05/12/2011, Great Sale Cay, Abacos, Bahams
I didn't sleep well last night after all the excitement of the storm. Bud let me sleep in; I got up at 6:40 AM. I was just sitting down to my breakfast when he told me I should hurry and get dressed as he thought we ought to go ahead and leave for Great Sale. That caught me off guard, as I thought we were going just 15 miles back to Green Turtle. We tossed it around a bit. Since I had Internet, I called a Tohatsu dealer near St. Augustine to find out if we should try to have the engine serviced in the Bahamas, or if we could bring it back to the US as it was without hurting it. I told him what we'd done to it so far. He told me we should drain the carburetor, use some fuel treatment for the gas and try starting it. So we did what he said, lowered the engine back on the dinghy and Bud spent 5 minutes pulling the starter cord to no avail.
We thought about just going and rowing Fuzzy to shore, since that would be our last stop before the US. However, by now it was about 10 AM. Great Sale, our next logical stop, was 42 nm away. When the man who read the water meter so we could pay our dockage told me that he knew one of the outboard repairmen at Green Turtle and he was good with four stroke engines, I suggested to Bud we go back to our original plan. I called the man at Green Turtle anticipating getting the engine fixed and hanging out for another weather window to cross sometime next week. Unfortunately, he said he couldn't get parts for a Tohatsu, so was not willing to work on the engine.
That made the decision for us, and at 11 AM we left the marina to go the 42 miles to Great Sale. We motorsailed for a while. More than we normally would, but with the late start, and such a long ways to go, we felt we had to be making over 6 knots. We did get to sail for a good portion of the way. Most of the time we had all three sails out and most of the time we were doing 6.5 to 7 knots. We got here at 6 PM, there was still plenty of daylight, but it was getting hard to see a good spot to anchor.
We wanted to anchor as close to a beach as we could, so we could row Fuzzy ashore in the dingy. There were almost no beaches. We spotted one little patch of beach and made two attempts at anchoring near it. Unfortunately, there was mud or sand over rock, and we couldn't get the anchor to set. On the third try, we got the anchor set. I had tried to feed Fuzzy on the way in, as we motorsailed downwind for the last stretch. He wouldn't eat under those conditions; Bud thought he needed to go ashore badly, so as soon as the anchor was set we rowed to shore. On the way, we checked the anchor. It was a little hard to have Bud follow the chain while rowing; I was calling out, go port, go starboard, while I leaned way over with my head down in the viewing bucket to keep the slanting sun off the bottom of the bucket where it was reflecting and obscuring my view. I could barely see the bottom with the bad lighting and silty water, but I did find the anchor and it was buried to the bail.
The next problem was the lack of beach. There was a good breeze and the beach was downwind from the boat, and a good ways away by the time we got the anchor set. Bud was afraid to row down to it because it would be such a hard row back. The dinghy is a very awkward little boat to row. We approached a likely looking spot on the shore, only to find that it was too deep to wade right up to an ironshore edge. I finally took Fuzzy in my arms and stepped out on the ironshore while Bud held the boat off to keep it from being punctured. He then waited in the boat. After rowing a bit he found a place where he could hold on to the rocks and keep the boat off them at the same time. That's how he sat for about 10 minutes while I tried to get Fuzzy to do his business. Poor Fuzzy doesn't seem to be feeling well. Tomorrow we're going to give him Dramamine before we start. Even it ends up being a smooth sail, the Dramamine keeps him sleepy and makes it easier on him.
So we are safely anchored and all of us are fed and this will most likely be our last night in the Bahamas. I'll tell you where we plan to go for the crossing after we do it. No more predictions!
05/11/2011, Spanish Cay Marina, Abacos
OK, I'm not going to mention future plans in this blog again. Every time I do, what I thought was going to happen doesn't. First, you'll notice that I have Internet. That's because we're at a marina. That was not in the plan. The plan was to sail today to Moraine Cay. The wind was from the west and was moving first southwest, then back northwest overnight, but all light winds with the chance of a 20 knot squall. We thought Moraine had the best protection from the northwest and it would put us well on our way to either Great Sale Cay or Mangrove Cay, from where we would depart for the crossing to the US.
We didn't leave White Sound until noon, because we waited until we had enough tide to get out the entrance. We needed to push fairly hard to make the 25 miles to Moraine by five. For the first 12 miles or so we were doing pretty well. The wind was a bit north of where we hoped it would be, but we could manage to sail. For a while we were doing 7 knots with all three sails out. The wind was not steady at all and we were constantly trying to adjust. Finally it moved too far forward so we pulled in the jib and staysail and were motor sailing with just the main.
We were about half way along when a cloudbank started building to the northeast of us. We were watching it; Bud thought it was moving parallel to us but in the opposite direction. Then the clouds got thicker, and higher, and closer. I suggested we drop the main. Bud opted for putting a triple reef in it. We did, but had a bit of trouble getting it in correctly. Just as we finished up the squall hit us. It got very windy, then it got really windy. By this time, Fuzzy was back in the cabin, Bud and I were both in foul weather gear and life jackets, the hatches, that had been open, were all closed.
Bud was fighting to control the boat with the triple reefed main. We didn't have a lot of room to move, we were in a narrow part of the Sea of Abaco and we had only about a mile and a half between the islands that were to windward and the islands that were leeward. We couldn't turn and run with the wind so we decided to drop the main altogether. It didn't come down all the way (of course). The good part about being close to the islands was that the waves weren't bad, so I went up and climbed on the bottom of the mast and pulled the main down and tied the halyard around the boom vang to keep the head of the main from lifting in the wind. We couldn't possibly zip the stack pack in those conditions, so I went and got a line and tied it around the main and boom about 2/3 of the way back. That kept the main under control. Bud had to run the engine hard several times just to keep the nose of the boat pointed into the wind. We were in at least 50 knots of wind. Bud saw 48 on the meter, but knows it blew harder than that at times.
Somewhere in all of this, when the wind eased off a bit, I looked back and saw that our dinghy (which we had towed, because it was a calm day and we weren't going outside the islands) was upside down. Now that wasn't so bad, it was actually towing quite nicely upside down. What was bad was that it still had the outboard on it. And that had folded to its lifted position. Normally, that holds the shaft out of the water. In this case, it kept the shaft in the water along with the rest of the engine. I was sure the transom of the dinghy would be wrecked too.
After I saw the upside down dinghy I told Bud we had to go back to the marina we'd passed a couple of miles ago. He pretty readily agreed and a few minutes later could actually drive the boat in that direction instead of just trying to keep it in one place headed into the wind. I radioed the marina to see if they could take us. They didn't answer. Another boat came on and said they were trying to answer me, but I couldn't hear. He relayed the message and I was able to make sure they had a slip for us.
Once the wind dropped some more, Bud moved the boat closer to the lee of the little islands we were traveling along. When he got close enough (and far enough from the islands downwind of us) he let the engine idle and the boat drift and we tried to flip the dinghy upright. I thought he was crazy to even try, but we pulled the dinghy forward alongside the boat and hooked the spinnaker halyard to the towrope. I cranked up the halyard while Bud guided the towrope until the dinghy was vertical. Then I let the halyard back down and Bud guided the dinghy so it came back down upside right. We moved the dinghy back to the stern and away we went.
So here we are in a marina. And, as you can see from the picture, there is no wind at all! After we finished putting the mainsail away we had to use the boom to pull the engine off the dinghy and put it on it's bracket on the stern rail. The dinghy is unharmed. We didn't even loose our little bailing bucket that was tied inside it. The jury is still out on the engine. Bud drained the watery oil out of it and refilled it with new oil. He pulled the spark plugs and put some oil in the cylinders and pulled the starting rope to flush out any water in the cylinders and move the oil through. The manual then says to take it to a dealer. (It's a new engine, we got it a few days before we left Wilson, and the manual does have a section on "water immersion"). So tomorrow we will be going back to Green Turtle Cay, this time to Black Sound where we saw two outboard repair places. That means today we went 21 miles and didn't really get anywhere, but I'm very glad to be here! And I must say that through it all, Earendil felt solid and safe. She wasn't really daunted at all by 50 knots of wind. I'd rather not sail in that much if I don't have too, just the same.
05/10/2011, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
New Plymouth is the town on Green Turtle Cay. It's at the opposite end of the island from the harbor where we're anchored. It would be about a 3-mile walk (this island is pretty small) but it was a fairly easy dinghy ride. There are two government docks and two dinghy landings listed on the chart, so we went to both. One is on the Sea of Abaco and that looked like what was used by the mailboat and other little freight boats. The other was inside the shallow Settlement Harbour, and that looked like where the cruisers went, so that's where we tied up. The sign in the photo is at the end of the dock, as you're walking towards the town, so I think we picked the right one.
This was another little town with concrete streets and little fences. Unlike Man-O-War, this town is a mix of black and white Bahamians. It's the first really mixed town we've seen. Many of the houses are more than 100 years old. We started our tour at the Captain Roberts house. This was a restored house with an environmental education display in it. It also had a medicinal garden in the back with the plants named. Most of them were shrubs and small trees. The kitchen was a separate building a few steps behind the main house. We asked for a recommendation for lunch from the docent there and she sent us to the Wrecking Tree restaurant. Bud wanted conch stew, which was on the menu, but not available. Bud settled for a conch salad and I got a conch burger. The restaurant, like most of them, had some seating on a porch, so Fuzzy was welcome.
After lunch we went back to look at the town. Bud wouldn't pay the $5 per person admission for the historic center, so we didn't get to see that. It probably was overpriced, but I should have lobbied harder. We wandered around for a while and I took pictures. Bud went in one of the grocery stores and picked up a few snacks. One bag of snack items came to $55. I'm not sure I agree with Bud's idea of what's worth it!
I had Fuzzy in the front pack for the ride in the dinghy and he ended up back in the pack for a good part of the walk. He has a habit of walking over to a little piece of shade and standing there looking pathetic, old and feeble until we pick him up and carry him. After we left New Plymouth we decided to dinghy over to the other harbor on the island, so it was nice that Fuzzy was in the front pack. We went into Black Sound, that has an even shallower entrance than White Sound, but it's actually roomier inside. There's a big boat yard there and a lot of cruisers have their boats pulled and stored and come back for them next season. On the way out of Black Sound we noticed a man way out between the harbors in a dinghy, just drifting. As we came closer we saw it was the same man we'd seen at the dinghy dock in New Plymouth with someone working on his little outboard. So we took him in tow. He wanted to go into Black Sound (we'd seen him in Settlement Harbour) to a Yamaha dealer. He was pretty grateful for the tow, and it was pleasant for us. He was a single hander from Texas on a C&C racer/cruiser. He said the fix in New Plymouth lasted about 10 minutes. The second fix must have worked because I saw him go by our boat at anchor back in White Sound later in the day. I didn't notice him until he was past us, I tried to hail him but he couldn't hear me over the dinghy engine.
Bud and I left Fuzzy on the boat (again with a piece of Pupperoni, and again he was quiet) and went in to the marina here. Bud was looking for some Neem salve for his poisonwood. Both of us got poisonwood. Mine came on faster and is mostly gone. Bud's is really bothering him now and Neem slave, made from a local plant, is supposed to be the best thing for it. Unfortunately, the marina store was out of it. When we were in the marina office, we heard a boat radio in for a slip, an 85-foot motor yacht. As we left we saw they were coming in the entrance channel. Ahead of them were a power catamaran and a sailing catamaran. I stayed up on deck to watch them all juggle for space. The power cat was headed for the same marina and ended up having to back out while the big yacht maneuvered into his slip. The big yacht's tender was following him. They must have been towing it, but then had someone go aboard and drive it in. It was at least twenty feet long and had a center console and a bimini top. The sailboat cruised rapidly around the harbor and then after a couple of tries snagged a mooring ball. The power cat docked safely another pier at the marina, so all made it in without mishap. That was a lot of traffic for a small space, though. I'll put a picture of Earendil at anchor in this harbor in the gallery. There's not a lot of room for an 85-foot boat to move around. Of course it helps if you have twin engines and bow and stern thrusters, which I'm sure he had. Both the catamarans were charter boats, so there was probably more chance for some excitement from them.
We plan to leave here tomorrow at high tide. I'm not sure that any of the islands in the northern Abacos have Internet, so this might be my last post until we get back to the US. We are thinking we will leave Saturday or Sunday, so will probably have Internet Monday or Tuesday, so if you don't see any postings for a week, don't worry. (Since our SSB isn't transmitting properly I can't post via Sailmail either.) Anyway, the weather patterns are very settled right now, we are much more likely to suffer from too little wind than too much.
05/09/2011, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
This morning we had Cynthia and Teddy from Topaz over as planned. Like always with cruisers, we had a lot to talk about. They were as fascinated to be aboard a same but different Norseman as we were when we were on Topaz. We talked for about 2 hours, then it was getting late for us to get things together and move on. So we said good-bye and they went back. They are going to Marsh Harbour tomorrow to pick up a friend who flew down to make the passage back to the states with them. They will leave from the top end of the Abacos and sail 6 straight days back to Annapolis, as long as the weather allows it.
Meanwhile, we tidied the last things up and raised the anchor. We had the perfect day for this trip, though. The Whale Passage is an area where you have to go outside the Sea of Abaco to avoid some shoals that run all the way from Whale Cay across to Great Abaco. Only shallow draft boats can cross the shoals. This is the area that can have a "rage" when the winds and current oppose, or when the winds are strong from the northeast, or when there is a big ocean swell rolling in from the northeast. We'd just had several days of light wind, and today the wind was light and from the west, so it was blowing out across the narrow Sea of Abaco and not in from the Atlantic. The picture above was a boat we passed as we were going along the outside of Whale Cay. It was and interesting boat, but you can also see that the waves were pretty tame. This is the area that gets bad enough to make the cruise lines abandon Baker's Bay, but today, we didn't even lift the dinghy aboard, we towed it with no problem.
Again, we weren't going that far so didn't put the main up. I did get a bit of a workout. As soon as we got on course we pulled out the jib. Not long after we got it out, the wind veered around too far and I had to pull it in. Then when we got to the Whale Passage itself we could carry it, so I pulled it out again. About 2 miles later we turned in towards the Sea of Abaco and I had to pull it in again. Then 3 miles after that, we turned and out it came. We managed then to carry it for the rest of the trip (the total trip was only 12 nm). It was still touch and go as the wind was swinging around under big puffs of clouds. It was still generally from the west, but kept veering towards the north, making it hard to carry the sail. When I wasn't unfurling or furling the jib, I was either sheeting it all the way in (pulling it tight to go more towards the wind) or easing it out again.
We found our way to White Sound, which is the northern most of the two harbors on Green Turtle Cay. It also has the deepest entrance channel, although we came in about an hour before high tide and Bud still saw 7' 9" on the depth meter. Take a couple of feet of tide off that and we'd be scraping the bottom. We were hoping it wasn't too crowded to anchor. There are two marinas in here, and some mooring balls. A lot of the bottom was grassy. We found a likely sandy spot and I started to drop the anchor. The chain got stuck before the anchor hit the bottom. I tried to get it loose but couldn't, so had to raise the anchor while Bud circled around and I went below to check the chain locker. It turns out that the chain was just down and back against the wall of the locker. I pulled some of it up by hand and came back up. We checked out one other spot while we were circling, but didn't like that, so headed back to make a second try. A boat I hadn't seen at all before was pulling up to that spot, and didn't they (successfully) drop anchor there. So Bud and I had to reassess and take a spot that was a bit closer to some other boats than we would like to be. We're really not that close, but we like to leave plenty of room around us. At least the anchor dropped with no issues this time, and when we went to check the anchor set with our viewing bucket it was buried completely, even the bail.
So now we are anchored in this busy little harbor. I'll post a picture in the gallery when I can that shows how close to us the boats run to get to the one marina. They go between us and the boats anchored closest to us. It's like living on a freeway...Bahamas style.
05/08/2011, Baker's Bay, Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Our life is not built around weekly schedules or calendars or holidays, but we did remember that today was Mothers Day (which means it must be Sunday). We aren't really doing anything different from what we usually do, though. We stayed at Baker's Bay. This morning we did some trouble-shooting on our SSB radio because we'd tried to talk to Passages last evening at the time and frequency agreed upon, and although we could hear Ed, he couldn't hear me. We checked everything we could. We don't seem to be getting any power on transmit. The only thing on the troubleshooting list that we couldn't check was the junction of the antenna lead wire to the insulated backstay. That requires a stepladder on the aft deck, and we don't carry a stepladder. I could go part way up the mast with the boatswain's chair and then try to work my way back along the boom and then grab the backstay, but it would be very difficult to work in that position. Since we're headed back to the states, we decided to wait until then to tackle the problem.
Bud went swimming and cleaned the boot stripe again. Our water line is at the bottom stripe of the triple stripe we have for a boot stripe. Because the water always covers it, and because it's not bottom paint, it grows an algae beard. Bud wanted to take that off before we crossed back. He's done it before and tried different tools. This time he used a Teflon pancake turner and it worked pretty well. We're going to have to repaint the boot striping and we will probably use bottom paint on the lowest one, maybe even both the lower ones.
We bought a new Abaco guide (to supplement our Explorer Charts) at Man-O-War Cay Marina. It has maps of diving and snorkeling sites. I wanted to walk across to the Atlantic side and snorkel from that beach. This area is being redeveloped now and there seemed to be a lot of activity on the island, so we weren't sure we would be welcome. Back in 1989 this was one of the areas developed as a cruise ship stop. They only used it for three years because the channel can get so rough in bad weather (they call it a rage, locally, and if the cruise ships don't want to use it, you can bet that no other boats are going through). Anyway, from 1993 until 2005 this beautiful beach and bay sat empty except for all the cruisers. Then in 2005 the area was purchased for development. There is a huge new marina here with a "marina village". We weren't sure how much more was developed, but as I said, we thought we saw activity and figured we shouldn't go wandering around. So we left Fuzzy on board (with half a stick of Pupperoni, thanks to Ed and Karin) and took off in the dinghy. I was VERY reluctant to try to take the dinghy to the Atlantic side. Even though it's very calm today, there were still rollers coming in that were breaking on the reefs. We went around the end of the island, and it got rough enough that Bud was willing to pull onto the beach there. It connected directly through to the Atlantic side. Besides, another sailboat had pulled in and anchored this morning and it looked to us like a Norseman. They'd gone off in their dinghy and there was a couple getting into a dinghy on that beach that we thought might be them. We called out to them as we approached and they were from Topaz and it is a Norseman. We had a brief conversation hanging on to each other's dinghies and decided to get together later for drinks. Then they went back to their boat and we went snorkeling where they had just been. The picture shows the beach at the cut out into the Atlantic. We snorkeled where you can see the darker water, that's a ridge of rocks.
It was nice snorkeling. We saw a lot of fish, some of which were big enough to eat and looked like good eating. Bud dove down and saw a couple of lobsters, one big enough for a meal for two. Lobster season is over, though, and we found out our fishing licenses for the Bahamas expired with our first visa, and we would have had to go to another agency (besides immigration, who extended our visas) to get them extended. Again, since we're on our way out, we'll forgo the fishing until Florida.
We stopped back at Topaz on the way back to the boat and all three of us (Fuzzy included) were invited aboard at 6:30 this evening. After we had supper and took Fuzzy ashore we went over to Topaz. It is the first Norseman we've been aboard since we bought Earendil. It was strange to be on a boat that was almost the same, but differed in little ways. The folks from Topaz, Teddy and Cynthia, are going to come over in the morning to see Earendil and maybe give us some tips. They've been living aboard and sailing on Topaz for seven years. And oddly enough, they spent three years in the harbor where we bought Earendil, and knew her former owner. In fact, Bud had seen their boat when we took Earendil out for her sea trial! The cruising world really is a small world.
05/07/2011, Baker's Bay, Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We left Man-O-War Cay this morning. This is definitely a place we would be happy to see again. The winds are predicted to be light and variable for today and the next 4 days so we didn't try to go very far. We were going to anchor off the north end of Man-O-War, but found out that is a private area, so although we could take Fuzzy to the beach (ALL beaches in the Bahamas are public) we wouldn't be able to get from there back into town. So we decided to make a little progress. We came almost 11 nm to Baker's Bay on Great Guana Cay. This isn't a very well protected anchorage, but it's on a beautiful beach and we can see the entrance to the Whale Cay Passage, which is the last unprotected area until we make the crossing back to the United States.
It wasn't much of a sail. We put the jib out, but we were close hauled into a very light wind. When the boat speed dropped under 3 knots we put the engine back on. We could see rain up ahead, and sure enough, just as we arrived in the anchorage, the rain did. There was a bit of wind with the rain, just enough to make it easier to set the anchor. If there's no wind, you have to slowly back the boat so you don't dump the anchor chain all in a pile. With wind, you can let it push the boat as it draws out the chain. This is a large, shallow bay. It's shallow in that it doesn't indent into the island too far, and it's not deep. We came in as far as we thought we could, we were in 8 feet of water when we dropped the anchor at about mid-tide.
Bud snorkeled over to check the anchor and it was set. I let out a bit more chain and put on the snubber. As soon as we had the anchor all set the rain passed by and the wind stopped. The boat started to move the other direction, so the bow was facing away from shore. It didn't move far, there wasn't enough wind to pull the chain around. That's just as well because the tide was still falling. The lowest the water got was 6 and-a-half feet, not that it would be a big deal, it's all sand here. I would worry most about crushing a starfish. There were four big ones right around the boat. I took a picture of one of them.
We took Fuzzy ashore and he's pretty happy to have this big beach. He never goes in the water, but he loves to run in the sand. There's supposed to be some good snorkeling on the Atlantic side, so we will probably stay here tomorrow and check it out. Our next destination is Green Turtle Cay, but they are having their annual Island Roots Heritage Festival this weekend, so we are afraid it will be crowded and want to wait until Monday to go there. It's only another 15 miles or so, but it is on the other side of the Whale Passage, so we need to go on a calm day. Meanwhile, we will wait here on this beautiful beach; that's not hard to take.