23/01/2011/10:00 am, Meeks Patch, Eleuthera
It is now Sunday morning and we made it through the night. I feel totally awed that one 35 lb Bruce anchor (we are not using our CQR because it doesn't dig in as well here) and 100 feet of chain could hold this 23,000 lb boat in the winds that blew last night. It blew steadily 25 knots and higher for hours and hours and hours. I sat in the cockpit for the first 4 hours watching the windspeed readout and the track of the boat on the chartplotter. Then I came down to doze on the settee in the salon and Jim kept going up to check.
We had reasonable protection from Meeks all the way through the NW but once it got to N, we were more exposed. Russell Island was further away and there was more chance for fetch to build but it turned out to be OK. We didn't have much pitching in waves, just as we had hoped would happen, only the pull, pull, pull against the anchor.
It is always our practice to visually check the set of the anchor, and it is easy to do in this clear water. Sometimes Jim dives down to hold it upright while I back the boat off and that helps set it. Sometimes it happens all by itself. That was the case here. We dinghied over it and checked it with the looky bucket (a bucket with a glass bottom) and it was well buried.
So it is good to know that our Guardian Angels were watching and our reasonable precautions all worked! So much of this sailing business is about doing the best you can, and then trusting in a good outcome after that. There are no guarantees. We take reasonable precautions with wind and protection and current and equipment and our own abilities. There is always something that can go wrong and then it can be either catastrophic or minor. And often enough, there are times when nothing goes wrong at all!
Many boats left the area today and are travelling south on this N wind. Because we have time to linger before we meet friends in Governor's Harbor in early Feb, we will wait another day or so. The sea will calm and the swimming will be good. I cut my heel on a piece of glass on the beach yesterday and it starts to bleed again every time I put pressure on any part of that foot. We would love a good brisk sail, but we think perhaps a little more time with my foot elevated will bode well for future walking. So ... with time to linger and a reason to rest, we'll stay put.
Now, I'll try to get these last several postings up!!
22/01/2011/11:39 am, Meeks Patch, Eleuthera
Once again, we are waiting out weather. No. I really need to reframe that. We are happily anchored in a beautiful little spot where we can see large fishing boats from the Spanish Wells fleet go by. We can look down through 18 feet of crystal clear water and see our anchor well dug into white sand, and we can swim and play on the beach ... while we wait for the wind to rise and move from SW to W and eventually around to NW and N.
Two of the 5 boats spread out along the shoreline left this morning to move into Spanish Wells harbour. A new one arrived. We have all lifted our dinghies, and we all have lots of rode out. Before the "frontal prep", Jim and I went ashore to swim and snorkle and explore. It is interesting to speculate on the parties the locals must have on this beach. There are several makeshift camps with assorted chairs and tables and kettles and bottles scattered above the tide line. We discovered matching stuffed armchairs that somehow made their way from someone's living room to this beach, and when we met David and Susan (Luna Sea) they told us that the rest of the set was here last year!
For the first time in several days, we have wifi access so I have spent many hours writing the postings that I have neglected until now. Jim and I are both engrossed in books. He just finished "The Best Laid Plans" and enjoyed it as much as I did, and is now into a Kathy Reichs novel, "Break no Bones". I just finished another Jodi Picoult - "The Tenth Circle" that was, as usual, thought provoking and challenging. Now, I'm reading Margaret Trudeau's memoir, "Changing My Mind" on the new Kobo reader that Alex gave us for Christmas. Jim read a Dan Brown novel on it and said he got used to reading from a 5x7 electronic gadget quite easily. I'm still of mixed minds. I love the fact that I will never run out of reading material, but it doesn't seem comfortable yet. I'll keep at it and see how I feel at the end of the book. As for the book content - I've just read the first two chapters and so far, I'm enjoying it.
It is 6:30 now and the wind has picked up considerably (gusts to 28 knots) and the rain has started. Jim has gone out to check our position and we are keeping ears open for the drag alarm. It is time to stop writing and get some dinner started before it gets too bouncy. And then it might be a good idea to get some sleep in case we have to move to the other side of the island before morning!
20/01/2011/11:34 am, Snake Cay
Before we left Green Turtle Cay, we topped up water (no charge) and fuel ($4.60 per gallon for diesel) tanks, and made a return trip to the Bahamas Telephone Office. When we arrived last week, we tried to get a new phone chip for our cell phone, but they were out. This time, we had success! We have found that it works well to have a Bahamian phone while we are over here. We simply replace the Canadian chip with a Bahamian one ($14.) and then use the calling cards ($5, $10 or $20) that are found everywhere to make our calls. Local calls cost very little; calls to Canada and the US are 25 cents a minute, while incoming calls are free. We end up with a new number every year, but it saves the trouble of trying to find a working payphone - not always an easy task.
With these jobs taken care of, we set off around the Whale on Sunday, Jan 16th. This is probably the trickiest place between the northern Abaco Cays and the southern ones. When wind and current are opposed or in a strong East wind, it can be impassable. This day, it was about perfect with 2 foot swells and no chop. There was very little wind so we motored through and kept on going past Bakers Bay and the big resort to Fishers Bay. Seeing as it was Sunday - the day of Nipper's famous Pig Roast, we decided we might as well go in. Lots of tasty Bahamian food from the buffet, good people watching and a beautiful ocean beach were the lures. The colours were all there, and the music, and the food, but not the crowd.
What a contrast to other years! We knew from the look of Fishers Bay that there weren't as many boats around - only 5 of us - but seeing so many empty tables at prime time on a sunny Sunday was a real shock. We hadn't remembered that the buffet is $20 per person - still fairly good value but not as good as we thought! We heaped our plates and then felt absolutely stuffed! We're not used to eating that much at a time these days - we've become grazers. We saw no one we knew - again in contrast to our first visit with Sandi and Steve (Princess) and Richard and Carole (Kilissa), and last year's trip when we ate with folks from Alabama whom we'd met a couple of days before. After a lovely wander along the beach, we headed back past Pirate's Cove (maybe 4 or 5 people), past Grabbers (another half dozen) to the dinghy dock and back to a still mostly empty bay. These businesses must be really hurting.
The next day, we sailed across to Marsh Harbour. It was a toss up whether we'd anchor off the north end of Man O War Cay, a favourite spot, or go take a look at Treasure Cay where we have never stopped but which some of our friends love, or go straight to the big town. Once again, weather was the deciding factor. It was a beautiful leisurely sail, and we were well set for the front to come through later in the day. We dinghied to the public dock and walked up to the brand new Maxwell's grocery store (up the street where the old one was, but further on around the corner on the left - easily walkable). There, we found everything one might see in a Florida supermarket - lots of fresh produce, counters full of meats, New Zealand lamb and Irish butter along with bottles of interesting sauces, boxes of plantains and those delicious white fleshed sweet potatoes. Some of the prices were similar to what we would pay at home, while others were very high. (The Magic Bullet I paid $39 for at Canadian Tire was $99 here.
Jim had not been able to get our Honda generator to work (nice really because I hadn't had any success with it either and this meant it wasn't just me!) so he took it to Abaco Suzuki for servicing. They had it ready the next day for only $75. (Water in the carburetor and in the fuel - how did that get there??)
It rained hard for a time Monday evening, giving the boat a good wash, and we saw gusts to 25 knots. Fortunately, anchoring is generally good in Marsh Harbour and we had no problems. We were stocked up with supplies, the wind generator was pumping in the power and we hunkered down to watch "My Sister's Keeper" a movie based on Jodi Picoult's novel, getting up every now and then to check on our position.
While Jim fetched fuel and water again, changed the oil, and did manly boat things (those generally have to do with the engine) on Tuesday, I went searching out a new bathing suit - which I found at Abaco Beach Resort - on Sale. Yippee. Once again, it was sad to see the low number of boats in the harbour - both anchored and at the marinas. The stores had few tourists. I commented on this in conversation with the lady at Mango's and she said, "It just gets sadder and sadder." Is it the American economy? The colder weather that makes cruisers favour coming to the Abacos later in the year, if at all? A normal part of an economic cycle? It is clear from the flags on the sterns of boats, that the Americans are just not here.
With our chores done, and no desire to linger any longer in Marsh Harbour (where supplies and services are readily available, but where few people speak or wave and where we feel far less welcome than at New Plymouth) we decided to follow Salty Dog's lead and head down the way to Snake Cay. Jim had met up with these Tiger Point friends, Cindy and Jeff, the day before and we were anxious to spend relaxing time with them. As we pulled out of the harbour, Jim remembered that we needed more phone cards, so rather than turn back, I did lazy circles outside the entrance to Boat Harbour around on the other side of the point while he zipped along in the dinghy to buy some at the Abaco Beach gift shop. It was one of the rare times we were towing the dinghy instead of carrying it on the davits so it was easy for him to drop down into it and leave - just like the little fishing boats leave the mother ship.
We enjoyed a lovely sail down the coast until the last little bit when we put the engine on so we could get anchored before it got too dark. Jeff hailed us on the VHF and invited us to join them on Salty Dog where he and Cindy were already entertaining Chris and Charlie (Wingspread). In short order, we had the anchor set, I dropped cheese, crackers and a bottle of wine in the bag and we popped next door for a very fine time.
Charlie and Chris were familiar with this anchorage and led a three dinghy exploration convoy through the route behind Deep Sea Cay the next day. It made an enjoyable outing, nosing our way along - finding the deep spots between the shallows and looking for turtles and other wild life. We found some turtles and one lone egret, and then stopped at the beach to play a little once back out into the Sea of Abaco. (That's the picture above.) That evening found us all aboard Wingspread for another Happy Hour of good food and conversation. I took the pesto pizza bites I had discovered when Karin (Passages) made them, and Chris had spicy vegetarian pizza bites, while Cindy brought a warm and creamy artichoke/chicken dip. Needless to say, there was no dinner served at home that night! We reluctantly said good bye to these good folks as we left to dinghy home under the full moon, because they are spending the winter in the Abacos while we are bound for points south.
Jim and I listened to all the available weather reports, and dithered and dallied and kept changing our minds about where to go for the next front coming on Saturday, and finally about 9 o'clock on Thursday morning, decided to just go now! The usual practice is to position oneself at Lynyard Cay and then leave at first light. We were several miles north and later starting so it meant a late arrival, and because the wind was mostly SE and not very strong, we'd be lucky if we got to sail. However, since the alternative was going up north again to Marsh Harbour or to Hope Town or Man O War, we opted to get going. Off we went, down past Sandy Cay where there is supposed to be good snorkelling (but where for the third time, we wouldn't have been able to do it anyway because of the wind) and out the North Bar cut. Although we had wind against current there, the swells were only 2-3 feet with light chop. We clawed our way through at 3 knots, unfurled the yankee and sailed gently along for the first several hours.
As usual for us, we saw no other boats out there in New Providence Channel where the depths get as deep as 14,000 feet and land lies out of sight in all directions - we seem to be lone wolves when we are on the move. The sun went down around 6 and the moon came up - still gloriously golden and full - and we journeyed on. We have both become less excited about overnight passages than we used to be, and we felt able to enjoy the beautiful starry night because we knew it would end before midnight! Shortly after dark, we spotted lights on the horizon and a blob on the radar. The AIS told us that it was the Royal Natura, a tanker bound for New Orleans. We watched as it drew closer, knowing that it would cross our bow with our closest point of approach at a half mile. It looked huge as it approached and we reduced speed to make sure we kept a good distance from it. We generally don't radio these ships - we just alter course or speed to accommodate them. Another couple of tankers passed at a distance later in the evening, and as we drew close to Egg Island, we could see one anchored on the south side.
Because of the hour, we decided not to try going in to Royal Island where the opening is narrow and there can be quite a number of boats at anchor. We opted to drop anchor on the south side of Egg Island. Dead easy, but far bouncier than if we had gone where there was more protection. We had bounced through one night here on our first trip, and should have kept going to Meeks Patch but ... sometimes we are slow learners. After a fairly sleepless night, we up anchored and moved early on Friday morning to the East side of Meeks Patch, nicely out of the wind. We brewed a pot of coffee, Jim took a business call while I made cranberry scones and once our tummies were full and business was taken care of, we went back to bed for a good sleep!