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Old 21-03-2009, 15:00   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Currently on the boat, somewhere on the ocean, living the dream
Boat: Morgan 461 S/Y Flying Pig
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Stocking Island – January 8-March 16, 2008

Stocking Island – January 8-March 16, 2008

We left you with all the equipment failures that had kept us in Georgetown. Here’s what we did all that time, while we finished with boat repairs and waited for the computer to come back…

The days meandered on – it’s easy to settle into a lazy routine when there’s no place you have to be and nothing you have to do. We moved camp to Volley Ball Beach, near Chat ‘n’ Chill while our guests were still with us. (Chat ‘n’ Chill is the eatery on Stocking Island with all the freebie entertainment stuff available to cruisers.)

We were looking for what we presumed would be better and more wifi connectivity than the 3-4 marginal free sites we’d been using, and to get slightly closer to town in the nasty weather we’d been having. That wifi quest proved only hopeful, as we wound up using, up until the last week, Harbour WiFi, a pay service ashore, one of several, which we easily picked up with our mast-top unit. No biggie on the pay part, though, as we actually only bought a couple of weekly cards, the rest being donated from folks we’d helped with one or more communication problems. The last week (see “Loose Cannon” post separately for amplification on both parts) we were on a free site, picked up with our mast-top antenna…

Once our guests had departed, having had what they called the vacation of a lifetime, days settled into a routine of, when up early enough, listening to, and sometimes, talking to, Chris Parker about the weather, and, nearly always, participating in the morning net.

The morning net is a daily meeting, over VHF radio, of the folks in the anchorages. It starts with weather (usually derived from listening to Chris Parker, as I do whenever I’m about to go someplace), then moves on to local business’ advertisements. Those are followed by “Regatta” – announcements of activities related to several races the cruisers do in that period, then “Community” – announcements of general interest, such as my seminars, what other organized activities may be taking place in the near future, and so on. It’s closed by “Boaters’ General” – announcements of things needed, or for sale, trade or to be donated (we lightened our boat of many things during this period).

The net takes place on channel 72, while the harbor monitors channel 68 for hailing local boats (and businesses, sometimes, most of them monitoring 16), plus taxi and a few other specialized ones having other dedicated channels. Following the net there is a lot of hailing back and forth, usually in followup to various announcements. Later on in the day, if you keep the radio on, the traffic dies considerably, but it’s about like a party line, all the time. If you know the boat and people, frequently you may dial up the frequency they select for their conversation, and, if it’s pertinent to something you need or know, you’ll break in after they’re finished to continue the conversation with one or both of the parties. Or, you’ll have just eavesdropped :{))

During this time we got to know many of the boat names, and put names and faces to them later as we met in person. As has been proven time and again, but nowhere more so than here, the cruising community is aggressive in helping others in need, or just immediately falling-to in lending a helping hand. Rescued adrift dinghies, lost oars or other personal items, announcing found (including a substantial sum of money) items on Boaters’ General, jumping aboard an unoccupied boat which has dragged to get out another anchor (oops!), diving one who’s gotten another’s chain involved with their prop as the other dragged by; the list of immediate, selfless help is endless.

We were both beneficiary and donor in some of the dragging. There’s a saying here, akin to the “if you haven’t been aground, you haven’t been around” which goes “There are two types of cruisers in the harbor. Those who have dragged and those who will.” As good as the holding is, sometimes a boat will break out, and if it’s got up a good head of steam, not be able to reset before endangering other boats. Apparently, we were one of those, as the wind went nearly 180* from light to howling, in the space of a few minutes one afternoon.

Despite (and, probably, actually, a contributor, as we were on the other end of it when the wind switched direction and piped up) our 125’ of chain (in a little more than 10’ of water) and 55# Delta anchor, when 20 tons of boat gets up a lot of momentum, the anchor can come out after 200+ feet of way before it is asked to take up the strain again. So, while we and the boat behind us were ashore that day, we both dragged.

Due to the sudden wind shift, there were dinghies all over the harbor doing tugboat and other rescue duties. A neighbor came aboard and got our second (massive 75# CQR) unshackled from its harness and lowered into another dink, thence to be kedged out (see ungrounding in Normans Cay for reference), securing our boat. At the same time another pair were stopping the motion of the boat behind us and lengthening his scope (he didn’t have another anchor ready to deploy). We both returned after the squall, none the wiser, other than that I saw we had two anchors out, learning, later, that there were multiple hails on the VHF trying to find both of us during all the excitement :{))

Our next encounter was better forecast, but for 4AM. We had out ample scope, and the wind was already in the direction of the expected blow, so we just did an anchor watch. As it turned out, the blow didn’t come until right at dawn, and both we and the other boat right behind us (we being the two recipients of the prior help) stayed securely. However, I saw a neighbor boat beginning to move, and by the time I’d jumped into the dinghy and chased him down, while he’d developed a good head of steam, he’d caught again about a quarter-mile away. By the time I banged on his hull to let him know (he was still asleep), he’d stopped. I offered to kedge out his second anchor, lashed to the pulpit, if he had some line, but he said he’d just move back up and put them both out, refusing help in that, despite his single-handing his boat.

That particular squall was very eventful, with several collisions of dragging boats, one of which had survived the prior one, having been in the same anchor spot for more than 3 months, but letting go this time. There was also one very serious fouling of running gear which didn’t involve a collision, but only the chain of the dragging boat wrapping itself around the prop and shaft of a power boat which was holding itself in position into the wind under power. That power boat wound up a half mile away, secured by several stern anchors, during which time there were no less than a half dozen dinghies helping out. Later several cruisers dove on the boat to unfoul it, and to recover THEIR anchor, which had separated during all the excitement.

Later, we moved to a location slightly closer to Chat ‘n’ Chill (close enough that Lydia swam to and shore, mostly), and, as a front threatened, put out our second anchor just for comfortable sleeping at night. It stayed there for a couple of weeks, there being no pressing need to get it up, and great security should there be another blow.

One of the ways we got to meet cruisers is my wifi setup aboard Flying Pig. Without the gory details (see, in addition to the direct cable connection to my computer, we have a local (onboard) wifi feed to Lydia’s and Louise’ laptops which is also visible to boats around us. Because of our mast-top unit, we can connect to wifi when most around us can't - but we're happy to share our signal.

Thus, if you’re in an anchorage and see, as one of the available (or, maybe, the only) wifi sites “FlyingPig-ComeSeeUs4PW,” that will be us. We block those we don’t know, but for the simple expedient of coming to us and introducing yourself, we make our signal available. There’s no password, actually, but if we’ve blocked you, we’ll unblock it, or, if you’ve not yet logged on, note your computer’s identification and allow your connection. It’s a great way to get to know others in the cruising community, and, lost signal aside, we were besieged by folks dinghying by as we prepared to leave, saying how nice it had been to be our neighbors.

So, what else happened, other than that I played volleyball nearly every day, which was a great help to my general conditioning, and Lydia yoga, ditto? All this happens on Stocking Island:

Daily volleyball, on 3 available courts (the posts are dismasted sailboats’ sticks!) – there is “fun” volleyball (all ages over 15, both sexes, very relaxed rules) with 9 to a team, “regulation” volleyball (very high level of play, with regular rules) with 4 to a team, and under-15 with whatever they aggregate to play, supplemented by two tournaments before the end of “Regatta,” more on which later. There’s also Beach Church (a registered non-denominational church), and art, jewelry, bridge, poker and other classes regularly take place on the beach next to Chat ‘n’ Chill.

Various other places on Stocking Island have several flavors of swimming instruction, yoga, pilates, and spontaneous (with announcements on the local net, also more on which later) seminars on the beach at Chat ‘n’ Chill. The owner asks only that visitors to the beach not bring their food and beverages there (somewhat like do-it-yourself yards requiring you to buy their paint when you do the bottom – but they don’t give you a place to work on your boat for free!!) while enjoying his hospitality. Of course, the traffic at his eatery and bar is enhanced by all the people who come ashore…

During our stay I did two seminars, separated by about 5 weeks (lots of new boats, and some departures, in between), on wireless communication for cruisers. The first happened to be on a day when the wind was howling, and rain threatened, so, due to the nasty dinghy rides for many, some demurred on the first one. Despite that, there were 60+ attendees at each, with both followed up by folks getting me to resolve, variously, ham radio, SSB mail (SSB mail, recall, being a radio form of emailing), wifi and other connectivity challenges. I also did an “online” (over VHF radio) seminar on Honda generators (see prior “Cruising is…” post for details). Others did seminars on navigational aids, Texas Hold-em Poker, basket weaving (yes, really! – the output, using locally found materials, is stunning!), Conch Horn manufacturing and playing (you make a loud trumpet, effectively, out of a salad component’s prior home), and so on.

It’s easy to see why folks get stuck here. Town from the Stocking Island anchorages (there’s another major anchorage south of here, Sand Dollar, and one north of Monument, Hamburger Beach) is a reasonably easy dinghy ride, and there is much more than organized activity (much more than mentioned above is available, too) to do on the Island, the weekend place for the locals to unwind. Walking on various nature trails, snorkeling, the “sound” side, where there is the more typical ocean shore, including finding conch and “lobster” (the clawless version found in the tropics, AKA, sometimes, “bugs”) within easy snorkeling distance, and the endless conversations which spring up between cruisers and other cruisers or locals.

“Regatta” is a couple-week period of intense activity in the cruiser community. It started with a round-Stocking-Island “fun” race, in which we participated, arriving over the finish line more than 3 hours after the (very much) fastest boat, the very clear winner in the “real” race. There were also Texas Hold-Em, Trivia, volleyball, softball (the cruisers won, narrowly, against the Bahamians) and other contests, as well as several dances at Chat ‘n’ Chill, hosted by “Rockin’ Ron,” the skipper of Sea Dancer, a boat with the same hull as ours, a Morgan 45.

The finale of the event was the race week. It was opened by a hilarious variety show put on by all the cruisers who cared to participate, preceded, immediately by the pet show, in which there were two little girls, one dragging a conch shell (rescued from the water outside the conch salad stand) and the other with a sizeable hermit crab. The fun and regulation volleyball tournaments followed, and it ended with another variety show ashore, for the benefit of the Bahamians, who brought their kids. In between, there was another race around Stocking Island (we didn’t participate, being involved in getting ready to leave), and two in-harbor races. The anchorages started emptying nearly immediately afterwards…

This year was a relatively light year, probably due to the recession, with a high of a little more than 300 boats in the various harbors, as compared to the normal 500+, and the local businesses felt the loss. A case in point was the open-air restaurant at Hamburger Beach, which closed for Sundays only as compared to their usual daily fare, on the weekend we arrived. The cruisers’ season here is from December through the second weekend in March; otherwise it’s very deserted by comparison. Yet, several cruisers we chatted up (we have about 150 boat cards from various encounters and my seminars) have said that it’s absolutely beautiful, and, of course, without all the other boats around, a peaceful place to be in the summer. We’ll enjoy visiting here another time, no doubt…

So, we’ll leave you for now, and pick up on our next trip.


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