“Around Nassau Town we did roam” Bahamian Folk Song

As was the case with the folk song’s author and his grandfather, Elizabeth Jean‘s crew and friends roamed Nassau Town for the better part of a month.  During that time, we eschewed “drinking all night and getting into fights.”  Instead we savored separate visits with our daughter Beth and friends Bill, Amy and Anna Ferron (and their Nassau-based nephew and niece-in-law Andrew and Emily).  Highlights of our Nassau sojourn included Beach Soccer championships, overnight sails to West Bay anchorage with its stunning sun sets, rich history and fine snorkeling, tours of Nassau’s cultural museum and museum of slavery and emancipation, conch fritters, salad, cracked conch and snapper at Bro B’s (under the bridge), and the flamingo parade.  In contrast to the Sloop John B‘s crew, Nassau did not leave us “wanting to go home,” but whetted our appetite for further island exploration.

Disney cruise ships lit up the night sky with fireworks during our night passage from Grand Bahama Island to New Providence Island (home to Nassau).    This ship’s larger than life mural only hints at the beauty lying under the sea.

FIFA’s regional beach soccer playoffs were in full swing during much of our Nassau stay.  Here the U.S. team stands for the pre-game flag ceremony.  The U.S. met the Bahamian team in the playoffs.  We were a decided minority in the stands.  Both teams advanced to the world championships in Nassau at the end of April.

The local fans fervently supported their team.

The flamingos paraded for us at the Adastra Garden, Zoo and Conservation Centre.

After the Revolutionary War, the British Government gave large land grants to British loyalists from the former colonies.  This map from the Clifton Beach Heritage area shows these large tracts.  The map also shows West Bay, a perfect anchorage when the wind is from any direction other than the west.  The Lyford tract is now a beautiful residential area that includes a marina.  Andrew and Emily hosted us and the Ferrons for a marvelous dinner in their Lyford Cay home.

These ruins suggest a harsh and primitive existence for the Royalists who fled the colonies with their slaves.

To access Jason de Caires Taylor’s Girl Holding Up the Ocean, our dinghy, Schooner, braved high winds and chop.  We secured her to a mooring ball and snorkeled over.  The water’s clarity made for excellent snorkeling here and at other West Bay sights.  For an account of the statute see:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2792659/18ft-atlas-sculpture-dropped-coast-bahamas-form-incredible-underwater-art-garden.html

For a brief history of the “Wreck of the Sloop John B,” first published in 1916 and popularized by Carl Sandburg in 1927 and the Beach Boys, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_John_B._Sails

 

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Flamingo: A Haiku

Blazing pink plumage.

Bahama’s national bird

Awkwardly regal.

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“How the wind does blow” 2017 edition

A year ago we described how the strong northerly winter winds originating in North America and the easterly Trade Winds governed our travel up the Caribbean Sea.  Our game then was to wait for a northerly to pass and suppress the Trade Winds and to travel before either the Trades were too strong or another northerly set in locking us down  A year later we are playing the same game.  So far we’ve used one weather window to hop from Lake Worth Florida to West End on Grand Bahama Island.  Another window allowed us to briskly promenade down the Northwest Channel Passage to West Bay on New Providence Island (home to Nassau) during a third window we entertained daughter Beth, showing her Nassau’s sights and rusticating for several days at anchor in West Bay.  In between favorable windows, Elizabeth Jean and her crew have rocked and rolled in a marina with winds most recently steady at 25-30 knots and gusts as high as 39.4.

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This screen shot of our Windyty app shows Monday’s winds: predominantly from the East North East at 21 knots.  The dot is just east of New Providence Island (Nassau) our present location.

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By Wednesday winds have shifted more to the East South East and dropped to 16 knots.  We might consider moving, but are likely to let things settle some more.

windy-ty-screen-6

Saturday, March 11 shows light and variable winds.  We would be motoring, but we should be able to comfortably move.  The key question would be how long before the next cold front and could we get someplace safe to ride things out.

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“We cannot cage the minute within its nets of gold” Louis MacNeice

In his poem “The Light On the Garden,” MacNeice captures the sun’s inexorable movement as it tallies our days.  One Floridian, A.E. Backus, spent his life capturing the tropical sun as it played across the landscape.  While lazing in Central Florida, we enjoyed an afternoon at the A.E. Backus Gallery savoring his depictions of sun on clouds, waters, sails, and wildlife.  His eye for tropical light heightened our awareness of the sun’s stunning palette during our visit.

backus

One of Backus’ captivating images.  For more on Backus see: http://www.indianrivermag.com/articles/winter17/BackusBook.pdf

friends-at-sunset

Life imitates art in this photograph of a gathering with our Treasure Coast hosts, the Garritys and Humphreys on Elizabeth Jean‘s bow.

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“Some small place of enchantment” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Rawlings, author of The Yearling, captured rural Florida’s essence as well as the sustaining importance of magical places.  Our month-long stay on Florida’s Treasure coast has revealed this coastline’s multi-layered enchantment.

Our visit to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum during our stay with friends Victoria and Arnie illustrates the point.

On display at the Museum are artifacts from the Jobe (“hoe-bay”) and Jeaga (“hay-gwa”) cultures.  These people carved and navigated dugout canoes through South Florida’s waterways.  Sharks, manatees, deer, squirrel, sea turtles, mullet, snapper, sea grapes, coco plums, and saw palmetto berries provided abundance to the Jobe and Jeaga.

A crushed metal container represents the Museum’s next enchanting layer.  In 1660, according to records in Seville, 33 Spaniards were found stranded at Jupiter Inlet.  They are thought to be from the San Miguel Archangel which sailed in 1659 from Cuba transporting messages and valuables to Spain’s King Phillip IV.  In 1987, a Jupiter Beach lifeguard discovered the crushed container, several cannons and anchors at Jupiter Inlet.  Between 1990 and 2001, the wreck’s search has produced several thousand pieces-of-eight, gold bars, and an 80 pound silver bar.

The still-operating Jupiter Lighthouse, is a Museum focal point.  The site was one of six sites chosen following a survey by an Army Corps of Engineers survey team that included Lieutenant Robert E. Lee.  The Army assigned the six projects to Lieutenant George Gordon Meade, who a few years later would defeat Lee at the battle of Gettysburg.

World War II-vintage military buildings provide the Museum’s last history lesson and enchanting layer.  In 1939, the U.S. navy established an intelligence listening post, known as “Station J” near the lighthouse.  Station J monitored the low radio frequencies needed to locate German U-boats, intercepted these signals, warned Allied ships, and provided intercepted material to Washington for code breaking and translation.

jupiter-1

jupiter-inlet-aerial

Jupiter Inlet.  The lighthouse is visible as the slender red line at the intersection of the Inlet and the waterway coming from the picture’s right hand side.  Due to its constant shoaling, Jupiter requires local knowledge for safe entry.

 

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“Islands in a common sea” Anne Morrow Lindberg

“No man is an island,” John Donne famously pronounced. Not so, Lindberg respectfully disagreed (perhaps less famously). Lindberg believed that each of our isolation, as is the case with an island, is real. She, however, tempered her view by acknowledging the common elements that connect us. After more than three years of exploring islands and seas, real and metaphorical, we humbly favor Lindberg’s appraisal.

At times our physical isolation and separation from friends, family, and home raise questions about our connections. What remains of friendships left behind? Where is our home? To whom and what are we connected and by what ties?  In the end, are these connections even real?

At other times, however, our physical isolation concentrates our connectedness. Out of sight of land, under a full moon with dolphins riding our bow and coming astern to hear our voices, we feel magnificently connected, far beyond ourselves, hardly alone.

Three recent visits away from Elizabeth Jean remind us of the many things to which we are connected.

Over Thanksgiving weekend we joined Beth, Jean and Max (Jean’s fiance) at Max’s parents, Mary and Michael in Winston-Salem.  There we stitched together the first pieces of our extended family’s memory quilt.

In early December, we returned to our Northwest home and time with old and dear friends.  Within their embrace, we darned ourselves back into each other’s lives, leaving strong fabric where holes may have begun.

The window between Christmas and the New Year found us in Coronado (from where we departed the United States three years ago) celebrating the life of our good friends’ son tragically taken by the Oakland warehouse fire.  Amidst the grief have been countless examples of community’s healing touches and Nick’s strong and continued presence.  Most touching are his youthful friends’ commitments to bind Nick to their hearts, thoughts and deeds.

Perhaps our isolation is real; so too, most gratefully, are our connections.

bahamas-aerial

The Bahamas: islands in their common sea.

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Night passage: A Haikku

Lung-filling gasps,

Near Elizabeth Jean’s hull.

Dolphin escort south.

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“To every season turn” Ecclesiastes 3

The winter solstice found Elizabeth Jean shaking loose her mooring lines and heading into the Atlantic Ocean.  A Polar Vortex had dominated North America during our annual Seattle visit.  Our friends’ warm welcome home more than made up for the cold weather, although Eric slept with his watch cap on the first few nights in the Northwest.  Hilton Head was balmy as we stepped off our return flight, but the wind soon switched to from the north and the cold prodded us to push south.  For two nights we motored.  The waning moon, rising after midnight, helped brighten our late night watches.  By noon on December 23, we were off Fort Pierce Inlet in Central Florida and shedding layers quickly.  We are stowing those layers and once again applying sunscreen.  We wish you all love and peace this season.

polar-vortex1This graphic illustrates the Polar vortex’s frigid effect in mid-December.  For more on this weather phenomenon see:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2016/12/08/polar-vortex-arctic-blast-cold-snap/95142654/

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“[T]he old dance of days in the Carolina marshes” Pat Conroy

We have passed many of our late fall days in, or moving to and from one Carolina marsh to another.  Following our escape from the Alligator River sand bar, we motored for two more days through North Carolina’s marshes towards Beaufort/Morehead City Inlet and the sea.  Drakka bid us farewell outside of Oriental, a small town on the ICW, where they were going for the holidays.  Dolphins welcomed Gypsy Soul and Elizabeth Jean to the open seas as we moved south no longer tied to our depth sounder or the magenta line.  Gypsy Soul said goodbye a short while later and headed in to Southport, North Carolina.  Dolphins once again joined Elizabeth Jean for our journey to Charleston’s marshes and then again as Elizabeth Jean slowly sailed through the night to Skull Creek Marina, the only marina in Hilton Head operating after Hurricane Matthew’s thrashing.

north-and-south-carolina-coast

North of Beaufort on the map, Drakka pulled in for holidays with family.  We left Gypsy Soul as they headed in at Southport (just south of Wilmington on the map).  After a short stop in Charleston, Elizabeth Jean eased on down the road to Hilton Head near the South Carolina-Georgia border.

hilton-head-marsh

      After enjoying Carolina’s marshland, we are ready to depart for Florida at slack tide tomorrow.

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“Pan-pan, pan-pan:” Paying it forward on the ICW Part III

Pan-pan’s etymology is from the French for “break down.”  Three calls of pan-pan over the radio signify there is an urgency on board but, for the time being, there is no immediate danger to life or to the vessel.

Over the past three years we have heard numerous pan-pans.  In at least one case, we were in the vicinity and responded to such a call.  Now, as we completed our crossing of Albemarle Sound and sought to enter the Alligator River, Eulalie was on the radio calmly and firmly repeating “Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan.  This is the Sailing Vessel Elizabeth Jean.”

In our newly acquired vocabulary, our situation had “escalated” and was quickly becoming “nautical.”

albemarle-alligator

We were not alone.  Just as we were nearing the navigational buoys around the Alligator, the wind frenzied.  A cluster of vessels around the buoys signalled trouble.  Summer Wind, a forty foot ketch, was aground and Journey, a beefy motor yacht, was asking us to hang back as the latter pulled the former free.  The shoal then found and embraced Journey’s keel.  We sought to pass around her as our knot meter showed 25 knots of wind, the rain slashed and the shallow water roiled.

Now we were also aground, the waves making Elizabeth Jean with her six foot keel a hobby horse on the sand five feet below the waves.   Drakka and Gypsy Soul arrived; we advised them to keep moving.  They passed safely.

A power boat we will call Angel wrested Journey free after snapping one line in the attempt.  As she prepared to depart, Journey called over the radio and asked if we wanted her to try a rescue.  There was just one catch: we had to get our line to her as she was not going to risk another grounding.

Fortunately, our dinghy Schooner was in the water off our stern rather than lashed on our pitching deck.  The outboard was stowed, however, and Eric would again be rowing.  After testing his ability to make way, Eric rowed towards Journey.  Eulalie bent on another line each time Eric reached a line’s limit.

After Schooner had covered more than a half-a-football field of distance, Journey caught our tossed line.  The knots and line held as Journey muscled us off the bar.

Our timing couldn’t have been better, the wind pitched to 40 knots and the rain went horizontal.  Faithful Perkins responded to Eulalie’s throttle as we raced down the Alligator River.

“Elizabeth Jean, Elizabeth Jean” our radio called out.  Gypsy Soul was hailing us to report an anchorage ahead.

As suddenly as it had broken loose, hell subsided.  We nosed into the anchorage.  Almost as if nothing had happened, we rowed over to Gypsy Soul for pumpkin spice cookies with her and Drakka‘s crews.  ICW groundings and rescues had come full circle.

alligator-moon

The calm after the storm; anchored on the Alligator River.

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