03/19/2011, Elizabeth Harbour
Today we did a lot of walking. First we dinghied over to a beach on Great Exuma Island about 5 miles north of Georgetown. Folks had told us on the cruisers net (VHF channel 72 at 8 AM) that it was the closest beach to Smitty's Pharmacy. It turned out to be a very nice beach. There was a beach access path in from the road. I turned around and took this picture back out into the cove from along the path. The walk to the pharmacy was probably about a mile. Happily they had Bud's medicine, and at about a quarter of the cost in the US. Unfortunately they had only two months' worth, and the script was for three months.
In the afternoon we decided to hike across Stocking Island on a path we'd been told about and walk up to a resort that was supposed to have Internet available (for sale). We carried the computer with us, but figured that was better than risking getting it wet on the dinghy ride to Georgetown. The hike across was pretty short and from the highest point there was a beautiful view of the ocean side and the beach, but my camera battery chose that moment to die, so no photo. It was then further down the beach than the distance we'd come across, until we got to the back side of the resort (the front side is on one of the bays off Elizabeth Harbour). We asked a woman walking along the beach if we could cut through to the resort from the beach and she said we could. She was walking our way so we talked to her a bit about the difficulties of getting Internet access, and especially anywhere that would give you good enough access to use Skype. She said the resort didn't let you Skype, that most places asked you not to and she usually only did it once a week from the Exuma Market (in Georgetown, where we bought our groceries). Since they didn't allow Skype at the resort and that was the main reason we wanted to use the Internet we decided to skip it. We turned around and walked back to the beach in front of the boat. I carried Fuzzy in the doggy pack we have for him because Bud was afraid he was getting too worn out from all the walking.
Since we wanted to talk to our daughter we decided to bite the bullet and dinghy back to Georgetown. We took two bags of garbage (we had all the packaging we'd taken off of our groceries). So we had another walk, Bud to the garbage dumpster for the boaters and me to the store that has a phone you can use for 15 cents a minute to the US. I finally reached Jamie, but the phone kept cutting out, so I gave up after about 10 minutes and 4 disconnects. I am getting so frustrated with the communications! There has got to be a better way to stay in touch!
Oh well, we did have nice walks and saw more of the area.
03/18/2011, Elizabeth Harbour
This morning we decided we should move the boat forward a bit and try to get out of that ship channel. So Bud started the engine while I went up and pulled the anchor chain in far enough to untie the snubber line. Then I raised the anchor until it was dangling just out of the water while Bud pulled the boat forward. When we got far enough forward I dropped the anchor again. The only problem was the anchor blades were thick with sand and the anchor was hanging backwards from the chain. I thought it might flip when it hit the bottom, but because of the sand on it, it didn't. When Bud backed off on the anchor the boat moved backwards, the anchor wasn't set. So we had to raise it again, only this time I forgot to tell Bud when it lifted off the bottom, so the boat started to blow back in the wind and Bud had to circle around and come back into the spot. Meanwhile, I took one of dinghy paddles and scraped the sand off the anchor and turned the swivel so the anchor was facing correctly. This time it set. We checked it with the viewing bucket on the way in to take Fuzzy to the beach, and it was buried up to the bail again.
Once we were back aboard we got ready to go into Georgetown. We haven't had a real grocery shop since Nassau, and that's been more than a month. We figured we have to make at least two trips with the dinghy to get everything we needed. It was a long ride across, and the closer we got to Georgetown the rougher the harbor was. There were probably two-foot waves as we rounded the point. The dinghy dock we were headed for was in front of the Exuma Market on Lake Victoria. You get to it through a very small cut under a bridge that carries the main street of Georgetown. The photo above is of another dinghy coming into Lake Victoria from the harbor. A lot of the guys pilot their dinghies standing with an extension built onto the outboard control. They use their other hand to hold onto a rope running back from the bow. Standing gives you better visibility to look for shallow water, but mostly it keeps you dry. Anyway, we were not dry when we approached the cut, and it was far rougher than in the photo, because when we came in the tide was running out and the wind was blowing in and there were some nasty standing waves right in front of the bridge. I was still sitting forward on the bow because the boat planes better that way. Bud slowed down quickly (speed limit under the bridge is 3 mph) and I tried to move back, but before I could react one of the standing waves broke over the bow. We had about three inches of water inside the dinghy and the engine stopped. I grabbed a paddle to try to keep us off the wall, another boater in a dinghy right behind us offered a tow, but Bud got the outboard started again immediately and we went the rest of the way into the dock. I had been carrying Fuzzy in my lap, but had to put him down to grab the paddle. Poor Fuzz was standing in water (so were poor Bud and Jill, come to think of it). Anyway, we made it safely and our passports and other papers we'd brought to renew our visas were dry inside the plastic pouch even though our carry-bag was soaked.
When we got to town we walked our trash over to the dumpster for cruisers that's out on the government dock. Next we walked to where immigration was supposed to be according to the guidebook, and then walked back across town to where the folks in that building said it really was. I went in and presented our papers while Bud waited outside with Fuzzy. I didn't have our departure cards, so she couldn't extend our visas. And they expire on Monday, so she said we needed come back with them today. Bud was not at all thrilled to hear about that, not relishing another go at the cut. As long as we were there, Bud went in and got a cartload of groceries.
We loaded up the dinghy, somehow managed to fit us back inside and headed back. The tide was pretty much out, so there were much smaller waves at the cut, but the wind was stronger, so the waves on the harbor were bigger. Plus now we were headed into the wind and waves. By the time we got across the harbor, all of us were soaked again, poor Fuzzy got soaked even sitting on my lap.
We hauled the groceries aboard and unpacked and stowed them. We pull everything out of cardboard boxes and repack those things, because we heard you could get roaches from the cardboard. I spent about 15 minutes going through all of our papers trying to find our departure cards. I finally started going through all the folders of papers I had stored in the aft cabin and found the one I'd set up for the paperwork we got for the country we were in. I'd forgotten about it, because we'd had to use our passports and cruising permit to check in to marinas, so the only things left in it were Fuzzy's papers and our departure cards.
We had a quick bite for lunch, changed our soaked and salty shirts, and set out again. This time we decided to leave Fuzzy behind. Even though he hates being alone on the boat, it seemed kinder than making him take another of those dinghy rides. As it turned out, the ride over wasn't too bad, and now the tide was running in (same direction as the wind) and the cut was no problem at all. It took us about 45 minutes, but we got our visas extended for another 90 days (we'd only asked for another 60) so we are all set. I took a picture of Lake Victoria and what you could see of Georgetown from the second floor open hallway at the immigration office. It's in the gallery.
We went back to the market and bought another cartload of groceries. While I was carrying that down to the dinghy, Bud went to the liquor store and got two cases of beer. We loaded all that stuff in the dinghy, being careful of our papers and the dozen eggs we'd bought. Back we headed. The wind and waves were down a bit, so we were only half drenched by the time we got back. We unloaded and unpacked and repacked and stowed all this stuff.
Now it was time to feed Fuzzy. Bud stowed his beer while I did dishes (not done since the night before our sail) and then we took Fuzzy ashore. At about 8 PM we finally got to sit down for supper. It was the most interesting and most exhausting trip to the grocery store I've ever made!
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.