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S/V Earendil
A Pleasant Surprise
Jill
04/18/2011, Bennett's Harbour, Cat Island, Bahamas

When we planned our trip back, going to Cat Island was just a way to easily get to Eleuthera and the Abacos. So far, Cat Island has been my favorite place in the Bahamas. I thought New Bight was nice, with its picturesque Hermitage and only two other boats in the bay. Today, we came a bit over 26 nm north along the west shore of Cat Island to Bennett's Harbour.

We aren't actually in the harbor, which is very small and has no room to anchor. I guess if a front came by with winds from the west we could seek refuge there and tie to the large cement government dock, but there's nothing but easterlies in the forecast, so we are anchored just outside the harbor on one of the prettiest beaches I've seen. And we are the only cruising boat in sight!

Not only that, but when we checked the anchor, we took the dinghy and the viewing bucket over a few of the little coral heads that were close here, to see if we could let a bit more chain out and not hit them with the keel if the wind changed direction. They were deep enough, and they were varied, some stone-type coral, some fan-type coral and the biggest reef fish I've seen to date. It was a dark purple-blue with lighter spots and it was probably 18" long. We are anchored so the boat my drift close to them, but the anchor and chain are in clear sand, so we won't damage any of the little corals.

The town is supposed to have produce in season, there is good snorkeling right around the boat, and there is a creek nearby that is "teeming with marine life" that we can explore by dinghy. And we have the whole place to ourselves - except for the people who live here and at least one person staying at a nearby rental cottage. Still, this feels more secluded than uninhabited Conception Island, with 12 boats at anchor. Very nice!

Plus, we had a fine day's sail getting here. We tried something new today. We hoisted the main while still at anchor. I suggested we try it because we had plenty of room. The main needs to go up while the boat is facing into the wind. There was no current at New Bight, so the boat faced the wind while anchored. It worked beautifully, and we had the jib up and the engine killed almost immediately. We sailed out of that little bay with the wind pretty close to the stern. Then we turned northwest and sailed a broad reach for about 16 miles. The last four were a sleigh ride as close to the wind as we could sail. We got right near the beach before we turned to take the jib in and put the engine back on. The main came down and we were anchored PDQ. I don't think we went much over a half mile with the engine on today. Also very nice (and it keeps the boat cooler).

Some Thing Work and Some Things Don’t
Jill
04/17/2011, New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas

We did a few more chores today. Bud trimmed Fuzzy again and while he did that I took apart his one fishing reel that wasn't working anymore. I found a gear inside with about 6 missing teeth all in a row. So that reel is dead unless a replacement gear is available. At least Fuzzy got his face and feet and front legs trimmed. We had the generator on (not much wind the last couple of days) so after Bud finished with Fuzzy I vacuumed. The boat always needs to be vacuumed, there is always sand that gets tracked down. Mostly on Fuzzy's feet. We try to clean his feet before he gets in the dinghy for the ride back from the beach. He stands on a towel in the dinghy until I pick him up, that also takes off some of the sand. But it's never all off, so a little gets in the salon, and that adds up pretty quickly.

We decided to hook the mechanical autopilot back up. We did that for two reasons; first, on these short island hops we could really use it to run the boat while we put sails up and down. That would probably be more help than steering the few hours between waypoints. Second, we want to try the Monitor again with the autopilot hooked up. We're hoping that with the control ropes tight enough Sven can handle the wheel even with the extra drag of the autopilot.

In the afternoon Bud finished hooking up the hookah and tried using it. Once he adjusted the engine speed of the little Honda that runs the compressor it worked pretty well. He took a wire brush and scraper and cleaned the algae beards off the metal parts under the boat. He cleaned most of the seacocks, the shaft and propeller, the zincs and the bronze grounding plates. I forgot to take a picture of Bud using the hookah, so I took this one it lashed to the aft deck, which is where it will live from now on.

I was hopeful that cleaning the grounding plates would enable me to use Sailmail again, but I still couldn't transmit. I'm going to need help figuring this one out. I was doing so well, and suddenly I can't transmit at all. So no posts until I find Internet again.

Visiting the Hermitage
Jill
04/16/2011, New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas

Right where we're anchored on Cat Island is the highest point of land in the Bahamas, Mt. Alverna (also called Mt. Comer). On the top is The Hermitage. We walked up there this morning (before it got too hot). The Hermitage was built by Father Jerome, an Anglican turned Catholic priest who was also an architect. He designed several churches throughout the Bahamas and in 1940, when he was 64, built this little place for his retirement. He made it out of native rock and built it himself. All of it is small, either he was a very small man or he had to duck to get through his doorways. It has a little chapel, a kitchen and a pantry in the main area with a bedroom down and outside hall. There is a covered well and off further a small building with an inside and an outside oven.

The view from the 204-foot "mountain" is spectacular. In the picture Bud took of Fuzzy and me in front of the bell tower, you can see the bay and if you look closely in the arch between the bell tower and the chapel you can just see Earendil at anchor. In the opposite direction from the photo, to the east, you can see the Atlantic.

On the way up to the Hermitage are the 12 Stations of the Cross along a very steep path. At the steepest parts there are very small stairs cut or built into the stone.

The Hermitage is the major tourist attraction on Cat Island. We were there early, but saw only two people the entire way up and down. One was a man on a bicycle right near the beginning of the access road. He said he ran the gas station and was out cutting brush to feed the goats he kept at the station. The other was a young man cutting the ground around the Hermitage by hand. It's all too steep and rough to use any kind of equipment, so I imagine the entire area is maintained by hand.

On our way up we passed several areas that had been burned, and it looked like the brush had been cut back about shoulder high. Upon closer inspection we saw that these were gardens. They are more stone than dirt, but among the stones and the brush we saw sweet corn, tomatoes and a green that looked something like collards. This island is supposed to be one of the produce suppliers for the Bahamas. No wonder most of the produce you see in the grocery stores is imported from the US. What patience it must take to try and get a garden to grow here.

At the bottom of the hill, right near the beach and bay where we're anchored, is the ruin of an old plantation house. It's the Henry Hawkins Armbrister great house and was built in the 1760's. The Armbrister family still owns and runs a resort near here called the Fernandez Bay Village Resort. I put photos of the mornings exploring in the gallery.

We spent the rest of the day on the boat. Bud set up his diving hookah for the first time. He started the little Honda engine and the compressor worked, as did the regulator (the part that you put in your mouth that delivers the air). Tomorrow there's not supposed to be any wind, so we're going to try the hookah in the water.
I worked around the boat and also cut down Fuzzy's dog port-a-potty so it would fit on the cockpit floor. We're hoping he will feel secure enough there to use it if we sail too long. We're planning to do a 24 to 36 hour sail when we cross back to the US. From what we've heard, Fuzzy might just wait the whole time, but in case he can't, we want that ready.

We Sail with Some Circles
Jill
04/15/2011, New Bight, Cat Island, Bahams

We left Emerald Bay today and sailed to Cat Island. We were surprised when we left the marina at how strong the wind was (over 14 knots, it was supposed to be around 10) and at how big the waves were (4 to 5 feet). Before we even put any sails up we had to take the time to put in the windows in the dodger. We were also surprised at the wind direction, we were expecting the wind to be on the beam, instead it was quite forward of that, it was going to be a tight sail. We set the main with two reefs in it and the jib with a little over a reef in that. Even so, we were doing over 7 knots.

We wanted Sven, our Monitor wind vane, to steer the boat again, so we knew we couldn't have too much sail up. The apparent wind (what the wind feels like on the boat) was over 18 knots, so we decided to put a third reef in the main. That's when we sailed in our first circle. Bud turned to put the bow into the wind so I could reef the main. To add a reef I have to drop the main down below the reefing point, pull the forward reefing line taut, raise the main back up tight against that reef point, and then pull the aft reef point taut. While I was doing that, Bud got the boat a little too far over and the wind caught on the back sides of the sails. Since we had lost all our forward momentum Bud had me turn the engine on and he drove the boat in a circle until we were back pointing the right direction again. By then the main was reefed and we shut the engine down and continued to sail. We did get Sven set up and he took the helm for several hours.

Unfortunately, the wind began to drop and when it did, it moved more to the north. Bud decided to hand steer because he was trying to keep the boat as close to the wind as he could. He also decided we needed more mainsail to help sail closer to the direction of the wind. We went from three reefs, to one reef to the full main. On one of those switches we managed the sailing in a circle thing again. This time we didn't use the engine though.

We put out the staysail, too. That helps us sail closer to the wind. For a while we still had the jib with a reef in it. The boat was sailing about 34 degrees off the apparent wind and making about 6.5 knots. That's impressive. The wind dropped some more and we pulled the reef out of the jib, so we had all the sails out full. That's the way we were when we reached the big bay we're anchored in at Cat Island. We had to turn further east, which would put us closer into the wind, but happily, when we reached the bay the wind finally moved a bit south, so we were able to make the 10 degree turn and keep sailing. We had 10 miles to sail across the bay to where we wanted to anchor.

Not too much later the wind veered back, but Bud decided to keep sailing. A first he was going to sail as far as he could just off the course and then turn towards the wind and drop the headsails. But we tightened the sails as much as we could and he was managing to sail at 25 degrees off the wind, so he thought we should try to tack and sail in further. Before that he figured he'd better bring his trolling line in, so I took the helm. I was keeping the boat just as close to the wind as it would go. Suddenly I saw some coral heads in front of us and off to port. I told Bud there were coral heads in front of us and I didn't know how deep they were. "Well steer around them" he said."I can't", said I, "I can't come any closer to the wind." "Well go below them." But that was to port where there were more. So Bud laid down his fishing pole and started the engine and reminded me to put it in gear and I steered the boat above them. Bud took back the helm, but the wind caught the back sides of the sails again. Rather than go in a circle that time, we tacked (brought the headsails to the other side) and sailed in a new direction. It was sooner than Bud intended to tack, but we would just have to tack back to head in when we got far enough in this direction. We actually managed to sail right up to the anchorage with one more tack.

But we weren't quite done with circles for the day. Once the sails were down I went up on the bow to drop the anchor. As we approached the place we were going to drop I tried to get the anchor loose and it wouldn't come. Luckily we had replaced the batteries in the communicators and they were working great so I told Bud what was happening and he kept the boat moving slowly forward while I raced below and checked the chain in the anchor locker. The chain had toppled over so the chain going up to the anchor was buried a bit. I tugged it loose and raced up on deck, but I still couldn't get it loose at the windlass (the device that pulls the anchor up - ours only powers up, some power up and down). I ended up pulling some chain from the locker up on deck so I could take the chain off the windlass (it fits into little openings around the base of the windlass, sort of like a gear). I think the anchor was just pulled in too tight, because once I got a it off the windlass and pulled a bit out I was able to fit it back around the windlass and it was free and worked fine. All this only took a minute. When I freed it, the anchor started to drop, so I stood on the chain. Now the anchor was dangling off the bow roller, and I was holding it from dropping with my foot.

We were working our way towards shore and were ready to drop when we came up on some little coral heads. We didn't know how deep they were, and we didn't want to be dragging our anchor chain over them, so Bud turned back. He ended up making two more circles before we found a spot that was as close to shore as we could get and not around any little coral heads.

It's a lovely spot, the anchor is set, we used all our sails in about every configuration, so all in all it was a good day, even if we did sail in circles here and there.

We Sail with Some Circles
Jill
04/15/2011, New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas

We left Emerald Bay today and sailed to Cat Island. We were surprised when we left the marina at how strong the wind was (over 14 knots, it was supposed to be around 10) and at how big the waves were (4 to 5 feet). Before we even put any sails up we had to take the time to put in the windows in the dodger. We were also surprised at the wind direction, we were expecting the wind to be on the beam, instead it was quite forward of that, it was going to be a tight sail. We set the main with
two reefs in it and the jib with a little over a reef in that. Even so, we were doing over 7 knots.

We wanted Sven, our Monitor wind vane, to steer the boat again, so we knew we couldn't have too much sail up. The apparent wind (what the wind feels like on the boat) was over 18 knots, so we decided to put a third reef in the main. That's when we sailed in our first circle. Bud turned to put the bow into the wind so I could reef the main. To add a reef I have to drop the main down below the reefing point, pull the forward reefing line taut, raise the main back up tight against that reef point, and then pull the aft reef point taut. While I was doing that, Bud got the boat a little too far over and the wind caught on the back sides of the sails. Since we had lost all
our forward momentum Bud had me turn the engine on and he drove the boat in a circle until we were back pointing the right direction again. By then the main was reefed and we shut the engine down and continued to sail. We did get Sven set up and he took the helm for several hours.

Unfortunately, the wind began to drop and when it did, it moved more to the north. Bud decided to hand steer because he was trying to keep the boat as close to the wind as he could. He also decided we needed more mainsail to help sail closer to the direction of the wind. We went from three reefs, to one reef to the full main. On one of those switches we managed the sailing in a circle thing again. This time we didn't use the engine though.

We put out the staysail, too. That helps us sail closer to the wind. For a while we still had the jib with a reef in it. The boat was sailing about 34 degrees off the apparent wind and making about 6.5 knots. That's impressive. The wind dropped some more and we pulled the reef out of the jib, so we had all the sails out full. That's the way we were when we reached the big bay we're anchored in at Cat Island. We had to turn further east, which would put us closer into the wind, but happily, when we reached the bay the wind finally moved a bit south, so we were able to make the 10 degree turn and keep sailing. We had 10 miles to sail across
the bay to where we wanted to anchor.

Not too much later the wind veered back, but Bud decided to keep sailing. A first he was going to sail as far as he could just off the course and then turn towards the wind and drop the headsails. But we tightened the sails as much as we could and he was managing to sail at 25 degrees off the wind, so he thought we should try to tack and sail in further. Before that he figured he'd better bring his trolling line in, so I took the helm. I was keeping the boat just as close to the wind as it would go. Suddenly I saw some coral heads in front of us and off to port. I told Bud there were coral heads in front of us and I didn't know how deep they were. "Well steer
around them" he said."I can't", said I, "I can't come any closer to the wind." "Well go below them." But that was to port where there were more. So Bud laid down his fishing pole and started the engine and reminded me to put it in gear and I steered the boat above them. Bud took back the helm, but the wind caught the back sides of the sails again. Rather than go in a circle that time, we tacked (brought the headsails to the other side) and sailed in a new direction. It was sooner than Bud intended to tack, but we would just have to tack back to head in when we got far enough in this direction. We actually managed to sail right up to the anchorage with
one more tack.

But we weren't quite done with circles for the day. Once the sails were down I went up on the bow to drop the anchor. As we approached the place we were going to drop I tried to get the anchor loose and it wouldn't come. Luckily we had replaced the batteries in the communicators and they were working great so I told Bud what was happening and he kept the boat moving slowly forward while I raced below and checked the chain in the anchor locker. The chain had toppled over so the chain going up to the anchor was buried a bit. I tugged it loose and raced up on deck, but I still couldn't get it loose at the windlass (the device that pulls the anchor
up - ours only powers up, some power up and down). I ended up pulling some chain from the locker up on deck so I could take the chain off the windlass (it fits into little openings around the base of the windlass, sort of like a gear). I think the anchor was just pulled in too tight, because once I got a it off the windlass and pulled a bit out I was able to fit it back around the windlass and it was free and worked fine. All this only took a minute. When I freed it, the anchor started to drop, so I stood on the chain. Now the anchor was dangling off the bow roller, and I was holding it from dropping with my foot.

We were working our way towards shore and were ready to drop when we came up on some little coral heads. We didn't know how deep they were, and we didn't want to be dragging our anchor chain over them, so Bud turned back. He ended up making two more circles before we found a spot that was as close to shore as we could get and not around any little coral heads.

It's a lovely spot, the anchor is set, we used all our sails in about every configuration, so all in all it was a good day, even if we did sail in circles here and there.

Today We Celebrate
Jill
04/14/2011, Emerald Bay, Great Exuma

When we were at Big Major's Spot back in February we had dinner with the crew of Raconteur on their boat. They left the next day and had to leave their boat and fly to the US and to Europe for business. They left the boat here. The first time we were here we checked on their boat and sent them a photo showing that it was doing fine. This time we expected them to be gone, as they were due back the first week in April. When we got here the boat was still here, but they weren't. Yesterday morning I asked at the desk if the marina had heard from the folks on Raconteur. They had not. Since we're leaving in the morning I figured we'd missed them. But in the afternoon, Bud saw Susan, JP and Leigh get out of a taxi. They were back. It turns out Leigh got quite ill with the flu so they were delayed a week. The happy consequence of that unhappy illness was that we met again. So we asked them if they would like to have dinner aboard Earendil this time.

Tonight we had them over for dinner. Bud made Jambalaya and I baked an apple pie. We ran the generator and the air conditioner during all the cooking to try to keep the boat from heating up. When they came we had drinks in the cockpit and then came down for dinner. It was still pretty hot below, but we all enjoyed the dinner anyway. I had Bud take a picture (I was at the back of the salon, so it was easier to have him do it). Then we retired to the cockpit for a little more conversation, but we made an early night of it as Leigh is still under the weather and Bud and I have to get ready to leave in the morning.

Susan, JP, Leigh and Raconteur are continuing on south to the Trinidad - Tobago area. So we celebrated their return and the continuation of their journey, and our 6-month anniversary as cruisers. I think Bud was a bit jealous that they were going south and we were going north. He'll feel a lot better about going back once we get the work we want done on the boat. I feel a twinge of regret that we aren't going on this year, but I also want the changes before we venture further and I'm really looking forward to seeing some friends and family again.

I have no idea what Internet access will be like in the islands where we're headed, so be patient. I'll try to post the blog via Sailmail; if that doesn't work you'll see the next posting as soon as I can get at the Internet again. I'll write almost everyday, and post as soon as I can.

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