02/16/2011, Hawksbill Cay Mooring Field
We decided to move today because the wind was supposed to pick up later in the day, and tomorrow be a bit stronger. We want to get a mooring ball at Warderick Wells Cay in the Exuma Park because you can get WiFi at park headquarters. It seemed too long a trip to go from Allan to Warderick Wells so we decided to come to Hawksbill Cay and pick up a mooring ball here. This is the second cay from the north end of the park and about 10 miles from Warderick Wells.
We had another nice sail, the wind moving from on the beam to pretty close hauled as the wind and our course changed. We were making over 7 knots for most of the way and covered the 23 nm trip in just over 3 and a-half hours. We are certainly appreciating how well Earendil sails. We sailed on the west side of the chain of islands, on the Exuma Bank. The winds were around 15 knots all day, but since they were from the east, the water was almost flat. I took a photo early in the day of the shadow from the main on the bottom in about 25 feet of water. It's easy to see why this is such a popular cruising area.
Almost as soon as we finished picking up a mooring ball here a park boat came by. It costs $20 a day to be on a mooring ball and he collected our money. He also told us we could call the park on channel 09 on the VHF and get on the waiting list for Warderick Wells. That's the other reason we wanted to come this far, we'd been told there'd be a waiting list. Hopefully since we were put on it today we'll at least get a mooring in the field that's about a half mile from the headquarters tomorrow. That way we can dinghy up for Internet access. We have to listen at 9 AM to find out.
Meanwhile, even though we are now very comfortable with our anchor, anchoring is still subject to the skills of those around you. At Allan two young men came in and dropped too close to us, and they dropped the anchor going down wind and down current, so when they shut off their engine the boat drifted over the anchor. That's a no-no, so we didn't have too much faith in their anchoring skills in general. Since they still hadn't left we thought it prudent that we did before the wind got stronger.
Anyway, this is beautiful here. Maybe because it costs $20/night it's pretty empty. There were no other boats when we came, and now there is just one other, and they are probably almost a half-mile from us. We took a walk and I took a few photos that are in the gallery.
02/15/2011, Allan's Cay
Now that we are in the Exumas and have an anchor we trust, we have no plans to go in to a marina. If we are anticipating a bad storm we will, but there is nothing in the forecast for now. We are getting into a new mode of living on the water. The biggest issues will be power, water and waste.
It has been consistently windy and as long as the wind blows the Super Wind wind generator we have seems to be able to meet our power needs. We are very conservative, using the LED lights whenever possible, cooking with propane rather than using the microwave or the electric coffee pot and since there's no TV and no regular radio those don't get used. But we do keep our VHF radio on all day, we use our SSB radio every morning to listen to the weather, and I've been using the SSB and computer to try and send email (so far, no luck; the relay stations seem to be constantly busy). I also use the computer to write the blog each day, and I transfer the photos I take. We have a map program on the computer that we use. So far, in two days, I've used half the battery on the computer, so tomorrow I'll have to use the inverter to charge it up. The big power use has been the freezer. I ran it most of the day today, but the batteries still have plenty of charge.
I changed the way I do dishes today. I opened the valve that lets me pump seawater into the galley sink. I used seawater to pre-rinse and wash the dishes, and only used the tank water to rinse them. We'll also try to wash in the ocean and just rinse ourselves with fresh water. Today, since it's been cool and neither of us got sweaty, we just skipped showers entirely. We can go into a marina and buy water; it's $0.35 to $0.50 a gallon.
We've started to sort our garbage. Food waste gets cut up in small pieces to be thrown overboard. Cans and bottles can go overboard, too. We could burn paper, but we are just cutting paper and plastic into really small pieces and putting it into the garbage. We're not sure when we'll get to a place to throw it out, but it won't be for a while. If you don't stay at a marina, only some will take your trash and they charge $5/bag. As for the toilets, those get pumped overboard when we're off shore. There are no pump-out facilities anywhere including Nassau harbor. I just read that they are starting pump-outs in Elizabeth Harbor in Georgetown, that's the only ones I've heard of in the Bahamas.
As the sun sets over Allan Cay, we are settling into our new life style.
02/14/2011, Allan's Cay
We finally took off from Nassau. As we were leaving to go east, we passed Jon and Arline in Kasidah going west. We were close enough to say good-bye. Jon commented that this was as close as we were going to get to sailing together this year. Arline and I took pictures of each other; I put the two I took in the gallery.
It was a nice sail; we had about 15 knots of wind on a close reach to a reach. Coming out of Nassau Harbor, when we first set the main we had close to 18 knots, so we put one reef in it. We didn't stop for fuel as planned because we have better than half our tanks and both fuel docks we passed had boats fueling up and nowhere to tie. Consequently, we were early, and there is an area we had to cross called the Yellow Banks that is 14 to 16 feet deep, but studded with shallow coral heads. You are supposed to be able to see them easily, but not with the morning sun in your eyes. We didn't want to reach that area before 11 AM, so we never took the reef out of the main.
Even so, we were doing better than 7 knots and got to the Yellow Bank at about 10:45. It was not fun. I had to stand on the bow and keep a look out for the coral heads. I put on my foul weather boots and pants because it was too cool for shorts and I didn't want my boat shoes and jeans covered with salt water. The waves had settled down from the deeper water, but some were big enough to get the bow wet (Earendil is a wet boat, she cuts through the waves and takes a lot of water over the bow). It was easy to see the coral heads off to the sides of us or behind us, but not so easy right in front of us as we were headed into the sun. People had told us they went through there and never really came close to any, but for a while we were seeing a lot of them and there were at least three we had to alter course to miss.
But miss them we did. And we made it to the anchorage here at Allen's Cay (or Allan's depending on the guide book you read) at about 1:30. There were only 2 boats here when we pulled in and we were able to pull into the area that we wanted and drop the anchor in sand with no problem. We got the anchor set, but didn't attach our snubber (a line that attaches to the anchor chain and then to your front cleats, so the force of the anchor and chain isn't on the windlass- the device that winds the anchor up). Instead, we launched the dinghy, loaded up Fuzzy and our viewing bucket and went out to check how well the anchor was set and see if we could find the 50 foot anchor chain mark to see exactly how much chain was out there. The anchor was set nicely (again - that's 2 for 2 for the Rocna), so we took Fuzzy ashore before we came back to let out some more chain and set up the snubber.
We couldn't take Fuzzy to the closest beach because that's where the Rock Iguanas live. There are a lot of them and they come right down to the beach. We're anchored right along the beach where most of them hang out.
This isn't exactly a deserted area, even though no one lives here. By the end of the afternoon there were 10 boats in the anchorage. (One of them is Rasmus, so we have found Scott and Brittany.) And for a while there were two fast excursion boats from Nassau that came and beached, so the folks could feed and take pictures of the Iguanas. While they were snapping photos of the Iguanas, I took a picture of them for the gallery.
It's quiet now and would be just about perfect if two young men in a small steel sailboat hadn't anchored right in the middle of three other boats. They were so close to us the first time they dropped anchor that we asked them to move, so we didn't swing into them. They did move a bit. But there is wind and current from the tides here, and every boat reacts a little differently to the combination, so we aren't all swinging together, and the steel boat is still too close for comfort. Oh well, if we bump in the night, they're the ones who'll have to pull up anchor and move.
02/13/2011, Yacht Haven Marina, Nassau, Bahams
I wrote yesterday's blog while Bud was starting supper because nothing else usually happens at that point. We eat and read and go to bed. I had just finished up when I thought I heard someone on the dock. Then I heard "Earendil". I opened the companionway and stuck my head out and there on the dock were Jon and Arline and their dogs, Sarah and Blue! I was so excited. We had quick hugs and then they were aboard.
We insisted they stay for supper. They have already left the Exumas heading back to Florida. I'm so sorry we never caught up to them there, but am so glad they found us here! They are in a marina just down the way from us waiting out the same front. Now I'm doubly glad we didn't try to go to Allan Cay, we would have missed them!
We had a great dinner and a great visit. They filled us in on all the places they went, where to go and where not to go. We are going to get together on their boat for lunch today. More later...
Well, we had a very, very long lunch. And we finally got to have that drink in their cockpit. Arline was craving pizza and there is a Dominoes right across the street from the marina they're in, so they treated us to pizza. We had another great visit, this time trading stories, because we've actually had enough experience now that we have a few stories of our own.
They also told us about the places they've been in the Exumas that we should visit, places we should avoid, and places they heard about but didn't get to. They have to be back in New York by the beginning of April, so we won't see them again this season.
Any of our friends at TYC who go to the east end of Ontario, if you happen to go into Little Sodus Bay, stop by Fairpoint Marina and give Jon and Arline a hello from us.
02/12/2011, Yacht Haven Marina, Nassau, Bahams
We went for a walk today to Potter's Cay. It's a small island on the south side of Nassau Harbor. The marina we are in is just past the east end of Potter's Cay, and in fact our slip is tucked a bit behind the end of the island.
We were actually going in search of a pump out facility. I asked at the marina here and he could only suggest either the very upscale Atlantis Marina, associated with the casino on Paradise Island, or perhaps Potter's Cay. There is nothing natural left about this little island. The causeway going out to it is lined with little restaurants and bars that all back onto the water (see photo gallery for picture). The island itself is completely surrounded by commercial docks. The inter-island mail boats are based here as well as a lot of big and small fishing boats. We got out to the island, but the end where the dockmaster was supposed to be was all very commercial and very rough. Bud decided he did not want to use their pump out even if we could find it.
Since we were out, we walked a bit further. We went towards downtown and the cruise ship docks. It is a nice day for walking because the cold front did come through. It's cloudy and cool; you almost need a sweater (I bet I'm getting a lot of sympathy from those of you up north). We came up to the other anchorage. We saw LoCo and it looks like they are still holding fine. The wind only got up to about 18 knots here in the harbor. Miguel and Sarah were more worried about other boats dragging anchor and hitting them, but at least by the time we got there no other boats were close to them.
We passed a cemetery, the street along it was lined with unusual old trees and I took a photo of one for the gallery. On the way back we walked right along the water's edge. The area east of the causeway to Potter's Cay and just west of this marina is full of derelict boats. Some of them that look close to sinking obviously have folks living on them. The photo above is a group of them in various stages of decay. Behind them you can see the boats in the marina, Earendil is right in there, you can see our mast, but not the boat.
02/11/2011, Yacht Haven Marina, Nassau, Bahams
Bud didn't sleep well last night because he was worried about our plan to go to Allen Cay today and try to find a good anchorage to wait out the 20-knot north winds that are supposed to come tomorrow. He was worried for two reasons: first, the anchorage is described as having some good holding in sandy patches. We saw what that was like in White Cay. An anchorage that looks like it has a lot of room really doesn't have good holding for more than a few boats. If there were already several boats there, we would really have no place where we could easily get hunkered down before the front comes through.
The second thing worrying him is that our dinghy engine hasn't been running right. He tried to fix it at White Cay, couldn't find any obvious problem and decided it might be bad gas. So he dumped the gas from the tank for the outboard into our 5-gallon gasoline jerry can and bought new gas for the outboard tank. But we hadn't run the engine so we didn't know if that was the problem.
This morning Bud suggested that we stay in Nassau until the front passes. That way we could launch the dinghy and try the engine out. After the front we expect at least two days of more moderate weather. And the next wind should be from the east. There are plenty of anchorages in the northern Exumas that we could reach from Allen Cay that provide protection from an east wind.
Since we were going to run the dinghy, we decided to use it to try to find Scott and Brittany. As we neared the anchorage where they were we did not see their boat out there. Then we spied it at a dock. We dinghied up and there was Scott. He said they were going out to Rose Island to wait out the front and then go on to the Exumas. We made arrangements to use the SSB radio to contact each other once in the Exumas. Brittany and a friend were in another dinghy so Scott told us to watch for her.
The dinghy engine was still sputtering. We ran back towards our boat and were looking for the marine center that we hoped could work on it when it started to run more smoothly. We ran it some more and decided that it had been bad gas, and now the bad gas was out of the fuel line, too, so the engine was OK. I had been reading the outboard engine manual and told Bud I thought the trim on the engine was wrong. When we got back to the boat we consulted the manual and adjusted the trim. Then we went back out to check that. The engine ran fine, the trim was better and we spied Brittany and the man with a red hat in a dinghy so we flagged them down and had a quick chat with Brittany, too. A very successful outing!
Next we went to a marine store looking for "The Exuma Guide" by Stephen Pavlidis. This gives much more detailed information about the anchorages than the Explorer Chart Book that we already have. I've been looking for this since Florida and had not found it yet. The marine store didn't have it. Since we were staying on, Bud said I might want to go back to the marine store he had been in yesterday, as they said they might be able to get a copy in a day. I went in and the woman at the counter called her supplier for me. He told me the dive shop at our marina might have a copy, if they didn't a nearby bookstore would. The dive store didn't, the bookstore did! I got her last copy, so maybe the last copy available today in Nassau. Yeah!
While I was doing that, Bud found a place that would take the bad gas, so he walked the jerry can over there and dumped the bad gas into their tank and walked one more marina over to get fresh gas with no ethanol. (We think the ethanol in the gas we had brought from Wilson combined with water to form a layer that caused our problems.)
Meanwhile, I met Sarah and Miguel on the street again and invited them for supper.
Back at the boat Bud vacuumed the boat and trimmed Fuzzy. Since the dinghy was in the water I used it to go and scrub 2000 miles worth of grime off our transom. The engine exhaust had turned it grey! Once I had scrubbed and polished I finally applied the TYC logo I bought for the boat in 2009. Then Bud and I rinsed the dinghy out and pulled it back aboard (we'd already hoisted the engine up after the morning trip). We're getting pretty good at getting the dinghy and the engine on and off the boat.
We had a nice supper with Sarah and Miguel. They brought coleslaw with home made mayonnaise and we thawed and heated a big bowl of three sisters soup (squash, corn and beans) that Bud had made back in the cold days and we had in the freezer. We wanted to use it while we had shore power to run the microwave long enough to defrost and heat it. They've promised to have us over on their boat when we meet up again in the Exumas.
Altogether, it was a very satisfying day, and we're glad we stayed on in Nassau.