03/26/2011, Conception Island, Bahamas
We struck out for a new island today. In our Explorer Chartbooks, we're in the Far Bahamas edition. In Steve Pavlidis books we are in the Southern Bahamas edition. This island is about 44 nm from Emerald Bay, east and a little north. The wind today was supposed to be 5 to 10 knots from the ESE to SE. Our heading was 74 degrees, so we thought with a light wind, close hauled (sailing close to the wind) it would be a decent sail. And it started out that way. We came out and had 11 knots of apparent wind and were doing about 7 knots. As soon as we tried to set up our wind vane self steering things started to go bad. The wind kept dropping, and then moved around. Our boat speed dropped to under 3 knots. We started the engine. We motor sailed for quite a while, and then there wasn't enough wind to fill the headsails, so we pulled them in and continued with just the main.
We crossed the Exuma Sound. At one point the water was over a mile deep. It was that pure, deep blue we first saw in the Gulf Stream. There were virtually no waves. I'd rather some wind and some waves, but it was a good trip anyway.
We left the dock at about five after 7 in the morning, and dropped the anchor in West Bay of Conception Island at pretty close to 3:45 in the afternoon. By 5:15 we had the anchor all set, the dinghy launched and the engine on it, we'd taken our viewing bucket and check to see the Rocna buried again to the bail and then went on to take Fuzzy ashore. We came back, zipped up the stack pack for the main, tidied up all of the lines, taken the windows out of t he dodger and put the middle section in the bimini and were basically moved in for the duration.
There are 10 boats here. No one lives on this island, it's a national park, and the nearest island is about 20 miles away. The water is unbelievably clear. Coming in I was seeing rocky areas on the bottom in over 50 feet of water. There are supposed to be a lot of tropic birds here, but we haven't seen them yet. Even though the land is a park, you are allowed to fish here, so Bud is pretty happy. He just caught another little jack, using cheese as bait. Right after he hooked it he was looking to see what he had and saw a huge shark (maybe 5 feet long). He thought he'd caught the shark, but then the shark left and he landed and released the little jack. The shark was just interested in the jack.
This is my first attempt at sending my blog using the SSB (single side band) radio. I won't be able to add the pictures or actually see the blog on-line or any added comments until I get to the Internet again. I can enter our position data, but this will only take hundreths of seconds, where the chartplotter gives a reading to 0.001 second.
03/25/2011, Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
This morning I took advantage of the good Internet connection here (and the FedEx package of our mail that we'd picked up in Georgetown that had the last of our W-2's in it) and filed our taxes. I sat outside in the shade on the nicely upholstered wicker chairs provided, with my computer plugged in to an outside outlet. The temperature was perfect. It was shady and quiet and about as painless a process as you can get for filing taxes. I managed to get both the Federal and State forms done (we get a refund from both, yeah) and set things up to have the refund direct deposited into our bank account. I really felt like this was a major accomplishment.
Bud and I also used Skype to call home and talk to family. Having a good Internet connection makes things so nice. Too bad that isn't available in the really beautiful and remote anchorages. We're looking into on-board systems, but they are very expensive, and the coverage may not be that great anyway. We'll keep investigating.
After lunch I walked back to the store for a couple of things. I'm trying to find dominoes, but they didn't have them. The clerk thought they might have them at the hardware store, about a mile and a half down the road. She said it was right on the main road, by the hill and across from the Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) tower. The tower would be on my right, the hardware store on my left. I walked what seemed like at least a mile and a half and came to a Batelco tower on a hill, but it was on a side road. Before I walked the quarter mile up the hill towards the tower I asked a young woman waiting for someone in a parking lot. She said there was a hardware store, but it was about another mile on down the road. I debated, but it was hot and I was tired. I decided to go back. I saw there was beach access, so cut through to the beach that fronts the Sandals Resort near the marina. All the beaches in the Bahamas are public, so walking through the beach was no problem. I cut the trip back about in half, and was able to walk barefoot in the cool sand rather than along the dusty shoulder of the road.
Bud, meanwhile, changed out the raw water impeller on the engine. He'd checked it in Charleston, but felt it was time to replace it. We need to get a new one to have as a spare, but we now have two used, but serviceable ones in case of emergency. He also adjusted the stuffing box again. I've felt it isn't dripping enough. It's proving hard to get it adjusted to our satisfaction. We'd like it to drip once every 10 to 60 seconds when the prop shaft is spinning, and not at all when the shaft is still.
While dinner was cooking (Bud made homemade split pea and ham soup) we walked around the marina. Bud walked back to make sure the soup was OK and I continued around. The marina is huge. I took this shot of the main part in the setting sun on my way back around. I also came across two of the odd tailless birds we first noticed on the golf course here. They let me get quite close, so I got a fairly good shot of one, which is in the gallery. It lacks clarity because it was getting on to dusk when I took it.
Early tomorrow we are leaving for Conception Island. It's supposed to be pristine. It's also uninhabited. We have full fuel tanks, full water tanks, the wash is done and we've both had several long, hot showers. So it's back to the wild again. I've figured out how to post to the blog via email using our SSB radio, so hopefully there will be blog posts but I won't be able to add any photos until we have Internet again.
03/24/2011, Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
This seemed like the first serious hot day we've had. It may be because we're in a marina and we're not used to not having every little breeze to cool us. It may be that it actually was the hottest day so far. We listen to the weather every morning, but the weather we hear talks about high-pressure ridges, low-pressure troughs, approaching cold fronts and how all of those affect wind direction and speed. The possibility of rain is mentioned, but I have never heard anything about the temperature. I really don't know what the temperature is each day. I think most days have been in the upper seventies, and I think today was in the mid eighties, but that's just what I think.
Anyway, it seemed pretty hot today and there wasn't much wind. The sun was shining through the dodger and down into the galley and onto the fridge and freezer. We have a hard time keeping the freezer cold enough and the sun wasn't helping. So I took our reflective tarp and rigged a shade over the dodger. Ugly, but fairly effective.
We did get to do the wash, for free. And we walked to the grocery store and got a few more items. Most importantly, to Bud, he went to the liquor store next to the grocery store and was able to get beer for only $36 a case. That's much better than the $70 a case they charge on Little Farmer's Cay. In fact it's the cheapest beer outside of Nassau. So the area under our bed is full of cans of beer again.
This evening we went into the boaters lounge here and watched "Captain Ron" with a bunch of the other cruisers. They couldn't believe we'd never seen this movie, I guess it's a must see for anyone contemplating cruising. It was pretty funny.
03/23/2011, Emerald Bay, Great Exuma
Today we came back about 12 miles to the Marina at Emerald Bay. They have floating docks, metered water at the boat, showers, FREE laundry, FREE WiFi and all this at the "non-service dock" (no electric) for $1/foot. I just checked out the bathrooms and the laundry that are in the two story solid yellow building in the photo. Very nice. This place is run by Sandals Resorts and the bathrooms are resort quality.
We motor sailed here; actually, we motored here with the mainsail up more or less for show. The wind was close to on the stern and not much more than boat speed. I guess we were getting a little push from the sail. In any case, by time we got out of Conch Cut leaving Elizabeth Harbour we had only another 7 or so miles to go.
We planned our stay here for a period of time with no strong easterly winds. The entry to this marina is cut between two reefs and runs southeast off Exuma Sound. When there's a good blow from any easterly direction I guess the swell gets so bad that the entry becomes impassable. Even today, after a day of moderate winds yesterday and downright light winds today (and today's wind was more south than east) there were pretty big rollers coming in the cut. Once inside you're totally protected and the whole marina is 14 or more feet deep.
It was a real shock to get out dock lines and actually have to come alongside and dock. We did stop at the dock at Staniel Cay on the first of March for water, but the last time we were actually docked was in Nassau almost 6 weeks ago. Today we had to dock twice. First we pulled into the fuel dock and took on 23 gallons of fuel (we really burn through the fuel, that's about a gallon a day), and then we came in to our slip.
We hadn't been here long when a woman walked up and asked us if we were from Wilson, or just the boat. When we told her we were, she said she and her husband were from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club at Smuggler's Cove on the Ontario side of the Niagara River. Their boat is right behind ours. We didn't realize it because they never changed the homeport and it just says Midland (for Midland, Ontario). We didn't even notice the Canadian flag, so it could have been Midland, Texas, for all we knew. Anyway, they are Martha and Bob on the D.W. Crow, in case any TYCers know them.
So now I'm going to post all the entries and all the photos since I last had Internet. Sorry for the down time.
03/21/2011, Elizabeth Harbour
The predicted wind was late in arriving. Bud and I were both restless last night waiting for the 30-knot gusts. When we got up this morning we found the weather was just north of Georgetown. We got dressed in a hurry and took Fuzzy ashore earlier than usual. Once we were back on board the rain came. That was welcome. There was enough rain to actually wash the salt off the boat.
After the rain the wind started. It hasn't been as bad as it might have been; the wind isn't steady. It blows 16 to 18 knots for a while, and then there are times when it really starts to hum. I saw gusts of 29 knots on our instruments. You can see the breakers hitting the reef at the north end of Stocking Island more than a mile away. You can also see little breakers on the west shore of the harbor about three-quarters of a mile away. Not a day to go to Georgetown. Our anchor and all those we can see in the harbor are holding and there is as much sunshine as clouds, so it's not a bad day to sit on the boat.
This morning Bud trimmed Fuzzy, who was getting quite shaggy again. We ran the generator to top off the batteries and run the vacuum cleaner. We could probably run the vacuum off the inverter, but it would be quite a load.
I made the world's ugliest blueberry pie. I thought we had a pie tin, but we didn't, so I made the pie in a square cake pan. There wasn't going to be enough crust or filling to really fill the pan, so I curled up the edges so it looks like a giant misshapen tart sitting in the cake pan. Hopefully it will taste OK; we're going to have it for supper.
We just took it easy this afternoon. We both napped a bit to make up for the lack of sleep last night.
This wind is supposed to die down in 6 to 12 hours. It's choppy at the boat, but not too bad because we're close to the east shore. We'll wait until early evening to venture to the beach with Fuzzy again, and hopefully not get too wet.
03/20/2011, Elizabeth Harbour
We talked this morning about perhaps moving the boat to get it in a little closer to shore. There are strong winds predicted tonight and all day tomorrow. We have to take Fuzzy ashore twice a day and as far out as we were anchored we were likely to have a good chop and get wet, especially getting from the dinghy to the boat. When we took the dog ashore we cruised around a bit with the dinghy to look for a likely spot, but we didn't really see anything that looked like it would work that would gain us enough to make it worthwhile to weigh and then reset the anchor.
Then while we were refilling the dinghy gas tank the boat in front of us left. We immediately made ready to pull the anchor and move forward. We dropped the anchor once, but it was surprisingly deep there and by the time we let out the proper amount of rode (anchor chain) we felt we were too close to the boat behind us. So we pulled it up again and repositioned and dropped it again. It was still deep, we needed to have about 100 feet of anchor chain out, but this time we ended up right in the middle of the clear area, not too close to anyone (see photo in gallery). Our anchor chain is only marked every 50 feet, so after the first 50 I have to estimate how much is going out. I was going to let it out until I saw the mark for 100 feet, then pull it back and attach the snubber, but we decided we didn't want to go back much further, so I tied the snubber on where we were and let it out until the snubber went taught. The hundred-foot mark on the chain was right at the waterline. Perfect. And we pulled and set the anchor both times without a hitch, thanks to our two-way headsets. We quickly dinghied out to check the set of the anchor with the viewing bucket. It was buried with only about 8 inches along the top of the bail showing above the sand. Again, perfect.
Once that was done we took showers using the hot water from running the engine (our water heater heats via AC or the engine) and gave Fuzzy a bath, so he's not a salty dog, at least until another wet trip to Georgetown. Bud changed the engine oil (again since the engine was warm) and I changed the sheets. So now we and the boat are nice and tidy and all tucked in ready for the blow.
We took the afternoon off to do a bit more exploring. We hiked up to the monument (a few photos in the gallery) and that's where I got this shot looking south along the length of Stocking Island. That's also where I took the photo of Earendil in her new anchor position. Fuzzy gets tired on our hikes, so I brought his front pack and he got carried for about half the hike.
We're back on the boat and almost ready for a nice Chinese dinner prepared by chef Bud. A very good day, indeed.