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Friday, September 23, 2011

Crossing


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
-- Mark Twain



SS Sapona

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_19
We  had no control of the boat , John and I quickly dropped anchor after I cut the engine .  We had drifted next to the reef but didn't hit it , The design of the Trimaran had saved us again . The waves that night  were a light chop, wind light and variable  our dumb luck had saved us again,  we had a good laugh and proceeded to get the spare tiller out of the hatch. The guy we had bought the boat from had planned to do the very same thing ;(Sail the Bahamas)  but a Wedding ring  cut of his circulation, Dam ring is more dangerous than a Hammerhead ,   thanks Robert for the spare tiller !   Luckily we had a full moon and a candle  so I could work on the tiller.                                                                 With the sound of the  waves crashing on the reef  20ft away  we made repairs , the cable was rigged to hold the old tiller strait and the back-up tiller was dropped in place .   After  determining our position we realized that we had sailed 70 miles over the "Banks"  and  landed about a mile from Cat Cay using only a  compass the size of a baseball  . We then came up with the plan , motor  around the reef and drop anchor near the shore of South Cat Cay.  ,also our plans had changed for safety reasons    instead of leaving at first light we would  carefully go over the boat all day, even scrape barnacles  and make sure it was seaworthy and good/safe condition for the Crossing.    Crossing  is short for crossing the Gulf Stream, usually the most dangerous and difficult  part of a Bahamas cruise . When ever sailors meet up in Bahamian ports they question each other about  it, from  where did you depart ?  where did you land ?  how many hours ?  sea condition  and so on , the 5-7 knot South to North drift of the Gulf  Steam is your biggest variable                   We slept  late , the sun was already up  I started checking the  boat,  John and Mary went ashore to explore and beach comb and look for cigarette butts,  After a while I noticed them quickly returning to the boat , when they got aboard  , they explained   that we had stumbled on to drug runners !    With out pointing they showed me where to look, I could see a guy  in the tree line , he was standing next to what looked like a car sized cache under a tarpaulin , the guy was pacing back and forth  nervously, this would be a good time to (act normal)  and slowly pull up anchor and leave the area !   We would have to go a little more North than  preferred , the idea was hit Florida as far south as possible , I did not know of any  safe channels  North of Government Cut  ( where the Cruise ships leave) If we missed Government Cut  we might end up in Ft. Lauderdale.                                                               We motored up to Gun Cay   and anchored  200 yds from  the  SS Sapona  (a cement ship that wrecked in a 1926  Hurricane , also of  the famous Flt 19 of  Bermuda Triangle lore)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Sapona . Oh I remember Flt 19 the planes that made a practice bombing run on the SS Sapona  then headed for Florida and were never seen again   , how reassuring !  No joy on the boat that night ;out of cigarettes, vodka and  with drug runners in the area and   deciding to not clear customs , dinner that night was Spam white rice and warm water.  Sleep was impossible , I would sit on deck in the full moon and stare at the ghostly image of the shipwreck and wondered if our luck would hold 24 more hours .            The next morning it was all business with very little conversation  we were underway before sun up, (all wearing life preservers)  the heading was Southwest as long as possible , by late morning the deep 6-8 ft.  swells forced us on a more Western tracking . If the sea condition stayed as is  we would hit Florida late afternoon but where ? We  rode the deep swells all day  safely  with out incident and no hint of trouble in the sky,  late in the day conversation is always  "shouldn't we be seeing land ?" That's the most anxious time of the trip,  and the first sight of land is a big relief,  and every one's spirits are lifted , the next topic is speculating on landmarks as the land slowly develops and takes shape. We spotted land late in the day everyone started to relax and joke about food.                                                    The best case scenario was  find Key Biscayne and take  the channel near " Stilts-ville" . What appeared to be Key Biscayne light house was quickly to our South, the Gulf stream was hot that day likely a 7 knot Northerly flow ,and the swells did not allow   coarse correction. However an hour later we were a mile off Government Cut , the seas allowed us a head strait for it  at full speed we motored towards the Cut ,  no choice but to  burn precious fuel,  just when it seemed we might make it..... a Cruise Ship  came out of the Cut forcing us North.. I only knew of Haulover inlet and a fixed bridge over the inlet , would it permit  a sailboat  mast ?  we had no choice but to go and see.  The entrance to Haulover  inlet is very rough , we quickly determined  the fixed bridge  would not allow us, and made a turn in high sea swells  , a real  low point ,   no choice but motor  back to Government Cut.  It was now dark off the coast of Miami Beach motoring  full throttle  with no running lights in heavy boat traffic  we prayed a power boat would not slam into us.    Low on gas we would make Government Cut or die trying  ,  full speed ahead !  when we rounded the jetty to the "Cut" the  water was like  glass     the city lights shown brightly,    We made it !  Slowly motoring  South towards Coconut Grove,  we looked up at the condominiums and talked how great it would be to have "Creature Comforts".. TV, refrigeration, hot showers , cold beer and pizza, Well some day maybe. We were called many derogatory things in those days  "The boat people" is one of the few I can print, we had a different lifestyle,   is different wrong ?    for many months before and after today,  we had  taken a road less traveled ................  The End               I have to get back to farming now, maybe next summer I'll bore ya with some more old stories . 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A good plan today is better that a great plan tomorrow

Hammerhead Shark, Bahamian Fisherman simply call it " The Man Eater"




Reef Marker , similar to the one near South Cat Cay
After meeting Mr. Stubbs   our  morale was at an all time low ,   That nights dinner was only white rice  and warm water.  The next morning  at sunrise Mr. Stubbs  was at my stern unloading the motor , I told him it might be a couple days before we could depart for Chub I was waiting on a check in the mail, and could he help me out with  $15-$20, ?  He finished loading the motor and started his outboard and drove away..  Completely ignoring  me ..         In a strange way it helped us , we were all now very focused , and more determined than ever  ,   We  now wanted to leave the Bahamas..    On the walk to to post office we discussed options plan B and C  both  involved  committing  felonies in a foreign country . We arrived at the post office...........  no letter,  and  tomorrow was Saturday and Monday was a holiday . The only thing I can tell you was  plan C was to sell  Mr. Stubbs outboard ,We settled on plan B , even 29 years later Its not in my best interest to give exact details; So Lets "fast forward" and skip the details of committing a felony in a foreign country shall we,  to having small fortune  $100 !!                       Priority was Gas, water , vodka, cigarettes , beer and  food and more Vodka.      We bought and carried  every thing to save money on cab fare.  our meager supplies   would leave no room for error   , 8 hours to Chub Cay  and overnight, 12 hours to South Cat Cay and overnight  10-11 hour to Miami  Hopefully land in Coconut Grove and hit  Monty Trainer ( my old boss)  for Money .  We left the next morning at day break ,  As we motored towards the Harbor entrance we saw a dinghy floating, I was temped to grab it . I cut the engine and drifted up next to it  its was a expensive custom made  with a brass name plate, likely from a Luxury Yacht.  Circling under the dinghy was a Hammerhead Shark  as big as a car,   its an image I'll never forget , at the time  I wondered if it was an bad omen, but I said nothing  .                                           As we passed the light house and out past the breakwater it would be choppy & bumpy ride    "Mary grab me a cold one" at sun up we drank a toast or two to a safe trip  , The sail up to Chub was wet with sea spray, but quick because the boat  was significantly lighter due to no supplies or equipment,when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.. we arrived at Chub early afternoon. We went right in the anchorage and right up to DD's boat . He was very grateful and could not thank us enough  . He invited us to dinner . That night  we ate on his boat, I could see he was out of supplies but  he had fresh fish and Rum. We did not ask for money as it was obvious he had nothing .                                The next Morning before sunrise we motored out of the anchorage ,  this would be our longest  leg of the trip. 70 miles over the Great Bahama Banks, "The Banks" are famous for boat wrecks , the average depth is 15-18 ft and huge coral heads of unknown depth are every where,  when a storm blows up the waves get huge because of the shallow water , sailboats that draw 6 ft or more are at risk .  We made great time with the wind at our back I throttled down to save fuel , by early  afternoon we all were optimistic about  making it to the Bimini chain.                         By late afternoon  its normal for the wind to drop as it did on that day ,we estimated we were on coarse as "The Banks"don't  have not much current .  By sundown the wind was very light , we could not see land,  no problem  in an hour it would be at dark,  we would no doubt see a light house or radio tower,   we stayed on coarse  and motored at slow speed ,   after a few hours  we saw a bright light  and determined it was small light house  we headed strait for it .                   We were all  uneasy about it, John started reading the Bahama Guide  by candlelight ,  we determined  it was  a light marking a reef , and the instructions in the guide were to go North , it marked a dangerous reef and shallow water , however we were already too close ,under  the bright light and full moon  we could see white water,   that's when the  cable from the steering wheel to tiller broke. we lost control ...to be continued ..... ( The letter was "Returned to Sender", it had fallen behind a table at the post office and found 90 days later)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back to Miami

We Motored past the two boats and waved , DD waved but the 2 man crew of the Defense Force just stared , we anchored and tried to ignore the men. After they left DD came over , He knew both policeman from Nassau and had given them some fish and conch. He explained the “Mantra” of the Bahamas ,( Tourists and Tourism is the most important thing don’t scare away the tourists !! ). You can sell weed to tourists; some times its the highlight of their trip. But don’t hang around tourist Hotel’s and Clubs and get drunk, fight and other wise scare them ! Reggie’s crime was not selling weed but scaring the tourist . His sentence was leave Chub Cay ASAP .                                                                                                                             We had little choice but to scrounge up $100 and head back to Miami . But first we had to find $3 for a phone call . There was only 1 phone on the Island, at the Hotel front desk $3 dollars for 3 minutes . We went back to the boat and went through every cabinet , every floor board, pants and coat pocket and came up with the 3 bucks all in pennies and a few nickels . Who would we call ? Mary said she could call her father ask for the $100.  she had recently had a birthday . We decided to have it mailed General Delivery Nassau Bahamas . So we went to the Hotel to place to call, we started to count out the money , when the Clerk found out we needed money to leave she said “ just call I’ll count the money later “ Mary placed the call and it was set !! We would have the money in 5-7 days with some luck .                                             That afternoon We sat around drinking with DD on his boat with his 2 crew members Red & Grease. After while we went to the pier to look at the fish from the tournament. A pile of sailfish lay on the pier rotting in the sun , I asked DD “what do they do with the fish” he said they go to Nassau prison to feed inmates . The Men in the tournament could care less . That's when I reached down picked  up a 70 Lbs fish and just walked away like I owned Chub Cay , at least we would eat well tonight . We cut up half for dinner and salted and dried the rest.         That night DD asked us if while in Nassau we would pick up an out board motor from his father and bring it back, his motor was on life support ,we agreed as we would have to pass through Chub anyway. We killed the next couple days beach combing and diving for Helmet Conch to sell to tourists, I was  starting  perfect  the art of baking bread in a Dutch Oven , that was helpful because  our diet was Grits some conch and warm water.
   Then we left for Nassau , the weather was great, fare wind , warm but no humidity, also we were seeing lots of sea life , Bottle nosed Dolphin and Turtles . By late afternoon we spotted Lifers Cay , soon we would see the entrance  to Nassau Harbor. One of the nicest days so far, A day sail just to check the mail . we were all strangely at peace with the world . (No money no problems)    We would anchor off the beach near the harbor entrance it was near a gas station , liquor store and small food market , the only draw back was the post office was a 3 mile walk . With luck we could make it by 5 pm , we arrived at the post office at 4:50 went to the window and asked about the letter . The teller came back with bad news, no letter, we  asked please check again , she could see we were desperate , she looked again. I'm sorry no letter......   it was 5 pm we had to leave .                                               One hope, Find DD's father ; Antonio Stubbs was a fisherman that tied up under the bridge to Paradise Island , a 2 mile walk.  We found him without to much trouble , he agreed to deliver the motor tomorrow  to our boat, I explained our situation and asked him for money, he ignored me and walked away.. this journey was beginning to sound  like a Country Song, lucky I didn't have a dog...  . to be continued ..

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

" Oh no ! you're back again?" part II

Man cleaning Conch


Bahamian Defence force boats , the older boats  were smaller, 2 man crew , like any police never around when you need them , only when you don't


With no refrigeration  a cold beer was a real luxury

The day  that had started out  as a disaster , was beginning to shape up !  I was working a nice beer buzz and the sun was coming out .  Mary however seemed annoyed , and she asked me if I was about to do something stupid,  I told her we were out of food , water and money we had sold or lost everything of value , and the only thing we had left was a  deep well of stupidity , so I was going to use our only resource ! and to "get me another beer", she said "get it yourself " and walked away..   The luxurious fishing yachts had already started to arrive .    The Calypso band was setting up steel drums and the wait staff from  the private club was skirting tables and setting up chaffing dishes for the fishing tournament party .   Well time to find my cleanest dirty clothes,   I made my way back to the boat and told Mary about the "free buffet and open bar"  she seemed to warm up a little.  We would wait till the party got going and people were liquored up and friendlier , and walk in like honored guests and hit the buffet and bar.   Soon it was dark  we could hear the band playing and we could smell the food, we determined the party was in full swing !   We made our way over and hit the buffet , I tried to eat slow but I was starving, some of the band and staff knew we were crashing but said nothing .  We had not eaten this well since we crashed Club Med on Nassau  ( another story for another day) . fish , steak, shrimp, rice, potatoes , salad  and desert !!  I asked Mary if she still thought this was a stupid idea, she smiled and said; "I'm going to the bar  how many beers do you want", I said; "as many as you can carry" !   Soon everyone was hammered , one big happy family ! Yachtsmen, Bahamian fisherman,  tourists and locals .  Reggie had managed to slip in and join the party .    But there was trouble brewing , The Club manager approached him and asked him to leave , after a heated exchange Reggie quickly left ,   We stayed till  the party ended , I was hammered but had the presence of mind to grab a few to go boxes of food and cold ones for breakfast .   The next morning . Reggie's boat was gone , maybe he left  ? Mary was relived  she wanted nothing to do with selling weed.  We had breakfast and were chill'in on the boat when   we spotted Reggie's boat coming back in ,    after he anchored  we went over to see him , he said the Club manager  called the police ,( on a small Cay  that  happens to be the Bahamian  Defence Force) he took the boat out and dumped all his weed .( he had no Sense) .He said the weather was improving and he needed to fill his boat with fish and conch and head back to Nassau , he asked us If we would  crew on his boat, his only crew member "Basil"  had jumped ship, from not being paid. I said "sure  what do we have to do" ?   He said we have to dive conch and catch fish. " great  lets do it ". By now , we had to head back to Miami, and we needed a minimum of $100 for Gas and supplies , it didn't mater where the money came from came  , Conch or weed.     And so we headed out to dive conch and set fish traps all afternoon , it was fun , we were free diving in about 18-20 ft of water and had to take breaks because of the cold water , Reggie had a bottle of Brandy,  to warm up we would take a swallow or two . Mary Had a spiritual awakening and realized the her calling in life was to be a Conch diver .             By late afternoon we had gathered a respectable  pile of conch, and a few grey snappers,  We would probably not get rich doing this but at least we could add fish and conch to our diet of; white rice and grits.  We headed  back to the anchorage about a mile ,   a few 100 yards  out we could see a Bahamian Defence force boat  tied up along side of  DD's boat " "oh shit"  ..........  to be continued...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Oh no ! you're back again !"

 Fishing Boats like this are  all over the Bahamas they have a live  fish well and and open flame cook stove on deck, they are similar to Reggie and DD's boats

During the 80's  Chub hosted  many fishing tournaments , this is before catch and release , they would fish all day and leave the fish to rot on the pier and  drink scotch all night .
Chub Cay Marina , we anchored in the creek between Chub and Crab Cay
Chub Cay
 The sun was finally coming up but the storm  was not letting up, we jumped off the boat  and swam ashore . we needed a break so many hours aboard the boat. We decided to walk to the Commissary and get a beer  and wait for the storm to subside .  the boat was listing badly but  we figured the design of the Trimaran could withstand 1 of 3 hulls flooded .  We must have looked and smelled  like hell, this added to our well cultivated  image of being " The trailer park trash of  the 7 seas" .  I walked in to the Commissary and grabbed a 6 pack. That's when  the cashier likely speaking for all 29 Islands and 661 Cays  of the Bahamas said " Oh no, your back again"  when are you leaving "??        This would be our 3 visit to Chub Cay and on a very small Island we had managed to make quite a nuisance of our selves..                     Yeah its good to be back ,    we took our breakfast and sat down on the picnic table .  There was a buzz on the Island , everyone was talking about the plane crash last night ..  I asked around and apparently a plane had taken off in the storm last night  and crashed in the Ocean a mile or so  directly south of the Island .    We started to speculate, why  would any pilot take off in that storm ?  what was so important  to fly in those weather conditions ??   "Are you thinking what I'm thinking said John ?"    Yeah maybe we'll get lucky and some "cargo" will float ashore.               By the time we got back to the boat it was nearly sunk , we quickly boarded and started bailing water , we used our 5 gallon porta pottie bucket   and a hand pump after about 30 minutes  the boat was sea worthy we could head for the anchorage .  I was straining to pull up the anchor it was buried in the sand  , that's when I noticed debris from the plane was making its way to the beach !   We had to make for the anchorage  we would come back later and  beach comb for "Cargo".. The  enterance to the anchorage is shallow and pretty much closed at low tide to sail boats ,  we bumped the bottom   coming in ( I hate that sound)  but made it .   After we Anchored and pumped out the boat to safe level, we headed back to the beach,  plane debris had littered the beach  seat belts,seat cushions and some pieces of the interior . That's when I saw a brief case 50 ft out floating towards us.  We all got excited no doubt it was full of drug money !!  I swam out to get it  ,  crap it was the pilots flight bag ...only maps, compass and empty sunglasses case .  That's  when we noticed  2 things   more debris floating towards the beach (suitcases)!!!        And........  a boat heading our way, that looked suspiciously like the fishing boat from Big and little Whale Cay.      Well it was really no choice at all , we dropped everything and walked back into the trees and back to the Commissary.   already low on money and supplies , we had to at least start talking about the unthinkable ....heading back to Miami and getting a job ..  That's when we spotted Reggie and DD, 2 local  fisherman/conch divers from Nassau.  DD was giving Reggie hell because  Reggie was just getting drunk and neither of them had caught any fish or Conch. Reggie was sitting drunk on the picnic benches  , As they saw us approach DD had a last word and left.  Reggie  told us  he had just been partying and not fishing due to bad weather , he had been banned from the Commissary and Fishing Club for being drunk and fighting.   He also asked us for help, There was a fishing tournament starting tomorrow  and tonight would be a big party for the fisherman, he was banned from the Club ,  could we help him  sell some weed ?    I told him my throat was a little dry and if he gave me $10 dollars for beer I would be able to discuss bid-ness ...... to be continued ...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Normans Cay ( part 4 )

I remember a cartoon from the 1960's called "Tooter Turtle" the  premise was , Mr. Wizard would send Tooter  on adventure,  he would get in serious trouble and Tooter would scream " Help me Mr Wizard "   
Chub Cay in the Southern Berry Islands , we anchored off the beach on the top right side of the photo
A beautiful sand beach about a mile long
vote today
I have done many stupid and dangerous things in my life ( and my life ain't over yet )   But I have never been  as scared as I was that morning seeing an army of armed men 100 ft away.   I could not breath or speak,   I finally asked Mary " what the hell are we gonna do "  she said " act normal"  act normal ! how in the hell  can I act normal ?  Mary handed me a Bimini breakfast (a strong rum and coffee)   I downed it  and said "give me another and this time put some rum in it"   after my second cup   my nerves were slightly better.  I asked her what to do, she said act normal  "go out and wave at them "!!  I finally overcame my paralysis , I went out on deck and stretched  turned around and waved at the men . No one returned my wave ..   We had a conference below deck on what to do ; we agreed that if they wanted us dead , we would already be so,   Our plan was to casually go up on deck pull up anchor and slowly leave the area, and ignore the Men..   We went up on deck and slowly went through the motions , it felt like a dream when your feet won't move , no one so much as looked in their direction let alone made eye contact.  We motored away we didn't look back  , we came around the end of Big whale  and out of site , we all exhaled  I was holding my breath for 10 minutes waiting to get shot !!         Omfg I can't take to much more of this .. get me another drink !!                          We had left Florida in February and many days and nights had been wet and cold , however today was shaping up to be a  hot sunny day..  As we motored away the same conversation came up again  who were they ? Drug Runners ,   Bahamian Defence force  or both ?.  We had learned possibly the most important lesson;  who ever it was, what ever they were doing , see no evil  , hear no evil  , speak no evil , just ignore them and quietly leave the area.. Big Whale Cay had a small air strip, we decided if possible stay away from small air strips.              We had left Florida armed with 3 pistols and an M1 Carbine and plenty of ammo in case of pirates or drug runners , and now they seemed  like more of a liability,  what ever was going on, we were out of our league.. minnows among sharks.                                The sail up to Chub was great   by the time we got there the sea was like a mill  pond and   not a cloud in the sky.  We anchored on the south side by a nice long beach, opened up the hatches to dry out the boat , wet clothes and bedding.   We sat there all day drinking and laughing  this certainly was an interesting trip,    today was  one of the nicest days so far.  We decided to stay the night there  and move to the anchorage  the next day.  I passed out around sunset.                                       We had all sold our watches in Nassau so I don't know the time, but I woke to find us in a terrible storm !   and we had anchored too close to shore, the rip current was holding the boat sideways  , a position you never want to be in..  The waves were around 4-5 ft and they were breaking over the boat , along with heavy rain  our leaky hatches were taking on water .     There was no chance to make for the safety of the harbor we would have to ride out the storm again,  when would I ever learn .  We had also left clothes and equipment on deck, mask , fins and   spear poles ..all gone .. Again I found my self  praying for daylight as the boat continued taking on water after a few hours the boat had a dramatic and dangerous  list !   Help me Mr Wizard ! ...... to be continued ....

Monday, September 5, 2011

"You didn't actually go on Normans Cay ? did you ?" (Part 3 )

During our visit  I sure as hell didn't  see this sign, in fact there were no posted signs , I wonder how many other  sailors stumbled on to Normans during that time ?
Inlet  to little whale Cay anchorage,   Little Whale  top and the tip Big Whale   pictured bottom , Big Whale Cay only feature is a small airstrip   Hmmmm.
We motored to and tied up at the Pier , I looked at John  he certainly looked sick , I looked at Mary she seemed composed . The leader motioned me off and went below deck and began searching the boat , he did not ask for ID,registration or a Customs Declaration  The Cabin was small , visible to him would have been a Coleman camping stove,water jugs, dirty cloths and limited food stores and a 19 year old kid who looked sick..   It was about that time I sensed  the men relax somewhat , our story might just be  plausible  and we did not seem like a threat , the boat didn't even have a radio,   The man asked  "where we were going", I told him Hatchet Bay Eleuthera , he asked me again Where we were heading, I said Eleuthera, I did ask if he would sell us gasoline .  His shook his head and said Go to Eleuthera and don't come back.   You did not have to tell me twice , Mary quickly boarded and the outboard started on the first pull !  we cast off and motored away, I did not look back .                                                        As we motored around the South end of the Island no one spoke  and no one looked back , I set a coarse for Nassau .  Mary finally spoke " where are we going, I said "Nassau", she said "that works for me"    Thankful  we had our Jib sail repaired in Bimini and with a 15 knot wind at our back ,  We had a shot to make Nassau   by  sunset.   As Normans Cay  faded in the distance  we finally had time to reflect on what just happened . Were they drug runners  or  Bahamian Defence Force  or both ?  With so much money involved were there good guys  and bad guys ?, or just people doing business ?... OMFG  I need a drink !  Mary handed me the bottle of rum  after a long pull on the bottle I told John to get rid of the booty, all of it he said?  he wanted to keep some of the Beatles Albums and I needed to keep the boots we had "salvaged" from the Island . John pulled the items from under his death bunk, also hidden under the bunk our 4 guns  including an M1 Carbine.   We decided to keep some of the booty with the understanding if we were ever approached it went overboard..  Over the next 7 hours  we had plenty of time to speculate on just what the hell happened .                                                                   We made good time sailing North and made it  Nassau Harbor at sundown, motoring up the channel  we got our typical greeting "turn on your running lights you fucking idiot"  yelled another boater, it felt good to be back in civilization   !    Back in Nassau our plan was to sell some possessions , pick up supplies and  head back  to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands.   We set about selling some possessions and realized the mere mention of Normans Cay  got every ones attention and respect.    One guy was listening to our story his nickname was "The God Father"   I asked him for a dollar to buy a beer he gave me $20  !!  and he wanted to know every detail of our misadventure as long as he was buying Heavenly Ice Cold Becks Beer  I could talk all night !                                  We scrounged up a small fortune $53 dollars !   got some supplies and headed north the next morning   Chub Cay  was a day sail if the  wind held up ,   around 1 pm  we realized due to a wind change  we would have to anchor  between Big and Little Whale Cay.  It was also about that time we noticed a small aircraft was circling us , what looked to be a Cessna 150 , the plane was at around 500 ft  after a few passes it made a low pass at our stern , we guessed he wanted to see the name of the boat ..  a definite "oh shit" moment .                        According to the "Bahamas Cruising Guide" Little Whale Cay  was a privately owned Island  that  the owner had a vast collection of rare birds , Golden pheasants, peacocks and chickens.   We anchored and ate dinner ; white rice and Spam , around sunset  someone arrived at  Little Whale Cay in a Cigarette style boat  , they stood on the pier and looked at us for about 5 minutes ,  they didn't seem that they were thrilled about  us being there .  We sat about 200 yards from them, 2 men went inside and the third man went about doing a meticulous perimeter check , I don't know if he was looking for foot prints , or what.                  With no  power and no city lights and no moonlight ,   it was again a dark and uneasy night  with the aid of Cheap Vodka I found sleep.   Awake at Daybreak I looked out the hatch to check the weather.  At some point during the night a large fishing  boat had slipped in and anchored next to us   .  on board the boat was a dozen  para-military style men all armed with assault rifles ...   to be continued

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"You didn't actually go on Normans Cay ? did you ? Part 2 (part 2)

Your not likely to read about our experience  on  Bahamas Tourism.com


It was on our short visit ,  the first time I thought about Farming for a living as I was not really suited for  cruising the Bahamas
                                                        In Front of us were 4 large men in para military dress, the looks on their faces were of shocked disbelief and anger, they were armed with M16 Assault Rifles.  One of the men who seemed to be the leader spoke , "who are you? where did you come from ? he commanded .  We were  in no position to do anything  except comply, I started to make up a story ( a useful skill I had acquired)  "We had just  arrived that morning , our out board motor had quit on the way to Eleuthera possibly water in the Gas"  I  said.   The man took us out side and told us to wait as he covered us with the rifle , I could hear the others in side talking , getting ready and checking their weapons .                                                                                                                                                             
The Airplane  in Normans Cay Harbor , where we Drank a toast to our good fortune !  Notice the Hammerhead Sharks !
   A few weeks ago   a  Charter boat Captain had given us a "Bahamas Cruising Guide"   from 1979 , he explained there are very few marked channels in the Bahamas  and" this Guide is how everyone  navigates". The Guide also has gives helpful advice on where to anchor and few few paragraphs about each Island and Cay.... Under the Chapter about Normans Cay it describes  a "Tropical Paradise"  . Maybe these  men were taking us there ?  or maybe we were about to get shot !!            On the walk to the beach  4 armed men followed Mary and I ,  They did not Identify themselves  and we were in no position to make demands .  The  Leader asked me my story over and over, "where are you going" , "who is with you", where is your boat?"  he commanded ..All the men were on high alert , they were cautious  and guarded   We arrived at the beach our boat was anchored about 150 ft of shore . I told them we had lost our dinghy and we had swam ashore.  The leader told me to fetch the boat and bring it to the Pier , I asked his permission to swim out to the boat and he nodded .   (The Bahamas Guide also failed to mention  That Normans Cay is also  world famous for mating Hammerhead Sharks) , but at the time the water was comforting ,( Being eaten by a Hammerhead  Shark might have been an upgrade given our circumstances  !)   I made my way to the boat  only to see   John as white as a sheet, he was watcthing us through the port hole , he didn't seem too reassured when I said;   " I got this ".                         On deck now I turned the outboard motor to the "off" position and attempted to "start it", with my  back to the  Men on shore I told John our official story , and informed him that  HE had  food poisoning  and get in the bunk and fake it ! His response was  he was about to puke anyway ! "Exactly" I said.............   I kept   pulling  the outboards cord.   When  we were both somewhat collected , I switched the outboard to on , and my next pull the motor came to life !  I waved to my new best friends on the beach and motored towards  the pier ., I prayed silently .  to be continued

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"You didn't actually go on Normans Cay ? did you ?'

 (continued from; "God looks out for Fools, Drunks and Children"   The morning of the crossing  was the first time I understood the advantages of the Trimaran design. The "draft" (boat below the waterline)  on multi hulls like Catamarans and Trimarans is much less than Mono hull boats, giving it advantages is shallow water. Our Boat had a draft of about 2 1/2 ft  and on that morning we made it safely over the reef ! . We anchored in calm water right off a beautiful beach and then the sun came out . It was so much to process, for the last 11 hours , we were filled with fear and uncertainty. Now we had just Anchored in Paradise  ..  In the next week or so  we sailed up and down the Bimini chain before heading to the Berry Islands , and then into Nassau form Nassau down to the Exuma chain,  we would spend a week or 2 in each  area  and move on ...
Norman's Cay is a small island in the Bahamas--210 miles off the Florida coast. For four years it was a drug smuggling hub and tropical hideaway for Medellin cartel kingpin Carlos Lehder and associates. Lehder arrived there in 1978 and started buying up large pieces of property, including a home for himself, a hotel and an airstrip. With his arrival, the locals noticed a marked increase in airplane traffic on the island's tiny airstrip, as well as armed guards patrolling the beaches.
In July 1980, a yacht belonging to a retired Fort Meyers couple was found drifting with a corpse and blood stains on board near Norman's Cay. Eventually Lehder harassed the island's residents and visitors until they fled, while Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, who investigators believe had accepted Lehder's bribes, did nothing to stop him. He in effect took over the entire island.                                                         Its early spring 1983  The free anchorage at Highborne Cay Exuma is small and crowded, its advised that boaters use Bow and Stern anchors to maintain their position in the harbor, there isn't room for the boats to swing  with the tides .  It was this type of Crowd we liked to avoid .                                           The Bahamas is made up of 29 Islands and 661 Cays, once you get in a chain like the Berry Islands  or Exumas  you can see the nearby Islands and reach them in a few hours.  Time to go exploring again we set sail for Normans Cay !                 The sail to Normans was easy and relaxing , nice weather fair winds,  we were paralleling the coast looking for a safe anchor, we saw many houses but strangely no people , we passed 5 or 6 houses no sign of life.  We decided that they were likely  vacation homes looked after by a care taker ( very common the the Islands) .  We came around the point and saw what looked like a restaurant but no sign of life.   Up ahead was a harbor and right in the middle was a  large 1/2  submerged    aircraft , what I thought was a DC 3.. how cool !   And the best part no other boats , we  anchored and quickly swam out to the Plane , It looked as if it had been there no more than 3 months we climbed all over it in side and out. We had a bottle rum and toasted our good fortune ! We made our way to a pier and tied up , the Pier and Marina empty, by the time we looked around the restaurant we decided that Normans Cay it must have been a resort that had gone bankrupt.                                                                                       This was a real adventure we walked down the street, a laundromat empty, cottages empty, we made our way to a nice house overlooking the bay.  " Any one home" we announced as we knocked on the door . no answer . We went inside  the house , it looked as if someone  had searched it , items scattered on the floor I remember seeing rock and roll albums LPs, all over the floor.  The power had been cut off  I opened up the  frig and the food had not yet  spoiled, the eggs were still good ,  the evidence suggested that all Island  residents  had left quickly 3-4 weeks ago..                                                                       That night on the boat there was many questions and no answers, our feeling was uneasy .      The next morning at daylight Mary and I walked right up the street , we had decided to find someone and  get answers .   About 1/4 mile up the road we saw a house on stilts with lights on, as we got closer we could hear voices , We walked right up and knocked on the door.   The voices went silent , I could hear several people  shuffling about the door swung open , inside was 1 man standing at the door and 3 men eating breakfast ,  all were armed with Assault Rifles  !  to be continued ........