03/09/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
It was pretty windy this morning. We hung out on the boat after taking Fuzzy ashore for his morning constitutional. After lunch we decided to walk in to town. For the town walk we tied the dinghy off at the dinghy dock at FCYC. Since the tide was falling and the wind was blowing towards shore, we tried a new technique that we've seen a lot of locals with small boats use. Bud tossed a stern anchor off and we tied the bow to the dock. We've been using the little Danforth type anchor that Gary gave us. It weighs almost nothing, but works like a charm. This is the first time we deployed it in rocks, and not sand, and it held.
Before we walked to town Bud stopped at the Yacht Club and asked the proprietor, Roosevelt Nixon (yes, that's his name) if there were any fish in these waters that you shouldn't eat. When he came out I asked Bud what he said. "He said there's only two, big Barracuda and the Horse-Eyed Jack." "He did not say that," say I, figuring this is Bud pulling my leg as usual. Oh, yes, he really said that. So our Big-Eyed Jack is known locally as a Horse-Eyed Jack and it just went from supper to fish bait. That took the lilt out of our gait.
We walked downtown anyway. There's not much to downtown Little Farmer's. This is the island that has 55 permanent residents. I took a picture of the main dock in town; the buildings are the government office, the fish market and the post office. Bud stopped at the liquor store and got a $20 bottle of gin. The guy who owned the liquor store was out front with two young men fixing an outboard motor, but he stopped when we came up and opened the store. He confirmed that Horse-Eyed Jack isn't to be eaten. You won't die, but you'll spend a lot of time on the toilet.
I took pictures of the cut from Exuma Sound between Great Guana and Big Farmer's. You can see the line of breakers where the outgoing tide was meeting the east wind. These cuts can get all but impassible with a strong tide meeting a strong opposing wind. Even today, it doesn't look like it'd be fun to go through it. I also took a picture of cotton plants that are now growing wild. They must be left over from two hundred years ago, when they tried to put plantations on these islands. All these pictures are in the gallery.
After we got back to the boat Bud tried fishing again. This time he hooked a nurse shark. It was probably at least four feet long. He didn't even try to land this one. We did get it close enough to try and cut the leader to set it loose, but as he finally worked it up to the side of the dinghy, the line broke at the leader, so the shark left with the leader and hook. While he was trying to bring in the shark, you could see a big Barracuda in the water, just hanging out and watching the shark. It was about 3 feet long. Bud's finally getting some excitement from fishing, but we still had just rice and vegetables for dinner.
03/08/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
We decided to leave Black Point today. The wind is supposed to gradually shift from ENE to E to SE over the next couple of days. This morning it was already close to east. Since we're going southeast, we'd prefer the wind to be ENE so we can sail so we decided the sooner we went the better.
Farmer's Cay, where we were headed, is only about 10 miles as the crow flies so we elected not to use the main. The wind was not too strong and played around from the ENE to further east and we sailed for the main leg of the trip. It was a pleasant sail, but we were only going between 4 and 5 knots.
Still, we got to the point where we had to turn in towards shore before noon. Bud didn't want to start in too early, as he didn't want the sun to be in my eyes as we turned east to make our way towards the islands and the cut between. There is no clear-cut deep route from the banks back into the cut between Little and Big Farmer's Cays, where we were headed. So once we doused the sails (genoa and staysail) I went up on the bow with my radio headset on and watched for rocks as Bud turned in. The chart book said to go to where you could lay a course of 90 degrees true to the white house on the hill. At first we couldn't see a white house on the hill. Then I saw what looked like a grey house and checked with the binoculars. With the binoculars I could see that it was a white house, but the side we were looking at was in the shade, so it looked grey. Once Bud was satisfied that was the house, he laid the course. The electronic chart said we were passing over areas that were 5 feet deep at low tide. We were about 18 inches above low tide (and the tide was falling) but Bud never saw anything below 9 feet on the depth gauge.
Once we got close to the island and followed around and got in the cut we could see pretty well where the channel was. Our next problem was to pick up a mooring ball in front of the Farmer's Cay Yacht Club. I wanted to stay there because they have free WiFi, and I was hoping we could get close enough to have Internet aboard. So we headed for the mooring ball closest to the club. Bud brought the boat slowly up to the mooring ball and I looked for the pendant, the line you grab and hook to. I didn't see one, so I just grabbed the mooring ball, itself. Another boat was moored there and it looked like they were tied right at the mooring ball, so I thought perhaps the ball was hooked directly to the end of the pendant. I got the ball and lifted, and the line that came up was pretty small, so I dropped it and told Bud that mooring wouldn't work, we should go to the next one. We didn't like the position of the next one (seemed too exposed to the north) and when I lifted it, I saw the same thing. Meanwhile, the folks who were moored there called us on the radio. Bud told me they said the pendant was tied to the end of the line the mooring ball was on. So we circled back and grabbed the first one again. As soon as I had it, Bud came up and helped me get the pendant aboard. In short order we were secured. And I have Internet on the boat. Yeah! But it's $20/night, not $10, like we thought. The picture is looking at the FCYC from the cockpit of Earendil. Out beyond the club you see the Exuma Banks. (That's now in the gallery - the fish shot having taken precedence as the shot of the day.)
We met our neighbors, Paul and Carol Cook aboard s/v Odysseus. We went ashore and paid and had a look around. We took Fuzzy back ashore after supper and took a bit of a walk. This is a good spot for Fuzzy; there are sand roads, no traffic (no leash) and no burs, either. We are so close to shore that Bud elected to row back and forth both times (we do have the engine on the dink, just in case).
We've moved again and are in another lovely spot enjoying more lovely weather. This is not bad at all.
Late breaking news! First fish is caught by Buddy! He was out after supper in the dark fishing with ham scraps for bait using the pole given to us by Eon Verrill (thanks Eon, TYC comes through again). The fish fought well, but Bud was able to land him into the dinghy, which was tied alongside. He got into the dinghy with a bottle of rum and a butcher knife and was able to subdue the monster which on closer inspection below decks turned out to be a 21 inch Big-Eyed Jack. Fish for dinner tomorrow!!
03/07/2011, Black Point, Great Guana Cay
There was no wind last night or this morning. Bud has trouble sleeping when things are so quiet, but I don't. I did wake up early, as usual, and stuck my head up into the cockpit to be greeted by the still and beautiful dawn in this photo.
We took advantage of the quiet to do wash again. It's a lot easier to lug in four loads of wash and get it back to the boat intact and dry if the wind is still and the bay like glass, which it was today. We got to the laundry at about 8:15 and again had to wait for the woman who owns it to come and open up. A lot of other boaters had the same thought and by the time the laundry opened there were enough folks waiting that I only got to put in 3 or my 4 loads. It still didn't take too long to get the wash done, even in two shifts.
We left the folded laundry in the Laundromat and walked down to use the internet again. We had drinks at Scorpio's and got on line there, but the response time was still too slow to call phones on SKYPE. So we went a couple of doors further and bought a $5 phone card from Batelco. We went to the phone booth in front of their office so I could talk to Jamie, our daughter. As I went to go in the phone booth I noticed that we were right next door to the police station. It was such a little office that I hadn't noticed it when we walked by. Then I noticed the even smaller building next door. It was painted the same bright blue-green, but had bars in the windows. It was the jail. I took a photo for the gallery.
After we got back and ate lunch we did some chores and then both took a swim and washed. For once it was reasonably warm. I even used the cockpit shower and gave Fuzzy a bath.
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.