Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Visit beautiful Rum Cay!

Courtesy of the Sumner Marina Facebook page

We sleep well and I'm up by 5:45 am, in time to make coffee and crank up the Chris Parker weather broadcast. However, Amelia has other plans--she peed on the galley floor (yes, I know "she's mad at me."). And our portable SSB radio is acting up. Luckily, the Captain is up early--"where's the coffee?" {glare}. I'm not off to a good start. The forecast is still holding, so the main and anchor are up by 7:45 am dropping, in behind Kelly Nicole for our sail to Rum. We're on a broad reach for 4 miles down Conception and then I cut the corner to lay a line for Rum. 13 miles of open water ahead of us. It's fun to see a set of sails out front of us all day. Halfway, we hear a mayday. After several calls, no one responds so we hail them. They are a sportfish on the reef N of Conception. Can we relay? (Kelly Nicole can only hear our side) We eventually reach a boat still anchored (everyone was up on the beach) at Conception while Kelly Nicole calls the Coast Guard on the phone. As we near Rum, I have internet so I email, Tweet, & send a Facebook message to Hawks Nest Marina (never even got a thank your or response by the way). Finally we hear a relay that they floated off.  "Never mind."  

Enlarge to see the bridle coming off the bow...

As we make the turn south of Rum for the anchorage in the south harbour, we still have 6 miles to go. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be any boats in the harbor. We follow the Garmin line in, then turned 016 (per Bruce Van Sant--following along with the book is fun!) on the house at the peak of Cotton Field point (light inop, but it's the highest point).  NOW we can see some masts!  We work our way around to south of the mail dock (still damaged from the storm) with one person on the bow, dodging the dark spots (big elkhorn coral).  "Drive it up on the beach" (actually right next to a monohull) and drop anchor in 7.2 high tide. The Captain finds a nut from the roller furler on the trampoline--"how is that still there?"  The Captain deploys a swell anchor because Kelly Nicole is doing it and Bruce Van Sant said so. (Yes, I know we're a catamaran but it does seem to help.)  We're sitting between the waves and wind so the motion is less. This makes our rigging hum & the wind doesn't come straight in the hatches (because we're not facing into the wind) but it will do. A sailboat hailed the marina but the response is garbled.  We're up to eight boats in the anchorage by sunset. 

Chris Parker's afternoon weather forecast:  "Sun7 onward into week of Mon8 may be a REALLY GOOD E-BOUND SAILING OPPORTUNITY for vessels from Bahamas to E Caribbean."  That's us!  Put us in coach. We're ready to play!  We decide to request a custom forecast for our next big hop. 

Stats:  total time 5:15, avg speed 4.7 kts, total mileage 

Government dock unusable. except for wading out do dinghies

Day 2:  We head into town today to meet the people rebuilding Rum Cay. The government dock is still unusable (the mailboat comes down to the mouth of the marina) but we are able to tie the dinghy to a piling just off the beach. We walk up to the road and are pointed towards Kay's restaurant and store. Kay is struggling to reopen and she has some basics. She shows us the water marks and what used to be the dining room. We continue down the road to the marina. We meet Ben, a retired ferry/cargo Captain and Mike, a sailor who's boat survived the hurricane. They describe the legal battle around the marina and show us some of the damage. The view from the marina entrance back out into the bay is stunning. They point us back towards town to meet Delores. She is 84 and was born on the island. A former teacher and the island matriarch, we sign her guest book and purchase her book, "Rum Cay, My Home". We walk toward the BTC tower where we can receive free internet (and is also doubling as the school during the day). Ben catches up with us and hands over the two biggest fillets of Mahi and Wahoo I have ever seen. George's Restaurant wasn't open yet, so we return to the boat for lunch. 


Our anchorage is down to a mere 3 boats. It's a gusty afternoon so naps ensue.  The Captain begins "working on boats in exotic places".  The monohull next to us leaves. Oh, shit!

Cruisers and locals and Kaye's Bar

Day 3:  We get our Chris Parker custom forecast and head into Port Nelson for a "routing" pow-wow (bar on terra firma). We arrive at Kaye's and are quickly joined by 4 local young men (two from the front of the book) and they quickly absorb us into their group. When I turn around, the crowd has swelled to include more locals and the cruisers from the 3 new arrivals. In the end, there was about 5 min total of routing talk--"7:30 to Mayaguana?"

Kelly Nicole (with a slight "lean")

I was a little nervous as we set off for Rum.  We're getting farther away from the crowded anchorages/grocery stores/fuel which is good and bad. Our guidebooks tell us that Rum Cay may be the second island visited by Christopher Columbus is 1492. It was later famous for its salt pond production, pineapples and sisal. Currently, it's a popular jumping off point for vessels headed southbound from the Bahamas to the Caribbean. It's is a small island (30 square miles) with less than 100 inhabitants that currently relies on the tourism industry--cruisers like us and fishermen that fly in. They took a direct hit from Hurricane Joaquin in Oct 2015 and the whole island was underwater at one point, killing most of the vegetation.  I was unable to confirm anything or anyone was here until I received an email from a gentleman trying to transport fruit trees to his former Kindergarten teacher. He gave us her name and told us essential services were back on, but he couldn't reach her by phone.   Sumner Point Marina provides all-around protection but was under new ownership when the hurricane hit. Their website was down and the last Active Captain review was from April 2014. 

We had our best Bahamian experience in Rum Cay. The people are amazing. They are hardy, God-fearing people living very close to the land (and sea). One gentleman we got to know at Kaye's Bar was a pastry chef (from Oceanside?) who engaged us in a soft-spoken philosophical and religious discussion about FOOD!  You see, my one friend is vegetarian. For a society that relies on fish for food, this is interesting to them. "Would you eat a fish?  If there was nothing else to eat?"  If I had to, but I don't have to. "But it was created by God."  "What about a cow?"  "They are wild on the island."  Used to this, she wiggled out, then I was up. "I can't have wheat?"   (How did he know that?).  "But it is created by God, so why?"  This led to discussions of genetically modified wheat, grown to be bug resistant and the more pure form of seminola from Italy--all things he was familiar with.  "So when man attempts to change what God created, that is where we have a problem."  Wow.  As we parted ways, he was excited about trying to make conch fritters out of corn flour. 

Another local stripped down to his underwear to retrieve a fellow cruisers dinghy that floated off the beach. 

As we departed they encouraged us to stay. "It's Rum Days at the end of the month and we're having a Super Bowl party on Sunday."

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