Feb 2007 – A week in Pipe Creek with Grampa Bruce

The week my Dad has picked to join us is predicted to be a week of very unsettled weather with winds from the west (uncommon in the Bahamas with its prevailing easterlies).  There will be lots of wind and good all round protection is needed.  After picking Dad up we headed to a great little anchorage near Compass Cay.  Protection is good and we have it all to ourselves… for a little while.  We’ll need to sit in this anchorage the entire week that Dad is here.  At first we’re a little disappointed by that necessity, but in the end this week in Pipe Creek will reveal itself to be one of our best.  The false pressure to take our guest sailing to other areas is removed.  And the foul weather comes mostly during the nights leaving at least half a day, everyday of good weather for exploring Pipe Creek. 

We have a wonderful time playing in Pipe Creek and hanging out on Grace.  Nearby Joe Cay is one of our favorite spots with its enormous tide pool with its miniature mountainous landscape, baby trunkfish and other assorted creatures.  Our friends from Steadfast are docked at Compass Cay marina, a very small and secluded marina that is close enough for us to snag free wifi with a satellite internet.  They invite us over for a wonderful breakfast and give us the invaluable gift of 5 gallons of Buzz’s famous fresh water from Steadfast’s super-duper watermaker.  Their daughter Chrissy gives the boys art lessons and paints a beautiful watercolor of Grace at anchor (a generous gift commissioned for us by my Dad).  A painting by Chrissy and beautiful card handmade by her mom Rosemary solve the problem of finding a valentines day present for Mummy!

We also get the amazing experience of being able to take the Finnhooey (our dinghy) into the caves on the east side of Rocky Dundas.  Normally the easterly winds make this suicidal but with winds from the west we are able to duck down and drive right in.  The caves are spectacular!  They seem to glow with an iridescent green.  I always remember seeing that green in the caverns of old sci-fi movies and thought is was more fiction than science.  But no, it is amazingly green!  The caves are enormous with stalactites hanging ominously from the ceiling and illuminated by light streaming through one circular opening at the apex.

I take my Dad out on a “hunting” expedition for lobster.  Unfortunately we don’t find any lobsters but do manage to get some glass-eyed snapper which are small but fresh and tasty.  Dad gets to participate in all the excitement that can go with hunting for dinner down here.  First I have a standoff with a large (over 4 foot) barracuda.  The barries are protective of their reefs but often you can swim toward them and get them to move on.  I try that with this guy but he decides that my own tactics might work against me.  He’s right.  He makes some quick moves towards me and I move onto another spot.  Then we get our second excitement for the day vicariously.  My friend Mike from Meggie shows up with his wife Kylie driving their dinghy.  They are working a spot that is only about 300 feet away but on the back side of a small rock island and out of sight.  When my Dad and I dinghy over to see how they are doing, Mike is sitting in the dinghy with his mask off.  He is white-faced and breathing rapidly.  I ask if he saw anything.  “Yeah, big toothy beast!”  Apparently a reef shark which I did not see swam from somewhere on my side of the rock toward him.  Neither Mike nor the shark saw each other until they turned the corner and met face to face 10 feet apart.  Fortunately both Mike and the big toothy beast turned in opposite directions.  That was enough hunting for that day!

Toward the end of the week, a really big blow is predicted.  Our anchor is well set so we are not going to move from this spot.  My Dad’s flight is out of Staniel Cay nine miles to the south.  But there is a mostly protected path down Pipe Creek.  The “Creek” is actually a long narrow harbor that is created by numerous small islands.  So after a fantastic week of dinghy exploration, we make Finnhooey’s longest voyage 9 miles to Staniel Cay.  Of course we have to make one small detour to Big Major’s Spot to see the famous swimming pigs.

The week with my Dad was really great.  In your adult years it can be easy to lose touch with your parents, especially sons and fathers.  This week was a great opportunity for the two of us to reconnect and for my Dad and Megan to really get to know each other well.  And of course, the boys were thrilled to spend the whole week exploring with someone who really enjoys being a big kid.  Guests on boats can be very difficult to accommodate but not my Dad.  We all had a really great week.

Returning to Grace after dropping off my Dad, I get to visit with many friends we’ve met along the way.  Pipe Creek offers good all round protection so everyone is getting settled in for the big blow that is coming.  I discuss the finer points of hunting glass-eyed snapper with Neal and Stephanie on Rhapsody.  I also stop to see Norm on Windsong.  His beautiful Taswell 47 was hit by the infamous Spirit of Texas back at Allan’s Cay.  We chat about that and wonder who Spirit of Texas will be maligning during the coming blow.  (We later find out that Spirit of Texas has hit another boat and will drag onto our friends on Spoony.  They actually wrap Spoony’s anchor bridle around their prop and Mark has to dive in the middle of the season’s biggest 50 knot storm to free the Spirit of Texas from his boat.)

The big blow comes and we weather its 42 knots fine.  We have some exciting moments as another boat comes into the anchorage and drops their anchor on top of ours and sits a boat length in front of us literally minutes before the 42 knot wall of the front hits us.  This storm has been predicted for a week yet they are anchoring minutes before it arrives!  There’s so much more I could say about this but I’ve already said it to everyone we’ve seen and Megan is tired of my repeating it!

After the blow passes, I have a surreal moment as I sit in the cockpit on anchor watch just to make sure the wind has really passed.  A Bahamian comes on VHF16 and says the Minister of Immigration will be making an address on the AM radio at 89PM.  Since we’re foreigners on a cruising permit, I figure I should listen.  At 9PM the Prime Minister comes on and introduces the Minister of Immigration… now remember the crew of Grace has been isolated from US news with the exception of Anna Nicole’s death which was the only thing on the satellite TV at the Blackpoint Laundry.  So what does the Minister of Immigration have to say?  “I am resigning” and there was nothing improper about his granting Anna Nicole special consideration for her immigration and “I deny the press allegations that I had a sexual relationship with Ms. Smith.”  Unbelievable!

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