03/13/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
For the most part Bahamians are pretty religious people, so everything shuts down on Sundays. We saw Roosevelt Nixon in the morning, but he was just coming by to check on things and then said he was heading out to church. Since the wind was down a bit, this seemed like the day a lot of folks were leaving, so for most of the day we had the harbor almost to ourselves. The photo shows Earendil floating alone at her mooring, where there had been about 10 boats in view.
This seemed like an ideal day to try to get in touch with family. I've been using the Internet on board, but the connection has been iffy for phone calls using SKYPE. I thought we could take the computer up to the yacht club, get good reception and have no one around so still have quiet. We did just that, stopping on the way to try to pull Bud's fishing hook out of the rocks (lost another hook). But the network I use from the boat wasn't even showing up at the club, and the one that was wasn't giving a good connection. We called both our moms but although we could hear them, they were having a very hard time hearing us, so it wasn't much of a conversation. We gave up and came back to the boat.
When cruisers get together they often mention the things they miss most about normal life. Usually long hot showers and unlimited plumbing are tops on the list. For me, the top item is good communication. I don't mind being away from my family, but I'm used to unlimited minutes on cell phones and not being able to talk to my daughter for an hour at a time is killing me. We've been looking into communication alternatives and nothing looks great.
The things that are hardest to supply on a boat are power, water and communications. We do OK with power when the wind blows, but we've decided we need an arch and more solar panels for the sunny days with no wind. As for days with no sun and no wind, we really haven't seen any of those. Still nights could be a problem, but basically you just shut most things down and go to sleep. Water is available here, but a pain to get. You have to go into a dock to fill your tanks and it costs forty or fifty cents a gallon. We would like to add a watermaker. Then the only thing we'd need to go to shore for is fuel, and even as a sailboat, we're not going to get away from that. We've only bought 30 gallons of fuel since leaving Stuart, Florida, though, so that doesn't seem like too much of an issue. So we think we can make changes to keep us pretty self-sufficient off shore, but we don't have the communication thing fixed to my satisfaction. I'll be happy to be back in the states and have my cell phone work. Maybe we should just hang out in Puerto Rico.
I did manage to get a picture of the smaller of the two turtles that seems to hang around here; you can check it out in the gallery. And the most important part of the day...Bud caught a snapper! The bait of choice is mozzarella cheese, who knew.
03/12/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
We decided to walk to town today and see what we could find to restock our shelves. Last night the mail boat came in (yes, they came and left in the dark, I don't know how they do it since there are about two channel markers for every 10 islands around here). The day after the mail boat comes is always a good day to shop. Besides, I was on my last book. Most every marina and some of the restaurants, have book exchanges.
We packed up Fuzzy, my already read books, and our garbage and set out in the dinghy. We used a stern anchor again, but this time we went into the beach (the little bit sticking out over high tide) and then left the dinghy floating with a stern anchor to hold it out and a bow line to some rocks and a bush on shore to hold it in. I went into the marina and traded in about 5 of my books. I left those in a bag near where the dinghy was tied so I didn't have to carry them. Bud asked Roosevelt Nixon where the dump was. He was amazed that we wanted to walk that far, but gave us instructions. Now Little Farmer's Cay is one and a quarter miles long and three quarters of a mile wide, so it couldn't be too far.
We asked another young man to confirm the directions once we got closer. He not only gave us directions, but also asked a younger boy who was going our way to point the way out to us. Folks here are just like that. Everyone you pass on the islands says hello or waves. All of the kids are polite (and they are all fascinated with Fuzzy, and a bit afraid of him). Anyway, we made it to the dump. There was a dog tied out there, he looked like a typical junkyard dog and he barked as we walked up, but being a Bahamian junkyard dog, he wagged his tail when Bud walked by him to toss our garbage into the pit.
Next we hiked over to the main part of town where we ordered some bread (to be picked up at 6 PM) and found the local fisherman. We asked him his prices and since he was asking about $3 or $4 per fish, Bud asked him to pull out what would be $15 worth. He pulled out a pretty big grouper and a couple of snappers and a red hind. He filleted them for us while we went to the grocery store and went up the hill to the other restaurant in town (besides at the yacht club where we're moored) and had a drink. We were able to get oranges, potatoes and tomatoes at the grocery. Those won't last many days after mail boat day.
I traded the last of my books in Ocean Cabin (the other restaurant) and Bud signed their guest book. The owner is quite a character and gave us a typed sheet with a picture of the Little Farmer's Cay flag and a history of the island. A freed slave from Great Exuma and her three children settled the island. They bought the entire island and deeded it to their dependants to be held in common. The people who live here are obviously proud of their island and their history. We sat on the front porch of Ocean Cabin with Fuzzy and had our drinks. The photo is the view from where I was sitting. It's no wonder the folks who live here are happy and proud.
After our history lesson we went down and picked up our fillets and walked back to the yacht club and our dinghy. We divided the fish up and our $15 got us about three meals worth. Not a bad price. We fed Fuzzy and when we took him ashore we walked back and picked up our bread. Then we came back and had a dinner of fresh grouper grilled with ginger, garlic and soy sauce and fresh warm bread. We also had baked potatoes, coleslaw and a sliced tomato. Yum!
03/11/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
Weather in the Bahamas seems to be a series of fronts with high-pressure ridges between. The times of high pressure have fair skies, but can be quite windy. The wind during times of high pressure is from the northeast, east or southeast, the prevailing wind here. Most of the islands have very nice anchorages along the western shores which are quite secure in fair, but windy weather. When a front comes through the wind first drops, then clocks around from to S to W to NW to N and back to east again. If it's a weak front the wind stays light the whole time and never builds until the high pressure is back.
The front that came through today was supposed to be stronger. At first the woman who gives the weather for the Staniel Cay area said that the folks anchored on the west side wouldn't have too much to worry about, as there would only be a few hours of wind from the west. We had already moved to the moorings here, and they are supposed to give all around protection, but there will be wind driven chop if the wind is from the northwest. There are no landmasses in that direction, but there are miles of shallow banks, so the waves don't get too big. This morning, the one weather guy that most of the cruisers listen to and many subscribe to, Chris Parker, said the winds here would be 17 to 22 knots from the northwest as the front passed and then tomorrow change to the north. The woman giving the Staniel weather suggested boats might want to move out of the western anchorages, as there could be 12 hours of 13 to 18 knot wind out of the northwest.
We could see the line of the front when we took Fuzzy to shore at 8:15 this morning, that's when I took this picture. I was worried about the boat's exposure to the northwest and thought we shouldn't go ashore today.
Walter, from the trawler moored with us, came over to help me with my Sailmail. Sailmail is a program that lets me send emails using the SSB radio and a modem. I'd bought all the equipment and the programs and Jeff Strothman (from TYC) had helped me set it up initially and we'd sent and received test emails. But since I got out here where I might want to use it, it hadn't worked. Walter came over and suggested I try to use the station in Rock Hill, NC rather than Daytona, FL. He also told me which frequencies work best at which times of the day. I sent several emails and learned how to get weather files. That was great information.
We got a bit of rain while Walter was on board as the front started through. The wind hadn't started yet. Around 1 or 2 in the afternoon the wind did pick up. At one point I think it got up to about 16 knots, but it seemed to be already NNW. Now, a few hours later, it's back down to about 10 to 12 knots and still more north than northwest. I think the boats could have stayed in the western anchorages and we certainly could have left the boat and gone to town today.
Since we stayed aboard Bud did have time to fix the fish. He ended up filleting it and made a fish curry that we ate over rice. There wasn't a lot of fish, but it was good.
Now Bud's out fishing again. So far he's had three strikes by big fish and lost three pieces of bait and one hook. He has a fish (maybe the one that's taken all his bait) on the line now. It's another Horse-Eyed Jack, so no dinner but he's having fun.
03/10/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
Bud did a little fishing off the boat again today. Using the ham scraps as bait, he soon caught a fish. I came up with the fish gloves and since this was a small fish he was able to bring it out of the water near the boat and I was able to grab it. No need to get in the dinghy to land this one. It was small enough that Bud intended to let it go, but when we got it on board, he found that it was hooked down into the gills and was bleeding. Bud couldn't get the hook out fast enough; the fish was quickly dying, so Bud dispatched it with the butcher knife.
Now the question was, what was it? It wasn't listed on our guide to South Carolina saltwater fishes, and it wasn't in the Florida Boater's Guide list of fishes. We found something like it listed in our reef guide (but no color photo). Since we have Internet here we did a web search and finally identified it as a Sand Filefish. It was supposed to be edible, and on examination, most of it's long narrow body was flesh, so there was probably enough to eat. There wasn't enough to fillet, though, so Bud was going to scale it. Before he went to that trouble he decided he should check with Roosevelt to see if it really was good to eat. So we wrapped the clean, but not scaled fish in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
Bud talked to Roosevelt and found that it was good eating (and that our mooring was one of two used by the fuel boat and the pendant went down to a length of chain that was secured to a 10 foot long I-beam pounded into the bottom - that should hold us through the front). Then Bud went off in the dinghy to catch more fish.
Fuzzy and I stayed aboard Earendil, since I'd had a bit of a headache for the past couple of days and the sun makes it worse. While Bud was gone a trawler came in to pick up a mooring. I saw them cruise by the mooring ball, I knew the woman was looking for the pendant and not finding it. I radioed them and gave them the advice we had gotten from the kind folks here before us and also let them know which was the other mooring used by the fuel boat. They had trouble picking up the mooring even knowing to hook the ball because the pendants are short and their bow was high. After they finally managed to grab it, he came over to thank me. We chatted a minute and he asked me if our boat was a Norseman. I couldn't believe he knew what it was, since most folks have never heard of a Norseman, and certainly couldn't recognize one if they saw it.
Later, they both came by to ask if we might like to come over for drinks at 5. While they were alongside Bud got back, but with no additional fish. We said we'd come, so we fed Fuzzy early, took him ashore and then headed to their boat. We had a nice visit; they are from Minnesota and sail on Lake Superior. This is the first trawler they've ever owned but have sailed for years, up on the Lakes and in the Caribbean. Chatting among boaters being what it is, it was soon past dark. We finally took our leave with many thanks.
By the time we got back to the boat it was too late to scale and cook the fish, so we had vegetarian chili from a mix. We're getting close, but still no fish dinner!
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!!