Rat Cay to Georgetown
January 14th. Rat Cay to Georgetown Great Exuma
The winds were calm this morning which is rare. After the weather forecast, I took the dinghy over to the other boats and we decided to try the outside rocks for lobster. Usually there is too much surge to swim there. If we had good hunting we would stay another day but if not we'd pack up and head to Georgetown in the afternoon.
The snorkeling was excellent and Barry got a nice lobster right away, but after an hour and a half in the water we couldn't find any more so returned to the boats. As we were preparing to weigh anchor, a couple of locals stopped by in their skiff to sell lobster. They had a couple of huge ones for $15 and some others a little smaller. At first I declined, but ask about the smaller ones and found the price too good to pass up. I ended up buying about 5 pounds for $20.
We left the anchorage at about noon and fished (unsuccessfully) our way down to Georgetown. It was about a 20 mile trip and we had our anchor down by 4pm at Sand dollar beach. "Night Hawk" and "Fine Lion" were heading to the Chat and Chill for a beer so we took the dinghies to shore to see if there were any changes in a year. We left the others and headed back to the boat to listen the basketball game at about 5:30. They threatened to join us later..and did. Although it was hard to listen to the game with six people in the cockpit who wouldn't shut up, we had a gook time. I made a couple of batches of popcorn and everyone seemed to enjoy the game.
January 12th, Rat Cay, Exumas
After coffee and the weather I went over to speak with Barry and Steve to compare notes on the weather and come up with a plan for the next few days. On Thursday night the wind is going to pick up and blow 25 to 30 knots for three days. It would be good to be behind Stocking Island in Georgetown before Thursday evening.
Today was calm enough to try lobstering in the sound on the outside of the cut. The area was semi-protected but the swell still made swimming difficult. Barry got a couple of lobsters He shot one that got away but then crawled out in the open in front of me just begging to be supper. and was.
We tried some other spots but didn't have any luck. Barry did shoot a fish but for the most part we came up empty. We did swim one edge where the current was strong enough that I couldn't make any progress swimming as hard as I could into it.Barry and Susan had to come over in their dinghy to drag me back to where Kathy was anchored.
When we returned to our boats, I could see "Perseverance II" sailing south in the Sound. They pulled in and anchored with us about an hour later. Susan and I decided that we should put together a potluck on the beach with cracked lobster. Steve and Kim brought Mahi fingers. Susan made Bahamian Mac and Cheese and Margate fingers (the fish Barry speared today.) I made cracked lobster and cut up our leftover Trigger fish into fingers. Cathy brought a nice toss salad. It was a feast
We returned stuffed to the gills and watch some video before bed.
January 11, 2009 Rat Cay, Exumas
After coffee and a big breakfast we took off with Barry and Susan to try to find some lobsters. Steve and Kim headed in the other direction.
Lobsters proved to be scarce so we did some dinghy sightseeing and stopped by a neat series of blow-holes. When a wave from the Sound hits, the outside of the island the force is transferred underground and shoots water about 20 feet into the air on the other side. It was a relatively calm day on the Sound so on a rough day they must be really impressive.
Eventually Steve and Barry each got a lobster or two . but we went without.
By the time we returned it was time to read and think about supper. I filleted the trigger fish that we bought in Black Point but ended up cooking about half. It was just too big.
We read until dark, watched the moonrise over the sound and watched an episode of "Bones" before bed.
January 10th. Little Farmers to Rat Cay
The wind blew from the north east all night but in the lea of Little Farmers, it was very comfortable. Steve, Barry and I talked via VHF in the morning to time our departure.
For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to cruise here, there is more to the planning some of our day sails than others. The Exuma chain of islands is about 100 miles long and runs basically north and south. On the east is the Exuma Sound and on the west are the Bahama Banks. When possible (unless we're low on fish) we stay on the banks in the normally calm water. But there are times that the Banks are too shallow and we need to go out one of the cuts between the islands into the Sound to travel.
The complications are the wind conditions on the Sound vs. the Tidal Current in the cuts. Twice a day the water from the bank side rushes through the cuts going east and twice a day the water from the Sound heads back to the west to the banks. In some locations this current is only a couple of knots but. when the cut is small the current can be as much as 4 or 5 knots.
When there is no wind on the Sound the contrary current doesn't really matter. It just slows us down for a few minutes. However, when the wind is blowing in and the current is going out, the waves really pile up in the relatively shallow water on the cuts.
Such was the case this morning. High tide was at about 7am so all morning the current was flowing out the cut. The wind as I mentioned above, was blowing 15 knots from the north east.In to the cut.
The equation is further complicated by the length of your trip and the tidal current conditions at the cut that you plan on entering at the end of the day.
The last concern is the depth of the cut itself. For instance if the wave height is 8 feet and the shallowest point of the cut is 12 feet at low tide. and your boat draws 6 feet. Then the calculation is roughly 8 / 2 4.10 - 4 8 . or wave height divided by 2 subtracted from the meal low water. In this case the boat in question should have 2 feet of clearance. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a full moon so the tides are exaggerated to the tune of .3 M which translates to about 12 inches. So now there is only 1 foot of clearance in our scenario above and for most of us, a one foot margin of error is not enough.
I apologize for the lengthy explanation but I want everyone to know that there are times that we don't just weigh anchor and go. We all do our own calculations but it's nice to discuss them to double check. Today for instance, we knew that if we waited for the tide to turn, we might not be able to reach our planned destination in daylight. On the other hand, if we left too soon we would be fighting the current in both cuts.
We decided to leave about 11am knowing that the conditions here at Little Farmers Cut would not be nice. We spent some time battening down the hatches and securing everything that was loose. After getting the anchor up I tied a double reef in the main as we followed the narrow channel around the south end of Little Farmers. The wind on the Sound was due east at 17 when we entered the cut. "Fine Lion" went first and we could see that we were in for a ride. "Night Hawk" was second and they looked like a cork bobbing in and out of sight between the waves. We plowed forward into the waves. The bow went up higher with each wave finally getting to the point where we were at least on a 45 degree angle. Then we come down with a crash sticking the bow underwater for a few seconds. When it came up tons of water rushed back over the cabin. Most was deflected by the dodger but the gunnel areas were full and flooded into the cockpit so we found ourselves standing in ankle deep water.
We only took about 5 or 6 of these waves before clearing the worst of the cut and it only lasted about 2 minutes but . it wasn't fun.
Once in the sound we had about 15 to18 knots and seas of 6 to 8 feet but our point of sail was good and we angled through the waves without much problem. We caught one small barracuda and another fish broke the wire leader on one of our hand lines, but came up empty for the day. Barry had a couple of good hits but didn't hook up. Steve and Kim were the only successful anglers coming up with one Mahi.
We glided through Rat Cay Cut in flat water, lowered sails and motored around the island to an anchorage. We had everyone over to rehash the events of the day and made a meal of cheese, crackers, summer sausage and dip.
One episode of CSI was enough for me but Kathy stayed up a little later and ended up sleeping in the cockpit under the full moon.