30/01/2011/10:06 am, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We tore ourselves away from the park on Saturday morning at 7:30. Because of the way the shoals stretch out from Warderick Wells, it took us an hour to motor out from Emerald Rock, around the shallow water, back in again at the top of the cay, past the entrance to the north mooring field, past the rocks marking Warderick Cut and out into the Sound.
We had been a little worried about the wind direction for this trip, but it worked out well enough. The wind was stronger than predicted - of course - and we were too close to the wind to use a headsail, but neither were we pounding into waves. Everything is relative!
Jim and I were laying bets on how many boats would be here. Because of the lower numbers of boats we have been seeing all along the way, I predicted 6 or less. Because there were a dozen when we were here 3 years ago, Jim predicted more than 6. We kept rubbing our eyes as we came around the point because we could see no masts AT ALL. In fact, we could make out no boats at all. It was only as we got closer, that we could distinguish one motor vessel lying off the waterfront by the dinghy wharf. In this huge harbour, there were just 2 little boats last night, and the motor vessel (Ocean Dancer, I think) left this morning.
I should let you know that Jim got our GPS working again while we were at the park. Here is the tech talk for the techies! He trouble shot the "Seatalk Failure" message, and discovered that when he removed one of the Seatalk connector plugs for the instrument displays, he no longer had the error message and the auto pilot and GPS/chartplotter functioned normally. We no longer had a readout for the instruments (depth, windspeed/direction and speed over ground). He tried reattaching that connector plug to the instruments, and removed another Seatalk plug to the remote control which we don't use anyway. Now everything works except the radar and the remote. The remote doesn't matter, and the radar is not needed at the moment. He thinks there is a short somewhere, and will continue to work at getting the radar functional - before we need it for a night crossing somewhere!
It has been said many times that cruising is just another word for repairing your boat in exotic places. So here is our next little tale...
I motored gently in close to shore in Rock Sound, gave Jim the signal to drop the anchor in just the perfect place. Then as I shifted to reverse to back up and allow the chain to play out, the little lever just wiggled up without any tension ... as in loose ... as in no connection to anything ... as in broken!!!! I couldn't believe it. Good thing it was a good spot on the first try because we weren't moving anywhere else.
We have heard stories of so many troubles lately - Cypraea's transmission cutting out at Great Sale Cay and needing to be towed all the way to Green Turtle Cay where they were waiting for a new one; Slow Dancin's truly astonishing string of incidents - fallen spreader, lost propellor, failure of alternator, regulator and who knows what else; Solitaire's electrical failure and generator problems that sent them hightailing it back to Nassau on Friday. We have just dealt with the GPS thing, and now this??!!
Jim has had his head in both the engine compartment and his books, and he has tracked the remote clutch control and discovered that he can manually shift gears by moving the lever where it is attached to the transmission down in the engine cubbyhole. But still nada up in the cockpit. The plate on the binnacle is screwed on so tightly that he can't unscrew it to get a look at the cable there, despite lubricant and finally banging the screws with a hammer.
It is Sunday and things are closed here. If we can't get it fixed ourselves, we'll go to town on Monday morning and see if there is a mechanic who can do it. (And I sure hope we also find a password to the Dingle Motors wifi that shows up so I can post all this!) If neither of these things take place, we'll go to the beach!
Once again, as I have said over and over and over again. We are so lucky. Our bad things happen when we are safe and in places where there is help. We are securely anchored off the waterfront of a real town. The sun is shining. The wind is gentle and we will not have to move to another anchorage for some time. Our friends fly into Governor's Harbour on Friday, and we are already here on the island.
That's my cheery take on it. The other part of me says, "Geesh!!! (or a few other more colourful words) Why can't we get through a week without something going wrong!" Jim nods, sighs loudly, and echoes that thought as he sticks his head back into the engine cubbyhole behind the companionway steps.
28/01/2011/9:52 am, Warderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
It is 7 o'clock ion Friday evening. We are sitting in Madcap's cozy cabin with beeswax candles burning on the table, Murray McLauchlan on the stereo, and a pan of vegetables and sausage roasting in the oven. Jim is reading; I am writing. We could almost be in Nova Scotia! Oops - no. Not with what we've been doing in our daylight hours.
The Exuma Land and Sea Park has varied opportunities for volunteering, and we hadn't taken part in the program before. We were a little worried that it wasn't happening any more after chatting with friends, but when we asked, Darcy said it all depends on whether there is a staff member available to assign tasks and supervise ... and the mooring balls needed cleaning. "Would you like to do that?" "Sure!"
We signed the paper absolving the park of any liability if we hurt ourselves, and promised to show up on Thursday. Unfortunately, Darcy didn't mention that the volunteer day starts at 9 am, so when we showed up at 10, she looked over her glasses at us and then looked at the clock and said, "You were supposed to be here at 9!" Oops! Talk about feeling like truant children. We begged both ignorance and forgiveness and said we'd work extra hard.
With brushes in hand, we headed out to prove ourselves worthy of the task, and set to work cleaning the yuck and guck and growth off the balls. It was a two person job - one to hold onto the line and help pull it up so the underside is exposed, and one to scrub. It was a good day for it - many boats left in the morning so the balls were empty and available, and the sky was overcast so we didn't burn up in the sun. We took turns at it, and over the course of the day cleaned over 30 balls. By 4 o'clock, our hands were tinged with greenish orange, our shoulders felt they'd had a workout and we had bits of greenery all over our shirts. But we were proud!
Pasta tossed with pesto and cheese, salad (made with the last piece of romaine lettuce and the last half of a green pepper in the fridge) and a nice glass of red wine in the cockpit restored us to health.
The water was dead calm and although we could see lighting in the distance, we thought the possible squalls had passed us by entirely until around 10:30. At that time the skies opened up, the wind picked up and we rocked and rolled for the next few hours. At least the salt got all washed off the boat!
Over dinner on Thursday evening, we had both remarked that it seemed a shame to be leaving the next day without ever going snorkelling or hiking in this perfect place for both. We had planned to take advantage of the NW wind to go over to Eleuthera, but it didn't really take much convincing for us to change our minds on Friday morning. The N to NE winds forecast for Saturday should be fairly light so even if we didn't get a good sail, we wouldn't be heading into big seas.
I got the last few posts up on the website, we packed a backpack with water, granola bars, camera and sunscreen, hopped in the dinghy and headed for Beryl's Beach at the south end of the Emerald Rock Bay. After pulling the dinghy high up on the sand and anchoring it securely, we trekked up over the rugged iron rock and down again from one beach to another: Loyalist Beach, and Cockle Beach and Alive Beach and then Bush Basher Beach from where we crossed up and over the cay to the ocean side, coming down into the little grove called Pirate's Lair.
I always love this spot, where pirates came ashore after hiding their ships in the beautiful and secure little bay between Hog Cay and Warderick Wells Cay. Looking at the grove with its natural well of sweet water supplied by the freshwater lens under ground, and where non native plants grow from seeds dropped from the bedrolls of these storied seafarers, it is so easy to imagine the raucous gatherings that must have been held here.
Just a few steps further and we broke out into the sunshine and powdery sand of Capture Beach where we sat to eat a snack and watch a boat come through the narrow passage to the mooring field. Not a skull and crossbones in sight, although I did find this pirate lolling about in a swing improvised from fishing net and sturdy line!
We walked north along the ocean side of the cay, marvelling at the dozens of shades of green and azure and teal and turquoise of the water, and the rugged terrain underfoot. After spotting the old stone wall, still standing from Loyalist Days, we followed it back across to Beryl's Beach and home again.
The boat was rocking and rolling in the swells from the NW wind, so we downed a quick lunch and set off again - this time in bathing suits and snorkelling gear. The air was chilly but the water warmer, and the water was calmer over by Radar Rock. Jim saw a couple of beautiful spotted Eagle Rays, and there was the usual collection of gorgeous coloured fish and interesting coral. We spotted parrot fish and trigger fish, shy little lavender ones that seemed to be rubbing their noses against the sand, wrasses and snappers, and a huge nassau grouper sitting absolutely still under a coral overhang. One of these days we are going to have to get wet suits, because we were content for about half an hour before we had to crawl out and wrap ourselves in towels.
So here we are back to where I started this post - at the end of a totally happy couple of days. Tomorrow we leave. Off to Rock Sound, Eleuthera ... I think ....
26/01/2011/9:39 am, Warderick Wells
We had planned to do some snorkelling and more exploring on Tuesday morning before heading down to Norman's Cay, but the weather forecast made us think we'd do better to get going early and go all the way to Warderick Wells. There were supposed to be SE winds on Tuesday, winds clocking through the N and chances of squalls on Wednesday night.
So, with plans to come back here again, we pulled the anchor that was well and truly buried, and headed out again. We thought maybe we could have two great days of sailing in a row but that was tempting fate! It worked at first - we sailed well under main and Yankee until we got to the Lighting Bore waypoint but then we had to point closer into the wind. The winds that we thought were to be E 17, stayed pretty much between 20 and 25. As we had to turn more and more eastward, we pulled in the Yankee and put out the staysail. Then we turned on the engine and motor sailed, bucking and banging in the rollers and whitecaps. Eventually we had no foresails out at all - just the main to help steady us as we slogged on. After such a lovely start, it turned into a long rough crawl eastward.
To make things even less comfortable, our GPS started cutting out. We saw a US military ship sitting off the edge of the Park boundary and wondered if it might be scrambling the signal. We've had that happen in Maine and New York. We have also had spotty signals going into Halifax harbour in Nova Scotia, but never here. However, as the miles passed and the problem continued, we decided that couldn't be the problem. We got out the Garmin hand held, and Jim turned on the back up GPS at the Nav station down in the cabin. Fortunately the auto pilot kept working most of the time because it was really hard to hold the boat on course manually in the head on swells.
We never could set a course straight toward Warderick Wells so we jigged a bit this way and jogged a bit that way and finally fought our way out of the wind and waves into the protected mooring field at Emerald Rock. Then it was like Old Home Week!
Connie (Oz) had called the park office to reserve us a mooring. Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) were in their dinghy holding the pennant from the mooring ball. Vic (Whisper) called to welcome us as we came in. Peaches (Star of the Sea) called to invite us to Happy Hour, and by 5:30 we were sitting with Ken and Connie (Oz), Jan and Karl (White Pepper), and Chris and Peaches in Star of the Sea's spacious cockpit - all of us talking excitedly about the sailing, the weather, the plans for the season.
The Old Home Week feeling continued on Wednesday morning. We chatted on VHF with Stu (Georgia E) but didn't get to see him because he left for Cambridge before we dinghied over to check in at the Park office. Once the checking in was done and I had a quick look through the shelves of book to trade, and the stacks of rental DVD's, we motored up along the line of boats in the north mooring field until we came to Passages. We climbed on board to have a chat with Karin and Ed, and left an hour or so later to make our way back. But first, of course, we had to stop for a chat at Star of the Sea, and then at Oz, and then we spied Penny and Hal in the cockpit of Volantis, so we stopped there for a while. Next was Whisper and of course we needed to tie up there for a good chinwag and handful of Purity Crackers straight from Newfoundland! By the time we got home, it was 4 hours later and we had just enough time for Jim to do some trouble shooting (unsuccessful so far) on the GPS and me to have a swim before cleaning ourselves up and going over to join Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) for Happy Hour. Their cockpit was full of rousing conversation with Micky and Beth and Rusty and Joy (Slow Dancin') and Linda and Ken (Escapade). Wow! What a sociable kind of a day!!
To top it off, the wind stayed calm, and the possible squalls went somewhere else. We could see lightning flashes in the sky to the North and East but nothing right over us at all. The sky is absolutely full of stars and we have the gentlest of rocking. For this particular day, life is good. Very, very good.