05/02/2010/12:00 pm, Frazer's Hog Cay, Berry Islands
With some significant weather coming our way we, along with Ramha, decided to motor 5 miles around the corner to the mooring balls at the Berry Islands Club - up the channel to the east of Frazer's Hog Cay. Once again, we chose high tide as our time to go and met with no difficulties with depth. The dark water channel between the shore and the shoal off to starboard allowed lots of room to travel safely.
En route, we met a boat leaving (they were worried about the quality of the moorings) but we opted to check them out and we are very glad we did. This is a lovely little area, well protected from the west, and not bad from every other angle except south because of the shoal areas and Whale Island on the East. Ramha and Madcap are the only two boats here (at noon) although we hear on the radio that others are joining us today. The wind just howled around us last night, and we had some bounce but it was nothing too alarming, and the security of being on a $15. mooring ball is delightful. Our good friend, Alain, got out his trusty wrench and some ties and tightened and secured the shackles in both his and our mooring balls last evening. They are all new - there are 8 or 10 of them with new floating lines. Madcap weighs almost 2000 lbs and with the wind over 20 knots all last night we are putting a mighty strain on it - with no trouble (so far, at least!) Yeah!
Lincoln, at the Berry Islands Club, is our genial host and, when asked about registering, said, "No worries man". So we are here till Sunday at least, and maybe Monday.
We took a walk down the road yesterday, finding an area to wade in the water on the west side. The water is lovely for swimming right off the boat - except right now I'd need to hang onto a line to keep from being swept too far away in the current - and there is a little sandy beach just down the channel a bit that begs exploration when the wind moves to the west and it is not such a wet ride to get there. The four of us had an enjoyable chat with Harry - a caretaker on Whale Cay - who invited us to come over there some time and he'll show us around.
Judy caught a fish last night; Jim has been trying with no success yet so I took some pork out of the freezer just in case. I'll make a pot of Bahamian Peas'n'Rice and we'll have a feast tonight.
Other than the attractive but simple building here, there is not much happening on Frazer's Hog Cay. No nightclubs, shops, tourist traps. Just rocks and mangroves and blue-green water and nice folks. Mmmmmm, Bahamas!
04/02/2010/11:42 am, Chub Cay, Berry Islands
We left Bimini just before high tide on Tuesday, waving good bye to all our new friends there, and gathering in the docklines handed over by Vic, Marilyn and Nigel. This time we headed out into deep water at the lone green marker - off South Bimini. Ramha left earlier, headed for Gun Cay Cut and a stop on the banks. Amity was leaving later, headed for North Rock and an overnight trip across the banks. We had been thinking of Gun Cay Cut, but in the end decided to take the longer but less challenging route through North Rock.
We motor sailed for that first bit and then once through the cut, shut off the motor and sailed all the rest of the day. We had some discussions about destination based on angle of the wind, but in the end, held to our plan to end up at Chub Cay. The result of that was that we sailed at about 3 knots! A slow sail like that meant it was a day for lounging around on the foredeck, reading, napping, and generally relaxing. We knew we'd be spending the night on the banks and it didn't really matter where. What a relaxing way to travel! We were just shy of Mackie Shoal at sunset so we steered south of the rhumb line and dropped the anchor. (For non-sailors, the rhumb line is a bit like a highway. Marked on charts, it is the most direct route from one point to another and is where boats tend to travel.) Locals travel all over the place, but it reduces the chance of being run into at night if we stay a mile or so off the "line" and keep not only an anchor light, but some other lights on to increase our chance of being noticed.
We heard Oz on the radio and contacted them, to find that they and Star of the Sea were making a marathon crossing from Miami all the way to Nassau so we assume they were one of the parade of boats we saw going by sometime after 10pm. (Hope you made it safely!) We rolled quite a lot in the swell overnight but the anchor held despite numerous alarms going off whenever we swung this way and that way. We set off again around 7 since we figured there was no point in sitting there rolling.
Once again, we had a sailing day, but this one was much different. A squall came through around 9, with winds increasing to N 15-20 and gusts to 23, and a heavy rain shower. We rolled our yankee in, put the staysail out and kept the main up - and sailed through it all. About 45 minutes later, the rain was over and the wind had settled to a more consistent 15-20 knots, resulting in an average speed of 6.8 knots for us. (That's a high average for Madcap!) We roared along, moving through Northwest Shoal and Northwest Channel waypoints with no worries, and into the deep water of Northwest Providence channel. Once in water 1600 feet deep, the chop changed to more of a swell and was a little smoother travelling.
We had been debating the anchoring possibilities at Chub Cay (enough protection? depth of channel?) and called for information on the marina. The guy said there was 12 feet in the channel and room in the marina - but no wonder. They charge $2.75 per foot with a 40 foot minimum!) We quickly abandoned that idea and were pleased to find lots of room in the anchorage just to the west of the approach channel when we arrived at 3:30. Ramha was there along with a couple of other boats, and there must have been another 7 or 8 come in before dark.
Judy and Alain had been ashore exploring and scored some conch, so they invited us over for Alain's premier preparation of conch salad. It was delicious, and we spent a most enjoyable evening with them. We rocked a bit during the night on anchor but it was nothing like the night before, and our Bruce held again. :-)
On Thursday morning, we took a run into the marina in our dinghy just to see the place, and found many, many empty slips, some large houses and a number of sport fishing boats. We discovered that the place went bankrupt 3 months ago. The slips are privately owned - by part time residents? It seems such a shame. This place is ideally situated on the route from Bimini to Nassau, and one would think it could be packed with boats and activity if the price was less - and maybe it wouldn't be bankrupt? One lone sailboat was tucked in at the back and of course we went over to say hello! It was Southern Vectis with Mary and Bill on board. We had chatted with them as we travelled and were glad to have a brief chance to see them before they went off to the airport to check in. I have since discovered that they, along with Carole and Bob were the folks who called out to us in the New River! Cruisers do tend to find each other!
01/02/2010/6:31 am, Bimini, Bahamas
We've had more rain in the past couple of days than we've seen in months. But it has been warm rain! And we didn't have to shovel it!
All my grand plans for exploration of this community on Sunday washed away, and instead, we just tucked ourselves inside with our books for much of the day. (Jim is reading Steve Berry's "The Charlemagne Pursuit" - and really enjoying it - and I've got my nose in William Deverell's "Snow Job" - not my favourite of his but still entertaining.)
We spent part of the morning up at the covered picnic area chatting with Tom (Amity) and Alain and Judy (Ramha), and decided to get together in the evening for music. Despite the rain all afternoon, those hardy folks from the anchorage came dinghying in with instruments and food. Tom got out his concertina, Alain produced his guitar and it wasn't long before Guy (Arieta) came along with his harmonica. I brought a wooden spoon and my vitamin bottle which made a pretty good shaker! (Liam, remember OffBeat and your vitamin bottle??) More folks appeared to sing and clap. Plates of food kept appearing too and it turned into a very fine evening. Liz (Knot Pete) makes the most wonderful pickled "things" - asparagus, beans, jalapenos, dill pickles. Jim and I finished the evening at Whisper where we made short work of Vic's potato salad and ham. These are great folks and the best examples of legendary Newfoundland hospitality.
We rocked and shook all night and were so very glad to be at the dock. Madcap could rock all she wanted and we didn't have to get up to check anything. It is a luxury and we appreciate every minute of it.
Monday morning brought more rain so it was 10 o'clock before we set off down the road to the hardware store. Praise be, they had the right size drain, so we happily walked home again along the upper road with a detour to the beach where I found some bits of seaglass and one sea bean. I was amazed that they can be found this far east since I thought they came from Africa. Once I looked them up in my lovely book, "Florida's Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber" by Blair and Dawn Witherington, I discovered that the sea hearts and purses are from vines found in the Central and South American tropics, while the hamburger beans may come from there or Western Africa. The book says that the discovery of a sea heart in the eastern Atlantic helped inspire Columbus' explorations.
Jim repaired the sink (once again with a little help from his friends) while I did laundry. It's odd - the things that turn out to be satisfying in the cruising life. Fresh sheets are never so appreciated as on a boat, and the act of trundling the load off to the laundry in these communities is somehow very pleasing. I loaded the bag of clothes and bedding into my little cart and off I went down the road. Melinda runs an excellent laundry - spotlessly clean with lots of machines and she provides the tokens. The washers are front loaders of different sizes. A med and a small wash, and one large dryer cost me $12. It is a reminder of how precious water is on these cays. As I walked back, I met school children who had just been released from classes. They burst out in happy, giggling groups or cool and nonchalant groups depending on their ages, all dressed in their sparkling white shirts and blue skirts or pants. In fact, they sparked all over - from gleaming skin and shining eyes to friendly smiles and greetings. When I stopped in to a couple of shops to buy pigeon peas (for my first batch of peas'n'rice this trip) and to look for water shoes, that same friendliness was there.
Monday's evening entertainment was "sponsored" by Guy and Denis (Arieta) who brought us Karaoke! We had so much fun singing along in French and in English to all sorts of the old songs that a bunch of retired and semi-retired cruisers can remember.
We have enjoyed our stay here, but other destinations call to us and we will probably head out across the banks on Tuesday. It may be a few days until we find another internet connection. Of course if it is raining, or the wind isn't conducive to comfortable sailing, we might be easily persuaded to stay another day!