Our Impromptu

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As of March 11, 2007: Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island)

We had enjoyed March 11 very much and went to say good-bye to Nancy and Wally just before a small supper - vegetables (pepper, onion, zucchini and rice). Dick and Carol were there as well, and so we stayed longer than planned. In the end, we finally said good-bye, exchanged addresses with Nancy and Wally and went back to the boat. We got up at just before 0400 and left the dock around 0440 to catch the bridge opening at 0500. It took us a long time to leave Port Everglades due to a huge cruise ship coming in, another to follow as well as a container ship. In the end, we sneaked out despite all of this and were in the gulf stream before we knew it. It was a nighly unpleasant ride, against the wind and opposing seas, not much wind but enough to make me feel queazy. Juergen did not really like it either and also took a bite of my vitamin C pill. He had to burp the propeller shaft, i.e., dive into the engine compartment while we were bumping around. He got better quickly though.

We were a lot slower than expected. After a bunch of hours and still lots of miles to go, we decided to change our destination after realizing that West Harbor was 15 nm shorter to get to than Port Lucaya. We could certainly make this harbor in daylight - which was the goal. We actually got here around 1700, tied up with a lot of help - the wind pushed us hard against the fixed dock. We immediately joined the crowd at the TIKI bar for 2 for 1 drinks and conch fritters - very delicious.

Before we knew it, it was already around 1900. We went back to the boat and did not wait too long before going to bed to read and to fall asleep early. It had been a long day. I had taken a few pictures before we went to the TIKI bar. See for yourselves...

Click on photos to enlarge!

3 days before our departure for the Bahamas, the sky in Fort Lauderdale looked very strange

A different view of the sky on the same day



Pictures of West End, Grand Bahama - our first Impression

Barely 10 minutes in West End
Beach and Tiki Bar
Impromptu at her dock in West End, just behind the Beach


Juergen and Andy - a great Source of Information for Sailing the Bahamas
Conch Fritters - part of the Happy Hour with Drinks at 2 for 1
First Basin as one enters the Harbor
Marina Building w Customs Building adjacent
"Our Beach"
Pool of Resort-Marina
Pool to Beach
View from Jetty

Today, March 13, we had a leisurely breakfast after Juergen checked us in at the custom's office - two female officers - and he said that I could not come along as women did not belong to these places... Well, I had taken a brief stroll around the property on the beach before Juergen got up, and took more photos (see below). We then cleaned, polished the stainless, and Juergen got the dinghy ready. The bimini is up for greater comfort though it is not as hot here as it had been in Fort Lauderdale. In the evening, it is getting rather chilly, causing me to bring a sweater or fleece when we go to the TIKI bar, which we did tonight again. This time, however, for only one drink each and a few conch fritters. We had already had a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers, as we played Backgammon in the late afternoon - after our "hard work".

We made a dinner reservation at the fancy restaurant for tomorrow around 1900. We will report about our experience. We have not been able to get our Iridium phone working. I tried SKYPE today but did not get an answer. Hopefully, it will all work tomorrow when we need to call for Susanne's birthday.

March 14, Susanne's birthday. We tried to call via SKYPE, still no luck with our Iridium phone, but I guess they are out to celebrate. We just left a message on Guenter and Waltraut's answering machine. Hopefully, Sanne will get it today still. - Our Iridium phone does not even turn on. So much for a new phone, new battery and new number with 250 minutes already purchased. I will have to either talk to them via SKYPE or email to see whether they can help us get it working. Otherwise, we can only make phone calls if and when we have internet access - not a problem here, but who knows whether and where we will have internet access after this beautiful spot.

Juergen has been working on the gelcoat - one small area got slightly damaged on the SS3. He also sanded a part of our toe rail - it had rubbed hard against a piling in Fort Lauderdale, before we noticed that there was damage. Then we added yet another fender... but until then...

This morning, it was quite chilly and the sky was covered with a thin layer of clouds. By now - around noon time - the clouds disappeared, the wind subsided, and the temperatures are a comfortable and dry 80 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

March 16 it is breezy, partly overcast and a little on the cool side. We have been spending most of the day so far (1400 now) down below (after breakfast though). Juergen has been working on his radio and SSB (single side band), the latter for weather charts - unfortunately unsuccessfully so far. I was busy with photos from last night. We went to a Junkanoo festival which is really lots of great music, unbelievable limbo, a fire swallowing dancer, some great competition from among the guests, particularly Remington, the - we guess - 7 year old from Toronto (see below), and fun carneval costumes.

We enjoyed some local food, great drinks and the fact that we were sitting by the beach with terrific entertainment, just about a three minute walk from Impromptu. How can life be better?

Today at 1600, the hotel manager, Howard, has invited to a cocktail party at the Tiki bar - of course, we will not miss that one.

If you like to see pictures from last night, just go into Gallery 2007 and then open the page Bahamas (Part I). Enjoy!

March 19, most likely our last day at Old Bahama Bay Marina in West End Harbor, Grand Bahama Island. The wind is projected to increase over the next few days, and since we want to meet up with Byron and family in Marsch Harbor, Abacos, on April 1st, we better start moving. Andy gave us a few more tips as to where to go and what to do and, more importantly, what to avoid and to watch out for. We did so over a few glasses of wine in our cockpit, showed them the boat, and talked about their and our various travels. In the end, Andy lent us a book and charts of the Chesapeak Bay - very helpful for a later part of our journey North.

I have meanwhile finished our navigation for tomorrow and just a tadbit beyond, the rest will have to be done tomorrow once we are anchored. Juergen is double checking my waypoints and my input into our GPS so we ensure not to run aground. The water is shallow but ok as long as we go the right way and watch carefully. This is why it is so important to travel during daylight hours. Our around 50 nm trip tomorrow should hopefully not take more than 8 hours, thus, as long as we depart between 0800 and 0830, we should be fine to arrive around 1600 to 1630.

Today, we took a bus into "town", meaning Freeport and, from there to Port Lucaya. The latter is the harbor which had been our initial destination for Grand Bahama, before we changed our minds and went into Old Bahama Bay Marina instead. You might remember...

Well, the bus was smaller than a VW bus, more like a small Toyota or so, but it carried six adults and I don't know how many pre-school kids, no seat belts, no seat for each kid. They were stacked "on top of each other". We did not really notice that so much as we went into town, but we later on took the same bus back. We picked up all the kids from the various schools, mostly church schools. We had 16 kids and 7 adults in the bus in the end, unbelievable. You should have seen these kids, nicely dressed, clean, smiling, just tired. Some of them fell asleep in the bus and had a hard time waking up to get off.

In between, we walked around Port Lucaya which is very touristy, filled with huge hotels right on the beach, a casino (Juergen gambled $ 6 away - and it was not fun), T-shirt shops galore, some jewelry and perfume places, claiming to sell duty free. None of them was intreaguing, and so we decided to have lunch before heading back to Freeport where we would catch the bus with all the kids. We also went to a super market there and bought some lettuce, avocado, two peppers ($ 3.98), and a few bananas and bread. I also bought some carrots, hoping that they would last longer than the zucchini I had purchased in Florida. They had spoiled pretty quickly, maybe no wonder in this heat.

A few days ago, the hotel manager, Howard, had invited to a cocktail reception on the beach with live music and, more importantly, a conch cracking session. In our gallery, you can find some pictures of this event but also of our today's adventure.

As we will be anchoring for at least one if not two nights, we will not have internet access until we get to Green Turtle Cay, in about 100 nm... Stay tuned and write from time to time. We love to hear from you.

March 20 Have I ever told you anything about the Bahamas? Well, they are over 300 islands of which only 20 are reported to be inhabited. Many of them are called "cays", pronounced like "keys". Most of them are very flat and surrounded by flat waters, occasional rocks and lots of coral heads. The coral reef is supposed to be the third longest in the world with the Barrier Reef in Australia being the largest. I forget which is the second longest. Maybe, one of you can find out and let me know via our guestbook or so.

The past night was rather noisy with the wind increasing in strength and pushing our boat hard against the pilings of the fixed dock though we have huge fenders out. Unfortunately, we left our fender board on the CAL 39 when we sold it and never got around to buying a new one. Now we are getting the bill by having our toe rail scraped badly and staying awake at night because of all the noise. This morning, it began to rain a little, not much, but the sky looked rather threatening, the wind increased to over 25 knots. In itself that is not a bad thing but we would have had to go over rather shallow spots where any wave action might have caused us to hit ground. So we decided to stay. The weather forecast indicated continuation of this pattern for at least another 3 - 5 days. We felt that it was safer and more fun staying here than lying at anchor for days on end without internet access, without being able to sight see or do anything but sit on the boat and read. Here, we can socialize (Andy just came by to invite us for dinner tonight), walk around, take pictures, read, etc. Unfortunately, the selection of postcards is rather limited that I cannot write my usual array of postcards. Sorry. Don't be upset if you have not gotten one yet, it is mostly because they are outrageously ugly. Even at Port Lucaya they did not have any nice ones and those they had were $ 2 each, ridiculous. Hopefully, you all get to read the website updates to know what is going on and that we are fine. Phone service is virtually non existent, except via SKYPE as long as we are here at the dock.

March 21 - Lo's Birthday. In German, we say "erstens kommt es anders und zweitens als man denkt" - which translates roughly into never make plans ahead of time as they will change anyway. Reason for saying that is that, this morning at 0730 Juergen indicated that we should be leaving today. The wind seemed down quite a bit - showed only about 12 knots on our wind indicator, the sund was shining, there were not too many clouds in the sky. We got ready and he moved the dinghy, filled the water tank one last time, took the water hose off, etc., while I went to pay our bill for our eight day stay, called Christa from a public phone which can be used with credit card - the internet was down last night and also this morning before breakfast. Then they took the weather forecast to us - an (almost) daily service. Well, the wind is supposed to pick up this afternoon, and tomorrow and Friday to about 38 knots. With these shallow waters, we decided it made no sense to depart today and to be stuck at an uninhabited island for two or three days without any internet access, phone service, any ability to go ashore while the boat was safe, etc.

So, Juergen got the water hose out again, moved the dinghy back alongside the boat, put the bimini up again... andn then Andy told us that the internet connection is working again. This is why you are getting this update - I already answered a few emails, Juergen is waiting for Andy to send one which we are to print for him, and I could check out the price of the Maryland Cruising Guide which Andy had initially lent to us and which we then agreed to purchase from him. This way, we don't have to send it back and he has his money back as he no longer is planning to sail up to the Chesapeake Bay anyway, a win-win situation.

We will meet up with people at the TIKI bar, I will go to the resort shop to check out their post cards again, etc., etc., we will play Backgammon, read - I am presently reading Annie Proulx's book "Close Range", a book of short stories including Broke Back Mountain. I loved her "Shipping News", "Accordeon Crimes", "Post Cards". This one is rather strange, interesting, but weird. I would love to sit and discuss with her this book. Most likely, I will finish it today, and then go to "Longitude" which is a totally different book, namely about the invention of the chronometer by William Harrison.

Since we now plan on leaving some day this weekend, you will see more updates before our departure, I am sure. Happy reading. By the way, I decided to put all my photos into the Gallery only rather than putting them twice, once into Gallery and another time into the text. I hope this is agreeable with all of you.

March 22nd Well, we heard sad news today relating to my goodchild Nico and his girlfriend, Nicola (what a coincidence in commonality of names...). Lo, Nico's mom and my friend, sent us an email informing us that they lost their twins during her pregnancy. It must be so sad. We hope that they can and will get over it enough to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. Time will heal the wounds even if they will never forget the pain.

We are still here at Old Bahama Bay - same old story, the wind... nothing new. Last night, it was blowing quite a bit, and it has not let up all day. We have been enjoying sitting on the boat. As the big news of the day: I was allowed to cut Juergen's hair - all the way - and you should see how great he looks. I am impressed with myself. Even he is happy. Check out the Gallery. I could not omit uploading some pictures.

We met some very nice Canadians from Montreal last night, people who had met with Andy and Alice in the Abacos a few weeks ago. Their boat, KAOS (childen aboard, zero sex) is a motor boat. However, they are not going fast as they want to preserve Diesel as much as possible. Allen and Suzan seem to be smart fun people. They plan to go back North and want to be back in Montreal some time in May if I understood correctly. They will also go via the Chesapeake Bay. So we hope to have a chance to meet up with them from time to time for dinner or drinks. We will see. Hopefully, we will exchange contact information with them tonight at the bar. The TIKI bar is closed because the wind is blowing too hard and it is rather cold. So the Happy Hour is moved into the other bar, not as much fun, not as nice, still it gives us an opportunity to meet up with people.

March 23rd This was a day "from hell" - well, this may be somehwat exaggerated, but it for sure was not a day the way we had planned it. You may or may not remember that we had a lot of problems with our Iridium satellite phone which had worked so well while crossing the Atlantic. We had not really used it last year as we were always in cell phone territory - in the end, we should have used it but did not for (the wrong) economic reasons. While in Florida, we had received a replacement phone after we learned that ours had had a recall. We also got a new battery, charged it but never tried it while in Florida. Once we got to the Bahamas, we finally wanted to try it - I know, not very smart on our part, but then, who says we are smart....It did not work, would not even turn on. So we emailed the company - no response. I finally called via SKYPE - a godsent - Kelly, the woman in charge, immediately promised to send us a new phone, new battery, new charger - for no charge, as long as we promised to return the old equipment. We did. All was sent by FedEx, and we could find out via the tracking number, its progress.

Well, last night around 5 p.m. or so I finally saw on the internet that our package had arrived and that it was ready to be picked up at the FedEx office. We went into full gear early in the morning, taking the 0900 bus into town (Freeport), walked over to the FedEx office to learn that, well, yes, that is what is being said on the internet, but the package was not in the office. Instead, it was at customs. And, no, we could not pick it up there ourselves. We needed an agent - for $ 50. And, yes, FedEx was willing to play agent for us. We should come back around 1530 / 1600. It would cost not only the $ 50 but also duty - we asked on what. Well, the value had been indicated to be $ 100 but if we had a cruising permit and brought it with us, maybe, it would not have to be paid.

We had the cruising permit and any other piece of paper one could imagine, including passport etc. with us. She tooks copies and told us to return in the afternoon. We did, after we had decided not to go back to the hotel but, instead, to check out the "international bazar", the most ridiculous, uninteresting and virtually vacant hint of what might have been some shopping emporium at whatever time. We wandered around and decided that this was too depressing to spend any time at. We took the bus - miraculously it arrived the moment we showed up at the bus stop - back to Port Lucaya. You might remember that we went there a few days ago, checking out what we did or did not miss by not taking the boat there. Boy were we glad we had not taken the boat there...

We again wondered around and then decided to have a Greek lunch at Zorbas - not fancy but decent food, in the shade but served outside. We had local beer "Kalik" which we tasted for the first time in Fort Lauderdale. It went well with the food. I had a Greek salad - skipped the tomatoes - Juergen had a Greek sampler platter. We had a good time. By the time we were stuffed, we wandered around some more, sat on a bench to kill time, watch other tourists (mostly too large to describe) and some gekko-like creatures running around in the sun, hiding from pedestrians - see the pictures in our Gallery for today.

Then, we went back to the bus stop into "downtown Freeport", back to FedEx where we arrived around 1500 - no sight of our package. Come back around 3:30 / 4 p.m., she is at the airport... We went to Quiznos, the only place in the vicinity where we could sit and wait, drinking Snapple Iced Tea (they did not serve coffee - could not give us any reason). We showed up at FedEx again around 4 p.m. She had not come back yet. Please wait. Well, we did, this time, in the FedEx office. Of course, there were no chairs - but see Juergen, waiting for FedEx...

Then, around 5 p.m. after we had already gone to purchase bread and more lettuce, she had returned. We signed a few papers, Juergen paid $ 57 - the 50 we had already talked about and, yes, custom, 7% on the $ 100 value - again ridiculous, but short of not getting our package, we just swallowed our pride, will take this up with who ever at some future date (if it is worth the $ 7 which it might not be). We finally held the package in our hands and walked straight to the bus stop.

Thank God for Arthur, our trusted bus driver on all our Freeport adventures - he was standing there, talking on his cell phone, while his bus looked awfully crowded. He ensured that we would get on, sitting next to him - the poor man sitting against his portfolio of whatever papers - the back packed with people, adults and a few kids, not many, lots of food and beverage packages. We told him the story of our FedEx package and the fact that it took all day - he was sympathetic.

We finally started our return trip - in rain, with flooded streets, loud music, as always. We stopped at a gas station - the tank had been almost empty, but he did not fill it totally, he spent $ 20 if I saw this correctly. Arthur drove, stopped because two teens needed some food from a snack bar, stopped to deliver the trays of beverages and food, then stopped to drop off people. He was not happy about people not paying him properly, always smiled even when complaining, always honked to say "hi" to whoever was walking in the street. He was a terrific guy no matter what, his bus somewhat decrepid. He is the one who accommodated 16 preschool kids and 7 adults a few days ago. We just loved him.

By the time everyone was off, except us, I told him that he could not drop us off without me taking a picture of he and his bus. In the end, Juergen joined in the picture - see for yourself. Without Arthur, who picked up those tiny kids, stopped his bus to take them by his hands into the school, Kindergarden, or wherever they went. He did the same in reverse, when he picked them up from school again, always smiling, always friendly, freshly starched shirt, black hat, just amazing. We had given him a bag of candy for the kids - he placed a candy bar into each kid's backpack as they were leaving to go to school, no fuss, no discussion. It was just wonderful to see, and we are grateful for having had that experience. The man is worth gold in this environment, this economy. We are already sad that we will not experience this again.

He works from 6:45 a.m. to about 6 p.m. every day, half day on Saturdays and takes Sunday off. We figured, with the duty payable on cars (50%), his Toyota minivan cost him $ 30,000 roughly, i.e., depreciation (5 years), insurance, etc., his daily costs are at least $ 40 if not $ 50 plus gas which is quite expensive. Then, people pay little for the bus ride - I guess we as tourists were paying higher prices - and thought this to be fair. We think that he might clear $ 200 a day if that. At 250 work days, that would get hime $ 50,000 p.a. As living expenses are high in the Bahama Islands, he will not get rich, but he seems to have fun doing what he is doing. We wished we could help. - See our pictures in the Gallery.

March 24 What a day after yesterday. We had breakfast in the cockpit, played Backgammon, updated the website, made a few phone calls via SKYPE. I wrote some post cards, we had lunch - just a salad - then I invited Andy and Alice and Susann and Alan to join us for cocktails and to watch the movie "Peking Around Cape Horn". Alan showed up first, with two wine glasses and a bottle of red wine. Andy and Alice followed shortly. Susann was still working on some hors d'oeuvres which she wanted to bring. In the end she did. We had a great conversation, lots of fun, and around 2000, we finally went down below to watch the movie. As usual, it stirs up lots of emotions about boating and the conversation continued rather lively. Alan, Susann and we exchanged contact information. By 2130, all said good night and went to their respective boats. Susann and Alan asked that we visit with them tomorrow.

We had also bought six lobster tails (spine lobsters) in the late afternoon, from local fishermen who also had lots of conch. In the end, they refused to sell me some because they had promised it to someone else. At $ 20 for 3 lobster tails, we did not do well, but we also did not do badly. They even cleaned them for me so I could put them into the freezer right away. Tomorrow or the day thereafter, I for sure will cook lobster tails for us - something I had not expected.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I will have to do laundry again. I am not complaining. It could be worse. The wind continues to houl. Juergen is in bed reading, and I will go there soon as well.

March 25 The laundry is done - it took just about two hours. We went back to the boat, put on the bed sheets, etc., played some Backgammon. In the early afternoon, we walked around, took some pictures of strange looking trees. We heard music, went closer, found that the band was playing by the TIKI bar. We ordered Gombay Smash for the two of us. Then Susann showed up. She had been walking on the beach. We sort of pushed her to have a drink with us. We had a marvelous time talking - listening to live music - sharing experiences with our mothers. Hers is 81, had quadruple bypass surgery and has suffered some brain damage - sounds like Omi in many ways.

Susann left to "clean herself up" - she had been cleaning lobster bodies all morning. We talked for a while, then we just enjoyhed listening to the music. I took a few pictures (see Gallery) for the update. We walked back to the boat, spoke to Christa who is enjoying the visit of her husband "Koenigstein". He is cooking Wiener Schnitzel, Parsley portatoes, Austrian cucumber salad and serving a "Knoedelsoup". I guess, she is happy, which is all that counts. Our SKYPE connection was not very good, so we kept the discussion short. I just hope that she is happy with the visit.

In our Gallery, you can see some of the pictures I took this afternoon.

We were just about about to have dinner (potatoe salad with lobster tails - broiled with herb butter) when Andy came by to bring us pigeons, baked over a bed of rice. They were still hot, so we ate them after we had our dinner. They were quite interesting, not exactly what we would normally cook, but then, I don't think that Alice would normally cook pigeons. Someone in the islands had given them to her - they themselves deepfry them. Alice did not want to do this and went through pain to get a recipe that pleased her - how sweet.

After we were finished eating both our dinner (thank God we had not had any lunch, just the three drinks at the TIKI bar) Juergen took the empty dish, cleaned back with a bottle of red wine as a Thank You. Now, we are sitting down below, both on the computer, Juergen playing solitaire, I trying to update our website to the last minute so that there will not be too much time between updates when we don't have internet access. We still plan on being here tomorrow, and who knows what Tuesday's wind will bring. The weather forecast seems to push out any improvement by the day... or the week...

March 26 This morning, we double checked my navigation together, just to ensure that we would not hit water too shallow for our keep when we are (hopefully) leaving tomorrow morning around 0730. All seemed fine. I input all the waypoints, not only to Great Sale Cay, our first destination of the Abacos, but all the way to Green Turtle Cay, whereby it is not clear today whether or not we will truly stop over at Spanish Cay or whether we keep going once departing from our anchorage at Great Sale Cay all the way to Green Turtle Cay. That will depend on us, the weather and the time we will depart. We can only get into Green Turtle Cay at high tide, another factor to consider. The way it seems to me, we would get there more around mid-tide, not good as the entrance is very shallow. The harbor itself is deep enough. Getting in is the tricky part. We will see.

For this part of our journey, I will start a new page "Abacos - Part I".