Friday, 5/22/09                                                                                Day 475

Today was a lot like yesterday.  It rained on and off all day.  We did publish the website, though not as soon as we wanted, seeing that the signal was down most of the day.  The website is now up and awesome, though if anyone else is reading this, they already now that.

Josh and I spent a long time building pillow forts in our cabin.  We watched a movie in the fort this afternoon.  The fort has to come down for sleeping though.  We can always rebuild it, if we feel like it.   It has taken me less than one page to describe today.  Wow!
J  End of day, end of journal.

Saturday, 5/23/09
                                                                                Day 476

Today was only slightly different from any other day recently.  We did a bit of school, and Mom, Josh and I went into town to get liquor and wine and provisions.  I got to be the dinghy driver the whole time and got to bring the liquor and wine home in a special trip all by myself.  That's driving the family car all around!

When we returned from shopping, it started to rain.  We had BLT sandwiches for lunch and then hung out.  We got dropped from the internet, so that cut out website stuff. L  After dinner, I finally got to read some old e-mails.  Mom and Dad seem to think that it's bad for me to be on the computer for more than 20 min. at a time.  So they make me read my e-mails one time, respond at a second, and Google stuff at a third complete different one! L Grrrrr!! L  That is my whole, short day. End of day, end of journal.

Sunday, 5/24/09
                                                                                Day 477

We have sailed away from George Town once more - a full day of sailing from Stocking Island to Cat Island.  We had a very nice sail.  It was not too rolly, and we averaged 6kts. for our 54nm of sailing.  We did get hit by two or three squalls though.  Fishing was about average.  We dragged two lines all the way across Exuma Sound, but landed nothing.  We got one huge hit on a little green and yellow squid skirt.  It bent the rod way down and just ran, and ran, and ran.  Eventually, he broke our 60lb. test fishing line.  He took our lure on wire leader, a 10ft. leader, a ball bearing snap shackle, and at least a foot or two of mono.  The fishing line was literally ripped in half, down the center!!  We all wonder what and how big that fish was.  Dad bets it was a bunch bigger than 60lbs., breaking our line like that.  Wow!  One thing's for sure - there's a really big fish out there dragging 15ft. of gear!  Our gear!!

This evening, we arrived at the town of The Bight, Cat Island.  It's the capital of Cat Island and home of the Bahamas' highest point with the famous Hermitage on top.  We're going to go see the Hermitage tomorrow.

It rained really bad and we had a big storm for a looong, looong time this evening.  The lightning was striking really bad.  Once, it struck so close there was a flash and a simultaneous big BOOM!  Luckily, none hit us, but Bro and I were scared.  Nobody would prop their feet on the portion of the mast down in the saloon, and for good reason.  We are all just gonna snuggle up in our beds and go to sleep.  End of day, end of journal.

Monday, 5/25/09
                                                                                Day 478

When we woke up this morning, the wind wasn't bad and it wasn't raining, but the anchorage was rolly.  In that anchorage, we had no swell protection.  We decided to just get off the boat, go hike to the Hermitage, and find an internet café, etc., etc, but get this - it was so rolly that we couldn't drop the outboard onto the back of the dink!  Dad gave up and decided to go down to Hawk's Nest Marina up Hawk's Nest Creek on Hawk's Nest Point, which is the western tip of the "foot" of Cat Island.  Dad wanted to go to a 360° protection, flat calm place.  We got it here.

On the way over, a 14 mile trip, we got to fish along the ledge for a good 8 or 9 miles, but didn't get a thing.
L  The creek and channel into the marina are only less than ½ mile from the ledge and the fishing is excellent.  The marina is full of fishing boats.  We are the only cruising boat here. J  We were told that the guys "were throwing the dolphin back" because they were getting so many!  We haven't been that lucky!

The marina is like a cross between the Riding Rock Marina in San Salvador and Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina in West End, Grand Bahama Island.  It is not much bigger than Riding Rock and caters to the sportfishers, but has some amenities from an associated resort like Old Bahama Bay.  They have wi-fi, plus bikes, kayaks, a small car rental service, and a little private charter airstrip.  They have a big clubhouse on the other side of the airstrip, which is ¼ mi. from the marina.  It's a quick bike ride to get to their pool, honor-system bar, restaurant, etc.

I spent a while talking with the fishermen, hoping that if I became good enough friends, one might take me out fishing.  I talked with Orion, the boat right next to us, and Flow Central, but biggest boat here.  I found out that Flow Central is a company-owned boat, and a group of company guys and clients are coming in for a couple of days of fishing, so it's a no-go on that one.  We heard on the radio that the Mahi were striking everywhere, so Dad asked that if they were throwing them back, save one for us!  They said they would.

We spent the afternoon biking around, fishing off the docks for little snapper, etc.  Ma and I went to the clubhouse to see about renting a car for tomorrow morning to go to the Hermitage.  We talked with Mr. Dean, and inhabitant of Cat Island for 10yrs., and he told us about some of the few sights to see on Cat Island.  It's a quiet island with not much more than beautiful beaches, the Hermitage, and great fishing.  Mom and I also borrowed the terrific movie Evan Almighty form the clubhouse.  We'll watch it tonight or tomorrow and then either return it or swap for it.  It's a great movie! J

This evening, we actually showered in real showers!  But the water was cold. L  So we didn't enjoy them like we could have. L

When Orion came in, they gave us a giant Mahi cow.  It was over 4ft long!  These fishermen get a lot of this stuff - they had 3 more dolphin fish, 5 Yellowfin tuna, a misty grouper or two, and a whole mess of black fin and queen snapper!  They easily had two dozen fish in their big cooler!  We ate well off that Mahi and are all really happy.  We didn't watch the movie, but mañana.  We are having fun here. J  End of day, end of journal.

Tuesday, 5/26/09
                                                                                Day 479

We spent most of today exploring the southern half of Cat Island.  By 8:45, we were getting onto bikes and heading to the clubhouse.  I found a red bike that was different from all the rest that fit me perfectly and was really good in all ways.  Josh found a small bike that was his size, too. 

We signed the mini-van out at 9:00 and got underway to the Hermitage.  We got onto asphalt after 4 miles of potholes.  We passed through towns too small to even have a Batelco tower.  There were a lot of those - little towns with only a few visible people and only a few in-tact houses.  We passed through Old Bight, one of the first largish towns, and arrived at New Bight, the capital, place of the Hermitage, and place where we anchored two nights ago.  We parked our van at the base of Mt. Alvernia, the tallest point in the Bahamas at a whopping 206 feet.  Not that high, huh!

Father Jerome, an Anglican minister who converted to Catholicism, built the Hermitage on top of the "mountain" as his retirement home.  He was born in 1874 and lived on Cat Island from 1942 until his death in the 1960's.  He graduated from a British college of architecture before going to seminary, so he built/designed churches in Clarence Town, Long Island (one Anglican, one Catholic), and built a bunch here on Cat Island as well.  His Hermitage here on Mt. Alvernia (he retired into a life as a hermit) was built 100% by hand - only his hands - and 100% out of local materials.  While he was building his Hermitage (which he designed to look like a European Franciscan monastery), he lived in a nearby cave.

We climbed up a long set of stone staircases to the top.  We passed the 14 Stations of the Cross, all hand carved by Father Jerome.  He is buried just after the 14th Station, like a 15th Station.  We explored the Hermitage for a long while.  It was quite interesting.  Also, Bro and I found a ton of tadpoles in little pools of rainwater all around the mountaintop.  After a little bit of climbing through overgrown paths, we found the cave where Father Jerome stayed and held mass.  It is now occupied by a family of bats which I got to photograph.  You wouldn't believe how close you can get to those things, seeing as the cave is only like 4ft. high inside.

From Mt. Alvernia and the Hermitage, we drove around seeing some of Father Jerome's churches on the island.  A little observation on his churches is the lack of interior decoration.  There are simple white walls with a simple while altar and cross at the front, unlike many other Catholic (and Anglican) churches.

We also stopped in Port Howe to see the old 1700's plantation mansion.  Andrew Deveaux was given a large amount of land (somewhere around 1000 acres) by the British governor for driving the Spanish out of Nassau.  He took that land and turned it into a cotton plantation.  The house and kitchen are in ruins now, but are in somewhat good condition for the time period and lack of conservation.  The Bahamas have only two national parks that I know of (Warderick Wells Land & Sea Park in the northern Exumas, and the Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park in the southern Abacos) and they have fairly strict regulations on fishing and harvesting animals, but practically no other conservation efforts for natural and/or historical landmarks.  It's really too bad.

To finish our expedition, we stopped at a pretty beach on Devil's Point for lunch.  It was a perfect picnic under the casuarina trees.  We even had a parade of ants that came to clean up the crumbs. J  We also walked on the long beach and out onto a sand spit.  Josh and I took some time to try to excavate a set of old ropes with some metal attached, but we ran out of time.

That concludes our exploration adventure.  We returned the mini-van by 2:00 and hung out at the pool all the rest of the day.  We did internet and swam and generally had fun.  When we got back to Liberty, Orion gave us two big black fin snappers, and another boat gave us a little bag of Mahi.  They made a yummy supper that we enjoyed while we watched the hilarious Evan Almighty.  It's definitely as good as I remember it.  So, now that I'm done with things to tell, I'll stop telling.  End of day, end of journal.

Wednesday, 5/27/09
                                                                        Day 480

As today goes, I really can't think of anything that bad.  It was just another offshore sailing day with some major good parts.  First thing in the morning, we biked to the clubhouse one last time and they let us swap one of our movies for   the awesome movie Evan Almighty. It's a really great movie that I'm glad we own now.  As soon as we got back, we left Hawk's Nest Marina and went up all the way to Little San Salvador.  The island is owned by the Norwegian Cruise Ship company, and is run as a day stop for the 1000ft. long cruise ships that transit the Bahamas.  We didn't go ashore because we are only going to be here overnight and a cruise ship will come tomorrow, and then we're not allowed on shore.  The water is still and clear as glass, so it is very beautiful.  We went swimming as a whole family and tossed a water ball around.  We also met a couple on the sailboat Zydeco.

We did awesome in the way of fishing today.  We learned from the sport fishermen that they look for birds that signal the feeding Mahi and tuna.  About 1 ½ mi. north of Hawk's Nest Point, I noticed some random birds and Ma spotted a flock of feeding birds and jumping fish.  We decided to act like a sport fisher and try to run through the school.  By doing that, we caused the school to sound (dive), but we got a good sized bull Mahi on the line!  Unfortunately, it spit the hook 25ft. from the side of the boat.
L  He didn't even leave us the ballyhoo we used as bait.  We did get a ton of experience.  We were able to recognize the birds as brown noddies and maybe some shearwaters (greater and/or Audubon), and put them down as Mahi birds. J

I noticed a large school of fish jumping along with a bunch of the Mahi birds feeding.  That was about an hour after the first school.  We had deployed the spinnaker and so we couldn't get right at the school, and so passed by without any hits.  We still did well fishing, as you'll see later on.

We did a bit of school while underway.  I didn't get much done, especially because I was constantly checking the fishing lines and looking for birds.  Later in the day, I did see a good number of Roseate terns and some other terns, but just flying along and resting, not feeding.

Okay, now for our fishing awesomeness!  We got a giant strike sometime mid-afternoon.  It was just ripping off line and threatening to spool our reel.  It jumped and showed us ...a giant bull mahi-mahi!!  It bit our semi-broken rod holder, so Dad took him on using our gimble belt.  After over 10 minutes of hard fighting, he started to give up, and we were dragging him behind Liberty, though he would struggle and fight sometimes.  With the spinnaker, mainsail, and mizzen all up, we were making between 3.5 - 5.5 kts. the whole time, which didn't help a bit.  Mom and I tried, but could not drop the spinnaker.  It took another 10+minutes to get the monster next to the boat.  Dad successfully gaffed him and hauled him up.  Josh and I had the wet towel ready, and Mom was holding the alcohol bottle.  Dad slipped him off the gaff on the back deck, between the deck box and the propane locker, cooler, grill, etc., and he slipped over the other side of the boat!!!!  Luckily, the hook was still in him good, so Dad gaffed him again and got him, gaff still in, behind the deck box.  Josh and I threw the towel over him, Dad (tangled in line and gaff) pounced on top, and we got ready to finish this once and for all!  I tied his tail off, Josh and Dad jointly sprayed him with alcohol and jammed the ice pick into his head.  Dad was a funny sight, stabbing the ice pick right through the towel!  We dispatched the fish, measured him, photographed him, and started to fillet him.  He was 54"!!!  That's our largest fish ever!
J  Being a bull, we got a sizeable steak off of each forehead, and got another 3+ft. of inch-thick fillets!!  Dad packaged up 6 meals of Mahi!  It's just so awesome!!

We arrived at Little San Salvador at 5:30, took a swim, and ate the first big Mahi meal with polenta and salad.  It was a feast!  Tomorrow morning we take off for a 24hr. passage around Eleuthera to Little Harbour, Abacos.  We are skipping Eleuthera because we need to get north to cross to the USA soon.  We'll probably leave within the week.  Yup, we're goin' home.  End of day, end of journal.

Thursday, 5/28/09
                                                                                Day 481

Passage!  That's what today is.  We left Little San Salvador when the Carnival Miracle came in this morning.  It is a 958ft. long ship that is 13 stories tall and 105ft. wide!  Big ship!
J  It came here to anchor for the day, so its passengers could play on the island.  The ship had a giant water slide and batter cages!!  We left to go offshore past Eleuthera to Little Harbour, Abacos.

We did a bunch of school.  I finished spelling for the entire year.  Unfortunately, I am only on lesson 132 of 160 in reading.  That is David Copperfield - Charles Dickens' 800 pages of small print about a boring dude's life.  It's just a bad book.

We fished all day, but caught nothing.  There was one school of feeding fish with a flock of birds, but we couldn't get to them.  Speaking of birds, we made a point of watching the birds, and we saw roseate and Forsters terns, brown noddies, and Cory's and Audubon's shearwaters.  I like the shearwaters a lot.  Also, we saw whales!  At a distance, we noticed big dolphin-like creatures splashing their tails (called lobtailing) and one jumped clear out of the water in an arc.  Everything points to Blackfish, the family of very large dolphins/small toothed whales that includes Orcas.  The most likely is False Killer Whales, though they may have been short-finned pilot whales.  It was awesome!

We either motorsailed or used the spinnaker all day.  The winds were light and somewhat variable.  This evening, we just dropped the spinnaker and main, and are now just motoring with the mizzen up.  That's all of today.

The Night of 5/28/09

For the only night of this passage, I stayed up with Mom, but only a little.  The watch schedule changed a bunch, so everything was a bit crazy.  At like 10:00, I got a burst of inspiration, and wrote a long passage poem, which I may or may not post.  Then I slept - hard.
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