12/25/2006, Big Majors Spot
Well, Christmas arrived and amazingly Santa found us way down here in The Bahamas. We spent Christmas Eve at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where we had dinner, a Filet Mignon & Lobster dinner. With the best Key Lime Pie we have ever tasted for dessert.
It was great fun, and we chatted with both other cruisers and an English family staying at cabins at the club. It is not a yacht club in the North American sense, but a remote marina with a neat bar and dining room. Back on the boat, we were ready for bed after reciting our new version of The Night Before Christmas over the VHF.
This morning Sarah, assisted by Meghan, made Burritos for Brunch, and we then cast off and headed over to nearby Big Majors Spot, where there are some pigs that survived some long ago shipwreck, and will swim out to your boat for food. So we had fun feeding the swimming pigs, had a swim, and headed out to Black Point Harbor where we were two nights ago.
It will provide the best protection in the fresh southerlies we have today, and we will be staying close as Sarah will be flying out of Staniel on Thursday.
Arriving there, Sarah & I went SCUBA diving, for Sarah the first time, and for me an opportunity to replace the zinc on the propeller shaft and clean the hull a bit. The others went snorkeling until a Sting ray chased them back ashore.
We haven't had a chance to open presents (stockings were opened this morning) so that is for tonight. Turkey breast and stuffing for dinner with champagne to start and dessert wine to finish. Chardonnay in between. We are watching an approaching front that is predicted to bring north-westerlies on Tuesday night. So we will be moving back over to another nearby spot tomorrow for protection from the opposite direction as tonight.
12/24/2006, Exuma Sound
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the boat; Not a creature was stirring, among all things afloat.
The crew were nestled, all snug in their beds, while visions of rum cakes danced in their heads.
With the 1st mate in her bikini, and I in my trunks, we'd just settled in for a night in our bunks.
When out on the beach there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bunk to see what was the matter.
Away to the porthole I flew like a flash; Tore open the screen and threw up the hatch.
The moon on the shores of the white sandy beach; Gave the luster of mid-day, as far as my eyes could reach.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
As palm trees before the wild hurricane sway; Waves crashed on the shores of the sun drenched bay.
So onto the foredeck the reindeer they flew, with a sleigh full of rum, and St. Nicholas too.
As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the forehatch St. Nicholas came with a bound.
In a Speedo and Tevas, with shades on his head, I knew at a glance I had nothing to dread.
His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry; His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work; He filled all the stockings and turned with a jerk.
And laying a finger aside of his nose; And giving a nod, up the forehatch he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle; And away they all flew like the down on a thistle.
On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen; On Comet and Cupid and Doner and Blitzen.
To the top of the dune, to the top of the palm; Now dash away, dash away, dash away Mon.
And I heard him exclaim as he sailed out of sight; Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!!!
12/24/2006, Staniel Cay
The Coconut Shrimp won out last night.
We came through Dotham Cut without incident, Andrew on the wheel, and learning to read the water. Passing through the cut, we rounded up to port and headed into Black Point Harbor where we dropped anchor in company with four other cruisers. Sarah and Meghan dinghied ashore and checked out the local store, returning with a bottle of Guava jam.
After dinner we watched James Bond in Thunderball in the cockpit as we plan to snorkle the cave today. This morning we had French Toast for breakfast using up some bread that was going stale. After breakfast we decided to head directly over to Staniel Cay to get settled for Christmas Eve. So we set out under motor for the eight mile trip.
Just as we were heading out, the alternator belt began squealing, suggesting a loose belt. I knew it had to be tightened, but was surprised that it started so suddenly. So we hoisted sail and shut off the motor and I went down to investigate. I found not just a loose belt, but water everywhere. Further investigation (turning on the motor) disclosed a burst hose between the fresh water pump and the heat exchanger. And a very unique hose!
After some digging, I brought out my spare parts kit for the engine. The boatyard put together a kit of various hoses, filters and gaskets for the trip, but I did not recall this particular one. I was able to locate the part in the parts book, Hose 42232. Digging around, I was astonished to find hose #42232 in my kit! So the next two hours were spent on my knees wrestling the old hose off and the new on on. While I was at it, I decided to replace a fuel filter that was accessible with the alternator belts off, so that job was done. Replacing the alternator belts, I discovered the reason for the loose belt. The bolt for tightning the alternator in place had stripped the threads on the alternator housing. So I located a longer bolt and threaded it in through the housing and tightened the belt again. Now, refill the cooling water, and job done just as we sailed into the Staniel Cay harbor.
Now a free afternoon to snorkel Thunderball Cave, a few more tidbits to buy, and then Christmas Eve dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and the movie "A Christmas Story" when back aboard. Merry Christmas everyone!!!
12/18/2006, Exuma Sound
Sarah arrived on schedule on Sunday, and our plan was to head out for a few days until Meghan & Andrew arrived. But the winds never let us, so we explored Georgetown and its harbor for three windy days. With winds of 20-30 knots out of the east and south-east, we had reasonable protection by staying close to Stocking Island. Rather than face the prospect of a complete drenching in the dinghy, we raised anchor on Tuesday and crossed over to Georgetown where we anchored off the town and had a much shorter (and drier) dinghy ride back and forth.
Tuesday we spent exploring Stocking Island and a bit of less than spectacular snorkling. On Wed, we decided not to repeat our greeting of Sarah with Andrew and Meghan, so we went over to the marina, filled up with fuel and negotiated for a berth. By negotiate, we didn't quibble about price ($0.85/ft) but where we would be berthed. It was still blowing 20+ knots and the marina has no protection, so getting in to most berths would be impossible. The only reason we were able to go in for fuel was that it is a huge dock with room for us to round up, and it was sheltered from the waves by a 180' dive boat in the berth to windward. We purposely left our fueling to late in the day in hopes that we would be the last, and be able to stay on the fuel dock overnight. So when I suggested it (after lots of chat about how great a marina it was) I raised the topic with the dockmaster.
I couldn't understand a word of his reply... his accent was so thick, coupled with a way of mumbling, that I was at a total loss as to his reply. So I just started chatting again as we worked our way up to the office, where the cashier translated that it would be OK as he was out of fuel anyway. So that solved a huge problem with picking up Andrew and Meghan.
To arrange for their pickup, I called "Taxi 35" on the VHF (it is like a party line phone here). Taxi 35 had picked up Sarah and was keen for another job, so a quick call and that was set. Picking out Sarah was no problem as she was the only white face on the plane. But for A&M, he just wandered around and found them. Safely aboard, we went up to "The Peace & Plenty", a small local resort hotel, for dinner.
Next morning I had the job of re-claiming the old jib I had given away earlier in the week. When it gave out, I wanted to get it off the boat as it is big, and we could use the storage space. So I carted it ashore to throw it in the dumpster, and as I was walking along with it, a local asked if he could have it. Sure! Problem solved.
Then I went up to customs to arrange to bring in the new one. Again, no problem if I just produce my cruising permit. But... by the way, what did you do with the old one? "I gave it.....away" I replied, as I realised the implications. "Then you have illegally imported something into the Bahamas. Therefore you will have to pay full duty (37.5%) on the new sail". I vowed to recover the old one, and now I managed it. So it is now sitting uselessly on the deck. I will bring in the new one, then figure out how to get rid of the old one. It took me 3 days to track down the old one, but I now have it!
Today (Saturday, Dec 23) we left Georgetown heading up to Staniel. In a 15-20 knot following breeze, Andrew pestered us until we hoisted the spinnaker for a beautiful run up Exuma Sound and timing our entry through Dotham Cut at slack water... perfect ending to a beautiful sail!
Dinner tonight will be shrimp, either in a curry or coconut sauce. We'll take a vote.
12/18/2006, Georgetown, Exumas
We arrived here Saturday afternoon, and chose to anchor off Sand Dollar Beach, the third of three anchorages off Stocking Island. The island is long and thin, and lies off Georgetown forming the harbor and giving it good protection from the prevailing easterlies. And so far, with one front having come through, we have been well protected.
But in a strong northerly, the protection is minimal in the main anchorage. There are three "holes" that are formed in Stocking Island that are coveted anchorages, but fill up quickly as the snowbirds arrive for the winter, and they are full now, in fact, too full for my liking. If anyone ever began to drag (a very unlikely possibility in such good protection) it would be chaos. But we are here for only a few days, so our anchorage should be fine.
Sarah arrived last night and Andrew and Meghan arrive Thursday night, then we will be off. I will use the time for some chores (oil change, new Zinc on the propeller shaft, etc.) It was great to see Sarah, and read some of the newspapers she brought. She also brought the James Bond DVD Thunderball, which was filmed here in The Bahamas. In fact, the famous underwater fight scene was shot in Thunderball Cave, just off Staniel Cay, about 50 miles up the chain. We will be heading up there next week, and will snorkel it.
One problem with the Georgetown anchorage for us is the size of our dinghy (8' with a 5 hp engine). The harbor is 1.25 miles across, and going over in any kind of wind can be a wet proposition. In fact, last night, crossing with Sarah, we were both soaked completely before we got here, but I had expected it and took plastic bags to put her things in, so they were safe. Our plan is to go over and anchor off the town for the day today, then return here tonight. A bit more trouble, but not a major problem.
I knew about the dinghy issue before we left, but, like the sail, was too cheap to do anything about it. I decided to put up with it as we won't be here much. It hasn't been a problem elsewhere, and maybe next year we will consider a bigger one. On the sail front, the new one is ordered, and delivery slated for before New Years. Getting it to the Bahamas will be one thing (and I have that worked out thanks to some help from the owner of the market here), but getting it into my hands without paying duty (37%) may take some time. I will look into it today or tomorrow.
But for the most part, the week will be spent snorkeling, beach walking, reading and wandering around the town. For those who have been to Belize, Georgetown is a cross between San Pedro and Placencia. So the weeks activities look like a tough assignment, but we're up to it!
12/16/2006, Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas
We left Warderick Wells yesterday morning in a beautiful sunny day with light S-W winds, and with our S-E course, we were able to enjoy a nice sail as we headed down the Exuma chain on the banks (western, shallow)side. But as the day progressed and with our teeny jib, we decided we should motor, as we were heading for a spot from which we could jump outside into Exuma Sound for Georgetown. So we motor-sailed down to Cave Cay where we anchored for the night.
I took a short swim and for the first time tried the underwater housing for my camera. There was no coral close, but it was just an experiment. And last night I downloaded the pictures of the anchor and our rudder (exciting!) to the laptop to see how they turned out. One issue with underwater photography is that pictures come out with a heavy blue cast. But I bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop, and it can be used to adjust the cast out, so I did, and it seems to work. It is a complicated program and I may have to resort to the instructions if all else fails, but I think it will work.
Our food is running low, so combinations are getting a bit weird. Last night suddenly went from steak to chicken breasts, as that's all we could find. I later found the steak, and we will have it tonight. So far my fishing hasn't been too productive, but we really haven't been in good areas yet. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! But the wine supply is still holding out, except that we are starting to have trouble finding stuff we stowed in Miami.
This morning we set out from our anchorage at Cave Cay and motored out Cave Cay Cut into Exuma Sound in flat calm. There is a swell that creates a roll but not enough wind to even bother with the sails. But by mid-morning a light breeze had sprung up, so we hoisted sail in a beautiful day. By early afternoon we were off the entrance to Georgetown Harbor, and dropped sails and motored in.
Georgetown is the ultimate destination for many boats, including one that had been sailing with us for the last few days. These boats come in, drop anchor in the fall and hoist again in the spring. It is a gorgeous harbor and town, with beautiful turquoise water and white sand beaches, but, to us not that gorgeous! We will stock up here (with groceries about 20% higher than at home), meet Sarah tomorrow, and, weather permitting, head out to a few nearby cays for a few days until coming back to meet Andrew & Meghan on Thursday.
Then we will head back up the Exumas for Christmas.
12/14/2006, Warderick Wells, Exumas
Warderick Wells is the headquarters for Exuman Land and Sea Park, which occupies about 150 square miles and 30 or so cays in the middle of the Exuma chain. It is the most picturesque setting in the Bahamas. There are moorings here and a bunch of trails on the cays.
We motorsailed from Shroud, a distance of 20 miles, in the standard 20 knot headwind, and with only a mainsail to drive us, which was slow going. But we arrived here in mid-afternoon, checked in (you can reserve one day in advance on the VHF, and your reservation is confirmed on the VHF the next morning at nine am).
We decided to take the opportunity of the protection from the wind to change the jib, and managed to get the old one down, folded and bagged on deck, and hoisted the new one. It was originally a heavy weather jib (a blade) for a Tartan 35, so it is quite teeny for our boat. But it is better than nothing, and we should have our new one by New Year's. We had no sooner hoisted the small jib, when we heard that the forecast has changed for light winds for the next two days... just when we could use the wind. And as I write this, at 6 pm, for the first time in over a week, it is calm!
After changing jibs, it was too late to go snorkling, so we went on a short hike on one of the many trails across the cay. With only 4 other boats in the mooring field (out of a total of 22), it is a quiet time here. It is beautiful, and a spot we will return to, perhaps with the family over Christmas!
Tomorrow's destination is yet to be determined, but somewhere south towards Georgetown and Sarah for Christmas!
12/13/2006, Shroud Cay, Exumas
Since we are meeting Sarah in Georgetown, about 150 miles S-E (to windward), we won't be dawdling. We set off from Highbourne about 10 am after puttering around getting things ready for a sail to windward. The winds have defied the forecasters by staying up in the 20+ knot range, so today as we set off we pulled out only about half the jib and set off to pound our way south.
And 10 minutes later, the jib ripped from leech (the trailing edge) to luff (the leading edge)! Although a disappointment, this wasn't a total suprise. We have been suffering a series of rips, and knew that it was approaching the end of its life, so we will put on the small one we are carrying and look into a replacement. Fortunately, I asked our sailmaker in Maine to take all the measurements necessary to make a new one, as I hoped to get this winter out of the old one, but knew it was not a certainty. In any case, we furled it up and motor-sailed down to Shroud Cay, where we anchored in company with another Bristol (a 38.8') and a power boat from Maine.
Shroud Cay is actually a number of cays that create a mangrove filled lagoon with some little waterways that are fun to explore. We went off in the dinghy and worked our way across to the other side facing Exuma Sound, and the onshore winds and surf. Very spectacular, but a bit exposed in these winds.
Back at the boat, I replaced the voltage regulator on the alternator, as the old one isn't working properly. It will do as a spare, but it won't completely charge the batteries, so after motoring for 4 hours, we pull in with batteries not fully charged and need to run the generator. Problem fixed! Now my maintenance/repair list is down to 7 items of varying urgency. Perhaps tomorrow I'll change the oil in the outboard, then maybe clean the watermaker filters.
Tonight we finished off some frozen lobster we have been carrying since Maine, making a Pesto sauce to go with is. We have not changed jibs as the winds are too high, and the old one is so big that folding it is a must, so we will have to wait until the winds ease up so we can get it ashore for folding. Hopefully tomorrow, when we are off to Warderick Wells, home of the Exuma Land and Sea Park Headquarters.