04/29/2011, Tilloo Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We took it easy this morning after yesterday's big sail. By noon we were rested and the boat was more or less in shape. Karin and Ed called on the radio, as promised, to find out if we still wanted to walk across Tilloo Cay and go beachcombing with them. We did, so we got ready and met them over at the dock where we've been taking Fuzzy ashore. There is no beach on this side of the island, but there are three docks built here, evidently in anticipation of development that hasn't happened.
Ed led the way with his machete. There was a pretty clear path up the hill to the backbone of this long thin island. On the ocean side there wasn't so much a path as cleared lines that delineated large (several acres each) lots. Unfortunately, the whole island is ironshore; there is virtually no dirt so the footing is treacherous. I had Fuzzy in the front pack because he couldn't walk on the rocks. We'd gone at low tide so as much of the beach as possible would be exposed. When we got down to the Atlantic shore we found there was no beach. The picture shows Karin and Bud standing on the "beach" looking out at the waves, which may have been even higher than the ones we sailed through yesterday. I put a few other pictures of the ocean and the beach in the gallery.
There was an area that had enough sand that walking wasn't too difficult; I even put Fuzzy down for a while. There was a lot of debris everywhere, because this place is seldom visited (now we see why) and we found some good stuff. Karen collects certain shells and sea glass that she uses to make jewelry and votive candleholders. She found quite a bit. Bud wanted to find a buoy for our anchor. An anchor buoy lets you and others know where your anchor is, since if you have wind changes the boat can move around and even drift over the anchor. It also gives you a line tied to the top of the anchor that you can use to dislodge the anchor should it become stuck. Bud found a Styrofoam float and I found a small ceramic float that we brought back. I wanted to find some smaller floats that we could use on dinghy lines. Our dinghy lines are too short and are getting worn, but we haven't been able to find the woven, floating line that we bought at Home Depot anywhere else. Most polypropylene line that floats is too stiff to hold a knot. The line from Home Depot will hold a knot and still floats. We have plenty of regular rope, strong, supple and easy to tie, but it will all sink. The worry is that the dinghy line might come loose when you're towing the dinghy and get caught in the prop. We found several small floats that will work for new dinghy lines.
This evening we went to Ed and Karin's boat for dinner. Karin made two pizzas and Bud made some conch salad, which we took over. We had a nice dinner and played a game of dominoes. While we were there a squall came over. There was some wind, scary lightning in the distance and a LOT of rain. We left a bit early because we were seeing lightning everywhere and Bud was getting worried. When we went to leave there was so much rainwater in the dinghy that Bud had to bail it. Now Bud and Fuzzy are in bed and the storms are still all around us, but so far nothing more right here. The squalls are all supposed to end tomorrow. I like the rain, but sudden, strong and changing winds are not fun and lightning is down right scary when you live in a house with a 60-foot aluminum pole going up through the middle of it. Feeling so vulnerable makes it hard to enjoy the beauty of the storm.
04/28/2011, Tilloo Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We made it to the Abacos. A lot of people who cruise the Bahamas refer to crossing as coming from the US to the Bahamas or going back. However, the trip we did today, from the northern end of Eleuthera to the Abacos was almost as far as from Lake Worth to West End. And if you look at a map of the Bahamas, you'll see that to the east of us there was nothing but the Atlantic. This is really the most open crossing we have done.
There were a couple of things to discourage us. First, a small squall came through in the early morning hours. It's never encouraging to start a big day with a rainsquall. However, it was gone before dawn, so we kept on with our plans. We managed to lift the anchor (main up) at 6:35 AM. I went below to listen to the weather while Bud motor sailed across to the gap between Egg Island and Little Egg Island where we would enter the eastern edge of the Northeast Providence Channel. We listen to Chris Parker's weather every morning. After he gives the general forecasts for the areas of the Bahamas, he gives specific weather advice to boats that are subscribers to his service. We usually listen to the whole thing. It is Scott Free's request for weather for a three-day trip from Rock Sound to the Abacos that made us decide to use this weather window. Today I turned the radio off after the general forecasts to go back on deck and help get everything squared away before we left the protected water. It was somewhat disconcerting to then here Scott Free on the radio with another boat telling them that they had decided not to make the crossing to the Abacos because of the squall and the revised forecast of the sea state between Eleuthera and the Abacos.
We were pretty much committed to go at that point. Besides, as we approached the gap we saw another boat crossing in front of us on the other side of the gap and headed our way. A third boat was coming up from the side and they were headed for the gap also. So it seemed like we weren't the only ones to choose to go. When we were able to turn to the course for Little Harbor, which is where we intended to go, the wind was enough off the stern to put out the jib. We were sailing with no engine and we were making good time. Soon we heard Passages talking to someone else about the trip. They said they had just started across. I got on the radio to see if it was Ed and Karin that we'd met at Emerald Bay and it was. Turns out, they were the boat in front of us.
Not too far into the trip we passed north of the eastern end of Eleuthera. Now there was nothing between us and the open ocean. The swells got larger, much larger. We were expecting 4 foot swells. These were 6 to 8 feet and only about 7 seconds apart. Still, they were coming off the stern quarter and we were sailing quite nicely, so it wasn't bad. We had the main and jib out and spent all day sailing between 7 and 9 knots. The only problem was we had so much sail up that the wind vane wasn't working and we didn't want to take any sails in, as that would increase the effect of the waves and make the trip more uncomfortable. So Bud elected to hand steer.
A fourth boat came up and the four of us crossed within sight of each other. That was nice. Passages was making for the North Bar cut, intending to anchor at Tilloo Cay. We told them we were intending to go in at Little Harbour cut and anchor in the lee of Lynyard Cay, because we wanted to make sure we got Fuzzy ashore by dark. As the day went on, getting somewhere by dark became less of an issue with the speed we were making. What we started to worry about was crossing a cut with 6 to 8 foot seas. We asked Ed and Karin on Passages about that, and they said they were going to evaluate it as they got closer to land, but that the cut at North Bar was more straight forward and they thought perhaps the wind and waves would be fairly directly off the stern and that would be better. I went down and looked at the charts. The North Bar cut was twice as deep and twice as wide as the one at Little Harbour, and the route was a straight shot through the center of the gap. At Little Harbour you had to angle through the cut, and there were reefs on either side. I entered all the waypoints to go through the North Bar cut and to the anchorage at Tilloo Cay into our chart plotter.
There are no anchorages or harbors on the southeastern shore of Great Abaco Island. Our route took us along that shore but angled in until we would finally turn at either Little Harbor or North Bar. When we first started to see the shore of Great Abaco I really got nervous. We were probably 5 miles out and I could see huge breakers crashing against the shore. They must have been two stories high. Passages called to say they were definitely going in at North Bar and we let them know that we were going to follow them in. There's no way we'd try the trickier entry on a day like this. The other two boats were about a mile behind us but still coming our way.
We talked to Passages again as they neared the cut. They said they were going to pull their jib in (they'd used their jib and engine all day) and motor in under bare poles. Another boat hailed them after our conversation to let us know they'd just gone through the cut and though it looked pretty bad on the approach, it went well and even the 90 degree turn you have to make once inside was very doable. We both thanked them very much for the reassuring information. Turns out this was the trawler, Cheers, whom we'd all met at Emerald Bay (doing laundry, what else!). Bud and I decided to take in the jib and put a triple reef in the main and use that and the engine going in. As we were getting ready for this, a trawler came up on our stern. I hailed him on the radio to tell him that we'd be turning into the wind to reef the main and then turning back for the gap. He said that was no problem and asked if we'd like him to go ahead of us then as he'd done this gap before and could follow his old track in, then we could follow him. We agreed, told him we were also with Passages (now already in the gap) and we all agreed to stay on channel 18 on the radio.
Bud and I had no problem getting the jib in and the main reefed. However, as we started up the channel, the main, which I'd tired to ease way out to catch the following wind, was being tossed from side to side by the waves. I couldn't hook the preventer on, which holds it to one side, because once through the gap we had to make that 90 degree turn and the main would need to go to the other side. So I ended up pulling it in tight, it was less effective that way, but at least it wasn't swinging wildly. I tried to get a picture of the breakers off to the sides of us as we came through. I got one chance and got this photo. Then a sport fishing boat came roaring up on our starboard side, the chartplotter started beeping and suddenly the screen went blank. Bud was on the radio with the trawler and told him our chart had just gone blank. He assured us we were in the center of the channel. The only problem was, we weren't sure just how far to come through before we made that turn. All this was happening as we rode some really big waves in. The chart plotter came back up, I was able to get the route displaying properly again, and suddenly we were through. But I didn't have a chance to try to get a better picture. Believe me, it was all much more dramatic than it looks in this photo.
Not long after we were in we saw both the other boats that crossed with us come in safely, too. We followed Passages in and anchored near them. We were anchored at just after 4 PM and we'd come about 65 nm. After we got everything set, fed Fuzzy and took him ashore, we had Ed and Karin over for drinks and an after sail decompression. It feels really good to be here. We've made it to the Abacos, yeah!
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!