05/26/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, Bahamas
Just got this dandy emailed photo of sunnier days in Calabash Bay, taken by Gina as she and Bruce headed to Conception Island Park on S/V Dreamcatcher (remember the photo in the Calabash Bay post? That was Gina, who had just taken this shot of us! :-). I have placed Dreamcatcher's blog link in the right-side favorites bar on this page...
It's been alternating rain and periods of dead calm for the last two days -- and when it's dead calm it's also hot and humid, and then the noseeums make the long flight out to the boats to feast on the flesh of the living... not sure what they eat the rest of the time. I am supposed to avoid getting bitten by them any more, since my arm has a dreadful rash from the last noseeum attack (Stella Maris, two weeks ago).
Today we left the sheltered area between the St. Francis and Volleyball Beach and headed across to Kidd's Cove anchorage to provision; we have a lot of laundry to do, and the holiday weekend coming means there will be no laundry available here until Tuesday. That and it's very expensive doing larger loads here, so it makes more sense to take the whole show up to Emerald Bay, where there's free laundry, excellent showers, free wifi (here in George Town we generally have to pay if we want reliable wifi service on the boat), and a nice clubhouse with endless coffee/tea/cocoa. There's also SE 15 predicted for tomorrow, which will mean we can sail it, a nice plus. All those features at Emerald Bay add up, so it's more than worth the dockage of $1/ft/nt on the "no-service" dock. Stocked up on water and food at Exuma Market, sucked the bank account down a bit because after Emerald Bay we are headed to Cat Island, and many of the islands are short on banks but operate on a cash basis, so it's best to have some.
OK, that's the update for now. You don't need more pictures of George Town, do you? :-)
05/23/2012, Flamingo Cay, The Jumentos, Bahamas
On Saturday we left George Town and headed SE to Hog Cay Cut to visit a less-frequented island chain in the shallow banks south of the Exumas, called the Jumentos. They lead all the way down to Ragged Island (close to Cuba).
The 7-day Windfinder forecast was unexciting: winds very low for many days, with little to no sunshine. The good part of that is that the winds would not be on the nose and they were expected to "fill in" from the SE after a few days, so we could sail back. Also, Derek was getting cabin fever waiting around George Town for the weather to improve.
Few cruisers go to the Jumentos. The most direct route is via the Hog Cay Cut, which is around 2' depth at low water over a "hard bar" (rock, not sand), and then at least half a mile of 3' depth. So, stay away from low tides for this one. We anchored out at Elizabeth Island the night before, so as to get as close to high tide at the cut as we could without doing the first leg in the dark. As it was, the lowest we registered going through the cut was 0.5 feet below the keel, but that's enough to make me grit my teeth. It was a beautiful approach, though, and Saturday was only partly cloudy, so the sun shone on our endeavors occasionally:
Hog Cay Cut into Jumentos as seen from Sound-side
Our first stop was Water Cay. The wind was coming from an unexpected direction at that point, sort of NE, and that's not the best protection for the Water Cay anchorages... in fact, the southern one of the two was very unattractive, so we wound up anchoring at the northern anchorage to avoid the swells, near a bright red fishing boat with a white cabin superstructure. The local fishermen were sheltering from the rain when we got there.
The next morning they were using a smaller boat to go spear fishing, bringing the catch back to the larger boat. Derek also went spearfishing as an addendum to a snorkeling trip we took, and brought back a triggerfish. I made a creamy seafood chowder with it, which was very nice given the often-rainy weather. But then the wind died entirely for a while, although you could see that the weather was still gathering itself for something:
It did make the surface as clear as blue-tinted glass, though, which was fun for viewing! Once the fishermen pulled out, we had remoras around our anchored boat:
These were soon followed by nurse sharks, which liked to hang out near the dinghy:
One of the smaller remoras was trying to form a relationship with a nurse shark. That means attaching upside-down, though, since a nurse shark spends most of its time hanging out and hunting on the bottom:
We even had a young barracuda (3 feet or thereabouts) checking us out, patrolling around the boat, possibly for fish scraps:
That afternoon, after the small local boat was gone, a larger boat, Southern Style, with outriggers, pulled up to the coral bank for the night... apparently for several nights, actually. There's a small fleet of these hefty fishing boats, all named "Southern" something -- Southern Comfort, Southern Style...
Southern Style, a commercial fishing vessel, anchored of f Water Cay
The next day we enjoyed the cut in the middle of Water Cay that fills a natural pool on the banks side at high tide and dries at low. It was about the only sun we saw while in the Jumentos:
Exploring the shallow narrow cut through Water Cay
The natural sandy-bottomed pool on the banks side of that cut is a great place to bask:
Natural sandy pool at Water Cay cut
After that we headed to Flamingo Cay, a 2.5-hour trip south along the cays. It has a nice snug anchorage at the northern end called Two Palms (a beach between two rocky headlands, protected from N - SE but open to SW and W). It's the more northerly of the two "anchor" symbols on this chart:
Can you guess why they call it Two Palms?
The wind was still light when we got there, and Derek swam the anchor (in fact, he swam the whole anchorage, locating good holding in deeper sand closer to shore than we had originally thought to anchor). You can see that with the wind in the expected easterly orientation, we were happily facing the beach, with the rocky promontories on either side protecting us from stray swells:
So we were pretty snugly set when a 60-foot power boat ("20 Percent," hailing port Naples, FL, captained by Jeff with five guys aboard for fishing and diving) arrived and anchored in the next anchorage -- one beach south of ours, with a rocky point almost between us: we could see them because the wind was from the east. But then things got ugly: storm clouds gathered, lightning came more and more often, rain happened intermittently, it got dark, and the wind swung around to the SW. These anchorages are wide open to anything W of south. You do not want to be there for a strong westerly. We had a forecast, no westerlies were expected. So what we were seeing had put itself together in the last four days.
It was a bumpy night. Derek was not pleased that the wind was blowing strongly from an unprotected direction, blowing us toward a lee shore with a long fetch of open water to make waves rise. Through the night, although the other boat was behind the point from our new position (both of us now NE of our anchors rather than W of them as we swung on our anchor chains to face into the wind), their anchor light was some kind of comfort. We could see by the lightning flashes that although the surf was crashing against the rocky shore, our anchor was holding well. In the morning, I dinghied over to check with the other boat. Jeff had contacted his weather advisor in Ft Lauderdale by satellite phone, and was told the easterly trades should re-establish themselves over the next two days, with 15-20 kts by Thursday. So we stayed the day and explored Flamingo Cay -- there is an amazing cave at the south end of the second beach, inside a big humpy bluff that sticks out into the water and just looks like it might be hiding a cave!
It had a large overhang all around the edges:
Closer... you can see the entrance...
Entrance to the Flamingo Cay cave
And the light dawns!
Inside, it's so huge you can take a dinghy into it and hold a barbecue (or church service) for twenty, if that takes your fancy:
Dinghy in cave vestibule
You can see the conch shells previous visitors have used to decorate the walls and floor:
Derek speared two more fish, another trigger and a Nassau grouper. Delicious! He also brought back two large mature conchs. However, Grant made him return the conchs to the seabed, as Grant likes them and doesn't want to eat them. One of the conchs (the larger one) had a small fish hiding in its shell, a little like a brown-tinted goldfish. Apparently these are a species of small cardinal fish (astropogon stellatus) that has a commensal relationship with the queen conch. Here is an image of one from "Community Conch":
The next day we were going to stay and snorkel, but the weather was queer and not at all what had been forecast, with light winds but still very cloudy and a swell building from the south, and we began to get the uneasy feeling that it was time to get out of there. Don't ignore your feelings when it comes to weather, if you live on a boat. We started preparations to leave (pulling up the engine and mounting it on the engine mount on the stern rail, emptying the dinghy and lifting it onto the stern davits, cleaning and stowing everything that might get tossed around in a seaway: we were expecting it to be rough for the part where we had to go NE.
Jeff and his group took off for the reef on the north-facing side of Flamingo Cay, and about an hour after he left, he called us; we were finishing preparations for leaving. He said that it was far rougher than he'd expected and so he'd called his weather advisor again, and as a result he would be leaving the Jumentos and heading up to Little Farmer's Cay as soon as his divers came up. We told him we were leaving as well. When we left, the divers were still down, but with a powerboat that size, he was probably in Little Farmer's by mid-afternoon.
We covered in one day going north the distance we had covered in two going south. Our biggest concern was making it over the hard bar at Hog Cay Cut with possible waves. Fortunately, the cays sheltered the shallows and we never saw less than 6 inches of water beneath our keel. Yes, 0.5 feet. Told ya it was shallow...
Made it back to Elizabeth Harbour as the sun was setting, followed our GPS tracks as they had been laid down, to avoid coral. We picked up a mooring in a sheltered spot off of Chat 'n' Chill. Next morning we moved even farther in to avoid southerly swells.
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.