01/30/2011, Great Harbour Cay Marina, Berry Islands
Great Harbour Cay is not very big, none of the Berry Islands are. Bud and I rode our bikes over to what passes for a town here, across the causeway to Bullocks Harbour Cay. We passed two churches, a police station, a small park and a couple of dozen houses until we came to the small grocery (hours 8 - 8 M - Sat.; 7:30 - 11:30 Sun.). It was just after noon, so no groceries today. Anyway, this marina has nice docks, but as I described yesterday, it's a long way in across shallow flats. The island does get a mail boat once a week and something AIS identified as a cargo vessel (draft 6.5 feet) came in while we were still at the other anchorage. There is also a small airport here. Most of the boats in the marina are sport-fishing boats, and the condos that surround the marina seem to belong to sport fishermen.
So Bud and I were surprised this morning when a US Navy boat came in. It's a small boat, about 45 feet and is from the US Navy AUTEC Base on Andros Island. None of the crew were in uniform. Bud asked what AUTEC meant and was told it was American Underwater Testing "something, something". His theory, seeing the crew in civvies is that it's a CIA thing. My theory is that it's a group on a weekend pass, and this is the only place they could get. Still, it looks like they would have had to come about 80 miles to get here, and like I said, there's not much here to get to. So the navy boat remains a mystery to us.
Then, this afternoon at about 4:30 another boat pulled in. This is a huge power yacht. I had taken a picture of the marina earlier, and I went back and took a second picture from almost the same perspective after Casuarina arrived. She completely fills the one long dock. Check it out in the gallery. She is flying a yellow quarantine flag, so this is her first stop in the Bahamas. I don't recognize the national flag on the back. It's amazing to us that such a huge boat could and would cross those flats to get here. It would be less unexpected if the weather was bad, as this is one of the most protected harbors in the Bahamas, but we're not sure what else is the draw. Casuarina is 80 to 100 feet long. I'm not sure what her draft is, but she did come in at close to high tide. Everyone is staying on the boat, as is required until they've cleared customs, but I have a feeling that everyone may still stay on the boat, as it has far more luxuries than this little place.
We talked to a couple of the sport fishermen. They asked us how long we were staying. We explained our anchor dilemma and that we were staying until we figured out how to get a bigger, better anchor. They told us about a couple that anchored around here and came in for lunch. They stayed at anchor overnight and the boat ended up on the beach. They said it completely broke up and they thought the hull was still out there. That makes me feel less like a wimp in deciding that we need a better anchor to go on. I wonder if that couple was on their boat when it drifted aground, and if so, why they didn't start the engine, pull up the anchor and leave when it started to drift. That's what we were prepared to do the other night. We had everything laid out so that if the boat started to move we could head back out to open water. I'm just glad we didn't have to.
Meanwhile, we're finally having our surf and turf. I hooked up our grill and Bud is inaugurating it by grilling a steak, the four little lobster tails and some bread. That along with baked potatoes and freshly made coleslaw will make for a very nice dinner.
P.S. We ended up eating only the surf part. Turns out the four little lobster tails were quite sufficient for two people; and very good, too. The steak will make a nice stir-fry for another day.
01/29/2011, Great Harbour Cay Marina, Berry Islands
Morning finally came. We had been worried since before we left Wilson about our anchor, it's a style long relied on by cruisers and it's correctly sized for the boat, but many sources urge you to have an oversized anchor, and there are newer and better designs out there now. We decided we did not want to spend another night like that. We knew we had been lucky; the wind was under 15 knots, there was plenty of room in the anchorage and there were no other boats. If we were going to spend most of our time at anchor, we didn't want to be constantly struggling to get the anchor to set, and we didn't want to worry about the boat dragging anchor.
So what to do? We decided we needed to get to a place where we had Internet to evaluate our options. We had intended to skip Great Harbor Cay Marina, as the winds were light now, we didn't need to hole up for a storm. Now we thought we'd go there to figure out what to do next.
First things first, we needed to take Fuzzy ashore. We got aboard the dinghy and headed in. We just got him to the beach when a man came by and asked us what we were doing. I explained about the permission to bring the dog ashore. He called the island manager on his radio. No, she said, permission was for yesterday. They were getting ready for guests (a cruise ship had just anchored) but we were welcome to bring Fuzzy ashore after 4:30 in the afternoon. So off we went, back to the boat. Poor Fuzzy hadn't even managed to pee, (he still wouldn't use his doggy port-a-potty).
Bud took the time to snorkel out to the anchor. We thought that through the night it might have set and then we would reassess our plans. No, it was still lying on its side. So we hoisted the engine back off the dinghy, tied the dinghy off the stern, readied the boat, hoisted the anchor and took off for Great Harbour Cay Marina.
It was only a bit over twelve miles. The last four miles were shown on the charts as a marked channel. There were supposed to be three green day markers followed by two red day markers. There was one unmarked post. Bud followed the channel from the chartplotter and I stood on the bow and directed him. We wore our "Marriage Saver Communicators". These are short-range radio headsets that don't need to be keyed on, so you can talk to each other without using your hands. Jon and Arline told us about them and we've had them since the Hudson, but this was the first real workout they've gotten. It worked great. Bud read out the depth meter readings to me and I looked ahead for anything and tried to keep him in the deepest areas. It was all pretty uniform though, and we never saw any depths under 7 feet. Most of it was 9 and 10 feet deep. Still, going 8 miles across the ocean floor in under 15 feet of water is nerve racking.
We had no problems, and here we are at Great Harbour Cay Marina. Fuzzy finally got off the boat at about 12:30. And we have Internet, sort of. There's WiFi, but it doesn't reach the boat. So I'm writing all this out in the cabin, then I'll carry the computer up near the office to post it. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure the Internet will be working at this hour (7:15) so this may not get posted until the morning. I did use the Internet this afternoon to try and call a couple of marine stores in Nassau to see if we could find an anchor. They were both closed, so nothing can happen until Monday. Tomorrow we are going to take a day off from all things boat related and just go play!
This is the marina where Jon and Arline were when they rebuilt their engine. I told the woman when we signed in I wasn't sure how long we were staying because we had to figure out the best way to get an anchor. I told her we were friends with Jon and Arline, and that it was quite a coincidence that probably the only two boats she'd ever seen from Lake Ontario were both in the marina with problems.
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.