've been there, done that. 
J

We spent the morning getting ready to leave tomorrow.  Josh and I did some school.  Dad ran to town to get the last provisions.  The Wednesday Ham luncheon was moved to Tuesday (today) so that Chris Parker could do it.  We went there just before the luncheon so that Josh could meet him.  We also got palm fronds for Mom's basket weaving.

Like any old George Town afternoon, we went to Volleyball Beach with all the other kids.  When retrieving a volleyball from the brush, I created a bloody stump.  It was actually a small and sharp tree stump that sliced my foot open.  Luckily, Mr. Frank (Dreamweaver) is a doctor and had a medic kit in his dinghy to help me out.  We wiped it down, pulled a splinter out, and got most of the sand out.  I saw the grossest/coolest thing.  We thought there was a little splinter in the deepest part.  It was also in the most blood.  We could never seem to get it out.  Eventually, Dr. Frank said, "You know, I think that dark thing is just the end of the blood vessel."  I think that that's a cool thing to see, but not on yourself!  It was only the size of a pinhead, so I didn't see it contract or anything.  Ms. Ramon de Lady Ray had a very big Band-Aid that we put on with a lot of antibiotic ointment.  Dr. Frank put medical tape on so it wouldn't come off and told me to run along!

Another thing that happened today was a kid showdown.  There was a group of kids that hasn't been here for more than a week, but has been coming here for two years.  The gang I'm with has been here all season and some of us have been coming here for seven years.  This other group tore down HJHQ, and rebuilt Fort Hunka-Junk.  They said it had been theirs for two years.  We said, so what, you've played here for two years, we built it seven years ago and it's been ours ever since.  We had a big argument and there might have been a fistfight if two of the others hadn't had big pocket knives that they like having out and poking around.  Eventually, we settled on tearing some stuff down, kicking them out for the day, and knowing that most of us (at least us, Rio Dulce, More Cowbell, and Priority) were leaving soon enough.  We all had a fairly good afternoon.  This evening, we finished getting ready and got to bed early.  Mom and Dad are getting up at 4:45am tomorrow!



Wednesday, 3/4/09
                                                                                Day 396

WE ARE GONE!!!

The last time I wrote this was 2/3/08, after I really wanted to leave Kemah, TX.  Now (exactly 1 day, 1 month, and 1 year later
J ), I write the same thing after I really wanted to leave George Town, Great Exuma Island, Exumas, Bahamas.  I was really getting bored of George Town's masses of people, daily routine, organized activities, etc.  I wanted a change after 3 months of all that.  And we left!  Not to where we expected, but we left!

I woke up at 7:00am, offshore just outside Conch Cay Cut.  The weather (winds & seas) were heavier than expected, and we were all kind of queasy.  I found a comfy spot and read/rested all morning.  It's surprising - being queasy/seasick/motionsick makes you tired.

At about 12:30, everything calmed down.  The sun came out, the seas laid down to practically nothing, and we turned off the engine.  Why?  We came inside Galliot Cut and onto the Exuma Banks.  At that point, everything became nice.  Socia, now without Apha, Clara and their mom, called us up and asked us if we wanted to stop at Bay Rush Bay, Great Guana Cay, Exumas (there's also one in the Abacos) and go explore some caves.  It had already been a long and tiring day, so we accepted.

We anchored in Bay Rush Bay, near the settlement of Little Farmer's Cay, with Socia.  We all went ashore and they took us along a big beach and showed us Oven Rock (it looks like an oven and has a big hole in it) and the trail to the caves.  Mr. Jeff taught us about accretionary rock.  That is rock made of sand compacted together and cemented by minerals. Sometimes, as we saw, shells are embedded in the rock.  The accretionary rocks also make good skipping stones.  I learned that all Bahamian rocks are either accretionary, limestone, fossilized coral, or (as I like to say) concrete.

As for the caves, it took a bit of time finding the right trail and clearing a path, but we got there.  When we got in, we found a cave with stalagmites and stalactites all over and a fresh water cave lake that goes down over 100 feet.  In the lake, there were these odd cave shrimp too.  We climbed all over the dead stalagmites and looked into the depths.  I had a head lamp and a strong-beamed flashlight to help me see.  We all had flashlights.  Once, we stayed silent and we head what makes the cave get its local name - the constant drip ... drip ... drip, drip ... drip.  The local name is the Dripping Cave. 
J

After exiting the cave, we followed a better trail to go to a pretty, sickle-shaped beach with some grassy/rocky areas of shallow water, a mini-meadow of little grass-like plants, and a bunch of junk.  Mom found a sea bean or two.   By turning over rocks and just looking in crags, I saw grub sea cucumbers, a West Indian sea egg, crabs, fuzzy chitons, rock-boring urchins, and 2 warty sea anemones.  It was really cool.  I learned from Mr. Jeff and Elliot to turn rocks over.  They told me that fire worms are some of the most common things under rocks (but I didn't see any).   I really want to see one.

We invited Socia over for dinner.  They brought lentils and rice, and Dad made an odd pork curry dish.  Theirs was good;  Dad's was only okay.  We showed the boys around the boat, and I showed Roger Net Hack.  When in Maine (their summer home), Roger plays Dungeons & Dragons, so, as we expected, he likes this game.  I showed Elliot our great ID books because he loves that stuff.  We've become good friends with Socia.  We are both going to Staniel Cay tomorrow.  I can't wait to see the beer-drinking pigs, but that will wait.



Thursday, 3/5/09
                                                                                Day 397

Today was great.  Josh & I literally spent the entire day with Socia.  The only two things we didn't do with them were eat breakfast and eat dinner.  For breakfast this morning, I had Dad cook up a celebratory "We're out of George Town" feast.  That's just an excuse to make bacon, eggs, sausage, and French toast.  Man, that tasted good!

As we were starting school, Socia called to see if Bro & I wanted to sail over to Staniel Cay/Big Major's Spot with them.  We answered "Yes," and Dad drove us over in the dinghy.  Their boat only weighs 7500lbs, whereas Liberty weighs 28000lbs, and it goes fast.  It is a little and light catamaran, and they've hit 21kts.!!  On the way to Big Major's Spot, we hit 12kts., but only averaged 9kts.  I got to steer from White Point on Great Guana Cay to Harvey Cays.  After that, Jeff took us into the anchorage at Big Major's Spot.

We anchored off of Dog Beach.  That is one beach north of the famous Pig Beach.  Pig Beach is named for the wild pigs that live on the beach, drink beer, and eat cruisers' leftovers.
J  Dog Beach is where cruisers walk their dogs to stay away from the pigs. J

You wouldn't believe what boat we saw anchored off Pig Beach - Three @ Sea!!  That's Ayla's boat, where we had the Get Smart movie night!  We thought they'd be in the States by now!  We invited them to come in to Dog Beach with us.  Roger is obsessed with goats, and owns two back in Maine.  He led the other four kids (including me) through the woods to look for goats and go to a cave where they live.  We found a scorpion, a weaver-bird's nest, red ants, poisonwood, a yellow-jacket with nest, and one goat!  That was cool.

When Mom & Dad came into the harbor on Liberty, we all went back to Socia for a light lunch of fresh focaccia bread, wheat bread, salami & cheese.  We talked all about shells and seabeans and saw Elliot's collection.  It is impressive.  He's got some rare shells and beans.  We also talked about boats.  Eventually, we convinced the adults to go to Pig Beach.  We got some old cucumbers as food for the pigs and went to the beach.

These pigs were crazy!  They practically swam up and jumped on you!  When I was out of food and showed them my empty Ziploc bag, the tried to eat the bag!!  Ayla, Josh, Elliot & I built a defensive anti-pig wall of the many large, flat accretionary rocks. That turned into a survival game, and we got food, firewood, spears, torches, etc.  I got palm fronds and folded them into foot-long bundles and tied them with a piece of palm.  Those bundles could be placed into the little fire pit inside the fort.  For food, I found prickly pear cactus.  I know those are edible from the ranch that my extended family owns out in West Texas.  I used my pocket knife to cut the thorns off the pads, and washed them.  Ayla made a roasting spit.  I whittled spears.  I found a long, rusty, iron bolt which we intended to forge into a spear tip.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to do any of it because we had to leave and weren't allowed to make a fire on pig beach.
L

We came home and had dinner.  As we were clearing the table, around 7:45, Mom and Josh were falling asleep.  Everyone's turning in early.  It's only 8:15 now and everybody's tired, and Ma and Josh are in bed.  I'm going to read for a while and then turn in too.



Friday, 3/6/09
                                                                                Day 398

Wake up (normal).  Get dressed & make bed (normal).  Eat a bowl of cereal (normal).  Get ready to go diving (? not normal?).  Go to Thunderball Grotto with Charisma (!! way beyond average!!).  That's what I did this morning.
J  Inside a little rock cay between Big Major's Spot and Staniel Cay is a famous cave.  The only ways to get inside are from the water.  Thunderball Grotto has been featured in a number of Hollywood films, including 007's Thunderball.  We went there this morning along with Charisma and a number of other cruising dinks and tourist boats.  We brought my underwater camera and doggie biscuits to feed the fish.  There were tons of big fish throughout the cave.  Unfortunately, fishing (and spearfishing) is not allowed.  I saw mostly big schools of little fish like sergeant majors, Spanish hogfish, grunts, etc., but some large snappers, a grouper, and a trumpetfish, too.  The walls were coated with sponges of all sorts.  Mom and I even saw a semi-rare azure vase sponge.  I got lots of really nice pics.  We all like the grotto so much that we're going to come back tomorrow at low tide. J

Back on board, we did a couple hours of school.  Then we all went to Pig Beach.  All the kids played at the fort.  Today is Mr. Peter's 50th birthday.  We had little party with cake and singing and an awesome end to the day.  Even though we couldn't have a campfire in our fort, we had a true bonfire below the high-tide line on the beach.  We had logs, but our main fuel was palm fronds.  The kids would just keep throwing on the bundles, making it blaze up to 12 ft. in the air.  The wind was high, and blew our tongues of flames in all directions. J  We had my giant tiki torch from the fort and I got to light it.  It was AWESOME!  The group of kids boats (us, Three @ Sea, Socia & Tauá) skipped a happy hour on Dog Beach to do their own thing on Pig Beach.  When I was at Dog Beach yesterday, I saw big logs of wood for a bonfire.  We had a better fire than they ever could have had!  Why?  Because logs burn small and warm for a long time.  Palm fronds burn big and hot for a short time.  They didn't have the kids to keep throwin' on the fronds because we were all at Pig Beach.  So our fire burned long, high and hot.  We roasted a few marshmallows, but that was it.

We came back home, ate dinner and hung around.  We downloaded pics.

Guess how this day rates:  boring, okay, good, great, awesome, sad..... Definitely awesome!



Saturday, 3/7/09
                                                                                Day 399

Today was just sooo cool.  After a tine bit of school, we went back to Thunderball Grotto.  Josh used our underwater camera for the first time.  Dad had made rice balls for the fish and they loved them.
J  Because I had been here before, I spent this morning searching all the cave's dark crevices.  I found 2 tunnels that you could get through to the outside with.  I also found an area that you could get to by diving under one rock and over another.  I found about a half-dozen butterfly fish back there.  I also took four good underwater movies with our camera, including an awesome one of 2 queen angelfish.  I love the grotto.  It's just wonderful!

When we left the grotto, we did a bit of dinghy exploring.  We went around the northeast side of big Major's Spot and found lots of cool stuff along the coast.  We saw two shipwrecks, a barge and a sailboat.  They were cool to look at, but we couldn't get very close because of the big waves.  Also, we saw the closest thing the Bahamas has to forest - lots of shortish trees on a big hill.  We landed the dinghy on a deserted island and explored for a while.  There were many very tall cliffs on the oceanside of that island and no beach.  Sometimes walls of spray would shoot up alongside the cliff and run down on our side into big pools that were obviously filled in that way.  The biggest one was about the size of a small swimming pool and probably 4 feet deep at its deepest spot.  The sun had made it very warm and nice to swim in.  I ran around with Josh for a while and then we left.

When we got back from the grotto and had lunch, we dropped Independence from the dinghy davits.  There was a brisk wind and I had a nice sail, going fast!  To let me heal over more and go faster without taking water over the gunnels or having to release the sheet and slow down, I did what I call half-hiking.  It's the same concept as hiking, just simpler.  I brace myself against a board in the boat and pop up to sit on the aluminum rail and lean out.  It works.  I convinced Dad to work with me to build a larger, padded bar and a better brace to half-hike on.  That'll be cool.
J

Right after sailing, I went water-skiing with Mr. Peter and Claudia.  When we were traveling together in the Abacos, I learned to water-ski from them.  I got right up and did really well.  I could do little tricks, go way outside the wake, and ski with one hand.  I skied all afternoon until I finally called it a day.

We came back home and hung out for what was left of the day  We saw a green flash when the sun went down, and ma got it on camera.  Dad's grilling steak and we're setting up a movie, but I can't watch 'til I'm done with this.  So I'd better end.