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24 April 2017

Smokey The Bear's Lair | Bush Fires In The Bahamas

Sun setting at Smokey the Bear's Lair anchorage.

“It must be trash burning day,” I said looking at all of the smoke billowing off of Great Abaco Island. “It’s strange how we bury our trash in landfills and people on the islands burn theirs.”

“That’s not trash that’s burning,” Scott said. “When I was at Sid’s Grocery Store on Green Turtle Cay, the owners told me that they’re bush fires which they just let burn. They might of started from a cigarette or something.”

“What a shame. Where’s Smokey the Bear when you need him?” I watched as we got closer to shore and the smoke intensified. “Wait a minute, I just thought of something. Are there even bears in the Bahamas? I hope not. I mean, Smokey the Bear is fine, but remember those bears when we were camping out west and all the damage they did. I don’t want to run into those kind of bears.”

Scott raised his eyebrows. “Now, you’re worried about bears? Don’t you have enough to worry about with all of the sharks and barracudas in the water when you’re snorkeling?”

I think he saw the fear in my eyes. “Don’t worry. There aren’t any bears, but even if there were, it’s not like they can swim out to our boat and bother us.”

“Ever heard of polar bears?” I asked, perhaps with a bit of a sarcastic tone.

“What you should be worried about is exactly where we’re going to anchor to hide out from this weather.” He pointed to a spot near some rocks. “How about over there?”

I got out the binoculars and had a closer look. “Okay, looks fine. I don’t see any bears.”

****

Smoke from the bush fires burning on Great Abaco Island.

After over a week cruising in the Bahamas, we finally made our way to Green Turtle Cay to clear in. Scott went onshore to the Customs & Immigration office (only the captain is allowed to clear everyone in, the crew has to remain on the boat). He had waited until 1:00 PM thinking that they’d be open after the lunch hour. Nope, they were closed until 2:15 PM, which really meant 2:30 PM.

Besides clearing us in, Scott had one other major task while on shore which was to get us some more milk and eggs. Since he had time to kill, he headed off to Sid’s Grocery Store. We had been there on our last trip to the Bahamas. They have a decent selection of provisions and the owners are friendly. They invited Scott to have a seat and take a load off while he waited.

As he chatted with them, they mentioned that there was some weather coming in and that there had been a steady stream of boats coming into the White Sound anchorage to seek protection from the forecast winds.

If you live on a boat, there’s one thing that you always pay attention to and that’s the weather. When it’s great, life is good and when it’s bad, life is…hmmm…let’s go with interesting. That sounds like a much more positive spin on things then how I sometimes feel when the weather is dicey.

Scott went back to Customs & Immigration when they opened up, cleared us in lickety-splitly and hightailed it back to our boat. He dropped off the eggs and milk and we headed over to White Sound in our dinghy to the Green Turtle Club Marina to “borrow” their WiFI and check out the weather forecast. Winds were due to be 10-20 knots from a southerly direction so we decided to head across the Sea of Abaco and anchor off of Great Abaco Island.

{White Sound was way too crowded for our liking. The boats that weren’t on mooring balls were on very short anchors. I’d hate to be there if anyone dragged.}

There aren’t any handy anchor signs on the charts telling you where a good place to drop the hook is over there, so we had to scope out the area ourselves. At first we got excited because our Garmin chartplotter showed a sweet little spot tucked behind some rocks. It would offered great protection from the wind.

Turns out our chartplotter lied. It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. That’s why you never rely on just one navigation aid, but use multiple sources where you can, along with your own eyeballs.

When we checked our trusty Explorer charts, we saw that the area behind the rocks dries out at low tide. Not really desirable in an anchorage, unless you like having your boat tip over on it’s side. There were also smaller rock formations around that weren’t charted.

Rocks we anchored near at Smokey the Bear's Lair.

So we anchored further out in waters a bit deeper than we would like, but that’s the way it goes some days. What we did get was a great view of the bush fires which made everything look spooky, especially as the sun was setting.

Spooky and smoky in the anchorage.
 
Now here’s the cool thing about anchoring someplace that isn’t on the charts as an “official anchorage” – you get to name it yourself. We decided to call it Smokey the Bear’s Lair because of all of the bush fires. For those of you who have Explorer charts, you’ll want to pencil that in so you know the official name.

Cruising Log – Tuesday, 4 April 2017 – Wednesday, 5 April 2017

4 APRIL

Anchor up 9:45 AM at Cave Cay. Tense moments coming through some skinny waters. Nothing worse than seeing your depth sounder flash 4.5’ when you have a 5’ draft. Didn’t ground {phew!}. Had the headsail up, happily sailing away when one of the sheets parted. Got it back on. Dolphins! Plan was to head to Allan’s-Pensacola Cay for the night. Jam packed in there, so headed over to Crab Cay instead. Anchor down 5:15 PM. Everyone seemed to be anchored on the lee shore. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because that’s where the anchor symbol is on the chart. We found our own spot further away. Nautical Miles = 38. Engine = 4 hrs 0 mins. Spending = Nil.

5 APRIL

Very gusty overnight. The crew monitored the situation closely while the skipper slept very soundly. And by crew, I mean me. Anchor up at 8:30 AM. Motored to Green Turtle Cay – the wind was not cooperating. Anchor down 12:15 PM. Had lunch while waited for Customs & Immigration to open. Got to watch a ketch ground in the channel to White Sound. It took them a while to get off. Everyone else had to wait to enter and exit until they did. Scott cleared us in and picked up some provisions. Headed to one of the marinas to use their WiFI and check on the weather that was due to come in. Headed across the way to Great Abaco Island to look for a place to anchor. Anchor down 5:15 PM. Very, very spooky and smoky. Nautical Miles = 23. Engine = 4 hrs 15 mins. Spending = $160.16 (clearing in to Bahamas – $150; 1 dozen eggs and 1/2 gallon milk – $10.16).

Have you ever seen a forest or bush fire burning? What's your favorite kind of bear - stuffed, real or imaginary? 

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25 comments:

  1. Hi Ellen. Great post! I haven't seen a forest fire, but I have been around a field when a farmer is burning parts of it, though I was so small it's hard to remember. And bear? I do love Smokey, and Yogi, and in general, watching them is intriguing. Of course, I've never encountered one in the wild up close. That's probably a good thing. :)

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    1. We've seen bears in the wild, but I wouldn't want to get too close to one either.

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  2. The joys of a 34 ft boat - 1/2 price! I often think that it's just us that has anchoring and chart lying drama- that it must be avoidable - but maybe it's just boating! Lucy on Matt's phone.

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    1. We are lucky we squeezed in under the 35' cut-off.

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  3. Love the pics - spooky!

    I can't remember the last time I saw a bear - other than my teddy bears. :) Koalas look cuddly and sweet but so do Polar Bears and I believe they're pretty ferocious.

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  4. Not to give you anything else to worry about, but bears in general are good swimmers. In fact, the first black bear we ever saw was swimming between two islands that were a mile apart. He was slow and tired at the end (and rightly so, the guy was YUGE!) but it was a pretty cool experience for us.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

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    1. I'm not sure I want to see a bear swimming :-) Ate least not towards me.

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  5. Yes, boat and weather go together and if you don't stay on top of the weather you'll find yourself in a heap of ugly at some point. Same for the charts. Never just rely on one. You two know what you're doing.

    We had a summer here in California where there were fires burning most of the summer. Smoke was about all you could smell. It's wasn't fun.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. That doesn't sound fun at all to constantly smell smoke :-(

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  6. If there were brush fires, I'd want to be a little further out on the water.

    There have been a few forest fires in our area. By area, I mean 100 miles away. But if the wind blows just right, we get socked in with smoke.

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    1. It got really smoky that night. Ideally, we would have been a bit further out.

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  7. Those pictures are lovely, spooky or not, especially 2 and 4. We had trouble with fires blocking our route out of Yellowstone last year and we have small scale heather burning here. As for bears, we've seen a few and if we don't bother them they don't seem to bother us. Mind you, they weren't grizzlies - I wouldn't like to meet one of those.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I'll let Scott know - he's our resident photographer :-)

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  8. When I visited Malaysia many moons ago, there was smoke everywhere from massive bush fires. I didn't really get to experience and enjoy the country as much as I would have liked, but such is life. Like on a boat, when backpacking you take it as it comes.

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    1. That's a good attitude - take it as it comes. There's so little you can really control when boating or backpacking.

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  9. Great pics and post. We had forest fires in Galicia (Spain) last year that got very close to the boat. The cockpit looked like an ash tray and we had to brush the cinders off the bimini every few hours to keep them from staining the canvas. Your smokey the bear reference reminds me of a sad joke I saw circulating a few weeks ago: Smokey the Bear says "Only YOU can prevent forest fires. No, really. Our budget has been slashed. YOU have to get out and do it yourself now." Sigh.

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    1. That is a sad joke, especially sad because it's probably true.

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  10. Yes, I've been close to a forest fire. Frequently lightening strikes will start them, and depending on the location, the State must decide whether to fight them, or not. If it is really remote, they will let it burn out by itself.

    Like Stephanie said, bears swim quite well. Sorry to add to your anxiety factor.

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    1. I sense some bad dreams about swimming bears in my future ;-)

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  11. I love seeing bears from the safety of my boat and high freeboard. Also, I hate, hate HATE skinny water. (Well I hate anything that's naturally skinny without trying but that's another story). We started looking at charts of Tomalos Bay, where we plan to explore a bit (northern California). That water is way too skinny for me to be comfortable. I'm sure that there will be some tense moments. I'm already thinking about them. I will make Mike navigate through those waters until they get deeper.

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    1. You cracked me up with the naturally skinny comment :-)

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  12. The images, fire burned, are eerie. When we have wild fires in Utah (and we have them every year), it looks like the sky is burning. It creeps me out. Fire scares me more than bears.

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    1. I think it's kind of a toss up for me as to which scares me more - fire or bears.

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  13. I've seen forest fires while driving across the country - we actually took a longer route to the Grand Canyon four years ago to avoid the fires burning on the Northwest side of it, but still saw them in the distance and smelled the smoke. I prefer stuffed bears, but I don't mind seeing them from inside my car when they are on the outside - we saw a black bear in the Redwood National Forest that way a few years ago and I saw a grizzly bear that way in Alaska - I don't want to be any closer than that.

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