04/26/2011, Pelican Cay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
I wanted to rent a car so we could see more of Eleuthera. I wanted to see the old town of Governors Harbour, I wanted to see the Glass Window, where there is a break in the island between the banks on the west and the open Atlantic on the east, and I wanted to take the ferry to Harbour Island and Dunmore Town. But the squalls that threatened today didn't come and instead we have three days of wind from the southeast to the east-southeast. On Friday there's a day of unsettled weather and the next days are all expected to be northeast to east-northeast winds. We want to go north to the Abacos, so the three days of southeast winds are ideal. After some debate, sightseeing lost and sailing won. I was disappointed, but it gives us a reason to come back here next year.
Today we left Rock Sound and headed up to another anchorage. We chose this anchorage because it gave some protection from the south and it got us far enough north to be able to reach and get through Current Cut tomorrow before the incoming tide gets too strong. There is nothing here but a nearby airport. Not really a tourist opportunity. When we took Fuzzy ashore I insisted we take our shoes. There was a small road on the chart behind the beach and it led out to the main road. Across the main road was another road that led toward the Atlantic and along the Atlantic side was a huge beach labeled "Pink Sand Beach". The whole walk would have been a bit under a mile one way. It seemed worth trying. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the road. It may have been demolished when they built the airport or we may just have missed it. Usually any road that gets near an anchorage has a path out to the beach at the anchorage, but if this one had a path, we missed it. So I had to be content with a picture of Earendil at anchor as seen from the beach, looking out past a little point. I also took a picture of Pelican Cay for the gallery.
We went 30 miles today, we have to go about 28 miles tomorrow (leaving as early as we can) and then on Thursday we hope to cross to the Abacos, about 60 miles - again, we'll have to leave as early as we can. I predict we'll be exhausted by the end of that day.
Most of today's sail was a broad reach. As long as the wind is far enough off the stern to carry both the main and the jib this boat will fly. We did between 6.5 and 7.5 knots with both sails up. For a while the wind was too far astern and we could only carry the main. We were only doing about 4.5 knots then. We hope the wind is from a favorable direction on Thursday. 60 miles at 6 knots is 10 hours, very doable. 60 miles at 4 knots is 15 hours, and would make us come in to anchor in the dark, not something we will do. We do have a cruising spinnaker, but we don't yet have a spinnaker pole; we might try to fly it using a block off the back of the boom if we get desperate. Otherwise, if the wind is wrong we'll have to motor-sail, which is a pain. Even with that chance it still seemed best to go now. The next opportunity may be 7 to 10 days away, and we felt we couldn't wait that long.
04/25/2011, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
It was squally as predicted today and we ended up staying aboard after taking Fuzzy for his morning walk. Bud napped for a while having not slept well the last three nights because of the music from the Home Coming festival. Then we both worked on trimming Fuzzy. We probably spent a total of three hours combing out tangles and clipping with the scissors and the trimmers. Altogether it was a pretty quiet day (although Fuzzy was a bit agitated).
After supper and Fuzzy's evening stroll Bud went out to "feed the fish" as he put it. He wasn't out there for long when he called me, he had a fish on the line, and it seemed like a good one. I took this photo before either of us saw the fish. Bud was using 6 pound test line on this little spinning rod and reel. He must have fought with it for 15 or 20 minutes. Since we still don't have a fish net he took the fishing gloves and got down in the dinghy to land it. It was a beautiful mutton snapper, and a big one. Bud got it in to the dinghy without incident, but the excitement wasn't over.
A Bahamian couple out on their jet ski saw Bud fighting the fish and came over to get a better look. Once the fish was landed they came right up to the dinghy to see it. The woman, Juliet, is a photographer and was leaning over to take a picture when her husband, Thompson, leaned over to get a closer look. Suddenly the jet ski rolled and Thompson and Juliet were both in the water. Juliet had on a life jacket and she grabbed the dinghy right away, which is a good thing, because she can't swim. Bud managed to grab the cell phone she was using to take the picture, but not before it got wet. I pulled the dinghy over to the ladder and Juliet was able to climb out. She was miffed, but it was pretty funny, too, and she didn't seem to stay too angry. Thompson climbed out while I went and got towels.
Juliet wrapped up in a towel and sat in the cockpit with me while Bud and Thompson took the dinghy (which still had the snapper in it) out to retrieve the upside down jet ski that was slowly drifting away. I was sure the two of them were going to flip the dinghy in their efforts to right the jet ski; but there were no more disasters and they got the jet ski upright. Surprisingly to me, it started right back up. Juliet was reluctant to get back on the thing, but she did. She told me it would be a long time before Thompson heard the end of it. "I told him he was drinking too much to go out on that thing," she said. We had managed to save both their cell phones and Thompson's sandals but one of Juliet's had floated away. Bud was out looking for it in the dinghy. Thompson was a lot happier than Juliet when Bud came back, not with her sandal, but with what was left of the bottle of white wine they'd had with them. They told me if we rented a car as we were thinking of doing we had to stop by their photography studio tomorrow. I think they hope they can save the photos on the cell phone (it was still on, despite the water).
After they left, Bud still had to take care of the fish. He asked me for the mallet he used to tenderize the conch as he thought the fish was still alive. He went to hit the fish on the head, missed and hit the cutting board and the mallet bounced back and slipped out of his wet hands and overboard. So tomorrow Bud has to dive for the mallet. He finished cleaning and filleting the fish out on the deck, but put all the scraps in a bucket rather than toss them overboard. He said if he had to dive for the mallet in the morning he'd just as soon not attract sharks to the boat tonight.
I took a picture of Bud landing the fish and one of the fish on the deck and I'll put them in the gallery. We measured it and it was 24 inches. Bud figures he got 4 to 5 pounds of fillets from it. This fishing thing is getting better. I hope this one tastes as good as the little one I had.
04/24/2011, Rock Sound, Eleuthera
Today's blog really begins last evening. When we took Fuzzy ashore for his evening walk we went down by the Home Coming festivities and Bud looked for someone selling fresh conch salad. He found a guy and asked him if he had any of the trimmings that Bud could take for bait. The shells and guts were over at the edge of the water so Bud selected a couple of nice big guts and put them in his zip lock bag to take back to the boat for fishing. Then when we got back to the dock where we'd left our dinghy there were a few other guys, once of whom had conch he'd just caught and cleaned for sale. We bought a big bag (4 or 5 pounds) for $10.
Last evening Home Coming was going strong. Bud didn't even try to sleep. He stayed out on deck and fished. And he caught two small snapper. He thought one was a mutton snapper and the other a grey snapper. At least two others got away. Bud has lost all the good hooks he got from Gary. He has a few others he brought from the States and a package of hooks he bought in Georgetown. He's convinced the Georgetown hooks don't work. He can only seem to land a fish with those if the fish swallows the hook. When that happens he can't release the little ones as he can't get the hook back out. He'll be getting a lot more of the sharply curved hooks they use in Florida when we can find them.
Meanwhile, I hardboiled four eggs and dyed them with juice I drained off a can of beets. We bought four candy bars on our evening walk, so we had pale pink eggs and candy bars in a straw basket I'd bought from Mary in Bennett's Harbour for our Easter basket. I didn't get a picture before we ate two of the eggs and one of the candy bars and Bud put the rest in the refrigerator.
But I did take a picture of our Easter dinner just before we sat down to eat. We each had a little snapper Bud fried with lemon, garlic and ginger. I mashed a big batch of potatoes (with a hand masher) and we had cracked conch and cole slaw. The conch we bought was cleaned, but it still had to be tenderized. Bud used a plastic hammer he had in his tools. He put the conch on a cutting board cushioned underneath with a dishtowel and beat them with the hammer until he had them flattened. Then he cut them in strips, dipped them in egg and beer batter and fried them. I went on-line to find a dipping sauce recipe and Bud improvised an orange marmalade-horseradish sauce. He used juice from an orange and a lime and plum jam. Bud added the horseradish and then some cayenne pepper for good measure. It was good. The whole dinner was good, but certainly not the traditional Easter dinner we ate growing up. The little snapper I had may have been the best fish I've ever eaten.
This evening when we took Fuzzy ashore another guy was using a cast net off the dock. Bud watched him and asked for tips. Then while Fuzzy and I walked around a bit he went back to the boat and got his cast net (also from Gary) and tried his hand. I took some shots around town, but by the time I got back the light was too poor to catch Bud's cast netting attempts. He did catch fish. He caught little fish too small for bait and one net full of little grunts. He caught one pretty little reef fish. He let all of them go and came home with no bait. He did have one little pilcher in the dinghy that the other guy had tossed there, and he's out fishing with it. The Home Coming music has started again so maybe we'll have more fish tomorrow!
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.