03/30/2011, Back at Monument Beach, Elizabeth Harbour
There is a wind shift due tomorrow evening. A mild front is coming through and we should get about 15 knot winds from the west. there are no good anchorages at Conception Island with protection from the west, so we decided to come back to Georgetown and Elizabeth Harbour. I suggested we come today, it looked like decent sailing and it would get us in and settled a day early. That way if a lot of other boats come tomorrow in anticipation of the front tomorrow night and Friday, we won't have to worry about finding a spot to anchor, we'll have ours.
So that's what we did. We had just about perfect sailing weather. We had around 12 to 15 knots of wind, mostly on the beam. We tried our wind vane self steering again. Bud had tightened the controlling lines that run from the device on the stern up to our wheel. The installation instructions say not to over tighten those lines, but most boats have the cockpit in the back, so the lines are relatively short. With a center cockpit ours are about 20 feet long. Bud decided that if he tied them as tight as he could get them, they wouldn't be too tight since they are so long. Once again we set everything up and engaged the wind vane. This time it worked! So the Monitor wind vane, that Bud named Sven, steered the boat all the way, today. When I get Internet access I'll post a photo of Sven on the job.
We learned a bit more about using it. It's tricky, because it steers a course to the apparent wind. The apparent wind is the wind you feel on the boat, and it's affected by the actual wind speed and direction as well as the boat speed and direction. What gets tricky is that if the actual wind changes velocity, the apparent wind not only changes velocity, it changes direction. So when you set the wind vane up, you need to set it for the average direction, considering that the wind speed is never constant. We also figured out how to help Sven take control again by dumping wind out of our main until Sven was able to steer the boat back on course. That was only necessary when the wind got strong enough that it was creating too much weather helm.
Altogether it was a good day's sail. We left Conception Island at 8:15 AM, sailed almost 44 nm at somewhere just over 6 knots, and got the hook set at 3:30 in the afternoon. Of course then we had to tidy the boat and launch the dinghy. Bud even checked the oil in the outboard before we put it back on the dinghy. We fed Fuzzy so we could make one trip ashore, to check the anchor (it was set, of course) and take Fuzzy ashore for his evening walk. All that got done and we were back aboard by 6 PM.
03/29/2011, Conception Island, Bahamas
Sorry about the double post yesterday. When I have Internet, I go right to the Sailblogs website and sign in and update my blog. I can then go and look at it and make corrections (if I catch them). Using Sailmail is a whole other process. First, Sailmail is a Windows program, so I have my Mac set up with a Mac side and a Windows side. Since I am a long time Mac user, I have all my other programs on the Mac side. That means when I sign on the Windows side to use Sailmail, that's the only thing I have. No picture editor, no word processing program, etc. Sailmail uses a modem connected to my SSB radio to send the emails. For regular email, I type the message and click a post button which puts the messages in an outbox. Sailblogs is set up to work with Sailmail, so for the blog I open a special window which is all set up to post the blog correctly. When I'm done entering the information I hit Send. I can't see that anything changes when I hit send. Once my messages are ready, I turn on the radio and open a terminal window on the computer. Then I have to find a land based station and a frequency that are both not in use, and not receiving too much interference to take my message. That's the hardest part. I didn't think my Sailmail was working at all until another cruiser, Jim from Summer of 42, came over and gave me some hints on selecting stations and frequencies. I'd been trying to use Daytona, FL, thinking that was closest and my best bet. He said he had better luck with Rock Hill, NC or Lunenberg, Nova Scotia! Last night I was having trouble. The only frequency I was finding that seemed to be reasonably clear was constantly busy. Now we come to the Mac/ Windows issue. When I use the Mac side of my computer I just fold the screen down if I will be away from the computer to save the battery. When I go to use it again, I open the screen and everything is exactly as I left it. Since it was taking so long to get a clear channel, I folded the screen down. I can listen to the clicks and buzzes on the radio and decide if the channel is clear. Unfortunately, when I opened it back up the computer had disconnected from the modem and the entire program had frozen. I ended up having to shut the computer down and reboot it. When I opened it up, my blog entry had disappeared. Thinking it was gone I typed it again. When I was finally able to get a clear channel and send my messages, I got a note that two blog entries had been sent. I still don't know where they go after the Sailblogs window closes, but now at least I know that once I click send they are saved somewhere!
Anyway, today was a fairly quiet day. We did have a visit from a school of squid. Bud spotted them, I came up to look. It was hard to tell they were even squid, but we thought they were. They just hung around the boat and the dinghy. After several minutes I decided to get the viewing bucket and try to get a better look at them. I got the bucket and climbed into the dinghy as carefully as I could, expecting them to shoot away at any moment. They continued to hang in the water near the dinghy and I used the bucket and really got to see them. They were dark colored with light purple spots and huge silvery blue eyes. They were from about 3 to 6 inches long. There were probably a dozen of them. Bud and I switched places and they still hung out and Bud was able to see them up close, too. I should have tried to take a photo through the viewing bucket, but I didn't think of that.
Bud had worked on the engine today. He's concerned because it leaks oil from a lot of places. Nothing huge, but the amount of oil in the bilge bothers him. Our automatic bilge pump didn't turn on and we think it might be because of the oil. It also might be because the switch is sitting at a bit of an angle, now. The switch and the intake hose are both fastened down to a small plastic plate that is supposed to sit on the bottom of the bilge. The hose is so stiff that it has the plate held at a slight angle and we can't get it to sit flat again. Bud wanted to find a 4 foot piece of wood on the beach that he could use between the bottom of our transmission and the top of the plate to hold it in place (that's how deep our bilge is). We walked Fuzzy early and looked to see if there might be anything we could use. As I've mentioned before, there isn't much driftwood around. Almost everything you find on the beach is plastic. Well today I found a 48 inch length of heavy, black, plastic pipe, about 4 inches in diameter. Perfect; we brought it back and we hope it solves our problem.
The first day here we saw a pair of Crocs on a rock on the beach. There was a couple walking down the beach, so I didn't think a thing of it, figuring they'd pick them up on their way back. In the morning, when we walked Fuzzy, they were still there. The people left and another couple of boats left and they were still there. The next time we went to the beach I tried them on, they fit, and I need shoes. So I watched, and when they were still there in the afternoon I went and picked them up. So the beach has yielded some good things for us.
03/28/2011, Conception Island, Bahamas
Bud went fishing again this morning, but didn't catch anything. After lunch we took our snorkel gear and dinghied to the beach and walked across the peninsula to the next little bay. I'll put a photo in the gallery that shows how close it is, you can see Earendil's mast sticking up over the peninsula. We rigged up a little patch of shade for Fuzzy with towels and some driftwood posts that someone else had made into a teepee frame. I sat down on a washed up jerry can and Bud tried snorkeling. Again there were no fish. I went in for a bit of a swim, just to cool down, then we walked down the beach a ways. We came to an area with a rock wall and a bit of a beach. I'll put a photo of Bud on that beach in the gallery. Bud spied some strange looking animals on the wall. I came down and took the photo that I will add to this entry. They look like giant trilobites. They were in niches in the rock wall, about waist high, so pretty close to the high tide line. I tried to find them in our reef identification guide, but could not.
Fuzzy was getting pretty hot, so we walked back and came back to the boat. Bud took off in the dinghy for a second round of fishing. He got back close to supper time and I didn't even ask if he'd caught anything. As I was helping him tie the dinghy to the boat, I looked down and saw that he actually had a good sized fish in the dinghy. We think it's a Jack or an Amberjack, but definitely not a Big Eye or Horse Eye Jack, so Bud filleted it and we are going to eat it. Bud dumped the fish carcass into the water and within a couple of minutes there were two rays and a shark there to get the fish scraps! The bigger of the rays was well over 3 feet across and black. The other one was about 18 inches across and blue-grey. There were also a lot of smaller fish swimming around on the bottom. It's the most fish we've seen since we got here. A really big shark swam past the stern of the boat a bit later. This one was better than 4 feet long. Makes me a bit nervous to think we both went swimming off the boat. Obviously these sharks are not interested in people, just in what we might throw out to them.
03/27/2011, Conception Island, Bahamas
Bud went out fishing in the dinghy this morning. I stayed aboard in the shade with Fuzzy. Bud said he was going to catch fish for supper. Right now Bud is making mushroom risotto, so you can see how successful he was.
After lunch we took the dinghy to find the creek that is supposed to be a good place to explore. We found it and approached the entrance carefully. There were some small breakers, we weren't sure just where to take the dinghy in. We did manage to get in and then wound our way back, picking out the channel as we went. Most of the interior of this island is mangroves with creeks winding through. These creeks are wide in many places, but a channel deep enough for a dinghy may be only a small part of the open area. Once we got up a ways we saw another dinghy further up, and those folks were paddling. So Bud shut the engine off and put the oars in place and started to row.
We took a different creek, so we didn't disturb the folks that were already there. We saw a few birds, many, many small fish, and one small shark. By the time we saw the shark we were in really shallow water. I had slipped forward part way off the bow to see if the bottom was muddy or sandy. It was sand. I found that I could sit on the forward edge of the bow and use my feet on the bottom to pull us along. I was doing that for a while trying to catch the shark. Not surprisingly, I was not successful. Bud got a picture of that, though, and I will post it with this entry when I get back to the Internet, because it's a good shot of the interior.
We hadn't seen any turtles, and there are supposed to be turtles, so Bud voted to go back and try snorkeling. It was slow rowing back out because the tide was still coming in. You're advised to explore the creeks at high tide, so we'd set off about an hour and a half before high tide. That way we wouldn't get stranded by the falling tide. It would have been easier if we'd stayed until slack tide, or actually come back out with the falling tide, but it was pretty hot, and there was no shade. On our way back out we did see a turtle.
As we came around the bend to the outlet, there was a fishing boat, around 20 or 22 feet long. He'd made it in! Then there were three more dinghies, all in a line. I was just as glad we missed the crowd.
Bud did go snorkeling, later. He explored some of the coral near shore here, but there wasn't much to see there. We both washed in the ocean and rinsed with our cockpit shower, so at least we're relatively clean again.
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.