Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today I parted ways with a new friend of barely five days. Banff aboard Blue Magic dropped his anchor next to mine last Sunday off Hopetown, and I am left with great memories, a few new skills (well, yet to be proven), improved living conditions, and a friend I look forward to seeing again on my next pass through Charleston.

My interest and enthusiasm for fishing on this trip has greatly increased since meeting Banff. I’m bored with diving for conch. They’re too easy to catch (not always easy to find, but once you see them, they’re a stationary target). Now, all I want to do is spear fish. We went out to the reef in his dingy two days in a row, one day he speared a grouper, and the next day a yellow-tailed snapper. I was all thumbs with the spear, not that I could even find a fish at which to take aim. I’m looking forward to a couple of months of practice as I sail further south into Eluethera and the Exumas.

I did come back on the second day with one good size conch. Banff suggested it would make a great conch horn, and I initially resisted the notion, not wanting to cut such a perfect shell. My friend and former co-captain from Halifax, Bob, who I stumbled upon at the anchorage at Man-o-War Cay a week or two ago (small world, eh?) agreed with Banff. He offered to use his Dremmel tool to cut the tip to make the horn. It was two against one, and I’m very pleased with the result. It’s a bit of a tradition down here, among the cruising boats anyway, to blow the conch horns at sunset. That evening, Banff showed me how it’s done (it’s not as easy as you may think to get a noise out of those things!). I used to be critical of the boaters who did it. I said it was cheesy. It is, and from now on, I’m joining them!

Banff makes a living working on boats, and was able to deal with everything that I’d gradually become completely fed-up with. Problems had compounded to the point that I couldn’t choose which one to tackle, so I did nothing. My sink was completely clogged, so I couldn’t do dishes. Both of my stove burners were on the fritz because I didn’t invest in the higher quality kerosene they require, and bread and peanut butter grows old quickly. And of course there were those things I gave up on a long time ago, the depth sounder and autopilot, neither of which have ever worked. Each morning Banff showed up to tackle another problem, and he wasted no time, obviously in his element. With the galley back in order, he turned to the depth sounder, which was fully installed and transducer embedded in the bilge in no time at all. A working depth-sounder is a very nice thing to have, and I’m sure I cannot fully appreciate the extent of the truth those words express as I write them. Now, while the autopilot is not fixed, at least he discovered that it’s the motor that’s causing me the trouble. And I’m not sure what I would have done the morning I was running my engine to charge my batteries, and the engine refused to shut down when I pulled the fuel shut-off.

Hopetown was a stop-over until the weather window opened for his final 393 nautical mile hop home to Charleston. This afternoon he was headed for a break in the reef to make his way offshore. I frequently struggle with what should be minor decisions, and I couldn’t decide whether I should stay in Hopetown for a while longer, or continue my journey southward. I felt torn and really didn’t know why. As he was making final preparations to get underway, I weighed anchor and headed south.

This evening, I’m anchored in relatively calm seas and utter blackness off Tillo Cay with a strong southeasterly breeze blowing, listening to the distant surf breaking, and I’m thinking of what it must be like on the Atlantic side of the reefs. I’m willing the moon to come up a little sooner tonight.

I understand now my need to leave Hopetown when I did. I never have liked the feeling of being the one left behind.