Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Adventures of Captain Gale: The Suprise Visit

From: BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu [mailto:BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu]
Sent: Saturday, March 22, 2003 11:27 AM
To: celebration_news@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [celebration_news] The Surprise Visit

Hello hello. When last we met our intrepid hero had fearlessly crossed the dreaded Devil's Backbone Reef, with his knees barely knocking...

I spent about a week in the waters near Harbour Island. Harbour Island is a good place to see the Cluster Effect in action. When a boat comes into a harbor, they look for where the other boats are and immediately anchor there, regardless of wind, waves, tide, holding, scenery, etc. When I reached Harbour Island, I unwittingly fell int this trap and spent the night off the town docks. Endless water taxis zoomed by at all hours of the night, and their wakes, combined with the 2 mile fetch the wind had to create waves, created a restless night. The following morning I wised up and sailed two miles to the southern end of the bay. I found a beautiful sand ancorage in 7' of water, with my own private beach an easy swim or dinghy ride away. It was a ideal location, exactly as I had dreamed this vacation would be like. I would dinghy over to Beagle's Beach in the morning with my book and chair, and spend the morning reading. If it got hot, I'd move the chair under a Palm tr!
ee. If it got hotter, I'd go for a swim. At lunch I'd swim back to the boat for lunch and a nap. In the afternoon, more reading, swimming and napping. If I wanted t go to town, I had an easy half hour sail. Paradise. I could have stayed there forever. I might have, in fact, were it not for a certain friend of mine.

I decided one afternoon that I was in need of an ice cream, so I sailed over to town. On a whim I checked my email on the way to the creamery. Not much mail, except for the three emails from my buddy Brian.

Number one, written on Friday, telling me he lands in Nassau on Saturday.

Number two, written on Saturday, letting me know that he'll definitely be in Nassau on Saturday.

Number three, written Sunday morning, letting me know that indeed he did fly in on Saturday to Nassau.

I was reading these emails Sunday afternoon.

I never did get my ice cream. I managed to make it to Nassau by Monday, and Brian and I, together with two of Brian's friends from North Carolina, left Nassau directly for the Abacos, where we spent the rest of the week. I taught the Carolinians about sailing, and they taught me about such delicacies as canned Vienna Sausages and Beanee Weenees. (For those of you who have never tried these canned delights, they taste about as good as they sound, which is to say not very.)

The North Carolina contingency left a week ago Saturday, and on their heels were three days of incredible storms. Marsh Harbour, where I was holed up, got up to 8" of rain between Saturday and Tuesday morning, and when one boater asked another what the wind got up to in one particularly violent squall, the boater replied, "well, my anemometer reported up to 67 knots before it blew away!"

On Tuesday the weather returned to normal, I've spent much of the remaining week with my friend Ben and his family in Hopetown on Elbow Cay, where Ben and his family rented a house for the week. They treated me to some fantastic homecooked meals and let me use their even more fantastic shower! Also while with Ben and the fam, I saw the most incredible sight I have seen in my five months on the boat.

While we were floating along in a motorboat, a five foot manta ray leapt out of the water about 100' from us. I have often seen the splash of a ray landing, or out of the corner of my eye the flash of the sun reflecting off a ray's back while in midair. But with this ray I happened to be watching the water at the exact spot he took off from, and was able to see his entire trajectory, from surface to the crest of his arc about five feet above the water to the crash-landing 10 feet from the take-off point. To see this ray soar to remove parasites from his body was absolutely incredble, though since manta rays can grow to over 22 feet and 3000 pounds I have decided I do not need to see a larger one jump!

Ben and his family left this morning, and this afternoon my friend Robin shows up for the Abaco tour. After Robin comes Josh from Burlington, and then I reclaim my boat for another month or so of solo saling before i begin my trek north. I hope all is well with you all.


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The Adventures of Captain Gale: The Land of Unfinished Dreams

From: BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu [mailto:BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu]
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2003 10:56 AM
To: celebration_news@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [celebration_news] The Land of Unfinished Dreams

Greetings from the land of sun and heat! It seems that all of the United States' heat has been sent south to me in the Bahamas. It has been cloudless with highs in the 90s and lows in the mid 70s for the past week and a half, ever since I left Tom and Ryan in Nassau. A bit warmer than I like it - I'm more of an 80s/60s person myself. But I have broad shoulders with which to carry this burden, so I shan't complain.

After leaving Nassau I headed to Royal Island, an island 3 miles long whose center is carved into a nice cove that offers 360 degree protection from the winds. I spent several hours exploring the ruins of what was once someone's vacation home.

A man on a neighboring boat called the Bahamas "The land of unfinished dreams," and I can see his point. I have seen dozens of abandoned buildings in my time here: some are simply foundations; some were near completion when abandoned, with the stickers still on the windows; and some, like on Royal Island, long abandoned and being reclaimed by the island. This one is more of a vacation complex than a vacation home, more than a half dozen buildings with tile walkways between them. There was a two story main house and several smaller houses, perhaps for the employees, perhaps guest houses. There were small storage buildings, a covered porch, and a large building serving as a great room, with vaulted ceilings and enourmous fireplace. The occupants had built roads across the island and ringing the harbor. There were 5 foot high, 3 foot wide stone walls, an enormous concrete pier on each side of the island, and the side of one hill had been terraced for what I imagine must h!
ave been incredible gardens. I always wonder what might have happened to cause such a place to be abandoned - the death of the owner, a loss of wealth, perhaps a former hideout for a former drug lord!

From Royal Island I made a day trip to Spanish Wells, an immaculate little town with perfect little houses and their perfect little gardens in the perfect front yards. I visited here three years ago with Nisa and Truman, and aside from the appearance that everyone's name seems to be Pinter here, my strongest memory was visiting the grocery store. A little backgroung info - Truman has an enormous love of icecream. Whenever I talk to Truman on the phone, I like to ask "How many containers of icecream are in the freezer?", to which the reply is someting along the lines of, "Only 6, and one is Nisa's!" Well, on their trip three years ago, we went to the grocery in Spanish Wells, and when we got to the ice cream freezer - well, it was like a kid at the mall just before Christmas. Truman stood agog in front of a 12-pack of those cheap icecream sandwiches with the fake chocolate cookie that are soooo good. Now, Truman and Nisa don't haverefrigeration on their boat, it's 90 deg!
rees outside, and we're a mile or so from the boat. I say, "no way - ther'es no way I'm gonna let you buy that, it would be 4 sandwiches per person!" To which Truman replied, "are you Kidding?? I could eat two before we got to the register!"

Fast forward three years, and I'm looking at a six-pack of ice cream sandwiches (a denomination they did not have in 2000). Heartbroken, I left he store ad island empty-handed. And now Truman, with all these witnesses, I offer my apologies. Next time we have an ice cream party in Aisle 11!

The following day, another boat that I met at royal I. and I rented a guide to get us through the maze of reefs known as The Devil's Backbone. We had waited for a calm day, and it wasn't too hairy, but with a reef 50 feet to port, a limestone and sand beach 75 feet to stadrboard and swells on the beam rolling the boat through 60 degrees and pushing the boat toward shore, it certainly kept me on my toes! An engine problem on this windless day would have been, well, bad.

Once over the Backbone I entered a nice 5 mile long, 1 mile wide bay enclosed by Harbor Island, a fancy tourist town with posh hotels and villas, all unobtrusive and very nice. There are little stores to shop in if that's what you fancy. There's a lovely 3.5 mile "pink sand" beach, though pink might be a generous description. Best of all, however, is the rumor that there's a place to get an icecream cone here!
I'll let you all guess what I'll be doing tomorrow.


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Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Adventures of Captain Gale: Fishing with Tom

From: BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu [mailto:BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 11:27 AM
To: celebration_news@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [celebration_news] fishing with Tom

Hello from Nassau. The boat is getting quiet, with Ryan having left on the morning BahamasAir flight and Tom leaving on tomorrrow's. We pulled into Nassau yesterday afternoon, taking 6 days to do the run from Georgetown. As I said last week, we expected Tom to improve our fishing technique, as we kept catching barracuda. I had asked Tom to bring a couple lures, and he came on board with half a fishing store's worth - hooks, swivels, leader, line, and lures in every color imaginable.

Our first day was a long one, 40 miles or so to Farmer's Cay. But we had great wind for sailing, and we trolled for fish at 7 knots, catching 5 barracuda but nothing edible (though the islanders tell us differently). On day 2, however, Tom proved his worth with a mahi, which, cooked three ways proved to be quite a feast! The next day while sailing we caught another edible fish, this one a bo. Many of you may not be familiar with a bo, and I had not seen one until we caught this guy. We!
were sailing along and got a bite, the biggest of my journey. It hit the lure, ran out some line, stopped, and then the line started SCREAMING off the rod. Definitely not a barracuda! Ryan was on the rod, and for some reason the fish no longer had any fight left in him, and when we got him close to the boat he was just skipping along the surface of the water. All became apparent when we got him in the net.

The fish that ate the lure turned out to be a bonita. After the initial small run, something big - Tom's guessing a mako, but in any event, a LARGE shark - decided he liked the looks of our bonita, and with one giant bite he took the back 2/3 of our fish. After that, all we reeled in was a head and a bit of body. It was absolutely incredible to see these enormous teeth marks and realize the speed and power involved in turning our bonita dinner into a bo- for a snack.

We had another great sail, but after listening to the weather forecast we realized we were in for 25 knots for the last two days of the vacation. We tucked into Norman's Pond, which I knew to be well protected. We tucked ourselves into a little cove, with 100' between ourselves and the shore where the prevailing winds would be and 50' behind us to a dock. We set two anchors and started playing hearts.

Tom and I are marathon hearts players. We have often played hearts all night, gone out to breakfast and straight to work. We taught Ryan to play at the beginning of the vacation, and by now he was pretty good. We played hearts for hours, finally throwing in the towel at 5am. We were tide restricted in our anchorage and couldn't leave until noon, so we could sleep the morning away.

At least that was the plan. But at 7:00 I woke up to screaming gusts of winds. I lept out of bed and jumped into the cockpit where tom was sleeping. We looked at each other and Tom said, " I think we're moving. Yep, we're dragging." With a lee shore 50 feet away and, as we later found out, 40 knot gusts, that's bad.

Tom got the engine going as I worked my way to the bow against the wind and rain. When I got there I looked back to see the dinghy wrapped around a piling at the dock. Tom finally got the boat going and, broadside to the wind, slid past the dock with five feet to spare. The dinghy was able to untangle itself and I pulled up 2 anchors in 30 seconds. We headed for a different anchoring location - less protected but with a half mile of water downwind in case we should drag again! Tom and Ryan were back asleep 20 minues after the excitement began. Me, I was to jazzed up to sleep again that day. We pulled our anchor up a few hours later and motored to Highborne Cay for a night at a marina while the front blew through later that day.

The Bahamas does not generally experience much rain, and in fact it had not yet rained in February. But as we tied up at Highborne it began to pour and continued for the next 24 hours. We were time constrained by Ryan's flight, so yesterday we motorsailed through the rain and 20+
knot winds with a double-reefed main. We were able to run safely around the coral heads and arrived safely in Nassau at 3:00

Ryan left first thing this morning, and Tom leaves tomorrow at noon. I'm sorry to see them go, but I'm happy to have a few weeks to myself. I'm heading to Eleuthera for a few weeks before I have to be in the Abacos for the next wave of visitors. I will be taking it slow and easy, making sure I don't keep any schedule whatsoever.

Thanks again to all who have written recently. You can reply to this message to write to me, but please remember to delete my original message
before sending it to me. Let me know how you're doing!


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The Adventures of Captain Gale: In Search of fish...

From: BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu [mailto:BrianGale@alum.bucknell.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2003 4:35 AM
To: celebration_news@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [celebration_news] In search of fish...

It has been a few weeks since my last posting, no? I guess that means I've done a good job avoiding towns! For two weeks I meandered north through the Exumas, working my way from Georgetown to Nassau. I visited Warderick Wells fo a few days, and spent my time in the quiet south anchorage, next to the "Pirate's Lair". A cheesy name for an area I thought, until I found out that this was the actual anchorage that Blackbeard and other pirates of the early 1700s used while laying in wait for victims. I was delivering 350 t-shirts from Georgetown for the Land and Sea Park headquartered there, so I was spared the usual looting and pillaging.

I continued north and spent 5 days in the Norman's Cay North Harbor, also known as The Pond. A good description of the place, it made me feel like I was in a pond in Vermont. The harbor is a mile and a half long by maybe a quarter mile wide, and the entrance is hidden around a bend. All you can see for 360 degrees is low hills and trees, with nothing man-made to spoil the view. Since the entrance has shoaled to about 5 feet at high tide, I shared the mile and a half with only 6 other boats. In five days I spoke to 2 other people. It was great.

I arrived in Nassau and spent the time enjoying air conditioning and drinks with ice in them. My friend Ryan showed up, he has signed up for two weeks at the Brian Gale Sail Instruction School. He can also cook well, so he has done most of the teaching thus far.

We've spent the last 6 days heading southeast back to Georgetown. Aside frm the sailing and snorkling, we've become kings at catching the scariest fish in the sea, the barracuda. In the past four days we've caught and released 4 of these ugly suckers as large as three feet long. We also caught another fish, not a barracuda, which ran out 100 yards of line, jumped twice and streaked away from the boat before the leader parted. We're not sure what it was, but we're leaning towards, uhhh, sailfish. It was THIS BIG, let me tell you. Go ahead, ask one of us when you see us next, we'll tell you all about it.

Fortunately for us, my friend Tom shows up in Georgetown today to teach us how to get on track with the good-tasting fish, not just the freak show of the deep. Tom, Ryan and I will be spending the next six days heading back Northwest to Nassau, where they'll both depart from. And then, who knows? Perhaps Eleuthera, perhaps the out islands, perhaps back to the Dairy Queen that I found in Nassau!

I hope all is well with everyone and that this yahoo group is working. If it's not working out, please let me know. And please keep writing, I enjoy keeping in touch with everyone.

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