Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year from the Bahamas!

As we worked our way south, we saw all kinds of conspicuous consumption and "showboating" from these uber Xmas decorations To the more basic "Mine is bigger than yours" syndrome. To high rises threatening to overtake simple multi-million dollar winter "cottages". We did a major study of the variety of posted "Manatee Zones" in Florida. These purportedly are designed to protect the "endangered" manatee from boats by limiting speed and wakes in various areas. Our research leads us to the conclusion that manatees are extremely gregarious, but they are also extremely snobbish. There are MANY more manatee zones in the vicinity of megamansions and high class condos than around trailer parks or unpopulated areas. (There was a recent movement to take the manatee off the endangered list which failed. One wonders what the wealthy folks would have done to keep the No Wake zones in their neighborhoods!)
The ultimate was the "Weekends and Holidays Only" manatee zones. We figured that these are for the working class manatees who can only afford to visit the exclusive areas on the weekends or on holiday vacations.We went past the Lighhouse Point condo of our friends, Pete and Sue Boden, who have a spectacular view of the ICW and the mega-mansions on the other side.Our goal was one of our favorite anchorages off Oleta State Park and Florida International University in North Miami.It has all kinds of creeks to explore by dinghy. Most are parts of mangrove swamps. The red mangrove drops new roots/trunks from its branches and, thusly, "walks" across the shallows, creating traps for sediment, flotsam, and jetsom and creating new land. In order to keep the creeks and canals from being over-run, the mangroves must be continually cut back.There are a few liveaboards anchored here. Some are seasonal. Some are students at the University. And one has been here for at least 5 years. Apparently, he does freelance computer work to make ends meet. (He successfully reprogrammed brother Jock's laptop which had become extremely logey.)Yes, we caught up with Jock again and had him and his friend Val (who flew down for a week from Connecticut) aboard a few times for cocktails or coffee.One day they had a couple of big Dragon Boats, complete with a drum-beater in the bow, in the harbor. After having "staged" for a crossing to the Bahamas on our other two trips south and never finding the appropriate "weather window" for us wimps, we finally found what looked to be the perfect 3-day window. Jock left during the first day and had a somewhat lumpy trip across. We waited for the second day and, with the exception of our passage through the somewhat violently tidal outletting of Bakers Haulover Inlet (we'll pick a different inlet the next time), had a very quiet ride across, averaging about 12 knots all the way. (We normally cruise at 7 knots.)
We watched the sun rise over the Gulf Stream.The waves were all under 2 feet -- very much like a summer weekend ride across Long Island Sound.After about 6 hours, we sighted West End.
And took a slip for a few days. (The trade-off for travelling on the second day of the window was that we either had to leave again the next morning or stay for a few days as the next norther came through. Brother Jock got a couple of extra days to travel so he's ahead of us again.)We looked around at the scenery. Renting a slip at a relatively high price at least gave us access to virtually everything at the resort (for which SHORE customers were paying FAR more).
We walked the beach, We drank frozen rum drinks at the Tiki Bar, ate fresh conch burgers (FANTASTIC!), and went for a swim. There was a rare sighting of the famous and elusive "West End Endomorph".To celebrate our arrival, the Old Bahama Bay Resort and Marina put on a spectacular fireworks display at midnight on the day of our arrival. (The fact that we crossed on New Years Eve was purely coincidental.) As predicted, the northerly came through with a vengeance, so we're "stuck" here for a few days spending the kids' inheritance while we wait for the waves to die down for our next venture toward Great Sale Cay, Double-Breasted Cay, and Green Turtle Cay. (That's "keeee" to the newbies.) While we're waiting, we'll try a few more rum drinks, probably take a bus into Freeport, nap, have a few more rum drinks, lie in the sun, swim in the warm ocean or warmer fresh-water pool, nap, and have a rum drink.

Even the charts are marked with "rages" which form when the northerlies meet up with strong currents.

A walk out the breakwater confirmed that we were right where we want to be for a few days! The seas in the Gulf Stream today (January 2) are reported at 12 - 14 feet!


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