05/15/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
We had a fun three-night stay at the Stella Maris Marina (on the leeward side of Long Island), using the facilities at the Stella Maris Resort on the windward side of Long Island.
view from the seaward side of Long Island at Stella Maris Resort
Good thing, too, because the noseeums (tiny biting midges. Don't try screening your ports, they will just land on the screen and walk right through the mesh! Be Afraid) make keeping your ports and hatches closed mandatory. First time since Key West that we used the air conditioning, and what a blessing it was... as you probably can guess, with the sun shining and very little wind, it quickly gets well above 90F in a closed boat. With the A/C running on the differential between air and water temperature, we were able to keep it down to about 82 during the day, and as low as 78 at night.
The resort will shuttle marina guests over to their facilities and in return the marina guests often spend money at the resort's restaurant, snack bar, or wherever. They have a beautiful boardwalk along the seaward side:
leading from the "Moonshine" pool and palapa bar/grill to a natural saltwater wave pool that's a really clever design! The water comes in at the southern side at a slightly higher elevation of coral platform, driven by the waves,
and swirls through the pool from south to north, where it exits again at a lower elevation.
So it can actually be used as an "endless pool" if you get right into the deepest spot in front of the incoming current (as the woman in this picture started doing while we were there):
natural seawater wave pool at Stella Maris Resort
Derek and Grant discovered that a kind of golden seaweed was getting washed into the pool, and they started throwing balls of it at one another:
Action shot: Derek needs to work on his aim...
Retribution is swift...
Ah, the utter peace of a seaside vacation...
Grant in retreat after a seaweed strafing run
More people came along and started horsing around (see? it's contagious!), and we retired to the Moonshine to have some food. The drinks came quickly, and the mango daiquiri started out about the size of my head. I had to slurp it down as fast as possible to keep it from overflowing the sides, and I even had to enlist help from Derek (who was already enjoying his usual Kalik, but bravely pitched in):
monster mango daiquiri, half subdued
The resort's main building is at the top of the hill, with a view to the sea in both directions. It's low-key and nicely maintained:
and has many places to sit around enjoying the ambiance:
we walked around the neighborhood and noticed many German and Austrian names among the property owners; also many German-speaking guests at the resort itself. Here's the memorial to the founder, which may be in itself a bit of an explanation:
We also took a beach-snorkel trip, they are free each day:
We left the marina Monday morning, with the wind about 10 kts from ESE, we were even able to sail under main and jib for much of the way at about 4.1 kts, and Derek hopefully put out a line as we crossed from shallow to deep water. About halfway across the deep water, he discovered that he had something ON that line. Always in the past this has been more of that golden seaweed, but this time whatever was on there was swimming sideways:
Having read far too many cruising-sailor books, I was ready with the vodka. Derek's barracuda was big, but to keep the flopping and violence to a minimum, just apply copious amounts of vodka to the gill area:
The mighty hunter!
The barracuda was 36" long when we tape-measured him. The danger of ciguatera means Heather will be the canary and try a little bit first, cooked, to see if any symptoms develop. The reasoning is that since I'm usually the weakest stomach in the group, if I'm OK, they will be too.
Eventually the wind died and clouds got thicker on the western horizon, with rain obviously falling from individual clumps of cloud. We had to pull in the jib and start up the engines again, and with the engines both running, we made about 4.8 kts toward George Town for the last 2.5 hours of the trip (5 kts after the tide turned).
While Derek waited for a work-related phone call, we seemed to pass between two rain squalls on our approach to Elizabeth Harbour without actually being pounded by the wet stuff:
05/12/2012, Stella Maris Marina, Long Island, Bahamas
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?
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, 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
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, 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...]:
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 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
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!!!
05/07/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
After all that bluster a week ago, the last two days the wind has gone to "light and variable" and the surface of the harbor is so free of waves or even ripples that the bottom can be clearly seen. We moved from Kidd Cove over to Monument Beach for the beach BBQ Saturday evening, stayed Sunday to partake of the Pig Roast at the Chat 'n' Chill, snorkeled a blue hole in Hole 3 of Stocking Island, and checked out the Peace 'n' Plenty Beach Club ($10 for one pina colada. It was an OK pina, but honestly...!)
The blue hole was good: Hole 3 is a non-liveaboard mooring field, but despite the no-discharge zone, the water is still rather cloudy. It's "dive center" name is Angel Blue Hole, just as Hole 3's chart name is "Cleaning Hole." There is also an entrance to a vast underwater cave complex that runs beneath Stocking Island and the surrounding seabed there, it's dubbed "Mystery Cave" -- but there are other entrances to the same complex. not really our issue, since we were snorkeling. We could see the blue hole about 25 feet below us, a sinkhole with one wall collapsed, leading down at an angle, with cooler water coming up from it. There were flying formations of spotted eagle rays, three at a time and each about 3' across, large formations of spadefish (dinner-plate sized and looking a bit like striped angelfish, they are said to be quite tasty!), and other large fish, popping in from the ocean for a little rest and relaxation in Hole 3.
It was eerily still on Sunday. Our dinghy hung suspended in liquid blue off the stern:
And the Sunday evening sunset was calm enough to be on some inland lake:
This morning (Monday) is election day in the Bahamas. PLP and FNM and even a few DNA party flags are fluttering from cars all over the street, people are wearing the colored tee shirt of their party (or just a clothing accent of the appropriate color: red for the incumbent "conservative" FNM, yellow for the PLP -- the biggest challengers -- and green for the Democratic National Alliance, the latest third party). Places that sell liquor are closed until after 6 pm (after the polls close), but the Driftwood Cafe (run by an Uruguayan lady) was open. We put the wash in at the Corner Laundry and headed for the cafe for a tasty sandwich before the dryer was done. Their cafe is cool and comfortable and plays classical music, and they have many delicious things to eat. I had organic roast beef grilled panini with mushrooms and cheese, Derek had a salame sub -- both very good! We brought spanakopita (spinach pies with fillo crust) back to the boat for Grant. We also brought groceries, many gallons of water (in our collapsible water jugs: Exuma Markets provides R/O water at the dinghy dock as a courtesy for cruisers), 10 gallons of diesel and 5 gallons of gasoline for the dinghy motor.
The reason for the stocking up on fuel and water is that we are heading over to Long Island (no, the one in the Bahamas) tomorrow for a couple of days. We will start in the north, at Calabash Sound, and then the next day head south towards the Stella Maris Marina.
05/04/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
After Derek left for the States, the weather, as expected, turned windier and there were three days of rain. Not very exciting, except it was rough starting right up next to the beach (can only imagine how rough it was on the west side of Elizabeth Harbour!). I worked on grading for my online class, and Grant worked on school, and then he'd play video games or we'd watch a movie in the evening. Since we'd had plenty of warning of this weather, we had laid in supplies for the duration.
About the second day of this torrential stuff, people started getting cabin fever. Unusual messages started floating in on the VHF (the marine radio); people talking about seeing pairs of animals lined up near a big boat, other people claiming that a lady garbed in black and riding a bicycle had just blown past their windows... which sparked a contest of people singing like Munchkins. Got to say the guy who sang the Mayor's song ("...she's reaaaally most sinceeerely dead!") should have won a prize :-)
Finally, the sunny weather re-established itself and people started heading out -- mostly north, but some south as well. Walt and Meryl on Flying Cloud and Kevin and Sharon on Timaru buddied up for the hop up to Emerald Bay, Black Point and points north. We had lunch at St. Francis before they left,
"Walter and Meryl at St. Francis Resort, Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas
Again I reflected on how it would be great to be able to spend more time with the people one meets cruising -- so much to talk about with such interesting people, and only so much time available with sundowners or dinner or lunch...
Grant and I also got out for a walk to the Exuma Sound side of Stocking Island. It was a pretty little trail from the entrance to Hole Zero
past a helpful sign
up over the hill
to a beach of white sand without all the plastic litter that we found on beaches farther north. Of course we started by sticking our feet into the water on that side of the island:
Grant at the ritual footbath of the island cruiser
Grant watched the waves crash a while
Before Derek left, we'd moved Parallax to a mooring administered by Elvis Ferguson, who runs the water taxi and is also the Harbourmaster for Elizabeth Harbour. The fee is $15/nt but drops to $12/nt for longer stays, and Derek wanted to be sure we'd be safe while he was gone and with the weather coming in, so we paid up through the end of his trip. When Derek mentioned to Elvis that he had an early flight, Elvis agreed to pick him up at 7 AM: that is above and beyond for Elvis' water taxi, especially as it was Race Week and there was a very full schedule.
Saturday at the end of Race Week there was a parade, and Miss Muriel and the others got their awards. We didn't go, but another cruising boat (Alchemy) took this picture of the Police Band with their traditional leopard skin adornments (from Bahamian leopards?):
After his return flights today, Derek met me at Sam's Place (a restaurant/bar overlooking Kidd Cove) this evening before sunset, had a Kalik (one of the two beers of the Bahamas, the other being Sands) and we dinghied out to the boat... which I had moved over to Kidd Cove by myself (eek!) and anchored. Even that short dinghy ride was pretty wet, it would have been insane to go all the way across tonight with his bags. Plus, we needed water and that long dinghy ride really makes us rue the 15HP... get maybe three R/T to a tank. So I had spent the afternoon moving the boat across, anchoring, and then jerry-jugging the water from Exuma Markets' dock to our boat, 10 gallons at a time. Then I showered and dressed and headed to Sam's, feeling very proud of myself for doing all this, only to wind up with us both peeling off our salty wet clothes in the cockpit when we got back to the (nearby) boat, avoiding getting salty damp inside (a very good thing to avoid). Going to do more water carting tomorrow.
S/V Grace, our sister ship, is here at Kidd Cove, with George and Doris -- but Doris had a dramatic day yesterday. She was snorkeling around their boat in a different anchorage, cleaning the bottom in preparation for heading north (maybe tomorrow), and it was kind of bouncy there (as it is here), and a wave bounced her head up against the underside of one of the rudder gudgeons, cutting her scalp open. She needed six stitches, and George upped anchor and started heading toward Kidd Cove in Grave, and again Elvis to the rescue! He water-taxied her swiftly ashore, called ahead to get a nurse in the clinic (which would have been closed) and his wife stayed with Doris as she got her stitches. Doris is looking pretty good today, with a bandage on her head, but otherwise energetic, and she and George are still considering leaving tomorrow or the next day. George will have to snip and remove her stitches in another week. The stuff one gets to do while cruising!
The reason Flying Cloud and Grace (and many other boats) are leaving now is that a weather window is opening up. Today was 15 kts E, but over the next 48 hrs the wind's expected to subside to "light and variable direction" and stay that way for several days. A crowd is also going to be heading directly for Puerto Rico and another group for the Dominican Republic. The radio code for these groups is "Southbound," in case you come across them!
04/27/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
We started out from Emerald Bay on Monday as that was the last day with westerly winds predicted... and in fact the wind was shifting to NW even as we traveled. The difference that makes is that 1) we could sail all the way and 2) because the wind went more northerly as the day progressed, we had pretty "surfy" following seas. It was fun -- Parallax reminds me of her reserve buoyancy when the waves start to get beneath her -- she rides them smoothly, with more lift when they are larger. Still, it makes for some exciting noises and views both astern and off the bows! Not to mention speed...
Wave astern of us preparing to break a bit...
and another one...
Wave traveling forward from astern of us
What the waves do to our speed
It was nice to be able to sail until we got into the harbor! Our first anchorage was off Sand Dollar Beach with Flying Cloud and then Beach Cruiser (Barry and Barb and their wonderful Victory 35 catamaran) and Grace (George and Doris and their beautiful Prout Snowgoose, younger sister to ours). We were thrilled to see George and Doris again! They had been safely tucked into Red Shanks Anchorage for their repairs, but there is not good internet reception there, so they were into coming across to get online.
View from our Sand Dollar Beach anchorage
We went ashore at Volleyball Beach at the Chat 'n' Chill for cheeseburgers in paradise...
Some days it's quite crowded, but that day was very peaceful...
Derek at Volleyball Beach
The Chat 'n' Chill is interesting, almost all of the walls can be raised to let in breezes from various directions.
The Chat 'n' Chill
It had a very active drinking crowd and a couple of families. It generally has a very active drinking crowd -- but then again, this is Family Islands Regatta week! A couple of days later I couldn't recall the name correctly and accidentally called it the "Chill 'n' Swill," and Derek and Grant won't let me forget it -- that seems to be the name for it aboard, now. I'm just worried I'm going to say it that way in public and upset the owner!
We took a little walk from Volleyball Beach around the "holes" and found that most of these very protected spots are full of moorings (and houseboats for rent).
Walking around Hole #1
The next day we took the dinghy across to George Town and went to the Exuma Market (very cruiser-friendly, they have a dinghy dock with free RO water so you can buy groceries and get water in your jerry jugs -- they'll even receive mail for you!).
We also had to visit a bank... hadn't seen one since Nassau.
One of two banks in George Town
Then we went for a late lunch with Walt and Meryl to the Peace And Plenty Inn.
Peace and Plenty's historical marker
Pretty tasty lunch, but not inexpensive :-)
All around us, preparations were in full swing for the start of Race Week. Colorful shanties had been erected all along Government Dock and music was blaring from cow-sized speakers, bars were already open and food stalls were far behind them.
It was a wet dinghy ride back across the harbor, but with the wind from the east, Sand Dollar is a nice protected anchorage as well as being a beach with natural beauty. However, the wind was due to shift over the following few days and Derek had to fly back to the States, so he wanted to leave me in a "safer" place -- so that I would not have to move and re-anchor single-handed (Grant hasn't done much anchoring yet, we are trying to keep him from breaking any bones on this trip! He may start taking part even in anchoring, though, eventually -- it's just kind of heavy and dangerous).
So we wound up on a mooring just off Volleyball Beach. It's a center for Race Week activities, and the racing boats (including Lady Muriel, Red Stripe and Tida Wave) come here and tie alongside Nomad and Amazing Grace -- I think the crews are sleeping on those two large motor vessels with the owners hosting them. Lady Muriel has been doing especially well! Here's Abaco Rage practicing -- they are staying on Nomad but keeping their boat at anchor:
The third leg of the races sometimes takes them very close to the anchorage off Volleyball Beach...
Especially for those anchored rather than moored:
And some boats choose to practice over in the anchorage, especially the "up anchor while raising sail" maneuver (over and over). I guess they have some close quarters to work through in the races and can use the "crowded" feeling for practice.
04/22/2012, Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Will put in more details later... basically, Little Farmer's is current-driven and we spent an annoying afternoon and evening being waked by people in power boats who zoomed through the anchorage to get to and from Big Farmer's without any consideration of wakes, and all night banging back and forth over our mooring ball whenever the tide changed or the wind strengthened.
It was, however, undeniably pretty:
Little Farmer's Cay Yacht Club at sunset, from our mooring
The next morning we had a weather window to go south, and we had to go "outside" from there, so we left with S/V Flying Cloud for Lee Stocking Island, a marine research center with free moorings (they don't want us anchoring near their stromatolites, you see!). Flying Cloud had had even more fun, as when they got into Little Farmer's they discovered that LF has done away with pennants and you're supposed to pick up the mooring ball itself and pass your bow line through the supporting ropes under it rather than through a pennant. They decided they'd be better off anchoring, and that would have been OK, but another anchored boat, a very small one, was extremely close to them once the tide shifted, so eventually they went to a different mooring (Ocean Cabin) to avoid the worry.
We had a brisk sail of the "nasal wind" variety: boats coming the other way lazed along with their spinnakers out to catch as much of the mild breeze as possible, which for them was barely over 6 knots (the wind being 10 or so, the boats moving northward making perhaps 4 knots, meaning 6 knots of "apparent breeze" astern of them), while for us, heading pretty close to straight into it at 5 knots, we had short choppy head seas and 15 knots or so on the nose. There was stronger stuff due to arrive in a few days and we all wanted or needed to get to George Town, or at least Great Exuma. Here were the lucky souls wafting northward:
a gentle northward sail, a bumpy southward motor
Lee Stocking Island was pretty, although no one was around to give us a tour of the ongoing research (easier to get tours in summer, apparently, when college terms break and more researchers and research assistant students are about). The staff during the academic year is pretty small (but radio-friendly: we talked to Tori on the way in but alas, she had disappeared by the time we got ashore):
Lee Stocking Island permanent Research Staff
Here are Walt and Meryl in front of the Research Center sign:
The Research Center office and outbuildings are very Caribbean-looking, with lush tropical foliage and a great view.
Marine Research Center office
That great view I mentioned...
After arriving (and not finding anyone around except other cruisers looking for someone around), we all walked over to the beach on the Sound side to view the surf. The interior of the island is pretty hot and densely covered with foliage where it's not runway or salt pond, so it's best to dinghy places or bring lots of water if you want to hike. When we got back to the Research Center's office, the clouds had started to roll in and the wind was going south (sooner than expected):
Parallax at mooring at Lee Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas
We left in the morning for Emerald Bay Marina, which is on Great Exuma (good from the POV that Derek has to fly back to the States again and had tickets to/from George Town, Exumas, so he needed to be on Great Exuma to do that). Emerald Bay Marina is very underutilized, very well-protected from wind in any direction, and very nice: Bahamas Cruisers Guide Emerald Bay Marina Info. We are on a "no-power" dock so only pay $1/ft/day, the usual price is $2.25/ft/day, but I just found out from Barb on Beach Cruiser that one can join the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club and get a 0.75/ft/day rate on a power dock. Well! :-) It was great seeing Beach Cruiser and Odyssey again -- they organized a cruiser get-together for Sunday evening that went very well -- especially considering that it absolutely poured several times after the gam had broken up -- lucky!
I walked around the marina in the mornings here. It is only partly tenanted, coming back from an early bankruptcy. There are many signs of the low occupancy rate, despite the lovely protection and surroundings.
Fire hydrant returning to Nature
They do have a weird kind of surge... not vertical, but horizontal, like a form of circulating current that never lets the boats rest. You have to adjust your lines very carefully to avoid chafing through them with a circular motion that gets started if the lines are loose or at all uneven. Since the docks are floating, this is not impossible, just "fiddly."
Came upon a friend's boat name on a Sandals resort dive boat:
FantaSea -- Coy and Iris' one is larger :-)
Tomorrow we expect to go to George Town, assuming the conditions are good. It's tempting to stay here, the clubhouse is awesome and the laundry and showers are clean and nice and free.
Emerald Bay Marina at sunrise
We'll see; either we stay while Derek travels, or we go to Georgetown while he travels -- it's about to be Family Islands race week there and more social even than usual.
04/18/2012, Little Farmer's Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Yesterday we and Walt and Meryl from S/V Flying Cloud went for a long walk at Black Point, crossing from the big beach to the "outside" -- with deeper and rougher water -- at a narrow point in Great Guana Cay.
It was low tide, so in anticipation of the water coming back in, we anchored the dinghy like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean: End of the World:
You can see Parallax anchored in the distance beyond the dinghy!
Derek waded out to try to guide Walt and Meryl past the first sandbank, but it was already too shallow:
The white sands that dried at low tide were covered with complex ripple patterns - the same patterns you can see preserved in fossils from the shallow inland seas on previous geologic epochs:
Miss Ida of the Rockside Laundry also has some guest houses overlooking that beach. There are three small ones, and two large ones are now being completed next to an existing larger house:
As soon as we got up to and across the road, we could see the beach facing Exuma Sound (the deep-water side of the cays):
There are so many different shades of blue out there! It's hard to show that in these photos...
Grant exploring beach on Exuma Sound, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
Once we got down onto the beach, there was less sea grape and such, more very tall sparse grasses and white sand and the usual dried seaweed drifts:
But as we walked toward the next bluff northward along the coast, we found an interesting development:
We came across this natural arch on the Exuma Sound beach near Black Point, Great Guana Cay
Of course, Grant had to climb it :-)
There were many pieces of plastic on this beach, including some very small ones, but also many natural sponges and the ever-present drying seaweed. This sponge just demanded to be photographed... you can see how the man-made trash bits are inextricably woven into the sea wrack...
This cay, like the others, has holes with water in them; this one was maybe 10' across the long axis. The greenish water in there was above sea level, so good chance it's part of a freshwater lens. Of course, none of us was interested in tasting it to find out. Not dedicated enough to experimentation, I guess.
The little graveyard includes a stone for a lady (Mrs. Sweeting) who lived on this cay for 98 years. Sweeting is a very famous Bahamian name, like Rolle and Pinder and Albury.
There is an SSCA Cruising Station in Black Point (we're also Seven Seas Cruising Association members). Flying their SSCA burgee proudly, Charles and Sharon Vassallo are former boat-cruisers who now spend 6 months of each year in Black Point and 6 months "cruising" in their RV in the States:
They told us that Flamingo Air will fly you to Black Point from Nassau for $100. That's costlier than taking the mail boat, but also faster.
This morning, we upped anchor around 11 a.m. and headed south to Little Farmer's Cay, along the banks, which are getting shallower the farther south we go. It was, for once, a sail-able easterly, although it faded in the afternoon until we had to turn on the engines again. But at least we did get to sail some of it!
It got notably shallow going into Little Farmer's; we are going to "go outside" to get farther south from this point, either tomorrow or likelier the next day. Flying Cloud actually waited a couple of hours for the tide to rise before coming in (they draw 6'). Here's what a lot of the entrance course looked like, depth-wise (pay no attention to the speedo, it's broken, we use the one on the GPS):
2.6 feet under the keel was the lowest reading we got, coming in by the deeper, southern route
The excessive and varied blueness of all the water was just amazing! But the tide had turned and was coming in strong... getting stronger as we got farther into the anchorage and nearer the Little Farmer's Cut to Exuma Sound... current runs about 4 knots.
We had to miss shoaling and a point to the left...
A point to the left, with rocks
You can "read the water" to see the point's inner shoal in brown - not usually a good color for your boating pleasure
And at the same time we had to avoid a sandbar that led to a lot of turbulence on the right as well:
As swirly as it was, the water was also mesmerizing...
You can see that Heather was enjoying the swirly steering...
This one didn't really show up well, but it's the "outside" -- the entrance to Exuma Sound at Little Farmer's Cut, and that's a tidal overfall, a sort of standing wave that sets up when there is a lot of water coming into a narrow entrance all at once. So you know we will be going out this way at slack tide, near as we can manage it.
Once we were in the anchorage, we noticed that the holding did not appear to be all that great, especially if you go by the note on the chart, other boats' gossip and the shore decorations they have around here:
Not sure how long ago this steel boat went aground, but it's still there...
So Derek decided on a mooring. Well, that and he wanted a real shower from the marina tomorrow, and probably (apparently reasonably priced) dinner as well. This place has really good internet, I was able to update my class website faster than I have been able to in many weeks. Also, of course, I can bombard you all with lots of pictures again. Think how many thousand words THAT saved. Grateful, much? ;-D
04/15/2012, Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
[Tues 4/17 NOTE: I am still working on getting the image locations to insert here. Bandwidth at our current anchorage makes Picasa a very slow way to go. Check back to see more pictures!]
We are in the fairly windy part of the trough-front system moving through the Central Bahamas yesterday, today and tomorrow. We will most likely be able to sail south again on Tuesday, but we'll see. The anchorage is all hunkered down waiting for the 25 kts to moderate. The problem is not 25 kts when that's a gust, it's 25 kts sustained -- which means there are times when it's over 30 (you can tell when the sound of the wind goes from the movie-canonical "wind sound" to starting to get some kind of musical tone from your standing rigging, the wire cables that hold the masts and spreaders (crosspieces) in position). 30 knots is 30 nautical miles per hour, which is 34.5 statute (land-based) miles per hour.
The anchorage is protected from the east, but when the wind is 25 kts sustained, the waves start pretty much right by the shore, so even in the anchorage itself, those in the middle of the bay are enduring some choppiness. We tucked in next to a rock bluff expecting the forecast strong NE winds, and indeed a couple of times from Friday through today they have gone NE, but mostly it seems to be straight east, and trying to take a dinghy to shore from anywhere in the anchorage is thus a damp experience.
Yesterday we put everything we had to keep dry in a black contractor bag and dinghied to shore at 3 pm. We were going to have dinner ashore at Loraine's with Flying Cloud but we also needed some time for online work. As we sloshed up to the government dock, we admired the nice construction of the dock with a spur off to one side for dinghies to moor and ladders to allow access at any state of tide. It looks fairly new. There is also a small pavilion on the new section, and during their Easter break the local kids have been using it to have fun jumping into the water and safely climbing out again -- our first day here that looked great (now it's a little cool and choppy and windy for that activity!). The breakwater rocks to the west of the Government Dock are painted "Black Point Settlement" and to the east, "Get to the Point, Stick to the Point" which has a sense of fun as town mottoes go. We crawled out of the dinghy up the ladder and started to sort ourselves out.
Ashore, though slightly soggy!
"Dinghy butt" is when everyone exits the dinghy with wet seats (typical for an inflatable ride through chop), but we arrived with "dinghy half" -- that is, either the entire front and butt soaked or half of the front and the entire lower body soaked. We tried steering along the wave crests, and that works to some extent, but the waves are moving westerly and at some point you have to correct easterly or be swept out onto the banks... we tried to point into spaces between wave crest formations but it didn't always work! Nevertheless, with the wind blowing like that, we started to dry (slightly crusty from the salt, but still) immediately. The stuff in the black plastic bag stayed dry, at least, which is good, for we brought in our laptops to try to get online access.
Derek in Lorraine's trying to flag down passing internet packets
Black Point Settlement is a friendly Bahamian town, businesses mostly run out of people's homes or converted houses, except the Rockside Laundromat, stunningly impressive as Bahamian laundromats go, which was purpose-built and has a full-sized laundromat and store on the first floor and guest rooms on the second floor. There is a road, and so there are people with cars (not too many) and people with golf carts (more usual). We walked all the way through the main settlement from the Government Dock to the far point (and Grant walked a bit past that -- there's a church and an airstrip WSW of town).
Regatta Point beach at Black Point Settlement
We have not yet located any place that sells gas or diesel, but unless everyone brings that from Staniel Cay (only a couple of miles north if you have a dinghy or shoal-draft vessel), there pretty much has to be one. There are several places that sell groceries (even the Laundromat has a store attached) and several places that are restaurant/pubs with bottled sodas, beer, wine or pitchers of rum punch and breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks. Lorraines' is one of these, plus Lorraine is capturing cruisers by providing a satellitel wifi service. But at first glance it doesn't seem very much like an internet cafe/pub/restaurant:
Staying out of the wind, on Lorraine's doorstep
Ida at the Rockside Laundromat is also providing free wifi, which makes the cruisers very happy -- nonetheless, yesterday we donated $5 to Lorraine's internet and bought a soda from Ida's to support these services. All for nearly nought: it was extremely difficult to connect and I could not upload a single image for the blog (or even make an entry). And I have such nice pics to share, including M/V Odyssey at the end of a rainbow :-)
M/V Odyssey at the end of an Exuma rainbow
While we were there, there was an accident aboard one of the anchored vessels; the husband and wife had guests aboard from Texas and the husband went ashore to get ice; while he was ashore, the wife went into their freezer, a large and heavy-lidded one, and the catch gave way, nearly severing the end of one of her fingers. Showing remarkable composure, she hailed the store on VHF 16 to get him and send him back to the boat -- meanwhile I alerted Lorraine to the trauma and asked whether the Clinic we'd walked past was open. Lorraine knew how to call the nurse and she came onto 16 to offer to call her. Another boat had a doctor aboard and that doctor started over to see the woman in his dinghy. After the doctor had seen her and the clinic had seen her, she was sent to Nassau to Princess Margaret Hospital in the hope that they might be able to reattach the fingertip. She was still calm and collected as she came through Lorraine's that evening, worrying that she was leaving her guests, and joking a bit.
We are all hoping her finger is saved, but also admiring her fortitude. [UPDATE Mon 4/16: Lorraine says the lady had her fingertip reattached in Nassau and is back aboard her boat: they'll know in a few days whether it will "take." Good luck to her!]
Dinner with Walt and Meryl from Flying Cloud was fun -- grouper for us, some kind of tasty ribs for Walt, burger for Grant, and rum punch for the grown-ups... we have reached the start of the area in which rum is actually cheaper than mixers like fruit juices, so drinks become very strong! Beware. I remember this phenomenon from last time we cruised, we'd been puzzled by our apparent lower liquor-tolerance until we reached the Turks and Caicos, where a bartender finally explained it to us :-)