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C'est la Vie
C'est la Vie
Port: Everglades City, FL
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Origami is still trailing us
Jeff
Friday August 8th 2008, Exumas

Yes, Origami, stayed tied to our stern through the night. It was the first thing each of us checked as we stirred in the morning. The most plausible scenario is that I mistied her one inch webbing painter to the stern cleat. Then just as we began to travel away from Oven Rock we parted ways. The fact that we traveled an entire day without neither Anne nor I noticing the missing dinghy still troubles and astounds us. We will spend the entire day today making a running joke about checking on Origami. Perhaps humor is the best way for us to deal with the embarrassment of being the cruisers that spent the day searching for their wayward dinghy.
The weather looks promising for us to cover some miles southward in the Exuma Sound. A west southwest wind is predicted for the morning and into the afternoon. A west wind will allow us to sail close hauled southward along the eastern shore of the cays. This combination will also reduce the chop and swell encountered in the exposed, deep waters of Exuma Sound. The tides, flooding in the morning and ebbing in the afternoon, will not provide us assistance in transiting the cuts between the cays, but later in the day, when we do need to run a cut to access an anchorage on the banks the wind and tide will both be flowing the same direction. Any narrow area that produces current at tides ebb and flood (i.e. inlets, cuts, bars, etc.) will become vastly more rough and dangerous for watercraft when winds and tide are opposed. All the boat people out there are nodding their heads and I'm guessing everyone else is scratching their heads. The short of it is Anne and I decided to take advantage of the favorable conditions and travel in the Exuma Sound.
We triple checked, then triple checked Origami's lines and then motored south towards Farmer's Cut. Using the GPS to backtrack our route made our second passage around the east side of Little Farmer's far less stressful. Exiting Farmers Cut we entered a slick calm Exuma Sound. With no wind present we motored south entranced by the sight corals and sea grasses slipping beneath us. We are continually amazed that we can observe the sea bed 20 to 25 meters (70 feet) below us. Tied to the docks in the Barron River we cannot see the bottom at 1.5 meters. Yes Origami is still trailing us.
Taking advantage of the calm condition we elect cross back to the banks through Galliot Cut and say a personal thanks to Maralga, anchored off Cave Cay, for assisting us in searching for Origami. We pass by Maralga, but the crew is not aboard. Taking full advantage of the calms we slip back into Exuma Sound via Cave Cay Cut. Our route begins to look like that of a needle pulling thread in a vain attempt to stitch together the islands. Yes Origami is still trailing us.
As we reenter Exuma Sound the southwest winds begin to build. We hoist the main. Ahh - motor sailing windward under the main is familiar territory on this voyage south against the trade winds. The winds continue to build and veer west. Could it be? We hoist the genny. By 11:45 we silence the motor and are making 4.8 knots velocity made good (VMG) towards Adderly Cut. We are sailing! Yes Origami is still trailing us.
Through mid afternoon the winds continue to support our efforts. By 14:00 we drop the genny and motor sail into familiar waters off Barraterre via Rat Cay Cut. This area is the hub of the Outward Bound School's Exuma Sea Kayak Programs. Passing Boysie Cay an overwhelming sense of accomplishment overtakes me. Many times while working sea kayak courses in the area, I would watch a sailboat slip through these waters. Many times I promised myself that someday I would pilot a sailboat through these waters. Yes Origami is still trailing us.
We anchor C'est la Vie off Square Rock Cay and spend a few hours snorkeling various spots in the area. As day slipped into night the winds veered north and vanished (see image included). To avoid hordes of winded invaders we raise the anchor and move farther away from land. We find good holding in 2.5 meters of water west of Square Rock. I wish we could do that on sea kayaking courses! Yes Origami is still trailing us.

"Where is Origami!?"
Jeff
Thursday August 7th 2008, Exumas

After a morning ashore exploring the cave and building cairns, we decided to motorsail southward along the banks side. Our afternoon travels took us westward of the Farmers Cay area and then back along the cays in the area of Cave Cay, Musha Cay, Rudder Cay, and eventually down to the Darby Cays. The route covered around 13NM under keel. Midway through the distance we happened upon Maralga anchored off Cave Cay. After a quick hello via the VHF, we continued south toward the Darby Cays. We were awed by the rock formations and caves around Rudder and Darby Cays. Completing a couple hour journey of motor sailing under the main sail we decided to anchor between the Darby Cays. Many of the Outward Bound Sea Kayak staff know these cays as the northern extent of our Exumas Course Area. On longer courses we stop by Darby Island to explore the "castle". The castle, a large green house completed in the 1930's, was constructed by a Nazi sympathizer that dredged the waters between the Darby's in hopes of providing a safe harbor for German U-boats. The inlet was never dredged so it is doubtful that any U-boats visited Darby Island. As we dropped the anchor between the Darby's, Anne, piloting C'est la Vie, looked back off our stern and found no Origami.
" Where is Origami? No, really where is Origami? " Anne shouted forward. Our dinghy was gone. I wenched the anchor back up on deck and we began our frantic search for Origami.
We began with a radio call to Maralga. Albert did not recall seeing our dinghy when we passed them a couple hours previously. Graciously Albert offered to hop in his dinghy and begin the search north of his anchorage off Cave Cay. This area included Cave Cay Cut, Galiot Cut, and Farmers Cut. During our travels through this area the tide was ebbing. If Origami slipped free near any of these cuts she could be adrift, alone in Exuma Sound. We next sent out a radio call to ALL STATIONS informing everyone in the area that we were searching for a lost dinghy.
What had happened? No webbing remained at the stern cleat to which we tie Origami. This meant the knot at the cleat had slipped. Fortunately it was I that had tied the knot. I had no one to blame but myself. Anne took up the post of lookout. She scanned the area with the binoculars while I retraced the day's route.
How had we not noticed her missing? It seems impossible that one of us would not notice the absence of her bobbing gayfully along in tow. We both began to personify Origami. We were both less pained about the trouble or cost of replacing the dinghy than the thought of our little Origami alone, adrift on the wild blue expanse of sea before us. Later Anne and I would reflect on how odd it was that we both had these feelings of compassion for the lifeless dinghy. That discussion would be much later.
We continued to retrace our route searching, searching. We again passed Maralga. Marta waved us on. Albert had not returned from his search. Earlier in the day we had passed west of Little Farmer's Cay. The southwest winds and ebbing tide would have pushed Origami towards Little Farmers. We decided to depart from our initial route and run the area east of Farmers. Along this leg we observed Albert returning to Maralga. He was running the shallow waters off Farmers Cay. We were unable to approach his path of travel, but even from our position 2NM west it was apparent that he did not have Origami in tow. Our optimism sank lower. Time to wallow in our pity was ephemeral. Navigating the shoals surrounding Farmers Cut was much more demanding than I had anticipated. The days waning light greatly diminished our ability to judge water depth or see the shallow coral reefs until dangerously close.
I remember thinking, "OK this is stupid. We are going to ground C'est la Vie in a futile search for the wayward Origami." At this point we were committed to navigating the waters back to our previous night's anchorage off of Oven Rock. To add further despair to our situation the VHF call came in from Maralga. Albert's search for Origami yielded no results.
Anne took the helm and I took up position standing atop the bow pulpit. My attempts at reading the water were limited to about 30 feet out. For the first time in hours my focus shifted from finding Origami to reaching the relatively deep, 2.4 meters, and coral free waters off Oven Rock. By luck, skill, and karma we danced through the three reefs that trouble the passage east of Little Farmers. We now had only a NM mile stretch of shoaled waters that separated us from Oven Rock. The charts stated that good visibility was a must to navigate between the 1 meter deep shoals that line the "deeper channel". The deeper channel averaged approximately 1.7 meters at low tide. The good news was the tide was flooding. The bad news was we were only one hour into the flood.
Once again Anne took the helm and I stood atop the bow pulpit. The search for Origami took backstage to safely navigating C'est la Vie. Of course that is the moment I caught sight of our lost child. Origami lie beached along the western shore of Great Guana Cay a mere 100 meters south of Oven Rock. We must have parted ways just as we raised the anchor for our day's travels. How is that possible? How did neither Anne nor I notice the missing dinghy the entire day? I franticly pointed to Origami. Initially Anne mistook my waving as a sign to quickly turn to starboard.
"NO, NO, "I shouted as my attention returned to piloting C'est la Vie through the narrow channel of skinny water. I leapt from the pulpit and sprinted back to the cockpit. "Origami! Origami!" I spat out as I pointed eastward. Our spirits soared as Oven Rock passed to our stern and the depths reached 3 meters.
The anchor planted in the sea bed, I began swimming ashore to reclaim our wayward dinghy. All's well that ends well - Origami, tethered to our stern, floated blissfully under the stars, our batteries fully charged from the 26NM day that brought us within 1/4NM of the previous night's anchorage, and we felt like the luckiest cruisers in the Exumas.
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Carins
Jeff
Thursday August 7th 2008, Great Guana Cay

To assist others in finding the cave we built cairns along the trail back to the beachhead. Building cairns brought me back to days spent wandering around Cochise Stronghold in southern Arizona. The maze of climbers trails in the Cochise area are marked with cairns many of them quite elaborate. We build the large cairn pictured at the head of the trail along the beach

Great Guana Caves
Jeff
Thursday August 7th 2008, Great Guana Cay

From our anchorage off Oven Rock we went ashore in search of a large cave mentioned in the Exumas' Cruising Guide. After wandering about on numerous small trails, it seems others have combed the area looking for the cave, our efforts were rewarded. We stumbled upon the cool, shady abyss hidden by a thick growth of hardwood trees. Once our eyes adjusted to the limited light, the large cave opening provided enough illumination to explore most of the cave. The bucket pictured above holds a prominent place centered in the cave. Over what must be decades of dripping water, limestone deposits have cemented the bucket to the cave floor. This must have been a settler's method of acquiring fresh drinking water. Even in the current drought, numerous drips from the cave ceiling above feed forming stalagmites along with the bucket. The deepest portions of the cave are filled with freshwater. In the background Anne can be seen wading into the cool water. The guidebook states that cave divers have explore the depths of the cave reaching 70 feet down and 700 feet westward.
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Black Point Settlement
Jeff
Wednesday August 6th 2008, Great Guana Cay

We arrived at Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay late in the afternoon on the 5th. We were drawn to Black Point by the guide book's promise of free trash disposal, free drinking water, laundry, and stocked grocery stores. We found the government dock and walked around the community in the early evening. We did found the cleanest, most functional coin laundry in the Bahamas and the free public trash bins (Staniel was charging $2.50 per small bag of trash). The water taps were dry and the groceries were limited. Hmm, so far we were batting .500 Black Point. We ordered some bread from the local baker and returned to C'est la Vie for the evening.
On the 6th we awoke and returned to the laundry with three weeks of dirty clothes and linens in tow. Anne took up the role of laundry queen while I foraged the town for groceries. By midday, our chores completed, we enjoyed a few slices off a fresh loaf of Mrs. Rolles' coconut bread back aboard C'est la Vie.
After lunch we took the dinghy northward to explore some reefs and mangrove creeks. During our exploration, Anne discovered her favorite way to snorkel - see image included. I drive the dinghy looking for coral heads and Anne drags along behind holding onto a line. Anne spent over 90 minutes behind the dinghy and covered over 3NM. She loved it! I guess we better get a bimini made for the Origami.
Back on board C'est la Vie we decided to make a late afternoon run south along the banks to the opposite end of Great Guana Cay. Great Guana, 12 NM from north to south, is the second longest cay in the Exumas. Black Point, located on the northern end of Great Guana, is the only settlement on the island. The southern two thirds of the island is roadless, undeveloped, and beautiful. Two hours of motor sailing south delivered us to an anchorage along the western shore near Oven Rock. Within sight of Little Farmer's Cay, Oven Rock is an outcropping that resembles a traditional outdoor Bahamian oven.
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Sound Side
Jeff
Tuesday August 5th 2008, Bitter Guana Cay

Cresting the hill on Bitter Guana Cay provided us a view of the Exuma Sound. The image included is looking southeast from Bitter Guana Cay toward Dotham Cut

up and over
Jeff
Tuesday August 5th 2008, Bitter Guana Cay

We found a faint trail the lead up the hill along the cliffs. We were eager to look across the sound side of Bitter Guana. The image included is looking westward, across the banks.

Face to Face II
Jeff
Tuesday August 5th 2008, Bitter Guana Cay

We were also greeted by this sign.

Face to Face
Jeff
Tuesday August 5th 2008, Bitter Guana Cay

A greeting party of iguanas met us as we made landfall on Bitter Guana Cay.

on the banks side
Jeff
Tuesday August 5th 2008, Bitter Guana Cay

PROLOGUE: Mid morning we departed Staniel Cay on the banks side of the cays. The banks side of the Exumas refers to the western think, towards Cuba, side of the cays. The waters in this area, referred to as the Great Bahamas Bank, cover a vast plateau of limestone. The Great Bahamas Bank is the world largest deposit of limestone. Surrounding the plateau are staggeringly deep ocean waters. Much like the high desert plateaus in US western states the submarine plateaus of the Bahamas have deep, vast canyons that extend unseen. The characteristics of weather, wave action, & tidal currents vary greatly between the shallow banks and the deep water sounds and channels. When I say deep we are not talking hundreds of feet we are measuring depths in miles. We would be able to drop a penny overboard in the Providence Channel and be snug in our anchorage off Egg Island before the penny reached the sea bed.
I digress. Along the Exumas we have a choice of banks side or sound side travel. Banks travel is west of the cays in shallow waters that require us to be ever vigilant for random coral heads and often take indirect routes to avoid sandbars, coral reefs, and groups of cays. Traveling on the eastern side of the cays in the Exuma Sound is affords more direct routes since NM offshore can place us in over 1000 feet of water, but traveling in the sound can be rough and egress requires transiting cuts in the island chain. Changes in tides and winds can quickly make the cuts impassable. Well if you have read this far along (thanks), I now get back to our travels.
PLOT: 18 knot southeast winds convinced us to take the long route along the banks side to Black Point settlement. We were motor sailing windward under the mainsail and taking quite a bit of spray in the steep chop building on the banks. We tacked eastward to take advantage of a bit of lee off the cays. Our shoreward tack took us along Bitter Guana Cay. The west facing white and black cliffs along the northern end of Bitter Guana created a calm anchorage. Awed by the beauty of the calm blue waters meeting the white cliff faces, we dropped the hook off a small beach and went ashore to explore.
The image included is of Anne shelling along the base of the cliffs on the western shore of Bitter Guana Cay.

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