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Jascat to the Bahamas
Goofing Off at Treasure Cay – Cleaning the Fresh water system
03/05/2011, Treasure Cay Marina

"Scream like a girl" water at Green Turtle Cay

March 2: We do have our natural divisions of work aboard the boat. John does the route planning and research. Luckily I found out he really enjoys that. Before I found out I felt guilty that I wasn't helping. He also does the boat maintenance. I handle the livability issues, like what we are going to eat, how the interior looks. We both do the sailing. He docks the boat, I jump off gracefully and tie us up. I drive the boat when we anchor, so he can handle the heavy anchoring work. He usually drives the boat when we pick up a mooring buoy because I love to pick up the buoy. Sometimes we switch that around, so we've pretty much done that equally. We both do the sailing; but John raises the mainsail while I keep the boat into the wind. I'm not sure if it is a strength thing or he doesn't want to watch me fall overboard. I do all the meal planning and all the cooking on board. Whoever cooks doesn't have to do dishes, so when it is just the two of us, John is doing the dishes.

So since my responsibility is livability, I need to mention the issue of fresh water. We have two 30 gallon water tanks. Two tanks is good, so if your pump goes crazy or something happens to one tank, you might have the other to fall back on. I even like to have a couple of gallon jugs of water, so if my tanks run out unexpectedly, I have two gallons to get me through two days till I can get to more water. My rule is you should always test the water at a location BEFORE you put it in your tank. Not everyone's public water system is fit to drink. For example, in a location on a prior trip there was a spigot where you can have free water. I was amazed, until someone mentioned I should taste it. No one drinks that brackish water; they all get RO (reverse osmosis) water from somewhere else. Well, I didn't follow my own rule. In the haul-out yard at Marathon, we had George and Carol fill our port tank from the yard spigot. I was busy doing something else, and didn't think of it. John was eager to get us going and not have to stop for water after the boat got back in the water. So... we just filled the tank. That's number one. Number two, we think we overfilled a tank at one time, got some water in the vent line that then sat there getting stagnant. I can't say for sure those are the causes, but right now our fresh water system stinks! That is, when we first run the tap, the water we get stinks. Then after about ½ quart is pulled off, the water is good again. The ½ quart that stinks (we pull off and save it), smells and tastes ok a short time later. So, my theory is that the port vent hose has something growing in it. Today, we ran Clorox through the vent house. We'll see tomorrow if that solves the problem. Stay tuned. And yes, we're drinking from my gallon jugs of water, not the tank.

By the way, you can treat your tank water by adding ½ tsp per 10 gallons of water. It will kill bad stuff in the water, but it won't make crummy water taste good.

You really learn the old meaning of "sweet water" when you've tasted the difference. Nassau water was a little brackish too, it tasted salty. We're glad to have that gone out of our tanks.

Update: we seem to have fixed our Fresh Water System problem; or at least made a 95% improvement.

Big Cut to Cave Cay- Ann's Perspective
03/05/2011, Treasure Cay Marina

The sea bottom as we sailed along the north coast of Little Abaco

The contrast of these two days leads me to discuss the job John does researching, planning and navigating our routes. The night we spent at Big Cut, the very long night with an all night anchor watch, John spent "kicking himself" for taking us into that spot. OK, we had to keep an anchor watch, but I don't see how he could expect to know how the wind direction and holding will be everywhere. We try to visualize the forecast wind direction, how it will blow across the area we see on the map. But until you get there and see it, you miss the land elevation and several other key things. And of course you can't always know the wind direction 8 hours before.

The next days trip to Cave Cay was an example of the little parts of planning that come together. We needed to transit a narrow channel to get through a reef at the North edge of the Abaco Bight, to get to Cave Cay and eventually the next day to leave the Bight. So John planned our departure to have us cross that section at a rising tide (giving us extra depth to cross the shallow, and a continued rising tide if we ran aground and needed to lift off), and also he planned to have the sun at the right height so we could "read" the water. In the Bahamas, the water color tells you about the depth as well as what is hidden underneath. It was a beautifully planned passage and worked great. Once we got to Cave Cay, the wind was coming from the wrong direction for the anchorage we had picked (and also "wrong" from what was forecast), so John eased around to a different section of the island and found us a perfect spot for the night. Best sleep in several days!

By the way, I saw about a 3 foot long reef or nurse shark chasing her supper as I was supposed to be watching the shallows through the Spence Rock cut. I saw a flurry of little fish jumping away, for dear life, and then I saw the shark swimming very fast after them. I had to work to keep my focus on watching our path.

Relaxing in Treasure Cay Marina
03/05/2011, Treasure Cay Marina

The Treasure Cay beach looking at Whale Cay off in the distance

Our unexpected stay in the Treasure Cay Marina has been a pleasant one. We originally intended to stay only a night or two just to check the place out but high winds and rough seas have kept us here five days so far. There appears to be a small weather window of 2 to 3 days starting tomorrow, Sunday, which will allow us to head out again. We plan to run over to Great Guana Cay and then to Man-O-War Cay for one day stays before the next round of high winds comes up.

Treasure Cay is a nice place to hang out while waiting out unpleasant weather. The marina is well protected from both wind and waves and has a very good grocery and laundry within easy walking distance. The beach is also just a short walk away. There are nightly dock parties and a weekly pizza night at the marina bar. Many cruisers rent slips here for several months and spend the majority of their time in the Bahamas parked right here.

Green Turtle Cay to Treasure Cay
03/05/2011, Treasure Cay Marina

Sailboat aground in entrance to White Sound, Green Turtle Cay

Mar 1: After a very pleasant supper at the Green Turtle Club restaurant, we set down to plan our next trip which was to be to Treasure Cay. A couple of cruisers highly recommended the Treasure Cay Marina as a good place to stage out of while cruising the south part of the Sea of Abaco so we wanted to stay there a night or two to check the area out. The first part of our planning is always a check of the upcoming weather. The next day, March 1, looked to be ok, but after that, the weather was going to get a bit dicey. A cold front (what else) was coming through on March 2 bringing high winds out of the north for the next several days. That was highly significant because to get from Green Turtle to Treasure Cay and other southern destinations you have to go around the "Whale" and you can't do that when high winds are blowing from the north.

The Sea of Abaco is divided into two halves by a shoal that extends out from Treasure Cay (which is actually a peninsula on Great Abaco) out to an island called Whale Cay. The shoal is too shallow for larger boats to cross so it is necessary to go out into the ocean to go around Whale Cay. This requires going through a passage in the offshore reef called the Whale Cay Channel. In strong north to east winds, the passage can become dangerous with steep breaking waves. These conditions are known as a "rage". The weather forecast was predicting just those conditions.

Well, no problem. We had a whole day before the winds were going to clock around to the north and increase. We just needed to get off reasonably early in the morning to ensure an easy passage.

The next morning around 9am we headed out to cross the Whale. As we motored away from the marina we could see a sailboat just entering the White Sound entrance channel. It had its sails up but didn't appear to be moving. As we got closer, we realized why. It was aground.

The entrance channel to White Sound has a controlling depth of about 5 feet. It is an "L" shaped channel and quite narrow, maybe two large boats wide. The larger boats go in or out one at a time.

The grounded sailboat, we later found out, had a 6 foot draft. He had entered the channel with the tide up about a foot just an hour or two before low tide. If he had followed his wife's advice, he would have been ok. She told him to stay in the center of the channel but he instead tried to "cut the corner" in the "L" of the channel.

As we motored out, we could see that the skipper was trying hard to get off the shoal. He had his sails up to try to heel the boat over to reduce his draft and was using his dinghy to try steer the boat off the shoal. We decided to stay well clear to give him room to work so we went back into the sound and took up a mooring buoy. After a while, a couple of cruisers in dinghies joined him to help out. Nothing worked. The tide was dropping too fast to allow the boat to be pulled off the shoal. About 11am, the skipper dropped the sails, deployed an anchor to prevent the boat from going further on the shoal, and sat back to await the next high tide coming up at about 3pm.

From the sound, we couldn't tell if the grounded boat was blocking the channel or not. One report said that there might be room to go around but the reporter wasn't sure. So we sat and stewed. Our precious Whale crossing day was running out. Finally about 12:30pm a 44 ft catamaran decided to try to go around. He made it out with no apparent problems, opening up the channel for the rest of us. When we went out at about 1pm, we found the grounded boat to be right on the edge of the channel leaving maybe 3/4th of the channel open.

Our rounding of the Whale turned out to be very easy. We entered the Whale Channel after a rousing one hour sail from Green Turtle in 15 to 20 kt winds fortunately from the SW. The Channel turned out to be no rougher than the rest of the Sea of Abaco which was choppy with 2 to 3 foot waves. We continued on to Treasure Cay Marina arriving there about 5pm.

As I write this on March 3, the weather forecast has pretty much come to pass. On March 2, the day after we arrived in Treasure Cay, the Whale was still passable in the morning but very rough. The local weather report showed winds during the afternoon up to 25 knots out of the north. Today, the cruisers net says the ocean passages are close to impassable with near "rage" conditions. The peak wind speed today reached 35 knots out of the ENE.

Meanwhile, we are tucked safely here in Treasure Cay Marina. Our intended overnight stay has stretched to four days already and will probably last till at least Sunday, March 6, while we wait out this latest windy spell. Next stop, undetermined. (see, we really are on "cruisers time".)

Black Sound to White Sound on Green Turtle Cay
03/05/2011, Green Turtle Club Marina

The museum in New Plymouth

Feb 28: It's only about a 30 minute run from Black Sound over to White Sound on Green Turtle Cay. Our main goal in moving over there was so that we would be closer to the north end of the beach on the ocean side of the island. That end is supposed to have good snorkeling. And of course, we intended to do what cruisers always do when they go into a marina, wash clothes.

We did walk out to the beach but unfortunately waves were breaking across the reef we wanted to snorkel. We didn't get in the water but it is a very pretty beach.

The marina had an interesting special going. They were charging a dockage fee of $1.95 /ft of boat length/day which is a very high price but then discounting it dollar for dollar spent at their restaurant. Jascat is 34 feet long so that meant that we could spend $68 for free (sort of) at supper. Ann had the lobster ($31) and I had the Grouper served Bahamian style ($26). After adding in drinks and tip, the marina made a little money on us, but the supper was well worth it. Fantastic meal.

Allans-Pensacola to Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay
03/05/2011, Mooring buoy in Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay

Sunset from Allans-Pensacola anchorage

Feb 27: We departed Allans about 9am for the short run over to a small bay on the south end of Green Turtle Cay known as Black Sound. We took up a mooring bouy there around 2pm and dinghy'd over to the Government Dock to take a walk around the town of New Plymouth. Feb 27 was a Sunday and I've never seen a town so shut down. One small grocery was open but I'm not sure why as there were only a handful of people to be found anywhere. I guess that all the locals were home watching TV.

The town however was lovely. The next morning we got up early and started a 2nd tour of New Plymouth. The museum was very interesting especially since the lady giving the tour could tie in her history with that of the island. The town was pretty much wiped out by a hurricane in 1932 and she could point out that this destroyed place or that was owned by her uncle or grandfather.

There were only two "official" gift shops in town and Ann enjoyed both. I say "official" because every store in the Bahamas, including the grocery stores, advertise themselves as a gift shop. The prices in one shop were 50% off because the store was going out of business. The proprietor said that she had not done well since 9/11 and that the current recession had finally done her business in. She said the British stopped coming after 9/11 and the Americans stopped after the recession.

A highlight of our New Plymouth tour was a long conversation with one of the local residents. We were sitting on a bench at the Post Office waiting for a shop to open (they close down here for lunch) when an elderly lady came up to use the Post Office. The Post Office was also shut down for lunch so we ended up exchanging pleasantries. Turns out that this little five foot tall woman was the first commercially licensed female airplane pilot in the Bahamas. She ran a commercial flying service operating (I think she said) out of Marsh Harbour. Most of her customers were government officials flying around the islands on official business. She never married because she said that in that era (I think she was talking about the 60's, 70's and 80's) no man would let her continue to run her business. She wasn't about to be a "stay at home mom".

Around 2pm, we had seen enough of New Plymouth (and enjoyed it) so we decided to move the boat over to the north end of Green Turtle Cay and take a berth in the Green Turtle Club Marina. There's a beach and potential snorkel spot over there that we wanted to see.

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Who: John and Ann Barton (and Sarah, part time)
Port: San Antonio, Texas
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