Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hamilton's Cave

One of the side trips that we made while we had the car was a tour of Hamilton's Cave.  The cave is the largest in the Bahamas and is owned by the Cartwright family.  Our tour was led by Leonard Cartwright, he told us that his family has owned the land that the cave is on since 1847.  They bought 90 acres from the crown for 27 pounds!  The cave is home to 5 species of bats and lots of termites and other creepy crawlies!  We spent about an hour with Leonard on our tour.  The cave has been used as hurricane shelter since the Lucayan Indian days around 500 A.D. through the present day.  In fact, Leonard told us that his family had weathered several hurricanes in the cave.  There is no electricity in the cave, no lights other than the flashlights that Leonard handed out before the tour, no handrails or paths to follow other than the one that Lenoard led us down by memory.  One other thing that I noticed:  there was no gift shop and no T-shirts to buy at the cave entrance!  It was just the 8 of us and we really enjoyed Leonard's tour. 

Modern carving (1980) done by Leonard's brother

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Freediving Competition at Dean's Blue Hole

For the last couple of days we have shared a rental van with 3 other couples (Rene and Stacy, Terri and Ken, Stacy's parents, and L.A. and Susan) and we were able to watch the free diving competition today at Dean's Blue Hole.  As I mentioned the other day, Dean's Blue Hole is the deepest blue hole in the world.  It is 202 meters or 663 feet deep.  We watched Natalia Molchanova of Russia set a world record with a free dive to 100 meters (over 300 feet).  We could only see her descend to about 40 meters before she dropped out of site.  Her dive took 3:42 minutes.  It was incredible to be able to witness a world record.  We also watched while William Trubridge attempted to break a men's record for New Zealand.  He did not break the record today but he broke a world record last week by free diving unassisted (without the assistance of fins, using only breaststroke to descend) to 121 meters in 4:12 minutes, absolutely incredible!  I was so inspired that I am considering attempting to break my personal best which is approximately 4 meters at 20 seconds!

For more information on this crazy sport check out Vertical Blue's web site:  Vertical Blue

Dean's Blue Hole - Beautiful

Natalia with the judge showing a white card signaling a successful dive (WORLD RECORD!)

Natalia and William - both world record holders
Competition Site
I found a merman!  Check out the fins on that one!


Divers making preparations

Friday, April 8, 2011

Plantains are Yummy

 I love fried plantains.  Troy doesn't like them so much, but that just leaves more for me!  They are great when you fry them with a little olive oil.  They can be topped off with sea salt, nutmeg, powdered sugar. 
Green, almost ready, need to cook now

Long Island Road Trip

We decided to share a car rental with Rene and Stacy and explore Long Island. The island is 80 miles long and about 4 miles wide at the widest point. I guess that’s why it’s called Long Island. We spent most of the day being chauffeured by Rene along most of the 80 miles. We all voted Rene as the driver because he was the only one that had experience driving on the left side of the road. It’s a little disconcerting to see cars coming at you on the wrong side of the road! (Especially when the fastest you’ve gone in the last three months is 5 or 6 knots, if you don’t count the dinghy rides)

Our first stop was at St. Mary’s Church. It is actually the ruins of a church thought to have been built by the Spanish in the 17th century. It is the oldest church on the island. We enjoyed exploring the tiny church and, although we weren’t there at the best time of day for photography, it was a really cool place to get some great shots.

Next we made our way to St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. St Peter’s is a beautiful church with twin towers. Rene, Stacy and myself braved the narrow and rickety ladder to climb to the top. We were rewarded with a view that made the claustrophobic climb worthwhile.

Divers practicing

Dean's Blue Hole

Our next stop was Dean’s Blue Hole. At 663 feet, Dean’s is the deepest known sinkhole in the world with an entrance below sea level. We happened to arrive days before a free dive competition and there were several divers there practicing. At this site, in April 2010, William Trubridge dove 302 feet (92 meters) into the hole without fins, breaking a free diving world record. The divers that we saw were using fins so I can’t imagine what depths there were diving too. Seems just a crazy as mountain climbing to me!

Ruins of Dunmore Plantation

We tried to find the ruins of Dunmore Plantation. According to a local woman who pointed them out to us, we found them and they are now being used as a carport without a roof, and a goat playground! There are several plantation ruins on Long Island, but we didn’t manage to see any other than this one.

We made our way to the north end of the island and decided that we wanted to see the monument to Christopher Columbus. Little did we know that we would need to take our little rented Cavalier off roading for about 3 miles to get to the monument. Oh well, not a problem with Rene at the wheel. Rene is an excellent driver!

We had a great day exploring the island.

Road to the monument

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

George Town - Velcro Harbor

We've spent much more time than we anticipated in George Town.  I can see why it's called velcro harbor by cruisers.  After spending so much time in the Exumas where there are few grocery stores (and the ones you can find have less than the local convenience store, with similar pricing) and no way to dispose of garbage.  Some places will let you throw your garbage away at $5.00 per bag.  Don't get me wrong, we loved the Exumas, it was beyond beautiful and the people were always welcoming and friendly.  So far, it was cruising like we dreamed that it would be.  Then we made it to George Town.......

At times there were over 300 boats in the harbor between Great Exuma (where the town of George Town is) and Stocking Island (where the cruisers party begins and never ends).  We made it to George Town in time for the cruiser's regatta.  This is an absolutely amazing annual event for the cruisers.  Some boats have been coming to George Town for over 30 years to participate in the regatta.  Most of them come here for the regatta and return to the U.S. or Canada for the summer months.  For almost two weeks there are events going on every day.  Sailboat races, dinghy parades, volleyball, poker, infosessions covering everything from photography to cooking on a boat.  It's crazy, I tell ya!

We enjoyed most of the regatta and when we couldn't take another minute of planned activities we moved across the harbor to the quiet and sheltered Red Shanks anchorage.  Still close the the town, where we could dispose of the garbage, get internet and shop at a real live grocery store, but farther away from all the constant radio chatter and daily activities.

We enjoyed the company of  most of the Texas Navy in Red Shanks and spent our days swimming, working on the boat and playing Mexican Train with the Texas Navy.  Boats in the navy are:

s/v Sea Yawl Later - Rusty and Linda Sitton from Beaumont, Texas (founding members)
s/v Anchor Management - Steve Schlosser from Kemah, Texas
s/v Storyville - Troy and Deana Jones, Kemah, Texas
s/v Kaleo - Matt and Christie Butcher from Dallas, Texas
s/v Pipe muh Bligh - Rene and Stacy Foree from Kemah, Texas
s/v Guiding Light - Shane McClellan from Golden, Colorado 
s/v Morning Glory - Ted and Milie Cook, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Storyville at anchor in Red Shanks
We shared so many memorable days together, playing Mexican Train, helping each other with boat projects, attending church services and happy hours and just getting to know each other.  It's been really difficult to say goodbye as we start to head out in different directions. 

It was especially hard to say goodbye to Steve since we have been constant companions and boat buddies for at least the last year and a half, if not more.  We are planning to remain buddy boats with Pipe muh Bligh and we will all catch up with Steve when we make to to the Virgin Islands for New Years.

I am amazed that we have made so many wonderful friends that we will never forget.  It sure makes it hard to say goodbye.  We are planning for a mini reunion of the Texas Navy in George Town for the Family Island Regatta in late April.  After that, with the exception of Pipe muh Bligh, everyone will scatter to the four winds and that will be a sad day indeed.

Papaya growing in George Town
Yes, we are now members!