03/03/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
It was cool today with the wind blowing so we decided it was a good day for a walk. We started up the one road that goes north, but not too far up the road we came to a side path that led towards the beaches on the east side of the island, the Exuma Sound side. So we walked over that way. The path led to a beach and kind of ended, but we kept picking our way up along the shore. The wind was up over 20 knots all day, and from the ENE, so the surf was pretty impressive. This picture is one of the beaches, the rocks behind Bud were probably 15 feet tall, and the waves were spraying over them.
We kept hiking from one beach to the next. In between are headlands of the very sharp eroded rock. It's hard to get a good picture to show the perspective, but the higher bluffs are 50 feet or so. We finally came to a bluff and beyond it a cove that went back in about a quarter mile. We turned back there. I took a photo of that; again, it's hard to judge the distances. I was going to take a picture of one of the little cliff edges, cut into holes by the wind and water. Bud had me take Fuzzy and stand below it, so you could get some sense of the size and he took the picture.
It was beautiful and wild. The other notable thing is that the whole area is strewn with plastic. Plastic jugs, plastic rope, all kinds of plastic shoes, flip flops and crocs and sandals, and bits and pieces of things. People had collected some of the plastic flotsam and constructed a beach sculpture, a beach garbage man. It really makes you hate plastic.
When we got back to town we went to the local bar and got drinks. The man who runs it remembered Bud from the other day and asked him if he wanted a glass of water for the dog again. The folks here are really nice.
The east end of this bay is a huge area of shallow flats. It completely dries at low tide. This morning we took Fuzzy there at high tide and had no problem. This evening it was about 2 hours before high tide and we tried to go there again. We got about 200 yards from the beach and the outboard engine hit sand. We each took a paddle and tried to paddle to shore, but we had 20 knots of wind against us. We were making painfully slow progress. Finally it got shallow enough, and Bud got frustrated enough that he just jumped over and pulled us the rest of the way in. His shorts got pretty wet though. After Fuzzy had a romp and we talked to several other couples at the other end of the beach we headed back. Going back was much easier. With the wind helping us we were able to paddle until we got back in the deep water.
This living on the boat thing is not a retirement plan for the lazy!
03/02/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
The front came through today. We had no wind last night, and almost none in the morning. There were dark clouds overhead, so when we left the boat we closed it up enough to keep any potential rain out. We were hoping for some rain to wash the salt off the boat, but none came.
We left the boat fairly early and got to the Laundromat at 8:30. It opens at 8, but it wasn't open yet. We started to walk down the road to take our trash to the trailer they have at the town dock. A woman came by in a golf cart and told us she'd call and tell the owner of the Laundromat that we were there. By the time we got back from taking our trash the woman had arrived and she opened up for us. The Laundromat was very nice and clean and had about 16 washers and maybe 10 dryers, but it cost $3.50 a load to wash and $3.50 to dry. That's not too bad for here. Both water and power are precious here. The power usually comes from huge diesel generators, and the water is from reverse osmosis of seawater. The Laundromat had huge tanks outside where they recycled the water. And it's not every Laundromat that gives you a view of a crystal clear bay with huge rays swimming by. I did my best to take their picture. Check out the gallery, you can get some sense of their size.
One of the dryers didn't work right, so they gave me another token and I put that load in one another dryer. While that last load was finishing, Bud took the rest of the laundry back to the boat so he could move the dinghy to the town dock as the little dock by the Laundromat was getting crowded and our dinghy was being pushed around back, and with the falling tide Bud was afraid the prop would get banged on the rocks.
After I packed the last load up, Fuzzy and I headed over to Lorraine's Café, where Bud was going to meet us for lunch and an Internet session. As I was leaving the Laundromat I saw the mail boat coming in. He had to come right through the anchored cruisers and I took a photo. The captains who run the little freighters and mail boats through these islands must be pretty good. They don't have much room or much depth to work with.
I got to Lorraine's and the sat at the old table you see under the tree in the picture. That way we could keep Fuzzy with us and still get our lunch and Internet access. It worked pretty well, but they don't let you use SKYPE phones at Lorraine's as it takes too much bandwidth. Getting good Internet access is proving to be a real challenge. It's also expensive. Lorraine's just asks for a $3 donation towards the electric, but the lunch wasn't cheap. I had a conch sandwich and fries and a cranberry juice drink, Bud had a fish sandwich and fries and two bottles of beer. The bill was $33. Food is not cheap here, as almost everything has to be brought in.
This afternoon it started to get windy. We took our viewing bucket along when we took Fuzzy to shore and checked our anchor on the way back. The boat is now sitting 180 degrees from the direction it was when we set the anchor. The chain has pretty much straightened out in the new direction and the anchor has moved in almost that full half circle, but it is still buried, if anything deeper than before. I'm developing a real affection for that Rocna. If anyone reading this is contemplating cruising, don't hesitate to spend money on a good, big anchor. It will be one of the best investments you can make for your peace of mind.
It's actually nice to have the wind blowing again. Not only does it give us fully charged batteries because of the wind generator, it feels nice. We were even feeling a bit cool in the boat with all the hatches and ports open. We checked the temperature; it was 75 degrees. It's down to 73 now, almost blanket weather.
03/01/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
We needed water. We needed to pump out our holding tanks. We need to do laundry. So we moved on. First we stopped at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, this time with the big boat, and filled up our water tanks at $0.40 per gallon. Then we went out onto the Exuma Banks again and moved on down to Black Point on Great Guana Cay.
This time it wasn't a good sail. We had 10 knots of wind or so right on the nose. There were some residual waves, more than we expected, so we put out the staysail for stability and motored on down. The whole trip was only about 12 nautical miles, including going in to SCYC, so it wasn't too bad. The cove here is similar to Big Major's Spot, a big sandy area protected pretty well from anything that's not west. A front is moving through tonight, but the clocking wind is almost nothing. After the front goes by the wind is supposed to build up over 25 knots by Thursday, but that wind will be ENE changing to E and then to ESE. Another similar but weaker front is expected. Nothing in the forecast from the west, so we figure we can stay here until the winds moderate again.
The nice thing about this place is that we can get to town without crossing any open areas or cuts, so even when the wind is strong from the east we should still be able to dinghy in to get what we need.
After we made sure the anchor was set (4 for 4 for the Rocna), we took the dinghy in to check things out. There is a beach where we could land the dinghy, but there's also a dinghy dock, so that's what we used. Black Point is the largest town in the central Exumas, and it is a Bahamian town. There is no marina or resort owned or run by off-islanders. It does cater to cruisers, though. We walked down to check out the Laundromat, and if you can read the sign, you'll see that it boasts a dinghy dock (we'll be going there tomorrow). The two restaurants offer WiFi (we'll be using that tomorrow, too). There is a small grocery store, I saw people coming out of that with ice cream bars (I'll be checking that out, too, but might hold off longer than tomorrow).
So this is home for the next few days.
02/28/2011, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
Fuzzy the Wonder Dog
Sunday was a quiet day. We hung around the boat and went in to the beach a few times. I was thinking of taking my shampoo and soap to the beach and cleaning up there, but when we went to leave there were people at both beaches, so I didn't. As it turned out, the folks left one beach before we got there, so we again had the beach to ourselves. I decided not to wash in the water at the boat. There are so many boats here it just feels strange. Yesterday afternoon there were 33 sailboats and 10 powerboats anchored here.
Today started quietly. We decided to run the generator, heat some water, vacuum the boat and charge up the batteries. The wind had picked up again, so the batteries didn't actually need to be charged. But we're going in to get water in the tanks tomorrow, so we decided to heat the water and splurge by taking freshwater showers.
We had invited some other folks we met over for dinner, Gord and Marilyn from s/v Madison. Gord is from St. Catherines, and Marilyn is from Boston, NY. They came a bit after 3 and we were sitting in the cockpit talking. I went below to get Marilyn some wine. Fuzzy was sitting on the cockpit seat in front of the open companionway. All of a sudden I heard a thump and looked over and Fuzzy was on the floor in the salon. They said he just suddenly jumped down the companionway steps. He hit on the rug at the bottom of the steps and then kind of rolled down the next little step to the rug in the salon. That's about 8 feet! I was sure he had broken legs, broken ribs or internal injuries. He didn't make a sound. I felt him all over; I couldn't find anything wrong. I gave him a baby aspirin, figuring he was going to be sore somewhere. We all sat up in the cockpit for another half hour or so, I kept an eye on Fuzzy and came down to check him again several times, but he seemed fine. By the time we were ready to eat, I fixed him his supper and he was acting just as always.
After a really nice supper and a nice visit, Gord and Marilyn took off and Bud and I took Fuzzy in for his evening beach visit. He sat on my lap as he now does on dingy rides, perfectly at ease as we zipped over to the beach up on plane. We still don't know what possessed him to launch himself into the companionway or how he managed to fall 8 feet with apparently no injuries, especially since he's just 2 months shy of 15 years old! We just hope he won't try it again.
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.