01/28/2011, Slaughter Harbor, Little and Great Stirrup Cays, Barry Islands
We left Sunrise Marina as planned and picked our way out. We had at least a foot over low tide and had maybe 18" to spare at the shallowest spot, so theoretically we could have gone out on Monday at low tide, but we were glad we waited.
Once we left the inlet we angled across the Northwest Providence Channel, so there was no more shallow water until we reached our destination. There were quite a few ships out there, and we enjoyed using our newly reading AIS display. It would tell us all the details about the ship, plus the closest approach the ship would make to us given our current heading and the ship's heading. It also told us when that closest point would be. No more guessing! Very nice.
A group of dolphins came out to play. We've noticed that the dolphins we see offshore are smaller and faster than the dolphins in the harbors and the ICW. These were really gamboling about and several jumped a couple of feet clear of the water. They would turn and dive towards the stern, then turn again and power up alongside the boat and race across the bow, often jumping as they did so. Of course we could never catch a photo of their jumps, but Bud did manage to get a picture of three of them just under the water alongside the boat.
There's some current in the Northwest Providence Channel so we were slowed a bit. The wind was directly astern. We had the main held out to one side and ran the engine, as we needed to be sure to get to our destination with plenty of time to anchor. The wind switched across the stern and several times we moved the main from one side to the other. The wind did stay steady enough to add at least a knot to our speed, and of course having the main up helped to stabilize the boat in the waves, which were coming up on us just off the stern.
It was a decent day's sail, but it felt like a push. There's nothing between Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands, so we know we had to hurry. We arrived at our waypoint at 3:50 PM, but we still had to go another mile into the anchorage and then find a good spot and drop and set the anchor. We had read that the cruise ships use Great and Little Stirrup Cays as their private islands, and sure enough, there was a cruise ship anchored outside the islands when we arrived.
The pleasure boat anchorage is between the two islands. It's not protected at all from the north or northeast, and that had me worried, as the wind was from the northwest, but was supposed to go around to the north during the night. It wasn't going to be stormy, but would probably stay at 10 to 15 knots all night, and that might mean that the anchorage would be uncomfortable. We went in and over as far to the east as we felt we could. We found the best patch of sand we could and after some hassle got the anchor to drop. We paid out our chain, after we hauled it up the next morning I realized we'd missed one of our markers and had put out 150 feet, rather than the 100 feet we intended. We carefully backed the boat against the anchor to set it. It was really hard to tell if it set. We didn't want to go too far back as it was getting shallow, but before you set the anchor, you first stretch out all that chain. I thought the boat was pulling back, but when Bud let off the power it seemed to come back to where it was, so I figured the chain was stretching and slacking and the anchor was set.
Just after we got the anchor out, four guys in an open boat came by and gave us four small lobsters. They'd caught them and didn't want them. We asked them if where we were was a good place to anchor and they assured us it was, people stayed there all the time. We told them we heard you had to call for permission to take your dog ashore; they said we should, on Channel 12. We called and were given permission to take Fuzzy ashore (they did ask what breed he was, and of course expected us to pick up after him). So now I was feeling pretty good, we had steaks thawed thinking to try our new grill. Surf and turf, nice.
But first we had to launch the dinghy, hoist the outboard over the lifelines and down onto the dinghy, and take Fuzzy ashore. We took along one of our scuba masks so on the way out I could check the anchor. Imagine my dismay to see our 45-pound CQR anchor lying on its side in the sand. To be fair, there was sparse grass, but still!
By the time we got Fuzzy ashore and got back to the boat it was after 6 and getting dark. We decided we couldn't pull up and reset the anchor. We noted our exact position (particularly our latitude, as the wind would blow us south), set the anchor alarm on the chartplotter and decided we'd stand watches. Now neither of us was in the mood to cook, we were exhausted and discouraged. We fried the steaks and ate them with boxed couscous. We broke the tails off the lobsters and threw them in the freezer and settled down to wait. We took turns on the settee in the salon, set our timer for 45-minute intervals and checked the chartplotter. After a while, we were just checking our position on the VHF radio, which is linked to the chartplotter, displays position and is down at the navigation station inside the boat, so we didn't have to go outside.
The wind finally died down in the early morning hours, the boat didn't really move, but then there wasn't that much wind and we had 150 feet of chain holding us (that's 300 pounds of chain) as well as the anchor. It was a really long night! We'd gone 61 and a half nautical miles, then spent another 2 hours with the anchor and the dinghy, then sat up most of the night. So glad I don't have to work anymore!
01/27/2011, Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
Tomorrow morning at 6:30 the tide will be less than half way from high tide to low tide, so we should have plenty of water to get out the channel. Bud went with two of the other boaters here in their dinghy and looked for our magnet. He didn't find it, but he did further check out this channel. We also sounded the depth at the boat and offset our depth finder to read actual water depth (from the surface, not from the transducer).
We've figured a few other things out this week that should help us on our travels.
1. We know how to set an anchor alarm on our handheld GPS, so we can use that in the aft cabin where we sleep. (An anchor alarm lets you know if your boat has moved more than a set distance. It will sound if your anchor is not holding the boat.)
2. We got an answer from Raymarine on how to set an anchor alarm on the chartplotter (it was NOT in the manual) so we can use that if we sleep in the cockpit.
3. I figured out how to turn the readings on for our AIS, it now not only tells us if a boat with an AIS transponder is close, it shows all boats with AIS transponders on the chart and gives all the information about the boat - name, tonnage, speed and direction if it's moving, the port it is headed for and more.
4. We installed and checked out our new map chip for the chartplotter. We now have maps for all the Caribbean and all of South and Central America.
5. We've been practicing with our SSB radio and now are getting the weather broadcasts that one of the forecasters puts out at 6:30 each morning.
Late in the morning we checked out bicycles from the marina and cycled over to Lucaya proper, and the Port Lucaya Marketplace. It's a tourist area about 6 miles from here. I was looking for Guidebooks for the Exumas. We have chart books, but also wanted guidebooks that gave more information about the anchorages. Bud wanted to re-supply the liquor cabinet. Before we did any shopping we stopped at a restaurant and had cracked conch for lunch. It was very good and they let us sit outside with Fuzzy. There were no guidebooks, but there was cheap booze. The only problem was that Bud had to ride the bike back with 5 liters of liquor in a bag slung over his shoulder and around his neck. He said his shoulder was fine, but he was cutting off the circulation to his brain!
We arrived back safely and attended our last happy hour at Sunrise. The three other boats that we've been here with are also leaving tomorrow, although they are leaving later in the day and heading northeast to the Abacos. The two trawlers are going to anchor at the beginning of a small canal that cuts the Island and then go through the canal on Saturday. The sailboat is going back around West End, where Bud and I came from. Hopefully we'll see them all again sometime.
If we do take off as planned, we won't have Internet access for a while. I'll post again when I can, but our route probably doesn't bring us in Internet range for 5 days or more, unless for some reason we head into Nassau, instead of staying on Rose Island as we plan now. Anyway, don't worry if there are no new postings, I'll update it when I can.
01/26/2011, Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
Not much happened today. This morning we walked up to the local laundromat to do the wash. Bud didn't think Fuzzy was feeling well and didn't want to make him walk. He fixed a place in the load of laundry for him and Fuzzy rode in our cart about half way to the laundromat. Then he got restless and walked the rest of the way.
There's not much in this immediate area. One of the hurricanes not too long ago really hit hard here. One of the guys at the marina told Bud the storm surge was 14 feet. There are a lot of abandoned buildings around, and I guess there were several other buildings on this property that had to be torn down. Tomorrow we may bike or take a bus and go into the town of Lucaya, which the other boaters here say is nicer than Freeport.
After we finished the laundry we did some other chores, including another round of trying to trim Fuzzy. I took advantage of the internet and did some banking. Then I joined some other cruisers for a game of Mexican Train Dominoes. Interesting and fun, but not at all like the dominoes I've played in the past.
Bud meanwhile, was trying to catch dinner. He was using one of our frozen shrimp for bait. He had no luck, but since he'd thawed the shrimp, he used the rest of it to make jambalaya. It came out good. We aren't sure who ate the second shrimp he'd carried out to go fishing. Hopefully we'll never find out!
01/25/2011, Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
We did some work around the boat today and then took a walk up to see the inlet and the beach. The predicted wind is starting. It was blowing pretty hard out of the south all day. Fuzzy was looking out at the water and his ears were blowing back. He was taken by surprise by a wave. He doesn't like water and was following along on the wet sand above the waves when a larger wave came up and almost knocked him off his feet. After that he walked about 50 feet further up the beach.
It was a good day to look at the inlet. The breaking waves showed where the deepest water is, so when we go out the inlet we'll at least know about where to be. Hopefully that deeper water is deep enough. I took a picture of the inlet with the confusing third marker.
I spotted a memorial at the edge of the beach. I walked up and it looked like a small cemetery, but in front of it was a large white cross with a plaque in memory of 21 Haitian men and women who died at sea in 1978. Poignant.
I added a few photos from the walk to the album.
This afternoon Bud spoke to the marina guy about Windragon, the boat the Argentines left. It was really being blown and didn't look like it would stay in place in the wind coming (much less a real storm). The guy from the marina was going to try and retie the boat himself. Bud and I walked over to help, and three of the other boaters joined us, as well as another man who works here. It really took all of us. The marina guy decided to move the boat parallel to the dock. In the end, we got it retied so it's much more secured.
Not much else going on, tomorrow more wind and maybe some rain. There is going to be a domino game in the game room, so maybe I'll join.
01/24/2011, Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
We set out at first light as planned. However, it was low tide and another boater in here said they measured the inlet at 5 feet at low tide at the end of the inlet where it met the open water. (Commonly inlets are shallowest at their outer limit, as that's where sediment is deposited.) I wasn't sure if that was a reliable figure, but it had me worried. So we carefully started out with me on the bow looking for the channel. There was a clear channel that seemed quite deep until we got to the end of the shorter of the two jetties. Then I saw the whole inlet get shallower with no deep channel. I told Bud I thought it was all getting too shallow and I was afraid we wouldn't make it. So Bud backed the boat all the way back to the basin, about a quarter mile. We backed right up and put the boat in the same spot along the dock, only now it's facing out. This takes the record for the shortest day's sail!
When we got back I started looking at weather, charts and tides. Bud went and talked to the marina guy about using the kayak they had, he wanted to sound the channel. We both agreed that we'd missed the weather window and couldn't get to another safe harbor before the storm predicted for Wednesday, so we're staying here for now. We took our big magnet out to use as a weight to sound the channel, but by the time we kayaked out there, the tide was really running and the magnet wasn't heavy enough to sink straight. We were going to head back, but Bud wanted to try just one sounding where we were by letting the kayak move with the current. I dropped the magnet over, Bud asked me if it was on the bottom, I couldn't see, I pulled the line up, and the second piece of line with the magnet on it had come undone. Now we need to go snorkeling to try to retrieve our magnet.
We probably had a better day than the nice folks in Windragon. Two couples from Argentina were leaving their boat here and flying home. They were cleaning up the boat and getting ready to leave it. First, the pump out station in the basin here wasn't working; the next one is several miles away so they had no choice but to leave the holding tanks partly full. Ugh, that will be nasty in 6 months! Next they found out that the marina wanted them to move the boat. Of course the wind started to blow; it's a rule of boating, whenever you need to make docking maneuvers the wind blows. There also seemed to be some misunderstanding between them and the marina guy. I don't think the captain realized until he got over to the new slip that the marina guy wanted the sailboat backed in. I have to try to describe this "slip". There is a long dock running along the side of the marina. About 25 feet in front of the dock is a line of pilings running parallel to it. These pilings are about 20 feet apart. Each "slip" is the space between two pilings and the front of the slip is the dock. There are no side docks at all. So the poor captain had to back a sailboat in the wind between two pilings, getting lines around the pilings to hold the front of the boat in place, and then tie the stern off to the dock. In 15+ knot winds. It didn't work. The owners of the trawlers at the end of marina had to fend him off as he blew into their boats. Another boat owner got out his dinghy and ended up towing him into place. By time they were done, they had to quickly tie off and leave to catch their plane. They were new boaters and they left with just four lines to hold the boat for 6 months. Hopefully it will be OK.
After all that excitement, we had to rest. In true Bahama fashion we pretty much blew off the rest of the day. We did get to know some of our other marina residents (all 6 of them) and went to the impromptu happy hour in the game room. We learned some things, as we always do when we talk to other boaters, so I guess it wasn't a misspent day.
01/23/2011, Sunrise Marina, Lucaya, Grand Bahama
Well, we've decided not to go to the Abacos at all. Bud was worried that none of the anchorages we could reach by Tuesday would be secure enough for the storm that's in the forecast for Wednesday. They are saying the NW Bahamas will get 30 to 35 knot winds with the possibility of 50-knot winds in thunderstorms. Since these winds will be from the west, and since most of the harbors in the Abacos are on the west side of the little islands just off Great Abaco, and since we were afraid we'd have to hold off to leave until tomorrow to go north to get there, we decided to go along the south side of Grand Bahama today and then leave early in the morning and head south again to reach the very secure harbor where Jon and Arline spent a month fixing their engine.
I was reluctant to come this side of Great Bahama Island because there are no anchorages, and I didn't want to spend another night in a marina. But we were going to have to spend the night at Old Bahama Bay before we could take the northern route, anyway. So off we came.
Before we left we got to help out one poor crew on about a 70-foot ketch. They started out of the marina and had their engine stall. The 20-knot wind was blowing them up against the end of a dock and another boat. We helped them get lines out and fend off the end of the dock and get the boat secured alongside the dock. They got a scratch along their hull, but nothing else was hurt. That made me worry about us getting out. It seemed the wind was blowing our bow over against the dock, but it was mostly astern and in the end Bud said it was about as easy a disembarking as we've had.
We also had a really fine sail. The wind was stronger than we thought. We sailed a close reach with 14 to 16 knots apparent for most of the way. We ended up using just the main and genoa. We were getting some really strong gusts and decided not to try to add the staysail. Besides, we hit 9 knots at one point, so how could you improve on that? The wind was out of the northeast so the island was keeping the waves down. There were maybe one-foot waves.
It got a bit tense as we crossed in front of Freeport. There were about three freighters anchored, two of the small island freighters came out, one turned towards us and passed fairly close on the starboard side, the second came out and turned more sharply and passed on our left. Meanwhile, a big tanker was headed in and it looked like it might be close getting in front of him, but we figured he'd have to slow down. Then another freighter came in view off the starboard bow and he seemed to be headed our way. What a busy harbor. Meanwhile the wind was getting a bit fluky. It would die down, and then blow strong again. Suddenly it shifted around in front of the boat and we were being back-winded. It never changed enough for us to change the sails. It always came back to where it had been.
The most exciting part of the sail came after we had the sails down. We were approaching the entrance to the marina. I had called them on the radio and was getting the dock lines and fenders set up. Bud asked me to quick finish the dock line I was working on, and go up on the bow and tell him which way to go up ahead. I looked down and saw rocks here and there under us, but I couldn't tell how deep. I tried to direct Bud to the deepest part, but what we needed to do was go backwards and go the other side of the unmarked post that was there and not on either of our charts. We hit the rocks. We stuck. Bud tried to back off and the boat moved a bit. I thought we were going to have to get a tow, but every time a little wave came it lifted us enough to move. We found a bit of deeper water to the right side and managed to wiggle the boat into the channel. After that, docking was a breeze. Once we were secure and checked in Bud got to take his first swim in the Bahamas. It isn't really warm today, only about 70, and the water was cool, so it's not one he made by choice, but he put his snorkeling gear on and went down to check the keel. He said there is about a 4-inch square scrape on the front at the bottom, but it's just cosmetic. We knew that the charts aren't accurate in the Bahamas. We heard that the markers aren't reliable. Now we experienced it first hand. From now on I won't set lines until I know we're safely in. I'll take a post on the bow earlier and try to see and direct.
Happily, this marina is less than half the cost of the other one, so even though we've had to stay at a marina, it's better than being back at Old Bahama Bay. And there is a little grocery store nearby with reasonable produce, so we bought a few fresh fruits and vegetables to replace those we'd eaten up because we thought you couldn't bring them in (nobody asked, nobody looked). Now we've had our supper and Bud is off to try his luck fishing off the jetty.
We went almost 24 nautical miles today in about 3 and a half hours. Another fast run, the average speed about 6.8 knots. I added a few photos of today's activities to the gallery. Of course I was much too busy to get a photo of the grounding!