15 February 2015 | Rock Sound Harbour
It has been a while since I last updated the blog. We have been busy moving around and the internet in the Bahamas has been intermittent. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't and often there is no internet at all!
We had a great time travelling around the southern Bahamas with the Keebles. We visited several places with them - Conception Is., Long Island, Black Point Settlement, Staniel Cay, Little Farmer's Cay and George Town. Where we could and the weather permitted we anchored out in lovely bays, particularly Thompson Bay at Long Island, West Bay at Conception Island, Sand Dollar Beach in George Town and Black Point. We were fortunate to arrive early enough to catch a mooring ball at Little Farmer Cay. Within several hours, the other mooring balls were occupied and there would have been little room to anchor. All of these anchorages were beautiful - lots of multi-coloured water, beautiful beaches and friendly people. Although it has not been as hot as we expected it to be, it has been sunny, allowing us to go for walks on the smaller cays or in the small settlements.
We have a new 'friend' by the name of Chris Parker, the weather guru for the Bahamas and Caribbean. Early morning (6:30 am) weather reports are listened to daily as the cold fronts keep blowing in and we have to ensure that we are as protected as much as possible from the winds which can be quite heavy and sustained. Chris gives a synopsis of the day's and upcoming week's weather for various areas in the Bahamas and then answers specific questions for routing and best travel times. He is usually quite accurate, and along with several other weather resources we use, we are able to make good decisions and plan for several days ahead. It has been a particularly rough season in the Bahamas this year. The prevailing winds usually blow from the east, but this year they have had a primarily NW to N to NE component, with an occasional heavy blow from the west. Most of the anchorages in the Bahamas face west, so when the westerly winds blow, there is limited choice as to where one can hide and everyone races to the same few spots. There are no anchorages facing east as they face the Atlantic. Historically, the fronts arrive about once a week and last about 2 days. This year, there has often only been 1-2 days between fronts. This really limits how much and how far one can go before having to find another hidey-hole.
After the Keebles left, we provisioned yet again, waited for another window to head to the Exuma Land and Sea National Park. We had planned to spend 3 days at Cambridge Cay where the snorkeling was supposed to be great. We arrived early afternoon and within 2 hours, our water pump stopped working - no pressure water and no heads! We spent 5 hours trying to fix and repressurize the tanks to no avail. Our only option was to hightail it back to Nassau in the hopes of finding someone to fix our problem. We left at the crack of dawn and arrived in Nassau mid afternoon. On route we made several phone calls to get a berth at a marina and to source someone to help us. Albert agreed to come late afternoon to have a look. We had been surrounded by dark threatening clouds for most of the day. Just as Ken turned into the marina, the squall and torrential rains hit and we were soaked. To add to our discomfort, the dockmaster had mistaken us for a different boat and had directed us a dock which was much too small. Ken had to get us out of there in the driving wind and rain and move to an alternate dock. When we were settled, we took advantage of using the marina washrooms and showers. Leaving 2 days of dirty dishes in the sink, we headed out for a well-deserved dinner!
Eight Thirty arrived and Albert had not arrived. Ken went to his shop looking for him and several minutes later they arrived. Eight hours later, we had a new water pump and the tanks were repressurized. We again had flushing heads and running water. Both existing water pumps had given up the ghost within hours of each other. We now had a brand new pump. That should keep us going at least until we return to Florida!
With the water pump replaced, we now had to wait for a front to blow through. Two days later, we were on the move again to Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, only one of 3 protected anchorages in west Eleuthera. We tied to a mooring ring because the harbour was littered with the debris from Hurricanes Irene and Andrew. There we sat out another front, this one lasting 2 days. With extra strong snubber lines and a good hook attached to the mooring we sat through 38 knot winds. On the 3rd day, we felt comfortable enough to leave Bagan on the mooring and explore the settlement of Hatchet Bay. It is not a very prosperous town, but clean and people were very friendly.
We are now in Rock Sound Harbour, in south Eleuthera. It is a huge protected bay fringed by the Rock Sound Airport and Settlement. The winds have been relatively calm for 3 days, so we have taken advantage of it and explored the area by car and on foot. We drove to Governor's Harbour, the original capital of Bahamas. It is more like a small colonial town with larger homes, more shops and services. Many expats make their homes here, so it appears to be more affluent than most other Bahamian settlements we have seen. Rock Sound Settlement is also very clean and appears to be more prosperous. People are friendly and helpful. We walked across the island to a restaurant on the Atlantic side and met the lovely proprietor of the restaurant and inn. Food was wonderful and she even drove us back to town and showed us some of the sights on our way.
Tomorrow we head north 78 nautical miles to Spanish Wells to await the arrival of our good friends Deb and Darryl from BC and later on Leia, Andrew and the boys. It will be an early start tomorrow. Another front arrives on Tuesday and supposed to last through Saturday. Good thing we are in a well-protected marina. Winds are forecast to hit 40+ knots. There are only 20 moorings in the area and only 1 is sufficient for Bagan. The closest anchorage is several hours away.
A bit of news. We have decided that we would like to return to the Pacific Northwest to continue our cruising there. We will sell Bagan in Florida and purchase another capable of cruising to Alaska. Our tenant in Nanaimo is vacating the apartment in March. We really look forward to coming home, seeing everyone and establishing ourselves in our new home. After Eleuthera, we plan to cruise to the Abacos and then make our way back to Palm Beach Gardens. The current plan is to be in BC sometime in July, after visiting family in Ontario.
That's it for today. Keep in touch!!
Back in George Town, Exumas
12 January 2015
We arrived back in George Town on Jan. 6th having had a great XMAS visit with Leia, Andrew, Ben and Luke. The boys are changing and growing so quickly; it was amazing how they had changed since we last saw them in October. We also had a nice visit with my mother. Unfortunately her car died just before we arrived, so we helped her buy a new car. Ken had a cold just before we left Toronto and it blossomed while in Florida. In between buying another car and doing a few odd jobs, he spent much of the visit in bed. Not too much fun for him!
When we arrived at the marina, we had a NASTY surprise. Our refrigerator had shut down and things were growing both inside and outside the fridge. We set our suitcases down and started to clean the horrific mess. EVERYTHING in the fridge and freezer went into the garbage. It was already evening when we arrived, too late to go anywhere for something to eat (not that we really wanted to eat...), so we ate a bowl of canned beans and went to bed. The next morning, we continued to clean and ate a granola bar for breakfast. Bowls of vinegar, baking soda, bleach were standing everywhere. We even put a water filter which has carbon in it into the freezer to help with the smell. That worked well, but at $30 a filter and a limited supply, we weren't able to use any more. We now have trays of kitty litter, baking soda and vinegar in the freezer and in other strategic places. The smell has improved a lot. With lots of wind, candles and Febreeze, we should be able to handle it.
We think the fridge shut down after the vacuum condenser light came on and it was not addressed. Usually we shut the fridge on and off again and vacuum the condenser. The refrigerator is getting old and will likely have to be replaced when we return to Florida. We just have to get there...Replacing it in the Bahamas would be extremely expensive as they charge 40% duty on most things. We dodged a bullet returning. We had purchased a few things for the boat, including a new air deck for the inflatable dinghy. We were told that bringing things in for the boat would be duty free, but not so. Only for the engine. The customs officer took pity on us and believed us and did not charge the duty. Whew, that would have cost $500.
So here we are. Ken is recovering from bronchitis, we have cleaned the boat several times, did maintenance and repair work on the pressure water system, water maker, holding tank system etc. Dan and Anne Keeble, our friends from EHYC join us tomorrow for a couple of weeks of cruising the southern Bahamas. We then head north again towards Eleuthera where the Zutter-Larsons and Leia and family will join us. Then its the Abacos, Florida and Georgia.
We have decided not to venture south to the Virgin Islands. Upon doing more intensive research and listening to and reading weather forecasts, we realized that it was the wrong time of year to do this. Better starting in April and May. We did not relish the trade winds (20-30 knots) and big seas on our nose for up to 9 days running or taking the alternate route of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands for 3-4 weeks, travelling mostly at night to take advantage of the lighter winds. Given that our refrigerator is not that reliable right now, it is probably the right decision. Hopefully, now that most of our projects are completed now, we will be able to relax and enjoy being cruisers for a while.
We have rented a car for the next 2 days to pick up the Keebles, and replenish our stores for a couple of weeks. Hopefully we can head south either Wednesday pm or Thursday, weather permitting. Another front is expected to blow through on the weekend so we want to ensure we have a good protected anchorage.
Not too sure how much wifi we will have for the next 2 weeks, so will update when I can.
Arrival in the Exumas
20 December 2014
Yah, we made it to Emerald Bay Marina, 10 miles north of George Town where we will leave Bagan as we make our way to Toronto. It is a very nice marina, great floating docks, an amazing club house (more like a country club), showers, laundry, adjacent to a couple of resorts and a golf course. However, it is 10 miles out of town - no shuttle service, no buses. Just taxis which cost $100 round trip to George Town or a car rental costing $70.00 per day. The marina is expensive as well (as everything is in the Bahamas) - $2.75 per ft per day, dropping to $.75 if one stays 30 days +. Water is .40 per gallon and power is .85 kw/h. We have found that it is cheaper to run the generator to make our own water and we use our candles at night! That being said though, it is better to leave Bagan here than the other marina in George Town that could take us. Better water depth, all-round wind protection, better docks, security and cheaper.
When we left Nassau, we planned to stop at Shroud Cay for a couple of days. However, the weather forecast changed to a westerly wind and we would have been hammered there. Instead, we went to Allens Cay, one of the few cays that affords westerly protection on the Banks side. The wind started to pick up the first night and was really blowing the next day. Many other cruisers came in looking for shelter, so we were happy to have come in early for a good spot. Unfortunately it's the latecomers who often cause a problem, squeezing themselves in and crowding the anchorage. We knew we would be up all night and we were! The wind howled that night, currents ran crazy, and boats were swinging everywhere. The boat closest to us came within feet of hitting us. They were doing 360 degree turns every few minutes. The flashlight shining into their cabin did not wake them, but they sure did jump when we employed the fog horn. We were all up, pulling in chain, letting it out again several times, depending on the current and wind. After a few hours, our neighbour decided to get some sleep and asked us to let him know if there were more problems! At that point I just nodded; there was no way I was going to bed! The song and dance continued into the late morning, when our neighbour decided to finally move his boat after a lot of humming and hawing and asking everyone's advice. Another cruiser agreed he should move, but not to move any closer. We all breathed a sigh of relief he hauled the anchor and moved to another part of the bay. The wind died down later in the day and everyone managed to get a good nights rest. Lights were out early that night!
After Allens Cay, we made our way to Warderick Wells Cay which is part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We anchored in 12 ft. of water in the Emerald Rock Anchorage. Although there are many mooring balls located within the park, we chose to anchor out as the weather forecast was good for the next few nights. We had the resident nurse shark hanging around the boat waiting for its next meal. Quite obviously, it had been fed many times and thought it was easy pickings! The largest barracuda we had ever seen, also came for a visit, so I was not too anxious to jump off the boat for a swim. Ken did though to check the anchor, but was ignored. We were able to do some lovely snorkeling at several sites and saw a good variety of coral and fish. The water temperature was about 80 degrees, but because of the current, it felt cooler and we wore our shorties in the water.
After two nights at Warderick Wells, we made our way to Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay. What a lovely spot that was. The bay was huge, had lots of water (12 feet), great little settlement with several good restaurants and friendly people. We even managed to get in several nice walks. Nine boats anchored there, but as the bay was so large, everyone was spaced far apart and not bothered by the other's swinging. For the 2 evenings we were there, we watched the meteorites streaking across the sky.
Since our arrival here, we have busied ourselves cleaning the boat - washing the salt off, cleaning the hull with acetone, rewashing, and then applying awlgrip, removing rust stains and polishing stainless steel. We have finished one side and the boat looks awesome. We will complete the other side when we return from Canada. Lots of work, but well worth the effort!
We are off tomorrow to Toronto, returning Jan.6. Not looking forward to the cold, but looking forward to spending time with Leia and family and later my mother in Florida. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2015!
04 December 2014 | 25 04.532'N:77 19.119'W
We left our anchorage on the east side of North Bimini Island and moved around to the west side to avoid having to pass through the narrow channel in the dark and cut down on travel time the next day. With the days being shorter now, we have less time to travel and like to be anchored before 5 pm as it gets dark now around 5:30. We had difficulty getting the anchor to set well, so Ken put out 200 ft. of chain in 12 feet of water. The winds were forecast to be light and from the east so we figured it would be ok. It turned out to be a rolly night, not much wind, but lots of swell wrapping around the island. By 5 am, we were both fully awake, yet tired and ready to get moving as we were not sleeping anyway. By 5:45 we had pulled the anchor and were abeam of Bimini North Rock Light (no lights working!) and were heading toward Chub Cay about 78 nautical miles away. We were going to have to move quickly to get there by sunset, which we did.
Chub Cay is private resort island which offers transient slips when they are available. It was a beautiful facility with lovely homes, a beautiful swimming pool, great marina, but few people there. Another ghost town! Just like Bimini, it is the shoulder season (with high prices, $2.75 per foot, plus $30 daily for power and $20 for water) Higher in high season. Thankfully as we only planned to stay the night, we opted out of the power and water. The anchorage outside was too shallow for us and there was a big wind blowing. We were also quite tired, not having had a good sleep the night before and having had a bumpy ride.
A power catamaran couple had started out just behind us so we could travel in tandem. Unfortunately the bumpy waves caused one of their engine mounts to dislodge and they started to take on water. They turned around, raced back on the other engine and beached their boat back in Bimini. We have since heard that new parts are being flown in from Florida and they have found a mechanic in Bimini to do the repair. There are no lifts in Bimini and the only very small repair facility is in South Bimini. Not a good place to have serious problems!
We arrived in Nassau on Thursday afternoon and have been busy getting the steering on the Boston Whaler outboard repaired and cleaning the salt off Bagan. We arrived at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina at 12:30 pm having left Chub Cay at sunrise. It was an easy 6 hour run down the Northwest Providence Channel. After getting the boat settled, we immediately went to SOS Marine adjacent to the marina to confirm the repair of the outboard the next morning. By 9 am, the whaler had been towed to the repair site, lifted out of the water and back into the water by mid afternoon. Ken remained there while it was being repaired, primarily I think to keep the mechanics on track. It was slow, but steady movin' but it got done. I stayed on the boat and was 'boat girl' for the day, soaping down and rinsing off salt. Not a job to be recommended on a regular basis, but must be done. Still have a bit to do, but we decided that we would be tourists for today and not do boat work. Good plan!
We walked into the tourist section of Nassau from the marina, about 1.5 miles. There were 4 cruise ships in town and we saw loads of people departing the ships in long line-ups. By the time we arrived there, there were lots of people, honking cars, music and shopping galore. After buying a few XMAS gifts for the boys, we headed out of the crowded area and visited a lovely art gallery, the National Bahamas Art Gallery which is housed in an old colonial mansion and the restored British Colonial Hilton Hotel which stands on the original site of Fort Nassau. On our walk back, we had delicious conch fritters and conch salad at Potter's Cay, an area under the bridge to Paradise Is. It was a nice break from waiting for wind to abate and being holed up.
The plan now is to leave on Monday heading to the Exumas. Chris Parker, the Caribbean weather guru tell us cruisers that the next 2 weeks are going to be much better. We hope so! We will head to Shroud Cay across the Yellow Banks (known for shallow water and coral heads) and then on to Warderick Wells, and George Town on Great Exuma Island. We do not have great distances to travel now, so it will be easier and more pleasurable. However, we do not have as much time as we had anticipated due to weather and we are flying to Toronto on Dec. 21. We will need a few days to prepare ourselves and Bagan. Hopefully we can spend some additional time there later in the season as we head back north. Not sure how good internet connectivity will be before we get to George Town, so I may not be able to update the blog until after the middle of the month. We will be in touch when we can....
01 December 2014
We have been here a week now, waiting for the wind to die down enough to head across the Bahama Banks, then to Nassau and onwards to the Exumas. It has been quite an extended blow, right now it must be blowing at least 25 knots into our bay. A 2 day window of opportunity appears to be opening up on Wednesday, so we are keeping our fingers crossed.
Our gulf crossing to Bimini was ok, winds were as expected, but it was somewhat bumpier than expected. We departed Bahia Mar Marina at 6:20 am and reached the Port Everglades seabuoy at 6:55. The seas were heavy coming out of the channel, but as we got into deeper water, the waves settled down and became just 'bumpy'! It was only 54 nautical miles to Binimi, but it took us almost 9 hours from leaving the dock to anchoring. We had 1-3 knots current most of the way. The channel entrance between North and South Bimini was well-marked and dredged, so we had no concerns about running aground. That being said, we entered the channel slowly! We are now anchored in Bimini Bay at the northern end of North Bimini in front of the Bimini Bay Resort and waiting for the wind to abate to comfortable levels to leave.
Bimini itself is very quiet right now. It is the shoulder season, and not many boats or resort tourists are here. North Bimini consists mainly of several marinas, resorts, and not much else. We are surprised at how low-key and somewhat rundown it is being so close to the US. Although the water is a brilliant blue and the sand is lovely, it is not a place that we would recommend as a vacation spot. The relatively new Bimini Bay Resort is building a golf course and has lots of beautiful homes and a casino, but most of the restaurants are closed and the beach bar closes at 4 pm. Hopefully for the owners and staff, business will pick up for them.
Today we rented a golf cart to go into town for lunch and pick up some fresh fruit. We were only gone less than an hour when a squall approached and we needed to get back to the boat. No lunch, but we did get 1 mango and 2 granny smith apples for just under 5 dollars.
We had not planned a stop in Nassau on our way south. Unfortunately we found out that the steering cable on our whaler had totally seized and Ken was not able to release it, even using a hammer and a propane torch. We have located a Mercury outboard technician in Nassau, who is waiting for us to arrive and fix it for us. Thankfully he does have the replacement part we need. We are hopeful that it will be a 1-2 day fix, so we can get to the Exumas (weather-permitting, of course!) quickly. We would like to get to some of the anchorages before flying back to Toronto on Dec. 21 for Xmas. We still have our trusty, old back-up inflatable which we now use to get to shore and are considering replacing it in Nassau as well. The airdeck is dissolving in the sun's UV We looked for THE leak 2 days ago and found a multiude of them...
That's it for today. Stay tuned....
Off to the Bahamas!
23 November 2014 | Palm Beach Gardens/Fort Lauderdale
We finally splashed back into the water last Thursday and went to the Old Port Cove Marina to complete some work and wait for the weather to change to a favourable one for crossing to the Bahamas. It has blowing between 15 and 25 knots (with gusts to 30) constantly from the north for about a week and nothing is moving. Seas in the gulf stream have been in the 8-13 ft. range and a small craft advisory has been in effect for almost a week. We had originally planned to leave the marina this afternoon to head to an anchorage just inside Lake Worth Inlet, leave early tomorrow morning for West End on Grand Bahama Island. Another front is now forecast to arrive in the Bahamas on Wednesday, so it looked like we might be stuck there through next weekend. Instead, we are heading to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, spending the night there and leaving for Bimini early Tuesday morning. The distance to travel will be shorter and the anchorage protected from northerly winds. The forecast for tomorrow is 5-10 knots from the south with 2-4 ft. seas. Much better! It should also be a more interesting place to be if we have to remain there until the weather improves again. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the wait will not be too long.
We had lots of work completed on Bagan last week. Some of it was annual maintenance, but 5 older (some original) hoses needed replacing, the stabilizer oil leak was finally resolved, the wing engine had been overheating for a while and although Ken had replaced the thermometer, cleaned one heat exchanger and the sea chest, it was still spewing steam. It turned out there was another heat exchanger we were not aware of and it was pretty well clogged. A good shot of Barnacle Buster did the trick. After all that work though, the engine temperature was still high. It was decided that the guage was probably shot! Nevertheless, the wing engine did need fixing!! We also replaced aging insulation around the generator, replaced the wing engine and generator batteries, etc etc. Although it was all expensive, Bagan sounds and looks great now. Time to go!