Bonnie and Jim Miller sailed their Newfoundland-registered Victoire yacht ‘Vagrant Sea’ from the Queen City Yacht Club in Toronto via the ICW to the Bahamas
Sailing the Bahamas – Long Island – ICW South part 4
Who knew how we would settle in here in Long Island? I’m almost afraid to describe Joe’s Sound as the most protected anchorage imaginable, as we have stretched its capacity to the limit this year, but the whole world would gravitate here if they only saw it once. The entry is unbelievable, even by Bahamas standards. Water depth is not bad, probably at least six feet at low time, but the width of the opening is not much greater than the depth! Most boats wait until dead high water, with no current and preferably no onshore wind to make it through. Inside, there is a long, narrow channel between the mangroves on shore and a wide sandbank which dries at low tide. We had been told that twelve boats would be maximum, but that record has long been surpassed. One night six boats were anchored outside waiting for better conditions before coming through the cut. We invited them in to one of the regular beach happy hours, then told them we would be conducting a lottery to see which three would be permitted in next day!
The standard two anchors are mandatory; sometimes we’ve had to go to three in the horrible winds of a few weeks ago. We have undone our hurricane preparations of a couple of weeks ago. Yes, one night Herb Heidelburg of Southbound II ( the southern Ontario-based weather oracle we all depend on) told us to get ready to for storm to gale force winds from the system which devastated Florida. The winds “only” reached 50 knots in the sound, but it was not a good time. We have now returned the usual cruiser clutter of jerry cans to the deck, put the lifesaving gear in the cockpit again and the jib back on the furling system and stopped carrying the #3 anchor around with us in the dinghy. We have also done a few boat chores which have been on our list since August.
Long Island, our home for the past month, has a quiet charm. The people are welcoming and we have had the pleasure of getting to know many of them as we become regulars at the small local businesses. The grocery stores carry the basics and we like to shop for what is cheap and good – eggs, New Zealand butter, lamb, guava jam. Orphelia, the bread lady, not only makes fresh, fragrant bread like everyone imagines their grandmother used to make, but shares the goodness and wisdom accumulated over her long life. Now in her 70s, she still cultivates three small farms, two of which she must reach by boat. She also has a formidable wit and has been known to put Jim in his place.
We have made a couple of excursions to Clarence Town, near the southeast end of the island. The fifty mile journey takes two hours, but is worth it for the great citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes and bananas we get at the packing plant, and for the conch fritters (twelve for $2) at the nearby restaurant. I counted 34 churches along the way. The two in Clarence Town are especially striking. Located on competing hilltops, both were built by the same priest, the first when he arrived as an Anglican, the second following his conversion to Catholicism.
Canadian boats in the area include Le Manitou and Cofesi (probably spelled wrong) from Quebec, without whom social life in the sound would be terribly dull. Young Noeimi delivered Valentines and chocolates to the anchorage on Saturday and the adults arranged for the entire cruising community to attend the special Valentine Rake and Scrape at a local restaurant. They are also exceptionally proficient at fishing and happy to instruct others. Mollie, from Oakville, arrived a few days ago, just after Chain Reaction and Tranquillizer from Thunder Bay moved on. There are ten boats from Thunder Bay in the area; these two came south via the Mississippi. Oh, and there are people from Vernon, BC.
Must get on with my daily papaya harvest.
Fair winds and snug harbours,
Bonnie James – Vagrant Sea
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