04/27/2011, Current Settlement, Current Cut, Eleuthera, Bahamas
We left the anchorage early this morning. I was hoisting the anchor at 7 AM; the main was already up. According to the information from Karin and Ed on Passages (back at Emerald Bay Marina) the tide at Current Cut is about 2 and a half hours behind Nassau (the tide tables in our Chart Books are from Nassau). That put low tide at about 1:30 or 2. We didn't want to get there after that and we had 25 miles to go.
When we started out we had a lot of wind mostly from the stern. We ran with only the main for a while and were making 4.5 knots. After about 8 miles we saw two boats come out from another harbor and head the same way we were, but in front of us. From their radio conversation we found out it was Scott Free and Anything Goes, whom we'd followed out of Rock Sound the day before. The guy on Anything Goes said according to his guidebook the tide was supposed to be the same time as Nassau. That meant low tide was between 11 and 11:30. Still, it was 9 AM and we had two and a half hours and 17 miles to go, quite doable. Happily, although the wind dropped a bit it moved south far enough that we could pull out the jib. That added a knot or more to our speed. I took the wheel for a while and with the wind at 140 degrees off our port bow we were doing 6 to 6.5 knots.
We weren't too upset that the wind was dropping, as we had to find the channel into Current Cut. I had called the other two boats and asked them if they were taking the main channel or the alternate channel. Karin and Ed had also told us the alternate channel was actually easier. It was also more direct. The only drawback was finding the deep part at the beginning of the channel, as you crossed the shallowest water there, and you needed to find and line up on the deeper water. Both the other boats had been planning to take the main channel. After we talked to them they reconsidered, and decided to try the alternate. This was good for us because we were behind them, and we were planning to take the alternate regardless. Anything Goes is a catamaran and only draws 3.5 feet. They were going to go first and let Scott Free know if there were any depths less than 7, as Scott Free draws 6.5 feet.
We were still well behind them when they went through, so we couldn't tell exactly where they went, but we did find out that they didn't see anything less than 9 feet. We took the jib in and turned on the engine, just in case, and I stood on the bow and watched as Bud and I got close. We may have been a bit too far to the right as we started in, but Bud moved over and we got through with no problems. We did have about a knot of current running with us, so it was not yet low tide. The information we got from Karin and Ed was better than the guidebook that Anything Goes had.
Just after we passed through the cut we turned to the east and anchored off the beach. This area is protected from the east and south and will be our jumping off point for tomorrow's crossing. We had the boat all snugged down by 12:30.
After lunch, and another nap for Bud, I insisted we go ashore and check out Current Settlement. This is the last town as you travel north in Eleuthera, all the way at the northwest tip of the island. Like so many of these islands, Eleuthera has one main road that runs the length of it. The picture is of that road, as it comes through Current Settlemen; it ends just the other side of town at the government dock at Current Cut. There are even speed bumps right on the main road, but since there are no sidewalks and the buildings sit right at the edge of the road, the speed bumps are a good idea.
We walked from the north beach, past some goats, and into town. Bud bought a bit of produce and I talked to a woman (Sue) in front of the library. Then we walked west of town to the government dock and the cut. It was now 4:30 and the tide was really moving in. The wind was opposed to the tide and there were some nasty looking standing waves. I took a picture of the cut, but it doesn't look like much in the picture, even so we wouldn't want to come through in those circumstances. We figured the tide was 4 or 5 knots, at least. I will put the pictures of our walk in the gallery when I can.
Bud complained a lot about the long, hot walk, but since I didn't get to see anything else since Rock Sound I figured he owed me. Besides, it was probably less than 2 miles, total. He keeps teasing me that I did get to see the Glass Window, because as we were sailing about 6 miles off shore I thought I saw a break in the shoreline where the bridge to the Atlantic is. Bud immediately agreed, and now keeps telling me that I got to see the beautiful Glass Window, too.
Whatever we've missed, this is the last day for Eleuthera, and tomorrow we make the passage to the Abacos. Hopefully it will be a good sail and a good day and we'll be safely anchored and Fuzzy ashore and back by nightfall.
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.