Stars, Sails - the Parallax View

A family of astronomers at sea... coming soon to a galaxy near you...

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Cape Santa Maria to Stella Maris

12 May 2012 | Stella Maris Marina, Long Island, Bahamas
Heather / sunny and 86 F / 10 kts E
Sorry for the break, we didn't get internet access at our first landfall (Cape Santa Maria at the northern end of Long Island, Bahamas -- ENE of George Town across the Exuma Sound).

The anchorage, Calabash Bay, is good in winds with an easterly component, although NE would be rolly. In SW, it starts to get choppy, even sheltered as it is somewhat by the large patch reefs along the W side -- there are too many gaps in those patches and the high tides leave them under too much water to really stop all the swells -- just shuts down the bigger stuff.

Our first day from George Town, it was light winds on the nose, so until it went a bit southeasterly, we had to motor. After a couple of hours, we could raise a sail, but it only added about 0.5 kt to our progress, so we motorsailed it. We entered the bay, which is one cove south of the Cape, around 4 pm and anchored in 6-8' over white sand, closer to the Cape Santa Maria Club than to the patch reefs, to cut the swell. It was comfortable, and we visited the club for happy hour, but that night, the wind went S and then SW (unexpected), and raised a chop so that the next morning was a bit bumpy. But it calmed down by noon the next day:
calm anchorage in Calabash Bay. See the swells from the north breaking on the patch reef in the distance?
Calm anchorage in Calabash Bay. See the swells from the north breaking on the patch reef in the distance?

By midday Thursday, it had gone from 12 kts to "light" and the anchorage was relatively comfortable again, and Dream Catcher (Island Packet 45) came in from the south, anchoring inshore of us -- we had met Gina and Bruce at George Town at the Dinghy Drift we and Flying Cloud and Timaru had attended a couple of weeks before! We said hi and arranged to meet them at the club for happy hour that evening, and then went snorkeling, with Derek scouting the locations before all of us got into the water. We came back and Derek scrubbed the hulls a bit while I did a whites laundry using the 5-gallon bucket and the "plunger washer" we'd gotten, using the rinse water to thoroughly wash the back deck as well.

The Cape Santa Maria Club is a nice resort with villas and quads, serving B-L-D (kind of expensive as dinners go, $24 - $42 for entrees), with a bar menu as well ($14 for chicken quesadillas, $4.50 for Happy Hour drinks, a lot more for special blender drinks), and during Happy Hour they also serve conch fritters, gratis. We had a lovely time catching up with Gina and Bruce! Since they were headed north and we were headed south, it was a brief mariners' gam, the next morning dream catcher got underway first, passing our stern as we blew them a conch salute:
Dream Catcher getting underway
Dream Catcher, with Gina and Bruce, getting underway from Calabash Bay

And here's a view just for you, Gina and Bruce:
Dream Catcher in Calabash Bay, Long Island, Bahamas
Dream Catcher in Calabash Bay, Long Island, Bahamas

We left Friday also, heading south toward Stella Maris, in almost no wind at all. Hard to believe it's ocean, huh?
With no wind, the wake is visible for a long way
With no wind, our wake is visible for a long way

On the way southward, we stopped at noon for a break. Derek and Grant and I went for a snorkel at the entrance to Joe's Sound, at the rocks. Derek went one way with his spear, and Grant went another; I was just along to actually snorkel, so I got into the dinghy after about 40 minutes -- it's not a gigantic reef or anything, and I had seen all of it three times. Along a shallow trench just south of the rocks, Grant met a big barracuda, about the size of a full-gown person's leg from foot to butt. A bit on the scary side: he hopped into the dinghy after his spearfishing expedition and said in a high (amused) voice, "I'm gonna need some new swim trunks!" He also mentioned that even a 4-foot spear felt like a Tinkertoy when faced with that thing. It was just doing the usual inquisitive barracuda things, though (still, he felt much better getting back into the boat after that).

As you turn in toward Stella Maris Marina from the waypoint, the going will start to get shallow. This was on a falling tide; the right-hand depth gauge is more reliable, and it measures depth under the keel, to which you'd need to add 3' to get the total water depth [UPDATE: Going back out the same route just after low tide (0.9' above datum) we saw as little as 0.1 feet below the keel!!! This is NOT a marina accessible by a 6' draft. Even if your draft is only 4' you probably want to go in settled weather near high tide! We draw 3' and probably touched sand a couple of times going out again. I'd include a picture of that 0.1', but my fingers were welded to the wheel at the time and I couldn't ask Derek to bring out my camera, because I would have had to have been able to unclench my jaw to do that...]:
depth under keel

There are stakes and small markers, all should be left not very far to port. I would not want to do this entrance in a draft over 5'. We were not going in at high tide, the lowest we saw was about 1.6 feet beneath the keel (4.6 total), so high tide would be a big YES for anyone with a 5' draft. Our GPS had the markers farther to the south than they actually were, for what it's worth.

Once inside, it's deeper and well-protected:
Stella Maris Marina
Stella Maris Marina entrance from inside

They also have travelift capabilities; they are apparently the last place before Providenciales (Turks and Caicos) that does:
Travelift track at Stella Maris
Travelift track at Stella Maris

When you check in to the marina, which faces the shallows on the west side of Long Island, there are all sorts of things that come with it.... shower and lounge there, small pool, free rides to the Stella Maris Resort on the windward (Atlantic) side and use of their pools and beaches (nice thing, because the noseeums make water sports right at the marina a less-than-popular choice). There is a laundry beside the marina, it is closed Saturdays but open other days. There is also a Scotia Bank nearby.

Friday being our anniversary, we went to the resort for dinner; they have a Friday Rake'n'Scrape (actually one troubador with a guitar, but he's good), which includes a rum punch party with free rum punch and conch fritters (and these are really GOOD conch fritters: light and tasty, the best we have had in the Bahamas this trip). This is all a lead-up to the buffet, which is good (steak, fish, several kinds of salad and side dishes) -- we had dinner with a very nice Canadian couple who had recently purchased a home nearby, and who are (as usual!) waiting for the paperwork to go through. Very nice people, and a fun way to spend an anniversary dinner!

I'm going to go scratch my noseeum bites for a while now. They could drive a person mad!!!
Comments
Vessel Name: Parallax
Vessel Make/Model: 37' Prout Snowgoose (1982)
Hailing Port: Pensacola
Crew: Derek, Heather and Grant
About:
Two astronomers, looking for variable stars and adventure. After cruising the Caribbean aboard S/V Paradox for 18 months in the early 90s, the crew swallowed the anchor and had a child, always planning their next Great Adventure: cruising under sail with Grant, showing him the world. [...]
Extra:
We knew that if we ever got a catamaran, we'd want a name to celebrate her twin-hulledness. Parallax is seeing the same thing from two slightly different points of view, which with our two eyes is what gives humans our depth perception. It's also a good metaphor for one of the benefits of marriage. [...]
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