02/20/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
Another beautiful anchorage in the Bahamas. Another nice sail to get here. This is starting to get good. We left the park at just after 9 AM. We wanted a fairly early start because the wind was supposed to pick up during the day, starting at above 15 knots and building to above 20, going as high as 24 knots overnight. We wanted to make sure we were snugly anchored in plenty of time. We sailed with an ENE wind of around 16 knots. We were heading (for the most part) southeast, so we had a close reach. We had a bit further to go today, so we put up the main, though we put a double reef in it. Our main is really big and gives the boat a lot of weather helm (that is the boat tries to turn into the wind - to the weather), so with about 20 knots of apparent wind (what the boat feels given its forward motion) a double reefed main nicely balances the jib and staysail. We were again approaching 8 knots until we had to cut closer to the wind. We were still doing over 7 knots. We went just under 22 knots is less than 4 hours, and that includes almost 4 miles coming out of the shallow area around Warderick Wells.
We got here at around 1 PM and were able to pick a nice spot to anchor fairly close to shore. This is a huge bay with good protection from the north through the southeast. The bottom is all around 10 feet deep at low tide and all sand. The only time you wouldn't want to be here is if a front comes through and there's a strong wind from the west. There's still nothing like that in the forecast. The picture is only of the southern part of the bay where Earendil is. Altogether I counted 32 boats, 8 motor yachts and 24 sailboats, and there is still plenty of room.
We had no trouble anchoring. Bud snorkeled over the anchor chain and anchor to check on things and said the Rocna was buried nicely and dug in in about 3 feet. That's 3 for 3 for the Rocna. It's so nice to have a reliable anchor. We changed the way we attached our anchor snubber again. We found out at Warderick Wells that we were putting our line to the mooring balls wrong. We were going from a cleat on one side of the bow, through the loop on the mooring ball pennant and up to the cleat on the other side of the bow. According to their instructions, that allows the loop on the mooring pennant to slide back and forth on your line and it can chafe through in a night. Instead you are supposed to bring the line back to the same side of the boat, so the loop will stay in one spot. We had also read that using a hook on an anchor chain was not a good idea because it can wear the chain. It was recommended that you tie your snubber to the chain. So instead of having our snubber go from one cleat to the other through a shackle that attached to a fitting that we hooked on the chain, we tied the plain end of the snubber with two rolling hitches to the chain and brought the loop up to a single cleat on the bow, hopefully eliminating chafe on the snubber and on the chain. I took our viewing bucket out and checked my knots and I think they're quite secure. Now that we're all prepared for a bit of a blow, the wind has turned light. Right now there is less wind than we've seen since we left Great Harbour Cay. We'll see what the night brings, though.
After we tidied the boat up from sailing and Bud made a nice early dinner we went ashore. We didn't go to the biggest beach that we are closest to, there are pigs that live there and come out for handouts and will actually swim out to dinghies. So it's not a good place to take dogs. We saw the pigs come down on the beach, but didn't see them swim. We went to the second beach, which Jon and Arline told us was the party beach. We found the nice chairs they left there, sat down and looked out for a bit. We walked up to the top of the rugged hill where I took the picture of Earendil. I also took a shot towards the north and then a closer view to show the beautiful houses on a small island that's identified on the chart as Fowl Cay Resort.
The backbones of these islands are incredibly rugged. I took a picture of a piece of the ironshore that was jutting out over the beach at low tide. It's sharp enough to tear your clothes. Bud remarked that a boat would last about 5 minutes if it got thrown up against ironshore. Maybe that's why you hear of boat wrecks around here.
Tomorrow we will dinghy over to Staniel Cay. There are stores, a laundry and perhaps Internet. There's also a free dump, a great find. If it's not too hard to get there by dinghy and if Internet is readily available, we just may be here for a while.
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.