02/26/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
There are 75 permanent residents (more or less) on Staniel Cay. It's a mix of native Bahamians and more or less permanent immigrants. The island has a little library in the oldest building in the settlement. Today they were having a fundraiser so we came over for it.
I bought some books at the library (cheap) and a few cookies at the bake sale (not so cheap). We met another couple and went to the fundraiser lunch with them. More conch stew and Johnnycake. Very good, though maybe not quite as good as the church cook out at Great Harbour. It was held at a shelter across the road from the public beach. The fundraiser, like everything else here, was a nice mix of native and imported Bahamians with a generous dose of cruisers and other vacationers.
Since it was a mild day we brought along the computer so I'm going to try to post the blog entries I've accumulated. Tomorrow is supposed to be windy again, so we may not be back across until Tuesday.
We're still trying to figure out when we're going to leave. There's a famous snorkel here into Thunderball Cave, which was the setting for the 007 movie. That snorkel is best at slack tide around midday, so we are kind of waiting for those things to coincide on a reasonably calm day, so we can dinghy over for it. Seems a shame not to try it since we're here. That probably won't happen until the middle of next week. So we'll see...
02/25/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
We took the computer in to Staniel on Thursday, but I was unable to upload the blog. I don't know when these will get published, as we aren't going in today. We went yesterday in the morning because it was supposed to get windy in the afternoon. After we went to Staniel Cay Yacht Club to use the Internet we packed up and took the dinghy over to the Isles General Store to get our propane tank filled. We had been warned by another cruiser that we'd have to leave the tank and pick it up later, as they use a gravity fill system, and it takes hours to fill one tank.
Bud bought a few groceries while we were there. He skipped the milk; at almost $9 half- gallon, milk is not going to be a staple going forward. With the groceries loaded and the tank left behind, we returned to the boat. As we passed the government dock on the way out, we saw the Police boat had pulled in. That may be the only police vehicle on the island. The photo shows the Police boat and the local church. The ride back was still pretty smooth. The wind had picked up a bit, but it was behind us so we were going with the waves, and that made it easier.
The wind did start to blow during the night and it was fairly windy this morning (Friday). We don't plan to leave the anchorage today. I went out in the late morning and washed the hull of the boat. We don't have any official hull cleaner, so I used Simple Green. It didn't get all the dirt off, but it does look quite a bit better. Bud has been working on the new windows. Water had gotten trapped between the screens and the windows and without oxygen the stainless had started to rust. So he's taking the screens off, cleaning off the rust and putting a corrosion inhibitor on them. I've been washing the screens, wiping the rubber gasket with a rubber protectant and putting petroleum jelly on the sealing surface before reinstalling them. I'm hoping the petroleum jelly will keep the water from sitting between the outside rubber gasket and the window.
I'm going to take a saltwater bath again this afternoon. We're running the generator now because the wind has stopped again. Since we have the generator on we always turn on the water heater (the generator should be run with a load on it, and that helps). I would rinse with cool water, but now I'll have hot water to rinse with - an added bonus. I'm also writing this while the generator is on. I take every opportunity to try to keep the computer battery charged.
That's just about our agenda for today. It is really nice not to have to go anywhere!
Addendum: We met some people on a kayaking/camping vacation when we walked Fuzzy the other evening. When we went back this evening they were still there. We had talked to them a bit before and they said (especially the woman!) that this would be their last paddling vacation. We talked to them about sailing as an alternative. This evening we were going to invite them on board for dinner, but they'd just gotten back from treating themselves to dinner at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We did invite them aboard for sundown drinks and had a very nice visit until long after sundown. They are Kim and Mike from Calgary. The high in Calgary when they'd called home was minus ten Celsius. Their dog sitter wasn't sympathetic when they complained of the relentless sun, since there are no woods tall enough to cast much shade. It's chance encounters that really add the spice to cruising.
02/23/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
It was another day with no wind. Without the little waves on the bay you could really see everything on the bottom. I took this photo of a starfish at about 7:30 AM in probably 10 feet of water. That starfish is a good foot across.
As soon as we got back from taking Fuzzy ashore we worked on the generator. Last night when we ran it water began to seep out onto the floor from under it. We emptied all the things stored in the space under it but couldn't find any wet area. I lifted the floor of that storage space and found a lot of water that seemed to be coming from the wet locker that sits just forward of the generator. So we took everything out of the wet locker, too. The tray in the bottom of the wet locker that's supposed to accumulate all the dripping water from the wet gear you put in it was standing full of water and had obviously overflowed, causing the water we'd seen on the floor. We bailed out the tray and lifted it. We found that we'd kinked the hose that drains that tray into the bilge, probably when we did electrical work last year. We fixed the hose. We still needed to find out where the water was coming into the locker. There is a drain hose from the generator to that tray. We checked around the generator and could find no water. We traced the little drain hose back and found it was connected to the intake for the raw water part of the generator cooling. Bud thought it was an anti-siphon hose. We started the generator back up and a tiny but steady stream of water comes out of that hose when the generator runs. We're not sure why, but at least now it's draining into the bilge. Seems a strange design, though.
Since it's still calm we went back to Staniel Cay today. We bought 10 gallons of drinking water for $0.40/gallon from the Yacht Club. We also paid $2.50 to dispose of our bag of trash. I was ready to hike up to the free dump, but with no wind, Bud thought it was too hot. (I'm sure all our friends and family up north are feeling sympathetic.) I also got on the Internet again.
This afternoon we went snorkeling off a little island on the north side of the bay. There were a few little coral heads there. It was pretty, but some of the water currents were chilly (again, I can feel the sympathy from the northerners).
Folks we met at White Cay and again at Warderick Wells invited us for dinner, Susan, Leigh and JP on Raconteur. They also invited Fuzzy along. We had a really nice time, starting with watching the sun set from their cockpit. They have a conch horn and a tradition is to blow the horn at sunset. JP blew theirs and several other boats also blew conch horns. They said this is the first harbor where anyone else has done it. Then we went below and had a great stir-fry and chocolate cake and coconut ice cream! Unfortunately, they have to leave the Bahamas for a month, so are leaving tomorrow on their way down to Georgetown. Hopefully we'll run across them again in our travels.
We are only one long day, or several leisurely days away from Georgetown. I think that is a good place to fly into, so if anyone wants to join us, we could meet you there. Now's your chance, and I know you've had enough of winter!
You could always fly to Nassau and take the mailboat to Georgetown for $30. Now that would be an adventure! A cruise ship it ain't.
02/22/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
The wind was down today so we set off to visit Staniel Cay. We were going twice, first to buy 15 gallons of diesel and check out the place. Then we wanted to come back and buy another 15 gallons (we have three 5-gallon jerry cans) and use the Internet. Bud emptied the diesel we had in the three cans into one of our tanks.
The first trip went fine. It's a bit over a mile to the gas dock at Staniel Cay Yacht Club where they took our diesel cans to fill. We beached the dinghy at a little enclosed beach right at the club that's set up for dinghies. We had read that the clinic on the island could use donations of bandages, so we gathered what we thought we could spare from our first aid kit. We walked over to the clinic, but no one was there.
We kept walking to see how far it was to Isles General Store and to make sure they could fill propane tanks. After cooking pretty much every day since last October, one of our 20 lb. propane tanks finally ran out about two days ago. We also wanted to see if you could get there by dinghy, or if we should walk from the yacht club. We found out they could fill the tank, when they had gas, but right now they didn't have any. They expected to get more on the next mail boat which they thought would be there tomorrow, but we should call (on the VHF radio) first. We also saw that we could get our dingy up the creek to the store and they had a pretty decent dock, so that's the way to go.
We walked back to the yacht club (really a marina) and stopped back at the clinic. Again, no one was there. So we left our bag of bandages and tape hanging on the front doorknob. Hopefully they'll be found and will be useful. The picture is of us entering the Staniel Cay Yacht Club from the roadside, with beautiful bougainvillea bushes lining the way. Notice all the golf carts. Most of the vehicles on the island are golf carts. We saw a few pick-up trucks and one van.
We took the dinghy back out to the fuel dock and they handed our jerry cans down to us. It was a bit of a rough trip back, with all the extra weight, but we made it. Bud put that fuel into one of our tanks.
We debated making a second trip, but they did have Internet and I really wanted to get online. At noon, when we thought the breeze had died down, we loaded the now empty jerry cans back up, packed the computer in it's case and then in a rubber lined canvas bag and took off. We put the computer bag upright, under the seat in the center of the boat. We went quite slowly the whole mile over, trying not to get it wet. Fuzzy and I got pretty wet, but the computer stayed dry. We stayed quite a while, I was online, Bud filled the jerry cans and loaded them back in the dinghy. By the time we were ready to head back to the boat the breeze had completely died and the water was smooth, so we had a quick and easy trip back to the boat.
02/21/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
We tried to go to town on Staniel Cay in the dinghy but when we got around the point of Big Major's Spot the water in the cut between the two islands was pretty rough. We want to buy diesel and ferry it across in our jerry cans, so we decided to wait until tomorrow. The wind is supposed to be light tomorrow, and in fact has dropped off this evening.
Since we couldn't comfortably make it to town we came back and went over towards the pig beach. One other dinghy was already there and the pigs were in the water. Yes, the pigs swim. They come out looking for handouts. It's OK to feed them but they ask you not to give them meat. We didn't have anything for them so I felt bad, but they still came up close enough for me to get a good picture. Living on the island and swimming everyday they are both clean and fit. Fuzzy didn't care how nice they looked; he was growling and wriggling in my arms. I don't know what he would have done if I'd have let him go, I don't think he would have swum over to them.
While we were out we went over to the third beach on this side of the island. We let Fuzzy explore. There was a little grove of palmettos with sand paths running through it. Really quite nice. The trees are all small here; it's a pretty harsh environment. It's windy and arid and there's not a lot of soil. I took a picture of Bud walking among the trees, so you can tell how small they are.
This afternoon I finally took a saltwater bath. Getting in was still not easy; it's chilly. First I snorkeled over the anchor and chain, just to check on things, and all is still well. Then I took off my snorkel gear, shampooed my hair and washed and jumped back in to rinse. I used the cockpit shower to rinse the salt off. I think it worked pretty well, I feel better anyway.
We're still planning to stay here a while. Hopefully we'll get to town tomorrow and Wednesday and get some chores done and get Internet access. Then we can stay out here a few more days and not worry about the crossing.
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.