Monday, February 28, 2011

Finally Out On The Water - Nassau to Eleuthera Island

We awoke on Monday morning to take stock of our surroundings for real.  We had the "Deluxe Cabin" which means that we have a wider top bunk.  These are special cabins for $200 extra.  Basically this means that Bruce and I can both sleep on the top bunk where the air from our opening port can reach us.  It also means that we have the whole bottom bunk to throw our bag.  We spread out our clothes there making it easier to find our stuff.  We really roughed it on this trip.  Each passenger had a "kit" consisting of one each face, hand, body, & beach towel for the week.  One set of sheets on each bunk and a really scratchy wool blanket.  Strangely enough, we actually used the wool blanket every night after the first. We shared a "head" (bathroom) among 8 people.  This was the deciding factor for some of the people we had invited along on this trip.  It didn't turn out to be bad, but it was definately a way to get to know your fellow passengers. 

We crept out of our cabin in the early morning and made our way up to the deck to await the making of coffee and the awakening of our friends.  It wasn't too long before we had both coffee and friends to hang out with.  The morning was beautiful and we were anxious to be underway. 

We had some free time again this morning.  I bundled up in the cool morning air and made some notes in my journal. 

This is a "real" sailing trip.  No pre-planned itinerary.  Our Skipper would decide each day where we would go and when.  This morning we had a ripping tide flowing through the channel between the islands.  In this picture, taken of the marker warning boaters off of a giant submerged rock, you can see the water is all churned up by the current. 

The mast on the Liberty makes it impossible for us to take the preferred route out of the marina, which would take us under the bridge to Paradise Island.  So we learned from our Skipper, there would be a delay in our departure until the tide slackened at around 10 am.

We took a stroll around the Marina and checked out our surroundings, then went back to the ship.  We couldn't wait to get going.  We all congregated in the main saloon for the first of our meals aboard. We had no idea when we booked this trip that we would be so lavishly fed.  By the end of the cruise, we were all in awe of our cook, Chris and her assistant.  They made magic in the galley in less than optimal conditions.  Chris produced fresh baked goodies at 3 meals per day.  By mid week we were all trained to gravitate towards the main saloon where the food would be set out in abundance.  I began to know what it could be like to be a cat.  

Finally the tide turned and we were able to get underway.   We still had some wind against us so the crew had to push the ship off the dock.  The passengers were asked to stay out of the way while the crew worked to get us into position so we could motor into the channel.

Once everyone was back aboard, we headed off to find our first anchorage.  We motored sedately past beautiful tropical homes.

We envied these cruisers anchored securely off to the side of this busy channel, just enjoying their cruiser lives in paradise.

There is evidence of full spectrum cruising here...  small kitties and large ones.  I'm so envious!

We motored out around the tip of Paradise island and turned up the other side to head off to parts yet unknown to us.

Finally we were free and it was time to think about raising sails.  This cruise advertised passenger participation and our guys were ready to get "hands on".  They had been checking out the gear and discussing possible strategies.  The sails had no "slides", as we are familiar with the term, but would slide up the giant masts on these rings.

It didn't look like it would be an easy task to me.  The crew divided those of us who wished to participate into two groups and explained our function.  We were to watch our leader who would call out orders for us to "heave" and take "two steps back" and "drop line".  Sounds simple enough.  So we manned our lines.
We all heaved on command and the huge heavy sails slowly rose.  We did one sail at a time with one group on the "throat" which was the mast end, and the other group on the "peak" which is the other end of these squarish sails.  We alternated working our halyards up and up to keep the top of the sail relatively square. 

It was a hard job but with enough muscle on the lines, we got it done.  In no time, the crew was tidying things up on deck and our sails filled with the brisk winds. 

We were OFF!  We enjoyed a full day of sailing at 6 plus knots. 

The winds were blowing this big boat along.  We had wall to wall sunshine but it was never hot. 

Our sailor guys were in heaven. The crew wouldn't let anyone do any of the heavy labor.  Ever safety conscious, they made us stand back while they trimmed sails.  But, once we had things set, they did allow the guys to take turns on the helm.  I had planned to try it out but with the winds as high as they were, I opted out, leaving it to the men.  Each of them lasted about 30 minutes before they were ready to pass it along to the next guy.  It was quite a job.  The Skipper hung around to make sure that things went right, but as the week wore on, he seemed to be more confident in our group and would leave them alone at times. 

The rest of the passengers, 28 in all, entertained themselves in various ways.  Annette brought out her sketch book and fascinated us all with her amazing talent.  She could be seen thoughout the trip recording random moments with her pencils.  She assured us that "anyone can do it", but I don't think so...

We reached Eleuthera Island and the crew dropped sails and anchored the ship near several cruiser's boats.  This must be the place! 
The crew splashed the dinghy off the stern and the passengers prepared to go ashore for a sundown stroll.  We split up into groups as the dinghy ferried us all to the shores of a beautiful white coral sand beach.
The waning daylight made for a cool splashy ride but we were in heaven.  I couldn't wait to sink my toes into the coral sands. 
Do you KNOW how long it's been?! A YEAR!  Never again... will I let a whole year pass between island trips. We made landfall and were put ashore by our trusty crewman, Michael as he sped back to pick up another bunch...

We made ourselves at home in Paradise.

The first order of business for this evening... was to (attempt) one of those fun "jumping" pictures.  Our bunch were all good sports about it and indulged me long enough to get this not-so-good one before everyone lost interest in this very intensive physicial activity. 

We strolled this private haven, safe from all of the stresses of life and I once again tried to imagine a life with days full of this same old- same old.  Would we ever tire of beach combing and tropical sunsets?  I would love to find out.
We climbed the rocks on the beach and gazed out over our anchorage, to the comforting sight of our ship lying in wait for our return.

We were awed by the beauty of this place with it's unhindered view of the setting sun casting it's dying light upon the fortunate cruisers anchored here.  We caught the dink back to the ship where we enjoyed our first offshore sundowners and a decadent dinner.  Not a care in the world worried our dreams this night.  And tomorrow, we would rise and start it all over again... JASDIP.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bahamas 2011 We're HERE!

After a peaceful night's sleep, where I heard nothing of the party the others in our group said was going on outside our door, we congregated in the breakfast area by the pool to decide upon a plan. 
We had brought along group fishin' shirts with the logo the Spences and Bruce and I had dreamed up while out sailing one day before the trip.  The ship is the one we got from the Internet and the embroidery shop did a fantastic job of rendering it in embroidery.  We decided to wear these today so that we could more easily spot one another in town and make a grand group entrance when we arrived at the boat later that afternoon.  
We milled about for a while, had a bit of toast, which was the "breakfast" offered by the El Greco, then Bruce and I set off on a walking tour of the town.  We made arrangements to meet the group back at the hotel later, since we all checked out leaving our bags in the courtesy room, we would take a cab to the Marina.  We weren't allowed to board the Liberty before 5 pm but could bring our bags over starting at 4 pm or so.  Anyway, Bruce and I headed out for a look at our beach in the morning light.  The People Watching there was interesting and that's all I'm going to say...

We caught a passing horse drawn carriage about a block from our hotel and hitched a ride.  I've always wanted to do this and was feeling decadent so up we went.  It was great fun.  The perfect way to get our bearings of the town. 
The driver took us along the waterfront tourist area, the shops one block in and then turned up to take us through the historical area. 
He pointed out some of the old government buildings and gave us a bit of history, which was right up Bruce's alley, but of which I can remember nothing. (of course)... 
We saw some of the homes, all very tropical/colonial.  We once again marveled that we had been told this place was dirty and crime ridden.  I've seen areas of my own town that fall far below anything we've seen here with the added criminal element that we've seen no sign of here. We marvelled that some of these buildings dated back to the 1700s or earlier and are still not only standing, but in use.

The Driver dropped us off at the waterfront near the cruise ship landing.  There were 3 or 4 cruise ships docked while we were here.  They're HUGE.  This is a ferry boat that was hanging out near the landing, my guess is it's an inter-island thing.
Coincidentally, he dropped us off very close to a sprauling shopping mecca.  We cruised the aisles of this GIANT tent-like structure with hundreds of individual vendors all standing in the way trying to keep you from going by their section too fast.  I was close to buying this frame but figured it wouldn't survive the trip home.

Bruce even got into the shopping spirit (sort of).  He must have tried on a dozen caps but none worked.  He finally found one at the end of the day.  It came with a shirt to match and I bought a set myself.  (I have since lost my hat in that hellish Port A Race and so will be commandeering Bruce's, so technically, he has no Bahamas hat.)

We shopped until we realized that it was all the same stuff, the set off on a walking tour to check out some of the things we had seen from the horse carriage.  Bruce is soaking up some of the Bahamian History as he reads the Memorial to Sir Milo Broughton Butler, the first Bahamian Governor-General in an independent Bahamas. 

We marvelled at the beauty of the House of Parliament built in 1805.  There was a bit of maintenance going on but I guess that's a given with a 200 year old building. 

 A statue of a young Queen Elizabeth stands in front of the building.  I've developed a fascination for marble statues in my travels.  I could stand and gaze at them for hours. 

The day became warm.  We rested in a shady quare for a while, then found some of our Group and shopped our way back to the beach in front of the hotel.  We watched as two of the cruise ships backed out of their slips, turned these giant ships around in a very small space and sped away. 

We had a nice frosty beverage sitting in the shade of a palm tree.  I found it hard to imagine that while we were sitting on that beautiful beach in Paradise, our friends back home were carrying on with their lives, the most interesting thing going today being laundry and grocery shopping...

Our group gathered at the appointed time and we all piled our gear into a taxi van.  The cars drive on the other side of the street in the Bahamas.  My addled mind was puzzled by Chip being in the "driver's seat" for about 15 seconds before I woke up and realized that he wasn't.  There, I admit it.  I'm getting old and my mind is slipping...

We had considered walking to the Marina because we had been told it wasn't far.  We were very glad we had decided to take a taxi because it WAS very far, considering lugging bags and all.  The Yacht Haven Marina was very nice. 
I can totally envision Elan (or our next boat) being in a slip or anchored just outside the Marina waiting for us to come back with provisions.
But for now, we had the Liberty Clipper waiting for us at the end of the dock.  We piled our luggage just off the gangplank to await our boarding time and took off to have some drinks at the Poop Deck.
We had to wait a bit for a table to be set up for the 10 of us but it was worth it.  We passed the time talking to a cruising couple at the bar who had 3 months in the Bahamas ahead of them. Some day... We had a grand view of the marina with the bridge to Paradise Island and the Atlantis resort in the distance and the setting sun.
Finally the time came for us to board.  We left the Poop Deck with a reservation for dinner later in the evening. 
We boarded and took our baggage down below decks to our appointed rooms and checked out the upper deck for a bit.
We had a short orientation delivered by our Skipper.  We began to get acquainted with our shipmates from all over the US and Canada at the "meet & greet".  There were snacks, beer and wine for us then back to the Poop Deck for dinner and an early night.  We would leave the dock in the morning.  Our "real" vacation had finally begun.