04/23/2011, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We took two trips to town today. In the morning we were going to walk down to the grocery store, about a mile away. When we got to the dinghy dock another couple was there. They had rented a car for the day and the woman was going in the direction of the grocery store to another dinghy dock at a restaurant where they had decided to leave their dinghy for the day, as it was not right in the center of town like the one we're using. So she offered to take us to the store. That turned out to be very nice because the store was about a mile away, so walking both ways would have been quite a walk. Kitty-corner from the grocery store there was supposed to be a produce stand and we went there first, hoping to get local produce. We asked a couple of guys who were there and they said the old guy who ran the stand died a couple of years ago. No one sells produce around here anymore. I get the impression that farming is so difficult and economically unrewarding that it's fast disappearing in the Bahamas. So we got our produce in the grocery store.
We took our hand cart so had no trouble wheeling our groceries back to the dock. By the time we got back to town, though, we decided we'd better just take the groceries back to the boat. Then Bud decided he needed a nap because the music at the Home Coming festival had kept him awake so long last night.
We waited until afternoon and then went ashore to explore the town. We walked to an inland blue hole that's on the edge of the village and is a park and swimming hole for the town. They have steps built down the edge at one point. We walked around the park and I took a photo of the blue hole that I put in the gallery. Then we walked over to the beach where Home Coming was happening to see if anything had opened up yet. Home Coming is like Field Days back home. Most communities have a Home Coming weekend. Instead of rides they have a DJ who blares music. The food booths seemed to be just opening (it was around 2 PM). Bud got a fish dinner, I got barbequed chicken. Both came with rice and peas (brown peas that we'd call beans), macaroni and cheese and cole slaw. About the only thing we've had here that we hadn't had before and is really good is conch stew or conch chowder. It's really good, but we didn't see anyone selling it at Home Coming. Bud said the Bahamas shouldn't be known for either its food or its music. I guess I would agree, but the people are all so nice it's hard for me to be critical. I still can't get used to young black men in slouchy jean shorts who smile sweetly and say hello as you pass. As we left Home Coming it was starting to come alive and I took this shot of the area. The road is the main road of the island, as you can see there's not too much traffic.
While we were in town I bought two days worth of Internet access from the local provider. I thought I couldn't get the signal from the boat, but this afternoon Bud was able to sign on so I'm going to post this and yesterday's entry from the boat. Then we have to stop and take Fuzzy ashore for his evening walk.
04/22/2011, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
We enjoyed our stay at the marina; but we did our wash, took showers, filled our water tanks, charged our batteries and moved on. We only had about 20 miles to go today, so we took our time leaving. We finally left the dock at 10:15 this morning.
Although it was a relatively short trip we had to round the end of the southwest point of Eleuthera and then come up past some shallows and back south and east again. The route I put in the chart plotter had 8 different waypoints, points where we had to change course. Not much like sailing on Lake Ontario, where you decide what port you want to go to and head directly for it once you leave the harbor. Anyway, with that many course changes no one leg was over 6 miles, so we decided not to put up the main. We decided to see how we'd do with just the jib out. We did fine. We went from a broad reach to fairly close hauled with from 10 to 16 knots of wind. At one point we were doing 8 knots. With that kind of speed putting up the main seemed unnecessary.
For one leg we had to pull the jib in and just motor as the wind was on the nose and we were in a channel between shallow sand banks, no room to tack back and forth. Then we turned for almost the final leg to a point where we could sail again, but it was only for about 4 miles, and the final leg was back into the wind again. Bud took pity on my and took my suggestion to just pull out the staysail. I can handle that one a lot easier than our jib, which is a 135 genoa and really hard for me to furl. We left the engine on, but Bud was able to cut back the engine RPM's a lot and still maintain a decent speed.
When we got here we had to decide where to anchor. The chart had a couple of areas marked poor holding, a couple marked good holding, and one area marked grass. Right in the middle was an area not marked at all. That was the area we thought it would good to be in, but we didn't want to chance it, so we anchored just south of two other boats where we thought there was good holding. There was not. The first time we dropped the anchor it started to drag as Bud backed the boat against it. So we began to lift it, but as I was pulling it in I felt it grab, so we tried to set it there. Bud backed against it and we didn't move. So we snubbed it off, launched the dinghy and put the engine on it, got our stuff together along with the viewing bucket and set off to confirm the anchor was set and take Fuzzy ashore. The anchor was not set. One fluke was holding but the anchor was partially on its side. Back to the boat we went. We decided to just try to pull back on the anchor with the engine to try to set it. I used the windlass to bring in the chain so the chain was pulling on the windlass, not on the snubber and Bud backed on the anchor again, hard and long. He usually puts the engine in reverse and goes up to 2300 RPM, which is more than we run it at. He did that, but held it for a minute or so. The anchor didn't move. So we got in the dinghy again and went back out to look at it. It still was holding with only one fluke. Not good enough. This time we took the time to take Fuzzy ashore. Then we came back and talked to our neighbors. They were just north of us and said they had good holding there. A boat that came in just ahead of us had to move out away from shore to get his anchor to set, but then was successful.
This time I had to take the snubber off. We raised the anchor and moved north of the other two boats that were there, into the area we'd wanted to be in the first place that didn't have a designation on the chart. We dropped the anchor, set it, backed against it and went to check on it before I put on the snubber. The anchor was buried to the bail. Yeah! The first place must have been sand over rock, the anchor was holding onto the irregularities in the rock when Bud used the engine to pull against it, but it wasn't really set. Now it is, now we're here.
We figure we'll be here for the weekend, anyway. We didn't even realize it was Easter weekend until another boater mentioned it. The people in Rock Sound seem to be celebrating in typical Bahamian fashion. There was obviously a service happening at the church you see on the left in the picture of the town I took from the boat. Over on the right you can see a long temporary structure on the beach. The folks in the boat we asked about anchoring said they were having some kind of festival there, with music and food, and no doubt drinking and dancing. The people at the church service this afternoon are sure to be part of the partying tonight. Bahamians seem to me to have a very good attitude towards life.
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).