01/01/2010, Big Majors Spot, Exumas
December 27th, 28th, 29th...2009 Big Majors Spot, Exumas
I have been a little delinquent recently about getting things typed up... sorry but our days here seem to run into one another. In the last three days we I have been working on our house water system. Our house pump gave up the ghost and, although we had a spare, the fittings were different and so getting things operational took more than that a simple change out. We have a foot pump so were never without water, but we are used to warm showers once and a while.
I have been to Sampson's Cay a couple of times with Steve and Kim. Once for lunch, and another time to check out vegetables for conch salad. We found a good conch spot this week and have a few bags in the freezer. I made a huge batch of conch salad which we ate for two days.
On Tuesday there was a "Pirate's Party" at the Yacht Club. We got dressed up and went in but...only lasted until about 9pm. Steve and Kim lasted until after midnight and said that things picked up after we left. Steve won best costume and $50 from his bar tab.... unfortunately it was still a net loss.
On Wednesday, we returned to the Yacht Club for their internet connection and stayed most of the day. There was an auction for some charity and a kick off for the regatta. Free food and drink is always a good draw. The food included conch salad, fried fish.... fish grilled in packets with vegetables soaked in citrus and vegetables. It was wonderful food and the docks were hopping.
Our friends Craig and Kris from "Tilt" arrived a couple of days ago and we had a small beach party in their honor. They are from Grand Rapids... and spend their winters here in the Bahamas.
Other than that, we have been reading, weaving and making water with our new water maker. Kathy has been paying more and more attention to our solar array since we have the Blue Sky Controller and monitor, and spends lots of time adjusting the panels to optimize their production.
In the evenings we read and watch video...attempting to plan tomorrows activities and tasks.
We do get rainbows after the storms.
01/01/2010, Big Majors Spot, Exumas
December 17th-20th Big Majors Spot, Exumas
Winter cold fronts are common in the Bahamas. They sweep off the eastern seaboard in a great curving arc taking aim at those of us trying to stay warm and comfortable. The Abacos area and the northern islands take the brunt of these storms but generally they lose power and stall somewhere around the northern Exumas. Sometimes though, they have enough energy to sweep all the way south through the Caribbean pounding us on the way.
The front that we were expecting this weekend was one of the strong ones. On top of that there was high pressure system on one side of us and a powerful low pressure forming over the Gulf of Mexico sending a low up the east coast. (The one that dumped 20 inches of snow on Washington D.C.) Everything was in place to make our lives miserable for a while.
Fronts of this nature are quite predictable. First they kill the easterly trades giving us a couple of days of calm winds. Then the winds begin from the east gently picking up steam as it clocks around to the SE, S, SW, W, NW........It is the west quadrant winds that are difficult here in the Exumas because protection from that direction is scarce. The northern mooring field at The Land and Sea Park is good and there are some areas in Pipe Creek that are protected, but finding a place that has good holding, and room for 200 feet of rode are almost few and far between.
We had options that were more protected (and probably a better choice) but ended up riding the storm out in Big Majors where there the SW to the W quadrant is wide open to the Banks. The last few miles of that water is only about 12 feet deep which limits the wave height to about 3 or 4 feet but that's plenty high to toss us around when we're at anchor.
On Thursday in the relative calm we spent the day on projects and battening down the hatches. I serviced our battery bank and attached a long snubber to our chain rode at the base of our dolphin striker. There is a reinforced spot there made for a clevis. I spliced in a thimble and attached it to the clevis and about 30 feet of line out to the chain hook at the middle of the line. The other end came back over the bow sprit to retrieve the system. The new attachment is 4 feet lower than the normal method of running the rode over the sprit and back to a cleat, and takes all the stress off that part of the boat. I should make us more stable and also allow us to decrease our road length by 25 % for a 10 to one scope in 12 feet of water.
Everything was tied down by the end of the day and we got a great nights sleep.
In the morning the wind was out of the SE at about 20 knots and increased during the day as it clocked to the South. We had excellent protection from those directions and the sea state was nil. The front was forecast to arrive here around dawn so we had a while to wait things out. Kathy made us salads for lunch....a wedge of iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes with crumbled bacon and blue cheese dressing. She also made some egg salad that we could eat for breakfast...with the idea that cooking wouldn't be an option. I thawed out some Cornish hens and baked them for dinner along with stuffing and carrots cooked in maple syrup and butter. (OK so the carrots were dessert)
As the front approached in the evening there is lightning in all directions as the unstable atmosphere formed squalls and thunderstorms. We got hit by a couple of squalls but the thunderstorms missed us completely.
Kathy went to bed a little before midnight and I got a blanket and pillow to stay up in the cockpit. The winds were running 25 to 30 knots by now and we had lost our protection. The waves increased and "Sapphire" was bouncing around quite a bit. At around 3 a.m. the skies cleared and there were stars everywhere. The wind and seas remained the same but the storm was somehow a little less ominous with them overhead.
As dawn approached the stars began to disappear in the west from the bottom up... the leading edge of the front must be here ... finally.
When the squalls hit they brought more wind instead of the 25 to 30, we now had 30 to 40. Steve saw 35 knots at one point and we registered 38. By now the wind was out of the west and we began to pick up some protection from a few small islands. Unfortunately, the waves were still hitting us from the SW which made for some increased rolling. The wind clocks faster than the waves and it puts the boat a little sideways to the seas. Walking around the boat, which had been difficult all night was nigh on impossible.
With daylight, most of the squalls were past us, we had a few more, but nothing serious. We spent the day reading and keeping an eye on the rocks off our stern to make sure they weren't getting any closer. We were facing exactly 180 degrees from where we yesterday morning and our swing had taken us to within 200 feet of shallow water.... and rocks. The anchor had been solid for the last 24 hours though and we really didn't worry about dragging at this point. We spent the afternoon listening to basketball, MSU/UPFW first and then Northwestern/Stanford. We play NW the first week of the Big 10 season in Chicago. If the game was played yesterday, the Wildcats would have won by 20.
The wind continued to blow at 25 knots all day from the W and finally NW which gave us even more protection but we continued rocking and rolling.
I made beef stew for dinner using the first of the canned beef that we brought back from mom's last summer. It was a huge improvement over the canned beef that we are used to.
I spent another night in the cockpit... this time most of it sleeping.
12/17/2009, Big Majors Spot
December 16th, 2009 Big Majors Spot, Exumas
I cooked a good breakfast and worked on our new anchor snubber, (which had detached from the chain) before talking to Steve and setting a time to go hunting. We left when the sun got high enough to give us some underwater visibility and headed to the southern end of Staniel Cay. After searching for 30 minutes or so we decided to snorkel an area on the east side of a small rocky island...
The coral there was amazing. It was by far the best place we've snorkeled here in three years. The diversity of the coral was amazing. There were three types that I've seen nowhere else. There were fish as well. Most of the larger snappers stayed safely under their rocks... but I did shoot a few Big Eyes, which our book says are good to eat. I had two easy shots at a Grouper and missed them both. Steve saw lots of fish as well but didn't end up shooting anything.
After about 3 hours of swimming, we quit the spot and since it was slack tide, searched some of the cuts for good places to hunt. We checked out a few spots but none were as neat as the one we'd just left.
Finally we anchored off another hunk of exposed rock and got in the water. There was an area around the rock extending out about 20 meters that looked good, lots of coral and small fish, but then it dropped off into water that was way too deep to snorkel.
Steve shot a big Triggerfish right away and we continued to check out the area for another 30 minutes or so before I heard him take another shot. (Under water, you can hear the spear hit rock and always know when people around you are shooting...especially if they miss.) I looked up to see him taking aim again at a smallish grouper. They were both heading my way so I got ready for the killing shot. It darted past too quickly and although I hit him, the spear didn't stick. He hid under a small rock but Steve had a good shot and took it. That's when I saw the Shark. It was swimming straight at us quickly....and was only about 10 meters away. I tapped Steve with my spear and he turned to find an aggressive Shark about 5 feet in front of his face. He jerked the spear out of the Grouper and fended the Shark off with his spear poking it two or three times as it swam by an arm's length away and turned quickly. Luckily the dinghy was nearby and I retreated...wondering if I was going to make it will all my appendages. Steve followed me but stayed in the water watching. By now there was also a big Barracuda close by that also was looking for a free meal and while Steve was watching him... the Shark came at him again. Steve was in the dinghy in a flash. We hauled in our anchor...and left the area and quit for the day.
Steve has been a diver most of his life and is used to seeing sharks in the water, but this was the first time that he has had to fend off an aggressive fish.
After cleaning fish, I read for a while and then made a dish to pass.... pickle roll-ups, before heading to the small beach next "Pig Beach" where Nancy had called for a Sunset Party. It was well attended and we met some new people but ended up eating too much to cook our fish for supper.
December 15th, 2009 Big Majors Spot, Exumas
We worked on boat jobs in the morning. Kathy cleaned while I sprayed the dodger and bimini with 303 fabric protectant and worked on making a new anchor snubber. Later Steve and I went hunting at some of the outer rock islands and saw lots of nice fish. Unfortunately they were a little too quick for us and we returned with only one... a nice triggerfish.
We read for the remainder of the afternoon. For dinner I sauted some scallops in olive oil, butter, and white wine which we tossed over some linguini. Hard pressed for a vegstable, I fried some cabbage and onion which actually went along fine with the pasta.
There is some bad weather on the horizon for the first time this year. A front is in the process of pushing off the east coast and Florida heading our way. It looks like Friday night and Saturday will be the worst for us here in the central Exumas with winds at 30 and squalls to 50 knots. As the front approaches the winds will be from the south but will clock through the SW, W and NW as the front passes.
Cruisers are scrambling to find protection. Here at Big Majors we have protection from all directions except for a 50 degree area from the southwest to the west. We are not too concerned about the wind because the holding here is excellent. The waves are the problem.
December 14th, 2009 Black Point, Big Majors Spot, Exumas
We woke up to a steady rain which lasted until mid-morning. Most of our rain comes in the form of short bursts in squalls so this was a little different. It was still warm, but looked like a grey drizzly December Day with temps still in the 80's.
By 11 a.m. the sun was out and it was hot...Steve and I had talked about going fishing, but decided to put it off for a day and go into town this afternoon instead. So at about 2 we dinghied in to the Yacht Club to check email and make a run to the store.
We returned later to hang out in the cockpit until dark.