01/17/2007, Lee Stocking Island
What an exciting day! We left Little Farmers, exiting the cut at about 7:30 am, the time we thought would be slack tide, so no current. But we were wrong. Actually we knew we were wrong as soon as we looked out this morning, and the boat was swinging to the current, and facing into the banks, meaning the tide was running out, and opposite to the wind, a not very good situation. But the wind wasn't too strong, so we just pushed on, and it wasn't very bumpy. But as we were just passing through the narrows, we had the biggest rain squall we have had since arriving in The Bahamas. It didn't have strong winds, so we welcomed it as it washed the salt off the boat. And the salt was caked on everything.
Just outside the cut I put on my red and black lure and dropped it overboard as we set out for Adderly Cut (into Lee Stocking Island) about 15 miles away. We were in no hurry as we didn't want to arrive until low water slack, about noon according to our calculations. So we just sailed along nicely (still admiring the new jib). We were in company with about a dozen other boats, but they were motor-sailing as they were headed for Georgetown, about 40 miles away, so we were soon left behind. Jeannie began reading about fishing lures and... zingggg went the reel. Fish on!!! But we were sailing along at 7 knots, and the fish was swimming the other way faster than that. So I was running out of line fast. Jeannie let the sheets go to stop the boat while I grabbed the rod and began tightening the drag on it to stop the line from running right off the reel. Then... bang. No fish. He broke the line (80 lbs. test) and kept my nice new lure!! So I tied on my next best and dropped it off. But no luck.
Our strike came just after we saw a school of what to me looked like tuna jumping around. Were they chasing lunch, or was something else chasing them for lunch or both??? I don't know, but it was exciting for a few minutes.
By then we were off the cut to our anchorage, and we furled the sails, put on the engine and started in. And as usual, we were ahead of the tide. Although we had thought we would be entering at low water slack, there was still a brisk out-going current, setting up the usual nice standing waves, but not too bad, so we made it in without any concerns. Then, to move around to the anchorage, we had to negotiate a very shallow area, particularly as we had just tried (not very successfully) to arrive at low tide. So we very slowly worked our way in, and in doing so, met people from Kinkardie, Ontario whom we had met a few weeks ago in Warderick Wells. They were heading off snorkeling, and we carried on into the very nice and calm anchorage. When we got settled, launched the dinghy (we carry it on the fore-deck when sailing in waters like Exuma Sound, that have the potential to turn into big seas) and put the motor on, our friends had returned, so we motored over for a chat and to learn something about the Marine Institute ashore.
But what we learned is that it sems to have fallen on hard times, and there are just two caretakers ashore, and landing is not permitted. That's too bad, as we had read that you could go ashore, hike the trails and get a tour of the institute. It is (or perhaps, was) funded by a group of US universities. But there is no activity there at present. With us in the anchorage are our friends on Barefoot Shoes, a trawler style boat, and an other trawler, Halligan, also from Ontario who we also chatted with. As we are low on gas for the dinghy, we got a gallon of gas from them and in exchange, we invited them over for drinks, together with Barefoot Shoes, so we had a fun evening. Barefoot Shoes had been out snorkling and had returned with six nice lobsters they had speared, and gave us two which we put on the BBQ for dinner. We also made them show us where they got them, so tomorrow...
01/16/2007, Little Farmers Cay
Last night I said "Watch out fish." Well, tonight it is fish for dinner, but fish we bought here on Little Farmers Cay.
After breakfast, we headed out with two reefs in the main, and rounded the point heading south into the breeze, but it has been dying all day, and we were able to pull out the full jib. In 15 kts, it set beautifully, so we are pleased with it. We only had a short ten mile sail to a point where we wanted to snorkel some corral. Because the electronic charts are off by anywhere from a few yards to a quarter mile (and we're never sure which), we did some old fashioned navigating using the paper charts in which we have more confidence. And with some GPS waypoints loaded into the handheld GPS, we set off in the dinghy (we had anchored Estelle as closely as we dared to the coral).
After we found the coral, and got geared up, I realized that we had left the spear back on Estelle. So the fish (and we saw lots, a few of which were big enough to go after) were safe for another day. We then set sail for Little Farmers Cay, about five miles south of us. In the dying winds, we started the engine and motored in the last few miles over increasingly shallow water. It is always an odd feeling to be two miles from land and have only a foot or two beneath the keel. The depth sounder alarm chirped most of the time. But we found a nice anchorage and dinghied ashore.
Little Farmers Cay has about 100 people, one small store, a bar (Ocean Cabin, and The Little Farmers Cay Yacht Club, which consists of a tumbling down wharf and a dilapidated building. Although the cruising guide says they sell gas and diesel, I decided to give it a pass. As we landed, there was a person cleaning fish on the dock, and when we asked him about buying fish, he directed us to a house where we bought six nice snapper for eight dollars. So, fish tonight! We then checked out the store, which had an excellent supply of Comet Cleaner, Tomato Ketchup, crackers but little else. We bought a package of crackers, and after a short walk around, back to the boat for dinner.
Little Farmers is home to the four F's regatta (Little Farmers First Friday in February Regatta) which we will miss, but is reported to be a big event. It is a neat community with an interesting history (and we have read various differing accounts of its history, but the common elements are that they are all descendants of one or two former slaves who landed there after abolition and either claimed or were given the land.
Tomorrow, depending on weather, we will either go to Lee Stocking Island, about 15 miles away, or to Georgetown, about 40 miles. Our preference is Lee Stocking Island, but we will only stop there if the weather forecast is good for the end of the week, as we don't want to get trapped there.
01/14/2007, Black Point Settlement
Our plan for today was to leave Black Point and sail about 5 miles south towards Little Farmer Cay and to find an anchorage that would be both sheltered and near some coral. Last night was an unusual night... no wind! I think that's the first night since we arrived in The Bahamas that we had a perfectly calm night. And this morning, except for a short rain squall that we welcomed, as it washed the salt off the boat, the wind remained light. We hoisted the main, raised anchor and left just behind a Bristol 38.8 that was heading for Little Farmers and rounded the point out onto the banks.
Once clear of Black Point, we unfurled some of the new jib and quickly tied a reef in the main, as the wind had recovered to its usual 20 knots. Under reefed sails, we had a beautiful beat up to White Point where we hoped to snorkel. But as we got off the point, furled the sails, and headed in, it was apparent that we would not be anchoring in any shelter, so we rounded up, and backtracked to behind White Point, (not Black Point) where there was more shelter. And in behind us came Star, the Bristol 38.8.
Although we were out of the wind and the large swell on the banks, there was still a swell coming round the point. This is called The Cape effect, where waves will actually curve around a point and come in at an angle to the wind.
So with the boat pointed into the wind, there is a swell coming at it across the beam, creating an annoying (and for some a sickening) roll. Securely anchored, we headed in with the dinghy to the beach and walked, climbed some dunes to another beach (both empty) and had a swim. On the point was the largest osprey nest I have ever seen. Perched on the rocks, it was at least six feet in both height and diameter. And as we watched, one adult landed with a huge fish. Although we couldn't see, there must be young in the nest, although its an odd time of year. But I guess seasons don't matter much to a bird in The Bahamas. On the way back to the boat we checked a few dark patches for coral, but found none, so after a short chat with Bob & Gail on Star, we headed back to the boat for a late lunch.
Although Star were staying the night, we decided to return to Black Point for a quiet night out of the swell. So we had a beautiful downwind sail with the new genoa full out in all its splendor. As it turns out, we were not the only ones who decided to return, as two others that were anchored next to us and left before us were back here ahead of us. Tomorrow the winds are supposed to lighten up, so we will try some snorkeling again at a spot where we know there is coral. Watch out fish (and lobster (yum)!!!
01/14/2007, Black Point Settlement
On Saturday, we got up (at Big Majors Spot) and dithered about the day. The options were to either stay where we were and fiddle around the beaches for the day and attend the pig roast, or head out to Black Point Settlement and do a laundry. Our ultimate objective is to return to Georgetown, about 90 miles south of here, re-stock at the (real) grocery store there, and head further south. We have a sort of plan to be there late this week, weather permitting. And right now, the forecast looks promising for later in the week. But for Saturday, we decided to head out to Black Point Settlement.
With the winds still howling at 25 kts. we tucked two reefs in the main, and pulled out our tiny jib, and had a nice sail over the 10 mile route. Although the jib doesn't let us point (sail at a close angle to the wind) very well, it was a nice size for the wind, so it was very enjoyable. The number of boats in the area continues to grow daily, and when we arrived at Black Point, there were about 20 boats anchored there. But it is a large harbor, and we dropped anchor just off the laundromat. Taking the dinghy in with four bags of laundry, we were fortunate to be able to get it all done at once.
Between washing and drying, we went for a walk to the east side of the cay, facing on Exuma Sound, and the surf was huge! Not a day to try to exit a cut. Back at the boat in mid-afternoon, an announcement came over the VHF from Lorraine's Cafe about dinner that night. So we called back and made a reservation, she read out the menu and we made our selections. The VHF is used here like a combination telephone system, radio system, and commercial radio with advertisements.
So at 6:00 pm, we dinghied back in and headed up to Lorraine's for dinner. Inside, we found a TV with a football game (the first we have seen this season) and a lot of locals watching). With appetizers served up, I asked about a beer, and Lorraine just pointed to the bar (no bartender), and said "Over there". So I walked over, behind the bar, rummaged around until I located the beer, made out my tab (I had to find a paper and pen) and we were set for a great evening of Cracked Conch and Ribs & Chicken! Just like the honour bars in the Business floors of the hotels!! One other cruising couple came in, and with that, Lorraine had a great crowd! The price was very reasonable, about half of what it would be at Staniel.
Today (Sunday) we dithered about our departure and destination for so long that we just stayed. During the day another dozen or so boats arrived, all hoping to do laundry, but the Laundromat is not open on Sunday, so tomorrow will be a busy day in there.
In a lull in the wind we got the small jib off and the new one out on the deck, but by the time we were ready to put it on, the wind had returned, so we fought with it, but finally succeeded. So we know it fits, and now look forward to seeing it in use. It is a new "special laminate material for cruising boats" and is a tri-radial cut, new to us for a jib. After that, we got the bikes out and ashore, and covered every road (paved and un-paved) on the island. Back aboard, I changed the oil in the out-board engine, re-packed the aft cabin where the bikes live, and it was time for dinner. Another busy day!
Tomorrow we will head further south. It sounds like the high winds are ready to abate this week. Yesterday, I was talking to a boat in Nassau (on the SSB) and he said the local boaters were all grumbling and threatening to sell their boats, they were so fed up with the weather. For us, it has been annoying, but it hasn't prevented us from sailing. But to get to Georgetown we do need to have some decent weather to get out a cut, and that looks like mid-week. So we will push south inside the cays (on the Bank side) and be ready to take the window when it comes.
01/11/2007, Staniel Cay
Well, today when we woke up, I listened, as usual to the weather , and we had recorded gusts of 42 kts in our anchorage. And up a few miles above, one boat dragged anchor and grounded with some significant damage. And two dinghies drifted away, and here, in this wind direction, they have over 50 miles to drift, so are probably gone for sure.
But we had a busy day! We checked the internet, had lunch and shopped for groceries. And that pretty much consumed the day. But let me expand. To do anything, we had to decide how to get ashore in Staniel. Where we are anchored, about 1.5 miles from the yacht club wharf, we had to either take the dinghy over (and, more importantly, back) or raise anchor, motor over, anchor just off Staniel, and take a short ride ashore. By 10:00 am we had come to a decision... up anchor and move. So we did. And by the time we were anchored safely, and had let the anchor settle (and in these winds, that's important), it was time for lunch. So, we bundled the garbage (a major strategic issue) and the laptop in the dinghy, we were ashore just in time to have lunch at the yacht club. Conch fritters and a salad were a tasty treat. And at the same time (the yacht club has wireless internet) we downloaded our internet stuff, sent off all the necessary replies, and were off for a serious afternoon of shopping! First stop, Isles General store. But by road about a half hour, by dinghy about 5 minutes. We owed them $8 from a previous filling of the propane tank, so I zipped over while Jeannie finished the internet stuff. Arriving at 1:15 PM, nobody there. Not that the store was closed, just empty. So I left the $8 on the counter and walked back down to the dock, jumped in the dinghy and returned to the yacht club where Jeannie was finishing up.
Then off to the Blue Store for more supplies. And again I used the calculator to add up the bill. Posting some cards required first identifying the post office, then finding someone in charge. But that was accomplished in less than a half hour (it was 20 feet from the Blue Store, but the only identification was a mailbox on the side of a house). Then back at the dock, we chatted with a couple from Milton, Ont. who said that Isles General (the propane store) had some fresh fruit. So back in the dinghy to Isles General. Again, no one there. But there were two men building a stone wall outside. I asked when someone would be back, and they said "soon". So we waited... and waited. Then as we decided to give up and headed back to the dinghy dock, the same man said "Do you want me to go get her?" That would be nice! So we bought some nice fruit. The first grapes in a month, a mango, bananas, lettuce, etc. and headed back to the boat. Then up anchor, back to the anchorage for the night (Big Majors) and it was Happy Hour which we celebrated with our Ontario friends on their boat, a Hunter 38. How time flies!!! And tonight it is still blowing stink, so tomorrow's plans are uncertain. If we stay here, we will go to the pig roast on the beach, although on the VHF tonight we heard that there are complications... some confusion over the origins of the pig. But apparently it will not be from off the beach (the location of the roast is the same beach as the pigs that swim out to be fed), but from Black Point Settlement, not Nassau as originally planned. Exciting!!!
01/11/2007, Staniel Cay
Last night was even more windy that the previous one, and this morning it was still at it. The wind speed read a steady 25 kts with gusts to 30. And as it was beginning to move from north-east to more easterly, we decided to head out while it was still at least just on our beam. So we dropped the mooring at Warderick Wells (the only boat that reported in that we would be leaving) and headed out.
The first part of the route was fine as the wind was still behind us, but as we worked our way down, our course gradually took us from south to south-east, and the wind slowly went from north-east to east, so that by the time we arrived at Staniel, it was pretty much on the nose. We didn't mind our small jib today, except that it doesn't sheet properly, and so it doesn't point very well. But we made good time and arrived by mid-afternoon.
We were anchored about 1.5 miles from the yacht club which is quite exposed, so I took the dinghy in. Normally in a wind lke this it can be a wet experience, but alone it was quite dry. The jib was waiting on the Yacht Club porch, so I ran up to the Blue Store and the Pink Store (next door) and picked up a few well-needed supplies, mainly fresh fruit, which ran out a few days ago. In the Blue Store, I was waited on by an old man who carefully wrote the price of each item down on an old newspaper. Then looking longingly at an ancient adding machine, back to his column of numbers, then up at me, he asked "Do you know how to use that thing?" I replied (in spite of not being an accountant) that I thought I could, and with that he smiled, plugged it in and pushed it at me, and read off the numbers.
Back at the Yacht Club I loaded all into the dinghy and headed out. But with the weight of the new jib (about 120 pounds) I was now in for a wet ride. So I was soaked by the time I got back to the boat, but a quick shower solved that problem.
Tonight Bob Gray's stir-fry. We are not sure what we will do tomorrow. It depends on the weather. Unless the wind goes down, and its not forecast to, we will wait here another day, as our next stop is Black Point Settlement for laundry. But that is dead to windward, and not in the cards in this wind. If we are here on Saturday night, we will go to a pig roast on the beach. We're actually anchored at Big Major's Spot, which is the best anchorage close to Staniel in this wind. And the pig roast is set to be held on the beach where the wild pigs come down to be fed. Jeannie's first question was "Where did the pig come from?". She was assured that it was from Nassau. Now for the temperature sensor!
01/10/2007, Warderick Wells
We had been planning to stay in Allens Cay for two nights, but the weatherfax showed a cold front bearing down on us, and with the winds moving to north-west then over to north-east, we decided Allans wouldn't be the best spot, so we raised anchor in the morning and began working our way back down towards Staniel where (we hope) our new sail will be waiting. In spite of the forecast, we had a beautiful sail down in light north-westerlies, a rare treat to be able to sail south in anything but a beat to windward. Pulling in to Warderick Wells, we picked up a mooring on the west side of the cay that would provide protection for the promised north-easterlies. We went ashore and registered, then did some snorkling at a site just 100 yards off the boat. A nice site with a number of large (and delicious looking) fish, but in a park, so I tried shooting them with my camera with not too much success until the battery died. Then we went on a hike across the island that took us past the ruins of a "plantation" dating from 1780. A few pathetic stone buildings with only some partial walls standing. There were also a couple of stone fences that spanned the island. But the description "plantation" is a far cry from reality. I have never seen more rugged terrain! It is is nothing but sharp jagged points and large sink holes of limestone rock eroded to the point that you have to be extremely careful to avoid a dangerous fall. There is no way anything could ever grow on that land. But we hiked over to the Exuma Sound side of the cay and looked out over the Sound, as calm as we have ever seen it. And we looked into a southern anchorage that looked quite inviting. Then back to the boat for a roast chicken dinner, and a couple of Seinfeld episodes.
In the morning I made another futile attempt to locate the sail. But I'm not too concerned, as I think it will be in Staniel when we go there tomorrow. First thing every morning I listen to the SSB weather net here in the Bahamas. They read out the forecast, then various boats check in with conditions at their respective locations, usually from scattered areas of The Bahamas, but some as far away as Jamaica. It comes on at 7 am, and lasts only 10 minutes. Then I download the weather from the US National Hurricane Center. I subscribe to it, so each morning at 6 am, the computer sends me an email with the forecast. Then beginning at 7:30, I download the weatherfax. That gives me three forecasts, and they are usually similar, but not identical. I have learned that the NHC and BASRA (the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue) forecasts are usually a bit high on wind forecast. I am a bit like the man with two watches. A man with one watch always knows the time. A man with two is never sure! But today for the first time, they all say N-E@20-25 for the rest of the week. So that will give us a merry sail back down as we work our way back to Georgetown to re-stock.
Today is cooler (about 24C) and its the first day in a long time we haven't gone swimming. But we took another hike across the cay into the southern anchorage. It is called Pirates Lair, as it is reported that in pirate days they would use the anchorage as a hiding place, and a place to rest and take on water. There is a fresh water well there. And there have been enough artifacts dug up that it seems to confirm it. Very good protection, and neat to think about those days. But tonight we will dig into the freezer and make spaghetti. And that will leave us some frozen chicken breasts, and that's it. Time to re-stock. Even the wine inventory is low, and that could be expensive to replenish. But we could have worse problems.
01/07/2007, Allan's Cay
Today, shortly after breakfast we hoisted the main, raised the anchor and headed out of Shroud to Allans Cay, about 15 miles away. Another perfect day with a 12 knot breeze behind us and not a cloud in the sky, we reached Allan just at noon. The main feature of Allan is the Iguanas that are on shore on two of the cays. So right after lunch we put the motor on the dinghy, grabbed some cabbage and the camera and headed over. There were more of them than I expected, and they were quite aggressive, probably used to being fed, so we opted for safety and just sat in the dinghy and fed and photographed them. We later saw people on the beach with them, but I'm not sure. Their eyesight is very poor, and they have been known to mistake a finger for lunch, so I was happy to keep them at a distance. Then off snorkeling. We tried a couple of sites, off in the dinghy, but they were in very strong currents, so we kept looking and finally found a nice site just off the stern of the boat.
And I managed to spear my first fish! He's not as big as he looked in the water, and when filleted,there's not a lot of him left, but I got him! And then I tried bait fishing, and caught two more, one a very nice size, so the chicken goes back in the freezer for another night. But that will be it for a while, as we head back down to Staniel tomorrow, passing through Exuma Park, where fishing is prohibited. But we have high hopes for the future. This is a really nice anchorage, and there are six other boats here with us. Three of them seem to have about four children each on them, so there's lots of lively noise, but its not a concern in this beautiful spot.