02/19/2012, Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
Late this morning we motored 10 miles southeast to Hog Cay. We did put out the jib, but only for a mile or so. When we realized we'd have to furl it at the first waypoint which was only about a quarter of a mile away, we started the engine back up and furled it. There are only two cays more in this chain, Ragged Island and Little Ragged Island. If the weather forecast holds, we will stay in this anchorage and visit Ragged Island and the only town in this chain by dinghy.
We're anchored in another beautiful bay, with another beautiful crescent beach. There are two areas along the west side of this island where boats anchor. Just north or where we are is an anchorage called Middle Pen. It's the most popular anchorage here and has some protection from the northwest and west from some shoals. There were already 10 boats anchored there when we arrived. We, and the three boats that traveled down from Raccoon Cay with us, all anchored just south of Lobster Point. We're the only boats in this area, which has a bit of protection from the north, but not much. Since the weather forecast says the wind will stay under 10 knots until it moves east of north, we should be fine here.
The area behind the beach is very pretty and very different. It's flat land with a mix of sand, flat rock just under the surface, and a variety of scattered bushes. The sand and rock form natural paths among the bushes and the whole area gives the impression of a park. I'll add the picture I took of this to this entry when I get Internet again.
We took Fuzzy ashore twice, once not long after we got here, in mid-afternoon, and again after he was fed. We tried to get him to walk around in the hopes that he'll then sleep through the night. He slept for the two hours coming down and another hour while we set the boat back up at anchor. Then he slept again between his afternoon walk and when we gave him supper at five. His days and nights seem to be getting flipped, and we'd like to get him back on schedule. We'll see if the extra walk helps.
This beach has starfish. I don't know why this one does when we haven't seen any on any of the other islands in this chain. I took a picture of one of the small ones that was in about 6 inches of water at the edge of the beach. There are also a few of the large starfish, they are about a foot across and much thicker, but I didn't get a picture. Again, I'll add a couple of more pictures to the gallery when we get back to relative civilization.
02/18/2012, Raccoon Cay, Ragged Islands
Bud and I did the fish, hike thing today with some variation after spending the morning on chores. We ran the generator and charged the batteries, while we were doing that we charged the computer, the i-Pad, the hand held VHF radio and Fuzzy's clippers. Bud made another attempt at trimming Fuzzy and when he was done I vacuumed the boat.
After lunch we took off to explore and left Fuzzy on the boat sleeping off his traumatic morning. Other boaters had told us about a trail that started on a beach around the end of the island. I found the trail on the second beach we stopped at, so Bud let me off there with plans to meet back there at 4 PM. I was a bit nervous about hiking alone because the first thing I saw was two of the wild goats that live on this island. I stood still and they did not seem aggressive and they walked off. I didn't get close enough to get a picture.
I took off down the trail and in just a little while it cut through to another beautiful beach. A couple we'd met on Long Island was far down the beach, beachcombing. They'd come by dinghy. I eventually caught up with them, it was Cathy and Tom from Perseverance 2, and I startled Cathy as she hadn't heard or seen me coming. We chatted for a while. They told me about a secluded cove for snorkeling on this part of the island, but said they'd retreated when two sharks came out. They weren't sure if there was a trail from the beach we were on to another beach. The folks on Breeze Hunter (Kathy and Darius) had said there was, so when Tom and Cathy left in their dinghy I continued down the beach. I saw a float (a small buoy used to mark fish traps) hanging in a tree. That is often how trails are marked, so I headed for it. Sure enough, there was a bleach bottle, a flip-flop and other plastic debris that is always readily available on the beach, hanging from branches marking a trail. I followed it out to a big salt flat with a small salt pond on one side of it. I'll post a photo of that for today (and I'll put other pictures I took in the gallery) when I get Internet again. I wasn't sure if the trail would continue, but I started to walk along the edge of the salt flat. I soon came to half a hand line holder hanging on a dead bush. I took that as a good sign and kept going. Soon I saw a blue plastic milk crate off to the side. As I got closer I saw an orange plastic trick or treat pumpkin hanging in a tree, I'd found the trail off that side of the salt flat. (I took a picture of these weird trail markers that I'll post.) Just as I entered that new trail I heard a crash in the brush. I stood there a minute or two but didn't see anything or hear anything else. I think it must have been another goat. Anyway, nothing bad was lurking and I emerged on another beautiful beach.
Bud was out fishing off the rocks that formed the point on the near end of the beach. I waved but kept walking. I walked to the end of that beach around a rocky point to another little beach and out on the rocks at the end of that beach until I could see the Atlantic side of the island. Then I turned and walked back. When I got to the end of the beach where Bud was fishing I saw him catching a fish. I also saw a shark in the shallow water near shore. He was about four feet long. Bud came in to shore to get me in the dinghy, I called to him not to let the fish he'd caught hang in the water as there was a shark near, but he'd already released it.
I got in the dinghy and we went back out and Bud fished a bit more. While I was with him he caught three more fish. The only one big enough to keep we thought was another Margate, so until we tried the one he'd caught last night (we're having it supper) he didn't want to keep it. He tossed the line out once and saw a shark, so he pulled the bait in because he didn't want to catch it, it was about 4 feet long and too big to eat. Suddenly there was a second shark and then a third and they were actually circling the dinghy. I made sure my butt wasn't hanging over the edge! Bud told me to try to get a picture and as soon as I got the camera out they swam away. We even put some conch guts in the water, but they didn't come back. Bud fished a little longer until he'd used all his bait and caught his hook in a reef. We ended up having to cut the line.
Soon after we got back to the boat one of the three other boats anchored here said they were having a garbage burning party on the beach. Bring your burnable garbage and drinks and come ashore. We fixed Fuzzy's dinner and took him and his dinner with us. We had a nice visit and Fuzzy got to spend some time on the beach, and he ate some of his food, anyway. It was a nice end to a nice day.
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.