01/14/2012, Elizabeth Harbour, Georgetown
Well, we're at anchor in Elizabeth Harbour and the wind is blowing like crazy. Of course, the wind didn't start blowing until after the sun set, so we had to motor all the way here. It was almost 42 nautical miles and the most wind we saw during the whole trip was about 4 knots. This wind is predicted to increase through the night so it will be blowing 20 to 30 knots tomorrow, so waiting to sail in tomorrow was not an option. Sometimes that's just how it goes.
The anchorage here is not really crowded yet, but there were still a lot of boats around. So we did a little anchor practicing today. The first time we dropped the anchor Bud decided it was too deep, we'd need to put out too much chain and that would not leave enough space between us and the other boats. We pulled up anchor, came around to another spot and tried again. This time, by time we'd let out enough anchor to set, Bud thought we were too close to a boat behind us, so we pulled up the anchor again (at least time we hadn't set it) and moved up 20 or 30 feet and dropped it again. Third times a charm and the Rocna is buried as deep as it goes, so we should be fine.
We're snugged up nicely close to monument hill. That will protect us from the winds. Unfortunately, that puts us about a mile dinghy ride from Georgetown. Since the wind hadn't started blowing yet when we got here, we took the dinghy in to town today. When I have internet again I'll post a picture of Rick, Tracy, Fuzzy and I at the Welcome to Georgetown sign by the dinghy dock on Lake Victoria. We picked up some food, some liquor, a case of beer and Tracy found gifts for her grand kids. With four people, the dog and the supplies, the dinghy was pretty loaded down. There was now a bit of wind and a few waves out in the harbor. The loaded dinghy didn't like the waves. Bud tried to go fast, but the dinghy squatted so far down in the back water started to come over the stern. If we moved forward, we took water over the bow. So we went fairly slowly straight back across the harbor, and then turned down along the sheltered side to reach the boat. Even so, all of us, including Fuzzy who was in his front pack, were quite soaked by the time we got back.
Rick and I got to blow the conch horns with others tonight. We could hear three or four other boats saluting sunset. We all enjoyed a great curried lobster dinner. Bud made it following the verbal instructions we got from Yellowman on Staniel Cay. Bud wasn't quite satisfied with it, and none of us could remember if coconut milk went in the sauce or not, so we might get a variation of the dish in the future. The rest of us all loved it and we managed to polish off both the giant lobster tails Rick had bought from the fisherman at Staniel Cay.
After dinner we played cards again and tonight Rick and I vindicated ourselves by winning two games, so things are tied at two games apiece.
We're going to be at anchor here for several days. I'm not sure when I'll get to post pictures. Our WiFi antenna is picking up a good signal here, but when I tried to sign up I was having trouble, and now, although my payment was supposedly accepted the username and password I submitted are not showing as valid. I may get it straightened out, or I may just keep posting via SSB.
01/13/2012, Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club, Little Farmer’s Cay
The day started with the luxury of showers for all. Once we were all clean we lifted the anchor and took the boat to the dock at Staniel Cay and filled the water tanks. I don't think I mentioned yesterday, but we caught up with Ed and Karin of Passages, who were also anchored at Big Majors Spot. Unfortunately, we needed to press on towards Georgetown, and they are staying at Big Majors Spot through the strong winds that are predicted for Sunday, so we didn't get to spend any time with them. We did get to see them again this morning as they were coming into the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to use the Internet. We told them we were headed for Little Farmers Cay and they suggested we might want to go outside, that is go through the cut into the Exuma Sound, rather than stay to the west of the islands in the shallow water. Since there was almost no wind it made sense to do that.
We'd never gone out the cut at Staniel Cay, so I took up a position on the bow. It was pretty straightforward. The tide was going out, so the current was with us. There is almost always some turbulence at the cuts, even with the light wind we had today, but it wasn't much and soon we were out in the sound. This was the first time Rick and Tracy had been in really deep water here. Not far offshore the Exuma Sound is over half a mile deep. The water is the same bright, cobalt blue we saw crossing from Florida, and Rick and Tracy were as impressed with the beauty as we always are.
What little wind we had was right on the bow, so there was no point in raising the sails. We motored along and Bud and Rick took turns trolling. Rick got a strike, the first we've gotten trolling. Then when we were right outside the cut we were taking into the Farmer Cay area Bud hooked a fish. Rick was at the helm and slowed and turned the boat. I grabbed the net off the arch and gave it to Tracy while I went to get my camera. Tracy netted the fish, which was a barracuda and was hard for her to hang on to. Bud brought it aboard and I took its picture. It was too big to eat (large barracuda can be poisonous) so Bud managed to get the hook out of its mouth and release it. The picture is in the gallery.
As soon as that excitement was over we headed into the cut at Little Farmers Cay. We called on the radio and confirmed that the channel had not been altered by the hurricane and that there were available mooring balls at the Farmers Cay Yacht Club. We wound our way back in and picked up the same mooring ball we used last year, as it's one of two used for the fuel tanker and we know it's strong. The long thin line they had on it last year to use to snag and pull up the actual mooring line was gone, but I managed to hook the mooring line itself and Rick put both our mooring lines through it at once, so we were moored in no time.
Bud, Rick and Tracy took the dinghy in to pay for the mooring and ask about the Internet (included in the price of the mooring). I stayed behind as I'd been fighting a bit of a headache. I got this shot of the three of them headed to Little Farmers Yacht Club. Once they got back we got together our things (and Fuzzy) and took the dinghy to the government dock in the center of the settlement. Little Farmers Cay is generational land, the land is held in common by the descendants of the original settlers. There are only about 55 full-time residents. We tried for bread at the bakery and general store, but they were out of it. The woman did give Bud a recipe for fried biscuits, which he might try. We went up to Ocean Cabin Restaurant for drinks. They have a terrace where we can sit with Fuzzy. While there we decided to come back for dinner. It wasn't too late to make reservations, so we told them we'd all like cracked conch. Terry Bain, the proprietor, told us it would be ready at 6. We took Fuzzy back to the boat and gave him his pill and fed him. He hadn't eaten any of his food when we had to leave.
The cracked conch dinner was very good. We all had the pigeon peas and rice as a side. It also came with a spicy hot cole slaw. While we were there another four people came in. Before we left Terry Bain brought out a sheet that had a history of Little Farmers Cay on one side and the lyrics to a song (sort of a Little Farmers Anthem) on the other. He had recorded music and we all sang the song. It was a lot of fun.
When we left it was dark. I thought it would be hard to find our way out the channel by the government dock and back to the boat, but the hardest part was seeing to get into the dinghy. Bud and I then had to take Fuzzy ashore, he'd eaten most of his supper while we were gone. I almost fell in the water with Fuzzy in his front carrier as I tried to use the bottom step on the dinghy dock ladder at the Farmers Cay Yacht Club and the step was under water and quite slimy and slippery.
After Fuzzy was safely back in the boat, the four of us chatted in the cockpit under the stars for a while. Now the rest are in bed and I'm trying to get this blog written and posted tonight. It was another fun day. We are sure going to miss Rick and Tracy when they go.
01/12/2012, Big Major's Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
We left the Exuma Land and Sea Park this morning and came down to Big Majors Spot and anchored. We had a target to leave by 7:30 in the morning, because we can only spend one day here before we move on towards Georgetown. We actually hit our target departure time and got here, just over 20 nautical miles southeast, at 10:30.
Big Majors Spot is a wide-open bay with a sandy bottom, anchoring is not a problem. The Rocna set up to the bail. We had the dinghy up on the davits so were able to quickly launch it. We deployed the awning, had a bite of lunch and set off to see Staniel Cay, the first community in the Bahamas outside Georgetown and Nassau that Rick and Tracy have seen.
On the way over to Staniel, which is a long dinghy ride away, we went close to the beach here and fed the pigs. This is where the pigs swim out to get food from cruisers. We had a pre-cooked pizza crust that was broken up from being on top of all the other food in the fridge. We decided it was not salvageable and Tracy fed it to the pigs while Bud drove the dinghy and Rick and I took pictures. I put a picture along with others from the day in the gallery.
Rick wanted to visit a grocery store so we decided to dinghy up the creek on the far side of town to Isles Grocery. The tide was fairly high and the creek is shallow so Bud thought it would be better to go there first. The only problem was, once we got there the store was still closed for lunch (12 to 1:30PM). After looking in through the doors, Rick decided it wasn't worth waiting for it to open. This was his first experience with the out island stores, with their one or two isles of food that are mostly empty except on days when the mailboat comes.
We took the dinghy back to the beach at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and walked through the main part of town from there. I'd forgotten Fuzzy's leash, so we used one of the lines from the dinghy as a leash, it weighed almost as much as he does. We walked to the house that sells bread and there were still loaves available, so Rick bought a whole-wheat loaf and a coconut loaf. I was looking around for the tote bag we'd brought and didn't see it. Bud had left it at Isles Grocery, at the other end of town. He started towards the grocery, we were going to walk up to the gift shop and then back towards the Yacht Club. When we got to the gift shop it wasn't open either. Across the street was a plywood picnic table under a big shade tree so we sat down to wait for the store to open or Bud to get back.
A Bahamian came by and started chatting with us. His name is Don Ferguson, but he told us everyone called him Yellowman after a reggae singer he looks like. We had a nice visit with Yellowman. He was waiting for the local fisherman to come back with his catch. Bud returned with the sack and we all waited for the fisherman. At one point, Rick, Trace and I left to go to the Pink Store, which was reputed to have bananas. Bud and Fuzzy stayed with Yellowman under the tree, that's them in the photo. The pink store didn't have bananas, but Rick got some beers, some Ginger Beer, and some cookies. He offered a beer to Yellowman, which was gratefully accepted and we continued to sit and sip and wait and talk.
Just when we were about to give up and check a couple of the local restaurants for dinner reservations the fishing boat came in. They unloaded about a dozen of the biggest lobsters I've ever seen, 6 or 8 huge conch, about 10 big fish of various kinds, and one huge crab. Rick bought us two lobster tails, two conch, and a hog snapper. We asked them to gut and skin the hog snapper and leave it whole because Bud was going to grill it. We walked back with our bounty and dinghied the mile or so back to the anchorage. There was no wind, the water was perfectly flat, and it was an easy ride. (I didn't have to try to take the computer in this year because we have our Bad Boy WiFi antenna. I'm able to access the internet from the boat. Unfortunately, it's satellite Internet, thus too slow for Skype.)
We had a delicious dinner. Four of us had all we could eat of the grilled hog snapper and there was still a lot of meat left on it. Bud sprinkled the carcass overboard trying to attract fish. He attempted a couple of casts with his one of his cast nets, but the 6 inch fish that were swimming around all easily avoided his net. We were going to play cards again but we were all so tired we just went to bed.
Rick and Tracy really enjoyed seeing the less developed side of the Bahamas. For as close as they are to Florida, the Bahamas have remained relatively unspoiled.
01/11/2012, Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma, Bahamas
We didn't move the boat today; we decided to spend an extra day here in the park. We thought we'd have quite a bit of wind from the south, which would make any move further south a bit difficult. There wasn't much wind all day, but we were happy to stay. The wind is picking up tonight and it's a bit west of south, so this is a good place to be as it's protected all around, and many of the anchorages along the Exumas are open to the southwest and west.
It was warm enough today that we deployed the awning. It was declared a success. It gave enough shade to keep the cockpit cool and it helped funnel the breeze down the companionway.
This afternoon we took the dinghy to the west side of the mooring field where there is some coral. There wasn't much coral and we decided not to snorkel. We looked at the bottom with the viewing bucket instead. Then we went over to an area of shallower water and moored the dinghy and went swimming. The water is about 74 degrees according to our instruments. I decided that's about minimum temperature for me. Rick and I, who hadn't showered yesterday, took advantage of the swim to wash. We all rinsed off with the cockpit shower when we got back to the boat.
Bud cooked a stir-fry with pork and tofu and plenty of hot peppers. He had all of us coughing from the fumes while he was cooking it, but it tasted great.
This evening we played Euchre. Rick and Tracy don't play Euchre, but Rick agreed to play if I would try another of his coconut rum and diet coke drinks. Tracy complained all the time that she didn't know how to play and couldn't keep the rules sorted out from Pinochle, but she and Bud won both games. Rick and I aren't done yet; there are other nights to come.
We spent a lot of time laughing today. That always makes it a good day.
01/10/2012, Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma, Bahamas
We decided to take it easy today. Actually, we decided to let fate decide our day. We called into the Exuma Land and Sea Park at the 9 AM call in to see if we could get a mooring at Warderick Wells at Park Headquarters where the trails are. If we couldn't, we were going to go on to Big Major's Spot. Every day at 9 AM the park ranger gets on VHF channel 9. First she takes calls from all boats that are leaving the mooring field that day. Then she takes calls from any boats wanting to come into the mooring field. If there's not room that day they can go on a waiting list for the next day. Fate was with us, and three boats who were on the waiting list from yesterday did not respond when they were called, so when she got back to us there was still a mooring ball free in the north mooring field where we wanted to be. So we came to Warderick Wells.
It was only thirteen and a half miles. There was light wind and it was not too far off the nose, so we might not have bothered to fly any sails, but the main had not fallen nicely yesterday and we'd never zipped it into the stack pack, so we raised the main and motor-sailed.
This is an incredibly beautiful spot. We grabbed the mooring balls like pros. Once Fuzzy had been ashore and we'd had lunch, the four of us set off. We went up to the park office and paid for two nights and for Internet for two days. We climbed Boo Boo Hill to look for the little driftwood sign for Earendil that Bud left last year. Unfortunately this place got hit pretty hard with Hurricane Irene and our sign was one of the casualties. We did find another Earendil sign; I took a photo for the record. I snapped this picture of Bud, Rick and Tracy hiking with the mooring field in the background. You can see Earendil riding in the channel.
We'd been invited to a happy hour on the beach, but when we got back from our walk we decided we were happy enough just sitting in the cockpit. Right now, Rick is acting chef and is making spaghetti while I'm writing this blog.
It's been another great day here in our little corner of paradise.
01/09/2012, Hawksbill Cay, Exuma Land and Sea Park
We wanted to get out of Nassau and get some distance towards Georgetown. Rick and Tracy were amenable, so we made a pretty long sail today. We left the dock at about a quarter to nine. We couldn't leave earlier because our route took us across the yellow banks and we have to keep a look out for coral heads in that area. It's not recommended to go through there before 11 in the morning, so the sun is high enough not to glare on the water. We arrived at the banks at just about 11 and made it through without incident. There seemed to be fewer coral heads on this route and we only altered course a couple of times. Rick had been at the helm, but when we got to the area with coral heads he let Bud take over. He said if someone was going to run the boat aground he didn't want it to be him.
There was between 11 and 15 knots of apparent wind for most of the day and Earendil really showed her stuff. She romped along at over 7 knots for much of the day. We saw three boats ahead of us as we headed to the banks. We passed all three of them. The wind got a bit lighter later in the day, but we sailed without any engine for 90 per cent of the time. We got to the mooring balls at just about 4:30 in the afternoon after going 49 nautical miles.
We had a fun time snagging the mooring ball with three of us on the bow and at least two of us giving Bud directions on where to turn the boat. But we got the ball on the first try and managed to get two lines secured without incident. We launched the dinghy and took Fuzzy ashore and spent some time playing on our own private beach. Then we hurried back to the boat because it was almost sunset. I grabbed both the conch horns and Rick and I blew the evening tribute to King Sol. Rick and Tracy like the other conch horn I made and are taking it home with them. Rick learned to blow it almost immediately.
We were sitting up in the cockpit enjoying the early evening when I noticed a glow in the sky to the east, just behind the island. Since there are no towns or lights in this area I was wondering what it could be when I realized it was the light from the rising moon. We enjoyed a most spectacular full moonrise. Rick and I both tried to get pictures, but I don't think they came out.
Bud fixed lobster tails we'd bought from a local fisherman on Great Harbour Cay. We all ate a hearty dinner after our full day of sailing. It was a fine day.
Rick says, "Hi, having a great time and wish you were here." to Pat and Pam, Frank and Cindy, and Lois.