02/17/2012, Raccoon Cay, Ragged Islands
We sailed another 34 nautical miles, mostly south. We followed the lee side of the curving Jumentoes/Ragged Islands chains. I'm not sure when it changes from the Jumentoes to the Raggeds, there are two wide channels. We went past them both, so we are definitely in the Ragged Islands now. We are closer to Cuba than to Thompson Bay on Long Island.
Raccoon Cay is bigger than Flamingo Cay, the beach where we are anchored in House Bay is one of the most beautiful I've seen. Bud is reserving judgment until he sees if the fishing is as good as at Flamingo. There are only 7 boats anchored here tonight, but this area isn't nearly as deserted as it was a few years ago. The charts are good and more people are venturing down. There aren't really any secure harbors here for a bad blow, but if something really bad was brewing we could reach Georgetown in three (long) days. There's nothing too much in the forecast for the next ten days or so, so for us it's just a matter of planning on the best sailing days back to Thompson Bay (2 days for us if we had to) before the next front or our water runs out. Since we don't have a watermaker, water will probably be what limits our stay.
In any case, we are enjoying it while we're here. The sailing was more brisk than we expected, but we were able to sail the whole way. I gave Fuzzy a half a Dramamine early on as the places where we passed the open water channels were pretty rolly. The first one only lasted a couple of miles, but was the roughest due to wind and current. The second was about 5 miles wide, but the wind had backed off just a bit and we timed it so the tide would just be starting back in, so the wind and tide were going the same direction.
I'm getting some beautiful pictures of the area. I'm anxious to have internet so I can add photos to all these postings and update the gallery.
Bud was just fishing off the boat in the dark again and caught another Margate. He didn't get this one released in time, so we're going to try eating it. If we like it, we can have Margate almost every night, because it seems that all Bud has to do to catch them is throw a line off the boat once it gets dark.
02/16/2012, Flamingo Cay, Jumentoes
This morning Bud decided to explore the south end of the island by dinghy while I took the trail running from the beach where we're anchored north. I had more success than he did. The trail led through a low part of the interior of the island. There are salt ponds there, places just below sea level where salt water comes in and evaporates. They aren't joined directly to the ocean at all. In one of these I spotted a number of bright red shrimp. When I showed Bud the picture of them later he reminded me that Flamingos are pink from eating those shrimp. So there are still a few shrimp here, but we haven't seen any Flamingos on Flamingo Cay. I did get a close up of another larger species of lizard. The trail then led to a beach at the north end and from there I was able to walk across the ironshore to the Atlantic side. Along the way I found four sea beans. These weren't the striped hamburger beans, but they were nice large sea beans. I took quite a few pictures that I'll add to the gallery when I can.
Bud met me back at the beach where we are anchored at 1 PM. After we ate he wanted to try snorkeling some of the deeper coral heads and asked if I'd go and tend the dinghy for him, because it would be too deep to anchor it. I reluctantly said yes, because driving the dinghy around in slow circles is not my idea of a great time. I declined taking a turn at snorkeling under those conditions, also. So we set off, but when we got over towards the north end of the island Bud decided to just snorkel up near the rocks that jut out from this island to the northwest. It was still a bit deep, but we could anchor the dinghy. Had I known that I might have brought my snorkeling gear. I would have at least brought a book. Oh well, I sat in the boat and watched the sun and sea while Bud tried to catch something with his spear. He missed a big lionfish, but he did find three conchs. These are the first live conchs we've seen. They were in fairly deep water, but Bud was able to dive down and get them. We brought them back and got Fuzzy and the things we'd need to clean the conch (including the book for instructions) and went ashore. It took Bud abot an hour to clean them. By time he was done (added to all the snorkeling he'd done) he was too tired to cook them. So the conch went in the freezer and we had curried rice for dinner. But now Bud has conch guts for bait, so he's thinking he'll catch some snapper for sure. We'll see.
02/15/2012, Flamingo Cay, Jumentoes
What a nice day. This morning we took the dinghy to the beach along with tools and supplies because Bud wanted to clean the idle jet on the carb of the outboard as the engine hasn't been idling properly. I took a picture of him all set up working under some trees on the beach. There were curly-tailed lizards all around where we were working. I took one picture of two of them on the blanket we brought for Fuzzy to lay on (Fuzzy prefers to lay in the sand) and one, which will be the picture for today, of one sitting on my shoe. The other pictures I'll put in the gallery.
I tried to get Fuzzy to walk with me while Bud was working, but Fuzzy was hot and tired after one stroll down the beach. So he went back and lay down in the shade near Bud and I went back and helped with the work. We didn't actually see any dirt in the jet, but after Bud got it all back together and we installed it on the dinghy it ran fine. That's a relief.
This afternoon we left Fuzzy on the boat and I took a walk while Bud snorkeled. I didn't get too far, I couldn't find the trail and the ironstone shore was too rough to make much progress. Bud also came back saying the edge of the cove was too shallow. So we got in the dinghy and explored a bit. I took a picture of the wrecked mailboat in the next cove. We didn't find any place to beach the dinghy to walk and snorkel again, but Bud thought the area we traveled over would be great for fishing. So I went back to keep Fuzzy company and Bud took his gear and went out fishing.
He'd been out there a while when I heard him call on the radio. He wanted to know if a Queen Trigger Fish was good eating. He forgot to switch off channel 16 so while I was looking things up the other boats in the harbor (we have a new cruiser now, the one here yesterday left, and the Bahamian fishing boat is still here) joined the conversation and said, yes they are. But in the end Bud thought it was just too beautiful to kill, so he let it go. Besides he was sure he'd catch something else. He saw more fish, three huge barracuda were following the dinghy, then he saw a whole school of huge snappers that were also swimming around him. Unfortunately they weren't interested in his frozen mullet bait. So we had flounder from the freezer for supper. That's okay, Bud had a great time.
02/14/2012, Flamingo Cay, Jumentoes
Okay, we motor sailed another 60 nm and now we're back at Flamingo Cay again. On the way we passed Passages, they were headed back to Thompson Bay! We talked to them on the radio, we knew they were alright because we'd exchanged emails, but today we got a better account of their stay here through the front. The wind and waves picked up all day Saturday, until near dark they had to move out and anchor in deeper water because the swells were bumping them on the bottom. There was no way they could get to shore in a dinghy, they estimated they were getting 6 foot waves. The wind blew harder here and took longer to turn to the north and east of north. They had 30 knot gusts overnight Saturday night and they spent the night on anchor watch. The wind didn't move to behind the island until Sunday afternoon. I'm so glad we left. They said it would have been terrible for us with Fuzzy, and we did the right thing to move.
So now we're here. We will stay here a couple of days, anyway. We're waiting to see if the next front, which comes next Sunday or so, is expected to make it down this far. If there's a chance it will, we'll make sure we're somewhere secure by then. Meanwhile we have a few nice days to see at least this island (I don't want to move further south until we know we won't have to go back again).
Bud already started fishing. He tried fishing on the way down. He asked me if I would take the helm while he fished. I told him that was okay, but he wasn't allowed to catch anything because I didn't want to slow or turn the boat. He didn't catch anything, so that was fine by me. After supper he took a few pieces of raw chicken he saved and tried fishing off the boat. He caught two Margates. Those aren't supposed to be great eating, so he let them both go and then quit fishing.
We had a little trouble anchoring. There were two boats here, a cruiser and a Bahamian fishing boat. Ed on Passages had told us to anchor a bit further out than last time. The Bahamian boat was further out, so we tried dropping our anchor behind the cruiser so we'd end up even with the Bahamian boat. That area didn't seem to have any sand, though and the anchor wouldn't set. We ended up in front of the Bahamian boat. It's closer to shore than we wanted, but the wind is all supposed to be from the east for the next several days and the anchor is buried to the bail, so it's nice and secure.
I got a nice picture of the beach here. There were some dark clouds behind it and a rainbow. I hope to get some more pictures over the next few days. I'll post them all once we're back to civilization. Meanwhile, we're enjoying the relative solitude.
02/13/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
This morning Bud made two trips to Long Island Petroleum, about a mile south of us by dinghy. The first time he bought 15 gallons of diesel to fill up the three jerry jugs we carry on deck. The second time he bought 20 gallons of water to fill up the four jerry jugs we carry in the aft shower. That might have been the end of the trips, but there was an announcement for a happy hour tonight on the north beach, so after lunch we all went back to Salt Pond and the Long Island Breeze dinghy dock (just north of Long Island Petroleum). Bud went to the store. Fuzzy and I walked around a bit and then sat down to see if I could get Internet, even though Long Island Breeze is closed on Mondays. The Internet was on, but I couldn't get on line. Either I wasn't close enough to get a good signal or they have changed the password. Anyway, no Internet and no pictures. But Bud did get sliced almonds to make Chinese Cabbage Salad from a recipe from our friend Erin.
While Bud was finishing the salad I figured out how to enter waypoints into the map program on our iPad. The iPad is our backup for our chartplotter and though we haven't needed to use it yet, we thought it best to be ready in case. Other places we've been the routes have been on the iPad, but the routes in the Jumentoes are not. On our way back from Flamingo the chartplotter wouldn't show our track, it turns out the track was there, but hidden. We didn't know that at the time, and though we had no other problems with the chartplotter, it was a reminder to be ready with the back-up in case something really went wrong.
The happy hour turned out to be very nice. Fuzzy went, we thought it would be a great opportunity for him to wander the beach. He was having a great time, but the table that the cruisers have used in the past was washed away by the hurricane, so the food ended up being set out on low benches made of found material propped up on milk crates. That was a little too close to Fuzzy's nose, so after he ate his food I ended up putting him in the front pack for the rest of the evening. He was pretty content for most of the time and seemed to enjoy all the people. When the food got picked up I let him down again and he decided to eat the rest of his food and run around on the beach a bit, so we ended up being the last ones to leave.
Now it's 7:30 and we'll be going to bed before long because it's going to be another early morning and another 60 miles back to Flamingo Cay. Passages might still be there, you never know.
02/12/2012, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Bud and I are still happy we made the 60 nm trip back here. It blew all night from just west of north, sometimes at 15 knots or less, but sometimes over 20 knots. This morning it was about 355 degrees and 20 to 25 knots. Gradually during the day the wind moved a bit towards the east and overall has tapered off, but it is still gusting to near 20 knots and is still much closer to the north than the east.
Bud and I were both exhausted and spent the day resting. Bud did add water and diesel from our jugs to the tanks. We're not too happy with the fuel consumption on the new Yanmar. We ran the engine mostly at 2000 RPM or less for between 6 and 7 hours and used at least 12 gallons of fuel. We're going to have to measure the tanks before and after a days run to get a better handle on this, but we seem to be using almost twice the fuel we should. Also, the stern is all covered with grey again. Now that we aren't breaking in the engine and aren't running it hard, we shouldn't be seeing this.
The front that came through is a real cold front. We haven't seen the internet for days, so we don't know what it's done in the US, but here we think the temperature is down to around 70, probably below that with wind chill. Bud and I both wore our foul weather jackets to take Fuzzy ashore this evening. Fuzzy has been shaking, but we don't know if it's from the cold or some other discomfort. I thought perhaps he was feeling seasick, because even here in this protected harbor the boat has been moving around a lot. This afternoon I gave him Dramamine along with his Prozac. I expect him to fall asleep shortly! Poor Fuzzy, I think it's tough being an old sailing dog.
This is the first real front we've seen this year, and probably the strongest front we've seen in the Bahamas. A lot of people come to the Bahamas and stay up in the Abaco chain at the north west of the Bahamas. Bud and I don't understand that, as front after front mosves off the US coast and makes it to the Abacos and stalls. They seem to get all the bad weather. Besides, they are crowded and developed compared to places like this. Even with boats coming in for protection from the front, there are only 42 boats here, and there's probably only another 50 or so on the whole island. Marsh Harbor, in the Abacos no doubt has at least 200 boats, and there are probably 500 or more in harbors and marinas within 30 miles of Marsh Harbor. We'd much rather be in the central and southern Bahamas.
I took a couple of pictures to try to show the harbor with all the boats pointed north. It's hard to get a good shot as the harbor is quite large, about a mile across. I'll have to see what they look like and post the best one, whenever I get access to the Internet again.