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Old 05-01-2010
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Hog Cay and Ragged Island, Bahamas 4/11-4/13/10

Hog Cay and Ragged Island, Bahamas 4/11-4/13/10

We left you after a wonderful spinnaker run, safely anchored in the south
end of Hog Cay. We had showers overnight which did a lovely job of rinsing
our deck and hardware. We got up to a very cloudy day, and more showers
which shortly gave way to brilliant sunshine.

There's a path clearly marked at the bottom of our harbor, enhanced by a
spare buoy I decided not to keep being placed on the stake at the entrance.
It led over to Hog Cay's House Bay, the southernmost beach, which is
extremely shallow, and, apparently, a conch nursery. If you're into
collecting conch shells which are smaller and thus easier to carry and
display, there are numerous natural-death immature conch shells available.

As the water recedes, I deduced, based on the number I pitched into deeper
water (so they wouldn't die), some of the small conch die. Once dead, of
course, eventually, with the waves and sand scraping it, and the other small
marine animals eating it, the shell becomes empty and clean. I was
disappointed to find, on the extreme southwest end of the beach, that there
had been immature conch which had been harvested, as the tell-tale hole in
the top of the shell was seen in several moderately-sized conch without even
a beginning of a flare in their shells.

As thickly populated as it was with immature conch, surely there are mature
conch in the area. However, I also assume, with the proximity of Ragged
Island, where fishing is a major livelihood, on which much more very good
stuff below, that this field must be very well hunted, as I didn't find a
single even nearly mature conch, despite a couple of miles of walking in the
shallows.

I did, however, including getting some stabs, on my feet, find that there
were so many small conch that it was a challenge to avoid stepping on or
tripping over them! There was one section of the bay, the entire
southeastern part, which literally dried out at low tide, which, on this
day, was about 2PM. It made for extremely easy hunting, albeit fruitless
for live, mature ones, for conch shells to take home as souvenirs for our
combined 8 children.

In the approximately 2-mile semicircular beach, I found a couple of Lydia's
coveted sea beans, along with a half-dozen (that I saved from about 10 after
culling) lovely small conch shells. While I was walking the shallows, she
found another path, toward the end of this beach, which led to another beach
between Pig and Black Rock Points. That was a great deal better hunting for
her, much to her pleasure, of course.

Coming back to our beach, which is even longer, but less curved, as we were
walking it, I found something I'd never seen before - a fully mature conch,
with pronounced lip and thickened edge, but only about 4" in length. It was
on the beach, and likely to die, so I tossed it back into deeper water. I
did the same for several starfish which had been desperately trying to get
back in the water, based on the imprint in the sand where the water,
receding, had left them, before they flipped themselves over on the way down
the beach slope.

The clouds were building, so we came back to the boat to enjoy another
shower. It wasn't quite enough rain that, though thinking very seriously
about it, I didn't run outside with the soap. Fresh water conservation is
high on our list; so far we have done very well, we think, as we don't
believe we'll run out before returning to Georgetown.

With the continuing heavy weather (well, heavy for the limited shelters
afforded us as we move north, later), we really don't know how soon that
will be, but it's not going to be in the next couple of weeks, for sure. At
the time of the squall, there was a 60* wind shift, and, at the same time,
the speed went from 8 to 30 knots, in just a few minutes.

Having kept in close contact with Chris Parker, our forecast, however, had
led me, before we left after our first shower, to wrap our genoa with our
spinnaker halyard. The hoist I did clockwise, and the pull I did
counterclockwise, tightly wrapping the edges of the genoa in anticipation of
some 40+ knot squalls later this week.

Having done that prevents what is fairly common in high winds: A edge of
the furled genoa lifts, and once the wind finds a way in, it loosens. Then
it starts flapping in that small area, opening more of it, and, eventually,
it starts to shred. With the lashing as I've done, even if some wind could
get under any part of the edge, it can't move. We'll take the spinnaker
halyard off after the excitement so we can use the genoa again :**))

We turned in after a relaxing afternoon, having given the boat another
wipedown following the squall, and curling up with a good book. As long as
they don't occur while we're in the dinghy, we rather like the squalls, as
it helps keep the salt off the exterior! We haven't done it yet, but in
serious rains, we can also catch fresh water, refilling our tanks. We know
friends who, on sight, can rate squalls in gallonage recovered!

Monday April 12th had us again listening to Chris Parker, this time on his
first broacast time and frequency, which was extremely clear. The weather
has moderated somewhat, and today would be a great day to go to Duncantown,
about a 4-mile dinghy ride away. As we'd been up very early for him, we got
an early start.

The wind was still moderate, though not at all difficult, and there were
some swells coming in the cut between Hog Cay and Ragged Island. Due to the
swells, the PortaBote was unable to maintain a plane, but did very well
otherwise with them. However, once in the channel, we planed out right
away, again, and arrived in due time at Duncantown.

From the channel, it's evident that there are some very substantial houses
there, but as you approach more closely, it looks more like the typical
Bahamian village, with small single-story homes. We pulled into the dock
area, and walked up the steep hill. There we found three men chatting on the
corner of the main street on the island. We asked where we might find a WiFi
connection. "Anywhere! The best reception is probably from about here to
the police station, as there's one antenna here, and the other at the Police
Station. However, if you go up the street just a ways, on the right,
there's a pavilion. You can plug in your power and still get a good signal
there."

Other chat revealed them to be most friendly and helpful. After playing
with the dog which was with them, we did, in fact, find the pavilion. For
those who may find themselves here on a Sunday, when nobody seems to be
around, if you turn left at the top of the hill from the dock, the pavilion
is obvious.

There's an outlet in the front left-hand corner (from the entrance from the
street) as well as another behind a small bar. There's a circuit breaker
panel behind the bar, and if the 15Amp breaker isn't on, flip it up and both
the outlets will be "live" for your laptop power.

We quickly found the local WiFi signal and logged on. While Lydia did her
thing, I went hunting for the grocery store, as we were getting low on eggs.
Literally everyone I met along the way was friendly, helpful, and very
anxious to know how we enjoyed our time in the Jumentos and Ragged Island.

I found Maxine's, the "Grocery and Drug Store", on the left side of the
road. There were screen doors at two locations, and a peer-in revealed that
there was lots of stock on the shelves, but nobody home; one was padlocked
(very small padlock!) and the other secured from the inside. Just as I was
about to give up, a woman in a blue uniform walked over from a house across
the street. I was later to become acquainted with that house, more anon,
but, unlike my presumption, this wasn't Maxine. Instead, it was the local
nurse.

Of course, in keeping with all the hospitality already seen, she pointed out
that one could always find Maxine by just walking around back - which she
did, with me in tow. Maxine promptly opened the door and showed me in.

While I didn't immediately spy them, there was an ample supply of eggs, the
same as we've bought all over the Bahamas, and, while nothing else struck my
eye that I'd thought we'd needed, I did see that she had an assortment of
fishing hooks. I told her that we'd come back after we'd finished with the
WiFi to pick up our supplies, and, since Lydia was certain to get involved
with her in a long conversation, I asked her to remind me about the fish
hooks.

She pulled out a picture of the Valentine's Day feast she puts on each year,
the first I'd known about it. There were many faces I recognized, and I
learned that this event has grown each year with, this year, 30 boats
participating. She bakes a turkey and a ham - described by another cruiser
we met later in the day as the largest ham they'd ever seen - along with
many side dishes. Cruisers bring something to share, and a great time is
had by all.

It reminds me of the Easter Day feast at Warderick Wells, put on by the Park
Service. I can't imagine Maxine puts this on for free, but, as you'll see
later in the day, perhaps I'm mistaken. After giving her one of my boat
cards, which she put with the many other she has, she named off the people
in the photo, by name and boat. Many of them have been coming for years and
years. I was to learn that folks here in Duncantown make fast friends with
cruisers...

Going for a bit of a walk further on, I saw the police station, but, as it
was getting very hot, and I had no business to conduct there, I didn't go as
far as the Batelco office. However, I counted no less than three phone
booths in the short distance I walked!

Back at the pavilion, Lydia was nearly finished, so I lay down on one of the
benches there to relax. Shortly, there arrived two municipal workers in
reflective vests, working on various improvements and maintenance to the
town infrastructure. Lydia finished, so I took over, and, as I was working
my way through the 2-week accumulation of email, she was chatting up Derek,
one of the workers.

He solicitously asked if they'd be disturbing us to work there, using a
power tool on the pipe and wood they were cutting. Then, after some chat, he
disappeared, only to reappear shortly with a take-out foam dinner of pork
chops, rice and plantains. He said, "You've probably not had lunch; you can
share this."

How marvelous. We'd just been thinking of where we'd eat, having
intentionally left our Zone bars behind, figuring we'd find ourselves in
some commercial establishment where it was politically correct to buy
something while getting on line - not the freely offered, and, entirely,
free, luxury we had.

However, when we tried to pay him for it, he was adamant that it was a gift
from him. Even later, when we inquired where we might have lunch in
reality, he produced a second cousin, Angie. "Angie, would you make these
folks a sandwich?" "Of course. Come when you're ready. What kind would you
like - do you like ham?" (We did...)

Sure enough, Derek came by as I was shutting down, and, as is Lydia's wont,
much conversation ensued (see her log for details). While they were
chatting, up drives a pickup, stopping. "Hi! First time here? Hope you're
having a great time!" Another enchanting encounter with a local, he clued me
into the best fishing spots, the best shark-spotting spots, advice on
dealing with a speared fish so as to not have the sharks interested in us,
but to allow us good viewing later, great conch spots, and, in general,
anything we'd like to know about the area. Obviously pleased to have us in
town, eventually he went on, and I finished shutting down the computer and
put it in the backpack.

Derek led us to Angie's house. Turns out that's where the nurse was when
she came out and I mistook her for (well, presumed she was) Maxine. Angie
(not the nurse) invited us into her home, making us comfortable on the
porch, while she disappeared into the kitchen, coming out shortly with two
sandwiches, and napkins to go with it.

We sat and ate our sandwiches, marveling at the grace and hospitality shown
two entire strangers to their town. As we were finishing, another local
woman, very smartly dressed, popped in the front door, stuck out her hand
and introduced herself, welcoming us to Duncantown. We're embarrassed to say
that we're not positive, but we think it was Vivian... As she'd come to see
Angie, she went inside.

No sooner did she go inside than Derek shows up again, asking if the
sandwiches were OK, and on our enthusiastic assurance of same, more
conversation ensues, including trading family histories and Bahamas phone
numbers. After he left, we went inside, to pay Angie for our meal. A very
entertaining conversation with her and Vivian intervened, with lots of local
info learned.

I'm still not certain if we were offending her, or if she was simply
embarrassed, this (it turns out) not being a business of hers, but she
demurred on a figure every time, over the course of probably 20 minutes of
joint conversation with her and Vivian (on whom more later).

Eventually, I asked her if $10 would be all right, and she said that was
wonderful. As I didn't have the right bill, and she didn't have the change,
she was about to head over to Maxine's...

As we had business there, of course, I said I'd get it for her, and we went
off. However, no Maxine to be seen. Going out back, even further, however,
there were a couple of men cleaning their catch of fish before freezing it
to send off to the Orient. Further inside the building, Maxine was handling
the beheading and gutting chores :**))

Wiping her hands, she took us inside her store. First order of business was
to get the change, which Maxine had, so, while I went back over to Angie's,
Lydia, as expected, got into conversation with Maxine. She, too, got the
picture tour, as well as some local history.

It turns out that Maxine, if you're staying in the area for more than a
week, will order anything you need for delivery on the mailboat which calls
once a week. Gasoline? No problem. Comes in a 60-gallon drum, and is
dispensed from that. Produce? Hardware? Frozen goods? You name it, if it
can come on the boat, she'll order it for you, and the receipt from Nassau
will be waiting for your pickup and payment.

After absorbing this and many other amazingly helpful assistances which
folks here are thrilled to provide us long-term cruisers, we made our
purchase and started to head back to the dock. However, Vivian intercepted
Lydia as I was making my packing-up of the eggs (we normally carry eggs in
our backpack, along with anything else we can fit in there, after a shopping
trip). I wandered around outside for a bit, but, not finding her, started
back up the road.

"Hey, Skip! Come see this!" Vivian had taken her inside to show her some
of the amazing bags, briefcases and purses she makes from local materials,
but, more importantly, had something to show us out back. A large cage full
of peacocks! She makes earrings from the "eyes" of the enormously long male
tail feathers.

It's like old home week - everyone's your friend, and thrilled to have you
there. We bid her goodbye and headed to the dock. Just as we're about to
get in the dinghy, who should come hurrying down the hill but Derek, again?

"Oh, I'm so glad you haven't left yet. Angie's got something for you. I'll
have her come down." Nonsense - we'll walk up to her house. We get there,
and she takes us into a shed aside her home, opens the refrigerator, and
hands us a foil-wrapped package. It's a large piece of her birthday cake!

Overwhelmed, we hug her goodbye, and, finally, nearly reeling from being
overwhelmed with kindnesses of strangers, we head back to the dock. Derek
accomanies us, and, uncertain, knowing that, in some cultures, gifts are
freely given, and offering payment is an insult, I ask him about that,
particularly since he'd shown up with a hot meal for us earlier. He replied
that it really wasn't necessary to pay her, but he was sure she'd
appreciated it. He also divulged that the kitchen which is supplying the
workers at the construction site (more below) is where he got our meal; no
problem, mon!

Whew. What a day. We headed back to our home after thanking Derek again for
all his kindnesses. The rest of the day is anticlimactic by comparison, but
we had a lovely evening aboard a neighboring boat, one we'd met in
Georgetown, with another couple we'd met during our passage from Lucaya to
Saint Simons Island on the way out of the Bahamas last year.

During that time, we learned from one of the couples that they'd been coming
here for many years, and knew the folks in the boat which chatted us up
immediately on our arrival. Phil, the owner of the boat, which happens to be
a twin of Derek's, coincidentally, is like the goodwill ambassador to
visiting cruisers, as every boat anchoring in the area for the first time
gets the same treatment: "Hi! Is this your first time here to Ragged
Island? Wonderful. Have a great time. I'm Phil, see you in town
sometime..." Our host boat had gotten a visit from them just before we did,
with the same effusive greeting.

Well, not only that, but he becomes friends with repeaters, to the point
where he called Canada (the home of the folks telling us this) upon learning
of a problem in the family, just to check to see how they were doing.

If you've not yet gotten the idea, you're not paying attention :**)) - but
we'll certainly be back here. There's so much more to tell about Duncantown
and its residents that I'll let Lydia handle that in her log. Suffice to
say, they're the most cruiser-friendly place we've ever been - and we've
been LOTS of places which are cruiser friendly.

One last tidbit, however, for those who may visit the area in the near
future. Construction is currently in full swing to develop a dock/marina
and fuel depot at the northern end of the island. That will allow the
mailboat to not have to rely on local boats for transport of goods to a
dock, for cruisers to obtain fuel and water, and, as well, avoid the very
long dinghy ride to town (unless they prefer). That is expected for
completion late 2010, so, y'all come on down!

That's a pretty tough act to follow, but there's one more day in this log.
Tuesday April 13, because we didn't even get back from the "heavy h'ors
d'ouvres" chat-up on our friends' boat until nearly 10PM, we slept in.
Dragging ourselves out of bed at well after 9AM, in part because the sun was
so brilliant it was nearly blinding us, we finally made it to shore for more
Hog Cay explorations by about noon.

We wanted to see the site of the famous Valentine's Day party, as well as
check out the trail we'd had reported by our friends last night. Just
around the corner from here, in Middle Pen Bay, it was an easy dinghy ride
despite the building wind and waves.

Sure enough, there were enough buoys to float a yacht, as well as benches
and a firepit, complete with a grill which had been stowed under one of the
trees there. Oops - this isn't the trail, it's the site of the Valentine's
Day feast. The trail entry was visible just down the beach.

Off we went, and once there it was quite obvious that this was a well-used
trail. Some several, presumed, somebodies had cleared the way, including
sawing down bushes in the center of the path, taking a machete or saw to
protruding branches, and, as well, VERY clearly marking the path with the
usual accoutrements of bouys, shoes, bottles and other indicators.

Not that it was really needed, as the path was so well defined... It's a
substantial climb, and a long walk, to the other side. You'll need shoes,
as many parts of the trail were rocky, but it's no difficulty to get to the
ocean side. Before you do, however, you'll be presented with several "scenic
view" turnoffs, allowing photos of the immense beaches from the side we'd
climbed (including a distant view of Flying Pig in the southern anchorage)
as well as the surf on the other.

We made our way down, and, as we'd seen a couple of other beaches further
north, decided to explore those first. An easy clamber over some rocks
between each, we walked both of them, finding a few sea beans along the way.

However, eventually, we returned to the one where the trail ended, and
commenced exploring. Bean city! Despite our host couple from last night
having just done the same beach, we came away with over 50 sea beans,
including a half-dozen of the prized "hamburger" beans.

I'd picked up a couple of large buckets and a crate, to bring back to the
picnic area, and because I'd hoped to find conch over there, had brought my
"cage" along with me. Good thing, as it had lots of goodies in it. Lydia
will now be on the lookout for injection-bottles (the thing that the syringe
goes into when an injection is being prepared), having gotten the idea for a
wind-chime construction from the location on Double Breasted Cay. Included
were 4 of those; we've passed over many before, but will now be on the
lookout for those as well, during our future searches.

One last item to leave you with; if you're in the area, pick up a piece of
driftwood lumber, or a crate or bucket, and drop it at the picnic site on
your way back to your dinghy. From all reports, it will all be needed to
accommodate the crowd and groaning-board for the next Valentine's Day feast!

We stopped and chatted up Asylum III, the boat whose couple had been the
other guests on our host boat last night, retrieving the flashlight they'd
borrowed from Winterlude to get home with, and who'd been a buddy boat for
part of last year's return trip. Storm clouds threatened, so we reluctantly
broke off and returned home.

While we haven't had any squalls, the wind certainly has picked up, and the
wind moved north, creating fetch which is rocking us to sleep. As tomorrow
begins the expected really snotty weather, we'll be up early again to talk
with Chris, but if the last forecast we have holds, we'll move on in a
couple of days.

It will be difficult to leave, as it seems that each new experience is
better than the last, but we'll make it a point to be early next year.
We'll be in the early end of the Lobster season (currently closed), and will
be able to get supplies if we need them, through Maxine.

And, this is really just the beginning of the Jumentos experience. We still
have many places to visit before returning to Long Island. You'll hear more
of them as we work our way north, but we can easily see why many people
spend an entire season here!

Well, it's getting late (and, long, of course - what else, from me??), so
we'll leave you. Until next time, Stay Tuned!

L8R

Skip and crew, still lying Lobster Point Harbor, Hog Cay

Morgan 461 #2
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