Thursday, May 30

Land Ho...Great Inagua, Bahamas

We made it!  We arrived in Great Inagua, Bahamas as the sun was rising at 6:30 am. on Thursday, April 25th.  We had a great passage with the exception of a broken hatch.  On the second day of our passage, the wind was still blowing at 20 knots from our stern.  The sails were set in the wing on wing position (the jib on one side and the main on the other).  We use a preventer (line tied from the sail to a cleat) so that if the wind changes slightly, the sail doesn't accidentally gybe on its own.  The wind had shifted just enough that we didn't need to be wing on wing anymore.  Craig went out on deck and removed the preventer so he could put the jib back on the other side.  Every other time we did this maneuver, we bring the bow of the boat into the wind a little, pull the jib sheet in so that it flips to the other side with minimal force.  On this particular day, Craig did not wait for the boat to come into the wind.  Instead, he man handled the sail with all his might and as soon as the wind got a hold of the sail, it whipped to the other side.  That in and of itself is bad for the sail and the rigging, but that is not the worst of the story.  Craig happened to be holding the jib sheet at the time and didn't let go.  In his mind, he was going to gently let the sheet out, protecting it from harm.  What he forgot was that 20 knots of wind packs a big punch!  Let me just say that all I saw from the helm was 2 bare feet flying clear across the deck...all 21 feet!  The power of the jib whipping to the other side sent Craig flying.  Luckily, he had a good grip.  Unfortunately, he landed on our bathroom hatch and cracked it in 3 places.  He sliced his baby toe in the process.  It was a moment of panic and mixed emotions...."are you okay?!"...."what were you thinking?!"  I thought for sure he had broken a couple of ribs or knocked his head on something.  I was thankful that he stopped at the hatch and didn't continue overboard.  That would have been a bad way to end the day.

The island of Great Inagua is flat as flat can be and very barren.  We didn't see the island as we approached in the boat until we were right up next to it.  That was a very different experience than the Caribbean Islands, that are so mountainous.

Craig trying to go into town to check in to the Bahamas, but there was quite a road block in the way.  The mail boat was there dropping off supplies, pretty much blocking the entire entrance to the harbor.  The inlet was just wide enough for one boat a time.   He eventually tied up to a derelict, abandoned fishing boat that we later learned was confiscated for drug trafficking.

The cruising guide said the the harbor was only big enough to accommodate a few boats at a time.  Truth be told, the 'harbor' was less than ideal with no room for any boats other than the various fishing boats half sunk in the middle of the harbor or sunk tied to the dock.  To call it a tight squeeze would be an understatement.  Now we knew why the mail boat was sticking out the narrow inlet.  

Lots of room for Anything Goes in the many shades of blue

As we anchored that morning, we thought it was so cool these 'local' guys were coming back in from a fishing trip.  Later, at the same time we found out about the drug boats, we found out these were Haitians sailing 90 miles fromm Haiti for "supplies".  Let me tell you that these were some salty dogs if I ever saw some.  The masts to their boats were literally made from tree trunks and the sails were patch work at best.  This one picture above was one of the nicer, well kept boats.  But as we looked closer (from the dock where they were tied up) we could tell that they had just the shirts on their backs, no life jackets, no emergency EPIRB, no electronics (chart plotter, VHF radio etc). and no lights.  And they sailed at night!  Crazy scary if you ask me.  We learned from the park warden that the Bahamas spends over 2 million dollars a year sending Haitians back to Haiti from various Bahama Islands and surrounding waters.  Some of these sailboats are found carrying as many as 260 Haitians trying to escape.  Imagine 260 men, women and children on the boat pictured above!

Craig met the parks warden, Henry, the day he went into town to check us into the Bahamas.  Henry gave him a lift to the government office.  The following day, we all rode in Henry's truck as he gave us a tour of the Morton Salt Companies Sea Salt salt ponds, manufacturing facility and the Inagua National Park.
Pictured above is one of the many salt pans during one of the 3 different stages of evaporation, leaving salt around the edges.  The white 'snow' looking stuff is really salt.  

Driving on the road with salt pans on either side

Crackling sand/mud where the fresh water has evaporated from the edge.  It looks hard and crusty but Henry told us we'd sink to our knees!

Flamingo in flight

Flamingoes prefer the fresh water.  The flamingo is the Bahamas national bird and there are some 80,000 of them.

Taking flight as Henry's diesel truck drives by

Morton's Salt Company "salt dock".  The salt is transported from the island to a container ship via this conveyer system.

Along the way, we stop so the kids can pick some wild cotton.  Cotton used to be the cash crop here in the Bahamas way back when slavery was allowed.

Mountains of sea salt

This would be the 3rd stage; harvesting the salt.  The Bahamas are Morton's biggest facility in the world, producing 1.3 million tons of sea salt per year!

If you didn't know better, you'd think I put a picture of the midwest snow here.  But it's not, it's salt that has drifted and collected on branches sicking out of the shallow (pink) water.  The salt gives the water a pink hue.  Can you see it?

Walking on the salt flats.  So fun to see it in it's natural state.  Don't worry, they wash the salt with a salt brine before packaging it up and selling it to the masses.

The sea water is pumped through a 5 mile long canal into the various salt ponds.

Matthew Town Lighthouse.  It used to be 1 of 4 in the world that still was hand cranked and lit with kerosene.  It was recently converted to a modern LED light.  

Shadow of the lighthouse at the waters edge

The spiral staircase leading to the tippy top

View from the top

The motley crew

Like a rainbow!

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