02/19/2011, Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma, Bahamas
Every Saturday evening there is a Happy Hour at the beach nearest park headquarters on Warderick Wells Cay. We checked our larder for a dish to bring and found little there. But, we still had three nice butternut squash we bought before we left Wilson. So Bud got the great idea that I should make squash tarts.
It was a good idea, except that it took me all day in our little galley. I cut and cooked one squash last night so it would be cool to work with. Then this morning I skinned it and mashed it. Then I made the pie dough. I used our silicon cupcake pans and used an empty cream cheese container to cut the circles. Once the dough was made and the first 12 tarts formed, I finished mixing the filling. I couldn't get our hand mixer to work (I'd bent it trying to use it to mash potatoes) so I had to use a whisk to mix the squash, milk and eggs together. I beat it for a long time but there were still lumps and strings from the squash. Bud helped me run the filling through a colander, and then I took the squash pulp that wouldn't pass through the colander and mashed it through a wire strainer. Eventually I had it smooth.
I made 24 tarts, but had to bake them in two batches because I only had 2 cupcake pans that made 6 cupcakes each. Besides, the little oven in the galley would only hold the 2 small pans. There was still more pie dough and more filling, so I used a small stainless bowl and made a little pie. By the time everything was baked it was mid-afternoon. We ended up just cleaning up the boat and cleaning up ourselves and calling it a day.
We decided to run the generator and heat some water (and charge the batteries) and take showers on the boat. The generator had only been running about 10 minutes and the batteries were charged. The wind generator is really doing well supplying us with power. We hadn't had any other power source besides the solar panels since we left Nassau Monday morning. We still haven't moved the solar panels off the lifelines, so I'm not sure how effective they are, but the Super Wind has been doing great!
I was glad after all that work that the squash tarts were a hit. It was fun meeting and talking to another group of cruisers. We saw people we'd seen at White Cay in the Berries, people we were docked near in Nassau, and people we'd just talked to on the radio.
As it got dark the hutia came out. They are the only mammal native to these islands; they look like over sized hamsters with rats' tails. They are very tame here in the park and were walking right up among the people looking for scraps. I was holding Fuzzy and he was growling and wriggling in my arms; he wanted to get at those hutia. I managed to get a picture of one even though it was now dark. I added it to the gallery (along with a shot of my squash tarts).
I think we're leaving tomorrow. It's frustrating because I ended up not snorkeling at all. Yesterday afternoon clouded up and it was really too cool. Today would have been perfect, but I was up to my elbows in squash tarts. Oh well, next time, next place.
02/18/2011, Warderick Wells Cay
I'm not sure if I'll have Internet this evening, so I'm going to write and post this now. This afternoon we're going snorkeling, but I bought Internet access for 24 hours, and by the time we get back it will be expired. I'll probably wait and buy it again tomorrow.
This morning after we took Fuzzy for his walk on the beach and cleaned up the boat we left Fuzzy aboard and went for a hike. First we loaded up our Suncor imitation CQR anchor that has been living under the dinette and took it in and gave it to the park. They had a wish list on their bulletin board and anchors were on it. Bud said he felt better giving it away rather than selling it to someone who might have the same trouble we did. The man from the park was very glad to get it. He knew about the problem with setting, and evidently CQR anchors don't do well in the Bahamas. I'm not sure if it's the type of sand or what, but Anthony, from the park, and another sailor both said they couldn't get CQR's to reliably set without actually diving on them. If the park uses the anchor for a mooring, they use a pump to pick up sand under the anchor and blow it back on top until the anchor is buried to the top of it's shank. Then it won't come out.
After that we set out to Boo Boo Hill. It's the tallest hill on this end of the island. It's supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of a shipload of missionaries who supposedly went down in a storm of this cay. There is no historical record of this, but it makes a good story. Anyway, Boo Boo Hill is the only place in the park where you're allowed to leave anything behind. You can leave a sign with your name and date, provided it's on driftwood. They aren't permanent; the oldest I could find was from 2005. Before that, they must all have disintegrated from the wind blown sand. This photo is of Bud placing our little sign that he carved. I put a picture of the sign in the gallery.
From Boo Boo Hill we hiked down to the beach on the Exuma Sound side. What a difference. I stood at the top of the ridge and took a picture of the wavy sound and the smooth banks on the other side for comparison.
On the way back we hiked up the other way for a bit to the Blow Holes. These are holes in the rocky hill that go all the way down and out to the water on the sound side. The waves force air through them. I took a photo of Bud just after the rushing air blew his hat off.
The views were beautiful and there are a couple of other photos in the gallery from the hike.
We got back to the boat around noon. Poor Fuzzy was yelping. He's still not doing well with being left behind. When we go snorkeling we'll take him in the dinghy. We take turns snorkeling, so Fuzzy so someone is always with the dinghy. We'll also stop at a beach so he can get out and walk for a while.
02/17/2011, Warderick Wells Cay
We thought we'd have to wait a few days to get a mooring ball at Warderick Wells Cay in the north mooring field, but we went on the radio in the morning and they had a place for us. So we readied the boat and off we came.
We had to go west for about a mile, then south, southeast for another 9 miles, and then back east for about 4.5 miles. Since the wind was basically out of the east, we were only going to be able to sail well for the 9-mile stretch going SSE. We got lazy and decided it wasn't worth un-bagging and raising the main, so we just put the genoa out. Even so, for a good part of the trip we were doing almost 7 knots. This boat sails so well! Our course took us gradually more east, for the last two miles of the southerly course we might have benefited from at least putting the staysail out, but for two miles, when we were still doing close to 6 knots, that wasn't worth it either. Altogether we came just under 15 nm miles today. We got here at 1:30 and it was another lovely sail in the Exumas!
The mooring balls here are all along a single channel. We ended up with a strange technique; there was both wind and current, and not a lot of room to maneuver, so Bud missed the mooring ball at the first pass. He went up and let the wind take us back sideways into it. I grabbed the line with the boat hook (I wore gloves today as yesterday the sea growth on the mooring line had cut my finger) and Bud came up and helped me secure it and we were in.
We put the engine on the dinghy and went in to park HQ to register and pay and get Internet. On the way in we saw a huge ray in the channel, it must have had a four-foot wingspan. The little beach where you could land your dinghy had baby conchs all over it. The first live conchs I've seen. The photo shows the boats between Earendil and the park headquarters building.
Although it's really nice here, we may not stay as long as planned. You can't use SKYPE on the Internet, and they won't let Fuzzy off the beaches. I can't even carry him in the front-pack we have for him. If Bud and I want to hike the trails Fuzzy has to stay on the boat. Fuzzy is getting better about being left on the boat, but it's not something we like to do all the time. We'll at least stay long enough to do some snorkeling, if the water is warm enough. It's only 70 degrees today (and the air temperature this evening is only about 75). Brrr!
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.