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Sunday, 3/22/09                                                                                Day 414

We had a whole lot of fun today.  We all woke at like 7:15, being up so late last night (10:00pm).  Dad made taquitos for breakfast and we went to explore the Norman's Pond Cay salt pond.  High tide was about 2 ½hrs before we got there, so there was some trouble getting into the shallow creek that leads to the salt pond.  Because we cannot plane with all 5 of us in the dink, and because it would have been a rough passage from the anchorage to the salt pond, we moved the big boat over to near Norman's Pond Cay.  Then we immediately dinghied to the salt pond.  We got in and showed Erik around the ruins, but the strong winds had made even the salt pond rough, so we got soaked and didn't stay long.  We did explore the creeks and found tons of upside-down jellyfish, which fascinated Erik.  We didn't spend that much time though.  We spent a lot of time on the beaches, shelling.  I found some tiny emerald nerites which are really cool.  I also collected West Indian rice olivetts which are tiny, shiny, and awesome.  I like tiny shells.  Erik also found a big cushion sea star.

On and off all day, we played Risk.  Erik and I dominated the board, and Josh had only a few armies and countries.  I secured four continents, wiped out Josh, got a ton of armies and prepared to strike Erik.  Though Erik had mostly dominated the board last night, I came back today and used my huge armies to strike his thin spread armies in three places and wipe out Erik and his Asian empire in a single turn.  I have finally won a game of Risk!  We have had a ton of fun with this.

This afternoon, Erik, Dad & I went diving around the Shark Rocks, just east of the southern tip of Norman's Pond Cay.  We were only able to snorkel on a little coral head because of the extremely strong current.  It was too much for even Dad to get to the big reef.  Erik and Dad did go from the dink, drifting over the big reef, and I picked them up at the end.  We also went diving for conch on the grass beds, and got a good 8 or 10 conch.  On the way home, we saw a big (6 or 7 ft) shark, and NOT a nurse shark!

We moved Liberty back to the research center anchorage.  We had thought about going rod & reel fishing on a reef in the evening, but didn't get around to it.  Erik and I fished off the side of the boat instead, while Dad cleaned conch, but we got nothing.  Erik failed to become more manly by eating a conch's "reproductive parts" as we all did in Manjack Cay last April. 

We didn't do anything else until after dinner.  We had a discussion about big & great Texas, and then the four guys watched Star Wars: Episode II:  Attack of the Clones.  That's my favorite episode.  Since we have all seen this movie before, we analyzed the whole thing and did a lot of talking.  We just finished.  It's 11:05.  We started late.  I need to get some sleep.

Monday, 3/23/09
                                                                                Day 415

We had a long and fun day today.  If you look at the big picture, we only did two things - hiking and fishing.  We'll start with the hiking.

We dinghied around to Coconut Beach on Lee Stocking Island to hike the trails to the ocean side and the highest point in the Exumas.  On the way, we told Erik that last time we came this way, we saw a ton of cushion sea stars and some stingrays.  The next moment, we pass a big starfish and spook up a giant southern stingray!  We also saw two more stingrays and a half dozen more starfish.

On Cocount Beach, the three boys went out looking for coconuts.  All the good ones had been harvested, except for a couple that were too high to knock down.  In the meantime, the adults had gotten into a conversation with a couple off of Morning Star.  They talked for like ages, but we finally pried Mom and dad away and went hiking.   We started on the Loyalist Trail (sound side).  It was a long hike through the brush.  We finally got to the awesome beach.  The waves were big and we had fun running into them and away from them.  After doing that for a long time, someone came up with the idea of building a fort.  Erik and I dug a fairly deep foxhole, while Josh went junking for supplies.  In the end, we had a 2 ½ ft. high sand wall with four buckets full of sand on top, one milk crate, and two beams and sticks and sand to make overhead protection.  It turned out really well.  We did training with a bombardment of plastic bottles.  That was just really fun.  I got to be the guy getting bombarded usually.

Dad, who had gone home to make lunch, met us at Coconut Beach with a picnic lunch.  We had a smorgasbord of good eats.  We had PB&J, cookies, dried fruit, fresh fruit, granola bars, and cheese crackers, plus Goombay punch and ice tea and cranberry juice.  After our wonderful picnic, we did some hiking/exploring on and around Perry Trail and Perry's Peak.  Dad had the machete, which we all took turns using to "help clear the path."  Yeah right.  We were just chopping at stuff.  At one point, I asked Dad, "Doesn't the path look clearer than last time?"  His reply was, "You can tell someone's been through here with a machete."  To which I joked, "But would you guess a teenager, an almost teenager, and a 9 year old!"  We had fun.

By the time we got down from Perry's Peak (a ginormous mountain at a whole 123ft.), it was quite late, and we went straight home.  It was too late to go fishing.  We moved the boat over to Williams Bay at Williams Cay.  Erik and I were going to go sailing in Independence, but the wind was too high.  But, when going to prep Independence, I saw one nice mutton snapper and a bar jack or two under/near Liberty, so Erik and I hopped up, grabbed all our lines and rigs, and dropped our gear over with some conch.  Between the two of us, we had out four rods and eight hooks!  After a while, it got chilly and we went downstairs and downloaded pictures.  Eventually, we decided to check our lines.  Three were all clear, but he last one was really pulling away.  Erik brought it in, and it was the exact same mutton snapper I had seen under the boat.  We netted it, photographed it, threw it in the cooler, and went down for dinner.  It had really taken the hook in, so we let it die during supper (goodie - pasta in a lobster saffron sauce).  Afterwards, we unhooked it and filleted it.  That was all we caught, but this snapper gave us two nice fillets that'll make a good lunch.  Now the evening is close to over.  It's almost 9:00 and most lights are out.  I'm tired.  We had a fun day.

Tuesday, 3/24/09
                                                                                Day 416

We spent a nice day at Williams Cay today.  We met new people, sailed, hung out, explored, etc.  After a breakfast of Coconut French toast and a couple of games of cards (Speed, Slap-Jack, ERS, etc.), Erik and I started the day right off with a nice sail in Independence.  We had planned to have a bonfire tonight, so we tootled around and checked out the beaches.  Though the late morning through evening was very windy, the early-ish morning to mid-morning was calm enough.  We checked out two beaches.  There are three big beaches around Williams Bay - the one with the hiking trails and cliffs to the side, one that was long and quite barren, and one that was surrounded by very shallow flats, was shorter, and had cliffs like right above you.  Of all the beaches, Erik and I liked that one the best.  It had lots of dead logs and wood to burn and looked quite sheltered, thanks to the cliff.  But there was one little problem.  The wind literally curled around a point and made the wind and waves come straight onto the beach.  When it should have been a prefect beam reach, we were on a run, and the wind was 90° to where it should have been.   Luckily, we got home all right and had a nice sail.

During the morning, while the winds were still calmish, as were the waves, Dad took the four guys on a fishing trip to Tug & Barge Rocks.  On a snorkeling spot sheet we got at the research center on Lee Stocking Island, it said that Tug & Barge Rocks were a good place to dive.  It's a lie!  We all dinghied out there in the quite rough conditions and found a single, very tiny coral head in very shallow water that hosted tiny wrasse, some baby grunts, and a scrawled cowfish.  We said "What the heck," and dropped our lines in.  Surprisingly, we got two baby (about 6in.) grouper, a red hind, and a Nassau grouper almost immediately.  That was it though, and we had to let those go.  On the wet way home, we did see a nurse shark, a southern stingray, and some cushion sea stars.

W got home and wanted to crash.  Erick and I dropped our lines over, but went straight downstairs.  We met a kid boat that's anchored near us.  They are The Alexander Glyn, a Leopard 46 catamaran.  The people are Eric and Allison with kids Preston (10) and Macey (8) an Ms. Allison's parents Mike and Sharon.  They are going to have the bonfire with us. Plus, they have graham crackers to make s'mores!

For the rest of the afternoon, we played board games.  First, the three boys played Clue.  I won.  Erik said he was the Clue master, but he got knocked out quickly with a bad accusation.  Secondly, we played Monopoly.  Dad played with us for that game.  After about four hours of play, Dad knocked us out.  I got second.  As games go, I've done quite well.  I won Risk, I win lots of card games, I won Clue, and now I got second in Monopoly.  There games are really fun.  We should play them more often.

Because of many factors, including time, wind, Alexander Glyn's schedule, etc., we didn't have our bonfire tonight.  We'll definitely do it tomorrow.  We let Monopoly go late ('til 7:45).  We gotta sleep if we're gonna do anything tomorrow!

Wednesday, 3/25/09                                                                        Day 417

Today was a wonderful medley of hanging with friends, exploring, sailing, enjoying our nice anchorage, etc.  We started by going to the beach to hike on Williams Cay.  Dad proposed the idea of Erik and me sailing into the beach.  Both of us liking to sail, we accepted.  But coming in to that beach, which we hadn't been to before, was pretty disastrous.  We got pushed close to the rocks and had some wind problems.  Over-cautious Dad came out "to save us."  We did NOT need saving!   He told us how we should have tried to come in, so we aborted our crazy entry and tried his way.  But, in trying to jibe to come back in to the beach, we flipped the boat.  It sunk in a matter of seconds.  Dad pulled us in to the beach, where we righted her and pumped out the water.  Dad picked up Mom and Josh (who brought dry t-shirts) and we started our hike.  We followed the trail and explored the cliffs.  At one point, Mom and Dad met up with Mr. Mike and Ms. Sharon, and they chatted away.  So the three boys continued alone.  We ran around and explored and climbed and hid.  I got the top of my foot cut up, but still ran around and had fun.

When we got back from our explore, we decided to go back to Liberty, eat lunch, and go to the odd wind beach to get the fire ready for tonight.  Erik and I planned to sail Independence to the bonfire beach and just get picked up for lunch or brought a few quesadillas.  Well, on our way into the bonfire beach, we reached the beach only after taking on a lot of water, coming too close to the rocks, almost jibing in the heavy winds, and jumping out and dragging the boat in to shore.  At shore, the boom swung into the wind, aka directly behind us, aka BAD!  We tried to fix it, but couldn't.  Erik came up with the idea of dropping the sail.  Duh!!!  We couldn't though because the boom trapped the halyard down.
L  In trying to free the halyard, we flipped the boat on the beach!! L L  Then, all of a sudden, as I freed the halyard to free the sail, the shackle holding the sail to the halyard fell open.  At the same time, Erik found the uphaul broken! L  That (besides the sail itself) is the only thing holding the boom up.  After some major cursing sessions, we got the emergency whistle and blew and waved until Mom finally came to get us for lunch.  We left the boat 'til later.

After a somewhat leisurely lunch, we dinghied in to the bonfire beach.  Dad immediately saw that because of the winds, we could not have a bonfire here.  So we right Independence, cleaned her out, took the mast/boom/sail apart, and considered it fixed for now.  We loaded her up with our awesome collection of firewood, so she looked like a funeral pyre ship, and brought it all over to the cliff-trail beach.  We met Alexander Glyn there and decided to build our bonfire there.  We spent the afternoon with them on that beach.  We gathered some more wood and palm fronds and established our fire zone.  Erik and I planned to make it not just a bonfire, but a bombfire.  Here is a dictionary style entry for the word 'bombfire:'

bomb-fire  \'bäm - ,fi(∂) r\ n  1:  a large campfire or a bonfire which repeatedly shoots up tongues of flame because of the continuous addition of piles of any of various quick burning fuels  2:  a large campfire or a bonfire which is started by lighting an explosive material, such as gasoline  3:  a fire of any sort which is started by the explosion of a bomb

That is just cool!  Josh, Preston, and Macey became instant friends.  They spent all afternoon exploring caves and walls along the cliff on the beach's northern side.  Erik and I also did some cave exploring, which included scaling rock faces and terrorizing the younger kids.
J  In the flats around the beach, we found a good deal of wildlife.  I showed Erik southern lugworms (their mounds), two-spined sea stars, live pen shells, and a spotted sea hare.  Erik thought that the sea hare was the world's coolest critter.  We could barely get him to put the thing down!  Erik and I also played bocci for a while.

At some point, the adults decided that we should all go home for dinner and come back at sunset.  We did go home and had a fine little supper of fried plantains, conch fritters (fried), and fried mutton snapper.  The snapper was delicious.  Erick thought so too.  He liked it all, as did I.

After supper, we got marshmallows, chocolate, sweatshirts, a lighter, and the camera and met Alexander Glyn on the cliff-trail beach at 7:15.  We whittled roasting sticks and set up all the wood.  Then Dad started our bombfire with some Texas kindling - gasoline.  The wind almost kept our fire from lighting, but we got it going with a BANG!  We made s'mores and had a good time for an hour or two.  By then, the tide was coming in and we were getting tired.  By now, we all gotta be outright tired.  I'd be out if it weren't for the showers we had to take.  I forgot to say - it was Erik's last day with us.  But it was a very good one!!

Thursday, 3/26/09                                                                                Day 418

Today was a bit crazy.  Erik had to leave
L, and that was all a bit odd.  Everything involved was a bit weird.

To start the day off, we went to make breakfast - I was going to make crepes, but, oh no, we were out of eggs.  Luckily, Alexander Glyn, with whom we have now become quite good friends, had two eggs, and Josh dinghied over to get them.  The crepes were quite good.

After breakfast, we rushed right out for Barraterre, with Alexander Glyn on our tail.  We arrived in about a half hour and found a way to fit us and the giant catamaran into the small anchorage.  Our hook dragged a bit once, and Alexander Glyn went aground (or at least bumped bottom), but we ended up all good.

After lunch and some hanging out, Mom and the three boys went out to see if Mr. Norman had remembered our setup, which was his lending Dad his car.  We found that he had gone off to George Town.  Oh great!!  That's what we said.  So, we waited around, showed Erik what your average Bahamian store looks like, etc.  Eventually, we met up with Mr. Eric and Ms. Allison, who wanted to do the same thing as we did.  We wanted to get a car to drop off Erik, but we also wanted to drive to George Town to provision.  Since Alexander Glyn also wanted to go to George Town, we decided to share a taxi or rent a van together.  But, of course, the rental guy wasn't around.  We found a lady who would at least take us to the airport to drop Erik off, and just as she arrived to pick us up, the rental guy showed up.  (Mr. Norman never showed up.)  In the end, we decided to rent the van and share it with Alexander Glyn and Morning Star, who is also anchored here.  This afternoon, after a hurried trip back to Liberty, Mr. Eric (our driver), Ms. Allison, Dad, Erik, and I all went.  Since we technically have the car for 24 hours (even though Alexander Glyn and we will leave first thing in the morning), Morning Star will use the van tomorrow morning.

Our first stop, on the way to the airport, was a shopping center near a resort and some condos.  Dad had to get cash from the ATM, there was a liquor store, and also a little grocery store.  Erik and I ran into the grocery store to see if we could buy Erik a t -shirt.  There were none.  When we went back to Dad, we past one of the most magnificent buildings ever - and ice cream shop!  Dad let Erick and I each gat a cone.  That is the first time I've had any sort of ice cream since sometime in November.  It was some of the best stuff I've ever tasted.  I got brownie and Erik got mint chocolate chip.  It was sooooooo GOOD!!

After that quick stop, we went to the airport.  Things went wrong fast.  First, his 4:45 flight was delayed until 5:25.  But then, as we went to say goodbye, the man said that because he was flying as an Unaccompanied Minor, we had to stay until his plane left the ground!  We groaned and told Mr. Eric to just drive to George Town and come pick us up when they'd done their stuff.  So we waited.  As 5:00 approached, Dad sent Erik and me across the street to the airport (we were hanging out at a restaurant) to check stuff out.  They told Erik he needed to be in in 5 minutes.  Erik started to say goodbye, but we both realized that we needed Dad for something or other.  I ran to get, and when I got back, they had whisked Erik away through security.  Grrr.  We said goodbye through a window of glass with wire mesh in it.  Then Dad and I waited for the plane to take off.  Even when he had boarded, we couldn't leave.
L  We figured out that we could catch a cab to George Town and catch Alexander Glyn there.  But then, a two-seater plane had to land, and we waited another 15 minutes.  Finally, the plane took off and we got Clifford's taxi back to George Town.

We met up with Alexander Glyn just as they were leaving George Town.  They were faster than we had expected.  They let us shop real fast and then we all drove home.

We got home around 6:30.  Josh was over playing at Alexander Glyn (the grandparents were there).  Mom picked Dad and me up and we made conch fritters to take over to Alexander Glyn for supper.  I spent the evening/night between the adults and the kids.  The kids had eater hot dogs earlier, so I got to have steak with the adults.  It was good!  We stayed at Alexander Glyn until 11:15.  Their boat is huge.  It's like two Liberty's connected.  Everything is just bigger and cooler.  Preston showed Josh something cool.  You can climb up into the sail!  It was awesome!  We played like we were in a submarine.  It was cool!

Now we are home.  It is 11:39.  We are tired.  Good Night.

Friday, 3/27/09
                                                                                Day 419

Today was great!  When looking back on it, we didn't do much, but it was still great!  We made one more trip into town before leaving on a big adventure.  Dad and Josh went to get dinghy gas, while Mom and I went to get some fresh Barraterre produce.  Unbeknownst to us, the family who owns the little grocery store also has a huge garden/little farm behind the store and their house.  Someone told us about it, and we asked Ms. Julia.  Ms. Julia runs the store and Mom and she talk a whole bunch together.  She showed us to her father-in-law, who showed us the garden.  It was a garden all cut out of the brush.  We walked around with the old man and saw okra, jalapeños, corn, bell peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, papayas, and bananas.  We bought okra right off the plant.  We did the same with tomatoes, peppers and papayas.  The man pulled onions right out of the ground for us.  They had a lot of onions and cabbages.  He had huge mesh bags full of onions to go to market.  We also got a whole stalk of bananas. On this stalk was about 2 dozen bananas.  The man cut it right off the tree for us!  Unfortunately, he obviously doesn't have someone to check all the plants daily.  There were red and rotting tomatoes on the ground and most of the corn was dried up.  This was a cultural experience.

After that last trip in to Barraterre, we hauled anchor and started the Great Adventure.  We are going to go to the Jumentos, but by a special route.  We are going on the banks to the western side of Great Exuma Island.  Most people don't do that.  Today we traveled two hours to a place in the Brigantine Cays between False Cay and Jimmy Cay.  There is a lot of current here, so we set two anchors in a Bahamian Moor.

We went exploring on some giant mangrove creeks on the west side of Pudding Point on Barraterre.  It was amazing.  This is the largest mangrove creek system we've ever been to.  We saw tons of creatures, like schools of Yellowfin mojarras, bonefish, and even a big stingray, a baby tarpon, baby turtles and three sharks.  We saw a baby nurse shark (approx. 1 ½ ft. long) and a small (approx. 3ft. long) gray shark and a big (5-6ft. long) shark.  The last shark was in the shallows and zooming along, stirring up the bottom and surface of the water.  We did not get an affirmative ID on the last two sharks, but I've narrowed the possibilities down to 5 species.  Those are the Atlantic sharpnose shark, blacktip reef shark, lemon shark, Caribbean reef shark, and bull shark.  I would guess that the first shark was on of the first 4species, and the second shark was on of the last 3.  We saw no black on the fins and it was too big to be a sharpnose.  The sharks were really cool.  Dad wanted to be close to the boat when the tide switched, so we couldn't go all the way up the creek.  We had to leave.  I really loved this creek.  It's too bad that we probably won't come back.

We hung out for the rest of the day.  Alexander Glyn, who is back in Williams Bay, called us.  They caught a 10lb. mutton snapper on a piece of bacon!!  We put out lines here.  I played some two-player Monopoly with Josh.  We had a giant, filling dinner of sautéed lamb chops, rice, and salad.  We put some lamb fat on our lines.  If Alexander Glyn can catch a 10lb. fish on a piece of bacon, we can get one on a piece of fat so tasty I would eat it!  So, such is the end to a great day.

Saturday, 3/28/09
                                                                                Day 420

Today was almost boring, but still somewhat fun.  We hung out most of the day.  Bro and I did a bit of school.  We are getting back into the routine after a whole week off.  We also finished our game of two-player Monopoly.  It ended in a fight when Josh couldn't pay me $1100 cash, but wouldn't give me the last $600 property.

We did take one cool excursion.  We dinghied 4 ½ whole miles to a diving spot between Lily Cay and Brigantine Cay.  Each of the eight large cays in the Brigantines are separated by a 25-30ft. deep channel.  The dive spot was on a ledge that dropped from 8ft. to 22ft.  The current was strong, so we kept one adult in the dink and the other 3 people drifted.  The ledge was cool, but quite barren.  I saw a total of six fish (four different types), one type of coral, and two starfish.  Dad, a deep diver, said that it was gorgeous starting at about 15 ft.  I guess the guide book meant scuba diving.  Whatever; it was still cool.

This evening, we watched Star Wars, Episode I:  The Phantom Menace.  Dad wanted to see that episode.  I really want to see Episode IV:  A New Hope again, but when we switched from VCR to DVD, we got episodes I, II, & III, instead of our old I, IV, V, & VI.  We'll get them sometime.  I really want to get the Star Wars books.  There are like two dozen, and the movies are just from the middle.  Mom says we can try to do that.

Tomorrow we move on down the banks.  We'll go to Jewfish Cay.  Afterwards, we'll meet Tauá in the Jumentos.  Last time  Claudia was on board, we started making a giant starship.  Well, it's complete now, so she has to see what we've done! Tomorrow will be much better than today!