Jumentos, Ragged Islands and Great Inagua

We’re setting off in about 3 hours to look at green hills, listen to reggae music and eat green vegatables. Jamaica. This country wasn’t on the original shopping list. But then neither was Canada. It’ll take us about 2 days to get there, departing from Great Inagua in the Bahamas then nipping round the east of Cuba and heading to Errol Flynn Marina.

We’ve just threaded our way carefully though an uncharted area of coral heads, me on the bow shouting and pointing while, dave did the driving. It’s quite an unnerving experience but with good visibility and the sun high in the sky, the task is achievable. Popping through narrow gaps with rock awash on either side is in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, ‘squeaky bum time”.

The last three weeks or so have seen us visit many of the quieter bits of the Bahamas. We’ve travelled in the company of a few “kid” boats. There a website named Kids for Sail but of course when it’s spoken out loud, it could be Kids for Sale. Which often raises a llttle snigger. Boats with kids on, seem to actively seek out other boats with kids. Kids are happy, parents are happy. Simple formula.

So there have been many snorkelling expeditions, fires on the beach, adult social evenings while the kids watch a movie on another boat, fishing trips and assorted fun and games. The parents generally do school in the morning for a couple of hours then it would appear to be playtime the rest of the day. Unless there’s been naughtiness and said kid / Dave is confined to their cabin or banned from snorkelling that day. Kids on boats are no different to kids on land wanting their own way or trying to stamp their authority.

One of the highlights of being on Great Inagua was randomly meeting a school teacher from the local school. We visited class the following day and I pretended to be a teacher for about an hour, talking about travel and geography and comparing England to the Bahamas. It was fun. I got bit confused about the Queen and the Commonwealth, not really my top subject,  so moved on quickly!

As we left all the kids (there were 10 in the class) came up and gave me hugs. Just like in England I’m lead to believe 😀


What’s in a name?

Slo Desire and First Love were chatting to each other on the radio as we arrived into Water Cay on the Jumentos. I thought I was arriving into a 1970’s soft porn boat movie. Probably not the picture either owner wanted to create when they proudly named their boats. It set me thinking that there are some farcical boat names out there. Trust me. The name Wet Dream might be endlessly sniggeringly funny to 13 and 14 year old boys. Picture me rolling my eyes with tedium imbued when meeting a rotund bloke in his late 60’s who thinks it’s top notch humour. Sorry sir, your credibility is shot even before open your mouth.

How your boat is perceived through its name is one thing. Another, more practical consideration is how a name comes across on the vhf, which isn’t always audibly crystal clear and is the number one way for asking for help. This summer we heard a boat called Layday. Well we worked out it was Layday, at first thinking it was a mayday call. Get my point here. I hold my hands up to being a dullard and stickler. If I need help, and I very much hope I don’t, unnecessary confusion is the last thing I want in such a situation.

Calico Skies. Of all the boat names we’ve come across, that’s my favourite. Apparently it’s the name of a love song by Paul McCartney. I really must look this up. I don’t know what a Calico Sky is but to me the name suggests space, possibilities, smiles and adventures. It’s actually the name of an American boat that belongs to a friend of ours, Bill who we spent time with in Bermuda. Good name choice my man. Your boat name has stuck with me.

Time has ticked by a few days and today finds us off Raccoon Cay in the Ragged Islands. No raccoons have been spotted but there are many feral goats and a salt pond that was once worked for the production of well, you’ve guessed it, salt. There’s little else man-made here. We are tucked up close to shore as the winds are a bit stronger today and won’t move until they’ve abated.

We have had a few more varied animal encounters. The first quite a gastronomic feast. Our table was filled with food collected from the sea. Conch salad for starter, followed by lobster tail and fish. Sound like a high end restaurant. Not the usual fare of a boy from a pit village and a girl from a remote part of the countryside.

Then from the security of a neighbouring boat, we watched as two massive bull sharks circled around one night. The four young kids on board screamed with excitement shining torches as the beasts cruised about under the 3 dinghies tied off at the back of the boat. These powerful creatures were in touching distance. We witnessed no evidence of any aggression, which Dave and I were quite happy about when it came time to get in our small dinghy and motor the 150m back to our boat in the dark.

The final encounter was sailing into a pod of maybe 10 or 12 resting pilot whales. Dad of two of the kids is a marine biologist so he filled us in on the behaviour we were witnessing and how to distinguish the males and the females. Ghosting along under sail, the whales unthreatened by any engines were resting. Apparently they chill out during the day as they feed at night. We watched for maybe an hour then the big male breached, which seemed to be a signal for the pod to move on as they disappeared under water.

Time for me to move on and contemplate the washing up.

My perfect cousin

Conception Island delivered us a pet. We named him Fergal. He had undertones of menace but like most pets, was allegedly pretty chilled as long as you didn’t try to poke him or upset him.

Fergal arrived as soon as dropped anchor in the bay. He had 3 friends with him and they cruised slowly underneath the boat for maybe twenty minutes before heading off into the blue. He came back the next day about the same time, a couple of hours before sunset. Guess he has a watch or a sun dial. Or evening munchies.

Nurse sharks are supposedly just like big fish and won’t bother humans as long as you don’t bother them. I have to report we didn’t check that out in person. Something longer than me mooching about under your boat is not conducive to a spur of the moment swim. And I didn’t particularly fancy sharing the same space.

We did swim, but close to shore. And had several rounds of bat and ball over the two days we were here. Can’t imagine it does much for your tennis with many randomly improvised shots but we had some fun and it’s surprisingly knackering exercise.

The interior of Conception Island is mostly a lagoon surrounded by mangroves. We took the dinghy over the breaking sand bar, navigating the dog leg and anchored it up in a small bay just inside. Then we continued on the paddle boards till the route became too shallow even for them. The tide was honking out so it was quite hard work. We saw a few turtles and fish although not as many as in other places. Which was surprising as it’s a National Park here and we thought there’d be loads.

We’d done a circular trip a few days earlier on the boards on Cat Island. Up an inlet, through the flats then back along the ocean shore. It was well over 4 miles according to the route finding on navionics. Not bad for us novices.

Cat Island was amusing and included afternoon drinks with a mad friendly family who had a beautiful house on the beach. I first thought that passing boats gave them an excuse to have a social drink in the afternoon. Then it dawned on me, they didn’t need any excuse whatsoever to have a drink in the afternoon. (I had to battle to get a straight ginger beer without rum). The two women of advancing years seems to enjoy embarrassing their sons who were about our age by going skinny dipping in the evening. Another property along the beach was called Two Moons.

It felt like a community which had a backstory. Maybe 15 houses on the beach. A mix of 2 week holiday makers and long-termers who spend several months each winter there. The long-termers all knew each other and on the surface everything was jolly. But like a 6 week drama series on tv, there were stories to be told about each character and maybe secrets to be shared.

I will never know if this was just my mind working overtime. But I could be pitching the idea to some tv producers in the near future!