Monday, February 27, 2017

Fernandez Bay Cat Island

Cat Island is very special and non-touristy place. Yesterday as we walked around New Bight and strolled along the main road, every single person waved and greeted us. We are so glad we made the effort to come to this Out Island, thanks to Bentley and Jim of sv/Salty Paws who insisted that we sail here. They have told us for years to get out to Cat Island. Day one was New Bight and the hike up Mount Alvernia to Father Jerome's Hermitage. After that we sailed 1.5 hours north to Fernandez Bay where we dropped the hook right off the beach on one of the most beautiful bays we have ever seen. Look at this view over our bow....

As we walked the one mile beach, we looked back across the bay and zoomed in to take this photo with the rocky point to the northwest of the bay compressed into Island Spirit, so it looks closer than it is. We have our sunshades up all the time because we really try hard not to get too much sun. It is so bright and so intense that we get sunburned very easily. So, up with the shade every day.

After a morning of sanding teak and some more varnish work outside by Hayden and boat cleaning chores below decks by Radeen, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch out at the Fernandez Bay Resort. This place reminds me of a mini Bitter End Yacht club in the BVIs with the high quality landscaped grounds, interesting decorations and beautiful buildings. Check out this resort here:

Hayden working on teak varnish from the dinghy
Radeen enjoying a great lunch

The lobby with reading materials

The "honor" bar where you help yourself and pay later. Great rum punch!

The honor bar

Island Spirit anchored off the beach

The dinghy, "Buns II" is our car, the only one on the beach

View of our boat from lunch

The dining room with traditional thatched roof

Cool art work on the walls

Beach walks with sun hats, it is hot and sunny

We so enjoy this view

The entire Fernandez Beach at low tide all to ourselves, one mile long

The flying gable of the resort's main hall

So inviting

After a nice lunch and a long walk on the beach, we decide to cool off with a late day beach swim. This beach ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches we have been on. The sand is powder smooth and very firm and of course the water is "gin clear" like all lower Bahamian islands. 

Swimming time from the beach

One of 14 homes for rent with the resort, some homes are private

Just as we were preparing for showers and sunset, our buddies on Crealock 34 Neverland, Cynthia and Jim, sailed in. They dropped anchor off our starboard bow and drifted back into a very nice spot. PERFECT, now we have to stay another day! I dinghied over with some fresh yellow tail tuna to share the endless bounty of our fish, and then they stopped over to Island Spirit for a nice visit. We will explore the beach and resort more tomorrow. Check out Neverland framed by our galley porthole window. So cool. I love to take this photo.

Buddies Cynthia and Jim drop the hook next to us

Radeen and Jim at sunset with Neverland in the background

Hayden and Cynthia share a smile

We were treated to another beautiful Bahamas Sunset on the water as the conch horns rang out.....

Our sunset lighting up Fernandez Bay

Here is a Google Satellite photo of this location!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Hermitage Cat Island

...The Hermitage, New Bight, Cat Island...
It has long been a goal of ours to see Cat Island and to hike the highest hill in the Bahamas. Prevailing easterly trade winds and bad weather have prevented us from coming to this Out Island in the past, but this year we succeeded!

Father Jerome was an Englishman who first trained as an architect and a sculptor. In 1903, he became an Anglican priest who built churches in England before coming to the Bahamas for a brief time. After moving to the U. S., he converted to Catholicism and worked as a wagon train driver and a railway laborer. Then he went to Rome and became a Catholic priest in 1915. Next, he designed and built many large churches in Western Australia. Nearly 20 years later, he returned to the Bahamas, to New Bight on Cat Island. In 1939, Father Jerome began building The Hermitage, his residence with a private chapel and bell tower on Mount Alvernia, 206 feet above sea level. He died in 1956 at the age of 79 and is buried on the property. He built a total of 7 churches and one monastery in the Bahamas.

We are fortunate to have already seen two beautifull churches designed and built by Father Jerome in Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas. St. Paul's is Anglican (1910) and St. Peter's is Catholic (1947).  We plan to go to Long Island again, on our way southward out of the Bahamas.

Archway to Mount Alvernia.

Reliefs depicting the Stations of the Cross are along a very steep path to the top.

From left to right, the residence, the chapel and the bell tower

Looking west to the waters of Cat Island Bight.
Jerome's tiny bedroom is on the extreme right.

The roofs look recently whitewashed

There is debate whether or not this is Father Jerome's final resting place.

The chimney on the right is for the kitchen.

The entrance to the chapel through a narrow door. Notice the thick, sloped walls.

The spartan bedroom

Arches were used often throughout the buildings.

The inscription over the chapel door means "Shrine of the Holy Spirit"

The altar with a glass window to the east, over looking the Atlantic

A carved Celtic cross

Steep paths in all directions lead from the top of this hill.

Island Spirit viewed through the arch beside the bell tower.

There is a surprising amount of large vegetation on Cat Island, unlike other Bahamian Islands.

Resting in the shade on the beach after our hike

Walking with an umbrella to see Father Jerome's church

The Catholic Church of New Bight Cat Island built by Father Jerome

Stone benches on the beach across King's Highway from the Government Building.
Island Spirit on the horizon.

A squall on the horizon that fortunately did not reach us.

Today was one of the highlights of our cruising season! We wish we had more time to enjoy the colorful fish shacks along the beach here at New Bight and the rake and scrape music from the Sailing Center that welcomed us on Saturday evening. The town encourages boaters to visit and  has built an amazing bath house with 3 stalls and one shower for men and for women. It is spacious with tile walls and countertops, well ventilated and spotlessly clean. There are no facilities like this anywhere else in the Bahamas. We are grateful to our friends Jim and Bentley of s/v Salty Paws for their excellent recommendations about Cat Island!

Remember, we are running a live tracking map recording our travels here, it shows out latest point:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tuna Landed

...Yellow Fin Tuna....
We decided to take this calm weather window and motor over to Cat Island, one of the far islands we have visited in the five years we have sailed to the Exumas. Cat Island has zero protection from west winds, so you need to go there when it is calm, and you can easily stay there when the east trade winds are blowing. Well, we had the calm today to motor the 50 nm over to Cat and tomorrow it will begin blowing from the NE then East so we can anchor safely anywhere on Cat. We plan to explore New Bight, and Frenandez Bay and they maybe Hawks Nest marina before sailing back on the East trade winds to George Town for more Regatta fun.

On the way over, I finally landed out first tuna, it was a 28" yellow fin tuna. We both were so excited. How wonderful to finally land a really nice fish on Island Spirit. We have trailed fishing lines for thousands of miles and today, we finally landed a nice proper sized tuna, and a yellow fin as that. One of the best. We estimate that this created 16 meals at least and we will share with other boaters. What a great treat!

Island Spirit 1, Fish 1,002, so let the games continue. Right now, the fish are winning :-)

Here are some photos of the adventure.

The day started calm in Kidds Cove Elizabeth Harbour, George Town

It was a calm motoring day, no sails
I set out out the lines before we went around the reef and out Conch Cut to sea, but it was not until 7 to 8 miles offshore that the rod dipped and the reel started running out. We had to stop the boat as I could not reel in the fish. After 5-10 minutes. I had the fish along side, Radeen handed me the gaff . I gaffed the fish and landed it into the cockpit. Now the chaos began, We sprayed the fish with fresh rum and that calmed it while I proceeded to knock it out and then bleed it out. Lucky for us, we were also running the watermaker and we had a full tank of water, so we used the fresh water to clean the fish AND the cockpit. All in all, it was exciting, but Radeen was not quite as excited about the entire landing as I was. So, we now have procedures to work out and improve. :-)

I caught this tuna on a Cedar Plug

Yellow Tail Tuna

I tried to get every piece of meat to not waste any

Chipped gelcoat repairs. I hit this corner with a winch handle...
Well....I got so excited during the landing and the taming of the tuna, that I actually damaged our gelcoat as I was swinging the winch handle and knocking out the fish. What??? Errrrrr, Well, I chipped the gelcoat as I hit the corner with the winch handle. I did not even know I hit the step. All of it was truly was a Chinese fire drill. We really need to get better at this fishing game. Right now we are newbies. Here is proof of the excitement....errrr....and the damages to our boat....Oh, the price of Tuna!

No problem, tape it and paint it covered

Every IP needs to carry some ivory paint, got it...spray, spray...fixed

Done....what fish damage?  It is gone.

Tonite on anchor, we thought we might actually see our first green flash, but the sunset did not produce one. Still, look how beautiful the sunset was. It was a really great day on the boat. Something new all the time. We have lots to learn about fishing, that is for sure!

Then it was time for a seared tuna steak, pasta with veggies in a honey and rosemary sauce with some red wine, Bogle Cabernet.
What a perfect day....

Tuna Steak seared

Red in the center, perfect

Good night to all, and to all a good night....Thank you for sailing along.