03/17/2011, Elizabeth Harbour
We sailed into Elizabeth Harbor this afternoon. This is the harbor for Georgetown, but we are probably a mile by dingy from the town. We had a good sail, for the most part. We wanted to leave Little Farmer's Cay as early as we could because we had to go out Farmer's Cut into Exuma Sound. It can be really rough going out the cuts if the wind and current are opposing each other. High tide was at about 6:30 this morning, after that the water starts to flow back out, so the current would be going towards the east, while the wind would be coming from the east. Not good. But, you can't leave until you can see because there's no navigation aids and we don't know the waters. However, the earlier we left, the lighter the current (we hoped) and the wind (again we hoped). So we got up at 5:30 and readied whatever we hadn't been able to do last night. As soon as there was any light at all we took Fuzzy ashore. Then we still had to lift the engine off the dinghy and then lift and stow the dinghy. We managed to leave at about 7:50, which was about as early as I'd want to go (we're on Eastern Daylight Savings time here) as the sun wasn't too far up, and the glare in the water was substantial. I could really only see the bottom about 20 feet in front of the boat, but happily the information we'd gotten on finding the channel was correct, so I never had to ask Bud to change course. The cut was wavy, but really not bad.
We had quite a sail on the sound. Leaving early was the thing to do as the wind increased all day, as did the waves. The early going was pretty easy, but we were sailing fairly tight to the wind. As the day went on the wind increased and moved a bit further abeam, so Earendil was clipping along at well over 7 knots. That's good time when you consider that the waves by then were 4 to 5 feet. Since Earendil has a low bow, it was a very wet sail. The photo is just after we came up through a wave and the water is pouring off the jib. We did manage to pass a couple of boats that were probably 3 or 4 miles ahead of us when we came out of the cut. That was nice.
The next issue was negotiating the entrance to Elizabeth Harbor. A boater we'd talked to a day or so ago said it wasn't too tough, and the waypoints in the Explorer Chartbook for the Exumas worked well. I had those all entered into the chartplotter last night. Then today, as I was reviewing things before we came in I read the information in our other guidebook. "Don't ever enter Elizabeth Harbor by relying on waypoints." Oh great! Well, we used the waypoints, but of course we also watched the water and we really didn't have any trouble. The hardest part was getting the foresails furled, it was still pretty rough where we took them in, and Bud was having to negotiate the entrance turns. We managed, though.
Then we looked ahead and I was somewhat dismayed. There were masts everywhere! We wanted to anchor at Monument Beach, off the west shore of Stocking Island. Stocking Island lies to the east of Great Exuma and the area between these two long islands is Elizabeth Harbor. Since the prevailing winds are from the east and everything in the forecast is from NE to SE, we wanted to be along the west shore of Stocking, rather than the east shore of Great Exuma. So did everyone else. We went along the rows of boats looking for a place to anchor out of the ship channel (not marked, of course) but not in anyone else's way. We finally found a spot and anchored. Once we let out enough chain I thought we were a bit behind the boats on either side. I was worried, the ship channel isn't marked on the chartplotter charts, so we couldn't really tell if we were in it.
Meanwhile, we launched the dinghy, put the engine back on it, loaded up the gas can, paddles, lifejackets, anchor, viewing bucket and Fuzzy and went up to check our anchor and take Fuzzy to the beach. When I looked for the anchor I couldn't find it! We went back and checked and indeed, the Rockna was buried so deep not even the bail was showing, you could just see a little disturbed place where it had dug in (and it looked like it buried itself within a foot of where it landed). That is a stellar anchor! After we took Fuzz for his walk Bud dinghied off to the side to see if we really did stick out. We do, by almost a boat length compared to the people right around us.
We got back to the boat and finished tidying up the lines and covering the main. Even though we are getting really good at these tasks, it was 4:30 by the time we finished. And we arrived at the anchorage at 2:30. (That's another reason we like to leave as early as we can in the morning. At least with the change in time, and the longer days we have until 7:30 or so before the light really starts to fade.) Anyway, once things were done, we decided to plot our current position per the GPS on the one paper chart that shows a ship channel. Oh, yeah, we're in it. But actually, we're on the edge, and a ferry went by not long after we got here, and other than rocking us a lot with his wake, he didn't seem to have any problems getting by. Maybe if some people move we'll try to move forward, or maybe once we explore the harbor by dinghy we'll see somewhere better to move, but for the moment, we are here. I put photos in the gallery of the "monument" that gives Monument Beach it's name, and the view south of Earendil, with a forest of masts further in the harbor.
03/16/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
We're leaving for Georgetown tomorrow. It's the one weather window in the next week. We had originally planned to stop at a marina about 5 miles this side of Georgetown and do the wash and get water. But we heard that you could only get in or out that entrance when there wasn't much wind from the east. If we went there tomorrow, we'd be stuck for the better part of a week paying for a dock. So instead we'll go all the way to Georgetown and anchor. And we're doing another load of laundry here. It's not much of a laundry, but you have to pay for the water and electricity, so it's still $7 a load to wash and dry. We also bought 55 gallons of water ($0.40/gal), which we've brought on board in 5-gallon containers, 2 or 3 at a time. But it's a very short dinghy ride here and we may have up to a mile to go to get to town from the better anchorages in Georgetown, so better to schlep all this stuff back and forth here.
Chris Parker, the weather guru of these parts, is saying there might be a new weather pattern starting the end of next week, with more mild weather and lighter winds. If so, we can go to the marina then. That will be on our way out of Georgetown. Out to where, we're not sure yet. If there are mild weather intervals and periods of time with no strong fronts, we'll probably head east and then north and do some of the more remote islands (Conception Island, Cat Island and Eleuthera).
We're still waiting to hear where our daughter is going for her residency, and hoping she has an answer soon. In any case, we think we'll be working our way back to the US, and will not take off for good until at least next fall.
And we're looking for a marina somewhere to have some work done on the boat during the summer. We'd like to keep it as far south as possible, to avoid having to go up and come back down the ICW, but hurricanes and insurance, as well as Jamie's residency will all play a role in that. Living by the weather, one way or another.
The mail boat came in here this afternoon, so I got to confirm that it can't reach the dock. Last time it came at night, and I thought it anchored out, but it was hard to tell. This time I got a picture of the small barge-type boat they send out from the town dock to off-load their goods from the mailboat. The photo was added to the gallery.
03/14/2011, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
Bud, Fuzzy and I went over to the beach across the cut and walked down for about a mile. On the way we passed the wreck of the Blue Sky. Roosevelt Nixon told us how this wreck came to be there. About 10 years ago a hurricane came through here. One of the locals had the Blue Sky working at the corner of the cut. When the storm came he took the boat out into the channel and anchored it. The problem was, the anchor was much too small, and the line on it was huge, so the anchor never set. The boat was driven onto the shore and it's sat there rusting away ever since.
When we got to the wreck I was surprised to see that the anchor line was still there. Then up past the boat we saw the anchor. The anchor was no bigger than the one on our boat! And there was no chain on the anchor, just the line. The line isn't heavy enough to hold the shank of the anchor down so the anchor can set. No wonder the poor boat was lost. I put a picture of the anchor in the gallery.
We walked on past the wreck quite a ways. We passed Oven Rock, it's shaped like an old outdoor beehive oven. I put a picture of it in the gallery. We also saw two huge starfish right in the shallows where we beached the dinghy and I got a picture of one of them, too.
We tried to find the caves that our friends Jon and Arline had told us about, but we didn't find them. Fuzzy seemed really tired, so we came back.
Fuzzy didn't seem well this afternoon. We're not sure if he got overheated, or if he was just tired or if his feet were sore. He loves walking on the sand, but I think the abrasiveness of the sand and rocks might be hard on him. He is also constantly getting burs in his feet. We have to pull out two or three every time we take a walk. Anyway, by evening he seemed OK again.
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.