Moonrise at Ragged Island
We spent our time at Raccoon Cay working on boat projects, cooking and walking on the small beach at the end of the little cove where Sapphire was anchored. Eventually, the wind abated to around 18 knots so we weighed anchor and headed further south to Hog Cay where many of the cruisers had spent the last windy days. There was a beach party that evening where we caught up with friends and met a few people that we'd heard on the radio but had never actually spoken.
About a week ago we had radioed in the Maxine in Duncan Town placing an order for some Vegetables to be shipped out of Nassau on the mail boat. Steve and Kim had made the long dinghy ride to town to pick it up and dropped it off that afternoon.
The next day we did some exploring in the dinghy and decided to move down to South side Bay which is the southernmost anchorage in the Ragged Islands. There is another front expected south side offers great north and west protection.
We spent a couple days there with "Fine Lion", "Night Hawk", and "Sam the Skull" fishing and exploring. From the anchorage we can walk into town where internet is available at the school and a few provisions can be purchased at Maxine's. Sometimes gasoline is available at the bone fishing outfitter's place if they have extra. It's a long hot walk but the road in new. Most of the time it is shared with hundreds of wild goats. On one of the trips I was got a ride in the back of a pick up where there were three goat skulls ... so I'm assuming goat is often on the menu here.
Many of he houses have conch drying on lines for shipment up to Nassau where they are sold to pharmaceutical companies. They look look a little like smashed chickens pinned in a row on a clothesline.
After a couple of days we were joined by more friends ... "Far Niente", "Savage Son", "First Edition" "My Destiny" and "Synergy" who were there for some north protection as we were. "My Destiny" had transported one of our propane tanks from Long Island alone with 5 gallons of gasoline for the dinghy.
The crews of all nine boats got together on the beach during the afternoon where we sat in the warm shallows and drank a few cold beers. We had a great time joking around with friends that we hadn't seen for a while. That evening under a full moon we reconvened for a raft up in the middle of the Bay for dessert....It's a tough way to spend a day.
After a few days the wind moved to the east and "Sapphire" started to roll with the swell working through the cut so we got the anchor on board and sailed north to Raccoon where we spent a few days hunting, reading, and relaxing. Groups of 5 and 6 boats were arriving daily in the Jumentos and things filling up. Gone were the days of no masts in sight.
After a month in the wilds, we were getting a little low on supplies and with Abby and Jake arriving in a couple of weeks we decided to take advantage of a nice weather window and begin the trip back up to Long Island. We sailed up to Buena Vista Cay the next morning (a trip of about 5 miles) and after lunch headed out to the north for a little hunting. The only other boat in the anchorage at the time was "Lady Marie" which is a Bahamian fishing boat form Spanish Wells. With professional fishermen in the area we were not overly positive but I needed a swim.
On our way to Little Nurse Cay the skiff belonging to "Lady Marie" blasted through the cut aiming directly at us. I altered course and they still were aiming at us so we stopped and they came along side Ivan introduced himself and we chatted for a time before he forced a number of lobster tails on us that were large enough to keep but too small for commercial use. He also had 4 or five lion large lion fish that we was taking back to "Lady Marie" for dinner. I ask him about how to avoid the poison barbs on the fins and got an detailed lesson. In the future, I'll shoot the ones I see.
Our hunting trip was a bust and by the time we returned "Night Hawk" and "Sam the Skull" were anchored next to us with the intent of joining us on the trip north in the morning.
At 7am, after the listening to the weather, we motored up to Nurse Channel and out into an almost calm Ocean. After checking distances and speed, we decided that we would go all the way to Long Island rather than spending the night at Water Cay. We would be anchoring after dark in Thompson Bay but would hit the comber Channel at high tide. So for the first time this year we spent the day using fuel instead of wind as he fished out way north.
We had one hit but didn't hook up. At one point in the afternoon I spotted birds on the water and altered course to their location. As our baits passed through the area there were fish jumping all around them. Two of them were hit but once again, no hook ups. That was the end of our action,\\. Barry and Susan, who were behind us by about an hour, had a whale surface about two boat lengths in front of them for a little excitement.
Other than the fact that the water was perfectly calm, we had an uneventful trip and anchored just as Michigan began their embarrassment of the Spartan basketball team.
We'll stay here for a few days ... provisioning, and then let the wind determine our travels for a few days before our trip to pick up kids in Georgetown.
Sunset over Sapphire in the Bahamas
02/01/2011, Raccoon Cay
Looking at the weather log that we jot down every morning at 6:30, I see that we are more than half way through January and it's been a long time since I've updated our journal. Most of that time has been spent here in the Jumentos where there isn't much besides tiny islands and lots of sealife. Our freezer is full of lobster, conch and a fish. Most of the time has been spent traveling and hunting with our friends on "Fine Lion", "Night Hawk" and "Sam the Skull"... but for the last 5 days we've been hunkered down by ourselves in a Raccoon Cay cove. The wind has been blowing 20 to 30 knots and we've had 100 percent cloud cover with numerous squalls to 35 or 40 knots. This morning there are a few patches of blue sky and the wind is supposed to subside a little this afternoon.
Yesterday there was a Vhf call from a boat that had dragged anchor and was on the rocks. At first they sounded like they had things under control and were simply waiting for the high tide around 4 p.m. A little later however, there was another call that sounded like there were worried and needed some assistance.
We were about 4 miles to their north and the closest to their position. Most of the boats in the Jumentos were anchored at Hog Cay which is about 10 miles (as the crow flies) to our south. I had been planning on making the trip as high tide approached but tone of her voice on the radio forced me get ready for the trip immediately.
Although they were only 4 miles away, there was little protection from the Ocean swells and wind chop that had been building for days. I wasn't looking forward to the dinghy ride. As I got things ready...life jacket, radio, dry shirt, "Lucky Touch" who was anchored to our south called to say that Claus would make the trip with me. I picked him up on the way along with a 500 coil of inch line and we were off.
Before we got to the really bad stretch we found a Bahamian fishing boat anchored out of the weather and stopped to relay the news of the boat on the rocks and they promised to assist around high tide if we gave them a call.
Off we went through the cut using tiny islands and rocks as we could for a little cover. I have no idea of the size of the seas because I was too busy keeping the dinghy under control. Suffice it to say that most of the time all I could see was water. We took one wave over the side but kept going despite the water sloshing around in the dinghy.
We arrive to find disaster. The boat had dragged in the night about ½ mile and had come to rest on the southern end of a needle rock island. Actually, although we could step from the island to the boat in two or three spots, it wasn't actually touching the needle rock. The keel was holding firmly in the shallows inches away from the island. It was listing at about 45 degrees toward the island was almost impossible to move around. The wind was blowing about 20 knots and the seas in the anchorage were running about 2 feet smashing into the boat broad side and trying to push her further on the rocks. Dave had rigged two lines, one forward and one aft, to anchors that were doing a good job of countering the forces of the wind and the waves.
As we arrived and anchored in the lee of the island, Bill from "Veranda" arrived from Hog Cay about 6 miles to the south. He had brought along a large fortress anchor and after a couple of minutes of minutes surveying the situation, went to work getting it in place as a third anchor line.
By this time the rising tide was beginning to effect the grounded boat lifting and rolling it slightly with about every third wave. Two of the three anchoring lines were attached to winches and the third, to the windlass. We took turns tightening each to them every 10 minutes to force the boat more upright instead of rolling further on the rocks.
Bill and I decided that lumber might serve to pad the hull from the rock in the event that one of the anchors gave way so we took a walk searching for anything that would be of use. We found a few odds and ends of washed up boards and Bill went to work. I continued the search for more lumber and found a timber that was big enough to really do some good. Sitting in needle rock at the transom, Bill was able to wedge the timber between the rock and the bottom of the boat so that every roll that the vessel made was on the timber and not the rocky bottom. As the boat rose and we tighten the winches, he altered the position of the timber to buffer the movement of the boat.
At this point Steve from "Fine Lion" arrived and went to work with Bill fending the boat off the rocks with lumber scavenged from the island.
Dave and Kathy on "Dyad", the real stars of the day, were on their way north from Ragged Island to attempt to haul the boat to deeper water, and were trying to time their arrival with the tide. "Dyad" is a large power cat... and by far the most powerful boat currently in the Jumentos. In order to reduce the amount of damage to the hull, keel and rudder during the tow off, it was evident that we had to roll the boat on the keel away from the rocks. As the tide continued to rise, we but enough tension on the lines that on a particularly high wave she rolled of her own accord.
"Dyad" arrived just before high tide and up a position off the starboard bow at about 100 yards. Steve and I tied the tow line on the harness that had been created at the bow of the boat and then played out the tow line to "Dyad". Unfortunately, it was too short so Bill dinghied out to "Dyad" to bring a heavy line to us from them. After joining the two lines we got out of the way and watched. (remember that there are two plus seas and each wave came over the bow as these maneuvers were made) Bill returned to the stricken vessel to help Dave and Claus kedge as "Dyad" pulled. The boat pivoted, putting the rudder skeg at grave risk, but didn't come free. As "Dyad' churned the sand with who knows how many tons of force, the tow line broke.
Steve and I moved back into position and tied a bowline in the end of the remaining line and ferried it back to Kathy on the bow of "Dyad." There was success on the next attempt. During the time it took Steve and I rearrange the tow line, the tide had risen just enough that with "Dyad" next tug the vessel aground was floating free. There was a moment of concern when we noticed that there was no water coming out of the exhaust but ... after opening the thru hull valve the problem was solved.
It appeared that other than some cosmetic damage, there were not problems, the rudder, prop and hull seemed to be in working order as Dave powered back to their original anchorage. Steve and I retrieved the dinghies which were still anchored off the rocky island. With everything under control, Claus and I prepared ourselves for our return trip which now cornering into the wind was considerably rougher that our voyage down. But... we made the trip safely and were back on our boats by about 4:30 happy to have been a small part of a successful day.
January 7th 2011...
I've been remiss about keeping this blog up to date... and for those of you who occasionally look over here... I'm sorry.
The last time we posted we were in Thompson Bay, Long Island waiting out a front. We had a great time there as usual, touching base with folks we've met there in the last few years. There isn't much to say really. We had a New Year's day brunch on board "Sapphire" in honor of Sam's birthday which was well attended. The food was great a usual. Kathy made some cinamon/nut muffans that were a hit. Steve made an asparagras keish, I made ham, mushroom strada, Susan brought a fruit salad and Leta made a key lime pie. We all had a a great time... and then dinghied to shore to Trifina's to watch football games. Sadly, the Spartans didn't seem ready to play even though we were dressed for the occasion.
The next day we...(Sapphire, Fine Lion, Night Hawk and Kokomo) were off to the Jumentos. We left Thompson Bay at about daylight and headed west to the Comber Channel about two hours away. Our departure was timed with the tide to make sure there was enough water. The "channel" is actually just an area of the banks on the south side of Hog Cay that have about 5 ½ feet of water at low tide. It's best for us to hit make the 10 mile passage on a ½ tide rising to make sure that the chop doesn't bounce us off the bottom. At the western end of the Comber we turn south to head down the Jumento chain which in combination with the Ragged Islands, runs about 80 miles. \
There were two other boats making the transit the same day so instead of running down to Flimago Cay where there isn't a lot of good anchoring space, we stopped 14 miles sooner and anchored at Water Cay. There was enough daylight left that lowered the dinghy and went explooring. On our return we stopped at "Fine Lion" who invited us over for sundowers ... so we ran over to "Night Hawk" and ferried them back to the party. (both "Night Hawk and "Fine Lion" travel with their dinghies on their fordecks so on an overnight stop they don't take the time put them back in the water. With davits it's much easier for us to drop it in the water)
The next day we went traveled in the Ocean and fished our way south to Buena Vista Cay, a trip of about 40 miles. It was another great sail but we failed in the fish department. Steve and Kim however, caught a black fin tuna... to avoid the skunk. On our arrival at Beuena Vista, I lowered the dinghy and went scouting the area to the north of our anchorage. We the "look bucket" I checked out coral heads for fish and lobster and checked our the grassy areas for conch. After an hour or so of looking I saw the tips of antennas sticking our from under a rock. There were lobster in the area. I returned to the boat to collect my spear and returned for my first lobster of the season... and picked up a nice trigger fish as well. "Fine Lion invited us all over for ahai tuna so I quickly cracked my Lobster and brough it along as well. Susan made pizza and we once again ate way better than we deserve.
We spent the next morning hunting and then headed south to Double Breasted Cay to spend a few days and weather the next cold front. "Veranda" was the only boat in the area and had headed over into the anchorage earlier in the day... "Sam the Skull" arrived later in the afternoon. We hiked the beach in the afternoon and all gathered on the beach around 5. Chirsty brought Lobster salad, and Susan made lobester sandwiches with fresh bread and barry's catch from the morning hunt. Steve made a nice dip as well.... The lobester dishes made a great meal.
The next day ...another beautiful day in the Bahamas, we hunted for a while in morning and then I hiked to the north end of the island to see what was there. I picked up a pocket full of hamburger beans and found two bronze fishing floats which we worth lugging back to the boat. In the afternoon, we met on the beach to clean some conch that Steve and Kim had picked up at Buena Vista and then decided to use up our soon to be rotten vegstables in a community conch salad. We reconvineed on :Fine Lion" a little later to chop veggies,a few hot peppers, and conch while Kim supervised the seasoning. The eight of us made short work of a huge bowl of conch salad....for dinner.