04/21/2011, Davis Harbour Marina, Cotton Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
We said goodbye to Bennett's Harbour and to Cat Island this morning. At 8:15 AM we raised the anchor (we put the main up first again) and set off mostly west for the south end of Eleuthera. There are no anchorages on the south end of the island, so I advocated that we come to this marina. Bud didn't want to pay for a marina, but it would have been a really long day to get around the south end to the first anchorage that is along the western shore. The east shore of the island faces the Atlantic and the prevailing winds and it is lined with coral. Altogether a bad combination for anchoring.
We had another nice sail. We started with the wind not too far off the stern. We had quite a bit of wind, so we were still able to make between 5 and 6 knots. After a bit we pulled the jib in because we couldn't keep it filled, but our speed stayed the same. We were on this point of sail all the way to Little San Salvador, an island used by the cruise ships as an anchorage and playground. Some cruisers anchor there in what used to be West Bay, but the cruise line has named Half Moon Bay, but you need their permission to come ashore and we'd run into that problem way back at Stirrup Cay, our first anchorage in the Bahamas. We had no desire to go where the cruise ships go. Bud did wonder how the people that work on the island get there; it's an otherwise uninhabited island, and a good ways from both Cat Island and Eleuthera.
After we passed Little San Salvador we were able to turn some to the north. That gave us a better angle on the wind, the jib came back out, we put two reefs in the main and we were cruising. We were doing a steady 7 knots and over 8 in the puffs. That part of the sail crossed between islands and the rollers came in from the Atlantic. They were somewhat modified by a bridge of relatively shallow water (50 to 60 feet) that runs between the islands. We still had 4 to 6 foot waves. The angle was decent so it was a fun ride.
When we reached Eleuthera we turned north again, so now we were starting to heel, but we were out of the waves. Two miles from the southeastern tip of Eleuthera is another cruise ship anchorage. Although it's actually a part of Eleuthera, the Princess Cruise Line uses it and they call it Princess Cay. I'm pretty sure that's where our friend Darlene came on her cruise. We're only about 10 miles past that. Too bad the timing is off. I took a photo as we went by and it's in the gallery.
We didn't know what to expect at this marina. Active Captain, the Internet site we use (when we can) to check out marinas and anchorages, rated it fairly well, but said there was no one to help you tie off. We were concerned that it might be difficult since the wind was a steady 16 knots with stronger puffs. I called them on the radio and they didn't answer, but a fishing boat did and said they'd answer any questions we had. They told us the marina could handle our boat and they'd try to call them for us. As we got closer I was able to raise the marina. "No problem, just come right in.", but no other information.
Our first problem was getting safely into their channel. The chart showed a buoy at the last waypoint. There was no buoy. Bud could see the channel marked on the chart so we headed that way. Finally I spotted a green buoy, then a red buoy. According to the chart, we'd already passed a set of buoys, but they weren't there either. At least we were happy to be coming in at close to high tide. We'd left Bennett's Harbour just past low tide, we came just under 40 nm, and it was about 3 PM, seven hours after we left. So it should be a bit past high tide. Anyway, we found the channel and it was very well marked, for the Bahamas.
Finally, as we were coming up to their channel I got a woman in the office who told me that they were going to put us where it would be a starboard tie (that means I put all the dock lines out on the right side of the boat) and there would be someone out there to show us where to tie up. Still no information on how to find the slip, but that was all I was going to get out of her. I set up the lines, laid out a couple of fenders (they said they had wood docks, which down here means pilings on the outside, so you can't put your fenders out until after you dock because the pilings will just pull at them).
We came in the basin and we didn't see anyone waiting at a dock, in fact, we didn't really see a dock. There were docks built all around the edge of the basin, but no finger docks. There were quite a few places where slips were defined by pilings. I was hoping we wouldn't be put in one of those, because then we'd have to climb over the bow to get on and off. Then I saw some guys over in one corner of the basin. They were waving us over. "How am I going to get a starboard tie there?" Bud wondered. "Can you turn around in the corner and come up against that part of the dock facing out?" "I can try." And Bud tried, and Bud did it, and soon we were happily tied to the dock.
We were setting up our fenders and the dock master said not to worry, we were just about at LOW tide now, so when the tide came up the fender they had on the piling would be in place. How'd it get to be low tide? I remarked that the tide wasn't anything like Cat Island. "Oh, no," he said, "we're much different than Cat Island." Well since we didn't go aground coming in I'm glad we thought it was high tide so we didn't worry any more than we did.
And now we have shore power! First time since February 24th in Nassau. So the batteries are getting a great charge and Bud has the air conditioner running and he's a happy man. He asked me if I wasn't glad I gave in and agreed to come to the marina. Yeah, right. The photo shows Earendil happily docked with all the sport fishing boats, and if you look really closely you can see our shore power cord hanging just below our dock line.
Just a little while ago a big boat came in (like around a hundred feet) and a whole bunch of Bahamians got off it. I noticed it was called the Half Moon Bay Clipper. So that ends the mystery of how all the folks who service the cruise ships get to Little San Salvador.
04/20/2011, Bennett's Harbour, Cat Island, Bahamas
When we first dropped anchor here we were all set, then Bud got worried that we didn't have enough chain out. He looked around at the little coral heads and thought we had room for a bit more chain without having the chain hurt any of them. So I brought in the chain until I could reach the part where the snubber was tied, untied the snubber, let out some chain, retied the snubber, then let out more chain and helped the snubber over the bow roller, and let out a final bit of chain until the snubber was again taking the load.
Yesterday after he snorkeled Bud decided that the chain was too close to a small coral. So we took about 15 feet of chain in. And I untied and retied the snubber.
This morning, the wind had shifted and we were now way too close to a coral patch, so I untied the snubber, we brought the anchor up (almost to the bow roller) we moved the boat forward about 30 or 40 feet, we dropped the anchor again, we let the wind set it, Bud backed down on it with the engine, and I set the snubber again. I'm getting really good at tying on the snubber, but it's not an easy knot to tie. The snubber line is ¾" and I have to tie two rolling hitches, each of which has three loops around the chain. To make it more difficult, the shortest dock line Bud could find when he bought this was 25 feet long, and I only use about 15 feet of it. That means I have to pull the extra 10 feet through six times for each time I tie or untie the snubber. So by the time we leave Bennett's Harbour I will have pulled 600 feet of ¾" line through a small loop, all while squatting at the bow. (And yes, we could shorten the line, but we'd rather wait to see if we could get a 15-foot line and not cut off 10 feet on this one. We can always use another 25 foot dock line, but 10 feet of ¾" line is not too useful.)
Being the careful (read paranoid) sailors that we are, we went out again to check the set of the anchor with our viewing bucket. This time I decided to bring the camera along and try to take a picture of the anchor on the bottom. That's what the photo is. You can see the curved bail of the anchor sticking out of the sand at just above the center of the viewing bucket. You can just see the shank of the anchor and the chain going off at about 5 o'clock. The main part of the anchor is buried as usual.
Later in the day I did some more work on the lines. All of the ends of the ropes on the boat need to be finished off. The best finish is to whip them; that is wrapping a small, waxed cord around the ends so they won't fray. You do it so you can pull the ends of your whipping cord under the wraps. Then you seize them, you take another piece of the small cord and a needle and you sew the whipping in place, so it can't slip off the end of the rope. Very few of the lines on this boat were done like that. I had worked at it a lot before we left and a bit along the way so I have all of the running rigging done, that is all of the lines we use to handle the sails. Today I did the ends of the lines we use to tie our fenders on. We have 5 fenders, three of them have two lines, and each line has two ends. It was a couple of hours of work.
Bud, meanwhile, has been working on the stainless fittings on the deck. He's been cleaning the rust off them (yes, in salt water stainless will rust, at least a little) and then coating them with a protectant.
We took time to snorkel again. This place has the best snorkeling we've seen in the Bahamas so far. Bud found a live conch under our boat and I saw a small sea turtle. It's been a nice couple of days.
04/19/2011, Bennett's Harbour, Cat Island, Bahamas
We've decided the time to go walking is in the morning, so we got ready and when we took Fuzzy to shore at 8 AM we walked into the little town of Bennett's Harbour. It is a very pretty, very small town. Everyone on these remote islands says "Hi" as you meet them. We walked by the little schoolhouse, school was in session, the door was open, and perhaps the lessons hadn't started yet, because one little boy called out a hello to us as we walked by.
There are perhaps as many houses empty as occupied. Most of the houses are pretty small. The newer ones have louvered windows that crank open. The schoolhouses in the Bahamas all look alike, and they all have louvered shutters that crank open. The older houses have shutters hinged at the top that prop open with just screens underneath. There were Sanseveria (sp.?) - snake plants - growing along the sides of the road like three-foot high grass. We saw two businesses that looked like businesses, the restaurant/bar/gas station and another bar/restaurant. We walked down to the government dock. They have a huge new dock there and a small building that looked like it had a couple of coolers in it, but no one was there and the whole place was empty.
On the way back from the dock we met Mary. She introduced herself, said she made straw items and invited us to her house to look at what she had for sale. Now there are people who make purses and bowls out of straw on every island we've been to. There is a shop that sells straw items listed in almost every town in the guidebook. But this is the first time someone has come up and introduced themselves, walked along with us and invited us to see their wares. What a saleswoman! Bud handed over his wallet and kept Fuzzy and I walked up to Mary's very little house and looked at her wares. I told her I wasn't sure I could afford anything, there was a lot of work in even the small items, and I figured they'd be very expensive. "You just tell me what you want" said Mary, "and I'll tell you what it costs. I don't work for nobody but Mary, so I think you can afford it." Well I did and I could and I walked away with the first souvenirs I've bought in the Bahamas. I asked Mary to pose for this picture in front of her house. As she said "It's no hotel, but it's mine."
In the afternoon Bud and I took turns snorkeling from the boat. I went first. Right away I noticed a little yellow and orange striped fish. It startled me because it came up from under me and started to swim right at my mask. It was only about 2 inches long, but very pretty. I swam out to several coral heads and then up near the beach and the fish stayed with me. I got out and told Bud about the fish, and as he started I heard him laugh, the fish found him. He swam even farther out and around than I had and that fish stayed with him the whole time.
Our solitude was broken by another boat that came and anchored, Zia from Tampa. But they invited us over for drinks, so that was okay. We had a nice visit. The man who owned the boat had another couple aboard visiting. The two men had taken their kayaks and gone into town...and came back with straw purses from Mary! They were going in to the restaurant/bar/gas station for dinner. They had a menu they'd gotten from the place (not a take out menu, a regular laminated menu) and the prices were really good. Pretty much all the entrées were $10, and included your choice of peas and rice or peas and grits. If we get to talk to them tomorrow we'll have to ask them how it was.
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).
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.
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.