Friday, March 26, 2010

March 28, 2010 - Clarence Bay, Ascension Island

We were planning to leave Ascension today (Sunday), so on Friday we cleared out with Immigration and the Shipping Office. But last night we had a few folks over for drinks, which turned into a real party. We woke up too exhausted to go anywhere today. So the revised plan is to leave tomorrow. The gribs are predicting a good start for the 3000 mile run to Barbados. Hope they are right!

Blackjack with a bloody nose.

Friday afternoon we hitchhiked out to the Volcano Club at the US Base. We planned to have dinner at the snack bar, which advertises "McDonald's style food," but we got sidetracked by the foosball table and ice cold bottles of Corona (with lime!) for the rock bottom price of $2. Before we knew it, the snack bar had closed and we were making a dinner out of the chicken nuggets that the bar put out during happy hour. Between us and Mike and Doreen on St. Ledger, we made a pretty good dent in that warming tray. We wouldn't be surprised if the sign out in front of the club that says "public welcome" is revised to exclude yachties. While stuffing our faces with chicken tenders, we made plans with some guys we met at the bar for them to come out to the boat the next day.

We caught a lift back to Georgetown and headed back to Long Beach to check out the turtle nesting again. On our third try we finally got to see the girls dropping their eggs into the deep holes they had dug. We were also thrilled to have an opportunity to see half a dozen hatchlings making a frenzied dash for the water.

Around 10pm we wandered back to the pierhead, where the crew of Invubu had just discovered that their dinghy was missing. Two dinghies had already come loose in the past week, one ended up on the beach filled with sand and the other was rescued while attempting an escape from the mooring field. There is too much swell here to land a dinghy on the beach. The pierhead is too small to tie off to (it would make it hard for others to get ashore; besides, rubbing up and down against the concrete for any period of time wouldn't do a dinghy any favors). So the accepted practice is to tie dinghies among the line of boats strung out between two large moorings and then use an old aluminum skiff to pull yourself to shore. However, the surge seems to cause painters (the ropes used to tie dinghies to things) to work themselves loose. We always tie off with two painters, and twice now we've come back to find that one has worked loose, regardless of which knots we use. One of the cruisers who had their dinghy come untied last week has been cruising for 30 years and this is the first time his dinghy has ever come untied. It is just a bad situation. If the mooring rope had more loops in it to tie off to, that would help matters a lot. But it doesn't. One of the boats here came up with the idea of using the cable and lock they usually reserve for locking up in dodgy harbors to secure their dinghy to the mooring cable. That seems the safest approach.

Back at the pier, we quickly distributed Invubu's crew among our and St. Ledger's dinghies to take them out to their boat. Then Sten and I borrowed a spotlight from Invubu and headed out downwind, way out beyond the outer reef marker, to look for the runaway dinghy. We maintained radio contact with Jenny on Invubu. We had her try to pick up a radar return from our dinghy, figuring if she could see us, maybe she could pick up on their larger (and brand new) dinghy, but no luck. Meanwhile, Rolf from Invubu and Mike from St. Ledger checked the shore. The moon was nearly full, and the sea was pretty calm, so the conditions were near perfect for a nighttime foray. But both search parties came up short.

Mahi caught on the fly rod.

The next morning, while wandering through the museum and old fort, we ran into David and Candy off of Endeavor. They told us that shortly after Invubu raised anchor and headed for Brazil, they found their dinghy. What a lucky break! It was only four and a half miles from the pierhead, dead downwind. After ten hours of drifting, it had traveled a surprisingly short distance.

Later that afternoon, David and Candy came over to do a media swap, which is just like a bookswap but any form of entertainment is fair trade. We were thrilled to exchange the books, magazines and DVD's that we'd already read, perused, and watched. With a long passage ahead, fresh entertainment material is a hot commodity. Candy and David are also headed towards Barbados and eventually on up to New England. We're looking forward to getting together with them again up north.

Amberjack (we think) - delicious eating

Gordon and Michael, our guests from the base, arrived at 4pm bearing gifts. We were completely overwhelmed by their gifts of frozen veggies (fresh aren't available in the stores here), fresh fruit (from the dining hall), a giant cooler of ice, ice cream and girl scout cookies (thin mints!). We knew our freezer would not be able to keep the ice cream frozen, so we called up Endeavor and St. Ledger and invited them over for some blender drinks. It turned into one hell of a party. As Gordon said, "I never knew I could make so many friends with a quart of ice cream."

Everybody contributed something to keeping the blender going. First there were the mudslides, which always remind me of Block Island. When the coffee liquor ran out, ice cream and Mandarine Napoleon made a pretty convincing round of creamsicles. When the ice cream ran out, Mike hustled back to St. Ledger and grabbed a bottle of their homemade spiced rum from Madagascar and some cans of rambutans and coconut milk, which all went into the blender and came out as a fine concoction that reminded me of the wonderful homemade ice cream at the Galle Fort Hotel in Sri Lanka. And then David scooted over to Endeavor and picked up some peach puree and Argentinian rum, to which I added some orgeat from Tahiti, a pile of ice and let it rip. Delicious. We ended the night with a round of some blended rum punch with a healthy grating of nutmeg on top.

It is inevitable that over the course of such an evening a few things will fall overboard. As long as they aren't my guests, I don't worry too much. This morning David came over with his scuba gear to rescue one of our plastic cups from Target (rhymes with orgeat) from the bottom. In the search he found some old crockery and a brass (or maybe copper) drinking vessel. It would be very cool to know what ship that came off of. Portuguese? Dutch? The whole scavenger hunt aspect of diving really appeals to my inner flea-marketer. Apart from that, we were glad to hear that our anchor was clear of the myriad of old ships anchors and chain that have been left on the bottom here over the years. Afterall, we have a long way to go and need to get a move on.

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