03/06/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
At about 7:30 this morning it actually rained. Hard. And long enough to wash the salt off the boat. It also washed the salt off of all the plants, too. Bud and I were trying to remember the last time we'd been in any rain like that. It was the afternoon we arrived in the Bahamas in a squall. I think that might be the last time (besides the brief shower yesterday) we'd seen rain at all.
After the rain we took Fuzzy ashore. No problems today, the wind is down, although there was a good breeze during the rain. It's Sunday, so most of the businesses are closed. Scorpio's Bar and Restaurant is open though, so we plan to go there this afternoon for a late lunch and Internet. I have quite a few entries to post.
We've been enjoying our stay at Black Point. We walk down the main road and usually only one or two golf carts or pick-up trucks go by. Everyone says hello. This is not like the other places we've been; everyone who lives here is Bahamian. There were more folks around today, perhaps because it's Sunday. I think everyone was happy for the bit of rain, too. Black Point uses desalinated seawater for drinking these days. I can't imagine how difficult the dry winters would have been back in the days when they had to rely on cisterns and wells. Bud said he heard they put down wells to find the lenses of fresh water that percolate through these porous rocks and float on the seawater below them. I'm sure that water is pretty brackish by the end of the dry season (winter). The photo shows the clouds, no longer containing rain, over Black Point.
Right now, with the way the forecast looks, we'll be heading to Little Farmer's Cay on Wednesday and then down close to Georgetown after the next front goes through, probably next weekend.
03/05/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
Another windy day today. We took Fuzzy to the shallow beach at high tide in the morning and didn't get too wet, but there was no chance of taking the computer ashore. It actually rained for a few minutes in the afternoon.
We heard on the radio this morning that one of the boats here lost their dingy overnight. The woman who does the weather from the next island up (Staniel) told them it would most likely blow clear across the Exuma Banks and the Tongue of the Ocean and end up against the east shore of Andros Island, about 60 miles away. We didn't hear that anyone found it. Later we heard our first May Day call. A woman called, but then we heard her say that her son had tried to swim after their dinghy and was having trouble, but someone helped him, so hopefully all and the dinghy are safe. After all that, we made sure the lines on our dinghy weren't chafing, we decided to switch the bow lines (we have two) end for end, as the end tied to the dinghy takes the most abuse.
Later in the afternoon a couple we met from Texas came over. They are Michael (her) and Marty (him) from Solace. They brought their kitten with them. Fuzzy was not thrilled to have the kitten aboard, but tolerated her.
Michael and I played a game of Backgammon while Bud started steaming some pork buns he and I made. The recipe called for Chinese sausages, which we didn't have, so Bud cooked and marinated some Italian sausage, and cut it small enough to be rolled in the steamed bun dough that I made.
After the Backgammon, I taught them to play Texas Rummy. Being from Texas, they thought it only proper that they learn to play it. We had a nice time.
Once they left, Bud and I had to take Fuzzy ashore again. This time we had to go the longer distance to the town dock, but the wind was down a bit and we didn't get too wet. The mail boat, the Lady Frances, was at the government dock. She had two small cars on her foredeck. Bud said he'd talked to one of the boatmen and they told him they lifted the cars off with slings and the deck-mounted crane. There was a pretty decrepit fishing boat next to the Lady Frances, who isn't too spiffy herself. Both of them were leaving for Nassau. The man on Lady Frances said they had no more stops to make and would run straight for Nassau from here. They were both leaving at dusk, again I marvel at how well these local sailors must know these waters to run at night as they do. It also makes me glad we heed the warning to always set an anchor light in the Bahamas. The local boats usually have to thread through the anchorages. Anyone without an anchor light on a dark night is taking chances.
03/04/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
I haven't been able to take the computer ashore for the past two days because it's been too windy. The wind blew all night and all day at 20 knots with gusts as high as 30. We're pretty comfortable on the boat, but the dinghy ride is wet. We've been trying different tactics to try to stay dry, as we have no choice but to dinghy ashore at least twice a day with Fuzzy. This morning we went in at high tide so we could take Fuzzy right up to the beach on the east side. The wind is from the east, so that means the waves are getting smaller as we approach that shore, and we're heading directly into the waves on the way ashore. If I sit back a bit further than usual and Bud gets the dinghy into a partial plane, so the bow is high, we stay sort of dry. On the way back, going with the wind and waves is drier. At least until we get up to the boat and try to climb up the ladder on the side. Then the waves get trapped between the dinghy and the boat and you really get wet.
We decided to make only two trips in today, so we took Fuzzy's food along on the second trip. We went ashore about 3:30. This time we wore rain gear. Bud wore an old Mickey Mouse poncho and I wore an old Bell Atlantic rain suit. The previous owner left both on the boat and we kept them on board just in case. Today was that case. I had Fuzzy inside the jacket so only his face stuck out. By time we got to shore his face was wet.
We decided to go see the blowhole here. It's not far from the harbor, just a short hike across a narrow part of the island to the Exuma Sound side. These islands are riddled with caves, and this is a cave at the head of a cove that opens on dry land about 50 feet in from the water's edge. On a really windy day like today the waves get pushed so they spurt out of it. Sometimes just spray comes out, and sometimes, like in the picture, a lot of water comes out.
We met some people who'd dinghied to the beach at close to high tide and then gone walking. Their dinghies were now high and dry at low tide and yards from the water. Friends were taking them back to their boats and they were going to come back at high tide for their dinghies. I put a picture of the stranded dinghies in the gallery, so you can see how far out the sand flats go.
After we saw the blowhole we went back to Scorpio's Bar and Restaurant for Happy Hour. We sat outside and fed Fuzzy there, and we had a plate of cracked conch. It's basically conch meat in small pieces, batter dipped and deep-fried. They serve that at the bars here like they serve chicken wings in Buffalo.
We thought the wind was down, so we didn't wear the rain gear on the trip back. I was on the windward side so I put the poncho around the outside of me and around Fuzzy. It was getting dark, I still had sunglasses on and they were pretty well covered with salt spray, so I couldn't see the waves too well. I got a bit wet, but not too bad...until we got back to the boat. Then I had put Fuzzy and the poncho down, I was crouched in the front of the dinghy ready to grab the ladder and climb aboard with the dinghy line when a wave splashed right over the front. I was wet from my hat to my shoes. Oh well, at least I got to come aboard and get out of my damp clothes and get warm. It's amazing how chilly 73 degrees can be with wind and spray (I can tell all the folks up north are feeling so sorry for us).
The wind is supposed to drop a bit tomorrow, and then be pretty light on Sunday and Monday, so I'll finally get to use the computer and get these updates posted.
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.